by Emyster

Disclaimers:Nothing bad here. Only a little potty mouth, angst and sadly no sex.

Dedications:This one goes out to the one and only Okie.

Feedback is always welcome: or post a comment at Emyster's Forum.

Copyright ę 2004 by Emyster. All Rights Reserved.

For a good time call...uh, visit:

Claire sat on the bench and watched.

She saw a woman wearing khakis that hung and scraped the ground as she walked past. Her shoulders were hunched, arms slung to her sides with little or no motion. Another woman walked beside her smiling. Her arms swung freely and her hands gestured as she talked. Her full-figured body was upright and alive. Each movement showed vitality and warmth, laughter shook her whole body. She was alive.

More bodies passed as the morning went on. Claire watched and waited.

Couples, kids, families and the lone jogger¸all made their way on the well-traveled trail. There was quite the mingling of sounds coming from the movements and interactions. Yet each was unique in their own right. The calming effect of consistency. Happy, content, tired¸emotions that spread across each individual, fitting them to their circumstances. Folks continued on their way.

The sky was slightly gray and overcast, thick with the feel of rain eager to fall. The morning was silent other than the humans who disrupted the silence with sounds of being.

Still she waited.

A brown dog came loping over the hill next to her. Her brown hair was cut short above her collar line, body relaxed and smiling. A golden mustard sweatshirt hung comfortably off her medium-sized frame. Well-worn blue jeans fit snuggly to her body.

The dog waited for her arm to swing forth and release the orange tennis ball. She spoke, talking to the dog who sat with tail wagging, waiting patiently for the sign.

In a flash, ball and dog flew across the field, one chasing the other in liquid motion. She stood and watched as the dog cavorted, excited by the game. Her smile illuminated the gray day.

Claire watched from the bench.

The game continued until the dog's tongue lolled comically. The woman put the now soaked tennis ball into a bag. The game was over. Woman and dog strolled toward the bench. The only sound was the dog sitting next to the bench, panting heavily. Both women sat quietly while time seemed to slip by.

The woman sat on the edge of the bench, close to her dog. Her hand hung down, lightly touching the head of the now quiet dog. She turned. "Janene." She offered her hand, eyes focused on the woman beside her.

"Claire." The two women shook hands.

"I think thirteen is long enough," Janene said with a smile.

"'Scuse me?" Claire showed her confusion and turned, facing the woman and the dog.

"Thirteen days I've brought Bill to this park and thrown the ball. Thirteen days you've sat on this bench and watched."

Claire's laughter broke the silence. She stood up, stretched and held out her hand. Janene took the offered hand, pulling herself up. Bill, excited by the event, leaped to attention.

They walked back up the hill just as the rain began to fall. The drops hit the metal garbage cans along the path and the sound echoed through the air. The trio walked across the street to the large condominium building.

Janene fumbled with the keys. Bill sat patiently waiting to be allowed in the door. Her movements as she unlocked the door were smooth and guided, the only sound that of the lock sliding back. The dog broke the calm as the door opened and he flew past the humans toward the kitchen.

Smiling, Janene entered the condo, turned to her guest and said, "Comin' in?"

Claire grinned and stepped inside, shutting the door behind her. She then removed her coat threw it onto the small chair and walked to catch up with owner and pet.

Leaning against the door frame she watched the ritual as the dog sat patiently waiting for the treat that was about to be offered. Janene glanced up and caught her eyes. The hazel color bore through her.

The cookie dropped from Janene's hand and Bill happily leaned forward and chewed and swallowed the treat. Then the dog moved to his cedar bed for his morning nap.

The women, locked in eye contact, stared at each other. The silence broke as Claire choked out, "How you been, J?"

Janene looked away. "Good." Then she moved to fuss with the tea kettle.

Claire stepped forward and reached up to stop Janene retreating. She touched her arm. All movement stopped and the air was thick with tension. "Been a while. After I heard Susan died, I thought you'd call. I waited for a long time. That call never came."

Janene turned and looked straight at Claire. "I couldn't. I tried many times, but what would I say? ╬Hi, my lover finally died. You want to come over for tea?'"

"We were friends, I wanted to be there for you. I wanted to help you in your time of sorrow. I wanted ..."

"It wasn't that easy. After five great years with Sue and then that last horrible year waiting for her death to arrive and grant her peace....I couldn't. It didn't seem fair. She was gone. What right did I have? Meeting you was the only bright spot in a year of hell." Janene's eyes teared up and she leaned dejectedly against the counter. "Fuck." She looked at Claire, sorrow swimming deep in her eyes. "Claire, meeting you when I did was like a weight lifted off me. You were someone I could talk to, someone to listen and not judge me for all my anger while my lover was suffering and dying back home. But watching her suffer and thinking all I wanted was to be with you and to escape this hell...once she died what was I to say? ╬Hey, she died. Would you like to go out with me some time?'"

Claire stood desolately watching Janene's grief pour out of her.

"I thought about you constantly. And my guilt of not feeling all that grief I was supposed to have about swallowed me up." Janene paused and looked out the window. "Instead, I packed up and moved away to start over again. It took months for me to realize I left for the wrong reason and I needed to return to heal."

Silence fell upon the room.

Claire breathed in deeply and said, "I waited that day almost four hours. I knew she was gone. You hadn't missed a tea with me in two months. In fact you were always there before me." Claire paused and then continued. "I may not know what it's like to lose a lover, but I do know what it's like to lose a close friend that I care about deeply. Your sense of relief from Susan's death, whether you call it that or not, isn't a bad thing. You spent a year watching the woman you loved suffer. To have her finally released from her pain was a good thing. You experienced your grief during that final year. To expect you to feel sorrow for her being at peace is crazy. Claire ran her hand through her hair, trying to relax. "During the last year and a half I've let you be with your grief, but there was no way I was gonna let you slide out of my life that easily. I'm here to be your friend and if we find room for more, so be it. But I'm not going away this time. We both need this." Claire moved forward and put her arms around Janene.

Janene melted into the comfort. All her memories flooded her as the tears fell. "I'm so sorry," was choked out between sobs and hugging her friend.

Bill came over to snuggle up next to his upset human. Claire smiled and reached down to pet the mutt. "So I see you've replaced me," Claire laughed as she patted the large beast, who happily snuggled up to this other really nice human.

The ringing phone interrupted the moment. The women pulled apart and Claire reached up to wipe away Janene's tears. The phone stopped as the room become silent.

The women kissed. Janene quietly pulled away and said, "I've missed you, however there are some things you need to know. Just then the sound of the door opening could be heard and a woman about Claire's height walked into the kitchen with several bags weighing her down.

Bill instantly went to the woman, his tail wagging and body wriggling in pleasure. She kneeled down and said, "How you doing, boy? I missed you too. Two weeks is way too long to be gone from you both." The woman rose and walked up to the now quietly stunned Janene and said, "Damn, babe, I missed you." She then pulled Janene in for a kiss.

Claire stood completely still, not sure what to say.

The woman pulled away and extended her hand to Claire. "Ingrid. And I must say it's good to see Janene making some new friends. She seems so lonely at times."

Claire took the offered hand and responded, "Claire. I'm an old friend of Janene's. I spotted her in the park and was hoping we could reconnect. I missed our coffees." Her gaze turned to Janene who stood stock still saying nothing.

Claire started heading for the door. "Well, I really must get going. It was very nice to meet you, Ingrid." Looking directly at Janene, she said "My cell number is still the same if you're up to getting together sometime, J"

Ingrid stepped behind Janene and put her arms around her. "I'm sure she would love that. Right, babe?"

Janene looking ashen said nothing. Instead she just nodded.

Claire left the building and didn't turn around. She headed straight for the bench. She sat in stunned silence not looking past her own memories. She never heard the woman coming toward her until the dog brushed up against her. She looked up as Janene sat down on the bench.

"I was gonna tell you."

"I know. I never gave you the chance. I...I'm sorry." Claire rose from the bench and turned to Janene. "Please call me if you ever need anything."

Janene watched her walk away. The sun broke through the clouds as tears continued to fall.

Bill nudged the hand sitting quietly on the woman's knee. "Okay, let's go home, boy." And she headed back up the hill for the second time that day.

The End? Let me know.

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