Disclaimers: See Part 1.
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Once she arrived home she got ready for bed and set her alarm to make sure she wouldn’t miss her day with Kim. She lay in her bed waiting for sleep to come. Knowing she would get to spend more time with this smart and beautiful woman made sleep come quickly.
Morning came and Claire’s excitement hadn’t dimmed. She hadn’t even needed the alarm clock to wake up. After a quick shower she went into the kitchen and put on the kettle for some water. Maybe tea would calm her down.
Claire sat at the table drinking her peppermint tea and reading the paper, or attempting to read the paper. Exasperated with her inattention she finally gave up and put it aside. Claire’s thoughts returned to the previous evening and her kiss. She wondered what the day held for them both.
Claire shook herself out of her reverie and decided to start getting the place ready for the new furry friend that would be coming home with her today. She soon realized she was nervously cleaning things that had nothing to do with a pet.
Finally Claire gave up on wasting time. She grabbed her cell phone to get Kim’s number and call for her address. Once she turned the phone on, it beeped letting her know she had a message. She dutifully called voice mail and after punching in the appropriate numbers, the voice hit her.
“Hi, Claire. I’m really sorry about the other day. Let’s get together. I’d really like to explore our future. Give me a call any time on my cell at 503 555-7302.”
Wow. What to do with that? Claire sat and contemplated Janene’s message. “I really can’t do this up and down, J,” she said to no one then continued her mission by scrolling through the numbers on her phone’s address book. When Kim’s showed up, she hit Send.
Kim’s voice came through with a groggily mumbled “hello.”
Claire smiled to herself and replied “Good morning, sunshine. Sleep well?” Kim’s deep chuckle felt warm and comforting to Claire. Her body reacted to this woman. Something she couldn’t remember happening in quite a long time. “Well…you ready to give me your address so we can go pet hunting? I’ll need about 20 more minutes here before I can leave to pick you up.”
Kim managed to tell Claire her address and give coherent instructions to get her to the house. She hung up as fast as possible in order to get herself out of bed and ready for Claire’s visit.
Claire hung up and proceeded to get dressed. Thoughts of the day ahead didn’t keep her from going through the basics swiftly. Once she was dressed in comfy jeans and a sweatshirt, she headed to Kim’s place.
She arrived at Kim’s house within 30 minutes. Kim, sitting on her porch calmly soaking up the morning sunshine, looked like she had been awake for hours. She was also clad in jeans and a sweater.
When Kim spotted Claire, she stood and came off the porch to meet her in the driveway. She popped into the passenger seat quickly, gave Claire a dazzling smile and a “hello.”
Claire returned the smile and greeting and headed back the way she came. Her breath caught in her throat when she felt Kim’s hand settle on her thigh.
“How are you doing today? I didn’t scare you off completely last night I can assume?”
Claire took one hand off the wheel and gently placed it on top of hers. “Most definitely not.”
Kim stopped her watching and sat back against the leather seat settling in for the ride. Her hand still rested firmly on the warm thigh of the woman sitting next to her.
Claire was trying very hard focus on the road and not the hand that seemed so comfortable on her leg. She continued her drive heading for the shelter that a co-worker had recommended.
“So tell me what kind of animal are you looking for? Do you have an age range you’d like? Breed or mix? Gender and basics or are we totally open to any beast...maybe a nice snake or turtle? They would be quiet. Or if you need fur, there’s always a guinea pig.”
Claire laughed. “Puppy, no required gender or breed, fur is a plus, eventually to be large, and no on the reptiles or rodents.”
“Interesting. A large dog. Hmmm...what does that say?”
“That I prefer large dogs to small dogs perhaps?” Claire responded playfully.
Smiling, Kim just relaxed into peaceful silence until they reached the shelter.
The women headed back to the car happy that the third shelter on the list had provided Claire with a new companion. Claire held the squirmy, squeaky puppy close to her chest. She realized too late that her new buddy was peeing, right down the front of her favorite sweatshirt.
“I can’t really blame the little guy. Excitement does that to me too,” Kim joked.
Claire cocked her head slightly, grinning. “Really? I’m not sure I’m ready to test out that theory quite yet?”
Kim leaned in close, stroking the puppy with one hand, her face within inches of Claire and replied quietly, “Maybe soon?”
Claire blushed and kept moving toward the car trying to ignore the comment. Kim followed closely behind. Their flirtatious bantering had been going on all day. Both women were lost in their own thoughts walking toward the car with puppy and goods in hand.
“Hey, throw me the keys. I’ll drive while you hold your new friend.”
Claire, holding Fred in one hand, grabbed her keys out of her pocket and gently tossed them to Kim. “Since you offered...thanks.”
As they headed back toward the city, Kim contemplated her next move. “Okay, fido’s been found, so what would you like to do now?”
“Well, I’ve already taken up most of your day, the least I can do is make you dinner.” Claire stroked the now asleep puppy. “I really don’t want to leave Fred alone right away in his new home. You’re more than welcome to join us. I can put together something for us to eat.”
“So where is Fred’s new home? And let me assure you, the day spent with you was much better than my previous plans of laundry and house cleaning.”
Claire grinned. “Well it’s good to know I can beat out that excitement. Must mean good things, right?”
Claire gave quick instructions on their destination. She tried to remember how her house looked when she left it this morning. Thankfully she had the place prepared well for the new arrival, actually both of them.
Once parked, unpacked and in the house, Claire showed Kim and Fred the back deck and yard. She left the two on the deck while she went and changed into some clean clothes.
Kim watched the new puppy sniffing with delight at every bush and fern in the yard. She laughed and encouraged him when he would pee in the grass, then come racing toward her like he was being chased by a big monster.
Claire was busy in the kitchen gathering things for a quick meal. She threw some frozen chicken in a glass dish, covering it with fresh dill and mustard and drizzling honey over the top. She put it all in the oven and dinner was officially started. She grabbed a bottle of red wine, uncorked it and picked up a couple of glasses and headed toward the deck and her two happy companions.
Opening up the sliding glass door caught the attention of both human and dog. Fred came leaping toward her tripping on his big yellow paws. “So having all the fun without me?” Claire set glasses and bottle on the table. She poured wine into each and handed one to Kim. “Dinner’s started. I’ll need to pop in and check it in a little while. Hopefully chicken, some carrots and a salad will be enough?”
“Wow. That sounds great. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a home cooked meal,” Kim replied while taking the offered glass. “Fred seems to be enjoying his new home.”
“Yeah, I hope so.” She smiled at the sight of the dog running circles in the backyard.
“So tell me...why Fred? Why not a partner?”
Almost choking on her wine at the blunt question, Claire responded, “Well, I guess the right person just hasn’t been by in a while.”
“That response indicates the person has been found and is out there somewhere. Do I get to hear more?”
Fred took that moment to come tearing onto the deck, disrupting the heavy moment with his baby barks.
Relieved by the interruption, Claire stood. “Dinner time for everyone I guess.”
The women headed back into the house and to the kitchen, with the puppy in the lead. Once they were in the kitchen, Claire attached the baby gates on both entrances, blocking dog and humans in.
Kim’s offer to help was taken up and she was quickly put to work building a salad. Claire fed the puppy quickly and then started preparing the veggies. Fred ate like he had never seen food before then settled down in his new cedar bed in the corner, nuzzling up to a big stuffed sheep that Claire had purchased as a companion for him.
The women prepared the food and set the table while chatting away about family and jobs.
Then once again Kim asked, “So gonna answer my question from the deck?”
Claire stopped and then turned and looked at Kim. She saw the genuine interest in the woman’s eyes. “Let me get this stuff on the table and I’ll answer it if I can while we eat, okay?”
“Great, because I’m starved.” Kim reached for the salad and carried it to the table and sat down.
Claire sat down and the sound of the chair sliding under the table woke up Fred who then proceeded to whimper at the women. He finally grew bored with trying to get their attention and went back to his bed to chew on his new friend.
Kim patiently waited for Claire, who she could tell was contemplating her answer. Kim just quietly enjoyed her meal. Claire was preoccupied with trying to figure out what she was thinking and how she was going to get that across to Kim.
Finally, as she watched Kim take in another bite, Claire began, “I’ve had some relationships in my life. However, a little over two years ago I met a woman. Well actually I watched a woman in a coffee shop. For days this woman would come in, order tea and look like the world was sitting on her shoulders. For me work is something I do best when out and about, not sitting at my cubicle. I was doing an ad campaign for a tea company so this woman was a great model for my mind while I worked out details for the line. I did this daily with my sketch pad always open, until I realized I needed to know who she was and what her story was.”
Sighing heavily, Claire looked up into the most amazing chocolate brown eyes looking back at her. Kim encouraged Claire to continue the story by smiling. She poured more wine into both glasses and Claire had a bite of food and a sip of wine.
After gathering her thoughts, Claire continued. “Well, I finally got the nerve up to talk with this sad woman. In fact, for several months we met three to four times a week at the coffee shop. By this point my campaign was long since done, but I now squeezed this time in between my job and her schedule. These moments with this woman were like nothing I’d ever experienced. Our friendship grew very close. On the weekends she would come over for breakfast. I learned all about her life and she learned about mine. Realistically I knew I had fallen in love with her early on, but due to issues and complications in her life I knew not to expect more than the great friendship I thought we had built.”
Claire stopped to drink more wine. “Our friendship continued this way for approximately six months, until one day with no warning, she never came back. We were supposed to meet at our usual time and she never showed up. I knew right away what the issues were but I never believed she would leave me. Somewhere in my mind I always believed when times got rough, Janene would run to me. I was wrong. Completely wrong. I think what bothers me most is, we were friends and she didn’t lean on me. What happened has left me with this empty hole and not a lot of answers.”
Looking up, Claire evaluated Kim’s response. “This is why Tim and Nick have been trying to set me up for months. I wish I had listened sooner.”
Kim got up from her side of the table, waking a small happy puppy. She walked over to Claire’s chair, leaned down on one knee, reached in and encircled Claire for a hug. Fred pawed at both women, helplessly trying to get in on the action.
Chuckling, Kim said, “Well, now you seem to have plenty of people and pets needing your friendship.” Kim leaned back to look at Claire. “Whatever the reasons were for this woman’s actions, they weren’t about you. This was obviously about her and hopefully some day she’ll come to terms with that and tell you.”
“Well.” Claire sighed and looked at the remains of dinner. “How about I put these dishes in the dishwasher and clean up the kitchen a bit? I can make us some coffee and finish up the story in the living room.”
“Sounds good. I’ll let you do that while I take Mister Happy here for a spin in the backyard.”
Claire stood up and looked at Kim. “Thanks Kim. Fred and I appreciate everything you’ve done for us. The day wouldn’t have been nearly as great without you,” Claire said as she gave Kim a hug.
Kim pulled slightly away and focused on those hazel eyes. “Meeting you has been my pleasure and I had as much or more fun than you today. I can’t think of any place else I’d rather be.” Kim leaned in for a soft, long kiss. She slowly pulled back and walked toward the door with one happy puppy following her closely.
Claire stood stunned for a moment thinking how did I get so lucky to deserve her? Then she proceeded to clear away the dishes and get the coffee started.
With the dog back in bed, the kitchen cleaned and coffee being consumed, Claire finished the story up to her life in the last couple of weeks. She even covered her bench watching all the way to the unanswered phone call message that now resided on her voice mail.
Kim sat in a contemplative space watching Claire.
“What do you think?”
Kim was silent a moment then spoke softly, “I’m a believer in love and that it comes in strange ways. I don’t believe we’re only allowed one such perfect love. Each one is different, whether they’re friendships or more intimate physically, they all become something unique and they all take work to create and sustain. We can love someone and it can be unique, but we can love someone else in just as unique a way. Our heart and how it reacts to people isn’t patterned. It changes with each heartbeat. That’s what makes it so wonderful. Each time is new. But at the same time, each loss is as great as the one before it. We have the ability to have so much love inside us and sometimes that overlapping can be overwhelming.”
Kim paused and took a drink of her coffee, then continued. “What I think about this woman and your situation isn’t important. What you think about it and what you do about it is. You’ve already begun your path so for me to give you advice wouldn’t be right. I only want you to know that I’ll be here anytime you like.”
Claire sat on the couch looking at this woman she’d just met. It seemed like they had known one another for years. Again Claire wondered why she hadn’t taken Nick up on his offer months ago. Maybe it was good she hadn’t because she realized she was only now ready.
Kim stood and walked over to her bag. She pulled her cell out and called a cab. Claire sat and watched Kim’s confident movements. She didn’t want Kim to go but knew it was probably the best choice for now.
Kim came back over sat down next to Claire. “Twenty minutes according to the dispatcher.” Her look turned serious. “Claire, I’d like us to continue our relationship and see where it goes. If you weren’t already aware of this, I’m very attracted to you but I think we need to figure out where each of us is headed. We all have tales from our past, which leave us with decisions about our future. Me included.”
“Does this mean the next time we get together I get to ask you why you’re single?”
“Absolutely. I warn you. It’ll be a long story. We may have to walk Fred in the middle of it,” she replied, smiling.
Time seemed to stand still until the honking outside indicated Kim’s ride had arrived.
At the door they kissed again then Kim pulled back, turned and walked to the waiting cab.
Claire closed the door and leaned against it. She smiled and shook her head then headed off to her room to grab Fred’s new crate. She put his new bed and sheep in there, took him out for one more run to pee and closed up the house for the night.
The morning came too soon. The memory of dreams just out of her grasp left Claire groggy. She heard a squeaky puppy and dragged herself out of bed to get Fred out of his crate. Throwing on her robe, Claire walked to the kitchen and deposited Fred onto the deck.
Leaving the puppy running happily in the fenced backyard, she returned to the kitchen to start some tea. Claire contemplated her day and knew she needed to see Janene.
After checking on Fred who was crying to get in, she returned to the kitchen and put out the puppy’s breakfast. She latched the kitchen gates so he had no escape and he happily inhaled his puppy chow.
She pulled her tea over to the table and thought about what to say to Janene. The time on the clock showed that she had slept much later than usual. Going to bed past 2 with Kim here was probably why. Even Fred still seemed tired.
Claire got up from the table and retrieved her cell phone. She continued sipping her tea and listened to the message one more time. She put the new number into her cell for future reference and dialed.
“Claire, I’m so glad you called. There’s so much I need to say to you. I‘ve been thinking about everything and-“
“J, please stop. We need to talk and I don’t think the phone is a good place for it. How about the new coffee house off Howell? I can be there in 90 minutes if you’re up to it?” She remembered Fred and said, “They have tables outside so bring your coat and dog. He seemed to enjoy the outdoors. I have someone you can meet as well.” She smiled thinking how perfect this would be for everyone.
“Deal. I’ll see ya then. And, Claire, thanks,” Janene responded.
Claire hung up her phone and looked down just as Fred started to cry for attention. “Okay, boy, I’ll take you out for one more quick potty break then shower time for me. ‘Cause you and I have an engagement we need to be leaving for fairly soon.”
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