Disclaimer : Characters and situations are all from my imagination.
Warnings : Sex and love between women
Feedback : Constructive criticism and feedback, both welcomed at firstname.lastname@example.org
Author's Note : While it's not absolutely necessary to read my novel "On the Air" to understand this, it might give some context to a few of the events that occur herein.
Copyright © 2012 Geonn Cannon
Laurie Kirk was the first one out the door after the bell rang, working her hands into her pink gloves as she scanned the parking lot for Beverly's car. It was parked near the exit, next to the bush that had lost its leaves with the start of winter. She crossed the parking lot as other students got into their cars and headed off to lunch. She waited by the passenger side of the car until she saw Beverly hurrying toward her, strawberry blonde hair bouncing with each step.
"Sorry!" Beverly unlocked the door with her key fob. "Been waiting long?"
"Just got here." They got into the car and Laurie stretched her feet out. "Where do you want to go for lunch?"
Beverly started the car and twisted to make sure no one was behind her before she backed out of the spot. "I was thinking just going to my house. Is that okay? We can make sandwiches and work on that project for Dobson's class."
"Oh, crap. I forgot about that. Yeah, let's go to your house."
The song on the radio ended as Beverly finally got out of the spot, and the familiar voice of their favorite disc-jockey came on. Both girls shouted, "Pixie!" and Laurie turned the radio up to better hear Nadine.
"--you for joining us on KELF, I am the Pixie. I can see the ferry pulling into the dock right now, so I want to say hello to any tourists who may have their radios tuned to 1220. Since you're just joining us, let me fill you in on what's going on. We're in the middle of a... very special broadcast. You see, a few days ago, I came out of the closet as a gay woman. Since then, well... a lot has happened. Too much to go into. But the main point is I was fired from this radio station. Advertisers were pulling out and it wasn't 'financially feasible' to keep me on."
Laurie glanced at Beverly. She was keeping her eyes on the road, but it was obvious she was listening. They both knew about the thing in the paper, but they hadn't really thought about it since. Laurie couldn't believe they had actually fired her. Who would fire the Pixie for something so stupid?
Nadine continued, "I was given this one final show to say good-bye and I'm doing it the best way I know how; I'm giving every other gay person on this island an outlet. Heh... so to speak. I'm giving them a forum where they can come out without feeling persecuted or judged. You don't have to give your name and you don't have to be on the air if you don't want to. I totally understand not being ready. But if you are ready... if you want to come out on the show, please, give me a call at 232-KELF."
"Can you believe that?" Laurie said.
Beverly shook her head. "You don't think they'd really be stupid enough to fire the Pixie, do you?"
"No! There's no way. Who would they even get to replace her?"
Simon and Garfunkel started playing, and the girls lapsed into silence. They had been going to lunch together since Beverly got her car on her sixteenth birthday. Juniors and seniors had permission to leave school for lunch, and they took advantage of it whenever they could. Laurie was stunned by the idea that Nadine might not be around to emcee their lunches anymore. It felt like they were losing their third musketeer.
"Drive by the radio station."
Beverly nodded and changed direction at the next stop sign. Laurie had expected a crowd, but the protestors and cop car were like something out of a movie. "Oh, my gosh. This is so stupid. What are they even doing here?"
"Being idiots," Beverly said. "Wanna stop...?"
"No. They probably have enough lookie-loos. Just go home."
Beverly was quiet for the rest of the ride. They listened to the music, and Laurie was very aware of the fact Nadine was making a final stand not very far away. Beverly lived in a neighborhood tucked away off the main roads, obscured from casual view by trees and various flora. The garage was on one side of the house with a basketball hoop over the twin doors, and she parked on the free-throw line and cut off the engine.
"We can listen on the radio in my room upstairs."
Laurie said, "Cool." She followed Beverly inside and pointed at the kitchen. "I'll make the sandwiches, you go turn on the radio and tell me anything I miss."
"Deal." Beverly dropped her bag and disappeared into the living room.
Laurie was such a frequent guest at the Shepherd house that she knew where everything was without being told. She got out the wheat bread and made two tuna sandwiches. She also found some Pringles in the pantry and added those to their plates. The fridge had soda, milk, and ice water. She didn't feel like carrying glasses, so she grabbed a couple cans and carried the whole works through the dark house to Beverly's bedroom.
Beverly was sitting on the floor with her back against the bed. Her stereo was turned on, and the Beach Boys were singing Good Vibrations.
Laurie wrinkled her nose and handed Beverly her lunch. "I don't like these guys. Yeah, we get it, you like surfing and California is awesome." She sat down beside Beverly and stretched her legs out. "Has she said anything else?"
Laurie looked at her. "You've been really quiet."
Beverly waved her off. "It's just stupid. She's losing her job over this. She's so great at it. Why would her being gay be more important than how good she is here? And she's so happy."
"She'll get another job somewhere else."
Beverly shrugged and picked at her sandwich. Laurie put an arm around her friend's shoulder and rested her cheek against the top of Beverly's head.
When the song ended, a woman who wasn't the Pixie said, "We apologize for the delay. We're experiencing a brief technical difficulty. Please stay tuned and Nadine will be back after 'Eleanor Rigby' by the Beatles."
"Who was that?" Beverly said.
Laurie shook her head. "I don't know." She looked at her watch. "We're not going to be able to hear much of her show. We can listen to some of it on the way back to school, but we're going to miss a ton."
"Why don't we just stay here?"
Laurie was stunned. Beverly Shepherd suggesting they play hooky? That was like the Pope suggesting a key party for Christmas. She wasn't going to look a gift horse in the mouth. The only classes she had after lunch were dull and endless, so an afternoon of listening to the Pixie was more than attractive.
"Sure. We can stay here."
After the Beatles, Nadine played Elton John and the Rolling Stones. Laurie hadn't been a fan of "moldy oldies" before Beverly convinced her that Nadine was worth it. At first she would listen to the DJ and turned the radio down whenever music started. But soon she was recognizing songs from movies and TV shows, and eventually she started enjoying the songs on their own merit. She actually owned a couple of Beatles CDs, and she was checking out Paul McCartney's more modern stuff. She owed the Pixie thanks for that, at the very least.
In between songs, Nadine took requests and testimonials from callers. "I just wanted to say, gay or straight, you're great to listen to. I won't listen to anyone else in this time slot."
The emotion in Nadine's voice was evident. "Well, thank you very much for that. I'm very touched by all the people offering their support to me. But I don't hate this station. I don't want it to be destroyed after I leave. I still care very... much... for the people who will still have a job tomorrow. The people who, right now, are fighting to make sure I get this time. So for their sake, don't boycott the station entirely, okay? This is Nadine Butler, and you're listening to 1220 AM, kay-elf."
Beverly lifted her head and looked at Laurie. "Maybe we should go back down there. Let her know she has supporters, that we're not just abandoning her."
"We could call if you want." She reached into her pocket and took out her cell phone. "Tell her we've got her back."
Beverly started to take the phone and then shook her head. "I couldn't. I couldn't actually talk to her."
Laurie shrugged. "Then I will." She flipped the phone open and dialed. She wasn't terribly surprised to get a busy signal, so she hung up. "I'll get through. Then we can support the hell out of h--"
Beverly kissed her.
Flat-out, on the lips, no mistaking this for their other kisses, kissed her.
They pulled away from each other. Beverly was retreating, and Laurie was just trying to figure out what had just happened. "Ah."
"Sorry." Beverly tucked her hair behind her ears and closed her eyes. For the first time Laurie noticed there were tears on her cheeks, and her face grew redder as Laurie watched her. "I didn't mean to do that. I'm sorry."
"What... was that?"
"They're going to take away her job because she's gay. They're just going to tear her away from something she loves to do." She pulled her knees up and wrapped her arms around them. "That's not right. That's just so wrong."
Laurie leaned back against Beverly's bed, her mind reeling. 'The Night Has a Thousand Eyes' was playing, and it was much too jaunty for what was happening. Her eyes scanned the room for something to focus on so she could order her thoughts around it. The thing she chose was a framed photograph sitting on Beverly's desk, a handsome man with a short haircut and a mile-wide smile. He wore air force dress blues and was standing in front of an American flag.
Beverly's father died on a mission overseas when she was six. He was still her hero, and Laurie knew that it was Beverly's plan to join the air force in his honor.
"Don't say anything, okay? I'm just really emotional right now."
Laurie touched Beverly's shoulder and squeezed. "I'm sorry. Don't ask, don't tell, right? You have to hide who you are if you want to... be what you want." She looked at the radio and realized what Nadine's struggle meant to her. "Do you want to go down there?"
Laurie tucked her bottom lip into her mouth and considered what she was about to say next. "Do... you... want to kiss me again?"
Beverly looked at her. Her face was twisted in confusion and her voice was a whisper. "What?"
"I don't know. I've never done that before. But if you... want to. I mean, who knows? Maybe I'll like it. I don't hate the idea of it. And it was kind of nice." She smiled nervously. "I don't know. I'm really out of my depth here and I just want to make you feel better. I want you to know I'm okay with... it."
Beverly smiled. "You don't have to make out with me just to prove you're okay with me being gay."
And there it was. Laurie felt like the entire world was glass and one false move would shatter everything. She was very aware that she was in the bedroom of a girl who had just kissed her and admitted to being gay. But that girl was Beverly . What had really changed? Laurie wet her lips and turned Beverly's head toward her. Beverly tensed and started to pull away, but their lips met and stayed together.
Laurie kept her eyes open and saw that Beverly's were tightly shut. This close, she could see a few freckles across the bridge of Beverly's nose, a spattering of them on her cheeks. Her eyelashes were very light, and they fluttered. They parted with a "smack," and Laurie started to take her hand off Beverly's shoulder until she thought it might look bad. She rubbed Beverly's arm instead, and Beverly scooted closer to her.
"That was nice. I've never kissed a girl." Beverly chuckled nervously.
"Me neither. I guess I got a jump on all the girls who do it in college, huh?"
Beverly laughed. "Yeah. Thanks, Laurie."
Laurie nodded. "You... don't have a crush on me or anything? Right?"
"Kind of. But it's okay. I know you're straight. It's okay."
"Do you wanna go?"
"No." She nodded at the stereo. "Show isn't over yet."
Beverly put her head on Laurie's shoulder again and snuggled closer. Laurie hoped that she was truly okay with what had happened, with what she had learned about her friend. She wouldn't deny it might make things awkward, at least for a little while. Graduation was coming up soon, and she hoped they had enough time to settle the water before they drifted apart for good. She kissed the top of Beverly's hair as Nadine came back on the air.
Second Lieutenant Beverly Shepherd put down her duffel bag and rested her elbows on the railing of the ferry as they approached her home. She hadn't expected to feel such a surge of emotion on the sight of the dock, but her eyes welled over with tears and she was forced to wipe them away before anyone saw. She was a soldier now, and she needed to show a bit of decorum.
She laughed and remembered her father crouching next to her on the porch and wiping away her tears with his thumb. "A soldier who doesn't cry doesn't have a heart. A soldier who doesn't have a heart isn't worthy of the uniform."
Beverly hadn't been back to Squire's Isle since leaving for the Academy. No time, no money, and her mother had called enough and sent enough care packages that she thought her homesickness had been thwarted. Apparently that wasn't the case.
As the ferry slipped into its position at the dock, Beverly picked up her bag and eyed the town. She could see Gail's, that old stalwart establishment, waiting to greet everyone who came off the ferry. The winter sun, white and harsh despite the cold, glinted off the windshields and roofs of the cars in the ferry lanes. It felt like she was waking up after a long, weird dream and taking a good look around herself at the real world.
She went downstairs and joined the crowd of people waiting to disembark. Her mother was still at work so she didn't have anyone to pick her up. She didn't mind; she'd planned it that way. She wanted to take some time to appreciate her homecoming on her own, so she told her mother she wouldn't arrive until later in the afternoon. The surprise on her face would be worth the subterfuge.
There were a few new restaurants, and some stores she remembered had been replaced by different names, but otherwise the town seemed mostly untouched. She was relieved to find it was mostly the way she'd left it and walked slowly up the main street of town. A car stopped and the driver asked if she needed a ride anywhere. She thanked him and refused, smiling as the car pulled away. It was good to be home, a place where people would offer rides to complete strangers and it was actually okay to accept. It was like the twentieth century had kept its grubby paws off the little hamlet.
She went down Front Street, following the harbor with the bulk of Gail's between her and the water, and looked at the new signs hanging in front of various stores and tourist traps. One sign was for the December Harbor Veterinary Hospital and featured a dog and cat smiling down at passersby. She smiled back, glanced at the glass front door, and nearly tripped over her own feet. There were three doctors named, and the one on the bottom held her gaze.
Dr. Laurie Kirk.
She opened the door and stepped inside before she could rethink the gesture. Things between her and Laurie had ended awkwardly. After their kiss and Beverly's admission, Laurie had been tense and nervous around her. Beverly could tell she was trying, and she loved her for it, but there hadn't been enough time for things to get back to normal. She graduated early to attend the Academy and the gap between them had widened. There were a few emails and some chatting online, but school was a constant speed bump. They hadn't spoken in three years, and now Beverly's heart pounded at the thought of seeing her again.
The waiting area was small but the sun streaming through the window made it feel cozy. There were chairs to either side, three of them filled with people tending to ailing pets. The receptionist was a man with thick black hair impeccably dressed in a sweater vest, white dress shirt and red tie. He smiled at her as she approached the desk.
"Hi, how can I help you?"
"I was wondering if I could speak to, um... Dr. Kirk?" She couldn't help smiling. It sounded so grown-up, but she supposed Second Lieutenant Shepherd didn't exactly sound like a child. "I'm an old friend of hers."
"Dr. Kirk is at lunch right now, but if it's an emergency, I could page her."
"No, I just wanted to say hello..."
"You could wait here. She should be back soon."
Beverly hesitated but then nodded. "Um, sure. Yes, I'll wait." She smiled at him and went to one of the empty seats near the door. A woman holding a hedgehog offered her a local paper, and she took it with her thanks. She sat and scanned the front page, seeing that the island seemed to be buzzing about the upcoming mayoral election. Deputy Mayor Patricia Hood-Colby had formerly announced she was running for the position with the endorsement of current mayor Jameson Dugan.
"A non-Dugan is running for mayor?"
The hedgehog woman snickered. "You've been gone for a while, haven't you?"
Beverly shook her head. "Not that long, I didn't think." She read the article, picking up more about this Hood-Colby woman. Halfway down the page, below the fold, it casually mentioned the deputy mayor's wife was a fifth grade teacher at the elementary school. Her eyes widened and she looked at hedgehog woman.
"She's openly gay?"
"I guess I have been gone for a while. Is Nadine Butler still on the air?"
The woman smiled. "Of course! She's married, too."
Beverly thought back to that day, driving past the radio station with a stand of protestors across the street to protest Nadine's continued employment. Where had those people gone? Had her quaint and quiet little town slipped into an alternate dimension and left behind this gay-friendly look-alike? She continued reading the newspaper for more evidence of the alternate universe theory.
The more she read, the more she saw had stayed the same. The local theater wasn't showing L Word marathons, and the island's flag hadn't been exchanged for a rainbow version. It was still her hometown, just with its mind opened a little bit further. If the town had been like this when she left, she might have tried harder to come back once in a while.
She was still scanning the paper when the door opened. She glanced up and nearly looked away before she realized the new arrival was her old friend and first kiss. Laurie's hair was a few shades darker and so much shorter than Beverly had ever seen it, and she wore a pair of black-framed eyeglasses. She wore a sleeveless red turtleneck and charcoal gray slacks. She had gained a few pounds since high school, but she'd always been much too bony.
"Dr. Kirk--" the receptionist started, gesturing at Beverly.
Beverly spoke at the same time. "Laurie?"
She turned and Beverly could see the start of a professional smile on her lips before her mind registered familiarity. Her eyes widened behind the glasses and she held her arms out. "Bev! Oh, my gosh, what are you doing here?"
They hugged, and Beverly found herself laughing. "Happy accident. I just saw your name on the door and I couldn't resist."
"Come into the back. I have an office. Craig, uh... I won't be too long."
The receptionist nodded and Laurie slipped her hand into Beverly's. They went down the hallway past examination rooms and a break room to a small office at the back of the building. Laurie turned on the light and opened the blinds to reveal she had a stunning view of the harbor to make up for her lack of space. The desk and chairs took up most of the space in the office, and a bookshelf crammed full of textbooks and binders crowded in from the right.
"I can't believe you're here. This is just so amazing. How are you? How is the Academy?"
"Fine, and perfect. I graduated. I'm a second lieutenant."
Laurie gasped. "Oh, my gosh."
"Nothing compared to being a doctor . You did it. I'm so proud of you."
"The feeling is mutual. Sit! How long are you here for?"
Beverly took a seat on one side of the desk and Laurie sat across from her. "Look at us," she said. "Professional career women. High school doesn't seem that long ago, does it?"
"Like yesterday." Beverly couldn't help smiling and looked down at her boots. "I've really missed you, Laurie."
"I've missed you, too."
They were quiet until Beverly remembered the paper. "I hear you guys are gearing up to have a lesbian mayor."
"Oh! Yes! Mayor Dugan isn't exactly the most popular guy in his family right now, breaking with tradition the way he did, but he said he had to back the most qualified candidate for the post. And considering how gay-friendly the island has become in the past five years..." She saw Beverly's raised eyebrow and nodded. "Yeah. It wasn't an invasion, but after Nadine Butler's very public outing, people decided it wasn't that big of a deal. Remember all those people who came out on her show?"
Beverly nodded. That afternoon was one of the best of her life.
"After the dust settled, they decided it would be stupid to go back to being quiet. So they just started..." She waved her hand. "Living openly. What a concept, huh? People started going out to dinner with their partners, they held hands in the street... I'm not saying there was zero backlash, but for the most part it's a much different island now."
"I saw that Mrs. Hood-Colby is married to a schoolteacher."
Laurie smiled. "Yes. And no one tried to get her fired or call her unfit to teach impressionable young minds. Imagine that."
"Well, it's like Don't Ask, Don't Tell being repealed. You get to be yourself... that's gotta be a relief."
Beverly grinned. "Yes. I'm still processing that. Who knows, maybe one day it won't be a big deal for me to get married. At the very least, we're probably closer to that than personal jetpacks. Although that sucks, because I'd really like a jetpack."
Laurie laughed. "Married, huh. So is there anyone... special?"
"Are you kidding me? I barely had time for sleep, let alone dating. You?"
"Ah." She gestured at the office. "In exchange for a personal life. I consider it a worthy trade. They don't make a vibrator to replace a career."
Beverly laughed. "That's true."
"Are you on the island long? We should catch up."
"I'd like that. I'm here to visit mom, and then maybe a day or two. We can get together for lunch tomorrow or the day I leave. Just like the old days."
Laurie nodded. "That sounds amazing." She stood up and stepped around the desk, and Beverly stood to accept the hug. They squeezed each other and Beverly closed her eyes. Suddenly she was an eighteen year old kid again, standing in her bedroom and telling her best friend her biggest, deadliest secret. And that friend had responded with kindness and understanding. She pulled back and kissed Laurie's cheek.
"You're still the only woman I've ever kissed," Laurie said.
"Sadly, the same is true for me."
Laurie winced. "That's so sad."
Beverly shrugged. "Well, what are you gonna do. Maybe now that I can breathe, I can spend some time sowing my wild oats."
"You came to the right place for that. In addition to lunch, I'll take you out some night. I'm sure there are some places to meet ladies here on the island."
"Fingers crossed, huh?" She opened the office door, but Laurie reached past her and pushed it shut again. "Something wrong?"
Laurie was extremely close to her, but Beverly didn't have the urge to back up. Laurie's expression had hardened, the humor gone from her lips, and she was having a hard time meeting Beverly's gaze. "Do you remember when I kissed you, just... so you could see what it felt like?"
"I don't feel as good when I kiss men. Even men I really care about. I know someone's first kiss is supposed to be magical, and I know kisses after that are supposed to be... I don't know... less? But I don't think I should have such a huge gap."
Beverly lowered her voice. "What are you saying?"
"I don't know. I know that people don't become gay. It's just something you are, and I'm not. I've never thought about myself that way, so I can't just suddenly decide I want to kiss you again." She exhaled and finally met Beverly's gaze. "But I want to. Can I please kiss you again?"
Beverly answered by leaning forward. Their lips met, and Beverly heard Laurie's sharp intake of air. Laurie grabbed Beverly's upper arms and held her, then pushed her away as she backed up a step. Laurie's eyes were closed, her brow furrowed as if she was trying to identify a slightly-familiar taste.
"How was that?" Beverly asked.
Laurie opened her eyes and looked at Beverly. "I think I had a crush on you, too. Back then. I just think I called it by the wrong name."
Beverly touched Laurie's hair. "Yeah?"
Laurie's face brightened. "Maybe. Or maybe I just love you. I mean, that's possible, right?"
Beverly shrugged. "Whatever you are, and whatever you feel... I look forward to figuring it out." She kissed Laurie again, on the cheek this time, and she smiled when she pulled away. "I'll see you... either tonight or tomorrow. Can I call you?"
"Yes. Oh, yes." She stepped to the desk and bent down to write her numbers on the back of a card. She handed it over. "You can probably catch me on my cell easier than at home." She twisted her fingers together and shifted her weight from one foot to the other. Beverly was reminded of the lanky, awkward girl she'd first seen at the bus stop and the first thing she'd said to her: "Do you have to pee or something?"
"What? You're smiling."
Beverly shook her head and put the card in her blouse pocket. "Just remembering. I'm at my mom's place if you have to call me. I think the number is still the same."
"Okay. Hey, Bev..." She caught Beverly's hand. "Welcome home."
"It's good to be back." She squeezed.
She smiled at the receptionist and the hedgehog lady as she passed through the waiting area. She hooked the strap of her bag over her shoulder and stepped outside. A lesbian mayor, Nadine Butler still going strong on the radio, and a potential date with the girl she'd known all her life. She might be persuaded to stick around the island a few extra days just to see what else happened. It was a whole different island, it seemed, and she might need the time just to see all the changes.
She hoped Coffee Table Books was still in business, and the idea of dinner at Gail's was making her mouth water. But first she had some exploring to do. There had to be some drastic changes, and they couldn't all be for the better.
Beverly put on her sunglasses and set out to see what she could find.
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