Disclaimer : Characters and situations are all from my imagination.
Warnings : Sex and love between women
Note : This story takes place in 2004, and it was partially inspired by Vienna Teng's song "City Hall."
Feedback : Constructive criticism and feedback, both welcomed at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2011 Geonn Cannon
We decided to leave on Friday morning, bright and early. The alarm went off at five, as always, and Mickey was the first one in the shower, as always. I started the coffee and drank a cup before it was my turn. We shared our first kiss of the morning when we transferred spaced; she had her coffee while I headed to the shower. She was in a towel and I was in my pajamas, and that quick little peck of the lips was like a quiet gunshot to start the day.
Michelle and Robin, off to the races.
It wasn't an ordinary Friday. I could feel it in my bones, the way little kids can feel when it's Christmas or their birthdays. It's not like a normal day because it's been imbued with something special. I showered quickly and joined Mickey in the bedroom. She was standing at the foot of the bed, peering into the suitcase as if she could identify the one thing she'd forgotten to pack by its absence in the grand scheme of things.
I embraced her from behind as her mind worked, and she rested her weight against me. Her hands rested on my crossed arms, holding them there. I was naked but she was already dressed for the trip. I kissed her neck and went to the closet to get my outfit for the day. Mickey was in charge of packing my bag because, in her words, "I always forget the most important thing." I don't mind. She packs a really nice bag. I repay the favor by hanging everything up when we get where we're going and when we get home.
In the full-length mirror of the closet door, I saw see revelation dawn on Mickey's face. She wagged her finger at the suitcase - "I knew I could count on you," she seemed to say - and hurried from the bedroom in search of the missing object. I chose my outfit from the closet and began to dress. The plan was to leave by six, and it was only a little past five-thirty. We had plenty of time even with my pathetic management skills.
Mickey returned with the all-important... mittens.
She looked at me. "It's February."
Mickey packed the mittens. I knew what she would say; a product of the unforgiving Minnesota winter, she wanted the mittens available 'just in case.' They didn't take up much room in the suitcase, so why not humor her? I let the matter drop and finished dressing. Mickey closed the suitcase and watched me. When I looked up, she smiled and raised an eyebrow.
"Are you nervous?"
"What is there to be nervous about?"
She lifted one shoulder. "Last chance to get out of it. Last chance to avoid being irrevocably tied to me for the foreseeable future."
"I was planning to stick around anyway. I'm just doing this so you don't go anywhere." I walked to her and put my arms around her waist. We kissed, and Mickey slipped her hands into the small of my back. "Just, you know, to be sure."
"Yeah, you could say that." I kept my hand on her hip as we kissed. I reluctantly pushed her away. "You should finish getting dressed. We need to get going."
Mickey nodded but stole one more kiss before she let me go. I smiled and watched as she went into the closet to pick an outfit. To be honest, I was nervous. I don't know why; there was absolutely no doubt I would spend the rest of my life with Mickey. But marriage hadn't been an option for us until very recently. Couples were flocking to San Francisco to be married at city hall. I heard about it on the radio on my way home. When I walked into the apartment, Mickey was standing at the kitchen counter.
"Did you hear?"
"Yeah. Is it for real?"
She shrugged and held out one hand palm-up. Her eyes were wide, crazy with ideas.
"What do you want to do?" I asked her.
"I can get next week off. We could drive up."
That was how Michelle asked me to marry her. The following morning she did the whole ceremony - down on one knee, a ring from her grandmother - and properly requested my hand in marriage. I agreed without hesitation. Mickey and I had been partners for almost a decade. What would my life be without her in it? The chance of marriage didn't alter my feelings for her, but it did open my eyes to the truth of "us."
I was older now than Mickey was when we met. She'd seemed so much older than me then, and I had almost used it as a reason to avoid a relationship. A very good friend told me I was being silly, and I still send that friend a Christmas card every year thanking her. I was a very tender twenty-three, and Mickey was thirty-one. Mickey had been worried about robbing the cradle, and I was worried that we would have absolutely nothing in common. Both fears were accurate, but neither of them were the hurdles we imagined them to be.
Mickey returned to the bedroom in a pair of black slacks and a red blouse. Her dark hair was tied back and she was wearing her thick black-rimmed glasses. She was still barefoot, her shoes in the living room. She looked around the bedroom, looked at me, looked at the suitcases.
"Are you ready?"
"Ready when you are."
Mickey reached out and I placed my hand in hers.
I met Michelle when I was the Statue of Liberty.
I was a teacher's aide at Salem Elementary School, and the fifth grade classes were putting on a play called The History of the United States. Every President was represented, a cafetorium full of waist-high politicians wearing bald caps and fake powdered wigs. The play also included important figures like Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, Paul Revere, and Betsy Ross. I was attached to Mr. Sherman's class, and he cast me as Lady Liberty. It was my job to stand on stage and introduce each child, who would then step up to the microphone and recite facts about the person they were playing.
I wore the pointed crown, the flowing green robe, and - in a momentary lapse of judgment, allowed the makeup department to paint my face green. The play was performed in front of gathered parents and family in the middle of the afternoon. During the intermission, I slipped out through the backstage door to find a bathroom.
I threw the door open, stepped out, and nearly ran into Mickey. We both stammered and stuttered through our apologies, and then she smiled.
"I thought you did a great job."
"Oh. Thanks. Uh, which one is yours?"
"Molly Pitcher. Except she's... I'm just an auntie."
"Oh! She's really great. Learned her lines right off. She's in my class. Well, Mr. Sherman's class. I'm just a TA."
Mickey nodded. "That explains it. I kept wondering if they'd brought in a college student to play the Statue."
I smiled. "Well, I am a college student, but I'm here most of the day three days a week. I'm studying to be a teacher."
"Oh, good for you." She looked past me to the cafetorium doors. She leaned closer and lowered her voice to a conspiratorial whisper. "Does it get better?"
"Don't hold your breath."
She made the cutest, most desperate little whimper before she looked at her watch and sighed in resignation. "I love my sister. I love my sister. I love her kids."
I laughed. "It'll be over before you know it. And trust me, it does get better. You'll love it by the end."
I held up two fingers with my thumb curled over my palm. "Money-back guarantee."
"I'm going to hold you to that, Lady Liberty."
I smiled as I watched her go back into the cafetorium.
Nine years later, we left our San Diego home and headed toward San Francisco. The original plan had been to be there on Valentine's Day, but that plan died before it ever really got started. So we settled for a Leap Year Anniversary. We would arrive and get married on Sunday, February 29, and then we'd celebrate on February 28 and March 1 in future years. Who else had such a valid excuse to have a two-day anniversary?
I had the map, despite the fact we'd been to Malibu a hundred times both together and separately, and it was my job to designate places to stop and sightsee. I decided we would hop onto the Pacific Coast Highway as soon as possible; you couldn't find a more scenic route to San Francisco than following the coast all the way up.
"When we get up around Santa Barbara we can spend some time in the Santa Ynez Valley. Maybe do some wine-tasting."
"Wine-tasting? White people doing white people things."
"We're both white, dear."
"Doesn't make it any less cliché." Mickey shrugged. "We'd have to stop there for the night. I don't want to drive with a buzz."
"We could just do a little sampling. Less than we would have at dinner."
"Do you really want to do a wine-tasting?"
I deigned not to answer. It's not like standing around and sipping wine was one of my top ten dreams, but it could have been fun. I should have known Mickey wouldn't go for it, though. Anything that reeks of "rich people fun," she'll mock and shun. She was the reason I gave up golfing, although that love affair was in its death throes before Mickey showed up.
Mickey reached over and squeezed my arm. "We'll get blitzed after the ceremony. The real stuff. Beer. And we'll get a bottle of champagne for the room."
I smiled. "Gotta admit, that sounds better than swish-and-spit."
"How about Solvang? It's about six hours from here, right before we hit Morro Bay." We were spending the night in Morro Bay before continuing on to San Francisco in the morning.
"What is Solvang?"
I wrinkled my nose, trying to come up with a description that would do it justice. "It's this beautiful little Danish town. Touristy, but not enough to gag you. It's a beautiful place. I went there once when I was in college."
Mickey considered it. "Does it have windmills and little Dutch girls?"
"I remember the windmills. Little Dutch girls, though... I'm drawing a blank."
"Fresh out of the closet Robin, wandering the streets of a kitschy tourist trap, far from home, and you didn't notice the girls?"
I placed a hand over my heart. "I plead the fifth."
I chuckled and turned on the radio. The new Vienna Teng CD was already in the player, so it started mid-song. I rested my elbow against the window, pushing my hair away from my face with my hand as I watched the scenery roll by. We were on the Pacific Coast Highway, my all time favorite road in the world, listening to one of my favorite new musical discoveries, and sitting next to the woman I planned to spend the rest of my life with.
Mickey looked at me, reached over and took my hand. In one of my philosophy classes, a professor told us that space was infinitely divisible. If a frog leaping toward a pond constantly decreases the size of its leap by half, it will never reach its destination. If Mickey drove slow enough, we would never reach San Francisco and we could spend the rest of our lives here, in this car, together, with this music and this view.
I could think of worse ways to live.
We made it to Dana Point before we had to stop for gas, so we decided to get some breakfast as well. I got out to stretch my legs while Mickey filled up, walking to the edge of the gas station parking lot and looking toward the water. I put my hands in the small of my back and stretched. It was still early, just a little past eight in the morning, but the streets were full of people. I wondered how many of them were on the road for the same reason as us, on their way to take advantage of this strange and amazing thing.
I had fought Mickey at first. Not because I was against marriage but because I was against <i>this</i> marriage. It reeked of a publicity stunt, something that was akin to playacting. I didn't want our marriage to be a pantomime or a piece of performance art. Mickey saw my point of view, but she argued that it was necessary. The opponents needed to see it happen, needed to watch and see that the world didn't end because two people declared their love for each other.
"Besides, so what if the governor decides to void the marriages? Will that make it any less real? Will it make us any less dedicated to each other?"
I had to admit that she was right. It was a marriage, and the political behind the scenes machinations didn't matter. We would be two people in love standing before God and everyone and declaring our love for each other. How would that be less real than a couple of NASCAR fans getting married by Elvis in a Vegas drive-thru?
That night in bed, I spooned Mickey from behind and thanked her. "For what?"
"For arguing to marry me."
Mickey had smiled and rolled over and embraced me. "Any time."
Mickey finished at the pumps and came to find me. "We need to hit the road, babe."
I pointed out into the water. "Is that a pirate ship?"
She cupped one hand over her eyes. "Looks like it. Should I protect you from any scalliwags?" She put her arms around my waist.
"Well, hold on. First see if any of the pirates look like Johnny Depp or Kiera Knightley."
Mickey kissed my temple and pulled me back toward the car. "C'mon. I want breakfast, and we have a schedule to keep."
"Hey, watch your mouth."
We lingered over breakfast thanks to a chatty waitress who explained the presence of the ship in the harbor. It was a replica of the <i>Pilgrim</i>, the ship sailed by the man who gave Dana Point its name. When talked turned to us and the reason for our trip, I deferred to Mickey. She was more in the closet than I was, even though her coworkers all knew the truth. She was reluctant to spread the knowledge around to strangers and her patients, so it was up to her to come up with the cover story if she wanted.
"We're going up to San Francisco. They're allowing gay couples to get married, so we thought it was time." She dropped her hand to the table, covering mine.
The waitress looked at our hands and her smile faded, and I prepared myself for the worst. "My sister died of cancer two years ago. If she was still around, she'd be up there ahead of you guys. Why don't I get you guys some coffees for the road? On the house."
We thanked her and she walked away, trying to be subtle as she wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. I wondered about her sister's story. Had there been a partner? Someone who had been refused permission to be there when her lover passed away? I looked at Mickey and I could tell she was thinking the same thing.
"Hey." She looked at me. "I love you."
She smiled and leaned across the table to kiss me.
My mantra was to not be a stalker.
I knew that the mystery woman I'd met at the play was the aunt of "Molly Pitcher," and I knew Molly had been played by Jessica Gordon. The information I wanted - the name of the beautiful woman from the hallway - was within my reach. I just had to walk down to the office, ask for Jessica's file, and look up her parents' names. Then... what? Call them? "Hi, I'm looking for your sister. The pretty one, the one with the beautiful eyes who pings my gaydar."
I started to resent Jessica a little bit. She had all the information I wanted, but I wasn't about to pump a ten year old for information. So I sat and I waited and I escorted the class to computer lab and recess, all the while hoping for another class project that would draw Jessica's auntie out of hiding so I could get a second chance.
Three months after the patriotic play was Parents Day. It was a day when the kids could bring their mothers and fathers to class to show them projects, artwork, introduce them to their friends and class pets. The classroom was a madhouse, with two-thirds more people than usual inside of it - two parents for every student, or thereabouts. Mr. Sherman's class was in a small cul-de-sac of other classrooms with a common area in the center. When the noise and bustle got to be too much for me, I left the classroom and wandered into the open area that the five classes looked out into.
"Hey. Aren't you Lady Liberty?"
I almost thought I was imagining her. She'd cut her hair, and she was wearing glasses, but it was unmistakably her.
"I almost didn't recognize you with the flesh-tone face. I'm--"
"Jessica Gordon's aunt. Hi. Yeah." I held out my hand and she took it. "I remember. What... are you doing here? Sorry. I mean, you're allowed. But it's mostly a mom-and-dad sort of thing." I was babbling. I didn't want to give away how thrilled I was to see her.
"Jessica's mom died when she was five, so my brother calls on me for some of the, ah, more motherly duties. He couldn't make it, and he didn't want Jessie to be the only kid without someone here for her. So..." She shrugged and looked around. "Although she seems to have vanished after showing me her diorama..."
"Kids have a habit of doing that." I looked around with her. Parents Day was a free for all, really, and trying to impose order was a fool's errand.
"So you're Mrs. Lincoln?"
I blinked at her. "What?"
She pointed at one of the classrooms we were standing near. Mrs. Lincoln was the only female teacher in this particular section. "Oh. No. I'm Robin Harper. I'm Mr. Sherman's teaching assistant. From the college."
"Oh, that's right. You told me that last time we met. Well, I'm Michelle Gordon. People call me Mickey. It's nice to meet you."
"You too." My mind did a quick set of acrobatics. Her name is the same as her brother, which means she's not married. There's a chance. "So it probably sucks that you had to miss a half-day of work to come down here."
"Jessie's worth the effort. Besides, I'm only missing sleep. I work nights this week."
I nodded. "Superhero or cat burglar?"
Mickey threw her head back and laughed. The way her throat moved, the way she exposed her teeth and the way her eyes squeezed closed when she laughed, I noted all of it. Every bit of it, in the half-second it was presented to me, I memorized it. I wasn't in love with her then, but I was on the roof and moving toward the edge of the building ready to take the leap.
"I'm a nurse. Emergency room."
"Oh, wow. That's so great."
She smiled and scanned the crowd for Jessica again. "There she is. Jessie!" She waved her hand and Jessica apparently acknowledged it before going back to what she was doing. Mickey sighed and looked at me again. "So it must be nice after work, getting to be around grown ups after a whole day of this."
"If by grown up, you mean my friends who live in the TV, then yes."
"Sad but true. I'm right there with you." She bit her bottom lip, a move I would come to know and love over the next decade of our lives. "Tell you what. <i>I</i> really need some time with a grown up after this, so after I drop Jessie off at home, why don't we meet up for a drink?"
There was a table nearby, so I could have jumped on it and did a dance of happiness. I make a note of it simply so my restraint can be appropriately admired.
"Sure. That sounds really good."
We met for drinks, and drinks turned to a walk down to the beach. The question, "You are gay, aren't you?" was answered with a kiss, and hands were held on the way back to where we had parked. Mickey leaned into the open window of my car and kissed me again before we parted, making promises to call each other before too much time had passed.
I met Mickey in the years before cell phones and the internet really took off, before Facebook and MySpace took some of the mystery out of meeting someone. When we exchanged numbers, I gave her my home number and she gave me a pager number. I remember being impressed that she had a pager until I remembered she was a doctor. Nine years later we both have cell phones and email addresses and Facebook pages.
Mickey's Facebook profile picture was the two of us on a beach, with me sitting and Mickey bending down to put her arms around my neck. I have my head turned away from the camera, kissing Mickey's shoulder as she smiles at the photographer with one eye closed against the sun. My profile picture is the two of us from behind, my head on Mickey's shoulder and her arm around my waist.
Sometimes I felt a little cheater. Just when the world decided to make it easier to meet someone, I had fallen in love with a woman I would never let go. We got together just in time to make the multitude of dating sites - which I would have <i>killed</i> for just a few years earlier - completely pointless.
I usually got over my ire by realizing I had hit the jackpot without cheating. Let the new generation have their websites and their search algorithms. I found the person I belong to all by myself.
I dozed for a while and dreamt of when Mickey entered my life. Our first date, cooking for her in my little apartment, how embarrassed I was to be barefoot in front of her for the first time. I replayed the lingering goodnight kiss that turned into our first time together over and over again, remembering how I had just given in to the kiss and left it up to her to end it. And when she guided me away from the apartment door and back to the couch, and when I realized what was happening, and when she laid me down...
I opened my eyes and saw the curving road and the water outside the windshield. I rubbed my eyes and straightened in my seat, glancing over at Mickey as I tried to stretch in the confines of my seatbelt.
For some reason in moments like this, I imagine a pair of farmers standing on their porch and turning their squint-eyed gazes on the sky. "Big storm's a-comin'," one of them might say, and the other will nod his head sagely and say, "Ayup, big'n."
It was that way with Mickey's Moods. Her little headaches that soured her mood, and the sour mood that worsened her headaches, which just made her crabbier. They were rare, thank God, but I never figured out what exactly prompted them. I never dug too deep, worried that the answer would be me.
"Want me to drive for a while?"
"We have a schedule."
"Yeah, but if you're getting a headache, I'd be more than happy to--"
"I said I'm fine, Robin."
I held up my hands in surrender, crossed my arms, and looked out the window. The Vienna Teng CD is on yet another repeat, so I ejected it and put it back in its case. There were other CDs in the center console, and I pulled them out to find something to replace Vienna. I had only gone through three or four before Mickey groaned. "Could you make some more noise?"
"Sorry. Would you rather we just not listen to anything?"
I put the CDs back where I'd gotten them and sat, arms crossed over my chest, and looked out the window as the silence filled the car.
I don't like silence. Mickey has always been better at the silent treatment than I am; I always cave and apologize just so I can hear her voice again. The one exception, of course, being our failed Next Step.
It was during our fifth year together when Mickey became temporarily obsessed with the idea of becoming parents. For all the awkward situations that followed, I'm grateful it happened because it solidified our dedication to each other. I'd known early on that Mickey was the one I wanted, but I suddenly had evidence Mickey was expecting to be with <i>me</i> for the long haul. She wanted a baby with me. The problem was with how that was supposed to happen.
We both agreed that artificial insemination wasn't the way to go. We thought it was too much money for a procedure with an insanely high failure rate. Not to mention picking a donor. I assumed the only alternative was adoption, which was unlikely, expensive and as prone to failure as insemination. But Mickey had another idea.
Mickey knew someone at the hospital. A doctor friend. He was bisexual, with a bias toward men. Mickey knew that I'd been with a few men in high school. Her so-called perfect solution was to let her coworker have unprotected sex with me until I got pregnant. After a few days of balking, I finally decided I was willing to go along with it. It was nothing I hadn't done before, and it was the easiest way to have a baby of our own. If we did the insemination route I would have to spread my legs and be violated by a doctor, so why not just go with the less traumatizing route?
It's like the Ally McBeal character said: friction, friction, friction, orgasm. No need for feelings to get involved. No reason to feel strange about it.
Mickey's doctor friend came over for drinks. We were all nervous but the alcohol helped. Finally Mickey left, and I took her friend into the bedroom.
To this day, I don't know what would have happened if he'd been able to get hard. I offered to help, but he assured me it wouldn't help the process. So we sat on the bed, facing opposite directions, while he tried to coax an erection out of his unwilling manhood. I remember leaning forward with my hands on my face, wondering how soon we could call the game on account of limpness, when the door slammed open.
"Get the fuck off of... her."
The friend was relieved, Mickey was embarrassed, and I was caught in the middle. I was relieved that the ordeal was over, but disappointed I couldn't give Mickey the baby we both wanted. Mickey apologized for everything but refused to look me in the eye. She barely said a word to me for a week after that, too embarrassed by the fact she'd "pimped me out." She called it temporary insanity, but I must have caught the same thing. I wanted a baby enough that I was willing to do whatever it took. It wasn't her fault; it was the easiest solution in my mind, too.
Regardless of whose fault it was, we both apologized for getting carried away and the matter was dropped. The baby plan was put on indefinite hold.
Mickey's silences weighed on me. Some primal, insecure part of my brain was always convinced that this was the final silence. She would never speak to me again, I was certain.
Ten miles after she snapped at me, Mickey reached over and took a CD from the stack next to my leg. She opened it one handed, balancing the case on the steering wheel as she slid the CD into the slot.
"It was a lot easier with tapes," she said quietly.
"Even easier with eight-tracks, I bet."
The corners of Mickey's mouth curled into a smile. I reached over and slipped my hand under the dark wave of her hair. I cupped the base of her skull and rubbed gently. She purred and rolled her head with the motion of my fingers as I eased her headache as best I could. The CD she'd picked at random was Joan Baez's <i>Dark Chords on a Big Guitar</i>, which just proved our weekend was filled with luck.
I closed my eyes and leaned back against the headrest, massaging my imminent spouse's neck to the rhythm of Joan Baez singing "Sleeper."
Lunch was a pair of salads eaten in the car, parked so we could look out at the ocean. Mickey's headache faded from my massage and she apologized for her abrasive behavior. I told her no apologies were necessary and I meant it. She'd dealt with enough of my black moods that we were basically even. It was part of the whole package, the good with the bad.
We weren't far from Solvang, and the plan was to spend the afternoon there before continuing north to Morro Bay for the night.
"Are you nervous?"
Mickey looked at me. "No, we're on schedule."
"I mean." I licked some dressing from the corner of my mouth, a delaying tactic. "In twenty-four hours, we're going to be married. Are you getting cold feet?"
Mickey pressed her lips together and smiled. "The only 'cold feet' I have is my worry that you'll realize you can do a lot better than me. Someone younger and prettier."
"Nah. I put ten years into this relationship. I might as well settle."
Mickey picked up a lettuce leaf and draped it on my nose. She wrinkled her nose at me as I peeled it off, wiping the excess dressing away with a napkin.
"Why would I want someone younger? You're already more immature than anyone I've ever met."
Mickey laughed. "Oh. Speaking of immature, I talked to Brian the other day."
"He said he was sorry he couldn't be there, but I don't think the place is set up for visitors. I don't think there are big wedding parties filling the rotunda."
I shook my head.
"I feel bad about Jessie, though. She really wanted to be my bridesmaid."
I smiled. It was still hard to believe Jessie was twenty, in college. A beautiful young woman, grown out of the scabbed-knee little girl who brought me and Mickey together. I once pulled her aside and revealed it was her play where Mickey and I met each other, and I thanked her for putting us in the same space together. She'd cried and hugged me and thanked me for giving her credit for something that had made her Auntie Mickey so happy. It hurt that she couldn't be at our wedding.
"We should stop by and see her on the way home."
Mickey perked up at the idea. "I'd like that a lot."
We finished our salads and threw our trash into the bins provided. A bathroom break and a quick top-off of the gas tank and we were back on our way.
Solvang was as advertised. Driving into town was like instantaneously being transported across the Atlantic to a quaint village in the Netherlands. It was easy to ignore the cars and anachronistic street signs and imagine that we had also been teleported back in time. Mickey and I walked hand in hand down the street, pausing to window shop here and there. Mickey was the one who spotted the horse-drawn trolley and suggested we buy tickets.
We were the only two riders on the trolley, which was pulled by a gorgeous pair of horses with blonde manes and dark russet coloring. Mickey put her arm around me and drew me close as we wound through the streets of Solvang, with the driver indicating points of interest. Mickey kissed my temple and I closed my eyes, settling against her side. I didn't care about the beautiful windmill, or the thatched roofs of the buildings we passed. All I cared about was Mickey.
After the tour we did some shopping. Mostly just window shopping considering some of the prices we saw, and considering how easy it would be to deplete our entire bank account in just one shop. At one point we separated so I could go to the bathroom and Mickey could find someplace to get a drink. We were only apart for, at most, five minutes. I came out of the bathroom and scanned the crowd and spotted Mickey standing in front of a quilt store.
She had her back to me, but there was no mistaking her. Her hair was down, but she had one hand cupped by her right eye to keep it and the sun out of her eyes as she looked in the window. There was nothing sexual about her pose, nothing seductive, nothing but a woman who had been walking too long and was being forced to remain upright just another few minutes. She dropped her hand and turned so I could see her in profile as she scanned the street, and I closed the distance between us in a few loping strides.
"There you are." Her arm slid around my waist and pulled me close. She pointed in the window of the shop. "Look at these quilts."
I rested my head on her shoulder. "They're beautiful."
She kissed the top of my head. "I was thinking we could get one for our bed. Symbolic. It would be our marriage bed."
I smiled and lifted my head, kissing her. "Great idea."
She smiled and took my hand, guiding me into the store so we could pick out the right quilt together.
Morro Bay was a quieter, more restrained tourist destination than Solvang. Mickey pointed out the Morro Rock in the harbor as we drove into town. It was a huge stone dome in the middle of the water, attached to land by a narrow spit of sand. Sailboats dipped and swayed all around it, their sails catching the colors of the setting sun and reflecting off the pristine waters. Mickey found the hotel and we checked in, leaving most of our luggage in the car. Mickey had a small overnight bag with our pajamas and toiletries, saving us the trouble of lugging all of our possessions everywhere we went. See? That's why she was in charge of the packing. I never would have thought of that.
Our room had a canopied bed. Mickey opened the overnight bag on the foot of the bed and deposited some of our stuff into the hotel's bathroom while I sat on the edge of the mattress and bounced a few times. It was a nice, sturdy bed. Mickey returned, saw the look in my eyes, and smiled wryly.
"It's the night <i>before</i> the wedding, so this doesn't count as a honeymoon."
"Sure it does."
"You can't have a honeymoon before the nuptials."
"You can if you've been waiting ten years to have the possibility of nuptials. You can if the only reason you're getting married now instead of five years ago is because some asshole said it wasn't right. Technically, we're overdue for a honeymoon. I, for one, don't want to wait an extra day." I held out my hand to her. "Come here, please."
Mickey crossed the room and took my hand, stepping between my legs. I lifted my face to hers and she bent down to meet my lips. She let go of my hand to cup my face, the heels of her hand under my jaw as I lifted my legs and hooked my ankles behind her. I had kicked my shoes off as soon as we entered the room, and I curled my toes as Mickey leaned her weight against me to lower me to the mattress.
She broke the kiss and moved her lips lower, to my neck and up to my earlobe. I was putty in her hands, writhing as her hands moved down to the collar of my shirt and undid the topmost button. Mickey kissed my neck as her fingers moved lower, and then she kissed every new exposed spot. She licked my cleavage, one of her favorite spots. She brushed her hair over my stomach and made me twitch and giggle. She circled my navel with her tongue as she undid my pants, her hands moving down my body to push them down as her lips moved back up. She kissed me through my bra and then kissed the underside of my chin before taking my lips again.
I sat up just enough to get my shirt off, and Mickey helped me untangle my hands from the sleeves before laying me back down. She cupped my breasts in her hands as she slid down my body, kneeling beside the bed and between my legs. She pulled my underwear down, and I obediently lifted my legs so she could get them off. When they were gone, she guided my legs onto her shoulders and leaned forward.
The first time Mickey went down on me, I cried. I'm not ashamed to admit it. Before Mickey it was all fumbling and awkward shifting and accidental orgasms. But Mickey knew what she was doing. Viva la experience! When she was finished I was torn between not caring if I ever had another orgasm and wanting another one right that second. In the years since, and the many many orgasms she's produced with her lips and tongue, she's only gotten better at pushing me over the edge with apparently very little effort.
I stroked her hair away from her face, forcing my eyes open so I could look down and see her watching me. She winked and I managed a breathless laugh before dropping my head back to the mattress. She was ambidextrous, and she massaged my thigh with one hand while two fingers of the other went exploring.
Mickey kissed my thighs when I came, sliding up my body with her blouse and slacks brushing my extremely sensitive flesh as she stretched out on top of me and kissed my lips. I stroked her hair, eyes closed as her tongue slipped into my mouth. I held her and then quickly, eagerly, began to peel the clothes from her body. My head was draped by her shirt as I kissed her breasts through her bra, nipping and licking and sucking her before I moved back up to her neck.
Blouse, gone and quickly followed by her bra, and Mickey was at last half naked on top of me. I returned to her breasts and took a nipple into my mouth. Mickey stroked my hair and moaned and she arched her back. I unfastened her pants and pushed my hand inside. Mickey had once kissed every finger of my right hand, nuzzled the palm, and then told me that she was in love with my hands. I don't know what I did that was so spectacular, and I don't know if she was just humoring me after my effusive praise for her oral technique, but I knew she wasn't faking her reactions. So my hand became my secret weapon.
I stroked her through the thin material of her panties and she whispered my name as she began to move her hips. I fumbled with her underwear, curling two fingers around the cotton before I extended them and pressed them against her labia. Teasing and then stroking, two fingers spread apart and then become three. Mickey's back was arched, her head next to mine so I could kiss and lick her neck as my fingers push inside of her and I began to thrust.
Mickey moved against me and I could hear her soft whimpers. She turned her head and my lips were against her ear. "M'chelle," I said. I was the only one who got to call her that, the only one who could get away with it. She preferred Mickey, and so did I, but at moments like these when she was undeniably a woman... undeniably <i>my</i> woman... we both felt the need to acknowledge the fact. "Michelle."
She came while I was saying her name, her face sweaty and hot against my neck. She sought my earlobe with her tongue and took it into her mouth, and I closed my eyes as I freed my hand from her pants. I kissed the fingertips and tasted Mickey, and then she lifted her head and kissed me.
She chuckled and brushed her nose against mine. "Happy pre-honeymoon."
We rearranged ourselves so that we were laying side by side, my head on Mickey's chest. The plan was to get up, shower or take a bath together, and then dress for bed. The plan went out the window about the time Mickey started stroking my hair, and I fell quickly and irrevocably asleep to the sound of her breathing.
I woke up a few minutes before five, as always. The travel alarm was sitting on the nightstand, eighty-five seconds from disturbing our bliss with a shattering and ear-splitting buzz. Robin was still dead to the world, her head still on my chest, and I very carefully reached out and switched the alarm clock to off. I was the one who made the schedule, I could break it. Besides, letting her sleep in a few minutes wouldn't be the end of the world.
I stroked my hand down Robin's back and looked down at her. I called her Robin Goodfellow from time to time because she looked like an elf; my little Puck, with her chestnut hair cut short and her ears that stuck out just a bit too far. Her lips were slack from sleep, and her nose occasionally wrinkled at something in her dreams. Her nose, with the light dusting of freckles that made her look even younger than she was.
When I first met her, she looked like she was barely out of her teens. It made it easier to ignore how gorgeous I thought she was, that and the fact she was dressed like Lady Liberty at the time. God, that costume was a godsend. I was able to ask Jessie about "that teacher who played the Statue of Liberty" instead of pumping my ten year old niece for information about the hot girl I'd met at her play. How creepy can you get?
I started volunteering to help Brian with Jessie's school activities on the off-chance I would meet up with the statue again. I just wanted confirmation that she wasn't anywhere near as gorgeous in her every day life. I'd just seen the costume and filled in the blanks with whatever I wanted. It made her more attractive in my mind. So when I met her in street clothes, she would just be another one of Jessie's teachers and my life could go on unabated.
God, how wrong could I have been?
Robin's eyes were open a few seconds before I realized she was awake. She lifted her head, groaned, and turned to kiss my shoulder. "Why'n't you wake me?"
I kissed her temple. "You looked too pretty."
She blushed, brushed her cheek over my chest, and pushed herself up. "You wanna shower first?"
"It is our pre-honeymoon. Let's shower together."
She grinned and kissed my cheek. "Sounds good to me." She was still naked and I was distracted by the smooth line of her back and the curve of her hip as she slid out of bed and padded to the bathroom. I threw the blankets back and got out of bed as the water started running in the tub. I finger-combed my hair and joined her in the bathroom. She was sitting on the edge of the tub and I stood before her, guiding her head to my stomach as she embraced me.
Robin was my world. I may have fought it a little when we first got together... okay, I definitely found it. "Robbing the cradle, Mick. Wait, did you just say she has <i>school</i> in the morning? What will you say when her parents find out? What if she gets grounded?" The wise guys at the hospital were relentless, but I didn't think they were wrong. A twenty-three year old? What was I thinking? It was still years before the term "cougar" would be coined, but the first time I heard it I felt a twinge of guilt and a bit of shame.
The shame didn't last long. After a while I stopped thinking of the difference in our ages except when I was feeling vulnerable or when my self-confidence was lagging. I wondered why a young, beautiful woman would want to be saddled with someone so much older than her. I watched the water fill the tub behind her. "I think the bath is ready."
She turned, tested the temperature with her fingers, and reached up to turn off the faucets. She faced me again and held both my hands, smiling up at me. "Don't let me hurt myself." Before I could ask what she meant, she slid backwards off the edge of the tub and into the water. I kept her from falling too fast, smiling as she ended up sprawled sideways across the tub with her feet sticking straight up in the air.
"You really are a child," I said with a laugh, taking her foot in my hand and kissing her instep. She turned sideways and beckoned for me to join her. I stepped over the edge of the tub and straddled her, and she rose to meet me for a kiss as I settled on top of her.
I was dressed and ready to go, but Robin was still in her bra and jeans as she finished putting on her makeup. I didn't mind; it was one of Robin's quirks that she always took ages to get ready. Sometimes I would see her standing in the closet and fingering a sleeve while her mind wandered, chewing her lip, completely oblivious to the passage of time. I'd gotten used to it and learned to anticipate her meanderings.
I looked at my reflection in the mirror as she crossed the room behind me. There were a few streaks of gray in my hair, and I tried to cover them by combing the still-dark strands forward. I had crows-feet by my eyes and laugh lines by my mouth. I smiled and turned away from the woman in the mirror. I didn't obsess over my wrinkles, and I didn't expect to start buying dye to cover the streaks in my hair. So what if I was shocked when I looked at myself twice or thrice per day? That was what Robin saw every single time she looked at me. If she found something worth loving in it, then who was I to argue? My face was more hers than mine.
She picked up a shoe and sat on the edge of the bed, fiddling with the laces. "Babe."
She looked up at me.
"Right." She pulled the show on without untying it. I walked to her, wrapped my arm around her head and bent down to kiss her hair. It was still wet from our bath. I released her and took the keys off the nightstand, tossing them to her. "You ready?"
"Born ready." She finished putting on her shoes while I examined the room to make sure we hadn't left anything behind. Then she took my hand and let me guide her out of the room.
Ten minutes later, we were on our way again.
We were late starting, hitting the road just after seven instead of six-thirty. It didn't matter; the way I had it calculated, we would still reach San Francisco by noon. Then we would stand in line with all the other couples and hopefully, by tomorrow, I would be married to Robin Leah Harper, second grade teacher. I looked at her profile, her eyes focused on the road ahead. From my position, she was framed by the ocean rolling by on the other side of the car. Her hair had some flyaway strands and I reached over to smooth them out. She was so used to my grooming of her that she didn't even acknowledge it.
"Have you thought about names?"
I nodded. "I can't decide, though. I'd love to take your name, but my patients don't know Dr. Harper."
"And it would be odd for my kids to go from Ms. Harper's class to Mrs. Gordon's in the middle of the school year."
"Maybe we could come up with a combined name."
I couldn't help the laugh that bubbled out of me. "Yes. Mickey and Robin Hardon. Have you met the Hardons?"
"Don't shake their hands too hard or they'll explode."
I covered my mouth and turned away from her. I was in my forties and laughing at a dick joke. Say what you will about robbing the cradle, but she kept me young. I reached over and took her hand. "We'll think of something. If nothing else, we can wait until summer to make the change."
"That's assuming I take your name."
I nodded. "Right, of course. If I take yours, I'll find some way to help my patients adjust. I'm not the first female doctor who has had to go through this."
Robin said, "And we could always just hyphenate. Harper-Gordon. Or Gordon-Harper."
"Gordon Harper sounds like a British Prime Minister. Maybe we could just make up a last name."
"I still like Hardon."
I snickered and slapped the back of her hand. "Stop that. If I giggle when we say our vows, I'm blaming you." I settled back against the seat and looked out the windshield at the road disappearing under our tires. How big was this damn state? How could we still be driving? I wanted to be in San Francisco immediately, I wanted to push past everyone I knew was waiting in line, rush up to the minister or the judge or whoever was in charge of the ceremonies and demand that I become Mrs. Robin Harper-Gordon-Hardon immediately.
"Why didn't we fly?"
"The scenery. The honeymoon. Your idea, darling."
"I know." I rubbed my eyes. "I really want to marry you. That's all." I looked over and saw Robin was blushing and her eyes were wet with tears. "Are you okay?"
She nodded and brushed at her cheeks with one hand. "Uh-huh. Just keep saying stuff like that."
After a while, I put in another new album. Sara Bareilles this time, another new female artist with heavy piano work. She was Robin's choice, but I had to admit that she was growing on me, too. The album was still too new for either of us to sing along, but Robin started humming 'Gravity' almost as soon as it started. She dropped her hand from the steering wheel and I took it, running my thumb over her knuckles as I listened to the music instead of the lyrics. If I listened to the lyrics, I was liable to start crying.
We'd had our breakfast at the hotel, and we had already decided we wouldn't stop for lunch until we got to San Francisco. So other than stopping for gas and bathroom breaks, our next stop would be to get married. The only thing I regretted was the spectacle of the thing. We both had our outfits in the backseat in dry-clean bags, and we would change into them once we arrived. Other than that, we had no planning and no control over anything. We couldn't decide the venue or exchange our own vows, I couldn't stand at the altar and watch my beautiful partner walk toward me with flowers in her hands.
I squeezed her hand. "Thank you for putting up with me when I'm grumpy."
"It's not hard. Most days, anyway." She smiled at me and I winked at her. She looked back at the road, checking the gas gauge. "When do you want to stop for gas?"
"We should wait until we need to stop for the bathroom, if we can." I looked at my watch. Now that we were within twelve hours of our destination, I couldn't deny feeling a little antsy. I wanted to be there immediately, I wanted to get it done with so I could just be married to Robin already.
Instead I rested my hand on her shoulder, since she needed both hands to navigate the winding PCH, and watched the ribbon of the road unwinding in front of us.
Robin woke me by rubbing my arm. "Hon. You have to wake up."
I straightened in my seat, stretching as I looked out the windshield. I immediately saw what she was trying to point out, and my heart skipped into my throat. Unmistakable, tall and red and majestic like the drawbridge of a fairytale castle, I saw the Golden Gate Bridge. I looked at Robin and saw she was beaming and crying at the same time, her hands gripping the wheel tightly to keep them from shaking.
"If you're having second thoughts, I don't care," I said. "You're stuck."
"I'm serious. I didn't drive all this way to have you back out on me now."
She wiped her eyes with her back of her hand. "Well, I guess if I don't have a choice."
I reached over and wiped her cheek with my thumb. "You are utterly choiceless."
She sniffled. "I can think of worse sentences."
I took the map from the glove compartment and directed her toward city hall. We saw the crowd before we even got close, and I whistled in admiration. "Well, people are definitely going to have a hard time ignoring this."
An idea occurred to me. "Don't stop."
"Hey, if I can't back out on you--"
"I'm not. Just keep driving. There's something I want to do first."
Robin sped up slightly, ceasing her search for a parking space as she rejoined the flow of traffic. We didn't have to drive long before I found what I was looking for. I directed her to stop outside of a small bakery. The young girl allowed us to use their bathroom so long as we made a purchase before we left, and we changed into our wedding outfits.
Robin wore a sleeveless white dress, less like a wedding gown than something she would wear to a particularly fancy party. I wore a dark purple suit with a white blouse and a white necktie. I put my hair up and placed a white flower in the lapel of my jacket. Robin and I met outside the bathrooms and I teased a few strands of hair out of her ponytail so they framed her face. "Perfect," I told her, and I kissed the corner of her mouth before we went back out to the store.
The clerk looked up and eyed our outfits. "Are you going over to city hall?"
I took Robin's hand. "We certainly are."
"That's awesome. You guys don't have to buy anything."
"No, we want to." We had some money left over since restraining ourselves in Solvang, so I placed my credit card on the counter. "Four dozen donuts, please. Assorted. But, uh, no jelly."
The girl's eyes widened.
Robin helped me carry the boxes out to the car and we drove back to city hall. We found free parking a few blocks away and walked back, balancing the boxes of donuts on both arms. Suddenly we were in the midst of wedding dresses and tuxedos, people in evening wear lounging in lawn chairs, holding signs that they flashed at cars passing by. Men admired rings, and women fawned over veils and gowns. Robin and I opened the boxes of donuts and began passing them out to whoever wanted them, offering napkins to protect the brides and grooms from staining their clothes.
We accepted our place in line, holding hands as the donuts we brought were passed around. It didn't take long before a pair of men in tuxedos joined the line behind us. One of them, a tall man with thinning brown hair and a goatee, smiled and nodded at Robin. He nervously clutched the hand of his fiancé as he leaned out and looked at the line stretching out along the sidewalk.
"Do you know how long the wait will be?"
Robin took my hand and squeezed. "Not all that long. Considering."
I smiled and ducked my chin. We were planning to be here at least until tomorrow morning, but Robin was right. Ten years together, committed despite the law telling us we couldn't be committed... a few hours was absolutely nothing at all.
<b><i>Four Years Later,</i></b>
Robin paused next to the desk in her home office. She reached up and touched the corner of the frame. It was a copy of their marriage certificate, now void in the eyes of the law. She could have cared less what the law said, and that was why she displayed it proudly. If anyone asked, she and Mickey referred to themselves as a married couple. She took Mickey's last name, now signing herself as Robin Harper Gordon. It felt like the name she had always been meant to have.
There was a knock on the door and a two-year-old girl's head appeared. Her eyes were wide and brown, and she was sucking her bottom lip the way Mickey did when she was concerned.
"Did your mommy tell you to come find me?"
The head bobbed up and down.
Robin smiled and picked up her purse, looping it over her shoulder as she crossed the room. She crouched down and scooped their daughter into her arms. She carried the little girl down the hall, letting her play with the loose strands of hair that hung down in her face. Amelia Harper Gordon was the product of a surrogate parent and, despite their qualms, it turned out to be the perfect solution.
Mickey was leaning against the front door, looking out at the driveway. She turned when she heard Robin coming and straightened. "It's about time."
"Don't send Amy to do your dirty work." She kissed Mickey as she passed, and Mickey pulled the door shut and locked it behind them.
"Are you sure you have everything?"
"Yep. I double-checked and I'm sure you triple-checked."
Mickey said, "I don't want to start our trip on a fight."
Robin opened the back door and proceeded to transfer Amy from her hip to the car seat. "We survived the trip last time."
"Yeah, but we didn't have a grumpy two-year-old in the car with us that time."
"No, you were there."
Mickey picked up one of Amy's stuffed animals and whipped it at Robin's head. Robin let it bounce off the top of her head and winked at Amy as she fastened the last strap of the seat. They weren't going all the way to San Francisco this time; they were just going straight to the shore to get married on the beach. They were doing it right this time, with family and friends and coworkers and the whole nine yards.
Once Amy was secured, Robin shut the door and opened the driver's side door.
"Hey." Robin paused with her hand on the door and looked at Mickey over the top of the car. "What... if they do it again? What if someone decides this marriage isn't real, either?"
"Then we'll do it again. I'll marry you as many times as it takes to stick."
Mickey smiled and blew her a kiss over the top of the car. They got inside and Robin fastened her seatbelt. She twisted to make sure Amy was ready before she started the car, and she shared a smile with Mickey as she settled into her seat. "Take two."
"Take two," Mickey agreed. She rubbed Robin's shoulder as Robin pulled out of the driveway.
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