Disclaimer : Characters and situations all belong to other people who are not me.
Warnings : Sex and love between women
Feedback : Constructive criticism and feedback, both welcomed at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2012 Geonn Cannon
2:58 AM, Tuesday, June 5.
It started with a low rumble, like far off thunder echoing through the mountains. But slowly the slow basso drum turned into a growl. Objects skittered across their shelves, and the windows along Front Street shook in their panes. Tables and chairs inside Gail's Seafood Shack trembled at a nearly imperceptible level. Light fixtures swayed in Joe Lack's Pizza. In KELF Radio's studios, the overnight disc jockey glanced up and around as the building seemed to come to life around her with a shuddering breath. The floor shook beneath her feet and she nervously spoke into the microphone and tried not to think about the fact she was on the second floor.
For twenty-eight seconds, the entire town of December Harbor rattled. People were shaking from sleep, or paused in whatever they were doing as the world around them made its presence known with a protracted growl.
Meanwhile, as the tiny island in the Pacific Northwest experienced its largest earthquake in twenty-eight years, the planets moved. Earth and the Sun moved into position so that the planet of Venus could move between them and be visible from Earth.
The ground settled. Later on, the quake would be measured at five-point-four. The property damage left behind in its wake was negligible, but there was other damage that was far more devastating and far more difficult for the residents of the island to notice.
Nadine gasped awake, sitting up and clutching as the blankets around her as she struggled to understand what was happening. She'd woken in the middle of the earthquake and looked around her apartment as she waited for the rumbling to stop. Her heart pounded, and the sudden silence seemed oppressive and thick. "Did you feel--" She turned to look at the space next to her but... no. That was silly.
She was on the couch in her living room, tangled in the blankets. For some reason, her mind stuck in some dream remnant, she had thought she was in bed with a woman. A beautiful woman, who loved her. Her heart ached for a moment before she sealed it off and rubbed her hands against her eyes. It was a nice dream, and she hoped she would be able to get back to it. She lay back down and arranged the blankets over her legs, plumped her pillow, and stared at the ceiling. She would check on the damage later; for now she had to try and get some sleep. She had a big day at work tomorrow.
Her eyes opened and she frowned. Work had prompted an image of the KELF broadcast booth, a room she hadn't seen in five years. She yawned and rolled onto her side. Maybe it was a remnant of the dream. Now that she thought about it, her dream lover had sort of resembled her former manager, Miranda Powell. She shuddered at the idea. Her and Miranda, lovers?
Well... she supposed there could be passion in hate.
Patricia turned on the living room light and scanned for damage. The TV was still standing, as were the framed pictures. A quick scan of the room showed no structural damage, so she turned off the light and went back down the hall. She paused next to Michael's room and listened. There was no evidence of light seeping through the crack under the door, and she didn't hear any movement, so she moved on to the spare bedroom.
Baby Melanie was curled on one side in her crib, thumb hovering near but not in her mouth. She reached down and teased the toddler's curly black hair, smiled, and left her sleeping. Back in the master bedroom, she took off her robe and hung it on the closet door. Nick was still propped up on his elbows, watching her. "Anything broken?"
"Nope," she said. "Everything looks fine."
She joined him in bed and rolled over, turning out the lamp and hoping he would take it as a hint. His hand moved to her hip and she tried not to tense at his touch. He felt the sudden tension in her body, and she knew he felt it, but neither of them acknowledged it. She was willing to go through with what he was tacitly asking, but the hand lifted and he returned to his side of the bed. They spoke at the same time.
"I was just thinking since we were both up--"
"Sorry. I have a really big day, so--"
"It's okay." He retreated and Patricia Costa rested her head on the pillow and stared at the wall. Even in the dim light she could see her wedding ring, the second one Nick had given her. She stifled a sigh and tucked the hand under the pillow where she wouldn't see the ring as she fell asleep. Beside her, Nick started snoring again. Patricia fell asleep looking at the clock.
When the first rays of the morning sun washed over the town, Sheriff Randall White and his deputies rolled slowly up one street and down another, pausing now and then to assess damage from the earthquake. The residents of the island came out of their homes, relieved to see they had withstood the tremor without much adverse effects. A few bicycles had been toppled, and there was a crack in city hall running from the foundation up to the roof. Mayor Kevin Dugan gave the newspaper a quote about "finally the crackpots are right... city hall is a little crooked this morning."
No one thought it was particularly funny.
Miranda Drake, nee Powell, checked their backyard and walked back into the house. Her husband was at the dining room table with the Seattle Times open in front of him. "Looks like we made it through unscathed."
"Lucky us," Leo said without looking up.
Miranda walked through the kitchen to the living room. She gathered up and folded her blanket, placing the pillow on top of it. She was just finishing up when Leo came out of the kitchen already looking at his watch.
"I should go if I want to make the early ferry. It's going to be a late one, so I figure I'll just stay over on the mainland. You can have the bedroom tonight, if you want."
"Thanks. And my back thanks you."
He crossed the room and put his hands on her lower back, pressing his fingers into the soft skin on either side of her spine. She gasped and arched like a cat, closing her eyes as he worked the aching muscles. "Ahh... God... don't stop." She rested her hands against the arm of the couch and rocked her weight back. His hips brushed his, and she suddenly realized the compromising position they were in. She blushed and ducked her head as he continued the massage.
"You know you don't have to sleep out here just because I'm in the bedroom..."
Miranda smiled. "I don't think Jack would appreciate us sleeping in the same bed."
"There's a lot Jack doesn't appreciate."
Miranda straightened and turned to look at him. "What's that about?"
Leo shook his head and turned her back around. Miranda reassumed the position and let him continue to work her muscles. "Jack's just sick of the run-around. He wants honesty, or he wants to separate."
"I'm so sorry. If you need a divorce..."
"No." He squeezed her hip and stepped away from her. "Living on love is a nice poem, but it's a little more difficult in the real world. My company likes family men."
Miranda turned and sat on the couch. "So marry Jack. You can do that now, you know."
"I'm like you, Mir." He shrugged into his suit jacket and checked his tie in the mirror. "I like the hiding. I need the..." He sighed and looked at her. "I'm going to spend the night at Jack's trying to convince him that I'm not choosing work over him. I'm just trying to be feasible."
"I wish you luck."
He smiled in a way that said he thought he would definitely need some. Miranda looked away. When Nadine lost her job for being gay, Miranda had panicked. She'd gone to a gay bar and started looking for candidates. Leo Drake had been morosely staring into his beer when she approached, and they exchanged sob stories before Miranda made him an offer that would be a shield for both of them. Three months later they were legally married. They'd tried making love once, just to see what it would be like, but it ended in disaster. Miranda resorted to strap-on accoutrements, and afterward they had been too awkward around each other to even consider a second attempt.
He finally deemed himself presentable and picked up his overnight bag. "See you tomorrow night, maybe. Love you."
"I love you, too," Miranda said.
She waited until he was gone before she went into the kitchen to find something for breakfast. Cooking didn't appeal to her, so she scanned the fridge before she realized she could just have a bowl of...
She straightened and leaned against the fridge door. A bowl of what? Cereal? Jack didn't like cereal. But for an instant she could have sworn they had a box of it. She checked the counter just to be certain, looked on top of the fridge, and pushed her hand into her hair to scratch her head. How odd.
I'll just have a bowl of Dean's cereal .
The only Dean she knew was Nadine Butler, and she highly doubted she would want to share anything at all with her. She opened the fridge again and took out a grapefruit. Maybe some brain food would help keep her mind in order.
Patricia Costa stared at her own face, smiling at her from a yard sign in front of 18845 Orca Drive. The same photograph was present on six other properties on this side of town alone, and there were a few cabins up near Sholeh Village that had her contact information near the road. She wore her standard realtor uniform of a red blazer over a black blouse and white skirt. She had her arms crossed over her chest, frowning at her own smile.
God, I hate you.
The thought emerged, as it sometimes did, completely out of the blue. The woman in the picture was Patricia Costa, realtor, wife to Nick Costa. She had a baby daughter, a teenage son, and everything a woman her age was supposed to have. She hated it all. She loved her children, of course, but everything else felt like a compromise.
She reached up to sweep her hair away from her face and, in the process, caught a glint of moving metal in the frame of her sunglasses. She turned and stepped out of the driveway as a car pulled up behind her. She fixed the fake smile on her face, took off her glasses, and stepped toward the driver's door as it opened to reveal Kate Price. Kate slung the strap of her bag over her shoulder and grinned sheepishly. "We meet again."
"Kate. Always nice to see you." She pointed at the house behind her. "You're in luck. I have a good feeling about this one."
Kate smiled and shook Patricia's hand. "I swear, I'm not trying to be a pain in the ass..."
"No, don't even apologize." Patricia turned and led Kate up the driveway. "This is your home. It's a humungous decision, and you shouldn't make it just because you think I'm sick of seeing your face. I'm going to get you in the perfect house no matter how long it takes." She turned and aimed a finger at Kate. "But don't take that as a challenge."
"Cross my heart."
Patricia unlocked the door and led them in. She took two steps into the foyer and turned as Kate shut the door. They slammed into each other, lips smashing together in an eager, desperate kiss that was punctuated by moans and relieved sighs. Kate pulled back and gasped, "I've missed you," before Patricia covered her mouth again. Patricia fumbled with the buttons of her jacket, and Kate shoved it off her shoulders.
"You look amazing," Patricia said.
"You should see me naked."
Patricia nodded. "Okay. There's a, a mattress in the bedroom."
Kate patted her bag. "I brought the toys."
Patricia felt a frisson of desire run through her. She grabbed Kate's hand and tugged her through the house to the bedroom, leaving her jacket discarded on the floor behind them.
Stephanie Chapman signed the slip for the UPS man, then hoisted the box off the counter and lugged it through the kitchen door of Coffee Table Books. Amy was in the manager's office, a glorified closet just beyond the dishwashing station, and Stephanie knocked on the door with the side of her foot. "Hey, boss lady. You got another shipment of unsold books from that publisher in Seattle."
Amy looked up from her laptop and her eyes widened slightly. "Oh. Thanks, Steph. You can just leave it on the chair. Thank you."
Amy pretended to go back to work, waiting until Stephanie was gone before she hopped up and rounded the desk. She used a letter opener to cut the tape and lifted the flaps to see the brown-and-blue covers. The box held ten copies of the same book: Safe Harbor , by Francesca Harland. It was her fourth novel, not counting Sparks of Love . She wrote the first one as a way to clear the demons of her incarceration, and she thought she was done with the writing thing. But a very bad time in the island's history had woken the demons, and now she was writing most nights after closing the bakery.
Her novels all took place in a fictional village in Maine, where gay and lesbian couples outnumbered "traditional" marriages. People seemed to respond well to the books, but she still wasn't comfortable outing herself by using her own name on the cover. She lived in fear of someone walking up to the counter and asking if she was that Amy Wellis, and word getting out that she wrote lesbian romances. Ergo and therefore. QED. She turned the book over in her hands and looked at the back, flipped through it, and then put it back in the box.
As far as the staff knew, she had made a deal with Deep End Publishing to send her boxes of books that hadn't been sold in a particular quarter, and she shelved the books at the back of the store. Fortunately no one, not even her, kept a very close inventory on the books they had stocked. She closed the flaps and pushed the box to the side of her desk where it would be out of sight. She went back to her computer to finish making the orders for next week, but her gaze kept drifting down to the box.
How nice it would be if there really were happy endings in real life. She pressed her lips together and focused on the orders.
Kate was sitting on the edge of the bed, bent forward to gather her pants. She stood up and tugged them over her hips, fastened them, then dropped down next to Patricia. They were both still breathing heavily, and Patricia felt that old familiar sting that came with a liaison. Shame, regret, anger at herself and, as always, the urge to do it again as soon as possible. Their toys littered the bed between them and she was careful not to touch any of them. They seemed nasty now.
"Don't be sorry," Kate said. "If I wanted a relationship, I'd be in a relationship."
Patricia looked at her. She knew Kate's sad story... a piece of local gossip dropped in her lap and an article written at the expense of a loved one. Now Kate refused to be in any kind of long-term relationship for fear of being forced to make the same choice again. Their first time, Kate had made it clear she was just looking for sex. Patricia, who had sworn off sex with women, was too weak to refuse.
Now it was like an addiction. She didn't love Kate, but she was terrified of what would happen if Kate ever went away. How would she find someone else to give her what she needed? That was the self-loathing of the equation. She didn't want Kate, but she also didn't want Kate to have someone else who might make her forget about their little arrangement.
"Do you want me to go?"
Kate looked at her watch and dropped her hand to her stomach. Patricia shifted her legs and one of the dildos touched her thigh. She pushed it away with her hand and wiped her fingers on the mattress. She thought about her last romantic entanglement, the last time she thought that maybe she could actually settle down and be happy with a woman.
Jill. Just thinking about her hurt. But after the whole kerfuffle with the radio station, with one of the most beloved personalities on the island ousted from her job simply because she was gay, everything had changed. Jill suddenly became paranoid, and Patricia had to admit rightly so, that she would suffer the same fate. It was worse as an elementary school student; people would stamp their feet and pound their fists about "one of them" teaching their children. If she was outed, she would lose her job.
"You could always come with me."
"To Montana? Jill..."
"Don't say it like that. I can't stay here, Trish. Knowing what they would do if they found out... i-if they knew..."
"Don't live your life in fear."
"Platitudes? Patricia, if we stay together, it'll eventually become obvious. I won't be able to hide it. I won't want to. Come with me."
In the end, Patricia let Jill's hand drop from hers. She still remembered the look of shock and hurt on Jill's face when she turned away. She hadn't looked when Jill left the house, and she'd been at work when Jill packed her things. She was gone on the next ferry, and Patricia hadn't seen her since. Michael got letters now and again, but Patricia figured they weren't meant for her eyes and never asked to see them. Just seeing her handwriting on the envelope was painful enough. She gathered from clues Michael let slip that Jill was seriously involved with someone, another teacher named Robin Fraser, and they were planning to get married as soon as a law was passed. Patricia was happy for them. Really fucking goddamn happy thrilled over the moon for Jill and her fucking--
Kate ruined her inner vitriol by sitting up. "I should get back to work. How long does it take to look at a house, anyway? We've never actually done this properly."
Patricia smiled. "It depends. Sometimes people have questions."
Kate pushed her hair out of her face and bent down to kiss Patricia. "Maybe one of these days I'll actually want to move."
"I actually have a few listings that might be good for you. Let me know."
Kate scooted to the edge of the bed and turned to pull on her shoes. She gathered her toys in a towel and stuffed them back in her bag.
"Are you free this weekend?"
"Yeah. Call the office and set up another appointment."
Kate nodded and grinned. "I'll see you then. Bye, Patricia."
Patricia waved and let her hand drop back to her stomach. After she heard the door close, she sat up and began dressing. After Jill, the idea of starting another relationship from scratch had been wearying. So she called Nick, and they reconciled. She played the penitent, she apologized, told him that whatever wild oats had needed to be sewn were thrown to the winds. She assured him she was done with women, and proved it to him in the parking lot of the restaurant with an impromptu tongue-and-hand session.
They were remarried within the year. She retook her old name, left her job at the city hall and reinstated her real estate license. It was like the intervening years had never happened. She didn't even really mind letting Nick have sex with her. It was less tedious than watching basketball with him, and it took a hell of a lot less time. Plus his nightly gropings gave her a daughter, and that could never be a bad thing.
She stared at her bare feet on the floor, her hands on the edge of the bed, smelling the sickly aura of sex in the room around her.
The bell over the door rang while Nadine was in the back. "Welcome to Replay Records. I'll be with you in a sec." She put down the clipboard with the inventory on it and went through the door with a saleswoman's smile on her face. It faltered when she saw who it was. "Oh."
Miranda smiled sheepishly. She was carrying a milk crate full of records. "The, uh, station is moving to an all-digital format, and we're getting rid of these. I was... thinking about you today, so I thought maybe I would drop them off."
Nadine stepped around the corner and motioned for Miranda to put the box down on the table. Replay Records was a tiny storefront space with rows of tables against either wall with two other tables forming islands in the center of the room. Every available space was filled with boxes that had Sharpie-written labels identifying what bands could be found in which boxes.
Last time they'd seen each other, Nadine's hair had been black and she'd worn glasses. Now her hair was dyed blonde and she had switched to contacts. The people who had gotten her fired would have preferred to run her out of town, and the stares and snide comments at the grocery store had almost pushed her to just get it over with. But she wouldn't leave her home. She changed her appearance as much as she could, and pretty soon people stopped associating her with the newspaper photo where she was marched out of the radio station in handcuffs.
Handcuffs that Miranda had, in a way, put on herself.
"I'm sorry, Dean. But this is a business. If it was just me--"
"Don't explain yourself. And don't ever call me that again."
"De-- Nadine. Wait..."
"Sheriff, if you're going to take me in, just do it."
"You have some good records here," Nadine said. "I'll need a little while to go through them all, see what they're worth--"
"Oh, I'm donating them. I have two more boxes out in the car."
"Oh. Well, I'll still write up a receipt and mail it to the station. For taxes and stuff." She rested her hand on the side of the box. "Thank you."
Miranda shrugged. "I pass this place all the time. It's a great shop, Nadine. You've done really well for yourself."
"Do you need a hand with the other boxes, Ms. Powell?"
"Uh. Drake. It's Drake now."
Nadine finally looked at her. "You got married?"
"Uh-huh. He's an oncologist in Seattle. He mostly... commutes back and forth."
"Well. Good for you. You can just leave the other boxes with this one... I need to finish something in the back."
Miranda nodded, and Nadine turned and walked away without saying anything else. She closed the door and leaned against it, her eyes shut so tight that her nose was wrinkled between them. She clutched her stomach and leaned forward, fighting the urge to cry or shout or curse. After a few seconds of red-faced silent rage, she opened the door and stormed back out into the main room. Miranda had just walked back in with a second box.
"You're fucking gay, too."
Miranda stopped. "What?"
Nadine hadn't intended to start with that. She said, "I didn't know then, but a town this small... our romances have overlapped. Shane Sanborn, ring a bell? She mentioned you. So you knew exactly which side you were taking when you let the sheriff into my booth. You were taking their side, and as much as it hurt back then, it's offensive now. How could you do that? How could you stand there and let me lose everything like that? What were you thinking?"
Miranda was quiet for a long time. She looked at the records she was holding and then shook her head. She shrugged and met Nadine's eyes. Tears were shining in them and, when she spoke, one of them broke free and tracked down her cheek.
"I thought, 'better you than me'."
Nadine expected fury, but it wouldn't take hold. She just felt sad. Her shoulders slumped and she leaned against the counter. "At least you're honest."
"I've never actually told you that I'm sorry. Never sincerely apologized for the part I played in everything." She inhaled. "I'm so sorry, Nadine. If I had it to do all over again..."
"You'd have just lost your job, too." Now that she was finally being given the chance to rail at the villain in so many of her late-night stewing, she found it was easier to grasp forgiveness.
"Then I'd have lost my job. Maybe I would still have my self-respect. And my friend."
Nadine looked at Miranda and then just as quickly looked away. She wiped at her eyes and said, "You can just--"
"On the table."
"Right. I'll mail you a receipt."
Miranda nodded. Nadine turned and went back into the store room and sat down on a box. She flattened her palms over her eyes and let the tears flow. They weren't the rough tears of anger or regret, but tears of absolution and release. She sobbed quietly, not caring it Miranda heard or not. These tears were just for her and everything she had lost.
She could only imagine what would have happened if Miranda had stood up for her.
Michael was home when Patricia arrived. She greeted him, checked his homework to see how much he had left before dinner, and went to release the nanny from her duties. Melanie was up and playing with a doll, and she looked up with shining eyes that looked like half-dollars. She beamed when she saw her mother, and held out both pudgy arms to be picked up. Patricia bent down and lifted her girl. Thirteen months and the approximate weight of a battleship anchor, but Patricia bore it well.
Nick came home at his usual time, and Patricia greeted him with a kiss. She tried to identify the perfume he was wearing, but he dismissed himself for a quick shower before she could pinpoint it. Something by Calvin Klein, she thought. Like his hygienist wore. She hoped he was happy.
They ordered in for dinner, and Patricia served up the fried chicken on plates in the kitchen. Michael talked about school, but Patricia and Nick didn't talk about work. They never did. Patricia had showered before Nick got home, and Kate didn't wear perfume, but she still knew he knew.
After dinner, they let Michael watch some TV before sending him upstairs to his room to finish his homework. Patricia put the baby to bed, and Nick went to the bedroom to watch Sports Center. When Patricia got in bed next to him, he started kissing her neck and stroking her stomach. She put aside her book, tugged at her nightgown, and put her hands on his back for a few minutes. He grunted in her ear and she wondered at his stamina. Maybe the hygienist hadn't gotten his A-game.
She was depressed to discover she actually felt bad for her husband's mistress.
When he was done, he rolled off and focused on the television again. Patricia cleaned up the mess he had made, went to the bathroom, and returned to her book.
Content was a synonym of happy, she told herself. They were practically the same thing. Nothing wrong with content.
She licked her thumb and turned the page, telling herself she would refrain from masturbating until Nick went to sleep. No sense in hurting the poor guy's feelings.
Nadine booted up her computer and went directly to her email. Two messages from the Pacific Specific dating site. "Hey, Pixie! Great screen name. I'm 39, redhead, freckles, boat captain. Portland OR born and raised, recently moved up, looking to meet some people. Photo on profile." Nadine clicked the link and rested her chin on her hands. A little butch for her tastes, but pretty as hell. Older than her tastes, too. But beggars couldn't really be choosers. She clicked to the next email.
"Pixie, huh? Have you been a naughty little elf? I'd--"
Nadine clicked delete and pinched the bridge of her nose. It was like living on saltines, waiting for a steak dinner to drop into her lap. Sure, she got laid from time to time. There was no real romance. Her partners needed it just as badly as she did, if not worse, so they were providing a service to each other. She couldn't see herself in love with any of the women she took to bed.
She wanted love, not lust. Something that lasted longer than an orgasm. She shut off the computer and slumped back on the couch. She hugged herself and closed her eyes. She wanted... she needed... she was lonely. She was so damn alone that it--
The table rattled, and the entire room followed suit. Nadine froze where she was and, by the time she opened her eyes, the aftershock was over. She blinked at the living room, wondering at the split second where she had expected to see someplace different. She reached up and adjusted her glasses as Miranda came out of the kitchen with a dish towel draped over one hand.
"Aftershock," she said, with a slightly giddy smile on her face. "You feel it?"
"I'm on the same earth you are, dear."
Miranda's smile wavered and she stepped into the living room. "Dean? You okay?"
Love swelled in Nadine's chest, and she stood up to cup Miranda's face. "I love you."
"Ha-mm." Miranda sagged into the kiss, taking the initiative and sweeping her tongue across Nadine's lips before pulling back. "Where did that come from? Never mind. Don't tell me. I don't care."
Nadine answered anyway. "I think I fell asleep. I had a bad dream. Or... something. I don't know. What did we do today?"
"You've blocked it that quickly, huh? We went through the downstairs storage room and gathered all those records we won't be playing anymore. We really need to find someplace to donate them. A charity or a... record store? Do they still have those?"
Nadine shook her head. "I don't think so. Shame, really."
"Yeah." She kissed Nadine softly, and stroked her hair. "I don't really need to finish those dishes tonight. I mean, we have enough for breakfast."
Nadine brushed her nose against Miranda's. "Why are you telling me this, wife?"
"Because if you wanted someone to make love to you, well, I'd be available for the service."
"Hm. Well." She put her hands on Miranda's hips and they began to sway. "I would hate to impose on you. If the dishes really need to be washed..."
Miranda kissed her again. It shook them both more than the aftershock. When Nadine pulled back, her face was flush with desire.
"Aw, hell. There will probably be another earthquake and they'll all get broken anyway."
Nadine, her heart full with love for her wife, took Miranda's hand and dragged her down the hall. Miranda laughed, tossing the dishcloth toward the kitchen as she hurried to catch up.
Kate stuck her head into the manager's office. "Hey. Got a few minutes?"
Amy nodded without looking up. "What's goin' on, sweet thing?"
Kate shut the door and moved around to Amy's side of the desk. "I had a weird... I don't know. Fugue this afternoon. Deeper than a nap." She put her hand on the back of Amy's chair and pushed it back. Amy let herself be moved, smiling as Kate knelt in front of her. "I had this dream." Kate unfastened Amy's belt and began working the button of her pants. "A wet dream. About Patricia Hood-Colby."
"Oh?" She lifted her hips and let Kate yank down her pants. She reached up and gripped the top of her chair as she settled with her legs spread.
"Yep. And I'll tell you all about it." Kate's tongue rolled around her lips, wetting them as she leaned down. "In five or ten minutes."
Amy closed her eyes and decided she could definitely wait that long.
Patricia opened the door and stared at the small room between Michael's bedroom and the bathroom. There was a filing cabinet and far too many boxes to count. All their junk that didn't have anywhere else to go went in this room. Right now it was host to about ten thousand campaign flyers, boxes of buttons, bumper stickers, and T-shirts. She wasn't even certain the light bulb worked until she flipped the switch and it came to life.
Jill's slender arms wrapped around her from behind, crossing over her stomach and pulling her back. She kissed Patricia's neck. "What are you looking for, babe?"
"Nothing. Just looking at the room."
"It's a very interesting room."
Patricia smiled and stroked Jill's arms. "Have..."
"Mercy? You should be so lucky." She kissed Patricia's neck again, and Patricia's eyes closed in ecstasy.
"No. I mean... mm. No. I was going to ask you something, but I don't want you to freak out. I don't want you to think it's something that has to happen, or not happen, or... has to happen or not happen immediately. Or--"
"Darling. You're the only person on Earth who speaks that language."
Patricia smiled and relaxed against Jill. "I think I want another baby."
"I'll stop wearing condoms."
Patricia laughed despite herself. "I'm serious, sweetheart."
"This is on top of the mayor thing?"
"Yes. Or instead of." She turned in Jill's arms. "There's a chance I'll lose. The Dugans didn't skimp when they brought in that ringer. If I lose..."
"Then you'll be unemployed and we'll be in debt." Jill's voice was soft, understanding. "Not exactly the best time to start planning for a second child, hon."
"I love Michael. And I think of him as my son. But I always kind of thought... one day... I'd have a baby. And I would absolutely love to have a baby with you, Patricia."
Jill nodded and smiled.
"Not right now. Not even... any time soon. The mayoral thing, and whether or not I get elected it will still be some time before it'll be right to have another baby."
"But talking about it is the first step," Jill said. "And having a long time to talk about it means we'll make the right decision when we're ready."
Patricia nodded and kissed Jill. Jill held her close, and Patricia buried her face in Jill's hair, smelled her scent, and wondered why it felt like so long since they'd held each other.
The world continued spinning, breaking alignment with Venus and the sun. If anyone noticed the change, or remembered the brief vacation in another plane, they only did so with a vague sense of unease and discomfort. Nadine burrowed against her lover's warmth under the blankets. Jill sat at the dining room table to prepare her lesson plan for the next day's classes. Patricia and Michael sat in the living room, Patricia laying the groundwork for the potential of a new baby coming into the house. Kate recounted the details of her dream about the mayoral candidate while Amy's mouth was otherwise occupied.
The ground beneath Squire's Isle settled.Life, as it always did, went on.
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