At Last

Part 5

By: Girl Bard

    Disclaimer: Please see Part 1.

    The smoldering fire is gradually dying, but none of us make a move to rekindle the flame. I lean back into Jaden's sand-covered form and sigh in pleasure.
    What an utterly fantastic day.
    Harold is nursing his beer slowly, reclined in a chair. Kim is staring at the fire, lost in thought as she traces patterns in the sand with her hand. Sam and Eva are talking in low tones to each other, their hands entwined as their dog frolics with Bean and Bella.
    Di and Joe left a little while ago, with an exhausted Kasey and sleeping baby. The rest of us are sitting here, the majority tipsy, just enjoying the night.
    "Anyone up for a midnight swim?" Harold asks suddenly and we all chuckle. "Come on, the water's warm!" He continues, bravely stripping off his shirt and running down to the edge. He doesn't even hesitate, diving into the gently rolling waves.
    Jaden's chest shakes with her silent laughter. "The water is freezing." She whispers in my ear, causing goose bumps to break out all over my skin.
    Sure enough, Harold quickly emerges from the water, yelping in displeasure. "Holy shit, that's cold!"
    "Told you." Jaden whispers again and I snuggle deeper into her warm embrace.
    "I'll go in." Eva says, surprising us all. Dusting sand off of her bathing suit, she grabs Sam's hand and leads her to the water.
    "Hell, why not." Kim grumbles as she follows suit. "Come on Grace, don't be a chicken!" She calls to me and I curl my toes in the sand.
    "Cluck." I answer, grinning. I hate being cold, and I hate swimming in cold water.
    "You guys have fun." Jaden calls as she wraps her arms tighter around me. "I'm perfectly content to stay here and stay warm."
    "You're both chickens." Harold answers, as the brave swimmers all voice their displeasure about the cold water. "Bawk bawk bawk!" The big man continues, doing a strange little chicken dance in the shallow water.
    Jaden sighs and I close my eyes. She'll not be able to back down from a challenge, especially one offered by Harold.
    "I hate our friends." I complain as I take off my warm sweatshirt and pants. My swimsuit is still a bit wet from our earlier game of water beach volleyball, when the ocean water was much, much warmer.
    "Think we could get away with it if we drowned them all?" Jaden asks as we head down to the water.
    I laugh in response. "Come on, Gracie." Jaden calls, poised to run in. "It's best if you just get it over with."
    I shudder with anticipation of the coldness to come. Grabbing her hand securely, I grin at her as we run into the freezing water.
    Actually, the water isn't so bad once you get used to it, but despite our brave attempts, none of us can stay in for long, and we all find out that getting out into the night air is worse than getting in to the water.
    "Shit, the fire's out." Sam complains as we towel ourselves off. Jaden and Harold throw more kindling on it and soon it's blazing again.
    "Wow, it's cold." I mention as I pull my clothes back on. The cool air hits me, and suddenly, I really have to pee.
    "I have to go inside for a sec." I tell everyone as I start to hurry toward the house.
    "Me too, I have to pee." Kim adds and follows me.
    As we walk away, we hear Harold's booming voice call out; "You should have gone in the water like I did!"
    Kim and I scrunch up our noses. "That's disgusting." She comments as we trot up to the house.
    "Men are gross." I answer.
    "Yep. Why do you think I'm gay?" She finishes, and we laugh all the way into our apartment.
    While she's using the bathroom, I search around in the cabinets and find some hot chocolate mix. Making two cups, I present Kim with a steaming mug.
    "Ohh, you're a Goddess." She says as she breathes in the intoxicating scent.
    "I'm going to stay in for a minute." I tell her, sitting down on the couch. "I need to get warm before going back out."
    "Good idea." Kim says as she joins me. "This was a great night, thanks for having me."
    "You're welcome here anytime, you know that." I tell her fondly. "You're my best friend, and I'm sorry you're going through a lot right now."
    "Thanks." She mentions, a faraway look in her hazel eyes. "Things are pretty shitty, and I'm not really sure why."
    "What's going on? Honestly?" I ask, concerned by the pained look on her face.
    For a second, it seems like she'll give me the same noncommittal answer that she has been. Then, something breaks inside her, and suddenly she's sobbing.
    I set down my drink and pull her into a hug. "It's okay." I tell her, and she continues to cry, burying her face in my shoulder.
    "It's not okay, everything is bad." She mumbles and I rub her back comfortingly.
    "What's bad?" I ask softly and she pulls away from me, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand.
    "Stacey." She states, sniffling.
    "What happened?"
    "She doesn't think she's gay. She wants to move back to Michigan after graduation next year." Kim tells me, her eyes filling with more tears.
    "What?" I question, not expecting her to say this.
    Kim shrugs, shaking her head sadly. "I don't know. I thought everything was fine, and suddenly, a few weeks ago she tells me that she moved here because she had a baby she gave up for adoption, decided to try out an alternative lifestyle, but she isn't happy and wants to move back home."
    "Stacey had a baby?" I ask, caught completely off-guard.
    "Her parents made her give it up, they had a big fight, and she moved here." Kim responds.
    "Holy crap." I mutter.
    "Yeah, tell me about it." Kim agrees. "We've been together for almost three years and I'm just finding out about this now? She's been lying to me all along."
    "I'm so sorry." I tell her awkwardly, not sure what she needs to hear.
    "Me too. I really loved her, you know? I mean, I knew we weren't going to spend the rest of our lives together or anything, but stillÉ" She says, her voice trailing off.
    "I know." I tell her, my hand on her arm. "You deserve someone who will be truthful with you, Kim. You're an incredible person and any woman would be honored to be with you."
    "Even if I turn them straight?" She responds, her mouth smiling faintly, but I can tell she's serious.
    "Darling, you didn't turn her straight. It sounds like Stacey can't cope with being gay, so she's going to do what I did before I moved here. Play the good little straight girl and be miserable. It has nothing to do with you." I assure her, understanding Stacey's feelings but wishing my best friend wasn't so hurt by her actions. "She should have been honest with you from the beginning and made you aware of what was going on."
    "You're a good friend." Kim tells me, her eyes meeting mine. "I love you." She adds softly.
    "I love you too." I respond, smiling at her tear-stained face. "And I promise that everything is going to be okay."
    Kim looks at me intently, something unreadable in her golden eyes. Suddenly she leans forward and the next thing I realize is she's kissing me.
    It takes a second for my shock to wear off, and another second to realize that she's not going to stop. Placing my hands on her shoulders I try to gently push her away, but her insistent lips refuse to release mine.
    I push her again, roughly this time and she gets the message, sinking back into the couch. She starts to sob again, and despite my confusion about what just happened, my heart goes out to her.
    "Come here." I tell her, pulling her into another hug.
    "I ruin everything." She mumbles and I shush her. "Jaden's going to kill me." She adds and I can't help but smile. My smile quickly fades when I realize I'm going to have to tell Jaden what happened, and while she won't kill Kim, she'll want to do some serious bodily harm.
    "No she won't. It's going to be okay and you didn't ruin anything. You're upset and reached out to comfort, it's normal and it doesn't change anything." I assure her, not really knowing how to help her.
    "Really?" She questions, pulling away.
    I meet her eyes honestly. "Really."
    "I don't deserve your friendship." She states, her hands playing with the edge of her shorts.
    "Yes you do. Nothing's changed, okay? And if you need to talk about what's going on with Stacey, I'm always here for you."
    "Thanks." She states again, as she wipes her eyes and stands up.
    "We better get back down to the beach or they'll send out a search party." She says, her mouth attempting to grin. Her lower lip quivers and I know she's going to start sobbing again.
    "It's okay." I tell her for the thousandth time as I put my arm around her shoulders. I just hope I'm right.


    A few beers later and still no Grace I realize that I'm tired, kind-of drunk and cold. I bury my feet in the chilly sand and wish Grace and Kim would just hurry up and get back so I can snuggle with my partner.
    "You want to call it a night?" Steele asks slowly, his eyes unfocused. Jesus Christ, he's the biggest person here and he's more trashed than any of us.
    "Yeah. I'm on at the hospital tomorrow morning." Eva says in her lilting accent as she and Sam stand and bush the sand off of their legs.
    "You okay to drive?" I ask Eva and she grins.
"I only had one beer, Jaden. Unlike the rest of you."
    I shrug my shoulders, returning her smile. "Thanks for coming."
    "It was a blast!" Sam responds excitedly. "We'll have to do this again soon."
    "Sure." I answer as they gather up their things. Steele carefully puts out the fire and I tidy the beach up enough so no one will complain before I do a more thorough job tomorrow.
    "You want a ride home?" Sam questions my pal Harry as we make our way to the house. He looks at me in question, almost tripping over the three exhausted dogs weaving their way up the path.
    "You're welcome to stay buddy, Kim will probably crash here. She seemed pretty wasted when she and Grace went up to the house." I answer.
    "Nah, I'll go home if you guys don't mind dropping me off. I don't want to interrupt the lesbian orgy or anything." Harry slurs and elbows me in the ribs.
    It's really painful, he's pretty strong and I punch him in the arm in response.
    "Lesbian orgy? Tsk tsk Jaden, we weren't invited." Eva jokes and I wink at her. "We can easily drop you off Harold." Eva states and Harry recoils from my punch.
    As we reach the apartment, Grace and a flushed Kim are just coming to meet us. "Party's over." I tell them as we all go into our kitchen.
    "We need to get going, I have to work in the morning. But thanks for having us, it was a great time." Eva tells Grace after quickly hugging her.
    "Oh, I didn't realize we were in here so long." Grace states, her voice weird.
    "Yeah, what were you doing? Should I be jealous?" I joke and Grace's entire body stiffens.
    "No, we were just talking." She responds and I glance at Kim who looks like she's going to puke and suddenly I'm very, very, almost too sober.
    "Thanks again guys." Sam calls as they head out the door, trailed by Harry.
    Kim races to catch up with them. "Can I get a ride with you guys?" She asks, grabbing her bag before waving goodbye to us.
    When everyone is gone, Grace shuts the door and leans against it tiredly. I am just standing in my same spot, frozen with images dancing around in my head. Something happened in here, obviously, and Grace is upset by it.
    "Let's go to bed, Spots." She tells me, her face ashen.
    I continue to stand, unmoving. "What's the matter?"
    Closing her eyes briefly, she swallows. "Kim did something stupid."
    My fingers clench into a fist. "Like what?"
    Grace's brilliant aqua eyes open to meet mine. "She's upset, Stacey has broken up with her and has been lying to her the entire time they've been together. Kim's feeling really insecure and upset and alone right now." Grace tries to explain.
    "I don't give a fuck how she feels, I want to know what she did." I growl, knowing the amount of alcohol in my system is allowing my anger to spiral out of control.
    Grace takes an unconscious step back away from me and I snap my eyes shut and try to get my emotions under control.
    "She kissed me." Her voice whispers and my eyes fly open in surprise.
    "What?" I screech and Grace flinches. "Why in the fuck did she kiss you? What did you do? Did you kiss her back?" I yell, my fingers digging into my fisted hands so hard I feel my skin start to split apart.
    Raising her hands in self-defense, Grace's eyes well up with tears. "No, I didn't kiss her, I stopped her. She's really upset right now and wanted comfort." A sob escaped her throat. "Please don't be angry at me, Jaden. I didn't know what to do, I didn't know it would happen and the entire time I just wanted it to stop." Bringing her hands up to hide her face, she collapses onto the kitchen floor and buries her face as she bawls. Bean rushes over to her side, nervously sniffing her hair as Bella creeps out of the room.
    Seeing her prone figure on the floor dissipates my anger, and I'm standing here ashamed of myself. This wasn't Grace's fault, hell; it probably wasn't Kim's fault.
    I sit on the floor next to her, my voice meek. "I'm sorry." I offer and my hands itch to reach out and take her into my arms. But I stop myself. She's probably terrified of me and wishes she were with Kim instead. Kim would never scream and act out of control like I just did.
    Grace looks up at me, confusion evident in her teary eyes. "Why are you sorry?" She whispers.
    Mortified, I look down at my hands. "I'm sorry for getting so angry and out of control. You don't deserve that and I apologize for acting that way. I just got really upset at the thought of that happening to you." I offer, unwilling to meet her gaze.
    "I don't blame you." She says, surprising me. "If you told me someone kissed you, I'd probably punch their lights out."
    "But you'd at least hear my side of the story first." I tell her. "I had no right to say any of those things to you or accuse you of kissing her back. I don't own you and I have no control over what you do." I look into her sad eyes, smiling a little. "I just love you so much."
    Grace takes my face in her hands and kisses my forehead. "And I love you. I'm sorry it happened, and I promise you honestly that I do not want Kim. She's my friend, and I want her to stay my friend. I've already made it clear what she did was inappropriate and can never happen again."
    "Good." I tell her honestly. "I'd have to hurt her if she tried it again."
    Grace grins. "She's already afraid you're going to kill her. That's the first thing she said, as a matter of fact."
    A smile lights up on my face. "You mean, I have complete freedom to taunt her about this and use it to my advantage?"
    "No, Spots." Gracie responds. "She's really hurting right now, please try to hear that. She didn't kiss me because she has the hots for me, she kissed me because she's vulnerable and sad and I'm her closest friend. Please don't tease her, she's already upset enough."
    As much as I still want to pummel Kim or at least have a trump card with her, I have to respect Grace's genuine caring personality.
    "Fine." I tell her and am rewarded by finding Grace's soft lips on mine. Her tongue gently caresses my lips before slipping inside my mouth.
    Grace increases the pressure and intensity of the kiss and soon she is straddling me, our breasts meeting and hips grinding against each other.
    Her cool hands work their way under my shirt and slide the straps of my bathing suit down.
    Our kiss never breaking, Grace's nimble fingers lightly pinch my nipples and I moan into her mouth.
    It seems as if we kiss for eternity, Gracie's hands on my breasts the entire time. Finally she pulls away, my mouth swollen and begging for more of her attention. Her hands slip out from under my shirt and grasp mine.
    Looking intently into my eyes, Grace smiles. "Every day for the rest of our lives I plan on kissing you and only you."
    I nod dumbly as my eyes become watery.
    "I love you more than anything and no one will ever come between us to stop that love. I promise." She says and I nod again before pulling her back to meet my mouth once more.
    I stand and pull Grace into my arms as I carry her to the bedroom, intent on showing her just how much I love her.

Part 6: To be continuedÉ..

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