Houdini’s Box

By: Girl Bard


Disclaimer: The characters of Xena, Gabrielle, and the gang belong to Lucy Lawless, Renee O’Connor, and the masterminds of Xena Warrior Princess. I am just borrowing them for my own pathetic entertainment. However, the uber Xena characters or Jaden and Grace are mine, all mine! (Insert evil cackle here.) So I can do whatever I want with them!

Besides, I’m a very poor college student with no money to my name. So anyone trying to sue me will get a lot of art supplies and an ornery Jack Russell Terrier.

Subtext: yes, Yes, YES!! This story will eventually proceed to NC-17. This means explicit sex between women. If this offends you, why are you reading alternative fan fiction? Huh? And if you’re underage, either read this without getting me OR you in trouble, okay? Or you can email me and I’ll send you a PG version.

Summary: This is the sequel to my previous story I Know This Bar. This story is the continuation of Jaden and Grace’s friendship and relationship. I highly recommend reading I Know This Bar before reading this story or else I fear, dear reader, that you will be confused. Basically, in this story two strangers have met, fallen in love, formed a friendship that can withstand just about anything, and may or may not live happily ever after. And not necessarily in that order.

Author’s Note: These two lovable characters blossomed into an actual story after driving on a rainy Massachusetts day listening to Ani Difranco’s incredible song, "I Know This Bar." Likewise, the sequel was inspired by Jill Sobule’s amazing song, "Houdini’s Box." If you’re unfamiliar with Ani and Jill, you’re missing out on two of the greatest singer/songwriters of our time. I hope they don’t mind I’m using their songs as inspiration, they do say that imitation is the highest form of flattery.

Feedback: PLEASE! Any and all feedback gratefully accepted at girl_bard@yahoo.com

Dedication: Thanks to my ever-grammatically correct Beta Reader, Linda. Is ever-grammatically a word? Thanks for always making sure everything is clear, concise, and full of heart. And extremely big thanks to Colleen and SB. You rule!

This is especially dedicated to the love of my young life. I love you.

Part 1

June 19th, 2000


I can’t believe she’s here. I can tell she’s exhausted from her drive from Ohio, and even sleep doesn’t seem to relax her now. I know she’s tired when she doesn’t even want to wake up in order to eat.

Our pizza got here an hour ago and she was already asleep. I had to dislodge myself from underneath her on the couch to answer the door and have my dinner, a very interested Bean following me. I think I’m going to like having a dog around. I’ve never really liked dogs, but Bean is pretty cute. And smart too. I like that. And it might be nice to have company on my morning run.

Who am I kidding; I’m going to love having Grace here. I’m terrified beyond belief at having someone living with me and being in a relationship all of a sudden, but I know by looking at her sweet face that I couldn’t have it any other way.

She’s frowning in her sleep, and I notice faint lines of tension and worry. I gently trace her face with my fingertips, willing her tension away. She doesn’t stir under my gentle strokes, and as I glance at the clock I see it’s time for her to get in bed.

I disengage myself from the couch once again and put the remaining pizza in the refrigerator. I know she’ll be starving when she wakes tomorrow. Bean trots to the front door, looking at me longingly. I clip her leash to her cute pink collar and softly slip out the front door with her. I take her outside to do her business and shiver in the cool night, my flimsy top and shorts not protecting me from the strong wind that blows across the ocean. Bean sniffs quizzically at the air and as I take her inside I whisper to her, "There’s plenty of time to play on the beach tomorrow. It’s time for bed." She walks with me inside and heads up the stairs like she’s lived here all her life.

I let myself inside, finding Grace predictably sound asleep. Unleashing the dog I head over to my sleeping beauty. "Sweetheart, time for bed." I tell her, gently shaking her awake. She doesn’t budge and I shake her harder.

"STOP IT!" She suddenly screams, being jolted awake. "Don’t touch me!"

I back away from her, my hands held out in front of me. "Grace, it’s okay. It’s just me."

She blinks a few times, her eyes growing wide. "Jaden?"

"Yes, sweetheart, it’s okay." I soothe her, keeping a distance away from her.

"I’m sorry." She whispers, hanging her head. I can see the tears forming in her soft green eyes.

"It’s okay. I’m sorry I scared you." I tell her, slowly approaching her. She holds out her arms to me and I embrace her thin form. "I shouldn’t have shook you, I apologize."

"It’s not your fault." She responds with her face buried in my shoulder. I can feel her tears on my bare skin.

"Do you want to go to bed?" I ask her, feeling like a parent coaxing a child to go to sleep.

She shakes her head yes, pulling herself out of my embrace.

"Where do you want to sleep?" I ask her carefully. "I set up an air mattress in the spare bedroom if you feel more comfortable, or you can sleep here on the couch until we can get you a real bed."

She looks at me quizzically. "Whatever you would like." She states politely.

"Grace, I’m asking you what you’ll feel comfortable with. I don’t want to pressure you into sleeping with me if you don’t want too."

"I want too." She answers, and I nod my head.

"If you’re sure." I tell her, extending my hand to her. She takes my hand and I pull her up.

"I have to take her out." Grace motions to the small dog at our feet. Leaning down, I swoop Bean up in my arms.

"No you don’t, I already did." I tell her and she smiles gratefully at me. "Where does she sleep?" I ask, tickling the squirming puppy’s body.

Grace smiles. "With me, usually. She’s a bed hog."

"Both of you?" I tease. "I’ll never get any sleep or covers with the two of you." Grace blushes and swats my arm playfully. "That’s fine." I tell her, setting down the puppy.

We head for my bedroom, all three of us anxious to get a good night’s sleep.


June 20th, 2000


I yawn and stretch, feeling Bean’s weight on top of the covers. The sunlight streams in through Jaden’s bedroom window and with one glance outside I can tell it’s going to be a gorgeous day. I sit up and comb my hands through my short hair, still marveling on how amazing it feels to have hardly any hair.

Jaden is nowhere to be found, and I listen intently only to hear no sounds coming from the apartment. She must not be here. Curiously, I get out of bed and head into the living room. Finding the apartment empty, I see a note from Jaden on the counter.


I know, I know, it really sucks that I had to go into work. But believe me, I would have rather stayed home with you today. I have a few things I have to take care of this morning and then I’ll take the rest of the afternoon off. Make yourself at home; there is leftover pizza in the fridge. I’ll call you later.


My stomach rumbles at the mention of pizza. I open the fridge and take out the box and a can of Coke. That does suck that Jaden had to go into work, but she’s already turned her life upside down for me and I can’t expect her to quit her job too.

Setting down the pizza box I notice that under Jaden’s note is a shiny gold key. Picking it up curiously, I decide it must be the key to the apartment. I forget about my breakfast and head for the front door to try out the key. It works.

This is all so new to me. I feel as if I’m going to cry, the simple act of Jaden giving me a key meaning so much to me. I can’t believe that she has turned her entire life around by allowing me to live here.

The phone rings, startling me out of my thoughts. I don’t know if I should get it or not. I fell asleep so quickly last night that Jaden didn’t have time to give me any ground rules. But her letter did say that she would be calling me later.

I decide to let the phone ring, and finally the machine picks up. Jaden’s smooth voice states in a no-nonsense manner; "Leave a message." Followed by an annoying beep. I hate answering machines.

"Grace, are you there?" Jaden’s voice asks through the machine. I fumble with the receiver and pick it up.

"Hi!" I tell her brightly, only to be cut off by another loud beep. "Damn it!" I curse at the machine.

"Hit the stop button." Jaden answers, laughing. I comply, and the machine turns off.

"Sorry, I wasn’t sure if I should answer or not." I tell her.

"Of course you can, it’s your apartment too now." She answers, adding, "I wasn’t sure if you were still sleeping. Did I wake you?"

"No, I just got up." I clear my throat. "Thanks for the key." I add shyly.

She is silent for a minute before responding. "I’m glad you’re here."

Now it is my turn to be speechless. "Thanks." I finally am able to mutter. "I’m glad too."

I fell her smiling over the phone. "Well, I just wanted to make sure you were okay. I should be home around 1:00 or so."

"Cool!" I tell her, excited that she will be able to get out of work early. "I’ll see you then."

"Can’t wait." She adds, and hangs up the phone.

I finish my breakfast and head back into the bedroom. Bean regards me sleepily and I crawl back in bed with her, shutting my eyes. I can’t believe how wiped out I feel. I know it’s partially from driving for so long by myself, and partially from the emotional strain I’ve been under for the past few days.

I need to decide what I’m going to do. I know that by now my parents are freaking out because I’m missing. Lydia has Jaden’s phone number, but I told her to call only if it was an emergency. Because my room is so neat, they probably don’t think I’ve run away, and I told Lydia to tell them that I said I had things to do and wouldn’t be around much for the next few days.

But my mother, I know her. She knows something is up and she won’t rest until she figures it out. And I don’t want poor Uncle Rick and Lydia to reap her fury when she finds out.

But I’ve made my respective bed, and will have to lie in it. And I don’t regret leaving, no matter how difficult it will be.

So, I have two choices. I can call home and tell them where I am before they send out the cavalry to come and find me, or I can lay low and stay hidden for a while and be nervous the entire time. "What do you think?" I ask my puppy, who opens her eyes at my question before ignoring me and snapping them shut again. "You’re no help." I tell her as I climb out of bed and head for the living room again.

I pick up the phone. "Just dial, Grace." I tell myself, forcing my hand to dial my phone number.

It rings a few times, and just when I get my hopes up that no one is home, my mother answers.

"Hello?" Her sharp voice demands. How can she sound like such a bitch just by saying hello?

"Hi mom." I answer, determined to stay strong.

"Grace, where in the hell are you?" She answers me, her voice reaching screeching level.

"Massachusetts." I respond.

"What in the fuck are you doing in Massachusetts?" She screams and I cringe. She usually doesn’t curse like that unless she’s really pissed off. "You’re lucky your Uncle called and let us know that you were okay." She adds. "You don’t know what a scare you’ve given us!"

I don’t know how to answer her, and for a minute I feel as if I’m going to back down and apologize to her. I will myself to remember why I left, and remember how horribly she’s treated me my entire life.

"Well? I’m waiting, young lady." She demands. "What are you doing there?"

"I don’t want to marry Scott after what he did to me. And I don’t want to live in Ohio anymore. I want to live here and go to a good college and become a writer like I’ve always wanted to be." I blurt out before I can stop myself.

She doesn’t respond but I can hear her angry breathing. I figure I’ve already pissed her off enough, why not add to it? "I’m not coming back." I tell her, and this pushes her over the edge.

"Listen you little bitch. You get back here or you’ll be sorry." She snarls, her voice sounding almost inhuman. "You think you had it rough before? I’ll make your life a living hell you ungrateful…"

"Shut up." I state firmly, surprised when she does. "You don’t have the right to tell me what to do. I’m 22 years old and you have been controlling me long enough. I’m not going to play the good little girl for you anymore mother." I spit out to her, my voice filled with rage. "You’re a horrible mother to me and you always have been. I’m tired of trying to win your love and affection." I am seething with anger now and I can’t censor the words coming from my mouth. "You want to know why I ran away? You. You’re the reason my life has been miserable. I don’t need you anymore and what you say means nothing to me."

"You’ll be sorry." She finally responds, her voice lacking it’s strength from before.

"Go to hell." I tell her, and hang up the phone. My hand is trembling and my chest constricts painfully. I collapse on the kitchen floor, the cool tile chilling my flushed skin. Part of me begins sobbing with relief, and another part of me is terrified of what I’ve just done. I try to take deep breaths and calm myself down but I’m in too heightened of a state.

After a few minutes I am finally able to get myself up, wiping my damp face on my pajamas. I need some fresh air; even Jaden’s spacious apartment is feeling too claustrophobic for me right now. I change into a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, put Jaden’s apartment key in my pocket and call Bean. She trots to me, stretching her short legs as I leash her and lead her out the front door.

It’s a beautiful morning, sunny and warm with a slight breeze coming from the ocean. It’s so incredibly beautiful here, and I can’t believe the view Jaden has. The ocean is fairly calm this morning, and while I can look upon it’s beauty, I still can’t shake the memories of being stranded on its waters during the shipwreck. I head up the street, walking through Jaden’s beautiful neighborhood of old houses.

Bean trots eagerly ahead of me, excited about exploring her new neighborhood. She wags her stubby tail as she smells every inch of sidewalk ahead of her. Patting my pocket to make sure the key is secure, I break into a jog and she runs alongside me. I really hate to run except if I’m playing sports. But right now, the even pounding of my feet on the sidewalk comforts me and I focus on breathing even and deep. My mind flashes back to the last time I ran, running away from Scott’s house covered in his blood. I push that thought out of my mind and concentrate on the blue Massachusetts sky and the smell of the ocean nearby.

"He can’t hurt you, you got away." I tell myself, my shoes hitting the pavement as I cross the street. I continue to jog for another block before I am too tired and break into a walk. Bean pants as she trots in front of me, her little legs having a lot more ground to cover than mine. We turn the corner and walk for a few more blocks before I decide we should head back. I’ve been careful to watch our way, not wanting to get lost in the old neighborhood consisting of winding roads and dead-end streets.

It’s easy, really. Just by following the ocean you can find your way. We reach Jaden’s apartment and I head up the stairs. Using the key to let myself it, I unclip Bean’s leash and she heads for her new water bowl. I open the fridge and grab another can of Coke. I really need to start drinking other things, but water tastes so disgusting.

The clock on the microwave tells me it’s 11:30 already. I really want to take a shower and unpack a few things before Jaden gets home. Rummaging through my bag I pull a bath towel and some clean clothes. Taking my toiletries and cosmetics, I head for the bathroom and turn on the shower.

Leaving the door ajar, I take off my clothes and get in the shower quickly. I still hate taking showers, even though the shipwreck happened a month ago. I have to reassure myself that it’s just a shower and I can get out any time that I want. I used to enjoy long, luxurious showers but not anymore. I get in and out as quickly as possible.

I shampoo my hair and rinse, and quickly wash my body. Rinsing myself off I grab my razor and shave. In world record time I turn off the water and hop out, amazed at how much better I feel when I’m clean and smell good.

After dressing, I towel my hair dry. Another bonus about having it short, no more blow drying or extensive styling. I hang up my towel in Jaden’s bathroom and look through my bag, trying to find my sandals. By the time Bean and I finished with our walk it was getting pretty warm out, and it was too hot to wear socks. My hand brushes against a thick envelope and I take it from my bag, looking at it curiously.

Strange, I don’t remember packing this. I don’t even know what it is. Tearing it open, I find a note from my Uncle.

I’m so proud of you. You are special, Grace, and don’t let anyone (especially your mother) tell you differently. You can do anything that you want to do and I have confidence in you.

Here is something to get you started. I know it isn’t much, but considering what I’m going to save by not paying you your salary to waitress, it’s the least I could do.

Uncle Rick

Smiling, I set the note aside and search the envelope, pulling out a thick stack of bills. My eyes widen as I count the money, realizing that he has given me almost a thousand dollars.

"Oh my Goddess." I manage to state, my voice breaking with emotion. I can’t believe he has done this, what a wonderful man. I can’t stop myself from crying as I put the money back in the envelope, engulfing my head in my hands. I am so blessed to have him in my life, and I wish that things could be different for him. I head to the phone, eager to call and speak with him to thank him for his generosity. As I pick up the phone to dial, I suddenly hang it up. If I call him to thank him, he will act like it’s nothing and not a big deal. I know that for a fact.

There has to be something I can do to show him how much I appreciate him. What is the way to his heart? I muster, and glance down to see Bean sitting expectantly at my feet. "Just because I’m in the kitchen doesn’t mean you’re getting a treat." I tell her, smiling at her wagging tail.

That’s it! I reach down and pick Bean up, laughing as she licks my face. "You’re a genius!" I tell my puppy, groaning when her sneaky tongue laps the inside of my lip. "Gross!"

I grab my address book from my bag and flip it open. Since I’ve had Bean so many people have asked me where I got her that I asked my mother for the breeder’s name and phone number. Finding her name in my address book I dial her number.


"Hi, may I please speak to Mary?" I ask politely.

"Speaking, who’s this?" The sweet old woman’s voice inquires.

"My name is Grace McKenzie, and I have a puppy from your Valentine’s Day litter." I explain.

"Oh really! What puppy?" Mary asks.

"The female black and white with the bean shaped spot on her back." I answer, smiling.

"Oh, she is a sweet one. How is she?"
"Perfect." I respond. "I’m actually calling because I was wondering if you have any puppies available? I would like to get one for my Uncle." I tell her.

"Of course dear, I have a few left that are ready right now. Two boys and a little girl, and they are all half-siblings to your puppy." Mary rattles on about her cherished pets. "They have the same father as your puppy and a different mother. One of the boys and the little girl are very bold, and the other male is shyer. He needs a lot of love."

"The shy one sounds perfect. My uncle will adore him." I tell her.

"He’s a cutie, white with a brown mask." Mary finishes.

"I’ll take him." I tell her. "Would it be possible for you to deliver him to my Uncle? I’m in Massachusetts." I explain.

"Of course dear." Mary answers immediately, and I can tell she’s thrilled to have found a good home for her shy little Jack Russell.

I work out all the details with her, and the puppy will be delivered to my Uncle this afternoon. I explain to Mary that I wanted Uncle Rick to be given a note expressing how grateful I am for him and I figure this was the best way to thank him. Mary happily thanks me and I hang up the phone excited.


June 20th, 2000


To say I’m worried would be downplaying the situation. When I spoke with Jaden this morning she said she’d be home by 1:00. It’s already after 6:00 and she’s still not here. I haven’t heard a word from her, and I’m freaking out, to say the least. Where could she possibly be? She would have called if she was going to be late, wouldn’t she?

I can’t stop myself from pacing. I tried watching television, but my mind kept wandering. I tried writing in my journal but all I could write was about how worried I was. I wanted to take Bean for another walk but wanted to be near the phone in case she tried to call. I’ve even picked up the phone a few times just to hear the dial tone so I can make sure it’s working.

I was fine for a few hours. When she didn’t make it home by 2:00, I thought she might have gotten held up in traffic or something. When she didn’t make it home by 3:00 I figured that something at the station came up and she was too busy to call. When four and five o’clock came around I began to worry. I turned on the news to see if some major police event happened, but I couldn’t find anything. And when the clock chimed 6 o’clock I began to pace.

What if she’s hurt? What if something happened to her in the line of duty? I guess I never really thought about her being a cop. I know she’s a mounted policewoman and all, but she still protects and serves. What if she’s been shot? I feel myself starting to panic and my chest constricts. I continue to pace, and concentrate on my breathing.

What if she’s decided she doesn’t want me here anymore and that’s why she’s not coming home? What if she realizes she’s made a mistake and wants me gone? That thought panics me just as much as the thought of her being hurt.

The sound of footsteps coming up the stairs startles me. Please let it be Jaden, and let her be okay and still want me here. I stare at the front door from the living room, willing it to open.

Bean jumps down from her seat on the couch and trots towards the door. I stand in the living room, frozen in place.

I hear the metallic clink of the key against the doorknob and I watch in fascination as it turns. The door slowly slides open to reveal a frightening Jaden. She looks so angry that a part of me is afraid of her.

"What are you staring at?" She asks me, her voice low.

My mouth feels dry and I can’t answer her. I am so afraid at this moment and I feel my heart pound and myself stop breathing.

One glance into Jaden’s ice-cold eyes tells me that I’ve made a mistake coming here. As she approaches me slowly I know it’s too late now to do anything about it.




Part 2: Coming soon! Stay tuned and please email me with feedback!!!

Return to Main page