I Know This Bar

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!

Subtext: yes, Yes, YES!! This story starts out with a G rating, but 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 G version.

Summary: Two strangers meet, fall in love, form a friendship that can withstand just about anything, and may or may not live happily ever after. And not necessarily in that order. J

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." If you're unfamiliar with Ani, you're missing out on one of the greatest singer/songwriter's of our time. I hope she doesn't mind I'm using her song as inspiration, they do say that imitation is the highest form of flattery.

Feedback: PLEASE! While this is not the first XWP story I've written, it is the first to be posted. 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? J Thanks for always making sure everything is clear, concise, and full of heart.

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



Part 1


June 18th, 2000

I know this bar, with a jukebox full of medicine. I stroll in, pump it full of quarters, and head for the bar. Fat, middle-aged men wearing various shades of flannel argue over who will win the pennant this year, the Indians or the Yankees. Morons. Everyone knows that Cleveland has no pitching this year and won't even make the playoffs. Christmas lights twinkle seemingly in beat to the music. I smile, remembering the snowy December night those lights were hung. It seems like forever ago. I sit next to one of the fat men, who tries to suck in his gut, smiling an almost toothless smile. I ignore him and search for Grace.

Seeing she's busy with customers I sigh audibly and pick up a wrinkled copy of today's Cleveland Plain Dealer. Boring, boring, and more boring. I look around for Grace again, and slam the paper down when I don't see her.

"Hey tall, dark, and deadly. Where ya been all my life?" Grace's soft voice buzzes in my ear. I turn around to see my Grace, her glowing blonde hair framing her cherubic face sweetly. I stand up, dwarfing her small stature with my height and she gives me a warm hug. "It's been too long." She says and I smile and pull back from her. She knows how scared I get for the strong attraction I have of her. She has it too.

One year prior; May 30, 1999.

"Hey sweetheart, how about another round?" I put on a fake smile and get the good ole' boys their drinks. Glancing at my watch I see it's only 11:15pm and I know I won't be going home soon. I deliver the drinks, resisting the urge to punch the drunken leader when he pinches my butt. "Be nice Grace and you'll get a nice tip." I chant over and over in my head. Tips are my only ticket out and I need every penny. Sighing to myself I survey the crowd and notice a tall woman leaning against the rarely used jukebox, filling it with a stack of quarters. I walk over to her to see if she needs anything and sensing my presence, she turns around. Her harsh glare immediately softens. She is perfection, with chiseled features and piercing eyes the color of robin's eggs. Her hair is like the night sky, black with hints of blue and gold. She raises a raven-colored eyebrow at me and I realize I'm staring.

"Um, do you want anything?" I ask, my voice shaking. She smirks at me and I swallow loudly. She gives me a predatory glare that both scares and arouses me. I gasp softly and she laughs, a low sultry laugh that sounds like warm honey. I blush and duck my head, not really sure of what to say to her.

"Vodka martini, three olives." She says, a hint of a smile on her face. I nod and race to the bar. I can still hear her chuckling.

I interrupt my portly uncle from his game of blackjack to order her drink. He effortlessly makes the martini, his eyes never once leaving the game. Mr. Personality he isn't. But he gave me a job when no one else in my family would. A crappy job, but a job nonetheless. I weave my way back through the bar and with trepidation I approach the gorgeous dark-haired stranger.

"Here." I say softly. "Would you like to start a tab?" I'm hoping she will; I'd like to get to know her better.

"Sure." She drawls, her gaze lingering on me. I feel awkward, unsure as to what to do next. She holds out her hand. "I'm Jaden."

I take her warm hand, surprised at its strength. I like the way it fits around mine. "I'm Grace." I continue to hold her hand while again being drawn to gaze into her incredibly blue eyes.

"Grace?" She asks. I look at her questioningly. "Can I have my hand back?" I blush and drop her hand while grinning at her. Jaden smiles and sips her drink. Still feeling awkward to be standing there staring at a stranger I begin to inch my way back into the crowd. Jaden clears her throat loudly and I turn back around to see her take the toothpick holding the three olives seductively into her mouth; her tongue swirling around the olives. I feel like I'm going to explode, it's so sensual to watch.

True to the irony that is my life, the rush of the post-bowling league crowd stumble in, already drunk from the bowling fun. I sigh and excuse myself to go wait on them, not missing Jaden's sympathetic look. Until closing time I'm slammed with customers. I don't mind because I'm getting great tips, but I really wanted to talk more with Jaden. Or just stare at her some more. I head for her table, and am crushed to find her gone. I clear her table, picking up her cash when I see a note with my name on it.


Nice talking to you. I'll see you around. I'm in the area from time to time.


My shoulders sag with disappointment as I stuff the note in my pocket. At least she left a note. Uncle Rick flicks the lights, signaling last call and I rush to get everyone their final drinks.

July 4th, 1999.

If I hear one more disgusting story of a guy who knew a guy who got his arm, face, leg, or any other limb blown apart by fireworks, I'm going to scream. I hate Ohio. And I hate the fourth of July. Smart celebration; let's mix alcohol with fireworks and Lake Erie boating. I am serving red, white, and blue margaritas, our 4th of July special and have seen more people do cherry and blueberry jello shots than I'd like to remember. The bar is so packed I can't see in front of my tray, and suddenly the crowd shifts, bumping me, and I start falling.

"Watch it girlie." A low voice orders me as it grabs my arm, settling me firmly on my feet. I whip around, preparing to sling an insult. My eyes widen when I realize the voice is Jaden's. She smiles a slow smile. I can't think of what to say to her so I deliver my drinks and follow her to her corner table by the jukebox.

"How are you? I didn't think I'd ever see you again!" I say excitedly. She looks so great, her long black hair pulled away from her face in a casual loose bun.

"Hey, I said I'd see you around. I keep my promises." She smiles again at me. "So Grace, how's life been treating you?" She sits down, her long legs gracefully straddling the chair. I lean against her table and shrug.

"It's alright, I guess. I'm a freshman, but my family already is on my case about getting married and having a million babies." I grin slyly, and continue. "Getting married is the last thing I want to do."

I think she's gets my idea and smirks at me. "You're a freshman? What does that make you, 14?" Jaden smiles, and I know she's teasing me.

I cross my arms and scold her. "For your information, I am 21, and this coming school year will be my sophomore year. In college." I stress the last part, smiling to let her know I'm only teasing her back. "I had to take time off after high school to earn money to pay my own tuition because my parents aren't exactly big on me going to college." Jaden nods seriously, but I can detect the smirk still on her stunning face. "Listen, can we talk or something after I get off work tonight? I would really like to get to know you better." I know, I know, I sound pathetic, but there is something about this woman that I can't describe. I just have this urge to be around her.

Jaden frowns. "Sorry Grace, but I have a plane to catch. I just stopped by to fulfill my promise." She stands, digs her money out of her pocket for her tab and winks at me. "I'll see you around." And before I can say anything, she's gone.

Journal entry:

August 13, 1999.

Happy birthday to me...happy birthday to me...happy birthday dear Grace, happy birthday to me. I'm officially 22. Wow. I feel so old, I know that sounds silly, but when I was 13 and I thought about my 22nd birthday, I assumed I'd be a famous writer living in Paris by then. Not stuck in a crappy backwoods Ohio town going to a college I hate and being settled and bored like my mother. I need some excitement, and something tells me I'm not going to get it here.

Journal entry:

September 2, 1999.

Another semester begins. Did I mention I hate my college? I really do. My entire life I've dreamed of going to an east coast university, where the Atlantic Ocean is my front yard and New England is my home. I really want to transfer out of my college, but I'm here on a combination of scholarships and my own hard-earned money. My parents refuse to pay for college because they just want me to settle down and marry Scott. Ick.

Can I just rant about that for a second? My parents and Mr. & Mrs. Spencer are best friends. So why does that automatically make myself betrothed to their son, Scott Spencer? I don't get it. I mean, our parents have forced us to date since I was a sophomore in high school and he was an embarrassing and nerdy 8th grader. He's more like my brother than my boyfriend. I can't imagine spending the rest of my life with him, for a few reasons. The first and most important reason? I'm gay. I've known for a long time that relations with the opposite sex don't appeal much to me. But just try to be gay in Ohio when your parents are as Republican as they come. It's not exactly easy or accepted. I have no doubt that if they ever found out I'd be thrown out of my house and family so fast I wouldn't even have time to pack. So for now, I'll be a good girl and go to my crappy college and date Scott and play the good little straight girl. But as soon as I save enough money, I'm out of here.

Journal entry:

October 31, 1999.

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. We had a costume party at the bar, and it actually was pretty fun. I've been thinking of Jaden all day, and I dressed up in this cool outfit, skirt and peasant blouse and went as a peasant. I took my staff I got at a medieval festival and searched for Jaden all night. I had a dream about her, one of many I've had, where she's dressed in a warrior outfit, and I'm at her side in my peasant garb. I hoped that if I dressed the part for the costume party, she would show up in her warrior outfit. Pretty stupid, I know. But I haven't seen her since July and I really miss her. I know, I only talked to her for five minutes, but still. There was some intense connection there.

Journal entry:

November 24, 1999.

Happy Turkey Day. I can't stand the sight of dead animals, but they sure do taste yummy. I'm in my room with a full belly of turkey and cranberry sauce, listening to music and thinking of Jaden. I swear to Goddess if I never see her again I don't know what I'll do! I am so curious about her, where she lives, what she does, what kind of ice cream she likes, how her strong body feels moving against mine, among other things. I hope I find out one day.

December 19, 1999.

Semester over. Thank Goddess. I now have a month and a half before starting college again, and I plan on working every night at the bar to earn as much cash as possible. Then, after this spring semester, I only have two years until I graduate and then I'm out of here. I think. That's if I have the courage to stand up to my family and tell them I'm not marrying Scott.

I'm standing on a bar stool, putting the last of the Christmas lights up around the bar. It's quiet tonight, most people are out Christmas shopping and don't stop in for a drink until later. Uncle Rick is even gone, figuring since I've worked here for almost a year that I can "hold down the fort" as he says. I don't expect any customers tonight, by December most men feel guilty about being at the bar so often and spend the holidays surrounded by their families. Once the New Year occurs, they are so tired of being around their families; they flock back to the bar. So I'm looking forward to a nice quiet night, and after I hang these lights I'm going to watch the snow drop gently to the ground and write in my journal.

The jingle of the bell on the door surprises me and I turn around. I grin like a child when I see Jaden step through the door, her long hair damp with snow. Before I can think otherwise I fly off of the bar stool and run to her, throwing my arms around her. She's shocked, but I don't care as I hug her and blubber. "I've missed you so much! Where in the heck have you been?"

She gently removes me from her and smiles. "I told you I'd see you around, I just didn't say when." She takes off her long black coat, scattering cold flakes of snow on the floor. I notice her discrete navy uniform with the small silver plate that reads "Lt. Phillips." It doesn't look like a normal police uniform, and as I'm about to ask her, she interrupts me, "Let's go sit down, ok?"

We sit at the bar and I pour her a drink, a vodka martini. She raises her eyebrow at me and begins, "Three.."

"Olives" I finish for her as I put the olives on the toothpick. She looks surprised that I would remember that as I push her drink over to her. "So," I begin, "How are you? Where have you been? What's with the uniform?"

She shakes her head. "I don't want to talk about me, Gracie, tell me about you. I've been wanting to know all about you since May."

Talking is something I never seem to have a problem with. I launch into my life story, editing out the boring parts and fluffing the good parts just a little. "My name is Grace McKenzie, no one's ever called me Gracie except you just now, but I like it and you can call me that if you want. I'm 22, yep you missed my birthday in August but you can get me a great present next year. I live with my parents and go to college but they want me to not have a career and marry this boring son of their best friends. He's a nice guy, but I'm not into that, you know?" She nods in agreement and I continue. I told you I could talk forever. "Anyway, thank Goddess Scott's away at college for a few more years and the wedding can be put off until he graduates, and by then I hope to be far, far away from here!"

I finally shut up and see an amused Jaden looking at me. She shakes her head and tries to contain her laughter. "I'm sorry Gracie, that really sucks." She sips her drink and we sit in silence. I am desperate to ask her about herself, and I can tell she's doesn't want to talk. "Can I have more olives?" Her hopeful voice breaks the stillness. She looks so pathetic I can't turn her down. Her big blue eyes would rival any puppy dog and her lower lip sticks out in an adorable pout. I open the olive jar, taking out three more and putting them on a toothpick. She takes them and continues to pout until I slide the entire jar over to her. She grins and happily digs into the jar. Remembering her manners she offers one to me, laughing when I vehemently decline. "What, you don't like olives?"

"No! They are disgusting." I say, laughing at her when she sticks olives on the end of all her fingers and waves them at me. My laughter turns to shock when I realize she's gotten off her bar stool and is headed around the bar to me. "Jaden, don't!" I say, but it's too late. She is chasing me and I run around the bar, dodging tables and chairs, as fast as I can. We are giggling as she catches me, backing me into a corner and taunting me with her olive hands. I shut my mouth and turn my head to avoid her fingers.

"Grace, I caught you. You have to eat at least one." I turn my head violently and clamp my mouth shut.

"No! I'll never give in urmphh" and I suddenly have her finger and salty olive in my mouth. Our eyes widen in shock as I eat the olive gently off her finger and I further surprise the both of us when my tongue gently sucks and nibbles at the end of her finger. She takes her finger out of my mouth and releases me, eating the olives off of her remaining fingers. She is so seductive she even makes olives look sexy. And I must admit, I still hate the taste of olives, but Jaden's finger was quite yummy.

She follows me as I shyly walk back to the bar, blushing at my lewd thoughts about her. She sits back down and I sit next to her. "I'm glad you came in tonight," I say honestly, "You really made my night." I summon all of my courage, determined to tell how I've been feeling. "Look Jaden, this might sound really stupid, but I really enjoy talking to you. I know we've only talked a few times, but I feel really connected to you, like I've kno.."

She raises her hand to silence me. "You don't have to say anything more. I understand." She suddenly glances away and her blue eyes look tired as she sips her drink.

"Well, I've told you my sob story, let's hear yours." Jaden smiles at pats my hand condescendingly. I don't give up that easily. "Come on Jaden, tell me about you. Where do you live? Do you have a cat? What's your favorite kind of cookie?" The last one gets her and she laughs, a low, rich, sound. I cross my arms triumphantly; convinced I've gotten her to talk.

"I live north of Boston, I don't have a cat, but I have two fish and a horse. Oatmeal Raisin." I should have expected that to be all, she seems the queen of the "I'm going to say as little as I possibly can yet still answer the question." speech.

"You have a horse? What's his name? I love horses! I used to have one myself!"


I crack up, I don't know why, but the picture of Jaden riding a horse named Studley is too much for me. She looks at me, a confused look on her face, until she shrugs and joins in on my laughter.

"Why is his name Studley?" I have to ask, and she sighs, knowing I was going to ask that.

"That's the name he came with. But he doesn't exactly have the tools anymore to really be studley, so I guess I don't know why he's named that."

"So, what do you do?" As I ask this, her eyes turn hard and cold. I realize I've crossed a line that I can't cross...yet...so I backtrack. "I mean, how often do you ride? Do you live near the ocean?"

"I ride every day, usually take Sunday off, and yes, my apartment overlooks the bay." She looks like she is tired of being on the receiving end of the questioning, so I decide to ask one more and then shut up.

"What's the Atlantic Ocean look like? I've always wanted to see the Atlantic."

"It's blue." She says, the edges of her mouth curled in a small smile.

"It looks more than blue, in pictures it looks gray and stormy. It looks dangerous and when I see pictures I think of all the ships lost because of the treacherous waters." My face lights up and I get engrossed with the picture in my mind, a beautiful pirate ship sinking in the murky gray water.

"You have an overactive imagination, Gracie." Jaden remarks.

"Why do you call me Gracie? My entire life no one's ever called me that, even my family, and you have said that twice and I just met you. I'm not complaining, I'm just curious."

She shrugs and looks away. "Don't know. It fits you." I think that's the best explanation she's going to give me, so I drop it.

Okay, so I admit, I sound like a two year old questioning her mother about everything. But I can't help it. I have an inquisitive nature.

Summoning all my courage I grasp her warm hand and she looks up, surprised. I'm delighted when she doesn't pull away and I take the next step and tentatively embrace her while trying not to fall from my bar stool.

"Thanks for telling me about you. I think you're amazing." She returns my embrace for a second, and then checking her watch she suddenly stands. "Let me guess, you have a flight to catch?" I ask, only half kidding.

She looks at me apologetically. "I do. I'm really sorry but I have to go." She heads for the door, donning her long coat and I follow her into the crisp winter night. Snowflakes mingle with her raven hair, making it glisten in the dark night.

"Bye Jaden." I say softly. She turns and smiles, a sly, secretive smile. She slightly opens her arms and I rush towards her, wrapping my arms around her again. I stand on my tiptoes and plant a soft kiss on her cheek. "Have a safe flight. Merry Christmas." I step back from her, shivering in the cold night.

She turns around and walks to her car, a rented Ford Explorer. She gets in the drivers door and I wave. She returns my wave and slowly pulls away. As I turn to walk back into the warm bar, I hear her shout her trademark line; "I'll see you around." I turn around, smile at her through the gently falling snow and watch her drive off into the dark white night.

Journal entry:

December 25, 1999.

Merry Christmas! It's actually merry this year because of my wonderful gift! My mother always gets us wacky presents, and this year mine was an adorable puppy. She's a Jack Russell Terrier that I named Bean because of a kidney bean-shaped black spot on her back. She's awesome. She has one black eye like that dog from the Little Rascals. What a great present. Bean is just what I need right now, I've been feeling really isolated. My daily life schedule has been: Get up 20 minutes late, rush to class, rush home to baby-sit my younger sister after school, rush to get my homework done, give a cordial phone call to Scott's dorm room (while hoping he isn't there), rush to work, and come home and collapse into bed. I'm in a rut, and I think having a dog to walk and play with will help that a bit.

Journal entry:

January 2, 2000.

Happy freaking New Year. How I celebrated the birth of 2000? You guessed it! Working at the bar. Scott is pretty upset that I didn't spend it with him; he's ticked that I work so much. He actually thinks I should take the entire time he's on semester break off so I can spend it with him. Luckily for me, Uncle Rick takes pity on me and schedules me for every night of the week, claiming business is booming because the holidays are over. He's correct.

Journal entry:

January 12, 2000.

I can't believe what I'm reading! A letter for Jaden! I came into work tonight, and Uncle Rick immediately took Bean from me. (I take her to work, and he loves her. He says she's good for business, but I know he just adores her.) He manages to tell me between puppy kisses that I have an envelope under the counter. I'm confused, no one ever mails anything for me to the bar, and I rip it open, squealing with delight when I realize it's from Jaden. The envelope contains a short letter and some pictures. I read the letter first.


I'm not sure when I'll see you around again, so I just wanted to say "Hi." I have missed seeing you. I mean I wanted to let you know I was thinking about you. I included some photos I took for you. I guess you're right. The ocean really does look more gray than blue.

I'll be seeing you.


I tear though the pictures, surprised at their quality. There is one of the ocean on a beautiful winter day. The gray water is swirling, making the white caps indistinguishable from the heavy snow on the beach. It's a beautiful photo, and I decide to frame it for above my bed. There is a picture of Jaden's horse, Studley, who indeed is very handsome. The picture seemed to capture Studley's personality, making him seem goofy yet refined at the same time. Seeing him makes me miss my horse so much, she was my best friend in the entire world. Blinking back the tears that threaten to form I look at the last picture, one of Jaden herself. She must have taken the picture herself because I honestly don't think she'd let anyone ever photograph her. It's just not her style. The picture shows the depth and clarity of her beautiful eyes perfectly, and it's as if you can see directly into her soul. It's a gorgeous photograph and I realize just how much I do miss her.

"HEY YOU, another here please!" The obnoxious voice interrupts me and I growl under my breath and shove the envelope under the counter.

Journal entry:

January 13, 2000.

Using the return address from the envelope she sent me I sent Jaden a letter today, thanking her for her beautiful pictures. She seems like the kind of person who wouldn't have put her return address if she didn't want me to mail her back, right? Or am I just trying to convince myself that my letter will be welcomed? Well anyway, I am still curious about her and can't stop thinking about her. I wonder if she's a professional photographer? That still doesn't explain the uniform she had on that time though. I also sent her my phone number and my email address, hoping she'd call or write me sometime. I hope she writes back.

January 19, 2000.

"GRACE!" The voice in my dream screams. "GRACE GET YOUR LAZY ASS OUT OF BED!" My mother's voice insists and I open my eyes and manage to crawl out of bed, noting it's almost noon on Friday.

"What mom?" I ask, and she looks up from her bible worship channel.

"Phone's for you. Some girl." She looks back to her show. Who would call me at this hour? All my friends know it's too early to call me on a rare school-vacation day. I pick up the phone, and answer, my voice thick with sleep.


"Hello yourself. It's Jaden." I smile immediately upon hearing her voice.

"I know it's you, silly! How are you? I'm so glad you called!" My mother hears the happy tone of my voice and looks at me. Wanting my privacy I walk to my room and shut the door, flopping down on my bed and pulling Bean up next to me.

"I'm okay. Did I call at a bad time?"

"Nope, I was in bed still, but I needed to get up anyway." I hear her laugh.

"Grace, it's almost noon!" Jaden exclaims, and suddenly I realize she's probably one of those 6 am joggers I always think are insane.

"You're a 6 am jogger, aren't you?" I ask.


"Really? I thought you'd be a big work out freak."

"Well, I'm a 5 am jogger, does that count?" I hear the smile in her voice.

"Arugh! You drive me nuts! Can't you just ever answer a question?" She laughs at my frustration. "Wow Jaden, you're in a great mood this morning." I've never heard her be so funny.

"That's because it's my day off and I'm laying in my apartment with the freezing ocean breeze blowing in while talking to you. What more could a girl want?"

I'm shocked, that's the most she's ever said to me. "It sounds wonderful. I know this sounds stupid, so forgive me, but I wish I was there."

"Me too." Jaden's voice is soft.

Awkward silence is my worst enemy. I have to break it and I say the first thing that comes to mind. "I got a dog!"

Jaden laughs. "I know, you sent me pictures, remember? She's pretty cute. How is she doing? Learning where to potty yet?"

I look down at my devoted puppy; my little Bean curled on my lap. "Yeah, she's great, really smart and she's potty training really easily!"

"Well, I'll see her soon." Jaden answers and I almost choke on my tongue.

"What? When will you be in town?" I ask, hoping it's soon.

"How about tonight?" Jaden answers, not waiting for me to finish. "I thought I'd take you up on that offer to talk or something after you get off of work."

I can't believe my own ears. Jaden is actually asking me out? Is this like a date? Or is it just two people, beginning a friendship, meeting to get to know each other better. I'm so confused and this is way too stressful. I hope it's a date.


"Yeah, I'm here, sorry!" I answer; I can't believe how flustered I am. "Tonight would be great. I have to work, but Uncle Rick owes me so if you want I could probably get off early."

"Sounds good. I'll see you later." Jaden answers. "Bye."

She hung up. Out of the blue Jaden calls me, asks me to go out, and I didn't even get to say goodbye. I lie back down on my bed in shock. I terrified about tonight. But I can't wait. What am I going to wear?

Something's changed between us. I can feel it, and I think Jaden can too. I spring off my bed and start flipping through my closet, Bean looking at me with a confused puppy look on her face. I pick her up and kiss her black nose. "You're going to meet Jaden tonight!" This is surreal.

I stand in front of my closet, throwing every item of clothing I own out onto the floor of my garbage dump of a bedroom.

"Arugh!" I yell in frustration, sending Bean under the bed. The only things visible are her little white paws and I chuckle at her. "Come here silly girl," I coo, and she bounds out from under the bed, her stump of a tail wagging. I pick up the squirming puppy and cuddle her, trying to avoid her little pink tongue as she gives me doggie kisses. There's nothing like puppy breath, especially a puppy that's been chewing on her new piggy bone today. Ick. I put Bean down; she circles a few times and flops down on my pile of clothes.

After much contemplation I decide to wear my favorite pair of worn jeans and a soft dark green sweater. From what I know of Jaden I can't imagine us going somewhere fancy, but I throw a pair of dressy khakis in my book bag just in case. I'm ready. I just have to shower before work and primp. Glancing at my watch I see it's only 1:30. Oh Goddess, I have seven hours before I go to work. These are going to be the seven longest hours of my life.

The bar is surprisingly empty for a Sunday night. Uncle Rick knows I'm leaving as soon as Jaden gets here. He's a great guy; he didn't even question who she was or why I needed to leave early. He grunted in his usual form, and simply asked; "That the tall one in here sometimes?" When I told him it was he nodded and raised his eyebrows. My mother, on the other hand, wanted to know where I was going, who this Jaden girl was, how I met her, blah blah blah. You get the picture.

I wanted to tell her, "Oh, we're going to a gay bar. What? I forgot to tell you I was gay? Oh, sorry. Well mom, I'm gay. This Jaden girl is someone I'm totally attracted too and we met in Uncle Rick's bar when I saw her and wanted her so badly I couldn't speak."

Wouldn't that have been a riot? But of course I held my tongue and answered with my usual, "She's a nice girl I met in the bar, and we're just going out for coffee or something after I get off of work, so I'll probably be really late."

Needless to say, my mother gave me "the look" and an entire guilt trip about how I can make time for some girl I just met but not my own fiancée. Don't you just love mothers?
But that's over now, and it's 9:30 and still no Jaden. I am chomping at the bit waiting her arrival, so I take some of my nervous energy out on my few customers, being the best and most efficient server I can be. I glance at my watch countless times, and Uncle Rick looks at me sympathetically.

By midnight she's not here and I feel like I've been stood up. I'm really upset by this point, and now I'm stomping around the bar, thoroughly scaring the few patrons. Uncle Rick is setting up the karaoke machine and I know if I don't get out of here soon I'm going to kill myself. Finally, Jaden walks in. And I'm so turned on I feel like I'm going to puke.

She is incredible, wearing black pants and a silvery-blue shirt under her black woolen coat. I feel so underdressed and plain as this Goddess approaches. Her seductive smile is only for me and I find myself grinning in return.

"Hey." I say, still grinning at her like a child. "You're late."

She shrugs and grins at me. "How can I be late when I never told you when I'd be here?" I roll my eyes and say nothing; after all, she is right.

"You ready?" She asks and I can only nod. She turns and leaves and all I can do is follow. Remembering Bean I take her from Uncle Rick's arms and he gives me a knowing smile. I blush, and look away, wondering what he thinks as I follow Jaden out of the bar.

The night is cool, with just a hint of stars. Our breath is visible in the night air as we walk to Jaden's car. She opens the door of her rented Ford Explorer and takes a happy Bean into her arms so I can get in. Bean is excited to meet a new friend and immediately covers Jaden's face in kisses. Lucky dog. Jaden waits until I'm settled and hands me back the puppy. "Cute dog." She says as she shuts my door. She gets in the Explorer, her long legs making it easier for her than my ungraceful entry.

"What's with the Ford Explorer? That's what you had last time too." She looks at me and grins. She is so beautiful.

"It's more fun to watch you try to crawl into them, that's all." She says, a look of mock innocence on her face. I lightly slap her arm.


"Am not." She replies.

"Are too." I snap back, smiling. She looks at me and I go silent. She's stunning in this light, the dark night with a half moon accentuating her features beautifully. I look down at my casual dress. "Do you mind stopping at my house for a second? I feel really underdressed." She looks at me, a confused look on her face. "I mean," I add, "You look so nice and I'm just in jeans."

"I think you look beautiful." She says and turns the car on. I guess that means I won't be changing. Bean contentedly curls up on my lap and Jaden smiles at her. "I don't really like dogs, but she is really cute." I pat my puppy affectionately.

"So where are we going?" I ask. I don't mean for it to be a deep question, but the tone of Jaden's voice in her answer makes me think it is a very deep question indeed.

"I don't know."

We drive around for a while, tossing ideas back and forth. Because of the late hour there isn't much to do in my small town, and I know Jaden must be exhausted from traveling.

"Oooohhh!" I squeal in delight. Jaden raises her eyebrow at me as she slows for a red light. "How about we go to the 24-hour Walmart!"

"You want to go to Walmart? To do what exactly?" The look Jaden gives me is hysterical; she really thinks I've gone off the deep end.

"We can get some snacks and have a picnic at this cool place." I answer. "I'm starving." Jaden nods and I direct her to Walmart. I settle Bean down in the seat and tell Jaden to lock the doors of the Explorer. I don't want anyone stealing my precious puppy.

To anyone who hasn't been to a 24-hour Ohio Walmart at 1:00am, the first experience will forever be burned into their memory. Every kind of person imaginable is at an Ohio Walmart at 1:00 am, most people have their 6 or 7 screaming children with them. Jaden looked like a woman in a foreign country, furrowing her eyebrows at the strange people walking the aisles and wincing as we heard the 2000th child scream at the top of his or her lungs for Mama. We saw people who should be on Jerry Springer buying patio furniture, a woman who was on Jerry Springer (one of the "I'm carrying my husband's brother's baby" episodes) fighting with her seven-year old about what kind of handgun to get, and a man completely covered with tattoos buying a Speedo bikini.

Jaden was cute, staring at everyone with such an incredulous look on her face, not really believing what she was seeing. I direct her to the candy aisle, because I was too nervous to eat dinner and I'm starving.

We pick out some snacks and I find a $1.99 picnic basket to put them all in. Leaving Walmart we drive to our picnic area. I direct Jaden back towards my town and tell her to turn down a narrow dirt path. In the dim light I can see her eyebrows rise questioningly, and I expect her to start inquiring about where we are going.

"Pull in here." I tell her, and she complies, steering the big Explorer into a tiny parking space. "We can leave the car here, no one will bother it." I jump out and wake Bean up, clipping her thin pink leash to her matching collar. She yawns and stretches, confused as to why she isn't at home sleeping at this hour. Jaden get out and grabs our picnic snack. We walk over to a gate that is locked.

"How are we supposed to get in? The gate is locked." Jaden observes. I smile at her and put my finger to her lips to hush her.

"Quiet silly. I have my ways." I smirk at her and walk to the left of the gate, which is hidden by a large tree. Finding the hole I know is there I go through easily. Jaden has to duck a bit to follow me, laughing as she enters the area.

"Where are we?" She asks, looking around.

"Mill Hollow. It used to be an Indian Settlement, and now it's a park. It was formed when a glacier came through the valley, cutting into the land and forming this cliff." I point to the large cliff jutting out from the night sky. Jaden looks up, impressed. We walk a short while and decide to sit by the large duck pond. The geese are on land, their long necks tucked under their wings. Bean looks at them curiously, but decides not to give chase.

Jaden spreads out the inexpensive fleece blanket we bought at Walmart and starts doling out our late dinner. We wrap the other blanket we bought around our shoulders, providing somewhat of a shelter against the chill winter night. We bought a variety of things, pop and chips, some fruit and cheese, and candy for desert. Jaden insisted on buying toasted coconut marshmallows. She has the weirdest taste. I stuck with my favorite, malted milk balls, and got some licorice. We eat mostly in silence, enjoying our impromptu snack and each other's company. Bean loves Jaden, sitting down on her lap as Jaden feeds her bits of cheese and other goodies.

"So, what made you come here?" I ask, breaking the comfortable silence.

"I wanted to see you." Jaden finishes, and I let the subject go. Instead I tell her all about Mill Hollow, the wading creek, pioneer festivals, walking trails, and the fields of bluebirds. The last seems to interest Jaden. "You have fields of bluebirds? They are extinct where I live."


"They were killed out years ago, when DDT was still legal. It makes me furious. We are just now having settlements of Bald Eagles returning. Almost all of our wildlife is dwindling, and the disappearance of bluebirds just proves how dangerous we are to our environment."

Wow. Seems like I have an environmentalist on my hands. Not that I'm complaining, mind you. I am as much as an environmentalist as the next girl, but this is something Jaden seems really passionate about. "The bluebirds run rampant in the field here, and sometimes you can see them even in the winter. Do you want to see them?" I ask, knowing the answer.

Jaden nods, her beautiful eyes twinkling in the moonlight. We get up, tidying our picnic area, and throw the rest of our chips to the sleeping geese. "They're so tame from people feeding them. This place is packed all day, especially in the summer, and at dusk they lock the gate. I always come here by myself at night just because it's peaceful, but I'm too afraid of being by myself to stay long." Jaden tilts her head questioningly.

"Why are you afraid of being by yourself?" She asks, moving closer to me as we walk. I smile in the night sky, wondering if she realizes she just did that.

"I don't really know, I just hate being by myself in the dark. I know it sounds stupid and childish, but it's true. The dark is scary to me, that's all." I say, shrugging. Jaden says nothing and moves closer to me again, tentatively taking my hand in hers. "I'm not scared tonight though." I say, to let her know that her contact is very welcome and appreciated.

"Good." Jaden mumbles, and shifts the picnic basket into her free hand. We walk through the large field lightly dusted with snow, the cliff edge to our right. Arriving at the bluebird field we quietly sit on a wooden bench.

"We probably won't see any," I warn her, "the bluebirds are always out in the daytime, it's probably too late and cold for them now."

"Then we'll just have to wait for the daytime." Jaden says, shifting herself on the bench so she can casually drape an arm over my shoulder. I settle back into her, feeling her breathing quicken. Bean is sleeping peacefully in one of the blankets inside of the picnic basket and I chuckle at her, feeling more warm and safe than I can ever remember. Jaden must have a space heater under her clothes; she is amazingly warm despite the cold January night. I snuggle up against her and share her warmth.

"Psst." I hear in my ear and I swat at the annoying insect flying around my head. I feel my bed rumble and shake and I hear Jaden's laughter. I clench my eyes shut tighter and try to go back to sleep. "Psst." I hear again. "Gracie, get up. My arm is asleep." Huh? I reluctantly open my eyes, confused when I realize I'm in the bluebird field at Mill Hollow on a cold and hard bench with Jaden's arm around my shoulder.

"Oh my Goddess, I'm so sorry! How long was I sleeping?" I ask, wide-awake and very embarrassed. Jaden smiles as she shakes out her arm.

"Not that long, just enough for my arm to fall asleep." I groan and put my head in my hands. I'm such a moron sometimes. I wait all day to see her, hell, I wait almost a year to spend time with her and I fall asleep on her. "Gracie, don't worry about it. It was kind of peaceful." Jaden consoles me, finally getting her arm to wake up again. "C'mere." She says and I obey, falling blissfully into her open arms. I feel her soft hand in my hair, smoothing it back from my forehead.

Her wandering hand trails from my hair then to my neck and I stifle a groan as she rubs a tender spot. She reads my mind and brings her other hand up to gently massage my neck and shoulders. "Goddess that feels good." I say, lowering my head to give her better access. She parts my long hair and works out all the kinks in my neck. Encouraging her to move lower I scoot backwards on the bench to her, presenting my back. Jaden gets the hint and massages my tender back. I let out a low appreciative moan. "Carrying drink-laden trays doesn't make for a happy back." I say, in between moans. Jaden chuckles and continues. Her hands caress my back through my coat, and I don't think it's my imagination, but she seems to get closer to my breasts every time she runs her hands up and down my sides.

Enjoying the massage, but desperate for more I stand up, turning around on the bench. She looks confused and surprised, but she's not pulling away. I look at her in the moonlight, her dark hair cascading down her back and golden skin glowing in the light. "You're beautiful." I say, noticing the look of shock in her face. "Surely you must know that." She doesn't answer, and I see the wall of coldness building in her icy eyes. Before she can push me away I lean into her, pressing my breasts to hears. She bites back a moan and I wrap my arms around her neck, pulling her down to me. She resists me for a minute, and then before I can make the first move, she does it for me.

Jaden tastes perfect. That's one of the things I can think of when she's kissing me. Her kisses vary from hard and demanding to sweet and almost chaste. Her mouth ravishes mine, my tongue grinding against hers. She tastes like mild cheese and grapes and I wrap my hands in her silky hair, pulling her closer to me. She complies, lowering her body onto mine as I lay down on the hard wooden bench. I open my legs for her and she settles in between them, our breasts pressed together, and our hips pumping into each other's. Our kisses become more insistent as our bodies grind together, and I tear my lips away from hers, kissing and nibbling on her neck. She smells good, a mixture of soft perfume and a deeper, muskier scent. I can't get enough of her and I tell her that in her ear. This seems to turn her on more, and she kisses me again, lowering a hand to cup my breast through my bulky coat.

"Oh yes." I moan, urging her on. She does not fail me as she struggles to move her hand under my coat, tracing my breast through my sweater. She kisses down my neck, and although it feels incredibly, I miss her full lips on mine. I move my hands up and down her back, conveying my hunger for her. She laughs into my neck, a low, throaty laugh and I laugh back. She slowly sits up, removing her lips from me. I pout. "Why are you stopping?" I ask, sitting up myself. I can feel myself throbbing from my desire for her. She gently cups my cheek in her hand and I see the sudden sadness in her eyes.

"Gracie, you have no idea how much I want to make love to you. But I can't, at least, not right now."

"Why?" I push, wanting to know the answer of not only that question, but the countless others I've had since I first met her.

"Because Grace, I want to get to know you better, or rather, have you know me better. I don't want you getting into anything you don't want to get into."

"So tell me about you." I push, knowing I'm walking the line between Jaden's good spirit and sudden sullenness.

She sighs, and I can tell she's exasperated. "Grace, it's not that easy, okay? I will tell you all about me, eventually." She stops suddenly, looking behind my shoulder. "Grace, whatever you do, don't make any sudden moves."

"What is it? Who is there?" I am panicked. This is my worst fear, an attacker at night. "Oh Goddess, Jaden what is it?"

Jaden is staring, her eyes wide and her full mouth shaped in a perfect "O". "It's okay Grace, don't be scared. It's a bluebird."

"Oh cool! Where is it?" I'm really surprised to see one; they usually nest all night.

"Behind you, turn around very slowly so you don't scare it." I nod and as slowly as possible turn my head to the left. A beautiful bird sits on the end of the bench, cocking his impossibly blue head towards us. His color is almost indescribable in this dim light; he's in between the color of the bluest summer day and blue-raspberry KoolAid. I feel Jaden's warm hand take mine, gently squeezing it. I return her squeeze and I feel her smile. We sit for a few minutes, staring at the bluebird, and he finally flies away into the cool night sky.

"Wow." Jaden says. "That was one of the most amazing things I've ever seen." She is smiling, staring off into the trees where the bluebird flew.

"You've never seen one before?" I question.

"No. I told you, they are extinct where I live." She says, still staring.

"But still, I thought you had least seen one when you were a kid. How old are you?" I hope she'll answer, thinking that was a nice transition into Grace: Inquisitive Mode.

"I'm 27." Jaden answers, and I'm shocked she answered a question so easily. I decide to continue.

"When's your birthday?"

"October 31st."

"Oh cool! A Halloween birthday! That must have been cool when you were little."

She shrugs, and finally looks at me again. "Yeah, it didn't matter, I guess." I'm so thrilled that I now have a bit more knowledge on the elusive subject that is Jaden. I make a mental note that asking her questions while bluebirds or anything else that has her interest distracts her is a good idea. The moment soon passes, and Jaden looks at me, and looks at her watch apologetically.

"You have to go?" I ask, as my heart clenches. I must have a stricken look on my face because Jaden's expression can only be described as anguished.

"I'm so sorry Gracie." She whispers, squeezing my hand in hers. "I would stay if I could, I promise you that."

"I know." I tell her simply. We walk quietly back to the Explorer, leaving our bluebird paradise.

Journal entry:

January 20, 2000.

I glance at the clock and rub my red eyes. 6:05. Jaden is probably back in Massachusetts by now; I hope she had a safe flight. She said she would call me sometime this evening. At least it's a Saturday and I can freaking go to sleep. Not that I've been able to sleep since Jaden left. I've just lain in my bed with Bean and tried to stop thinking about her. About how her lips feel and how good of a kisser she's been. I received my first ever kiss from a woman tonight.

Much better than Scott's insistent and expectant kisses. If I ever had any doubt at all that I was a lesbian, Jaden erased it. I don't think I could ever desire anyone more than I desire Jaden. It would kill me.


Journal entry:

February 14, 2000.

I hate Valentine's Day. Or at least I used too. This year I've been turned into a believer of St. Valentine. Upon returning from class I found a large bouquet of annoying flowers from Scott. My mother was practically gushing with pride as she handed me the card reading: "Grace, I can't wait for you to be my bride. Love, Scott."

Um, like, ew! After listening to my mother gloat about what a wonderful life I will have with Scott, I escaped to my room. Before I could collapse into bed there was a soft rap on my door. It slowly opened to reveal my little sister, Lydia. Well, not little sister. She is taller than me by a few inches now and is at the incorrigible age of 13.

"Hey Lyd, how are you?" I ask and she rolls her eyes. She is a riot, and although I don't get to spend much time with her I love her dearly.

"Mom's a jerk Grace." She says and I can only nod in agreement. She offers no further explanation and before I can ask her why she hands me a huge box that was sitting in the hall. "This came for you, I saw it wasn't from Scott so I grabbed it before she saw it. You know how nosy she is."

Curiously I peer at the return address. I can't help the smile that forms across my face when I see Jaden's telltale handwriting. I hug my sister, eternally grateful for her insight to grab the package.

"Thank you so much Lydia. You're the best." She smiles and rolls her eyes again, Lydia's trademark expression.

"Yeah, well you owe me." She grins as I promise to take her and a few of her teenage friends to a movie on my next night off. "Cool, you're so much more fun than mom. My friends think you're awesome." She says as she leaves my room.

I squeal with glee as I close the door and pounce on my bed with Jaden's package. Tearing it open I find a stuffed white unicorn with bright blue eyes. The note attached reads: "To protect you from the scary darkness when I'm not around. Happy Valentine's Day." Aww! She's so sweet! I quickly dub the unicorn "Blue" because its blue eyes are almost the color of hers. I hug him close to me, smelling her scent on his fur.

February 15, 2000.

I am pathetic. I am lying on my bed, holding Blue with a very sleepy Bean next to me. Jaden is on my mind as I redial her number for the 1,000th time. It's still busy. I want to talk to her before I have to leave for work, but I can't get through.

I have to thank her for thinking about me yesterday. Her present was such a wonderful surprise, far better than Scott's obligatory flowers. I wonder if the valentine I sent her made it to her okay. I'm not the most artistic person in the world, but my handmade valentine to Jaden turned out pretty well. I hope she likes it.

I press redial again, groaning when I hear the busy signal. Life sucks.

"Arugh!" I jump with surprise as the phone rings in my hand. Bean doesn't even look up from her nap, used to my outbursts by now.


"Grace?" Jaden's low voice purrs in my ear.

"Hi! I've been trying to call you! How are you? Thank you so much for the unicorn, that was the best Valentine's day present I've ever gotten!"

She chuckles as she replies, "Nice to hear that. How are you?"

"Okay, well I'm better now that I'm talking to you."

She doesn't answer right away, but I can hear her breathing quicken as her next words come out in a rush. "Gracie, thank you for the valentine. It was really thoughtful, and no one's ever done that for me before. It means a lot."

I smile, though she can't see me. "I'm glad Jaden. You mean a lot to me and I want you to know that."

"Thanks. Listen, I have bad news." She says, and my heart practically stops beating as I wait for her to continue. "I wanted to tell you that today I received a pretty immense assignment."

"What does that mean?" I ask, wondering what in the hell she's talking about.

"Well, I train horses for police departments. And I'm a mounted officer. Sometimes departments need me to come and work with their mounted divisions, to improve their effectiveness or start a completely new program. This assignment means that I'm going to have to go to Florida. I have to implement a new mounted force there, and it's a pretty big job. It's going to take awhile, at least a month."

Oh. So that explains the uniform I guess. "So you're a cop?" I ask, feeling stupid because that's what she just told me. "That's so cool, I think being a mounted officer would be great, you get to ride all day and help people." My voice is excited, both because Jaden's career isn't a mystery to me anymore, and I think she'd be a perfect mounted policewoman.

"Yeah, well it has both its ups and downs." She answers, her voice tense. "But anyway Grace, I don't think I'll be able to see you for at least a few months." She says, her voice thick with emotion. "I'll miss you." She adds softly.

"Jaden, I'll miss you so much." I tell her honestly, surprised at how open she's being. "Will you be able to write or call or anything?" I ask, wondering when I'll even be able to talk to her.

"Of course. I'm not planning on letting you out of my life." She answers honestly, and I have to resist from asking her who she is and what has she done with the real Jaden.

"As soon as I get settled I'll call you with the address and everything. But I really have to go now, I leave in just a few hours and I have to find someone to take care of my stupid fish."

I laugh at that, grateful for the comedic interlude. "Where are you going to take them?" I ask, giggling at the absurd mental picture of Jaden sending her fish to day care.

She laughs with me, her voice vibrating in my ear. "My downstairs neighbor is a sweet elderly lady with a thousand cats. I'm sure she wouldn't mind."

"Yeah, well make sure they don't become kitty dinner." I add, unable to control my giggles. This makes Jaden laugh even more and we both laugh until my stomach hurts. "Jeez, we're in a silly mood today." I tell her, now sobered by the thought of not being able to see her for a month or so.

"Talking to you always puts me in a good mood." She answers quietly. "I'll call you as soon as I can, okay?" She says, and I answer her honestly.

"I'll look forward to it." The impact of what she just told me suddenly hits me in the face. "Jaden, this really sucks. I'm going to miss you a lot." I tell her, my voice shaking.

"I know. I'll miss you too. Take care of yourself, okay?"

"Okay, you too." I tell her.

"Bye Gracie." She says, and then she hangs up.

I bury my face in the pillow, the soft material absorbing my tears.

Journal entry:

April 21, 2000.

Two months and six days. That's how long it's been since Jaden left for her assignment. She's called several times but it's not the same. I can tell she's stressed and really wants to come home and be done with this assignment. It doesn't seem to be going to well, and taking her a lot longer than she's expected. My schedule right now is equally as horrible. Finals are in less than two weeks and I have a billion stupid things to work on. The bar is more popular than ever, and although I'm making really good money, it's just not enough yet to transfer to an east coast university and pay rent and everything.

I'm getting so depressed about everything. Scott will be home from college for the summer soon, and that's never good. I was really lucky last summer because he spent the first half of the summer at his parent's vacation home, and the second half at his college for football practice. I never had to see him. This summer he's assured me that we'll see each other much more. Just great.

The high points in my life right now are the letters Jaden diligently writes. I receive one a week, which must be a new record for her. Jaden talks so seldom when you're around her, and she's defiantly not a Chatty Cathy on the phone, either. So for her to actually take time and write must be difficult for her. I've written her back, my letters look like novels compared to her one-paged notebook papered notes. Still, I loved receiving them and I can't help but wonder when she will be done with her assignment so I can finally see her again.

My mother is driving me insane. She forced my father and my poor sister into going on a stupid cruise at the end of next month and I'm counting down the days until she leave. Sunday, May 30th will be wonderful, they will be gone and I will have the entire house to myself for 12 days. Yay. I don't know how I convinced my mother that I couldn't go, but I did. I'm just hoping Scott won't be around for that time and then maybe I can convince Jaden to come and visit. That would be perfect.

April 27, 2000.

Still no word from Jaden on her finishing date, this assignment is taking her so much longer than she expected and I can tell from her letters that she's getting frustrated. I really miss her. I'm so harried, finals are this week and they are a killer. I usually don't have to study for anything, and still I receive good grades. But this semester wasn't that easy, and I am wishing I had paid attention in class more lately, instead of writing letters to Jaden.

The doorbell is ringing. I sigh and punch my pillow, closing my economics book so I can get up and answer the door. Why do I need economics when I'm supposed to be an English and Creative Writing major, you ask? Well, because my stupid parents forced me into being a business major, stating that if I have to waste my time going to college I can at least study something useful. They think Scott will support me and all I'll have to worry about is having babies. Well, they have a surprise coming.

"Grace, Scott is here!" My mother's shrill voice rings throughout the house.

"I know, I know." I mumble under my breath. Needless to say, I was less than pleased when he called saying his semester was done and he'd be stopping over this evening. At least I have to leave for the bar soon, so I won't have to spend time with him too much.

I leave my room and go to greet him. Bean is happily wiggling on her back as he scratches her belly. That dog is a traitor to anyone who will pet her. Scott stops playing with her, smiling as he sees me. He looks good, more muscled than the last time I saw him.

"Hey honey!" He booms, his deep voice almost causing me to wince.

"Hi Scott, you look great." I tell him, as he crushes me into a tight hug. My mother beams, my sister looks at us and rolls her eyes. I resist the urge to puke while in Scott's strong embrace. He smells like, well, such a man. I wistfully remember the sweet, almost musky scent that is distinctively Jaden. I sigh.

"You look nice," Scott says, his brown eyes roaming my body, "Did you lose some weight?" My mother gasps so loudly I think she's having a heart attack.

"See Grace, I told you shedding a few pounds would make a difference!" She says, taking Scott by his broad shoulders and leading him to the couch. "Now Scott, tell us all about college." She says and he begins to talk about the football team and the baseball team and his fraternity brothers.

I'm in hell.

Journal entry:

May 5, 2000.

Life sucks hard. I know realize this more than ever. At least college is done for the semester, and finals went okay. But back to life sucking: the love of my life is MIA, no phone calls, no letters since the middle of April. The not-so love of my life Scott is like a puppy dog, trailing me wherever I go. He comes to the bar every night and watches me serve. If any of the drunken men flirt with me (like they always do) he gives me puppy dog eyes and pouts the rest of the night. He's such a baby. I love him dearly, as a little brother, but like most little brothers he's a whiny, immature brat.

And his kissing, ugh! Talk about immature. The past few days he's been begging me for sex and trying to kiss me all the time. I mean, I understand his point; after all we are engaged. But can't he take a hint? Kissing him is disgusting. The entire time I long for Jaden's lips, her touch, her. Not some boy.

I sound bitter and I know that. And I know it was myself who got me into this mess. If I had put my foot down to my parents and refused to marry Scott I wouldn't be in this predicament. I made my very messy bed but I now refuse to lie in it.

I'm sitting at the kitchen table, thankful that my mother isn't here. When she's here anytime I'm eating she screams at me. It seems that I'm too fat. Interesting. My entire life I've been petite, and I hardly think a size 5 is fat. But in her eyes I'm a big cow, so I'm careful to eat only when she's not here. She seems to be lightening up on me though, now that Scott is here I'm spending every freaking waking minute with him and it's appeasing her. But it's driving me insane.

I notice a letter on the table, underneath the other mail. It looks like Jaden's handwriting. Why didn't anyone give this to me? It's postdated from last week, meaning that it's been here probably since Monday. Goddess my family sucks.

I tear open the letter, relieved to have some word from Jaden.

My Gracie,

I'm sorry I haven't written sooner. Things have finally been going well. I should be finishing up this week, and on my way home this weekend! I can't wait, northern Florida is beautiful, but I'm tired of this assignment. Little things keep adding up to cause stupid problems.

The horses I'm working with have turned out great and I really like them. I miss my own horse though, and I miss you. The officers here, well they are not always so great. It seems that the majority of the people on the force think that a mounted team is a stupid idea, and a waste of time. I only have a few riders that are really into it. There is one woman, Kimber, who I think you would really like. She reminds me of you in a way.

Well, that is my life right now. My days are filled with acclimating horse and rider to the situations they will have to face, and nights consist of missing you.

Enclosed is a valuable piece of paper. Don't lose it. I hope the dates work for you. If not, we'll work something out.

SEE you soon,


I miss her so much, and instantly hate this Kimber woman. What kind of stupid name is Kimber, anyway? Actually, it's kind of a cool name, I ruefully admit to myself. But I'm still jealous. This Kimber woman has gotten to spend the last two and a half months with the girl of my dreams. And I've been here with my Jenny Craig-obsessed mother and Scott. Woo hoo.

I unfold the other piece of paper, my eyes widening when I see it's a copy of a flight itinerary. I scan over it, seeing that it's a for Jaden's name on a US Airways flight departing Florida on Sunday, May 6th for Cleveland! Jaden is coming directly here? I can't believe this! What if I hadn't seen this letter and never knew that she was coming! I would have had to commit a homicide!

Her flight comes in tomorrow morning and she leaves Cleveland for Boston on Friday. That means she'll be here an entire 6 days!!! This is amazing; I couldn't have received better news. I just hope that she doesn't think my lack of response to her letter means I don't want her to come here.

May 5, 2000.

I'm pacing in my room. Back and forth, back and forth, until I swear I can see the traffic pattern on the carpet. Bean good-naturedly paced with me for a while before soon growing tired and lying down to chew her bone. I so nervous to see Jaden, but I can't wait to pick her up from the airport. I just hope I hear from her so she knows I'll be there!

"Grace?" I hear my mother call me. Sighing I open my bedroom door. She comes down the hall, stopping in to look around my room.

"Grace, this is a pigsty. Clean your goddamned room by the time I get back from the store." She says, closing the door.

"Yes mom." I answer, rolling my eyes at her. I re-open the door. "What did you call me for?" I ask. I'm confused as to why she came in here in the first place.

"Jaden is on the phone for you." She answers, her back still to me.

By the time I pick up the phone, my mother is pulling away in her car. Breathing a sigh of relief to have some privacy, I eagerly blab into the phone.

"Jaden! Hi! I'm so sorry I didn't respond to your letter, I just got it today. Are you really coming here?"

She chuckles at the breathless excitement of my voice. "I was hoping my letter just got delayed or you didn't get it. Are you sure you want me to visit?" She asks, her voice joking, but still containing a hint of truth.

"YES!" I shout into the phone, causing Lydia to look up from her TV show. Not wanting to interrupt her I head for my bedroom.

"Okay, okay, I guess I'll come to visit." She says, still laughing. It sounds to great to hear her laugh, she's been so down every time I've gotten to talk to her.

"You sound relieved to be done with your assignment." I tell her honestly as she agrees.

"Listen Gracie," Jaden beings, "I have to finish up here today so I can finally get the hell out of Florida. Tomorrow morning I'll be on the plane headed straight for you. When I get in to the airport should I rent a car?" She asks, and I know that she is still in her businesslike policewoman mode.

"I have a car, so you shouldn't have to rent one." I tell her.

"That little thing you drive?" She questions, talking about my blue Pontiac Sunfire.

"Yes, what's wrong with my car?" I ask, my voice haughty. I love my car.

"Nothing, except I'm not 5 feet tall. I'll rent something." She says teasingly.

"Fine. Rent some big gas-consuming SUV." I tell her, equally as teasing. "I'll pick you up tomorrow morning, okay?"

"Nope. Don't get up that early. I'll rent a car, get a hotel room and pick you up for lunch around 11:00, okay? The tone of her voice assures me that I won't be able to change her mind. That's never stopped me before.

"Come on Jaden, let me pick you up. I haven't seen you in forever!" "Please?" I add, hoping she'll let me.

"No, just be ready and I'll pick you up. I promise it won't be later than noon."

I know when to give in. "Okay." I tell her dejectedly.

"Don't sound so sad. I'll see you tomorrow, okay?"

"Yay!" I tell her, my voice childlike and giddy. "I'll be ready."

"You do that. I can't wait to see you." She says as she ends the call.

I jump up into the air with anticipation and dance around my room. Now I just have to wait until tomorrow.


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

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