Disclaimers: All characters referenced in this story are mine and mine alone. Any similarities between them and anyone else living, dead, or fictional, is purely accidental/coincidental. Basically, hands off without my permission-pretty please.
Warnings: No violence, sorry. This does involve a look at loving relationships between women. If this is not your style, you are under 18, or if this is not legal where you live: Either don’t read it, don’t get caught reading it, or forget you ever saw this stuff.
For those who think lesbianism is wrong -sorry, perhaps one day after we cure stuff like cancer and AIDS we’ll work on stupidity-until then, don’t read and don’t flame.
Sex: Of course-not in all sections but it does happen now and again.
Sue: Always for you!
Anything I missed? Fill in the blanks or email me.
All comments, questions, suggestions and nice stuff are LOVED!
Riley was pacing as she waited for Sharon to pick her up. She had planned on picking Sharon up on her way to Jay and Bailey’s, but her Jeep decided to act up today. Now it was sitting at the dealer’s, waiting for a mechanic on Monday. Sharon had offered to drive rather than have Riley get a rental for the weekend. Riley knew she was nervous about Sharon coming over but she didn’t know what else to do, other than pace. Her duplex was clean and organized, everything put away, and not overly cluttered with lots of memorabilia from her golf touring days.
Riley admitted the truth to herself, she was nervous about what Sharon thought because Sharon mattered to her. That hadn’t happened in a long time, and she wasn’t entirely sure she was happy about it happening now. Riley simply knew that she had to see where it led or she would always wonder. One of the things life on the tour taught her was that you couldn’t go back and relive a moment. You had to go for it, or live with the regret of not trying at all.
A car pulled up in front and a door slammed. Riley went to the door and opened it for Sharon, smiling as she came up the walk. “Come on in, we have some time don’t we?”
Sharon nodded and stepped inside. As Riley shut the front door, Sharon looked around. “You have a great place Riley.”
Riley blushed and thanked her before offering her a drink.
“I’m fine, thanks. If you’re ready we can head out, traffic shouldn’t be too bad, but you never know.”
Riley knew the truth of that statement all too well. I95 had a tendency to back up in certain places for no discernable reason, then all of a sudden it flowed smoothly again. It was just one of the quirks of the area, and one that people that were new to the area had to get used to quickly. Riley grabbed her jacket and they headed out to Sharon’s car. Sharon unlocked it by remote but stepped up to open Riley’s door and waited to shut it behind her before going around the front of the car to her own door.
Sharon made sure their seatbelts were fastened, and looked over at Riley. She grinned and started up the car, heading to the city for their dinner. On the way in, they talked about music and books mostly, with each woman slipping in a few personal details. The talk turned to Jay and Bailey’s situation, and what they could do to help. Sharon surprised Riley when she mentioned something she had been thinking about at work.
“I’m thinking about coming out at work soon. What do you think Riley?” Sharon glanced over to gauge Riley’s reaction.
Riley looked over and smiled. “I have to admit, I think it would be great for you to do it, but why now? How does this help them or you?”
“It’s not as much about any of us as it is about other gays and lesbians in the company. As an officer and senior manager, I’ve been neglecting those employees who are not represented. Look at the mess we had trying to get Bailey time off to take care of Jay! And the real battle hasn’t even been fought yet on either front. I know I’ll run into opposition when I give her time off or permission to work from home during Jay’s chemotherapy. By coming out myself, maybe I can point out that I know the unfairness of the system and perhaps become a voice for change. All we need is to show that there are gays and lesbians in important places in the company. We all deserve the same treatment that any other staff member would receive if their partner were gravely ill.”
“Wow, sounds like you’ve given it a lot of thought Sharon. Hey, whatever you feel is the right thing to do, I’ll support that a hundred percent. Are you sure your career isn’t at risk though?”
Sharon took a minute to merge into traffic before answering. “It might be, but frankly, I dare them to fire me. I’ll slap a lawsuit on them so fast their heads will spin. Besides, like Jay and Bailey, I’ve also made some good investments, and I’ve lived a fairly indulgence free life. I’ve buried myself in my job for so long that there wasn’t time, or anyone with which to spend the money I worked so hard to earn.”
Sharon hesitate and then said softly, “Besides, I’ve lived in fear of my parents disappointment for far too long. I told them last night and they were relieved I finally told them. I’ve wasted so much time and I think most of it was fear from within. I’ve seen Jay and Bailey living openly as work and other than some issues because of the chain of command and departmental concerns, there hasn’t been a bit of issue. It’s all been in my head.”
“Well, I have to say, I’m impressed. I didn’t expect that kind of support for them, but I’m glad they have you in their corner too. I don’t how things were for you at work when you started there. Maybe back then it was best for you to stay hidden. I think you’re right though, you don’t need to anymore.” Riley turned in her seat and looked more closely at Sharon. Her semi short blonde hair shone in the fading sun, around her eyes was the start of faint lines and she seemed more relaxed than she had been when they first met. “I may not have mentioned it earlier, but you look great tonight.”
Sharon blushed slightly but her face also lit up at the compliment. “Riley, I’m just wearing jeans and a sweater, it’s not like it’s a designer outfit.” Sharon tried to downplay the compliment, but the truth was she was thrilled to have received it. She was very attracted to Riley, which was part of why she decided to come out at work. She didn’t want to play pronoun games, or go stag to events if she had someone she wanted to bring as a date. Now that she had someone that she might want to keep in her life, it was worth the risk at work.
“Thanks for the support Riley; it means a lot that you think it’s a good idea. I’m tired of hiding from myself. I haven’t had a life outside of work for so long that it just didn’t seem to matter to me.”
“Does this mean you might want more of a life outside of work?” asked Riley with a bit of hesitation and hope.
“Most definitely, I do now.”
On the ride home, they sat in relative silence, other than a soft music station playing some old hits from the eighties. They both thought about the evening and how devoted their friends were to each other, especially in the face of Jay’s illness. Sharon thought about how boldly Bailey had stood up at work to make sure she would be available to care of Jay, and still tried to pull a full load at work. Riley thought about how brave both women were, and prayed that she could be as brave for them as they were for each other. As if by consensus, they both shook off the gloomy thoughts and decided it was time for a different kind of talk.
Riley brought it up first, “Sharon, I wanted to let you know, I’m having a lot of fun getting to know you. I know we’re from different backgrounds and all, but I have to admit that I really like you.”
Sharon looked over at Riley. She felt the thrill of butterflies in her stomach and was happy to hear that they seemed to feel the same way. “Riley, I really like you too. You’ve been like a breath of fresh air in my life, reminding me of the important things I have neglected for far too long. I would really like to continue to see you, if you’re open to it too.”
It was all Riley could do to smother a shout of happiness, instead allowing a big grin to spread across her face, letting her dimples show. “I’d really like that too. I think it’s good that we’re taking things somewhat slow. I’m not into the whole U-Haul thing. It is one reason I don’t date much. That and women seem to think that because I’m a jock I don’t have a brain too.”
“Really? But you’re so well read and are up on all the current technology changes, how could they not see your intelligence? That, and your good heart, is what interested me first. Of course, I do like those dimples too.” Sharon was amazed that she was being so open, and flirtatious on top of it, but for some reason she felt safe with Riley. Sharon made the choice and decided to trust her instincts.
When they got back to Riley’s house, Sharon shut the car off and they sat there for a moment listening to the tick of the engine cooling. Riley turned to her, and they both started to speak at the same time before both dissolved in laughter. Riley finally took the lead, “Would you like to come in for a cup of tea? No strings, I just like spending time with you.”
Sharon declined, “It’s getting late. Are you free for brunch tomorrow instead? I know a great place not that far from here.”
“That sounds great. Pick me up around ten?”
“I’ll be here.”
Riley leaned over and gave Sharon a quick, but gentle kiss. She then turned swiftly, and let herself out of the car and into her house, offering a quick wave goodbye as she vanished inside.
Both women had the same thought, “Amazing!”
Jay’s first two radiation sessions went well, and she had driven herself to and from the cancer center. Bailey had taken off Wednesday to spend the day with her for her first chemotherapy appointment. First, she went to the lab to get blood work drawn, and then went to the radiation unit for her treatment. She showed Bailey where it was, before she left her in the waiting room while she went into one of the changing rooms. She was able to leave her jeans on, just as in the simulation, and then went into the waiting room and sat with Bailey.
“This part won’t take too long babe. This seems like the easiest part of all the stuff they’re throwing at me so far.” Just then, her favorite tech came out for her. “Hey Dylan, this is my partner Bailey. Bailey, this is Dylan, radiation tech extraordinaire.”
Dylan smiled at both women, “Bailey, you’re welcome to join us, if you’d like. You can see what goes on with Jay.”
Bailey nodded, “You don’t mind Jay?”
“Course not. Come on in and meet my mask.”
Bailey followed them past the several inches thick door, down a short hallway, and into a slightly chilly room with a large machine that extended over the table that Jay would lie on.
Dylan spread a sheet on the table and Jay climbed on, laying her head on the plastic tray. As he got the mask from its cubbyhole, Dylan explained it to Bailey.
“So, this helps keep her in alignment but she can breathe?”
“Yup! Now, we have to adjust her. Jay, slide up and to your right a bit. Good.”
Two other techs came in to help with the adjustments and alignment. After they turned out the lights, cross hairs lit up from the machine so the techs could line up the cross hairs with the marks on the mask, and Jay’s little blue tattoo dots. Then it was time to leave the room and Jay received her ten-minute dose of radiation.
When they came back in, they lowered the table and released Jay’s face from the clamps. She hopped off, smiled, and thanked the techs, promising to see them tomorrow. Jay went off to change and then met Bailey, and they went off to her doctor’s appointment with Dr. Goldman.
Dr. Goldman explained the procedure that Jay would go through, “The nurses will hook a line up directly to the port, and the treatments will go in through that, instead of through a vein in your arm. You may feel cold at times so don’t hesitate to ask for a blanket.”
Michelle set up their next appointment on the same day as the second round of chemotherapy, and explained the routine. “Jay, we’ll have you come in on the first day of a round, get blood work drawn, meet with the doctor, and then get your treatment.”
With lab time, and waiting time, plus the time for infusion, this process would eat up most of her Wednesday each round. From there, they headed over to the infusion area and signed in. Too nervous to deal with much else, Jay held hands with Bailey and prayed that this would go well. If there was one thing Jay hated, it was losing control of her body. The cancer was a big enough loss of control, but the idea of uncontrollable vomiting and nausea was almost unbearable to her. They had given her a prescription for Zofran and Compazine, two anti-nausea medications which she had been told to take, needed or not, throughout the days of her treatment and for the next few days after each round. By trying to stay ahead of the nausea, she might beat it, or at least minimize it.
Jay was called in to the infusion room and Bailey went with her, carrying Jay’s backpack with her sweatshirt jacket, paperback, iPod and headphones. They also did the ritual weigh in, and then got her settled in a chair that reclined and offered her a blanket and pillow.
Jay responded politely yet with evident tension, “No thanks, I just want to get this started.”
Jay waited, her hands clenched so tightly around the arms of the chair, that her knuckles had blanched white. A second nurse came over and introduced herself, “I’m Shelly. I’ll be the nurse in charge of your treatment today. I have an anti nausea medication for you to take before we get started.”
“I already took two this morning, but I’ll take another if it helps. I hate throwing up!” Jay took the pill and cup of water from Shelly and swallowed.
Next was the hook up to the port in her chest, a little painful, but not too bad overall. They ran a little bag of saline in just to make sure it all worked since it was the first time the port was actually used. The first bag of medication followed this test, there would be two on Wednesdays, and Jay was shown how to access the bathroom with her IV pole if she needed.
“I’m scared Bail. I don’t want to do this!” Jay started to panic, her eyes darting from the IV to the door.
Bailey took Jay’s hand in her’s and tried to soothe her. “I’m here Jay and I’m going to take care of you. I know you’re scared Jay. What can I do for you? Whatever you need baby, I’m here.”
Jay glanced at her and saw the sincerity in her green eyes. “I know, but I’m just so scared. Why am I going through this? I thought I was ready but I’m not!”
“Neither of us is ready honey, but I don’t want to risk your life. I promise, I’ll do everything I can to help.”
Shelly came over to check on things. “Going okay Jay? Can I get you anything?” She noted Jay’s pale and clammy skin and shallow breathing. “Are you anxious? It’s perfectly normal. Why don’t I see if we can get you something for that? I’ll check with the doctor right away, all right?”
Bailey smiled gratefully while Jay just nodded and gripped Bailey’s hand tighter. Bailey could feel her heart breaking for Jay but there was nothing she could do other than be there.
Shelly came back a few minutes later with a tablet and some gingerale. “Jay, I’m going to give you this pill the doctor prescribed. I also have a prescription for you. He wants you to take it about half an hour before your treatment from now on or if you start feeling anxious. It’s a mild anti-anxiety med, okay?”
Jay took the medicine and waited for it to kick in. Bailey held her hand and gently reassured Jay that everything would be fine. Bailey could read the fear in Jay’s eyes and tried to be strong for her. She talked softly to Jay to distract her, and then offered her the iPod. Jay put the iPod on and selected a play list of all soothing music. She opened her book to read and she found herself drifting off.
Bailey spoke to the nurse when she came around to check things, “Is it normal for her to fall asleep during this?”
Shelly finished tucking a thin blanket in around Jay as she answered. “Actually, the combination of all three anti-nausea and anti anxiety medications is probably what made her sleepy now. As treatment progresses, she’ll probably sleep through without the medications. A lot of our patents on a heavy regimen like this spend more time asleep than awake during their treatments.”
Bailey decided that if she had to go through this, then sleeping through it would be best. She tried to read a book but found herself watching Jay sleep, as if some primal need caused her to guard her lover.
Saturday morning Bailey was trying to interest Jay in any food or drink, but she was too nauseated to even hear about food. Jay’s mother had been the transportation for treatments the last two days, and had stayed with Jay until either Bailey got home or Riley got there. Jay was miserable. So far, the medications were keeping her from being sick, but she was still nauseated all the time. Jay was able to sip gingerale, and Bailey had stocked up, hoping to get some liquids into her at least. The doctors had warned them about dehydration lowering her immune system further, so she was doing her best to tempt Jay. Jay moaned and gently turned over, clutching a pillow to her stomach. There was no relief in sight, she could hardly choke down her medications without gagging, and had managed only a few bites of saltine crackers now and then.
“All this and I get to lose my hair too! How did I get signed up for such fun?” Jay was grumpy and no one blamed her. This was already taking a huge toll on her, and it was only the first week of treatment. Bailey figured they would cope as best they could, and she would try to find foods that Jay could tolerate, to keep her strength up.
Riley had offered to come by and help on Sunday, but Bailey decided against it. She didn’t want to take advantage of Riley, and she wanted some time alone with her lover. Bailey had decided to spend the weekend taking care of the condo, and the basic chores of dusting and laundry. She tried to keep cooking to a minimum so Jay wouldn’t have to smell food cooking, so she had planned mostly cold meals of salads and sandwiches for herself for the weekend. Jay slept a lot of the time and Bailey spent time watching her sleep. Bailey found herself wishing she could make things better, she felt frustrated by her lack of ability to make this better for Jay.
By the second week of radiation, Jay was able to eat more, but now her mouth and neck were starting to show the signs of the radiation. No matter how much lotion she rubbed on her neck and shoulder, the skin was dry and reddened. The inside of her mouth was starting to feel as if it had sunburn. The cheek lining was ulcerated, as if she had eaten something too hot and held it in her cheek. The only treatments at this point to deal with it were pain medication and a thick, anise-tasting gel that she had to swish for thirty seconds, and then she had to refrain from drinking anything for an hour. She did find some minor relief just by applying the gel on with a cotton swab, which was easier at least than filling her mouth with the gel. Her gag reflex was still over sensitive and she didn’t want to tempt fate.
Riley and Jay’s mother were providing most of her transportation, with Bailey’s mother filling in a day here and there as well. Jay was too worn out to do the drive for the radiation. She wasn’t really even checking her e-mail for work at this point, and she didn’t care. The pain medication for her mouth had her too tired to do much but sleep. Jay was praying for an end to the radiation even though she still thought it better than the sickness of chemotherapy.
The weekend after week two, Bailey had to cover part of the weekend shift, so Riley decided to crash at their place to be on hand just in case. She and Sharon had continued to take things slowly but they were learning to trust each other more, and Sharon found herself getting ready to confront the issue of partner benefits at work and come out herself in the process. She was joining Riley for a few hours at Jay’s, to discuss it with her while Jay napped. When Sharon arrived, Bailey had just left and Riley whispered that Jay was crashed on the couch. They crept past her and into the guest room where they could talk softly without disturbing the sleeping woman.
Sharon stepped into Riley’s arms for a firm hug and a light kiss across her lips. They stayed like that a moment before sitting on the edge of the bed to talk. Riley kept the door cracked so they would hear Jay if she awoke and needed anything.
“Riley, my bosses have been asking about Bailey’s time off. They really want to keep her in the office while Jay is sick.”
“She hasn’t taken any days off since Jay’s first day of chemo. Why the hassles now?”
“I don’t know but I know Bailey plans on going to the first day of each round of chemo. That is only three more days, spaced well apart, why should it matter how she uses her time off? I don’t know why but something is going on that I’m not privy to yet.”
“Do you think it will be a problem? I know Bailey doesn’t want anyone else there for the long days.”
“I don’t know, but I set up a meeting with company’s state President and HR for Monday. I’m planning to let them know exactly what I think of the treatment Bailey has received. I’m also going to come out to them.”
“Really? Are you sure about this? You can’t take it back once the words are out there. I’m proud of you for wanting to help them, but is this going to hurt you?”
Riley was a little surprised to find out the meeting was already scheduled. The truth was, Riley still had a hard time comprehending that it was that big a deal. She believed that Sharon and some others perceived it as such, but she had questions in her head about it. This would be the true test. Would Sharon be reprimanded, shut out of things, or worse? Would she be able to protect Bailey and Jay at work?
“I know it is a bit of a gamble, but I think that I’ve proven my worth for long enough that I might be able to pull it off. If I don’t, then at least I was honest and struck a blow for change within the company. I really feel like I need to do this now.”
“Then I’m with you a hundred percent!”
The women heard Jay start to stir and waited a moment before going in to check on her.
“Oh, hi Sharon didn’t realize you had gotten here. I must have been out again, huh?”
Sharon nodded and smiled gently, “I think your nap was needed Jay, you still look worn out. Can I get you anything to drink or eat? Is there anything I can do to make you more comfortable?”
“I could try some more gingerale I guess. I’ll need some to take the next dose of meds anyway. Thanks. Hey Rye, could you give me a hand? I get dizzy when I stand up, but I have got to go to the restroom.”
Riley stood next to Jay as she got herself into a sitting position and she nodded. Riley gave her a hand getting to her feet. She swayed a bit then seemed to regain her balance.
“Thanks Rye, I should be good from here.”
Riley looked a bit worried but let her go on her own, knowing that Jay needed every ounce of independence that she could get now. They both understood that she would lose it before this was all over.
Riley had been surprised when her phone rang Monday morning. It was Sharon asking to meet with her for lunch. Today was the day she was scheduled to come out to her boss, and she needed a little moral support. Riley was more than happy to see her, so they arranged to meet at a small bistro not that far from Sharon’s office. Riley was early and had already gotten a table by the time Sharon arrived, looking tense. Unsure of how to greet her given that she had no idea if anyone Sharon did business with was in the restaurant, she smiled awkwardly as she stood and waved Sharon to the table. Sharon collapsed in her chair with a sigh of relief.
“Thanks for meeting me on such short notice Rye. I just needed to see you today.”
“Anytime, though I must admit, I’m feeling a bit awkward. We don’t usually hang out near where you do business and I’m not sure how to act.”
Surprised by that, Sharon responded, “Act like you, the woman that brought me back into the world of the living. I know we’ve been taking things very slowly, but I hope you know how much you’ve changed my life for the better.”
It was Riley turn to be surprised by Sharon’s admission, and she wasn’t sure what to say next. “Sharon, I know we haven’t known each other that long, but I’m very attracted to you. I’m pretty sure you feel that same way.” Riley paused as she recognized that she had admitted more than she intended, but decided to finish. “I care about you, and taking things slowly has been good for both of us. I hope you know you’ve been good for me too.”
Okay thought Sharon, here goes nothing, or everything. Giving Riley a grin, she said, “Good! Since we can agree on that much, you were the first person I wanted to tell this to and I couldn’t wait.”
Riley made a go on motion, and waited silently.
“The HR vice president moved the meeting to right before lunch. I didn’t know she was going to do that when I called you this morning, and I didn’t have a chance to call you back and let you know. I did it! I came out to my boss and the Vice President of HR and they were both speechless.”
Riley could feel her jaw drop open and she knew she was staring but she couldn’t formulate words.
“My boss surprised me today. He said that he was sorry that I’d felt the need to hide for so long. Then he told me that his son had come out to him about four years ago, and his attitude has changed since getting to know his son and his son’s partner better. Can you believe it? All that angst, and it wasn’t that big a deal! How will I tell Jay? It’s my fault she’s felt awkward with me at work. I’m the one who warned her about being open.”
Suddenly Riley started to see that Sharon was upset with herself about warning Jay about being open. “Shar, you can’t blame yourself for that, you thought you were protecting her, and it was her choice to follow or not follow that warning. Besides, some of the backlash Bailey experienced when their relationship was made public was homophobic in nature.”
Sharon nodded, “Yes, but apparently HR has been investigating the problems, and has already filed warnings against the major trouble makers. I wasn’t informed because they thought I might be one of the homophobic troublemakers in question.” After a minute, she continued ruefully, “I guess I did a little too good a job of playing straight.”
Riley sat back in her seat, totally in shock about all she had just been told. Sharon’s job, as well as those of Jay and Bailey, was apparently quite safe, and HR was taking steps to improve life for gays and lesbians. Sharon told her there was even talk of partnership benefits, including insurance and FMLA, for situations like the one affecting their friends. In the meantime, Sharon had been told to make sure Bailey had the time she needed to care for Jay and the help she needed to keep the department up to speed.
“All this because his son is gay?” Riley was a little skeptical about the motives of the Sharon’s boss, since this was all so sudden.
Sharon revealed that the company had been the subject of a civil lawsuit in another state for not giving domestic partner benefits and they were trying to be proactive now.
“Of course, the whole thing is going to take a year or two to implement, but at least it is in the works. The general staff won’t hear anything about it for quite sometime, which is unfortunate, but they don’t want to announce anything without the plans ready to roll out.”
Riley was blown away that everything had gone so easily, “So, what do you think, is it all for real? I mean no consequences and suddenly you can just be open?”
“I think that’s a bit optimistic,” replied Sharon. “I do think it’s a huge leap forward and it tells me that I was too cautious in the past. Maybe all it really takes is enough people saying it out loud. It may be a lot of smoke being blown around. The benefits might not happen unless the state’s laws change, but my boss seemed to think they would happen sooner rather than later.” Suddenly, Sharon looked at her watch and realized she had a meeting to get back for soon. “Can we meet later? I’d like to see you tonight if you’re free.”
“Sure, I’ll be at Jay’s. I’m headed over soon so that when Jay’s mom gets her home she can take off and I’ll watch her.”
“OK, I’ll call you when I’m leaving work. Maybe I can pick you up and we can go out for dinner or something.”
They hugged goodbye at the doorway and Riley headed to Jay’s still in a daze from her hug with the other woman.
Continued in Part 18
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