Resolutions, by Jennifer Jackson
Disclaimers: Original. All characters, story ideas, and the story itself are the sole property of the author.
Questions, comments, and rave reviews are always welcome. Email: email@example.com
Copyright © 2012. All rights reserved.
Chapter 1-- Resolutions
"If you want this to run Sunday, you better get these facts checked," Haley Springfield growled into the phone.
"I already did," the novice reporter refuted.
"Really? Then why do you have the Mayor's name Sheffield when her name is actually Sheppard?"
"Don't uh me. Just check your facts, Reilly. Or your piece isn't running."
Haley set the handset down on the base. She rolled her eyes at the sloppy piece of copy that her community reporter turned in. Yes, the piece was on time. But, it wasn't something she dared to even consider running. The paper was struggling enough as it was. Sloppy workmanship would just inch them even closer to shutting down the print side and having to go totally digital.
She opened the center drawer to her desk and retrieved a chocolate bar, tearing the top edge of the wrapper immediately. She bit off the first three squares and rolled them around in her mouth, savoring the sugar-laden chocolate as it slowly melted. The next three chocolate squares were popped into her mouth as she clicked through the next few days of columns and stories for her paper, satisfied that everything was finished and ready for print.
She put her computer to sleep and leaned back in her chair, finishing her chocolate bar as she wondered what she would do on her day off. New Years Eve would be quiet this year. She didn't make any plans with anyone and had no desire to go out to the clubs. It's gonna be a relaxing start to the New Year, Haley thought as she gathered her stuff and headed for the door.
A half bottle of white wine sat on the glass-top coffee table. A small plate with a couple of left-over crackers covered in cheese and summer sausage accompanied the wine. Haley sat on the floor, leaning against the couch, with a half-empty glass of wine. She watched the crowd on television count down as the crystal ball dropped in Times Square. She swallowed the wine in her glass as the cameras switched between couples kissing and groups of friends singing Auld Lang Sine.
Feeling isolated and lonely, Haley muted the TV and stared at her empty glass. A few years earlier it would have been nothing for her to empty the bottle of wine. Now, she knew that any more wine would just amplify her loneliness.
She grabbed the bottle of wine and her plate and walked to the kitchen. She dropped her scraps in the trashcan and corked the bottle of wine before putting it in the fridge. She stood next to the kitchen sink and nearly burst into tears at the sight. One plate.One glass. That's how it had been for nearly 3 years. One of everything for one very single woman.
Haley sighed heavily. "I really don't want to do this anymore," she stated to the faucet as she turned on the hot water. She rinsed the two items and then placed them in the dish washer, turning the water off in the process.
"Things have to change." She closed her eyes, succumbing to her gloom. "I don't want to be like this anymore." She let the verbalization reverberate through her body, feeling a determination begin to gather in response. She walked over to her desk and pulled out a small pad of paper. At the top she wrote Resolutions.
"I don't want to be by myself any more. I want to be able to feel again," she said as she tapped her pen on the pad. "I want to be able to love someone and have that someone actually love me." She chuckled wryly. "But, here I am… old and fat." She looked down at the belly roll that pushed at her t-shirt. "Nobody's gonna love me like this!"
On the second line she put a star and wrote lose 50 pounds. "That is a definite." She tapped her pen a dozen more times before writing her second resolution. "I need to join a gym. Mmm, City Gym has been running a lot of ads with us. I bet they'd give me a discount." She ran her left hand through her light brown, shoulder length locks. "I definitely need to eat better, too." On the next line she wrote less take out and fast food- more home cooking.
"But, what's your goal, Haley," she hesitantly asked out loud. Acknowledging that she was lonely was difficult. Acknowledging that she wanted to find new friends and a new romantic relationship was nearly impossible for her. After her last relationship, she swore off any and all romantic encounters for all eternity. She had been with Karen for nearly five years, enduring an infinite amount of mind games and psychological abuse before Haley had finally called it quits for good. But that happened only after she had been worn down so badly that the mere thought of romance or sex literally repulsed her.
Now, sitting alone and having no plans or ambitions that included anyone else but herself was driving her crazy. "I need to meet new people. That's what I want. I don't want to be alone anymore." She wrote her fourth and final resolution then tore the sheet from the pad. She walked over to the fridge and put the sheet in the middle, holding it up with an I heart San Francisco magnet.
She crossed her arms across her chest and stared at the sheet for a long moment, as if trying to ingrain it in her mind. "OK. This starts tomorrow." She nodded and then headed to bed.
Haley pushed the dark tinted glass door open to reveal a moderately sized exercise room. After taking a tour of the local gym the previous day, she signed up on the spot. Now, she had to decide just how to begin her new excise regimen. She had published enough articles in her paper to know that you have to begin easy. So, she decided that the treadmill would be a good place to start.
She walked over to the bank of machines. There were at least a dozen treadmills in a row, all decked out with mini televisions. On the next row were elipticals, bikes, and stairmasters. Free weights and weight machines were in a different section of the gym, as was the aerobics and yoga rooms. The gym could comfortably hold 75 people all exercising at the same time. Double that and the capacity would be maxed out.
Haley hung her hand towel on the arm of the nearest machine. It was a little after five in the morning. Even with everyone's resolutions to hit the gym, not too many wanted to do it this early in the day. That meant she basically had her pick of machine. Fine by her. She plugged her headphones in, dialed up to a local TV station to catch any news that occurred overnight, and started the treadmill. She took it easy on her first time, never going above 3.0. A half hour later, she was sweaty but feeling energized.
"We have extra towels in the restrooms," one of the attendants casually said as he walked by.
Haley nodded then wiped her face with her own towel as she walked towards the back restrooms. There were more people coming in, but the gym was far from crowded. She decided she rather liked the openness of the nearly empty gym.
Unfortunately, when she entered the bathroom she was stopped dead in her tracks. She caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror and had to do a double-take. Her face was beet red. "Damn it." She splashed some cold water on her face, hoping that would help.
"Might take a while," a voice from behind startled her.
Haley turned to see another attendant stacking fresh towels in the corner. "Hmmm?"
"You're new, right?"
Haley nodded, holding her damp towel to her cheek.
"Just takes a while for your body to get used to the new activity." The attendant put the last towel in the bin and then walked over to Haley. "Sometimes a damp cloth around your neck while you're exercising helps. A cool shower might help, too." She pointed towards the showers in the back. "But, mostly you just have to wait for your body to adjust.
Haley let out a breath. "I was hoping to exercise before work. But, I can't really go in looking like a tomato!"
The attendant smiled. "Just hold a cool cloth to your face and neck and you'll cool down."
Haley smiled in return. "Thanks."
"No problem. Name's Cathy. Let me know if you need anything."
Haley watched as the attendant left the restroom, wondering if she made the right decision.
Two weeks into the new year found Haley adjusting her schedule for a third time. She was valiantly trying to figure out the best time to exercise so she could keep her resolution. She tried to exercise before work, since mornings weren't as stressful. She really enjoyed the feel of the gym first thing in the morning. But, on the third day of exercising came the 100th remark about how red she was, so she decided to change exercise times.
One of the attendants suggested she pop over during her lunch hour. The boost in activity could help with her afternoon fatigue. It was definitely worth a shot. Unfortunately, just about everyone else in town was thinking the same thing since the gym was packed.
So, here she was, walking into the gym at 4:30 in the afternoon. It wasn't packed or too empty, so Haley thought it might work out. And, even though it was late in the day the exercise would help relieve some of her stress, if not help to burn some of her fat off.
She walked over to one of the recumbent bikes and began her warm-up. Ten minutes later, she was plugging her earphones into one of the treadmills and catching the last bit of the Dr. Oz show. She walked for a half hour at a comfortable pace, still giving her body time to adjust to her new routine. When she was done, she walked to the bathroom and got one of the gym towels, wetting it in the sink. She spent a moment just wiping the sweat from her face and neck with the damp towel, and then she decided to investigate the gym activities.
The afternoon and evening time is when most people come out to exercise and socialize. This is why most of the yoga and aerobics classes were scheduled for that period. It was also the reason why the juice bar was only open during that period.
Haley walked around the gym, captivated every now and then by someone who was obviously pushing their body to its limit. She then found the bank of windows that surrounded the classrooms. There were two rooms, moderately sized, for classes. Both rooms were full of people, mostly women, who were either trying to get their hearts racing with aerobics or calm their bodies with yoga. She watched for a few minutes, checked the schedule that was posted on a nearby bulletin board, and then decided to get a juice before leaving for the day.
The juice bar was near the front of the gym so customers could get something on their way out or sit and relax at one of the tables on the patio. It was a nice, sunny day so Haley decided to get a simple juice and sit outside before leaving. She ordered and paid for her strawberry blended concoction of vitamins and immune boosting miracle herbs and headed for the door. Just as she reached for the handle a woman pushed it wide open, knocking the plastic lid from her drink as a cascade of red liquid splattered down the front of Haley's t-shirt.
"Oh. Oh my god. Sorry!" The woman tried to apologize as Haley swiped at the quickly staining liquid."Oh my god. Hold on."
Haley took a step back from the door, unsure of where to go or what to do. A split second later the woman was standing in front of her with a wad of napkins. She started to swipe at Haley's shirt, but was quickly reprimanded.
"I got it," Haley snapped as she grabbed the napkins and started to wipe the drink from her shirt.
The woman watched a few seconds and then asked, "Can I at least get you another drink?"
Haley's hand froze as she raised her eyes to look into the brown eyes of the woman before her. "You've done enough, thanks."
Before the woman could respond Haley walked out of the gym, red-stained napkins still in her grasp.
Chapter 2 -- Resolutions
"Don't argue with me, Reilly," Haley's voice was elevating with her frustration.
"I'm not trying to. I'm just trying to state a fact."
"And, I'm saying we have to be ready."
Reilly rolled her eyes. "Nobody's gonna go to a farmer's market in the middle of January!"
Haley glared at her incredibly argumentative reporter. "Reilly. This community looks to the chronicle for local news and local events. The market is a huge deal to locals. People are wanting to make their lives better… even healthier. The market is something that can impact their lives."
Reilly mumbled something about old people, infuriating the editor.
"You better do a little research on your target audience, Ms. Brock, or you won't be working here much longer." Not wanting the argument to continue, Haley turned on her heels and headed back to her office.
Needing to fill an entry-level reporting position, Haley had spoken with one of the professors at the nearest university. He had raved about Reilly, saying she was on her way to the big leagues. So, Haley didn't hesitate to offer her the job. But, in the last five months, Reilly had argued with her more times than she could count. Perhaps the young girl would be a good reporter at some point in her life, but not before she swallowed some of that arrogance she so willingly threw around.
Haley sat at her desk and scanned the copy that would be sent to the printer in a couple of hours. She double-checked the headlines and photo captions then noticed the ad for the City Gym near the bottom corner. It had been nearly a week since she had been. The juice-incident still pissed her off. Not only was she out the four bucks for the juice, but she had to throw out her permanently stained t-shirt.
"I really need to get back to exercising," she sighed. Saving her work, she gave permission to send the copy to the printer. She gathered her belongings, thankful it was a pretty uneventful day, and headed home.
Haley jumped back from the item that was thrust in her face.
"What the hell?"
"Here. I got this for you. I thought it was the least I could do considering I didn't let you drink your last one."
Haley shot the smirking woman a quick glance and then dismissed her as she dampened the white hand towel in the sink. "No thanks. I'm good."
Erica looked at the drink and then back at the slightly shorter woman. "Seriously. I bought this for you. I promise I didn't spit in it or anything."
Haley swiped the cool towel over her face and then laid it across the back of her neck. "Thank you, but I'm good."
Erica looked at the drink again. "You sure?"
Erica then walked over to the trash can and let the cup drop soundly, walking out of the restroom even before the cup fully settled at the bottom.
Haley stood there a moment, watching the area the woman had just occupied, and then glanced at herself in the mirror. "She's most definitely crazy."
"God damn it!" Haley stood on the scale, feeling so frustrated she wanted to cry. "A full god-damned month and all I have to show for it is 4 god-damned pounds?!" She stepped off the industrial-sized scale, afraid she would do something that would end up with her having to reimburse the gym for it. She sat down on the wooden bench next to the scale, feeling defeated.
"Have you cut down on your carbs?"
Haley looked up, surprised to see a brown-eyed woman standing before her.
The dark-haired woman nodded. "Carbs. They are the devil. If you're really wanting to get healthier, you have to watch your carbs."
Haley shook her head. "Just been trying to watch my calories."
"Course, that's a good start… uh…?"
"Nice to meet you, Haley. I'm Erica."
Haley nodded, too busy feeling sorry for herself to recognize her juice nemesis.
"Anyway, exercise is good, but doesn't mean much if you're putting the wrong things into your body. Try cutting down on the carbs and see what happens."
Haley nodded, acknowledging the words but not really feeling like talking.
Erica watched the woman before her for a few seconds, then decided it was a lost cause. "Well, I can help you out, if you want. But, it looks like you're off to a great start - you look really good. Don't let the scale dictate your mood. See ya around."
Haley sniffed back her sour mood long enough to see a retreating Erica. The dark brown hair triggered her memory of the woman bringing her a juice a week ago. Immediately, she felt even worse. The woman didn't do anything to Haley on purpose and was doing everything she could to make up for that one little accident. And, here was Haley just holding a grudge like there was no tomorrow. She took in a deep breath and then slowly let it out. "I am such a bitch."
The first week of February brought an unseasonably warm weekend. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, and Haley decided a walk in the park would be more beneficial to her mood than a workout in the gym. So, she laced up her tennies, grabbed a wind breaker, and headed to the city park.
It was a good-sized and well maintained park. There were three sections where families could take their children to play with jungle-gyms, basketball courts, swings, and even a duck pond. A paved walking path meandered around the perimeter of the park. One lap was equivalent to one mile, so it made monitoring your distance easy.
Haley walked the loop twice then found a bench near the pond. She sat for several minutes, watching a handful of ducks paddle from one end of the pond to the other. She closed her eyes and lifted her head to the sky, enjoying the warmth from the sun and the crisp air. Her moment of peace was quickly evaporated, however, at the arrival of two very noisy dogs.
Haley opened her eyes to glare at the pair, just in time to see one of them launch into the pond, trying to catch one of the ducks. The second dog stood on the bank, barking.
"Corky!" A woman's voice hollered from behind. "Corky! Get back here!"
Haley watched as a dark-haired woman ran down the bank and grabbed the leash to the medium sized, black dog barking at the water's edge. She gave the leash a quick jerk and then held her hand out. "Sadie. Knock it off." The black dog sat on its haunches and immediately stopped barking.
The woman rubbed Sadie's ears and then yelled at the smaller dog in the pond. "Corky! Come!"
Haley shook her head as she watched a smaller, brown dog slink out from the water. As the woman reached for the second leash, the small dog lurched forward and started to run away. "Corky! Get over here!" The woman yelled as she ran hunched over trying to grab the leash.
Haley, amused by the sight, stood and walked a few steps towards the pond just as the dog ran past. She then simply put her foot down on the leash, stopping the little ragamuffin in its tracks.
"Oh, thank you!" The woman said as she approached the pair, grabbing the leash out from under Haley's foot. "I swear, she really is a good dog. Just not around birds."
"It's okay." Haley raised her hand to reassure the pet owner.
"Oh. You're Bailey from the gym, right?"
"Right." Corky took that moment to shake most of the water from her fur. Both women yelled in response while trying to shield their faces from the onslaught of dirty pond water. "Corky!" Erica picked the small dog up and held her under her arm, scolding her yet another time. "Sorry about that."
Haley wiped a few muddy droplets from her forehead and shook her head. "Don't worry about it," she muttered as she started to walk away.
"Um, Haley?" Erica suddenly felt mortified by the lack of a good impression she was making.
"I know you don't want me to buy you a juice, but I have a towel and some wet wipes in my car…?" Her voice trailed off as she tried to read the body language of the woman before her.
Haley looked at the dog being held in the woman's arms and the larger dog that was slowly approaching from behind. She looked at Erica and then nodded. "Are you close by?"
Erica smiled. "Ya. Right over there." She pointed towards the street that edged the park. "I just got here, actually. Was trying to get these munchkins out of my car when they saw the ducks."
"Maybe they were thinking it's lunch time?"
Erica chuckled. "Doesn't matter the time of day - Corky goes after anything she can chase."
The pair walked to Erica's car. She put both dogs into the back seat and then grabbed a towel from her trunk, handing it to Haley. A moment later she retrieved a couple of wet wipes from her glove compartment.
"Here you go," Erica held the wipes out.
Haley shook her head. "It's ok. The towel worked. Thanks."
Erica put the wipes in her pocket and leaned against the side of her car. "So, it's pretty nice out today, huh?"
Haley nodded as she looked around, "Beautiful."
"You been going to the gym for very long?"
Haley looked at Erica, unsure if she should be insulted or not. "Not really, why?"
"No harm meant. I've just been going there for about a year and a half and haven't seen you too many times."
Haley hooked her thumbs in her pockets. "New year, new me. You know how it goes."
Erica nodded, taking a moment to give Haley a thorough examination. "No offense, but you don't look like you need much improvement."
Haley blushed at the unexpected compliment. "Uh, thanks. But, I have a lot of weight to lose. Need to get in better shape if I want to start dating again, you know?"
"Oh. Gotcha." Erica stood up and looked around, mimicking Haley's position. "Well, best of luck - hopefully you can get in the shape you want."
"Thanks. I'm trying." Haley looked at Erica, who was physically fit without any doubt. "So, why do you go?"
"Oh. Us seniors need to do everything we can to maintain. Know what I mean?" Erica smirked.
"Mmm. I'm turning 40 in a couple of months. Already feel old age seeping into my bones. Don't want it to get too out of hand."
"Ya. Time definitely doesn't stop, does it?"
"Mmm-mmm. Well, Haley. I feel like I'm always apologizing to you for something, but I have to again. Sorry for getting you all wet. Let me know if the mud stains don't come out and I'll pay for it." Erica pointed at the handful of brown spots that littered Haley's windbreaker.
"Don't worry about it. Really."
Erica nodded. "Well. Just let me know. I'm gonna get these pests back home. I think I'm gonna have to give Corky a bath to get that pond smell out. I'll see ya around." Erica gave Haley a quick smile and then hopped into the driver's seat of the silver Honda Accord.
Haley stood on the edge of the park for a moment as she watched the car drive off. There was a sneaking feeling trying to materialize in her gut, but she wasn't quite sure what it was. She let out a breath and began the small trek back to her own car - denial securing a strong hold in her conscience.
Chapter 3 - Resolutions
The beginning of the work week was insane. There were two car crashes involving high school students. A drug ring investigation exploded over the weekend, involving several notable members of the community. Plus, a former employee was hinting strongly that the Mayor was far from loyal to her husband. These were in addition to the normal headlines that littered the small paper. Each one was a major story in its own right. So, Haley didn't see a way to give any second billing; which meant she was out on the town investigating during the morning and afternoons. Then she spent most of the evening trying to edit and get the paper ready for print. It was all exhilarating and part of the job, but it sure did take its toll.
Thursday she finally had a chance to hop over to the gym. It was late afternoon and a cold front was blasting its way through town - the weather absolutely sucked. But, this was good if you had to venture out and take care of some things.
Haley smiled as she hurried through the tinted glass door and was rewarded by a virtually vacant gym. She nodded at the attendant behind the counter, hooked her coat on the stand near the door, and headed towards the treadmills. Ten minutes later, she was already working up a sweat and letting loose some of the tension from the week. Her mood was lightening immensely. So much so that she absent-mindedly mouthed the words to the song that was piped through the gym. It was an old pop song from the 80's, meaning it was incredibly cliché and formulaic. But, today she allowed herself to enjoy the simplicity of the tune.
Unbeknownst to Haley, a pair of eyes hovered on her form from across the room. Erica had been working with one of the weight machines when Haley walked in. The flutter she felt in her tummy at the sight of the younger woman caused her to lose her grip on the bar, sending it crashing down against the other weights. The embarrassment quickly dissipated since no one else was around to jibe her.
So, she sat back, wiping some of the accumulated sweat from her face and chest, and watched her acquaintance rev up on the treadmill. A smile slowly spread across her face when Haley began singing to the mindless tune broadcast through the gym. She was utterly intrigued by this woman and desperately wanted to find out why. And, even though she didn't seem able to catch a break when it came to Haley, Erica gathered her courage and headed towards her.
Haley felt the presence of someone on the machine next to hers, but she kept her eyes closed. She was walking at a normal gate, planning on being on the machine for most of the hour, and just enjoying the music and feel of her body. Knowing there was someone on the machine next to her, though, sparked a pang of irritation. There were over a dozen machines. Why did that person have to use the one right next to her? She mentally chastised herself then took a deep breath and let it out slowly. She focused her mind on just putting one foot in front of the other. It was a meditation of sorts - a way to cleanse herself of the week's negativity.
Erica spent the better part of five minutes trying to get Haley's attention. She didn't realize, until she was right next to her, that Haley had her eyes closed. So, she climbed on the machine next to her, thinking the younger woman would at least glance over. No such luck. Erica then decided to start up the machine and figured sooner or later she'd get a peak. But, minute after minute passed by and Erica's patience started to wear thin. So, what else was there to do but to reach out and tap the younger woman's arm?
Haley was so focused on tuning out the world around her that the double tap on her forearm startledher. So much so, in fact, that she jerked her hand up, reacting out of pure instinct, and sent her body out of balance. She leaned to her right, nearly tripping over her own feet then overcompensated by trying to hop towards the left side. She could feel herself starting to fall and grabbed for the side bars to try to catch herself. Instead, her feet immediately flew out behind her. And, for a split second, she felt a little like superman as her body stretched out nearly horizontally.
It must have been a comical sight to see: a thirty-something year old woman holding on for dear life as the industrial-sized treadmill flicked her feet to and fro behind her. Haley cried out, afraid to let go of the side bars and unable to pull herself up. Stuck in limbo for a few seconds, her mind flashed on the next day's headline: Editor in Chief killed in freak treadmill accident.
Haley squared her jaw, preparing herself for the upcoming hard landing, and let go of the bars. Her body dropped to the belt of the treadmill and was immediately thrown backwards. Landing on her hip, and narrowly missing the stair climber behind her, she let out a disappointed moan. As she rubbed her head and checked her extremities for injuries, a flurry of motion caught her attention.
"Oh my god!Oh my god!" Erica scrambled to turn off the machine and then dropped to the younger woman's side. "Are you alright?"
"Uh.Ya. I think." Haley glanced around the gym to see who all saw her blunder and was relieved to see it was just her and Erica. She leaned forward and started to lift herself up but was stopped by a hand on her shoulder.
"Uh uh. Just give yourself a moment." Erica rolled her eyes, morbidly pissed at herself for causing yet another mishap with this woman. "I am so sorry. I really didn't mean to startle you."
"Apologizing again, huh?" Haley ran her fingers through her light brown hair.
Erica grabbed the towel from the treadmill and handed it to Haley. "Here. Can I get you an ice pack or anything?"
Haley leaned forward and rolled herself up to a standing position. She took a quick mental stock of her body and decided nothing was really hurt, besides her pride that is. "Nope. I'm good."
"Mmm-hmm." Haley grabbed her water bottle from the machine and walked towards the back of the gym to a wooden bench. Erica, much to her dismay, followed closely behind.
Haley sat in silence, drinking her water, trying to ignore the woman next to her who seemed to be a magnet for accidents.
"You don't talk much, do you?" Erica inquired hesitantly.
Haley shook her head. "I talk when I have to, but I'd rather write."
Erica's eyes lit up. "You're a writer?"
Haley shook her head as she swallowed another sip of water. "No. Well, yes and no. I'm an editor. So, I write a bit. But, most of my day is spent scanning other people's stuff."
"Where do you work?"
"At the Chronicle.Been there for a few years."
"Do you like it?"
Haley nodded with a small shrug. "Most times. It's better than beat reporting. I did that in Dallas. It's not much fun - at least for me."
"So, how'd you wind up in New Braunfels?"
Haley let out a long breath, hesitant to let this bumbling stranger into her life. But, after a moment she decided it probably wouldn't be the end of the world. "Well, let's see. Career-wise, I really didn't have a chance of going anywhere. It was definitely the little fish in a big pond thing. Plus, I was trying really hard to get out of a bad relationship. So, I looked around and found a job here."
Erica nodded, understanding fully. "So, now you're a big fish in a little pond?"
Haley smirked. "Something like that, ya."
Delighted in Haley's revelations, Erica didn't want to lose her chance to get to know her better. So, she thought she'd take a chance. "Um, Haley?"
The younger woman capped her water bottle and glanced over, raising her eyebrows. "Hmm?"
"I know it's getting messy outside, but would you like to hop over to the coffee house next door? I promise I won't spill anything on you." Erica batted her eyes, hoping she didn't offend her.
"Umm…sure." Haley tossed her water bottle from her left hand to her right, feeling incredibly awkward.
Erica grinned as she jumped to her feet. "Great! Let's go!"
The pair ordered their drinks and waited for them to be prepared. Haley then carried both of them to a nearby table, not taking any chances. For a few minutes, they talked mostly small-talk. Then, Erica gathered enough courage to return to their earlier conversation.
"You mentioned before that you were in a bad relationship. How long's it been?"
Haley turned her cup around in her hand. "Three years."
Haley shook her head. "I got out of that miserable relationship and haven't looked back. It really did a number on me, you know?"
Erica nodded, remembering a couple of her friends having unhealthy relationships. "Was is physical?"
"Hmm? You mean abusive?" Haley sipped her latte then shook her head. "It never got physical, really. It was a lot of drama and a lot of mind games. I tried so hard in the beginning to make things work, but it was so exhausting."
Erica nodded, trying to put herself in those shoes. Truth be known, she couldn't totally relate. She had been married to a wonderful man for nearly two decades. Their relationship was healthy, except for the stress that cropped up from her husband being sterile. They both wanted kids, but he didn't want them bad enough to adopt. That was it. At least until the very end when she realized that she was interested in women.
"So now you want to start dating?"
Haley laughed. "I don't know. I think so. It's been so long. I miss it. You know? I miss planning my weekends with that special person. I just miss…"
"Being with someone.Ya. I know exactly what you mean."
Haley sipped her latte, eyeing her table mate. "So, what about you?"
"Oh. I've been divorced for about a year."
"Yep. Was the best thing I could've ever done."
"Well, Richard was a very good man - still is, really. We just sort of grew apart." Erica's voice dropped off as her mind whirled around the drama of the ending of her marriage.
Sensing more to it, Haley's reporter gene kicked in. "How so? What created such a wide expanse that it was easier to separate than come back together?"
It was Erica's turn now to decide what she really wanted to reveal. She took a sip of black coffee and decided to reveal all. After all, she had been drawn to this woman for a reason. Maybe Haley came in to her life so that she would have to publicly acknowledge who she was.
Erica let out a deep breath. "Well, we both really wanted kids, but it wasn't in the cards, I guess. We went through all the fertility stuff, and, low and behold, his sperm count was too low. So, we tried a few times to get pregnant with the clinic's help. But, that stuff's expensive!"
Haley nodded, remembering several pieces she did on local fertility clinics and recent break-throughs in fertility medicine.
"We just gave up."
"What about adoption?"
"Eh. Richard didn't want that. He didn't think he could love someone else's kid. See, there's something I learned a long time ago. If someone tells you…or shows you…who they are, you need to pay attention to that. So, I didn't push him. I wasn't going to put him into that type of situation."
"Even though you wanted kids?"
Erica nodded. "It wasn't worth it. I wanted him to be happy."
There was a piece of the puzzle missing. Haley's gut never lied. "So, I don't get it. If you both loved each other so much, why aren't you still married?"
Erica finished her coffee and tossed the paper cup in the nearby garbage can. She looked at Haley, grabbed a strand of hair and tucked it behind her ear, then cleared her throat. "Well, this might sound weird, or even offensive, and I really don't want you to think I'm a bad person."
Haley had to chuckle. "I work in News, Erica. I think I've seen practically everything."
Erica nodded, preparing herself for the revelation that only her ex-husband had been privy to. "Uh, well…. You see…I realized a few years ago that I like women." Erica paused, finding the grain of the table incredibly interesting. "I mean, I've always liked women, but I never really consciously thought I LIKED women. And, Richard couldn't handle it. Part of him was jealous. The other part wanted me to find my happiness."
Haley nodded, understanding the situation. So many women spend so much of their lives trying to be what society says they are supposed to be. Haley never had that problem. She came out to her parents when she was 13. Her family and friends were always supportive - never did she feel like a second class citizen because of her sexuality. But, she had some girlfriends who did. They had been subjected to family abandonment, harassment, and one was even a victim of a hate crime.
"You still talk?"
Erica nodded. "Ya. He's started dating, so he calls and asks my advice on things sometimes."
Haley flinched. "That isn't awkward?"
Erica smirked. "Kind of, I guess. I mean, he didn't really want to have to start over so late in life, but he's trying to make the most of it. It's the least I can do, you know?"
Haley shrugged. "I guess. So, what about you?"
"What about me?"
Erica spurted out in laughter. "God, no!"
Haley finished her latte and sat back in her seat. "Why not? You're single and attractive. Why not go out and date?"
Erica squinted, turning the tables on the report. "Why aren't YOU dating? Hmm?"
Haley smirked in response. "There hasn't been an ounce of me that wanted anything to do with anything romantic for a long time."
Haley tossed her paper cup into the trash can. "Now, I'm considering it."
"But, you want to wait until you get into better shape."
Haley grew serious as she folded her arms across her chest. "Who's gonna want to go out with someone like me? I'm overweight and haven't been intimate with anyone in over three years."
Erica shook her head. "The right person is going to be attracted to who you are, not what you look like."
Haley sighed. "Easier said than done."
Erica leaned closer to her companion. "You're beautiful. You're smart. You're forgiving..." Erica winked as Haley's eyes met her own. "Who wouldn't want to go out with you?"
"Please, you're just saying that."
Erica shook her head. "I'm serious. Some people like a little softness in their partner. Nothing wrong with that."
Haley stared at Erica for a long minute. "Erica…are you hitting on me?"
Erica's breath caught in her throat. Was she really hitting on this person? Is that why she was intrigued by Haley? Was she really attracted to her?
"Uh," Erica let out a nervous laugh. "I, uh, guess I am. Is that okay?"
A small smile graced Haley's lips. "Ya.Ya, I think that's okay."
"Awesome!" Erica sat back in her chair, feeling incredibly confident. "So, you want to go out some time?"
Haley coughed in surprise. "You're very forward."
"Been called worse." Erica smirked.
"Heh. I guess so. What would you like to do?"
"Well, dinner and a movie are always pretty safe. How's Saturday?"
Haley paused for effect - her weekend schedule was totally clear, and she knew it. "Umm, I think that will be okay. Let me check my schedule and I'll get back to you?"
"You trying to play hard to get?"
Haley blushed. "No. Of course not."
"Then, Saturday? I can pick you up at 6."
Haley nodded, a flutter swirling around in her tummy. "Alright. Six it is."
Chapter 4 - Resolutions
Since Erica had stuck her neck out, Haley let her make the dinner and movie selections. Yes, Haley felt like she was ready to start dating again. But, part of her didn't really feel like this was a date. After all, Erica was the one who confessed that she had never been involved with a woman before. And, knowing Haley's luck, it would be a good bet that Erica would chicken out. So, if she played things cool, Haley thought she'd get a friend out of the experience.
Although she found a brief glimpse of confidence earlier in the week, it fell to the wayside with a loud thud on Saturday. Erica was beside herself with nervousness. To avoid the crowds, she bought advanced tickets to the 7 o'clock showing. The movie she decided on was the latest Sherlock Holmes film, that included action, humor, and a touch of romance - nothing that would be too forward. And, for dinner she was in left field. At no time she did ask about Haley's culinary tastes. It wasn't that Erica was a snob when it came to restaurants. The exact opposite, actually. She enjoyed comfort food in comfortable surroundings. But, restaurants are as subjective as novels. What one person loves another could find offensive. So, Erica decided on an American cuisine chain restaurant; it was another "safe" choice.
The pair had exchanged phone numbers and addresses, so Erica was confident that she wouldn't be stood up. As she drove up to the small home in a respectable neighborhood, she let out a nervous sigh. This is it, old woman, she chided to herself.
She double-checked her hair in the mirror and then got out. The door opened before she was able to raise her hand to knock.
"Hey!" Haley smiled.
Erica sunk her hands into her front pockets. "Hey. You ready?"
Haley swung the door closed and locked it. "Sure am. What did you decide?"
Erica stepped to her left so Haley could walk past. A waft of perfume tickled her nose instantly making her feel like a naïve teenager. "Um, well, I really wasn't sure what you were in the mood for…"
The pair walked to Erica's silver Accord, the doors unlocking as they approached. "What do you think about Sherlock Holmes? Have you seen it, yet?"
Haley scrunched up her nose, knowing for sure it was a friendly night out instead of a romantic date. "Haven't. So, that's a good a choice."
Erica smiled then gestured for her guest to sit in the passenger seat. When they were both buckled in, Erica started the car and headed for the theater.
Erica walked Haley to her doorstep. Despite the chilly February temperatures, a pair of moths fluttered around the porch light.
"So," Erica really didn't know what was expected of her. The evening went fine. If there didn't seem to be a romantic attraction there, she would have insisted that they had a fantastic night. But, here she was, at the end of her first date with a woman, and she was feeling as if the whole evening was awkward and unrequited.
Haley unlocked the front door but didn't open it. She turned and looked at Erica, a wall already forming to protect herself from the inevitable. "I had fun tonight. Thank you." Haley mustered a soft smile as she leaned against the door.
It had been decades since she had dated, but Erica was wise enough to understand the body language. The date was over.
"Um," Erica shuffled her feet as she fought for a place to look other than Haley's dark eyes. Her hands found their way into her front pockets, as she struggled for something to say. She sighed with frustration. "I, um, had fun, too. Would you, um, like to uh do this again?" Erica couldn't look her in the eye, afraid of what she might see in return.
Haley swallowed back her own frustration and focused on the image before her. Erica was a composite of so many different personalities. One minute she was cocky and confident. The next she was as shy as a young school girl. It was charming.
The younger woman took pity on the librarian. Haley reached out her hand and touched the side of Erica's arm, waiting for eye contact. "I would really like that," Haley said softly.
Erica managed a small smile as the pair gazed at each other for a moment. Then, feeling a renewed sense of confidence the source of which she hadn't a clue, Erica leaned in for a kiss. It was soft and warm, but a chaste kiss that left both women wanting more. However, neither woman was brave enough to make it happen.
Erica pulled back, pressing her lips together as if that would make the kiss last longer. She then licked her lips, amazed that she could still taste Haley on them. "I…I'm sorry. I just couldn't resist any longer." Erica smirked, hoping to add a little humor to the intensifying moment.
Haley brought her fingers to her mouth. The kiss was a surprise, both in its existence and in its intensity. She didn't expect it, nor did she expect the rush of hormones that accompanied it. She stood there, leaning against her front door, virtually speechless.
Erica cocked her head and studied the editor. If she wasn't mistaken, she'd guess she made a very positive impact on her date. Her smile widened. "I'll call you soon, ok?"
Haley nodded, still stunned by the 180 that just occurred.
Erica grinned, feeling invigorated. "Okay. Good night, Haley." Erica gave the editor a quick wave and then retreated to her Accord. Haley stood in the doorway for another moment as the sedan drove away, before she mustered enough energy to open the door.
"What the hell?" Haley asked the empty room as she turned and locked the door. It took just one quick kiss and her body was awakening, wanting and desiring more than she had in over three years.
This whole situation would definitely require more investigation.
Chapter 5 - Resolutions
The second week of February was nearly as rough as the first. The only real difference was that Haley's heart wasn't in it. Instead of focusing on the Mayor's crumbling career, her thoughts consistently drifted to that of an intriguing librarian on the other side of town. And, instead of giving her new reporter a much needed chastising, she found her mood to be annoyingly pleasant.
"I am such a dork," she grunted as she pushed the treadmill up a few notches. Almost immediately her breathing became labored as her heart raced with the new speed.
"Why are you pushing yourself so hard," a voice called from off to the side. Haley was startled but also better prepared this time. Before she allowed herself to react, she slowed the machine down to a normal gait.
"Why do you do that?" Her voice barely masking her irritation at the intrusion.
"Seriously, you look like you're trying to outrun some demons. Anything I need to know about?" Erica smirked as she leaned against the vibrating machine.
Haley glanced at the sight for sore eyes but quickly redirected her attention to the machine at the first mis-step. "Ugh. I swear you are out to kill me!" She brought the machine to a quick stop and grabbed her bottle and towel as she stepped off.
"Me?" Erica flattened a hand against her chest.
"I'm here to do nothing of the sort."
Haley glared at the librarian through the corner of her eye as she walked towards a bench in the back of the gym. "How's your week been?"
Erica sat next to her winded counterpart, still grinning. "It's picking up."
Erica nodded. "Yep.Ever since I walked in here tonight."
Haley took a swig from her water bottle then turned a darker shade of red when realization dawned. "Ya?"
"Ya. I wasn't sure if you were hiding from me."
"Not in the least. It's just been another crazy week at the paper." She replaced the cap to her bottle. Feeling spontaneous, she blurted out, "You wanna come over tonight?"
Erica studied the editor but didn't want to risk her changing her mind. "Yes. Yes, I'd like that." She offered a gentle smile. "It's kinda late. You sure?"
Haley nodded vigorously. "Mmhmm. Just let me shower up and we can head over. Okay?"
Erica raised her hands in mock surrender. "Whatever you want."
Erica followed Haley back to her house. It was already dark and traffic was light. It was cool but still seasonably mild. Without a word, Erica walked into Haley's home. The editor closing and locking the door behind her.
For the first time, Erica got a good look at her home. It was small but eclectic. There were small knickknacks from different places, which Erica assumed Haley had visited. The decorations were polarized with vivid whites and rich blacks. It was very modernistic, but still it seemed to be well lived in and warm.
Haley shifted towards the kitchen. "Would you like something to drink?"
Erica shook her head. "Not really."
Haley stopped in her tracks, feeling less spontaneous and courageous than she did at the gym.
Erica pointed at the couch. "Can we have a seat?"
The editor nodded and they both approached the couch - sitting on opposite ends. Haley found her hands in her lap to be absolutely mesmerizing.
Erica waited a moment, but when the younger woman didn't make a move to speak she decided to do the dirty work.
The editor lifted her head, the eye contact sending a bolt through the librarian.
"Can I ask why you asked me here?"
Haley's brow knitted then she dropped her gaze back down to her hands. Several seconds passed. And, just when Erica thought the younger woman wasn't going to say anything, Haley spoke of what had been troubling her.
"That kiss did something to me, Erica. That little, tiny kiss - it showed me what I've been missing…what I've been wanting." Her eyes lifted and met the librarian's. "All I've thought about this week was you. I've been waiting for the phone to ring like a silly little school girl. I swear. It's been years since I've felt so…so…excited about another person."
Haley leaned over and reached for Erica's hand. "And, what's makes everything so much worse, is that I've so wanted to see you, even if it's just at the gym. But, my schedule's been so crazy this week!"
Erica ran her thumb along Haley's knuckles. She was fascinated by how soft the younger woman's skin was and how warm she felt. "I didn't want to pester you." Erica muttered.
Erica began to fidget nervously. "I didn't want to pester you. I wasn't sure how you felt about that kiss. We didn't talk about it - we just avoided the whole thing when I called you on Sunday."
Haley practically laughed but barely managed to hold it as a snort. "Are you crazy? How many times have you kissed a woman?"
Erica blinked then held up her index finger.
"Exactly. And, how many times have you been kissed?"
Haley scooted closer to the librarian. "Have you ever been kissed by someone you didn't like or had absolutely no interest in?"
"Uh, well, women usually have a good way of letting guys know if they don't want to be kissed. A swift kick to the crotch always works wonders." Haley wiggled her eyebrows for effect making Erica chuckle.
"Now, my memory isn't what it used to be but I don't remember kicking you at any point. Do you?"
Erica slowly shook her head, both hands now holding Haley's.
"Did you like it? The kiss?"
Erica bashfully nodded.
"Good. Because I thought it was wonderful. I mean, it's at least worth a repeat. You know, to make sure nobody had food poisoning or anything."
Erica raised her left eyebrow in question.
"Don't you want to kiss me again?"
Erica mindlessly licked her bottom lip as she nodded in slow motion.
Haley's eyes sparkled as she leaned closer. "Then, do it," she whispered.
Erica closed the gap between them, little by little. She wanted the kiss but didn't want to hurry it. When their lips met, she felt her heart surge and her breath become shallow. She put her hands on either side of Haley's head, ensuring that the younger woman didn't pull back.
Of course, there was no thought in Haley's mind to end the kiss. In fact, in the few places where the librarian was making contact, she was practically searing her skin through her clothes. First on Haley'shands...then her leg... and most definitely her lips.
A moment later and the kiss ended naturally; both women out of breath but neither wanting to pull away. Haley stayed incredibly close to Erica. She was so close she could feel her breath... almost hear her pounding heart. She never broke eye contact. She knew if she did she would lose her nerve. She just hovered an inch away for what seemed like a lifetime. She no longer felt awkward or embarrassed. No longer did she feel shy or have doubts.
A moment later, she stood up keeping Erica's hand in hers. She jerked her head towards a door in the corner. "Come on." Haley's voice was heavy. Only desire filled her dark eyes.
Erica couldn't have denied the woman in front of her even if she wanted to. The look on Haley's face was incredible. She never thought that anyone could look so beautiful and sexually attractive at the same time. Erica felt a surge of hormones race through her as the realization of what was about to happen struck her.
Haley walked backwards pulling Erica to a standing position. A smile on her face was all the enticement the librarian needed to follow her back. No words were spoken - none were needed.
In the bedroom, Haley left the light off but weaved her way around to the side of the bed. Erica was only a couple of steps behind her. At the edge of the bed, Haley pulled the older woman against her. Their bodies melding together as their lips touched once again.
Haley, wanting to savor the long forgotten sensations, kept the kiss light as a feather. She wanted to bask in the experience as she felt her body come alive. But, she also wanted Erica to be present and not swept away with the heat of the moment. So, she kept things slow for as long as they both could stand it.
Haley moved her head to the left and then the right, wanting to cover those soft lips with her own. She started testing and teasing, expecting nothing but total control of the situation. A few seconds of the feather kisses and Erica's fluttering breath nearly sent Haley out of control. She let out a low moan - more of a growl than anything else - as she pressed her hips against the librarian. Now, abandoning any self-control she once may have claimed to possess, she pressed her lips fully against Erica's. This time more demanding - more in need of what she had for so long missed out on. Her lips pressed to Erica's, her tongue stroked the older woman's lip - just a second before it gained access.
As if granting permission, the flood gates had spilled open. Erica circled her arms around the editor, needing to feel every inch of her, wanting to feel everything she could. She opened her mouth, feeling Haley's warm tongue caress her own.
She needed more.
Her hands began to wander over Haley's back. She was so soft and so intoxicating. It was nearly too much. She broke from the passionate kiss breathing heavily and trying to catch her breath.
Neither woman was ready to break the embrace. So they stood there, beside the bed, holding each other tight. A moment later, Erica was the first to move. She dropped her head down to Haley's neck, breathing in heavily as if trying to capture every molecule of scent that was offered. Her mouth next linedHaley's neck with dozens of mini, fiery kisses - each one sending a jolt through Haley's body.
Her breathing out of control, her leg pressing firmly against Haley's, Erica wasn't sure what to do next. But, sensing the hesitance, Haley reclaimed her control as she pulled the pair down on the bed - Erica falling on top. Haley held the older woman to her as they resettled, not skipping a beat. Her arms ran up and down the librarian's sides, cool cotton nearly seared by hot skin. She then turned Erica over on to her back, straddling her in the process.
Although it was dark in the room, Erica could make out the intense look on Haley's face. The younger woman absolutely looked like she was going to eat her alive. A split-second thought of imagining no better way to die escaped Erica's brain when the editor slid her fingers down and raked them over her jeans. Haley's nails dug into the thick fabric but eased as she ran them over Erica's stomach. As her hands reached the librarian's chest, she didn't hesitate. A hand covered each breast and gently, knowingly, gripped and squeezed until her thumb found a hardened nipple. Haley flicked it through the blue cotton fabric, eliciting a surprised moan from the older woman. Haley repeated the gesture a few more times until she thought she was about to explode.
She dropped both hands to either side of Erica's head and practically whimpered, "You need to get out of your clothes."
Erica could have laughed at the desperate and almost whining sound of Haley's voice. But, her voice would have sounded eerily similar, that is if she had enough wits about her to make a coherent sentence. In reality, all she could do was nod and scramble to undo the button on her jeans. Haley helped after only a second or two of struggling, and a moment later Erica was naked on top of the bed.
Erica's arousal was clearly evident and her scent made Haley light headed. It had been years since she tasted another woman. Tonight, that drought would come to a screeching halt.
It didn't take long for Haley to bring Erica to orgasm. Never had the librarian ever been so skillfully or thoroughly enticed to a climax. Haley tried to take it slow, teasing the older woman and pulling back when she thought her climax was close. But, when Erica's moans became nearly constant, Haley focused all of her attention on the most sensitive spot. Only a few seconds passed before Erica's body clenched and then exploded.
Haley stayed put until she was satisfied that Erica's orgasm had subsided. Then, she slowly kissed and licked her way up until she was lying beside her -- a grin stretched from ear to ear.
"What are you grinning about," Erica managed to squeak out after another moment.
"You. You were great." Haley reached down and pulled the bedspread up to cover her naked guest.
"Mmm. I think I should be saying that about you." Erica raised her hand and brushed Haley's bangs from her dark eyes. "You are really beautiful, you know that?"
Haley let out a breath, but didn't respond.
The editor fell to her back, her negative self-image now taking control as tears filled her eyes.
"Haley?" Erica rolled over to prop herself up on her elbow and get a better look at the younger woman. "Haley, you really don't know how beautiful you are, do you?"
Haley sniffed, miserably trying to fight back the tears.
"Haley," Erica brought up her other hand and ran her fingertips along the editor's chin and a jaw. "I wish I was better at this. I wish I had more experience so I could do the right thing. But, I don't. So, you're just gonna have to suffer through my ramblings. Okay?"
Haley sniffed again but looked at Erica, unsure of what the older woman was about to do or say.
"The first time I saw you I knew I wanted to get to know you. But, even though I've known for a couple of years that I liked girls," she nibbled Haley's neck eliciting a squeal from the editor. "Even though I knew I liked girls, I didn't know what to do with that. Not really. But, somehow spilling a strawberry smoothie all over you captured my heart. You had me since then, even though you weren't all that nice to me." A mock pout travelled over the librarian's features but ended in a grin.
"You are absolutely breath taking, Haley. And, I can't, for the life of me, figure out why you want to lose weight or change who you are. You got it happening, chica, and in all the right places." Erica leaned down and gently kissed the still heated lips of the editor. Just as the kiss started to intensify, Erica pulled back. "I like you the way you are. I like the way you feel. And, I really want to see you as I make love with you."
Erica interrupted the assumed protest. "No buts. I want to make you feel the way you made me feel. And, part of that is letting me reeeeally feel you. That means no clothes."
Haley shook her head.
"Babe, what are you afraid of?"
"That you won't like what you see."
"But, I just told you: I really like what I see already. Seeing you, here, with me, without your clothes will only make me like what I see even more."
Haley so wanted to give up the fight. She didn't know Erica that well, but she wanted to trust her. She wanted to give herself over to this woman.
"You promise?" Haley's voice sounded like a child's.
Erica nodded. "I do." She leaned almost her entire body over and fully kissed Haley. It was immediately intense as the librarian ran her fingers up and down the editor's body. It only took a little tug on the younger woman's yoga pants before Haley wiggled out of her clothes. A moment later, the pair was intertwined under the sheets with Haley giving Erica access to whatever she wanted.
Erica was intrigued, to say the least. She couldn't remember the last time she felt so absolutely turned on by anyone, man or woman. And, the fact that she was here and Haley was about to climax was blowing her mind.
She crushed her lips to Haley's as she moved her hand up and down the younger woman's side. She was beautiful. Her skin was light and her body soft. Nothing in her life had ever come close to this. As she ran her fingers up over the editor's stomach, she mimicked the earlier action and flicked an erect nipple. A second later, her mouth surrounded the sensitive nub while her hand kept moving over Haley's body. She could feel the younger woman moving under her, but was in no mind to move things along quickly. But, that didn't sit well with Haley. Another moment of Erica suckling at her right breast with her hand running up and down her side was too much. Haley reached up and grabbed Erica's hand and quickly plunged it between her legs.
"Oh my god!" Erica moaned as she moved up to look at Haley. The sensation that she was feeling was overwhelming as the editor moved her hand the way she wanted it. Erica gazed into Haley's eyes as she took over the stroking. When the younger woman's eyes closed out of pure pleasure, Erica concentrated on the feelings. The intense heat and overpowering wetness was fueling her own need. How long would she be able to last, she wondered.
As Haley's orgasm drew near, her hips started to move in time with Erica's hand. Her breath was coming in short pants. And, her arms were wrapped around Erica like a vice grip. The older woman couldn't believe it, but here she was making love to this beautiful woman. She dipped her mouth down for another deep kiss, only to break it as Haley teetered on the edge. She leaned further down and ran a trail of kisses over her neck before whispering into Haley's ear. "You are so beautiful, Haley. Please. Please come for me."
That low, melodic voice did it. It sent Haleycrashing down with several waves of intense pleasure she hadn't felt in years. A moment later her head dropped to her the librarian's shoulder. It was so strong, yet so soft and warm and comforting. She inhaled deeply wanting to catch her breath but also take in Erica's musky scent. She kissed the flushed skin just under the collarbone and hugged the woman as completely and deeply as she could physically bear.
Erica's entire body was tingling. She held Haley through her orgasm and nearly thought she was going to climax herself. Feeling each surge pulse through the younger woman was incredible. Her heart and breath both out of control, Erica merely held on to Jessica waiting for her to come back down to earth.
A few gentle kisses stilled the racing hearts. A few soft caresses slowed the rapid breaths.
Erica pulled back just far enough to look the editor in the eyes. Two fingers brushed Haley's bangs from her eyes then Erica held her chin. Not knowing what to say, she merely kissed the warm lips again, feather-soft, just as before.
When Haley's eyes fluttered open, Erica treated her to a gorgeous grin. "See? I'm a fast learner."
Haley shook her head in disbelief but had to admit it. "Yes, you most definitely are. I'd say you're an honor student."
Chapter 5 - Resolutions
Dark eyes scanned several paragraphs with interest. The words flowed well. The ideas were communicated clearly. It was good - really good.
Haley smiled at her seasoned reporter as she minimized the document. "This is very good, Reilly."
"Thank you," she replied with a mirrored smiled.
"You have come such a long way. It's really a shame to be losing you."
Reilly shrugged then dropped a flat box on the editor's desk. "I owe you, Ms. Springfield. If you didn't ride my ass so much, I don't think that I'd be going to a major market."
Haley nodded at the compliment then focused on the box. It was a plain brown box tied with twine. She looked up at her reporter almost as if asking permission.
Reilly smiled. "Go on. Open it."
Haley grinned then pulled on one string, releasing the bow. She slowly lifted the top off, revealing a small piece of paper. Haley lifted the notecard and began to read.
I came to you as a chunk of coal. It was only through your determination to make me shine did I get to see my potential. Your heat and pressure has begun the process of turning my work into diamonds. I will never forget you.
P.S. I've ordered 2 subscriptions for you. The first is a year of Time Magazine so you can keep up with my latest assignments. And, the second is a year of Parenting so you and Erica always know that you aren't alone in this new adventure.
Haley looked up, tears threatening to spill. "Come here!"
Reilly blushed but walked around the desk anyway.
Haley pushed herself up, compensating for the change in balance by keeping one hand on the edge of her desk. She then took her reporter into a bear hug, squeezing the poor girl with all her might.
"You are something else," Haley whispered as the hug was gently returned. She then patted the reporter on the back and pulled away. "I am, sincerely, going to miss you."
Reilly pressed her lips together, not knowing what to say. Then, changing the subject, she asked, "May I?" as she pointed to Haley's stomach.
The editor nodded, absent-mindedly bringing her own hand to the side of her growing belly.
Reilly carefully placed her right hand on theprotruding tummy, then looked up in question. Haley moved the reporter's hand to the left side, holding it in place for a moment. Both women stood there in silence. Then, Reilly's eyes widened as the miracle of life revealed itself.
"Oh, wow. That is…that is…so wonderful!"
Haley was delighted with the reporter's response. It wasn't but six months ago that she was terrified to reveal to her employees that she was expecting. But, just as with her family, her coworkers were very supportive and excited for her. Reilly turned out to be the most dependable, however. Always there with a kind word or a small gift for the baby.
"It is. Isn't it?"
"Have you decided on a name?"
Haley shook her head. "Not yet. We still have six weeks. Plenty of time."
"Mmm. You gonna go modern or traditional?"
"Definitely traditional."Haley patted her tummy as she felt the baby stretch.
"Well," Reilly started to head towards the door of the editor's office. "I'm going to head out. Still have some packing to do."
"Okay. You call me as soon as you get in to New York. I want to know how they're treating you. If that editor takes it too easy on you, I'll personally put my foot up his ass."
Reilly grinned. "I'll definitely keep you posted on that." She gave her editor a wink and then left, taking a small box of personal effects with her.
Haley returned to her seat, glancing at a small picture frame on her desk. It was a picture taken on her wedding day. Both she and Erica looked blissful. It seemed hard to believe that picture was taken almost a year ago. "Time sure flies when you're having fun, huh." Haley touched Erica's image, warmth rising up her neck and coloring her cheeks. She knew she would be going home and lavished with love and tenderness as soon as she stepped in the front door. It was a great feeling to know that someone cared for you the same way you cared for them.
The phone rang, startling the editor from her musings. "Haley Springfield." She absently grabbed her pen, ready to take notes.
"Hey, babe." The low, soothing tones refreshed the editor's blush.
"Hey, yourself," Haley couldn't hide her smile if her life depended on it.
"Just wanted to let you know that I'm ready and waiting. Dinner's almost done. My motor's running. All that's missing is you."
Haley chuckled. "I'm about to leave, hon. I'll be about ten more minutes."
"Okay. But, if it's much longer than that, I might have to start without you."
"You talking about dinner?"
Haley laughed out loud. "I didn't think so." She glanced at the picture on her desk as she started to close out of her computer. "I'll be home in just a bit. I love you."
"I love you, too. Now, hurry!"
Haley grinned from ear to ear as she set the phone back on its base. She grabbed her jacket and purse and turned off her office lights. As she closed the door and started to walk to her car, she had to admit that she wouldn't change a thing. For the first time in her whole life, she felt happy - truly happy. It was definitely amazing how much a New Year's resolution could change your life.
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