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Love/Sex warning/Disclaimer - This story depicts loving consensual sexual relationships between women. If you are under 18 years of age or if the themes of these relationships are illegal in your country then I suggest you skip this story.
Thanks to my Beta reader and cover designer Lilien . I am so very grateful for the help and time you generously give me.
Thanks to my two writing cheerleaders Amy and Gova, who always give me the benefit of their advice when I'm unsure or need an encouraging word. :-)
As always, this story is dedicated to my partner Lou, who taught me that love stories can have happy endings.
By Jenny Frame
Sandy Williams got out of the taxi cab and looked up at the impressive five star Moroccan hotel. "Woah! This is really something."
Coming from a blue collar, hard working background, money and the trappings of success were a something hard to get used to. Since meeting her mentor Dylan, she was learning how to handle the attention and the extra money coming her way, but remembering to keep her feet on the ground.
"Your bag...Ma'am?" The taxi driver dumped Sandy 's bag at her feet without ceremony and obvious displeasure at her appearance. He jumped back in the cab and drove off as quickly as possible.
"Welcome to Morocco huh?" She threw her bag over her shoulder and walked toward the front door of the hotel.
Dylan and Ethan were going over some final plans while waiting on Sandy and Jackson to get there.
"Ethan? What's this guys name again?"
He looked down his to his ipad and scanned along his notes. "Umm, Charlie Berkoff. Ex military and has taken part in seven consecutive MDS events."
"Okay how long have we got before the meeting?"
"Thirty minutes Dylan, the crew are setting up in the bar right now, I'm just going to make sure everything's ready for you."
There was a knock at the suite door. "That'll be Sandy and Jackson. Could you let them in on your way out?"
"Sure Dylan. See you down there."
Ethan opened the door and in came a smiling Jackson , followed by their friend Sandy. "Look who I found skulking around?"
"Hey Buddy!" Dylan walked over and gave Sandy a bro hug.
"How was your flight?" Dylan led them over to the sitting area.
"Yeah it was very cool. You didn't have to get me a first class ticket you know. I would've been fine with a regular one."
Dylan leaned back on the chair and gave her biggest smile. "Regular? Nah, you're part of the Morgan dream team now, just like Hunter here, although why I let her in I have no idea."
Jackson smiled and shook her head. "Ignore her Sandy , she's full of shit, and has an ego the size of this hotel."
Over the weeks and months of getting to know Dylan and Jackson, she had loved to watch the strong bond of friendship between the two. They fought and argued like siblings, but underneath it all they were comrades who would do anything for each other. As someone who trained alone and had never had that type of friendship, Sandy appreciated being taken into their trust.
"So how's the gym shaping up? Everything on schedule?" Jackson asked.
Sandy rubbed her hands together nervously. "Eh. Yeah. Em...everything has been going perfectly, Nike are really happy with everything so far, the branding, the equipment, the publicity I've gotten doing this stuff with you. They've got this whole PR thing lined up for the opening next month. Um..."
Dylan sensed there was something troubling her young friend. She leaned forward gave her a soft smack on the arm. "What's up buddy?"
"Em...this trip out of the States couldn't have come at better time. I'm about to be outed."
"What?" Dylan looked shocked. They had discussed many times, the way in which she should come out to the world. Dylan advised doing it gradually, keeping her sponsors informed every step of the way, allowing them time to choose to support her or, as some inevitably would, bring their sponsorship to an end. The main thing was not take her sponsors by surprise, so they didn't feel backed into a corner.
"I'm going to be outed in a magazine this week."
"How did that happen?" Jackson asked.
Sandy 's nerves got the better of her, and she stood and began to pace, running her hand over her tight collar length braided hair.
"Um...well I was doing a photo shoot that Nike had set up with this energy drink company, and one of the models they provided for the shoot, she...well she pursued me most of the day."
Dylan and Jackson gave each other a knowing look. It seemed out of character though for the shy athlete to pick someone up casually like that.
"So, you hooked up with her?"
Sandy sat down again looking really uncomfortable. "I didn't do anything. Not like that...she asked if we could get dinner or something, I said okay. I was happy to have some company. We get to the restaurant she picked out, and the photographers were waiting for us. I was freaked out and once we were inside she said that it would further both our careers to be a couple. Seems she tipped off the paparazzi. I was totally like shocked, and I just left enough money for the bill and headed home. A few days later I get a call from a magazine, she sold a story about the night at the restaurant and made up some shit about sleeping with me after. They wanted a quote from me before they run the story, I say no way, not a chance in hell, and here I am."
Dylan shook her head and said. " Sandy , I say this with the greatest love and respect, but...you're an idiot."
"What? Hey, I thought you'd be on my side?"
"We are Sandy ." Jackson said, "But it looks like she played you, and you went like a lamb to the slaughter."
"I told you you've got to be careful who wants to be around you buddy. If you just want a one night thing, a bit of fun, then that's cool, but you've told me you want something more, someone to share your life with."
Sandy looked down at her feet. "I do. I want what you guys have, I've got so much attention and stuff going on at the moment but it's kinda lonely."
Dylan went over and sat next to her young friend. "If that's what you want then you're not likely to find it at a publicity photo shoot, your gut should tell you who to trust."
"She didn't give me much say in it! It's okay for you Dylan you're good with women! I'm out of my depth!"
Jackson started laughing and Dylan gave her a cold look. "Shut up Hunter, I'm going to tell her."
"Listen Sandy , the truth is uh...you haven't known me long enough to know I suck at dealing with women. Emily was my first serious relationship, and the first woman I could talk to in full sentences. I'm good with Emmie, not women. It was Hunter here who was good with the ladies, although lately she runs away from anything in a skirt!"
"Shut up Morgan. Listen Sandy , I've never been famous like you or big head here, but Dylan was lucky to find someone who saw past the smooth TV star, and saw her for what she was, a complete idiot, but a good person."
Dylan scowled at her friend. "Thanks Jackson . I love you too! What she says is true though. You need to find that person who sees you, sees you in here." Dylan thumped her chest.
"That's not likely to happen in a bar, nightclub, or photo shoot."
Sandy sighed. "Yeah I know, but what do I do now?"
"You need to manage the fall out and talk to your sponsors. Have you got a PA?"
"No, nothing like that."
Dylan stood and said, "I tell you what, once were done with this interview, I'll call Lynn and get her manage this and to contact your sponsors. Then we need to see about getting you some decent management."
Sandy punched her hand in frustration. "I know I'm a complete idiot! I just don't want to lose the gym. I've worked so hard on it. Without my sponsors it wouldn't be the state of the art place I dreamed off."
Dylan put her arm round her young friend and said. "You won't lose it buddy. I have good contacts at Nike, I'll talk to them and I'm sure they'll be okay about it. Let me help you?"
"Yeah please. I mean, thanks so much Dylan. I don't know what I'd have down without your support, and you too Jackson ."
"No problem. We're here for you." Jackson told her. "And don't worry about being an idiot, we were all idiots when we were young, but you live and learn. You won't be so trusting the next time."
" Jackson 's right, you'll do fine Sandy , and about feeling lonely? I was so lonely it hurt till I met Emily. You'll find the right one. I know it, just have faith."
Sandy nodded sadly. "So, let's head down for this interview. I want you on camera buddy."
They all stood up and Dylan snapped her fingers. "Ah sorry, I forgot I was meant to change this t shirt. The color doesn't work with the background." She pulled it off and said. " Jackson can you take Sandy down and I'll catch you up?"
"Sure. See you in a bit." Dylan walked off toward the bedroom, topless apart from her sports bra.
Just before heading out the door, Jackson stopped dead and realized she'd seen something suspicious. " Sandy ? Can you head down to reception yourself? I just need to ask Dylan something."
Jackson came back into the room in time to see Dylan coming from the bedroom pulling on a new t-shirt.
"I thought you were going down with Sandy ?" Dylan stated, wondering why her friend was still there.
"Take off your t-shirt." Jackson said flatly.
Dylan looked horrified. "What the hell for?"
"I want to see something."
"What? Real muscles? Or do you want to make out with me again? Maybe I should tell Rosie you like butch on butch action now?" Dylan joked.
"Remember that pact we made Morgan? No sex for seven days before we left for the race?"
Dylan suddenly looked a touch worried. "Uh...yeah? What about it?"
"I just wondered what those love bites were across your chest?"
It had been a really hard training day when they discussed the 'abstaining' idea. It was Dylan that had brought it up, and they both had seen it as part of challenge, and the extra push they needed. Dylan considered all her options and said.
"It was Wolfie?"
"Bullshit Morgan! We made a pact!" Jackson shouted.
Dylan held up her hands in surrender. "It wasn't my fault! I couldn't stop Emily. She gave me no choice!"
"Oh yeah! Little bitty Emily made you do it. Do you know how many hurt feelings and insecurities I had to put up with from Rosie, because of your stupid idea? I'm going to beat the crap out of you!" Jackson made a grab for her friend but Dylan dodged and jumped over the couch.
"You don't know what Emily's like Jackson ! She's insatiable!"
"Tie you up did she?" Jackson kept trying to chase her round the couch but Dylan kept that one step ahead of her.
"What can I say buddy? She can't get enough of me, I'm irresistible! Besides, my brain doesn't work properly when she takes her clothes off!"
Jackson managed to grab a handful of her t-shirt, and pulled her friend to the floor, where they started to wrestle like a couple of kids. Eventually they both started to laugh, and had to give up. As they caught their breath on the floor, Jackson asked. "Seriously, how long did you last?"
"Um...two days." Dylan brought her hands up over her face incase her friend wanted to hit her, but Jackson just shook her head.
"Then cause we were going to be apart for so long, we couldn't keep our hands off each other, even on the morning we left."
Dylan saw Jackson throw her head back and laugh. "What? I thought you were pissed at me?"
"Well, I lasted four days, but that's still two days more than you, and of Rosie accusing me of not wanting her, when all I wanted to do was take her to bed and show her how much I need her."
Dylan jumped up and offered her hand. "Yeah we have two beautiful women, but if we don't cross the finish line, I say we blame them."
Jackson pulled herself up and agreed. "You're right. It's their fault for being too beautiful. Come on!"
The camera crew had set up next to the bar, so the interview looked casual and relaxed. Ethan led Dylan, Jackson and Sandy over to meet the competitor he had picked out.
"Dylan? This is Charlie Berkoff."
Charlie would never have accepted the interview, if it wasn't for his need to give the arrogant woman some home truths about this race. He had done this race every year without any fanfare, and this year all people could talk about was the superstar Dylan Morgan taking part. He looked at her with disdain. Fucking Dyke thinks the race is her own personal event. I'll show you.
Dylan held out her hand and said. "Hey buddy! Great to meet you. This is my team Jackson Hunter, and Sandy Williams."
Charlie looked less than impressed with Dylan's enthusiastic introduction, but took her hand after a few seconds.
Dylan seemed oblivious to his cold greeting but Jackson noticed it straightaway. Berkoff? I'm Jackson ."
Charlie looked her up and down. "Ah yeah. You were one of the first female 'special forces op'? I was in the Army five years. Saw action in Iraq and Afghanistan ." Jackson noted the exclamation marks he made with his fingers, and that he said the word female with as much displeasure as he could muster. After some time he took Jackson 's hand and squeezed hard as shook it. So you want this is going be a dick measuring contest? Bad move asshole.
When Jackson met anyone from a military background, she made sure she knew everything she could about them, and if Berkoff wanted to play this game then she had his number.
"Yes, so Ethan told me. Sergeant Berkoff. I'm Major Hunter."
Charlie didn't like Jackson pulling rank on him in front of everyone. He pulled himself up to his full height, which was still smaller than Jackson . "So this so called female Special Forces unit, what did it actually do? I mean how dangerous could a bunch of women and children be?" He laughed until Jackson walked up really close and said. "Oh, I don't know Berkoff, certainly a lot more dangerous than making an apple pie in the dessert."
Sgt Berkoff had spent his career as a chef in the army, and while every job in the military was as important as another, if Charlie Berkoff was going to question her contribution as a woman to the service then Jackson wouldn't pull any pouches with him.
He shut up immediately and turned his attention to Dylan. "So are we going to do this interview or what? I've got places to be."
Dylan had observed the exchange between the pair and thought. This is gonna be fun!
"Okay Charlie, I'll just ask you a few questions about your experiences and Sandy here might jump in with a couple okay? Don't let the camera put you off, it's just us having a casual conversational at the bar."
"I won't be put off." Charlie said flatly.
Okay...got a big attitude problem here. Thought Dylan.
"Ethan? Just cue me when ready." Ethan gave her the signal
"Thanks for talking to us Charlie. You've been doing this for seven years now, what keeps you coming back each year?"
"This is the hardest race on earth, and I come back to every year to show that I can take the pain, the heat and everything that the desert has to offer and beat it like a man. Tell me Dylan, what exactly are your goals for this race?"
Dylan was surprised at having the question thrown back at her. Usually, people either froze on camera or relied on her to get them, through it.
"We've trained very hard and we hope to try and get the fastest time recorded by a female, and make our way into the top twenty finishers overall."
Charlie burst out laughing, and said. "I think you need to listen to some home truths about this race, because you've seriously underestimated it."
Sandy could see the irritation growing in Dylan and decided to take the next question. "How so? Jackson and Dylan are phenomenally fit individuals to start with, and they trained using state of the art equipment and some of the top physical performance experts in the world."
"Listen, sweetheart." Dylan was sure she could hear Sandy growl at that comment.
"Your lady friends might be the fittest in their yoga class, but the MDS is another stratosphere."
Dylan took a step toward him and said. "Careful how you talk to my friends okay, this is a friendly interview."
Charlie looked her straight in the eye. "And I'm just giving you some friendly advice. You'll be lucky to finish the first two stages, far less finish the race"
Dylan was furious and went nose to nose with Charlie. "Listen Jerkoff, I think it's your own obvious inadequacies that are talking here. We'll not only finish, we'll beat you to the line little man!"
Charlie's face went red with fury. "You'll never beat me you fucking dyke. I'm not just gonna beat you girly, I'm going to humiliate you!"
"Just try it jerkoff!"
Jackson and Sandy got between them and pulled Dylan away. "Come on Dylan, just leave it. He's just stupid guy with severe inadequacy issues. The other people in the bar are watching. Don't let them see you lose control okay?" Jackson said trying to calm her friend.
"Okay! I won't do anything."
Sandy left their side and helped Ethan get Charlie out of the bar. As he left he shouted. "I'm going to kick your ass in this race Morgan!"
" Jackson , we have to beat this guy, no matter what."
Jackson nodded and replied. "We'll give it our best shot; just keep all that energy for the race yeah?"
Dylan nodded and thought. I'll give it more than best shot.
Emily was at her weekly appointment with her therapist Rain. She sat in a chair, while Rain stood behind her with her hands on Emily's chest just above her breasts, her blouse hanging open.
"Breathe and send out all that negative black energy through your chest sweet one, and into my hands bathed in healing light." Rain told her.
Rain used all sorts of these kinds of exercises to help with any problem Emily wanted to talk about on any particular day.
She pushed her hands more firmly into Emily's chest and said. "I'm going to count down from ten and I want you to send out every last drop of blackness from your body. See the blackness leaving your chest and filling my hands. Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one!"
Rain suddenly pulled her hands away from Emily's chest, and mimed the action of cleaning the blackness from her hands.
"Now take a few seconds then come back to me."
Rain walked round and in front of Emily and waited. After a minute Emily opened her eyes with a smile on her face, as she always did in her exercises with Rain. "How do you feel my sweet one?"
"Wonderful, elated, lighter. I don't know how you do it Rain. Thank you so much."
"You are very welcome." Emily started to button up her blouse. She was glad Dylan couldn't see how the therapy sessions worked. Rain was a very hands on and tactile therapist, and she had Emily's complete trust, but Dylan was always suspicious of Rain's over familiarity and new age thinking.
She remembered one time when she had told Dylan about a massage therapy Rain had used on her for relaxation. Dylan had just nodded but said nothing, then that night, as they were lying in bed in the darkness...
"Is Rain a lesbian?"
Emily in her usual position of lying on Dylan's chest mumbled. "What?"
"Rain? Is she gay?"
With a sigh Emily lifted her head to look at her partner. "I have no idea Dylan."
"She pings my gaydar in a freaky hippy way."
"Why are thinking about Rain when you're supposed to be sleeping?"
"Well...I was thinking about her giving you a massage and..."
"I knew it!" Emily threw her covers back and scrambled up, arms crossed in annoyance. "I just knew from your face when I told you, that you'd have something to say about it. You've been turning this over in your brain all day haven't you?"
Dylan raised herself up on her elbows. "What? I'm just asking if she's gay. I'm so sorry if the thought of hordes of lesbians and men wanting my wife bothers me."
Emily took deep breaths to try and quell her frustrations. She always tried to make allowances for Dylan's inexperience and understandable over protectiveness, but worrying about Rain of all people was too much for Emily.
"Number one. I have no idea if Rain is a lesbian. Number two, even if she is a lesbian, she is a professional and wouldn't even notice my physical appearance, she is thinking about my treatment and how to help me feel better. It wouldn't matter if I was buck naked laid out in front of her, she still wouldn't think anything inappropriate."
Dylan turned over to look at her wife. "Emmie, you are so naive. Do you have any idea of how beautiful you are? You could have been a model and could even turn a straight woman gay. That's how beautiful you are."
"Oh please! A model who is 5ft 3? Sure."
It always seemed to annoy Dylan when Emily doubted her own appearance. "Oh yeah? And why are you in every guy and lesbian magazine these days then?"
This was a new phenomenon that her partner had to learn to live with. Since Emily's raising celebrity and fame had started, there had been a growing interest in Emily and not just them as couple. Emily had started to be pictured in lesbian publications, and then gradually had become a favorite in all the men's magazines, regularly appearing in the polls of most beautiful women. Dylan didn't mind her wife getting the limelight, and in fact it made her proud that at events that people would scream for her wife just as much as for her these days. What really made her angry was a shot taken of Emily in her bikini that had been taken without permission, while she was on their private beach. A photographer had hired a boat to take him in as close as possible to the beach, without raising suspicion. The picture had gone all over the world and had been printed everywhere, skyrocketing Emily's fame, and making Dylan evermore insecure.
"I know how guys and lesbians like me think, and believe me, they are not just reading the article beside your picture!"
Dylan flopped onto her side away from her wife, seemingly in a very bad mood. Emily shook her head and sighed. She knew she had some ruffled feathers to soothe.
Emily cuddled into her partner's back and placed tiny kisses on her neck. "TV star listen to me, okay? I know we weren't happy with that picture getting out, I was so embarrassed, and it seems to be everywhere I turn at the moment, but just remember honey they can only look at picture, only you can touch. I'm your wife and you can touch me whenever you want, please don't mix up your anxious feelings about a stupid picture with Rain. She always talks about my growling lion and knows that you and Molly are my world. She only wants to help me. Please believe me."
After a few seconds Dylan turned and rolled her wife underneath her. "I'm sorry okay? I'm a jealous idiot. I just hate people looking at you, knowing that there thinking the same as me when I look at you."
Emily reached up and stroked Dylan's face. "That's where your wrong honey. They don't see what you see. They look and see a physical body, you look and see the real me, the me inside, the woman that's your wife, and the mother of your children." She bought Dylan's hand down to caress her stomach, where the baby was only starting to show ever so slightly.
"Yeah, and only I get to touch." Dylan said huskily.
"Yes my growling one, only you."
Dylan brought her mouth down to her wife's neck and growled, while her hand snaked up to grasp her breast.
"I love you Dylan. Make love to me..."
From that night on Dylan hadn't said anything else about Rain and her tactile treatment, but still Emily was pleased her insecure partner didn't come face to face with the reality of it.
Rain interrupted Emily's thoughts. "Has your anxiety lessened sweet one?"
"Yes. I just can't understand why Dylan feels the need to take part in these dangerous events. She knows how scared I get for her."
"I think you will have to be prepared for a life with these worries. Such is the life of the partner of the proud lion. The lion must constantly roar and prove to the world it is stronger and fiercer than the rest."
"I suppose. She talks a lot about retiring. I'm not sure if I should support her in that or not. I'm worried she would just be doing it for me, and I wouldn't want that."
Rain helped Emily on with her jacket. "I think you will find that no matter what your lion filled her time with, she would always have that drive to prove herself. She cannot help it, it is just naturally part of her character, and to try and stop that need could lead to problems. A lion without its teeth feels lesser, incomplete. I would counsel you to make her think carefully about any changes to her life. It must be her decision."
Emily nodded and gave Rain a kiss on the cheek. "Of course you're right. I will talk to her properly before she does anything drastic. Again I'm sorry for the inappropriate clothing today Rain."
She indicated her down to her skirt and heels. "But I'm meeting my friend for lunch before I go back home."
Rain kissed her hand and said, "On the contrary my sweet one. You gave me the pleasure of your beauty, and I am grateful for that. It is surprising your growling one ever leaves your side!"
The color flushed Emily's cheeks. "Thank you Rain. Have a good day."
All the competitors had been transported to the base camp at the Marathon des Sables start line. The lines and lines of tents turned the desolate, lonely dessert into a small village. As well as the competitor tents, there were many medical, supply, and communication tents. The race was due to start in an hour and Team Morgan were busy in their tent checking supplies. All the food and supplies they would need had to be carried in the competitor's backpacks, while they raced all six stages, and because of the effect on their bodies, of carrying extra weight in the extreme conditions ahead, the food had to be mostly powered drinks. Dylan's nutritionists had put together special protein powders that could be taken with water, to fulfill their daily energy needs, along with additional packets of nuts and seeds. The base camp with all the support facilities, Dylan's medical experts, camera crew and Sandy, would move to meet with the athletes finishing each night, but once they were on the course they were on their own, and any footage would have to be taken by either Jackson or Dylan herself on a light video camera.
All the other athletes had to share a six man tent with fellow competitors, but due to Dylan's celebrity, she would share with Jackson and Sandy alone. Dylan and Jackson were in their tent putting on their race gear. Luckily for them, they had persuaded the sponsors to let them wear normal loose black shorts for competing but they had to agree to the bright pink Jersey with wings.
Once they were changed they opened up the ends of the tent to let the air in, such as it was.
"Hey Sandy ? Can you check that these heart monitors are clipped in okay?" Dylan shouted over to her friend.
"Sure." As she checked Jackson said."We look like complete idiots in these jerseys, Dylan."
"Don't I know it? Just remember it's for your girlfriend's charity and all the thanks you'll get from her when you go home."
"I better." Jackson said moodily.
" Sandy , has the Doc and his team got the backpacks ready?" Dylan asked.
"Yeah you're all good to go. I wish I was doing it with you guys."
"Hey, you had too much on your plate with the gym to do the training. It's great just having your support buddy, and you're gonna get good exposure doing all the interviews for the show. You ask great questions, and you're great in front of the camera. Jackson and I are glad we've got a friend to do this for us, and also an athlete who understands how hard this is on our bodies."
"You'll be great Sandy ." Jackson agreed.
A few minutes later Charlie Berkoff walked by their tent, and when he saw their jerseys he burst out laughing. "Hey girls! That color really suits your complexion!"
Dylan put on her best arrogant smile and said. "Well get used to seeing the back of them jerkoff! Cause you're gonna be behind us the whole way!"
Charlie pulled a poster from his back pack and held it up for Dylan to see. "Hey Morgan? Look what I handed out to all the guys? This is going to soothe a lot of aches and pains as they settle down in their tents each night; I know it'll soothe me."
He held up a poster the magazines had made of Emily in her skimpy swimsuit. Dylan launched herself toward him, but Jackson and Sandy held her back. "You fucking piece shit! I'm gonna beat the crap outta you, jerkoff!"
Charlie just laughed, watching her struggles. "I'll move him on." Sandy said matter of factly.
Jackson held her friend by the shoulders. "Dylan, save it for the race. You don't want to do anything stupid and ruin your reputation."
Dylan took deep breaths and did start to calm. "I hate that fucking picture! You and I both know what people are thinking when they look at it. It's my wife for god's sake."
"Listen, I know okay, but at least the photographer let us know that you needed surveillance round the house, and I've sorted that out for you so it's a picture that won't be repeated."
When the picture had come out, Dylan was furious but Jackson stepped in straight away and had her company set up a surveillance system, monitored by the new security guard Jackson had arranged. It allowed Emily's guard and driver Jamie to be solely with her and Molly.
"Okay, okay I'm calm."
Charlie's laughing ceased as Sandy towered over him. She made a formidable and intimidating sight, she was as solid as muscular that most men, the cuffs of her t shirt clinging tightly onto her biceps.
"Can I help you? I thought you were the quiet, shy one?"
"Quiet doesn't mean shy. It means I pick my moments, and this is one of these moments. I don't take kindly to people upsetting my friends, and who show no respect to Dylan's wife, one of the nicest, kindest women you could ever meet. Take my advice and move yourself from this vicinity or I will remove you." Sandy said in a low but firm voice.
"I'm not frightened of some girl. I'll go where I want." Sand cupped her hand around the back of his neck, and squeezed while forcing him to walk forward. To everyone around it looked like Sandy had a friendly arm around his neck.
"Get off me!"
"Are you going to squeal like a girl and let everyone around us see a woman forcibly remove you? Or are you going to walk off quietly?"
Charlie struggled with the grip on his neck, and finally gave up. "Okay! Okay! Just let me go."
Sandy released him, and he stomped off, before stopping and shouting. "Those girlies don't have a chance! I'm going to beat and humiliate them."
Sandy just laughed. "Good luck man. I wouldn't like go up against them."
She walked back over to her friends and received a handshake from both of them. "Thanks buddy. I appreciate it."
"No problem. Just beat that asshole okay?"
"You bet we will." Dylan promised.
After leaving her appointment with Rain, Emily and Jamie had picked up Rosie from her morning appointment, and made their way to lunch.
Jamie helped Emily from the car and said. "Just call when you're ready to leave, Mrs. Morgan."
"I will do Jamie, thank you."
"Oh wow! Balthazar's? I can't believe I'm going to have lunch here! I mean celebrities eat here!"
Emily smiled at Rosie's almost childlike enthusiasm. "You're already friends with a celebrity, Rosie."
"Yeah, but Dylan's like normal, she doesn't act like a celebrity."
Emily looped her arm through her friends and said. "Let's see who we can spot then."
The Maitre de led them to their table and gave them the menus. "Your waiter will be with you momentarily Mrs. Morgan, if there's anything at all I can do for you, please let me know.
As he walked off Rosie said. "Woah! This place is really cool, and he knew you by name. I always forget you're a celebrity now too."
"Only be association. It's the name that seems to open doors, and he remembers me from the few times Dylan has brought me here."
Rosie opened her menu and looked the dishes. "Still, Jack's taken me to some cool restaurants but not here, it's hard to get a reservation."
"I just called Lynn and asked her to organize a table. Dylan says she can get reservations anywhere at five minutes' notice. I don't know how she does it, threatens bodily harm or something."
The two friends laughed and Emily said. "This is all still new to me too remember. This time last year, I was serving in a greasy diner. I think if I'd come in here then they would have kicked me out."
Rosie smiled. "It really is a fairy tale. So romantic!"
Emily looked around at the other diners trying not be caught looking at her. "I suppose it is a fairy tale, I still have to pinch myself that it's real. Sometimes I go into a place like this or into a store and forget that I don't have to worry about what I'm spending, or check if something's on sale. It's wonderful though knowing that Molly and this little one will always have everything they need."
The waiter appeared and they ordered lunch, and shortly thereafter the salads arrived at the table.
"Yum. These look delicious." Rosie said. "Oh! Did you get the picture of Dylan, Jack, and Sandy at base camp? Sandy tweeted it earlier."
Rosie got it up on her phone to show Emily. "Yes. Dylan emailed it to me. She knows I'm hopeless with twitter and Facebook. They look like their having a great time don't they? Like they've been friends for years."
"I know. Sandy really looks up to them. She's such a sweetie. Did Dylan tell you she was about to be outed?"
"It's such a shame it happened this way. We need to find her a good woman Rosie. Sandy reminds me so much of Dylan, big and tough but, oh so sensitive. She needs looking after."
Rosie thought for a minute. "I have lots of friends I could introduce her to, but I'm not sure they would be with her for the right reasons, or look after her heart."
Emily took sip of her sparkling water. "Hmm, Someone will come along I'm certain of that."
Rosie's phone beeped signaling a message. "Hey maybe this is a new message or picture of them. They must be well through the first day now."
When Rosie opened up her message, Emily heard her sigh shiver ever so slightly. "What's wrong?"
"Oh nothing. Just a stupid message."
"It doesn't look like nothing. It looks like it bothered you. You can tell me anything you know."
Rosie smiled at her friend. "I know I can but it's honestly nothing. Remember that girl I told you about, Jess? I dated her a few times, and she was pissed off with Jackson when we had that fight?"
Emily did indeed remember. The couple had fallen out when Jackson hadn't told Rosie what really happened to Toni in the cabin, and her old admirer Jess had taken full advantage. "Yes. She really had crush on you."
"That's her, well she's been sending me messages a lot and calling, telling me she loves me. Things like that."
"Have you told Jackson about this? It sounds like she needs to have a word with this Jess."
Rosie put her cell on silent and set it face down. "Oh no, that would just make things so much worse. Jess doesn't mean anything by it. It's mostly when she's been drinking, which seems to be happening more and more, but she just thinks she loves me, she'll get over it."
Emily looked concerned. "Rosie are you sure..."
Her friend cut her off, clearly wanting to change the subject. "Honestly it's okay. I can handle it. So? How is Molly settling into her new school?"
"She is loving it, I'm still nervous every time I leave her though."
It had taken a great deal of persuasion from both Dylan and her parents, for Emily to agree to let Molly to go back to preschool. After the events at her previous school, where Toni's partner in crime held Molly at gun point, Emily had initially insisted that Molly should stay at home with her. Dylan knew that if they both didn't get over that fear of leaving their daughter at school, then not only would Molly's education suffer but the little girl would also start to see the outside world as a place to be feared.
After many visits to Da Vinci private school, that they had both picked out, and talking to other parents who had similar concerns, Emily reluctantly agreed to Molly attending the exclusive Long Island school.
"She can't wait to go every morning, which is great. Her teacher is such a sweet young woman, who really loves all the kids. I try and help out a couple of times a week; it's really nice being able to have the time to take part in all the school activities. You know what? We should get you in to take an art class with the kids."
Rosie reached over and squeezed Emily's hand. "Sure! I'd love that. I'm so glad it's going so well for you both. Molly's had a lot of things happen in her little life, and it's wonderful to see her so happy. She's been really enjoying the move to Long Island , huh?"
"Oh yes. She thinks the whole house is her and Wolfie's own personnel playground!"
When the waiter came to clear the plates he said. "Excuse me Mrs. Morgan, Brendan Rogers and his wife Adela wondered if they could have a few moments of your time."
Rosie's eyes went wide. "Brendan and Adela Rogers? They're like Hollywood royalty! Oh boy I knew I'd meet exciting people hanging around with you, Em."
"Um...yes of course. If they would like to." Emily told the young waiter.
"Thank you. I'll pass that on Mrs. Morgan, and then I'll be back to take your order for dessert and coffee."
"Can you believe this Em? We're going to meet Brendan and Adela!"
Dylan and Jackson were nearing the end of their first grueling day of the MDS. They had just a few kilometers left of the 37km first stage. Dylan glanced down at her watch. "Hey, we've made amazing time Jackson . I thought this would be a lot harder."
Jackson kept pace with her taller friend easily enough. She had done similar training exercises while in the army, but it was keeping it up for six days which would be the killer.
"You know what the other runners have said to us, you think during the first stage it's too easy and push it too hard, then you have no energy for day two. I think we should off paced this stage a lot slower Dylan."
Dylan kept her running pace up but turned and gave Jackson a strange look. "Are you insane? We need to push it, I want us to be the fastest women to finish, and beat that asshole, jerkoff."
"We need to be careful beating him doesn't become more important than race. If we push ourselves to beat him, the desert might beat us."
"We'll be fine." Dylan saw the stage one finishing line just up ahead of them.
As they ran past a couple of men in front of them, they said. "We'll done Dylan. Keep it up!"
"Thanks buddy!" She replied. The one thing that really surprised both Dylan and Jackson was the camaraderie. Apart from Charlie, everyone else they had met or passed during the race had been so nice and supportive to each other, chatting and passing on advice. They had met a group of firemen from Scotland , who were running with kilts on for charity, and Jackson had taken some good footage with the small camera, of Dylan interacting with them and having fun.
As they were about to cross the finish line, they saw Sandy waiting with the camera crew, ready to Interview them.
"Hey guys, how was it?" Sandy handed them a bottle of water each, and watched them down it greedily, the sweat running off them like a river.
"Oh man! That was awesome!" Dylan managed to say while gasping for air.
"It was more fun than we thought eh, Dylan?" Jackson told Sandy and the camera.
Dylan was bent over trying to catch her breath, and then stood up to talk to the camera. "Yeah, it was really great. I don't think the first day could have gone better, we may be pushed it harder than we should have, but while we feel good, I thought we should. The hardest part was the dunes, it really kills your Achilles, and we noticed a lot of the less experienced competitors were walking already. I'm okay so far, apart from some blisters."
"Well done guys, you deserve a rest. Let's get you back to the tents." Sandy indicated to the camera man to stop recording.
"Was it really good?" Sandy asked off camera.
"Yeah it really was. We made great time too. Look."
Dylan pointed Jackson and Sandy's attention over to the finish line where Charlie Berkoff was just coming in.
He met her eyes and smiled. Dylan gave him a big smile and a wink. He looked furious and stomped off.
"Something I said?" Jackson shook her head and pushed Dylan to get her moving. "Get going you, before you cause an incident. I need some food."
Rosie got out of Emily's car and said. "Hey, thanks so much for lunch. It was amazing, and I can't believe we met Brendan and Adela! Wait till I tell Daddy."
"I'm glad you enjoyed it. Remember and call me if you see anything for Dyl and Jackson on twitter or anything."
"I will do. See you later Rosie. Give my love to your Dad."
Jamie drove away from Rosie's place and headed for Long Island . Emily thought her lunch couldn't have gone any better. The famous Hollywood couple had been delightful to meet and talk to. They wanted to talk about Dylan's challenge and pledge a very large amount of money towards the sponsorship fund, and Adela asked for a meeting with Rosie after seeing her work on the Morgan's home in a magazine.
Emily rubbed her growing baby bump in a soothing fashion and thought. Now all I need little one is for our Goofy to come home safe, and everyone will be happy.
Suddenly Emily's IPhone came to life and announced her mother in law was calling. "Hi Pattie, we're just making our way home. Is everything okay?"
"Yes absolutely. The school phoned home, but there's nothing wrong, okay."
Fear immediately Emily's heart. "What is it? Tell me!"
"Molly is fine and perfectly safe, I promise you. Her teacher, Miss Andrews just wondered if she could have a word with you, when you pick Molly up."
"So there's nothing to worry about? Really?"
"No dear. Something to do with a project they've been doing."
Emily let out a long breath she had been holding. "Okay then. We're heading for the school now. Speak to you later Pattie."
Please let everything be okay...
Dylan and Jackson hobbled across the sand back to their tent. Although they had found the first stage easier than they thought, when they took off their shoes they found painful blisters had formed on their feet. After a quick visit to the medical tent, where the staff carefully but very painfully punctured them and bandaged their feet, they had gone to the communications tent to send their emails. Each competitor was allowed one email sent out, so Dylan had written up a short blog of their first days racing to be included in the personal email to her wife. Emily had instructions to send the blog onto the team running her website so they post an update every day.
Although they were only allowed one message each, there was no restriction on how many they received, so the two friends returned to their tent clutching messages from their loved ones and supporters to read at their leisure.
"Hey guys, lie down and get those feet up. Sandy had arranged the backpacks so that her friends could lie with their feet elevated.
"Thanks buddy. I can't wait to rest. Fuck!"Dylan gasped in pain as she lay down, finally getting off her throbbing feet.
"Oh God!" Exclaimed Jackson . "Do you know what the awful part of this is?"
"What?" Dylan asked.
"This is the least pain we're going to be in for next five days."
Dylan picked up a balled up sweatshirt and threw it a Jacksons head. " Sandy kill her for me would you?"
Sandy laughed. "You two crack me up! So did you get messages from home?"
"Yep, I got one from Rosie, the guys at the office and TV star got one from Emily and a ton of messages from her fans."
"I can't help it if I'm so popular. I'm just awesome. So shut up and read the sweet words from your girlfriend."
"Oh how did you get on with the interviews Sandy ?" Dylan asked her friend.
Dylan had tasked Sandy and her camera crew to get some interviews and footage of the other competitor's experiences for the documentary.
"It was great, some of the athletes have some great stories why their doing this, and they were really supportive of you both."
"Cool. There really is a great feeling and energy among the camp isn't there. Apart from jerkoff obviously."
"You really smashed him today, a full ten minutes in front of him." Sandy told them.
Jackson lifted her head from her message and said. "Remember we agreed we'd pace it at bit better tomorrow. Its 35.5 Kilometers and we're going to be sore. So let's take it steady okay."
"Yeah, yeah. Let me read what my beautiful wife and kid have to say to me."
Sandy watched Dylan and Jackson hunker down in their sleeping bags with warm smiles on their faces, as they read the emails from their women, and she felt the loneliness that pervaded her soul all the more. Even 3,600 miles away in the isolation of the Sahara desert, Dylan and Jackson were never alone, because they were loved, and they carried that love wherever they went.
"I'm just going to go for a walk, you guys." Her friends nodded and she walked out into the camp. The dark night was punctuated by a large fire in the centre. The Sherpa's that carried the camp gear from stage to stage sang happily around it, sharing food and friendly companionship. Sandy felt ever more alone as she walked around the camp breathing in the smoky air. She thought that leaving the States came at the right time, just as she was about to be outed, but coming to the Morocco had only served to highlight what was lacking in Sandy Williams life. To the outside world she had everything, gold medals, raising fame and the money that went with it, but yet she felt so alone.
Emily knocked on the classroom door and walked in. Molly, who was at her desk drawing, ran to her Mother. "Mama! I drawd a picture for ou."
Emily cuddled her daughter tightly. "Hi sweetie. Are you okay?"
"She's absolutely fine. Aren't you Molly?" Her teacher came up to join them.
"Yes, Miff Andews." Emily watched the young teacher give Molly a hug and ask her to go and draw while they spoke.
"Miss Andrews, are there any problems?"
"Not at all Mrs. Morgan, I just wanted to have an informal chat with you, please come and sit with me."
"Thank you Miss Andrews."
"Oh please, call me Amber. I've been Miss Andrews all day. She said with a bright smile.
When Emily first came to help out with Molly's class, she had taken to the young teacher immediately. She had no qualms about Molly's parents being gay, and her enthusiasm for the children and their learning was infectious, plus Molly seemed to love her. When Emily first saw Amber, she thought she must be a student helper; she looked like a teenager and not a twenty three year old teacher. Emily thought it was the bright attire she always wore that added to her youthful look. Today Amber was dressed in a 1950's halter style pale blue dress, with vivid red and pink flowers. The style suited Amber well. The bright clothes she always wore echoed her bright attitude towards the children.
They took a seat at in the small children's seats. Both of them were lucky they were short in stature; Emily remembered Dylan's hilarious attempts to sit in the tiny seats, and felt an ache for her partner. Please come home safe, TV star. Emily thought.
"Mrs. Morgan, I would like to discuss a very small incident we had today, incase Molly wanted to talk about it at home." Amber pushed her dark bobbed hair behind her ear in a nervous gesture.
"Our topic in class at the moment is the human body, healthy eating and exercise. As part of that I thought it would be a wonderful idea for the kids to follow Ms Morgan marathon challenge, so they could understand just what the human body was capable of. "
"That sounds wonderful Amber." Emily said.
Amber beamed at that answer; she wasn't sure what the famous woman would think of the idea.
"Come and see what the children have made." Amber led them over to the wall where a large freeze had been made, charting the training Dylan and Jackson had done, and further a long there was a map of the six day event. At each stage there were pictures either drawn or cut from magazines of desert life, plant life, camels and other desert animals.
"The kids watched Ms Morgan and Ms Hunters training video's they put on the website. I wanted to show them how you had to work hard and take exercise to enable your body to do the things you want to, and how exercise is fun. They've been working on this timeline everyday adding pictures and doing activities related to the event."
Emily was very impressed. "You've done a remarkable job Amber. It sounds like a lot of fun for the kids. I imagine Molly was very proud the topic was about her Mom."
Amber smiled. "Oh yes! You can see Molly adores her Mom. That was what I wanted to tell you about."
Emily knew the bad news was coming now. "Today I got a couple of the older kids in to help me with an activity. We were having a lesson on healthy foods and I had them tasting lots of different fruits and vegetables. Molly overhead one of the older kids talking unkindly about her Mom...eh...in relation to her sexuality."
My poor baby! "Was Molly really upset? She hasn't come across any negativity toward us before."
Amber looked over to Molly who was busy coloring in. "I'm not sure all that was said but from what I gather it was to do with Molly not having a daddy, and Ms Morgan not being her mom. Molly was very angry and kicked the older boy."
"I see." Emily said with a sigh.
"Obviously we can't condone violence but she's only a little girl, it's understandable."
"Yes, she has her Mom's short fuse." Emily sighed and saw Molly looked at her with a worried look on her face.
"I wanted you to know incase Molly has any questions arising from what was said to her."
Emily nodded sadly. We are so insulated in our happy, protected world; I forgot how cruel people can be.
Seeing that Emily was upset, Amber placed her hand on Emily's to comfort her.
"The principal also wanted to let you know that homophobic behavior like this will never be tolerated at Da Vinci, we pride ourselves on the diversity of our students and their families, and you can be sure that I would not allow it in my class. The boy has been disciplined and his parents informed, but knowing his father I suspect the boy is just repeating what he has heard at home."
Emily thanked God Dylan was away at the moment. Knowing her partner like she did, she knew Dylan would have been hurt at Molly's parentage being questioned, and angry at the boy and his family. "Thank you for handling it so well and so swiftly Amber. You can be sure I will talk to Molly about reacting the way she did."
"She is a wonderful student and very enthusiastic about learning, especially when we do games and physical activities. Molly? You can come over now." Amber said to the little girl.
Molly walked over slowly, unsure of the reception she would get from her Mother. Emily opened her arms in invitation and Molly threw herself into them. "I sawry Mama."
Emily stroked her dark hair and gave her head a kiss. "It's alright Molly. We'll have a talk about everything when we get home okay?"
Molly nodded sadly, and Amber felt the need to cheer up her favorite little student. "Molly why don't we show your Mama our Olympic display before you go?"
The little girls face brightened immediately and she pulled her mother's hand, to lead her over to a display on the other side of the classroom.
"Dook Mama! It's Mom and Andy!" The kids had made an Olympic podium out of old boxes, painted them gold, silver and bronze. Behind the boxes on the wall, the Olympic rings were made out of colored paper and stuck to a gold background, with pictures of Dylan and Sandy receiving their medals stuck at either side.
"Wow this is amazing Molls! You and your friends have done a great job!"
Amber was also full of smiles. "When I found out that Ms Williams was helping Ms Morgan with her event, I thought it would be a great idea to tie in the Olympics with our projects. I'm a big fan of the Olympics myself, so I thought it would be a great thing for the kids. Each day we have a gold medal ceremony for the kids that have tried extra hard, don't we Molls?"
Molly jumped up and down on her toes. "Yeah me like Mom and my friend Andy."
"Both women are really positive images for the kids to inspire to. I remember watching Ms Williams winning her gold medals, it was so exciting! I really admire women who have such confidence in themselves physically."
Emily saw a slight blush come to the young teachers face. "Anyway! I'm rambling sorry. Em...on the last day of Ms Morgan and Ms Hunter's challenge were having a charity day at the school, to celebrate their achievement and raise some money for the charity. The kids are going to have to take part in some challenges to raise money and pay to wear pink for the day. We're going to invite all the parents and their families; I'd love you to be there Mrs. Morgan?"
"Of course I will be. I'll bring my friend Rosie; it's her charity that Dylan and Jackson are doing this for. Hey! I'll organize some prizes for the kids to win and maybe something to raffle?"
"Really! The kids will love that!" Amber's face couldn't have been happier and she spontaneous pulled Emily into a hug, and then remembered the importance of the woman she was hugging.
"Oh I'm so sorry! That was inappropriate."
"Don't be silly Amber! I love your enthusiasm for the kids. We'll make it a special day for the school. Let me see what I can come up with."
After a quiet drive home, Emily took her daughter upstairs to her bedroom for a talk.
"So young lady. Do you want to tell me what happened today?"
They both sat on Molly's bed, the little girl hugging her penguin Stinky. "Boy say stuff about Mom, and de other big kids laugh, and him say I don't have a Daddy. I tell em not laugh at my Mom and that Mom is my Daddy. Him laugh at me and say Mom is a feak. So I tick him."
Emily sighed. Kids can be so cruel. I suppose I should have expected this to come up. "I understand that you were angry Molls, but you shouldn't kick someone. You should tell Ms Andrews and let her deal with the bad boy."
Molly scrunched up her face. "Is Mom not my family? She not my daddy?"
How do I explain this? Emily thought, and then she looked up at the picture of the three of them on Molly's window sill. "Molly? Go and get me the picture of us."
She toddled off quickly and came back clutching her favorite picture. Sometimes Emily had found the picture in Molly's hands when she would check on her before bed. She liked to fall asleep hugging it, as if she was still amazed she had a family. Emily lifted Molly onto her knee.
"Okay Molls. Tell me who is in that picture?"
In the picture Dylan had her arm around Emily's shoulder, and holding Molly up in the other. The three of them looked so close and so happy.
"Mama, Molly and Mom."
"Okay and you came from Mama's tummy didn't you?"
"Yeah Mama. Like de new baby." Molly said seriously.
"That's right. So you are definitely my family, but wait? Do you look like Mama?"
Molly looked up at her Mama then down at the picture. "No mama. Ou have gold hair and deen eyes, I av dark hair and boo eyes."
Emily scratched her head and pretended to think really hard. "Hmm...So who do you look like in the picture?"
Molly looked at it for a few seconds and then her face brightened with a big smile. "Me dook ike Mom! Her air and eyes de same as mine!"
"That's right! So what does that mean Molls?"
"She dis my Mom! I her family too!" Molly clapped her hands together excitedly.
"That's right! Clever girl Molls. We both love you more than anything. Our family might look different from others, but we are a family, all connected to each other."
"Me miff my Mom."
"We'll I'll tell you what? We can go and send an email to her in the desert okay? You tell me what to write and I'll send it."
Molly jumped off her lap and pulled her hand towards Dylan's office. "We send it at Mom's esk?"
"Sure. Let's go." Emily was pleased with the way their talk had gone. Molly was happy and Dylan was and always would be her hero.
"Come on then!"
Jackson held up the camera to Dylan as they ran, and gave her the thumbs up. Dylan had wanted to do today's video diary while they ran. It was the third day and both Dylan and Jackson looked worse for wear. Drenched in sweat and running through the pain barrier with different injuries, but happily for Dylan they were an hour ahead of Charlie today and two hours overall. He had slowed considerably on the second and third days.
Dylan addressed the camera. "So this is our third day of the MDS event. After the high of our first day, we really feel like we are in the toughest race in the world! Yesterday's race was full of hills and sand dunes, and it's really hurt my Achilles. Jackson here is having a lot of pain from her knees; on top of that, we have painful blisters on our feet that are making every step excruciating. Everyone is getting slower and a lot of people are walking by this stage, but were managing to keep running. Today's leg of the race will probably take around six and half hours and at the moment were around three hours in."
Dylan indicated to Jackson to give her the camera and pointed it on her. " Jackson how are you finding it?"
"It's tough. The heat is worse than the pain, it's well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and there's just no hiding place. The main problem is dehydration. We're losing so much fluid through sweat that when we get to the water checkpoint, we can't physically drink enough to replace what we've lost, so we're always playing catch up."
Jackson took the camera back and Dylan said. "We're just trying to take one hour at a time and keep going, and not think about what's ahead, but tomorrow is weighing on our minds. It will be the longest leg of the six day race, seventy six kilometers, which can take people anything up eighteen hours to complete, and part of the race will be in the dark, so were kinda dreading that. We'll check in again later guys. Wish us luck!"
Dylan indicated for Jackson to shut off the camera. "Stop it there Jack, the water stop is just up ahead."
Jackson slowed a little to slip the small camera back in a pouch in the side of a backpack. "I know why you wanted to shut off the camera here." Jackson panted.
"What are you talking about?" Dylan asked with a frown.
"You don't want your wife to see us run right through the water stop, and just grab a bottle of water as we go, unlike everyone else who takes five or ten minutes to drink properly, tend to their feet and injuries. If Emily knew she would kick your butt so hard."
Dylan growled in frustration. " Jackson you're starting to sound like my wife, not my best friend. You know I want to finish as the fastest female ever, and beat fucking jerkoff back there. If you want to take it easier then go ahead, I'm not stopping you!"
"Hey calm down. I'm doing my job as your friend, to try and get your stupid brain to run this thing properly, not kill yourself because of trying to beat a record or a stupid guy. Besides I promised Emily I'd keep you in one piece, because she knows you can't be trusted."
Dylan turned her head and gave her friend an angry look. "You do what you want okay? I'm going to run this race how I want; you can either run with me or stay behind!"
Dylan sped up, from their steady pace and ran on herself. "You're a stubborn pig headed asshole!"
Jackson shouted after her. She kept her own pace for a few minutes. If I leave her to race on her own she'll probably kill herself. With a sigh she sped up to catch her friend.
Back at the camp, the camera crew was getting footage of Sandy and Dr Jenkins monitoring the two runner's heart rate and core temperature in the computer tent.
"How's it looking Doc?" Sandy asked, unsure what the numbers and graphs on the computer screen meant.
He pointed to the screen. "I'm concerned about their heart rates and temperatures. With the heat at 110 degrees Fahrenheit or more today, and not being able to replace the fluids they're losing, I'm worried about the onset of heat exhaustion. Yesterday both of them only urinated twice, that shows me they are not getting enough fluids."
"What are the symptoms of heat exhaustion and dehydration Dr Jenkins?"
"Mental confusion, lack of co-ordination, seizures, anxiety, short temper, problems understanding or speaking to others, and finally hallucinations and loss of consciousness."
This news really worried Sandy . "What will you do next doc?"
"When they get back and have some food and rest, I'll examine them and see if they present any of these symptoms. I will have to at the very least need to get then to run a much slower place, especially with tomorrow's leg of the race ahead of them. Day four is the time the runners start to run into big problems."
"Okay, thanks doc." Sandy turned to the camera and said. "Let's get to the finish line and wait for them coming in, guys."
The camera crew watched as on as Dylan lay in agony, arm thrown over her face, on a pallet in the medical tent.
A nurse sat at her feet using a scalpel and sterile needles on her feet which were raw and bloody. "Argh! Fuck!" She shouted as the nurse cut into her foot.
Jackson had already received her treatment and went back to their tent to lie down. Dr Jenkins was at Dylan's side putting on a blood pressure cuff. "Talk to me Dylan. How do you feel?"
She struggled and twisted in pain as the nurse popped blisters and cut away skin on her feet. "How do think I feel? Like fucking shit!"
Dylan was so wrapped up in her pain that she wasn't aware off the camera filming her. A lot would have to be edited and bleeped out before being shown to the TV audience.
"No, I need specifics Dylan. Do you feel dizzy, sick?"
"Ugh...just sick. I can't stomach the food pouches I brought. I'm just using the protein powder in water."
Dr Jenkins having taken Dylan's pressure moved onto listening to her chest. "Dylan if you want to keep racing, you have to eat those meals. My team and I worked hard on the food plan to make sure it was the best it could be for you. You can't race without the proper nutrition."
"What do you want me to do? I feel sick all the time. I'm not gonna eat it!"
Dr Jenkins sighed inwardly, all Dylan's vitals and irritability were pointing towards dehydration. Jackson 's symptoms were not as pronounced as she didn't have as large a frame. The nurse had finished the painful bit and was now wrapping up Dylan's feet.
"Dr Jenkins, I'm not sure how Dylan will be able to run tomorrow. Her feet are in a really bad way." The nurse said.
"Of course I'll be able to race!" Dylan snapped. "My stupid feet are not going to stop me!"
The nurse pulled off her surgical gloves and said to the Doctor. "I'll leave that up to your physician Ms Morgan." She was well used to the obstinate nature of the athletes a few days into the race.
"Dylan, she's only doing her job."
"Can I go now?" Dylan said moodily.
"I still have a few more things to check. How many times did you urinate today?"
Dylan hesitated, knowing the answer was going to mean trouble. She was aware of the camera crew recording this conversation, and indicated to them to leave. When they were gone Dylan said. "Um...once."
Dr Jenkins shook his head. "You are definitely suffering from dehydration and the beginnings of heatstroke. You need fluids if you're going to compete tomorrow. I'll set up a saline drip."
As he stood Dylan grabbed his arm. "No! No fluids. I'm not having the two hour penalty that goes with it."
"You're not thinking clearly, it's my responsibility to do my best for you. You have a 76 kilometer day ahead of you."
Dylan swung her legs over the side of the pallet. "I'm fine. I'm still coherent, aware of my surroundings, I'll be okay. Tonight I'll make sure I take a lot of bottled water and sports drinks. I'll be good as knew in the morning. Okay Doc?"
Dylan had managed to stumble back to her tent with the aid of a crutch. She wouldn't admit it out loud, but she was in absolute agony every time she put her feet down. The rocky stony parts of the Sahara were unforgiving, even through good quality shoes. She was now lying quietly in her tent reading her message from Emily and Molly.
She smiled thinking about Molly taking part in her charity challenge day at school. She was so proud of her little girl; Molly was always trying to be just like her.
Dylan picked up the laminated picture of her family she had brought to the dessert with her, and ran her finger across their faces, as if she could feel them. Her heart ached with longing to be with them, to read Molly her story at night, to stroke and talk to their little one inside in Emily's stomach, and to kiss and make love to her wife. She closed her eyes and tried to remember the feeling and sensation of burying her face into crook of Emily's neck. That was her happy place, where she could revel in her wife's unique scent, and feel utter love and contentment.
Her thoughts were interrupted by Jackson shaking her. "Hey? Don't go to sleep. Dr Jenkins says you've got to keep taking small sips for the next few hours."
Dylan took the sports drink solution the doctor had prescribed. "I wasn't sleeping, I was thinking. How can you even be up on your feet Jackson?"
"They're not too bad after the nurse took care of them. I've got harder feet than you TV star. You don't do thousands of patrols in army boots in Afghanistan and Iraq , without getting tough feet." Jackson gave her a cocky wink.
"Oh shut up!" Dylan said moodily.
Jackson sat on her sleeping bag, and took out one of the little bags of food, that they had in their backpacks. "I thought that would annoy you. Now just drink up or you won't be racing tomorrow."
Oh, I'll be racing. Dylan thought as she gulped her drink.
"So what did your girlfriend have to say? Has she realized now you're away what a complete asshole you are?"
Jackson just smiled at her. The two had been sniping at each other all day, but Jackson knew it just the conditions making their usual way of goading each other worse.
"Nope. She said she can't wait for me to come back to her arms and that her bed is so lonely without me."
"Yuck! Too much information Hunter!" Jackson laughed along with Sandy who was watching them with amusement.
Dylan took a breath and let it out slowly. "I've been moody jerk, haven't I?"
Jackson and Sandy smiled and nodded. "It's okay though, we've got your back, haven't we Sandy ?"
"Sure. We have thick skins too." Sandy told her.
"Okay I've got it. I'm just sore and exhausted. So tell me the news from home." Dylan asked her friends.
"Rosie says that five more companies have signed up to sponsor us. She's so excited."
"Cool our live summer special is going to be an amazing show! We'll need to get you some clothes though, make you look a bit less...soldiery."
Jackson looked at Dylan sharply. "What do you mean live summer special?"
"The shows we are taking footage for? You know when you've been holding up the camera for me?" Dylan said as if Jackson was dim witted.
"I thought that was just for website...oh no way am I going TV. Forget it Morgan!"
"Don't be an idiot Jackson! Of course you are! It's gonna be great. The three of us talking about our experiences, cut between the footage we've taken. It'll be fantastic!"
"No! No! No! Do you hear me? There is no way I'm doing live TV in front of millions! It's bad enough that I have to run through the desert like a fucking condom with wings, and put up with your surly attitude. Just no!" Jackson got up angrily and hobbled out the tent as quickly as possible.
Sandy looked worriedly at Dylan. She'd never seen the cool and calm Jackson to lose her temper like that. It was normally Dylan doing that sort of thing. "Do you think I should go and see if she's okay Dylan?"
"Nah! She's fine. She's missing her girlfriend or something, she'll do it. Just ignore her. So?"
Sandy looked back and forth between outside the tent and Dylan, a bit confused. "Eh...so? What?"
"You had a message from Lynn . What happening back home?" Dylan was concerned about how Sandy 's 'outing' was being handled.
Sandy dropped her head and rubbed her hands nervously. "Uh...yeah...uh...she says that she's done a deal with the magazine that was gonna out me, giving them an exclusive interview if they do it my terms. Uh...you know I use them for my coming out interview?"
Dylan nodded. "Yep, sounds like a great plan. I told you Lynn would sort you out. So are they waiting till you get home?"
"Yeah, I'm really relieved. I mean my mom has always known about me but I didn't want her to have the worry and aggravation of seeing it, you know?"
"I know the feeling. I wish I could give you Lynn full time, but I wouldn't survive without her. I'm sure she'll find you someone great though. What about your sponsors?"
"She said when she explained how it was going to be handled...uh...in the magazine, that all of them except one was happy to continue with me. I'm so relieved. I want this gym to be success. It's all I have."
Dylan felt sorry for her young friend, she always appeared so lonely. "Hey I know what it's like to achieve so much so young. You've got something to focus on now. Make the next chapter of your life just as successful. Okay?"
Sandy forced a smile onto her face. "I will."
Tommy and Pattie had offered to take Molly out for the day to the children's zoo, to give Emily a break. She decided to take full advantage and invited Rosie over for the day. One of the other Mom's at school had told Emily about a very exclusive spa on the Island that would bring the treatments to your home, for a price, but since Dylan was off having fun she decided to enjoy herself.
"This is the life Em!" The two women were reclined on the treatment benches in the main room of the pool house, wearing thick spa robes. All the doors and windows had been opened to allow the cool breeze and sea air to waft in.
Both women had a green face mask on while the beauty experts, Tanya and Zo ë gave them a manicure. "It sure is. I think we deserve it don't you? Dylan and Jackson are off doing their thing so why shouldn't we?"
They both chuckled. "Do you think they're having fun?"
"I bet they are, it'll be like one big adventure for them. I know we were really worried but everyone I speak to assures me it's a very well event, so I've decided to just go with it. Besides Jackson 's sensible, she'll make sure Dylan doesn't do anything stupid."
"Hmm, I hope so." Rosie said. "But trouble does seem to like follow them around."
"It's getting worse Dylan! If we don't stay where we are, we're going to die out here!"
Jackson and Dylan had set off for the mammoth 72 kilometer race day in good heart but carrying injuries dealing with a lot of pain. They had been going for around four hours when the wind picked up in intensity and they found themselves in the middle of a sandstorm. The ground and sky merged into one as the tornado whipped the sand into the air. All competitors were advised before the marathon started, in the event of a sandstorm they were to don their storm scarfs and stay in the one place, and wait it out. Dylan had not wanted to lose any time so convinced Jackson to plough on through the storm.
"Okay. You're right. Let's just get down this incline and hunker down!" Dylan shouted over the raging storm.
They tried to take each step as carefully as possible but soon Jackson couldn't see her friend in front of her. "Dylan! I can't see you."
"I'm just in front...fuck!" Jackson panicked when she heard her friend yell out and fall. She rushed forward and tripped on a protruding rock, and rolled uncontrolled down the hill and landing in heap on top of Dylan. They lay unconscious, with the sand whipping up and covering their unmoving bodies.
Dylan became aware of a voice in the distance and she tried to open her eyes, but it was so hard.
"Hey Dylan wake up!" The voice said.
Again she used all her energy and effort to force her eyes open. "Dylan? Come on. Open up those eyes."
They opened and the strange scene before her started to come into view. Dylan was exactly where she had fallen, on the sandy desert floor, with Jackson unconscious beside her. That was where the normal picture ended. All around them the air was calm, still and unnatural. She couldn't feel the relentless baking sun on her back, and ten feet in front on them the sand storm still raged. It was as if they were in the protection of a bubble, while the storm continued outside. Dylan brought herself to her feet and was surprised that she felt no pain what so ever, despite all the injuries she had been carrying, and the fact that she now had a deep gash on her thigh, from one of the sharp rocks she hit on the way down hill. What the hell is going on?
Dylan looked down at Jackson 's body lying peacefully beside her, but her ankle looked badly misshapen and swollen.
She walked over to the edge of the calm bubble, and touched her palm to the invisible barrier.
"I wouldn't do that." A voice behind her said.
Dylan jumped around to look at the last person she expected to see. "Joey?"
A smaller framed version of herself stood a few feet away. Dylan's little brother had died from a drug overdose nearly three years before. "Hi big sister."
She ran and tried to hug him but her arms just went through him. "Sorry Sis. You can't touch me and I can't touch you. Stupid rules." He rolled his eyes as if this was a completely normal situation.
"But...but...but Joey you're..." Dylan could hardly get her words out.
"Dead? Yeah I know."
"Am I dead?" The thought made her heart ache painfully. It meant never seeing her family again, and breaking her promise to Emily that she would come home safely.
"Hmm...not quite dead." Joey said cryptically.
"How can it be so calm in here and the storm is just a few feet away? Is this a hallucination?"
"Does it really matter what it is? I mean as long as you can see me that's all the matters, right?"
It was as if it finally dawned on Dylan who she was talking to and tears started to fall from her eyes.
"I've missed you so much little bro. I'm sorry I didn't get there in time to help you." Joey smiled softly and lifted his hand to the side of her face, in a comforting gesture.
"You don't ever have to be sorry Dylan. I was weak. I understand everything now and I know where I went wrong. You tried to help me all the time and I just threw it back in your face. I'm sorry."
"I'm your big sister; I should have been able to help..."
Joey took a step toward her. "Now stop that kind of talk. I was the one that failed in so many ways, the only worthwhile thing I ever did in my miserable life was to help you get your kids."
A beaming smile came to Dylan's face. "Have you seen Molly?"
"Oh yeah, I pop in when I can. She's beautiful Dylan, so like you, and the new baby will be just as beautiful."
"They are my life. Thank you so much for helping me get them. You sent me to Emily's diner didn't you?"
Joey laughed. "Hmm, did I? Well everything that happens is meant to happen. Emily was destined to be with you, but let's just say I helped you find her and Molly a lot quicker than you would have done. "
"What was meant to happen?" It made Dylan feel sick at the thought of not walking into the diner that night.
"That I can't say, but just know, they are meant to be your family big Sis and you were meant to have Mom and Dad back in your life. It makes me so happy to see you all together and happy. Dad was so miserable without you. I tell you he was real hard work to get through to."
"Now, we don't have much time left. When you wake up you need to get your friend, and keep walking, no matter how much it hurts. Emily and the kids need you, and will always need you."
"How will I know where to go? The storm..."
"Just head for the trees and keep going. I love you Dylan. You've got everything you ever wanted, and now I can move on."
"I love you, little bro." Dylan's voice cracked with emotion.
Joey walked away from his sister toward the edge of the bubble, but before leaving turned and gave his sister a big smile and a wink. "Maybe I'll see you again one day?"
A flash of light surrounded him and Dylan's world went black.
Emily paced back and forward holding her phone to her ear, and nervously rubbing her baby bump. In the middle of the spa treatment, Emily felt all the hairs on her arms stand on end. She jumped up and suddenly felt a strange, cold and heavy feeling deep in the pit of her stomach.
All she knew was she had to get to a phone and find out if Dylan was okay. " Lynn , I don't care about race rules. I need to know she's alright!"
"I'm sorry Emily. I got through to base camp, and spoke to the race organizer. He said this stage can take runners over eighteen hours to complete, and none of the athletes have come across the finish line yet. He did say that there had been a sandstorm in the area, and that he expected that it would delay some runners. There's no way to contact them while they're still out there."
Tears of frustration started to fall down Emily's cheeks, and Rosie put an arm round her to try and reassure her.
"What about all these doctors with computers monitoring them that Dylan assured me of? Can they not tell that they are at least moving and well?"
"The sandstorm has messed up communications, so they can't get any of the information. Dylan's producer Ethan is going to call me as soon as they get in. That's the best I can do, Emily."
Emily sighed. "Okay Lynn . Thanks anyway. Be sure and call me when you know anything."
She ended the call and turned to her friend. "They don't know anything."
"Have you ever had a feeling like this before?" Rosie asked her friend.
"No. Maybe it's nothing."
"Let's just pray you're right. When they get home though, I'm never letting Jack out of my sight again. I hate this feeling!"
Dylan's eyes sprang open. "Joey? Joey?"
She soon realized that she was back to reality and her brother was gone. The sun was beating down relentlessly, and she could feel every one of her injuries and pains.
Dylan pushed herself up, using all her strength and stumbled toward Jackson . "Hey buddy? Can you hear me? Wake up?" She lightly smacked her friends face trying to wake her.
"Hmm. Rosie darlin?" Jackson mumbled.
"Nope Sorry buddy. There's no good looking girlfriend to kiss your boo boo better, but if you don't wake up we won't see our girls again."
Jackson tried to move, and felt an intense searing pain in her ankle. "Oh fuck! Fuck!"
"Hey! Don't move your leg. I think you've broken your ankle." Dylan rummaged around in their backpacks.
"Yeah it feels like it. Ah! Jesus Christ that hurts!" Dylan handed Jackson painkillers.
"Here take these. It's not much but it's better than nothing." She took two out of the packet for herself.
"We don't have any water but I think we can swallow them with this protein gel."
"Thanks." Jackson took the pill and greedily swallowed down the gel, hoping it would quench her thirst."
She noticed a long, ragged looking cut on Dylan's thigh, but worryingly it didn't seem to have been bleeding. "That's a bad cut you've got."
Dylan kept rummaging through the bags until she pulled out two headlights. "It's not bleeding, so it's fine."
"That means you're very dehydrated Dylan."
"I know, but there's nothing I can do about that now. We have to just keep going. Here put this on, it's getting dark." She threw the light to Jackson, who grabbed it and said.
"You can't take me. It makes no sense. Go on without me and get help."
Dylan stood on her very painful feet and simply ignored Jackson 's advice. "We can't take both backpacks so you take one and I'll carry you on my back."
Jackson thought Dylan was insane. "That is impossible. You're severely dehydrated with probable heat exhaustion, we have no idea where we are, and have hours to go. I'm taking command here. Go and find help, that is the most logical thing to do."
Dylan got a bandana to tie round her head, out of her backpack, and a new pair of sunglasses. She put them on and looked down at her friend. "One, I'm not one of your soldiers Major Hunter. Two, I owe you my life, and my family's life. Three, you're the best friend I've ever had, and four...if you ever repeat this to anyone I'll tell them you were hallucinating...I love yak...in a buddy way obviously, cause personally I think you're as ugly as hell!"
If Jackson hadn't been so dehydrated, she knew she would have struggled to choke down her emotions. She smiled and raised an eyebrow to her friend.
"Is there a five?" Dylan extended her hand down to help Jackson up.
"Yeah, Shut the hell up and let's get moving. If we die, we die together."
Dylan got her friend up on her good leg, and then half lifted and pulled Jackson onto her back. "So where are we heading genius?" She asked Dylan.
"We're heading for that group of palm trees in the distance then I'll decide from there. I have a hunch."
Dylan stumbled over her first few steps forward with Jackson holding round her neck, but soon got into a rhythm.
"I love yak too, even though you're an egotistical, big headed, arrogant jerk. Just don't start kissing me again."
Dylan laughed. "I'll try hard to contain my passion, asshole."
This was as open and heartfelt as the two friends could get, but both knew as they stumbled onwards, that they would get there together or die trying.
They made their way, at a snail's pace, towards the tree's Dylan had spotted. When they made it there, an exhausted Dylan laid Jackson down against the palm tree and began to search the perimeter. She thanked God they had packed lights as they would have helpless in the desert evening darkness without them.
"Don't go too far away and get lost in the darkness Dylan!" Jackson shouted into the blackness.
"It's okay. I can see you."
A few minutes later Dylan reappeared and collapsed down beside her friend, breathing heavily. "I've found it." Dylan panted.
"...runners...footprints. I don't know how long we need to go, but if we keep following the track then we'll get back to civilization, if I don't pass out before then."
"And if we don't make it?"
Dylan turned a weary head toward her friend. "Then at least we'll be found. They'll check the route and find us."
Jackson could only nod her head at the somber thought. "Hey, before we set off again, lift all the rocks around this area and lick the moisture from underneath. Watch out for scorpions though."
A hesitant Dylan lifted the rock beside her and found drops of water waiting for her. "Whoa! How'd you know that?"
"I was a special forces officer, trained in desert survival remember? If we pass any cactus, shout out, we can suck moisture from the pulp too. If we don't get back anytime soon, I have a few more...less palatable options we can choose to survive."
Dylan screwed up her face. "I'm guessing I don't want to contemplate that yet. Here you take the first rock." When Dylan held the stone out to her, Jackson pushed it away.
"Oh no. You are using all of the water, and I'm not taking no for an answer this time. You are the one that's expending all the energy to get us out of this, so you need the water."
"No Dylan. Please. Just use all the moisture and let's get out of here."
Dylan nodded and began to lift all the rocks she could see. "Oh and Dylan? After this were even. You owe me nothing but your friendship." Jackson held out her hand and Dylan grasped it tightly.
Sandy, Ethan, Dr Jenkins and the camera crew, watched on anxiously as runners crossed the finish line. It was late and the pitch darkness was making it hard to see who was ahead.
The group was becoming more and more concerned as runners who had been well behind Dylan and Jackson had already passed through.
"There's something wrong. There's no way it would take them so long." Sandy said to the rest of Team Morgan.
"It's too early to panic." Dr Jenkins said. "The sandstorm has held everyone up, and you know the organizers tell the athletes to stop and wait out the storm before moving on. That's the rules."
"That's what worries me Doc. When have you known Dylan to follow the rules?"
The Doctor couldn't answer Sandy . She was right, Dylan would stop at nothing to gain an advantage, and that was what was so dangerous.
Sandy stared off into the inky blackness praying to see her friends appear from the gloom.
Dylan and Jackson had long since given up expending the energy to communicate. They had settled into a rhythm of walking for few minutes before stopping to rest. Dylan was utterly exhausted and on the brink of collapse as every step forward felt like running the whole marathon again. Her mind and her body were screaming to lie down and sleep, and the dizzy sick feeling was making every step even harder.
With a final labored step, Dylan's knees gave way and she fell face first into the sand, Jackson smashing into her back, and further injuring her ankle. Dylan's vision was blurry, her hearing was buzzing and sounds echoed around her. She felt like she was drowning, falling deeper into the blackness within which she would never wake up.
Behind her Jackson tried through the intensity of her own pain, to rouse her. "Dylan? Come on! Wake up! Dylan!"
In Dylan's confused state, she heard her name being called, but it was not Jackson 's voice she heard. She forced her weary head to look up and saw a shimmering image of her wife standing over her.
"Get up Dylan. There isn't long to go. I need you to come back to me. Please Goofy...I love you...get up..."
Jackson heard friend mumbling about Emily. "Yes Dylan. Get up for Emily. You can do it for Emily!"
Remarkably even though out of energy, Dylan started to get to her feet, and then pull up her friend. Jackson tried to make the load easier on her friend by putting an arm round Dylan's shoulders and hopping on her good leg.
"That's it my friend, keep going. We can do it. Just keep thinking about Emily."
Dylan didn't make a sound; she was lost in her own head following the retreating image of her wife.
"Follow me Dyl, you can do it, I know you can. Just focus on me honey and keep going."
"I...will...do...it...Emmie. Love...you." Dylan struggled to say with each rasping breath.
After around another mile of walking and various stops to rest for a few minutes, the image of Emily suddenly stopped bringing Dylan to a halt. Emily smiled. "I knew you could do it. Come back to me. I love you."
Emily's figure shimmered then slowly dissipated into the darkness, and from behind her a whole raft of bright lights came into view in the distance.
Jackson shouted. "Dylan! There's the finish up ahead! You did it! Let's keep going before you collapse again."
Every part of Dylan burned with pain, and her vision was so blurry that she could barely make out the bright light ahead, but her wife's words echoed around her head like a mantra keeping her going.
Come back to me, I love you. Come back to me, I love you. Come back to me, I love you...
Sandy and the crew were really worried now. Some of the slowest runners were starting to come through, which meant all the time the pair had made over the past couple of days was nearly used up.
"Can we not do something Ethan? They could be lying out there unconscious, and needing help. Emily and Rosie are so worried back home."
Ethan rubbed a hand over his growing beard nervously. "I spoke to the race guys; we couldn't mount a search till day light. We just have to hope they come in before then."
"Look!" Doctor Jenkins shouted.
From the blackness emerged to pin pricks of light, and then they saw them lumbering forward toward the finish line. Sandy and the Doctor ran forward to meet them when they realized Jackson was injured.
"What happened Dylan?"
"No time...help Jackson . Need to finish myself..." Sandy and the Doctor exchanged worried glances, Dylan looked deathly ill. They took Jackson from her and Dylan moved on at a snail's pace.
Sandy and the doctor carried Jackson as fast as they could past Dylan and to the finish line.
"Let's get her to the medical tent." Dr Jenkins said.
"No. I need to see her cross the line. She saved us." Jackson said.
The doctor nodded and shouted for some medics to be ready to help as soon as Dylan finished.
Ethan directed the cameraman to record every part in this remarkable end to the race. They captured each torturous footstep until Dylan fell to her knees and crawled over the line.
The medics that rushed around her heard her mumble. "I did it Joey."
Having had Jackson stretchered off to the medical tent, Dr Jenkins rushed to Dylan's side, and crouched down beside her.
"Talk to me Dylan. What are you feeling?"
Dylan was now up on her knees, panting and trying to get her breath back. "Give...me a minute...doc. Uh face tingling...where am I? Need to keep running."
She got up and the doctor and another medic took her by the arms. "There's no more running Dylan. You've crossed the line." Then he said to the medic. "We need to get her some fluids, she's confused and hyperventilating."
As they walked her over they started to notice Dylan's hands and arms starting pull up into odd shapes, and her body started to twitch out of control.
"Let's lift her, her whole body is cramping up."
They raced to the tent and laid her on one of the pallets. Jackson, who was in the pallet next to her, watched in horror as Dylan looked like a stiff wide eyed corpse.
A nurse pricked Dylan's thumb and used the blood sugars kit to test her blood. Dr Jenkins grasped Dylan's chin and said. "Open your mouth for me Dylan. Come on, open."
Inside Dylan was trying to do just that, but felt her body frighteningly out of control. Open! Move! Please God let me move!
"Take deep breaths Dylan. Deep breaths and try and open your mouth for me."
Dylan concentrated hard and felt the muscles in her body loosen and she opened her mouth. "That's it, well done. Can you speak?"
Dr Jenkins took Dylan's pulse. "Not yet. Rest for a few minutes then you can take small sips."
The nurse using the blood test kit said. "Ms Morgan's blood sugar is very low Dr Jenkins."
"Okay, set up a saline drip." The nurse began to set on up the line and bag on the stand beside the pallet.
"No!" Dylan mumbled.
Dr Jenkins lowered his ear closer to his patient. "What?"
"No...drip...no...penalty." As soon as Dylan heard the word drip the competitive part of her brain screamed out for her to stop it.
"You're saying no drip?" The doctor repeated.
Jackson heard what she said and shouted over. "Are you insane Dylan? Take the fucking drip! You're in serious danger , you idiot!"
Dr Jenkins shook his head. "We have no idea whether you'll even be able to finish the race, far less worry about a time penalty."
Dylan reached up and held the doctors arm. "Please...give me...chance."
Jackson shouted to the doctor. "Don't listen to her! She's delusional!"
The doctor sighed. "You've have fifty minutes to drink and keep the liquid down, if you don't I'll be forced to insert the saline bag. Do you understand me?"
Dylan nodded and he handed her a water bottle. "She took a gulp and within seconds she was over the side of the bed, bringing it up along with the bile left in her stomach."
Oh God! Just kill me now! Thought Dylan.
Once she had stopped, the doctor said again. "Fifty minutes Dylan, no more, no less, or the bag goes in. Take little sips but often. I'm going to check on Jackson now, I'll be back okay?"
She began to take the tiniest of sips, and as they settled in her stomach, her confidence grew and she drank more. Feeling a lot less confusion and her vision coming back to normal, she realized the crew had her on camera the whole time, and still did. Uh oh. Emmie is going to kick my butt so bad when she sees this. Maybe she'll make me sleep in the pool house!
Dylan heard her name being called and turned to see it was Jackson . "You're a fucking idiot you know that right? What does two hours difference make when you don't even know if you can race again?"
"I just want a chance. Just one chance, I won't kill myself...over it...learned my lesson."
"Oh, and what lesson is that?" Jackson asked.
"Pushing us both so hard was wrong....it's my fault...I'm sorry Jack."
"No, it's not your fault, I had a choice and I could have said no and made more of an effort to stop you. I wanted to beat that bastard too."
Dylan suddenly remembered they were being filmed, and asked Ethan and the crew to leave. When she turned back to her friend, she noticed the drip hooked up to her friend and guessed her race was run. "What did the doc say?"
"Dehydration, and my ankles definitely broken, but they need an X-ray in case I need surgery. He's gone to organize a transport for first thing in the morning. I can't believe I won't finish, after all we went through. If it hadn't been for that stupid storm we would have made an amazing time."
Jackson let out a big sigh. "There's always next year."
Dylan spluttered out a mouthful of water in shock. "You would do something like this with me again?"
"Sure. You're not the only one that's competitive. I loved the challenge and it makes me sick that I can't finish with you."
"You think I'll be able to race tomorrow?"
Jackson chuckled, after her initial fear for Dylan's health and seeing that she was starting to keep water down, she knew Dylan would race.
"Dylan, you could have lost your feet and you'd still be on that start line tomorrow. You're the determined individual I've ever met. You can push your body so far into the darkness and still come out again. With what you've just gone through, most people would be near death and unconscious but you're lying there talking to me about running tomorrow. You should have been in the military."
"Nah, I don't like taking orders."
"So I noticed!"
It was Dylan's turn to laugh. "I know I'm an asshole sometimes, well most of the time, I don't know how Emily or you put up with me."
"Don't start getting mushy on me again! Remember what's done in the desert stays in the desert."
At first Dylan wasn't sure what her friend meant, but as her head was clearing she remembered telling her buddy what she meant to her. She swallowed hard and couldn't meet Jackson 's eyes. "Yeah well...in extreme situations people say lots of things they wouldn't normally but...uh you know you're my best buddy."
Jackson felt equally awkward. "You too."
Luckily for both of them Sandy interrupted them. "Hey guys, what happened? I was so worried!"
"Sandstorm messed us up and Jackson fell over this big rock." Dylan's told her.
"You're gonna be okay though right?"
"Yeah, we'll live. Don't worry about me and Jackson here." Dylan actually believed she would be. As much pain as she was in, each mouthful of water was slowly calming her down, and helped ease her muscles.
"Cool, I'll go and get a message to Emily, and tell her not to worry."
Dylan and Jackson exchanged looks. "Wait! How does Emily know something was wrong?"
"She got Lynn to call camp. Says she had a really bad feeling something was wrong."
All Dylan's memories came rushing back to her. Talking to Joey and finding out she was destined to meet her wife, Emily talking to her and beckoning her forward towards home, and how close she had been to death. If Emily was so closely attuned to her soul then she put her through anguish, while carrying their child for the sake of her ego. In that one moment everything became crystal clear.
"Yeah, please call her, and tell her I'm okay, a bit sore but okay, and I'm gonna try and finish the race if I can, but..."
Dylan struggled to find the words. "Just tell her, the decision I've been going back and forth about? I've made it. It's over. It's time to find new challenges."
Sandy was confused, and looked between Dylan and Jackson hoping to understand, but Jackson was just as confused.
"Just tell her that Sandy . She'll understand." Now It's so clear to me. Time to grow up.
"Okay, yes. Thanks Sandy . Yes okay, Rosie is with me so I'll pass that on." Pattie and Rosie and were sat round the kitchen table anxiously waiting for news about Dylan. Tommy had been tasked with the job of keeping Molly busy playing, so she didn't see how nervous everyone was.
Emily hung up the phone and said. "They're both safe and..." Suddenly overcome with relief, she burst into tears, and Pattie jumped up to comfort her. "It's alright sweetheart. Let it out. That's it."
"I'm sorry. I..." When Emily tried to talk she chocked up, but she knew everyone was anxious to hear the news, especially Rosie, who had been bravely holding it together till then.
She took a few deep breaths and sat down next to Rosie. "They got caught in the sandstorm, and lost for a bit but found the trail and made it back, just very late. I'm sure there's a lot more to the story that we can find out later. They're both dehydrated but Sandy says there responding well and Dr Jenkins thinks they'll be fine. Rosie..."
Rosie heart sank, and she knew deep inside that there was something more to come. "It's nothing to worry about. They think Jackson has broken her ankle so they're going to transport her to hospital at first light."
Even though Rosie realized it wasn't serious, she couldn't help the tears that tumbled down cheeks. The thought of Jackson being so far away and in pain, made her hurt inside. "How about Dylan?"
"She's okay apart from the heat exhaustion and dehydration."
"We'll thank God they're okay. I'll go and tell Tommy." Pattie said and left the two girls along.
"I just knew they'd get into trouble!" Rosie was angry, but ached just to hold Jackson and make sure she was safe.
Emily had very similar feelings. "Rosie? How do feel about a little trip to Morocco ?"
Rosie looked surprised but soon a smile crept onto her face. "I think that's a great idea!"
The morning dawn brought much activity to the desert camp, a hobbling Dylan followed Jackson 's stretcher out of the clinic, to a waiting chopper to take her friend off to hospital.
"Dylan? Just wait here, I'll be okay. You need to get those feet treated." Jackson told her friend.
The medics stopped, giving the friends time to say goodbye. "Okay. Just take care huh buddy?"
"I will. You saved my life Dylan. I'll never forget that."
Dylan clasped her friends hand tightly. "You've done the same for me, and I know you would do it again."
"It's all downhill from here. The next two stages are shorter, but take it steady. You're lucky to be alive. No matter how remarkable Doctor Jenkins thinks your powers of recovery are, it will just be an achievement to finish this thing."
"Don't worry; I've had my wake up call. Slow and steady are my new middle names."
One of the medics said. "We need to get going, Ms Hunter."
"Okay let's go. I'll try and make it back to see you finish. Good luck!"
A few minutes later as Dylan watched the chopper take off, a very smug looking Charlie Berkoff walked up beside her.
"You've fucked up your chances now, girly. You're little detour let me catch up that couple of hours you had on me. There's no way you can make that up in the condition you're in."
Dylan kept a calm and cool expression on her face. "You're probably right."
Charlie patted her on the back in a condescending manner. "So, old Charlie is the first to beat the unbeatable Dylan Morgan? You should have left that friend of yours in the sand where she fell."
You are not even worth my time. Dylan thought, and then gave him a bright smile. "You're wrong on both counts jerkoff. My good friend Sandy Williams was the first to beat me, and as for leaving my buddy in the sand? Well that's the difference between you and me. I might be competitive, but the people I care about mean more to me than winning, and that's something you'll never understand. Enjoy the victory; I'm sure it's all you've got in your miserable little life."
Dylan hobbled off leaving Charlie furious that he couldn't get under the skin of the TV star.
As Jackson had predicted, the last two days were downhill, with each stage only around six and a half hours long, but it was still extremely painful due to the condition of Dylan's body. Her feet were so bad that by the final day, she felt like she was running on bare bone. With the support of Sandy , and her medical team, Dylan made it to the last stage. True to her word, she kept a slow but steady pace. She knew that she wouldn't make her target of the fastest ever female finish, or beat Charlie Berkoff, but after what she had been through, none of that seemed important anymore.
She could see the marathon finish line ahead, and by this stage she was barley moving fast enough to call it a run, but she just kept one foot going in front of the other. Up ahead she spotted Jackson , up to her knee in a cast and in crutches, along with Sandy cheering her on till the end.
I did it Joey! Thank you little bro. Dylan thought as she stepped over the finishing line and fell to her knees.
The camera caught every second and watched as she was lifted and pulled into the arms of her comrades. "You did it!" Jackson shouted, while Sandy shouted. "Woo Hoo!" At the top of her voice.
"Thanks guys." Dylan struggled to get air back into her rasping chest.
"This isn't a hallucination is it?"
One of the race staff brought over her finishing medal and draped it round her chest. "No way!" Sandy said straight away. "Look at medal around your neck! You're a true champion Dylan!"
They got her to the medical tent and Dylan finally accepted a saline drip to replace her badly depleted fluids.
"Hey, guess what Morgan?" Jackson said.
Jackson smiled at Sandy who she had already told the surprise news to. "I got a call on my way out here this morning. There are two girls waiting for you and me back at the hotel."
It slowly dawned on Dylan what Jackson meant, and she looked like all her Christmas's had come at once. "Emmie's here? Emmie and Rosie came out to be with us?"
"Yeah, and I don't know about you but I can't wait to see them."
"Oh shit!" Dylan seemed to lose her smile.
"What is it?" Jackson asked. "We're gonna get our asses kicked!"
Jackson hobbled along on her crutches to Rosie's room, a bunch of flowers held under her arm. She knocked and when her girlfriend opened the door, Rosie said nothing but looked her love up and down, carefully checking the extent of her injuries. "Hi darlin'." Jackson said, unsure of what her reception would be.
Still Rosie said nothing but stood aside to let Jackson hobble into her room. Jackson suddenly remembered her flowers and said. "Oh, these are for you. Your favorite, Roses for my Rosie. Could you take them? I'm out of hands here."
Rosie took them and hugged them to her. Jackson felt the tension in the room was palpable and didn't know what to do. "Rosie? Say something?"
"Say something? What like; how could you be so careless? How could you and Dylan risk your lives like that? Do you know how worried Em and I were? No, because the pair of you don't think do you! Take your stinking Roses!" Rosie threw the flowers straight at Jackson and they bounced off and tumbled to the floor.
"What did you do that for? Are you crazy woman? It was an accident. Why are you so angry?"
Rosie looked furious. "Why am I so angry? Why..." Rosie started to cry uncontrollably. "I'm angry because I was so scared, so scared of losing you! When Emily thought there was something wrong and we couldn't find out what was wrong, it was awful. I felt out of control and not able to do anything about it! Just like when..."
"When your mom was dying?" Rosie nodded.
"Then we got here and found out how close you two were to dying alone out there."
Jackson hopped closer to her girlfriend and threw one of her crutches away so that she could put her arm around Rosie. She had come to realize over the period of getting to know her girlfriend, that Rosie's obstinate nature and unwillingness for others to have control in her life, stemmed from losing her mom. If she couldn't control what happened to her mom, she would make sure that nothing and no one could control her. As their love grew, Rosie was learning to trust that Jackson would keep her heart safe, but when events like these came along, underneath it all, she was still that frightened little girl.
"Darlin', I know it's scary to love someone, and to be frightened they'll leave you, but I swear to you I would fight till my last breathe to come back to you. Trust me please, it was a close call at some points but I came back to you and I always will. I love you; you are my life Rosie Henderson."
Rosie's eyes turned from anger and sadness to passion in an instant, and attacked Jackson lips with that ferocious passion. "I love you so much Jack! Don't ever leave me!"
Jackson allowed herself to fall back onto the large hotel bed, pulling her girlfriend on top of her as she went.
They started to tear at each other's clothes with unrestrained desire. Even as she was about to lose herself in her love, Jackson thought. I'm going to give you the safety and security your heart needs my darlin' Rosie girl.
Emily had left a very reluctant Molly at home with her Grandparents. She was sorry to miss her daughter's special charity day at school, but simply needed to be here for her partner.
Dylan had been delighted to find her wife in her hotel room, after being transported back from the finish line, if not a little nervous about getting into trouble.
After hugs and kisses she was sent to the shower to wash the desert off herself. They were now very comfortably holding each other on the bed. Dylan told Emily, very honestly, about all she had gone through in the dessert.
"Do you think it really was Joey? Or a hallucination I talked to?" Dylan asked her wife.
Emily thought very carefully before she answered. Well, I'm not sure what to think, but just as Joey said to you, did it really matter if it was real or not? So long as it meant something to you, and brought some closure to the pain you've been holding in your heart. I know you have been, no matter how hard you tried to hide it."
Dylan pulled Emily closer and placed a hand on the baby, needing to feel as close to them as possible. "You always know what's in my heart, and in my soul, Emmie."
"And I always will, because my soul has known yours for a very long time that I know now with complete certainty. We both need each other in different ways, and before we met again, we were adrift."
"Yeah that's exactly it baby girl. That's how I feel."
"So, have you really decided then?" When Sandy had passed on the message from Dylan about having made her big decision, she had been both relieved and worried. Her decision had been about quitting the show, but Emily had heard Rain's warnings ringing in her ears.
"I think you will find that no matter what your lion filled her time with, she would always have that drive to prove herself. She cannot help it, it is just naturally part of her character, and to try and stop that need could lead to problems. A lion without its teeth feels lesser, incomplete. I would counsel you to make her think carefully about any changes to her life. It must be her decision."
"Yeah, everything just made sense to me in one moment. I need more time with you and Molly, and this little one, when he or she, comes along. I don't need you to be nervous all the time."
Emily raised herself up so she was looking down at her partner. "Dylan, I don't want you to make this decision for me, I want you to make it for you."
Dylan reached up and stroked an errant piece of hair behind Emily's ear. "Baby, it is my decision. Since we've met our life has been one drama after another, it's not just been hard for you and Molly but me too. I want this."
"But I know you Dylan; you need to be busy, to constantly challenge yourself. You'll make yourself miserable being at home all day."
"Hey, I won't. We'll have more time to do family things together, and I'll love spending time with you all, but I'll still work. Remember I own a multimillion dollar TV company, I'll still have that to manage, and my team and I will still make shows in one way or another, whether I'm fronting them or not. There will still be challenge in my life; I just won't have the pressure of a twice weekly, live show. I have all the stuff I need in my office at home."
"More like semi-retirement than actual retirement?" Emily asked.
"Yeah, work on my own terms. Besides its better to go out on top than being cancelled clinging to your show as it goes down. Don't worry I won't be wandering after you around the house, getting under your feet!"
Emily chuckled. "You're such a goof, you know that?"
"Uh? Yeah! Now kiss me Emmie, I have a lot of you to catch up on."
Emily smiled quizzically. "What about all your sore bits?"
"Hmm...yeah I am real sore. You better kiss them all. Get to it Mrs. Morgan! I am at your mercy." Dylan joked.
She saw the heat in her wife's eyes and gulped as Emily lowered her lips toward her. "Are your lips sore honey? I sure do hope so."
"Uh huh, and I got this constant ache going on lower down."
Dylan's mouth parted in anticipation of a kiss, and Emily teased around her lips with her tongue."
"Well, if it's aching down below so bad, I better take care of it, yes?"
Dylan could only moan into her wife's sweet mouth and think. Oh yeah, Baby girl!
Three weeks later...
Emily, Molly and Rosie stood backstage watching The Dylan Morgan show, summer charity special go out live. Dylan, Sandy and a terrified Jackson were on the couch on stage talking through their experiences as they showed the race footage.
"Mama, why Dackson ook scared and her hand shake?" Molly asked her mother. She thought Jackson was so big and strong like her mom that she was not used to seeing her like this.
"Poor Jack! She looks like she's facing a firing squad." Rosie said to her friend.
" Jackson just isn't used to being on TV and millions of people watching. That makes people nervous."
"I not nervous of TV." Molly said, feeling very proud of herself.
Emily and Rosie exchanged a smile. If the little girl could conceive of how many people were watching, she'd never go onstage with her mom, which was just what they planned at the end of the show.
Today's show wasn't just special because it was the charity show. It was special because it would be the last ever Dylan Morgan Show, and the end of an era. After returning home, Dylan had been locked in talks with her network over releasing her from her contract, and ending the show. The network was very reluctant to let her go, her star had never been brighter after all the drama of her relationship and marriage, and her exploits in the desert, making Dylan and Emily a golden couple in the media. Drama followed Dylan Morgan like her shadow, and drama meant ratings and advertising revenue.
Eventually, they had come to agreement with the help of Dylan's lawyer Cosmo. Dylan would pay up a portion of her final year's contract, purchase the studio that the network had built for The Dylan Morgan show, and they would have first refusal on any of Morgan Productions new TV show concepts.
It was going to be a sad night for all concerned but also the beginning of a new chapter for them all. At the end of the show, Dylan wanted to bring her family out to share her thank you's and goodbyes to her loyal viewers.
" Sandy looks quite relaxed though, don't you think? And she's such a quiet person." Rosie said to Emily.
"Yes, she does. I suppose she's been on camera a lot during her career, giving interviews and things. I know Dylan was really pleased with the presenting during the marathon event."
Emily picked Molly up into her arms and pointed onstage. "Look Molly, Mom's going to tell everyone how much they made."
Dylan stood and asked her guests to join her over at the totalizer screen. Jackson was still in a cast, and took a little longer to join them.
"Well, this is the moment we've all waited for. We've seen all we went through in the dessert, there were hard times, tough times, and even funny times, and added to that, I don't think my feet will ever be the same again!"
The crowd laughed and cheered as they had at every opportunity tonight, they felt the great excitement of being part of this special night.
"So, are we ready to find out how much we made so far?" Again the crowd cheered.
"Just remember even after the show you can keep donating by using the number along the bottom of your screen or you text, we can beat it, to 5055. All, the money we raised will be split between our main charity 'In the Pink' and many other worthy cancer charities. Together we can beat cancer."
Dylan was just as excited to know as anyone. She had asked the crew to keep the final amount from herself and her friends.
"You ready guys?" She asked Jackson and Sandy, who both smiled and nodded.
"You ready audience?" The crowd seemed to get louder every time she spoken them.
Dylan walked right up to the camera and looked down the lens. "Folks at home, are you ready?"
She put her hand to her ear pretending she could hear them, and said well, alright then. Let's have a countdown.
On the large screen behind Dylan, Jackson and Sandy, a ten second countdown appeared. The crowd joined in until the final amount appeared on the screen. Dylan and her friends looked at each other stunned, while the audience raised the roof off the building. The screen read five million, four hundred thousand.
Dylan ran and jumped onto Sandy 's back, mindful of knocking Jackson over. She jumped down and hugged Jackson , all the while yelling and whooping.
Emily and Rosie were similarly stunned. Rosie had broken down in tears and Emily hugged her tight. "Meeting you guys has changed my life Em, thank you so much! You have no idea how much good this will do."
The three friends onstage had calmed down enough for Dylan to address the audience. "Wow! Just wow! We are so humbled. Truly." On the big screen, the total screen changed to a montage of all the big companies that had sponsored them.
"I have to thank all the companies and organizations who pledged money and their time so generously, and of course you hard working folks at home, who put their hands in their pockets, and pledged money. We're gonna take a break and when we come back...well it's gonna be a sad goodbye. See you in five."
A voice in Dylan's ear said. "Off air, Dylan."
The crew came onto the studio floor ready to set up for the final section. Jackson and Sandy went back stage, and received hugs and kisses from Emily and Rosie, while Molly ran around excitedly with one of Dylan's stage crew.
"Can you believe it? You did so well Jack!" Rosie pulled her partner into the deep kiss, and Sandy looked around a little uncomfortably.
"Well done Sandy ." Emily stepped on her tip toes and gave Sandy a hug.
Sandy didn't know what to do with her hands, she'd had a little crush on Dylan's beautiful wife since she had met her, and being this close made her nervous. "Ugh....I didn't do anything. It was Jackson and Dylan that deserve the praise."
Emily knew that she made Sandy uncomfortable and she could guess why, but knew the gentle athlete was absolutely no threat to her relationship. Emily thought Sandy was one of the sweetest and kindest people she had met, and deserved someone who would truly love and care for her.
"Of course you did! You helped train them, you supported them, and you attracted sponsors. So, just take the praise when it's given, hmm?"
Sandy rubbed the back of her neck in a sweetly bashful manner. "Umm, okay thanks."
Emily surprised her again by giving her a kiss on the cheek. "Hey, unhand my wife!" A voice came from behind them.
Sandy jumped around with a terrified look upon her face, to find Dylan staring at her intently. "I...uh...I didn't mean...I wasn't..."
Dylan suddenly started laughing. "The look on your face!"
"Dyl, that was not funny, you'll give poor Sandy a heart attack." Emily chastised her partner.
Dylan put her arm round her friend. "Oh, come on buddy! You know I trust you with my family. Sandy released a long breath. "Oh man! I thought you were gonna kill me!"
"Nah, not today. Emmie, were back in one minute, can you grab Molly and get ready?"
"Okay. We'll be ready."
Dylan had assembled as much of the crew on stage beside her as they could. From the runners, to the writers, to the makeup girls, and at the front Dylan stood proudly with Molly up in her arms, and Emily right by her side. The audience were all on their feet waiting for Dylan's final monologue of The Dylan Morgan Show.
"It's been quite a ride, huh? Six years seem to have flown by, and I've met some wonderful people, and had lots of fun. I know some of you will wonder why I'm calling time on the show, but I've got three great reasons."
She kissed Molly, and then Emily and crowd applauded loudly. "For six years this show has been everything to me. The crew, my staff, and you folks here and at home have been my family, but now I've found Emily and Molly, I think it's time to call time on Dylan's dares and spend more time with them." More applause followed, and Dylan got the word in her ear that they were twenty seconds form the titles.
Dylan put her hand on her heart and said. "I'm sure we'll all meet again soon, and from my heart to yours, I thank you for giving me the privilege of inviting me into your homes, and your families every week. Till we meet again, take care of each other. Goodnight!"
Pyrotechnics went off around the stage, and gold foil fell from the studio ceiling. Molly squealed with excitement and tried to catch the gold pieces as they fell. Dylan, Emily and the crew were all smiles and waving to the audience. "Up Mom! Up!" Dylan could barely hear her daughter but knew what she wanted, and hoisted her up onto her shoulders so she could get grab at the gold paper.
Dylan held on to her tight and kissed Emily on the head. "Well, you've done it now TV star! Are you ready for the next chapter?"
"As long as it's with you." From her earpiece Dylan heard her producer say.
"And we're off air. That's a wrap! Well done everyone!"
I would be delighted to hear your comments about this story at firstname.lastname@example.org
Also please take a look at my website where you can find information about all of my books. www.jennys-storybook.com
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