Through the Elevator Door

Copyright © 2015 by JS Stephens. All Rights Reserved.

Disclaimer: these characters come purely from my imagination, not intended to resemble anyone living or dead.

"Tam, the parking garage was not yellow when we left for the conference," Lisa MacIntire said slowly as she exited the airport garage elevator.

"You're entirely correct, it was ugly concrete gray," Tamara Jones affirmed as she picked up her suitcase. "Perhaps it was painted while we were gone. You still giving me a ride home?" she asked.

"Yes," Lisa said distractedly. Something felt really wrong, beyond the yellow walls of the airport garage, but Lisa couldn't quite put her finger on it. Shrugging mentally, she led her friend to her car, hoping that she had written down the correct row and floor.

"Good, your car is in the same spot," Tamara said as they walked up behind it. As Lisa popped open the trunk, Tamara pulled her wallet out of her pocket to give Lisa money for the parking fees, but stopped, staring at her driver's license. "That's really strange. Lisa, look at the address on my license." Lisa took the wallet and looked at it, then looked back at her friend, puzzled. "Yes, that's what I thought, it's your apartment, not my house," Tamara stated.

"Let's get going and try to figure this out later," Lisa said uneasily, shutting the trunk. The friends got in the car, each wondering why little things were not adding up correctly. "I feel like I'm in an episode of 'Star Trek' or something, like that episode where they got caught in the transporter beam for a different universe."

"Yes, it was the classic series, 'Mirror, Mirror'. There was also a mirror universe in Deep Space Nine, in the episodes, 'Crossover' and 'The Emperor's New Cloak'," Tamara replied absently.

"Geek," Lisa teased, relieved that something was normal.

They fell silent during the rest of the drive, noticing little differences, such as more hybrid vehicles on the road and clearer skies. The street signs, however, were all normal, but when they arrived at the complex, they were both puzzled at the lack of the usual security gate. Lisa pulled in to her garage (a premium she happily paid for), and noticed it was two car, not one car, garage, and that the other vehicle was a hybrid SUV. "That's strange," she said as she cut the engine, "but the garage door opener worked."

"Let's see if your key still works," Tamara urged, following Lisa to the door. Lisa inserted the key and unlocked the door, motioning for her friend to follow her. They quietly walked through the kitchen into the living room, where they were transfixed by the sight of a large TV hanging on the wall, media cabinets, and small surround sound speakers in the front and back of the room. "Wow, this looks like my dream entertainment setup," Tamara quipped as she walked up to the wall.

"Tam, could you come back here?" Lisa called from the hallway.

"Sure." Tamara followed Lisa's voice to a large bedroom with a queen sized bed, two bedside tables, and two chests of drawers. "Ok, you had just a twin bed the last time Jamie and I were over, so what happened? When did you get more furniture?" Tamara asked uneasily.

"I didn't," Lisa said as she walked into the combination bathroom and walk in closet. "Tam, I don't wear suits to work, so why are there suits and loafers on this side of the closet?" she asked, puzzled.

Tamara walked into the closet with her, puzzled. "Lisa, I'd swear these look like the brands I'd buy if Jamie let me." Tamara ran long fingers through her curly salt and pepper hair. "Ok, I'm making a huge leap here, but consider the evidence. Different garage, two car garage, different clothes, different furniture, and my address on my license changed. Wherever we are, I think we live together."

Lisa kept staring at the clothes, then finally turned to face her friend, blue eyes showing her confusion and apprehension. "So where are we, Tamara?"

Tamara looked around, then shrugged her shoulders. "To quote Dorothy, 'Toto, I don't believe we're in Kansas any more.'"

Several hours later, the friends had determined that wherever here was, they were married. Lisa discovered several photo albums, including their wedding album. "There's your answer about Jamie," she said, pointing to a picture of the entire wedding party, "she's standing with Bill. Remember when they were engaged before the two of you started dating?"

"Yes, I do. I had to convince her that marrying a man was not a good idea when she had been sleeping with me already. But this is too weird, Lisa, you and I have always been good friends, but never romantically involved. So why are we married here?" Tamara asked, still puzzled.

"I don't know," Lisa said, "I never dated any women before, so why should I marry you?"

"Good question, Lisa." Tamara grinned suddenly. "We do make a good looking couple! I'd forgotten that your hair was so much lighter then. Look at how dark my hair was in that picture."

"Dear, I used to lighten my hair, but I stopped several years ago, it cost too much," Lisa confessed.

"Oh. Some friend I am, not even noticing such a thing. No wonder Jamie gets so mad at me when I don't notice her new clothes or whatever." Tamara paused, fiddling with her ring, then asked hesitantly, "So, if there's only one bed..."

The women looked at each other uneasily until Lisa finally pointed out, "Tam, we used to have sleep-overs in high school, so I think we can shared a queen sized bed until we figure out what happened."

"Good point. I thought I was the practical one," Tamara teased. She looked back at the wedding album and said wistfully, "I wish Jamie and I had more pictures taken of us together. She rarely would pose for pictures together, and she certainly did not want ot get married. Too public of a declaration, she always claimed."

"I must say that your partner is one of the most homophobic lesbians I've ever met," Lisa said quietly, hoping not to offend her friend.

"You're right, and it does bother me," Tamara confessed.

Lisa patted Tamara on the knee, saying, "I've always thought Jamie was a fool. Why, if I were in her shoes, I'd be quite proud to be your wife."

"I guess we'll just have to see how proud you are," Tamara pointed out.

"Right," Lisa said, blushing a little at the implication. "How about some supper?"

Tamara relaxed a little as she answered, "Sounds good to me."

Lisa went into the kitchen, looking for something to toss together for a quick meal, settling on omelettes. Quick, easy, and she had all of the ingredients at hand. She automatically took off her watch and rings before she washed her hands, then stopped to look at the rings. Her college ring, which she always wore, was there, as was a beautiful white and yellow gold band.

A band that matched the one she had seen Tam wearing.

We really are married, she realized.

Lisa woke up the next morning, wondering whose bed she was in. It was rare that she stayed over with any of the men she dated, although she hadn't dated in a while, but the arm around her was familiar.

"Good morning, Lisa."

"Tam!" Lisa exclaimed, remembering the previous evening with a rush. The world was different, yet familiar. I am married to my best friend. I am legally married to a woman. She rolled over, not quite sure what to do, but steadied by the sight of Tam's warm brown eyes looking back at her. "Good morning. Ready to get up?"

"I guess so," Tamara answered, "I volunteer to fix breakfast. Still like your coffee with lots of cream?"

"Yes. Tam, mind if I take the bathroom first?" Lisa asked.

"Go ahead, I was up an hour ago," Tamara said as she rolled out of bed.

Lisa escaped into the bathroom, conflicting thoughts swirling through her head. She sat on the toilet for several minutes, head in her hands, wondering what to do. They had checked last night and found that they worked at their same jobs, but Tamara had received a promotion at work, something she had wanted, but that for some reason, Jamie had discouraged. Do people know about us at work? I guess so, I think I saw one of my co-workers in the wedding album. She forced herself to get up, staring at her reflection as she washed her hands.

It was odd to be sharing a bathroom, something she had not done since she was in college, but Tamara made it easier. Lisa finally finished getting ready for the day, wondering if her job was the same. As she grabbed her keys, jacket, and briefcase, she found Tamara, who was almost ready. "Well, have a good day, Tamara," she said.

"You too, Lisa," Tamara answered, smiling. Her smile turned to a frown as she glanced at Lisa's hand. "You forgot your rings and watch," she said.

"Oh," Lisa said, blushing. She went back to the kitchen, finding the rings and watch where she had laid them the night before. The watch and college ring were familiar, the wedding band felt strange on her finger. She slid in on, then started to the door again. Tamara was behind her, now ready to leave as well. "Am I supposed to kiss you goodbye?" Lisa asked.

"Only if you want to," Tamara answered reassuringly, "I know this is a bit weird for both of us."

Lisa fiddled with her keys for a few seconds, then dropped her bag and hugged Tamara, taking comfort in her friend's strong arms around her. I've always loved her hugs, Lisa decided, not wanting to break the embrace, but finally pulling back. "See you tonight," she said.

"Have a good day at work," Tamara replied as she picked up her things, following Lisa into the garage. Lisa locked the door and hit the opener, escaping into her car.

The two friends started slowly wending their way through the alternate reality over the next few weeks, meeting the challenges of working at jobs that were similar, yet different, from what they'd been before. The toughest part of their new life was the realization that they had a wide network of friends who knew them as a couple, and expected to socialize with them as a couple.

Lisa was a little envious of Tam, since Tam knew how to appear to be part of a couple, but it was a little easier being with her best friend. Or harder, a small voice in her head insisted. She stifled a sigh, feeling the warmth of Tam behind her, a firm arm wrapped around her middle, holding her snugly in sleep. Lisa wasn't sure that Tam was aware that she was holding her, but she didn't fight it.

God, it is weird, yet so comfortable. Lisa cautiously covered Tamara's arm with hers, holding it closer to her. Lisa glanced over at the clock, torn between wanting the alarm to go off and wanting time to stand still. The few times she'd slept with a man had felt uncomfortable, not warm and inviting like this. At least Tamara hadn't insisted that they carry this charade to the logical conclusion. She had caught Tamara looking flushed once when she came in early from running errands, horrified when she realized what Tam had been doing with herself just before the door had opened.

Really, we should fake a fight, break up, divorce, so Tamara could find a woman who can return her affections. The problem with that scenario was that it would hurt to see Tam go, Lisa thought as the alarm started buzzing. She sat up to shut it off. "Time to get up, honey," she said gently, rolling over to face Tamara. "It's Friday, just one more day until the weekend."

"Yeah, another day, another dollar," Tamara mumbled, forcing herself to get up instead of pulling Lisa back to her. Damned hormones, she decided. It was partly Jamie's fault, Jamie was always too tired, too busy, too—Stop it, she chided herself, Jamie isn't your lover now. Time to put that pain behind you. "Don't forget we're supposed to meet Suzanne and Melissa for dinner tonight at their house."

"Right, it's on my calendar." Another night of pretending to be married, she thought, suddenly bitter. But the real question is, what do I want from Tam? She pushed the thought away again, bouncing out of bed and heading for the kitchen, wondering why it felt like everything she said this morning was completely wrong. She sighed as she pushed the button on the coffee maker and pulled out a of mugs out of the cabinet. She started mentally reviewing the rest of her day when Tamara came up behind her and laid a cautious hand on her shoulder.

"Lisa, I'm sorry, I'm just a little out of sorts this morning. How can you handle pretending to be my wife when you never have dated women before?" Tamara asked, dark eyes serious.

Lisa set the mugs down, then found herself just leaning against Tam, wrapping her arms around her neck. She laid her head on Tam's shoulder, sighing deeply. "To tell you the truth, it's nicer to wake up with your arm around me than any man I ever slept with. I'm just sorry I can't give you everything you need from a wife." She kissed Tam's cheek, the pulled away to get out the cereal and milk. "But, can we have this discussion some other time, like not right before work?"

"You're right, honey, I'm sorry. I just feel like I'm taking advantage of you, with you right here. It would almost be easier back in our world, where we weren't supposed to be so out. Anyway, I'm going out to get the paper." She turned away, leaving Lisa to start pulling out the breakfast dishes.

Several hours later, Lisa found herself staring at the pictures of her and Tamara on her credenza, wondering, not for the first time, how the Lisa and Tam who belonged here had gone from friends to lovers. Neither woman kept diaries, so no clarification that way. After graduation, we both moved here, then Tam met Jamie and immediately fell head over heels, Lisa reminisced before hearing a noise. She turned around to find her assistant, Rose, staring fixedly at her. "What is it, Rose?" she asked abruptly.

Rose pursed her lips, then turned to shut the door before seating herself. "I'll come right to the point, Lisa, are you and Tamara fighting? You've been very jumpy and moody since the two of you returned from that conference, and frankly, I'm worried. I'm sure you'll tell me it's none of my business, but I'm making it my business." She stopped, looking expectantly at Lisa.

Lisa just stared at her assistant, unsure quite how to say, "I think we've from a different universe or dimension, and where we come from, Tam and I are not together." She finally settled for, "I guess we've been restless lately. Don't worry, I still love Tam very much, and would not trade her for anyone."

"Humph. Don't tell me, tell your wife." Rose shook her finger at Lisa for emphasis, then softened it with a smile. "Tell you what, I think you should reserve a long weekend at the bed and breakfast that you too like so well." Rose suddenly smiled, adding, "I'm sure you both could get off a Monday or Friday. I'll check on reservations, then let you know what's available." Satisfied with her plan, Rose left, leaving Lisa to wonder how to explain a sudden vacation to Tam.

When Lisa got home that night, Tamara called out, "Suzanne called, Melissa is down the the flu or something, so we're on our own. What do you want to do?"

"I guess..." Lisa hung up her keys on the rack next to the door and stowed her briefcase, musing how to tell Tam that it was just as well, since they had plans to leave in the morning. Rose had convinced her to go for just the weekend, even though Lisa could not get Monday off. "Let's do something different, and go to that Italian place down the street. It shouldn't be crowded yet, so we should be able to get a table right away."

"Good idea," Tamara answered, "I love their minestrone soup." She watched Lisa head for their bedroom, wondering what her friend was thinking. She seemed a little distant, as if she were turning something over in her mind. A cold hand clutched her heart as she wondered, Suppose Lisa is planning to break it off, ask for a divorce? It would be logical, but painful. Tamara forced herself to finish getting ready to go out to eat. If that's what Lisa wants, I will not fight her.

A little while later, they arrived and were immediately seated. Lisa and Tam placed their orders, then chatted lightly until the entrees had been served. Halfway through dinner, Lisa asked, "Do we have any plans this weekend?"

Puzzled, Tamara answered, "No, not now, why do you ask?"

Lisa blurted out, "Because Rose decided that we needed a weekend to reconnect, and conned me into reserving time at a little bed and breakfast that we have been to several times. She's worried that we've been fighting, and that's why I haven't been the same since the conference. I agreed, as much to give us time away from here as anything else." She reached across the table, capturing Tamara's hand. "It's not like we can go home again," she added quietly.

"I know. We've already tried the obvious at the airport garage," Tamara agreed, "all that did was get us up and down the elevator. All right, we'll go home and pack for the weekend." She thought for a moment, then smiled. "Hey, I forgot to tell you, I had my review today and my boss gave me high marks all around. I guess I'm better at this job than I thought."

"I knew you would do well, you just never had the confidence to try for a promotion before," Lisa said, smiling in relief. "I'm proud of you, honey, and I think we should celebrate with that decadent chocolate cheesecake they serve here. With coffee."

"Anything you wish," Tamara smiled, feeling suddenly relieved. As she signaled the waitress to place their order, she thought, Maybe things are looking up.

The two women took off the next morning, each lost in her own thoughts about what would happen over the weekend. A weekend at a bed and breakfast, Tamara thought as she followed the GPS instructions, just what I always wanted, but I had dreamed of one with Jamie to rekindle the dying flames. At least the company will be good.

How am I supposed to act? Lisa wondered, if we are supposed to be partners? It's very confusing, but the idea of being on vacation with Tam is relaxing and frightening at the same time. She glanced over at Tam, who was concentrating on traffic. Could be worse, I guess. She is easy to be with, and at least she's not bringing that idiot Jamie. I never realized how much I disliked the way Jamie treated Tam until this week. The least I can do is treat her better than that.

The miles rolled by, city giving way to gently sloping mountains, until they arrived at a large log cabin. The cabin had two stories, wraparound porches on both levels, overlooking the valley. The sign in front proclaimed "Bea's Bed & Breakfast", surrounded by a neat circle of pansies.

Lisa was amused as Tam jumped out of the car and hurried to her side, opening the door and helping her out. She smiled at her friend, declaring, "I guess we're here. Where do we check in?"

Tamara pointed to a small sign on the door. "I guess through there. I know we're early, but maybe they'll hold our luggage until check in time."

"Of course." Lisa had a moment of confusion. We're supposed to be wives, so shouldn't I let her take my hand or something? Shyly, she reached for Tam's hand, and was rewarded with a big smile. "This is a beautiful place," she commented as they strolled up the steps.

They entered the cabin, looking for the office. They found it off to the side of a large den, complete with cozy sofas and armchairs, walls of paperback books and stacks of board games, and a huge stone fireplace. The office was a small open room off to the side, with a desk, computer, phone, and cheery looking woman. "Good morning, ladies," she chirped, "I'm Bea's daughter Julie, and I'm staffing the office this morning. Did you have reservations?"

"Yes," Lisa said, "Lisa MacIntire and Tamara Jones."

"Ah, yes, welcome back, ladies, Mother said you are frequent visitors. Didn't you spend your honeymoon here?"

Tamara and Lisa glanced at each other, then Lisa answered for them. "Yes," she said, hoping she was right, "we did. I made reservations yesterday through your web site."

Julie glanced at the monitor, clicking a few times. "Ah, here's the reservation. I'll put you in the honeymoon suite upstairs, no extra charge for letting you check in early. Our last guests in the suite had to leave last night, something about a sick child." She reached into a box, pulling out two keys and handing them to the women. "If you'll follow me, I'll show you to your room. Best one in the house, private porch, king sized bed, tub and shower, very popular." Lisa and Tamara exchanged glances as they followed their hostess up the stairs to the suite. Julie took one of the keys and unlocked the door, holding it open for them. "Go on in, ladies," she urged.

Lisa and Tamara walked in to a light, airy room, with a large beautiful bed, a chest of drawers, a small kitchenette, two overstuffed armchairs with small table between, and large windows overlooking the valley. "This is wonderful," Tamara said as she looked around.

"Glad you like it," Julie beamed. "There's an updated booklet on the table with lists of places to go, a map of the hiking paths around, and tomorrow's breakfast menu. Breakfast is from 6:30 to 9:00, and coffee and tea is available all day. We have four other rooms here, two are booked. If you'd like to bring in your luggage, you can. As I said, no extra charge, and Mom will be back tonight so you can visit with her."

"Thanks," Lisa said. So does this woman know us? she wondered. "Well go get our things. Tam, how does a hike sound?"

"Lovely," Tamara said.

A little while later, they had their luggage squared away and had picked a path to hike. Tamara was happy; she had always wanted to go hiking, but Jamie always had excuses as to why they could not. She and Lisa had gone to nearby parks many times, and had even done a couple of overnight trips in college. Now she was hiking in the mountains with her best friend - her wife, rather - and feeling relaxed and whole for the first time since they returned from the conference. "Did you bring your camera?" she asked belatedly.

Lisa smiled, pulling the small digital camera out of her cargo pocket. "Sure did," she replied. "Can we stop here? I like this overlook."

"Yes," Tamara answered, dropping her backpack and lowering herself on a large boulder. "It is a wonderful vista." She watched as Lisa walked the short length of the scenic overview, looking for the best shots before raising her camera. Lisa always gets the best shots. I just point and shoot, she paints with her camera. Tamara reached for her water bottle, taking a sip while enjoying the breeze, the scents, the view, the spring sunlight on her face. She closed her eyes for a moment, listening to the sound of birds, branches rustling, Lisa's camera snapping. Life is good at this moment.

Lisa glanced over, seeing Tamara looking utterly peaceful. This will make a great picture, she thought as she framed her friend in the LCD screen. She took several shots, some closer, some further, centered, and to the side. Tam is a handsome woman, she thought, a little awed. The sun picked out the silver stands that were gracing the dark hair, lending a golden glow to Tam's olive complexion. Lisa pocketed her camera, fidgeting with her wedding ring, not wanting to spoil the moment.

"Crap, I dozed off," Tamara said, eyes opening abruptly. "Lisa, you let me fall asleep!"

"I didn't realize you were snoozing," Lisa answered, a playful smile gracing her features, "I thought you were just enjoying the sunshine." She lifted her bottle to her mouth, taking a couple of swallows. "Ready to go on?" she asked, offering her hand.

"I am," Tamara answered, taking Lisa's hand. She let the other woman help her up, tempted to keep her hand, but dropping it as they went back to the trail. "According to the map, there's an old cabin and barn ahead," she said, looking at the map she'd downloaded to her phone. "I'll bet you can get some good shots there as well."

"Lead on, Tam," Lisa said. She fell in line behind Tamara, picking up the rhythm of an easy, mile-eating pace. "Remember when we used to go hiking all the time? And those trips we took during the summers between semesters? That was so much fun," Lisa said.

"It was," Tamara agreed.

Lisa fell silent, thinking about their shared past, their strong friendship. She suddenly asked, "How long have we known each other?"

Tamara scratched her ear as she counted silently. "Let's see, maybe nine or ten years? We met in college, in sophomore English. You teased me about my Star Trek t-shirt, and I teased you about the bow in your hair. We've been close friends since, so why do you ask?"

"I dunno." Lisa walked along, nearly running in to Tamara, who had stopped abruptly. "You need brake lights, girlfriend," she teased.

"Sorry about that. Look at that cabin and barn, both are still fairly complete. Can you imagine what it would be like to live here? Come on, let's go in."

Lisa followed Tamara across the clearing, into the old house. A sign on the front gave the history of the house, and invited visitors to come in, but to watch their step. Lisa looked around, trying to imagine living in such cramped quarters. "Look at the size of that bed, it's so small compared to ours."

"Cozy, though. I imagine it would be nice in the winter, to have all that body heat close," Tamara answered as she looked around. "Look, Lisa, they have a copy of their marriage certificate framed on the wall."

Lisa walked over, looking at the faded document, squinting to make out the names and dates. "They married over a hundred years ago," she said in quiet awe. She saw another picture on the wall, moving to look at it. "Suppose this was the family?"

Tamara looked over Lisa's shoulder, pulling out her phone to use as a light source. "Could be, looks like the front of the house in the background. Wonder how long they were married?"

"Decades, maybe fifty years," Lisa speculated. "Wonder how they met? Let's see the rest of the house," she suggested.

They spent time looking around the rest of the house, imagining how they would live in such a place. Separate kitchen (to prevent fires), small bedrooms, large fireplace, lamplight, tacked on bathroom. As they prepared to leave, Lisa asked the question that had buzzed in her head since they stepped into this world from the airport elevator. "Tam, how do you suppose we met here? I mean, how did we go from friends to lovers?"

"I don't know, Lisa," Tamara said thoughtfully, "we don't keep diaries or cards, so we can't tell what we were thinking. I searched all of my email, but nothing stands out, so if we exchanged any personal emails other than dinner plans, we must have deleted them."

Lisa looked at her friend, thinking, She is so beautiful, and she's been so unhappy with Jamie. Tam looks more relaxed than I've seen her for several years. Overwhelmed with love for her friend, she reached for her, hugging her tight. She felt Tamara reciprocate, arms wrapped securely around her. Lisa could smell soap, sunlight, and the woods on her friend's shirt as she tucked her face into Tam's neck.

They stood like that for several minutes until Tamara said, "Want to go see the rest of the trail?"

Lisa reluctantly pulled back, fighting a sudden urge to kiss her friend. Where did that come from? she wondered. "Sure," she said, picking up her pack that she'd laid down. She watched Tamara swing her own pack on her back, then pick up the hiking poles and hand her one. My God, she is so handsome, Lisa thought, I didn't want to let go.

The women wandered down the trail, each lost in her own thoughts as they pushed on. They came to a clearing that led to an old church, standing quietly under the spread of several trees. "Look at that old church," Tamara said, "it looks like the door is open. Let's go look."

Lisa followed her up the steps and into the old building, struck by the simplicity of the interior. Wavy glass windows let in diffused light playing over dark wood pews. A simple lectern was just to the side of a table, both on a raised area in front. Two rows of chairs marked where the choir sat behind the table. A wooden sign hung on the wall, still showing the attendance records and the hymns to be sung.

Tamara followed Lisa up to the front, taking in the quiet cool of the building. They set their poles and backpacks on a front pew, spotting a framed certificate. Tamara went up to read it, remarking, "This church was in use for nearly a hundred years before the congregation merged with another one in the area. This building was deeded to the park for preservation."

"It reminds me of the church my great-grandparents attended," Lisa said, looking around. "I can remember my grandmother talking about it, showing me pictures of her wedding day in the little church. I don't know if it is still standing or not."

"This would make a pretty little chapel for weddings," Tamara mused as she walked around the front slowly. "Hey, didn't you bring your tripod and remote control? Is there enough light to get a picture?"

"Yes to both," Lisa answered, reaching for her backpack, "what are you thinking?"

"That we could get our picture together. You've always been such a photography buff, it just seems that we should have pictures from vacation," Tamara explained.

"You're right," Lisa said as she started unstrapping the tripod from the pack. "That remote was a good buy. I had thought of getting one, but never did, so this Lisa must have taken a lot of pictures with it," she said as she start setting up the equipment. "Hey, do me a favor and stand to the side a little." She fiddled with a few settings, then raised the flash and took a couple of shots. She reviewed them, then took one more without flash, looked at it, then said, "It would work either way, so let's try with flash first."

"Sounds good," Tamara said as Lisa came up the aisle to stand by her side. "How long-" Flash! "Hey, I wasn't ready!" she complained.

"Sorry," Lisa smirked. She slid an arm around Tam's waist, smiling. "Get ready, this goes off in two seconds." Lisa aimed the remote control at the camera, causing it to go off several times before she went and turned the flash off. "A couple of more," she announced, turning to face Tam.

Tamara smiled softly at her, looking down at Lisa, wondering what it would be like to kiss her. Where did that come from? She dimly heard the shutter snap, pulling her mind back to reality. Lisa is just playing along since we're stuck together, she thought morosely. "Enough pictures? Ready to move on?" she asked brusquely.

"Should be," Lisa said, dazed. She went to fetch her camera equipment, hiding her face as she took the tripod down. Tam sounds pissed, what did I do? "Ready whenever you are," she said tentatively.

Tamara melted at Lisa's bewildered look. "Oh, honey, I didn't mean to sound so grumpy," she said, reaching to help Lisa shoulder her pack. "Ready to go on with our hike?"

"Yes," Lisa said. "Lead on."

Lisa and Tamara managed to relax and enjoy the rest of the hike, barely making it back to Tamara's SUV before the trails closed. They debated shortly, then decided to go clean up and head for the steakhouse that Julie had recommended. Showers, a change of clothes, and off to supper they headed.

"Welcome back, my friends," the host said as they entered the steakhouse, "you've been gone too long. Work must be very busy, you usually make it to Bea's and to my steakhouse several times a year. Come, come, I'll take you to your favorite table by the fireplace," the older man said. They exchanged puzzled glances, but followed, Lisa slipping her hand into Tamara's as they wound their way between tables. "You need anything, just call for me, Nicholas," he said, helping each one with her chair before handing over the menus. "Your waiter tonight is my son Charles, who just started waiting tables. Be gentle with him."

Lisa looked around, taking in the dark paneled walls, the huge stone fireplace, then tapestries and old paintings hanging on the walls. "This place looks lovely," she said. She picked up a menu, scanning the offerings. "What are you thinking about getting?"

Tamara perused the menu, trying to decide, finally laying it down. "I think I'll have the ribeye with cheddar mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables. Since I'm driving, I'll just have tea or water. How about you?"

Lisa closed her eyes and stabbed at the menu, causing Tamara to laugh. Lisa cracked an eye, seeing her friend react as she did when she picked her dinner this way when they were friends in college. "Combo meal with sirloin, locally raised trout, rice pilaf, and mixed vegetables," she announced. "As much as I'd like to have wine, I think it would put me right to sleep, so I'll get water or tea as well."

After placing their orders, Nicholas came by their table to check on them. "Dessert is my treat," he insisted, "so make room. Your favorite, key lime pie with raspberry sause, served with coffee. You had it on your first night here, and have ordered it since."

"Thank you, Nicholas," Tamara said, "we appreciate it."

"But no wine tonight? I have a very good selection, ladies."

"No, Lisa and I will have to get back home tomorrow, so we can't sleep in," Tamara explained. Jamie never wanted me to drink, I always had to drive, she thought. Maybe Lisa drove when we drank. Or the other Lisa and Tamara. This is confusing.

"Next time, you need to stay longer, or come in the summer so you can walk here from Bea's. Tamara, Lisa, just call if you need anything." He disappeared, but before they could comment on his remarks, Charles appeared with their salads.

Several hours later, they arrived back the cabin, only to be greeted by an older version of Julie. "Bea?" Tamara asked, hoping she was right.

"Oh, my dear Tam and Lisa, how on earth are you two doing? I'm so glad to see you," the golden haired woman said as she sailed around the desk to give them both a hug and kiss. "What made you decide to come for just a weekend? You usually stay for a week at least!"

Lisa piped up, "We'd been so busy at work that my secretary decided we needed a weekend away, so here we are."

"I'm so glad to see you both. Even a weekend away can be good. Oh, I remember when you two married and stayed here, I hardly saw you for the first two days," she said, winking. "So, it's only a little after eight, would you like to play a board game before bed? I'm not expecting any other guests, and I'm sure Julie would love to join us for a game."

They glanced at each other, wondering what the right answer was. Finally, Lisa said, "We would, Bea, but we're rather tired. We've been hiking all day, and my feet are tired. Raincheck for next time?"

"Absolutely. Oh, I have a bottle of your favorite brand of Zinfandel chilling in the room, so it should be ready to drink any time. I left glasses out for you as well, so go enjoy yourselves, my dears. I will see you at breakfast, then."

"Yes, certainly," Tamara said. "Come on, Lisa," she said, taking Lisa's hand. "Goodnight, Bea," she added before they started walking up the stairs.

"Whew," Lisa commented after they locked the door behind them, "I can see why we keep coming back here, but this is almost creepy how everyone knows our tastes."

"True," Tamara said. "Well, do we drink the wine?" she asked, gesturing toward the bottle and glasses on the kitchen table.

"Might as well open it and enjoy it," Lisa said, "it actually sounds very good right now. We can take it out on the porch to enjoy."

"You're right. Go ahead and change if you want to, I'll get this ready," Tamara offered.

"I will, thank you," Lisa said as she kicked off her shoes and started rummaging in her suitcase for her sweats. In a short time, she was outside, after snagging the extra blanket that was placed on the bed. She sat on the swing, gently pushing herself to and fro as she waited for Tam to appear. Lisa looked down at the valley, then up at the sky. The cabin was high enough that she could see a million stars crowding the skies, shining down with their cold light.

"Here's your wine," Tamara said as she handed the glass over. She set the bottle on the side table next to the swing, hesitating.

"Come sit with me," Lisa invited, pulling the blanket back so Tamara could sit. After Tam sat and snuggled under the blanket, Lisa sipped her wine, enjoying the sweet finish. "I can see why this is such a popular place, it is very romantic," she said as she set her glass on the table next to her.

"It is. I wish I could have convinced Jamie to go somewhere like this for our honeymoon," Tamara said wistfully.

"So where did you go? I don't remember," Lisa said, reaching for her glass.

Tamara grimaced at the memory. "We planned to go out of town, but she had family appear suddenly. Cousins or someone like that called the next morning before we started out, so she insisted that we wait for them. We wound up staying at home for a few days, and never did have our honeymoon." She took a big slug of wine, tipping her head back to look at the stars.

"Seriously? She just blew off your honeymoon like that?" Lisa asked, incredulous. "I can't imagine such a thing, Tam, if I'd married you, I'd have loved to come here! Beautiful surroundings, plenty of places to hike, a quiet small town atmosphere, perfect!" She took Tamara's hand in hers. "The bitch!"

"Thank you for your support," Tamara said lightly.

"No, really, you're much too wonderful to be taken advantage of," Lisa said heatedly, "doesn't she love you?"

"Does it matter?" Tamara asked, draining her glass.

Lisa set her glass down again, touching Tamara's face with gentle fingers. "It does to me. I don't want to see you hurt like that," she said.

"Well, it's a moot point, since we are married here," Tamara pointed out, "unless you want a divorce so you can find a man and I can find another woman."

"No, I don't want a divorce," Lisa said, "I like being with you."

Tamara started to speak, but fell silent. "I like being with you, too," she finally said, "and I have to confess, I had a crush on you in college."

"You did? Why didn't you say something?" Lisa asked, a little surprised.

"Because it is useless to have a crush on a straight woman, she'll break your heart every time," Tamara said, reaching for the bottle. "Want any more?"

"No thanks," Lisa said. Suddenly, Lisa shivered, thinking of the nights that she and Tam had sat in their living room, watching TV, thinking it would go on forever. But then Tamara started dating women, and Lisa dated any man who would ask her out. Did I really enjoy being with men? Sex was good with them, but I've never felt a connection with any man, not like the powerful connection I have with Tam. "Honey?"


"What if I'm bisexual?" Lisa asked tentatively. "I mean, what if I really could fall in love with you?"

"And what if you are?" Tamara replied. "I said you didn't have to do anything with me," she reminded Lisa.

Lisa traced Tam's face with gentle fingers, saying dreamily, "Maybe I do want to do something," she said wonderingly, "You know, we tried several times to get back, tried go through the same elevator door at the airport, but it did not work. We should admit that this is our reality now." Her blue eyes filled with a dreamy look. "Tam, I've always enjoyed spending time with you, and today made me realize that I want to stay with you." She leaned forward, cupping Tamara's face. "I do love you, and I never thought that Jamie was good enough for you, so maybe there is a reason we're married here."

"Lisa, you are sweet, but just because I had a crush on you in college doesn't mean you have to pretend to love me. It's not fair to make you pretend any longer," Tamara said.

"But have you considered that maybe I do love you? Maybe I just never admitted to myself that what I feel is more than friendship for you, that maybe, just maybe, that crush went both ways." Lisa stood, pulling Tamara up with her. "Maybe we should find out why we fell in love here."


"No more words," Lisa said, boldly kissing Tamara. Oh, God, she thought as she felt a rush of love and desire race through her. She deepened the kiss, feeling Tamara returning it, feeling almost dizzy with passion for her wife. She slipped hands under Tamara's sweater, feeling warm, soft skin under her palms, wanting much, much more.

"Let's go in," Tamara croaked when they broke the kiss.

Lisa smiled, stopping to grab the bottle and glasses before leading the way in, depositing them somewhere before pushing Tamara to the bed, falling with her and resuming her exploration of Tamara's wonderful lips. She explored them thoroughly before siting up abruptly and declaring, "We have too many clothes on. I'm no virgin, neither are you."

"Yes," Tamara agreed, a haze of passion and desire filling her. My beloved Lisa, was her last coherent thought as she found Lisa impatiently undressing. She hurried to ditch her own clothes as Lisa pushed her down on the bed after flipping back the covers, falling on her with a hungry mouth, hands everywhere.

Time passed in a haze of frenzied love-making, followed by slower, more deliberate explorations. The women mapped each other's bodies with lips, tongues, and hands, claiming each other, sharing lust and love equally. Finally, as their passion was sated, they lay panting, sweating, half dozing as they cooled off. Lisa finally curled up by Tamara's body, dragging the covers over them, commenting, "I sure wasted a lot of years by not doing this sooner. And to think that I let Jamie claim you!"

Tamara chuckled, kissing Lisa softly on the forehead. "You did surprise me," she admitted, trailing a lazy hand down Lisa's body, "I never dreamed we'd be together. Oh, a few times I had daydreams about you, but I never dared act on them, you usually had a boy on a string. So when Jamie started paying attention to me after we started working, I guess I settled for what I could get."

"No more settling," Lisa said drowsily. She yawned, mumbling, "I love you, Tam."

"I love you too, Lisa," Tamara answered. She tugged the covers more snugly around them, relaxed and happy for the first time in months. "I do so love you," she repeated before dropping into a contented sleep.

Lisa woke up as her alarm went off, feeling confused as she opened her eyes and saw her apartment. She sat up, blinking, looking at her surroundings, noting it was all wrong. "Tamara? Honey?" she called out, turning to reach for her wife.

Tamara was gone.

"Tam?" Lisa cried out, increasingly upset, "where are you?" She looked around, listening for familiar footsteps, only hearing eerie silence instead. "Where did you go?" she asked, waking more fully now. She flipped back the covers, then noticed that the bed was smaller, and Tamara's chest of drawers and nightstand were missing. She sprang up, rushing to the closet, only to find all of Tamara's clothes and shoes missing. "You left me!" she wailed, sinking into the floor in despair.

Lisa finally stirred, trembling as she walked through the rest of the apartment, noticing it was back to the original furnishings. No more large TV, no pile of unread books, no worn black briefcase sitting next to the door. She finally noticed her suitcase by the door, with the airline tag still on it. "That's the suitcase I used for the conference," she whispered to the room.

Did I imagine everything? The wedding pictures, our shared life, our weekend in the mountains, making love with my beloved? she wondered as she frantically searched the entire apartment for anything of Tamara's. Nothing. She raced back to the bedroom, searching her nightstand for the little dish she had been laying her college ring and wedding ring in the past few weeks, but only found her college ring and watch on the stand. I guess it was a dream, she decided unhappily, and now I've lost her.

Tamara rolled over as the alarm went off, surprised to find Jamie in bed with her. Where's Lisa?, she wondered. She sat up, looking around, recognizing the house that she and Jamie had rented. Was it just a dream? It felt so real, the hike in the mountains, the cabin, making love with Lisa, just like I'd always wanted to.

She eased out of bed, looking around for clues. She found the turquoise ring her grandmother had given her for high school graduation, but no wedding band. She found her clothes in the closet, the cheaper brands she settled for with Jamie. She found her suitcase in the living room, still packed from the conference. She sat on the couch, depressed. No Lisa, I'm stuck with Jamie, she thought.

Or was she?

Jamie and I are not married, we just had a ceremony because she was afraid of telling her parents. It's almost the end of the lease, and she's been making noises about finding a new place, probably to be closer to her good buddy Janet. A tiny flicker of hope lit in her chest, realizing that maybe, just maybe, it was time to act. Even if Lisa just loves me as a friend, she will support me, Tamara decided, I need to talk to her.

A few hours later, Tamara saw an email come in regarding a new position in her department. She read the description, realizing that it was something she could do, and would be a promotion and bump in pay. It looks like what I was doing in my dream, she thought as she clicked on the link. She started filling out the application, not bothering to consult with Jamie. It had a little travel, which Jamie had always discouraged her from doing, but she didn't care.

Tamara clicked the submit button before losing her courage, pleased with herself. She automatically picked up the phone, dialing Lisa, wanting to share the news with her. As soon as Lisa answered, she blurted out, "Honey, guess what I did? I applied for that job that-" She stopped for a second, wondering how to explain that she had already done the job for weeks. "Um, job that I never told you about, but knew was coming up. It's a promotion, a little travel, but I know I could do it."

Bewildered, Lisa said, "That's great, Tam. Have you told Lisa?"

"No. Want to go to lunch?" she asked in a rush, sidestepping the question about her girlfriend.

"It would be nice," Lisa said cautiously, closing her eyes as a vision of Tamara's naked body swam into her vision. Stop it, she chided herself. "Our usual place?" she squeaked out.

"Yeah, sounds good," Tamara said, relieved that Lisa could meet her. "See you soon. Love you," she said. Oops, hope she didn't notice that, Tamara thought as she replaced the receiver.

Lisa placed the receiver in the cradle. Tam hasn't ended a call with "love you" since we were in college. She shook her head, trying to concentrate on her job until lunch time.

A few hours later, the women met at their burrito place, chatting about nothing in particular until they had their meals and found a table. "Well," Tamara said as she shook out her napkin and fussed with her plasticware, "I guess you're curious about my news."

"I am. I was surprised when you said you had applied for the promotion, but also proud of you, Tam."

She smiled. "If I get the promotion, it will mean some travel, as I told you on the phone, and it would also mean increased responsibility, and I'd be overseeing projects instead of doing them. The pay increase would allow me to do something I've been thinking about for a few weeks now."

"What's that?" Lisa asked, wondering what was going through Tamara's mind.

"I would be able to afford to live on my own. If I get this promotion, I will break up with Jamie."

Lisa paused, burrito halfway to her mouth. "You would? I mean, you've been very unhappy as of late, but you would actually go through with it? That is quite a surprise, Tamara, what made you decide to finally break up with her?"

Tamara wondered what Lisa would say if she told her, We spent a couple of months in an alternate universe or something, and I recognized that I've been in love with you for years, and we made love in a wonderful bed and breakfast. Instead, she said, "Let's just say that the past few nights I've decided that it isn't fair for me to hang on when Jamie obviously doesn't want to be with me. I'm tired of rearranging my weekends to accomodate what her friend Janet might or might not do with us, and I'm tired of Jamie cooking a big meal, then telling me I can't have any leftovers for my lunch because she's taking them to Janet. And, frankly, I'm tired of not knowing when I can spend time with you because Jamie needs to be flexible for Janet, so I never know if my partner will be home or away at any given time. That's not fair to you, to me, or to us."

"To us?" Lisa asked cautiously, wild hope suddenly springing in her heart.

"Yes, to us," Tamara confirmed, "I want to be able to spend more time with you, Lisa, and I am tired of playing games."

Lisa took a bite, chewing slowly to give herself time to think. Finally, she said, "Just as long as you're not approaching me as a rebound relationship."

Tamara shook her head, reaching for Lisa's hand. "How can it be a rebound when I've cared about you all of these years?"

Lisa linked her fingers with Tamara's, smiling. "Cared about?"

Tamara blushed, looking down at her plate. "Well, I'm being shy now."

Lisa let go, reaching for her soda. "I know, this is not the place," she acknowledged, "but I, too, have realized lately that I feel much more for you than I ever imagined. But we don't rush into anything, okay?"

Tamara sighed with relief. "Agreed, honey. Will you be willing to wait for me, wait for me to break up with Jamie? I will need to move to my own place for a while, maybe even get a new car. Mine is pretty old, and starting to need more repairs. I spent to much keeping Jamie's car running."

Lisa smiled, offering innocently, "How about a hybrid SUV? Ever consider one of those?"

Tamara stared at her, wondering where that came from. I had one in that other place we were, she thought, but I've never mentioned one before here. "Yes, how did you know?"

"Maybe a dream," Lisa said, grinning wider. "And I've dreamed of a bed and breakfast in the mountains."

"Bea's Bed and Breakfast?" Tamara asked, stunned.

"Yes, that's the name. It was beautiful, and only a few hours from here."

"And plenty of hiking trails, with a nice restaurant nearby," Tamara added. "Lisa? Did you dream what I did?"

Lisa leaned forward, blue eyes shining with joy. "I think so, Tam. What wine did we have at the cabin?"

"A local Zinfandel, good fruity finish, well chilled."

Lisa whispered, "And who made the first move?"

Tamara swallowed, whispering back, "You did, my love, you did."

"So it was real," Lisa said, leaning back.

"Yellow walls in the airport garage?"


Tamara laughed. "I thought it was a dream," she said happily.

"If it was, it was the best kind of dream," Lisa concurred. "Okay, sweetheart, finish your lunch, we have a lot to do and talk about in the next year or so."


"Well, we should court for at least a year before we get married, don't you think?" Lisa asked, eyes dancing with joy.

"Is that a proposal?"

Lisa shook her head. "Not yet, but an acknowledgement. I'll let you do the proposing later on."

Tamara grinned with joy. "I'll work on that," she said playfully.

"I, Tamara Jones, take you, Lisa MacIntire, to be my lawfully wedded wife..."

"I, Lisa MacIntire, take you, Tamara Jones, in sickness and in health..."

"Until death us do part."

"By the power vested in me by the state, I pronounce you wife and wife. You may kiss to seal your union."

Lisa and Tamara kissed soundly before walking hand in hand down the aisle, past gathered friends and family. "Just a few more hours," Lisa said in Tamara's ear. Tamara laughed, knowing what was in store.

After toasts, dinner, and dancing, the reception finally started breaking up, allowing the women to finally make their exit. They ran the rose petal gauntlet, hopping into Tamara's new SUV, heading for the mountains to start their new life together. Tamara kissed Lisa's hand, admiring her wedding band. "Off we go to Bea's," she said.

"Thank God," Lisa said, "drive, woman, we have a date with a large bed."

"Yes, my beloved," Tamara answered as she put the car in gear.

And so, that night, they consummated their love as a married couple for the first time.

Well, in this universe.


Return to the Academy

Author's Page