General Disclaimer: The physical descriptions and characteristics of the people in this story may remind you of someone especially when dealing with the effects of aging, Alzheimer's Disease, and Long Term Care. But they are truly all y own creations. This tale came from my own bizarre imagination. The only real character in this entire work of fiction is Thumper. She is my baby. She has signed her rights to me for a rawhide bone.
Violence/Language Disclaimer: This story does have scenes of mild violence and/or their aftermath. It does contain bad language and angst.
Hurt/Comfort Disclaimer: This story has some parts that me be deemed as such.
Love/Sex Disclaimer: This story depicts a loving relationship between consenting adult women and may contain scenes of explicit intimacy. If you are under 18 years of age or if this type of story is illegal in the state or country in which you live, please do not read it. If depictions of this nature disturb you, use your back button and choose something else.
Acknowledgement: A whole lot of gratitude and thanks to Pam, The wonderful and talented beta-reader who always seems to catch me with the right questions. Thank you for your time, expertise, effort, and insight to make all my projects a realization.
Feedback: if you want to express your opinion this bard is always happy to receive comments at Jynaki@aol.com
_________________ Chapter 1______________________
The elegantly scrolled candle stood majestically in the center of the ivory linen covered table. Intricately carved petals layered downward to reveal intertwined colors of blue and deep buttermilk. Etched throughout the pillar were pairs of tiny doves that circled the North Star.
On each side of the five-pound candle were the matching tapers that had been lit by Jo and Felicia several moments before. The small flames danced in the light breeze.
Pax's raven hair lifted in the gentle breeze to spray across the shoulders of her cyan colored double-breasted suit. Pax stretched out her hand and beckoned for her love to come to her. Teela grasped the hand of the woman soon to be her wife for now and ever more. Blue merged with green in a gaze of unadulterated passion. The gathering of guests before them inhaled collectively as a wave of love emanated from the two women swept across out across the lawn.
Throughout the tearful haze, Teel and Pax looked upon their friends and family sitting below as witnesses to their pledge always and forever to be connected. Pax ignored the uneasiness that invaded her senses. She surveyed the guests briefly and wondered why the cold chill crept down her spine. Her smile beamed at Teela as they each lifted a burning taper and together lit the unity candle. It would be some time before the swirls and doves etched into the candle would be able to throw shadows as it burned. The inner candle would need to melt considerably before that would happen.
"I love you Pax. Now and forever more."
"I love you Teela." Pax swiped at the tear threatening to fall. "Now and forever more." Pax leaned into Teela's touch and turned to press her lips against the palm that cupped her cheek.
Hands clasped and fingers solidly entwined, the couple made their way around the table. They stood in front of the minister who faced the watchful spectators for this part of the ceremony. She smiled down at the two proudly as each of her hands reached out to cup their cheeks. She looked up at the audience, stretched her arms wide in invitation.
"Friends, family, join Pax and Teela in celebrating their union..."
"NO! NOT NOW. NOT EVER!!" Came a reverberating shout from somewhere behind them.
Teela and Pax's smiles of bliss faded with the recognition of the voice behind them. Like a picture film the scene slowed to an agonizing frame per few seconds. Their movements ticked along as if hands of a clock. All heads turned towards the back of the lawn to see where the cry had originated. Pax and Teela's eyes grew wide as they resumed normal speed and in unison they spoke a name they hoped to never hear again, "Tanesha!"
Pax's head jerked upright from the surface of the metal desk. "Teela?" She scanned the room searching for the candles, the guests, the Minister and for Teela.
Pax Kattapoulous Baldwin sat back in her chair eyes wide as the last vestiges of the dream faded and she recognized that she was still in her office at the zoo. I'm at work. God, I fell asleep on my desk. The zoologist wiped her mouth in case anything had seeped out during her unexpected nap. Vigorously, she rubbed her hands across her face to release slumber's remaining hold.
She spied her surroundings again and spotted the small figure across the room. Cloe was fast asleep on her U.S.C. blanket on the child-sized table. Flat upon her back, legs opened to the world unashamed.
"I have to stop that. This is driving me crazy." She raked her hands through her hair. It was the same recurrent dream that had haunted her for the past month. "It's only a dream." I just miss you Teela. I even miss that damned dog of yours. But what you did to me…
The ringing of the telephone jarred her from her reverie. "Baldwin," she barked, grateful for the distraction and the ache that welled in her chest slowly ebbed away.
"Hello Pax, it's Zander." Stunned, Pax's voice was lost instantly. She had not expected to speak to him again. It had been three months since that day at his home when his cruelty had been revealed. "Pax you there?"
"Yeah Zander. I'm ah..."
"Shocked. I know."
"Yeah." That's an understatement.
"Me too, a little." He cleared his throat. She heard him falter as she listened to the disquieted heavy breathing. "We missed you at Thanksgiving dinner."
"Felicia, the boys, Damian and Linda...and me."
The admission was a surprise and she could not help questioning its sincerity. Felicia, Zander's wife and her best friend, had told her that she had forgiven her husband and allowed him to return to their home. Felicia loved him. As a spouse with two children, Pax could understand Felicia's offer of forgiveness to Zander. Felicia's life, identification, and financial countenance were tied to Zander. As a woman, however, she knew that Felicia understood the fear and vulnerability that men could instill upon women. It was on this level that Pax could not forgive her brother. Zander and his friend, Tommy, attempted to force her submission into a realm them had deemed fit and appropriate. They sought to forcibly mold her into heterosexuality. It succeeded in making her more determined to live and love as she chose. Zander's action helped push her from her home. Both the behavior and the consequences she could not easily forget or forgive.
"That's nice of you to say Zander, but I thought it wise if I weren't there. We are far from breaking bread together Zander." Pax urged the prickling anger back to the darkened pit. She grimaced from the sting of its claws as it tried to make its way to the surface to lunge again at her older brother.
Felicia had pleaded with her to celebrate with them. It would have been the first meal in more than twenty Thanksgivings that the Baldwins would have sat down as a family. Zander and Damian had brought Mother Baldwin home from the ARCC for the day. She had called Pax to coax her repeatedly into attending, but was not successful. Despite Felicia's assurances that her husband was remorseful, Pax was not prepared to be cordial to her brother just yet let alone contend with the tense emotions that being at a family dinner would generate. Besides, she was still reeling from the unsettling drama with Teela. It would have been too much with which to contend.
"I know what you mean...sis..."
"Don't call me that!" Pax hissed through clenched teeth at his insolence. "You have no right to!" The enraged beast roared as it clawed free through the opening Zander graciously provided. It stretched claws snaked through the receiver with a deadly swipe across her brother's torso.
"I'm sorry. I don't have a right to," he sputtered quickly then fell silent as he contemplated what to say next. I know you are livid and I embrace your anger.
Pax's sensibilities were on a hair trigger of late. She easily fluctuated from one extreme to the other and often without warning. Her staff had noticed and would veer away from her if they saw her coming. Pax had heard their whispers. She just couldn't seem to keep them from spiraling and twisting.
"I would like a chance to earn it Pax. Please, let me."
Pax clamped her eyes shut tightly to force the numerous harsh and severe retorts that threatened to erupt through her lips back into the bowels where they had simmered for years. She struggled to reign in anger's ferocious beast, as her first instinct was to lash back, to inflict devastating hurt and unbearable pain to his soul until it lay in ruins. He would still be alive after the obliteration and he would suffer as she had when she boarded that plane lost and alone.
"Pax, come to the house today. We can talk without interruptions. Felecia and the boys are going to a movie."
Pax inhaled deeply several times and exhaled the bitterness. He is reaching out to me. Do I want to do this? Do I really want to rehash that night and what went on then? Do I have the strength to do that? Am I ready to do that? "What time?"
"Four?" The attorney sighed. "Thank you Pax."
"See you at four." She cradled the receiver and leaned back in her office chair.
* * * * * *
Zander Baldwin twisted the beer bottle in his hands nervously awaiting his sister Pax to speak. He wanted her to say something to break the palpable tension in the room, anything. He desperately wanted to make amends to his kid sister for the horrible judgments he made in his youth. He was twisted and irrational then. He was shameful all those months ago on that fateful night in his home. In front of his sons and his wife, Felicia, the woman he passionately loved and risked losing because of the asinine simple-mindedness in which he had been trapped.
"You've had something stuck up your ass and scraping the ground ever since you found out I was back," Pax hissed. "I wish you would pull it out or shove it all the way in and be done with it!"
"My my, that was colorful Sis," Damian chuckled twitching in his seat nonetheless at the thought.
He set his beer down hard upon the table and leaned across it glaring at his only sister. "Maybe if that's what Tommy had done to you, you wouldn't be here trying to seduce my fucking wife!"
Shocked, Pax sat stunned only momentarily before her fist lashed out and connected with Zander's nose. The blood sprayed over the table. "YOU SON OF A BITCH! " Pax screamed and lunged across the table.
The strength of the punch forced Zander to rock back into his chair nearly tipping it over. Damian ran to Pax and pressed all his weight across her back to hold her down on the table.
Zander shook the vivid images from his mind. He had believed that he was the unfortunate recipient of an explosive rage that brewed from more than one circumstance: first, from her years of alienation from a family she had cherished, second, for the most horrific violation to which one person could subject another. Zander had orchestrated her attempted rape. He personally selected his friend Tommy to defile her in his car.
He chose to do battle when she was on the edge of emotional annihilation. She had found Teela, and fallen madly in love. She had literally fought for her. Pax had won only to be dismissed without reasonable explanation, unceremoniously dumped as it were. That night in his kitchen Zander pushed the red button and Pax's fury detonated upon him.
"You called me here?"
"I know," his audible swallow filled the silence of the room. "I am not sure where to begin actually."
"Start with why, Zander?" Cold blue eyes mirrored her own. She watched as her brothers grew soft and shimmered with unshed tears.
"Why? Then, I thought there were so many reasons as to why I did what I did: for the family, for mother, for your own good."
"For my own good?" Pax replied incredulously. "You have got to be kidding me! Since when is rape for anyone's own good? Huh?"
"That's what I thought. I was wrong then."
"Damn right you were!"
"It wasn't just that Pax. I mean...Well...jealousy was one of the underlying reasons I guess." He studied the label on his beer. It was a good place as any to begin.
"What are you talking about?" What the hell has he got to be jealous of me about? He was always mom's favorite. He could never do any wrong in mom's eyes.
"You were the star in the family, Pax. The sports you played made dad proud, extremely proud. You know how he wanted me to play football and I was never into that, but when you joined the basketball and softball teams, well he bragged about you all the time. It was even more annoying when you made the newspapers."
She conceded him this point about their father, the late John Baldwin. He frequently lavished praises upon her for her athletic prowess. He was also known to make the occasional comparisons of her talent with Zander's lack of sports interest and "limp noodle" arms, as he would often call them. Damian, had made the wrestling team, but lasted only two seasons before quitting much to their father's chagrin. Pax was "Daddy's Little Girl" and with that came all the protection that her father could muster against his wife. If their mother had her way, Pax would have landed in ballet and taken etiquette lessons.
She listened in numbed silence. She never knew her brother harbored such jealousy. True, Pax was their favorite. She obtained the good grades for the honor rolls, she played sports, and she exhibited the perfect behavior. Added to his malcontent was the fact that she and Damian were on the "A-List" of popularity while he drudged through high school relatively unknown.
Pax was her parent's favorite until she told them that she preferred women.
Her mother's rejection was immediate and her oldest brother followed suit. She was the only one in the family who praised him and believed in him. Their mother, being the pious and devoted Christian that she was, considered her only daughter an abomination and treated her as such. To remain righteous and loved in her eyes, Zander adopted her line of thinking about Pax. Most times he treated her as though she were either not there or a nuisance to be around. He taunted her, made crude comments when their parents or Damian were not around. Zander, however, took his tainted beliefs a step too far.
"After you had left," Zander told her, "Mom was always crying that she ‘wanted her little girl back'. She was devastated, Pax. She missed you terribly but would never truly admit it to us or to herself that she had been wrong for banishing you from the family." He wiped the tears that drifted down catching on his beard stubble. "Dad said that he would catch her sitting in your room on your bed crying. We had no word of where you were or if you were still alive."
"What did any of you care?" Pax's voice cracked through her own tears. "Why would she? She disowned me. You all did."
Pax's shoulders slumped as the grasp of rancor animosity peeled itself away from her body leaving her spent in its wake. She swayed in the memory of feeling alone and abandoned from the betrayal of her family. Damian became her saving grace.
After a year, he had miraculously tracked her to Berkley somehow and made the first contact. He had kept in touch with her by through letters and even though she was torn to hear them, would update her on everyone. It was Damian who told her about their father being ill and near death. It was her kid brother that told her their mother had a stroke and had to be placed in a nursing home. Because of this, she had decided to return home.
"You were following behind mom." She gave a slow nod then shook her head. "I can understand you wanted points with mom, but why have me…raped?"
"I thought if you had actually slept with a man then you would change your mind about loving women. It sounded logical at the time. The priest even said that one of the ways to change you would be to pray and have you start to date boys. Mom was doing all the praying and nothing was happening. So I thought that I would help. I was angry that you hurt mother. I wanted things to be right again."
"My being raped would not have made anything right Zander. How boneheaded could a person be?"
"You've got that right. You have no idea what that little stunt put me through, how it made me feel to watch you walk away when I needed you the most. Then I realized you planned the whole thing. I want to kill you."
"I wanted to hurt you the way you hurt me!" he voice raised.
"I hurt you! How?"
"What?" She was lost; the images flooded her mind and buzzed incoherently.
"Who the hell…wait. She was your girlfriend wasn't she?" He nodded and she rubbed her forehead to prevent the headache that threatened to erupt. "What has she got to do with what you tried to do?"
"You are confusing the hell out of me Zander."
"She told me that you came on to her and that you kissed her. I wanted to hurt you for that."
"I what?" Her mouth hung open and her eyes bored into his. The images fast-forwarded to a week after her coming out announcement. Shelly was in the living room waiting for Zander to return from the grocery where their mother had sent him. She remembered it well. "I never did such a thing! It was the other way around. You must have said something about me to her because the next thing I know, she is trying to kiss me on the couch in the living room."
"I didn't know that then."
"How could you? No one in the family was speaking to me. Obviously you believed her."
"I did," he replied flatly. "It wasn't long after that Shelly left me for some college chick."
"So your girlfriend lies about me and dumps you. That is the reason for what you and Tommy wanted to do to me?"
"What you don't know is that when I turned the corner, I hurled everything that was in my stomach into the bushes."
"And that should make me feel better? Zander I left home not only because of mother and father treating me like an unwanted guest, but because I couldn't stand the sight of you. Each time I looked at you I saw you walking away and gloating. I couldn't stomach the thought of seeing Tommy as well."
"We stopped hanging out after that."
"And that is supposed to mean what? You couldn't take the guilt anymore so you stopped being friends?"
"No. Just that.... I'm not sure...But since then I have learned differently."
"What is motivating your beliefs this time?" the bitterness laced her voiced and she refused to control it any longer.
"Fear of losing Felicia and the boys."
"Why does it always have to be for someone else Zander?" Pax couldn't stop the plea. "Why not just love me for who I am; because I'm your sister?"
"That's what I am trying to do Pax. Listen, after that night here in the kitchen, I lived in a hotel for over a month while Felicia and I worked things out. One condition of returning was that I had to be ‘re-educated' according to Felicia."
"Re-educated? That still doesn't answer my question," she huffed.
"She made us go to P-Flag meetings and we watched documentaries and talked to others at support groups who had believed as I did. It was a condition for rejoining my family."
"And I should believe that your hatred of me has changed?"
"Not hatred Pax. I didn't understand and did things for the wrong reasons."
"They should not have been done at all."
"I agree," Zander conceded and wiped his cheek. "I'm so sorry Pax. Truly I am." He looked into a mirrored pair of blue eyes beseeching her for understanding and forgiveness.
Sighing heavily Zander sniffed and wiped his eyes once again. It's a start anyway. In the brief silence, he thought to retreat back to neutral ground. "You want another beer?"
"No I can't. I'm teaching tonight." She would have to get to the dojo early and use the bag to work through all that he had told her.
"Felicia told me that you were teaching karate now."
"Yeah, have been the about a month," she said thankful for the reprieve and subject change.
"She said it's where that black woman teaches."
"Black woman? Tanesha? She doesn't teach there anymore."
Master Min, the owner of the Okinawian Dojo came to Pax over a month ago and asked her to join his staff in teaching the true principles of karate. He told Pax that news of their public fight had reached him several days after the fight. Some of the parents knew as well and were concerned. Master Min had taken Tanesha's gear from her locker and visited her in her hospital room. It was there he told her how she had dishonored him and the school by her blatant misuse of his teachings. Master then dismissed her from service. Although she could not talk, Tanesha's shouts and screams could be heard half way down the corridor.
"What do you think of the boys starting there?"
"Is that what they want?"
"They will love anything that involves you Pax. They adore you."
Shrugging her shoulders she said, "Sure. Bring them by next Monday and get them registered."
"I'll do that." He studied her. "I want you to know Pax, I really don't believe in all that crap I spouted back then. Really, I am truly sorry for what I put you through."
"Honestly, it sounds as though you are Zander," She shook her head. "But it takes more than words to have forgiveness granted for something like this."
"I know. As long as you are entertaining my forgiveness, I know there is hope. I won't let you down again."
"You'll understand if I don't jump on that right away."
"Sure. I just want to start somewhere."
"I know. I appreciate the effort."
"The family should be together again."
"That would be nice."
"You know, Christmas is not too far off. Dinner will be here."
"Sounds like a plan to me. It's been a long time since I have had a dinner like that with all the trimmings. She frowned at the thought of her last family meal fifteen years ago with Jen, her deceased lover.
"We will have a lot to be thankful for this holiday season."
"Some of us do," Pax muttered.
"I was really sorry to hear…" he stammered, "about you and the social worker. Felecia told me."
"Me too." The anguish registered unchecked across her face.
"You want to talk about it? I promise to listen openly."
Pax eyed her brother curiously and slowly shook her head. He was truly trying but the sting of her loss remained to close to the surface and raw. "Not really."
"Okay. Well Felecia will be home a few hours. You can talk to her then if you want."
He was really trying. "Thanks."
* * * * * *
Having time before her class at the dojo, Pax stopped for a light dinner at the Lexicon, her brother Damian's restaurant. Finding a parking spot tonight was easier than the other times when she had arrived. She checked her watch and realized why. It was not even five in the afternoon; she had beaten the dinner rush. She found a place close to the door, jumped down from her dark blue and silver F-150 and walked through the extremely huge and heavy carved wooden doors.
Pax stood by the podium waiting for the hostess to return and lead her to a table for one. I really hate dining alone in places like this. She looked around as she waited hoping to spot her baby brother and have a visit with him at the same time.
"Good evening. How many are in your party?" The petite brunette appeared out of thin air to smile brightly at Pax.
"One, please. No smoking."
The hostess checked the plastic covered seating chart atop the podium, and then smiled up at Pax.
"Follow me please." She turned and sashayed away from Pax whose eyes naturally lowered to her shapely backside.
Before returning to Michigan, she would not have hesitated to make a play for the sweet thing seating her in the solitary booth. Full of self-confidence the Pax before Teela would have had the woman's number by the end of her meal. The current Pax pined for a love that would never be again. Sighing heavily, Pax let the melancholy engulf her. Although she was filled with the sight of the woman before her, none could compare to the sensuality of the red hair blonde that had stolen her heart. No one had Teela's walk, laugh, or crinkle of the nose bridge when she thoroughly enjoyed a hearty laugh. No one.
Damian watched his sister as she stared out of the window into the world beyond the large glass pane. This wasn't the first time she had donned that vacant look. Over the past several months he had stared into the lifeless blue eyes that used to mirror his own brilliant blues. A pain wafted through her essence of such mass proportions that it began to spill forth blanching nearly all the cerulean from her iris. His sister, his hero was suffocating in the grip of love's heartache.
He blinked rapidly, willing the tears to not fall. He was the owner; he had a façade to project, and employees and patrons alike surrounded him. None of that mattered to him. He was her brother and he too felt her devastation. It radiated from her like a beacon throughout whatever room she happens to inhabit. Clearing his throat, Damian plastered the toothy smile upon his face, put an emphatic bounce in his step and moved towards his sister in the corner.
"Hey, big sister fancy meeting you here." He flopped into the booth.
"Thought I'd come and have dinner in your fine establishment before going to teach tonight."
"I'm glad you did. I have missed your ugly mug this past week."
"You shouldn't talk about yourself like that Dami."
"Ha ha ha." He sat back as the waitress brought him a cup of coffee to the table. "Thanks Susan."
"Got the girls trained do you?" Her brow knitted briefly. I am not trainable! She remembered screaming repeatedly at Boney and Teela. Don't go there Pax girl. Let her go.
"Hey, are you alright?" Damian's large hand easily covered her own. His eyes darkened as he regarded a flash of something that blanched her face. "Pax?"
"Yeah. I'm fine," she sipped her coffee and stared out the window before she turned back to her brother. I can't keep going this way. I need to do something. What was it my old buddy in Berkley used to say, 'bury the hurt in another body'. Right now that takes too much effort and I don't have the energy or the desire. She admitted with a defeated sigh, she made me useless for anyone else.
"Why don't I believe you?" He raised his left eyebrow in her trademark fashion.
"Because I don't believe me." Pax rubbed her hands over her face, "So how are things with you and Linda?"
You're avoiding my question, but because I know you could whip my ass without breaking a sweat if I push you... "Things are good. We're seeing a lot of one another."
"You think it's serious?"
"Sure hope so." Pax smiled at the twinkling in her brother's eyes. "We seem compatible in so many ways. She likes to cook and so do I."
"That's a plus for you." She grinned over her Caesar salad placed in front of her.
"More than that, she likes sports — all kinds of things from baseball to Monster Truck races to Rugby." His eyes grew large and Pax chuckled at him. "Plus, she is such a dream," he nearly squealed. "She has the dish with all those specialty sports channels."
"Oh God, your dream come true baby brother," she said around a mouth full of salad.
"I know. I know. I think I am in love already." He gave her a high five then watched her choked on a bit of salad.
Pax flushed red instantly as she was tapping her chest and coughing. She shot Damian an evil glare. Unable to speak she put her fists one atop the other and made a twisting motion. Damian ignored both his sister and the diners who stared and laughed louder.
"Now you see there," he wiped the tears from his eyes, "a prime example why you don't talk with your mouth full. Bad things could happen."
"I swear, Damian," Pax wiped her eyes and then replaced the napkin in her lap. "You do that to me again, I will seriously hurt you."
"You always do that. Even when we were kids. Why?" His chuckled slowed. "You can't raise your hands and swallow without choking."
"That's me, the medical mystery. You know that. What are you trying to do, kill me?"
"I love ya sis."
"No you don't."
"Yes I do." He sipped his coffee. "Speaking of medical mysteries, I saw mom the yesterday."
"Is she alright?"
"She looked a little funny to me."
"Funny how?" The panic rose and she put down her water glass. She felt bad for having not gone the past week. Now she hoped that it was not too late to rectify.
"That's not very helpful, Damian. Did you ask one of the nurses what was going on?"
"No. I thought you and Felecia could check things out."
"I don't believe you! How could you think such a thing Damian? You should have talked to one of the nurses."
Finally, the color returned to the lifeless eyes and bore down upon him. "I didn't see anyone around, Pax."
"Did you call the head nurse...what do they call them?" She thought then snapped her fingers, "Assistant Director of Nurses. Have you spoken to her?"
"You have got to be kidding me?" Exasperated she threw her hands into the air.
"Maybe you can call Teela and find out what's going on with mom."
Damian tried not to shiver as the glacial stare froze him to the soft leather booth. He steeled himself and met his sisters without an outward flinch. Someone had to tell her she should speak to the woman and get on with it. Felecia had tried to be ignored for weeks before Pax spoke to her again. She got dumped, slam dumped. His World Champion sister held onto Teela and let herself dangle indefinitely over the edge. She refused to completely let go. Her love for their mother's former social worker was as strong as the one he had witnessed for more than thirty years with his mother and father. Especially after the year separation they had.
"You should know better than that Damian," she hissed but lowered her eyes to the table. Just the mention of your name and I...
"Pax, sweetheart. Have you even tried to talk to her?"
"You should have spoken to a nurse directly Damian and not use mother's health as a way to play matchmaker." She pinned him again to the leather booth with her eyes.
"That's not what I intended Pax."
"Tell me another one."
"Honestly, I did not see anyone around when I left mother's room yesterday." He covered her hand with his again. "What I just said was an after thought."
"I told you never to mention that name to me again." Always the mediator, Damian. Never fails.
"I can't bear to see you so unhappy Pax."
"Who said that I am unhappy?" She ignored her brother's gaze. She took her hand back and used it to lift her coffee cup.
"You do." Damian sat against the booth and waved his hands towards Pax to gesture at her flattened features, robotic mannerism and slack shoulders.
Silence encased the siblings as they watched the traffic outside the large bay window. Several minutes went by before Pax turned to her dearest brother but found it difficult to speak. She reached into the leg of her cargo pants, withdrew a twenty-dollar bill and laid it upon the table.
"I'll see you later." She patted him on the shoulder and left him to watch the light snow drifting from somewhere above the roof tops.
* * * * * *
Pax quickly showered and then filled the tub with steaming hot water. She opened the cap on the bottle of her favorite Japanese Cheery Blossom bubble bath and poured a generous amount beneath the streaming spray. The water pressure was great in the old house she rented. Better yet, it had a tub that she could nearly unfold her long legs in. Knees only slightly bent and not up to her chin, Pax cooed as the hot water pricked her skin.
Class had been exceptionally brutal tonight. Oddly, the kids didn't want to listen. The adults were not much better focused. The whole group seemed to want to play more than practice their forms or katas. Twice, she gave the Rigotto brothers disciplines for fooling around in line. When the twenty-five knuckle push-ups were not enough, a duck walk lap or two around the outside of the practice floor after class sufficed. She was certain they would be more attentive in the next class.
Every muscle in her six-foot frame throbbed, ached or was twisted in knots. She massaged her right thigh, it pulsated the most. While living in Berkley, picturesque cold temperatures and snow covered ground were things one saw on post cards. Living in Michigan, was the postcard itself. Icy temperatures and fluctuating warm and cold weather patterns kept Pax's old wounds and injuries a constant reminder of the abuse she put them through. Hell, I can tell when a cold front is coming. I am a six-foot barometer.
_____________ Chapter 2__________________________
Pax sat upon her mother's bed at the Appleway Rehab and Convalescent Center, otherwise known as the ARCC. She arrived and found her mother in her wheelchair and watching television in her room.
Although her mother was unable to speak, she was able to show some emotions through her facial expressions. Pax was not familiar with most of them, but did recognize the one she often used with them as children. It was that "I'm not amused" look. Pax received several of those looks so far this visit as she told her mother about her grandchildren and the things that she has taught them.
Pax brushed her mother's hair as she chatted. She was amazed that her hair remained soft over the years. The jet black now peppered with gray was becoming around her face. Pax placed her hand upon her mother's cheek. She felt warm, her color pasty but not yellow as her brother had alluded.
"Do you feel okay Mom?" Pax bent lower to study her face and gaze into her eyes. "Let's go tell someone, okay." Standing she went to the bedroom door and looked both ways in the hall. Not one soul was in sight. She turned back to her mother, kissed her forehead, and said, "Mom, I'll tell the nurse that you are not feeling well. I'll stop by again real soon."
Pax made her way up the hall to the nurses' station where she spotted her mothers social worker, Veronica.
"Hi Pax. How are you?"
"Good, Veronica how are you?"
"It's Nica please. Veronica makes me sound like that character from the Archie Comics.
"I liked those comics," she laughed, "Nica then."
Nica returned the smile. Oh Teela, you are stupid for letting this one get away. "Better. What can I do for you?"
"My brother, Damian, was in the other day and he told me mom looked yellow."
"But I don't think so. She feels warm, but it is hot in here anyway."
"True. Older patients are generally colder than you and I. It has to do with thinning of the skin and decreased circulation among other things. So it's warmer in here."
"She still looks a little off-color to me. I was wondering if she is getting sick or anything."
"Not sure. Let's take a look." Nica turned behind her to the rack of large binders. She located the one marked Maureen Baldwin and withdrew it from the slot. Pax noticed the green allergy sticker on the binder and smiled. Her mother loved seafood but could not risk the severe reaction it would cause. Nica scanned the pages. "No nothing is written about her being sick. Have you asked the floor nurse?"
"No. You're the first one I've seen. Where is everyone?"
She glanced at the wall clock, "Probably transporting to lunch or are there feeding residents."
"Nica I'm going to go..." Teela rounded the corner and suddenly stopped when she noticed Pax. Their eyes meet and both felt the immediate pain from the recent past. "Pax, hello."
The color drained and her face turned into a frown. "Hello Teela," came her perfunctory reply before she turned back to Nica. "Can you check on mother and give me a call?" Breathe, yes she looks fantastic, but breathe before you pass out like an idiot. Don't go there.
Despite the warmth of the building, Nica shuddered in the unexpected chill that emanated between the two women. "Sure, Pax."
"Thank you." Pax turned and left without another word.
Teela glanced to Nica whose eyes were large and wide. "Go," Nica mouthed to Teela and jabbed her thumb in the direction Pax exited.
"Pax, wait." Teela caught her outside the lobby doors. "Pax..." She stopped and Teela moved around to face her. She searched the empty dull eyes and found nothing familiar. "How are you?"
"Great," she replied flatly and let silence fall around them.
"I've been wondering how you have been doing?"
"I noticed," her smile dripped with sarcasm, "your concern in all the messages that you left on my machine."
Teela stepped backward and swallowed her own retort at Pax's jeer. She understood and accepted her penetrating gaze. She tried another avenue. Now that they were face to face, she did not want to let this chance slip by. "How are Felecia and the boys?"
"Call them and find out. Excuse me, but I need to get going. I have an engagement shortly."
Engagement? Is she seeing someone else? Why do I feel jealous about that? I lost all claim to her months ago. "I'm sorry to hold you up."
Pax held the pale green eyes briefly before she closed her own. She inadvertently inhaled the faint wisp of Teela's cologne. No, she obliterated your heart. Don't let her do it again. "Goodbye Teela." She stepped around the social worker and continued on towards the parking lot. Once inside of her F-150, she sat back against the seat breathing heavily from her body's betrayal and thundering heart.
Rooted upon the clay tiles in the foyer, Teela helplessly watched Pax's long strides carry her as she exited the building and to the silver and blue truck. Don't go, the internal scream resounded. The unexpected scene resurrected the hollow ache that she had controlled for so long with an unquenchable vengeance. The sight of Pax stirred her heart against her will and brought it the rest of the way back to life.
Teela turned and made her way back into the building to her office behind the nursing station. She closed the door to hide from the prying eyes of ARCC employees. For the next few minutes while she struggled to gather her thoughts and calm the rapid firing pistons revved her central nervous system.
It was true she has lost all rights to Pax Kattapoulous Baldwin. Teela had wanted Pax to be the last love she would ever have. Unfortunately what she said and how she actually behaved were never in synch. In fact they were frequently polar opposites. She had been a walking contradiction to Pax three months ago. Teela understood that now. Her counseling sessions with Sterling Hyatt twice a week had helped her to recognize so much in the so little time.
For all intents and purposes, she had forced Pax out of her life — slammed the door upon the love that once blossomed between them. She had hurt Pax. Hurt is not a strong enough word for what I did to you.
Teela gazed into those brilliant blue eyes and pledge her self to a relationship with the zoologist that night on the beach at Nettles.
Reaching into the leg pocket of her khakis, Pax sat up and brings out a small object. Pulling Teela upright she gave her a kiss upon the cheek. Inhaling deeply, she quietly asks. "I love you Teela, can I be apart of you, your life?"
Tears streaming down her eyes Teela threw herself at Pax and wrapped her arms around her neck. The force of their coming together caused Pax to fall on her back once again. Half of Pax's brain rejoiced in what she believed to be Teela's answer of yes. The other half tried bravely to ignore her screaming tailbone and the curses hurled at the dog. Damn dog had to put her in pain tonight of all nights. It's as if she had known. Damn dog.
When Pax was able to sit upright, she removed the carved golden band and placed it upon Teela's ring finger. She kissed it and every one on that hand.
Pax looked upon her lover and smiled. "Now I've peed all around you." They laughed, breaking the seriousness of the moment.
"Ah and now I can start your training just like Boney."
Teela closed her eyes as the ghosts from the recent past wafted into consciousness forcing her to remember her razor edged tongue as she shredded her lover's dignity with her words. She had been beyond cruel the night of Bess' death as her words hurt, maimed and killed Pax so swiftly.
Teela came back into the room carrying a glass of juice. Her shoulders were slumped with fatigue and emotional drain. Her clothes were wrinkled from sleeping in them and darkened circles outlined her lower lids. Pax was sickened for her. She took a step towards Teela
"What are you doing here?" Teela questioned indifferently, her gaze lacking the warmth that Pax remembered.
"I...aahh...wanted to see you. To make sure you were alright. I...want to be here for you honey."
"Well, you've seen me and I'm alright. You've been here. Now you can go."
"Teela," Jo and Boney sang in unison.
"Honey, you don't mean that. Do you?" Pax asked fear strangling her breath.
"I can't deal with this and you right now. Just go," she hissed.
"LEAVE ME THE HELL ALONE WILL YOU!!" Green hatred bored through Pax and struck her harder than Tanesha ever could.
The bile rose from its depth threatening to spill across the plush carpeting. Pax turned sharply on her heels and limped quickly and painfully out of the room. The only sound echoing in the house was the soft click of the front door. A few minutes later, they heard the truck roar to life and pull away from the house.
Caught in the guilt of having chosen to live her life while Bess existed in a shell of her former self, she had lashed out in misguided and wrongly projected anger at the one person who did not deserve the wrath, the one person who had loved her truthfully with unconditional faith. Pax had asked for only one thing in return for Teela to be honest. But I had to wallow in martyrdom and to listen to others compliment how dutiful I was? Dutiful, that's a joke.
* * * * * *
Teela returned from her lunch hour, longing for the day to be over with. She had neither the energy nor the desire to interview and assess the three residents that were left on her calendars "To Do" list for the day. She had left the hardest people with the largest amount of documentation to complete for last.
"I should have done them first. Now I don't have the stamina," she said sighing wearily. "Shit. No choice but to."
The Family Conferences with the Interdisciplinary Team, or ID-Team, were tomorrow. Teela could only imagine how intimidating it was to residents and their family entering a meeting room and facing an Assessment Nurse, Dietician, Activity Director, and a Social Worker sitting behind a long table with mounds of paper being shuffled between them. Sometimes the Physical Therapist and the Occupational Therapist would also attend these meetings.
Long Term Care Facilities were guided by strict state and federal regulations when it came to every detail of a resident's care and treatment. These regulations told nursing homes how to manage everything from how much space there needs to be between two beds to what should be done for End of Life care. One facet of those rules stated that families and resident must have a review with the ID-Team every three months and annually.
In the conferences, each ID-Team member would review issues, concerns, physical changes, mental changes, activity participation, and their performance with bathing, dressing feeding themselves etc. otherwise known as Activities of Daily Living, or ADLs. In the twenty minutes time allotted for each Conference, they were sometimes hard pressed to get a verbal review completed, especially if the resident was extremely compromised or had a significant change in overall condition. That may have arisen and been resolved during that quarter and a summary at the yearly anniversary.
Unfortunately, because the state and federal health agencies want to know person centered specifics and details, came the ungodly amount of paperwork that needed to be done to prepare for just one resident's conference. Sometimes, she had five or six scheduled for one morning.
Teela spied the clock. Only a few minutes had gone by since the last time she wished the hands to move faster. Okay, okay. Quit goofing off and focus. Assessments have to be in the computer by five today for printing at eight-thirty tomorrow morning. You have to do this. You slouch.
"Hi honey," came the familiar reply from the doorway. Teela's favored resident and hug-meister, Belle entered her office. As usual the stately looking older woman carried a bundle of wrapped candies squished between her tightly clenched hand.
"Hi Belle. Where have you been?" Knowing what was coming, Teela stood to accept the hug from Belle. "Where have you been? I have not seen you all day."
"Honey, you like my hair?" She raked her free hand from the temple back through the short salt and pepper hair.
"Yes Belle, I love your hair." Teela smiled broadly at the resident she adored. Belle was always good for a bright smile and a warm hug any time of the day.
"And I love you too honey." Belle squeezed her again.
"Hiya Teela," Nica chirped as she entered the office.
"Hello Belle," she greeted her.
"Honey, do you like my hair?" she asked other social worker and raked her hands through her silver hair and waited.
"Yes I do Belle. It looks wonderful. Did you get a cut?"
"Are you going to do it really?" Belle questioned Nica.
"Not at the moment Belle. I have a ton of other things to do."
"Well let's go," she stepped to Nica and looped her arm in hers. It was then she noticed that the man standing beside Nica. "And how are you honey?" she addressed him.
The man looked at the elderly woman and then over to Teela. Teela shrugged her shoulders and extended her hand prompting him to respond to her. Just as quickly, Belle's brows knitted together and her face reddened. She snarled at the tall man "I don't like you," Belle declared and tugged on Nica's arm.
"Belle that was not a nice thing to say."
"I know it honey." She gave her a full smile that reached her eyes. "We should be doing that right now. Come on."
"Just a minute Belle, I have to talk to Teela."
"Are you gonna do it?"
"Just one moment Belle okay?" Nica encouraged and stroked her hand as she faced Teela.
Belle grinned and cupped both sides of Nica's face with her palms. "I really like you honey."
"I like you too Belle." Chuckling Belle hugged Nica. She turned to Teela, "And you too are you going to do it?"
"In a little while Belle. I have a few other things to do first," Teela assured her.
"Okay." Satisfied, Belle went to step around Nica and looked up into the face of the tall man. "Hmmph!" She stated and as she walked past the man, she gave him a soft backhand to the stomach and kept going.
Losing her battle against containing her laughter, Nica gave in just a little as she apologized. "I am so sorry about that Dr. Nonski."
"Does she always fluctuate like that?"
"Sometimes… Not responding makes her more irritated with the person. Unfortunately, she will most likely remember you and treat you the same way from now on." Who the hell are you anyway? Teela could have asked as her own irritation rose. Like Belle, she did not like him either. Another reason for her irritation had to do with Pax's rejection. What the hell did I expect?
"She should be on medications for her aggressiveness," Dr. Nonski strongly suggested and followed Belle with his gaze.
"I disagree," Teela hissed and folded her arms across her chest. You pompous ass. The reason for her irritability was you. "Everyone is entitled to an opinion. Belle is no different. She is dis-inhibited and speaks her mind as a result." Teela could not stop the tirade. "What is the difference if you or I say the same thing about someone? Should we be on medications too? I don't like the President of the United States all that much, so should I be incarcerated or placed on an antipsychotic?"
"Depends," he replied unphased by the impassioned blonde. "Are you psychotic?
"Depends on who you talk to, but as a general rule, no. And at the moment, neither is Belle." She saw Nica's questioning gaze from her periphery vision. "You were struck because you did not treat her like a person."
"I beg your pardon?"
"Aahh, Teela," Nica stepped in. "Let me introduce you to Dr. Scott Nonski, the new psychiatrist."
Teela looked upon the thirty something psychiatrist with only a momentary sense of remorse for the dressing down she gave him. She took another less critical look at the face lightly covered in a neat strawberry blonde mustache and beard. His light gray suit, brilliant white shirt and darker gray tie said that he was nonplussed and sensible.
Dr. Nonski did not look like his four predecessors that the ARCC had contracted with in the past. However, those men had been older and haphazardly dressed most of the time. Although Scott needed to wear glasses, the frames were small, round and stylish. His predecessors wore the proverbial large, round lenses with a square black or silver frame. Scott was definitely a change of pace from the norm.
"Hello doctor, Teela Pheamster, Social Worker." She extended her hand in cordial greeting.
Okay, the hellcat has a tamer side that appears as easily as its doppleganger. "Mrs. Pheamster."
"Ms." His head bowed slightly in acknowledgement. "As you can see, I am passionate about my clients and the unnecessary use of medications.
"Justifiably so, especially in the elderly. They can be abused so easily."
"This is true," Teela conceded.
Nica looked between the two uncertain if she should leave them alone together. "Now that the introductions are made…"
"Dr. Nonski, what happened to Dr. Cummins, the psychiatrist assigned to the ARCC?"
"Unfortunately, he had a car accident last week. So I have been assigned until Forensics employs another psychiatrist."
Forensic Geriatric Services established by Dr. Joseph Parellis five years ago provided psychiatric services to older adults on an outpatient basis. Dr. Parellis employed three associates to broaden his reach into the elder community and nursing homes. Dr.'s Scott Nonski and Rollie Cummins, were the psychiatrist, and Betty Ahrenson a Masters prepared social worker and psychologist with a host of alphabet letters that followed her name. Each was assigned to a nursing facility.
Dr. Cummins had been the ARCC's psychiatrist for two months. Teela had gotten accustomed to his little personality quirks and despite his general oddness, she had grown fond of the older gentleman. He was easy to get along with, and had great sense of humor. More importantly, was willing to adhere to the numerous regulations and documentation rules that the ARCC demanded occur when it came to mind or behavior altering medications and treatments. Teela internally groaned thinking of breaking in a new psychiatrist and the potential power struggle that usually followed when trying to enforce those standards.
"I'm going to go back to my office. I don't have anyone for Dr. Nonski to see. So he is all yours Teela."
"Thanks Nica. I'll get with you later."
"Nice to have met you Dr. Nonski."
In the awkward silence of the room, Scott observed the social worker. Dressed in beige linen slacks, loafers and an emerald green button down oxford, Scott was taken aback by the matching green gems looking at him. A different kind of smile invaded his lips as he straightened his already precise tie.
"Since you are employed with Dr. Parellis, I take it you are well versed in gerontology? No offense of course."
"None taken. Yes I have experience with geriatrics." He smiled broader at the quizzical look of the social worker.
"That's not what I meant to imply at all, doctor." He tipped his head in acquiescence. "You mentioned that we have you temporarily? You're not going to be assigned to the ARCC permanently?"
"No: Afraid not. I have an affinity for the veterans."
"If you have concerns, we can telephone Dr.Parellis and discuss them?"
"No, no, it's not that I am questioning your competence, doctor, far from it. My concern is regarding consistency. First and foremost, that is what my families and resident's need. Gaining their trust and confidence is very hard won to begin with. A positive rapport is essential. That relationship is difficult to develop if one party keeps changing. Having too many psychiatrists with possibly differing views, we run the risk of treatment contradictions and potential distress for the resident."
"I certainly can understand that." Not only beautiful, but intelligent as well. I like her. Don't see a ring or a trace of where one had been. Could be possible… We'll see.
"On the other side is assuring that the State and Federal guidelines for mental health monitoring are followed to prevent any citations or deficits during the facilities annual inspection from the state agencies."
"I assure you that Dr. Parellis is diligently seeking another permanent psychiatrist for the ARCC to replace Dr. Cummins. In the interim until that is accomplished, Forensic will meet the needs of your residents and families. We will simply explain that extenuating circumstances do occur and I am sure they will understand. As for the regulations, I am at your mercy to instruct me on them and the protocols to follow.
"Thank you for understanding."
"No problem." He flashed his most winning smile, the one that worked with anyone her turned it on. "Shall we get started?
"I have four people for you to see: one with Late-Onset Schizophrenia, one with Severe Mood Disorder, and there are two residents that are receiving medications to slow down the progression of their dementia. We need verification for the insurance companies that the medication is still effective so that they will continue to pay for the medication.
"In the nursing home are they called cognitive stimulants, cognitive enhancers, or cholinesterase inhibitors?"
"All of the above, but for our families, the last one sounds too scary and medical. We like to keep it simple and generally use cognitive stimulants or enhancers. We explain to them precisely that the medications are only a means of slowing down how fast the resident deteriorates. So that is the key point, keep it simple and laymen terms that they can understand, otherwise, they are likely to reject you and the treatment." Like Belle has done and I still might, she thought.
"Let's get you settled in the report room."
Teela led him to a room down the hall. She provided him the tools that he would need to complete the evaluations on the residents. She briefly explained how the clinical chart was organized and where the primary information could be found. Once that was done, she returned to her nursing station to find Cassandra, the Assistant Director of Nurses or ADON/Unit Manager talking to one of the nurses in her charge for the day.
"Cassandra," the floor nurse spoke. "You have to come and look at Beatrice."
"Which one we have three on the unit?" Cassandra asked.
"Nickleson," the nurse said.
"What's wrong with her?"
"She has foul smelling urine and greenish white milky discharge. Teela you should come too. Bea has been so naughty today. She threw her cranberry juice on me."
It was then she noticed the nurse's bright yellow scrub uniform had complimentary red splattered stains down the front. She glanced down at her own linen pants and replied, "Eewww! No way." Her body gave an involuntary shudder.
"She is having behaviors Teela," Cassandra chuckled. She knew why her partner in management the unit really did not want to accompany them. Teela's sensitive stomach had shown itself twice before when Teela had walked in a resident's room and found Cassandra examining someone's open wound or incisions.
"I am not going in there to look at…whatever," Teela waved her hand in dismissal. "That's a nursing thing. Call me when you are done and she is dressed."
"Teela, I am surprised at you. We need your help. Where is that team spirit?" Cassandra beamed at her evilly and hugged her partner.
"Very funny Cassandra... You want me to throw up on her too?" She turned to enter her office behind the nursing station. "And make sure she does not have any liquids near her when I go in there." She grabbed some papers off her desk and returned to guide Dr. Nonski through his visit.
* * * * * *
Martha Dayne of the Human Resources department for the Metropolitan Park and Zoo gave their latest employee the nickel tour of the zoo. Tammy Reynolds listened intently to her guide who explained what lay behind the clearly labeled doors and what her new responsibilities would be. She was excited to be apart of the animal care team albeit a very distant part as an Environmental Tech a.k.a. the clean up crew.
"So Tammy, we are nearing the offices, labs, and infirmary section of the complex. You won't be spending very much time here unless there is a clean up of some sort and then you are supervised."
"Who's offices are here?" She pushed the glasses back upon her nose.
"Only Dr. Caldwell, Director of Veterinary, Pax Baldwin, Zoologist and Curator and their assistants. They work closely together and prefer to be closer to the animals. The other departmental heads and such are located in the administrative building where we were.
"There is so much to take in," she clapped her hands excited. "So much to learn, I hope people are patient with me until I get a handle on all of this."
Martha turned to the nice looking young woman beside her and smiled warmly. She liked her right from the start. Slightly overweight, large owlish glasses that framed pale brown eyes. She had a shy demeanor but her eagerness was contagious. But that shoulder length red streaked hair needs to be one color. "You will be just fine. You will be working with some great people. If you run into any problems, all you have to do is ask someone for help. Better to ask than make a mistake that could be costly or deadly."
"I agree with you." Tammy flashed her guide a smile full of braces. They were the reason for the lisping hiss when she spoke.
"All new Enviro Tech's, as we call you guys, are assigned a Mentor, an experienced Environmental Tech who will train you for the two weeks and then supervise you until you get your three-month evaluation. You will answer to them and then to the department head. That is your chain of command."
"I'm sure you will do fine." She glanced over Tammy's shoulder. "Here comes Pax now."
Swallowing hard, Tammy slowly turned and watched the tall woman with the slight limp approach them. She quickly lowered her eyes and bowed her head to inspect her shoes. She heard a screech and looked again. In Pax's arms wearing a USC t-shirt and baseball hat was a chimpanzee.
"Hi Pax, Cloe," Martha greeted.
"Hi Martha. How are you doing?"
"Great. And how is Cloe?"
"Cantankerous today," she chuckled. "Can chimps get PMS?"
"Not sure," she laughed. "But she is so cute." She reached out to take the chimps hand and Cloe pulled away and pressed further into Pax's chest.
"And Picky." Pax glanced at Cloe whose gaze was locked on the other person standing in the hall. "Hi."
"Hi," came Tammy's quiet reply.
"Pax Baldwin, Tammy Reynolds our new Enviro Tech." Martha filled in.
Pax placed Cloe on the floor and the chimp ran behind her to hide. She wrapped hands around Pax's legs and peered between them at the other humans. "Cloe, what is wrong with you? I don't know what's wrong with her all of a sudden?" Pax stretched out her hand towards the woman. "Welcome aboard Tammy." When their palms clasped, a cool tingle froze Pax's hand and wrist. She was instantly nauseous, but willed herself not to let the shudder be seen with the contact. What the hell was that?
"Have we met before?" Pax narrowed her eyes and stared at the woman with the red streaked hair. I would probably remember that hair if we have.
"I don't think so unless you lived in Arizona," she lisped heavily nearly spitting. Tammy confidently held the questioning blue eyes.
"Afraid not, but nice to have met you anyway Tammy. Welcome to Metro." She still couldn't shake the strange feeling that she got from the Enviro Tech.
Tammy smiled broadly, "Nice to have met you Dr. Baldwin."
"No doctor, just Pax." Cloe tugged on Pax's finger. "Someone's a little impatient. Goodbye. Alright, alright, Cloe." She let go of the chimp and watched her scamper the few feet up the hall. Cloe opened the door and disappeared inside. "Uh oh." Pax took off after her friend.
Laughing, Martha turned back to her charge. "Pax and Cloe have become quite the team around here. Although I think she spoils that chimp more than she should."
"Cloe lives here?"
"Yes, in the primate area. Pax seems to have adopted her."
"And dresses her," she chuckled. "USC?"
"USC is Pax's alma mater. She is a very, very nice person. She has made so many contributions to Metro in the short time she has been here."
"Well-liked is she now?"
"Extremely," Martha volunteered. "You'll like her too."
She turned and prompted Tammy to follow her and continue on their tour. Tammy noticed Pax's office door had remained open when they passed. Pax was seated behind her desk on the telephone eating an apple from the basket of fruit on her desk. Tammy smiled as she glimpsed Cloe scurry across the floor.
Pax watched as Cloe took an apple from the basket and ran to her table in the corner. As her stubby chimp teeth sank into the meaty apply, she picked a green crayon and began to color the Barney picture taped to the table. Despite the melancholy she felt, she chuckled at her friends antics while her sister-in-law spoke through the receiver.
"She wanted to talk with me Felicia."
"Did you talk?"
"No. I wanted to, but couldn't." Her frustration showed through as she raked her fingers through the dark tresses.
"That's an excuse Pax. You should hang up with me and call her. Meet somewhere neutral, for coffee."
"Don't want to?" she pouted and picked at imaginary lint on her slacks.
"Stop pouting Pax, and pick your lip up," she chuckled. "Listen, it's up to you if you want to talk to her. It's your life, but I have to tell you, the boys and I are worried sick about you Pax. You may not want to admit it, but you miss Teela. She brought out something in you that has been missing since you two broke up."
"First, let's clarify something. She dumped me. We didn't break up," she replied venomously. She hated being the topic of their discussions.
"Yeah hard too. What bothers you more Pax, that you're the dumpee not the dumper?"
Pax raised a darkened brow to her hairline. She was always the one who called it quits, breaking things off when they became too serious or cumbersome. It was never the other way around. "Yeah well, that's moot point."
"Is it now? I don't happen to think so."
"What does that have to do with the price of tea in China?"
"I think that because you were the dumpee, it adds an extra layer of anger on top of everything else."
Pax paused and gave thought to Felicia's words. She silently admitted that she was right. She was angry because Teela broke things off with her. Her animosity reached new heights at the thought of Teela's lying and deceit. She took the Pax's ring, promised her love, then abandoned her without warning, destroying everything they had shared as if it had no meaning at all. She felt used and rightfully so.
"Anger is anger Felicia," she replied through clenched teeth.
"Ah sis, but when it is layered, it is so much more difficult to resolve."
How does she know these things? "And what do you guys think is missing?"
"You figure it out. It will mean more if you discover it than if I tell you."
"Geez, where did that come from?"
"Dr.Phil," she laughed.
"You need to get a life Felicia."
"So do you sis."
"Stop by the house. I want to hear how things went with my husband the other day."
"Maybe, if you are making cheesecake."
"I could. See ya later."
She returned the receiver to the cradle and thoughtfully bit into her forgotten apple. Seeing Teela brought about a mix of emotions that she was not sure where to begin to sort them out. Anger and animosity were at the forefront but had weakened when those emerald pearls caught hers.
"I don't know what I am going to do, Cloe." The chimp looked at her human and screeched a whimper. "Felicia said for me to figure it out. Maybe I should just forget about her and move on," she sighed heavily. "That is far easier said than done."
_________________ Chapter 3_______________________
Unable to play golf in the winter, Boney, Jo, and Teela elected to join the bowling league and its long season ending in March the following year. The Women's Clinic where Jo practiced her psychiatry sponsored the team christened "The Mentals". Locating a fourth to round out the team was not difficult. Harley Goldberg, Jo's new friend and co-worker at the Clinic, had been exuberant to join the team. It would be one less night she'd have to spend alone in her silent apartment.
"Come on Teela, it's your turn." Boney shouted from her seat at the counter behind lanes thirty-one and thirty-two.
"Don't rush perfection." Teela approached the ball carrier.
Leaning towards Harley Boney loudly whispered, "Perfect gutter ball or split more likely."
"I heard that."
Teela picked up the black ball with ‘Thumper' etched in stark white letters. Teela stood on her spot behind the second line of dots imbedded on the wooden platform. Eyes riveted upon the space between the arrows down the lane, she focused her concentration. One slow step of her right foot, she then paused with the ball held low and out front of her body. Boney was always amazed at Teela's style of bowling. She had often called her "Robo Bowler" because of her robotic bowling technique. Teela stepped with the left foot and continued through her approach to the release of the ball. As soon as the eleven-pound sphere came out of her grasp, she knew Boney had been right. The ball hit too far off the pin and left a horrific wide split.
Teela whirled around and left the lane so that their opponent could bowl. She went to Boney and harshly pointed at her. "You cursed me!"
"I never swear at my friends," she laughed.
"And you lie too."
"Children, children." Jo interjected. "You are in public let's not forget that, shall we."
"She started it," Teela blamed while pointing at the innocent appearing Boney.
"Nah hah, sweetie, she did."
"Boney," Jo warned and gave her lover "The Look".
"She's always getting me in trouble," Boney confided to Harley.
"You do fine all by yourself Hillbilly," Jo corrected.
The girls sat in silence as Teela returned to the lane and carefully aimed her ball to pick up at least one of the two remaining pins. She needed to place the ball just so to get one of the pins to kick over and hit the other pin. It was not meant to be as the ball sailed cleanly between the two pins leaving both untouched.
Boney jumped to her feet and threw both hands high above her head signaling field goal. "It's good, no points to Teela."
Boney spied their opponents across the way. The four women had been dour and somber since they had arrived and signed in. They were unfriendly, as Boney had initially suggested that they sit closer together to get to know one another for the evening. The stoic leader of the accounting firm team would have none of it. Her eyes traveled up and down Boney before her forced pleasant decline. They had been given the intolerant eye from time to time. What the hell? Be stuck up. See if I care, Boney decided.
"You're an ass."
"And a damn good one too," Boney chided her friend even more. "See I can wiggle it," she demonstrated and shook her behind. "I can sashay it," she showed Harley and Teela. "I can pinch it together to make it smaller and rock hard. I can even use it to sit on. It's such a good-looking multi-faceted tool. Don't you think?"
"God, you are not right Boney," Harley laughed.
"She only married Jo for free psychotherapy," Teela informed Harley.
"Jealous." Boney gave them another shake of her behind then left the table.
Boney stepped onto the lane and retrieved her red sixteen-pound ball with the yellow lightening streaks. The color design made it easy to detect among the other muted colored balls, just to add to the ball's distinctive design, ‘Hillbilly' was etched across the top in big black letters as well.
At the first dot of the second line, Boney stood focused for a moment and then started her approach. She released the ball in perfect bowler form and watched it careened down the wooden floor with its odd backward spinning motion. It collided just left of the head pin and caused the others to sound as though they were exploding. Boney pumped her fist into the air at the strike. She looked at the leader of the other team and did a little dance. She had just put The Mentals another ten points plus ahead in addition to their thirty-five-pin handicap. Tonight Boney was doing better than usual.
"Two strikes in a row, now she's going to be unbearable," Harley groaned. "Can't you tame her Jo?" she asked as Boney wildly strutted their way.
"Naawww, Jo's a masochist," Teela told her. "She likes that kind of torture." The two women burst into laughter.
"And in public, I like to share her with my friends." Jo gave them a weak grin.
"Give Teela my share."
"Gee thanks, Harley."
"Good one sweetheart." Jo congratulated her flamboyant wife
"Thank you baby." Boney sent a wink to her love, then turned to Teela. "You see Teela, it's all in the multi-faceted ass that I have. Did you notice the pinch at the end just before I released the ball?"
Teela and Harley rolled their eyes. "I don't believe you," said Teela. "It's flat anyway, Boney," Teela told her friend.
Boney's mouth fell open and she immediately made several rotations as she twirled in attempt to see her behind. The other three cackled as Boney mimicked a dog chasing her tail. "It's not. It has a cute little roundness."
"Flat. I could use it for an ironing board it's so flat."
"Girls," Jo interceded. "Do I need to separate you?" she warned and headed for the lane.
"Jo, don't leave me here with these two." Harley turned to her friend and pleaded, "Take me with you."
"Sorry, Harley, it's your turn."
The four settled into their rotation and were doing quite well. Each of them had found their rhythm and easily won the first game. Boney went to the bar and purchased a round of beer for her team. She would have done the same for their opponents if they had not been so snotty all evening. As they began their second of three games, Boney had an idea.
"So Harley, are we going to see Emily tonight?" Boney asked sincerely.
"Hopefully. I've been wandering that myself. I haven't seen her or heard from her all day."
"Does she exist?" Boney bluntly questioned her friend. She truly wanted to know.
"What?" she asked innocently. "We've been bowling for a while now and have never once seen her mystery woman."
"So?" Teela replied shocked at her friend's audacity.
"Yes she exists, Boney," Harley grinned. "I told you, she is a detective and gets busy with her cases. It's not like she works nine to five ya know." She left to bowl and Jo took her spot.
"How are you sweetie?"
"Being a brat is more descriptive."
"Am not." She leaned over and touched Teela with a lone finger.
"She's touching me."
"What is with you two this evening? Knock it off." Jo was exasperated and shook her head. Damn, maybe I should slip them some Xanax in their beer to keep them quiet.
"Teela started it. I just asked Harley a question."
"You asked her if her girlfriend was real or imaginary."
"Did you do that Boney?" Jo crossed her arms over her chest and gave her childish lover "The Look" again.
She squirmed in her seat and said, "I just said that we hear a lot about Emily but never see her or a picture."
"She's a detective, Boney, an undercover detective, most of the time. There really wouldn't be a picture," Jo calmly explained to her wife.
"Well I was just thinking…"
"Scary," Teela mumbled and Boney stuck her tongue out at her.
Jo glanced at the screen and saw the large "X" for Harley. "You go Harley!"
As she returned, Harley gave each of her teammates a high-five and Boney left for her rotation.
"Don't take offense to Boney, Harley." Jo squeezed her hand, "Sometimes she can be so blunt it's frightening."
"I don't take offense, Jo. Emily has been working so much I sometimes think she's a fantasy too."
She took a sip from here beer and then answered, "Yeah, drugs and vice."
"Must be extremely difficult for you."
"It is, especially these types of cases. It's hard not to worry, but sometimes I don't hear from her for days. Then I start to get a little unglued because… Well you can guess what I'm thinking."
"I would too."
"But she does manage to get a message to me once in a while. We have a friend, Raven, who works the switchboard. She will give her a message to pass on to me. Emily said getting a call from Raven is better than from one of her buddies in the squad — less chance of me panicking."
"That was thoughtful."
"Yeah, my Emily is like that," she said dreamily. "Of course, I really don't feel secure until she is back with me."
"Just like in the movies huh? Married to a cop and all that?" Teela asked. She had listened to the love pour through Harley's words and remembered she had lost her chance for that kind of love when she chose to let her unresolved past extend into the present and destroy her future with Pax. She now understood the consequences of her selfishness and how very much like Bess she had inadvertently became. Bess wanted Teela at home a comfortable constant but she had also coveted a lover on the side to be reckless and unattached. Teela had wanted to pretend she had a relationship with Bess and use that as an excuse to keep Pax on the side. Sterling had helped her to see the similarity and the emotional abuse she inflicted upon Pax. It was her own undoing.
"You have no idea. I really do fear that knock on the door someday."
"How do you handle it then?"
"I keep telling myself that she will come back to me in one piece. I have to. So far it has worked."
"Really? That's good," Jo marveled.
"That and giving her the best damn sex she's ever had before she leaves. It helps to make sure she comes back in one piece for more."
"That will work too." All three joined together in riotous laughter.
Teela returned to their lanes after purchasing the next round of beer while they waited to start of the third and final game. Their second game was much like the first. The Mentals were getting an unbelievable amount of strikes and picking up their spares. Generally, they were too busy enjoying one another's company to really focus on bowling.
Teela thoroughly enjoyed these nights out of the house. They were something that she desperately needed. These times helped a great deal. Thumper was company for her, but she missed the human kind. She needed something to fill her time. Since the death of her former partner, Bess Harper, there was a void in her routine and that led her to bowling night with the girls. More importantly she was at a loss as to what to do now that she had been given back her life. According to Sterling Hyatt, she should have been living her life in the present while caring for Bess as a friend, not as an unfaithful lover. It was that dichotomy that she allowed to drive a wedge between her and Pax and everyone else in general.
For three years she was responsible for Bess' care and well being. She made sure that medical appointments were kept or argued with the insurance companies about the bills for the custodial and medical care Bess received. She would go to Pine Ridge Adult Foster Care home and visit the shell of the person that was her ex-lover. She would talk to Bess even though she never spoke back to her. They, together with Thumper, would watch the horrid Japanese monster movies that were Bess' favorite.
As Durable Power of Attorney for Bess, it did take a toll on her time sometimes. Teela never saw it as a burden, but a serious responsibility she felt she owed Bess. Following her death, Teela experienced an emptiness in her daily existence. She did not have planned weekly visitations, care meetings, or to argue with physicians and insurance reps. Teela did not have the extra worry about Bess' blood pressure or if her lungs had cleared the pneumonia. All of that was gone.
After settling Bess' estate she made an appointment with Dr. Sterling Hyatt, PhD, a Clinical Psychologist that specialized in esteem, oppression, grief/loss, life transitions and relationships. The twenty-year veteran was brutally honest with her their first session and Teela instantly believed that this woman could help her to understand and place things in their right perspective. At the end of their first night, Teela asked for two sessions a week.
"Do you feel you need two sessions?" Sterling asked curiously she happened to agree but wanted to know if Teela was truly ready to attack the demons she told her about.
"Yes. I need to learn and understand."
"And you can't do that in a once a week session?"
"I don't think so?"
"You know as well as I do that these things take time. It cannot be rushed."
"I know, but I need to start to understand what happened this summer before…" Sterling watched her twist the crumbled tissues and litter her dark skirt with the lint. "I fear I don't have much time before I lose the chance to reconcile with Pax."
"So coming to me is for the sake of Pax?"
"Not completely. It's for me. Maybe by examining my life with Bess and the things I know I had done that were selfish and shallow will help me to avoid making those same mistakes with Pax. It's for Pax so that when I go to her, it will be without deceit. It's for us so that we can have the connection that was deepening between us but on a truer plane, in that order. Does that make sense?"
The corner of Sterling's lip curled slightly. She knew Teela had taken the second step in the process. The first step was to make contact for help. The second was knowing the demons that drove you to make contact.
Outside of that, Teela had nothing else to do besides work to occupy that space. What was she going to do with her free time? Outside of the usual life worries—bills, food, utilities, car etc., there was no one be responsible for or to worry about except Thumper and her friends. She had to find something to fill the space besides thinking. Bowling seemed as good a substitute as any.
"Hey Teela!" Boney shouted at her. "Where did you go?"
Teela was about to speak when she looked behind Boney at the woman with long brown hair and large bust standing behind her friend. The stupefied look caused Harley to follow her gaze to the woman behind Boney.
"Hello Jean." The manicured hand came to rest upon Boney's shoulder. "I thought that was you over here."
Boney turned in her seat and cringed when she saw whom it was. "Amanda," she replied nervously. "What are you doing here?"
"I am a sub on a couple of the teams." She lightly massaged Boney's shoulder as she stepped around the side of the table so that Boney could see her. Boney kept her eyes level with the twinkling hazel eyes and wanted horse blinders for her eyes. She was still able to see the large round breasts squeezed into the all too tight thin t-shirt. "I did not know that you bowled here as well. This is a pleasant surprise." She trailed her hand down Boney's arms slowly.
"Autumn, I told you the other day on the docks that I bowled here with my wife," Boney stressed the word, "and friends. Speaking of which, let me introduce you to my wife, Johanna." God I don't want to look at her. She is going to kill my ass over this. Boney turned on her smile before she faced her wife. Oh shit, I can't read that look.
"Hello Autumn," Jo greeted tightly. Her dark hazel eyes bored directly into Autumn's skull through the gray matter and out the back of her head. The corners of her lip turned upward slightly as Jo watched the imagery of setting Autumn ablaze with the laser beams streaming from her eyes.
"Hello," Autumn said to Jo but her eyes riveted upon Boney.
"This is Harley," Jo continued the introductions, "and Teela."
Autumn took her eyes away from Boney long enough to meet Teela's and then back again. "Hello."
"Well thanks for stopping by Autumn," Boney encouraged. She was starting to feel extremely hot and she knew it was not a hot flash. Please take the hint and get lost would ya.
"Yeah, sure. See ya tomorrow at work." She turned and walked back towards her lanes.
Boney locked eyes with Teela in the silence of the table. She saw the signal that Teela gave her. A slight point of her head towards Jo told her to tell all at this very minute or risk banishment for the rest of her life.
"She works on the docks with me, further down the docks, but the same shift," Boney began and faced her lover, eyes never wavering from the hazels that she fell in love with twenty years ago. Boney just hoped that Jo remembers that fact at the moment.
"And…" Jo led her.
"And she has…hit on me…but I have told her repeatedly that I was not interested." She shrugged more calmly than she felt. I just won't tell you it's being going on for two months is all.
"I see." Jo thoughtfully sipped her beer. She knew in her heart of hearts that she and Boney were solid in their relationship. No one would be able to replace either one of them. At least she was sure until a few minutes ago. You always wonder if you're going to be traded in for a younger model. That's crazy. Boney loves me. We have something that most people don't have. I have nothing to be jealous about. That flat white girl booty belongs to me.
"You do?" Boney asked cautiously.
"Yep. Just tell her more forcefully or I will. Got it?"
"Got it." Boney smiled and heard the collective sigh of relief from their friends across the table. "I love you Jo."
"Hmm. Good timing babe. I love you too."
The game resumed and The Mentals started a little slow out of the gate this time. The first two frames were left open by all of them. They returned to their table, shared what was left of the pitcher and recharged their confidence to get a mark in each of the remaining frames. After a while, the mischievous glint returned to Boney's eyes as she grinned at Teela.
"So Teela, what do you think of Harley?"
"She's nice. I like her."
Teela glanced at Harley about to bowl. The shy thirty-eight year old Asian-American woman was very pretty. Her mother's heritage provided for the cream-colored skin, straight long black hair and small figured five foot six frame. From her American father, she received the large round eyes and full smile. Born and raised in Orlando Florida, Harley came to Michigan seeking a job and never returned. Shortly after arriving, she met Emily Oliverez, her life and love of five years.
"There is a woman that works the docks with me that could be her twin sister. She has a little more muscle though."
Boney wiggled her eyebrows then it dawned on Teela what she implied. "Don't even go there, Boney. Haven't you been in enough trouble for one night?"
"Go where? And that was not my fault."
She jumped to her feet furious at her friend's suggestion. "You know where," she hissed.
"I just thought that if you liked the way Harley looks then you would like…"
"Boney are you nuts?" Jo slapped her on the arm.
"Ow! Okay, okay. Sorry." Boney threw her hands up in surrender.
"Listen to me very carefully, Augusta Jean," Teela's chest heaved with anger and her face turned and excoriated shade of red. She ignored Boney's cat-like hissing at the use of her real name. "I am not interested in connecting with anyone."
"Arrgghh!" She stomped her foot and stormed off towards the bathrooms.
Jo shook her head and sighed wearily. "I am so disappointed in you Boney. You need to learn when to stop. You went too far this time."
"Honey, I did it for a reason. I was trying to make my point on a grander scale."
"Grander scale? Sometimes, Boney, I truly believe that you don't think before you speak," Jo severely admonished her lover and turned away from her.
"Jo, my other point was that Teela is not interested in anyone because she is still in love with Pax. She misses her we both can see."
"Huh?" She turned back to the woman in wonder at her logic. "How in the world did you jump to that from trying to get Harley's look alike and Teela together?"
"Because it's true. They are still in love with each other but Teela needs to make the first move."
"Boney you must have amnesia or something. There is no way that Pax is going to forgive Teela for hurting her the way that she did. She was devastated."
"I know this. All we have to do is give Teela a little push to talk to Pax. I know that Pax still has feelings for Teela and with a little help, who knows."
"You mean a little meddling."
"The glass is either half empty or half full. I say help; you say meddling. What does it matter if two people who love each kiss and make up?"
"How can you be so sure that Pax wants to?"
"Now who has the amnesia? I spend time with her on weekends watching football. Duh, honey. If I prod Teela for emotional info, don't you think I poke her too?"
Jo thought for a moment while she studied her lover. "We have talked about this Boney. We agreed not to interfere. You know full well how dangerous that could be."
"How dangerous what could be?"
"Their attitude if I don't get up to bowl." Boney jabbed her thumb in their opponent's directions. She touched her lover's hand to have it jerked away from her.
"Don't touch me. You're name's mud."
"Aaww, honey come on," Boney whined and knew she the door to the dog house just swung open and she was shoved back in it again. She had only been paroled for two days this time. Thank god there is no three strikes and out rule.
"She's an ass," Jo casually said to her friend.
"Hmm. According to you a good one."
"True. At this moment, that's a moot point. Listen, about what she said to you."
"Forget it. I am not listening to her. You really should take her in for a CAT scan you know," said Teela.
Laughing briefly, she regarded her friend and all levity left as she saw through Teela's seemingly joyful mood. "Tell me Teela, what has been bothering you tonight?
"What do you mean?"
"Come on, I know you. This is Jo, and I know something is bothering you. What is it?"
Teela stirred in her chair hating the fact that Jo could read her better than her mother could. Sometimes she believed Jo had an x-ray vision of some sort when it came to seeing the emotions she had tried desperately to hide. To stall, Teela grabbed her beer and took a short pull. She glanced at Jo and saw her friend patiently waiting with arms folded across her chest. God I hate it when she gets that "I've all got day look."
"I saw her today."
Nodded and waited for her to continue. When Teela stalled, she prodded, "And?"
"And nothing. She hates me." She studied the sweating glass and twisted it back and forth.
"That's pretty strong darlin'."
"She was pretty convincing." She drank again and politely belched under her breath. "She came in to see her mother and I happened to run into her by the desk. She didn't want to give me the time of day, Jo."
"I'm sorry you went through that, but…"
"But I can't blame her."
"What did you two say to each other?"
"Not much. I ask how she was doing and she didn't say anything. So I asked about Felicia and the boys."
"And?" I hate when you drag things out, girl.
"She told me to call them."
"Yeah, ouch." Teela saw the blue eyes radiate of such hurt and pain. She steeled herself against shedding tears. Today, she witnessed the devastation she had caused to the woman she had professed to love. How could I have said loving things to her? That I loved her wanted to be with her yet turn around in the span of a breath, and remover her heart without anesthesia? I am a monster and don't deserve her. But I want her back….
"Do you believe that you have shredded any chance of getting back together with Pax?"
"You need to ask Jo? You heard what I said to her in your living room. Jo I kept part of my life from her and I shut her out of it once she knew about it. I did it so easily. I felt no remorse when I was doing it. Would you give me another shot if you were her?"
"I see the influence Sterling has had on you." She gave her friend a warm smile. "I have given you numerous shots at being my friend Teela, as you have to me. We've said some pretty nasty things to each other a few months ago and here we are today. But honey, I'm not Pax. Only she can answer that question."
"I think she did so today."
"Could be. Could be she was just as stunned to see you as you were her. I'm sure the overriding emotion in her was anger. It's natural don't you think?"
"And just as you are thinking about the encounter, she is doing the same." Teela nodded. "Now my question to you is: what do you truly feel for her?"
Teela paused and twisted the empty glass in her hands. "I want to be where we started, Jo, before I screwed things up."
"That's understandable, but you haven't answered my question?"
"I had fallen in love with her and then suddenly I was running scared. I believe I still am in love with her." She faintly smiled. "I don't want to run anymore. I don't have to."
You didn't have to then either. You chose to. "Why are you so certain now and not several months ago? Is it because you saw her again? Is it because she is something familiar?"
"Ooh ouch, my friend."
"Maybe." Jo leaned across the table and gazed deeply into the social workers eyes making sure she had her full attention. "Do not toy with that woman's heart and soul again Teela. No one deserves that treatment, not even your worst enemy."
Swallowing hard Teela realized how true her friend's words were. "Not this time Jo. If she'll have me, I want her back. I'm not the same person I was before. I'd do anything to make up for what I did."
"And say anything."
"That's not true!" her voice rose louder than she intended. "Look Jo, in the past three months I have come to terms with a lot of things about Bess and I and how I acted with Pax. It's a continuing struggle that even you don't know about. But I believe I have made great strides with that and I will need to continue to work it. I know I am at a point where I am ready to try things again, with Pax, if she'll have me." She stared at her friend defiantly.
"Hmmph." She took a swallow from the sweating beer glass and replaced it on the table. All the while, her eyes remained upon her friend. My, my, that Boney may just be onto something after all.
"Jo I am deadly serious. I can understand you questioning my sincerity about Pax. I mean I can't really blame her either. But tell me how to get her back?"
"The only thing you can do is talk to her."
"I tried today. She was so angry. I saw it in her eyes."
"Wrong time, wrong place…"
Jo had debated on telling Teela a bit of information all the while she had listened to her voice her self discovery. "Teela, Boney sees Pax all the time."
"She does? Why?"
"Football… They have been getting together on weekends."
"I never knew. Why didn't you tell me?"
"Didn't think it was appropriate."
"Don't know really." She studied her once more hoping Teela understood to read between the lines. Sorry Boney honey, I'm meddling too. But in this instance, what you don't know won't hurt you.
"Has she mentioned me?"
"Don't know. You have to talk to Pax. Why now Teela?"
"I knew happiness with Pax. I was too wrapped in myself or the image I wanted other to see to fully know what it was that she offered me.
"Pax should have been in your heart alone. It was too crowded in there."
"You're right. It was filled with self doubt and even lower self-esteem really not to mention fears. Now it's too empty."
She enveloped her friend in a hug. "Is this why you were so upset with Boney?"
"Part of it, I'll apologize."
"I love you Teela and Boney does too. She means well but says the wrong things most of the time."
"I know." She returned the squeeze. "Are you still going to make her pay?"
Chuckling, "Oh yeah."
"What are you going to do to her?"
"Want to see her in her cheerleader outfit?"
"You have that?" Teela grinned thinking of a knobby-kneed Boney with pom-poms.
"In the attic, it will still fit I bet."
"You are evil."
"Yep. Wife's privilege."
After winning the final game, The Mentals said their goodnights to one another and drove toward their respective homes. Harley languidly cruised the streets of town and took the route so familiar to the loft apartment she shared with her Emily. Talking about her beloved tonight caused the yearning to swell for the hundredth time. The play of the passing street lamps throughout the car reminded her of the night she met the stoic and confident Emily Oliverez.
One night years ago at the persistent begging of her friends, Harley agreed to go to the local lesbian bar, Pallie's. She had spent most of the night sitting at the table while the other two danced and cavorted about. Always painfully shy, Harley elected to remain a passive bystander in the nightclub. That is until a particular break in the jungle music and a familiar tune wafted from the ceiling high speakers.
She immediately recognized the lilting signature of her favorite piece by Yanni. Surprised to hear such music in a bar at the height of a Saturday night, she felt her eyes close and her body sways cautiously in the wooden chair. She imagined arms enveloping her in a firm gentleness, bodies pressed against another, two people locked in heated desirous stares, not dancing but living the music. Their searing intensity became the harmony.
"Please, dance with me," came the low voice. Eyes slowly opened to the most shimmering ones she had ever seen. Brows angled together pleading, lips parted in the most humble of smiles. Harley had forgotten how to use her vocal chords. "I beg of you, please dance with me," the woman offered her hand again.
If only to see what the color of those glistening eyes truly were against the long raven hair, Harley placed her hand in the soft palm without further hesitation and allowed herself to be guided to the nearly empty dance floor.
The play of the pulsing lights mesmerized Harley further. Their bodies melded together as easily as connecting pieces of a puzzle. The mystery woman held her so tenderly and sighed as they began to live within the music as naturally as breathing.
Harley's entire being hummed from the palpitating heart, but she felt a second staccato different from her own. The light puffs of wind atop of her hair told her that the beat belonged to raven hair. Harley fought with the doubts that had controlled her shyness, had limited her self-confidence all of her life, the dilemma she had always faced when she battled insecurity; do it - don't do it, I want to do it - but I can't, I want to look at her - but I can't.
A finger weaved its way under her chin, tilted her face upward into the lights. Embattled, Harley lifted her gaze to the red lips smiling upon her but no further. I can't. Yes I can.
"You are so beautiful and I am honored you agreed to dance with me," the stranger spoke with tenderness and honesty. Harley raised her own dark brown eyes and surrendered instantly in the most shimmering blue she had ever witnessed. Harley involuntarily gasped and was pulled closer to that knowing smile of the mysterious woman. Eyes riveted upon one another, "All night," the stranger went on breathlessly, "I have thought about what song to request so that I could ask you to dance." Her smile twitched nervously.
"T-Thank you aahh..." Harley stammered.
"Emily. Emily Oliverez."
Harley made it into the apartment and deposited the heavy bowling bag just on the other side of the table by the front door. She turned secured the locks hearing their click echo through the exceptionally large open space of their loft apartment.
Harley sighed and looked at the overly neat apartment. She let the thought of getting an animal flash through her mind once again. At least then she would have something or someone to greet her when she came home and to talk to when Emily was away for extended times like this. She grabbed the cordless telephone and pressed replay button on the answering machine. The first message was from the television repair store to let them know the repair had been completed on the DVD player to the tune of sixty-nine dollars and ninety-five cents. The second call was from Babbette Oliverez, Emily's mother.
"Hello my daughter. I have discovered that I have some time. Meaning, Emily, your father is driving me crazy and I am coming to stay a few days until I can tolerate him again. I love him you know that, but he can get on my nerves. See you in a couple of days. I'll call with the flight information. Don't forget the Hazelnut coffee creamer for the decaffeinated coffee. Thanks sweetheart."
"Oh God Emily," Harley groaned. "You better get your ass back here and soon. I am not being left alone with your mother!"
She listened to the remainder of the messages but her mind remained on the one from Babbette. Babbette made it very clear years ago that she did not approve of Harley as a mate for her daughter. Each time she had accompanied Emily to Texas to see her parents, Harley had tried desperately to befriend the woman and to get her to like her. It never failed, whenever the woman was around, she would launch small daggers at Harley easily pointing out what she claimed at her shortcomings. Last year, Harley gave up her attempts to win her over. She concluded that Babbette was an insufferable woman and that was all there was to it. During their visits, Harley often left Emily alone with her mother to go do something on her own or to be in another room. It was safer. Harley was afraid of that one time when she would not be able to hold her tongue and tell Babbette off in the worst possible way. Harley knew that would not be a good thing. Babbette after all was her lover's mother.
Harley headed for the bathroom. She completed her business, showered and then entered their bedroom. As part of her nightly ritual, she immediately went to the mirrored closet doors to pick her clothing for work tomorrow.
She opened the last one to survey the varied colored scrub tops and pants that served as her uniform for the OB-GYN section of the Women's Center where she worked. Her uniform pants were neatly hung by the waist on pant hangers on one side of the closet and matching scrub tops on foam padded hangers on the other side. Harley has sewn padding on the hangers to prevent her tops and shirts from having points in the shoulders but rather round as they should be.
Thinking of her detective, she chose the ocean blue top and matching bottom. Looking at the shoe rack upon the bottom of the closet, she scanned which of her twelve pairs of designated work shoes to wear. The selection varied from ergonomic nursing footwear to tennis shoes to Birkenstocks. The colors were generally white, white with color streaks, beige, eggshell, and powder blue. She chose the latter for coordination with her outfit for tomorrow. She hung the clothing on the coat tree in the corner near the armchair. She went to the tall dresser across the span of room and selected nearly matching light blue undergarments and socks. She giggled, Momma always said to make sure you have on clean underwear just in case. Well momma I'll have that and be well coordinated with the outer clothing. She carefully refolded and placed the garments in the chair by the coat tree.
Harley then climbed into the California king bed and glanced to the picture of Emily on the nightstand. It was taken during their camping trip to Yosemite two years ago. Emily stood proudly upon the tall boulders with her hands firmly upon her hips grinning at her love behind the camera. Harley chuckled as the vision from the past came to her and she recalled what happened just after that picture was snapped. Emily started to scream and curse at the top of her lungs at the large bird that had flown overhead and dropped his presents upon her shoulders. Emily was colorful in telling the bird what she would do to it if she had her gun.
Harley smiled, whispered goodnight to her beloved turned out the bedside lamp.
Harley fitfully rose to consciousness as an alarm shrilled somewhere nearby. The screeching sound interrupted her chess game with the Easter Bunny who was being coaxed by the Wicked Witch of the West. Harley was winning. The sound stopped and she slowly returned to the Easter Bunny who was now trying to seduce her queen. The Queen wasn't buying any of it and wanted the Bunny to stop his lewd suggestions, so she began screaming at the top of her lungs for her dragon knights and gargoyle pawns to come to her aid. Just as Harley's gigantic hand went to snatch the screaming ceramic figurine out of the Bunny's hand, her own wrapped around the telephone receiver instead.
"Hello..." she croaked and listened.
Harley's eyes burst open into the darkness and she bolted upright as if on a spring. The Bunny and the screaming queen were forgotten. "Raven," the panic easily detected and all traces of sleep were erased. "Raven? What's wrong?"
"What! Oh my God, oh my God, oh my god!" she chanted.
"Harley…Harley listen to me!" Raven shouted through the telephone. She had dreaded making the call to her friend's partner for fear that she would send Harley into a panic.
"Where is she? What happened? Is she alright? Where is she?" Harley threw the blanket and comforter off her body turning on the bedside lamp.
"Emily was shot. She is on her way to General Hospital. Randy is with her."
"Oh my God, Emily," she whimpered. "Is she okay? Oh my God please tell me that she is okay... She's not..." The tears streamed down her face and blurred her vision.
"No she's not Harley. I am sending a car for you. Should be downstairs in fifteen minutes."
"Okay, okay...car downstairs...fifteen minutes." She clicked off the telephone and threw it across the bed. "Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God. Emily please be okay. Oh baby!"
Harley sprinted the short distance to the mirrored doors and pulled them open. The force of her adrenaline nearly took the door off its hinge. She ripped a pair of jeans from the hanger followed by a sweater. She reached to the floor and snagged a pair of boots. Harley was dressed and out of the apartment waiting impatiently in the cold air before the police cruiser arrived to escort her to Emily at General Hospital.
Not giving them a change to fully open, Harley sprinted through the sliding glass doors, nearly crashing into them. Purse clutched in one hand, coat tails flying behind her the uniformed officer had a difficult time keeping pace with the smaller woman ahead him. Out of breath, Harley came to a slamming halt against the receptionist desk in the emergency room.
"Oliverez… where…is…she?" she breathed heavily.
"Beg your pardon ma'am?" The nurse looked skeptically at the wild haired woman. Then she saw the police officer come to halt behind her. Absently the nurse took a step backwards.
"Emily…Oliverez!" Harley shouted.
"Detective Oliverez," the office provided. "Where is she?"
Harley turned towards the doors as they opened into the triage rooms. She saw her lover's partner standing in ragged pants falling off his hips and a baggy sports coat of some kind sporting a football team. He had a sea-green do-rag tied about his head and looked as though he had not bathed in four days. Like a cannon exploding, Harley tore through the door before the nurse could stop her.
"Randy! Randy!" she called as the tall man heard his name and braced to catch the charging woman. "Where is Emily?" she pleaded into the brown eyes of her lover's partner.
"Harley, she's going to be alright."
"What happened?" she sobbed. Randy pulled her to him and held on. He glanced at the uniformed officer and waved him and the nurse away. Arm around his partners lover, he hugged her to his thick frame and led her down the small corridor to an empty report room.
Randy was about to close the door when one of the orderlies put his hand out to stop him. "I'm sorry sir but you can't be in here."
Using the snarl his partner had taught him, Randy lowered his tenor voice and growled, "Wanna bet?" He put the gold shield hidden inside the leather wallet directly on the guy's nose. "Beat it kid." Then he closed the door before the orderly could say anything further. Shocked, the orderly went to find his charge nurse.
Harley mechanically bent her knees and lowered into the cold metal chair. An involuntary shiver overtook her body and she swore she heard the metal of the chair creak. Tears that had had froze upon her cheek in the bitter cold of the night thawed and streamed unabated down pallid cheeks.
Randy turned away from the door to face his Harley. You be there for her Randy. Promise me, damn it. See to Harley, please. Emily had told him as she lay in his arms. Harley, He knelt upon the floor gathering the tiny hands within his larger one. "Emily is in surgery." She gasped. "She is going to be okay."
"Surgery? Why? What happened? What's wrong?"
Randy felt the clutch of his heart. This was one thing that he prayed he would never have to do. Emily was like a sister to him as well as his partner, but he never wanted the have to experience a scene like he was about to play. "Harley, Emily took one in the leg. It went clean through. That's a good thing."
"A good thing? Are you kidding me!" She searched his eyes and knew, "What else Randy? Please, tell me about my Emily."
His eyes slipped closed. He couldn't tell her. Harley would never let Emily out of her sight if she knew the stupid heroics her lover pulled during the bust. He saw her dodging between metal barrels and stacks of lumber to get a bead on the shooter above them.
"A bullet grazed the right side of her neck. They don't think it nicked anything vital. Neither did the one in her shoulder." He stood and walked a few paces away from her. His back was turned, fatigue had settled in now that the adrenaline ebbed away.
Harley looked at the floor. In her years on the force, Emily had never been wounded. This night, she had gotten shot and nearly killed. Harley turned reddened and swollen eyes to Randy Cloby and spied the design sprayed across his baggy jeans. She didn't believe she had seen stonewashed denims with various shade of red across the thighs before. Then again, it wasn't a particular style of clothing she had paid attention to. Harley tilted her head again and realized that the design was not apart of the natural material nor could it be fabric paint.
"Is that…" she pointed ghostly, "Emily's?" Randy glanced down at his pants and slowly nodded. A low whimper echoed throughout the room as Harley closed her eyes and the flood of tears poured down her face. "Emily!" came the sorrowful wail.
Randy rushed to her side and enveloped her in a gentle bear hug. "Ssshh, she is going to be alright." He rocked and kissed the top of her head. "Yes, she bled a lot but they said the bullets only nicked her Harley. Except for her leg, she is all right." His arms shuddered from the quaking shoulders within his grasp. "Now might not be the time to say this Harley, but Emily saved another cop's life tonight. She got hit in the leg while pulling a cop out of the line of fire."
Harley cried even harder for it was just like her beloved to sacrifice herself for another. She believed in the uniform, in the force, in the code. Just like the marines, although she was never one, she believed, no one to be left behind.
It was sometime before Harley was able to calm the storm raging within and her tears ceased. "When will we know something?"
"I don't know. Maybe a couple of hours."
"God, I don't know if I can withstand the torture. I am barely coping as it is."
"I know what you mean." He released her going across the room to retrieve the box of Kleenex from the shelf.
She grabbed his wrist as he handed the box to her. Harley searched his brown eyes again, "You swear she is going to be okay?"
He gave her his megawatt smile, "I can almost guarantee it." I hope. Damnit Em, you better get your ass out of surgery. This woman needs you.
"Yeah, she won't like being laid up for a while. You know how she is about being idle."
"Oh god," Harley chuckled and wiped her nose. "She's gonna be awful."
Unable to help herself she started to laugh. A bizarre laughter that released the fear and dread that mounted since she was awakened from her nightmare with the Easter Bunny only to be replaced by another one in reality. "The poor nurses around here will want her out by tomorrow."
Laughing himself he responded "Probably or they could just keep her sedated."
"That will be the only way she will be cooperative."
"So true... And then you get to take her home. Thank goodness you live with her and I don't."
"You're her partner. You will come by and deal with her as well."
Her laughter slowed and transformed in tears once again. She stood and hugged the heavily muscled man tightly. "Thank you Randy. I don't know what I would have done if it was anyone else but you with her."
"I love her too, Harley."
Randy stood in the open doorway sipping the gross sludge the vending machine called coffee. The cafeteria would be closed for another hour. He turned and spied on Harley across the room. His heart ached for her. The blank unseeing gaze with the glossed over appearance he had often recognized as shock. He didn't know what else he could do for her but to be around if needed. He had started to wish that they would hear something soon when he saw a doctor heading his way down the hall.
"Are you Detective Cloby?"
Randy looked down upon the short doctor and smirked. "Yeah, that's me."
"I'm Dr. Mollear." He straightened to his entire five foot six height. He was all too familiar with that look in people, especially other men. Just because he was vertically challenged, he was no less of a man or person than they. "I operated on Detective Oliverez."
Randy was yanked from behind and shoved out of then way. "How is she?" Harley demanded. "Where is she?"
Stunned, Dr. Mollear took a step backwards and looked to Detective Cloby.
"This is Harley Goldberg, Detective Oliverez' significant other." Randy stood tall behind Harley daring the good doctor to contest or say the wrong thing.
"Of course. If I could come in, we can talk."
Harley stepped aside and went to the table impatient for the doctor to take a seat as well. Randy stood behind her to listen and watch the doctor. "Detective Oliverez was shot in three places." Harley gasped and felt Randy's hand upon her shoulder to steady her. "Two were actually deep cuts where the bullets grazed her. We replaced the blood loss with a transfusion. She was very lucky. I placed several stitches on the neck wound, here." He pointed to the space on his right trapezious closest to the neck. "And butterflies on the arm, here." He pointed to the left arm.
"And her leg?" Harley asked. "What about her leg?"
"It went through her right thigh." He showed her again on his own. "It went clean through which is a good thing. It didn't nick any major arteries. We were able to repair some of the muscles without any difficulty. Like I said she was a very luck woman."
"So she is going to be okay?" Harley felt her hope returning and her smile brightened the room as she turned to look up at an equally joyful Randy.
"With some rest and physical therapy, she should recover fairly well." He finally smiled. "I think she will need to spend a few days just to make sure."
"When can I see her?"
"They should be taking her to her room any minute. A nurse will come for you and show you to her room."
"Thank you doctor," Randy smiled and clasped the doctor's extended his hand.
"Yes thank you doctor," Harley whispered. She is going to be all right, she sighed heavily and smiled as her arms wrapped around Randy's waist.
The sunrise entered brightly through the partial closed blinds casting beams of light in to the room. Harley stood looking out onto the parking lot. She held her fifth cup of coffee tightly against her chest willed herself to stop crying for the ninth time. Each time she glanced back to the still body in the bed behind her they came streaming down again.
This night, she had realized how close she had come to losing her lover. Emily was everything to her. If she did not have Emily, she did not have anything in this world. She wiped her eyes and thought of that song, Emily's favorite song, the one she would play for Harley when she wanted to seduce her. When Harley heard the soulful sounds of Alicia Keys, Emily's co-conspirator singing If I Don't Have You, Harley knew that they would have a torrential night of passion. Harley closed her eyes and it came to her. In their living room, Emily would approach and ask her to dance, just like she had that first night.
It was more than just making love for her and Emily. They connected on so many more levels that it was if they were destined to be together. They completed one another. She was deeply in love with her detective, which went without saying, but what would she do if she had lost her? She gasped at the thought of being a widow. Her fist clenched within her lips and she held it in. How could I have slept and not known she was in trouble. Why didn't I feel it? Why? The whimper slipped past her clench fist.
"Harley…" the weak voice sounded behind her.
Harley turned sharply towards the bed and saw her lover trying to reach consciousness. Her tears sprang anew that she was calling for her. She reached the bedside in two strides and grasped her lover's hand. She brought it to her lips and kissed her hands.
"I'm here sweetheart."
"I'm okay baby. Don't cry."
"I know." Harley watched the lids flutter rapidly and then slowly open to reveal the baby blues she adored so much. "There you are." Unfocussed eyes tracked to hers.
"I'm sorry I made you cry."
"I was so scared baby. I was so frightened that I had lost you."
"I was afraid I'd never see you again. I love you. Harley."
"I love you too. Sleep now, baby. You need to rest."
"Don't leave me."
"I won't." She kissed her forehead and heard the soft snoring of her lover.
Continued in Part 2Return to the Academy
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