This is a work of uber alternative fiction. The main characters and a couple of supporting characters look like some very good television friends, but it's not them. Really. Also, I referred to the "Peanuts" comic strip and characters from the strip. This is done without permission but it is done with admiration for Charles Schultz' talent.
Now, if you are under 18, in some places it may be illegal to read this story (I find that ridiculous). The two main characters are women who find they are attracted to one another. If you don't like that style, ok. There are two supporting characters who are a man and a woman who are married and really like one another. If you don't like that, ok.
This story deals with breast cancer. The clinical aspect is minimal. If you find that this subject is something you would rather not read about, please select another story from the fine offerings here at the Academy.
I would like to thank my beta reader and best friend, SoCalGoof, for showing me the error of my ways. I knew her degree in English would come in handy someday.
Any comments may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
Downshifting her car while driving into the faculty parking lot, Jane Winslow neatly pulled into a spot for her new BMW Z4.
"Life is good", Jane proclaimed aloud. "Now to my first faculty mixer here at State U."
As the tall brunette quickly walked to Hammond Hall, home to the College of Arts and Letters, Jane reviewed how she was going to introduce herself to her peers. Peers. After 10 years of teaching at a community college as an adjunct instructor, she completed her PhD and landed an assistant professorship at State U. At the age of 33, she was ready for full-time work. Jane enjoyed teaching and working with students, but now she could do research in her field of Greek and Roman religions. Publish or perish meant she would have the time to do what she loved. She loved research and still got a thrill when her worked was published.
Many faculty and staff were attending the mixer. Business suits on the men and women were standard. Jane was attired in a black suit jacket and skirt with a pale blue shell. She wore low heels as she towered over most women and many men with her height topping six foot.
Immediately she noticed a fish out of water. He stood 5'8" with a portly build. The Hawaiian shirt was bright and the shorts he wore matched well. The Teva sandals were new, probably a concession to the new school year. He had a well trimmed beard, receding hairline and a ponytail. The beach bum noticed Jane simultaneously. He strode purposefully toward her, stopping within her personal space without touching her.
"Dr. Winslow, I'll have you know that I tried everything I could to keep you out of this university. I told them you were a shiftless, spineless, no good, plagiarizing waste of a human being. It is a fact that you blame others for your failures."
Jane's arms were crossed in front of her chest and she wore a bored expression on her face.
"First of all," Jane began, "Salvatore Vicente Raguzzo, I was a kindergartener when I stole your baseball cap for show and tell. When I said Pete Rose gave me his autograph on the cap it was all your fault. I was going to show my dead snail collection but YOU squished them all! You were in third grade and not even allowed on the kindergarten playground. I had to do something."
The stand off hung in the air until the serious looks could no longer be held. Jane and Sal laughed and embraced while their colleagues shook their heads. The pair walked to the punch bowl to get a drink.
"A toast," announced Sal, raising his glass. "To Jane, may you enjoy State U at least half as much as I already have and that you breathe new life into your old field."
"Hear, hear," a voice came from behind them. A handsome, swarthy man moved too close to Jane for comfort, then took her hand. "Sal, care to introduce me to your… friend?"
"No, not really," murmured Sal. "Dr. Jason Ridgeway, Dr. Jane Winslow. Jane is in Religious Studies. Jane, Jason is in History."
"Yes, Jane. I specialize in Medieval European History. But my favorite aspects deal with war, acts of aggression. Do you like aggressive men, Jane?"
Jane was used to men like Jason. "Jason? Yes, Jason it was nice of you to welcome me but," Jane stroked the back of his hand, watching the look of desire in his eyes become magnified.
It took a few moments for Jason's mind to register what Jane had said. "What a waste."
"That's not what the women say," smiled Sal.
Abruptly, Jason pulled his hand back, mumbled a few more words of welcome, and then made a beeline for Darla Bjorklund, the Admissions Director and Jason's usual fall back woman according to Sal.
"He seemed to take it well," smiled Jane. "Anymore I should look out for?
"I wouldn't worry. Darla will inform all as to your now open preference."
As the pair chatted, a diminutive woman casually strolled into the mixer. She was more casually dressed than most with a pair of jeans, white oxford shirt and navy blue blazer. On her head was a knit beanie with a few wispy curls escaping all around.
"Hey Sal, who's the woman in the beanie?"
"Oh, that is Dr. Jennifer Fields. Finished her chemo last spring. She was on sabbatical"
"Yeah, breast cancer, double mastectomy. This is the first time most of the faculty have seen her since last Christmas."
"So, she's teaching again this fall. What's her field?"
"Physics. Astrophysics is her specialty."
"We have astrophysics at State U?
"When Jennifer is here she teaches a class in it. Used to work for NASA, too. Wanted to go up in the Space Shuttle or was it the Space Station? She's originally from around here. Family concerns brought her back and she's been at State U for about five years.
"Five??" Jane started calculating time.
"She's 35… you interested? Sal gave a little leer to Jane.
"No! I mean, come on Sal, give me a break!"
"Right. You know, I could introduce you to her." Jane gave Sal a look that told him to watch what he was doing. The portly man smiled saying, "Introduce you as a new member of the faculty. I know if you were truly ‘interested' in her you wouldn't need me."
Jane's smile grew. She always loved the way Sal played. "Sure Sal, let's meet and greet."
As Jenny eyed the attendees, familiar faces and new ones crowded the scene. She smiled as she commented to herself about the mixer. ‘So good to be back. Wish my hair was longer. Oh look what Prof. Dunwoody did with his comb over. Uh huh, I see Jason Ridgeway has sniffed out the new faculty. Wonder what she told him? Damn, looking my way. Better get more food!'
"Oh, hi Sal, I didn't realize you were talking to me."
"Jen, you're looking good. Cute beanie!" A nudge to Sal's ribs brought him back to the reason for coming over to Jenny. "Jennifer Fields, may I introduce Jane Winslow. Jane is new to the faculty in the Religious Studies Department. Jane, Jenny Fields in our Physics Department. Now ladies, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to chat with a certain department head about the money he owes me from our last round of golf." With that said, Sal left to chase the quickly moving head of the Exercise Science Department.
"Jane, it's a pleasure. Welcome to State U." Jen extended her hand to the new faculty member. The petite hand seemed frail to Jane as she clasped it snugly in hers. "Thanks. Sal is my only friend here. We grew up together. He was my brother's best friend.
Jenny giggled. "That explains his enthusiasm for you. His usual exuberance is found in the classroom or his unique ideas for fundraising." Her green eyes sparkled as she spoke of the man who was now telling a story to a small group of faculty who kept laughing during the tale.
"I can only imagine. I could tell you some things he did in high school to raise funds for one club or another."
"I'd love to hear them. What are you doing tomorrow, say noontime?"
"Perfect. Meet me at the Ant Hill for lunch."
"Ant Hill? Is that some picnic place?"
A laughing Jen answered, "No silly. The school mascot is the Fire Ant… Ant Hill?"
"Got it," proclaimed Jane. "Noontime it is at the Ant Hill. It is a cafeteria, right?"
"Yes, student union building, cafeteria, bookstore."
Jane extended her hand to the fine haired blonde. Hands clasped sealing the deal to meet for lunch. Jenny excused herself to meet with other faculty. Jane was approached by others in her department and the mixer continued into the early evening.
Morning dragged slower than molasses in winter. "What's with the molasses metaphor?" queried Jane to the walls of her office. Her books were shelved, her desk had a place for everything and everything was in place. "That'll last for a couple of days." Jane knew her desk would never look as perfect as it did right now.
The time was 10:20 am. Jane had been in her office since 6:30 am and now her mind was beginning to wander. "She did a great job of asking me to lunch. Wonder if she has ulterior motives? Maybe she wants to get to know me better? Could she be looking for some afternoon delight?"
Then Sal's words came back to her "…breast cancer…double mastectomy…" Jane hung her head. "I am a dog. How could I be so, so, so I don't know what?"
The phone rang and Jane jumped to answer. "Dr. Winslow"
"Jane. Hi, it's Jenny Fields. We're still on for lunch at noon, yes?"
"Hi Jenny. Of course we're still on for lunch. I can't wait. See you there."
The tall woman hung up her phone. In her thoughts she saw the smaller woman and imagined her in her office. There had to be a model of the space shuttle, an autographed picture of Sally Ride, a space pen, picture of Neil Armstrong on the moon, pictures of her family, books and desk.
Glancing at the clock, Jane saw that it was 11:30. "Time to get going and find this Ant Hill." Locating her campus map, she noted the Ant Hill was about a 5 minute walk from her office. "First, freshen up. Second, walk calmly. Third, don't get sidetracked!" Her plan set, Jane put it and herself in motion.
On the other side of campus, Jenny noticed the 11:30 time. "OK Jen, time to put your plan into action." Thinking back to the previous evening's mixer, Jenny pictured her lunch date. ‘Those blue eyes. I could just fall into them. I hope I don't scare her away, cancer can do that. She doesn't seem to scare easily. Well, I plan on living a very long time. I'd like it to be with someone ‘special'. I wonder of Jane is friend ‘special' or girl friend ‘special'? Ooops, 11:45. I'll have to hurry now.' With those thoughts, Jenny locked her office door and found her way to the Ant Hill.
The Ant Hill cafeteria was better than many campus cafeterias. Jane and Jenny met one another at 11:55. Smiles were warmly exchanged as were the day's pleasantries. A lunch of salad and sandwiches seemed perfect for the late August heat.
"Are you getting settled in your new office, Jane?"
"I've been at it since 6:30 this morning and I'm proud to say that I am ready for the semester," smiled a very proud Jane.
"Since I was on sabbatical last semester I was very lucky no one used my office. I took only a few prized possessions with me while I was away. You know, my model of the space shuttle and a personally autographed picture of Sally Ride."
Jane nearly chocked on her ice water. Laughing and hacking, Jenny watched to make sure she didn't get worse. "Are you all right Jane?"
"Yes," Jane coughed. "I'm fine. Honestly, this morning I was trying to picture what your office looked like and in my mind's eye I saw a model of the space shuttle and an autographed picture of Sally Ride."
Green eyes sparkled as Jenny smiled. "Oh, so you were thinking about me, were you?"
Across the table, blue eyes caught the teasing and Jane proclaimed, "Why yes, how could I not think of the woman I was to share lunch with in the Ant Hill."
Leaning across the table, Jenny lowered her voice. "Picture anything else in my office Dr. Winslow?"
The line caught Jane off guard and she stammered, "Picture of Neil Armstrong walking on the moon?"
Jenny saw the obvious deer in the headlights look on Jane. She enjoyed keeping this dark haired woman off balance. "Since we are done here, walk me back to my office and I'll give you the tour."
Jane realized she had been caught and managed to regain her composure. "Certainly, I would love to take the tour. Tomorrow you can tour my office."
Both women began laughing. "Oh Jane, thank you, I haven't laughed so hard in months. Please walk me back to my office. I really enjoy your company."
As the women were rising to leave, Sal came by saying, "Ladies, Saturday. My place, Barbeque. It's by invitation only so keep it hush-hush. Bye."
"Has he always been like that?" asked Jenny.
"Let me tell you about the time Sal talked my brother Jim into having a pool party at a neighbor's house. The neighbors were out of town…"
During the week, Jane and Jenny ate lunch together, phoned and e-mailed several times a day. They shared a level of comfort with one another that takes others months or years to achieve.
On Saturday, Jenny drove to Jane's home then drove both of them to Sal's for the barbeque.
The barbeque was so hush-hush only Jane, Jenny, Sal and Sal's wife, Marissa were there. Sal's Siberian husky, Babboo was ready to help by snagging any errant food scraps that fell to the ground. The red and white, blue eyed dog immediately liked both women but was particularly fond of Jenny who had been a frequent visitor to the Raguzzo home. Jenny went with Marissa to help her in the kitchen.
"Sooooo," started Sal, "Anything happening with you two?"
Jane looked down into her glass of iced tea. "I really like her, Sal. She is funny, smart and looks prettier everyday I see her."
Sal watched the dark haired woman closely. "And any reciprocity?"
"I think so, but it might be too early. I mean, it's only been a week since we met."
"Yeah, so? Marissa and I met and married in a month's time."
"No, Sal, I don't think we're there yet."
"Where ‘who' is Jane?" asked Marissa. Jane knew what Marissa was doing.
"Where the department stands on Sal's latest fundraising scheme," answered Jane with a great big smile.
"Uh huh," grinned Marissa and winked at her husband.
"More iced tea anyone?" Jenny asked as she stepped closer to the group with her tray of tea, ice, sweeteners and lemon wedges.
"Me, me," said Jane.
"Woof," barked Babboo.
Jenny threw an ice cube for Babboo to play with. "I remember in the Peanuts comic strip, Sally Brown would call Linus her ‘Sweet Babboo'. Is that how she got her name?
Marissa laughed and said, "No, nothing so clever!"
"Hmmph," grunted Sal.
"Sal," continued Marissa, "wanted to give her a Russian name and he picked ‘Babushka' as the winner."
"Oh, okay," mumbled Jenny.
"Hey, hey she likes the name and that's what counts." Sal rubbed Babboo's tummy and the husky's tongue lolled right out of her mouth while her right leg moved in time with the petting. "Enough you pleasure hound, time to check on the ribs and eat!"
A few hours later, both women gave their thanks to their hosts and left.
"What do you think honey?" Sal asked his wife. "Is there a chance those two will get together."
"I think they both want to and they are taking it slow. One doesn't know the other is truly interested. I think they'll figure it out. Not everyone is as sharp as us, Sal."
"You got that right, Hon," smiled Sal. "Say, if I took some of the barbeque sauce and put it on you, could I lick it off?"
"Hurry up big man.Bring a lot of sauce," winked Marissa.
The semester continued on with classes, meetings and research. Jane found herself examining her short time at State U. and realized that professionally she was having a great time. Personally she noted that her feelings for a certain colleague had deepened beyond her early imaginings.
The previous weekend they had spent Saturday shopping at the mall for new winter coats and then having dinner at Jane's. Their friendship had become relaxed, easy and fun. Jane decided she wanted to take it to the next level and hoped she wasn't alone in her wish.
Across campus, Jenny was looking in a small mirror admiring her hair. "Well, well, vanity has made a comeback." While still considered short, her hair was now styled and was not going to be hidden under hats. "I hope Jane likes it." Jane's opinion mattered to the newly coiffed blonde. "I think I'll move this friendship up."
Taking the phone in hand, Jenny dialed the familiar extension.
"Dr. Winslow," answered Jane.
"Good day Dr. Winslow," smiled Jenny into the phone. "I would like to invite you to lunch today. Off campus, if your schedule permits."
"I'm all yours," answered Jane.
‘If only,' thought Jenny. "Wonderful, say 12:30. I'll pick you up at the corner of First and Normal."
"Perfect. See you then. Bye."
Lunch was at a soup and sandwich café that catered to the university and shopping crowds. The two women discussed their days, colleagues, meetings and students.
"I really like you hair. I'm glad you're not hiding it anymore," admired Jane. Jenny blushed at the compliment.
Jane started thinking about the ‘next step' and decided she wanted to broach the subject with her lunch date.
"I was wondering. We've been doing lots together recently and, if you like, please come to my place tomorrow evening for dinner. I…"
Jenny reached over and placed her hand on top of Jane's. "I'd love to, may I bring something? Salad, wine, sparkling water, whipped cream?"
"Whipped cream?" choked out Jane.
"Sure, for the ice cream sundaes I'll make for dessert. What did you think it was for?" Jenny smiled a devilish smile for the still flustered woman.
Jane took Jenny's hand in hers saying, "You got me again. How is it I never see it coming?"
"Because I'm good, Dr.Winslow, very good. Come on, we need to get back."
Saturday evening found the two professors dining in Jane's home.
"That was excellent lasagna, Jane. Everything was perfect. Thank you."
"No, no, Dr. Fields." Jane got up and changed the music from contemporary to slow instrumentals. "May I have this dance, Jenny?"
Jenny placed her hand in Jane's and the slow dance movements brought the two women's bodies closer together. Jane may have started leading, but soon found herself melting into the smaller woman's arms.
One of Jenny's fingers came up to rest on Jane's lips. "Sshhh, not now. Let me hold you."
They danced to two more songs before Jane lead Jenny into the bedroom. Still arm in arm, Jane looked at Jenny closely for any sign of distress, any sign that she was not wanted.
"Jane, before we go any further, let me kiss you." Jenny rose up on her tip toes while Jane ducked her head to meet her. The kiss was gentle. The blonde broke the kiss and motioned for the two to sit on the bed.
"It has been awhile since I've been intimate, Jane. We discussed my surgery clinically. I told you how I coped with it, the therapy that allowed me to grieve for the loss of my breasts. I saw them as my womanhood. I know that I am more than my breasts but it was a loss. If you get up from here and tell me you're not ready to see me the way I really am, I'll understand. It took me awhile to look, too."
Jane ran her hand through Jenny's blonde hair. "I'm ready, as long as you are." The tall woman walked to the light switch and dimmed the lights. "Is that all right? I have candles if you'd rather."
"It's wonderful. Maybe candles next time?" asked a hopeful Jenny.
"I like knowing there will be a next time," smiled Jane.
The two women began undressing and were standing in their bras and panties.
"May I?" asked Jane. Jenny nodded and Jane reached around to undo the blonde's bra. The hooks were unfastened, Jane began placing small kisses along Jenny's neck and jaw line. The straps were lowered and the bra with prosthetics was dropped to the floor. Jane undid her bra, dropping it to the floor with Jenny's. Both women stood with only panties on.
Jane looked at the scars on the smaller woman's chest. Jenny not having breasts made no difference to her. She understood that the loss was great and only hoped that tonight she could show Jenny what she has come to mean to her.
Jenny watched Jane's eyes and saw her look at her body. She saw empathy but no pity. "My turn," said Jenny as she removed her panties. "You're magnificent," whispered Jenny. Jane smiled at the remark but said in reply, "May I touch you?"
Tears threatened to spill from Jenny's eyes, "Oh, yes!" Jane moved toward Jenny bringing her toward the middle of the king size bed. Kisses were delicately placed on the blonde's face, neck and chest. Scars were covered in kisses. Jane took Jenny's hands in hers and placed them on her breasts. The women loved one another all through the night.
Morning found the women wrapped together under the covers. "You made me feel like a whole woman, Jane Winslow."
Jane's lips kissed Jenny's forehead. "Jennifer Fields, thank you for the honor of making love with you. You make me feel so special."
"We're getting mushy Dr. Winslow. You need to make breakfast."
"Me? Can't you do it? You wore me out!"
"Then we should both get up." With that, Jenny jumped out of bed and walked to the bathroom. Jane smiled as she watched the smaller woman walk away.
"What a fine ass you have, Dr. Fields."
Jenny stopped. Turning toward Jane she grinned and said, "Why Dr. Winslow, are you an ass woman?"
"Oh yeah," replied a very happy Dr. Winslow.
Jane and Jenny became closer and closer during the school year. May graduation approached and with finals, meetings and grades due, both women were close to exhaustion.
Wearing caps and gowns for the graduation ceremony on the warm spring day proved too much for Jenny. Her colleagues in the physics department told her to stay in the shade. Jane was summoned and sat with her. "Come on, let's go home."
After a couple of days, Jenny felt better. Jane wanted her to see her doctor. "Hon, you were working so hard it was easy to wear yourself down and catch a bug."
"I'll be fine. I'll let you pamper me and I'll be better in no time."
Sal and Marissa came by with soup, sandwiches and a casserole for later. "How's she doing Jane?" asked a worried Sal. "She's lost weight, hasn't she?"
"Yeah, she hasn't eaten much. I'm worried Sal, I don't want to lose her." With that said, tears flowed from the tall woman's eyes. "I've got a bad feeling about this. What if it's cancer again? It's not fair. It's just not fair!"
Sal held his childhood friend. "No, it's not fair."
In the other room, Marissa and Jenny talked. "Jen, you've lost weight."
"I know. I hope it's not cancer again, but I'm afraid it is. In fact, inside I know it is."
"Are you going to the doctor?"
"Yes, Monday. It's funny. If it were just me I would be okay. But it's not just me." Jenny looked back into Marissa's eyes. "It's never been just me, though." Jen reached out and took Marissa's hands.
"Jane will be there for you. Don't leave her out."
"I won't. It's because of her that I made the appointment. If there is any chance, or not, I want us to be together."
The friends hugged then dried their eyes. "Come on Marissa. Let's go see what our troublemakers are up to now."
Monday morning, the women in the doctor's office, holding one another. Tests were done, pictures were taken and all the experts agreed that Jenny was no longer in remission. The cancer had spread so fast it was termed inoperable.
"No. It can't be. She was clean on her last check-up. I want more tests, second, third, fourth opinions…"
A hand came up and rested on Jane's forearm. Looking up with watery green eyes, Jenny quietly asked, "Hold me?"
The tall woman immediately dropped to her knees in front of the woman she loved, wrapping long arms around her. "Sweetheart, I'm sorry. You need me and I'm yelling my fool head off."
"I want to go home Jane. Please take me home."
"Let's go honey." The women stood to leave. Jane turned to the doctors. "I'm sorry I yelled."
The doctors nodded in understanding. "Jenny, please call us tomorrow to discuss our course of action."
Jenny nodded her head. Jane guided her out the door and the two women left for home.
At home, Jenny wept while Jane held her. No words were spoken. Touches were light but constant. Eventually, Jenny exhausted herself and fell asleep. Jane made light meals while constantly watching her lover.
The days and weeks of summer passed. Jenny decided that only pain medication would be taken. She revised her will and wrote letters to be opened only after she was gone. In the evenings, the women would sit on the back patio, hold each other, talk or just listen to the sounds of a summer evening.
"I love you, Jane," started Jenny. "This past year has been wonderful. Thank you for loving me."
Jane could barely make a sound. Finally finding her voice, she looked into her lover's eyes saying, "It is I who should thank you. Thank you for inviting me to lunch when I first met you. Thank you for teaching me how to love. I love you, too, Jennifer Fields."
Jenny leaned into Jane and no more words were spoken.
Less than a month later, Jenny was gone. Marissa had been named executor of Jenny's will. Many possessions were willed to distant family members. Organizations Jenny supported received monetary donations. Items from the time spent with Jane went to her lover, along with a special letter. Sal and Marissa received a special letter, too.
"I don't know if I can read it, Sal," whispered Jane.
"When you're ready you will. She wrote it just for you… when you're ready."
Two weeks later was the new school term's faculty mixer. Jane entered wearing jeans, a white oxford shirt and a navy blue blazer. Marissa met her at the door.
"Haven't seen you since the reading and you don't return messages."
"Nothing really to say, Marissa. I miss her so much."
"Yes. Come over to the house, Jane. We miss you, too."
"I will." Jane held back tears, and then whispered, "Thanks."
Jane drove home from the mixer. She went to her desk and sat down. "One year ago I met the most wonderful woman." Tears flowed freely from blue eyes. Reaching into her desk drawer, Jane retrieved the letter Jenny had left for her. Slowly she opened the envelope and began reading her lover's words:
I love you. Though I am no longer there to say it to you, I know you know how I feel. I don't know how much time has passed since we last spoke. I hope the tears do not come as often or that the pain of my leaving still does not tear at your soul.
My last year was my best. Better than working at NASA, better than getting Sally Ride's autograph (and you know how big that was to me!).
In my heart I loved you from the first time we met. I knew you loved me when we made love. The love in your eyes, your touch, your kiss, was more than I could ever hope for.
In a year we experienced a lifetime of emotions. Some excellent highs, some painful lows punctuated our time together. I wouldn't change any of it. (Well, maybe one thing.)
In our trip around the sun, we both found love. The next time we meet, let's try for the extended holiday trip because there is no way I'm coming back in my next life for anything less than 75 years with you.
My sweet Jane, I will always be with you. Live your life for you, not in my memory. I want you to love again.
Lastly, take care of Sal and Marissa (and Babboo, too). I asked them to watch over you, please let them. They love you almost as much as I do.
When you look into the night sky, know that I'll be there on a heavenly space shuttle keeping watch over the ones I love, especially my own Sweet Babboo.
Jane wiped the last of her tears with a tissue. Reaching to her phone, she hit the number two speed dial.
"Hey Sal, can I come by tomorrow night? I'll bring Chinese."
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