By KG MacGregor
"I couldnt believe it either! Mom, she is so nice. And shes smart and successful. I hope you have the chance to meet her the next time you come down." Lily had been going on about the car dealer for nearly thirty minutes, recounting as many details as she could remember of her meeting with Anna at the courthouse and at dinner last night. "No, we havent really made any plans to get together again, but I think we will. I think we just sort of clicked." Lily walked from her bedroom out to her balcony and sat down in the sun. "No, not that way. Arent you listening, Mom? Shes straight. But I think well be great friends."
Eleanor had always been both mother and best friend to her daughter. Though she had warded off the cruelty of the younger schoolchildren, she had been powerless to stop the heartbreak when a supposed friend from Lilys high school had broken a confidence and told their classmates that Lily was gay. The vicious taunting that followed had driven a wedge between Lily and her peers and the teenager simply withdrew from social activities. She concentrated on her studies and spent more time with adult friends, like Katharine. It was then that Katharine first told Lily that she too was a lesbian. That revelation was a godsend to the confused young girl as she learned by example to accept and love herself without guilt or shame. And over the years, Eleanor could not have been more supportive, offering her shoulder each time Lily had her heart torn in two.
"Ill come up to see you soon, I promise." Lily stood to return the phone to its cradle for recharging. "Love you too. Goodbye."
Lily loved her work, but weekends were a guilty pleasure. She usually managed to take care of things like cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping and errands by mid-afternoon on Saturday. That left Saturday night for socializing, often dinner with Sandy and Suzanne or with Lauren and her husband, Jason. On Sundays, Lily was outside as much as possible. Her favorite pastime was hiking, and though she preferred long walks alone, she wisely adhered to the adage of safety in numbers. When she couldnt find a companion, she usually opted to hit the popular trails in the San Gabriel Mountains, where she encountered dozens of hikers, bikers and cross-country runners.
Sandy had called first thing this morning to invite her to a cookout tonight at their Sherman Oaks home. She and Suzanne were eager to hear about her evening with Anna and her family, and she was looking forward to the retelling.
Lily was running out the door when her phone rang. Her heart skipped a beat as she recognized on her caller ID the number she had memorized from Annas business card. "Hello, this is Lily," she answered nervously.
"Hi, its Anna." Such a nice voice!
"Well hi yourself, Amazon. What are you up to? Six feet?"
"Funny girl." Anna didnt mind at all the teasing from her diminutive friend. "Im still at work. What about you?"
"Im heading out to dinner at Sandys. You remember my friend from the courthouse?"
"Of course, the social worker. She seems like a nice person."
"Yeah, weve been good friends for about five years."
"Listen, the reason I was calling was to see if you had any interest in going to the Dodgers game tomorrow. My account manager at the LA Times sent me two tickets to their skybox."
"The skybox?" Lily asked, working hard to contain her eagerness.
"Yes, you know. Their corporate suite. We spend a lot of money on advertising, and they pass on tickets to things from time to time."
"Are you kidding? Id love to!"
"Great! It starts at one. What if I come by and pick you up about 12:15?"
"Are you sure you dont mind? I could meet you somewhere, or I could come by and get you."
"No, thats okay. Just give me your address. I have a GPS in the car, Ill just punch it in." Anna wasnt eager to fold her long frame into the mini-SUV again. If they encountered heavy traffic, her injured knee would protest vehemently at the cramped position.
"A GPS? Cool! If youre sure." Lily gave her address, and told Anna where she should park at the complex to avoid the wrath of the Parking Lot Nazi, the elderly neighbor in the adjacent building who didnt even own a car. "Listen, Ive never been in a skybox before. What should I wear?"
"Well, theyre a little stiff. Hal would fit right in," the car dealer joked. "I usually wear slacks or khakis and a nice shirt."
Lilys mind immediately went to her wardrobe as she mentally dressed herself six times. This exercise always saved her at least two rounds of tossing clothes about the room as she ruled things out. "I cant wait. See you at 12:15. Oh, and Anna?"
"Its seven oclock on Saturday night. Go home."
"Funny girl. Have a good time tonight. Tell Sandy I said hello."
"I will. Thanks for calling." She hung up and dashed out the door, giddy with excitement.
Twenty minutes later, she was pulling into the driveway of her friends California ranch home. She could smell the burning charcoal as soon as she stepped from her car, so she followed the path around the garage to the redwood deck. Suzanne was tending the grill, and she could hear Sandy in the kitchen. "I brought wine!" she announced, holding up Sandys favorite Coppola merlot. Lily greeted her friends in the usual manner, like they hadnt seen each other in months.
As expected, Lilys report on her dinner at Empyres dominated the dinner conversation. Sandy and Suzanne had lots of questions, and they were genuinely glad that their friend had reconnected with the woman she met during her earthquake ordeal.
When dinner and dishes were done, they returned to the deck for a soak in the Jacuzzi. In the darkness, the three friends shed their clothes and slipped into the warm churning water. "Lily, I sure wish you could meet a lesbian that lit your fire like Anna has," Sandy started.
"You and me both, my friend," Lily replied, realizing too late what she had just admitted.
"Shes straight, Lily," Suzanne warned. "You need to be careful, or shell break your heart."
"Shes my friend, Suzanne," the blonde said defensively. "I dont have any expectations that shell be anything else. Its just that we went through something together that changed our lives. I feel a very special bond with her, and I want to know her better. Does that automatically have to mean a sexual attraction?"
"No, of course not," Sandy reassured. "We just dont want to see you hurt, but it sounds like youve got the right perspective. Neither of us meant any offense."
"Thats okay. None taken." Lily was grateful for her two friends, even when they were overprotective. "Thanks for worrying about me."
Soon after they toweled off and dressed, Lily bade her friends goodnight and went home to try on clothes.
The two women showed their tickets at the gate and made their way to the escalator that would take them to the concourse for the lower level suites. As promised, Anna was wearing black tailored slacks and a light blue sleeveless silk shirt. Her hair was pulled back and tied with a thin strip of black leather, and a lightweight cream-colored sweater hung loosely around her shoulders to ward off the chill of the air conditioner in the suite. A native to southern California, Anna hated to be cold.
Lily wore Gap khakis with a short-sleeved forest green sweater. It was the sixteenth combination that she had tried. It wasnt that this one was the best; rather it was the one she had on when her doorbell rang at 12:10.
Lily was duly impressed with Annas luxurious black 745i, especially the global positioning system. From her passenger seat, she assessed the multitude of gauges that gave the appearance that the car drove itself. "Youd have to be pretty smart to drive a car like this," she joked.
"Not a problem," the dark-haired woman replied dryly.
When they entered the suite, they were greeted by a handsome man in gray slacks and a starched white shirt. "Anna! Its great to see you. Glad you could make it!"
"Thank you. Steve, Id like you to meet my friend, Lilian Stuart. Lily, this is Steve French. Steve is my account manager at the Times, and our host for today."
"Im really pleased to meet you. Thanks so much for the invitation." Lily couldnt help but notice that Steve had hardly glanced her way, his eyes glued to her beautiful friend.
"So Anna, where is Scott today?" Were the rumors true?
"That I wouldnt know, Steve. Scott and I have divorced," she said unceremoniously.
Bingo! "Im sorry to hear that, Anna." He wasnt really. In fact, it was all he could do not to blurt out You seeing anyone?
"Thank you, Steve. I appreciate that. It was a friendly parting." She had learned that sharing that with acquaintances usually put them at ease. Steve led them to their seats on the front row of the suite just in time for the National Anthem.
Anna has a beautiful voice, Lily thought when the song finished. The blonde resisted the urge to pinch herself. Here she was in a luxury suite at Dodger Stadium, sitting beside the most beautiful woman in LA. Her friends words of caution from the night before crept into her head for a moment, but she reminded herself that she and Anna were just getting to know each other, on their way to a deep, lasting friendship.
Lily was pleasantly surprised to find that Anna knew her stuff when it came to the Dodgers. They talked about players, trades, strategies and statistics, all to the consternation of Steve French, who badly wanted Annas attention.
"I think someone has his eye on you," Lily whispered.
"Oh yeah? Hes a handsome guy, dont you think?"
"Yeah, I guess," Lily shrugged, feigning exaggerated boredom. "If you go for that trim and muscular, square jaw with deep set eyes thing. Not really my type, though."
"So what is your type, Ms. Stuart?" Anna wasnt sure why shed asked, but she found herself profoundly interested in Lilys response.
You areGod, please dont let me have said that out loud! "You mean apart from my gender specifications?"
"Well, Id say thats a given, unless youve decided to swing back the other way."
"Not a chance. I go for smart first, then a sense of humor. Outer beauty means little to me," Lily said haughtily.
"Yeah, and I like ugly cars too."
"Lilian Stuart," the lawyer said, picking up the phone on her desk.
"So how did you know he was going to call?"
"Anna! Im fine. Thank you for asking," Lily ragged on her friend.
"Funny girl. I just got a call from Steve French inviting me to go to San Diego next Saturday for the first game of the Dodgers road trip."
Lily knew this was going to happen, and she didnt like it one bit. She had overheard the arrogant prick bragging to his buddy at the game that he could get Anna to go out with him. Something about his tone suggested that he was definitely interested in more than just a date. But who wouldnt be? Anna is irresistible. "So what was your reply? I suppose you fell for the line about having the chance to get to know each other better on the drive down." It was meant to be teasing, but it came out as sarcasm.
Anna was taken aback at her friends response. "Whats that about, Lily? It sounds like you dont like Steve much."
Im so screwed! Lily thought about coming clean about what she had overheard, but it occurred to her that Anna might well be interested in Steves advances. "No, Steve is very nice. I was just teasing. Welcome back to the world of dating. I always keep my ears open for what lines work best on women," she kidded, hoping that would cover her faux pas.
The women tried to work out getting together one night during the week for a quick dinner, but their schedules wouldnt meet. Lily usually prepped for court appearances the night before and this was a particularly busy week with three cases on the docket. Anna would be with her family celebrating her fathers 58th birthday on the only night the lawyer was available. They agreed to reconnect after the weekend to see if they could get together next week.
For his 58th birthday, George Kaklis asked to have his birthday dinner outside on the patio. His very best memories were of the times the family had eaten, laughed and played around the pool in the backyard. He wanted "something simple, like we used to do when the kids were all at home." Trouble was, "simple" to his wife, Martine, was having a caterer shop, prepare, serve and clean up. Even so, she was always happy to do things for her family, and especially glad to help make Georges birthday a special one.
The second Mrs. Kaklis now stood in the kitchen, dutifully sorting ingredients for Turkish pilaf and stuffed baked tomatoes. Six top sirloin steaks marinated on the top rack of the industrial model refrigerator in the expansive kitchen. Hal and David had agreed to do the honors at the grill, while Kim and Anna would prepare the dinner salad. Martine had picked up the large, elaborately decorated cake earlier in the day.
When they finished dinner, Hal and Anna cleared the table and returned to the patio for birthday cake and presents. "So what is everyone doing this weekend?" the patriarch asked. He was genuinely interested in the lives of his family members.
"Going out on the boat," said Hal cheerfully.
"Going out on the boat," Kim groaned.
"Going out on the boat?" David pleaded for an invitation.
"Going out on the boat!" Hal extended it, nodding at his teenage brother-in-law.
"Going out on the boat?" begged Kim, turning to her sister.
"Sorry. Not going out on the boat. Im going with Steve French to the Dodgers game in San Diego."
"Youre going out with Steve French?" George asked, obviously surprised. "I dont think hes for you, dear. Maybe you should consider waiting a while before you start dating again." The elder Kaklis had always been protective of Anna, even overprotective when it came to her dates or friends. He had thought Scott the perfect match for his daughter, and was distressed when they divorced, unaware of his son-in-laws breach.
Through the years, Anna had found it easier to defer to her fathers judgment than to deal with his disappointment. Her fathers approval of Scott had been the deciding factor when she accepted his marriage proposal. "Its not really a date, Dad. I went last week to their skybox for the Reds game, and he knows what a Dodgers fan I am." Fine, I just wont think of it as a date.
He would try a new tack. "I dont know, darling. After all, he is our account manager. You dont want to mix business and pleasure."
"Oh for goodness sakes, Dad! Anna isnt going to run off and elope." Like Hal and I did, she left unsaid. "I swear, youd have us both still living at home if you had your way." Kim rescued her sister with a little levity.
Anna laughed and stood up quickly to gather the cake plates. Kim had created a slim opening and she wasnt going to miss it. "Mother, could you grab those two plates?" Anna disappeared into the kitchen with Martine. "Dont let him worry too much, okay?"
"Ill deal with him if he brings it up again. You just go have fun. Itll do you good to get out." Martine was used to running interference for the girls. She only wished George would pay as much attention to her as he did to the children and that goddamned dealership.
Lily stretched across the couch to grab the phone, not taking her eyes off UCLAs gridiron battle with the Stanford Cardinal. Fresh from her shower after cleaning the house and washing her pathetic car, she now wore an oversized long blue and yellow jersey that boasted her alma mater. Her beloved Bruins were already up 7-0 in the first quarter.
"So how did you know that Steve French was a creep?"
Football flew right out of her head as she recognized her friends voice. "Hi Anna. Im fine. Thanks for asking."
"Funny girl." It had become her standard reply. "Let me be your tour guide for the landmark Hotel del Coronado in San Diego. Were here in the mahogany trimmed ladies room off the Dels main lobby, admiring the polished brass fixtures adorning the ornately carved marble sinks."
"What on earth are you doing in the bathroom at the Del?"
"Such a personal question!" Anna said with mock indignation. "Steve suggested the Del for dinner, and I stopped in here to wash up." The rest of her tale left the lawyer in disbelief.
Anna exited the washroom to find Steve standing with his back to her at the hotels registration desk. Pocketing something from the desk clerk, he walked out to the balcony to wait for her.
With a queasy feeling, Anna approached the counter and asked the clerk, "That gentleman who was just here, did he register for the night?"
"Im sorry, maam. I cant give out that information."
Drawing a fifty dollar bill from her purse and passing it discreetly across the counter, she explained to the young woman, "Im here with that man on our first date, and I would like to know what he has in mind."
A look of understanding crossed the clerks face, and she gently pushed Annas hand back across the counter, not taking the bill. "Yes, he got a single room with a king-sized bed. And a bottle of champagne."
Anna lurched on the last remark. "Thank you."
Though already jaded regarding Steve French, Lily couldnt believe how pompous the guy actually was. "What an arrogant jerk!" she exclaimed.
"Yeah. I was going to fake a migraine, but I may not have to fake it after all. Im thinking about renting a car and driving home."
"You get migraines?"
Lily imagined her friend hiding out at the Del. "What if I drove down and picked you up? I could be there in about two and a half hours."
Anna protested, but secretly, she loved the idea of riding back to LA with the woman who always made her laugh. Even in the tiny RAV4. Lily further prodded her friend to think about it, even as she walked upstairs to pull on her jeans and change into a rust-colored knit sweater.
"Well, I cant stay in the restroom for two and half hours." Anna had decided what she would do. "So Ill be in the lobby at nine oclock. Are you sure, Lily? Thats a lot of driving."
Lily confirmed her offer, telling Anna that she was ready now to head out the door. The dark-haired woman exited the restroom in search of her date. The direct approach, right between the eyes, she decided. Finding the man on the breezy balcony above the restaurant, she began, "Steve, when I was coming out of the ladies room earlier, I saw you picking up a room key."
Busted! "Oh," he stammered, "I thought you might want to freshen up after dinner." That could work, he thought stupidly.
Four hundred dollars a night to freshen up? "I have to tell you Steve, that makes me very uncomfortable. Ive already called someone to pick me up. And Im going to be having dinner alone tonight." He protested at first, but when it suddenly occurred to him that he had just offended one of the papers most important advertisers, he managed to voice a humble apology. It was too soon to tell if this would damage their working relationship.
Lily pulled into the valet circle at 8:50. "Im just here to pick someone up," she told the young man in the pith helmet who had moved to take her keys. Less than a minute later, she emerged with her tall friend in tow.
On the ride home, Anna confessed that she was nursing a small headache, and requested that Lily carry the conversation. She reclined her seat slightly and asked to hear all about the attorneys family, her friends, her work, and the things she liked to do. Lily answered with the story of her precarious start in life. With the love evident in her voice, she described how Eleanor and Katharine had helped her to become the person she was today. She then went on to talk about the Braxton Street Law Clinic, about Tony and Lauren, and the work they did with underprivileged families.
Anna was fascinated and intrigued by the tale. She understood now that the grit and determination she had seen in this remarkable woman during their underground ordeal was not something Lily had called up to answer their desperate need. Rather, it was an integral part of who she was.
She began to tell Lily about the presentation on youth programs she had seen at the Chamber of Commerce meeting the morning of the earthquake, and about her desire to do something for kids. As she spoke, though, she realized that her small headache was indeed turning into a full-blown migraine and she begged off the rest of the conversation until another time. The last hour was logged in companionable silence, Anna dozing when she could, and Lily lost in thought about the feelings she knew were growing for the beautiful woman. When she realized where her thoughts were headed, she mentally cautioned herself.
"Anna? Were here." Lily gently shook her friends arm. Her arm feels so clammy. "Are you okay? What can I do?"
Anna sat up and pressed two fingers from her right hand onto her right eyebrow, directly above her eye where her worst migraines formed. She barely noticed her aching leg as she stepped from the car. "Its a big one. I think Im going to be sick," was all she said.
Lily helped the tall woman into the house, sticking close by all the way to her bedroom. As she had predicted, Anna was sick as soon as entered the adjoining bathroom. Lily wet a cloth and tenderly wiped her friends face as she slumped on the cool tile floor. "How can I help, Anna? Do you have medicine?"
Anna nodded slowly. "Theres a plastic jar on the door of the refrigerator. Can you bring it?"
"Of course." Lily found the medicine and returned to the bathroom with a small glass of water. "Here," she said, handing the jar to her friend.
Anna unscrewed the cap and removed one of the yellow capsules. Despite the awful headache, she couldnt stop the smile that formed when she saw the offered glass. "Um these are suppositories. They work faster."
"Oh." Lily could feel the heat rush up her chest to her face, and she knew that she was bright red with embarrassment. "Ill just uh, Ill wait out here." She left the room, closing the door behind her.
When Anna emerged a few minutes later, she sat beside the blonde on the queen-sized bed. "I need to lie down now. The medicine will knock me out cold in about ten minutes."
"Do you want me to stay a while, until youre asleep?"
"No, Ill be okay." Anna withdrew a blue silk nightshirt from the bottom drawer of the nightstand. "Theres an extra key in the kitchen drawer under the phone. Take it, and lock up for me, okay?"
Lily nodded. "Can I give you a call tomorrow?" Anna agreed and began to unbutton her blouse. Lily felt her face go red again, and stood. "I hope you feel better." Nervously, she leaned forward and lightly kissed her friends forehead."
"Thank you, Lily. For everything." It was all she could do to get the words out, but she needed to show the attorney her gratitude for her friendship. It was indeed special, and Anna knew with a certainty that it would get stronger.
Alone in her car, Lily tried to recall if she had ever been more embarrassed in her entire life. She must have thought I was waiting around to watch her put it in! The image brought the deep blush back to her face and neck.
Her thoughts turned again to the attraction she was feeling for Anna, but she couldnt bring herself to imagine closeness beyond that of best friends. She indeed wanted to be Annas very best friend, and to protect her from jerks like Steve French. That didnt mean it was sexual attraction. They were just friends. .
Still with me? Part 7
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