Stirred 2

By KG MacGregor



Chapter 4


"Ugh!" Lily raised both hands to her head as she sat up. Immediately sorry at the amount of fun she had obviously had at Tony’s wedding, the disheveled blonde staggered into the bathroom. Yep, there was that telltale "green" countenance that usually accompanied a hangover, the drooping eyes sporting a smeared ring of mascara. And who were those people walking around in her mouth! Through the bathroom window, Lily spotted her lover at the umbrella table by the pool, her favorite place to read the Sunday paper.

"Shower first, then coffee, then girlfriend," she mumbled aloud. Something was nagging her about last night. She felt guilty, but she wasn’t sure why. The wedding, the dancing…she vaguely remembered leaving, but nothing after that.

Anna looked up when she heard her lover in the kitchen. Lily was barefooted, dressed in one of the tall woman’s button down shirts, the long tail hanging to the top of her brown thighs. The wet hair was slicked straight back, evidence that she had washed away the remnants of last night’s celebration. Anna loved this casual look, but she was put out with the blonde this morning.

"Hi," Lily said as she kissed the woman on the top of her head.

"Good morning," Anna responded coolly. "Sleep well?"

Hmm, were we expecting a cold front? "Yeah, how about you?"

"Alright, I suppose."

"Are you ready for a refill?" Lily gestured at Anna’s empty mug.

"No, thank you," came the formal reply.

Definitely a little frosty. Lily absently rummaged through the paper, trying hard to remember what she might have said or done last night to warrant this chill. "Listen to this: ‘In a 16-hour procedure, a team of surgeons in Johannesburg successfully separated 8-week-old Sudanese twins joined at the hip and thigh. The infants, in critical but stable condition, were rejoined with their parents in the Sudan.’" She waited for a reaction. "Get it? Siamese twins rejoined with their parents?" Still no response. "Like, what’s the point of separating them from each other if you’re just going to rejoin them to someone else?"

"I get it," Anna groaned. "I guess I don’t find it funny."

Lily laid the paper down and looked nervously at her partner. "Okay, what’s wrong?" She found herself apprehensive about how the blanks from last night would be filled in.

From behind the sports page, Anna answered matter-of-factly, "You fell asleep on me last night."

Is that all? "And I’m getting the cold shoulder for that?"

Anna sighed. "It hurt my feelings. I finally got some time off and we wasted it."

"Anna, your work schedule isn’t my fault. I’m sorry I fell asleep. I guess I partied too much. But if you want more of me, you could always spend more time at home." That needed to be said.

"You know how busy things are at work right now. I don’t want to be gone so much, but I have to be, at least until things are running smoothly." There was another issue that was more important, though Anna was hesitant to broach it. "Lily, you’ve been ‘partying’ a lot lately. You got tipsy at Empyre’s, then last weekend you couldn’t drive home from Sandy and Suzanne’s, and now there’s last night." She carefully avoided using the word ‘drunk.’

That wasn’t all actually, but Lily was pretty sure her partner didn’t know about the bridal shower. She certainly wasn’t going to correct her. "Are you suggesting that I might have a drinking problem?" Her defensive tone was unmistakable.

"No, but it isn’t like you to drink as much as you have lately. I guess I don’t want it to turn into a problem."

"It won’t, Anna." Please let this discussion be over. It was, thanks to the double ring of the kitchen phone. Without a word, Lily walked back into the house.

Anna felt awful. She’d practically accused her partner of being an alcoholic, and she’d gotten a loud and clear message that her work load was the reason they hadn’t been connecting recently. When she heard Lily hang up the phone, she followed her into the kitchen. "Who was that?" She tried to sound more cheerful.

"That was Mom. She wanted to remind us that she and Bill are coming next weekend. He’s got that oncology conference in Long Beach."

"It’ll be great to see her again. So what’s the story with Bill?"

"I get the feeling that fizzled. She doesn’t talk about it anymore. They’re obviously still friends, but he’s going to stay at the conference hotel, and she’s going to stay here."

Anna stepped behind the sexy blonde, slipping her hand under the shirttail to stroke the flat stomach. "So how would I go about getting on your dance card today?"


George Kaklis returned to the dealership on Monday morning, boasting brand new business cards that touted him as a Customer Relations Executive. He was now the official "glad-hander," the one who attended community and business functions on the dealership’s behalf, and who handled the "meet and greet" when longtime customers arrived on the lot. He was a little disappointed when he realized that he would no longer have a plush office on the second floor. Anna already had carpenters in carving up her new digs and part of her old office to accommodate both Hal and Brad, moving her father downstairs to a sales office. At least his had a door.

He was more disturbed by the fact that his daughter and son-in-law were meeting for long hours in private. Surely, she would want his advice on the direction for the company. Wednesday morning, Anna finally invited him up to go over their plans.

"We’re going to move to acquire two, maybe even three new dealerships," she explained. "We need a line that appeals to the budget conscious, as well as to those who are looking for more fuel efficiency. That’s a pretty big pie, and we’re positioned well to deliver it at a profit."

George couldn’t believe his daughter would do this. He had always been adamantly opposed to diluting their brand, and he didn’t see how she could effectively manage dealerships in different locations. They had had this discussion at least once a year for the last five years, each time with Anna arguing that their own resources and expertise were underutilized. Now she was making this her first move as president. "You already know what I think of this, Anna," he said sternly.

"Yes, Dad, I know you’re reluctant to do this, but Hal and I think it’s a good move for us. I had Walter draft an offer for Sweeney Volkswagen, and we submitted it this morning." She knew this was tough on George, so she sweetened the pot. "I think the Volkswagen line offers a great opportunity for David. If he’s interested, that is." She knew he would be. Her younger brother had broken ranks at sixteen when he insisted on getting a Beetle rather than BMW’s sporty entry model, the M3.

He considered the possibilities. He liked the idea of his whole family following in his footsteps in the car business, and David had never gotten excited about the luxury cars. "So you said two or three dealerships."

"We’re also going over the books for the BMW and Volkswagen dealerships in Palm Springs. Both owners are looking to get out of the business. It’s a golden opportunity."

George conceded that his daughter was right. The dealership’s finances were strong enough to leverage all three of these acquisitions. Premier Motors was on its way to becoming an auto empire. Son of a gun.


"Lilian Stuart." The attorney always sounded so serious when she answered her office phone.

"Raw fish?" was all her lover said.

"I’m fine, sweetheart. Thanks for asking." The disjointed greetings were their hallmark. "Are you inviting me for sushi, or was that a reference to something else?" Things were smooth again between them. Anna had gotten home by eight every night this week, and Lily had refrained from drinking anything at all, even skipping her usual glass of wine with dinner. Not that she was conceding that she had a problem. She just wanted to prove to Anna that she did not.

"The former, actually. I made the big move this morning. We’ll probably hear something from Sweeney in a couple of weeks."

"So is George’s nose out of joint?"

"Big time."

"Well, that’s worth celebrating," she said mischievously. "What time will you be home?"

"How about seven?"

"I’ll be ready."

"Oh, and I have a surprise for you."

Anna honked the horn as she pulled into the drive at 6:50. Lily had changed into a black miniskirt and red top, one of her lover’s favorite outfits. The short drive to the restaurant was filled with a detailed description of George’s dubious reaction to the offer for Sweeney Volkswagen. Lily delighted in his comeuppance, but not in a malicious way. She knew he deserved a lot of credit for Anna’s success, thanks to the values and drive he had instilled in her from her youth.

"Let’s see. How about a dragon roll, a spicy tuna roll, a spider roll, four pieces of unagi, two salads with ginger dressing, two hot teas and edamame." Lily looked over the menu at her lover. "You want anything?"

Anna burst out laughing at her partner’s playfulness. "No, I’m sure I’ll get full just watching you eat all of that."

The attorney chatted about her day as they waited for their order. Finally, she could stand it no longer. "So what’s my surprise?"

Anna looked at her and smiled. "Oh yeah. I promised you a surprise, didn’t I?" Reaching into her purse, she extracted a folder of travel documents and passed it across the table.

"Maui! We’re going to Maui!" Her excited shouts turned the heads of several adjacent tables. The other diners smiled at her delight. "When?"

"Next weekend. We leave Friday night at 7:15 and come back on the redeye in time for work on Tuesday morning. I wanted it to be longer, but I know it’s hard for you to get away on short notice. Since it’s the holiday weekend, this worked out." Softly, she added, "I thought we could use some time away together."

Lily couldn’t contain her glee. Anna Kaklis, the soft sand, the sun, Anna Kaklis, the blue water, the swaying palms, Anna Kaklis. "You’re the best, you know."

"Yes, I know." She winked, feeling pretty proud of herself.


It was after 11 on Friday night when Bill dropped Eleanor and Chester at the Brentwood home. "Have fun at your conference," Lily yelled from the walkway, as he slid back into his Mercedes sedan.

"Some conference," Eleanor joked. "They have a two-hour meeting in the morning, then 18 holes of golf tomorrow afternoon."

"Well, it’s good work if you can get it." Lily squatted to pet the vivacious basset hound. "How’s my boy?" Chester smiled–Wasn’t that a smile?–and wagged his tail happily. He loved everybody, but especially this familiar blonde woman. At least until Anna appeared in the doorway. Then she became his best friend.

"Chester!" Toenails clacked furiously on the sidewalk as he bounded to the new person. Anna scratched the happy dog on his upturned belly, then stood to greet Eleanor. "You want your belly rubbed too, or will a hug do?"

"Hmmm. A hug I think." Anna complied then grabbed the woman’s suitcase.

"Did you bring your hiking boots, Mom?"

"Of course. Are we going out tomorrow?"

"You bet!" Lily got her love of hiking from her mother. While she was growing up in San Jose, the two of them would spend most Saturdays blazing trails in the Santa Cruz mountains. Eleanor loved sampling the new trails in southern California with her daughter.

By 7:30 in the morning, Anna was heading out the door to the dealership. They were swamped on Saturdays and she was giving Brad the day off, since he’d have to cover for her next weekend while she was in Hawaii.

"Don’t forget, Amazon. We’re going to your mom and dad’s for dinner at six, so I expect to see your smiling face by 5:30." Both of them seemed able to work within given parameters, so long as the expectations were clear.

"I’ll be here." Their plans made, the car dealer stole a kiss and disappeared out the door.

Lily finished making turkey sandwiches, and filled sealable plastic bags with carrots, trail mix, and orange sections. She filled her two-liter Camelback water bladder, adding three one-liter bottles of water and lifted the pack. A little heavier than usual, but not too bad. The weather was perfect, so they wouldn’t need any rain gear or extra sweaters. "Mom, are you ready?"

"I am now. Do you have room for my camera in your daypack?"


"I’ll take my turn carrying that thing, you know. Tell you what, you carry it until lunch then I’ll carry it the rest of the day."

Lily frowned. "But after lunch, it will be practically empty."

"Yes, I know," she deadpanned.

Lily had picked a moderately challenging 10-mile hike for their outing. That would get them home by three, in plenty of time to rest a bit and get ready for dinner at the Kaklis home. Eleanor had met Kim and Hal, but had missed the pleasure of George, Martine and David. Well, Martine and David anyway, if you’re talking pleasure. She was somehow certain her mother would handle the Kaklis patriarch perfectly.

They parked the SUV at the trailhead and gathered their things. As they started out, Eleanor stopped to adjust her boots, something she did every single time they went hiking. Lily had gotten so used to it over the years that she built it into her gait. The hike did not officially start until Eleanor’s boots were right.

"So what happened to you and Bill?" Lily didn’t mean to get into her mother’s business, but she wanted to know if something had gone awry.

"Oh, we just figured out that we liked being friends. Getting closer kind of complicated that, for both of us, I think."

"Is it working out? I mean being friends. I was just worried about you."

"We’re fine. I think he still misses Liz, more than he’s willing to admit." Bill’s wife of 21 years died of cancer almost four years ago.

"Are you okay?" Now that Lily had found Anna to love, she hated to think of her mother being lonely.

"Of course I am. I mean, it was nice while it lasted, but it wasn’t an overwhelming need I had. Our friendship is…fulfilling."

Lily could hear the melancholy in her mother’s voice, but knew that Eleanor had said all she wanted to say about it. She hooked the woman’s arm in hers as they trudged up the wide shaded path.

Two and a half hours later, the women were standing at the pinnacle of Strawberry Peak. From this vantage point, they could see the Pacific Ocean to the west, Mount Baldy to the east, and the entire LA basin. Or at least, they could have seen it, had it not been blanketed in smog. Still, it was beautiful and sunny where they stood, and lunch was divine.

The peak was a stopping point for dozens of hikers and bikers, and Lily couldn’t resist asking another hiker to snap a picture of her with her mother, here in one of her favorite places. "I don’t think we’ve had a picture made together since I graduated from law school."

"Then we should get copies made, so we can both have one."

Walking downhill was hard on Eleanor’s knees, so Lily chose a longer, more meandering path that wasn’t as steep for their descent. "I’ve had a great day, Mom. I think that hiking with you on the weekends is the thing I miss most about leaving home. You’ve got to get down here more often."

"And you could come home more often too, you know."

"Yeah, maybe I will. Anna’s been really busy with work. Maybe I’ll come up in a couple of weeks and we’ll do the Priest Rock Trail. Did I tell you that we’re going to Maui next week?"

On the way home, Lily told her mother all about their plans for the holiday weekend. Well, not exactly all of their plans.

At six o’clock, Anna, Lily, Eleanor and Bill were piling into the SUV for the short ride over to the Kaklis home. At the last moment, Anna suggested taking Chester too, so the happy fellow proudly positioned himself in her lap in the front seat. They were the last to arrive, finding everyone in their usual spot by the pool. Hal and David had baby Jonah in the pool, squealing with delight.

"Mom, Dad? I’d like you to meet Lily’s mom, Eleanor Stuart." Turning back to Eleanor, she went on. "And this is my father, George, and my mother, Martine. That black-haired tree in the pool is my brother David."

Martine addressed the older woman. "We’re very pleased to meet you, and so glad you could come. We think the world of your daughter." Martine could have been…southern.

"Indeed we do, but please don’t tell her. It keeps her on her toes to wonder." George always had to qualify his affection for the little blonde who owned his daughter’s heart, but he couldn’t effectively hide it anymore.

"And this is her friend, Bill Mueller. He drives a Mercedes," she hissed the word.

"We can fix that. Have David and Hal hold his head under water."

Bill laughed amiably. "Actually, my lease is up this month and I thought I’d like to drive something different. The 745i is one of the three cars that I’ve been studying."

"What are the other two?" Anna and George asked their question in perfect synchrony.

"Well, I was looking at the Jaguar."

"They’re alien droppings," George spat in disgust.

"What he means," Anna interjected diplomatically, "is that you don’t see very many older Jaguars out there. They don’t exactly have a reputation for being well-built. What’s the other one?" It was the good guy-bad guy routine, but Bill didn’t recognize it.

"The other is the Lexus."

"Ah, the Lexus," George remarked. "Well, there’s one good thing about driving a Lexus."

"What’s that?" Bill was so gullible.

"Tell him, Anna."

"If you’re driving it, you can’t see how ugly it is."

Bill surrendered, laughing. "So I guess it’s the BMW?"

"Look, if you really want one, I’ll set you up tomorrow morning," Anna offered. "Just tell me what color you want and I’ll have it ready to go by early afternoon. I won’t pressure you, but I’ll give you the family discount–what I’d pay if I were buying it. That’s the best deal you’ll get anywhere."


"Purchase or lease?"


"Three years or five years?"

"You pick."

"Three. That way, I get it back sooner to sell again."

"Then I’ll have to turn in the Mercedes at the local dealer first thing tomorrow."

"No, we’ll deliver it for you." Anna beamed. "We really like that part."

Eleanor and Martine were fast friends, quickly discovering a shared interest in gardening. They went on and on about their families as they wandered from one flower bed to another. "Jonah’s adorable. I bet you’re thrilled to have a little one."

"Are you kidding? I can’t get enough of him, but I have to loosen my grip when Anna’s around."

As if on cue, the little guy squawked his displeasure at being passed from the pool into a towel, despite the loving arms of his aunt. But in mere moments of bouncing and cooing, he had stilled, enraptured by the smiling blue eyes and long dark hair. Did someone say long dark hair?

"Ouch! Somebody help!" Kim pried her son’s fingers from his prize, though he kept a sizable souvenir.

George and Lily were having another of their deep conversations. "What part of ‘I’m not going anywhere’ don’t you understand, George? When your daughter puts you in an old folk’s home, I’m going to be right there to wipe the drool off your chin." She watched as a small smile played on the man’s face. "Don’t worry, you’ll warm up to me eventually."

"Perhaps if we’re cremated together…."

The evening was wonderful, especially for Anna and Lily, who got the chance to watch their families getting acquainted. Anna was filled with admiration for Eleanor. The woman emanated grace and charm, clearly winning over George and Martine.

Lily had expected Martine and her mom to hit it off, and was not disappointed. But the special attention shown to her mother by George touched Lily’s heart. She was sure that she had overheard the man say something like "We like her a lot," but knowing the elder Kaklis, he was probably talking about the neighbor’s cat, who had wandered into the yard to entertain Chester.


Chapter 5


"Drive carefully, Bill. When Lily got her X-5, I couldn’t keep her under 80. And then there was that time…."

"That’s enough, Amazon! Are you trying to give my mother a heart attack?" Shaking her head, Lily turned to reassure her mother. "I’m a very careful driver, Mom."

"I know you are. So are you coming up in a couple of weeks, like we talked about?" she asked hopefully.

Lily looked back at her partner to indicate that they would talk about her plans later. "Yeah, I’m going to try to get up soon. I really enjoyed our hike yesterday."

"Me too, sweetie." Eleanor wrapped her daughter in a mighty hug. Next, she broke up the lovefest on the front lawn between Anna and Chester in order to extricate her hound.

"You sure you don’t want to leave Chester here at our house? We’ll bring him back eventually. Or not," she joked.

"Not a chance! Bill, get my dog from that woman!" Bill guided Chester into his crate, which was strapped to the back seat. Immediately content, the dog settled down with his rawhide chew.

After one last hug for Anna and Lily, Eleanor got in and rolled down the window. "Love you both."

"Love you too," the women shouted as they watched the sparkling BMW pull out.

"You and your mom really had a good visit, didn’t you?"

"Yeah, it was too short though. But our hike yesterday was really special. We talked a lot. It was like the old days."

Anna put her arm around Lily’s shoulder as they walked into the house. Lily reciprocated with an arm around her lover’s waist. "What did you talk about?"

"We talked a lot about Bill. I was kind of worried about her, you know, that she was feeling lonely because things didn’t work out."

"Is she?"

"She says no, but I still worry. I wish she could find somebody special." Lily’s voice was sad. "I never used to think about that until I found you. Now I want everybody I love to be as happy as I am."

"Are you happy with me, Lily?" Anna thought she knew the answer, but she wanted to hear it.

"I’m so very happy with you." That settled, it was time for a long, loving Sunday afternoon reaffirmation.


Things had calmed down at Premier Motors as they waited to hear back from Sweeney Volkswagen. Anna and Hal agreed that they should hold off on their offer for the dealerships in Palm Springs until they completed negotiations with Sweeney. With that out of the way–at least temporarily–Anna had more time for the day to day tasks of running the dealership. To further reduce her work load, she and Holly had worked with a business forms company to draft a new computerized version of the seller’s contract that minimized the possibility of error. Things were looking up.

Lily was thrilled with getting her lover back. Anna was sleeping in until 6:30, and getting home from work before seven. They had a life again!

"Oh, I almost forgot! Kim called me yesterday at the dealership and invited us for dinner tonight. I told them yes, but that I needed to check with you." Anna and Lily were going through their morning routines side by side in the long master bath.

"Sounds good to me," the blonde answered. "Or we could send them out together and stay home with Jonah!"

"I thought of that already. Kim laughed and said nobody pays any attention to her or Hal anymore. You know, she said it like she was kidding, but I think she really might be feeling a little neglected."

"Well, we don’t want that. Of course we’ll go."

At seven sharp, Anna and Lily rang the bell at Kim and Hal’s Encino home. For the first time since Jonah was born, Anna did not bolt through the house in search of the infant. "Hiya, sister!"

"Hi yourself! It’s good to see you guys again. We didn’t get much of a chance to talk on Saturday." Kim greeted her sister and Lily warmly, and they followed her to the family room. "Hal’s got Jonah upstairs if you want to see him."

"We’ll see him later. Something smells great!" Anna’s fight with her inner self not to dash off upstairs was a stark indicator of how badly she’d been treating the sister she loved so dearly.

"It’s Cornish hen. I got the recipe from one of the women I walk with." Kim was the epitome of suburban motherhood, strapping little Jonah into his three-wheeled stroller for a power walk with two other mothers on the wider trails at Topanga State Park.

"Cornish hen’s one of your favorites, isn’t it honey?" Anna asked her lover.

Lily loved it when Anna called her honey! "Oh yeah! Mom used to make it on Sundays. I always called them ‘little chickens.’"

Just then Hal walked in with Jonah in his arms, fully expecting to give the little guy up to his aunt. Anna stood her ground, though, resisting the temptation to reach out for him. Lily saw a rare opening for herself and took the baby from his dad, retreating out to the deck with Hal to give Anna time with her sister.

"Mom called and said they really enjoyed meeting Eleanor. She said Dad just went on and on about her."

"Isn’t she wonderful!" Anna had come to love Lily’s mom. "It scares me to think that she and Lily might never have met. They’re just so perfect together."

"It was meant to be, then." Kim grew quiet for a moment. Anna knew her sister well enough to know that she was struggling with whether or not to say what was on her mind.

"What is it, Kimmie?" That pet name was one Anna reserved for the times she felt like the big sister.

"I’ll tell you, but I don’t want you to go off on me, okay?"

Anna could see that something was really bothering her sister, but she couldn’t imagine why she would go off about it. "Okay, tell me."

With great trepidation, Kim started. "I know you guys are really busy at work. I know there’s a lot to do, and that it’s all temporary." She waved her hands in acquiescence to make the point that she understood. "And Hal loves it. I’m really glad, because I knew he would. It’s just that…."

"Just what?" Anna had no idea where this conversation was going.

"He’s been gone so much, going in early and working so late. For the first time in 13 years, we have something to fight about. And I hate it!"

Anna felt like she’d been kicked in the stomach. She knew that Lily had been struggling with her time at the dealership, and that it had caused its share of problems for them. Now to find out that it had also caused problems for Kim and Hal–who never had problems–made her feel awful. "Kim, I don’t know what to say. I’m really sorry this has been so hard on you guys. Hal’s been great at work. There’s no way I could have done any of this without him, but I promise I won’t keep him so late from now on." Whatever it took, Anna would work it out.

"No, I’m not complaining to you because I want you to do that! You have to make the decisions that are best for the company. I understand that, and Hal needs to make his own decisions too." She finished the final preparations for dinner, and she and Anna began taking things into the dining room. "I know it’s not going to last forever. I was just wondering how you and Lily work it out."

Well, let’s see. I make her feel like it’s all her fault. Anna suddenly felt an overwhelming sense of guilt about how she’d treated her lover last weekend. Lily had been a real trooper, her support unwavering, and Anna had behaved selfishly. "We just do the best we can," she said solemnly. "Hey, did I tell you that we’re going to Maui next weekend?" she added excitedly.

"You’re kidding! You better not make my husband work overtime while you’re gone." Her tone was obviously a mock threat, but Anna got her message nonetheless.

"No, I think we’re in a calm right now waiting for Sweeney. But what if when we got back, Lily and I kept Jonah for a few days while you two got away." That would make everyone happy!

Kim chuckled. "Right. And which one of you is going to breastfeed? So what are you doing in Maui?" They were ready to call Hal and Lily to the table.

"I’m…" Anna hadn’t told a soul about her decision to make things with Lily permanent. She wanted Lily to be the first to know. "I’m going to show my woman how much I appreciate her for being there for me."

"Well, that’s pretty sweet, especially for a lug like you," Kim teased. With a wink at her sister, she walked out on the deck and announced that the little chickens were ready.

Hal had opened a chardonnay for dinner and was pouring for the table.

"None for me," Lily spoke up. "I’ll just have the Perrier."

Anna was once again abruptly reminded of how she’d selfishly turned the tables on her partner last weekend, all because she hadn’t realized the impact of her absence at home. "Sweetheart, you should try this. It’s good." She was letting Lily know that it was okay without revealing their private conversation.

Lily was definitely confused. She had understood that Anna didn’t want her to drink; now Anna was recommending the wine. Or maybe this was a test. "No thanks. The water’s fine."

Please don’t be stubborn. I’m sorry! "Are you sure? This will be great with the little chickens," Anna encouraged.

Yes, it would. "Okay, you talked me into it." She was relieved to see her lover smiling, obviously glad she’d changed her mind. What Lily didn’t understand was why. Oh well, you know that old saying about the gift horse….

The wine was delicious, and midway through the Cornish hen, Lily realized that her glass was nearly empty. Glancing around the table, she noted that the others had not kept pace, so she switched to the Perrier. She was determined not to get a refill, at least not until someone else did. Though the conversation was lively, Lily found herself distracted by watching the others drink. Would anyone ask for more?

"Does anyone want me to open another bottle?" Hal offered.

Neither Anna nor Kim replied, so Lily bit her tongue. She drained her glass after the last bite of hen, and proclaimed the dinner the best she’d had in ages.

When they reached their home, Lily offered to close up downstairs and set up the automatic coffeemaker while Anna went on to get ready for bed. Kim had sent them home with dessert, since everyone was too full after dinner to enjoy the poached pears. As she placed the bowl in the refrigerator, Lily noticed the corked bottle of chardonnay, opened for dinner at home almost two weeks ago. I wonder if that’s as good as the stuff Hal had, she mused, knowing full well that she was rationalizing her desire for another glass of wine.

"Honey, it’s only 9:45," Anna called from the top of the stairs.

That was unmistakably an invitation. Lily closed the refrigerator and turned out the light.

Desperate to connect, Anna poured her whole heart into their lovemaking that night. To Lily’s delight, her lover’s climax was loud and long, and she immediately rolled the blonde onto her back and filled her. In no time at all, Lily reached her release.

"I love being inside you when you come," the tall beauty whispered, drawing the small woman underneath her even closer. Lily reached between her own legs and pushed Anna’s long fingers deep inside her as she rode out the last waves of her powerful orgasm. All of Anna’s senses were heightened with the pulsing clutches, and she was once again overwhelmed by their deep connection. "I love you so much."

Lily was amazed at how close she felt to her lover at that moment, physically and emotionally. Anna needed to talk when they made love, and when she caressed Lily with her loving and intimate words, it seemed to pull them together. "I love you too."


Anna sat in the conference room at Premier Motors, drumming her fingers as she waited for her senior staff to arrive. Her mind had drifted back to her lovemaking with Lily the night before. More than ever, she was convinced of her resolve to making a lifetime commitment to this very special woman. Should I offer to get her a ring? Anna knew that many of their lesbian friends had traded rings as a symbol of their love, but Lily had never mentioned anything about that. Of course, that would require both of us being at the same place in our relationship, now wouldn’t it? Though fairly certain that Lily felt the same way, Anna believed that they both needed to say the words.

"I called the wholesaler this morning to come by for the two Hondas," Brad startled her as he took a seat across from Anna at the conference table. One of the first changes the new president had implemented was to move the weekly senior staff meeting from Monday at 8:30 to Thursday at 10:30. By meeting later in the week, they could better plan for the weekend rush, she reasoned. The change to 10:30 was to allow Holly to come in later, since she stayed until after closing on Thursday nights.

Hal walked in and took the chair next to his boss. Holly sat directly across from him. The seat at the head of the table had remained empty ever since George left. Anna felt funny about moving to that chair after all these years. Besides, her father had an open invitation to attend the senior staff meetings, but as yet had declined. If he did drop by, that was still his chair.

"Okay, we’re all here. The first bit of news I have for all of you is that I got a call from Walter this morning." Walter was the attorney who was handling their offer for Sweeney. "He said that Sweeney’s lawyer had called and wanted to have a look at our financial report. Walter thinks they just want to be sure that we’ll make good on our offer. That’s your department, Hal, so why don’t you give him a call later and…."

"Anna, Bill Mueller’s on line one," Carmen’s voice followed the beep that activated the room’s intercom. The receptionist didn’t usually interrupt these meetings, but everyone had heard about Anna and George ganging up on the poor man over the weekend.

"Oh no! I hope his car’s okay, or I’ll never hear the end of it," she joked.

"Hi Bill, what can I do for you?" she asked warmly.

Hal watched as a serious look came over his sister-in-law’s face.

"Oh, no!" Tears rushed to the blue eyes as Anna stood.

Frantically, she groped for a pen. Hal pushed his tablet toward her and placed his hand on her arm. Brad and Holly watched the transformation with dread. Something horrible had happened.

"I’ll go get her, Bill. We’ll be there. How can I reach you?" Her hands shaking violently, she scratched out the number. "I’ll call you when we get there. Thank you for calling me, Bill. You did exactly the right thing."

Anna hung up the phone and rushed from the room without a word. Only Hal had the nerve to follow. "Anna?"

Tears were streaming down Anna’s cheeks, her lips and nose already starting to redden. She rushed into her brother-in-law’s arms. Through muffled sobs, she finally spoke. "Eleanor’s dead."


"Your honor, the defense would like to thank and excuse juror number 23, Mrs. Pedroso." Tony used his fourth peremptory strike on a juror Lily thought had a little too much in common with the landlady at the center of the civil case. Tony handled lots of evictions, and was suing on behalf of an Asian man whose family was evicted to make room for a Hispanic tenant.

People had been coming and going in the courtroom all day as jury selection continued, but something made Lily turn to see the latest arrival. She was startled to find Anna and Hal taking seats near the door. Meeting her lover’s eyes, a panic gripped the attorney deep inside. Anna had never come to the courthouse before. "Tony, I need a recess."

Something about her desperate tone caused the man to act without hesitation. "Your honor, the plaintiff requests a short recess."

"Would counsel approach the bench?" Notorious for his no-nonsense demeanor, Judge Anston wasn’t about to let an unrelated matter derail this proceeding. "What’s going on, counsel?"

"Something important has come up for my co-counsel, your honor, and we’d like a few minutes to see what it’s about." Tony gestured at Lily, who remained quiet, glancing back over her shoulder at the ominous pair.

Looking directly at Lily, the judge sternly advised, "Counselor, I’m not going to march the jury out of here so that you can attend to personal matters."

"If it would please the court, then I’d like to be excused from the courtroom until after the next recess. I’m sorry, Judge Anston. Something very important has come up. Mr. LeFevre can direct our case." Lily knew she was speaking the truth.

"Very well, but I have to tell you, Ms. Stuart, I don’t appreciate these disruptions."

"I understand, your honor. I won’t make a habit of it. And thank you."

Lily walked through the gate and met her lover at the door. Together, they stepped into the hallway. "What’s going on, Anna? Why are you here?" She looked back and forth between Anna and Hal for a clue.

Her lover stepped forward and took her hands. The tears were back in the blue eyes. "Something awful has happened, sweetheart. It’s your mother."

"Mom?" Lily’s knees went weak and she squeezed the long hands tightly for support. "Then we need to go. I have to be with her." She knew from her lover’s eyes that her pleas were futile.

Anna shook her head sadly as her floodgates opened again. "No, baby…she’s gone."

Inside the courtroom, Judge Anston, Tony LeFevre, the principals in the case, and the 46 remaining members of the jury pool heard the awful wail from beyond the door. "The court will take a short recess," the judge declared abruptly.


Chapter 6


Anna gripped her lover’s hand tightly as they boarded the plane to San Jose. Lily was clearly in shock, almost overwhelmed by the crowd and the minutiae that was part of flying these days. Now settled into their seats in first class, Anna retrieved a pillow and blanket for the grieving woman, but Lily was oblivious to her gesture. There was simply no way to render comfort.

Anna realized as they packed that she would have to pull herself together in order to take care of her lover over the next few days. She had dutifully relayed the information she had gotten from Bill. When Eleanor failed to arrive at school this morning, the school secretary called her home. Getting no answer, she called Bill, knowing that the two were close. Bill agreed to stop by Eleanor’s house after his hospital rounds. He and Eleanor had exchanged keys for emergencies, so he let himself in after knocking for several minutes. He found her on the floor in the hallway upstairs. From his physician training, he surmised that she had died late last night of something catastrophic, such as a stroke or an aneurysm. Since she died alone, a coroner would conduct an autopsy, the results of which would be known sometime on Friday.

Landing in San Jose one hour later, Anna pulled their rollerboards from the overhead bin and guided her lover through the narrow concourse to the baggage claim area. Bill had arranged for one of Eleanor’s neighbors to pick the women up.

"Lily!" A gray-haired woman of about 65 called out. The blonde stiffly acknowledged her as she and Anna made their way through the crowd of people fighting for their bags.

"Mrs. Beck, hi. Thank you for coming. This is Anna Kaklis." Lily was remarkably composed.

"Hi Anna. I’m Charlotte Beck. I live next door to Eleanor." She shook Anna’s hand then turned to hug the grieving blonde. "She was my friend, Lily. I’m so sorry." The woman’s eyes were sad and kind.

"I know, Charlotte. And you were her friend." To Anna’s unending amazement, Lily had magically morphed into the comforter.

Mrs. Beck led them quickly to the parking garage where they piled into a small station wagon for the ride to Eleanor’s house. "Just to let you know, Ernie and I have Chester for the time being. We’ll keep him as long as you want."

Lily nodded absently then turned toward her lover in the back seat. "I’m going to need my car, Anna," she said with urgency. "I have to pack up Mom’s things and bring Chester home." That thought caused the dam to break again, and the tall woman leaned forward and stroked the blonde head.

"I’ll take care of it, sweetheart."

When they reached the small Victorian home, Lily thanked Mrs. Beck while Anna extricated their bags. Filled with dread for the sensory assault that awaited their entry, they tentatively climbed the stairs and opened the front door. Anna stood silently in the foyer as her lover slowly ascended the stairs. After a few moments, she followed, knowing that the sight would break her heart. She found her sobbing lover crumpled in the hallway, running her hands along the hardwood floor as though feeling for her mother’s touch.


Anna had secured rooms for her family and their friends at the Fairmont Hotel in downtown San Jose, only a few blocks from Eleanor’s Naglee Park home. Sandy and Suzanne were the first to arrive, getting in early Friday evening.

"Thanks for coming. I’m sure it will mean a lot to Lily to have you guys here." Anna led their friends into the small sitting room.

"How’s she holding up?" Sandy asked.

"It’s hard for her, Sandy. We got the results from the coroner this afternoon. It was an aortic aneurysm. He said it happened very quickly, and that was some comfort, I think."

"Has she worked out the funeral arrangements?" Suzanne worked at a hospital and had witnessed that kind of chaos countless times.

"We’re meeting tomorrow with the funeral director. Eleanor had already made her arrangements, so it’s just to finish the details. I think we’re going to try to have the service on Sunday afternoon."

"Eleanor really did everyone a big favor by taking care of all that herself," Suzanne offered.

"She was that kind of person," Anna answered solemnly. "Lily’s upstairs. She was sleeping earlier, I think. I hope. But I heard her moving around in the bathroom just a few minutes before you got here."

"I don’t want to get in her space, Anna." Sandy had known Lily long enough to know that she usually dealt with difficult things alone. "Listen, why don’t Suzanne and I go pick up something for dinner and bring it back."

"That would be great. She needs to eat something. There’s a Chinese place over on that main street, just a couple of blocks that way." Anna pointed north toward Santa Clara.

"Okay, we’ll be back in a few minutes."

Anna was exhausted. She had lain awake with Lily most of the night, giving comfort as needed. With the help of a sleep aid delivered this morning by an also-grieving Bill Mueller, the blonde woman had finally taken a much needed nap. That gave Anna the opportunity to call her family, who would help with the details. David would drive Lily’s car to San Jose tomorrow, in plenty of time to have it washed and vacuumed. Kim and Martine were tasked with finding Lily an appropriate dress for receiving friends on Saturday night, and another for the funeral on Sunday. "Size six, petite. And don’t forget the hose. Her shoes are here." Anna had hesitantly asked her father to fill in for her at the dealership next week, as she assumed she would remain in San Jose with Lily. He was more than accommodating, and had been on the lot since yesterday afternoon when Anna left.

Finding the guest room empty, Anna continued down the hall to Eleanor’s room. Lily was there, sitting in the bedside armchair, examining the contents of the nightstand. "She was reading Barbara Kingsolver. I gave this to her last year when I finished it."

Anna leaned into the door facing, overwhelmed with sadness for her lover’s loss. It was 7:15, and their plane was leaving LAX for Maui without them. She wanted to tell the broken woman what she had planned for their trip, her promise of forever. But Lily must never think it came from pity, or a need to comfort. Her promise would have to wait.


"Your mother was so special, Lily."

"I know, and I’m really glad that you were her friend. I know that meant a lot to her." Lily had the line down cold. It’s what all of the people who had come this evening to the funeral home needed to hear, and what her mother would want her to say. Scanning the room, she spotted Bill Mueller sitting alone by the wall, so she slipped into the empty chair beside him, snaking her arm through his. "Mom really loved you, Bill."

"I loved her too," he said sadly. "I can’t help but think I really let her down, though. I just couldn’t get past losing Liz. I didn’t want to go through that with anyone again. And in the end, I did anyway."

"She was so grateful to have you in her life. She told me so last Saturday when we were hiking." Eleanor hadn’t exactly said that, but Lily knew it to be true, and knew also that the words would be comforting. "I hope you know how she felt."

He nodded and squeezed her hand. "And I hope you know that you were her life, Lily. As far as Eleanor was concerned, the sun rose and set on everything you did."

"Moving into her house was the luckiest day of my life." Of all the theorems in the universe, Lily knew this one to be true. She leaned over and placed a small kiss on the temple of her mother’s friend. He would always hold a special place in her heart.

Anna huddled near the guest register, on the lookout for her family and Lily’s LA friends. Tony and his wife had come, as had Lauren and her husband, and Pauline. They had driven up together, and would return to LA after the funeral tomorrow afternoon. Anna had already taken care of their rooms at the Fairmont.

The entire Kaklis family had stopped by the house early this afternoon before going to the hotel. Lily’s two new dresses were perfect, and she thanked Kim and Martine for their trouble. Anna looked over the car and pronounced it perfect also, much to her younger brother’s relief. George and Hal, clearly uncomfortable, sat in the kitchen and talked about the Dodgers.

Now everyone was here at the viewing, offering Lily their support. Anna looked around the room, taking in the large crowd of people who counted themselves as Eleanor Stuart’s friends.

As the crowd began to dwindle, Anna scanned the crowd for her lover. It was time, she knew, to take Lily’s side at the evening’s most difficult moment. Slipping an arm around the smaller woman’s waist, she whispered, "Are you ready?"

Lily teared up immediately, but nodded. Slowly they walked together to the end of the room where Eleanor lay in an open casket. "Do you have the stuff?"

"Yes, I have everything right here." Anna patted the pocket of her skirt. The blonde woman stumbled slightly when they reached the casket, and Anna got behind her and tightened her hold.

"Gosh, people were right. She really does look good." Lily was genuinely heartened that her last picture of her mother would not be an ashen caricature. She had avoided the funeral director’s request to view the body before it was placed on display, asking Anna and Mrs. Beck to take care of that for her.

"She certainly does." Anna swayed slightly as she looked over her lover’s shoulder.

After a long quiet moment, Lily raised a hand to her mouth to stifle a sob. "I can’t believe she’s gone, Anna."

"I know, baby. Me neither."

"She saved me." Another truth. "Everything good about me came from her."

"And I’ll always be grateful for that," Anna added softly.

Lily turned and held out her hand, which Anna filled with the objects they had brought. "Okay, Mom. Here’s a couple of things to take with you." First was a well-worn rawhide bone. "Don’t worry about Chester. We’ll take good care of him. He’s coming to live in LA, where he’ll have his own pool."

Anna chuckled as she remembered Chester’s affinity for their pool, as well as the pool at George and Martine’s. Eleanor had cautioned that the women were spoiling her dog.

"And here’s a little something from me."

Anna nearly lost it as she saw her lover place the card in the casket. They had found it in the bedside table last night. It was made of light blue construction paper, covered with splotchy glue and glitter. The block crayon letters proclaimed, "Happy Mother’s Day. I love you. Lily Parker." She had given it to Eleanor when she was seven years old, right after she had come to live with her first grade teacher, but before she was officially adopted. That card meant more to Eleanor than any possession on earth, and she always kept it close.

"Goodbye, Mom." It was barely a whisper. Anna turned her lover away and walked toward the door. It was time to go home. Tomorrow would be another difficult day.


The beautiful sunny day did not go unnoticed. Sandy and Suzanne brought deli sandwiches to the Stuart home for lunch, and set everything up on the deck out back. Whether on decks or patios, Californians lived outdoors. "Gosh, Lily, your mom sure had a lot of friends." Taking over for Anna at the guest register, Suzanne had met more than a dozen people who claimed to be one of Eleanor’s closest friends.

"Mom had a way of making everyone she knew feel really special."

"Well I sure liked her. Remember that time…." The stories of their Mexico vacation started, and Lily was cheered by the memories.

"Sweetheart, we need to think about getting ready," Anna called from the kitchen. "The car will be here in a little over an hour."

"That’s my cue, ladies. Anna’s been so good these last few days." Solid, Lily thought. "And I really appreciate you guys coming up."

"I’m glad we could be here for you." Sandy hugged her longtime friend. "We’re going to head back when the service is over. Do you need us to do anything?"

"No, I talked with Tony and Lauren a little last night, and they’re taking care of my cases. I’ll probably be here through the week. There’s a lot to do."

"Let us know if we can help," Suzanne offered.

"I will. Thanks."

When the black limousine pulled to the curb an hour later, Anna took her partner’s hand and helped her from the couch. "Just one more thing to get through, and you’re done with all these people. Are you ready?"

Lily nodded and stood, looking out at the waiting car. Suddenly, she stepped into Anna’s arms and pulled her lover’s face down for a long, deep kiss. "Thank you, baby. I couldn’t have gotten through any of this without you," her voice choked with emotion.

As the pair walked to the front of the church to take their seats in the first row, Anna became suddenly self-conscious. People were surely wondering who she was. She wished she could tell them all; she wished that she had been a bigger part of Eleanor’s life so that they would have known. All she could do now was try to be a permanent part of Lily’s life.

Of the six hundred people who packed the small Presbyterian church for Eleanor’s funeral, only fifty or so attended the graveside service. Each of those people wanted one more moment of Lily’s time to convey their condolences and offer their help. Finally, the Kaklis family was all who remained. Lily thanked David first, then Kim and Martine. Jonah had been perfect, and she placed a kiss on his forehead. Next she walked over to where Hal and George stood and hugged Anna’s brother-in-law. "Thanks for being here, Hal. It really meant a lot to me, and to Anna."

"I’m glad we could be here too. You know how special you are to us, and we really liked your mom a lot." He kissed the blonde woman on the cheek, and walked over to join his wife.

Lily turned to face a nervous looking George. They had barely spoken to one another since he had arrived yesterday. "I’m really glad you came, George. Thank you."

Wordlessly, George walked toward her and enveloped the small woman in a fatherly hug. After a long moment, he tearfully whispered so that only she could hear, "We’ll be your family now, Lily."


"Then tell him to fuck off!" Anna growled, slamming down the phone in Eleanor’s kitchen. Not usually one to lose her temper, the car dealer was stressed to the max, and had no patience for people who were jerking her around.

"What’s up, honey?" Lily was astounded. Though it was one of her favorite words, she couldn’t remember the last time her partner had said "fuck." No, on second thought, she did remember it, but it was under completely different circumstances, and in the privacy of their bedroom.

"Sweeney’s being an ass! He wants the deal done by Wednesday or he’ll shop his dealership on the open market."

"So what’s the problem? Aren’t you guys ready to go to final?"

Anna looked at her feet. The last thing she wanted to do was make Lily feel bad. "Yeah, it’s just that I would have to be there, and I want to be here with you."

"That’s crazy, Amazon! This is all you’ve been working on for a month." Lily knew she’d need to push the woman out the door. "Go on and get it done!"

"I don’t give a shit about Sweeney Volkswagen! I’d rather stay here."

"I’m done with you, woman." Lily had a full week’s worth of sorting and packing left, and she needed to meet with a real estate agent tomorrow. She wrapped her arms around her lover’s long neck. "You’ve been perfect, sweetheart. But I’d sort of like to be alone a while. You know, I feel like I’m getting one more chance to be with Mom while I take this house apart."

Anna looked at her dubiously.


"Do you want me to come back when I get finished?"

"I don’t think so, hon. You’re worn out as it is. If you get finished with work, just try to catch up on your rest."

Anna hugged her lover close. "You’re the best, you know."

"Yes, I know."


On Tuesday morning, Lily dropped Anna at the American Airlines terminal one hour before her flight was to leave. To her chagrin, Anna found the security line snaked through the terminal, all the way across the walkway to baggage claim. Missing her flight, she clamored for a seat on the next Southwest departure. Ticket in hand, Anna cleared security again, and found herself in yet another line, this one for boarding passes. Hers was number 151, whatever that meant. She found out when she was called dead last to board the plane, the only remaining seat in the center of the next to last row. Finding no room for her rollerboard, the cheery flight attendant in the denim shirt tagged it and took it away. She would never see it again.


Lily watched sadly through the window as the post hole digger planted the For Sale sign in the front yard. The agent had assured her that the home would sell very quickly and for top dollar, as it had been renovated throughout and was situated in an ideal neighborhood. No matter how much money it brought, it would never equal those intangibles the home had provided her over the years: comfort, security and love.

The week she had expected to be in San Jose had turned to two. It was indeed a formidable task to close out someone’s life. She talked with Anna by phone every day, but Lily convinced the car dealer that she should remain at home while she finished up.

Eleanor’s lawyer had called the second Monday, asking Lily to stop by for the reading of the will. As expected, her mother had left her everything, setting aside a sum for the care of Chester should her daughter choose not to adopt the dog. "You should give that to Anna," she joked. Handing Lily a small key, the lawyer suggested she collect the valuables from her mother’s safety deposit box, and close her accounts at the bank. He also promised to take charge of closing Eleanor’s commercial accounts, so she signed the standard forms for the utility companies and credit card companies.

One by one, Lily ticked off the items on the lawyer’s list. Eleanor’s bank accounts held more than $300,000, most of that in certificates of deposit paying a mere five percent. At the peak of the bull market, she had fortuitously withdrawn her funds from aggressive growth stocks and placed them in the more conservative, lower yield instruments. Unlike most Americans, she never lost a dime.

Because Lily was not the owner of the safety deposit box, a bank officer was required to accompany her inside the small cubicle as she removed the contents. Inside the box were three packets. The first contained an insurance policy, entitling Lily to $250,000 upon Eleanor’s death. Wow! Lily had no idea that her mother had provided for her so generously. The second was Lily’s birth certificate and all of her adoption papers. That would certainly make some interesting reading. Inside the third was a card written to Eleanor by her friend Katharine Fortier, dated 1983. Lily was 11 that year.

Dear Eleanor,

Happy birthday, my friend!

I too have come to celebrate the day you were born, ever since we met six years ago on the Kennedy Trail. Eleanor, I’ve started many times to tell you of my love for you, but somehow I always lose my nerve. I know who you are, and that you are not capable of returning that love. But my life would be incomplete if I failed to let you know what you mean to me.

I wish you life’s greatest joys, and it thrills me to see the love you’ve found with your beautiful daughter. Please know how much your friendship has enriched my life.

Love always,


Lily closed the card and held it to her heart, unbidden tears suddenly filling her eyes. Katharine had been in love with Mom for all those years. It had meant enough to her mother to save the card for 20 years, and she had fully intended for her daughter to find it. Lily was warmed to know that her mother had been loved so deeply, and she would always wonder if the women had ever acted upon these feelings.

Now sitting in the living room of her mother’s home, Lily looked around the room. It seemed barren, all the books and trinkets packed in boxes in the foyer. The truck from the women’s shelter was due soon. Lily had gathered her mother’s clothing and separated it into piles according to style and use, suits and dresses in one room, casual clothing in another. All of the kitchen wares had been boxed and the guest bed held all the sheets and towels. Lily would stay with Mr. and Mrs. Beck tonight, starting back to LA with Chester on Sunday.

Lily had encountered few surprises among her mother’s things, but she’d been overwhelmed with how much of her own life her mother had preserved. Besides the standard refrigerator decorations from her art classes, Eleanor had saved report cards, Lily’s high school papers, cards from every occasion, and photographs. Lots of photographs. This box was placed in the X-5, along with a small collection of items that Lily knew meant a lot to her mom. In addition, she had saved most of her mother’s hiking gear, and a favorite sweater.


"Thank you for everything." Lily hugged Mr. and Mrs. Beck and took Chester’s leash in her hand.

"Will we see you again?"

Lily seriously doubted it, but she couldn’t bring herself to close the door. "Sure. I’ll be back to visit from time to time. This is still home."

"Well, you always have a place to stay."

"Thanks." She tugged on the basset hound’s leash. "You ready to go south Chester?" She picked him up and placed him in his crate. Her back seat was too high for his short legs to jump. "Off we go!" Lily waved with far more cheer than she felt.

The five hour drive home was relaxing, especially compared to the strain of the past two and a half weeks. She had lost six pounds, and felt that she had aged 10 years. Mozart, Vivaldi and Bach played softly on the stereo system, lifting her mood considerably.

Lily was eager to see her lover again, and to be held in those strong, comforting arms. Despite her anticipation, when their Brentwood home came into view, she began to cry.

Anna’s car was not at home. Lily suddenly felt very alone.


"I’m so sorry, baby." Anna wrapped her arm around her lover’s waist, spooning tightly to the naked form. "I just misunderstood." Anna thought Lily had said she was leaving around four; instead she arrived home at that time. The car dealer had stayed late at the office just to kill time, not knowing that her lover would come home to an empty house.

"It’s okay." It really was. Anna’s explanation was perfectly reasonable. They had both been under an extreme amount of stress, and a small miscommunication was a minor deal in the grand scheme of things. "Where is he now?"

"Still on his bed, I think," Anna groaned. They had tried first to have Chester sleep downstairs in the family room, placing his familiar flannel beanbag in the corner by the door. After 30 minutes of whimpering and scratching, Anna caved, and brought the dog and his bed to their bedroom. Chester climbed onto their king-sized bed twice, seeking comfort at Anna’s feet, but each time, the tall woman marched him back to his own bed. The third time, she stretched out beside him on the floor, petting him until he began to softly snore.

"He misses her," Lily said sadly.

Anna squeezed her lover again, and kissed the bare shoulder. After more than two weeks, everything was still so raw. "I know, honey. I’ll show him a lot of attention."

Lily chuckled softly. "I told Mom’s lawyer that he should give you the money Mom set aside for taking care of Chester."

"You mean I get to keep the dog and the money?" Anna appreciated all of these lighter moments. It hurt her deeply to see Lily’s anguish.

"You know, I can’t believe how much money Mom left me. When the house sells, it’s all going to be about a million three. Even after taxes, that’ll be a lot."

"Hmmm…think of all the puppy dogs we could get with that."

"Puppy dogs?"


"Puppy dogs is redundant."

"Ugh," Anna groaned.

"Hmmm…portable laptop."

Anna thought a moment. It was hard enough to do this when a person was sharp, let alone when one was nearly asleep. "Pouring down rain."

"… outside," Lily added.

By morning, the contented hound had once again claimed the space by the tall woman’s feet.




You’re doing just great…hang in there…on to part 3!

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