Disclaimer: These two ladies look familiar and all that, but you know the drill. They're mine, so please don't drool too much.
Subtext: Well, it is two women involved, but there's really no sex in this one. It's just a really cute, Nora Ephron-type feel-good story.
Note: Okay, just so no one decides to lynch me: I do not, nor have I ever, worked at either the New York Post or the Bergen Record. So, in short I have no clue as to how either paper is set up. I admit this totally, so don't say I didn't warn you.
If you'd like to tell me what a wonderful writer I am, or that I royally suck, feel free at: XenaNut@hotmail.com
For Alexa. Always and forever.
"April Fools, Charlie Brown!"
The problem with the world today is that no one has a sense of humor anymore. What is the deal with that? I personally think it is one of the greatest sins of all time, to take oneself too seriously. Hell, I open myself up everyday for all to make fun. So why not you?
In short, as this April Fools comes upon us, take a step back, look at yourself, and don't take life or yourself too seriously. Life is serious enough.
Kelly hit the Return key, and sat back in her chair, chewing on the arm of her glasses as she read what she had just written for her weekly column. Nodding with approval, she saved it, and tossed the glasses onto the desk, rubbing between her eyes to try and relieve some of the tension. The damn headaches again.
Green eyes opened to see Bill Stuart, the Post's editor, standing in the doorway of her tiny, cramped office.
"You almost done? I need that column within the hour." The petite blonde watched as her boss of eight years loosened his tie, unbuttoning the top button. Stuey was stressed.
"Yeah. What's up, boss?" she asked, standing to stretch her back. Bill walked into the office, and plopped his weight down into the one worn chair in front of Kelly's desk, running a meaty hand through graying hair.
"Ah, hell. That damn April Fools spread we got going out is giving me the worst damn headache. Who the hell came up with this lame-ass idea, anyway?" he pounded the heel of his hand against the edge of the desk.
"Well, you did, Bill."
Stuey rolled his eyes at the grin across from him. "Yeah, well it was lame-ass. I wish the damn Record would fall off the face of the earth."
"Nah. That's not nice. Then who would we compete with, Stu? The Times?" Kelly snorted. "Right." She walked around the side of her desk, careful to not bang her hip bone on the wall as she passed through the narrow space, slapping the editor on the back. "Come on, old man. I need to work."
Bill Stuart stood with a sigh, headed the couple steps to the door, then turned. "When can I expect the column from you?"
"Uh," Kelly scratched her head with the eraser of her pencil, staring down at the pile of papers on her desk. "Well, I have that interview tonight with Tommy Mathis, so I'll print it out and leave it on my desk, okay? You wanna come by and pick it up?"
"Sure. That'll work." With a smile, Stuart was gone. Kelly squeezed back to her chair again, and sat, trying to decide what to do. She looked her column over again, fixing a few minor mistakes, and clicked save, then print. The printer sputtered, then hummed to life. With a sigh of relief that it was actually going to work this time, Kelly began searching through her files looking for her April Fools article to print out.
As the first document printed, she re-read the April Fools piece, a slow, mischievous smile spread across her face. The paper wasn't finished, so she figured it best to print it out, take it home, and finish it the old fashioned way; by hand.
Kelly started at the shrill ring of her phone. Hand on her chest to still her racing heart, she picked up the receiver.
"Yes, Ms. Reynolds, Tommy Mathis."
"Oh, yes. Hello, Mr. Mathis. I'm looking forward to our interview later."
"Well, yes, actually that's why I'm calling. I need to push this up."
"Oh." Kelly glanced at the clock, then out the tiny window behind her desk. The snow had begun to fall in earnest. "Uh, when,"
"Well, how quickly can you be here?"
"Now?" she nearly yelled into the phone. The afternoon traffic would be the death of her. She had hoped to let the worst of it pass before heading out. Pulling her professionalism back in, she cleared her throat. "I mean, you want me to head out soon?"
"Yes. I'll be here until 6."
Kelly looked at the clock again, and nearly fell out of her chair.
"Uh, okay. I think I can be there in twenty minutes."
"Great! See you then."
Kelly looked at the dead receiver in her hands as if it were a three headed snake, then slammed it down as realization dawned on her. She grabbed her purse out of the top drawer of the desk, slung her jacket over her shoulder, and ran out of the office, returning seconds later to grab her briefcase from the floor near the door.
The traffic was horrible just as she'd figured it would be. The blonde stood at the corner, watching as late day New York traffic sped by at alarming speeds. A taxi! Getting excited, Kelly waved her arm out, the yellow cab stopping.
"Thank you," she breathed, glancing up into the iron-gray sky. The cab screeched to a halt, and Kelly quickly opened the back door, slamming it behind her, the cold nearly pushing her over to the other side.
"Cold one, huh?" the cabby said, blonde hair tucked into a neat ponytail. "Names Nic. Where can I take you?"
"How are you, Nic. Um, I need to be here. Can you get me there in under twenty?" the young woman took the piece of paper Kelly offered, and nodded.
Kelly felt her entire body press back into the creaky vinyl seat as the cabby put the pedal to the metal, and they began to nearly fly down the street.
"Kelly?" Bill Stuart stuck his head inside the doorway just down from his. His thick brows drew when he didn't see his reporter behind her desk. "Shit." He walked into the office fingering some of the papers scattered on the desk. "I will kill her if she didn't leave it," he continued to look when suddenly his eyes shot up to the printer, and he grinned. "That's my girl." He grabbed for the papers sticking out, rolling them, walked out.
Night was fully on the city, as was the bitter cold. Kelly shivered as she made her way into McDougal's, her home away from home away from the office. The warm, friendly atmosphere met her as she pulled open the heavy door, the glass half covered with steam. She sighed as she looked around, the typical Friday crowd inside, unwinding. It was early, so the real hard weekend fun-goers had yet to arrive. Her smile grew even larger when she saw her at the bar.
Kelly removed her scarf and gloves as she took a seat next to Charlotte. The brunette looked over at her, the tiniest bit of beer foam still on her upper lip from the drink she'd just taken. Charlotte smiled.
"Hey, you. How goes it?"
Kelly situated herself on the stool, always finding them terribly uncomfortable, but never able to find the courage to ask the tall beauty if she'd like to get a booth.
"It's going. Rough day. Glad it's Friday." She met Charlotte's smile and nod.
"I hear you. Can I buy you a beer?"
"Please." Kelly smiled warmly, her green eyes twinkling.
"Eddie, gimmie another one for the lady here."
Within moments a cold mug of Bud was slid down the mahogany bar, right into Kelly's awaiting hand. The brunette watched the blonde drink, long, smooth gulps, her throat working with each swallow. She smiled and shook her head.
Kelly slammed the half-empty mug down onto the wood with a satisfied smile. "That was so good." She looked to her companion, her face suddenly turning serious. "You know, we've known each other now for, what, six months? I still don't know a thing about you." The brunette shrugged.
"Yeah, I suppose that's true." She downed the rest of her beer, and pulled out her wallet from her purse. "However, whatever I may want to know about you, or answer from you, I have to get going." She slipped a five under her empty beer mug, and turned to the blonde as she stood, pulling her overcoat over her blazer.
"Oh." Kelly looked down for a moment, disappointed. "Well, I guess I'll see you next week?" she looked up, trying to hide the hope from her face. Charlotte smiled, blue eyes dancing, the slightest bit of a crinkle at the corners.
"Yes, ma'am. That you will. I have to get home. I waited for you, though. I wanted to at least say hi."
"I know I'm late tonight. Had something at work run over."
"Hey, it happens. Believe me, I understand." She leaned in, surprised both herself and the blonde by giving her a small hug. "Take care. Oh, and make a list of everything you want to know about me, and bring it with you Friday." With that, she turned, and walked out of the pub.
"Damn." Kelly turned to her beer, drinking slowly, her mind whirling. Charlotte, Charlotte. Blonde brows drew as she realized that she had no idea what Charlotte's last name even was. She had no idea what she did for a living, where she lived, nothing. They had met during the summer when Kelly had to go in McDougal's to meet a guy for an interview on a toxic waste dump piece. It had been the end of the work day, so after he had left, Kelly had stuck around to get dinner and a beer. A tall, beautiful woman with dark hair had sat next to her, ordering an Amaretto Sour. She had smiled at Kelly, and said hello. They had been talking ever since. They talked about anything and everything; weather, politics, news, and had often had heated debates on most topics. Did Bush deserve to win, or should Gore have taken it. How well would Gore have dealt with 911. On and on. Charlotte had an opinion on just about everything, and it usually was at odds with Kelly's. All the same, the blonde found her intriguing, and completely desirable.
She sighed again. "Damn."
John Lou walked to Bill's office, hoping that the editor was finished with Kelly's column to print for Saturday's edition. He whistled softly to himself as he walked up the halls of the New York Post, running his fingers across the wall as he went, jumping up to touch the very bottom of the EXIT sign, as he did everyday.
"Billy, you done?" he called out, reaching the office of the editor. Dark brows drew. "Billy? Not here." John shrugged, and grabbed the paper at the edge of the desk, sitting just inside Bill's open briefcase, the usual place for completed articles. He tucked the article under his arm, and headed toward the elevator, whistling "We've Only Just Begun" He stared up at the lights, long lights, one of them beginning to blink annoyingly. Time to get it changed out. He'd have to remember to talk to the maintenance guy. What was his name? Kurt? Kyle? He shrugged, looking down at the article in his hand, skimming it. He enjoyed Kelly's work. They were usually full of insight and humor. Noticing a third page, he brought it out, wanting to see why her article was extra long this week. Dark brows drew again.
"'I want to hold you next to me, feel your heart beat with mine, a meeting of the bodies now instead of just the minds and insults.' What the hell is this? Friggin' wild."
The courier smiled to himself. How interesting.
"Who wrote it?" the red head looked up into dark eyes, smiling conspiratorially. John shrugged.
"I'm not sure. I picked it up in Bill's office, but it was with Kelly's column. What do you think?" the short man leaned in closer on Lucy's desk, his hands grasping his biceps tighter as he continued to lean in, reading over the secretary's shoulder.
"'Though you and I may not agree on much in life, you are still a turn on for me, and I want to try and tame you, make you mine,' oh my god!" the secretary covered her eyes with her hands, peaking at the page between her heavily ringed fingers before glancing up at John. "This is so cool!" she breathed. "A love letter right here in our very office."
"What will Bonny say?" John asked, suddenly worried for the editor's wife. The red head shrugged, her long earrings jingling with the movement.
"I have no idea. But this is good shit." She continued to read on, fiery brows drawn. "Who is The Big C?"
Kelly finally made it to her apartment, exhausted, and ready for a nice, hot bubble bath. Her beagle, Pundit, met her at the door, his white, black and brown tail about to wag off his butt.
"Hello, baby." She crooned, picking up the rambunctious eight month old , trying to avoid a puppy tongue in her mouth at the excited greeting. Pundit whined and yelped in excitement, trying to climb Kelly in his haste. "Okay, big boy. Chill." She gave him a good squeeze, then set him on the floor, his nails making ticking sounds on the hard wood. She walked through the small apartment, tossing her jacket on the arm of the couch, followed by her purse, briefcase and gloves. A few minutes, and trail of clothes later, Kelly reclined back into the old, claw-footed tub, eyes closed, peaceful smile on her lips. A small sigh escaped as her mind began to drift, create
Blue eyes, half-hooded with desire, staring into her very soul. Kelly imagined Charlotte's body, tall, strong, beautiful, with long legs, smooth skin, nice, round, firm
"My column!" Kelly shot up from the tub, grabbing a towel on her way to the living room, and the phone. She dialed, waited impatiently for Bill to pick up.
"Hi. You've reached Bill Stuart. I'm out of my office at the moment, so if you'd like to try back sometime Monday through Friday until six pm.," Kelly glanced at the clock over the mantle. Seven-twenty.
"Damn." She clicked the off button, and looked around in frustration. She hoped he found her article in the printer. With a sigh Kelly walked back to the bathroom. Why worry about it; nothing she could do until Monday, anyway.
Monday came too soon, and Kelly was anything but ready for it. She watched the elevator light up as it hit each floor until it stopped finally on the eleventh with a ding, the doors sliding open, and Karen Martin standing there, waiting to get into the car. The younger woman stared for just a moment when she looked up to see Kelly, then with a shrug, got in.
"Hey, Kel. How goes it?" the receptionist asked. Kelly shrugged with a smile.
"It's okay, I guess. The weekend wasn't long enough, though, I tell you. I think we should have a five day weekend, and a two day workday. That seems fair, and we'd all be much more productive people." The brunette chuckled.
"Yeah. Wouldn't that be nice?" The blonde stared ahead again, the strange feeling of being watched lurking over her. She glanced at the other woman in time to see dark eyes dart away. Hmm. It looked almost as if Karen were confused about something, or was trying to make a decision. She shook it off, and stared forward again, only to get the same feeling moments later. She turned again, and again was met with Karen's gaze quickly moving away. The elevator dinged on the seventeenth floor, and Kelly gladly stepped out, headed toward her office. She was surprised to see Bill waiting for her.
"Morning, Stuey. Sorry I forgot to give my column to you Friday. That Mathis guy called to," her voice trailed off as she looked into the solemn face of her boss. "Bill? You okay?" Bill Stuart looked up from studying his hands, and stood from the edge of Kelly's desk.
"We're friends, right, Kel?" he asked, barely looking at the reporter before his eyes dropped again.
"Yes." Kelly said, setting her coat and bag down on her chair, then putting an arm around the large man's shoulders.
"Would you tell me the truth if I asked you a question?"
"Of course." The blonde was beginning to get really worried, her heart pounding in fear for her boss.
"Do you think Bonny would ever cheat on me?"
"What?" Kelly was completely taken aback. "No. Never. Why?"
"Just wondering." Bill shrugged, and took a step toward the door. "Thanks. Oh, and good work on the column. I found it." He gave her a weak smile, then was gone. Kelly stared after him, wondering what the hell had happened in two days.
Bill walked back to his office, rolling up the sleeves of his shirt as he did so. They always kept it so damned hot in the building. He sighed, thinking back to what he had read
I'm tired of trying to compete with the paper. I need something real in my life, something that I know will challenge me, and you do it, Big C. I think I've fallen in love with you over the past year
Stuey looked at the picture of him and Bonny in Maui taken the year before, looking into the blue eyes of his wife, the woman he'd been married to for over thirty years. He shook his head, running a hand through the salt and pepper strands.
"Why, Bonny. Why?"
He thought of all the hard work he'd put into the Post, wanting to do the best job he could. He had started out as the mail boy, watching all the reporters, learning, talking to them, taking in everything they were willing to give. Finally he'd made it to tackling his own stories, working hard, pounding the pavement, following the cops, then making it to editor. He sighed again. Why now. He had found the unfinished letter on top of his desk when he had come in. Right on the edge of his desk where he kept his briefcase. It must have fallen out Friday. How had it gotten in there in the first place? Had his wife put it in there accidentally? He had noticed that her usual note of love had not been there Friday. He had figured she had just forgotten. He sighed again. She must have sent him the wrong letter.
Kelly was confused as she searched through all the papers on her desk. She really needed to clean it off. Again. What a slob. She stacked them in neat piles as she looked, tossing what should have been thrown weeks ago, grimacing as she found the core of her apple from last week that she had been looking for.
"That is truly disgusting." She muttered, wiping sticky fingers on her pants after throwing it away. "Where the hell is it?" she looked around the small office, as if something would tell her. Then she looked to her printer, remembering. She had left it there, forgetting it with her column Friday. "Damn." Figuring Bill had pitched it, she put her reading glasses on, and turned on the computer, opening the file, April Fools, Charlie Brown, and stared at the screen, fingers steepled under her chin, began to chew on her bottom lip. "Okay, Charles Brown, you bastard. What else can I say?" Kelly grabbed her copy of the Bergen Record that she'd picked up on her way to work, and flipped it open to Charlie Brown's column. Charles Brown worked for the rival paper in Hackensack, New Jersey. Brown was pompous, opinionated, and just an all around asshole. They'd been competing with their weekly columns for the past year. She took solace in the fact that he did nothing else with the Record, obviously a bastard, not worthy enough of writing regular articles. She grinned to herself. God, she loved being a smart ass. Her April Fools plan was brilliant. Everyone from Queens to Atlantic City knew of the hatred between Reynolds and Brown. The Post had used the infamous war to sell papers.
Kelly poised her fingers above the keyboard, and began to type
After everything that you and I have been through in the past year, I have decided that I no longer wish to fight with you. I have grown to respect your views, and pompous ways, and even think that ridiculous little drawing of Charlie Brown next to your column is kind of cute in a sick little way. So, Charles, I want you. I want to be the Lucy to your Charlie. The Sally to your Schroeder, the Woodstock to your Snoopy. I'll be your everything.
Kelly sat back in her chair, brushing long strands of blonde our of her eyes. She sighed heavily, almost wishing that the letter were true, and she had her own Charlie Brown out there that she was in love with, and better yet, that loved her in return. She sighed again, playing with a pencil in her hand, starting as it snapped in her fingers. She tossed the halves to the desk, and stared at her monitor. Was this the right thing to do? Was it cruel? What if Charlie Brown had a wife and kids somewhere? They had nothing to do with this.
"Damn." She played with the mouse, racing the curser around the screen aimlessly, thinking. She pointed it to File, and pulled down the bar, highlighting Print.
Kelly turned her chair around, her back to the noisy printer, and stared out the small window, the brick building across the way blocking out most of the light, but some of the day could be seen. She watched as far below cars rolled silently past, wishing she were in any one of those, going anywhere, the love of her life at her side.
"Grow up, Kel." She whispered bitterly, and turned back to her comp, taking the printed pages from the printer, looking them over, then impulsively, crumpling them, and throwing them toward her wastebasket.
Julio Iglaesias wound his sexy way around the song, Maria Torres closing her eyes in pleasure as her wide hips swayed to the music, vacuum in hand.
"Sing it to me, baby," she sang out, twirling in the lobby of the Post. She made her way to the elevators, dragging her supplies behind her, turning the volume up on her Walkman, bringing in the Spanish God's voice even closer to her heart, and her libido.
The car dinged, and the doors slid open, all of floor seventeen looming before the housekeeper. Maria liked to start at the top of the building and work her way down. She flipped light switches as she went, bringing her high pitched singing to a moderate hum as she looked around, seeing what needed to be done.
As usual, the editor's office was an absolute sty, as was the reporter's office down the hall from his.
"Mierda santa. Cogida," she breathed, looking around. Papers scattered all over the desk, as usual. She looked to the floor to see how bad it was. Not very, but this chick obviously had bad aim. The wadded up ball of paper laid next to the trash. "Were you raised in a fucking barn." She muttered as she looked at the paper, carefully unfolding it as curiosity gripped her. Dark, heavily mascara-lined eyes opened wide. "'Isn't it time to stop the charade? Isn't it time to reveal what everyone already suspects is true? A deep love like ours should not be hidden. Your words, your ideas, the sight of your name sends chills down my spine.'" Maria sighed, the crumpled letter pressed to her ample bosom. "If only Carols was still like this."
Spotting the worn chair by the desk, Maria sat down, read the rest of the love letter.
Kelly was glad the week was over. It had been long and tiring, stressful deadlines, and her moaning boss. Bill had gone to her almost daily trying to figure out what was going on with his wife. She had been hearing rumors about a letter, but no one would tell her anything when she asked. She hated that.
McDougal's was coming into view as she walked along the sidewalk, head ducked down against the wind, hands buried in the deep pockets of her overcoat. The welcoming sounds and smells greeted the blonde as she opened the door, a smile forming on her face as she looked around, seeing who was in. Well, actually, if she was in. The smile faltered slightly when the brunette was sitting at her usual seat at the bar. Kelly sighed, and walked in.
Coat, gloves and hat on the stool next to hers, Kelly pushed the sleeves of her sweater up to her elbows, and ordered a beer. As she waited, she looked around again to make sure Charlotte wasn't somewhere else. Dark blonde brows drew, and a hand swept blonde hair behind her ear. She sighed in disappointment.
"Here ya go, Kelly. How has your day gone?" Kelly took the mug with a grateful smile, and looked up at the bartender.
"It's been alright, I guess. Have you seen Charlotte, Frank?"
"Nope. She hasn't been in all night. Sorry, kid."
"Thanks." She smiled again, saluted the old guy, and turned on her stool to watch the bar. She began to feel wistful as couples danced to the slow song that was playing, and the groups of friends playing pool or darts. They laughed and talked, their voices rising with excitement and liquor. She sighed. Since she'd been in the city for the past two years, Kelly had felt so alone. She only had a few acquaintances from the paper, and one or two from the bar. That was all. Her family was so far away, and so involved in their own lives that she rarely heard from them.
Kelly stood from the stool, suddenly overcome with sadness. Grabbing her coat, she headed to the bathroom, the tears stinging her eyes, blurring her vision. The sound of voices and music behind her, Kelly leaned against the closed bathroom door, her coat falling to the tile floor. What was so wrong with her that no one wanted her? Was she so ugly? So uninteresting? Why?
Spotting the mirror above the sink across from her, Kelly stood, swiping at her eyes, and walked over to it, staring hard at her reflection. Stormy green eyes stared back at her, slightly red and puffy from crying. She examined her face, making faces, baring her teeth, scrunching up her nose. People had told her that she was attractive, but she never believed it. Mostly her mother had told her that, anyway. Mothers are supposed to do that sort of thing. After all, what parent thinks their child is hideous?
Kelly took her hair tie from her pocket, and pulled her hair back into a ponytail. She looked once more, drying her eyes and wiping her nose.
"this isn't worth it." She muttered.
"What's not worth it?"
Kelly jumped, her hand on her heart. Smiling blue eyes stood behind her, staring at her through the mirror.
"Are you okay? Frank said you'd rushed back here. He was worried you were sick. So, here I am." Kelly turned around to look into the familiar face of her friend. She was glad Charlotte had shown. She needed a smiling face.
"Fine." She said, her voice faltering just a bit.
"You sure?" midnight brows drew as concern spread across Charlotte's features. Kelly looked into her eyes, trying to read the other woman. Her head canted to the side slightly.
"Do you ever get lonely?" Charlotte looked at her for a moment, trying to decide how to answer. Then she smiled again, a small nod following.
"Really?" the blonde asked, her voice hopeful. She felt like such a child suddenly. She was young, and felt incredibly naïve. Her head hanging, "Of course you do. Everyone does now and then,"
"Hey," Charlotte took a step closer. "What's wrong, Kelly? Why are you so sad tonight?" Kelly was startled by the feel of a hand on her arm. "Is there anything I can do?" weepy green eyes looked up into brilliant blue.
"I'm just so alone here." Kelly said quietly, feeling ridiculous. "It's just hitting me hard tonight for some reason, and when you weren't here when I came I was so sad, I was really looking forward to seeing you tonight, you're really one of my only friends, and I just,-" the blonde's voice trailed off as she looked around the bathroom, avoiding the brunette.
"Hey," Charlotte soothed, her hand on the blonde's shoulder, sliding up to the side of her neck. "I'm here now. I understand. I really do." She pulled Kelly to her, cradling her head against her chest. "It's hard to be alone. I know all about that."
"Really?" Kelly said, her words muffled against Charlotte's body. The brunette nodded.
"Oh, yeah. If you think I come to McDougal's for my health, you're dead wrong." Charlotte sighed when she felt the blonde chuckle against her. "I'm sorry I was late. Work ran late. Deadlines; gotta love em."
"Yeah. I hear you." Kelly took a step back out of her friend's arms. She looked sheepishly into understanding blue eyes. "Thank you. I'm glad you're here."
"Me, too." Charlotte smiled. "Care for a beer?"
"Best idea I've heard all day."
Maria Torres looked around to see if anyone was watching, then stepped into through the door marked MAILROOM PERSONELLE ONLY. Rita had told her where her box was over the phone, so she hurried to the last row. RITA MARQUEZ. Maria smiled in triumph, then reached down the neckline of her uniform, feeling for the folded paper. Finding it, she pulled it out, the sharp edges scratching her skin as she did, and quickly tossed it into the black plastic box. Rita would surly get a good laugh out of it when she came in the next day. Her friend had always complained that Saturdays were boring, anyway.
As the two women walked out of the bathroom, Charlotte thought back to what it had felt like to hold Kelly close in her arms. The warmth, the softness. She sighed inwardly. It had been so long, too long, since she had felt another woman against her. She knew it was stupid to be thinking that way. Kelly was right; for all their talking, they really knew nothing about each other. Typically that's how Charlotte likes it. She was a loner, and liked it that way. No information, no hurt. But the blonde was different.
She looked over at her friend who walked by her side. Kelly had shown such vulnerability. That had taken guts. The brunette admired people who could show emotion in front of others, show their true selves. She had been hiding for so long, hiding behind her opinions, using them as weapons to hurt and punish without the worry of consequences.
As they reached the bar, the brunette had the strange, and sudden realization that Kelly made her want to open up. Though she hadn't in the past six months, she wanted to. It was time.
Monday came around again, and Kelly was flying high. The weekend had been wonderful, spending most of it with Charlotte. Her new friend was amazing. She was not only beautiful, but also smart, funny, down to earth, and a complete mystery.
Kelly sat at her desk, the blank screen of a new document staring at her. She didn't care. Her mind was back at the bowling alley where not one game had been played. The had rented their shoes, put their score sheets on the table, but didn't bother to find a ball, or walk up to the alley to roll it. Sitting on the long plastic bench, they had faced each other, both caught in animated conversation, feeling as if they had not spoken to another person in years.
"Someone looks happy."
Kelly was thrown from her reverie by Stuey. She looked up, focusing on the editor.
"Hey, Bill. Yeah, guess I am." She smiled. "What can I do for you?" she sat up straight in her chair to give him her full attention. He walked into the office, sitting across from her. She noticed a piece of paper in his hand, which he held up.
"Do you know anything about this?" he asked, his eyes intense, hopeful. Kelly was absolutely baffled.
"Well," she took the paper, looking at him for a second before she slid her glasses on, and read. A moment later, her eyes were open wide, stuck on Bill's face. "Where did you get this?"
"Well, uh, so it's yours, then?" the editor sat forward in his chair. If the reporter hadn't been so confused she would have been amused at him.
"Yes. It was something I was going to write for the upcoming April Fools edition. Why?"
Bill flopped against the back of the chair, blowing out a breath of relief. "So, it is yours? You wrote that?" Kelly nodded, brows drawn, setting the unfinished letter down onto the desk. A wide, toothy grin spread across her boss's face. "Thank you, Kel. I really can't thank you enough." He jumped up, headed toward the door, turning around to grin at her again before he was gone.
"What the?" Utterly confused, Kelly shook her head to clear it, and sat back, immersing her mind once again into her weekend with Charlotte.
"Yeah?" the reporter said, not bothering to look up from the screen, fingers flying madly across the keyboard, punching out the weekly column.
"Leave it on the desk, please," came the distracted reply. The small, white envelope was placed where asked, and the secretary walked back to her office. Charlie continued with the column, stopping only to think before the ticking of pounded keys resumed.
"So, I hear you've got quite the admirer." Fingers stopped, irritated blue eyes looked up to see Dylan Walker standing in the doorway of the office, arms crossed over his muscular chest. He straightened out the collar of his dress shirt, the cocky smile still on his tanned face.
"What?" Dylan looked up.
"You mean you don't know? Well, I must say, I'm mighty disappointed in you, Charlie. You're supposed to be the super stud researcher, here. At least, so they say." Charlie sat up straight in the office chair, whipping dark hair behind her shoulder.
"Unlike you, I actually do my work. So, if you'd like to cut to the chase, it would certainly make my life easier." This followed by an equally slimy smile to match Walker's. Dylan stared at her for a moment, sizing her up, deciding on the best angle to break the news.
"You nemesis, K. Reynolds? Well, seems she's wanting to make either some sort of love-sick ass out herself, or just a plain old ass out of you."
Charlie stood to her full height, crossing her arms over her chest, annoyance obvious. "Go on."
"Well, it's all right there." Dylan pointed to the envelope on the reporter's desk. "Read it and weep." He chuckled at his own joke. Charlie didn't. Instead she reached over, grabbed the letter, and tore into it. The paper inside was crinkled and rough around the edges.
"Looks like that has certainly gotten around." Dylan snorted. Charlie glared at him.
"Wanna leave?" She said, a statement more than a question. Dylan may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but he knew better than to cross Charlotte Black. Too bad K. Reynolds wasn't so perceptive.
The brunette sat down behind her desk again, began to read.
Bill Stuart stared at the dead receiver, brows drawn to form nearly a solid line across his forehead. He carefully cradled the phone, and stared off toward Kelly Reynolds's office.
"Oh, boy." He took a deep breath, and stood from his chair.
"Okay, so you're telling me that he was five years old, right?" the blonde listened to the social worker on the other end of the line, scribbling notes, nodding every now and then. "Great. Okay. That sounds wonderful, Mrs. Morten. Thank you, and you also have a nice day." She smiled into the receiver. "What a nice lady." And hung it up. She began to write again, getting her thoughts and notes in order when someone tapped on her closed door. "Come in," she called out, continuing to write.
Bill watched his young reporter as she diligently wrote. He knew she was working on an important story, and hated to bother her, but it was too important to wait.
"Be with you in a second." Kelly made a few last remarks and ideas for later, then dropped her pen, smiling at her visitor. "Hey, Stuey." She smiled. Bill gave her a half-hearted grin, and sat down. "Okay. Now what's happened?" she leaned forward on her elbows, eyeing her boss.
"Well, I just got a call from someone at the Record." He began. The blonde looked at him, nonplussed. "I was a bit surprised, too. It seems your little letter has really gotten around." Bill chuckled nervously, running a hand through his hair. Kelly stared at him.
"What? What do you mean, gotten around?"
"Charlie Brown saw it, and needless to say, he ain't happy."
"What!" Kelly bolted out of the chair. "How did it get all the way over there? Stue, I threw it away! I changed my mind." She plopped back down in her chair, hand over her eyes.
"I know, Kel. I told him that, but it didn't seem to matter." The editor watched the blonde to see her reaction before he told her the rest of it. She looked pale, worried. "Um, Kelly? There's one more thing." The reporter looked up at the editor, green eyes open wide. He could tell she was steeling herself for what he had to say next. "Charlie Brown wants to set up a meeting with you." Kelly stared, mouth agape.
"Oh." She seemed to shrink in her seat. She wasn't sure why that scared her, but she was filled with dread. Bill narrowed his eyes.
"What's wrong? You can take him." He grinned. The blonde looked up at him.
"I don't know, Stuey. I didn't mean to hurt anyone. It was just going to be a joke."
"I know." The editor tried to soothe.
"When?" she asked quietly.
Kelly waited at the bar, clammy hands wrapped around her usual beer. She really needed to talk to Charlotte. Needed some advice. She couldn't understand why she was so nervous about the meeting. Bill assured her that she had nothing to worry about, but it really wasn't the job that she was worried about in the first place. She was worried about coming face to face with Charles Brown, her nemesis for over a year. Also, it sort of ruined the mystery behind the competition.
Kelly turned, ripped from her thoughts, and smiled.
"Hi! I'm glad you're here. I'm in a bit of a quandary." Charlotte's brows drew as she pulled the scarf from around her shoulders, and sat down.
"What's up?" she motioned for a beer from Frank, and turned her attention back to her friend.
"Well, it's a work thing. Now," Kelly raised her hands to ward off Charlotte's protests. "I know we said no work talk, but I need to."
"Okay. So talk to me."
"Okay. Here's the deal. There's this person who I've been basically in competition with for the last year or so, and I did something stupid, they found out about it, and now want a meeting with me. In some sort of sick way, I do respect this person. I mean, hell, he's been able to keep up with me." Kelly smiled. "So, I don't know. I'm just not looking forward to this at all."
Charlotte watched her friend talk, seeing the worry and nervousness take hold of her body. She wanted so badly to take her in her arms, and make it all better. Instead she took a deep breath.
"Well, I guess if you must have a meeting with this person, I'd tell them just that."
"What?" the blonde looked miserable, shoulders slumped.
"Tell him that you respect his work, you know you made a mistake, and that's that. The both of you go on with your lives. It obviously seems to work the way it is, right?"
"There you go." Charlotte smiled, satisfied with her own answer. Kelly thought about it for a moment, sipping from her beer. Then with a smile, she looked at her friend.
"Thanks. I don't know why I was so nervous on this deal." She shrugged, drained her mug.
"Hey!" Kelly started at Charlotte's exuberance. "Let's go see a movie. You've had a rough day, and I've had one hell of an interesting one." She grinned wickedly, thinking about the craziness at work. She couldn't wait to nail that little pain in the ass at the meeting on Monday. "I need some fun." The blonde brightened immediately.
"Yeah! Sounds great." She grabbed her purse and coat, and smiled at the other woman.
They sat in the dark, the movie playing out before them. Kelly felt like a million bucks, so happy to have Charlotte by her side. She glanced over at the other woman, who seemed riveted by what she was seeing. The blonde looked down at the brunette's hands, one resting on her thigh, the other, the closest one to Kelly, laid on the arm rest. She stared at it for a moment, then the impromptu decision made, she grabbed it, gently entwining their fingers. A feeling so big, and so warm washed over her as Charlotte's fingers squeezed hers in return. She looked up to meet twinkling blue eyes, and smiling lips. Kelly smiled back, utter contentment filing her. She turned back to the movie, and trying to bring herself back to earth, and out of the clouds.
The smile would not leave her lips no matter what she did, or thought about. Not even the impending meeting could destroy her memories of the weekend. It had been wonderful, the time she and Charlotte had spent together, eating, going to another movie, then Kelly making them dinner at her place the night before. She sighed. Life was good.
"Kel?" the blonde looked up.
Kelly looked into the understanding gaze of her boss, but her stomach began to do a flip flop. The good feelings of before began to be overcome with the nervousness she felt then. But, later that night she had made plans with Charlotte, so she would just focus on that.
The imposing presence of Charlotte Black caused people to stare, or move quickly out of her way as she walked through the lobby of the New York Post. She looked around, her well-fitted blue suit giving the impression that she was there on business, that she meant business.
The brunette saw the elevators, and walked toward them, noting the pictures on the wall next to them. She looked them over as she waited, when one picture in particular made her stop in her tracks. She took a step closer, studying the image.
"Kelly." She breathed, looking into the familiar green eyes, smiling face. Confused, she looked down at the nameplate below. Kelly Reynolds- Reporter of the Year, 2002
Charlotte took a deep breath, stupefied. She thought back to the time they'd been spending together, especially the night before. Kelly had made homemade spaghetti with a wonderful meat sauce. Charlotte rarely got home-cooked meals, so it had been more than just a nice dinner with a friend. Then she thought about the video they had rented and watched, sitting on Kelly's couch. Both not knowing what to do. The chemistry between them had steadily been building, causing them to move closer and closer together on the couch as the night wore on, until they were finally thigh to thigh.
It had felt so wonderful, so right. By the end of the evening, they had been joking, laughing, talking. All thought of nervousness and uncertainty had flown out the window.
"I better go." Charlotte had finally said, noticing how late it had gotten. "I have to be to work early in the morning." Kelly had glanced at her watch, then groaned.
"Me, too." She grinned. "Well, I had a really great time."
"Me, too." Charlotte had looked at the blonde, unsure what to do. She knew what she wanted to do, but didn't now how Kelly would react, so she had simply stood, and headed for the door, the puppy, Pundit following her, tail wagging thousand to none.
"Good-bye, little guy." She had crooned, kneeling down to rub the beagle on top of his head. Charlotte stood, Kelly standing only a few feet away. "Thank you for dinner." The brunette said quietly, not wanting to leave at all, but knowing she had to for so many different reasons.
"You're very welcome." Kelly had smiled, looking absolutely beautiful in her jeans and oversized sweater, hair swept back behind both ears. "Come back any time."
"I will." Before she knew what was happening, Charlotte found herself taking a step toward the blonde. Kelly sucked in a breath, standing her ground. The brunette raised her hand to Kelly's face, palming her cheek, looking into the curious, innocent eyes that she had grown to adore. She leaned down, barely brushing her lips over the blonde's, smiling at the intake of breath that caused, then went back for more. Kelly raised her arms, wrapping them around the brunette's neck, gently pulling her into her, body pressed to body.
Lips lingered together, breathing becoming one. Kelly wasn't sure how far to go, nor could she believe she was there in the first place. What she had wanted since she had first seen Charlotte in McDougal's. She eased her tongue out a bit, waiting for the Charlotte to take the bait. It didn't' take long. They both moaned slightly as the kiss deepened, Kelly being pulled impossibly closer, reveling in the feel of a warm body, hard against her own.
Charlotte ran her hands down Kelly's back, the softness of her sweater felt good on her palms. Finally, she knew she had to stop. If it continued like it was, she would not be able to at all, and she wasn't ready to take the next step.
The brunette pulled back gently, bringing the kiss down a rung or two, her eyes remaining closed as she pulled back completely. With a small sigh, she opened them, only to look into twin pulls of stormy green.
"I better go." She breathed, taking another step back. Kelly nodded mutely, trying to pull herself together. "Thanks again." Charlotte turned toward the door, her hand on the knob when she turned back. "Um, would you like to have dinner tomorrow night?"
Kelly looked at her, surprised, and thrilled. She smiled. "Yes." The brunette smiled.
"Good. I'll call you from the office."
Charlotte stared into Kelly's face, not sure what to think or feel. The woman she was beginning to fall in love with had been her nemesis? That was just wrong. She felt anger wash through her, then thought about the reason she was there in the first place. Kelly was going to publish that condescending, horrible fake love letter to Charlie Brown as some sort of April Fools joke.
"Well, April Fools to you, Kelly." The brunette turned from the elevator and headed for the front door of the Post.
"Where the hell is he?" Bill asked, pacing in the conference room, Kelly sitting at the head of the table, playing nervously with a pencil. She shrugged, staring straight ahead.
"Don't know." She glanced down at her watch. He was now an hour and a half late. She sighed, tossing the pencil to the table, and standing. "Should we call?" she asked her editor, walking over to the large windows that over looked the busy street fifteen floors below.
"That's up to you, Kel. What do you think?" the blonde looked over at her boss, meeting his gaze for a moment before she shook her head.
"Nah. If he can't be man enough to show up, then why bother?" she turned, and walked to the door. "If he happens to show, call me."
The reporter walked back to her office, irritated and on the verge of furious. He had made her get so worked up over the meeting that he apparently never intended to keep. She pushed the door open, and walked into the tiny room, plopping down into her chair. She played with the mouse, staring at the wallpaper on her monitor.
"Fuck it." She picked up her phone, dialed information. "The Bergen Record, please." Kelly waited, chewing on her lip as she listened to the butchered elevator version of Over the Rainbow'.
"Bergen Record. How may I help you?"
Kelly straightened up in her chair, surprised by the sudden voice on the other end. "Hi, yes, may I please speak to Charles Brown?"
"Charles Brown, oh! I'm sorry, ma'am. Charlie isn't in the office right now. You can try back in about an hour."
Kelly hung up the phone, and thought. Well, hell. What now? Then with a sudden adrenaline shot, the blonde stood from her chair, grabbing her purse, and heading out of her office.
The traffic was relatively light on the drive into Jersey. Kelly blared the radio, Melissa Etheridge singing Scarecrow' with her usual soul. Kelly felt so free, actually driving, ever grateful for company cars.
Driving into Hackensack, Kelly found the Record, and a space to park.
"May I help you?" the receptionist asked, smiling up at the blonde.
"Charles Brown, please." The woman behind the counter looked confused.
"Charlie Brown? Writes the weekly column?" Kelly asked, getting more irritated by the minute. God, does anyone here know who the hell the writers are?
"Oh. Um, just a minute." The woman picked up her phone, speaking softly into it. She looked up at the reporter, covering the mouthpiece with her hand. "Who may I say is here?"
"Just tell him K Reynolds." She said, a satisfied smirk on her lips. The woman spoke some more, then hung the receiver up with a smile to Kelly.
"Charlie will be down in a moment."
Kelly looked around, studying the artwork on the walls, finding the painting of the first Bergen Record building interesting.
"K Reynolds. We meet at last."
Kelly turned, surprised to hear the voice of a woman, and even more surprised to see Charlotte standing before her, arms crossed across her chest, her eyes cold.
"Charlotte." Kelly smiled, her voice faltering just a bit when she looked into those eyes. "I didn't know you worked here."
"Looks like we're both full of surprises, huh? April Fools, K Reynolds."
Kelly studied the other woman, trying to figure out what was going on. An idea popped into her head, but she could not reconcile it with what she knew. That couldn't be Charlie Brown. Could it? Could it be,
"Charlie Brown." Surprising herself with the verbalized realization, Kelly could only stare. Charlotte nodded.
"Nice to finally meet you." Charlotte said, raising her chin slightly, almost in defiance.
"You didn't show." Kelly said, her voice weak. She suddenly felt hot, her body infused with rushing blood and nerves.
"No, I did. But, when I saw who K Reynolds was, I just didn't see a point. Pretty low, and dirty, don't you think? What if I had had a family? Did you stop to think about that?" Charlotte asked, looking the blonde dead in the eye. Kelly quickly looked away, nodding.
"That's why I changed my mind." The brunette was surprised.
"Changed your mind? How did you change your mind?"
"I wasn't going to use that letter. It was a joke, and a bad one. I decided against it." Kelly explained, finding some strength in the fact that she had tried to head this off. Charlotte looked confused.
"Then how did I get the letter?" the blonde shrugged.
"I really don't know. I have no idea how it got out. I threw it away."
Kelly sank down into a chair nearby, wondering how this would affect things between them. Charlotte stayed where she was, not sure what to do. She looked down at her crossed arms, then at Kelly through her bangs. Her heart cried out to go take the blonde into her arms; she looked so sad, so dejected. Suddenly a rueful smile spread across her face, then she began to chuckle quietly. The blonde looked up at her quizzically.
"How wild is this?" Charlotte asked, walking over to the chairs, sitting next to the blonde. "All this time, you are K Reynolds." She looked over at her friend. "You have to admit it's kind of funny." Kelly stared at her for a moment, not sure what to do, then slowly smiled herself.
"Yeah. Guess it is." Her smile got bigger until it enveloped her entire face, then it faltered. "Look, Charlotte, I am sorry about the letter. You pissed me off with your comments on the Giuliani thing, and so I got the idea."
Charlotte smiled, nodding. "It's okay. It was actually kind of funny."
Kelly smiled, her heart taking flight. Charlotte wrinkled her brow.
"Do you really not like the little Charlie Brown cartoon next to my column?"
"No. It looks ridiculous." Kelly said, her nose scrunched up in mock disgust.
"Well, fine then! Come on. I'll buy you lunch."