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Kim Pritekel & Alexa Hoffman
I swiped at my eyes, despising myself for letting them come. How had I been so stupid? How had I ever allowed myself to think that maybe, just maybe, it would work out for me, that maybe I was meant to find that elusive drug?
What a fool I was. I might as well have been chasing a rainbow.
I found the door to the building, and headed out toward the parking lot.
I hurried faster, trying to find my Jeep through my tears.
I pulled my keys out of my pocket, trying to find the right key to unlock the door.
"Why are you running from me?" I turned, seeing Haley running toward me, just in the pant suit shed worn for work. Finally she stopped, standing at the back of the car, her face red from the exertion and the cold, and filled with confusion. "What happened? Why are you crying?" She took a step forward, but stopped, apparently seeing something on my face that made her unsure.
"When were you going to tell me, Haley?" I asked, my voice deathly calm and quiet, though my eyes still burned from tears shed, and those waiting in the wings.
"Tell you what?"
"That youre leaving! Youre going back to California. Goddamn you, Haley. How could you do this to me?" I turned back to my car, again, attempting to find the right key, even as my hands continued to tremble. "I cant do it again, Haley. Not only cant I, I wont,"
"Come with me."
My head jerked up, my heart in my throat. She looked like she was on the verge of tears herself.
"Come with me, back to California, Andi." She took a step closer. I could only stare. "Please? Ive found you, gotten you back into my life, and damn if I can imagine you out again." She took a deep breath, quickly swiping at her eye, then looking at me again, taking a small step forward.
"Why didnt you tell me?" I asked, my voice quiet, defeated.
"Do you know how many times, how many ways I tried to ask? Do you think all my questions about you ever seeing, or being interested in seeing California were arbitrary? Andi, I wanted you to come with me."
I finally turned to face her fully, my hurt and fear being covered by anger. Always my weapon of choice.
"Why? So I could live down the street from you? We could have our Saturday nights? What, cant live without my baking?" Her eyes narrowed, tears springing to them.
"Why are you saying these things? Andi, Im trying to offer you a life with me in it. Do you want that? Because from everything youve said and done thus far, Im sorry, but that was certainly the impression I got."
"I do want you in my life, Haley! But on whose terms? Yours? I cant go as your boy toy to take out and play with when you want, and then tuck nicely back into my own little house when you dont."
"Is that what you think of me?" she asked, taking the final step that separated us, bringing our foreheads so they were nearly touching. "Is that all you think Im capable of, Andi?"
"What are you capable of?" I closed my eyes, fearing my heart would pound out of my chest. Haley was silent for a moment, then she let out a deep breath, shaking her head.
"I dont know."
I sighed, taking a step back, finally getting my key in the door, turning the lock.
"Please, at least think about it." I glanced at her. She was looking at me with pleading eyes. "Okay?" All I could do was nod. I climbed into the Jeep, and closed the door, shutting out the cold, shutting out Haley, shutting out the world.
Pulling out of the parking lot, I stopped just before turning onto the major street. Turning left would take me toward home. I quickly flicked the right turn signal, and headed out.
As I drove, I fought the tears, but it was a losing battle. I let them come.
She wanted me to go with her. But to what end? Leave my home, my family, my daughter, my career? Sure, there were labs up in California, I knew that, but all that I had built here in the past ten years. All I had accomplished, the awards Id won.
But then there was Haley. My whole life, no one had been able to affect me as she did, no one could claim they had won me over, or opened my heart. Some sick part of me relished the fact that no one had been able to break me.
But then there was Haley.
She rocked my world every single day in one way or another. Damn, even now as I thought about her, my stomach began to dance, my heart singing along, and the corners of my mouth automatically turning up.
It often made me think of Bunsen. No matter how much trouble hed gotten into that morning, because hed torn something up in the night, or had decided to make the kitchen floor his personal latrine, he always had a wagging tail, and a lick or twenty for me. Such was the way of Haley. In my eyes she could do no wrong.
The sun was beginning to peek out from between the clouds, and its light reflecting off the snow was too much. I pulled down my visor to grab my sunglasses from where they were clasped, and I stopped, seeing Kendalls fourth grade picture where Id tucked it under a rubber band. She was smiling at me, her green eyes bright with youth and innocence.
I pulled the Jeep to the side of the road, and took the picture out, staring at it. The girl was so young, only ten. I trusted Vince and Michelle Torrini as much as I trusted my own mother. I knew Kendall was in good hands, or I never would have left her there. Shed be taken care of well, just as she had already been for the first decade of her life.
There were ways to see her often, and Haley loved her. Shed have no problem with Kendall visiting.
I closed my eyes, setting the picture aside, and putting my hands on the wheel. What is this "we" bullshit? Haley has said nothing about a we. Shed only said that she wanted me to come with her. What the hell does she want from me? What are her intentions?
God, I hate being confused.
* * *
I walked down the hall, headed to the lab. I knew my eyes were red from lack of sleep, and though I hated to admit it, more crying. Damn those ducts. If they didnt serve an actual bodily function, Id have them removed.
I had done a lot of thinking last night, a whole shit load of pacing, making my dog dizzy as he sat on his haunches, watching the crazy human walk back and forth, back and forth.
No conclusions had managed to be reached as of yet, but I knew that it was only fair I give her an answer soon.
Pushing it all aside for now, I pushed open the door to the lab, and was immediately met by Samantha.
"Andi, thank god youre here. Disaster last night."
"What?" Alarmed, I threw my wallet and keys onto the nearest work table, and followed my colleague over to the test read-offs. I searched through the numbers, trying to find the problem. "Why did this happen?"
"The cooler gave out over night. The one with the sample in it." I looked up at her, eyes narrowed.
"No," I breathed. She nodded. She looked like she was about to cry. "Hang on, let me think. Where is it?" She hurried to the back of the lab where shed placed the Petri dish to keep it safe. I grabbed it, quickly taking it to the nearest microscope and zooming in on it. It couldnt happen this way. There was just no way.
"Weve got to hurry, Andi. The other freezing units are losing temperature, too."
"Youre kidding?" I looked at her, she shook her head.
"I only wish."
"Fuck." I stood. "This ones too far gone. "Check the others."
I hurried back to my office, my blood on fire. Grabbing the phone, I punched the extension of Dr. Bill Johns, the supervisor of the wing.
"Dr. Johns," came the smooth, calm voice. Not what I needed to hear.
"You need to get your ass on the phone, and get us some new cooling units with the money we were promised at the beginning of the year, Johns," I raged. This had been an ongoing problem, our equipment dying out long before its time, even though all the labs had been promised a budget increase at the beginning of our fiscal year, which all of us had yet to see.
"This is Dr. Andrea Littman, and you just cost us about a thousand man hours, and a million dollars in research, doctor. Our cooling units have failed for the third time in the last six months." I could feel my emotions building, the situation with the lab, and Haley building into one massive ball of oh shit.
"Do you have any idea who youre talking to?" He was downright angry, now.
"Yes, and Ill kiss your ass tomorrow, but today get off it, and get this taken care of! Youre messing with peoples lives, Dr. Johns. We may have finally had the right combination, but now were hard pressed to ever know."
"Another one is bad, Andi," I heard Samantha yell from the lab.
"Get on it... sir."
I hung up the phone, and hurried back into the lab.
Within an hour, repair men had us halfway back up, and brand new units had been ordered.
As the day went on, Samantha and I started our project from scratch. We were both disheartened, saddened, almost as if a member of our family had died. We had lost all the samples when all was said and done.
She left for lunch, needing to get some space between her and the lab, so I sat in my office, the project on the computer screen before me, but I stared straight ahead, my mind nowhere near this hospital. Though I did worry somewhere in there if Id have a job tomorrow.
Suddenly I felt as though I were being watching, and I looked up. Haley stood in the doorway, a brown bag in her hand. She had been looking at me. When she saw she had my attention, she smiled.
"Penny for your thoughts?" she said. I smiled.
"Youd be a poor woman."
"May I come in?" She raised the bag. "Lunch."
"Please. Have a seat." I indicated the chair that was on the other side of my desk for guests.
She entered the office, setting the bag on the desk, reaching in to grab a wrapped sandwich. She placed it in front of me.
"Thanks," I said, my voice quiet. I was quite shocked to see her here, really. Though I had done nothing wrong, things hadnt gone particularly well yesterday, either.
"Look, Andi, I just want you to know that regardless of what happens, whatever you decide, I still will always be here for you, and I truly want to be your friend." I looked up to see Haley standing there, a napkin in her hand, looking right at me. I nodded.
"And, Im not about to let you starve just because you cant seem to make or buy yourself food." I grinned, taking the sandwich into my hands.
"Speaking of decisions," I said, glancing briefly at her. She sat, crossing her arms over her chest, but said nothing. "Why? Why do you want me there?"
She sighed, looking up at the ceiling for a moment before looking back at me, only to look at her lap.
"Well, thats a question Ive been struggling with for weeks now." Her eyes met mine. "Ive never had a problem making friends, and Ive generally always been surrounded by wonderful people, and for a long time that sufficed. You know?" She looked at me, searching my face for understanding. I nodded.
"I know what you mean."
"Now its all changed, somehow. I think of my life back in California, my condo waiting for me, the friends that I have, my work, and though theres a very large part of me that can barely wait to get back to all that, theres another part, a deeper part, that cant imagine any of it without you." She cut herself off, and looked down at her hands.
She looked like she was in such despair, and then to my horror, I saw a single tear fall to her lap.
Quickly I was out of my chair, and hurried to the other side of the desk, sitting on the edge. I had no idea what to do once I was there, but I knew I needed to be closer to her, she needed that.
She swiped at her eye with an impatient hand, then looked up at me.
"No one gets to me like you do, Andi. I feel so safe with you, secure, like nothing can hurt me." She sighed. "I know what I ask is a lot, especially for such an unknown return, but I think about leaving here without you, and I feel sick. Every time you come over, I dread as it gets late, because I know youre going to have to go home. I crave your presence, Andi. Does that make any sense?"
"More than you know. But what if this is another experiment for you, Haley? What if we try this, and you decide you dont like it? What if it doesnt work?"
"Well, first of all, you take the chance of it not working with anything you do. You should know that as a scientist. Second of all, Im not a kid anymore, and I dont experiment. Nor do I run. Ive learned to face my fears, and face the unknown." She looked at me. "And I want that with you." She shook her head. "Im sorry, Andi. I am so selfish."
"Okay." It just came out. She looked up, her eyes narrowed in suspicion.
"What?" I took a deep breath, leaning forward slightly on the desk.
"Okay." She cocked her head to the side, still looking wary.
"What do you think? I told you I always wanted to see the Pacific." Haley stared at me for a moment, then suddenly her eyes grew to the size of saucers, and she jumped up from the chair, damn near smacking my chin with her face, and grabbed me in a massive hug.
I smiled, relishing the feel of her arms around me, her body pressed to mine, her excitement contagious, yet somewhere deep inside warning bells were sounding, and a voice was screaming, what are you doing?!!
I shut it all out, just enjoying the feeling of making Haley happy.
* * *
I turned the music up loud in my Jeep as I headed toward Winston. I had called, and mom was home tonight. I was excited to tell her my news. Haley had Tae Kwon Do class tonight, so I took the opportunity to get the ball rolling.
I hadnt said anything to anyone at work, yet. For some reason I just didnt want it getting out there, yet. My mind sailed to California, thinking about the sunny days, the ocean just a short drive away. Especially as I looked outside the car, the snow piled high wherever you looked. Now wed just have sand and surf to play in instead of beautiful snow drifts. Id never made a sand castle before. Guess youre never too old to start.
My smile grew wider as I imagined Kendall on the beach with us, her running around in a bathing suit, trying to catch the waves as they came in.
And then I thought about Haley, and my smile grew wider, and a bit deeper. Where would we live? Haley had talked about the Scripps Institute , which was a huge research lab in California, and a wonderful opportunity for me. I saw where one of their scientists had won the Nobel Prize just last year. Oh, how Id love that to be my name that went in the history books.
Im a believer in making your own destiny, but at the same time, I do think life can give you a bit of a nudge in the right direction. Is the failure of the equipment, and thus of our experiment, trying to tell me something? Is it time to move on?
I pulled into the drive of my old house, and turned the car off, hurrying to the door. It was a cold one tonight.
Mom and Clive were downstairs as I headed into the house. The big screen TV was on, and some drama of the week was on.
"Hey, guys," I said, pulling my gloves off. Mom turned and looked up at me.
"Hi, honey." She stood, wrapping her arms around me, and squeezing. I smiled and closed my eyes. I think no matter how old I get, a hug from my mother always took me back a few decades.
"Hey, cutie. How are you?" Clive asked from his spot on the couch. I smiled back at him.
"Not bad. How about you?"
"Eh, not so bad."
"Come on, babe. Ill make us some hot tea." My mother took me by the hand, and dragged me upstairs. I was glad. Though I did like Clive, I really had no desire to talk about this with him around. Besides, I knew my mother would fill him in later, anyway.
"So whats up?" mom asked as she took the tea kettle out from under the cabinet, and began to fill it with water. I hopped up on the cabinet next to the sink.
"Well," I could feel the butterflies in my stomach as I prepared myself to tell her. "Haley is heading back to California in May," Mom looked at me.
"Oh, thats too bad. Ill really miss her. Shes such a wonderful girl."
"Yeah, she is. Mom, Im going with her."
My mother stopped the faucet, and looked up at me, surprise in her eyes. I waited for her to say something.
"Honey, wow. Where did that come from? Why?" I knew she would support me no matter what I did in life, but I also knew this was rather sudden, especially for someone who had no clue what had been going on between Haley and I.
"She asked me to."
"As roommates, or something?" I smiled.
"Well, not really." Her eyes opened even wider. She put the kettle on the stove.
"You mean in a romantic way?" I nodded.
"Something like that."
"Honey, I-," She smiled, shaking her head. "You girls. I never can tell whos into men, anymore. I definitely had money on Haley." She chuckled again. Getting the box of teabags out of the cabinet, as well as two cups.
"Me, too." I grinned. "You remember, ah, well, way back when we had the bad snow storm my junior year?" Mom nodded, looking at me warily. "Well, ah, Haley and I," I looked down, lightly tapping the heels of my boots on the cabinet below me. Mom turned to face me totally.
"You two...," I nodded.
"Basically," I admitted.
The water began to whistle, so she took the kettle of the burner, and poured the hot water into our mugs, handing me one, and a teabag.
"Is that why you two stopped talking?" she asked, dipping her bag in and out of the water, watching to see when it was the right color for her.
"You know, I wondered. Not then, of course. Hell, having a daughter whos gay has certainly been an education for me, but later on, after youd told me about your lesbianism, I really wondered if something had happened between you girls." She poured some sugar in the cup once shed removed the teabag. "So, tell me about this California thing. Are you excited?"
I set my teabag on the saucer next to my moms, and sipped from the strong, hot brew, nodding.
"I am. The thought of having a life with Haley," I smiled. "Its breathtaking. The way I see it, Samantha can handle the lab, shes good at what she does, and sometimes I think its her who should have gotten the promotion to lab manager last November, and not me. Shes a very competent woman. I mean, I may have gotten the ball rolling on our research, but she can just take over. And Bunsen would love the sun and the sand. I mean, true, I wouldnt have the snow, and I do love the snow, but I could just get my fill of it when I came back for the holidays. Plus, I trust Vince and Michelle as much as I trust myself, and Kendall would absolutely love to come out and visit when she had her summer break," I stopped myself in mid-sentence, looking over at my mom. She was looking right back at me, concern in her eyes.
"Whats the matter, honey?" she asked, her voice quiet.
"What am I saying?" I nearly whispered.
"You were telling me all the wonderful possibilities of a life with you and Haley." I hopped down from the counter, setting my mug aside, and walking over to the small table, pulling a chair out, and plopping down.
"I cant, I, Im so confused." I buried my face in my hands. Within a few seconds I felt a warm hand on my back, rubbing in small circles.
"How do you feel about Haley, honey?" I lifted my head, running a hand through my hair. I rested my elbows on my spread knees, and clasped my fingers together as I stared straight ahead, trying to think of how to answer that. Just at the mention of her name, I felt like I could fly.
"I feel almost like Im high when Im around her," I began. "You know, like I can do anything. She fills me up completely." I risked a quick glance at my mom. She was staring at the floor as she listened. "She makes me feel like its all worth it, like life is worth living, and taking with both hands. I guess she makes me feel alive. You know, its like there is an actual, literal pain in my chest when shes not with me." This time I looked directly into my moms eyes.
"Honey, do you think you love her?" she asked, her hand moving up into my hair, gently stroking it, pushing it back from my face. I thought about what she said, knowing that I had been purposefully keeping those very words out of my vocabulary. Who was I to say? How would I know?
But then as I sat there in my mothers kitchen, I knew, just as sure as I knew my own name.
"Mom, I think Ive fallen in love." My voice was quiet, almost filled with awe as I announced this news to my own ears just as much as to my mothers.
"Thats not a bad thing, sweetie. Its about time, actually, and I cant think of someone more worthy of your love than Haley. No man is an island. Ive been telling you that for some time." She smile, I smiled back, ruefully. "Does she feel the same?"
"I dont know. I honestly dont know if she knows how she feels." I stood, running my hands through my hair again, turning to face my mom. "How can I go out there when she has no idea what she wants? Haley has never experienced this before, hell, what if its just a really strong case of sisterly love?"
"Do you really think thats the case, Andrea?"
"I hope not. But I dont know. And my job, all my hard work and research." I stopped, my shoulders slumping. "My daughter," I whispered. "I let her go once, mom. I dont know if I can do it again." She just stared up at me. "I have to go."
I grabbed my keys from the table, and gave my mom a quick hug. "Ill call you later."
"Whatever you do, youll do the right thing, honey," she said, holding me by my arm.
"Would you do it?" I asked, desperate for someone to give me the answers.
"I cant answer for you. You and I are very different people, with very different priorities. Im settled now, and when I was your age I had two young children to raise. Only you can decide."
"Do you think I should go?" I hated asking others for help, but I was so lost right now.
"Well, I have to be honest, I dont want you to, but thats just my motherly selfishness in me talking. But objectively, I think it could be a wonderful opportunity for you, and life is short."
Not feeling any better, I hugged her again, and hurried out. I needed to think, and I needed to be alone to do it.
I sat in my office chair, hands behind my head as I stared at the blank computer screen before me. Our new units had arrived, and the men were installing them, so I came in here to stay out of the way.
More like to hide.
Last night had been one of the hardest of my life. The only thing comparable had been the night before I had to give the Torrinis my answer. This was no less painful, either. Both could would change my life forever, and could have blessed or cursed affects.
My eyes still burned from tears of frustration and sadness. My heart still hurt from hope and regret. I had made up my mind, and now it was time to make it so.
I stood, taking a deep breath, letting my lungs fill with much needed air, and headed out of the lab.
As I walked down the hall, not entirely sure where I was going, well, that was a lie. I knew where I was going, I was just taking the long way to get there. I thought about my destination. I thought about what I would say.
"Hey!" My head jerked up from my thoughts, and heading toward me from the end of the hall was Haley. She quickened her pace, and I stopped mine all together. As she got closer, I could see she had something in her hand. "How are you?" she asked once she reached me, taking me in a hug. I hugged her back, squeezing my eyes shut.
"Here. How are you?" We pulled apart, and she looked at me with narrowed eyes, then punched me playfully on the arm.
"You better be better than just here, woman. Look at all this stuff I got last night." She brought her hand up, and I saw that she had a ton of brochures on California, and all of the tourist attractions. "Okay, I figure well be getting there before the peak season starts, so if you wanted to do all of the touristy things, May would be a great time to do them." She pulled one brochure out of the stack. "This place,"
"Haley," I put my hand on hers to get her attention. She looked at me, all smiles, her eyes bright.
God, give me strength.
"Last night I did a lot of thinking,"
"Okay," She brought her hand up, playing with a random sting that had pulled loose from my sweater.
"I need to tell you something," she looked into my eyes, her smile faltering a bit, her hand falling away from me. "There are two things in my life that I am so proud of, that I have created," I stopped, watching as she searched my face and my eyes. I knew she could see how red-rimmed my eyes must be, how tired I knew I looked from hours of restless sleep until finally Id gotten up at three-thirteen this morning, sitting in my chair, thinking.
"Alright," she said quietly.
"Those two things are my work, and Kendall," Her face began to fall, though she was trying to hold it together. "And theyre both here."
She looked down at the ground for a second before I heard her whisper, "okay."
Haley took a step back from me, taking a deep breath, and looked down at the brochures in her hand. God, my head was pounding, my heart being squeezed so tightly. I felt sick. Finally Haleys face did fall. I heard one sob before she turned, crumpling the brochures in her hand. As Haley walked, she passed by a garbage can, opened her fingers, and let them fall inside as she headed back to where shed come.
I watched, feeling my own eyes begin to sting and burn. I quickly turned, hurried back to the lab. I had to get out of here.
"Andi? Andi?" Samantha followed me into my office, standing at the door as I gathered all my stuff. "Are you okay?" she asked, looking at me with such concern. God, I didnt deserve her kindness.
"Im not feeling too well, Samantha. Um, I wont be in tomorrow, either." She nodded dumbly.
"Okay." She brushed her hand across my arm as I passed her. "Andi?" I stopped, turning to look at her. "Im here, you know, if you ever were to need anything. Okay?" I nodded, feeling completely numb, whatever heart I had, dissolving with pain and shame.
I drove home, my eyes dry, but stinging. I had had enough crying for a while. I just needed time to relax and think. I knew I had broken Haleys heart today, but it had to be done. I would die if I grew to resent her for leaving Kendall and all that I had accomplished here.
At least this way we could at least remain friends. Having her in my life, no matter how that was, meant everything to me. I couldnt lose her completely.
I tossed my keys on the table by the door, trying not to step on a very excited Bunsen. He wasnt used to my being home this early, and he was basically beside himself.
I made my way to the living room, plopping my numb body in the armchair by the fireplace. Bunsen jumped up onto my lap. I brought my hand up to rub his head, but this wasnt good enough for him. He jumped down, ran to grab his rope, then jumped back up, trying to get me to play tug-of-war with him.
"No, boy. Play by yourself." I leaned my head back against the chair, closing my eyes. I was exhausted. Finally the Pug settled on my lap, quietly chewing on his toy.
* * *
I awoke with a jerk, my eyes flying open. I looked around, seeing my dark bedroom, feeling the warmth of Bunsen next to my hip. I barely remembered going to bed. It had been around one in the afternoon, but I just hadnt wanted to stay awake anymore; it hurt too much.
Now, glancing at the clock, I saw it was after seven. Raising my arms above my head, Haley immediately popped into mind, and I suddenly felt worry. I needed to see her like I needed my next breath.
Jumping out of bed, I called the Landlocked Sea, and ordered crab cakes to go. Quickly dressing, I gave a confused and groggy Bunsen a kiss and a hug, and hurried out.
It was a cold one tonight; how appropriate. My heart felt like ice, and I felt numb from the ice.
Grand-smelling bag sitting next to me, I made my way to Haleys, praying that shed be home. Her car was parked out front, and I saw a single light burning through the window. Pulling the break, I cut the engine, and grabbed the bag of food. It felt like such a paltry offering, but right now it was the best I could do.
I stepped up to the porch, and knocked softly. It took a moment, but I finally heard footsteps. The door opened, and the dim light from inside spilled out into the night. Haley stood there, dressed in warm sweats and a sweatshirt. She held Peggy in her arms.
"Brought you some dinner," I said lamely, showing her the brown bag. She gave me the barest of smiles, taking it from me.
"Thanks." She headed back into the townhouse, leaving the door open. I hurried inside, chilled to the bone. Closing the door behind me, I stood where I was. I wasnt so sure about where my place was now. Haley returned from the kitchen, sitting on the couch, hugging the rabbit to her.
"Are you okay?" I asked, my voice soft. She nodded, sniffling.
"As well as can be expected, I guess."
"Yeah," I shuffled my feet, then decided to take off my gloves and coat, hanging them on the coat tree by the door. "Haley, I want you to know that I never meant to hurt you, or deceive you." She finally looked at me.
"I know, Andi." She looked terrible, her face and eyes red and swollen from crying. My heart split in two all over again. I headed over to the staircase, sitting on the third step up, my knees huddled to my chest, arms wrapped around my shins like a kid.
"Haley, why dont you stay here?" She grabbed a Kleenex from the box on the table, and blew her nose.
"I have a contract with the school. I have to go and teach the summer session. Plus, about two years ago, my friend, Sergio Vladek and I opened our own practice. We have another twelve months on our building, the lease, anyway."
"Looks like we both have responsibilities, huh?" I smiled ruefully. She looked at me again, nodded.
Thunk, thunk, thunk
I looked behind me to see Oreo trucking it on down the stairs. He stopped when he reached my stair, looked up at me, whiskers going to town, then headed past me to the floor, hopping his way over to Haley, who quickly swooped him up onto her lap.
"Why are you all the way over there?" She asked, hugging her pets to her.
"To be perfectly honest, I didnt think youd want me near you. I dont want to hurt you anymore than I already have, Haley."
She looked at me for a moment, her hand absently stroking the soft fur of the rabbits.
"Why did you come, Andi?" I sighed, shrugging.
"I wanted to see you, I guess. Needed to see you."
"Come," she said, holding out a hand to me. I stared at it. "Please?" I stood, walked over to her, kneeling down on the floor in front of where she sat cross-legged on the couch. I scooted forward until my knees hit the couch, and rested my forehead against Haleys knee. I was so tired. All I wanted was just for us to go on, to be happy in what I knew we were both capable of.
Within a few seconds I felt a hand on my head, running through my hair.
"I always thought you had the most beautiful hair," she whispered as she continued to caress me. We sat like that for a few more moments before she spoke again.
"How do you feel about me, Andi? What do you want to happen?" I lifted my head, staring up into her pain-filled eyes. I replaced my forehead with my hand, and sighed.
"I visited my mom the other night, and she got me to reveal and realize something." I was running out of time to be a coward. "Haley," I looked up into her eyes, wanting her to hear what I had to say. "Somewhere along the way of all this, I, well, I fell in love. With you." I saw the tears gather in her eyes again, and I was on my feet in an instant. "Oh, dont cry. Please, dont cry." She sobbed in my arms, setting the rabbits aside to hop about as they would.
Sitting next to her, I rocked her gently, kissing the top of her head.
"You dont make this easy, do you?" she asked with a rueful chuckle. I smiled.
"No, I guess not." She got herself under control, and looked at me.
"Well, my guess is somewhere in the neighborhood of my seventeenth year." I smiled at her. "As for why, well, I guess you just reached in there, planted a bud in my heart, and over the last twelve or thirteen years, its grown, and now its in full bloom."
"Why me, Andi?" I sighed, thinking of that very question so many times myself.
"No one dug deep enough to plant, I guess." She smiled, putting her hand on the side of my face.
"You should have been a poet."
"I dont think so. I hated English, and nearly failed it."
"What, the first A- you got in your entire life?" she teased.
"Hey, that grade hurt, you know." We smiled at each other, and then I sobered, feeling the weight of the situation again. "Please tell me you dont hate me."
"I could never hate you, Andi." She leaned in, kissing me lightly on the forehead. "Its just not possible."
I looked down, feeling silly and awkward, but I wanted to know.
"Haley? You asked how I felt for you, what do you feel for me? I mean, its kind of a moot point now, but," I looked up at her. "Id still like to know."
"Well," She sat back against the couch, her hand taking mine in both of hers. "I know that I love you, and I think its romantic love, but I just have absolutely no reference point to compare to. Im so confused in that way. I know I want you with me always, I hate when you leave. Even when you get up to go to the bathroom, I feel such a loss." I smiled, understanding. "I feel so empty when I think about my life without you now. How I did it for so long, Ill never know. But what it boils down to is, I think I have far too many emotions and worries flowing through me right now to really narrow it down. Does that sound like a horrible cop out?"
I shook my head. "No. Because I understand. Ive had a bit more practice with this whole woman thing." I smiled, and leaned forward, our foreheads touching.
"What do we do now, Andi?"
"Make the best of what weve got left, I guess." I brought my hands up, placing them on either side of her face, bringing my mouth to hers, gently laying my lips against hers, holding the kiss for long moments. Haley brought a hand up to rest on my arm, then I felt her mouth open slightly, and I followed suit, our lips gliding against each other. There was no tongue involved, but it was beautiful, sweet, and sensuous all at once.
Finally I pulled back, staring into the face of the woman who would haunt me for the rest of my life, crashing doubts and what-ifs on my head.
"Will you stay?" she asked. I nodded, she smiled. "Good. Im so tired."
Haley stood, gathering both her rabbits.
"Here, let me help you." I took Oreo from her, and followed her up the staircase. She was so exhausted, nearly falling asleep on her feet. I knew I probably looked much the same, for I sure as hell felt it.
The rabbits put away, I turned to Haley, who had flopped down on the end of her bed, just staring at me, her eyes red-rimmed and half-closed. I knelt down in front of her, and pulled both of her socks off, tossing them aside.
"Lay down." She fell backwards, and I tugged at the waistband of her sweats, pulling gently. The pants removed, they joined the socks, and I started on the sweatshirt, leaving her in her tee and underwear. "Come on, Haley." I helped her to the front of the bed, where she laid down. I pulled the blankets over her tucking her in. She stared up at me, staring into my eyes. We said nothing, only stared. I was about to turn away when the covers were flipped down. I turned, brows narrowed, and tucked her in again. About to go, they flipped down again. I looked at her with questioning eyes.
"Stay," she said. I looked at her, knowing she wouldnt have offered if she hadnt wanted me to. I quickly stripped down to my own tee and underwear, slipping under the covers, laying on my back. Haley immediately scooted over to me, curling her body toward mine. I reached to her, slipping my arm under her neck, and pulling her toward me. She laid her head on my shoulder, snuggling even closer, and sighing. I closed my eyes, a smile on my lips.
* * *
I awoke, but didnt open my eyes. A smile came to my face as I could feel the warmth against the front of my body. I took note of all my limbs, feeling Haleys back against my chest and stomach, my arm over her waist, hand resting against her stomach. Taking a deep breath, I inhaled her scent, trying to snuggle even closer to her.
Pushing myself up on my elbow, I watched as Haley breathed, deeply, evenly, the intense morning light of the sun washing into the room to shine upon the bed, and bring out the highlights in her dark hair.
I sighed with contentment, bringing my hand away from Haleys stomach to her face, using my fingers to trace the lines and contours of it, the slope of her forehead, leading to her nose, straight, just the right amount of curve, leading to full, parted lips that concealed beautiful, white teeth.
As I touched her, those lips turned up in a smile, a soft sigh escaping. Her eyes remained shut, but her body scooted back further into me.
"You hungry?" she murmured. God, her voice was so sexy in the morning. Id forgotten that.
"Maybe. What are you making?" I asked, my fingers continuing to trace over her face, and down her neck.
"I can make whatever you want. I want you to have a good breakfast before you go to work." I lowered my head, resting it on Haleys pillow.
"Well, as sweet as that is of you, Im not going to work today." Her eyes opened, and she glanced at me over her shoulder.
"Youre not?" I shook my head. She smiled.
"Oh, yeah?" She shook her head, closing her eyes again. "Well, what a happy coincidence." I chuckled.
"I agree. Care to spend the day with me?" She turned in my embrace, eyes opening again.
"Really? You want to spend the day with me?"
I looked at her, a smile spreading across my face as I nodded.
* * *
"Do you have the tickets?"
"Are we on time?"
"Andi, chill, woman." I felt Haleys hand on my arm as I drove us toward Rifts Skating Rink. Today was Kendalls eleventh birthday, and for some reason, it was really getting to me. How had it gone so fast? My girl was going to be a teenager in two years! How was that possible?
"God, how did she get so old so fast, Haley?" I glanced over at my passenger, who was already looking at me.
"I dont know." She smiled at me, putting her hand on my leg. I thought back to January 26, eleven years ago. I had been at school, right in the middle of class when my water had broken. School hadnt been in session for too long after the holiday break. I had hoped Kendall would decide to come during the break, but it didnt happen that way.
At least she had decided to make her appearance on a Friday. By Monday I was back in school, as Vince and Michelle Torrini were taking care of their new baby girl.
Shaking myself out of my thoughts, I turned into the parking lot, readying myself to face a dozen ten and eleven year olds, excited by the prospect of roller skating and sugar-rich foods.
Haley grabbed the wrapped gifts that she had bought for my daughter, and I had the envelope in my hand, which held her card, as well as three tickets to go see Tempo Toys. I figure she could take Michelle, and some friend of hers.
"Andi! Haley! Youre here!" We were both bowled over by a very excited little girl, giving us a double hug.
"Hey, kiddo." I leaned down, and got my own hug, squeezing the girl tight, then poking her in the ribs. She giggled, then ran off to where her party was in full swing, with all her guests on wheels, skating at blurring speeds around a wooden floor with loud music being pumped through speakers.
"Do you skate?" Haley asked, looking around, her eyes bright with childish glee. I shook my head.
"Youre serious? Oh, honey, thats about to change."
"No, Haley. Im fine, really. If you want to go strut around on eight wheels, be my guest. Im quite fine sitting with Michelle."
"Andi, Michelles out there." She pointed toward the rink. Sure enough, there she was, going around and around, sometimes holding the hand of some child, sometimes just skating, a huge smile on her face.
"Well, okay, Ill sit by myself."
"Nope. Lets go." She grabbed me by the hand, and marched my butt to the counter by the door where you rented your skates.
"Can I help you?" the pubescent boy asked us.
"Yes. Id like a pair of size nine, and," she turned to me, "Andi?"
"Uh," feeling like a deer who was caught in the headlights, "seven."
The boy headed back into the room, and came back with two pairs of skates. He set a pair in front of each of us.
"Okay, Andi. Come on." I was led to a bench in another room where there were lockers. "I cant believe youve never been roller skating. Thats just criminal." Haley muttered as she helped me to lace my skates.
"I didnt exactly have a normal childhood filed with lots of little, excited girls, you know." She looked up at me, shaking her head.
"Then Ill just have to make up for that."
"If I die, you can have my house." Haley chuckled, and grabbed my arm.
"Okay, now be careful. Standing will be interesting for the first time." I pushed myself up, but not much happened, other than the skates wanting to roll right out from under me. "Whoa. Hang on to me." I did.
Slowly we made our way to the skating rink, where pulsing music met us.
"God, these children are better at this than I am." I muttered. Haley chuckled.
"Come on, old woman. You can do this. Its all about balance, and I know you have a ton of that with everything you do." She led us toward the wall, which had carpet covering the bottom half of it. I figured that was for losers like me who would be using the wall to stop myself, instead of the floor.
"Oh, shit!" The floor was far more slick than it had originally appeared, and for some reason, the wheels of my skates wanted to just take off.
"Its okay. Youre doing fine, Andi," Haley put her arm around my waist, going slowly with me. I felt fairly safe between Haley and the wall, but still wasnt that keen on this whole roller skating idea.
Just up ahead was a small ledge, and I greedily grabbed onto it. Haley stopped behind me.
"See, the whole idea behind this is to actually move."
"Ohh, tempting." I glanced back at her, nearly falling on my ass for the effort, and saw a lecherous grin on her face.
"Kendalls birthday party has been set up, so anyone here for the birthday girl, head on over to the recreation room."
"Oh, thank you god! Saved by the birthday cake," I muttered. Haley chuckled, and helped me to pull my way back along the wall toward the festivities.
* * *
I headed toward the hospital, a smile upon my face, a bit of pep in my step. It was Valentines Day, a day and holiday which I generally despised, and sometimes ignored under the guise of forgetfulness. But not this year. Im not even sure why, but today it meant something to me.
I smiled my way into the lab, waving at Samantha as I made my way to my office. I unlocked the door, flicked on the light, and stopped. Sitting on my desk was an envelope, the likes of which cards come in.
Brows narrowed, I sat behind my desk, and picked it up. I could hear movement near my office door, but didnt look up. My attention was taken by the pink envelope in my hands. Biting my lower lip, I tried to decide who I thought it was from. And, how the hell had it gotten into my office?
Anyway, I ripped the top of the envelope open, and slid the card out. On the front was a big, hairy ape, his arms crossed over a massive chest. In large, red letters above his head, read:
How much do you mean to me?
Smiling, I opened the card, and black, paper ape arms sprung out at me, opened wide.
THIS MUCH! HAPPY VALENTINES DAY
I chuckled, then read the hand-written message.
Andi, you are quickly becoming my world, and that scares the crap out of me, but I wouldnt want it to be anyone else. XOXO
I heard some giggling outside the door, and I looked up to see who had been standing there the entire time.
She stepped out from around the corner, a grin on her face.
"Did you leave this here?" I asked, waving the card at her. She shook her head.
"But you know who did?" She nodded.
"And youre going to tell me, right?" Again, she shook her head.
"Great. Youre fired." She grinned, and headed back into the lab. I read the card again, and then glanced over at the phone. Chewing on my lip again, I picked it up, and dialed the three numbers of the extension that I knew so well.
"Youve got some explaining to do," I said, my voice low, menacing.
"Excuse me?" she said, sounding confused. I chuckled.
"Have you been this way this morning?" I heard a low, throaty chuckle on the other end of the line.
"You havent been to the lab today?"
"Are you lying?"
"Did you leave me a card today?"
"You didnt leave a card here for me this morning?"
I grinned, amused at the game.
"You know, my dear, your silence says everything" I heard the chuckle on the other end of the line.
"Happy Valentines Day, Andi." I smiled, ear to ear as I looked at the card again, wishing so badly that Haley was in my office right now, or I was in hers so I could thank her properly.
Whoa, chick! Hey, when you stopped dreaming, you stopped living, and as long as Haley was in my life, I definitely wouldnt stop dreaming.
"Thanks. Happy V-day to you, too."
"V-day, huh? Are we going into war?" I could hear the smile in her voice.
"Maybe. Want to send this soldier off right?" She laughed outright.
"Youre just so adorable."
"So, you busy later?" I asked, grabbing a pencil from my desk, and leaning back in my chair as I played with it.
My mood fell like a lead balloon.
"Are you? Busy tonight?"
"Oh, yeah? Got a hot date?"
"Well, I dont know. I think my date went and got herself another one."
"Oh, ouch. Hate it when that happens. Hmm, well then that might throw a wrench in my plans for tonight."
"And, whys that?"
"Well, if my date thinks that her date has abandoned her, then that means my date will be staying home. I cant have her do that, now can I?"
My spirits lifted as though theyd been given a mental dose of Viagra.
"Well, then perhaps my date mislead me?"
"Perhaps. What say you head on over to my place with a bottle of wine at six-thirty?" Haley said. I smiled into the receiver, my hand reached out to the cord, fingers running along it, caressing it.
"Okay. I think I can handle that."
"Great. Well, as much as I really dont want to go, but my nine-oclock is here."
"Okay. See you later."
"Bye, gorgeous," she said, sending chills through me.
* * *
I grabbed the box that was on the passenger side of the Jeep. Careful to balance it on one hand as I closed the door, and pressed the locking mechanism on my key chain. I made my way to the door, seeing the lights on in Haleys townhouse. How was it possible that one woman, hell, anything belonging to that one woman, could put me at such ease, and make me feel better? I truly believe that anything that was ailing me, she could make it all better with just one look, or one touch.
Taking a deep, contented sigh, I knocked on the door. It didnt take long before I heard footsteps, and then silence. I could tell I was being watched through the fisheye on her door. I stuck my tongue out, and grinned for my audience. Hearing giggles from the other side, I, too smiled.
The door opened, and Haley smiled at me.
"Hey, you," she said.
"Howdy." I reached into the box. "This is for you," I handed her the bottle of white wine Id bought.
"Thank you much."
"This is for you," I handed her the bottle of red. "And this," a bottle of champagne.
"Are you going to try and get me drunk so you can take advantage of me?" she asked a twinkle in her eyes.
"Maybe. This is for you," I handed her a heart-shaped box of chocolates, "And finally, these." I handed her the bouquet of roses Id picked up for her.
"Oh, Andi. God, you are so sweet." She brought them to her nose trying to balance the flowers with the armful she already had. I took the wine from her, and she took a deep breath, inhaling the beautiful scent of the roses. She smiled at me. "Thank you," she whispered, then looked to her left down the street, and then to the right, then back to me before giving me a full, loud smack on the lips.
Grinning like an idiot, I followed her inside.
I looked around, stopping where I stood. Haley had moved the couch out of the way, probably in the spare bedroom, I assumed, and had a huge, double-sized air mattress set up, piled with blankets and pillows in front of the TV, and a stack of rented movies next to it on the floor. Behind the mattress was the coffee table loaded with covered dishes that smelled absolutely divine.
"Man, that smells good. What do you have going," I reached for one of the dishes, only to have my hand smacked.
"Youll see. Its actually a new recipe, and I hope you like it. And, um, I hope you like this," She indicated the blankets and pillows. I grinned, nodding.
"I think its great, Haley. Thanks so much. This will be a blast." I glanced at the movie titles, seeing such greats as When Harry Met Sally, While You Were Sleeping, and Sleepless In Seattle
"I figured all those were appropriate," Haley said, taking the wine from me and heading into the kitchen to put the roses in water.
"So, what did you make?"
"Its a Spanish dish called paella. Chicken, pork, shrimp, muscles, rice and tons of veggies. I really hope you like it." She called as she grabbed a couple of wine glasses.
"It sounds great, and smells even better."
"I hope so." Haley gave me a small peck before setting our glasses on the edge of the coffee table, and handing me a plate. "Load up."
Soon we both sat cross-legged on the mattress, facing each other. Haley had the heat up to a nice temperature, so we lounged around in sweat shorts, which Haley had provided, and me in a tank, her in a simple tee.
She watched, waiting for me to take the first bite, her face expectant. I wondered if she were even holding her breath.
Slipping the fork inside my mouth, I allowed my tongue to taste the myriad of different tastes, all mingled together to create a wonderful taste sensation. I closed my eyes, chewing slowly as I relished the flavors that course through my mouth.
"You have outdone yourself, Haley," I finally managed. "That is certainly worthy of a foodgasm." She looked at me, taken aback.
"Foodgasm. Come on, youre a food slut. You should understand such terminology." She grinned, shaking her head.
"Ill certainly have to keep that in mind, and Im glad you like it." With my seal of approval firmly in place, she began to dig in to her own plate.
Not much was said as we both, famished from a long day with a missed lunch, shoveled forkful after forkful of the paella into our waiting mouths, sipping wine now and then.
Finally dinner was gone, and I was satisfied.
I smiled, as I took a deep breath.
"You really liked that. I dont think Ive ever seen you eat a second helping of anything before." Haley smiled as she gathered our dishes, and we carried them to the kitchen.
"Well, it was absolutely delicious. Youll have to give me the recipe for that."
"Youre going to cook?" she asked, looking at me over her shoulder as she loaded the dishwasher.
"Nah, Ill give it to my mom so she can make if for me the next time I visit."
"Oh, youre horrible." She flicked me with the dishtowel. "Ready for dessert?"
"Am I ever not?"
"True. Go pick a movie, and get it started. Ill bring it out."
Choosing When Harry Met Sally, I stuck the tape in Haleys VCR, and pushed play. Soon she joined me, carrying two plates holding generous pieces of black forest cake, topped with raspberries.
"Ohhh, you are a cruel woman, arent you," I murmured, my eyes on the cake. Haley grinned, handing me my plate.
The movie finally began after a string of trailers for movies that had long since come and gone. It always amused me how movies dated themselves by their trailers.
Dessert plates put aside, I laid back against two pillows, hands behind my head. Haley copied my position, not a hands width away.
"I love this movie," she said, a contented smile on her face.
"I always had the biggest crush on Meg Ryan." I looked over at her, surprised.
"Yep. Who doesnt? Shes beautiful, adorable, beyond cute."
"Yeah, I could see what you mean. Would you do her?" Haleys head whipped over as she looked at me. I was grinning.
"No! Shes far too innocent for that." I laughed out loud.
"What? That whole business with Russell Crowe years ago?"
"Eh, I think she was just trying to shed her image. I mean, that must be terribly exhausting to be so damned cute all the time." I grinned, turning my attention back to the screen.
"Oh, her friend Marie. Now theres a woman Ive had a crush on for years."
"Really?" She turned onto her side, looking at me. "Why? What is it about her that caught your eye?"
"Oh," I sighed as I thought about it. The crush had been there for so many years, I had no idea how it started now. "Well, for one, shes cute as hell, I love her eyes. They can look so puppy dog. Shes very intelligent, and is extremely talented as a writer and a comedienne."
Haley glanced at her as she and Meg Ryans character talked in the bookstore right before Billy Crystals character shows up.
"You know what I think is amusing?"
"Whats that?" Haley asked, scooting over, closer to me, basically sharing my pillow now as we watched.
"This movie is actually relatable. You figure, they met when they were young, didnt like each other because they were just too young, and it wasnt the right time. So, they go their separate ways. Meet up nearly twenty years later, and voila. It all just fit then."
"Hmm, yeah, I can see it. At least we liked each other when we were young."
"Isnt that the truth."
Haley moved, sticking her legs on me, particularly her feet, which blocked a lot of my view of the screen.
"Um, excuse me, Haley?"
"Your feet make a fantastic door."
"Oh, good." She wiggled her toes. Getting an evil thought, I lunged up, grabbing her legs, and began attacking her feet, Haley yelling the entire time, trying to get me off of them, but unable to as she was wracked with laughter. "Stop!" she cried, pulling weakly at my hands and arms.
"Nope," I tickled harder, trying to keep up with the struggling bull beneath me, when finally we fell off the mattress, which gave Haley a chance to get away, and turn back on me, her fingers digging into my sides. "Oh, god!" My eyes squeezed shut, trying to breathe through my laughter as I struggled to get away or get even.
We ended up rolling nearly across the living room, headed toward the back wall where the coffee table was.
Haley rolled over, curled up into a ball on the floor, cradling her head, and groaning.
"Oh, Haley. Oh, man. Are you okay?" I quickly made my way over to her, gathering her head gently onto my lap. She held her upper forehead, eyes closed in pain. "Ah, jeez. Im sorry,"
"Oh, man. That table is hard," she whined.
"Do you want some ice?" She took her hand away, looking at it.
"No. I think Im okay. No blood, just a good bruise, Im sure."
"Yeah, I imagine youll have a nice goose egg in the morning. Its all fun and games until someone loses an eye. Or a head." She grinned, her eyes still closed. "How about some Tylenol? Stave off the pain now?"
"No, thanks, Andi. Ive got a hard head." She exhaled a breath, feeling around. "Yeah, I can already feel a small bump."
"You poor thing." I held her to me, rocking her gently. She grabbed my arm, hugging it, a smile on her face. She turned herself so her head was laying in my lap, staring up at me.
I looked at her, taking in her features, those incredible eyes. So blue.
"Did you know that you are one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen? Hell, I think you are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen." She smiled up at me, shaking her head. "Its true. Look at those eyes. Wow," I whispered. "I bet you use them as quite the weapon, dont you?"
She looked up at me with the most sensuous look, her eyes half-lidded, burning into mine with such intensity.
"Whatever do you mean?" she asked, her voice a mere purr. A shiver shot through me. She smiled, looking up at me.
"You vixen." She smiled.
"You should talk, though, Andi." She reached a hand up, caressing the side of my face. "Youre so beautiful. You know, I feel rather stupid admitting this, but during my last year of grad school, some friends and I managed to scrape some money together, and during spring break we took a three-day cruise around the Caribbean. One morning I woke particularly early for some reason, so I got up and went to the deck of the ship. My hands on the rail, I looked out into the water. As I did, you came to mind, and for a moment I was confused. I hadnt seen you in a long time by that point, but still, there you were. It took me a moment, but then I understood. It was the water, that beautiful, calm, blue-green water. It matched your eyes so perfectly."
I smiled down at her, never wanting to be anywhere else. I felt drawn to her, that beautiful face, and even more beautiful heart. Our lips touched, gently, just a taste. Haley pulled away, sitting up, and turning to face me. She sat in front of me, our knees touching. She looked at me, her eyes traveling from mine to my lips, then back to my eyes. I leaned in, and so did she, until we met halfway. Her hand came up to me, her fingers losing themselves in the hair at the nape of my neck, mine resting against her knee, kneading the skin it found there.
The kiss was sweet, our lips opening to each other, hot breath being exchanged as our mouths moved together. I could feel my heart pounding, my body pulsing, matching the beat. I tingled all over as my fingers began to caress her leg, Haleys hand pushing on my head, bringing me in as close as possible. Haley tilted her head slightly, allowing our lips that much more contact.
But, just as suddenly as the kiss had began, it ended. Haley slowly pulled back, her eyes still closed, a soft smile on her face. She finally opened her eyes, looking at me.
"Lets finish the movie," she whispered. I nodded, forgetting the movie had even played on.
We made our way back to the mattress, Haley laying on her back, her hand on her head indicating that it still ached from the hit shed taken. I laid next to her, my head on her shoulder, arm across her stomach, fingers tucked underneath her side. I marveled at the fact that she was the only woman I had ever laid like this with. I wasnt much for being the cuddler. If someone wanted to lay on my shoulder or whatever, so be it. But, I never felt the need for the comfort and security such a position offered.
We watched as Billy Crystal , finally realizing he is in love with Sally, runs toward the New Years party where shes at.
"Oh, I love this part," Haley said, her arm around my shoulders tightened its grip, hugging me closer. Finally Harry and Sally admitted their love, and then they talked about their wedding, and the cake with the chocolate sauce on the side. "Aww, man that gets me." Haley said, bringing a hand up to her eye. I lifted myself onto an elbow, my body still against hers. I looked down at her.
"Are you crying?"
"No," she sniffled. I grinned.
"You are so adorable."
"Im a big sap."
"Yes, but youre still adorable." I looked down at her face, and she looked up at me, still swiping at her eye. I smiled, then my eyes traveled, taking in all of her. She laid on her back, one leg raised, her foot flat against the mattress. Her legs, long and strong, a bit of tan left over from last summer. The hand that wasnt resting on my back was laying on her stomach where mine had been. My gaze traveled up further, her breathing even and steady, making her chest rise and fall, her breasts bulging against the material of the shirt, her neck, long and beautiful. I remember how soft that neck is.
Finally I looked into her eyes. She was studying me.
"I dont understand why people use this phrase, but right now it seems appropriate. Dont take this the wrong way, but you are so sensuous." A small smile turned up the corners of her mouth, adding to the sexiness.
She brought a hand up to the side of my head.
"Ive been told that before," she said, her voice low, her eyes trailing all over my face, "but it never really mattered, or affected me." She looked into my eyes. "Are you affected?" I nodded. Her hand found the back of my head, pulling me down.
Balancing on my elbow, I brought my lips to hers, my eyes closing immediately as the kiss began. I tilted my head to the side, opening my lips to her, feeling her hand wandering around in my hair, the side of my neck. I brought just the tip of my tongue out, swiping at the inside of her top lip. She sucked in a breath, and pulled me even closer, rolling over onto her side so we lay body to body. My hand went to her back, pulling her even closer, the kiss turning to liquid fire as passion began to overtake it.
Haley moved her leg so it rested just barely between mine, my leg bending just a bit, to rise above hers.
Our breathing was loud, heavy, and out of control, much like the kiss itself. She pressed her tongue against mine, both wagering for dominance.
God, the fire spread through me faster than any wildfire, lighting me aflame as it went. To my surprise I felt Haleys hips begin to move, just a bit, but definitely noticeable. Her breasts pressed to mine, stomach, hips, all of it. My own body began to move in response, aching for release, aching for what it had been craving all these years.
God, I just wanted to take her entirely inside me, and keep her there, but instinctively I knew she wasnt ready for this. Not yet.
I stilled my body, well, did my best to, and slowed the kiss, bringing it down to a dull roar, rubbing soothing circles on her back, instead of my hand being planted firmly on her ass.
Breathing heavily, I pulled away all together, trying to get my heart rate under control.
Haley seemed to understand, as she closed her eyes, taking several deep breaths.
"Wow," she exhaled. I smiled. "Where did you learn to kiss like that?" She opened her eyes, looking at me. I shrugged.
"Years of practice, I guess."
"No ones kiss has ever affected me the way yours does. My god. Ive never felt anything like it."
"Really?" She smiled almost sheepishly.
"Definitely. You drive me wild, Haley."
"Good." She buried her head into my neck, my cheek resting against hers, my hand caressing the side of her face, fingers brushing back her hair. "What do you say we head to bed?" she said, her hand caressing my shoulder. "After all, we both do have work tomorrow."
"Okay." I said, patting her arm before I pulled away. She looked up at me, grinning.
"Who are you trying to convince, lady?" She grinned. I tried to stand, but my legs were literally shaking, feeling like I was trying to walk on sticks of rubber. "Whoa," I flopped back down on the mattress.
"Did I do that to you?" Haley asked, scooting up to sit behind me.
"Im afraid so. What did you put in that kiss, anyway?" I leaned back against her, reveling in the feel of her.
"My heart," she whispered into my ear. I smiled, hugging her arms tighter around me.
Eventually we both were able to stand, and gathered up the mess, folding blankets, Haley letting the air out of the mattress. She looked at me.
"Did you have a nice Valentines Day, Andi?" I stopped folding the blanket I was working on, and looked at her.
"The best Ive ever had," I said quietly.
"Really?" I nodded.
"Really." She grinned, ear to ear.
* * *
Winter was coming to an end as March marched into town, bringing lots of rain with it, washing the snow away for the most part, though we still got the occasional storm or five.
It was one of those rare Saturdays when Haley hadnt stayed over, or I hadnt stayed over her place. We had decided to give each other some space last night, and on one hand it had been nice, but on both feet, it had sucked. We were getting nearer and nearer to the day when she would fly out of my life, and my state. I tried not to think about it, but knew it was inevitable, and coming quickly.
Just returning from my Saturday morning class, I had changed into a pair of shorts and a tank, and decided to clean the house. Last night had been Bunsen and me night. That poor dog was so confused. I was gone so often, returning from time to time to feed him and take him outside. I knew in his own doggy way he was upset with me. So, last night we had played every game known to man and mutt. We both had thoroughly enjoyed it.
Now, as I mopped the kitchen floor, I heard the doorbell. Leaning the mop against the counter, I hurried over to it, opening the door only to nearly be run over by a very agitated Haley. She was loaded with energy, barely able to keep still.
"Hi," she said, looking at me, kissing me on the lips, then walking right past me, only to start pacing in front of the coffee table. Bunsen watched her, sitting on his haunches, head cocked to the side.
"Um, are you okay?" I closed the front door, and walked over to her. "Come on, lets sit."
"No, I need to pace. Ive got entirely too much energy."
"Okay. Ill sit." I sat on the couch, watching her. "What happened?"
"I did it," she said, looking at me. Confused, my brows drew.
"I told them." I still didnt get what she was talking about.
"Told who, what?"
"My parents!" she said, as if I should be able to read her mind. Whatever was I thinking. Then it hit me. My eyes widened.
"Wait, did you tell them what I think you told them?"
"How am I supposed to know what youre thinking? I cant read your mind." I chuckled.
"Does it have anything to do with, well, this new you?" She smiled, nodded. She had a wild smile on her face, like she was loaded with fire.
"I called Holden a few days ago, and told him first."
"Wait, what exactly did you tell him?" I stood, walked around to the front of the coffee table, sitting on the edge of it to be closer to her.
"I told him about us, you and me. I was pretty afraid at first, thinking hed have a reaction similar to Chris, but Andi, he was totally cool with it, and he still wants me to go to their wedding in September!" She was so excited, her hands constantly moving, her speech fast and filled with energy. "So he told his fiancé, and she was cool with it, too, so then he talked me into telling my mom and dad, and I was worried about doing that, what with my father being sick and everything, but then I decided that I wanted him to know, so I drove over there this morning, and I just came back from there, and my mom made her world-famous waffles for us, but that doesnt matter, so I told them."
She stopped, taking several deep breaths as her lungs had reached their capacity for words. She looked at me expectantly.
"Wow." I said, running a hand through my hair. "Ill never be able to look your parents in the face again."
"Youre not upset with me, are you?"
"Oh, no! Honey, I was only kidding. What did they say?"
"Well, to be honest, my mom cried at first, not understanding me, saying how I always had nice men in my life. But my father, oh, he was wonderful." She smiled, sitting down next to me, the table creaking under our combined weight.
"Couch." We moved over to it, and I held her hand as she continued. "I think he can understand, being into women himself, and also with his current condition, I think hes really learned to find happiness wherever you can. I really do think my mom will be okay. I think shes just a little shocked right now."
I looked down for a moment, a selfish thought entering my mind. If she was willing to admit to her folks about us, which meant about herself, that meant that when she got back to California, shed be willing to try other women. I had no say, but it still was a daunting thought.
Shaking it away to examine later, I looked at her, a smile on my face, though it was forced.
"Im very proud of you, Haley. That took guts." I rubbed her hand with both of mine. "And whoever you bestow this gift upon is one lucky woman."
She looked at me, confused.
"Andi, what are you talking about? Youre that woman. I thought I had made that clear."
"What? Haley, well be living in separate states."
"So? People have long-distant relationships all the time." She looked at me with such childish innocence and trust.
"I cant do that to you, Haley. I cant be so selfish as to limit your new experiences. You deserve to be able to spread your wings and try out flight."
"Hey, shouldnt that be my choice?" I looked down, nodding. "Come with me, Andi," she whispered.
"No, no, Im not asking for you to move. Come with me to Holdens wedding in September." I looked up at her, surprised. "Please? I really want you there."
I smiled, nodding. "Of course, Haley. Id love to go." She grinned.
"He wants to meet you again now."
"Oh, jeez." She laughed, taking me into her arms.
"Itll all work out, Andi. Besides, I do have to come back in July for Lindas concert."
"Yeah. Thatll be fun. So, Holden is going to take over taking care of your dad, right?" Haley nodded.
"Yep. Hell take over for the next year."
* * *
We laid in bed, having had dinner with Holden and his fiancé. It had been fun. Holden had turned into quite the looker, just like his sister.
I was laying on my side, Haley laying on her back, the covers ending at her waist. My heart was still racing after the make-out session wed just had. Damn, that woman could kiss. She was still looking at me with those half-lidded eyes, so damned sexy.
My eyes trailed down her body until they landed on her breasts. I could tell she was still turned on, the small peaks stretching her shirt even tighter across her breasts. Getting an evil idea, I reached my hand up under the shirt, resting it on the warm skin of her stomach. Haley watched me, her eyes going from my hand up to my eyes, and back.
"I love these things, you know," I said quietly, my hand snaking its way up, feeling just the rounded underside of her breast.
"Oh, yeah?" I nodded.
"Oh, yeah." My fingertips ran all along the curves, the skin sinfully soft and smooth.
"Be careful," she said, her voice more than a little breathy. "Those are pretty sensitive."
"And this is a problem because..." I looked at her, daring her to do something as my fingers began to trail circles around the breast, moving in a little closer to the bulls-eye with each pass.
"Well, I just dont know. I guess youll have to wait and see."
"Im a gambling girl. Sure, why not." My fingers passed just over the tightened skin, making Haley suck in a breath, her hips immediately shooting off the bed. "Ohhh, I like that." I made another pass, suddenly finding myself on my back, and Haley straddling me. Her mouth was fierce, taking what it wanted, her hands pinning me to the mattress. I could barely breath, but I didnt care. My body began to buck up into hers, when with a groan from me, she pulled away, removing herself from me, but laying beside me, holding herself up on her elbow.
She was grinning down at me, who was completely breathless.
"I warned you." She grinned.
"Whoa. No shit." She looked at my body, my tank halfway pulled up my stomach. She brought a hand to me, running her nails across my skin, sending chills up my spine, yet again. The nails made their way up under my shirt, right up between my breasts, and out the neckline of the shirt, up my throat and to my chin, fingertips resting against my lips. I kissed it, then it snaked its way back down, stopping at my breasts.
I knew that Haley had no experience with these, except for mine so many years ago. I lay still, letting her explore.
"Breasts are truly amazing," she mused, running her fingers all around mine, doing what I had done to her, slow circles under my shirt, getting closer to my nipple with every circle. "Calming and comforting from a mother, and sexy as hell from a lover."
"You have no idea," I breathed, my eyes closing as her fingers took the nipple between them, gently squeezing, tugging. My breathing was shallow at best, my body moving to the rhythm she was setting.
"It seems as though youre pretty sensitive, too." She chuckled, I nodded.
"Yup. And just a warning, but if you dont stop soon, youll get more than you bargained for."
Again that evil chuckle. Haley took her hands away from me, and kissed me, soft, calming.
"Lets go to sleep," she whispered against my lips. I nodded, getting myself under control.
I could tell we were both in a lot of pain that night.
* * *
They say time marches on, waiting for no man nor beast. And certainly for no broken heart.
I sat on a box of blankets, supposed to be taping it up and labeling it, but I couldnt bring myself to even breathe, yet alone do this simple task. I held Fred, Haleys original Koosh, in my hands, the colorful rubber spines tickling my fingers as I turned it over and over.
Finally, knowing time was short, I stood, turning to the box, and did what I was asked. I could hear Haley upstairs, pulling clothes from the closet, and putting them into boxes or garment bags. I looked around the living room, the TV and all other electronics already packed away. The empty entertainment system stared at me, almost mocking me with the holes, once filled with VCRs and DVD players, and her stereo.
I picked up the box that I had just filled, taped and labeled, and headed outside.
It was the second week of May, and it was a beautiful day. Yet anther thing to mock me.
I set the box on the back bumper of my Jeep, and slid it in next to the others. The plan was to head to Winston so Haley could stop on the way and say goodbye to Kendall, and then to my mother. Wed stop at a post office somewhere along the way to ship this stuff to California.
Leaning against the back bumper, I felt my chest tighten, my eyes close from the pain. I felt so lost already, my heart broken, what felt like, beyond repair. Then I felt the familiar stinging behind my eyes. I had done so much of this lately.
Taking several deep breaths, I tried to get myself under control. I didnt want to fall apart in front of Haley.
I headed back into the house, seeing Haley gathering stuff from the dining room table, putting it in boxes. She looked at me. I could see how red her eyes were. From fresh tears. I smiled at her, she smiled back, then turned back to what she was doing. I turned my attention to the few things that hung on the walls. Id always wondered why this place looked as though she hadnt fully moved in.
I smiled ruefully. Now I knew.
She had more boxes stacked, ready to be labeled and loaded. Without words between us, we made a quick, efficient team. Times like this I wished I were an incompetent dolt.
Dutifully I carried box after box out until the Jeep was completely loaded, even with one of the back seats folded down. I had to make enough room for Kendall to be able to sit, but other than that, we were full.
I headed back into the house, looked around.
"Is that it?"
"Yeah." Haley stacked a few boxes next to the door. "All thats left is my bed, and whats going to my parents house."
"Okay, thats good. Were full."
Haley sighed, tired, just like me. She looked at me, her hands in the back pockets of her shorts, hair bound up on top of her head.
"Are you ready?" I nodded, leading the way out to my car. I felt like I was leading a funeral march, burying that part of me that had effectively been killed. You dont know how often I thought about the fact that we could be packing my stuff right now, too, and this could be a happy time; a time of new beginnings.
But, Id made my bed, and it was time to lie in it. I just hoped none of the nails would leave scars.
We piled in, the slamming of the doors reminding me of that of a prison cell door. Yeah, I knew I was being pretty dramatic, but thats how I felt; everything was exaggerated right now. Every sense, every feeling, every pain.
The drive toward Winston was very quiet, subdued. I wanted to believe that it was equally hard for Haley. She leaned against the passenger door, watching the scenery fly by, her hand resting on my leg. In the last few weeks, it was rare when we were together for her not to be touching me in some way. I had reveled in it, needing the support and connection as much as she did, yet I had began to pull away, too. I had started to notice it one night about two weeks ago.
Earlier I had not really allowed myself to think about Haleys leaving. After the initial pain and shock of hearing it, I had successfully pushed it out of my mind. I was good at that. But soon there was just no way of doing that, anymore. It was real, it would happen, and it was coming.
So, what better way than to just start steeling myself for it now.
"Andi?" I glanced at Haley, shaking myself out of my melancholy thoughts. Might as well save some for later.
"Thank you," she said, her voice quiet and gentle.
"For what?" She smiled, shrugging.
"Just for being you. For helping me. For not hating me."
"I dont hate you, Haley. Quite the opposite, really. I hurt, as Im sure you are, but I do understand. Were I in your situation, I imagine Id be doing the same thing."
I nodded. "Yes. We both have responsibilities, and though I think our priorities could use some serious work, we do have separate lives."
Haley said nothing, but did squeeze my thigh, running her fingers over the skin there.
Soon we reached the Torrinis place. Kendall knew we were coming, but didnt know why. I had already talked with Michelle and Vince, asking for permission to take Kendall with me to California over the summer.
The front door opened as we made our way up the path. Michelle appeared in the door, a smile on her face. She reached for Haley, hugging her, and patting her on the back.
"Good luck, Haley."
"Thank you. And thanks for letting Kendall come visit." Michelle squeezed Haleys hand and smiled.
"Andi! Haley!" Small but loud feet came tearing down the staircase, and then one excited little girl appeared.
"Hey, you!" I knelt down, taking her into my arms, and gave her a monster hug. Then the girl turned to Haley, who hugged her tight, blue eyes closed. I figured this would be painful for Haley, as well.
Vince shook Haleys hand, then we were off. We managed to fit my daughter, who questioned the reason for all the boxes, into the back, and headed for her favorite place to eat.
I sat across from Haley and Kendall, wanting to give Haley as much opportunity to be with her as possible. I truly believe that she loved Kendall as if she were her own daughter. That was enough to make me love Haley that much more.
They chatted a little about school, and what Kendall planned to do over the summer, and if she was excited for school to end. We ate in peace until finally, all of us finished, Haley turned to the girl.
"Kendall, um, honey, I need to tell you something."
"Okay," Kendall said, happily sucking her thick, chocolate milkshake down.
"Im moving." The girl looked at her.
"Im going back to California, honey. Thats where I came from, where I lived before I came here last summer."
"Youre leaving?" I could see Kendall was deeply upset by this, her green eyes beginning to fill, her brows knitting together so much like my own when I was upset. "But why? Dont you want to be Andis friend, anymore?"
"Oh, sweetie. Ill always be Andis friend, and yours, too." Tears began to stream down Kendalls face. She turned to look at me, and I smiled at her, then she turned back to Haley.
"I dont want you to go, Haley. I dont want you to leave me."
That was all I could take. I stood, and quickly headed for the bathroom. I always knew that even though me and Torrinis tried to do the absolute best for Kendall, there was still going to be some damage there, and I had always wondered about her feelings of abandonment. God, when was I going to stop hurting my daughter?
I leaned against the sink, my head hung as I held my breath, trying to get my emotions under control. There was no way in hell I was going to let Kendall see me upset. She was already in enough pain, and confused, as it was.
Kendall was quiet as we drove back to the Torrinis. Every once in a while I could hear her quietly sniffling. I would glanced at her every once in a while in the rearview mirror, sometimes shed meet my gaze, but often, she was leaning on her hand, staring out the window as night began to fall.
We reached her house, and she quietly got out of the car, walking around to my side. I got out, and knelt down, holding her to me tightly, my hand on the back of her head, caressing her hair, and then kissed her cheek.
"Ill talk to you later, kiddo. Okay?" She nodded at me, then turned to Haley who had also gotten out, and stood nearby. I got back into the car, giving them some time. I could see Haleys mouth moving, Kendall nodding once in a while, a tear sliding down her cheek. Haley wiped it away, then hugged her.
Finally I had to look away. I heard Haley get in the Jeep, but didnt look at her.
"Post office it is," she said, her voice quiet, shaky. I looked at her. She had a hand over her mouth as she stared out into the early dusk.
"Are you okay?" I asked. She nodded, taking a deep breath, and removing her hand.
"God, that was hard. I had no idea just how much that little girl had gotten inside, you know?" She turned to me. I nodded.
"Indeed, I do."
Haley shelled out a couple hundred dollars to have all of her stuff shipped back home to meet her when she flew out in three days.
Tuesday. That was the day. It was Saturday night, and I felt like I was being held in a vice, not able to move or act, or react.
We headed to my moms. I had taken Haley home off and on over the past few months, and my mom had been delighted to see her every single time. I think of anyone in the world, she would have loved to see Haley stick around. I hear you , mom.
"Mom?" I called as I let us in the house.
"In the kitchen, hon," she called out. We made out way in there to see that she was cutting up some chicken for dinner. She quickly washed her hands, and turned to us. She smiled, but it was sad. She made eye contact with me, silently asking if I was okay. I nodded, leaning against the wall with my arms crossed over my chest, watching.
"So this is it, huh?" my mom asked Haley, who nodded.
"When does your flight leave?"
"Tuesday at three."
"Do you need a ride to the airport, honey?" My mom tossed the dishtowel shed been drying her hands with, aside, and walked over to Haley.
"No. Ive been using my dads old car this last year, and so Ill drive myself, leaving it at the airport. My brother will pick it up later." My mom nodded.
"You tell your mom and dad if they need anything, if your mom needs a break, or whatever, she better give me a call."
Haley smiled, nodding. She walked over to my mom, taking her in a large hug, laying her head on my moms shoulder.
"Thanks," she said, her voice quiet. My mom leaned in and whispered something in Haleys ear. Haley nodded, and smiled at my mom.
"You take care, honey. Im going to miss you, and I know that one will, too." She nodded toward me.
"Ill miss you, too, and I will definitely miss that one." Haley looked at me, her eyes filling.
The drive home was a quiet one, again. I dont think either of us had much to say. Haley cried off and on, her tears silent, but there. I left my hand on her leg as much as possible, trying to give her any sort of comfort I could. Why are you doing this, Haley? Why? I wanted to scream this over and over again, but I knew the answer, and figured there was no reason to torment her soul any more than it already was.
I pulled up into her driveway, and left the car running. I turned to her. She was already looking at me.
"Um, I think Im going to go home tonight. I need to be alone." She looked at me, stunned.
"Oh, okay. Um, I guess Ill see you tomorrow, then?" The hope in her voice nearly killed me. I nodded.
"See you then." She brushed her fingers across my face, looking at me, as though she were trying to soak it all in, burn my image onto her brain. She leaned in, gently kissing me, then let herself out of the Jeep.
I cried on the entire trip home, then cried myself to sleep.
* * *
In some ways time seemed to drag on, and in all the wrong ways, it flew by. It was Sunday, and I had promised Haley that I would help her clean the townhouse before she left.
Dressing in a grungy pair of sweat shorts, and tank, I pulled a baseball hat on my head, grabbed some old rags from the garage, and headed over, for what I knew would be the last time.
I waited on the front porch, my first knock unanswered. Finally I heard footsteps inside, and the door was pulled open. Haley met me, her eyes red and swollen, a glass of juice in her hand.
"Hey," she said, her voice rough from too much crying. I could relate.
"Hi. The cleaning crew is here." I gave her a weak grin. She stepped back, allowing me to enter. I could smell the cleaning products as soon as I entered, seeing that the place was spotless. "I thought you wanted help?"
Haley shrugged, walking over toward the kitchen, setting her glass down on the counter.
"I had to have something to keep me busy last night."
"Im sorry I couldnt help." I watched her for a moment, her back still to me. With a sigh, I walked up behind her, wrapping my arms around her waist, feeling her fall gently back into me. I closed my eyes, my chin resting on her shoulder.
"Its okay. This way we can just spend some time together. If you want."
"I do want." I looked around, seeing how empty it all was. "This place looks so big with nothing in it."
"I know. Thats why I bought it. Lots of space."
I tensed as I could feel the emotion rise in my throat. I was so damn tired of this. Why couldnt I be the stone cold bitch I had been for year? Nothing affected that woman, and no one affected that woman.
Damn you, Haley Corregan.
I squeezed a little tighter, really feeling the tears come, now. Seeing this empty place, knowing that all of Haleys things used to fill these rooms. Haley used to fill these rooms, and she never would again.
A sob tore from my throat, and my eyes squeezed shut, the hot, burning tears making their way down my face, one after the other, my throat choked up as more sobs fought to get out.
Haley turned around in my arms, hugging me to her, holding me close, my shaking body.
"Dont go, Haley," I sobbed. "Please? Stay?" I looked up at her, trying to make sense of her image through my wall of tears. I could feel her body shake as she, too, began to cry. She shook her head.
"Dont do this, Andi. Please, dont do this," she begged.
"Why cant you stay? You can find a place around here to practice. You know the hospital will take you back in a heartbeat!"
"Dont, dont, dont," she whispered, her forehead against mine, our tears falling until I didnt know whose belonged to whom, the salty taste upon my lips.
I cupped her face, and pulled her to me, taking her mouth, desperate, hungry, needing to feel her, to connect with her, to let her know how much I needed her. All the things I couldnt say with words.
Haleys arms wrapped themselves around my neck, pulling me to her, crushing me to her. Our mouths fought for what, we didnt know. All I knew was I needed her. And I loved her.
The tears kept coming as the kiss deepened, the passion of the moment, matching the depth of our pain, making us try and devour each other.
After long moments, I pulled away from her, sniffling, and taking her hand. I turned, leading us toward the stairs, neither of us saying a word.
In what had once been Haleys bedroom now stood only the rabbit hutch, and the frame of the bed, a single mattress resting on it. Everything else, including the headboard, had already been moved out.
I turned to Haley, both of us standing at the end of the bed, the dying sunlight streaming in through the one window. Haley looked at me, her eyes filled with so much, it was hard to discern. Love, fear, sadness and desire.
I kissed her gently on the lips, then pulled away, my hands going to her tee, slowly lifting it from the bottom. She obediently lifted her arms, and I pulled the shirt over her head, and tossed it to the floor. I could see her nipples were erect through the material of her bra. I took a step closer to her, wrapping my arms around her, my fingers working with the hooks of it.
As I worked at it, Haley lowered her head, and caught my lips, her hands moving to my tank, sliding up underneath to caress my back. The kiss was slow, neither of us in a hurry as we tasted, felt, explored.
The bra came loose, and I brought my hands up to her shoulder, fingers touching the strap of it, gently pushing them down off her shoulder, and down her arms. She closed her eyes as her breasts were exposed to me.
I brought my hands up, touching them, just above the curve, taking in a breath at the softness of them. I had waited so long for this. I wanted her to go away knowing that I did care, I do care.
Bending my head down, I nuzzled the erect nipple with my lips, smiling at the sharp intake of breath. I felt Haleys hands in my hair, running her fingers through it. I slid my tongue out, just the tip, and swiped it across the rigid peak of one of the breasts, then took the entire nipple into my mouth, gently sucking it in.
"Oh, god," Haley moaned. "Baby, I want to feel you. Please."
With one last lick, I looked at her, seeing the fire that burned in her eyes, causing fresh sparks to boil my blood.
Feeling suddenly very urgent, I grabbed her shorts, tugging them down her legs, as she kicked them off, and I tugged at my own, desperate to get them off, feeling as if they were constraining me.
We met again, our naked bodies coming together, causing Haley to moan, our kiss fiery and desperate, hands everywhere, Haley thrusting herself into me. I turned and pushed her onto the mattress, the urgency taking over as I spread her legs, fitting myself between them, pressing a hand to her, feeling how ready for me she was. God, she was so wet.
Pressing against her, taking her, letting her know she belonged to me, no matter what happened, I didnt want her to ever forget this, or me.
She screamed out as she came, clutching me with claw-like fingers, but I didnt care. Our mouths came together, her tongue forcing its way into mine, rolling us over so she was laying on top of me. She brought her mouth to my breast, slowly, unsure of what she was doing, she took my painfully hard nipple into her mouth, the warmth of it adding even more anguish to my aching body, and sucking on it as I had done hers.
My eyes closed, my hips bucking off the bed. I had nearly come when she had, and was certainly on the verge now. I reached down, taking her hand, and shoving it between my legs. Getting the hint, Haley used her fingers, at first feeling around.
"My god. Youre so wet, so hot," She looked at me with awe and wonder. "All because of me?" I nodded.
She turned her attention back to my breast, getting bolder with every thrust of my body as her fingers played, paying careful attention to what made me jump or moan the most, and then sticking with it, stroking me until she left my breast, and watched her hand at work, fascinated by what she was capable of doing with just two fingers.
I clutched the sheets in my hands, my head arching back, eyes closed as I exploded. In moments I felt Haley on top of me, a hot tongue on my neck, licking and sucking its way up to my ear, then sucking on the lobe, my legs wrapping themselves around her waist, pulling her body into mine.
Haleys mouth found my own as she began to press against me, the pressure on her pubic bone from mine, making her move a little. I could feel wetness gathering again, but had no idea if it was mine, or if it was hers. I knew I was ready again, so figured it was both.
Haley pushed herself to her elbows, moving her hips against me, my legs unwrapping themselves from around her, but spreading wider so more of me was exposed to her. She groaned, thrusting harder against me, my hands trailing down her back, what nails I did have finding purchase in the skin. Her mouth found mine again, our breathing heavy, nearly stopping our kissing all together as we fought to breathe.
I could feel the building sensations again, and knew I was really close, and from the momentum that Haley was getting, I knew she was, too. She slammed into me, our bellies slapping together as she thrust, harder and harder until she squeezed her eyes tightly shut, mouth open as she exploded, me not far behind.
I pulled Haley to me, her body completely collapsing onto mine. I wrapped myself around her, needing to feel her close, her naked skin, everything about her. I could smell our combined scents in the air; this only added to my libido, but right now all I wanted to do was hold her.
My hands ran up and down her back, tracing random patterns on her skin when I felt her body shake, wracking against me.
I pulled her to me, understanding without her having to say a word. I began to caress her hair, my fingers getting lost in the dark, tangled strands, then I pushed, turning us over so Haley was laying on the bed. She looked up at me, her eyes an electric blue from the crying. I kissed her gently, her kissing me back, her hands on my skin, running her nails over my arms, shoulders and back.
I placed a leg between hers, and gently, slowly began to move my body. Immediately I felt her moving, too. The rhythm was slow, lazy. The last thought in my mind was to make either of us come. I just wanted to make love to her, show her through my movements, my body, share with her. She seemed to understand that. The sobbing quieted until it stopped, though tears still streamed from her eyes.
Haleys hand trailed up to the back of my head and neck, her body slowly rocking with mine, her other hand trying to touch as much of my body as possible, as our mouths stayed connected.
The kiss was slow, yet extremely powerful. It was slow movement of lips, tongue, the slight tilt of our heads, the graceful thrust of our hips.
As Haley continued to cry, I broke the kiss, and laid my head against her neck, burying my face in the warm, salty skin, kissing every once in a while. Eventually our bodies slowed, and stopped all together.
"I love you, Andi," she whispered. I kissed the side of her neck.
"I love you, too, Haley."
As Haley lay in my arms asleep, the sun fell peacefully behind the horizon. Our day was over.
I closed my eyes, hugged Haley tighter to me, and fell asleep.
* * *
Being as quiet as I could, I pulled my tank over my head, not even bothering with my bra, and then tugged the shorts up. I glanced over at her. She slept, laying on her stomach, covered only by the sheet, her face facing me. She looked so peaceful, so beautiful.
Pulling on my sneakers, I walked over to the bed, bending over, and placed a single kiss on her lips.
"Goodbye, Haley," I whispered, and hurried out.
It was Monday, and I had called in sick. Never had I, except for the day my child was born, and then Haley walks into my life, and Im out once a week.
I smiled at the irony of it all.
The truth of the matter was I didnt want to see Haley. I had said my goodbyes, and anything else would hurt entirely too much.
So, I had spent the day at home, or out with Bunsen, getting some sun, trying to find a way to put my heart back together so I could go on, and start living as soon as possible.
As the day started to come to an end, I headed downstairs. I was still so loaded with emotions and loss, I needed to find some way of release.
Pulling on my tank and a pair of mesh shorts, I taped my hands, and began a hard, tiring workout on my bag that hung from a beam in the basement. I punched and hit and kicked, yelling out with each contact I made, trying to do all but demolish my enemy, my demon that wouldnt let go.
I stopped, out of breath, and my hair falling in sweaty strands in my eyes. I thought I had heard something. I listened...
My heart fell, and I felt my eyes sting. I knew who it was as Bunsen barked his little head off. I couldnt answer it.
I held my breath, my racing heart nearly blocking any sound from coming in, but finally I head a door slam, and a car engine start.
Closing my eyes, I plopped down on the mat, my head in my hands.
* * *
I walked into the hospital, my mind already racing to what had happened, and what progress had been made on the research since our new equipment had been installed. With all the nonsense of last week, I hadnt had much time to play with the new toys.
I pushed the lab door open to see Samantha already at work. She glanced over at me, and smiled.
"Hey, doc. Are you feeling better?"
"Ill survive." I said, heading for my office. I brought my keys out, and unlocked the door, flipping on the light, and stopping in my tracks.
On the desk sat a Koosh ball, sitting on a piece of paper. Slowly I walked over to it, setting my keys down, and sitting in the chair, my eyes never leaving the Koosh.
Taking a deep breath, all my carefully placed reserve cracking with each ticking of the clock, I grabbed the toy, feeling the familiar spines, knowing the last hand they had touched had been hers.
Placing the Koosh aside, I picked up the folded piece of paper, and read it:
I will always love you. Heres a small piece of me to carry around with you.
Toward the bottom of the note was carefully printed,
I had hoped for a different outcome.
I lowered my head, taking several deep breaths, my hand blindly reaching out to grab the Koosh.
I looked up when I heard the soft voice. Samantha stood in the doorway, her hands in the pockets of her lab coat. I said nothing, blinking as I tried to push the tears back down into their little compartment away from everything else.
"I just want you to know, if you need to talk, Im here for you. Okay?"
I smiled, nodding.
"Thanks, Samantha. Im fine." I stood, grabbing my own lab coat, and slipping it on. "Come on; weve got work to do." I began to head out of the office, but grabbed the Koosh, slipping it into my pocket.
The morning went on, and I slipped back into the world I knew so well, and pulled off without a hitch, losing myself in my work, letting the science take me over. It was a great thought deterrent.
The research was back online, and we were starting to make progress again.
"Samantha, Im going to grab some coffee. Want anything from the cafeteria?"
"Yeah, grab me one of those banana muffins they have."
I headed out, whistling softly to myself as I did. It was nearly lunch time, eleven-thirty, but I knew I wouldnt be taking any lunches today. I had a lot of work to catch up on, and today I planned to make history for me. I wanted so badly to finally get what Id always been after, and unlock the mysteries of the body. We were so close now.
The cafeteria was buzzing with pre-lunch voices. There were only maybe a dozen people there, between visitors and staff. As I looked to my right, toward the food part, I stopped, seeing the sign with the lunch special of the day: tuna on rye.
Suddenly I felt the weight of the Koosh in my pocket, and the façade came crashing around me.
I headed toward a table, plopping down hard, my hand going into the pocket of the lab coat. I brought out the Koosh and the note, placing the page in front of me on the table, the Koosh in my hands. I read the words again, bowing my head. I felt my chest tighten, my eyes begin to sting, until I felt a hand on my shoulder.
I whipped my head around, my heart in my throat, then I saw the brown eyes.
My hopes crashed, and I turned back to the Koosh.
"Are you okay, Andi?" Erin sat next to me, her hand on my arm. I nodded, but said nothing. "I dont believe you. What happened?"
"Shes gone," I said quietly, my hurting even worse to say the words.
"Oh. I wondered. I always used to see you guys together." I felt her move closer as she read the words on the page. "Im so sorry, Andi." I felt the hand on my arm squeeze. "What happened? Where did she go?" Her words were so soft.
"Back to California."
"She has a life there." My head fell again, and I felt my throat tighten. "I love her, Erin," I whispered.
"Does she love you?" I nodded. "Then why dont you go with her?"
"She asked. I cant leave here. I cant leave my work, I cant leave, I just cant leave."
"You know, Andi, at one time it would have helped my own heart to see you like this, but now Ive truly found happiness, and I know what it can be, what it can feel like. I care enough about you to want you to have the same thing."
I looked at her, a tear falling down my cheek.
"Oh, honey," She reached out, and wiped it away with her finger. "Sometimes certain things are worth fighting for, Andi." She whispered, then stopped, grabbing her pager. "Damn. I have to go. Im sorry." She stood, but hugged me from behind. "Good luck, Andi."
As she walked away, I looked at Haleys Koosh in my hands, and suddenly I knew what I had to do.
I shoved back from the chair, shoving the toy and the note in my pocket, and turned toward the door, running as if I was being chased by a lonely past, chased by the ghost of a woman that I couldnt let go of.
"Go get her, Andi!" I heard Erin yell as I ran past her.
Bursting through the doors that would lead to the parking lot, I found my Jeep, and clicked the doors open, inserting the key with shaky hands. God, what was I doing?
I glanced at the clock on the dashboard, seeing that it was ten after twelve, and I knew that Haley would already be on her way to the airport. It was an hour drive to the nearest one, so I had to really haul ass.
What would I do once I got there? Why was I going? What would I say?
The highway stretched out before me, and my heart pounded with every mile, blood racing through my head making me feel lightheaded.
I pushed the speed limit to the absolute outset, just trying to avoid getting pulled over or killing anyone. I had to see her, just one last time.
Eventually the highway gave way to a narrow, two-lane road that would take me straight to the airports driveway.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw a familiar-looking car. I whipped around to see it, and then pushed hard on the breaks, looking around frantically to try and find the car again. There it was.
My tires squealed as I did a U-turn in the middle of the street, the car behind me honking as he drove by. I didnt care. Pushing my foot to the gas, I sped toward the car, trying to get past the other cars that were between us, trying to get directly behind.
I could see her eyes in the rearview mirror, her car loaded with suitcases.
I began to pound on the horn like a madwoman, needing to get her attention. Blue eyes looked back at me, then widened in surprise. The small car put on the breaks, me nearly ramming her, as she pulled off of the road, a huge cloud of dust swirling up around her car.
I followed suit, turning the engine off, and throwing my door open, running to the other side of the car where she was, nearly being bowled over by Haley.
I held her to me, both of us crying.
"What are you doing? Are you crazy?" I almost yelled, the adrenaline pounding my heart to the point of near explosion. Haley looked at me through red eyes.
"I cant leave you, Andi," she cried, both hands on either side of my face. I looked at her, confused.
"What? What are you saying?"
"Im saying I cant go. I dont have a life back there," She pointed toward the airport. "My life is with you. I love you!" She shook me to emphasize her point. I pulled her to me.
"I love you, too."
* * * * * * * *
"In a very unusual way, you made me whole."
Lindas voice trailed off, her eyes closed, the microphone held out to the side. The audience jumped to its feet, and she smiled at all of us.
"Thank you, Minnesota! Its so good to be home. Happy fourth, everyone!"
As we all cheered, fireworks began to shoot out from behind the stage at the bottom of the outside amphitheater, reflecting off the nearby lake.
The singer waved to everyone, finally leaving the stage for the last time after the audience had called her back for four encores.
"Well, shall we?" I asked as the applause died down, and people began to leave. Haley looked at me, a smile on her face. "We still have a singer to meet." Her smile widened, and she stood, offering her arm for me to hook mine through.
As we walked along the isle, waiting our turn to head into the main one, she turned to me.
"You know, it still amazes me how well Dr. Haggarty handled my resignation at the school."
"It doesnt surprise me one bit. Who would go back to teaching when they could be doing what they loved at one of the best hospitals in the country?" She smiled, pulling me closer.
"Im so happy our bid for the house went through today."
"Hmm, me, too."
"The sunk-in living room did it for me, you know."
"No, no. It was the fireplace in the bedroom." I kissed her on the cheek as we made our way toward the side of the stage where backstage pass holders were told to go. "You know, I saw a place the other day that would work great."
"Great for what?" Haley put her hand on the handle of the door that would take us behind.
"I can see it now; Haley Corregan, M.D., written on the door." She looked at me, staring into my eyes.
"Do you have any idea how much I love you?" she whispered.
"Probably about as much as I do. Come on. Lindas waiting."
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