Disclaimers: The characters in this story are mine. This is a 'uber' story, set in today's timeline, and some of the characters may bear more than a slight resemblance to certain other characters we all know, but which are not owned by me. Any similarity to real people is unintentional and purely coincidental. The location is Orlando, Florida. This story is character driven. As in my previous stories, there is not a whole lot of plot. There is no violence, nobody is trying to kill anybody else, nobody is chasing anybody else, etc., etc. There may be some minor angst here, but nothing too traumatic. The backdrop is a law firm, and from first-hand experience, law firms can be rather routine places to work. This story continues the tale of two people set in that environment whose lives are anything but routine.
Subtext Disclaimer: There is subtext, or maintext as the case may be, here. This story deals with the deep, profound love and devotion between two people who happen to be of the same gender. Although there are some scenes depicting the physical expression of that love, there are no graphic or explicit scenes here. If that is what you are looking for, you might want to go ahead and read something else.
Continuing Story Disclaimer: This is the sequel to my previous stories "Undeniable" and "Considerable Appeal" and picks up about one month later. You may want to read the previous stories prior to reading this one, otherwise the storyline will probably not make very much sense to you.
Feedback: This is my third attempt at fan fiction. Comments are always welcome and very much appreciated. Please feel free to let me know if there is something you especially liked or didn't like. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by KM
It was dark. A shadowy figure emerged from beyond the periphery, identity hidden, as it followed its unsuspecting target. Suddenly, the object of the figure's watchful glare became aware of the lone observer's existence and instinctively sprinted forth in an apparent attempt to elude surveillance. All to no avail. A chase ensued, rapid footsteps closing in steadily from behind, pounding the pavement with force. Amazingly, the lead runner managed to remain just out of arm's reach, as the moments now stretched into what seemed like an eternity. Without warning, fatigue appeared to set in, and the object of the chase was overcome by numbness, legs nearly paralyzed and requiring extraordinary effort just to drag them forward. Still, for some unexplained reason, the chaser could not catch up, instead keeping an even, steady pace just a small distance behind, neither giving up nor getting close enough to finally capture its prey.
As if by some miracle, a door appeared, and the exhausted sprinter darted behind it, firmly bolting it locked. Closed fists pounded loudly, repeatedly, from the opposite side, easily breaking down the hollow wood door as if it were merely cardboard. The participants, now following some predetermined script, stood momentarily frozen in place, only to seconds later resume the chase all over again. And so it went, on and on like this in a never-ending marathon with no capture and no finish line in sight. Endlessly running.
In pure reflex, a long leg offered a small kick in the queen-sized waterbed as the dark head tossed slightly from side to side in restlessness. Abruptly, silver-blue eyes shot wide open, the racing heartbeat beating heavily and mimicking the pounding footsteps heard within the unconscious mind just moments before.
The blonde sleeping companion awakened at the movements, speaking with a raspy voice. "Jess, you okay?"
The taller woman took a few deep breaths to steady herself, then glanced over to Robin in the dark. "Yeah."
The smaller body moved closer to the taller form. "Was it a dream?"
"Uh .." It was clear that Jess was still somewhat disoriented. "Yeah."
"Do you want to talk about it?"
Jess tried to focus. "Um ..well, it was one of those chasing dreams. You know, the ones where someone is chasing you but you never really know who, and they never really catch you." I haven't had one of those in a long time.
Robin rested her hand against the side of the older woman's cheek. "I know what you mean." She seems really unsettled. "Everyone has those every once in a while. It seems scary at the time, but it's only a dream."
Jess was silent. God, Robin looked good. Even through the darkness, the familiar petite body was irresistible. Or maybe it was just the overproduction of adrenaline pumping through the older woman's system at that particular moment. Whatever the reason, Jess couldn't help herself. In an instant, she quickly covered Robin's smaller body with her own and kissed her soundly, intensely. Jess was now operating on auto pilot, feverishly running her hands beneath Robin's long nightshirt and all over the well-known curves and tender areas with only one intent in mind. All of her energy was now focused on bringing the younger woman up and over the precipice they'd shared together so many times before.
Robin, although momentarily surprised, went with it, and gave to Jess what she seemed to so desperately need. Whatever it was about that dream that had spooked Jess so thoroughly, Robin was determined to erase all remnants of it from conscious memory. She tangled her fingers into the long dark hair and returned the kisses with fervor, speaking just long enough to convey the much-needed words of comfort. "I'm here."
Jess, intensely determined in her mission, finally succeeded, as both she and Robin rocked together in harmony, climbing higher toward their ultimate goal. Their bodies tensed for several seconds, then relaxed as they fell next to each other tangled in a loose embrace. Jess's heartbeat was pounding for a different reason this time, and it felt good. It felt right. Not scary or threatening or foreboding. Just right. Enough so that it dispelled the lingering unsettled feeling she'd had ever since awakening from her dream. Immediately, her eyelids became heavy once again, and without another word, she snuggled up closer to the smaller woman, letting more pleasant dreams this time overtake her.
Small bits of morning sunlight streamed in through the tiny openings in the slats of the closed venetian blinds, an array of thin striped patterns crossing the carpeted floor. This time, the smaller form stirred first, squinting her green eyes as she adjusted to the light in the room. She tensed her shoulders for a second and then stretched her legs out in an effort to get the blood pumping through her body again, stifling a small yawn as she did so.
Her companion awakened but elected not to move from her comfortable location nearby. Instead, the clear blue eyes blinked several times, watching with interest as the smaller woman ran through her wake up routine. "Good morning."
A smile. "Good morning. Any more bad dreams?"
"Nope. Slept like a baby."
A petite finger playfully tapped Jess's nose. "Except for your snoring."
"Snoring?" A disbelieving look. "I'll have you know, Robin, that I do not snore."
A tiny giggle. "If you want proof, then I'll put a tape recorder on your nightstand and record you snoring one night."
"All you would get on that tape would be silence."
"I don't think so, Jess." Another giggle. "Your snoring could wake the dead."
"I repeat. I do not snore. I think you must have been dreaming, yourself."
Well, obviously, there was just no convincing her sometimes snoring sleeping companion of the true facts of the matter. Robin offered an indulging sigh. "Whatever you say, Jess."
"Besides, you're the one who makes all these cute little noises when you sleep." Jess decided to deflect attention from herself. And after all, fair was fair.
Green eyes narrowed in concentration. "What noises?"
"Little squeaks and mumbles." It's adorable. "Sometimes, I wake up in the middle of the night and listen to you."
Oh God. Robin promptly covered her head with her pillow, embarrassed. "Why don't you just wake me up when I do that so I can stop it?"
"Because it's cute." It was an entirely honest answer.
One green eye peaked out from underneath the pillow. "What I want to know is, how did you manage to turn this conversation around on me so quickly?"
A chuckle. "Practice." Suddenly, a slightly troubled look came across the older woman's face, and she swallowed nervously.
Noticing the abrupt change, Robin raised her head from beneath the pillow. "Hey." Petite fingers brushed Jess's cheek. "Were you remembering another bad dream just now?"
"No." Blue eyes blinked several times.
"Then what is it?"
"I umm ..I think I owe you an apology." Actually, Jess had a sickening feeling inside of her.
"An apology?" The younger woman was perplexed.
Those blue eyes continued to blink, remorse now clearly evident within them. "Last night, I behaved badly. I'm sorry."
Robin thought for a moment, then figured out just what the older woman meant. She placed a tender kiss on Jess's forehead. "No, honey." How could she ease Jess's mind? "We're here for each other, remember?"
Jess grimaced, visibly angry with herself. "Not like that. Not like the way I .." She stopped, unable to actually say the words.
Robin's eyes grew wide at the implication. "Don't you think that, Jess." Her voice was now stern. "You are the most loving person I know."
"It's no excuse for me to .." Jess hesitated. "Take certain liberties with you."
"What liberties?" Robin gentled her tone. "We're here for each other. Always. If I needed you, you'd be there for me. I recall one time when I needed you, when I needed to feel you, to know that you were real, and to try to remember you in my mind, and you were there for me."
Jess recalled that time, too, although Robin had needed her in an entirely different way. It happened that one night after Robin's father had visited, leaving Robin so hurt and upset that she somehow needed to memorize Jess in her mind. And although Jess didn't understand it, she let Robin proceed with what she was doing anyway. "Yes, I remember that, but the difference is that you asked my permission."
Robin gently kissed Jess's forehead again. "Honey, don't you know? You have my permission." Something, whether it was the dream, or something else, had shaken Jess, and Robin could feel it. It crossed Robin's mind that she'd recently seen signs that something was going on. There was a sadness that had peeked out of those blue eyes once, and Robin had spotted it an instant before it could tuck itself safely away again. Now, she studied the eyes once more, trying to find it yet again, but whatever she'd detected was too far hidden to show itself. And yet ..her intuition was telling her that something was definitely there.
Jess needed to clarify what she meant. "Listen, I want you to tell me right away if there's anything I ever do that you don't want. I want you to promise me you'll do that."
"Okay." A small nod. "I promise." Robin rested her head on the pillow next to Jess. She was very quiet for several moments as she studied her companion. "You're beautiful. How could anyone not be crazy about you?"
Where did that come from? Oddly, it was these words that eased Jess's mind the most. She smiled. "You think so, huh?"
"Yes." Robin gave Jess a look of such genuine love. "There's nothing better in this world than being with you. And I mean that in every way."
Long arms embraced the smaller woman and held her close as Jess let Robin's words sink in. She was indeed safe with Robin, just as she'd known she would be. She let herself relax into the loving embrace.
Safe at last.
"This was a great idea." Robin gave the Sea World ticket-taker her admission ticket and followed Jess through the turnstile. "I've never been here." The make-believe lighthouse in the harbor near the front entrance stood prominently, serving as a perfect location for a photo opportunity. "Hey, let's take a picture."
Jess pretended to be reluctant. "Must we?"
"Yes." The blonde woman grinned. "Here's my camera. You take a picture of me, and then I'll take one of you."
"If you insist." Jess dutifully did as she was told, taking a picture of Robin in front of the lighthouse. She then exchanged places with Robin and stood at the designated photo spot. "Can I stick out my tongue?" She removed her silver-mirrored sunglasses.
"No." Robin quickly snapped the picture. "I'm going to frame that one."
The older woman approached Robin, replacing her sunglasses. "I see I'm going to have to keep my eye on you, otherwise, you'll be snapping pictures of me right and left."
"My, aren't we full of ourselves." A giggle. "I ask for one picture, and now you think I'm going to be making a whole photo album of you."
"You're not?" A hurt look, then a smile. "Damn."
They retrieved a park map from the kiosk up ahead and then proceeded into the nearest area. Strains of piped-in Jimmy Buffett tunes resonated from high in the palm trees above. "You know, I'm glad we played hooky today. I bet it would have been more crowded here on the weekend."
"We needed a break, and it just worked out that our schedules were clear on Friday." Jess perused the map, trying to ascertain exactly where they were.
"Look at those pretty pink flamingos." Robin spied a flamingo standing on one leg and snapped a picture. "Cool." She checked her watch. "We have to get going."
"Yeah, so we don't miss the dolphin show."
"Robin, they have three shows. We can catch any one of them."
"No, because we have to see the sea lions and the Shamu show, and then there's the little pet animal show, and then there's the Clydesdale horses and the penguins and the manatees. Didn't you read the map?"
Didn't I read the map? Well, that was a silly question. Of course Jess read the map. In fact, she was still reading it. "You mean you have everything all planned out?"
"I'm just saying that we have to stick to a schedule or we won't see everything." This all seemed very obvious to Robin.
It was a lost cause, Jess decided. "Fine." She handed the smaller woman the theme park map. "Which way do we go?"
"Left." Robin led the way. They came across a bakery which gave off incredibly enticing scents of brewing coffee and hot cinnamon rolls. "That smells good."
"Do you want to take a detour over there and get something?"
Robin checked her watch again, then altered her path. "We have a few minutes."
Jess smiled. For food, she has a few minutes. "You know, we do have over a half-hour before the show starts." She followed Robin inside to the bakery counter.
"No, we have to get there early so we get a good seat. If you wait until the last minute, you have to sit in the back."
"You know this?" Jess placed their order, then paid for their cappuccino and cinnamon rolls.
A blonde eyebrow arched. "Of course." It was only common sense.
Okay. Further discussion of the matter, Jess decided, was pointless, so they proceeded over to the dolphin auditorium to await the start of the show. And actually, it was a pretty good show. The bottlenose dolphins were certainly trained well. They jumped in unison through various hoops and over colored ropes and did a lot of other tricks. One large dolphin even waved its tail at the audience, and all of the dolphins posed on a small platform to have their pictures taken.
After the show was over, Robin and Jess strolled down the walkway to the dolphin cove. Many of the friendly sea mammals were gathered in a large area designed to allow park visitors to pet them and then feed them small raw fish available for purchase at a nearby food hut.
"Are you dried off yet?" Jess bought a tray of raw fish, secretly grinning.
"Not quite." Robin bent over to pet a smiling dolphin that had come up close to them hoping for a meal. "Why didn't you tell me that we were sitting too close?"
"Robin, the sign said 'Soak Zone', I would think it would be obvious that the dolphins could splash that area." The taller woman could be heard chuckling under her breath as she handed the tray of fish to Robin. "Besides, you seemed to have had everything planned. I certainly didn't want to interfere."
The younger woman remained completely unamused. "You didn't say anything about it on purpose." A petite hand held a fish out to one of the dolphins that had taken up permanent residence in front of them. "And how come you didn't get splashed? You were sitting right next to me."
Jess stood there innocently. "Um ..just lucky?" That particular comment earned her a light slap on the forearm, causing Jess to chuckle once again. "So, where to next, kiddo?"
"The sea lions, then we can go see Shamu." Robin bumped shoulders with Jess. "Unless you'd like to do something else."
A wide grin emerged. "Wouldn't dream of it."
After the sea lion show, Jess and Robin followed the path around to the seal and sea lion habitat. Once there, they leaned against the railing and listened to the barking otters begging their guests for food. As before, there was a hut strategically located in the area offering trays of raw fish for feeding purposes. Many of the seals and sea lions were lazily sunning themselves on man-made rock formations, while others were snoozing in the shade or tucked into crevices between the rocks or underneath the walkway areas.
"That one's barking at you." Robin threw the seal a fish as it came up very close to them and flapped its flippers.
"No, he's barking at you. You're the one with the food." Jess peered over the railing and studied a sea otter lounging on its back directly below them. "So, where are we going next?" A small smirk. "According to your schedule."
"Funny." A tiny nudge of the elbow. Robin threw out another fish to one of the recent newcomers. She was attracting lots of attention from her eagerly flapping friends, mainly because she was the only one in the area with fish to feed. "Shamu's next."
"Hey, I have an idea. How about we go to the shark encounter next, then we can go see Shamu this afternoon sometime?" It seemed like a perfectly good suggestion.
Robin gave Jess a look. "You realize this means that we'd have to adjust our schedule."
"Please?" A hopeful expression.
Robin grinned easily. She's such a kid. "Okay, Jess. For you, we'll go see the sharks now." She grinned again. "I suppose I can tweak the schedule."
That settled, they ventured along the path over to the shark aquarium. It was a one hundred and twenty foot long Plexiglas tunnel completely surrounded with a spectacular view of several species of sharks, from hammerheads to tiger sharks and even a few fierce looking barracudas and Moray eels. In fact, Jess thought it was so cool that she went through the tunnel twice, backtracking on the conveyer belt more than once each time to gain a closer look. In addition, there was a restaurant adjacent to the shark tank which enabled visitors to both dine and shark watch at the same time, provided they were so inclined.
"You want to go on the roller coaster?" Jess quirked an eyebrow once she'd exited the shark exhibit for the second time.
Loud screams from those riding the serpentine coaster echoed in the distance. "I don't think so, Jess." The sun went behind a cloud, and Robin took the opportunity to take a seat and rest on one of the nearby benches overlooking the vast waterfront.
"Then how about the Atlantis flume ride?" The taller woman joined her on the bench. "You could get splashed again for real." Both dark eyebrows shot up teasingly.
A light chuckle. "No, once was enough, thank you."
Jess surveyed the scene. The waterfront held a long bridge that split into a fork leading to the opposite side of the park where the main attraction, Shamu Stadium, lay. Several paddle boats were out and about on the waterway, and a separate line of visitors stood patiently awaiting their turn to go up into the tall observation tower. The water, itself, glistened in the mid-day sun, and even though it was a summer's day, it hadn't gotten too hot yet to be uncomfortable outside. Strolling along through the lush and mostly tree-covered theme park seemed almost like being on a tropical oasis, a haven away from the worries of the world. A parade of Clydesdale horses clip-clopped their way along the walkway surrounding the edge of the waterfront, the lively theme song of a popular beer brewing company accompanying them.
As Jess sat silently observing the crowds meandering along in front of them, a familiar sense came over her, something she knew instinctively as sure as she was sitting there right at that moment. It was a reminiscent feeling, she was certain of that, and yet the assortment of immediate sights taken together made little sense in evoking it. Crowds, water, horses, trees, and Robin. Such an odd combination to have caused the impression it made. A whole other world. Or so it seemed. And pleasant in a comfortable sort of way. Or was it just the adventure itself? Jess mentally chuckled to herself. If you could call exploring a well-known theme park an adventure. She glanced over at her likewise adventure-seeking companion. "So, lunch, then Shamu?"
"Yeah." The blonde head nodded affirmatively. "And don't forget the penguins."
"Heaven forbid." The older woman nudged Robin playfully. "We definitely mustn't forget the penguins."
"Isn't he cute?" Robin held up the Shamu plush toy she'd just purchased.
Jess's eyes scrutinized the object. "It's kind of big. They had smaller ones, you know."
"I know, but this one is cuddly."
"Is it?" An unexplained surge of plush toy jealousy arose. "Tell me, Robin, exactly when do you plan to be cuddling this thing?"
The younger woman stopped walking and gazed up at Jess quizzically. "Does it matter?"
What a silly question. "Of course it matters." A slight pout.
Robin laughed. "Jess, honey, it's a plush toy. I'll only be cuddling it on the very rare occasions when my primary cuddler is not available." She laughed again. "You're not being replaced. I promise." The whole thing was actually quite sweet now that Robin thought about it.
The statement seemed to reassure the older woman somewhat. But still .. "Let's make sure we're perfectly clear here." A raised eyebrow. "He .." Jess pointed directly at the Shamu toy. "Will be on a shelf somewhere, right?"
Robin tried hard not to laugh yet again. "Yes, Jess."
"Good" A sly wink. "Because I have to be careful of my competition."
"Jess .." Robin discreetly grasped hold of the older woman's hand. "You have no competition." It was an absolutely sincere statement. She then released her hold and went back to admiring her purchase.
A furtive look. That thing gets all the attention now. In an effort to shake off her irrational plush toy jealousy, Jess strode over to a nearby pavilion to grab a soft drink. "So, I take it you liked the Shamu show."
"Yeah. I wonder how they train those killer whales to do all that stuff. And did you see that really huge whale? Good grief! He sure could splash."
"I see you managed to stay dry." Jess deadpanned.
Robin shook her head. "I'm never going to live this down, am I?"
"Nope." A quick wink. "No way." They stood in place and watched as the parade of Clydesdale horses made its way past them for the last time that day. "So, where to next?"
The smaller woman checked the park map. "Pick one. Manatees, the pet show, or beer school."
Azure eyes twinkled as Jess slid on her silver-mirrored sunglasses. "You know, I've always enjoyed school."
"Now, how did I know you would pick that?" Not waiting for an answer to her rhetorical question, Robin led the way along the path toward the Hospitality Center, finally passing by the now stabled horses in the adjacent Clydesdale Hamlet. "Hey, Jess, will you take a picture of me in the barn with one of the horses?" She handed over the camera.
The taller woman smiled, slipping off her sunglasses again. "Okay." She then did exactly as she was instructed, snapping a picture of Robin, plush toy and all, standing next to a perfectly posed Gus still decked out in his parade gear. She gave Robin back the camera. "Beer now?"
"Not quite." The blonde woman put the camera up to her eye. "Go stand over there next to Max. I want to remember this moment." Max was sticking his head out from his stable berth just waiting for someone to snap up his picture. Noticing Jess's reluctance, Robin prodded further, deciding to entice Jess with an offer she knew the older woman absolutely couldn't refuse. "The sooner you let me take your picture, the sooner we can get some beer." An expectant look followed.
Blackmail. "Oh, all right." Jess acquiesced. She went over and positioned herself next to the horse as Robin focused the shot. "Did you take it yet?"
Boy, she's impatient. "I'm taking it now."
Just as the flash went off, Max suddenly nuzzled Jess's neck, clearly upstaging the photo. Or was he just looking for a sugar cube? In any event, the picture was taken, and a surprised Jess stepped aside. She glanced from the horse to Robin, then back again, then approached the younger woman. "Promise me you'll burn that picture."
"No deal." Robin was proud of herself. "I'm going to make posters." She exited the hitching barn.
"Robin." Jess caught up to her. "If that picture sees the light of day, I will not be held responsible for what happens to your little cuddly friend, there." Blue eyes fixed threateningly on the Shamu plush toy neatly tucked under Robin's arm.
"You wouldn't dare."
"It's fair warning, Robin."
"Touch one fiber on his fin and there will be serious consequences."
Serious consequences? Clearly, Robin had gotten better at this game. Jess was forced to rethink her position. "Well, I suppose I'll have to be content with my role as primary cuddler, then."
"That, you are." Robin smiled fondly, knowing she'd won that round. "Now, come on." She grinned. "School awaits. Let's go learn all about the finer points of beer tasting."
Saturday. It was a little cloudy, having rained earlier that morning. It seemed that Friday was indeed the best day to have gone to Sea World. Today, though, Robin and Jess had slept in and had enjoyed a leisurely breakfast together before Jess took off for the office to check on things. The junior partner's neurotic compulsion to make sure that nothing earth-shattering had happened while they had played hooky the previous day had apparently gotten the better of her, leaving Robin to her own devices for the remainder of the day. The young associate had offered to go on in to the office with Jess, but the older attorney had refused, convincing Robin that anything that needed to be done could wait until Monday. That logic, of course, made absolutely no sense, seeing that Jess wasn't following her own line of thinking, instead opting going into the office in spite of it all. Ah, well. Jess would be Jess, and there was simply no changing that.
So, in light of the situation, Robin took the opportunity to tidy up around the house and then considered the possibilities of heading out for an afternoon shopping excursion at the mall. Trains. Somehow, the mall always reminded her of trains. She smiled to herself. Jess loved trains, and the mall's little train around the food court always brought back fond memories. Something about ringing the bell ..
She decided she would get a few new items for the house, maybe some new linens for the waterbed and a framed picture print that had captured her eye for no apparent reason. It was all just a simple attempt to add her own personal touch to the décor of their home, not that Jess hadn't previously done a great job of matching color schemes and wood tones in the furnishings. Still, Robin wanted to make things more of a joint effort between them, and that included subtle aspects of home improvement. And then, of course, there were all of those sales ..
She finished picking up the towels in the bathroom, then moved out into the living room and gathered together the sections of the newspaper from off of the sofa. Just as she was about to grab her purse and head out to her car in the garage, the front doorbell rang. Great. Who could that be? She stepped over to the door and peered through the eyehole, seeing a man with a briefcase standing there, apparently alone. Salesman. She debated whether or not to open the door to him. Of course, if she didn't, she'd have to wait for the guy to leave or else he'd be sure to see her car backing out of the garage. Rats. Not particularly thrilled about delaying her shopping trip a moment longer, she decided to be direct and get rid of the man once and for all. Then she could be on her way.
She opened up the door. "May I help you?"
He was a tall man with dark hair and handsome features. He was dressed in a business suit and had an expensive Rolex watch on his wrist. "I'm sorry." He seemed a little taken aback. "Um ..I was looking for someone ..Jessica Harrison. I understood that she lived at this location."
Robin was actually a bit surprised that the man wouldn't have called instead trying to sell something door-to-door. Don't they do telemarketing nowadays? "Well, yes, however she's unavailable right now. May I tell her who was here?"
He set his briefcase down beside him on the front porch. "My name's Jay Prescott. Jessica and I had some business dealings a while back. I'm in town right now, so I thought I'd stop by, taking a chance that she'd be home on the weekend."
"Oh, I see." Robin nodded. "Well, I'll certainly let her know that you stopped by."
"I'll be in town for another day." He reached inside his jacket pocket and produced a business card, jotting something down on it. "Here." He handed it to Robin. "Maybe you could give this to Jessica and ask her to give me a call at my hotel if she has a chance. The number is on the back." He replaced his pen in his inside jacket pocket. "I have a business proposition that I wanted to discuss with her and see if perhaps she might be interested."
Robin glanced at the business card. J.R. Prescott, Prescott Consulting, Inc., Dallas, Texas. Hmmm ..what kind of business did Jess have going with this guy? "I'll be sure to give her the message."
"Great." He gave her a charming smile. "Thanks for your time." With that, he picked up his briefcase and promptly went about his way.
Robin closed the door, then casually watched though the front bay window as the man got into his car and drove off. Good. Now to get going. Quickly, she retrieved her car keys from the key holder and gathered her purse, tossing the business card onto the kitchen counter as she did so. She mentally debated which store she should go to first as several were having special sales events that weekend. And maybe she could stop at that little café in the mall for a mocha cappuccino. She punched in the alarm code and stepped outside into the garage.
It was time to shop 'til you drop.
The office was very quiet, quite unusual for a typical Saturday. Jess made her way through the reception area and rounded the corner, stopping to check the message center for any messages that hadn't been delivered. None. Good. She proceeded down the long hallway toward her office, then stepped inside. A pile of mail greeted her from her in-box. Damn. Well, maybe most of it could wait until Monday. She set her briefcase down on her cherry wood desk and booted up her computer, checking her voice-mail messages as she waited. Nothing urgent. She'd always had a particular feeling that something would fall through the cracks unless she was right there on top of it. Unrealistic, maybe, but unless she personally saw things for herself, her instinct was to assume the worst. Happily, most of the time, she needn't have worried.
Now for the email messages. She sat quietly in her leather chair as the computer ran though its log-on routines and downloaded the network's log-on scripts. Once complete, she pulled up her email program and scanned the messages, clicking on a few that seemed as if they needed immediate attention. Jess, of course, could have checked all of this from home, dialing in and taking care of anything that was urgent. She also could have checked her voice messages remotely. But sometimes, Jess just had to be there herself. Maybe it was her workaholic mentality, although she'd certainly gotten better about that since she'd known Robin. But maybe it was something else, perhaps her constant sense that if the work was left alone, it would pile up and disaster would surely strike. Like things were always chasing her ..
Chasing. Hmmm. The dream. Maybe that's what that was about. Jess glanced out the large floor to ceiling window next to her, noticing a flock of blackbirds gathered on the power lines down below. Predictably, with the quiet solitude of the nearly empty office building, the internal voices soon made themselves known, and unable to escape the incessant chatter, Jess finally allowed herself to join in the conversation.
'Howdy doody? You must be on something.' The alternate internal voice quipped. 'So, why are you here?'
It's nice to know you missed me.
'Just answer the question. I hadn't heard from you in a while, so I figured everything was under control.' The alternate internal voice reasoned.
Was. That's the operative word.
'What's that supposed to mean?' The alternate internal voice questioned. 'Everything's been great, and still is great.'
Haven't you been paying attention? I seem to recall a certain apology you made to Robin just the other day.
Your innocent routine doesn't work here. You can't hide. Let me make it plain, since you seem to require that. When you woke up in the middle of the night, you did something, did you not?
'Yeah, what of it?' The usual belligerence returned.
Obviously, it was something you felt you needed to apologize for the next morning.
A dismissive tone. 'I don't really want to have this discussion. There's nothing to that. Robin and I have an understanding.'
Do you? Since when is it okay for you to use people?
'I don't know what you're talking about.' The alternate internal voice had absolutely no intention of discussing the matter.
Oh please! You're no different than what's his name. The only thing was, he admitted he was using you in the end.
The alternate internal voice took on an outraged tone. 'That's not fair. I've done everything I know how to do to treat Robin in the way she deserves to be treated. It's not anything like the way that monster treated me.'
There is a river. We've discussed this before. Go review your geography. You'll find it in Egypt.
'Look, buddy, I had a dream. It shook me up a little. Robin was there for me. End of story.'
So, having this dream of yours gave you license to take liberties, as you so delicately put it. Is that it?
Momentary confusion. 'No. Yes. Look, Robin and I talked about this. She said it was okay.'
She said it was okay? That's your defense? She said it was okay.
'You're irritating me. Why do you always twist everything around? If she says it's okay, then who am I to question her?'
Fine. Question her ..don't question her ..hey, you're the one who has to live with yourself.
So, what was this dream about?
A tiny pout. 'Why do you care?'
I don't, but you do, so spill it. What was the dream about?
'Fine.' The alternate internal voice proceeded to recount the dream. 'I was being chased. I couldn't see by who. It was dark, but I saw the person coming up behind me, and the faster I ran, the more futile it seemed. I suddenly felt paralyzed, and I started to slow down. It was so hard to run, as if I wasn't getting anywhere. But still, for whatever reason, whoever was chasing me couldn't catch me. Then, a door appeared, so I went behind it and locked it thinking I'd be safe. But the person chasing me just knocked it down, as if it was nothing, and started chasing me all over again. It wouldn't end. I just kept running, and the person just kept on chasing me. Until I woke up.'
So, what do you think it means?
'I don't know.' The alternate internal voice considered the possibilities. 'I used to have similar types of dreams a long time ago, only not as bad. I never figured them out, and then one day, they just stopped.'
So what triggered it this time?
Exasperation. 'Haven't you been listening? I said I don't know.'
Put on your psychiatrist's hat. You up for a little dream analysis?
'You must be crazy.' The alternate internal voice was indeed quite familiar with that subject.
It would serve you well to check the mirror before making such assertions.
No comment was immediately forthcoming.
All right, let's start from the beginning, shall we? Someone starts chasing you, and you start running. Is that correct?
So, were you running from something or someone, or was something or someone chasing you?
'Isn't that the same thing?' The distinction seemed to escape the alternate internal voice.
Is it? Think about it. Are you running from something or someone?
'No, I don't think I am.' The denial was strong.
What about your memories. Are you running from them?
'I suppose there are some things I'd rather forget.' It was a rather vague admission.
Okay. Now, is something or someone chasing you?
'Who would be chasing me?' The alternate internal voice was truly perplexed.
That's what you have to answer.
A moment of insight. 'David's ghost is always on my tail.'
Good answer. Anything or anyone else chasing you?
That you know of.
'That I know of.'
Okay, now, you said that you felt paralyzed, and you slowed down, hardly able to move. Is that right?
'Yes.' The alternate internal voice offered further explanation. 'My legs felt heavy, as if I couldn't lift them.'
Were you tired of running?
'Yes, I finally became tired of running.'
Maybe you're tired of running away from your fears.
'Fears of what?' The alternate internal voice was being deliberately obtuse.
Pick one. David, Robin leaving you, your memories.
'None of the above.' There was that denial again.
Fine. Keep thinking geography.
Unamused, the alternate internal voice grew impatient. 'Let's just move on.'
All right. Now, you also said that you reached a door and you went behind it and locked it, but whoever was chasing you tore it down easily.
'Right.' The alternate internal voice acknowledged. 'I thought I was safe, but I wasn't.'
Who or what is the door?
'What?' The alternate internal voice took on a condescending tone. 'In case you don't know, Sigmund, a door is not a who. A door is a what.'
The door, in your dream, can be either. So, who or what is the door?
'I don't know.'
Is the door your defenses? Are your defenses so easily breached?
A long contemplating silence. 'I guess I have to think about that.'
Or is the door Robin?
Is the door Robin? Do you feel safe with Robin, or do you feel that she cannot or will not protect you in the end?
'That's ridiculous!' The alternate internal voice laughed, albeit unconvincingly. 'Robin would protect me with her life.'
Yes, I'm sure she would. The question is, do you really believe it down deep inside, or do you still harbor doubts about your safety with her?
The alternate internal voice attempted to immediately terminate the discussion. 'I'm not going to answer that.'
Have it your way. That geography thing again, remember? Refer to your atlas.
'I don't hear you.'
Oh, right. You're five. I forgot. Okay then, lastly, you said that the running and chasing never stopped. Is that right?
The alternate internal voice, for whatever reason, decided to answer the question this time. 'Yes, it just kept going on.'
It goes on because you won't let it stop. Who's chasing you?
'I already told you.' The alternate internal voice was exhibiting infinite patience. 'I couldn't see. It was dark.'
Here's a clue. When you figure out who or what is chasing you, or who or what you're running from, then you'll know how to make it stop.
On that note, Jess reached for her stack of client billing sheets. She pulled the pile toward her and deliberately proceeded to lose herself in their lengthy and tedious review. If she just kept her mind occupied, focused on something external, she'd be able to ignore the warring being waged within her and shake the intuition she had that something was creeping up on her.
If she just kept herself busy.
Robin arrived home from her shopping trip to find that Jess hadn't yet returned from the office. First, Robin carried inside the large watercolor print she'd purchased, complete with a washed oak frame which she thought would go nicely in either the front foyer, the living room, or maybe even near the bar adjacent to the dining room. The print was of a lighthouse situated above a rock cliff, and Robin had always had a particular fondness for the stalwart structures and their pulsating beacons. Next, she returned to the garage and dragged the remainder of her packages through the door, this time heading straight for the back bedroom.
She admired the waterbed linens she'd purchased, and then set about placing them into the wash so she'd be able to put the freshly laundered sheets on the bed later. She'd also bought a couple of new blouses, as well, to go with her new wardrobe of summer suits. She promptly unpacked them from their bags and hung them up in the closet in her own room.
It wasn't too late yet, and she decided she still had time to relax and get in a bit of reading before it was time to start dinner. She meandered out into the living room and studied the print she'd bought. It was cool. The ragged rocks jutted up from the water while white-capped waves broke against them along the edge of the cliff. And amid all the swirling tumult below, the lighthouse stood tall, its lantern casting its bright beam a distance outward. A metaphor, perhaps? From beyond the danger of an unseen foe, the light guides the unsuspecting navigator away from a treacherous shore.
So where should it go? Robin had a couple of ideas rummaging around in her mind, but she then decided to wait for Jess's input before making any final decision. She sat down on the sofa and picked up her book, losing herself in the novel until her load of laundry was finished.
After making up the waterbed with the freshly washed linens, Robin spied her fuzzy friend, Shamu, sitting on one of the shelves of the bookcase over in the corner of the bedroom. Impulsively, she took him from his assigned place and nestled him snuggly against the pillow on her side of the waterbed, tucking the top cover around his midsection and tail. She grinned to herself, anticipating Jess's jealous reaction. A little joke. But Jess was so much fun when it came to a little joking around. And besides, she does it to me all the time. As Robin stood there admiring her handiwork, she thought she heard Jess making her way into the kitchen from the garage. Involuntarily, Robin's heart leapt just a little, and she immediately went to greet her long lost housemate.
"You're home." Robin met Jess out in the living room. "You must've had a lot to do. I've already been to the mall and back."
"Mostly billing." The junior partner eyed the new watercolor print perched up against the side of the swivel chair. "That's nice."
"Yeah, I kind of liked it. Something about that lighthouse ..well, I really wanted to buy it." The young associate stood in front of the picture. "So where do you think it should go?"
"Umm .." Jess surveyed the available options. "Don't know yet. Give me a few minutes, and I'll come back out and think about it some more." She set off down the long hallway, first to deposit her briefcase in her home office, and then on into the rear bedroom.
After what seemed like a longer time than necessary, Robin went to look for the older woman. She approached the back bedroom just as Jess had finished slipping into a t-shirt and some shorts. "Hey, Jess, I wanted to tell you that I got some new sheets for the .." Wait a minute. Something was different. Robin scanned the room carefully. What was it? Finally, she saw it. Oh boy. She is definitely in trouble now. "Okay, Jess, where is he?"
"Who?" Blue eyes looked away guiltily.
"You know who. What did you do with him?"
Robin placed her hands on her hips. "Sammy."
"Sammy?" These one-word questions in response to Robin's questions belied the innocence they purported to imply.
"Sammy Shamu." A petite finger pointed to the empty spot on the bed. "I'm on to you, Jess. Where is he?"
Jess now looked directly at the blonde woman, knowing she'd been caught. "Okay. Number one, Robin, we agreed that he would be on a shelf somewhere, did we not? Number two, he certainly doesn't belong there." A slender finger indicated the aforementioned spot. "And number three, if you had any ideas of cuddling with him, we also agreed that there was already a primary cuddler, also known as, the Cuddler-in-Chief." Satisfied that she'd made her point, Jess picked up a hairbrush and started brushing her long hair.
"Not so fast." Green eyes fixed on Jess in the mirror. "That doesn't give you the right to abduct him."
"Abduct? Who said anything about abduct, Robin." A dark eyebrow rose playfully. "If you look at that shelf over there, you'll see that he's just fine back in his assigned place."
A quick glance to verify the statement. "Do you remember, Jess, when I warned you that if you touched one fiber on his fin, there would be serious consequences? Do you remember that?"
"Um .." Jess turned to face Robin, blinking several times. "I'm not sure I recall that." It was a deliberate lie, and it was so very obvious.
As it turns out, Robin couldn't help it. She grinned from ear to ear, knowing that Jess was so endearingly hopeless. "Cuddler-in Chief, huh?
Robin was having fun. "Any ideas who that might be?"
"You mean you don't know?"
The younger woman smiled. "I know." She reached up and gave Jess a kiss. "So, come over here, Miss Cuddler-in-Chief, and see these sheets I bought. They're really soft." She grabbed Jess's hand and led her over to the newly made up waterbed. "See?"
The older woman felt the velvety fabric between her fingers. The sheets were indeed incredibly soft. "Yeah, they're nice. I like soft."
"And all the better for the cuddler to cuddle the cuddlee in."
"You're talking about me, right, and not Sammy?" A playful wink.
She's so cute when she's jealous. "As long as you play your cards right." With that, Robin sauntered out of the room toward the kitchen.
As long as I play my cards right? "Hey .." Jess swiftly caught up with her. "I'll have you know that I have a wining hand." She followed Robin into the living room, then returned the kiss the smaller woman had given her just moments before.
Robin felt herself involuntarily sigh in contentment. "You definitely know how to win, I'll give you that." Jess always had such a charming effect on her.
"Okay." The older woman grinned. "Let me grab a drink, and then we can decide where to put that lighthouse."
Robin watched as Jess headed into the kitchen, then pulled the framed artwork out into the middle of the floor. She stood for a moment trying to imagine what it would look like in the various locations around the house she'd previously considered. After a long time had elapsed with Jess not returning, Robin called out to the older woman. "Hey, Jess, are you coming back?"
What's she doing? Robin went to the kitchen in search of her lost housemate. "Jess?" She found her standing very still at the counter reading a business card. "Hey." Robin stood next to her. "Yeah, I forgot to mention to you that before I went out to the mall, someone stopped by. He left his card and said that he was in town and you could give him a call at his hotel if you wanted."
Jess only stared at the card.
"Something about a business deal, or something like that."
Jess never took her eyes off the card.
"He was saying that he used to have some business with you a while back."
There was still no acknowledgement from the older woman.
"Jess?" Robin was becoming a little concerned. "You don't have to contact him, you know."
Finally, ever so slowly, blue eyes tracked from the business card over to Robin. "You're saying that this person was here?"
"Well, yeah, like I said, he stopped by before I went to the mall."
"What, umm .." Jess swallowed. "What did he look like?"
"Well .." Robin hadn't really made a mental note of the guy's features, but she gave it a try nevertheless. "Let's see, he was tall and slim and had dark hair. Blue eyes, I think. Fairly nice looking. Said his name was Prescott or something. He was well-dressed with a nice business suit and an expensive watch on his wrist. He was very polite, although he wasn't here for very long." She looked up at Jess. "Why?"
Jess's face was a blank. "No reason." She tossed the business card back onto the counter and brushed past Robin, returning into the living room.
What? Robin knew that blank look well, and she wasn't about to let Jess get away with it. "Oh, no you don't." She took off after her. "What's going on?"
The younger woman grasped hold of Jess's arm and stopped her progress. "Don't shut me out. Who is this Prescott guy, or whatever his name is, and what business did you used to have with him?"
Jess said nothing, remaining silent as Robin continued to stare at her. Whether it was her defense mechanisms kicking in or something else, Jess's mind couldn't think of the words to answer Robin's questions. So she just stood there.
"Jess? Answer me."
The older woman's breathing increased.
"Jess? Tell me."
For a moment, Jess was silent. Then, in a quiet tone, she finally spoke. "J. R. Prescott is .." Blue eyes closed and slowly opened again. "Jay Prescott is .."
And then, as clear as day, Robin saw it. Those eyes now told everything, hiding nothing, as the complete story unfolded without another word spoken. In those eyes, she saw Jess's world crashing around her, as Robin's own eyes now caught a quick glimpse of the watercolor print still resting right where she'd left it. The whitecapped waters swirled angrily below the cliff as the stalwart lighthouse above flashed its brilliant beacon in an attempt to warn away those who stray too close to the jagged rocks partially submerged along its treacherous shore. Robin took hold of Jess's hands and gripped them tightly, trying desperately to keep the looming danger a safe distance away. Sea green eyes searched the blue eyes in front of her for confirmation of what she already knew was true. "Jay Prescott is James, isn't he?"
Jess offered only a weak nod.
Damn. Robin wrapped her arms tightly around the older woman. There was nothing more to say at the moment. The mission for Robin, though, was clear. She had to protect Jess from the perils of the rocky waters that lay directly ahead. It was a particularly hazardous situation, one which had left enormous destruction in its wake before, and the unfortunate thing now was, it seemed a collision would not be so easily avoided. Robin rested her forehead on Jess's shoulder.
And so it begins
To Be Continued ..
Return to the Academy
© Copyright 11/18/03