Copyright: Although they resemble some women we all know and love, and may occasionally fantasize about,  the characters are fictional composites.
Copyright © 2002 by L.A. Tucker  All Rights Reserved.

Sexual Content:  It involves two (or more!) women involved a romantic relationship. Actually, it hits on all kinds of love. The only explicit depictions of a sexual nature will be of the F/F type.   If you're under 18 or this type of fiction is illegal where you reside, it's best if you don't read this. Read something, anything else. Reading is fundamental.

Violence: Mild if any, crankiness abounding, and some bruises will result. Nothing I would label abusive. I've given up caffeine. How bad can it get?

Language: Mucho profanity, dammit, it feels good to swear. So I feel good a lot of the time.

Hurt/Comfort/Angst: It bounces from heartache to giddiness. Just like life. Totally and completely unpredictable. This may be a little darker than its predecessor, The Light Fantastic. I suggest you read that  story before you read this, otherwise, you may be lost, as I usually am. Again, let's have fun!

Special Thanks:  Too many to express here. My thanks, especially to all who encouraged me to keep writing.  Special kudos go to my patient, enthusiastic cheerleader and irreplaceable beta extraordinaire: TK.  Dedicated eternally to the memory of LCS and IFL. CJS, I'm glad we found each other again.

Comments/Feedback: This is my second attempt at a long Uber tale, and it's a sequel, no less. Tuck all your pre conceived notions and expectations away, and read with fresh eyes.  Again, it's going to be long read. This is all relatively a new gig for me, so all comments, spelling corrections, bad jokes and critiques are welcome and desperately needed. I want the feedback.
E-mail me :   LA Tucker

The Inside Out

by LA Tucker

Part I:  The Root of All Evil

    Bloody hell.  What's going on?  Sara squinted fuzzily above her, into the greasy, dirt caked bowels of the John Deere tractor she was laying directly underneath. I  fell asleep while I was turning that bolt. A wry smile curved into the corner of her mouth as she realized the heavy wrench was still clasped loosely in her hand resting lazily on her chest.  It was cool under the tractor; the cement floor of the barn a wonderful contrast to the stifling August heat that permeated the air around her. She squeezed her eyes shut, several times in succession, trying to focus and wake up her tired brain. All I need is for Chloe to come in her and find me snoring under the tractor.  She'll never let that one pass, she'll have it written down in that invisible diary of hers, the one where she keeps track of every embarrassing thing that I do.  Well, that she CATCHES me doing ...  Sara grinned, and almost rubbed at her eyes to fight off the fatigue still clinging to her, but stopped herself, and blinked again instead. Too much grease on my hands. I'd end up looking like a demented raccoon.  She chuckled at that thought, and just stopped short again, from doing it on purpose, because of the thought of the delighted smile that it would bring to Chloe's face when she saw her.  God, the things I think of just to keep that woman entertained.  Hell, I do silly stuff just to give Chloe a laugh. I have no ego whatsoever with that woman.  Sara's smile blinded the unimpressed oil pan above her head. She laughed some more, out loud, and felt very uninhibited and almost childlike in the freedom of it.  She was still chuckling in quiet, self satisfied delight when she felt a slight tap to one of her shins laying closest to the outside of the tractor's shadow. She tilted her head to one side, to peer down her long body to see who the impertinent kicker might be.  She saw sandals, pink toenail polish, and bare ankles.  Swollen, bare ankles.  Next she heard the voice that more days than not, was alternately great, or grating, depending on what minute of the day it was.

    Another nudge to Sara's shin with pinked toe. "Hey, Ace, you about done giving the tractor its prostate exam?  I could use a hand up here in the real world." Nudge, nudge.

    The nudges were gentle and kidding, as were the tones of Marcy's voice, and Sara breathed out a small sigh of relief. She really wasn't in the mood to be the recipient of one of Marcy's roundhouse mood swings right now.  Be nice, be nice.  She's a pregnant woman.  A crazed pregnant woman, but with child all the same. "Whattaya want, Marse?" Sara said evenly, but not making a single move to extricate herself from under the protective mass of the John Deere.

    "Come out of there, will you, so I don't feel like I'm talking to your knees. It's too hot . C'mon, it'll only take a second. And then you can go back to your nap."

    Sara started, almost banging her head against the oil pan. How did she know I was sleeping under here?  She scritched carefully along the concrete on her butt and her shoulders, and inched her way out from under the tractor.  Standing above her was her lover's best friend and her own brother's fiancee Marcy,  a rounded late 6th month along pregnant Marcy, and in her hand was a dinner fork, with what looked to be a  ... meatball on it. Sara raised one of her eyebrows, and propped herself up into a sitting position against the side of the tractor. "Trying to poison me again,  Marcy?"  She grinned and looked at her future sister-in-law with false suspicion in her eyes.

    Marcy just raised the side of her mouth in a wry smile. "If, or should I say, when, I kill you, Sara, it'll be with something bigger than a meatball.  And there'll be witnesses.  I'm going to go out in a blaze of glory."  She handed the fork, with meatball skewered on it, carefully to Sara. "Now try it, and tell me what you think. I'm not much of a cook ..."

    Sara took the proffered fork, and eyed the meatball up close. "Well, Marse, sounds like you're fitting in just fine as one of us culinary deprived D'Amicos.  Not one of us can cook to save our lives."  She first sniffed it cautiously, then took a hesitant nibble at the meatball, and chewed it as Marcy looked on. She swallowed,  and took her time answering, on purpose I love to irritate her. It just totally makes my day.

    "Well?" a hovering Marcy waited impatiently. She loves to push my buttons.

    "I'll take thirty more, just like 'em."  Sara grinned hugely, and then in a deft demonstration of her honest satisfaction, she popped the rest of the meatball into her mouth and smiled, the meatball rounding her cheek like an enormous plug of chewing tobacco.

    "Really?" sighed Marcy, instantly relieved as she rubbed her hands on her bulging abdomen.

    "Really. Pretty damned good, Marse." Sara mumbled in between chews. She swallowed the remainder, and for a final comment, she managed to manufacture a small, happy burp.

    "You're so classy, Sara. I can understand now what Chloe sees in you.  Refined manners,  grease under your fingernails, sparkling wit." Marcy said drily, but was secretly pleased that Sara hadn't immediately spit out the meatball.

    Sara agreed with everything Marcy was saying by taking a lazy hand, and quite deliberately reaching back to give her butt a  deliberate scratch. "Yup, that's me.  The friggin' Queen Elizabeth of Stonecreek."

    Marcy rolled her eyes. "Uh, yeah.  Well, your Majesty, that meatball, and many others like it, are what I'm making for the party.  I'm trying to save us some money."  Suddenly uncharacteristically at a loss for words, she picked nervously at her sundress, averting her eyes for a moment before coming back to look hopefully once more at Sara.

    Sara gave a quick sympathetic nod at her. "I know. They're good. I mean it."

    Marcy shifted and leaned back against the tractor, wishing she was still agile enough to even want to sit next to Sara on the floor. "Thanks.  I just wish ..."

    Sara knew what was bothering Marcy, she, too had felt those same concerns over the last few months. Marcy was making the food for Nelson's farewell party in an attempt to save some money.  They had all discussed getting it catered, but Marcy had volunteered to do the cooking herself when they discovered how much the party would actually cost.  Nelson's party was in a few weekends, and then he would be leaving to attend college in California. He'd received only a partial scholarship because he'd waited so long to make his decision.  It was even too late in the year for him to be able to play football, so this fall would be the first time in many years that Nelson wasn't going to have a football in his hands for hours and hours.  His time would come next year.  This year he would concentrate on his studies, and hopefully work part-time at a lousy job, to help cover his unexpected expenses.  Sara knew that Dave was a little upset about Nelson's hesitant ways, and Dave was caught unaware when Nelson announced his intentions of going off to college so far away, and without much aid from the heavily counted on and expected athletic scholarship. Every penny Dave had right now was tied up in his small golf course, and money was becoming excruciatingly tight.  And the course was holding its own during the advent of its first summer open for business, but Dave really hadn't expected to see much of a profit until the second summer or so. And now that he and Marcy were getting married, and having a baby, and Dave having to outlay cash for Nelson's education, well, Marcy had done the nice thing, the wife/partner thing, and offered her none too polished cooking skills as a way of showing him and Nelson her support.

    "I know, Marse. Don't worry, no one will be suing you for having to have their stomach pumped," Sara teased, grinning her encouragement.  "I just wish my brother wasn't so damned D'Amico stubborn."

    Marcy nodded her agreement without looking at Sara.  Dave had turned down any offers of financial help from Sara and Marcy both.  Marcy wasn't exactly rolling in money; she made a comfortable income as a teacher, but her money had gone to fixing up her rambling house over the years, and although they'd decided to put the house up for sale, it was still sitting up the road, a forlorn "For Sale" sign blowing slightly in the infrequent hot breezes of August. The small town housing market in this small town was not exactly bustling.  The sign had been up since mid June, and two people had looked at it, and then walked away without making an offer. So Marcy was paying a mortgage on a house that essentially was a storage space for all of her art works. She'd been living with Dave since July, and since then only made token trips over to the house to retrieve needed items, or to cut her grass and water her flowers. They'd planned on moving the rest of the items from the house once it was sold. Which means I'll be a grandmother when I finally get all my things moved out of there. "Maybe I'll have my house sold before Christmas, and I can help out a little more with the bills."

    "I'm sorry we couldn't buy the house right now, Marse.  We would have really have liked to ..."  Sara said, and tugged on Marcy's hem. She heard Marcy's grunt of acknowledgment. If Marcy can't sell her house, Chloe probably won't have much luck trying to sell hers. Sara and Chloe had discussed buying Marcy's house, and moving in together.  Neither Sara's bungalow, nor Chloe's crackerbox was big enough to hold two, so the two women spent their summer commuting between the two, spending more time at Chloe's so she could attend to her small garden in the back, and to give themselves a little more privacy from the ever widening circle of friends and family that seemed to be hanging out at Dave's all summer long. Nelson and Jeanette, Doris, Ralph Henderson, Stan, Jason and the assorted Justin always seemed to be floating in and out, and Sara, having worked on the little golf course all day, wanted to get away from it at night, and spend time with her new love. Buying Marcy's house had seemed the perfect solution, but when Sara and Chloe had sat down and finally compared financial notes, they discovered that neither one of them was rolling in the proverbial clover when it came to money.

    Sara had essentially been jobless for the last five years. Any money she had from her former career had been slowly whittled down to the small amount she had stashed now. Her dues for living the hermit life in California, renting a place there, providing herself with the sparsest of necessities, without new moneys coming in had taken its toll on her bankbook.  Sara had come back to Stonecreek to work for Dave, yes, but it was work compensated with meals and a rent free bungalow.  She paid enormous sums monthly to have an individual health insurance policy, and much of her extra money had gone to paying the fees of that pricey plastic surgeon in Buffalo.  Dave had, on many occasions, tried to bring up the subject of paying Sara some sort of token salary until the golf course was making a profit, but she had refused, preferring that he spend his money on things that would make the golf course run more efficiently.  Now that Nelson was going off to college, and Marcy was a few short months from bringing another D'Amico into an unsuspecting world, the subject had come up less and less frequently. Sara knew Dave was worried, frankly, Sara was worried too, not only about Dave's fledgling enterprise, but that her meager savings would not hold out much longer.  Her last big purchase had been her beloved 1963 Mercury Comet, and she was at times regretting that decision, knowing that the car was really not practical for the winters that blasted this area of the country.  She'd been thinking about certain possibilities for a while now, a novel thought had crept into her head, and she wasn't liking it, but dreams of a starting a life with her lover had kept it niggling at the back of her brain for some months now. Those thoughts popped into her head now, and she found herself verbalizing them to Marcy.


    Marcy was staring into space, still leaning against the big tractor, mulling over her own thoughts. "Hmm?"

    "I was thinking ..."

    Marcy couldn't resist. "Always a bad idea, Sara, especially for you."  She tempered that by giving Sara's head a quick tap.

    Sara grinned and sighed. "Well, I was thinking ... well, with summer almost over, and everything running smooth here, and winter coming up ..."  She paused, and folded her arms onto her chest.


    "It looks like, maybe, well definitely ..."

    Marcy shook her head, she'd become accustomed to the D'Amicos' halting and meager speaking style, and worked with it. "Yeah?"

    Sara hated saying the words that struck fear into her anxiety stricken being. "Well,  I was thinking I should try and get ... a job."

    Meanwhile, up the road, a small car was turning into Marcy's driveway. It came to a stop in the tight pea gravel, and a woman got out, and made a wide, slow circle around the exterior of the house, looking for any cons that would override the pros she felt the house definitely possessed.  She stopped for a moment and gazed at the multitude of wildflowers that looked to have taken up random residence around trees, along short fences and near the broad front porch.  Her more cautious instincts  kicked in, and she stepped far away from the house, searching for defects in the gutters, the tightness of windows, the condition of the siding and any wavering in the shingles on the roof. She then walked the perimeter of the land, pausing here and there to take another look at the large house. It was appealing to her. But I wasn't looking for something so large, this place looks like a lot of work. But on the other hand, it's the perfect location, so near to where I want to be. Maybe the owner would rent it to me?  Although the sign says sell?  The woman walked to her car, and bent to retrieve a notepad and pen from her glove box.  She jotted down the realtor's name and telephone number, then sat back down in the driver's seat and closed the door. She peered up at the house again, gave a small frown, and then started the engine, and pulled out the short driveway to travel up Route 20, in order to keep her appointment.

    Chloe was just finishing up her day at the library, a day filled with the ever-present whine and heavy draft of box fans sitting on every flat surface in the town's library.  She had one blowing directly on her while she stood at the checkout desk. Any light objects, any stray papers that were sitting on the counter were held in place with anything the small redheaded librarian could find that held any extra weight. Mostly she used books,  they were all over the place anyway, and office supplies - staplers, a scotch tape dispenser, an extremely ugly knock-off of a grecian urn.  The constant droning whirring of the fan blades, and the flapping of corners of loose papers were really beginning to try her already overheated patience, and she checked the big clock on the wall again. Only a little over an hour. Jeez, I wish ONE of us had air conditioning in our cars.  Chloe's old Subaru AC unit had given up the cold ghost earlier this June, and she'd adamantly refused to spend the money to replace it. Chloe's thoughts and goals around money these days centered on formulating a plan where she and Sara could cohabitate in one house, not in the two tiny places that they currently split their time.  Room for all of Chloe's books and monster bed, areas for Sara's videotapes, computer and mountains of motor repair manuals.  Space for Chloe's old couch, and Sara's mammoth stereo system. Crannies for knickknacks, of which Chloe had plenty, and Sara had few. Hopefully a house with a fireplace, which they could stretch out in front of during the upcoming frigid winter months, and while basking in its radiance continually prove to each other that neither of them were of the frigid sort.

       Someplace exactly like Marcy's house. Chloe sighed, and looked at the clock again. The library was dead quiet, as it had been for the last month or so, most readers preferring to buy a paperback to take to the beach, afraid that Coppertone and sand would ruin the hard copies they could borrow from the small town library.  Chloe had been fretful most of the summer, when her supervisor had called her with the abominable warning all small town librarians are loathe to hear. "Bookmobile".  There had been a new county executive voted into office, and that person, apparently an illiterate, was considering options on how to save the county of Erie money in the upcoming budget negotiations. His first idea had been to check into the feasibility of those smaller libraries in the county.  His first move had been to cut the operating hours of the smaller libraries. The Stonecreek Library was now operating on a strict 9-5 schedule, Monday through Friday, and 9-2 on Saturdays.  Chloe had regretfully, sort of, let the Dever twins go soon after she got that news.  They found jobs confusing customers and shooting paper airplanes at the local Dairy Queen.  Chloe was worried, and relieved.  She got to work regular hours with no cut in pay, and her devoted Mrs. Cellone was still volunteering her services two days a week, to allow Chloe to get away from the counter and get the grunt work done.  Mrs. Cellone also volunteered to pick up Saturdays, with the agreement that Chloe would work one now and then in case she needed to attend to something else. Bookmobile. I know it's coming. Bookmobiles were used instead of having a regular town library, making its visits to town twice a week for 5 hours each.  In Chloe's mind, the old library would soon be closed, and sold, and then reopened as a coffee shop, or hairdressing studio,  or dentist's office. With these thoughts in mind, Chloe reached for the most recent Sunday paper, opened up the classifieds, and found what she was looking for. She took a deep breath, reached for the phone, and dialed a number.

    The small brunette woman nervously tugged on her suit, wishing she had worn something a little less stifling in this damnable August heat here in the Northeast.  She was sitting in the principal's outer office, straight and prim, and she felt like kicking her shoes off to let her feet rest on the cool of the linoleum floor. Her appointment was 20 minutes ago, but the odd little secretary had informed her that Mrs. Raeburn tended to run late, and already had an interview in progress in her office. The door was closed, but the brunette could hear an almost constant barrage of one sided conversation. The only way she knew there were two people in there was a very infrequent grunting of acknowledgment when the one voice stopped to take a breath. She couldn't make any words out, it was a constant hum of noise, like sitting near a bee's hive.  The heat in the tiny room, and the back and forth of the circulating fan on the secretary's desk soon lulled the tired woman into a light doze.  She was still dozing when the office door opened and a gray haired woman came out, pulling a dazed looking streaked blonde woman behind her. The brunette started, and tried to regain some semblance of knowing where she was, and why she was there. The gray haired woman's voice cut through her dimmed awareness.

    "Well, then, I guess I'll be seeing you in a few weeks, then, huh? Thank god someone with a brain decided to start school AFTER Labor Day this year, instead of before. I always thought that was a bum deal, get these kids into school, and then, whammo, give them four days of vacation so they can forget what they just learned." The older woman smiled at the brunette sitting so primly in her outer office. Damn, her name has completely flown out of my head. "I'll be right with you dear.", Doris smiled, and turned her attention back to the blonde. "You have six days to prepare for the beginning of school, before we actually do start. Make sure you get all that paperwork filled out and sent into administration. You know the ropes. Good to have you on board."

    The blonde woman, her back to the seated brunette, cleared her throat, and actually got a few words to come out. "That's great,  Mrs. Raeburn, I'm really looking forward ..."

    Doris effectively cut her off, and patted her on the back. "You'll be a wonderful addition, I know. Just keep clear of my umbrella dear."  The blonde frowned, not knowing what that was supposed to mean. "Now on your way, I have yet another interview to get to, with Ms. ..."  Doris scrunched her eyes in consternation

    "Baker" the brunette supplied.

    "Yes, that's right, Ms. Baker, and I believe I've kept her long enough."  She reached for the brunette's hand, and instead of shaking it, she pulled her towards the door into her office.  The blonde and brunette had just long enough to give each other a bewildered, quick glance, before that office door was closed.

    The blonde had to stop herself from bolting from the secretary's office. She made it to a water fountain, got a long cold drink, and said a long drawn out "Whew!", followed almost immediately by, "What have I gotten myself into?"

    The brunette, in Mrs. Raeburn's office, remarkably was thinking something along those same lines.

    Chloe, having made her phone call, looked again at the notations she had taken.  The call itself had gone remarkably well, and the person on the other end of the phone seemed quite enthusiastic about Chloe.  It seemed Chloe was known to her, through a friend of a friend of a person that they both knew well. Six Degrees of Chloeness.  She had agreed to meet with her this coming Friday afternoon, in her office, to discuss the matter further.  She was smiling as she jotted down the information in her day planner, and then she glanced at the clock again. 10 minutes, and Sara should be here to pick me up. I wonder if she wants to run through the sprinkler again tonight? I know I sure could use it.

    The front door of the library jangled, and a blonde head popped its way in, grinning at the bemused librarian. "Hey Chloe, long time ..."

    "Audra! What the hell are you doing out this way?"  Chloe grabbed her things, well, her day planner and canvas satchel, and made her way up to greet her old friend.  A quick and uncomfortable hug was exchanged, and Chloe stepped back from her. "You look great!  Why are you all dressed up?  Got a date?"

    Audra was thinking about just how great the little librarian looked, tan, more blonde than usual, in polo shirt and pressed khaki shorts. "I wish. No, I had an appointment. And I had to stop in and tell you about it."  Her small smile turned into a larger grin. This will be worth it.

    Chloe squinted at her old friend and nearly almost girlfriend at one injudicious fleeting moment in her life. "Soooo .... GIVE!"  She said, threatening with a grin of her own.

    "Well, it looks like I have a new job.  At your old alma mater.  Yup, you're looking at the new history teacher for the tenth grade, and eleventh, and twelfth too, if they need me."  She eyed Chloe carefully for her reaction.

    Chloe blinked, and then frowned, just to give her a hard time. "Welllllll .... that's great! That's great!! But why come out here, what about Erie?"

    Audra was pleased with Chloe's reaction, and as much as she tried, she couldn't quell the bit of longing she felt just by looking at her.  She pushed it away for now. "Principal was an asshole, colleagues were assholes, assholes too much in abundance.  Doris just hired me a half hour ago. Let the madness begin!"  A large smile broke out on her face, and she was surprised when Chloe gave her another enthusiastic hug that Audra didn't want to pull away from.  Too soon, for Audra, it ended, and her body already missed the warm contact.

    Chloe bounced a little on the balls of her feet. "Well, c'mon, let's get out of here, Sara's on her way to come pick me up, and I'm so sick of this place ... hey, this must be the day for good news ..."  Chloe told Audra of her own news as they walked around the library, closing windows, shutting down fans, and then finally making their way to the front doors. They pulled them shut behind them, and Chloe locked up in expectation.

    "Geez, Chloe, I hope it works out for you, I mean, you're perfect for that."

    Chloe and Audra scanned the parking spaces in front of the library, Audra pleased to see Sara hadn't arrived yet, and Chloe disappointed that Sara hadn't arrived yet.  They walked to the end of the short library sidewalk, coming to the main sidewalk near where the cars were parked. Neither one noticed that another car had arrived and parked a little way up the street, nor that the driver of that car was now walking towards them.

    Audra saw her first, because she happened to be facing facing that way, and her mind scrambled a moment while trying to place the familiar figure that was almost upon them. The woman was walking slowly, hesitantly, her eyes glued to Chloe's back.  Chloe noticed Audra staring past her, and began to turn to see what had captured Audra's attention.  All three women failed to notice the red classic car that was easing its way into a parking space very near the three of them.

    Sara stared as she turned off the engine. "Dammit," she growled. "There's that friggin' Audra. Can't she ever give up?"

    Marcy, who was tired of meatballin', and had decided to come along for the ride to pick up Chloe, lost her weariness, and a sense of unease oozed up her neck and into her hairline. The two women in the car watched in quiet fascination as Chloe turned and saw who the brunette was. She visibly started, looked down and then up again, meeting the brunette's gaze. Not a word was spoken between them as the brunette took one more step up, gently pulled Chloe into a hug, and before any of the onlookers could blink, placed a very long and purposeful kiss onto Chloe's mouth.

    Sara's jaw sagged open as she watched the events before her, and then she clamped it quickly shut.  Her eyes opened wide, wider, widest as the kiss lasted entirely much too long. "Jesus Christ.", she breathed, disbelief apparent, and jealous anger rising.

    Marcy's eyes were approximating the size of Sara's. Oh shit. "Nope, not Christ", she corrected. "Whatsername."

    And so, on that sidewalk, in the middle of a horridly hot and humid Tuesday afternoon, there were mixing the very volatile ingredients for several incalculably large explosions just ready to go off, which could create a crater in the middle of town that would rival that of Pennsylvania's own small Grand Canyon.

    Chloe brain was crackling at the sight of her old girlfriend, and was experiencing some very pleasant flashbacks of kissing that same woman in years long gone by.

    Audra was disconcerted to find yet ANOTHER brunette was kissing HER Chloe, and exasperation and jealousy at being left behind, yet again, started her fuse to burning.

    Whatsername, better know to her friends and relatives and ex-lovers as Sandy Baker, was feeling some lovely, jarring aftershocks of that kiss, and was secretly wondering if she should have extended the embrace.

    Sara, jolted into action, was soon on the sidewalk, standing next to Audra, both of them staring at Chloe's back, waiting, frowning silently, both with arms folded over their chests, to see what would happen next.

    Marcy, mindful of her unborn baby, decided to stay in the relative safety of the car, sure she would be shielded there from any fallout generated from the coming inevitable disaster.  She brought her hands up to cover her face, but peeked between between her fingers, not wanting to miss a single bit of the show.

    Sandy pulled away a little, to get a better look at the blushing Chloe. "Chloe," she murmured, gratified and pleased at the pink rising up into the librarian's cheeks, "It's so good to see you."

    Chloe, not sure if she was having some kind of a weird dream, just went along with it. "Sandy. What a surprise."

   Sara and Audra, both stonefaced statues, both let out a sigh. Sara squinted at Audra, who backed away a step, mindful of the menace she saw in Sara's eyes. Sara's nostrils were flared, and her upper lip began trembling in barely leashed outraged anger.  Her low voice mimicked Sandy's greeting. "Chloe. It's so good to see you."

    Chloe's head whipped around when she immediately recognized the menacing timbre of Sara's voice. Ohoh. "Sara?" She said, her voice full of surprise and embarrassed fear. "I didn't know you were here."  She turned to face her lover completely. Oh, just let the earth open up and swallow me now.

    Sara, her arms still crossed, looked past Chloe to Sandy, who was regarding her with an interested look on her face. Sara then looked back to Chloe, and said one growling word. "Obviously."

    Chloe, for once in her life, did the smart thing; she kept her mouth tightly shut until she could decipher the situation. She kept staring at Sara's unamused blue eyes. OK, emergency regroup here. We have, uh, an ex, and wannabe, and present lover all waiting for me to say something. She flicked her eyes towards the Comet, and saw Marcy slouching in it, with her hands covering her face. And one chicken assed best friend. What's the chances of a monkey from the Wizard of Oz coming down, grabbing me, and taking me off to the Wicked Witch's lair? Her eyes returned to those of Sara's deepening blue. I don't have good luck like that. Chloe's mind settled on to the most likely avenue of escapes, it was where her heart truly belonged, and without another thought, she went for it.

    She took two long steps, and wrapped herself into Sara's arms, giving her a squeeze that would knock the air out of an elephant. "Sara, I know this looks weird, but .." she squeezed a little harder, and finally felt a tentative hug back from the tall woman. Chloe couldn't see the laser beam glare that Sara was shooting at both Audra and Whatsername, Sandy. "I love you, Sara, "  Chloe whispered into the pocket of the T-shirt Sara was wearing. "Don't forget that."

    Sara's heart slowed just a little at Chloe's words, but the force of her glare at the two silent women who she had sized up as outright rivals for Chloe's affections didn't diminish. Thoughts on whether to have an outburst declaring Chloe off limits to these two women until the next millennium crossed her mind, as well as the opposite thought, that she should just trust in Chloe's love for her. Somewhere, an unseen guardian angel grabbed hold of Sara's ear, and tugged hard. OK, the trust thing. "I love you too, Chloe. Don't you forget that." Sara sighed, and turned Chloe around in her arms to meet the eyes of the women studying them both.

    Chloe leaned back into Sara's arms, and felt Sara's head come down comfortably onto her reddish locks. She took a deep breath and smiled. "Well, it looks like old home week here. Audra, you already know my lover, Sara. Sara, and Audra, this is my ... old friend, Sandy Baker.

    Audra turned and held out her hand to the brunette standing next to her. "Old friend huh?" she smiled shyly, and shook the hand Sandy put into hers. "I think you were in Mrs. Raeburn's office after me, it was kind of hard to tell ..."

    Sandy returned the small smile, and released Audra's hand. "Yeah, I recognize you, too."

    Both Chloe and Sara stole a glance at each other. Mrs. Raeburn?

    Sandy continued, after taking a quick look at all the women assembled on the sidewalk. "Looks like we're all going to be seeing much more of each other." She turned and looked at Audra. "I'm guessing you got the job?"

    Audra nodded ruefully. "History teacher."

    Sandy shrugged, and even had the temerity to let out a small giggle. "Me too. Math teacher."

    Sara was unaware of it, but her arms around Chloe's waist had grown tighter and tighter with each passing word between the two newly hired high school teachers, so much so that it was making it difficult for Chloe to draw a breath.  Chloe finally jabbed her with an elbow to break the grip.

    All four women quite falsely smiled at each other, and began making meaningless, awkward small talk that explained nothing more.

    Marcy, her hearing working perfectly from the confines of the car, was mentally counting the days until the baby was born, and she could safely start drinking bourbon again.

Continued in Part II

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