The Inside Out

by LA Tucker © 2002

Part XIX:  Morrison, Cliburn, Heflin, Johnson, Pelt and Damm


For disclaimers, see Part I

"What do you suppose they're doing over there?"  inquired Marcy as she peeked through the kitchen window and studied Sara's bungalow.  She could see there was a light on, because the morning was so dark and dreary, the little house clearly stood out even in the mist of the rain.

Dave, sitting at the kitchen table in his boxers and T-shirt, didn't look up from his paper. "Dunno. Talking? Making up?  Maybe Sara has Chloe tied up and is deciding on methods of torture? Fighting?  Singing duets from 'Grease'? With those two, anything is possible."

Marcy frowned and turned from the window and settled into a chair next to him. "Ya got that right."  She sipped at her decaf, and glanced his way again. "If I were Sara, I'd tie her to the back of the tractor and drag her around the golf course a few times."

Dave chuckled. "You're projecting."

"I'm what?"

"Projecting. Putting your feelings onto someone else."

"Have you been watching Oprah again in the clubhouse?"

Dave looked up, and deadpanned, "Only on Dr. Phil days."  He then went back to his article.

Marcy blew on her coffee, and resisted the urge to pinch him, really hard. "Tell me again why I'm marrying you?"

"Stellar good looks and my breakfast cooking skills," Dave replied, pushing the box of Hostess donuts towards his love.

Marcy picked out a powdered one and eyed it. "Oh yeah. I forgot what a good cook you are. Right up there with the cavemen." She bit into the donut, and grinned.

Dave just grunted like Neanderthal, and scratched at an armpit.  They both sat quietly, Marcy idly thinking about the baby, and Dave reading, enjoying the rare comfort and quiet of a blissful rainy Sunday morning.

Dave finally closed up the paper, and stretched. He rousted himself to fill their coffee cups anew, and then settled back into his seat. "So, whattya want to do today?  It's not every Sunday I get the day off. And by the looks of it, I'll have tomorrow off too. I hope it rains and rains and rains until the ducks have to wear life preservers."

Marcy was considering another donut, a chocolate one this time. "Your lips to God's ear."

Dave sniggered. "More like my lips to God's rear! I've been kissing His butt and praying for rain. It's about time He came through for me.  I was thinking about looking into ritual chicken sacrifices."

Marcy murmured, "She."

Dave didn't quite catch that. "What?"

Marcy looked away, a small smile on her face. "Nothin'."  She bit the smile back, and looked at him again. "Sunday dinner, just so you know, is going to consist of every different incarnation of meatballs that I have stuffed in that fridge. Monday, too. And probably the rest of the week."  She looked at the clock. "You suppose I should get Nelson up? It's nearly noon."

Dave shook his head. "Nah. Let him sleep. I think he and Justin and Jason snuck back into the barn after we went to bed. I think they might have been sampling the beer until around 4." He sighed. "Too bad about the party. All that planning, running around, and then two thirds of the guests don't show because of the weather. Not much of a blow-out for him."

"Well, those boys were none too quiet when they came in last night. Where do you suppose they all slept?"

Dave just stared at her. "On the floor in Nelson's room, no doubt. Guys don't double up, no matter how big the bed is."

Marcy let just the smallest smartassed giggle slip out. "I'll bet Jason wouldn't have minded doubling up in Nelson's bed."

Dave's shocked expression was as incredulous as he could manage on a morning fueled with nothing but decaf coffee. "Don't! Don't even go there. My boy is a strapping stud. Of, thank God, the heterosexual bent." Dave shook back the disconcerting vision of Nelson and Jason holding hands, and cleared his throat. "And don't you forget it!  I thought Jeanette was going to leave him headless, or even ball-less, last night the way he was checking Chloe out."

Marcy snorted. "ALL of us were. And poor Sara. I think a good stiff gust of wind could have knocked her way into the next county. That Chloe, she's something, huh?  Always full of surprises."

"She looks great. That haircut, the color, the boots, the tattoo, the ..."

"Bellybutton." Marcy finished with a grin. "She looks great. Now I want to hear the rest of the story."

Dave grabbed the last bite of chocolate donut from Marcy's fingers, and popped it into his mouth. "And I suppose Sara has a story or two to tell her, too. The job, the mortgage! Giving Nelson the Comet, can you beat that?"

Marcy got up from the kitchen table and put her cup in the sink. She peered out the window again at Sara's little bungalow in the distance. "Week full of surprises."  She rinsed out her cup, still looking at the light shining dimly through the pouring rain. "What do you suppose they're doing over there?"

"Harder."  Chloe moaned.

"Are you sure?"

Chloe's eyes were nearly rolled back in her head. "Yes. I can take it. Harder," she pleaded.

Sara acquiesced, and put more strength into her motions. "How's that? Feel good?" she purred.

"Oh yeah."

It felt so good to be touching Chloe again. Every bit of skin she was caressing felt like she was running her fingers through an emotional pot of gold. Sara was feeling a little overwhelmed. "How about here?" She moved her spot just a tad, and was rewarded with another sigh and moan from Chloe.

"Oh God, Sara. Oh yes. Harder. Harder!" Chloe was demanding now.

Sara pitched in with a vigor, and then Chloe yelped. "Ow!"

Sara stopped her ministrations. "Sorry. But that knot was a big one."

Chloe rubbed at her shoulder, and smiled sheepishly into the pillow, one eye popping open to see Sara's apologetic expression.  "No, it was my fault. I always think I can take more than I can. It feels better though."  She slowly rolled over onto her back, and looked up at Sara, who was kneeling on the mattress next to her. Chloe was naked and fresh from her recent shower, and Sara had been sweet enough to offer to rub that soreness out of Chloe's stiff neck. Chloe couldn't help it, she was feeling very aroused from the stimulating massage, and she ran a delicate finger up the bare skin of Sara's thigh, stopping at the edge of the leg of her shorts, then progressing just a few inches up inside the material.

Sara sat back, out of Chloe's reach. She swallowed. There was 5'5" of willing, nekkid Chloe Donahue flesh sprawled in front of her, and her mouth was fairly watering at the sight. "I need a shower,"  she stated firmly.

Chloe rolled onto her side, and reached out her hand again, stroking the skin on the top of Sara's foot, tickling it.

Sara blinked, her eyes drawn to Chloe's breasts, which were voluptuously full and displaying a maddening amount of tempting cleavage.  Sara licked her lips, then saw the slow smile form on Chloe's face and the neon 'Come hither' sign  flashing in her green eyes. She smiled back, but also moved right off of the bed, repeating her former sentence. "I need a shower,"  she restated, and then was out of the bedroom before Chloe could ask if she should wait for her here in the bedroom.

Chloe waited until she heard the shower running, then tiptoed down the hall to the closed bathroom door. She snuck out her hand, and as quietly as she could, she grasped the knob and began to turn it.

She frowned.

The door was locked.

Chloe was pacing aimlessly in the kitchen, fluffing and folding dishtowels, straightening the roll of paper towels on the holder, pecking at the keyboard of Sara's computer.  She was no fool, she knew exactly what a locked door signified. No entrance, don't come in, don't even think about it. She had pondered for a moment the thought of going back to the bedroom and waiting for Sara to come out of the shower, but she discarded that idea.  She didn't want to be caught in the demeaning position of laying there, all naked and wanting, and have Sara come in and offer weak explanations of refusal again. So she pulled on her jeans from the night before, borrowed a pair of too bulky socks from Sara's drawer and shoved her feet into her cowboy boots with a grunt.  She also nabbed a 'Stonecreek Golf Course' polo shirt, and put that on without a bra.  All of her clean clothes were still in the back of the Subaru wagon, parked up a rain sodden path at Dave's house.

When Sara finally arrived in the kitchen, she was fully dressed too, in fresh khaki shorts and and a polo shirt exactly like Chloe's. They both took in each other's fully clothed states, and for a moment, Chloe thought she saw Sara's eyes express some relief.

"Well,"  Sara started, haltingly. "I have to get over to Dave's, I told him I would take that keg over to Stan's today.  Don't know what Stan's going to do with it, but Dave thought it would be better than have it sitting around tempting Nelson and his buddies."

Chloe nodded, and stuck her hands in her back pockets. "Good idea. And I have to, uh, get home.  Clothes to wash, and I have stuff in my suitcase for everyone. Souvenirs."  She picked up the USC sweatshirt from the back of the chair, and studied the label quickly. She let out a small laugh. "Figures I wouldn't pack the one I bought for Dave. Extra extra large. I felt like I was swimming in it last night.  And it was so damned hot and swampy in the Subaru, but I didn't want to stop to take it off. It was rough going as it was. I almost stopped and got a room for the night."

Sara's eyes narrowed with concern. "You should have."

Chloe's own expression mirrored Sara's. "But  ... I wanted to get  home."  I wanted to be back in your arms again. Didn't you want that?

Sara just nodded, then began to look around the kitchen for her keys. "C'mon, I'll give you a ride over in the van. I'm going to need it to get the keg back anyway."

Chloe gazed at her back with a frown, then tucked the sweatshirt under her arm, and they headed outside.

Chloe was fiddling with all the buttons on the dash, and admiring the plush accouterments of the van.  She rather liked the size of the vehicle, it made her feel taller, higher off the ground, just as her new boots did.  Sara navigated the van up her driveway and out onto the highway so she could then turn into the long driveway leading up to Dave's house.

"So, Dave and I pulled the back seats out of there on Friday.  So I could haul stuff.  Not sure yet if I want to put them back in." Sara explained as she saw Chloe peering towards the back of the van.

Chloe turned in her seat on her knees, and looked over the headrest.  She could see the metal channels where a captains chair had been removed, and the back bench seat, too. Lots of room back there, plenty of room to ...  She cut her thought off there, and didn't speak it aloud to Sara. "Yeah, lots of room to ... haul things."

Sara just smiled her agreement.

Chloe turned to her. "So, a van and a Comet. What else could a girl want?"  You could want me, for starters.

Sara chuckled, and then flipped the windshield wipers on because the rain was coming down in torrents now.   She pulled the van over as close as she could to the barn, but really couldn't get that close because Dave's SUV and Justin's beat up Jeep Wrangler were in the way. She was just going to tell Chloe about giving the Comet to Nelson when there was a mighty crack of lightning, and then it was if all of Lake Erie itself was coming down in rivers upon the vehicle from the blackened sky.

Sara groaned, a bit of claustrophobia inching up her spine, not from the confines of the van, but from her proximity to Chloe.  "Shit, look at that. What do you always say? 'Buckets and buckets'. Looks like we'll have to wait it out."  She sighed, then tried to make the best of of what she was feeling was a bad situation. "Wanna watch a movie?"

Chloe was already extracting herself from her seat, and got up and moved into the captains chair right behind Sara's, testing it out. She talked to the back of Sara's dark head. "Nah. I watched a couple of DVDs on my laptop earlier this week. I'm movie'd out."  She studied the wide carpeted space in the back of the van, and sighed again.  She caught sight of a small square rectangular box near a rear wheelwell, and got up from the seat to inspect it. She recognized it, and popped the small door of it open. "A refrigerator!  How cool!"

Sara was still processing Chloe's earlier words. "Laptop?" She said as she eyed Chloe in the rearview mirror.

Chloe had pulled a bottle of water out of the tiny fridge and she unscrewed the lid and took a long swallow. Her eyes met Sara's in the mirror. "Got a good deal on one. DVD, CD rewriteable, 20 Gig hard drive, 600 megahertz processor ..." she said with no small amount of enthusiasm.

Sara flipped a handle on the side of her seat, and swiveled it around, so she could face Chloe. "Since when do you know jackshit about computers? I thought you, well, thought they were an unnecessary evil. Like cell phones. You didn't get one of those yet, did you? "

Chloe laughed, "Nope, I can assure you that will never happen!," and kept up her inspection of the back of the van, delighted to find she could move around in it without hunching over, even with the additional three inches her tight boots provided to her frame. She reached up and touched her fingers against the raised ceiling above her head. "Well, I can't live in the past forever, can I?  Plus, I'll need one for Glenhurst."  She was truly impressed by the spaciousness of the van, and shook her head in wonder. "I can't BELIEVE you got a conversion van. This is so great!"  She smiled her approval up at Sara, who was sitting in the driver's seat with puzzled expression on her face.

Sara took a break from her mulling to notice that the force of the rain hadn't lessened in the slightest, and she sighed her irritation.  "Unless we want to make a dash for it and get completely soaked, looks like we have quite a wait yet. Or it could just end. You never know around here," she said absently.  But her mind was tallying up all the disconcerting changes in her girlfriend.  Let's see.  Tattoo, oh that's a good one, even if it's not permanent. Boots. Laptop. Hair. Hair color. Tan. Looking like a ... movie star.  Sara grunted unhappily at that last one, and then looked up to see Chloe eyeing her curiously from the back of the van.

Chloe looked away, and then her attention seemed to focus on a particular spot high in the corner of the ceiling by the back doors. "What this?"  She moved closer to it, and continued examining it.

"What's what?" Sara inquired. She didn't remember anything of significance being where Chloe was looking.

Chloe got right up to it, and pointed. "This.  What's it for?"

Sara got up out of her chair, and moved back to see what Chloe was so interested in. Sara ducked her head just a little when standing up back there, and she peered at the spot where Chloe had been pointing. "I don't see anything," she said, right before she felt Chloe's arms slide up and around her neck.

"This,"  Chloe murmured with a smile as she pulled Sara even closer. "This. Right here."  'Right here' turned out to be Chloe's lips meeting Sara's, and after an initial hesitation, Sara returned the impassioned greeting, right there. The kiss was slow and tentative at first, but quickly escalated into something more demanding.. Their hands traveled at the same needy speed with which their tongues were clashing, and Sara pulled Chloe as close as she could without throwing her against the paneled side of the van. Panting, moaning, groaning and words of desire mixed inside with the sounds of the storm raging outside. But that storm couldn't match the torrent of sensual activity that was happening within the interior of the van.

"I love you, Sara," gasped Chloe, before she dove in for more of the lips that always left her brain swirling in circles with the force of a tornado.

Sara's misgivings and doubts were being momentarily obliterated by the passion she felt for the woman she held in her arms. Her tongue was darting a path towards her lover's ear, and she stopped for a purposeful nip on Chloe's lobe before she growled huskily, "I love you, too, Chloe."  She felt Chloe relax into her arms, and the ardor between them rose even higher. Chloe's hands were on Sara's rear, pulling her tighter, massaging the tight flesh under her shorts. "Chloe," Sara managed to husk out between frantic kisses, "Do you want to take your pants off for me?"

Chloe's hands were already moving Sara's shirt up when she heard those sweet, soul searing words. Her knees began to buckle so she just decided to go with them, and not fight it. She pulled Sara along with her to the floor of the van.  She looked deeply into her lover's flashing eyes, and Sara smiled at her, a smile of lustful and demanding intentions, and Chloe returned that same intensity in her own gaze.

Sara was straddled over Chloe's body, and she gave her a predatory growl right before she pulled her own shirt off over her head. It seemed as though Sara didn't have any clean bras left, either, because Chloe got a happy eyeful before she pulled her lover down into her arms. "Oh yeah, Sara," she breathed, already finding it hard to find enough air. " My pants, my shirt, my heart. Whatever you want. For as long as you want."

Dave looked out the living room window. "Hey, it's letting up out there. Maybe I can get some stuff done out in the barn."

Marcy was engrossed in the Sunday crossword puzzle on the couch, and didn't look up. "Mmhmm."

Dave turned, and asked, "Hey, was Sara's van parked outside the barn last night? I don't remember."

Marcy was filling in a four letter word for 'Warrior Princess'.  "Not sure. Probably.  She had to haul the beer keg and stuff yesterday morning. I really don't remember, hon."

Dave was feeling pretty cooped up and antsy. "I should do some barn clean-up. No telling when Nelson will drag his ass out of bed. And Sara's probably pretty busy with Chloe ..."

Marcy was doing well with the crossword, and she wished Dave would quit pacing around the house like a bored 6 year old. "Probably.  Why don't you do that?"

Dave got a delighted grin. Maybe I could head out to Stan's!  Poker at the bar today! "You sure you don't mind? I could hang around here with you ..."

"Not a bit. Need some help in the barn?" Marcy replied lazily, not really wanting to be helpful in any way shape or form that would make her move off the couch..

"Well, not if you don't want to get up." Well, that way we could spend a little time together before I play poker, and she won't be able to say I didn't try.

Marcy frowned. "Oh hell, I should get up. I'm starting to sprout roots here. My butt is a permanent fixture on this couch lately. Wouldn't hurt ..." Damn that Nelson, sleeping the day away. What good is having a kid if you can't make them do the stuff you don't want to do yourself?

Chloe's mouth was in sensory heaven.  It was currently wrapped around Sara's breast, and she was languidly and teasingly sucking, while enjoying Sara's nearly nonstop moaning above her. They were both shirtless and panting, reveling in breasts and more breasts, taking turns ravishing each other, one mouth, one hand, one breast at a time.  The urgency between them was growing, and it was becoming more and more apparent that their needs would soon necessitate further fevered removal of clothing. Sara slid down, and pushed Chloe's breasts together, running a hot tongue between the hard nipples.

"Oh god, Sara. You're making me crazy!" Chloe cried out as she arched her back so Sara would have every access to whatever she wanted.

"That's the plan." She squeezed a breast tightly, and began an urgent and demonstrative suckle on the other one. She felt Chloe respond eagerly to her attentions, and it only made her want more and more of the woman writhing so deliciously beneath her. Her hand left Chloe's breast and traveled down across downy skin to quickly pluck the button at the waist of Chloe's jeans. Her fingers traveled a little lower, searching for a zipper, but finding more buttons instead.  She nimbly popped those too, and immediately made her intentions known by quickly plunging her hand into the warm wetness under Chloe's jeans. It was a tight fit, but her fingers found her mark, and she felt Chloe hips rise forcefully upwards to meet her touch.

They traded heated groans, while Sara's fingers danced and drove Chloe mindless with distraction and desire.

Sara's overheated libido was insisting that she have full access to her lover's core.  Her fingers' explorations were severely restricted by the tight fit of Chloe's jeans.

"Off," growled Sara in very heated and impatient frustration.

Chloe could just barely register the word, she was so far gone riding on a wave of unbridled lust and need.  She and Sara both began tugging at the jeans, and she was disappointed when Sara's busy hand left its intoxicating movements between her legs, and she used it to help in the tugging.  The jeans finally slid down to Chloe's knees, and Sara's fingers immediately returned to Chloe, touching the soft curls for only a heartbeat, then  stroking a thigh, entreating it to move farther outwards, and with that achieved, Sara slid her fingers down, and entered Chloe, both women gasping at the entry, both women immediately moving into a rhythm that they knew by heart.

But Chloe was not entirely enjoying the experience. She wanted to open herself up wider, feel more of Sara moving around and within her, and her jeans, stuck at knee level, were hampering that.  She bit on her lower lip, trying to still some of the sensations that were already driving her to the brink. "Sara, these jeans have to come off. My boots..."

Sara was dead set against stopping anything that she was doing. She was feeling an otherworldly, absolutely ravenous need to feel Chloe surrender and release to her touch.  Her hand obsessively loved where it was, and what it was caught up in doing. But she felt Chloe struggle with frustration beneath her, and she took a deep breath, and slid her hand out slowly from the wetness and the heat that she craved.

"Hurry, Sara. I need you," Chloe entreated, sure that if she didn't feel Sara moving inside her soon, claiming her again, that the van would be in need of some major cleaning after her body exploded in frustration.

Sara pulled as back as far as she could against the van doors leverage and sat on her haunches, grabbing  a heel of one of Chloe's boots, and began pulling.  The boot gave a little, but not enough for it to come off. Sara swore under her breath, got a better grip and pulled as hard as she could, and it finally came off. She traded a grin with Chloe, took a long look at Chloe's rather beckoning breasts, and grabbed a hold of the other boot and yanked.  Nothing moved, except for all of Chloe.  She repositioned, and then pulled again, with Chloe straining backwards to help in the removal. There was a little movement this time.  Sara got a very determined look in her eye, latched onto the boot more tightly, and then with one mighty heave, she pulled backwards as Chloe moved away. The boot came off with a satisfying 'Pop' .

And then Sara was surprised to realize her backward motion was unencumbered by rear van doors, and she kept moving through the air, noticing, before she toppled to the muddy ground with a wet splat at her brother's feet, that the rain had let up a little, and she had an odd fleeting  and ultimately pain filled thought that she'd never, ever seen Dave's eyes that big before.

Chloe's first reaction was to put a hand over her eyes to adjust for the amount of light that was streaming into the previously dimly lit van. She sat up, her jeans dropping down to her ankles as she knelt on the floor of the van and moved to the back bumper area to see what had happened to Sara.  Sara was apparently OK, although her back, breasts and hair were covered with mud, and her chest was rising in an effort to catch her breath. Chloe sighed  in relief when Sara nodded wordlessly at her. Then her green eyes rose up to meet Dave's, and she was momentarily transfixed with the thought that she'd never seen anyone with eyes that wide except for the comic strip depiction of 'Orphan Annie'.

Dave's eyes? Chloe gasped, and moved back into the van, grabbing desperately for the jeans puddled at her ankles while searching for anything, a shirt, even a tire jack, that might cover her nearly naked body.

Sara, still flat on her back, looked straight up into her brother's face, and let out a long breath.

Dave was staring down at her, more dumbfounded than usual. "You OK? I was just going to load the beer keg into the van... the Explorer's full of crockpots and folding chairs...." His mouth stopped but his eyes kept moving to settle on her bare chest and he colored immediately, and swiftly averted his gaze. Unfortunately, his gaze traveled into the back of the van again, where Chloe had gotten her pants up, but simply hadn't had the wherewithal to find a shirt as yet. Both shirts had been tossed carelessly towards the front of the van in the heat of half-crazed passion.

Chloe did the best that she could, under the circumstances. She grabbed one of her long boots, and laid it lengthwise across the front of her chest. She bit her lip, and her blush matched that of Dave's, whose head couldn't seem find a safe place to focus his eyes. So he looked straight upwards into the clouds, getting a face full of softly falling rain.

"Well, what do we have here? "  Marcy asked, her voice a dry contrast to the softly falling rain. She'd been a scant minute behind Dave, taking the time to put on a long waterproof poncho before she came outside. She looked at Sara, who finally had the presence of mind  and strength to clap her hands over her uncovered womanly attributes, and then to the back of the van at Chloe, who was clutching a boot up against her chest and trying to button up her jeans one handed.

Marcy rolled her eyes, and put her hands on her hips, while she stood bent over Sara's face, effectively acting as a human umbrella.  "So,  and you were worried things wouldn't get back to 'normal' around here?  What, you couldn't stand a whole week of peace and quiet without Chloe around?"  She saw the embarrassed glare on Sara's face, and began to laugh. She glanced up  at Dave, who was still getting a face bath from the rain from trying to avert his gaze. "Hey, honey, Dave, wouldn't just turning around solve the whole problem? You're going to get a stiff neck."

Dave considered that a mere second before he decided that his fiancee was a very smart woman. He quickly turned around, just as Marcy was holding out a hand to help Sara up into a sitting position.

But Dave's mouth went sand dry and his lips wouldn't move and he let loose a sort of strangled gurgling sound towards Jason, Justin and Nelson, who were just steps away from the scene of the disaster.

All three hungover and curious young men arrived at the back of the van just in time to see Chloe drop the protective boot to fumble with the sleeves of an inside out shirt, and a barechested, scowling Sara holding out her hands to Marcy so the grinning and pregnant woman could help her get up.

Marcy unceremoniously and quite unintentionally dropped Sara back down into the mud with a 'oomph' when she saw the three boys' startled and open-mouthed arrival at the back of the van. She was in no shape to help the newly sputtering Sara back up; she was too busy trying to keep her shaking, laughing body upright. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Chloe perform an uncoordinated dive for the front of the van, and as her laughter picked up at the expressions on Nelson's, Justin's and Jason's faces, she finally gave up trying to stay on her feet and slid down the wet bumper of the van, her poncho covered butt landing in a mud puddle next to a truly vexed and swearing Sara.

"Normal!" gasped Marcy between laughing jags. "Normal!!"

Marcy bit her lip, and handed Chloe a warming cup of decaf, her friend looking rumpled and miserable at the kitchen table. She just couldn't help herself. "Kind of gives a whole new meaning to 'Show us yer tits!', doesn't it?"

Chloe raised her eyes, and curled her lip most of the way into a snarl. "Funny, Marcy. Funny."

Marcy snickered, and sat down across from her. "Oh, c'mon. You have a better sense of humor than what you're showing me now.  It's no biggie. Everyone," she pursed her lips in an attempt to keep a straight face, "will forget about it in no time at all. Really."

Chloe didn't touch her coffee. She gave Marcy a smoldering, disgusted look. "Liarhead. This story will be told for years and years. Your kidlet will be telling it at Show and Tell Day in the second grade. The only thing I'm thankful for is that it wasn't caught on tape." Her tense face eased into a small smile. Almost. "And I'm never going to be able to look Dave, Nelson, Justin or Jason in the face again. Never! "

"Well, I wouldn't worry about Jason, he doesn't give a shit, he's gay. And I warned them all, before they left, that if they leaked one word about this to anyone, I was going to turn each and every one of them into eunuchs." Marcy said protectively, but the insides of her cheeks were already getting sore from all the biting she was inflicting upon them, trying to keep a ridiculously broad smile off her face.

Chloe groaned and laid her head down on the table. "Isn't she ever going to get out of the shower?"

"She had a ton of gravel in her hair, Chloe. And mud. The drain probably clogged about half way through." Marcy had stopped gnawing on her cheeks, and now was biting the tip of her tongue. "Give her some time to compose herself, I mean, at least you were in the back of the van when it all happened.

"Yeah, with my jeans down around my knees and my tits to the breeze," Chloe replied sarcastically. She lifted her head from the table, and eyed Marcy. "Tell me how that makes it better? Dave got to see more of me than you've EVER seen before, and you think that's better?"

Marcy chortled. "I never told you that you had to be so shy around me. That was YOUR decision. I could give a shit. You're the Miss Prim around here, not me!"

Chloe shook her head. "Nevertheless." She sighed. "I should have stayed in California. Or overnight in Cleveland. Then maybe all this would have turned out OK.  Sounds like things were going just fine here without me coming back and screwing up everyone's lives. Much less my own." She looked away from Marcy, her face full of her conflicting emotions.

Marcy reached out a hand to her, and softly stroked Chloe's arm. "Now that's not true, you're just feeling sorry for yourself. Did you leave your sense of humor in California? Cut it out."

"Well," Chloe retorted, "You're not the one that's going to get blamed for this. Somehow, I will. You know it, I know it." She listened, and heard the shower stop. Marcy was going to say something in reply, but Chloe continued. "I threw myself at her in the van, after she'd been keeping her distance from me.  She obviously has more stuff to work out about me, about us. But I was just so impatient to reconnect, to try and get something back to normal, well, there ya go. Another classic Donahue moment to remember."

"You really are feeling sorry for yourself, aren't you?"

"Well, she didn't exactly welcome me back with open arms, Marcy,."

Marcy didn't feel like stepping lightly around her friend's feelings. "What did you want?  You can't just show up, and magically erase what's happened over the course of the last week, just because you're all bright and shiny and new from your little vacation." Her voice dropped lower, not knowing when Sara would get out of the bathroom and join them in the kitchen. "At least she was there, waiting for you. She could have, in my mind, had every right to just walk away from you. But she didn't. That woman had a horrible week. A good week in some ways, a horrible week about you."

"Listen," Chloe whispered, her patience nearly nonexistent. "I know about the house. How do you think that makes me feel? That she'd try and get it without me, and then, miracles of miracles, she does get it. Fuckin' wonderful.  I come back to tell her that I've finally pulled my head out of my ass, and she tells me she went and got the mortgage. What did I have in the say about it? Nothing. She couldn't have waited a week? She just doesn't want me as a part of it. Can't say I blame her."

Marcy just stared at her a moment, then she got up from her chair, and aimed her comment right between Chloe's eyes. "Great. You sure learned a lot out West, didn't you?  You're doing a great job of feeling sorry for yourself, and now you're blaming her for doing something positive in her life, for trying to proceed, like an adult, to get something she really wants.  She couldn't, didn't have the opportunity to discuss this all with you, because you, conveniently, were out of town, thinking things out. What, you wanted us to all put our lives on hold while you did your disappearing act? Well, it doesn't work that way, Chloe."

Chloe couldn't come up with anything intelligent to reply, so she took the immature way out. "You're just taking her side, is all."

Marcy took a quick step towards the kitchen sink, picked up a wet dishrag, and tossed it at Chloe. Chloe didn't have time to react or duck, and it hit her in the shoulder. She glared at Marcy, and Marcy glared right back. "Maybe you should just leave, Chloe. Get your butt home, wash your clothes.  Get readjusted to living in little ol' Stonecreek."

Chloe closed her eyes, and managed to stop a hurtful remark that was just aching to pass through her lips. She opened her eyes, and said very steadily, "Maybe I should. This day is as fucked up as it's ever going to get." She stood up from the table and started moving towards the kitchen door. "Tell Sara if she wants to come over, she can."  Chloe opened the screen door, and left down the porch steps.

Sara came out of the bathroom to find Marcy sitting on the couch, engrossed in the Sunday crossword puzzle. She ducked her head into the kitchen archway, looked around, and then asked, "Where's Chloe?"

Marcy didn't look up from the puzzle. "She left."

Sara walked over and stood in front of Marcy. "Left? Why?" Chloe leaving is starting to get to be a joke around here.

Marcy muttered, "I threw her out."  She dropped her pencil onto the couch, and then slowly looked up to see Sara's none too happy expression. "She was getting snippy with me, so I told her to leave." Marcy pushed out a sigh, and stared past Sara out the living room window. "She said if you wanted to go over, you could."

"Oh."  There was something not quite right about Marcy's tone or the look on her face. She'd come out of the bathroom fully prepared to take some real razzing about the van incident, and Marcy wasn't providing that teasing.  Sara sat down carefully on the couch next to her, and quietly studied her friend's face.

Marcy glanced at her, and then grabbed her pencil again, set to work on the next clue.  "I'm sick of it."

"Sick of what, Marse?"

"Sick of all this damned drama around here. All the fuckin' intrigue, all the long faces, all of it. I'm tired of it. Shit, I'm just plain tired."

Sara knew that Marcy had much more to say, and she made herself comfortable and attempted to draw more out of her. "I'm sorry.  I know I haven't been much help. You've been great to me all week, and well, thank you.."

"It's not you, Sara. You've been a brick." Marcy laughed, and decided to amend her last statement. "No really, you've held up better than I would.  I would have tarred and feathered her and set her out to drift on the lake if I were you. I've cut  former fiancés loose for more asinine reasons. I don't know how you did it.  If Dave took off on me for a week, I'd have had a big sign out on the lawn that said 'Adios, Muchacho!' for him to see when he came back.  I mean, I know it was hard on you, but really ... how did you do it? I mean, where do you get your patience with her?"

Sara laughed. "Patience? Me?  Are you forgetting how bad I was this week?  Are you conveniently forgetting that I'm the one always walking away? And while we're at it, Marse, let's forget about me for a minute, and talk about you.  You're mad at her yourself,  I mean, that's obvious.  I think you just want me to be mad at her too, now, so we can have a united front.  But I realized, in small doses, since last night and this morning, and even in that puddle behind the van, that I don't want to be mad anymore. I want to be happy.  I want you to be happy, too, Marse, and I'm really sorry  we're screwing up what should be a very good time for you.  If you hadn't noticed," she reached over and gave Marcy's belly a light pat, "you're about to become a mom for the first time.  That is, if you haven't been counting the practice time with Nelson."

"Nelson? He just thinks  of me as, well, his dad's girlfriend and a sort of part time counselor. I'm no Mom to Nelson."

Sara looked at her seriously. "That's not true.  You're more of a mom to him than Mary ever was, even when she and Dave were married.  Nelson looks at me like a big sister, at Chloe like a great friend, and Dave as his dad. When he talks about you, there's something different there.  Something he's been missing all his life.  He loves you, and he loves the fact that you're going to provide him with a little brother or sister.  That's a whole different kind of light to see someone in, Marcy.  Although you're not all that much older than him, he looks at you with a whole different kind of respect. And last night, at the party, he referred to you as his 'stepmom' just as much as he was calling you 'Marcy'. "

Sara stopped, and saw the wonder showing in Marcy's eyes, and she smiled at her. "Don't you know how special you are?  Don't you know how much it means to Nelson and me to have someone like you in Dave's life? We had to love you because you were involved romantically with my dear, dense brother, but Nels and I, we've come to love you for a whole shitload of other reasons."

Marcy was sniffing now, and blinking back tears. "Really?" Her pregnant insecurities began to show. "What reasons?"

Sara paused in thought a moment, and then she said, quite seriously. "Well, for one, the meatballs."  She saw Marcy's expression turn from melancholy to amused, and ducked away from the smack that she threw at her. "No, really, Marse. Don't sit there and ask me to spell them out.  I'm not good at this huggy stuff."

Marcy decided that revenge was the best move. She leaned over, and quite deliberately gave Sara a warm hug, and then leaned back with a look of victory on her face.

Sara said, "Ew!" but her surprised expression spoke the truth. "Don't get in a habit with that, willya?  You could ruin our bitchy reputations."

Marcy grinned. "Hell no.  It'll be the dirty disgusting secret that we never can reveal to the world."  She paused a very pregnant second, and added, "Just like your topless show out in the driveway!"

Sara let out a great laugh. "My God, poor Dave. I mean, he had trouble when I was on that cop show, running around in thongs and getting a bikini wax every morning. I can't imagine how he's going to deal with this."

"Therapy. And getting tanked down at Stan's this afternoon. Big poker game." She wiggled more comfortably into the couch. "Actually, I should thank you.  Dave and Nelson are always underfoot, and I never get any quiet time to myself.  The fallout from your puddle dive this morning is that I've got two males who don't want to be within ten miles of this place today, just because they're scared to run into you or Chloe! No matter how you look at it, I win!"

Sara smiled and winked at her. "Well, I'm going to get out of your hair, too, and go see what Chloe's up to. We sort of had  ... some unfinished business that I'm interested in continuing." She raised her eyebrow at Marcy, leaving no doubt what that unfinished business related to. "Can I take some meatballs with me?"

Now there was a winning statement if Marcy ever heard one. "Take the whole damned fridge with ya.  I am so sick of meatballs, I may never touch one until Vivian is in her first year of reform school."

"Vivian?"  Sara thought a moment. "After Chloe's mom?"

Marcy blushed. "Oh, that's what I came up for a name for the little wild seed. Vivian, after Chloe's mom. Vivian Donahue was more a mom to me than my own mother ever was."  She looked at Sara, uncertain. "I know it's not trendy and it's kind of old fashioned. Whattya think?"

"I like it. A lot, Marse. Chloe will be thrilled to death. But if it's a boy?"

Marcy shrugged. "It won't be a boy."

Sara was a little taken aback at Marcy's confidence. "Did you find out from the doctor?"

Marcy gazed at her with absolute assurance in her voice and in her eyes. "Nope. I just know."

Sara felt no need to question her further. If Marcy believed it, she believed it. "Vivian D'Amico. I like it.."

Marcy smiled. "Me too. Now I just have to break it to Dave."  She snickered, and rolled her eyes, as Sara got up from the couch. "Hey, Sara?  Could you do me a favor?"

Sara pulled her long hair back, and dropped it, a half grin on her face. "You name it."

"Talk to her. Talk to Chloe. Get all of this stuff out in the open, and talk about it until everything's resolved, or at least on the right track. Otherwise I'm going to have to kill both of you."

"I'll talk to her, Marse.  I promise."

"Good."  Marcy picked up her crossword puzzle again, and Sara went out and retrieved a large bowl of meatballs from the refrigerator.

Sara paused in the archway and spoke to the back of Marcy's head.  "Seeya Marse. Try and have a good rest of the day. And Vivian D'Amico. I really like that."

Marcy turned on the couch, and met Sara's eyes. "Vivian Sara D'Amico."

Sara nearly dropped the container of meatballs. "Oh."

Marcy just shook her head, and laughed, and went back to her crossword with a contented smile on her face. "Quit staring at me from that doorway, Asshole, and get your butt over and talk to your girlfriend."

Sara shrugged, a small, delighted smile plastered on her face, and promptly followed Marcy's instructions.

Continued in Part XX

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