The Inside Out

by LA Tucker © 2002

Part XX:  If You Can't Be Part of the Solution, Be The Problem

For disclaimers, see Part I

Pick a little, talk a little, pick a little, talk a little, cheep cheep cheep, talk alot, pick a little more ...

Some of the most irritating and disconcerting happenings in life are precipitated by the sounding of an audible warning.  Fire alarms or ambulance whines. Alarm clock buzzes and referee whistles. The bells signifying the beginning of a school day. Telephone jangles and the ever inevitable insistent doorbell.

The doorbell is what woke Marcy from her unplanned nap on the couch.  She had nodded off with only 6 more clues to complete in her crossword puzzle and slipped into sleep on the couch with a smile on her face. She dreamt of uncomplicated days in her recent past, when she felt free and unencumbered by the notion of healthy lifestyles and purer living; traveling back to a time when she didn't care what she ate, how much she ate of it and how much salt it contained.  In her dream she was blissfully smoking a cigarette, drinking a double bourbon and Coke, and was using a large salt shaker with wild abandon on the feast of food laid out before her.  She was cracking wise about her latest fleeting sexual conquest while taking an impromptu 'spin the car' with Chloe, and still had complete faith in her method of birth control.  She could still fit behind the wheel of her little red Miata, she ate out much more often than she ate in, and she slept in the middle of her queen size bed and didn't have to share covers or clap her pillow over her head in an attempt to muffle a stuttering snore next to her.  In her dream, the toilet seat was always down, there were no whiskers in the bathroom  sink, and she had more than a minute or two out of every hour to think about nothing but herself.

But then the doorbell rang, and then rang again, and Marcy woke up from her subconcious reminiscing of her previous perfect world, and she blinked her eyes open, looked at the clock on the VCR and made a disconcerted effort to readjust her brain to real time and space.

She grumbled as the doorbell sounded again. "Hold on a minute, I'm coming."  She sat up slowly and put her bare feet on the floor, and adjusted her sundress, which was wrapped tightly around her uncomfortable body Even though she immediately remembered her pregnant state as she struggled to dislodge the skirt from between her legs, she reflexively looked on the coffee table for a nonexistent pack of cigarettes and lighter. When she blinked again, she realized that those items were no longer available to tempt and soothe her frazzled nerves, and she sighed. Mature, healthy and responsible were just no goddamned fun.

She opened the kitchen door, and her sleepy expression changed from dull and slit eyed to a smile and a snicker. "Well, look what the cat drug in."

"Hello, Marcy," grinned Audra, and she pointed to her companion standing next to her on the porch. "Just thought we'd stop by. We got bored and went to the DQ, and decided to drop in and see if you'd given birth to anything human yet."

"Speak for yourself, I wasn't bored," interrupted Julia, looking uncomfortable and shy. "I was just fine watching my movie -"

Audra gave her friend a sidelong look, and rolled her eyes. "If I have to watch you watch 'Cinema Paradiso' one more time, with you bawling every stinkin' time you watch it, I'm going to have to be put on meds for both our sakes."

Julia merely scowled at her and then smiled in resignation at Marcy. "Yeah, well, there ya have it, and here we are."

Marcy motioned them to come in, and they settled at the kitchen table.   Marcy listened to their back and forth teasing bantering while she got beverages out of the fridge and handed them out.  She was still feeling a little drowsy, so she let them carry the conversation until she woke up a little more. She heard them talk about their new living arrangements, the home theater system they'd bought, and how Julia obsessively kept pints of Ben and Jerry's Chubby Hubby stockpiled in the freezer. She said very little, but laughed in the appropriate places, so she figured she was coming out of her stupor bit by bit.  She was still missing her cigarettes when Audra not so slyly brought up her favorite subject, Chloe Donahue.

"So, Marse,"  Audra said as rubbed her thumb across the top lip of her beer bottle, "where is everyone?  Dave's not here, Nelson either? No Sara?  Though I gotta say, I was happy to see her Comet was no where around." She tried to sound disinterested but failed. "She over at Chloe's?"

Marcy was no slug even if she felt rather sluggish, and she stole a quick glance at Julia. She noticed that Julia looked rather irritated at the mention of Chloe's name, and the counselor sighed just under her breath.  Marcy filed that reaction away for later inspection. "Last I knew, she was headed for Chloe's, yeah.  Dave took the van and went over to Stan's bar to lose money playing poker, and Nelson is out with his buddies returning borrowed crockpots.. Unless he got ticked off at them and dumped them off somewhere."  Marcy took a sip of her herbal decaffeinated tea, and winced. She pushed it away from her, and eyed Audra's beer bottle jealously. "And just what happened to you two last night? Here I am ready to hang a sign outside that says 'A Million Meatballs Served' and you two don't show up."

"Sorry about that, " Audra said with real regret. "This huge willow branch came down right on top of Julia's windshield.  Crunched the hell out of it. Completely missed mine, althought they were right next to each other. So, we were kind of indisposed."

Marcy's eyes widened, and she looked at Julia, who had a frown on her face. "Wow, that's a bitch. OK, I guess that's an acceptable excuse for not showing up. But don't think you two are going to leave here today without taking a five pound doggie bag full of meatballs. I'm thinking about using them for practice balls out on the golf course."

The following conversation covered what happened to Julia's car, the extent of the damage from the storm in Harmercreek, and finally, Audra got around to asking about Chloe again. "So, did Sara tell you I'm going to be helping her out with this talent show fiasco?" She saw the grin of understanding on Marcy's face, and she crinkled her nose at her. "Well, Mrs. Raeburn backdoored me into it. The woman is a twisted wheel, I'm telling you. But I figure if I can help out Chloe ..."  she left off and shrugged. She tried to ignore the snorts that were aimed her way from both Marcy and Julia. "Hey, c'mon, cut me some slack here.  It's not like I'm a mole or something that Doris planted. I just got roped into it, and well, it should be interesting having to work with Sara."

Julia couldn't help but snort again. "Interesting. Oh, that's over simplification taken to the extreme, isn't it?"

Marcy grinned knowingly at the counselor, deciding although the woman was very quiet she was beginning to like her, simply because she wasn't afraid to call Audra on her bullshit. And the bullshit factor in Audra's offhand manner when she talked about Chloe was about as high as the nose of a giraffe.  "Whatever you say, Audra. But I just hope you and Sara don't end up in jail before opening night.  Life is weird enough around here as it is, what with Nelson leaving tomorrow, Sara starting her new job, and Chloe teaching at Glenhurst ... and Dave, well, he's always just ... Dave."  But she decided to tease Audra even more just to rub it in, and to entertain herself a little in the meanwhile. "And boy, did you ever miss the 'new and improved' Chloe Donahue arriving at the party after midnight ..."

Audra was intrigued. "Why'd she get there so late?  The weather, what?"

"Flight got in late. Then a long drive home in that storm. And she rolls in here looking like she just stepped off the cover of 'Luscious Lesbo' magazine."  She saw Audra's eyebrows raise. "You wouldn't believe it.  New haircut, new color, new clothes, showing skin that I wasn't even sure she had, and a tattoo -"

"Tattoo?" blurted Audra, who practically spit out the word because her imagination was already drooling over the changes in her long time crush. She and Julia both listened raptly as Marcy described Chloe's new appearance in detail, and then as she continued on with the happenings of the party, the exchange of ownership of the Comet, Sara getting the mortgage, and how Doris had gotten a telephone call saying that Sandy Baker wouldn't be coming to Stonecreek to live after all.  Marcy was still peeved with Chloe's behavior, and the whole California trip, so for some reason, she didn't feel badly about talking about her. Julia was pretty confused by a lot of what Marcy was saying, especially what precipitated all these changes in the librarian, and Marcy had to back up and explain that Chloe had taken an impromptu vacation in California without the benefit of pre-planning or announcing it to her extended family.  She felt a little disloyal in relating some of the details, but she ultimately buried the worst of her thoughts about the subject, and she tried to maintain a balanced view as she gave away only the most pertinent of details. Or so she told herself.

Audra listened, asking a few leading questions here and there, and for the most part, Julia kept silent and didn't interject her own thoughts. But she was watching every reaction, whether masked or outright incredulous, that appeared in her new roommate's face.

And of course, Marcy and Audra felt free to do what all women do with great skill and even greater frequency -- they decided they could disuss the trials of their absent friends, and offer perfectly plausible and insightful solutions to their tribulations.

"So you're saying that Sara is getting the house on her own?  and Chloe is pissed, and won't tell her?  Aren't those two ever going to learn?"  Audra shook her head. "This is just my opinion, but they've been together long enough now so you'd think they'd be able to talk."

"You'd think." Marcy agreed, and got up to get fresh beverages for them all. "But can you blame Sara?  I sure don't.  Chloe's this unknown quantity in the commitment department, not like I can talk, but c'mon, she's been farting around long enough. She's gotta shit or get off the pot, and quit worrying about if the septic tank can handle the load.  Sara's working now, and Chloe doesn't know if she's going to have a job at the library,  and she's been complaining about the PRESSURE of it all, so if Sara wants to take the pressure off her by shouldering the mortgage, well, she should just shut up and let Sara do it. I mean, they can always get the mortgage together later.  Just a matter of getting some papers signed, some bucks thrown around here and there. What's the big deal?"  Marcy sat back down, and looked at both Audra and Julia for agreement to her perfectly logical statements.

Julia cleared her throat, and spoke up before Audra could. "I hate to talk about people that I don't know that well, Marcy, but it IS a big deal." She saw Marcy's eyes narrow in confusion. "You see, we -- as lesbians -- don't have the same options of stating our togetherness as straight people do. So whether it's a joint banking account, sharing the same telephone number, getting a mortgage together, they're all pretty heavy duty statements of 'togetherness'.  Getting a mortgage is kind of like a marriage, well, where you're saying you plan on spending the next thirty years together, paying the place off. If Sara, and I can't speak for her, and I kinda feel bad speaking about her at all ... well, her getting the mortgage by herself is saying, 'I plan on spending the next thirty years in this place, and you can live with me, or not, but ... well, I won't make that kind of commitment to you.'  I don't know. I don't know either one of them well enough ..."

"Well, I do,"  Marcy and Audra said in unison, and then looked at each other and laughed.

Audra took up the lead. "Chloe needs to find out what her options are.  She shouldn't be jumping into that kind of commitment when it sounds like her life is going to be in a state of upheaval for a while. If I were her, I'd sit back and enjoy the freedom. I mean, Sara's given her an out.  She should exercise that option.  I mean, this works out for everyone, right?  Sara gets the house, Marcy gets the house sold, Chloe won't be saddled with new financial problems, and they can take the time to decide what they really want. And if Chloe has come back from California all .. changed and everything, it sounds like she needs to take a couple of steps back. Otherwise, she wouldn't have ended up taking off, right?"

Marcy had a disagreeing scowl on her face. "You would think that, wouldn't you?  But no, she takes off and never calls and then she comes back and is all P.O'ed that Sara got the house without her. I think she should grow up.  Sara is doing the right thing, in my book. To tell you the truth, I've just about had it up to here with the both of them.  Sara's been great, and she didn't have such an easy week herself, and well, I used to think that Sara was bad news for Chloe, but now I'm thinking it's the other way around. Poor Sara, it just seems like she can't do anything right.  Every time she does something, you know, forward moving, she gets hacked down at the knees because of one thing or another.  And I know for a fact she's been having her panic attacks again. I caught her out in the barn the other day trying to get calm down from one of them. I didn't want to bother her -- I just turned around and left. I know she's been fucked up because of Chloe acting like such a horse's patoot."

"Wait a minute."  Audra couldn't reconcile Marcy's impression of Sara as being weak-kneed and her own image of Sara being a cold-hearted and distant bitch. "Hey, cut Chloe a break. Sara must have done something wrong, maybe you're just not privy everything that's going on like you think you are.  Chloe's always trying to do the right thing, too, and who can blame her for wanting to get away from Sara?  I'll bet Sara cold shouldered her again.  She's the friggin' Queen of the Cold Shoulder."

Julia was going to say something, and then thought better of it. She knew better than to argue with these two happily gossiping women, and knew that personal problems couldn't be solved from afar, but needed to be resolved from within the relationship. She looked at one woman and then the other, and then finally popped in with her own musings.  "Well, nevertheless, what it really sounds like to me ... the problem may be that YOU two have issues about them.  You two both need to readjust your ideas about them. Marcy, it sounds to me like you're ticked at Chloe.  Audra, it's apparent that you just plain don't like Sara. And meanwhile, Sara and Chloe are ... well, where ever they are, I hope they're working this out without --thankfully, without the benefit of either one of your biased and so called well meaning input."

Both Audra and Marcy both looked at Julia for a long, blank moment.  They then simultaneously decided to overlook the good sense behind what she was saying, and went right back into their opinion sharing with renewed gusto.

Julia sighed, and looked heavenward. And they wonder why I'd rather be watching Cinema Paradiso.

Pick a little, talk a little, pick a little, talk a little, cheep cheep cheep, talk alot, pick a little more ...

"I swear to God, Mark, you are the biggest dumbass that this town has ever seen."  Dave glared at his buddy from across the table, and tossed his hand in.

Mark tried to act innocent. He looked at Stan and Jay for support. "All I asked was if you ever, ya know, saw them doing anything."

Dave continued his glare, and Stan chuckled as he tossed in a chip. "Well, c'mon Dave, I know she's your sister and all, but hey, they're women. Women together. Good looking women, and us, being guys, well, the thought of it can get pretty interesting, you have to admit.

Mark adamantly nodded his head. "She sure as shittin' ain't MY sister, so I can think anything about her that I want. Especially if she's doing it with that hot Chloe Donahue."

Dave's skin color went through numerous shades in the red spectrum, as he remembered earlier this afternoon, and what he had inadvertently caught his sister and Chloe doing. He shifted uncomfortably in his chair. "Knock it off. You guys have the depth of a melted ice cube.  I don't think about them like that. They're ... in love."

There was a protracted silence, and then his three friends busted out in boisterous guffaws.

"Love?  Damn Dave, we don't want to hear about LOVE, we want to hear the good stuff. Love we get from our mothers, girlfriends and wives," Jay sputtered, and wiped the beer he'd spilled off the table with his shirtsleeve. "Not like we have walking, talking lesbians right here in Stonecreek every day of the week."

Dave mumbled, "That's how much you know ..." before he clamped his mouth shut.

Stan took pity on his best friend, and tried to help him out by changing the subject. "So, Sara's buying Marcy's house, huh?  Doris told me last night. That's pretty great. Looks like Sara will be hanging around for the foreseeable future.  You must be glad about that."

Dave nodded. "Yeah, it's a good thing all the way around. Marcy unloads the house, Sara stays here."

Mark, always a pain in the ass since the day he was conceived, decided to keep the subject on topic even if Stan had tried to steer away from it. "So is Chloe going to be living there, too?  Is Chloe going to be selling her place?"

Dave gathered up the cards and began shuffling them. "Not sure yet. I think things are kind of up in the air between them. Not sure."

Jay had never been one to handle even the smallest amount of alchohol, so even his first mug of beer loosened his tongue enough to ask something he'd been curious about for a really long time. "They having problems?  That's too bad."  He took a quick sip of his beer. "Uh, Dave, do you know if, uh,  Sara, or Chloe, for that matter, might ... swing both ways on the garden gate?"

Three very interested sets of eyes settled on Dave, who stopped fumbling with the cards, and stared at each of his bleary eyed friends in turn. They remained quiet, curious and drunkenly earnest in wanting there to be some hope for them.

Dave smiled, and then drawled. "Well, let me put it this way, even if either one of them did,  I doubt very much that either one of them would let their garden gate swing into YOUR front yard, Jay."  He laughed, and saw the disappointed expressions on his friends faces. "Give it up, boys. To tell ya the truth, I'd much rather see them together than with any of you three dorks. And Mark, you're MARRIED. Does Dawn know what a hound dog you are?"

Mark chuckled. "That's exactly why she married me, I wouldn't let her alone.  But I'm just showing some solidarity with these two bachelors here, who seem to be losing their money to us faster than the government can print it." He grinned again, and winked at Dave. "You can't fault us for having our fantasies, especially if they're having problems. There isn't a whole slew of single women in this town for us to pant over, ya know?"

Stan couldn't resist ribbing Dave. "Especially since Mr. Golf Course here finally nailed the finest filly around and put her in his corral. With foal on the way, too."  Stan sighed. "I guess I was just too early in the game with Marcy.  I was, what... number 2, 3, in the long line of jilted fiancés?  She just couldn't handle me, is all."

Dave cleared his throat. "She couldn't handle the way you smell, Stan. Matter of fact, I'm really glad I'm sittin' way across from you now."

Stan humphed as his friends laughed. "Fuck you, D'Amico.  You're going to be smelling like shitty diapers pretty soon."

Dave smiled and raised his eyebrows, as he began dealing out the cards. "Yup, one leaving tomorrow, and another one on the way. "  His smile faded a little. "I hope Nels does OK out there. He's kind of naive, you know?  He's a great guy, but he's really never seen much of the world. I hope it ... doesn't change him."

Stan picked up his cards, and began to sort them. "He'll be fine.  I've seen him get mad, and anyone that can look that scary when they're mad, people will leave him alone."

Dave murmured. "I hope so."

The hand continued, with cards being thrown and more picked up.  Jay picked at his cards, rearranging them. His beer fueled brain got his tongue to moving again. "So, if Chloe and Sara were to break up, which one of them- you know, hypothetically speaking - do you think one of us might have a chance with?"

It's a good thing that the rolling of eyes didn't make an audible noise, because there would be an awful rumbling occurring in Stan's bar in response to Jay's question.

Dave was just about to reply, when Stan cut in. "No, no, Dave, let ME!"  He put his cards down on the table, and looked at Jay, who was patiently waiting for an answer. "OK, Jay, let's see. If hell froze tomorrow, and there was just Sara and Chloe left, and YOU?  And those women weren't getting along, and you had to pick one that might be susceptible to your hidden ... charms?"  He saw Jay nod, and the small smiles forming on both Dave's and Mark's faces. "Well, this is just a guess, but I think you'd have a better chance with Chloe.  She seems to be a little more ... patient than Sara.  But on the other hand, once they got their problems worked out, I would think Sara would challenge your sorry ass into a duel for even trying to make time with Chloe. But on the other hand, if you went after Sara, you'd have to sleep with a roasting pan covering your family jewels, because there's a good goddamned chance Chloe would want to ... relieve you of them if you looked at her girlfriend sideways." He saw Jay gulp, and he snickered and turned to Dave. "How'd I do?"

Dave laughed, and threw his hand in again. "Damned straight.  No chance of it, Jay. Wake up and smell the horse manure."

Stan was inordinately pleased with himself. "See, I can be sensitive. What the hell? It's not so hard. And hell, I LIKE both of them. If they're having problems, then I hope they can work them out.  Sara oughta just pick Chloe up, toss her over her shoulder and carry that girl into that house, and not let her get away."

"Or Chloe should quit being such a ditz, and realize that women like Sara don't come along every day,"  Jay said wistfully, the beer getting the better of him.

All the men silently agreed with him.  Dave raised his beer mug in a solemn salute, and waited until his buddies raised theirs, too. "What the fuck,"  Dave intoned. "Here's to the women we have, we don't have, and the ones we'll never have. May they find better schmucks than the likes of us!"

Mugs clanked, beer swallowed, grins exchanged.

The men settled back into their game again, until Mark absently queried, "So, Dave, you never answered my question. Have you ever, ya know, seen them doing anything?"

Pick a little, talk a little, pick a little, talk a little, cheep cheep cheep, talk alot, pick a little more ...

Nelson and Jason were on official crockpot return duty, and had pulled up in front of Mrs. Raeburn's house to find her sitting on her screened in front porch, enjoying watching the rain come down.  They placed the crockpots on the floor of the porch, and sat down on either side of her.

She went from 0 to 60 in less than ten seconds and they did the best they could to keep up.  It wasn't easy.

"Be happy you don't have next door neighbors, Nelson.  Where do you live, Jason? Oh, yes, down on the old Lakeshore Road, right near the bottom, huh? You haven't had to live through the loons I've put up with all these years.  This used to be cow pasture when we moved here in the '60's.  Then suburbia sprung up like poison ivy all around us. One snot nosed, pee pants kid after the other moved in and then off this street, and then just when I think I'm finally rid of them, I end up with having to deal with them in my high school."

She pointed to the two story duplex across the street from them. "See there?  The couple that moved in there is either fighting or having some kind of loud party. No in between. And the people on the right of me,  I swear they were all extras in 'Deliverance' - they stare all the time.  When they first moved here I tried a friendly wave a couple of times and all I got was a blank look back."

Doris pointed her ever present umbrella to the one story ranch on her left. "These folks on this side aren't so bad.  I have noticed they seem to go through a lot of furniture.  Seems like they throw out a couch every week. I'm still trying to figure it out.  The house isn't that big, how does one have so many couches? I've never been inside since they moved in, but it sure has me curious.  I figure they just have couches everywhere.  Around the kitchen table. Or instead of beds. And the really awful thing is that these couches are just beyond hideous.  I'm not judging, mind you.  I did a mental inventory of my house and the only piece of new furniture I have is my new bedroom set.  I've had my couch for 15 years, and it's still in good shape. Goes to show that I haven't had a crew of little savages running around the place for years."

Her expression turned melancholy. "My late husband Gene and I decided that we'd just live with what we had until our boys were grown and gone.  That's when I got the new couch and armchairs. Unfortunately, Gene also decided to have a fatal coronary on that brand new couch at the ripe old age of 47. Two days after it was delivered." She shook her head sadly, and then seemed to shake it off.  She grinned, and said pointedly,  " So, I've pretty much decided that I'd never get another new couch. The damned things are dangerous."

Nelson and Jason nodded gravely at Doris, and tried to find something in her rambling that they could grasp as sage advice. Neither one of them was having any luck doing this when Doris waved at the house on the left again. The Couch House.

"Everything they set out by the curb looks like Early American Flea Market. So when I say that the condition of the furniture they pitch is bad, trust me on this.  They're nice enough folks, but he does tend to wear his pants too high.  He also has a funny habit of wearing button down shirts tucked into his sweat pants. Their backyard is a sight, too. His wife has just about every lawn ornament known to mankind back there.  I like to see if I can spot the new ones, it's like searching for Waldo out my kitchen window.  A swan, a deer, a lamb, some kind of Amish wheelbarrow, geese, spinning flowers and birds and ugly trolls, flamingos, those horrid kissing Dutch figurines, at least three different wishing wells.  I figure if she can fit all that stuff on the lawn then she sure as hell can get a half dozen couches into that little house. Takes them a week to maneuver the lawn mower around all that stuff and then they have to start all over again. If the husband catches me out watering my flowers, he sure can drone on.  We spent a good half hour the other day talking about how the electric company was cutting the tree branches away from the lines.  Actually, he talked, I listened."

Both young men shook their heads in disbelief.  For the obvious reason.

"I kept wondering if he was aware of how dirty his glasses were. How wonderful and sad life can be -- all at the same time, don't you think?"

Nelson actually said a half sentence, "Sure is," he mumbled politely. Jason looked at him in amazement at his awesome accomplishment.

Doris narrowed her eyes and studied the dark young man next to her. "I don't want to hear one bad thing about you out there in California, Nelson. Not one bad word. I have distant relatives out there, and let me tell you, they have umbrellas too.  Umbrellas Across America.  Are you getting my drift?"

Jason had a hard time not laughing at the chagrined look on Nelson's face. But then Doris turned her attention his way, and he quickly swallowed his smirk. "And you, you'll still be around, won't you?  I was talking with your dad last night, and I know where you live young man.  You're going to Glenhurst, aren't you?  You'd better get that big butt of yours down and schedule a class with Chloe Donahue.  She's teaching Public Debate or some such thing there this semester. Wouldn't hurt for you to learn how to talk other than about football and whatever else it is that is bouncing around in that head of yours.  She's teaching a night course, so you go right down to the office as soon as you can, drop one of your lame freshman courses you signed up for, and get into Chloe's class.  Wouldn't hurt to have someone big like you around, keeping all those collegiate smooth talkers away from the poor girl. I'm sure Sara would appreciate it."  Her head swiveled. "Isn't that right, Nelson?"

He nodded, and then actually thought the idea was a good one. "Yeah," he smiled.

Jason took the opportunity to say his piece, too. "OK."

Doris didn't acknowledge him, she returned her attention to Nelson. "Everything all right between those two?  Chloe and Sara?  Things looked a little strained last night." She actually stopped talking and waited for him to respond.

Nelson licked his lips. "Well, they seemed to be getting along just fine when Jase and I saw them earlier today ..."

Jason let loose a snort, and then choked it back when both Doris and Nelson gave him a dirty look. But Nelson's face eased into a grin. "It is a little tense between them, I guess."

Doris pondered this for only a nanosecond. "Well, you know about women, don'tcha boys?"

Actually, neither one did, what with Nelson with his very first girlfriend, and Jason still hunting for his very first boyfriend.  But they looked at her expectantly anyway.

Doris tapped her umbrella for emphasis. "There isn't a woman alive who is truly happy for more than two minutes at a time.  Their minds are always searching for some kind of meaning that just isn't there. Luckily, for you two, being of the male persuasion and all, you aren't looking for the meaning of much of anything.  You're both always thinking with your ... appendages, so to speak, and if you're not doing that, then you're wondering when your next meal is going to arrive."  Doris cleared her throat in preparation for her next bit of learned yet skewed advice.

Nelson and Jason leaned closer and gave her their full attention.

"Sara and Chloe, they'll work it out.  Sara has got to stop being such a moody, inflexible stick in the mud, and Chloe needs to quit thinking in fifty different directions all at the same time.  Sara's single-minded, and Chloe's got too much imagination. Once they get into Marcy's house, things will smooth out, and they can start arguing about whether or not they need a new couch for the living room."

She smiled, and eyed them both.

"If it was up to me, I'd sit them both down, and tell them to hold off on buying a new couch.  For a long, long time."

Pick a little, talk a little, pick a little, talk a little, cheep cheep cheep, talk alot, pick a little more ...

Sara stood at Chloe's screen door, and peered into the living room.  Chloe was no where to be seen, and Sara hesitated a moment.  She turned around under the small awning covering the porch, and stared out to the wet road, and looked east at the old Marathon gas station that bordered Chloe's property.  Just over a week ago, she would have entered the house without hesitation, searching for the small former redblonde in the small house and when she found her, greeting her with a sound and proper kiss.  But today, with the way the evening before had progressed, and the slapstick turnout of the attempted tryst in the van, well, Sara was feeling just a bit unsure of herself.  Should she knock and wait for Chloe to come and invite her in?  Should she knock and then enter?  Should she just open the door and stride in and hunt Chloe down and kiss her like she wanted to kiss her?  She stood vacantly staring at the falling rain, puzzling over these questions, when the answer made itself known without her twisting her brain cells too much.

"Are you going to stand there and stare at the rain all day, or are you going to come in?"

Sara spun around, sheepishly grinning at Chloe, who was wearing her favorite old pink chenille robe and softly smiling at her from just inside the door.  Sara lifted her right hand. "I come bearing gifts. Marcy's meatballs, a half gallon of milk and a loaf of bread.  I figured you needed fresh stuff.  Can't have you going without your Raisin Bran in the morning. Gotta keep you regular," she said cheekily, covering up for her embarrassment at being caught standing out on the porch. They both took a moment and stared at each other through the screen, reacquainting their eyes with the vision of the woman in front of them.  It's going to be a while before I can get used to that haircut, that color.  Sara blinked at  Chloe, who was casually studying her in return. "What's with the robe?"

"Everything's in the washer." Chloe must have been having a little psychic moment, because she rubbed a hand over her hair, and said,  "I know, I know!  Every time I go past a mirror, I think there's a strange woman shadowing me. Then I realize it's me, and then I have to readjust.  Not sure yet if I like it, if it's me."

Sara relaxed her posture when she realized that Chloe was speaking to her without an attitude carryover from her peevish anger this morning, and the unfortunate van, uh, incident.  She raised an eyebrow, and gave Chloe an unabashed once over. "I dunno, it's growing on me. But you do look different. Older, maybe. Not old," she amended when she saw the doubtful look appear in Chloe's eyes, "just more  ... polished?  Not so .. small town?"

Chloe snickered, and scrunched up her nose. "Oh, let's just have that 'Porn Star' cap surgically attached to my head. God, the van!  I just lose the 'Kissing Bandit' title, and now I have to live this down?"

Sara laughed. "You?  How about WE?  I mean, at least you dove for cover. I had Marcy  and Dave and three teenage boys hovering over me, and I'm pretty sure that Nelson is permanently warped now."

Chloe put her hands on her hips. "And he wasn't before?"

"I see years of therapy in that boy's future."

"I thought it was mandatory for actors anyway."

"It's in the bylaws," Sara agreed, and then looked out at the rain again. She was feeling just a little awkward standing there on the porch with groceries in hand.

Chloe noticed her hesitation, and she pulled the robe tighter around her, watching Sara look out over her front lawn. Inspiration struck. She only hoped Sara would catch on.

"Why did you come?"

Sara turned and noticed that Chloe was holding the pink robe tightly closed at her throat, and she mumbled, "You told Marcy to tell me .."

Chloe gave her a half smile, and interrupted her. She cleared her throat. "Let's try this again, Sara."  She pulled at the robe again, and gave Sara a wink. "Let's take it from the top of the scene. Knock on the door."

Before Sara could answer her with a confused, "Huh?" Chloe had closed the inner door, leaving Sara staring at it in utter bewilderment. She shook her head, then did as Chloe had asked, and rapped smartly on the door.

The door opened a crack, with Chloe frowning at her. Before Sara could open her mouth, Chloe had shut the door again, but Sara could clearly hear her voice through it. "Why did you come?"

Something familiar about that sentence clicked in Sara's mind, and having a wonderful memory for meaningful movie dialogue, she finally caught on. "I guess I'm scared to death of never seeing you again," Sara replied, hoping she'd gotten her lines correct.  She was grinning madly, for she realized that Chloe was playing out a scene from one of their favorite movies.

From inside the door,  Chloe was unknowingly mirroring Sara's grin. "Sara, you've got to let it go, you know that."  She smiled even wider, as she saw the doorknob being turned and jostled, but Sara didn't push on it and come in. In the movie, it was locked. Aha. Perfect. Chloe waited a beat before she responded to the knob jiggling. "Stop it!" she said, trying to sound serious.

Sara slipped easily into the role of the movie's brunette. "I want you to open the door!"

"And I want you to leave me alone ..."

"I can't!" Sara said, desperation infusing her voice. She laid her forehead on the screen door. "Honest."

Sara had to hold back a smile when she saw the door being slowly opened, and she stepped back and opened the screen door, so there was nothing but threshold between the two women. She looked at the worried expression on Chloe's face, and saw her nervously tuck some hair behind her ear. "You look wonderful," she said honestly.

Chloe frowned and as Sara stepped in, she replied, "Are you kidding?"

Sara stopped in front of her, but Chloe brushed by the taller woman, heading for one of her armchairs. "All right, Sara, we'll talk."

Sara watched her sit down. "You start."

Chloe clutched at her robe, and settled into the chair, trying to make eye contact but having a hard time. She licked her dry lips. "You ...  kissed me."

Sara got a small half smile, and returned the gaze. "And you kissed me."

Chloe looked progressively more uncomfortable, and she tugged at the belt on her robe. "I can't believe what I'm saying." She looked up again, meeting the steely eyed woman standing waiting for her to continue. "You see, I enjoy order ..."  She saw Sara' staring, and she flinched. "What happened between us was innocent ... more than anything else ..."

Sara interrupted, settling her long form against an edge of a bookcase. "And friendly, don't forget that one .."

Chloe put on a perfect air of indignation. "I was really hoping we could have a mature conversation about this."

Sara pushed away from the bookcase, crossing in front of Chloe and plopping down on the couch, laughing derisively with her reply. "Well, so far we've talked about order, and disorder, and who kissed who," and she smiled, "and what the hell does it matter anyway, since it was so innocent and friendly?"  Sara grinned, not only because she was so happy at remembering the dialogue so perfectly, but because she'd never really played out an acting scene with Chloe, and she found herself really enjoying it.

Chloe, for her part, was doing an admirable job of keeping a smile off her face, and keeping in character. She got up from her chair impatiently. "Then I'll get to the damned point! I am a respected scholar. I've been married for many years to a respected scholar." She frowned and paced in front of Sara, who had a half smile on her face. "And for a moment's indiscretion, a fleeting lapse in judgment, I stood in the rain and allowed .."  Chloe searched for the movie character's name, couldn't retrieve it, and used a familiar one instead. "... Marcy Wojciechlowski, a figure bearing not the slightest resemblance to anyone in my entire life's experience ... to humiliate us as if we were a couple of juvenile delinquents.

Sara shook her head and laughed. "You should have told her off!"

Chloe frowned in mock anger, and crossed to the kitchen archway, smoothly grabbing the bag with the groceries in it on her way. She loudly enunciated her next lines from off stage. "I'm not in the habit of raising my voice. Over false issues."  She ignored Sara as she opened the refrigerator door, put in the milk and meatballs in, took out a two liter of pop and poured herself a glass.  Since she knew what dialogue was upcoming, and Sara couldn't see her, her voice remained serious but her face broke into a large smile. She continued her part, a tingling beginning up her spine, and a warmth traveling into the most wonderfully sensitive areas of her body. She tried to sound as angry and clipped  as possible. "When I retire, I will simply write a short story for my revenge. About this town, these people .. these gamblers."  She took a few quick gulps of her cold pop, and had to squelch a small burp before she continued. "My only clear memory is arriving. Everything else is a blur.  A complete blur."  She took a deep breath, and then crossed her fingers that the scene would follow its course, exactly as it happened in the movie. She stepped back into the living room, and this time her face betrayed the happiness she felt, for there was Sara, on the couch, completely naked, with an afghan draped casually around her waist. "Oh god," she breathed. Sara looked at her with beckoning blue eyes, and Chloe had to take a moment to remember to breathe and her next line. "What do you think you're doing?"

Sara's gaze was honest and wanting. "Waiting for you."

Chloe's eyes widened, and she moved towards Sara, this time her movements were not mimicking those in the movie. Now she was just repeating lines, until she reached her goal. She stood at the end of the couch,  and she loosened the belt on her robe, letting it fall open to reveal the soft bare skin underneath. "I want you to put your clothes back on and leave."

Sara stared transfixed, and for a moment, forgot her lines. But the fire burning in Chloe's eyes helped her swiftly retrieve them. "No you don't."  She bit her lip as Chloe slipped the robe from her shoulders, let it drop onto the floor, and moved even closer.

"Yes, I do." Chloe lied, not convincing anyone with her performance any more.

Sara watched as Chloe moved onto the couch, and carefully straddled her lap, and their heads moved ever closer together. "No," Sara whispered, "You don't ..."

Chloe's lips started softly kissing the skin around Sara's eyes. "I wouldn't know what to do ..." she murmured, as her arms went around Sara's neck.

Sara groaned as Chloe's hands pushed her hair back, and her mouth made contact with her neck, beginning a slow, hot and nipping exploration. She just barely got her next words out. "Well, you could start by putting the 'Do Not Disturb' sign on the door..."  Her hands made contact with Chloe's breasts, and started a sensual massage.

Both director and actress discarded the rest of their following lines, and decided to ad-lib the scene to its climax.

Pick a little.  Talk a little. Cheep.

Continued in Part 21

Email me with feedback:  LA Tucker

Oh, and the movie?  Desert Hearts. Shame on you. <g>

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