The Inside Out

by LA Tucker
Copyright ©  2002


Part III: Why Caffeine Got Its Bad Reputation

For disclaimers, see Part I

    Sara woke up long before Chloe, and had to take several minutes to go through everything that happened the previous day and night before.  She opened her eyes with lingering trepidation,, and saw that Chloe's injured hand was perched precariously on her shoulder, and as stiff as Sara was, she didn't want to move in case that movement caused Chloe any pain. Huh. I should have thought about that last night.  Am I ever going to grow up?  What makes those women such a threat to me? I'm just as good as they are, just as smart, but I let them feel like a threat, I make them into something they're not.  Chloe chose me.  She came after me, and  then I send her away.  She said she didn't know about any of this, so why is it so hard for me to believe her?  I think I must be so worried that she's going to dump me, I do the exact stupid assed things that would probably make her do just that, because that's what I expect.  And that kiss.  I can see now it was definitely one sided.  But I knew that. Next thing ya know, I'll be screaming at her because some long lost Aunt Frieda gives her a  wet smooch on the cheek. When did I get so damned jealous and possessive? I never gave a rat's red ass before if any one of my girlfriends looked at, much less slept with someone else. But Sandy is certainly no one's Aunt Frieda.

    Sara began stretching and moving what limbs she could without disturbing her bedmate, trying to work some of the kinks out.  Chloe slept on, apparently still deep within the grip of her pain killers.  The redhead never moved a single muscle. I could probably start a war in here, and she'd sleep right through it.  Sara blinked sleepily at the clock on the nightstand. Seven.  I should wake her up for work pretty soon.  Get some heavyweight coffee into her, counteract some of those drugs.  Work on getting things fixed between us before we both have to get to work.  The idea of work brought a smile, then a grimace to Sara's face. Oh boy, did I make that damned call last night?  Yeah, I did. I wonder how Chloe is going to feel about this?  Hell, I'm not even sure yet that I want to do it, but how bad can it be?  The money will help.  A lot.  Roger sounded thrilled that I took him up on his offer. That was so long ago, months, and I blew him off without another thought then. Funny how a little thing like a house can change your ideas about what's  ... dignified ... and what's not.  No way is that ...Whatsername ... bitch ...  getting that house.

    Sara scratched an itchy ear, and then softly, tenderly, rubbed the top of Chloe's head a few times.  No reaction. Wow, she's really out. Huh, Whatsername. Sandy.  So that's who left Chloe behind. So that's who Chloe wouldn't leave Stonecreek for.  What's she doing back here now?  Is it for Chloe?  Just to have a friend nearby. Yeah, right, bullshit.  Sandy has no ties to this part of the world, she's back here for Chloe, pure and simple. Marcy sure as hell doesn't like Sandy, and the feeling sure looks mutual.  I need to ask Marcy more about her.  And Audra, she seemed to like her ... just fine. Now there's a thought. Audra's at loose ends, and here comes Miss Math Teacher ... nah, that'd never work.  Audra's all bullheaded and cranky, and Sandy seems rather ... sweet and patient.  Those kind of matchups never work.

    Sara's thoughts were put on hold, because she felt, quite surprisingly, warm lips being pressed searchingly against her neck, and Chloe's left hand lifting from her side, and drawing a light, straight path across Sara's sensitive ribcage. Ohoh.  Chloe issued a soft moan, and tilted her head just slightly up, to breathe warmly into Sara's ear.  Sara's skin prickled with tiny currents of energy. Oh yeah. A pink tongue touched the suddenly fully awake and startled woman's earlobe, and caressed it, played with it, all the while accompanying those maddeningly sensuous motions with nearly inaudible murmurs of arousal.  Chloe's hips shifted tighter onto the hard surface of Sara's hip bone, and the stroking with the good hand continued. Oh, yeah. This is going to be a great morning.

    Sara turned slowly onto her side to lay face to face with Chloe, making sure to position Chloe's bandaged right hand high onto Sara's left shoulder.  Sara ran a slow, teasing, tickling hand down Chloe's right side, delighting in the bumps of the ribs, the dip at the abdomen, the rise of the silky hip.  She made a few circular rubs on Chloe's behind, each time adding to the pressure, and pulling her ever closer, but not too close, because her hand wanted the freedom to make a side trip into some tantalizingly soft red curls. Chloe slid her smooth thigh over and on top of Sara's hip, making Sara's plans all that much easier to achieve.  Those tight curls enticed her roaming hand, and as she began softly playing there, she leaned forward and ran the tip of her tongue around the contours of Chloe's pink, dry lips. A delighted sigh came out from between those lips, encouraging Sara to add more variety to her ministrations, her tongue, hand, and tips of Sara's hard nipples all making contact with a now slowly undulating Chloe.  Sara's hand dipped lower into those curls, and her head dropped, and she glanced at the fresh pinkness of Chloe's hardening nipples.  She decided then to help at least one of those nipples along, and shifted so her head was level with it, and brought her lips around the soft skin around it, cajoling it to come out and play with her tongue. A longer, more languid moan sprang from Chloe's throat, and Sara answered it with her own, the sounds traveling straight to Sara's core and warming it faster than a flashfire in July.  Sara's fingers were just beginning to invade the warm wetness between Chloe's legs, when the smaller woman moved in a sensual motion, and shifted onto her back, and she lifted her arm to get a grip on the headboard and then ...


    Suddenly, the whole earth, or the contents of the bed at least, shifted as though a cow had been dropped on it from 2000 feet up. Chloe rolled to her right, clutching her injured hand, yowling in pain.  Sara, startled at the swift change of events, and having the smaller, but very strong woman unexpectedly push her off her, kept her sideways motion going until she no longer felt mattress underneath her, and she was in the air, and traveling downward all 3 feet four inches flat onto her butt, back and shoulders, landing with an involuntary grunt on Chloe's carpeted floor.  Chloe kept yowling, and Sara groaned loudly, after she was able to pull some air back into her lungs.  Sara's butt and shoulders were throbbing, but as she blinked her eyes, trying to figure out what had happened, Chloe's unhappy mewling cut through, and Sara pushed up from the floor and pulled herself quickly up onto the bed. Chloe's back was towards her, she was curled up in a ball, and the redhead was cradling her hand and sniffling.

    "Chloe?"  Sara gently put a hand on her shoulder and stroked it. "Are you OK, is there something I can do?"

    "No," gasped a very unhappy Chloe, who balled herself up even tighter. Her face was clenched in a tight wince, with tears coursing down the bridge of her nose and onto the pillow beneath her cheek. It felt like her whole body was pulsing, not just her hand. Ohshit. Ohfuck. This hurts. This hurts. She squeezed her eyes even more tightly shut, trying to concentrate on making the breath stealing ache go away.  She felt Sara hesitantly spoon up behind her, and slowly wrap a warm arm around her middle.

    Sara kissed her shoulder once, then again, and left her lips there, speaking into the base of Chloe's neck. "You want some pills? I'll go get you some pills. What can I do for you?"  Another flurry of small kisses.

    "Pills." whined Chloe. "No, wait. Regular pills."  Another groan. "I have to go to work at noon. Just some Alleve. Three."

    Sara carefully extracted herself from around Chloe, and worked her way over to the other side of the bed, where she dropped her feet to the floor and stood up. She grabbed her shirt from the chair, and quickly tossed it on, not bothering to button it up. "Noon?"

    "Yeah," Chloe grimaced out her words. "Mrs. Cellone is covering for me until then. I called her last night ..."

    Sara padded into the bathroom. Musta called from the emergency room. I should have been there.  Sandy's delicate features popped into Sara's mind yet again.  Oh, yeah, Sandy took gooood care of her, yes she did. Sara opened the medicine cabinet, took out the bottle, and then decided to take care of some bladder necessities while she had a moment. Bottle clutched in one hand, she sat and stared into space, not unlike a cat in a litter box. Quit the jealousy crap.  Just kidnap Chloe and take her to ...  Sara's stare became more concentrated.  Philadelphia?  Japan? They have baseball in Japan, how bad could that be?  Stonecreek is turning into the P-town of Pennsylvania.  Can't pitch a golf ball without hitting a lesbian. Sara finished up her business, flushed, washed up, and filled a tiny bathroom cup with some cool tap water. She returned to the bedroom to find Chloe sitting up on the edge of the bed, with a large old blue robe wrapped around her.  Chloe was staring blankly at her hand and her face was still tear streaked, but more composed. She accepted the pills with her good hand, and popped them in her mouth, and then Sara silently gave her the cup, which Chloe dutifully drained.

     Chloe glanced up at Sara then, and back down at her hand again. "Pretty stupid, huh?  There goes my dream of becoming a tattoo artist.  Just because I can't keep my temper ..."  She grinned ruefully, trying to make a joke of it, but neither of them felt like laughing.

    Sara sat down on the edge of the bed next to her, and dropped her arm lightly around the redhead's waist. "I'm sorry.  I don't know where to begin. The Old Girlfriend, that sniffing around like a hound dog Audra ... that kiss ..."  Chloe began to squirm away from her. "Wait; wait. I know that kiss wasn't your idea, and from what I could see, she was doing the kissing  ... you were just the target."  Sara pulled Chloe back to her, and Chloe's head dropped even lower. Sara softened her voice. "But the capper was hearing that Sandy wanted to buy the house ... our house. I just felt so out of control, like everything we want is hopeless, out of our reach.  I just lost it."  Sara picked gently at the sleeve of Chloe's robe. "Nothing was your fault, Chloe. Nothing. I just felt like all of a sudden, that everything was my fault ... that we couldn't get the house, because I don't have much money and no income ... "

    "Not your fault." Chloe said quietly.  She moved just a little closer into Sara. "It's me. I'm probably not going to be a librarian much longer.  I can feel 'bookmobile' in my bones. We couldn't get Marse's house because I won't be doing my job much longer.  Can't buy a house when neither of us have enough income ..."  Chloe felt Sara's sigh, and the arm around her waist tightened. "But Sara, things are looking up."  She stole a glance at her lover's intent gaze, and let a small smile form on her lips.  "I'm so sorry.  I should have never let Marcy invite them there last night."

    Sara's eyebrows rose. "Marcy?  I had no idea WHO invited them. I thought you had, or maybe I did, in some acid flashback kind of thing."

    "You did ACID?" Chloe stared in eye widening amazement.

     Sara laughed. "No, but I used to listen to the Grateful Dead. That's gotta count for something ... it's a great excuse for my brain not working on all cylinders, isn't it?"   She crossed her eyes and fluttered her eyelashes, in hopes of winning a smile.

    Carefully cupping her sore hand, Chloe gazed at Sara, a smile of her own blossoming on its way towards the beautiful, disheveled woman next to her. She leaned in, and placed a very soft and tender kiss with deliberate care on Sara's lips.

    Sara blinked, and felt the kiss all the way down to the tips of her toes. "Well, you said things were looking up, I guess you were right." She oh so gently gave Chloe's shoulder a shove, and grinned fully at her. "So, why do you think things are going to be rosy now? Huh?" She teased.

    "Well," Chloe drawled, and looked down at the carpeting that was a goodly distance away from her hanging toes, and then chuckled to see that Sara's feet were planted firmly on the floor, "There's new employment in the future ..."

    "How did you know?"  Sara interrupted, shocked.

    "How did I know what?"  Chloe replied, a little irritated that Sara had interrupted her good news.

    "About my new job?" said Sara, looking at Chloe like she was Nostradamus, or a very, very undercover secret agent.

    "Your new job, I was talking about MY new job."  Now Chloe was looking as confused as a five year old with a 5000 piece jigsaw puzzle. An all white one.

    "Wait, you got a job, too?" Sara said, not exactly putting the pieces together in a timely manner.

    "We both got jobs?  I'm not sure I have mine yet ... what's yours?"

    "No, tell me first, what's yours?"

    "Do we need to flip a coin?" said Chloe, scrunching her nose.

    "I may flip a Chloe, if you don't tell me ..." Sara mock threatened.

   "Seems I flipped a Sara this morning ... right onto her ... moneymaker."  Chloe returned the earlier shove.

    Sara rubbed her sore bottom. "Don't remind me. Now, tell me. Then I'll tell you. Then a question and answer period will follow."

    "In ten words or less? Teaching a public speaking class at Glenhurst College."  Chloe saw Sara's eyes spark, and the smile that followed. "And you?"  Chloe's curiosity was killing her.

    "Uh, uh ..."  Sara was feeling very self conscious and inadequate.

    "That's two words, you have eight left." Chloe teased, impatient.

    Sara gulped. What the hell. "Um, selling cars at Roger Steven's Ford dealership?"

    Chloe's mouth rounded into a perfect 'O'. She shook her head, and then burst out into a delighted laugh. "'Even Steven's, where you get more BANG for your BUCK'?"  Chloe nearly toppled over backward onto the bed.

    Sara dropped her head glumly. "Yeah, something like that."  It's not too late to back out now ...

    Chloe surprised them both by driving Sara back onto the bed, and kissing every bare spot of skin she could. She found new frontiers to explore when she moved Sara's shirt aside.

    Sara, not unhappy to be caught by ambush, laughed and barely got out the words, "But Chloe ... your hand --"

    Chloe moved that hand out of the way, and put the other one to fantastically good use. "I have two, you know," she said between nips.

    "Funny, it always felt to me like you had around fifty of them ..." Sara gasped.

    "Mmhmm."  And Chloe began using the other forty eight.

    "Chloe, sex won't cure everything ... "  Sara moaned.

    Chloe lifted up and looked directly into Sara's glazed eyes. "Are you sure about that, Sara?" and cocked an eyebrow at her.

    "Prove me wrong, Chloe ..." Sara murmured, as Chloe lips covered hers, and proceeded onward, determined to do just that.

    Chloe was warm and quite  ... satisfied from her recent shower.  Sara was still in there, finishing up.  The hot water has probably just about given out by now.  For proof of that,  Chloe heard a disconcerted gasp come from behind the shower curtain, and some swearing.  Oh, she still has to rinse her hair, this should be fun ...

    "OUR HOUSE, IS A VERY VERY VERY FINE HOUSE, WITH TWO CATS IN THE YARD, LIFE USED TO BE SO HARD!"  Sara was singing at the top of her lungs, trying to cover up for the frigid cold water now running down over the her head, and down onto her body.

    Chloe giggled, threw on a robe,  and padded out to the kitchen. Great, still an hour an a half before I have to get to work.  She grabbed herself a second cup of coffee, and settled into a kitchen table chair to await her frozen girlfriend. She was just beginning to fluff out her damp hair when the phone rang.

    Chloe reached behind her, snagged it, and said, coyly, "Hello, Marcy."

    "I hate that when you do that." Marcy griped.

    "You have caller ID. You, too, can perform magic, Marse."

    "Yeah, well, it still creeps me out. How's the paw?"

    Chloe waggled it in front of the handset, although she knew Marcy couldn't see it. "Just bruised and sprained, not busted, thank God. I put a baggie over it to get my shower."

    "Must be tough getting a shower one handed."

    "Who said I only had one hand?"

    Marcy blew out a sigh of relief. "That's good. Glad to hear that. Don't want to hear anything more about your extra hands in the shower. Case closed. All made up?"

    Chloe heard the shower stop, and gave a tiny grin. "You could say that.  God, Marse, " her voice turned into a tiny whisper. "That woman is such a baby sometimes ... "

    Marcy laughed, not having to keep her voice down on her end. "If that's what my baby is going to act like, then I'm selling it off to a puppy farm."  She heard Chloe snigger. Marcy couldn't help but scold her. "And you, Slugger, need to do something about that temper of yours in check. Not like I'm advising you to hit the culprit next time, but could you aim for something a little softer?"

    Chloe shook her head. "I know, I know. Duke Wayne Donahue. I don't know where all that anger came from." Her voice dropped again. "But she frustrates the hell out of me sometimes."

    "D'Amicos will do that to you. Especially yours. Listen, I don't have much time. I have a meeting with Doris at noon, we're going to lunch and discuss plans for my maternity leave."

    "Send her our best. What do you have to do, I mean, you're only going to be teaching a month or so?  I mean, do you have lesson plans to prepare? I  always figured art teachers ... well, they just sat the students down in front of an easel, or with some clay, and told them to go for it."

    Marcy chuckled. "Hey, I think you just wrote at least my whole leave's worth of lesson plans for me." Marcy joked, then felt just the tiniest bit offended. "Well, there's more to it than that, there's history, technique, style, vision ..."

    "I'm quite well acquainted with your vision, Marse. And I do know there's more to it than what I said. I was just kidding." Chloe apologized sincerely.

    "Aw hell, I know you know. I'm just so touchy right now. I can't go five minutes without getting weepy or defensive, and then I turn around and want to hug complete strangers.  My hormones are all cockeyed. Plus I'm cooking like I know how to or something, and eating anything that looks like it might taste good with Miracle Whip on it."

    "Sounds like lunch with Doris should be a real adventure for ya then, Marse. Make sure she buys."

    "Well, at least I know it's dry and sunny; she won't have her umbrella with her."

    Doris Raeburn's preferred umbrella target wandered into the kitchen, clothed in only white Fruit of the Looms, crew socks, and a big white smile on her face. She saw Chloe chatting on the phone, and decided to parade around in front of her, just keeping out of reach of Chloe's frantically grabbing good hand.

    Chloe checked the clock on the wall again, and made some mental calculations. Time to wrap this up. "Listen, Marse, I have to be at work ... soon." She watched as Sara nonchalantly leaned up against the counter. "There's a few things ... I need to do."  She raised her eyebrows at Sara suggestively, and watched a understanding grin form on Sara's face.

    "Uh huh. Well, I just wanted to let you know that Whatsername called me this morning, and said she canceled her appointment with the realtor."

    Chloe's eyebrows rose again for an entirely different reason. "Really?  Did she say why?"

    Marcy sighed. "Seems she wants you and Sara to have your shot at the house. Said she'd look for something else. Go figure."

    Chloe's eyes widened. She almost stuttered, she was so touched and baffled. "Well, that may be happening sooner than we thought, Marse, but  ... can we talk about it later, when I know more of the details?"  Sara was sliding her feet on the linoleum, and widening her stance, and Chloe couldn't help but feel very distracted.

    "Sure. I'll call you at the 'brary when I'm done with lunch with Doris."

    "Thanks, Marse. 'Bye." Chloe clicked the cordless phone off, and set it on the table.

    Sara looked at her, three quarters naked, blithe fake innocence goading her on.

    Chloe slowly rose out of her chair. "C'mere you. C'mere.  It doesn't look like your  ... hair is parted right. Let me fix it for you."  She advanced on Sara, who was slipping and sliding in her socked feet, not trying very hard to escape.

    "Why Miss Chloe, whatever is that look in your eyes, why, you could scare a girl looking at her thataway ..."  trilled Sara, in a soft Southern drawl that almost seemed natural coming from her mouth. She feinted left, then right, then took off for the living room, with a giggling and decisive Miss Chloe hot in pursuit.

    This isn't so bad.  Doris talks, and I eat. This is good. Usually, with anyone else, I feel like I have to keep up my end of the conversation. Nope, Doris takes care of that little necessity for both of us. I wonder if I should eat another cheeseburger?

    "And the other one, the math teacher from California. Doesn't say much. I gave her plenty of opportunities, too, let me tell you. I thought for a minute she might be mute, until she asked about benefits.  And I think she mentioned she knew you. Went to college with you?"

    Marcy's mouth was full of french fries, but she managed to get out a shake of the head and a "Chloe".

    "Oh, that's right, she went to college with Chloe. Well, imagine that. Chloe went to a Catholic college, right?  No wonder she turned out like she did, if I went to a Catholic college, I'd probably be scared right into a woman's arms myself. I mean, the male figures in Catholic history are some real humdingers, huh?  Always chasing people down and crucifying them. I mean, the Romans, that's where Roman Catholics come from?  All that pomp and pageantry and lopping people's heads off. Yup. Thank God I'm a Methodist. We just believe in torture."

    Marcy nearly choked on her fries, and grabbed for her water glass, and took a healthy if coughing slug of it.

    Doris narrowed her eyes. "Chew, Marcy, chew. Don't want that baby popping out right here in the middle of the diner, now do we? I mean, the silverware isn't even clean, not like we can have you with your legs in the air on the counter there, giving birth to the next D'Amico, can we?  Well, you don't look so red now, you had me worried. I've helped plenty of cows give birth, not like you would be so different. But you aren't far enough along, so that's a moot point. A moooooot point."  Doris smiled at her clever cow impersonation.

    Marcy was just lucky she didn't have any food or water left in her mouth to choke on. This woman is friggin' amazing.

    "So, everything up at the golf course all right? What with this weather we've been having, so dry and so hot, it's a wonder anyone shows up there past noon. I can't handle a round past 10 AM myself, and Dave lets Helen and I use one of his little racing golf carts. The grass looks like brown shag carpeting. The water bills to water all of that must be higher than Sea World's.  Sell that house of yours yet?  Not much of a market around here.  I thought maybe Chloe and Sara would be interested? Oh, they are? Oh ... they were?  Times must be tough all the way around. Thank heavens I've been a principal since before God got his baby teeth, otherwise I might be feeling the pinch too.  I could retire right now, and hire five or six studs to be my body slaves. Marcy, take another drink of water, you look a bit peaked. Fluids. Important for the baby, important for you.  Shame about the library, that cheap son of a bitch county executive ..."

    Marcy was just coming around from the 'body slaves' comment, when Doris' comment about the library came and smacked her like a sharply swung palm frond. "What about the library, Doris?"

    Doris leaned across the table, a slyly conspiratorial look on her face. "Oh, Marcy. I know a LOT of people. I hear things that an old lady principal from a small town isn't supposed to know about. I keep my ear to the railroad track all the time.  It's just not right, them talking about closing our library. There has to be something we can do ... I mean, my lady friends and I can't have our book club meeting in the back of the bookmobile, now can we?"

    Marcy dumbly shook her head 'no.'

    Doris dropped her voice even farther. "Now, from what I've heard, it's between closing Stonecreek's library, and Elgin's.  Hell, nobody can even READ in Elgin, have you seen those people?  Europe threw them out five generations ago, and the boat disgorged them directly onto the shores by Elgin. There's, what, a population of 2500 or so, give or take a few who drop out of kindergarten and go directly into prison, and every last damned one of them has the same last name.  They don't even try to hide it anymore, and nobody bothers to get married. First of all, none of them could sign a marriage certificate, and secondly, not one of them knows who their daddy is. Their idea of high culture is their annual Cherry Pit Spittin' contest."

    Marcy nodded, and silently thought about suggesting that Doris lay off the caffeine. But she kept her mouth shut, waiting for Doris to continue. It wasn't a long wait.

    "So, my vote goes for Chloe and the Stonecreek Public Library."  Doris took another sip of her coffee, and waved at the waitress. "You want a piece of pie, don't you Marcy? Of course you do. It'll be a breeze for you to take off those extra forty pounds you've already put on once you've had the baby. I want to talk to you about what the ladies and I have been thinking ..."

Continued in Part IV

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