The Light Fantastic

by LA Tucker

Part XIV :   People Will Say We're in Love

For disclaimers, see Part I

There's a widely known exercise in communication skills that most folks encounter in kindergarten, or the early grades, and then is repeated somewhere along the line into their adult lives.  It is roundly enjoyed by the young and uninitiated, and completely despised by adults who have been subjected to it one too many times in however long a time span they have lived.  Normally, adults encounter it in some useless 'team building' encounter, most grumbling that simply being allowed to 'hang out,  smoke cigarettes and bitch' would make them better communicators with their co-workers.

The techniques of this exercise, commonly known as 'Telephone', although it probably has undergone many name changes, are pretty simple.  A minimum of 8 people would probably be involved, the maximum would probably be 15 or so, for the longer the exercise lasts, the less effective the import of the results. Thus having the 8-15  people needed, a long sentence, such as 'Freddy Bartholomew went to the circus, took a balloon trip to the land of Oz, and there he met his one legged love, Ophelia, and they spent many an enjoyable evening playing canasta', would be whispered into the first participant's ear. The first participant would be then instructed to repeat this sentence, by memory only, to the second participant, who would be instructed to repeat it, by memory, to the third, etc., ad nauseum.  When this horrid sentence had finally made it to the last participant , that person would then be asked to repeat out loud what the message they received had been. Usually, to the delight of first graders, or the relief of mind numbed adults, the sentence would be mutated to something resembling 'Freddy and Barb had a few, met the Wizard of Oz, booked a room and enjoyed feeling her casabas."  The adult team building participants would probably be then told to 'Turn to Chapter 15,  in the Team Building Handbook',  read pages 117 through 133 then take the quiz afterwards, and then as a team, we can discuss the results". On the flip side, the first graders would then be told that "See?  We all hear things differently, and the longer it takes the message to get to you, the more crazy it can get!"

This familiar exercise, kept to it's simplest grade school conclusions, could probably explain why the occupants of the D' Amicos' kitchen on that late Saturday afternoon all collectively felt that their lives were getting messier than cow patties in a salad shooter.

Hearing the unanimous hush that had fallen over the room at his statement, Dave thought perhaps he hadn't been understood the first time he said it, so he felt the need to say it again.  He couldn't quite remember how he said it the first time but tried to approximate its message.

"Seems that everyone in town has found out about my affair with Chloe.", he repeated.

Nelson, who had heard his dad pull in the driveway with dinner, had wandered down from his room and heard his father's statement the second time around. He couldn't quite figure out what he meant, so he looked around the room for further illumination.

Chloe was the first to speak, and she looked to Dave when she said it. "What?!"

Dave frowned and said, "You really want me to say it again?"

Marcy looked to Dave and Chloe, trying to gauge their reactions.  Seeing blank faces, she said, "No, we want you to explain it. What are you talking about?"

"That would be nice.", intoned Sara, her body reflexively assuming a defensive posture.

Dave cleared his throat and began. "Well, I was down at Buddy's, waiting for the extra pizzas to get done, and in came Mark Benson, you know, the guy that works for the county licenses board?"  He looked around for acknowledgment, and continued, "and after a few 'how's it going' stuff, he said he saw Marcy, " and Dave pointed at her, "and Sara out last night at Stan's Bar.  I was going to make a comment about it, but he just said something weird like 'she looked good, but didn't look good', kind of implying that you were upset about something. He went on to say that maybe Marcy wasn't doing too good with our 'break up',  especially considering the 'circumstances' of the reason being, you know, 'her best friend since grade school'."

"Wait a minute.  Let me get this straight,  'straight' being the operative word here," said Sara. "Some guy thinks you are having an affair with Chloe, and broke up with Marcy because of it?"

Marcy answered for Dave. "No, he means that he and Chloe were having a secret affair behind my back, and somehow I  found out about it, and then we broke up."

Dave looked at Sara, then Marcy. "I'm not sure what the difference is between what you said," pointing to Sara, "and what she just said." pointing to Marcy.

Nelson, following along from the doorway, clarified things for his confused Dad. "Dad, Aunt Sara thinks you were sleeping with Chloe, then maybe decided to do the right thing, and came clean and you broke up with Marcy. Marcy, on the other hand, thinks you were sleeping with Chloe, and got caught, and Marcy broke up with you."

Dave wasn't grasping what the gist of the question was. "I'm not sure what I did." He thought a moment. "I do know this, I've been sleeping with Chloe ..."

"Wait a minute, sweetcheeks, are you telling us that this is true?" snapped Marcy.  Sara and Marcy's eyes bored into Dave.

"Of course not!! I can't believe you would even think such a thing! I would never sleep with Chloe ..." said Dave defensively.

Chloe finally piped up. "And why not? What's the matter with me? "

Dave got all flustered, and replied to Chloe, "Well, for one thing, you're gay, AND seeing my sister ... "

Marcy interjected, "That's two things.  Oh sure, you'd sleep with her behind my back if Sara wasn't in the picture, wouldn't you?" She turned to Chloe. "Some friend you turned out to be!"

Sara rolled her eyes at Marcy, and squinted at Chloe. "Are you trying to tell me you're 'bi' ?"

"Where the hell did you get that idea?" said Chloe, incredulous. "I simply want to know why Dave thinks it would be so terrible to sleep with me."

"Chloe, Chloe," Dave interrupted, "I don't think it would be terrible,  I'd love to sleep with you."

"Well, OK, then," Chloe blushed and mumbled, " That's more like it ..."

"Well, listen buster, let's just let it be known, right here and now, that I broke up with YOU when I found out about you two sneaking around behind my back.", insisted Marcy.

Dave said, "What's the difference? "

Sara, Chloe and Marcy all stared at Dave like he was from some alien civilization. "It's an ego thing, Dave," Sara drawled. All three women nodded at each other, being from the same planet and all.

Nelson, eying the pizza boxes on the table, and thinking he might get some dinner around breakfast time tomorrow, decided to inject a voice of reason. "Isn't the real question here 'how did this rumor get started, and what should we do to get the truth out '?"

All four sets of eyes looked at Nelson.

Sara just waved him off. "He's young. He doesn't understand how these things work."

Chloe went over and patted the tall young man on the back. "Yeah,  but you can't fault him for trying."

Nelson was truly puzzled. "I don't get it, why don't you just find out the source, and then go to them, and explain things?"

Sara, proud of her nephew, but sympathetic of his ignorance in the matter, said, "Let's all sit down, eat some pizza, and maybe we can explain to Nelson how this works."

After plates and napkins and drinks were obtained, everyone sat down at the table. Sara, who had appointed herself his mentor in this matter, began. "Nelson, as a few wise people have said, 'The truth is out there'.  That being said, the rumor already exists, probably in a great many people's minds, as the truth." Seeing the doubtful look in Nelson's eyes, she continued. "We could knock on every door, call everyone in this town, and try and find out the source. But you have to realize that the source already believes that whatever he or she said, is the truth.  And will be entirely unconvinced by anyone who is directly related to the matter as being schemers and liars trying ... to cover up their own poop in their litterbox of life, so to speak."

Nelson, finishing his second piece of pizza, said. "I still don't get it."

Chloe wiped her mouth and rephrased Sara's rather obtuse explanation. "Anyone who has heard this about us, won't believe whatever we say about it, because we're directly involved, and want to save our own asses."

Nelson reached for pieces three and four. "Oh, I get it. So what do you do?"

Marcy winked at Sara and said, "We could put a SPIN on it."

Sara, picking off mushrooms from her pizza, and watching as Chloe nabbed them, smiled. "Yep. We could take what we know of the rumors, and turn it, add to the rumor, so it all comes out to our advantage, where none of the principals ... Dave, Chloe, or Marcy ...end up looking bad."

Dave opened up another box. "Your Aunt Sara knows what she's talking about, I mean, she had to deal with Hollyweird and all."

Sara smirked. "Hollywood isn't anything compared to living in a small town. In this town, once someone hears the rumor, the whole populace knows of it within days, probably hours.   And who's to tell how much it has changed from the original rumor? It may have started out as innocuous as 'Chloe gave Dave a ride home', and then mushroomed," and she picked some more off her slice and popped them directly into Chloe's waiting mouth, "from there.  So, we have to figure what we know, and then take it from there."

Chloe reached and picked the last few remaining mushrooms off Sara's pizza and with mouth half full, summarized, "OK, what we know. We know that Dave was seen, ahem, tickling my tonsils last week. And that neither Sara or Marcy appeared to be happy about it. " She noticed the disapproving glances she was getting from them both. "Go ahead, get all defensive, it won't help our cause here." She saw them sheepishly look away. "All righty then. Dave smooches me, I gave Dave a ride home."  She looked around the table. "Anyone else have anything to add?"

Nelson shifted and waved his hand. Everyone waited for him to stop his chewing, and the swallow afterwards. "Dad was 'tanked' on Thursday.  I thought some of the kids were acting a little strangely towards me on Friday and today.  Everyone seemed very interested in what Marcy and Chloe were doing today, they kept asking me where Marcy was."

Marcy ran a fingernail along a gap between her teeth. "So people may be thinking there's bad blood between Chloe and me.  And Sara and I went out last night, and who shows up to rescue little old poor suffering me?  Dave, with Chloe tagging along behind."

Chloe laughed. "I did you wrong, baby, and I'm trying to get you to forgive me for it. Penance, maybe?"

Dave thought for a moment. "Well, it's hard for me to believe that one isolated, even two, incidents equals an affair. When I was talking to Mark, it seemed to me, now that I think about it, that he was under the impression that this had been going on for a while. So, I'm thinking, that something must have happened before all of this that got someone thinking in the first place."

Sara wadded up her napkin and pelted him with it.  "See Chloe, I told you that he's a lot smarter than he comes across."

Dave shot the napkin back at her. "Thanks, sis."  He thought about that a second. "I think."

Nelson poured himself some pop, and gave the bottle to Marcy to pass around. "So, we figure out the damages, and then decide on a plan of action?"

Everyone at the table beamed at Nelson. "By George, I think he's got it." said Dave. "Meanwhile, we just go on about our lives. Sometimes, although rarely, rumors die out on their own. And if they do die away, they have a nasty way of resurfacing later to bite you in the buttocks."

"Or," said Chloe, her eyes brightening, "we have two other courses of action. We get pro-active, like, we make a big deal of Dave and Marcy being seen happy together in public, that being the most boring scenario ... or we have some fun with it, and try and boggle some people's minds by playing along with the rumor. It all depends on the extent of the rumor in the first place."

"Aha, the 'Revenge is Sweet' plan of action," nodded Marcy. "I only want to do that if the rumors are downright nasty in the first place. I think we need to wait and see."

Nelson was finally understanding the warped rationale concerning all of this. But somehow, it still was bothering him that it couldn't simply be handled by telling the truth. "Are you sure all of this is necessary? It seems kind of like we're fighting evil with evil here, like there's really no good guys involved. Why can't we be the good guys? Aren't we the ones in the right?"

Chloe sighed. "You know, he's right. We certainly can claim that we have the moral high ground here.  I wish there was another way to go about this. But time in this town has shown me that it just doesn't work that way.  Of course, we could just call a press conference and deny everything."

"There's an idea." Sara laughed, and tapped her sweetie's nose. "I do have an idea though, that if we want to get anything done about this, if and when we decide to do anything about this, there is one perfect place for us to start."

Chloe puzzled on this for a moment, and then said, "Doris Raeburn."

Sara nodded, her eyes shining in admiration of her astute little girlfriend.

Marcy said, "Talk about the horse's ... mouth."

Dave grumbled. "More like the horse's mouth ... talking."

"Well, now that this is all sorted out, and that we all know that I'm sleeping with Dave, and everyone is OK with that, the big question would be ..." Chloe paused dramatically and looked at her empty plate, "Is there any pizza left?"

Nelson stood and waited for Jeanette to slide in to the window side of the bench seat in the booth, because he knew she liked to play with the little jukebox when they came here. Once she had her jacket off, he hung it on the hook on the supporting post at his end of the booth, and sat down.  He smiled up at the waitress, Katie, as she handed out menus to all of them. Heather and Justin slid into the bench across from them, the girls across from the girls, so they could carry on a decent conversation when the boys started to lag behind.  Katie flipped the cups, and poured coffee for all of them.

"Damn, I can't believe it's raining like that, after what a nice day it's been," griped Justin, glancing through the menu although he knew it by heart.

Heather flipped her straight brown hair back, and tore open three sugar packets to add to her coffee. "We saw those movies at the theatres in town anyway."

"Who said I wanted to watch the movies, I wanted to go to the drive-in.  I know Mr. Grettler was planning on opening it up this weekend. And they have those little car heaters." Justin said, passing her the cream.

"Yeah, well, I've had enough of the great outdoors for one day," Jeanette said, grabbing the cream from Justin before Heather could get it. "Look at me, I think I got a sunburn today."

Nelson looked at the face tipped his way for inspection. "I think you're right, your cheeks are pink," and he quickly pinched Jeanette's nose, "and your nose is a nice shade of Rudolph red."

Jeanette giggled, and gave him the creamer container, ignoring Heather's impatient 'Hey!'. "It felt good to be outside today, even if your aunt was trying to kill us today.  I swear, I threw her so many dirty looks when she wouldn't let us get a break, I know she saw some of them.  Good thing Ms. Donahue took pity on us."

Heather snatched the coffee creamer from a grinning Nelson. "Yeah, Ms. Donahue is pretty cool. I can't believe she's as old as she is, I look at her and think she's Allison's age." Allison was Heather's older sister, a junior at a college in Ohio. "I wish we could have seen her on Thursday, Nelson. Justin here said he thought she was going to faint again, she was so embarrassed when your Dad kissed her on the stage."

Nelson saw Heather's body do an odd shake, it was obviously from a nudge, under the table, from Justin. Nelson just grinned and raised an eyebrow, displaying a family trait. "Yeah, me too. Dad wasn't feeling any pain that day, he'd just come from a little celebration at Stan's for his last day at UPS."

"Well, he certainly wasn't feeling any pain when we saw him later in the parking lot ..."  Heather leered. This time the whole table shook, because Justin missed his frantic nudge towards Heather and hit the center table support instead.

"What?" said a clearly impatient Heather to Justin. "I'm sure Nelson knows what's going on between them better than we do ..."

"What?", echoed a visibly interested Jeanette. "I didn't hear about the parking lot, just the kissing part ..."  She looked towards Nelson, trying to make sure that this conversation wasn't bothering him. He was smiling, and even looked a bit interested himself. "What about the parking lot?"

Justin, seeing that his buddy seemed to be doing just fine, although it was his Dad that was the topic of the minute, stretched an arm across the bench back, and got a cocky smile on his face. "Ms. Donahue was all over his Dad out there. We saw them, " nodding towards Heather, "when were coming out of play practice. Plain as day. And he was pushing her into the back seat of her car ... "  Justin laughed, letting his devilish grin finish his sentence for him.

Nelson raised another eyebrow.  Jeanette, although her curiosity was killing her, rubbed his shoulder and said "Nelson, are you sure this isn't bothering you? We can talk about something else ... I mean, this is your dad and all." She was reassured when he smiled at her and shook his head at her. She looked him in his amazingly blue eyes and said,  "Well, we all here know and like your dad a lot. It's not like we're trying to put him down or anything."

Heather laughed. "Yeah, it's just fun to talk about somebody else's love life for once. And Ms. Donahue, you know we love her."

Justin cracked, "Yeah, and she's such little hottie!  I wouldn't mind if ..."

This time, Justin was on the receiving end of a well placed kick under the table. "Ow, well, c'mon, even Nelson has eyes ..."

Jeanette punched Nelson in the arm. "You'd better NOT be looking at her like that ..." she said with a mock frown.

Nelson picked up his spoon, and flicked some droplets of coffee at her. "Me?  think about Chloe like that?  Not me..." Uh oh.

"Chloe, huh?" said Heather, looking around for the waitress, "Now we KNOW something's going on." She looked at her other two friends and said, mischievously, "Well, if 'Chloe' is going to end up being his new step-mom, he would tell us first, right?"

Nelson straightened up, and mimicked zipping his lip. Step-mom?

"Doesn't he drive you nuts, Jeanette, I mean, the boy hardly talks!!" said Heather, confounded with the mute, grinning Nelson.

"I like that about him. What he does say to me, it seems ... more important then," said Jeanette, a soft smile coming to her lips.

Katie showed up with a pot of coffee, refilled their cups, and took their orders.

"Well, where were we?", said Heather as she scarfed the coffee creamer first this time. "Oh, yeah, Nelson and his new mom 'Chloe' ... I mean, Nelson, come on, quit sitting there like a big grinning lump, and tell us what's going on!  You think they'll get married?  My grandma said that she knows your Dad would want to make an honest woman out of her ..."

This time, two feet from different directions aimed for Heather's legs under the table. "OW!! What was that for?"  She looked under the table and whined, "I'm gonna have huge bruises! "

Nelson, unzipping his lip, got a serious expression on his face. "What, exactly, Heather, does 'make an honest woman out of her' mean, huh?"

Heather was getting some pretty nasty stares from both Jeanette and Justin.  She stared into her coffee cup. "Nothing. Never mind."

Nelson leaned over the table and pulled her coffee cup away from her. "Tell me.  I want to know." Nelson gave the other two ominous glares, they sat back, both knowing what was coming next.

Heather avoided looking at Nelson, she dragged her cup back to her side of the table again, and stared down into it. "You know,  Ms. Donahue being pregnant."

Nelson repeated the two syllable word. "Pregnant?"

Heather, forgetting she had already added sugar to her coffee, nervously opened three more packets and added them while she answered him, "Well, yeah.  She's pregnant. You remember when she fainted last week?  That's why.  My grandmother said that she and her book club friends saw Ms. Donahue at the library the other night, and Mrs. Hoderman asked her about it, asked her if she had been to the doctor yet.  Ms. Donahue said she was going soon. Mrs. Hoderman says that Ms. Donahue was having, you know, morning sickness troubles,  not eating right, that sort of thing."   Heather finally got up the nerve to look at Nelson, who was frowning at her. "Nelson, don't look at me like that.  My grandmother said that Ms. Donahue admitted it. Mrs. Raeburn was there, too. Both of them talked to her."

The implications of all of this suddenly hit Nelson. "And you guys are thinking ... that my Dad is the father?"

"Well, yeah, nobody could figure that part out until, you know, we saw them together on Thursday. Before that, I think everyone was just guessing. I mean, we all thought your Dad was dating Marcy."  Heather looked at the silent, strained faces of her friends. "I feel bad for Marcy. I mean, did she even know what was going on?"

Do I even know what's going on?  Nelson stood up, and took his jacket off the hook, and then pulled his wallet out of his back pocket. He dropped a ten dollar bill on the table, and looked at his friends chagrined faces. "Here, this should take care of mine and Jeanette's. I'm not feeling very well." He looked at Jeanette. "Would you mind if Justin took you home?"  She silently shook her head and looked at him, pained sympathy showing in her eyes. He turned and headed out of the diner, and walked to his truck in the cold pouring rain, jacket slung over his arm.

Dave leaned back in the kitchen chair, and put his hands on the back of his head and stretched. "Damn, Chloe, a one-armed man could shuffle those cards faster than you."

Everyone watched with amusement as Chloe struggled to get the cards shuffled. They just wouldn't shift and slide for her the way they did for everyone else. And when she split the deck, laid them down, and tried to curl them back, they ended up spraying half way across the table. Marcy, sighed, and scooped the cards in front of her to shuffle them herself.  Chloe, too tired to get miffed, just let her do it for her.

"I've never, ever been able to get the hang of that. It's embarrassing." Chloe pouted. "I feel like such a spaz."  She glanced up at the kitchen clock. Nearly 2 AM .  I won't feel bad for yawning.  Thought triggered action, and she yawned wide and long, showing the assembled clan at the table that she had no fillings in even the remotest of molars. She put a hand over her gaping mouth. " 'Scuse me. When I get this tired, I lose my manners." She tossed her head in a little grin.

Sara sighed, and watched as Marcy slid the cards back to Chloe, so she could deal. "Let's make this last hand, OK?  Marcy, what's the score?"

Marcy pretended to look at the sheet in front of her. "Pretty much as it has been all night long, Chloe, Kicking Our Asses All Over Tarnation, Us,  Totally Screwed.  I probably should've warned you two that although she can't shuffle, she's a terror at playing cards. Any kind. Hearts, Spades, Uno, Poker, Pinochle, Hand and Foot,  Go Fish and War."  She cast a small smirk at Chloe, who was trying to hide the smug grin on her face. "And not only that, she's a damned poor winner. Likes to lord it over you for days. I think that inept shuffling thing of hers is an act so she can bamboozle us so we won't notice her sticking cards up her sleeves and stacking the deck." She grinned as Chloe stopped dealing long enough to display her short sleeved arms. "Dave, check behind her ears. Better yet, I think she stuffed a few cards in her mouth when she yawned a minute ago."

Chloe stuck her tongue out at Marcy. "Sthee? Uthin ere, stho sthut ut, arthy."

Sara smiled as she picked up her cards and sorted them. "Who dealt this mess?" she said, as she had after every hand dealt that night. It was traditional with her. As much as I would have liked to have spent this evening alone with her, I'm having a really good time.  She watched as Marcy played a card to start the game, and she picked one from her hand, and tossed it on the table.  I think the best part is how much I feel I'm learning about her. Marcy keeps telling little stories about her, from when she was young, or college, or from a year or two ago. The play went around the table a few more times. It was her turn again, and she pulled a card, and then pushed it back in, and she played another card instead.  I never knew that her parents are gone.  That must be hard, her an only child. She glanced up from her hand, and watched as Chloe intently studied the cards already played on the table. I'll bet she can count cards or something. That's the only explanation I can figure for her so completely annihilating us tonight.  She gets that really determined look in her eyes. She's really competitive. I like that.

Chloe looked up from her cards, and blushed when she saw Sara was watching her. Her mouth twisted into a tiny grin, and she shrugged her shoulders. "Sorry, guys, " as she played her last card. "Out."

Everyone groaned. Dave tossed his remaining cards on the pile. "I'm taking her to Atlantic City, and we're going to play Blackjack. I may mortgage the property to finance it.  I could probably buy Pebble Beach with the winnings."

Sara threw her cards in too. "Maybe we should play Monopoly or something next time ..."

Marcy's eyes widened at that comment. "Oh, no, no, you don't want to put us through that. She gets all wheeler-dealerish, making a pest of herself trying to buy up property from everyone all night long, with this really scary look on her face. And she keeps counting her money over and over and over ... she's absolutely a maniac. "

Dave said, "Chutes and Ladders?  Scrabble?  Risk?  Oh, nevermind, I bet she's a fiend at all of them."  He smiled at her fondly. "Oh, wait, how about outdoor stuff? Badminton, croquet? " He laughed softly as Marcy  slowly shook her head back and forth at everything he mentioned. "Tennis?  Bocce?  Horseshoes?" His chuckles got louder as Marcy continued to shake her head. "Oh, c'mon, she can't be good at everything!  Hopscotch?  Jacks? Oh, wait ... golf?"

Marcy sucked her front teeth long and hard. "She's gonna roar through your little course when it opens up."

Chloe sat, head propped on one hand, while she tried to appear humble and shy. Her dimples and tired dancing eyes gave her away.

Sara pursed her lips. "Yeah, it figures. She looks so harmless, and yet underneath, she's nothing but dangerous."

"You don't know the half of it." purred Chloe, her eyes slitted with feline menace.

Dave and Sara both raised a mutual eyebrow over that comment. Dave harrumphed and said, "On that note, Marcy, sweetpea, I think I should escort you home. If it clears up tomorrow, I'm going to be mowing all day. And Sara is going over to see her other girlfriend with Nelson after noon."  He scratched his chin. "I hope he feels up to it. He didn't look too good when he came in tonight."

"Just a long day in the sun, getting his ass danced around by his pushy aunt, and then running around in the rain. He should be OK." I hope so, not only for his sake, but I would really like to take a ride if the weather is decent. She looked across the table to see that Chloe still had her head propped up in her hand, but her eyes were lightly shut. "Looks like I'd better see to Chloe here, she looks like she's going to take a header off the table and onto the floor."

Dave and Marcy stood up from the table, and Dave went to get their coats.  Marcy looked at her dozing friend, and then at Sara. "What're you going to do with her?" she whispered.

"I think I might just tuck her in on the couch out there. No sense in sending her home, she's half comatose, by the looks of it." Sara said, keeping her voice low.

Marcy stood closer to Sara, and they both looked down at the redhead looking so peaceful and angelic in sleep. Marcy leaned and said into Sara's ear, "I'd better warn ya, she's hell to wake up."

Sara bumped her shoulder on Marcy's. "Yeah, I know."

Marcy's eyes questioned a quietly grinning Sara, but Marcy was too tired to pursue the matter.   Dave came up, stood behind her, and helped her on with her coat. "See ya tomorrow, Sara. Say goodnight to Chloe for us." he said quietly. They slipped out the kitchen door and Sara closed it behind them.

She looked again at the sleeping redhead, who was slowly dropping toward the tabletop. She crossed over to her, and knelt beside her. "Chloe, hon, let's get you out to the couch."  She put her hand on Chloe's wrist to support her arm. Chloe stirred a little. "Chloe, c'mon, bedtime. Out to the couch with you." She tugged on Chloe's arm, and Chloe's eyes opened a bit. "C'mon, here we go, out to the big comfy couch."  Chloe allowed herself to be pulled into standing, and Sara moved behind her, putting her hands on Chloe's hips. "Chloe, walk. Forward out to the couch." She gave a little push, and Chloe, on automatic, started towards the living room, and made it to the couch with Sara guiding her.  She sunk down into it, and Sara untied her shoes and placed them underneath the coffee table.  She got the afghan off the recliner and carefully covered her with it.  She bent over and placed a soft, long kiss on Chloe's cheek. She grabbed her coat, and flipped off the remaining lights in the house. She was taking one last look when she heard a soft moan.

"Sara?" came Chloe's voice, barely audible to Sara's ears.

Sara knelt next to Chloe's head, and brushed her hair off her cheek. "Yes, Chloe?"

"This is a really ... big couch."

Sara smiled, and tossed her coat onto the recliner, and pushed off her sneakers. She lifted up the afghan, and slipped in next to her love. Chloe let out a soft sigh, and moved into the waiting arms of Sara, who was silently thanking her brother Dave for his great taste in furniture.

Continued in Part XV

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