The Light Fantastic

by LA Tucker

Part XX:  In the Family Way

For disclaimers see Part I

Chloe was on her back, enjoying the white fireworks that were bursting on the insides of her eyelids.  She was freefalling, and her control of her musculature had caught an express bus to Mars several minutes ago. She was panting hard enough to extinguish the candles on God's birthday cake. There was a noise vaguely echoing in her ears, and as she was slowly coming back to reality, she realized that faint joyous echoing was from some rather lusty howls that had emanated from her own throat and lungs. She giggled, and soon found that her arm actually worked, she could move something now, so she reached out on the bed beside her in the darkened room, and felt ... nothing.  She fanned both arms out, and found ... nothing.

"Sara?" Chloe called, finally opening her eyes, and looking about. Sara was no where to be found. "Sara?  Where are you?"

A muffled voice lifted up from the side of the bed where Chloe's legs hung over the edge. "Down here."

Chloe rolled up into a sitting position, and then laid down on her stomach to look down to where Sara's voice had resonated. Chloe peered down over the edge of the bed to see, in the single candlelit glow of the room, Sara, on her back, hands locked behind her head for a pillow, an ankle crossed at her knee. She looked quite comfortable on the carpeted floor.

Chloe assumed a Kilroy position, with just her eyes, forehead,nose and fingertips showing over the edge of the bed. "Hey, yer nekkid!" she drawled.

Sara smiled, and wiggled her foot at her. "So are you.  Very much so."

Chloe opened her eyes wide, and then reached behind her, and gave her own butt a loud smack. "Hey, yer right! Whatcha doin' down there?"

Sara waved her bent elbows up at her. "I was wondering when you were going to notice I never quite made it up there."

Chloe's eyes blinked behind shaggy bangs. "Sorry. I took the last train to Clarksville there. You know, up, up and away in my beautiful balloon. Left on a jet plane."

"Flew you to the moon?" Another foot wiggle from a smiling Sara.

Chloe's eyes became smaller because of the way her cheeks rose when she smiled. "Yep. Hey, you are good with that thing, ya know?"

Even in the candlelight, Sara could see the sparkle in Chloe's eyes.  She pursed her lips, and looked up at the redheaded nymphet squinting down from the high mattress. "What 'thing' would that be, huh?", she teased, knowing full well what Chloe was talking about.

Chloe's eyes squinted shut before she replied, "You know ... that long pink thing sitting between your teeth and gums."

"Oh, that thing. Yeah, I like it. It seems to work well. It really loves you." Sara stuck out that 'thing' at Chloe."You seemed to like it too."

Chloe giggled and brought her whole beaming face into Sara's view. "And then some! Want to come join me up here?  You've been down there a long ... long ... time.  Not that I'm complaining."

Sara sat up into a cross-legged position, and cocked her head, running her hand through her dark hair, trying to arrange it into some sort of order. "I just want to say one thing, maybe two or three, for the record. I am extremely thankful, as are my knees, that you have extra padding under the carpeting in this room.  And if I complained about that mattress being too high off the floor, I take it back. It's the perfect height!"  She jumped up, and tackled a giggling Chloe on the bed. They rolled around, tickling and kissing, until they got themselves positioned near the headboard, and Chloe snuggled into Sara's shoulder and sighed.  Sara wrapped her arm around her, and pulled the covers up around them.

"I'm going to miss you." said Chloe, enjoying the light fluffing and scratches Sara was applying to the top of her head.

"Yeah. Me too."  She ran her hand through Chloe's hair, lifting it, and letting it drop softly, then repeating it again. Even though she and Chloe had just made love, Sara was feeling pensive and sad.

"How long is it since you've seen your parents?" Chloe said carefully, hoping she wasn't spoiling the sweet afterglow.

Sara stopped her fluffing for a moment while she thought about it. Finally, she began playing with Chloe's mop again. "Eight, maybe nine years."

Chloe lifted her head off its comfortable spot, and looked at Sara. "That long?"  She searched Sara's eyes, and saw the frown that had set in on the darkhaired woman's lips. "Really?"

Sara lightly pushed Chloe's head back into its previous position. "Yeah. That long.  It's going to be ... interesting to see them again."

"How so?"  Why do these questions keep coming out of my mouth?  I can feel her tensing up under me. Chloe stroked Sara's shoulder in an effort to reduce the tension building in the muscled form beneath her.

"Well, let's see, I went to L.A., got my career started, and sent cards and presents for holidays and birthdays. I called ... less and less.  And then, after the accident, I dropped off the face of the earth, and well, I still sent cards, presents ... but no phone calls."  God, Chloe, I'm a schmuck.

Chloe tried to soothe the obviously uncomfortable woman by rubbing her hand in small circles on her abdomen. "I was kind of wondering ... how did you manage to do that, without them finding out where you were?  I mean, return addresses, postmarks?"  This is majorly lousy pillow talk.  But I have to know...

Sara sighed, and gave a rueful laugh. "Same way I ran my whole life then. From the internet.  I sent cards, presents and stuff that way.  I just got online with my credit card, and made sure that everything was delivered securely, without it being able to be traced back to me.  I lived that way, too, Chloe."

"How can you live off the internet?"  Chloe asked.  She didn't even own a computer, and her internet experience was limited to what pertained to her job.

Sara laughed, and gave Chloe a quick tight hug. "I forgot. You're still living in the '70's aren't you?  Let's see, most places deliver UPS, or Fed Ex.  For food, I found a place that would deliver.  I asked that it be dropped off without me signing for it.  Medicines, I got my prescriptions 3 months worth at a time, through the mail."

Chloe burrowed deeper into Sara's shoulder, troubled by the loneliness of Sara's missing years. She pulled herself in tighter, wanting to maximize contact.

Sara felt the compassion in Chloe's embrace. Thank god I can talk to her about this now. Thank god for her. "So ... I've talked to mom since I've been back, but it's ... strained.  Always was, really.  And Dad, well, he just acts like no time has passed at all, that none of it ever happened." Sara began her massage of Chloe's head again, she knew that the redhead loved it, and it was pleasing for her to do it. "Mom's mad, that might be an understatement.  She's never, ever ... put up with any crap from us, of any kind.  She worked 35 years as a legal secretary, and she saw the worst dregs of society pass through the office's doors. And Dad, he retired after 40 years at Dammermill Paper.  He's blue collar all the way, a very simple guy. He just went to work, and came home, and did his thing.  Mom, on the other hand, she knew everything about us, like ... she had eyes in the back of her head, plus I think she had surveillance teams on me and Dave." Sara snorted. "It seemed like she knew about things before we even did them.  She's smart, all right. Too smart."

Chloe heard the seriousness that had crept into Sara's voice as she had relayed those facts about her parents. This isn't going to be a good Easter holiday for her. She paused a moment before she said, "This ... you're really not looking forward to this, are you?  This is going to be tough ..."

"I have to do it.  It's going to be hard, because Mom isn't going to just let things go.  She's going to ask me tough questions, and she's not going to stand for any bullshit answers from me. She won't let me escape into myself when I'm there.  I'm going to have to tell her stuff that ... I'm not even ready to tell you, Chloe." Sara sighed, regretting that what she said was the absolute truth. "I'm sorry."

Chloe again lifted from Sara's shoulder, and propped her head up into her hands. She looked deeply into Sara's eyes, and said, firmly, "You don't have to apologize to me for anything, Sara, not for your past. Not a thing." She saw the deep blue eyes regarding her, and she decided to lighten the moment, so they could relax with each other on their last night together before Sara left tomorrow morning. "Now, your future, that's another thing.  I expect you will be spending a lot of time apologizing to me,  I am high maintenance, and well, there's no way you can consistently deal with that on a satisfactory basis for any length of time without screwing up ..."  She grinned, and dropped down, and kissed Sara's now smiling lips. She tucked her head back down onto Sara's warm shoulder again, and felt the vibrations of Sara's soundless mirth. "What?"

"Groveling." Sara drew out the words, growling the first few letters.


"Yeah, Marcy said I would be groveling every day of the rest of my life just to keep you ... " Sara's silent laugh turned into a light, out loud chuckle.

"That Marcy ... she's got our numbers, doesn't she?"

"That she does, Chloe. She sure does."

As the women settled in to each other, and lapsed into quiet breathing in preparation for sleep, Chloe's thoughts turned to Marcy. Yeah, she might have our numbers ... but she hasn't got a clue about herself. Chloe placed a small kiss on Sara's shoulder, and soon fell asleep. Sara, on the other hand, spent a good part of the darkest hours of the night idly fluffing Chloe's hair, and dreading the coming of the new day.


Dave was bending in front of the dryer door, stuffing white underwear, socks and undershirts into an opened suitcase. "Nelson!" he bellowed, irritated. "Come help me with the packing!"

Nelson stood grinning, not three feet from his grumpy father, watching quietly as Dave 'packed'.

"I'm right here, Dad.  What do you need?"

Dave nearly clutched his chest when Nelson's voice answered him from such close quarters.  Feeling his face turn red, Dave refused to look at him, pissed that Nelson had embarrassed and scared the crapola out of him. "Did you find our shorts? And T-shirts?" he grumped.

Unlike Dave, Nelson was aware of the concept of 'folding' prior to 'packing'. "I did that last night, Pop. I just finished packing all the necessary bathroom stuff. Our dress clothes are in a garment bag, and I've closed all the windows, locked them, and checked all the appliances. Aunt Sara's stuff is already in the Explorer, she put it in there before she left for Chloe's last night. "  Nelson had given up any pretense when it came to Chloe's name anymore.  She didn't seem to mind him calling her 'Chloe', even when he screwed up, and called her that in front of the other students. He grinned at the memory of Jeanette's hesitating stutter when Chloe insisted that Jeanette call her by her first name last Sunday.  By the end of the Sunday dinner,  Jeanette and Chloe were howling about the peculiarly paced meal, and Jeanette was sing-songing the redheaded director's name. "Oh, Chlo-o-Wee! That's s-o-o fun-ny!"

Dave had no idea why Nelson's quiet competence was disturbing him, it just was. "Jeans? Jackets? Camera? Film?" Dave ticked off items, hoping Nelson would say 'no' to at least one of them. It didn't happen.

"Got 'em all. I gassed up the Explorer last night, like you asked. The oil and tires are fine. I have my Walkman and a bunch of CD's.  Aunt Sara checked on all the golf course last night, and the barn is locked. We have an hour before we pick up Aunt Sara at the library at 9:30."  Nelson knew he was supplying more information than Dave wanted, he just felt like tweaking his dad.

Dave finished shoveling clothing into the small suitcase, and zipped it close. "Well, here, take this out to the Explorer. I'm going to get my shower, and get dressed." He stopped a moment, unzipped the bag, and picked through it until he found two socks, a t-shirt and a pair of white boxers. He zipped it shut again, stood up, and handed the bag to his softly smiling son. He gave Nelson a sheepish smile. "Sorry, bud.  I don't know where you get it from, all these organizational skills, must be your mother, it's sure not me, is it?"

Nelson had nearly 12 years of experience dealing with his father's pre-vacation jitters, ever since they had started taking their yearly Easter trek to Florida. "It's OK.  I still can't figure why you always get upset right before we go to Florida. I mean, it's just Grandma and Grandpa."

Dave's smile faded and a frown crossed his face. "I'll tell you why, Nelson.  They may be your grandparents, but they're my parents, and well, they're WEIRD, that's why!"

Nelson nodded, completely understanding.


Sara felt the tip of Chloe's nose run up the bare skin of her back along her spine, and she nearly dropped the cereal bowl she was washing right into the sink. She began to turn around, but the smaller woman pushed up against her, keeping her abdomen pinned to the counter.  Small hands began a light fondle along her bare sides, making her tremble a little at the erotic quality of the touch, and the ticklish sensations that it elicited, too.

"Uh, Chloe, just what do you think you're doing?" murmured Sara, who paused in her washing to close her eyes, enjoying the light caresses of Chloe's hands.  Lips touched her back, and softly kissed a line between her shoulder blades. Sara leaned back into them, and felt the addition of Chloe's tongue in between her kisses.

Chloe stopped her mouth, but not her hands. She rested her nose on a vertebrae, then said into the skin of her lover's back, "Well, you're leaving today, and the hot water in the shower gave out ..., and she paused to not too gently bite on a conveniently placed shoulder blade, and smiled at the twitches rolling through the muscles in Sara's back, "... and I didn't get a chance to reciprocate."  She slid a hand under Sara's arm, and reached and found a breast, trailing a finger across the tip of it. She felt Sara's quick intake of breath, and continued tantalizing her prize.

Sara again tried to push away from the counter, to turn and face Chloe. Chloe held her firmly in place with the weight of her body, and to add emphasis, she pushed a khaki covered knee between Sara's legs, separating them. She began massaging the breast she had in her left hand, and with her right hand, she moved Sara's long hair forward, over her shoulder.  More skin exposed, she slowly slid her free hand down and around to feel the soft, silky skin of Sara's abdomen, tickling her navel.

"Um, Chloe?" hummed Sara, not really meaning anything at all, just letting words tumble from her mouth. Chloe was placing harder nips along her back, and Sara was awash with the pleasurable sensations, getting lost in the delightful mixture. She felt some very definite warm clenching sensations beginning, well, below the height of the countertop, the edge of which Sara was now gently clutching.

Chloe stopped the bites along Sara's back so she could speak.  By nature, Chloe was a talker. She delighted in talking during these special times, and was  pleased to find that the content of her words and the tone of her voice seemed to spur Sara on.  "That's what you get.  I told you those white cotton Fruit of the Looms briefs do it for me ." She pinched and rolled Sara's hard nipple in her fingers, and felt the tall woman's body shiver.  " So don't you dare blame me for this,  you standing nearly naked at my kitchen sink ..." and she brought her right hand up to Sara's right breast, and mimicked her other hand's movements there, "in nothing but white cotton undies and ... " her left hand dropped down and snapped the elastic band on Sara's underwear, before traveling back up to its former position, "... sexy white crew socks,  washing up our breakfast dishes, and me having to leave for work in 25 minutes?" She laid her cheek on Sara's firm back, and began more pronounced ministrations to Sara's breasts.

Sara could feel her knees weakening at what Chloe was doing, and her heightened sensitivity prompted her to open her legs wider. She tried to gain balance against the unsteadiness she was feeling. The incessant rising of her desire began to unhinge her thinking.  She could feel the the light brush of Chloe's silk shirt on her back, and then the full contact of the shirt, with ripe breasts beneath it, as Chloe pushed her legs even farther apart. Sara clutched at the counter and moaned.

Chloe's heart was pounding along with the one she could hear under her ear, pressed to Sara's back.  She noticed the widening of Sara's stance and smiled. "Good girl. You're going to give me what I need, aren't you?" her voice breathy and low, inviting no argument. Chloe's right hand snaked down Sara's abdomen, to the elastic band which was now situated below the counter's edge, and slipped her fingers down, stopping when she could feel the beginning of the dark curls that lay there. She grasped Sara's breast tighter with her other hand, and punctuated each of her next words with a harder squeeze. "Tell me. Tell me you're going to give me anything I want.", letting her strong words reverberate into her lover's back.

Sara couldn't believe her easily won compliance to the smaller woman's words and forceful manner. I didn't know the half of it. She was quivering to the words and the touches. "Yes." She gasped, and felt her footing falter, and she was immediately held tightly in place by the determined redhead behind her.

"Yes, what, Sara?" Chloe coaxed, moving her hand further into the dark curls, pulling on them, entwining them in her fingers.

"Yes." Sara hissed through her clenched teeth, just as Chloe's hand and fingers made contact with Sara's very heated center.  "Anything ... you need." Sara clamped her mouth shut at the touch, unable to speak any more coherent words.

"Oh, that's nice," murmured Chloe, whose eyes were shut, her concentration completely involved in what her hands were doing. She moved her fingers lower. "And that's even nicer ..." as her fingers began a purposeful assault, massaging Sara with teasing, hypnotic touches. Chloe was a fast learner.  She had learned what Sara craved, what she needed in their short time together, and was putting her newfound knowledge to sensual use.

Chloe. The name repeated in Sara's head. The tall woman's knuckles were turning white from her grip on the counter edge, and she dropped her head down, unmindful that her long hair was almost touching the surface of the water in the sink. She felt Chloe everywhere and yet wanted more. She pushed down and into Chloe's hand, and she felt the redhead using a magical, relentless combination with her fingers, slow then speeding, soft then harder, sliding and pushing through her moisture, pulling and plunging until Sara was gasping, her socked feet sliding on the linoleum floor, only to be caught and held steady, until the merciless pressure brought Sara to where her breath hitched, and then hitched again. She stopped breathing altogether as her body tightened, and she heard, as if in a distance, Chloe's persistent words possessing her with constant urgings, "Yes. Sara. Yes. C'mon baby. C'mon Sara. Yes."

Sara's breath faltered, and the she rose taller, and arched sharply into Chloe behind her, moaning through her intense release. She threw her head back, somehow trusting in the redheaded woman to keep her from falling, helpless, to the floor. She shuddered, and with heaving chest, she leaned into the counter again. Both stood there many moments, memorizing this feeling, letting their heartbeats resume a normal pace. Sara sighed as she felt Chloe's hand lift from her center, only to skim a damp trail across her abdomen, then wrapping her securely in her embrace. They stood straighter, Chloe rubbing her cheek against Sara's back, Sara shifting her feet to gain a firmer stance. Sara lifted a hand off the counter, and put her arm across Chloe's on her belly, her fingers finding, and then entwining with hers. Chloe placed soft kisses  across her back until Sara pushed away from the counter, and keeping hold of Chloe's hand, she turned at last to meet the eyes of her love. Wordlessly, she kissed Chloe's forehead, and then leaned down and met Chloe in a sweetly searing kiss. She pulled away, and saw the emotions swirling in Chloe's misted eyes.

The dark woman sighed, and pulled the redhead into her arms, tightening the hug to convey the love that she felt. She tucked some strands of hair behind Chloe's ear, before whispering, softly and without deceit, "Anything. Anything you want, anything you need, Chloe."

Nelson walked into the library, immediately noticing his lanky aunt right away.  She was casually leaning on the counter, head propped in one hand, grinning at the animated, scowling face of Chloe, who was still spouting off about the twins' inability to get any work done, and how she should just fire them. She was just starting to repeat herself, when Chloe noticed Nelson strolling up to the counter.

"Hey, Nels." Chloe beamed, now in the habit referring to Nelson in the same manner that Sara did.

"Hey, Chloe. Aunt Sara."  He couldn't understand how with all the time he was spending around Chloe, she still could make him feel very bashful. He liked how she called him 'Nels' now. He turned to address Sara, who was idly playing with the date stamp on the counter. "Dad's double parked out front, everyone in town is at the liquor store and dry cleaners. There's no spaces out there. He said to tell you 'to quit playing footsie with Chloe, and get your ass out there.'  Nelson liked to be a good messenger, and relay messages the way he got them, no matter how much it made him blush.

Sara laughed. "Well, go tell your Dad that you and I plan on sleeping all the way to Orlando, and he's doing all the driving. That'll fix the bum."  She winked at her snickering nephew. "I'll be right out. There's ... something in Chloe's office she needs to show me."

Nelson blushed again, and turned his shy gaze at Chloe. "See you next week, Chloe.  You and Marcy have a nice Easter."

Chloe just adored this young man. "Thank you, Nelson, and please, make sure you and your Aunt Sara have a good time.  Your dad is on his own."

Nelson nodded, and made his way out the front doors, leaving the two women to look at each other. Chloe looked needlessly around the quiet library, no one had come in besides Nelson since she had opened the front doors at 9:00. "C'mon,  I want to show you a very fine first edition that I have locked in my office."

Sara followed her down the short corridor, and into Chloe's office, and shut the door quietly behind her. "Now where's this first edition you need to show me?" she whispered.

Chloe let out a guffaw. "Why are you whispering?"

Sara blinked, and then continued, grinning, in her muted tone. "It's a library, silly. I may get hit by lightning or something if I raise my voice above a certain decibel level."  She took the small redhead into her arms, and held her lightly, surveying her face, memorizing every eyelash.

"Decibel level?  You've certainly never been around here on delivery day, when I'm just about to skewer the twins, have you? Decibel level, my ass!" Chloe laughed, and wrapped her arms around Sara's neck.

"Your ass? What about it?" She reached down and gave both cheeks a firm squeeze. "Seems in pretty good shape to me. I wouldn't worry."

Chloe's eyes twinkled as she leaned in for a quick kiss. Her smile faded a little, and she looked a bit sad. "Jeez, we just get started, and you decide to blow town.  Talk about love 'em and leave 'em."

Sara quirked an eyebrow. "I'll be back. You stay out of trouble with your friend the wacky artist. Those bohemian types are trouble." Before Chloe could answer, she leaned in for a deeper, sweeter kiss. "Now,what were we talking about?"

Chloe was just opening her eyes, slowly, still savoring the kiss. "I think your ... late fees, and what you're going to do to work them off when you get back."

Sara laughed, and pulled Chloe in for a warm hug. She lifted the smaller woman into the air, and twirled her around. "How's that for starters?"

"Well, for starters, it's damned good," gasped a giggling Chloe as Sara slowly deposited her back to earth level. Chloe's keen hearing picked up the jingling sound of the bell hanging on the entrance door to the library. "Duty calls." she said disappointedly, although she knew that Sara had already dawdled too long with her, and that Dave was probably getting pretty antsy out there. "I love you, Sara. Be good."

Sara briefly considered feigning illness, and blowing off the whole trip. Nobody would ever believe it. Damn this never getting sick thing. "I love you, too, Chloe. I'll call Marcy's cell phone when we get there, OK?" Sara was vaguely uncomfortable with the knowledge that she wouldn't know where Chloe was going to be over this long weekend. Spin the Car, huh?

"OK" and before Sara could pull away, Chloe pulled her in for one more long, languid kiss. Damn the patrons. Chloe disengaged to find Sara dreamily staring at her. "Hey, tall, dark and double-parked, get your ass in gear."

"I'm going."  Sara opened up the door, and headed out, Chloe not far behind.  Chloe went behind her counter, and watched as Sara stopped at the doorway, looked left, then right, and then blew her a kiss.  She grinned as Chloe stood wide-eyed and frozen at this decidedly mushy, un-Sara-like gesture. Sara waved, and walked out the door.  Chloe looked left, and then right, and then blew a kiss at the empty doorway.

Marcy reached into her open jacket collar, moving her hand into her knitted sweater, across her shoulder blade and down.  Chloe could hear the sound of something being ...removed?

"What're you doing?" Chloe asked,but Marcy's actions were already answering her question. Marcy's hand reappeared from out of her jacket, and a half-dollar sized tan patch was waved briefly in Chloe's face before Marcy smacked it on the dashboard in front of her, where the adhesive held it in place.

"I'm smoking, goddamn it."  She pulled a pack of cigarettes out of her jacket pocket, looked silently at Chloe, who sighed and quickly nodded.  Marcy pulled another one out of the pack and lit both, handing one to Chloe. "I bought them last night. And before you yell at me, I only smoked two.  Mostly I sucked on unlit ones most of the night. Christ, I hate being good.."

Chloe rolled down her driver's window a few inches, and waved out some of the smoke.  They were only fifteen minutes from their destination, Harmercreek, and both women were in foul moods this Good Friday morning.  Chloe had picked up Marcy fifteen minutes late, she had overslept, and a nearly ranting Marcy had stomped out of her house, gotten in to the Subaru, and slammed the door closed, quite intent on showing her anger with Chloe at being late on such an important day.  They were now just leaving the outskirts of Stonecreek, and were headed east on Route 20,  towards the outlying suburb of Harmercreek, where Marcy had her appointment at 11:00.

The remarks about smoking were the first words the women had exchanged.

Marcy sucked hard on her cigarette. "You know, if you'd gotten to my house on time, you could have talked to Sara. She was disappointed that you weren't there." Marcy said, agitation clearly showing on her face and in her voice.

Chloe took a quick glance at Marcy, and turned her eyes back to the road. "Shit.", she replied, her tone matching her friend's.

"Yeah, shit."

"Well, are you going to tell me anything, or do I have to pull the car over and ..."

"Why the hell are YOU in a bad mood, Chloe?  YOU'RE the one that was late,  you're not the one who's in NEED of this appointment, you know. I am."

"I have monster sized cramps. So shut the hell up and tell me what Sara said."

"She didn't say anything."

"You just said ... "

"Well, Sara was right there.  I talked to Dave.  They were at some truck stop, about 3 hours out from Orlando ... in some southern state, I don't know."

"Why didn't you just say that ..."

"Because I don't have to, you were LATE!"  Marcy stubbed her cigarette out in Chloe's pristine clean ashtray, and dumped the butt into it.

Chloe glared at Marcy, took a final pull off her own cigarette, and tossed it out the window.

"Litterbug." huffed Marcy. "And another thing, I've had the 'trots' all morning. I've taken enough Imodium and Pepto-Bismol, I may never take a dump again.  I goddamned WISH I had my period, you know?  Then we wouldn't be taking this little hike up the road,  I wouldn't be caffeine deprived, nicotine shorted or any of this crap.  We could be in this car taking a much more pleasurable trip, like, off the end of a dock. So, I don't care if it feels like your cramps feel like the equivalent to giving birth to a baby elephant, or the fact that you didn't get to talk with your movie star girlfriend. Too goddamned bad for you, Chloe."

"Fuck you."

"Well, fuck you too."

Both women smiled.

"Wow.", marveled a now grinning Chloe. "Period or no period, are we bitchy, or what?"

"You are. I'm just being me, just more so."

The familiar buildings of the outskirts of Harmercreek were now coming into view.  Marcy pulled out another cigarette. "This is stupid," said Marcy, trying to talk and light her cigarette at the same time. "I'm already not used to smoking.  I feel lightheaded."  She drew on her cigarette a few times.  Chloe kept her remarks to herself. Marcy pointed up the road to a small plaza on the right hand side. "It's right up there, in that little plaza.  Right across from the nursery."

Chloe flipped on her turn signal, and pulled into the small parking lot. She navigated between two cars, and put the Subaru in park.  She leaned forward, and gazed up at the row of three businesses.  There was a pizza parlor at the end, then a taxidermist, and then an office front, with a stenciled window reading 'Harmercreek Family Planning'.  She turned to her friend, who was staring ahead, intent on hoovering as much nicotine into her system as she could in as short a time as possible. "This must be the place, " Chloe said rather pointlessly. "Unless you were planning on having a skunk stuffed."

Marcy turned a newly glaring eye upon her, and silently threatened her redheaded friend. Chloe took the hint, and kept her mouth shut while Marcy finished her cigarette. Marcy butted it out, and again, tossed it into the car's ashtray. She checked her watch. "At least we're not late. We have a whole friggin' three minutes to spare. Let's go."

Chloe followed her friend in the front doors, and took off her coat while Marcy walked over to a small receptionist's window. A smiling blonde woman handed Marcy a clipboard with sheets attached, and Marcy took it and turned and motioned Chloe to sit down in the small, stereotypical waiting room. There was one other woman in there, but she appeared to be dozing in her seat.  She was quite obviously in the late stages of pregnancy, by the looks of the size of her belly.  Blue chairs, blue carpeting, cheery but boring pictures, and magazines strewn on tables splitting chair groupings.  Chloe grabbed a magazine and sat down, settling in while Marcy filled out the forms, bitching under her breath the whole time.  She returned the completed forms to the receptionist, and sat down, grabbing a magazine for herself.  She was just paging through it when both women heard a voice calling a name.

"Ms. Wojciechlowski?"

Chloe glanced towards the pregnant woman on the other side of the room, who was still sleeping in her chair, and then went back to her reading.

"Ms. Wojciechlowski?"

Both women started at the familiarity of the name, and the unfamiliarity of it, too.  Marcy, who never blushed, did so now, as she quickly stood up and smiled at the dishwater blonde smiling at her from the doorway.  She poked at an uncomprehending Chloe, who was still trying to figure out where she had heard that name before.

"C'mon, Chloe." Marcy started towards the smiling woman, who was standing, waiting for them in the open doorway.  Chloe took a quick mental scan of her as she followed both women up the hallway and into a small office with blue carpeting, a blue couch, mild and uninteresting pictures on the wall, and two blue armchairs facing the couch. There was a coffee table between the couch and chairs, and in the corner of the room was a small, unobtrusive desk.

The blonde woman motioned for Chloe and Marcy to sit down on the couch, which they did, staring up expectantly, waiting.

"Hi, I'm Julia Cardinger, I'm the counselor here.  I'm sorry, we usually like to make our introductions in the privacy of the offices here."  She stuck out her hand, and both Chloe and Marcy stood up again, to shake the woman's hand.

"I'm Marcy, and this is Chloe." All three women sat down, the counselor in a chair across from both of them.  She tried to put the two nervous women at ease.

"Oh, dear, I forgot to get your information from the receptionist. I'll be right back in two scoots."  She went out the office door, shutting it quietly behind her.

Chloe and Marcy looked at each other.

"She's gotta be our age." said Chloe in her library quiet voice.

"Yeah," whispered Marcy in reply, "I was expecting someone like ... Doris."

The office door opened again, and Julia Cardinger reappeared, clipboard in hand. She smiled, showing white even teeth set in a round and open face. She had oval glasses perched on the end of her nose, and was dressed rather like Chloe would dress for a day at work, in dark khaki pants and button down shirt with a cardigan sweater. Her dark blonde hair was streaked, and cut in a short, boxy style. She glanced at the clipboard again as she sat down in her chair.

"Feel free to call me Julia. And I will call you Marcy? and ... Chloe? OK?" she said sincerely, waiting for agreement to her statement. Both Chloe and Marcy mutely nodded . "I'm going to tell you both about some of the services we offer here at Harmercreek Family Planning, and then we can get to your questions." She looked at Marcy, and then, pointedly at Chloe. "Don't be bashful to ask questions, Chloe. Just butt in at any time."

"Oh, she will," said Marcy, flatly, and felt the nudge of her redheaded friend's elbow in her ribs. Inexplicably, they had both sat close together in the center of the couch, hip to hip, shoulder to shoulder, facing the counselor. Perhaps it was their years of friendship that made them both feel better, stronger, more united with this close proximity.

Forty-five minutes later, after many explanations of services offered and details of the procedures rendered had been offered by the counselor, Marcy had finally gotten the answers to all of her questions, and sat back into the couch, visibly shaken and emotional. Chloe had been helpfully handing tissues to a friend whom she rarely had seen cry. Chloe was feeling the gravity of the situation too, and she wrapped her arm around Marcy, and with lack of anything better to do, she gave her a small kiss on the cheek in encouragement and solidarity.

Julia Cardinger gave a small sigh of sympathy. "I know it must be a hard decision. But you've some time to think about it, don't try and make a decision right now, right in this office. You have plenty of time to think before you come to any conclusions.  You can call me with more questions. Talk to Chloe about it.  You've come in early enough in your pregnancy that you have a wider window than a lot of the clients I see."

Marcy had heard the phrases 'your pregnancy' and 'your baby' one too many times from the lips of this blonde stranger. She stood up from the couch, and said to the still seated counselor, "Ladies room?"

"Right up the hall, to your left." she said, smiling a small smile of sympathy.

"I'll be right back."  Marcy disappeared out the office door, leaving a softly sniffing Chloe behind, alone with the still smiling counselor.

"You OK?" she said softly to the upset little librarian, who had been trying to hold her teetering emotions in check for the benefit of her long time friend.

"Yeah. It's just so ... hard." Chloe blew her nose into a kleenex, and smiled sadly.

"Well,  Chloe, it's wonderful you came with her today."

Chloe nodded, and sniffed. "I had to be here. She means the world to me."

Julia leaned across, snatched up a tissue, and handed it to Chloe, who was starting to cry a little more freely.  "I'm sorry, where did you say you lived?"

Chloe took the tissue, and gave the woman a grateful look. "We live in Stonecreek." She blew her nose again.

"How long have you two known each other?"

"Seems like forever." said a weepy voiced Chloe.  She wanted to pull herself together before Marcy came back, so she took a couple of deep, cleansing breaths.

Julia sat back in her chair, and shook her head. "I have to tell you this.  It is just so lovely, so refreshing to see the kind of unconditional love and support that you're showing her, Chloe."

Chloe sniffed and smiled grimly.

The blonde counselor looked down, adjusted her glasses, and then returned her gaze to Chloe, a small smile on her lips.  She took a deep breath of her own, before she leaned forward to address Chloe, meeting her eyes.  "Most of the couples that I counsel, the ones like you and Marcy, are here to find out about alternative ways to conceive a child.  I think it's very brave of you, under the circumstances, to help Marcy along in her time of indecision. I don't know the exact circumstances of how Marcy ... got pregnant, but the fact that you've stayed with her ... when this must be so difficult for you, well, I just think that's  ... inspiring."

Chloe's brain was having difficulty doing the math that would allow her to put two and two together about what the counselor was saying. She blinked, and then blinked again, trying to shake loose a few brain cells into activity.

Feeling encouraged by Chloe's blank smile, the counselor went on. "That you two have worked out your problems, and are still together ...well it just does my heart so good.  If only my ex- lover could witness this kind of devotion that I'm seeing right now, I'm sure she would ..."

Marcy interrupted the counselor's heartfelt tribute by returning at that very awkward moment in time.  She looked much better, and smiled a more controlled and relaxed smile at them both.

Chloe's mouth began to sag open and she struggled to speak. Too bad nothing remotely intelligent wanted to come out. "Uh. Um. Marcy?"  She saw that Marcy was looking at her strangely.

"You ready, hon?"  Marcy smiled a very grateful smile at her best friend, and saw Chloe stiffly nod. She turned her attention to the counselor, who was now standing. She put out her hand, and gave the counselor a tight and vigorous handshake. "Thanks Julia, for your time and your wisdom ... and your insight. You'll be hearing from me."

Julia waited for the somewhat conflicted librarian to stand up, and Chloe just gave her a small smile but a big handshake. "Uh. Yeah. Thanks, Julia."

When the two women stepped out onto the sidewalk, into the refreshing breeze, both paused a moment, closed their eyes, and took in twin deep breaths.  Marcy reached into her jacket pocket, and pulled out her cigarettes. She pulled one out, and said, "I promise this is the first of the next five last ones I'll smoke today." She lit it, and noticed the smile playing across Chloe's lips. "What?"

Chloe cleared her throat, and tried to downplay her grin. "Did you notice anything ... odd about Julia?"

Marcy ran a hand through her thick curls, and looked at her friend curiously. "You mean, something besides the bad haircut?"

Chloe willed her lips into a straight line. "Yeah.  The way she treated us."

"I'm not floating in the same current here as you, Chloe. What do ya mean?"

Chloe wanted to play this out, it was too good. "Did you notice how she kind of skirted around the 'father' issue?"

Marcy took another puff, totally bewildered at what her friend was getting at. She scratched her head, then reached over and scratched Chloe's for good measure. "Well, we really didn't discuss Dave, really ..."  She looked at Chloe for further enlightenment.

Enlightening, Chloe wasn't. "Exactly."

Marcy, so confused it was actually making her smile, caught some of the sparkle in Chloe's eyes. "What are you getting at, huh?"

"Well," started Chloe, now unable to keep the smile off her face, "I think she did that in deference to me." When Marcy just shook her head, not getting it, Chloe continued, a little giggle threading through her voice. "Marcy, I think, no ... I know, that Julia thinks that if you have the baby, it will have a father.  Me." Chloe stopped there, waiting for Marcy's reaction.

The art teacher's eyes widened, and she gasped out, "You mean ..."

Chloe slapped her arm around the shoulders of her shocked friend, and began walking them to the car. "Yeah, Marse, I'm your Daddy."

The tension broken, both women had difficulty getting into the car because every time they would catch the other's eye, they would start their incredulous, hysterical laughter again.

Paul was loading a flat of petunias into the trunk of his mother's gaudy luxury sedan. She was standing by the passenger side, compact in hand, putting on a touch up of lipstick. She was just closing her compact, when she noticed two women exiting an office building in the small plaza across the street. Putting her lipstick and compact back in her purse, she pulled out her bifocals and put them on, focusing on those now familiar figures. She saw them talking, and then begin laughing, as they walked to a brown station wagon.  Her interest in the two women faded as they got into the vehicle, and was diverted to the sign above the office they had exited. 'Harmercreek Family Planning'.

"Paul?" said Mrs. Hoderman, her eyebrows twitching.

Paul slammed the trunk shut. "Yes, Mother?"

"Hurry up.  I don't want to be late for my lunch with Doris."

Continued in Part XXI

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