The Light Fantastic

by LA Tucker

Part XXI :  The Bitter and the Sweet

For disclaimers, see Part I

Sara woke up, feeling vaguely chilled. She reached a hand out from under the pile of light blankets she was under, and touched the tip of her nose. It was cold, like a puppy's. Air conditioning.  When is the last time I slept in air conditioning?  She stretched her long legs out, and felt the cool metal bars of the end of the day bed with her toes. She rubbed her eyes open, and saw the stripes of daylight peeking through the slats of the mini-blind on the single window here in the small room.  It was more of an all purpose room, outfitted with the daybed, but without any other furnishings that would identify it as a bedroom. She rubbed her eyes again, dislodging some of the small sleepers that had formed there overnight. The sun of midmorning was lighting the room, even with the nearly shut blinds, and Sara rolled on her side to take a look around. Her suitcase was propped near her father's exercise bike in the center of the room, and the opposite wall held a sewing table and machine. There were scraps and lengths of material lying over the ironing board in front of the modern machine, her mother's hobby ever since Sara could remember. On the white walls were photographs and pictures that Sara recognized from her parents' house in Stonecreek,  set almost in the same patterns as when they were displayed there. Sara smiled at the comfortable familiarity of it.

Even the pictures in the bathrooms, the colors of the towels, the fish on the shower curtains, the soaps on the back of the toilet. They're pretty much the same as our old house. The couches and the chairs in the living room are new, but set in the same pattern as when I grew up. I can go into the kitchen, and find things, I just know that the water glasses will be in the cupboard to the right of the sink.  And they are. The teddybear cookie jar is on the counter, and when I opened it, there were cookies in it. Sara grinned. Not like mom ever made any, but she always had it full with the ones she bought.  I used to think that the jar was magical, and cookies just appeared in there.  Everything is the same here, just a different house, but I could probably close my eyes and navigate through it, find things, touch paintings on the walls, and know exactly what they were. Everything is different, everything is the same.

Except for Mom. And Ernie. Sara had seen photographs of them in recent years, but was not really emotionally prepared for the reality when they arrived here yesterday afternoon. Her dad, never a large man, seemed even smaller now to her, thinner than she remembered, slower in speech and mannerisms. What is he now, 73? 74? His skin on his arms felt soft to her as she hugged him, the hair on the top of his head was thinner, sparser than she last recalled. He was not as tall as his sturdy children, he was a good four inches shorter than his amazonian daughter, and when she held him, her cheek lay half on his forehead, half onto the pepper gray of his slicked backed strands of hair on the top of his head. He smelled of equal parts of Old Spice and cheap cherry cigars, with maybe a hint of WD-40 thrown in for good measure. When she pulled back from him, he shyly smiled at her, his delight clearly showing in his hazel eyes, and she smiled back, glad to see there was no recrimination staring back at her. Ernie was a simple man, not simple minded, and not judgmental. That trait he left to his wife.

Thank god she wasn't here when we got here. Although it was just postponing the inevitable.  Her mother had shown up an hour later, to find them all sitting on the back patio, talking and having a beer. The tall woman appeared behind the screen of the sliding glass door, and Sara, facing the house, was the first to see her there. They exchanged measured glances and smiles of acknowledgment, eyes blue on blue, both women taking a moment or two to emotionally gird themselves for their reunion. Marjorie slid the door open and stepped through it, and her son and grandson were immediately on their feet to greet her, to hug the tall woman, their voices animated and joking.  Sara remained seated in her lounge chair, her nerves a quiet jumble, steeling herself, unsure of the reception her mother would give her after all these years.

Mom looks good. She looks older, that's natural. Her hair doesn't give away her age, it's the same color I always remembered. It's been that deep chestnut color, never varying in shade or tint, since ...forever. Since I used to sit at the beauty shop, fascinated, as ... what was her name? ... oh, yeah, Betty ...would touch up her roots for her, what  ... every six weeks or so?

The low heels that Marjorie wore brought her eye to eye with her daughter, and both women averted their eyes when they finally did hug, a hug of informal greeting that did not last long, did not carry an extra squeeze of affection in it. I really did want to hug her ... more.  Sara was surprised to find that she desired to hug her mother with meaning, but her wariness made her hold back from displaying the relief and ... joy? she felt in her heart but did not extend to her arms when they went around the older woman.

The rest of the afternoon, into evening, was spent in conversation on the patio, at the dinner table, and finally in the living room. Dave held court most of the time, his good humor and easiness around his family was infectious.  Sara sat back and smiled and laughed at her father's bad jokes. Dave spoke about his golf course and the working histories of it. He spoke proudly about his shyly blushing son, the football star on a terrible team and musical theater neophyte. He bragged affectionately about his irreplaceable sister, and all of her contributions to his 9-hole dream. He even, blushing and hesitant, told them about the art teacher he was dating, and with a quick wink to his quiet and smiling sister, told them about his hopes to marry her. Sara had looked to Nelson for his reaction to this statement. Nelson blinked, turned his gaze to his aunt, looked at her questioningly. Sara rolled her eyes at him and gave him a toothy smile, which after a moment, he returned in full force. Nelson then looked at his dad and gave him a smile of enthusiastic acceptance.

As the evening wore on, and more beers were opened, more coffee was made and the family group shifted into the living room, Nelson was gently prodded into talking about  his involvement in the school play. Nelson, usually very reticent to speak, warmed to his subject, his enthusiasm overcoming his natural shyness.  He spoke long and excitedly about every aspect of the play, from his aunt's gentle tutoring of his singing in the cold garage, the rehearsal catastrophes of the colliding Mo Dean and Charlie Shemp, the pure joy he felt when he discovered he had gotten the role of Curly. He spoke affectionately of Marcy, Paul, and finally of his small redblonde director, Chloe, and at the mention of her name, the nephew and aunt exchanged a meaningful spark of acknowledgment between them.  Chloe's name brought such a smile, was so a gentle balm that eased his aunt's tense features, that Nelson went on and on about the librarian, and his father cheerfully joined in with tales about her verve, her spirit, her gentle good humor, her tendencies to get a bit crazy. Dave and Nelson enthusiastically took up the task of informing their parents about Sara's new love, and through their stories, indirectly introduced Chloe as integral part in Sara's new life. They vocalized for the quietly appreciative long haired woman what she could not.  Both father and son took the time and care to infer that this Chloe Donahue was a person of great importance to them, and their loving words for her slowly clued Marjorie and Ernie into the importance that she held in all their lives. Sara was quite touched by their words and found herself nearly on the verge of tears during their accolades for Sara's younger lover. They think of her as family, and they want Mom and Ernie to know that.  Ernie, just as quiet as his daughter, sat watching and listening, and got up to get more coffee from the kitchen. He passed by the armchair in which Sara was sitting, and stopped and laid a hand on his daughter's shoulder. "She sounds like a pistol, Sara. I hope we get to meet her." he said with a delicate smile, and then went on his way.

Sara stretched her arms over her head, and propped a lazy hand under her chin as she turned on her side. Her thoughts, as they did every morning now, turned to and were totally encompassed by  Chloe. Each of her senses took stock of the memory of her. Her eyes filled with a vision of Chloe's trademark thoughtful chin scratching, something the librarian did to grab a moment to collect her thoughts before reacting to something. Sara's nostrils momentarily ignored the artificial spring freshness of the sheets of the daybed, and conjured up the mixture of deodorant soap, herbal shampoo, and Vaseline Intensive Care lotion that mixed into a surprisingly pheromone inspiring reaction in Sara. Sara laughed and rubbed her belly. And her feet, well, frankly, they stink. Sara laughed out loud again at that thought. Sara's mind heard the the enigma of Chloe's laugh, a sound that burst forth with all the power of a snort and then changed into something almost childlike and lilting by its conclusion.  Sara's ears heard the high tones of Chloe's voice when she was anxiously angry and spoke with rambling unchecked train of thought. The echoes of the lows and breathiness those tones took on when whispering, hesitating and stammering, trying to convey the depth of feeling she felt  for the dark woman she held so tightly in her arms.

I wonder where they ended up?  Spin The Car.  As if those two weren't spinning enough as it is, they want to go and get even dizzier. Sara looked at the window of the small room almost expecting to be able to look out it, and picture Marcy's red Mazda speeding down a four lane highway. Nothing like falling in love to make you think about reevaluating your future, is there?  Things are going to change, they always do.  As much as I like how things are right now, there's a certain progression to everything in life that I can't ignore, even if I want to.  Sara had recently begun to think beyond her day to day existence, and to think in terms of weeks, months, and when she was feeling especially optimistic, even years into the future. The shared strength of new friends, the support of family, the satisfaction of work worthwhile and rewarding was quietly fortifying Sara's soul, surely rebuilding it into a steely facsimile of her former self. I forgot what, who I was.  I really had no sense of self for so long. I didn't recognize myself. I can feel myself coming back into being.  The problem with that is ... how much of it do I want to bring back? Sara's thoughts again turned to Chloe. I know I love her, I want us to be together. An uneasy nagging feeling stole over Sara, not a anxious reaction, but  an awakening sense of the inevitability of decisions that would have to be made between them, individually and together.  Sara had to ascertain within herself as to what were her own decisions, what they would have to discuss and ponder mutually, and which questions Chloe had to decide on her own. I am just finding myself again, and now I don't know how much of that to harness in deference to a lover. Sara rubbed the remainders of the sleepers out of her eyes. I never have made decisions in my life considering the feelings of a lover.  I made choices, they lived with them, or they went on their way. Who am I kidding?  They all went on their way.

Sara scratched her chin, the long buried actress in her not realizing she was perfectly mimicking the mannerisms of a small redhead who was now somewhere, spun out, north of the Mason Dixon line.

Chloe decided it was too good an opportunity to miss, even if Sara wasn't there to share the moment of revenge in person. I've been waiting to get Marcy back for her 'interruption' of our first night together, and using her key to sneak up on us that next morning.  Chloe quietly exited the bathroom of the motel room she and Marcy shared,  and crossed over to the double bed that Marcy was sprawled out in the middle of, snoring with a precise and measured cadence that a drum major would envy. I don't really need to be quiet, this woman is just like me, and could sleep through a stampeding herd of cats in heat. Chloe threw the towel from her damp head onto the other double bed, and dressed only in her matching light blue panties and bra, quickly slipped into bed with Marcy. She inched closer and closer to the body of her slumbering curly haired friend, knowing that her patience in approaching her would help in the ultimate success of her sneaky little plan. Oh Sara, I wish you were here to see this. Chloe spooned her body slowly into Marcy, and watched for any wakefulness that action might bring. Nope, still out for the count. Chloe pulled a pillow into position under her cheek, and brought her head and then her lips close to Marcy's ear. Almost there. Chloe slowly draped an arm around Marcy's t-shirted waist, and slowly tightened her grip. Chloe nearly lost it then, and had to take a moment to regroup when she was startled by Marcy scooting her butt tighter into the spoon. Chloe bit the inside of her cheek to keep from laughing, and then once she was sure Marcy was settled and content, she began her stealthy assault.

Chloe's pink tongue danced a delicate line around the perimeter of Marcy's ear, and Chloe, drawing on all her inner strength to keep from giggling, breathed a deep and drawn out "Mmmmmm" while continuing her wet path around the artist's ear. Marcy stirred, but did not wake. Chloe keep up a steady bass moan, and then combined soft nips to Marcy's earlobe combined with soft flicks of her tongue. Chloe was surprised to find that these attentions to her friend's ear caused some vague stirrings to her own core, but she swallowed them back, determined to see her vengeful plan through to completion.  Chloe added a new variation on her attack. She began slowly rubbing Marcy's belly in light circles. Marcy's shoulders gave a small jerk in reaction, and when she did this, Chloe gave her earlobe an especially meaningful sucking, along with the deepest "Mmmmmm" she could manage. Marcy twitched, and the next thing Chloe was aware of was that she was flat on her back, being lustily kissed by her best friend, who in of 23 years of friendship had rarely even hugged her.

"Marfph" choked Chloe, who was unable to form words around Marcy's diving tongue.

Marcy's sleepy brain was barely cognizant but happy to find that Dave had taken the time to shave before his seduction of her this morning. Although his voice was sounding kind of strange. He must have a pillow across his chest, it's too soft and his hands on my shoulders are smaller and seem to be pushing me away for some reason ...

Chloe's frantic pushing helped Marcy's slippery brain to finally achieve some traction.  Marcy flew straight up before unceremoniously taking a right turn in mid-air, destination, the floor between the two beds.

Chloe flipped onto her side to make sure her friend was all right after her quick flight, and looked wide eyed at her.

Marcy, on her butt, propped herself up on her elbows, and after a quick inventory of her important parts and finding them all in working condition, leveled a bleary and red-faced glare at the redhead staring down at her from the edge of the bed.

"Jesus H. Christ on a crotch, Chloe!!  What the ever-livin' fuck was THAT all about?"

Chloe's cheeks rose impossibly high in conjunction with the huge grin her lips, and she threw herself into the pillows in the middle of the bed and started roaring with laughter, knowing she would be unable to verbalize any acceptable explanations to her livid friend. Chloe pulled the two pillows tighter around her head for protection when she felt the beginning blows of another pillow raining down on her from above. Each hit was punctuated with a rather bohemian and artistic sounding string of curses.  Finally, Marcy's anger abated and the calls of her desperate bladder won out, so Chloe was able to peek out from under her pillowed fortress and catch her breath as the bathroom door slammed close.

Chloe gulped a grateful lungful of air. "Vengeance!", she half yelled, half giggled sweetly towards the closed door.

"I hate you!" rang the muffled, bitter reply.

Marjorie D' Amico arrived home from her errands and having her hair done to find the house empty.  She put a few grocery items away,  and headed into her bedroom to change into more casual clothing now that she was home.  She never went out without looking groomed and stylish. She rarely ever went to pick up a prescription in less than a perfectly matching outfit and heels. She was a woman who radiated style and substance all of her life, and she hadn't succumbed to the casual breeziness of Florida in the 12 years they had lived here. One of Marjorie's friends had gently teased her once by saying that Marjorie always dressed, 7 days a week, as if she might be called to a funeral, a garden party or be sworn in as a supreme court judge at a moment's notice. Marjorie took it with quiet good nature, it was just another variation on the comments she received when she still lived in that small northeastern town on the shores of Lake Erie.

She walked by the open door of her sewing room, and noticed with a quick glance that it was empty, the daybed was lightly made, and Sara's suitcase lay open on the floor.  Maybe she's out back taking a swim. Marjorie entered her own comfortable bedroom, and carefully removed the clothes she had on for a few hours, and considered putting on her own bathing suit. It's not like Sara and I will do laps together.  More like we'll have one long arm wrestling match, using strong words instead of strong arms. She put on a pressed pair of shorts, and a sleeveless top, and pushed a comfortable pair of sandals on her feet.  She paused in front of the full length mirror to ponder her image. Not bad for a 62 year old broad. Then her vision changed, and she tilted her head to one side, and used her recent memory of the image of her long-missing daughter, and used that as a comparison of what she saw in the mirror.  Sara took after her, as did Dave, and not after her diminutive husband.  Sara's hair was much longer, much darker, and it appeared to Marjorie that Sara wasn't using any products to hide any gray as of yet. Marjorie began doing that when she was just a few years older than Sara was now. What is she, 35, 36?  I'm terrible, I don't know how old my own kids are. She did the quick mental addition, and since Dave had turned 40 this year, she concluded that her daughter was 5 years younger, 35.  It's not like I sent her birthday cards for years, considering I didn't have a clue to where to send them.  She studied the reflection of her blue eyes, her sculpted cheeks, her lips, her tall thin frame, and concluded with a wry smile that there was no way she could deny she was the mother to a movie star.

She appeared, coffee cup in hand on the open patio and settled into a chair at the small round table there.  She'd been right, her daughter was swimming leisurely laps in the small inground pool. It only took her five strokes to reach the end of the pool, where she flipped, and began her trek back to the other end to repeat the process. Marjorie drank her coffee, and casually perused the front page of the morning paper, waiting for her daughter to notice her arrival.

The rhythm of Sara's measured strokes finally stopped, and Marjorie looked up from her article to find her daughter treading water in the middle of the pool, black hair slicked back off her face, looking at her, grinning.

"Hey." said Sara.

"Hey." replied Marjorie, not exactly returning the grin.

Sara, never one to take the easy way out, ignored the steps on the end of the pool, and instead pushed her way up and onto the patio stones from the edge. Marjorie had a chance to further study her daughter, now standing, dripping in a one piece black bathing suit, wiping the excess of water off of her tall, lithe form before padding over to her mother and settling into a chair across from her. Eye contact, at this point, was not an option for either women, so Sara turned her attention towards the pool, while Marjorie went back to her paper.

"What time is it?" Sara began, angling her body to make more of it available to the warm sunlight.

Marjorie intoned, never looking up. "Nearly noon." She turned a page. "They'll be back probably around one, or two, depending on how many idiots Ernie has to introduce them to down at the golf course." She paused and checked out an editorial cartoon before continuing, "Or unless they play another 18. It's certainly cool enough today, and they're using a cart."

Sara got a mental image of Dave, Ernie and Nelson racing around the parking lot in golf carts and chortled to herself, before allowing herself a small internal sigh.  She took a small sip of her own now cold coffee, and looked at the unmarred blue skies and silently cursed the absence of rain clouds. "That's good." she said, not meaning anything, just letting words fill the air between them. She was going to let her mother begin this conversation.

Another page was flipped. "There's sweet rolls in there, or you could make yourself a sandwich. I'm not much of a hostess."

"I'll get one after I dry off a bit."

Her mother went back to her reading, and Sara concentrated on dripping dry.

Her mom broke the silence by giving a small derisive snort. "Brainless morons."


"School board here. They're living in the '50's.  There seems to be to two major issues about this year's prom. The first being whether they should allow same sex couples to attend. The second is whether or not to hire security for the proms to pat down the attendees for weapons. Guess which one they're fighting over?"

"Let me guess, the same sex couples, right?  I would think that would be old news by now.  I mean, haven't kids been doing that more and more over the years?"

"Yes, but unsanctioned by the holy and mighty school board. Seems this year someone pushed the point and wants the school board to officially bless what they've been successfully avoided recognizing for years now."  Marjorie shook her head.

Sara laughed, and decided to push the envelope a little. "I'd have liked to have gone with Roberta Bockman, you know."

Marjorie's mind left local politics, and searched for the meaning of Roberta Bockman. "Ah.  The Central High forward from Erie, huh?" When Sara slightly smiled, she went on. "No, bad idea. That girl had absolutely no sense of style. You looked great in your gown, I remember. But her ... did they make gowns in plaid flannel back then?"  She gave her daughter her first eye contact, a daring straight on stare, tinged with just a hint of a smile.

Sara smiled, pleased with the flash of sparkling blue in her mother's eyes. "I'm not sure, Maude."  Sara waited for her mother's reaction to her old nickname, one that Sara had given her after noting way too many similarities between her drily witty and abrasive tall mother and Bea Arthur.  Her mother always had outwardly disapproved of the nickname, but Sara had always thought that it secretly pleased her mother to be compared favorably to the actress and character that they both liked so much.

"Not that you didn't cause a big enough scandal without Roberta Bockman at your side. And don't call me Maude." Her mother scowled, unconsciously imitating a Maude mannerism. "You leave the house in a gown, and you come back to the house in a gown and a black eye. Most girls get corsages."

"Well, most girls get taken to the prom. John Bentzel took me directly to the Ramada Inn.  I didn't like his sense of direction."

Marjorie's eyebrows rose. "Well, that little bum. But how did you get the black eye? You never said." And I knew better than to ask.

Sara stole a quick glance at her mother before she answered. "It was purely self defensive on his part. His elbow got stuck in my eye when he tried to cover up from the second punch I threw at him. We were in a Toyota Corolla, I didn't have the proper amount of room for good punch the first time, so I went back for a second one."  Sara bent her elbow, and demonstrated the shortened, awkward swing. "Bang, I get the black eye. He got us to the prom, Doris Raeburn took one look at my eye, and promptly sent him home. But I think she got my revenge for me, I think she was in charge of the prom queen's scepter that night, and she put it to good use before he ran out of there."

"Ah. Doris." Marjorie grinned, remembering with affection the verbose high school principal, who frequently called Marjorie during Sara's high school years, the long winded one sided conversations always beginning with complaints about the tall beauty, then ending with a combination of praise and frustration for her behavior.

Sara rubbed her left elbow. "Yeah, Doris. I was on the receiving end of a well placed umbrella thwack from her just recently."

"You probably deserved it. She's just making up for lost opportunities. With the crap you pulled in high school, it's a wonder you didn't spend your senior year in detention hall."

"And my later years in a state prison."

Marjorie turned her attention back to the paper, but decided to get to business at last. "Well, at least we would have known where to send your birthday cards." she said, her voice dry with undisguised bitterness.

I could get up right now, and take an hour showering, and another hour getting dressed. But this has to happen. "Yeah."  She looked at her mother again, and then looked away. Now or never, or we'll never get this resolved  Not like I have any hopes for really resolving this. "What do you want to know, Mom?  I know Dave has filled you in to a lot that was happening to me over the years, you know all about the accident, you know about my panic attacks, my disappearing, you know about my face. You can see my face, it's good, it's not a problem now. What is it exactly that you want to know?" Sara queried, trying to keep her voice even and without defensive overtones.

Marjorie closed the paper and carefully folded it before she replied, sitting back in her chair to look full on to her silently waiting daughter. "I want to know if you're going to let this happen again. This ... " she paused, trying to come up with something concise, "forgetting that you have a family that cares about you, whatever happens to you. Because, I am telling you, right now, Sara ..." Marjorie steeled herself for the coming words, "if you do it again, I am not going to stand for it. You won't have a mother to come visit. I had a hard enough time dealing with it the first time around, and I can't, I won't do it again." The serious blue eyes of her mother settled on the sad blue eyes of her daughter. "I mean it.  It may take me the rest of my life just to reconcile these past ten years of your ... unjustified and undeserved behavior towards me and your dad. He'll forgive you anything, past, present or future. So will David. I won't. I'll try for the past and present, but if the future holds any chance of this ...  bullshit inconsideration of your family again, well, consider yourself motherless." Marjorie's face settled into expressionless tightness, but she was suddenly feeling very emotional. "We all deserved much better than this bullshit of yours." I wish I could come up with a better word to describe it, but actually, 'bullshit' is the exactly the right word.

Sara, feeling a wave of guilt pass through her, couldn't immediately come up with a response. No sense in arguing with her, or getting defensive. Bullshit is what I did to them. "It's not going to happen again, Mom.  I won't let it. And ..."  Sara took a shaky breath, and said it out loud. "I'm sorry. I'm really, really sorry."  She looked out to the pool again, her eyes blurring, her heart softly pounding, her hands twisting the towel in her lap.

"Well, your words hold a lot of conviction, Sara. Just live them."  Marjorie's unfocused gaze joined her daughter's out to the gold white glints of sunlight on the pool. She sighed and said the words again. "Just live them."

Chloe was still too much of a unrepentant adolescent to not revel in her victory.  Marcy finally came out of the bathroom, freshly showered, and studiously ignored the grinning redhead sitting propped up against the headboard of her bed.

Chloe patted the space next to her loudly. "Hey, Marse. I never realized what a good kisser you are ..."  Thump. Thump. "How about you bring some of that sweet stuff over here and ..."

Marcy was pulling on her jeans. "How about you stuff the room service menu right up your sweet ..."  Marcy had to stop tugging on her zipper, to duck the pillow that flew her way.

Chloe's voice became even more teasing. "You know you liked it. Admit it. We don't have to go anywhere today, Marcy. We can entertain ourselves, right here. " Chloe tried to inject a sultry tone into her voice but failed, it came out more of a old man's leer.  "If I'd only have known, years ago ... just look at all the time we've wasted ... when we could have been so much ... more!"  She successfully ducked another flying pillow. "Now we just have to find a way to break the news to Dave and Sara ... "

Marcy pulled a loose shirt out of her bag, and slipped it over her head, and adjusted her damp curls before replying testily, "Well, Miss Lips, seems you are living up to your rather tarty reputation. Dave, Sara, me ... who's left?  Nelson?" She enjoyed the look of horror that crossed the face of the librarian at that name. "And then, who else is there to conquer ... Paul? Doris? Audra?"

"Been there, kissed that." said Chloe, glad that the mention of different names wiped out the Nelson reference.

"And is she a good kisser?  As hot as me?"

Chloe's mind returned to the memory for a moment, and allowed herself to enjoy the pleasure of it. "Oh, yeah, she's a great kisser." she said, honestly and a bit too dreamily.

Marcy dug out some socks, and slipped one over her toes, and said measuredly, "Humph. Well imagine that." She grabbed her other sock. "Doris Raeburn is a great kisser. Huh."

Marcy couldn't dodge the pillow that came hurtling her way. She laughed, and finished pulling on her other sock. "Point for me."

Chloe swung her feet off the bed, and reached for her sneakers. "Ew.  Ew. Ew. Ew. Ew.  Thanks a friggin' lot, Marse, for putting that visual into my head. Ew."

"My pleasure.  Just as, apparently, that smooch this morning was your pleasure ..."  Marcy was saved from heavier, more dangerous objects being lobbed at her head by the muted sound of her cell phone ringing in her overnight bag.  She quickly scooped it out and hit the on button. "Hello, Donahue's Brothel. Where you get so much more than just laid ... " A low chuckle sounded into Marcy's ear, she recognized it as a D' Amico, but she wasn't sure which one. "How may we help you today?" She shifted her laughing eyes to Chloe, to signal that the call was from someone they actually wanted to hear from.

"I was wondering if you still running that Saturday Two For One Special?" drawled a clearly delighted Sara.

Marcy nodded at Chloe, indicating that it was Sara on the line.  Chloe smiled. Hurrah for me!

Marcy paused only a moment, and answered Sara's question. "Well, no, ma'am, actually, this being Easter weekend, we have a Hestian virgin special right now. Would you like to talk to one of our ... specialists and set up a reservation?"

"That would be fine. Thank you." replied Sara, her mind immediately putting the little librarian into a very specialized scenario.

Marcy hit the mute button on the phone, and handed it to Chloe, who sat laid back onto the bed again, and propped herself up onto some pillows.

"I'm going down to the lobby and get us some coffee and a continental breakfast.  Raisin Bran or Fruit Loops for you?"

"Lots of rank coffee, a dried out bagel and some warm orange juice please."  Chloe said, and released the mute button.

Marcy smiled and grabbed the room card on her way out.

"Hello, Sara." Chloe murmured into the phone.

"Hey, Chloe."  The hairs on Sara's neck danced just at the low tones of Chloe's greeting.

On the other end, Chloe felt a distinct wave of pleasure wash over her at the sound of Sara's voice. "How's Florida?  Have you stolen a pink flamingo from someone's lawn for me yet?"

"Not yet.  Although I saw one with those plastic Easter eggs hanging from it. Very festive."

"Sounds so very pastel."  Chloe hugged a pillow to her. "How's the famdamily?  Alienate anyone yet?  How's the parental units?"

"They're good.  They're still feeding me, so I figure that's a positive thing."

Chloe's voice turned serious. "Really, how did it go with them?" She hesitated. "Or maybe you can't  ... don't want to talk about it now?"

Sara sighed, and pulled a throw pillow of the end of the couch, and clutched it to her with her free hand. "Nah, it's OK.  Mom is out having a swim and a nap, and the guys are all at some local golf course shanking balls at unsuspecting senior citizens.  I can talk, for a little while."

"Good. Well. I miss you."

Sara strengthened her hold on the pillow. "Miss you too. Mom and I are getting things straightened out.  She's telling me what's what, and I'm agreeing with her."

"That's what you expected, right?"

"Pretty much. She pretty much just wants to make sure that she'll know exactly where to send my birthday cards the rest of my life.  I told her she would."

Chloe still had a few unanswered questions of her own about Sara's mindset when she disappeared from her family those years, but now was not the time to pursue them.  She did understand that Sara's parents would have some very big issues about it. "So, are you having any fun?  Are you ... glad to be there?"

"I am having some fun, and yes ... I'm infinitely glad I came down here to see them.  I'm really glad I got brave. Mom can be a terror, but she's been very civil considering ... what I put them through." Sara said regretfully.

"Well, yeah."  Sara sounded so sad,  Chloe decided to lighten up the conversation. "Want me to fly down there and hide some Easter eggs in strategic places on my body, and let you hunt for them?"

Sara's dark eyebrow crooked at that remark. "Well, that would be a fine idea. I'm almost afraid to ask where you two ended up when you spun the car."

"We're in Pittsburgh.  Home of the Pixberg Stillers, and Heinz Catsup."  Chloe affected the very unique Pittsburghese way of speaking. " 'N' later, we're goin' dawn to East Carson Street, 'n' at, and pick us up some lezbeen literature at a gay bookstore down 'nair, and maybe a pride bumpersticker for the Miata.  Marcy needs to broaden her horizons."  Chloe was going to save her story about just how broadened Marcy's horizons had recently gotten to when she could tell the story in front of a more appreciative and chagrined audience. That being in front of Sara and Dave and Marcy. Life can be sweet.  "An' continuin' our 'Lezbeen Saturday' theme, we're hitting a dyke bar that I know of up on West Liberty."  Chloe giggled. "I love to watch Marcy fending off amorous lesbians. She gets pissed when I don't step in and protect her."

Sara smirked, and then had a very marked feeling of possessiveness come over her. "So, the big question is, will she protect you from them?"

Chloe grinned at the undisguised jealousy Sara was displaying. "Well, calm down there, tall, dark and green eyed." Chloe snorted. "Funny thing is, whenever Marcy and I go to gay bars, everyone assumes she's the dyke, and I'm her straight friend. Go figger."

"Well, if I was in that bar, I would definitely go for her straight friend." Sara declared, knowing it was very true.

Chloe blushed, quite touched at Sara's sentiments. "And I'd help you get a toaster oven for converting me."  She brought her knees up, hugging the pillow in her arms with a determined fervor. Both women were quiet a moment, relishing the feelings between them.

Sara spoke first, wishing she had it in her to be a sappier woman. "Well, here, we're doing steaks and playing cards tonight, then church tomorrow, and we have reservations somewhere for Easter dinner. Then, I don't know, I may actually go play golf with them on Monday, if mom doesn't have something else planned." Like my head on a platter.

"Well," Chloe started, then saw her friend come through the room door laden with two coffee cups, and assorted foodstuffs stuffed in the crooks of her bent arms. She got up from the bed to help her friend unload her burdens, but continued, "Marcy just got back with brunch. We're going to get cultured tomorrow, and go to the Warhol Museum so Marcy can commune with her muse. Dave's not there, huh? " When Sara responded in the negative, Chloe shook her head at Marcy, who was peeling back the lids from the styrofoam containers.

"He'll probably call later ... guess it's not a good idea for him to call too late, just in case you two are involved in a little lezbeen action, huh?" Sara teased.

It was a good thing that Sara was not there to witness the raspberry colored blush that covered Chloe's face at that idea. "Uh, I would guess, uh, before 10. Definitely have him call before ten."  Chloe took her cup and sipped the strong brew with a grimace.

Sara sighed, and patted her pillow for comfort. "Alright, I guess it's time we all got started with our day."  She stroked the telephone receiver with her finger, and then said, "I love you, Chloe. I'll try and call tomorrow ... you have fun. But not too much, OK?"

"You too. And ... " Chloe averted her eyes from Marcy, to avoid the teasing grins she knew were going to be coming. "Uh ... I love you too."

Sara smiled at Chloe's shyness, caused by the appearance of her best friend. "OK, hey ... Chloe, let me speak to Marcy a minute, OK?"

"OK. Well, bye." Chloe stopped herself from making a further fool of herself in front of Marcy, who was making mock gagging sounds in her direction at her words of love to Sara.

"Bye Chloe. Be good." Sara waited, and heard the phone being exchanged between the two women.

"Hey, Sara. How's Ef-L-Aye?"

"Hey, it's a family paradise, what can I say?  I've already put a deposit on my retirement condo."

Marcy guffawed, and then waited for Sara to get to her point. She heard Sara clear her throat several times, and then the dark haired woman spoke, a bit of embarrassment coloring her request.

"Uh, Marse. Do me a favor tonight will ya?"

"Sure ...."

"Take a butch pill before you guys hit that bar, willya? It's not that I don't want you two to have a good time tonight ... "

Marcy had been expecting to be teased soundly about this morning's kissfest with Chloe, and was relieved to think that perhaps Chloe hadn't told her lover that story ... yet. "Uh, huh, OK."

"I mean it. I don't want any other woman's lips within 10 feet of Chloe, and I'm counting on you to make sure it stays that way."

Marcy's coffee almost ended up in her lap. "Uh, gotcha, Sara. Will do. That's a big ten - four."  Chloe was quizzically giving her flustered friend a careful eyeballing.

"Well, good. Thanks. And I'm trusting you not to say anything about this ... directive from me. And ... just so you know, Dave has been pretty much talking about your 'charms' non-stop since we got here."

Marcy laughed, and had her own blush start. "Tell him I love him."  Marcy looked up to see Chloe with mouth hanging open, sticking a finger down her throat.

Sara was quite taken aback at the artist's admission, but got a smile of appreciation on her face. "I'll do that. I may wait until the whole family is gathered around to do it, but I'll tell him. You two have a good time, and Happy Easter, Marse."

"The same to you and your family, Sara. Now, we'd better get going here, Chloe is eager to continue ... er ... I mean ... start my lesbian indoctrination." Marcy's blush turned full fledged after her little verbal miscue, and Chloe's face was quickly buried into a pillow to muffle the sounds of her hysterical giggles.

"Bye, Marse."  Sara wasn't sure, but it sounded to her like Marcy was sounding a little choked.

Marcy desperately hit the end button on the phone, and just barely got her styrofoam cup to a safe level surface before she threw her body down next to Chloe's on the bed, and they laughed until their coffee was nearly cold.

"Why does it take three grown men to watch a grill heat?  A gas grill, at that?" Marjorie posed an eternal unanswerable question to her daughter, who was carefully hacking mushrooms into pieces and tossing them into a frying pan.

"It's a male thing. I do it, too, when I can. But I'm in here with ya, Mom. It's a solidarity thing."  Sara grinned, not looking up from her task.

"I guess I shouldn't complain about small favors, huh?  We could have them in here, underfoot, trying to put marshmallows and chocolate chips into the salad."  Marjorie laughed. It feels good to joke around with her again. Really good.

"And guaranteed, the three of them will be arguing over whether to cook the steaks with the lid up, or down, or when to flip them ..."  Sara nicked a finger with the blade, but was relieved it only took a small piece of fingernail, not flesh.

Marjorie saw her daughter wince, and hipped her out of the way. "Put that knife down, OJ, and let me finish. You have no patience for small details."

Sara sighed in agreement. "I guess I can rip the hell out of the lettuce then. That should work off some of my nervous hostility."  She grabbed a head of the just washed lettuce, and started ripping chunks off of it into a large wooden salad bowl. "I still can't cook, you know. I never learned. It's lucky I can open a box of Bugles for dinner."

"Cooking is a learned art. You just never learned."  Marjorie looked to see how Sara was progressing with the lettuce. " And I see that you still think people are billygoats. You think you could tear that a little smaller?"

Sara shrugged her shoulders and grinned. "I haven't mastered many arts, I guess. Not the important ones, at least. I can rip apart a carburetor.  Into smaller pieces than this."  Sara stuck her hands in the bowl and started tearing her completed work into bite size portions. "Great wife I'm gonna be." she said, quietly frustrated.

"Wife, huh?"  Marjorie tossed the remaining mushroom slices into the pan, and looked around for the butter.

"Did I say that out loud?" Sara smiled, and dipped her head low enough so that her long hair covered the embarrassed smile on her face.

"Either that, or I have my hearing aid turned up too loud." Marjorie added the butter, turned on the heat and turned and faced her daughter. Her expression was buried beneath her long hair. "Tell me about her, Sara. Is this the real thing this time?" she prodded gently.

Sara disappeared even further behind her long tresses.  This just had to be next. "I was kind of hoping so. I just don't know ..."

"Don't know what?"

"How to have a relationship, I guess." Sara looked up quickly to see the interested look on her mother's face. "I'm afraid I'm going to screw it up."  Her face disappeared again, and she continued with the lettuce. "She's ... too good for me. I have no track recordwith relationships. I have no ... idea what I'm doing."

Marjorie grabbed a paper towel, and wiped her hands on it. She paused a moment, choosing her words carefully before continuing her gentle interrogation. "Why is she different, Sara?  Chloe, right?"

Sara finished the head of lettuce, and grabbed for the second one before she answered. "Because I care if I hurt her, Mom. I never did before. The way my life was going ... the way my life might go in the future ... well ... "

"You think you're going to hurt her with the way your life might go, Sara?"

All of a sudden, Sara desperately needed to get some air. She dropped the head of lettuce into the bowl, and wiped her hands onto her shorts.  She took several rapid, shallow breaths in succession, and tried to still her beating heart. She opened her eyes, and gave her mother an apologetic look as she headed for the sliding glass door towards the porch. "I gotta go for a few minutes, Mom."

Marjorie watched her daughter close the sliding glass door behind her, and then turned and began finishing the salad. Marjorie shook her head, in silent sympathy for the small librarian that her daughter seemed to care very much about. She pursed her lips, and then said aloud to the empty kitchen. "Yeah, Chloe, you're going to get hurt."

Marcy looked at the small, bookish college-age woman with whom she was partnered with in this losing effort at playing pool. Damn, Chloe is trashed off her ass, and the drunker she gets, the better she gets. Marcy eyed the brown haired woman in the Slippery Rock college sweatshirt that was Chloe's partner. She sure is enjoying giving Chloe tips on her shots. I wonder if I should ...   She watched as Chloe giggled in reaction to the brown haired woman's remark, and saw Chloe lay a lazy hand on the woman's shoulder.  This can't be anything but trouble. Ol' Slippery Rock there is this close to putting her hand on Chloe's butt.  Much to Marcy's surprise, her prediction came true just seconds later. Slippery laid a proprietary hand on Chloe's rear and left it there. C'mon Chloe, cut that out. Ms. College Senior is just looking for a good time.

The hand was removed only so Chloe could miss her next shot. The hand returned,but this time, it wrapped itself around Chloe's waist while the two of them waited for Marcy's partner to make her shot.  I don't think Chloe has bought a drink all evening. Slippery there has kept her in, what, 4 beers, and I've lost count of how many shots they've done. This being sober is no fun.  Marcy's partner, the bookish one, made two shots in a row, and then missed her next one. Chloe's partner now was up, and Chloe gave her a giggling word of encouragement before looking up and meeting Marcy's eyes. She winked broadly, and propped her cue against the wall, and then made her way over to Marcy.

"Hey. I gotta do the ladies room." Even though the dance floor and DJ were in the next room, Chloe had to shout to make herself be heard above the din. She grinned again at Marcy, took a deep breath, and got her bearings. Ladies room, thataway.

Slippery Rock Senior missed her next shot, and shrugged at Ms. Bookish, who was now standing next to her. They had a small conversation, and then Marcy grabbed Chloe's abandoned cue to take her next shot. She made two lucky shots in a row, and when she looked up again, Chloe had still not returned and Slippery Rock was M.I.A., too.  Hmmm.  Marcy purposely missed her next shot, and caught Bookish's eye, and nodded her intentions toward the ladies room door. Bookish took a seat, and sipped her beer until her pool partners returned.

To say that Marcy was surprised at what she saw when she walked into the tiny ladies room would be an overstatement. She was perfectly prepared for the scene she found there. It was just the first time she had witnessed it sober. Chloe was backed up against the wall next to the hand drier, her hands tucked behind her back, and was being soundly and thoroughly kissed by Slippery Rock, who was starting to move her hands from Chloe's shoulders to parts lower on her anatomy.  Chloe looked as if she was fully involved, and completely enjoying the college student's attentions.  Marcy let out a small growl of exasperation, and swiftly hooked a finger into a belt loop on the back of Slippery's jeans, and pulled hard, hard enough to break the kiss.

Slippery turned to see who had the gall to interrupt her.  Marcy was prepared with a wolfish and very angry scowl, and said exactly five words to the startled student. "Take a hike. Game's over."  Slippery frowned at her, and then looked to Chloe, who was studying the scuffs on her sneakers.  Slippery apparently knew when to retreat, because she made a hasty exit from the room. Marcy took another step, and leaned up against the wall next to Chloe.  Staring straight ahead, and not at her tipsy friend, she said, "Ah, the Kissing Bandit strikes again, huh, Chloe?  Can't you keep your lips to yourself just once on Lesbian Weekend?"

Chloe squinted her eyes against the harshness of the fluorescent lights in the small ladies room. "It's ... ya know ... traditional, you know, Marse. I gotta kiss somebody when we go out ... it's traditional." Chloe slurred, and elbowed her best friend.

Marcy watched as a very inebriated woman made her way out of a stall and over to the sink in front of them. "Don't you think things ... are a little different this time, Chloe?", she asked quietly.

Chloe just nodded, and then laid her head on Marcy's shoulder. "I'd rather be kissing her, you know. Much rather."

Marcy tilted her head down to meet the top of her dear friend's. "Then why are you ..."

Chloe straightened up, and made a few faltering steps to the exit door, and as she opened it, she focused on Marcy for as long as it took her to get her sentence out. "Because, Marse, I know I won't be kissing her much longer ..."  With those words, Chloe disappeared out the door.

Marcy, not knowing how to reply to that, decided to make use of the empty stall before she went back out into the crowded bar again to search for her very confusing friend.

Continued in Part XXII

Email me with feedback:  LA Tucker

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