The Light Fantastic

by LA Tucker

Part XXII :  The Truth Will Set You Free (and Then Bite You in the Ass)

For disclaimers, see Part I

The week following Easter was a torrent of non-stop activity.  When Chloe wasn't at the library, or at rehearsals, she was over at the D'Amicos with Marcy, helping to get ready for the grand opening that was rescheduled for the following Sunday.  Saturday night was to be the Open House party, and Dave and Sara were busy putting the final touches on the converted barn/pro shop/ clubhouse.  Workmen were busily adding a lavatory to the old building, and in the latter part of the week, the driveway's near crater sized potholes were finally being plugged, and a fine layer of gravel needed to be put down from the road to to the parking area near the barn.  If the weather was decent, Sara was out on the course itself, walking it, making notes, plugging holes, mowing and fertilizing with a frenzy. Nelson brought assorted friends home with him each day to help with whatever chores needed done, and Jeanette even showed up, looking like Sharon Stone in overalls. But she pitched in, too, and as the week wore down, everything was falling into place, and the whole exhausted crew was looking forward to relaxing on Saturday night. The whole town was invited, from town council members, to school teachers, to library patrons, to Doris Raeburn and her posse of gossips, to Chloe's friend Audra, who had left several worried messages on Chloe's answering machine, complaining that she hadn't heard from Chloe in a long while.  Chloe and Sara passed each other in the hallways at rehearsals, and waved to each other from the barn to wherever Sara was out on the course. At night they fell quickly asleep holding tight to each other, either at Chloe's house or at Sara's small bungalow, and although conversation was limited, the comfort of each other's arms had not diminished.

Sara settled into the golf cart, parked next to the beer keg, and handed Chloe a hot dog wrapped in a paper towel. "How's beer patrol going?"

Chloe accepted the hot dog, and unwrapped it. She grinned at it, and then at Sara. "Um, is there anything you didn't put on this?  Is there a hot dog under all of this ... stuff somewhere?"

Sara elbowed her, and sat back farther in the small seat and folded her arms. "I wasn't sure what you liked on them, so I put everything I could think of on it."  She watched as Chloe took a wide mouthed, cautious bite, then saw the happy expression on the redhead's face as she began to chew. "I did good, huh?"

Chloe, mouth full, just nodded, a little bit of mustard sticking to the corner of her lips. Sara held out Chloe's cup of beer to her. Chloe finished chewing, and swallowed, and took the cup from Sara to wash it down. Finally, she wiped the corner of her mouth and gave the smallest of satisfied burps.  "I'll take three more, just like this. I'm starved."  She promptly bit off another huge bite, her cheeks bulging. She smiled sheepishly.

Sara teased, "Nelson's over there burning a whole new batch of them. I'll get you some more to fuel that stomach of yours in a few minutes." An approaching figure caught her eye. "Hello, Jason.  How are you tonight?  The pop is over by where Nelson is burnin' the dogs."

Jason eyed the beer keg, and then put on his best begging face. "Aw, c'mon, Ms. D' Amico. I'm nearly 20, and I'm graduating soon, and c'mon, no one will see."

"Jason, no. This is my brother's golf course, and though it doesn't officially open until tomorrow, he doesn't have a permit to have this beer here on an official basis.  And we have a few town big wheels here.  So, that's why Ms. Donahue and I are so zealously guarding this keg.  You don't want Nelson and his father getting into trouble just for the likes of you, do you? "  Sara's voice sounded like a combination of patient mother and no-nonsense state cop. She stared Jason down until he just gave a sigh and grinned in defeat. As he walked away, she yelled after him, "And tell all your little friends that it's a lost cause here, bucco!"

Chloe was just washing down the last of her hot dog. "Bucco?  Bucco?  What bad TV shows have you been watching?"  Bucco.

Sara gave her an imperious grin. "Hey, I don't have to watch bad TV shows. I was IN them."

"Yeah, I was going to ask if I could borrow some tapes. I really want to see the one where you played the Beverly Hills madam slash undercover cop who had to seduce half of the city council ..."

"Oh, yeah, 'Sins of the Skin Trade'.  A true classic.  I spent two weeks on the set parading around in not much more than a thong ..."  Sara blinked back bad memories of that time in her life, and then blew a raspberry through her lips.  She and Chloe shared a quiet smile, and then their attention was diverted to Dave, who hopped up on the plywood covered platform that was serving as a stage area for the karaoke set up. The multicolored lights that hung around the 8 x 8 area gave a festive glow to his face, which already seemed to be shining from within.  He waited a moment, and then Marcy joined him there, standing a little behind him. He pulled her up next to him, and settled his arm around her tightly.

Sara and Chloe exchanged quizzical glances, and then watched what happened next.

"Is this thing on?"  Dave tapped the microphone in front of him. The feedback assured him it was, and he moved it away from him just a little. "Hello?  Hello!  Good evening one and all, and welcome to the pre-opening blast off for the Stonecreek Golf Course, which will be officially opening tomorrow morning, so don't drink too much!" He waited for the clapping and whistling to die down, and continued. "Thank you all for coming on this beautiful Saturday night.  Karaoke will be starting up in a few minutes, I'd like to thank my man Stan, over there, for letting me use his equipment tonight. We were supposed to have a band, but my son Nelson apparently doesn't know the difference between live and elevator muzak!  He's over there, by the barn ... well, I guess it's the 'Clubhouse' now,  burnin' the bejesus out of a ton of hot dogs, so eat up!"  He gave Marcy another mighty squeeze, and she looked rather like a kitten being smooshed by an overenthusiastic 5 year old.

He paused a moment, gave Marcy a dazzling smile, which she returned, although rather weakly.  He began speaking into the microphone again. "I have quite a few blessings to give thanks for tonight.  First and foremost,  I want to thank my family, Nelson and Sara, for putting up with me these last few years, and helping me get my dream here off the ground. I have to say this:  it wouldn't, couldn't have happened without them. "  He waved at Nelson over by the grill, and then searched the small crowd for his sister, who he finally found in her perch next to Chloe in the golf cart. Another beaming smile. "To both of you. My sincerest thanks, and ... I love you both!"  More clapping and whistling.

Marcy knew what was coming next, there was no way to stop it, there had been no time to discuss it with Dave.

Dave was starting to tear up, so he cleared his throat, and gave Marcy another hug for strength. He leaned into the mike one more time. " And last, but certainly not least,  not only does my dream of opening a golf course seem to be coming true, but another dream of mine looks like it's going to happen." Dave sniffed. "Marcy here, just tonight, has agreed to become my wife. Or should I say, she has agreed to allow me to become her husband!  I asked, and she said ... YES!!"  He threw both arms around her, and hugged her for all he was worth. She hugged him back, her nervousness allayed, and gave in to the joyous moment.  He pulled back a little and then with his friends, family and all attendees watching, gave her a long deep kiss while everyone cheered.

Sara and Chloe blinked at each other, then got matching huge smiles on their faces. They gave each other a quick hug.

Just as Dave and Marcy were breaking their kiss, someone yelled up from the throng. "Hey, Dave!  When's the happy day?"

Dave, red-faced and teary eyed, looked quickly at Marcy before he answered. "Um, we haven't gotten that far yet!  I just asked her 10 minutes ago .."  He wiped at his eyes. "I suppose ... next year sometime!"

Stan, standing behind them, yelled, "You'd better make it sooner than that, she's a slippery one!"

Marcy gave Stan a withering glare, and then tugged at Dave's shoulder, and whispered in his ear.

"November?" Dave said into the microphone, repeating the word that Marcy had just whispered to him. "OK, looks like November of next year!!"

Another tug, another whisper. "This year?"  Dave couldn't hide the look of surprise on his face, but he was so happy, he just accepted it. "November of THIS year!! Alright!"

Sara leaned over and made a comment to Chloe, who was raptly watching the expression on her best friend's face. "November, why so soon?"

Someone in the crowd had the same question, and yelled, "Why so soon? You afraid she's gonna run off on ya?" The whole crowd chuckled, there were a few of Marcy's formerly disappointed castoffs in attendance.

Chloe shrugged it off, she was trying to catch Marcy's eye. Then the curly haired woman seemed to have the same thought, and she gazed around and found Chloe staring at her, a large grin on her face. Marcy lifted up crossed fingers to Chloe, tilted her head in a smile, and nodded slowly and very deliberately at her. Marcy tugged at Dave one last time, and whispered a few words in his ear. He backed up and looked blankly at her, then she pulled him down for a few last words. He stepped back, holding her at arms length, while she looked up at him, a wary look upon her face, scanning his handsome features for a reaction to the words she had just spoken. Slowly, an unbelieving smile broke across his face, and he pulled her into his arms, and lifted her up twirling her around, before letting her down, giggling and flushed. He leaned into the microphone with a cocky smile, and boomed, "November?  NOVEMBER?  Because that's when Marcy and I are going to have OUR BABY!!!"  He picked her up again, and kissed her while he spun her around.

Sara could do nothing more than sit there, her mouth hanging open in surprise. "Holy shit. Holy shit in a handbasket. Holy shit!"

Chloe once again caught Marcy's eye, just as people were heading for the stage to give the couple their congratulations.  Both Marcy and Chloe saw the other's tears glistening in each other's eyes. Chloe began softly crying in earnest, tears of happiness, and of relief that such a difficult decision in her best friend's life had come to such a happy conclusion.  Sara saw Chloe's tears, and softly grasped her hand and squeezed it.


Chloe's eyes were on the small stage, and she watched as Nelson approached both Marcy and his dad, and they both looked at him. Both father and son looked a little shellshocked by the news,  but after a moment of uneasiness, the three of them embracedthe news, they slowly moved into a hug, Nelson beginning with his dad, then, hesitantly, one with Marcy, which then turned into a more vibrant and excited one.  Chloe's tears began falling more swiftly now.

"Chloe?  Do you think we should get up there?"  said Sara, watching the scene on the stage with her own tumult of emotions.

Chloe finally turned to see the softly smiling face of her love. "In a minute. I want it to settle down.  Let the other folks go first."

"OK.", agreed Sara, wiping her eyes with the edge of a mustard stained paper towel. Holy shit.  "Hey. Chloe."

"Hmm?"  Chloe was looking around for something to wipe her own eyes with.

"I'm going to be an aunt again." Sara said, her voice reflecting the giddiness she felt.

Chloe laughed, and said, "Well, me too, Sara. This is the closest I'll ever come to being an aunt."

"Hey, yeah, that's right! You don't have any brothers or sisters ..."

"No, " sighed Chloe. "I have something better than a sister." She smiled at Marcy's bobbing head up on the stage, where she was being bombarded by a seemingly endless flow of congratulations from Doris Raeburn. "I have Marcy."

Sara looked with affection at the quiet redhead next to her, and squeezed her hand tighter, and then handed her the paper towel she was clutching in her other hand. She chuckled as Chloe took it, and tried to find a clean dry spot on it to wipe her tears. A thought interrupted her gazing. "Hey Chloe?  You don't seem surprised at any of this." It was true, Chloe had shown no outward expressions of surprise, no gasps, none of the usual verbosity that someone as reactionary as Chloe would tend to display.

Chloe found one inch of clean area on the paper towel, and wiped her eyes with it. Then she folded the whole thing, and blew her nose into it several times, then wadded it, and softly chucked it into a nearby garbage can. She glanced quickly at Sara, who was looking at her, waiting for an answer. Chloe looked at, and then wiped her hands on the knees of her jeans, and left them there, gripping them softly.

"I'm not surprised." she said, her voice barely above a whisper.

Sara lifted an eyebrow. "You knew?  I thought Dave just told me, Nelson and my family about asking Marcy ..."

Chloe wiped her hands on her knees again. "I kind of figured that he was going to ask her sometime, I just didn't know when ..."

Sara puzzled on that a moment, then, the real meaning to Chloe's answer became apparent to her. "You knew ... that she was pregnant?  Right?"

Chloe cleared her throat, and shrugged. "Yeah. I knew." She shifted uncomfortably in the vinyl seat, and directed her stare at the colored lights above the stage area.

Sara was momentarily distracted by a Justin making stealthy movements towards the keg. "Not in this lifetime buddy."  She threw him a murderous gaze, and he backed off.  She paused a moment, then asked, still confused by Chloe's reply. "How long?  How long have you known?"

Chloe pursed her lips, and watched Justin rejoin his fellow plotters on the other side of the large driveway. "I don't know. Three weeks, maybe a month now?"

Sara did some mental math, and tried to match events into a time frame. "When she was sick? When you were sick?"

Chloe chuckled, not really amused. "She wasn't sick, really. It was morning sickness. That trip to the doctor, that's when she found out."

Sara pondered this, and then had an uneasy feeling creep over her. "And you knew, and kept it a secret?  Why?  I mean ... I'm not exactly untrustworthy, I mean, I can keep a secret ..."

Chloe was very reticent to continue, but was resigned to the fact that she had to tell her the entire truth. "It wasn't that, Sara. She just didn't know what she wanted to do yet ... and as far as I knew, I mean, this announcement tonight was just as big a surprise to me ... but in a different way."  Chloe turned her head and stared directly out in front of the cart, her eyes unfocused.

Chloe's words slowly made an impact on Sara, and she realized the import of the meaning of what Chloe was saying. This can't be true. Sara put her hands on Chloe's shoulders, turning her to face her, and left them there, so the redhead couldn't turn away from her next question. "What do you mean, she didn't know what to do yet?" Sara's hands tightened their grip. "Wait a minute, wait a minute here. She was ... what?  Thinking of not having it?" Sara saw the pain of omission on Chloe's face, and her sense of disbelief was being replaced by something else. Anger?  Hurt?  "Why didn't you tell me?"

"Because she asked me not to."  Chloe sighed and frowned, seeing the tightness of Sara's face, and feeling it in her grip of Chloe's shoulders. She couldn't help but see the confusion in Sara's face, and it made her stomach churn around that hastily eaten hot dog.

Sara continued soaking in the truth, and it was overwhelming her with indecision on how to feel about it. Her grip on Chloe's shoulders tightened measurably, and then she gave Chloe a little shove, and released her hold on her.  She turned, and gripped the steering wheel instead, letting out a long breath of air. Something's not right here.

Chloe kept facing her, knowing she had to explain it so Sara would understand. Word after word spilled out of her mouth. "I wanted to tell you. I wanted her to tell Dave, to discuss it with him before she did anything, anything at all.  But you know Marcy,  she made it entirely her decision.  All I could do was support her in it, be there for her while she found out about it, weighed her options.  I was trying my damnedest to be her best friend  ... to just be there for her, until she decided what she wanted to do.  I even argued with her about my needing ... wanting to tell you. I told her it put me in a very awkward position ... but everything was so tightly interwoven ..."  Sara's blank expression was fueling Chloe's desperation to get the whole story out in the open. "I mean, look at this, look at us ... my best friend is Marcy, my lover is her boyfriend's sister, who is also the aunt of the child, and Dave, who I dearly love, is the father of the child. She asked me to keep it a secret, I hated that she asked me, but I did. I hadn't a clue as to how this would turn out, just last week when we went to family planning, and she still hadn't made her mind up what to do ... "  Chloe was rambling now, her words a tidal wave that was pounding on Sara's sensibilities.

Sara abruptly interrupted her, irritation ripe in her voice. "Family Planning?  Last week?  The both of you?" She was thinking of not having it, and didn't discuss it with Dave at all?

Chloe regrouped, and tried to focus on Sara's words. It was plain Chloe was on the defensive now.  "Uh, yeah.  You know that woman with Audra here tonight?  Her friend that went to college with her?  Julia?  That was our ... her ... Marcy's counselor at Family Planning.  That's how she knew me.  I went with her to find out about ..."

"When?" Sara demanded.

"Uh. Last Friday. Good Friday."  Chloe reached out her hand and laid it softly on Sara's arm, trying to make a physical contact that she hoped would dispel some of the tension between them. She felt no reaction there, no pulling away, no moving toward her. "I am so sorry" , she said sincerely, her voice heavy with frustration and more than a bit of worry, too. "I wanted so much to tell you. I didn't think it was fair. I was hoping that it would all turn out this way.  But ..."

Sara's hands ran back and forth around the steering wheel. "Anything else?" Her words were completly toneless.

Chloe's hand on Sara's arm stopped its light stroking. "Anything else what?"

Sara's eyes did not meet hers, but her voice was serious and verging on nasty. "Anything else you haven't told me?"

Chloe's heart picked up its pace. What does she mean? "About Marcy? No, I think I've said everything ..."

Sara's eyes narrowed. "About anything. Anything at all that you've been keeping a secret from me." Sara's eyes briefly flashed at Chloe, before she returned to staring straight ahead out into the night. "Now's the time, Chloe."

Aw, fuck. She wants true confessions. Aw, shit. What am I supposed to do here? Chloe watched people as they were milling around the stage area. Dave and Marcy were no longer there. Chloe shook her head, to try and clear it, and to think about her next words. "Secrets, huh? You want secrets?"  Chloe suddenly felt very tired and a wave of resentment shook her being. Her words were machine gun staccato. "Alright. You want my dirty little secrets? Sure. Let me see ..."

Chloe's face turned into a mask, her emotions flat.  She looked at the dark hair of the woman beside her, and she reached out and softly touched it before she began.

Her voice very controlled and low, she started divulging things that maybe, maybe not would be of some consequence to Sara. "Let's see. How about last Saturday?  Marcy kissed me last Saturday in our motel room. I didn't tell you about that yet, so you might consider that a secret. And also last Saturday, I made out with some college girl in the ladies room at that bar.  If Marcy hadn't come in and hauled her bodily off me, I'd be wearing turtlenecks until June."  Chloe caught sight of two figures walking nearby. "Oh yeah. There's more. I kissed Audra that night of our date, and if my teakettle hadn't started whistling when it did, I maybe, might have, could have slept with her.  Who knows?  Saved by the bell, or whistle, I guess." Chloe's anger took over. "You want more? Ms. Julia Cardinger, probably right up until Dave and Marcy's announcement tonight, thought Marcy and I were a couple. You know, lovers."  Chloe stopped and took several breaths. She looked at Sara, who had ducked her head down, and had her fists balled in her lap. "Is that enough for you now?  Have I disappointed you enough?"  Chloe choked on those last words, and found her own hands were in fists too.

Sara opened her hands, and flexed out her fingers. That's enough. She let out a totally inappropriate snort of laughter, and finally looked at Chloe, who was looking at her, trying to figure out the meaning behind Sara's amusement. Sara looked away, her lips curling into a frown. She could still feel Chloe's eyes upon her when she said, cold words icing the crisp spring air, "Just last week, I told my mother you were 'too good' for me. And at the time, I believed it. Now, I don't know what to believe."  Sara got up out of the golf cart, and walked towards the crowd in front of the stage area, leaving Chloe behind.

Dave had Marcy behind the barn, almost in the same spot where he had proposed to her less than an hour ago. Her back was snuggled warmly into his chest, his arms around her, her hands on his. He let out a contented sigh, and propped his head on top of her mass of auburn curls.

"Well, hit me over the head and call me Mr. Roofing Nail." he sighed, giving her another embrace.

"Huh?" Marcy laughed, and returned the squeeze on his arms. "That one really sucked, Dave. Mr. Roofing Nail. OK."  She rolled her eyes, knowing he couldn't see her do it, but she did it anyways.

"Funny how things work out, huh?" Dave said, looking up at the stars and contemplating the deeper subjects of fate and destiny and ... other stuff.

"Yeah, I was afraid I'd have to ask you to marry me. Now that'd be different, huh?" sighed Marcy, a weird feeling of contentment settling over her. Wow, I think way too much. This feels so right. First time for everything.

"Well, it certainly was a surprise. I mean, I surprise you with a proposal, and you surprise me by ..."

"Saying 'yes'?", teased Marcy.

Dave chuckled, and kissed the top of her head. "Well, yeah, that and that other minor surprise."

Marcy turned in his arms, and looked up at him. "I should've waited longer to tell you, in private, but you dragged me up on that stage after your proposal, and I suppose I wasn't thinking straight when they started yelling ... I just wanted to tell you, and I was so excited, I just had to ..."

"Scare the livin' shit out of the poor man?"   A familiar voice came from around the side of the barn.  Sara arrived in front of them. "Sorry, I heard you as I was coming around the side of the building. I swear I wasn't eavesdropping ... much."  She wrapped her arms around a startled Marcy, and gave her an extremely warm and welcoming hug. "I'm glad you told him that way. That look on his face was priceless." She felt Marcy return her hug with a gusto. "I haven't seen that kind of look on his face since the time he was teaching me how to do a chip shot, and I didn't realize he was standing right behind me during my backswing." She released her arms from around Marcy, and smiled down into her eyes. "It's a wonder that the guy could have children after that. He was icing his 'family jewels' for weeks."

Dave grimaced at the memory, and then took his sister into his arms, and lifted her off the ground, and the grimace turned into a grin. "Can you imagine, Sis?  She said yes! To me!"  Dave shook his head at the wonder of it all.

Sara, still in her brother's bear hug, reached out and tapped Marcy on the head with her knuckles. "You in there?  You sure this is what you really want, to marry into this family? Hel-lo!" She tapped a few more times and cocked her head to listen for echoes.

Marcy popped her in the stomach with a quick jab. "Not only marry into the family, but, good lord, what am I doing to the world by bringing another       D' Amico into it?"

Dave finally let his sister back down to earth. Sara blanched a little at the thought that Marcy might have come close to deciding not to do exactly that thing, but dropped the idea. She did the right thing, that's all that matters. Thank god. "What, no hyphen?  No ... Larry Moe Curly Whatchacallit - D'Amico?"

Dave guffawed, and gave his sister a brotherly poke in the shoulder. "Hey, I was thinking. How about Salvador?  Salvador Dali D'Amico.  Has a nice artsy fartsy ring to it."

Marcy cringed and Sara's faced pursed into a mock distressed look. "Oh lord, the poor child. It's going to turn 14, and we'll all end up on Springer,  and he'll be throwing plastic chairs at us."

"Or she." said Dave and Marcy, almost in unison. They grinned at each other again.

Dave groaned. "Damn, I hate to break up this happy little party, but I need to go pee in our new lavatory, and then be sociable. All of this lovey dovey stuff aside, I have my golf empire to think about. I have to keep the wife and kiddies in the lap of luxury. I have to go take some man-sized ribbing." He leaned down and tenderly kissed his wife-to-be. "You two come around and sing some karaoke, will ya? I know that's why half of the male population showed up here tonight, you two have become local legends." He kissed Marcy one more time on the tip of her nose, and then impetuously leaned and placed a big sloppy kiss on his startled sister's cheek. "No, I don't want to hear 'Havin' My Baby." He grinned at them both, and walked off around the side of the barn.

Marcy and Sara smiled at one another again, shyly, both recognizing the change in status of their relationship. Sara turned and leaned up against the barn next to Marcy.

"Hey, where's the Chloester?  Is she still doing keg duty?"

Sara shuffled her feet uncomfortably in the grass and dirt beneath them. "Probably. I suppose so."

Marcy picked up Sara's subtle change in mood almost immediately. "She told you, huh?  About ... Family planning? Our trip there?"

"Yeah, Marse, she told me."

Marcy could hear the difference in Sara's tone. It was sad, and a little brittle. "I wouldn't let her tell you. It was my fault, my selfish need to figure this out on my own, before anyone else knew."

Sara cleared her throat. "So you tell her, and not Dave?"

Marcy turned and leaned against the building on her shoulder, so she could look directly up at Sara's stony face. "I had to figure out how I felt about him. And the baby. By myself. Before I could make any decisions.  I really was leaning one way ... but I needed some time.  Chloe was there for me, and she gave me that time, with no pressures at all.  She's been my best friend, before this, and during this.  Your brother isn't exactly the most ... devious man on the planet, Sara.  I had a feeling he was going to ask me to marry him, even before I found out I was pregnant.  I wasn't sure how I felt about it.  I really wanted this to be different this time.  I wanted to be able to say yes, and make it stick.  I don't exactly have a great track record on following through with engagements you know.  But this time, Sara, baby or no baby,  I realize this is exactly where I am supposed to be. With your brother."  Maybe it was the events of the evening, but Marcy was feeling very calm, and very sure.  She took a chance, and reached out and grasped Sara's hand. "And the baby. I never figured on being a mother. But Dave will help me out.  So will Nelson.  So will you ... and Chloe. I don't have to be alone in this. I was thinking about it wrong. It's not all on me, it's on all of us."

Sara swallowed hard, and the hard lines in her face softened, and she gave Marcy's hand a light squeeze. "You figured that all out by yourself, huh?"  If there's hope for independent Marcy, maybe there's hope for me.

"Not by myself. With Chloe and a crazy confused counselor, Julia Cardinger, who somehow got it into her head that Chloe is going to be the father of this child. How she ever thought that, well, it's a mystery to me ..."  Marcy trailed off with a light giggle.

"That woman with Audra? I was wondering why she was giving me and Chloe strange looks before ..."

Marcy smirked delightedly. "Oh, man. I'd have loved to have seen that. She probably thinks Chloe is this womanizing slut ..."  Marcy was laughing so hard, she didn't feel it when Sara let go of her hand.

Sara let out a laugh that had no amusement behind it. Might as well get it all now, while Marcy is in such a good mood. Any other time, she would be cursing my head off. "Speaking of womanizing ..."

Marcy's interest piqued. "Yes ...?"

"Chloe also mentioned something about a kiss, a kiss between two certain best friends at a Pittsburgh motel."

The moonlight and the floodlights of the barn combined to help Sara see the blush that formed on her future sister-in-law's face. "Oh my god. She told you?  I thought she was going to wait and use that as a bargaining chip at some future date.  That was really sneaky of the little twerp ..."

Sara kept the blank smile on her face. "Sneaky?"

"Well, yeah, the whole revenge thing for me busting in on your first morning together. I'm snoozing away, dead to the world, when I feel teeth nipping at my ear, and a hand rubbing my stomach. I must have been in the twilight zone, because I thought it was Dave, and the next thing Chloe knows, I'm sucking her tonsils out before I realized it was her. When I did realize it, I flew clear to the ceiling before I landed on my ass on the floor. I can't believe Chloe didn't tell you before this!  I'm still  so embarrassed!"

Sara was slowly nodding her head, and to her distinct amazement, found herself truly tickled by the story, and imagining the little redhead sneaking up on her sleeping friend with mischief on her mind. Sara grinned in spite of herself, until she thought of the last part of the tale that Chloe wove.

"And, Marse, I thought I left you in charge of Chloe's lips that night you went out. And you find her in the ladies room?"

Marcy froze at that part, and didn't laugh. She sighed instead. "Wow. She really came clean with you with everything, didn't she?  Wow."  Marcy paused a moment to try and gauge the look on Sara's face.  Sara was impassive and waiting. "Sara, I was pissed at her beyond belief for that. The Kissing Bandit strikes again.  Sure, she was about as drunk as I had ever seen her, and she didn't even remember doing it until the next day until I reminded her of it ... but at the time, I think she was just really missing you, and feeling terribly insecure. You know, insecure about her feelings for you. No, strike that. Insecure about how you feel about her.  That, and the tradition thing ..."


"Well, yeah, every Easter holiday since college, say, 10 years now, we've 'gone gay' for our Easter 'Spin the Car'. We always end up in a gay bar in Erie, or Pittsburgh, or Cleveland, Buffalo, one time even in Toronto ..."  Marcy stopped again, and ran a hand through her hair. "We did it originally because Chloe was lonely in college before she met old Whatsername, and she wasn't 'out', you know, all four years of college. She was having to sneak around, just to sleep with her girlfriend. So when we first started doing these little gay trips, it was just so Chloe could feel normal for one night, and be a lesbian, out and out, so to speak. First year we went, she was so shy, I made her a bet she couldn't get kissed by the end of the evening. She seemed to gain more self confidence, what with me razzing her on, so, yeah, that night she became this little flirtish Super Gay Chloe, the Kissing Bandit,  and she got a woman to kiss her. Nothing else, just kiss her. And every year, the bet has gone on, even when she was with Whatsername. We figured it was harmless, which I still think it is. She wasn't feeling particularly confident in Pittsburgh, so I think she just reverted back to the Kissing Bandit for a night. No big deal. Kinda dumb, and she felt terrible about it the next day. But that's just Chloe, she does silly stuff, and you forgive her for it."

Sara's anger had disappeared somewhere in the middle of Marcy's story. She was lonely all through college?  She never was out, and she had to sneak around?  I can just imagine Chloe trying to get up the nerve to get some stranger kiss her. She doesn't even like to kiss me in front of anyone. Sara mentally slapped herself upside the head. Jeez, Sara, not like you do anything to give that girl any confidence in our relationship. No, you just judge her and write her off, even for the silliest of reasons, and for the big ones, too, without giving her a chance to explain. You expect her to hurt you, and you find ways for her to do it, even if her intentions were pure and noble, like when she's just trying to be a best friend to her best friend ...

"Sara?"  Marcy was watching Sara's face with trepidation. Sara's mouth was contorting into a scowl, then a frown, then a smile, then returning to a frown. "Sara?  Ground control to Sara ..."

Sara snapped to, and then looked around quickly. "Sorry Marse. I gotta go." Sara said, sounding a little anxious. She was just about to bolt when Marcy grabbed her elbow. "Sara, are you OK?  You look a little ... panicky."

Sara stopped, and gave Marcy a quick hug. "Nope, not panicking. I just need to find ... the Kissing Bandit."

Audra had dragged Chloe to a picnic table as far away from the karaoke stage as she could find. Nelson and Justin and Jason were doing a credible job whooping their way through some Beastie Boys' songs, but other than the high school kids that were obviously enjoying the performance, most of the adults had moved themselves into the large barn/ pro shop for warmth against the cool air. Some still sober adult had moved the keg of beer in there, too, so Chloe's stint as keg patroller was over. Julia Cardinger had disappeared somewhere, too, so it was just Chloe and Audra, and Audra had pulled a good bit of the story of Chloe's misery out of her already.  Chloe was getting more morose with each detail she was imparting to Audra, and Audra was in turn getting more angry on behalf of the woman she had a long time crush on.

"Well, Marcy's your best friend, and if a best friend tells you not to tell anyone something, that's that. No apologies, no arguments." said the blonde school teacher, with an air of absolute certainty. "If she doesn't understand that, then tough shit. The woman probably doesn't have the first concept about what best friends do for each other."

"I guess.  I don't get it. Thank god everything turned out for the best. I don't know how she would have reacted if it hadn't turned out so picture perfect, if Marcy had made some kind of other decision.  I don't want to think about it. I mean, I spent a month thinking about poor Marcy, and trying to support her, and then on top of it all, I'm worrying about how Sara's going to react to it, and when she found out I knew all along, how she was going to react to me knowing and not telling her. It turned out just fine, and Sara still gets mad at me. Jesus, I can't win."

"Well, you certainly were right to worry. Look at how she reacted.  All she could do was blame you, right? Blame you for being a friend, blame you for not breaking a confidence, blame you for Marcy needing some time to make a decision on her own.  That's not fair to you, Chloe, and you had her figured out way before this even came out.  Thing is, if you knew she was like this, why ..."

"Do I bother?  Because I love her. And most days, I think she loves me."  Chloe snorted, and took another sip of her beer. "Today not being one of those days, of course."  Chloe threw her hands in the air in frustration. "Should be one of the happier days of my life, my best friend is getting married and having a baby with one of my favorite guys in the whole world, it's a party, and here I am bending your ear with the tales of my stinking love life."

"Hey, you just need to talk to someone. You would think that would be her, wouldn't you? But don't feel bad, Mel was the same way. I would want to talk to her, and she would just turn a deaf ear.  She was just waiting for me to screw up, so she could say 'I told you so', but I didn't have her to lend a sympathetic ear, so I felt lost most of the time. And I screwed up."

Chloe nodded in agreement. "And this whole kissing thing, in Pittsburgh ..."

Audra snorted in derision. "Shit, Chloe, when I was a student teacher at your school, I remember you and Marcy coming back from Buffalo, the Kissing Bandit of Stonecreek had struck again.  I was howling when you two told me the story.  That year, I believe you went after someone even shyer than you ... and how you almost lost hope for winning the bet.  And how you felt so guilty for leading the poor woman on, you two took her out for breakfast and apologized the whole time. Right?  It's no biggie, Chloe, you just got looped in Pittsburgh, and well, used some bad judgment.  But hell, if I were you, I wouldn't waste my time trying to explain that to Sara, apparently the woman can't empathize with anyone but herself. If I were you, I'd ... "

Neither woman heard Sara's approach, and were both surprised when Sara slid onto the picnic table bench next to Chloe, and set her beer down.  She raised an eyebrow at Audra, who was not hiding her displeasure at Sara's arrival.

"Hey."  Sara said to Chloe, not looking at her, but sitting close enough that their hips and legs were touching. She looked directly at Audra, and drawled, "Do go on, the last thing I believe you said was 'if I were you, I'd ...' . I'm curious, what would you do, Audra?"

Chloe moved just slightly away from Sara, so they were no longer touching, but Sara moved her leg so it was again touching Chloe's.

Audra was not intimidated by this tall, imposing woman. "If I were Chloe, I'd dump you, and find someone that appreciated me."

Sara gritted her teeth, and kept her voice even and low. "And are you volunteering for that position, Audra?  My replacement?  Because I don't appreciate her?"

"Chloe could have anyone she chooses, just as long as it's someone who loves her, someone who sees how wonderful she is. Yeah, it would be nice if that could be me.  I have no problems in saying it." Audra countered.

Chloe had enough of this and finally spoke up. She was in no mood to be fought over, and it showed in her condescending tone."OK, first up, the pissing contest. Let's see which one of you can pee the most accurately while standing up." She scowled at the both of them.

Sara had to grin at that one, and she knocked her knee in appreciation against Chloe's.

Chloe wasn't about to be placated by that, though. She took another long sip of beer and looked, in turn, at both women. "Friggin' dykes." she spat with derision. "Neither one of you fool me for a second.  Audra, you're being all sympathetic to my troubles, and I appreciate your listening ear, but don't think I don't know that you have an agenda here."  Audra frowned, looked into her beer cup, and said nothing. Chloe then turned her attention to Sara, who was grinning at Chloe's caustic remarks to Audra. "And you, you obviously either are sorry for the way you treated me before, or maybe you're not, maybe you're just over here making sure that Audra doesn't encroach on your 'property'.  Well, you know what?  Fuck you both.  I don't need either one of you. Audra, you're right. I can do better. I just lack confidence once in a while. But if my lack of confidence is what sticks me with either one of you, then, well, I am gonna get a whole shitload of it in a hurry, so I don't have to mess around anymore with the likes of you."

Chloe drained her cup, and then continued on her rant,  looking at the surprised and troubled face of her lover. "And you. At least I know where Audra stands. You, it changes every day, depending on the day of the week. If you love me, act like it. Act like you have some trust in me. I know I screw up, but the last thing I want to do is hurt you, but you act like that's very thing you expect me to do. I love you, Sara, but if you love me, you'd better quit playing around with my heart, and love me the whole goddamned way."  Chloe grabbed her cup, and stood up from the table, and headed off towards the barn and the keg that was waiting for her there.

Audra and Sara stared into their beer cups for a moment, and then warily eyed each other.

Audra spoke first. "I suppose I should go find Julia, I think she's in line for karaoke."

Sara nodded and stood up. She blew a long breath out of her nose. "I just want to apologize, I guess. She's right, you're right. I should treat her better, and I don't. I'm gonna go fix that right now."

Audra gave her a hesitating nod. "Good luck. And ... if you screw up ... I'm just warning you ..."

Sara shook her head. "I'm not going to give you another chance with her. Count on it."

Chloe had managed to bum nearly a whole pack of cigarettes off Jay Caesar, the pizza shop cum local drama critic extraordinaire.  She took advantage of the situation, she chatted him up amiably in the crowded barn, hoping that a little harmless chatting with him would in some small way influence a favorable review of their presentation of 'Oklahoma'.

Once she felt she had him sufficiently charmed, she was ambushed by a very insistent Doris Raeburn. Not feeling particularly charitable with either her manners or kindness, she abruptly interrupted Doris with a very impatient air.  "Listen, Doris, I've had about 4 beers now, and only one hot dog, and I just spent ten minutes trying to charm that asshole Jay Caesar into giving us a decent review. If you want to talk to me, come outside, and don't complain about second hand smoke, 'cause that's what I plan on doing.  Drinking, smoking, and hopefully finding something else to eat. So, c'mon, if you want to chat."

Doris Raeburn, perhaps for only the second time in her entire life, was struck speechless, and found herself obediently following the determined little play director outside into the cool night air. Doris had to trot after her to keep up, and Chloe found a semi warm hot-dog on the side of the grill, threw it in a bun, and wolfed it down in about 4 bites, washing it down with the large beer she had gripped in her hand.

Doris' amazement at Chloe's behavior quickly turned to curiosity, and Doris reverted to her normal self. Chloe was apparently in a bad humor, and Doris was sure she knew why. They settled into a small table between the karaoke platform and the barn, and Chloe unapologetically lit up a cigarette.

Doris widened her eyes, but soon her words were flowing like hot gravy over a Thanksgiving dinner. "Who the hell is that up there singing?" commented Doris, irritated. "She's been up there for 20 minutes now, and I think a few people in front of the stage have committed suicide, not that I can blame them.

Chloe blew out a lungful of smoke, and snorted. "That's a friend of Audra Simmons,  Paul's old student teacher from a few years back. Her name is Julia Cardinger." Chloe snorted again. "Not great, is she?  I think that's 'You Light Up My Life', but I'm only guessing from the melody from the karaoke machine."  Chloe was pleased, not only in the fact that she realized that there actually was a singer out there worse than she was, but because she had actually been able to get a word in edgewise with the usually impenetrable Doris Raeburn. That was not to last for long, however.

"Well, it's been awhile since we've actually had a chance to talk, hasn't it Chloe?  I do miss talking with you. I know you've been terribly busy with the play and work and, well,  you've been helping out here with the D' Amicos, haven't you?  I know, because I'm good friends with Jeanette's grandmother, and Jeanette mentioned that you were out here the nights she came out to help.  She and Nelson make a handsome couple, don't they?  One so dark, one so light. Like yin and yang, like dots on dice. Nelson came in to speak to me the other day, he's decided to go to school in California, UCLA?  Could have knocked me over with a dead cat when he told me that.  He wanted some kind of letter of recommendation from me, to help him secure a partial scholarship. I know for a fact he could have had a full scholarship to play football somewhere in the East, but he wants to go out there for acting, and play football, too. I guess he's an unknown quantity out there, I don't know, but whoever gets him will be lucky to have him. Of course, if Sara goes back out to Hollywood, well, he'll have someone he knows out there. Is she going back?  She should, she looks wonderful. She's positively been glowing the past month or so."

Chloe lit a new cigarette off the butt of her old one. No sense in wasting a perfectly good match.

"Good lord. Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse." Doris' attention was again directed towards the stage, where Paul Hoderman had joined Julia, and they were mutually mauling 'You Don't Bring Me Flowers Anymore'. "Poor Paul, saddled with that gossip of a mother. I can't imagine. I mean, she is one of my closest friends, but the woman absolutely drives me bonkers.  To the moon, Alice.  I mean, the woman almost had me convinced that there was something going on between you and David D' Amico, can you imagine?  I told her that he was Marcy's boyfriend, and that you would never come between the two of them, you being best friends forever with Marcy. I told her a million times not to believe the gossip. Just because David kisses you in public, I think that was just him fooling around, I mean, not with you dear, I mean in the joking sense. That Hoderman woman, though, she just would not take my word for it.  She was absolutely convinced that you were sneaking around with him behind poor Marcy's back, and you're not going to believe this one, dear, but she thought you were with child!"

That one was a new one on Chloe, and she choked a couple of times on her cigarette smoke.

"I know, I know. Ridiculous, right?  Well, funny thing is, she saw you and Marcy coming out of that Family Planning clinic in Harmercreek last week, so she had proof positive!  But the joke was on her, huh, Chloe, because with Marcy's little announcement tonight, we know who really is in the family way, don't we?  The old goat. She nearly choked on her partial plate when Dave gave the news about the engagement, and then Marcy surprised us all, including Dave, I think, with her bit of good news.  Funny how these stupid rumors get started, isn't it?  These old biddies in town have nothing better to do, and I have to spend a great amount of my own personal time defending people's good reputations. It's enough that ... well, would you look at that?  Isn't that Sara up on the stage?  I heard she sang at Stan's one night, with Marcy, and they practically brought down the house. I'm going to get closer, dear, and see what all the fuss is about. Are you coming?"

Chloe just shook her head. "You go ahead. I think I'm going to go get another beer."

Doris just sighed, and smiled at her. "You look tired dear, this is a party, try and have a good time, alright?"  Doris got up from the table, and moved down towards the stage area. Chloe got up, and took a few steps towards the barn and then halted mid stride. Smoky alto tones seemed to paralyze her feet.

"Crazy, I'm crazy for feelin' so lonely ..."

Chloe turned and faced the stage.

"Crazy, crazy for feelin' so blue ..."

Patsy.  Chloe took a few steps towards the stage.

"I knew, you'd love me as long as you wanted ..."

Chloe took a few more steps, and Sara's face came more into focus, and her blue eyes were centered on the red-haired woman who was slowly approaching the stage.

"And then someday,  you'd leave me for somebody new."

Chloe was oblivious to the people streaming past her from the barn, heading towards the stage.

"Worry, why do I let myself worry?  Wonderin, what in the world did I do ..."

Chloe's eyes never left those of the dark haired woman who was so obviously singing this song just for her, even if it wasn't apparent to the throng surrounding the stage.  Even Marcy and Dave and Nelson were up front, but they knew where the song was directed.

"Oh, crazy, for thinkin' that my love could hold you ... I'm crazy for tryin, and crazy for cryin, and I'm crazy for lovin' you."

Chloe forgot about cigarettes, beer, food and the need for air.

"Crazy, for thinkin' that my love could hold you ... I'm crazy for tryin' and crazy for cryin' ... and I'm crazy ... for lovin' you."

The crowd, well, for lack of a better phrase, went wild. Sara graciously took a quick grinning bow, but ignored the demands for encores and requests, and handed the microphone to Marcy, and whispered a few words in her ear. Marcy hopped up on stage, dragging Dave with her, as Sara made her way past complaining members of the audience, and made her way back to Chloe. She stopped in front of her, and gave her a small smile, projecting her love through her gaze, and waited for Chloe to answer her in some way.  Chloe turned and took a step towards the house, and then stopped, and looked back at Sara, and nodded. The two of them walked their way across the green grass, heading toward the warmth that lay ahead,  leaving the cold night behind them.

Continued in Part XXIII

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