The Light Fantastic

by LA Tucker

Part XXX:  All Good Things

For disclaimers see Part I

Marcy was clapping and whistling, Paul was also on his feet, whoo-hooing, and Sara let out a few earsplitting, oddly sounding whoops of her own. The three of them were sitting in the back of the darkened theatre, giving the assembled cast on the stage the adulation they had deserved. The dress rehearsal had proceeded without a hitch, every song was sung in key, every spoken line was enunciated and well paced. The lighting crew had performed perfectly, the stage crew worked with clockwork precision. No one forgot their lines, no one tripped over a prop, and even Cargo, the mysterious missing element to the final production, had proudly carried Nelson on stage, a breathtaking sight for all to see, and stood calmly as Nelson sang his opening song as it was meant to be, on horseback.

And Chloe Donahue, in charge of it all, it eating up large chunks of her life in the past few months, it affecting her eating, sleeping, and yes, even her unexpected bonus of now having a sex life, well, it had affected that, too. Because of this musical, she had lost weight, gained weight,  gained a lover, almost lost her, revealed her sexual preferences to people she would never had done under anything resembling normal circumstances. She became a golf teacher,  regained and gratefully lost her 'Kissing Bandit' persona, been kissed by her best friend, her best friend's fiancé, a blonde former student teacher, a Slippery Rock senior, and still had the grace to wear a Porn Star cap without feeling that moniker really fit.  The best kisses, she was still getting, from a completely dazzling ex movie star who had announced, on more than one occasion, that she was madly in love with Chloe, and wanted to make a life with her.

So why was our dear little librarian so miserable?

Sara wondered that too, as she looked down at the quiet Chloe, between raucous whoops at the grinning cast members on the stage.

"Chloe? Um, what's the matter, the kids are all waiting ..."

Chloe slunk even lower in her seat, if that was possible. Any farther, and she'd be laying on it. "We're screwed.", she half mumbled.

Sara, in the midst of another yowl, didn't quite catch what she said. "Huh?"

Chloe turned the PORN STAR ballcap face forward, and thunked it back down on her head. "WE'RE SCREWED!"

Three people clapping and whistling don't really make that much noise, and they really weren't doing it in unison, and, as the fates would have it, the comment that was meant only for Sara's ears somehow cut through the pauses between the joyous adults around her, and carried from the back of the theatre all the way to the stage. The room went from loud to morgue silent when her comment immediately put a great big cork in their overflowing bottle of enthusiasm.

The students, formerly very proud of themselves, herded themselves together tighter on the small stage, and peered out to where Chloe was seated. Chloe regretted that her mouth had a tongue. "Wait, wait ... that's not what I meant ..."

Marcy, standing behind her, immediately jumped in to support her ... sort of. "What Ms. Donahue means, guys , is ...", and Marcy was at a loss. "She'll explain what she means, right, Ms. Donahue?"  Marcy then showed her support by giving her best friend a thwap on the back of the head.

Chloe jumped up out of her seat, well, after she struggled up into a position that would give her the balance to do so. Sara was silently standing beside her, hands on hips, totally flabbergasted. She just kept looking at Chloe, then up at the stage, then back to Chloe again.

Chloe cleared her throat, and then began walking down towards the stage from her aisle seat. She stopped just in front of the orchestra pit, adjusted her cap, scratched her chin several times, collecting her thoughts. She began by giving the students, who were now clustered at the front of the stage, a rueful, but genuine smile.

"First off, let me say right now, that I've never seen a better performance of 'Oklahoma' than the one I just saw on this stage. No, strike that. I've never, ever seen a better performance of ANYTHING better than what you folks have just done, even in my limited experience as director, as actor ... you guys never knew I did that, in college ... or when I, myself, attended this school.  When Doris Raeburn sees you guys do this, I'm sure she'll feel ... and say the same thing." Her words were having their intended affect, and the tense looks on the cast and crew were soothing their ruffled nerves. She began a slow pace in front of the orchestra pit, and the students' eyes followed her like a crowd watching a tennis match in slow motion.

Her hands began small flailings in the air as she searched for her next words. "It's like this. There's an old superstition in the theatre, I'm not sure of the exact words, but it goes something like this ..."  She stopped and looked up at them all. "Dress rehearsal bad, opening night good. Dress rehearsal good, opening night ... "

She didn't need to finish, these were all bright kids, they knew how that sentence needed to end. A collective groan arose from the stage.

"Which made me make that stupid remark before, when I should have been standing and cheering right along with Mr. Hoderman, Ms. D'Amico, and Marcy.  I'm sorry I didn't, and that I got carried away with thinking about an old superstition. There's no reason to believe that it applies with you guys, right?"

Another collections of moans and groans sounded, even from the back of the theatre.

Chloe stuck her hands in her back pockets, and glared at them. "I said, RIGHT?"

A half hearted, rather disjointed, "Right." sounded back at her.

Chloe stuck out her lip, and leaned onto the railing,  letting her eyes roam and make contact with as many kids as she could before she said it, this time with a demanding finality. "I said ... RIGHT?"

This time, the whole ensemble responded, ready to be lead down whatever path of opening night disaster the little, determined director wanted them to trod.

"RIGHT!" they roared, confident and sure.

Sara, still in the back row, kept mum.  She knew, from personal experience, that a jinx was a jinx was a jinx, no matter how you tried to shout it down.

Chloe was sitting outside, on the small brick ledge that outcropped from the back of the school building, watching as her lover helped Charlie Shemp and his stepdad load a docile and handsome Cargo back into the the trailer. She smiled, for Charlie was sneaking surreptitious glances her way, and even in the fading of the day, she could almost see the blush of embarrassment that covered his freckled face when she caught his eye, and gave him a purposeful grin. His face immediately turned away, and he pushed it into Cargo's flank, perhaps to try and rub away some of the redness. Sara, giving the tall horse a final pat on the rear, helped Charlie close up the rear gates, and to Chloe's amusement, she reached over and gave the small guy a quick hug.

Oh, great, now he'll be in love with both of us. Chloe grinned again, and then took a moment to survey the darkening skies above her, the emerging stars just beginning to twinkle in the twilight of the evening. It was chilly tonight, and she pulled her jacket tighter around her, and watched her lover wave to Charlie and his stepdad as they pulled away in a decrepit truck that she was sure was a good 15 years older than her own rusted vehicle. The red brake lights cast an eerie glow on her lover, who turned around, and noticed the small librarian huddled near the school. She thrust her hands into her jeans pockets, and grinning, strolled slowly over to where Chloe was sitting.  She stopped, and stood just to the side of the small director, and scanned the heavens, just like Chloe had done moments before.

"His stepdad is such a nice guy." Sara said thoughtfully. "He mentioned that I could come out and ride Cargo once in a while whenever I wanted. I bartered him free golf rounds in exchange."

"Sounds like you're getting the better end of the bargain."

"Yeah, that's what I think, too."  She glanced down at Chloe, and gave her a quick smile. "So ... some day, huh?"

Chloe nodded. "Yup. Some day." She scooted over, and patted the cement beside her. "Park it, it's nice out here."  Chloe had no particular desire to go anywhere just yet, she wanted to think about thinking about nothing at all, just to sit back and watch the sky turn an ever darkening shade of violet, alone with her lover.

Sara settled down next to her, tight, their shoulders and legs touching. "Feeling melancholy, baby?" she teased.

Chloe let that bad pun slide. "Yeah, sort of. It's the beginning of the end, you know?  I realized it halfway through the second act, when I realized they don't need me anymore." She sighed, and leaned in closer to the warmth of the woman beside her. "You and I and Marcy and Paul and ... well, we're just going to be audience members from here on out. I have to admit, it does kind of make me a little sad. I feeling like I've been eating, drinking and sleeping 'Oklahoma' for the last couple months of my life, and here I am, reduced to being a bystander."

"You're the director. You're their director." Sara replied, feeling some of that same sort of loss that Chloe did, but not expressing it. She wanted to be there for Chloe right now. "These kids are going to remember this the rest of their lives. Chloe, they're going to remember you the rest of their lives. I don't blame them, I spent 5 minutes with you that very first day of rehearsals, and I couldn't forget you, now could I?"

Chloe gave Sara an appreciative quick one-armed hug around the waist. "Nor I, you, you scary, scary bitch." she laughed.

"I guess I was scary the first time you met me ..."

"Not scary, really, intriguing, definitely."

"Well, I scared Marcy the first time I met her, that has to be a good thing, right?"

"Absolutely." Chloe felt Sara's hand reach for hers, and she let her entwine her fingers, and pull them onto the taller woman's thigh. Chloe sighed contentedly, and let her head drop onto Sara's shoulder, and they were quiet for a few minutes, just wading in their own thoughts, their own feelings, their relaxation feeding the other, supplying each other with a needed sense of peacefulness.

Chloe broke their little reverie by needing to stretch her shoulders. "Well, I suppose we can't just stay here all night."

"Nope, Dave probably has them at the house by now."

"I suppose I can't avoid meeting them, can I?"

"Well, Ernie probably wouldn't mind, but Mom, she's not big on women avoiding her ... it makes her cranky. Well, crankier than usual, I guess."

Chloe felt a chill of apprehension creep over her. She asked, rather bluntly, "You think she'll like me, your mom?"

"Nope." Sara said, rather too firmly, and gave Chloe's hand a squeeze.

Chloe lifted up her head, and looked at her lover quizzically. "Nope?"

Sara turned and looked at the woman next to her, and gave her head a shake. "Nope. She'll love you. Just like all of us do. She's a D'Amico, right?"

Chloe smiled, and laid her head back down on Sara's strong shoulder for a few moments more of shared intimacy. But her head was already spinning with dread. Yeah, she's a D'Amico, all right, but that's by marriage.

Dave and Nelson were staring at each other, not quite sure who this woman was who was puttering around graciously, making pleasant small talk, acting like a weirded out cross breeding of Martha Stewart and Donna Reed. She had settled Mr. and Mrs. D'Amico into the large couch in Dave's living room, and was now bringing a tray laden with coffee cups, sugar and creamer, and a coffee carafe that neither Dave or his son remembered being part of their household inventory. They also were settled into chairs, having been ordered there by a sweetly insistent Marcy the moment Dave had arrived from picking up his parents at the airport in Erie. Nelson had arrived from dress rehearsal only moments after Marcy, and only minutes had passed until Dave showed up, so there had been no time to figure out who this woman was, and to question her as to the actual whereabouts of the real Marcy.

Marcy demurely sat down on the couch, and began pouring coffee into cups, a Stepford Wife smile plastered on her face. "Cream or sugar, Mr. D'Amico?" she trilled sweetly.

"Ernie", Ernie said for the fifth or sixth time, he'd lost count. "Just black, thank you." He accepted his cup from Marcy, and glanced at his wife.

Marcy turned her attention to the tall, older woman who was watching her, a careful mask of ... something on her face. "And you, Mrs. D'Amico?" Marcy was already filling a cup.

Marjorie had already decided that there was something not quite right with this curly headed woman, but she wasn't quite sure what it was. "How about you call me Mom, I mean, you are going to be a part of this family, right?" she said gently, and sincerely.

Marcy stopped pouring, and put the carafe down, and blushed, then ... leaned over and gave the older woman sitting next to her ... a hug.

Dave and Nelson got wide eyed, and Dave resisted the temptation to look under the sofa and lazyboy in hopes of finding his Marcy.

"Oh, thank you ... MOM." and this incarnation of Marcy looked like she was about to get weepy.

Nelson would have choked on his coffee, had he had any yet. He was thinking of refusing it, not sure what had been snuck into their well water earlier in the day.

Further banal atrocities were averted by the sound of the kitchen door opening, and then Sara appeared in the living room archway, and grinned at everyone. "Hey, sorry we're late."  Her own blue eyes got wide, was that Marcy? wearing an apron?

Ernie put down his coffee cup, and stood up, and walked over to his daughter, and gave her a crushing hug. She got a whiff of those cherry cigars that hung around him like a blanket, and her stomach stopped churning, momentarily.

Ernie took a peek around his daughter, and saw a softly smiling redheaded cherub standing shyly behind her.  He winked at her. "And you would be Chloe, am I right?"  His eyes twinkled, and Chloe blushed.

"Yup, that would be me." said a clearly shy Chloe, not realizing she was echoing her lover's standard reply. She stood awkwardly, not knowing what to do.  Ernie solved that problem for her by stepping away from his daughter, and giving Chloe a warm hug, which she hesitatingly returned. Sara watched the interaction and couldn't help but feel warm and fuzzy all over. She then turned her gaze to her mother, who was still sitting on the couch next to Marcy, or Marcy's evil twin sister, Sara wasn't quite sure which.

"Hey Mom."


Yup, same old lovey-dovey mom. Sara grinned, smiled at her brother and nephew, and then her eyes were somehow drawn back to Marcy. "Hey Marcy."

Marcy blinked, and then turned on a Laura Petrie smile of her own. "Good evening, Sara, you're just in time for some coffee."  Marcy leaned over and picked up the carafe, and held it  like it was a prize on 'Let's Make a Deal'.

Chloe nudged Sara, equal parts confusion over Marcy, and the fact that Sara hadn't introduced her to her mom yet. Sara started, her mother the last thing on her mind right now. Her manners kicked in.

"Um, Mom, this is Chloe Donahue, Chloe, my mom."

Chloe crossed the floor over to Marjorie, and put out her hand. Marjorie had already put down her cup, and she stood up from the couch, and returned Chloe's warm handshake. Chloe was a little stupefied by the resemblance that mother and daughter shared, Mrs. D'Amico being an older, and certainly more dignified version of her lanky daughter. Oh yeah, if this is what Sara will look like when she's her mom's age, I definitely am in the market for a long term relationship, oh, yeah. "Hi, pleased to meet you." Her blush returned from wherever it had flown to earlier.

Marjorie gave her a blinding smile, so like that of her daughter's, it took Chloe's breath away. "My pleasure, Chloe. And you can call me Mom, too, just like I told Marcy here a moment ago." Marcy's head bobbed up and down like a buoy in enthusiastic agreement. "We've heard such wonderful things about you, from Nelson and Dave and ... especially from Sara." She watched as the little woman's face colored even more, which charmed her to the bone. "And by the way, that's quite an interesting hat you have on there."

Chloe's eyes widened, and then her hand whipped up, and the 'Porn Star' ball cap disappeared from her head so fast, she could have taken a third job as a magician, and done quite well at it. The hat promptly was stuck under her arm, and she quickly fluffed her hair, which didn't help in the slightest, it was flat with strangely obtuse straight angles pointing towards both the Atlantic and Pacific. She looked rather like a sheepdog who had just gone through a very bad scare.

"Oh. Oh. That's just a kind of tradition, a joke ... from the play." she mumbled, and looked around dazedly. Marcy just gave her a weirdly blank and all too toothsome smile.  Chloe backed away from them both, and in her haste, almost knocked over the coffee table and its caffeinated contents. Luckily, Sara was right behind her, and caught her in her strong arms, and then just as swiftly, dropped them down and around Chloe's waist, and casually held her there.

Mother and daughter shared an eye to eye moment, blue on blue, amusement matching amusement. "You'd better keep a tight hold on that one, Sara."

Sara gave the still red-faced Chloe a tight squeeze, and replied. "Oh, yeah, Mom, I plan on it."

Marcy was pacing back and forth in the kitchen, bouncing off invisible walls, and muttering under her breath. Chloe had snuck from the living room and stood near the table, carefully staying out of her friend's path.

"Son of a bitch, son of a bitch, I'm going to kill that man.  I mean, I'm going to marry him first, and then I'm going to kill him, so I can get widow's benefits ..."  Marcy was vaguely aware that her friend had come into the kitchen, and was watching her warily. She caught Chloe's eye on a return path in her pacing. "I mean," she whispered harshly, "a jury of my peers certainly couldn't convict me of his murder, right, I mean this would be considered justifiable homicide, right?"  She was having a hell of a time keeping her voice down.

Chloe was pleased to see that Miss Manners had left the building, and Marcy had returned in her stead. "Marse, calm down, I'm thinking Dave was just as surprised as you when Mary and Rick showed up here tonight. I mean we knew they were coming into town for the play, but showing up ... here?"

Marcy stopped her pacing, and began opening kitchen drawers. Chloe was hoping that Marcy wasn't intent on committing a Lorena Bobbitt on her fiancé. She sighed in relief when Marcy pulled out an oven mitt, instead of a six inch butcher knife. Marcy put it on her hand, and stood in front of the oven, opened it, and pulled the pan out, and looked at its contents. Her friend, curious, came over to take a look of her own.

"What're they?" whispered Chloe, her voice modulating easily into librarian tones.

"Appetizers." hushed Marcy.

"They look like little wieners in pie crusts, sort of, you know, rolled up though."

"Thank you, Julia Child." sniped Marcy, knowing these wrapped wieners would be snapped up in less than the time it took her to get that sentence out. "Start looking for something else in the cupboards to feed these folks. Dinner reservations aren't for more than an hour yet."  She took the pan from the oven, and set it on a trivet on the counter.  Chloe started searching through the cupboards, not feeling hopeful in the slightest.  She found saltine crackers, and about 6 different varieties of chicken soup staring back at her. She shook her head, and decided to try the refrigerator instead.

Marcy, deciding that the tray of finger foods needed to cool a bit, joined her friend, who was looking deep into the bowels of the fridge.

"Well, we could have them spray Jalepeno flavored Cheez Whiz directly onto their hands and just lick it off." said Chloe doubtfully.

"Oh great, and then my almost in-laws would be spending their first night back in Stonecreek fighting over the bathroom at the Niagara Bluffs motel."

The two women stood there peering into the fridge, both desperate for the other to find something edible that the other couldn't see. Marcy grabbed the Cheez Whiz, just in case something occurred to her. Both were getting frowns that couldn't possibly get turned upside down. "Great, just great, not only doesn't Dave take the time to stock the larder for when his parents come, but he neglects to tell me his ex-wife and her new hubby are going to just blow in here, on her broom, tonight. I mean,  can the woman BE any more of a bitch?"

"Yes, she can. I've seen it, and thank your lucky stars she's on her best behavior tonight."

Chloe and Marcy slowly straightened up. That voice sounded so familiar , yet not, it had a few more years tacked onto it. They both turned to see a bemused Marjorie D'Amico standing just behind them, at the table, looking with curiosity at both of them, and then around the kitchen.

Marcy nearly dropped the can of cheez onto Chloe's foot. "Oh god, I, I mean, we didn't know you were there, uh, did we, Chloe?"

Chloe wasn't pleased to be handed the conversational baton. "Uh, no, Mrs. D'Amico, we sure didn't."

Both women felt like twelve year olds who had just been caught smoking behind the barn.

"I'm afraid that its my fault that Mary showed up here tonight, not Dave's. I talked to her in Phoenix,earlier in the week, and mentioned we would be here, we haven't seen her in nearly 10 years and ..." Marjorie's lips edged up into a devious grin. " ...although I could have waited another ten years without complaint. I kind of invited them, not realizing how awkward it must be for you. But she is Nelson's mother ..."

Chloe and Marcy both gave her a dumb smile, and didn't say anything. Marjorie took a few steps, and joined them in front of the still opened refrigerator door. She put an arm around both women, turning them so all three of them could look into it. "Hmm, now you two had better cool your jets.  All the time that woman was married to Dave, I never once told her to call me 'Mom'."

Ten minutes later, a tray of rolled up mini wieners and a plate of saltines with Cheez whiz on them, decorated with green olive slices, was delivered to a mostly appreciative crowd of D'Amicos, present and former, by three smiling and now relaxed women, one now conspicuously sans apron.

Friday at the library plodded along like an old woman with a bad hip walking her bicycle up a hill, and then getting a flat halfway up it.  Chloe Donahue, a professional whisperer and knowledge gatherer, was up to her eyeballs in tension, and Mrs. Cellone gave her a wide berth.  She even suggested that Chloe leave early that afternoon,  that she would stay until the twins arrival at four o'clock.  Chloe turned the gracious woman down, knowing that if she left early, she would only go home, and worry her small house into a complete and utter perfection of cleanliness.  She was too nervous to go and spend it with Sara, knowing that her lover probably had her hands full just trying to have a conversation with her mother.  So, she compromised, and spent the afternoon cleaning her small office in a single -minded tizzy.

Sara, out at the golf course, was not having a conversation with her mother, probably to the relief of both of them. They had come to an uneasy truce during their visit in Florida, and neither woman felt the compunction to delve deeper into their somewhat coolish relationship. Sara was pleased to see how her mother had warmed to Chloe the night before, and Marjorie had bestowed upon Sara, at one point during the evening, a reassuring and pleasant nod to her about Chloe.  She'd even grabbed Sara by the arm when Sara was passing by her, when Sara had excused herself from the table to use the ladies' room at The Embers. Sara had ducked her head low, for Marjorie was pulling her down for a quick and quiet comment between the two of them.

Her mother again nodded towards an animated Chloe, who was telling the story of Doris Raeburn, Sara, a bull's head and an avenging umbrella.

"Don't you dare screw this one up, Sara. Or you won't hear from me in ten years."

Sara's face split into a grin. "I'll try not to, Maude."

Marjorie pinched Sara's arm sharply before she let her tall daughter continue on her way.

Sara smiled at the memory, and returned to patching the small tears on the fourth green. She had just begun to bend down, to repair another spot, when she heard the unmistakable sound of a golf ball whistling on its approach. She instinctively ducked lower, and it whizzed by her, just over the top of her head. She growled her annoyance.

"FORE!!" called a woman's voice, a little too late.

Sara turned and looked towards the tee, and since all of these holes were par threes, it wasn't hard for her to see the figure there, waving a club at her in  apology.

Sara waved back, and hurried off the green. I wonder when Mom took up golf?

"No, no, no, no, NO!"

Sara trotted from the living room of Chloe's house, and towards the sound of her lover's lamenting in the bedroom. She found Chloe standing there, looking into her full length wall mirror,  dressed in the same green silk dress Chloe had worn the night of the auction.  Tonight, the dress looked a little ... different than the last time Chloe had worn it.

"What's the matter, hon?"

"Look at this, look at this! It doesn't fit! How can a dress not fit, it's been, what, two weeks since I wore it last?"  Chloe was looking directly into the mirror, trying to figure out why the dress was fitting her like a skin on a sausage.

Sara came and stood beside her, and they both gazed at Chloe's figure in the mirror. Chloe was right, the dress didn't fit. Or rather, it fit too well. "Well," drawled Sara, trying to hide her grin, " We have been eating out a lot, lately. And you've been having pie every time ..." And most of mine, too.

Chloe gave her lover a murderous glare in the mirror. "Then how come YOU didn't put on a pound ... an ounce ... you've probably LOST weight, haven't you?" she said accusingly.

Sara looked sharp and buff, and she knew it, it was staring back at her in the mirror. "Well, I do walk that course all day long ..."

"Are you calling me a ... load? Is that it, you think I'm a couch potato? Go on, tell me the truth ..."  Chloe's voice was rising in frustration, as she unsuccessfully tried to smooth the tight buttons across her abdomen.

Sara laid a comforting hand on the rattled librarian's shoulder. "Oh, no, honey, I like your little belly." she said, truthfully, and reached to pat it with her hand.

Now was NOT a good time for honesty. Chloe slapped Sara's hand away before it made contact with her stomach. "Great, just great!!!  I'm standing here, it's opening night, dressed in my best dress, and looking like a bloated ... frog, and you tell me you LIKE my belly?" Chloe started popping the buttons down the front of her dress in order to take it off, before a deep inhale popped the buttons for her. "Great, great, great."  Sara stood away from her, her hand still smarting.  Soon Chloe was just in her slip, the discarded dress pooled at her feet. "Oh, god, look at the time, we have to be there in an hour, and I don't have a thing to wear and ..."

Sara forgot about her stinging hand, and stood behind Chloe, wrapping her arms around her waist and kissing the top of Chloe's head. She gazed at their reflections, and began speaking into Chloe's ear, keeping eye contact with her in the mirror. "I think you look great, " and she punctuated that remark with a running kiss up the back of Chloe's neck. She could feel Chloe shiver from it, and Sara returned to her ear, "and very, very sexy." Her hand stroked a soft path down the side of Chloe's slip, and then ran it up again, this time across the soft roundness of belly, on its way to an equally soft breast.  Sara was purring into Chloe's ear, nipping at it, and Chloe was forgetting about the dress, her belly ... she watched Sara's movements across her body in the large mirror in front of them, and then all she could feel was the warming below her belly, and the way her knees were turning to jelly.

Sara pulled her closer to her, wrapping a long arm around Chloe's ribcage, and then taking her other hand, she stroked across the surface of the white slip, and their eyes met in the mirror as Sara's hand dipped into the neckline, oh, so deliberately and softly, trailing a roughened thumb and forefinger across a hardening nipple. She pinched it lightly, and then lightly again,  as she watched Chloe's reflection in front of her. Chloe moaned, and Sara saw the younger woman's eyes' flutter at her touch, so she repeated it, this time just a little harder. Then all was lost, the mirror and the tight dress were forgotten, and whatever clothes the women had on that fit, or didn't fit, lost their meaning, because they were soon being tossed through the air like confetti on New Year's Eve.

"It's SEVEN O'CLOCK. SEVEN O'CLOCK." Chloe repeated needlessly, as she was hurricaning through her closet, trying to find something appropriate to wear. "We're supposed to BE there now, the curtain goes up in an hour ... I mean, you pick great times to seduce a girl, you know ..." Chloe said accusingly, as she pulled out a dress, inspected it, and dismissed it.

Sara was almost completely redressed, all she had to do was slip into her boots, and find that missing earring that had somehow disappeared around a half hour earlier. Sara turned, and tossed the sheets on the bed, hoping to see her earring fly upward. No go. "You looked like you needed relaxing, I thought it would relax you ..."  She got on her hands and knees, and began peering around the floor on the side of the bed.

Chloe, in bra and panties, turned and stared at her lover. She pointed at her own face, jabbing herself on the nose. "Does this face look RELAXED to you?  Does it?"

Sara peered up from her spot on the floor. "Not really, no."

Chloe turned and began rummaging in her closet again. "I didn't THINK so."  She sighed. She couldn't find anything, anything at all to wear.

Sara spied her earring hanging, caught, on the apron of Chloe's tall bed. "Aha!  Found it!" she cried triumphantly, grabbed it, and began fixing it back onto her ear.

Chloe turned from the closet once again, hands on hips. "Found what?"

Sara finished adjusting it, and pulled her hair back so Chloe could see it. "Lost my earring somewhere along the line there.  Found it!" She smiled at Chloe, expecting her to join her in her victory grin.  No such luck.

"An earring? AN EARRING?  You were worried about an EARRING?  Maybe you should be worried that your girlfriend is going to show up at opening night in a silk bra and panties? NO! You're worried about an earring. Well, how's about this, how about we find me some six inch heels, I toss on the Porn Star cap, and I show up JUST LIKE THIS?  That would really bring the house down, now wouldn't it?" Chloe's arms were flailing faster than her words.

Sara's mouth hung open, she couldn't reply. In her mind, three letters of the alphabet kept repeating. P ... M ... S.  P ... M ... S.

Chloe tore her gaze away from her apparently stupefied girlfriend's to take a glance at the bedside clock. "It's seven oh five. SEVEN OH FIVE!!!"

And just like a church bell peeling a reply, the phone in Chloe's kitchen began ringing.

"I'll get that!"  Sara said, standing up, grabbing her boots, and hightailing out the door.

Chloe stuck her head back into her closet, and started her futile search again.

"Uh huh. OK. Well, just do like I told you, uh huh ..."  Sara looked up from the phone, and saw Chloe standing there, dressed in green blazer, white top, and brown slacks. She smiled at her, and gave her a thumbs up at Chloe's final outfit.  Sara had one boot on, and one boot still off, and she was hopping around the kitchen, trying to get the boot on one handed. "Well, just hang tight, we can be there in ... five minutes. Don't worry, I have this all figured out."

Chloe's lips pursed, her eyebrows furrowed, and her hands just naturally settled themselves on her hips. "What?" she mouthed.

Sara couldn't put on her boot, talk on the phone, and wave Chloe off at the same time, so she shook her head at Chloe, and tried to smile reassuringly. "No, really, it'll be OK, you'll get there, we'll all get there ... I know it's important, don't worry. Five minutes."

Sara clicked the phone off, and grabbed her boot again to put it on.

"WHAT?" said a clearly impatient Chloe, readjusting her hands on her hips.

"You look great." Sara grinned. "And we just have to make a quick stop, I promise. No need to worry, I've got it under control."  I hope. Sara slid her black pant legs over her western boots, and grabbed Chloe's hand and began dragging her towards the door. Now I just have to keep her distracted long enough ...

Chloe only had time to grab her house keys before she was pulled out her front door.

Chloe took another look at Charlie Shemp's tearful eyes, and sighed. "Look, I'm sorry, Charlie, but with the trailer broken, we'll just have to wait until the next night, I promise, and then Cargo can be in the play."

Charlie's heart felt like it was just about to break. "But Ms. Donahue, she's been practicing, with Nelson and all, and I really wanted her to be up there, I mean, it's important."  He ran a hand across his eyes, and his voice was cracking more than it usually did. He sniffed, and looked away from her, not wanting her to see him on the verge of crying." She reached out, and put a comforting hand on his shoulder, and patted it.

Charlie snuffled, and cleared his throat, which didn't help at all. "Nelson is going to be so disappointed ..."

"Nelson will be just fine. Won't he, Chloe?"  Chloe and Charlie looked up, and saw that Sara was sitting astride Cargo, reins light in her hands, her boots firmly ensconced in the stirrups. Sara grinned at them, backlit by the floodlight of the nearby barn.

"Sara, what are you doing?" Chloe's eyes were wide, and she stared at the woman who looked so ... natural, up on that horse's back.

"I'm getting Cargo, Charlie and Jack ... and you ... to the play on time."

Chloe blinked, and words came tumbling out of her mouth. "You're going to ride her there?"

Sara pulled the reins so Cargo was more parallel to the little librarian, and they edged closer to her. "No, we're going to ride her there. Charlie and his stepdad are going to follow in my car. C'mon."  Sara held out a hand to Chloe.

Chloe backed away. "What? No way!  I haven't been on a horse since I was twelve, and ... well, just no way!"  She looked towards Charlie, whose tears had disappeared, and he was looking at with all the love and hope that he possessed in his 13 year old body. "Have Charlie ride with you!"

Charlie shook his head. "I'd really like to see you on her, Ms. Donahue. I can ride with my dad." He smiled, blushed and looked at his feet.

Chloe looked at him, and then up at Sara, imploring her not to make her do this.

Sara leaned over, and patted the tall horse's withers. "It'll be fine. You ride up here behind me.  We don't have time to take the trailer off the truck, and well, the school is only a mile and a half up the road ..."  She looked into Chloe's eyes, who were staring at her like she wanted to take the little director off to an alien civilization. She gave her one more smile, and put out her hand again, holding it there, waiting. "C'mon, Chloe ... just say 'yes'."

Chloe blinked again, and before her mind registered what she was doing,  she was hoisted up behind Sara, who had made room for her on the large saddle, and she wrapped her arms around Sara's waist. The earth looked very far below her as she looked down at the ground from her perch behind Sara, and she felt the tall woman urge the horse below them into a trot. She heard calls behind them as they left the barn's floodlight behind, and soon, nothing but the sounds of the horse's hooves and rhythmic breathing rushed by her ears. It quickly lulled her and she suddenly felt more comfortable, and settled in, and loosened her grip around Sara's waist a little as the horse slowed to make the turn onto the tall grass beside the road running to the high school.

Sara felt Chloe's arms around her loosen a bit, and she grinned, and nudged the horse into picking up its pace. They were coasting along now, Sara smiling at the chill air on her cheeks, and the warmth of the librarian at her back. She wished, just for a moment or two, that the school were just a little bit farther up the road, that they had just a little more time.  She didn't want to urge the horse into a full fledged gallop, fearing that would rattle Chloe's nerves, and Sara could feel that Chloe was relaxing into the ride, so she didn't want to push it.  They were steadily eating up the ground, the golden horse with its dark and light riders, when Sara's Comet pulled along side them, Charlie's stepdad slowing just for a moment, so Charlie could wave at them from the packed car.  The backseat of the car was full of multicolored helium balloons, and Charlie had a careful hand on the huge sheetcake in his lap, the one that read "Happy Birthday Ado Annie! Happy Birthday Moreen!"  Sara and Chloe both smiled at Charlie, and he gave a big 'wahoo!' just before his father speeded up, and carried them onwards towards the school.

Sara couldn't look at her watch, but she knew that time was not on their side, and she wished once again that she could speed the horse on a little more, without upsetting her ... precious cargo, on the back of Cargo.

Incredibly ,Chloe felt herself enjoying the ride, surprising herself. She craned her neck so she could shout into Sara's ear.

"Can't this thing go any faster!?"

With those words, Sara grinned, and spurred the horse into a gallop, and she wasn't sure, but she thought she could feel the small redhead laughing behind her. Maybe it was just the bouncing motion of the horse, but that's the way Sara would always want to think of this moment, so that's how she memorized it, and stored it  carefully away.

The parking lot of the school was jammed with vehicles, but people were few, they had already gone into the school in preparation for the play that would begin shortly.  Charlie Shemp, after carefully laying the sheet cake onto the front seat of the Comet, told his smiling stepdad he'd be right back, and sprinted up the short steps of the stage door.

Nelson, already impatient and worried about the play, kept glancing at the clock, and was now fretting full time about the absence of his aunt, and the little director. Many bad scenarios were crossing his mind, when he saw his little buddy come busting through the stage door at the back of the school.

"C'mon, everybody, come quick!!"  gasped Charlie. A number of adults just gaped at him, and didn't move.

Nelson looked at Charlie, and Charlie grinned. "No, it's good. C'mon, you'll miss it!"

Nelson hesitated just a moment, and then moved quickly to the door Charlie was holding open, and down the few steps to the sidewalk. Marcy, Dave, Marjorie, Ernie, Mo Dean, Justin, Heather, Jeanette, another Justin, Paul, his mother, Larry, Jason and even Doris Raeburn all clambered down the steps after him, almost all colliding at once when they saw, making the turn from the road, a pale horse and two riders approaching them with the ghostly glow of the lampposts above them.  They stopped, and held on to each other in awe, and in support, because their stop was so abrupt, their surprise so complete.

The horse slowed into a dancing canter, and they made quite an entrance in front of that crowd of family and friends. Sara reined Cargo in, and the beautiful horse stopped, and Sara grinned at the unbelieving but smiling throng. She then turned her head, and grinned at Chloe, who looked red-faced, windblown and achingly beautiful to Sara's adoring eyes. She turned quickly, and lifted her leg out of the stirrup, and she was down on the ground before Chloe knew what was happening. She stood next to her, and suddenly Chloe realized how high up she was, and she froze for a moment. But then Sara held out her arms, and waited, a small smile of expectancy on her face. Chloe took a deep breath, and without another thought, swung her own leg over, and slid out of the saddle into Sara's waiting arms.

Inside the crowded theatre, the audience was settling down for the beginning of the play.  That expectant group inside the theatre heard a distant sounding cheer go up, and what sounded like applause and whooping afterwards.  The best part of the show had just played out, and the orchestra hadn't even played a note.

It was later, much later on opening night. The play had gone smashingly well, Jeanette had gotten four curtain calls, Nelson six, and Moreen Dean, three. Mo was tearful as the whole audience and her fellow thespians and crew sang a screamingly loud version of 'Happy Birthday' to her. Jay Caesar had enthused to everyone within earshot. Doris Raeburn finally forgave Chloe for that awful opera, complimented Marcy on her trees, but no, Sara was still not excused for that bull's head incident. There were enthusiastic parents everywhere backstage, including those of a pair of grown up D'Amicos, a teenaged D'Amico, and a D'Amico yet unborn.  Cake was eaten, backs were slapped, hugs were shared, and lipstick was smeared across each and every cast member's face, and their adult advisors, too.

But the best part was saved for last, when a bashfully grinning Larry stepped forward, and held out his 'Porn Star' cap to Chloe.  The whole cast and crew quieted, and Larry, a stage hand, not an actor by any means, started his prepared speech.

"Ms. Donahue, on behalf of all the cast and crew of 'Oklahoma', I'd like to present this hat to you. We were thinking maybe we should get you a new one, but ... considering how superstitious you are, we'd thought we'd better stick with the original. So, here you go."

Chloe grinned, and accepted the cap from Larry. She plopped it onto her red head, and then winked at them all, and then shifted the cap around backwards, just as she had worn it on that day so many months ago.

The whole crew, and her lover too, burst out in laughter.

"What?" she put her hands on her hips, and stared at them, woefully unaware that the cast had a small addition embroidered onto the back of the cap.

"Nice hat." gasped Sara, wishing she could take a quick dash for the ladies' room.

Chloe scowled, and pulled the hat down from her head, and looked at it. A slow smile crossed her lips, and she laughed slowly, and then more loudly, and then everyone joined in as Chloe put the cap back on her head, decisively backwards, and grinned at them all.

The back of the cap read:  TRAINEES ACCEPTED.

"You didn't eat much of that cake, and it was your favorite, I know, you ordered it." Sara lazily teased, rubbing a light hand across Chloe's belly.

Chloe gave that hand a gentle but meaningful swat. "Well, I'd like to fit into that dress again.  Someday." she smiled ruefully.

Sara gave her a squeeze, and felt the woman she loved burrow deeper into her shoulder.  Chloe was being uncharacteristically quiet, but Sara chalked it up to a long and stressful evening, although for once, the stress felt good. She sighed, and felt Chloe return that sigh, and Sara pulled the blanket up tighter around them, and she looked up into the black of the sky above her.  They were laying on the hood of the Comet, their backs and heads pillowed by a jacket on the windshield. They were parked in the high grass just off of the 9th hole. The fountain was streaming high into the night, its multicolored patterns weaving a wet and quiet shower of fireworks before them.

Sara could feel the the smaller woman's breathing begin to slow. "I love you, Chloe." she whispered, wanting those to be the last words Chloe heard before she drifted off on Sara's shoulder.

"I love you too." Chloe murmured, and stretched into her taller lover's form, and with that, she was fast asleep.

Sara smiled, and looked again to the sky, and the stars and the moon that stretched out panoramically above her. She closed her eyes, and her mind turned to a time when this was exactly what she'd envisioned she needed for her life to be right, for her heart to beat still and measured, for her soul to be set free and floating. That time had come, she knew now, and she would no longer have to imagine it, for it was right here, right now and it filled her with a sense of peace she had never known before.

The chirping of crickets and the murmurings of other night creatures were the only things breaking the still of the evening.  She opened her eyes to the night sky above, and all of the twinkling stars that it held. She looked for the moon, it was full, and had small wisps of clouds passing through its brilliance.   She looked for familiar formations, she still had no idea of the names of the constellations, but she'd memorized certain favorite groupings, and she looked for them there. Her breathing became lower, slower, and she gently pulled Chloe closer to her, and gave a soft kiss to her forehead. She let herself enjoy the calmed moment, she embraced it, and let it fill her.  She returned her gaze to the moon, and let it settle there.


As promised, song lyric credits are as follows, all used without permission:

Crazy by Willie Nelson, ©1959    Let's get Patsified!
For All We Know by Fred Karlin, Robb Royer and James Griffin, ©1969.  And best sung by the late, ever great Karen Carpenter.

Songs from Oklahoma! by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, © 1943.  Rent this movie today, better yet, go see it live!

The Surrey With the Fringe on Top
Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'
People Will Say We're in Love
I Cain't Say No
Many a New Day

My deepest thanks to all of you who made my novice writing experience such an incredible joy for me.

Email me with feedback:  LA Tucker

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