The Light Fantastic

By LA Tucker

Part IV:  Adventures With Home Appliances

For disclaimers see Part I

There was a distinct uncomfortable quiet hovering over the kitchen.  Not knowing quite what to do,  Chloe wandered over to the kitchen table, pulled out a chair and sat down. She looked at Sara, who was leaned up against the kitchen sink, arms folded, seemingly lost in thought. She seemed to be focused on a point somewhere behind Chloe, and Chloe turned in her seat to see what was capturing Sara's attention. There was a microwave, with a pile of cookbooks on it, and some benign painting of a woman standing in a summer rose garden hanging above it.  OK, that's not it. She turned back around,  and folded her hands and placed them on the table. Now what?

Sara continued to stare past Chloe, and was thoughtfully rubbing her chin with her fingers. Chloe took this time to study her, not a flat out stare, she didn't want to be caught doing that, so she just covertly peeked at her, studied something different each time, and then glanced away.  Chloe noticed that they still both had their coats on. I'm getting a bit warm, here. I should take off my coat. But she didn't want to move,  afraid any movement would break the trance that Sara seemed to be in. She looks good in that barn jacket,  like a model from an L. L. Bean catalog.  I haven't seen her without some sort of coat on since I've met her.  She looks thin, but healthy under all that bulk of clothing.  Chloe's eyes just naturally fell to Sara's face, and the long red line that split her dark skin. How can she be that dark in the middle of February?  My legs are so white right now,  I'm pretty sure they're glow-in-the-dark. The scar looked smaller to her somehow, a thinner line, not as bright as even a week ago. If the redness goes away, there will just be a razor thin line down her face.  And even so, even now, it just looks like it adds to her character, somehow. Chloe shifted her eyes and looked at the small cutting board topped cabinet instead. Don't want to let her catch me staring.  She thought of Sara's face, a picture still fresh in her mind. I don't ever remember seeing a face that young that held that much character.  It's the eyes, the set of the face. It looks like she has hundreds of years of memories stored there.  Sara had a timeless beauty,  high cheekbones, long straight nose, deep set eyes and  her lips set in a small, tight horizontal line, the edges not curling up, nor down.  When she smiles, those gloriously white, even teeth help to light up her whole face. I wish she would smile for me now.

Maybe they were briefly joined by some psychic moment,  because Sara finally shook herself out of her small reverie, and blinked at Chloe. Oh, oh, I went out of town there for a moment and didn't even realize it. Chloe was sitting at the table, small hands clasped in front of her on the table. She still was wearing her woolen pea coat. Shit. Get it together, Sara. Be Martha Stewart, not a space cadet.

Sara cleared her throat. Chloe shifted in her seat and their eyes met.  Hesitant smiles appeared on their faces.

Sara's low voice cut across the space. "Hey. You'd better get your coat off, you'll catch a chill when you have to go back out there."

"I thought maybe it was required attire around here. You still have yours on."  Chloe pointed at Sara's coat, and barely, just barely, held back from a wink.

Sara looked down, and found out that it was true. "Well, let's fix that." She pulled moved and took her coat off, and threw it over a chair next to Chloe. Chloe stood up, and shrugged off her own coat and placed it on top of Sara's.  She slid her hands into her back pockets and rocked a little bit on her toes, looking around again, not knowing what to say. She wanted to say something, anything.  Since when am I ever at loss for words?  A small squishing sound emitted as she rocked. Oh, that soaker.

Sara smiled at the sound, and newly determined to be a better hostess, opened her mouth and immediately stuck her foot in it.

"Chloe, do you want to take your pants off for me?"

Chloe's nervous rocking immediately ceased; she removed her hands from her back pockets and placed them firmly on her hips. Her small form, in blue V-neck sweater, straightened up, military tight. "Excuse me??"

 Did I just say that?  I couldn't have said that? I said that!  Sara's mind scrambled for some kind of quick recovery. She stuttered, nothing comprehensible forming on her lips, and she dumbly pointed at Chloe's very wet pant leg.  Her mouth and brain refused to work in tandem.  "Your pants. Dryer. Sweat pants. I have. You could. Socks. Laundry room. Over there." , her hand waved desperately in the direction somewhere to the left of Chloe.

Chloe's rigid posture relaxed as the true meaning of Sara's stammered words sunk in.  "Oh. I see. Oh." It sounds like I'm repeating letters from the alphabet. "I don't want to be any trouble."

Sara, still a bit wide-eyed from her verbal miscue, looked miserable and didn't say anything, for fear of butchering the English language anymore than she already had.  I can't talk, I can't think, and she's just standing over there smiling at me like she understood everything I just said. I don't even understand what I just said.

Chloe felt the need to put the flustered woman at ease. "You say that to all the women who get stranded on your property?  That's quite a line. Can I use it sometime?" Her green eyes twinkled and her smile expanded to its fullest.

Sara found herself captivated by the glow that seemed to encompass the whole of Chloe's fine features. This woman sparkles. Not just her eyes, although it seems to start from there, no, it stretches across those blushing cheeks, that wide pert nose, the openness of her smile, it travels to the point of her chin, and seems even to light up her fine red blonde hair from...  within.  The warmth just spreads from her whole being. It's not just one thing about her, it's the whole of her. Her body carries and just seems to glow with a radiance,  and I feel ...helpless ... standing in front of such a being.

Chloe, a little disconcerted that Sara seemed to be in a daze staring at her, tried once again. "Yes."

Sara snapped out of it, well, as best she could. "Um, yes, what?"

"I'll take my pants off for you, you old smoothie, you." How could I resist?

She's flirting with me!  There is a God!  "Um, the bathroom's right through the living room. You can change in there. Hang on," and she started to move towards the small laundry room, "And I'll grab you a pair of my sweats and some socks. We can toss your pants in the dryer. Won't take but a few minutes." She reappeared holding the articles of clothing in a wad, and shoved them at Chloe. "Here ya go. Right past the living room. The room with a toilet in it."

"Thanks. Be back in a few minutes."  Chloe wandered off in the direction that Sara had pointed.

Sara sighed in relief of her short respite, but couldn't help but take notice of Chloe's shapely backside. Woof!!

Chloe found 'the room with a toilet in it' and shut the door softly behind her. She untied her boots, and dripped some of the water from the soaked one over the sink, half expecting a fish to fall out. She sat her boots on the floor, pulled off and set her socks on top of them. She wriggled out her khakis and kicked them aside. That went well. I think. I can't believe she said that about my pants. Almost knocked me over with those words. And I wanted to say yes, before I even knew what her real intentions were. I've got it bad.

She stood in front of the small vanity in her underwear, and inspected her face. Same one that I left the house with this morning. The one that still gets me carded in bars. Sometimes she resented looking so young, although she knew, deep down, that it was a good thing in the long run.  In the very infrequent trips she made to the lesbian bar over in Erie, she still had a few college students trying to pick her up. Not that that's a bad thing, but I don't have much in common with women that age anymore. They still seem to be coming to grips with their sexuality. And they spend a heck of a lot of time enacting out little dyke dramas. I already went through that, I don't want to relive that part of my life again. Although it was fun while it lasted!

She slipped into the seemingly huge sweat pants. They were huge. Oh, this is going to be attractive. She put on the thermal socks that Sara had given her, they were huge, too. They practically were knee socks on her. She tugged the elastic bottoms of the sweat pants over her ankles, and noticed how the legs of the sweats ballooned below her knees. Oh, yeah. Sexy.

She gathered up her clothing, and padded back into the kitchen, stopping to silently admire  Sara's rear end, as she bent peering into the open refrigerator. She apparently was searching for the Holy Grail, and not finding it. "Lose something?" said Chloe, amused how Sara jumped nearly straight up at the unexpected sound of Chloe's voice.

"God, you scared me. You could be a ninja, you walk so quietly." Sara raised an eyebrow in appraisal of Chloe's appearance. "You look like a five year old wearing her dad's pants."

"Excuse me, but this is how I usually dress. The khakis today were an aberration. Not my norm. This is." She twirled, arms loaded with her clothes, for Sara to take in the whole effect. She looked down. "I could carry a lunch and a thermos in these sweats, the crotch is so low on me." It was true, the crotch of the sweats stopped mid thigh on her. "I tried pulling them up higher, but then the waist was up under my armpits."

"Well, Chloe, somehow, you make it all work ."  Sara intoned sincerely, and noticed the pleased blush that crept across Chloe's face. "Here. Give me those. I'll take care of them." She placed Chloe's boots near a furnace duct by the stove, and then went into the laundry room with her socks and pants.

Chloe's stomach took that moment to announce it's emptiness. Rather loudly.

Sara stuck her head out from the laundry room. "You say something?"

"Uh, no." she shook her head, embarrassed. "It did." And she pointed at her stomach. With perfect comic timing, her belly repeated its loud demands.

Sara chuckled and said, "Wow. You should take that show on the road. 'Chloe and Her Magic Talking Stomach'."  She started the dryer and came back into the kitchen. "I guess we'd better see to that," she pointed at Chloe's belly, "before all hell breaks loose, huh?"  Why am I feeling this relaxed around her?  Quit questioning it, Sara, and just go with it. You can't accept things even when they 're going good.

"Whattya got?"

Sara moved over and opened the fridge door again, and waved Chloe over to look there with her. They stood side by side, Sara much more hunched than Chloe, and peered within.  "Let's see, the more identifiable things first. A half of a tuna sandwich with bermuda onions." She held her nose for a moment.  "Milk, eggs, Cheez Whiz, catsup. Beer. Apricot jelly. Stale bagels. Ring bologna. Dill pickle slices. Marshmallow fluff. Mayo. This is not looking good. Now for the mystery items in the Tupperware containers."

They edged closer to the fridge and each other, shoulder to shoulder, the thrill of the unknown drawing their spirits together in expectation of a shared adventure.  Sara glanced up at Chloe, her head so close to her own, and whispered, "This could get dangerous. Stay close."  Chloe set her jaw and nodded in grim determination. Sara tentatively touched the edge of a pint sized container. "Here goes."  She slowly pried up the edge of it, and they leaned forward to try and ascertain its contents.

"Chicken salad with croutons on top?" said Chloe, uncertainly.

"Nope. Cottage cheese with some kind of ... blechh on it." They both wrinkled their noses.  "You were close though."

Sara reached for another container, and took an exaggerated deep breath. Chloe instinctively moved even closer to her. Up came the edge of the lid.

Numerous purple rubbery oval shaped objects, swimming in a deeper purple fluid, with floating round red purple disks greeted their eyes.

"Ooh. Beet pickled eggs. I love those!" enthused Chloe.

"We have achieved a first course!  Unless we don't have anything better for desert."

A large bowl awaited them on the top shelf.  They looked at it, then at each other. Chloe, the flirt in her deciding to emerge, said, "I'm scared. I think you'd better hold my hand for this one."  Sara hesitated, then softly took Chloe's hand into her own. Perfect. This hand feels perfect in mine. Chloe was experiencing the exact same thought.

"Its OK. I gotcha. Here goes nothing...." , and she gave Chloe's hand a tight squeeze.

Chloe squeezed back. Swoon. I think I am going to swoon. If I knew what swooning was, I'd be doing it for sure.

Sara's hand snuck out, then swiftly ripped the lid up.

They stepped back, staring, still clutching hands.

"I think we have lift-off." said Chloe, pleased with the sight her eyes were taking in.

"Yeah," replied Sara, rather dreamily stroking the hand in hers with her fingertips. "Tuna noodle casserole. And less than 3 days old."

"Nirvana.", said Chloe succinctly.

Both of them suddenly became very aware of their clasped hands, and both nervously disengaged.

"Nuke, or stovetop?" Sara asked distractedly.  She was still feeling the warmth of Chloe's hand, and wondering over the sensations it had invoked in her.
Normally I hate people invading my personal space ...

"Nuked works for me. I don't think my stomach is going to remain calm much longer. And don't forget the pickled eggs."  Great hands.

"I'm glad we found something in there. I didn't even want to think about opening that freezer door. It's like the pits of Hades in there..."

Both sets of eyes traveled and settled on the freezer door, and both women shuddered involuntarily at the thought.

The women then moved easily around the kitchen together, in a blossoming of comfortable familiarity that developed into a fluid dance of quiet intimacy. The small work space afforded the women the opportunity to bump elbows, briefly touch fingertips, graze shoulders, and place light hands on the smalls of backs while slowly brushing past each other. Chloe set out plates, across from the other, and placed utensils around them while Sara spooned up some of the casserole into another bowl to place into the microwave. She silently showed Chloe the amount she had placed in it for her approval. Chloe raised an eyebrow, and gave Sara a frown. Sara spooned two more healthy sized additions to it. Again, she tipped the bowl for Chloe's inspection. Chloe frowned again.  Sara's eyebrows raised high under her bangs. She put heaped three more ladles into it, and once more looked to Chloe. There was little to nothing left in the original bowl. Chloe lost the frown, and got a small grin, and shrugged her shoulders.

Sara whistled. "This I gotta see", covered the nearly overflowing bowl, and set it in the microwave.

Amazing.  I thought Nelson could chow down. He's Ally McBeal compared to this woman. Sara resisted the urge to duck her head under the table to see where Chloe was putting it all. It isn't like she wolfs it down. Nope. She chews. She just keeps going and going, at a leisurely pace, no hurry, no worry, takes another helping and does it all again. I was done 15 minutes ago and she's still at it. She must have instantaneous metabolism or some such trick of nature. I should tap her leg to see if it 's hollow. Her poor mother, I hope she didn't breast feed her, she probably was stuck to her chest 24/7 until it was time for solid foods. She must put restaurants that serve buffets into bankruptcy. I can see her just pulling up a chair to the salad bar now. And she can talk, and eat too, and laugh and listen to my awkward little jokes.  What could a woman like her see in me?  I work as a landscaper and mechanic at a little 9-hole converted cow pasture barely bigger than a miniature golf course.  I don't drive anymore. I have a red line dissecting my face from north to south. I barely leave the house, and her best friend probably told her that I'm a psycho bitch from hell.  She's probably only being nice to me because she's stuck here until Nelson arrives. She glanced at the clock on the wall. It's almost eight o'clock, where is he, anyway? I hope he eats before he gets here, because I'm pretty sure Chloe's thinking about having that scary cottage cheese in there for dessert.

"Got any dessert?" said Chloe, impishly.  She was really quite full, but couldn't resist tweaking the amazed woman seated across from her. She wasn't embarrassed about her penchant for being a chow hound, actually, she was quite famous for it. It used to be a big joke at her college cafeteria, that the students would see her coming, then all make a mad dash to get in line in front of her before the food was all gone.

"You have room?"

"Hang on a second." Chloe forced a small burp. "I do now."

"That guy with the ice cream truck that drives up and down the main road in the summer must love you." Sara jibed, opening her eyes wide, and shaking her head.

"I told him just to park it at my house. How'd you guess?  Saves him a lot in gas."

Sara laughed, pushed her plate to one side, and folded her arms and leaned on the table and fixed her gaze on her dinner partner. "So you live on Route 20, too?  Everyone in this town lives on this road. But you live out on the other side of town, huh?"

Chloe settled back in her chair and let her eyes silently appreciate the view of Sara's long black hair, strong cheekbones and flashing blue eyes. She had to stop a second to rerun Sara's question through her mind again before she responded. "Right next to the old '76 station. It was the Murdoch's house. It's tiny, but I like it."

"My house is a couple hundred yards from here, c'mere, you can see it from the window."

Both women stood up, and walked over to the tiny window over the sink. Sara stood behind Chloe and looked over her head. A dim light far into the night was the only thing she could see.

"Uh.  I'm sure it's out there somewhere, Sara, but I sure can't see it from here."  Chloe was immediately aware of Sara's proximity, and made a quick mental note that yes, physical proximity with Sara was a very, very good thing.

Sara ducked her head over Chloe's right shoulder to try and see it from her perspective. Chloe felt the length of Sara's body lean gently into her back. Sara's chin was nearly resting on Chloe's shoulder, and her mouth was inches from  her ear. "There, you see it?" she said softly. She rested her left hand on Chloe's left shoulder and pointed with her right hand. "That light. That's my porch light. Right there."

"Uh..."  I should play dumb and pretend not to see it, that way I can keep enjoying this. Does she have any idea what she 's doing to me? I think she does. "Yeah, I see it. Sorta." The small hairs on the back of Chloe's neck were standing at attention, enjoying the warmth of Sara's breath.

They stood like that for a moment, staring into the blackness. Neither one felt any urgency to move. Sara took a deep breath, and the sound of it so close to her ear made Chloe tremble just a little. Chloe turned and tilted her head up to look into Sara's face, Sara looked down and their eyes met. Sara leaned a little more, and Chloe lifted her head just slightly. The clock on the wall slowed. The beating of their hearts took over the measure of the passage of time, until their lips softly met and time stopped completely. Bottom moist lip met an upper, brushing left to right, then stopping in the center. A tongue, running the very edge of a lip, mapped the contours. It was lightness and heat, their heads moving closer then barely away, but never parting the sweet connection that was being forged. A hand moved on a forearm, fingers tickling the fine hairs from wrist to elbow. A warmth that multiplied with the soft meetings of nose to nose, nose to cheek, lips to cheek and tongue to the ridges of teeth.

Sara was the one to break the kiss. She felt overwhelmed, completely stupefied, and totally marvelous. Her blue eyes searched for some answer in Chloe's slowly opening eyes, and found what she was hoping for in the wondrous green orbs before her. Chloe's eyes were smiling even before that impulse hit her mouth. It took but a moment for the smile to appear there, too.

"Oh my." murmured Chloe.

"Yeah." I was just going to say the same thing.

They stood at the counter, washing up the dishes and chatting.  Neither noticed that each other's voices had taken on new and lustrous tones, and the words they exchanged now held a purpose, a new meaning.  Words were now said with a new intimacy, there were feelings attached to the simplest of phrases. Looks and smiles and stories were being internalized and carefully stored for later retrieval. Mannerisms were being memorized. And the smallest of touches bloomed with the heat of a wildfire on their skin. Everything was new again, and both of them felt ill prepared for the emotions washing over them.  Excitement warred with newly revived nervousness, and nervousness won out. So they  did what was natural to them, they  searched for a reason not to pursue what they were so evidently feeling.

"I probably should have asked this before," started Sara, a little tentatively. "Are you seeing anyone?"

Chloe, feeling a little giddy because it appeared that the answer was very important to Sara, said, "Why, yes. I am."

Sara, not expecting that answer, got a little irritated. "You are? Who?"

Chloe dried the last dish and put it on the rack. "I'm seeing you."

"I think that's a terrible idea." blurted Sara, knowing that she meant this.

"I shouldn't be seeing you? Why, did you have someone else in mind for me?" Chloe was still caught up in the near-afterglow effects of that kiss.

"Almost anyone. Well, almost."  I can't do this.

"Is Sigourney Weaver married? Did you ever meet her?  I'd dump you in a minute if  I thought I had a chance with her..." Chloe wasn't quite sure if Sara was teasing her or not. I don't know her well enough to know if she's teasing me or is really serious. I don't know her well enough...

"She's married. Give that one up, it'll never happen." This shouldn't be happening.

Sara glanced up at the clock. Nearly 8:30. Where the hell is Nelson? If he were here, I wouldn't have to deal with this right now. "I'll be back in a minute."  She tossed the dish towel on the counter, and strode quickly into the living room, and disappeared from Chloe's view.

Chloe stared at the dishtowel, and absently went over and folded it several times. What the heck just happened here? We talk, we eat, we kiss... we do the dishes, and I thought everything was going fine. Now she takes off like there's a fire she needs to put out somewhere.  Maybe she's feeling like that kiss was a mistake? Was it? Damn, I am starting to think that it was, and I was feeling so  ... positive about it.  Now I'm positive I'm not positive about any of it. She looked at her watch. Where the hell is Nelson?

Sara stepped into the small bathroom and shut the door behind her. She flipped the toilet lid down, and sat down with a sigh. Here it comes. Don't come. I have to get to my safe place in my head and ward this thing off. She closed her eyes, and tried to blank her thoughts.  She concentrated on taking small even breaths. In, out. In, out. As her breathing took on a measured rhythm, she now turned her mind to conjuring up the vista she had visited so many times before, the place where everything was calm and peaceful.  She was laying on a car hood, it was summer and late into the night. Her head and upper back were leaned up against the windshield. The chirping of crickets and the murmurings of other night creatures were the only things breaking the still of the night. In her dream landscape, 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 it's brilliance.  She watched the moon for awhile, and the clouds, and then turned her attention to the stars. She looked for familiar formations, she had no idea of the names of the constellations, but she had memorized certain favorite groupings, and she placed them there in her own special version of the night sky. Her breathing became lower, slower. She let herself enjoy the calmed moment, she embraced it, and let it fill her. She no longer could hear the frantic beating of her own heart .  She returned her gaze to the moon, and let it settle there.

Chloe wiggled into a corner of the couch in the living room and tucked her feet underneath her.  She looked around the warm and apparently well used room. There were magazines on the coffee table,  family pictures on the top of the entertainment center, and a large bookcase that looked like it was a shrine to Nelson and his football skills.  Footballs and trophies, certificates and team pictures were on every shelf.  Just as Chloe was going to get up and go get a closer look at them, the telephone on the coffee table rang.  She started a little and stared at it.  Should I answer it? Sara was still gone somewhere. The telephone rang a second time. "Sara? You want me to get that?" she called out. No answer. Nelson's late, maybe it's him. Chloe picked it up on the third ring.

"Hello, um ... " Chloe racked her brain for a second " D' Amico residence.  How may I help you?" Jeez, that's practically how I answer the phone at the library. What an dork I am.

A short hesitation, and then a young male voice. "Um,  this is Nelson. Who's this?"

"Hiya, Nelson. It's Ms. Donahue.  I'm just here ... visiting with your Aunt Sara.  I'm not quite sure where she is right this moment... "

"Oh, OK, um,  I just wanted to ask her something. I called her house and there was no answer, so I figured... " he sounded nervous and disappointed.  Visiting?  With Aunt Sara?  Since when?

"Nelson, are you OK?  Your dad said you'd be home earlier than this. Is there anything wrong?"

Nelson, standing at a phone booth at the mall, thought this over a second. I'm pretty sure I told Dad what I was doing tonight. He shrugged his shoulders. He must have forgotten ."Nah, I'm at the mall in Erie, and well, Jeanette and I have enough cash to get into a movie, but I wanted to get something here while I had the chance. I have one of Aunt Sara's credit cards with me, and well, I wanted to call and see if she'd let me get it..." Oh, this conversation is weirding me out ...

"Oh, well, like I said, I don't know where she is at the moment." He's going to a movie?

"Well, uh, OK then."  Silence.

"Nelson, I was going to wait and tell you this in person, but since you aren't going to be home soon ...  I guess I can tell you now.  Get used to being called 'Curly'. "

More silence. "Really?" his usually deep voice squeaked in his surprise.

"Really." smiled Chloe. "And since you have Jeanette there with you, you might as well tell her that she's going to be our Laurey, too."

Chloe could hear some muffled pounding sounds "Nelson?"

"Oh I'm sorry, I was slapping the side of the phone booth. This is great, really great.  Thanks so much. Thank you. Thanks."

"I'm sure you'll be a wonderful Curly, Nelson." Now if we could just clone you and have you play all the other parts, too.

"Well, then, maybe I should just go ahead and buy..." Nelson said under his breath.

"What did you want to buy, Nelson?" Sara's still not back. It's been more than 15 minutes now. She ditched me. Maybe I should tell him to buy me a new car. With HER credit card.

"Well, we're at the mall, and we were in this video store, and there are only two copies of 'Oklahoma' left in the store, and I wanted to ... kinda ..." Nelson felt foolish telling Ms. Donahue that he'd wanted to get the videotape even before he was sure he had the part. "And Bob's Video Shack only has the one copy, and it's always gone."

"So, you wanted to use the credit card and buy one?"

"Yeah."  Nelson was glad that Ms. Donahue couldn't see the embarrassed blush on his face.

"Tell you what, Nelson. I'll go out on a limb here and give you the go ahead. I'll bet Sara won't mind a bit. And tell you what, buy both of them, and give the other one to Jeanette. I'll pay for the second one. That way you'll both have a copy."

"You don't have to do that!" Nelson protested, but grinned at the great idea.

"Well, let's look at it this way, it'll be a payback of sorts."


"We'll talk about it when you get here.  Now go get those tapes before the store closes. And what time do you think you'll be home?"  Soon?

"Around midnight. I'm not usually out so late on a school night..." he apologized, although he didn't know what for.

"Calm down, Nelson,  I'm not your parent. Have a good time, and I'll probably be here when you get home." Unless I start walking now.

"See you later Ms. Donahue. And thanks. Thanks again."

" 'Bye Nelson."

Nelson hung up and smacked the side of the phone booth wall once again. "YES!!"  He scanned the mall hallway, and saw Jeanette walking towards him, shopping bags in both hands.  He ran right over to her , put his hands on her waist, lifted the startled girl in the air, and as he set her back down, he leaned over and placed a loud wet kiss on her lips.

"Hell-o, Laurey!! ", he beamed. "Let's go spend some of my aunt's money!"

"That Nelson?" a contralto voice asked.

Chloe, in the middle of hanging up the phone, nearly knocked the phone off the table when she heard Sara's voice.  She looked up to see Sara leaning casually against the hall archway,  a tight smile on her face. Chloe studied her a little. She looks a little calmer now, not so spooked. She recovered from her surprise, and said, "Yeah,  he's in Erie at the mall with Jeanette. They're going to a movie now. They won't be back until midnight or so ... "  Chloe saw the small frown that crossed Sara's features. Oh, yeah, look at that. She's not pleased with that little bit of information.  Chloe's confusion at Sara's disappearing act morphed right into defensiveness. "Listen, if you want to go home or something, I'm sure I'll be fine until he gets here. I know you didn't expect to have to have to entertain me all evening." You look like you wish I'd just disappear.

"Yeah." said Sara and saw the uncomfortable body language that Chloe was displaying.  I am such an ass. "I mean, yeah, I didn't expect to have to entertain you. But no, I don't ... " Want togo away from you.

Chloe's mind centered on nothing but the negatives of this little situation.This evening is just too confusing.  This is tiring. I'm tired, this woman disappeared on me, she doesn't want me here.  Damned Subaru. Damned Dave and Marcy. Damned Nelson. I could have been home hours ago, and not be dealing with this ... enigma of a woman.  "Listen, just point me to the remote. I can keep myself company for awhile. And I'll get my clothes out of the laundry room myself.", she sounded a little angry, a bit snippy.  Why am I sounding like this?

"The remote's right beside you. Next to the phone. But ..."

"I think I'll get changed now. Those pants should be dry."  Chloe stood up from the couch, and hitched the saggy sweats up a little higher. They immediately drooped again. Now frustrated and cranky,  Chloe turned and stomped off towards the laundry room. Sara straightened up in the archway to watch her pass, and folded her arms. Now what do I do? I just got myself calmed down, and now Chloe is in some kind of a snit. I should just ...

Chloe, still stomping in her socked feet, came out of the kitchen with her pants and socks and blew right by Sara without looking at her. Sara heard the bathroom door behind her close.  Do I stay or do I go? Maybe Chloe is having second thoughts. Maybe she has just come to her senses. Sara snorted. Yeah, that's it. I was just about to tell her that SHE was the one that was entertaining ME, and she gets all cranky with me. Well, the hell with that. I've got enough problems.  She walked out and stood in the kitchen, waiting for Chloe to reappear.

Chloe flushed the toilet and washed her hands in the sink.  Why am I acting this way?  The poor woman just needed a little space, is all.  Neither one of us expected to be spending more than 10 minutes in each other's company tonight, and all of a sudden, it turned into date night.  I should talk to her instead of just trying to blow her off and out of here. She probably thinks I'm some kind of nut. I need to apologize. Maybe she does. This is so frustrating. Where would we even go from here?  Chloe put on her khakis and socks, and then carefully folded the sweatpants and thermal socks. Why am I folding socks? She stacked the clothes over an arm, and exited the bathroom.

Sara wasn't in the living room, so Chloe went into the kitchen. Sara was standing near the sink, her coat in hand. Chloe stopped, looked at her, then looked away. She's really going.  "Thanks for the use of the dry clothes. I'll just put these in there."

Sara shuffled her feet a little and said "About your car ..."

Chloe came back out of the laundry room and but didn't make eye contact with Sara when she said, "That's all right. I'll hitch a ride home with Nelson tonight, and have someone from the dealership come tow it tomorrow.  Dave shouldn't have imposed on you on my behalf." She paused and looked into Sara's eyes. "I'm sorry."  I mean that not only for the car, but for the way I've been acting, too. Why can't I say that out loud?

No, I'm the one who's sorry. Sara tried to say it with her eyes, but her mouth finally slipped into gear. "No, uh, I was just thinking that it would be too late for Nelson to tow it tonight.  Would it be all right if he brought it here tomorrow, after school? " Does she really want me to go?  "I'd really like to look at it for you, Chloe, it'd be a nice change of pace from working on the tractor.  I probably could have it done by late Thursday.  Dave or Nelson could probably bring it out to you." Because I can't. She watched as Chloe pondered her answer. Please say yes.

Chloe took a step towards Sara, then abruptly changed direction and stooped to grab her boots near the radiator.  "Sara, that's nice of you, but I think it would be easier ..."

Sara interrupted her, saying, "Look, Chloe, nothing's ever easy.  Nothing ...  worthwhile, anyway."  She shut her mouth firmly, and waited.

Chloe stood up, boots in hand, and met Sara's blue eyes boring into her. "OK." She hesitated, then took a small breath. "But I want it back ...  detailed and waxed just like they do for me at the dealership." She felt the tight muscles in her cheek relax, and let a grin spring forth.

"Oh, you do, do you? "  Sara tossed her coat back onto the chair. "Spit shined?", she inquired, an eyebrow and a corner of her mouth rising in perfect unison.

"I doubt you have that much spit. It's a station wagon. And if you could fix all the rust on it too ..." Chloe challenged, the gleam returning to her eyes.

"I have just the thing for that right here in the fridge. Moldy cottage cheese. Takes the rust off of everything..."

"Nah, you better save it, Nelson might be hungry when he gets home ..."

"Why don't we go into the living room and you can tell me what you were talking to Nelson about  ..."

When Nelson came home just after midnight, his face was flushed with all the excitement from the night. He had 'Oklahoma' in hand, he was Curly, and he was feeling a little warm from the goodnight kiss that he had shared with Jeanette. When he pulled up, he saw the living room dark except for the glow from the TV. He took his boots off at the kitchen door, and softly tip-toed into the living room. There he saw two beautiful creatures, asleep on the couch lit in the bluish light being cast from the television.  He walked closer, and viewed his Aunt Sara, sitting slouched with her feet on the coffee table, softly snoring. And Ms. Donahue, her reddish hair tinted almost violet from the blue light, was laying on her side with her head just inches from Sara's hip. She had one arm stretched and her hand was lightly resting on Sara's knee. Sara's right hand was softly perched on top of it, gently clasping it.  Nelson grinned.  I have to get up really early anyway. I'll leave them be. He grabbed a couple of afghans and quietly covered them both. He turned off the TV with the remote, and headed off to bed.

Continued in Part V

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