MEMORIES OF LOVE by Leslaureate
Cynthia sat on the bench, not moving, just staring straight ahead, oblivious to anything going on around her. She was numb and in shock. It couldnt be happening again! The one time she thought she found a chance at happiness and her world was destroyed by her past. And now, albeit in another time and place, it seemed as if the nightmare was starting all over again. It was too surreal. She no longer seemed to know what was real or what was imagined.
Could it be Jessica? Could she be the purveyor of bad luck? She quickly dismissed such ridiculous thoughts. Since the floodgates had opened, she could no longer repress her memories of Jessica. Not being to think of anything else other than what had happened so long ago, she realized how she had never grieved over her loss love. In comparison to everything else at the time, it seemed so inconsequential. In her quest to save her career, she never once gave thought to her feelings for Jessica, or the consequences of her actions on others. The guilt and remorse began to consume her, causing her body to spasm in sobs. Cynthia knew she had truly been in love with Jessica and that she has discarded Jessica and her emotions like dirty bath water.
The sun began to set and the air got colder, stirring her from her semi-catatonic state. She gathered herself and returned to her hotel room. Feeling dirty from her past, she took a shower, trying to scrub the pain away. She changed into jeans and a t-shirt, grabbed a beer from the mini-bar, and laid on the bed wishing she could just escape into a drunken stupor. But she knew getting drunk would do no good and would only make her feel worse the next day.
She couldnt stay in the hotel room, the walls seemed to be closing in on her; but she also knew that shed still feel claustrophobic if she went out. Not wanting to stay in what she once deemed "Hell Diego" any longer, she picked up the phone, hit a few buttons and was soon connected to the airlines. Not concerned with cost, she booked a flight leaving in two hours. She quickly packed her belongings, checked out and grabbed a shuttle to the airport to leave "Hell Diego" for, perhaps, the last time.
She sat in a window seat, her head resting on the window. Despite the exorbitant cost, she was able to get a First Class seat on the red-eye back to D.C. She was fortunate that the seat beside her was empty so she wouldnt have to be rude by refusing to make idle chit chat with a seat mate. Although she didnt eat earlier, she merely picked at the snack given to her by the flight attendant, hunger for food turning into a seemingly foreign concept. Settling back into the plush reclined seat, exhaustion finally took hold of her and she fell into a deep, deep sleep.
Shes lying in bed, not alone. Her eyes flutter open and she looks around her surroundings. She knows she is dreaming, but she feels the naked body curled up beside her as if she were actually awake. She looks around the room, trying to figure out where she is. She feels strange- she knows that shes asleep but shes looking around at her surroundings like someone watching a movie, like an out of body experience. The body snuggles up even closer to her. She feels a wave of contentment and happiness swell through her soul. . The other womans eyes open and look up at her. She sees its a much younger Jessica. This Jessica moves her face towards her own, their lips meeting. She feels a surge of excitement run through her. As the kiss deepens and their tongues entwine, she feels the body that shes holding lighten and slowly fade from her senses until it disappears completely and she is left alone holding nothing but air.
She looks down at her empty arms and blinks, suddenly finding herself in an office, sitting in a chair in front of a military issued desk. She looks down at herself and sees that shes wearing her dress whites. She hears voices interrogating her, calling her by her title Petty Officer, but in a demeaning and condescending way, like she didnt deserve the title. She glances around the room, but doesnt see anyone.
A mixture of fear, anger, and hatred oozed through her. Each time an accusation is thrown at her, she feels a hole in her, in her soul, grow bigger and bigger until she suddenly felt nothing, no fear, no anger, no love, no hate. In her numbness she wished that she could just snap her fingers and disappear, escape the filth of the words being thrown at her. The numbness soon engulfed her completely, until she was nothing more than a shell made only of skin and bones.
In the corner of her eye she saw movement. She turned her head to see who or what finally joined her. She saw Jessica standing in shackles, surrounded by MPs. She heard her tormentors say something about "your silence will bring her destruction". She tries to open her mouth and reach out, but the muscles wont react and she cant speak or move her extremities. The only feeling she can sense is a fire burning in her heart and a sense of panic that Jessica will be harmed. She then sees the MPs leading Jessica away. Jessica turns toward her and she sees Jessicas eyes pleading for help. But as hard as she tried, she was still paralyzed she couldnt move or speak. In her head she was screaming for them to stop; to bring Jessica back.
"Ms. Jarvis? Ms. Jarvis?" The female flight attendant gently called to her, trying to rouse her from her sleep. She woke up suddenly, fearful that she still suffered from the paralysis. "Sorry to wake you, but you were having a nightmare and was screaming. Is there anything I can get for you?"
Cynthias eyes darted around and she quickly gathered her bearings and realized that it had only been a dream and that she was on the plane home. "Thanks, and no Ill be fine. Sorry if I disturbed anyone," she apologized, embarrassed by her unconscious outburst.
""Well be landing in about a half an hour", the attendant smiled, returning to her duties. Cynthia sat and stared out of the window watching the morning the sun reflect through the clouds, trying to make sense of the new twist to her nightmares.
* * *
For the next two weeks Cynthia deluged herself into work, trying to focus all her energy away from her anxiety from not hearing from Jessica. She felt disappointment every time the phone rang or every time she checked her email, and there was still no communication from Jessica. She knew shed probably never hear from her again, but she still maintained hope. She also tried to shore the dam of memories that she had previously kept at bay, but found that she could no longer deny them. Pictures from the past continued to randomly pop into her mind, increasing her desire to contact Jessica. She knew she had to keep her resolve and honour Jessicas wishes and not pick up the phone to call her or to drop her an email. The only way she knew how to deal with her emotional upheaval was to try to bury her emotions and her work was the most convenient distraction.
In her turmoil, she didnt want to see or talk to anyone, including Megan. After much cajoling, she finally broke down and met Megan for coffee. After hearing what had happened in San Diego, Megan was concerned about her friend.
"Cyn, I love you darling, but you look like roadkill. Youve just been working and not taking care of yourself, have you?" Megan surmised looking into Cynthias dull eyes with bags under them. Not receiving a response, she knew she had to do something to help her friend. "You know, Ive known you for a very long time and probably know you better than you know yourself sometimes. And if Im correct, then youve been pulling yourself through the ringer with guilt. Look at me!" she insisted causing Cynthia to raise her head to look into Megans eyes. "You were a shit. There is absolutely no denying that. But that person has grown up and would never, ever even imagine doing something like that again. Yes, I know you feel you need for Jessica to forgive you. But Hon, that very well may never happen, and its also selfish. The most important thing is for you to forgive yourself even if Jessica is a better woman than I and decides to forgive you."
Cynthia knew what her friend said was true, but had doubts. "How can I Megan? My God, what I did to that poor woman is incomprehensible even to me!"
"Exactly! Its incomprehensible to the woman you now are, not the kid you used to be. I saw the death of that person. Shes long gone and youve mourned that death for a very long time. The very fact that youre feeling such guilt and remorse is a statement in and of itself. Cyn, you cant change the past. You are a beautiful, loving, and caring woman who would do just about anything short of committing a crime for the people who are important to you. Well Hon, youre important to yourself. If I was doing the same thing, youd kick me in the ass. Why should you treat yourself any differently?"
Cynthia took a sip of her coffee, letting Megans words settle in. "Youre right," she finally whispered.
"Excuse me, I didnt hear you," Megan teased leaning in closer.
"Alright! Youre right!" She said louder, grimacing at Megans smug grin. "So what do I do? How do I make up for what I did?" she asked sincerely.
"You go on with your life. You know you could never do anything like that again. As for Jessica, you cant really do anything but continue to observe her wishes. Youve got to accept that you may never hear from her again. I know thats hard on you. I dont think Ive ever seen you so upset over a woman the entire time Ive known you, so I know you really care about her."
"You cant imagine. The only person Ive ever felt this way about was her seventeen years ago." Cynthia looked dejectedly down at her coffee cup on the table. "Maybe thats my punishment karma coming back at me."
"Possible, but one never knows. I agree that she was brought back into your life for some reason, but I doubt its retribution. Youre a good woman Cyn, and I think she knows that of the woman who shes been talking to in emails and on the phone. Give it more time sweetie. I cant even imagine how shes feeling and the shock shes in. But the bottom line is whether or not you do hear from her, that you take care of yourself. If she cares about you as much as I have inferred she does, she wouldnt want you to waste away to nothing. I dont thing shes that vengeful. Do you?"
"No way, she wouldnt. Shes even treated her ex, who cheated on her and beat the crap out of her, with more compassion than I ever could. Id love to bitch slap that ho myself," Cynthia commented with a tad of anger.
"There you go. Theres part of the Cynthia I know and love," Megan laughed at the rapid change in her friends demeanor. "Good, so heres the deal, for the next week I cook dinner for you. And no arguments!" she stated matter of factly sensing her friends objections.
"Fine, but I get to choose the menu," Cynthia pouted, knowing she would never be able to convince Megan to the contrary once she set her mind on something. "Thanks," she added, taking Megans hand.
"My pleasure amiga. Thats what friends are for to love you until you can love yourself."
* * *
In the midst of a particularly trying day when her subcontractors were uncooperative and a program kept crashing even though there was a close deadline, Cynthia knew she needed to take a break before she started to pull out her hair. Deciding to check her personal email before playing a computer trivia game, she saw an email from Jessica. She could hear her heart start beating in her ears. She opened the email with trepidation.
Thanks for honouring my request and not contacting me. I can only
imagine that youve been anxious to hear from me, at least thats how Id feel. Im sorry its taken so long, but much has been happening in this neck of the woods. I figured I should finally bite the bullet and email you.
Ive been extremely busy at work and have had some movement in resolving the property settlement with Erin. Were setting up an arbitration to be held in a few weeks. But Im sure that youre not very interested in those types of events right now. Guess Im just trying to prolong the inevitable.
Cynthia read the words and both her hopes and heart fell. Tears slowly began streaming down her face. She struggled to read on, trying to focus on the words through the tears.
I think Im still in shock. Seeing you again so unexpectently brought back all the memories and the pain and anger as well
I do want to thank you for finally sharing with me what had happened and the reasons behind your disappearance. Ive always wondered and I finally got the answers that I was looking for. I cant say that the answers have helped me to forgive and forget completely. Ive tried to imagine myself in your shoes at the time, and its difficult. I do remember the rampant paranoia at the time. But Im just trying to reconcile how I would or would not have reacted and the way you did. I guess it really doesnt matter though. I was never in that position so I cant really say what I would have done.
I guess what Im trying to say is that I dont know if I can forget and completely excuse what happened and the way you treated me. Despite how Ive tried these last few weeks, I cant seem to completely close the door on the past. I do see how we have both grown and changed, more the fact that were both older and wiser. Were certainly not the kids we were 17 years ago.
But (theres always one of those, right?), after much soul searching, I think I can forgive.
It may take some time and a lot of work, but what happened between us was too long ago and we were too young. Like I said, I can see weve both changed since then, and it would take too much energy for me to hold onto those resentments.
I dont know how this will work, but I know I would also like a second chance, even if it is just as friends. I dont know if thats what you still want, but I hope you still feel the same. But I must insist on complete honesty and open communication if I can even start to be able to rebuild trust.
Im going out with Shawn tonight, but Ill be home tomorrow night if you would like to call and talk about this further. I do hope to hear from you.
To be certain she didnt miss a word, Cynthia read the letter completely through twice and then leaned back in her chair and wiped the tears from her face, relieved.
Since she met Jessica face to face, she felt she had been atoning for the sins of her past and feared she would never have the opportunity to rectify her wrongs. Now she at least had a chance.
She clicked on the reply button, her fingers at first caustically typing on the keyboard as she carefully thought of the words she wanted to express.
I do plan on calling you tomorrow, but I felt it would be easier to express the words I want to say in writing. I seem to be much more articulate in an email than on the phone.
I cant truly express how relieved and happy I was to hear from you. It took every bit of self-control I possessed to not pick up the phone and dial your number or to send you an email.
I too was quite shocked and have done a lot of thinking. It seems that since that fateful day that we last met, I can no longer run or hide from my past.
I cannot adequately express the guilt and remorse I feel for how I hurt you so long ago. Please understand that I didnt run away from you, but from the situation with the Navy. One thing Ive realized is that you were, and maybe I still hope are, one of the best things that ever happened to me. Ive been overwhelmed by memories of "us" and just the thought of them now fills me with a sense of peace and happiness.
I know theres no guaranty of anything and that we have a lot to work through, but I am grateful for the chance. I know that this is probably way too soon to express this and I dont want to scare you away, but I do want to share this with you as it does sort of describe where Im at today.
You know that I liked watching "Xena" as well as you did, well I first heard this on the show as a tale from Gabrielle. I learned that it was actually from Aristophanes, the Greek philosopher/playwright. I cannot do either justice in reiterating what I heard, so please excuse my lack of poetic paraphrasing.
Anyway, here it goes:
Way back when, people didnt have 2 arms and legs and one head as we do now, but were joined together with another person. The Gods became angry with mankind and split all of the couples up and scattered them around the world. Feeling such a sense of loss, the individuals searched looking for their partner, their soul mate, for until they found their other half, they couldnt feel complete.
While I admit the story has an edge of codependency in it J , I believe that we each have a soul mate that helps complete us. I do remember the feelings of being whole with you so long ago. Although the memories may now be bittersweet, I do remember how content and complete I once felt with you. And I am so very happy for the chance to see if those feelings still exist.
I know it may be a little soon, but Id like to fly back to San Diego for a long weekend. After all, I do owe you the dinner we never had last time. If its ok with you, I was thinking about flying out next Thursday and staying until Sunday. You wouldnt have to spend the entire time with me and I will, of course, stay in a hotel. If next weekend is too soon for you, I completely understand. I know we will have to take it slow and Ill let you set the pace. As long as I know your boundaries, I promise I wont violate them and press too hard.
Whew! I seem to have said a mouthful!
Ill talk to you tomorrow.
Cynthia leaned back into her chair feeling spent. She couldnt remember opening up to anyone but Megan for a very long time. She prayed to the higher powers that be that she wasnt completely out of line. Realizing that she had typed for over an hour, she stood and stretched, then walked into the kitchen and began to make a pot of coffee to sustain her through the long night of work she knew was ahead.
* * *
Jessica sat back into her chair, tears rolling down her face as she read the words on the screen. She never expected such a romantic response like that from Cynthia. That was not the Jazz she once knew. This woman was much softer and more reflective than the cocky young woman she had originally fallen in love with. She wiped the tears off of her face and reread the letter, deeply touched by the tale. She knew Cynthia must have struggled in expressing the tale and the sentiment behind it. She had felt the bond before, but she wondered if they could now feel anything remotely similar. She had never felt such a connection with anyone else since then.
She also caught hell when she told Shawn earlier that evening that she sent the email. Shawn and Jean had provided their shoulders for her to cry on and gave her much support over the last couple of weeks. But when she told Shawn that she had contacted Cynthia to try to start anew, Shawn exploded with concern.
"Are you fucking crazy!" Shawn exclaimed in disbelief. "She breaks your heart not once, but twice, and youre going back for more?!"
Jessica looked around and saw the other patrons in the bar look at them after Shawns outburst. They had met for drinks at a womans bar after work. Jessica knew Shawn may not support her decision, but she never expected such vehemence. "Shawn, please, lower your voice " she pleaded. "Look, I know she hurt me once, but I also know that the woman Ive been talking to and corresponding with is not the same person I once knew. This woman is much more mature and responsible for her actions. I know its crazy, but I feel that I have to give whatever it is between us a chance. I feel such a connection with her. I dont want to have the regret of not trying. Yes, I may get my heart broken again, but its a risk Im willing to take. Believe me, Im going to take it slow and make her prove herself, but I have to do this."
Shawn saw the truth in her friends eyes and shook her head. "Jess, its just that I love you and I cant stand seeing you hurt again. I know youre a big girl and make your own decisions but just be careful, ok?"
* * *
Rereading Cynthias email, she slowly began to compose a response.
Hi again Cynthia,
The email you sent was beautiful. I have to admit it made me cry. I too believe in soul mates and feel the connection between us. But we do have to take it slow. Just because we once slept together doesnt guaranty we ever may again. I am going to be very cautious, sorry. But I really do want to try and see where this takes us.
Again, all I ask is that you be completely open and honest with me. I dont think I could stand any more secrets, it would just be too much for me to handle.
I did love the fable. I think its made me a bit philosophical. Have you heard the country song about love just being what we do? I believe in that as well. Its work as well as emotion. How can we "fall" into love? Its not a conscious decision sort of thing. Like we dont wake up and say "Gee, Im going to fall in love with x today". No, to me, its an emotion/feeling that is there or its not. If it is, with the proper nurturing it can grow and blossom. If its not, no sense beating around the bush hoping things will change.
Man, I dont know where that came from, but I hope it makes sense.
Thanks for letting me set the pace. Ive thought over your suggestion to come out here next weekend and I think it would be a good thing, if you really want to fly all that way for a short period of time. Youre right I dont know if I can spend the entire weekend with you, but how about we take it as it comes. And youre also right about owing me dinner. J
Well its getting late here I suspect youre sound asleep back there. I hope that youre having sweet dreams. Talk to you tomorrow.
When Jessica arrived at work the next day, she was greeted by a vase
full of exotic flowers. Sniffing the aroma, she opened the card expecting to see Cynthias name.
I love you. Lets give it another try.
She immediately threw the flowers, vase and all, into the trash can and called for her assistant, Carla, to come in. Walking into her office, Jessica instructed Carla to dump the trash for her. Seeing the flowers in the can, Carla looked at Jessica with a perplexed look and then followed the directions. Once Carla left, Jessica sat down in the chair at her desk. The arbitration was only a few weeks away and she couldnt believe Erins audacity. She knew Erin was only trying to control and manipulate her as she had for so long. But this time she wasnt going to let Erin succeed. She immediately picked up the phone and called Bridget, instructing her to wage her wrath.
* * *
Jessica stood at the kitchen sink washing vegetables to make stir fry, trying to do anything to keep her mind off of Cynthias eminent telephone call. Tasha, smelling the uncooked chicken and thinking that Mom in the kitchen meant food for her, meowed her "feed me" meow and walked back and forth between and against Jessicas legs hoping that whatever Mom was making was for her. Glancing at the clock on the wall over the doorway and seeing it was 6:00 pm, Jessica placed the bowl of vegetables on the counter, turned the radio on to a country music station, and turned the stove on to heat up the wok. Once she saw it was hot enough she poured the chicken and stared to cook. Bopping and singing to a favorite song, she barely heard the phone ring. She turned the radio off a picked up the cordless phone sitting on the kitchen counter.
"Hello?" she greeted, making a final stir of the vegetables and chicken and turning the stove off.
"Hi! How are ya doin?" Cynthia greeted shyly.
"Good! How about you?" she placed the wok on a cold burner.
"Much better now! Thanks!"
"What are you doin?" Cynthia asked breaking a brief awkward silence.
"Cooking dinner and talking to you."
"Do you want me to call back later so you can finish and eat?" Cynthia offered.
Jessica walked into the living room. "No!" she responded immediately. "To be honest, I was nervous and was just trying to keep busy until you called," Jessica admitted, lying on the couch with her head against the armrest.
"Me too Nervous I mean I just wanted to let you know right off how happy I was to receive your email. I was getting a little worried for a while that I lost you again," Cynthia admitted.
"You didnt lose me in the first place you goofball. Thats how we got into this fine mess. Remember?" Jessica teased gently.
"True, you got me there but you know what I meant I hope."
"Yeh, I did. I am glad you offered to come out here again. I wouldnt have asked you to that that you know."
"I figured, but I want to see you again and I want to talk about things face to face and not just on the phone and in emails."
"That and you owe me dinner," Jessica teased.
"Indeed I do. That and probably a lot more." She said with guilt. "Im sorry, I know I have a lot more atoning to do."
"Take it easy on yourself Cyn. I can sense that youre being sincere. All I want from you right now is honesty and open communication. If theres something going on, let me know and talk to me about it. Dont shut me out."
"I will. I promise."
"If I even remotely think that youre holding back too much and not being honest, itll hurt too much and Ill probably walk away. Understand?"
"Yeh, I do," Cynthia exhaled.
"How about you? This is a two way street you know. Anything I should know about, other than the name? And I promise Ill try not to regress and call you by that name again."
Cynthia paused a few moments before responding. "No, just that you also be honest and communicative with me as well. Let me know if I screw up," she tried to joke self-defeatingly.
"OK, I can do that," Jessica smiled. "So, interested in the zoo and a barbeque while youre out here?" she asked sensing it was time to move to a little lighter subject.
"Ummm, sure. What exactly did you have in mind?"
"Well, heres what I was thinking. Dinner Thursday night, the zoo and Balboa Park on Friday, and a barbeque at Shawns late Saturday afternoon. How does that sound?"
"Ill just call you Julie, since youre such a cruise director!" Cynthia laughed. "Well, it sounds fine, except maybe the barbeque with Shawn. Being that shes your best friend, Im afraid shes going to hurt me. Are you sure you want me to meet your friends this trip?"
"I promise you shell be on her best behavior. Id just like for you to meet some of the people who are really important to me. Theyll be Shawn, Jean, and maybe a few other people, friends of Shawns mostly."
"Uh huh Whos Jean?" The name wasnt familiar and she was curious.
"My friend from Orange County. I met her the same time I met you," she answered non-chalantly, not thinking anything of her relationship with Jean.
Cynthia felt a wave of jealousy run through her. "Really? Ummm, I know its none of my business right now, but are you dating her?" she found the courage to ask.
"No silly. I thought I told you about her before in my emails. We are just friends," Jessica reassured.
"Good," Cynthia said relieved. "I just need to know these things right now, like where I may stand."
"Ill let you know," Jessica laughed, flattered by Cynthias possessive reaction.
"Im scared Jess," Cynthia said softly, catching Jessica completely off guard with the naked honesty.
"Me too. Lets just take it one step at a time. Heck, you may not even like the person I now am."
"Unlikely. I think Ive gotten to know a bit of that person over the last few months and I like what I see."
"Thanks," Jessica said softly.
Both were silent, taking in the admissions they both made.
"So, has the bitch been leaving you alone?" Cynthia asked candidly, again surprising Jessica.
"No, not really. This morning she sent me flowers, wanting to get back together," Jessica answered.
"You have got to be kidding!"
"Nope, but I took care of it."
"Did you smack her?" Cynthia asked semi-seriously, causing Jessica to laugh.
"No, I think you know I couldnt do that."
"I do. Can I smack her when Im out there?"
Jessica laughed again. "No, you may not. My attorney is taking care of it." Jessica was again struck by Cynthias apparent protectiveness. "Anyway, I thought you werent violent?"
"Im not. She just really pisses me off," Cynthia admitted. "She sure does have cajones, but it would be better if she got out of her fantasy world."
"Yeah, but the arbitration is all set and it should be over soon."
"Ill be very glad for you when it is. You dont need or deserve this shit."
"Thanks," was all Jessica could think to say.
"Hey, I hate to make this short, but if Im going to fly out on Thursday, I better get my rear in gear and get to work. OK?"
"I understand. Talk to you before you come out?"
"You betcha! Tomorrow?"
"Great! And Jess?"
"Thanks again for emailing. Im very happy you did and am excited to be able to see you again."
* * *
Parking her car in the first available space she could find, Jessica glanced at her watch seeing she was running a little late. She immediately got out of the car and walked briskly towards the restaurant. As she walked, she had a sense of déjà vu. The biggest differences, she thought, were that the butterflies were not as aerobic and she surprisingly felt calmer than the last time she approached the restaurant. Glancing towards the entrance, she saw Cynthia standing out front waiting for her. She saw a smile grow across Cynthias face as she got closer to the building.
"Jessica? Allow me to introduce myself. Im Cynthia Jarvis. Im glad to finally meet you!" she said with a cockeyed grin, handing Jessica a purple rose, and holding her hand out to Jessica to shake.
"Pleasure to meet you Cynthia," Jessica played along taking the flower and shaking Cynthias offered hand.
"Thank you for the flower. Its beautiful," she commented, holding the flower to her nose and taking a smell of its sweet aroma. The two stood holding the others hand and looking deeply into the others eyes, taking everything in, studying the others face.
"You look gorgeous," Cynthia complimented. Jessica had decided to go for the comfortable and casual look, and was wearing jeans and a pressed blouse. "Cmon, lets go get that dinner I owe you." Cynthia said breaking the moment they both felt they shared. She released Jessicas hand and guided her inside the restaurant, not breaking the contact by putting her hand in the crook of Jessicas back.
After advising the host her reservation, he quickly led them to a table by the window. He handed them each a menu and advised them that their server would be by shortly. Settling in, they placed their menus on the table and sat looking at one another, both nervous and not wanting to be the first to speak.
"Thank you," Cynthia spoke softly, finally breaking the silence.
"For what?" Jessica asked perplexed.
"For agreeing to meet with me again for agreeing to let me come out to see you again so soon," she said sincerely.
"Well, I dont know if that deserves a thank you quite yet," she smiled nervously, "But youre welcome."
They picked up their menus and started to quietly peruse the offerings. Their food server came, advised them of the specials and took their drink orders. The sun was just beginning to set. The sky was enflamed in pink and purple and the fiery glow of the sun reflected off the water, causing the harbor water to sparkle.
"Man, thats one beautiful sunset," Jessica absently observed, looking out the window. Cynthia turned to look where Jessicas gaze had wandered.
"Yeh, it is. I forgot how beautiful the sunsets can be here," Cynthia commented.
"Yep. They seem to be more beautiful when you see it against the water rather than inland," Jessica agreed.
Their server returned with their drinks and took their orders. The two slipped into comfortable conversation and laughter that lasted throughout the meal. Not wanting the evening to end so soon, Jessica suggested that they walk along the waterfront to Seaport Village, a popular tourist dining and shopping area to which Cynthia agreed. They set off walking, physically not touching, but remaining close as they strolled around to the shopping area. Once there, they stepped into a few stores before deciding to save their energy for the next days activities. They walked back to the restaurant, and Cynthia escorted Jessica back to her vehicle. Jessica unlocked the car door and turned to face Cynthia.
"Thanks for dinner. I had a really good time," Jessica said shyly looking up into Cynthias eyes.
"Me too. Thanks for a great night" Cynthia responded, looking into Jessicas eyes, not knowing whether or not she should give her companion a hug or a kiss on the cheek.
"Pick you up at your hotel at 8:30?" Jessica confirmed.
"Yep. Sounds good."
"Great," Jessica said. She reached up and gave Cynthia an unexpected hug and stood on her toes and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek. "Til tomorrow then," she smiled, turned and opened the car door and slid into the vehicle. Cynthia stepped back and watched Jessica pull out and waved to her as she drove away. Walking to her rental car with a new found spring in her step, Cynthia could only smile and touched her cheek where Jessicas lips had graced her skin.
* * *
"So, are you ready to go visit your relatives? Jessica teased as Cynthia sat in the bucket seat and fastened her seatbelt. Cynthia had been waiting outside the hotel lobby where Jessica picked her up promptly at 8:30 AM. She was a little cold in her khaki shorts and polo shirt, but knew it would warm up as the day progressed. They had agreed to get to the zoo as early as possible, because the animals were usually more visible and active in the cooler morning hours.
"Humph at least mine are of the same species," Cynthia playfully retorted. As they drove to the zoo, Cynthia couldnt help but glance over at Jessica and admire her tight fitting tank top, her form accentuated by the seat belt strap across her chest. It left little to Cynthias already overactive imagination.
Using her membership card and a free pass to enter, Jessica guided Cynthia through the turnstile into the front of the San Diego Zoo. Being off season, there werent that many people around, mostly locals appreciating their world class treasure. Jessica suggested they take a tour bus around so they could decide what parts they wanted to walk to and see closer. She explained that with this bus, they could get out where they wanted and get on another bus later if they wanted. Boarding the bus, they were joined by only a handful of others. The bus soon began to make its way around the zoo. They laughed and admired the animals that they could see and sat back and relaxed listening to the tour guide.
"Cmon, lets get out here!" Jessica said excited, grabbing Cynthias hand as the bus came to a stop. "Polar Bears!" was all she said grinning ear to ear. Exiting the bus, she released Cynthias hand and quickly walked up the path to the enclosure, leaving Cynthia laughing at her companions exuberance while trying to keep up. She walked into the enclave where they could watch the polar bears play underwater. Jessica stopped at the rail and laughed as she watched a particularly playful adolescent frolic and play with his toys and then try to chase a bird that flew into his habitat. Cynthia stood next to her leaning against the rail, also enjoying the bears antics.
"I love to watch them play. As large and powerful as they are, they look so soft, snuggly, and childlike when they play like that," Jessica observed.
Cynthia leaned toward her. "But theyd love you as an appetizer. Theyd eat you right up," Cynthia whispered into Jessicas ear, her breath and timbre sending a surge of excitement through Jessica. Cynthia moved back to where she had been standing and watched Jessicas expression change noticeably.
"Is that so?" Jessica finally stuttered, regaining her composure.
"Yep," Cynthia said, pleased that her action and words seemed to have their desired effect.
The two left the enclosure, hiking up a hill past various deer and African wildlife. Feeling out of shape as they panted, they decided to take the Skyfari back to the upper part of the zoo. As they glided hundreds of feet over land, they both took in the panoramic view that surrounded them. Reaching the end of the ride, they jumped out of the cart and leisurely strolled around looking at meer cats, koala bears, camels, giraffes, and elephants. Tiring, they stopped at one of the shops near the exit, looking at the various items and stopping to play with the stuffed animals.
Spotting a polar bear, Cynthia picked it up and turned to Jessica, holding it menacingly in her face. "Come here my pretty. You look good enough to eat," Cynthia joked with her eyebrow raised, laughing at her own feeble attempt at a deep polar bear voice.
"Wanna taste?" Jessica asked sexily, trying to beat Cynthia at her own game.
"Is that an invitation?" Cynthia took a step toward her.
Jessica gulped. "Ummm, maybe," she stammered, quickly losing her bravado and feeling the intensity of Cynthias body heat next to her.
"Hmmm ," Cynthia smiled, sensing she shouldnt push their playful banter any further. "Cmon, this fella needs a good home to snuggle in and I think yours is it," she smiled, leading Jessica to the checkout counter where she paid for the bear and then turned and handed the bag to Jessica.
"Thanks Cyn! That was so sweet," Jessica thanked her, taking the bear out of the bag and hugging it.
"So, what are you going to name it?"
"Nanook. I think its their Eskimo name."
"Well, cmon Nanook, lets go get you some fish to eat, Im starving!"
After grabbing a quick snack, the pair left the zoo and walked down the path towards the museums and shops. They wandered into Spanish Village, a collection of small artist studios where the artists could sell their wares as well as work on their craft.
"You know, for some reason I always forget this place is here," Jessica admitted as they walked into a small shop with glass objects and art. "Its like rediscovering it again when I do remember."
"Its really nice. I never knew it existed." Cynthia glanced around the shop admiring the works it housed. She turned and saw Jessica pick up an item to admire it more closely. Watching Jessica, she didnt know how much longer she could behave herself and not grabbing her companion and kissing her. She knew she mayve been pushing the envelope back at the zoo, but was both pleased and relieved that Jessica had played along. Cynthia was confused on how she should act, whether to let Jessica make the first move or to act on her own feelings.
As they had walked around the zoo and park, she felt the electricity that was passing through them and hoped Jessica felt the same energy. She increasingly had to exercise self-control as the day progressed. She wanted nothing more than to walk around holding Jessicas hand or put her arm around her. She craved the physical affection and intimacy the contact would provide.
"Hey! Earth to Cynthia!" Jessica startled her out of her fantasy. "Where did you go?"
"Just admiring," Cynthia smirked.
"Well, admire all you want for a few minutes. Ill be right back. Im going to find the rest room," Jessica informed her.
Cynthia watched Jessica walk out of the shop, peering out the door to make sure she wasnt turning back for anything. Sensing it was safe, she stepped over and picked up the piece that Jessica had just been admiring. She saw it was a cat etched into a thick piece of glass, shaped like an egg.
"Excuse me," she said interrupting the artist who was working on another piece, "Id like to get this and a few other things." After paying for the items, she walked out of the store to wait for Jessica.
"Sorry it took so long. They were farther away than I thought," Jessica apologized, finding Cynthia sitting on a bench under a tree outside of the shop. "Hey! What did you get?" she asked curiously, noticing the bag that Cynthia was holding.
"They had a really cool wood pen that I liked and I found something for Megan," she answered as they walked toward another shop.
* * *
They walked around the shops for awhile longer when Jessica heard Cynthias stomach begin to growl. Suggesting they go get lunch, they walked back to the car and drove to Jessicas favorite breakfast restaurant that was nearby. As they ate and relaxed, Jessica could see the fatigue on Cynthias face.
"Tired?" Jessica asked.
"Yeh, a bit. My internal clock is still a little off and youve worn me out by walking around so much," she smiled.
"Want to go back to your hotel and rest?"
"That would be great!" she smiled in gratitude.
"So, what are you going to do the rest of the day?" Cynthia asked as they drove back to her hotel.
"You wore me out as well! Probably just go home and relax for awhile," Jessica answered glancing over at Cynthia.
"Would you like to come in with me? I mean, we could lay out by the pool, or watch a movie or something." Cynthia asked nervously, not wanting her time with Jessica to end.
Jessica paused to carefully consider Cynthias invitation. "Yeh, that sounds great," she answered finally, momentarily taking her eyes off of the road to look at Cynthia and seeing the big smile her answer had produced.
After parking the car, they walked into the hotel lobby and stopped at a Starbucks kiosk in the hotel lobby and each ordered a drink. Entering the elevator, both were quiet, nervous about what would happen once they were completely alone .
"Welcome to my temporary abode," Jessica welcomed her as she opened the door to spacious accommodations. The room overlooked the harbor and had a view of Coronado. Two queen size beds faced an armoire containing a 32 TV. Cynthia placed her bags on the table near the sliding glass window leading to the balcony and then lay down on the bed near the window. "Im wiped!" she stated. Jessica sat down on the other bed feeling awkward. "Go on, get comfortable over there. Climb up and lay down and relax." Cynthia instructed noticing Jessicas discomfort. Jessica followed the directions and laid her head onto the pillow, kicked her shoes off and exhaled a sigh of relief. "More like it huh?" Cynthia chuckled kicking off her own shoes.
"Yep. I didnt realize this would feel so good," Jessica answered, putting her forearm over her closed eyes.
The two laid silent, each allowing their bodies to relax from the walking they had exerted earlier. "So, wanna watch a movie?" Cynthia asked. Not receiving an answer she looked over and saw Jessica was sound asleep. Smiling, she reached for the remote, turned the tv on and lowered the volume not wanting to disturb the sleeping beauty on the other bed.
* * *
"Hey sleepy head. Have a good nap?" Cynthia greeted softly when she saw Jessica open her eyes. She was laying on her side facing Jessicas bed and was reading a book.
When Jessica initially opened her eyes, she was disoriented, not knowing where she was at first. "Hey," she greeted groggily once she got her bearings. "How long was I out?"
"About two hours," Cynthia answered closing her book and placing it on the nightstand in between the two beds.
"Im so sorry!" Jessica apologized, embarrassed. "Why didnt you wake me up?"
"Dont be. I snoozed for awhile as well and you looked like you needed the rest."
"What time is it?"
"Shit!" Jessica grumbled pulling herself into a sitting position with her feet on the floor.
"Whats wrong? Late for a hot date?" Cynthia teased.
"No, I promised Shawn Id call her by now," she said taking a sip of her watered down iced coffee. "I better call her now," she excused herself and stepped out onto the balcony, closing the door behind her.
Cynthia watched as Jessica pulled her cell phone out of her pocket and pressed some numbers. She could tell Jessica was still a bit groggy by the way she rubbed her eyes as she spoke on the phone and thought to herself how cute her companion was when she awakened. "I could get used to that look" she thought aloud.
Jessica ended the call and came back inside. "So, whats up for tonight?" Cynthia asked as Jessica sat facing Cynthia on the empty bed.
"Dont know, something mellow. What do you want to do?"
"Youre not sick of me yet?"
"Nah, not yet. How about you? Are you sick of me yet?"
"Never in a million years," Cynthia said huskily looking Jessica straight in the eyes.
Jessica shifted uncomfortably on the bed. She didnt know how to react to Cynthias flirting. She was definitely flattered and wanted to return the attention, but a part of her was still hesitant. She definitely enjoyed her time with and was more than attracted to Cynthia, but part of her was still holding back, wanting to go slow and make sure she truly trusted Cynthia. "Well, do you want to go out and taste some San Diego nightlife?"
"Nah. How about a movie and room service or take out? Im still a bit wiped. I didnt get as long of a nap as someone else I know," she teased and was met by a pillow thrown at her.
After studying the room service menu and calling in the order, the two watched tv in comfortable silence as they waited for their meal to be delivered. Room service soon arrived and they carried their plates outside to the table on the balcony and ate overlooking the water.
"You know, we seem to have a have a thing for sunsets and eating," Jessica observed as the sun began to set.
"So it seems," Cynthia agreed. "But you know, it brings out the blond highlights in your hair and makes you even more beautiful," she complimented. No sooner than the words were out of her mouth that she noticed Jessica tense a bit. "Jess?"
"Yeah?" she responded looking up from her plate.
"Am I over doing it? Have I been coming on too strong and making you uncomfortable?" she asked sincerely.
"No its not you," she paused, looking out over the water. Cynthia was quiet, giving her time to answer. "Part of me is holding back, afraid. Im afraid of moving too fast, of letting my guard down before Im sure. I think I may be second guessing my instincts."
"That its ok, that I can trust you," she said taking Cynthias hand with her own.
"Im glad to hear that," Cynthia said relieved. "Is there a but in there? Should I stop?" she asked cautiously.
Jessica laughed nervously. "No, I dont think so. Ill try to relax more. Cyn, I do enjoy being here with you. I would have left if I didnt." she assured her companion.
"Im really glad to hear that," she smiled, "Im glad I came and that youre here now."
"Me too." The two sat quietly for a moment before letting go of the others hand to finish eating their meals.
After finishing their dinner and placing the trays on the floor in the hallway outside of the front door, they sat on the beds to decide what movie to watch. Choosing a romantic comedy, Jessica excused herself to use the rest room before they ordered the movie. When she came back into the room and was stepping back to the bed, she saw Cynthia laying on her own bed with all of the pillows from both beds propped up behind and next to her. Cynthia patted the bed next to where she was laying, inviting Jessica to come join her. Jessica nervously stepped over to the bed and sat down where Cynthia patted, with one foot still firmly planted on the floor. Taking a deep breath, she laid back onto the pillows, her body close to Cynthias.
"Can we snuggle? Can I put my arm around you?" Cynthia asked. Jessica turned and leaned up as Cynthia placed her arm around her and she rested her head on Cynthias shoulder. "You ok?"
"Yeh, I am." She said relaxing back.
"Theres been something that Ive been wanting to do all day," she whispered, feeling Jessicas body heat against her own.
"Is it this?" Jessica asked raising her head and closing the short distance between them, gently placing her lips on Cynthias.
"You read my mind," Cynthia whispered, gently kissing Jessica back. "Ive wanted to touch you all day, even if it was just holding your hand."
"Despite all my hesitancy, me too," Jessica whispered, taking her hand and placing it on the back of Cynthias head, pulling her even closer. Their lips met again, gently at first, but then more passionate and probing. Cynthia pulled Jessica on top of her as their lips, then tongues, explored the others.
"God, you were always a good kisser," Jessica panted, breaking the kiss and resting her head on Cynthias shoulder.
"Never as good as you," she returned the compliment, gently running her fingers through Jessicas hair.
Jessica laid back down on her side next to Cynthia and gave her a gentle kiss on the lips. "Hey, about that movie?"
* * *
Shes back in the nondescript room. She sees Jessica in the shackles. She hears the voices and screams in the background. The fear and confusion are tearing her into two; but the fear of her being exposed, of losing her career, begins to slowly disappear. Her feelings for Jessica seemed to give her a strength she didnt know she possessed. Could she? Could she sacrifice herself? She suddenly felt different, like she was older and wiser. The paranoia and fear that incapacitated her was rapidly dissipating.
"No!" she yelled out to the invisible forces. "Leave her alone!"
"Tell us tell us tell us " the voices repeated.
"Will you leave her alone if I do?" she challenged.
"Tell us tell us tell us "
She looked and saw the pain in Jessicas eyes. "Jessica!" she shouted. Jessica shook her head in defeat as she was moved even farther away from Cynthia.
"Wait! Dont take her!"
"Tell us tell us tell us "
"NOOO!" she shouted again. She was becoming frantic, not knowing what to do to get them to release Jessica. Scared and spent of all energy, she fell to her knees crying. "Jess I love you!" she was able to yell.
Suddenly, the room was basked in florescent light. She was no longer in her uniform, but in civvies. Jessica was walking towards her smiling, holding out her hand to invite Cynthia to join her.
RING RING. The phone blared waking Cynthia up from her dream. She reached and found the phone and heard the computer-generated voice of the hotels generic wake up call. She clumsily placed the phone back on the receiver and put her arm over her eyes, even though the room was completely dark, as the sun had not yet risen.
She remembered the dream in detail this time. She replayed the dream in her head and everything that had happened to her all those years ago; the realization of the intensity and depth of her feelings toward Jessica surprised her. Then another thought occurred to her. In the long run, it didnt matter the same result had occurred. Whether she had stood up for herself, who she was, and her relationship with Jessica or acted as a coward by hiding, as she felt she had, the end result of her staying in the Navy failed. But she had lost so much more taking the road she chose than sticking with her heart. She not only lost a piece of herself, but, ultimately, her dignity as well. As she lay in bed, she vowed never to make that mistake again.
Continued in Chapter 6
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