Disclaimers and all that other stuff in Part 1.
Note: I know I suck. I’ve gone way too long without an update. In my defense I’ve been working on a little project of my own…. Well, mine and my partners. It’s been taking a lot of energy and time… J
Getting back into the swing of things was a little hard for Jill after such a great weekend. The wedding was picture perfect and the time spent with Lan was an unexpected yet wonderful surprise. Just a few hours ago work had seemed a million miles away as she chatted away with her while making their way down the mountain.
Now, after a quick nap at home, she was sitting at her desk, staring at purchase orders, PTO requests and assignment sheets. I’d rather be out on patrol, she thought as she began shuffling through the small mountain of paper, figuring out what she’d tackle first.
By two a.m. she had put a large dent in her pending paperwork and decided to take a break. She took her time grabbing a soda from the vending machine and made her way outside, slipping through the glass double doors quietly.
The air outside was heavy with dew and carried on it the scent of earth and renewal. Officially, spring was still almost a month away, but the mild climate of California seemed to beg to differ. Jill knew she could get away with wearing her short-sleeved uniform shirt any day now.
As she sipped at her soda and idly scanned her surroundings, she wondered what Lan was up to. She pondered the chances of her working right now. She figured she’d be just trying to close the bar if she was. She hadn’t thought to ask if Lan was going into work when she dropped her off yesterday evening, which was only about 8 hours ago. Perhaps she was at home asleep. Jill smiled at the vision of that.
Finishing her soda, she tossed it in the nearby recycle bin and headed back into the building, ready to finish the last four hours of her shift.
The week after Yosemite passed by fairly quickly for Lan. On her time off she had been looking into some more photography classes and exploring the possibility of traveling back up to Yosemite in the near future to capture some of the scenes of Spring.
She had remembered Jill telling her how Yosemite looked like a different place altogether during the seasons and Lan was anxious to experience all of them. Now that she realized what she’d been missing all these years, she couldn’t wait to go back. Perhaps Jill might be able to join her too.
She’d only talked to the sergeant once since they’d been back and it was purely by accident when she’d called the station to track down Pete to nail down the details about the barbeque over at Tina’s the next day. The operator had connected her to Jill’s line and they’d ended up talking for about ten minutes, Lan only remembering she’d originally called for Pete after Jill had asked her about her plans this weekend. Lan had even thought about asking Jill to come along but decided it wouldn’t be appropriate seeing as though she was not the host.
Lan did make plans to see Jill the following week, though, before Jill transferred her to Pete. Lan was happy to note that her fear of not seeing Jill as much now that her and Pete had split up was unfounded. She’d forged her own friendship with the sergeant and truth be told, she hoped it would last for a very long time.
Lan pulled up to Tina’s house, a few minutes earlier than the agreed upon time. After turning off the engine of the old Bronco, she turned to Pete who still sat stock still with a large bowl of potato salad in his lap, holding it tightly so the Saran Wrap wouldn’t come off. She couldn’t stop the grin spreading on her face at how seriously he’d taken his job of ‘securing’ the dish while they made the drive over.
“You can let go now, we’re here.” She offered as he slowly took his hands off the bowl. He gave her a sheepish look.
“Was my driving that bad?” She asked as she unbuckled her seatbelt. He did the same and looked over at her again.
“No, it’s just that, well, I guess I’m used to being the one doing the driving. I don’t even let my new partner drive when we are out on patrol.” He admitted as an afterthought.
“Oh yeah? Is it because she’s a woman or because you just hate to give up control?” She’d asked a bit more pointedly than she’d planned.
He was unfazed, however, expecting the retort. “Well, part of it is a control thing I guess. That and she really is a lousy driver. I’m not sure how she passed the defensive driving course.” He said truthfully. Lan would have laughed if she hadn’t seen the earnestness in his face.
“You are quite the man’s man aren’t you Pete?” She said in a teasing tone. She knew he was too sincere to be chauvinistic and his frankness, no matter how it sounded, was just one of the things Lan loved about him. Pete picked up on her tone and responded with a self-depreciating smile.
“I suppose I am, Lan. I suppose I am.”
Just as they began making their move out of the car, two brunettes, one girl and one boy came running out to greet them.
They both hugged Lan tightly and began talking excitedly at the same time.
Even though it had been less than a month since Lan had seen them, she noted they had managed to grow even in that time. Katy came up to her chin now and took much pleasure in pointing it out. John did the same, as he’d measured in at just above Katy’s shoulder now.
“Hey guys, hold on. There’s someone I want you to meet.” Lan said laughingly. “This is my friend Pete. Pete these two chattering squirrels are Katy and John.”
Pete’s eyes twinkled as he shook each one’s hands, gripping John’s as he would a young man’s. John responded with a strong grip of his own. It was obvious the boy was instantly taken with Pete. “So, you’re the police officer, right?” John inquired with more than a hint of awe. Pete nodded affirmatively and smiled.
“Cool. Did you bring your gun?” John asked hopefully, earning amused chuckles from both Lan and Pete.
“No, son, not this time.” Pete answered. “You wanna see my badge, though?” Pete said excitedly.
“Boys.” Katy deadpanned which got the adults laughing all over again.
“Come on, let’s go see what your mom’s up to.” Lan said as she tucked the potato salad bowl under her arm and gestured for the kids to lead the way.
“Hey stranger!” Tina called from the kitchen. Lan walked in giving her a big hug.
“It’s good to see you! The house looks wonderful!” Lan said enthusiastically as she quickly took in the kitchen that had been covered in boxes last time she’d seen it.
“You must be Pete.” Tina said cordially as she extended her hand to the handsome man.
“Geez, where are my manners. Pete, Tina, Tina this is Pete.” Lan finished, a little embarrassed at her lack of manners… which didn’t seem to matter in the least to the two people shaking hands in front of her.
“Pleasure to meet you, Tina.” Pete said warmly, his smile reaching his eyes and beyond. The handshake went on a little longer than propriety dictated and during those few but telling seconds, Lan saw the chemistry between the two. Hmm. Interesting.
“Let me take you guys on a little tour.” Tina said as she pulled the kitchen towel off of her shoulder and ran her hand through her hair, ordering it just so. It was a simple gesture that escaped Pete’s attention, but not Lan’s. Interesting, indeed, Lan mused.
“Amazing what a little paint and curtains will do, huh?” Tina said as they finished their tour, ending up in the small but functional dining room. They all stepped through the sliding glass door and entered the spacious backyard where Katy and John were finishing off cleaning the patio table.
“The house looks great Tina.” Lan said. Pete nodded and smiled in agreement.
“I like the two-tone colors in the living room. Gives it a lot of warmth.” Pete piped up. Both women looked at him a bit quizzically. “A man can still have aptitude in home decorating and be straight, you know”, was his rational response to the mild affront.
“Right. Well, I’m glad you approve.” Tina said, eyes bright with amusement.
“Well, now that we all agree that the house is beautifully appointed, Pete, why don’t you entertain the kids while Tina and I continue in the kitchen.” Lan said in a way that brooked no argument from either. John and Katy overhead the plan and rushed to Pete, simultaneously peppering him with questions at rapid fire pace as only kids can do.
“Wow, Lan, I can’t believe you let that one go.” Tina remarked over cubing chicken for kabobs. Lan had noticed her frequent glances out the window to the backyard where Pete was holding each of her children in rapt attention.
Lan smiled to herself as she continued her task of cutting up the peppers. “He is a wonderful guy. I just feel like we work better as friends.” She supplied simply.
“Did you really tell him he felt like a brother to you?” Tina asked after a brief, yet telling, silence.
“I did. I know it wasn’t the best way to go about it, but it is the truth. He should be with someone who will love him in all the ways he deserves, you know?” Like I bet you could, Tina, Lan finished in her mind, wondering where that bold thought came from. Still, a little plan began to form in her mind.
The rest of the barbeque turned out to be a very enjoyable affair. Pete continued to play with the kids and tell them stories as the women prepared dinner. The meal was consumed with many laughs, Pete regaling all with funny anecdotes from when he was a rookie police officer.
Lan was pleased with the way he and Tina interacted as well, both asking each other questions about their work with genuine interest in the answers. They stayed away from real personal questions, but Lan surmised that there would be plenty more opportunity for them to get to know each other if she had anything to do with.
As the meal wound down, it was Tina who suggested that Lan entertain the kids while her and Pete cleaned up. The kids, happy to get out of clean up duty, whisked Lan away to the living room to begin a game of Clue.
“So, has Pete ever shot anyone?” John asked casually after dealing out the Clue cards. Lan looked at the boy for a moment before thinking how to answer. She had no idea if Pete had and frankly didn’t think it was a very appropriate question to ask.
“I don’t know, John. But you realize it is nothing like you see on T.V. The act of deliberately harming someone, even if it is to get them to stop harming others is, from what I imagine, a difficult decision for a police officer.” Lan tried to explain. She wanted to delicately tell John he really shouldn’t ask a question like that, but had trouble finding the words.
“Luckily, I haven’t had to make that decision so far.” Came a steady voice from the kitchen doorway. All three heads swung around and looked at Pete. “And Lan is right. I’ve never had to pull the trigger, but I’ve seen the effects of what a gun can do to a human body. It is nothing like on T.V.” He finished gently as he came to join them in the game.
John nodded his head solemnly, smartly picking up that the subject was closed. As usual, it was Katy who deftly deflated the bit of tension. As she collected the cards and reshuffled them, she made a remark about John being arrested if he tried to cheat, causing everyone to laugh, especially at the frightened look on John’s face.
Before leaving that night, Lan had made sure to invite Tina and the kids over for a movie night sometime in the next couple of weekends, noting the little spark in Tina’s eyes when I asked if Pete could join and he said he would, if his schedule permitted. I had every intention of scheduling it when Pete was available.
“So, what did you think of Tina?” Lan casually threw out as she drove Pete back to his place. She smiled at the way his hands fidgeted in his lap as he took his time with his answer.
“She seems like a really nice lady. She loves her kids very much.” He replied with a small smile.
“What’s not to love with those two,” Lan responded around a chuckle.
“No kidding. They are great kids.” He said enthusiastically. He shifted in his seat and he was looking more towards the passenger window now. “With a job like mine, you usually see the worst in kids. It’s nice to see there are still great ones out there… with a loving and caring parent to raise them right.”
Lan turned to Pete, noting his thoughtful statement. She was tempted to give a little bit of Tina’s history, just to give him insight into her struggles and her strength to overcome them, but knew it wasn’t her place.
Once Lan and Pete had said their goodbyes, she headed off home. After letting the dogs out to do their business, she noticed she had a message on her answering machine. She smiled at the now familiar voice confirming their plans for the following Thursday evening.
“Now, is this because you feel guilty about dumping the guy, or do you really sense a ‘love connection’,” Joyce asked as she waited for Lan to fill her two drink orders. Lan chuckled as she caught Joyce’s fingers making air quotes around the end of her sentence. She turned to grab a martini glass before responding.
“I didn’t plan on setting him up with Tina.” Lan retorted, a little miffed at Joyce’s statement.
“No?” Joyce questioned around a coy smile that irked Lan even more. Lan gave her a pointed look. Joyce capitulated. “Okay, maybe not consciously, but I bet back in that little mind of yours, you were thinking…” She trailed off, expecting the bar manager to tell her she was wrong. Instead, she saw Lan pause in shaking the ordered martini and give a long sigh. Quickly, she finished the drink and set it on Joyce’s tray with a look of mild revelation.
“You know, Pete graciously backed out of the barbeque at first, but I pretty much insisted he join us. I mean, I was kind of adamant…” Lan finished, more quietly as if she was speaking more to herself than to Joyce.
Lan took a deep breath. “Geez, maybe you are right. But is it wrong? They are both such great people. I would love to see both of them happy.”
“I don’t think there is anything wrong with that.” Joyce reasoned, arranging the drink on her tray to her liking. “Just be careful not to push the issue, you know? If there is something there, they’ll figure it out.”
At that, Lan felt a big smile cover her face. She placed the last drink on Joyce’s tray. “Well, of that, I am almost positive. He also really gets along with the kids. In fact, he’s great with them. They seem to like him as well.”
Joyce gave her a grin too. “I guess you did real good then. Just make sure and keep me posted!” She said as she made her way through the tables, tray balanced expertly on her fingertips.
“I hope.” Lan said to herself.
Jill wandered around her small apartment for the umpteenth time wondering why she hadn’t taken the time to get grown up furniture. “Lan will think I’m some poor taste-less slob.” She mumbled to herself pitifully. She’d been so excited to invite her over for a hike in the foothills behind her place, she’d forgotten that Lan would actually be seeing her Spartan digs.
She kept her apartment tidy and always took the time to put things in their right places, but she just hadn’t turned the corner into the, ‘I’m a professional who has money to buy real furniture’, phase of her life.
She could easily blame her almost hippie-like upbringing where her parents took great pride in rescuing furniture from various places to furnish their home. ‘Why pay when you can get stuff for free,’ was one of her dad’s favorite phrases.
She loved her parents dearly and couldn’t have asked to be raised by two more loving people, but man did they avoid spending money when they could.
She looked at her futon that screamed ‘college days left-over’ (which indeed it was) that served as her couch and brother’s sometimes crash pad. She noted the cinderblock and plywood shelving on the adjacent wall that served as her CD, DVD, books and training manuals holding area.
She’d had the good sense to take down her ‘beers of the world’ collection off the top shelf a couple of months ago after her brother had mentioned having one just like it when he lived in his frat house.
The T.V. was really the only thing she’d spent a lot of time (and money) on choosing. Like any real lesbian, she had to have something big to watch the big games on!
Well, there was one other thing she could really take pride in. It was her mint condition chrome and Formica dining table. It had a fun retro look to it that she thought one day she’d build upon for the rest of the apartment. All she’d needed to do with it was polish the chrome and clean and seal the Formica top. It was small enough to fit in the small dining space and looked really cool. Lost in the memory of first finding it on Ebay, she almost didn’t hear the quiet knock on the front door.
“Coming!” She bellowed as she crossed the small area and opened the door. A very large, goofy smile found its way across her face involuntarily as she greeted Lan and then bent down to greet her two dogs. She could tell they were busting at the seams to jump and bark, but were held firm by their master’s commands.
“So which one is Bait?” Jill asked as she pet both, making a show of scrutinizing each of their faces. Lan giggled at Jill’s antics and squatted down behind her dogs.
“The smaller one is my little girl, Bait and this one here is her big brother, Hook.” With a quick verbal command, both held out a paw to be shaken.
“Oh, too cute!” Exclaimed Jill as she shook both of their paws cordially. Alright, Lan, you might make a dog person yet.
When Jill had mentioned the hike, Lan had hesitantly inquired if she could bring her two dogs, as they loved to hike as well.
Not being a pet person at all, Jill almost said no, but then she remembered the fondness Lan had talked about them with. And as far as she knew, they didn’t throw up uncontrollably or chew things. In fact, they were quite well behaved, not to mention beyond cute.
“What kind of…” Jill fished not knowing how to ask exactly what kind they were. Lan laughed gently and rose from her squatting position, following Jill into the apartment.
“Well, not any one breed, that’s for sure”, she chuckled. “From what the vet and I can tell, they are part dachshund, terrier, maybe a little pug…” Lan finished as she took in Jill’s apartment.
“You sure you live here?” Lan joked as she took in the sparsely furnished apartment. Jill blushed furiously, again kicking herself for not going furniture shopping the second after she made plans to have Lan over.
“Uh, I…” Jill started dumbly until she heard a decidedly pleased sound come out of Lan. She turned to see the object of her attention. Her table. Now, that I can boast about. Jill thought as she sauntered over to it and caressed one of the seat backs.
“It is beautiful. Where did you get it?” Lan asked a bit reverently, coming over to run her fingers over the mostly pristine tabletop. It was primarily a light yellow with gray and green flecks in it.
“Thanks. I found it on Ebay.” Jill said, taken aback a bit on the effect it seemed to be having on her friend. She saw an almost tear in the corner of Lan’s left eye and looked at her with concern.
“When I was growing up, we had an orange one. Same pattern…” Lan said with a far away wistfulness, still mesmerized by the table, mind thumbing through some happier memories when it was just her and her mom.
“You okay?” Jill asked gently, sensing she was affected by more than just a near immaculate antique table.
“Yeah,” she sniffed. “Just thinking back on some happy times when I was a kid.” Lan finished. In a few seconds she was completely composed, but she left Jill with a lingering desire to hear all about what made this woman happy, sad and everything in between.
“You ready to head out?” Jill asked gently.
“Yep. Just let me grab my pack with doggie bags and water out of my car.” She said as she gestured towards the door. Jill almost made a comment about a doggie diaper bag, but didn’t think it was quite the right time. Instead she smiled, grabbed her house keys and led Lan out the door, her own water bottle in tow.
Exhausted, Lan flopped down on Jill’s futon. It was surprisingly comfortable for looking older than Land Cruiser. Jill busied herself with getting some cold sodas from the fridge and a bowl with water for the dogs.
Lan had been impressed by the way Jill had taken to her dogs. She’d known by Jill’s stories of her brother’s cat that ‘chewed up and threw up everything’ that Jill was not a big animal lover. She secretly had hoped that her meeting Bait and Hook would begin to change that.
“Did you guys have a good walk? Hmmm?” Jill asked in what could be suspiciously heard as ‘doggie talk’. Lan giggled from her seat as she watched her pat their backs as they lapped up the water, tails wagging furiously.
“So you run those foothills?” Lan asked as Jill made her way into the living room with their sodas.
“Yep. When I have time in the morning, I love to go. Way safer than jogging on the sidewalk.” Jill finished, taking a sip of her soda.
Lan nodded her head. “I used to run, but it’s too hard with these guys. I have no foothills near my house and it’s too dangerous on the street with two dogs.”
“Well, whenever you want to come over and hike, or go for a run, let me know. I could take one dog, you could take the other.” Jill offered, the last sentence delivered so shyly, it made Lan smile.
“I just might take you up on that offer.” Lan said her face continuing to crease into a big smile.
They sat in silence for a bit as each began rough housing with the dogs. Where they got the added energy was a mystery to Lan. It seemed Bait enjoyed the rougher play with Jill and continued to seek her out as the two dogs ran around the futon, play fighting with each other as well the humans.
Amidst the playful growls and barks by both dog and human, came the ringing of Jill’s cell phone. She got up to answer it as Lan quickly quieted the dogs.
“Cooper.” Jill half barked into the phone. A pause and apologetic smile to Lan let her know it was probably work calling. Lan just smiled and nodded.
Jill grimaced a little at whatever was being said on the other side and Lan was inexplicably bummed out that this probably meant an end to their time together. Lan listened to the one-sided conversation as she began gathering her keys and bag.
“Yeah, that will work. We’ll just swap shifts then. No problem. I’ll be in by…” she paused to look at her watch, “4:00p.m.” Another pause and then an eye roll as she listened to the person on the other end of the phone. “Oh, joy,” Jill said sarcastically and chuckled. After saying her goodbyes, she hung up and blew out a big breath.
“Sorry about that. One of the other patrol unit sergeants is really sick so I need to go in and cover for him in an hour.” Jill said with regret.
“No problem. I’ve got to go to work in a few hours too. I guess I can finish my Thursday laundry ritual after all.” Lan replied with a too happy smile, making Jill laugh. She finished gathering up her things and leashed the dogs. The women met at the front door.
After a bit of an awkward pause, Lan spoke up. “I had a great time. Thanks for letting me bring along the mutts. They are officially wiped out.” She said, smiling at them as they sighed and laid down in the entryway.
“Yeah. I guess dogs aren’t so bad.” Jill teased as she kept her hand around the doorknob, not opening it yet.
“Hey, listen, if you aren’t working Saturday afternoon, there’s a softball game. Um, when I swapped shifts with Eric, the other sergeant, I agreed to take his place on the team by default, I guess.” Jill said, sounding really lame to her own ears. What a dork! She sing-songed in her head. “It’s patrol vs. vice. It is always a good game.” She finished, sounding more like the cocky redhead she knew herself to be when it came to athletic prowess. Well, except for bowling of course. Was that a sport?
Lan smiled at Jill’s demeanor. She really enjoyed being in this woman’s presence. Intentionally or not, she always had Lan smiling or laughing.
“I believe I am free. Give me a call with the details.” Lan stated in a way she later realized was flirting.
“I’ll do that.” Jill responded in a slow deliberate tone as she slowly pulled the door open. She knew she was flirting. Especially when she added the little wink to which Lan just giggled and moved herself and her two mutts deftly out the door.
TBC…. (sooner rather than later!)
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