“Gotta love a girl in uniform.” Rachel teased as Jill joined her at their favorite little Italian restaurant in the downtown area for lunch. Jill’s response was to stick her tongue out at her friend. “No, really, you are quite fetching.”
“Uh huh.” Jill drew out suspiciously as she slowly sat down opposite Rachel. Her best friend had that smile that was usually reserved for favor-asking or match-making. Please God, don’t let it be the latter.
“What?” Rachel asked innocently as she laid her napkin down on her lap and picked up the menu. She peeked over the menu to see Jill glaring at her. “What? Can’t I ask my best friend to lunch? Comment on how good she looks in her uniform?”
“Of course you can. But I get the feeling I’m being set up.” Jill said honestly, not really in the mood to deal with what Rachel had up her sleeve. She pulled her menu toward her, waiting for Rachel’s response.
“Set up. Would I do that to you?” Rachel asked, playing the hurt card pretty well. Just then Rachel checked the door and smiled widely, then focused on Jill as she began to scoot over more toward the wall. Jill looked up at her curiously. In a stage whisper Rachel said, “Don’t order anything with garlic in it.”
“Why?” Jill asked and then watched as Rachel waved someone over to the table. Oh for fuck’s sake…
“Jill, this is my friend and co-worker, Jackie. Jackie, this is Jill.”
“Um, hi.” Jill managed. Watching as the woman sat down next to Rachel.
“Jackie is fairly new to town and I figured I’d invite her out to lunch.” Rachel explained around a gleeful smile. She turned her attention to Jackie. “Jill here is a sergeant with the Fresno Police Department.”
“That’s cool.” Jackie said with an open, friendly smile. She was an attractive woman with short brown hair and brown eyes. She also had lovely olive skin, which Jill always found attractive. Jill found herself smiling widely at the woman.
After a few seconds of silence, Jill took her cue, which was Rachel’s toe making contact with her shin. “So, how long have you been in town?”
The rest of lunch passed quickly with the women chatting amiably, Rachel doing as much talking as the other two. Just when Jill began to think this really was just a lunch with Rachel and her new co-worker, Rachel suggested that Jill give Jackie her phone number since she did know the city, as Rachel put it, ‘like the back of her hand’. Then, she left her part of the bill and was out of the restaurant like a shot, saying she had to run an errand before she returned to work.
“So, would you like to get together sometime?” Asked Jill lamely. She felt bad that Rachel just kind of ditched her. It didn’t seem to bother Jackie though.
“Sure. Dinner?” Jackie ventured.
“That would be great. Do you have any preferences?” Jill asked.
“I’ll eat just about anything.” She intoned with a sexy half-smile.
Oh boy. “Well, that narrows it down. How about next Friday, say seven o’clock? If you give me your address, I’ll pick you up.” Jill said trying to be as excited as she should be at going out with the pretty, obviously interested, brunette.
“You’re a real ass.” Jill said in greeting when she answered her cell phone. She was just about to drive away from the restaurant and just knew who it would be.
“Wow. Hello to you too!” Lan remarked, managing to sound both offended and amused at the same time.
“Oh, shit. Sorry Lan. I thought you were Rachel.” Jill grimaced.
“And you’re calling your best friend an ass because…” Lan began. Knowing Rachel it was probably good.
“She just set me up on a ‘sorta’ blind date.” Jill announced in a huff. “You still there?” Jill asked when the silence went on a bit.
She had no idea what Jill was going to say, but it certainly wasn’t that. “Uh, yeah I’m here. Sorry. A ‘sorta’ blind date?” Lan finally responded.
“Well, I met her. Rachel and I were at lunch and she joined us. She’s new in town and doesn’t know many people yet.”
“You sure it’s a date then? I mean… uh… maybe she’s just looking for a friend to show her around?” Lan asked inwardly cringing at how stupid that sounded.
“Oh no. There was major flirting on her part. She’s definitely family. I’m sure Rachel filled her in about me as well.” Jill responded with a little heat in her voice. They were probably both in on it from the beginning.
“You don’t sound too happy about it. Is she ugly?” Jill asked half-jokingly, knowing she was just plain fishing for information.
“No, she’s very pretty. I just hate being set up like that, you know?” She said as she turned off her engine and sat back into her car seat.
“Hmmm, I remember thinking the same thing about a certain someone who asked me if I bowled.” Lan said with no real trace of ill feelings.
“Well, Pete is so pathetic at asking women out… I had to help him.” Jill laughed.
“And you? Do you have trouble asking women out?” Lan asked. “Rachel seems to think so.” Lan couldn’t resist.
“Smart ass. You really want to know?” Jill asked, the answer taking on an extraordinary importance.
“Yeah.” Lan said simply.
“Well, usually no. If I see someone I like, and I know they are gay, I’ll ask them out.”
Jill waited for Lan’s response to that. She felt the conversation take an interesting turn when Lan asked, “What if her sexuality is a mystery?”
“If I’m interested enough, I’ll try and find out. Ask probing questions.” Jill responded. She quickly looked down at her watch. Shit, I gotta get back to work. She debated driving while on the phone, but knew that was a bad idea. “Hey, I have to get back to work. Do you work tonight?” She asked, not wanting to get off the phone without making plans with her. She still didn’t know what Lan had called for in the first place.
“No, I’m off tonight. Actually, that is why I called. I know it is short notice, but I was wondering if you’d like to come over for dinner. I’m making spaghetti and meatballs and I always make a lot.” Lan explained. “If you’re not busy, that is.” She added shyly.
“Oh, um, yeah, I’d love to. I’m off at six o’clock.” Jill said, her mood picking up exponentially.
“Excellent. I have to hear about these probing questions you ask.” Lan replied, recovering from her slight bout of nervousness at asking Jill over. They’d always had some sort of reason to see each other, but tonight she just wanted her company.
They hung up and Jill started her car and pulled carefully into traffic, thoughts of her ‘sorta’ blind date eclipsed by the thought of seeing Lan tonight.
Lan had just finished setting the table when she heard the doorbell ring. She quickly turned off the burners on the stove and made her way to the door, first checking to see if the dogs were still sound asleep on their outdoor doggie beds on the back porch, which they were.
She opened the door to Jill in uniform with a bottle of wine in one hand and a duffle bag in the other.
“Hi. I brought some wine.” Jill said, a small smile tugging at her lips. Lan returned the smile brightly and moved in to hug the loaded down officer, taking the bottle of wine from her after she released her from the hug and standing back to look at her friend. I get the whole ‘man in uniform’ thing now, Lan acknowledged, almost embarrassed at her thoughts.
“I came right after my shift so I didn’t change yet. Is it okay if I change here?” She asked, looking down at her uniform and then holding up her duffle bag slightly.
“Of course. You remember where the guest room is?” Lan asked as she stepped out of the way to let Jill in. Jill nodded, remembering when she last used the room a few weeks ago. She shook off the melancholy thoughts and made her way down the hall, unaware of the lingering eyes of her host.
By the time Jill came out of the bedroom, dressed casually in jeans and a button down shirt, the table was set with the now open bottle of wine as well as a couple of unlit candles.
“You know if you light those candles, this officially becomes a date.” Jill teased. She looked at the table and then back to Lan to see her reaction. It was right then that she remembered Lan doesn’t drink.
“Fuck.” Jill announced quite loudly, mentally slapping her forehead.
“Whoa! I’m certainly not lighting those candles now! What kind of girl do you think I am!” Lan replied in mock horror, laughing at her friend’s expression.
“I forgot you don’t drink.” Jill said miserably.
“Hey, it’s okay. I’m not a recovering alcoholic or anything. I can choose to drink at any time. I just tend not to. I’d love to have a small glass with dinner tonight. It smells divine.” Lan said, taking her friend’s hand in hers, desperate to make the self-depreciating look go away.
“You don’t have to drink the wine if you don’t want to.” Jill sighed. “I feel like an idiot.”
“Don’t, please. I know I don’t have to drink it if I don’t want to. It’s time that I stop depriving myself because of one little out of control night though. Now sit down and pour the wine, sergeant Cooper.” They both laughed at how her last statement sounded as they made themselves comfortable at the small table.
“Where are your dogs?” Jill asked as she poured the wine.
“Outside, passed out on the porch. We went for a really long walk and they are worn out.” Lan said.
“Will you let them in later?” Jill asked hopefully.
“Yep. They’d be angry if they knew they’d missed you.” Lan replied, taking a bite of her meal. A small groan caused her to lift her head up and look at Jill.
“This is so good! Wow!” She said around a mouthful. It made Lan so happy to get that reaction about her cooking and even happier that it came from Jill.
After the dinner dishes had been cleared and the dogs allowed in to greet their guest, the women took a seat on the couch. Lan knew she wanted to continue their conversation from earlier on the phone, but wasn’t sure how to bring the subject up.
Her curiosity of Jill’s dating habits had surprised her, as did her reaction to Jill’s announcement of having a date. She couldn’t classify it as jealousy; why would she be jealous? But she couldn’t find herself to be completely happy about it. Perhaps it unsettled her to think of Jill having needs beyond friendship with another woman, even though she knew and was seemingly comfortable with Jill being a lesbian. But up until today, Jill’s sexual orientation was abstract in her mind. Now, she was having to face the tangible evidence of it. It unsettled her and she didn’t know whether, deep down, it bothered her that Jill was gay or it bothered her that Jill was going on a date.
Jill, picking up on Lan’s quietness, said, “I hope I didn’t offend you with the whole lighting the candle joke.” Lan looked up at her in momentary confusion, then remembered what Jill had said before dinner.
“Oh, you don’t have to apologize. I’m getting to know you well enough to pick up on your warped, not to mention glaringly off-base sense of humor.” Lan said sardonically, making Jill laugh. How she loved Lan’s wicked wit. It kept her on her toes and she absolutely loved it. The more time she spent with the woman, the harder it was not to see she was so very much what Jill wanted in a woman. Shy one moment, a complete smart ass the next. Oh, if only you batted for my team, Lan. I would be so good to you.
“So, tell me about your ‘sorta’ blind date.” Lan requested, hoping she sounded casual.
Jill sighed in a way that made Lan want to laugh. She could tell the woman was still miffed at being set up, but Lan just couldn’t help herself. She felt this overwhelming need to know more.
She turned her attention to Jill who looked down at the two little mutts lying at her feet. “Not much to tell. Met her at lunch, was coerced into giving her my phone number, then left alone with her under the understanding that I would offer my tour guide services.”
“How awful for you.” Lan said sarcastically.
Jill laughed, the only one getting the irony here. Truth was, she couldn’t find it in her self to get excited about it, even though this situation with Jackie could allow her a chance to move forward and leave behind these lingering feelings for the woman sitting by her side. But in the end, she was loath to let them go. She wanted to tell Lan, “I’m not excited about dating her because she isn’t you.”
“You think I’m whining.” Jill stated, indeed trying hard to sound like she wasn’t.
“Nah. Just sounds like you are tired of being the one not in control.” Lan said, surprising not only herself but Jill too with this little revelation.
“Huh. Well, maybe you’re right.” Jill said thoughtfully. I sure know I’m not in control of my own feelings, she added ruefully to herself.
She was grateful when Lan used the lull in conversation as an opportunity to use the restroom. It gave Jill a moment to think because tonight, more than any other time, she felt like she was on a precipice. She hadn’t seriously thought about divulging her feelings to Lan because she figured at some point they had to fade. So when she tried to tell her self that she wasn’t excited about taking Jackie out it was just because she wasn’t really looking for a relationship right now. There was also the fact that once again, she was just dropped into a situation she had no control over.
But here, sitting with Lan, knowing there was nowhere else she’d rather be, Jill was calling her own bluff. She wasn’t any more upset with Rachel’s meddling in her love life than she was with her own heart for falling for a straight woman. Question was, what could she do about it?
“So, how do you tell when someone is interested in you? You know, how do you tell if someone is gay?” Lan asked, thinking back to their telephone call earlier in the day as she walked back into the living room.
“Oh, you mean, what are my probing questions?” Jill asked pointedly, trying to cover the fact that the question caught her completely off-guard. She assumed a thoughtful expression. “Well, I ask her if she likes Melissa Etheridge. See how many times she visits Home Depot a month.” Jill said as she tapped her chin absently.
“You are making fun of me.” Lan pouted as she got up from the couch to put their dessert bowls in the sink. Jill followed her.
“I’m not, really. It’s just a hard question to answer. I guess there’s no ‘one question’ that will give you the answer unless you ask them straight out if they are, no pun intended.” Jill said with a wicked grin and raised eyebrow. It made Lan laugh and she turned around and poked Jill on the chest lightly.
“You are a piece of work.” She said, still laughing, her eyes twinkling affectionately at the sergeant.
Jill could have acted right then and there. Grabbed Lan’s hand, said something poignant, reveal her heart to the woman. But something stopped her. Looking at Lan and her open, trusting face, Jill just knew it wasn’t the right time. Perhaps there would never be a right time. Jill couldn’t bring herself to think that though.
“Indeed, I am.” Jill agreed softly, feeling the effects of those gentle chest pokes all the way through to her heart.
“You know what I like most about summer?” Katy asked as she sat up, straightening her towel out only to lie back down on it.
“No school?” John responded.
“Sleeping in?” This from Lan.
“Going barefoot all day?” John added.
“Babysitting your baby brother?” Lan said as John scowled.
Katy, picking her head up from her towel, treated them to a perfect teenage eyeroll. “I like all of those things,” she said sarcastically, “but what I like most is being able to just hang out and not worry about what others think.” She said thoughtfully. When she heard no response, she picked her head up again looking at John and Lan.
“You having trouble at school?” Lan asked, instantly concerned that Katy was being picked on or something.
Seeing the concern on Lan’s face, Katy quickly explained. “Oh no. It’s just that when I’m there, so many of my friends are only concerned with what people are wearing, who’s going out with who. It gets tiresome having to look a certain way, not talk to this or that person. I’ll be glad when I can just have a job where nobody cares about anything except that you do your job well or not.”
“How old are you again?” Lan jibbed, poking her toe at Katy to let her know she was just teasing. “I remember being your age and witnessing that kind of stuff. Being a loner, I was surrounded by it, but certainly not involved in it. Even if I was, I think I’d have about the same attitude you do.” Katy’s face split into a large smile at that and she laid back down.
“What do you like most about summer, John?” Lan asked.
The boy appeared to give it thought and then announced, “Being able to go to the park with you, Katy and Bait and Hook when I’d normally be getting into trouble during math!”
They all laughed at that, knowing that it was indeed probably true.
“Well, it is time to get going. Your mom will be home soon and you guys probably want to shower and get cleaned up before you guys go to the movies with Pete.”
The kids agreed and they all began to start packing away their picnic supplies and round up the dogs to go home.
Lan absolutely loved being able to spend time with the kids during the week now that they were out of school. They usually spent their days being babysat by their neighbor’s daughter that was home for college in the summer, but Lan would come get them when she could and take them out someplace special. The kids loved it as well because it got them out of the house and they got to spend time with one of their most favorite people in the world.
Lan had also learned during these outings that things with Tina and Pete were progressing well. Of course, she heard about it from Tina as well, but it was always good to hear it from the kids, as they were the true barometers of the situation. In fact, Tina would periodically check in with Lan to make sure the kids were adjusting well.
Tina knew her kids wouldn’t necessarily keep things from her about how they were feeling, but with Lan they were pretty uncensored, so she always made it a point to ask Lan how she thought the kids were handling Pete’s inclusion into their lives. To Tina, the happiness and well-being of her kids was tantamount after what she’d put them through.
After Lan had dropped off the kids, Lan grabbed a bite to eat before going home to shower and go to work. She’d be training the new bartender she hired and if things went well, Lan would be able to take some time off. The thought of getting out of the city and to the desert or even the beach thrilled her to no end. She couldn’t wait to take her camera and click away at anything that caught her eye.
She had pulled into her driveway and was letting the dogs out of the car when she heard her phone ringing. Nearly killing herself tripping over Bait, she finally got the door open. She’d been expecting a call from Jill before she left for work and was worried she’d miss her. She was on duty and Lan figured she wouldn’t get another chance to talk to her before the weekend.
After Lan had had Jill over for dinner, hardly a day went by that the women didn’t talk to each other. It just seemed to be an unconscious development on both of their parts.
“Hello?” Lan answered.
“Hey there.” Jill said, the smile evident in her voice. “Have fun with the kids?” she asked as she pounded on the vending machine to jiggle loose the M&Ms she was desperately craving.
“Enlightening as always.” Lan said, her smile unknowingly matching Jill’s. “Hey, that band that you like is playing at the bar on Saturday. I don’t have to work, so if you are interested in checking them out, we could go, if you want.” Wow, that sounded so very awkward, Lan thought, grimacing.
“Oh!” Jill exclaimed, then remembered what she was doing that night. “Oh, wait. Damn. I’m busy that night.” Don’t ask what I’m doing, don’t ask what I’m doing… Jill chanted in her head.
“Working? You covering for someone?” Lan asked, disappointed. She’d hoped to spend a rare work-free weekend evening with her friend.
Shit. “No, actually, I’m going out with that girl I told you about? Jackie.” Jill said carefully. She really wished she hadn’t agreed to that second date so quickly now. She did enjoy the woman’s company, but it didn’t hold a candle to Lan’s. Damn. Lan had been asking her to do more and more stuff as their schedules allowed lately and Jill was in heaven, even though she didn’t really read anything into it more than friendship. She’d ultimately decided it would be too painful if she were wrong and just chose to enjoy the time with Lan that she had.
“Oh.” Lan said, trying to hide her surprise and disappointment. Lan was left with the impression that Jill was only going to see the woman once after hearing about the first date. Guess she changed her mind. “Well, if you want, you two could still go. I know they are only playing the one night. I can tell Bart to reserve you a table.” Lan said with as much affability as she could muster.
I’d rather go with you, Jill thought and almost voiced. Jackie was sweet, smart and so obviously looking for a relationship or at least some between-the-sheets time, and all Jill could think about was how mad she was at having to miss this opportunity to hang out with Lan. I’ve got it so bad, Jill admitted in her mind. Suddenly, an idea came to mind.
“Why don’t you meet us there?” Jill said enthusiastically, thinking how brilliant her idea was.
“I’m not going to be a third wheel on a lesbian date, Jill.” Lan said. She heard how sharply it came out and immediately regretted it. Before she could formulate her apology, Jill spoke.
“Oh, right. It’s where you work.” Jill said, truly contrite.
Lan’s chest tightened at the sincerity in her friend’s voice. She felt like a jerk.
“Jill, I didn’t mean it the way it sounded. Surely, you’d want to spend your time with your date, not your date and me. Not sure why I threw lesbian in there...” Lan breathed a small sigh of relief when she heard Jill chuckle. She continued, wanting to make sure Jill believed her. “You know I have no problem with you being a lesbian, right?”
“Well, up until that little statement…” Jill said slowly.
“Oh, damnit. I’m such an ass. I’m sorry Jill…” Lan pleaded desperately.
“Hey, hey, I was just teasing you. I believe you. I wouldn’t be hanging out with you if I thought you had a problem. I doubt you’d be hanging out with me and calling me all the time if you weren’t cool with me, too.” Jill added, trying to contain her smile.
“I don’t call you all the time, do I?” Lan asked seriously. She scowled when she heard Jill laughing earnestly now.
“I’m hanging up now. Do you want me to reserve the table for you or not?” Lan asked, the sting of hurt feelings and embarrassment coming through in her voice.
“No. I want you to reserve you and me a table the next time they play.” Jill answered honestly. Thinking her response clever and palliative, she smiled.
The smile faded. Guess not.
“Hey.” Jill called out softly.
“What?” Lan barked. She was perplexed as to why she was feeling so hurt and sensitive.
“Can I take you to breakfast Monday morning?” an offering, from the heart, no teasing.
A sharp retort was on her lips, ready for sound. She ignored it.
“Yeah. I’d like that.”
Lan had spent some time thinking about her reaction and phone conversation with Jill. She’d come to the conclusion that she was a bit jealous that Jill was spending time with someone else. She didn’t want to begrudge her her lovelife. It just cut into Lan’s time with her friend. She was really looking forward to going to see the band at her bar with Jill and simply wasn’t prepared for Jill to already have plans. She would find a way to try and explain that to Jill if the subject came up again.
She looked at the clock and realized that she had a couple of hours before Jill came to pick her up for a late breakfast. She decided to leash the dogs up and go for a walk. She was almost to the sidewalk when she heard her phone ring. She hurriedly fished her key out of her pocket and opened the door, running to the phone to answer it.
“Hello?” She said breathlessly into the phone.
“Lan, it’s Jill.” Lan’s eyebrows drew together at the sound of Jill’s voice and she was just about to ask what was the matter when Jill continued.
“Lan, can you come down to the station? It’s about a case I’m involved in.” Jill asked gently, hoping Lan would just agree. She didn’t want to tell her this over the phone.
“Jill, what is going on?” Lan asked, really concerned and confused.
I just really need you at the station, Lan.” Jill pleaded.
“It isn’t about Tina and the kids is it? Lan said, panic heightening her voice.
“No, not at all. Lan, it’s about your mother. Please, come to the station and we’ll talk okay?” Jill said in a gentle but insistent voice. She breathed a sigh of relief when Lan said she’d be there in twenty minutes.
Jill waited for Lan in the lobby, wishing she didn’t have to do this. But if it had to be done, she’d rather it come from her than a stranger.
She spotted Lan as she was coming up the steps and went to the door to greet her. “Hey.” She said softly, taking Lan gently by the elbow to a secluded corner of the lobby.
“What is going on?” Lan asked breathlessly. Jill suggested they move to a room and Lan nodded following the officer to a small break room. She clicked the door closed and motioned for Lan to sit down and Jill followed sitting in a chair opposite her.
“I got a call and responded to this address early this morning,” Jill flipped open her notebook and showed Lan. Lan covered her mouth, recognizing her old address when she used to live with her mother. “We found a female victim there, deceased. Her name was Norma Rae Sidow…” Jill looked at her friend, her heart breaking as Lan’s eyes filled slowly with tears, a look of utter shock on her face.
“You’re sure it’s her?” Lan asked, her voice breaking. Already knowing the answer, Jill asked if she recognized a couple of items, showing her a necklace and wedding ring in a clear plastic bag. It caused Lan to choke back tears of disbelief at the confirmation. The sound of metal scraping linoleum was the only sound in the room as Jill scooted her chair close and leaned in, wrapping Lan in a tight hug. It took a few seconds for Lan to respond and when she did, her head tucked into Jill’s neck and her arms went around her and she began to sob quietly.
After a few moments, Lan pulled away and Jill sat up, reaching for some napkins on the counter and handing them to Lan. “Thanks.” Lan responded in a near whisper. She looked at Jill with red-rimmed eyes. Jill’s eyes were filling as well in response to her friend’s pain.
“How?” Lan asked as she wiped her eyes and nose.
“The investigation is on-going, but it looks like she was killed by her husband. He’s in custody.” Jill explained. She prayed that Lan wouldn’t ask to see the body. She doubted she’d be able to recognize her mother.
“Stan.” Lan spat, more a statement than a question, her face contorting into a mask of anger.
“Yes. I take it he wasn’t your father?” Jill asked quietly. She got a snort of disgust in response. She nodded in understanding, watching her friend closely, putting a hand on her friend’s knee and waiting for any more questions. She didn’t want to divulge anything that Lan didn’t want to hear right now.
“I think I’m going to be sick.” Lan said suddenly. Jill was on her feet and ushering her to the ladies room that was right next to the break room. She only hesitated a moment before following Lan into the bathroom holding the stall door open and rubbing Lan’s back as she threw up.
When she finished, she stood up and made her way to the sink to wash up. Jill flushed the toilet and stood by while Lan rinsed her mouth out. “Lucky I already had my hair tied back,” Lan joked weakly. She let out a shuttering breath and gripped onto the sink. She looked up at the mirror, looking at Jill through the reflection.
“You found her?”
“How did you know that she was my mother?” Lan asked, turning around and placing her back to the sink.
“I saw pictures of you, all along the fireplace mantel. I did a bit more research in the house to confirm it.”
“Goddamn her… Goddamn her…” Lan sobbed again and again as she broke down in tears again, Jill moving in to catch her as she began to crumble under the tidal wave of shock, grief, guilt and loss.
“Would you like me to call Tina?” Jill asked as she tucked Lan into her bed. She’d driven her home after Lan had cried herself out on the bathroom floor at the police station. Jill gave her a few details on what will happen next and insisted she take the next few days off saying that she’d go talk to Bart and Chris herself.
“No, I’ll be alright.” Lan said quietly. Jill sighed. She could see the utter emotional exhaustion on her friend’s face. She didn’t want to leave Lan alone, but she had to get back to work to finish her paperwork on the call and finish her shift.
“I hate the thought of you being alone.” Jill said as she absently stroked one of the dogs that were curled up around Lan. The dogs again picked up on their owner’s mood and quietly followed her to the bedroom, hopping up on the bed once Jill had Lan settled.
“Listen, Jill. I’ll be okay. It’s just a big shock. Perhaps it shouldn’t be, knowing what kind of man Stan was like. Anyway, I’m just going to lie down for awhile.”
Jill knew there was more to the story and hoped that one day Lan would tell her. She knew Lan left home at an early age, but had never been privy to the circumstances.
“Well, I’ll be dropping by at the end of my shift. If that is okay?” Jill asked.
“You don’t need to check up on me. You’ll need your sleep too, you know.” Lan reasoned. She wanted Jill here, but not at the expense of her getting enough sleep before her next shift.
“We were supposed to go to breakfast, anyway, right? Please, Lan. Let me come by.” Jill asked earnestly, her face full of concern. Lan’s heart tightened a bit.
“Okay. But I want you to make sure you get enough sleep before your next shift.” Lan warned.
“I will. See you around ten.” Jill said, relieved she’d be allowed to check on her. She knew through conversations they’d had that Lan was not close to her mother, but still, it was her mother. She couldn’t imagine how she’d react if her mother had met the same fate. It made her heart hurt all the more for Lan.
“Get some sleep.” Jill ordered softly and reached down to squeeze Lan’s shoulder.
“Thank you, Jill. For driving me home. For being the one to tell me.” Lan said softly. Before she thought too much about it, Jill leaned down and kissed Lan on the forehead, running a hand over her cheek before straightening up.
“I’m sorry I had to call you down to the station at all. If you need anything, I mean anything, call me on my cell, okay?” Jill said, making Lan promise before she reluctantly slipped out of the room and out of the house where a police cruiser was waiting to pick her up.
At 10:12 a.m. Lan heard a knock on the door and pulled on her robe. She smiled as she looked through the peephole and saw Jill with a couple of coffees and a paper bag.
“Hey,” Lan said as she opened the door wider to let the sergeant in.
“How are you doing?” Jill asked as she moved into the house so Lan could shut the door. She looked down, acknowledging the unusually subdued dogs.
“I’m doing alright.” She said warily. She took the coffee and bag from Jill and set them on the kitchen counter and they both stood looking at each other. Jill could tell Lan had probably spent as much time crying as sleeping, judging from the red rimmed, puffy eyes.
“Come here.” Jill said softly, opening her arms. Her arms were instantly filled with Lan and they stood in the embrace for quite a while. Lan felt the back of her head being held and tightened the hug. There was such a feeling of warmth and comfort it instantly put Lan’s heart and mind at ease. She knew instinctively that Jill would be a source of strength and understanding in the coming days.
“Your coffee is getting cold.” Lan said near Jill’s ear. Both chuckled softly, pulling out of the embrace slowly. Lan was pretty sure she could have stayed there all day, but figured Jill would get a little tired of holding her.
“I brought you some breakfast.” Jill said, pulling out two Danishes, apple and cheese, a muffin and a scone. “I didn’t know what you liked, so…” She said sheepishly as she looked down at her offering. Pulling the coffee out of the cardboard container though, she smiled triumphantly, handing it to Lan. “But I do remember how you take your coffee. Two sugars, one cream, right?” Jill confirmed proudly.
“How did you…?” Lan started and then remembered the coffee in Yosemite. “Oh, Jill. Thank you. And as for the breakfast items, I’ll eat any of those. I’m not picky. You’re so sweet.” Lan said, a tired but warm smile gracing her lips.
“Well, have a seat, I’ll get some napkins and we’ll nibble on all of them.” Jill said brightly. Lan did as she was told and soon both women had tons of crumbs strewn between them and their napkins on the kitchen counter.
“I had a dream about my mother a couple of months ago.” Lan said as they sat on the couch awhile later. Jill turned to her, listening intently. She’d hoped that Lan had wanted to talk. Talking always seemed to help. Lan continued. “She was kneeling and appeared to be in pain. She looked like she was trying to talk, but no sound came out.” Lan shuddered at the memory of the dream.
“You know it’s strange. I haven’t seen her in years. I haven’t run into her, heard from her, nothing. A long time ago I thought about getting back into contact with her, but could never bring myself to go see her and find out that she was still married to that pitiful excuse for a man.” Lan got quiet for a few moments and Jill could tell she was reliving some memory.
“I just don’t understand it, you know? She chose that fucking bastard over me.” When she saw Jill’s inquisitive look, she began to tell her the story of the abuse and the circumstances that led to her running away that night.
“You know, I went back once to pick up something I’d forgotten, hoping she had come to her senses and threw him out. Instead, she tried to explain to me that Stan was actually a good guy, just under a lot of stress. Saying that if I apologized to him, he might not be so angry with me the next time. Can you believe that?” Lan sighed heavily.
“It’s sad, but I see it. I see it a lot on the job. I don’t understand it any more than you do, either. I don’t think anyone does.” Jill supplied.
Lan started to tear up again. “I wonder if my dream was some sort of message. A literal cry for help from my mother.” Lan wondered aloud.
“Hey. I know what road you’re about to go down. Don’t do it, Lan. You couldn’t have helped her if she didn’t want help. Believe me, that I know.”
“Maybe she was trying to leave him. Perhaps that’s why he killed her!” Lan said, slightly panicking at her revelation.
Not really wanting to divulge any more details about what she saw at the scene, she felt she had no choice. She didn’t want her friend to fall into a depthless hole of guilt and remorse for not acting on something as cryptic as a dream.
“Lan, at the scene, there was no indication your mother was going anywhere. No bags packed, no note for him to find.” Jill said pointedly, looking Lan directly in the eyes, willing her to realize that she could not have helped, nor prevented an attack on a woman who chose to live with her abuser. She grabbed Lan’s chin gently. “I don’t know why you had that dream, but please Lan, don’t take this on. Your mother, for whatever reason, chose that life. You didn’t choose it for her. You stopped one cycle of violence by getting out. You have nothing to feel guilty for. You were the one that was supposed to be protected by her.” Jill finished, hoping she hadn’t overstepped her bounds on that last part.
Lan seemed to hear what Jill was saying. She nodded slightly, closing her eyes slowly as tears slipped free and ran down her face. Jill gently wiped them away. “A person I admire gave me some very good advice recently. He said, ‘There is more to life than agonizing over things for which you have no control over.’” Jill said this wanting and hoping that Lan would believe it.
“Like gravity and genetics, huh?” Lan joked weakly. She sat back into her couch, resting her head against the wall. She exhaled a deep breath, closing her eyes for a few seconds. “It’s just surreal you know? All these years of forgetting my mother existed, to the weird dream and now this.
You know, throughout the night last night, I kept thinking about the times we had together, before Stan. How happy we were, just her and me. Then everything changed and then I was alone in the world. I never took the time to mourn what I lost all those years ago. I had those memories and I guess in an unconscious way, I always held out hope that my mother and I would reconcile one day. Now that she’s dead… There won’t be any reconciliation. The memories are all I have left now.”
Not knowing what else to say to her friend, Jill slid her hand over Lan’s as it rested on the couch by her side. Neither woman had any inclination to move or talk, so they sat, hands now entwined, each lost in their own thoughts.
It was a typical warm and dry June day and Lan could feel the sweat begin to gather around her hairline and lower back. The graveside service was small and somber and Lan was grateful for her friends and co-workers who turned out, even though they’d never met her mother. They were there for her and it touched her deeply.
She was also glad that her aunt and family could make it. It was awkward and painful at first and Lan had many questions she’d wanted to ask, but couldn’t find the courage to ask them. A part of her just didn’t want to know about her mother’s life after she’d left. It would just reawaken the guilt and sadness she’d just come to terms with. So, they’d stayed to safe topics and familial small talk until the service had started. Then, shortly after the service, her aunt had left, each making empty promises to keep in touch.
Now Lan stood over the freshly covered grave, alone, with no more tears to cry. “I hope you finally find peace, Mother.”
Lan looked over across the street to see Tina, waiting for her, leaning on the side of the car. Not wanting to keep her friend waiting any longer, she turned and left the grave.
“If you want me to just drop you home and bring the dogs over later, I will.” Tina said, not knowing if her friend was up to seeing the kids and dogs.
“No, that’s okay. I’m sure Pete needs a break by now.” Lan reasoned. And really, she didn’t want to be alone. She stepped around to her side of the car.
“Alright.” Tina said, slightly relieved. “It was a nice service, Lan.” Tina said quietly. It had just been Lan’s aunt; her husband and two high school-aged sons, Joyce, Tina and a couple of Lan’s mother’s old co-workers. A few people shared a couple of nice memories of the woman, including Lan and then she’d been laid to rest after the reading of the 23rd Psalm. It had been short, sad and simple.
“Thanks. I really didn’t think I’d be planning a funeral for my mother two weeks ago.” Lan said frankly.
“Yeah, no kidding, huh?” Tina shook her head, thinking about her parallels with Lan’s mother. “I’m so sorry that she couldn’t find a way out, Lan. I’d wished for you some sort of reconciliation.”
“How did you do it Tina?” Lan asked over the car.
Instantly comprehending what Lan was talking about, Tina took a moment to think about her answer, for she knew it was very important for Lan to hear.
“I just simply couldn’t do it anymore. I had been raised in a loving home. Violence was foreign to me. And I knew it was killing my kids inside. It was killing me too. It took me three years to get up the courage. It was the scariest and most important decision I’ve made in my life.”
“You are a very brave woman, you know that?” Lan said with warm conviction.
“You know Pete said that too. I just don’t see it as brave. It was a life and death situation. I had no choice.” Tina said seriously.
“Ah, but you did, Tina. Everyone has a choice.” Lan said pointedly.
Tina looked at her friend. “Not everyone sees that though. When someone you depend on and love can only see what you do wrong, it tears you down inside, slowly. Add in the verbal, emotional and physical abuse and you’ve lost all sense of safety, comfort and normalcy. For some women it will manifest itself in anger and those are usually the ones that get out, or kill their batterers. For other women, it paralyzes them. It is normal for a battered woman to think that they deserve no more than what their mates give them and that they couldn’t possibly make it on their own anyway.”
Lan sighed deeply. She was familiar with low self-esteem and she’d dealt with people that made her feel less than. But she’d never truly understand why a woman would choose to stay with someone like a Chuck or a Stan. It just didn’t make sense to her. Not when there were people in the world like Pete, or even Jill.
Tina sensed the need for a change in topic. “Get in the car so we can go see your mutts and my rug rats.” She said lightly.
“It was a shame that Jill had to work.” Tina said, looking over at Lan as they exited the cemetery.
“Yeah. She’s just been awesome these last couple of weeks. From helping with the arrangements to keeping me up to date on everything, even dealing with my mini-breakdowns, she’s been a literal shoulder to cry on.” Lan said with a thoughtful smile on her face. “Not that you haven’t been great too!” Lan amended quickly, making Tina laugh.
“Hey, I know her shoulders are a little bigger than mine… that’s okay.” Tina teased mildly. “I know she’s a good person. Pete just worships her.” Tina said with just a slight hint of jealousy. Anyone who didn’t know Tina well would’ve missed it. Lan called her friend on it.
“You do remember she is a lesbian, right?” Lan remarked around a teasing smile. “And she’s dating someone.” Lan added with a hint of sadness that might have been missed had Tina not known Lan so well herself.
“She’s dating someone?” Tina asked, genuinely surprised.
“Some girl that her friend Rachel introduced her to.” Lan said, the acerbity held in check well, but not well enough.
“Doesn’t sound like you like her all that much.” Tina prodded.
“I don’t know her. Jill’s never introduced me to her.” Lan reasoned without emotion this time.
Well this is an interesting development, thought Tina. A tiny smile appeared on her face and stayed there until they got back to the house.
“Hey, why don’t you stay over for dinner,” Tina suggested to Lan after they’d been at Tina’s for a bit. They were outside, watching the kids play with the dogs.
“I’d like that.” Lan said. Pete came from inside and sat next to the two women.
“I think Jill is off soon. You want me to call and invite her over?” Pete probed, looking at Lan. Tina gave him a surreptitious thumbs up and a wink. I could seriously fall in love with him, she thought. I might be already, she realized.
When she’d cornered Pete and told him her suspicions, he shared the story of when they first met Lan and how he could pretty much guarantee that Jill, at least at one time, was interested in Lan. Tina hoped it was still true, because she had a feeling that Lan would return those feelings.
“Yeah. That would be nice.” Lan said with a small smile.
Jill arrived shortly after six in the evening and the six of them enjoyed a quiet, amiable dinner. Tina and Lan talked a little about the service, Jill again expressing regret that she couldn’t be there for Lan. Tina watched the exchange and couldn’t help but feel a small tug at her heart. She found it curious that it only appeared to be witnessed by her.
“That’s pretty much all there is to it.” Instructed Lan as she finished reviewing opening and closing procedures at In the Drink to the newly hired bartender. Jeff seemed to be competent and a fast learner and Lan felt relieved. She was also glad that Ross had taken on some of the training duty while she was dealing with her mother’s death and funeral arrangements. The whole staff and Bart and Chris had been wonderful through the whole ordeal as well. She almost felt bad about taking a vacation so soon after but Bart and Chris all but insisted. They saw how much she needed it. So, after spending a couple of weeks training and shadowing Jeff, she felt she was ready to leave it to him and Ross. Chris would be taking over the managerial duties while Lan was gone, so she felt confident that she would not be coming back to a big mess.
The thought of her impending trip brought to mind Jill’s little ‘coupon’ to accompany her on a day trip to Yosemite. She wondered if perhaps she could redeem it for a week at the beach. It would be great to have the sergeant with her to share the experience of her first trip to the beach. Don’t be crazy, Lan. She couldn’t get a week off of work and even if she could, why would she want to spend it with you? She’s got someone.
She then thought about inviting the kids, but thought more about it. She loved those kids and knew they’d have fun, but it just wouldn’t be the same. She wanted Jill. She fought the feeling of dejection hard, trying instead to concentrate on planning and packing for her trip, the unconscious epiphany sliding away under years of skewed self-worth and denial.
Jill sat at her desk, mind on her upcoming talk with Jackie. She knew she was just stringing the woman along and decided that before Jackie talked about taking another step (which Jill was sure was coming up soon), she’d end things now. Not that there was much to end at this point, but still, Jill had to make her intentions, or lack of intentions clear.
They’d planned on meeting at Jill’s house, but she’d decided on more of a neutral territory. Not that she expected a scene, she just felt more comfortable not doing this at home, so they planned on meeting at a small Mexican food restaurant near Jackie’s work tomorrow.
Her phone rang and she jumped a bit. “Sergeant Cooper.” She said in her customary professional voice.
It was Lan. A smile came unbidden to the sergeant’s face. “Hey! How are you?” Jill asked. It had been a week since she’d seen Lan when she invited her and the dogs over to go for a walk in the foothills one early evening.
“I’m good. You?” Lan asked, warmed by the enthusiastic greeting.
“I’m doing well. What’s going on?” Jill asked, knowing it was unusual for Lan to call her at work.
“Well, I just wanted to call and remind you that I’m leaving tomorrow and to thank you again for offering to pick up my mail and paper.” Lan said. She knew she didn’t have to remind Jill, but she wanted to take the opportunity to talk to Jill again before she left.
When she’d initially told Jill of her plans, the sergeant seemed surprised, but totally understood her need to get away. She offered to take care of the dogs, but Lan had let her know Tina and the kids were taking care of them. She then asked if anyone was taking care of her mail and paper. Lan had forgot about that and after a few minutes of convincing Lan it would be no trouble to come by and pick them up, Lan relented.
“So, you are all packed then?” Jill asked needlessly. She knew Lan was excited to go on her first trip to the beach. Jill was excited for her too, but worried a bit for her friend going alone. She didn’t even want to get into the fact that she wished that Lan had invited her along. Jill knew it would be entirely too presumptuous to ask if she wanted company too. She would have figure out a way to take off the time if it meant a week alone with Lan.
“Yeah. Listen, Jill…” Lan started slowly.
“Yes?” Jill asked, mentally slapping her forehead for sounding so eager.
“I haven’t had a proper chance to thank you for being there for me with my mother. If you have time when I get back, could I take you out… to dinner or something?” Lan asked. She was nervous of Jill’s response for some reason and was afraid it could be heard in her voice.
“I’d love that Lan.” Jill said with emotion.
“Okay then, it’s a date.” Lan said, a teasing smile in her voice. She hoped that Jill would get the subtle reference to their spaghetti dinner a while ago.
“Oh, will there be candles then?” Jill remarked, daring to hope that Lan was trying to tell her something.
It made Lan smile that Jill got the reference, but didn’t dare read anything into it. Just then, she heard three car doors slam and the easily recognized voices of John and Katy.
“Oh, Tina and the kids are here. I gotta get Bait and Hook’s stuff all together.” Lan said reluctantly, not wanting to end the call so soon.
“Okay. Be careful. Can you call me when you get there? I know you trust your bucket of bolts and all, but…” Jill teased, but Lan caught the undercurrent of concern.
“Yes, I’ll call.” Lan said, ignoring the remark about her old, but dependable vehicle.
“Good. Drive safe.” Jill said quietly.
“I will. Bye, Jill.” Lan said as the dogs began to bark at the door. She heard Jill say goodbye as well and the connection was severed.
She opened the door and let the entourage in. “You can go ahead and take them right out back, guys.” Lan said, ruffling the kids’ hair as they streaked by her, dogs at their heels.
“Wow. You sure you’re ready for a week of this?” Lan asked around a loud puff of breath as Tina approached the open front door.
“No problem. I’m happy to do it and obviously, so are the kids.” Tina said, pointing to the back screen door that was nearly torn off its hinges.
“Okay. You know Jill offered to take them, perhaps if it gets too much…” Lan suggested as she heard a shriek of joy from Katy and a loud bark from Bait.
“Really, we’ll be fine. Don’t worry. Besides, I still owe you.” Tina said seriously. Lan knew what she was referring to and wanted to say that they were even as she’d been invited into their lives after that, but was not sure if she could find the right words.
“That was awfully sweet of her to offer though.” Tina said innocently. Lan nodded. She made a move to start gathering Bait and Hook’s stuff when Tina said, “Lan, I don’t make a habit of sticking my nose in other people’s business, but I’ve got to ask you something.”
Lan noted the seriousness in Tina’s tone and turned her full attention to her. “Yes? What is it?” Lan asked.
Now that she had Lan’s attention, Tina began having second thoughts. What if she was so totally off-base? What if she offended Lan?
“Well, uh, it’s about Jill. When we talked about her after the funeral, and even before that really, I’ve gotten the impression that you kinda like her.” Tina said in a bit of a rush. She looked carefully at Lan for a response.
“Well, yeah, I like her. She’s been a real great friend.” Lan said, wondering where this conversation was going.
“I mean as in like like.” Tina explained, grimacing at the poor job she was doing. “Are you interested in her?” She finally asked.
“Oh. Oh!” Lan said, realization dawning on her. Hearing someone actually ask the question set off a kaleidoscope of thoughts and emotions for Lan. Something bad must have shown on her face because Tina was backtracking, in hurry.
“Geez, I’m sorry. That was so…” Tina began to panic too, thinking she’d completely offended Lan.
“Hey, it’s okay. I’ve been… I don’t know… I guess trying to figure out what she means to me. I do like her as a friend. That’s a given. But there’s something more…” Lan said softly, almost as if she were talking to herself. She then focused on Tina. “I’ve never thought of myself as gay, or anything really for that matter.” Lan grinned at her friend as they both noted Lan’s lack of a love-life. “But, I don’t know if I’m intrigued by the fact that Jill’s a lesbian, or if in fact I have true feelings for her.” Lan moved to the couch and both woman sat down.
“Huh. Well, I can tell you what I see.” Tina said, looking for Lan’s permission to continue. She nodded. “You two just seem to click. The ease in which you regard each other. It’s similar to how I view our relationship,” Tina gestured between herself and Lan, “but then I sense something more. Like something is unsaid between you two. A sort of tension, but not an uneasy tension.” She shook her head. “Not sure I’m making any sense here.” Tina said as she sighed.
Lan regarded her thoughtfully. She thought back to their conversation about Pete when Lan had begun to see him. She chuckled in amusement thinking how things had changed since then.
“What?” Tina asked.
“I was thinking back to our conversation about Pete. The first one.” Lan said. She watched the expression on Tina’s face go from confusion to a sort of sheepishness.
“Okay. So, Lan, why don’t you tell me about her.” Tina said with a quirky grin, recalling the very question that started the whole conversation.
Lan smiled at the tactic. She sat back and thought about it. “She’s a good listener. She’s attentive and thoughtful. She’s sweet. She’s smart and brave.” Lan said, too embarrassed to look in Tina’s direction.
“What else?” Tina probed, happy that she was indeed on the right track.
“Well, she’s pretty good-looking.” Lan finished with a wicked little grin that made Tina laugh.
“I knew it!” Tina shouted in triumph. Just then, John came through the screen door.
“Knew what, Mom?” he asked, wiping his hands on his shorts.
“Uh…” Tina searched for an answer.
“Knew that Lan and Jill have the hots for each other.” Katy supplied nonchalantly as she went into the kitchen to get John a paper towel.
Both women, plus one little boy looked at Katy in shock. Tina was the first to recover. “You shouldn’t eavesdrop on adult conversations, young lady.”
“I know. I’m sorry, but geez, it’s so obvious.” Katy bellowed the last part.
“How did you know?” Lan asked, finally recovering from the shock. Her question was an honest one.
“You guys are joined at the hip, it seems. When you aren’t, you talk about her. When we were playing croquet, you two flirted like nobody’s business.” Katy said matter-of-factly. She continued to look at the flabbergasted women.
“Really, Lan, Mom. You forget I’m in middle school. My friends spend more time in denying they like ‘so and so’ than they do their schoolwork. I’m well versed in the subtleties of both the conscious and inadvertent flirt. I must say, you two are the most clueless I’ve run across in a long time. I guess it’s because you’re adults.” Katy reasoned. “Come on John.” She said as she pulled her gawking brother outside.
“Are you sure she’s only 13?” Lan asked, still unable to believe what she heard, but hoping it was true. Even if it did come from a little too smart for her own good kid.
“If I hadn’t given birth to her myself, I would wonder.” Tina said, shaking her head. “Out of the mouth of babes, as they say, huh?” She said, laughing. “Oh, Lan.” She sighed as her laughing died down. “What are you going to do?” Tina asked.
“Do? Well, nothing. Remember, she’s dating someone else. If she was ever interested in me, she’s moved on.” Lan said quietly.
“You sure?” Tina asked. To her, Jill taking up with someone else just didn’t make sense. Not after the confirmation, however unlikely the source, she’d just gotten.
“I know they went on a second date.” Lan said.
“Does she talk about her? Have you met her yet?” Tina asked.
“She only mentions her if I ask a question about her. I haven’t met her either.” Lan responded, slightly uncomfortable.
Pete has a job this week. Tina thought as she just smiled and patted Lan’s knee. “If it is meant to be, it will happen, Lan.” Tina said truthfully.
“Well, I don’t really know what I want to happen, but I’d like a chance to find out.” Lan said honestly. The realization made her pause. It made Tina smile.
“Well, you’ve got a week to think about it. Don’t give up on those thoughts, okay, Lan?” Tina entreated.
“Okay.” She said simply.
Jill loved Pete like a brother, but man, watching him eat cereal could make her stomach turn. It was times like this she fully understood why God made her a lesbian.
After the fourth slurp, Jill got up and refilled her coffee from the break room dispenser. She sat down and looked at Pete, finally breaking into a smile at his milk mustache after he’d decided he’d just drink the rest of the milk from the bowl.
“How does Tina put up with you?” She said around an affectionate smile. He just gave her that little boy grin of his.
“So, you were all hot and bothered to have breakfast with me before our shifts, spill it.” She commanded playfully.
“What’s up with you and that Jackie chick?” He asked awkwardly, not being one for ‘girl-talk’ as he’d put it to Tina.
“Well, I’m no longer dating ‘that Jackie chick’ if you must know.” Jill answered him with a curious look. “Why do you ask?”
Pete took a deep breath. He was so out of his league, but Tina had given him a job and that was to hit Jill with a clue-by-four. “Someone else you interested in?” He asked around a healthy gulp of his coffee.
“Since when are you interested in my love-life?” Jill asked as she watched him closely.
“Since my girlfriend got a wild hair up her ass to get you and Lan to see that the two of you belong together.” He blurted out, tiring of the subtle approach.
“Huh?” Was all Jill could come up with. Her heart began to pound hard and loud without her permission.
“Apparently the entire universe realizes you two have the hots for each other. Even I wondered, and I’m a guy.” Pete added, knowing that would get her attention.
She was completely taken aback by what Pete was saying. But completely intrigued nonetheless. “She’s not gay and I’ve never gotten the vibe that she was interested in me.” Jill said seriously. I’ve had plenty of wishful thinking on those issues, though… she added to herself.
“But you are interested, right?” Pete asked bluntly.
“Well, I mean, I…” She sputtered. Voicing it would put it out there and there’d be no calling it back. It would eventually get to Lan.
“Oh for Christ’s sake, just admit it, will ya!” Pete implored around a big goofy grin. He was thoroughly enjoying this now, especially because he knew that Lan felt the same way about her. At least that was what Tina told him.
“Okay, Okay!” She said, putting a finger to her own mouth to get him to lower his voice. “But I don’t know how she feels, Pete. I don’t want to fuck this up, you know? I don’t want to lose her friendship.” She said simply.
“You won’t, Jill and this is why.” Then Pete proceeded to tell her what Tina had told him.
Lan had been perfecting her timing on her ocean sunset shots over the last three days. She’d been absolutely entranced with the ocean the moment she saw it and had spent most of her hours in it, around it, photographing it and listening to it. She couldn’t believe she’d gone 33 years without seeing it.
She’d also spent time pondering the situation with Jill. She’d talked to her on the phone a few times and the conversations had been stilted and short. Lan had just figured that Jill was probably out with Jackie or simply too busy to talk. Either way, her hopes of exploring whatever this was she was feeling was fading away each day she couldn’t voice it. Half of her wanted to pack up and leave, find Jill and figure this out once and for all. The other half was scared to death that she would find that Jill had truly moved on with Jackie.
“Damn.” She muttered, realizing she’d missed her shot. She watched the rest of the sun disappear past the horizon and began to make her way up to her hotel room.
There was a knock on the door to her room and Lan got up to answer it. She hadn’t ordered room service, so she peered through the peephole, seeing nothing. She then slid the curtain back slightly looking around. Hmm. She opened the door just a crack and saw something on the floor in front of the door. Opening the door a little wider, she realized they were letters, all addressed to her with her home address on them. “What the hell?” She said aloud as she bent down to pick them up.
“I came to give you your mail.”
Lan quickly stood, looking for the source of the voice. It belonged to a smiling redhead leaning on the metal rail opposite her door and down a few feet.
“Jill? What are you doing here?” Lan asked, shocked.
Jill was pretty sure that if Lan took one step closer, she could see her heart beating. She was nervous as hell, but she’d be damned if she was going to let this opportunity pass her up.
After talking to Pete and then talking to Tina, an idea formed. She’d called in sick the next day, talked to Tina one more time and then got in her car and headed west. She hoped she was doing the right thing.
She’d spent the entire drive going over things she’d say to Lan. Perhaps some clever little quip that would spell it out for the bar manager or a sweet, romantic moment filled with timeless promises.
But now that she was facing her, really seeing her for the first time, she was speechless. She had gotten so used to riding the ebb and flow of her affection for the bar manager all these months, she was unprepared for the crashing wave of longing that left her on the shore, Lan’s shore, breathless and battered.
Lan regarded her thoughtfully. She must have talked to Tina. Why else would she be here. Lan’s heart swelled and she found herself shyly approaching the sergeant. “For so long, I thought I’d have to just learn to live without knowing the love of another. I don’t know when, why or how, but you became what I thought I’d never have.” Lan said seriously.
“Is that a good thing?” Jill asked, still afraid to believe this might be real.
“I’d like to think so.” Lan said, trying for Jill’s trademark wry half grin and nailing it. “There’s one thing I need to do though. To make sure.”
“What is it?” Jill said with equal parts excitement and trepidation.
Lan’s lips were so soft and tentative, it broke Jill’s heart all over again. She let Lan set the pace and soon felt Lan’s arms come around her waist. Jill lifted her hands to Lan’s face and deepened the kiss, just a bit.
“Hmm. Tina was right.” Lan said after pulling back and taking a breath.
“Right about what?” Jill asked around a slightly dazed smile.
“Come on in. I’ll tell you about it.” Lan said warmly, taking Jill’s hand and leading her into the small beachside hotel room.
Not sure if I’m done with the characters of Gravity yet…. I think there could be a sequel in the future. But don’t worry, I’ll be posting it when it is complete!
Thanks for reading. You may send me the good, bad and ugly. I’ve got thick skin, even for a Pisces! email@example.com
Return to the Academy