Sunday afternoon, Kim walked into the kitchen with her arms wrapped around two bags of groceries. “What are you doing?” she asked Dorthea sitting at the table concentrating on several papers spread out in front of her. She set the bags on the counter and started to remove the items they held. “Hey! Earth to Dorthea,” she said loudly after receiving no response to either her question or presence.
Dorthea looked up. “Sorry,” she said standing. “Did you get everything on the list?” she asked as she picked a can of sweet corn off the counter and opened a cupboard to place it inside.
“Don't I always?”
“No. You usually forget the stuff we really need and come back with nothing but cookies and other goodies.”
“If you don't like the way I do the shopping, you could do it.”
“No. Remember we agreed when we moved in here, you do the shopping and I do the cleaning.”
“But I'm helping with the cleaning now,” Kim said cheerfully.
Dorthea grunted. “I don't consider you sitting on the couch telling me I missed something as helping,” she groused.
“Yesterday was my first time for helping. You have to give me some time to work into it.
Dorthea laughed. “At the rate you're going, I'll be old and gray before that happens.” Kim turned to study her friend. “What are you doing?” Dorthea asked.
“Envisioning you with gray hair.” Kim smiled. “I think I like that picture.”
“Do you?” Dorthea asked shyly. The week since their talk in the park had been awkward for both women as they cautiously began to express their newly revealed feelings for each other.
Kim nodded. “I do.” Seeing how her comment had caught Dorthea off guard, she tried to change the subject. “What so interesting you didn't even notice I was back?” she asked then playfully bumped shoulders with her still distracted friend. “Didn't you miss me?”
“Of course, I missed you,” Dorthea said matter-of-factly then picked up cans of baby peas and tomato sauce and set them on the shelf next to the corn. “I was just trying to figure something out.”
“What?” Kim opened the refrigerator door and placed cartons of milk inside. She shut the door and peered at Dorthea. “If you don't want to talk about it…”
Dorthea turned and leaned against the counter, her back to the groceries. “It's not that.”
Kim crossed the short distance between them. Assuming a similar pose beside her friend, she waited.
“I'm going to ask Mr. Fudley tomorrow for some time off.”
Dorthea nodded. “I've got plenty of time built up but I'm not sure he'll agree to me being gone for as long as I need.”
“How long will you need?” Kim asked nervously.
Dorthea instantly understood the cause of Kim's nervousness; she shifted to face her. “I don't want to be away from you either.”
“At least, two weeks.”
Dorthea slumped back against the counter. “I know. But with all the stops it makes, the bus will take almost three days to get there. And I'll need time to track Paul down.”
Kim sighed. “Yeah.” She nodded then sighed again. “Damn.”
“I know. I hope I can find some place reasonable to stay.”
“Can you afford that long?”
“Yes. The little I've put into savings every payday has grown into a nice balance.”
Kim smiled. “So I'm falling in love with a wealthy woman? You should have told me that sooner.”
Dorthea grinned. “Brat. I said it was a nice balance not Fort Knox. Come on, we better get the rest of this put away.”
The women turned back to the waiting groceries. “Seriously, about the money,” Kim said as she emptied the bags then folded them. “I know you've spent some of your savings on Faye.”
“I'm okay. This will probably clean me out but it'll be worth it if I find Paul.”
“If you don't?”
“At least, I will have tried.”
“Are you going to tell Faye? I mean you don't have to worry about her, I'll visit her. But she's going to wonder where you are.”
Dorthea stopped and smiled tenderly at Kim.
“What?” Kim asked confused by the look of adoration she was receiving.
“That's so sweet of you. I wanted to ask but I wasn't sure—”
“Did you think I'd say no?”
“Well, you and Aunt Faye haven't exactly gotten along over the years.”
Kim shrugged. “She was a bitch to you and I didn't much like that. But after our last visit… I'll visit her, no problem.”
Dorthea wrapped her arms around Kim and hugged her tight. “Thank you.”
Kim returned the hug, relishing in the tingling of her skin wherever their bodies touched.
Without loosening her hold, Dorthea drew her head back so she could gaze into Kim's eyes. Her heart raced as she studied the woman in her arms. “Kiss me,” she finally whispered.
Kim hesitated for a moment then slowly leaned closer. Timidly, she pressed her lips against Dorthea's with a touch as light as a feather. Unlike the men she had kissed, Dorthea's lips were soft and accepted the light pressure without demanding more. Her eyes closed while she absorbed the unexpected pleasure of their first intimate touch.
Dorthea thought her heart was going to explode, it was beating so fast. As the pressure on her lips intensified, she felt a wave of emotion surge from her lips to her toes.
“Are you okay?” Kim asked, having broken off the contact when she heard Dorthea gasp.
“I'm… Wow… That was…” Dorthea sighed. “That was really nice.”
Kim smiled and gently squeezed her arms around the woman she now had no doubt that she loved. “Yes, it was.”
Dorthea dropped her head against Kim's chest. “The ice cream is melting.”
Kim sighed happily. “It's not the only thing.”
“I don't know, Dorthea. That's a lot of time.” Fudley leaned back in his chair, stroking his chin.
Dorthea fidgeted on the chair opposite her supervisor's desk. She had left earlier than normal so she could talk to her supervisor before the start of her shift. “I have the time coming.”
“I know you do. But it will mean asking Char and others to pull double shifts on short notice.”
“I'm sorry, Mr. Fudley. But this is important.”
Fudley straightened and placed his arms on the desk then looked intently at her. “Dorthea, are you in some kind of trouble?”
Dorthea shook her head. “No. It's a… a family matter.”
“Two weeks is a long time.”
“I need to go to California,” Dorthea responded to his skeptical look. “Mr. Fudley, I've never asked for anything like this before. This is important. Two weeks is allowed under company policy,” she informed him forcefully, growing tired of having to justify her request. “Will you approve my vacation or would you prefer my notice?” Her unanticipated offer came as much of a surprise to herself as it did to her boss. “This really is important,” she added in a calmer tone.
“I see. All right, I'll approve it. Next Monday, for two weeks, correct?” Fudley asked as he reached for a blank vacation form. Dorthea nodded then watched him fill in the blanks on the form. “You will be back?” he asked as he separated the copies and slid one across the desk to her. “You're a good worker. I'd hate to lose you.”
Dorthea picked up the paper and checked it over. “Thank you,” she said while carefully folding the sheet and placing it into her purse. “I'll be back.” But not because of this job, she thought to herself then smiled as Kim's face floated into her mind.
Kim was sitting in the lunch room sipping on a glass of lemonade. She was paying little attention to the conversations going on around her as Marge and several other secretaries traded gossip over their lunches. The idea forming in her mind was lost when Marge's voice broke into her thoughts.
“Are you ready to go back?”
“Is it time, already?”
Marge stood then began gathering up her dirty dishes, placing them on a tray. “Yes. Goodness, what were you thinking about?”
“Oh, it's nothing,” Kim answered as she added her dishes to the tray.
“Must have been something, you barely said six words the entire hour. You didn't even answer when Bridget asked if you were going to the company picnic.”
“I didn't? She did?”
Marge laughed. “Yes and yes,” she said lifting the tray off the table. “Let me get rid of these then we can go back before Mrs. Kapin starts paging us over the loudspeakers.”
Kim nodded then watched as Marge weaved her way between the numerous tables scattered randomly around the large room, exchanging greetings with other employees on her way to the racks where she left the tray of dirty dishes. “What do you think my chances are of getting a couple of weeks off?” she asked as soon as Marge returned to the table.
Marge picked her purse up off her chair. “You planning a vacation?”
“Something like that,” Kim said as she stood to walk with Marge back to their office.
“Oooo? Going someplace fun and exotic?” Marge asked conspiratorially. “I thought you weren't dating anyone right now.”
“I'm not. And it's personal,” Kim said sharply.
“Oh. Well, excuse me, then.” Marge snapped brusquely then quickened her steps.
“Wait.” Kim hurried after her hurt friend. “Sorry, I didn't mean to bite your head off,” she apologized when she caught up to Marge. “It's just not something I'm prepared to talk about.”
Marge brightened. “Apology accepted. You buy lunch tomorrow and we're good.”
Kim laughed. “Okay, I guess I owe you that.” They resumed their walk. “Do you think you could handle things if I take some time?”
“Sure. Now, that the budgets are completed, and Kapin is actually doing something, shouldn't be a problem. When are you planning to go?”
“You aren't giving much notice.”
“It can't be helped. Something just came up.”
Marge pointed to the door to their office which was still several steps down the hallway. “You get in there and talk to Mr. Jackson then. He's not going to be very happy with such short notice.”
“I know. I supposed I should run it past Mrs. Kapin first.”
“To heck with her,” Marge snarled. “By the time she got done complaining about the hardship you will be placing on her, it'll be long past next week. Just go talk to Mr. Jackson.” The women walked into their office. “Tell him, I'll handle things while you're gone.”
Mrs. Kapin looked up when she heard Marge's comment. “Gone? Is someone planning to be gone?” Marge frowned and mouthed I'm sorry to Kim. “I know nothing about this.”
“There's nothing to know, Mrs. Kapin,” Kim told the agitated woman as she moved to her desk. She picked up the phone and pressed the button that would connect her to her boss' office. “Mr. Jackson, do you have a moment? Yes, I'll be right in. Thank you.” She hung up the phone than walked briskly to the door leading into the inner office.
“Why does she need to talk to Mr. Jackson?” Kapin demanded of Marge who shrugged then removed the stack of folders from her inbox. “I demand to know,” she insisted.
“Sorry. It's none of my business; as I'm sure it's none of yours.” Marge smirked as she started typing, ignoring the sounds of displeasure emanating from the infuriated woman.
The remainder of the week was a blur for Dorthea as she spent her afternoons and evenings preparing for her trip to California. She spent time at the library studying the map Jo had of California and making extensive notes of locations of bus routes, city and newspaper offices, hospitals and nursing homes. She purchased her bus ticket and converted her savings to travelers' cheques. She packed her bag and checked it several times to assure she hadn't forgotten anything. She rewrote her notes from her trip to Kalona so when she found Paul she could ask him about the events that led to her being in the care of Faye.
After the end of her shift on Friday, Dorthea walked out of the factory with her stomach tied in knots. She was anxious to begin her journey to find her father. But she was also more than a little distressed over leaving Kim. She boarded the bus and found a seat near the back. Leaning her forehead against the window, she closed her eyes. The cool glass felt good and she hoped it would help ease the tension building within her. She had eaten little during the day, unable to convince her rebelling stomach that she needed the nourishment.
Dorthea was the first to step off the bus as soon as the doors opened at her stop and she wasted no time hurrying down the street. She knew the apartment would be empty as she normally arrived home before Kim. The time was especially welcomed because she planned on making a very special dinner for their last night together. She would visit Faye in the morning and tell her of her plans then go straight from the nursing home to the bus depot and leave for California.
Dorthea was setting the table when she heard the apartment's door open. She smiled. “I'm in the kitchen,” she called out.
“So I can smell,” Kim called back. Dropping her purse on the coffee table, she continued toward the source of the pleasant aroma, taking off her jacket as she walked. “Goodness, what have you been up to?” she asked entering the kitchen to find Dorthea lighting two candles in the center of the table.
Candles lit, Dorthea blew out the match then moved to meet Kim. “I wanted tonight to be special,” she said wrapping her arms around her and tenderly pressing her lips to Kim's. “I'm going to miss you so much,” she murmured when their lips separated a few moments later.
“Maybe not so much,” Kim said cheerfully.
“Kim, you don't have to try and make me feel good. I am going to miss you,” Dorthea insisted.
“I'm not trying to make you feel good.” Kim laughed when Dorthea gave her a look of pure bewilderment. “Turn off whatever you need to so nothing will burn— I've got something to show you.” She untangled herself from the arms still holding her. “Go on,” she urged then crossed to the table and blew out the candles. “We'll save these for later.” After Dorthea turned off the oven and removed a pot of broccoli from a burner on the stove, she grabbed her hand and led her out of the kitchen. Snatching her purse off the coffee table, she opened the door then led Dorthea out of the apartment.
Hand-in-hand, they walked to the parking area behind the apartment building where Kim brought them to a stop in front of a station wagon. The four door wood paneled vehicle had been recently washed and polished and Dorthea peered at the pleased woman standing beside her.
“Do you plan to explain why you brought me out here to look at a car?”
“Not just a car,” Kim began excitedly. “A 1984 Ford Country Squire with four doors and swing out tailgate. There's plenty of room for luggage and since we won't be using them, we can fold down the rear seats and that gives us a place to sleep so we can save on motels.”
“We? Us? Kim, what are you talking about?”
“It's ours. Well, not to keep but to use.”
“Use? For what?”
“To go to California.”
Dorthea rubbed her temples. “You've got to slow down and tell me what you're babbling about.”
Kim sucked in a deep breath then released it. “Okay,” she said more calmly. “It belongs to Thomas.”
“Thomas? The one you dumped on the night he proposed?”
“Yes, but you don't have to make it sound so bad. And, besides, it turned out alright. He's engaged now to a really sweet girl. He's happy. She's happy.” Kim grinned. “I'm really happy.”
“The car,” Dorthea steered her friend back on track.
“I borrowed it.”
“For us to go to California.”
“There's that us again.”
“I took the next two weeks off,” Kim announced.
“I wanted to surprise you.”
“Oh, you have. Can you do that?”
“I guess so, I did it.”
“For me?” Dorthea asked hesitantly.
Kim smiled sheepishly. “Mostly for me, I just couldn't stand the thought of you being gone for two weeks while I moped around here waiting for you to come home.”
With tears flowing down her cheeks, Dorthea threw her arms around Kim's neck. “I love you,” she whispered into her ear. “I really, really love you.”
“I don't have a license,” Dorthea said as she placed a platter of sliced roast beef on the table. They had returned to the kitchen and their dinner.
Kim relit the candles then walked across the room to flip off the light switch while Dorthea sat down. “Not a problem.”
“Honey, you can't drive all the way to California.” Dorthea looked up to find Kim standing in the middle of the room, a silly grin on her face. “Kim, are you okay?”
“You're grinning like an idiot.”
“Am I?” Kim asked as she forced her legs to carry her back to the table.
Dorthea watched as Kim fumbled with the chair then finally sat down after several attempts to free it from the leg of the table. “Kim, what is the matter with you?”
Kim gazed lovingly across the table. “You called me honey.”
“I've called you honey a million times over the years.”
“But this time it sounded so much nicer,” Kim purred.
Dorthea laughed. “You are such a goof. But since you like it so much, I'll make sure to use it more often.”
Kim grinned. “Thank you.”
“Pass the potatoes.”
After dinner, the women shared the task of cleaning up the kitchen then they retired to their separate bedrooms.
Dorthea closed the closet door and padded across to the dresser where she pulled a fresh pair of pajamas from one of the drawers. She stepped into the bottoms then slipped the top over her head as she padded to the side of the bed. Sitting on the mattress, she paused. Normally, she would reach over and turn off the lamp on the night stand then lift the bed coverings and swing her legs under them. After a few moments, she stood and walked out of the bedroom.
Similarly clad in pajamas, Kim was walking out of the bathroom when Dorthea intercepted her.
“Ready for bed?” Dorthea asked.
“Good. Come with me.” Dorthea held out her hand and waited until Kim grasped it.
“What are your doing?” Kim asked when she was guided toward Dorthea's bedroom.
“I think it's time we slept together.”
Shocked by the declaration, Kim froze. “Um, Dorthea, I… ah…”
Dorthea tugged on Kim's hand. “I said sleep. I'm too tired tonight to do anything else.” Kim released a sigh of relief and allowed herself to be tugged into the room. “Besides, I don't have the remotest inkling of what to do with you once I get you in my bed.”
“I guess we could try to figure that out,” Kim suggested.
Dorthea pushed Kim onto the bed. “Not tonight, honey.”
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