The Right Thing
By SX Meagher
Even though she was rabidly curious about Hennessey's e-mails, Townsend had to have a long shower. The moment she was clean, she went to her desk and logged into her mail program, tapping her foot while her two hundred and seventy six messages downloaded. She sorted by sender, and started to read Hennessey's correspondence, her heart beating faster as she read.
From:Hennessey Boudreaux <firstname.lastname@example.org> Sent: May 30, 2003
To:Townsend Bartley <tbartley@HiltonHeadWritersProgram.com>
Subject: Baltimore blues
Please don't take my thoughts as a reflection on the city of Baltimore. I'm sure it's a lovely place, and that the people who live here are happy to be here. But it's not my place, and I don't think it ever will be. It's so northern here, if you know what I mean. It's hard to believe we all share an ocean, but I'm pretty sure we do. But this Atlantic doesn't feel like my Atlantic. I know I shouldn't be bitching in my very first e-mail, but I can't help it. I feel so alone here, T, even though I'm not.
Well, that's kind of a lie. I am essentially alone. Kate's program doesn't start until July 15, but she's already working at one of those walk-in emergency clinics. She's not licensed to practice medicine, but she can do intakes and make a preliminary diagnosis. Then the real doc comes in and confirms or rejects her diagnosis. It pays pretty well, and since I haven't had any luck at finding a job, it's our only income. She also thinks that working there will keep her on her toes and be good experience. I don't know if that's true, but we need the money, so I can't really argue.
Anyway, that's all that's happening. Kate's working from 9:00 p.m. until 9:00 a.m., because the pay's better. I've tried to switch my schedule around to be the same as hers, but it's not working well. I was cranky and tired all of the time, and she finally told me to go to bed at my normal time.
We have a few hours together every day, which is actually more than we had before, so I shouldn't complain but something's wrong. I'm not sure if it's her or me, but things just aren't going well. I'll write more when I figure out what it is. I wouldn't write a note like this if you were going to read it right away, but since you won't see this until I've resolved it I don't feel like I'm dumping on you <s>.
Hope you're well. Thinking of you often.
From:Hennessey Boudreaux <email@example.com> Sent: June 15, 2003
To:Townsend Bartley <tbartley@HiltonHeadWritersProgram.com>
I hope that by the time you read this I'm happily employed and loving living here but it's gonna take a miracle.
I know it's only been two weeks since I wrote, but I don't think I've ever been this unhappy. I'm sure it's because I don't have anything to do and I'm feeling at loose ends, but that doesn't help much. Kate thinks I should find a job any job just to stay busy. I guess that's what I'll have to do, but I'm fighting it.
This is nothing but adolescent whining, but it kills me to have given up a job I truly love to live in a city where I have no ties, no family, no friends and just to do a routine job. I know it's elitist to complain about having to take an ordinary job, but I've worked so hard to earn my doctorate. It's making me crazy to give up my goals especially since we'll be here for at least four years more likely six.
Well, that's enough bitching for one day <s>. I'll write again when I feel better. It's not fair to write just to dump on you.
From:Hennessey Boudreaux <firstname.lastname@example.org> Sent: June 18, 2003
To:Townsend Bartley <tbartley@HiltonHeadWritersProgram.com>
Subject: Good news at last!
Yes, it's hard to believe, but I have a job! It doesn't pay much, but the hours are good and I'll be in an academic setting.
I'm going to work in Johns Hopkins graduate research library as a reference librarian. Yes, I know I'm not a librarian <s>, but I've done a lot of work in research methodology, and I know my way around a library pretty darned well.
Besides having something to do during the day, I'll be relatively close to Kate. I hope we'll be able to see each other once in a while, although that might be a pipe dream <s>. Doctor Brill is going to be one busy woman, but that's the way she likes it. She's still working all night, and with my working all day we're going to have to leave pictures of each other to remember what we look like <s>. But I'm still excited about starting this job. It's gonna be great to be busy once again, and I'm looking forward to being in a better mood on a routine basis.
With any luck my future letters will be upbeat, happy and filled with good news. Keep a good thought!
From:Hennessey Boudreaux <email@example.com> Sent: June 30, 2003
To:Townsend Bartley <tbartley@HiltonHeadWritersProgram.com>
The good news is that I like my job. The people I work with are nice and smart two of my favorite qualities <s>. If I stay at this job for a while, I think it'll work out just fine. It's nowhere near as much fun as working with you, but, all things considered, it's not bad at all.
Yes, there is another shoe, and it's gonna drop. Kate and I had a very, very big fight the worst we've ever had. For the first time, I'm worried about whether or not we can make it as a couple. I won't go into the details mainly because I wouldn't dream of revealing any of her confidences, but it was awful, T.
I know you won't get this for quite a while, but I hope you're sending me your very best vibes. When you look up into the sky at night, make a plea to the heavens for me I need all the help I can get.
From:Hennessey Boudreaux <firstname.lastname@example.org> Sent: July 6, 2003
To:Townsend Bartley <tbartley@HiltonHeadWritersProgram.com>
I know you're gonna say that we shouldn't have had this talk yesterday, but we had to. Kate worked almost a twenty-four hour shift there're an awful lot of ER visits when people shoot off fireworks.
She was tired and cranky, but we both had yesterday off and that doesn't happen very often.
Something has been simmering for a long time, and it all blew up yesterday. I guess I have to go backwards a little bit to make you understand this, so I'll try to explain it without boring you to death.
I know I've told you on a couple of occasions that Kate and I haven't spent much time talking about the future. Part of the reason for that was because our current circumstances were stressful enough we didn't want to invite trouble. But in the back of my mind I think I always knew we'd have trouble once we really got into some deep discussions.
Well, I hate to admit it, but my suspicions were right. We went round and round yesterday, and one big thing became clear: Kate and I don't share the same dreams for our future. It's easy for me to say that my way is right and hers is wrong but that's not fair to her. She's been honest with me from the start I just didn't want to face reality.
Here's the bottom line. It's important to me to use my degree, and I have to work in a job that challenges me. But no matter what my family will always come first. That includes my partner, our children, my grandparents, my daddy and yes, even my momma.
If I have to give up my career to keep my family happy I'll do it without complaint.
But Kate doesn't feel that way. She's figured out that her career has to come first. It's what makes her happy. She was a pretty miserable critter when we were in Hilton Head together last year, and she decided that she couldn't ever be in that position again. She needs the challenge, the pressure, and yes, the high that she gets from medicine.
Family is important to her, and she's a very loving partner when she's home. But she can work for twenty-four hours and be oblivious to the fact that I miss her. She thinks I should find something that fills me up as much as her job fills her up but there isn't a job like that in the world for me. Being with Kate fills me up. Being in Beaufort with my family fills me up. Being with you fills me up. I love writing, and I love literature, but it's my job and my hobby not my life. Medicine is her life, and she's not only willing, but eager to let her career run the rest of her life. I guess that would be okay if I were the same way but I can't be. I'm always going to be jealous of her mistress medicine. If I ever get to the point where I don't want her at home, we're in trouble! But she doesn't see it that way. She thinks we should get our primary energy from our jobs, then come home and enjoy each other in the little time we have. That won't work for me ever!
I've never told you this, but last year when we were both in Hilton Head I enjoyed my days more than my evenings. Kate was really no fun to be around when she wasn't working. She was irritable and generally pissy, and managed to find fault with almost everything. She wanted me home five minutes after quitting time, and she didn't want to spend time with you and Nicole. When she's not getting her needs met through her job she's dependent on me to fill her up, and that's a lot of responsibility.
I was patient with her then, because I knew she was frustrated. But she doesn't understand that I'm in that position now! She thinks I should quit my job and write she's willing to work at the clinic to bring in extra money. But I can't write well if I'm in a bad space. It's not something I can power through. Besides, I can't be happy with only writing. I'm no Emily Dickinson! I need human contact and plenty of it!
Things really suck, T, and I don't know how to fix them. Kate's good at talking, and she's good at understanding her feelings, but neither of us knows how to talk our way out of this.
We're both very hurt and tentative around each other. She's hurt because she thought I knew all of this and had bought into the plan. I'm hurt because I want her to want me as much as I want her and she can't. Damn, that hurts to admit!
I wish you could send me some magic pixie dust and make our troubles disappear, but I think that's beyond even your considerable talents.
I'll write again, buddy. I hope I have better news.
From:Hennessey Boudreaux <email@example.com> Sent: July 12, 2003
To:Townsend Bartley <tbartley@HiltonHeadWritersProgram.com>
I'm moving back home tomorrow.
You know, e-mail is so damned impersonal. If I were writing this on paper, you'd see that my tears had stained the paper and made the ink run. That would have been a much better indication of my broken heart than those simple words of defeat.
Here's the unvarnished truth. I've grown up during the time Kate and I have been together. My needs have changed as I've matured. When we met, I was lonely and depressed. You were with Jenna and I thought I'd missed my chance. All I wanted was someone to love someone to show me how to love. Kate did that for me very, very well. But I need more than that now. I need someone to share my life with, and I can only do that with someone who feels about me like I feel about her.
A long time ago I told you that Kate and I were happy to be condiments in each other's lives. That was bullshit then and it's bullshit now. I said that just to convince myself that it was enough for me. It never was, T; it never was. I believed that Kate would eventually finish school and settle down and focus on our relationship but that's not gonna happen.
I want what I've always dreamed of. - I want a partner who puts me first, a partner who'd rather spend time with me than just about anything else on earth. I want to be the entrée, T. I deserve to be the entrée. If you have a great entrée, you don't need any damn condiments and that's where Kate is. Her job makes her so happy that she really doesn't NEED anything else. Yes, she loves me. Yes, she wants me to be with her for the rest of her life. But she doesn't NEED me! I want to be needed, damn it!
I'm so upset that I'm sick to my stomach, but, as usual, the doctor isn't in. The ER clinic called and said she could work a double shift today, so she went. This was our last chance to try to hammer out some form of compromise, and she went to work. If that isn't a clear message, I don't know what is.
I guess I'll be at my grandparent's house when you get home. Boy, if I had any idea where you were, I'd come find you. But I suppose Nicole wouldn't be very happy about seeing my long face. One thing I know is that you'd be glad to see me. I can count on you, T, and there's nothing more reassuring in my life.
From:Hennessey Boudreaux <firstname.lastname@example.org> Sent: July 31, 2003
To:Townsend Bartley <tbartley@HiltonHeadWritersProgram.com>
Boy, working on a fishing boat is sure a good way to have a lot of time to think. I've been going out with Daddy so Granddaddy can take it a little easier. Daddy is a pleasant companion, but as you know, he doesn't have much to say. But that's just as well. I've made good use of my time, thinking about my life and how I'd like it to be.
My personal life is going to be tough for a while, but I'm sure I'll get through it. Kate and I have talked on the phone every time she has an evening off. It's been hard because we're both so sad, but I don't know what else to do. You know, there's a chance that she'll change in a few years and want more from a relationship. But right now there's no way that we can make each other happy. She wants me to make sacrifices that I'm not willing to make. I want her to have a different personality and that's not gonna happen simply because I will it. So, tonight we said goodbye. It was very, very hard for both of us, but it's not doing either of us any good holding on by the skin of our teeth. It's prolonging the agony, since neither of us can or will change. I loved her as best I could, and I know she did the same for me. It just wasn't enough.
It's going to be hard to not have contact with her, T, but I think we have to cut it off. We both need to move on, and Kate needs to focus on her career. She's very busy, but I can hear how happy she is to be doing what she's always wanted. At least I have that to warm my heart. I know she'll be happy this way, and I love her enough to let her find her happiness even though it can't include me.
I'm feeling more than a little lost, but one thing I'm sure of is that I want to work for you again if you'll have me. If I could design my dream job, I can't think of a change I'd make to my job at the camp. It's in the perfect location; the pay is wonderful, the work fun and challenging; and I have the best office-mate in the world. My boss is also fantastic, and very easy on the eyes <s>. So if you'll take me back, I'll have one major part of my life just like I want it.
I hope your trip is everything you wanted it to be. Nicole is one lucky woman, but I'm sure she knows it <s>. I hope you two come back in a few weeks, ready to start your lives together. I can't think of a better place to start than South Carolina. Of course, some have said I'm a little prejudiced
Lots of love,
From:Hennessey Boudreaux <email@example.com> Sent: August 16, 2003
To:Townsend Bartley <tbartley@HiltonHeadWritersProgram.com>
Just a short note to tell you how sorry I am that things haven't worked out between you and Nicole. You sounded pretty good in your e-mail, but I'm still very worried about you. I can imagine how stressful it can be to have to complete a trip with someone you've just broken up with. I sure hope Nicole's mature enough to appreciate your candor.
I'm thinking about you, T, and sending every good vibe your way.
From:Hennessey Boudreaux <firstname.lastname@example.org> Sent: September 1, 2003
To:Townsend Bartley <tbartley@HiltonHeadWritersProgram.com>
Well, you're due home this weekend, and I'm poised on the horns of a dilemma. Believe me, it's not as comfortable as it sounds <s>.
I wouldn't say this to anyone else, Townsend, and I only tell you because I know our friendship can handle anything. So, I'll stop beating around the bush and say it. I want my job back, and I'm almost positive that you want me back, too. But I have to be completely honest with you. I want more than my job. I want you, too.
Again, I wouldn't say that to any other woman who'd just broken up with someone. And I wouldn't trust a woman who'd been in a long-term relationship who said that to me, so I'm clearly standing on shaky ground. I'm only telling you now because it might factor in to your decision about whether or not to re-hire me.
You've told me at various points in our friendship that you're no longer in love with me, and I don't think that has affected our relationship. I want you to know that if you're certain that you can never return my feelings, it will never harm what we have. But that's only my perspective. If it will make you uncomfortable to have me mooning over you (I do moon, you know), then I'll just stay with my grandparents until I can find a teaching job. Or maybe I'll fish with my Daddy and write at night. God knows there's not much else to do around the house <s>.
If, on the other hand, you find that even one cool ember of attraction remains (just saying that makes my heart beat faster <s>) I will do everything I can to turn that ember into a roaring fire. I'm not the same indecisive, sexually phobic person I was the last time we tried to make a go of it, Townsend. I know what I want, and I know that I can make you happy, if you'll just give me a chance.
I don't expect you to make a decision about me right away. I know it's been a long time since you were in love with me, and that feelings don't change quickly. I just hope that you'll give me the opportunity to win you over again.
We love each other, we respect each other, we have the same interests, we're geographically desirable how hard can it be to fall in love once again? <s> I'm making light of this mostly because I'm uncomfortable, T. This means more to me than you'll ever know, and I'm deadly serious about it. All I need from you right now is your promise that you won't be uncomfortable working together if you find yourself unable to return my love. The rest will take care of itself.
In a daze, Townsend walked to her bed and flopped down on it. She stared up at the ceiling, her mind buffeted by a storm of churning emotions. She was stunned by the things that had happened to Hennessey, and amazed that her friend had been so forthright about her feelings. She knew what she had to do, and she knew she had to do it as soon as shed had a good night's sleep.
* * *
The next afternoon, the shrimp boat motored in at the dock, Dawayne at the helm, Hennessey tending the lines. The brunette was so preoccupied with securing the boat that she didn't notice her visitor until she jumped onto the deck. She stood stock-still, her eyes wide open with a combination of fear and excitement.
Townsend got up and brushed the dirt from her shorts, then walked over to her friend. Hennessey didn't move a muscle. She didn't see her father give Townsend a friendly wave and didn't hear him say he'd unload the boat. The only thing that she could manage was to fix her eyes on the gentle sway of Townsend's hips as she walked along the dock.
Standing right in front of Hennessey, Townsend grasped the bright red suspenders that held up her yellow rubber waders. She pulled the lovely, yet bedraggled woman to her and said, "Two things. One, I lied. Two, take a shower and we'll talk about it."
"You're a little slow today, stretch, but I understand that. Let's just concentrate on the shower, okay? As pretty as you are, you smell like a can of cheap cat food. Let's go."
Hennessey felt her friend take her hand and lead her the short distance to the house. Neither woman said a word on their walk. Hennessey was too surprised to speak, and Townsend knew that Hennessey was a little hard-of-understanding at the moment. This is one of her most adorable traits, Townsend thought as they walked. She's so intelligent and mature, but she can be rendered as dumb as a rock, given the right circumstances.
They reached the house, and the door was open, as always. "Go upstairs and shower, and when you smell like a woman again, come on down. We have some serious talking to do."
Hennessey nodded, and marched off in the proper direction. A few minutes later, Townsend heard the water running in the bath, and she smiled at her friend's accomplishment. Not bad. She found the right room.
* * *
Around twenty minutes passed, with Townsend wondering if Hennessey had been scrubbing her skin with a pumice stone. Maybe I shouldn't have told her to get all of the fish smell off. She's very thorough. At the point she was ready to go upstairs to check on her, Hennessey walked downstairs, wearing a pair of thin, gray athletic shorts and a sky blue, sleeveless, Oxford cloth shirt. "I've done my best," she said, giving Townsend a smile that was mixed with a healthy dose of fear. "You said something about lying to me?"
Townsend patted the seat next to her and Hennessey did as requested. "I did." She scooted around until she was able to look directly into Hennessey's eyes and said, "I can think of at least two times you asked me if I was still in love with you. I told you the truth once, but I lied right to your face the other time. Can you forgive me?"
Hennessey's lips drew into a tight line. "When were you telling the truth?"
"The day before you graduated from Harvard. I was still in love with Jenna then, stretch, and even though your kiss almost made me pass out I really wasn't in love with you then."
Her heart started to beat faster, and Hennessey felt her mouth start to go dry. "When did you lie?"
Townsend looked down at herself and absently brushed some dust off her shorts. "I don't remember exactly when it was, but it was in the last couple of years. I said I wasn't in love with you and that was a big, fat lie."
Hennessey's expression started to brighten, but her scowl was still partially visible. "Are you telling me this just to soothe your conscience?"
Townsend placed her hand on the tanned thigh that rested right next to hers. "No. I'm telling you because of your letters. I thought I should make it clear that you don't have to win me over again. I'm won."
A blazingly bright smile immediately dominated Hennessey's features. "Are you fucking shitting me?!?"
"Hennessey! Such talk! You hardly ever swear."
"You hardly ever tell me that you love me like that!"
"Well, I do." She looked deeply into her friend's cool blue eyes and said, "I do."
"Jesus, Townsend! I've got a million questions, but I want to kiss you so badly that I could scream!"
Townsend gave her a sexy grin and asked, "Didn't your gramma ever tell you not to scream in the house?"
Not wasting a second, Hennessey slipped her arms around Townsend's body, holding her close for nearly a minute. She was so overcome that she was on the verge of tears, but her need to feel Townsend's soft lips won out. She pulled back and gazed into her friend's eyes, feeling herself become utterly lost in them. Her own eyes closed as she leaned forward and was enveloped by the softest, warmest, most delightful lips she'd ever touched.
One of them let out a sigh, but neither was sure who'd done so. Hennessey lifted a hand and threaded it through Townsend's hair, simultaneously holding her still and caressing her.
Townsend gripped Hennessey's body in a bear-hug, not even realizing that she was pulling her into her lap. Hennessey uttered a soft sound as she was moved, and soon found herself straddling Townsend. She sat down, centering her weight between her friend's slightly spread thighs, trying not to hurt her.
Once Townsend had her where she wanted her, she let herself go kissing Hennessey without a shred of self-control. They were grinding against one another, each trying to hold the other closer, kiss her harder, feel, smell and taste more and more of her.
Time seemed to stand still, and both women lost track of everything else in the world, until Dawayne walked in the front door, asking, "You out of the shower ?" He stared at his daughter and her friend, for a moment, looking guiltier than they did; then he headed for the bathroom, saying, "First time in weeks you haven't looked like a sick cat, baby girl. Nice t'see you, Townsend."
"Good to see you, too, Mr. Boudreaux. Sorry if we "
"T'aint nothin'," he said. "Live it up."
Townsend stared at her friend, all of the passion drained from her body. "What in the hell ?"
"He's never been one to tell me what to do," Hennessey said. "I've told you he's more like an older brother than a father. Besides, given the way he tom-cats around with women, I'm sure he's been caught in more embarrassing situations."
Townsend struggled to disentwine herself from her friend, saying, "I can't believe how nonchalant you are. Damn, Hennessey, a few years ago that would have killed you!"
Hennessey gave her a sexy half grin. "I'm a big girl now."
"You certainly are," Townsend agreed, giving her another kiss. "Should we have that talk now, are do you wanna keep going until your grandparents come home and catch us again?"
"I'm not that big," Hennessey said. "Let's go say hi and then go for a walk or something."
They did just that; and after a very friendly greeting from the older generation, Townsend led Hennessey down to the end of the pier. "Do you mind? I love to hear the water lapping at the wood."
"So do I," Hennessey said. "The people in the restaurant can see us, though, so no kissing. Gramma would whup us if anyone complained."
Townsend took off her shoes and socks and let her toes dangle in the high tide. "So, you said you had a million questions before we went crazy there. Wanna start on your list?"
"I may have been exaggerating," Hennessey admitted. "But I do have a few. I guess the big one is: how long have you felt like this, and why didn't you tell me?"
"That's two," Townsend reminded her. "I can handle two, though. I guess I fell in love with you again when I spent Christmas here a couple of years ago. We were sitting by the lighthouse in Harbor Town and talking about how it was between us the first time we went there. It hit me that I loved you more than I ever had."
"Then why ?"
"Shh shh " Townsend soothed. "That question's already on the table. I didn't tell you because you were in a relationship, baby. What good would it have done?"
Hennessey looked puzzled. "But if you'd told me, I might have come to my senses about my relationship with Kate sooner."
"Uh huh." Townsend leveled her gaze and stared at Hennessey for a moment. "Why on earth would I do that?"
"Why wouldn't you?"
Townsend shook her head in frustration. "I would never ever want to be with a woman who had to be pushed to make up her mind to be with me. Jesus, Hennessey, don't you know me better than that? I never, not once, said one bad word about Jenna's religion. She had to make up her own mind about it. Why would I try to talk you into leaving Kate?"
Adopting a very guilty look, Hennessey said, "I told you I was still in love with you when you were with Jenna."
Townsend patted her thigh and said, "I've always been the bigger woman."
"You have been."
Hennessey was giving her a perfectly serious look, but Townsend waved her off. "Don't be silly. I was a lunatic for the first couple of years you knew me."
"But you've always been more mature than I was," Hennessey said. "You still are."
"I don't think that's true," Townsend said. "You had to grow up too soon, babe. I didn't grow up soon enough. Neither way was very desirable. I think we're about even now."
"So, what do we do now? I promised Daddy I'd be here all week."
"Mmm that reminds me. Is it gonna be hard to tell your grandparents?"
Hennessey laughed. "No, not at all. Gramma's been telling me for years that I was wasting my time with Kate. Shes been sure from the beginning that I belong with you."
"With me? Really?"
"Yep," Hennessey said. "Not long after I told her about Kate, she asked if you liked women, too. I didnt want to break a confidence, but I didnt think youd mind."
"Of course I dont mind," Townsend assured her.
"Well, she said that shed never seen Kate look at me the way you did. Part of the reason she never really liked Kate was because she was sure that you loved me more than Kate did, and she was equally sure that I loved you more than I did Kate. I always have," Hennessey said, giving her a guilty smile.
"Then why were you with her for so long?" Townsend asked. "How could you be with her if you knew you loved me more?"
Hennessey scratched her head and said, "I'm not sure I did the right thing, but I did what I thought was right. I think it might be like people who've lost a beloved spouse. If they marry again, I bet the quality of their love is different. If most of them had a choice, they'd probably rather have their first spouse back. But since that can't happen, they find someone they love in a different way. I loved Kate, I truly did; but I never loved her in the way I loved you, Townsend. Once we were together I owed her my fidelity. I try hard to be an honorable person, and it felt like the honorable thing to do to try my best to make it work with Kate."
"Huh." Townsend looked at her for a minute and said, "My therapist thinks you chose Kate because she was such a work-a-holic. She thinks you were programming your relationship to eventually fail."
"I don't have to pay for that analysis, do I?" Hennessey asked. "'Cause I think it stinks."
"It might," Townsend said, "but there might be a grain of truth there. You might have been looking for a "starter" lover."
"Well, I screwed up, because this was a hell of a long start," Hennessey said, laughing. "I think my Al-Anon sponsor hit it right on the head, and her opinion didn't cost me a dime."
"Always looking for a bargain, aren't ya," Townsend said.
"Yep. But free advice can be right, too. She thought that I chose Kate as self-protection."
"From you," Hennessey said, her expression somber. "She thought that I was initially attracted to you because you were an alcoholic. Being with someone I had to save, and actually making some progress was fantastic for me. I'd spent my youth trying to stop my parents from drinking, and here I was, finally helping someone I loved start to care for herself."
Looking like she was on the verge of tears, Townsend nodded. "I can see that." Her glance flitted to Hennessey, her shifting eyes showing her fear. "You don't feel like that any more, do you?"
Despite their location, Hennessey wrapped her friend in a hug, whispering, "No, no, I worked through all of that." She pulled away and looked Townsend in the eyes. "My sponsor thought that being attracted to Kate was the healthiest thing in the world for me. And at the time, it was. Kate was a 'starter' lover, but I don't think I was programming our relationship to fail. I think I was trying to grow up. And, thankfully, I chose a person more mature and experienced than I was to grow up with.
"Kate comes from one of the most functioning families I've ever met," Hennessey continued. "The kids act like the kids and the parents act like the parents. Kate never had to find her father in a bar and beg him to come home. She never had her mother try to steal money from her. She was sexually experienced, easy to love, and she was able to love me without a trailer full of emotional baggage."
"I had two trailers," Townsend said, her voice small and sad.
"I did, too," Hennessey insisted. "But being with Kate allowed me to let go of that shit. It would have been so much harder to do if I was always trying to make sure you stayed on the straight and narrow."
"But you didnt know this back then, right?"
"God no! I didn't used to have much access to my subconscious mind."
"How about now?" The sun was glinting off the water, making Hennessey's face glow with a burnished hue. Townsend wished she could touch that beautiful face, but she knew they had to be discreet when they were at Hennessey's home. "What does your subconscious mind think about us now?"
"All of my minds and there are many think that being with you is the best idea in the whole world. What about you? Are you still won?"
"Yep. I'm yours, stretch. I wish we could " She looked towards the house and twitched an eyebrow suggestively. "But that doesn't seem likely."
"Are you sure you're ready to be with me, T? It hasn't been that long since you broke up with Nicole."
"It was early July," Townsend said.
"July? I thought it was just before you wrote to me."
"Nope. That was just the first time I had Internet access."
"What happened, babe? Can you tell me?"
"Sure. Now that you've broken up with Kate, I can tell you the whole story. You get to know a person very well when you're with her every moment. And she got to know me very well, too. Some of the things she learned bothered her. Actually, they'd been bothering her all along, but she was afraid to ask me a couple of questions. Luckily, she was able to get up the nerve before she decided to move here."
"What was she afraid to ask?"
"She was afraid to ask me about you." Townsend touched the furrow between Hennessey's brows with the tip of her finger. "Nicole asked me if I loved her more than I loved you, and I couldnt honestly say that I did." She looked down at the ground and said, "Ill never love another woman as much as I do you, Hennessey. Never."
As she spoke, Hennessey unconsciously scooted closer until her friend's hand stopped her. "We're in public, baby."
"Can't we go someplace? I have to touch you. I've waited a quarter of my life to touch you, Townsend. You're the most lovely, intelligent, sensitive, funny, moral woman I've ever known. And you have the most luscious body," she added, her voice growing thick and her eyes taking on a decided gleam.
"Luscious, huh?" Townsend asked, the twinkle back in her eyes. "Well, I'm afraid we're gonna have to wait to experience each others lusciousness for a little while. I've gotta go back tonight, and you've gotta work."
"Ooo don't remind me. Commercial fishing isn't the life for me."
"I have to go to camp and get some things done, but I could be persuaded to come back."
"Please, please, please, please "
Townsend stilled the moving lips with her fingers. "I'll be back as soon as I can. You just stay safe out there on the water. I want you to concentrate, baby. I want you to have both hands and all your fingers when I come back."
"I'll do my best." She leaned towards her friend again, then caught herself. "I've got to kiss you goodbye."
They walked to Townsend's car, parked away from public view. Townsend leaned against the door and put her hands on Hennessey's hips. Leaning in close, her eyes fluttering in amazement, Hennessey said, "I'm so happy but I'm sad, too. We've both worked so hard to be with other people. I wish we could have just stayed with each other and ridden out the storms."
"Don't think like that," Townsend said. "We'd never have had this chance if we hadn't spent some time growing up. When we met, I couldn't think of you as an equal, Hennessey, and you just admitted that you didn't think of me that way, either. Now I do."
"We're not equals," the dark-haired woman said, smiling impishly. "You're my boss. Is there a policy about this?"
"Yes. The policy says that we're going to ask MaryAnn to make us co-directors of the program and have each of us report to her. There's no way I'm going to let our jobs affect our relationship."
"Damn! Those are the words I've been longing to hear," Hennessey said, smiling.
"I mean them. You come first, stretch. You always will." They kissed for a long time, both of them trying to keep their passion under control. "I love you, Hennessey. I'll call you when I get home, okay?"
"I'll keep my cell phone with me every minute of the day. Call me any time any time at all."
"I will." She kissed Hennessey one last time, then patted her cheek. "I don't know about you, but I had a nice day."
"If the best day of my life can be called nice, then I definitely had a nice day."
"Just wait," Townsend whispered, nibbling on Hennessey's lower lip. "I think I can improve on this one. Give me time."
"All you need," Hennessey said, her smile luminous.
* * *
The next afternoon, Hennessey's dream was satisfied when Townsend was once again sitting on the dock, waiting for the boat to come in. Jumping from the craft as soon as was safe, Hennessey gave her friend a warm smile. "I've been thinking about you all day." She held her grimy hands up and wiggled all of the digits. "But I concentrated, too."
"Can you leave now?"
Hennessey turned towards the boat and Dawayne waved her away. "G'wan. I can unload myself. Nice t'see ya again, Townsend. I'll knock before I come in this time."
"Sorry about that, Mr. Boudreaux."
"I've done worse," he said, his handsome features showing the boy still inside.
* * *
Townsend lay on Hennessey's bed, waiting for her friend to shower. Hennessey was singing and Townsend listened to her for a long time, thinking, Not a trained voice, but a darned nice one. I could listen to that voice for the rest of my life.
Hennessey came out while Townsend was still daydreaming. She was again dressed in very loose, lightweight clothes, the heat and humidity making them mandatory. She slid onto the bed next to Townsend, her clean, fresh scent making her friend's nose twitch.
"Mmm, you smell nice."
"No fish left?"
"You'd better let me check." Giving her a sexy grin, Townsend started to sniff all over Hennessey's long body. She noted that her friend didn't have on a stitch of underwear, and her mind started to wander, trying to think of ways to touch and taste some of that bare skin.
"Still checking?" Hennessey asked some time later.
"No." Townsend's face was nestled between Hennessey's breasts, unable to tear herself away. "I'm not sure I can lie with you like this and not " She slid her fingers up the hem of Hennessey's shorts, creeping higher until a warm hand stopped her. "We can't get involved here, honey. I wish to God we could, but "
"I know," Townsend said, sounding defeated. "The walls are awfully thin."
"I could drive down to Hilton Head and come back in the morning."
"What time do you and your Daddy take off?"
Townsend rubbed Hennessey's belly. "That doesn't sound very relaxing. I don't want you to leave my bed at 4:00 a.m. Once I get my hands on you, I'm gonna keep you for a good long time."
"So, what do we do?"
"I think we kiss for a while, then go help your gramma in the kitchen. Then we can kiss a little more, and I'll go home."
"I like the kissing part," Hennessey said. "I like that a lot. The going home part sucks, though."
"I'll come back tomorrow night. That's something, isn't it?"
"Yeah," Hennessey said, smiling. "That's more than something."
* * *
The next night, Townsend showed up right on time, and this time she had good news. "I don't have to do anything tomorrow. Why don't I stay over and help you on the boat tomorrow?"
"Really? I'd love to have you! But I think we have to keep a little distance. Gramma wouldn't like it if we "
"Hey, don't worry about that. We've got our whole lives in front of us, baby. One or two nights won't make a bit of a difference."
* * *
The pair started off as they intended, with Townsend on the box spring and Hennessey on the mattress on the floor. Hennessey didn't know what time it was, but some time during the night Townsend climbed in with her, and soon they were wrapped around each other, not even caring about the heat.
* * *
At 5:00 a.m., Hennessey's grandmother cracked the door open to wake the crew. What she saw made her gasp, but she forced herself to get past her discomfort and really look at her granddaughter.
Hennessey was on her side, with her head cradled on Townsend's shoulder. The smaller woman had both arms wrapped around Hennessey's waist, her hands clasped behind the brunette's back. Townsend's face was turned, her chin resting on Hennessey's dark head, a ghost of a smile on her lips.
The young women looked so perfectly content, their affection for each other so obvious, that she didn't have the heart to wake them. The boys can go out alone today. These two need some time together. She quietly laughed at herself. What's gotten into you? Next thing you know you'll be marching in one of those damned parades. She straightened her spine and sniffed, Over my dead body.
* * *
The sun crept across the open window, a light breeze wafting the sheer curtains. Townsend's eyes blinked open to find Hennessey smiling at her. "Are you awake, sweetheart?"
"Yeah." Townsend stretched and rolled her shoulders. "I feel like I slept in a phone booth."
"Let's put the mattress back on the bed and sleep for a while longer. You still look tired."
"Don't we have to be up?"
"No rush. We've got plenty of time."
Townsend was clearly still half-asleep. "'Kay." They rolled off the mattress and lifted it onto the box spring. "You sure we have time?"
"Uh huh. Positive." Hennessey got into bed and pulled Townsend on top of her. "Go to sleep, baby. I'll wake you up."
* * *
The sun eventually shone directly onto Townsend's eyelids. With a little mew, she put a hand up and covered them, trying to ward off wakefulness. Hennessey smiled and put her hand above Townsend's, not touching her. After seeming to settle back into a deep sleep, the blonde woke with a start. "We have to get up!" She sat up, looking around with a stunned look on her face.
Hennessey put a hand on her shoulder and gently pushed her back down. "No, we don't. We have the day off."
"I know. But we can go fishing any time. Gramma took pity on us."
"I woke up just after dawn and went downstairs to see why Gramma hadn't woken us up. She was making breakfast for Granddaddy, and she slapped me on the butt and said, 'Go back to your girl.'"
"Your girl?" Townsend started to laugh, sounding a little giddy.
Hennessey snuggled up to her partner and wrapped her in a tight hug. She nibbled on her neck and ears, making her shriek. "You're my girl and the whole world knows it. Even Gramma wants me to spend the day making love with you." She stopped her assault and smiled when she heard Townsend gasp.
"Your gramma wants us to make love. Your gramma wants us to make love."
Grinning, Hennessey rested her head on her hand and said, "Yup. And I always do what my gramma says. I'm a very good girl."
With a tiny frown, Townsend said, "Let me get this straight. We're in the same tiny bed. Neither one of us is involved with anyone else. We're both sexually experienced. My family loves you, and yours seems to love me." She grasped Hennessey's face with both of her hands, squishing her features together. "And now you're telling me that your gramma wants us to make love. What's wrong with this picture?"
"What?" She released Hennessey's face. "Could you repeat that?"
"Nothing. Nothing is wrong with this picture. This is where we're supposed to be. We have the whole day to ourselves." She put her hand on Townsend's hip, moving it in small circles. "Complaints?"
The blonde fell onto her back. "I I'm speechless. I never, ever thought we'd finally be in bed together. Are you sure I'm not dreaming?"
"Pretty sure. I'm wide awake. Every part of me is awake." She gave Townsend her sexiest smile and started to slide her hand up and down her side. "Wanna see?"
Townsend didn't reply immediately and Hennessey leaned over her, seeing the tiniest bit of indecision. "What's wrong, baby?"
"I don't know," Townsend said. "It's like it's too many good things all at once. I'm a little scared, I guess."
"You can't have too many good things," Hennessey soothed. She trailed her finger across the small lines on Townsend's forehead. "It'll be fine, honey. We're finally where we've always wanted to be."
"I know," she said, her voice soft and a little tremulous. "What if we screw it up now?"
"Ohh, you poor thing. There's nothing to worry about. We won't screw up."
"Maybe you won't, but what if I do? I've never been able to be in a lasting relationship."
Hennessey nuzzled at her partner's neck. "Ours has been pretty lasting. Doesn't that count?"
"Yeah, sure that counts. But we haven't been sexual. Maybe I'm not very good, despite the fact that I've done it a thousand times. I wasn't good enough to keep Jenna interested, and Nicole wouldn't leave Boston for me. Who wouldn't choose Hilton Head over Boston?"
"A lunatic," Hennessey whispered, taking another tiny bite of Townsend's ear.
"I'm being serious," Townsend pouted. "I'm really nervous."
"Can I have a kiss?"
"Can I have a kiss. Simple question."
"C'mere," Townsend said, giving her a small scowl. She put her arms around Hennessey and drew her close. Their lips met, and as she felt Hennessey's weight against her, some of her anxiety started to fade. She opened her mouth and welcomed her lover's warm, soft tongue inside. Hennessey tasted so fresh, so clean "Hey! You brushed your teeth!"
"What a lovely kiss," Hennessey sighed. "I particularly liked it when you yelled into my ear."
Townsend grabbed her T-shirt and shook her playfully. "When did you brush your teeth?"
"When I took a shower," the brunette said. "Just because you can sleep all day, doesn't mean I'm lazy, too."
"Have been for hours. Literally."
Townsend scrambled over her partner, getting to her feet before Hennessey could stop her. "If you get a shower, I get a shower."
"Can I come with you? I'm very helpful."
"I just bet you are." Townsend grabbed her nose and gave it a tweak. "Maybe later. Right now I have to go give myself a pep talk. Don't go away."
Hennessey stretched out and put her hands behind her head. "Wouldn't think of it."
* * *
When Townsend came back into the bedroom, she put her hands on her hips and narrowed her eyes. "You've been in the kitchen."
"What makes you say that?" Hennessey was sipping a large glass of orange juice and eating a piece of toast smothered in jam.
"Give me a bite of that, you scamp. I specifically told you not to leave."
Extending the toast, Hennessey said, "You'll find that I'm housebroken, but not very obedient. I'm a headstrong little pup."
Townsend sat next to her and took a big bite. "Got more?"
"Uh huh. Brought a piece for you."
Townsend took the toast and started to chew, her mood reflective. "Are you sure we're ready for this?"
Hennessey moaned, shaking her head. "If you're being serious, I'm gonna jump out that window!"
Pushing her with her shoulder, Townsend said, "I'm being a little serious. You can jump off the bed."
"Baby, what's wrong? If there have ever been two people who deserve who have earned who are overdue to have sex, it's us! I've known you and loved you since God was a boy!"
Townsend absently patted her leg. "I know, I know. I'm just worried about finally having what I want. It's scary."
"It's also exciting," Hennessey said. "It's a reward for our patience, baby. We've earned the right to be together, and we're gonna be happy! I'm absolutely sure of that."
"You're sure?" For just a moment, Hennessey saw a glimmer of the frightened young woman she'd met so many years ago.
Kissing her tenderly, Hennessey stroked Townsend's face, soothing, "I'm absolutely positive. There isn't a doubt in my mind, sweetheart. We were made for each other, and it's time to face our destiny."
"Sounds kinda ominous," Townsend said.
"Okay. Let's go for romantic." Hennessey slid off the bed and knelt before Townsend. Taking the most beautiful hands she'd ever seen in her own, Hennessey looked deeply into her partner's eyes and said, "I knew you were the woman for me the first time I kissed you. I felt a jolt of heat that warmed my soul, Townsend, and I knew. I just knew. It's taken us so long to get to this point, but every step was worth it. Every time we stumbled, every time we hurt each other, brought us here." She kissed each of the shaking hands tenderly. "I love you with my whole heart my very soul. And I promise that I always will. There aren't many things I'm sure of, but I'm sure of you of us."
The tremors immediately stopped as Townsend clasped Hennessey's hands. She tugged on them, helping to pull her lover back onto the bed. "I think we've talked enough for one day. Let's do something more productive with our mouths."
In the blink of an eye, Hennessey was on her back, Townsend sprawled across her. "Romance drives me wild," she murmured, placing warm, wet kisses all over Hennessey's face.
"I can recite poetry," Hennessey gasped.
"Later. Much later." Townsend covered Hennessey's mouth with her own and kissed her with all of the love she felt in her heart. "I love you so much," she sighed between kisses. "So very much."
Hennessey tightened her hold and rolled onto her side, taking Townsend with her. Her hands roamed up and down the trim, muscular body, the soft cotton of T-shirt and boxers gliding across hidden skin. As Townsend increased the intensity of her kisses, Hennessey's fingers crept up under the shirt, a dull throb building between her legs when she touched the silky skin. "Mmmmm," was all she could manage, but Townsend understood her perfectly. Kissing her hard, Townsend sat up and grabbed the collar of her shirt, pulling it off and throwing it to the floor.
Hennessey's eyes grew wide with surprise when Townsend lowered herself back down, shifting so that her nipple was gently placed into Hennessey's open mouth. The brunette grasped her partner firmly, moaning as she suckled on the firming flesh. Townsend squirmed and sighed, running her fingers through Hennessey's black hair, her arousal escalating as she watched her lover lavish such tender care on her sensitive breast.
Trying to speak with her mouth full of the succulent flesh, Hennessey mumbled, "Wonnerfu."
"Oh, baby," Townsend purred. "I love your voice and I love to hear you talk, but we can talk later. Keep that beautiful mouth busy."
Lifting her head, Hennessey grinned at her. "Sorry. I just had to tell you how wonderful your body tastes and feels. You're everything I knew you'd be."
Townsend lifted her other breast and popped it into her lover's mouth. "Love now. Talk later."
Hennessey couldn't keep the smile from her face, but she followed instructions, soon finding that she didn't want to talk anymore, either. She sucked and licked and kissed the beautiful breasts, making Townsend squirm and sigh. Her own breasts were tingling, and she pulled away just long enough to yank her own shirt off. She placed her own breasts against Townsend's hot, wet flesh, mashing them together while she ground against her.
The pressure was maddening, but Townsend wanted needed more. She wrapped her legs around Hennessey's back, thrusting her hips slowly, her teeth grinding in frustration.
The brunette rolled fully onto her back and stuck her thumbs into Townsend's shorts, whisking them off. She filled her hands with the smooth, full cheeks, squeezing them hard. Her mouth was so full she couldn't manage a word, but her throaty groans gave Townsend all the feedback she needed.
Using her strong thighs, Townsend flipped over, taking Hennessey for an unexpected ride. The bright blue eyes popped open, staring in amazement when her world turned over. Now that she had her where she wanted her, Townsend returned the favor, taking the brunette's panties off with a flourish.
Two completely naked women started to move against each other, their skin covered with a light sheen of sweat. The bed was small, but they managed to hold each other in a crushing embrace, rolling from side to side as they delighted in the feel of the others body.
Hennessey couldn't wait another moment, so she slid her hand between their bodies, making her way down Townsend's firm belly, past her fair curls, managing to slip between her legs. By instinct, Townsend lifted her leg and threw it over Hennessey's hips, opening herself up to her lover's touch.
Lifting her head again, Hennessey gazed at her lover, sharing her feelings with only her eyes. Their lips met as Hennessey's nimble fingers touched Townsend's warmth for the very first time. With a ferocious hug, Townsend held onto her partner with all of her might, urging her on with the softest whimper.
Hennessey indulged herself in the delights of Townsend's womanhood, letting her fingers play over every swell and valley of the pink flesh. She kept her touch gentle and unfocused, trying to prolong the sensation as much as possible. Teasing, gliding over the incredibly sensitive skin, she taunted Townsend until she was mad with desire. The blonde pushed against her, trying to force Hennessey to quicken her pace, but all Hennessey did was increase the depth of her kisses, making Townsend so breathless that she could only groan in frustration.
Finally, Hennessey started to explore her depths, sliding a finger into Townsend so slowly that the blonde wanted to scream. But when the long digit was deep within her, she purred with pleasure, mumbling through the kisses, "More."
Keeping her on the edge of full satisfaction, Hennessey started to tease all around Townsend's clit, never touching it directly. She pulled and pinched the delicate lips, until Townsend started to hump against her, her body covered in sweat. "Please," she gasped. "Please."
Hennessey kissed her again, sucking on her lower lip, tasting the salty tang of her. "I'll always please you, baby. Always."
As she spoke, she slid another finger into her, moving quickly to bury it deep. Townsend gasped, her hips bucking at the pressure. She held on as tight as she could, her arms having trouble keeping hold of Hennessey's wet back. "So close. So close!"
Hennessey slid yet another finger inside, feeling the slick tightness of her lover's flesh as it pulsed around her hand. Then she withdrew, trailing the wet digit down until it barely touched Townsend's ass. She looked into the half-shuttered eyes silently asking the question. In response, Townsend grabbed her hand and pushed, sending all of Hennessey's fingers into their respective homes. The blonde growled and sunk her teeth into Hennessey's shoulder, marking her.
Trying to stay focused despite her painfully throbbing cunt, Hennessey placed the flat of her thumb just above Townsend's clit. She started to rock her hand, her thumb gliding over the bundle of nerves while her fingers pumped into her lover.
The words coming from the blonde were complete gibberish -- part cry, part grunt, with a few malformed syllables thrown in. But Hennessey took them as sweet encouragement. Her hand continued to rock, slowly, slowly touching, stroking and thrusting into every part of Townsend's body.
Her own need was so great that Hennessey couldn't ignore it any longer. She wedged Townsend's thigh between her legs and started to thrust her hips, the feel of the silky skin driving her mad.
The pressure built and built, climbing higher and higher until Townsend was sure she would burst. All at once it hit her, and she sucked in a breath, making her back arch off the bed. She cried out while gripping fistfuls of sheet, then exhaled, sounding like she was being shaken hard. Her nerveless arms struggled to hold her lover to her, but she couldn't summon enough strength to clasp her hands together.
With just a few more quick thrusts, Hennessey climaxed noisily, growling and hissing out a "Yes!" through her clenched teeth.
Falling onto her back like a felled tree, Hennessey lay next to lover, winded and weak, sweat covering her body. "Who needs a nap?" she mumbled.
Townsend answered by plastering herself against her partner's side, murmuring, "Will you promise to do that to me every day?"
"Every day?" Hennessey asked, adding a soft laugh.
"Every single day," Townsend said. "Promise."
"I promise," Hennessey agreed. "I might be able to improve on that, though."
"Okay," Townsend relented. "That's the minimum, but if you can do better "
"Let's try again after that nap," Hennessey said, yawning.
Townsend lay near her partner and rested a hand on her belly. Hennessey was almost asleep when the blonde said, "You have a very cute tummy."
"Mmm hmm," Hennessey burred, eyes still shut tight.
"Your hip bones shouldn't stick out so much, though. You need to gain a little weight."
"Will do. Get right on it." The bed shifted and Hennessey felt Townsend moving around. Suddenly, her breast was being gently loved. "Whatcha doin?" the brunette asked.
"You can't leave something this pretty lying around and expect me to behave. I'm only human."
Opening her eyes, Hennessey put her hands behind her head and watched Townsend kiss and nibble on her entire torso. "I guess we can always nap later, huh?"
"Sleep is highly overrated."
"Hey, where ya goin? Ooo that's a nice place."
"Mmmmmmm hmmmmmm." Townsend lifted her head and licked her lips. "I'm gonna spend a lot of time down here."
"Don't let me rush you," Hennessey said, lying down and sighing deeply. "Oh, that's nice. Very nice." Townsend continued to lave her partner's essence, soon rendering Hennessey unable to form complete words. Flat on her back, legs spread wide, Hennessey's hips undulated in a slow circle. Townsend kept pace with her, swirling her tongue in time with her lover's movements.
When Hennessey started moving quicker, so did Townsend, exerting a little more pressure. Blindly, Hennessey reached down and grabbed one of her partner's hands, then moved it below Townsend's chin. The blonde knew just what Hennessey wanted, and she slid into her, gently placing her fingers just inside Hennessey's opening. Putting pressure on various points, she worked her way around like the hands on a clock. When her fingers reached twelve, Hennessey gurgled something and started to pump her hips hard. In seconds, she was crying out, holding onto Townsend's shoulders wanting to pull her in harder and push her away at the same time. She bucked and shuddered, finally pulling on Townsend until the blonde climbed up her body and cuddled her. They held each other for a long time, with Hennessey's heart slowly resuming its normal beat.
Townsend closed her eyes and started to drift off, with the breeze coming in the window cooling her heated skin. "Don't wanna stop," she murmured.
Hennessey's quiet voice drifted past her ear. "It's not even 10:00 a.m. We've just begun."
Townsend sat up a little, and gazed at her partner. Hennessey gave her a puzzled smile, that soon formed into a full, rich one. There so much love shining in her eyes that Townsend was moved beyond words. Wrapping her arms around Hennessey, she kissed her, lingering for a long while, tasting her sweet lips and tongue. "We have just begun," she said softly, nuzzling her face into Hennessey's neck. "We've loved each other for years, but our lives begin again today."
"Here's to our new beginning," Hennessey said, kissing her partner again. "A lifetime of new beginnings."
The EndReturn to the Academy