The Right Thing

By SX Meagher

 

Part 5

MARCH 1995

A well-shaped, long-fingered hand slid across a single sheet of paper which rested on a small desk. Playing idly with the sheet, Hennessey Boudreaux folded it into thirds, then straightened it out and refolded it — fashioning it into an aerodynamic shape. Snapping her wrist, she caused the paper projectile to fly across her dorm room and land a good four feet from her intended target.

Muttering to herself about her lack of any useful athletic talents, the tall, raven-haired woman picked up the airplane and made another attempt — this time from barely three feet away. Missing again, she smiled to herself and walked back to her desk where she smoothed the paper out and read it one last time. You’re gonna be the death of me, Townsend. I swear it!

Picking up her roommate’s phone, Hennessey carefully keyed in her calling card number and waited for Townsend to answer. When the line was picked up, she spoke in her soft, slow, Carolina drawl. "You know I don’t like being dictated to, Townsend."

"I couldn’t help it! Mother said we could have the house in Martha’s Vineyard for spring break, but if I can’t give her a definite answer by today, she’s going to use it herself."

"The nerve," Hennessey said, drawing the word out to three syllables.

"I know," Townsend agreed, oblivious to her friend’s sarcasm. "So, what’s your answer, good-lookin’? I know you have the same time off that I do, I know you’re not going home, and I know that you miss me."

Hennessey lay down on her bed and stared at the ceiling, a slow, sly grin stealing over her features. "And just how do you know that?"

"Because I know you love me, and you have to miss people you love."

"Hmm … I guess that’s true," the older woman mused. "I miss my daddy and my granddaddy and my gramma somethin’ fierce."

"You miss me, too, babe," Townsend said in the low, sexy voice that Hennessey had quickly learned turned her usually steady knees to rubber.

Clearing her suddenly raspy throat, the dark-haired woman said, "I guess I do at that. It would be awfully nice to see you. I mean, I see you nearly every night … but my dreams are nowhere near as good as reality."

"You want to kiss me again, don’t you?" Townsend’s sexy voice asked.

"Unh-uh. I want you to kiss me. Just like last time — only longer."

"Oh, I’ll kiss you, Hennessey. I’ll kiss you on every inch of skin I can uncover." After a lengthy pause, the younger woman asked, "Hennessey? Are you there?"

"Hennessey can’t come to the phone right now. She’s lost the use of her central nervous system."

"So, can I tell Mother that we’ll take the house? Please?"

"Yes, yes, you can. I can’t wait to see you, Townsend, and I’m really looking forward to spending some time getting to know your mother."

"My mother?"

"Of course," the older woman said, barely stifling a snicker. "You’ve just reminded me of how much we need a chaperone, and since your mother wants to use the house that week, there’s no reason we shouldn’t all share it."

"But ¾ !"

"No buts, Townsend. It’s not a good idea for us to be alone."

"Oh, Hennessey, you can’t possibly mean to tell me that you plan on sticking to that ridiculous idea of not sleeping together until I’ve been sober for a year!"

With her voice taking on a very solemn tone, Hennessey said, "I’ve never been more serious about anything. I don’t want to merely sleep with you, Townsend. I want to love you and be in a relationship with you. I’ll understand if you don’t want the same thing, but this is what I want … it’s what I need."

There was a pause that was far longer than Hennessey was comfortable with. Townsend cleared her throat and asked in a very quiet voice, "Do you want it badly enough to lose me?"

The question caught Hennessey by surprise, and for just a moment, she felt as if she’d been kicked in the stomach. But she examined her heart for a few moments and told the truth. "Yes, I do. I want it because it’s the right thing for both of us, Townsend. I can understand if you don’t want to wait — but I have to."

Obviously frustrated, Townsend sighed, "How can it be right to deny yourself something you want so much? I want you so badly that my body aches for you."

"I want you, too," Hennessey whispered. "More than I ever thought I could want anyone. But I will not set myself up, Townsend. Until you’ve been sober for a full year, we will not be sexually intimate. I will not risk your sobriety or my sanity."

"But I’m going to a meeting every day, Hennessey. Lots of people get into relationships after they’ve only been sober for a short while."

Believing she already knew the answer, Hennessey asked, "What does your sponsor say?"

Waiting a beat, Townsend said quietly, "Uhm … I don’t have a sponsor … right now."

"What? When did this happen?"

"This past weekend. Sharon fell off the wagon, Hennessey. It was only one day, and she’s back in the program, but she has to concentrate on herself right now."

"Oh, shit. What happened?"

"Uhm … she caught her boyfriend cheating on her. She … lost it, Hennessey. It … scared me."

"I bet it did," Hennessey sympathized. "It’s hard to stay sober, Townsend. It’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do, and it deserves your full attention."

"But half of my attention is on you, Hennessey."

"I know that. Sometimes I wish it weren’t so, but I know that it is."

"Having you in my life helps keep me sober, Hennessey; I swear it does."

Blowing out a breath, Hennessey said, "God knows that I hope that’s true. I don’t know what I’d do if I felt like you started drinking again because of me."

"I won’t, Hennessey. I go to my meetings, and I read The Big Book every night. I say those little affirmations you sent me, too. They’re so earnest they make me barf, but I say ‘em."

Chuckling softly at her friend’s disarming honesty, Hennessey said, "It’s obvious that you’re working hard, Townsend, but you’re not nearly out of the woods."

"I know that." There was a pause that immediately set off warning signals in Hennessey’s brain.

"What happened?" she asked sharply.

"Uhm … nothing bad," Townsend replied. "I, uhm … had a little slip, but it wasn’t with alcohol."

Letting out a sigh, Hennessey asked, "What did you take, sweetheart?"

"Nicotine," Townsend mumbled. "I know I shouldn’t have, but I was so depressed about Sharon …"

"Tell me what happened, honey."

Her voice was so calm and non-judgmental that Townsend felt her anxiety start to fade. "We were supposed to get together for coffee on Saturday afternoon, before the meeting. She didn’t show up, so I called her house and she answered … drunk."

"Oh, baby, that must have been so hard for you to hear."

"It was. It really was, Hennessey. I know I shouldn’t have, but I went to a convenience store and bought some cigarettes. I, uhm … stared at the beer for so long that the owner came over and asked me what was wrong — but I didn’t buy any - I didn’t."

She was sobbing softly, and Hennessey wanted so badly to be there to hold her and comfort her, but all she could offer was her gentle voice and soothing words. "You had a tough time, baby, but you didn’t drink. That’s what counts. Trying to stop drinking and taking drugs and smoking all at the same time might be too much for you."

"But you don’t like it when I smell like smoke," Townsend whimpered.

"No, I don’t. But that’s not what matters. I think you should find another sponsor as soon as possible and discuss this with him or her. Maybe you need to wait a bit to work on your smoking."

"But you won’t want to kiss me," Townsend murmured. "Your kisses are all I think about."

"I’d kiss you if you had a big, nasty plug of tobacco in your mouth," Hennessey teased.

"But you wouldn’t like it," the younger woman said.

Hennessey took a minute to focus, then asked, "Townsend? Do you ever feel like you’re getting sober just for me?"

"Just for you?"

"Yeah. I need to know."

Taking in a few deep breaths, Townsend considered her actions of the past eight months and answered as honestly as she could. "At first, it was all because of you, baby. But not now. Now, I feel like I’m doing this for me and for you and for us. I’d have been dead before I was thirty if I’d kept going at the rate I was. Sharon always said, if you’ve gotta stop sometime — it might as well be now."

"Are you sure?"

"Yeah, of course I’m sure. Why do you want to know?"

"Because this isn’t going to work if you feel that you have to stay sober and stop using drugs and stop smoking all because of me. This has to be something that’s important to you — for you."

"It is, sweetheart. I want to live. I’ll admit that one of my main reasons for living is to be with you — but that’s not the only reason."

"Tell me the other reasons, Townsend. I need to know."

"Okay." Townsend took a moment, then said, "I’ve … I’ve started to enjoy life. For the first time in a long time, I’m happy to wake up in the morning. You’re gonna laugh," she said, "but I’ve started to become a nature freak — just like you."

Hennessey laughed, the sound so musical that Townsend felt a familiar chill race down her spine. "A nature freak, huh? How did that come about?"

"Well, Sharon has been urging me to get up early and go for a walk in the morning. She said it’s a nice way to clear my head and plan my day. I think about what I have to do and try to think of any situations I might be in that could tempt me. For the first few weeks, I didn’t even pay attention to where I was. I was just pissed off that it was 7:00 a.m. and I was out stomping around in the snow."

"Now that sounds like my girl."

"Nope. That was the old Townsend. The new, improved Townsend has discovered that Vermont is fucking beautiful!"

"Do tell?" Hennessey prodded, giggling softly.

"Yeah, it’s really pretty here. Maybe you could come see me before the year’s up, huh? I think you’d really like it."

"I hope that I can, too. Now, tell me what you like about your morning walk," Hennessey said. "My curiosity is really piqued."

"Uhm … I guess one thing I like is that it feels so good to be able to walk without being out of breath. My lungs don’t hurt anymore, and I don’t have that nasty cough that used to bother me in the morning. My sense of smell is better, too. I can tell if it’s going to snow just from the way the air smells."

"Mmm … that makes me so happy," Hennessey murmured. "I know just what you mean. I can tell you how hot it’s going to be and when it’s gonna rain just from smelling the air in the morning. It’s nice to get your senses back, isn’t it?"

"Yeah, it is. I’m actually starting to like snow for the first time in my life. I got some snowshoes, and on the weekends, I go for long walks in the woods — and think of you."

"I think of you much more than I should," Hennessey admitted. "Every short story I write has an adorable blonde in it. My creative writing teacher actually made a comment about it the other day. We were supposed to write a story about India at the end of British rule, and Professor Ring said, "You’ve got your work cut out for you, Hennessey. I don’t think there were many attractive, young, blonde women in India during this time period.""

Townsend laughed helplessly. "Oh, Hennessey, you must have been embarrassed!"

"Nah. I don’t care if all of Harvard University knows I’m hopelessly in love with a beautiful woman. As long as I’m more than five hundred miles from home, I’m a real rainbow flag waver."

"You’ll get comfortable with it at some point, honey. Don’t stress about it."

"That’s how I feel about your smoking," Hennessey said. "I’ll admit that it will be a little unpleasant for me if you’re smoking. It reminds me too much of my mother, and thoughts about her sometimes intrude when I’m around someone who smokes. But I don’t want you to feel that you have to quit because I’ve told you to. This relationship can’t work if I’m the adult and you’re only trying to please me."

"Oh, but I want to please you," Townsend said in that incredibly sexy voice. "I want to please you so much that every nerve will beg for mercy."

"Uhm … I could be wrong, but I think I was talking about smoking, and you were talking about something completely different."

"Oh, I can make you smoke," Townsend giggled. "But don’t worry about me, babe; I think I’ll be all right. I smoked about ten cigarettes in a row and made myself so sick, I threw up right into a snow bank. Do you know how nasty vomit looks on snow?"

"I’m from South Carolina, honey. We throw up in the ocean, like self-respecting people."

"Do you still love me, Hennessey? Even when I’m weak and give into temptation?"

"I do. More than ever. I love you, and I respect you for trying so hard to conquer your demons, baby."

"You were teasing about having Mother come with us, weren’t you?"

"Honey, I never tease about your sobriety. I’ll only come if your mother or father is there also. And I swear, if I get there and find out you’re alone, I’ll leave. I’m not kidding, Townsend."

"I know," she said glumly. "You never tease when I want you to."

* * *

After hanging up, Hennessey got out the phone book and perused the pages in the front of the tome. Several hours later, she found herself in a familiar setting, even though she’d never been to the church auditorium before. When it was her turn to speak, she cleared her throat and said, "Hi, I’m Hennessey, and I’m falling in love with an alcoholic."

* * *

Several more conversations followed the first, and eventually Townsend resigned herself to the fact that Hennessey was intractable. And so, on a bright, cool Saturday morning in March, Hennessey was waiting on the steps of her dorm, grinning widely when a large, black Mercedes pulled up. Townsend jumped out and threw her arms around the larger woman, murmuring, "God, I’ve missed you. Three months without touching you is an eternity!"

Dropping a soft kiss on the top of Townsend’s golden hair, Hennessey said, "Let’s go, honey. I don’t want to keep your mother waiting."

"Good Lord," Townsend grumbled, stooping to pick up Hennessey’s bag, "I’ve had hotter kisses from my grandfather."

* * *

"Good morning Mrs. Bartley," Hennessey said when she entered the car.

"Hello there, Hennessey. How have you been?"

"Very well, thanks. I’m glad that winter’s just about over, though. This is the first time I’ve ever been in truly cold weather, and my thin Southern blood could use a good shot of anti-freeze."

"Well, I don’t know if you’ll be much happier in Martha’s Vineyard," the older woman said, smiling at Hennessey. "We get a very brisk breeze at this time of year."

"I’ll keep you warm," Townsend said, winking at her friend.

"I brought long underwear and wool sweaters," Hennessey replied, giving Townsend a superior smile.

* * *

The drive was a lovely one, and Hennessey found her attention divided between listening to Townsend and her mother and watching the scenery. "Have you been to the shore before, Hennessey?" Mrs. Bartley asked.

"No, I haven’t. I haven’t ventured very far out of Boston, to be honest. Actually, I don’t leave Cambridge very often, but my roommate is from Brookline, and I’ve been to her home for dinner several times."

"Well, this should be quite an experience for you then. I think you’ll love the sea."

"I have a great deal of experience on the water, Mrs. Bartley. But the Atlantic is fairly tame where I’m from."

"Oh, that’s right! You’re from South Carolina. How forgetful of me. Now, what line of work is your father in, dear?"

"He’s a shrimper," Hennessey said. "My father fishes, and my grandparents run a small restaurant that uses his entire catch."

"I’ve told you all of this, Mother," Townsend said in an irritated voice.

Turning to her daughter, Miranda said, "I’m sure you have, but I’m interested in hearing what Hennessey has to say. You don’t mind, do you, Hennessey?"

"Not at all, Mrs. Bartley. I could talk about my family all day."

"I’m sure you’ve told me, but remind me again of what your family situation is."

"I live with my father and my grandparents."

"Are your parents divorced, dear?"

"Yes," the young woman said. "They split up when I was a baby. My grandparents raised me."

"Oh." There was a long, uncomfortable pause, then Miranda asked, "Do you see your mother?"

"Yes, ma’am. She lives close to us. Even though she didn’t raise me, she’s still my mother, and I love her very much."

"I see," Miranda said, wondering what was going on behind those clear, blue eyes.

"I told you about the fabulous food that Hennessey’s grandmother makes," Townsend said, trying to divert attention from her friend.

"Yes, I recall that you did," Miranda said. "You’re from Beaufort, Hennessey?"

"Yes, ma’am," Hennessey said, giving her a warm smile.

"I wonder if I’ve ever dined at your family’s restaurant. I’ve been to Beaufort many, many times. I set one of my novels there, you know."

"No, ma’am, I didn’t know," Hennessey said. "I wish I had time to read for pleasure, but I’m afraid that will have to wait until summer."

"Maybe you’ll have a little time this week. I have copies of all of my books at the beach house."

"God damn it, Mother. Hennessey doesn’t want to read your books; she’s just being polite!"

Before Miranda could say a word, Hennessey jumped in. "Townsend, I’d appreciate it if you didn’t speak for me. I’m perfectly able to decide what I’ll read, and when I’ll read it." Turning to Miranda, she said, "I’m not merely being polite, Mrs. Bartley; I’d love to read one of your books. You can advise me which one would be best to start with."

Townsend sank into the corner of the roomy seat, scowling at both of her fellow backseat passengers.

* * *

Hennessey wasn’t sure what she’d been expecting, but even with no particular expectations, the cottage was hard for her to get her mind around. She’d known that Townsend was from a wealthy family, but she honestly didn’t have much of a frame of reference for what substantial wealth could buy.

This cottage, used infrequently, was bigger, more lavish, and more beautifully appointed than any home she’d ever been in, and she began to feel uncomfortable while they were still in the foyer. She knew that she was being silly, so she tried her best to keep her discomfort to herself.

"You have a lovely home," she said to Miranda, putting on what she knew had to be a staged-looking smile.

"Oh, it’s nothing too special, Hennessey. Just a place to get away for a few days. It’s nice to rough it a little." She laughed softly, and Hennessey saw so much of Townsend in the woman’s expression that her own smile grew genuine and bright.

"I’ll show her around, Mom," Townsend said, taking Hennessey’s hand in her own and pulling her towards the wall of French doors in the back of the living room.

"Where are we going?" Hennessey asked when they reached the back yard.

"We’re going to the guest house. That’s where I always stay," Townsend said.

Stopping in her tracks, Hennessey’s dark head started to shake. "Not a good idea. Your mother won’t hear my screams when you try to molest me."

"Oh, Hennessey, you’re so goofy. My mother medicates herself so thoroughly that she’d never hear your screams, regardless of where we were. You’re gonna have to defend yourself, sweetheart."

Her face growing serious, Hennessey said, "I mean it, Townsend. I don’t think it’s a good idea for us to be alone. I’d rather sleep in the main house."

For several seconds, Townsend stared at her friend, then shook her head and started down a stone path, heading towards the two-story guest house. Hennessey watched her go, then stepped back into the house.

Miranda came out of the kitchen and gave Hennessey a quizzical glance. "Do you need something, dear?"

"Uhm … I … uhm … don’t know where I should sleep. Is there a guest room?"

"You’re not sleeping in the guest house?" the older woman asked. "I assumed you’d be more comfortable there."

"I don’t … I don’t want to make a big deal out of this, but I need to have my own room, Mrs. Bartley."

"Have you two had a fight?"

"No … well … maybe a small one. But that’s not the point. We’re trying to take this slowly, Mrs. Bartley. We’re not uhm … being intimate, yet."

The older woman blinked in surprise, then asked, "Still? Why ever not?"

You’re not in South Carolina anymore, Hennessey. Try to keep up. "Well, I think that Townsend should focus on staying sober. Getting too involved at this point might hurt her focus."

"Huh." Miranda shook her head, smiling to herself. "You are just as earnest as Townsend says you are."

Blushing, Hennessey nodded. "I know I’m not your typical eighteen-year-old, Mrs. Bartley. But Townsend needs some help with staying sober. I don’t want to supervise her, but I also don’t want to tempt her."

Eyebrows furrowing, Miranda asked, "Do you really think she’ll stay sober? Lord knows I want her to, but I can’t imagine that she can do it."

"I believe in her," Hennessey said, her confidence reflected in her eyes.

"I can see that," Miranda said, giving the girl a small smile. "I hope you’re right."

"I hope so, too." Lifting her bag, Hennessey asked, "Guest room?"

"Oh! Well, there are a few rooms on the second floor, but I’m planning on writing this week, and my schedule’s a little odd. I’m often nocturnal, and I have the stereo on rather loud. I’m sure you’ll be happier in the guest house."

"But …"

"You can lock your door, Hennessey," the woman said, giving the girl a puzzled smile. "I don’t think Townsend has an ax with her."

"Oh. I didn’t realize there was more than one room," Hennessey explained.

"There are three bedrooms in that house, dear. You can have an empty room between the two of you, just to be safe."

"I feel like an idiot," Hennessey mumbled. "And I hurt Townsend’s feelings."

Laughing wryly, Miranda said, "Her feelings are always hurt, Hennessey. You’ll get used to it."

* * *

Tentatively cracking open the door to the guest house, Hennessey stuck her head in, hoping that Townsend wouldn’t hurl anything at her. Spotting the blonde sitting on a white duck sofa, she asked, "Can I come in?"

"If you must," Townsend answered, not making eye contact.

Hennessey walked through the entryway and set her bag down. Approaching Townsend, she sat down next to her and said, "I’m sorry I hurt your feelings. I should have asked what the accommodations were, and what you and your mom had already worked out. I’m really sorry, Townsend."

Giving her a curious look, Townsend asked, "Do you want to be here, Hennessey? Do you want to be with me?"

"Yes! Of course I do!"

"It’s mid-March, and I haven’t seen you since January thirdrd. You keep me at arm’s length — like you’re half-in and half-out."

Scooting closer to her friend, Hennessey said, "That’s not true. I’m all in, Townsend. I’m one hundred percent into this — into you. But I know this year has been, and is going to continue to be, hard for you, and I want to give you the space to learn how to be your own person — the you who doesn’t abuse her body and her mind."

Townsend nodded and sat quietly for a few moments. She was staring at the fireplace, her eyes twitching over the gnarled wood that had been neatly stacked on the hearth. "Would you stop loving me if I drank, Hennessey?"

Hennessey answered without a moment’s hesitation. "No, I wouldn’t. I’d still love you, Townsend, but I couldn’t be with you if you decided to start drinking again. I can’t do that to myself, honey. I can’t watch my daddy and my momma and you all slowly kill yourselves. I can’t."

Townsend reached up and gently wiped at the tears that were slipping down Hennessey’s pink cheeks. "I won’t ever drink again, Hennessey. I promise I won’t."

"No, baby. Please don’t talk like that. It’s only gonna get you into trouble. Just try to stay sober right now. Don’t worry about tomorrow."

"Okay," the blonde nodded. "I’ll try to."

They rested against each other, their bodies slowly molding together. "What does a girl have to do to get a decent kiss around here?" Hennessey’s syrupy sweet voice finally asked.

Without a word, Townsend shifted in her friend’s embrace and pressed her lips against the ones she’d been dreaming of for the past two and a half months. Letting out a guttural groan, she wrapped her arms around Hennessey and sank into the delicious sensation of kissing those beautiful, full lips.

"Nice," Hennessey purred, pulling away. "Nicer than my dreams."

Reaching for the back of her partner’s head, Townsend found her efforts rebuffed when Hennessey slithered out of her grip.

"Time for some lunch," the brunette said. "I’m starving." She leaned forward for one more buss, then started to get up.

But Townsend had other ideas. Tackling the larger woman, she soon found her lap filled with one hundred thirty-five pounds of soft, warm, luscious Hennessey. "I need more," Townsend growled, placing a flurry of kisses on Hennessey’s face, neck and ears. "I need you so badly," she murmured between ragged breaths.

Gently but firmly pulling away from Townsend’s rabid embrace, Hennessey got to her rubbery legs and took a deep, calming breath. "Too much," she managed to get out. "That’s too much, baby."

Townsend leaned back against the cushions, then ran a hand through her hair, a wan smile on her face. "Can’t blame a girl for trying."

"I admire your persistence," Hennessey said, smiling warmly. "Your determination is what’s gonna see you through this." She extended a hand and Townsend started to grasp it, but Hennessey pulled it away at the last second. "Fool me once…" she said, laughing as Townsend stuck out her tongue and got to her feet. Draping an arm around the slightly narrower shoulders, Hennessey dropped a kiss onto the top of Townsend’s head as they left the building their laughter quickly absorbed by the sounds of the sea.

* * *

Miranda didn’t wish to go into town with the young women; she merely asked that they bring her some form of hearty salad when they returned. "Wanna ride bikes?" Townsend asked.

"Sure. Do you have two?"

"Uh-huh. Follow me." Townsend led the way to a very deep garage that could easily house four cars, if they were parked in tandem. There was a Mercedes SUV parked in the back of the space, and Hennessey noted all sorts of beach, fishing, clamming and other assorted paraphernalia stacked around as well. Townsend moved a few things and produced two simple beach cruisers.

"These are great," Hennessey said. "Just perfect for the beach."

"Yeah, it’s too sandy to ride a proper road bike out here. These work just fine."

"Helmets?" Hennessey asked, looking around.

"Be wild," Townsend urged. "Live on the edge for just a moment."

"I don’t know, Townsend," the older woman mused. "I might have nightmares about this. I’ve never done anything this daring."

"Move out," Townsend smirked. "I want to see that cute ass in front of me the whole time."

"Don’t you dare look at my ass!" Hennessey said in mock horror. "We’re not formally engaged."

Townsend gave the ass in question a firm swat, and the pair set off on their short jaunt into town.

* * *

"Damn, this place is so charming, it’s almost cloying," Hennessey teased.

"Yeah. Martha’s Vineyard is truly a New England seacoast village — and most of the buildings are original. It’s just that now they’re filled with gourmet ice cream and coffee shops rather than fishing supplies."

"Well, it’s damned cute. Where do you want to eat?"

"What are you in the mood for?"

"Mmm … not fish. I think we’ll get plenty of that this week. Let’s get a nice, big cheeseburger and a chocolate malt."

"Okay, but I’ve already put on five pounds since I stopped smoking. You could fatten me up to the point where you’re not hot for me anymore."

"Never gonna happen," Hennessey proclaimed. "There’d just be more to love."

* * *

Hennessey licked a gooey glop of chili off the edge of her hamburger bun and giggled when Townsend reached over and wiped at the corner of her mouth with a napkin. "I can’t have you looking like a slob. I have a reputation around here, you know," the younger woman reminded her.

"I’ll just bet you do. Maybe I should sit at the next table so the police don’t put me on their ‘watch list.’"

"Funny," Townsend snickered, touching Hennessey’s nose with the dirty part of the napkin.

Hennessey wiped the tip of her nose and said, "You know I’m kidding. I’m very proud to be with you, Townsend." Blowing her a kiss, she added, "You make me happy."

With her fingers creeping across the tabletop like a tarantula, Townsend slid her hand into Hennessey’s. "So, you won’t mind it if I kiss you in public? Hold your hand?"

"I’d mind it if you didn’t," Hennessey assured her. "But first, I’ve gotta eat this burger. Then my hand is yours."

Townsend had already finished, and she braced her chin on her hands, watching her friend eat. "You sure can put it away for such a skinny woman."

"I’m not skinny," Hennessey sniffed. "I’m lean. Big difference."

"Your dad is built like you, isn’t he?"

"Uh-huh. Long and lanky."

"I like long and lanky. I like those curves you try to hide under your baggy clothes, too."

"They’re not baggy," Hennessey gently said. "They’re cut generously. I like to be able to move in my clothes."

"I’d like to move in your clothes, too. I think there’s just enough room for me to join you in that sweater."

"Your head would never fit through the collar," Hennessey said, chuckling.

"I wouldn’t want my head to be out of the collar. The good parts are all hidden inside."

"Good Lord, Townsend, must you make me blush every fifteen seconds? Surely we have something to talk about other than sex."

With her green eyes roaming idly around the room, Townsend shook her head. "Nope. Just sex."

Laughing, Hennessey said, "Well, I have other topics on my list. What can we expect this week? Will we have dinner with your mother?"

"I guess it’s possible, but I wouldn’t count on it."

"Really? Why?"

"Uhm … when she comes here, she comes to write. She’s got her wacky schedule, and she doesn’t like to disturb it. The last time we were here together I think the only times I saw her were in the car on the way up and the way back."

"Speaking of the car, where did our driver disappear to?"

"Oh, he’s around. Mother puts him up at a place in town, and then pages him when she wants him. Sometimes he gets a week’s vacation. Other times he’s driving over to the house six times a day. With us here, he’ll probably get a nice vacation. We’ll be running the errands."

"She doesn’t go out? See any friends?"

"Nope. I’m sure she hasn’t told any of her friends she’s here. When she’s here to write — she writes."

Hennessey’s brows narrowed, and she asked, "How does she write if she’s, uhm … medicated … as you put it?"

"Oh, she’s a morphine addict," the younger woman said casually. "It doesn’t affect her much as long as she has access to her drug."

Hennessey’s eyes were so wide, they nearly popped from her head. "She’s a morphine addict?"

"Uh-huh. I’m not sure she knows that I know, but she’s been on Vicodin and OxyContin for years."

"That’s what I took from you at camp," Hennessey said quietly.

"Yeah. I didn’t take it often, but it was nice to have a little stash. I thought my stupid camp counselor would believe it was a legit drug. Just my luck I had to get a sharp one."

"Just your luck," Hennessey agreed, smiling at her. "So, how does the morphine affect your mom?"

"It really doesn’t. I mean, I’m sure she has to increase the dosage periodically, but as long as she can continue to get it, she won’t have to kick for a long time."

"Damn," Hennessey said, shaking her head. Looking at Townsend, she asked, "Doesn’t it bother you?"

"Mmm … not as much as your parent’s alcohol abuse bothers you. She doesn’t act like she’s on anything, so it doesn’t get in the way."

Looking pensive, Hennessey asked, "How do you feel about her, Townsend? Do you hate her?"

"Hate her?" The younger woman looked surprised at the question. "Hate her? No, I don’t hate her. Why would you think that?"

"Well … you don’t act very fond of her. You hardly ever say a kind word to her. Heck, I’ve never heard you say please or thank you to her, Townsend. That’s not the mark of a young woman who’s fond of her mom."

"Huh." Townsend shrugged her shoulders. "I don’t think about her very often, to be honest. I don’t dislike her, but I don’t know her well enough to like her much, either."

Gazing at her friend for a long while, Hennessey said, "She’s your mom, Townsend; how can you not know her?"

"We’ll see how well you know her at the end of this week," Townsend said. "Then you might understand what I’m talking about."

* * *

As predicted, Hennessey couldn’t stop herself, and at dinner, she indulged in a few of her favorite seafood dishes. "You know, I’ve become quite the connoisseur of clam chowder," she said. "This one is particularly good."

"Yeah, it’s never too floury here. Lots of clams, too."

"I think I’m gonna like it here," Hennessey said. "It’s kinda like home — but with funny accents and more expensive houses."

"Yeah. Those Massachusetts accents really do stick out," Townsend agreed, making a face at her friend. "Speaking of home, do you want to call your grandparents while you’re here? Feel free, if you do."

"No, I don’t think I will. They have the number if they need me." She looked a bit embarrassed and said, "I’d like to be able to relax and not have to worry about them for a week. I can always tell when things aren’t going well, but there’s almost nothing I can do."

"I know, honey. I know how hard it is for you."

"At least when I’m home, I can help out. All the way up here, I’m truly powerless. It’s hard sometimes."

"I understand," Townsend said.

"So, let’s just have fun this week, okay?"

"That’s what I’m best at," Townsend assured her.

* * *

Late that night, the pair walked along the beach, the wind brisk and cold, their hair blowing wildly. "It’s never like this in South Carolina," Hennessey muttered, her teeth chattering.

"Massachusetts doesn’t hold a candle to South Carolina, does it?" Townsend asked.

"No, no, it doesn’t," Hennessey said. "I never want to be far from home, Townsend. I hope you understand that."

"I do," the smaller woman said, nodding. "I like the Northeast, but I’m not in love with it. I’m in love with you, Hennessey, and I’m sure that I’ll like anywhere we end up."

"Think Beaufort," Hennessey said, burrowing against Townsend’s greater warmth.

* * *

"How about some hot chocolate?" Townsend asked when they returned to the guest house.

"I’d love some. Can we make it here?"

"The kitchen’s fully equipped, but it’s not stocked with food right now. I’ll run over to the main house. Be right back." As she started for the door, Townsend asked, "Can you build a fire?"

"Can I build a fire," Hennessey muttered to herself as she got up and began to do just that.

A few minutes later, Townsend was back, chuckling at Hennessey’s perfectionist streak. "Will you have that ready by the time we go to bed?"

"It’s ready now, for your information," Hennessey said. "If you build it right, you don’t have to fuss with it much."

"Here’s your chocolate, babe."

Hennessey lit the fire and stood up, watching it spring to life. She took a sip of her drink, made a slight face and asked, "Microwave, huh?"

"Yep. That’s the best you’ll get from me. Do you mind?"

"Yeah, but not to worry. I’ll teach you how to cook."

"Uh-huh. That’ll happen. I think the odds are better that we’ll hire a cook."

Hennessey started to speak, but thought better of it. "We’ll work it out," she said, smiling warmly. "One day at a time, baby."

They sat down on the sofa, leaning against each other, while they watched the well-made fire crackle. "Nice, isn’t it?" Townsend asked softly.

"I guess there’s something to be said for cold weather," Hennessey agreed. "Getting warm is pretty darned nice."

Townsend placed her mug on the table, then smiled knowingly and removed the one in Hennessey’s hand. "I can warm you up in a hurry." Taking the larger woman in her arms, she began to kiss the lips that joined with hers. "God, I love you," she whispered between kisses.

"I love you, too," Hennessey murmured. "Being held and kissed like this feels so wonderful."

"I could kiss you all night."

Hennessey let herself melt into Townsend’s arms, allowing her body to press against the delightful softness. Slowly, she opened her mouth and purred when Townsend’s tongue immediately entered.

Suddenly, she was being pushed firmly, and she started to sink into the cushions. Using all of her strength, she pushed back, not relenting until she was fully upright. "Someday. But not tonight." Hennessey pulled away and placed a few soft kisses on Townsend’s brow. "I’ve missed you so much, and fantasized about being with you so often, that my resolve isn’t what is usually is."

"Oh, Hennessey, don’t leave me so soon. It’s been months!"

"I have to, baby." She fell to her knees and wrapped her arms against her visibly frustrated partner. "Please don’t be angry with me. We’re going too fast, and you’re pushing me a little harder than I’m comfortable with. I know I’m going too slowly to please you, but this is all I can do right now."

Sighing, Townsend said, "It’s okay. I just … I just want you so badly."

Hennessey placed her forehead against her partner’s and whispered, "Be happy with what we have. I am." After an emotion-filled hug, she got up and turned to walk down the hall to the far bedroom, quietly locking the door behind her.

* * *

The pair did nothing of note on Sunday, but they both had one of the most enjoyable days of their young lives. Merely being together and sharing the small, normally insignificant parts of the day had new meaning when viewed through each other’s eyes.

After a fun, relaxed dinner at a quiet cafe, they walked along the streets of the town, with Hennessey chattering away incessantly, like she did when she was completely relaxed and happy. Townsend looked up at her and felt such an overpowering feeling of love that her heart seemed to skip a beat. She had never in her life felt so safe, so whole, so connected to another person, and it was all she could do to stay grounded. Gripping Hennessey’s hand with strong pressure, she leaned against her and whispered, "You make me so happy."

Smiling warmly, the edges of her mouth curling up in the way that made Townsend’s knees weak, Hennessey said, "It makes me happy to make you happy. Pretty good pairing, huh?"

"The best," Townsend sighed, pulling Hennessey’s arm in front of her and holding on as if it were a precious keepsake.

* * *

Back at the guest house, Townsend came into the main room, wearing her pajamas and slippers. "Good job on the fire," she said, smiling at a pleased-looking Hennessey. "You look cute in those pajamas, by the way.

"I splurged," she admitted. "I didn’t have any proper ones — just sweats and T-shirts. But I didn’t know what the set-up would be here, and I thought I should look presentable."

"You look more than presentable," Townsend said. "The sky blue color nearly matches your eyes, and those white clouds make you look like the angel you are."

"That’s me," Hennessey said, grinning. "The angel Hennessey."

Townsend had been brushing her hair, and she walked around to the back of the sofa on which her friend was sitting . "I’ve always wanted to brush your hair. May I?"

"Uhm … sure. It probably needs it after all of that heavy sea air."

The younger woman set to work, gently untangling a few strands, then gliding the brush through the long, dark locks. With a sexy moan, Hennessey lay her head back against the sofa and let Townsend work her magic. "God, that feels good. No one has brushed my hair since I was a little girl. I’ve forgotten how wonderful it feels."

"Shh … relax and enjoy it, baby. Feel the brush where it tickles your scalp and pulls just a tiny bit when it slides through your hair. Isn’t that nice?"

"Uh-huh. So nice." Hennessey spread her long arms along the back of the couch and was soon pressing against the brush to make sure it reached every part of her head.

Townsend marveled at the pure, sensual beauty of her partner and realized that Hennessey was acting freer and more openly sexual than she’d ever seen her. It’s because I’m not pushing her? she marveled. How stupid am I? She’s like a big, fluffy pussycat when I let her come to me. Having some useful experience with recalcitrant cats, Townsend gentled her touch even more, with Hennessey turning her head this way and that, seeking the elusive pressure. Without a sound, Townsend set the brush down and began to use her fingers on the sensitized scalp, her knees nearly buckling at Hennessey’s guttural groan.

With gentle, loving care, Townsend trailed her fingertips in long, unpredictable paths all along Hennessey’s arms, leaving her mark on every inch. The larger woman followed her fingers, nearly rising from her seat when Townsend pulled away a few inches. Oh, she’s so compliant when she’s treated tenderly.

After touching and teasing and caressing her partner, Townsend let her fingers slip below her collar — to stroke Hennessey’s incredible skin, trailing over her neck and the slope of her wide shoulders. The flannel pajamas were a slight impediment, and to her amazement, Hennessey opened a couple of buttons and exposed her shoulders completely, the fabric slipping down her body to barely cover her nipples. Good God, why didn’t it dawn on me that this is how she’d be? You can’t be aggressive with a woman who’s never had sex before! Don’t screw this up, Townsend … Even though you want to rip her shirt off — take it easy. It’s been a long time since you’ve been with anyone who was even partially innocent — try to remember what it was like.

Suddenly, Hennessey’s hands were sliding up Townsend’s arms. When they reached her neck, gentle pressure urged the blonde down, and she accepted the invitation by tenderly nuzzling on the perfect, smooth skin. She kept her touch light and soft, trying to make Hennessey ask for what she wanted and, hopefully, what she needed. With a whisper-like kiss, Townsend slipped her lips across the expanse of Hennessey’s shoulders, occasionally smoothing her path with a light swipe of her tongue. Hennessey did nothing but moan and writhe against her, but those two actions were everything that Townsend could have hoped for.

When the blonde began to delicately lick and suckle on an earlobe glowing pink with arousal, Hennessey had reached the breaking point. "Kiss me," she whispered, her voice so sexy and warm that Townsend felt faint.

Yes! Yes! She finally asked for what she wants! I knew she could do it! Townsend walked around to the front of the couch and gasped softly while she took her lover in. Hennessey was splayed out against the sofa, her shirt half open, a pair of small, perfectly formed breasts peeking out of the fabric. Her legs were spread wide as she slumped against the sofa, and every possible outward sign of her arousal was glaringly obvious.

Townsend sank to her knees, nestled between her partner’s legs, and reached out with both arms, making Hennessey close the gap. The larger woman did so without hesitation, though her shirt hampered her reach. Without a thought, she pulled it over her head and tossed it aside, then wrapped her heated body around Townsend and kissed her with a passion that the smaller woman had never dreamed of.

Hennessey let every bit of her self-control fade away as she held onto her partner for dear life, kissing her with every bit of her body and soul. For the first time in a very long time, Townsend heard a small voice in the farthest reaches of her brain. She wasn’t sure who the voice belonged to, but it had elements that reminded her of her own. This isn’t what she wants. You tricked her into this. You tried to get her to submit to you — and now she has. Happy?

The frantic brunette was sucking on Townsend’s lower lip as her fingers fumbled with the buttons on the cotton pajamas. Frustrated, Hennessey grabbed the roomy shirt and whisked it off Townsend’s body — just as one would do to a three-year-old. Her warm, slightly damp hand reached between their bodies and started to massage Townsend’s breast as Hennessey once again latched onto her partner’s lips.

Holding on to the brunette with a firm grip, Townsend pulled back just enough to look into Hennessey’s smoky eyes. She could see that the beautiful woman was acting on passion alone — there wasn’t a hint of thought or control in those almost-vacant eyes. "Hennessey," she heard herself say. "Hennessey."

"Huh?"

"Is this what you want?" Townsend asked, knowing what the answer would be if Hennessey were in her right mind.

Something snapped, and a spark of the normal intelligence came back into the blue eyes. "Want? Uhm … don’t you?"

"Yes, of course I do. I’ve wanted this since the first time I saw you. But is it what you want? Do you want this now, honey?"

"Do I want … now?" Shaking her head, Hennessey slowly ran her hand along Townsend’s bare back, then passed the same hand down her own chest, drawing back in shock. "Oh, God, what are we doing?"

"We’re about to make love," Townsend whispered, resting her head on her lover’s shoulder so she didn’t have to see the confused look in her eyes.

"Fuck," the larger woman muttered, now fully aware of her actions. They held onto each other for a long time, Hennessey’s hot body pulsing against Townsend. Finally, something dawned on the larger woman, and she pulled her head up and gazed at Townsend, then let her mouth curl into a gentle smile. "Thank you. Thank you for taking care of me." Bending her head once again, she gave Townsend a kiss that was filled with the dying embers of her passion and an equal portion of her love.

* * *

Continued in Part 6

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