The Right Thing
Part I can be found here
S X Meagher
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. Youre gonna be the death of me, Townsend. I swear it!
Picking up her roommates 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 dont like being dictated to, Townsend."
"I couldnt help it! Mother said we could have the house in Marthas Vineyard for spring break, but if I cant give her a definite answer by today, shes going to use it herself."
"The nerve," Hennessey said, drawing the word out to three syllables.
"I know," Townsend agreed, oblivious to her friends sarcasm. "So, whats your answer, good-lookin? I know you have the same time off that I do, I know youre 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 thats 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, dont you?" Townsends sexy voice asked.
"Unh-uh. I want you to kiss me. Just like last time only longer."
"Oh, Ill kiss you, Hennessey. Ill kiss you on every inch of skin I can uncover." After a lengthy pause, the younger woman asked, "Hennessey? Are you there?"
"Hennessey cant come to the phone right now. Shes lost the use of her central nervous system."
"So, can I tell Mother that well take the house? Please?"
"Yes, yes, you can. I cant wait to see you, Townsend, and Im really looking forward to spending some time getting to know your mother."
"Of course," the older woman said, barely stifling a snicker. "Youve just reminded me of how much we need a chaperone, and since your mother wants to use the house that week, theres no reason we shouldnt all share it."
"But æ !"
"No buts, Townsend. Its not a good idea for us to be alone."
"Oh, Hennessey, you cant possibly mean to tell me that you plan on sticking to that ridiculous idea of not sleeping together until Ive been sober for a year!"
With her voice taking on a very solemn tone, Hennessey said, "Ive never been more serious about anything. I dont want to merely sleep with you, Townsend. I want to love you and be in a relationship with you. Ill understand if you dont want the same thing, but this is what I want its 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 shed 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 its the right thing for both of us, Townsend. I can understand if you dont 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 youve been sober for a full year, we will not be sexually intimate. I will not risk your sobriety or my sanity."
"But Im going to a meeting every day, Hennessey. Lots of people get into relationships after theyve 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 dont 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 shes 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. "Its hard to stay sober, Townsend. Its the hardest thing youll ever do, and it deserves your full attention."
"But half of my attention is on you, Hennessey."
"I know that. Sometimes I wish it werent 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 thats true. I dont know what Id do if I felt like you started drinking again because of me."
"I wont, Hennessey. I go to my meetings, and I read The Big Book every night. I say those little affirmations you sent me, too. Theyre so earnest they make me barf, but I say em."
Chuckling softly at her friends disarming honesty, Hennessey said, "Its obvious that youre working hard, Townsend, but youre not nearly out of the woods."
"I know that." There was a pause that immediately set off warning signals in Hennesseys brain.
"What happened?" she asked sharply.
"Uhm nothing bad," Townsend replied. "I, uhm had a little slip, but it wasnt with alcohol."
Letting out a sigh, Hennessey asked, "What did you take, sweetheart?"
"Nicotine," Townsend mumbled. "I know I shouldnt 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 didnt 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 shouldnt 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 didnt buy any - I didnt."
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 didnt drink. Thats what counts. Trying to stop drinking and taking drugs and smoking all at the same time might be too much for you."
"But you dont like it when I smell like smoke," Townsend whimpered.
"No, I dont. But thats 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 wont want to kiss me," Townsend murmured. "Your kisses are all I think about."
"Id kiss you if you had a big, nasty plug of tobacco in your mouth," Hennessey teased.
"But you wouldnt like it," the younger woman said.
Hennessey took a minute to focus, then asked, "Townsend? Do you ever feel like youre 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 Im doing this for me and for you and for us. Id have been dead before I was thirty if Id kept going at the rate I was. Sharon always said, if youve gotta stop sometime it might as well be now."
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah, of course Im sure. Why do you want to know?"
"Because this isnt 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 thats important to you for you."
"It is, sweetheart. I want to live. Ill admit that one of my main reasons for living is to be with you but thats not the only reason."
"Tell me the other reasons, Townsend. I need to know."
"Okay." Townsend took a moment, then said, "Ive Ive started to enjoy life. For the first time in a long time, Im happy to wake up in the morning. Youre gonna laugh," she said, "but Ive 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 its 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 didnt 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, its really pretty here. Maybe you could come see me before the years up, huh? I think youd 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 dont hurt anymore, and I dont have that nasty cough that used to bother me in the morning. My sense of smell is better, too. I can tell if its 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 its going to be and when its gonna rain just from smelling the air in the morning. Its nice to get your senses back, isnt it?"
"Yeah, it is. Im 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, "Youve got your work cut out for you, Hennessey. I dont 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 dont care if all of Harvard University knows Im hopelessly in love with a beautiful woman. As long as Im more than five hundred miles from home, Im a real rainbow flag waver."
"Youll get comfortable with it at some point, honey. Dont stress about it."
"Thats how I feel about your smoking," Hennessey said. "Ill admit that it will be a little unpleasant for me if youre smoking. It reminds me too much of my mother, and thoughts about her sometimes intrude when Im around someone who smokes. But I dont want you to feel that you have to quit because Ive told you to. This relationship cant work if Im the adult and youre 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 dont worry about me, babe; I think Ill 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?"
"Im from South Carolina, honey. We throw up in the ocean, like self-respecting people."
"Do you still love me, Hennessey? Even when Im 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, werent you?"
"Honey, I never tease about your sobriety. Ill only come if your mother or father is there also. And I swear, if I get there and find out youre alone, Ill leave. Im 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 shed never been to the church auditorium before. When it was her turn to speak, she cleared her throat and said, "Hi, Im Hennessey, and Im 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, Ive missed you. Three months without touching you is an eternity!"
Dropping a soft kiss on the top of Townsends golden hair, Hennessey said, "Lets go, honey. I dont want to keep your mother waiting."
"Good Lord," Townsend grumbled, stooping to pick up Hennesseys bag, "Ive 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. Im glad that winters just about over, though. This is the first time Ive ever been in truly cold weather, and my thin Southern blood could use a good shot of anti-freeze."
"Well, I dont know if youll be much happier in Marthas Vineyard," the older woman said, smiling at Hennessey. "We get a very brisk breeze at this time of year."
"Ill 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 havent. I havent ventured very far out of Boston, to be honest. Actually, I dont leave Cambridge very often, but my roommate is from Brookline, and Ive been to her home for dinner several times."
"Well, this should be quite an experience for you then. I think youll love the sea."
"I have a great deal of experience on the water, Mrs. Bartley. But the Atlantic is fairly tame where Im from."
"Oh, thats right! Youre from South Carolina. How forgetful of me. Now, what line of work is your father in, dear?"
"Hes a shrimper," Hennessey said. "My father fishes, and my grandparents run a small restaurant that uses his entire catch."
"Ive told you all of this, Mother," Townsend said in an irritated voice.
Turning to her daughter, Miranda said, "Im sure you have, but Im interested in hearing what Hennessey has to say. You dont mind, do you, Hennessey?"
"Not at all, Mrs. Bartley. I could talk about my family all day."
"Im sure youve 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, maam. She lives close to us. Even though she didnt raise me, shes 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 Hennesseys grandmother makes," Townsend said, trying to divert attention from her friend.
"Yes, I recall that you did," Miranda said. "Youre from Beaufort, Hennessey?"
"Yes, maam," Hennessey said, giving her a warm smile.
"I wonder if Ive ever dined at your familys restaurant. Ive been to Beaufort many, many times. I set one of my novels there, you know."
"No, maam, I didnt know," Hennessey said. "I wish I had time to read for pleasure, but Im afraid that will have to wait until summer."
"Maybe youll have a little time this week. I have copies of all of my books at the beach house."
"God damn it, Mother. Hennessey doesnt want to read your books; shes just being polite!"
Before Miranda could say a word, Hennessey jumped in. "Townsend, Id appreciate it if you didnt speak for me. Im perfectly able to decide what Ill read, and when Ill read it." Turning to Miranda, she said, "Im not merely being polite, Mrs. Bartley; Id 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 wasnt sure what shed been expecting, but even with no particular expectations, the cottage was hard for her to get her mind around. Shed known that Townsend was from a wealthy family, but she honestly didnt 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 shed 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, its nothing too special, Hennessey. Just a place to get away for a few days. Its nice to rough it a little." She laughed softly, and Hennessey saw so much of Townsend in the womans expression that her own smile grew genuine and bright.
"Ill show her around, Mom," Townsend said, taking Hennesseys 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.
"Were going to the guest house. Thats where I always stay," Townsend said.
Stopping in her tracks, Hennesseys dark head started to shake. "Not a good idea. Your mother wont hear my screams when you try to molest me."
"Oh, Hennessey, youre so goofy. My mother medicates herself so thoroughly that shed never hear your screams, regardless of where we were. Youre gonna have to defend yourself, sweetheart."
Her face growing serious, Hennessey said, "I mean it, Townsend. I dont think its a good idea for us to be alone. Id 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 dont know where I should sleep. Is there a guest room?"
"Youre not sleeping in the guest house?" the older woman asked. "I assumed youd be more comfortable there."
"I dont I dont 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 thats not the point. Were trying to take this slowly, Mrs. Bartley. Were not uhm being intimate, yet."
The older woman blinked in surprise, then asked, "Still? Why ever not?"
Youre 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 Im not your typical eighteen-year-old, Mrs. Bartley. But Townsend needs some help with staying sober. I dont want to supervise her, but I also dont want to tempt her."
Eyebrows furrowing, Miranda asked, "Do you really think shell stay sober? Lord knows I want her to, but I cant 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 youre right."
"I hope so, too." Lifting her bag, Hennessey asked, "Guest room?"
"Oh! Well, there are a few rooms on the second floor, but Im planning on writing this week, and my schedules a little odd. Im often nocturnal, and I have the stereo on rather loud. Im sure youll be happier in the guest house."
"You can lock your door, Hennessey," the woman said, giving the girl a puzzled smile. "I dont think Townsend has an ax with her."
"Oh. I didnt 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 Townsends feelings."
Laughing wryly, Miranda said, "Her feelings are always hurt, Hennessey. Youll get used to it."
Tentatively cracking open the door to the guest house, Hennessey stuck her head in, hoping that Townsend wouldnt 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, "Im sorry I hurt your feelings. I should have asked what the accommodations were, and what you and your mom had already worked out. Im 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!"
"Its mid-March, and I havent seen you since January 3rd. You keep me at arms length like youre half-in and half-out."
Scooting closer to her friend, Hennessey said, "Thats not true. Im all in, Townsend. Im 100% 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 doesnt 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 moments hesitation. "No, I wouldnt. Id still love you, Townsend, but I couldnt be with you if you decided to start drinking again. I cant do that to myself, honey. I cant watch my daddy and my momma and you all slowly kill yourselves. I cant."
Townsend reached up and gently wiped at the tears that were slipping down Hennesseys pink cheeks. "I wont ever drink again, Hennessey. I promise I wont."
"No, baby. Please dont talk like that. Its only gonna get you into trouble. Just try to stay sober right now. Dont worry about tomorrow."
"Okay," the blonde nodded. "Ill 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?" Hennesseys syrupy sweet voice finally asked.
Without a word, Townsend shifted in her friends embrace and pressed her lips against the ones shed 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 partners head, Townsend found her efforts rebuffed when Hennessey slithered out of her grip.
"Time for some lunch," the brunette said. "Im 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 Hennesseys face, neck and ears. "I need you so badly," she murmured between ragged breaths.
Gently but firmly pulling away from Townsends rabid embrace, Hennessey got to her rubbery legs and took a deep, calming breath. "Too much," she managed to get out. "Thats too much, baby."
Townsend leaned back against the cushions, then ran a hand through her hair, a wan smile on her face. "Cant blame a girl for trying."
"I admire your persistence," Hennessey said, smiling warmly. "Your determination is whats 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 Townsends head as they left the building their laughter quickly absorbed by the sounds of the sea.
Miranda didnt 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, its 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 dont know, Townsend," the older woman mused. "I might have nightmares about this. Ive never done anything this daring."
"Move out," Townsend smirked. "I want to see that cute ass in front of me the whole time."
"Dont you dare look at my ass!" Hennessey said in mock horror. "Were 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, its almost cloying," Hennessey teased.
"Yeah. Marthas Vineyard is truly a New England seacoast village and most of the buildings are original. Its just that now theyre filled with gourmet ice cream and coffee shops rather than fishing supplies."
"Well, its damned cute. Where do you want to eat?"
"What are you in the mood for?"
"Mmm not fish. I think well get plenty of that this week. Lets get a nice, big cheeseburger and a chocolate malt."
"Okay, but Ive already put on five pounds since I stopped smoking. You could fatten me up to the point where youre not hot for me anymore."
"Never gonna happen," Hennessey proclaimed. "Thered 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 cant have you looking like a slob. I have a reputation around here, you know," the younger woman reminded her.
"Ill just bet you do. Maybe I should sit at the next table so the police dont put me on their watch list."
"Funny," Townsend snickered, touching Hennesseys nose with the dirty part of the napkin.
Hennessey wiped the tip of her nose and said, "You know Im kidding. Im 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 Hennesseys. "So, you wont mind it if I kiss you in public? Hold your hand?"
"Id mind it if you didnt," Hennessey assured her. "But first, Ive 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."
"Im not skinny," Hennessey sniffed. "Im lean. Big difference."
"Your dad is built like you, isnt he?"
"Uh-huh. Long and lanky."
"I like long and lanky. I like those curves you try to hide under your baggy clothes, too."
"Theyre not baggy," Hennessey gently said. "Theyre cut generously. I like to be able to move in my clothes."
"Id like to move in your clothes, too. I think theres just enough room for me to join you in that sweater."
"Your head would never fit through the collar," Hennessey said, chuckling.
"I wouldnt 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 its possible, but I wouldnt count on it."
"Uhm when she comes here, she comes to write. Shes got her wacky schedule, and she doesnt 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, hes around. Mother puts him up at a place in town, and then pages him when she wants him. Sometimes he gets a weeks vacation. Other times hes driving over to the house six times a day. With us here, hell probably get a nice vacation. Well be running the errands."
"She doesnt go out? See any friends?"
"Nope. Im sure she hasnt told any of her friends shes here. When shes here to write she writes."
Hennesseys brows narrowed, and she asked, "How does she write if shes, uhm medicated as you put it?"
"Oh, shes a morphine addict," the younger woman said casually. "It doesnt affect her much as long as she has access to her drug."
Hennesseys eyes were so wide, they nearly popped from her head. "Shes a morphine addict?"
"Uh-huh. Im not sure she knows that I know, but shes been on Vicodin and OxyContin for years."
"Thats what I took from you at camp," Hennessey said quietly.
"Yeah. I didnt 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 doesnt. I mean, Im sure she has to increase the dosage periodically, but as long as she can continue to get it, she wont have to kick for a long time."
"Damn," Hennessey said, shaking her head. Looking at Townsend, she asked, "Doesnt it bother you?"
"Mmm not as much as your parents alcohol abuse bothers you. She doesnt act like shes on anything, so it doesnt 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 dont hate her. Why would you think that?"
"Well you dont act very fond of her. You hardly ever say a kind word to her. Heck, Ive never heard you say please or thank you to her, Townsend. Thats not the mark of a young woman whos fond of her mom."
"Huh." Townsend shrugged her shoulders. "I dont think about her very often, to be honest. I dont dislike her, but I dont know her well enough to like her much, either."
Gazing at her friend for a long while, Hennessey said, "Shes your mom, Townsend; how can you not know her?"
"Well see how well you know her at the end of this week," Townsend said. "Then you might understand what Im talking about."
As predicted, Hennessey couldnt stop herself, and at dinner, she indulged in a few of her favorite seafood dishes. "You know, Ive become quite the connoisseur of clam chowder," she said. "This one is particularly good."
"Yeah, its never too floury here. Lots of clams, too."
"I think Im gonna like it here," Hennessey said. "Its 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 youre here? Feel free, if you do."
"No, I dont think I will. They have the number if they need me." She looked a bit embarrassed and said, "Id like to be able to relax and not have to worry about them for a week. I can always tell when things arent going well, but theres almost nothing I can do."
"I know, honey. I know how hard it is for you."
"At least when Im home, I can help out. All the way up here, Im truly powerless. Its hard sometimes."
"I understand," Townsend said.
"So, lets just have fun this week, okay?"
"Thats what Im best at," Townsend assured her.
Late that night, the pair walked along the beach, the wind brisk and cold, their hair blowing wildly. "Its never like this in South Carolina," Hennessey muttered, her teeth chattering.
"Massachusetts doesnt hold a candle to South Carolina, does it?" Townsend asked.
"No, no, it doesnt," 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 Im not in love with it. Im in love with you, Hennessey, and Im sure that Ill like anywhere we end up."
"Think Beaufort," Hennessey said, burrowing against Townsends greater warmth.
"How about some hot chocolate?" Townsend asked when they returned to the guest house.
"Id love some. Can we make it here?"
"The kitchens fully equipped, but its not stocked with food right now. Ill 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 Hennesseys perfectionist streak. "Will you have that ready by the time we go to bed?"
"Its ready now, for your information," Hennessey said. "If you build it right, you dont have to fuss with it much."
"Heres 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. Thats the best youll get from me. Do you mind?"
"Yeah, but not to worry. Ill teach you how to cook."
"Uh-huh. Thatll happen. I think the odds are better that well hire a cook."
Hennessey started to speak, but thought better of it. "Well 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, isnt it?" Townsend asked softly.
"I guess theres 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 Hennesseys 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 Townsends arms, allowing her body to press against the delightful softness. Slowly, she opened her mouth and purred when Townsends 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 Townsends brow. "Ive missed you so much, and fantasized about being with you so often, that my resolve isnt what is usually is."
"Oh, Hennessey, dont leave me so soon. Its been months!"
"I have to, baby." She fell to her knees and wrapped her arms against her visibly frustrated partner. "Please dont be angry with me. Were going too fast, and youre pushing me a little harder than Im comfortable with. I know Im going too slowly to please you, but this is all I can do right now."
Sighing, Townsend said, "Its okay. I just I just want you so badly."
Hennessey placed her forehead against her partners 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 others 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 Hennesseys 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 Townsends knees weak, Hennessey said, "It makes me happy to make you happy. Pretty good pairing, huh?"
"The best," Townsend sighed, pulling Hennesseys 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 didnt have any proper ones just sweats and T-shirts. But I didnt 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."
"Thats 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 . "Ive 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. Ive 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. Isnt 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 shed ever seen her. Its because Im not pushing her, she marveled. How stupid am I? Shes 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 Hennesseys guttural groan.
With gentle, loving care, Townsend trailed her fingertips in long, unpredictable paths all along Hennesseys 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, shes so compliant when shes treated tenderly.
After touching and teasing and caressing her partner, Townsend let her fingers slip below her collar to stroke Hennesseys 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 didnt it dawn on me that this is how shed be? You cant be aggressive with a woman whos never had sex before! Dont screw this up, Townsend Even though you want to rip her shirt off take it easy. Its been a long time since youve been with anyone who was even partially innocent try to remember what it was like.
Suddenly, Hennesseys hands were sliding up Townsends 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 Hennesseys 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 partners 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 wasnt sure who the voice belonged to, but it had elements that reminded her of her own. This isnt 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 Townsends lower lip as her fingers fumbled with the buttons on the cotton pajamas. Frustrated, Hennessey grabbed the roomy shirt and whisked it off Townsends body just as one would do to a three-year-old. Her warm, slightly damp hand reached between their bodies and started to massage Townsends breast as Hennessey once again latched onto her partners lips.
Holding on to the brunette with a firm grip, Townsend pulled back just enough to look into Hennesseys smoky eyes. She could see that the beautiful woman was acting on passion alone there wasnt a hint of thought or control in those almost-vacant eyes. "Hennessey," she heard herself say. "Hennessey."
"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 dont you?"
"Yes, of course I do. Ive 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 Townsends bare back, then passed the same hand down her own chest, drawing back in shock. "Oh, God, what are we doing?"
"Were about to make love," Townsend whispered, resting her head on her lovers shoulder so she didnt 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, Hennesseys 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.
The next morning, Hennessey popped her head into Townsends room after knocking gently. "Hi," she said, smiling at the grumpy look her partner gave her. "I noticed that someone went shopping yesterday. Im gonna go make breakfast and bring it back here. I can make anything you want."
"I want another two hours of sleep," Townsend muttered.
"Coming right up," the incessantly cheerful woman said. "Ill eat my breakfast now and bring some to you in a couple of hours." She walked into the room and kissed the jumble of blonde hair that peeked from the covers. "I love you, Townsend. I love you more than ever for caring about me last night." With a gentle pat on the cheek, she turned and left, leaving Townsend to stew in her guilt, just as she had done through most of the long, dark night.
Surprisingly, Miranda offered to take the young women to dinner that night. She chose a very nice restaurant housed in a bed and breakfast, and the trio set off in the car with Miranda driving.
Miranda was a charming companion: erudite, sociable and with a keen sense of humor. Hennessey was enjoying herself fully, and even Townsend seemed to be having a good time. But the evening turned bitter when Miranda said, "Townsend, did I mention that the headmaster of your school asked me to give the commencement address at your graduation?"
Townsends formerly sunny disposition darkened immediately. "What?"
Looking taken aback, Miranda repeated her comment. "Does that bother you for some reason?" she added.
"Fuck, yes, it bothers me!" Townsend spat. "Why didnt you ask me first?"
Miranda blinked slowly, finally saying, "It didnt dawn on me that youd be opposed, honey. Whats the big deal? No one pays attention to what the speaker says anyway."
"Its my God damned graduation! Not yours! If youre there, everyone will know that youre my mother!"
Chuckling softly, Miranda said, "Is that such a horrible crime?"
Townsend stood and fumbled in her lap for her napkin. Wadding it up, she threw it into her mothers face, her own visage filled with rage. "Yes! Its a fucking crime! Stay out of my life!" She violently pushed her chair against the wall, gaining the attention of the very few patrons who were not already paying rapt attention. Every pair of eyes followed the rage-filled girl stalking away, many of the diners covering their mouths to furtively reveal Mirandas identity to their dinner companions.
To Hennesseys astonishment, Miranda didnt seem particularly upset. She was clearly embarrassed, but not angry, and Hennessey summoned the nerve to ask, "Uhm are you all right, Mrs. Bartley?"
"Oh, of course, Hennessey. Im used to it by now." Cocking her head slightly, she looked at Hennessey and asked, "Doesnt she do that with you?"
"No, maam. I dont think Id be here if she did."
"Well, you can choose to leave, Hennessey. The state of Massachusetts frowns on parents abandoning their children no matter how justified they may be." She said this with such wry good-humor that Hennessey was totally shocked.
"You act like it doesnt bother you," she said, her puzzlement showing.
"Shes been like this since she was a pre-teen. One can get used to anything, Hennessey. Especially if one has to."
Hennessey put her head down and finished her entrée, not at all sure what she should do at this point. As soon as she had the last bite in her mouth, Miranda said, "If you want to go find her, go right ahead, honey. Shell be walking along the shore. Id guess that shell head north and then come back this way before she walks home. If you want to save the steps, you can just wait by the water. Shell be along when shes blown off some steam."
Hennessey nodded and gave her host a thin smile. "I think Ill try to find her. If you see her before I do, tell her I went north first, okay?"
"I will, Hennessey. Now dont take this too seriously. Its happened more times than I can count."
"Yes, maam. Ill try." Hennessey took a step, then turned back to the table. "Im sorry for forgetting to thank you for dinner, Mrs. Bartley. It was a fantastic meal, and I truly enjoyed your company."
Miranda looked at her thoughtfully for a moment, then said, "Please dont take this the wrong way, Hennessey, but what do you see in my daughter? For that matter, I cant understand what she sees in you. Shes never, ever aligned herself with a person with manners." She chuckled softly and added, "Shed normally make fun of a young woman like you."
With a smile, Hennessey said, "She did make fun of me at first, but after a while, she recognized that we had to get along. I wasnt going to let her win, Mrs. Bartley. There was too much at stake."
Nodding, the older woman said nothing. Her expression made it clear that she didnt understand what Hennessey was talking about; but she indicated just as clearly that she wasnt about to ask.
When she got to the ocean, Hennessey removed her shoes and socks and let the chilly water wash over her feet. She set off in a northerly direction as shed said she would, but she walked very slowly. She knew that Townsend not only had a quick fuse, but that it took her quite a while to calm down after a flare-up, and she wanted to make sure her friend was calm by the time they met.
She walked for nearly an hour, feeling just a little sorry that Townsends exercise capacity had gotten so much greater. Finally, in the distance, she saw her walking with her head down and her hands shoved into her pockets. Hennessey slowed down even more, knowing from Townsends posture that she was still angry.
When they approached each other, the blonde looked up in surprise, so lost in her thoughts that she hadnt noticed Hennessey. Without a word, she fell into the larger womans arms, burying her head against her chest and sobbing pitifully. Hennessey merely stroked her head and rubbed her back briskly, taking her cue from Townsend and not speaking.
After a long while, the smaller woman pulled away and took Hennesseys hand. They walked back to the house in silence, the trip taking over an hour, even at the quick pace they maintained. Once inside, both of them went to their rooms to change into their pajamas. When Townsend came down the hall, Hennessey was lighting a fire, her attention fully engaged.
When Hennessey stood, Townsend wrapped an arm around her waist and led her to the sofa. Without warning, the younger woman set upon Hennesseys lips with a vengeance, kissing her so often and so voraciously that Hennessey instinctively pushed her away. "Hold on a minute!" she said, clearly irritated. "Dont do that, Townsend!"
"Dont do what?" the blonde asked. "Now I cant kiss you?"
"Of course you can kiss me, but you cant molest me! Youre coming at me like a dog on a meaty soup bone!"
"Thats called passion, Hennessey, but I guess you wouldnt know anything about that! You only know how to say no every time your clit starts to throb."
Stunned, the brunette gasped, "Where in the hell did that come from? Why are you angry with me?"
"I just want to fucking kiss you, Hennessey. But as usual, I have to beg for everything I get. My needs dont count. Only yours do."
Looking down at the floor, Hennessey said quietly. "I dont like to be kissed like that. If thats your idea of passion, I I dont want it."
"Of course you dont want it," the blonde sneered. "You dont want it, and you dont want me to want it."
"Townsend, I dont think this is the night to get into this. I have no intention of getting into another scene like we had at the restaurant. Your mother wasnt upset, but I was. Thats not how civilized people behave!"
"Oh, please! Now Im not allowed to tell my mother what I think of her moronic plans. What else do you get to control, Hennessey? Youre already in charge of my drinking, my drug use, my nicotine use and my sex drive. Cant I keep just one tiny thing that gives me pleasure?"
"Pleasure?" the taller woman gaped. "Yelling at your mother in public gives you pleasure? What kind of a person are you?"
Grabbing Hennessey by the lapels of her flannel pajamas, Townsend gave her a good shake. "Im a fucked-up person from a fucked-up family. And youre not going to be the one to fix me, Hennessey Fucking Boudreaux. You can take me as I am, or pack your God damned bag and go back to your God damned Ivy League school and suck on some socially acceptable pussy!"
Closing her eyes against the pain, Hennessey yanked away from Townsends strong grip and walked down the hall to her room, her tears obscuring her faltering path.
Hennessey didnt sleep a wink; she merely lay in bed and tried to think of what to do. Hating to do it, but not having any better ideas, she picked up the phone and dialed the Al-Anon sponsor shed just begun to work with. "Angela?" she asked, grimacing. "Its Hennessey. I know its far, far too late to call you, but Im in a terrible bind."
"Its all right, Hennessey. Uhm let me get up and get something to drink. Call me back in five minutes, okay?"
"Are you sure, Angela? I hate to do this to you æ "
"Hey, thats what youre supposed to do when youre having a tough time. Now, go get a mug of that tea youre always drinking and call me back."
"Okay. Thanks, Angela. I really mean that."
After speaking to Angela for nearly an hour, Hennessey felt resolved about what she should do. Actually, Angela had merely agreed with the plan of action that Hennessey had decided upon, but it was very, very reassuring to have an impartial third-party support her. She knew that Townsend wouldnt be asleep, so she put on her slippers and went down the hall, finding the fire low but no trace of Townsend. Going back down the hall, she tried Townsends door, but found it locked. Well, maybe its best to wait until morning. Maybe she was able to sleep once she vented her spleen. Going back to her room, Hennessey lay in bed until it was nearly dawn, repeatedly singing a few old lullabies that her grandmother had lulled her to sleep with.
When Hennessey woke, it was after 11:00, and she felt as if she had a massive hangover. Hungry, thirsty and grouchy, she took a shower and got dressed, then checked on Townsend. The door was still locked, but she didnt have the patience to wait any longer. With a soft knock, she said, "Townsend, its time to get up now."
When her gentle prodding received no response, she increased the force and the frequency of her rapping until she was pounding on the door. "Townsend, Im not fooling around. Either open the damned door, or Ill kick it in." You know you dont have the strength to kick in a door, you idiot, and she knows it, too. "Fine. Just stay there and pout. Im going to get something to eat."
Stomping loudly out of the house, she snuck around to the back of the structure and stopped in shock when she saw that Townsends window was wide open. Shimmying behind a huge lilac bush, she poked her head in the window to find the room empty. Great! Just great! How in the hell long has she been gone?
Jogging to the main house, she prowled around the first floor, seeing no evidence of Townsends having been there. Now what? Walking upstairs, she found only one door closed. Knocking on it but getting no response, she opened it, nonetheless, to find Miranda sound asleep, the blanket pulled up to her neck. "Mrs. Bartley," she said softly. Going closer and closer and speaking louder and louder, Hennessey found herself shaking the woman while calling her name loudly.
Finally, the muzzy green eyes opened halfway. "What?" she managed to get out before the eyes closed again.
"Mrs. Bartley, have you seen Townsend? Shes missing."
"Oh." The woman sat up as well as she could and blinked her eyes a few times. "Missing, huh?" Miranda smacked her lips together, while Hennessey tried to restrain herself from grabbing her by the shoulders and shaking her roughly. "Dont worry, she always does this after a fight. Shell show up at some point. Dont let her worry you it doesnt do any good."
"Not worry me? Not worry me? Jesus Christ, Mrs. Bartley, dont you know how hard it is for her to stay sober?"
"I told you that the odds werent good, Hennessey. Shes always been a self-destructive child. I think youre wasting your time, to be honest, honey."
"Yeah, I obviously am," Hennessey grumbled, heading for the door.
Deciding to be systematic, Hennessey started at the far end of town. She locked up the bike and started to survey every business that was open. Since it was now past noon, most were either open or just opening.
Going into a café, she showed the woman at the front a picture of Townsend and asked if shed seen her. "Oh, I know her, but I havent seen her lately. Whats she done now?"
Letting out a resigned sigh, Hennessey shook her head. "Nothing. Shes my friend, and Im worried about her."
"You should be," the woman said, giving Hennessey the same look Miranda had.
The next dozen businesses provided no clues, and Hennessey sucked in a breath and steeled her nerves when she entered a dark, run-down bar. She hated to enter this kind of place, mostly because it reminded her of long evenings looking for her father when he hadnt returned home for a day or two. Approaching the grizzled, gruff-looking man at the bar, she held up the picture and asked, "Have you seen this woman recently?"
"Not since 2:00 a.m.," he said, continuing to polish the thick, old beer mug that his ministrations were having no visible affect on.
"She was here until you closed?" Hennessey asked, feeling like she would either vomit or cry.
"No, she was here until I called the sheriff. The little slut was hiding in the corner, getting soused. A pretty little whore like her can always find a couple of dunces to buy her drinks all night."
"Shes seventeen years old," Hennessey said, her voice shaking with anger and sorrow.
"Hell, I know how old she is. Everybody on the island knows how old she is. Thats why I called the cops. Im not about to lose my license over that piece of shit."
A large part of Hennessey wanted to climb over the bar and make him regret what hed said about Townsend, but another part knew that the man probably had good reason to think so poorly of her partner. Feeling more defeated than she could ever remember, Hennessey asked, "Which way to the sheriffs station?"
The bartender put down his mug and his rag and looked at Hennessey for a few moments. "Why would a nice-looking girl like you want to get mixed up with the likes of her? Do yourself a favor, honey, and let her sit until one of her parents goes to get her. You can find better friends on this island."
Hennessey looked him right in the eye and said the words shed never said to anyone but Townsend. "Im with her because I love her."
"Hi," Hennessey said to the neatly turned out young woman sitting at a desk in the small station.
"Good afternoon. Can I help you?"
"Are you holding Townsend Bartley here?"
The deputy sheriffs eyebrows shot up so quickly that they nearly disappeared under the low, wide brim of her hat. "Yes, we are. Are you her ?"
"Im her friend. How do I go about getting her released?"
"If youre not her attorney or her parent, Im afraid you cant. We cant just let her sleep it off this time," the woman said with what looked like true regret. "Driving without a license, falsifying her age, public intoxication and possession of a controlled substance." She shook her head. "We cant let her walk away from this one. Do you know how to reach her parents?"
Fighting back tears, Hennessey nodded. Surprisingly, the woman pushed a side chair towards Hennessey and said, "Have a seat."
Hennessey did so, shaking visibly. The deputy handed her a tissue and said, "She means a lot to you, doesnt she?"
"Yes," Hennessey got out as the tears started to fall.
"You must be Hennessey," the young woman said. "Shes been calling for you and apologizing all night long. First time Ive ever heard her do that."
"We love each other," Hennessey said, unafraid of the womans reaction.
"I can see that," she said gently. Leaning forward, she asked, "Do you know how troubled she is, Hennessey?"
Nodding, the younger woman said, "I do."
The deputy reached out and gripped her shoulder, giving it brief, but firm pressure. "I hope things work out for you, but its gonna be a very tough road. This girl needs help lots of help. Shes determined to kill herself the hard way."
"I know its going to be hard," Hennessey admitted, the magnitude of the difficulty that faced them hitting her with full force, "but I believe in her."
The older woman gazed at her for a minute and gave her a half-smile. "Maybe thatll be enough." Standing, she said, "I can let you see her, but her parents are going to have to come bail her out. Is her mother at their home?"
"Yes, but shes sleeping. She wont wake up until about 4:00."
Once again the deputys eyebrows popped up to the tan felt of her hat. "Well, Ive left many messages. I guess shell get them then."
"Can I stay with her?" Hennessey asked.
Looking at her watch, the woman said, "I go off duty at 6:00. I can let you stay until my replacement comes in. He wouldnt like my giving Townsend any special favors."
Wiping at tears again, Hennessey asked, "Doesnt anyone on this island like her?"
"Not many good people have reason to, Hennessey. The ones who do like her arent the kinds of people youd want her to associate with."
Nodding slowly, Hennessey followed the woman into the lock-up, staring at the crisp crease that ran down the back of her tan uniform shirt concentrating hard so she wasnt tempted to cry again.
There were two cells, and only one was occupied by a slight, frail, pale body. Townsend was wearing only a set of hospital-green scrubs, and her color nearly matched the tone of the fabric. There wasnt another thing in the cell save for a bare mattress. The young woman looked cold and ill; Hennessys suspicion was verified when she saw the nearby clear, plastic container that held some of the contents of her lovers stomach. Hennessey turned to the deputy with a stunned expression. "Shes sick and shes freezing!" she whispered, trying not to wake Townsend up.
"I know that, but I was afraid she was a suicide risk, given how she was acting. Id rather have her cold than dead."
"Ill be with her," Hennessey said. "Can you please get her a blanket?"
"Sure. Ill get one right now. Just sit tight." She went to the far end of the hall, leaving Hennessey to stare at her lover. Never had Townsend looked worse, and for a few moments, Hennessey wished she hadnt come to the lock-up; to the beach house; to Boston. But she swallowed her disappointment and dread and tried to put on a positive front for Townsend.
The deputy returned with the blanket and Hennessey gratefully accepted it. "How long ago did she vomit?"
"Ive been checking on her every fifteen minutes, so not very long. Ill bring her a new cup in case she needs it."
"Is there anything you can give her? Something for her stomach?"
"No, were not allowed to. Its probably best for her to get rid of everything, anyway. Im sure shell be all right."
"Could I go to the store and buy her some Gatorade, or something like that? Shes got to be dehydrated."
Making a face, the older woman hesitated, then found herself unable to refuse the earnest young womans request. "Okay. Just dont bring any kind of medication back with you. No aspirin nothing!"
"I wont," Hennessey promised, running out of the station as quickly as she could.
A few minutes later she was back, and Hennessey dutifully showed the deputy that shed brought only a quart of an orange-flavored sports drink. "I left the cell open," the woman said. "Go on in."
For some reason, Hennessey felt better to have the confident older woman by her side, but she smiled nervously and went back, approaching the cell with trepidation. Townsend hadnt moved, but the cup had been replaced with a new one. Hennessey knew that she should wake her lover, but she was dreading the morning after the promises and self-recriminations that shed heard far too many of during her short life. So she tucked the thin blanket around Townsends shivering body and quietly sat down on the other bed. Townsend instinctively hugged the blanket to her body, looking so frail and broken and young that Hennessey started to cry again. She cried for Townsend and for herself and for her father and her mother and all of the millions of others who were affected by this crippling, soul-killing disease. Nearly an hour passed, and Hennesseys tears were nearly exhausted when Townsend moaned loudly, then dropped her head over the side of the squeaky bed, grasping for the plastic container.
In a moment, Hennessey was at her side, holding her stringy hair up and out of the way, while the younger woman retched pathetically, choking up nothing but the last remaining ounces of her stomach acid.
Townsend fell back onto the bed, her body now covered in sweat. Panting from exhaustion, she managed to focus and mutter, "Hennessey?"
"Yes, honey, its me," the older woman murmured. She took off her sweatshirt and pulled Townsend into an upright position, then removed the sweaty, green, oversized top from the ill woman. Wiping at her pale, nude body, Hennessey managed to dry her off, then slipped the warm, clean shirt over her head. "Can you put your arms through the sleeves, baby?"
"No," Townsend said in a voice that sounded like a childs.
Hennessey helped her with the task, then smoothed her hair back and lowered her to the bed. "You rest for a minute. Ill get you a clean cup in case youre sick again." Hennessey was gone for just a moment, and when she returned, she had not just a new cup, but a cool cloth. Working gently but efficiently, she used the cloth to wipe the younger womans fevered brow, then cooled her down by wrapping it around the back of her neck. "Im gonna help you to sit up, and then youre gonna to drink some of this stuff," she said.
"Oh, God, I cant," Townsend moaned. "Ill throw up again."
"You might, but at least youll have something in your stomach. That last batch was just stomach acid, baby."
Townsend didnt argue; she just lay limply in Hennesseys arms while the larger woman gently poured a small amount of the liquid into her open mouth. Abruptly, she sat up, proclaiming, "Its coming right back up." Her stomach lurched, and she gagged soundlessly for a full minute, but nothing else came out of her mouth. Soon she was lying in Hennesseys arms, once more drenched with sweat. "Oh, God, Im gonna die."
"No, youre not," Hennessey said firmly. "Not on my watch, youre not."
Blinking at the older woman, Townsend finally realized where they were and why they were there. The tears then began, and Hennessey hugged her tighter, knowing they were in for a very long afternoon.
At 5:45, the deputy came in and announced, "Im going off duty in fifteen minutes, Hennessey. Youre going to have to leave."
"Has her mother answered yet?" Hennessey asked.
"No, I just tried again."
Summoning all of her strength, Townsend stopped sobbing and asked, "Have you called my attorney?"
"Uhm no, you didnt tell me you had one."
"James Callaghan," she said. "Hes in the book."
"Oh, I know his number," the woman said. "Ill see what I can do." Hennessey gathered up her things, taking the empty sports bottle and looking regretfully at her shirt. "Youd better give me back my shirt. The new guy wont like it."
Townsend looked down and nodded, crying once again. Taking off the large shirt made her look so young and yet so old. She slipped the huge scrub shirt back on, then looked up at Hennessey helplessly. "Ill wait outside until your attorney comes," Hennessey said. "Hang in there, baby."
"How how can you still love me?" she asked, her voice shaking roughly.
With her face filled with sorrow, Hennessey gently stroked the pale, trembling cheek. "How can you not love yourself?"
Mr. Callaghan dutifully arrived no more than fifteen minutes after hed been called. Hennessey sat on the rough, weathered stairs of the station after having been given a chilly reception by the deputy sheriff whod just come on duty. A short time later, Townsend emerged, looking rumpled and grouchy and in pain. She was followed by her attorney, a distinguished looking older gentleman, wearing an immaculately tailored blue suit and a gold and navy rep tie. "Well, Townsend, this little scrape will require quite a few feathers to be smoothed, but I dont anticipate too much trouble."
Townsend nodded, then grimaced, regretting the sudden motion. "Thanks, Jim. Ill be sure to tell my grandfather how helpful youve been."
He smiled at her and patted her gently on the back. "Take care of yourself, Townsend. Ill let you know how everything turns out."
She gave him a weak wave as he glided down the stairs and strode along the wooden sidewalk. "I would have introduced you, but I hope we never have to see him again," Townsend said, her voice filled with fatigue.
"Thats all right," Hennessey replied, even though she would never have failed to introduce anyone she knew to Townsend. "Ready to go home?"
"No. I cant bear to." She looked up at Hennessey and asked, "Could we possibly go back to Boston? I feel safer there."
"All right," Hennessey said without hesitation. "Where do you want to go?"
"Is your roommate gone?"
"Yeah. Shell be back Sunday night."
"Lets go to Harvard," Townsend suggested.
Hennessey wasnt sure why she did it, but she agreed. "Lets go get our things."
"Leave em," Townsend declared. "Ill have Mother bring them back with her."
Hennessey gave her partner a long look, then said, "My entire winter wardrobe is in that bag, Townsend. Id really like to be able to change clothes before Sunday."
Blinking slowly, Townsend grimaced and said, "Im sorry. I didnt think "
"Sall right," Hennessey said. "But I need to go back, and you need to tell your mother that were leaving."
"She wont care æ " Townsend began, only to be stopped by Hennesseys sharp look.
"I care. And you should, too." Squaring her shoulders, she began to walk down the sidewalk, leaving Townsend in her dust.
Their departure was much quicker than Hennessey could ever have imagined leaving her own home, but the Bartleys were so little like her own family that it was hard to make meaningful comparisons between the two groups. Miranda allowed them to take the Mercedes that Townsend had driven into town the night before, not even caring to ask what had happened to cause them to leave so abruptly.
Hennessey drove, even though Townsend maintained that shed been driving without a license since she was sixteen, and that the previous night had been the only time shed been caught. The older woman didnt comment on the fact that Townsend could have had a license at sixteen if shed not been caught driving without one at fifteen.
Hennessey had to concentrate on her driving, since traffic was fairly heavy and she didnt know the way. But after the car was on the ferry to Woods Hole, there were no excuses for the complete silence that reigned.
"How angry are you?" Townsend asked after staring at the water for many minutes.
"Angry? Im not angry," Hennessey said, giving her friend a perplexed look.
"Oh, come on, Hennessey. Anyone in her right mind would be angry with me. Come on, be honest!"
Hennessey shook her head in an irritated gesture. "I am being honest. Dont try to put emotions onto me that Im not feeling."
"Fine." Townsend walked to the stern and stood alone, not moving until it was time to reclaim the car. The whole process took quite a few minutes, but the women did not break the tense silence. Just moments after departing, however, Hennessey pulled the car into a parking lot and turned off the engine.
"Come on, lets go for a walk. We need to talk a little bit."
"We could have talked on the ferry," Townsend grumbled.
As soon as they were both out of the car, Hennessey took the younger womans hand and looked deep into her eyes. "Townsend, I care about you, and I care about your privacy. I would never have a personal discussion like that aboard a crowded boat. Now come on, have a little more self-respect."
"I didnt even consider that," the blonde mumbled, looking away from Hennesseys penetrating stare.
"Lets take that walk," the taller woman said, draping her arm around her friends shoulders.
As they walked along, Hennessey began to speak in a quiet, reflective voice. "I have an uncle my mothers brother Cletus - whos schizophrenic." Townsend gave her a curious look, and Hennessey laughed softly. "I dont think I have the best genes for procreating. I think Id better adopt."
"You have wonderful genes, baby. And yours must be dominant for you to avoid some of the problems that your family members have."
"Yeah, well, I dont know about that," the taller woman said. "But back to my uncle. He does fairly well most of the time, but every once in a while he starts acting crazy. Sometimes theres no warning at all, sometimes hes forgotten to take his meds for a couple of days, and sometimes its a sign that his meds need adjustment."
"Uhm I guess that makes sense," Townsend said. "But why are we talking about this now?"
"Because Im trying to explain to you why Im not angry with you for having a slip."
"Go on," Townsend said warily. "Although I dont think I want to know that you think Im mentally ill."
"I dont, Townsend," Hennessey said. "But the fact is that both you and my Uncle Cletus have a disease. You both have to be very vigilant to make sure youre taking care of yourselves and monitoring your medication but even when you do that faithfully, youre going to have a long period of trial and error until you get it all sorted out."
"Yeah, your medication is working your program faithfully. Your meds got screwed up when Sharon had her slip. In retrospect, we shouldnt have gone on vacation together right after youd lost your sponsor. That was a set-up, baby, and I regret that I didnt recognize it before it happened."
With her voice breaking, Townsend said, "But it meant so much to me to see you, Hennessey."
"I know that, baby, but look what happened. You had a major slip, you got arrested and now you feel like shit about yourself. Was it worth it?"
"Its its worth anything I have to do to be with you, Hennessey. Anything."
Squeezing her shoulders, Hennessey said, "I had a feeling youd say that." She dropped a soft kiss on the crown of Townsends head and said, "Weve got a long drive back to Boston. Wed better get shakin, huh?"
"Okay." Townsend faced her partner and draped her arms around her waist. "Are we going to be all right?"
"Yeah," Hennessey said, smiling confidently. "Well be fine."
Hennessey was driving more aggressively than her usual laid-back style, and Townsend finally commented, "Are we in a hurry?"
"Uhm yeah," Hennessey said, quickly checking her watch. "I want to make my meeting. Its at 8:00."
"Uh-huh." She shot a quick glance at Townsend. "Ive started to go to Al-Anon meetings. Ive just started to work with a sponsor, and I could use a little boost tonight."
Townsend was silent for quite a while, taking in the impact of Hennesseys words. "This is as hard on you as it is on me, isnt it?"
"I dont know," the brunette said. "Ive never been in your position, Townsend. I only know what its like to love an alcoholic not be one."
"Have you ever been drunk?" Townsend asked.
"No, no, I havent, and I never will be. Ive had a beer with a good oyster bake, but thats it. With a pair of alcoholic parents, Im not ever going to take that risk."
"I wish I hadnt," Townsend said wistfully.
Once they were in Hennesseys small room, Townsend put her bag on the bed that didnt hold the large teddy bear she had sent Hennessey. "Is it okay if I sleep here?"
"Sure. Ill wash the sheets before Robin comes back. She wont mind."
"Do you mind if I crash while youre gone? Im not feeling so hot."
Hennessey hesitated, then stopped herself from saying what shed wanted to say. "Sure. You just take it easy. Im sure youre wrung out."
"Do you want to get some dinner after your meeting?"
"Uhm I need some time with my sponsor, babe, and if she can spare it, Im going to ask her to stop for a snack. Besides, you shouldnt have much in that raw tummy of yours. Ill bring you back some dry cereal or a bagel."
Townsend shrugged. "Okay." She lay down fully clothed, and by the time Hennessey was ready to leave, the younger woman was already breathing heavily.
"Gnight," Hennessey whispered, blowing her a kiss.
Angela and Hennessey sat in an all-night diner not far from the church hall where the meeting had been held. "If anything else could have gone wrong this week, Id hate to know what it was," Hennessey said, stirring some cream into her tea.
"It sounds like hell, Hennessey. Im really sorry you had to go through that."
"Yeah, I am, too, but Im more sorry for Townsend. When she starts to deal with her slip, shes gonna be very hard on herself."
Raising an eyebrow, Angela asked, "She hasnt started dealing with it yet?"
Hennessey shook her head, staring into her tea. Angela didnt say a thing, so Hennessey finally broke the silence. "I wanted her to go to a meeting, but I didnt want to push her." She looked across the room, unable to meet Angelas eyes. "Neither of us went to a meeting this week."
The silence ticked on for what seemed like minutes, but was likely moments. "You have to decide how serious you are about her, Hennessey. If youre truly serious, youd better get your butt to a meeting every day. Hell, twice a day isnt out of the question. Fighting your urges to take care of this woman is going to take every bit of your resolve."
"I know," she said, her head bowed. "I know that now more than ever."
The next morning, Hennessey woke up to a pair of cold feet pressing against her shins. Blinking slowly, she rolled onto her other side, and drew Townsends arm around her waist. "Nice," she murmured. "Feels good."
A warm face pressed against the back of her neck, and Townsend placed a kiss there. "Go to sleep, baby. Its still early."
"Hug me tight," Hennessey murmured. "Dont let go."
"I wont. I promise I wont," Townsend said, placing another kiss on her neck. "Ill always hold you close."
The sunlight was streaming in the window when Hennessey woke again, and as she turned her head, she was greeted by Townsend smiling warmly at her. "Hi. I thought you were gonna sleep all day, but I didnt mind a bit. Its so nice holding you this way that I wouldnt care if we never got up."
"Oh, sure you would," Hennessey said, bounding out of bed. "Be right back." She made a mad dash for the bathroom, leaving a smiling Townsend to lie back down after rolling over to feel the warmth of the recently vacated spot. Expecting her partner to come back to bed for a more leisurely wake up, Townsends eyes narrowed when she heard the shower start. A few minutes later, Hennessey came out, rubbing her wet hair with a towel. "Shower felt great. You can use it now, if you want."
"I thought you might like to cuddle a little more," Townsend said, pouting.
"No. Once Im awake, Im ready to go. Besides, I have a lot of things on my agenda for today. Its time to get rolling." She went to her small dresser and pulled out a pair of jeans and a bright red, fleece top. "Do you want to get in the shower, or can I have the bathroom again?"
"Ill go," Townsend said, realizing that she wasnt going to get her way.
Over breakfast, Hennessey gazed at her partner with a neutral smile and asked, "How are you going to go about finding a new sponsor?"
Shrugging, Townsend said, "I dont really know. Sharon suggested somebody, but I dont like him."
Giving her a perturbed look, Townsend said, "Im new to this stuff, ya know. I thought your sponsor was supposed to be reliable!"
Hennessey reached across the table and lightly gripped the blondes hand. "Sponsors are struggling with the same disease that you are, Townsend. Theyre human, too."
The younger woman dropped her head into her hands and rubbed her face roughly. "I know that," she said, her voice sounding old and tired. "But I depended on Sharon. She let me down." Not saying a word, Hennessey gazed at her partner until Townsends head lifted. "I let you down, too," Townsend said, her voice beginning to shake. "God damn me, Hennessey, I was so sure I could do this."
"You can and you will," Hennessey said. "But youve got to get comfortable with the fact that its not ever a smooth road."
"But what do I do?"
"You find a new sponsor as soon as possible. Then, you start all over again. You go back to step one and start fresh."
Townsends lower lip started to tremble, and she sniffed, "I have to give my chips back, dont I?"
With a gentle smile, Hennessey nodded. "Youll have to earn them again, baby."
"They mean so much to me," Townsend said, beginning to sob. "I keep my six-month chip in my pocket and rub it when I feel tempted."
"Im so sorry, Townsend. You have no idea how sorry I am that you had a slip."
"I didnt have a slip. I had a crash."
"No, you didnt," Hennessey said with conviction. "You can get up and start over. Nothing is broken; theres no lasting harm. It was a slip."
Townsend wiped at her eyes and said, "Can we get out of here? People are staring at me."
"Sure. Ill pay the check. You wait outside."
A few moments later, Hennessey took Townsends hand and said, "How are you planning on getting back to school on Sunday?"
"I have a late night flight. Why?"
"Cause I dont think we should wait until then. I think we should go today."
"Cause you need to find a new sponsor, and it would be great if you could get that taken care of before school starts on Monday. I think we should spend the weekend trying to get you settled."
"But my schools closed for break," Townsend said.
"Uh-huh. Like that would stop you if this were something you wanted to do," Hennessey said, giving her a wry smile. "You can buy us a hotel room."
"Damn, I know youre serious when you let me pay for things," Townsend muttered.
"Ive told you before, Townsend, Ill never joke about your sobriety."
Even though the younger woman insisted that it wasnt necessary, Hennessey urged her to call her mother and tell her of her change of plans. They agreed that Hennessey would drop Townsend off, and that Miranda would have someone come get the car when Hennessey returned to Cambridge.
Driving up the turnpike, Hennessey said, "Well, weve got a long drive ahead of us. How do you want to pass the time? I know," she said before Townsend could begin to answer, "lets talk about what was going on in your head that made you want to drink."
"That sounds like fun," Townsend grumbled. "Are you always this lively on car trips?"
"Yep. Just my natural charm. Now, I know this is hard for you, but we havent really talked about it. It might help to get it off your chest."
"All right." Townsend curled up in the large, leather seat, tucking her feet under her body. Reclining her seatback, she faced her friend and stared at the side of her face for a long time. "I think better when Im looking at something pretty," she explained when Hennessey gave her a puzzled look.
"Good answer," the brunette said.
Townsend fidgeted in her chair, then reclined it significantly. Contorting her body into a series of interesting positions, she finally sighed and said, "I dont know if youre the right person to talk to about this."
Hennessey gave her a puzzled look and said, "Its all right if you dont want to talk about it now, but you should talk about it with someone. Soon."
"I know, I know. I uhm think I need to talk to someone who isnt so involved ya know?"
"Of course I do," Hennessey said. "Thats why I want to make sure you have a sponsor. You need someone to talk to, honey."
"I get that; I really do. But theres something thats been bothering me, Hennessey, and as much as I dont want to talk about it, I think I have to."
"Go for it," Hennessey said. "Im ready."
"You might be, but Im not," Townsend grumbled.
"Come on, babe; if somethings bothering you, I want to know about it."
Townsend was staring at the ceiling, but she reached out and touched Hennesseys shoulder. "Okay. Here goes. Im feeling like shit because of the way I treated you the other night."
"The other night?"
"Yeah when we almost you know."
Hennessey turned her head and gave her partner a smile. "Well get there, honey. You showed the other night that you understand that its important to wait until were both ready."
"I did not," Townsends quiet voice muttered.
"Huh? What do you mean?"
"I didnt stop because I understand that its important to wait. I stopped because I felt that Id tricked you into going as far as we did."
"Tricked me? Townsend, what in the hell are you talking about? How do you trick someone into that?"
Smacking her forehead with her open palm, Townsend moaned, "Damn, Hennessey, sometimes youre as naïve as a child. Its incredibly easy to trick someone into going further than they want. Ive been doing it for years!"
With deep hurt showing in her eyes, Hennessey spared a quick glance at her partner. "You did that to me?"
"Yes, damn it, I did that to you."
"Fuck," the brunette muttered. "Fuck."
Neither woman said another word, the silence heavy and oppressive in the car. At the first exit, Hennessey pulled off and stopped the car as soon as she found a quiet spot. She rolled the window down and relaxed her seatback, leaning back and staring out the window for a while. "Tell me what happened that night," she finally said. "I want to know everything."
"Its not that complex. You seemed receptive, and I decided to keep pushing you until I got what I wanted."
Turning to face her partner, Hennessey said, "Thats not what happened. You didnt push me at all, as a matter of fact. To be honest, that was the first time that I didnt feel like I had to be on guard."
"Oh, Hennessey," Townsend sighed, "thats when you have to be more careful. A user like me makes you feel like its your idea, but its not. I manipulated you to get you there its as simple as that."
"But but why would you do that to me?" Hennessey asked, her voice breaking. "You know I didnt want to go that far."
"But I did," Townsend said, her voice taking on the hard tone that Hennessey hadnt heard since summer. "I wanted to have sex with you, and when I saw the opportunity, I jumped at it."
"You dont do that to someone you love," Hennessey said. "You just dont."
"But I do love you," Townsend said. "I do, Hennessey."
The dark head shook slowly. "Love isnt what you say. Love is what you do. Trying to trick me into having sex wasnt a loving thing to do, Townsend. It wasnt."
"I know that," the blonde said. "Thats why I stopped. I couldnt go through with it. For the first time in my life, I couldnt go through with it."
Hennessey paused, then wiped her eyes with the back of her sleeve. "Do you mean that?"
"That this was the first time in your entire life that you couldnt go through with having sex?"
"Uhm yeah, I guess I do," Townsend nodded, her shame nearly overwhelming her.
Suddenly, Hennesseys tears stopped, and she turned to her partner and reached out to touch her cheek. "Thats a very, very good sign," she said softly. "Whenever you break a habit like that, its a good sign, Townsend. Dont you see that?"
"No. All I see is that I treated you like I treated every piece of street trash Ive ever fucked."
"Thats not true," Hennessey said, her voice sharp and low. "You stopped to think about my feelings and how it would affect me. I think you stopped to think about your feelings, too," she added. "I dont think you wanted that on your conscience."
"I dont have a conscience," Townsend muttered.
"Youre developing one," Hennessey said. "The only thing that stopped us from having sex was your conscience not mine. My conscience and my self-control were gone, Townsend. But your conscience was on the job watching out for me and for us." She leaned over and wrapped her arms around her lover. "That was a loving act. A very loving act."
"But it sure as hell wasnt my first instinct," Townsend groused.
"No, it wasnt, but consciences are developed. They dont spring to life fully formed. Youll get there, Townsend. I know you will."
"Damn," the smaller woman sighed. "Sometimes I think this is too much for me to handle. I have to worry about drinking and doing drugs and smoking and sex; and now Ive got to develop a conscience. I dont know how Ill have time to sleep."
Hennessey pulled back a little and looked into her eyes. "I know its a lot. And youre right; it might be too much to handle all at once. Maybe theres a way to simplify things a little bit."
"Im ready to start having sex any time you are," Townsend said, a small smile twitching at her lips. "That would take care of one item."
"Wouldnt that be nice?" Hennessey said, her voice taking on a wistful tone. "I wish it were that easy. You dont know how much I wish that."
Hennessey had decided to be as agreeable as humanly possible, knowing that this was going to be a hard weekend for her partner. She not only didnt say a word when Townsend directed her to a very opulent country inn, she kept her discomfort to herself when they were shown to their room. "Nice bed," she said, sitting on the edge of the queen-sized mattress. "Nice room, too," she added, looking around the beautifully appointed place.
"This is where my parents stayed when they had me committed here," Townsend said. "Its the nicest place in the area."
"I would think so," Hennessey said, nodding agreeably. "So, whats on the agenda?"
"Uhm I think youre the one with agenda," Townsend said. "Wed still be in Boston if I were running the show."
"Good point." Hennessey patted the bed, urging Townsend to join her. "I think you ought to give Sharon a call and talk to her at length about finding another sponsor. See if she has any suggestions for other people maybe see why she thought the first guy she mentioned was tops on her list."
"Okay. Shes usually home on Saturdays. Then what?"
"Lets see what comes of your discussion. Then we can decide what to do next. Oh. What time is your regular meeting?"
"I usually go to two on Saturday. Ive missed the morning meeting, and the other ones at 5:00."
"Cool. That gives us a lot of time to work with. You make your call. Ill wait down in the lobby."
"You dont have to "
"Sure I do. You and Sharon deserve privacy, honey. Come get me when youre done."
Nearly a half hour later, Townsend flopped down on the settee, startling the contemplative Hennessey. "Damn! You really do make an entrance," the brunette said, patting her racing heart.
"Sorry. Im frustrated. Sharon was no help at all."
"Oh, she said she thought I should talk to Art before I made up my mind. Shes certain that hes the right kind of guy for me but I cant stand him, honey. He irritates the shit out of me!"
"Hmm I wonder why shes so sure that hes the right guy for you."
"I dont know. I think she just doesnt know anyone else."
"Do you have his number?"
"Why dont you call him and talk to him. Maybe theres a good reason that Sharons urging you to try him out."
Townsend rolled her eyes. "I knew thats what youd say, and I already did it. Were meeting at three oclock. He said that you should come, too."
"I love a woman who can read my mind," Hennessey said, smiling brightly.
"I cant read your mind, Hennessey. Youre just totally predictable and thats not something you should be so damned proud of!"
When they walked into the quiet coffee shop, Townsend gave an unenthusiastic wave to a bearded, bespectacled, beret-wearing man who was sitting at a table in the back of the restaurant. When they approached, Townsend said, "Hi, Art. This is Hennessey. Hennessey Art."
Hennessey extended her hand, and it was quickly enveloped in a large, muscular, callused hand. "Hi, Hennessey. Have a seat."
Hennessey spent a moment looking at Art, guessing he was in his mid to late forties. He looked quite a bit like a beatnik, or what Hennessey guessed a beatnik would look like from the pictures shed seen of the Beat Generation writers of the fifties.
"Thanks for taking the time to talk to me, Art," Townsend said. "Ive had a bad week, and I really need to get back on track."
He gave her a neutral look. "I dont want to talk about anything too personal right now, Townsend. If we talk, and I decide I can work with you, then well go into detail. But right now, I want to get to know you a little bit. I want to see how serious you are about staying sober."
Hennessey could see Townsends hackles start to rise, but she didnt say a word. She knew there was nothing she could do to make this easier for Townsend, so she bided her time and sat back to observe.
"Im very serious about staying sober," the blonde said, her face turning a shade darker. "Ive been sober for nine months. Or I had been," she admitted. "I guess now I should say that Ive been sober for two days."
"Uh-huh," Art said, tossing his mostly gray ponytail over his shoulder. "I take it you had a slip."
"Yeah. A big one," Townsend admitted, staring at the table.
"All right," he said. Turning to Hennessey, he asked, "How do you fit in here?"
"Im Townsends lover," she said.
"Lover, huh? How long have you two been together?"
"We met last June, and weve been involved since August."
Art furrowed his brow, then said, "Math isnt my thing, but doesnt that mean youve been together ever since Townsend stopped or tried to stop drinking?"
"Yeah, it does. We were together when she stopped."
"Hennessey helped me stop," Townsend volunteered. "Shes the only good influence Ive ever had in my life."
Art gave Townsend a half-smile and said, "I guess everyone deserves one in her life."
"Well, Hennesseys mine," the young woman said, a note of defiance in her voice.
"Uh-huh. Tell me something about yourself, Hennessey."
"Well, Im from South Carolina, and Im in Boston going to school."
"Do you have much experience in dealing with alcoholics?" he asked.
With a pained look, she said, "Too much. Both of my parents are alcoholics. Neither has ever been in recovery."
"Uh-huh. How about your past relationships? What kind of people have you been with before Townsend?"
Clearly irritated, Townsend interjected, "Is Hennessey the one looking for a sponsor?"
"No," Art said, his patient, laid-back demeanor obviously driving Townsend mad. "I just want to see the whole picture."
"I dont mind talking about this," Hennessey said. "Townsend is my first lover. Shes the first person Ive ever even kissed."
This revelation didnt seem to surprise Art, but then, nothing did. "So, a girl from an alcoholic home chooses an alcoholic to partner with. Thats a first."
"Look," Hennessey said, "I know it looks like Im following the usual pattern, but Ive spent a lot of time in Al-Anon, and Ive gotten back into it recently. Im working with a sponsor now, and I think I can maintain my boundaries."
"Everyone thinks that, Hennessey. Not many can, but everyone thinks she can."
"Im sure thats true," the brunette admitted.
"Now lets talk about you," Art said, turning to Townsend. "Ive seen you at a lot of meetings, and I bet youve heard the warning about not getting involved with anyone during your first year of sobriety. What makes you think youre exempt?"
"Im not exempt," she snapped. "Hennessey and I knew each other while I was still drinking. It was a natural evolution. I didnt get involved with her after I stopped it was concurrent."
"That doesnt make it right, and that doesnt make it good for you," Art said bluntly.
"Yes, it does," Townsend insisted. "I could never stay sober without Hennessey!"
The older man was quiet for a moment. Then he looked from one woman to the other. "I rest my case."
"No! Thats ridiculous! Hennessey supports me; shes always there for me, and she always urges me to do the right thing!"
"Uh-huh. That would be fine if Hennessey were your sponsor. But shes not. Shes your lover. And if you two break up and you probably will your sobriety goes with her. Does anything about that seem intelligent?"
"No," Hennessey answered, surprising Townsend.
"Hennessey! How could you say that?" Townsend burst into tears, sobbing so loudly that the other patrons stared at her.
The larger woman put her arm around her partner and murmured into her ear, "Arts right, Townsend. We shouldnt have gotten involved when we did. I blame myself for that. I knew better but I couldnt resist."
"So you regret being with me?" the blonde sobbed.
"No, no, not in the least. But we cant act like this is an ideal situation. Its not. Im only trying to be honest, Townsend. We have to be honest."
"Do you love me?" Townsend asked, her voice shaking.
"Yes, of course I do. I always will," Hennessey promised. "But that doesnt mean that everything will be smooth and easy. Its going to be hard for us and harder for you to stay sober."
Townsend buried her face against Hennesseys shoulder and cried quietly while Art spoke. "You two have set this up in a pretty shitty way, but that doesnt mean youre doomed to failure. You do have to know, though, that youve made it much harder for yourselves in every way."
"I know that," Hennessey said.
Art looked at the still-sobbing blonde and said, "Look, Ive made every mistake there is to make. I was a heroin addict, a drunk and a chronic dope smoker. It took me years to get all of my addictions in order, but I finally did. I was a tough case, and I like to work with tough cases. I think Townsend qualifies," he said, smiling. "Hennessey, why dont you go for a walk? I want to talk to Townsend for a while."
"Okay," she said, prying her lovers fingers from her shirt. "Where should I meet you?"
Art cocked his head and looked at her for a moment. "Why dont you come to the meeting with us? Its at the VFW hall right down the street. It starts at 5:00."
"Okay, Ill see you then." She leaned in and gave Townsend a kiss on the cheek. "Ill see you soon, sweetheart. Stay strong."
When Hennessey arrived at the meeting, she was saddened to see that Townsend had been crying again. From the looks of her swollen eyes and mottled face, it appeared that she hadnt stopped in the last hour. Sitting down next to her, Hennessey slipped an arm around her shoulders. "Tough day, huh?"
"Yeah. Very tough. But I feel better now that youre here."
"I do, too."
The meeting began and eventually it was Townsends turn to talk. "Hi, Im Townsend, and Im an alcoholic," she began, her voice quieter and less confident than normal. "I had nine months of sobriety, but I had a major slip this week." Her shoulders began to shake, and Hennessey put her arm around her again to encourage her to continue. "I feel like shit about it æ and about myself," she added. "I was so sure that I had a handle on all of this but I dont." She sniffed and wiped her eyes with the backs of her hands, until another woman reached over with some tissues. "Thanks," she said. "I thought Id brought enough, but I underestimated how many tears I had stored up."
Hennessey gave her a gentle squeeze, and she lifted her hand to cover her lovers. "Uhm Ive been thinking about what made me slip, and I think it was the same old thing." She looked up at the crowd, each of whom was listening intently. "I felt invisible." She said this quietly, so quietly that Hennessey could barely hear her, but several heads in the room nodded in understanding.
"My mother is pretty prominent in her field, and the headmaster of my school asked her to speak at my graduation in May." She bit her lower lip and continued. "For the first time in my life, Id started to feel good about something that Id accomplished. Ive always been proud of myself for getting kicked out of school, but this year, being sober has allowed me to genuinely put myself into my schoolwork and its felt wonderful," she admitted, a ghost of a smile on her lips. "Its something that I did for myself only myself." She took in and let out a massive breath. "Having my mother come to the school will make my graduation about her. Ill disappear," she said in a mere whisper. Her shoulders started to shake, and Hennessey held onto her tightly. "I felt myself disappearing the other night, and no one no one understood," she choked out. "I felt so alone, so scared I couldnt bear feeling that lonely. So, I did what I always do. I went to a bar and let a bunch of creeps buy me drinks. The guys are vermin, and they only want me because Ill let em do what they want but theyre consistent. They know what I want, and theyll give it to me as long as I give em what they want. Its a fucking sick bargain, but I can count on it no matter what." Her whole body shook, then she leaned back against Hennessey, muttering, "Thats it."
Late that night, the pair lay in bed, Townsend curled up against Hennesseys larger body. "Its been a hell of a week, hasnt it?" the blonde asked.
"Yeah, it has. I know you and I might see things differently, but I dont think its been a bad week, Townsend. I think its shown us some of the pitfalls were gonna have to be on the lookout for. I think its been helpful in many ways."
"Uhm we havent talked about the night I got drunk," Townsend said.
"No, we havent talked about it much. Do you want to?"
"No, not really æ but there is one thing I want you to know. Nothing happened with those guys, Hennessey. I was just stringing them along so theyd buy me drinks."
"Its all right. I know you werent in your right mind. You fell back into your old habits I know thats not how you want to live any more."
"Do you believe me?" the blonde asked softly.
"Sure, I believe that you didnt have to put out to get what you needed. But if Im gonna be completely honest, I believe you would have done whatever you needed to do to get your fix that night. Lets face reality, honey."
"I dont I dont want to be like that anymore, baby, I dont. I want to be yours alone."
"I know you do. I believe that you do."
Townsend snuggled up tight and whispered, "Thanks for believing in me."
"I do believe in you, and I always will," Hennessey said. "But I know how many things youre trying to change. Youve got a laundry list here, honey, and most people would be overwhelmed by it. I admire how much effort youre putting in."
"You know," Hennessey said, "youd have a full time job just coming to terms with how you feel about your mom, much less all of the other things youre doing."
"Aw, she doesnt affect me much. She annoys me more than anything."
"Uhm Townsend, didnt I hear you tell the group that you started drinking again because of how she made you feel? Thats a little more than annoying!"
"Its not a big deal, Hennessey. I dont care for her enough to let her get to me very often."
"I know youve been in therapy since you could walk, but it doesnt sound like youve spent much time talking about your mother," Hennessey said. "Whats up with that?"
"Oh, Ive been in therapy forever, but Ive never been very serious about it. I think Im on my eighth therapist. Im trying for the record."
Hennessey pulled away and looked at her partner for a moment. "Who does that hurt?"
"You heard me. Who does it hurt when you waste your time in therapy?"
Townsend was quiet for a moment, then said, "I guess it hurts me."
"Yeah, I guess it does," Hennessey said, clearly irritated. "Damn, Townsend, youve had so many opportunities, and you not only let them slip by you throw them away! Youve got to learn how to care about yourself more."
"Hennessey, I cant do everything at once. Please stop adding to my list every ten seconds."
Letting out a sigh, Hennessey said, "Im sorry. There are just some building blocks here that I feel youve skipped over. I know you dont have time to build any trust with a therapist in the little time you have left in Vermont, but youve got to find someone to work with once you get back to Boston. Its going to be very stressful when youre back on your home turf, baby, and youre going to need some support."
"Ill have you," Townsend said, giving her partner a warm smile.
"Of course you will, but Im not a substitute for a therapist. You need to work on the things that everyone goes through with her parents, Townsend, not just your addictions."
"Okay, okay, Ill put it on my list. Now can we kiss for a while? I dont think Ive gotten one little nibble on those sweet lips today."
"I need that, too," Hennessey said, giving her a warm smile. "Come here and let me hold you for a while."
Surprised, Townsend did as her partner asked, crawling onto her body while Hennesseys hands trailed all over her cotton-clad form. "Im glad were sharing a room," Hennessey said softly. "I need to do this. I need to have the feel of your body imprinted on my soul."
Townsend lay quietly, the feel of Hennesseys hands making her body and her heart ache. "The very worst thing about falling off the wagon is knowing that you wont make love to me this summer," the blonde whimpered. "I dream about it every night, Hennessey. Its the one thing the one goal in my life that has been important enough for me to strive for."
"I know, the larger woman murmured. "Its been important to me, too. Too important," she added.
Townsend turned her head and started to kiss Hennesseys trembling lips. She didnt rush or push her this time. Fighting her instincts, she used her lips and her tongue not to excite, but to show her love for the beautiful woman who lay beneath her.
Hennessey seemed to detect the change, and she responded in kind, rolling onto her side taking Townsend with her. Facing each other, their bodies touching all along their lengths, they spent hours exploring each other in the most gentle and tender fashion. Hennessey had a hard time deciding where she stopped and Townsend started, but she honestly did not care. This was nothing like the wild frenzy of sexual need that shed felt earlier in the week æ this was a sacred physical and emotional communion æ her mouth and Townsends merging and sharing their hopes and their dreams and their promises.
Neither woman was aware of how tired she was, and each hoped they could continue to luxuriate in the comfort of each others arms until morning. But just before dawn, Hennessey woke to find herself still pressed against her lover, their lips less than an inch from each others. She let out a sigh and kissed the pouty lips one more time, then tightened her hold and went to sleep once again, feeling safe and sure and confident.
Townsend had no intention of getting out of bed, despite Hennesseys best efforts. "Come on, honey, Ive got to get some breakfast and then get on the road. I didnt get a thing done this week, and I have a major writing assignment on Wednesday. Ive got to get a little work done today."
"Call the desk and ask them to bring us breakfast. Theyll be happy to." She looked up at Hennessey with her most plaintive expression, and the dark-haired woman gentled her stern look and capitulated.
"Okay. As usual, you win."
"Ha! If I ever won, Id be happily nursing a hangover after having kept you up all night making love."
"We were up most of the night," Hennessey reminded her, "and if what we did last night wasnt making love, then I obviously dont know what love is." She walked over to the phone and made the call, then came back to bed and slid in.
"It was making love," Townsend agreed. "It was one of the best nights of my life."
"Mine, too," Hennessey said, smiling warmly.
"How long do we have to wait until we can make love with our clothes off?" Townsend asked. "Youre not going to make me wait three hundred sixty-two days, are you?"
Hennessey gave her a half-smile and said, "Ive been thinking about that a lot, honey, and I think that arbitrary date has been part of our problem."
"Huh? What problem?"
"The problem that led you to a bar on Thursday night," Hennessey said. "I think weve set this whole thing up to make it harder for you, rather than easier."
Letting out a wry laugh, Townsend said, "Well, it sure as hell feels hard, so maybe we have. How do we fix it?"
"I think we have to remove the one year rule," Hennessey said.
"Now youre talkin!"
"Uhm I dont think youre going to like the alternative," Hennessey said. "Dont get too excited."
Immediately, Townsend gave her a wary look. "What do you mean, I wont like it?"
"Just what I said. I think the one year rule is a set-up, and I think we should abolish it. I think we have to wait to be intimate until were both ready emotionally. I guess its possible that could happen in a few months but I dont think it will. I think it will take a much longer time. But I dont see any options."
"Much longer time?" Townsend asked. "Do you honestly think Im going to wait years to have sex again? Im a very sexual person, Hennessey. I need it! I dont have any intention of waiting until Im twenty years old to have it again!"
"Im not suggesting that you should," Hennessey said, giving Townsend a look that the blonde was unable to read.
"Then what are you suggesting?"
Hennessey rolled out of bed and walked across the floor to answer the light knock on the door. Taking the tray from the young man, she placed it on the coffee table and sat down on the couch. Townsend was about to pull her hair out, but Hennessey went about the usual, methodical routine she used for making her tea, then sat back and looked at her partner. "Im suggesting that weve been rushing things æ "
"Rushing! Ive got both feet on the brakes! Hows that rushing?"
"Were rushing for me, Townsend. No matter how it feels to you, Im not ready to go any further, and I dont think I will be for quite a while."
"Since when? You were all over me the other night, and we would have been fucking like mad if I hadnt stopped you!"
"Thats part of the problem," Hennessey said quietly. "I dont want to fuck like mad. Ive never made love before, and I dont want my first time to be rushed and frantic. I want to make sweet, tender, passionate love with a woman who wants the same thing."
"I want that!" Townsend insisted, jumping out of bed to rush to Hennesseys side. "I want that, too."
"Not consistently," Hennessey said, her sorrow showing in her eyes. "You have too many problems to work out to be able to devote yourself to working on our relationship, Townsend. I cant be with you until were both at the same place emotionally if we ever can be."
"Jesus, God, Hennessey! Are you breaking up with me? Please, please, dont do this!"
"No, Im not breaking up with you; Im just telling you that it cant go on like it has been. This isnt working for me."
"How is that not a breakup?"
Hennessey sighed and closed her eyes. "Okay, I guess it is a breakup. But its not a permanent breakup." She turned to face Townsend and said, "Ive never lied to you not once and Im not going to start now. I want to be with you in every way more than Ive ever wanted anything. Id give everything I have to be able to have you share an apartment with me next year. Nothing would make me happier than to come home at night and make love to you until we couldnt see straight." She took in a breath and continued, "But wed break up within the year. Id either start being your supervisor and youd start to resent me, or Id keep my mouth shut and let you make your mistakes all the while hating you for them. I cant I wont do that."
Dropping her head into her hands, Townsend asked in a very tired voice, "What in the hell does all of this mean?"
"It means," Hennessey said, "that I have to go back to where we were last summer. I have to concentrate on being your friend and helping you in any way that I can. Ill write to you every day, Ill call you whenever I have the money, Ill see you often when you move back to Boston. But I cant claim to be your lover, Townsend. We havent earned that right yet."
Townsend looked at her, her green eyes piercing into Hennessey. "Are you going to wait for me? Am I supposed to wait for you?"
The wide shoulders shrugged. "I cant make that decision for you. All I know is that Im not attracted to anyone else. I have no plans to pursue anyone else. Youre the woman I want I just cant have you yet."
"You could have me for the rest of your life, and you know it, Hennessey Boudreaux."
"Thats not true," the brunette stated firmly. "If I thought that was possible, Id do it." She sat up and tossed her hair over her shoulders. "Look. I know that a big part of the problem is me. Ive never dated anyone, Townsend. Im so inexperienced that its criminal. I wish Id been casually dating for a few years, and I wish Id had some relationships before now, but I havent. Being with you isnt a casual thing. It requires my full commitment. Im eager to do that but I cant do it if Im not confident it will work out. I know that you have to take a leap to fall in love but I cant take that leap if Im sure all that awaits me is rocky ground! Im not going to have this relationship destroy all of the work Ive done to maintain my boundaries. Jesus, part of the reason you drank this week was because of how guilty you felt about trying to trick me into having sex. Weve been with each other for less than a week, and youve had a major slip and landed in jail. Is that a sign of good things ahead?"
"No, of course it isnt," she said softly. "But if we were together all of the time, things would even out. It would be easier, not harder."
"Thats not true, Townsend. I wish it were, but thats not true."
"Fuck." The younger woman rested her head against the back of the sofa. "So, thats it? I get the big kiss-off, and you go back to Boston?"
"Yeah, thats exactly what I said. Thanks for listening so carefully." Hennessey stood up and went into the bathroom, the sharp snap of the lock making Townsend jump.
After one of the longer showers in history, Hennessey emerged, barely glancing at Townsend as she started to walk by her to pack up her things. Townsends soft voice stopped her. "I know youre going to say no, but I know Ill never get another chance."
Cocking her head, Hennessey looked at her friend, waiting for her to continue.
"Can I see your body?"
Townsend blushed, a very uncommon occurrence for her. "I know you wont understand, but I know Ill never get to see it. I want I want to have something to remind me of how badly I fucked this up."
"Oh, Townsend," the older woman said, walking over to her. "This isnt the time to get all fatalistic. I believe in us and I wish to hell that you did, too."
"Please?" the blonde asked.
"No, I cant," Hennessey said. "I wont participate in this, Townsend. If you want to see my body, youre going to have to earn the privilege. I will not have you using me to torture yourself." She turned and went back into the bathroom, leaving Townsend to shed another batch of tears which seemed to spring from an unlimited source.
An hour later, the pair stood next to the entrance to Townsends dorm. "I dont think I can stay sober without you, Hennessey. I know I should be optimistic, but I cant be."
Hennessey placed her hand on her friends cheek and gently rubbed her thumb across the soft skin. "Townsend, this is hard for me to say, but Im going to say it anyway. If Im the only thing thats keeping you from drinking, then you might as well start again. I cant supervise you; I cant be your conscience. Youve got to do this for yourself any other reason dooms you to fail."
"Then I guess Im doomed," she said softly.
"Look," Hennessey said, "youre probably going to have another slip or two. Hell, you might have a couple of dozen. But if you make up your mind, you will win this battle. Its your battle and your battle alone. I can support you, but I cant fight it for you. No one can do this for you, baby."
"I know," she said. "I know it; I just have a hard time thinking about how Ill be able to stand not having you as my reward."
"Townsend, Ive said this every way I can think of. When were both ready, I would be the happiest woman in the world to be your lover. My feelings for you are very deep and very genuine. I know what I want, and what I want is a sober, mature, Townsend Bartley. I wont settle for anything less, and you shouldnt either."
"All right," Townsend said, nodding briefly. "Uhm I decided to give Art a try as my sponsor. I thought about some of the things that have gone on this week, and I decided that Ive got to start listening to the people I trust. Sharon wouldnt have recommended him if she didnt feel strongly about it."
"Thats my girl," Hennessey said, beaming a grin at her friend. "I think youll be a good match he seems like hes the type who can keep up with you."
"Why do you think I resisted?" Townsend said, giving her first genuine smile of the day.
"I love to see that spark in your eyes," Hennessey said. "Its your feistiness thats going to get you through this, baby. I know that in my heart."
Townsend slipped her arms around Hennesseys waist and gave her a gentle hug. "Will I stay in your heart?"
"Always. Always, Townsend. I swear it."
Looking up and staring into Hennesseys eyes, Townsend asked, "Will you kiss me goodbye?"
"Of course I will. Ill kiss you the same way I do the people I love the most." She placed a tender, brief kiss on Townsends lips, then pulled away and said, "Thats how I kiss my grandparents. You mean as much to me as they do, honey, and thats the biggest compliment I can give you."
Hugging her tightly, Townsend whispered, "Dont forget me, Hennessey, please dont forget me."
"I wont, baby, I promise I wont." She pulled back and gave her friend one brief kiss, then got into the car. "I know this week didnt turn out like wed planned, but I honestly think weve got a better chance of making it now than we did last Saturday. Have faith in yourself, Townsend, and in us."
"I have faith in you, Hennessey. Thats gonna have to tide me over for a while."
"I can do that," the brunette said. "I can carry you for a little while. Then, one day, well be able to walk together."
Townsend reached into the car and slipped her fingers through Hennesseys. "I dont think I can let you go," she said, the tears starting to flow again.
"I dont want to go. I wish I truly wish that we could be together for all of the days of our lives." She blinked the hot tears from her eyes and said, "I pray to God that one day we can."
"I love you, Hennessey. I always will, no matter what happens. Youve given me a second chance at life, and I will never, ever be able to show you how grateful I am for that."
"You can show your gratitude by living well," Hennessey said, smiling through her tears. "Thats all I want for you."
"Youre the only person whos ever loved me in spite of my faults," Townsend said. "I need that so badly, Hennessey."
"Baby, I dont love you in spite of anything. I love the whole you the pretty parts and the not so pretty parts. They all come together to make you who you are. I wouldnt change a thing."
"Now youre lying," Townsend said, managing a smile.
Giving her friend the crooked grin that always went straight to Townsends heart, Hennessey said, "Maybe just a little. Id change you so you saw yourself like I see you. Then you wouldnt want to hurt yourself any longer. That would make me very, very happy."
"Im gonna try hard, Hennessey. I swear I will."
"I know you will. Now, make sure you save me a ticket for your graduation. I wouldnt miss that for the world."
"When do you leave for home?"
"The day after you graduate. I have to spend some time with my family before I leave for camp."
"Damn, I wish I could have gone, too."
"Youre too old to be a camper, honey, and you havent proven yourself enough to be a counselor. I think youll do better staying close to home and working with Art. Maybe you should consider staying in Vermont this summer. Your friends in Boston havent been the greatest influence on you."
"Thats an understatement," Townsend said, rolling her eyes. "Ive been thinking about doing that, you know. There are a bunch of good writing programs here, and some of the classes are open to the public."
"Thats what Id recommend," Hennessey said. "Focus on yourself and your creativity. Youll be ready for whatever they throw at you when you start school in the fall."
"Could I come visit you in Beaufort before school starts? Id love to see your grandparents again."
"Yeah, I think we could manage that. When you know what your school schedule is, well talk."
Townsend gave her friend a long, contemplative look. "You really will stay connected to me, wont you?"
"Without question. You are my best friend, and you always will be."
"Id like to have all of you, Hennessey, but some of you is much, much better than nothing."
"Youll get more than some," the brunette promised. "Youll get the best I have to give."
"I cant believe Im the one to say it, but youd better get going." Townsend bent over and kissed her friend lightly on the lips. "Hold me in your heart, Hennessey. Thats the only place I feel safe."
Placing her hand over her breast, Hennessey said, "Youre right here. Right where youve been since last summer. Right where youll always be."
Each woman tried to put on a smile, but neither was very successful. Their lips curved in the appropriate way, but both sets of eyes were filled with tears. "Goodbye, Hennessey."
"Bye, sweetheart. Ill see you in May."
Townsend nodded and stepped back, but she didnt release her death grip on her friends fingers. The car started to roll away, and Townsend ran a few steps, her hand refusing her brains order to release. Finally, Hennesseys fingers loosened, and Townsends hand started to slip away, leaving a fraction of a second where the tips of their fingers connected.
Hennessey couldnt bear to look in the rear view mirror, since she knew the mere sight of her friend would break her heart. Instead, she brought her fingers to her mouth and kissed them gently, then placed her hand on her shoulder, hugging herself tightly as she drove away.
To Be Continued
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