For disclaimers and all that business, please see Part I.
As restaurant terms continue to crop up, I'll try to clarify them. Siberia, in this setting, is the section of the Dining Room that is physically separated from the rest of the Dining Room. As most people like to be seated in the regular section of the Dining Room to ensure better service, it is not a preferred station for a server! Dining Rooms are divided into Server Stations, with servers responsible for x-amount of tables, usually rotated so everyone gets a chance at the best tables.
Got a term from Alcoholics Anonymous cropping up, so here goes: A sponsor is another recovering alcoholic who has been involved with AA longer than the person being sponsored. They're kind of like a guide along the way, someone who helps the sponsee find their way in the program (Alcoholics Anonymous) and helps them get honest with themselves.
Also have a gang-related term here: Blood in, blood out. What that means is that one has to kill someone as an initiation into a gang and that the only accepted release from a gang for that member to die.
Thanks for the encouraging emails; I really appreciate them. In fact, if you want to send some more my way….
Lita's stomach rumbled in protest as she sat on her bed. She and Andrew left The Edge without eating. After seeing the woman of her nightmares, she no longer desired to be seen by the woman who invited her to prison.
She felt the cool breeze as it blew in from her open window. Spread out on her mattress were the sketches she made in prison.
All of them, of one person that changed her life.
Someone she never dreamed she'd find.
And now, like a gift from the gods, here she was.
The woman who changed her life. Killed her brother.
Tossing her blond hair lightly, Lita laughed.
Special K., here in Pinkston. Well, well. And friends with Abigail Thanis - oh, this is too delicious for words!
Trish sat in her car with her husband, Nick, waiting for Abigail. She took a drag from her cigarette as she counted her tips for the evening. "Not too bad for Siberia on a Saturday night!"
"How'd ya get stuck there tonight?"
"Gotta rotate stations, hon. It's only right."
Nick shrugged his shoulders as they watched Abigail round the corner. "Hey, there's Ab." He stepped out of the car and leaned the driver's seat forward. "How ya doin'?"
"Great!" Abigail smiled as she got in the car.
"How'd you do tonight, hon?" Trish put out her cigarette.
"Pretty good. Nick, what's the deal with the uniform? Did you have to work over?"
"Nah." Nick glanced in the mirror briefly and beamed as he spoke. "Got promoted to Sergeant and moved to midnights last week."
"You did? Nick, that's great!" She slapped Trish lightly on the shoulder. "And you...why didn't you tell me the good news?"
The older woman could barely stifle her smirk. "Like you've been around, hon."
"Oh yeah." Abigail's face colored slightly. She felt a slight burning sensation as she heard the older couple snicker. "Can we listen to the radio?"
Trish laughed and turned up the radio. Some things never change!
Looking out the window, Trish remembered the scared teenager she met those years ago.
It was another incredibly hot, summer day. Trish waited for her ride outside, taking a deep drag from her cigarette. She thought about that new kid in her group therapy. Talk about problems, hon! That kid's got 'em in spades!
Hearing the office door open, she turned and saw the younger woman walk out of the office. "Hey, hon. You okay?"
"No." Abigail kept her voice flat and avoided the questioning hazel eyes. How could she be okay? Not only was the best friend she ever had murdered in front of her, but now, she was keeping a huge secret from her parents - and everyone else! How would she ever be okay again?
Instinctively, Trish put her arm around Abigail's shoulders and hugged her. Abigail kept her face impassive, swallowing the tears that were forming.
"Wanna have some coffee? Maybe you shouldn't be alone right now."
For once, she met those hazel eyes. She'd never felt more alone in her life. Michael was dead. She was discovering she was attracted to women. Her parents had very strong, homophobic views. Jack leaned on her heavily - too heavily, right now. She had nothing left to give.
"Come on," the older woman urged. "Come to my house for a little bit. You can call your parents from here."
In the way that only the drowning can seize a life preserver, Abigail grabbed the invitation issued and went with Trish.
As they sat at Trish's kitchen table, Abigail tried to stop the flood of images that permeated her soul. Prior to the Michael's murder, she had seen Lita Callison. In fact, if the truth be known, she used to have a slight crush on the very comely psycho. Of course, that ended.
It was confusing, really. Something she had a very hard time dealing with. In fact, she had not said a word about it. Not to anyone.
"Here, have a cookie." Trish pushed the plate across the table. "Now, no offense but you look worse now than you did in therapy."
Abigail stared blankly at the plate of cookies.
The older woman snapped her fingers in front of the vacant, sea green eyes across the table. "Hello in there! Earth to Mars, come in Mars!"
"What? Oh, I'm sorry."
"Listen to me, Ab. There is nothing so bad in this world you can't talk about." She took a drag from her cigarette. "And I've been around a lot longer than you, hon!"
"It's complicated." She stared down at the cookie in her hand, avoiding Trish.
"So? Life is complicated."
Overwhelmed by a chance to finally sort out the mess in her head, Abigail began warming to the older woman.
"You know what they say: Your secrets keep you sick."
"Yeah," Abigail croaked, choking on her emotions.
"And you can't be that good at being that bad. But it's up to you."
"Okay," she began, taking a deep breath. "Well, you already know about the murder I witnessed. Mike was my best friend."
"Well, it's about that woman that killed him."
"You said you tried to stop her, you and Jack."
"Yeah." She paused for a moment, praying for strength to continue. Whether she wanted it to or not, this secret - all of it - had to come out.
"What is it, hon?" Trish reached across the table and patted Abigail's hand. What could this girl be hiding that was so horrible?
Unable to hold her peace any longer, she blurted it out. "I think I'm gay."
"And?" Abigail stared at the woman across the table. All her life, she had heard disparaging remarks about those "unnatural" people who deserved every bad thing that ever happened. She just shared the one of the scariest things, and all this woman had to say was And? "And what?"
Trish smiled, unable to keep from laughing. "And you're gay? Or you think you are? And this is supposed to make the world stop turning?" She swallowed some of her coffee before continuing. "Hon, if that's what's bothering you, you ought to let it go. I, for one, couldn't care less."
Having grown up in the small town of Pinkston, Abigail was completely unprepared for this response. She was more expecting to be thrown out on her ear.
"Now," Trish commented, leaning back in her chair, taking a quick puff. "Is there something else? Something more that's bothering you?"
"Well, come on! Out with it - it ain't like the world stood still with your last confession."
"Okay," Abigail began, her hands trembling with fear. "That woman - the one who killed my friend - I was attracted to her!"
Trish took a moment before responding. "Abigail, honey - feelings just are. And your body can sometimes betray you."
"But she's a murderer! How could I have been attracted to a murderer?"
"What, did you find out she was a killer and think, Wow, I gotta get me some of that? Did she kill your friend before you had those feelings?"
"NO!" She cried hysterically.
"Abigail," she moved her chair next to the strawberry-blonde, trying to calm her down. "Did you know she was going to kill your friend?"
Abigail looked aghast. "Of course not!"
"So what's the problem? You probably saw this woman somewhere and really noticed her."
"Don't you get it? There must be something terribly wrong with me! It's probably my fault that Michael died!"
Trish had heard enough. What kind of crap did this girl believe? "Stop it, Abigail, just stop it! How can it be your fault - what, because you might be gay? Do you really believe that?"
Abigail broke down, tears freely streaming down her face. "I don't know."
"Listen to me." Softening her voice, Trish tried to comfort her. "You're one of God's people, no matter what." She put her arm around Abigail and hugged her. "We all have hard times, you know? And when those hard times come rolling at us, they're kind of like a snowball. One day they're small, and the next thing you know, they're so big they overwhelm us. Now it's really good that you're willing to look at your life and see where you might be at fault. God knows, not enough of us are willing to do that! But everything in the world can't be your fault, hon. You're just not that important.
"As far as that woman goes, did you pursue it after your friend died?"
"No." Her breathing finally returned to normal.
"Then learn these two rules of life early. Rule number one, don't sweat the small stuff. Rule number two, everything is small stuff."
A laugh escaped from Abigail's lips. "So why are you in therapy?"
"Because I forgot those rules for a while." Moving her chair back across the table, she lit up a cigarette. "And hon, listen to me: Everybody has problems. Sometimes, you just need a little extra help dealing with them. There's no shame in that. This is one of those times for both of us."
Abigail smiled and hugged Trish.
After kissing Nick goodbye, Trish led Abigail in the house. "Come on, hon. We'll sit in the kitchen and talk, just like old times."
"Yeah, but this time, it's only good stuff!"
The older woman smiled as she looked at Abigail's glowing face. "So," she asked conspiratorially, "are you gonna keep me in suspense here?"
Green eyes twinkled in response. "Mom, you want me to kiss and tell?"
Trish laughed. It was always "Trish" at work and "Mom" everywhere else.
"Well," Abigail began, reaching into the refrigerator. "I could give you some hints, I suppose."
"Like she's not a server."
"The Kitchen Manager? You're sleeping with the Kitchen Manager?"
"Are you gonna tell me that all that glow on your face is from the sun you got? I don't think so!"
"It isn't like that!"
"All right, all right." The two women sat at the kitchen table, making themselves sandwiches. "Then tell me what it's like."
"Okay." Biting down on her ham and cheese, Abigail continued. "She's really nice, you know?"
"Nice? Christina Stavros? Ms. 'Don't bother me, I'm doing paperwork?' Are we talking about the same woman that growls from the window?"
"She does not growl!"
"Hon," Trish replied, rolling her eyes. "How long have you worked there? What, a month or two? Believe me, that one - she growls!"
"Mom, you're talking about the woman I'm dating. I don't appreciate it."
"Hon, you don't know her. I've known her since The Edge opened up and she was just a dishwasher. That one has a mean streak!"
Abigail stuffed her sandwich in her mouth and frowned at Trish. "Do you want to hear this or not?"
"Okay." Trish backed off.
"Good, because I'd really like to share this with you."
"I promise. I won't say a word." She pretended to zip her lips closed. "Tell me. I want to know."
Completely exhausted, Christina sat in her deck chair and waited for Samantha to come out of the bathroom. All the kidding around and hard time she gave her friend when she first started seeing her boyfriend was about to come home to roost! Damn! Might as well get this over with!
"Hey girl, been a while since I've been on the boat."
Grabbing a Tropical Splash from the cooler, Samantha grinned. "Okay, we're not at work now."
Christina glanced around, looking at the other boats in the marina. "Nope. Sure doesn't look like a restaurant."
"Well, it doesn't." She looked at Samantha with a lopsided grin.
"What's up with you and that server?"
"She puts in orders, I cook the food."
"Okay." Samantha deeply inhaled from her cigarette. "Little Miss Clinch, you know, the woman you were playing Twister with in the cooler? What's the story?"
A deep red color spread across Christina's olive-skinned face. "We're friends."
Laughing, she shot back. "Yeah, you ain't never tried to tangle with me like that, girlfriend!"
Smiling playfully at Samantha, Christina purred. "Never knew you wanted me to."
"You are so bad! You'll do anything to avoid this. But you ain't gonna do it. It just ain't gonna happen."
"I could hope, anyway."
"Is it serious?"
"It's too soon to tell." She kept her voice flat and looked away.
"That's the biggest crock of shit I've heard tonight! I thought you said you weren't interested in sleeping around."
"Can you clue me in here?" Samantha stared at her friend, wanting to knock some easier conversation into the stubborn brunette. "And a little honesty would be nice, too. I've got eyes."
"Look," Christina said, shifting uncomfortably. "I like her. She's beautiful, got a great personality and all that. But."
"But what? You know you can find more patience in a doctors' office than what I got!"
Looking away from the other cook, she continued. "But what if it doesn't work out? What if it turns out worse than that crap I went through with Gwen?"
"Damn, you got one foot in the future and one foot in the past, and you're pissin' all over today!" Samantha took a drag and exhaled. She walked over to Christina and put her hand on her back. "Look, we got sober together, right? You've changed a lot since then. Let that shit go."
"The only but you need is the butt on your body. That'll give you enough trouble."
"When's the last time you called your sponsor, Chris? Did you fall in lust and forget about everything else?"
"Well…" She trailed off, trying to remember. It had been at least a good couple of weeks since she even thought of going to a meeting, let alone calling anyone.
"Yeah, that's what I thought." Samantha shook her head and walked away from Christina.
Andrew drove slowly to Lita's house. Thoughts of his life without Lita tried to surface, but he pushed them aside. It would do him no favor to think of how he had started getting his act together; his fear of reprisal from Lita was too great to consider walking away.
"Blood in, blood out," he muttered sharply. He learned after his initiation that he really didn't have the stomach for gang life, but by then, it was too late.
And now, with Lita running free again, he could kiss his new life goodbye.
He took a swig from his concealed flask of whiskey and wiped his burning lips.
She wants to go to Tampa today.
Bitterly, he swallowed more whiskey.
What Lita wants, Lita gets, right? And everyone else can just hang it up or she'll kill them? Seen that whole song and dance before.
As he drove closer, he finished off his flask. The last thing he needed was for some of his anger to surface around her.
Letting the burning liquid fill him, he tried to lose his anger in his inebriation.
Ah…better! Gotta get my mind right when I see Lita.
Looking at the porch, he saw Lita dressed in a baby blue halter top and cut-off jean shorts. Her hair blew in the wind, seemingly for eternity, as she stretched, showing off her fabulous physique. Andrew slammed on the brakes without thinking as he was captivated by the view.
Even though he found himself filled with self-hatred, he was unable to look away.
Hearing the sound of screeching tires, Lita glanced into the street. Oh, it's Andrew.
Jumping out of the car, he smoothed out his shirt and sprayed breath spray in his mouth. "Hey, baby!"
As he walked closer, Lita was assaulted by the smell of whiskey.
He leaned towards her, trying to get a kiss. She intercepted, grabbing his chin with her hand.
"What, baby?" He found it difficult to talk with her smashing his lips together.
"You've been drinking again." She let go of his chin, unable to stomach the smell.
"Only a little."
"And how are you supposed to drive in that condition? Am I supposed to have put up with your noxious fumes for the entire ride?"
"Well, let's go get some pizza or something. I won't drink another drop. Sober me right up."
I'm surrounded by incompetent idiots!
"Come on, babe. We'll get some chow, then ride on to Tampa. Sound good?"
"Okay. And did you clean out your car? It no longer smells like a bar?"
"Your chariot is clean, my dear." He gallantly opened the door, offering her a seat.
As Trish listened to Abigail extol the virtues of Christina Stavros, she found it difficult not to roll her eyes. After all, she'd known Christina for eight year; they'd worked together since the restaurant opened. And true, the girl had changed, but sweet? That smart-ass little street rat? Yeah, and the Pope is really an atheist! I don't care what Ab says, the bitch growls!
"And I really like her."
"I'm glad for you, hon."
"Are you really?"
"Hon, I've worked with Christina for a long time." She puffed on her cigarette, wanting to be careful how she phrased her words.
"I think she's great. She's never been anything but thoughtful and caring."
Trish couldn't hold her tongue anymore. "And you've known her, what? All of a month or two?"
"Ab, hon, I've listened to you."
Abigail sat down, recognizing the tone. Lecture time!
"Listen to me: Be careful!"
"Be careful? Of what?"
"Hon, she's got that best foot forward, trying to impress you. But you listen to me, okay? She's changed a lot since I've known her, but she is not who you seem to think she is."
Abigail fought the sense of irritation rising within. She knew Trish was only looking out for her. "What do you mean?"
Inhaling deeply, Trish responded. "I've known her since she washed dishes, then went to cook, then finally Kitchen Manager." She sipped on her coffee. "She was a real rough customer when she washed dishes. Had some real problems."
"Trish, aren't you the one who always said we've all got problems?"
"Hon, listen to me! You remember when you were seeing that girl when you first came out? You thought she was the answer to your prayers or something."
Ouch! Not the most shining moment in my life!
"And you tried to break it off with her and she went ballistic?"
"Like when she outted me to my parents?"
"Yeah, in the middle of the night." Reflecting briefly, she continued. "There you were, a scared kid, with barely a suitcase packed. Called in the middle of the night, needing a place to stay. Remember?"
"How could I forget? You took me in and let me stay with you until I could get on my feet."
"Sure, you're like my own flesh. And you even found the courage to begin rebuilding your relationship with your family a year later."
"Right before Mom and Dad moved. But what does this have to do with Christina?"
"Hon, you thought that girl was the neatest thing since sliced bread until she started smothering you. I just want you to be careful." She paused, taking a deep breath. "You don't know her. A month, two months - it takes time to learn about people. Especially when you get involved with them. No one wants to show their bad side until they've got you hooked. Remember that!"
The sun shone brightly as Jack drove down the empty street. More than anything else, he wanted to stop hurting.
Reaching for the radio, he turned it on and off. The last thing he needed was to hear someone crooning about a lost love!
It was difficult, finally facing the truth. The sad part about it is that Abigail told him that she was gay a few years ago and he didn't want to listen. It was just too much; realizing the hope he had for their relationship was really just a fantasy in his mind.
He hadn't been able to talk with her since she stopped staying with him. In fact, he avoided her at work. She tried to stop him a few times, but he found reasons to leave in a hurry.
Flexing his fingers, he relaxed his grip on the steering wheel. It wasn't her fault that he had this image of them in his mind. And this dream certainly wasn't worth losing her friendship. Or his job.
Could they still be friends?
Could he really let her go?
Maybe now, by finally facing the fact that he would never be involved with Abby, he could get on with his life.
He pulled over as he approached the duck pond. Getting out of his car, he made his way to an empty bench.
I haven't been fair to her. It isn't like she hid her gayness from me.
He picked up a small stone and threw it into the water.
And we've been friends far too long for me to be stupid about this.
Watching the ducks frolic, he smiled and relaxed. An image of Michael flashed through his mind. A sense of relief filled him as a realization hit him.
It was so much easier for him to hide behind his non-relationship with Abigail than to venture into the world and deal with his emotions! And that was exactly what he had been doing - using her as a crutch because she was comfortable and familiar. Everything always seemed to be about her, not about him.
Guess I need to be fair to myself, too!
At last, he felt a shimmer of peace that had eluded him since he saw his friend die.
And now, he'd didn't feel like such a big fool.
Christina sat alone on her boat, with a fishing pole in her hand. The morning sun bled over the horizon as she jigged her bait half-heartedly. More intent on working things out in her mind than fishing, she paid little attention to the nibbles on the moving bait.
She knew Samantha was right. She'd been so involved in her new relationship that she was in danger of repeating some of the same mistakes she'd made with Gwen.
Tuesday...we both have today off. Maybe I'll spend some time with her today and go to another meeting tonight.
Christina glanced back at the dock, smiling as she saw Abigail.
"Did you know you've got a fish?"
"Aw, shit!" Christina began reeling, hoping the fish was securely hooked.
"Must be something on your mind for you not to notice." Abigail stepped onto the boat and approached her. She saw the dark circles under blue eyes. "Wow! If I didn't know better, I'd say you were in a fight!"
"I was," she replied dryly. "With sleep." Christina finished retrieved her empty hook. "Lost 'em." She set her pole down and walked towards the cabin to wash her hands. "What's that in your hands?"
"This?" She flipped the envelope in her hands. "I don't know."
"Haven't you opened it?" Christina laughed.
"So what's the story?"
"I don't know." Abigail took the letter out of the envelope and handed it to the brunette.
Christina looked at the paper and took a sharp breath. "What does this mean?"
"I'm not sure." Her hands trembled slightly as she touched the paper, reading the words, cut out from magazines and papers.
"What do you think?" Abigail frowned, worried lines creasing her forehead. "I don't get this."
"Me, neither. Seems like a weird message." She studied the paper intently and put it back in the envelope. "Well, you'd better tell the police if you think it's related to your friendly, neighborhood psycho."
"You got that right!"
Flipping the envelope in her hand, she noticed the postmark. Tampa? That's my backyard! Couldn't be about me, could it?
"It has to be her." Abigail took the envelope from Christina and shrugged her shoulders. "I don't know anyone from Tampa. Never even been there."
Nah. Couldn't be.
Continued in Part VI
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