By Web Bard (copyright 11/2000)
Reese and Beth entered the department store at the mall. A few, last minute purchases needed to be made before they left for Greece.
"Reese, Im going over to the next aisle," said Beth as she walked around the stack of sweaters her friend was standing beside. "Ill be back in a minute."
"Okay," said Reese. "Ill be right here."
Reese picked up a sweater and ran her hands over the soft fabric. She stopped when she heard Beths voice.
"Beth Morris? Is that you?"
Reese started to walk to the end of the aisle, but stopped as the conversation continued.
"How long has it been, Beth?"
"Ten years, I think."
"You still look the same," said the brunette to the small blonde woman. "You havent changed a bit."
"More than you might think," said Beth. Her heart began to race. Where is Reese?
"So, are you with someone?" Catherine smiled a sly grin.
That was Reeses cue. She quickly walked around the aisle and placed her hand on Beths shoulder. She felt a tremor under her fingers and tightened her grip.
Beth sighed and answered Catherine. " Yes, I am with someone. This is my friend, Reese. Shes my "
"Partner," said Reese as she reached out her hand to offer to Catherine. She took the brunettes hand to shake and gave it an extra firm squeeze. Just for good measure. Whoever this was had shaken Beth to the core. She could feel it under her fingers. This woman was not a friend.
A man walked around the corner and stood next to Catherine. "You remember my husband, Mark, dont you?"
"Yes," said Beth. "Good to see you again."
"Well, we wont keep you two ladies from your shopping," said Catherine as she took her husbands hand. "Great to see you, Beth."
"You, too," said Beth as she tried to force a smile. "Bye."
Beth leaned back into Reese, who quickly wrapped her arms around her friend.
"Can we find a bar somewhere?" Beth continued to shake. "I need a drink. Lots of them."
Reese kept her arm around Beths shoulder as they
entered the bar in the restaurant. She saw a secluded table in the corner and
led Beth in that direction. "What do you want to drink? Ill get it for
"Whatever will get me drunk the fastest," said Beth as she rested her head in her hands.
Reese was worried. Beth normally didnt drink anything but wine and champagne. Now, she wanted to get plastered. Reese approached the bar and asked for two glasses of wine. Then, she changed her mind and paid for an entire bottle. She brought the two glasses and the bottle to the table. Something tells me Im going to need a couple of drinks, too.
Reese poured the glasses of wine and handed one to her lover. Beth turned the glass up and drank the contents of the glass without stopping.
"Another one, please."
"No," said Reese. "Not until you tell me who that was."
Beths hands continued to shake as she held on to the wine glass. Reese moved the glass out of the way, grabbed her friends hands and pulled them into her own lap.
"Talk to me, Beth. Right now. Who is Catherine?"
"My first love."
That wasnt the answer Reese expected. "What?"
Beth lowered her eyes and stared at the wine glass. "Remember when I told you about the relationship in I had in college with a woman? That was Catherine."
Reese remembered the talk they had several months earlier. Beth had described her first relationship with a woman as the most painful part of her past. A wave of anger rose through her body. I would have slugged that woman if I had known who she was. How dare she hurt Beth.
Tears began to slowly run down Beths face. She hadnt seen this nightmare of a woman in ten years. All it took was a few words and a sarcastic look to reduce Beth to ashes.
"Hey," said Reese softly. She placed her hand under Beths chin and turned it toward her. "Look at me. Im right here. Youre not alone."
When Reese touched her face, Beth completely unraveled. She dropped her head into friends lap and held on to Reeses thighs. Reese lowered her body to wrap herself around Beth as tight as she could. "Ive got you, sweetheart. Just let it go. She cant hurt you anymore. I wont let her, do you hear me?"
Beth continued to sob into her friends lap. Seeing Catherine was like seeing a ghost. It had taken years for Beth not to think about her. The nightmares. The screaming phone calls. The pills. It just hurt too much.
Reese kept rubbing her hands over Beths back, trying to give her some form of reassurance that she was there for her. Beths breathing finally regained a normal pattern and she pulled herself up from Reeses lap. She leaned into her favorite spot on Reeses shoulder and took in a deep breath. Reese took a napkin and brushed the wet tears from her friends face.
"Can we go home?" Beth grabbed at Reeses shirt and held on.
"In a heartbeat," said Reese as she helped Beth to her feet. She grabbed the wine bottle with one hand and wrapped the other one around the smaller womans waist.
"Thank you," said Beth quietly. Reese opened the car door for her friend and fastened the seatbelt around her.
Beth turned away and stared out of the car window. As they were driving on the highway, Reese placed her hand on Beths leg. A small hand reached out and covered the long, slender fingers.
The Explorer pulled to a stop in front of the cabin. There hadnt been a word spoken in twenty minutes. Reese let Beth have that time to try to work through the shock of seeing Catherine. Reese opened the car door and offered her hand. Beth interlaced her fingers with her partners and they walked in silence through the front door.
"I, I feel like Im going to pass out," said Beth as she felt her knees buckle and the room turn black.
Reese caught her friend as she began to fall and quickly lifted her to the couch. She ran to the kitchen to find a wet cloth. Reese dropped to her knees beside the couch and placed the cold, wet dishtowel over her friends eyes and then behind her neck.
"Beth," said Reese as a lump rose in her throat. "Please, baby. Wake up. Im right here. Please "
Beth began to stir. She opened her eyes to find Reeses face inches from hers. "What what happened?"
"You fainted." Reese smiled and brushed her fingers against the side of Beths face. "You scared the hell out of me."
Beth tried to sit up, but felt the room spin again.
"Whoa," said Reese as she reached for her friend. "Let me help you."
Reese sat on the couch and pulled Beth into her lap. "Now, Ive got you. Just relax, okay? If you want to talk, Im right here. But you dont have to say anything if you dont want to."
Beth took a deep breath and burrowed into Reeses shoulder. She put her arm around her friends neck. "Just hold me for a few minutes, okay?"
Reese tightened her hold on her lover and began to gently rock her from side to side. "Ill do anything to take this pain away from you."
"I know," said Beth. "Youre already helping."
"Would it help to talk about it?"
"Yes, it probably would." Beth regained her composure and eased herself off of Reeses lap.
"Hey, I dont mind holding you," said Reese as she reached out to bring Beth back.
"I know sweetheart," said Beth. "I just need some fresh air. Can we walk to the pond?"
Reese placed her arm around Beths shoulder as they walked down the path to their pond. They reached the bench Reese had bought for Beth after they moved in.
"Im so sorry," said Beth.
"Sorry for what? You have nothing to be sorry for. But I tell you one thing, if I ever see that Catherine woman again, shell wish shed never met me."
Beth managed a small laugh. "My hero."
"You still dont get it, do you?" Reese turned to Beth and took her hand. She pulled it up to her lips and kissed it. "I promised you that I would do anything to make you happy and I meant it."
"Reese, its very complicated."
"I have all the time in the world."
Beth took a deep breath and squeezed her friends hand. "Catherine and I went to high school together. We were best friends and did everything together. One night when we were talking, I asked her why it wasnt possible for two women to show each other how much loved each other like it was between a man and a woman. She said there was. One thing led to another and we made love."
Reese let go of Beths hand and wrapped an arm around her shoulder.
"We continued our relationship in secret during my freshman year in college. One weekend, when we thought her parents werent home, we decided to make love in their bedroom. We were wrong about her parents. Her mother and father walked in on us. It was horrible."
"Good God, Beth," said Reese as she looked down at her friends anguished face.
"Her mother started screaming at me and throwing things across the room. I grabbed my clothes and ran out of the house. I ran and ran until I finally fell down in a park somewhere. I hitched a ride back to college and locked myself in the dorm room. The phone rang all night long. I finally answered it and it was Catherines mother. I cant even tell you the vile things she screamed at me over the phone. I stayed up the rest of the night throwing up. Someone found me passed out on the bathroom floor the next morning."
Reese ran her hand along the side of Beths arm, and then kissed the top of her head. "You must have been scared to death."
"I didnt go to class the next day," continued Beth. "I stayed in my room and curled up in a fetal position on my bed."
"I wish I could have been there for you," said Reese.
"Youre here now," said Beth. "Thats all that matters."
"When did you see Catherine again?"
"She was able to borrow a car and come to see me the next night," said Beth. "At first, I thought she was going to be very supportive about the whole incident, but she didnt even touch me. She sat across the room and told me it was all my fault. She said that I had ruined her life, that her parents would never love her again. I couldnt believe it. Then, she looked me in the eye and said shed never loved me. She told me I was the biggest mistake she had ever made and that she had been seeing someone else the whole time we had a relationship. It was Mark, the man she eventually married."
Forget hurting Catherine if I ever see her, thought Reese. Ill kill her with my bare hands.
Beth stood up and walked toward the pond. Reese walked up and stood next to her. "What happened after that, Beth?"
"We saw each other socially, but never really talked again. She got married that summer and I wasnt invited to the wedding. Not that I expected to be. I sat in my dorm room and started to drown my sorrows with a cheap bottle of wine. When that didnt work, I drank another one. As I sat there, the world kept getting blacker and blacker. I didnt want to be a part of it anymore. I reached in my roommates drawer and pulled out a bottle of sleeping pills. I swallowed them."
This time, Reese felt her knees start to buckle. Beth had tried to kill herself. She had no idea how deep her friends pain went. Until now. Beth noticed that the color was draining from Reeses face. "Quick, honey, sit back down."
"Beth, I had no idea," said Reese as she sank back down on the bench. "What happened? Someone must have found you."
"My roommate found me about 30 minutes later," said Beth quietly. "The next thing I remember is waking up in the hospital. They pumped my stomach before most of the pills got into my system."
"But you were okay, right?" Reese looked with concern at Beth. "Right?"
"My parents put me in a mental ward for two weeks after that. I was under a suicide watch."
"Oh my God," said Reese not believing the words coming out of her friends mouth.
"Now, do you see why its so hard for me to talk about my feelings?" Beth lowered her head and tried to keep her hands from shaking.
Reese covered her friends hands with her own. "Who else knows about this?"
"Just the people that were involved then."
"How long have you been holding this inside?" Reese brushed a lock of hair away from Beths face.
"Ten years," said Beth, looking up at Reese. "Ive never shared this with anyone but you."
"Dear God," said Reese as she pulled Beth into her arms. "I wish I could have done something to have kept you from going through this."
"Reese," said Beth. "We talked a lot about trust a couple of weeks ago. I would have never shared this with you if I didnt trust you. Do you understand now?"
"Yes," said Reese. "Im so sorry for getting angry with you then. I just didnt know how hard it was for you. Please forgive me."
"Of course I will," said Beth as hugged Reese a little harder. "I just didnt want you to think that my lack of ability to trust had anything to do with you. Because it doesnt. I know without a doubt that you love me. Its the reason I wake up every morning."
"And, you, my love are the best thing that ever happened to me," said Reese as she buried her face in Beths hair. "I love you so much that it scares me. The thought of ever losing you just terrifies me."
"Dont worry," said Beth. "Thats not going to happen. Wherever you are, is where I will be. Always. Got that?"
"I got it, cutie." Reese smiled at her friend and noticed that Beth was smiling back at her. "Are you feeling better about things now?"
"I feel like the weight of the world has been lifted off of my shoulders," said Beth. "Thank you so much for taking care of me today. What would I ever do without you?"
"Well, lucky for you," said Reese. "Youll never have to find out. I just wanted you to exorcise that demon. I really think youll be able to heal that open wound now that youve let the monster out of the cave."
"I think youre right, love," said Beth as she wrapped her arms around Reeses neck. "Im feeling better already."
Reese felt a surge of emotion as she pulled Beth closer. "No one will ever hurt you again. If I have to build a fortress around you, I will. Im guarding your heart now. No one will ever have the chance to bring you that much pain again."
Beth reached up and cupped her hands around her friends face. "I thought I would have to live my whole life with a broken heart. But you changed all that. You taught me that love and trust and friendship was worth the risk. And, it is worth it. Every minute of my life with you holds meaning for me. You gave me back my heart and I will always be grateful to you."
Beth took a deep breath and rested her head on Reeses shoulder. The monster was out of the cave now. The arms wrapped around her were her fortress. And the guard to her heart was on duty. The darkness had lifted and a warm, peaceful feeling had taken root in her soul. The ghost was gone. The nightmare was finally over.
to be continued...
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