FIVE DAYS TOO EARLY
"So, did you ask her out on a date already?"
"Are you nuts? She doesn't even know I exist."
"Oh, come on, Amy, you know that's not true."
"Okay, okay, she might know I exist, but that's all. She's just being nice. She's a nice person, she can't help it. Besides, Fran, she's my boss."
"She was your boss, eons ago, before she got transferred to the top floor." Fran Sheldon got up from her office-chair and walked toward her friend who was staring out of the window, nervously plucking the hem of her shirt. Putting a hand on the blonde's shoulder, she gave it a gentle squeeze. "What have you got to lose?"
Blinking away the tears that threatened to well up in her eyes, Amy Beechum turned around to cast a look at her long-time friend and coworker.
"I don't want to lose her respect, or her friendship," Amy answered in a whisper.
"Sweetheart, I'm sure you never will," Fran replied compassionately. "That's not what Erin is about. She's a very understanding person, you should know that."
" I know she is," Amy sighed, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand. "I'm just..."
"Scared out of your mind," Fran added with a smile.
"Exactly," Amy nodded. "But I feel I need to do something soon, because if I don't, I might explode, or do something really, really stupid."
"Like...waltzing into her office, planting myself in her lap and kissing her senseless."
"Mmm, that does sound a little daring," Fran chuckled. "But hey, it might work wonders."
"I think it'll be better to stick to the subtle approach," Amy sighed. "No matter how tempting the idea is to just throw myself at her."
"If you want, I could talk to Erin and..."
"Oh, no," Amy interrupted. "I appreciate the offer, but this is something I need to face myself. Please, Fran, don't say a thing to her," Amy urged with pleading eyes.
"I won't," Fran promised. "But you need to remember I'm here for you. I might not have any experience in dating women, but I've watched the L-Word."
Amy laughed and gave her friend a quick hug.
"Does Gary watch it as well?" she asked.
"Are you kidding me?" Fran laughed out loud. "Hot chicks making out? He's the one who always reminds me when it's on."
Erin O'Shea stared at the monitor on her desk without seeing anything. Her hazel eyes had a faraway expression in them and it was obvious the tall woman's thoughts were not with her work. Long fingers played with a pencil, mindlessly twirling it through her fingers, until it spun out of control and landed on her desk. Slowly blinking her eyes, Erin let out a sigh, pushing a strand of dark-blond hair away from her forehead.
"This is hard," she sighed, stretching out her hand to tap the silver-colored mouse on her desk. Immediately, the company's logo disappeared from the screen revealing a colorful website. "A card is too...too...simple," she mumbled. "Maybe something else...chocolate? Mmm...no, not good enough. Roses?" Erin sucked in her bottom lip and after a few seconds she shook her head. "Nope, too much of...too much. What about...?" she drawled, clicking her mouse button. When a new window opened her eyes lit up and a small smile spread across her face. "Daring," she told herself. "But so worth it."
Not allowing herself time to change her mind, Erin clicked on the ‘buy' button and within minutes her on-line purchase was a done deal.
"That's it, Erin. No way back now," she sighed, leaning back into her chair. Staring out of the window, her thoughts traveled back to the recipient of her gift and a small smile tugged on the corner of her mouth.
"Karen will be proud of me," she mused, thinking back to the conversation she and her best friend recently had.
"Come on, Erin, how hard can it be? I don't know you like this. You've never been this insecure before."
"I've never felt like this before, Karen. It's scary. "
"I understand that, sweetie, but, sometimes you just have to take a risk. You've got to do something about it, Erin. The insecurity is not exactly making you happy. If you'd just go for it, at least you'd know."
"It's not that easy."
"But it's not that hard, either. Valentine's Day is coming up. Use it to your advantage. Send a gift, or something and see what happens."
"Alright, Karen I sent the gift, now we'll see what happens next."
Amy Beechum walked down the long hallway that would lead her to the elevators. The office was quiet, since almost everybody had left hours ago. A winter storm had dumped a mixture of sleet, snow and ice on the roads and, since it was Friday, most of her co-workers had taken half a day off. Amy had declined Fran's offer to take her home, telling her friend she did not mind driving on the icy roads; she would just take it easy.
It had been very quiet after everybody else had left and Amy had been grateful for it, knowing she could finish a lot of work without the distractions. She had missed the weather warnings on the radio and had no clue about the power outages in parts of the city, until one of the security guards had told her he had been given orders to send all remaining staff home and close the building.
"What time is it?" she had asked, staring at him absent-mindedly.
"Almost five," he had answered, smiling when her eyes had flown open in surprise.
"Crap. I lost all track of time," she had answered. "Let me save these files and I'll be out of here in ten minutes," she had promised him.
That had been fifteen minutes ago and as Amy walked toward the elevators, she caught a glimpse of the weather outside through the window.
"Oh, not good," she mumbled, eyeing the street ten stories below her. Everything was covered in a thick layer of white and the cars below were slowly making their way through it.
Behind her, Amy could hear the elevator's soft chime and the sound of its door opening.
"I should have listened to Fran," she sighed, turning around and entering the car.
"What wise words did Fran share with you?" a familiar voice sounded and immediately Amy's heart did a double-take.
"Oh, hi, Erin," she smiled.
"Hi, Amy. How have you been?" the taller woman asked, while warm hazel eyes focused on her.
"Pretty good, until fifteen minutes ago when Pete from security basically sent me home. I had no idea it was this bad. How are things upstairs?"
"They're alright," Erin smiled. "They're keeping me pretty busy."
"Keeps you out of trouble," Amy teased and Erin chuckled.
"I don't know about that, but I guess it's a different kind of trouble than I used to get into," she admitted. "Are you going to the parking garage?" she asked, while her finger hovered over the buttons. When Amy nodded, Erin pressed "B" and, almost soundlessly, the elevator made its way down.
"Are you okay to drive in this stuff?" Erin asked.
"I'll just take it very slowly," Amy answered. She looked up at the other woman and shot her a grin. "We don't have weather like this in Florida."
"I bet," Erin laughed. "We do in Minnesota, though, so I'm used to it."
"Any words of advice?" Amy asked, keeping the conversation light. The familiar mixture of happiness, pain and nervousness that seemed to settle in the pit of her stomach whenever she saw Erin, was back in full force. Looking up at Erin made her want to reach out and touch the other woman's cheek, to brush her fingers across her skin and wipe away the look of fatigue in those dark hazel eyes.
Inwardly, Amy groaned, casting down her head. It was hard for her to look Erin in the eyes, because she was afraid the other woman would be able to read what she felt inside.
"Advice?" Erin repeated in a soft voice. She had noticed the way Amy avoided her eyes and deep down inside it made her want to cry. "Don't speed, don't slam your brakes," she answered, smiling when Amy sent her an exasperated look.
"Thank you," the shorter woman replied dryly, feeling her heart skip a beat when her eyes were caught by a pair of smiling ones.
Oh, God. What if the power goes out and we'd be stuck in here. I'd die !
The thought alone made Amy's skin flush and she took a deep breath to calm her racing heart.
"Are you okay?" Erin asked, having noticed the other woman's discomfort.
"I'm fine," Amy smiled. She looked up and immediately realized her mistake when she saw the warm compassionate gaze that was sent her way. It made her stomach do a somersault and she sucked in a breath.
"Are you sure?" Erin frowned. "You look a little...flushed."
"I just...I was just thinking how bad it would be if the power would go while we're in the elevator," Amy admitted with a nervous chuckle. "The building is about empty, so there wouldn't be help any time soon."
"I didn't know you were claustrophobic," Erin chuckled. "But, no fear, we just reached our destiny," she added pointing to the door that slid open behind Amy.
"Great," Amy sighed. She stepped out of the elevator, closely followed by Erin and immediately shivered when a burst of cold air hit her square in the face.
"Oh, it's cold," she muttered, pulling her coat tight against her neck.
This is your chance, Amy. Ask her if she wants to go out for a drink, or dinner.
Amy shook her head and mentally rolled her eyes at the little voice in the back of her head.
We're in the middle of an ice storm, Einstein Do you really think that would be a smart idea? But hey, ask her if she wants to go do something next week...
"That silver-colored car is yours, right?" Erin's voice interrupted her thoughts and Amy nodded.
"Yes, it is. How did you know?"
Erin sent the other woman a quick smile and shrugged her shoulders.
"Oh, I saw you park it a while ago." And ever since I've made sure to park close by, in the hopes of seeing you... "I don't think it will get you home tonight, though," she added with a somber face.
"It won't?" Amy echoed. "I know it's not a four wheel drive, but..." while speaking, Amy had turned around and when her eyes fell on her car, she fell silent.
"Crap," she mumbled after a few seconds, when realization had set in.
"Do you think I could call a taxi?"
"Are you kidding? I'll take you home," Erin objected. "There's no way anyone will come out tonight to fix your tire. It looks pretty flat to me."
"Yes, that it does," Amy sighed in defeat. "I knew that pothole was trouble the moment I ran over it. But you don't really have to..."
"Amy," Erin interrupted in a stern voice and the shorter woman recognized its tone from the time Erin had been her supervisor. It was the ‘I'm not taking ‘no' for an answer' tone. "I'll take you home."
"Alright," Amy sighed. Part of her was thrilled to be able to spend more time with Erin, but she also knew that, in the end, after Erin would have dropped her off at her house, the sadness and desperation would take over again, leaving her longing.
"Is there anything you need to get out of your car?" Erin asked softly, secretly thrilled to be able to spend more time with the younger woman.
"No, not really," Amy sighed.
"Let's go, then," Erin encouraged, putting her hand on Amy's shoulder to give it a gentle squeeze.
"Oh, my gosh, I'm glad you're driving," Amy sighed, after Erin had carefully come to a stop in front of a traffic light. "I can't believe how bad the roads are. And so many people drive way too fast."
"They're idiots," Erin answered, not taking her eyes off the road. "Driving a four wheel drive truck does not mean you're above crashing into someone else."
The tall woman risked a glance aside and she smiled when she noticed the tension on the other woman's face.
"Relax, Amy," she said, reaching out a hand and patting her passenger on the knee. "You'll be home soon and then you can hunker down for the weekend."
The other woman snorted softly, which made Erin frown.
"Oh, I...nothing," Amy shrugged, mentally having gone through the contents of her fridge and pantry. If push would come to shove, she could survive the weekend on cheese and crackers. "I'll be alright," she added, glancing at the woman behind the wheel. "I just don't like the idea of being cooped up all weekend."
"According to the forecast the temperature should get above freezing this Sunday," Erin replied. "All the ice should melt quickly then."
"Good, I don't like ice," Amy sighed. "I prefer the warmth and the sun."
"Do you regret moving here?" Erin asked, trying to sound casual. The answer to that question would matter a lot to her, but she did not want Amy to know that.
"Do I regret it?" Amy echoed softly. She had been hesitant to move from Florida to Oklahoma, but the job she had been offered had been too good to pass up. Besides, her brother had accepted a job at the University of Oklahoma years ago and she really missed him and his family. So, she had accepted the job offer. And even though the weather was not as she was used to and there was no ocean and no beaches, she had discovered Oklahoma had a lot to offer. Besides, Amy glanced aside and smiled, Erin was here.
"No, I don't regret it," she answered and by the sound of her voice, Erin knew she spoke the truth.
"I'm glad," Erin replied, feeling like a weight had been lifted from her shoulders. Over the last few months, she had not seen and spoken to Amy as often as she would have liked. But whenever she had, she could not help noticing the hint of sadness in the other woman's eyes and deep down inside she had been afraid that homesickness would get the better of Amy and make her move back to Florida.
"Oh, rats, look at that," Amy's voice interrupted Erin's musings. She looked in the direction Amy was pointing and immediately, but carefully started applying pressure on her brakes.
"I loved that tree," Amy whispered, looking at the damaged limbs that were so heavy with ice, they were either hanging down, close to breaking, or already on the ground, ripped away from the trunk by the sheer weight of the ice.
"It took out a power line," Erin noticed. "Isn't your street behind this next one?"
"It was this morning," Amy joked and Erin smiled.
"It doesn't look like you've got power," her former boss spoke with concern. "Look at all those downed trees."
"Well, I was afraid of that," Amy sighed. "I guess I'll be going to bed early and reading a book by candle light. Or a flashlight," she added while pulling a face. "Less romantic, but safer."
"How do you plan on staying warm?" Erin asked, having heard the weather forecast. The temperature would drop significantly and it would be pipe- bursting cold.
"Pile up the blankets," Amy answered dryly. "And dream of a warm day on the beach."
"Does that help?" Erin smiled, carefully steering her car around the corner.
"Yup, it's the power of suggestion," Amy chuckled. "That and a hot water bottle. And before you ask, yes, I can heat water," Amy smiled. "I've got one of those tiny propane gas things."
"Do you have a fireplace?"
"Unfortunately, no," Amy sighed.
"I do," Erin spoke softly, parking her car in front of Amy's driveway and turning in her seat so she could give the other woman her undivided attention.
"You're lucky," Amy answered with a smile, aware of her wildly beating heart. What was that look in Erin's eyes? It looked like a mixture of shyness, compassion and anticipation. Would she really..."
"You can stay at my place," the words came tumbling out.
"What?" Amy breathed, clearing her throat. "I mean, are you serious?"
"I wouldn't ask you if I wasn't," Erin smiled. She could tell Amy was flustered by her question and in a strange way that made her feel better. Obviously, she was not the only one who was insecure.
"I...um...are you really sure?" Amy mumbled and Erin laughed.
"As a matter of fact, I am." And if my power is off as well, we'll be sleeping in front of my fireplace tonight. Oh, my God....
"I guess I should accept then, huh? I'm not exactly in a position to turn down some warmth,"Amy said with a small smile, eying the side of the road where a power line was hazardously hanging down, weighed down by more ice than it could handle. "Oh, crap, my rosebud is split in half," Amy exclaimed when her eyes fell on the battered tree.
The tree, covered in a thick layer of ice, had lost its top, which had literally been split in two. One part had crashed to the frozen grass the other half was only barely hanging on to the trunk, but it was clear it would only be a matter of time before it would topple down as well.
"I'm sorry, Amy," Erin said. One look at the pained expression on her passenger's face told her the tree had been important to Amy.
"I hate winter," the smaller woman mumbled. "I loved that tree. There are couple of cardinals that have nested in it for the last three years. I guess they'll have to find another home now."
Amy let out a sigh and squared her shoulders. There was nothing she could do about the damage to her trees. She would have to deal with that later.
"I'll quickly pack a bag. Are you coming inside?" she asked, while opening the door.
"Sure," Erin nodded, curious to see the interior of her friend's house. It was always interesting to see if her expectations about people's decorative tastes were in sync with what she thought about them.
Careful not to slip and fall on the icy path, both women safely made it to the door.
"The power must have gone out just a little while ago," Amy said when they entered her livingroom. "It's still nice and warm in here." She turned to Erin, who was standing in the middle of the room and sent her a smile. "Take a seat," she said, pointing at the comfortable looking love seat. "I'll be done in a minute. It's getting dark soon."
Erin nodded and took a seat, watching Amy disappear in the hall. With a smile, the tall woman looked around the tastefully decorated room. It was just as she had expected; warm, earth-toned colors and light colored wood, a few big, healthy looking plants and lots of books and DVD's.
Erin could not contain her curiosity. She thought that, from a distance, she did recognize the titles of a few books and DVD's, but she wanted to be sure. Getting up from her comfortable seat, Erin walked to the bookcase and tilted her head so she would be able to read the titles on the back of the books.
Oh, look at that. I appreciate your taste in literature, my friend.
With a smile, Erin sank back in the comfortable chair, pleased to know that Amy shared her interest in Lesbian novels.
By the time her friend returned, Erin had made herself comfortable, greeting her friend with a warm smile.
"Ready?" she asked.
"As ready as one can be when abandoning her house in the middle of an ice storm," Amy answered. "I'll have to check the mail on my way out and then I'm done."
"Alright, let's go then, before it gets too dark," Erin nodded.
While Amy checked her mailbox, Erin started the engine of her car, turning the vents underneath the windscreen on full blast to get rid of the ice that was rapidly accumulating on the glass. A blast of cold air filled the car when Amy quickly hopped in, shivering in spite of her heavy coat.
"It feels colder than when we left," she muttered, using the seatbelt to strap herself in.
"It is," Erin nodded. "The temperature is still dropping."
"Great," Amy sighed, looking at the small pile of mail on her lap. She quickly flipped through them.
"Bill, bill, another bill, card from brother," she said with a chuckle, looking at the red envelope she was holding. "He always sends me a Valentine card." She glanced aside at Erin and chuckled. "It's a joke between us. He sends me a sappy card and I make sure he gets an even tackier one."
"Must be a sibling thing," Erin laughed.
"It started when I was twelve and he was fourteen," Amy explained. "He was giving me a hard time, because one of his best friends had a crush on me. He was always teasing me. So, the year after, I had my revenge and ever since we've been sending each other really bad Valentine cards," Amy explained with a grin. "Alright, what else do we have here," she continued, holding up a small package. Turning it around in her fingers, she studied it from every angle, frowning when she noticed the sender.
"That's odd, I didn't order anything," she said. "Must be a mistake."
Erin, who was slowly pulling out of the driveway, cast a quick look at the small package in Amy's hands and, in pure reaction, she almost slammed her brakes.
Dang it ! That's five days too early...
Suddenly feeling very nervous and self-conscious, Erin let out a slow breath and concentrated on the hazardous road ahead, trying to ignore the turmoil inside. She had not counted on the gift arriving before the fourteenth and had really not planned on being around when Amy opened the small box. Her fingers clenched around the steering wheel when she thought of all the possible ways the other woman could respond. Countless scenarios flew through her brain, leaving Erin almost dizzy and confused. The only consolation, was the small voice in the back of her mind that kept telling her to relax, because her name would not be on the card. Erin softly snorted.
Yeah, right, like the package was supposed to arrive Wednesday.
"Aren't you going to open it?" she asked in a tight voice, noticing Amy was still turning it around in her hands, seemingly not knowing what to do with it.
"I guess," the other woman sighed. "Although I didn't order anything and I can't think of anyone sending me something." She paused for a moment and took a deep breath. "Unless my brother came up with a new way to tease me," she added in a soft voice.
"Why would you think nobody would send you anything?" Erin asked, risking a quick glance aside.
"You mean for Valentine's?"
Erin nodded and deep down inside the knot of tension felt like it was getting tenser by the second. What if she had completely misjudged the situation?
"I'd think there would be a line of people trying to get into your good graces," Erin gently teased.
I know I'd be first in line.
"You'd be surprised," Amy answered wistfully. "There hasn't been anybody in years. I still think there has been a mistake with this package. Let's see what's in it."
Amy quickly opened the small, flat box and smiled when she revealed a smaller box, neatly wrapped in shiny, red paper.
"The tag has my name on it," she said and there was so much surprise in her voice it made Erin smile.
"I guess there's no mistake then," the taller woman answered and her voice was warm.
With rapidly increasing curiosity, Amy unwrapped the small package and a few seconds later she was holding a small, blue box.
"It's a jewelry box," she said in a hoarse voice.
"Somebody means business then," Erin mumbled, not taking her eyes off the slippery road. Her heart was slamming against her ribs and she had to make a conscious effort to take a few deep, calming breaths.
Amy's mouth had gone dry and her fingers trembled when she flipped open the small box, wondering what she would find inside.
"Oh, my gosh," she gasped when her eyes fell on the contents. "It's beautiful."
Erin, who had unconsciously held her breath, exhaled slowly, aware of the relief that flooded through her body.
"What is it?" she asked as casual as she could.
"It's a pendant. A beautiful little silver hummingbird," Amy smiled. "I love hummingbirds."
Erin swallowed a "I know", mentally slapping herself for almost giving away her secret. Instead, she glanced aside, inwardly glowing with joy when she saw the look of adoration on Amy's face. Her friend was studying the pendant with a mixture of awe, wonder and happiness.
"Who would send me something beautiful like this?"
"Somebody who cares about you," was Erin's immediate response. "Didn't it come with a card?"
Amy nodded and pulled out a small card.
"To Amy, from your Valentine," she read aloud. "Well, that's helpful," she sighed.
"An anonymous admirer," Erin smiled.
"I guess so," Amy nodded and then all of a sudden her whole body went rigid with shock.
Oh, no ! What will Erin think? Now she thinks I've got an admirer, but the only one I'm interested in is her ! Crap.
"I can't accept it," she mumbled, staring at the pendant, missing the startled look on Erin's face.
"Because, I don't know whom it's from," Amy exclaimed. "I can't wear something beautiful like this without knowing where it comes from. If I have a secret admirer I can't encourage that person by wearing this. Not unless I know who it is."
Erin did not immediately answer. Her lips were pursed and there was a deep frown in her forehead.
Good job, Erin ! Who knew her reaction would be like this? Dang it, that's why I didn't want to be around when she opened it. Although, at least now I know she loves the pendant. She's just too honorable to wear it. Maybe she's interested in somebody and feels like it's wrong to wear it, or something.
Her dark thoughts did not exactly make Erin feel better. She realized she had never considered the possibility of Amy being interested in someone. Her plan had been to try and win the other woman over, ever so slowly and carefully.
What the heck do I do now?
"Maybe you should think about it for a while," Erin finally suggested after a long silence. Her voice was soft and calm, not revealing the tension she felt inside. "If somebody wanted to give you this, anonymously, then they meant for you to have it and to wear it. This...person...apparently knows you like hummingbirds and wanted you to have your own little bird. It's a cute thought," Erin sighed, knowing she was rambling.
"I know and I appreciate the thought," Amy replied. "But, just imagine this; if person ‘A' is interested in me and sends me this gift, but I am more interested in person ‘B', then it's bound to become complicated. Right? Especially if I would...try....to get...something going with ‘B', while wearing ‘A's" pendant."
In spite of her own mixture of confusion, disappointment and desperation, Erin chuckled at the way Amy had just summarized her problem.
"So, there is someone you're interested in, then?" Erin managed to get the words out without choking on them.
Amy suddenly felt like crying. Here she was, sitting next to the person she had just labeled as ‘B', not able to tell her how deeply she felt for her. Erin was too composed and controlled , there was no way she would have any feelings for Amy. Nothing more than friendship anyway.
"There might be," Amy whispered. "But it's very one-sided, so I guess I'd better get over it."
And what a better way to do it than spending the weekend with person ‘B'...God, what a mess.
Erin nodded and swallowed hard. She could not help thinking: "What if the person you're interested in is the one who gave you the pendant?"
I should ask her, I really should. See what she says. But I'm too chicken...Besides, she's obviously not interested in me, since she already knows the person she's interested in is not interested in her...How can they not be? I am !
Erin took a deep breath and dared a glance at the silent woman next to her. The forlorn look on Amy's face cut through her heart and she could not help herself, she had to reach out and put a comforting hand on Amy's knee, giving it an encouraging squeeze, before bringing her hand back to the steering wheel again.
"You look a little...lost," her soft voice broke the humming of the car's engine. "Do you want to talk about it, Amy? Is there anything I can do to help you?"
Amy swallowed hard, aware of the painful beating of her heart. Of course there was something Erin could do. The tall woman was the only one who would be able to take away the pain and sadness she felt every time Amy went home alone at the end of the day. But there was no way she could bear her soul to Erin, it would only lead to even more heartache.
She looked aside at Erin's profile and smiled at the frown of frustration she noticed between the taller woman's eyebrows. Erin was the kind of person who always gave people she talked to her undivided attention. Right now, she had no choice but to concentrate on the icy road and Amy knew that was something that annoyed her friend to no end.
"I don't want to distract you from your driving," she answered with a sigh. "Maybe we can talk later."
"Sure, alright, I guess that's a good idea," Erin nodded with a nervous smile. "But, Amy," Erin took a deep breath, before letting it out slowly. "I...I'd like to think you see me as...a friend...and I do hope you know you can always talk to me. Always," she ended in a whisper.
"God, I love her," Amy's inner voice screamed, while her heart rate picked up speed again.
"I know, Erin. Thank you," she answered instead, staring outside the window, while blinking away the tears.
"Oh, it's so nice and warm in here," Amy sighed, while stepping inside Erin's livingroom. "I'm so glad you still have power."
"I am, too," Erin chuckled, gallantly taking Amy's coat and walking to the hall to hang it on the hall-tree. "The power lines in this area are all in the ground. The only reason for us to lose power, is if one of the substations is damaged."
"How often does that happen?"
"Ever since I've lived here, only once," Erin laughed at the relieved look on her friend's face. "And, before you ask, yes, that was after a tornado grazed it."
"Well, I'm very grateful you invited me over," Amy said with a smile. "And I'm very grateful we've made it. The road was getting worse by the minute."
"It wasn't just the road," Erin mumbled. "It was the people on it."
"I know. I thought that white truck would slide straight into us," Amy shivered.
"The idiot was speeding. He was lucky he just hit the curb and not us, or anyone else," Erin responded. She could not hide her smile when she looked at her friend. It felt so good to be around Amy. Her friend centered her in a way nobody else could and she relished that peaceful, warm feeling.
"I'm going to make some hot tea. Do you want some?" Erin asked, already on her way to the kitchen.
"Please," Amy nodded. "Do you need some help?"
Erin, who had already disappeared into the kitchen, stuck her head around the corner and sent her friend an amused smile.
"It's pretty easy, to make tea," she smiled. "But I wouldn't mind the company," she added with a wink.
The unexpected reaction made Amy's face flush and, for a long moment, she was speechless. Had Erin just flirted with her? Pressing her hands against her overheated cheeks, she took a deep breath, not able to suppress the chuckle that unexpectedly bubbled up.
"I'll be darned," she whispered, heading toward the kitchen.
"I could keep you company and also do something, you know," she said, leaning against the door. Her eyes greedily took in the tall form of her friend, who was staring at an impressive collection of different kinds of tea.
Glancing over her shoulder, Erin motioned for Amy to come closer. She gestured at the open kitchen cabinet and shot her friend a questioning look.
"You can tell me what kind of tea you'd like," her soft voice sounded close to Amy's ear, making the other woman's heart do another double-take.
While Amy's eyes flew over the colorful small boxes, she was very aware of the warm presence of her friend, who was standing very close to her.
"And here I was thinking you were a coffee kind of person," she teased.
"Only during the day," Erin answered with a laugh. "I prefer a cup of tea when I come home. Just something to relax by."
"Learn something new every day," Amy mumbled.
"And I bet there's a lot you don't know about me," Erin replied softly.
Amy dared a look at the taller woman's face and immediately her eyes were caught by a pair of warm hazel ones.
"I know you like to read," Amy smiled. "I saw the books when I came in. You have a lot of DVD's, so I guess you like a good movie. And, from a very reliable source, I know you love trees and long hikes, among other things."
Erin laughed and the twinkle in Amy's eyes made her feel warm inside.
"Would that ‘reliable source' be me?" she chuckled.
"Um, yes, I guess it would," Amy laughed. "But, to answer your question, I'd love some Mango tea."
"Excellent choice," Erin nodded her approval. "Knowing you have a sweet- tooth; sugar, Splenda, honey?"
"Ooh, honey," Amy answered with a delighted grin, making Erin chuckle.
"In your tea?" the tall woman asked with an innocent face, grinning when Amy blushed.
"Yes, in my tea," was the answer, followed by a playful swat across the taller woman's stomach. "If I didn't know any better I'd..." Think you're flirting with me again.
"You'd...? What?" Erin asked with a raised eyebrow.
"I'd think you're a bigger tease than my brother," Amy finished her sentence, casting down her eyes, because the twinkle in Erin's eyes was way too distracting.
"If that's the case, I'd need to send you tacky Valentine cards," Erin gently teased, fighting the urge to reach out a hand and brush her fingertips across Amy's cheeks.
"It's hard to beat my brother," Amy sighed, aware of the painful beating of her heart. "But you can always give it a try," she added, so softly Erin almost missed it.
"I might," the taller woman replied with a small smile, almost jumping when the water kettle started whistling. Grateful for the interruption, she turned to the stove to pour the boiling water in the waiting glasses, adding a pouch of mango tea for Amy and a raspberry for herself. Leaving the tea to steep she turned around again, to face her friend, whose eyes held a mixture of sadness, hope and longing.
"Amy," Erin started, taking a deep breath when her eyes met the blonde's.
Come on, Erin, get a grip. It's now or never...
Both women jumped when, all of a sudden, the phone started ringing, interrupting whatever Erin was about to say.
The tall woman muttered a curse and sent her friend an apologetic smile.
"Keep an eye on the tea," she smiled and Amy nodded.
With a few long strides, Erin had reached the noisily ringing phone and she quickly picked it up, almost groaning when she noticed the name on the display.
"Hello, Karen," she greeted her friend.
"Hey, stretch," her friend's voice sounded. "I was just checking up on you. Did you get home alright?"
"I did," Erin answered. "How about you?"
"Oh, honey, I left before this mess started. I had no intentions of slipping and sliding my way home. I picked up the kids from school and made a run for it."
"Smart woman," Erin chuckled. "That's one of the perks of having your own business. What about Ronnie?"
"She's home," Karen's upbeat voice answered. "The boss sent everybody home at noon. If you think having your own business is a great thing, try working for the State."
While Erin talked on the phone, Amy stared at the tea that was slowly, but surely darkening in color. Lost in thought, she moved the tea bag through the water, until she decided the beverage was strong enough. Expertly she pulled out the bags, squeezing the hot liquid out of the bag with the use of a spoon. From the corner of her eye, she noticed the trash can in the corner and quickly she disposed of the soggy bags. When she half-turned to get her tea, her elbow hit the corner of the kitchen counter and a small stack of envelopes threatened to slide off the smooth surface. Amy was able to grab the papers just in time and shaking her head in annoyance about her own clumsiness, she put them back in place again. Just as she pulled her hand away from the paper, her eyes fell on a familiar logo and she sucked in a breath.
"What the...?" she muttered, aware of Erin's voice in the background, still talking on the phone.
Everything inside her screamed at Amy to avert her eyes and walk away, but somewhere, deep down inside, she knew one quick peek, just fast glance would be one of the most important things she had ever done. So, with her heart hammering in her chest and with sweaty palms, she looked down at the paper, immediately feeling a wave of mixed emotion rage through her system; surprise, shock, but most of all confusion.
Swallowing hard, Amy fought for self-control, knowing she needed to try and regain her composure. All of a sudden, there were so many things she needed to think about. So many questions she needed an answer for.
Turning around, Amy reached for her tea, almost yelping in surprise when, instead of touching the glass mug with the hot beverage, her hand touched the soft fabric of Erin's jacket.
"My gosh, you scared me," she breathed, pressing her hand against her heart.
"You must have been deep in thought, not to hear I was finished on the phone," Erin replied, eyeing her friend with curiosity. Her hazel eyes took in Amy's flushed cheeks and the way her friend averted her gaze. With a frown she was about to ask the smaller woman what was wrong, when she noticed the letter with the colorful logo and she mentally slapped herself. How could she have been so careless? How stupid !
Alright, O'Shea, I guess it's now or never...
"Amy, I..." she started, taking a deep breath to get rid of the barely audible quiver in her voice. "Amy, let's grab our tea and go to the livingroom, we need to talk."
Without answering, Amy grabbed her mug of tea and walked to the livingroom, where she quietly sat down, not looking up when Erin took a seat next to her. Her eyes were staring down at the glass mug in her hands, blinking rapidly to chase away the tears that were threatening to fall.
"Amy," Erin's soft voice sounded. "I didn't mean for you to find out this way, believe me."
Biting her lip, Amy tried to make sense of all the feelings and thoughts that were raging through her system. She was surprised, exhilarated, but also a little angry and disappointed.
"Why didn't you tell me?" she finally asked in a soft voice.
"Yes, please," she replied with a sigh.
"I was scared to death. I still am, Amy, I really am." A warm hand touched her arm. "Look at me, please."
Swallowing hard, Amy mustered up the courage to look at her friend. Erin's eyes were dark with worry and fear and the tense lines around her eyes were testimony to her nervousness.
"Why?" Amy asked in a whisper.
"Because I don't know how you feel. I've tried to figure that out for a long time, but you're so hard to read," Erin explained with something that resembled desperation.
"I'm hard to read?" Amy echoed. "What about you? My God, Erin, you're the queen of unreadable."
"Really?" Erin asked with genuine surprise. "I never thought..." she paused and a look of wonder crossed her face. "What was it you were trying to read in me?"
"You're turning the tables on me," Amy excused. "In case you've forgotten; you're the one who needs to explain a few things here."
"Okay, fair enough," Erin sighed, raking her fingers through her hair. "I can sum it all up in a few words."
Amy nodded and set her mug on the coffee-table, not trusting her trembling fingers to keep a safe grip on the hot beverage.
"You might not...you might get upset," Erin warned with a hint of sadness in her voice.
"Try me," Amy replied softly, wondering if her friend would be able to hear the pounding of her heart.
"I'm in love with you."
Amy sucked in a breath and sat stock still while her brain was desperately trying to wrap itself around what Erin had just told her.
"You're in love with me?" she finally asked. Risking a glance at Erin's face, her heart did a double-take when she noticed the insecurity in the warm hazel eyes. Without thinking, Amy reached out a hand and finally did what she had longed to do for such a long time; she cupped Erin's face and used her thumb to stroke the soft skin of the other woman's cheek gently. Unconsciously, the tall woman leaned into the touch, her eyes never leaving Amy's.
"I've been in love with you for such a long time now," Amy whispered. "I've dreamed of this moment and, to be honest, I never believed it would really happen."
"Believe it," Erin smiled, putting her tea on the coffee-table as well. "Amy, I'm sorry, I really am. I wish I'd have had the courage to tell you, months ago, but I'm a chicken."
Amy sent her friend a watery smile and leaned into Erin, drawing the other woman closer.
"Thank you for the hummingbird," she whispered, while their lips were just a breath apart.
"It was five days too early," Erin breathed, focusing on the lips that were so close, she would have sworn she could feel their warmth.
"I'm glad," Amy managed to whisper, before her lips met Erin's. The first, tentative touch was soft and warm and so tender, it brought tears to Erin's eyes.
"Amy," she whispered with a quivering voice. "I'm so sorry."
"For kissing me?" Amy whispered with a smile, already leaning in for another kiss.
"No, for being too chicken to put my name on the card," Erin breathed, moistening her lips.
"Don't worry about it, Erin," Amy answered, stroking the other woman's face with her fingertips. "I could have opened up to you months ago as well, but I didn't. You aren't the only one who was scared." Amy pressed her lips against Erin's cheek, reveling in the softness she found there. "I'm just happy you feel the same. I've longed for you for so long now..."
"Then let's stop talking," Erin suggested with a smile. She wrapped her arms around the smaller woman and pulled her into her arms. "We can talk later. Right now, I just want to do this...," she added in a whisper, capturing Amy's lips in a kiss that started slow, giving Amy the opportunity to set the pace. Before long though, their kiss deepened and Amy let out a soft moan when the tip of Erin's tongue teased her bottom lip. Pressing her body even closer to the taller woman's, Amy sighed, accepting Erin's silent invitation to explore each other's mouths.
Erin was completely lost in the sensation of Amy's lips and tongue and she was only vaguely aware of the heat that flooded through her body. All she knew were the lips that robbed her from speech and sense and the body in her arms that was pressed so close, she could feel the other woman's soft curves, even through the layers of clothing between them. All of a sudden(,) that seemed to be too much.
With difficulty, Erin pulled away, which earned her a frustrated groan from Amy.
"Honey, I...we either need to stop right now, or...," Erin said with difficulty, only now noticing she was lying on the couch with Amy practically on top of her.
"Or keep going," Amy finished the sentence, looking at Erin with eyes that were heavy with desire.
"Or keep going," Erin nodded. Her breathing was irregular and one look at Amy's flushed face showed her the other woman was in no better shape.
"I've always seen myself as the romantic type of girl," Amy said, pressing against the hollow of Erin's throat, kissing her softly. "I dreamed about dating you, taking you out for dinner, walks along the lake, sharing our first kiss under the stars or in front of the fireplace."
"That sounds wonderful," Erin smiled, very aware of Amy's leg that had, somehow, slid between her own, applying pressure to an area that was becoming more and more sensitive by the moment.
"It does," Amy nodded, pulling back so she could look in the warm hazel eyes she loved so much. "It's just that, right now, I feel like we should skip all that." Amy moistened her lips and leaning in closer, so they were almost nose-to-nose.
"I want to make love to you," she admitted in a voice that was hoarse with emotion. "I'd understand if you want to wait, but, please, tell me now, because..."
"I don't," Erin interrupted. "God, Amy, have you any idea what you're doing to me?" she added reaching out and pushing Amy's jacket off her shoulders. "I love you. I think I've loved you from the moment you walked into the office, two years ago."
"I love you, too," Amy almost sobbed, wondering if she had ever been happier in her life. When she noticed Erin had difficulty with the buttons of her shirt, she smiled and gently pushed away the eager fingers.
"Here, let me," she said, quickly unbuttoning her shirt, sucking in a breath when warm hands pushed the fabric down, leaving her clad only in her bra.
"Happy Valentine's Day, Erin," she smiled, when she saw the look of pure devotion in the other woman's eyes.
"Five days too early," was the whispered response.
"Are you complaining?" Amy smiled, kissing the tip of Erin's nose.
"No, I'm not," Erin shook her head, cupping Amy's face between her hands to draw her in for a kiss, trembling when Amy's fingers made quick work of the buttons on the taller woman's shirt. She let out a shuddering breath when warm lips nibbled their way down from her jaw to her pulse-point. With a moan she closed her eyes, surrendering to the exciting heat that flooded through her body, making it feel heavy and hot and making her forget everything, except the for the woman in her arms.
It was going to be a very exhilarating Valentine's.
Feedback is welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org
Back to the 2007 Valentine Invitational Stories
Back to the Academy