Bard Valentine Invitational 2007
Valerie rolled onto her back, her heartbeat slowing to a normal rate. “Damn,” she said, kicking her legs to free them from the tangled sheets.
“Marry me?” Frankie asked, snuggling against her lover.
“You know I can't.” Valerie's tone betrayed her annoyance at having the request repeated.
“I know you say you can't, but is there really anything preventing you?”
“Damn it,” Valerie snapped and shot Frankie a glare before rolling away from her to sit on the edge of the bed. “You know my feelings about this.”
“I was hoping your feelings for me were stronger.” Frankie sighed, pushing herself into a sitting position. Frustrated, she roughly ran her hands through her short cropped hair. “The Valentine's Day dance is tonight. I would like to go with you.”
“Shit.” Valerie looked around for the clothes she had haphazardly discarded the night before. “Why do you always have to ruin our time together?” she asked, snatching her blouse off the floor.
“I love you. And I love the time we spend together. But I want more. I want to wake up with you; to eat breakfast together, to come home and make you dinner. To go to bed with you every night, not just the ones you allow us to have.” Frustration overflowing, Frankie slapped her palms against the mattress. “I want a life with you, Val. Why can't you just admit who you are?” she cried.
Glaring at her lover, Valerie stood in the middle of the room half dressed with a pair of shoes in one hand and her bra in the other.
Frankie glared back, wanting to say more but afraid to say too much. “I don't understand, Val. I truly don't.”
With a shake of her head, Valerie turned on her heels and marched out of the room.
Frankie dropped back onto the bed, an arm covering eyes filling with tears. Rolling onto her side, she pulled the blankets tight around her body and waited for the sound she knew would come. When the front door of the house slammed shut, she let the tears fall.
“Why do you continue to waste your life on her? You know she's never going to change.”
“I love her.” Frankie sighed. She was sitting on the bed in her best friend's apartment watching her change clothes.
“I know you think you do, honey.” Kelly turned away from the search of her closet for the perfect pair of pants and gave Frankie a sympathetic look. “But you deserve more than that. You deserve someone who will love you.”
“She does love me.”
Pulling a pair of slacks off their hanger, Kelly walked over to the bed and sat down. “She might love you here,” she said, placing a finger on Frankie's chest above her heart. “But she'll never love you here.” She moved her finger to the side of Frankie's head, lightly tapping the temple. “And that's the problem.”
“She could change.”
“Oh honey, she is so far back in the closet she's never going to see the light of day.” She slipped the slacks over her bare feet then stood to pull them up her legs.
“I've put too much into this relationship to just walk away.”
“You're right there,” Kelly said, sitting back on the bed to put on a pair of socks. “You've put way too much into it. But you've only been at it for what? Two years? She's been hiding from herself for almost fifty.”
“I love her.” Frankie repeated, not sure what else she could or should say.
“Oh, honey.” Kelly wrapped her arms around her friend, hugging her. “I know. But she's never going to change.”
Kelly looked at Frankie and smiled, charmed by her friend's insistence on defending her indefensible lover. “In two years she's been here once, right?”
Frankie thought for a moment before nodding.
“And she was jumping out of her skin the whole time, even though it was just me and Babe. Hell, she was so afraid that somehow someone she knew would see her here that she had you take her home before dinner even made it to the table.”
“She wasn't feeling well.”
“No, honey.” Kelly stood to retrieve the pair of boots she thought would be a good match for her pants. “She simply can't, and never will, admit she's a lesbian. She won't admit it to her family. She won't admit it to her friends. She won't admit it to you.” She returned to the bed with the boots. “Hell, she won't even admit to herself. Will she? That's what you fought about, isn't it?” she guessed correctly. Frankie usually showed up at her door after fighting with Valerie and it usually ended up being about the same thing, even if she had to pull the truth out of her friend.
“I hate it when you're right.” Frankie muttered, flopping back on the bed.
“You always have.” Kelly laughed, slapping Frankie playfully on the belly. “Honey, we've been best friends since first grade, so believe me when I say she is never going to open that closet door and step out. And it's time for you to go on with your life and find somebody who deserves you. Because, girlfriend, she sure as hell doesn't.” Standing, she glanced at the clock on the nightstand. “Now, come on, we need to get going. Babe is going to meet us downtown.”
“I don't think I'm going.” Frankie looked woefully at her friend.
“Oh, yes, you are,” Kelly declared. With her shirt on but still unbuttoned, she walked back to the bed and pulled Frankie onto her feet. “I absolutely refuse to let you go home and sulk about this, especially tonight. You are coming with us and you are going to have a good time. Who knows, you might even find a real lesbian to fall in love with.”
“It's a Valentine's Day dance,” Frankie whined as she was shoved toward the bedroom door. “Everyone is going to be paired off.”
“Like hell. It's a LESBIAN Valentine's Day dance. There are going to be more women on the prowl than you'll know what to do with. And half of them will be there with their girlfriends.” Kelly laughed as she buttoned her shirt and tucked it into her pants.
As much as she tried not to, Frankie couldn't keep the grin off her face.
“Now get you butt in gear. ‘Cause I never keep my woman waiting.”
“Are you this bossy to her?”
“You bet your sweet ass I am.”
“I don't know.” Frankie slowed her steps until she was almost standing still.
“I do,” Kelly said, grabbing an arm and tugging Frankie through the apartment. “Come on. Let's go find you a woman.”
Kelly pulled into a parking lot less than two blocks from the downtown building where the dance was being held.
“There were a couple of spots right in front.” Frankie needlessly pointed out.
“I don't like parking on the street. You never know if you'll have a car when you come out.” The downtown area wasn't the safest place after dark especially on a Friday night. “This lot is well lit and patrolled by the cops,” she said of the parking area that was adjacent to a hotel.
“Where is Terry going to meet us?”
“In front. If we're lucky, she'll have already paid for our tickets so we won't have to wait in line.” Kelly parked under a light pole with two very bright security lights shining down on that area of the lot.
“How come Terry is meeting us here?” Frankie asked when the thought popped into her head. She had been too busy thinking about her problems with Val to think of it before. Normally, Kelly's wife would have come home after work to escort her to the dance.
“That's what I love about you.” Kelly laughed. “You're always on top of things.”
“Don't be that way.” Kelly moved closer to Frankie and wrapped her arm around her. “I don't want you to be in a bad mood tonight.”
“Then lay off the teasing.” Frankie drew in a shaky breath. She hated going to events alone, thinking it made her stand out as a loser that no one wanted. If it wasn't for disappointing Kelly she would have refused to attend the dance. “Dammit. Why does Val insist on being the way she is?”
“Because she's afraid.” Kelly made the comment softly so Frankie would know she wasn't criticizing her girlfriend.
“You know the answer to that as well as I do.”
“I know.” Frankie pushed open the car door and stepped out.
The women walked to the street and started down the sidewalk toward a two-story brick building that dated back to the town's founding days.
“There's Babe.” Kelly waved wildly as a tall blond walked out of the front door of the one time men's fraternity lodge that now served as the town's community center. “Ain't she gorgeous?”
“Yeah, she's gorgeous.”
Frankie refused to be hurried when Kelly tugged on her arm. They were still over a block from the lodge and she had no intention of running to meet her friend. “You never did tell me why we're meeting her here.”
“She had to work late, so I dropped her off this morning. She walked here from her office and she'll go home with us. That way we don't have to worry about two cars tonight.”
“Hi, sweetheart,” Terry called out, walking to meet the women. “You too, Kelly.”
“Don't be a smart ass,” Kelly called back. “We'll wait for you,” she told Frankie. Hurrying down the sidewalk, she half ran, half skipped to greet her wife.
“Hey, Frankie, I'm glad you decided to come,” Terry said when Frankie joined the kissing couple.
“She almost didn't. Big, bad Val turned her down again.”
“I'm sorry, honey. That must be rough.”
“It is.” Frankie sniffled. “I was really hoping she would come tonight.”
“I know.” Terry wrapped Frankie in her arms and held her tight. “But we're here and you're here, so let's go have some fun. Okay?”
“If you say so.”
“I do. Here put this on. And here's one for you, sweetheart.” Terry handed each woman a wrist band.
“How come mine is red and hers is green?” Kelly asked as she slipped her hand through the elastic band.
“No reason. They had a variety of colors, I got one of each. See, mine is blue,” Terry held up her banded wrist. “Ready to go dancing, honey?” Terry asked. “You can come too, Kelly.” She snickered as she guided Frankie down the sidewalk.
“Just remember whose bed you're sleeping in tonight, hot shot.” Kelly growled, grinning when her wife ran back for her.
“I love you.” Terry pulled Kelly into a bone-crushing hug and kissed her passionately. “You look terrific, by the way. Can't wait to get you out on the dance floor.”
Kelly laughed, struggling free of her wife's grasp. “Then let's stop wasting time.” She turned to discover Frankie had gone ahead without them.
“Is she okay?” Terry asked as she watched Frankie walk up the front steps of the lodge.
“What a bitch.”
“Yeah.” Kelly slipped her arm around Terry's. “Take me dancing?”
“So what do the colors mean?” Kelly asked as they started walking.
“Red means taken and blue means designated driver.” Terry said pointing to the bands they wore.
“Lookin' for love.” Terry chuckled when Kelly began to laugh.
“She's going to kill us.”
The lobby was crammed full of women and all seemed to be talking at the same time. The dance was being held on the second floor so Frankie politely pushed her way through the throng to the split staircase at the back of the lobby. She showed her wrist band to the women sitting behind a table at the base of the stairs and started up the steps when they nodded their acknowledgment of her pass.
“Hey, Frankie,” a woman called from the landing at the top of the steps. “Is that really you? Damn, I never thought I see you at one of these again.”
“Nice to see you too, Jody.” Frankie half smiled at the woman as she reached the landing. She never cared much for the self absorbed, busy-body of the town's lesbian community.
“What's your hurry?” Jody asked when Frankie brushed past her. “Let me buy you a drink and we'll catch up.”
“Frankie?” Jody called out as she started to follow Frankie into the large, open room where the dance was taking place.
“Leave her alone, Jody,” Terry said as she and Kelly reached the landing. “She doesn't need any of your crap tonight.”
“Hey, I was just offering to buy her a drink. What's wrong with that?” Jody asked as she turned to face the women. “She's wearing a green band.”
“Leave her alone.” Terry repeated in a less than friendly tone. With a final glance in Jody's direction, she led Kelly into the room.
“Dang, I wish she'd move to Wyoming like she keeps threatening,” Kelly said as they passed through the open doors.
“So does most of the town.” Terry scanned the crowded room. “There she is.” She pointed to the far side of the dance floor where Frankie was sitting alone at a table.
“She looks so miserable.” Kelly frowned. “We need to find her someone who will put a smile back on her face,” she said looking into Terry's eyes hopefully.
“That isn't really up to us, sweetheart.” But seeing the look on her wife's face, Terry added “we'll see what we can do.”
Frankie was watching Kelly and Terry dance. She couldn't help but smile at how much the love the women shared was reflected on their faces as they moved together to the music.
“You should do that more often.”
Frankie looked to see who had spoken. “Hi, Ann,” she said to the woman standing a few feet away.
“It's good to see you, Frankie. May I?” Ann gestured to an empty chair at the table.
“Sure. Do what?”
“Smile. You have a beautiful smile.”
“Thanks,” Frankie said as a light blush colored her cheeks. “How have you been?” Though their paths rarely crossed, she liked Ann who she had met several years before when both were working in the same downtown office building. They had never been more than casual acquaintances but Frankie had always found the woman to be friendly and easy to talk to.
“I've been fine.” Ann smiled as she answered the question. “You?”
Ann could hear the sadness in Frankie's voice but before she could comment on it, Kelly and Terry returned to the table.
“Annie,” Kelly cried out as she approached the table. “Damn, girl, I haven't seen you in ages. What have you been up to? Have you snagged yourself a hottie yet? Damn, you look good. Doesn't she, Babe?”
Ann laughed, her eyes twinkling as she listened to the questions tumbling out of Kelly's mouth. “You might want to take a breath so I can answer.”
“It is good to see you,” Terry said as she pushed Kelly into a chair and placed her hand over her wife's mouth. “And you do look good. Things must be going well for you.”
“Thank you. And, yes, things are going good enough that I've finally decided to rejoin the world.”
“Good,” Kelly said as soon as she freed her mouth from Terry's hand. “And it's about damn time.”
“Am I missing something?” Frankie asked.
“Laurie and I broke up two summers ago,” Ann told Frankie. “I guess you could say I took it a little hard.”
“That's a major understatement but you did have good reason.” Terry patted Ann on the knee. “To have her walk out after twelve years must have been a shock.”
“It was,” Ann said quietly. Taking a deep breath, she smiled at the women. “But it's time to get back into the swing of things.”
“Good for you.” Kelly leaned toward Ann, wrapping her arms around her. “Welcome back,” she said then planted a kiss on Ann's check. “Okay, first round is on Babe. What are you girls drinking?” she asked, waving at a waitress making her way through the tables.
“I guess it's been a while since we've seen each other,” Frankie said as Kelly and Terry made their way back out onto the dance floor.
“It has been some time, hasn't it?”
“I didn't know about you and Laurie. I'm sorry.”
“Thank you. But, to be honest, I think I'm better off without her.”
Frankie looked at Ann quizzically. “I thought you two had something good going. I mean, twelve years is a long time.”
Ann watched the dancers for several minutes before answering. “I thought so too. And I thought that's what Laurie thought. Unfortunately, I found out it wasn't. She said some things that really surprised me when she told me she was leaving. They hurt too. Hurt a lot.” Her voiced trailed off as she thought back to the day her lover had come home and announced she was not just moving out but leaving the state.
Not wanting to pry, Frankie sipped her drink as she studied Ann.
“What about you? Are you seeing anyone?” She had been surprised at the green band on Frankie's wrist after hearing rumors she was in a relationship.
Frankie hesitated. What should she say? She had spent the last two years in a relationship with a woman who refused to acknowledge it? “I've… I guess you could say… Well….” She sighed, not knowing what to say and giving up.
“You don't have to tell me,” Ann said softly. “I don't want to seem nosy.”
“It's okay.” Frankie smiled sadly. “I've been seeing someone.” She paused. “Unfortunately, I'm not sure it's what I need or want.”
“It's hard to explain. Let's just say, I seem to be more determined to make a go of it than she is.” Frankie sipped her drink, grateful Ann didn't pursue the subject. “Would you be interested in…? She nodded toward the dance floor.
“I'd love to.” Ann smiled at Frankie and was very happy to see the smile returned.
“Well, I'll be.” Kelly slid a couple of steps to Terry's side to gain a better view.
“Sweetheart, it's a little hard to dance with you if you going to bounce all over the place,” Terry said as she moved to her wife's new location amidst the jumble of women on the dance floor.
“Oh, sorry. But I needed to be sure I was seeing what I was seeing.” Kelly craned her neck to see over Terry's shoulder.
“And what are you seeing?”
Kelly placed her hands on Terry's hips and swung her around to reverse their positions. “Six o'clock, near the buffet table.”
Terry looked in the direction she had been given and immediately spotted the pair of dancers. “They make a cute couple, don't they?” She grinned at her wife.
“Sure do,” Kelly said, reversing positions again so she could watch her friend. “You know, Ann would be a hell of a lot better for her than that bitch, Val.”
“Don't push this, sweetheart,” Terry warned. She was as concerned about Frankie as her wife but she knew their friend how to make her own decisions.
“I just want her to be happy again.”
“I know you do. But the only one who can make Frankie happy is Frankie. So be good.”
“I'm always good,” Kelly said seductively.
“I know you are.” Terry pulled her wife close for a kiss. “But you know what I mean.”
“I know.” Kelly laid her head on Terry's shoulder. “Make her happy, babe. Please.”
Terry tightened her arms around her wife. One of the things she loved best about Kelly was her protective nature when it came to her friends. “It'll work out, sweetheart. Just give her time.”
“Where are you working now?” Ann asked as she and Frankie walked back to their table.
The live band was too loud and the jumble of dancers too interfering to carry on much of a conversation while dancing.
“I'm not. At least not in the sensible, grown up, mature way.”
“Care to explain?” Ann laughed.
“I work for a temp agency in town. I decided it was dumb to keep up my pattern of working somewhere for a couple of years then quitting because I got bored. I was running out of room on my resume to list everything. Now I can switch jobs whenever I want and my employer doesn't change.”
“Can you make enough money doing that? I always thought the employment agencies didn't pay too well.”
“Lucky for me, I live cheaply. And I have nothing against mooching off my friends.” She smirked. “It really helps that the house was paid off when I inherited it. Paying rent used to take almost a full paycheck.”
“Tell me about it. Laurie insisted we sell our house when we split. She wanted the money to move to California. Unfortunately, we didn't own it long enough to make much more on the sale than what we owed. But she was happy to be rid of it. It was hard having to go back to renting.”
“Here you are,” Jody sat down in an empty chair. Scooting closer to Frankie, she reached out and squeezed her knee then seductively slid her hand up her leg.
“Jody.” Frankie lifted the unwanted hand off her leg and placed it back in Jody's lap. “I'm talking to Ann or didn't you notice?”
“There are much more entertaining things to be doing right now than sitting here talking.” Jody ignored the third woman at the table. “Why don't you offer to dance with me?”
“Oh, I'd love to,” Frankie said unenthusiastically. “But I've already promised this dance to Ann.” She stood and offered her hand to Ann who was trying not to laugh at the look on Jody's face.
“You do realize she has the hots for you?” Ann whispered as she let Frankie lead her onto the dance floor.
“Please.” Frankie shivered, exaggerating the movement. “I plan on eating later.” She placed her hands on Ann's hips. “I'm sorry I didn't realize it was a slow dance. We can go back if you….”
“I'm happy here.” Ann smiled as she reached up, wrapping her arms loosely around Frankie's neck.
“Bet your girlfriend wouldn't be too happy to see you like that.” Jody bumped into the couple, her arms wrapped tightly around another woman who appeared more than a little inebriated. “Guess there's a reason she won't be seen with you in public.”
Frankie froze, her arms dropping heavily to her sides. She looked at Ann. “I'm sorry. I… I shouldn't.…”
“Frankie?” Ann was confused by the reaction.
“Oh, didn't you tell her?” Jody laughed as Frankie paled.
With tears clouding her vision, Frankie ran across the dance floor and out of the room.
Jody laughed as she watched Frankie run away. Turning to say something to Ann, she found Kelly standing in her place.
“You are such a fucking bitch.” Kelly hissed the words out between clinched teeth as her open hand struck Jody's face.
“Kelly, stop,” Terry commanded when she saw her wife preparing to hit the woman again. She wrapped her arms around her lover and pulled her back a few steps.
“Let me go.” Kelly struggled to free herself from Terry's grasp.
“You hit me.” Jody stood, dazed by the force of the blow. “You actually hit me.”
“I doubt it's the first time,” Terry told the shocked woman.
“Ain't that the truth.” Jody's intoxicated dance partner giggled. “Most nights, she begs me to do just that.”
“Shut up,” Jody shouted. “Let's go.” She tugged the woman behind her as she stormed through the crowd of laughing dancers on the way to the buffet table and bar. “I need some ice.”
“Are you okay?” Terry asked Kelly still firmly held in her arms.
“No. Where's Frankie?”
“We'll go find her.”
“Ann?” Kelly looked for the woman who had disappeared. “Where'd she go?”
“I don't know. I lost track of her when I was trying to get a hold of you.”
“Damn it. We need to find her. She can't think Frankie was playing with her.”
“I think she's smarter than that,” Terry said as she relaxed her arms. “We can look for her after we find Frankie.”
“Well what are we standing her for?” Kelly hurried across the dance floor toward the door.
Ann found herself on the sidewalk in front of the lodge with no clue as to why she was there or what she was planning to do. Jody's comments hadn't bothered her. After all, she had being hearing the rumors for months. But the look on Frankie's face was different. It had been so full of pain. She looked down the street toward the downtown area and saw no one resembling the missing woman. The opposite direction led to the park that bordered the river flowing through town. She turned for the park.
After walking the park's paths for a half hour, Ann was ready to admit failure and return to the dance. But a solitary figure sitting on a park bench caught her attention and she walked toward it.
Ann sat on the bench beside Frankie. “That was a real shitty thing for Jody to do,” she said after several long minutes of silence. “I want you to know I wasn't shocked by it or disappointed in you. Or upset, or anything. Damn.” She muttered, frustrated that her words weren't making any sense. “That didn't sound right. I mean, it's not what I mean.”
“I'm sorry,” Frankie said quietly.
“For what? Jody is the one who should be apologizing.”
“I never should have agreed to go tonight. I'm with someone and just because she wouldn't go…”
“Wouldn't? Why wouldn't she want to go the Valentine's dance?”
“It's complicated.” Frankie sighed as she stared at the river, its waters moving smoothly past them. She wondered why the events in her life never seemed to run as smooth. “She's… She's not a lesbian. At least, that's what she believes.”
“But she's sleeping with you?” Ann asked.
“Seems like that sort of makes her a lesbian.”
“You'd think so, wouldn't you?”
Ann settled back on the bench thinking she might be in for a long conversation if Frankie wanted to talk.
“Don't get me wrong,” Frankie said, mistaking Ann's silence as a form of condemnation for her girlfriend. “She's a wonderful person.”
“She must be if you care about her. But I've got to be honest, Frankie, is she worth the pain you're obviously going through?”
Frankie turned to look at Ann. Was it that obvious? She leaned forward, placing her elbows on her knees and clasping her hands together. “I love her. Or, at least, I think I do. But… But her fear of our relationship… It's a lot. Maybe too much.”
“What's she afraid of?”
“I'm… I'm not sure. I used to think she was afraid of losing her job. Or her family. Or both. Now, I… I think she may… she may be afraid to admit she loves me.” The words were barely out of her mouth when the tears started to fall. It was the first time she had voiced her true suspicions, the ones she had struggled so long to keep tucked deep within her. Was it true? Was Valerie's rejection of what they had because she was ashamed of her as a lover?
Ann slid along the bench, closing the distance between herself and Frankie. Wrapping her arms around the sobbing woman, she rocked her gently.
Frankie clung to Ann, desperately needing the contact.
“What should we do?” Kelly asked. She and Terry were sitting on a picnic table hidden in the shadows cast by a pair of pine trees as they watched the other women.
“It looks like Frankie is in good hands,” Terry responded. “I think we should go back to the dance and leave them alone.”
“Then how will we know what happens?” Kelly asked, aghast at the suggestion.
“Sweetheart.” Terry smiled as she pulled Kelly toward her. “I'm sure Frankie will tell you all about it, if she wants you to know.” She passionately kissed her wife.
“Of course, she'll want me to know.” Kelly sputtered when the kiss ended. “We're best friends. She tells me everything.”
“Then there's no reason for us to stay here and continue spying on her.” Terry stepped down to the ground.
“Well, I wouldn't call it spying,” Kelly protested but she followed her wife.
“Thanks.” Frankie accepted the tissues Ann pulled out of her pocket. “I must seem like a fool, crying over a woman who can't even admit she loves me.”
Frankie used the tissues to dry her eyes before turning to look at Ann.
“I'm sorry,” Ann said when she saw the look of consternation on Frankie's face. “I shouldn't say anything.”
“No, it's okay.” Frankie leaned back on the bench, dapping at her wet cheeks. “You're right. And the sad truth is I don't know. I honestly don't know. I guess that's something I should have asked myself a long time ago. But I think it was just too easy to believe she did than to believe she didn't. What does that say about me?”
“It says that you're a woman with feelings. Unfortunately, I'm not sure you can say the same about….”
“Val. Valerie.” Frankie gazed at Ann. “Want to know something funny?”
“When we first met, I liked you.”
“Thanks,” Ann said, looking puzzled. “I think.”
“No. I mean I really liked you,” Frankie explained, smiling. “I was even going to ask you out. Then you mentioned something about Laurie and I figured out you were already with someone.”
“Guess the ring on my finger didn't give it away, uh?”
“I never looked that far down. I was too engrossed in your eyes and smile.” Frankie's cheeks colored when she admitted her infatuation.
“Just my eyes and smile.” Ann teased the blushing woman.
“Well, no.” Frankie giggled. “But that's all I'm going to admit to right now.”
“Probably a wise decision.” Ann laughed.
“Damn, you're easy to talk to. I don't think anyone makes me feel as comfortable as you do. Well, maybe Kelly but she doesn't count. But you… You make me feel so… I don't know… So….”
“What?” Ann asked, quite interested in the answer.
Frankie sat quietly contemplating the question. What was it about Ann? And why had she never felt the same way when she was with Val. As she thought, she felt her cell phone vibrating in her pocket. Reaching for the phone, she shrugged at Ann. “Sorry.”
Frankie looked at the number and recognized it as Val's. She didn't want to answer but knew she'd be in trouble if she didn't. While she argued with herself the phone stopped buzzing. “Damn.”
“It was Val. She's probably leaving me a message now asking why I didn't answer. She won't be happy.”
“Short leash,” Ann said before thinking. “Oh, crap. I'm sorry, Frankie. I had no right to say that.”
“It's okay.” ”After all, it's true.” Frankie admitted to herself. “Damn, and why is that? I do everything she wants, she does nothing I want.
Seeing that Frankie was staring at the phone in her hand, Ann stood. “I think I'll head back to the dance.”
“I'll walk with you. I'm sure Kelly and Terry are worried by now,” Frankie said but she remained seated. The phone vibrated again. “Um, I better listen to her message. Walk slow. Okay?” She punched buttons on the phone's number pad. “I'll catch up.”
Ann nodded then turned away. She briskly walked several steps before slowing in order to give Frankie some privacy.
Frankie pressed the phone to her ear.
“Where are you? I went by your house expecting we could spend some time together. Imagine my surprise when I found no one home. And now you don't answer you phone. I'm heading back home. Give me a call when you get this.”
As Frankie listened to the message, the phone vibrated with another incoming call. She guessed it would be Val calling back and she let the call go through to her mailbox rather than have to face the irritated woman's questions. When the phone alerted her to the second message, she pressed the button to play it.
“You went to the dance, didn't you? I can't believe you went after I told you I didn't want to go, you still went without me. I guess that really tells me what you think about our relationship.” The message ended abruptly when Val slammed her cell phone shut and disconnected.
“Dammit, Val.” Frankie shoved the phone back into her pocket and looked for Ann. She smiled when she spotted the woman standing patiently a short distance away. “Why can't you be more like Ann?” she asked her absent lover.
Ann sensed she was being watched and turned to smile at Frankie.
“Why am I putting up with Val when what I want is Ann? Maybe Kelly is right. Maybe I need to quit wasting my time hoping for something that will never happen.” She hurried to catch up with the waiting woman. “Listen,” she said as she walked up to Ann, “I need to take care of something but, if you'd like… Well, if it's okay… Um, would you like to grab something to eat later?”
“I'd like that.”
Frankie smiled. She waited until Ann stepped alongside her before turning to walk back through the park.
“Just give me your keys.”
“You're not drunk are you?” Kelly's eyes narrowed as she stared into Frankie's.
“Kelly, I've had one beer tonight. Now, please,” she said, holding out her open hand. “Give me the keys.”
“What are you going to do?”
“I'll tell you later.”
“I don't know.” Kelly hesitated, holding the keys in her closed fist.
“Please, Kelly. I just have to go talk to Val. I'll be back in less than an hour.”
“Talk about what?”
“Kelly, I don't have time right now,” she pleaded. “Please.”
“Give her the keys, honey,” Terry said, prying open Kelly's fingers. “Be careful,” she told Frankie as she handed her the ring of keys.
“I will. Oh, and do me one more favor. Make sure Ann stays around.”
“Ann?” Kelly asked.
“We will,” Terry said. She chuckled when Frankie turned and ran across the room to the door.
“Oh, yeah,” Kelly said, when she guessed the reason for her friend's request. “We most definitely will. “Ann,” she called over to where the woman was talking with a couple of friends, “come sit with us when you're done.”
“Oh, boy.” Kelley sighed, leaning back against Terry. “I'd like to be a fly on that wall.”
“What do you think happened?” Terry asked, wrapping her arms around her wife.
“Who cares? I'm just happy it did.”
Frankie pulled into an unoccupied parking spot in the apartment complex lot and turned off the engine. She glanced out the windshield, looking up to the window on the third floor. The curtains were closed but she could see the vacillating shadows that told her Val was home and watching television. Pushing the car door open, she climbed out and walked to the stairway that would take her to her lover's door.
Moments later, Val pulled open the door and gasped seeing the woman standing there. “What the hell are you doing here?” She stuck her head out of the door, rapidly turning it from side to side looking to see if anyone was watching. “I've told you never to come here. Get in here before someone sees you.”
“No. What I have to say won't take long.”
“Frankie, I'm not going to talk to you while you're standing out there. Now come inside.”
“You don't need to talk.” Frankie stood her ground. “Just listen.”
“Come inside or I'm shutting the door,” Val ordered.
“That's your choice, Val. I was trying to make this as painless as possible.” Frankie's voice was surprisingly steady considering her emotions were bouncing all over the place. On the drive to the apartment, she had thought over what she wanted to say and why. Seeing Ann again had re-ignited old feelings she'd once had. It had also made her take an honest look at her relationship with Val and to consider the different futures she might share with each of the women.
“What are you talking about?”
“Val, it's obvious what I want from our relationship is never going to happen. I can't keep hoping things will change. And I can't keep watching life from the outside.”
“Is this about my messages? Look, I just couldn't believe you would go to the dance without me.”
“I didn't want to. But I asked you to go and you refused. That's what I'm talking about, Val. I can't keep saying no because you do.”
“I'm trying to change.” Val said as a single tear slowly tracked down her face. “I am.”
Frankie slowly shook her head. “That's the problem. You're trying, but you're not changing. You're petrified right now that one of your neighbors is listening to us, aren't you? We're only talking, Val. Why should that make any difference to anyone? You talk to straight women all the time and you don't have a problem with it. But talking to me… Being seen with me… Those you can't handle. I can't live that way anymore. I'm sorry.” Frankie's voice came close to breaking as she said the words. “I really am. I wanted so much for us. But I can't do it your way. Not anymore.”
“You're walking out on me?”
“No. There's nothing to walk out on. I hope you find someone who will make you happy, Val. But, let's be honest, I'm not that person and there's no reason for us to keep pretending.”
“You're breaking up on Valentine's Day?” Val cried. “I can't believe you'd do that to me.”
Frankie laughed, not in a funny way but in a sad, defeated way. “I think you did it to yourself, Val. Goodbye.”
“Frankie?” Val stepped out of the apartment and watched the woman walking away from her. “Come back. Please.” It wasn't until several minutes after Kelly's car had disappeared down the street that she went back into the apartment. Walking to the window, she pulled back the curtain and peered out in a vain less hope that her now ex-lover would be returning. “Your loss.” She muttered as she let the drape fall back into place.
Frankie ran up the stairs of the lodge and into the room where the dance was still going strong. She looked around for her friends but was unable to see them in the crowded room and began to walk around groups of women in search of Kelly and Terry. But, mostly, she was looking for Ann.
“Well, it's about time you showed up.” Kelly called out when she saw Frankie scooting around a couple too involved with each other to notice the passing woman.
“Thanks,” Kelly said, tossing the ring of keys to Terry. “Looks like she's had a few.”
“More than a few.” Terry caught the keys and tucked them securely in her pocket. “She's been celebrating.”
“You, you silly goose.” Kelly giggled. “You broke up with Val, didn't you?”
“Yes.” Frankie sighed, the true impact of her actions earlier only sinking in as Kelly said the words.
“Good for you.” Kelly clapped her hands together. “I'm so happy for you.”
“Honey, this may not be the best time for you…”
“Oh, poo. It's the perfect time.”
“I think I should take her home. I would have earlier but…”
“Yeah. I'm sorry, Terry. I didn't think I'd be gone that long.”
“You weren't. But now that you're back, I think we should go.”
“Okay. Um?” Frankie wasn't sure how to ask about Ann without being too obvious.
“She went to the ladies room just before you got here. She should be back anytime,” Terry told Frankie as she helped Kelly to her feet. “By the way,” Terry said, winking at her friend. “She never took her eyes off the door the whole time you were gone.”
“Really. Say goodnight for us.”
“Will you be able to find a way home?”
“Don't worry about her,” Ann said as she walked up to the table. “I'll make sure she gets home.”
“Hi.” Frankie turned around and smiled shyly at Ann.
“I think that's our cue to leave, honey.” Terry guided Kelly across the room.
“Aw, I want to see their first kiss.” Kelly pouted.
“Frankie can tell you all about it tomorrow.”
“Promise. That is if you remember tomorrow.”
Kelly looked back over her shoulder at the couple. “You be nice to my best friend. If you hurt her, I'll kick you butt from here to next week.”
Frankie shrugged, nervously. “Sorry, she's a little protective of me.”
“I know. I think it's nice.”
“So do I. I think I mentioned dinner… Hungry?”
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