Disclaimers: You know the drill, and probably aren’t reading this anyway. They’re mine, look like theirs, yadda, yadda. J
Sex: Um, yeah.
Violence: Not really.
If you’d like to tell me what a wonderful writer I am or that I royally suck, feel free at: XenaNut@hotmail.com
For all of my works, visit www.coloradobardsplace.net
Thump, thump, thump, thump ...
“Ryan! Go fix the damn dryer again!” Hannahh turned back to the couch, a pile of newly washed whites awaiting her attention. “I told you not to put that many pairs of jeans in there.” The small blonde eyed the tall, lanky guy as he muttered to himself, heading toward the kitchen where the washer and dryer were tucked into a corner by the back door. “Men,” she muttered. “Completely inept.”
Hannahh’s thoughts were interrupted as the phone rang. Ryan nearly sprinted across the floor to snatch the cordless off the coffee table first.
“Hello?” He said, his deep but loud voice easily heard over Six Feet Under, which Hannahh was trying to watch as she folded laundry. She brushed long bangs out of her green eyes as she balled up a pair of Ryan’s socks. “Yeah, hang on. Phone.” Ryan laid the handset on the counter, then headed back to the still thumping dryer.
Hannahh glanced at the clock above the stove and sighed.
“Showtime.” She picked up the phone, placing it to her ear as she grabbed the TV remote, turning the volume down. “Hello?”
“Hey, Hannahh. It’s Shannon.”
“Hey, lady. What’cha got for me?” She resumed folding a pair of Chicago Bears boxers.
“Well, I sure hope you’re inspired tonight, honey, cause you got a woman waiting for you.”
Hannahh faltered in her folding. “What? I don’t know what to do with that.”
“Well, you best figure it out soon, cause she’s coming.” Hannahh rolled her eyes at Shannon’s cackle.
“Cute. Fine. Put her through.” Then line clicked off, and the little blonde grabbed the old stop watch she still had from high school track, the seconds beginning to tick by. Clearing her throat, she laid the folded boxers on Ryan’s underwear pile and grabbed a sweatshirt to fold. “Hey there, sexy. This is Roxanne, ready to make your every dream come true. What’s your dream tonight, sugar?”
There was heavy breathing on the other end of the phone, and Hannahh winced, beginning to fold a t-shirt.
“Well now, honey, you’re not starting without me, are you? I’m sitting here, baby, waiting for you to tell me what you want.”
“Where’s the ice cream?” Ryan whispered from the kitchen doorway. Hannahh trapped the phone between her shoulder and cheek.
“Behind the pork chops.” He gave her the okay sign, and she turned back to her client, startled to realize that what she thought was heavy breathing was actually crying. Dark blonde brows drew. “Honey, are you okay over there? Is this some fantasy of yours or something? Want me to comfort you, darlin’?” Hannahh’s voice dropped even more, nodding as Ryan held up the container of Ben & Jerry’s.
“I’m sorry,” a thick voice said on the other end of the line. “I don’t know why I called.” Sniffle “I’ve never called one of these things before.” Hannahh could hear a nose being blown. She dropped the balled up socks onto the pile and perched on the edge of the couch. “Do you need a nurse, honey? I’ve got me an old nurses uniform in the closet,” Hannahh slapped her forehead with the heel of her hand.
“I just need to talk.” The caller had her voice more under control, but still sounded very upset.
“You want to tell me all your deep, dark secrets, darlin’,” Hannahh accepted the bowl of ice cream from Ryan, nodded a thank you at him, then tried to juggle the phone and bowl with her shoulder and hands.
“No.” sniffle. “Just want to know why she doesn’t love me anymore,” the crying began all over again, and Hannahh almost panicked. This had never happened to her before.
“Oh well, uh,” she cleared her throat, her real voice coming through for a moment there. “I don’t know, darlin’. I’m not so blind or stupid. I’d always love you and make you feel good.” She felt horrible. This woman was obviously in pain, but she had to keep up the gig. Setting the ice cream aside, she cuddled back into the corner of the couch, phone held tightly to her ear. Her mind was racing, trying to think of any way to help this poor stranger.
“I got home from work one day, and poof! Everything was gone!” More crying.
“Whoa, whoa. Hang on, sugar,” Hannahh softened her voice, though still keeping it low- the last vestige of professionalism. “Let’s talk this out, okay?”
Hannahh just wanted to reach out and hug that itty bitty voice, and tell it everything would be okay.
“What happened, sugar?”
“I came back and she was gone.” The woman snorted then blew her nose. “Everything. Even my goddamn Monet!”
Hannahh covered the phone speaker, “What’s a monay?” She asked Ryan, who had really tucked into his cold treat.
“Monet, stupid. Famous painter.” He whispered back.
“Oh. Wow.” Hannahh got back on the phone. “I’m sorry, sugar. Sound like you need a good hug, darlin’.” The woman on the other end of the line sniffled noisily.
“Yes, I think so. I wish you could give it to me.”
“Well, I could give you somethin’ else, sweetie,” Hannahh was desperate, thinking that maybe getting back to familiar territory would distract the caller and make her feel better.
“No thank you. I really must go. Have a good night.”
“Wait, are you sure?” Hannahh sat forward in her seat, concerned for this strange woman.
“Yes. Goodnight, Roxanne.” And with a click, the caller was gone. Hannahh sat there, stunned, then jumped to hit the stop button on the stop watch. Tossing the phone to the couch, she stood, stretched, and headed to the lap top sitting on the breakfast bar so she could type in the calling times on her nightly log.
“What was up with that? What, no moaning or groaning?” Ryan snickered, licking his ice cream spoon clean.
“Stop it. I don’t know. This chick was just sad, I guess. She kept crying and talking about how some woman was gone when she got home.” Hannahh booted up the program, rinsing her bowl as it slowly purred to life. “Poor thing. Man, she was upset.” Hannahh turned when she heard little footsteps clomp across the kitchen floor.
“Hey, buddy!” Ryan swept the two and a half year old up in thin arms. “What are you doing up?”
“Monster under my bed.” The little mussed-haired boy exclaimed, index finger in his mouth. His bright green eyes, just like his mother’s roamed around the kitchen. “Ice crene!” He pointed at the empty container on the counter with the saliva-laden finger.
“No, little boy. You need to go to sleep.” Hannahh walked over to her son, who held his arms out to her. Gathering him up, she glanced over her shoulder at the melting remnants of the Ben & Jerry’s, which had started to leak out onto the counter. “Clean that up or face the wrath of mommy Hannahh.” She raised a brow at the tall brunette.
“Yes, mom.” Ryan rolled his eyes, but cleaned up his mess.
Hannahh carried little Michael back to his bedroom, filled with his twin bed in the shape of a race car, number 53, and matching dresser.
“What’s wrong, my little man, huh?” she gently laid him on the soft mattress, laying beside him. The little boy reached up, grabbing hold of his mother’s necklace- a Greek coin with a leather thong through the center hole. He studied the coin, flipping it over in small, still not fully coordinated fingers.
“Monster,” he said absently, watching as the rainbow lamp glinted off the metal.
“Monster, huh?” Hannahh asked, tucking the child in, his Jeff Gordon sheets meeting the top of his shirt. “Where?”
“Over there.” Michael grinned, dimples playing for his mom as he started the game. The blonde looked to where the little boy pointed, see the corner of the room, where Michael’s toy chest was.
“Hmm.” She stood, slowly walking over to the corner, cautious, not wanting that big ol’ monster to jump out at her. She turned to her son, finger to her lips, making him giggle as he nodded. Hannahh turned back to the corner, reaching a hand out, then just as quickly snatching it back, only to try again. Finally, with a flourish, the toy chest’s lid was opened, making Michael squeal as his mother jumped back. Sneaking back, she peered inside, moving a few toys aside for good measure, then shook her head somberly at the little boy, who’d gotten to his knees on the bed. “Nothing there, Mikey. One more place, then you have to sleep, okay?” Michael nodded, then pointed beneath him, under the bed. “Okay. Here we go,” She turned to her son, finger to her lips, making him giggle as he nodded ...
Cell phone dropped to the couch, a dark head went into two, pale hands. Warm, salty tears began to squeeze through the cold fingers, creating quite the contrast. The quiet sobs echoed through the empty, spacious rooms, continuing on late into the night.
Dusty woke as the sun was beginning to peek through the naked windows. Blue eyes squinted, then realization dawned, and the tall brunette sat up, her back screaming at her for sleeping on the couch. Not like she’d had any other choice.
She sniffed, her nose plugged from a night of crying, and the skin of her face feeling tight from countless tear trails of salt. Slowly standing, looking down at her incredibly wrinkled Prada suit, Dusty groaned and headed to the bathroom. Staring at her face in the mirror, she wondered what the hell had went so very wrong, then began to cry again when she noticed that even the shower curtain was gone.
She took several deep breaths, looking around. The apartment was nearly empty, save for the couch, a couple scraps of paper on the floor and a pile of mail. Dusty picked this up, seeing the flyer printed on desire-red paper. A half-naked woman with a phone to her ear was printed on the front.
Need a special friend? Natalie here is waiting for your call.
“Oh, god.” Dusty plopped down on the couch again, remembering her phone call the previous night. Roxanne. “What was I thinking?” She looked at the flyer again, the eternal ink smile of ‘Natalie.’ What the hell was she doing calling a goddamn sex service to expel her woes? What could a phone whore possibly do?
She crumbled the flyer and threw it against the far wall, where the bookshelf had once stood. The main room of the apartment had been huge with furniture in it, but now looked endless. The burnt rust paint on the wall, once warm and soft, now closed the empty walls in on Dusty, making her feel extremely claustrophobic.
With a jaw clenched in determination, she stood and marched right back into the bathroom, stripped out of her wrinkled clothing, and took a shower anyway. She’d clean up the mess later. Clean and in new, wrinkle-free clothing, she grabbed her briefcase from her luggage, and headed out the door. Work had always been, and would always be, her sanctuary. There she could concentrate on her job, and not have to deal with the ramifications of Adriana’s leaving her. She wouldn’t have to think about how she had never been home and how Adriana had been left to her own devices. At work, in her corner office, Dusty wouldn’t have to think about all the dinners she’d missed; all the Valentine’s Days she’d forgotten about, and all the anniversaries she’d bought a gift for only because her secretary had reminded her.
At work she didn’t have to feel.
Dusty hailed a cab in Chicago’s busy streets, headed for her office, which was just down the street from the Sears Tower. The cab stopped in front of the eighty-three story building, and the brunette paid the driver, and got out. Looking across the street, she saw Crimshaw Bakery, and decided to get some breakfast to take up to the seventeenth floor.
She looked both ways, not really wanting to get splattered quite yet, and hurried to the small deli that sold a mean breakfast burrito. The bell over the glass door jangled Dusty’s arrival, and the brunette had to stop short, or run into a cute blonde talking to a rather plump brunette. It looked like they’d met up right in front of the door.
Dusty tried not to just throw the women to the side as she had to stand there, listening to a smidge of their conversation. The blonde was telling her friend about some strange phone call she’d had the night before. Impatient, Dusty pushed passed them.
“Oh shit, I’m sorry.” The blonde moved her friend out of the way, and they continued talking. Dusty flashed them a quick smile, then rolled her eyes as she headed toward the counter. She hated rude people.
Ordering her usual breakfast burrito, smothered with chili that was so hot, the average person would be putting the fire department to good use, she headed out.
The day was shaping up to be fairly warm, it looked like. Dusty stood at her window, looking out over the city on a Saturday morning. The building she was in was relatively quiet, though she had no doubt there were fellow workaholics somewhere below or above her.
With a sigh, the statuesque brunette looked back over at her desk, cluttered, but neatly so. She hated disorder in her life or her work. It just made no sense, and everything had to make sense. Like this thing with Adriana. What had made her leave so abruptly? And why on earth hadn’t she talked with Dusty about it? Had four years not meant anything to her at all?
Plopping down in her leather chair, Dusty stared at the Rolodex on the corner of the desk, by the onyx cup of pens and mechanical pencils.
She remembered when she had met the beautiful redhead. Five years and three promotions ago, when Dusty had been receiving her first promotion in the investment firm, she had been at an awards banquet. The president of the company, Howard Eastman, had called her up to the podium to say a few words. Dusty had been the youngest group supervisor in the entire company, only twenty-four, and a woman to boot. Such things just weren’t heard of.
Dusty had graciously taken the attention, saying a few words to the gathered masses in cocktail dress and tux, enjoying having the control and power over the floor. She took that power easily and used her own assets to enchant even further than the brilliance of her brain already had. She graced them all with a perfect smile and her soothing, velvet-like voice. She had them in the palm of her hand, and she knew it. Even so, as she spoke, eyes wandering around the room to meet each and every pair, she met those of a beautiful, yet understated redhead, standing next to Howard. At first she thought perhaps the old devil had gotten lucky, but then realized the resemblance was uncanny.
So that must be the prodigal daughter he spoke of so often. Adriana. The deep brown eyes looked back at Dusty, and the brunette gave her a smile that was all her own. Adriana returned it in kind.
Howard had made proper introductions later, and the two women had chatted over glasses of champagne and finger sandwiches. Adriana had told Dusty of her travels through Europe, backpacking across Israel, trying to stay out of sight and having to hide on a number of occasions, or be seen by the hundreds of radical groups trolling around the desserts. Apparently Howard didn’t know of that escapade. Now the redhead had decided to get settled and dig her feet into using her Harvard degree and become an anthropological linguist.
Sounded good to Dusty. All she really cared about anyway was the fact that Adriana was sending her some seriously strong messages, and she was answering every one.
By morning they had shared a dinner, good conversation and Dusty’s bed.
What went wrong?
Dusty looked back at the facts, trying to think of various aspects of their life together. She’d been happy enough, Adriana independent enough to allow Dusty to pursue her endless ambition, and make time for their love when she had it. It had been perfect. If Dusty wasn’t able to be there for a holiday or a birthday, Adriana always understood, hadn’t she? She’d always just gone to her family’s estate, anyway. So what was the problem?
The brunette grabbed a Cross pen, running the cold, metal tip along her bottom lip. She sighed, tossing the pen aside, running a hand through her long hair. Dusty thought about Adriana’s twenty-sixth birthday. Howard had planned a huge party for the redhead, and Dusty had told him she’d be there. But, it didn’t happen that way.
Dusty had gotten a call from the London office that there were some major problems, so she’d jumped onto a flight, leaving a message on Adriana’s cell phone, explaining, and telling her she’d be home in three days, and to have fun at the party, that they’d take their romantic birthday weekend another time.
The brunette hadn’t heard from Adriana while she’d been in London, and nor had her phone calls been answered or returned. Dusty had figured that her girlfriend had enjoyed herself, and wasn’t spending her time waiting to hear from the executive.
When Dusty had gotten home Adriana had seemed fine, if a little distant, which she’d explained simply as she was tired from the party two days prior. Dusty had figured that was, indeed the case, and hadn’t brought it up again.
These sorts of last minute trips had been common in their relationship, and now Dusty, sitting back in her chair, staring at nothing, had to wonder if perhaps they’d bothered Adriana more than the redhead had ever led on.
“Couldn’t be.” Dusty pushed away from her desk, sighing as she looked out the window again. “Couldn’t be.” Why had Adriana not said anything? There had been no note, no messages, nothing. Just ... nothing.
Feeling anger bubble up within her, Dusty turned back to her desk and the Rolodex, quickly flipping through the numbers and names. She was stunned to not see one single person name or number in the hundreds of others. Each and every one was business, either an associate, contact or enemy. Dusty stared at the Rolodex as if it were a snake about to bite. She needed to talk to someone, and had the distinct feeling Adriana wouldn’t talk to her, but she had to try.
Sitting down again, the executive picked up the phone receiver and dialed the familiar numbers. The ringing in Dusty’s hears sounded so hollow, so empty and impersonal.
“Hi, you’ve reached Adriana Eastman. I’m not available to take your call right now but will be more than happy to call you back as soon as I can. Have a nice day.”
Dusty smiled slightly at the warm voice that she knew so well. As the voice messaging beeped, she wasn’t sure what to say. Finally she managed a few words.
“Adriana, this is Dusty. Uh, call me.” Angry with herself and her inability to express herself. Hanging up the handset with a loud crack, she grabbed her jacket and headed out.
Chance meeting and lunch finished with Julie, Hannahh had headed on over to classes at the local community college, then to her mom’s house to pick up Michael.
“So, did you find a job yet?” Alice Hawkins asked as she continued peeling potatoes, her daughter and grandson munching on the sandwiches she’d prepared for them.
“I have a job, mom.” Hannahh said absently, flipping through a magazine as she ate, occasionally wiping Michael’s mouth or smiling at him.
“That is not a job, Hannahh Michelle.” Alice whipped around to look at her daughter, and only child. “What about your son, hmm? What would he think of his mother being a,” Alice paused, walking over to the boy to cover his ears. “A phone whore.” She whispered. Hannahh sighed, flipping the magazine shut and downing the remainder of her iced tea.
“Thank you for lunch, mother.” She stood, sliding her chair back into place, and taking her paper plate to the trash, where she squashed it down with the other garbage. She looked to her son to see how close he was to being done. The kid was such a slow eater.
“Now, I just don’t understand why you make the choices you make. I thought I taught you better than that.” Alice said, returning to her potatoes, either oblivious to her daughter’s upset, or not caring. “I mean, what about the donor?” Tired green eyes glanced over at the younger, more beautiful version of herself. Hannahh glared.
“The ‘donor’ happens to be Michael’s father, mom. Justin is out of our lives, and –“
“Well of course he’s out of your life.” Alice turned on her daughter, hand on her hip, knife in hand. “It’s not as though you make him pay child support. Let him take a turn at raising that kid, so then maybe you could get a decent job.” She pointed the blade at her daughter. “Just what kind of an impression do you think you’re showing little Mikey, here? That he can screw around, get in trouble then get into even bigger trouble by marrying the guy?” Alice shook her head.
“What, would you rather I stayed with Justin? Stick around, let him beat me? Let him beat up my son? I don’t think so, mother.” Hannahh began to clean Michael up, wiping his face and hands, which he hated and began to squirm.
“Don’t be so rough with him.”
Hannahh turned on her mother, green fire burning in her eyes. “Enough.” Her voice low, pushed to the brink. “I know you’re unhappy. I know you hate my father for leaving you nearly twenty years ago. I know you’re lonely and bitter and think you can try and rerun your life through mine. I’ve made my decisions, and I’ve lived with them, and live with them every day. Lay off.” With that she grabbed her son from his high chair, his wide green eyes looking around. He could tell by the tone of his mother’s voice that she was not happy. “I’ll see you Thursday.”
Hannahh held her tears back until she and Michael were safely on the L, headed home. She wiped frantically at the upset, hating to cry, and even more because her mother had caused her to do so. She held her little boy close to her heart, his head resting against her breast, content enough to drift off to sleep.
The blonde stroked the soft hair of her son, her own head leaning against the wall behind her, grateful to the man who had given up his seat for her and Michael. Feeling her son against her, it made her realize just how much responsibility rested upon her shoulders. Just how much her life had changed from the original plan.
Four years ago, at the age of nineteen, she had met Michael’s dad, Justin Avery, a twenty-three year old bar tender where Hannahh and her other English major friends had hung out. Justin had pursued her during that entire semester, the first of her sophomore year. Finally she had relented and agreed to go out with him.
Mistake number one.
Justin had been very good looking, long, dark hair, which he always kept back away from his face one way or another. He played the drums with a local band, and did the bar tender gig to help pay the bills. He was the utter bad boy, which had usually been a turn off for the shy, even-tempered Hannahh. But something about Justin had spoke to her, and they’d become a couple.
Mistake number two.
Justin was smooth and fun, taking Hannahh to all of his band’s shows, then to all their parties. Hannahh, not normally a social butterfly, had gotten deeply involved in Justin’s world and that of his friends. Her grades began to slip, she had even allowed her writing to fall to the wayside. Her friends were becoming concerned, but she turned a deaf ear to their pleas for her to leave the bar tender.
Then Hannahh made her biggest mistake yet- she quit school and moved in with Justin. He got her hired at the bar where he worked, working as a waitress, as well as enlisting her help in writing songs for the band. The blonde became totally wrapped in Justin’s web, not seeing him for the poisonous spider he really was.
The invites became further and further in between, and Justin got home later and later. When Hannahh would ask where he’d been, or why she couldn’t go, too, she either met with silence, a nasty “none of your business,” or a reminder that she was not his mother. This went on unchecked for a year and a half when Hannahh finally decided to do something about it.
One night, while Justin was at one of his gigs, she gathered everything that belonged to her, stuffing it all into a few duffel bags, and her school backpack. She rummaged through the cookie jar in the tiny kitchen, seeing how much of the laundry fund was left.
“Damn,” she counted thirteen dollars, but stuffed it into her jeans pocket anyway. She had no idea where she would go, not even knowing if any of her old friends would talk to her, let alone take her in. Looking around the apartment, she tried to see if there was anything she was missing or wanted to take with her. Seeing nothing, she hurried into the bedroom to grab her bags and leave, headed into an unknown future.
As she made her way toward the front door, hand reaching out for the brass knob, the door suddenly flew open, startling her enough to yelp and drop one of the two bags. Justin, drunk and smelling of cheap perfume, stopped short, just as startled. He looked down after hearing the thud, saw the dropped bag, and looked into Hannahh’s guilt-ridden eyes.
“What’s this shit?”
Hannahh swallowed, trying to gather all of her courage and said, “I’m leaving, Justin. I can’t do this anymore.” She bent down to pick up the duffel, but found herself hitting the floor, instead. Justin stood over her, a tall figure in black, bearing down on her.
“You ain’t going anywhere,” he growled, grabbing the blonde by a handful of long hair. “You got me? You belong to me.”
“Justin, please stop. You’re hurting me.” Hannahh uselessly tried to release her hair from his fingers, but gave up, wincing as he tugged on the strands.
“Hurting you!” he bellowed into her face, his breath laced with alcohol, pot and sex. “What the fuck do you think leaving will do to me? Huh?” He stood, taking her with him, by the hair. When Hannahh was on her feet, he let go, only to clasp his large hand around her throat, shoving her backward until she hit the paneled wall with a loud thud. “No one leaves me! You got it?”
“Justin,” she winced, gasping as his grip tightened around the soft white skin of her throat. “Please,” she tried to dig her nails into the calloused skin of his fingers, then cried out as she was banged into the wall again, rattling a picture hanging near by. She clawed, more desperate at his hand, to no avail. Tears squeezing out of her clenched lids, Hannahh heard a zipper being pulled, realizing it was her own. “No, god no.” Her jeans were shoved down her legs, followed by her underwear. She felt the end of Justin’s belt slap her bare skin as he quickly pulled his own pants down, using only one hand, the other still firmly holding her to the wall.
Hannahh took a long, heaving sigh as she swiped at her leaking eyes again. Her face was tight and her eyes stung. She’d been sitting against the wall in the bathroom for forty-five minutes, and knew she’d have to leave soon or face more of Justin’s wrath.
She slowly, oh so slowly, stood, wincing as pain radiated from between her legs. She wasn’t sure which hurt worse- her vaginal walls or her soul. Either way, they’d both been torn to shreds. With shaky hands, she turned on the cold water in the sink and splashed her face, trying to cool the burning skin.
“Come out. I wanna go to bed.” Hannahh jumped at the quick thump to the closed bathroom door, and Justin’s muffled voice.
“Coming.” She sucked back a sob, trying to keep herself together. Running pale fingers through her hair, she took one last look at herself in the mirror. Her green eyes were the color of new spring leaves from crying, and her hair stuck to her face from the water, sweat and dried tears. Tucking some wisps behind her ear, she prepared herself for bed.
Justin was lying in bed, his back toward Hannahh. She stared at him, hate and hurt roiling just under the surface. Staring at his nakedness, she could totally understand why Lorena Bobbitt did what she did, and had to literally fight herself to not head into the kitchen and grab a knife. She climbed into bed, still fully clothed, staying as far over on her side as she could. Justin rolled over, resting his head on her chest, then raised it, brows drawn as he took in her t-shirt.
“What’s this?” he picked at the garment, then looked into green eyes.
“Cold.” Hannahh lied. The bar tender laid his head back down and soon his breathing was slow and even. Hannahh clenched her fists at her sides, trying to keep her own breathing and emotions under control. Once, during a fight, Justin had threatened that if she ever tried to leave him he’d kill her. What he did that night, he might as well have drove a screwdriver through her heart. She felt dead and already buried. Nowhere to run, no one to run to.
A warm, lazy tear slipped past her closed lids.
Hannahh kissed Michael’s head, smiling as he sighed in his sleep. Her mind again raced to that other time, seeming a lifetime ago. Five weeks after the attack, she found out she was pregnant. Panicked, she kept the news from Justin, trying to figure out what to do. She knew there was no way she could possibly raise her child with that monster, but didn’t know where she could go. She’d tried to get in touch with her best college friend, Rachel Taylor, but Rachel had moved, and Hannahh had no idea where to.
Slowly gathering up as much money as she could, she again left, this time being smarter about it. She got Justin really drunk one night, only pretending to drink herself. Justin was a horny drunk, which she had to live with, but more importantly, he slept like a baby after he reached a certain point. Hannahh made sure he reached that point, then made her move.
Not even calling her mother ahead of time, the blonde had caught a bus home, surprising her mother by arriving on her doorstep at eleven-thirty at night. Alice had not been pleased, especially when she found out that her daughter was expecting, but she allowed her to stay there.
Hannahh had worked her ass off, working two jobs at a time, trying to make enough to get out of her mother’s house, and be able to support her and her soon-to-be-coming baby.
“Come on, honey.” Hannahh stood, holding her child close as she got off the train on their stop. He held on, still half-dazed, as they entered into the early evening air, which was chilly as autumn made its presence known. She held him closer, trying to shield him as much as possible. She’d always shield him, from whatever the world threw at them.
Dusty unlocked the door to the apartment. Nothing had changed- still only a smattering of things left in the place. She needed to decide what she wanted to do- replace everything or just sell the place, which was sounding very good to her sensibilities.
Tossing her jacket onto the kitchen counter, she went through the cupboards and fridge, trying to see what, if anything, was left. Finding a single juice glass and an orange, she slammed the fridge door shut. She understood that Adriana was angry, but that was ridiculous! She had taken a lot of what had belonged to Dusty before they’d even gotten together.
“Shit.” Dusty walked further into the apartment, glancing into the room they had once called their bedroom. Only Dusty’s clothes hung in the closet, and a blanket and spare pillow were piled on the top shelf, just like always. Depressed, and with sagging shoulders, she walked back to the living room, flicked the switch for the gas fireplace to fire up, and grabbed her cell phone, checking for any messages.
She plopped down on the hardwood floor, leaning against the couch, spied her stack of mail from yesterday. She also spied the crumpled up sex line ad across the floor, where she’d thrown it. Crawling over to it, she snatched it up, spreading it open again, seeing Natalie’s seductive smile.
Dusty through about Roxanne, and what she’d put the poor woman through the night before. She may not agree with Roxanne’s occupation, but the woman had been nice enough to listen to her rant and rave.
With a sigh, she grabbed the cell phone again, flipping it open and dialing the number on the advertisement.
Ryan was helping Michael tie his bib when the phone rang. Hannahh licked the butter off her fingertip and ran for it.
“Hey, girl. You got a call.”
Blonde brows drawn, Hannahh looked at the clock on the microwave. “But it’s only seven.”
“I know.” Shannon said, amusement in her voice. “You were asked for specifically.”
Hannahh let out an exasperated breath. “Oh god, tell me it’s not that creepy old man again who likes to pretend I’m part goat.” She grimaced at the memories, and Shannon chuckled.
“Nope. It’s that woman from last night, think.” Hannahh could hear the grin in Shannon’s voice. The blonde sighed, glancing over her shoulder at her small family and her uneaten dinner.
“Okay. Give me a sec?”
Hannahh set the cordless down, hurried to the table and gobbled a few bites of her recently buttered roll and grabbed her can of Pepsi. She gave Ryan an apologetic smile.
“Make sure he eats.” She kissed the ‘he’ in question on the head, then took the phone and her soda into her bedroom. Closing the door and getting comfortable on her bed, she cleared her throat, took a drink of the Pepsi, and waited for the woman to be patched through.
“Hello?” the familiar voice said, sounding stronger this time, the timbre rich and smooth. Hannahh hit the stop watch.
“Hi, sugar.” Hannahh said, Roxanne fully in place. “I’ve been laying here, all hot, just thinking about you.” Hannahh was surprised to hear a chuckle on the other end of the line.
“No you weren’t.” The woman didn’t sound angry, just amused. Hannahh’s brows drew- in all her time doing this, she’d never gotten that response. Most of the people who called her knew it was bullshit, but were also paying for the fantasy, so went along with it.
“Sugar, that’s not very nice to question me, now is it?” Hannahh let her smile come through, slightly amused at this woman, such an anomaly.
“I suppose it isn’t nice.” The caller was silent for a moment, a pregnant silence, and Hannahh stayed quiet, sure there would be more to follow and that she shouldn’t interrupt. “Listen, Roxanne, I’m sorry about last night. You’re job is more like Dr. Ruth, not Freud.”
It was Hannahh’s turn to chuckle. “Honey, Dr. Freud was interested in sex, too, now wasn’t he?” The woman also chuckled.
“I suppose so.”
“So are you feeling better? You were mighty upset last night. Had me worried.” She put a pout in her voice, and was slightly annoyed when it seemed to have no effect. She was used to speeking with men who were so easy. Say something cute or sexy and they folded with cards. Women, or least this woman seemed to be very different.
“I’m doing okay. Went to work for most the day, sat in a daze, wondering what the hell went wrong, wondering why the hell she took everything in the apartment. Well, everything save the couch, a glass and my clothes, that is.”
“That must have been one angry woman, sugar. Were you naughty?” Hannahh balanced the phone between her cheek and shoulder, taking a small, quiet sip of her drink. She leaned back against the pillows, grabbing one of Michael’s cars from the side table and rolling it over the terrain of her stomach.
The woman snorted. “I guess you could say that.” Hannahh could hear her adjusting, a long, heavy sigh escaping her. “I, hell, I don’t know.”
“What? Tell me.”
“I’m not going to burden you with all my problems.”
“Where to begin.” Dusty settled back against the couch, that juice glass filled with water by her side. She began telling the phone girl about how she and Adriana had met, about their relationship. She told her some of the best highlights, and some of the lowest spots, to her horror, finding herself crying again, hurting and confused. “Why won’t she talk to me? Why didn’t she talk to me, tell me what I was doing wrong?”
Hannahh laid further down in the pillows, feeling so sad for this poor, lost woman. “I don’t know, sugar. I’m sure she had her reasons.” The blonde knew that this woman had been a shit to her girlfriend, and she could understand why she’d left. However, there are tactful ways to do it, and taking everything while your girlfriend is in another country on business was pretty shitty.
“I feel like such an ass. I trusted her.” The woman was really crying now.
“Uh,” Dusty thought frantically. There was no way in hell she’d give this woman her real identity. “Maude.”
“Okay, Maude. I want you to relax with me, sugar, okay?”
“Take a deep breath, Maude.” Hannahh lowered her voice even more, mommy mode taking over to calm the woman down. Dusty took several deep breaths, ran her hands through her hair, then blew the breaths out. “How are you doing, sweetie?”
“Better, thank you.” Dusty pushed herself off the floor, scooting onto the couch, phone still pressed firmly to her ear. “How long have you done ... well ... what you do?” She asked, getting settled.
“Just about a year.” Hannahh responded, looking more closely at the toy in her hand. “What do you do?”
“I belong to the corporate world.” Dusty sighed. “Slave to the masses and money, I suppose.”
“Do you like it?”
“Sometimes.” She stared up at the ceiling, feeling the loneliness acutely, swarming in on her like a death mist. “Is that your real name? Roxanne?”
Hannahh smiled into the phone. “Probably no more than Maude is yours.” She heard the other woman chuckle. “Relationships are so difficult. So much more than need be, I think.” The blonde realized she was now using her own voice, and for a moment began to panic, knowing that anything remotely personal was a huge no-no in this sort of business. Then she relaxed, kind of liking just being herself. She sensed that was what the woman needed- not a fake.
Dusty listened to the sound of Roxanne’s voice. She was speeking softly, not too loud, but very intimate, though not in a sexual sort of way. It was nice. “Yes they are. I’ve never been good at them.”
“So this wasn’t your first serious relationship?” Hannahh tossed the toy aside, scooting down on the bed until she was laying flat.
“No. Well, yes and no. This one lasted the longest, but there have been others.”
“What happened to them?” She heard Maude sigh.
“They left or I left them. It was never pretty. I’d get too restless, or they’d screw around on me. I don’t know. Perhaps I’m destined to just be alone.”
“My mother used to say that no man is an island. I supposed that’s true of women, too.”
“Yeah. That is true. But on the other side of that coin, why am I so bad at them? Why can’t I get a woman who wants to stay? A woman who understand me.” Dusty sighed, thoroughly frustrated and disheartened. “I really thought that perhaps this was the one. Maybe Adriana and I could make a good go of it. I thought we were. What a fool.” She covered her face with her hand, sighing heavily again.
“I’m so sorry, Maude. I know it’s hard. Believe me I know.” The door to Hannahh’s bedroom opened, Ryan peeking his head in. She covered the phone, looking over at him. “What? I’m working.”
“This little man wants to say goodnight.” Ryan lifted his arm, a two and a half year old little boy dangling off the other end, giggling. Hannahh couldn’t help but smile. She uncovered the phone, her eyes still on her son. “Can you hang on a second?”
“Sure.” Dusty heard the muffled sound of the receiver being covered up, but could still hear the obvious squealing of a child, then soft mumbled words, totally unintelligible, but they made her smile all the same.
“Sorry.” Roxanne suddenly said.
“No worries. Do you have children?”
Surprised by the question, Hannahh looked at the phone. “Uh, yes,” she was a bit wary. She heard Maude chuckle softly.
“I could hear a child squealing.”
“Oh.” Hannahh breathed a sigh of relief, feeling stupid. “Yes, a son.”
“Do you like kids?” Hannahh got herself resettled, taking a sip from her Pepsi can.
“Yes, though I wouldn’t have a single clue what to do with one. So, do you do this from home or something?” Dusty was stunned.
“Yes. I was kissing Michael goodnight. Usually the calls come in later when he’s already in bed.”
“Ah. How old is he?”
“Two and a half.” Hannahh couldn’t keep the smiling pride off her face or out of her words.
“How precious. Sometimes I think I’d love to have children, though I don’t know if I’d be able to find time in my life for them.”
“Have you ever thought that maybe that’s your problem with your relationships?”
“What?” Dusty felt an indignant wave rush through her as she sat up a bit.
“Well, from what you’ve told me, it sounds like Adriana left because she was alone anyway. Honey, believe me- I know from where I speak.” Hannahh’s voice took on a harsh edge, memories swirling all around her head, making her stomach feel queasy. She heard her caller sigh once again.
“I just don’t know. I think I have a lot of thinking to do. I should go.”
“Alright. Look, I’m sorry if I’ve offended you-“
“No, nothing like that. I really do need to think. Listen, thank you. For everything, listening to me, humoring me, whatever. I really appreciate it.”
“Any time, Maude. Really. However, I do have a question,”
“Shoot.” Dusty stood, stretching her back and neck.
“Why did you call me last night?”
Dusty looked down at the floor, the toe of her shoe scooting around a dust bunny. “I had no one else to call.”
“Oh. Well you call me anytime. Okay?”
Dusty smiled. “Okay. Goodnight, Roxanne.”
Dusty flipped her phone shut, smiling at the conversation and the woman on the other side of it.
Hannahh pressed the end button, shaking her head. What a strange call, though a very nice woman. She felt sorry for Maude, and truly hoped she’d figure it all out.
Hannahh hurried into the bakery, Shannon already waiting for her. She was drumming her fingertips on the table as she glanced over the limited menu, cigarette dangling from her lips. The blonde grimaced at the smell of smoke wafting up from the lit end. She had quit when she found out she was pregnant with Michael, and the smell was nauseating to her now.
“Hey.” She sat down, whipping the scarf out from around her neck, tucking it into the pocket of her discarded coat.
“Hey, beautiful.” Shannon smiled at her friend, tossing the menu aside and setting the cigarette in the plastic ashtray.
“Do you really need to do that while we’re eating?” Hannahh asked, brow raised as she nodded at the smoldering cancer stick.
“Well, perhaps if you were on time it wouldn’t be an issue.” Shannon smiled back. Green eyes rolled.
“Well, when you have to deal with the terrible twos, we’ll talk.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Shannon waved off the issue and smiled charmingly up at the cute waitress that stepped up to their table. “We’re ready now, hon.”
“Oh, okay. Um, what will it be, ladies?” The young girl was obviously not sure what to make of Shannon’s endearment and flirtatious nature, so she turned her attention to Hannahh.
Orders made, the women turned their attention to each other. “So how’s school?” Shannon asked, taking one final drag from her Camel, then snuffing it out with a look of regret.
“Good. I’m so damn tired all the time, though.” Hannahh ran a hand through her hair, pushing the thick strands back from her face.
“Then why do it?” Shannon prepared her coffee that the waitress had brought them, pouring in ample amounts of sugar and a tad of cream. Hannahh watched in fascination, shaking her head with disgust.
“Because I don’t want to do this for the rest of my life.” Hannahh leaned in close, her voice dropping.
“What? The phone sex thing?” Shannon asked, having no concept whatsoever of discretion.
“Shannon!” The blonde hissed, smiling at an older couple a few tables away who were staring.
“Ah, shit, honey, if I didn’t sound like Kathleen Turner with a cold I’d be doing what you do instead of just routing calls. It’s nothin’ to be ashamed of.” She pulled another cigarette from the pack, then remembered where she was, and how much Hannahh hated it, so shoved it back in.
“Are you serious?” Hannahh sipped her coffee, still-cold hands wrapped around the warm mug.
“Very. It’s good money, chica. And you’re good at it. Shit, you know how many guys we have askin’ for you? Damn, sexy white girl and don’t even know it.” Hannahh blushed at the pseudo compliment.
“Yes, well,” She stared down into the black depths of
her coffee. “I don’t know. I just don’t want my son to get
old enough to understand what his mom does for a living and be ashamed of me
for it.” Hannahh smiled up at the waitress as their breakfasts were delivered.
She muttered a quiet thank you and began to organize her food. Shannon watched
“What are you doing?”
“What?” Hannahh glanced up at her. “I don’t like my eggs to touch my toast or my toast to touch my sausage.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Hannahh buttered her toast, careful to paint inside the lines.
“So what happened with that chick the other night? Has she called again? I’ve been off.”
“Yeah, I know. Steven has been in charge of the phones.” Hannahh shivered, Shannon laughed, loud and boisterous.
“You know, just because he sounds like Robert Stack doing an obscene phone call,” She laughed again as a creamer was thrown at her. “Anyway, so has she called lately or what?”
“Not since that one night.”
“And?” Shannon was leaning forward in her seat, watching her friend intently.
“And what? We talked.” Green eyes flicked up at demanding brown, then back to the remains of he breakfast.
“About? Didja enjoy doing the verbal wild thing with a chick?” Shannon’s eyes were burning mischievous curiosity. Hannahh threw her balled up napkin at her.
“You’re terrible! Horn ball.”
“You know it. Come on, spill the goods.”
“I don’t know, okay?”
“What do you mean, you don’t know? You talked to the woman.” The brunette waved the waitress over with a smile for a coffee refill.
“This is true, but nothing has happened.” Hannahh admitted after they were once again left alone. Dark eyes regarded her with doubt. “Seriously. She just seems to want to talk. I don’t know,” The blonde looked out the large picture window to the streets of Chicago. “Something tells me she doesn’t have anyone else to talk to. Like she’s alone or something.”
“What’s the deal with this chick? Why doesn’t she have anyone else to talk to? No family? What’s up with the ex, or whatever??” Shannon fired off her questions, then stopped short, her eyes obviously on someone standing behind the blonde. “Whoa, sweet Mary and Joseph.” She crossed herself.
Hannahh looked over her shoulder, knowing that if Shannon brought God into the mix, it was love at first sight. “What?” She saw a tall woman with long, dark hair standing at the counter, waiting for her order to be filled. The woman’s back was to the blonde, but she could tell the woman was built nicely, filling out her dark gray tailored suit beautifully. “Who is that?” Hannahh asked, turning back to her drooling friend. Shannon shook her head.
“I don’t know. I’ve seen her in here before, but damn, she’s one hot cracker. Normally, as I’ve said, only a hot, fire salsa Latina chick would get my juices flowing, but oh my.”
Hannahh rolled her eyes, always thinking her friend was worse than any man when she saw a hot woman.
“It is so wrong the way you treat the female population.” She muttered, sipping from her newly refilled coffee.
“Yes, well, what can you do.” Shannon shrugged, watching as the woman, white bakery bag in hand, walked out of the place, head held high, oozing confidence. “So how’s that gorgeous little boy of yours?”
Hannahh was grateful for the change of subject. She was never comfortable talking about Shannon’s obsession with beautiful women. Now, the blonde wasn’t homophobic by any stretch, but she wasn’t fond of talking about the subject, either. Especially when it just dealt with lust. She had always been more than willing to listen or talk with Shannon about her numerous failed relationships. The lust thing was different, though.
She brightened immediately at the mention of her son. “Oh, he’s wonderful. I swear, I had no idea that a child could be so smart. That kid outwits me half the time, and Ryan? Forget it.” She shoved her plate away from her, refilling her cup with the carafe of coffee the waitress had left.
“Yeah, well somehow I don’t think that’s hard. Ryan isn’t exactly a rocket scientist, now is he?”
“Isn’t that the truth.” Hannahh chuckled, thinking of her cousin and all his boyish exploits. Six months ago he had decided to drop out of college after three semesters, and with nowhere else to go and not many options, Hannahh had offered him a place to stay if he helped out with the bills. She couldn’t afford it all herself, and any little help she got from the boy meant the world financially.
“Is he gonna go back to school?” Shannon stacked all her dishes neatly, wadding her napkin up and tossing it onto the pile, and shoving it all to the edge of the table. Her friend shook her head.
“I doubt it, but I don’t know. Maybe he’ll get a clue. I mean, I know he’s trying to buff up, as he calls it, but working part time at the gym isn’t exactly going to lead to a career, no matter what he might think. He’s too damn skinny to become a personal trainer.” She grinned at the idea, as did Shannon.
“No kidding. Well,” The brunette shoved her chair back, pulling her debit card from her wallet and tossing it onto the bill. “I have to get going.”
“Okay.” Hannahh pulled money out of her pocket, but Shannon waved her off.
“You get the tip.”
“Are you sure?”
“No. I offer to pay for your breakfast for the fuck of it.”
“Alright, alright. Jeesh, such language.”
She tossed a few singles onto the table and heaved her purse onto her shoulder. “See you later, beautiful.” Shannon said, grabbing the bill and her card and heading up toward the register.
Dusty set her bag of breakfast onto her desk, stripping her jacket from her shoulders and setting it on the back of her desk chair. She sipped the coffee from the Styrofoam cup, grimacing at the overly hot liquid. She growled, irritated that the girl hadn’t listened when she’d asked that she only steam the milk in her latte to one hundred and thirty degrees.
She set the drink aside to cool. The girl may have been cute, but not cute enough for her not to be ticked. But then these days it didn’t take much to be ticked. Her anger and irritation seemed to boil up to the surface without the least bit of provocation.
She planned to take a few days off the following week and go shopping. Perhaps just furniture shopping, but more like apartment shopping. She had no desire to live in that place after everything that had happened. There were specters everywhere, and she didn’t want to be haunted anymore.
Then her mind did a total one eighty, and she was thinking about Roxanne. She smirked, thinking about the phone sex girl. What did she look like? Was she as hot as her voice made her sound? Probably not. She was probably some eighteen year old girl who was using the money for drugs. Or to feed her sixteen kids.
She laughed at herself out loud, realizing what a dork she sounded like. What did it matter? Though she had to admit she had enjoyed talking to her. Perhaps it was the whole stranger, unbiased thing. It had felt good to be able to vent about Adriana and not be told what an idiot she was to let her go, or that she deserved what she got. Dusty couldn’t think of a single soul that would be on her side during everything.
She sighed, realizing that sides didn’t much matter now. It was over and all she had to do was start over and move on. Truth be told, the moving on part wasn’t going to be nearly as hard as she might have once thought. Maybe it had been over for a long time. If she’d ever allowed it to start.
The blonde cringed, eyes closing as she wiped suds from her forearms. “Hi, Steven.” Hannahh dipped her hands into the rinse water, enjoying the warmth enveloping her skin, then plucking the glasses she’d washed from the bottom of the sink and placing them on the dishtowel to drain.
“How are you, sweetheart?” the breathy voice on the other side of the line asked. Hannahh swallowed to keep the bile down.
“I’m great, thanks for asking. How are you?”
“Oh, just swell, darling. Very swell.”
“Great. What’s up?” She attacked the stack of greasy pan. One thing about making lasagna, friggin’ messy!
“You’ve got a call, sweetie.”
“Okay, thanks.” Hannahh bit the inside of her cheek, nearly squealing in pain. She wanted to tell the man to shove his endearments up his ass, but knew she’d be in danger of losing her job. He owned the service, so she had to take it. “Send ‘em on through.”
“You got it.” With a final breath, which Hannahh always guessed was Steven ejaculating, the phone clicked, and the all-too familiar ring started. The voice on the other end of that ring would be her client. The phone clicked again and the ring stopped.
Hannahh cleared her throat with the receiver covered then put on Roxanne. “Hey, sugar. How are you? I’ve been waiting for you.” Her voice deep and sensuous, she removed the stopper from the drain, watching as the suds and water swirled down, disappearing out of sight.
Hannahh faltered as she began to wipe her wet hands on a dry towel. Tossing it to the sink, she headed toward the fridge, grabbed a Pepsi, and then headed down the hall toward her bedroom.
“Well, hey there, sugar. How are you?” Closing the door behind her, she stepped out of her shoes and doubled up her pillows, getting comfortable.
“I’m fine.” Dusty was also settling in, spread out on her couch, comfy in a pair of old sweats and t-shirt from her alma mater, Stanford University. “And yourself?”
“Oh, I’m doing just fine.” Hannahh smiled into the receiver. She was glad to hear the rich, velvety voice of Maude. Maude. Awful. “Honey, I know we’ve been through this before, but what is your real name?”
“Why don’t you think it’s Maude?” Dusty was grinning. She heard a chuckle on the other end of the line that gave her the chills.
“Cause it just doesn’t fit you somehow. I don’t know.” Hannahh twirled a piece of blonde hair around her finger, grimacing when she began to cut off the flow of blood to her fingertip.
“Then what does?” Dusty’s own voice had dropped a bit.
Is she flirting with me? Hannahh grinned, sipping from her drink. “Hmm. I don’t know, sugar. What do you look like?” Her grin widened at the deep chuckle on the other end of the line.
“What happened to these things being anonymous?”
“Where did you get that idea, sugar?”
Dusty chuckled, wiggling to get even more comfortable. “Oh, I don’t know. Maybe a little bird told me.” She grinned, enjoying the flirting. It had been a while since she’d done that.
“Well, why don’t we kill two birds with one stone now then, hmm?”
“I try, sugar.”
“I’m sure you do. What’s your real name?”
Hannahh glanced over at the stop watch that was ticking away on the bedside table. She turned her attention back to Maude, chewing on her lower lip. “But you’re paying to talk to Roxanne.”
“This may be true, but since I am a paying customer, shouldn’t I have a choice of who I talk to? Jekyll or Hyde?”
Hannahh chuckled, charmed. “Fine. Show me yours and I’ll show you mine.” The blonde waited as there was a pause on the other end of the line, and then the warm, velvety voice.
“Nice to meet you, Dusty. Is that short for anything?”
“Nope. Just Dusty. My parents weren’t all that original.” Dusty turned over onto her side, curling up into a ball, the phone tucked against her ear.
“Oh, I don’t know about that. Sounds pretty original to me. Where would they get a name like that, anyway? Sounds like something you’d hear coming out of Texas.”
“Uh huh, stop stalling. Your turn.”
Hannahh smiled. “Caught me. Hannahh.”
“Hannahh.” Dusty tried the name on her tongue, finding she liked it. “Better.”
“Yes. It made me think of the song by Sting.”
“Where do you think I came up with it?” Hannahh readjusted the pillows behind her, lowering her a bit so she wasn’t quite sitting up anymore.
“Did you know he got the idea for that song while walking the streets of Amsterdam?”
“No, can’t say that I did.”
“Hannahh, huh? Do they have you and a bunch of other girls all sitting in a room doing this? Can’t hear any moaning.” Dusty smiled at the laugh on the other end of the line.
“Yes. See, in the cubical next to mine we have Shay. She does all the BDSM. Next to her is Crystal. She does all the bestiality stuff.”
“What, making the sounds of goats?” They both laughed. “So are you the lesbian girl?”
“No, actually. You’re the first.”
“Really?” Dusty’s interest was piqued by this fact.
“How often do you do this? Is it a full time job for you? You must get very tired.”
Hannahh laughed again. “No, it’s not, actually. I do this to supplement my writing.”
“You’re a writer?” Dusty rolled back over onto her back, intrigued by this change in events and information.
“Yes.” Came the shy reply.
“I must admit, I’m surprised.”
Blonde brows drew. “Why’s that?”
“Well, for one I guess I’ve never given much thought to what a phone sex girl does in her own dime.”
“Give phone sex girls lots of thought, have you?” Hannahh chuckled.
“Um, no. Not really. To be honest, I’ve never called one before.”
“So why me?”
“Your flyer was in my mailbox.” Dusty grinned. She sat up, grabbing her purse and digging through it until she found the near full pack of Marlboro menthol lights. The rare treat she allowed herself. Flicking the lighter to life, she touched the flame to the tip of the cigarette, inhaling deeply, eyes closed. “So what do you write?” She exhaled the smoke, watching as it wafted up toward the ceiling. “Stories? Poetry? Song lyrics? Graffiti?”
“Yes. Well, all except the graffiti part.”
“Really? I’m so impressed with writers. I can barely write my name. I’m just not the creative type.” She took another drag.
“Are you smoking?”
“Yes. Why?” Dusty blew out the smoke.
“Sometimes I still crave it. I used to, but quit when I found out I was pregnant with my son.” Hannahh took a long swallow from her Pepsi, finishing the drink and crushing the can. “You have any? What exactly do you do, anyway?”
“Nope. I wouldn’t know what to do with them. No children, no nieces or nephews. No young cousins. I’m a senior executive with a large company.”
“Legal business?” Hannahh smiled at the deep, throaty laughter that came across the line.
“Speeking of ‘legal’ business, how on earth did a writer and mother of a three year old get started in the phone sex business?” The brunette sat up, headed toward the kitchen for anything that would work as an ashtray. Finding nothing, she flicked the tip of her cigarette into the sink. “Shit,” she near growled as she lost her cherry.
“Everything okay?” Hannahh chuckled.
“Yeah. Just lost my cherry.” Dusty explained as she relit her cigarette and headed back to the couch.
Dusty laughed, long and hard into the phone, feeling tears spring to her eyes. She could hear Hannahh laughing along with her. “No,” she wiped her eyes. “Oh shit, I’m crying. My cigarette. Flicked it a little too hard.”
“Oh.” Hannahh cleared her throat, trying to get herself under control, but started chuckling again at the image that passed through her mind. “Sometimes it sucks living in the gutter.”
“I don’t know,” Dusty grinned, lowering her voice. “I’d think in your line of work it would come in quite handy.”
“Isn’t that the truth.”
“Which reminds me, you never did tell me how you got involved in that.” .......
...... “Well, you see when you’ve got a kid to support, are going to school and don’t want to have to leave him at night when you go off to work,”
“Ah. Say no more.” Dusty walked around the furniture store, frowning at what she found there. “You know, I really had no idea it would be this friggin’ hard to find some damn furniture that I like.”
“What’s the problem?” Hannahh asked, pushing her reading glasses up further onto her nose, studying the screen on her laptop. “Do people not know how to write?” she muttered.
“Well, that’s what you get for grading papers while you’re talking to me.” Dusty grinned, fingering a leather loveseat. It was great now that Hannahh had stopped charging her for friendship. She’d worked it so Dusty could still call the 900 number, but not get billed for it. She had to smile at it all. Hannahh had become her friend- who knew?
If only Dusty knew that she was grading these papers from her tutoring sessions because she was losing money in her ‘regular’ job from talking to Dusty all the time, and needed the extra income. “Okay. In that case, talk to you later.” Click.
“Hey! Wait, I need your help picking out” .......
...... “pieces of gravel from his arm. Oh, sweetie.” Hannahh balanced the phone against her shoulder as her sniffling son looked up at her with pathetic, big blue eyes. He would not cry, could not cry, had to be a big boy like Uncle Ryan told him to be.
“Do you need to take him to the emergency room? I mean, that’s pretty major, right? He won’t die or anything, will he?” Dusty’s own eyes were huge with concern and fright for the plight of little Michael. Her brows narrowed at the small chuckle on the other end of the line.
“No, Dusty, he’ll be fine. It was just an accident off his Big Wheels. Maybe next time he won’t try and run while pushing it, right buddy?” Hannahh gave her little one a kiss on the cheek at the grave nod she got in return to her question. “You ought to see him, Dusty. He looks like the perfect little angel right now, like he won’t ever do anything bad again.” She chuckled again. “It scared the crap out of him.”
“So will he be perfect now?” Dusty grinned, shutting down her computer, the building around her dark and quiet. As the Gateway did its final checks before going to sleep for the night after a long, eighteen hour day, Dusty walked to the large office windows. Beyond the night sparkled with the lights of the city. “Wow, it’s beautiful out there.”
Hannahh bit her tongue, wanting to ask, but remembering their pact to not divulge geographic information. “Are you still at work?” Hannahh squirted some Neosporin onto the road rash on her son’s arm, blowing on it as he began to squirm. “I know, honey.”
“Long day? Did we not talk about your retarded hours, Dusty?” Hannahh bit the end of the tape with her teeth, tearing a strip to keep Michael’s gauze in place over his booboo.
“Yes, I know, mom.”
Hannahh smiled, unknowingly matching Dusty’s. “Okay. I’m out” .......
....... “when I was in my third year of college.” Dusty looked around her new bedroom in her nice, but much smaller apartment right smack downtown Chicago. She plopped her hand on her stomach, staring up at her ceiling, the soft mattress beneath her.
“Wow. How did that go over with the folks?” Hannahh rolled over, fingers playing with a loose thread in the blanket that covered her body.
“Not well. They basically told me that any and all help from them was at that moment and time null and void.”
“Oh, Dusty. Wow, I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be. It was a long time ago, and I’ve dealt with it. I realized that love like that that has such a strong price doesn’t deserve my time.” Dusty’s voice and demeanor had changed. Though she believed those words in her heart of hearts, it still brought those walls back up to click into place. So worried about getting hurt. That was one reason she could be so honest and open with Hannahh- they were invisible strangers, connected by only a phone line. Hannahh couldn’t reach out and hurt her, couldn’t make her feel. Right?
“Well, I think they’re assholes who don’t deserve you then, anyway.” Hannahh heard Dusty’s low chuckle.
“Thanks. I doubt they’d agree so readily.”
“So? What they think doesn’t matter anymore. They can be just as null and void, you know.” Hannahh wished so badly she were in the same room with her friend. She wanted to be able to pull Dusty to her and give her the hug she knew the other woman had not had in a long time. She often wondered just exactly what the relationship between Dusty and Adriana had been like. She also had a theory that it didn’t work out because Adriana never tried to figure out the complex woman that Dusty was. If only Dusty had been given a chance to grow.
“I bet you’re a real fireball in life, huh?”
“Gee, what gave you that idea?” Hannahh smiled. “So, how did you know you were gay, anyway? I have a close friend, Shannon, who is actually the main operator for the service, and she’s gay. But see, she’s one of these women who I think came out of the womb gay. I mean, like had a crush on little Sandy sitting across from her in the sandbox kind of gay.” She could hear Dusty laughing.
“You’re too cute. What do you look like, anyway?”
“What do you want me to look like, sugar?” Hannahh lowered her voice, back into work mode.
Though Dusty knew Hannahh was just playing around, she couldn’t help the little shiver that raced up and down her spine, landing squarely south. “Hot with big tits.” Dusty grinned, knowing her smile showed through in her voice. Hannahh laughed.
“Well,” she looked down at her chest, which wasn’t bad, but certainly a Dolly Parton she was not. “Sorry, then. Having a baby and genetics are against you on that one.” She grinned, full of piss and vinegar. “With the big tits thing, anyway.”
“Oh, I see. So you’re hot?”
“Stop,” Hannahh could feel herself blushing. She wasn’t playing a role now, so couldn’t hide behind Roxanne. She could feel the heat rising from her neck, encroaching upon her cheeks and ears. Dusty laughed.
“Am I making you blush?”
“No.” Hannahh cleared her throat, trying to get her coloring back to normal.
“I don’t believe you.” The brunette fluffed the mound of pillows behind her, giving herself something to sit up against. “You’re blushing, aren’t you?”
“Double dog, liar.”
“Oh, you’re getting down and dirty now.” Hannahh accused, her petulant pout being replaced with a grin.
“What I do best.” Dusty grinned at the snort that accompanied her declaration.
“Says who?” Thread forgotten, Hannahh turned her entire focus to the conversation at hand.
“Anyone who’s had the luck of crossing my path. One look at me, and women drop dead in their tracks. I mean, I am so fine, they just have to fan themselves and line up at the ER to be revived with smelling salts.”
Dusty was doing her damndest to not burst out laughing at just how preposterous what she was saying was. “What? You don’t believe me?”
“Not for a minute.”
“Probably wise. I’m full of shit.” Dusty nearly melted at the giggle she heard caress her ears.
“Besides, my friend Shannon would have fought you for the right to say such things.”
“Oh yeah. I mean, Shannon is the quintessential lesbian and ladies’ lady. We go to this little bakery slash deli thingy for breakfast sometimes, like the other day, for instance. She fawned all over the poor damn waitress. I don’t think that girl knew what hit her.” Hannahh laughed at the memory. “Oh! And then there was this woman standing at the counter, just trying to order, right?”
“Well, Shannon basically had to wipe her chin to stop from drooling. I mean, from what I saw of the woman, yes, she was beautiful, but I just don’t understand that kind of behavior, I guess.”
“Oh, come on. Are you trying to tell me you don’t get all hot and bothered by a hot guy?” Dusty tried not to laugh at just how much this Shannon woman sounded like her. Perhaps she’d keep that realization to herself.
“After Michael’s dad? Are you kidding me?”
“Now, I’m not talking about marriage, Hannahh. I just mean good old fashioned pheromone meets good looking pheromone.”
“Hell, I don’t know.” Hannahh rolled over to her side, staring out the window, the trees outside waving in the wind. “It looks cold out tonight.” She said, her voice quiet, wanting to change the subject, though she couldn’t pinpoint why. Thinking about men in any way other than her son and cousin, was hard for her to swallow.
“Here, too.” Dusty glanced out the large, picture window that nearly took up an entire wall of her bedroom. “Windy. I can hear it screaming through the buildings.”
“Yeah. Well,” Hannahh took a deep breath and yawned. “It’s late, Dusty, and I need to get Michael up in about four hours. I’ll talk to you tomorrow?”
“You know it. Goodnight, Hannahh.”
Goodnight, Dusty.” Hannahh smiled as she clicked the off button on her cordless phone, setting in the cradle to charge overnight. She knew she’d need the battery power tomorrow.
Hannahh ran her hand through her hair, causing it to stick up with static electricity. She tapped the end of the pencil on the tablet she’d been writing on. Glancing across the table at her cousin.
“Ryan, this is the second month in a row that you’ve been late. I need your part.” She tried to keep her voice level and calm, knowing that blowing up at him would do nothing but piss him off.
“I’m sorry, Hannahh. It wasn’t intentional. The guys wanted to party, and-“
“Ryan! You spent your rent money on booze?!” Okay, fuck the nice shit. “Damn it. When are you going to learn some responsibility?” She tossed the pencil to the table, not seeing Ryan hang his head.
Hannahh looked down at her son, looking up at her with concerned eyes, his small hand on his mother’s leg. He had to protect her when she was sad.
“What, baby?” Hannahh smiled when she saw the plastic truck Michael offered to her. “Thank you, sweetie.” She took the toy and then plopped the toddler into her lap, resting her chin on top of his soft hair. Remembering he’d given his toy to his mother, he took it from her with gooey fingers, and began to drive the truck all over her bills.
“What do you want to do?” Ryan asked, copying his cousin’s habit of hand through hair, his spikes askew after.
“I’m going to have to get another job.”
“Let me send you the money.”
“Come on, Hannahh. You’ve got a very full plate with school, the job you already do and Michael. Let me send you the money you need.” Dusty took her reading glasses off, tossing them to the desk before her.
“No Dusty. There’s no way of telling when I’d be able to pay you back-“
“It’d be a gift from a friend, not a loan. Come on, Hannahh. Don’t turn me down on this. I want to help you and your son.” Let me.
“I don’t know, Dusty. I just don’t know. I do know I need to go.” Hannahh sighed, seeing the throng of people about to hit her up at the counter of the Crimshaw Bakery.
“Okay. Promise me one thing before you go,”
“What?” Hannahh was irritated, mainly out of worry.
“Promise me that you’ll at least think about it?” Dusty held her breath, waiting for an answer. Hannahh didn’t answer for what in reality was a few seconds, but in Dusty’s slowed, echoing time, was an eternity.
“Okay. I’ll think about it. I have to go.” The blonde closed her cell phone, where she’d had all of Dusty’s calls routed to. With a heavy sigh, and even heavier feeling in her heart, she set about to her new job as waitress.
Dusty snapped her phone shut, tossing it onto the desk. Frustrated and wanting so badly for Hannahh to allow her to help. Dusty knew the story of Ryan, and how the whole reason for him to move into Hannahh’s house was for financial help, and so he’d have a place to go. Now the kid was slacking on his end, and leaving Hannahh in a bind.
Dusty’s head snapped up, seeing Allan Rodgers standing in her doorway, files in hand.
“Nothing. What’s up?” She leaned back in her chair, pulling her cool, calm demeanor on like an old, familiar coat.
“Well, these just came in for you.” The accounting assistant walked into the office, handing Dusty the new figures she’d asked for earlier in the morning. She took the files, studying their deliverer. Allan was fresh out of college, some Ivy League school that mommy and daddy paid for, his shined Gucci shoes and power tie belying his position as relative pee-on. His dark hair cut short and just so, glasses popular and brand named, perched perfectly on a perfectly tanned nose.
“Thank you, Allan.” Yes, someday he’d make a fine asshole, just like all those on Dusty’s floor, where he aspired to be.
“Of course, Miss Copeland.” He smiled, but did not move to leave.
“Is there anything else, Allan?” Dusty asked, looking at him over her glasses as she began to peruse the contents of what he’d brought.
“Well, sort of. May I?” Allan asked, his hand on the open office door. Dusty removed her glasses again, sitting back, nodding. The door closed with a soft click, and Allan turned back to her with a smile, and walked back over to the desk, taking a seat.
“Well, actually, I’m here to find that out myself.” Allan answered easily. Dark brows drew.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, if I may be frank, Dusty, I’ve noticed a bit of preoccupation with you lately.”
Dusty stared at him. First this kid dares to call her by her first name, then he gives himself even more rope by lecturing her about her ‘preoccupation’?? She decided to hear him out before completely strangling him. “And?”
“And I was just wondering if everything was okay. I realize I don’t know you all that well,”
“If at all,”
“Indeed, if at all, but I’m concerned.” A wrinkle formed between Allan’s perfectly combed and plucked eyebrows. “I just wanted you to know that if you needed anything, to talk, advice, whatever.” He gave her a winning smile, white teeth against tennis-tanned skin.
“Thank you, Allan. I’ll keep that in mind, and thank you for your concern. However, it is unfounded. I’m fine.” They played a silent game of battle of the wills until finally, realizing his place against a senior executive of the company he worked for, Allan stood, heading for the door. “Allan?” He stopped, turning to face the beautiful woman before him. He’d heard the rumors that she was gay, and would love nothing more than to get ahead in the company by proving it to be false.
“Do you believe you can fall for someone when you haven’t even met them?” Dusty studied him, curious as to his response. He smiled again. That smile was beginning to grate on Dusty’s nerves.
“In storybooks, perhaps. Not in the real world.”
“Thanks, Allan.” She dismissed him by turning back to her files, hearing the door softly click behind his pretentious little ass.
“What?” Hannahh looked at her professor. “What?” she said again, seeing Dr. Spangler’s smile growing. Hers started to form, just out of the pure contagiousness of it.
“You heard me right, Hannahh. They want you.”
“They. You mean as in Little Brown, they?” Spangler nodded.
“That’s exactly who I mean.” The Ethnic Lit prof grinned from ear to ear. His prized pupil, so filled with promise and talent, and gorgeous as all hell. If only he was twenty years younger and single. Hell, just twenty years younger would do.
“Oh my god!” Hannahh jumped at him, wrapping her legs and arms around him, nearly knocking them both to the floor in her excitement. Dr. Spangler held on, hugging her with matched enthusiasm before gently setting her back to the floor.
“I’m going to be published? Like really published, cover, spine, ISBN, the whole nine yards?” Hannahh could barely breathe. This had to be some sort of sick, cruel joke. She never had luck like this.
“All of it. Dick Brotherton said he’d be getting in touch with you by phone tomorrow, so be expecting his call.”
“God yes. Wow. He is such an amazing editor.”
“He hand picked your work to edit, Hannahh.” The professor took Hannahh by the shoulders, looking into her amazing green eyes, making sure she understood the significance of it all. The little blonde stared up at him in awe.
“Really? For me?” Spangler nodded. “Wow,” She looked to the floor, her heart sinking. Her teacher and mentor saw the change.
“What is it?”
“What if he thinks I’m awful, doc? What if we begin and he realizes what a mistake he’s made, and that he should have read the entire thing, that it really sucks and isn’t near as good as he thinks, and not worthy of his time-“
“Hannahh! Stop it. I sent him the entire manuscript.” Wide green eyes stared up at him at that.
Spangler grinned, nodding. “I know you told me not to, that you wanted to make some changes, but I felt it was good enough as is. I wanted him to be able to see the entire spectrum of your talent, Hannahh. He completely fell in love with it. You’re in!”
“Oh, god.” Hannahh, hand to her heart, made her way to a desk and plopped down. She felt like her every limb was filled with cement and wouldn’t hold her up anymore. Her prof stood before her.
“This is your chance, Hannahh. Now you can do what you love, and still afford to take care of your son. Don’t you see?” He knelt before her, hands resting on the smooth desktop. “This is your break. People dream of this, but it’s yours. Grab it and run with it.”
Hannahh looked into his eyes, knowing that this was the plea of a man who had failed to realize his own dreams of setting up a writing studio on the beaches of Washington with his wife and dogs. Swallowing, she nodded.
“Okay. I’ll do this.”
Spangler smiled and patted her hand. “Good girl.” Standing, knees popping, he looked down at his overwhelmed student. “Little Brown is going to email you a contract. I know of a good lawyer who can look it over for you, if you want.”
Hannahh nodded dumbly. “Okay.” She sat there for fifteen minutes after Spangler had left, thinking about how her life was about to change. Slowly, ever so slowly, a smile began to form, traveling all the way up her face until it radiated from her eyes.
“I did it!” She burst through the door to the Crimshaw Bakery, grinning at every person she saw, which was everyone now, as she’d gotten all attention and focus on her. “I’m gonna be published by Little Brown!”
A round of applause met her exclamation and Hannahh basked in the glory. Never in her entire life had she felt so proud of something she had done, something she had worked for. Except for Michael. Everything else in her life had been one big failure after another. And now the two most precious things in her life could merge- she could make a better life for her son through her writing.
“Good for you, Hannahh!” Kelly, the cute little red headed waitress boomed, giving the exuberant blonde a huge hug.
“Hey, coffee’s on the house.” Ronald Crimshaw bellowed, clapping his newest employee on the back.
Hannahh headed to the backroom where their lockers were, spinning the combination lock with trembling fingers. Silently she prayed that Dusty would call. She wanted so badly to share the news with her friend, but had no way of contacting the executive.
The streets were busy, and Dusty did what she could to not be bowled over by a group of idiot teenaged boys. Finally getting through that whistling roadblock, she saw the bakery just up ahead, and could see throngs of excited people through the large windows. She stood just outside, looking on as people talked excitedly to each other, pointing and laughing, a line of folks getting what appeared to be free cups of something.
Then what really caught Dusty’s eye was the cute little blonde behind the counter, serving said free drinks. The brunette hadn’t seen her there before, and was curious to see who she was. She had long, blonde hair, all pulled back to show a face filled with smiles and easy laughter with sparkling green eyes to add a touch of sexiness.
“Hmm,” Dusty laughed to herself. “If only I had someone like that.” Striking the thought from her mind, she pulled out her cell.
Hannahh couldn’t believe how busy the place suddenly was. Who knew a free cup of coffee would bring folks in off the streets? She saw familiar faces, new faces, and downright scary faces. But it didn’t matter; today nothing could break her mood or her stride. She was floating on a cloud, looking down at all the poor souls on Earth, none of which had any idea what true bliss really felt like.
Dusty listened as the line began to ring, hoping Hannahh wasn’t too busy to talk. She couldn’t remember if she was in class right now or not.
“Hey, your phone’s ringin’. Maybe it’s your publisher, eh?”
Hannahh grinned. “Yeah, right. Thanks, Ronnie!” She handed off the counter to Kelly, then hurried to the backroom, trying to tug her locker open as quickly as possible.
About to shut the phone, not wanting to interrupt her friend, Dusty was surprised to hear a rather out of breath and harried “Hello?”
“Hey.” She smiled at the voice.
“Hi! Oh thank god you called! I have the most amazing news!” Hannah near gushed, her excitement oozing through the phone, infecting Dusty.
“I’m getting published!”
“Oh my god! Oh, honey, that’s wonderful!” Dusty looked up to see the counter waitress staring at her, brown eyes under red bangs. “Sorry. Uh, caramel macchiato, please, with whipped cream.”
“Yeah. It’s nuts here, though. I’m at work, and my boss is giving out free coffee in honor of it, and all the customers are so excited.”
Dusty looked around, taking in the thrill of energy that charged the room, and all the cups of coffee, nearly one on every table. Dark brows drew, and she turned back to the counter, seeing the waitress making her drink, her back to the brunette.
“Hang on a sec, Hannahh, okay?”
“Yeah. No problem.”
Dusty covered the mouthpiece to her phone, and leaned across the counter a bit. “Excuse me?” The redhead looked at her over her shoulder. Dusty took a deep breath and decided to try. “Can I talk to Hannahh?”
“Yeah, hang on a sec,” The redhead squirted whipped cream onto her creation, then a dab of caramel, placing the cup in front of Dusty. The redhead disappeared behind the swinging door that led to the kitchen.
“Hey, Dusty?” The brunette heard Hannahh’s voice, and removed her hand.
“Hang on, okay? I’ll be right back.”
“I’ll be here.”
Hannahh set her cell on the shelf of her locker, tightened her ponytail, and headed out into the loud dining room. Pushing through the swinging door, she saw a woman standing at the counter- a very beautiful woman, and she was holding a cell phone, open, resting on the counter, a slight smirk on the chiseled face. She followed that face, finding herself looking into the bluest eyes she’d ever seen- bright with a ring of dark.
She stared for a moment, and then something clicked in her head, though she had no idea what it was, just that it was.
“Oh my god.” Without anther word, she ran around the counter, and flung herself at the woman. She squeezed harder when she felt arms wrap themselves tightly around her back.
“Congratulations.” Dusty whispered in an ear, and she felt the embrace tighten even more. After a few moments Hannahh pulled back, staring up into the face of the woman she felt she knew so well. Dusty looked down into those beautiful green eyes, uncertain. “Say something. I have to know it’s really you.”
“It’s me, Dusty. It’s me.” Hannahh grabbed Dusty for another hug, needing to feel that she was indeed real, indeed standing in the place where she worked, and indeed sharing the most important day of her life. “It’s me.” Squeezing her eyes tightly shut, she allowed herself to just melt into the hug, feeling safer than she’s ever felt in her life.
“Me, too.” Dusty said, inhaling the scent that she wanted to memorize and be able to recall at any time, day or night.
Hearing the voice of her boss, Hannahh quickly broke the hug again, looking at the uncomfortable man, looking from one to the other. He nodded at the line of people behind them.
“Oh, sorry.” She grabbed Dusty’s hand, tugging her to a corner of the place, allowing others to be served. The brunette snapped her phone closed, tucking it into her pocket.
“Guess I won’t need that right now, huh?” she lifted a teasing brow, making Hannahh smile.
“Oh my god. You’ve been here the entire time?” She asked, still holding Dusty’s hand, unable, and unwilling, to let it go. Dusty smiled.
“Yes. I’ve lived here for almost ten years.”
“This is crazy.” Hannahh shook her head in wonder.
“It is. Listen, why don’t I head out and let you get back to work. I don’t want you to get into-“
“Are you kidding?! I just find you, and you really think I’m going to let you disappear again?” Both women smiled, Dusty caressing the back of Hannahh’s hand with her thumb.
“Just a suggestion.”
“No. You wait here.” Hannahh stood, holding her hands out in a gesture of “Stay!”
“I’m not going anywhere.” She watched as the adorable little blonde trotted off to speak with her boss. Taking a deep breath, Dusty allowed herself to absorb just how strange the situation really was. It was so much easier to keep things in perspective when she knew Hannahh was just a voice on the phone, not knowing where she was, how close or how far. How was she supposed to keep her feelings under control now?
Looking up, Dusty saw a very excited Hannahh standing there, sans apron and ponytail. Her hair cascaded around her shoulders to mid-back in a golden wave. She carried a small backpack in her hand, and keys in the other.
“Yeah.” Dusty stood, and smirked at the look on the other woman’s face.
Grinning, Hannahh took Dusty’s hand again, and led her outside, stopping, Dusty nearly running right into her.
“Is there a problem?” she asked, amused.
“Well, um,” Hannahh looked at her, looking a little sheepish. “I have no idea where I’m going.” Dusty smiled.
“Tell you what. We’re going to celebrate.” She rifled through her bag until she found a business card. Flipping it over and wrote her address. “Go pickup Michael, then come here. I’ll cook you dinner, and then you can see what you helped me to pick out to furnish the new place.” She smiled at Hannahh, even white teeth flashing, making Hannahh forget to breathe.
“Oh, uh, okay.” Taking the card from long fingers, she glanced at it, getting an idea for the neighborhood, then tucked it into her pocket. She looked back up at the beautiful woman standing before her, still unable to believe it was actually Dusty. Her Dusty. “What time?”
“I’ll be there.” Hannahh gave Dusty another quick hug, then hurried off toward the bus. Dusty watched her go.
Dusty looked around her apartment, making sure everything looked perfect, and that there was nothing Michael could get hurt with or on. Granted, childproofing expert she was not, but she was trying.
Fluffing the pillows on the couch again, Dusty froze when the doorbell sounded. Taking a deep breath, she looked down at herself, uncharacteristically casual in a pair of jeans and a button-up shirt, she answered the door.
“Hi.” Hannahh smiled, an adorable little boy in her arms. “Michael, honey, this is my friend, Dusty. Dusty, my son, Michael.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Michael.” Dusty held her hand out, blue eyes studying it. Finally Michael took the hand out of his mouth and held it out to Dusty.
“Ew, honey,” Hannahh wiped off his gooey hand, giving Dusty an apologetic look. “Sorry.”
“Don’t worry about it.” Amused, Dusty stepped aside, allowing the two to enter. “he’s very handsome.”
“Thanks.” Hannahh smiled, then looked around. “Wow.” She was stunned by the mixture of colors, making the place feel warm yet sophisticated. Though Dusty had obviously taken great lengths to make sure everything worked together and flowed, the place had a lived in feel to it. Hannahh smiled, remembering their endless conversations about how Dusty should decorate the new place. She smiled even broader when she saw the painting hanging over the fireplace that she had talked the brunette into buying, even without seeing it.
“See what all your handy work on the phone did?” Dusty asked from behind Hannahh, the taller woman’s voice rich and enveloping the blonde with safety, and ... something else.
“Yeah. I told you that’d be a good idea.” She pointed at the painting, grinning. Dusty smiled back.
“Come on. Dinner is served.”
She led them to the dining room that was just off the kitchen, a fire already lit in the pit there.
“Wow. This place makes mine look like a closet. A white trash closet, at that.”
“Nah. It just takes time.” Dusty went into the kitchen to start bringing out food as Hannahh got Michael settled into his seat, where a beautiful highchair had already been placed.
“Um, Dusty?” the blonde called out, buckling her son into the chair.
“Yes?” Dusty asked, pushing the swinging door open with her hip, arms loaded with plates of food.
“Where did this come from?” Hannahh patted the back of Michael’s chair. Dusty grinned, sheepish and very cute.
“Well, I figured I’m going to be having three year old company over here quite a bit, so I might as well make things as comfy for him as possible.”
“Oh,” Hannahh, felt her heart melt. “God, that was so thoughtful.”
“So, uh,” Dusty made herself busy arranging the dishes at the center of the table. “You’re not mad?” She risked a glance up at those eyes that she could fall into.
“Why on earth would I be mad? Not at all. I think it was amazingly thoughtful and sweet.”
“Oh.” Dusty grinned, blushing slightly. “Uh, good.” She uncovered a dish, revealing an entire plate of creamy, gooey Mac and Cheese. Michael’s eyes were as wide as saucers, his little tongue peeking out to swipe at his bottom lip.
“Okay. You’ve just won over my son for good.” Hannahh said, hand on hip. Dusty grinned.
“I know.” Then she uncovered another dish, bringing two beautiful steaks into view, surrounded by vegetable garnish. It was Hannahh’s turn to lick her lips in anticipation. She didn’t even hear Dusty’s chuckle. “Sit.” Obedient for steak, Hannahh unwrapped her silverware, putting her napkin in her lap, eyes never leaving the succulent-looking meat.
Dusty couldn’t decide who she was more charmed and enchanted with- Hannahh or Michael. The boy had obviously picked up his mother’s knack for making people melt and become putty in his small, chubby hands. She was at his beck and call, and so was Hannahh. Michael was amazingly well-behaved. He was indeed a three year old child, but he said please, didn’t make an undue mess and was quiet. She was impressed.
Hannahh watched her son’s interaction with Dusty. He was such a good judge of character. She knew that if he liked the beautiful woman, than Dusty was worth liking. But then, Hannahh already liked her. A lot. She watched the way Dusty’s eyes changed color. Changing color may not be the best way to describe it, but they did change somehow- they’d get brighter with her excitement level, grow serious and more opaque. Fascinating. She watched the way the light reflected off the immensely white teeth, so perfectly shaped and spaced, like they were created from the chisel of a great artist or dentist. The perfect smile, lips gracious and full. Jaw line, so strong and sure, leading to a long neck, smooth skin, disappearing into the shadows of an unbuttoned collar. The hollow of Dusty’s throat flexed as she swallowed, drinking from her glass of iced tea. Green eyes followed the way that throat worked and moved.
“Sorry.” The blonde looked up, meeting a bemused smile. “What?”
“Dessert. You want some?”
“Oh. Uh, yes, please.”
Dusty opened the door for Hannahh and Michael, loathe to let them go, but knowing that she must. If for no other reason than before Hannahh realized that she couldn’t keep her eyes off her.
“This was an amazing evening.” The blonde said, holding Michael’s hand so the little boy wonder wouldn’t go exploring anymore of Dusty’s apartment.
“I thought so, too. Please say you’ll come back?”
“Yes.” There was not a moment of hesitation. Not a moment of question. Dusty smiled.
“Good.” She knelt down, nearly eye to eye with the cutest little boy in the world. “And you, mister,” she playfully poked him in the chest, making him smile. “You come back, too, okay?” Dutifully he nodded, reaching out to grab hold of Dusty’s necklace- a simple gold chain. “You like that?” He nodded, watching as the light sparkled off the metal. With a smile, Dusty ruffled Michael’s hair and stood again, eyes only for Hannahh.
The blonde swallowed, feeling the air around her suddenly grow very thin, her chest heaving to try and get enough in her lungs.
“Goodnight, Dusty.” She said, finding her voice somewhere.
“Night.” Without thinking, without even consulting that little voice in your head that tells you when you’re about to make a mistake, Dusty leaned forward, capturing Hannahh’s lips with her own. She felt the smaller woman start, and almost pulled away, but couldn’t. She leaned in a little more, pressing her lips a bit harder into the softest touch she’d ever known.
Suddenly Hannahh backed up, pressing herself into the door jam to get away from Dusty.
“I’m not, I can’t, uh, I need to get Michael home.” Without another look or word, they were gone. Dusty leaned against the closed door, breathing deeply, trying to fill the void with air.
“Stupid, stupid, stupid.”
Dusty washed her face again, trying to get rid of any evidence of her crying. She hated to cry, and never did it. Even when Adriana left, she did very little. But tonight ...
With a sigh, Dusty changed into a pair of silk pants and a tank top, grabbing her book and reading glasses as she turned out the lights throughout the apartment, her bedroom light the only one burning.
Setting the book and glasses on her nightstand, she began to pull the covers back when she stopped, listening. There it was again.
Walking to the front door, she unchained and unlocked it, pulling it open. Standing in the lit hall was Hannahh, alone and looking small and unsure.
“Hi.” Dusty said, her voice just above a whisper.
“Hi. Can I come in?”
In answer Dusty stepped back, mindful of Hannahh’s personal space.
“Where’s Michael?” Dusty closed the door behind the little blonde, watching as she wandered further into the room, taking everything in.
“At home. With Ryan.” Hannahh sighed. “Dusty we need to talk.”
“Okay.” Dusty swallowed, her heart going down with the excess spit. It dropped even further when Hannahh turned around, and Dusty realized she’d been crying. It took everything she had not to rush over to her friend and wrap her up in a big hug. Somehow she didn’t think that was wise.
“Why did you kiss me?” Straight to the point.
“Because I’m an idiot, and incredibly attracted to you. I’m sorry, Hannahh. It was not meant to happen. Period.”
“You’re attracted to me? Even though you know I’m not gay?” Hannahh wrapped her arms around herself, head slightly cocked to the side as she waited for a response.
“Yes.” Dusty laughed ruefully. “I’ve been attracted to you even before I knew what you looked like. I don’t know, Hannahh. All I can say is that I’m sorry. I never meant to hurt or confuse you. Please know that. Your friendship means everything to me, and please don’t,” Dusty was angry at herself as her voice broke. She looked down, turning away from Hannahh. Her anger built as she felt the sting of tears.
“Hey,” Hannahh made her way over to her friend, not touching her, but standing close.
“I’m sorry. This isn’t about me.” Dusty got herself under control, swiping at her eyes.
Dusty looked up at her, confused. “Yes. I upset you. Not the other way around.”
“You know, it’s so strange. The way I feel, I’m just, well, I, ah fuck it.” Hannahh reached up, pulling Dusty’s head down and taking her mouth against hers, sliding her arms around Dusty’s neck as her kiss was returned. She heard a small whimper, which made her fire go up even more.
Stunned, but unable to respond, Dusty deepened the kiss, running her tongue along Hannahh’s lips, feeling the deep sigh as it was released, and then taking the blonde’s mouth fully, pulling the smaller body into her own, feeling all the curves and radiated heat.
“Oh, Hannahh,” she sighed into the blonde’s mouth.
“Make love to me, Dusty.” Hannahh responded, kissing her again, reaching down to pull the brunette’s tank off. The heat of Dusty’s skin was immense against Hannahh’s fingers, making her moan. She felt her coat being tugged off her shoulders, dropped to the floor, followed by her scarf, then the air hitting her lower stomach as her jeans were unbuttoned and her long-sleeved t-shit lifted.
Then they were moving, Hannahh being backed up, feeling the light behind her on her back, illuminating the perfection that was Dusty. Trying not to trip on the pants that were around her ankles, Hannahh kicked off her shoes, stepping out of her jeans as she went, tugging at the silk pants that slid easily over Dusty’s hips, revealing a perfect triangle of black hair. The blonde gasped as a wet tongue licked her left nipple, her hands finding the thick hair of Dusty’s head, pulling that mouth further onto her breast.
Something hit the back of Hannahh’s knees, and she happily fell to Dusty’s bed, the brunette following, crawling on top of her. Hannahh reached for her, holding their naked skin together, desperately searching for Dusty’s mouth, moaning as she was spread, a finger sliding inside her body, pushing the wetness out. Hannahh’s hips jerked, inviting that hand further in, giving herself freely.
Bodies pumping, Hannahh whimpered as that mouth found her breast again, her body being invaded from every angle, and it felt so good and right. As a writer, for the first time in her life no words came to mind to describe what she was filled with, what she was being overcome by. She ceased to think and just felt.
With a cry that echoed off the walls of Dusty’s bedroom, Hannahh came, her body crashing around itself, unable to recognize the pieces leftover. Hannahh failed to recognize herself, either, as she grabbed Dusty, flipping her over, and exploring the beautiful woman’s body with her hands, her mouth, her skin, needing to touch, taste, feel, claim. The swirl of a tongue around a rigid nipple, fingers finding the ultimate heat and wetness, the ultimate desire, the taste of salt, soap and skin. The softness that assaulted Hannahh’s senses made her head spin.
Suddenly crushed to Dusty’s body, tongue seeking tongue, they laid together, Dusty continuing to tremble, her body throbbing and convulsing, trapping Hannahh’s fingers inside. There was nowhere else the blonde wanted to be.
She laid atop Dusty’s body, the warmth and smell of their passion lulling her to sleep.
Hours later, Dusty found herself wrapped around the smaller body of Hannahh, their skin and bodies fitted like hand and glove. She could smell the clean, yet sweaty smell of Hannahh’s body and hair, and inhaled. It was the most glorious of perfumes. Opening her eyes, she saw the blonde hair that had captured her attention at the bakery before she had any clue who it belonged to. She leaned into it, burying her face in its ticklish strands. This evoked a small, adorable noise from the owner.
“Hi.” Dusty whispered, kissing the top of Hannahh’s head. The body in her arms wiggled further back into her own, which made her smile.
“Hi.” That same body turned around, Hannahh burying her face in Dusty’s neck. The brunette could hear Hannahh smelling her skin, and she felt warm.
“How are you?”
“Mmm, wonderful. You?” A green eyes peeked up, unsure but content.
“Better than I’ve ever been in my entire life, quite frankly.” Another eye appeared, followed by a nose and finally a mouth, which promptly found Dusty’s.
When the kiss finally broke minutes later, Dusty looked into Hannahh’s eyes. “So you said last night you had wanted to talk.”
“Mmm, later.” Hannahh murmured, burrowing her body even further into Dusty’s. The brunette smiled, gathering that body into her own, protective and warm.
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