CHERISH IS THE WORD
I felt her eyes burning into my back, felt her pain slicing my heart like a dagger. I didn’t have to turn around to know that she was there; I knew … like I had always known … but I did turn around and let her blue eyes pin me in place.
I looked back at her coldly, determined not to let her see that I was suffering too. It’s funny, one of her chief complaints had always been that I hid my true emotions. I always denied it, but she was right.
“After all,“ I would say, “ who else has ever been as attentive to you? Who else has ever told you how much they loved you a thousand times a day?”
And she would sigh and say, “That’s just it, Brie. That’s the problem. You throw the words away as though they were an afterthought. Just once, I need to KNOW that you mean them.”
Then I would get my back up and say something snippy like, “Christ, Cantrell, be happy I tell you! If I didn’t love you, I wouldn’t say them.” And then I’d shake my head and stomp off somewhere to lick my wounds and commiserate with myself about how ungrateful she was.
Let’s face it. I was an ass, but I didn’t know it then.
“What if ….?” I thought as I nodded in her direction, gave her a sad smile, and then turned back to take my mocha from the woman at the counter. “What if …?”
My name is Brie Baker - and no, Brie is not short for anything. It’s just Brie, like the cheese. I grew up hearing every joke that could possibly be made about the combination of names so don‘t bother trying to be clever. Trust me, I’m immune.
Her name is Lauren Cantrell. She is the only woman I have ever loved - truly, madly, deeply loved - and she doesn‘t believe me. Maybe, if you hear our story, just maybe you will believe me. I really don’t know why I care, but I do. I need someone to understand, even a stranger.
It all started with a chance encounter at a local upscale restaurant. The truth is, the encounter was not really a ’chance encounter’ at all. Each of us was at a turning point in our lives and well-meaning friends had invited us to meet them there, even reserved a table, and tipped the Maitre d’ to seat us together.
Lauren arrived first and was sipping a glass of champagne when the waiter led me to the table. She looked up with surprise when the waiter pulled out the chair and waited for me to sit down. I stood, ignoring him, overcome by the fantastic woman sitting in front of me. She was tall and slender, with deep blue eyes. Her hair reminded me of Maureen O’Hara … my very first crush in my baby dyke life.
“You have the wrong table,” she said to the waiter. Her voice had just the right timbre - slightly deep, and just a little husky. It sent chills down my spine.
“No, madam, this is the correct table.” He smiled solicitously.
“Excuse me!” Her tone was cold as ice. “I don’t know this woman, and I can assure you that you have the wrong table.” I shuffled from foot to foot, embarrassed at the scene that was unfolding before me.
“Look, I’m sorry,” I said. “I was supposed to be meeting some friends here. It must be a mix-up. I’ll leave.” My body wanted nothing more than to sit down in that chair and stare into those eyes all evening, but good manners ruled the day.
She looked at me curiously. “Lynn?”
“Uh, no, my name is Brie. Like the cheese.” A clue, then, she was meeting a woman named Lynn. My gaydar hadn’t really clicked in, but her response gave me hope that she was family.
Then she laughed one of the greatest laughs I have ever heard. “Like the cheese? I see. Well, the woman I am supposed to be meeting is Joan … and her partner, Lindsay.”
Click. I was supposed to be meeting Lindsay, one of the attorneys I work with. She had invited me to dinner so I could meet her partner, Joan. I’m gonna kill you, Lindsay, I thought as I slid into the chair across from Maureen O‘Hara. Or kiss you.
“I’m meeting Lindsay, too. We work together.” I smiled with what I hoped was not a lecherous leer. “So, I guess this is the right table after all.”
The waiter heaved a sigh, happy to be proven right. “May I bring you a drink?”
“I’ll have whatever she’s having.”
I waited for the waiter to leave and then turned my attention to the woman sitting opposite me.
“So, Maureen, have you been waiting long?” I asked warmly.
“Maureen? Were you expecting a Maureen? No, my name is Lauren.” She held out a perfectly manicured hand, and I was surprised at how small her hand seemed.
I took her hand in mine for a brief moment, giving it a polite shake, and then smiled widely at her. “Not really,” I answered. “You remind me of Maureen O’Hara that’s all, and you haven’t told me your name, so …”
She laughed again, a loud, hearty laugh that warmed me in places I hadn’t been warmed in a long time. “If that’s a pickup line, it’s a good one.”
I suspect she had heard that line before, but she wasn’t about to let on. That she was amused and not irritated was a wonderful relief. My glib tongue gets me in trouble a lot. Thank heavens, this wasn’t one of those times.
Then Lauren said the obvious. “I think we’ve been set up. I have a feeling our friends may not show.”
“I know.” I smiled at her warmly. “Do you mind? We can finish our drinks and go, or we can make the most of what started out to be a rather dreary evening … at least for me.” I held my breath waiting for her answer.
She appeared to be thinking it over, and then she looked at me with those startling blue eyes and said the words I would have killed to hear. “Let’s make the most of it. I’ve had a lousy day and wasn’t really looking forward to this evening either.” She paused. “Until now.”
My heart, which seemed to be permanently lodged in my throat, settled back into its rightful place, racing so fast that I was sure my breasts were going to burst out of my blouse with each beat. My body is definitely not subtle when it comes to an attractive female, and Lauren was way beyond attractive.
I know dinner must have been good. Good lord, the tab with drinks and dessert was well over two hundred dollars. But I cannot for the life of me remember one thing we ate. I only remember listening to the sound of her voice and the touch of her fingers as they brushed the back of my hand once or twice. The time flew by, and I was in a state of euphoria when she agreed to go dancing with me the following evening.
And that, my friends, is how it all began.
The crowd at Collette’s was loud but not raucous. I worried that I wouldn’t be able to find Lauren in the mob and berated myself for not thinking ahead. I should have picked her up, I thought for the tenth time as I watched the clock behind the bar. We’ll never hook up here. I sipped a bottle of Voss and fidgeted on my stool, wanting something much stronger but not wanting to start without Lauren.
By the time the clock hit 10:15, my thoughts were no longer sweet. Lauren was 45 minutes late which to me is not fashionable, especially on a first date. I am pretty anal about time, a hazard of my profession I guess, and Lauren’s failure to show or call was really pissing me off. Then I felt the hair on the back of my neck rise and I knew, before raising my eyes to the mirror, that she was standing behind me. I turned slowly on the stool, ready to give her a piece of my mind until I heard her throaty voice.
“Sorry, Brie. A fender bender on the way. I thought the cops would never let us go.”
What - no cell? was the first stupid thought that ran through my mind. Fortunately, “Are you okay?” was the question that came out of my mouth. I must have said it with just the right amount of concern because she smiled … and I melted.
“I’m fine. I witnessed it; I wasn’t in it. It’s just that the cops insisted on getting a statement and wouldn’t let me leave until they did.”
The relief that flooded me must have been evident on my face.
“Cute,” she said.
And I blushed.
“Even cuter,” she teased. “Come on, let’s dance.”
I slid off the stool and followed her to the dance floor. There must have been a hundred and fifty women in that room, but the only one I could see was the tall redhead who was about to take me in her arms. She walked ahead of me and stuck her hand back for me to take. I slipped my hand into hers and stared at the sway of her firm, round butt as she led me to the dance floor. Beautiful does not begin to describe the sight.
When we reached the dance floor, she turned and pulled me to her. At first, I put my arms around her waist and pulled her closer to me, but as the dance went on I let my hands slide lower and lower until they cupped her butt. My movements were slow and calculated to give her time to object, but she simply reciprocated and cupped me in the same fashion, pulling me even closer until our pelvises ground together in time with the music. The press of the crowd on the floor made it impossible to do anything other than stick together like glue, not that I was complaining.
Her scent assaulted my nostrils. I couldn’t figure out what perfume she was wearing … a sort of earthy, musty scent like Patchouli, with a touch of spice and citrus, and maybe a hint of something floral like an Egyptian Rose. Her scent was intoxicating, so unique that I could easily separate it from among the other scents surrounding us. Whatever the combination was, it went straight to my parasympathetic nervous system and kept me in a constant state of arousal. The combination of her undulating body and her haunting perfume put my formerly hibernating libido on full alert.
She slipped a thigh between my legs, and I did the same to her. Simultaneously, we bent our knees and did a series of slow gyrations in time to the pulsating music, rubbing against each other harder and harder with each dip.
Slow dancing’, swayin’ to the music
Our movements to the beat of the music were so sensual that I thought my legs were going to give way. I pushed away from her, trying to catch my breath. She put her hands on my waist and danced around behind me. I felt her move up against my back and bend her knees so that we were cupped together. I reached behind me to grasp her buttocks and pulled her closer,
thrilling to the feel of her undulating against me. She slid her hands down my arms and then cupped my breasts in a motion so smooth that it was as if her hands hand always been there. I leaned my head back into her shoulder and felt her lips nip softly at my neck. sending pulses of electricity straight to my vagina.
By the time the song ended I was throbbing so hard that I was sure that the seam of my leathers would bring me to orgasm before I could take another step. One look at her flushed face and I had no doubt that she was feeling the same attraction and the same frustration.
We pushed our way through the crowd back to the bar. One stool opened up, and Lauren quickly urged me onto it. She pushed herself between me and the woman on the stool next to me. She put her arm around my shoulder and leaned in to whisper in my ear, but it was so noisy in the bar that I couldn’t understand a word she said even though she was no more than a foot away from me.
“What?” I yelled above the din.
“I have to go,” she shouted back.
I nodded. “The bathrooms are over there.” I pointed to the opposite side of the room.
“No,” she said loudly. “I have to go … leave.”
I sat there stunned. Any desire I was feeling was doused by those six ice-cold words.
She looked at me with what appeared to be true regret, then pulled me off the stool and toward the back door. I followed like a fool. Any other time I would have told the bitch goodbye and acted like I really didn’t give a damn, but as crazy as this may sound, I did give a damn. If I had anything at all to say about it, I was not going to let this woman get away.
It was November and there was a chill in the air. Neither one of us had bothered to grab our jackets as we walked outside into the alley and heard the door slam behind us.
“What the hell is going on here,” I demanded as if I had the right to demand answer.
“I’m sorry,” Lauren replied. “I almost called to cancel, but I had to see you.”
Well, at least that’s a good sign, I thought. She ‘had’ to see me. Her words mollified me somewhat.
“What do you mean you have to leave?”
“I’m on the midnight flight to Paris. Business. Last minute. I didn’t know until just before leaving work to meet you.” Her words came out in a rush like she was trying to get a full chapter into one paragraph.
I stood there silently trying to absorb what she was saying. “Paris? Texas? Tennessee?” I finally asked dumbly.
She cocked her head and looked at me like I was one brick shy of a load. “France.”
“France? But that’s so far away,” I croaked.
“Yes, it is,” she said with an appropriately serious tone.
We looked at each other intensely and then from nowhere laughter bubbled up and up and up until it had nowhere to go but out, and we laughed until we could no longer catch our breaths.
Neither one of us thought about the door locking behind us, leaving us freezing in that dingy alley, but that is exactly what happened. Lauren apologized profusely for leaving so early and said she’d call me just as soon as she got back. As we started back into the club, we realized we were locked out, which started another round of laughter. By the time we were able to contain ourselves, we were shivering and huddling together for warmth. It was a long walk around the block to get to the front door, and we were both ice cold by the time we got inside and retrieved our jackets.
I let Lauren put me in a cab. They say I have a weird sense of humor, and I guess I do, because the first words that flowed through my mind as I felt the cab pull away from the curb were, A fine romance, my friend, this is. A fine romance with no kisses. Pathetic, I know. But I was hot for this woman, and I was pretty sure she was hot for me, but so far neither one of us had anything to show for it … well, almost nothing to show for it. I for one had been walking around in a state of perpetual frustration since I first laid eyes on her.
Lauren was in Paris for three unbearably long months. We talked on the phone (God, those phone bills!), we e-mailed, and we sent each other flowers and cute cards. The separation was probably good for us both because we talked about everything under the sun - our past, our present, our dreams for the future. By the time Lauren let me know that her plane would be arriving at JFK at 6 P.M. on February 14th, I was so primed that I was afraid one look at her would result in … well, you know.
I was at the airport two hours before her plane was due to arrive. I told you I hated to be late. My mind had played all these scenarios where her plane picked up tail winds and arrived early. Then, when I wasn’t there, she left with a blonde flight attendant. I know, I know. Ridiculous. But that’s how my mind works sometimes. Lauren was on her way back to me, and I was going to be there - ready, waiting, and oh so willing.
Suddenly, there she was, walking toward me. Running, really, straight into my arms with a smile on her face that would light a thousand candles. “Take me home,” she whispered in my ear, and I felt the dam burst between my legs.
We raced to the baggage claims area and then out to the parking lot. I threw her bags in the trunk and took off down the turnpike toward the city. She had her hand on my thigh, and I could feel the heat of her palm burning through the denim as she laid her head against the back of the seat and closed her eyes.
I stole a glance at her and almost lost my breath. She was so much more beautiful than I remembered. I wanted to pull over and ravish her right there. Instead, I stopped looking at her and kept my eyes on the road, racing as fast as the speed limit would allow to her apartment.
When we reached her apartment building, I couldn’t believe my luck. A parking spot opened up right in front of the building, and I pulled into it with ease. I unloaded the trunk while Lauren fumbled for her keys, and then we rushed inside.
It seemed like an eternity before the elevator reached the fourth floor and came to a bumpy stop. I felt like we were moving in slow motion down an incredibly long hallway. Her fingers trembled as she tried to put her key in the lock. The sound of the tumblers clicking as she turned the key seemed unbelievably loud, and then she pushed the door open and pulled me inside. We dropped her bags on the floor and she pushed me against the door, covering my mouth with hers before I had a chance to say a word.
“I’ve waited so long,” she whispered. “I’ve wanted you so badly.”
I couldn’t stop the moan that escaped my lips. “Yes,” was all I said as she stepped back, took my hand, and led me to her bedroom.
“Let me take a quick shower,” she said, letting go of my hand.
I didn’t want to be separated from her, not one minute longer, but I let her go and sat down on the bed. I could hear the water from the shower beating against the shower door. I wanted to join her, but I waited, giving her privacy and a time to regroup. If we were going to make love, then it would be perfect, not the rushed fumbling of frustration.
I heard the shower stop and watched with awe as she walked into the room, toweling her hair. She was totally naked and totally comfortable with her nudity. She smelled of an earthy body gel, and I filled my nostrils with her scent. She dropped the towel to the floor and stood looking at me with an air of expectation. Her hair framed her face like a halo, and she was lit by the backlight of the bathroom light.
“You next,” she said, and I smiled.
I had taken a shower before I went to the airport, but I went in anyway. It was almost as if this evening had been scripted. I could hear her moving about the bedroom as I stepped into the shower.
We could have done this together, I thought, but even as the words crossed my mind, I knew it wouldn’t have been the same. It was the anticipation, the wanting, that made the knowledge of what lay ahead even more exciting. I let the hot water beat against my skin until it was red. I used her body gel, massaging it over my skin, touching myself everywhere but the one place I wanted her to be.
By the time I stepped out of the shower I was so ready that I could barely keep myself from running into the room. But I didn’t run; instinctively I knew that I had to walk in slowly, savoring each step, letting her drink me in as I walked toward her. The thought of watching her watching me affected me like an aphrodisiac.
When I walked into the room, she was sitting on the edge of the bed. She was aglow from the light of candles she had placed around the room; her entire body was surrounded by a pulsating aura. The image of her transported me.
I walked slowly towards her and leaned to place a soft kiss on her lips. I pushed her gently back onto the bed., teasing her lightly at first and then with more and more insistence. The light was everywhere, bathing us in its soft glow. I ached with the scent and sight of her. She began to moan, fueling my desire, and I was engorged with my need for her. The energy flowing from me was pulsating on a sensual frequency I had never before experienced.
I wasn’t even touching her yet I felt as though a part of me was touching her, trying to enter her, my energy and hers melting together in one glorious moment of unrestrained ecstasy.
“I want to come with you,” I whispered.
“Oh, yes,” she said, pressing closer against me.
We moved against each other as though we had been together forever, and I felt an overwhelming joy at the intensity of our mutual desire. She breathed me in; I filled her with my energy, deeper and deeper and deeper until I became her and she me. It was as though we were surrounded by a pure white light, as though we became that light, as though we were one being, dissolving into each other in divine bliss. We were pure love in a place where time and space had no meaning.
We surrendered to each other totally, and when the beauty of our orgasms washed over us, it was more than sexual release; it was profound ecstasy. That night with her was the most perfect moment of love that I had ever experienced, and I wept at its beauty.
It wasn’t long before Lauren and I were living together, and although we seldom recreated that first night together, sex between us was always magical and wonderful. Sex was never the problem. It took me a long time to figure it out, but I was always the problem.
Lauren and I lived together for six years and settled into a routine as lovers do. I never believed Lauren loved me as much as she said she did. I needed constant reassurance; I constantly needed to tell her how much I loved her; I needed her to constantly tell me that she loved me. I told her a dozen times a day until it became rote. She tried to tell me how she felt. She tried to explain to me that saying “I love you” every time I turned around diminished the depth of the phrase.
I lived life on disconnect, wrapped up in my cases, yelling “I love you” over my shoulder as I threw my briefcase into the car and headed off to court. I can’t tell you how many times I saw the hurt in Lauren’s eyes as she waved good-bye to me.
She began to take more business trips, I began to take more cases, and somehow the distance between us grew until one day I came home and she was gone. I wasn’t really surprised and so I let her go without a word, without a fight.
We had avoided each other for six months and now, here she was, and the memories were flooding through me. How fitting it was that it was Valentine’s Day, the day that brought us together so long ago.
“What if ….?” I thought as I nodded in her direction, gave her a sad smile, and then turned back to take my mocha from the woman at the counter. “What if …?”
I felt her hand on my shoulder, burning through the cloth of my jacket. I heard her whisper in my ear. “Brie, we need to talk. Really talk.”
I turned and looked into those incredible eyes and felt the desire flooding through me. It had never left; it just slept for a while.
“I know,” I replied. “Oh, God, Lauren, I …” I swallowed the words ‘love you.’
She took the mocha from my hand, put it down on the table, and placed her fingers against my lips before I could say another word.
“Let’s go home and talk,” she said.
I followed her out the door of the coffee shop. I would make her understand. I would reach her heart. I would say “I love you” to her again, but not before she understood exactly how I cherished her, how truly, madly, deeply I did love her.
When we reached the apartment, my insides were churning. I knew that what happened next would determine the rest of our lives. I’d like to say we took one look into each other’s eyes and all was forgiven, but it was not that easy. We talked, and we laughed, and we cried. We held each other, and we forgave each other. And just as the sun rose, we fell asleep in each other’s arms.
Hours later we awoke, still clinging to each other. And we made love, slowly and passionately, with the same reverence and intensity that we felt the very first time.
I loved Lauren then; I love her now … truly, madly, deeply love her. But more than that I cherish every single moment of our life together.
Some people get roses or chocolates or both on Valentine’s Day.
I got my heart, my soul, my sweet love … I got Lauren.
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