This story is a work of fiction although it’s laced with a few actual incidents. <g> It’s dedicated to Becky, my love, my heart.
“You are a total coward,” my best friend said in her most loving way. “I thought you were going to break up with Mary two weeks ago.”
“She had the flu.” My voice sounded whiny and grated my own nerves. “You can’t dump someone when she’s sick.”
Carla raised an eyebrow and looked at me. “And what was your excuse the week before that? Oh, wait, I remember…her dog wasn’t feeling well.”
“Clarence is very important to her. She needed me to help her take him to the vet.”
Carla rolled her eyes. “He weighs less than five pounds. What did she need your help with?”
“Meagan, do you know what next week is?” Carla asked as the exasperation grew in her voice.
“Next week is our annual trip to the Keys,” I said between clenched teeth. “And next Thursday is February 14, Valentine’s Day. And I can’t—”
“And you can’t dump her on Valentine’s Day,” Carla interrupted my next pathetic excuse. “So you’re bringing her, aren’t you?”
“Yes, but after the trip, I’m telling her it’s over.”
Carla pushed her half-eaten sandwich away angrily and took a deep breath. The real lecture was about to begin.
“Kristin and I both told you not to get involved with that woman. Your sister tried to warn you away from her. Even cosmic forces tried to intervene!”
“Cosmic forces?” I asked with a chuckle.
“A bird attacked you while you were trying to ask her out.” Carla wagged her finger at me. “That’s an omen.”
“An omen, my ass. I was standing under a tree and got too close to her nest.”
“Look at me in the eyes and tell me that you know your loved ones are right.”
Carla and everyone else were right. Mary was a nightmare. Possessive, insanely jealous, moody—all the things you don’t want in a girlfriend. To make matters worse, we had absolutely nothing in common, not one thing. Yet she clung to me like glue. My cell phone was on silent, but it had been ringing in my purse since the moment I sat down with Carla, and that just accentuated the point all the more.
I threw enough cash on the table to cover lunch and the tip. “Can we just go now?”
Carla stayed seated as I gathered my things. “Look me in the eye and tell me I was right about Mary.”
“Okay! You and everyone else were right, even that damn bird! And I will deal with it after the trip.”
“It’s not going to be as much fun with her there,” Carla said with resignation in her voice.
She was right. I knew what I was in for, and I was dreading this trip like the plague.
Monday morning arrived and found me stuffing my car trunk full of bags. My one and Mary’s four—two for clothes and two for shoes. She’d changed clothes six times since I arrived that morning, and even though I told her she looked fine, her dog disagreed.
Before we could leave, she had to love on Clarence. This was understandable. I’d spent some extra time loving on my cats that morning, too.
“Oh, my Clarence baby,” she cooed as she pressed her face to his dog food-covered muzzle. “Auntie Sarah will be here this afternoon to take care of you while I’m gone,” she explained while picking goo from the corners of his eyes with her nails. “You’re a mess this morning, aren’t you, baby?”
I watched as she cleaned her dog’s face with her hand, picked bits of food from between his teeth, and when she was finished, she looked at me in disgust. “You have a piece of lint or fuzz or something in your hair. You need to get that.”
And then the journey began. As Orlando faded in the distance, I pulled out a CD that I’d burned and popped it into the player. Mary was listening to her own music on her iPod. My favorite songs played in the background as I drove, and for only a short time, there was peace.
“Oh! I love this song!” Mary exclaimed and plucked the ear pieces out of her ears.
She actually liked a song that I did. We finally had one thing in common, but I was not convinced that our relationship was anything but doomed.
Mary began to sing with one of my favorite tunes—loudly. I tried to keep my face neutral as she made sounds that I was certain were the reason for the absence of birds in the area. I had a mental image of woodland creatures all along the highway painfully writhing in their dens.
I tried to start up a conversation, but she held her hand up. “Wait, this is the good part.”
A high note. A high note that she made so painful, I swerved into the other lane. When we arrived at the resort, my ears were ringing because she played that damn song over and over again. And when we got out of the car, I accidentally dropped the CD and accidentally stepped on it.
After we were checked in, we went in search of Carla and Kristin to Mary’s dismay. She was none too fond about hanging out with my friends, but she wasn’t about to let me out of her sight, until of course she found alcohol.
We found the gang poolside. I hugged and greeted friends I rarely got to see, while Mary stayed at a distance with a sour expression on her face. I tried to introduce her to a few, but short answers and her demeanor kept most from trying to make conversation. I was beginning to resign myself to the fact that if I were to survive the week, I’d have to cater to her whims just to keep the peace. That is until I was introduced to her.
A friend of a friend, a new face in the crowd shook my hand. Her blue eyes gazed into mine, and I was smitten. I’m not really sure why she had such an effect on me, but she did. We barely spoke, yet I felt connected.
Rebecca. I let her name roll off my tongue, especially the R, when she walked away. I did it over and over in my mind…or at least I thought so.
“Are you growling?”
I turned and noticed Mary standing there with a bewildered expression on her face.
“Um…no, I was clearing my throat. I’m parched, you want something to drink?” This seemed to appeal to Mary, so she accompanied me to the bar where we ordered drinks that came in glasses as big as our heads.
Mary took a sip of her drink, then looked at me with a petulant pout. “I’m really bored. Can we do something fun?”
“I promise we’ll do something that you want to do, but like I explained when I invited you, I only get to see some of these people once a year. I’d like to spend a little time with them. I can’t just drop in and say hello, then run off. Besides, they’re really a great group, you should give ’em a chance.”
Okay, here’s where I get really irritated with myself and Mary. I didn’t invite her. I mentioned that I went away each year to get together with friends, and she got all excited and wanted to know when we were leaving. And since I’m a wimp, and it was Valentine’s Day, I acted as though it was my idea all along.
I did, however, explain that the week was usually spent hanging out with my longtime buddies, and she seemed perfectly content in doing that, until we got there.
“It’s just that it’s Valentine’s Day,” Mary complained. “We should be doing things together—alone.”
“Shawna’s here,” Carla said excitedly as she joined us at the bar.
I’d known Shawna since elementary school and was thrilled that she’d made it after missing the last three years due to work. “Mary, come meet Shawna, you’ll love her,” I said excitedly.
Instead Mary perched upon a bar stool and waved her hand dismissively. “I’m gonna order another drink.”
“Suit yourself,” Carla said as she dragged me back to our friends.
Shawna and I barely had time to reminisce when Mary came over and whispered in my ear that she was feeling “a little pukish” and needed my help getting back to the room. And so I escorted her to our room and tucked her into bed. Before she passed out, she begged me to stay with her, so I did.
Mary had been asleep for about an hour when it occurred to me that she was going to need something to drink and maybe a few crackers to nibble when she woke up. I went down to the vending machines in hopes of finding something she could keep down. I was studying the contents of the snack machine when I heard a voice behind me.
“Slim pickings, isn’t it?”
I turned to find Rebecca grinning from ear to ear.
“My girlfriend is suffering from ‘one too many,’ so I’m trying to find something to settle her stomach.” She winced when I said the word girlfriend.
“I’m suffering from ‘one too many’ myself. One too many hours in the sun. My fair skin is not accustomed to this Florida sun yet.”
“Where are you from?” I asked, noticing for the first time the redness of her cheeks.
“West Virginia, but I just relocated to Tallahassee,” Rebecca said as she plugged a dollar into the soda machine. “How about you?”
“I live in Orlando.”
“Oh, with all the theme parks,” Rebecca said as her eyes lit up, making them seem even bluer than they really were. “I’m gonna spend some quality time there when I get over this trip financially.”
I was on the verge of offering her a guided tour and lodging when I remembered that I wasn’t free to do that yet. “I’ll give you my number before we leave. Maybe I can give you some tips on where to stay. It’s a lot cheaper to find a hotel outside of the parks.”
“That would be great,” she said with a smile. “I’ll see y’all at dinner then.”
I watched as she walked away, trying to figure out what it was about her that drew me in so, until my cell phone began to buzz in my pocket. I knew instinctively who it was without looking. I fed my money into the machines, collected my purchases, then went back to my room to face the music.
I hoped that Mary would bow out on dinner, but no such luck. We arrived late as usual. My friends were kind enough to save us a couple of seats, and mine was directly across from Rebecca’s. Part of me was elated, then the other half felt guilty. Even though I was in what I considered a non-relationship at this point, I still wasn’t single. And Rebecca didn’t strike me as the type who would be interested in someone who stepped out on her girlfriend.
My girlfriend on the other hand found the woman sitting next to her very interesting. They laughed and drank like two old friends. I focused on my food and did my best not to look at Rebecca. But when temptation got the best of me, I’d glance her way. Occasionally, she would catch me looking at her and smile. That smile was turning me inside out, and I made up my mind right there to stay away from Rebecca.
That lasted about an hour. Mary and her new best friend made a beeline for the dance floor when we left the restaurant for the bar. A few of us sat around chatting and watching the antics on the dance floor. At one point, Rebecca and Mary were dancing within a few feet of each other, and I realized that Rebecca was the polar opposite of Mary. No makeup, no painted nails. Her clothes weren’t what I considered butch, but they weren’t the latest the Gap had to offer, either. Her brown hair wasn’t highlighted like Mary’s, but it was wavy and glossy, and I wondered what it might feel like if I ran my fingers through it.
“Another drink anyone? I’m going to the bar,” Carla said, breaking me from my thoughts.
“Yes, and I’ll help,” I volunteered, needing the distraction. “What do you know about Rebecca?” I asked as we made our way through the crowd.
“She’s adorable, isn’t she?” Carla called over her shoulder.
I didn’t respond. I was in too deep just by asking about her.
After we ordered the drinks, Carla turned to me with a grin on her face. “She’s single, went through a rough breakup a year or two ago.”
“Don’t try to play cupid,” I warned. “I’ve got issues right now.”
“But if you didn’t have issues, would you be interested?”
I turned and leaned against the bar, watching the object of our discussion on the dance floor. “She’s not what I normally go for, and I think that’s the appeal. There’s just something about her that seems so…real.”
“From what I hear, she’s a pretty decent woman. No pretense, no drama, pretty down to earth.” Carla nudged me. “Exactly the kind of woman you need in your life.”
I sighed and turned my back to the dance floor. “Well, as you know, I have a woman in my life, so there’s little I can do right now.”
Carla waved off my attempt to pay for my drink. She handed me a couple of bottles, then gathered up the rest. “I’m hoping that now that you realize there are some really great women out there, you’ll get off your ass and kick Mary to the curb.” She paused a step and looked me in the eye. “You’re really not doing Mary any favors. If you can’t love her the way you should, then let her go.”
We returned to the table just in time for a popular song to begin. The group I’d been hanging out with clamored onto the dance floor, and I sat down to enjoy my drink.
“You don’t like to dance?”
I was surprised to see that Rebecca had settled in the seat next to me. “I’m not very good at it, so I avoid it every chance I get. I grinned at her. “You on the other hand seem to enjoy it a lot.”
“I love to dance,” she said with a twinkle in her eye.
“What else do you love?” I asked, feeling a boldness that I only felt when consuming alcohol, which is why I didn’t drink often.
“I love dogs, how about you?”
“Cats. I have two of them.”
She thought for a moment. “Neat or messy?”
“Neat, though you can’t tell it by the shape of my apartment right now. And you?”
Rebecca dipped her head and smiled sheepishly. “Messy. I can be neat when properly motivated, but I feel organized when things are spread out where I can see them.”
“What kind of music do you listen to?” I asked.
“Country. Now your turn,” she said as she sipped her drink.
“Just about everything but country.”
“Wow,” Rebecca said with a smile, but the twinkle in her eyes was gone. “We have so much in common.” She thought for a moment, then asked, “Favorite cartoon character?”
“That would be Scooby-Doo, and I imagine yours is Snoopy.”
I watched as Rebecca pulled a keychain from her pocket. Scooby smiled at me as it dangled from her fingers. I wanted to say, there’s hope for us yet. Instead, I just smiled.
“What’s up?” Mary asked, eyeing the key ring still dangling.
I was so engrossed in our conversation that I didn’t realize Mary had joined us. “Rebecca is a Scooby fan like me,” I said.
Mary made a halfhearted attempt at a smile. “Really?”
“Yeah, I was just showing Meagan my key chain. I’ll save modeling my Scooby pajamas for another night,” Rebecca said with a grin. “Right now, it’s time for me to turn in. I’ll see you both tomorrow.”
“What was that supposed to mean?” Mary asked as Rebecca walked away. “What reason would you have to see her sleepwear?”
“It was a joke.” I knew the familiar signs of an impending argument, and I was hoping to stop it before it began.
Mary’s face twisted in disgust. “What kind of grown woman wears cartoon characters on her pajamas?”
“The good kind,” I said under my breath.
As the days passed, I made it a point to avoid Rebecca. It was growing almost painful to be around her.
On Valentine’s Day, I spent time alone with Mary as promised. It didn’t work out to be the romantic day she expected, though. That night, she made it implicitly clear that she wanted to make love. She was on me like a cheap suit kissing my neck, and as her hands wandered over me, I felt nothing but sadness.
“I need to take a shower first, I feel icky,” I said as I pried her hands off me. “I’ll be right out,” I lied. I stayed under the spray of the shower until the water turned cold. And when I emerged from the bathroom, Mary was asleep as I’d hoped.
The next morning as Mary showered, I waited on the stairs overlooking the restaurant where breakfast was being served. My eyes zeroed in on a familiar figure waiting in line for the buffet. She looked up as though she sensed my presence and smiled.
I returned the smile, then she said, “Jump, I’ll catch you.”
She didn’t know what she was asking of me, at least I didn’t think she did. I wanted to leap over the railing and straight into her arms, but my wings were clipped. There would be no flight for me.
For the rest of our stay, we’d do the same thing each morning. I’d wait on the stairs until she saw me, and she’d say, “Jump, I’ll catch you.” Of course I never did, and when we left for home, I wished I had.
When Mary and I settled back into our routine, I steeled myself for what had to be done. I even left work early one day when I’d worked up the nerve. When I arrived at Mary’s house, I found her back door slightly ajar. I knocked and no one answered, so I pushed it open, wary of going inside. It was then I noticed a trail of clothing leading through the kitchen. A shoe, a pair of uniform pants, a matching shirt, and an abandoned mail sack sat on the kitchen table.
I followed the rest of the trail to Mary’s bedroom, where she lay entwined with the woman who delivered her mail and apparently a lot more. They were asleep, obviously worn out from the tryst. What I did next went down in history, and Carla would tell the story over and over to anyone who would listen.
I walked up to the bed and gently shook Mary’s new girlfriend. She stirred a little, then bolted upright, nearly sending Mary to the floor. She looked at me in horror, as did Mary.
“Hi, I’m Meagan,” I said as I thrust my hand out to shake. She didn’t take it. “I’m Mary’s ex-girlfriend as of…” I paused a second and looked at my watch. “As of 2:47 today. I mean this from the bottom of my heart when I say that you two are perfect for each other, and I hope you have a long happy life together.”
Neither of them said a word as I left the house.
My first impulse after leaving there was to call Carla to see if she had Rebecca’s number but thought better of it. I’d given Rebecca my number before we left the resort just in case she decided to go to the parks in Orlando and needed a local to give directions. She never called.
I worked a lot to keep my mind occupied and off Rebecca, but late at night when sleep just wouldn’t come, I’d remember her. Those pretty blue eyes looking up at me and the way she quirked her mouth before she said, “Jump, I’ll catch you,” stayed with me for a long time.
Between work and Carla’s ever-present attempts at matchmaking, I stayed pretty busy throughout the year. I went on a few dates, but the interest just wasn’t there. And when the next Valentine’s Day rolled around, I’d just about convinced myself not to go to the Keys. But Carla stayed on my case until I relented.
On the drive down to the Keys, I tried to quell my excitement at the prospect of seeing Rebecca again with a healthy dose of reality. The spark that I felt was more than likely one-sided. By now she’d probably have a girlfriend, and she’d probably be there with her to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Sheesh, what an irony.
Once I checked in at the resort, I went in search of my group. Just like the year before and the one before that, they were gathered around the pool. I can’t deny that I looked for Rebecca, but she wasn’t there. I’d made up my mind I wasn’t going to ask about her. My heart couldn’t have taken it if someone told me that she’d met someone else and was living happily ever after.
Lesbians of all shapes and sizes roamed the resort. There were plenty of single women to look at, but my heart just wasn’t in it. No one affected me like she did, and for a moment or two, I doubted that anyone ever would.
Even knowing that she wasn’t there, I couldn’t help but repeat the ritual of standing on the staircase the next morning. I scanned the crowd for the familiar face, but to my disappointment, she wasn’t there. Depressed, I decided to go back to my room and sulk and have a pity party that might last for hours.
I couldn’t turn around, for fear that my mind was playing tricks on me. Then I heard it again, louder this time.
I whirled around and looked out over the breakfast crowd, still not seeing her.
“Jump, I’ll catch you.”
Rebecca was standing right below me. The smile faded from her face, and she looked at me with a seriousness that I’d not seen in her before. “Jump, I will catch you.”
And so I did…okay, not really. I ran down the stairs like a fool and straight into her arms. But figuratively, I did jump.
Now we bicker over whose turn it is to clean the dinner dishes, who snores the loudest, and why cats are better than dogs. She messes up the house and I clean it up. She puts up with my need to have everything in its place. I make fun of her country music, and she scoffs at mine. And I never let a day go by without telling her how much I love her and how happy I am that she waited for me to jump.
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