"Harold, we need to talk to you." Laurel ran to catch up with him.

"Can’t this wait until tomorrow morning? I’m exhausted." Harold slung his bag over his shoulder.

"It can’t. I’m sorry, but it is important." She did not want to wait another day.

"Alright. Let me square away my stuff. I’ll come down to your room in a few ok?"

"Great. We’re going to order pizza. We’ll wait for you." Laurel told him.

"Nah, go ahead and order it. I’ll see if I can beat it there so I can eat some too." He gave a weary smile.

"We can do that. Even if it makes it before you do, we’ll save you some." She promised. "Now, go do whatever it is you have to do. See ya in a few."

She walked slowly back to her hotel room. The others were waiting for her there. She was not looking forward to the meeting with Harold. She did not know if he would understand her reasons for leaving. She also wondered when she starting caring what others thought. It was strange, but she did. She did not want him to be disappointed, but knew there was no way around it. She had to leave. At least she had found an adequate replacement first. She hoped that would appease him, though she would not change her mind. She was going home.

"Is he joining us?" BJ asked. "Mandy just ordered the pizza."

"Yeah, he’ll be here soon as he gets all his stuff put up." Laurel collapsed on her bed. "When’s the pizza supposed to be here?"

"They said around half an hour, but you know that can be an hour and a half from now." Mandy told her. "You ok?"

"Yeah. I’m so ready to go now. It’s like the plan is made and I want to put it in motion."

"Good, cause I got us tickets home for tomorrow after the ceremony." Mandy grinned. "I figured your patience would be wearing thin."

"And it’s not like she has that much to begin with." BJ laughed.

"Quiet you." Laurel warned. "I have patience, I just choose not to use it."

"That explains that." Steve laughed. "I always wondered if you just didn’t listen to the same inner promptings the rest of us do."

"Like guilt and stuff? I never did. Seems that’s changed too. It sucks." She commented dryly. "Let me ask you a question. If you’re broken up with someone, do you have the right to sleep with someone else?" The question had been bothering her for days.

"Yes. If there is no commitment between two people, either of them can sleep around without worry. As long as they use protection." Mandy told her.

"Yep. If you as a couple no longer exist than you as a person can get laid by whomever." Sam agreed. "However, it is important to tell the person you were dating when you try to work it out."

"I guess this means you got lucky and now you feel guilty about it?" BJ asked. "You have changed, Lakky."

"I know. After that article came out, I went a little nuts. I went out to a bar, had an ONS and that’s it. You think I should tell Nicole about it?"

"If you don’t want it to come around later and bite you in the ass, yes you should." Steve said seriously. "That’s what really happened between me and the current ex-girlfriend. We had a fight, didn’t speak for days and I picked up a chick one night during that time. The argument was over, everything was fine until the chick showed up at one of our concerts. I was royally fucked."

"I don’t think Carrie will show up, but you are right. I have to be honest with Nicole. I covered up too much before. I only hope she understands."

"Lakky, honey, I hate to point this out, but Nicole has the same rights and freedom you do. She could have found someone else for a night or two." Mandy looked sympathetic. It set Laurel on her guard.

"What do you know that you haven’t told me?" Her blood ran cold. She wondered if her suspicions about a conspiracy were not only from paranoia.

"I never said I knew anything. I was only warning you." Mandy attempted to be reassuring. She failed.

"She can have all the one-night stands she wants." Laurel replied. "Now spill it. Has she? Has she found someone else? Please tell me it’s not Sheryl." She did not think she would be able to deal with that. For some odd reason, she viewed that as betrayal. The one-night stands with strangers were fine. After all, she had several over the course of her life. She could not condemn something she did herself.

"Alright." Mandy sighed. "I’ve been talking to Danny on a fairly regular basis. The last time I talked to him was the day we flew up here actually. He called me to see what was up. We’ve all been sharing information for when you two came to your senses."

"And?" Laurel prompted. She ignored everyone else in the room.

"She hasn’t slept with Sheryl. Why would that bother you anyway?"

"I don’t know. They’re such good friends. It’d fuck up the world. I guess I’ve always kinda feared Sheryl would be the one to take Nicole away from me." She shrugged. "I can’t really explain it. But, that means it was someone else. Who and for how long?" Curiosity was eating her alive.

"I don’t know and just for one night." Mandy answered. Laurel could tell there was more. The redhead seemed tense. She also seemed to be struggling with something.

"Spill it." She demanded. "Tell me whatever it is. I can take it."

"You should hear it from her." Mandy protested.

"I want to know it now. We just got finished discussing my lack of patience. You are my dearest friend, Mandy. Please tell me." Steve, Larry, BJ and Sam seemed to fade into the background.

"Did you know about her ex-finance?"

"Jessie told me about him." Laurel answered. "Was he the one-night stand?" That hurt. She could not believe Nicole would return to men. The very thought made the pit of the bassist’s stomach quake.

"He was one of them." Mandy answered softly. "There was another, voluntary one."

"Two?" Laurel was almost shocked. She did not know the photographer could be so bold. Then her brain caught the implications behind her friend’s choice of words. "He raped her?" The world was suddenly tinged red.

"Calm down, honey. She’s ok." Mandy rushed to her side and tried to reassure her. "She’s been to the doctor. Everything is fine. Danny and Aaron dealt with Brian." She quickly explained how the situation came about and how it was dealt with.

"I should have been there." Laurel answered quietly. Her tone was flavored with regret.

"You can’t blame yourself for this." Mandy hugged her.

"Laurel, it’s not your fault anymore than it was Nicole’s." Sam joined them on the bed. Laurel suddenly found herself in a circle of supporting arms. "Trust me, I know."

"But had I not gone to New York, it wouldn’t have happened." Tears coursed down her cheeks.

"It might have anyway." Mandy told her. "What he did was wrong, there’s no question to that. But, things happen for a reason. We may never understand why it happened, but it did."

"I know. Accept it and move on." Laurel answered. "The glass is half full and all that shit. I say it’s time for another round when the glass gets half empty. She’s ok though? The bastard didn’t give her anything?" She wanted to be sure.

"No. He did not give her a STD." Mandy answered.

"Good." It would not have changed her feelings for the photographer, but it would have affected the nature of their relationship. "Why did you say it that way?"

"What way?" Mandy looked away.

"Shit." Laurel jumped to the logical conclusion. "She’s pregnant."

"Yes." The redhead confirmed the assumption.

"Oh." The word was simple, but the emotions and thoughts behind it were not. She walked to the door and numbly shook a cigarette loose from her pack. After a deep inhale and exhale, her mind finally took it all in at once. She let the thoughts flow. There was no other way to cope at the moment.

She wondered what she would do with a child. His child. It could never really be hers. Or could it? She thought then about her own parents and how they had been lacking as emotional shelters. Then she thought of Mandy, the oak she had sheltered so many storms beneath. It was then that she realized parents are biological. Moms and dads are made through love. She could easily love a child that had Nicole as a mom, especially if that child had the photographer’s eyes or smile. Regardless, all it had to have was her lover’s blood flowing in its veins. If it contained the tiniest bit of the photographer, the woman Laurel loved with her entire being, then the child would be sacred. It only took moments for her to understand it all, but she did understand and accept it completely. After all, deep down, she always thought life was sacred. This one would be more so.

"Danny’s agreed to go on record as the father." Mandy interrupted her thoughts. "Honey, if you can’t deal with the thought of a child, you should stay away."

"I’m going home." She stated firmly as she turned around to face her spiritual mother. "I want her back if she’ll have me. We can deal with this. It changes things, but it can make them better I think. I hope."

"She’ll take you back. It’ll work out, you’ll see." Mandy smiled.

"She’d be an idiot not to take you back." Sam agreed.

"I guess this means I’ve beaten the pizza." Harold commented from the doorway. "I also guess you’re leaving us?"

"Yes to both." Laurel dried her tears on her sleeve. "Thanks guys." She quickly hugged both women before standing to face the manager. "I can’t do this anymore. I’m leaving the band. It’s best for everyone since Jenna and I can no longer be in the same room. Sam is taking my place." She ran out of words.

"I was going to send Jenna packing." Harold sat down on the empty bed. Steve, Larry and BJ were standing around the room. The three of them were trying to hide the tears in their eyes. "I still might. I always knew you’d realize this wasn’t right for you, but I hoped I was wrong. I hate being right. I can’t stop you, even if I wanted to. You fulfilled your obligations a long time ago, thanks to that hellcat of a lawyer you hired. Had it not been for her, you’d still be under contract."

"I know." Laurel felt a little smug. Krista had literally given the label’s legal department hell over the original contract. All of them had been asked to sign another since the original had been declared void. Only Laurel’s was a temporary one. It expired in September. She even managed, with Krista’s help, to retain the rights to all of her songs. She would not have to worry about money for a long time as a result.

"That was a battle royal, I’ll have you know. I can’t say you were wrong though." Harold told her. "I had to fight to keep you."

"For that, I thank you." She had not been aware of the argument over her job. "I’m sorry I can’t stay, more for letting you down than anything, but I did find a replacement. Sam is talented. She knows the band and the songs. She’s played with us before." Laurel pointed to the band’s new bass player.

"I trust your judgment. I really do wish you well. There’s no hard feelings, I promise." Harold stepped out of character long enough to hug her. "I hope you find your happiness."

"I think I have." She smiled. Her thoughts were already in New Orleans with the family waiting there for her.


"I hope you know Jessie is pissed." Michael announced as he and Stan walked into the parlor.

"Yeah well, Dana deserved it." Nicole pointed out.

"She did. All that talk about how much better New York was and then how backwards we are. It was annoying. I couldn’t take it anymore." Aaron explained from where he was laying on the fainting couch.

"She is annoying." Danny commented. He was slumped in a chair in front of the fireplace. It was not yet cold enough to start a fire, but he claimed it was nice pretending. "You should have heard her last night."

"Yeah, but that was still cruel." Michael’s indignation faded as realization struck. "Are ya’ll always this bad?"

"We haven’t been recently, but we used to be. Welcome back, Nicky." Stan grinned. "Move over Sheryl." He instructed the critic to sit. She was lying across the couch.

"That’s the second time I’ve been told that today." Nicole’s tone was rueful.

"Well, it is nice to see you back in action. You’re fun again." Stan grinned at her. "We missed that part of you."

"Was I really that different?"

"Yes." Sheryl commented. "We didn’t want to say anything, but it is nice to see ‘Zombie Nicole’ gone."

"You too? Thanks." The photographer did not know is she should be upset or flattered. "Now can you tell me what it is you and Jessie had to discuss earlier?" She turned the conversation back to her brother.

"No, you’ll just get mad." Michael told her. "Are we going out tonight?"

"Yeah, but I need to ask you something first. Actually, Danny and I have to ask it."

"Ok, I’m not escorting him down the aisle unless he’s in full drag, but anything else you can almost guarantee." He teased.

"We want you to be a godparent." Danny told him.

"To what? Mozart?"

"No silly, to our child." Nicole did not want to tell him the truth. She did not want to see her brother tried for murder.

"And when is this blessed event supposed to take place?"

"June." She watched as he did the math in his head.

"You’re pregnant then?" He did not move.

"About six weeks on."

"Danny is the father?" She nodded. "And who are the other godparents?"

"Sheryl and Aaron." Her smiled faltered at the tense look on her brother’s face. "What’s wrong?"

"This isn’t right. I don’t know, but something’s off here. I can’t." He stood. "I have to think about this. It’s not adding up right."

"What’s not adding up right?" Nicole stood and walked over to him. "The fact that your sister is pregnant or the fact two gay people are having a child?"

"Nicole, I can understand and respect your lifestyle. Really I can, but choosing to raise a child in that type of environment is another matter all together." He did not turn around.

"So, you have a problem with two gay people having a child?" She asked again. Her friends were extremely quiet. She knew they did not want to witness this scene, but had no choice. They were trapped in the room. Michael blocked the only door.

"Yes I have a problem with it. How could you choose to do that to a child?" He turned to face her. "A lesbian mother and a homosexual father? The child might as well be born with a target on its back."

"Michael, all children get picked on." The photographer pointed out the obvious. "No matter what, kids get picked on. It’s a fact of life."

"Yeah, but that’s not an excuse to purposely heap abuse on a child. Why do you want to do that?"

"I don’t want to make things difficult for my child. If you don’t want to stand as a godparent, fine don’t, but it’s too late to change anything else. I am pregnant. I am raising this child. I’m sorry you don’t agree with the choice, but it has been made. Accept it or not."

"I can’t accept it. I’m sorry Nicky, but I can’t." He backed out of the room. "I’m flying back to LA this evening. I’ll see you all later, maybe." He slowly walked down the hallway. Nicole watched him until he was out of sight.

"Why didn’t you tell him the truth?" Stan broke the tense silence.

"It wouldn’t make a difference. I’d still be a lesbian choosing to raise a child with a homosexual father, a gay godfather and a bisexual godmother." Suddenly weary, Nicole sunk down into her chair. "I’ve been expecting that type of reaction, but not from my brother."

"He’ll come around." Sheryl reassured her friend.

"I’m not so sure. I’m not sure many people in the family will agree with this."

"Well, it’s not like you had a choice in the matter." Danny told her. Everyone in the room knew of the circumstances surrounding the child’s conception.

"He has a point." Stan added his voice to the discussion.

"You don’t have a problem with it do you?" She asked her cousin.

"Not in the least. My father’s sister and her lover adopted two children. We see them several times a year." He told her. "I don’t know why Michael would have a problem with it. You’re his sister, and he was raised in LA. You would think he’d be a little broader minded."

"Well, let’s recap what we did today. We have buried my grandmother; offended my brother’s idea about family, pissed off my cousin, and made a mockery of a New Yorker. I think we can all sleep easily tonight." Nicole really wanted a cigarette. She fought the urge.

"Never a dull moment." Aaron observed.

"I don’t think we should play with Dana’s head too much tonight." Danny voiced the opposition. "It doesn’t seem right after the rest of the day we’ve had."

"Yeah, and we really don’t want my sister all that upset with us." Stan shuddered. "She’ll make life unbearable when she graduates and moves back down here."

"I suppose we should apologize." The photographer sighed. "Stan can you go get Jessie but avoid bringing back Captain Congeniality?"

"I’ll give it a shot." He disappeared through the doorway.

"What a tangled web we weave." Sheryl muttered. "At least you’re holding up well. You aren’t going to fall apart on us are you?"

"I wasn’t planning on it." Nicole stretched. "I feel surprisingly good, all things considered. It’s strange, but lately I’ve kinda felt like little things were finally clicking in my head. The other night I swear I heard a pop. Maybe I’ve finally learned to accept things and move on."

"’Bout damn time." Jessie stood in the doorway. "I have to apologize for Dana. She was being such a bitch. I don’t know why, she’s really not like that at school."

"It’s alright. We shouldn’t have done what we did to her." Nicole did not fully believe herself, but she knew she had to at least say the words.

"Well, enough of that. I have her looking through baby pictures in the living room. So what’s with Michael? He left like someone just told him his goldfish got ran over by a train."

"He objects to my bringing a child into this world." The photographer put it in simple terms.

"Ah, ok. I didn’t know that was something you’re considering." Jessie took the seat the photographer’s brother vacated. "Is it?"

"Yeah, it is. A little more than just considered though."

"Cool. When?" Jessie grinned.


"Does mom know?"

"Yes, I told her before lunch. She wants to throw a baby shower." Nicole looked at her cousin. She was not surprised Jessie accepted it so easily; it was her cousin’s lack of questions that surprised her.

"Fun, I think. I’ve never been to one. Maybe we should have two. One for those of us still climbing the hill."

"Now that’s an idea." Sheryl looked up for the first time since Jessie entered the room. "That is a great idea."

"I suppose we won’t be able to attend?" Danny asked.

"I don’t see why you couldn’t come to ours and do the father thing." The critic reasoned. "Course, you may have to fight someone for the rights. Can we please call Laurel home now?"

"Maybe we should let her come home willingly?" Nicole asked the group. She really needed their input.

"Why do you ask that?" Jessie seemed a little too curious.

"For all we know she could be enjoying the booze, girls and different towns every night." It was something she had not thought about really. However, it was a consideration.

"I don’t think she is, much anyway." Jessie looked as if she wanted to reclaim the words.

"How long have you been in contact with her?" The final piece of the puzzle fell into place.

"Since she appeared in New York to make the CD. Want her email address?"

"What have you told her?"

"Nothing much really." Jessie shrugged.

"Actually, since it’s confession time, we all have her email address." Sheryl admitted.

"And have you used it?" Nicole realized she should have counted on her friends to at least keep up with the bassist’s movements. It was one of the many reasons why they were her friends. They looked out for her as much as she looked out for them.

"Once or twice. Just to make sure she was ok." Sheryl shrugged. "How were we to know otherwise?"

"I guess you have a point." She sighed. "Is she doing ok?"

"The last time I got an email, she was getting bored, hates Jenna, and said something about running a cult." Sheryl looked a little puzzled.

"That’s a running cult. She’s started jogging with a few of the guys on tour." Jessie clarified. "I talked to her a few days ago on an instant messenger thing."

"Ah. Well I’m glad to hear she’s ok." Nicole did not give voice to the two questions she wanted to ask.

"She does ask about you." Sheryl answered one of the unspoken questions. "Actually she asks about you whenever she sends me an email."

"What do you tell her?" She ignored the other people in the room. She knew they would find out anyway, this just made it easier.

"I tell her a little truth and a little not truth." Sheryl answered. "I tell her you are eating some, you do have a job, and you seem to almost be content."

"Ok. Now where were we?" She changed the subject.

"We were discussing whether or not to bring her home." Danny reminded her. "It’s Thanksgiving, Nicole. Bring her home."

"I need for those of you in contact with her to remember this. Please. Things have changed again, and I’m not sure if we could work them out now. At least it would be harder if she’s gotten a little too comfortable with the amenities you hear about on the road, or can’t handle the child issue."

"So that means if she has by any chance, and none of us know the answer to this question, picked up a girl or two you wouldn’t take her back?" Aaron asked. She could tell he wanted clarification.

"We aren’t together anymore. She can fuck whomever she wants, as long as she keeps herself protected. I was thinking about the other stuff."

"The drug stuff." Sheryl answered. "But, as an aside, she’ll accept the child. She has to in a way. It’s part you."

"Fun stuff, that drug stuff." Aaron’s comment was sarcastic. "Anyway, I need to be back at work fairly early in the morning. What say we leave after dinner?" He turned to his lover.

"That’ll work. Is Melba cooking tonight?" Danny looked hopeful.

"I told her she could go home, but she wanted to be here so she could throw all these people out of her house. She’s scared that if she leaves, they’ll trash the place. I don’t know if she cooked or not though."

"Well, let’s go find out. I, for one, am sick of talking." Stan stood and straightened his tie. They still had not changed from their funeral attire.

"I like that idea." Nicole stood as well. "Let’s go find Melba."


"What? We haven’t even taken off yet?"

"Lakky, we’re home. You’ve been asleep since before the preflight rhetoric." Mandy laughed. "Come on, get your stuff."

"Really?" Laurel unbuckled her seatbelt. Her duffle bag had not shifted too much in the overhead compartment. She freed it with ease before slinging her backpack over her shoulder. "I can’t wait for them to send the rest of my stuff."

"They’re sending it to the house aren’t they?" Mandy asked as they exited the plane.

"Yes they are." Laurel paused to take in the weather. "Ah, it’s good to be home. Clear skies, no snow, lots of moisture in the air, it’s almost warm. It really is nice to be back."

"Yeah it is." The redhead commented. "Let’s go get your dog and get out of here. I need to get home and you need to drive back down to New Orleans."

"Alright, let’s move then."

They walked across the tarmac. The Gulfport-Biloxi Regional Airport was not large. It only had two terminals and no jetway. They climbed the stairs to the terminals and then took the escalator back down to baggage claim. They could hear Muggster before they could see her. The puppy was apparently not fond of flying. Laurel was glad they only had two short flights. She did not want to think about how the puppy might fare during an extended plane ride.

After claiming and releasing the over excited puppy, Mandy led the bassist to her car. They paid for parking and were soon on their way to Hattiesburg. Mandy drove. Laurel was content to watch the scenery she once took for granted pass them by. They were home before she knew it.

"Ok, are you going straight down there?"

"Nope. I want a shower. Flying always makes me feel grungy." Laurel grabbed her bags. "It’s the compressed air. Come on, Muggster, go explore the yard." She watched the small dog run around the trailer.

"She’ll be fine out here right?" Mandy asked.

"She should be. She’s a pretty adaptable dog."

"Good. Let’s go inside. I need to start some laundry. What do you want for dinner?" The redhead asked as she unlocked the door. "Sure you don’t want to stay the night and then go tomorrow?"

"Nah. I’ll drive down tonight. I won’t be able to sleep being so close." Laurel set her bags down inside the door. "I’m going to take a shower, eat, collect some clothing and then jet."

"Alright. Leave any clothes that need washing by the door. I’ll bring them down to you later." Mandy called out as the bassist headed for the bathroom.

As she waited for the water to heat up, Laurel sorted her clothes into two piles. One pile stayed as laundry, the other was put back in her duffle bag. The water was at the point she preferred quickly. It was the benefit of a gas water heater. She was half undressed before an idea occurred to her.

"Hey Mandy, can you bring Muggster back here? She needs a bath too." She wanted everything to be perfect for her reunion with Nicole. That included a puppy that did not smell like an outside dog.

"Sure. Hang on a moment." The door opened and she heard Mandy call for the puppy. "Here you go." A minute later, Muggster was handed through the door. "I like the tattoo."

"Thanks." Laurel laughed. "Alright Muggster. Time for a shower."

Muggster was at most nine months old. She was still small, a little larger than a pug, and Laurel easily handled her in the shower. It was the easiest way to get them both clean. The puppy did not like baths. The first time Laurel gave her one, everything in the bathroom got soaked. This way was better. Laurel was able to wash the dog then wash herself. Muggster was placed outside the shower after being cleaned. The bassist knew the puppy would pout by the door, but could not leave until she finished her shower.

"Where?" Laurel looked around. The small dog was nowhere to be seen. Thinking Mandy freed the puppy; the bassist dried off and got dressed. She carried her duffle bag into her bedroom before searching for the dog.

"I’ve got her." Mandy called out from the living room. She did indeed have Muggster wrapped in a towel and sitting on her lap. "She ran out when I opened the door to toss some clothes into the washing machine. I figured I’d dry her off for you."

"Thanks." Laurel looked at her puppy. Muggster looked comical wrapped in a towel like a baby. Her little face peeked out from under the terry cloth. "I figured you’d find a way of spoiling her quickly."

"It’s not my fault animals love me." Mandy commented. "Are you done in the bathroom?"

"Yes. What’s for lunch?"

"You pack. I’ll sort another load of clothes, and we’ll answer that in a few."

"Ok." She shrugged. "I’ll be in my room."

Her room was just the way she left it, messy. Laurel searched through her closet for decent clothing. She could not find any. There was a pile of clothes she vaguely remembered setting by her desk. She looked through it and rescued a few very wrinkled shirts and pants. She thought about changing into nicer clothes, but decided the jeans and shirt she was wearing would work. Her arrival in New Orleans would shock Nicole. Laurel did not want to give the photographer a heart attack by wearing something nice. She tossed the new additions into her duffle bag, leaving one shirt out to act as a jacket.

She located her backpack, which contained her laptop, and set it on the bed. It was hard for her to decide what to take. Her confidence in the trip’s success was waning. She knew it was nerves. It was an odd feeling. Laurel was not used to being nervous. Nicole had that effect on her.

"Almost finished?" Mandy asked from the doorway.

"I think so. I have clothes, necessities, computer, games, video camera, dog toys and a little doggie food." Laurel inventoried the contents of her backpack and duffle bag. "I think there’s only one more thing to take." She reached in her closet and pulled out a battered guitar case.

"Taking Jon’s guitar?"

"Yeah. Just in case I need to serenade her." She commented. She opened the case and double checked the contents. Her guitar pick was tucked beneath the strings. The strap was still attached. Everything was present and accounted for.

"Wow, you as a romantic. This is new." Mandy laughed. "I doubt you’ll need to do more than walk in and say hi, but it never hurts to be prepared."

"True. Besides, I’ve written a few songs she hasn’t heard yet. I think I’m going to skip lunch. I’ll pick something up on the way down there." She was anxious to leave.

"Make sure you do eat, ok?" Mandy hugged her. "Good luck."

"Thanks." Laurel grinned. "C’mon Muggster, let’s go claim our fortunes."

The bags were tossed in the bed, and the guitar and Muggster were put on the seat. Laurel climbed in after belting the puppy to the seat through her harness. The old truck was slow to start. It was the one thing Laurel had left out of her plan. She did not have an alternate vehicle. BJ still carried around the only set of keys to his car.

"Come on, buddy. Get me down there and you can rust on the lawn after that ok?" She pushed down the gas pedal twice before trying to crank it again. "Please." After the third time, it rumbled to life. "Thank you. Shit we need gas."

Laurel pulled into the first convenient gas station she saw on her way south. It was new and well lit. She brushed her bangs back and noticed they were still not dry. Shrugging off the minor annoyance, she filled the tank. Walking inside, she pulled a bottle of water from the cooler and headed for the cashier. She did stop when the sight of gas station snack food suddenly appealed to her and took a hastily made selection up as well.

"Pack of lights too please." Laurel pointed out the brand of cigarettes she wanted.


"Yeah." Holding back a sigh, the young bassist pulled her wallet from her back pocket and showed her driver’s license to the cashier.

"Aren’t you with that band? The one on the radio?"

"Nope, must have me confused with someone else." Laurel reclaimed her ID and pulled a roll of bills from her pocket. "How much?"

"Seventeen forty-two." The cashier continued to look at her oddly.

"Here." Laurel tossed him a bill. "Donate the change." She hated being stared at.

Once again, the old truck refused to start the first time. She almost cheered when it finally started. She would not be required to turn off the engine again until she pulled into Nicole’s driveway. However, she knew it would take her twice as long to get there than normal. Laurel did not trust the truck at high speeds. She sighed, lit a cigarette and turned on a tape. It was going to be a long ride.

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