Violence Disclaimer: This story depicts scenes of mild violence and/or their aftermath.
Hurt/Comfort Disclaimer: This story has some elements that may be best classified as such.
Love/Sex Disclaimer: This story depicts a loving relationship between two consenting, adult women and contains scenes of intimacy, but nothing explicit. If you are under 18 years of age or if this type of story is illegal in the state or country in which you live, please do not read it. If depictions of this nature disturb you, you may wish to read something other than this story.
No copy write infringement was intended in the use of the song "I Need You"
Thanks, to my beta readers Barbara and Jennis.
All positive comments are welcome at email@example.com
The 5:58 AM sunrise peaked over the horizon with a glow that woke the Southern California day to a golden brilliance. The morning view was like any one of a hundred others?beautifully unique in a dozen different ways. But for the dreamer lying in the small bed, in the small apartment, in the large city of Los Angeles, it didn't matter. She wouldn't see it.
The alarm sounded its annoying buzz and long, slims fingers reached over with amazing accuracy to shut it off. Having already kicked off the covers sometime during the night, Jamie Sheridan slowly threw her feet over the side of the bed and tossed back her mane of black hair. She felt the sun on her back as it streamed through the window and heard the quiet hum of the air conditioner in the next room. For Jamie, the last several hundred mornings played out exactly the same as the one before. One strong cup of coffee, sugar no cream, a forty-five minute workout, a hot shower, another cup of coffee and a light breakfast later and she was ready for a day of work. Holding down two jobs is hard enough for most people, but Jamie was driven by a selfish desire. Selfish in a way that wouldn't hurt anyone else, this time at least, just the fulfillment of a childhood dream, a dream that had disappeared into the dark for awhile, but was now back with a vengeance, thanks to some very meaningful words in a very special book.
Jamie put her dishes into the sink and took her large mug into the living room to finish her coffee. She flipped on the television, but even with over 150 channels, the Saturday morning lineup provided very little that interested her. Not much on television ever interested her though, no matter what day or time. Although she had been known tune in to a program or two on the Discovery Channel or The Animal Planet Network. The reporter on CNN was just starting a story on the latest basketball game. Living in LA and having a team in the finals, it was hard to get away from. She didn't care one way or the other, but after hearing that the Lakers lost to the Pacers, the night before, she hit the off button. Carefully maneuvering around the coffee table, Jamie turned on the radio and swallowed the last of her coffee. A song was nearing it's end and she shuddered involuntarily at the last words, not out of repulsion or excitement, but with a sense of, what she could only describe as, familiarity. Something about the song made her think of the dream she had the night before. The dream she felt she had experienced many times, but could never remember. The words and the melody soon faded away, just like the dream upon waking. Jamie shook off her melancholy and moved toward the next room. The telephone rang just as she was entering the kitchen. She took four, careful steps back and picked up the phone from the end table. "Hello."
"Hi Jamie. Are you ready?" the caller asked.
"Yeah Julie, I'll be out front in fifteen."
Julie Maxwell was one of Jamie's co-workers at GB Scrolls Publishing. The thirty something, single mother had to drive right past Jamie's on her way to the babysitters and she had been giving Jamie a ride to work for the last few months. Julie was a friend, but they were not close by any means, only speaking in the car and in passing at work.
GB Scrolls was a big company and the department Jamie worked in had at least twenty people. But Jamie worked directly with only four others. Besides Julie, there was Mark Wills. He was a nice young man just out of college and being his first job he tended to over compensate at everything he did, much to the aggravation of the boss. Jamie thought the over achiever was kind of sweet though. As for the boss, no one liked her. To say she was a cold bitch was an insult to the insult. Luckily, she spent at least six hours a day in her cushy office, only calling on the phone to bark out orders. Rounding out the quintet was Bridgett Nelson. The red head had only been at the company for six months, having decided to return to part time work after the birth of her last child, three years earlier. She was very pleasant and everyone liked her, even if she was a bit assertive. Of all the people Jamie knew, Bridgett was the one she spent the most time with, often having lunch together at a local café.
Bridgett often talked about her near perfect life with her husband and two children and a big house in the Hollywood hills. She was never bragging, just describing facts about her life. But Jamie couldn't relate to Bridgett's life at all. She always listened with interest and never begrudged her friend her happiness. But there was a small part of Jamie that envied what Bridgett had. Not the money or the house, but the family?something she knew she'd never have. A tragic and bloody past had proved to Jamie that she hadn't learned the art of relating to people on a personal level. As much as she wanted to, she knew she could never escape that inadequacy and learn to love.
Jamie stepped out of the elevator and slowly walked through the small lobby of her building. The cleaning service must have been in last night, Jamie thought to herself when she smelled the freshly shampooed carpet. I'm certainly glad they put down the rug over the old tile, she thought as she reached for the door handle. My butt probably would have been introduced to the floor half a dozen times in the last few weeks. That embarrassing, but hilarious mental picture brought a small smile to her face, as she walked outside and across the small cement landing. She paused at the top of the stairs. Taking her cane in her left hand and holding onto the railing with her right, Jamie, cautiously, took one step at a time.
The sound of an electric hedge trimmer came around the side of the building; Mr. Davis had started his Saturday landscaping. The man and his wife had moved into the building after an early retirement and he had volunteered to take care of the grounds, since gardening had always been a passionate hobby of his. Every week he saw to it that all the women in the building had fresh flowers for their dinner table. Jamie loved the fragrance that greeted her as she sat down to her evening meal, that more often then not, consisted of take out from the array of international restaurants within a two-mile radius.
"Careful of that last step, Jamie," the elderly man warned, as he pulled a rag from his pocket and wiped his neck. "There's a crack in it and it's loose. Someone's supposed to come and fix it this afternoon."
She eased herself over it. "Thanks for the warning, Mr. Davis."
The grayed haired gentleman took her arm and helped her to the sidewalk.
"How's your wife?" asked Jamie, as she settled herself onto the wooden bench.
"She went to visit her sister for the weekend," he answered with just a hint of sadness.
Jamie flashed him a teasing smile. "You mean she took the chance of leaving you alone with a single woman like me, living just down the hall."
He lowered his face in embarrassment at the flattery. "Please Jamie, I won't be able to get this old head through the door," he chuckled. "I don't know why a lovely young lady like you doesn't have'em lined up and waiting."
That was one conversation she didn't want to get into, so she sent him on a detour. "Mr. Davis I need a special flower arrangement next weekend. Do you think??"
"I know just the right thing," he jumped in, excitedly. "My roses out back will be in full bloom by then. I'll make you a great bouquet." She smiled at the kind man. "I'd better get back to work," he said. "I hear my hedges calling me. You have a good day Jamie and don't work to hard."
"Look who's talking. Don't you stay out in this sun to long."
"I won't." He patted her hand and headed back to his gardening. "You know I was thinking," he said, turning back to her. "I should fix that loose carpet inside your door. Emma told me about it the other day. I certainly don't want you to trip over it."
The concern in his voice really touched Jamie's heart. It was the first time, in a long time that someone cared about her for who she was and not what she could give them. "Mr. Davis, I really appreciate it, but everything's okay. I get around just fine. I'll have maintenance take care of it. You don't need to be working that hard."
"All right, but if there's anything you need, you promise to call me. And forgive an old man for being persistent, it's just that you remind me of my granddaughter and I miss her."
Jamie smiled again at the gentlemen and suddenly realized that he and several others in the building, felt like the grandparents she never had. "I understand Mr. Davis and I will, I promise." When she heard the trimmer start up again, she shook her head and gave a sigh coupled with a fond grin. Jamie had purposely moved into a building where two thirds of the occupants were senior citizens. It was quiet and calming after the previous dozen or so hideous years of her life. Another definite plus was the delicious, home cooked meals they brought her from time to time.
Jamie lifted her face to the sky and let the mid-morning sun warm the tan that was already there. She tried to shut off all her thoughts and problems for the few minutes she had before her ride arrived. A myriad of neighborhood regulars passed by on the sidewalk in front of her. A rollerblader, with a lose wheel, zoomed by. A jogger stepped on a twig, which snapped loudly, but he was unfazed by it and ran on. Then came the lady down the street, walking her three dogs, one of whom stopped to sniff at Jamie's feet. Thank goodness that's all he did. But a yank on his harness soon had him back in line with his two canine companions. The California life bustled all around her, but Jamie always felt just outside of everything, always on the edge of having the life she now wanted. The life that just a few short years before, she had tried so hard to throw away. A car horn soon roused Jamie from her thoughts.
"Is everything okay?" asked the woman, leaning out the car window.
"Yeah Julie, I was just?"
Jamie considered for a moment. Is that what I was doing? "Yeah, I guess so."
When two o'clock rolled around, Julie was ready to jump out the door. She only worked on a Saturday morning, because the boss had asked. Jamie, on the other hand, would have kept right on working; there was nothing to occupy the rest of her day. But, unless she wanted to take the bus home, not a pleasurable experience, or spend half the days pay on a taxi, she had to leave then.
After picking up her three-year-old from the babysitter, Julie pulled up in front of Jamie's building.
"I'll see you Monday morning Julie, thanks," Jamie said as she eased her way out of the little car.
"Oh, I almost forgot to tell you," said Julie. "I'm not going to work on Wednesday, Jared has a doctors appointment. Sorry."
"That's okay, I can find a way." Jamie waved toward the back seat. "By Jared. Bye Julie." Jamie took her cane in hand and headed to the stairs, mindful of the cracked first step, which still hadn't been fixed. Once inside, she heard the elevator open. "Hold that would you." The smell of perfume assaulted her nose before she was half way across the lobby. "How are you today, Mrs. Howard?" she asked as she stepped onto the elevator.
The plump, white haired woman set down her shopping bag and shifted the squirming, brown terrier to her other arm. "I'm just fine dear and you?"
Jamie bobbed her head in kind a yes, kind of a no way. "Not to bad."
"I'm glad I ran into you Jamie," said the elderly woman. "My grandson is coming to see me next week."
Jamie's jaw tensed, knowing what was coming next.
"It's been almost two years since I've seen my little Jimmie. I know he hates it when I call him that, but he'll always be little to me."
Jamie just stood there smiling and listening.
By the time they reached the sixth floor, Mrs. Howard had slyly tried to fix Jamie up with her grandson, adding the fact that Jimmie was six years younger then Jamie, wouldn't bother him at all.
The double doors slid open and they stepped out into the hall. Jamie didn't want to insult her, so she began tactfully. "You know Mrs. Howard, I really don't feel up to dating right now. I'm sure he's really nice, I mean he is your grandson, but now is just not a good time."
The woman smiled. "Of course dear, I understand. But I really do hate to see you so lonely."
Jamie removed the wrinkled hand from her cheek and squeezed it affectionately. "I'll be fine, but thank you for caring."
"Always my dear, always."
Mrs. Howard shuffled down the corridor and Jamie heard the small dog yipe once and his owner promise him two doggie treats for being so good. She felt sorry for the woman, who lived alone, her husband having passed on, years earlier. That'll probably be me someday, Jamie thought sadly. But I won't even have the memories of a fulfilled life to keep me company and I doubt even a dog would want to be around me that much.
After fishing her keys out of the pocket of her jeans, Jamie went into her lonely apartment. The sound of the closing door and her heavy sigh were the only noise in the small room. But that was soon remedied when she flipped on the radio. One luxury Jamie had indulged in was an extensive sound system. The high tech equipment filled the room with an incredible resonance, although she kept it low enough, as not to disturb the building's other occupants. There were extensions in the bedroom and the smaller second bedroom, which now served as her workout room. Her musical tastes ran the range from classical to contemporary with stray 70's and 80's hits and movie soundtracks thrown in. The 70's songs always reminded her of her early childhood, the good part anyway.
She was born in a small city in Missouri, where her father worked in a factory. Her mother practiced her craft as a seamstress in a local tailor shop. She loved her parents very much and she felt loved, at least most of the time. They provided Jamie with all the necessities of life and now and then, some small extras that they could afford on their modest income. As many little girls do, she would sometimes daydream about what her life would be like when she grew up. One thing she knew for certain, she would have a horse of her very own. That was her one great wish for five of her first nine birthdays and Christmas's. Her parents could never make that wish come true, but her visions always included the most beautiful and loyal horse known to man.
Another of Jamie's wishes was that her twin sister would have lived. She always wondered what kind of fun they could have had, what kind of trouble they could have gotten into. Jamie used to talk to her late at night, asking for her help to solve the typical childhood problems and later on, the not so easy ones. She may not have heard her sister's voice, but still there were times when she could have sworn that she was answered.
Jamie raided the refrigerator, but all she came up with was a cold root beer. Just as she hit the couch, the phone rang. "Hello."
"Hey kid what's up?"
"Hi Bridgett. Nothing's up, I just got home and?"
"And you're bored," said Bridgett, before Jamie could finish the sentence.
"I wouldn't say I'm bored."
"Okay, so you're tiresome, listless, suffering from the doldrums."
Jamie chuckled. "What did you do, swallow a thesaurus?"
"I'm just well read," retorted the caller. "Let me guess what you're going to do tonight. It is your night off, right?"
"Yes," Jamie answered. There was a pause from Bridgett. "Come on smarty, what do you think?"
"Well you're probably going to order a pizza and spend the rest of the night reading."
Silence filled both ends of the line for several seconds, until Jamie heard a laugh.
"So did I hit the nail on the head, pick the winning number, answer the?"
"Okay, okay so what if that's what I'm gonna do. I like pizza and I like to read."
"That's fine, but as you say, that's all you do, work and stay home. But tonight we are going to change that," said Bridgett.
"Damn right. I'm having a backyard barbecue this afternoon and you're coming over."
Jamie shook her head. "Bridgett you know?"
"I know, you can't thank me enough for the invitation. I'll be by to pick you up in 45 minutes. Bye"
Jamie opened her mouth to say something, but before she could get the first word out, she heard a click on the other end.
As Bridgett's car traveled back to her home in the hills, the two way conversation inside meandered from work to tales of traffic mishaps to Bridgett's family, the latter of which was about to play a big part in Jamie's life.
"I hope you're hungry," said Bridgett, as she turned a corner, "...because Brad bought enough food for the Dallas Cowboys. At least that's the way he put it. In case I've never mentioned it before, Brad relates everything in sports terms."
Jamie laughed. "So, I suppose you'll be having pigskins in a blanket, home plate apple pie."
Bridgett laughed. "Oh you and Brad are going to get along great. Just try and remember he's taken."
Jamie raised a dark brow. "Trust me, you have nothing to worry about. Just how many people are going to be at your party anyway?"
"Don't worry, I know you don't like crowds," said the red head. "There will only be eight others besides my family. Which reminds me, there's someone I'm anxious for you to meet."
A sigh was heard from the passenger side of the fast moving vehicle. "Please don't tell me you're trying to fix me up with a friend of your husbands, or a cousin?"
The driver shook her head adamantly. "No, no I don't play matchmaker, that's much to dangerous. I've lost more than one friend that way."
"That's good to hear, because you are one of the few friends I've got."
"Actually I'm hoping that will change," Bridgett mused, happily. "The person I want you to meet is my sister. She lives alone and she also doesn't have many friends and I'm really busy and?anyway I think you'll really like her. Like you, she loves to read and she loves movies. If you ever need a good trivia partner she's the one to have."
Jamie listened to the love and admiration in Bridgett's words. "It sounds like you two are really close." A slight touch of envy lingered in her voice.
"Yeah, we only had each other growing up, besides our parents I mean. I'm very proud of my little sister. I got into more then a few fights when other kids bothered her and I still would today." Bridgett finished just as she pulled into the long drive behind three other cars. "Looks like everyone's here. Let's go."
Jamie carefully slid her six-foot frame out of the mini van and followed closely behind the hostess, over the stone walkway that led around the side of the huge, two-story house. A part of Jamie still wished she were back in her apartment with a good book and solitude. Socializing was low on her list of skills. "Bridgett, I don't want to take you away from your party, but I really can't stay long."
The hostess spun around. "Hey you just got here and you want to leave already?"
"No, I just wanted you to know, since you insisted, practically demanded I come."
"Well, if you would just allow yourself to, I know you would have a good time. But whenever your ready just say the word and I'll take you back home."
Jamie heard the unmistakable sounds of children playing, as they rounded the corner of the house and into the party area. Two long tables, covered with red checked tablecloths laden with food and two barbecue grills bordered the far side of the brick patio. Several round, white tables, small enough for intimate conversations, sat close to the house. Two larger ones rested farther away from the double glass doors that led into the busy kitchen. A tall, thin man in blue shorts, white T-shirt and a 'Kiss the Cook' apron stood guard over the glowing grills, searing the main course to perfection. He waved briefly at his wife and then returned his attention to cooking. Most of the other adults were inside the house, catching the last few minutes of the baseball game. Four youngsters, ranging in age from three to ten, were running and tumbling over a patch of perfect green lawn and on their heels leapt a big golden dog.
"Hey you kids quiet down a little will ya," warned Bridgett.
Five heads popped up over the hedge. "Sorry Mom," said a young, sandy haired boy.
Bridgett shook her head. "Do you remember making that much noise when you were a kid?"
Jamie's face clouded over with a mixture of emotions. "No, not when I was a kid."
The hostess didn't want to overwhelm her guest with a dozen introductions, but there was one she just had to make. She scanned the faces looking for her target. "Come on Jamie," she said taking her by the arm, leading her to one of the smaller tables nestled in the corner of the yard. As they got closer, the woman sitting there suddenly captured Jamie's wandering attention.
"Excuse me for a minute," said Bridgett. "I'll be right back." She ran to break up a scuffle between her son and his cousin.
Jamie stood rooted to the spot. She knew her staring was rude, but the woman didn't seem to notice. But Jamie sure noticed her. She's beautiful. She then amended her thought. She's the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. She looked away and shook her head. You can't even go there, so just stop it now, Jamie told herself. Anxiousness washed over like she hadn't felt in a long time. A time, which she could now say, was the worst in her life. But in the next instance it felt like her spirit was being illuminated from the inside. She jumped when Bridgett touched her arm.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to scare you."
The dark head shook. "No, its okay, I was just thinking."
"Not about leaving I hope."
"No," Jamie said, with a small smile. "Actually, I just realized that it might be a very interesting night."
"Good." The hostess led her over to the table that had garnered Jamie's attention, seconds earlier. "Erin." The blonde turned in their direction. "Jamie, I'd like you to meet my sister, Erin Casey. Erin, this is my friend, Jamie Sheridan."
The seated woman held out her hand, which Jamie eagerly took. "It's nice to meet you Jamie. Bridgett told me all about you."
"I can't imagine that was a long description," the tall woman chuckled.
Bridgett playfully slapped her arm. "Would you stop being so hard on yourself. Now sit down and talk my sister. She already ate, but she'll keep you company. I'll get you something to eat."
Bridgett scurried away before Jamie could say anything. She turned to the other woman. "Is your sister always so??"
"Well, I was going to be polite, but yes." Jamie took the chair closest to her new acquaintance.
"Brig sometimes makes it impossible to be polite. I love my sister and she always?well almost always, means well, but she is pushy. But you should know, you work with her."
"Next to our boss she's a kitten, so I guess I didn't realize it. You know we've only had lunch a few times, so I was a little surprised when she invited me here."
"Like I said, she has a good heart and she thinks you're lonely," Erin added, timidly.
"I'm more like a lost cause," whispered the dark haired woman.
Erin's acute hearing caught the words and let the comment float around in her brain as she got to know the Jamie better. The blonde thought herself to be a very good judge of character and she knew that this woman needed something. She may not admit she's lonely, but she knows she's alone. And everyone needs someone to love. Love? Where did that come from?
"Here you go, "said Bridgett, as she returned with nourishment for her guest.
Jamie's eyes widened at the sight of the plate, piled high with goodies. "I can't eat all of this."
"Oh sure you can," Bridgett said. "You're always telling me you only eat take out and this is good food, if I do say so myself. Look at it as if you're storing up for a few days." She turned to the giggling blonde. " Can I get you some more iced tea, Sis?"
Erin smiled and Jamie almost dropped the fork that was half way to her mouth. That smile seemed to light up the whole world, or maybe just her world.
"My sister seems to think that everyone has my appetite," laughed the younger woman.
"Yeah, but did you eat this much?" Jamie asked, after swallowing the mouth full of salad.
"I had enough to fill up for a week. I'm a pretty good cook, but I don't do it to much, just for me."
"Well that beats me, I can't cook at all," said Jamie, as she continued to sift through the piles of food stacked on the foam plate in front of her. Her thoughts floated back to a time long ago.
"Sweetheart this is the best meal you've ever made," said Michael Sheridan, as he scooped another helping of potato salad onto his plate.
His wife reached down and kissed his cheek, as she passed by. "You say that about every meal I cook. But thank you."
"And our beautiful little girl here, is going to be just like you, when she's grows up. Aren't you Jamie?" asked, the dark haired man.
The seven-year-old just nodded, because her mouth was full of her last bite of hot dog.
Amy Sheridan sat down on the wooden bench next to her daughter. "Do you want something else to eat Honey?"
The dark head shook. "No Mommy, I'm full."
Amy smiled. "Well, that's too bad," she said teasingly. "I've got strawberry shortcake for desert, but if you don't have any room..."
Jamie's blue eyes widened and the little wheels in her brain spun around. She scooted off the bench and ran across the grass, for about twenty feet, and then she ran back and stopped right in front of her mother. "I have room now, Mommy."
Her parents laughed.
Jamie remembered later on, flying a kite with her father. His strong arms held her up, while she held onto the string. They ran across the field as the red diamond dipped and swooped, high in the sky. Her mother sat by smiling, watching the antics of her family. The wind began to die down and Michael reeled in the kite, as Jamie ran over to her mother.
"Did you see, Mommy? Did you see how high I made it go?" she asked excitedly, as she was lifted onto her mother's lap.
"I sure did Honey. You are the best kite flyer ever."
They were soon joined by, a slightly out of breath, Michael. "Well Pumpkin, I think we should be heading home," he said.
A slight frown fell over the girl's face.
"Don't worry Honey," said her mother, with a kiss to the top of her head. "We'll come back again, I promise."
Jamie hopped down off her mother's lap and turned to face both of her parents. "Can we do one more thing?" she asked, emphasizing her point by holding up one small finger.
The Sheridan's had a hard time refusing their daughter anything. "What do you want to do Sweetheart?" asked Amy.
Little Jamie took that finger and pointed to her left, over the hill. Just the top of the colorful, rotating object could be seen, but the cheerful calliope music was letting its notes be heard, loud and clear.
They should have known. The carousel was their daughter's favorite.
"Let's go," said Michael.
Standing in between her parents, holding onto their hands, Jamie looked up at them with twinkling blue eyes and a semi-toothless grin. Her parents looked at her, then at each other.
What Jamie didn't know was what they were thinking. They knew how wonderful it would have been to have two just like her, but after losing Jordan, they vowed to each other, to cherish every moment Jamie's life and give her all the love in the world.
Hand in hand, the happy family ran over the hill, where all three mounted majestic steeds and rode side by side. Jamie never wanted the day to end.
"Jamie," the sweet voice called again.
A hand on her arm brought her back from the memory. "What? I'm sorry, I drifted away for a minute."
The melancholy in her voice was unmistakable, but again Erin didn't pry. She didn't want this woman to bolt because of her curiosity. "That's okay," Erin said. "I just wanted to give you a little hint." She leaned in, as if to tell a secret. "Leave some room for the desserts," she whispered. "There is a chocolate cake over there that you just have to try."
"That good huh?"
"Its fantastic." There was a hesitation before Erin continued. The adorable giggle sounded again. "But chocolate is one of my weaknesses," she admitted.
Jamie ran her tongue along the inside of her mouth. "You didn't happen to make this fantastic cake did you?"
A blush flew to the blonde woman's cheeks and she dropped her head. Jamie suddenly saw how the sun highlighted the vague red accents in the Irish woman's short-cropped hair. Feather like hair that framed an angelic face. She didn't want to be caught staring, so she took a quick sip of her soda. Jamie had been a notorious tease since her teen years, although then it was just used to get something, but she still loved to do it. Now, the only recipients of that facet of her personality were the older people who shared her apartment building. Watching the cute reaction of the woman in front of her meant only one thing; more teasing was in order. She cleared her throat. "Gee, I'd really like to try that fantastic cake, but there's so much food here and I wouldn't want to insult Bridgett."
Erin teased back. "Oh, she wouldn't be insulted?but I might." She flashed that one thousand-watt smile.
I think I just met my match, thought Jamie. "Well in that case, I'll definitely have some later."
Their conversation turned to the normal getting to know one another questions. Erin was very open about herself, but Jamie tended to give short non-descript, although honest answers. Lying made her feel horribly guilty, but there were still things that she couldn't tell anyone and to those questions she simply said she'd rather not talk about it.
"So what do you do at GB Scrolls?" asked Erin, as she sipped her cool drink.
Between bites of the good California cuisine, Jamie explained that she was a proofreader and did some data entry. "I've always loved to read, so it seemed like something I could do. The computer work, I've only learned since I've been there, but it was pretty easy for me to pick up. So what occupies your workday?"
Erin gave a small ironic chuckle. "As a matter of fact, I'm a writer."
That little fact piqued Jamie's attention. "Really, what do you write?"
"Don't laugh," begged the little blonde.
"Why would I do that?"
"Because my literary endeavors run a wide trail of interests and genres. I started out writing children's books."
"Well that's certainly nothing to laugh about. In fact I think early childhood is the best part of any of our lives."
Erin detected a hint of sadness in her response. "I agree," she said. "I love kids. My niece and nephew, over there, have me wrapped around their fingers and they take every opportunity to exploit that fact."
Jamie took a long glance at the children, playing tag across, the yard. She had seen pictures of Bridgett's children sitting on her desk at work, so it was easy for her to pick out the sandy haired, seven-year-old, whose name, she knew was Conner. His three-year-old sister, who was now hugging, practically riding the big dog, was named Caitlin. Unlike her brother, mother or her father, she had hair the color of corn silk. She was a miniature version of her favorite aunt. "And you really love it," said Jamie.
Erin drew a lop-sided smile over her face. "Guilty as charged."
Jamie finished her last bite of food, at least the last she dare take. "If you'll excuse me," she said, carefully balancing her plate in one hand and her cane in the other. "I'm going to get a piece of that fantastic cake, before it all disappears. Can I get you something?"
"No thank you. I'm fine."
You certainly are, Jamie's mind shouted as she walked away.
What a totally mysterious person you are Jamie Sheridan, thought Erin. Even though we just met and you certainly didn't give up any personal information, I feel like I've known you forever. It's odd, but nice.
Jamie stood at the desert table slipping a piece of the chocolate confection on to her plate. She couldn't help but to look back at the blonde author, who seemed deep in thought. She tried to be inconspicuous in her study of the young woman. I wonder what color her eyes are? Blonde hair, hmmm, most people would say blue, but they're green, I just know it. Brilliant green. I wish she'd take off those glasses. Damn California sun. Jamie returned to her seat and started to dive into her desert. "So what's the next trail you ventured down on your literary adventures?"
Erin hesitated only a moment before answering. "Poetry."
"Romantic or otherwise?" Jamie asked, with a sneaky lilt. "And this cake is fantastic by the way."
"Romantic, of course and thank you." Erin shifted in her seat, stretching out her stiff legs. Her right foot struck something hard.
Jamie gasped and pulled her foot back.
Erin sat straight up. "I'm sorry Jamie, was that you!?"
"Sort of," she chuckled. "I broke my ankle four weeks ago. I hate this damn cast. It's gotten in my way and kept me from doing more things then I can count."
"Did I hurt you?" Erin asked with obvious concern.
"No. No, its fine."
"Positive," insisted Jamie.
Erin released a breath and relaxed back into her seat. "How did you do it?" The proverbial cat had nothing on Erin Brienne Casey.
Jamie dismissed it with a casual wave of her hand. "Oh, it was a silly accident. Maybe I'll tell you about it some other time. Right now, I'd much rather hear more about you. You're right, children's books and poetry are certainly different."
"As they say, you ain't heard nothing yet. My latest project was science fiction."
Once again the fork stopped halfway to Jamie's mouth as the bells and whistles went off and connections ran around her brain, finally deciding she couldn't be that lucky. But she had to ask anyway. "Are you E. B. Casey?who wrote The Noah Factor?"
A warm smile answered her question before the words did. "Yes, I wrote that."
Jamie was momentarily stunned; trying to form every word she'd ever wanted to say to this woman. "I apologize before hand, because I'm about to gush and most likely make a fool of myself. But I swear, every word will be true."
Children's laughter ran in circles, sounds of nature abound and conversations were all around the small table, but they all filtered down to a whisper, as all Erin could seem to hear, was the rich voice of this new?friend.
Yes, this woman was fast becoming a friend.
Jamie told her it was her all time favorite book. How she'd read it three times and every time she'd found something new that touched her. She failed to add that the words on those pages pulled her back from the brink of self-destruction. But Erin read between the lines, so to speak and caught a hint of the unspoken meaning. Jamie's comments went on for several minutes until she finally had to stop and take a drink.
Erin was incredibly heartened at all the kind words. She didn't know what to say except a simple, thank you.
A force that she couldn't even put a name to compelled Jamie; she reached out to cover the author's hand and with a deep breath, garnered the courage to make the hard confession. "No, thank you. That story literally saved my life. I read it at a time when I was totally giving up on myself. I saw something in your words that no counselor, psychiatrist, psychologist or spiritual leader could have shown me in a lifetime?hope."
The blonde author pushed aside the lump in her throat to release her response. "Well," the word came out as a small breath. "I'm supposed to be that good and I can't think of a thing to say. Actually, yes I can. I have never in my life been so glad to put words to paper. I knew there had to be a reason for the accident. Now I know, because I never would have written that story if I hadn't had that loss. Thank you for being here."
Both women sat back with a heavy sigh. Jamie seemed to have missed last part of Erin's comment; her emotions were just too high. "I didn't mean to make every thing so serious here," she said.
"Yes, I think we could both use a little diversion," the author suggested. "What time is it?"
Jamie checked the leather-banded watch, around her wrist. "Its 8:08."
Erin considered a moment. "Would you like to take a walk in the gardens?"
Jamie mirrored the smile on the other woman's face. "Sure, that sounds nice." Before Jamie could stand, she heard the smaller woman release a piercing whistle.
"Arte, Artemis. Come here girl," Erin called, enthusiastically. In the next second, the big dog that had been playing with the children came lumbering over to her owner. Erin leaned down and vigorously rubbed the dog's head and scratched behind the floppy ears. "Did you have a good time playing with the kids, huh?" The canine responded by painting the woman's face with affectionate doggie kisses. Erin grabbed the leather harness around the dog's body with her left hand and with her right she reached for the handle that had been lying over the arm of her chair. She attached the two ends to the harness and let the dog lead her away from the table.
After just a few steps, Erin could tell that her friend wasn't following and she turned back. "Is something wrong Jamie? Is your ankle hurting?"
Jamie felt like a total idiot. Why didn't Bridgett tell me?? How could I not have?? She knew Erin was waiting for an answer and that her silence had probably already insulted the gracious woman. "No, no I'm fine. It's just?I'm sorry?I didn't realize?"
"That I was visually impaired?" supplied the younger woman.
"Yeah." Jamie kicked her self mentally. Well you did it again, chased away another friend. Then something totally unexpected happened. A smile greeted her when she looked back up.
"That's okay," said Erin. "I didn't know you had a broken ankle, until I kicked it. Let's go."
The gardens consisted of meandering, embedded stone pathways bordered on one side by perfectly sculptured green hedges. The inside area of the walkway, greeted its visitors with a rainbow of petals of all shapes and heights. A spectacular rose garden of white and red was the next area they quietly passed through.
The charming Irish author with a smile that could chase away the world's cares quickly alleviated the earlier feelings of embarrassment Jamie had felt. Now a comfortable silence fell between them. Besides the occasional birdcall or clicking insect, their footfalls were the only comforting sounds, having left the bustle of the party behind them.
Lilac permeated the air as they walked through the lavender budded bushes. Jamie was content to follow wherever the other woman would lead her. They rounded a curve and encountered a footbridge over a small water garden, complete with falls and floating water lilies. Jamie was actually quite surprised with herself as she took in all the beauty around her. Normally she wasn't one to stop and smell the roses of life, but being in the present company and the nature that surrounded them, she felt...alive.
Finally they arrived at their destination. Erin seated herself on an intricately carved, stone bench and invited her guest to do the same. Artemis sat obediently at her owner's feet, looking tired after hours of chasing after the children.
"These gardens are absolutely beautiful," said Jamie, wistfully.
"Yes, they are. Bridgett and I used to play here when we were kids. She says they're exactly the same, except for the water garden that they added."
"Was this your parents' house?"
"No, it belonged to a family friend and when they were ready to sell a few years ago, Bridgett jumped at it." Erin pointed to the huge expanse directly in front of them. "This is my favorite spot in the whole place. As much as I like the scent of roses and lilacs, this wildflower patch is the best." Erin sat there, enjoying the perfect moment, listening to the quiet, slow breathing next to her. "Are the butterflies here?" she asked softly.
"Yeah." An unconscious smile formed on the tall woman's face as she watched the delicate, winged creatures flitting about, their colors rivaling the blanket of petals below them.
A few minutes passed before anything else was spoken. "You can ask," Erin finally said.
Jamie feigned ignorance. "Ask what?"
"You would like to know what happened. How I lost my sight. It doesn't bother me. I know its only human curiosity. And if it wasn't for curiosity, no one would read my books."
"Well, I guess I was wondering."
The blonde head nodded. "It was an accident. Almost four years ago, I was in Houston, meeting with a new publisher about some illustrations for my children's books. I left the appointment and was walking back to my car. I had to pass by this chemical plant...they had a spill and then an explosion. Bad timing. I was right in its path. When I finally woke up, a few days later, it was gone."
"With all the advances in medical science, they couldn't do anything?"
"Then, no. But as a matter of fact, a doctor, doing research on injuries like mine, contacted me recently. He's made some breakthroughs with a new, experimental, treatment and surgery. But it also requires an organ donor. I do want to try it, so I went to the bottom of a very long list of other people waiting for transplants. Unfortunately not enough people think about organ donations. But, I can't really blame them. Before this happened, I never gave it a second thought."
Jamie looked away with guilt. "Neither have I?until now. Maybe you could give me some help on how to do that."
Erin smiled. "I will." This time it was she who reached out to put her hand on Jamie's arm. "Thank you. You know, I actually consider myself lucky. Four other people died in that explosion." Again the mood was getting to heavy. "It should be just about time."
"Time for what?"
The author turned to the other side and pointed in the direction of the sky. "For that."
Jamie's eyes drifted to the area. What she saw immediately sent her back to the pages of Noah Factor. Her mind re-reads the last passage.
Simeron Noah slipped her hand into Jessie's. Her faithful horse, Star, nudged Sim's shoulder with her white muzzle. Star's new colt Sierra, asked Sim to explain, what was happening in the sky ahead of them.
Sim smiled and her pale blue eyes glowed with the reflection of the beginning sky show. "The sun that provides us with light during the day, moves away from us, pulling the darkness across the sky, behind it," she explained. "That means that this day is coming to an end. When you go to sleep in the dark and wake up again in the light, it will be a new day."
The little horse didn't fully understand the meaning of her words. She was only a week old and the big world and all of its simple and complex happenings were proving to be overwhelming. But Sierra knew that her mother's best friend Sim would be patient and teach her everything she needed to know. What she didn't realize was that she would need to pass on her knowledge to her own children. She was the first in line of this new evolution of the animal species. Sierra didn't know enough yet to be proud of this. But her first friend, Simeron Noah, smiled with that emotion, as she hugged the little horse's brown neck.
Sim, Jessie and mother and child, peered out over the edge of the canyon. The glowing ball of fire was just beginning to dip between the tall mountain peaks. The surrounding sky swirled, gently painted with the almost indescribable colors of flaming red to fluffy pink to wispy purple. All draped over a sky of pale blue and dotted with puffs of ivory. The peace it ignited in every soul who gazed upon it, man and animal, was enough to insure a beautiful future for all the planet's new inhabitants.
The shimmering edge finally disappeared completely, beyond the horizon, signaling the close of the first day of a new life on Terra Two.
"That's where you got it." Jamie's whispered voice dripped with awe.
"I thought you might recognize it."
Jamie sat there watching, until the glowing sphere completely sank below the horizon. She looked to see that Erin was still facing in that direction, not knowing that the amazing show was over and Jamie didn't quite have the heart to mention it. A single butterfly lit on the tip of her shoe before it took off to find cover from the coming darkness. "We'd better get back," Jamie said quietly, as if the previous moments had been constructed of glass and would shatter upon the sound of her voice.
"Yeah, I guess," Erin said, wistfully. "Knowing Bridgett, she'll come hunting us down before long." She was strongly regretting the evening's end.
Dusk settled over the fragrant gardens as the three visitors, two humans and one canine, slowly made their way back to the party. Small talk passed between the two humans, but after the dramatics that dominated the previous conversations, Erin and Jamie both wanted to end the night on a pleasant note.
Notes of a melodious kind greeted them upon their return. Soft strains of music floated through the yard and tall torches lined the perimeter of the party area. Dancing flames provided a sensual shimmer, as the stone patio became an impromptu dance floor for three couples. The hostess and her husband were one of the swaying pairs, so involved in each other that Bridgett didn't even notice her sister's return.
Jamie watched the romantic scene with a profound sadness, a self-imposed ache, but somehow that didn't seem to ease the pain any. Suddenly a warm hand slipped around her upper arm. Usually an unexpected touch would startle her, but not this one. It did however send an even stronger pain, accompanied with a sense of guilt, straight to her heart.
"Jamie," said the silky voice she'd been listening to all evening.
"What? I'm sorry, is something wrong?"
"I was going to ask you the same thing. You were so quiet, I just wanted to make sure you were still here," Erin said with a smile. Even though she couldn't see it, she just knew that it was returned.
"I was just listening to the music, I guess," Jamie said, as she looked over the group.
"Is Brig around?"
"Yeah, she's dancing."
"Well, that figures. My sister is a hopeless romantic."
"And you're not?" The words left Jamie's mouth before she could stop them. Damn, why did I ask that?
The torchlight, behind Erin's head, softly highlighted the slight blush that rose to her cheeks. " Of course, I am." Or at least I want to be.
The next song started and that shudder went up Jamie's spine again. Damn! What is it about that song? It makes me feel so strange. It's a love song, so it obviously has nothing to do with me, but...
And I'm meeting you again for the first time
Two hearts, but one soul
Two halves are now whole
Cause you know who I am
And you know what I need
I'm safe in your arms
And you make me believe
The song continued on and Jamie suddenly realized that the small woman had not removed her hand. She reached up to cover the fingers around her arm and smiled. "A...Erin..."
"There you are," said Bridgett as she approached them, interrupting Jamie's words. "I was just about to come looking for you two."
The dark haired woman jumped at the voice and her thought flew away with the moment. "It's a good thing you were pre-occupied then." Jamie nodded toward the other dancing couples.
"Hey, don't knock it till you've tried it," said the red head.
Erin felt the tall woman stiffen beside her. Her natural curiosity was screaming at her to find the answers to this mysterious and troubled woman.
"Are you ready to go Jamie?" asked the hostess.
There was a hesitation during which a small part?okay a big part of her wanted to stay. But she knew it was over. It was time to go. Maybe it would have been better if I hadn't come at all, she thought. "Yeah, I'm ready," she said, trying to keep the sadness out of her voice.
"Okay, give me about ten minutes. Can I get you anything sis?"
"No, I'm fine."
"Why don't we sit down?" suggested Erin. "My sister said you live close to Paramount Studios?"
"Yeah. Are you living here with your sister?"
"No, actually I have a place at the beach, but since it's so late, I'm staying here tonight. Brig will take me home in the morning."
"Well, Erin it was nice meeting you. Thank you for showing me the sunset and the other beautiful sights."
Bridgett came bouncing back to the table. "We can go now Jamie."
"Nice meeting you to Jamie. I hope we can talk again sometime."
"Maybe," came the forced cheerful response. "Goodbye Erin."
The two women walked away, leaving Erin in her silent contemplation. Her left hand affectionately stroked the golden head sitting at her side. The evening had been a total surprise to her. She had expected to sit alone, enjoying the sounds of her family having a good time, exchanging the occasional words with her sister or maybe reading to her niece. And she would have been content with all those activities. But meeting Jamie stirred something inside of her. Something she hadn't felt in a long time. If she were totally honest with herself, something she had never felt. During their short time together, Erin was captivated by the enigmatic quality the woman had. She longed to know what she looked like, drawing several illustrations in her vivid mind. I have to talk to her again. I can get her phone number from Bridgett. I can invite?
"Aunt Ewin," said the small voice, interrupting her thoughts. "Can I sit in you wap?"
"Sure sweetie." She picked up her niece and settled her sideways. "Are you tired honey?"
The small head bobbed up and down and lay back against her aunt. Erin rocked the tiny body and softly hummed a lullaby, while thinking about her future.
Bridgett's van cruised down the LA freeway, cutting through the darkness, nearing the lights of the city. The radio had been the only sound in the car for the first few miles, but Bridgett thought it was about time. "I told you so," she said, as they passed under the one-mile warning sign for her exit.
Jamie kept her steely gaze forward. "You told me so what?" Jamie asked, hiding a small smirk.
"That you'd have a good time."
"And how do you know I had a good time?"
"That's easy. I figured you'd stay at least an hour to be polite. An hour and a half if you liked the music and the food. Two hours if you snuck one of your books in under your shirt and found a quiet corner. But four hours, you must have been deliriously happy."
"Smart ass. You're pretty proud of yourself huh?"
"Absolutely. Even if you did monopolize all of my sister's attention."
Jamie turned to the driver at the mention of her favorite subject. "Why didn't you tell me she was a famous author?"
The older woman shrugged. "I guess I don't think of her that way. To me, she's just my sister."
"Well, she's the most interesting person I've met in a long time. No offense."
Bridgett laughed softly. "None taken. And I agree with you. She's great. But I know she's lonely. I don't understand why she won't go out with any of the dates I offer to set her up with. They're all nice men."
"I'm sure your sister will find her happiness," Jamie said as the car pulled into the parking area behind her apartment building. Stopping under a brilliantly lit lamppost, Bridgett parked the car, intending to wait until her friend was safely inside. Jamie lifted a casted foot and slid out of her seat. She closed the door and stuck her head back into the rolled down window. "I'll see you Monday, Bridgett." She started to walk away, but turned back again with a crooked smile. "And I did have a good time. Thank you."
Jamie dug the keys, to her apartment, out of the pocket of her snug fitting jeans. She didn't know what was worst part about breaking her ankle, having to cut back on her exercise regiment, having to maneuver with the stupid cane or having to split the leg of all her jeans to fit over the huge, ugly hunk of plaster on her left foot.
The overhead light in her small living room sprang to life with the flick of a switch. The clunk of keys hitting the coffee table was followed immediately by the punch of the button on the stereo.
A Miller Lite, which she had pilfered from the party, with two swallows missing, soon sat next to the keys. Jamie reached for the TV remote and hit the power button, then the mute. She flipped through two dozen channels, not really seeing what was on any of them, before she turned it off again.
Jamie thought she had the restlessness beaten. There was something inside, chasing around her nervous system like two roller coasters on a collision course. She hadn't felt this since her teen years, when she was fighting herself. Before Jamie left her foster home, she had been through four counselors. One she scared away, two just gave her up as a lost cause and one had more serious problems then she did, she'd found out first hand. Only years later, after the string of tragedies, did she discover that she could lose herself in books. That's when her life, such as it was, started to come together.
Jamie swallowed the last of her beer, dropped the bottle in the recycle bin and headed to the bathroom. She caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror and brought a hand up to rub her jaw. Why does my face hurt? she thought. Because you haven't smiled that much in a long time, dummy. She stared at her own reflection, but only saw the beautiful, blonde headed author. Her smile was infectious though. The grin soon faded as two other faces flashed across her memory. A tear slid down her cheek and plowed another deep furrow of grief on her well-worn soul. Jamie scowled at herself. "You could hide behind her mask of blindness for awhile, but eventually she'd still see right into your soul and go running into the night. I can't do that again. I can't do that to her."
Dust danced along the shaft of light, filtering through the blinds, into the small bedroom. It slowly warmed the t-shirted back of the sleeper and soon, drowsy eyes pried open to face the bright green, digital lights staring back at her. Seven, zero, zero exactly. Even though it was Sunday and Jamie allowed herself an extra hour of sleep, her internal time clock kept its perfect record.
She kicked off the light cover and padded into the bathroom where she took care of personal business, including brushing both teeth and hair. Having switched her sleeping attire, which consisted of her favorite, blue Sylvester and Tweety T-shirt and blue plaid sleep shorts, for her workout clothes, she went to the kitchen for her morning fuel.
Her spare bedroom barely held the three pieces of equipment that she deemed necessary to maintain her good physical condition. The treadmill and stationary bike had to be passed up for the last month due to her busted appendage, so the weight bench got overtime. As Jamie moved the heavy barbell from mid-air to her chest and back again, she kept her thoughts far away from the previous evening.
The clock on the wall read 8:45. She wanted to go fifteen more minutes, but less than twenty seconds later the phone rang. Her first thought was to let the machine get it, but she hated talking to those things and decided to give the caller a break. Still lying down on the bench she grabbed the cordless, on the floor next to her. "Hello."
"Hi Jamie, it's Erin Casey."
Jamie shot up, narrowly missing hitting her head on the bar above her. She squeezed her eyes shut in an attempt to control the conflicting emotions firing inside her brain.
"I hope I'm not bothering you," said Erin. "I didn't wake you did I?" she added with alarm.
"No. I've been awake for a while and of course you're not bothering me. What can I do for you?"
"Actually... I wanted to invite you to lunch. Brig was going to drive me home, but she wants to go shopping and I'm not in the mood for that. I thought instead, she could drop me off at DeeJay's Cafe' and you could meet me there." She hesitated then added. "It is close to your building isn't it?"
"Yeah, it's only a couple of from blocks from here."
But with no further comment, Erin asked, "Unless you have other plans?" Her disappointment was evident.
Jamie wiped the sweat at her temple. Whether it was from the exercise or the fear, she didn't know. Say yes, you have plans, say yes, yes, her mind yelled. But other parts of her body told the truth. "No, I don't have any plans."
"Well, would you like to have lunch? I'd really like to get to know you better."
"Okay, that sounds nice."
"Great!" Erin practically jumped through the phone with her answer. "How about 11:30?"
"See you then, bye."
Jamie heard the smile on the other end of the line, but as she disconnected, her face held a heavy frown. She scolded herself. Why did you do that? Jamie used the white, terry cloth towel and vigorously rubbed her damp face. I thought we had this settled last night. Several more minutes of internal contemplation followed. "What's one more lunch," she shrugged and finished up her fifteen minutes.
The sun was nearing its highest point as Jamie rounded the corner onto Rosewood Avenue and approached the busy café. She stopped on the sidewalk and scanned the outdoor tables for the familiar face. She found it, sitting at a small table in the back corner, reminiscent of her first glimpse the night before. I could leave, she'd never know. But that would hurt her. We just met though; it couldn't hurt that much. She debated with herself. I could make up a good excuse. Just then something startling happened. Erin turned in her direction, as if she were looking right at her. Jamie didn't know what that meant, but she knew she couldn't leave then.
She slowly maneuvered through the close set tables and stopped right in front of the author without a word.
"Yeah, how did you know?"
Erin smiled. "I heard the heavy fall of your cast on the cement."
"Oh, that's good. I never would have thought of that." Jamie pulled out the chair and sat down. "Have you been waiting long?"
"Only about five minutes. I'm hungry. How about you?"
Jamie glanced over the many lunch selections on the menu. "I thought sure I'd still be full from all the food I ate last night, but yeah, I am a little hungry."
The waitress soon took their orders to the kitchen and returned with their drinks.
"So how did you break your ankle?" Erin asked, jumping right into conversation. "You did say you'd tell me sometime."
Jamie started grinning again. Boy, am I in trouble. She took a long sip of her coke.
Erin waited a few seconds, but the ensuing silence was to long. "You don't have to tell me. I'm being to nosey."
" No, it's not that. I told you it was a silly accident. And it's really embarrassing."
Erin smiled deviously. "Now I know I want to hear it." She crossed her heart with her right hand. "I promise not to tell another soul."
"Especially your sister," said Jamie, adamantly. She twisted in her seat, but continued. "Okay my short, but dirty little tale goes like this. I pulled my limo into the drive..."
"Wait!" Erin blurted out. "You own a limo?"
"No! No, I drive a limo. It's my second job."
"Oh. Okay. Sorry I interrupted."
Jamie went on. "The lot was all wet, where they'd been washing the cars. My boss is a real tight wad. He won't use automatic washes. We have to do it ourselves. Any way it wasn't just wet, there were standing puddles everywhere. I didn't want to get my new eighty-five dollar shoes, wet." She paused to take a drink. "There's a small grassy area next to the building and it's slightly uphill. I pulled the car up there and got out, so proud of myself for staying dry. I took three steps and my left foot went one way and I went the other."
Erin cringed. "Ow, that hurt."
"But, I don't understand what's so embarrassing about that?"
Jamie blushed, even though her companion couldn't see it. "Well, the grass wasn't totally clear of its own obstacles. It had been recently visited by one of our canine friends?or for me, enemy." She shook her head. "Ruined my shoes anyway."
Erin put a hand to her mouth. Her shoulders and head slightly convulsed.
Jamie bit back her own smile at the cute woman, trying so hard not to laugh at the situation. "You're going to bust if you don't let that laugh out," Jamie told her.
"I'm sorry," Erin said, through the chuckles. "I'm just glad Artemis wasn't here to hear that." She heard Jamie begin laughing with her and that sound sent warmth over her lonely heart.
The waitress delivered the food to the two friends sharing merriment and Jamie started in on her chicken salad and fries. The conversation stayed away from anything long and complicated, although there were still many things that each wanted to know about the other. But Erin was certain there was time for that. Jamie had even relaxed enough in the woman's company that her fears had momentarily dissipated.
Erin finished the last of her drink and dabbed the corners of her mouth with her napkin. She leaned forward. "I don't suppose the waitress left a dessert menu, did she?"
Jamie looked down to the brightly colored piece of cardboard. "As a matter of fact, she did. You still have room for something else?"
Erin giggled. "I always have room for dessert and I don't mean Jell-O."
"Come on, we can split something," urged the blonde.
Jamie was learning that it was going to be almost impossible to refuse that smile anything. "Okay, you talked me into it. But I don't think anything on this list will come close to your cake."
Erin was startled by the compliment. She knew the night before, Jamie had been teasing her about touting her own cooking, but this was a genuine comment. "It's to bad they don't have ice cream."
"You like ice cream do you?"
"Ice cream is my worst weakness." The Irish face filled with decadence. "I would do anything?well almost anything for ice cream."
Jamie felt guilty about being able to observe this woman unnoticed, but she couldn't help herself. "How about turtle brownie?" she finally asked.
"Ooo, that sounds good." Erin motioned the waitress and gave her the order. "You know I was wrong."
"The ice cream. If you add hot fudge, whipped cream and nuts I would do anything."
I wonder what you would do for a cherry on top, Jamie thought, but then gave herself a mental slap for such a wicked thought.
After finishing the scrumptious dessert and settling the check, which Jamie protested she should pay half, but Erin wouldn't allow it, they decided to walk to a near-by park to talk some more.
As they stood to go, Erin hesitated. "Could I ask you a favor?"
"Sure, what is it?"
"I left Artemis home because it's a little close here and I didn't want her to be in anyone's way. So could I take your arm?" Even after all the time had passed since her accident, Erin was still reluctant to give up her independence, but she also realized that there are times when sighted people have to lean on others. There was also a small part of her feeling guilty because she was going to take pleasure in being that close to her new friend.
"A...of course." Jamie hoped her nerves weren't showing through in her voice.
Side by side they walked slowly down the street, Jamie guiding them through the other pedestrians going on about their busy lives. Erin walked on her right side listening to the cars driving by, several reckless ones surpassing the posted limit. One irritated and irritating driver leaned on his horn for reasons Erin couldn't detect. She caught snippets of conversations from passers by, topics ranging from political comments to marital complaints to a lone stranger humming Stayin' Alive to himself. She smiled, not at his action, but his choice of songs. Her taste in music could definitely be called eclectic, but that particular selection not being a favorite.
The skin on Jamie's upper arm was warm under the yellow shirt she was wearing. Knowing it had nothing to do with the 83-degree air temperature and everything to do with the fingers gently resting there. She found herself relaxing a little more with every step. As they waited at the corner, to cross the street to get to the park, Jamie took a quick glance at her watch. It was one fifteen, which gave her a little over two hours before she had to leave to get ready for work.
"If you don't mind my asking," said Jamie. "How are you going to get home?"
"Bridgett will be at the mall all afternoon. I'll give her a call when I'm ready."
Once in the park, Jamie found a bench under a nice shady tree and seated them both. The conversation continued, with Erin doing most of the talking as usual. But that was fine with Jamie. She was never any good at small talk. After a few false starts she finally jumped into the fray and asked an important question. "How did you come to write Noah Factor?"
"Well that's kind of a long story," Erin said and paused for a long breath. "I'll give you the short version. When I got home from the hospital, after my accident, I went through the normal adjustment period, which is usually dominated by anger and I was no exception. I asked all the questions, why did this happen to me, what did I do to deserve this? I went through all the 'I hate the world' curses and I didn't want anything to do with life. I spent two weeks sitting in the same chair in my dark living room, not listening to a television I couldn't see. I went from the chair to the bed and back again the next morning and that's all I did. Brig brought me two meals a day and I always ended up yelling at her to leave." The blonde head shook at the memories of her sister's love during that hard time. "I put her through hell, but she never gave up on me."
"You're lucky to have a sister like that. I don't have any siblings and they say you can't miss what you never had or at least don't remember, but part of me always has. I didn't mean to interrupt, please go on."
"One day while I was still in full anger mode, I was sitting there and I started to hear this soft squeaking sound. I thought it was the water heater, air conditioning, something. But the noise got louder and started to sound like something alive and something definitely in distress. I made my way to the door, banging into every piece of furniture along the way. When I opened it, the sound became very clear and very close. I eased my way down the stairs and then practically crawled across the ground toward the noise. For some reason my fear felt like nothing compared to whatever it was that was crying out. I reached the small flower garden and felt around through the neglected plants and found the problem. A kitten, that couldn't have been more than two months old, was entangled in the weeds and vines. I had no idea how it got there; the nearest house is half a mile away. Fighting with tiny claws and teeth, I finally managed to free her. I picked her up and then she started trembling. I just sat there on the ground patting her and holding her close. Soon she settled down and began purring and I laughed as she rubbed against my face."
Jamie smiled at the thought.
"I took her inside, but was afraid to put her down. I didn't want to step on her. So I carried her around and had the store deliver some things to take care of her, temporarily. I wasn't sure what to do, I couldn't take her to a shelter and I couldn't keep her. I had finally decided to let Brig find her a good home. The next day there was a knock at the door. With kitten in hand, I answered it, navigating the room much better by then. A little voice called out, "Snickers!" The mother explained that the kitten had wondered away when they were visiting the beach the morning before. I told the little girl to keep a close eye on Snickers. I felt the tears on her face when she hugged me and thanked me for saving her pet." Erin paused for an emotional breath. "Snickers found her way home and I opened my eyes for the first time in five weeks. I realized that that tiny thing survived against incredible odds. But she survived only because she let me help her. She was scared and she fought me, but she still let me help. I knew I wanted to survive, but only then did I realize that I couldn't do that without getting help. I went to San Diego to a school for the visually impaired. A few months later, I returned home, once again an independent person. It was by brief stint with animal rescue and my personal survival that gave me the idea for Noah Factor."
Jamie covered the author's hand with her own. "Well, Snickers and I had a lot in common. I was trapped in a web too, a self-spun web of deceit and betrayal. But we both had you for a savior."
Erin dropped her head in an attempt to hide the blush creeping onto her face. After several silent moments she finally composed herself enough to ask, "Now its your turn. Why two jobs? I mean maybe it's none of my business, but I know the publishing company pays well."
The dark head nodded. "Yes it does, but I don't work there full time and I don't want to be there until retirement. I'm saving up for something that's always been a dream of mine...but it's an expensive dream."
"What is it?"
Jamie thought about her secret wish, the dream she'd never told anyone about. "How about if we save that for another time." She realized she'd just committed herself to spend more time with this woman, but she was starting to like the sound of that. Maybe I can do this, she thought; maybe I can have a friend.
"That's a deal," said Erin, as she felt for the time on her watch. "I'd better give Brig a call. I'm sure it'll be at least half an hour before she can tear herself away from the stores." She made the call and sure enough, Bridgett told her she'd pick her up in about forty minutes. "I don't want to keep you," she told Jamie. "I assume you're driving tonight."
"Yes I am, but I've got some time. Besides I don't want to leave you here alone. I wouldn't leave anyone alone," she added, trying not to insult the sightless woman.
"Actually I wish I could just sit here all week," Erin said, wearily.
"I'm not supposed to tell anyone this, but I trust you. And I think you'll be particularly interested in this. I am in negotiations to turn Noah Factor into a movie. But I want it done right! I'm going to be in meetings all day tomorrow with the producers. They're going to let me write or at least co-write the screenplay. I won't just sell the rights, its to important to me, especially now," she added with a smile.
The dark haired woman was oblivious to that part of the comment, but she added her encouragement. "Go get'em tiger."
"Are my stripes showing?"
"So have you ever chauffeured a movie premiere?"
"Well," Erin prompted for more. "I don't want to sound like a star struck fan, but what about celebrities? Who have you driven?"
"Well, I've never had you in the back of my limo." Oops that went beyond teasing girl, flirting is off limits. Jamie fumbled to save herself. "I mean you're the most important person I've ever met."
She shyly accepted her friend's compliment. Erin was sure the driver only said it to cover her flirting, but she found that even more flattering.
The remainder of their time in the park was spent talking about casting for the movie. All in fun suggestions, from Sarah Michelle Geller to Brad Pitt were made and quickly rejected, for various reasons.
Minutes later Bridgett pulled up to the curb in her green mini van. After strong requests from both Erin and her sister, it was the word please, uttered by the blonde author that finally got Jamie to accept a ride home.
Continued in Part 2.