~ Generations: A Love Story ~
by JS Stephens
Copyright 1999. All Rights Reserved

Disclaimer: These characters are my own, not anyone else's, blah, blah. There may or may not be f/f relationships, depending on what the muse tells me to do. But, you may be forewarned that there is much angst and handwringing ahead, so if you want a comedy, I suggest that you try my stories Greasy or Blind Dates and White Roses.

Copyright © 1999 by JS Stephens. All right reserved.

Part 1

I was smitten, although I didn't know it at the time. Her name was Randie Calder, but I just knew her as Ms. Calder, the new drama teacher for Eleanor Roosevelt High. I had signed up for Drama out of a desire to avoid taking yet another honors class, or worse yet, home economics. Several of my buddies had also taken Drama, for reasons ranging from a "true desire to learn the craft of acting" to "it had a reputation of being an easy A."

The first day of school had been long and boring, yet interspersed with greeting old friends and catching up on the summer doings. Well, I also did those first of the semester things like collect the syllabuses of each class, make notes of assignments and pooled information with some of my buddies at lunch. But, sixth period finally arrived, and I expected to see old Mrs. Grimm (an appropriate name, I had been told), but instead saw Her. At least I didn't drool like I saw some of the boys doing, I just slumped in my chair like any other non-clique belonging female, trying to understand my reaction. God, she looked like a model, tall and slim, light brown hair, clear gray-green eyes, beautiful skin, elegant clothes and a Bearing.

I almost missed her first sentence due to my extreme shock, but I'll always remember it: "Hi, class, this is Drama I and I am your teacher, Ms. Calder." Her voice was light and clear, not high, not low, but rich. She had a big beautiful smile (perfect teeth, she made some orthodontist happy in her past) and used her hands to assist her speech. "In case you are wondering, Mrs. Grimm decided to retire over the summer and I was hired to replace her." Her eyes suddenly gleamed wickedly. "I am not a novice teacher, I have taught for five years and was a little hellion all through school, so I know everything you might think of doing." With that, she turned to her desk and started passing out the syllabus for the class.

I turned to my best buddy, Jana, and whispered, "What have I let myself in for?" Jana shrugged, passing papers along the row. I realized that Ms. Calder had heard me, but she just graced me with a smile and a wink, making me feel about three inches tall. I resolved to be good, although Jana would say that I was always boringly good. I guess Jana had a point, I made mostly As, went to church and youth group faithfully, had never visited the principal's office, had never tried any illegal drugs, never snuck out of the house, or otherwise got into trouble. I blamed it all on my big brother, who was an angel all through school, but was finally off at college this year.

Anyway, I managed to make it through class, enduring the usual jokes about my name (Doris Jeannetta Tribble, I prefer DJ). We all had to tell our name and why we were taking the class, which is where I got the information above. I was the last one and I mumbled something about wanting to expand my horizons. "Where no man has gone before?" snickered one of my classmates, making a terrible Star Trek pun on my last name. Ms. Calder raised a perfect eyebrow and said, "Brent, could you explain to the rest of the class why you think that is funny?" Brent spluttered, stammered and generally tried to sound coherent without sounding stupid but, like all jocks, failed miserably. "I thought so. Class, we will take an unexpected detour and briefly explore why Star Trek was not just a space fantasy, but a powerful dramatic showcase for exploring social issues of this century." I'll have to hand it to her, she very smoothly segued into a discussion of how science fiction could "safely" explore social issues.

It may have been a rough start, but Drama wasn't too bad after all. We spent the first six weeks learning about the origins of plays, a little of the technical side of staging a play, then a little on the theory of acting. It was rapidly becoming my favorite class, my reward for slogging through the rest of my classes. I'd never had much interest in acting, but Ms. Calder managed to bring out something in all of us, casting our first play with unusual choices. The play was "The Diary of Anne Frank" and instead of selecting Cheryl Miller (most popular cheerleader) as Anne, she chose me. Other choices seemed as unlikely, but as we started rehearsal I started seeing the wisdom in the choices. Most of the kids who were like me, basically outcasts for one reason or another, were chosen to play the Franks and the van Dams. Cheryl was especially mad, she had always had the lead role for any school production since she was young, and confronted me at lunch the next day.

"Hey Doris," she said, sitting next to me at the table, "how did you convince Ms. Calder to cast you as Anne?"

"I don't know, Cheryl," I replied nervously, trying to scoot my chair a little further down. "Besides, I go by DJ, not Doris."

"Oh, my mistake," she said in a falsely sweet voice, "DJ.  My apologies, dear DJ. Now, really, did you bribe her or something? Because everyone knows that you are a nothing, dear, just a nerd and an outcast. Why don't you go tell her that I belong in that role, not as one of the stage crew?"

"I had nothing to do with her decision, Cheryl, I was as surprised as anyone else." I stared at my food, hoping she would go away, but no such luck.

Cheryl flipped her long hair over her shoulder, then grabbed my arm, digging her polished fingernails into my flesh. "I suggest that you tell her that you want to trade places with me, if you know what is good for you. Brent and his friends might meet you after school, otherwise." She let go of my arm, obviously seeing the fear in my eyes, then rubbed the little half-moons on my arm. "Don't worry, the marks will go away soon." She smiled at me, then got up and left. I got up and dumped what was left of my lunch, then fled to the safety of the library. Thank God none of those jocks and popular kids knew about my hideout.

I waited until after school to ask Ms. Calder about her casting decision. I made sure that it took several minutes for me to collect my things and put them in my backpack, then told Jana that I wanted to walk home today. She shrugged, then asked if everything was okay. Torn between telling her and dealing with it myself, my pride won out. I repeated that it was a lovely day, just half a mile, so I'd walk today. She looked at me suspiciously, but nodded when she saw Cheryl and Brent staring at me.

I walked up to Ms. Calder's desk, took a deep breath, then blurted out, "Why did you cast me as Anne?"

She came around from her desk, lightly rested her hand on my shoulder, then led me to the first row of desks. I sat down, slumping miserably, but at the same time feeling my shoulder tingle from her touch. "DJ," she said seriously, "I cast whomever I feel will do justice to the role, not by popularity of the individual. Is Cheryl bothering you? If so, I can have a talk with her tomorrow."

"Hell, no, Ms. Calder!" I spluttered, then blushed when I had cussed in front of a teacher. To my extreme horror, I burst into tears and tried to flee the room. She caught my arm, then pulled me into her arms, allowing me to cry until the storm was over. I was a bit overwhelmed, I could smell faint traces of her perfume, feel the warmth of her arms around me, unfamiliar feelings rising. I relaxed a bit, wanting to stay in the safety of her embrace forever. But, she pulled away first, motioning for me to sit back down as she went to her desk for some tissues. After several minutes, I regained my composure. "Ms. Calder, I'm sorry I cried, I usually don't overreact that way," I mumbled.

She took my chin in her hand, tilting my head up until I was forced to look into her eyes. "DJ, there is no shame in expressing your emotions," she said softly. "It is a very human reaction. Now, back to the subject at hand, would you like for me to talk to Cheryl, or would you just like to ignore her and concentrate on turning in the best performance possible?"

It penetrated my thick skull that she was giving me a chance to be mature. Many teachers would have either talked to Cheryl or otherwise interfered, but Ms. Calder was giving me the chance to take matters into my own hands and keep out of the situation. Shyly, I answered, "I guess I'll concentrate on a good performance. But, what did make you decide to cast me as Anne?"

Ms. Calder smiled mysteriously. "I think I'll let you ponder that yourself, DJ. Now, do you have a way home, or do I need to run you by your house? It's ten 'til four, your mother is probably wondering where you are."

I jumped to my feet, grabbing my backpack wildly. "Oh, jeez, I'm nearly late, I told Jana to go on and I'd walk."

"It's no problem, really," she said soothingly, "do you need to call home first?"

"No," I replied slowly, "I often stop at Jana's to study or hang out, could you take me to her house instead?" I held my breath, not wanting this wonderful woman to see how small and shabby my parents' house was. She nodded, then turned to gather her things. I also didn't want my mom to see I'd been crying, she'd pry and ask why. Jana would understand and have her mom invite me to dinner.

"If don't mind if you think your parents don't mind, DJ. Could you help me gather my things?" I nodded, now in a better frame of mind. I slung my pack over one shoulder, then helped Ms. Calder gather up her briefcase and a box of papers, following her out of the building to the teachers' parking lot. I was surprised to see her head for a classic white Mustang, but when I thought of it, it seemed reasonable for her. She unlocked my door, asking, "What do you think? My brother helped me restore it this summer, it was my high school graduation present." She fondly stroked the car as she went around to the driver's side. I was blown away, a classic Mustang! The interior was a rich red, leather bucket seats, modern stereo system, chrome shifter on the floor, beautiful car. My mind was almost overwhelmed by the car, her kindness, the emotions of the day. I managed to pull my act together enough to give her directions to Jana's house and even got out of the car without stumbling. "See you tomorrow," she called to me as I gently shut the door. I waved, then went up the walk to Jana's door and rang the doorbell, waiting for my best friend to rescue me.

It's funny how the past can come back unexpectedly. I had really good reviews as Anne Frank and took more drama courses, but not under Ms. Calder. She taught only the one year at ERHS, the mysteriously resigned and was never heard from again. I overheard two teachers talking about "Ms. Calder and Ms. Rowe", but they shut up when they saw me rounding the corner. Ms. Rowe was one of the English teachers and she took early retirement that same year. The official explanation was that her parents were quite ill and she was going home to take care of them. I couldn't imagine leaving any job I loved to take care of my parents, but being the typical teenager, I didn't think anything else about the situation. I missed Ms. Calder a lot, she was one of the few teachers who could reach me and pull me out of my self-imposed shell.

I had gone on to college, majored in business (a good safe degree, my parents told me), then wound up in a small film company, working in administration. My parents thought I was crazy, but Jana, ever the helpful friend, pointed out that I had one of the more stable jobs in show business. After a few years, I married one of the directors. The company mostly made local commercials and industrial films, a nice cozy little niche. I went to law school a year after our wedding, busting my ass to finish quickly so I could get back to work as the new general counsel for the company. The title was a bit of a joke, I was the only attorney in the company, but at least they gave me a bit of a raise. Then, she came back in my life.

"Hey, DJ, could you look over this contract?" my husband, David Sanders, asked as he plopped down in one of my chairs. I took the proffered contract and started glancing over it. My heart nearly stopped when I read the name of the new director, Randie Calder. "She's been directing for small theatres and local television commercials for a number of years," David said, oblivious to my shock. "She has pretty good references, I've seen a few commercials she's done. I think it's time for her to step up to the industrial films. God knows we need another director, one who can bring things in under budget, not like Sam." We'd fired Sam last month for dragging out production and going thousands over budget consistently. "I'd take her to lunch, you know, director to director, but I have a script conference at noon. How about you doing the honors? Nothing fancy, just solid, like the cafe next door." Dunkle's Eats had been the caterer and official hangout for the company for the past forty years, always providing simple, tasty, cheap food.

"Okay, David," I mumbled, grabbing a couple of Altoids and popping them in my mouth. My husband shook his head at my habit, claiming he never understood how I could eat multiple mints at once without blasting out my tonsils. I always would reply that it was hard to blast out organs that had been taken out when I was five. "Is someone going to bring her to my office?"

"Yeah, I will. See you at home tonight." He bounced out of the chair, kissed my forehead, then left my office. I took a deep breath, popped a couple more Altoids, then started studying the contract. It was standard issue, but I always checked in case anyone had crossed out anything or added anything without notifying me first.

A few hours later, She appeared in my door. I stood up and held out my hand to shake hers, startled that I was now taller than she was. Her light brown hair had just a touch of gray, but her skin was very clear and her eyes were still hypnotically gray-green, her clasp still firm. I mentally calculated and realized that she was probably in the neighborhood of her mid-forties, since I was just turned thirty. I managed to say without stammering, "Welcome to Volcano Films, Ms. Calder."

"DJ, what a pleasant surprise! Please, call me Randie. David said that you were taking me to lunch."

My cue. I nodded and grabbed my purse, leading to way to Dunkle's Eats, making light conversation about the industrial and commercial film industry, our operations, anything that wasn't personal. I realized that it was ironic that I was drawing on my theatrical skills honed in her class to cover up my nervousness at being in her presence. I don't know how she did it, but she drew out the boring story of my last fifteen years, how I went to college, went to work for Volcano Films, went to law school and was now the first general counsel for VF. I cautiously asked her what she had done and she replied that she'd done theatre, local television, all the things that David had already told me. We both avoided her abrupt departure from ERHS, much to my dismay and relief. I didn't want to find out that my beloved teacher had any blemishes. I also noticed that she never mentioned any marriages or other relationships and expressed little curiosity of my marriage beyond how long David and I had been married, to which I replied seven years.

All too soon, it was time to go back to work. I paid the check, then we slowly walked back to the studio. A skateboarding teen came out of nowhere, causing Randie to stumble and fall against me. I caught and steadied her, for some reason holding her arms a bit longer than strictly necessary. "Thank you," she said softly, looking up at me. For a split second, I wanted to hug her to me, to make her feel safe, like she had made me feel in high school. I caught the delicate floral scent of her perfume, the softness of her arms under my hands, the melting intensity of her eyes. I reluctantly let go, then followed her into the building, shaken by my desire to draw her back into my arms and...and do what? I fled to my office, burying myself in paperwork for the rest of the day, hoping to get a grip on my emotions before David came to collect me for our ride home.

David and I had drifted into marriage. I started to work for Volcano Films right out of school, doing whatever needed to be done. David had been a director there for three years already and we somehow got to talking over lunch. I think it started when I commented on his Star Trek jacket, which opened up our mutual love of all things Trek. After a year of lunches and movie dates, we decided to get married. No big fireworks, it was more like having a comfortable friend to live with. Fortunately, neither one of us was big on the idea of children, which gave us an excuse to avoid sex. Oh, we snuggled and cuddled, laughed and cried together, but for some reason, neither of us seemed to be terribly interested in a really active sex life, which is why I was so shocked by the intense feelings I had for Randie. I started dreaming of holding her, even kissing her, which usually managed to jolt me out of sleep as if I'd had a class one nightmare. I guess it was fortunate that David didn't know I was having nightmares; how does one tell her husband that she's having erotic dreams of  a woman?

Of course, matters had to get much worse. David was impressed by Randie's many skills and insisted on inviting her to our usual lunches. It was both agony and ecstasy to have her at the same table, chatting about the films she was working on for Volcano, trading industry gossip with David, drawing me out about various legal matters. It was torture, but I managed to get through, for his sake, I told myself. To make matters even worse, he talked about her at home. One evening, he rambled on about her beautiful cheekbones and expressive hands until I pleaded that I had a killer migraine and wanted to go to bed. Being the dear, thoughtful husband he is, David bundled up an icepack for my head, kissed my cheek gently, asked if there was anything else he could do. I said no, that he could go watch television if he kept the sound down. After he left the room, I finally fell asleep, thinking of her hands placing the icepack on my head, her lips kissing my cheeks...

"DJ!" David yelled as he bounded into my office, "honey, I got an invitation to direct for Sammons Motors!  On location, no less!"

"That's terrific, sweetheart," I said as David dropped the letter into my lap. "Aren't they the client we've tried to woo for several years?"

"Yeah, one and the same. Oh, sweetheart, this will be an ongoing thing for a while, they're merging with Ace Pumps, so they'll have a series of films for the employees and stockholders of both companies. The first assignment is a couple of shorts, outlining the history of both companies. I know it's sudden, but I have to leave in the morning and I'll be gone for about a month." He grinned, then bounced out of the chair, kissing me soundly on the forehead. "Miss me?"

"Yes, I'll miss you," I replied as I spotted some of our co-workers starting to swarm around my open door. "You'd better explain before the grapevine gets started without you."

He grinned sheepishly, then turned to the gathering crowd, waving the letter. David could really turn into quite a storyteller when he chose to and this was one of those times. Somehow, he turned a mundane assignment of boring company histories into a compelling story, full of promise and mystery. Harold Jenkins, the president and son of the founder of Volcano Films, thought it was such a good assignment that he called Dunkle's Eats from my phone and had them cater an impromptu luncheon for the company.

The rest of the day passed quickly. I talked to the lawyers from both companies, dickered on the contract, then took David out to eat that night. He was pretty excited about the whole deal, agonizing about what to pack, then finally coming to bed around midnight. I knew I would miss him, but I was also apprehensive about his being gone for so long, especially when he innocently suggested that I have Randie come over for dinner some nights. "You two seem to be pretty good friends," he commented, "I don't think she's attached to anyone." What can you say when your husband is practically throwing a woman at you? Being the good wife, I took him to the airport the next morning, kissed him good-bye, then headed for the office.

Several days went by before I had the courage to ask Randie to do anything. With David out of the office, things got busy as others had to take up the slack, which meant that Randie wasn't available for lunch for the rest of the week. I was relieved and disappointed, but Friday afternoon, I found myself in her office, asking if she wanted to go do something over the weekend. I suggested something nice and safe: the local arboretum. She agreed and said she would pick me up the next morning.

It was one of those cool, crisp autumn days that suggested the need for sweatshirts. I changed mine five times before Randie came roaring up in her old white Mustang. My mouth went dry as I answered the door, seeing her in faded jeans and a black Xena sweatshirt. Damn, she looked good! I had finally settled on a red sweatshirt from my law school and broken down khakis. "Good morning, DJ," she chirped when I answered the door. "I love fall, don't you? I think the mums should be in bloom now, plus lots of pansies." She laughed as I followed her down the front walk. "I confess, those are the only two plants I know that bloom in fall, so I had to mention them." She opened the passenger door for me, then went around to the driver's side. "So, where is this place?"

An hour later, we were walking slowly along a worn brick path through an amazing riot of fall colors. I finally found my voice and started pointing out various plants, starting to feel more comfortable around her, like I was reversing our former roles. Now I was teaching her something, she was my student. "I confess that I worked in a nursery while I was an undergraduate," I found myself telling her, "and often wondered if I shouldn't have taken more horticulture courses. Of course, my folks would have gone ballistic. Have you ever regretted something you did or didn't do?" I asked.

She got very quiet. I started to mentally kick myself when she finally spoke, saying, "Yes, I have several regrets, DJ. Let's go over there and sit for a few minutes." I followed her to the bench, one tucked away from the main path, in fact, barely visible from the path. We sat down and she turned slightly in the seat, arm elegantly draped on the back of the bench, one leg tucked under her. "DJ, why didn't you follow your heart and go into horticulture?"

"Um, I was on the business track, it would have meant an extra year to switch majors," I stumbled. "Mom and Dad couldn't afford for me to take any additional classes, either."

Randie nodded. "I understand, my parents were very unhappy when I majored in drama and were only slightly mollified when I minored in education. But, I enjoyed teaching as much as I enjoyed anything else. I guess my real regret was not teaching any after I left ERHS."

"Why did you leave?" I asked.

She didn't answer for a long time. Finally, she said softly, "DJ, I fell in love with the wrong person and was punished for it. God, sometimes I regret that affair, but in the long run, I've done quite nicely for myself. After all," she flashed a smile at me and patted my shoulder, "I've been able to renew an old acquaintance. Shall we walk some more?" Sensing the subject was now completely closed, I just nodded and followed her back to the main pathway.

Randie had been pensive the rest of that day, but showed back up on my doorstep the next morning, apologizing for her moodiness. "I'm sorry," she had apologized, "but that was a really bad time in my life and I've spent years forgetting it. Well, having students like you was not bad," she allowed with a flash of a smile, "just my lack of judgment. So, what would you like to do today? Lunch? Movie? Art gallery?"

I smiled and let her in the house. "Lunch and a movie sounds good," I said as we moved into the living room and sat on the couch. "I'm sure there's something in the paper." I reached for the entertainment guide on the coffee table and opened it up between us, pointing to the movie listings. After several minutes of negotiation, we agreed on an action movie and a sandwich shop for lunch. We left in her Mustang again, went to lunch, then to the movie.

I'm not sure how it happened, but during a particularly intense scene, Randie grabbed my hand. I was shocked by the electricity that seemed to flow between our hands and wasn't sorry that she didn't let go for several scenes. Later in the movie, I managed to dip my hand in the popcorn bucket at the same time that Randie did and our hands brushed again, giving me that shivery feeling again. She turned and smiled at me, making my heart jump and start pumping harder and faster, a feeling I'd never experienced with my husband. It didn't occur to me that this was how I was supposed to feel with David, we'd never been very romantic at all and I'd never understood love stories. Yet, I cautiously touched Randie's hand again and was rewarded by her curling her fingers around mine for the rest of the movie.

After the movie, it just seemed natural to go back to my house and plop down on the couch, discussing the more technical aspects of the flick we'd just seen. Randie sometimes emphasized points by touching my arm or leg, much to my excitement and growing apprehension. She finally got up to leave, so I followed her to the door. "I had a good time, DJ," she said softly, taking a step closer, "thank you. I'll see you at work tomorrow."

"You're welcome," I said, feeling awkward, unsure what to do. She smiled at me, touching my arm. I took my chances and reached out, pulling her closer for a prolonged hug. It was like high school again, I felt warm and secure in her arms, feeling her soft cheek against mine, smelling the delicate floral scent of her perfume, feeling the warmth of her body against mine. She stepped away too soon, flashing another brilliant smile, then going through the door, taking the sunshine of the day with her.

Part 2

I felt like we were playing a game of cat and mouse, trading the roles of the cat and mouse throughout the month. Randie and I would go to movies, museums, dinner, gardens and just enjoy each other's company, but it seemed that we took turns pushing the envelope. We held hands at movies, "accidentally" bumped into each other at museums, shared desserts at dinner, generally flirted with each other. Sometimes I think she was aware of what was happening, but sometimes I didn't. I know that I was increasingly frustrated by our behavior, but too scared to actually do anything about it. Besides, there was my husband to consider. If I dared even acknowledge I was attracted to Randie as more than a friend, would I be committing adultery in my heart, as Jimmy Carter had said?

Things came to a head the last Sunday night we could have together. David was coming home on Wednesday; I would pick him up from the airport around 3:00 p.m. Randie called to ask if I would come over to her apartment since her car needed a new power steering pump and she didn't have time to replace it before the game. I agreed and stopped by the grocery store to pick up chips, dip, beer, and sandwich fixings on the way to her apartment. I hadn't been to her place before, we'd always either met or she'd picked me up from the house. I was quite curious as to her living quarters, wondering how she would decorate her place.

"DJ, please come in and make yourself at home," Randie said when she opened the door to admit me, relieving me of the bags of food. I could hear her bustling around her tiny kitchen, unpacking and arranging what I'd bought. I did a slow 360 degree turn in the middle of the living room, soaking in her decor. She had a black and white futon and matching coffee table in the middle of the room, facing a black entertainment center. White bookcases lined two walls, mostly full of all sorts of books and CD's. The most spectacular part of the room were two framed posters of Xena and Gabrielle, from the American Library Association's famed "READ" series. I must have been gaping, for Randie came up and started laughing. "Yes, I spent hundreds of dollars getting inexpensive posters professionally framed. I should have my head examined, but I couldn't find any cheap poster frames to fit them. Seventeen by twenty-four inches, not a traditional poster size." I turned away from the posters reluctantly. "Game's about to start, have a seat."

What a game it was, too. Even though our team led the entire time, it seemed that our opponents threatened to upset the lead the entire time. To make matters more interesting, our "triplets" of quarterback, running back, and receiver were out with various injuries, but our backups rose to the occasion grandly. We screamed ourselves hoarse, which meant we each drank more beer to keep our throat lubricated. I was feeling well buzzed by the torturous end of the game. The other team had the ball, was in the red zone and threatening to score. The quarterback drew back and fired near the end zone -- but one of our guys nabbed the ball and romped 95 yards to put the game away, just as the clock ticked down to 2 seconds! We screamed with joy and got up and started doing versions of the victory dance, then screamed more as the extra point was kicked through and the game ended. "We WON!" I bellowed, grabbing Randie around the waist and lifted her up, swinging her around like a rag doll. "I can't believe it, we actually won!" until we were both dizzy and fell on the floor in a tangled heap. Emboldened by her body on top of mine, by the victory and by the beer I'd guzzled, I gave her a resounding kiss on the lips.

I'd swear that the kiss lasted for hours, but in reality it was much shorter than that. My entire body ignited with suppressed desire, demanding satisfaction, driving me to repeat the kiss, with some part of my brain noticing that she was actually responding. Our breathing became more rapid and shallow, pulses raced, hands started exploring of their own accord until Randie sat up and suddenly said, "No, DJ, we can't."

"Wait," I said, scrambling up, confused by the abrupt switch in mood, hormones racing out of control. "Wait, you can't kiss me back like that and not mean it."

She started cleaning up our mess, ferrying dishes and discarded food wrappers to the kitchen as if the last five minutes never happened. Confused, angry and shaking, I fled to the bathroom, locking myself in. Fear suddenly replaced anger as I realized that I'd crossed the line and the consequences that would follow, not the least of all would be the failure of our friendship and my marriage. I barely made it to the toilet as I got violently sick, shame rising from the religious teachings I thought I'd left in college. I was so miserable that it took several minutes to realize that Randie was knocking on the door, asking me if I were alright. I managed to pull myself together, wash my face and rinse my mouth, then stumbled out of the bathroom.

"Honey, please come sit down," Randie entreated me, tugging on my sleeve. Unable to resist, I followed her back to the couch, where she motioned for me to sit down. A strained silence filled the air, I was unable to meet her eyes for fear of the rejection that I would see there. I huddled at one end of the couch, pulling a large throw pillow into my lap, hugging it tightly as I waited for my sentence to be meted out. "DJ, what happened?" she asked.

I forced myself to look up and meet her eyes. "What happened?" I asked stupidly. "I guess I misread the signals, coach," I said, attempting a bit of humor. It fell flat. "Look, for nearly a month, I've thought you were flirting with me, holding my hand, hugging me, horsing around, you know. Besides, I heard something about you and Ms. Rowe, but I never heard just what the deal was, but I decided that it had something to do with your abrupt departure, just when I needed a teacher like you!" I shouted. I dropped my head and pulled my legs up around me, a ball of sheer misery curled around the pillow.

"Janice Rowe was kind enough to rent me a room when the apartment building I was living in burned to the ground. I rescued a few pictures and some clothes. Since she'd never married and I didn't seem to be in a hurry to move out, rumors started that we were lovers. I assure you, we never were, but it was enough to make her take early retirement and for me to decide to leave teaching altogether. I did not leave just to desert you." As she spoke, she sounded like a teacher, patient, but authoritative.

"But what about the love affair you said you'd had? You claimed to leave because of it."

She looked at me for a long moment, then answered softly, "While everyone thought I was Janice's lover, I was actually having a fling with the assistant football coach. He started becoming possessive and abusive, so when I broke it off, I suspect that he retaliated by spreading the rumors. I also suspect, although I can never prove it, that he set fire to my apartment building." She rubbed her face wearily. "I didn't leave you, my dear friend, I left a bad situation."

"So, you've never loved a woman?" I asked in a quavering voice.


"Then why the physical affection? You did respond to my kisses!" I accused her.

"I'm sorry, but I've always been very affectionate towards my friends. I'm from a different generation, I think we were the last to be able to be somewhat affectionate without labels being slapped on us."

"But you liked kissing me."

A long silence enveloped us as the final accusation hung in the air like a bad odor. Randie finally replied, "Yes. I enjoyed kissing you, but I've never been with a woman and I don't intend to start now. As soon as you are sober, you may leave." She got up and walked to her bedroom, shutting the door with a gentle click. I stared at the muted television set for several minutes, then quietly gathered my belongings and left, despite my condition, almost hoping to be killed on the way home. That would be better than the pain that was lancing my heart now.

I called in sick the next day, which was half true. I'd spent most of the night crying, leaving me with a hoarse voice and a fierce headache. When I thought I'd finished crying, I'd think of something Randie had said or done, or how she'd held me that one time when I was in high school and I'd start sobbing all over again. I finally fell into an exhausted sleep around ten in the morning, sleeping heavily until the sun started setting. I got up, drank some juice, took a shower, then went back to bed and slept hard until the Tuesday morning.

I had to go to work on Tuesday, I was meeting with a new client and his attorney and was expected to bring in a pretty good contract. In some ways, I welcomed the meeting, it meant that I would have to hole up in my office reviewing the files until 11:00, when our usual team met with them: myself, a sales manager and a producer. I concentrated on the minutia of the contract side, then gratefully escaped when the meeting was favorably concluded.

Randie and I managed to avoid each other all day Tuesday. I heard that she called in sick on Wednesday, which was a relief in some ways, it meant that I could concentrate on getting paperwork done until it was time to pick up David from the airport. I'll bet I churned out more work on Tuesday and Wednesday than I had in months, simply to keep my mind busy and off of Randie. Even so, the hours crawled by until I could decently leave for the airport.

"Hey, DJ, aren't you glad to see me?"

I looked up from my book to find my husband leaning over me, grinning that mischievous little boy grin that I loved so well. I dropped my book, stood up, and nearly suffocated the poor man in a bear hug, followed by the most passionate kiss I had ever delivered to him in public. When I allowed David to surface for air, he looked at me quizzically, but I just grabbed his carryon bag and told him that I'd missed him tremendously. On the way home, I peppered him with questions about his trip, not giving him any time to ask me similar questions about I'd been doing. When we arrived at the house, I attacked him, shoving him toward the bedroom as I divested him of his clothing, channeling my frustrations with Randie into wild passion with my husband, coming as close to assault on a male as a female can manage.

Hours later, David was laying on his side, gently stroking the curves of my body. Finally, he broke the silence by asking, "DJ, what brought this on? Not that I didn't enjoy being ravished by you, my love, but we rarely..." His voice trailed off, as if he were unsure of what he was trying to ask.

"I just missed you, David, we've never been apart this long," I explained. "I didn't realize how much I missed you until I saw you at the airport today."

He looked at me closely, as if trying to see the truth. He finally smiled and asked lightly, "What's for dinner? Shall we eat in or out?" Grateful for something safe to discuss, I voted for eating out at our favorite Italian place. We got up, showered and dressed, went out to eat, and avoided the topic of what I had done outside of work in the past month.

Of course, it was a small company, so word got around quickly that Randie and I had gone from best buddies to avoiding each other. I even started making noises about going to join a law firm and give up being the general counsel for Volcano Films. Whenever I mentioned it to David, he would ask me why and I would change the subject. I know I was starting to drive him crazy, especially since I was practically hounding him for sex every night. I think he enjoyed it at first, but I pushed too hard for fast hard sex whereas he preferred gentle warm sex. After a few weeks, he finally confronted me.

"Honey, we need to talk," David said as we sat down to dinner one Friday night. "Since I came back from the project, you've been different. I know that most men wouldn't complain, but I'm not built for sex every single night. Besides, you just don't seem happy and neither does Randie. Y'all were such good friends before I left, but now you two avoid each other like the plague. What happened?"

I toyed with my wine glass as David spoke, watching it catch the light. He reached over and plucked the glass from my hand, waiting for me to look at him. I gave up. "David, we had an argument, nothing serious. As to the sex, well, this was the first time we'd been separated for such a long time, I just missed you, that's all."

He ran his hands through his hair, then pushed his plate away. "Doris, please tell me what is going on, even if you think it will hurt me. I can't stand it any longer. I feel like a stranger has come into my house and repeatedly forces her attentions on me, then refuses to bring back my wife. You're jumpy, rarely sleep, you've been drinking coffee by the pot, you shut your door at work every day and you never talk about your day any more. Remember, we started out as best friends, I didn't think that a marriage license could change that."

I took a sip of wine, wondering just how the hell one told her husband that she'd fallen for a woman, the same woman who'd rejected her. I finally repeated rather weakly, "David, I missed you and Randie and I just had a spat. Nothing serious. We've also had a lot of stuff come in lately that I've had to review the terms for, so I've been doing my work."

David looked at me with disbelief written on his face. "Doris, I think we need counseling. I go away and lose my wife and best friend ever and I just don't want to accept that. Will you go to counseling with me, or at least by yourself?"

"If it's that important to you," I spat out, temper flaring up. I knew my anger was out of proportion to the situation, but I was still hurting. I also couldn't stand David's hurt, loving face for one more minute; I bolted from the table, stopping only to grab my keys and billfold before jumping in my car and taking off.

I drove for nearly an hour before stopping at a bar on a busy street. The music was thumping loudly; the people streaming in and out were young and colorful. I wandered in, paid my cover, then spotted an empty stool at the bar. I yelled my order for a Shiner Boch on tap, then gratefully took a long swallow of the cold, dark beer. I finished it in short order, then turned to order another when a young woman in a leather jacket handed me another beer. "Hey, I haven't seen you around before," she shouted over the music. "I'm Toni, who are you?"

"DJ," I shouted back before sucking down half the glass of beer. Toni's dark eyes twinkled merrily in the light as she watched me down the beer almost too quickly to taste.

"Want to dance?" she asked, holding out her hand. I shrugged, finished off my beer, then followed her to the dance floor. I was starting to buzz on the alcohol, not even caring that I was dancing with a young woman at least five years younger than I was, who had blonde tips on her black hair and could have been an ax murder for all I knew. But Toni was a hypnotic dancer and soon I forgot the crowds and even the music and concentrated on her body weaving and bobbing around me. I lost all sense of time as we danced, eventually dancing very intimately to Melissa Etheridge's "Sleep". When the song was over, Toni pulled me into her arms for a long, slow, passionate kiss, running her hands freely over my back as she kissed me. As she ended the kiss, she led me out of the bar into the now bitterly cold wind and down the street to an all night café and coffee shop. I followed her, unable to resist.

We slid into the booth and a waitress magically appeared. "How about soup and sandwich for both of us? And can you leave us a carafe of coffee?" The waitress nodded and left with the menus. Toni leaned across the table, catching my cold hands in her warm ones. "DJ, huh? Cute, just like you." Suddenly self-conscious, I tried to pull my hands away, but she just kissed one, then the other but held on. "I'll bet that you've never been to a lesbian bar before and that you are sobering up rather quickly now." She smiled gently, letting go of my hands. "I must admit that you can dance, girl, but you're not ready for the next step, are you?"

Fortunately for me, our food arrived just then. I took a sip of heavenly potato soup, then asked Toni about herself. "I'm a graphic artist, creating little cute pictures and navigation buttons for web sites. I like to read mysteries, love to watch James Bond movies and love to have hot sex with beautiful women." Toni took a quick bite of sandwich, then continued, "I had a dual major in college, graphic arts and counseling. You, my dear, act like you are very confused, can I help you?"

"Probably not," I answered. I ate hungrily, avoiding speech for the next fifteen minutes or so. Toni seemed comfortable with the silence, eating her own meal more slowly. Finally, I pushed my empty plate away. "I'm a lawyer, married and," I stopped, searching for a delicate way to say it, but failed. "And," I continued, "I think I'm in love with my best friend."

"So, hormones racing, you go to a bar and half-hope, half-fear that you will get laid. You really hope that some sexy woman will sweep you off your feet or take you by force so you can't stop it, right? Well, darling, you nearly got your wish, my hormones were racing pretty thickly with you, but I don't force any woman, especially not a virgin."

"But I'm not a virgin, I've been married-"

"DJ, I meant a virgin with women," Toni interrupted. "Look, I don't mean to interfere with your life, but if you're starting to doubt your sexuality and wanting sex with women, you should really find a good counselor to talk to, not run off to bars and get laid by strangers. Is your husband the first one you slept with?"

"Yes," I admitted unwillingly.

"For all you know, I could have six kinds of STD's. You need to be careful, not that I am any better. I broke up with my girlfriend a few months ago and decided to get laid tonight. DJ, you were just so ripe for picking that I almost just took you back to my place. For that matter, how do I know that you aren't some gay basher or something?" She signaled for the check. "Listen, let me walk you back to your car, then get out of here." The waitress brought the check; Toni insisted on paying, then walked me to my car as promised. She kissed my cheek, saying that she almost hoped to see me again, then turned and walked away.

"DJ, I was worried sick about you!" David exclaimed as I tried to sneak back in the house after leaving Toni. He grabbed me in a long hug, then led me back to our bedroom. "Where were you?" He wrinkled his nose. "Why do you smell like smoke?"

"I drove around, went to a bar, had a few beers, went to dinner with a woman I met at the bar, then came home," I recited tiredly. "Let's go to bed, David, okay? Oh, wait, I'd like to take a shower first, then go to bed." I tried to push past him, but he blocked my path with an arm. "Hey, it's been a long day and I'd like to take a shower," I repeated.

"DJ, what bar did you go to?" David asked.

I wavered between preserving his feelings and my need for honesty. Honesty won out. "The Quill and Sword," I said, hoping that he wouldn't recognize it as a lesbian bar. God knows that up until a few hours ago I didn't even know it existed.

"The Quill and Sword," he repeated. He lifted his arm and let me pass without further comment. I escaped to our bathroom and took a quick shower, nearly falling asleep on my feet by this time. David didn't ask any further questions, he just rolled over when I slipped into our bed. I didn't even attempt to touch him. My nerves were still jangling from the evening and I was relieved that I hadn't followed Toni to her place. But, before I drifted off to sleep, I knew that I could not longer pretend to be completely straight either, for I had really wanted to follow Toni and pretend that she was Randie.

Two months had passed by since David had come home and things were steadily deteriorating. Randie and I still avoided each other and I was still working harder than I had in my life. I stopped looking in the paper for other jobs and David treated me as if I were a fragile glass statue, as if I would break with the least pressure. I halfway hoped that he would follow through with his suggestion for joint counseling since I was having a difficult time resolving my growing awareness of an alternative sexuality with the real love that I had for him. I also avoided going out by myself at night, scared that I would follow my curiosity and go back to the Quill and Sword looking for Toni. I was losing weight rapidly as was David and we both endured well-intentioned questions from our friends and coworkers. In addition to my regular work, I started a legal newsletter to bring our company up to date on copyright, trademark and licensing issues associated with the entertainment industry, how to negotiate a better contract, bringing your will up to date and other issues. This new direction had me doing research far into the night and providing the perfect way to avoid both David and Randie.

One night, I was doing a lengthy session on Lexis-Nexis researching a point of case law when Randie opened my door and stuck her head in. I looked up and saw that she was very pale, as if something terrible had happened. I saved my research, chose a few cases to download, as I asked her to come in. She sat down in one of my visitor's chairs, lacing her fingers tightly in her lap. I finally turned completely away from my computer and asked what was wrong. "Doris," she said in a strained voice, "David's at the hospital with an apparent heart attack. No one could reach you by phone, so David's secretary called me to come get you."

I stared at her stupidly for a moment, then shut down my computer. "Can you take me there?" I asked in a shaky voice. "I'm not sure how much gas I have in the car right now." She simply nodded and waited for me to gather my stuff, then placed a friendly hand on my shoulder to guide me to the parking lot. When we reached her car, I was shaking so hard that I could barely fasten my seat belt. "I'm sorry," I babbled over and over again, "I don't mean to be this way."

Randie put the key in the ignition, then turned to me before turning over the motor. "DJ, it's perfectly normal to be this shaky. Don't worry, I'll make sure that you get to the hospital in one piece."

"Will you stay with me?" I blurted out.

"Yes, I'll stay as long as you need me," she replied as she started the engine. "That's what friends do."

Part 3

"Mrs. Sanders, I'm Dr. Stan Conley, cardiologist. I'm afraid that we're going to have to take your husband into emergency surgery for a bypass operation. Mr. Sanders is fairly young for this type of operation, but he seems pretty healthy otherwise."

"Okay," I said, overwhelmed and bewildered, "can I see David now?"

"I'm afraid not, he's being prepped for surgery. I don't mean to be abrupt, but we do need for you to fill out the requisite reams of paperwork to satisfy the insurance company. Mrs. Sanders, has Mr. Sanders complained of any chest pain before this?"

"No, not that I recall, but we've both been pretty swamped at work," I answered slowly, feeling horribly guilty for ignoring my husband. The doctor just nodded and jotted down a few notes on his clipboard. He reached out and patted my shoulder, gave me a few more particulars about the surgery, then left as a clerk brought over the promised paperwork.

I spent the next hour filling in blanks, digging for insurance numbers and trading one stack of forms for another. I was barely aware that Randie was sitting silently across the room, her face completely unreadable. I finally turned back the last of the forms and collapsed back in my chair, holding an old Good Housekeeping magazine in my lap but not reading it. My focus turned inward, memories of our courtship and early days of marriage filling my thoughts. David laughing, David pushing me on a park swing, picking out our house, singing with the soundtrack of Beauty and the Beast, digging innumerable holes for flowers, getting caught in the rain during a bike ride, good memories. I must have fallen asleep at some point, for when the doctor came back out, I had Randie's coat draped over me.

"Mrs. Sanders, wonderful news, your husband came through the operation with flying colors. He'll be in recovery for a few hours, so why don't you go home and get some rest? I'll call you if anything changes, but he'll feel better tomorrow morning. He won't be moved until morning anyway." I nodded sleepily, then turned to Randie, silently offering her the coat back. She shook her head, so I slipped it on as we headed out into the parking lot. The night had turned bitterly cold, so I was thankful for the coat, having left mine at home that morning due to the mild temperatures during the day.

We arrived back at my house in just a few minutes. Randie walked me to the door, then spoke for the first time in hours. "DJ, are you okay?" I unlocked the door and walked through, with her following. "I'm willing to stay overnight if you need the company."

"Are you sure?" I asked, then suddenly giggled as a strange thought flashed through my mind.

"DJ, why are you laughing?"

"Oh, I've started reading Xena fan fiction and it seems like in most of the 'first time' stories, Xena and Gabrielle are just about to do the wild thing and Xena stops to ask Gabrielle, 'are you sure?' I'm sorry, Randie, it just hit my funny bone wrong, I guess." I giggled again, then flopped down on the couch. "Not that I'm expecting a first time or anything," I babbled, then stopped. My eyes landed on our wedding picture. Grief overwhelmed me; tears started pouring down my face as I stared at our younger selves laughing as we ran the rice gamut. I buried my face in my hands, trying to stop the tears. I felt Randie sit down beside me and gathered me in her arms, so I gave up and bawled in her arms until I was exhausted emotionally. She didn't try to move away, so I just laid in her arms, sniffing occasionally, listening to her strong heartbeat and even breathing until I was nearly asleep again.

"Hey," she finally said, "you'd better get to bed. Do you have a guest room, or shall I sleep on the couch?"

I sat up, rubbing my eyes before replying, "We do have a guest bedroom down the hall. David just changed the sheets yesterday, his mother was supposed to come for Christmas next week." I stood up stiffly, holding out my hand to help Randie off the couch. "I'll show you. Do you need a sleep shirt or anything like that? Um, towels are in the guest bathroom in the cabinet, soap and shampoo there as well."

"DJ, you don't have to play perfect hostess right now," Randie said softly. "Just point me in the right direction and I'll take it from there." She squeezed my hand briefly, then dropped it as I led her down the hall to the guest bedroom. I was too bleary to even be disappointed that she hadn't offered to sleep with me.

The next few days went by in a haze of sameness. I spent the mornings at the hospital with David, then the afternoons catching up at work, then back to the hospital with David. Randie usually came by my office or called every day to see how things were going. I was very grateful for her quiet support, offered in such a low key manner that I was able to talk freely without fear of breaking down again. I even managed not to break into apologies for my bad behavior a month ago; it was as if we agreed never to speak of the incident. After nearly a week in recovery, Dr. Conley discharged David. We had to change our diet, our exercise program, schedule follow up exams, but the main thing was that he was home and alive, just in time for the holidays. During Christmas, David and I spent a lot of time together, but also avoided talking about certain things. His mother refrained from taking over and cooking a feast for an army this year, contenting herself with heart-smart dishes. She left just before New Year's Eve, leaving us really alone together for the first time since his heart attack.

"Baby," David said pensively the morning after his mother left, "I think we need to update our wills soon. Please don't misunderstand, it's just that brush with mortality left me remembering that we haven't changed them since you got out of law school."

I set my coffee down on the table with exaggerated care, asking, "Do you need to change something?"

"Yes, I just remembered that I had Mom and Dad as beneficiaries after you but Dad died last year. No, I wasn't going to cut you out of my will," he said, smiling.

"Oh," I said brilliantly. I had forgotten about his father's death necessitating a change in David's will. "Why don't we call for an appointment, then? I think we can probably get in tomorrow, if your doctor agrees."

David grinned. "I'm ahead of you, DJ, I called both while you were at work yesterday. Speaking of work, Dr. Conley says that I can return on a half-time basis soon. I can hardly wait to get back and do something other than worry about my diet, do my exercises and wait for you to come home." He finished the rest of his juice, then added, "Even though I treasure our time together now, you don't have to keep working half days just for my benefit. You can go back to a full time schedule when I go to a half-time schedule next week."

"Oh, directing how I'm to do things again, eh?" I asked teasingly, feeling more relaxed now than I had in months.

"Sure, that's what directors do!" He stood up, stretching. "Think I'll go shower now. Want to join me?"

"Okay, my back really needs scrubbing," I replied. I drained my coffee, then followed David into our bathroom.

Life seemed to return to normal. We updated our wills, Dr. Conley gave David a clean bill of health, we both returned to work and Randie continued to be friendly but distant. Yet, I started feeling vaguely discontent and restless after we settled back into a routine, dreaming of women again. I tried to convince myself that I wasn't interested in women, just curious, but weeks after David was told he could resume marital relations, I resisted, saying I was tired, had a headache, on the rag, anything to avoid intimacy.

We had just finished watching a movie and were comfortably snuggling on the couch when David started nuzzling my neck. "Cut that out!" I snapped without thinking. David got up so abruptly that he dumped me into the floor and stormed off to his office, slamming the door behind him. Shaken by his rare display of temper, I followed him, meaning to apologize. "Honey, I'm sorry," I called through the door, "I'm not sure why-"

"I'll tell you what," David said quietly as he yanked the door open, "something or someone is on your mind. You've been acting strange since I returned from the Sammons Motor filming. I kept thinking that you were having an affair, but I could never figure out who you were fucking. Well, I still can't figure it out, but it's driving me insane. I've given you plenty of chances lately to come back, the doctor said it was okay, but you keep being the perfect friend, not the loving spouse." With that, he slammed the door in my face.

Shocked, I wandered around the house, straightening things up, looking out the windows, then finally settling into the guest bedroom. I managed to doze off, but kept expecting David to come in and offer reconciliation. At three in the morning, he hadn't come to find me, so I grabbed my purse and coat and went back to the coffee shop near the bar.

"Coffee and a blueberry scone," I told the waitress, just to justify my presence there. The coffee came immediately, soon followed by the pastry. I toyed with the food and drink, running the scene over in my mind. Did David suspect that I still had a crush on Randie? Did he think I was with one of our friends?

"Hey, if it isn't DJ." I looked up to find Toni standing next to the booth opposite of me. "Mind if I have a seat?"

"Be my guest."

Toni placed her order with the waitress, then looked at me critically. "What happened?" I took a deep breath, then told her everything. The heart attack, the recovery, my inability to have sex with David, and his accusation of the night. She listened quietly, not saying a word until I had finished spilling everything. Finally, she asked, "So, what are you doing here? Not that I'm not enjoying your company, but why exactly did you come here at this time of night?"

"I just wanted a quiet place, some place away from our usual haunts," I explained. I looked at my plate in surprise, I had somehow finished off the scone without realizing it. "And to be truthful, I hoped that someone would be here that I could talk to."

Toni chuckled, reaching for my hands. "DJ, it is indeed a coincidence that I am here. My roommate had her boyfriend over and I woke up to their, um, communication so I headed over here. But, getting back to you, I think you need more than one chat with someone, I think you really need to seek counseling. If you are afraid of the cost, I volunteer one day a week at-"

"No, I make enough money," I interrupted, "I just don't want to do that."

"Afraid that you'll seem weak?" she asked gently.

I started to answer, then realized that she was right. Instead, I asked, "Do you want to continue this conversation? I have keys to my office, there's always someone at the studio."

She thought for a few minutes, swirling the dregs of her coffee around her mug before answering. "Maybe my roommate is gone by now, her boyfriend starts work at five am." She consulted her watch. "Yep, he should be gone, she'll be leaving within a few minutes. Today is my telecommuting day anyway, my computer at home is better than the one at work. Want to follow me? or do you want to just say 'thanks but no thanks' and go back to your husband?" Curiosity started stirring as I considered the offer. Go home with a stranger, or go home to my husband. Pent up desire and overwhelming curiosity got the better of me, I laid down some money and motioned for her to lead the way.

As predicted, the apartment was empty, although there were plenty of signs of human habitation. I followed Toni to her room, thinking of Jana for a moment, of all the times I'd gone over to her house and followed her to her room when we were in high school. But Jana and I were just friends, never even potential lovers. Toni closed the door behind me as I looked around the room: full sized bed, large computer desk full of equipment, bookcase full of technical books, closet door, posters of various movie stars on the walls. It was fairly neat and very cozy. "I'm not sure where to sit," I said nervously.

"Then take the desk chair," Toni offered as she hung up her coat. "May I have your coat?" I handed it over, watching her hang it up in her closet, a very intimate gesture. "So, what do you think, DJ?"

"Nice," I said, walking around the room. "I hate to ask, but where is the restroom?" She pointed it out and I escaped for a few minutes. I came back and deliberately sat next to her on the bed. Unsure of where to begin, I asked, "So, where did you find your roommate?"

"Sally? We work at the same company, but she specializes in web-enabled database applications. It's funny, too, because my former girlfriend is her boyfriend's sister. Interesting arrangement."

A nervous silence filled the room until I blurted out, "I don't have any diseases, I just had a checkup a few months ago."

Toni laughed and leaned her head on my shoulder. "Thinking about what I said several months ago? Well, I don't either, I went to get tested after my girlfriend kicked me out, I was afraid she'd been dating her best friend behind my back." She snaked an arm around my waist. "So, here we sit, me with enforced celibacy and you dying of curiosity about lesbian sex. Should we get to know each other more, or should be jump directly to go?"

I answered by boldly going where I had not gone before. I leaned over and captured her lips with mine, savoring the warmth and difference. There was no going back now; Toni took charge and started pulling off my t-shirt, then unhooked my bra. David had always liked playing with my breasts, but I'd never felt this type of electricity when he licked my nipples. He never licked my collarbones, or kissed the inside of my elbows. I gave myself over to the sensation of pleasure and desire, marveling at the differences between lesbian and heterosexual sex.

Afterwards, I slumbered in Toni's arms for an hour, then got up and showered with her before leaving for work, changing into the extra clothes I always kept in the trunk of my car during the winter. Toni made no promises to call, I made no promises to seek her out. In a sense, she was my teacher, but never destined to be my lover. I kissed the top of her blonde tipped black hair, whispered, "Thank you," and left her apartment. I glanced up at her window before unlocking my car door and saw her waving to me. I waved back, then got in and drove to work.

I managed to slip into work without anyone seeing me, an almost impossible feat these days. I worked steadily for a few hours before my secretary, Kathy, discovered that I was there when she came in to find a file. "Oh, DJ, I had no idea you were here," she said as she sat down, obviously prepared for a chat. "Did David come in early as well?"

"I don't know, I left before he did," I answered. "Look, I'm pretty busy, what did you need?"

"The Wilkins file, that's all. Would you like some coffee? I just got in a shipment from Peet's this morning, your favorite, Aged Sumatra."

Oh, the woman knew how to tempt me! "Sure, if you're making some."

"Be back soon," she promised. I looked down at the keyboard, tapping listlessly until Kathy returned several minutes later with the promised coffee. "Here you go, Hon, strong with a hint of cinnamon, just like you like it." She waited until I had sipped it before launching into what I suspected was her real mission. "Is it to your taste? Good. DJ, I've know you and David both for many years. I'm not sure how to say this without overstepping my bounds, but many of us have noticed that you both seem distant from each other the past few weeks. Oh, you were both so devoted just after his heart attack, but now you are avoiding him. Is there anything I should know?"

How could I tell her that I was confused as hell? I didn't even know what Kathy thought about gays in general, but I knew that she was the motherly sort who wanted to help "fix" all of my woes, including my private life. I finally decided on a vague answer. "Kathy, David and I have been going through a rough patch, but nothing for you to worry about, leave that to us."

She pursed her lips as if to reply, but stopped herself. She sipped her coffee, then stood to leave. "Remember, if you need anything, just call."

"I'll remember that," I smiled. I waited for her to leave before taking a big slug of coffee. All this not being able to sleep at night was starting to drag me down and I'd noticed that I was drinking more coffee than usual. Right now, though, I was so tired...

"Honey, wake up, I'm taking you to lunch." I lifted my head and stared stupidly at David's face, trying to clear the cobwebs. He was already holding my jacket and purse for me, so I managed to get up, put on my jacket and make it to the car without too much stumbling. I could tell that he was angry, but not ready to discuss it yet, so I slumped down in my seat and stayed quiet.

He took me home. After making sandwiches, David finally asked, "Okay, just what the hell is going on with you? You leave sometime during the night, don't even leave a message and go only God knows where. Are you having an affair?"

I took a large bite of my sandwich and started chewing to buy some time before answering. My lawyer's mind started insisting that a one night stand was not an affair, that an affair was continuous meetings. I swallowed and answered cautiously, "No, David, I'm not having an affair."

"Then what the hell is going on? First, you and Randie have some sort of spat and you mope around about that, then you start running off during the night-"

"That was only twice!" I yelled.

"Damn it, Doris, listen to me!" he yelled back. He took a deep breath, then asked, "Is this all connected? I feel like I'm losing you and I don't want to lose you. I've offered to go to counseling with you and you have so far refused to take me up on my offer. Yes, you took good care of my while I was ill, but now you are distant again. Remember, for richer for poorer and all that, especially forsaking all others! Now I ask you again, what the hell is going on?"

I was suddenly tired of dodging questions, trying to figure out everything on my own. David had always been my best friend as well as my husband, a fair judge of people, always supportive. I closed my eyes and whispered, "I'm afraid, David. I think I might be gay."

"Oh, Lord," he breathed. I opened my eyes in time to see the color drain from his face. "DJ, are you sure?"

"No, I'm not sure, but I think it's a good possibility. I've been trying to ignore it for a long time, but lately I've found myself attracted to women. I dream about them, I am mesmerized by beautiful women, I've even had a woman flirt with me." No need telling him that it went much further than flirtation. "I even have a crush on a specific woman."

David stared at me for a long time, then slowly grinned ruefully. "Here I thought I would be the gay one since I've always had a low sex drive, lower than yours even. Now you tell me we can go girl watching together at the mall. Oh, the irony, DJ, the supreme irony of it all! I've always loved the fact that you weren't like most women, simpering and trying to get your way all the time and now it turns out that you really aren't like most women." He looked at his sandwich, then got up and tossed it in the trash. "I'm sorry, honey, I just can't eat right now, but you go ahead. We'll go back to work when you are through." I shrugged and tossed the remnants of my sandwich in the trash and gathered up my coat and purse in preparation for the trip back to work.

Work was hell.

As soon as I stepped into my office, my boss was calling with demands to "fix this contract now!!!" Right after that, I had two producers storm in demanding that I look at lawsuits accusing them of stealing trademarks in their latest films. One thing after another happened until I finally managed to leave around eight thirty. As I went to my car, I saw a figure out of the corner of my eye walking toward me, so I stopped and turned around.

"Hey, DJ, I heard you had a bad day," Randie said as she caught up with me, "so how about I buy you some dinner? Unless you and David have other plans."

"Nope, no plans," I said harshly. Then, trying to sound less bitter, "how about somewhere Italian?"

"Sounds good to me. Want to meet me at The Frying Pan?"

"Sure. See you in a few." The Frying Pan was another local landmark, an Italian place run by the same family since the town was started nearly 130 years ago. I got in my car and followed her to the restaurant.

After we had placed our orders, Randie looked at me with those serious gray-green eyes and asked, "What's going on now? I went in to talk to David this afternoon and he nearly took my head off, then started mumbling something about a fight. I can't imagine you two fighting."

I rubbed my aching head, I had the beginnings of a three day migraine coming on. Besides, how could I explain that part of the problem was the enormous crush I had on her? "It's a long story, Randie," I started, "and I'm not sure how to start." I fidgeted with my silverware, taking it out of the napkin and arranging it precisely as I tried to marshal my facts into a coherent narrative. I finally gave up. "Randie, remember the football game at your apartment?" She nodded slowly. "Well, since that time, I've been thinking a lot about what I did. Actually, I've been having dreams of women." I stopped as the waiter came to the table with our dinner.

We both dug in to the pasta and ate in silence for about ten minutes before Randie put down her fork and asked bluntly, "Am I in your dreams?" I nodded, relieved and terrified at the same time. Relieved that it was out in the open, terrified that she would never talk to me again. "DJ, I'm not sure what I'm supposed to say at this point. I will admit that I've been doing a lot of research." She stopped, looking confused for a moment. "I confess that I've avoided you since the football game, yet I couldn't bear to move away from you. Then when David had his heart attack, I was relieved, I had to be your friend again, just to support you during the crisis." Randie placed her hand tentatively over mine. "You don't know how hard it was not to crawl in bed with you when I took you to your house after his heart attack, but you looked so vulnerable that I couldn't take advantage." She squeezed my hand, then removed hers. "If you weren't married, I might be interested in being more than friends."

"So, you think you might-"

"Lord, woman, don't say it! Okay, I confess that I led you on when he was gone, but I didn't think much about it, I came from a very affectionate family, DJ. Back to the original subject-" which we never got to, for the waiter came with a dessert tray. We both gratefully ordered something, anything to keep from talking about our earlier flirtation and the ramifications thereof. After we paid the bill, we walked out to the parking lot. Randie followed me to my car, then hugged me for a long time. I could smell the faint floral perfume she always wore, could feel her cheek against mine. She finally pulled away slightly, kissed my check lightly, then left for her car.

I drove around town for a while after that, thinking. It wasn't fair to David for his wife to be gay, I decided, so I should ask for a separation, then maybe I should go to counseling. I should at least move into the guest room until we figured things out. My mind started running a checklist of the legal issues associated with a separation as I headed back home. When I got home, I found a note on the dining room table. It read:


I saw you with Randie tonight, so that is who you are so desperately in love with. If you go to the bedroom, you will find a suitcase with enough clothes for a few days. I'll send the rest of your belongings to storage tomorrow. Please do not ever come back. You may have been my best friend for years, but I can't stomach the idea of you being one of those queers.


I stared at the note for several minutes before it sunk in. I slowly walked into our bedroom and found the promised suitcase, neatly packed with enough clothes and shoes for the next few days. David had always been better at packing than I had. Now I just had to figure out where to go. Should I just rent a hotel room? No, damn it, there was a big convention in town and one of the sports teams was entering the playoffs, no rooms would be available. I had promised Toni that I would never come back, so that was out. Maybe Randie? Would she let me in?

Part 4

I drove aimlessly for a while before gathering the courage to ask Randie if I could stay with her for a few days. I knew that it was asking a bit too much, but what choice did I have? I had even cruised the lot of the coffee shop and of Quills and Swords before going to Randie's on the off chance that Toni was there. No such luck. Now, I had suitcase in hand, ringing the doorbell, half hoping that she wouldn't let me in and I would have to sleep in my office, half hoping she would let me in and I could stay on her couch.

"DJ, what in the world - never mind, just come in," Randie said firmly. I followed her into the apartment, sinking gratefully into the couch by the fireplace. She took my suitcase from me and put it somewhere, but I didn't give a damn where at the moment. She came back and sat next to me, watching me before asking, "What happened?"

"He kicked me out. I got home and there was a note not to come back home. He packed my suitcase and will put my stuff in storage tomorrow."

"Dear God in Heaven! Listen, you can't let him do that, you're a lawyer, you should-"

"Randie, let it drop. My marriage was over the minute I saw you walking into my office at Volcano Films. The minute you nearly fell going back from lunch, when I caught you. I tried so hard to be straight, even married for eight years, but nothing worked. Damn!" I grabbed a pillow and hugged it tight, a barrier against the world. "Please, Randie, no more talk tonight, just please let me sleep somewhere, I'll look for a new place tomorrow." She acted as if she was going to protest, but shook her head.

A short time later, we had the couch made into a bed. As a final touch, she handed me a large black and white teddy bear. "Janice Rowe gave this to me after I handed in my resignation, saying I needed a friend," Randie explained shyly. She hovered while I snuggled down under the blankets, then kissed my forehead. "Goodnight, my friend."

"Goodnight," I yawned, the day finally catching up with me. I fell asleep with the bear firmly in my arms, dreams of high school filling my mind.

"DJ, wake up, it's snowing!" Randie trilled. I blinked sleepily, dragging half the covers with me to her living room window and stared mutely at the snow coming down, blanketing everything. "I just checked the television again, it's already two feet in most places and expected to snow another foot by nightfall."

"How will we get to work?"

"Darling, we won't get to work," Randie explained patiently, "Volcano Films is one of the eighty percent of businesses closed today. It's a good thing I went to the grocery store this weekend, we have plenty of food. Now, I've taken the liberty of also calling David and telling him that you are here - no, he didn't ask that, I volunteered that you were taking the couch. So, after breakfast, we'll go to the park across the street and play!"

"Wait, I don't have the proper-"

"Look, we're roughly the same size, I'll just let you borrow some of my play clothes. Come on, breakfast is nearly ready."

I crossed the floor, dropping the blankets back on the couch. By the time I'd washed my face and facilitated, Randie had coffee, omelets and toast ready to eat. We ate breakfast, Randie still chattering excitedly about playing in the snow. I found myself staring at her, noticing fine lines around her eyes that crinkled when she really smiled. The overhead light caught the silver strands in her light brown hair, making it look as if she had already been in the snow. I was overwhelmed by her beauty and enthusiasm, aware that I wanted to do nothing more than throw myself in her arms and show her what I had learned from Toni, but that would have to wait. First, we had to play in the snow.

Since my parents had rarely let me play in the snow, I wasn't too keen on this at first. But, I was a fast learner and was soon merrily throwing snowballs at Randie and trying to dodge hers. For some reason, it never occurred to me that an artistic type would have such a deadly aim, or that snow down one's back could be so damned cold. We romped for hours, even took a stab at building a series of tunnels that immediately collapsed on us.

We finally headed back to the apartment to change clothes and eat lunch, then plopped on the couch to watch movies. Somewhere between The Rocketeer and Sabrina (the Harrison Ford version), Randie slung an arm behind me on the back of the couch. That arm started sliding until it was resting on my shoulders. Emboldened by the contact, I rested my head against her shoulder, content to just snuggle. I was at peace with the world at that moment, no pressures, no David, no raging hormones. It was one of those golden moments that are etched into memory, a secret treasure to take out and examine in solitude, a heartwarming memory. It was all the more precious since I was sure that it would not last, so I impressed all of the sensations in my memory: the warmth of her body, the delicate floral perfume, the steady sound of her heart, the softness of her breast under my cheek. It was heaven.

Over the next few days, the snow finally melted off enough to permit businesses to re-open. By that time, Randie and I had an unspoken pact: we could snuggle on the couch, but nothing else. No sleeping together, no kisses, nothing that would lead anywhere too soon. We did get to know each other better, she told me hilarious stories of trying to direct community theatres, of actors that were body parts for commercials ("will the hands please come over here now?"), and of tutoring high school athletes ("nobody better know I'm taking acting lessons! They'd think I was a fairy!") In turn, I spoke of Star Trek and Xena: Warrior Princess conferences, stroking egos of both our in-house staff and CEOs who thought they knew about films and of the death of my grandmother ("no one told me it would hurt that much.")

The day of reckoning finally came; we had to return to work. Despite the heaven of being with her, I had decided that I would try to find my own place soon, it wasn't fair to expect her to be my host forever. I made it to my office and started the coffee pot, thinking how proud Kathy would be of me for remembering this small detail.

"DJ, what a pleasant surprise!" Kathy exclaimed, just as I thought she would. I had to smile, I had remembered to get the coffee going, but had completely forgotten to pour myself a mug. Kathy brought in our mugs, full of rich coffee, and settled herself into one of my visitor's chairs. "You half remembered, boss," she chided teasingly, "but I'm afraid you'll have to keep me around for the rest. Now, did you have a good time in the snow?"

"Did I ever!" I started to launch into trading snowballs with Randie, then realized that it would be rather awkward to explain. Not wanting to burst this happy moment, I thought furiously, then remembered that I had been working on a deal with a company that Randie was filming for. "Randie and I had been working on a deal late into the night, so I followed her home to make sure she got there. Then, as luck would have it, my battery died and I couldn't jump start it, so I wound up being snowed in. There's this park across the street, so we had a blast with snowball fights, forts, snowmen, the whole shebang. What did you do?"

"Oh, I took my daughters out and we did the same thing, pretty much. My husband tried to get to work, but had to come back. He showed them how to construct good snow forts, then snuck me back out there after they went to bed. It was very romantic, DJ. I bet you missed David, though."

David. Damn. Before I could reply, I heard his voice in Kathy's office calling out, "Hey, Kathy, can I have some of this coffee?" He walked into my office with the pot and a mug, waiting for an answer. She nodded, so he poured a cup for himself, then refilled ours before taking the pot back. "So," he said as he came back and sat in my other visitor's chair, "did you and Randie have a good time? It was so gracious of her to put up with you for a few days, remind me to send her a thank you gift. Maybe some good coffee, or even something frivolous like daisies?" Kathy decided that it was a hint and left my office, shutting the door behind her. He settled back in his chair, examining me over the rim of his mug as he sipped the fragrant brew. Unable to bear the tension any longer, I asked, "So, what did you do during the great snow storm?"

He set his mug down on my desk, then leaned back, lacing his fingers together across his middle. "Thought about you. About us. I tried to reconcile our marriage with your new desires, but couldn't. It was nice of Randie to put you up, but it was rather snotty of me to toss you out like that. I apologize, love, I was pretty hurt by what you said." David picked up his mug and took a long sip, then set it back down. "My dear, are you sure about this? If you're not, then can we have a second chance? I may be a few years older than you, but Randie is from another generation altogether, it would be like dating your mother."

"David, that was the most confusing sentence I ever heard from you," I teased. "But seriously, I'm rather at a loss as to what to do right now. I still love you, but I realized that I never was really in love with you. Quite a difference, you see." I stopped, groping for the right explanation as he looked at me quizzically. "You see, I can love you dearly, even respond to your, well, caresses, but still not really be...I guess I could be bisexual."

He got up and came around to my side of the desk, wrapping his arms around me from behind. "DJ, I lost my temper. I'm a patient man, I'll wait for you to make a decision. If you are not meant to be my wife, I'll have to accept that, but in the meanwhile, will you come home with me tonight?"

He won, I lost. "Yes," I said, accepting a light kiss from him. Now I just had to tell Randie.

"Just when I was getting used to you being around," Randie said philosophically that night as she let me into her apartment. I had been worried how she would take it, but she didn't seem to mind too much. I silently packed my few belongings, then took them down to my car. I went back up to double-check to make sure I hadn't left anything behind. I found her staring out of her window, looking at the remaining snow. She turned and faced me, holding out her arms for one last embrace. I flew into her arms, both of us holding on as if for dear life. "I'm sure it's for the best," she murmured into my ear, "but know that you always have a place if you need it. You are such a dear friend, I will miss you being here, but I guess your place is with David after all."

I started to pull back. "But-"

"Hush, sweetheart, let me just hold you for now. It's easier this way, we didn't do anything that we might regret. I can still be your friend." I felt her tremble once before she pulled away a bit. Randie ran her fingers through my hair, then cupped my chin in her hand, eyes very green with an inner glow. She leaned forward slightly, but the moment was dashed by the shrilling of the phone. I felt quite deserted and cold as she crossed the floor to answer the phone, but took the opportunity to slip out without further words.

Winter melted into spring as David and I tried to resume our normal lives. I even went to counseling with him, but avoided mentioning my feelings for other women. He also avoided bringing the subject up, both in the sessions and at home. Randie and I continued to see each other for lunch some, but usually with David or someone else from the office. We never really had a chance to talk alone any more, for which I was secretly grateful; it meant I did not have to choose.

March roared in with massive changes for all of us. First, David was promoted to producer. Second, Randie got an offer from a studio to direct television shows. David was absolutely thrilled by the changes in his position and level of responsibility. "Hey, maybe we can even consider having children now," he had said. I was stunned, I had never wanted children and he had always claimed that he didn't want children either. The same day he got his offer, Randie disappeared for several hours during the afternoon, then came back with a secretive smile on her face.

My secretary got together with David's secretary and planned a huge promotion party for him a few days later. They managed to convince Harold Jenkins (our intrepid President) to allow us to shut down the entire studio for the rest of the day. A buffet was catered, champagne flowed, dance music boomed from hidden speakers and David accepted thanks from everyone. It was as if we all needed an excuse for a party, to welcome the spring after an unusually cold and bitter winter. I must have danced with half of the staff, including my secretary, who insisted on teaching me to jitterbug.

Several hours into the party, Randie managed to steer me to an empty room. Her face was flushed with excitement as she guided me to a couch on a commercial set. "You are the first to know," she announced proudly, "that I am leaving to direct for Puget Sound studios. In fact, I'll be directing several pilots for several different networks."

"Ah, congratulations," I stammered as my pulse started racing. "When do you start?"

"Next week. I'll be moving to Washington state, near the Canadian border. Are you pleased for me?"

I swallowed hard. "Sure," I answered around the lump in my throat. "That's terrific, Randie."

"I've handed in my resignation to Harold this morning." Randie reached up and traced my cheekbones, then said softly, "I'll miss you, DJ, I wish you were going with me."

Without thinking, I replied, "I wish I were going with you as well." I felt sweet sorrow welling up in my chest and eyes, unbidden tears started brimming. Randie leaned forward and brushed the tears away as a few slid down my face. My heart was hammering double time now with the closeness of her lips to mine. It felt so natural to close the gap, to lightly kiss her lips, a bittersweet reminder of what might have been. As we pulled apart, I heard a loud gasp. I turned to see who it was and saw Kathy, staring wide-eyed at us, her hand to her mouth in horror. Before I could say anything, Kathy turned and ran from the room, shrieking her lungs out.

"I'm sorry babe, I didn't think," Randie whispered. I nodded, then lurched from the room as I suddenly became nauseated. Hell had indeed broken loose. Randie followed me to the ladies room as I tried to convince her to leave. Kathy came in the room just as I disappeared into one of the stalls. Randie told me later that Kathie glared at her before yanking open the stall door to check on me. I was absolutely miserable, from supremely happy to totally miserable in a few seconds. Kathy insisted on playing mom and held my hair until I was done, then brought me a cup of water to rinse my mouth out with. Randie disappeared, David appeared. I started feeling dizzy and fainted, cracking my head against one of the sinks, necessitating a trip to the emergency room for stitches.

David was completely silent when he took me home from the hospital. I didn't blame him, I had been caught kissing Randie, something I had promised myself that I would never do again. As we got ready for bed, he finally asked, "Why?"

"David, I don't know, it just happened."

"Will it happen again?"


He laid down, pulling me into his arms. "So now what?"

I yawned. "I don't know." I rolled out of his arms and fell into a deep, mercifully dreamless, sleep.

Dear David,

While you were gone to work today, I did a lot of thinking. You don't need this type of uncertainty in your life and I'm being unfair to myself. By the time you get back, I will have taken my clothes and my laptop -- you may have the rest. I'm driving out tonight for parts unknown, but rest assured that I will be in touch with my lawyer. I won't contest the divorce and you shouldn't either -- as I am practically giving you everything but what I am carrying with me and the contents of my savings account. I've already directed my attorney to file the separation papers. Please don't try to find me, it will only make matters worse.



David stared at the note, unable to take it all in at once. He finally laid it back on the table, lining the bottom edge up precisely with the edge of the table as if it mattered. He stood motionless for a long time, then roused himself to call DJ's attorney, who told him pretty much what DJ had: the papers were filed, he was not to follow her. Next, he called Randie, who said she had not seen DJ, nor had DJ told her about filing for divorce, it was a complete surprise to her. He finally made a tour of the house, noting that she had done precisely what she had written; she'd cleaned out her clothes, toiletries and laptop gear, but had left everything else, including all of her books. It hit him for real then, she was gone with no intention of ever coming home.

"Hi David." Randie rolled her eyes - hadn't she told her secretary not to put his calls through? In the year since she had left Volcano Films, David had called every week, looking for DJ. "No, I still haven't heard from her, I tell you that every week. Have you thought of hiring an investigator? You did? She must have covered her tracks pretty well, then." She doodled on a notepad as David rambled on at the other end, finally ending with the news that the divorce had become final the week before. "David, I'm sorry, but crying won't bring her back. Yes, I'll call if I hear from her. Goodbye." Randie looked at the receiver for a minute, briefly fantasizing about smashing it back into the cradle, but placed it down carefully instead. She took out the letter that she had received from DJ a year ago and read it for the hundredth time.

My dear Randie,

I am leaving David tonight. I have already filed the proper legal papers and cleaned out my stuff. I never meant to kiss you again, but it seemed so right at the time, at least until Kathy shrieked in horror.

I'm sorry about all of the pain I have put everyone through, it is best for me to leave. As I write this, my head is swirling with contradictions, part of me wanting to reassure David that we can glue the broken pieces back together, part of me wanting to follow you, part of me wanting to make a fresh start somewhere new. I suppose you have already figured out which part I listened to in the end. Leaving you is even harder than leaving David, I suppose it has something to do with a romantic view of what might have been between us. As I told David, don't try to find me, but I seriously doubt you would try to find me anyway.

Sorry about the rambling.



Randie smoothed out the creases, seeing DJ's face in her mind. Silly to keep the letter, she thought, but it was the only link to her former student, friend and almost lover. It was ironic that DJ had once accused her of leaving when she needed her as a teacher, now the tables had been turned. Randie had quietly joined a group of women who were dealing with coming out late in life, but she had resisted all offers of dates. It was stupid to think that DJ would come back into her life, she reminded herself again, but she could always have that faint hope. Hope for her generation had birthed revolutions, new ways of life, but what had DJ's generation done? Learned to live so fast and hard that they never had time to play? Randie's generation had not seen the need to play...she grinned at herself, going so philosophic in her middle age. Why, just the other day she had broken down and bought reading glasses.

A light knock on her doorframe brought Randie out of her reverie. She looked up to see Pierre, the executive producer of one of her shows, sticking his head into the room. "Pardon, my sweet, but may I introduce you to a new employee?"

"Sure, come on in," Randie said.

"It is my great pleasure to introduce you to D. Jeannetta Tribble, Esquire. Miss Tribble is our new vice-president and general counsel for Puget Sound Productions. Would you do me the great favor of taking her out to lunch? It seems that the other executives, while overjoyed to welcome her on board, are all unable to break away for a simple repast."

Randie swallowed, pulling herself together quickly. "I'd be glad to, Pierre." She waited for him to leave, then asked in a trembling voice, "Would you like for me to find someone else to take you to lunch?"

"No, I want you to return the favor from years ago." She flashed a brilliant smile, brown eyes lighting up with laughter. "By the way, you can still call me DJ, if you wish. So, how do you like working for Puget Sound Productions? And I'm hungry now, even though it's only eleven fifteen. Can you split early?"

"Of course I can," Randie said when she remembered to breathe. She grabbed her purse and jacket, saying, "there's this great Italian place I've found just a few blocks over..." DJ smiled again, tucking her arm through Randie's as they exited the office. Once they cleared the building, Randie admitted, "I've never lost hope that you would find me again."

"I'm glad," DJ said as she gave Randie a quick peck on the cheek. "Now, about that lunch..."

Randie grinned broadly as she opened the passenger door of her Mustang. Things were finally looking up.

JS Stephens' Scrolls
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