Monday, July 10, 2017

Donna - a Lesbian Sex Story

from Adult Sex Friends gallery Blonde Lesbians
There was something different about Donna today or maybe it was me. Everything seemed so soft and nice. When we hugged saying hello, her breasts felt so accommodating. Her stance was so inviting next to mine. Anyway, she was just over to talk about her boyfriend. He was such a nice guy but yet it didn't matter too much.
I poured a glass of wine and we settled on the couch watching Wendy Williams show.
"Her breasts are so big and she lost weight, she looks fabulous" I said.
"I know she's one mamma I'd love to meet someday. And she's so funny and yet real at the same time. I love her"
Somehow I shifted on the couch at the same time she raised her glass and spilled wine on her tshirt.
"Oh" I said
"Don't worry" Donna said as she took it off to wash out the wine stain. "These stains set quickly. I don't want this to be hard to get out. A little soap now might mean it will come out easier in the wash."
She returned to the couch. I was looking at her in nude bosoms. She looked back and knew I wanted her.
She came up to me and let me suck her nipples. Clasping my hair in her hands, she toyed with my hair as I sucked her hard nipples. She directed me down to her hot wet pussy. I licked and licked till she started squirting.
She then took my legs and swung them over till we were 69ing each other. I trembled with my first orgasm I'd ever had. And we went on and on till the phone rang.
She answered. It was her boyfriend Tommy. He was stopping at the store and wanted to know if she needed anything.
"Oh no Dear" she replied in a guilty tone.
We quickly got dressed wine stain or not the shirt went back on and we went back to the television.

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Friday, June 2, 2017

Lesbian Femdom Sex Story - Accident

Accident (Fdom/F, ws, oral, bond, strapon)
by SubVee (sub_me777@yahoo.com)

***

A young submissive female in search of her true Fem Dom.

***

It was a warm spring day. I had just finished work and 
I was driving down the highway, when I spotted a 
gorgeous cream-colored Benz. It was very clean and 
shiny like it was new. Inside of this vehicle sat a 
slender woman with brunette hair.

As I passed her on the highway our eyes met. Her blue 
eyes went through my entire body, like the cold steel 
of a dagger. For the past two years I had been in 
search of someone who was just like me, what am I? 
Kinky, and very much into consensual slavery, or as 
some know as BDSM.

On the outside I look like an everyday good girl, on 
the inside I consider myself to be a total submissive 
fem, and a lover of the dark side. As I continued to 
drive down the highway I noticed the cream colored car 
was still behind me. I continued driving until I saw 
the sign for my exit. As I drove off of my ramp I saw a 
huge traffic jam. It was outrageous and traffic was 
only moving about two miles an hour, and I still had to 
drive at least twenty more minutes before I could get 
home. 

I continued to sit in traffic listening to my stereo 
and looking in my mirrors, when all of a sudden I 
noticed the cream colored car approaching slowly on my 
left. Traffic had started to pick up. As I continued on 
my route towards home, I noticed that the cream colored 
car had moved into my lane, in front of me. When we 
stopped for the red light I noticed the woman inside of 
the car looking at me through her rearview. I didn't 
pay this any attention. I just turned up my stereo and 
continued to listen to music.

When I started to approach another stoplight it went 
from green to yellow. I didn't have time to stop again 
and I knew that I could make it, when all of a sudden, 
the cream colored car slammed it's brakes. I slammed my 
brakes as hard as I could. Suddenly I saw my car smash 
into the back of the cream colored car. My heart was 
pounding like it never had.

Before I had a chance to get out of my car, the woman 
from the cream colored car was coming toward me, and 
she was not a happy camper. "Look what you've done to 
my fucking car." She screamed, almost to the top of her 
lungs. I got out of my vehicle and asked if she was 
injured. The look that she gave me could kill a snake. 
I noticed that she was tall, slender and very dominant. 
"You're going to pay for this, do you hear me?" She 
kept saying over and over again. The police came and 
took down our information, and we went about our way.

About two months had past after the car accident, when 
I had attended one of those gothic/ bdsm dance clubs. 
As I socialized with some friends I sat down at the bar 
and noticed a familiar face. it was the lady from the 
accident. 

Just as before, our eyes met and I started trembling. 
She started walking towards the bar area, and boy did I 
want to piss my pants. Up close she was very hot. She 
was dressed in a black leather bustier top, with a pair 
of black leather pants that revealed the sides of her 
legs from her ankle to her waist and last, but not 
least she had on a pair of stilettos. "Hello there, hit 
anyone's car lately?"

With a submissive smile, I shook my head and said, 
"No." She extended her hand to me, and said, "My name 
is Shawna, what's yours?"

Trembling I said, "Brianna, pleased to meet you."

We talked for at least an hour, and from that 
conversation I assumed that she was over the mishaps 
with the car. That night I gave her my phone number, 
and we parted.

Off and on for a couple of weeks we spoke on the phone, 
becoming better acquainted with each other. Shawna soon 
asked me out on a date. we both were trying to feel 
each other out. One Saturday night, I arrived at her 
house around eight o'clock. The house was as huge as 
all hell. When the door opened there was something 
about her that I could sense.

After we had a couple of drinks, she started fondling 
my thighs, but who was I to say no, but I did, and she 
was not pleased. "If you were smart you would be a good 
little subby and give me what I want."

I became nervous. "What is it that you want from me?"

"I want you to take off your clothes and come with me 
to the basement and I will show you." Her eyes were 
piercing and cold. Her entire basement was a fetish 
dungeon. "Tonight you belong only to me, you will do as 
you are told and nothing more, is this understood?"

"Yes," I said trembling.

"I'm not your mistress so you will refer to me as 
Goddess Shawna, is this understood?" It took me too 
long to answer, when suddenly a long single tailed whip 
came lashing across my backside, I didn't know what hit 
me.

The dungeon was cold and dreary, like a dungeon is 
supposed to be, but as I looked around, I wondered what 
she had in store for me on this night. Goddess Shawna 
disappeared into the darkness, but she soon returned 
wearing a shiny black cat suit with a black strap-on 
around her waist, a black cat mask and several types of 
whips. With a cold sound in her voice she said, "Come 
to me, and get down on all fours."

I threw myself down as quickly as possible, but maybe 
not quick enough, she grabbed a flogger and lashed me 
on my ass several times. "Whenever I give you an order 
you will do it quickly and you will do it gladly is 
this understood?" "Yes Goddess Shawna." 

She then made me stand, and she shackled and cuffed my 
arms and legs around a pillar that was in the center of 
the room. Everything was silent when suddenly, I felt 
her behind me. Her breath was hot but soothing. In my 
ear she started to whisper. "Mmmm, do you remember that 
little fender bender slut?"

"Yes Goddess Shawna."

"Remember when I told you that you would pay?"

"Yes Goddess Shawna."

"Well my sweet slut your payday has arrived." Suddenly 
she rammed the thick eight-inch dildo into my ass with 
all of the force that she had, and I let out a long, 
loud scream that almost shook the walls of the dungeon. 
"Shut the hell up, do you want to wake the fucking 
neighbors?" She pulled the dildo out of my ass and went 
to the table and got a gag for my mouth, and a 
blindfold. She proceeded with fucking me in the ass 
long and hard, until tears filled my eyes.

Once she was done she continued whisper in my ears. 
"Mmmm slut you are very anal, it's going to be so much 
fun paying you back for the thousands of dollars worth 
of damages to my new car." She then disappeared again.

When she returned she removed the blindfold from my 
eyes, and the gag from my mouth. "I'm going to take 
this out now, but you will be punished extremely if I 
hear a peep from you, is this understood?"

"Yes Goddess Shawna," I said softly as tears were still 
streaming down my face. My pussy was on fire by this 
time, but I knew that she would not please me and nor 
would she let me please myself. When the blindfold was 
lifted she was standing in front of me naked.

She had a large, shaved pussy. I craved for a taste of 
her sweet juices.

She came up behind me and bit down hard on my neck, and 
then on my back. I wanted to scream but I remembered 
what she had said. Tears were coming down my face very 
fast now. As she continued biting me on different parts 
of my body, a warm and creamy liquid started running 
down my legs. As she fondled my inner thighs she felt 
the warmth of my cum and angrily said, "Did I give you 
permission to cum, huh? Answer me now you little cunt."

"No Goddess."

"Goddess, Goddess what?"

"Goddess Shawna" 

She then went to a table and got a large wooden paddle. 
She drew back and smacked me hard on the ass with force 
several times. My screams wanted to come out again, but 
I took control of myself, this was punishment enough. 
The lashings kept coming over and over again until she 
got tired. There was a chair in the corner, she dragged 
it over to where I was, and sat down in it spread-
eagle. She then unshackled me, and made me get down on 
my knees. She took my head and forced it toward her hot 
pussy lips. They were very wet.


She controlled my head by pulling and tugging on my 
hair. I started stroking her love bud. As I licked it 
started to enlarge. It became so very large that I had 
no other choice but to suck on it. "Mmmm come on slut 
suck it harder, give it to me," she said as her eyes 
started to roll back into her head.

I knew that I must have been doing something right. Her 
moans and movements started to quicken, when suddenly 
she pulled my hair very hard and thrust her hot wet 
pussy so far into my face, I couldn't breath. I thought 
that I would surely suffocate on that night. She pumped 
her hips uncontrollably until a burst of juices arrived 
from in between her legs. She then rubbed my face into 
it, and I licked her dry. I could tell that she was 
surely pleased, or at least I thought.

As I remained in a kneeling position in front of her, 
she raised my head up and began to kiss me in a very 
sensual way, this had me creaming all over myself. I 
hoped that she wouldn't put her hands between my legs 
again. She slightly pushed me out of her way as she 
went for the blind fold again. "Come to me, and close 
your eyes, I'm about to test your sense of smell and 
taste." She said to me softly. "Do you understand?"

"Yes Goddess Shawna." I had no idea what was about to 
happen to me. The room became quiet for about ten 
minutes or so, and then suddenly, I was being tested in 
a lot of different ways. I smelled and tasted fruit, 
candy etc., but suddenly I smelled something that made 
my heartbeat very fast, and my clit throb.

"Mmm, do you like what you are smelling?"

"Yes Goddess Shawna," I said curiously.

"Would you like to take a lick of it?"

I didn't know what to say, but I knew that it should be 
the right answer. "Yes Goddess Shawna." I was so 
nervous, I knew what she wanted me to do, but I had 
never rimmed anyone before in my life, I've always 
thought of it as being gross.

"Well what are you waiting for? Get started." She said 
in a low voice as if she was hungry for it.
 
She started pushing her ass into my face, and moving 
back and forth. The first taste of it was kind of 
bitter tasting, so I pulled back as if in protest, this 
was not a good move.

"What in the hell do you think your doing? You will do 
whatever I want tonight and you will do it gladly slut 
is this understood?"

"Yes Goddess Shawna."

She then smacked my face and made me continue, as she 
bent over in front of me. After getting the hang of my 
tongue going in a circular motion, it was like the 
bitter taste had disappeared and turned into nothing 
but honey, I could not get enough, and nor could she.

I found myself pushing my tongue deep within her, and 
this is when she started to moan. "Mmm, yes cunt you 
are learning very well mmm." I could feel her body 
pushing my entire head back as she tried to get more 
tongue, so I shoved my tongue in as deeply as I could 
possibly get it. This is when she moaned the loudest 
and I could feel a watery liquid burst onto my tongue 
and mmm it was extremely satisfying. When she was 
finished cumming, she removed the blindfold and 
sensually kissed me again, this sent a warm pleasing 
feeling throughout my body.

When we finished it was about 3am, and we both were 
tired. She invited me to sleep with her upstairs in her 
bed after we showered together. Once we were in her 
soft king-size bed, she rapped her arms around me and 
held me in the spoon position, and we drifted off to 
sleep. 

I had awakened about 10am and realized that I had to 
leave, because I had to prepare for a meeting first 
thing on Monday morning. When I sat up, so did Shawna. 
"Hey good morning, where are you going," she said in a 
curious but sleepy sounding voice. "Well I have this 
huge meeting tomorrow morning, and I'm not prepared for 
it, so I must get started, if that's ok with you?"

"And what if I say that it isn't." My submissiveness 
was standing at full attention again. I didn't 
understand why I was acting this way, she did not own 
me, and she was not my mistress. We had only played 
together last night, or was it play? "Umm."

"Umm what Brianna, can't you speak when you're spoken 
to?" 
"No answer from you, mmm that's what I thought." Her 
eyes became piercing, it was like she could see right 
through my weak piece of flesh. "Okay, go if you must."

I quickly jumped up, and ran downstairs for my clothes. 
She watched every step that I made. When I was ready to 
leave she didn't get up to walk me out; she just lay in 
bed naked with her luscious body calling my name.

Within the next couple of weeks my job become very 
busy. I was a researcher for a major law firm. It had 
been two weeks since I had seen or heard from Shawna. I 
thought that either she didn't like me, or her job was 
making her life really busy. She was a big time real 
estate agent for a large real-estate firm, who catered 
to the filthy rich or something. I didn't want to call 
and bother her.

Eventually a month or so had gone by without me hearing 
from Shawna. On one hot and lonely Saturday night, my 
phone rang. When I picked it up it was Shawna. The 
sound of her voice made my voice tremble. "Hello 
Brianna how are you, I've missed you. I apologize for 
not getting back to you for so very long, but I have 
been busy with work, and I had to leave town for a 
couple of weeks." Her voice sounded stern, but sincere.

"I more than understand, I've also been very busy." My 
voice was sounding shaky, and weak.

"Are you busy this evening?"

"Ah no, I'm just hanging out here watching a movie."

"Mmm, what type of movie?"

"It's an S&M movie, it's pretty much ok."

"So what're you really into personally?"

It was like it was my very own secret, but I answered 
her with a timid, soft voice and said. "Well I enjoy 
domination, submission and mild masochism, along with 
other forms of BDSM."

"You know I enjoy the same things pretty much but I'm 
just the opposite. I enjoy dominating, and I'm into 
mild sadism." She said with a certain type of longing 
in her voice. As for me, this is something that I have 
been searching for in a person for a long time, and I 
knew that Shawna was not one of those want to be type 
of people, for she was a true female dominant.

Shawna then said, "So when would you like to test my 
skills again?" I really didn't know what to say. 
"Brianna speak up baby you can do it."

"Well I'm here all alone as usual, what about tonight." 

"I'm always ready, how about in an hour or so?"

"Yes that would be fine." I could hear a certain type 
of calm in Shawna's voice; maybe she had been yearning 
for some of the same things that I had been yearning 
for. 

About an hour or so later Shawna's cream-colored Benz 
pulled up in front of my house and she rang the bell. 
When I opened the door, she walked in and it was like a 
breath of fresh air. My heart was pounding but why? She 
had this look of pure lust in her eyes.

"Brianna, go to the car and get the black bag that is 
on the back seat for me please, I forgot it." I went 
quickly to the car to get it, and rushed back inside. 
"Thank you, now where can we go to get started," she 
said impatiently. "We can go upstairs to my bedroom, if 
you'd like." "Sure that'll be just fine." 

My bedroom was pretty spacious for a house of its size. 
In the past, I had the wall that sat between my room 
and one of the guestrooms removed to make one very 
large room, it served more then its purpose.

I was dressed in a black latex corset with buckles down 
the front with a matching latex thong and heels. Shawna 
once told me that she loved for women to dress within a 
scene but they should always keep themselves as sexy as 
possible. This was a huge turn-on for her.


Once upstairs Shawna dropped the black bag where she 
stood. A weird look came over her. She then grabbed me 
and kissed me hard on my mouth, burying her tongue down 
my throat. 

"Mmm, baby I have a lot in store for you my little 
pussy." She said, as she grinned. "Drop," Shawna said 
with great demand as she snapped her fingers loudly.

I knew exactly what this meant, so I did exactly what I 
was told, and I did it gladly. Shawna started taking 
off all of her clothes, and boy did she have a body to 
kill for. She then put on her famous strap-on and 
commanded me to come over to her. "Come to me and 
remain in a kneeling position."

I did what she asked without question, but I had no 
idea of what she wanted of me. She grabbed my head and 
shoved the eight inches of hard rubber dick into my 
mouth; at first it was hard to breath.

"You've never swallowed a dick before have you?"

All that I could do at the time was shake my head no, 
and she understood this time, because my mouth was kind 
of busy. She then slowly coached me and told me how 
easy it would be for me to eventually take it all in 
and after about fifteen minutes or so it started to 
work.

After that part was done, without warning she pushed me 
down onto the floor with force and began to rip my 
thong and corset off of me. She then began to shove the 
dildo into my pussy. I thought that she would split my 
clit for sure. She must have been really in need 
because her scent filled my whole bedroom instantly; it 
was like taking a breath of fresh air.

As Shawna pumped my pussy faster and faster, she 
decided to lift my legs over her shoulders, so that my 
ass would be revealed. She then took the dildo out of 
my pussy and shoved it clear into my ass without any 
lube. I accidentally let out a very loud moan, and that 
made Shawna push the dildo into me even harder.

"I told you before about being so loud didn't I, huh, 
huh?" Shawna was very angry and I was scared. She 
eventually got up and reached for her bag. She pulled 
out a lot of rope, very thick rope. "Get up on the bed, 
right now, hurry up." I climbed onto the bed very 
quickly, and I lay on my back as Shawna grabbed my 
wrists and started to tie them to the head post. 
Afterwards she grabbed my ankles and tied those too, 
and she also tied a blindfold around my eyes.

Shawna pulled out a black leather strap similar to an 
old-fashioned razor strap, and began punishing me with 
it. I dared not scream, but tears fell from my eyes 
each time my body twitched from the lashes. It seemed 
that maybe the strap was a little too large for my 
slender body after a while, Shawna switched to a small 
single tail whip. This had a sting that was really 
unbearable, but I could feel my pussy getting wetter 
and wetter with each thrashing that she administered.

Once Shawna was tired of whipping me, she then crawled 
on top of me and placed her hot pussy over my face and 
commanded me to lick and suck her graciously until she 
said to stop. As I licked and sucked, Shawna or rather 
Goddess Shawna became hotter and hotter. I could feel 
her sweat dripping onto my breast, this made my clit 
throb out of control, I wanted to explode. Shawna was 
already out of control as she fucked my face with 
force.

As I continued to suck her clit, she began to moan, and 
pull my hair. Suddenly a burst of hot creamy liquid was 
all over my face. Eventually when Shawna regained her 
composure she climbed to the end of the bed and said, 
"You have been a very good subby tonight, do you think 
you should be rewarded?"

"Yes Goddess Shawna."

"So be it," she said with satisfaction.

She began to suck on my clit, and pussy lips, mmm it 
felt so good. She had never touched me in this way 
before. I was melting. She then began to bite my clit, 
which hurt, but it hurt so good. Suddenly I began to 
explode and Shawna bit down much harder, on my clit, 
moving her way to my thighs. What a long night we had. 
I wore the evidence of her passion for me to work for 
almost two weeks the bruises were pretty bad, but good.

She always made sure that any evidence of her signature 
marks were well hidden, because I did have a job to go 
to.

Shawna and I began to see each other frequently, and 
then one day she came to me, and asked me to be hers in 
ownership, she wanted to become my Mistress, and me her 
submissive sex slave.

I immediately said yes. About six months or so later, I 
moved into Mistress Shawna's house, and began to please 
her in whatever way she wanted me to, 24/7. Her every 
command was my wish. One thing that remained the same 
was my career. I was still getting up going into the 
law firm each day looking like the innocent, good girl 
type.

The only difference was that I had an amazing glow 
about myself because I was in love with Mistress 
Shawna.

She would throw parties with her kinky S&M friends and 
use me for the human buffet. She showed me off like I 
was her trophy. Her friends would sometimes want to 
share me, but she would say, "Absolutely not."

This made me happy, because she was the only one that I 
wanted to use and discipline me. Mistress Shawna became 
very strict with me.

She showed and taught me things that I've never heard 
of. She turned into a pure bitch, when she would get 
her period, She would get upset if I were to breathe 
too heavy, she wanted quiet.

One rainy Saturday, I was doing my weekly chores of 
cleaning the house. I was in the kitchen doing the 
dishes by hand, because this is what she wanted though 
she had a dishwasher. A couple of wineglasses fell onto 
the floor and broke, she heard this and yelled 
downstairs. "Brianna, what in the hell are you doing?"

"Umm Mistress two wineglasses fell to the floor by 
accident and broke."

"Which two glasses?" She yelled with a roar in her 
voice. 

"Mistress two of the clear ones with the black stems, 
and gold rims."

She came running downstairs to take a look, I could see 
that she was terribly upset with me, and I immediately 
started to cry. "Brianna, look at this fucking mess, do 
you know that these are the glasses that I got from 
Greece last year. Now instead of six there are only 
four. How will I replace the glasses huh, do you know 
how fucking expensive these are for just one?"

"No Mistress, please forgive me, please."

"No Brianna not this time."

"When you get paid you will not be allowed to keep a 
small portion for your allowance, you will turnover the 
next three paychecks to me, is this understood?" 
Mistress Shawna's eyes were turning red she was so 
angry. Each glass was made of crystal, with a diamond 
cut, and fourteen-karat gold around the rim.

"Brianna, clean up this mess, hurry up, do it quickly." 
Mistress was not feeling well, and I was in deep 
trouble. I was so scared of the punishment that I was 
about to receive. As tears streamed down my face, I 
rolled my eyes at Mistress on a sly, or so I thought 
and she slapped the hell out of me. "Brianna, are you 
disrespecting me? Are you getting angry with me, after 
all that I've done for you?" 

"No Mistress." I threw myself down on my knees."

"Brianna, I'm very angry with you. Your punishment will 
last for the rest of the weekend, go to the basement 
right now."

I did as I was told. Mistress walked behind me quickly. 
Once we were down in the basement, Mistress made me 
strip, it was time for my punishment. "Come here, and 
bring the pussy whip with you.  Now lay across the 
table, and be quiet, don't let me hear a fucking sound 
from you." 

Mistress strapped my arms down first, and then my legs, 
I couldn't move if I tried. My legs were spread apart 
so that my luscious pink lips were showing among other 
parts.

Mistress brought her arm back as far as she could, and 
she took the small leather whip and swung it over and 
over as hard as she could, down on my wet pussy. My 
tears were streaming like a river. My pussy became very 
wet, and very swollen. The burning sensation felt good 
for an instant. Though Mistress was on her period, I do 
believe that she was turned on, as she saw my pussy 
swollen and wet. She started unstrapping me.

"Stand up right now, hurry."

When I went to stand up, my pussy felt as though it 
would fall to the floor. The pain was intense. Mistress 
walked into the bathroom. I suddenly heard the water 
running I had no idea of what she was doing. She then 
came over to me, and removed her black satin robe. Her 
body made me so weak. "Brianna, do you love and cherish 
your Mistress?"

"Yes Mistress very much so."

"Good, you will do what ever it takes to please me, 
correct?"

"Yes Mistress."

Mistress Shawna then made me lay on the cold marble 
floor. She knelt down over my face with her pussy over 
top of my mouth. "Open your mouth wide and you better 
not spill a drop." Mistress's voice sound low sensual.

Suddenly a warm stream of gold tricked from Mistress's 
pussy directly into my awaiting mouth. She had done 
this to me several times before, but it never tasted as 
good as it did on this day. Maybe her time of the month 
added a little more flavor.

After Mistress was finished, she laid her pelvic area 
slightly on my mouth and started humping my face. I got 
the hint right away. My tongue was her slave. She was 
grinding her clit onto my tongue harder and faster, 
until I heard her moans of ecstasy.

When she was finished, she got up and walked away from 
me, and placed on her black satin robe. "Get up slut, 
go over to the corner and get into your cage, this is 
where you will spend the night. If you are a good slut, 
I will take you out in the morning."

The marble floor was very cold, but when I had awakened 
in the morning I notice that there was a blanket 
covering my naked body. In the months and years that 
followed, my relationship with Mistress Shawna got even 
better. I learned what to do and what not to do, how to 
dress, and how not to dress. Mistress kept me under her 
strict and complete control. Almost everywhere she 
went, I went too, I was always a foot or so behind her.

One thing I do not regret is hitting the back of her 
cream colored Mercedes Benz on that warm spring day.


The End

Lesbian Sex Story - a Benign Something

A Benign Something
by J.T. Malone (jtmalone70@yahoo.com)

***

Two women, straight and lesbian, come together. (FF,
1st-lesbian-expr, rom)

***

Author's Note: As always, if you're looking for a
"quickie" story or something along the lines of "Dear
Penthouse", this isn't the story for you. It is as
realistic and believable as I could create it. Hence,
it moves at a more realistic pace.

***

I was sitting on the couch waiting for my daughter,
Rachel, to finish getting ready. We were going to a gay
and lesbian festival in the park – a fundraiser and
luncheon - at the request of Rachel's new girlfriend
Kate. So, as a show of support for my daughter, I said
I'd come along.

Almost two years prior to this, when Rachel was a
freshman in college, she came home one day from school
and, over dinner, broke the news that she was a
lesbian. Or so she said. The only reason I had my
lingering doubts was because of the way she acted about
it, as if it wasn't a big deal. Granted, it shouldn't
be, but she seemed to be taking it in rather casual
stride, considering it was a bit more than simply
changing your hairstyle or college major.

Only a few weeks before, she had been talking about
seeing a young man in one of her classes, even going so
far as to have lunch with him twice. But now she was a
lesbian and, although I had my doubts, and even though
we did talk about it to some length, I accepted her
decision and left it at that. If it were a phase, she'd
likely get over it at some point. Even she admitted it
could be such, which only fueled my doubts.

Rachel had been dating Kate for a little over three
months. She was a nice enough girl, but a bit rough
around the edges. Aside from several tattoos, she also
sported a number of piercings, which seemed to do more
to attract attention to her, than act as an outward
expression of her personality. And, although I never
saw her doing so, I assumed she smoked, due to the
residual smoke I could smell on her from time to time.
But, over all, she was a decent, kind person. Rachel
seemed to enjoy her company a great deal, and, as long
as she was happy, that's what mattered.

Whereas Kate was an Art History major, Rachel was
studying Anthropology. My understanding is that they
met in an art class. And, while Kate was adorned with
numerous body modifications, Rachel had none. Well,
that is, until her new girlfriend talked her into
getting her tongue pierced.

At first, it was a little unsettling to see them
holding hands. I think any parent would feel that way.
You know someone all their life, and then one day
something shifts dramatically about them, and it takes
some getting use to.

When I saw them kiss for the first time – not that I
was gawking, mind you; I simply walked into the living
room at the wrong time – I didn't cringe because my
daughter had her tongue in another girl's mouth. I did
so because it was so utterly foreign to me. And, to be
frank, I did so because I was seeing a relatively
intimate moment between my daughter and her girlfriend,
something I'd normally assume to be inherently
personal.

It wasn't a bad thing. I wasn't mad or upset. It was
strange, because it was all so new to me. But now,
after a few months to acclimatize myself to their
relationship, it wasn't so unnerving.

Rachel at last came tromping down the steps.

"Ready?" she huffed, throwing her arms into her jacket.

A short time later, after picking up Kate at her
apartment, we arrived at the park.

Just like with so many other things in her life, Rachel
typically threw herself into whatever it was currently
holding her interest, be it classes, music, clothes,
friends, and the like. Now that she was a lesbian, she
and Kate joined the student Les-Bi-Gay-Trans
organization on campus.

I never really gave them a second thought, to be
honest. To me, they were just regular people. Maybe a
bit strange, though only, as I said, in light of the
fact that it was all so new to me. After all, it's not
every day you see a large bearded man strolling down
the street in a dress, let alone your own daughter
holding hands with another young woman.

After I parked the car, the three of us walked to the
park, about a block away and smack in the middle of
town. There were four streets on four sides of the
park, so there was no way you'd miss seeing the event,
should you drive through town. There were balloons,
booths offering different sorts of foods and beverages,
as well as various types of books and literature. And,
of course, it wouldn't quite be a party without games,
clowns, and assorted one-person acts in the form of
jugglers, musicians, and magicians.

I suppose it's fair to say, although I was glad to see
everyone smiling and happy and out in the open about
their sexuality, in the back of my mind, I did have to
question whether this sort of thing had a bit too much
of a carnival atmosphere to it, seeing as how kids
going by might form a different impression, wondering
what the hubbub was all about. After all, there was a
slight sexual undertone, and sometimes more than simply
slight. Some of the prizes at the game booths were
condoms and the like, and one of the jugglers did toss
about a few adult toys.

Suffice it to say, though, I was pleased to be there
with my daughter, as a show of parental support, but I
did feel a tad squeamish, too.

Our trio walked around the park, checking out one booth
after the next, Rachel and Kate occasionally stopping
to chat with a friend. At one point, as they engaged in
a lively conversation with another young woman adorned
in tattoos and body piercings, I kept myself occupied
by thumbing through a book of poetry at a nearby booth.

"You interested in that?"

I looked up and saw a short, portly woman with a broad
smile standing on the other side of the table from me.
She had long, straight black hair and large glasses
that made her eyes seem unusually large; large, but
friendly.

I glanced at the book in my hand.

"Oh, uh... Yeah... I guess. It's interesting."

I hadn't even had a chance to read anything in it.

She smiled again.

"I wrote that," she said, gesturing to the small book
in my hand.

"Oh, I see."

She leaned down under the table and pulled out a small
plastic bag, and then reached for the book.

"Here ya go," she said, taking it from me and placing
it in the bag.

I took a deep breath, saying it was ok, too embarrassed
to tell her I didn't actually want to purchase it. But
she seemed to sense this and dropped the small book
into the bag and handed it to me.

"Yours to keep," she said with the same friendly grin.

With my face turning red, I chuckled.

"Oh, really... No, that's ok. I can't."

"S'ok," she replied. "I gotta whole box of 'em down
here and haven't sold one all morning. You're nice,
you're pretty... what the heck," she exclaimed happily.
"You're the only person who's opened one up."

My apprehensions faded, though I was slightly
embarrassed by her remark about being pretty. I took
the bag, albeit reluctantly, and thanked her. She only
shrugged, still standing there and smiling, looking at
me with those big eyes. I stood there fidgeting for a
moment, and then mumbled that I should probably get
going, but not before thanking her once more.

"Sure," she said, giving me a small wave.

I stepped back over to Rachel and her friends, standing
with my back to the table, trying to hide my
embarrassment.

After a tortuously long wait, the conversation between
Rachel and Kate and their friend ended, and we
continued on our way.

A short time later, the three of us found a bench to
sit on. While Rachel and Kate went to get us a bite to
eat, I sat on the bench alone, watching them stroll off
into the distance, walking from one food vender to the
next. I sighed and smiled and crossed one leg over the
other and waited.

I guess I'm a people-watcher by nature. As I sat there,
I looked out at the milling crowd. Maybe a few hundred
people were there. Men holding hands, women holding
hands, and a sprinkling of couples of mixed gender,
obviously heterosexual. It was actually quite pleasant
to see everyone, regardless of what sort of person they
were on the inside, laughing and chatting and enjoying
a beautiful afternoon in the park.

I turned my gaze toward where Rachel and Kate stood in
a long line. Rachel had her arm draped over her
girlfriend's shoulder, while the later had her hand in
the back pocket of Rachel's shorts. I smiled and just
then saw Kate's hand come out and grip Rachel's butt.
She jumped, as if startled, and playfully poked Kate in
the ribs. I chuckled and turned away and down at the
plastic bag sitting along side me.

Just as I picked up the bag and pulled out the little
book of poetry, a large man, bald and chubby, with a
small dog on a leash, came and stopped in front of the
bench.

"You mind if I sit and rest a moment?" he asked in,
dare I say, a rather effeminate voice.

I smiled and said sure, but glanced down at the girls
to see if they were heading back any time soon. They
were still waiting in line, though making progress
toward the front.

"God, thanks," he huffed, as he plopped down next to
me.

The little dog yipped up at his master, and the man,
fanning himself with some sort of leaflet, sighed.

"No, no, sweetie. Daddy's gotta rest a minute, ok?"

Then he turned to me, saying, "Lord, it's brutal out
today, don't ya think?"

I closed the book, trying not to chuckle, and looked up
at the sky. We were sitting in the shade, and I was
wearing sunglasses and my straw garden hat.

"Yeah, a little," I replied, giving him a smile.

He rolled his eyes and shook his head.

"Yeah," he said. "Just a little."

After a few minutes, he finally hefted his heavy body
off the bench.

"Ok, stinker," he said to the little dog. "Let's keep
moving." Then he looked down at me.

"Thank you so much, dear," he said with a big grin.

I smiled in reply and watched them slowly trot away.

No sooner had I gone back to my book, than yet someone
else asked to sit on the bench. This time it was a
woman's voice. I placed my hand in the book and put on
another smile and looked up. A woman, probably in her
mid-thirties, stood before me. She was tall and slender
and tan, with long brown hair pulled back in a
ponytail, and a blue cap atop her head. She was smiling
down at me from behind her sunglasses, holding a
Styrofoam cup in one hand and a plastic bag with what
appeared to be books in the other.

I sighed and smiled, repeating my previous performance
with the man and his little dog.

"Sure," I said, placing my bag on the other side of me,
so as to give her more room.

"Thanks," she replied with a toothy smile.

As she sat down next to me, I turned back to my book.
From the corner of my eye, I could see her do as
myself, crossing one long tanned leg over the other. A
runner, I thought. She had to be a runner or, at the
very least, athletic. I could see the toned muscles of
her legs bulge slightly, not to mention the running
shoes. Then she set her bag down on the bench between
us, and I quickly darted my eyes back to the book in my
hands.

A minute or so later, I heard a slurping sound and
looked up. The woman was holding the straw of her cup
to her lips, and then pulled it away, giving it a
dissatisfied expression. She must have sensed I was
watching and turned to me.

"Empty," she said, giving the cup a shake.

I smiled, and then she turned and dropped the cup into
a trashcan behind the bench. Just as I went back to my
book, she softly exclaimed, "Oh, I have that." I looked
up and smiled, raising my eyebrows.

"Pardon?"

She grinned and gestured to my book.

"I got that, too," she said.

I looked down and held it up.

"This?"

She grinned and chuckled and opened her plastic bag,
pulling out the same book of poetry. Then she glanced
over her shoulder, back in the direction of the stand
from which we both found it, saying, "You got it from
Darla, right?"

"Oh, um... Well, I guess. Don't know her name."

I looked over at the booth and saw the woman in
question talking to someone in front of her table. They
were laughing, and then she leaned down and pulled out
a plastic bag from under the table, while at the same
time reaching for the book in the other person's hand.

"Uh, yeah. That's who I got it from," I replied. Then I
turned back to the woman sitting next to me. She
smiled, and, in an instant, something struck me as odd
about it. But before I could put any more thought into
her smile, she held out her hand.

"I'm Gayle," she said.

I took her hand in mine, and she gave it a gentle
squeeze.

"Jess," I replied.

As she released me from her soft hand, I heard Rachel's
voice.

"Ok, hope you like what we got, because we're not gonna
go back and stand in line."

I turned and looked up, as Rachel and Kate stopped in
front of me.

"Oh, hey, Gayle," said Kate.

Apparently, the two were acquainted.

Rachel glanced up from the brown paper bag full of
food, splotched with round grease stains, upon hearing
Kate, and said hello to Gayle, as well. Rachel then
looked at me, and then to Gayle.

"Oh, uh, mom, this is Gayle. Gayle this is..."

But Gayle and I smiled, glancing at each other.

"We've met," I said.

Gayle nodded and smiled at my daughter, and then to me.

Rachel blinked and stared at us for a moment, finally
replying, "Oh, uh... Ok, then."

Then came the awkward moment I'd almost forgotten
about. Rachel and Kate stood before us silent, holding
the bag of food, and then my daughter gestured to the
bench.

"So, uh... how's this gonna work?" she asked with a bit
of a chuckle.

The four of us exchanged puzzled expressions, and then
Gayle quickly gathered up her things.

"Oh, here," she said hurriedly. "Sit. You guys sit.
Sorry, didn't mean to intrude."

I looked up, as she stood, and smiled at her.

"No intrusion," I replied with a friendly shrug.

Gayle paused for but a brief second and smiled. And
then I noticed it again, something about that smile,
something strange about it, almost mysterious.

Still grinning, I swallowed, trying to hide my
embarrassment.

When she had everything in her hands, Gayle bid Rachel
and Kate farewell, and then turned to me.

"Nice to meet you," she said, wiggling her fingers, as
she walked away.

"You, too."

For the remainder of the afternoon, we browsed and
shopped, sampling various types of food and beverages,
and finally sat in the grass near where the talent show
would be taking place. And, as had been typical for
most of the day, Rachel and Kate found another friend
to go over and chat with.

As I sat on a blanket, I pulled out my book, and, no
sooner had I opened it, than I heard a familiar voice.
I turned and saw Gayle sitting not far away. She was
talking to someone, another woman, and they seemed to
be having a rather lively and friendly conversation.
Smiling, I returned to my book, but found it difficult
to concentrate, as every now and then, I'd hear Gayle
laugh, a light, airy giggle. And every time she did, I
found myself smiling in reply.

Most of the poetry in the book was only so-so. Not all
that interesting or unique, to be honest. But it was
something to do, while waiting for the show to begin.
But soon I noticed something had changed. Over the din
of laughter and voices all around me, I didn't hear
Gayle's voice any longer. Curious, I turned to where
she had been sitting, to see if she had left, but, no,
there she was, sitting like myself, with her legs
crossed and hunched forward reading her book.

She had taken her cap off, her hair still in a long
brown ponytail. Gayle was slender, but not skinny;
small in the bosom, but not without a figure. Her face
was narrow, tipped off with a thin nose and high
cheekbones, and her arms seemed long, but maybe that
was because of the shirt she was wearing. It was white
and sleeveless with a low-cut neck. As for her shorts,
they were fairly routine: khaki with snapping pockets
on the thighs. Below all of this, she wore small white
tennis shoes and no socks.

In a word, Gayle was a handsome woman, with sharp
features you'd expect to see of a model adorning the
cover of a magazine. I could almost imagine that, if
she were dressed more formally, she would strike quite
charming image. She did seem, as best I could tell by
our very brief conversation, to be somewhat of a strong
woman, strong in character that is; an independent
spirit of sorts. She seemed to be the type of person
who would sit in an office somewhere high up in a
skyscraper making great financial decisions; a woman of
business prowess, clever and deft and intelligent.

As I sat staring at her, I began to wonder who she was,
what she did for a living, the things she liked and
disliked. And then she stretched her long arms over her
head, pushing her chest out, and smiled over at me,
when our eyes met. I smiled back and she grinned more
broadly in reply. That's when it suddenly dawned on me
that I had been staring at her, probably longer than
was considered polite. Embarrassed, I quickly glanced
down at the ground, trying to think of something to
say.

"You, uh... by yourself?" I asked.

Gayle smiled and leaned closer, holding a hand to her
ear.

I fidgeted and turned more toward her.

"You alone?" I called a bit louder.

She sat up straight and looked about with a forlorn
expression, holding her hands out, her book clasped in
her fingers. Then an exaggerated frown crossed her lips
and she nodded very unhappily. I laughed, then Gayle
laughed, and I asked if she'd like to come over and sit
with me, gesturing to my blanket.

Apparently confused by my offer and unable to hear me
clearly, she, in turn, gestured to me, then to her, and
then, bewildered, held up her hands. We both laughed,
and I cupped my hands around my mouth, calling out
loudly, "Would you like to sit with me?" A few
conversations that had been taking place around me
suddenly came to a halt, as all eyes turned in my
direction.

"Sorry," I mumbled with a blush to the couple sitting
closest.

A moment later, Gayle was slowly striding over to me.
As she sat down, she looked at the couple to which I
had apologized.

"Sorry 'bout that," she said with a big grin. "She's a
bit hard of hearing."

They only smiled half-heartedly and nodded, and then
resumed their conversation.

Gayle plopped down next to me, crossing her legs and
smiled.

"Thanks," she said.

I shrugged. I wanted to apologize for staring, but
thought better than to bring it up. Maybe she hadn't
noticed.

She unscrewed the cap off a bottle of water and, while
taking a gulp, gestured to the book in my hand.

"Oh," I replied, holding it up slightly. "Yeah, still
sorta... you know, pluggin' away at it. Trying to,
anyway."

Gayle nodded and brought the bottle down and replaced
the cap.

"Where's Rach and Kate?" she asked, looking around the
crowd.

I gazed about, as well, until I saw them sitting not
far off.

"Over there," I replied, pointing in their direction.

Gayle slowly nodded, playing with the bottle in her
hands. Now came the moment of awkward silence.

"So," I asked, planting my hands on my lap. "What is it
you do? For a living, I mean."

Gayle smiled and uncrossed her legs, pulling her knees
up and wrapping her arms around them.

"Um, physical therapist," she replied.

My hands twitched, as I quickly shot back, saying, "Oh,
I shoulda guessed."

"Why's that?" she asked with a grin.

And there it was once more – that suspicious smile of
hers. There was just something about it, something I
couldn't quite put my finger on.

I could feel my face turning red, as I tried to think
of a way to word my reply. No matter what I said, it
was going to be painfully obvious that I'd been staring
at her, specifically her body.

"Well, you know," I mumbled.

"No, I don't," she said, shaking her head and still
wearing that smile.

I thought about it for a moment, and then decided to
simply give in.

"You just look like someone who... I dunno," I
stammered. "Maybe you run or play tennis or something
like that. I'm just saying..."

Gayle slowly nodded, as I tried to explain myself, her
grin growing wider. Then she chuckled and placed her
hand on my knee, saying, "Ok, you can stop now."

As she pulled her hand away, she turned to her side and
produced a small white paper bag.

"Cookie?" she asked, holding the bag between her thumb
and forefinger.

I smiled.

"Um... Sure, ok."

She pulled out one large chocolate chip cookie between
her long tan fingers, and then carefully handed it to
me.

"Thank you."

Gayle licked her thumb and finger, replying,
"...welcome." Then she plucked one out for herself.

For a moment, neither of us spoke, and an uneasy
feeling came over me. I glanced at her from the corner
of my eye, watching her chew and look around, as we
waited for the talent show to start. Then she took
another bite.

"And whadda you do?" she asked, holding a hand over her
mouth.

"High school teacher," I replied, breaking off a piece
of my cookie.

Gayle slowly nodded, and then turned her eyes to me.

"Yeah, I coulda guessed that," she said with a grin.

I chuckled, breaking off another piece.

"And why's that?" I asked.

She shrugged.

"The way you're dressed."

I chuckled again, my shoulders bouncing up and down.

"And how am I dressed?"

Gayle snickered, replying, "I dunno... like a high
school teacher... a school marm."

I smirked and nodded, taking a bite.

"Ok," I said. "Fair enough."

"Whatcha teach?"

"English," I replied, smiling back at her.

Gayle grinned, saying her younger sister was an
elementary teacher, as was their mother, though retired
now.

"You like it?" she asked.

I picked away at my cookie and shrugged.

"Yeah, for the most part. But I dunno... Sometimes I
think it'd be nice to be able to teach it to people who
really wanted to learn it."

Gayle chuckled.

"Yeah," she said, reaching for her bottle of water. "I
can remember being bored to tears in that class. The
Great Gatsby," she said, holding the bottle to her
lips. She took a few gulps, and then dropped the bottle
down again. "That was a real snoozer," she added with a
light laugh.

I grinned.

"Yeah," I said. "I guess it is a bit worn out."

Gayle set her bottle down and rotated her body so she
was facing me. She crossed her legs and gave me her
patented mysterious smile. And, I don't know why, but I
could feel my face turning red.

"So what're you guys reading in your class?" she asked.

I slowly brought the cookie to my mouth, replying, "The
Great Gatsby."

Gayle doubled over and slapped her hand to my knee,
laughing out loud.

For the next hour, we sat and talked, even after the
talent show had long since started. Every now and then,
we'd stop to watch a particular act on stage, but then
one of us would start up the conversation again.

Gayle was lively and fun, sometimes animated, when she
spoke, and whenever she listened, she did so with great
intensity, leaning forward and smiling and slowly
nodding her head. There never really seemed to be a
dull moment, during the conversation, getting to know
one another. And the more she spoke, the more I wanted
to know. So, it was with some sadness that it ended,
when the show stopped and Rachel and Kate came walking
over to us.

Gayle helped me to my feet, and then helped pick up my
blanket and assorted belongings. We giggled and
laughed, the same as we had been doing for well over
the last hour.

"It was really nice meeting you," she said, holding out
a delicate hand.

I grinned wide and offered her mine, and said likewise.
And, as she held my hand in hers, she gave it an almost
imperceptible squeeze, running her thumb gently over
the top of it. My smile twitched, though I'm sure she
didn't notice, and then, just as she released me, she
winked, very quickly, but there all the same, and said
goodbye.

That evening, as I sat at home watching television and
nothing in particular, I found myself wondering what
Gayle was doing at that moment. I couldn't imagine that
someone like her - pretty and intelligent and a
wonderful conversationalist - would be sitting at home
alone. I turned to look up the steps, up toward the
bedrooms. Rachel and Kate were in her room with the
door closed. The stereo was playing, though not loudly,
and every now and then, I'd hear one or both of them
laugh. I turned back to the television and smiled and
sighed. At least someone was having a good time.

When I finally went to bed, they were still in Rachel's
room, although, once in a while, they had made sudden
quick appearances throughout the course of the evening.
Otherwise, they remained cloistered away inside her
tiny bedroom.

I turned off the lights downstairs, save for that in
the kitchen, in case someone woke in the middle of the
night. Then I crept up the stairs to my room. As I
reached the top step, I could make out the faint smell
of incense coming from my daughter's room. I paused
briefly by her door and could hear very soft music
playing from inside. Then I heard what could only be a
sigh. I took a deep breath and briskly stepped into my
bedroom and shut the door.

I walked over to the nightstand beside the bed and
clicked on the light. My room was large, and I had been
its sole occupant for the last four years. My husband
passed away much too soon, and I missed him terribly,
but what I was starting to miss most of all was the
company.

I had long ago come to terms with his death, but never
quite with the emptiness in my heart, my life, my home,
even my bed. About a year and a half after his passing,
Rachel suggested I might start dating – with her
permission, of course. That's a difficult thing to do,
no matter how you slice it. Sadness, regret, shame,
even embarrassment. I felt it all, at the very thought
of dating, of actively seeking out someone else, after
having devoted myself exclusively to one person for so
many years. My one true love was gone, the man with
whom I thought I would grow old. But, more and more, I
grew unhappy in being without a close friend, a
companion, someone I could lean on and hold. I was
tired of being alone.

I never told Rachel, but a short time after her
suggestion, and while she was away for a weekend class
excursion, I went to a bar in search of what I thought
I needed. Not what I wanted, but what I needed. I met a
man there, wholly not my type, and brought him home
with me. We had sex, if you could call it that. I
kneeled on the floor in front of the couch and took him
into my mouth. He didn't last very long, and soon I was
gagging, as he worked my head up and down.

After he ejaculated into my mouth, I crawled over to a
waste paper basket and spit, to which he responded with
a disapproving chuckle. Even still, I crawled back and
took over masturbating him, keeping his erection so I
could have a chance to feel good, too.

When he was fully erect again, he had me turn and drop
my jeans and panties. I handed him a condom from my
purse, and then he entered me roughly and fucked the
same. And, as before, his ejaculation came all too
soon. I hadn't felt much of anything, as we briefly had
intercourse, except for a deep sense of regret that
slowly enveloped me, as he thrust into my body.

I pulled up my jeans, and he did likewise, and then
left with no great fanfare. He got what he wanted, and
I was left feeling ashamed and angry with myself and
the life I felt was unfairly handed to me.

To be sure, I had friends. I had friends at work,
friends next door, even a few of my husband's former
colleagues and pals who occasionally said hello, on the
off chance we bumped into each other. But they had
their own lives and families. Friends come second to
family, something I could hardly hold against them.
Sure, I had Rachel, the only child of our marriage. And
since my husband's death, she and I had become closer.

I still couldn't help but think of her sudden "outing"
as a lesbian was more a result of coping with the loss
of her father, than it was a part of her nature to be
attracted to the same sex. She had dated boys for a
very long time, but I suppose this was her way of
dealing with the trauma and loss. Mine was to sit at
home and feel sorry for myself, trying to cope as best
I knew how.

But Gayle struck me as a ray of hope - a possibility,
though I don't know exactly why. It may have been a
combination of things. I liked her personality, and we
seemed to get along well enough, if only for the short
time we talked. But what I think most intrigued me was
that she didn't know my story or me. She seemed to know
Rachel and might know something about the tragedy that
befell our family. Still, Gayle didn't know me.

Our friends, after my husband's death, treated me with
kid gloves, and, to some extent, seemed to keep a
respectable distance, likely their way of letting me
mourn. The thing is, they never came back. A few tried,
but when we made the attempt at resuming our normal
routine, I could tell, it wasn't quite the same. They'd
drop me off to a darkened home, while they returned to
their family, and an air of discomforting gloom seemed
to settle upon us, as we said goodbye for the evening.

But Gayle wasn't like this. She didn't treat me as if
she felt sorry for me. With her, it felt like starting
with a clean slate. Others might look upon our brief
encounter in the park as insignificant, shrugging it
off as one of those minor occurrences in life; you make
a new acquaintance, perhaps with the possibility of
becoming a friend, but if not, oh well.

They already have plenty of those, as it stands.
Friends come and go. But, in my mind, meeting Gayle
carried slightly more weight. She could very well be my
way back to a life of normalcy. I liked her, and she
seemed to like me. We enjoyed each other's company. To
me, she fit the bill. Gayle was what I wanted.

The next morning, I walked downstairs to breakfast and
found Rachel sitting at the kitchen table, eating a
bowl of cereal and reading the newspaper.

"Kate go home already?" I asked.

Rachel looked up and bobbed her head, as she chewed.

I opened the refrigerator and pulled out the milk.

"What time she leave?"

Still reading the paper, Rachel shrugged.

"Maybe half hour ago," she replied.

I walked over to the table with a bowl in one hand and
glass of ice tea in the other.

While Rachel continued reading, I tried to think of a
way to bring up the subject of Gayle. I reached over
for part of the newspaper under her elbow, and she
lifted it, still keeping her gaze fixed on the paper.

"Hey, I wanted to ask you something."

Rachel took another bite of cereal and looked over at
me.

As I carefully opened the paper, trying to act very
nonchalant about the whole thing, I asked if she knew
Gayle's last name.

"Mah-nin," she replied with a mouthful of cereal.

I tilted my head and cocked an eyebrow.

"Pardon?"

Rachel chuckled, wiped the milk that had drooled onto
her chin, and swallowed.

"Martin," she said.

Then she went back to reading the paper.

I tried to think of another way to ply her for
information, but then she reached out for her glass of
orange juice, and spoke.

"Why?" she asked.

"Why what?"

"Why'd ya wanna know?"

I shrugged, trying to feign innocence, which wasn't
entirely contrived. It was a good question: why did I
want to know?

"I dunno," I stammered. "She didn't mention it, and I
didn't think to ask. Just curious."

Rachel nodded and took a long gulp from her glass,
setting it down and continued reading.

I waited a few seconds, and then asked what she was
like.

Rachel shrugged and turned the page.

"Nice, I guess."

I dropped my shoulders and sighed softly. That wasn't a
very descriptive answer.

"So, she's a physical therapist?"

"Yeah... at the hospital."

Rachel worked part time there, so I figured that must
be where they met.

I opened the newspaper and took a bite of my cereal.

"She seemed pretty nice," I said, fishing for Rachel to
continue the thread, but all she did was shrug and give
a curt reply.

"Yeah," she said. "She's cool."

I could see this wasn't going anywhere and decided to
drop the subject.

For the remainder of the day, I tried to keep myself
busy. It was a typical dull Sunday for me. I cleaned up
around the house, tried to work in the garden, but
still, I was bored to tears. Rachel had gone out with
Kate somewhere, leaving me to my own devices. By 3pm, I
was about at my wit's end. I couldn't take the silence
and isolation any longer. I walked into the kitchen to
the phone and flipped through the university directory
looking for Gayle Martin.

And then I found it.

I picked up the phone and was about to dial, but
stopped. What was I doing? I hardly even know her. We
only talked for, perhaps, a total of an hour and ten
minutes. And now I was calling her, as if we were dear
old chums? I quickly hung up the phone. No, I thought.
Even I would think it a bit strange for someone I had
only just met to do that. And then depression set in. I
slowly trudged out to the living room and fell back
onto the couch.

"I need to get outa here," I mumbled, running my hands
through my hair.

A few hours later, after doing the laundry and folding
it, attempting to clean Rachel's room, but immediately
stopping upon finding a sex toy under her bed, aside
from the usual clutter, she finally arrived home.

She was helping me fix dinner in the kitchen, when she
nearly knocked my socks off.

"Guess who we saw at the mall?" she asked, while
slicing a cucumber.

I was rinsing a head of lettuce in the sink.

"Who's that?" I replied.

"What's-her-name."

I chuckled.

"And who would that be?"

Rachel tossed a small slice of cucumber into her mouth,
replying, "That, uh, Gayle chick. Gayle Martin."

My heart instantly started racing, and all the blood in
my body sank to my feet.

"Oh yeah?" I replied, trying to maintain some control
and not seem overtly, even strangely, enthusiastic
about this revelation.

I turned off the water and shook the lettuce in the
sink, and then placed it in a bowl and began peeling
it.

"And what'd she have to say?" I asked with a nervous
grin.

Rachel picked up the cutting board and scraped the
cucumber slices into a bowl.

"Notta whole lot," she replied.

My sudden glee quickly evaporated.

Rachel set the empty board in the sink and turned on
the water to rinse it off.

"Oh... Almost forgot," she said. "She asked what you
were doing Thursday night."

I had just picked up the bowl of lettuce and was about
to turn toward the kitchen table, when she said that. I
gulped and glanced at Rachel, who thankfully wasn't
looking, as I'm sure I was white as a ghost.

"Yeah?" I squeaked.

Rachel pulled the board out of the sink and began
wiping it off with a dishtowel.

"Yeah, said she's having some friends over at her place
and wanted to know if you'd wanna come over too, I
guess. I dunno... I wasn't really paying attention and
she talks kinda fast, anyway."

Now I could feel my face turning red - red with anger.
I wanted to toss the lettuce across the room and
throttle my own flesh and blood. Instead, I forced
myself to remain calm.

"Did she, uh... saying anything else? Any information?
Like when and where?"

Rachel wiped her hands with the towel and turned to me.
She seemed to be racking her brain, trying to remember,
while I became more impatient.

"Umm... Oh, yeah," she finally said, and reached into
her back pocket, pulling out a small slip of paper.
"She wrote it down."

Rachel handed it to me, and there, scrawled on it in
someone else's handwriting, obviously not Rachel's, was
a name, phone number, address, and time. Below this
were the words, "Dress casual". Next to that was a
smiley face.

The blood that had boiled to my face now flooded back
down to my feet.

"Gonna go?"

"Hm?"

I looked up and Rachel was staring at me. She poked her
finger at the paper in my hand.

"Gonna go?" she asked.

"Oh... Um... Yeah, well, uh... Sure. Sure, I don't
think I have anything going on that night, so, uh...
yeah, you know, why not? Sure."

Rachel smirked.

"Yeah," she replied sarcastically. "You gotta real busy
schedule, huh?" Then she turned and walked into the
living room. "A real social butterfly," she said.
"That's you."

For the remainder of the night, I felt giddy. I hadn't
felt this good in a long time. For some reason this
little, otherwise insignificant, invitation made me
feel more alive than ever before. So much time had
passed, since I last felt such joy in my heart, and I
was happily becoming reacquainted with something I
thought I'd never again experience.

Today was Sunday and the get-together, or whatever it
was, wouldn't be until the following Thursday - four
agonizingly long days. All evening, I fought the urge
to call her. Over and over, I played out in my mind
what I'd say, what my reason would be for calling. To
thank her? To let her know I had accepted her offer? Or
maybe she felt sorry for me. Maybe she and Rachel had
been talking that afternoon and somehow my name came up
in the conversation.

"Where's your mom?"

"Sitting at home sulking. She's really in bad shape.
Boy, I feel sorry for her, don't you?"

Was this a pity invitation? No. No, it couldn't be.
Besides, I doubt Rachel would talk about me like that.
I think she understood what I was going through. In
fact, the more I thought about it, the more I reasoned
out how that conversation probably went.

"Where's your mom?"

"Uh... Last I saw her, she was at home vacuuming the
rug. Why?"

That was more like the Rachel I knew.

So, I didn't call Gayle. I wanted to. I wanted to very
badly, but I didn't. I resisted the temptation. No, I
thought, I'd call her tomorrow evening. Still, that
would be a torturous twenty-four hours.

That night, as I crawled into bed, I leaned over to set
my alarm on the nightstand. The phone was sitting next
to it. I glanced at the clock once more, the fleeting
thought of calling her coursing through my mind, but
quickly turned away and pulled the covers up over my
shoulders.

"Definitely not at this time of night," I mumbled.

Sure enough, the next day was pure Hell for me. I was
nearly tempted to call her around noon, but thought
better of it. That would probably be worse than calling
her as soon as I got the invitation. So I waited.

Every now and then, I'd glance at the clock in the back
of my classroom, seeing how much longer I'd have to
wait and suffer. The hands moved slowly, excruciatingly
slowly. And even though it felt like the day would
never end, with each passing hour, every minute that
slipped by, I knew I was that much closer to home, the
phone, and my new friend.

It wasn't until 4:30pm that I finally cast off the
shackles and jumped in the car and sped home. By 5pm, I
was standing in the kitchen debating whether or not to
call. I looked over at the clock, my new tormentor, and
bit my lower lip. Shaking my head, I forced myself to
walk away.

"Too soon," I muttered. "Might not be home."

What about calling her at six?

I shook my head again. No. That might be too soon, as
well. She might be out jogging or running or exercising
or whatever it is she does.

All right, how about seven? Surely she must be done by
then.

I sat on the edge of the couch and thought about it.
Seven o'clock. No, let's make it seven-thirty, just to
be on the safe side.

Ok, but what're you going to do until then?

Make dinner.

And that's how I busied myself for the next hour. By
6pm, Rachel was home, but said she had a late lunch and
wasn't hungry. Although it would have been nice to know
this before I prepared enough food for two people,
still, it killed an hour. Half an hour later, I had
finished dinner, chatted with Rachel for a few minutes
about her day, and was ready to clean up. When seven
o'clock rolled around, I decided that was long enough.
I was going to call Gayle.

I walked over to the phone and pulled from my pocket
the slip of paper she had given to Rachel, and, as I
dialed the number, my fingers trembled slightly. Then I
held the phone to my ear and waited nervously.

It rang once. Then twice. Then three times. I closed my
eyes.

"C'mon," I mumbled.

"Hello?"

My eyes flew open and I smiled.

"Uh, yeah... is this Gayle?"

"Speaking."

"Hi, this is, uh, Jessica... Jess... I dunno if you
remem-"

"Oh, yeah," she chuckled, cutting me off. "Right. Yeah,
I remember. Of course. Jess, sure. How could I forget?
So did you get the, uh... note I gave to Rachel? I
didn't know, if you..."

"Yeah. Uh huh. Yep. I got it," I replied happily,
holding up the slip of paper to no one in particular.

I felt nervous. My toes and fingers felt numb and my
throat was dry.

"Oh, ok. Great," she replied. "So, um, it's just a
little dinner party. Nothing fancy. I was just
thinking, uh, hey, why not send you an invite, too, ya
know?"

I was staring down at the note in my hand, staring at
the smiley face she'd drawn, which caused me to smile
in kind.

"Yeah," I said. "I'd like that. Thanks. Thank you. That
was, uh... very thoughtful of you."

There was a muffled noise on Gayle's side of the phone,
as if she were moving around.

"So, ok. Well, um... Lemme think there... It starts
about... Oh, I dunno, six-ish or so. But, I mean, you
can show up any time you'd like."

"Would six-thirty be ok?" I asked.

At the front of my mind, I was thinking I'd have to
make dinner for my daughter, but the truth is she could
make it herself. I simply didn't want to be the first
person there. I've always felt a bit awkward about
that, particularly when I don't know anyone. I'd rather
walk in on a crowd, than have one walk in on me.

"Yeah, sure," she said. "Just so I know when to be
standing at the door to meet you."

We both chuckled nervously, and then I was at a loss
for what to say next. And, the strange thing is, I also
got the impression Gayle felt the same way.

There was a second or two of silence.

"So, um... casual then, right?" I asked, desperately
fishing for something to fill the uncomfortable void.

"Yeah," she replied. "But don't get all dolled up for
me."

We both chuckled again, and then I thought perhaps it
best to make a graceful exit, while I still could.

"Well, all right then," I said, tapping my fingers
nervously on the kitchen counter. "I guess I'll see you
at six-thirty."

"Great. Great," she replied. "Can't wait to see you
again."

It was the strangest thing, but I actually giggled,
when she said that, eliciting the same from her.

"Ok, then, um... Well, bye. And thank you again."

"All righty," she replied with what I could almost
envision as a smile. "See you then. Six-thirty."

I slowly hung up the phone, still nervous, but giddy
all the same. As I turned around, Rachel walked into
the kitchen.

"Who was that?" she asked.

I quickly glanced back at the phone, gesturing to it,
saying, "Oh, uh... That was Gayle. I just, uh... you
know, called to thank her for the invitation."

Rachel nodded, and then opened a cupboard and pulled
out a glass.

"You goin', then?" she asked.

I leaned against the counter, replying, "Um, yeah. No
reason not to, ya know? Not like I'm some great social
butterfly with a full schedule, huh?"

Rachel poured herself some ice tea and took a sip,
giving me a thumb's up, as she walked back out to the
living room.

That evening, I went through all of my clothes, trying
to figure out what to wear. She said casual, so that's
what I wanted, but not too casual. I hardly knew her,
and I certainly wouldn't know anyone there, so I
thought it best to go with a nice casual.

I sifted through everything in my closet, finally
settling on jeans and a decent blouse. Now all I had to
do was wait three days – three very long days.

When Thursday finally rolled around, I was a nervous
wreck for most of the day, and my heart wasn't in my
lessons. I tried to remain focused, but it was becoming
more and more difficult with each passing hour. By 2pm,
I was nearly at the end of my rope in keeping up any
semblance of sanity.

After being perfectly alone for the last few years,
here was a chance to find company and comfort. In a few
short hours, I had the chance to recapture some of what
I had lost, to reenter the world of the living and be a
part of life again. Things were starting to look up, if
only in the form of a new friend. But even that tiny
sliver of light was enough to warm my heart and soul.

On Thursday afternoon, once school was out, I rushed
home and quickly got dinner started for Rachel, so by
the time she arrived, all she'd have to do is finish
it. Then up to my bedroom, I dashed, pulling off my
drab school clothes and dressed for the dinner party.
While I was in the bathroom primping and styling my
hair, Rachel came home. I was leaning toward the
mirror, applying lipstick, when she stepped into the
doorway behind me.

"Gettin' ready for your big date?" she said with a
smirk.

I pulled the lipstick away and pressed my lips
together.

"Funny," I muttered.

Rachel turned and walked into her bedroom. I could
still see her reflection in the mirror, moving around
in her room.

"You know she's a dyke, don't ya?" she called.

I was applying eye shadow, when she said that, and
slowly stood up, staring at myself in the mirror. I
hadn't even thought of that. A few seconds later,
Rachel was standing in the door behind me again.

"Look nice," she said.

I closed my makeup kit and placed it back on the wire
shelf above the sink.

"Thanks," I mumbled, slipping past her and into my
room.

As I sat on the bed slowly tying my shoes and thinking
about what Rachel had said, she walked in and leaned
against my dresser.

"You knew that, didn't you?"

I put more effort into working my shoelaces and looked
up at her.

"Knew what?" I asked, feigning ignorance.

"That's she's a dyke."

I looked down, shaking my head, and dropped my foot to
the floor, lifting the next.

"Wish you wouldn't use that word," I replied with a
huff.

"Why not?" she chuckled. "I'm a dyke. Kate's a dyke.
Gayle's a dyke. What's the big deal?"

I glanced at her and she grinned.

"It's an ugly word," I replied. "That's why. And, yeah,
I kinda figured she wasn't exactly straight."

That, of course, was a lie. But it wasn't as if I had
assumed she was heterosexual, either. The fact is it
never even crossed my mind. But now that it was there,
now that the seed had been planted, that same
unassuming mind began running rampant with questions,
though one in particular was the focus: why did she
invite me? Was she simply being friendly or did she
have some other ulterior motive? Then I began thinking
about what that ulterior motive could be.

Was Gayle attracted to me?

I was standing in my closet, looking for a light jacket
to wear, and let my gaze fall to my husband's side.
Nothing there had been touched since his death.
Everything was as he left it, the day he went to the
hospital to have a benign brain tumor removed. In and
out in a few days was how it was supposed to go.

Instead, within hours of his surgery, he had climbed
out of bed to go to the bathroom, against the orders of
his nurse, and made it back just in time to hit the
call button, alerting the nurse's station that he
needed assistance. When she got to his room, he was
lying on the floor dead. A blood vessel in his brain
had ruptured.

Rachel and I had walked down to the hospital cafeteria
to get the three of us something to eat. He wanted
pizza and a Dr. Pepper. We had left him sitting up in
bed, talking and lively, watching television. The
surgeon had been in to check on him, saying he could
probably go home in two or three days.

For several months leading up to that day, I had been
worried sick he was going to die, that his tumor was
worse than what the doctors had said. They all assured
me it was benign and that removing it was a routine
procedure. And when he was sitting up in bed, laughing
and talking, I was finally able to sigh in relief. I
had thought my worries were over.

I quickly snatched a jacket from a hanger and clicked
off the light in the closet, walking out and shutting
the door behind me. Rachel had gone downstairs, and I
could hear the television on in the living room.

"Why can't things just work out right for once," I
whispered softly, as my eyes began to water.

"Hey, where'd ya hide the salt?"

I moped over to the bedroom door, slowly slipping my
arms in my jacket. Then suddenly, Rachel appeared in
front of me.

"Can't find the salt," she said.

While buttoning my jacket, and without looking up, I
told her it was in the spice drawer.

Rachel stood there for a moment watching my hands
slowly work the buttons.

"I think she has a girlfriend," she said softly.

I raised my face and brushed the hair from my eyes.

"Pardon?"

Rachel stood staring at me, not smiling, but giving me
an almost sympathetic expression. I had been fighting
back my tears, something I'd become good at over the
last few years.

She shrugged.

"She's probably not... you know... interested in you
like that."

Then she shrugged again and gave me a weak smile.

"I dunno," she said. "I think she's seeing someone, but
I dunno for sure. Maybe, maybe not."

I returned her smile, though it was a bit forced, and
followed her downstairs. I picked up my keys and purse
and walked over to the door. And there I stood briefly,
wondering if I should do this. Were my hopes simply
going to be dashed once again? What made it seem all
the worse was that I had built myself up to this point.

For a second, I was almost angry with this Gayle
person, someone I hardly knew, someone who, for an
instant, I tried to blame for allowing me to climb to
the top of the mountain only to suddenly feel a strong
gust of wind trying to push me off the other side.

I wanted to blame Gayle, but I couldn't. I couldn't,
because I didn't know her or her motives. And worse
yet, I was basing my assumptions, which is all they
were, on something as benign as whom she preferred to
sleep with. Still, it had been a benign something that
tore my life apart before. Now the question became not
what were her motives, but was I going to let this stop
me? Was I willing to take a chance and let go of the
flotsam I was clinging to and try for something else?
Was it worth the risk?

Life's a gamble, no matter how much you try to avoid
it. Making this proposition even less palatable is the
notion that unless you're willing to take chances,
you're never going to find what you're looking for.

Happiness doesn't find you. You have to create it.

I turned from the front door and told Rachel I'd be
home no later than 10pm. She was moving about in the
kitchen and stepped into the doorway and nodded.

"Ok," she said. "Have fun."

That's what I decided I wanted: fun and happiness for
once, and to Hell with the risks.

Within fifteen minutes, I was driving into the parking
lot of Gayle's condominium complex. It was nice, but
large and anonymous. Rachel and I lived in an older
part of town with big houses and large trees lining the
streets. There was plenty of room to move around and
spread out, as opposed to here, where everything and
everyone was compacted into small modular habitats.
There was very little in the way of personal outward
trappings, expressing that unique individuals lived
inside.

Looking for a place to park, I was becoming more
anxious. Gayle was a lesbian. She found me in the park
that Saturday and struck up a conversation. She sat and
we talked, and I had invited her to do so. Now she had
extended an invitation to me to come to her home.

Did she see me at the park that day and make some kind
of conscious decision? The thought almost made me
wince, to think that she was interested in me, as
Rachel implied, "that way". But what if she wasn't?
Just because she's a lesbian, doesn't mean she has sex
on the brain around the clock. Then I thought about it.
It suddenly popped into my mind: sex with another
woman. I pulled into an empty parking space and turned
off the car and quickly shook my head.

"Ok," I mumbled. "You're reading way too much into
this."

I gathered up my purse and stepped out of the car.

It was early September and the evening sun was casting
an orange and gold hue. I gazed up at the building in
front of me, looking for any sign of a dinner party in
the open windows. There was one on the second floor,
the curtains open, and I could see two people standing
with their backs to me. A light was on inside, and they
seemed to be talking.

"Must be it."

I took a deep breath and followed the sidewalk to the
door of the building. Inside, I checked the mailboxes
and found Gayle's. Then I turned, and before me was a
set of steps, one leading up, the other down. Based on
her condo number, and where I had seen the people
standing in the window, I guessed she lived on the
second floor, so I trudged up the steps.

Standing inside the hallway of the second floor, I
could hear music emanating from the other side of the
first door to my right. It was Gayle's number on the
door: #521. I glanced down at my watch and grinned. The
time was almost exactly 6:30pm, with a minute to spare.
It was one of those things I took a wee bit of pride
in, that of being punctual. Then I looked up at the
door, took a breath and exhaled, put on a smile, and
knocked. Instantly the door swung open.

And there was Gayle.

As she opened the door, she was turned away, saying
something to someone inside the room and laughing. She
had a glass in one hand, it looked like wine, and I
chuckled nervously, in response to her, and then she
turned to me and smiled.

"Hey! You made it," she said with a broad grin.

Gayle stepped back, bringing the door with her.

"C'mon in," she said, extending a long finger and
brushing the hair from her eyes.

Inside the living room were a dozen or more people.
Some standing, some sitting, all of them chatting and
laughing in small groups. Against one wall was a large
entertainment system in an equally large wood cabinet.
The television was off, but I could see the little red
and green lights of the stereo flickering in time with
the music it played.

"Wanna take your coat off?" she asked.

I turned and smiled, as Gayle stood there holding her
glass in one hand and the other jammed in her back
pocket.

"Oh, um... Sure," I replied.

I went to remove my coat, but Gayle, taking a sip of
wine, shook her head and smiled.

"Mm, no. C'mon," she said, gesturing for me to follow
her.

As we walked toward a lighted hallway, she'd let her
hand land on various people we passed, eliciting a
quick turn of the head and smile from them. Then their
eyes would land on me, and I'd smile back, almost
embarrassed. But their grins broadened, when they saw
me, this stranger in their midst, perhaps an
unconscious way of welcoming me into their circle.

I followed Gayle down to an open door, which led into a
dark room. Just outside the doorway, she reached in and
flipped on a light. It could have been a bedroom, but
it looked as though she used it for other purposes,
numerous in fact, as there was a desk, computer, a
radio, assorted books and a stationary bike. But strewn
throughout the room, here and there, were other coats.
Gayle said I could leave mine in there, as well.

As I took it off, I could sense her looking at me.
Staring at me. Watching me. And the gears in my mind
started turning again. She's a lesbian, I thought
quietly, and could feel myself blush.

I gently laid my coat on the seat of the chair in front
of the desk, and then turned to her, brushing my hands
down my side. She was holding the glass of wine to her
mouth, taking a sip, and smiled, when our eyes met.

"You look nice," she said softly and with that same
curious smile I'd seen the previous Saturday in the
park.

I glanced down and could feel my face burning red.

"Thanks," I replied sheepishly. "Your note said casual,
so I, uh..."

"Want something to drink?" she asked, but in a tone
that seemed livelier, as if changing the subject.

I looked up and nodded.

"Um... Yeah, sure."

Gayle's suspicious smile faded into a more amiable
expression.

"C'mon," she said, nudging her head toward the door.

As I followed her back into the hallway, I found myself
staring at her from behind.

Gayle was a few inches taller than me, and she most
certainly had the figure of an athlete, perhaps more
that of a dancer. Long, slender legs extending up to a
small round butt. She was wearing jeans and a white,
buttoned shirt with the sleeves rolled slightly up her
thin forearms. And down from the back of her head
cascaded her long brown hair, stopping midway between
her shoulder blades.

That was the first time I consciously thought of her as
an attractive woman. But, of course, she was. There was
no denying it. Any man in his right mind would find her
attractive. I also noticed how she moved with a certain
ease and grace, her limbs seeming to flow, as she
walked and gestured and went about the mechanical
business of being a hostess. There was a degree of
finesse in her every movement, even elegance, as if
choreographed and rehearsed many times over, but coming
at such short notice as to be wholly an unconscious
act. When she laughed, her body would gently bend like
a lithe reed, slowly arcing back, her hands clasped
around the glass of wine they held in front,
counterbalancing her delicate movement. And then her
teeth would shine, as her lips slowly receded and her
jaw dropped, almost like that of a marionette, straight
downward, while her eyes narrowed and brows rose high.
And her smile was infectious. When Gayle smiled, so did
everyone else.

She kept me close to her side, as she made the rounds
between friends, introducing me to all of them and
actively engaging me in whatever conversations we
stumbled upon or initiated, and there was nothing
contrived about her performance. When she asked me what
I thought about one thing or another, the sincerity of
her interest was evident in her eyes, how they wrinkled
at the corners and her nostrils would twitch and flare.
And it was intriguing to watch her speak, as she did so
not only with her voice, but her entire being, moving
her body and hands and legs, gesturing and touching
someone with a delicate hand. Several times, I'd feel
Gayle's hand on my arm, my shoulder, my back; a soft
touch, as she spoke to me or someone else. Then she'd
turn to me and smile, a soothing grin. And, as the
evening wore on, I slowly became more enamored by her
subtle grace.

After we had made an appearance at each small circle of
friends, we found ourselves alone and sitting on the
couch. Gayle asked if I was having a nice evening, and
I couldn't help but notice how she seemed to avoid
looking at me, when posing the question, as if too
embarrassed to make eye contact. When I said yes, she
rolled her nearly empty glass of wine between her
fingers and smiled and nodded.

"I'm glad," she replied, glancing at me with a smile,
but quickly hid behind her glass, as she held it to her
lips.

My stomach fluttered and my gaze drifted down to the
glass in my hands.

"Can I get you some more?" she asked, with a light
gesture.

"I'm fine," I replied. "Gotta drive home, anyway."

Gayle turned more toward me, lifting one knee onto the
couch.

"I'm sorry," she said, almost plaintively, resting a
hand on my thigh. "I shoulda asked first, if maybe
you'd like a soda or something instead of wine."

"S'ok," I replied, taking my turn to hide behind my
glass.

Then I felt the hand on my thigh give an almost
imperceptible squeeze, and then pull away.

The party was slowly winding down, and soon the
conversations became less animated and more demure.
Gayle and I spoke quietly on the couch, sometimes
giggling, sometimes leaning close and speaking in
nearly a whispered tone. And the topics ranged widely
and changed smoothly. Gayle knew how to live and enjoy
life, expertly combing for the smallest morsels and
finding joy in them, something I had long since
abandoned. We discussed books and movies and songs and
the people we knew and those we didn't. She told me
about her mother and sister, the friends she had in
high school and college, as well as those with whom she
worked and those in our presence. And she listened with
great intensity to my story, though never broaching the
subject of my husband, something I came to assume my
daughter may have already imparted to her.

One by one, and sometimes in pairs, people slowly
departed, stopping by to thank Gayle for inviting them
and shaking my hand, taking a moment to say it was nice
to meet me, to which I replied in kind. She would stand
and escort them to the door, and, when she came back,
she always seemed a bit sad to see them leave. When the
last of the partygoers had left, Gayle came and plopped
down onto the couch next to me with a long sigh.

"...the one thing I've never liked," she remarked, as
she leaned to the coffee table to pick up her glass.

"What's that?" I asked.

Gayle took a long sip.

"Whenever a party ends," she replied.

We sat for a moment, gazing around the now empty living
room. Music was still playing on the stereo, though so
low as to be nearly inaudible. A few empty cups sat
about, one in the windowsill and another on an end
table. Gayle inhaled deeply, and then let out another
long, exasperated sigh.

"Well," she said, slapping her hands to her knees and
motioning to stand. "It's getting late," she said and
smiled at me.

I looked down at my watch and gasped. It was five after
ten.

"What is it?" she chuckled. "Got a curfew?"

I snickered and explained how I had told Rachel I'd be
home by ten. Then Gayle gestured toward the kitchen.

"You can call her, if you'd like. Phone's right over
there."

While Gayle walked around the room cleaning up, I
called my daughter to let her know I'd be home shortly.

"How was it?" she asked.

"Pretty nice," I replied, holding the phone close to my
mouth, as I watched the hostess from the corner of my
eye move deftly about, picking up one item or another.
Then I told Rachel I'd be home within half an hour.

When I hung up, Gayle was walking into the kitchen with
the empty cups and stepped over to the trash. I stood
for a moment, fidgeting with my hands and asked if
there was something I could do to help.

"Nah," she said. "There's not much. I can get it."

Then a peculiar mood seemed to sweep down between us,
something I hadn't felt in years, but when I recognized
it, I felt my face turn red and blush. Gayle seemed to
sense it, as well, and when she hooked her thumb over
her shoulder toward the room with my coat, I smiled
sheepishly and nodded.

"Um... You wanna get your..."

"Yeah," I stammered. "Gettin' kinda late."

I followed her down the hall to the room, and she
leaned inside to flip on the light. I slipped past her
to get my coat, draping it over my arm, and then back
down the hall we went, stopping at the front door. As I
pulled the keys from my coat pocket, I could see Gayle
jam her hands in the back pockets of her jeans and rock
gently on her heels, as if she were nervous. When I
looked up, she was staring down at the floor, pursing
her lips tightly, almost as if she wanted to say
something. And then my keys jingled and she looked up
and smiled, brushing the hair from her face. I grinned
fitfully in reply and reached for the doorknob.

"I guess I should..."

"Yeah," she replied quickly, nodding her head. "Can I,
um... let me walk you out? That ok?"

I pulled my hand away from the door and nodded with a
sputter.

"Oh, uh... yeah, sure."

Gayle chuckled nervously and reached for the door.

"Can't be too safe," she added with a tense giggle.

Then she opened the door and gestured for me to go
ahead of her. As I walked out into the quiet hallway, I
felt as though I were on a date, back when I was a
teenage girl.

We walked downstairs and out to my car in the parking
lot, and the entire way neither of us spoke. Honestly,
I wouldn't have even known what to say. With each step,
I was consciously trying not to think of Gayle as being
a lesbian and how peculiar she was acting toward me. In
fact, if I had to describe it accurately, it was just
as I said, no different from when I was in high school
and on a date with a boy who was nervous about how the
evening would end.

She stopped at the front of my car, while I took the
last few steps to the driver's side door. Then I
carefully pushed the key into the lock and looked over
at her. Gayle was standing there with her arms folded
tightly against her chest, her bosom hardly visible,
and a broad smile on her face.

But it wasn't merely a smile, a simple display of
politeness, rather a grin expressing a genuine
happiness within. And, when I saw it, I couldn't help
but feel the same way. Warmth suddenly filled me, and
my stomach fluttered at seeing her standing there like
that. I blushed and looked down at the door and slowly
pulled up on the handle. The door gently popped loose,
and I stepped back to open it.

"Well... Thanks again for inviting me," I said softly,
not quite sure what more to say, but feeling as though
those few words weren't nearly enough. And, when I
gazed over at her, I giggled, as she stood there still
wearing that precious grin for me.

"Thanks for coming," she replied with a little wave of
the hand.

I fidgeted with my keys, smiled nervously, and, as I
stepped down into the car, Gayle spoke.

"Oh... Um... Hey."

I quickly poked my head out the door and tried to
stand.

Gayle held out her hand, saying, "I was, uh..." Then
she chuckled and glanced down at her feet, playfully
kicking one foot, adding, "I was wondering if, uh... if
you'd like to go to lunch maybe... sometime... no,
uh... no big deal." And then she snarled her lip for
emphasis, giving a wave of the hand for more effect.
Just a routine departing question, was what she seemed
to be implying.

My eyes darted to the steering wheel, as my brain tried
to register this sudden and unexpected request. It was
beginning to feel more like a date.

"I, uh... Yeah, yeah... Um... Sure, you know, yeah.
That'd be fine. Sure. I'd like that."

Gayle's smile returned and she shrugged, leaning from
one foot to the other and asking if any particular day
would work best for me. My eyes roamed the interior of
the car once more, as I tried to think and make sense
of all that was happening before me. Then I noticed my
hands beginning to tremble.

"Any... Any time would, uh..."

I cleared my throat and tried to speak again.

"Any time's ok... with me," I stammered. "I, uh...
Did... Did you have a certain day that'd, uh... work
for you?"

She brushed a hand over her forehead and looked off for
a moment, as if in thought. Then she slowly shook her
head.

"Um... No, not really. Would, uh... Would tomorrow be
ok? Would that work?"

My head jittered up and down.

"Yeah, sure. That'd be fine. So... Should I call you?"
I asked.

Then I looked around the dashboard for a pen and paper
to write on. When I finally found something, I turned
back to Gayle, ready to take down her work number, but
found that she had stepped over to the door. I looked
up and blinked, as she stood there in front of me with
her arms still folded. I went to place the small scrap
of paper I'd found on the door to write, but saw that
my hands were now visibly shaking, so I quickly pulled
them down to my lap, placing the pen and paper on my
thigh. I glanced up and nodded, and she gave me a
number I could reach her at during the day.

So it was settled. I'd call her in the morning to
arrange meeting her for lunch. We then parted with a
few more quick, uneasy goodbyes, and, as I pulled out,
I watched as Gayle slowly trudged back inside, staring
down at the sidewalk, her arms folded and wrapped
tightly around her chest. And in that instant, I felt
sorry for her.

I could empathize with her, and it ached my heart that
someone like her, so alive and wonderful, would have to
return to a darkened, desolate room to be left alone.
But what made a tear come to my eye was the knowledge
that I was now doing the same thing, what I'd been
doing for the last several years, and I did so
passionately hate it.

When I arrived home, I checked myself in the rearview
mirror, to ensure Rachel wouldn't see that I'd been
crying, and then I slowly followed the sidewalk to the
front door and stepped inside.

As I lay in bed, once again alone in my own dreary
tomb, I rolled over, and my eyes landed on the phone
sitting on the nightstand. I wanted to call her, but I
couldn't bring myself to do it. In my heart, though, I
knew if I did, she'd understand. So, instead, I turned
away and faced the ceiling, wondering if Gayle was
doing like me at that very moment, lying in bed
wondering if there was any way out of this, if there
was really any hope at all. Then I sighed and closed my
eyes, drifting into an uneasy sleep.

The next morning, I awoke feeling hung over, weak and
tired, and emotionally, if not physically, exhausted.
Gayle's party had been a wakeup call for me. Something
had to change in my life. What I was looking for,
whatever it might be, wasn't going to come find me. I
had to go get it myself.

As I stood in the shower with my hands behind my back,
letting the warm water splash over my body, long
strands of wet hair dangling around my face like a
curtain, I began thinking about Gayle, thinking about
how this person whom I barely knew made me feel. There
was just something about her, some unknown, intangible
quality I couldn't quite define. My subconscious kept
trying to regurgitate her being a lesbian, but I shook
it out of my head.

"I'm not a lesbian," I replied softly. "And so what, if
she is? That doesn't mean anything."

But my mind kept dwelling on it, kept going back to her
curious smile and the way she acted when we were
sitting alone in her living room or standing outside by
my car. My mind was working feverishly to convince me
that her motives weren't as amiable as I thought, but I
knew the impetus for this notion was purely
conjectural.

"You're jumping to conclusions," I mumbled, and turned
to rinse my face.

And then my subconscious slipped a thought into the
light where I could see it.

"She's pretty."

I stopped rinsing the shampoo from my hair and let my
hands slowly drift down over my mouth. Then I turned
from the spray and opened my eyes, brushing the water
from them.

Did I just think that?

My subconscious presented me with a myriad of mental
images, as proof of the assertion - her smile, her
slender fingers and lean legs; her flowing brown hair
and the way her body moved. And then I began thinking
of the details, the things I couldn't see, the things
hidden under her clothes. I closed my eyes, trying to
make sense of these sudden bizarre thoughts. Not once
had I ever looked at another woman and admired her
sexuality. And the less I attempted to thwart these
thoughts, the more emboldened my subconscious became
and began sending a flurry of them racing to the
forefront of my mind.

Standing there in the shower, I thought about Gayle and
how she acted towards me. When we talked, it was as if
we were connecting on an emotional and intellectual
level. In short, trying to become friends. And I was
genuinely interested in getting to know her, and there
seemed no doubt in my mind she felt the same toward me.
You can tell, when someone's faking it, when their
motives are transparent.

Sometimes it's overt and at others merely a gut feeling
that something isn't right, but I didn't sense any
duplicity in Gayle's words or actions. And what
difference did it make, if she was attracted to me? Was
it such an awful thing? In fact, if she were, I'd
almost be forced to take it as a compliment.

Over the last few years, several men had made passes at
me, though I wasn't all that interested in following
through. Sure, they were nice, and I was even friends
with one of them, a colleague at the school where I
taught, but nothing ever transpired from it. We
remained friends and nothing more, and that friendship
didn't seem to suffer for it. It's entirely possible to
be attracted to someone, yet still maintain a purely
platonic relationship with no ill effect.

As I stepped out of the shower, grabbing a towel off
the shelf, I found myself actually becoming flattered
that Gayle would be attracted to me. I smiled and
giggled at the thought, as I dried myself: another
woman attracted to me, of all people. The possibility
had never even crossed my mind, not once in my life.

I used the towel to wipe the steam away from the
mirror, and, just before I started brushing my hair, I
stood staring at my reflection. My wet hair hung limp
around my face, stopping just above my eyes in front
and below my neck in back. Red and long, my husband
always like it that way. Many years before, when Rachel
was very young, I came home one day from the salon with
a new hairstyle, much shorter than I'd ever had it
before. My husband took one look and gasped, making me
promise never to cut it that short again. And that
evening, as we lay in bed, he kissed me and held me
close, saying I was the most beautiful woman he'd ever
known.

It'd been a long time since someone had said that to
me.

After dressing, I walked downstairs to breakfast.
Rachel was sitting at the table, and we ate together.
She was reading the newspaper, as usual, and asked a
few questions about the dinner party at Gayle's, but
otherwise it was just a routine morning.

When I arrived at school, I made my way quickly to my
classroom. Today I was going to give my first period
students a pop quiz, something I really disliked doing,
but it was a way to keep them on their toes and ensure
they did the required reading. It would also afford me
a good fifteen minutes to make a call to Gayle.

The bell rang, and the last of the stragglers slowly
made their way into the room, taking their seats. I
announced there was going to be a quiz, and then came
the obligatory groans of protest, but I apologized,
saying it was for their own good, and promised to be
holistic in my grading.

Once my students were fully occupied, I quietly excused
myself and quickly made my way down to the teacher's
lounge, not far from my room. As I opened the door,
another teacher was walking out, a cup of coffee in his
hand.

"Mornin', Jess."

"Hey, Todd."

Then I dashed over to the phone, before anyone could
walk in on me.

I pulled out the slip of paper with Gayle's phone
number at work and dialed.

"Good morning. Physical therapy. How can I direct your
call?"

"Um, yeah," I said softly, looking over my shoulder to
make sure no one was walking into the lounge. "Is Gayle
in yet? Gayle Martin."

"Yes, she is. Can I tell her who's calling, please?"

I sat down on the couch next to the phone and squirmed.

"Uh, yeah, my name's Jess. Jessica. She's expecting my
call."

"Ok, I'll let her know you're on hold. Just a moment,
please."

But before I could thank her, that wretched music they
always play came over the line. I glanced at the clock
on the wall and grimaced.

"C'mon," I mumbled.

"Hey, Jess."

Startled by those sudden words, I shot upright and
grinned.

"Gayle? Hey, uh... So, I, uh, don't have a lot of time
here."

I glanced at the clock again, then to my watch.

"Ok," she said. "Yeah, a client just showed up here, so
we better keep it short. Thought I'd grab the phone
quick, when they told me it was you."

I held the phone to my ear with both hands and felt my
face turning red.

"So, um..."

"Ya know, you have a really pretty phone voice," she
said with a chuckle.

I giggled in reply, and she added, "Well, and off the
phone, too. I'm just saying..."

"I don't have much time," I laughed. "I gave 'em a pop
quiz a few minutes ago, and they're probably done by
now."

Gayle laughed, saying, "Ugh. God, those sucked. Ok,
what time? When and where?"

"I, uh..."

"Want me to come over and meet you?" she asked.

My arms began trembling.

"Yeah," I whispered. "Um... You know where, right?"

"Uh huh. What time?"

"Lemme think here," I said, closing my eyes and rubbing
my fingers against my forehead.

"Hurry up," she laughed.

"I'm trying!" I exclaimed with a snicker. "You're
making me nervous."

Gayle laughed again.

"Sorry," she said.

"Geesh... Um, would twelve-thirty be ok? I only have a
little over an hour, but if we waited till tomorrow,
I'd have..."

"No," she replied quickly. "Today's fine. So, ok then,
I'll meet you at twelve-thirty. By the front doors?"

I nodded. "Yeah, that'd work."

"Ok," she said. "I'll see you in a few hours."

"All right," I whispered. "Bye."

"See ya then... Oh, and Jess?"

"Yeah?"

Gayle was quiet for a moment, and I glanced at the
clock once more, but smiled.

"Thanks for calling," she said. "Kinda made my
morning."

"You're too much," I giggled nervously, staring down at
the floor. "See ya later."

As I walked back to my classroom, I had bells on my
toes. I felt so good, in fact, that when I got back to
the room and saw all the quizzes sitting on my desk, I
told my students they were off the hook. I wasn't going
to grade them, to which they sighed in relief.

From twelve to twelve-thirty, I had to sit in the
hallway down near the cafeteria with another teacher,
as we worked the hall monitor shift. No one was
supposed to get by us without a written pass. Her name
was Gloria and was on the verge of retiring, which I
think many students wished she had opted for many years
before. She could be nice enough, but she did have a
tendency to be cranky and play favorites with the
students. As a result, whenever one of them wanted to
go to their locker during lunch, they invariably came
to me, if I was sitting out there with her.

When Rachel was still in high school, she told me how
Gloria had a nickname with the kids. They called her
"The Gestapo", because, just as how in every movie set
during World War Two there was always a Gestapo agent
at a train station checking papers and passports, so
too did Gloria with the same fervent demeanor.

"Pay-pahs, pleez," was how Rachel verbalized it, using
an exaggerated German accent.

I, on the other hand, was referred to as "Mother
Theresa", for the mercy I tended to hand out freely to
everyone with even a mediocre sob story.

So, as I sat on one side of the hallway and Gloria the
other, where she sat reading, I tried to wave the kids
over to me, as they approached, partly to help them and
partly to kill thirty minutes.

At twenty after twelve, a young girl from the main
office came walking down the hall. I was talking to a
student, when she stopped next to me.

"Mrs. Clarke, you have a visitor at the office."

I glanced at my watch.

"Already?" I mumbled, but with a broad smile.

Gloria looked up from her book.

"Yeah, go on," she said. "Only a few more minutes
left."

"Thanks," I replied happily and jumped up from my
chair.

As I made my way quickly to the office, I passed two
boys walking toward Gloria. When they saw me leaving,
they stopped in their tracks and frowned.

"Sorry," I whispered, as I zipped past them.

The main office was far on the other side of the
building, so by the time I reached it, I was nearly
sprinting and out of breath. But, when I turned the
corner, there she was. Gayle was sitting on a bench in
the hall with one leg crossed over the other, twirling
her sunglasses in her hand. I came to a screeching
halt, just as she turned to see what the commotion was.
And, when she smiled at me, mine grew wider. Then she
stood and picked up a plastic bag next to her, along
with two large sodas in a cardboard holder.

"Hey, there you are," she said. "Hope you don't mind. I
dropped by the sub shop on the way over."

I stopped in front of her, my chest heaving up and
down, and continued to smile nervously.

"You ok?" she asked, giving me a funny look.

I nodded.

"Um, yeah... I was just... just on the other side of
the building, when they told me you were here," I
replied, pointing back behind me.

She held up the sodas and bag, saying, "So, where'd you
wanna..."

"Oh, uh... We can go outside, if you'd like," I said.
"There's a picnic table just around the corner, kinda
under a tree. It's a little shady there."

I think Gayle could sense my anxiety, as one side of
her mouth slowly curled.

"Ok," she said, and then we turned and walked out the
door.

We went over to the picnic table and sat across from
each other, trying to make idle chatter.

"How was your morning?" she asked.

I poked a straw through the top of my soda and
shrugged.

"Same as always," I replied, taking a long sip. "How
was yours?"

Gayle took a bite of her sandwich and shrugged, as
well.

"So-so," she muttered, holding up her hand and tilting
it from side to side.

From that point on, the conversation slowly built to a
more affable tempo. We talked about my job and hers,
what we liked to have for lunch, and the things we
remembered from when we were in high school. And, the
same as with our previous conversations, this one never
seemed forced or contrived, and I felt her interest in
me was as genuine as mine in her.

Then she threw me a curve ball.

Just as I took a bite, Gayle dabbed a napkin at the
corners of her mouth, saying, "You look really pretty
today."

I stopped chewing for a second and swallowed.

"Thanks," I mumbled.

Then I slowly reached for my soda and cleared my
throat, stuttering, "You, too."

Gayle grinned, as she chewed, holding her sandwich
between her hands.

After that minor moment of strangeness, the
conversation picked up where it left off.

We were sitting there talking, having cleared away the
remnants of our lunch, with nothing between us save for
the half-empty cups of sodas we held, when from inside
the building a bell ring. Gayle sat up and looked over
my shoulder, and then gave me a dejected smile.

"Guess lunch is over," she sighed.

"Yeah," I replied, fidgeting with my cup. "I better get
going."

We stood from the table, and I followed her over to a
trashcan. After she stuffed the plastic bag inside, she
turned and smiled. It seemed like Gayle wanted to say
something, but she hesitated, as if trying to choose
her words carefully.

"Well," she said softly, brushing her hands together,
and then jamming them in her back pockets. "Um...
Thanks for lunch."

I shook my head, replying, "Oh... No, really. I mean,
you bought, so I should, uh... I should thank you."

She chuckled and shrugged, looking down at the
sidewalk.

The silence between us was quickly becoming
uncomfortable for her, and me, as well. I hooked my
thumb over my shoulder, saying, "I should probably get
back..."

Gayle nodded and looked up, giving me a smile.

"Yeah," she mumbled.

I wasn't quite sure what to say or do, so, just as I
went to say goodbye, Gayle took a deep breath.

"You know I'm a lesbian, don't you?" she asked.

I swallowed hard and nodded rapidly.

"Um... Yeah," I replied, still nodding. "Yeah, I knew
that."

Gayle's head slowly bobbed up and down, as she looked
down at the sidewalk again.

"I just... you know... didn't wanna make you
uncomfortable," she said softly. "Some people just..."

"No," I shot back, shaking my head. "No, not at all.
That's fine. Really. I mean... yeah..."

My words tapered off, as Gayle stood there trying to
smile.

"Ok," she said.

Then she put her sunglasses on and smiled.

"I should probably get back," she said. "Gonna be a
little late, as it is."

I nodded, but felt sad in how we were departing.
Something didn't seem right. So, when Gayle turned to
walk to her car, I called out. But before she looked to
me, she quickly brought a hand to her face, as if
wiping her nose, and then turned and folded her arms on
her chest, slowly walking backwards. She smiled, and,
when I went to speak, I suddenly wondered if she was
crying. And then my heart went out to her, and I had
this incredible urge to go over and hug her.

I cleared my throat and grinned, asking if it was my
turn to by lunch next time. Gayle chuckled and gave a
short kick of her foot. "Yeah," she said with a smile,
pursing her lips and nodding.

I held up my hand, replying, "So... tomorrow? Same
time? Same place?"

Gayle chuckled again, and I saw her lips quiver.

"Same bat channel," she said with a wavering smile.

Even from twenty feet away, I could see she was
fighting back the tears. She gave me a quick little
wave and turned to walk over to her car.

"Hey, Gayle," I called, biting my lower lip.

She was pulling her keys from her pocket and turned to
me, just as she got to her car.

My words stammered, as they came out, but I looked at
her saying, "Thanks... And... And I really, uh... I
really like you."

Her torso jerked slightly, as she chuckled and gave me
a wave. She stepped into her car, and I stood there
watching, as she backed out, and, when she pulled away,
she waved once more.

I turned and walked back inside the building. If I'd
known how, I would have jumped into the air and clicked
my heels together.

That evening, I was on cloud nine. I was happy and
excited and full of energy. Over dinner, Rachel asked
what got into me all of a sudden, and I told her. I
told her how Gayle and I were becoming fast friends,
how much I enjoyed her company, and how I felt as
though this was going to be a turning point in my life.

I waited for Rachel to make some sarcastic remark, but
all she did was smile and nod.

"Sounds like fun," she said, as she helped me wash
dishes. "I always thought she was kind of a cool
chick."

A cool chick: I liked the sound of that. Gayle was
definitely very cool.

Around 9:30pm, I was sitting in my room with the door
closed, changing for bed. I tried to make it a habit of
going to bed no later than 10:30pm, but that night, I
was very tired, probably from mentally wearing myself
out all day.

So, as I crawled under the covers, I reached for my
book on the nightstand and glanced at the phone. I
thought about it for a moment, giggled, and picked up
the phone and dialed Gayle's number. But when I held
the phone to my ear, there was no dial tone, no
ringing.

"Now that's odd," I mumbled, holding the phone away
from my ear and staring at it. I poked at the keypad
and could hear the familiar beeps, but then I heard a
voice, too. I brought the phone back to my ear, furling
my eyebrows at this perplexing situation.

"Hello?" I mumbled.

"Jess?"

I held the phone out slightly and gave it a strange
look.

"Gayle?"

She laughed.

"What're ya doin'?" she asked. "Were you just banging
on the phone?"

"Is... Is that you? This is Gayle, right?"

She laughed out loud and said yes.

I chuckled, replying, "Wow... totally bizarre. I just
picked up the phone and was dialing your number, but
there was no dial tone or anything. Did you call or
something?"

"Yeah," she laughed. "It was weird. The phone didn't
ring on your side. Nothing. I dialed your number, and
then suddenly I hear this weird beeping noise, and then
your voice going, 'Wull now, ain't that odd?'"

And she uttered those last few words in a dopey,
exaggerated manner.

"Oh, ha ha," I replied dryly, propping a pillow up
behind me so I could lean back against it.

"So what'd ya want?" she asked in a very accusatory
manner.

"Me?" I exclaimed, holding a hand to my chest. "You
called me first."

"All right," she replied.

She was quiet for a moment, and I grinned.

"Well?" I asked, in my best motherly tone.

"Gimme a second!" she laughed. "I'm tryin' to think of
an answer."

I was about to speak, when she said, "I dunno... Just
wondered what you were doing."

My heart twittered, and I stretched my legs out under
the blankets, replying, "Um... Just got into bed,
actually. I was gonna read for a while."

"So why were you gonna call me?" she asked.

"I didn't," I replied with a quick smirk.

"No," she said. "But you were going to."

"Yeah."

"Uh huh... and?"

"And what?" I snickered.

"And why were you going to call me?"

I bit my lip and smiled.

"I forgot," I replied.

Gayle sighed into the phone.

"Oh brother," she said.

But that was a good question: why was I going to call
her?

I sat up and closed my book, placing it back on the
nightstand.

"What'd you want me to get for lunch tomorrow?" I
asked, turning to my side and satisfied with my speedy
and clever answer to her question.

For the next hour, Gayle and I chatted, sometimes
laughing and sometimes speaking in almost a whisper. I
had turned off my light and lay in the dark talking to
her, curled up in my blanket.

"You sound tired," she said.

I yawned, holding a hand over my mouth.

"Yeah," I whispered, closing my eyes.

"Want me to let you go?"

"Not really," I giggled.

"It's almost eleven," she said. "You got school in the
morning."

"I know," I sighed dreamily. "I just like talking to
you."

Gayle was quiet for a moment, and then I heard her soft
voice.

"I like talking to you, too," she replied.

I smiled, in my state of semi-consciousness.

"Good," I whispered.

"I'm gonna hang up now, all right? You need to get some
sleep. I'll see you at lunch, ok?"

"Ok," I whispered.

But before she hung up, I said her name.

"What?" she whispered.

"Thanks," I mumbled.

There was a second or two of silence, and then she
said, "You're welcome, Jessie. Night."

"Night..."

The next morning, I awoke feeling wonderful, better
than I ever had in so many long years. I was tired, but
it was a good kind of tried, if that makes sense. My
body was slow to rouse, but my mind was ready to begin
a new day.

I showered quickly and told Rachel she was on her own
for breakfast, as I busied myself making sandwiches for
Gayle and myself.

My daughter stood at the kitchen counter, reaching for
a bowl in the cupboard.

"You gonna eat all that?" she asked, using a spoon to
point to the sandwiches in front of me.

I chuckled, replying, "Nope. One's for me and one's for
Gayle."

"Ah."

Then I wrapped the sandwiches in plastic and carefully
placed them in a small cooler with a bag of chips and
carrot sticks.

As with the day before, the morning seemed to drag on.
But finally, at long last, twelve-thirty rolled around
and I dashed down to the main office with our lunch.

I nearly skidded around the corner, and there she was,
just as the day before, sitting on the bench outside
the office. We grinned wide at each other, and then
Gayle led me outside to our picnic table.

We sat and talked, our food being merely a hindrance to
the conversation. And, as usual, we laughed and
whispered and laughed some more. And, when it came time
to part, I asked Gayle if she wanted to go shopping
with me after work. She stood there twirling her
sunglasses, scratching her chin and staring up at the
sky, as if putting heavy thought into it.

"Oh, c'mon," I said, giving her a poke in the stomach.
"It'll be fun."

She winced, as my finger poked her, and she quickly
pulled away.

"All right," she laughed. "But no more belly poking."

"Can't promise you that," I chuckled in reply with a
shake of my finger.

Gayle and I then exchanged email addresses, so we could
arrange a time and place to meet, in order to go
shopping, before parting ways for the remainder of the
afternoon.

Very quickly, I was finding that to be a difficult
thing to do with Gayle: saying goodbye. It seemed like
no matter how it was done or worded, it didn't seem
right. Several times now, I found myself wanting to
shake her hand, but that seemed terribly formal for
someone like her, as well as taking into consideration
the nature of our burgeoning friendship.

Still, as time went on, I wanted to touch her. Not in a
lurid, sexual manner, but just a gentle touch of my
hand, making a physical connection with her. I wanted
to know what it was like to hold and be held, to feel a
physical closeness and the accompanying phrenic bliss
of knowing someone cared about you. In Gayle, I was
beginning to feel this about her, both for her and in
how she treated me likewise.

That evening, as I drove to her condominium, it did
cross my mind once more that she was a lesbian, though
I shrugged it off. But it was still in my mind,
nevertheless. I knew she was and didn't care. At least,
I consciously told myself I didn't.

Deep down, however, down in my heart, I was beginning
to develop feelings for Gayle. Not romantic or sexual,
but not quite platonic, either. Somewhere in between
were where those feelings and emotions hovered,
probably as a result of being without both for so long
and my heart not knowing quite what to make of the
situation, finding itself in a dilemma and not knowing
which way to go. It would sort itself out in the end, I
reasoned. In the meantime, I didn't care. I was happy
again and that's all that mattered.

Gayle and I walked throughout the mall, from one shop
to the next, sometimes stopping to try on various
clothes. At one store, as I stood in front of a mirror
wearing a blouse, she came up from behind, placing her
hand against my back.

"Looks really nice," she said, smiling warmly at my
reflection.

Then I felt her hand gently rubbing against me, and I
blushed and grinned.

"Thanks," I mumbled.

My reaction must have been an unconscious signal to
her, as from that point on, not always, but every now
and then, Gayle would touch me; a hand on my back, my
arm, my thigh as we sat next to each other and laughed
about something. Had I been married or even dating
someone else, I'm sure I would have thought it strange
for her to do these things, after only knowing each
other for a few days. But neither of these applied to
me, so I simply enjoyed whatever she had to offer. Even
an ephemeral, glancing touch of her hand was enough to
fill my heart with joy.

For the next several weeks, Gayle and I tried to meet
for lunch, as often as we could. Sometimes our
schedules didn't match, but most of the time, we were
able to still find time to talk, either by way of the
phone late at night or email during the day. And, with
each passing day, with each conversation and email
message I received from her, I wanted to be with her
even more. Whenever the phone rang, I instantly dashed
over and snatched it up, hoping to hear her voice.

Likewise, whenever I checked my email in the morning at
school, I was overjoyed to find a message from her,
sometimes nothing more than to wish me a good day and
other times it could be a link to an interesting story
or website she thought I might enjoy. Invariably, her
guess was always right, and this made me feel even
better about how our relationship was blossoming.

Gayle wasn't simply taking a stab in the dark, hoping
I'd be impressed with some arbitrary conversation
piece, like throwing darts at a target and praying you
hit the bull's-eye. She had made a concerted effort to
get to know me, and this was her way of propagating and
grooming our relationship.

Her email and phone calls weren't hollow gestures on
her part. She actively engaged me in conversation about
any number of topics, as I did with her. And the more
information we exchanged, the better we came to know
and understand one another, and the more we wanted to
know and understand.

It had been nearly two months since I first met Gayle
in the park, when she invited me over for dinner one
evening. By now, we had become very close friends, and
I felt comfortable being around her and discussing even
personal details of my life that I normally wouldn't
share with anyone other than my husband. So, that
evening, we talked.

Music was playing softly on the stereo in the living
room, and the lights out there were turned down low,
while we sat in the kitchen at the table.

As Gayle ate, she set down her fork and picked up her
napkin, wiping the corners of her mouth.

"Can I ask you something?" she said, reaching for her
glass.

I sat back and nodded, taking my own napkin and dabbing
my lips.

"Mm hm," I replied with a smile.

Gayle pushed her chair back and reached for my plate.

"Done?" she asked.

"Oh, yeah," I replied, holding my hands back, as she
picked it up along with her own. "Very good," I added.
"Thank you."

Gayle grinned and carried our plates to the sink and
rinsed them off. Then she placed them in the dishwasher
and walked back to the table. She picked up her glass
and nudged her head toward the living room, gesturing
for me to follow.

We sat on the couch and were quiet for a moment, and
then I spoke.

"So, what were you gonna ask me?"

Gayle was taking a sip from her glass, and then held it
in both hands, looking down with just the hint of a
smile on her face. She crossed one leg over her knee,
rolling the glass between her slender fingers.

"It's sorta personal," she said softly.

I glanced down at my glass and shrugged.

"S'ok," I replied. "You can ask whatever you want."

She took a sip, and looked at me from the corner of her
eye.

"All right," she said in a matter-of-fact tone. "Are
you..." But then she paused and hesitated a second, and
then turned to me saying, "Why aren't you dating
anyone?"

I was still staring down at my glass and slowly nodded
my head.

"Yeah," I sighed. "I guess that's sort of a good
question."

Gayle slowly turned her body so she was facing me and
rested her arm on the back of the couch.

"I dunno," I mumbled.

Then I felt her hand on my shoulder.

"I'm not trying to pry into your personal life," she
said.

I quickly glanced at her, and then back down to the
glass in my hands.

"No," I replied, slowly shaking my head. "I know. It's
ok." Then I sighed again.

"I dunno," I said, turning to face her. "It's... I
dunno... It's been so long. I never thought I'd find
myself dating again, after I got married. It's just...
Where do you start? How? How do you find the right
person? I mean..."

My voice tapered off and, when I looked up, she smiled.

"I dunno where to start," I whispered.

"Well," she replied, taking a drink, as she leaned
back. "Whadda you want?" she asked. "What're you
looking for?"

I sighed and pulled my legs onto the couch, crossing
them, as I faced her.

"I dunno," I replied. "I'm not really sure."

Gayle was about to speak, when I quickly added,
"Someone to be with."

I looked to her for a reaction, and she slowly nodded
and turned her eyes down to the empty space between us.

"Yeah," she replied softly. "Me, too."

There was a long silence, and Gayle leaned forward to
the coffee table, carefully placing her glass on it.
Then she sat back slightly, resting her elbows on her
knees, and clasped her hands together.

I had told her all about what had happened with my
husband. I told her how it tore me apart, how it
destroyed my life, and how empty inside it made me
feel. I explained in great depth and detail, crying as
she put her arm around me, how desperately alone I felt
every day of my life, how hopeless, even meaningless my
existence seemed to be, even in light of still having
my daughter at my side.

Rachel would eventually leave our home and start a
family of her own some day, signifying the end of all
that was left of mine. No longer would I be a member
sitting at the center table of my primary family, but
relegated to being yet one more visiting relative from
out of town. When my daughter left home for good, I'd
be on my own and the thought terrified me.

So, as I sat there with Gayle on her couch, she told me
her story.

She was still looking down at her hands, when she
reached up and brushed the hair from her face, hooking
it over her ear. Then she glanced in my direction,
giving me a weak smile.

"I've never told anyone this," she said. "But... I was
married, too... a long time ago."

Then she looked at me again, as if embarrassed, adding,
"To a guy."

She reached for her glass and took a sip.

"When I was seventeen, my step-father tried to rape me.
I guess my mom told him about me... how I was a
lesbian... thought I was, anyway. So... She was at work
one night, and he was getting drunk, as usual..."

It seemed like this was difficult for her to talk
about, so I leaned closer, placing my hand on her
shoulder.

"Gayle," I whispered. "You don't have to..."

But she held up her hand in protest.

"No," she said, wagging her head. "You were honest with
me, so... just lemme be honest with you."

She turned her head slightly, and I slowly nodded.

"Ok," I said, rubbing her back.

Gayle took a deep breath and sighed.

"So, ya know... that was his thing... When my mom was
gone, he'd get drunk, and he'd always sorta... I
dunno... like, try to come onto me, ya know? I dunno
why I never told her though. I guess maybe I thought
she probably felt like you did, when your..."

She paused and wiped her nose and glanced at me.
Gayle's eyes were red, but I tried to smile for both of
us.

"S'ok," I replied. "I know what you mean."

Then she leaned back against the couch, and I scooted
closer, holding her hand in mine.

"So... I guess she must've told him about me or
something, because the next thing I know, he comes into
my room asking me if I was a dyke. And I could smell
the alcohol on him, too. I mean, most of the time, he
just sat downstairs and drank until he passed out. The
only time he'd say something to me, ya know, some sorta
comment about my tits or ass, was when he was drunk,
but this was different. I mean, I knew this was not
good, him being in my room and all."

Gayle swiped the palm of her hand under her eyes and
took another sip from her glass.

"Anyway... so, he comes in my room and shuts the door,
and he keeps asking me if I'm a dyke. I was really
fucking scared. Any other time, I'd just blow off his
comments, but he was acting really aggressive, ya know?
So... I tried to run for my door, but there he is
standing in my way, so I had to go around him, and when
I did, he grabs my arm and drags me over to the bed. I
mean, shit, next thing I know, this asshole is trying
to rip my clothes off, and he's just rambling on and
on, and I couldn't make sense of any of it, but, fuck,
you know, I knew what he was trying to do to me."

I could see tears running down Gayle's cheeks, and I
reached up and wiped them away with my thumb. She
chuckled and said thanks, and then turned to me saying,
"Wanna know what I did next?"

Her smile is infectious, but I tried not to let it
affect me, given the serious nature of our
conversation. I nodded, though, trying to suppress the
urge to grin with her.

Gayle rotated her body on the couch, pulling one leg
up, so she was facing me.

"Remember those one pens," she said. "The kind that had
those weird little... God, what were those called? You
know what I mean. They had those things at the top of
'em."

She looked to me for an answer, but all I could do was
shrug.

"Oh, you know," she said, pushing on my knee. "They had
the really hairy things at the top of the pen, and when
you spun it back and forth in your hand, the hair would
frizz out. Remember those?"

I thought about it for a second, and then my eyes shot
open.

"Oh, yeah," I exclaimed. "Ok, yeah. I remember those.
God, I'm sure I had one."

Gayle chuckled, saying, "Well, I mean, yeah. Who
didn't?"

Then I reached over to the coffee table and picked up
the napkin my glass sat on, handing it to her.

"Thanks," she mumbled, as she folded it and wiped her
red nose.

"So, yeah, I stabbed him in the chest with one of those
thingamajig pens."

I stared at her and blinked.

"Did he...?"

But she shook her head and coughed with a laugh.

"No," she replied, still chuckling. "I guess those
weren't designed to be used as personal defense
weapons. Plus he had a pretty thick layer of blubber
protecting his evil black heart, so that probably kept
him alive, too."

We both grinned, as I took her hand in mine again. She
turned her eyes up, trying to suppress her tears, and
very quietly thanked me. Then she let out a long breath
and fiddled with the napkin in her hand.

"So, anyway, I guess it sorta distracted him long
enough so I could make my escape. I just went over to a
friend's apartment... this guy I knew. He was a
trucker, but not one of those, uh, what do ya call 'em?
Long-haul guys. He was just some guy I met at a bar...
He and one of his friends played pool with me and one
of mine, so it was no big deal.

"But, anyway, I sorta moved in with him, and, I
dunno... I mean, I liked him and all. He was cool. But
I kept thinking, ya know, this is what it's gonna be
like for me from now on. People are gonna look at me
and say, 'Hey, there's the dyke. Let's get 'er.' I
mean, here we are in the new millennium and we're maybe
a little more civilized and all, but you know, back
then..."

I nodded and squeezed her hand.

"Yeah," I replied.

Gayle shrugged and took another swipe at her nose with
the napkin, saying, "So, yeah, I lived with him until I
graduated a few months later, and, you know... then we
got married."

She took a deep breath and raised her chin, looking me
straight in the face.

I stared back at her for a moment, not sure what to
say, and then asked what happened.

Gayle glanced down at the napkin she held and shrugged,
as her lips quivered nervously.

"I'm a lesbian," she replied.

I gave her hand a gentle squeeze, and she turned her
eyes up to me, her face contorted and red, as she tried
not to cry.

"I gave it a shot, ya know?" she whimpered. "I thought,
I dunno... Like, maybe it was just some sorta phase I'd
grow out of, but I didn't. And every time we had sex,
and I mean every single time, I was just sickened by
it, ya know? Total turn-off for me."

Gayle wiped her nose, and then glanced up at me saying,
"So... yeah, I had an affair. God, you know, I really
did try to give it a fair shot, but... I swear, every
time I saw him naked, ya know? Every time he put it
inside me, I just wanted to throw up. But it's not like
I didn't like him. I mean, Hell, ya know, I even sorta
loved him a little, but..."

She sat there slowly shaking her head.

"I just couldn't do it any more. I wasn't happy. So
then I started seeing this other woman, you know? This
lesbian, but the sad thing was, what really opened my
eyes was, she was married to a guy, ya know? Just like
me, and she was just fucking miserable. So I was like,
hey, ya know, let's just run away together, but she
said no.

"She had kids with this guy, and she didn't wanna leave
'em. I mean, yeah, I guess I can understand it, but...
to feel like shit every day of your life and know
there's nothing you can do about it... So that's why
she told me, don't do it. Don't stay with this guy, if
you're not completely happy with where your life is
going with him, because sure as shit, the longer you
stay, the harder it'll be to leave."

Gayle reached over to the coffee table for her glass
and took a sip, and then held it between her hands in
her lap.

"So how did you do it?" I whispered. "Did you tell him?
Or..."

She nodded quickly.

"Yeah," she said. "I had to, ya know? Like I said, I
did sorta love him a little, but it wasn't that
romantic kinda love. It was more like a friend thing. I
mean, yeah, I felt like shit for doing it to him, but
what else could I do? I didn't wanna turn out like her,
ya know?"

She sat there slowly shaking her head.

"Life's too fucking short for that," she muttered.

Then Gayle took her fingers and reached up to her ears,
hooking her hair back over them and giving me a sad,
exasperated expression.

"I don't wanna be in a serious relationship like that
with someone, if I can't love 'em as much as I should,"
she said softly. And as she stared at me, looking right
into my eyes, she added, "I wanna fall in love with
someone. That's what I'm looking for. That's what I
want."

Then an almost imperceptive curl quickly reached out to
the ends of her lips.

I swallowed and let my eyes fall down to my hands.

"Whadda you want?" she whispered.

I thought about it for a moment, and then took a deep
breath.

"What I really want," I replied. "Is for someone to
hold me again. But... what I don't want is for someone
to replace him... but... maybe to do all the things he
use to do... for me... make me feel the way he made me
feel."

I turned my eyes to her and she bobbed her head up and
down in silent agreement.

There was a long period of silence between us, when she
finally cleared her throat saying, "Wanna dance?"
Startled, I slowly raised my eyes and found her smiling
from ear to ear. She nudged her head toward the middle
of the room.

"C'mon," she said, wiggling her eyebrows.

I chuckled, replying with a long sigh, "Oh God..."

Gayle poked at my shoulder.

"Oh, c'mon," she said with a laugh. "It's not like I
bite or anything. It'll be fun."

But before I could say anything more, she leapt from
the couch over to the stereo.

"Here," she said, jabbing a finger at the buttons.
"I'll put on something fun."

I sat watching from the couch, giggling nervously, but
once more awed by how she could make me feel so good
with so little effort. Then she glanced over her
shoulder and held up a CD case.

"A little Jerry Lee, perhaps?" she said, with a
mischievous grin.

Then she turned back to the stereo, touched a button,
and the room suddenly reverberated with a lively piano
melody from the fifties.

I sat on the couch shaking my head, as Gayle's body
slowly started undulating with the music, swinging her
hips from side to side and bending down slightly at the
knees. She turned and wiggled her fingers for me to
come to her. I laughed, as I watched, a little
embarrassed, but suddenly feeling very cheerful and
upbeat. Gayle had a knack for making me smile, whenever
I was feeling down.

She stepped over to the couch and reached down for my
hands, pulling me to my feet and to the center of the
room. And, after a few minutes, I finally let my
inhibitions down and together we danced about, as we
held hands, twirling around and under each other's
arms, and swinging to and fro, laughing the entire
time.

As the evening wore on, the whole of my thoughts
centered on Gayle and how fortunate I was to have found
such a profoundly beautiful and extraordinary person.
Not since my husband, had anyone made me feel so very
much alive and gratefully so.

Exhausted, we finally dropped to the couch, having worn
ourselves out. But it felt good all the same, though
mostly in knowing that I was with someone who knew how
to make me feel good and brighten my spirits.

So we sat next to each other on the couch, talking and
giggling and drinking sodas, and then I leaned against
her and sighed.

"You're good to me," I chuckled softly, rubbing my nose
against her shoulder.

Gayle pulled back, replying with a snicker, "Are you
wiping your grubby nose on me?"

I laughed, and she flung her arm around me, as we sat
back. Then something startling happened, though I knew
it wasn't intentional on her part. When Gayle put her
arm around me, her hand hung limp over my shoulder with
her fingers dangling just atop the upper half of my
breast. An alert shot out across my mind, trying to
signal the awkwardness of the situation, but it was
quickly stifled. I didn't see the harm, and, to be
honest, it didn't bother me. Instead, I reached up with
my hand and placed it atop hers, pressing her fingers
against my chest. And then we sat there in her quiet
living room for a long time listening to the soft
music, as I leaned against her and she held me close,
neither of us saying a word, as nothing needed to be
said.

After a while, when the lateness of the hour seemed to
slip past us, I stood in her door about to leave, and
turned to her and smiled, taking her hand in mine.

"Thanks," I said.

Gayle playfully swung our hands back and forth and
grinned in reply.

"No problem," she said.

I was about to walk away, but stopped and turned to her
once again. We stood smiling nervously at each other
for a moment, and then I carefully stepped toward her,
too embarrassed to look her in the face, and held out
my arms, attempting an ungainly hug. Gayle chuckled and
wiped the back of her hand under her nose, as if timid
about this, too, but put her arms around me all the
same. And with my face resting just below her neck, I
could feel the warmth of her breath against my head and
the sweet smell of her skin, as the faint beating of
her heart was barely discernable to my ear. Then I
closed my eyes.

"Thank you," I whispered.

Gayle hugged me closer and kissed my head, rubbing her
hand on my back.

"You're welcome," she replied softly.

And when we finally parted, I felt my face burning red,
but looked up and saw Gayle quickly running the palm of
her hand under her eyes, trying to brush away the tears
before I could notice them.

"Sorry," she chuckled.

I fished the keys from my pocket, and smiled to myself,
as I fidgeted with them in my hands.

"Are you free tomorrow night?" I whispered.

"Yeah," she replied, extending a hand to my forearm and
gently caressing it.

I glanced up and smiled, and Gayle was pulling her hand
from her face again. She rolled her eyes to the
ceiling, as if embarrassed, and tried to smile, but her
lower lip betrayed her thoughts, as it quivered
slightly.

I asked if she'd like to have dinner with me at my
place the following evening, seeing as how it was
Friday and Rachel would be working.

"Ok," she whispered, trying to smile, as she fought
back her tears.

Before I walked away, I stepped up and planted a gentle
kiss on her cheek.

"See you then," I said, patting her arm.

As I walked down the hallway, I heard Gayle call out to
me. I turned and saw her staring at the floor, both her
hands braced in the doorway.

"Thanks, Jessie," she muttered, trying to smile, as two
thin silvery lines rolled down her cheeks.

"I'll call you, ok?"

"Ok," she replied, and slowly stepped inside the door.

By the time I got to the car, I was in tears myself.

When I arrived home, Rachel was already in bed. I hung
my coat in the hall closet and quietly slipped upstairs
to my room. Inside, I carefully closed the door and
walked over to my dresser. And, as I undressed, I found
myself staring at the few pictures of my husband
pressed under the frame of the mirror on the dresser.

I pulled my sweater over my head and gazed at his
static image, trying to remember all the times I'd
walked into this very room late at night to find him
sitting up in bed reading, waiting for me to join him.
It was so long ago now, that it felt more like an
ephemeral dream, than a reality that had once been a
tangible part of my life. One day he was sitting up and
laughing and talking, and then suddenly he was gone,
leaving a gaping wound in my existence. What remained
now was a deep scar, a constant reminder of what I had,
but lost.

Staring into the mirror, I saw the phone behind me on
the nightstand. My heart began racing, as I turned and
stepped around the bed, stopping in front of the phone.
I reached down with a trembling hand, but stopped short
of picking it up. I sat on the edge of the bed,
clasping my hands in my lap, and closed my eyes.

"Please let me do the right thing," I mumbled.

Then I slowly opened my eyes and reached for the phone.
I dialed Gayle's number and took a deep breath.

With each ring, I felt the perspiration building on my
head and neck. Then I heard her soft voice.

"Hello?"

"Hey..."

I could hear her moving around.

"Did I wake you?" I asked.

"No," she whispered.

I closed my eyes and took another deep breath.

"Can I tell you something?"

Gayle was quiet for a moment, and then said yes.

I wrapped my hand around the cord and sucked in deeply
through my nose.

"Don't say anything, after I say this, ok?" I
whispered.

"All right," she replied.

"Just... Just say goodnight, ok?"

"Ok," she said softly.

I clenched my fist tightly and closed my eyes hard, my
body trembling from head to toe.

"You're my best friend, Gayle," I whispered, as my
heart began pounding in my chest, and I was sure she
could hear it. "...and I love you very much."

Suddenly, I felt my entire being relax, after unloading
that heavy weight. Gayle was quiet for a few moments,
and, just as I was about to kick myself and try to find
a way to apologize, I heard her say in a whimpering
voice, "Goodnight, sweet Jessie." And then she hung up.

I slowly set the phone down, stood from the bed, and
trudged over to the closet and cried.

The next morning, as I walked into the school, I passed
another teacher walking out of the main office.

"Mornin', Jess."

"Hey, Lyle."

I hadn't taken five steps, when he called to me again.
I stopped and turned, and he said there was something
for me in the main office. I furled my eyebrows, asking
if he knew what it was. Lyle sipped his coffee and
shrugged.

"Just a letter, I think," he replied, as he walked
toward me on his way to his classroom.

"Some woman dropped it off, just before you got here,"
he added, as he strode by.

My eyes went wide, and I asked if she had long brown
hair. He was still walking away and held up his hands.

"Dunno," he said. "That's just what Diane told me."

I turned and walked quickly back to the office. Inside,
the principal's secretary, Diane, was pushing fliers
and memos into the teachers' mailboxes. She was a
portly woman, middle-aged and cheerful, and had a son
in my class, a junior, and one of the better students I
had.

She glanced at me and smiled, as I stepped around her
to get to my mailbox.

"Good morning," she said with a wide smile.

"Hey," I huffed impatiently, as I snatched the papers
from my box.

I walked over to the counter and quickly thumbed
through the short stack of papers. From the corner of
my eye, I could see Diane look over her shoulder.

"Looking for something?" she asked.

I nodded, growing antsier, as I didn't find the letter.

"Yeah," I muttered under my breath.

Diane ambled around the counter and over to her desk.

"Hey," I said. "Lyle just told me someone dropped a
letter off for me this..."

And then I watched, as Diane reached down to her desk
and held up a small, light blue envelope.

"This?" she asked with a grin, as she stepped over to
me.

As Diane handed it to me, I saw Gayle's eloquent
handwriting on the front. There was only one word on
it: "Jessie".

Diane leaned against the counter, resting her forearms
on it, and pointed a finger at the envelope.

"You know her?" she asked.

Still gazing at the letter in my hand, I smiled and
nodded. It wasn't a regular envelope, but more the type
used to hold a card. My mind was racing, as I wondered
what it could be. A thank you card? But then my smile
faded, as I thought back to our brief phone
conversation the night before. Was this her way of
saying thanks, but no thanks? All the blood in my body
seemed to sink to my feet, and I felt myself go numb.

"Yeah," I mumbled softly. "I know her."

When Diane didn't say anything, I looked up and she
tried to smile.

"Why?" I asked.

Diane glanced at the door to the office, and then back
to me, picking at her fingers.

"Is her name Gayle Martin?" she asked.

I swallowed and nodded, wondering how she knew. Then
the gears in my head started turning. Gayle's husband
had been a truck driver, and Diane's husband owned a
small trucking company.

"Yeah," I squeaked nervously. "That's her."

Diane laid her hands flat on the countertop and looked
at me with a sigh.

"It's really none of my business, Jess," she said.

"What?"

"Her," she replied.

"What about her?"

Diane took a deep breath and looked at the door again.

"She was married to my brother," she said in a low
voice.

Just as I felt a sense of relief sweep over me,
grateful that she didn't say an angry woman had stormed
in that morning and threw this letter at her, anxiety
set in once more, as I began to realize that Diane
probably knew about Gayle being a lesbian, and I'm sure
she'd seen us meet outside the office for lunch over
the last few months. And now she'd stopped by to
deliver a card to me, though the contents therein
remained a mystery.

Still, I had no doubt, if Diane knew Gayle, she also
knew she was a lesbian, and it probably didn't take a
great leap of logic to figure out that Gayle and I had
become close friends. The absolute last thing I wanted
was for people to be talking about me behind my back,
spreading rumors and God knows what else.

Diane looked at me for a moment, and then down to her
hands.

"So... she and your brother?" I muttered.

She nodded slowly.

"They were married for less than a year," she said.
Then she sighed, saying, "I don't know the exact
reasons why they separated, but I have a pretty good
idea."

Her eyes drifted to mine, and then her expression
turned to one of warm sympathy.

"All I'm saying is..."

Then suddenly, the door to the office opened and in
walked the principal. Diane and I stood upright a bit
more, and she raised her hand and smiled at him, as did
I. He replied with a friendly wave, and then stepped
into his office and shut the door. Diane turned back to
me and leaned closer, laying her hand flat out on the
counter toward me, and whispered.

"Look, Jess, all I'm saying is, as your friend, just be
careful, ok?"

I nodded quickly.

"I will," I whispered nervously.

Diane looked over her shoulder, and then turned me
saying, "It's none of my business, but I sorta think
maybe covering your back is, ok?"

I nodded again.

"I'm not saying she's a horrible, bad person. I'm sure
she isn't. But she really broke his heart, when he
found out she was, you know..."

And then Diane cleared her throat, as if embarrassed to
say it. Her eyes darted to mine, and I slowly nodded.
She took a step closer in my direction, whispering,
"Jess, she has a tendency to sleep around, ok? At
least, back then she did." Then she placed her hand
against her chest, saying, "But that was, what, fifteen
years ago maybe? Maybe a little longer. And I don't
mean she did it with other men, ok? She had an affair
with another woman. A married woman."

I fidgeted where I stood and glanced down at the
envelope I held.

"Yeah," I replied. "She told me about it."

Diane's smile returned, and she stood up with her hands
flat on the countertop.

"Like I said," she continued. "I'm just trying to give
you some friendly info. It's none of my business, and,
hey, maybe she's turned over a new leaf. Besides, I
mean, I always thought she was a pretty nice person,
and I was really surprised, when she left him.
Honestly, I never woulda guessed she was..."

"Yeah," I said, cutting her off. "She's a lesbian."

Diane slid her hand to mine and patted it softly.

"That's all I wanted to tell you," she whispered with a
smile.

I slowly bobbed my head and thanked her, and then asked
if she knew anything else about Gayle.

"No," she replied, shaking her head ruefully. "Not
really. I know she use to go to church a lot. Tried to
get my brother to come with her, but he was a little
too rowdy for that," she chuckled.

Outside the office, there was a sudden influx of
students, chattering and laughing loudly, as they
entered the building. The buses had begun to roll into
the parking lot.

"I better get going," I said.

Diane gave my hand a gentle squeeze, as I went to walk
away, but then I stopped and turned back to her.

"So... What's your general impression of her?" I asked.

Over the years, Diane and I had become something along
the lines of work-friends. We hardly ever spoke outside
of school, mostly because she lived rather far away,
but during the day, she and I had a slightly closer
friendship. She was definitely someone I could confide
in and trusted, and she always seemed to be a good
judge of character.

Diane was walking to her desk and raised her eyebrows,
upon hearing my question. She came back to the counter,
and I moved closer toward her.

"You know, like I said, that was a long time ago," she
replied quietly. "I liked her, but you could tell
something wasn't quite right about her." Then she shook
her head, adding, "Not, like, mentally or anything.
More like she was always depressed. I just never saw
her smile much, you know? I guess I'd say she was a
good, decent person. Kinda quiet, but, like I said, she
just seemed really sad, to me."

"You think she recognized you?" I asked.

Diane chuckled, her heavy chest wobbling.

"Oh, I doubt it," she replied with a laugh. "I use to
be really skinny back then, if you can believe that."

I smiled, trying to imagine Diane as anything but this
large, happy person. Then she shook her head.

"Nah," she said. "I don't think she did. My hair was
longer, my butt thinner... I looked a lot different.
She didn't act like she knew me, when she stopped by
this morning."

"How did she seem?" I asked anxiously.

Diane shrugged and curled her lip.

"Seemed ok," she replied.

Then she looked at me and seemed to sense I needed a
more detailed answer. She stepped closer and leaned
toward me against the counter, clasping her hands
together.

"I think she was happy," she said. "She was smiling."

I grinned wide and so did Diane.

"Thanks," I replied, as I tapped my fingers on the
counter and walked to the door.

"Hey, Jess."

My hand was on the doorknob, and I turned to Diane, as
she walked behind her desk to sit down.

"It's none of my business," she said, holding up her
hand plaintively. "And no one else's... if you know
what I mean."

I smiled again and thanked her, as I walked out into
the hallway.

Students were everywhere, standing around the halls
talking and laughing and crisscrossing my path, as they
darted to their lockers, occasionally bumping into me.
As I sped past, many would say hello and good morning,
and I'd grin and nod or wave, but my body moved with
singular purpose to my classroom. I had less than ten
minutes to get there, before students would start their
morning migration and a new school day began.

My heart beat faster with each step, and by the time I
swung open the door and stepped into my room, I was
nearly out of breath. Two students were sitting in the
back of the room talking quietly and looked over at me.
I grinned sheepishly and they smiled in return, and
then resumed their conversation.

I made my way to my desk, pulled out the chair, and
quickly sat down. I glanced at the clock on the wall:
less than five minutes. With trembling hands, I plucked
the envelope from my bag and held it in my lap out of
view. I slowly turned it over and carefully opened the
flap and gingerly reached inside with my fingers,
pulling out the card within.

When I flipped it over, I slapped a hand over my mouth
and giggled. There on the front was an Easter bunny,
painted in watercolors and holding a bright Easter
basket filled with an assortment of colorful eggs.
Above him was captioned, "I thought about sending you a
big, beautiful basket for Easter..." Then I slowly
opened the card, and inside was a line drawing of a
person holding out the empty pockets of their pants,
saying, "Instead, I got you this card."

But there, on the inside cover, was a note hastily
written by Gayle.

"Sorry!" it said. "This was all I could find this
morning."

Further down, she wrote, "Thank you for the wonderful
evening and beautiful company last night."

I felt my face turning read, as I continued reading.

"Please call me today, when you get the chance, and let
me know when you'd like to meet for dinner."

And below that, as if an afterthought, she had written,
"I need to hear your voice again."

My vision slowly blurred, as her words sank in. My
heart raced and spine tingled, as I sat there in a
daze.

"I need to hear your voice again."

I'm not sure how long I had been sitting there
motionless, when someone coughing suddenly pulled me
from my trance. I slowly raised my eyes and saw all the
desks in the classroom filled, my students sitting and
staring back at me, some smiling and others chuckling.
I closed the card and carefully open my desk drawer,
slipping it inside.

During the noon hour, I called Gayle at work. But all
throughout the morning, between classes, I would open
my drawer and read her card over and over again.

I was scared to talk to her, nervous about what she
would say, and becoming riddled with anxiety about how
our relationship, ostensibly a mere friendship, was
quickly becoming something more. So, all morning, my
thoughts dwelled on Gayle. She was kind and polite,
intelligent and witty, quick to smile and share a
laugh. And I also thought about what Diane had said,
how she could detect a hint of peripheral sadness in
Gayle. The more I thought about it, the more I saw it,
as well. The evening of her dinner party, now several
months past, I remembered how sad she seemed, when I
left to return home. And it didn't seem as though she
were depressed that the party was over, though she did
imply otherwise, rather her sullen mood seemed to be
caused by my departure. As time went on, and Gayle and
I became closer, this same sense of somberness at
parting swept over me, too, leaving my heart feeling
empty and alone.

Whenever I wasn't with her, I thought about her. I
thought about how she brought so much joy to my life.
And, more recently, I began thinking about what a
beautiful woman she was, and not simply in terms of
character, but physically, as well.

I tried ignoring it, but the truth of the matter is, I
was falling in love with Gayle and had been for a very
long time.

So, when I called her at noon, I was just as anxious to
hear her voice.

"Did you get my card?" she asked.

I was sitting in the teacher's lounge on the couch,
holding the phone close to my ear and nearly
whispering. There were three other teachers there, but
they sat at a table on the other side of the room.

"Yeah," I whispered.

Gayle laughed and asked why I was talking so softly.

"Someone's in here with me," I whispered.

She laughed again.

"So?" she said. "You afraid they might see you smiling
or what?"

"No," I replied softly, turning to lean on the arm of
the couch, away from the other teachers.

"Yeah, right," she replied with a snort. Then she added
with a devilish voice, "Or maybe you're just scared
they might figure out who it is seeing you."

I laughed, but quickly glanced over my shoulder. One of
the trio turned to see what the commotion was about,
but then smiled and turned away, when I grinned and
waved.

"That's not true at all," I mumbled.

Then her words suddenly struck home: "...who it is
seeing you."

Seeing... That word seemed to carry a certain
inference, one that could just as easily be conveyed by
the word "dating". And, in a very real sense, it really
did feel as though Gayle and I were dating. All the
necessary ingredients were there: a few commonalities
in terms of interests, likes and dislikes; we enjoyed
each other's company and spent a great deal of time
together. And sometimes the level by which we
communicated went beyond what mere friends would
normally traverse, by way of body language and tone.
When we sat together, although mainly whenever we were
alone, it was side-by-side, our bodies touching. There
were also times when she'd lay a hand on me, giving a
gentle squeeze or soft rub.

All of this pointed in one direction, and, in my heart,
I knew Gayle was attracted to me, as I was to her.

"Are you even listening to me?" she suddenly asked.

I blinked a few times and sat up straight. "Pardon?"

Gayle chuckled, as I mumbled an apology.

"You're too cute," she said.

I smiled, and then closed my eyes.

"Can I ask you something?"

"Sure," she said. "Gotta make it quick, though. I
should get back to work here."

"Ok," I whispered.

There was a brief pause, and then Gayle asked what it
was I wanted to ask.

I was just about to speak, when she said, "What'd you
think of the card?"

I glanced down at the floor and smiled, telling her I
liked it. Then she explained how she had bought it for
her niece, but never sent it, opting instead to
actually buy her a big Easter basket filled with candy
and toys. And the more she talked, the more I began to
wonder, if she was trying to stall for time, trying to
prevent me from asking my question. I sighed into the
phone, but she cut me off again, before I could say
anything.

"What time you want me to come over?" she asked.

I rolled my eyes, as it was obvious she didn't want me
to ask my question, hoping I'd probably forget, what
with her constantly changing the subject. I suppose,
judging by the tone of my voice, she assumed it to be
of a serious nature, but I wanted to ask it all the
same.

"Six o'clock," I replied. And, before she could get
another word in edgewise, I asked if she liked me.

My heart began pounding, as I waited for an answer.

"Yeah," she whispered softly. "Of course I do. You know
that... don't you?"

My heart skipped a beat and my stomach fluttered.

"Ok," I replied. "That's all I wanted to know."

"Do you like me?" she asked quickly.

I nodded slowly, saying, "Yeah."

We were both silent for a few seconds, and I could hear
her breathing into the phone.

"Jess..."

"Yeah?"

There was a pause.

"I don't wanna replace him," she said.

I closed my eyes and gripped the arm of the couch.

"I know," I replied tensely. "Thank you."

"But I still wanna be there... Is that ok?"

I curled my toes tightly and took a deep breath.

"Yeah," I murmured. "I'd like that."

Then my senses were jarred, when Gayle suddenly spoke
in a louder tone, more pedestrian and breaking the
otherwise sedate mood.

"So, six o'clock?" she said. "Want me to stop by the
store and pick up anything?"

I closed my eyes again, slowly shaking my head and
rubbing my fingers against my temple.

"Sure," I chuckled.

"Ok," she piped. "What should I get?"

I dropped my hand and sighed, rolling my eyes.

"Oh, I dunno," I moaned. "Whatever you want."

"Chips? Dip? Pretzels? Pop? Marshmallows? Apples?
Oranges? A pineapple? Some of those, uh, whaddya-call-
'em fruits... you know, they're red and hard on the
outside, but squishy on the inside?"

I laughed, replying, "Pomegranates?"

"Yeah, that's it," she said. "Want some of those?"

"You're a goof," I said with a giggle.

"Ok, then," she said. "I'll grab us some wine, maybe
some chips, and... a movie? Wanna rent a movie?"

"Yeah, that sounds good."


"Whatcha want me to get?"

"Eh, I don't care. You pick."

"All righty," she replied.

There was another pause of silence, and then the bell
rang out in the hallway.

"I better get going," I said. "I'll see you around
six."

"Jessie?"

"Yeah?"

"Is it ok, if I think about you for the rest of the
day?"

My stomach fluttered again, and I felt myself become
weak at the knees.

"If... Sure, I mean, if you want," I stammered.

"Yeah," she said. "I think I'd like that."

"Can... Can I think of you, too?" I said, as my voice
cracked.

"Oh, sure," she replied very nonchalantly. "Yeah, knock
yourself out. See ya at six?"

"Ok," I giggled. "Bye... I'll be thinking of you."

"Bye, sweetie."

That may have qualified as the best phone conversation
of my life.

That afternoon, when I got home, I rushed about,
cleaning the house, vacuuming and dusting, and then I
started preparing dinner. I kept glancing at the clock,
and the closer the hands got to six, the more quickly I
moved. So, by the time it was six o'clock, I was
breathing hard, and the ringing of the doorbell sent a
jolt through me.

I grabbed a dishtowel and wiped my hands, tossing it
onto the kitchen counter. Before going to the door, I
stopped by a mirror in the living room to check myself.
Satisfied everything was in order, I stepped over to
the door and opened it.

Gayle stood there, wearing sunglasses, light blue
blouse, and khaki pants. He teeth shone brightly, as
she grinned.

"Hey there," she said, holding a plastic grocery bag in
one hand and bottle of wine in the other.

I stepped back and invited her in, smiling from ear to
ear. And, when I closed the door behind her, the first
words to nearly leap from my lips were, "You look
pretty." Instead, I quickly checked myself, managing to
merely stutter hello. Gayle smiled and handed the bag
to me. Then she removed her sunglasses, hanging them
from the open collar of her blouse.

My heart was thumping, as she continued to stare at me
with that wonderful smile.

"You look pretty," I mumbled softly, letting my eyes
fall down to the floor, too embarrassed to let her see
me blush.

Gayle only chuckled.

"You, too," she replied. "Now let's eat. I'm starving."

Together, we walked into the kitchen and finished
preparing dinner. We sat side-by-side at the kitchen
table, eating and chatting about this and that and
whatever was on our minds. And after we stuffed
ourselves, we cleaned up and put the leftovers away.
Then we took our glasses of wine and walked out into
the living room. As Gayle sat on the couch, I went over
to the television and started the movie. Then I stepped
over and sat next to her, once again, side-by-side, our
thighs rubbing together.

A short while into the movie, Gayle set her glass on
the end table and leaned back. I glanced at her, seeing
her relax, and decided it wasn't a bad idea. I handed
her my glass, and she placed it alongside hers, and
then I leaned back to join her.

We sat there with our hands in our laps, a little
awkwardly it seemed, and then Gayle, perhaps sensing
this, wiggled around and pulled her arm nearest me from
between us, draping it behind me onto the back of the
couch.

It seemed an almost instinctual reaction on my part,
but when that body contact was lost, I scooted closer
to reclaim it, and, when I leaned back, I felt her hand
behind me come to rest on my shoulder. And, as we
watched the movie, every now and then I'd feel her
fingers gently stroke my shoulder, until finally, she
was hugging me. I leaned against her and placed one
hand just above her knee, and then took a deep breath
and smiled, reveling in the modest intimacy we were
sharing.

Although the position we were in was fine for a short
period of time, after a while, the discomfort was
starting to set in for both of us. Every few minutes,
one of us would squirm and wiggle, trying to find a
position more conducive to the long-term. I finally sat
upright and reached to the far end of the sofa,
grabbing the pillow there. Then I turned to Gayle and
dropped it in her lap, pulled my feet up, and laid my
head down on the pillow, resting on my side. She only
chuckled.

"Sorta wondered what you were doing," she said softly,
resting her hand on me just below my breasts.

I brought my lower hand up to hold the pillow and let
the other rest along the upper side of my body.

"You're too squirmy," I giggled.

"Ah," she replied. "Of course... my fault."

Then I chuckled again and pulled her hand up to my
lips, placing a gentle kiss on her fingers.

"You're still a good person," I laughed, returning her
hand to my chest.

As we continued watching the movie, Gayle would
sometimes rub her hand on my abdomen, until eventually,
the tips of her fingers were making contact with the
underside of my breast. But it didn't bother me. The
truth is, I enjoyed the physical contact, and knowing
it was from her made it all the more desired.

But, being mere mortals, eventually nature steps in and
momentarily throws a wrench your way.

Gayle's fingers were now overtly touching my breast,
though gingerly, but my bladder began causing me grief.

I quickly sat up and excused myself, and, as I stood,
Gayle asked if I wanted her to pause the movie. When I
glanced down at her, the expression on her face seemed
almost apologetic, as if she were sorry for crossing
some sort of physical boundary with me. But, I smiled,
relieving her of any such superfluous concerns.

"Sure," I replied. "Just gotta run to the bathroom."

She grinned, and her face relaxed.

"Ok," she said, with a nod.

A few minutes later, I returned, and Gayle was sipping
from her glass of wine. As I sat down next to her, I
waited, as she clicked the remote control and started
the movie once more. Then I resumed my previous prone
position.

When I laid my head down in her lap, her hand didn't
return to its previous place, and I began wondering, if
indeed she thought she had gone too far with her
tactile contact. So, to alleviate her concerns, I
lifted my head and glanced over my shoulder.

"Where's your hand?" I chuckled.

"Here," she replied, rather bemused and holding it up.

I reached up and took it in mine. "Gimme that," I
snorted and pulled it down across my torso, letting it
come to rest on my lower breast, my hand atop hers.
Then I pulled my chin in and gave the tips of her
fingers a quick kiss.

As time pushed on, in the course of getting
comfortable, I let the hand I held atop hers drift away
alongside my body. She kept hers in place, and soon
Gayle was cautiously stroking my breast, cupping it in
her hands and wrapping her fingers around it.

By the time the movie ended, the hesitancy in her hand
was no longer present, and Gayle was openly groping my
breast, gently rubbing her hand around and occasionally
giving it a soft squeeze. So, as the video rewound in
the VCR, I closed my eyes and rolled slightly more
toward her, affording her easier freedom of movement
with her hand and silently giving approval to her
pleasant ministrations.

I soon felt her hand slowly move to the valley between
my breasts, where her fingers plucked at the buttons.
She carefully loosened one, and then, in a very tender
voice, asked if it was ok for her to do so. With my
eyes still closed, I smiled and nodded.

Her fingers slowly loosened one, then two, and finally
the top three buttons of my blouse. She parted the
front of my shirt, revealing the bare skin above my
breasts, and then laid her hand flat against it, taking
up a smooth motion, gliding it over my skin.

"That's nice," I whispered, and then carefully rolled
onto my side again, while Gayle continued to slide her
hand inside my open blouse. I propped my head up onto
my elbow, and we continued watching television, though
I'm sure her thoughts, as mine, were concentrating on
the intimate physical contact we were making.

When Gayle's hand moved further down my chest and
cupped my breast again, I let my eyes slowly drift
shut, enjoying the warmth of her gentle touch. Then I
pulled my hand out from under my head, letting it rest
down on the pillow.

I'm not sure how long we lay like this, as my mind
began to wander and drift, losing all sense of time and
place. I felt her hand move to the top of my bra, and
her thumb carefully eased itself under the fabric. My
breathing came more deeply, and when her thumb brushed
against my nipple, a tingle shot up my spine and my
body shivered.

"Sorry," she chuckled.

"S'ok," I replied with an easy giggle.

After a short time, Gayle's hand became more
emboldened, and her thumb inside my bra gently pinched
my erect nipple against her finger on the outside. My
eyes drifted closed once more, and my jaw slowly
dropped, and, what had started as subtle caressing,
evolved to become conspicuous stimulation.

I lay back against her, resting one hand on my stomach,
and sighed, as her slender fingers manipulated my
breast.

Suddenly, from outside, I heard a car door close,
followed by that of another. My eyes shot open, and I
quickly sat up and scooted away from Gayle, as my hands
frantically fumbled to close my blouse.

It was nearly ten-thirty, and Rachel was home from
work, and, by the sounds of it, probably had Kate with
her.

When the last button was closed, I reached up to
straighten my hair. I glanced at Gayle, giving her a
sheepish expression, but she only smiled and slowly
shook her head.

The front door opened, and Rachel poked her head
inside. When she saw Gayle and I, she stepped in and
grinned. Kate was right behind her.

"Thought that was your car," she said, as she unzipped
her coat.

As Kate maneuvered around, she unzipped her coat, as
well, and gave a somewhat startled expression, when she
saw Gayle. I blushed, hoping it wasn't obvious she and
I had only a minute before been intimate. For her part,
though, Gayle's only reaction was to rest her head
against her elbow, brushing the hair from her eyes, and
give a quick little wave to Rachel and Kate.

"Hey," she chirped to the two young women.

Rachel slowly walked closer to the sofa, looking back
at her girlfriend with a grin.

"We're just gonna go upstairs and hang out," she
mumbled, giving me a look of what could only be
considered mild amusement.

My head jittered up and down, as I cleared my throat.

"Ok," replied.

Then Rachel seemed to smirk and turned, bounding up the
steps with Kate right behind. The latter gave us
another friendly wave, and Gayle and I did the same in
reply. When Rachel's door was closed, I turned my eyes
to Gayle, and her head lolled around to me.

"Sorry," I muttered softly.

Gayle rolled her eyes and chuckled, replying, "No
problem."

We sat next to each other for a few minutes, and then
heard Rachel's stereo come on. The lively chatter and
giggling upstairs soon died down, and it very quickly
became embarrassingly obvious what was likely going on
up there.

"Want something to drink?" I asked tensely, trying to
distract Gayle from pondering it, as well.

"Nah, I'm fine," she replied with a casual wave of the
hand.

Feeling a bit humiliated and ashamed of myself for
jumping away from her so quickly, I moved closer and
placed my hand on her thigh.

We sat and watched television, flipping from one
channel to the next. Then from upstairs came a light
giggle followed by what anyone would recognize as an
amorous moan.

I cleared my throat and held the remote out in front of
me, changing the channel.

"Late night TV sorta sucks, ya know?" I stated frankly,
once again trying to distract Gayle's attention.

"Yep," she replied tersely.

I turned to her, saying, "You ever watch..."

But then another soft moan tumbled down the steps.
Gayle leaned her arm against the side of the couch,
resting her head against her hand, and snickered.

"Watch what?" she replied, raising her eyebrows and
going along with my futile game of polite ignorance.

As I struggled to find my words and collect my
thoughts, Gayle sat there with a knowing grin on her
face.

"Go on," she chuckled, twirling her hand. "I'm
listening... to you, I mean."

"I... Well, I was just gonna say..."

Then Rachel's muffled voice overtook me.

"Ow, bitch! That's my ass."

Gayle's face suddenly contorted, as her eyebrows rose
high, and she covered her mouth and laughed with a
snort.

My eyelids fluttered from embarrassment, apparently
signaling Gayle to let loose entirely. She fell forward
and slapped her hand on my knee, as I sat there shaking
my head back and forth.

"Wanna go back to your place?" I asked dryly.

Gayle was still in a fit of giggles, but managed to
jerk her head up and down.

"Sure," she replied.

I jumped from the couch, as Gayle pushed her hands
against her knees, forcing her body upright.

I darted to the kitchen and closed the bottle of wine,
and then quickly stored into the refrigerator the left
over food. When I turned to leave, Gayle was standing
in the doorway with her coat on and mine draped over
her forearm. I flipped off the kitchen light, and she
handed me my coat.

Out in the living room, I searched for pen and paper to
leave Rachel a note.

"Whatcha lookin' for?"

"Something to write on," I huffed.

I'd found a notepad, but was still looking for
something to write with.

"Here," she said, coming up beside me and holding out a
pen.

I leaned down to the end table and began quickly
scribbling a note.

"Ohhh my Gawd!" came yet another soft cry from Rachel's
bedroom.

Gayle laughed out loud, while I only shook my head,
trying to finish the note.

"Ok," I said, turning to toss the note onto the steps.
"She'll see it there."

Then I handed Gayle her pen.

"Ready?" I said, but didn't wait for a reply and headed
straight to the front door.

As we drove to Gayle's condo, every now and again, one
of us would snicker.

"I'm really sorry 'bout that," I groaned, leaning my
head against the window.

I turned my eyes to Gayle and watched, as the amber
streetlights going past alternately lit her face in the
dark.

She raised her fingers from the steering wheel and
chuckled.

"No problem," she replied with a grin, glancing at me.

As we drove along in silence, it suddenly dawned on me
where I was going and the lateness of the hour. I gazed
over at the green glow of the digital numbers of the
clock on the dashboard. It was nearly eleven o'clock.
The only thing I carried with me from home were my
keys. Then all the blood rushed from my face down to my
feet.

Was I going to spend the night with her?

My mind began racing, recalling that not half an hour
before, Gayle had her hand down the front of my blouse
toying with my breast. My knees wobbled, and I placed
my hands on them, to steady their movement. From my
peripheral vision, I saw Gayle turn and glance at me. I
cleared my throat and let my gaze casually drift out
the side window.

"There's, uh... There's some nice houses around here,"
I mumbled.

When she didn't answer, I looked over at her. She was
turning the steering wheel, directing the car into her
parking lot.

"Yeah," she replied. "It's a pretty nice neighborhood."

I gulped, as she eased the car into an empty space and
shut off the engine. Then she turned to unfasten her
seatbelt.

"Ready?" she said with a smile.

I nodded nervously and unfastened mine.

"Yeah," I squeaked.

Outside the car, Gayle was standing by the front bumper
waiting for me, and, as I approached, she grinned and
held out her hand.

"Ok if I...?"

I blinked nervously, unsure if I wanted her to hold my
hand. It was trembling, and I didn't want her to
notice, but I didn't want to be rude, either. So, I
nodded quickly and held out my hand.

As we made our way down the sidewalk to her building,
neither of us spoke. My eyes drifted to her building,
to the windows of her condominium, and, when I saw her
darkened bedroom windows, a gentle tremor coursed
through my body.

"Cold?" she asked.

"A little," I replied softly.

Then Gayle gave my hand a squeeze.

We traversed the sidewalk leading to the front door,
where she held it open, gesturing for me to enter. Then
we slowly tromped up the steps, where she held the door
for me again. We stepped to hers, and she fumbled
momentarily with her keys, and then carefully opened it
and stepped inside, as I followed her lead. She flipped
on the living room lights, and then closed the door
behind me. I heard a dull metallic clunk behind me and
turned to see her locking it.

"Wanna take your coat off?" she asked, as she unzipped
hers.

I nodded nervously.

"Sure."

With hers draped over her arm, she helped me with mine.

"Thanks," I said softly.

"Want something to drink?" she asked, walking to the
closet by the kitchen.

I pushed my hands into my back pockets and pursed my
lips.

"Umm... Yeah, that'd be fine."

As she shut the closet, she glanced at me and smiled,
and then turned into the kitchen.

A minute later, she returned holding two cups.

"Just ice tea," she said, handing one to me.

"Thanks," I said, as I took a sip and tried to keep my
hands preoccupied from their incessant trembling.

"Wanna sit?" she asked, gesturing to the couch.

I nodded, and, as I walked over to the couch, Gayle
went to the stereo and turned it on. She ran her
fingers over a stack of CD cases, and, when she found
one in particular, she plucked it out and opened it.
She tapped a button on the stereo, and a tiny tray
slowly emerged. Then she gently set the disk onto it
and tapped the button again. Seconds later, the room
was filled with soft music, setting what was surely
meant to be a romantic air.

Gayle came over to the couch and sat down next to me,
scooting closer, as she placed her cup on the coffee
table. Then she leaned back, and I felt her hand
against my back. Her hand rubbed gently at first, and
then slowly moved up to my neck, where her fingers
began a light massage, easing the tension in my body.

"How ya doin'?" she asked softly.

I was resting my elbows on my knees, as she continued
rubbing my neck, and then let my head slowly fall
forward.

"Good," I replied, in a near whisper.

Gayle's hand eased down my back and began further
exploring, first down my spine to the small of my back,
and then to the sides, up and over my ribs. When I
lifted my elbow, her hand came up and gently cupped my
breast. And, as her fingers caressed it, she asked if I
wanted a massage. With my eyes closed, I slowly nodded.

Gayle stood from the couch and said I could change in
her bathroom.

"There's a robe in there you can put on," she said, as
she walked down the hallway toward her bedroom.

Although, in the back of my mind, I knew where this
could lead, I found myself in a calmative state of
mind, relaxed, as if in a hypnotic mode. I rose from
the sofa and walked to the bathroom. There, I turned on
the light and shut the door behind me.

As I stood unbuttoning my blouse, I felt very calm. The
anxiety, which had been racking my body on the drive
there, was no longer tormenting me, and I felt as
comfortable undressing in Gayle's bathroom, as I would
in my own. So, I thought nothing of it, when I dropped
my shirt to the floor and unzipped my jeans. I pushed
them down my legs and stepped out of them, but paused,
wondering how much further I should go. But, again, it
wasn't from prudishness or nerves, rather a legitimate
question in my mind. Did she want me to completely
undress?

I looked up and saw myself in the mirror, wearing
nothing more than my bra and panties, and wondered what
she saw in me. Then there was a soft knock on the door.

"You ready in there?"

I reached for the long blue robe hanging on a hook by
the shower.

"Yeah," I replied.

I slipped my arms inside and tied the front shut.

As I walked out into the living room, the lights were
turned off, but the room was filled with the soft
orange glow of candlelight.

Gayle was kneeling by the coffee table lighting another
candle. Next to her on the floor was a long dark green
foam mat with a pillow on one end, and sitting aside
the mat was a small bottle. I put my hands in the
pockets of the robe and slowly stepped over to her. She
blew out the match between her fingers, and then turned
and looked up at me. Then she grinned and patted her
hand on the mat.

"Ready?" she asked.

I nodded and stepped around to the other side of the
mat opposite her. My hands pulled the belt loose, and
then reached up and eased the robe down my shoulders.
It was only then that I noticed Gayle had changed
clothes, wearing a white t-shirt and black spandex
shorts.

I laid the robe on the sofa and lowered myself to the
floor and kneeled, asking how she wanted me. She picked
up the small bottle, replying, "Let's start with your
back." Then I watched, as she opened the bottle and
poured a small amount of liquid onto her hands. Gayle
must have thought I was wondering what it was, and she
stopped rubbing her hands together and held one out to
me.

"Massage oil," she said with a warm smile. "Lavender."

I leaned forward and sniffed her hand.

"Smells nice."

Her grin widened, and then she scooted back, holding
her hands up like a surgeon ready to perform delicate
surgery.

I moved onto the mat and lay on my stomach, pulling the
pillow further under my face. Then I heard her clear
her throat and ask if I wanted to remove my bra. I
lifted my head and peered over my shoulder. Gayle was
still holding her hands up and wiggled her fingers.

"Don't wanna get any of this on it," she said with a
smile.

Laying my head down on the pillow again, I reached back
and unclasped my bra. Then I sat up on my elbows and
pulled it off entirely, setting it of to the side.

Just as I was about to lie down again, I sat up on my
elbows and quietly asked if she wanted me to remove my
panties, as well. There was a brief pause, and then
Gayle replied only if I wanted to. I slowly nodded and
heard her whisper ok. I lay my head on the pillow, and
then reached down with my hands and lifted my hips,
carefully rolling my panties over them. It took some
awkward maneuvering, but I finally pulled them from my
feet, dropping them next to my bra.

As I lay there listening to the music, I brought my
arms up and around the pillow, and then felt Gayle's
hands come to rest on my shoulder blades. Her fingers
began gently kneading my muscles, and I sighed softly.

Over and around my shoulders, down my back, and then up
again, applying a soothing pressure. She grazed her
fingers under my armpits, and I giggled.

"Ticklish?" she asked.

I nodded.

Then Gayle moved around my body, stretching out my arm
and running her strong fingers up and down its length.
She massaged the top and bottom of my hand, carefully
pulling on each finger. And, when she moved to the
other arm, I sighed happily at her delicate touch.

After finishing my arms, she maneuvered around until
she was kneeling in front of my head. She placed her
hands at the top of my shoulder blades again and
splayed her fingers, slowly pushing down my back. When
she reached my hips, she rotated her fingers inward
until each hand firmly clasped a cheek of my butt. Her
fingers sank deep into my flesh and began squeezing
softly, pushing and pulling.

An odd feeling came over me, a feeling as if I should
be nervous about her touching me like this, but the
anxiety wasn't there, and I only took a deep breath and
sighed.

All too soon, however, she stopped and moved down to my
legs. Just as with my arms, she ran her fingers up and
down their length, pressing into the thick muscles.
And, when she worked my toes, as she had done to my
fingers, I giggled, as her hand brushed lightly against
the sole of my foot.

"Ticklish there, too, huh?" she chuckled.

"Yeah," I whispered softly.

Gayle lifted my foot, giving it detailed attention,
and, when she had finished with it, she placed a
delicate kiss on each of my toes, and then moved to the
next foot.

When done with my feet, she slowly ran her hands up my
inner thighs, drawing closer to my vagina. But, as she
neared, her hands twisted outward and came to rest atop
each cheek of my butt.

I felt her move up to straddle my legs, and then her
hands resumed massaging, gripping the flesh of my butt
hard and doing as she had before, kneading my flesh.

My breathing was shallow, but I could feel my heart
beating faster, as Gayle manipulated my body. Then I
felt her thumbs go deep into the crevice of my butt and
spread me open. I tensed, as her thumbs carefully moved
closer to my anus.

"Just let your body relax," she whispered.

No one, not even my husband, had ever touched me in
such an intimate manner, let alone down there, so it
took a great deal of concentration on my part to force
my body to relax under her hands.

Gayle's thumbs were now gently massaging the sensitive
skin around my anus, not touching it directly, but very
close. As she pressed her thumbs into my flesh, I could
feel the tender skin of my anus rolling out and
spreading, sending just a tiny hint of tepid pain up my
spine. My fingers and toes responded by curling
tightly. But, after a few seconds, her thumbs followed
her hands up my back to my shoulders, and I felt her
leaning across me. Gayle pulled the hair from one side
of my face and brought hers closer.

"You have really nice legs," she whispered, as I felt
her warm breath swath across my ear.

I smiled and whispered thanks in reply, and then she
planted a gentle kiss against my ear, leaving a trail
of them down my neck.

She sat for what seemed a very long time on my lower
back, straddling my body, and working her fingers on my
shoulders and upper back. But, all too soon, she
stopped and rolled off me, patting my butt.

"Ready for the other side?" she asked.

I lay there motionless for a moment, as I reveled in
the wonderful feelings she had imbued in my body and
soul, but reluctantly forced myself up onto my elbows.
As I rolled onto my back, I opened my heavy eyelids and
saw Gayle kneeling beside me, applying more oil to her
hands.

"How is it?" she asked.

I lay my head on the pillow and stretched my arms over
my head and pointed my toes straight out. Then I let my
body suddenly relax, placing my hands on my stomach.

"Amazing," I sighed, closing my eyes.

"Good," she whispered.

Gayle repeated the same procedure she had used on my
back, but seemed to avoid getting too close to my
breasts. She massaged my arms and legs, as before, once
again eliciting a gentle giggle from me.

When her hands moved up my legs from my feet, it was
almost as if they slowly spread of their own accord. My
mind wondered if they moved in response to some
unconscious directive from my brain or if Gayle was
pushing my legs apart. In either case, I was too far-
gone to care. I stretched my arms over my head and let
my knees fall open. Then I sighed happily, as I felt
her thumbs, those wonderful instruments of sensual
pleasure, softly ply the flesh on either side of my
vagina.

As with my anus, she never made direct contact, but
just enough to feel good, to let me know she was intent
on pleasuring my body.

Her thumbs carefully spread my folds, and I felt a cool
draft against my warm flesh. My head lolled and my neck
arched, as I moaned softly. And, while my body took in
the sweet sensations, my mind began wondering how it
was I could feel a cool draft on such a singular part
of my body.

My hands gripped the pillow below my head, and I
sighed, as I thought I felt something warm and wet
lightly grazing up the length of my exposed vagina. But
I didn't care, only smiling in response. Then I felt
Gayle's hands move up my body, up across my stomach,
until they landed softly on my breasts.

I could feel her straddling my waist, as her fingers
began massaging my breasts, squeezing the soft flesh,
and occasionally rubbing her palms against my nipples.

"You have beautiful breasts," I thought I heard her
whisper.

Then her fingers drew inward to the top of each where
they gently pulled on my nipples.

I could feel them steadily harden and become
increasingly sensitive, as Gayle continued to
manipulate them. Then, just as with my vagina, I
thought I could feel something warm and wet envelope a
nipple. I groaned and arched my back, and felt
something pulling sharply on the tip of my nipple,
stretching the flesh far. This same mysterious act was
performed on both breasts, and, after a final rubdown,
Gayle dismounted my body.

My eyes opened lazily, and I saw her sitting next to
me, resting her hands on her thighs. She reached up to
her face and brushed the hair from her eyes with the
back of her hand.

"How was it?" she asked.

I let my eyes slowly close and shook my head back and
forth, inhaling deeply. As I exhaled, I sighed and
opened my eyes again.

"Incredible," I mumbled.

Gayle chuckled and picked up a small washcloth, wiping
her hands.

"Wanna take a shower and get cleaned up?" she asked, as
she set the washcloth down next to her.

I stretched my arms and legs and nodded.

"Mm... Yeah," I replied with a happy groan.

She reached for my hand and helped me sit up, and then
she raised herself off the floor, pulling me with her.
I rested my hands on the back of my hips and closed my
eyes, slowly rotating my head in wide circles.

"God, that felt good," I sighed.

When I opened my eyes, Gayle was placing her hands at
the bottom of her t-shirt and, in a very deliberate
motion, pulled it up her body and over her head.

That's when I suddenly became conscious my own nudity.

My heart started pounding in my chest, as her small
breasts were suddenly exposed in front of me. They were
small, smaller than mine, jutting out from her chest
like pointy cones, but with nipples nearly the same
size as my own. I gulped and felt the trembling in my
knees begin to wax once more.

Gayle let the t-shirt drop to the floor, and then I
watched in stunned silence, as she slipped her thumbs
under the waist of her shorts and carefully ease them
over her hips. She leaned down and pulled out each foot
and let the shorts crumple to the floor atop her shirt.
Then she gave me a brief smile and stepped over to the
stereo where she retrieved one of the small candles.
She slowly turned to me, shielding the tiny flame with
her hand, and asked me to get the one on the coffee
table. I didn't move right away, until her eyes met
mine. The candle Gayle held eerily lighted her face,
but when she smiled, her teeth shone brightly and I
slowly nodded.

"Ok," I whispered.

I turned, taking half a step, and leaned down for the
candle. When it was in my hand, shielded as hers, Gayle
nudged her head, gesturing for me to follow her.

As we made our way down the dark hallway, in the faint
light of our candles, I could make out her nude body in
front of me; the shape of her back in the form of a V,
the apex unintentionally drawing my eyes down to where
her long legs met her torso.

In the bathroom, she set her candle on the counter, and
then took mine, placing it next to the other. Gayle
asked me to shut the door, and then she turned toward
the shower. As I turned back to her, she was bending
over, holding onto the shower curtain rod and working
the faucet. A spray of water suddenly shot out from the
showerhead, and she stood upright, holding her free
hand under it. After a few seconds, she pulled her hand
out and glanced back at me.

"Ready?" she asked with a grin.

I nodded nervously and followed her into the shower.

She stepped inside and turned to take my hand, helping
me in with her. We stood there, side-by-side, naked
from head to toe, our bodies assuming the classic just-
got-in-the-shower posture: head cocked back slightly,
eyes squinting, and hands held out in front, as the
water splashed against our chests and our bodies
adjusted to the sudden change in temperature.

Even though the candles gave off a very faint glow,
there was still enough light that I could see Gayle's
nipples poking out from her small breasts. My gaze
drifted up her chest, to her neck, and landed on her
mouth. She was gritting her teeth, and then startled
me, when she suddenly looked at me.

"Brrr," she said with a chuckle, wrapping her arms
tightly to her chest. I giggled nervously, and then she
turned around, placing her hands behind her and
lowering her chin, as she allowed the water to splash
against her back. I wasn't quite sure what to do, so I
simply followed her lead, assuming the same position.
Then she turned her head to me and whispered.

"So, you liked it?" she asked.

"What's that?" I replied tensely.

Gayle rolled her eyes, and, just as she went to speak,
I said, "Oh... the massage?" She nodded. "Yeah," I
mumbled. "It was good... really nice... felt good." And
then my words trailed off, until the only sound to be
heard was the water spraying against our backs.

We stood there staring at the bottom of the tub, down
to our feet, neither of us speaking. I glanced at
Gayle's pubic hair, sparse and light brown, neatly
trimmed. Then my eyes drifted to mine, bright orange
and not nearly as well groomed. But, in my defense, it
wasn't as though I was expecting to be presenting it to
an audience.

Gayle wiggled her toes, and I chuckled. Then she slowly
rotated her foot and tapped it against the top of mine.

"No rough housing in the pool, please," I chuckled
sheepishly.

She laughed, causing me to snicker along with her, and
then she reached over for a bar of soap and handed it
to me.

"You're such a cutie," she said, as she turned to face
the water.

Unlike the massage, there was nothing remotely erotic
about our shower together. I washed the oil from my
body, while Gayle shampooed her hair, and then we
swapped, and she washed her body, as I did likewise
with my hair.

Toward the end, she was standing at the back of the
shower with one foot propped up on the edge of the tub,
as she leaned over and shaved her legs. I was standing
under the water watching, holding my hands close to my
chest with my elbows tucked in, almost striking a
skittish pose. And, in a sense, I was. I was nervous
about what we were doing, about what we had done and
where it was leading, and how it was affecting me. But,
in my heart, I admitted to wanting this. I wanted the
physical and emotional intimacy of a romantic
relationship, and, even if it were with another woman,
try as I might, I couldn't find any reason not to take
what this beautiful person was offering.

I reached out a hand and let the tips of my fingers
touch Gayle's back. As she continued to work the razor
on her leg, she turned her head, glancing back at me,
and smiled. Our eyes met only briefly, and then mine
turned back to the hand touching her warm skin. She
resumed shaving, standing up to switch legs, and I let
my hand trace down her back, finally coming to rest on
her buttocks. But then Gayle stood and turned, facing
the spray and holding her razor under the water. There
was no obvious reaction on her part to my touch. I
reached my hand out again, this time bringing it to her
breast. She kept cleaning her razor, but did turn
slightly so I could touch her more easily. My fingers
gently grazed over the soft flesh, and then she reached
over and set the razor on a small wire shelf hanging
from the showerhead.

"Ready to get out?" she asked.

But I was still staring at her breasts, mesmerized by
them. They were small and beautiful, and I thought no
sane person could resist them. I'd never thought about
breasts until then, how soft and warm they were. I
brought both hands up and gently laid them atop Gayle's
chest, taking up a gentle massaging motion. She reached
up and hooked her hair behind her ears, and then
reached out for my hips, pulling us closer. I could
feel the prickle of her pubic hair against me, but, at
that moment, my thoughts centered on the wonderful
little mounds flesh under my hands.

I traced my fingers over her nipples and carefully
pulled on them.

"Feels nice," she whispered.

I'd never had such thoughts about another woman in my
life, but in that instant, I wanted to make love to
Gayle. I wanted to lean down and take one of her sharp,
scarlet nipples into my mouth and nurse.

We stood there for a few minutes, and then Gayle spoke
again.

"Ready to get out?" she asked.

I wiped the water from my face and nodded.

She smiled, as if embarrassed, which was the first time
I ever noticed such a lack of confidence in her.

Gayle leaned down and shut off the water, and then
slowly pushed the shower curtain to the side. She
reached over to a shelf and pulled off two towels,
handing me one.

We dried off as best would could in the tub, trying not
to get water on the tile floor outside it, and then
stepped out to finish.

When I pulled the towel from my head, Gayle was leaning
against the bathroom counter, wearing hers wrapped
around her torso. I brought mine around my body, doing
as she had done.

"Want some wine?" she asked softly, reaching out with a
hand to gently caress my arm.

I nodded.

"Yeah," I replied.

She picked up the two candles, giving one to me, and
then reached down and took my hand in hers, leading me
out to the living room.

Gayle handed me her tiny candle, and then walked into
the kitchen, while I replaced the candles to their
previous positions; one on the coffee table and the
other by the stereo. Then I walked around to the couch
and sat down, using my hands to push the long strands
of damp hair back over my head. A moment later, Gayle
emerged from the dark kitchen holding two wine glasses.

As she walked toward me, my heart fluttered. She looked
so beautiful wearing nothing but a towel around her
body, her long brown hair dangling around her face.
Gayle appeared so different to me, like this. I'd
always seen her dressed nicely, so manicured and
perfect. It seems clich├ęd to say, but she exuded a
cosmopolitan radiance, a certain style and class. But
to see her in this manner stripped of the ephemeral
outward trappings, I was awed at how she still managed
to carry herself with the same degree of grace and
elegance.

I was jerked out of my daydream, when Gayle nudged my
arm. I blinked and looked at her, but she only smiled
and handed me my glass.

We sat in silence, listening to the soft, slow music of
the stereo, and then she set her glass on the coffee
table and glanced at me.

"Were you going to spend the night?" she asked quietly.

Her eyes darted away, before I could answer, but I
didn't have to think about it.

"Yeah," I mumbled.

I could see Gayle's mouth twitch, as if she was trying
to suppress a grin, and she picked up her glass again,
holding it between her fingers.

"Do you want to?" she asked.

My feet fidgeted, and I slowly nodded.

"Yeah," I replied.

Then she lifted her glass to her lips and before taking
a sip, said, "But you're not a lesbian."

A tremor coursed through my body, and my shoulders
shivered.

"I know," I replied.

Gayle slowly nodded and placed her glass on the table,
and then rested her elbows on her knees and turned to
face me.

"Wanna dance?" she asked softly.

I lowered the glass from my lips and took a deep
breath, nodding in reply.

We both rose from the couch at the same time, walking
around either end of the coffee table to the center of
the room. As we stopped in front of each other, she
looked down her body and brought her hands to the top
of her towel. She carefully peeled it away and held it
out to the side, letting it drop to the floor. Then she
reached for mine, but stopped short of removing it. Her
eyes looked to mine, and I gulped, but jittered my head
up and down. Then I looked down and watched, as her
slender fingers opened the towel surrounding me and let
it fall atop hers on the floor.

Gayle took a step toward me and placed her hands on my
waist, while mine hung loosely at my sides, too afraid
to make contact with her, lest she feel how clammy and
nervous I was.

She began swaying our bodies to the music, and then
whispered to me.

"You sure you wanna do this?" she asked.

I was staring directly at her chin, but nodded and
carefully brought my hands to her hips. Then she
chuckled and placed a hand atop mine.

"I'm kinda nervous, too," she said.

I felt my face flush, and I turned my eyes away, saying
shyly, "I've never done anything like this."

There was a brief pause, as we continued to move with
the music, and then she said, "Do you want to?" I was
still looking away, off toward the couch, toward the
door, when she stopped moving and placed the back of
her hand against my cheek and gently stroked it. I
turned my eyes to her, and she gave me a tender smile.

"You don't have to," she whispered.

"I know."

"Then don't..."

"No," I replied, shaking my head. "I want to... I wanna
spend the night with you."

Our bodies began moving in unison to the music again,
as we held each other.

"Can I tell you something?" she whispered.

I nodded, and then she licked her lips and let her eyes
drift away from mine.

"Kinda hard to say," she mumbled.

I felt my hands pull her closer, and a curt smile
quaked across her lips. Gayle turned her eyes to the
ceiling, something I recognized from the night before,
and I caught the faint glimmer of moisture in them.

"It's ok," I whispered.

Her lips quivered again, and she took a deep breath,
her breasts pushing against mine. Then she lowered her
eyes, and a single tear fell.

"Jessie," she whimpered. Then she paused and sniffled,
saying, "You're someone I could fall in love with."

Gayle tried to grin, but her chin was throbbing too
much, causing her mouth to form a frown instead.

I reached up and wiped the tear from her eye with my
thumb, and then gently lay my face against her neck.

"I did with you a long time ago," I whispered.

Gayle gave a wet snort, and hugged me close, bringing
her hand to the back of my head.

For a long while, we swayed in each other's arms, long
after the music had ended, embracing and roaming our
hands up and down the other's body. When we at last
stopped, we slowly parted, and I took her hands in
mine.

"You're such a beautiful person," I whispered.

Gayle seemed embarrassed and looked away.

"Thanks," she mumbled softly.

Then her eyes turned to me, and she said, "So are you."

My heart swelled, and I moved closer to hug her, but,
as she came to meet me, she lowered her face to mine.
We stopped abruptly, as our noses lightly touched, and
I could feel her warm breath on my lips. She smiled
hesitantly, and then I closed my eyes and slowly opened
my mouth. Our lips met, and we moaned at the same time,
as our tongues quickly became entangled.

No one had ever kissed me like that.

What had started as placid, temperate kissing, very
soon evolved to a more feverish pitch, as Gayle and I
clung to one another, kissing and licking, not wanting
to break contact. Her lips moved across my face to my
neck, as one hand gripped the back of my head through
the matted hair and the other moved down to my
buttocks, squeezing and pulling. Then I closed my eyes
and gasped, as she sucked hard on my neck and reached
the hand behind me deep between my legs.

"Oh... God," I groaned, letting my head fall back and
rising up onto my toes, as Gayle took control of my
body, dragging her hand up behind me.

When our lips came together once more, we slowly sank
to the floor. She laid me back and draped her torso
across mine, kissing me and groping my breasts. I
wrapped my arms around her and initiated a new stage of
our relationship.

After what seemed like an eternity, we finally broke
apart, panting heavily. Gayle smiled down at me and I
returned it, as her fingers traced lightly around my
nipple. Then she slowly leaned down and parted her
lips, taking it between them. As her tongue playfully
toyed with it, I closed my eyes and sighed, bringing my
hand to her head and stroking her hair. And, after a
few minutes, she released me and sat up again.

"Wanna go to the bedroom?" she whispered.

Gayle's hand slowly drifted down my body, landing
softly atop vagina, where she began to gently caress
and pet. My heart fluttered again, and I nodded.

"Yeah," I whispered.

She pushed herself onto her knees and held her hand out
for mine, helping me to my feet, and then we each
picked up a candle and held hands, as she led me to the
bedroom.

In the few steps it took for us to reach her bedroom,
my mind began racing, as I thought about how very
surreal this all was. Gayle was my best friend, but
someone whom I found myself falling in love with for a
long time now. We had touched each other, here and
there, on rare occasions at first, testing the waters,
trying to discern if this is what we wanted. At the
time, from the onset, when I first figured out, at
least in my mind, that she was attracted to me, it was
somewhat unsettling. I wasn't a lesbian, but, at the
same time, it had been very long since someone had felt
that way about me, expressed this depth of interest in
being with me. But I became accustomed to the idea of
Gayle having romantic inklings for me, and it didn't
take long for me to accept that I had them for her, as
well. She had massaged my body, touching me all over,
we showered together, further exploring the boundaries,
and finally she and I had danced nude in her dark
living room, silently acknowledging what we both
wanted. The only hurdle remaining was to make love. And
so my heart beat faster, with each step, drawing us
closer to her bed and the moment where I would cross a
line I never dreamed I would ever approach.

While Gayle stepped over to the dresser, placing her
candle atop it, I walked to the nightstand by the bed,
setting mine there. Just as I was about to turn, I felt
her come up from behind, placing her hands on my
shoulders. She leaned down to my neck, and I tilted my
head to the side, and then she pulled my hair back and
started kissing me, as her hands slipped around to my
chest, where they began delicately manipulating my
breasts.

I closed my eyes and sighed, bringing my hands to hers,
and turned in her arms. We stood facing each other,
gently running our hands over the other's breasts. And,
as my breathing became shallower, I felt my body lean
forward until my face was above one small, pert nipple.
My mouth opened, and when my lips touched her taut
flesh, we both moaned softly.

At first, I nursed quietly, softly sucking, but she
sighed heavily and brought her hand between my legs,
rubbing hard and feeling her way into my body. When her
long fingers penetrated me, my jaw dropped and I clung
to her.

"Oh... God," I moaned.

With her fingers still inside me, Gayle carefully
rotated our bodies and laid me back onto the bed, while
she kneeled on the floor. Instinctively, I pulled my
legs back, grasping behind my knees, as she continued
to massage deep inside my vagina. She pushed her
fingers deeper still, and, as I watched, Gayle leaned
forward and pressed her open mouth against me, dragging
her tongue up across my clit. My eyes slowly closed and
my jaw dropped, as her warm lips began sucking and
licking.

My head fell back onto the mattress, and I groaned at
what she was doing to my body. A steady tingling
sensation, a deep warmth, was growing between my legs.
My breathing was coming quicker, and my heart pounded.
I winced, when she took my clit between her lips and
pulled, flicking her tongue rapidly across the
sensitive nub. My back arched off the bed, and I cried
out. My body was trembling, and sweat rolled down the
side of my face, but Gayle didn't stop. And, when I
could no longer hold my legs up, my fingers let loose,
and I gripped the sheets tightly, clenching my fists.

"Oh, Jesus!" I cried out.

Gayle pushed my legs apart, as they dangled off the
edge of the bed, moaning herself and wiggling her
tongue into my body, snaking it around inside me and
licking my warm, wet walls.

I began gasping, holding her head between my hands,
sighing and saying her name over and over. And, with
each cry of her name, I could feel her suck harder and
moan, sending a muffled hum across my vagina. Then her
hands come under my thighs and pushed my legs up and
apart. Gayle pulled me closer so that my ass was
perched at the edge of the bed, and her hands slid down
and spread the soft globes.

For a moment, her mouth broke contact with my body, and
I ran a hand across my face, wiping away the sweat and
hair, trying to finally catch my breath. I lifted my
weary head and peered down at Gayle kneeling between my
legs. Even in the soft glow of the candlelight, I could
see the lower half of her face glistening with
moisture.

I felt her fingers move closer to my anus, her thumbs
coming to stop on either side of it. I started
breathing hard again, and my body began trembling. She
brushed her thumb over the sensitive circle of tight
flesh, and I lightly gasped, gripping the sheets
tighter. Then her thumbs pulled apart, gently flowering
my anus. I grit my teeth, as a slight stinging
sensation pricked at me. Gayle lowered her face and
opened her mouth, and, when I felt her lips seal around
my anus, I dropped my head to the bed once more and
moaned loudly.

At first, she only licked, dragging her tongue across
the tight pink circle, and each time, my body would
instinctively tense. The more she did it, however, the
more my muscles began to tire, and very soon, they
relaxed entirely. When Gayle seemed to sense this, she
began pushing her tongue into me. My body tried to
block the intruder, but couldn't. And, when she reached
up with her thumb to gently massage my clit, my body
gave up all resistance.

I don't know how much time passed, but Gayle at last
pulled away from my body and rolled me onto my stomach.
She had me get on my hands and knees, while she stood
behind, and then pushed what seemed like her entire
hand into my vagina. My head shot up, and I nearly
screamed, when she reached her other hand below and
began roughly massaging my clit. As she pumped her
fingers in and out of my vagina, I could feel it
contract, gripping her fingers like a velvet glove
every time she went to withdraw them.

Gayle was fucking me hard with her hand, pushing me
across the bed, until finally she had to join me on the
mattress, kneeling alongside my body, as she continued
her assault.

I cried out continuously, begging her to stop, but at
the same time moaning loudly at the pleasure she was
giving me. It was quickly becoming more stimulation
than I could take, more than I'd ever had, and my back
pumped up and down, as my head dropped between my
shoulders, and my body was racked with a powerful
orgasm. But Gayle's hands never left me. Even as I fell
to the bed, lying prostrate on my stomach, twitching
and moaning, tears forming in my eyes, she continued to
stimulate me. But, when she knew I could take no more,
the feverish activity of her hands slowly ebbed, until
at last it stopped altogether.

I lay on the bed panting loudly and gasping for air, my
arms and legs sprawled out across the mattress, while
Gayle gently ran her hands across my back. She brought
them to my shoulders and eased me over. She was smiling
and brushed the hair from my face, lowering her body
next to mine and resting her head against her elbow.
Her fingers lightly touched my chin and pulled my faced
toward hers.

"How was it?" she asked with a soft smile.

Still trying to catch my breath, I managed to nod.

"Good," I breathed.

"Want something to drink?" she asked.

With some effort, I nodded again.

"Be right back," she said, patting her hand on my
chest.

I could still only nod in reply.

Gayle slipped off the bed and walked across the room,
disappearing into the dark hallway. I pushed myself
onto my elbows and groaned. I felt completely used up,
utterly exhausted, but managed to drag my body to the
head of the bed, falling back onto a heap of pillows.

I ran my hands over my face and sighed. Part of me was
still reeling from the fact that I'd just had sex with
another woman, but standing starker in my mind was the
notion of finally being satisfied, as if a void in my
life had been filled to overflowing. Not a carnal or
physical void, but one of an almost spiritual and
emotional nature. In short, I felt loved again.

I dragged my fingers down my face, and, when I opened
my eyes, Gayle was walking into the room holding two
cups. I pushed myself upright, as she sat on the edge
of the bed, handing me one.

"Just water," she whispered, taking a sip of her own.

I looked down and swirled the cup, causing the two
little ice cubes inside to clatter and jostle. Then I
brought it to my lips and gulped it down. When the cup
was emptied, I lowered it and the ice cubes slipped to
the bottom with a clink. I glanced at Gayle and she
smiled.

"Pretty thirsty there," she said, reaching for my cup.

I handed it to her, and she asked if I wanted more, but
I slowly wagged my head from side to side.

"Ok," she softly replied, and set both our cups on the
nightstand.

Gayle stood and walked around to the other side of the
bed, crawling onto the mattress next to me. I turned to
face her, and together we lay side by side, gently
caressing the other. But soon, our hands began further
exploring, winding their way down our bodies, and, as
if by instinct, we both raised our legs, allowing the
other access. We scooted closer, closer until the tips
of our breasts touched and we could feel the heavy
breathing of the other person sweep across our cheek.
As I curled my fingers around her warm sex, carefully
rubbing my palm against her, her hand slithered up my
torso, landing on my face. Then she closed her eyes and
pushed her lips to mine.

We kissed softly.

"I love you," she whispered and kissed me again,
pressing her tongue between my teeth. I pursed my lips
around it and sucked, and we both moaned. Gayle moved
her waist closer to mine, causing one of my fingers to
lodge at the mouth of her vagina. She suddenly exhaled
hard on my face, and her body went rigid, as her hand
gripped the back of my neck and pulled me closer.

"Yes," she sighed heavily, gently pushing her hips
against my hand, slipping my finger deeper into her
body. It was the first time I'd ever been inside
another person, and it felt so absolutely foreign to
me. All my life, when my hand came between another's
legs, there was something for me to hold onto,
something to grasp, something long and rigid, an
outward expression of their desire for me. I didn't
have to guess and wonder about their feelings. Their
body was telling me. Telling me, at least, there was a
carnal lust, but not how they felt about me as a
person. It didn't mean he loved me, only that he was
sexually aroused. When I came home with the man I'd met
at the bar, he kept telling me to make a noise, some
sort of indication that he was pleasing me, but all I
could do was grunt, though not because I relished what
he was doing, but because I found no pleasure in being
used to satiate his sexual longings. I moaned and
grunted only because I wanted it to end.

I tried to turn my gaze down between us, down to where
my finger penetrated her body. Gayle was taking short,
quick breaths, clinging to me and holding her head far
back, stretching her slender neck. She seemed on fire,
the inside of her body so very warm, almost hot to the
touch. And then I started sweating, wondering if this
was only a carnal lust she had for me, saying she loved
me, but meaning my body and how she found sexual
pleasure in it. But it didn't seem right. It didn't
make sense. This was unimaginably different what we
were doing. It was nothing like the mere simple act of
intercourse I had with that empty man.

I slipped another finger into her and she gasped again,
her body jerking tightly and her fingernails digging
into my back. I carefully pulled away from Gayle, but
kept my fingers inside her vagina, curling them and
letting the tips massage her soft walls. And, as if
paralyzed, her body remained taut, when she rolled onto
her back, her head still craned and her jaw hanging
open.

I gazed down her body. Her small breasts laid almost
flat, only the sharp nipples breaking the plain of her
chest, and her ribs pushed through her skin, as her
stomach hollowed in and out every time she breathed.
And her knees were pulled back and spread wide.

"Fuck me," she gasped wearily.

I looked to her face, but her eyes were still closed,
her full lips pursed in a tight circle. And, like her
stomach, her cheeks puffed with every breath.

"Please," she pleaded.

My heart started beating faster, my eyes darting up and
down her body. The hand between her legs began moving
quicker, desperately trying to stimulate her, pushing
as deep into her body as it could, smearing its wet
palm against her mound, seeking out her tiny point of
pleasure. Gayle suddenly gasped and stuttered. She was
trying to speak. Her hands instantly flew to mine,
clasping it and pumping it in and out of her vagina.

"Oh Christ!" she cried, arching her back far off the
bed and thrusting her hips upward.

My eyes went wide and my heart fluttered wildly. I sat
up quickly and leaned over her torso, pushing my mouth
to a nipple, sucking the tiny stub, raking my teeth
over it, chewing and biting. We were both crying and
moaning loudly. Her hand furiously worked mine between
her legs, stabbing herself with it, grunting with each
thrust. On the outward stroke, I slipped two more
fingers into the path, and when she felt the added
girth enter her body, Gayle's back suddenly dropped and
she shot upright until she was nearly sitting. She
wrapped her arm around my head, holding my mouth to her
breast, her long hair tousled all about my face, while
together we worked my hand into her as she sat on it,
grinding her hips and trying to bounce up and down.

Gayle's face was resting on my forehead. She was
panting hard, her sweet breath washing down across me,
and her voice almost vacant, as she squeaked and
blubbered my name, cursing and crying at the same time.
She brought both hands around my body and held me
tightly to her, as she rocked us back and forth.

"oh... oh, Jesus... oh my god..."

I pushed my free hand between us and pinched the plump
flesh of her breast, sucking it into my open mouth.
Gayle groaned above and kissed my forehead, all the
while riding my hand in a frenzy.

"God, that feels so good," she whimpered.

It sounded almost as if she was crying, and I carefully
released my grip on her breast, easing her back onto
the pillows again. As I sat up, I looked to her face
and saw tears streaming down her cheeks, her eyes but
tiny shimmering slits. She tried to smile, but only
choked and coughed. I pulled my hand from between her
legs and leaned closer, thinking I had somehow hurt
her.

"You ok?" I asked nervously.

Gayle's lips formed another small circle, as she tried
to catch her breath and smile at the same time. Her
head slowly jittered up and down, while her body
continued to spasm and tremble. Then she took my hand
in hers and pulled it to her face. Her hands were
visibly shaking, but she was still trying to smile. She
gingerly kissed my hand, the one that had been inside
her body, and then placed it against her cheek, holding
it in place with both of hers and closing her eyes with
an exhausted sigh.

Half an hour later, we stood together in the shower
once more, but this time without the trepidation that
had plagued us before. We openly kissed and embraced
under the water, and, though weary, seemingly charged
with a new sense of energy, a different type
altogether. Our bodies were weak, but our minds full of
life.

Afterwards, we walked back to the bedroom and climbed
into bed, falling asleep next to one another. It was
the first time in so long that I felt like my old self
again, the person I had once been in the not so distant
past. It felt good to be back amongst the living.

In the morning, I awoke groggy and my body aching, but
still retaining that same sense of newness. I stretched
and smiled and looked to Gayle's side of the bed. She
wasn't there. I exhaled with a long sigh, as my body
relaxed, and then I pushed myself up and forced my legs
to carry me to the door.

As I crept down the hallway, I could see the light of
day flooding into the living room ahead. The television
was on, but playing softly. Moving closer, I first saw
her arm, then the side of her face and shoulders, as
she sat curled up on a reclining chair. Gayle was
resting her head against her elbow and watching
television, when I stepped into view. From the corner
of her eye, she saw me and lifted her head, turning and
giving me a warm smile.

"Morning, sleepy," she said softly, taking a sip from a
mug she held in her hand.

I shaded my eyes from the light and smile.

"Hey," I whispered, stepping over to her.

Gayle picked up the remote control from her lap and
pointed it toward the television. I looked over and
watched as she lowered the volume, and then kneeled on
the floor in front of her, placing a hand on her leg.

"Get enough sleep?" she asked, blowing over the top of
her mug and taking another drink.

I nodded. "What time is it?" I asked, brushing the hair
from my eyes and looking about the room.

"Almost noon," she replied.

Groaning, I dropped my face to the cushion of her
chair, rolling my head from side to side.

"God, I'm beat," I sighed with a chuckle.

I lifted my head and she smiled again.

"Me, too," she replied.

Her legs still curled up on the chair, I leaned forward
and placed a gentle kiss on her knee, then rested my
chin on it, grinning up at her.

A short time later, we were in her bedroom getting
dressed. As I sat on the edge of the bed tying my
shoes, she stood by her dresser, pushing her arms into
a sweater and pulling it down over her head. Then she
turned and reached up behind her head, fluffing her
hair and tying it into a ponytail.

"I want you to do something for me," she said with her
chin pulled down to her neck, as she fumbled with a
rubber band in her hair.

"What's that?" I replied, dropping my foot to the floor
and clapping my hands to my knees happily.

Gayle brought her hands down and brushed them together,
and then placed them behind her on the dresser and
leaned back. My smile quickly faded, when I saw the
expression on her face, something of a serious nature
in it. I swallowed and watched, as her eyes dropped to
the floor and she draped one foot over the other.

"You're not a lesbian," she said softly. "And I
understand that. But I want you to know something,
Jess." Then she raised her eyes to mine, and I quickly
nodded, rubbing my hands on my knees. Gayle cleared her
throat and folded her arms.

"I need to be very clear on this," she stated firmly.
Then she paused and took a deep breath, saying, "I'm
not interested in a one night stand."

I blinked and nodded. "Ok," I mumbled nervously.

She kept staring straight at me, unflinching.

"But you're not a lesbian," she replied in a tone I'd
used at school many times or at home with my daughter.

My fingers gripped my knees and I nodded again.

"I know," I quietly said.

She took another breath and looked down at the floor.
Gayle turned her eyes up to mine and twisted her lips
from side to side, as if she were mulling something
over.

"Do you?" she asked.

I held my palms up plaintively. "Gayle," I said.
"Look... Yeah, I under-..."

But she waved her hand and cut me off.

"No, I don't think you do," she said. "Listen to what
I'm saying, ok?"

I shrugged and dropped my hands with a huff, darting my
eyes around the room, a little confused by her sudden
change in demeanor.

"Gayle, I..."

"You're not a lesbian," she said sternly, leaning
forward.

My heart was pounding, and I felt myself on the verge
of tears.

"You know what I'm saying?" she said. "You're not a
lesbian, and I am, and I'm not interested in a one
night stand or hiding behind a curtain, sneaking around
with you, hoping your neighbors or the people you work
with don't see us together. I'm a lesbian and I don't
give a shit who knows it. But you're not. See the
problem?"

A tear started rolling down my cheek, and I reached up,
quickly wiping it away.

"I know," I mumbled, trying hard not to burst into
tears. But my emotions took control, and the gates were
opened. Tears started streaming down my face and my
mouth contorted.

"So... So what're you saying?" I asked. "You... You're
not... What? You're not interested in me or something?"

Gayle sighed and tilted her head, as she gazed at me
with sincere sympathy.

"It's not that, sweetie," she said, stepping over to
sit next to me on the bed. She pulled my hand to her
face and kissed it.

"I am interested in you. Very much, but..." Then she
looked away, holding my hand to her chest. Her eyes
turned to mine, and she tried to smile.

"I wanna be in a relationship with you," she whispered,
giving my hand a gentle squeeze. "I'm ready to do it.
The thing is, are you?"

I swiped my fingers under my eyes and nodded.

"Yeah," I said. "I think so."

Gayle sighed and slowly shook her head.

"I'm sorry, Jess, but 'I think so' isn't good enough
for me. You need to know so. You need to know exactly
what you want and exactly what you're getting into. I
do want you, and I want to be in a loving relationship
with you. I want it for the long-term, ok? I meant it,
when I said you were someone I could fall in love
with." Then she kissed my hand again. "I am in love
with you. But what I'm asking of you isn't just a
matter of whom you sleep with. It's not like I'm asking
you to wear a different pair of shoes or change some
superficial part of who you are. You see what I'm
saying? It's bigger than that."

I wiped my nose and chuckled, thinking of how similar
this conversation was to the one Rachel and I had when
she told me she was a lesbian.

"Yeah," I mumbled. "I know... I know what you mean."

"You need to think about it, ok? Don't just make a
spur-of-the-moment decision. People are gonna treat you
different. They're not going to understand. Some of
them might never understand, especially because they've
already known you for so long. Your family, your
friends and neighbors, the people you work with...
Jess, it's not like you're going out in public wearing
a new pair of shoes. That doesn't tell anyone what kind
of person you are. But coming out as a lesbian? Yeah,
right or wrong, I'm sorry to say, that sorta does.
People will make character judgments of you based on
it. You've already been through one traumatic
experience. What you need to do is think about whether
you really wanna do it again."

Gayle's motherly tone was soothing, but her words hit
home in an unnerving way. I hadn't thought about how
being with her would change my life in ways other than
fulfilling an emotional void. I began thinking about
all the people I knew, the people I worked with, the
students, my husband's friends, the neighbors, everyone
who knew me. My mind began trying process how each
individual would react. And Gayle was right. In some of
these, I could predict how they would react to me being
with her, negatively or positively. For some, I didn't
care, but others I did. I was still very close to my
husband's family, his mom and dad and sister. And then
there were my parents and brothers. One of the reasons
I wasn't dating was that I feared how all of these
people might react to there being a new face in the
family, a virtual stranger ostensibly taking the place
of my husband. There was the awkwardness of getting to
know someone all over again, and then holding my
breath, hoping they'd silently approve. I don't think
any of them really expected me to remain a devoted
widow for the remainder of my life, but there was the
feeling that in dating someone new, I was giving to
this person something that everyone else knew
rightfully belonged to the man I first fell in love
with. But making this situation with Gayle even more
complicated was the simple fact of her gender. It would
be difficult enough for me to introduce a new person
into my family, but to then openly admit to being in a
lesbian relationship could only exacerbate my fears and
their potentially disastrous reaction.

What started out as something so simple, seemingly so
benign, was quickly becoming increasingly complicated
and convoluted.

"I want you to think about it for a while," whispered
Gayle, leaning closer to me.

I sniffled and nodded. "I will," I replied.

She brought her arm around me and helped me stand,
leading me out to the living room. While she walked
over to the closet to retrieve my coat, I stood by the
door with my arms folded, blinking back my tears. Gayle
helped me put on my coat, and then zipped it up,
tugging at the collar with a smile.

"Think about it for a few days," she said, resting her
hands on my shoulders. "Last night was beautiful. And
you're a beautiful person. I'd love to be with you, but
I want you to think about it, all right? Don't make a
hasty decision."

I took a deep breath and nodded. "I will," I replied.

Gayle went to speak, but I quickly asked when I could
see her again. She slowly shook her head. "Not for a
while," she said.

"A day or two?" I asked.

She shook her head again. "No," she whispered. "Longer
than that."

"How long?" I whimpered, my eyes filling with tears.

"When you're thinking clearly," she replied. "Whatever
decision you make, I'll accept. But you know where I
stand. I wanna be in a relationship with you, but I'm
not gonna hide it, if I am, ok?"

"Ok," I softly cried, as she wiped away my tears.

Then Gayle pulled me into her arms, hugging me tightly
and kissing my head, as I cried against her chest.

"I love you so much," she whispered.

We continued to embrace for a minute or so, and then
she reluctantly pushed me away. She wiped her eyes and
smiled and reached for the door, pulling it open for
me. Slowly, I trudged through and paused in the
hallway, turning to look at her. Gayle started to close
the door and gave me a timid wave.

"Bye," she said, as tears streaked down her face.

I slowly raised my hand, crying, and mumbled goodbye.
Then the door closed. My eyes clamped shut and I began
weeping. On the other side of the door, I could hear
Gayle cough and cry.

On the drive home, I had to pull over twice, because
the tears were blinding me. I'd sit and bawl, banging
my head on the steering wheel, cursing the lot fate had
handed me yet again.

"It just can't be simple," I exclaimed, pounding my
fist on my thigh. "Why?!"

When I finally arrived home, I went straight to my
room. Rachel walked out of the kitchen, when she heard
me come in, but whatever she may have said to me was
ignored. I closed the door and jerked my coat off,
flinging it across the room. Then I sat on the bed and
buried my face in my hands, working my way into another
tearful fit.

For the rest of the afternoon, I hid in my room alone
with my thoughts. At one point, there was a soft knock
on the door, but I told her to go away. I was sitting
on the bed with my legs crossed, leaning my head onto
my hand and picking at the fabric of the blanket below
me. Then I closed my eyes with a long sigh and crawled
off the bed, walking over to the door. I opened it and
poked my head out just in time to see my daughter going
back downstairs. I quickly wiped my eyes and brushed
the hair from my face.

"Hey," I called.

She stopped and turned.

"Sorry," I said.

Rachel only shrugged. "You ok?" she muttered.

My mouth drew into a deep frown and my face twisted, as
I started crying again.

"No," I bawled and slumped back against the door.

Rachel bounded up the steps and over to me, putting her
arms around me, and leading me into the bedroom. She
sat next to me on the bed, hugging me closely.

"What's wrong?" she asked.

And so I told her everything. Everything that had been
going through my mind, since I'd first met Gayle in the
park. I told Rachel everything that had transpired
between us, the touching, the smiles, the little
gestures laden with innuendo. And I told her that I was
in love with Gayle. I explained how the reality of that
relationship was starting to sink in and how scared I
was of how others might react to it. She sat and held
my hand, listening intently and nodding now and then.
And, when I finally got it all out, told her everything
that was in my heart, my fears and joys, Rachel smiled
and squeezed my hand in hers.

"Not easy, is it?" she chuckled.

I smirked and looked away, shaking my head. "No," I
replied. "Not at all."

"Wish I knew what to tell ya," she sighed, rubbing her
hand on mine.

I wiped my nose and turned to Rachel, asking if she
loved Kate. She chuckled again and fell back onto the
mattress, propping herself up on her elbows.

"I dunno," she replied. "I like her and all, but I
dunno if I'd say I love her."

We talked for a while longer, but finally forced
ourselves to walk downstairs. By now, it was early
evening, so we fixed a quick dinner, sitting together
at the kitchen table and talking quietly.

Being a Saturday night, Rachel, of course, had plans
with Kate. After helping with the dishes, she grabbed
her coat and headed out the door, saying she would
probably spend the night at her girlfriend's apartment.
But, just as she was about to leave, she stopped and
turned to me, as I sat on the couch.

"If you wanna talk," she said.

I smiled and nodded. "Ok," I replied.

"Just call me or something, all right? I'll come home."

"Thanks," I said.

When I heard her car pull out of the driveway, I walked
over to the television and turned it off. I made my way
upstairs to my room, shut the door, and undressed.

Standing at my dresser, I opened the top drawer and
pulled out my pajamas. As I buttoned my shirt, my eyes
drifted to the pictures of my husband sitting atop the
dresser. I smiled warmly, and in that instant, thought
about ending my life. Not seriously, however, but it
did seem as though it might bring an end to a lot of
the problems I'd been facing since his death. But, no,
I couldn't do that. That, I knew, was just plain
selfish and stupid.

I brushed my teeth, walked downstairs to turn off the
lights, and then returned to my room. Just as I was
about to get into bed, I paused and kneeled down,
pulling out a flat plastic tub from under the bed
containing our family photo albums. I thumbed through
them all, sometimes smiling, laughing a couple of
times, wishing I could go back and relive all of those
frozen memories. I glanced over at the clock on the
nightstand. It was a few minutes to nine. I carefully
replaced all the albums, and then pushed the tub back
to its place under the bed and rose to my feet.
Standing there for a moment, I stared at the bed, and
then turned to walk downstairs.

Down in the kitchen, I flipped on the light over the
stove and stepped over to the phone. I picked up the
receiver, dialed, and waited for someone to pick up the
other end.

I hooked my hair over my ear and walked over to a chair
at the table to sit.

"Mom? Hey, it's me."

For the next hour and a half, I talked to my mom, and
then my dad, telling them all about Gayle and what had
been going on in my life.

Our conversation went much better than I had expected.
They were surprised, to say the least, but
overwhelmingly understanding. But, as I did with my own
daughter and Gayle had done with me, they kept asking
if I was sure about this. I assured them I was, and
they pledged to support me.

That night, it took a long time before I fell asleep. I
kept thinking of Gayle, wondering what she was doing. I
wanted to call her so very badly. Just a few seconds of
her soft voice was all I wanted, but she asked me to
wait. That's fine, I thought. I'll do just that. And,
in the meantime, I'll make a few more phone calls.

The following afternoon, I called my husband's parents
and had virtually the same conversation with them. As
with my parents, they were rather shocked at first, but
soon warmed up to the idea and said they only wanted
Rachel and I to be happy. I wouldn't say they were
entirely thrilled, but they were agreeable. And I could
understand how they felt. It was the same thing I'd
initially felt with my daughter. You think you know
somebody, and then one day they surprise you. And, also
like myself, they'd simply have to adjust to the idea
of me being in a relationship with another woman. It
wasn't their decision, after all, and I wasn't asking
their permission. I was merely informing them.

That attitude set the tone for the conversations I had
with others over the next several days. I called a few
of my husband's closer friends to let them know, not
that I thought it was really any of their business, but
it at least felt good to come clean about it, as
opposed to trying to hide it from them or hope the
rumors they'd eventually hear weren't overly
exaggerated. What I wanted to do was set the record
straight from the get go and not have to fret over
whether someone I knew saw me holding Gayle's hand in
public.

At school, I told Diane, and she was immensely happy
for me, which came as no great surprise. She'd always
been very supportive. And I also told Gloria, the lady
I sometimes shared hall-monitoring duties with. The
only reason I told her was because she was somewhat of
a gossip hound at school. Not that she spread rumors,
but if she heard them and knew the truth of the matter,
she was quick to set things straight. Gloria might have
a tough exterior, but she was an honest and trustworthy
person. And her reaction, when I explained it to her,
was bland nonchalance. She merely looked up from
reading her book, licked a finger and turned the page,
saying, "Well, Jess, as long as you're happy, that's
what counts."

"Thanks," I replied with a broad grin.

Gloria only held up a hand and waved me off, though I
could see a smile on her face.

By Friday, I'd informed everyone I thought necessary.
Those that had the news would very likely, slowly and
over time, tell others within my circle of friends and
family, thus saving me a lot of phone calls and
emotional angst. I only told those whom I knew I could
trust with being honest and factual in relating what
was going on and why.

Earlier in the week, it took all the will power I could
muster not to communicate with Gayle, whether through
email or phone. But the time did seem to pass smoothly
with each day and each new person I talked with. It
wasn't until I was in bed at night that I had time to
think about her. During the day, I was preparing my
speech, rehearsing and making last minute adjustments
to what I wanted to tell the next person on my list,
fine-tuning the dialogue I had used with others and
making slight modifications to fit the person next in
line. So by the time Friday evening rolled around,
everyone that needed to know knew that I was now a
lesbian.

While standing in the kitchen preparing dinner, Rachel
came down from her room.

"Need any help?" she chirped, plucking a slice of
cucumber from the bowl in front of me and popping it in
her mouth.

"Nah," I replied. "Almost done."

She twirled around and stepped over to the cupboard and
pulled out a glass.

"Oh," she exclaimed. "Forgot to tell ya."

I was walking to the kitchen table with the bowl
between my hands, when I glanced over at her by the
refrigerator. She pulled out a carton of orange juice
and came over to stand next to me, as she filled her
glass.

"Ok, and...?"

Rachel glanced at me, saying, "Oh! Anyway, yeah, your
girlfriend called, while you were at the store."

My heart skipped a beat and started throbbing in my
chest and up into my throat. With trembling hands, I
set the bowl down and turned back to the sink.

"What'd she want?" I asked, trying to mask the anxiety
in my voice.

"You, I assume," came the terse reply.

I stood at the sink, holding a towel between my hands,
and closed my eyes, trying to breath calmly.

"What'd she say?"

"Just wanted to know if you were home. I told her you
went to the store, and she asked which one, and I said
how the hell should I know."

I smiled nervously and slowly shook my head, turning to
her. Rachel was leaning against the table, holding the
glass in her hand and picking at the contents of the
bowl I'd set there.

"How'd she sound?" I asked.

Rachel tossed a carrot slice into her mouth and nodded.

"Good," she mumbled, as she chewed.

I sighed. Getting information out of this kid was
sometimes like pulling teeth. I was about to start my
usual line of questioning, when she spoke.

"I think she misses you," she said, pulling out a chair
to sit.

I gulped. "Yeah?" I replied.

"Uh huh. Said she hasn't heard from ya in a couple days
and was wondering if you were still alive. I said yeah,
you haven't hung yourself yet."

My shoulders slumped, and I groaned. Rachel chuckled
and glanced over at me.

"I didn't really say that," she giggled.

I stepped over to her, wringing the towel in my hands,
and asked how she seemed. Rachel shrugged.

"I think you should call her," she replied. "Maybe go
see her or something... I dunno. None of my business. I
just think..."

But I was already running out to the living room. I
grabbed my jacket and keys and shot out the door. I was
still trying to put one more arm into my coat, as I
threw the car in reverse, zipped out the driveway, and
then screeched down the street.

For the next ten minutes, my heart pounded rapidly and
sweat rolled down my face. It seemed like everyone was
conspiring against me, as I'd get stuck behind someone
going too slow or hit every light just as it turned
red. I mumbled and cursed under my breath, squeezing
the steering wheel tightly between my fingers. And,
when the light would finally changed green or the slow
poke in front of me turned from my path, I jammed my
foot down onto the gas pedal.

The drive to her condo never seemed to take so long,
but, when I finally arrived, I jumped out of the car
and ran across the lawn to the door of her building. I
flung it open and jumped inside, dashing up the steps
with a clamor, tripping, cursing again, and lunged
through the next door. By the time I got to her condo,
I was breathing as if I'd just completed a marathon. I
propped a hand against the wall, as I tried to catch my
breath, my upper body heaving up and down. Then
suddenly her door opened.

Gayle must have heard all the commotion in the hallway,
as I came into the building. She nearly jumped, when
she saw me, and I grinned wide in reply. She was
wearing a robe and holding a tissue to her nose. Then
she clasped a hand to the front of the robe, poked her
head out the door, looking up and down the hall, and
then grabbed me by the shoulder and jerked me inside.

I was still breathing hard, my heart still flailing
away in my chest, but I was nothing but all smiles. I
walked over to the sofa and flopped down, while Gayle
stood by the door with an expression of surprise on her
face. Then she wiped the tissue under her nose and
carefully stepped over to a chair and sat down across
from me.

My eyes roamed lazily around the room, and, when they
landed on her, I gave her a toothy smile.

"Hey," I said whimsically, giving her a short wave.

Gayle snickered and wiped her nose again. "Hey back,"
she replied, still maintaining a look of bewilderment.
Then she cleared her throat.

"So, what..."

"I told everyone," I exclaimed.

Gayle blinked.

"Pardon? Who's..."

"Everyone," I replied with a big nod. "I told everyone
I knew that I loved you. Well, not every single person.
Just the people closest and they'll probably tell
everyone else."

She chuckled, her eyebrows rising high, as she coughed
and grinned wide, swiping the tissue under her nose.

"Gotta cold?" I asked.

Gayle nodded. "Yeah," she said. "Got it a few days
ago."

There was a long silence between us, and then she
finally rose from the chair, pushing her hands in her
pockets.

"Want something to drink?" she asked, gesturing to the
kitchen.

I wagged my head from side to side and stood from the
couch. As I stepped toward her, she held a hand up and
backed away.

"Don't want you to get it," she whispered.

I grinned and stepped up to her, taking her hands in
mine.

"I don't care," I replied. Then I pushed myself up onto
my toes and gently pressed my lips to hers. And, when
our tongues met, we slowly wrapped our arms around each
other, moaning and kissing deeply.

"God, I've missed you," she sighed, as she lavished my
neck with her tongue.

I closed my eyes and held my head back, working the
belt to her robe until I had it loosened, and then
slipped my hands inside, pushing it down her shoulders.
Her hand landed on my breast and squeezed.

"Tell me," I gasped. "Tell me you love me."

Gayle ran her tongue up my neck until our mouths
brushed against each other. Her hands traced lightly up
to either side of my face, holding it, as she planted
soft kisses on my lips.

"I do," she sighed. "I've missed so much, Jessie. Just
tell me you're sure about this."

I nodded, flicking my tongue against hers and running
my hands along the small cones of her exposed breasts.

"I am."

Then we began kissing frantically, as she fumbled with
the buttons on my blouse, and my hands went to my waist
where I jerked open the buttons of my jeans and pushed
them down. I kicked off my shoes, and in a matter of
seconds, was standing naked in her arms.

We kissed and moaned and touched each other, melting to
the floor in a heap of searing flesh and desire. Mouths
and tongues and fingers explored our bodies,
penetrating deep within and eliciting heavy guttural
groans and airy cries of passion. And, though there was
a physical lust, a basic craving we had for one
another, we spent a long time doing nothing more than
lying on the floor in each other's arms, kissing and
whispering the love we felt.

I'm not sure how much time passed, but we dragged
ourselves to the bathroom and stepped into the shower.
Under the water, we continued to make love. We
embraced, digging our hands deep between the other's
legs, entwining our tongues, sucking and kissing,
slipping fingers into anuses and nursing softly on taut
scarlet nipples. And, when the frigid water chilled our
skin, we stepped out of the shower and dried off, where
we walked hand-in-hand to the bedroom.

Gayle brought out her candles, and soon the room was
filled with their soft amber glow. I was lying on the
bed, when she came to me, and I reached out my hand for
hers, guiding her body atop mine. We caressed each
other's face and kissed lightly, giggling and hugging
and rolling onto our sides.

"I fell in love with you, the first time I saw you,"
she whispered.

My heart fluttered and I closed my eyes, laying my head
against the pillow and smiling.

"I think I fell in love with you at your party," I
replied softly.

Gayle sat up, and I opened my eyes at her sudden
movement.

"Really?" she exclaimed, holding a hand to her chest in
disbelief.

I chuckled. "Really," I replied.

She dropped her jaw and gazed around the room.

"Wow," she muttered.

"What?" I replied with a tempered laugh.

Gayle turned her eyes back to mine, saying, "That was
the second time I fell in love with you."

I giggled, pulling my knees up, and rolled on top of
her, kissing her face and neck, until once more our
passion overcame us and erupted into sensual
lovemaking.

And so began my new life with Gayle.

A few years later, Gayle and I were walking into the
house with our suitcases. We lugged them up the stairs,
me laughing and struggling with mine, while she passed
me on the steps, scolding me, and saying she had warned
me not to pack so much.

It had been my home, but now Gayle shared it with me.
Rachel had graduated two years prior and moved off to
start a new job in a new city with her new husband. It
turned out she wasn't quite the lesbian she'd once
thought, and, when she entered graduate school, Kate
moved on, as well, and Rachel fell in love for real
this time with someone new. And now Gayle and I were
returning home from their wedding, which we used as an
excuse to take an entire week off for vacation.

My friends and family took some time adjusting to the
relationship I had with her, but it wasn't nearly as
daunting as any of us had supposed. Gayle was graceful
and polite and full of charm, and it was difficult to
resist not warming up to her. But what really filled my
heart with joy, was when everyone, including my
husband's parents, hugged her, as we departed the
wedding, and told her how happy they were that I had
found such a wonderful person to be with.

That evening, as we sat next to one another at the
kitchen table over dinner, Gayle set her fork down and
turned to me.

"Mow what?" she mumbled.

I rolled my eyes and nudged her with my elbow. "Don't
talk with your mouth full," I snorted.

"Sowwy," she snickered, still chewing.

She reached for her glass and took a long gulp.

"I was thinking," she said. "I'm coming up on forty
pretty soon here."

I nodded and chewed.

"Mm hm," I replied with a wink.

"Well," she sighed, dabbing a napkin on her lips. "What
would you think about me being pregnant?"

I set my fork down and slowly turned to her. I
swallowed, replying, "Really?" She nodded happily, and
I blinked a few times, saying, "I think that'd be
great. You mean at the hospital? The fertility clinic?"

Gayle pushed her plate forward, and then folded her
arms on the table.

"Yeah," she said. "I've been thinking about it for a
while now, but this last week sorta made me put some
serious thought into it."

I set my glass down and nodded. "Yeah," I replied.
"God, yes. We could set up everything for the tot in
Rachel's old room. That'd be wonderful. I think you'd
make a fantastic mom."

Gayle blushed and dropped her face, brushing the hair
from her eyes.

 I continued eating, but could see her staring at me
from the corner of my eye. I turned to her, and she
grinned.

"What?" I chuckled.

She took a deep breath and looked down into her lap,
playfully kicking her feet under the table.

"Something else I've been thinking about," she replied.

Gayle hesitated, and then raised her eyes, giving me a
devious grin. She gazed at me in silence for a moment,
and then reached down for my hand and helped me stand.

"C'mere," she said, leading me out to the living room
where she had me sit on the couch.

"Just stay right here," she said anxiously. "I'll be
right back."

I wagged my head up and down, curious as to what Gayle
was doing. Then she quickly turned to dash upstairs.

I could hear her moving around in the bedroom and
looked up the steps. Her shadow darted quickly against
the wall opposite the door, and I chuckled.

"What're ya doing?" I called.

"Hold your horses!" she replied.

A minute later, she emerged from the bedroom and
tromped down the steps, holding a hand behind her back.
My heart started racing and my hands began trembling on
my knees, as she approached me with a broad grin on her
face. My mouth drew into a deep frown and tears welled
in my eyes. Gayle kneeled on the floor in front of me,
and I slapped a hand across my mouth and started
crying. And, when she slowly pulled out the hand from
behind her back revealing a tiny black box, I bawled
and nodded, leaping from the couch and throwing my arms
around her.

"Yes!" I cried, as we toppled to the floor in a heap.

END