Peaches. She was breathing in the scent of peaches. Sweet, succulent, intoxicating peaches. With a deep inhale she obtained another whiff. Peaches. These peaches were beginning to make her nauseous. In fact, the very idea of these fruits or food in general made her sick to her stomach. Ooh. Bad peaches.
Since not breathing wasn't an option, she began to open her eyes with the intent of getting away from the scent. Instead of peaches she was greeted with disorderly blonde hair, which her nose was partially buried in. Ah, peach shampoo.
Who was this peach shampoo user and why was she in her bed? Erin's hands quickly discovered something upon their investigation underneath the covers. And why was the peach shampoo user naked? For that matter, why was she naked too?
"I would truly appreciate an explanation as to what in the hell is going on here," stated an irritated voice.
Her heart getting a jumpstart, Erin catapulted into a sitting position. Automatically pulling the sheet over her exposed chest, she looked at the woman seated in a chair a few feet away from the bed. If looks could kill, Erin would have been walking through the tunnel of light at that moment to meet up with relatives who had passed on before her. Because she didn't give an explanation, the fully clothed woman repeated her statement. Her voice louder now, she effectively roused the peach shampoo user. When she moved, Erin looked down at her while trying to ignore the sharp pain in her head.
Sleepy light green eyes met her gaze, swiveled toward the seated woman and then came back to her. As though waking next to a thoroughly confused person with an irate one a mere few steps away were something she did on a regular basis, the peach shampoo user smiled dazzlingly. "Good morning baby," she softly uttered in such an angelic voice. Despite her perplexed state, Erin wouldn't have terribly minded hearing that voice again.
She didn't get a chance to respond to the greeting since her girlfriend spoke again. "It's bad enough that you cheated on me, but to marry that trollop? Have you lost your mind Erin? I get to show up at my sister's wedding today alone because you did something so very idiotic. I'm going to be the laughingstock!"
"What? I didn't?" Trailing off, Erin slowly shook her aching head. She must have consumed an awful lot of alcohol last night. Having left the bachelorette party the moment it switched into a sleepover (an event she didn't care to participate in), she remembered going to a nightclub. That was why peach shampoo user looked so familiar. They met at the nightclub. Of course, Erin had no recollection of marrying her. They shared a couple of beers while chatting. How did they end up in her Bellagio hotel guest room?
"Yes you did!" Uncrossing her legs, Michelle stood and stormed over to the bed. Erin had two seconds to guess whether she intended to strike her before she laid a sheet of paper in her lap instead. "I think that belongs to you and Mrs. Tucker. I found it on the dresser--your marriage license," she angrily finished.
Picking up the license, Erin glanced over it. Courtney Calloway. Yes, she remembered now. That was peach shampoo user's real name.
"We've been talking for nearly half an hour and I don't know your name," Erin said after swallowing another mini pretzel.
"Courtney Calloway at your service little lady. You can call me Court though."
"Nice to meet you Court. I'm Erin Tucker." Lifting their beers, they clinked the bottles together, each smiling at the other. "Who're you calling little, hmm?" Erin teased, her eyes moving over the other woman's petite form. "I bet I'm almost half a foot taller than you."
Knowing how to take a joke, Court grinned. "True, but I'm older. Therefore, I outrank you."
"I wouldn't be bragging about that if I were you."
Laughing, the blonde drained her bottle. "Just for that comment you have to buy me another beer little lady."
"This is what's going to happen," Michelle started, her hands planted on her hips. "Before we prepare for the ceremony, I'm going to meet my sister for breakfast. When I return to this room you and your wife better be gone. I want you out of this room and out of my life forever. Oh, and this belongs to you. Though I don't know how useful it will be now." Reaching into the pockets of her jacket, Michelle pulled out bits of paper, tossing them toward Erin. They fell around her like small papery snowflakes.
Looking at various little pieces, the hung over brunette managed to find important words like 'boarding', 'San Francisco', '10:45 a.m.' and 'first class'. Her mouth dropping open, she disbelievingly gazed at her ex. "You tore my plane ticket apart? I'm the one who bought it. Why would you do that?" She hadn't even wanted to travel first class, but Michelle talked her into it. If she hadn't felt sick before, she sure did now.
"Because I could." Michelle coldly smiled. "You will pay for this Erin. No one betrays me. No one." Giving Court the dirtiest look she could muster, Michelle headed toward the door. Bolting from the bed, Erin called her name as she followed her. Forgetting that she wasn't wearing a stitch of clothing, she walked into the hallway allowing the door to close. When that happened, it automatically locked and couldn't be opened unless one had a keycard.
"Michelle don't leave. Let me explain," Erin pleaded just as it occurred to her that the air felt a little too cool.
Stopping just before she turned the corner, Michelle looked at her while shaking her head. "I'm glad that I invited you to my sister's wedding. Otherwise, I might never have known just how stupid you are and how unworthy you are of me. You're naked dumbass." Rolling her eyes, she then disappeared from view.
Feeling much like a dumbass, Erin hurried back to the door, jiggling the knob. Of course, it remained stubbornly locked. She was about to knock when she horrifyingly heard someone else's door opening. Glancing toward the left she spied a child around 6 or 7 skipping out of the hotel room followed by two adults she guessed to be his parents. Oh my God. No, no, no!
Turning back to her door, she knocked, hoping that peach sham--Court would hurry up and open it.
She didn't. Damn her. What was she doing?
Erin glanced over her shoulder. They were headed in her direction. If she could have one super power right now, she would choose invisibility. It was highly unlikely that they would pass by without noticing her nude 5'10" frame. Knocking once more, Erin slid down to the carpeted floor, wrapping her arms around bent legs and closed her eyes as though thinking if she couldn't see, then neither could they.
It didn't work. Damn it.
"Mommy look!" The kid excitedly stated, ratting her out. Opening her eyes, Erin helplessly watched as he pointed one little finger at her. "It's a naked lady! I found a naked lady!" He giggled.
Sighing, Erin pounded toward the bottom of the door. For some reason I'm having seconds thoughts about having children someday. Approaching, the boy's parents stared at Erin in shock. Using a hand to cover her son's innocent eyes, his mother told him to go back to their room. After he reluctantly obeyed, she refocused on Erin, not paying attention to the fact that her husband was practically ogling the 31 year old.
"You ought to be ashamed of yourself! Pervert! I'm going to call security right now!" Grabbing her silent husband's hand, she marched toward her room to make good on the threat. Though Erin tried to explain why she was crouched in the hall naked, the wife and mother refused to listen. As her door shut, Erin's opened. Standing, she pushed past Court who was now dressed in the robe belonging to the hotel.
"What took you so long?" The brunette inquired, trying not to scream because it caused her head to hurt even worse.
"Sorry. I had to use the bathroom and while I was there I brushed my teeth and washed my face. I figured you could get back in."
"And just how would I go about doing that? With the key I keep in my pouch?"
Court appeared more amused than upset. "Said I was sorry. I take it she wouldn't listen to you?"
"No." She sighed again. "I have a million questions for you, but for now you need to remove that robe and put your own clothes on because we have to get out of here before security comes up to haul my ass in for indecent exposure."
"Michelle's going to get security?"
"No, the woman a few doors down is. Hustle Court. Please."
It took the pair less than five minutes to get dressed and for Erin to toss her clothes and toiletries into her suitcase. Putting her backpack on, Court followed the worried younger woman out the door. Cautiously checking the halls for people carrying nightsticks and walkie-talkies, Erin headed in the direction of the elevators. She was about to press the arrow facing downward when her wife suggested that they take the staircase. Agreeing, they traveled down six flights of stairs, which led them to the lobby.
"You don't have a car right?" Court asked as they headed out of the hotel/casino.
"No. We rented a car but Michelle has it. How did we get here?"
"My car. Follow me." Remembering the exact place she parked, Court led Erin to a shining crimson Toyota RAV4. Placing their belongings in the back, the women climbed into the car, settling into comfortable leather bucket seats. Reaching toward the glove compartment, Court pulled out a white prescription bottle. Extracting one pill from the bottle she put it back in the glove compartment and grabbed the half full bottled water from the cup holder. After removing the cap, she handed the water and pill to her passenger. "That's a Percocet to help relieve your headache. It's okay to drink the water." She grinned. "I don't have cooties."
"Thanks. What do you have such a strong medication for?" Swallowing the pill, Erin chased it down with two large gulps of room temperature water.
"Migraines. I recall you mentioning that you lived in San Francisco. You ready to go?"
"To San Francisco?" Court nodded. "You're prepared to take me all the way to SF?"
"Yes, I am. I have business there so it's perfect," she told what she deemed a small fib. "I have to be there by Monday, so I figure if we leave today Saturday, we'd have plenty of time."
Erin put the bottle back in the cup holder. "First things first. We need to get an annulment. I say we go to the County Clerk's office and take care of this."
"Annulments aren't easy to get. You need a very good reason and I don't see where we have one."
"We--or at least I was under the influence of alcohol. That should be grounds for an annulment." Pausing, Erin shook her head. "Why?how did we get married anyway? I have a girlfriend."
"I didn't know that until this morning." Though it probably wouldn't have made a difference. "And you had a girlfriend." At the other woman's immediate frown, Court apologized. "Basically, we had too much to drink. You more than I."
Sucking on a lime wedge, Court watched as her new friend drank her fifth shot of tequila. Knowing her limit, Court had stopped drinking alcoholic beverages after two beers and one tequila shot just to get Erin interested in doing them. She ached to be the coarse salt that the tall woman seductively licked from around the rim of the shot glasses. She wondered how that tongue tasted. She wondered how every single area of Erin's body tasted.
"You are so fine," Court stated, knowing exactly what she was saying. "Are you aware of just how incredibly attractive you are?"
Even in her current state, Erin blushed at the compliment. "Um, thanks Court." Her words sounded a bit slurred.
"I'm going to ask you three questions and you say yes to every one of 'em, okay?"
It took Erin's muddled brain a moment to come up with an answer. "I'll try."
"Okay." The blonde smiled. "Do you find me at all attractive?"
"Yes." She blushed again.
"Do you really or are you just saying yes because I asked you to?"
"I do. Really."
Court scooted close enough that their breaths mingled. "If I kissed you right now would you kiss me back?"
That reply caused Court's lips to break into a broad grin. "Last question. Will you marry me?"
A long pause ensued as Erin stared at her with an unreadable expression. "Is that a?a?hypo?hypocrit?ick al?" She practically slaughtered the word.
Court's grin returned. "Are you trying to say hypothetical?" The brunette gave an exaggerated nod. "No, it isn't. I'm seriously proposing. Will you marry me tonight Erin? I want you to be my wife."
Reaching into the basket for one, Erin fingered a pretzel. Her eyes meeting Court's she smiled. Why not marry her? She was attractive and kissable. "Yes."
"That's how it happened?"
Court nodded. "That's how it happened. After you said yes we obtained a marriage license, found a chapel and swapped vows. For a little extra they were willing to record weddings, so I bought a videotape of our ceremony."
Erin appeared thoughtful. "It seems like you meant for us to get married. You weren't drunk."
Court decided to answer that honestly. "No, I wasn't drunk."
"And I was."
"You took advantage of that?" Everything fell into place. It all made sense now. "You son of a bitch."
"Last I checked, I didn't have a penis so that would be daughter not son. And I realize that you meant that insult for me, but you inadvertently referred to my mother as a bitch, which she was not. That couldn't be farther from the truth. Please be mindful of what you say." Court's reply was remarkably polite for someone who had just been called an s.o.b.
Erin noticed that she used the past tense when speaking about her mother. "Did your mother pass away?"
Court nodded. "When I was twelve. I don't need an apology," she quickly added, instinctively knowing the other woman was about to give her one. "Her death shouldn't make me any less of a jerk in your eyes, so what were you about to say?" When Erin hesitated, she smiled. "Come on. I know you have a theory. Share."
I don't understand you at all. Erin suddenly had second thoughts regarding her theory on why Court wanted to marry her. True, she had just met Court Calloway, but labeling her as a gold digger seemed very wrong. "I take it that this has nothing to do with my assets?"
"Is that what you thought? I married you for your money?"
"I can't think of any other reason. It's not like you love me." Even as she said this she searched the blonde's face. Court's expression gave nothing away. "Here are the facts. You were sober when you asked me to marry you--that was intentional. And it seems that you don't want to annul it, so that begs the question of why. If not for love, another reason to marry someone is for financial purposes." The ringing of Erin's cell phone caused Court to temporarily withhold her reply.
Digging the phone out of her pants pocket, Erin brought it to her ear. "Hello? Oh, hello Mr. Braddock. Yes? Uh huh. But sir I--yes." There was a long pause on her end of the line as Erin rubbed her temples with her free hand. Her lips pursing, she shut off the phone and shoved it back into her pocket. Taking a deep breath she looked at a quizzical Court. "If you did want my money, you might not object to that annulment now."
"Michelle meant what she said about my paying. That was her father who called. Since he's my boss, he has the right to fire me and he just exercised that right. So I'm unemployed living in an expensive apartment that I won't be able to afford much longer. I knew I shouldn't have gotten involved with my boss's daughter. That was just asking for trouble." Staring out of the passenger window, she bit her bottom lip wanting to cry or scream in frustration. Perhaps do both. "Could this day get any worse?"
"If it's any consolation to you, I didn't want your money," Court gently said.
"So you married me because?"
"It's an experiment of sorts. Stay married to me for six months and I'll handsomely reimburse you."
Erin looked at her like she was crazy. "You'll pay me in order to stay married to me?" The blonde nodded. "Why? That makes no sense."
"I want to try my hand at writing a novel," another fib, "about two people who don't know each other but they impulsively get married. The novel will follow them over the next six to twelve months of their marriage. I haven't decided if it'll be a drama or comedy yet. Perhaps one of those dramadies. Of course, research would be nice so I was thinking that we could use this marriage to our advantages. Me for my novel and you for one million dollars, which you will receive after six months. Then we can get divorced. How is that?" When Erin only stared at her, she repeated, "How is that? Erin?"
Blinking, Erin looked incredulous. "You're going to give me one million dollars to be your wife for six months." She glanced toward the rear of the car where clothes and personal items were strewn. "It looks like you live in your car. Where is this one million dollars coming from?"
"The majority of the time I do live in my car and the money is in one of my bank accounts."
"So why do you live in your car if you have that kind of money?"
"Here are the cliff notes of my life. Listening?"
"Until a little over a year ago I was a lawyer--a very prosperous lawyer. After ten years I made up my mind to retire at age 36. Except for some of my more casual clothing, laptop, and cell phone I sold just about everything else that I owned. My house, which I made a tidy profit off of, my Jaguar, televisions, computers, minimum five-hundred dollar suits?everything had to go. I became an Ebay selling junkie. Was pretty good at it too." Court grinned. "I even turned in my stocks. Two months after retiring I bought this car and decided that I was going to travel, something I always planned on doing but never left the states.
I practiced in Boston and up until my retirement the only places I went on vacation were California and New York--once each. I got myself a passport and that's what I've been doing for a year now. My latest stop as you can see is Las Vegas and since meeting you last night at that club I decided to settle down and write a book. Don't know if I can but I'm willing to try. It would be nice to have someone--namely you to hang with for a while. Be domesticated. I'd like to take a break from traveling."
"You just decided to write a book last night when we met?"
"Well I've been thinking about it for a couple of months now. Last night was when I made my decision to go through with it. That's if you're interested. You wouldn't have to worry about your rent and I promise I'll be a good roommate."
"I know you don't mean it that way, but Court by going through with this it sounds like I'd be prostituting myself."
"If that's true there are more prostitutes then I thought in this world. Despite your wanting to get an annulment, for now you and I are each other's spouse. We are supposed to take care of each other, be there for each other through good times and bad. Right now you don't have a job and until you get one I am perfectly willing to handle our financial responsibilities. We're partners. Don't let your pride stand in the way. Besides, I feel some responsibility since it is partly my fault that you were fired. Will you please stay married to me?"
"So we'll live like a married couple?"
"In every sense except intimately. That's not necessary." Though I wouldn't necessarily have a problem with that?
"That reminds me. Did we?" Blushing, Erin quietly finished, "consummate our marriage last night?"
"No, we never had sex."
"Then why were we naked?"
Bypassing carrying her bride over the threshold since she outweighed her by 15-20 pounds, Court merely waited for her to enter the hotel room before following. Finding the light switch, she illuminated the spacious room. Removing her jacket, she walked further inside, depositing it over the back of a chair as she looked around.
"This is nice Mrs. Calloway." She grinned at the swaying woman headed toward her.
"Glad you like it Mrs. Tucker." Her lips aimed for Court's mouth but miscalculated by landing on her nose. Releasing a hiccupping chuckle, Erin stumbled toward the bed, sitting on the edge of it. She attempted to undo the buttons of her shirt, but after a full minute passed had yet to slip the first one out.
"Let me help you baby." Kneeling on the floor, Court proceeded to unbutton her shirt. She would undress her wife and put her into bed, but she had zero intention of sleeping with her. If they ever consummated this marriage, she didn't want it to be when Erin was too inebriated to walk straight. Looking into her face she could tell that the younger woman was having a difficult time keeping her eyes open. They would get some sleep tonight and in the morning she would see what happened.
"You undressed me and yourself, we got into bed and went to sleep."
Court confirmed with a brief nod. "That's all that happened."
"If I agree to this we have to split everything 50/50--partners can do that. I have a small nest egg and I'll start looking for another job as soon as we get to San Francisco." She paused thoughtfully. "Do you really have business there on Monday?"
"I'm all for that and no I don't. I just said that as an excuse to escort you the 500+ miles to where you live."
Erin smiled for the first time that day. "I like your honesty Court."
She tried not to look guilty. You give me too much credit.
"Are you sure you know where you're going?" Erin asked for the fifth time in the last hour. After they enjoyed a leisurely brunch at the expansive buffet located inside the Rio Hotel/Casino, they headed for the road. About fifty miles into their journey Court found on her online map what she proposed to be a shortcut that would save them close to thirty miles. Erin grew worried when she hadn't seen cars since they deserted the main road.
"Of course I know," Court responded, not sounding quite as sure as she had the last time her wife asked that particular question. She was loath to admit that she didn't have a damn clue where she was going. They could be heading farther away from San Francisco for all she knew. Don't let your pride stand in the way. She had uttered those words earlier yet she wasn't paying any attention to them.
Lifting Court's portable computer onto her lap, Erin studied the map. "We should be on the I-15 you know."
"Yes, I know. Everything is fine." Court's voice maintained that constant pleasantness. Not that she had any inclination to do so, but Erin idly wondered what would make her tick.
"I have an idea." The driver indicated for her to continue. "Why don't we turn around and head back in the opposite direction where we'll eventually find the I-15 again? From there we can just follow the main directions. It's not like we're in a hurry."
Court drove a ¼ of a mile further before she made a u-turn on the dirt path. Erin was right. This shortcut was leading them only God knew where. They managed to get within the vicinity of the I-15 before the Toyota chugged to a complete stop. When Erin inquired on why they weren't moving, Court informed her that they were out of gas. During the not so much of a shortcut drive she had noticed that they were dangerously near the empty mark but hoped that they would reach civilization before the car stopped.
"No problem," the blonde cheerily stated as she tapped on her laptop's keyboard. "According to this, there's a Shell station about three miles from us. You can rest here while I go get us some gasoline. Feel free to play with the computer. It has a long-lasting battery pack. I recommend a game called Literati if you're good with words." She was about to get out of the car when Erin wrapped a hand around her arm.
"Wait a minute. You don't think I'm going to let you walk all by yourself do you? I'm coming with."
Court smiled at her while gently patting the hand still surrounding her forearm. "Baby I'll be fine. You can stay in the car."
Erin suddenly looked very stubborn. "I don't want to stay in the car. I want to go with you. Now I'm going and you can't stop me."
Chuckling, the blonde opened her door. "Are you 31 or 13?"
"Just for that comment you have to buy me a bag of Doritos when we get to Shell."
Nearly halfway to San Francisco, the couple agreed to stop at a motel a couple hours after the sun had set. They would get an early start in the morning and hopefully make it to Erin's home by noon.
Since all of the double occupancy rooms were taken, they purchased a room with a king-sized bed. They could have had a cot delivered to the room, but decided that they were both grownups who were capable of sharing a bed. After all, they had done it once and that time they had both been naked. This time they silently vowed to wear pajamas. Having stopped at a restaurant an hour before reaching the motel neither was hungry, so after taking turns in the bathroom for showers, they climbed into the bed.
Turning on the television, they found a five-year-old movie, which both had seen before. Thirty minutes into it Court fell asleep with her head resting against the headboard. That looked mighty uncomfortable to Erin so carefully getting to her knees in the bed, she gently moved the small woman until she was stretched out with her head now on the pillow. Pulling the covers around her, she watched Court for a few moments as she slept.
Reaching out, she caressed her soft cheek before kissing it. "Goodnight Mrs. Tucker."
Developing an excruciating headache during the last forty miles of their trek, Court relinquished her keys to Erin and tried to relax in the passenger seat after having taken a Percocet. By the time they pulled into a parking space at Erin's apartment complex, the medication had eased the pain somewhat, yet she still didn't feel too well. Worried though Court assured her not to be, she led the woman up to the third level where her apartment was. Having two bedrooms, she put her in the guestroom.
Lying down, Court immediately closed her eyes. "I just need to rest for a little while baby," she softly uttered. "I'll be okay in a while." When Erin asked if there was anything she could get for her, she shook her head no. "Just rest."
She had fallen asleep by the time Erin quietly closed the door.
Opening the bedroom door to check on her wife for the tenth time in four hours, the first thing Erin noticed was a pair of amused green eyes looking toward her. In addition to the look, she was relieved to see the smile on those lips.
"Hey you. You're awake, huh?" The brunette pushed the door open all the way and walked inside where she sat on the edge of the queen-sized bed.
Nodding, Court covered her mouth as she emitted the cutest yawn Erin had ever heard. She never realized that a yawn could be cute until then. "I've been lying here awake for a few minutes wondering what you were up to."
Barely noticing what she was doing, Erin brushed soft blonde bangs away from Court's eyes. "You could have come out to look you know."
A grin resulted. "Call me lazy."
"Okay lazy. What do you want for dinner?"
The grin increased. "Yum, food. I'll have whatever sounds good to you."
"You feel like going out? I got an invitation to a spontaneous ultra casual dinner at a Mexican restaurant in the Castro tonight." Earlier, her best friend Vicki had called her cell phone while she had been unpacking to ask how the wedding had gone. Erin hadn't told her the full story over the phone, but did let her know that she was back in town early because she and Michelle had broken up. Vicki couldn't even pretend to be upset that their relationship had ended. She was never a fan of Michelle. When Vicki invited her to dinner, Erin asked if she could bring a friend. Ever the intuitive one, Vicki knew that this wasn't an average run of the mill 'friend' but she refrained from asking on the phone. It could wait until tonight.
"It wouldn't be an imposition?"
"Of course not silly." Erin beamed. "You are my wife." Funny how mentioning that little fact easily rolled off her tongue. I like the sound of that.
"Then I'm in."
Arriving at the restaurant called Tacky Taco (silly name though there was nothing tacky about the food) Erin and Court were headed toward the entrance when the taller of the two spied a familiar redhead bundled in a thick tan jacket standing in front of the door leading into the restaurant. A bright smile lit up her face as she caught sight of them, starting to wave as she hurried to meet the pair. When she arrived Erin asked her why she was waiting for them outside when it had to be much warmer inside Tacky Taco.
Curious though friendly gray eyes made a quick observation of Court before focusing on Erin. She was about to answer when out of the corner of an ever inspecting eye she noticed a glint of gold as Court secured some of her hair behind an ear. Managing to keep her mouth from falling open, she then observed that Erin was wearing an identical simple gold band. Well actually the rings weren't truly gold, but gold-plated brass; however that wasn't the point. The point was that her best friend had traveled to Las Vegas for a wedding yet had?
"You got married?!" Vicki said this loud enough for others walking through the parking lot to hear. A couple people smiled in their direction and one even clapped as they yelled congratulations. Looking truly hurt, she didn't wait for a confirmation. "I can't believe this. You got married without me?" She smacked Erin on the arm none too gently. "I've been your best friend for eight years and you tied the knot without me. You were my Maid of Honor and then you elope on me? What gives?" Finally shutting up she waited for an answer as she impatiently tapped a foot on the pavement.
Sparing her wife a frown for chuckling (albeit softly), Erin quickly thought of how to answer. "I um?it's complicated Vicki. Why don't we go inside and get seated first." The redhead disagreed. She wanted to discuss this in the parking lot in weather so cold that Erin half expected her fingers to freeze and fall off if they stood there much longer. "Why here?" She became suspicious. "What's your reason for not wanting to talk inside the restaurant?"
"Never you mind that. Just tell me what happened."
The brunette sighed. She was too cold to argue. "Fine. Yes, I got married, which you might have guessed is the reason Michelle and I broke up. I'm sorry I didn't include you. It was a spur of the moment decision." Wrapping an arm around her wife's shoulders she continued, "As corny as it sounds the moment I first saw Court at a nightclub Friday night I knew that she was the woman for me. I never believed that love at first sight was possible until then. Before the night was over we were married. The next day Michelle found out about it before I could tell her and dumped me. I even lost my job." Looking at Court she tenderly smiled and kissed the top of her blonde peach scented head. "I don't care thought because she's worth it. I love this little angel so much already that it's frightening." She sounded so earnest that for a second Court foolishly hoped that she meant it.
Vicki glanced between them as she processed this unexpected information. In eight years of friendship she had never know Erin to be so impulsive. Looking at the positive, she was gladdened that her friend hadn't married that annoying and spoiled Michelle Braddock who seemed content to mooch off of her father instead of behaving like a responsible goal-oriented adult. However, she wasn't thoroughly convinced that Erin and Court were deliriously in love with each other. Something was amiss here. She just couldn't put her finger on it?yet. In the meantime she could be supportive.
Her smile returning, Vicki slowly nodded. "So you finally fell in love?"
Erin squeezed the smaller woman pressed against her. "Yes. I had no idea love could feel this amazing."
Thinking about the wonderful person waiting inside for them, Vicki nodded in agreement. "Keisha caused me to say something similar to that twelve years ago." Reaching out, she wrapped her arms around Erin who in turn did the same. "Congratulations to you sweetheart. If you're happy then so am I."
"Thanks so much Vicki."
As the hug ended, the redhead turned to Court, raising an eyebrow. "Does Court speak? I already know she chuckles."
Court chose that moment to chuckle again as she stuck out a hand to be shook. "She does and she thinks it's nice to meet you Vicki."
"Likewise Court." Smiling at her, she turned that handshake into an embrace. Usually, it didn't take Vicki long to access whether she liked a person or not. For instance, the first time she met Michelle she knew within three minutes that she would never care for the brat. However, so far so good with the adorable blonde. Though Vicki had a strong feeling that she or both of them were hiding something, it was already obvious that Court was nothing like Michelle. She instinctively liked her.
"It's rather chilly out here. Ladies, should we go in?" Vicki asked while shoving her hands into two of the five hundred pockets sewn onto her jacket.
Erin smirked, indicating herself and Court. "We've been trying to do that since we arrived. You held us hostage out here. If I had them, I'd be freezing my nuts off."
Rolling her eyes, the redhead turned toward Tacky Taco's entrance. "Such a drama queen!"
Upon reaching their table, Erin discovered the reason why Vicki had been so urgent to speak with her outside. Originally their dinner date was only supposed to consist of her, Court, Vicki and her longtime partner Keisha. However, Vicki had seen fit to call their closest friends in order to invite them after learning that Erin had broken up with Michelle in Las Vegas and was bringing along a 'friend' to dinner. Of course she wanted to be the first to find out what was going on, so she asked them to arrive at the restaurant before the time Erin was supposed to and then waited outside in order to grab her friend before she could enter.
What a tricky redhead that Vicki was. She could probably teach Lucy Ricardo a few things.
Not minding since she had already figured that Court would have to meet the girls sooner or later, Erin made the introductions after answering a dozen questions about the wedding she didn't remember much of. Between she and Court, they felt that they did an okay job of convincing her friends that this marriage was supposed to happen because they were so deeply in love.
The girls included Dr. Victoria (Vicki please) Lange and her wife Dr. Keisha Douglass. Though they had been together for a dozen years, they had only been legally married a little over a year since the laws on gay marriages surprisingly changed during the spring of 2002. Though some states were still opposed to the idea of same-sex couples being legally wed, luckily California had been one of the first to make the giant leap.
Although Keisha and Vicki were both doctors, they were in very different fields. Dr. Lange was a neurosurgeon whereas Dr. Douglass a veterinarian. For some peculiar reason people were often shocked to learn that Vicki's chosen profession involved working on the human brain. She had lost count how many times she had been told by others that they couldn't picture her as a doctor, much less a brain doctor. Somehow that was a bit insulting. On the other hand, there was those who were simply shocked because wasn't she too young to be a neurosurgeon? Somehow that was a bit uplifting.
They were the only two in the group to have a child. Tyrell who was fifteen years old, was actually Keisha's son from a one year long marriage, yet Vicki thought of him as her own because she had been in his life since he was a toddler. Tyrell considered himself a lucky guy. He had two mothers and a dad who showered him with love and all three got along well with each other. He couldn't possibly ask for more.
The next oldest in the group after Keisha and Vicki was Adriana Enriquez, the 34-year old owner of a popular bookstore located in the Castro district where she resided. Unlike them she was single and though she wouldn't have minded becoming an item with someone, she wasn't actively searching for a girlfriend. Having spent five years in a relationship that abruptly went down the drain last year she was still a little uneasy about seriously dating anyone. Friends had set her up on a few dates but she hadn't felt a connection with anyone.
A couple years older than Erin, Lindsay Stansfield used to be a truck driver delivering goods to other cities and states. However, after years of spending a great deal of her life away from home she grew tired of the job she initially enjoyed. Getting the opportunity to travel across the United States had been exciting until the loneliness started to seep in, so nearly two years ago she retired from truck driving and her CB handle Sexy Stud and applied for a position as a UPS worker. Having more time to spend with her family, friends and newly acquired girlfriend, excellent benefits and normal hours, Lindsay was proud to refer to herself as a member of the UPS team.
The youngest of the group, Toni Thorpe was a single secretary and loved every single moment of it. At least the single part. She wasn't thrilled about being a secretary, especially since she thought her boss to a sexual harassing jerk, but it was paying the bills until she could get another job. If one asked Toni her hobby, she could say job hunting. Every five or six months she started a new job in a field entirely different from the last. She was never fired--well okay there was that one time--she just got bored. This time Toni was bored and irritated by a man who liked to compliment her on her fabulous bazooms. He actually said bazooms. Jerk.
"Court where are you from? San Francisco?" Adriana asked, slapping Toni's hand away from her plate. She had given her one forkful of her chile verde while informing her that it would be the only sample and she hadn't been kidding. If the secretary wanted chile verde she should have ordered it instead of a taco salad.
Court finished swallowing before she replied. "No, though I love this city. San Francisco is one of my favorite places to be. There's so much diversity--it's incredible. I'm a Massachusetts Native."
"But you'll be movin' here now since ya'll are married right?" Lindsay questioned, showing a trace of the southern accent that she had never fully gotten rid of. Originally from Texas, she had moved to San Francisco shortly after her 21st birthday. She had zero problems with her accent though. Over the years during her travels on the road it had wooed many a woman and Lindsay wasn't ashamed to admit that she had used it along with ingrained southern charm to her advantage.
Nodding, the blonde smiled at her. "Yes, I will, which will be easy since I haven't lived in Massachusetts or any particular place in a year." Five curious faces focusing on her, Court thought she should explain. She gave them the same cliff notes she had Erin. After doing so she was asked a multitude of questions about her travels throughout the states and to other countries. The ex-lawyer patiently and even giddily answered all of them in between bites of Combo #4.
By the end of dinner it was safe to assume that the girls approved of Erin's new wife. Having never made that many friends so quickly, Court had immensely enjoyed the evening spent in the company of these women and was excited over the prospect of further getting to know them during the next few months. After a hearty round of hugs shared outside of Tacky Taco, she and Erin headed toward the brunette's black Infiniti.
"They can be a handful," Erin stated with a grin. "I hope they didn't wear you out with all those questions." A couple of times she had attempted to stop her friends from acting like Court was on the witness stand only to have her wife assure her that she enjoyed the inquiries concerning her year of travel.
Settling into the passenger seat, Court beamed. "No, I loved it. I love your friends. They're awesome. That Lin is a Southern cutie with those deep dimples, that accent and the flirtatious behavior. Cracks me up."
Readily agreeing, Erin told herself that she wasn't jealous by the opinion her wife made about the UPS worker. Nope, didn't bother her one bit that her wife thought another woman was a cutie. No big deal. They were only going to be married for a few months. This was business; therefore she had no emotions one way or the other.
Erin pulled out of the parking lot and headed home. Turning on the radio she was instantly met with the voices of the Dixie Chicks singing a country song.
Quickly turning the channel she settled on one that played nothing but jazz music.
Sexy Stud. Oh, yeah that's soooo cute.
After taking a shower and slipping into a pair of loose-fit chinos and a white T-shirt, Court walked into the living room immediately stopping as her eyes fell on the long form dressed in spandex dancing to the Pointer Sisters song I'm So Excited. Court was getting excited just watching her wife's sometimes provocative moves across the floor. Erin had moved the coffee table in order to give herself more room.
Unnoticed since Erin was so engrossed in her aerobic exercise, Court quietly observed her through the next three energetic songs coming from the stereo system. Just as the music ended, Erin grabbed a towel from the arm of the couch, dabbing at the sweat on her face and the back of her neck. Catching movement out of the corner of her eye, she turned toward the blonde woman starting to smile when she noticed Court's.
"Good morning. Been watching me?" Tossing the towel on the floor Erin joined it there and began doing some light stretches--her cool down period.
Momentarily distracted as her wife pulling her arms high above her head caused her already generous breasts to further protrude in the tank top she wore, Court failed to answer right away. In fact, she almost forgot the question. "Um, yes. A few minutes." Showing just how flexible she could be, Erin held one leg in the air causing it to be at a ninety-degree angle with its mate. Good gracious, what nice limbs she has. Better to wrap around my body with. "Do you do this everyday?"
The brunette switched legs. "I alternate in order to avoid repetition. If your body does the same thing everyday, it can get used to it and you don't want that happening. All of my activities last about an hour. Mondays I do a combination of high and low impact dance aerobics. Wednesdays I try some kickboxing aerobics. On Fridays I do yoga and Tuesdays and Thursdays I run around my neighborhood 3-4 miles, or sometimes I go to the park." Erin moved into a sitting position and with her legs spread-eagled she leaned forward to touch her toes. "I usually take the weekend off." An idea occurred to her. "You care to join me? Do you work out?"
It was on the tip of Court's tongue to say yes, but she knew that would be a lie. The last time she had truly worked out was during her physical education classes in high school. "Ah, no. I mean during my travels I walked a lot to explore and whatnot, but I wouldn't call it exercising. I would like to join you if you don't mind."
Erin indulgently smiled. "If I minded I wouldn't have asked you now would I?"
"You have a point there."
Picking up her towel, Erin stood. "We can start in the morning then." As she walked by the older woman, she snapped at her bottom with the towel. Protecting her rear end with her hands, Court let out a surprised gasp followed by a laugh. "I need to jump in the shower now and then we can raid the kitchen for breakfast. I might have some Cheerios."
Court covertly watched the spandex covered tush disappear from view and softly sighed. I need to jump in the shower again too. Except this time around I only require the cold water.
It turned out that she didn't have Cheerios so Erin made them two bowls of instant oatmeal and strawberry jelly laved toast instead. While they ate she looked through the employment section of the newspaper, occasionally circling job opportunities that caught her eye. Leaning across the small breakfast table, Court read one of the circled ads.
"Is that what you used to do for Mr. Braddock?"
"Yep. I was a mortgage account executive at Braddock Finance." She didn't sound too enthusiastic about it.
"And that's what you want to continue doing?"
Erin shrugged. "It's what I studied to do so I suppose."
"But is it what you want to do again?"
Folding the newspaper, Erin then swallowed the rest of her coffee. "How many people do you think love their job?"
"Let's see?" Court appeared thoughtful. Raising her hand she started to count off names on her fingers. "When I was a lawyer I loved it. Sure at times it was grueling stressful work and there were times when I was lucky to get four hours of rest, but I was passionate about my career choice. And I just met your friends last night but it seems that all of them minus Toni enjoy what they do. So, Vicki, Keisha, Adriana, Lindsay, and I love our jobs. That's five right there." Court smiled. "And I'm willing to bet that there are a lot more who do as well."
Erin smirked. "Just had to prove me wrong didn't you squirt?"
Grinning, Court leaned back in her chair. "Absolutely. It's what I live for baby."
The brunette was about to respond when her phone started ringing. Excusing herself from the table, she hurried into the living room to pick up the cordless from its receiver. "Hello?" She winced in sympathy for herself when she discovered who it was. "Hi Mom. How are you doing?"
"Not so good right now," the older woman responded, sounding quite miffed. "My youngest daughter just broke my heart in two."
Erin rolled her eyes. And Vicki had called her a drama queen. "Mom how did I go about doing that?"
"Years ago when you told us that you were a lesbian, after the initial shock your father and I were willing to accept it because we loved you and wanted you to be happy. So we've been waiting for you to find the perfect woman and now we hear that you have and you married her." Brief pause as Mrs. Tucker inhaled deeply. "You married her! Without your family! I had to hear from someone other than my own daughter that she eloped in Las Vegas of all places! What were you thinking?"
Due to her mother's shouting, Erin had to wait for her ears to cease ringing before she replied. "I?Mom it's a long story." How had she found out? The only people who knew were the girls (they weren't gossips) and Michelle. Erin's eyes narrowed. Michelle. Had she caused her to lose her job and blabbed her marriage to her mother? Damn, when she wants to make someone pay, she means business!
"I'm retired so I have plenty of time."
Erin sighed. "Who told you about my wedding anyway? Michelle?"
"No and at least I'm thankful that you didn't marry her! I might have had to disown you then!" She had never hid the fact that she disapproved of her daughter's now ex-girlfriend. "Maggie called me first thing this morning and I've been sitting here for the past hour simmering over the news."
Maggie Thorpe was Toni's mother. She and Alice Tucker were akin to two peas in a pod ever since they became bridge partners a few years back. So had her middle child filled Maggie in on the news of Erin's marriage? She must have. Thanks a lot Toni. True, Erin had never informed her friends that her marriage to Court was a secret, but why did Toni have to tell her mother whose mouth was notorious for running like a refrigerator?
"You can tell me about all it tonight. You and Courtney are coming over for dinner," Alice's tone was resolute.
"Now is not a good time. I have to look for a new job."
"Yes, I heard about that too. I never liked that whole Braddock family so they don't deserve to have you as an employee. It's their loss. You can work for your father's mortgage company now."
Erin plopped down on the couch with an inward groan. She had lost count how many times her parents had attempted to woo her into the Tucker family business. She had followed in her father's footsteps, although being a mortgage broker wasn't her first choice so shouldn't that be enough? Steven Tucker was her father and that was all Erin wanted him to be. The last thing she wanted was to report to him on a daily basis. It would drive her crazy.
"No, Mom. I found some companies that are hiring and I need to check them out today."
Alice dramatically sighed. "Don't work for your father then. You're just breaking hearts right and left."
Her daughter groaned into the receiver. And this day had started out with so much promise? "Mom--"
"You don't job hunt at night time, therefore I want you and your partner here at 6 o'clock. I'm making your favorite--pot roast."
Before Erin had a chance to say anything else, the phone went dead. "Goodbye to you too Mom." Replacing the phone, she walked back into the kitchen to find Court drying the dishes and putting them away. Sitting down she filled her in on the phone call and their forced invitation. Based on her laughter, Court obviously thought that funny. "Eer, Court my mother isn't the easiest woman to get along with."
The blonde smiled as she laid the dishtowel on the counter to dry. "Somehow I'll manage. I'm sure it will be fine."
"Your optimism is sweet. Not accurate but sweet."
Since her wife hesitated to ring the doorbell Court did it for her. A gentle smile on her lips, she patted the taller woman on her back while reminding her for the tenth time that the dinner with her parents would go well. Though Erin wanted to believe that, she wasn't so sure. Court was still smiling when Alice opened the door. Stunning in her late fifties, Alice was almost as tall as her daughter, but that was as far as the similarities went. Court wondered if her wife could have been adopted until she spotted the dark-haired, blue-eyed man walking toward the door. Put a wig on him and?nah, he would look silly. Plus, they don't look that much alike.
"Erin," Alice said in greeting as she walked forward to kiss her daughter's cheek. Turning to the smaller of the two, she smiled much to Erin's relief. She hadn't known how her mother would behave. "And Courtney. It's lovely to meet you dear." She deposited a kiss on her cheek as well before moving aside to let her husband speak. Instead of kissing he hugged them both.
Court didn't know what her wife was so worried about. This would be a piece of cake.
Usually when a person stated that something would be a piece of cake, just those few words seemed to put a curse on whatever they were referring to. However, Court was correct in her assumption on how the evening would turn out. Erin was completely baffled as she watched the interaction between Court and her parents while they sat at the dining room table. She had been expecting a lecture and/or her mother to behave like she had on the phone that morning, but Alice was actually being friendly?warm even.
It occurred to her that Court was the reason why. She was acting in such a courteous and friendly manner that Alice and Steven couldn't help but to return it. It was never like this when Erin brought Michelle home or they all met for dinner. Though her parents appeared hospitable on those occasions, she knew that it was all a façade because they much like her friends couldn't stand Michelle. They were different with their new daughter-in-law. They were genuine. Just when I think I have them all figured out they show me how pleasant they can be.
Her mother was laughing harder than she'd ever witnessed before. Tears leaked from her eyes and she wiped at them with her cloth dinner napkin as Court regaled them with a humorous story from her trip in Italy.
"So I'm walking around in serious need of a bathroom when I come upon this little café. Thinking that there might be one in there, I head inside with my translation book in hand ready to ask someone where the bathroom is. Leafing through it I find the words I need and then hurry over to a man wearing an apron. I figured he must have worked there so he should know. I translated what I wanted into Italian while giving him such a desperate look.
He looks back at me curiously for moment and I'm about to repeat when he starts to grin knowingly. Thinking that we're on the same page I follow when he beckons. He leads me to the second level, which I find out isn't another area of the café but a one-room apartment. I'm thinking maybe this is where he lives and he's the owner of the café.
After opening the door he allows me to pass through first. For just a second I hesitate before walking inside. He was only trying to be helpful and he looked harmless enough. I would quickly use the bathroom and then get out. He closes the door, says something to me in Italian but I'm no longer paying much attention since my eyes are on the toilet I see through a partially open door. In my current state it was like discovering a treasure chest filled with gold bars and diamonds.
I smiled at the restaurant owner and sprinted into the bathroom. Done in less than two minutes, I opened the door to find him lounging on his bed wearing underwear that might be too tight for a Ken doll. All of a sudden a light bulb went off in my bed. Down in the café I had meant to ask him 'where is your bathroom', which translated is something like 'dove é la vostra stanza da bagno'. What I really said was 'dove é la vostra camera da letto'. That is 'where is your bedroom'. Basically, he thought that this American woman was propositioning him." Alice and Steven howled with laughter.
"What did you do?" Steven inquired.
"I was about to try to look up 'I only wanted to use your bathroom' when the front door opened. Closing my small translation book, I watched as a tall robust woman walked into the apartment, her angry eyes taking in the restaurant worker's state of dress and then zoning in on me." Court glanced toward her wife who was watching her intently. "Erin she was taller than you. This woman could have easily kissed Shaq on the cheek without standing on tiptoe!" Everyone chuckled at that, including the storyteller.
"So she begins speaking furiously in Italian while he hurries off the bed and puts his clothes back on. Occasionally he offered replies in a soft voice, probably trying to explain why I was in his bedroom and he was practically naked. Meanwhile, I continued standing in the entrance to the bathroom not sure what to do. I wanted to get out of there but I was frozen, afraid to walk past her. He didn't like he could do much harm, but I wasn't sure I could take her. She might have wiped the floor with me.
I was still contemplating what to do when she suddenly lunges in my direction. Luckily, my feet unglued themselves from the floor so that I could fly back into the bathroom and lock the door. It wasn't a very secure lock, so I figured she could break it down if she wanted to. She yelled at me through the door and I figured she was probably calling me every deplorable name she could think of. I couldn't really blame her for being upset because it did look suspicious.
She starts pulling on the doorknob, rattling the entire door as I search around the bathroom--for what I didn't know. And then I had an idea. I would climb out of the window above the toilet. It would be a tight fit since it was a small window, but I was willing to try. It was better than waiting for the incensed Amazon woman to come get me. So opening it, I balanced my feet on the edge of the toilet, however not well enough since my right foot slipped inside. The lower half of my pants leg and the inside of my shoe was drenched!" More raucous laughter. Alice was nearly doubled over in her chair with her arms wrapped around aching ribs.
"By this time it sounded like she was kicking the door. I could hear her boyfriend or her husband's voice--I imagine he was trying to get her to stop, but she wouldn't be deterred. Regaining my balance with a cold wet shoe, I pulled myself into the window. Since I was on the second floor I would have to be careful on the ledge. I was almost out when I heard footsteps and then someone grabbed my foot--the dry one. I let out a small scream as I scuffled to break loose, wiggling my foot back and forth. I think I ended up kicking her because she groaned and released her grasp. So I climbed the rest of the way out, but as I did so I accidentally dropped my translation book. Now I definitely couldn't have communicated with her.
I heard someone say ouch and chanced a look toward the ground where I saw a pret--ah, a young woman rubbing the top of her head as she glanced up quizzically. The small book had struck her on the head on its way down. I apologized and was relieved when she spoke back in perfect English, asking me what I was doing up there. I managed to tell her what happened before the Amazon pushed half of her body through the window--and then she was stuck, but her mouth wasn't. She continued shouting at me while waving an angry fist in the air.
I figured that my luck was starting to change when the woman standing below offered to translate my explanation for me. It turns out that she spoke perfect Italian although I later found out that she was from Arizona. It took about ten minutes to convince the other woman that I wasn't after her man but soon she understood that it was all a mistake. At least on my part anyway. He had still been willing to cheat on her so I don't know if she remained upset with him or not."
Leaning toward her while chuckling, Alice wrapped an arm around her shoulders, gently squeezing. "That was hilarious but you poor thing. I do hope the rest of your trip wasn't as stressful."
Court smiled thinking of young woman who had inadvertently rescued her. Yes, the next four days had been most delightful. However, she was smart enough to leave that part out. "I had an enjoyable trip after that Mrs. Tucker. No further mishaps ensued."
Alice rubbed her shoulder while smiling. "That's good. Speaking of trips," she glanced toward her daughter, "when are you going to take your honeymoon?"
Honeymoon? We're skipping ahead to the honeymoon? Erin thought. When are you going to criticize me for not including you in our wedding? Who was this person who looked exactly like her mother? She had been benevolent ever since they walked in the front door. Erin had been waiting for her to exclaim again that her heart had been broken, but the moment had yet to arrive and there wasn't any indication that it would.
"We actually haven't discussed our honeymoon Mom."
"I need to look for a job first."
"If you just worked for your father that wouldn't be a problem."
Erin stabbed a string bean with more force than she needed to. Noticing her partner's sudden frustration, Court decided to divert her mother-in-law's attention.
"Mrs. Tucker this pot roast is heavenly," the blonde uttered while pointing at the tender meat on her plate. Although she had been in storytelling mode she had managed to eat the majority of it and intended to clean her plate. It really was tasty. "What's your secret?"
Alice basked in the praise. "Dry onion soup and please call me Mom dear. Or if you're not comfortable with that yet, then call me Alice."
"Alright. Let's start with Alice."
Court smiled as Erin tried to keep her mouth from falling on the plate. Call her Mom? She had yet to tell her son-in-law that he could refer to her as Mom and he had been married to Erin's sister for three years now and had been partially responsible for giving Alice a granddaughter to spoil. Erin glanced at her father to gauge his reaction. He looked pleased.
Oh, okay. She understood now. Erin nodded.
She had stepped into the Twilight Zone.
During the drive home Erin was extremely quiet. "Is something the matter baby? Should I not have told your parents that story? I thought they might have gotten a kick out of it."
Glancing toward her, Erin reassured the older woman with a smile that she wasn't upset with her. She wasn't upset at all actually. Just baffled by the evening, which she had no idea would turn out this well. Besides the part where her mother brought up the honeymoon, everything else had gone off without a hitch.
"No, everything is fine Court. I was just thinking." After a pause she asked, "Did you enjoy yourself? I think my parents really like you."
"Yes, I did." The blonde grinned. "That doesn't surprise me."
Erin chuckled. "You are too modest."
"I know. I should really work on that."
Erin was reading a two-month old magazine in the lobby of Goldberg & Allan Loans when her cell phone began to vibrate in her pocket. Closing the magazine she answered it, talking in a low voice so as not to disturb anyone sitting near her. "Hello?"
Erin smiled because of the caller and the endearment, which she had grown to love hearing during the last week of their marriage. "Hey yourself. What are you up to?"
"Um, not much," Court cryptically responded. "Have you had your interview yet?"
"No, I'm still waiting." She glanced at her watch. "It shouldn't be long though."
"I'm positive that they would hire you."
"Really?" Those few words coming from her wife boosted Erin's confidence that this interview would go well. She had been so nervous that she barely slept a wink last night.
"Yes, really. Now come here."
Huh? "Come there?"
"Where?" Court gave her an address. "So you want me to come there after my interview?"
"No, I want you to come right now."
What? "But if I come now I'll miss my interview."
Are you high? "You want me to miss my interview but you're positive that this firm will hire me."
"Actually I said would hire you if you were going to interview with them, which I don't think you should do."
She must have been high. She must have taken more than the recommended dosage of her Percocet. "And why not?"
"Because you don't want to continue being a mortgage exec."
"I don't?" Even as she gave that response, Erin questioned if it was true. Deep down she knew the answer.
"No. You're sitting there because it's what you've been doing for years now. It's time for a change--change is good. I think you're just scared to do that, but Erin there's no reason to be. I'll help you. I'd like to help you right now. Meet me at that address, please." When she was greeted with silence she continued. "Trust me baby. Get up, walk out and come to me," her voice was soft, almost seductive and pulled her wife in like a magnet.
"I'll be there in twenty minutes."
Erin pulled her car to a stop behind Court's RAV4. Though she had been in this area many times before, she had no idea why they were meeting there. Getting out of the car, she walked toward the crimson automobile ahead and peeked in the driver's side window where she spotted Court sleeping on the passenger side. Walking around the front of the car, she lightly tapped on the window, instantly waking the woman.
A smile slipping onto her face, the blonde opened the door and exited. Suppressing a yawn, she noted the time. "Ooh, here with two minutes to spare. Good job speed racer."
"Thanks." Erin tried to smile but she was preoccupied, observing her wife. Court looked weary and her eyes weren't as bright as usual. "Court are you feeling all right?"
Court touched the side of her head. "Small headache. I took Motrin before leaving the apartment. The Percocet makes me feel funny sometimes." She smiled broader yet it seemed strained. "It's better than it was. So you ready?"
"We can do this?whatever it is later." Erin realized that the older woman was her main concern right now. She wanted to get her home and in the bed where she could rest. Despite Court's nonchalant way of treating her headaches, Erin was growing more worried. This was the third migraine she had endured this week.
"No, absolutely not." Court shook her head as she closed the car door. "I'm fine and I'm really excited about what I have to show you. I've been working on this since Monday and if I wait any longer, I'll surely explode." She grinned. "And you don't want bits and pieces of me laying around, do you?"
"Uh, no I'm kinda fond of having you all in one little piece."
Court's mock frown was the only indication she gave that she noticed the use of the word 'little' to describe her. "That's what I thought. So let's go." Slipping a hand into one of Erin's, she pulled the woman toward the glass double doors of a large two-story building. The pair walked into what was a small section of the building. Erin observed their surroundings with interest.
To her right was a curved maple finish reception counter with a flat screen computer and desk chair behind it. To the left was a glass coffee table (with magazines on top) partially surrounded by chairs--this must have been the waiting area. However, Erin didn't know what future occupants of those chairs would be waiting for. She asked but Court refused to tell her as she led her toward a set of swinging wooden doors. Pushing the left side open, Court allowed Erin to walk inside before following. She heard a soft gasp from her wife as she looked around the spacious studio and smiled as a result.
Filled with natural sunlight filtering through the many windows, it wasn't necessary to switch on the overhead lights. A mirror extended the entire length and width of the wall at the front of the studio while a ballet bar traveled the length of the back wall. Immediately to the left of the entrance was a large rack holding vinyl coated dumbbells ranging from five to twelve pounds in a variety of bright colors. Thirty exercise mats; each with their own Reebok Stepper was neatly arranged on a suspended shock absorbent floor.
Too shocked to speak, Erin noticed that her feet were moving as Court eagerly pulled her toward a door on the opposite side of the studio. She soon discovered that it led into a similar studio, except there were no mats, step systems, or dumbbells. Instead twenty Keiser Power Pacer exercise bikes greeted her. Erin knew that she had to say something. She just had to find out where her voice traipsed off to first.
Court excitedly bounced in place while wearing the biggest smile. "Well? Whatcha thinkin'?"
"Ah," Erin slowly shook her head as she wandered over to one of the stationary bicycles, running her palm along its seat. "Wow," she said, the word barely audible.
Court followed her. "Do you like it? I figure you've been teaching and getting me motivated to exercise all week, you should get paid for it. You did mention that you used to be an aerobics instructor during your college days, so why not take it up again with a fitness studio of your very own?"
Erin looked at her in amazement. "You bought me this building?" Her wife nodded. "And you bought everything in it and put it in here?"
"The equipment and furniture, yes." She grinned. "Big buff deliverymen put everything where I wanted it though."
"This is all so sweet of you Court?"
"I hear a but coming."
Erin sighed, her amazed eyes falling on the rows of new bicycles. "But I can't accept it. It's too much. You barely know me. This must have cost you close to a million dollars if not more."
"You're worth that and much much more. Erin please don't turn this down. I've worked so hard to buy and have it furnished within five days. Also I believe that this will be a job that you actually love getting up in the morning to come to. I've figured out that you're addicted to exercise--which it still boggles my mind that anyone could be," Court grinned, "so share with others. Teach them how to do it. I may be your wife yet I'm not biased when I say that you're an excellent instructor. So here." Court tossed her a set of keys. "Those belong to you."
Erin gazed toward the keys and then the ex-lawyer. She was tempted?so very tempted. Her brain was already coming up with possible names for her fitness center. But she couldn't accept this highly expensive gift no matter how much she secretly wanted to. It wouldn't be appropriate. She and Court didn't share a genuine loving marriage--it was going to be over by spring. Therefore, it was only right that Erin hand her the keys back.
"So I'm out of a job before I actually start it? That's a new record for me."
"Toni what are you doing here?" Erin asked, looking at the younger woman standing in the entrance to Studio B. "What job?"
"Well if you were to stop behaving like a stubborn ass I could be your new--okay, your first receptionist. I'm cheap too. Um, I mean my salary is cheap." She winked at her probable boss.
Last Friday my ex-girlfriend referred me to as a dumbass. This Friday one of my closest friends calls me a stubborn ass. It's a very good thing that I'm not overly sensitive! "Toni as much as I would love to help you out I don't think this is the way to go about it."
"I don't understand," Toni started, looking truly confused. "Court is your wife. She has the money and she wants to spend it on you so what's the big deal? If your significant other can't purchase you your very own aerobics studio then who can?"
"Thank you Toni!" Court appeared grateful for her input.
Erin smirked. "Yeah, thanks Toni."
"Are you going to take it? Because if you don't I'm just going to let it sit here. What a waste. All of this equipment will collect a bunch of dust."
"Since you hired Toni, I assume you're my business partner."
Court shook her head. "No, I'm permanently retired from all work. I bought it now you run it. I just thought that having a friend as the receptionist would be a bonus. And in case you're not into teaching spinning classes, I know someone who would jump at the opportunity to instruct those classes as well as a few others. You could pay her per class taught."
"Are you talking about Lindsay?" Though she enjoyed being a UPS worker, a few nights every week Lindsay taught various types of aerobics at a local gym where she was paid $40 for every class. In the past she had mentioned that this was her 'mad money'.
"Yep. She actually assisted me with purchasing the equipment, because I wasn't sure what to buy. This week she and Toni have been a great help to me."
Erin couldn't recall the last time she saw Toni blush. She refused to think about her wife and Sexy Stud spending time together shopping. Lindsay was taken and even if she wasn't, it didn't make any difference.
Looking at the younger blonde in the room, Erin smiled. "Honey could I talk with Court privately for a moment?"
"Sure thing. I'll be checking out the new Dell!" Toni raced from the studio to play with the computer in the reception area.
"Court if I accept this, I don't want the million dollars you were going to give me in six months." The other woman was about to protest. "Even if you hadn't done this for me, I've been having reservations about that money. Court I consider you my friend now and I don't want to charge you for our marriage--even if it isn't a marriage built on love. Regardless, I doubt that I would have taken a million dollars from you."
Court was thoughtfully silent for a good fifteen seconds before she agreeably nodded and extended her hand toward her wife. "Okay, deal."
"Before I shake your hand one more thing."
Court kept her arm raised. "Yes?"
"Whatever income I make you get 50% of."
"That sounds like I would be your partner and I already stated that I was retired."
"You wouldn't have to do anything. Just collect your share."
"Nope. You have to pay Lindsay and Toni. You're not paying me too." Starting to feel silly, she lowered her arm.
Court grinned. "Your ears must be plugged up, 'cause you ain't listen to me. I want 0% of yours, Lindsay's and anyone else who you might hire down the roads proceeds." Because Erin looked so distressed, the blonde sighed. She wanted her to be happy. "5% for the next six months. After that, I'm out."
"That's not very much. Could we go for a year?"
"We could go for six months. It's my final offer baby."
When Erin reluctantly nodded, a pleased Court again offered a hand to be shaken. Gently pushing it aside, the taller woman moved into her space for a tender hug. Surprised yet welcoming the affection, Court returned the hug just before a pair of lips kissed the ridge of her ear and whispered a thank you. She couldn't control a tiny shiver.
"I just thought about something," Erin started while releasing her petite wife. "What's upstairs?" I noticed that this was a two-story building."
Looping an arm through Erin's, she led her in the direction Toni had gone so that they could tell her the good news. She would call Lindsay in a bit. "Oh, that's where the men and women's locker rooms, bathrooms, and office are. I didn't have to purchase the lockers because they were already here. I just had them thoroughly cleaned. The previous owners taught ballet here." Yep, the lockers were cleaned and I added steam rooms large enough to accommodate up to ten people in the locker rooms, but I won't reveal that at this time.
Mostly empty cartons that used to be filled with piping hot Chinese eats, lay open on the coffee table surrounded by a group of stuffed women who were in the midst of discussing the opening of Erin's fitness center on Monday. It had been two weeks since Erin discovered the awesome gift that her wife had purchased for her and she had yet to decide on a name, so that was the current subject.
Taking a small sip from it, Keisha set her glass of white wine on the table. "I have an idea," she said, her brown eyes connecting with every face in the room. "We should each write down a name we like and then toss it in," she searched the coffee table, picking up one of the white boxes that had contained fried wontons, "this. Then Erin you randomly select names until you've pulled them all out. If you find one you like the most, then it's yours. Only after you're done, do we reveal who came up with what name."
Everyone including Erin agreed to this. After she found enough pens and a notepad in her kitchen drawer, she tore off a sheet for each of her friends and her wife. It took them five minutes to finish, fold the small sheets and insert them into the carton. Reaching into it, Erin selected the first suggestion, chuckling as she read the words.
"Ms. T's Fitness." She glanced at her friends. "Is this a play on Mr. T?"
"You can say you pity the fool who can't complete fifty pushups in two minutes," Lindsay offered while grinning.
"And to make it even more effective, you can wear five pounds of jewelry and shave your hair off until you're sporting a Mohawk," Adriana added, rousing a few laughs. "I bet you'd look rather cute."
"Sure babe. I'll run to the beauty salon first thing in the morning to get that done." Erin grabbed another slip of paper. "Ooh, Sweat Factory. I kind of like the sound of that." Placing it on the table, she picked another and burst out laughing. "This is a hip and humorous one. Funk Station."
"Now is that funk as in come to the Funk Station to get down, shake your groove thang or funk as in you shouldn't leave here smelling like a rose unless you partook of the showers?" Vicki amusingly inquired while rapidly twirling a chopstick between her fingers.
"Hmm, good question. I think it might be a little bit of both. Either way I like it. It sounds so cool." Erin laid it next to Sweat Factory and reached into the wonton box again. "Work It Out. That reminds of that song by Beyonce. What a sexy song!"
"Oh, yes." Vicki nodded in agreement. "And what a sexy lady!" That comment earned her a look from her wife. "But nowhere near as sexy as you sweetie."
Smiling, Keisha kissed her. "Nice save."
While they continued to 'make up' with a few more kisses, Erin read the remaining names. Pumped and Shape Up, both of which she liked. However, her favorites were Sweat Factory and Funk Station. Since she had a difficult time deciding, she insisted that they take a vote. The name that obtained the majority of six votes would be the winner.
Vicki voted first. "I choose Funk Station."
Her wife went next. "Well I choose Sweat Factory."
"Funk Station has my vote," Adriana said.
Toni nodded. "Has mine too."
"They're both great, but my vote goes to Sweat Factory," Court answered.
Lindsay swallowed the last bit of a fortune cookie. "Ditto."
So each name had three votes making it a tie. Suggesting that they flip a coin, Toni pulled a quarter from her pocket. If heads came up they would go with Funk Station. If tails, Sweat Factory. Flipping the quarter high into the air, Toni caught and slapped it onto the back of her left hand. "It's heads so Erin the name of your fitness center will be Funk Station."
Leaning toward her, Lindsay managed to check out the quarter before the younger woman palmed it. "Toni, that looks like tails to me." She raised a brow. "Funk Station was yours wasn't it? Tsk tsk. Cheatin' is so very wrong."
Toni attempted to look innocent, yet not one of the other women fell for it. "Oh! Silly me, I thought it was heads. I must need glasses. In that case, Sweat Factory wins."
"So who do I give thanks to for such a great name?" Erin asked, brightly smiling when Keisha raised her arm. "Good going Doc. Thank you very much."
"You're very welcome."
After revealing the creators of the remaining names, the group decided that it was time for dessert. Going to the kitchen for the two pies they brought, Keisha and Vicki began to cut everyone a slice while coffee finished brewing. No longer being able to ignore the dull ache in her head, Court thought it best to retire for the evening. Bidding everyone a goodnight and letting them know that she enjoyed their company as usual, she kissed her wife's cheek before heading out of the living room.
"Vicki could you do me a favor and check Court out? She's been having these migraines that sometimes last hours."
The blonde being spoken of made a u-turn. "No, that isn't necessary. I'm fine. I don't need to be checked out because I already know what my ailment is--migraines. They're really not that bad and I have medication that helps."
"Come to the hospital at 10 a.m. on Monday," Vicki said, ignoring her argument. "We'll see what's going on."
Court hoped that she didn't look like someone who was panicking. "But Erin starts teaching her classes on Monday."
"Are you an aerobics instructor?"
The neurosurgeon flashed her a smile. "Then you don't need to be there."
"And I can be there for your appointment. My last class is over by 9:30." Rising from the couch, Erin walked over to her wife, gently taking of her hands in her own. "Court please go see Vicki. If not for yourself then to ease my worrying. I hate it when you're in pain and I want you to feel better. She could help you."
Those imploring blue eyes kept her from arguing any further. "Okay. I'll go," Court quietly replied. Being pulled against Erin's warm body for a hug and a kiss on the top of her head was worth going to the doctor for. Now I just have to find a way to keep her out of the examination room.
"Yes, she took me in early so there's no reason for you to come over," Court spoke into the cell phone while standing in the small garden belonging to the hospital. "That's right. Just migraines and she gave me a new medication for it. She said it would be more beneficial than the Percocet." Listening to the reply she laughed. "Actually I can't make out what the prescription says. You know doctors and their handwriting! Vicki told me what it was but I've forgotten that quickly. Must be because of my old age." Court leaned against a tree. "Aw, thanks for saying. How about I meet you for brunch? My treat. Great. Hey, before I hang up how did your first classes go?" She smiled, detecting the other woman's enthusiasm. "That's great baby. I told you they'd like you." Court glanced at her watch. "Well, I should get going. I want to get this prescription filled and then we can meet?well where would you like to eat? Okay, that's perfect. See you at say 11:30? Awesome. Bye for now baby."
Ending the call, Court put the phone in her pocket. She felt guilty about lying to Erin, but told herself that it was for the best. Her appointment with Vicki hadn't happened yet. She just didn't want Erin to be there and risk her finding out things that Court rather she weren't privy to.
Within ten minutes she was seated on an examination table covered with thin white paper that crinkled every time she moved. Walking into the room, Vicki greeted her as she pushed a wheeled stool toward the table and sat down.
"So how are you this morning?" She asked, looking up from the short stool.
"Pretty good and yourself Dr. Lange?" Court grinned as the other woman playfully rolled her eyes.
"Good and you don't have to call me that unless you want to."
"I like it."
"Then by all means do what you like." Vicki winked at her. "Okay, so tell me about these migraines. How long have you been having them?"
"Um, if Erin calls you could you tell her that I had my appointment before 10? I talked with her not too long ago and informed her that you took me in early."
The doctor looked puzzled. "And why did you do that?"
"So she wouldn't come here. I don't want her to be here and learn what I'm about to reveal to you."
Vicki studied her quietly for a moment. "We're talking about more than migraines aren't we?"
"Come on lady, we're almost there. You're doing good," Erin stated in an encouraging tone of voice as her feet pounded on the pavement. They were on their way to Tacky Taco after having received an invitation from Vicki last night to meet there. Though they had driven most of the way, Erin parked about two miles from the restaurant so that they could jog the rest of the way. Court had tried to use the excuse that they would get sweaty but Erin would have none of it. It was Thursday, one of two days that she taught a class during the afternoon, so one would think her hour-long 4 o'clock kickboxing class would have worn her out, but the brunette seemingly had an endless supply of energy. Sometime this week it had occurred to Court that her wife was the human equivalent of the Energizer Bunny. She just kept going and going no matter what.
Trying to rhythmically breathe like Erin had taught her to, Court kept up with her, though her legs were longer. "Can we?we walk the rest of the way?"
"No, but we can walk on the journey back to the car. Just a few more blocks. You can do it." She grinned. "Work it out!"
Court smirked. "Oh, sure. You didn't?pick my?name, but you use it?now?"
"Yup. And I might use it again in class."
Court wasn't able to offer a reply as a car pulled close to the curb. The drivers' side window lowering, a familiar face watched them in curiosity. "Did you guys get a flat on your way to Tacky Taco?" Adriana inquired, moving her car at a snail's pace while her friends continued to jog.
"No," Court responded, pointing an accusing finger at the tall woman next to her. "The sadist is?making us?run there."
"See you and your sadist wife in a little bit then." Laughing, Adriana pressed on the gas pedal and sped down the street.
Walking into Tacky Taco, Court and Erin went into the women's bathroom to wash their faces before joining their friends at the usual table. Keisha was the only person absent since Vicki wanted to discuss her surprise turning the big 4-0-birthday party.
"Enjoy your run?" Toni asked them. The first thing out of Adriana's mouth was that she had seen the newlywed couple jogging to the restaurant. "You didn't jog all the way from Nob Hill, did you?"
"No way." Court picked up a frigid glass containing water and crushed ice. "I would have collapsed miles ago if we'd tried that." She swallowed half the glass in one gulp.
"How are your migraines Court?" Vicki questioned. She hadn't seen nor spoken with Court since her appointment on Monday. Part of the reason was that she had no idea what to say to her and she didn't trust herself to say the wrong thing in front of Erin.
The ex-lawyer offered her a smile though she felt the slight tension between them. "They've improved. The Lidocaine you prescribed for me truly does help. Thank you again."
It didn't go unnoticed by Court that the redhead barely returned her smile. "You're welcome. You're not experiencing any symptoms such as nausea, blurred vision or dizziness?"
"No, I'm fine."
"Thank you for taking such good care of my girl," Erin told the doctor as she rubbed the length of her blushing wife's back.
Vicki smiled at her. "I did my best. Now should we order before delving into the main topic?"
"You bet. I for one am starved." Toni had already decided what she wanted. She was going to order the chile verde that she only obtained one bite of from Adriana's plate the last time they were there.
After their waiter headed to the kitchen to put their orders in, the group started to talk about the birthday party, which would take place next Saturday although Keisha's birthday was the following day. Having far in advance purchased tickets to a popular play that Keisha had been interested in going to, Vicki intended to take her wife to see it while everyone who was invited gathered at their house. Until they arrived Tyrell along with his aunt's assistance was the host. His aunt was Keisha's older sister Tamara who would be flying in from New York the day before the party. Both Douglass girls had been leading such busy lives that it would be nearly a year since they last saw one another. Vicki knew that having her sister there and for a whole week would be the best present.
"Look who's here," Adriana started, her eyes settling on someone standing at the bar. Everyone at the table looked toward the bar just in time to make eye contact. Pasting a smile on her face, she grabbed the six-foot tall woman next to her and headed in their direction. Simultaneously, a few of them groaned.
"That Popsicle stick she's pullin' over here must be the new girlfriend," Lindsay commented.
"Now we know for sure that she likes them tall." Vicki winked at her best friend. "But you're no Popsicle stick, doll.
"Well, well, well," Michelle smiled at them insincerely. She had never liked these women because in the four months she and Erin were together, they never accepted her into their clique. Not that she would have wanted to join--she just wanted to be asked. No one gave Michelle Braddock the cold shoulder. No one. "If it isn't the rainbow connection. How are you all this evening?" They murmured 'fines' and 'goods'. "That's nice," Michelle replied, not really caring what their answers were. Looking at the tall woman next to her wearing far too much makeup, she slipped a possessive arm around her waist. "I'd like you all to meet Nell--she's a model. She and I have been an item for almost two weeks now."
The group murmured 'hi Nell's' and Court went so far as to say 'Nice to meet you Nell'. Her eyes narrowing, Michelle zeroed in on her when she spoke up. It was the trollop who had been the catalyst responsible for her relationship with Erin ending. She had married her! Glancing toward their ring fingers, Michelle disappointingly noticed that they were still wearing those terribly cheap wedding bands. So they had decided to stay married and by the looks of it they were happy. And Erin's clique had obviously accepted the little home wrecker. Was there no justice in this world?
"Courtney isn't it?"
The blonde smiled toward her pleasantly, something no one (not even her own father) did. "Yes, that's right. Congratulations on your new relationship. I wish you well."
"Wish that I could say the same to you, but seeing as how you destroyed my relationship with Erin you'll have to excuse me if I can't be big enough to wish you well."
"I completely understand and I don't blame you for being pissed. I know I would be in your shoes. But you see Michelle," Court placed an arm across her wife's shoulders, her eyes still on the person she was speaking to, "Erin and I love each other so much. Sure we could have handled what happened in Las Vegas better and been more sensitive to your feelings, but everything happens for a reason. We're together and we're in love. You and Nell have found each other and maybe someday soon if you're not already, you two will also be in love. So please try not to bitter about the past." Court beamed. "Look toward the future."
"Thanks for the advice." Michelle sounded more sarcastic than appreciative. This conversation wasn't going as she had planned. She had wanted to stick it to her ex and Nell wasn't doing the trick. She just stood there with that stupid little smile on her face. "Erin, I'm so sorry about you losing your job." More apparent sarcasm. "You were one of the best employees at Daddy's firm. Too bad."
"Actually, I should thank you for having me fired. Court made me realize that I wasn't happy in that line of work anymore. It was time for a change, so now I have a job that I love going to every day. I didn't think that was possible."
Michelle visibly bristled at her good fortune. "Oh? What do you do now?"
"I own and instruct at an aerobics fitness center called Sweat Factory. Lindsay and Toni work there too." She smiled. "It's wonderful."
"I've heard of the Sweat Factory!" Nell startled everyone by speaking and in such an exuberant voice. "A few of my friends go there. They like this class called Boot Camp. I've been meaning to check it out. I need to get in better shape." She missed the irritated look that Michelle gave her. She preferred her to be quiet instead of making friendly with them.
You need to get some meat on your bones, Lindsay thought. Nell had a pretty face despite the abundance of makeup but resembling a Popsicle stick was not at all attractive. "You should come by sometime," she offered. "You can drop in on one of the Boot Camp classes for $10. Erin and I both teach 'em so there are three classes to choose from durin' the week."
"Eventually we plan on having more though," Erin supplied. "Down the road we'd like to hire other aerobic instructors to teach classes so there will be more options."
Nell smiled at them both. "Thank you! Either of you have a business card so I can call?" Erin pulled one of her brand new Sweat Factory business cards from her wallet and handed it to the model.
"Well we have to go," Michelle stated, having had enough of her girlfriend's bonding with the clique. After everyone almost enthusiastically bid them goodbye, the pair moved back toward the bar.
"I could totally work Nell over," Lindsay said as she watched the skinny woman being led away.
"Lin!" A disapproving Adriana shook her head. "How could you say something like that? Remember that girlfriend you have who none of us ever see."
"Chill and get that mind of yours outta the gutter. I didn't mean it like that. I'd like to whip her into shape. She could stand to gain a good twenty pounds at least." Pause. "And ya'll do see Nancy. She was at the club last week."
"I wasn't at the club," Vicki responded.
Adriana turned to her. "You didn't miss much. Lin pointed to her from across a dark crowded room. Not one of us has truly met Nancy." She looked at the Texan suspiciously. "In fact, I'm starting to doubt whether she really does exist or not."
Lindsay rolled her eyes. "Why would I lie about havin' a girlfriend? That's crazy."
"Maybe you're crazy."
"And maybe you're jealous." Lindsay stuck her tongue out at Adriana.
"Jealous of what? I'd like to think that I could get an imaginary girlfriend. Anyone could do that!" The rest of the observing bunch chuckled.
"She isn't imaginary!"
"Then how come you never bring her to dinner with us and she never goes clubbing with us or participate in any other activity we do together?"
"Don't tell me you're ashamed of us." Vicki pretended to look hurt. "If you were to include Nancy, we would be on our best behavior."
"I'm not ashamed. If ya don't mind, I'd like to bring her to the birthday party." Her gaze swept around the table. "Then ya'll can see that I have a bona fide girlfriend."
Smiling, the redhead nodded. "Sure you can bring her. I look forward to meeting Nancy."
"What are you going to do?" Toni inquired with a teasing smile on her face. "Call Rent-A-Girl?"
Lindsay graced her with a smirk. "Nah, I'll just call your mama. She's always willin' to be my escort among?other things."
Toni made a face. "Eew. Thanks a lot Lin. Now I'm gonna have nightmares!"
Peeking in a window to assure that her wife wasn't in the reception area, Court walked inside the building and headed over to the desk where the new receptionist sat reading a Cosmopolitan magazine. The moment Court arrived at the reception counter Toni looked up, smiling at her. Putting the magazine down, she asked how the other woman was doing on this fine Friday but chilly morning.
"I'm doing great. And yourself?"
"Same here. Are you looking for your other half?" Toni glanced at the small clock on her table. "She's still in her hi/lo impact class, but she'll be out in thirty minutes or so."
Pulling an envelope from her pocket, the blonde leaned against the counter. "I was counting on that actually. I came to see you."
The younger woman appeared fascinated by this revelation. "Oh, really? What can I do for you?" Before Court could answer, Toni's phone began to ring. Asking her friend to hang on a second, she attached her headphones and pressed a button. "Good morning, Sweat Factory aerobics center. This is Toni speaking. May I help you?" Turning toward her computer, she tapped on a few keys. "Yes, we have two spinning classes; one on Tuesdays and the other on Saturdays. Yes, both are in the morning." Ending the call a couple of minutes later, Toni gave the waiting woman her full attention.
"Today is our one month anniversary as a married couple and I wanted to surprise Erin with a romantic evening. However, she'll more than likely come home even before noontime, so I was wondering if you're not busy if you could keep her busy?distracted until around six this evening."
Toni grinned, liking this plan. Sure, she could do that! There were all kinds of things she and Erin could do today. "Absolutely Court. I would love to help out. I'll keep her away from the apartment until six and I won't breathe a word about this evening. What a great idea Court."
"Thank you. And this is for you." She handed the envelope to Toni and watched as she opened it, reading the gift certificate worth $200 that could be spent at a music store.
"Aw, Court you don't have to--"
"I want to." The older woman knowingly grinned. "Plus, I'm hoping that will keep you from downloading songs off the Internet." Court wiggled a finger at the receptionist who attempted to look surprised. "And don't even try to tell me you haven't been doing that. I'd hate to have to come visit you in prison for such a trivial thing."
"Not like I'm selling the CD's I burn. They're strictly for personal use."
"Still you shouldn't be downloading for free."
Court smirked. "I must be on my way. Thank you again for helping me and if you have any problems with Erin you have my cell phone number right?"
"Yes, I do and thank you for the gift certificate. I will put it to good use." Leaning back in her chair, Toni allowed a self-assured smile to show. "And don't you worry about Erin. I don't foresee any problems."
"Wait, wait, wait! Where are you going?" She asked while following the taller woman headed toward the exit of Sweat Factory. With a few minutes before noon they had six more hours to kill.
Erin turned around to face her after carefully hiding an exasperated expression. "I'm going home. As you asked, I taught you some yoga poses, we sat in the steam room for a bit and though my intention was to take a long hot bath when I got home at your insistence we showered in the locker room. So, now I'm headed home where my wife is undoubtedly waiting for me. I've had a satisfying yet challenging week and now I just want to go home and spend the weekend with Court." It was true. Erin realized that she couldn't wait to get home. Since she didn't have any classes during the weekend she looked forward to spending the next two days with her new wife. Though Court hadn't given her any indication that she wished their marriage to be genuine, Erin couldn't deny the feelings that had started to arise. With each day that passed, she enjoyed referring to Court as her wife more and more.
Toni considered that she had to come up with an excuse as to why Erin should spend the day with her--and fast. Not completely understanding where she was going with it, she abruptly began to cry. However, since she wasn't that good of an actress there were no tears, but her performance would have to do. As expected, Erin hurried over to her asking what was wrong as she pulled the smaller woman into her arms.
What was wrong? Think Toni, think.
"My dog died," she finally answered, sniffling.
"What dog? I didn't know you had a dog."
"I did four years ago, not long before we met. His name was Homer and today is the anniversary of his death. It didn't hit me this hard last year but for some reason I've been thinking about Homer all morning and I just feel so sad." Toni wiped at her dry cheeks. "He was struck by a speeding car while trying to retrieve his tennis ball. I saw the whole thing?it was horrible. I'll never be able to erase that image from my mind." She started to "cry" again and Erin held her tighter.
"Honey I'm so sorry," Erin replied in a soft tone. "Homer is in a better place now though. He has his pick from a million tennis balls in that canine heaven in the sky and I assure you that he is very happy so please don't cry. I never met Homer but I know he wouldn't want you to be upset. He would want you to celebrate his life not mull over his passing."
Toni pasted on a brave smile. "You know what? You're right Erin. I should celebrate his life--the time we did have together. Will you join me?"
"Join you?" Uh oh. I have the feeling that I'm not about to get home anytime soon. Erin mentally chastised herself. Hey, she's my friend and she needs me. I'll get to see Court later this afternoon. It's not the end of the world.
"Yes. Spend the day with me. Let's have some fun in honor of Homer's memory. I could close up Sweat Factory early and we could have ourselves an enjoyable day. Just you and me buddy." Toni beamed up at the other woman whose arms were still loosely wrapped around her. "It'll be great."
The brunette playfully kissed the tip of her nose and smiled. "Yeah, let's go get into a little somethin' somethin'."
Grabbing her keys and purse, Toni led her friend out of the aerobic center, making sure to lock up. "First things first. I have a gift certificate that's burning a hole in my purse. It needs to be spent." Having decided to take Toni's car, they headed toward the bright purple VW Beetle with tiny pink and white flowers painted along the sides. Toni's artistic brother was talked into doing it weeks after she bought it, despite his reservations about painting a car purple. According to him no car should resemble an eggplant. It was wrong. Just plain wrong. However, since Toni was his little sister he easily caved in.
"Oh, yeah?" Erin climbed into the passenger seat of the small yet comfortable car. "Who gave you that?"
Toni started the engine while trying to come up with a suitable lie. She had one by the time she pulled away from the curb. "My dad. I was supposed to meet him for dinner earlier this week but you know how busy he often gets so he had to cancel of course. I guess he felt guilty so he dropped by my place last night and gave it to me. A two hundred bucks worth gift certificate for music."
Erin whistled appreciatively. "It's a shame he had to cancel on you but what a nice guilt gift!"
The younger woman chuckled. "I'll say!"
It took her a minute to remember where she parked in the crowded lot, but once she did Court purposefully headed in the direction of her RAV4 with the purchases she made at the mall in hand. Just as she placed them in the back and closed the rear of the car, she was about to get in when her cell phone rang. Answering it, she was immediately greeted with the pleasurable sound of Erin's voice.
"Hello Mrs. Calloway. What's going on?" Leaning against her car, she listened as Erin explained that she would be spending a few hours with Toni before coming home. She didn't want her to worry about where she could be that's why she called. Court smiled into the phone. "Thank you for calling me and I hope you two have fun. Don't try to rush home--I have errands to run anyway. Enjoy yourself. Okay?bye baby." She pressed the end button just as her wife's ex-girlfriend approached seemingly out of nowhere.
Court's smile wobbled for a moment before she forced it to stay in place. "Good afternoon Michelle. Funny meeting you here." She lightly chuckled but the other woman didn't. "On your way to do some shopping?" She noticed that Michelle wasn't carrying any bags.
"I was and then I saw you standing here, so I thought I'd drop by for a second. How is your marriage going?" She tried to sound courteous but Court saw right through it. Michelle had an agenda.
"It's fine." You just saw us last night at Tacky Taco. What could have changed in less than twenty-four hours? "I take it that you and Nell are doing fine too?"
Michelle nodded. "Sure. Hey," a thoughtful look appeared on her face, "more specifically, how are you doing?"
Court looked back quizzically. "I'm?good. I'm good."
"Really?" Michelle's head cocked to the side. "Because that private detective I hired a couple of weeks ago said differently. He recently gave me the results and well?" The heiress pretended to look sympathetic as she tapped at her temple with a finger. "I know about your condition. It's terrible that your mother had the same one. Is Erin aware of it? Have you told her? She seemed so happy last night with you, but I wondered if she knew." She took a quick step back as Court moved toward. Michelle was thrown off balance when the blonde smiled at her, almost like she pitied her. She hadn't expected that reaction.
"Relax. I have no intention of laying even one finger on you," Court stated in a voice one might use when talking to a small frightened child or animal. "Michelle if this is your way of hinting that you're going to tell Erin about my condition as you put it, then go ahead. I won't and even if I was inclined to, I probably couldn't stop you. If causing others pain floats your boat then have at it. And um I know how much you love my advice," Court faintly smiled, "so here is a bit more. When you're at home alone one of these days I want you to take a good look at yourself in a mirror and ask yourself why you do the things that you do and why it brings you such joy to see other people unhappy. Maybe it'll occur to you that although you're pretty on the outside, inside you need to make some drastic changes because Michelle you have one of the ugliest souls that I've ever encountered. Your condition is much worse than mine." Fishing her keys from her pocket Court added, "Now I have to go. Truly, take care of yourself Michelle."
The other woman said nothing as Court turned and headed back to her car. Without another word, she started the RAV4 and pulled out of the parking space and out of the lot. Michelle quietly stood there until a car honked for her to move so that it could occupy the now empty space.
Ten minutes to six, Erin was driving home after Toni dropped her off at Sweat Factory so that she could pick up her car. All in all they shared a pleasurable day together, regardless of Toni suggesting that they get manicures and pedicures at a nail shop across the street from the movie theater where they had just watched Under the Tuscan Sun, a film Erin had enjoyed more than she thought she might. However, she wasn't keen on the idea of getting a pedicure (the manicure wasn't so dreadful). It wasn't that she was ashamed of her feet; she just didn't relish the idea of a stranger messing with them. Though if she were completely honest with herself, the brief foot massage had been nice.
She couldn't wait to get home. Maybe they could get a pizza and order a movie or two on the pay-per-view channels. Erin's lips curved in a bittersweet smile. She was quite aware that today was their one-month anniversary, yet they wouldn't be celebrating because one wouldn't celebrate a marriage they planned on terminating in five more months, right? She had thought about and truly wanted to buy Court a present, but then thought better of it. Contemplating her divorce was depressing so Erin tried to push those thoughts from her mind and focus on something else. She thought about the pizza and how she had discovered during their first week of marriage that both she and Court liked pepperoni and mushrooms.
We like the same pizza toppings so that must mean we were made for each other.
Continued In Part 2