Chris Minters stopped at the mirror, checking her appearance not for the first time. "Oh, dear!" Her fingers caressed the lines gently appearing circling her hazel colored eyes. "When did I begin to look old?" The image in the mirror hid the body in a loosely-fitted house dress but it couldn't hide what she knew too well. After five kids, her figure was no longer that of a young woman. She had put on twenty pounds that just wouldn't come off. A few gray hairs had emerged in the last year and she no longer wore her hair long. "What difference does it make?" Laughing blue eyes immediately came to mind. Memories of many quiet moments spent with her friend quickly surfaced. As Chris stared in the mirror she noticed a smile spreading across her own face. "This is ridiculous," she admonished but a mumbling voice inside her heart protested.
In the past six months subtle changes in her life had begun. She became more concerned about her appearance. Without thought, she found herself making more of an effort. To loose weight. To dress a little more fashionable. Every morning after the kids left for school she walked for an hour. She even noticed what other women were wearing. Well, at least, what one woman was wearing. Thoughts of her blue-eyed friend again came easily and unbidden. "This is ridiculous," she reminded herself. "You're behaving like?" Like a teenager! Chris stopped. These were not thoughts she felt comfortable with.
Chris stared at the image of the short, blond-haired woman in the mirror and sighed. Well, it's all I've got to work with. Straightening out her clothes one more time, she added, Besides I've got too much to do to just stand around here. She checked the clock as she exited the bedroom. Only five minutes had passed since the last time she had looked. Chris took a deep breath and smiled. Pull yourself together. It's just Becky and Chuck coming over for dinner. She paused. No, this is nothing unusual.
Just thinking about her best friend caused Chris to shiver and it had nothing to do with the temperature in her house. Right! Nothing unusual.
Her friend Becky increasingly occupied more and more of her thoughts. Their friendship had been growing over several months but lately, she reluctantly admitted, she was beginning to feel something else. Something more. Any time she tried to understand the feelings panic set in. Avoiding the confusing road those thoughts generally traveled, Chris hurried into the kitchen to check the progress of the dinner she had spent half the day preparing. Picking up the spoon to stir the sauce, she again found herself thinking about her dark-haired friend. I hope Becky likes my spaghetti sauce. I've never fixed this for her before. Suppose she doesn't like it. First concern then anxiety then a surprising realization stopped the spoon in mid-air. In fifteen years of marriage I don't think I ever cared what Don thought about my cooking, even when we were first married. Maybe because Don doesn't care what he eats as long as he is fed on time. And it's plain.
Too many times during the last year Chris recognized she was surviving her marriage rather than living it. Stop! This will get me nowhere. I'm married and that's it!
In the six months since Rebecca Walters had come into her life, Chris found laughter filling her days and thoughts of her friend occupying her nights. She was beginning to enjoy life. More recently she had begun to question her marriage. This tall, dark haired woman had insinuated herself into every area of Chris' life. At first she justified the time they spent together as the generosity of a new friend making her welcome in the community. As Chris met other people and her kids became acclimated to the school and new friends, she rationalized their time together by how well their kids got along. Finally, however, she just had to admit she enjoyed Becky's company. She's the first real friend I have had in years, she told herself. Besides, Becky listens to me and makes me feel important.
She checked her appearance in the hall mirror one more time. "What the hell are you doing?" the familiar male voice called from the living room. Becky took a deep breath, determined not to be irritated with her husband. She had looked forward to this evening all day and that was all that mattered.
"Getting dinner ready," she answered.
"I'm hungry. How much longer?"
"As soon as Becky and Chuck arrive." She ignored the mumbling and snickered as she recalled the first meeting of her blue-eyed friend.
Rebecca Walters refereed the junior high age church basketball games as she did everything in life: assured and consistent. Firm in her rules, she was accustomed to the yelling and complaints of the parents who disagreed with her calls, most of which she ignored. This was her court and her game. Her rules stood. Over time most of the parents understood she was not intimidated or threatened by their outbursts. And if someone got out of line, she threw the offender out of the game, whether parent of child. You crossed the line and you were gone. She was not prepared, therefore, for the short, attractive blonde who grabbed her arm at the end of the game.
"Excuse me," Becky said, trying to pull her arm away. She wanted to get home and shower.
"There is no excuse for you!"
Becky stared at the shorter woman. "I'm sorry but?."
"You are sorry. I have never seen such bad refereeing in all the years my kids have participated in sports. You missed more calls on the other team than you have fingers and toes, but you made sure our team got every one and then some. And I certainly don't like the fact that you benched my son. He didn't push first." Stunned, Becky stared down into hazel eyes and wondered who this stranger was. She tried to interrupt but her efforts were ignored. "He merely put up his hands to keep from being hit again by that tall red-headed kid. And you sent him to the bench."
"Wait just a minute!" Becky spoke in a barely controlled voice.
"Why? Are you going to convince me that your vision gets better when our team has the ball and blurry when the other team does?" Speechless, Becky found a finger poking her in the chest, "Is that red-headed kid your son? Probably is. He plays as bad as you referee. If that's an example of the kind of fairness you set, I'm surprised anyone plays in this league."
Before she had a chance to reply, the smaller woman grabbed her son and left. Becky stood there with her mouth open watching the woman walk away. "Just who the hell are you anyway?"
"That is Chris Minters," Meg Coleman answered. Becky turned to look at the team's coach. "The family moved to this area last month. She's a real spitfire. Her son's not bad but he's not a star. Not motivated. Can't tell mom that. Glad it's you and not me." Meg grinned and walked off with her own family.
Becky glared at the back of the shorter woman, too stunned to speak. Moments later, she found her voice, "Spitfire, huh? More like a spit-up the way things came flying out of her mouth." Becky found her twin sons and headed for home.
"Becky, come on. I'm hungry." Rebecca Walters was back in the present. She grabbed her coat and was ready to leave.
"Yeah, she is a spitfire," she whispered as she walked out to join her husband. "I'm ready," Becky announced as she grabbed her coat.
"Well, we better hurry or they will start without us." Chuck didn't even look back as he grabbed the keys to the car and headed out the door. He just assumed she would follow his lead.
Chris often thought about that first game. Mostly she shook her head and was amazed that she had become friends with the referee. She detested any hint of favoritism or unfairness. When it came to her kids, she was quick to defend them and to right any wrongs. She was appalled by the fouls called that night, especially the one that benched her son. The dark-haired ref had to be blind.
"I'm sorry, Mom," her son began. "I?."
"Danny, you don't have to apologize. You haven't done anything wrong. That idiot ref twice ignored that kid throwing the ball at you. I've never seen anything so blatant." With that she headed towards the woman picking up a gym bag and beginning to leave the court. Danny hung back, knowing his mom would not be dissuaded. He also knew it was wrong to allow bullies to succeed but he feared retribution from the big kid. After all he was just a new kid. The big kid's smirk kept replaying in his mind and Danny feared the worst. A few feet away his mother was shouting at the ref. He couldn't hear his mother's words but he saw the look on the ref's face. "I might as well be dead," he muttered. "That big kid is in two of my classes."
Chris smiled as she put the plates on the table. The Sunday after that first basketball game, Becky had come up to her at church. Chris could see fire behind the blue eyes but she was not going to let the taller woman intimidate her. With teeth clinched, Becky spoke in a controlled voice, "I would like to have fifteen minutes to talk to you tomorrow. I realize you are new to the area but we should discuss last night's game. Tomorrow at ten here." Without waiting for an answer, the taller woman turned, rejoined her family and walked out of the church. Well, Chris thought, she is just as pleasant at church. Can't imagine what she is like when she is having a good time.
Chris found out. At first, Becky was reserved and to the point. "Whatever you think of me I don't care. I am the referee and my rule is law. Do you understand?" Without waiting for a reply she went on, "I may not have seen what, if anything, happened to your son but I certainly saw what he did. There was no excuse for his tripping another player." Chris tried to answer but Becky held up her hand, "No, I'm not finished." Chris took a deep breath and held her temper. "Don't you ever come up to me before, during, or after a game and start yelling. I will listen and I will talk but I will not allow you to yell. Do you understand?"
"Do you understand?"
Chris forced a smile and spoke in pseudo pleasant voice, "Of course I understand. If you like I will be glad to tone down my voice." In the quietest whisper, she said, "You are an asshole."
"What?" Becky asked when she couldn't hear the shorter woman.
Chris' smile was real as she got to repeat her statement in a barely audible voice, "You are an asshole."
"I'm sorry. I didn't hear you." Becky was beginning to be frustrated.
Chris raised her voice to a near shout, "You are a deaf asshole."
Becky flushed and then became angry. Just as fast she laughed when she realized she had walked into that trap. "I may occasionally have trouble hearing. And I may be an asshole but I assure you I am a fair asshole. I don't think we've been introduced. I'm Rebecca A. Walters, the designated referee for the church league games. The A stands for asshole, by the way."
It was Chris' turn to laugh. The tall woman had held her own. "Christine Minters but my friends call me Chris."
"And what should I call you?"
She's got guts, Chris acknowledged. She put her hand out as she answered, "Chris." When Becky shook her hand, Chris felt a charge of electricity shoot through her. She held her breath and then finally relaxed. "Just Chris."
"Well, just Chris, my friends call me Becky, but you can call me Mrs. A." In that one instant, the world faded away as two tentative souls struggled with unfamiliar feelings. Becky held the smaller hand a moment longer than mere politeness would dictate. Reluctantly she allowed the connection to fade and dropped the smaller hand. "I don't have anything to do until after lunch." Becky had started her own business and it was becoming successful enough that she now had other employees. "I'm off this morning but I have to work this afternoon. Would you like to take a walk?"
The morning became the pattern for their early friendship. They walked to a nearby park where they found a bench and sat and talked. Time flew and Chris found herself sharing more and more with the woman who turned out to be an excellent listener. Soon the two women were talking about fairness, families, and food. Even more, they began to share their deepest feelings about many things. Almost every day they had found time just for the two of them.
Funny, Chris thought, we ended up meeting the next day to discuss the game and I've seen her every day since. She is so easy to talk to and we can talk about anything. I don't feel judged. She always makes me feel cared about. I trust her completely.
After checking the sauce, Chris put the pasta on to cook. Time to change clothes, she thought. Walking past the living room she noticed her husband sitting and reading the paper. "Don, Becky and Chuck will be here in twenty minutes," she said calmly, trying to get her husband to change clothes. Seeing no reaction, she tried again, "Don, we need to change clothes."
"Yeah, yeah." Words came out but he did not move or put the paper down.
Why do I keep trying? she thought. He acts like I don't exist. Any time I say something, he either ignores me or criticizes me. He comes into the office only when he feels like it and then yells at me when I have to take the kids to school and can't open the office. Let him sit there in old jeans. I am not going to remind him again. With that Chris walked up the stairs to change, one more time.
Right at seven the doorbell rang. "Chris! Hey, Chris! You gonna get the door?" Don Minters shouted before resuming reading the paper.
Breathe, Chris reminded herself as she hurried down the stairs. Nothing will ruin this evening. Nothing will ruin this evening. Nothing will ruin this evening. As she repeated this mantra, she found herself relaxing. "Becky and Chuck are here," she worked to keep her voice level as she walked past the living room.
"Why the hell didn't you tell me?" Don demanded as he jumped up from his chair. "Why wait to tell me when you knew I needed to get cleaned up?"
Chris rolled her eyes and tried to ignore the comments as she opened the door. As the couple at the door walked in, Chris hugged her taller friend. "Hi, come on in. Don's getting ready and dinner is almost done."
"What's Don getting ready for? It's just us," Chuck stated. He walked into the living room and picked up the newspaper Don had been reading.
"I'm going to help Chris," Becky said as she followed her younger friend.
"At least the chair is warm," Chris whispered. "Don's been sitting there until you rang the door bell. He was angry that I hadn't reminded him to get dressed before you got here."
"And you probably told him several times, right? And he never heard you," Becky accurately added. "Come on, let's get dinner ready." As she slipped her arm around Chris, Becky smiled. Chris felt lighter than she had all day. She felt whole.
"Becky, I don't know how I got through the day before I met you. Thank you."
Becky smiled, squeezed her friend's hand and walked into the kitchen. "Sounds like you had a rough day." She smiled at her friend's rolled eyes. "Never mind, we can talk later. Something smells wonderful. I wish I could cook like you. Let's get these boys fed." Walking over to the sauce, lifting the lid, Becky took a deep breath. "Ummmm. This is heavenly." Chris grinned. She was happy.
"I told him twenty minutes ago that you folks were arriving soon. He ignored me, like he usually does. I'm not his mother. I already have five kids. And I can't remember the last time I was more than his maid, cook, and personal servant." She stirred the pasta and tested it. "Here. Why don't you put these on the table?" She handed the plates and silverware to her blue eyed friend. "I took your advice and talked to one of the elders at church." She tried to hide the anger.
"What happened? Or do I need to guess?" Becky grabbed glasses and set them on the table. She then walked over and stood close to Chris. One hand rested on her friend's arm.
"He told me to be more understanding. Don works hard." This was said with as much sarcasm as she could. "He needs to relax. He needs support and love. He needs patience."
Becky had expected that answer. She tried to remain neutral but it was hard when it came to Chris. "Chris, he doesn't work. Well, once and awhile. If you didn't come in to the office, nothing would ever be done." Without thought she allowed her hand to softly rub her friend's back, feeling the tension relax. "Come on, let's have dinner. It will be a fun evening anyway." Seeing the change in the younger woman's eyes, she asked, "What are you going to do?"
"I don't know." Chris strained the pasta and dumped the hot spaghetti into a bowl. "I don't know. I'm just glad I have you." The two friends finished setting the table then called their husbands in to join them.
Conversation proceeded as it had on so many nights. Chris found her responses automatic?except when Becky talked to her. Rebecca Walters was a lifeline, a hold on the outside world. The one stable anchor in her stormy, loveless world. She stared at the clear blue eyes and immediately felt the warmth and acceptance. It had been so long since she'd had a close friend. That thought brought a smile back to her face.
Sitting across the table Becky looked up and noticed the smile spreading across her young friend's face. Becky couldn't control her own response. She felt a warm flush creeping up her neck as a smile widened across her own face. Wonder what she is thinking?
"Hey," Chuck said, "I just got a new cassette. It's Olivia Newton-John. I forgot I brought it with me. Want to listen?"
"Sure," Don answered without much enthusiasm. Don rarely showed interest in anything involving anyone else, preferring to spend time by himself. He long ago learned that, by agreeing with another person, he could avoid conflict. And that was his major goal in life. That, and keeping anyone from finding out how he spent his time instead of working.
Music softly filled the room as the Australian singer crooned. For the first time Becky listened to the words of the recent hit, not with her ears, but with her heart.
"I love you. I honestly love you."
Becky's world shifted. She tried to slow her breathing and remain calm but the music seemed to come from a place inside her that had remained dormant waiting for this moment. If she looked up, she would explode with all that she was feeling. If she didn't, she would die. She couldn't help herself. Slowly her eyes lifted. Fearing her feelings would be easily seen by everyone, Becky carefully looked over at her friend while trying to keep her hand from shaking, her face a blank. Her feelings for Chris ran deeper than friendship. When did that happen?
Always cautious and living by rules, Becky had been aware her feelings for the shorter woman were growing. She found herself making excuses to hug Chris, to hold her hand, to touch her. At the same time, deeply ingrained rules kept her from acknowledging the obvious. Tonight, her heart took possession. Chris, I do love you. She could feel the tears that struggled for freedom. I honestly love you!
"There you are with your love and here I am with mine."
Oh, God, Chris? Can you possibly feel the same way I do? I know you don't love Don but could you feel anything more for me?
"?. we'd been born in a different place and time," the words filled Becky with such intense longing she was not sure she could sit still. "We'd be ending with a kiss." Becky noticed her friend's soft lips. She watched mesmerized as Chris licked her upper lip. As she looked up she saw the love reflected in the hazel eyes across from her. Her heart raced as she recognized the truth her heart had carefully protected. Her world tilted and she knew there was no way for her to go back.
"I love you. I honestly love you."
Becky found breathing difficult. Chris, how did I not know? As the song finished she continued to stare at her friend and wondered, What do we do now?
Briefly the two hesitant souls soared, reached out, and touched. The moment ended as Don spoke, "Yeah. It's okay. Why'd you get it?"
"It was on sale in the store," Chuck answered. "I kind of like her."
Becky was the first to look away, staring down at her plate while she tried to hide the tears. It was not food that she hungered for. She had never known such overwhelming longing.
Swallowing was difficult as Chris watched the expression on her friend's face fade. For those brief moments when Becky's emotions lay bare, Chris had seen the love filling her friend's face. And something more. What are you thinking? she wondered. Have I made you uncomfortable? Are you feeling what I do? "Let me clean up the table and then we can play cards," Chris jumped up struggling with the feelings running amok inside her.
For too many years she had allowed herself to believe she didn't deserve more than what she had in her relationship with her husband. Meeting Becky had gradually changed her life. Becky's friendship had been a gift. It started out as a small ember in her heart and was struggling to become a consuming blaze. Whatever has happened tonight, Becky, I don't want to lose you. Chris acknowledged something had changed tonight and she felt helpless. What are you feeling? I'm scared, Becky. Please, don't go away.
"I'll help," Becky's voice was soft, hesitant.
The two women quickly cleared the table and moved to the sink to wash dishes. An unusual awkwardness settled over the two friends. Each was aware they were entering into fragile, alien terrain and neither knew what, if anything, they could do about their forbidden feelings. This was uncharted and frightening territory. Underneath each woman struggled with the horrendous admonitions of the church and the timeless exhortations of their families. Yet one thought bound the two: I don't want to lose her!
"I can wash the dishes if you want to go sit down," Chris tried to sound nonchalant.
"I don't mind," Becky said. "I enjoy this time." She looked down at Chris and smiled. God, I love you, Chris Minter. Becky stepped back from the sink frightened by the intensity of her feelings. She was about to pull the smaller woman into her arms and capture the too familiar lips. "Maybe I will just sit and wait for you to finish." That would have been great, Becky. Chase her away. She took a deep breath but it didn't still the desire at war inside.
To an outsider the remainder of the evening would seem to be routine. Four people played cards. For two players, however, their hearts' pleading drummed out any conversation.
Becky sat on the couch, her life and emotions in turmoil. This is wrong. She is my friend. This is just about caring for my friend. She stood up and paced. I've never felt this way before. Logic gave way to feelings and she was at an impasse. What am I going to do? I've had crushes on girls in high school but that was nothing. Yeah, but you didn't feel that way about Chuck. That's Chuck! You've never felt that way about guys. But I married one! Yeah, Chuck! She stared up at the ceiling. Chuck had gone upstairs to sleep hours ago and she was left with her roiling emotions. She sat back down and allowed her heart to speak. As she listened, she was aware that the only thing she was sure of was her love for Chris. With every fiber of her being, she loved the funny, short green-eyed blonde. That was the only certainty. "I do love you, my friend."
The questions those feelings raised only added to the confusion. Does Chris feel the same way? She must! But what can we do? How would we support ourselves if we left our husbands? What would our friends say? What about our kids? They could be kicked out of the church. God, we could lose custody of the kids. I couldn't allow that to happen to Chris. What about my kids? Chuck doesn't want to be a father. What about the rest of the family? Our families would never understand, at least mine won't. The kids?they will be ostracized and made fun of. This is wrong! I can't do this. I can't hurt all these people. Then one thought brought a chill to her heart: losing Chris. I can't, I won't lose her. She was back where she started.
Another hour passed and she was not any closer to an answer. By sunrise, Becky had at least answered one question for herself. She was divorcing Chuck. No matter what else happened, she could no longer stay married to him. It's not a new idea. I've been thinking about it for the last two years. We really don't have anything in common. I know now I should have never gotten married. Why did I marry him? I was never in love with him but he got along with my parents. "Why isn't this easier? Chris, what are we to do?"
Failing to find easy answer, she formulated the only plan she could, "First steps first." Her heart belonged to Chris. That was not in question. She didn't love Chuck and never had. Now that she recognized what love felt like she could not stay in a loveless marriage. She deserved more.
The decision made, she turned to practical matters. She ran the business and had been long before Chuck had shown any interest in it. She wasn't going to give it up. She could support herself and her kids. Besides Chuck was scheduled for rotation to another base in the next eighteen months. I just need to find out what Becky is going to do.
The sandy-haired woman sat drinking a Diet Coke and sorting through her laundry. A small nagging voice inside her hoped that, by organizing her life, she could organize her feelings. It was late when Becky and Chuck left but she had been restless. Don went up to bed and Chris gathered up dirty clothes, towels, even the dog's bed cover and started sorting. The hole inside her widened. Only by keeping busy could she avoid the feelings. Only by keeping busy could she stay intact. Only by keeping busy could she lie. By the time she had put away the alarming thoughts, she had one load of clothes in the dryer, a second in the washer and two more waiting.
"What the hell are you doing?" Don asked.
Not now, she thought. Go away. Go back to sleep. "I thought I would get the laundry started. I thought you were asleep."
"Chris, it's nearly midnight. Why does it have to be done tonight?"
"You're going to want clean socks tomorrow, Don," she struggled to keep the anger out of her voice. "And the kids are going to need clean shirts."
"God! I can't believe you're doing this now. If you're going to stay up then fix me some coffee. I'm going to take a quick shower. I might as well get ready for work tomorrow."
He left without waiting for an answer. Chris watched her husband walk away and wondered how many times he had asked her to do something and walked away without an answer. No, how many times has he told me to do something! "When did we stop talking?" she wondered aloud. And when did these feelings for Becky begin? She replayed those moments earlier in the evening when she looked up and saw the love, and the questions, in the familiar blue eyes. What am I going to do? I don't want to lose her. I can't. She carefully stacked the clothes and replayed the evening. The ache in her heart would not be silent.
Once Becky made up her mind, she had only one choice: to follow her heart. It took her a couple of days to pull her thoughts together enough but she was determined to not postpone it. On Monday, Chuck was up by five-thirty and by six they were discussing the divorce. Chuck was not surprised. Emotionally he had left the marriage when their first child had been born. The twins had widened the rift. For him, it meant his next military transfer would be easier. "I'm probably up for transfer soon," Chuck began. "We might as well do it now."
"Where are the kids and I going to live?" Becky asked.
"There are probably lots of places around here. You can start looking tomorrow. Besides you've got a business that can support you so you can live anywhere. I want to get the car washed this afternoon. I'll probably be home a little late. Talk to you later." Becky shook her head. She watched as he walked out the door and got in the car. "I've asked for divorce after fifteen years and he acts as if I said we are having pancakes for dinner. Why have I waited this long?"
The first step taken, Rebecca Walters felt relief. Although the future was a big unknown, she had started on the journey. In spite of the excitement accompanying her decision she was still filled with unease. She had not had a chance to talk to Chris, her best friend. She needed to know if Chris would be willing to begin this journey with her. "No matter. I cannot go back."
At church they had found a few moments to chat but neither dared to raise the one question that had preoccupied their every thought. Becky knew she needed to find a time to be alone with Chris. Having dropped her kids off at school, she gathered her courage, and her heart, and drove to Christine Minters' house.
"Hi," Chris greeted her friend, a more reserved greeting than usual. She had both anticipated and feared this moment. She stared into troubled blue eyes and saw the questioning and the love.
"Can I come in?" The hesitancy was awkward. The two women stared briefly at each other, unsure how to breach the strain.
What am I going to do? Oh, Becky, I don't want to lose you. She opened the door wider to allow the taller woman in.
Seeing her friend nod, Becky followed the sandy haired woman into the kitchen. Chris poured them both cups of coffee as they sat at the table. Blue eyes looked into green, speaking more than words. Becky swallowed hard. Allowing her heart to lead, Becky reached for her friend's hand. She held her breath as electricity sped through her. The dark-haired woman stared down at the entwined hands. It felt natural. She let out her breath. It has to be right. "Chuck and I are getting a divorce." The smaller woman sat quietly, fearful of the rest of the conversation. Will you be moving? What will I do if you do leave? How will I survive? Unconsciously she rubbed her thumb over the larger hand. And waited.
"Chris, Friday night?," Becky struggled to explain what she felt, not sure of where there was a safe line to cross. Nothing in her past, or present, prepared her for this moment. She closed her eyes, leaned back in her chair and forced the imminent tears back. Please love me, Becky wished behind closed eyelids.
When she opened her eyes, she found the familiar, loving face of her friend waiting. When she saw green questioning eyes filled with love, her heart soared with hope. She found the right words. "Chris, for some time I've realized that you hold a special place in my life, in my heart. When something wonderful happens during the day, I want to share that with you. I can't wait until I can call you or see you. When my day is falling apart, you are the glue that helps put me back together. You are my harbor, my safety, from storms that have threatened to pull me apart. When we are together it is the only time I feel whole. When we are apart I've recognized I'm half a person. I've never had a friend like you. Friday night," she hesitated, breathed slowly in and out, and continued, "Friday night I realized you are more than my friend. You are the other half of my heart and I can't live another day with half of a heart."
Green eyes shimmered as Chris tried to cope with the emotions broiling within her. A small hand reached up and caressed the check of her friend. "Becky," she whispered. That one word was filled with all the love she had for her special friend. Unable to find the right words, she softly stroked Becky's cheek and reveled in the intense joy that simple gesture provided.
The dark-haired woman leaned into Chris's palm and smiled. She doubted her heart could hold all the emotion. "Chris, I love you," Becky whispered into the soft hand against her face. "I don't know what we're going to do, but I know what I feel for you is not going away."
Tears flowed freely as Chris tried to make sense of the chaos in her own heart. Becky's words forced her to acknowledge her feelings, but reality threatened to drown her. "Oh, my dearest Becky. What can I do? I do love you, but I don't know what to do? I'm not in love with Don, but, at least he brings home a paycheck. Well, sometimes." She tried to smile but it was weak. "I haven't really worked in years and I have five kids." The pain of having to choose tore at her. "I don't want to lose you but how can I support myself and the kids?"
"Becky, I have thirty days after the divorce to move off base. I have to find a place for me and the kids to live. We may end up living in our van. You can work at the shop with me and somehow we will survive together. I don't know how but I know we will. I can't believe God would bring you into my life and not give us the ability to be together."
Chris wanted to believe her friend's words, but Don had always told her she was worthless. How could this strong, wonderful woman not see her limitations? How could Becky want to be with someone with so little to offer? "Becky, I can't. I'm not strong like you. I don't know if I can take care of the kids. How will I pay the bills? How will?what will everyone say?"
Becky pulled her chair closer. Chris stared down at her own hands restlessly playing with the end of her shirt. Becky lifted the blonde's chin until their eyes met. "Becky, you are the most amazing person I've ever met. I've seen you do all kinds of things. Look at how you took me on the first time we met." She paused and pulled her friend into her arms. They had hugged many times, but this time felt different. It felt as if they belonged together. Becky sighed and stroked the blonde hair. She felt at home with herself for the first time in her life. "I came over to tell you how I felt. And to tell my best friend about what was going on in my life. You don't have to decide anything today. I've waited a long time to feel what I do. I had convinced myself it would never happen and it has. I'm willing to wait as long as it takes for you."
"Suppose, I can never make that decision. What then?"
"I don't believe that. I can't. Just give yourself time. Give us time." Becky pleaded as she reluctantly let go of her friend. She felt the loss as keenly as if a part of her soul had been physically cut off. She stood and walked to the door, "I've got to go. I need to get ready to see an attorney. I love you, my friend."
A smile finally covered the smaller woman's face. "And I?I do love you." Even as she spoke these words as true as any she had ever uttered, Chris found her heart was heavy. Her feelings for her friend warred with all the weight of social sanctions and religious teachings her family and church had delivered. The future seemed impossible.
The two women continued to meet, each aware of the other's feelings but unable to move forward and unwilling to move back. Some days they simply sat quietly in a park and watched the people around them. "If you could do anything you wanted," Chris asked, "what would it be?"
Becky smiled and answered quickly, "Spend every minute with you."
Chris blushed. Becky's teasing initially had been uncomfortable but now it was part of their everyday routine. Chris felt wanted. She slowed her breathing and replied, "How do you put up with me? I've got to be making your life miserable."
"Yes, but I know yours is not any better."
"Oh, so that makes it okay. For us both to be miserable?" Chris shook her head and smiled. "You are too much."
"Not yet. But I would like a chance." The smirk on Becky's face turned a deep red. Her comments had become increasingly flirtatious.
"I've never known you to want a 'chance.' You generally make your own chances. I've never known anyone as conceited as you."
"Conceited? Me?" The bantering was familiar. Becky reached over and messed her friend's hair. "You, my friend, are a little bull dog."
Surprise covered the blonde's face. "How can you say something like that about me? I am the nicest person you have ever met."
"Mmmmm, that is true," Becky leaned forward and winked.
Chris' heart was full. But she knew that sooner or later she would have to choose. It made the happiness bittersweet.
Rebecca Walters had never been patient in her life but when it came to a certain blonde, she had developed an immeasurable ability to wait. Two months after Becky's divorce was final, she and Chris met to decorate the Christmas tree in Chris' house. "How long is your apartment lease for?" Chris was tentative. Becky wondered if she had done something wrong.
"It's pretty much day to day. The guy who owns the apartments wants to renovate them and it's just a matter of when he gets started. This was supposed to be the spare he would use for people to live in while he does all the construction? Why? You know of something better I can afford?"
A mysterious smile slipped across the smaller woman's face and Becky nearly stumbled as she reached for another ornament. My God, she's beautiful, Chris thought.
Becky quickly reached for another ornament to keep her hands busy. The heat flowing through whenever she was around Chris seemed to be growing. She looked at her friend and tried to slow her breathing. Seeing the smile on Chris's face spreading, she briefly wondered what was going on with her friend.
"Maybe," Chris said. A glint of mischief danced in the hazel eyes.
Checking to make sure they were still alone, Becky took her friend's hand and turned the smaller woman so that they were looking into each other's eyes. "Okay, what's up?" Becky kept reminding herself to behave.
"I've asked Don to move out. He wasn't happy and refused." Chris paused long enough to watch the wave of emotions that crossed her dear friend's face. "The kids, however, took things into their own hands and packed his stuff and put it outside earlier today. He wasn't happy but he agreed to move out. I have a problem though." Chris paused, holding in the smile she could barely contain, "I may need to get a roommate to help me afford the house. Know anyone?"
Warmth exploded in the middle of Becky's stomach and quickly raced throughout her body. For the last few weeks she had dreamed of being able to touch and kiss this small woman. The reality was more than she could handle. Does she mean what I think? Oh, God, what if it does? Then what? Becky found herself rubbing her hands up and down the side of her jeans. "I, uh, that is, if you have room for three kids and an adult?. I mean I can sleep on the couch."
"Rebecca Walters, I have never seen you at such a loss for words. You are the most opininated?."
"Opiniated? I am not."
"I can't believe you are saying that. I've been trying to get along with you as much as possible to convince you how I feel and here you are?."
"It worked. I'm convinced."
"And for you to?." Becky stopped. The intent of Chris' words finally caused Becky to stop. "I have?" Chris nodded. "You want me to live with you?" Again Chris nodded. "Really?"
Chris smiled and put her arms around her best friend's neck, "Honestly." As Chris leaned up and kissed the surprised dark-haired woman, she finally felt complete. "Honestly," she whispered as she leaned in for another kiss.
"Surprise," everyone yelled as the kitchen door opened.
"What's going on?" Becky asked as she looked around the kitchen at their children, grandchildren, family and friends.
"We are celebrating your anniversary," Nancy, the oldest daughter-in-law, answered.
"Anniversary? How did you?..?"
"Come on, mom," Chris' oldest answered, "we're not naïve. We kids figured it out a long time ago and we just decided we needed to celebrate your twenty-fifth anniversary in a very public way. That way we can just all talk about it in the open."
"Did you have anything to do with this?" Becky looked down at the woman who had been her friend and lover for most of her adult life.
Green eyes smiled back. "Me? I honestly didn't know anything about it."
"Honest?" Becky put her arm around the smaller woman.
Recalling the evening many years ago, Chris answered, "Honestly."