"Okay. Now you two promised to behave with her. I am hoping you stick to you word," Teela said pointing her gloved right hand at her best friends. "There she is. I mean it, behave." She left them standing by their electric cart with their mouths open to go greet her lover.
Jo and Boney were astonished at their friend's scolding. They had been dying to meet Pax for weeks and now they were forced to be on their best behavior.
"How mad do you think she will get if we happen to not completely behave?"
"I think she will be livid. But you go right ahead honey. I've got your back."
"Sure throw me to the little blonde wolf. No thanks."
"That's what I thought too."
They watched as the tall woman emerged from her truck. Jo noticed the straightness of her posture and the squaring of the shoulders. She couldn't believe it. Teela was bouncing. She was actually bouncing. Who was this woman? She had never seen her friend do that. Jo looked at her wife for confirmation and saw Boney beaming.
"She looks happy to me, Jo."
"We'll see." Unconvinced, she kept watch on the greeting across the way.
"Remember what she said honey. You know how she can get."
"Yeah, yeah." She waved off her wife. "You're too easy."
"Hi," Teela breathed leaning against the open door. Her cheeks flushed automatically whenever she was near this woman.
Tipping her dark sunglasses down on her nose, she winked at the small social worker. "Hi yourself."
"I was hoping you wouldn't back out on me."
"And miss a chance to be with you? Never."
"You do say the sweetest things."
"You bring that out in me."
"Oh my. A girl could get to like this."
"I hope so." She grinned winking again.
They stared at one another while the rest of the world faded away. Pax felt her heart pounding, straining against her chest walls. It had been doing that all day, each time she thought of the little blonde, her heart beat fanatically. She marveled at the way the sight of Teela could make her yearn to whisper such things to her. It boggled her mind how her usual distant, stoic facade easily faded when those green meadows and smile light enough to brighten the heavens turned upon her. She was not prepared to become so mushy for another person. And yet she did, and very quickly.
"Hey, you two gonna stand there gawking all day or are you gonna play golf?" Boney yelled impatiently.
"I guess we are holding them up."
Smiling Teela said, "I guess so. Shall we?"
Shouldering her golf bag, Pax closed the truck door and walked beside Teela towards her friends. She inhaled and sighed deeply knowing what was to come. The faint smile she plastered upon her lips did not give any hint to the internal nervous twisting and warring within. Next to meeting the parents, getting the approval of friends was just as critical. And scary.
It was a short walk back to where Jo and Boney waited, but it was long enough for Teela to plan what she would do to her two best friends should they frighten Pax and cause her to run away screaming in horror. Boney could do that to a person. Teela had seen it happen once. But she swore, one wrong word and there would not be a place in this state where they would be able hide. As she neared, Teela looked directly into Jo and Boney's eyes making sure they saw her warning again.
"Pax, I would like you to meet Johanna Forrester. This is Pax." While Pax shook Jo's hand firmly, Teela turned to Boney with a lascivious grin. "And this is her wife, Augusta Bonniker."
Pax had just extended her hand outward when Boney snapped her eyes to Teela, hissing like an incensed cat, both hands up and rigidly shaped into claws. Pax yanked her hand backward staring at the insane woman.
"Now Teela, you know she hates it when you do that."
Snickering, "Do what?" Knowing that it was only a matter of time before her friends would do something unthinkable, Teela gave Boney a look that told her she was savoring the first strike of the night. Teela turned to Pax. "We call her Boney."
Still uncertain, she kept her eye on the woman with her hands frozen in the air. That name didn't sound much better. "Okkaayyy," she drawled.
"Boney stop that, and meet Pax properly."
The cat which had been poised ready to strike disappeared as quickly as it appeared. Boney smiled brightly at Pax and firmly grasped her hand pumping it three times before letting it drop. "Hi, nice to meet you finally. As soon as you put your clubs on Teela's cart, we'll be all set." She promptly turned walking around to the cart and settled herself in the driver's seat. When she realized no one was moving the quirky woman turned back to them wondering aloud, "Are you guys coming or what?"
Teela looked at Jo shaking her head, "You married her."
Dreamily, Jo batted her eyelashes, "I know. Ain't it grand." The psychologist sashayed her way to the passenger side of the cart and blew her love a kiss.
Stunned, Pax saw Boney catch the kiss and fall back against the seat dazed. Not knowing what to say or how to take her lover's friends who were now sitting with their foreheads together giggling like schools girls sharing a secret, Pax decided when in doubt, ask. "Ahh, Teela..."
"Don't ask." She shook her head and turned towards the cart they would to share.
"Okay." Something told Pax not to pursue her curiosity with Teela at the moment. Instead, she quickly strapped the golf bag onto the cart and joined her lover on the seat.
Pax stood away from the other three practicing her swing. It had been at least eight months since she last played with her friends at Berkley. She was nowhere near a pro, but could manage to stay five or six shots over course par. Teela said they played for the fun of it. When it came to golf, 'for the fun of it' meant a lot of different things to different people. Taking a peek at Boney, she shook her head. The woman seemed a little touched but her wife loved her. That much was obvious by the dreamy glances they kept giving one another.
Jo approached the tee first. Pax smirked at Jo's obvious school pride. University of Michigan shirt, shorts, and bag. On closer inspection, Pax noted the matching golf tee and the ball with the Universities seal upon it. If she was invited to another casual outing with this group, she might have to just wear her Trojans' gear.
Jo took two practice swings before addressing her ball. With deliberate precision, her club head connected with the coveted "ting" as she came through her swing Jo watched it sail straight down the fairway.
"Very, very nice."
"Thank you, I felt the solid hit and knew it would be a good drive."
"So did I twenty years ago, and it has been good every since."
Jo turned to her Boney and smiled knowing she would kiss her lover senseless if it were not for the foursome waiting behind them. "Remind me to give you your reward on the fourth."
"Oh yeah." Boney grinned licking her lips.
"Eeww!" Pax chuckled, thinking this could very well be interesting.
"Jealous?" Boney smirked.
"Never. You're up perv," Teela reminded.
"That's me." She teed her ball, taking a step back for a couple of practice swings as well. Addressing the ball, Boney took extra time to ensure that her footing was firm and comfortable. Boney swung her driver and heard the corresponding "ting". Jo congratulated her wife on the powerful drive. Boney's ball lay in the fairway a few feet shorter than hers.
Sticking her tongue out at her friends who watched her smugly, Teela asked, "Is that how it is going to be tonight guys?"
"It's how it is every time Teela."
"Bite me Boney."
"Don't want to break my teeth on you Tee-la," Boney said her name in the sing-song fashion her friend hated. Teela shot her the most melting glare she could muster only to have Boney chuckled and stand behind her lover.
Shaking her head Jo asked, "Why do I even bother?"
"Because you love me. Isn't that right Jo?"
"Boney leave Teela alone so she can tee off," her wife admonished.
Teela harrumphed at her and teed up her ball. Pax couldn't help herself as she watched the movements of Teela's thigh muscles as they flexed and relaxed. Oh, how she remembered being between those thighs. Sucking on them. She was never so thankful to be wearing the dark sunglasses as her eyes became glued to the movement of Teela's breasts. She remembered kneading the firmness of the flesh beneath her fingertips. Absently, she licked her lips tasting the skin lightly tinged with sweat. Teela arched her back offering her more and more of the succulent tip for her to inhale. The further she drew the breast into her mouth, the fiercer Teela writhed beneath her.
Pax watched as the social worker addressed the ball, instantly noticing how her breasts were squeezed together while gripping the club. She was oblivious to Jo and Boney watching her watch their friend. Instead, Pax tasted the hardened softness as she gently bit into clenched buttocks jutting out. Pax couldn't help the whimper that escaped her lips with her eyes riveted upon those breast pointing to the air when Teela completed her swing.
Leaning close to her wife's ear Jo remarked, "Looks like someone just got a problem started." She heard her wife snicker noticing Pax's mouth was ajar and the tight grip she had on her club.
Teela turned around very pleased with her drive, which landed near Jo's and Boney's. One look in Pax's direction and her face flushed brightly. Teela could feel the slow awakening of her nipples beneath her shirt. The heated glare radiated and permeated her skin from where she stood. Her center clench as if recognizing that Pax was stroking her. Teela desperately tried to control the shudder that her body wanted to signal in response.
"Hey Pax, you up to it?" she snickered. "Ouch!" Boney yelped as her wife elbowed her in the ribs.
Snapping out of her trance the little blonde had placed her in, she cleared her throat and stepped wide around Teela as she went to find a spot to tee her ball. Teela ran her fingers through her hair and returned to stand beside her friends to watch Pax's tee off. With blazing grins upon their faces they looked at the pink face of their best friend.
Pax took her practice swings and trying to shake the image of Teela out of her mind. Jo leaned close to her friend and whispered, "Just think, eight more holes to go." They heard the familiar sound of the solid connection of club and ball. All three groaned as Pax's drive out distanced them by a good ten yards or so.
Boney whistled, "Frustration is everything."
Pax managed to match the trio stroke for stroke. It was difficult to do seeing as Jo, Boney, and Teela kept causing her to erupt in laughter at their antics. The nervousness that gripped her when pulling into the parking lot was a forgotten sensation by the time they had reached the fourth hole.
"Okay Jo, you're up," Teela called to her stepping out of the cart.
Pax looked on as Boney leered at her wife and waited for her to round the cart to the driver side.
Anxiously glancing around, Boney made sure they were well secluded from those playing both in front and behind them.
Jo approached her lover and tenderly caressed her cheek. She fell deeply into loving hazel eyes and mouthed 'I love you' before pressing her lips to Boney's. Teela and Pax gawked as the kiss deepened and their presence was forgotten. Boney expertly placed her thigh between Jo's. She gripped her posterior pulling her savagely to bond with her skin which was not covered by the shorts she wore. Their movements were in sync with one another for several minutes unmindful of anyone or anything around them. Teela soon became uncomfortable with the heated display.
"Christ you guys that deserves a room!" Teela exclaimed. Pax only smirked as her own groin began to come to attention.
When they parted, Jo's chest was heaving violently as she struggled for control. Jo ignored her frustrated friend and continued to place light kisses across her lover's face and chin. When she felt that Boney was thoroughly vexed, she stepped away and teed up her ball.
Boney slumped heavily back into the driver's seat causing the cart to tip her way. Wiping her forehead she gasped, "If that don't heat my butt hotter than a flame three feet high, I don't know what will."
Pax laughed uproariously shaking her head. "Neither do I, Boney. Neither do I."
Teela playfully growled at her date. "Don't you start encouraging her."
"Honey, I don't think Boney needs any encouragement."
Boney nodded in agreement and grabbed her driver out of her bag. "You're the one that needs encouragement Teela." She looked at Pax and said, "Too rigid."
"I am not!" Teela was flabbergasted.
"No she's not Boney," said Pax, disagreeing with the insane woman.
Pax laughed again stepping away just in time to miss the swat to her shoulder from her lover.
"Woohoo! Teela! I always knew it."
Joining them after teeing off, Jo asked "Not what?"
"Frigid," Boney supplied.
"Boney!" Teela warned through gritted teeth.
"Trust me. She's not that either."
"Pax! Are you joining them?"
Pax and Boney locked eyes at each other grinning and simultaneously shouted, "Three-way!" Jo laughed along with her lover and their new friend. Teela lowered her head knowing when she was beaten. Pax and Boney gave each other high fives in victory.
After the four teed off, Teela got behind the wheel of her cart. She spotted Boney's ball and ran the tires directly over it embedding it deeply into the ground.
By the eighth hole, Pax couldn't remember when she had met two people and loved them instantly. She loved their senses of humor and the easy going manner they had with one another and with her. She especially liked the way in which they treated the social worker with respect and love. Aside from their taunting, Pax could tell they cared very deeply for one another.
Pax and Boney's drives landed to the far right of the fairway, so they chose to swap riding partners for their second shot. Playfully fighting over who was going to drive, Boney won after throwing a slight tantrum complete with stomping up and down.
"I want to tell you something Pax," she said after they had left the girls.
"I want you to know that I consider Teela sister." Boney eyed her companion as all humor from the previous moment evaporated. "I take her happiness very seriously and her unhappiness just as unhappily. Get me?"
Pax's initial thought was to tell this woman to butt out. Things were between Teela and her. Then again, in the short time she has know Teela, she felt like a protector too. "Gotcha."
"Teela has been through an awful lot in the past three or so years. She is still smarting..." she trailed off almost slipping. "But her life needs to go on. That's why I was happy when she talked about meeting someone. She sounded so ecstatic and so were Jo and I." She paused briefly. "Generally when a very good thing happens, which seems to be the case with how she feels or acts about you, something bad will happen next." She stopped the cart just shy of their balls by the tree and studied the woman beside her. "Is there something bad about to happen?"
Pax heard the warning very clearly, "Not if I can help it."
Boney narrowed her eyebrows towards the tall dark woman. She studied the woman a little longer. "Good,"she finally said getting out of the cart and grabbing her three iron. She surveyed the metal club, blew on the tip, and then locked eyes with Pax. "I would hate to have to kick your ass otherwise."
Pax acquiesced and grinned. I definitely like this woman. "I would hate for you to have to kick my ass too."
With a single nod of her head Boney replied, "I am glad that we agree." She swung forgetting to keep her head down. The ball flopped only a few yards ahead. "Now look at what you've gone and made me do."
Pax couldn't help but giggle. "Oh, please forgive me. It was purely unintentional." She addressed her ball and quickly sent it sailing back into play near the green.
Spying back over her shoulder to where the other two were standing and talking, she turned back to Pax, "You can make it up to me on the next shot." She climbed back into the cart and drove to where her ball had plopped.
"And how can I do that?"
Pointing down, Boney said, "That's your ball now. That one up there is mine."
Shaking her head, Pax climbed out of the cart and switched her clubs. "The things I won't do to get the girl."
"So said she seems nice enough," Jo prompted.
"I would say so." Teela couldn't help the smile that crept to her face.
"Does she make you happy?"
"I think she does Jo. It's just been so long since I have trusted happiness. I am not so sure anymore."
"What does she feel?"
"Me." She laughed and Jo joined her. "Actually, I don't know that either. I guess I am just taking it as it comes really."
"The one day at a time theory eh?"
"Something like that. But then again, last night after we made love...she sort of asked about exclusivity."
"What do you mean sort of?"
"Well, she basically told me that because we are sleeping together, she didn't want me to feel obligated to see only her." Teela wrinkled her brow. That had bothered her since Pax had said it.
"So said you could sleep around."
"She said it, but I don't think she meant it."
"And you said...?"
"I didn't," she replied quietly.
"Oh," she said, obviously disappointed with her best friend."
"Look, it was at the peak of an emotional time. We had just finished making love and she started saying this. So instead of verbally responding, I gave her my body instead."
"She really didn't verbally say she would be exclusive either you know."
"Do you? Do you really?"
Jo twirled her club thinking before she answered. "Have you told her about Bess?"
"Good heavens no."
"Don't you think you should?"
"Sure I do, Jo, but I am not sure of what I want. Sometimes I want my feeling for Pax to go deeper, and I let them. I tell you it scares the shit right outta me. Then again..." She hedged. "Well I have become accustomed to relying on myself and not having to answer to another person."
"You have come to rely on and believe in the bullshit that you dish out."
"Come on Jo."
"No I am serious Teela. What do you want from her Teela?"
"I'm not sure."
"I think you are. I have seen the way that she looks at you and you her." Holding up her hand to stop her best friend's retort, she continued, "It is more than sex. Which I imagine with a gorgeous creature like that is probably mind blowing.
"It is." She blushed profusely
"But you also have a tendency to sabotage things Teela. Don't do it to this one. If you are serious about wanting to someday move on. Then someday has already arrived."
"Maybe." She glanced across the way contemplating her friend's words.
"Hmmm. Just tell me one thing?"
"Maybe." She finally addressed her ball seeing the other two across the way waiting in their cart.
"Tell me that you didn't put those scars on her face while making it."
Teela smiled widely. "Maybe."
"So what do you say, to a bite to eat?" Pax asked as they pulled their carts behind Jo and Boney's Escalade.
"Sounds wonderful. I'm starved," Teela replied.
"I could go for something. You Boney?" Jo responded. Boney gave her wife the same leer she did on the fourth hole. Jo shivered immediately. Food was not on Boney's mind at the moment. They had taunted and teased one another endlessly since that hole. "I think we are going to pass ladies. Boney doesn't look like she is feeling too well."
"Oh, yeah. I can see her fever from here," Teela teased.
"I think you are right," Pax agreed. "She looks like she needs a doctor."
"Lucky for me I happen to be one," Jo quipped.
"A psychiatrist is exactly what she needs. She just married you so that she wouldn't have to pay you," Teela bantered back.
"Ahh, sweetie, you're wrong. She has always paid her bill promptly in full. And with a smile," Jo snickered.
"You stepped into that one," Pax told her lover.
"Yeah I did didn't I?"
"Well, how about dinner some other time then?" Pax offered.
"I'm free for dinner tonight thanks for asking." They turned to see Tanesha standing behind them glaring at Pax. "Hello Jo, Boney, Teela."
An uneasy feeling crept within the pit of Teela's stomach. She remembered the last time these two came face to face. She wouldn't. "Hello Tanesha. How are you?"
"I have been better." Turning to Jo she said, "I went to your office this afternoon to ask you about today.
Her dark pupils returned to Teela. "But you were gone. I must have just missed you."
"Must have," Pax snarled forcing Tanesha to gaze her way and not undress the little blonde.
"I was hoping we would have gotten the chance to play together." Tanesha continued. Pax bristled at the implication. "Teela, can I speak to you for a moment? Privately."
Wanting to reach across and introduce Tanesha to her bare knuckles, Pax fought valiantly to control her temper and not unleash her anger upon Tanesha here in the parking lot. Violence never resolved any conflict. It was the first principle she learned when she started taking karate lessons, but the alluring taste of exacting revenge upon an enemy was a powerful seductress. No she wouldn't be the same as the person Tanesha showed Teela that night in her dojo. She would stand above that and let Teela see that she does not have to fear her, or the lies about her temper that Celeste implanted.
"Teela, why don't I put your clubs away and return the cart?" she offered. She would be the bigger person in Teela's eyes. After all, she had already won the girl.
Teela feared Pax would cause even more of a scene and was relieved. She reached into the pocket of her golf bag and handed Pax her car keys. "Thank you."
Pax felt slightly better knowing that Jo and Boney would be there to protect Teela. She took the cart and left them for the requested "private" chat. Pax forced herself not to look back and see what was happening only two rows ahead. She would give Teela her privacy. After all, they were not a couple. Officially.
"I have been trying to call you Teela for weeks. I've missed you."
"I told you Tanesha that I didn't want to see you that way anymore."
"I said that I was sorry didn't I?" she pleaded. "You never gave me chance to apologize and make things right."
"There is nothing to make right, Tanesha. You were possessive and ill-tempered. What you did and how you acted scares me. I don't want to be scared. I want to be loved."
"I can do that if you give the another chance."
"I'm sorry Tanesha. Now I will be glad to have you as a friend, but that will be the extent of it."
"That's not what I want," she hissed through clenched teeth.
"It's not just about what you want."
"Is it because of her? That has-been."
"What possessed you to be so vicious that night? Huh?"
"I told you why. She wanted to join and wear her belt. She had to prove..."
"She didn't have to prove anything! Her record and reputation in the sport should speak for itself. You knew that and yet you wanted some sadistic pleasure in taking her on in front of your students. I hope it was worth it to you."
"That is not what I intended."
"It is what came across loud and clear!" Teela yelled.
"I don't have anything more to say to you Tanesha. "
Her rage reached through its cage clawing to the surface. She growled, "I don't think you are being fair to me."
"It is not a matter of being fair. It is a matter of feeling comfortable with the people that I am around."
"Are you saying that you are not comfortable with me?" Tanesha glanced over the blonde's shoulder seeing Pax approaching, She made her voice louder making sure that Pax would hear. "After all the fucking that we've done, you are not comfortable with me?"
Teela cringed at Tanesha's audacity. She didn't want the conversation to continue. It was heading in a direction she did not like. "I think this conversation is over Tanesha. Goodbye." Teela turned her back to go.
That was a mistake.
Tanesha's fury rear broke through the surface. No one ever dismissed her. "WELL I DON'T!"
Her hand shot out to grab Teela by the arm. Pax moved lightening quick without a hint of her usual limp and down blocked Tanesha's hand before she touch Teela.
"Don't touch her," she growled daring her to try something further. Icicles replaced her eyes that never wavered from her opponent's. Pax gently pushed Teela out of Tanesha's reach. "There aren't any students here," she warned standing to her full height. "I will not hold back this time."
Jo and Boney stood next to one another mortified at what was unfolding before them. Tanesha had seemed meek and docile. Never would they have imagined her to be so threatening and abusive. Never again would she be accepted into their home. For now, they just wanted Teela out of the way in case war erupted in front of them.
"Any time. Anywhere," Tanesha grinned evilly accepting the thrown challenged.
"It will be my pleasure. Name it."
"No!" Teela quickly stepped between them. "There will be no more fighting." Her eyes plead with Pax. If Pax fought, she would risk her health, maybe even her life. That she would not have.
"The pavilion in Metropolitan Park, a week from Saturday ten a.m. I'd do it sooner but I have a tournament in Ohio this weekend."
"You got it."
"Pax, I said no," Teela demanded glaring at her.
All Pax heard was where and when. If you want to test my skill, I'll gladly oblige you, bitch, and pound the shit out of you. She tasted the adrenaline seeping already.
"Don't get your hopes up, sport. About me or Teela. No one can beat me and no one can really touch Teela except her precious Bess." Teela gasped at the mention of the name and quickly turned to her silent friends and then back Pax. All she saw was icy blue eyes peering through solid stone. "Yeah, I know about her, but does she?" Tanesha asked Teela, jerking her head towards Pax and smirking. "Obviously not. Heed my advice, sport, she'll leave you for her too. One night you'll wake up after thrusting into that beautiful tight ass and she'll be gone to her Bess." Pax lunged for Tanesha as she started to back away into her fighting stance, guard ready. Teela grabbed her arm and was immediately helped by Boney. They struggled to hold six feet of fury.
Seeing that Boney and Teela had Pax under control, Tanesha relaxed and taunted her further. "But that's alright, Pax, I'll still beat the shit out of ya anyway if ya want."
They held onto Pax for with all their might as Tanesha back peddled until she was a safe enough distance away. Then she turned her back, found her car and drove out of the parking lot. Boney, who was struggling to maintain her hold on Pax finally left go of her and moved to stand beside her wife. The sense of the storm brewing was palatable. Pax's chest was heaving wildly with madness.
Pax growled and rounded on Teela and screamed, "Bess? Who the fuck is Bess!"
"Pax, she was not telling you the truth. She would say anything to get to you," Teela pleaded.
Pax looked to Jo and Boney and found them taking an interest in their shoes. "Who...is...Bess?" She asked evenly, body trembling visibly from the little control that remained.
"She's..." She glanced at Jo and Boney for help that she did not find. "She's my girlfriend." Teela whispered.
The force of those words slapped Pax, imploding her heart and causing her to take a step backward. "Your girlfriend? You have a girlfriend?" Pax weaved. "You're seeing me, Tanesha and you have a girlfriend?"
The tears streamed down her checks. "Pax let me explain. It's not like that. Honestly."
"Honestly? What the hell did you tell me last night? HUH!" she screamed as the tears welled within her own eyes. "'I value honesty Pax'. What kind of bullshit was that?" Her voice caught and the tears fell.
"Pax please. Wait."
She whirled around on the silent duo by the truck. "And you two. You two knew..." she trailed off and sobbed, "about this and said nothing to me. You," she sneered pointing at Boney. "warned me about hurting her. Who was warning her about destroying me?" she sobbed quietly. "Huh?"
"Pax, please. Let me explain."
Straightening to her full height, Pax regained her composure enough to hiss, "Tell it to your girlfriend."
Pax turned on her heels and briskly walked to her truck. It roared to life with a turn of the key. She spewed gravel leaving the lot and the three stunned faces staring through the dust cloud.
Pax drove fast and silently along the highway, not caring which direction the entrance ramp pointed. All she knew was that it would take her far away from that using bitch, Teela. She punched the button for the radio and finding the sounds irritating her, she snapped it off again. How could she? How could she use me that way? She valued honesty my ass! She has been lying to me the whole time. I got my ass kicked because of her. How could she lie to me like that? Why did she?
Pax's rage slowly ebbed leaving anger and then anguish. Tears began to well in her eyes. She blindly drove down the nearly vacant highway. The emptiness began to penetrate within and slowly consume her until it widened into a black void. She sobbed, regretting allowing herself to be so vulnerable and open to feeling...feeling what? The moan escaped her lips realizing she had been falling in love with the little blonde. Now all that was lost. It took so long to find love again, only to have it slip past her in less than five minutes.
She leaned forward in the driver's seat, right hand clutching her left breast trying desperately to cease the renting of her heart. Unable to focus with blurred vision, she pulled over onto the shoulder of the road, yanking the gear into park and pushing on the flashers. She leaned back against the seat gasping to gather air into her collapsing lungs.
So hadn't known how long she had been on the side of the road with the engine running. She only knew that it was quite some time before she was able to breathe freely and easily without the ache threatening to erupt again. She leaned forward resting her head upon the steering wheel forcing herself to stop lamenting and to pull herself together. Each time she tried, her heart would seize and her stomach cramped threatening to empty its contents upon the pavement.
She must have been parked for too long as her back window filled with flashing red and blue lights. Soon the entire inside of her car was framed in the chorus of lights. A single whirl of the siren belted into the oncoming darkness.
Then there was a tap on her window.
With the tracks of her tears were outlined in a fine mist of dust from the spraying gravel, Teela turned to Jo and cried. The pain seared through her soul. She stood there weaving back and forth from the sheer weakness that enveloped her.
Jo rushed to her side and held her tightly. The strength of Teela's arms wrapping around her caused
her to expel the air in her lungs from her crushing grasp. She held her friend as the sobs wracked her small body. The anguish spilled from her like a sieve flowing onto the ground. It was almost too much to bear. Never had she heard these sounds emitted from her friend before. Not even with the infidelity and loss of her Bess.
"Oh Jo. You were right and I've lost her because of it."
"Shhh." She rocked her in her arms. "Give her time, honey. Give her time."
"God Jo what have I done?"
"You withheld the truth honey. Unfortunately it came back to bite you in the ass."
"God I know. I know."
Jo led her to the tail gait of the Escapade and held her tightly as she wept. Just when she thought the tears had eased, Teela gasped and began anew. She didn't know how else to help the little blonde. Now was not the time for I told you so. Not knowing what else to do or say, she held her.
After some time, she felt Teela calm and slowly released her. Thoughtfully, Boney had gotten inside the truck and retrieved the small travel box of Kleenex on the dash. Jo smoothed the frazzled blonde mane with her fingers and looked deeply into the wounded eye of her best friend.
Teela nodded yes but cried aloud "Nooo." The tears flowed again.
"Boney, Honey, can you drive Teela's car to our home and I'll take the Escalade?"
Boney approached her lover and kissed her upon the forehead. She turned and hugged her friend
and kissed her temple as well. "I'll see you at home love."
Boney took the keys and left for their home. Jo assisted Teela into the Escalade and then returned to her side of the car. She climbed into the high seat and reminded Teela to buckle her belt. They too headed for home.
Staring out of the window in a daze, Teela saw only a blur of trees passing by. What slammed into her vision were blue eyes rich in fury and disbelief. She had hurt Pax deeply and didn't know how to fix it. Jo was right, I should have told Pax about Bess from the beginning. Then there was last night. How could I have said those things to her and yet be the epitome of half-truths and lies? What could I say to her now to get her to come back? Ask her to give me another chance? A sob escaped her lips, more tears flowed. Wasn't that what Tanesha had asked of me. Another chance.
"What can I do sweetheart?" Her friend asked.
Teela weakly waved a distant hand. "Nothing. How can I beg her for forgiveness when I wouldn't give it to Tanesha? Why would she want to Jo?"
"If she feels anything for you. And I know that she does, she will forgive you."
"I am not so sure," she whispered drying her face with more tissues.
"Now is the time for you to determine what you want Teela. What exactly is it you want from her or from yourself for that matter? You have been forced to make a decision about Bess."
Frustration came through as Jo barked, "Obviously you don't! She defended you in front of that ass Tanesha and how did you thank her? You hid behind Bess, your girlfriend. How chicken-shit does that sound? What are you so afraid of?"
"I'm sorry," she wailed wrapping her arms around herself.
"Don't tell me. Tell Pax." Then softer, "What is it Teela? Huh?"
Composing herself for a moment, she turned back towards the window. "Love."
"Love? For heavens sake why?"
"Because that means I would have to trust someone with my heart again. And in case you have forgotten, Bess trampled all over it. It's frightening to be that vulnerable again."
"And it's wonderful at the same time. Teela, I should not have to tell how powerful love is. You have known it yourself. And the yang side of that is pain. You cannot have the one without the other, but the strength comes from the both of you can overcome that and keep love at the head of everything."
"What if this whole thing repeats itself?"
"What do you mean?"
"What if I do the same thing with Pax that I did to cause Bess to cheat on me? God I don't think I could handle this again."
"Teela, first of all, you were not the cause of Bess' actions. Bess was."
"No buts. You were not the cause. Secondly, there is no guarantee in anything in this world. That is what work is for. My relationship with Boney does not come easy. You know this."
"What do I do about Bess?"
"What should you do about her? What is it that you believe you need to do?"
Teela thought for a long moment as they turned down the road leading to Jo and Boney's home. "I need to tell her..." She closed her eyes and wept again. "I need to tell her goodbye."
Pulling in the drive and turning off the engine. "We'll always be here for you no matter what."
"Ma'am," the State Trooper said shining his flashlight into Pax's car.
"Yes officer." She flinched away from the blinding glare of the white light.
"Are you alright ma'am?"
Clearing her throat she struggled to answer. "Yeah. I'm fine. I just received some bad news and had to pull over have a good cry," she fabricated quickly.
"I see," He said and watched her carefully for a moment.
"Can you please lower that? I have light colored eyes that are sensitive anyway without adding crying."
He leaned slightly closer, hand still resting on his gun. "Will you be alright ma'am?"
"Yes officer, I will be. I'm much better now. Really." She provided him with a small grin in assurance.
He paused again a little longer before saying. "Don't be here too long ma'am."
"I won't. I was actually ready to leave when you pulled up."
"You have a nice night."
"Thank you. I'll try."
Rolling her window up, her cell phone began its musical ring. She pulled the device from her belt, looked at the caller ID and replaced it in its holster. She didn't want to talk to Teela at the moment. She wondered if she ever would again. I have no reason to speak to someone so deceitful. Pax sighed heavily, seeing the road was clear of traffic she pulled out onto the road. The flashing lights dissipated into the night and she approached the speed limit.
Pax numbly drove for another hour before coming out of her stupor. She looked around at the black landscape and realized she had no idea where she was. She had not been paying attention. Glancing down at the fuel gauge, she had a quarter a tank left. It was enough to get her to something recognizable.
Pax heard the familiar ring from her telephone. She looked at the caller ID. Once again she let Teela go to voicemail. She would erase all six of them later. Turning on the radio the static was telling her that she was no longer in range of her favorite jazz station. When she could not find a replacement, she settled on a top forty station. She needed to fill the void in her mind with something more than the weeping of her raw emotions.
It was fifteen minutes later when she saw the highway sign for food and lodging. She decided that it would be a good place to turn around and grab something to drink. Her throat was parched and her nose was stuffy. It wasn't until she went to brake to steer onto the exit ramp, that she also realized her bladder was almost beyond it's capacity. Pax quickly came upon the truck stop.
Pax pulled up to one of the pump stations and stepped from the truck, her footing wobbly. She looked down not realizing that she still had her golf shoes on. She chuckled thinking of Tanesha with cleat holes in her face from a round house kick with them on.
Pax entered the truck stop and headed straight for the bathroom. The place appeared as if it had not been cleaned all day. Finishing what she needed to do she washed her hands, and then doused her face with cold water. Pax looked in the mirror and saw the red, dry eyes. She put more cold water on her face opening her lids wide hoping to cool the burning. Drying herself off, she left the restroom and went to pay for her gas and get a cup of coffee.
Her cell phone began ringing on her belt. Lazily, she picked it up, and looked at the number. This time she answered it.
"Hello Felicia," she answered dully.
"Hey Pax, I was wondering what you are doing this Saturday?" came her cheery sister-in-law's voice.
"Nothing much why?"
"Pax?" She noticed the absence of luster to her sister's voice. "Why do you sound so funny? Is something wrong?"
"She has a girlfriend."
"Well congratulation honey. Isn't that what you wanted?"
"It's not me Felicia. All this time, she has had another girlfriend."
"Oh Pax. I am so sorry."
"Yeah, me too."
"Oh honey, what can I do for you huh?"
"I feel so empty inside," she choked back her sob not caring who may be watching or listening.
"Come on over."
"I don't know where I am," she replied in a small child's voice. Fatigue and depression were overtaking her and setting quickly in.
"I have just been driving on the highway. I didn't pay attention to what direction I went."
"God Pax. Sis, find out where you are and come here. Okay."
"It's late Felicia."
"No it's not," she admonished her. "You need family right now. Now go find out where you are and I'll hold on so you can tell me."
Looking around for a waitress, Pax waited until the little pixie came her way. "Miss?" Pax stopped the passing waitress. "What city am I in?"
The woman gave Pax a most quizzical look. "Ludington."
"Thank you. I'm in some place called Ludington."
"Good God Pax. You are about two to three hours away. What happened?"
"Are you sure I can come over?" Pax suddenly wanted the comfort of her sister-in-law.
"Are you able to drive? You sound awfully tired to me."
"I am a little."
"As much as I want to see you, I would rather see you in one piece. I want you to get a hotel room for the night. Then in the morning come here."
"Felicia, that's kind of you but I'll be fine. Really."
"I don't think so. Now promise me you will do as I say."
Considering her eyes felt like sandpaper and it seemed as though an elephant was sitting on her chest, she reluctantly gave in. "Okay. I promise."
"Good. When you find a place, call me. Let me know where and the room number so that I won't be worried."
"I promise, Sis." She gave a half smile. It was good to have a sister to talk to. Brothers were nice for playing and having rough fun with, but she was fast liking her sister slightly better. "Miss?" she signaled the waitress again.
"Yeah," the pixie slurred.
"Is there a motel near here?"
She gave Pax that look again before jerking her head. "Across the road."
Pax looked behind her. "Oh yeah. I am a little out of it. Thanks."
Pax walked into the hotel room. She had definitely been in better places to sleep than this one. The proverbial cheap motel came to mind with its paper thin walls and TV chained to the table. She looked around the room and chuckled to herself. Her life has come in a full circle. Only the players were different this trip around. Last time it was Jen who threw her out of the house for the night because of the argument about her going to Japan. Neither realized how silly the spat was until they had talked about it earnestly the next day. Here she was again. Back in a similar dive, only the ache more intense and nauseating.
She made a quick call to Felicia as promised and assured her that she would be there in the morning. Pax grabbed the chair sitting in the far corner and wedged the backrest under the door know. True she was a second degree black belt but why leave the possibility for trouble? Once secure, she flopped upon the creaky bed, and fell fast into a fit full sleep.
The coffee cup twirling between her hands, Pax studied the swirl of liquid inside the nearly full cup. Not her heart, that cup was empty. There was a blandness moving her closer to despair There was nothing left to be ripped out, not even her soul. She wondered what was deeper than the soul. Anything? If so that was where her sorrow resonated. After the restless night she spent in the motel, she did not have the energy to beat back the void. She did not have the strength to win. Today, would be a regurgitation of the night before Pax was sure of it.
"Pax, honey," Felicia brought her out of her reverie. "You've been here an hour and haven't said a thing."
"I'm sorry," she said flatly.
"I am worried about you. What happened between you and Teela?"
She snarled bitterly at the mention of the name she reviled, "Nothing should have happened between
Teela and me in the first place. She has a girlfriend." she sipped her coffee to wash the rancid taste the word left in her mouth.
"She never told you?"
"She did not even tell me. It was Tanesha."
"Tanesha?" Felicia thought searching her memory. "The woman that beat you senseless?"
Pax stood placed her coffee cup into the sink. "Yeah, that's the one." Deciding on something stronger than coffee, Pax reached into the fridge and took one of her brother's beers before returning to the table.
Pax told Felicia the cliff notes' version of what had occurred in her dramatic life since the fight with Tanesha. As Pax weaved her tale, Felicia saw the darkness on her sister-in-laws face evaporate revealing a brightly lit smile. Felicia listened to the acerbic quality of Pax's voice dissolve and take on a lighter, dreamier resonance reliving how Teela tenderly nursed her battered body with gentleness. Her heart leapt for Pax, sighing with such contentment because she slept in Teela's arms, that elusive sense of peace Pax believed she had finally caught and captured. Turned out to it was nothing more than a mirage.
"So there we were in the parking lot when Tanesha showed up. She wanted to talk to Teela alone and I let her. When I returned she tried to grab Teela and I stopped her."
"You two didn't fight again did you? Isn't there some law about people like you fighting in the streets?"
"Outside of Assault and Battery, yes, but no, we didn't fight. Not yet." She took a long pull of her beer.
"What do you mean not yet?"
"She threw down the gauntlet. I accepted."
"You can't be serious? Do you think you're still on the playground or what? Pax you are far too mature to bite into that shit. What do you expect to gain?"
"My honor!" Pax gnashed drilling ice blue chips into her brothers wife. "I let her take that away from me."
"How can fighting get that back?" Felicia appealed to the scowling woman across from her. "How can deliberately hurting another person ever restore honor?"
Pax held firm to her justification for getting back at Tanesha. She lowered her head twisting the half empty bottle between her fingers avoiding the beseeching stare of Felicia. She didn't want to yield to the better judgment and rethink the challenge. Felicia was right. What honor would there be in what I had planned to do to Tanesha?
"And what about your health?" Felicia solicited further. "You told me how seriously wounded you were last time, what the neurologists had said. Do you want to risk further brain injury Pax?" She covered Pax's hand with her own. "Want to risk ending up in coma, or paralyzed, or worse? Do you?"
After thinking for some time, she whispered, "Not really."
"I was hoping you would say that." Felicia softened her voice, "I would miss you."
Pax wiped the tears from her cheek. In such a short time she had grown to trust this woman. She needed a friend and Felicia was more than that to her. She was the voice of reason when she really did not want to listen to anything that did not come from herself.
"Now what about Teela?" Felicia continued.
"Tanesha said that I couldn't really be with Teela because she belongs to Bess. She said that I would...ahhh..." Pax stammered squeezing her eyes shut to close out Tanesha's voice 'One night you'll wake up after thrusting into that beautiful tight ass and she'll be gone to her Bess'. Pax couldn't say it. The tears flooded into her throat preventing her from speaking.
"Teela told you Bess was her girlfriend?" Pax nodded. "Oh honey. That's terrible. What did Teela say?"
"I asked her if it was true, she said not exactly. That's when I blew up and left basically."
"She didn't explain?"
"I didn't want to hear it," she said wiping the wet streaks from her face.
"Pax, you should have..."
Slamming her beer bottle down on the table. "NO I SHOULDN'T!" The sobs escaped freely. "I looked at Jo and Boney and they basically confirmed what she said. Felicia, they did not have the balls to look me in the eye."
Pax jumped to her feet and began pacing back and forth through the room. "We were together the night before. She told me that she valued honesty of all things. Honesty! And she was lying to me the whole time." Pax's words were nearly unintelligible as her voice cracked and broke in anguish. She just wanted to stop the hemorrhaging of her heart. "Felicia, she touched me. Here." She pointed to her chest. "Teela loved more than my body. Felicia. She touched me." She cleaned her face with the back of her hand. "It is hard to explain. When I think about her my nerves vibrate and I'm on fire." The blue eyes began to twinkle. Felicia noticed the change coming over the distraught woman. "When I see her, it's all I can do to keep from screaming out my heart gets so full. She is so beautiful. When she looks at me it feels as though heaven itself is smiling upon me."
She turned to her sister-in-law yearning for an answer, wanting her to take away the chronic pain that had plagued her existence for the past sixteen or more hours. Pax wanted to reverse time and have it deposit her back in Berkley, never to have lain her brilliant blues upon the social worker.
Felicia wrapped her arms tightly around Pax. She placed Pax's head upon her shoulder and gently rocked the despairing soul. Pax was bathed in tears recognizing that she'd had lost and instantly paid for it with betrayal and loss. There were not comforting words or reassuring phrases for a heart as stricken as this.
After some time of being cradled in Felicia's embrace, Pax was able to murmur, "How can so much happiness be taken away in a second? Tell me. How?"
"I don't know baby. I only wish there was something I could do to ease your pain."
"You are." Pax lightly kissed her cheek. "You really are." The music of her cell phone interrupted them. Pax looked at the caller ID. "It's Teela."
"Will you talk to her?" She brushes the strands of loose hair behind Pax's ear.
"No," She said returning it to her belt."
"I have nothing to say to her." She sniffed and swiped the empty beer bottle off the table.
"You don't have anything to say to her. Are you sure?"
"Nothing that doesn't contain some serious swearing and name calling," Pax snorted.
"Don't you think you owe her a chance to explain?"
"She has had weeks to explain to me about her and Bess." Her ire returned as she angrily twisted
the cap from another beer. "She could have told me anytime about her girlfriend and she didn't. She led me to believe that I was the only one. She lied and as far as I'm concerned she can rot in HELL!"
Felicia feared that Pax would snap the bottle neck. Her two knuckles shown white from the grip she held on it. Her chest filled visibly with her rage. She could see Pax desperately struggling to keep control and was losing the battle. She did not believe what her own lips were spouting.
"Don't you think you deserve some answers Pax?" Felicia goaded. "You know that you do and you can't get them if you won't talk to Teela."
"She can send it in a letter to me."
"Don't be facetious."
"I have that right!" came her petulant retort.
Felicia studied Pax for a few moments, she drank heavily from the bottle that thankfully she had not broken. "What now?"
"I don't know. I don't want to think about it." Pax was defiant and she knew it. It just felt good to be so at the moment.
"That won't help and you are going to do it anyway." She had one hand on her hip and pointed at Pax's beer with the other.
"That's true. I just don't know Felicia."
"Do you love her?"
The bottle lowered from her lips and her hands began to shake as tears once again washed her face. "I think I was falling in love with her."
"And that's why it hurts so terribly."
"Yeah. That's why," she conceded. "I think I knew it from the first time we made love Felicia." Cerulean eyes turned upon her sister. "What am I gonna do?"
"Do you still want to be with her?"
There was no question as to what is truly written upon her heart. "Yeah, I do."
"Then fight for her."
Stunned she looked at her sister in law, "Huh? But you said..."
Waving her hands to erase the misunderstanding Felicia explained. "That is not what I meant Pax. I meant, go to her; tell her how you feel. How in love with this Bess can she be if she is dating other people?"
"That's true." Pax tilted her head realizing this for the first time.
"She may have been feeling too comfortable and afraid to end things with Bess."
"But if she acts this way, what is to say when she falls out of love with me she won't do the same thing? Who's to say that I won't be the one wondering where she goes at night?"
"You are asking for a guarantee. There are none. Just do everything you can to make sure you don't give her reasons to fall out of love with you."
"Far from it, Sis, far from it." Felicia tapped her hands before standing and going to check on the boys. They had been too quiet for too long.
Teela replaced the receiver again in the cradle for the sixth time that day. It was already afternoon and she was still unable to reach Pax. She sat at her desk looking but not seeing the cursor on her computer screen blinking awaiting her input. Just couldn't bring herself to do it. She had been working on the same assessment since ten that morning.
Over and over, her mind tormented her with the replay of last night, the wounded look upon Pax's face when she revealed Bess was her girlfriend. Why did I say that? Why couldn't I have said anything else but that word? It was a knee jerk reaction to a bad situation. Why do I do that? How can I get to her and explain that it isn't the way that it sounds? She chewed on her bottom lip again and looked at the phone. If she tried again, maybe this time Pax would answer and they could talk.
"Hey Teela what do you think..." Nica barged in stopping once she glanced at her colleague staring at the telephone. "What is the matter?" No response. "Teela!" Nica shouted getting her attention. "What is the matter with you?"
"Nothing really, just lost in thought."
"Must be real good thought. Anyone I know?"
"Might." Teela feigned a smile that did not touch her green eyes.
Nica walked into the office and sat in the chair across from the cluttered desk. "Listen, if you are
going to be so distracted after she visits..."
"After she visits? She who? Pax?" Heart thundering, Teela sat upright in her chair.
Smiling. "Yeah. You might want to..."
"Is she here?"
"No. About an hour ago. Listen I have a coding question for you."
"Oh. Pax was here." Dejected, she slumped back into her chair. She was here and didn't want to see me or talk to me. Her hope vanquished. "Sure, what is it?"
Both heads turned at the knock upon the door. Silently groaning, Teela plastered a grin upon her face to greet Celeste Caywood.
"Hello Celeste. Nice to see you again. What can I do for you?"
Returning the perfunctory smile, she said "I have some questions about grandmother's care that I would like to discuss with you."
Taking her cue, Nica stood, "I will talk to you later about this. It can wait." Nica nodded to Celeste and exited the office. She went to the nurses station a short distance away and began to read one of the charts there.
"Come on in Celeste." Teela motioned to the seat left by Nica. "Why don't you tell me what your concerns are?"
I almost have an idea what Pax saw in her now that I've had the chance to really study the little blonde, Celeste thought smiling. The high round breasts waiting for attention, shiny reddish gold hair shaping a beautiful face, an almost angelic quality. Today, though, Celeste sensed a melancholy aura about her.
"Grandmother does not like the dining room she is in," Celeste began.
"Oh? Did she hint as to why?"
"Something about the people that she sits with not talking to her."
"Has she tried? I mean, sometimes people say no one will when they have not attempted to initiate."
"Yeah, well that may be, but that does not mean that Grandmother has to be the one."
"No, you're right she doesn't, but it would help. I can speak with the dining room monitor and see what is happening and get back to you." Teela pulled out the notebook tablet and wrote herself a reminder. Please, if there is a God, let that be all. I really can't take her right now. "What else has you concerned?"
"She says that she had to wait two hours before someone agreed to take her to the bathroom. Now I find that truly appalling. When she has to go tinkle she has to go at that moment. She cannot wait."
"That doesn't sound good. Did she say when and what time it happened?"
"Yesterday after she returned to her room from lunch."
"I am sorry if happened. What I can do is get with Cassandra, the Assistant Director of Nurses. She is also known as the ADON or Unit Manager. I will let her know about the issue and see if she can determine what happened." Teela made another note to herself.
"I see," Celeste griped unsatisfied.
"Here is something that you may or may not know. That's a very, very busy time for the CENAs or nurses aides. Everyone is coming back from their meal and they all want to be the first to be toileted and put to bed. Realistically, everyone cannot be first." Teela smiled hoping that Celeste was following he, and that she would cease rolling her eyes. "Now, on that particular hall there are several people who are what we call two-man lifts. Simply put, they require two people to assist them with walking or moving from one place to another."
"What has that got to do with grandmother waiting for two hours?" she asked impatiently.
"If the staff were busy helping someone else, a delay is likely to have happen in the response time when your grandmother depresses her call light for help." Teela maintained her restraint. "Unfortunately Celeste, that happens quite a bit. In addition, when a person wants help, it may seem like a very long time before someone arrives making it seem like a two hour wait."
Celeste's brows knit and her lips turn into a sneer. "Are you saying that my grandmother is a liar?"
"Oh no, no. That is not what I am saying at all." Teela glanced over Celeste's shoulder seeing that Nica was listening from her seat at the station. "I was just giving you some background information that may be a plausible explanation for you grandmother saying that she had to wait. Cassandra might be able to give you a more definite answer once she has a chance to look into things."
Celeste got to her feet and huffed, face flushing scarlet. "I don't believe this!" she nearly shouted.
"You are sitting here calling my grandmother a liar. I know her. She would never do such a thing."
God why today? Keeping her voice serene and pleasant Teela stood behind her desk and said "Celeste, calm down please. That is not what I am saying." Nica motioned asking if she needed help. Teela barely shook her head no.
"I believe that is exactly what you are saying. How dare you! I won't stand for this." She stomped her foot.
Feeling her patience meter hit bottom, Teela clenched her teeth and tried to keep the smile upon her face. She was failing miserably. "I am sorry that you feel that way Celeste. As I said, that was not what I was implying."
"Excuse me?" Both turn to see Erin standing in the doorway shock and concern etched across her round face.
With more calm than she felt Teela did the introductions, "Erin Barden Director of Social Services Department meet Celeste Caywood, granddaughter and D.P.O.A. for Ida Leminski."
Though she tried to stand to her full height, it did not seem to make a difference as she crossed the room and shook the irate blonde's hand. "What seems to be the issue here?" She asked narrowing her eyes at Teela.
"Your social worker," Celeste flipped her hand towards Teela, "just blatantly called my grandmother a liar."
"Teela?" Erin 's smirk told Teela this was going to be her downfall.
"Celeste stated that her grandmother reported to her that she waited two hours yesterday after lunch for someone to respond to her call light. I merely explained to Celeste that after lunch the CENAs may have been busy with someone else at the time her grandmother needed assistance."
"And then she proceeded to call her a liar," Celeste volunteered.
"Then..." Teela strongly corrected, "I proceeded to say that when a person is waiting for help, it
may seem like a very long time, like two hours. I told her that I would speak with Cassandra and get her to determine what happened. That...is what I said."
Teela turned to Celeste wanting to shoot her the most murderous look she could muster. That would not be good in front of Eerie. There was a serious accusation hurled at her and she needed to remain professional. Personal opinions had to be kept separate. It was awfully difficult to maintain that attitude when being assailed at the same time by two people for whom she cared least in the entire city.
"Mrs. Caywood..." Erin dripped sweetly.
"Ms." she replied just as sweetly to Erin .
"I am sorry that your grandmother experienced such a hardship. I assure you I will personally investigate what occurred and get back to you as soon as I can." She took her by the forearm and led her out of Teela's office. Celeste glanced back at Teela smugly and allows herself to be led out. "I will speak with Teela about this as well. Thank you so much for bringing it to my attention."
"And one more thing...." Erin followed her several steps away.
After several minutes, Erin returned and closed Teela's office door. She stood there commanding Teela's attention, hands folded across her chest. "Do you mind telling me what that was all about?"
"I just told you. I explained it all to her. Even about several people on the hall were considered
"I see." She said, her eyes narrowing at Teela. "Anything else?"
"No that was it."
Erin did not say or doing anything but just stared at Teela. It made her feel very uncomfortable to be examined that way. Then Teela wondered what else Celeste may have said. "I see." And then Eerie was gone.
What are are scheming now, Eerie? Nothing concerning Eerie Warden could be good news except her resignation. What was it that Celeste said to you? She had heard hushed whispering and felt the hairs at the nape of her neck rise.
Teela turned back to the computer screen. She was in the same spot with the half sentence in her summary. Just couldn't bring herself to concentrate.
"What the hell was that about?" Nica hesitantly entered the office.
"I don't know, Nica. I tried explaining to her what might have happened."
"I know. I heard you. Some people just won't listen. They want to hear only one thing and if not. Then the whole world is wrong or against them."
"Tell me about it. Want to hear the kicker?"
"Pax started dating me after she dumped her."
"You're shitting me?"
"Wish I were."
"Holy shit girlfriend. How long were they broke up?"
"Not long, couple of weeks maybe."
"Does she know you're seeing Pax."
Blowing out a long sigh. "Yeah, she saw us at the jazz festival. Next thing I knew, Kat was admitting her grandmother to my unit."
"What are you going to do?"
Teela clicked the mouse to save her work. "I'm going to take a break." And she left her office heading for the employee break room.
Teela finally completed the chart with which she had been struggling. She glanced at the time and sighed, "One more hour to go." Checking her Conference schedule, she wanted to pick another assessment to at least start before the end of the day. She wanted to do someone who would not tax her already overworked cranium.
She still was unsure what she was going to do about Pax.
Erin walked into her office with a smug grin and loosely held papers. Then she closed her office door. Teela knew this was not a good sign.
"I need to speak with you Teela."
"Can it wait until tomorrow? I still have some charting to do and want to finish it before I leave."
"This won't take long. I believe your behavior and actions regarding Ida Leminski's granddaughter were unprofessional to say the least."
"What?" Teela dropped her pen and stared open mouthed at the incredible charge.
"I think you were quick to judge her grandmother's situation and displayed a behavior that is unbecoming an ARCC employee."
"I have checked with Human Resources and am well within grounds to issue you a one week suspension for your behavior." She slid the paper marked Employee Disciplinary Action across Teela's desk.
"You are to sign here and your suspension begins immediately."
"You have got to be kidding me! I didn't do or say anything improper. What is this really about Erin?"
"I have told you. Besides, it has also been brought to my attention that you may have compromised your professional ethics with member of a client's family."
"What? What the hell are you babbling about?"
"I would suggest you refrain from using blatant profanity towards a supervisor."
Snatching the paper from the desk Teela quickly read the charges written. "I am not signing this crap Erin. There is nothing on that toilet paper that is true."
"Are you denying you acted unprofessionally towards Celeste Caywood?"
Teela gritted her teeth and placed her hands upon her desk. Doing so helped Teela control the spasms that wanted to make them reach out and strangle the little bitch in front of her. She would not look good in prison orange. "I told you that I did not do or say anything wrong."
"Are you denying that you compromised your professional ethics with a family member of a resident under your care?"
"What I do outside of 5pm is my business," Teela growled.
"Not when it could reflect badly upon the ARCC. Now sign."
Laying the paper back upon the desk she locked darkened green orbs upon Eerie Warden. "I am not signing this farce. I want to speak with Frank. I will answer to him as the Administrator."
"If that is what you want, but you forget, Frank is on vacation until next week. And you will be on suspension," she smirked triumphantly.
Teela would tell him them to speak directly to Nica about what she witnessed. Erin had gone to the well once too often. There is no basis for this and she knew that this was paper thin. Besides, she had Frank's cell number. She'd call him from the parking lot. This she gambled was worth disrupting his vacation.
"I will make a note," Erin clicked the top of her pen. "That you refuse to sign and acknowledge your actions." After doing so, she stood erect and smiled.
"I would like a copy please," Teela replied calmly.
"You may have one when you return."
"No. I would like one now with the time written in as well. There is a copier as you know just two doors down so it is not an inconvenience." Teela returned her grin. She knew that she had a right to a copy of the disciplinary papers before she left the premises. Having her own copy would prevent Eerie from adding anything else of which Teela was not aware, a nice little insurance policy.
"Fair enough." Erin turned upon her heel and marched out.
"While I am on suspension," Teela started warming to the idea of vacation time. "Who will be responsible for my work?"
"That is not your concern at this point."
"So long as you are aware I will not take responsibility for any documentation that is due or events that occur during my forced absence. It's now 4:30pm, please write that time on the form." Erin narrowed her eyes at her. "For verification purposes." She smiled.
Teela cleared her desk while Erin stood guard and watched her closely. Erin was ever so kind enough to walk her to the employee entrance and ensure that she left the building. Once inside her car, Teela opened her cell phone and dialed the ARCC. Deepening her voice to a barely audible hoarse bark, she asked to speak with Veronica Jhorgenson.
"This is Nica."
"Nica, it's me Teela. Don't say anything. Just listen."
Nica glanced around her at the nurses' station. "How can I help you?"
"Eerie just suspended me for that shit with Celeste. I'm in the parking lot getting ready to leave."
"I see. I'm sorry. I am not at my desk right now where that information is. Is there a number where I can reach you when I locate it?" Hearing a throat clear, Nica looked up into the cheerful face of her supervisor. "Just a moment, Erin."
"She is standing there gloating. Isn't she?"
"Yes that's right. I will call you back within a few minutes at your number.
"Bitch!" Teela hissed.
"Yes. I'm sure all the staff feel the same way. Until then. Bye now." She hung and looked at her supervisor.
"Veronica, I need to speak to you in your office now please."
As Erin strutted past her, Nica had a vision of smashing a soiled attends into her face played across her mind. Nica smiled and casually said, "Sure Erin."
Felicia set the last of the place setting upon the table and then returned to stir the sauce. She was lost deep in thought when her husband walked through the door and kissed her passionately upon the lips.
"Well that is a wonderful hello. Can I have another?" Felicia asked.
Turning the burner on low she turned once again to welcome her husband home. After all these years she still could feel the wonder and passion emitting from this man. She felt the instant beating of her heart travel to her nether lips in wanting. She knew the feeling was mutual as she felt Zander's glory press against her.
"I have missed you," he cooed in that husky tone that made her swoon. "Is there time before dinner?"
"Unfortunately there is not." She said, kissing him lightly this time. "I invited Pax to stay for dinner and then decided to invite Damian. He's due any minute."
"Make them a plate and send them home." He nipped at her neck.
"Love as much as I want to do that, we can't now, but if we don't serve desert, we can kick them out sooner." She giggled.
He pulled away with disappointment, hating the fact that his sister was intruding and ruining family togetherness again, just like she did before. Lately, it seems that she was always here when he came home. Twisting the cap off his beer, he noticed the two empties in the sink, draining. He detested the fact that she was always drinking his beer.
Zander watched his sister throughout the dinner that his wife had prepared. She looked so forlorn, like she had lost something and could not find it. Her eyes lacked their glistening and brightness. Her general mood was somber, even her skin lacked the luster he had seen in past days. Any sense of empathy he may have felt slowly faded with each absent touch his wife bestowed upon his sister's arm. He noticed that his wife had been touching Pax often. That he did not like.
No. Not one bit.
"Pax you remember the time when all of us snuck out of the house?" Damian chided.
"Which time would that be?" she smirked.
"To go to Suzanne Riekkerts Party."
Pax crinkled her brow in though, then blushed recalling that particular party. "Oh, yeah, you and
Zander..."She pointed at them and laughed harder.
Felicia and the boys looked at the two siblings leaning across the table pointing at their older brother and laughing hysterically. Zander on the other hand did not think the memory humorous. He slowly raised his beer and took a swing. This was not good. Felicia had noticed his dimming mood since she had asked
him to wait on their interlude.
"Sure I became the brunt of that little tryst gone awry. Huh Pax?" Zander growled defiantly.
"Oh no, it was not just because of me Zander."
"Hmmphh. I seem to remember it differently. I remember that you supposedly set Damian and me up with girls that did not exist so that you could see your precious Suzanne," he sneered.
Slowing her laughter, sensing his tone was not where Damain and hers were, Pax said, "I believe there were girls there Zander, and if I am correct, you faired pretty well." She giggled, "Until the end!" Damain roared. She turned to Felicia. "No disrespect intended."
"Just a memory." Felicia waved more interested in her husband's fuming disposition.
"As long as you got what you wanted, "Zander said, "nothing mattered. I see you have kept true to form."
The humor quickly left Pax as she stared at her brother. "Something on your mind Zander?"
"No. Should there be?" he challenged.
"You tell me. You have been biting at my..."Pax glanced at the boys who looked back and forth between her and their dad-to-be with unending interest. "If you have something to say. Just say it."
"No nothing." He drank heavily from the bottle of beer.
Not liking the direction of the conversation, Damian interceded as always. "So what has kept you busy these last several weeks since I saw you?"
The sadness deepened within Pax and she felt the chasm widened in her heart. "Nothing much."
"That's for sure. You're here a lot doing nothing." Zander hedged, "I would think there would be
somewhere or something in this whole city more interesting than 5675 Emery Street." He finished, not moving his gaze from identical blue eyes across the table, "Or is there?"
Her body tensed with his implication. "I am not in the mood for games Zander. Not today."
"Games?" he feigned innocence looking at his wife and brother.
"Zander what are you saying? Felecia asked and crossed her arms in front of her chest.
"Nothing. Just that Damian has always been Pax's favorite brother and I find it odd that she has been spending more of her time here than with him. That's all."
"Me? Favorite brother?" Damian beamed confused.
"I don't think I particularly like what you are implying. Dear Brother," Pax warned.
"I am not implying anything."
"Boys," Felicia called sharply. Their heads snapped towards their mother. "Go into the living and watch TV." They immediately left the table and out of the room. Felicia smiled at the one time they were obedient. Thank God, because she was about to hurt their father.
Teela looked down at a sleeping Bess and stroked her hair. The gray was becoming more prominent each time she visited. The Bess of old was slightly vain and never would have let her hair drain itself of color as it had now.
She watched as her chest labored to inhale the oxygen flowing though the cannula. Her pneumonia had left her weak but slowly improving. At least she was eating a little when she was not agitated and pulling on the oxygen tubing. Teela had turned into the consumate professional and made a decision to allow the use of the medication Ativan to make Bess calmer so that she would accept the oxygen tubing to help her breathe. When Annie had called her and told her that Bess kept fighting them and pulling the tubing off she readily agreed. Having seen the same situation in many of her patients with heart disease, she understood the temporary need to use medication.
Now she watched as the woman who was everything to her so long ago lay helpless and dependent upon others for every basic need. Sadder still, she no longer recognized that she had those needs. She stroked the pale cheek that used to burn so easily because Bess was too stubborn to use sunscreen when at the beach or in the backyard. Teela felt the sting of tears well within her and swallowed them back.
She felt the door creep open to where she had stored all her emotions, her sorrow for the loss of her love. She slammed it shut on the tears that were threatening to spill upon the sleeping Bess. The door bulged from the pressure of the memories inside. Soon, it burst open letting all the hurt, the anguish, and the pain of the past three years flow freely. She bent her head and sobbed loudly for her Bess, for the pain they had caused one another those last few days that she didn't know were precious.
She rocked herself back and forth willing the torment to release itself from her body. She cried for all the laughter she and Bess would never share again, for the time she entered their home and caught her lover tangled in the arms of another woman. From her eyes she shed tears for the suffering heaped upon the woman for whom she wanted to risk vulnerability. She wept for the betrayal she had perpetrated.
A hand softly covered her shoulder. Swollen eyes turned to a blurry Annie standing beside her. She need not say a word. The touch of comfort was reassurance enough.
Teela turned back to Bess and stroked her hair softly tucking some behind her ear. When her hair grew too long, Bess would tuck it behind her ear until she could not stand it anymore. Then she would get a cut.
Sniffing, she stroked the mane. "Maybe I should make arrangement to have your hair colored and cut, Bess. Would you like that?"
Heavy lids fluttered open to reveal glassy grays trying to focus on her. Bess slowly raised her hand and placed it upon Teela's cheek. She held it there passing the understanding to her last lover. Then she lowered her hand back to her side and returned to oblivion.
"Zander Demetrius Baldwin," Felecia scolded. "What are you implying about your sister?"
"You've had something stuck up your ass and scraping the ground ever since you found out I was back," Pax hissed. "I wish you would pull it out or shove it all the way in and be done with it!"
"My my, that was colorful Sis," Damian chuckled twitching in his seat none the less at the thought.
He set his beer down hard upon the table and leaned across it glaring at his only sister. "Maybe if
that's what Tommy had done to you, you wouldn't be here trying to seduce my fucking wife!"
Shocked, Pax sat stunned only momentarily before her fist lashed out and connected with Zander's nose. The blood sprayed over the table. "YOU SON OF A BITCH! " Pax screamed and lunged across the table.
The strength of the punch forced Zander to rock back into his chair nearly tipping it over. Damian ran to Pax and pressed all his weight across her back to hold her down on the table. The food be damned. He was more worried about the damage that Pax could cause their older sibling in a matter of seconds.
Felicia ran to her husband pressing the napkins onto his bleeding nose. By all rights she should have been landing a punch herself. That would not have been a good thing. "The nerve, Zander, implying that I would want to sleep with your sister. What on earth gave you that harebrained idea?"
"I'LL KILL YOU!" Pax screamed struggling to throw her brother off her back to get to Zander. "Get off me Damian!" she growled fighting the release of tears. She had finally stopped weeping for Teela only to be stirred again by this asshole.
"Pax, calm down," Damian pleaded adjusting his grip. "Come on. Stop IT!"
He struggled to contain his sister and keep her from doing more damage as she obviously desired. He shivered again thinking of what she could do to Zander. He fought with all his might to hold her. It was worse than trying to hold a barn cat without protective gloves or clothing.
Just then two small heads appeared in the doorway. Eyes wide in awe of their father whose nose was bleeding profusely and their favorite aunt, their only aunt sprawled across the table full of food.
"Mom?" his tiny voice trembled.
All eyes turned to the door. Felicia quickly approached her children.
"It's alright sweetheart." She managed a weak smile. "Take your brother upstairs to your room and play. Okay?" Slowly he turned uncertainty plaguing his little face. He took the hand of his brother beside him and left the room. When they were well clear of the room, Felicia whirled around to face her husband. "Zander what the hell are you talking about Pax and me?"
Removing the rag from his nose allowing the blood to flow. He said, "She is always over here when I get home. You two are constantly talking and touching one another. What the fuck do you think?"
"YOU PRICK. I DON'T WANT YOUR FUCKING WIFE!" Pax growled.
"So you say. You would commit your unnatural acts on any woman. That is how your kind is."
"I'll show you how my kind is you ignorant bigoted fuck! You just wait. Get the fuck off me Damian."
"Zander what the hell are you babbling?" Damian struggled. "You don't really believe that do you?"
"Tommy wasn't man enough to turn you around. I should have asked Alex," Zander jeered.
Pax's strength increased ten fold. In one quick motion she pushed herself from the table throwing her younger brother onto the floor and lunging at her older sibling with ferocious speed. She heard the crack of the cartilage in his nose where she landed a solid left jab. She made a standing leap over the table into Zander's lap straddling him face to face. The force of her landing rocked the chair. She stayed on Zander's lap as the chair reeled backwards landing with a resounding thud upon the floor.
Somewhere Felicia yelled for her to stop. All Pax felt was the unsatisfying squish of flesh beneath her clenched fists. Pax shifted her weight, sitting further upon his chest. Gratifying music to her ears was
the high pitched scream that echoed in the kitchen when her fist came crashing full force between Zander's open legs.
The feel of that blow and the piercing sound instantly launched Pax into the past to that warm summer night. He had planned it all along. Zander asked her to join him and Tommy for a movie. That should have clued her in then. She was just so happy to be doing something with her older brother, that she couldn't pass up the opportunity.
Pax thought differently when she noticed the conspiratory glance between her brother and his friend when Tommy parked the car. Zander watched Tommy wrestling wildly with his sister in the backseat of the car. She knew he heard her scream his name in terror while Tommy tore at her blouse and skirt. Zander gave a backward wave and continued walking in dark leaving them alone.
Damian dove at his sister knocking her off their brother and onto the floor. They rolled until Damian had Pax in a wrestling hold he remembered from high school. He was on his back with Pax's back tightly pressed against his chest. Damian had both of his legs wrapped over the top of her thighs. His left arm was under hers and around her chest, and he had a hand twisted in her shirt near the right shoulder, his right arm crossing over and twisted in her shirt holding frantically onto the wiggly sobbing woman.
"You son of a bitch! I'll kill you...You wanted him to do it...You left me there with him...You wanted him to rape me."
Damian watched as the strength slowly left his champion sister and she slumped against him. He felt her anguish through the animalistic wales thundering in her chest. He began to rock her, the hold relaxing into a loving embrace for his sister. They lay there for some time. The only the sound coming from Pax drifted through the silent room. Damian slowly lay her on the kitchen floor. Damian tried to dry the flow of tears, but it was too fast for him to be of use.
Damian looked at Felicia. She was weeping at what Pax had revealed about her husband. Now she understood the hesitancy, and how Pax would always change the subject when she brought up the rift between them. It was the unspeakable deed her husband had committed. Could it be true? Her husband knowingly allowed his own sister to be raped? Shuddering, Felicia recoiled away from the bleeding man at her feet upon the floor.
Damain was enraged. A fevered heat exploded in his veins. He finally understood the hatred the two had for one another. Zander and his self-righteous bullshit judging and condemning his only sister because of who she happened to love...It was too much. Not any more.
"Get up!" Damian bellowed getting to his feet. "Get up you sanctimonious son of a bitch. I SAID GET UP!"
"And what are you going to do little brother?" Zander's voice came out nasally and with a slight whistle.
"Finish what she started." He kicked at him and missed. "You were supposed to protect her. That's what mom and pop said. We were to protect each other."
"I have protected you!" Zander defended struggling to get to his knees. Through swelling eyes, he looked at his wife and extended his hand for help. He found only a disgusted scowl upon her face.
"And what about Pax?" Damian demanded. "What about protecting her?
"Fucking dyke," He jeered with disdain.
Pax swiftly flipped to her feet. Damian was there instantaneously to grab her by the waist and dig his heels into the floor for support. He used all of his strength and his extra two inches trying to control the raging beast in his arms. He twisted his fingers into her shirt once again feeling his fingers slip on the food plastered into the material. He heard the seams wrench open against the force of her pull.
"Get out!" Felicia shouted at the stranger that was her husband.
Quickly turning his head was a mistake. Zander groaned as the excruciating shot in all direction through his head and face. "What?"
"I said, get out!" she pointed to the door.
"Felicia, honey. You don't mean that?"
Zander stumbled to his feet, looked from his wife to his two siblings then shuffled through the back door. Once sure he was gone, Damian released his hold on Pax. The tears continued to flow silently as she stiffly walked to the nearest chair and plopped her tall weary frame into it. She placed her head in her hands and continued to weep.
"My god Pax!" Damian cried softly. "I had no idea."
"It's okay Damian. No one did."
After several minutes she sat back in her chair and looked at her older brother. There was nothing she could say to him to ease his heartache, knowing that if he could take it from her and live with it all by himself. He would.
And there was Felicia, stunned beyond belief that the man she dearly loved could be capable of orchestrating the rape of his own sister. Nothing was so unforgivable. Pax could see the warring already beginning within her sister-in-law.
"I am so terribly sorry Felicia. I didn't mean for this to happen. He..."
"No, Pax. I am sorry for what he tried to do to you and for what he said. He should be apologizing to you."
"That will never happen." She looked at her through reddened blue eyes.
Damian leaned down to her and envelopes her in a loving embrace this time. "I am so sorry Pax. I did not protect you either. Please forgive me."
Pax clutched him to her. At least Zander was right about one thing, Damian was always her favorite.
He released her with a tender kiss to the forehead. He sat by her and kissed her cheek again. "I love you Sis."
"I love you too Bro." She smiled.
Felicia was still standing hugging herself, reeling from all that has happened. The nice family dinner that she planned turned disastrous so quickly. She chuckled at Pax's question to her earlier. How could happiness be taken away so quickly? Pax looked at her brother and nodded her head towards her. Taking the cue, he stood and went to his sister-in-law, wrapping her in a hug until she ceased shivering.
"Felicia, I'm sorry. I didn't know that getting to know my family would make him think that," Pax apologized.
"I didn't know that either Pax. I hope you don't think that of me."
Smiling Pax responded, "You're attractive. But you are not my type."
Felicia giggled and tried to smile. "Gee thanks."
"Come on. We'll help you clean this mess up." Damian volunteered.
The three of them worked mostly in silence to clear away the splattered food and clean the disaster that resulted from the encounter. All were deep in thought as to the Baldwin family skeleton had finally been let out of the closet and buried in the rightful place. Where would they go from here?
Felicia thought about her husband and life partner, now questioning if yesterday's bliss would ever be possible again. And what about the children? What would she do with Luke and Effram. They needed their father. She needed her husband, but for right now she could not begin to think about being in the same room as he.
Damian, scraped the dishes and neatly stacked them. Working in a restaurant for so long bussing tables, any table was a no-brainer for him. What was difficult for him to understand was his brother's actions towards their only sister. How could he have beliefs like that? They were raised in the same household. He stopped while in the midst of scraping. It was nearly the same things that Mother had said to Pax that one day. Her love towards Pax had changed after that. She believed in what Zander had spewed. He looked towards his sister. That is why she stayed away so long.
His heart beamed. He loved her. Always had. He was not going to let her be taken from him again. She still has me. He thought. Pax looked at him then and their smiles warmed each others hearts.
Continued in Part 7