FINDING MY WAY PART FOUR
BY MAVIS APPLEWATER
ALL CHARACTERS ARE MINE AND MINE ALONE. SO THERE!
FOR DISCLAIMERS SEE PART 1. (PS IF YOU HAVEN'T READ THESE PARTS I SUGGEST THAT YOU DO.)
As Always this is for Heather, however I would also like to dedicate this section to James Mauriello. Thank you James for protecting me from all the Captain Creepy's out there. Baby you left us far too soon.
I know that the road to true love can sometimes be a rocky path. But this was ridiculous! Over the course of the next few weeks I felt as if I had lost all sense of reality. It all began on that first Monday. Allison had been very friendly that morning. She knocked on my door and offered me a cup of coffee and a ride to work. Since my emotions were still on edge and my ego was bruised despite the frigid temperatures outside I declined. Allison seemed hurt by my indifference. But I stuck to my guns. I had decided that mooning over Allison was not helping my situation any. It was time that I put some distance between us. Admittedly Allison had made every attempt to talk to me. This time I was the one who was putting up walls. I couldn't help myself. I was hurt. No matter how many times I reasoned that I had no claims on Allison and she was free to sleep with whomever she wanted to, I felt betrayed.
I also felt some confusion as to whether I had jumped into all of this far too quickly. Was being gay what I really wanted? Is this who I really am? Then I would look back on the women in my life and what I had shared with Allison and Gigi. This was the road I was meant to travel. Still at times I had my doubts. Then I would see Allison and I knew how my heart felt. If only she could feel the same for me.
Matters were not being helped any by little Courtney's constant visits at night. I suppressed my overwhelming desire to wipe that smug expression off of her cute little face. I had to remind myself that the little tramp was right. She was the one who had shared Allison's bed on Halloween and not me. I just kept distancing myself from Allison as much as I possibly could. No easy task since we shared an office and I lived downstairs from her. It didn't help that we also had a book to finish. We did manage to get some work done. At my insistence we only worked on it while we were on campus. I had no desire to find myself working late with Allison in her apartment. Now I only use my study in her apartment when Allison is not around. Her absences are becoming more and more frequent. I assumed that she had been spending her nights with Courtney. For the past week Allison would return home just before dawn clad in clothing from the previous day.
That first Thursday after Halloween I took a bold step and went to the Galaxy. I took the train into town and arrived very early. Since I was one of the first people to arrive I seated myself at Teresa Raven's bar. The place was deserted. I began to wonder if I was wasting my time. Teresa took pity on me and explained that the crowd didn't start coming in until at least eleven o'clock. This presented a slight problem. Even though Boston is a major city its public transportation system left a great deal to be desired. If I wanted to catch the last train back to Haven I would need to leave the nightclub no later than 11:30.
I told myself that it was just as well since I only wanted to check things out. As Teresa had promised the club began to fill up quickly just before eleven o'clock. I spent my time watching people dance. I even spotted a few of my students. "No wonder they are always tired on Friday mornings!" While I was watching the crowd a young girl with dark hair and thick black glasses approached me. She asked me to dance. I declined politely. She proceeded to offer to buy me a drink. I declined once again explaining that I would need to be leaving soon since I had a train to catch. She then offered me a ride. I smiled at her boldness and declined once again.
I stepped out into the freezing night air and walked to the T station. As I walked I was filled with mixed emotions. On the one hand I felt very much like an outsider. On the other hand the young girl's advances had made me feel less like a wallflower. I was positive that I could get the hang of this. There must be an easier way than this though? What was the proper etiquette for lesbian dating? If I was to move on with my life this was something I needed to find out.
It was after midnight when I returned to Haven. Upon approaching the house I could see Courtney's Volvo pulling away. It had been a rough week but I had survived. When I entered my apartment I was greeted by the light on my answering machine blinking. I checked the machine to find two messages waiting for me. The first was from Peter wanting to know how I was doing. He still sounded hurt as he stammered through his message. I needed to talk to him but not now.
The second message threw me for a loop. It was from Allison wanting to know if I wanted to have dinner with her. She also wanted to know if I was all right? I could not help but wonder if Courtney had been her plan B for the evening. It didn't matter. I needed to move on. Even though I vowed to remain strong I listened to Allison's message several times before I could erase it.
Another week passed in much the same fashion. I avoided Allison whenever she was around, which was not often. She was persistent though. She would always invite me to lunch or dinner. I declined politely enough explaining that I had far too much work to do. It pained me to say no but I felt I had no other option. That Thursday I returned to the Galaxy once again. I took the train in for the long journey into the city. With all of the transfers it could be confusing but I seemed to be getting the hang of changing from the green line to the red line. That night I found myself having a good time. The same girl with glasses asked me to dance once again. This time I turned her down directly. As I stood at Daisy's bar I watched some people shooting pool.
I was growing bored and a little tired when I decided that it was time to leave. I searched my pocket for my coat check ticket. "You won't find it in there." A voice came from behind me. I spun around to find myself looking at a very attractive blonde with dark brown eyes. "And what won't I find in there?" I played along relieved to find someone talking to me who was closer to my age. "My phone number." Her eyes lit up as she played with me. "Really?" I continued our game as I smiled up at the taller woman.
"Tell me something." I purred.
"Anything." She cooed.
"Does this line ever work for you?" I laughed.
"Never." She confessed brightly. "Rita." She introduced herself and offered her hand.
"Stephanie." I replied as I shook her hand warmly.
"So Stephanie should I try some more of my tired old all be it useless lines out on you?" She spoke gently as she leaned closer to me. "Or have you fallen madly in love with me already?" I laughed at her attempts. "Hmm it appears I still have to work my charms. Let's see so what's your sign?" I laughed harder at her antics. "Buy you a drink?" I laughed again. "Hey I was serious about that one." She said sweetly. "Could I buy you a drink?" She repeated this time with sincerity.
"I'm sorry thank you but I was just about to leave." I explained.
"No." She protested. "Not without dancing with me first." I offered no resistance as she escorted me out onto the dance floor.
Rita proved to be a fantastic dancer. I couldn't believe that I was dancing with another woman. It felt right. I finally felt as if I belonged. There was something about the way she moved her body that excited me. Granted it was nothing close to what I felt when I watched Allison. But it was a start. When we finished our dance she took me by the hand and led me back to Daisy's bar. We talked for a short while. I found that Rita was bright and intelligent and easy to talk to. She owned a small boutique on Newbury Street. She was everything I could want in a woman except for one small thing she wasn't Allison. "I could have just kicked myself!"
I looked at my watch and gasped realizing that I had lost track of the time. "I have to go." I blurted out suddenly.
"No." She pouted. "I thought I was just beginning to charm you."
"I have a train to catch." I explained.
"Oh." Her eyes widen. "I understand you don't want to get stuck in town. Before you dash off Cinderella could I call you?" She requested with a slight blush.
I was at a loss as to just what I should do. Before I could conjure up some lame excuse Daisy placed pen and paper on the bar in front of me. There was simply no way of declining her request without being rude. I quickly scrawled my phone number on the paper and made my exit. After retrieving my coat from the coat check I raced out of the club and down Mass. Ave. I dashed into the T stop and was lucky to catch the waiting red line train to Park Street Station. From there I made my transfer to the green line. This time I was not so fortunate. It seemed to take an eternity for the correct train to arrive. Once I arrived at North Station I raced across the staircases and out into the street and crossed over to the commuter rail. I quickly scanned the monitors hoping that my train to Haven was still there. I had missed it. "Now what?" There were two options available to me. I could call the only person I knew in Haven that might come and get me. Or I could thank the powers that be that I had the foresight to bring my credit card with me.
Calling Allison was out of the question. I had no doubt that she would come to my rescue. But I possessed no desire to call her and explain that I had been cruising women and missed my train. Plan B it was. Thank God for plastic. Upon exiting the taxi I was uncertain what hurt me more? Seeing Courtney drive away at this hour or the seventy-five dollar charge on my visa card. As I approached the house I felt my breath catch in my throat. There she was standing out on her balcony. She was a vision bathed in moonlight. I just stood there mesmerized watching her staring out into the darkness. I felt the tears caress my face as I watched her. "What are you thinking about Allison? What is it out there in the darkness that you find so captivating?" It was as if she had sensed my presence as she turned slowly and looked down upon the street to where I was standing. She smiled sadly and turned away and entered her apartment. As her image faded from view I regained the use of my legs and entered the house.
I had no recall of how long I had stood on that sidewalk watching her. I could not erase the image of her from my thoughts. I wanted to nothing more than race up to her apartment. To go to her to touch her. Somehow I resisted the temptation and showered before climbing into bed. I lay awake thinking of her until the sun came up.
The following evening Rita called and invited me to lunch on Saturday. I was about to decline her offer when something stopped me. It was the sound of Allison and Courtney laughing on the staircase. I accepted the date with Rita instantly. As I hung up the telephone I felt very proud of myself for taking the first steps to break free of Allison. Yet there was still something nagging at me. It was the tone of Rita's voice. It was so familiar. I had heard it many times over the past couple of weeks. It was the same tone Allison had used when she would invite me to dinner or lunch. Had Allison been asking me out on dates this entire time? That simply did not make any sense. Allison was seeing someone.
I decided that it didn't matter. Even if Allison had been asking me out, there was no way I was about to play second fiddle to some kid. But had she been asking me out? It was all very confusing. Maybe this was simply the way that lesbians spoke to each other. I was so new to all of this. One thing was apparent I had a great deal to learn. Perhaps the lovely Rita would be the one who could teach me?
Lunch with Rita was very nice. We met at a small cafe on Newbury Street. Rita apologized that she would be unable to stay very long since she was needed back at her shop. She hinted that perhaps we could go out dancing that night. We had a great time as we ate and talked. Everything was perfect except for one small thing. Although I found her attractive there was something missing. This time it wasn't simply who she wasn't. It was just that there was no spark between us. As I pondered this revelation Rita unexpectedly provided me with the answers I was seeking.
"Are you involved with someone?" She asked me suddenly.
"No." I answered truthfully. "But . . ."
"You're just getting over someone." She finished for me.
"How did you know?"
"Story of my life." Rita responded casually. "So what happened?"
"It's complicated." I replied with reluctance.
"Always is." Rita said gently. "I'm here to listen if you want."
"Okay you asked for it." I sighed. "First I need to explain that this is all very new to me."
"What?" She choked.
"It's true." I explained. "Up until a couple of weeks ago I had a boyfriend."
"Excuse me?" She choked again. "You're joking."
"No." I admitted quietly.
"I have to be honest." She began slowly. "Normally I like a challenge."
"But not first timers." I said.
"Watch out for the ones that are into that." Rita warned me. "And the woman who hurt you?"
"Oh well her." I sighed again. "I waited too long and now she is with someone else. Someone young and perky."
"Ouch." Rita groaned. "Then she is a fool. Stephanie I need to honest with you. Don't take this the wrong way it has nothing to due with your lack of experience. I find you very attractive but there is no . . ."
"Chemistry." I blurted out suddenly relieved. "I know I feel the same way."
"Too bad." Rita sighed. "We would have had great looking kids." She teased as I choked on my water.
"I'm sorry." I laughed. "But hey I survived my first date with a woman." I added hopefully.
"Here! Here!" Rita cheered as she toasted me with her glass of water. "Why don't we still go out dancing tonight? As friends." She added. "I hope that you will consider me a new friend?"
"I would like that." I responded. "I really don't know many people here in Boston. Or the community for that matter."
"Good it's settled then." She smiled back. "We'll go out tonight and scope chicks. I can drive you home so you won't need to worry about catching the train. "
"I would like that." I smiled. "Last time I missed my train."
"That must have cost a small fortune." Rita grimaced. "Well as your new friend I will drive you home anytime you need it unless of course one of us gets a better offer." She winked at the last comment. "I can show the ropes so to speak. I think this is great. There aren't that many women our age hanging out in the clubs. Most of them have settled down and are living in the suburbs."
"Is that supposed to cheer me up?" I teased.
I thanked her again and we talked for a while longer until she needed to return to her shop. We made plans to meet at the Galaxy later. I decided to take in the city until it was time for us to meet. I even enjoyed going on the duck tour and browsing through the local shops. Later that night we met up as planned. I was definitely on a roll that week. I met another woman named Josie and made plans to meet her the following morning to go roller blading along the Charles. Rita met someone as well but really wasn't interested. Rita drove me home refusing to take any money for gas. I dug out my roller blades and laid out suitable clothing for my date in the morning. Josie seemed nice enough but I felt deep down that we really weren't going to hit it off. I went to bed knowing that I would need to get up in a few hours and drive into town. Allison had left for New York that morning so I had the use of her car. I felt guilty about taking her car to go on a date with another woman. But not enough to endure the hell of public transportation on the weekend and this was the least of my problems with Allison.
"I think that it is very important work." Josie explained enthusiastically.
"I don't understand." I shrugged as I tried to urge my roller blades to speed up so I could gain some distance from Josie. "What do you have against Regis?"
"That game show is the dumbification of America." Josie asserted.
"Dumbifiaction?" I questioned. "Is that a word?"
Josie just stared at me blankly. It would appear that Josie had 'issues' with the game show "Who wants to be a Millionaire?” I was not surprised at this point. It seemed that Josie had 'issues' with just about everything. Let's see there were her abandonment issues, her issues with her parents, she had issues with the government, the environment, Starbucks, and everything under the sun including M&M's. I was having a really problem with that one. In the twenty minuets since I met up with her and began our skate along the bike path that ran along the Charles River, Josie had explained in painful detail her 'issues'. If that wasn't enough to ruin my morning it seemed that she also belonged to every self-help group imaginable. Self-groups are admittedly important for the people who needed them. But Josie seemed to be a professional joiner.
"But couldn't you simply just not watch the show?" I argued. "I know I signed a petition when I heard that Dr. Laura was going to be aired here. But isn't the best way to stop a television show simply by not watching it. Don't they rely on ratings? Isn't that what we kept telling all of those uptight family value groups about Ellen? If you don't like it don't watch."
"Oh I don't own a television." Josie explained. "I have had a major issue with it since I came to the realization The Facts Of Life was an excuse to exploit Tootie."
"So how many people are in this Stop Regis Campaign?" I regrettable asked.
"Right now there is just me and Sharla." Josie beamed mistaking my question for interest. "We met in our WATI support group."
"WATI?" I asked before I could stop myself.
"Women Against The Internet." She proclaimed proudly. "You do realize that this whole internet scam is just one more way that big brother can track us." She cautioned me. "You could meet with us if you like. We discuss the whole issue on line every Wednesday night. WATI has a great chat room set up."
"Chat room?" I spun around on my skates in shock. Unfortunately I should have paid more attention to my actions. I tripped over something and found myself lying on the bike path in agony.
After a short debate I allowed myself to be taken across the street to MGH (Massachusetts General Hospital). The emergency room was swamped. I gave the triage nurse all of my information while Josie remained glued to my side. I had to get rid of her. We were instructed to wait and I was given an ice pack for my knee. Josie fussed and fumed about the delay. I tried to reason with her as I pointed out that there were people in greater need of medical attention than I was. When she announced as loudly as she could that we were being made to wait because we were lesbians I wanted to climb under my chair. I wanted Josie to just go away. Gay, straight or indifferent Josie was just a really bad date. Finally we were shown to an exam room. I looked at the cotton Johnny. "Would you like me to help you with that" Josie offered. I simply shook my head sharply in refusal there was no way I was taking my clothes off in front of this woman. "I'm fine Josie. In fact why don't you get going. I'm sure that you have a meeting." I offered hoping she would take the hint and just go.
"Oh Baby." She offered softly. "I am not leaving your side. In fact I'm calling my Father's driver to come get us when this is over." With that announcement she whipped out her cell phone.
"I thought you weren't speaking to your parents?" I was dumbfounded.
"I'm not. But I have use of their driver which makes sense since I won't go see them to pick up my weekly check." Josie explained. "They just send the driver over with it to the town house they bought me."
"Well I need it to get around to all of my meetings." Josie was so sincere and so delusional.
"Your parents support you?" I was at a complete loss.
"Of course I couldn't very well be expected to have a 'job' not with all of the important work I have to do!" Josie answered with a smile.
"Put that away." A very familiar alto voice commanded. I snapped my head around to see Nicole dressed in pale blue hospital scrubs and a long white lab coat with her hair pulled back in a French braid. "The cell phone." Nicole insisted. "Turn it off. Apparently you missed the signs hanging everywhere explaining the dangers of using a cell phone in a hospital. Now put it away before you kill someone." Reluctantly Josie complied as she gave Nicole an icy stare. Nicole was unaffected she simply smiled at me. "Miss. Grant I'm Dr. Kendell." She smiled.
"I'm Josie Stendorf. Stephanie's partner." Josie announced boldly.
"No you're not." I shouted. "This is our first date." I looked to Nicole for help. Suddenly I reached up and grabbed her by her lab coat and drew her down to me. "Make her go away. Please. She's crazy. Nicole she has issues." I pleaded. Nicole chuckled softly as she pulled herself away.
"Miss. Stendorf." Nicole began in a very professional tone. "I am very familiar with Stephanie and she needs to do this on her own." Josie opened her mouth to speak but Nicole quickly cut her off. "She has issues with privacy and apparently self assertion." At the last part she cast a glance in my direction. Turning back to Josie she touched her gently on the arm. "You understand that it is very important for her to do this on her own?" Josie's eyes widen with a sudden understanding.
"Oh yes of course." Josie leaned over me and patted my shoulder in sympathy. "Call me I have some groups that could help you."
And then Josie was finally gone for good I prayed. I breathed a sigh of relief. "Okay one scary date taken care of now let's take of you." Nicole smiled brightly. "First I need to ask you something . . ."
"I swear she seemed perfectly normal when she asked me out." I protested.
"That's not what I was going to ask you." Nicole laughed as she shook her head. "I was going to ask you if you would feel more comfortable with another physician?"
"No." I answered honestly.
"Good." Nicole smiled. "Now put on the johnny and I will be right back."
"But . . .” I began to protest.
"No buts." Nicole chastised me. "Put it on and I'll be right back."
"Rats." I grumbled.
Once I was clad in the flimsy hospital gown Nicole returned carrying a clipboard. "Okay what happened?" Nicole placed the clipboard down and put on a pair of rubber gloves. She gently removed the ice pack and began to examine my knee. "We were roller blading along the Charles when Josie said something stupid. It caught me off guard and I fell."
"Hmm." Nicole said thoughtfully. She opened the back of the hospital gown and examined my back and then took a quick look at my head. "Did you hit your head at all?"
"Lose consciousness at anytime?" She asked as she began to clean my knee with disinfectant.
"Ouch. No." I answered.
"Raise your leg." I obeyed. "Wiggle your toes." I followed her instructions. "Any nausea?"
"Dizziness?" She asked as she shined a penlight in my eyes.
She returned the light to the pocket of her coat and retrieved her clipboard. "Are you on any prescription or none prescription drugs? Any allergies?"
"No and no." I snarled.
"Did you drink any alcohol today?"
Nicole chuckled at me. "All right. We're almost finished. It looks pretty superficial. We just need some x-rays just to be on the safe side."
"Oh man." I groaned.
"Just a precaution Stephanie." Nicole was very reassuring. "I need to ask before you go down and they will probably ask you again but is there any chance you could be pregnant?" I just rolled my eyes and stared at her in disbelief. "I have to ask." She explained.
"Well let's see in the past three months I have only come close to having sex with one person and although your sister claims to have many skills I doubt that is one of them." I teased causing Nicole to blush.
"I see." She cleared her throat. "I'll leave it to you to break the news to her on that one. Speaking of which . . .” I held my breath as I waited for her to finish her thought. "I can't tell anyone about this. As your doctor I cannot even mention that you where here. Not to my sister not to anyone. As a patient you have rights. So this entire afternoon is Entre Nous." I stared at her blankly. "Between us." She explained. "Anything you tell me is confidential. I just needed you to know that."
"I understand." I sighed with relief. "Fortunately there is nothing to tell. There is one thing I would like to ask you. When I was first hired by Haven, I started on their insurance plan. I don't really care for my doctor. He did a lot of unnecessary tests."
"He didn't cross the line did he?" Nicole questioned me the anger evident in her tone.
"No." I reassured her. "He just tested me for everything. Like a pregnancy test even though I had explained that I had my period twice since the last time I had sex. He also tested me for every STD under the sun. Which is fine but I have already had all of those tests. I didn't know if it was University policy or what?"
"No." Nicole explained flatly. "Who is your doctor?"
"Arthur Fink?" She asked.
"Okay off the record as your friend get another doctor. He is known for running tests just to pad his bills to the insurance company." Nicole explained. "Which is odd since he sucks as a diagnostician. Ally has the same HMO as you do. Her doctor is fabulous, Dr. Martha Chang she is who I would recommend."
"I tried to get her but she wasn't accepting any new patients." I explained. "I have always felt more comfortable with a woman."
"She has privileges here. I could talk to her if you like?" She offered as her pager went off she looked at it and scowled. "I'll see when you back from x-ray."
When I returned from having my knee x-rayed from every possible angle I quickly got dressed and waited. Nicole finally returned. "Well it seems that all you have is a really big boo boo." Nicole smiled. "Just sign here and take these to the cashier and you are free to go."
"Thank God." I sighed as signed the paperwork and accepted my copies. "So is boo boo a technical term?"
"Absolutely." Nicole grinned. "You might want to put some ice on that knee when you get home. Speaking of which how are you getting home?"
"I have Allison's car." I explained guiltily.
"That's right she's in New York." Nicole added without missing a beat. "Well take it easy and I'll see you on Thanksgiving."
"Don't tell she hasn't invited you?" Nicole groaned. I just shook my head in response. "Big dumb Amazon. Well I'm inviting you."
"Nicole I don't want to make your sister uncomfortable." I explained. "Things are more than a little tense between us." I also don't want to see her at a holiday gathering with her new girlfriend.
"Fine." Nicole conceded with a groan. "Oh by the way Thursday is . . .” Just then her pager went off again. "Damn." She cursed as she snatched up the offending object. "I have to go. We have a GSW coming in." She rushed off. Even I had seen enough episodes of ER to know that GSW was short for a gunshot wound.
After returning home I check on Mrs. Giavanni and ran her over to the local market for a few things. After putting away her groceries I joined her for a cup of tea. Finally I entered my apartment and collapsed on my futon thankful that the day was finally over.
The following week proceeded in much the same fashion as the previous two. I talked to Rita about my date from hell omitting the part of running into Nicole. Rita just laughed at me. We made plans to go dancing at The Galaxy on Thursday. Even though there was no sexual tension between us I really enjoyed dancing with Rita. It was also nice to have someone to talk to.
I did receive a surprise on Tuesday when I walked into my office and discovered Allison sound asleep on the coach. Maureen walked in as I was standing there watching her sleep. She was covered in what appeared to be paperwork.
"Not again." Maureen scowled. "Allison wake up!"
Allison grumbled loudly as she shifted on the couch in an effort to raise herself up. As the tall woman lifted her body the books and papers that had been covering her toppled onto the floor. "Merde." She swore as she bent down to clean up the mess. I put down my briefcase and knelt down to help her. Maureen muttered something unintelligible as she stomped off.
"What is all of this?" I asked as gathered up her work.
"Just getting ready for midterms." She grumbled once again. "I finished the work on chapter ten as well. It's on your desk . . . I think."
Allison scratched her head aimlessly. It was more than obvious that Allison was not fully awake yet. "Why are you working here?" I asked.
"Tired of getting the cold shoulder." She muttered and suddenly snapped her head up and stared at me with surprised. "I'm sorry did I just say that out loud."
"Yes." I answered harshly.
"Forget I said anything." She tried to apologize. "Look I'm just trying to do the right thing here." She said quickly as she hurried to clean up her mess.
"I'll get this." I offered in confusion. "You'd better hurry home and shower." She stared at me helplessly. "Go on." I insisted.
Allison thanked me and rushed out of the room. Something was happening and I was completely clueless as to just what it was. Nothing seemed to making any sense. That night as I walked home I was determined to sit Allison down and have a very long talk with her. As I approached our house I discovered Courtney's Volvo parked out front. It appeared that there was nothing for Allison and I to discuss after all.
On Thursday morning I was greeted by yet another surprise as I entered my office. Allison's desk was covered with several arrangements of flowers. The office was empty and after a quick check into the hallway I dashed over to Allison's desk. As I peeked at the cards I asked myself once again "at what point does this become stalking?" There were roses from her parents, Iris' from Nicole and more roses from Chris. The cards all conveyed the same message. Today was Allison's birthday. That was what Nicole had meant to tell me at the hospital.
Without a second thought I made certain that the cards were all returned to their proper positions. I quickly dismissed the idea of tossing Chris' in the trash. I crossed back over to my own desk and snatched up the local directory and placed a call. I had a surprise of my own coming for Allison. Yes it was true that I was angry with Allison. But it was also true that my anger was born out of my feelings for her. I couldn't allow her birthday to pass without doing something. As I finished up my call I could here familiar footsteps approaching. I could tell by the self-assured stride that it was Allison. I quickly threw open my briefcase and pretended to be working.
Allison entered our office took one look at her desk and asked dryly. "Who died?" Her eyes suddenly widen as a snarl crossed her face. "Ah crap." She spit out as she dropped her briefcase. Just then Maureen bounced in waving a card around. "Happy Birthday!" She shouted joyfully. Allison simply groaned in response. "What?" Maureen laughed.
"I forgot." Allison said grimly.
"That's not like you." Maureen responded in surprise. "You usually live for this stuff?"
"I guess I'm just not in the mood this year." Allison said softly as she accepted the card and retrieved the briefcase. "Thanks for the card."
Just then Allison's telephone began to ring she rushed over to answer it as Maureen waved her goodbyes. "Professor Kendell." She spoke in her professional voice. "No . . . no . . . please Mother no! Don't sing!" Allison pleaded as she slumped into her chair and began to bang her head on her desk. "Please stop." She implored her Mother. "No not Dad too!"
I started to laugh as my telephone rang. "Dr. Grant." I greeted my caller with a chuckle.
"Well you seem to be in good spirits blondie." Nicole responded. "How's the knee?"
"Fine." I shouted over Allison's fussing.
"What the hell is going on there?" Nicole asked.
"Your parents are torturing your sister." I explained as Nicole laughed.
"Let me guess their singing?" Nicole laughed hysterically.
"From what I can gather." I chimed in.
"I guess this call is a bit late then. I forgot to tell you the other day." Nicole explained.
"No problem. I've got it covered." I explained.
"Good. I'm also calling to let you know that Dr. Chang has agreed to take you on as a patient. You'll need to set up an appointment with her. She is expecting your call." Nicole explained.
"Thank you Nicole." I said loudly to be heard over Allison's grousing. Unfortunately I said it a little too loud. Allison's head shot up over the cubicle wall and glared at me.
"Why is Nicole calling you?" Allison asked in desperation. "Not you Mom." She said into the receiver.
"None of your business." I teased. I could hear Nicole laughing on the other end.
"Stephanie." Allison growled and shot me one of her best intimidating scowls.
"Nice try." I teased.
"What?" She spoke into her telephone. "We work together." Allison explained. "No you can't talk to her. I have to go." Allison pleaded. "Thanks for the flowers Love to both of you." Allison ducked down long enough to hang up her telephone. Her head popped up and she glared down at me.
"So is she staring at you?" Nicole asked.
"Of course." I replied.
"Let me talk to her." Nicole sighed.
I stood and handed Allison the receiver. "Play nice." I warned her.
"Why are you calling Stephanie?" Allison snapped. "I am not old and cranky." I snorted at the comment. "Yes I got them their beautiful. Yes thank you. " Allison relaxed slightly. "So why are you bothering my co-workers?" Allison listened for a moment. "Why can't you tell me? What are you two conspiring?" Allison demanded as she glared at me. "Well if it's nothing then you can tell me. " Allison pushed. "Fine." Allison conceded. "Thanks again for the flowers. Talk to you soon Nikki." She handed the phone back to me and ducked back to her side of the office.
I hung up the telephone and began to chuckle. "You laugh?" Allison growled.
"What's the matter? Feeling old." I teased.
"Bite me." She snarled. I listened as she began to slam the drawers on her desk. I knew instantly what she was searching for.
"You threw them out." I sang cheerfully.
"I did." She groaned painfully. "Why would I do that?"
"Because you want to quit." I answered as I turned on my computer.
"Oh yeah." She sighed. "That must be why I threw out that pack I had hidden at home."
"When was the last time you smoked?" I asked as I logged on.
She paused for a brief moment before answering. "Halloween." I could tell by her tone of voice that she was telling the truth. "Good for you Allison. Now isn't this a great way to kick off a new year." I encouraged her.
"Manger moi." Allison muttered just loud enough for me to hear.
"Now why do I think that wasn't a thank you?" I retorted.
"No it wasn't. " Allison snorted in reply. "But I would certainly enjoy it."
I reached into to my briefcase and retrieved a book I had checked out of the library on one of my late night work sessions. I quickly flipped open the copy of Beginners French. "Now let's see." I spoke aloud as I flipped threw the pages. "Manger."
"What are you doing?" Allison gasped as she raced over to my desk. "Stop." She pleaded.
"Here it is." I smiled. "Manger means 'eat' and moi means 'me'. I see." I blushed as I spoke. "I must say you Harvard girls certainly have an elegant way of expressing yourselves. You know when it comes time to return this to the library, I might just go out and buy a copy. You just never know when it might come in handy."
"I . . . I . . .. I . . .” Allison stammered.
"Give it a rest Harvard." I laughed deciding to let her off the hook. "Since it's your birthday I'll let it slide." Allison sighed in relief. "Oh and thanks for the offer." I added with a wink. I doubted that I had ever seen anyone turn that particular shade of scarlet before.
For a brief moment it was as if the past few weeks hadn't happened. No sexual tension, just the two of us joking as friends. I had to admit it felt good. Allison returned to her side of the office and began working on her computer. I decided to check my email there was the usually University mailings. Some from my students regarding finals. There was also one from Peter. His made me slightly uneasy. He invited me to join him and his family for Thanksgiving dinner. Thanksgiving was one week from today, where had the time gone? I emailed Peter back and thanked him for his offer, but I had to decline since we were no longer together I wouldn't feel comfortable.
Seconds after sending my message I received a reply from him. It was very sweet and he invited me once again. I wrote back and used as much tact as I could muster and politely declined. There was no way I was going to get his or his family's hopes up by attending the holiday gathering. I would just spend the day alone. Maybe Allison would let me use her kitchen so I could cook something up for myself make a day of it.
"Stephanie?" Allison called out from behind the wall. "I need to drive down to The Cape this weekend so I can lock up my house in Provincetown. Would you like to join me? I could show you around P-Town." She offered hopefully.
"I . . . um . . . “ I stammered. "Say yes you idiot!" I paused for a moment and I tried to think of what I should do. I wanted go. I really wanted to go. I was about to tell her yes when she spoke.
"Never mind." Allison offered grimly. "Forget I asked." She added with false cheerfulness. Then she strolled out of the office and went off to her morning class. Once I was certain that Allison was out of earshot I began banging my head on my desk and repeatedly calling myself a moron.
Later that day I found myself rushing towards Allison's classroom. It was her last class of the day and I knew that my surprise would be arriving soon. As I sped down the hallway I spotted my present strolling towards Allison's classroom. She was an attractive blonde, dressed in a tuxedo carrying an enormous bouquet of balloons. I followed her into the classroom and hid in the back. Ignoring the obvious stares from the students and instructor the woman strolled down the aisle and walked right up to Allison. Poor Allison looked like a deer caught by oncoming headlights.
"I'm here to wish you a very Happy Birthday, Professor Kendell." The blonde purred as she handed Allison the balloons. Then she did something that I had most definitely not requested she leaned over and kissed Allison on the cheek. The room exploded with hoots and hollers from the students. A chorus of Happy Birthday began as the blonde made her departure. I grabbed her by the arm and I spotted it instantly. She was gay, just my luck. "I didn't pay you to kiss her penguin." I growled menacingly into her ear. "I guess I just blew my tip?" She responded with a smirk. I just glared at her coldly and opened the door for her to leave. "Oh well it was worth it." She sighed and winked at me before making a hasty exit.
The students were just finishing their second chorus of Happy Birthday while Allison read the card attached to the balloons. She smiled sweetly. "All right enough!" Allison chastised them the smile never leaving her lips. "Thank you Dr. Grant." She offered without looking up at me. "You are most welcome Professor Kendell." I replied rather pleased with myself. "So you knew I was here." I thought to myself.
"I told you they were together." I heard one student whisper to another. I chuckled softly to myself at the thought that Allison and I were already part of the small town gossip mill. "Okay settle down everyone." Allison repeated over the chatter. "Now let's get back to reviewing for the midterm." The response was a collective groan from the students. Allison just shook her head and she looked up capturing me with her dazzling baby blues. "The hell with it." She announced. "There is only a few minutes left and it's my birthday. Go on get out of here." The classroom cheered as the students quickly gathered up their belongings. "If anyone has any questions just stop by my office during my posted hours." Allison added as her students quickly fled.
Allison was now sitting on her desk rubbing her eyes as I approached her. I gave her a playful nudge as I sat next to her. "Happy Birthday." I whispered softly.
"Thank you." She answered without meeting my eyes. "How did you know that I love balloons?"
"Because you are basically a really tall child." I teased her giving her another playful nudge.
"Aah, so you have uncovered my secret at last." She chuckled lightly still unable to look at me.
"I also noticed that you have a thing for white roses." I added.
"Champagne." She explained. "They are actually off white with a touch of pink on the tips of the petals. Those were from my parents and Chris. It's funny really, Chris couldn't remember to come home at night but she still remembers what my favorite flowers are. Women." She scrunched up her face in a mocking grimace.
"Tell me about it." I teased in return.
Allison barked a laugh and began playing with the balloons. "Hmm there are certainly a lot of them." She smiled absently. "Are you busy tonight, would you like to go out for dinner?" She added hesitantly.
"Yes." I responded quickly before I had a chance to think about it. Then I remember my plans with Rita. "Wait I have plans."
"It's okay." She sighed dejectedly.
"But it's you birthday." I protested.
"No worries. I have a ton of work to do anyways." She lied.
"Allison . . .” I began to protest.
"Stephanie really it's fine." She interrupted me. "Thank you again for the balloons." She added as she finally looked over at me.
Our eyes met. There it was. I suddenly began to understand why it was so hard for her to look into my eyes. I felt it instantly. That look! My knees felt weak and suddenly I couldn't breath. I leaned over to her and whispered, "Happy Birthday, Allison." Our faces were a mere breath apart. I looked at her full lips as I licked my own. I began to close the slight distance between us, giving into what my body and heart were crying out for. At the last moment I pulled away, as the image of Courtney flashed through my mind. This was killing me. "How could she have chosen that child over me?" I looked back towards her and my resistance instantly vanished, as I reached for her once again.
This time it was Allison who broke away suddenly. I was surprised at first then once I managed to catch my breath, I reminded myself that Allison already had someone in her life. Without looking at me she casually offered me a ride home. "Sure." I accepted her offer. "Good then you can grab the balloons." She teased me. It was a struggle to get all of the balloons into the car. "Why did I order so many?" I grunted as we fought to get them into the Subaru. "Because I'm cute." Allison pouted.
"No that's not it." I teased as I managed to get the back door closed. I watched as she continued to pout. "Nice try. Come on let's get your flowers." We returned to the office and gathered up the floral arrangements, and cards and the rest of our belongings. On the drive home neither of us spoke. I was secretly pleased with myself, for not mentally berating myself for my earlier actions. I knew that Allison felt it too. There was no need to beat myself up for making a pass at her. I had finally accepted that whatever was happening between us was not one sided.
When we returned home I brought the flowers upstairs to Allison's apartment, while she struggled to get the balloons out of the car. As I reached the porch I saw that Allison had managed to free the balloons safely. Mrs. Giavanni was standing there holding a pie as she wished Allison a Happy Birthday. "Hello Mrs. Giavanni." I greeted her. "These are beautiful Stephanie." Our landlady beamed as she pointed to the balloons. "That was so nice of you." She smiled. "Isn't she nice Allison?" Mrs. Giavanni pushed.
"I'll take the balloons, you can take the pie." I offered quickly.
"She's such a good girl." Mrs. Giavanni went on. "Not like that Chris."
"Tia Maria." Allison snapped suddenly and pulled Mrs. Giavanni aside.
I struggled with the balloons as they whispered to each other. Allison's slip had not escaped my notice. I placed the balloons in her living room and looked around. The one little slip had shed light on something that I had been curious about since I moved here. I turned as I heard Allison entering the apartment. "I didn't know that you spoke Italian?" I asked trying to maintain a casual tone of voice.
"I don't." Allison replied absently.
"Mrs. Giavanni may have taught me a word or two." Allison explained quickly. "Okay she's lying. Now do I confront her with my suspicions or do I just drop the whole thing? Go ahead it's been bugging you for months. The apartment, the way Allison dotes on her. The little clues piling up."
"The two of you must be very close." I began. "I don't know much Italian myself but I do know that Tia Maria translates into Aunt Mary." I tried to sound indifferent. "I think it is sweet the way that you look after her. You do her shopping, take care of her bills, you even tuck her in at night. Is that why she let you convert two apartments into one?"
"Ah . . . well it's complicated." Allison hedged.
"Allison are you my landlady?" I finally asked straight out. It wasn't the first time I suspected it. Allison was the one who called the repairmen and I saw her on more than one occasion writing a check for their services. I also noticed that the tax bills were addressed to Allison.
"I am not your landlady." Allison flatly denied.
"But you do own this house." I stated directly.
"Only on paper." Allison explained.
"And Mrs. Giavanni is your Aunt." Again it was not a question. "Why the big secret?"
"Because she's embarrassed." Allison explained. "When my Uncle Joseph passed away both houses were paid for, but there was the upkeep to contend with. Plus the taxes, water, sewage and on and on. It was too much for her now that she was living on one social security check. She hated to raise the rents because the tenants were like family to her. I finally got her to raise the rents but then she got sick and the cost of maintaining her own home. So I just . . ."
"Did what you always do." I added with a smile. "You stepped in and helped her. Just like you always have, like with your Grandfather's debts and your sister's drinking."
"What can I say it's the oldest child syndrome." She agreed.
"So that's why I got such a great deal on my rent?" I questioned her.
"It's not what you think." Allison explained quickly. "You were in a bind and I just wanted to help out. I did not have any hidden motives. I was just trying to be a friend."
"I know that." I scoffed at the implication. "You big dumb Amazon. You certainly have an interesting memory, if you recall I'm the one who keeps, I mean I was the one who kept trying to get you into bed not the other way around. You know the two of us have alot in common. Always trying to take care of everyone but ourselves. Always striving to succeed never considering failure as an option."
"It's true." Allison agreed. "Hey wait a second. Big dumb Amazon! Just what is going on with you and my baby sister?"
"The two of you are up to something." Allison accused me.
"Nicole is the only person who calls me that." Allison explained. "Then she calls you this morning, so give what are the two of you conspiring?"
"Nothing." I answered honestly.
"Then what gives?" Allison pushed not fully convinced of my innocence. "Why couldn't she tell me why she called you? If the two of aren't plotting something the only other reason she couldn't tell me would be if the call was for professional reasons . . .” Allison’s face went pale. "Stephanie is everything all right?"
"Yes." I groaned. "I'm fine and you're right her call this morning was a professional call of sorts." I watched as Allison began to tremble. "Get a hold of yourself. I fell while rollerblading last Sunday. I ended up in the ER at MGH; Nicole was the doctor who treated me. While I was there I expressed concerns with my present primary care physician and she arranged it so that Dr. Chang would take over as my doctor. That is all there is to it."
"But if that is all it was, then why didn't she just tell me?"
"Excuse me counselor?" I laughed. "I don't really need to explain the law to you, do I?"
"No. “ She pouted and I had to admit she was damn cute when she did that. "Are you all right? Were you hurt?"
"There you go again. Taking on everyone else's problems. Allison I scrapped my knee that is it." I stated firmly and didn't feel the need to add that I wouldn't have sought out medical attention if my date hadn't been such a complete wacko.
"You're right." She sighed. "It was the same with Wainwright & Griggs and why I stayed with Chris as long as I did. The day I walked away from both of those situations was the first time I felt like I was doing something just for me."
"And you managed to walk away with your self respect. No small accomplishment." I added.
"Well almost." Allison chuckled at the admission. "I did throw Chris' clothes out the window before I left. It was childish I know, but it felt great."
I laughed at the image of the normally cool, calm and collected Allison hurling her lover's belongings out a window. "Allison about tonight." I began to say. "Don't worry about it." Allison cut me off. I took a deep breath and calmed myself before proceeding to talk to this stubborn woman. "I was just going to offer for you to join us." I replied.
"Us?" She questioned me with surprise.
"Rita and I." I explained. "We were just going dancing at The Galaxy. You and I could have dinner first and head into Cambridge." I suggested.
"The Galaxy on a Thursday with Rita?" Allison said absently as she processed the information. "I don't know, I would hate to feel like a third wheel."
"You wouldn't be." I said quickly hoping to extinguish her fears. Judging by her stunned expression I was failing miserably. "Look Rita and I did go out once but there was no chemistry between us." "Not like with you."
"Does Rita know this?" She questioned me harshly.
"Yes." I strongly answered her accusation. "We talked about it and now we are just friends. We go out dancing together and scope chicks."
"Excuse me?" Allison roared with laughter. "You have been busy during my absence haven't you?"
"I need to start living my life." I answered honestly.
"And so you have." Allison conceded quietly.
"Well I see that Aunt Mary still hates me." A sultry voice boomed from the doorway. Nothing in the world could have prepared me for the sight I found standing in the doorway. She was as tall as Allison with a well-toned and very beautiful body. Not to mention long sandy brown hair and legs that went on for days. My mouth just hung open overwhelming by her presence. "Can you blame her?" Allison responded dryly to the woman. "What are you doing here, Chris?" Allison questioned her suspiciously.
"Ally, it's your birthday." I cringed at the familiarity in which Chris addressed Allison. "You sounded a little down on the phone." She smiled at Allison as her eyes scanned her body. "Besides it's raining in New York."
"Well it's not raining here." Allison shot back smugly.
"Pity." Chris drawled as she continued to stare at Allison with a lecherous leer.
Allison just returned her gaze with an icy stare. I wanted to waltz over to Chris and wipe that smug expression off of her face. But judging by the size of Chris and my own shortcomings I assumed that she could probably hurt me. I opted for plan B and cleared my throat very loudly in an attempt to end their staring contest. Chris turned to me and captured my gaze with lustful hazel eyes. "Well hi there." She purred.
"Chris!" Allison snapped harshly.
"Hmm?" Chris hummed as her eyes scanned my body.
"Chris. No!" Allison commanded her. There was something in her tone of voice that reminded me of someone trying to train a naughty puppy. I would not have been surprised to hear Allison command her to sit or fetch.
"Sorry." Chris apologized to Allison. "Hi I'm Chris." She directed towards me in a much more civil manner as she offered me her hand.
"Stephanie Grant." I answered as I returned her strong handshake.
A single thought ran threw my mind as she released my hand. "Wow!" Chris then removed her overcoat and I was impressed all over again. The woman was clad in a tight pair of black leather pants and a mid cut black tank top, which slightly exposed her well-defined abs. And once again I thought. "Wow! My God when they were a couple they must have been the poster girls for drop dead gorgeous lesbians."
"This isn't very nice of you Ally." Chris' deep voice cooed. "I flew all the way up here because I was afraid that you were going to be all alone on your birthday. And here I find you all cozy with this cute little thing. Now why didn't you tell me that you were seeing someone?"
"I'm not seeing anyone." Allison stated firmly.
"Why was she lying?" Then it hit me, just where was little Courtney anyway? It wasn't like her to pass up an opportunity like Allison's birthday. Clever thing that she was must have known that it would allow her to one up me yet again. There was something missing here. From the tone of Allison's voice I knew that she was telling the truth. Could it be that Courtney was finally out of the picture? My heart did a double back flip at the very idea, that Courtney had been given the heave ho.
"Really?" Chris responded coyly to Allison's denial as she allowed her eyes to wander over my body. Without thinking about my actions I took a step towards Allison. Protectively she moved in front of me and held a cautioning hand up towards her ex-lover.
"Chris behave." Allison warned once again.
"Make up your mind Allison." Chris teased her. "If she's not yours then she's fair game."
"Hey!" I piped up suddenly insulted that I was being treated like a first prize in a turkey shoot.
"Chris I'm warning you behave." Allison growled. Chris threw up her hands in a mock surrender.
"I see you brought your briefcase." Allison noted. "Is that my present a night pouring over old case files?"
"You seem surprised?" Chris laughed. "Hey what can I say? I thought we could slip some work in and I could bill the firm for my hours and the flight up here. I also thought we might slip something else in but I guess that's out the question now." She looked directly at me with an accusing stare. "Sorry to ruin your plans Stud." I thought with self-satisfaction.
"Some things never change." Allison muttered as she headed off for the kitchen.
I found myself left alone with Allison's larger than life ex-lover. Chris was once again eyeing me up and down. This time however there was nothing lustful in her gaze. This time I felt as if she was sizing me up the way a fighter would size up their opponent. "Nice balloons." Chris called nonchalantly out to Allison.
"Thank you. They are a gift from Stephanie." Allison answered brightly from the kitchen.
"Very nice." Chris offered to me in a congratulatory tone. "Relax kid." She smiled at me. "Despite what you must have heard about me from Ally's friends and neighbors I am not the devil herself. A close relation perhaps." She teased and smiled warmly and patted me gently on the arm. "Hey I was in love with her and I will always be jealous of anyone that is special to her. Trust me I don't bite." She whispered to me in a friendly manner. I sighed with relief, as I understood what she had been doing. Chris had flirted with me to see how Allison would react. Then she made an attempt to scare me off. "Juries must just fall at this woman's feet."
"So has Allison told you that I'm a womanizing jerk yet?" She questioned me loudly. I stood there with my mouth hanging open; uncertain as how I could respond to her statement. Chris ignored my discomfort and made herself at home by plopping down on the sofa. "Oh course I did." Allison answered brightly as she returned from the kitchen with a tray of coffee cups.
"Don't worry Stephanie." Chris reassured me. "We can finally joke about it now. I was a jerk and I lost her. No one to blame but myself. But you didn't have to tossed my entire wardrobe out the fifth floor window."
"You deserved it." Allison said bluntly.
"True." Chris admitted. "But my best Donna Karen did not."
"Speaking of clothes Stephanie found one of your T-shirts." Allison said as she placed the coffee cups on the table and motioned for me to join them. I took a seat at the far end of the sofa and accepted the mug of black coffee she offered to me.
"Which one?" Chris asked her enthusiastically as she reached for her coffee.
"Hold on." Allison spoke as she retreated into her bedroom, returning quickly with the black t-shirt with the words 'Obey Me' printed across the front. Allison tossed it to Chris, who snatched up the garment happily. "I knew you took this you fink." She smirked. "Wait a second. What do you mean Stephanie found it? What's the deal with the two of you anyway?"
I couldn't help but blush at her question as I recalled the night I first seen the t-shirt. I turned to Allison for help only to find her blushing as well. "Uh huh." Was Chris' only response. Allison in typical fashion shut her eyes and began to rub them. "Ugh. Don't you just hate that?" Chris groaned as she looked directly at me.
"As a matter of fact I do." I confessed.
"What?" Allison snapped as she glared at the both of us.
"That whole shutting the world out thing." Chris explained bitterly. "It's like if you shut your eyes to the situation it will just go away. It used to drive me insane. Oh and what about her morning concerts?" Chris directed her question towards me.
"I kind of like that." I answered with a smile.
"What?" Chris snorted. "How could anyone enjoy having their living room turned into Woodstock every morning?"
"I still enjoy it, but then again I don't live here." I explained.
"I see." Chris said slyly. "Then how pray tell do you know about her seven am concerts?"
"Because my apartment is directly below this one." I explained hoping to nip her suspicions in the bud.
"How convenient” Chris purred. "Is that how you two gals met?"
"No." I was losing ground fast and Allison appeared to have been stricken mute. "We work together." I offered lamely.
"Hey so your a history Professor as well?" Chris sounded genuinely interested.
"Actually I'm a PHD." I corrected her without boasting.
"So it's Dr. Grant then." Chris complimented me. "Hey that means she out ranks you Allison."
"Whatever." Allison grumbled.
"I'm hungry." Chris announced. "So are you going to allow me to take the two of you out to dinner?"
"Stephanie has plans." Allison blurted out quickly.
"Not until ten o'clock." I spoke up. "I'm meeting a friend at The Galaxy for some dancing." I explained to Chris. "I was just trying to coax the birthday girl into joining us when you arrived."
"Dinner and dancing, now that sounds like a plan." Chris accepted eagerly. "Great idea. Why don't you gals go get changed. We can eat at that Mexican restaurant that Allison is so found of. If I remember correctly it isn't too far from the club."
"I don't know." Allison hesitated.
"I know, tequila." Chris teased her.
"Horny and stupid." I added with a laugh. Chris joined in on the laughter as Allison turned her back on us.
"Allison is there a problem?" Chris questioned her in a serious tone.
"No." Allison muttered as she turned back to us.
"Then lighten up." Chris pushed. "It's your birthday and two beautiful women want to take you out on the town. I should be so lucky."
"Fine, I'll get ready." Allison gave in and stomped off into her bedroom.
I excused myself and followed Allison into the bedroom. "Are you okay with this?" I asked her quietly.
"Yes." Allison answered softly. "I really wanted to have dinner with you tonight. It's just that Chris can be somewhat of a steamroller at times."
"I've noticed." I answered. "She isn't what I expected. I actually like her."
"I told you that Chris gets a bad rap." Allison agreed.
"Well I think she is very nice." I admitted. "She's also very . . ."
"Attractive." Allison finished for me. "Yes, Chris is a beautiful woman. Unfortunately Chris is all too aware of that fact herself."
"Hey what's with the sad look?"
"Nothing." Allison pouted.
"Allison I am not interested in your ex." I explained sensing that my early comment might have made her uncomfortable.
"Am I really that easy to read?"
"Sometimes, yes you are." I answered with a smile.
"I didn't like the way she was flirting with you." Allison confessed.
"That's why she did it."
"Forget it." I sighed. "Get dressed so we can take you out for your birthday. Don't forget it's your night so anything you want . . ."
"Anything?" She asked as she licked her lips. It was far too tempting to resist. I stepped closer to her and leaned into her firm body.
"Anything." I answered seductively. "What is your wish birthday girl?"
"Just this." Allison replied as she lowered her lips to capture my own. The kiss quickly deepened as I felt her tongue brush against my lips. Instinctively I parted my lips and allowed her to enter my mouth. I moaned as our tongues danced together. I could feel my body being lowered onto her bed. "Hey what's taking you two so long?" Chris shouted from the living room. We groaned in unison as we broke apart and climbed off of the bed.
I stomped off without looking at Allison. A part of me simply wanted to rip Chris' head off. Instead I muttered something about being back soon. I went downstairs and caught my breath after entering my apartment. I showered quickly. I pulled on a new pair of black jeans as I tried to forget what had occurred in Allison's bedroom. I then put on a new silk camisole that matched my teal silk blouse that I purchased recently. I looked good I told myself as I check myself one last time in the bathroom mirror.
I raced back upstairs eager to see Allison. I was just about to open when the door when I heard shouting coming from within. "Why not?" Chris asked anxiously.
"It's complicated." Allison answered in exasperation.
"Allison, not again." Chris chastised her. "It's always something, isn't? Stop being such a coward."
"Did you fly all the way up here, just to give me a lecture?" Allison argued with her.
I decided that my newfound hobby of eavesdropping needed to come to an end, I knocked on the door and entered quickly. I felt my breathing halt suddenly. Allison had changed into a pair of faded blue jeans and a white tank top. She was standing with her back to me. There was something about the sight of this woman's backside wrapped in well -worn denim that was my undoing. I shifted my gaze from her well-defined butt only to find myself drooling over her the sight of her back. I flushed as I leered at her back. It didn't help matters that I was thinking about the kiss we had shared earlier. "This is going to be a long night."
I was relieved as Allison put on a black men's blazer. Now I could make it through the evening without staring at her back like some lecher. "Hi." Allison said as she turned to me. "You look great." She said as a slight blush crept across her normally dark complexion.
"Back at you." I answered as I noticed how absolutely adorable she looked.
Unfortunately I was not the only one who noticed. Chris stood up and quickly moved beside and adjusted the collar on her jacket. Then she gently caressed Allison's face. "You look beautiful." She whispered sweetly and as I clenched my fists in anger. "Thanks." Allison muttered as she took a slight step away from Chris. I looked at the two of them standing next to each other. My early bravado vanished. Suddenly I felt like one of the ugly stepsisters from Cinderella.
Pitifully I slumped down onto the sofa and wished that I could simply disappear. I looked at the coffee table that was now covered with a stack of papers. Something caught my eye, it was a date. One that was all too familiar to me. Chris crossed quickly over and began to gather up the papers. "Chris it doesn't matter." Allison stated abruptly. "I trust Stephanie." My heart warmed slightly with her declaration. Granted she wasn't pledging her undying love to me but it was a nice gesture just the same.
"Are you certain?" Chris questioned her in a very professional manner. "No offense Stephanie." She added half heartedly as she shoved the papers into her briefcase and snapped it shut. Chris then crossed back over to Allison and touched her gently on the arm.
"None taken" I said honestly as I understood completely that she was only doing her job. "I understand." Truth be told I didn't care if Chris out and out accused me of spying, hell she could of accused me of kidnapping the Lindberg baby . . . just as long as she stopped touching Allison. "Chris, I've nothing to hide from Stephanie." Allison added in a harsh tone as she once again stepped away from Chris' grasp. "I've been accused of bribing a jurist." Allison explained to me.
"What?" I gasped.
"Allison!" Chris cautioned her.
"Let it go Chris." Allison warned her.
"All right." Chris grumbled.
"Allison?" I voiced my concern over the seriousness of the situation.
"Don't worry they can't touch her." Chris added in a serious tone. "First off the statue of limitations has run out."
"No." Allison cut in. "First off I didn't do this."
"I know." Chris reassured her.
I realized at that moment despite some of her personal short fallings Chris was a very good lawyer. Watching the way she handled herself when she wasn't flirting, Chris proved to be quite an impressive figure. This woman could sell ice to an Eskimo. Of course there was one little problem with Chris, and that was Allison. I hated the ease between the two. The little intimacies that showed that they had once been a couple. I knew it was a fact of life, just the same it worked my nerves.
"So then why are they bothering with this?" I asked in hopes of drawing out Chris' instincts as a lawyer. Perhaps that would keep her from touching Allison.
"The ADA is using the RICO stature. He is claiming that the firm was involved in a string of illegal activities." Chris answered as she approached me. My plan was working. "If he can prove this then he can turn it into a federal case. But his case is falling apart. We've managed to clear away most of the charges. With the exception of the one against Allison."
"If that is the case then how is he hoping to prosecute Allison?" I questioned. "RICO implies an ongoing racketeering case. Right? If the other charges have been dropped, and the statue of limitations of bribery has expired he cannot bring charges against Allison."
"Very good." Chris answered. "That's true but Allison won't allow me to go to a judge and have the case dismissed."
"I'm not going to have people think that I did this." Allison fumed. "Chris you know as well as I do that people will always assume that I'm guilty and I simply used my name to get out of it. Plus I could still be disbarred. That would kill me parents. I need to prove my innocence."
"It's a mute point Allison." Chris shot back. "He can't proceed with it."
"I didn't do this!" Allison responded angrily. "Hell I didn't have to. That case was garbage. Even if it wasn't I would never break the law. My name is on the line and I'm not letting Simon Brenner drag it through the mud!"
"That's really what this is all about isn't!" Chris shot back.
"Who is Simon Brenner?" I asked innocently.
"Jessica Beaumont's husband." Allison explained bitterly.
"Well I guess you two really don't have any secrets." Chris smirked. "I think it's personal for him."
"It's not like he knew." Allison said with disgust.
"Not about her." Chris began slowly. "But every time you went up against Simon in court you made a fool out of him."
"So I'm petty." Allison sighed. "But I never broke the law."
"You do have an alibi for the night of the twenty second." Chris pointed out. "That alone could end this. I mean if this bozo is lying about one of the dates it casts a doubt on the rest of his story."
"I can't use Higgins." Allison groan in desperation. "I've already explained that to you. If the judge or Brenner questions him about what we were doing together he'll have to perjure himself."
"So?" Chris shot back.
"Counselor may I remind you that suborning perjured testimony is a crime." Allison shot back. "I can't go to a judge and tell the truth about what I was doing with Higgins. Somehow I don't think that telling a judge that I couldn't have possibly been bribing a juror on that day since I was busy committing a different crime would help my cause any."
"Excuse me?" I questioned her.
"Higgins is a professional deprogrammer." Allison explained. "I was meeting with him all day and night making plans to have my brother snatched from the cult he joined."
"Isn't it an alibi?" I asked confused by how that would be a bad thing.
"It's also kidnapping." Allison replied grimly.
"I guess I never looked at it that way." I sighed. "I suppose legally trying to save someone from a bad situation doesn't count if they are there by choice. I could help you."
"That's sweet but only the truth can help me." Allison smiled as she answered me.
"I can help you." I repeated. "And I can do it without lying." Allison and Chris looked at me strangely. "I couldn't help but notice the dates written on one of the sheets of paper. One of them caught my eye. On the twenty sixth of August 1989 you were standing on the sidewalk in front of your office building yelling at me."
"What?" Allison gasped.
"What time was that?" Chris asked with enthusiasm.
"I don't know the exact time." I explained. "But I distinctly recall that I caught the six twenty train back to New Haven."
"How can you be so certain about the date?" Chris pushed in full lawyer mode.
"How could I forget, it was my birthday and I was in tears." I answered honestly. I had never intended of letting Allison know that her actions that had hurt me so deeply happened on my birthday. But if telling her helped her out of this mess, I had to do it.
"You made her cry?" Chris shot out at Allison. "Hey this helps." She said suddenly. "Your secretary has you leaving the building at five fifteen and your time prior to that is accounted for. It isn't enough but it defiantly closes the gap. Stephanie would you be willing to give a deposition?"
"Of course." I answered without a second thought. I looked over at Allison and was surprised to see the sullen expression on her face.
"Great." Chris was almost cheering with joy. "Now if we could just figure out where you were for the rest of that evening and the following one this will all be over."
"I was probably with you." Allison muttered. "She's lying." I thought to myself.
"No you weren't." Chris answered with her professional tone. "I've already checked my old appointment books. And we did not start seeing each other until the following week."
"I can't believe I made you cry on your birthday." Allison groaned. "God I'm such an ass."
"Allison it was over ten years ago." I groaned. "Let it go. Speaking of birthday's this is no way to spend yours. You have been promised dinner and dancing now let's get going. The only legal talk I want to hear for the rest of the evening is whether or not we should risk parking in a tow zone got it!"
"Fine by me." Chris agreed. "But in light of this new information dinner is definitely on Wainwright & Griggs."
As we gathered our coats I caught Allison smiling out of the corner of my eye. I let Chris exit the apartment ahead of us. I quickly pulled Allison aside. "And just what are you smiling at?" I asked her.
"I remember." Allison spoke softly forcing me to lean in to hear her words. "Not everything mind you but I remember you. I was supposed to meet Nikki or so I thought. When I found out my meeting was with some kid working on her thesis I was furious. I remember you standing on that sidewalk in faded blue jeans and a Yale jacket that was far too big for you. I remember your long strawberry blonde hair, it seemed to glow in the sunlight. I also remembering thinking that I thought you looked incredibly hot and if only I wasn't involved."
"What?" Now I was confused. "Chris just said that the two of you weren't together yet?"
"Oh right." Allison answered a shade too quickly. "Maybe I don't remember everything. If I could I wouldn't be in this mess."
"Uh huh." I grunted as I wondered why she was lying? "I was still hot though?" I teased.
"Oh yeah." Allison answered with deep sigh.
Chris began to call for us to hurry up. As I began to descend the staircase I heard Allison whispering. "You still are." I spun around quickly causing her face to turn a deep shade of crimson. "Good." I retorted with a wink and turned away from her and headed down the staircase before she could see the blush racing across my face.
Allison drove us to The Church Street Cafe, Amy was once again tending bar. I was more than pleased to find her behavior much more professional this time. Of course after the last time I doubt that she would still consider Allison being swayed by her charms. Chris on the other hand flirted with the girl outrageously. This made me very happy. During dinner I limited myself to just one margarita, with Chris' encouragement Allison had three and was just a little tipsy. At the end of the meal the waiters sang Happy Birthday to Allison as the entire restaurant cheered. When we left the restaurant I insisted on driving.
We arrived at The Galaxy a little after ten and I checked our coats quickly. I found Allison and Chris seated at Teresa's bar ordering another round of drinks. I opted for spring water. I searched the crowd and quickly found Rita. As I crossed the room to greet her, I glanced back at the bar to find Chris caressing Allison's shoulder. Then she bent down and whispered something in her ear, which caused Allison to laugh brightly.
I just stood there watching them feeling like an idiot. It wasn't until I felt a hand touching my shoulder that I stopped staring. I spun around and found Rita smiling at me. "There you are." She exclaimed. "I was beginning to think that I had been stood up."
"Sorry I'm late. I had dinner with one of my colleagues for her birthday." I explained. "I hope you don't mind but I invited her and an old friend of hers to join us."
"The more the merrier." Rita answered. "Is she cute?"
"She's . . . beyond words." I answered absently.
"Uh Huh." Rita responded.
"Come on I'll introduce you." I took Rita by the arm and led her back towards Allison and Chris.
As we approached the giggling duo Rita's jaw dropped. "Allison?" She exclaimed cheerfully.
"Rita." Allison responded and greeted her with a warm hug. "This day was just getting worse and worse. Maybe there's a hole around here I could crawl into."
"Rita this is Chris." Allison made the introduction. "Rita and I were at Wellesly together." Allison explained to both Chris and I.
"I hear that it's your birthday, Allison." Rita gushed. "That calls for a round of drinks." Rita waved Teresa over and ordered a round of margaritas. I politely declined explaining that someone had to drive. As I listened to them chatter about the old days, I was suddenly the odd woman out again.
"Do you remember that time during finals?" Rita asked Allison. "What was it freshman year?"
"Sophomore." Allison corrected her.
"God you really shocked everyone." Rita laughed.
"Oh please our dormitory floor was the queerest on campus." Allison scoffed.
"You two are not going to believe what the prim and proper Miss Kendell did." Rita began to explain as Allison began to blush. "It was during finals and everyone was so stressed. So Allison in her infinite wisdom decided to relieve the tension as it were. So she streaked down the hallway screaming 'come out come out where ever you are!'"
"Streaked?" Chris leered. "Do you mean that you. . .?"
"Yes. I ran buck naked down the hallway." Allison laughed. "Hey I was nineteen." She added defensively.
"Well it certainly lifted everyone's spirits." Rita added.
"I bet it did." Chris answered as she lick her lips.
I thought I was going to be sick. Just then Rita touched me on the arm. "I can hear that new Cher song playing in the other room, let's dance." She asked me sweetly.
"I'll go." Chris offered quickly.
"Maybe later." Rita said coolly. "Stephanie owes me a dance." Rita dragged me off before I could respond.
Much to my surprise Rita dragged me into the lounge instead of the front dance room. "Allison Kendell?" She asked quickly. I just stared at her blankly. "Allison Kendell?" She repeated. I was still at a loss. "Stephanie is she the one that you were telling me about?"
"Yes." I admitted reluctantly.
"I knew it. I could tell by that goofy look on your face." Rita said.
"Hey?" I shot back indignantly.
"I'm confused." Rita blurted out.
"Why are you confused?" I asked in bewilderment. "I'm not the one speaking in code."
"First I need to explain a few things to you." Rita started. "Years ago there was this women's bar in the financial district called Somewhere Else. It burnt down a long time ago. But in it's hey day Allison's reputation would walk in about ten minutes before she did."
"Great." I muttered.
"Relax." Rita tried to reassure me. "That was a long time ago. Personally I think that a lot of women lied about being with her. But once she got into Harvard her only interests were in her studies. Then she went off to New York and left a string of broken hearts behind her."
"I know all of this." I butted in. "New York was where she met Chris and Jessica. New York where she had a life long before she ever laid eyes on my sorry ass." My pity party seemed to be in full swing.
"What you don't know is that since she came back to Boston, that everyone and I do mean everyone and their sister has been trying to get up close and personal with her. I mean she's beautiful, successful and rich. Allison is quite the catch."
"Is this supposed to be cheering me up?" I groused.
"Yes." Rita answered with a cocky smirk. "You told me that you were trying to get over someone that was involved."
"That's because she is or was, I'm not really sure anymore." I tried to explain.
"No she's not." Rita argued. "And she certainly wouldn't take Chris back."
"I know that." I snapped. "She is seeing this youngster named . . ."
"Courtney." Rita cut me off. "A little brunette about yeh tall." She held her hand up at the appropriate height. "A little too perky for her own good." Rita added.
"They are not together." Rita asserted strongly. "They had one date and Allison shot her down."
"What are you talking about I've seen her leaving Allison's apartment?"
"Stephanie I ran into Courtney around the beginning of the month and she was with someone else. Not only that she was bitching about how all she got from the high and mighty Miss. Kendell was the cold shoulder."
"I don't understand?" I exclaimed in frustration.
"Don't you?" Rita retorted. "Courtney set you up, so she could keep you away from Allison. Stephanie trust me on this, if Allison Kendell had a girlfriend I would have heard something."
"Stephanie sweetie, Boston maybe a big city but in many way it is a very small town." Rita explained. "I'll prove it to you. Chris is Allison's ex-lover. They lived together in New York for a couple of years. They met while working at the same law firm. They split up because Chris was cheating on her. Allison caught her in the act when she came home unexpectedly one night."
"Okay that is spooky." I gasped.
"Not really." Rita answered. "When Allison blew back into town who do you think were the people she called first?"
"Her old college friends." I smacked myself mentally at the sudden realization.
"Of course." Rita affirmed. "That is half the point of attending the colleges that we did, the connections. Allison came home and was forced to start all over again. Being the bright girl that she is she called on her old cronies to help her get re-established. Both socially and professionally."
"Then why is Courtney at her apartment constantly?" I asked absently as I tried to piece together the events of the past few weeks.
"You're not spying on her are you?" Rita questioned me cautiously.
"No, of course not." I answered quickly understanding Rita's concerns. "I live in the apartment below her."
"Convenient." Rita said with sly look.
"For all the good it does me." I grumbled.
"Stephanie trust me on this, Allison is single." Rita reassured me with a slight squeeze on my shoulder. "Hey think about it. If there was someone special in her life right now, then why aren't they here on her birthday?"
"This is driving me insane." I growled. "None of this makes any sense. Come on let's dance before my head explodes."
Rita just laughed and led me out onto the dance floor. I was enjoying dancing with Rita, happy to be lost in some pleasant thoughts. Out of the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of a very startling sight. Allison and Chris were dancing together. It pained me to admit it but they looked good together. They moved in perfect harmony with each other. Why wouldn't they? After all they use to be lovers. I wasn't the only one who noticed the two. Men and women alike were staring openly at the attractive couple. "How could I compete with that? Maybe I don't have to. Think about it girl, remember earlier tonight in Allison's bedroom."
I continued dancing with Rita and tried to relax but thoughts of the kiss that Allison and I had shared earlier kept running through my mind. I lost sight of Allison and Chris. Unaware that I was ignoring Rita I kept searching for them. "Come on." Rita finally groaned as she grasped my hand and led me off of the dance floor. "God you've got it bad girl." She groaned as she dragged me over to Daisy's bar and order us a couple woo woo shots. I downed mine quickly without even thinking. The liquor tasted so sweet it was hard to believe that there was alcohol in it. "I can't leave you alone for a minute can I?" A soft contralto voice whispered in my ear as two familiar hands caressed my shoulders.
I leaned back into Allison's body. I looked over to Rita grinning and Chris scowling. "Does anyone want another drink?" Chris offered with a hint of harshness to her voice. I waved off her offer as Allison wrapped her arms around my waist. "Just a Poland Springs." Allison said. "I think I need to sober up a little."
"I'll have another one." Rita smiled up at Chris.
Chris returned Rita's smile and ordered their drinks. "Oh no." Rita groaned as she accepted her drink from Chris. We all looked at her oddly. "What is it?" I asked.
"Issue girl at twelve o'clock and she is heading this way." Rita sighed.
"No, tell me that you're joking." I dropped my head knowing it was true.
"Sorry Stephanie." Rita apologized. "And she's already seen you."
"Allison would you do me a favor?" I asked as I looked up into a pair of very confused blue eyes.
"Anything." She answered honestly.
"Kill me now." I groaned.
"Huh?" Allison pulled me closer and shook her head.
"Who is issue girl?" Chris asked.
"Stephanie's date from hell." Rita tried to explain as I felt Allison stiffen from behind me.
"You mean the good looking woman heading this way?" Chris asked. "What is wrong with her?"
"She's not that good looking." I heard Allison muttered as she turned to see Josie.
"She has issues." I said bluntly.
"Oh." Allison and Chris groaned in unison. "But still, she is good looking and everyone has baggage." Chris was grasping at straws. "With Regis Philbin? With M&M's, the internet and television?" I tried to explain.
"Now that's just unAmerican." Allison snorted.
"Stephanie?" Josie called out to me in an accusing tone.
"Hi." I answered dryly. I could feel Allison pulling me closer to her in a protective manner.
"Sweetheart, I have been so worried about you." Josie went on ignoring Allison's growl. "It was all I could talk about in therapy this week. I must say I'm surprised that you didn't call me."
"Josie, I'm sorry but it was just one date." I explained.
"We have a connection Stephanie." Josie went on. "If it wasn't for that idiot doctor in the emergency room." She huffed as I tensed. "I have real issues with her."
"You're not talking about my sister are you?" Allison asked in a controlled yet frightening tone.
"Oh no." Chris gasped in fear.
"Would you like to dance Chris?" Rita asked hurriedly and with that they both disappeared leaving me wedged between an angry ex-lawyer who I suspected was a black belt and the clueless issue girl.
"Who are you?" The clueless wonder had the nerve to snap at Allison.
"I'm Stephanie's partner." Allison replied dryly. I felt no need to correct her, I liked the way it sounded when Allison referred to me as her partner.
"I don't think so." Josie challenged her.
"And I think you should leave." Allison growled.
"You look like you have some anger management problems." Josie retorted as if that was going to save her.
"And you look like a bleeder." Allison replied coldly. I could see Daisy stiffen from behind the bar preparing for trouble.
"Okay that's it." I said finally as I stepped away from Allison positioning myself between the two. I placed a calming hand on Allison chest. "Josie goodbye." I waved my hand at her to shoo her away and then turned to Allison. "Allison go drink your water and give Daisy an extra tip for worrying him." Allison muttered something under her breath and slunked over to the bar and followed my instructions. Josie just stared at me.
"Look Josie I'm with Allison." I liked the way that sounded. "Now please leave because frankly you are working my nerves." Josie looked horrified as she stomped off. I just rolled my eyes and turned my attention back to a certain tall beauty who was pouting as she sipped her bottle of water. I walked over to her.
"She seemed nice." Allison teased. "How did you ever let her get away?"
I slapped her playfully in the stomach and held a cautioning finger. "It's a good thing it's your birthday kiddo." I warned her. "You know she did." I said thoughtfully.
"Seem nice." I explained. "When I first met her here, she seemed perfectly normal. It wasn't until I got her out in the light of day that she turned out to be a complete wacko. So are you enjoying your birthday?"
"Hmm." She answered. "I liked my presents."
"The flowers or the balloons?" I asked.
"The balloons but that wasn't the best one."
"No?" I played along sensing where this was going.
"Nope." She teased. "The best one was the one received in my bedroom earlier tonight."
"What was that?" I feigned innocence. "Oh you mean this one." I reached up and curled my fingers through her hair and pulled her down to me. I pressed my lips against her and kissed her. The kiss deepened quickly as I ran my tongue across her lips. She parted her own lips and granted me access into the warmth of her mouth. I pressed my body against hers as she ran her hands down my back. We broke the kiss as the need to breath became overwhelming.
"Yeah that was the one." Allison moaned as I teased her forearm by tracing a pattern on her bare skin with my fingers. Not for the first time tonight I was happy that she had me check her blazer.
"I don't think so." I said playfully. "As I recall we were lying on your bed and I had just started to grant your birthday wish when we were interrupted."
"Seems to be a pattern with us." She laughed. "Dance with me?"
"Are you trading your earlier wish for a dance?" I toyed with her.
"No." Allison answered seductively. "I still want to finish that, but if we try to do that here I think we might get arrested. For now I will accept a dance."
"Okay." I agreed as I took her hand. "Just one thing. Is Chris staying with you tonight?"
"Not a chance." Allison reassured me.
"Good." I responded as I squeezed her hand and led her out onto the dance floor.
As we stepped out onto the dance floor our bodies instinctively pulled together. We swayed in perfect rhythm to a remix of 'Downtown'. As she pulled me even closer to her I felt my breath escaping my body. I was certain that my heart would stop beating at any moment. As the next song started I ran my hands up her arms. I have no idea what song was playing. I was completely unaware of the music or the other people dancing around us. At that moment in time my only lucid thoughts were of her. I felt her hand gently grip my waist. We moved closer together. Our bodies pressed together only our breath separating us all of this done under the veil of dancing. We swayed in time as our hips melted together. Her breath was hot against my neck. My hands found the way down and were caressing her well-toned backside.
Suddenly the music stopped and could I hear the DJ's voice thanking everyone for coming as the room was flooded with bright white lights. The spell would have been broken if only we weren't still standing there holding each other. We both sighed as we spotted Chris and Rita approaching us hand in hand. "The ugly lights are on. Time to go." Chris grunted.
"Ugly lights?" I questioned.
"That's what they call it when the house lights come on at the end of the night." Rita explained. "Often between the drinking and the dimly lit dance floor you never get a good look at who you are with. The end of the night can prove to quite disappointing if not shocking at times."
"I'm hungry." Chris said suddenly. "Who wants to get something to eat?" She asked as we just stared at her dumbfounded. "What?" She snarled.
"How can you be hungry again?" Allison scoffed.
"I'm a growing girl." Chris retorted as she patted her well-toned stomach.
"Unbelievable." Allison grumbled.
While we waited in the seemingly endless line for the coat check Chris managed to convince us to go to an all night diner located in the south end. Chris also managed to get Rita's email address with relative ease. The girl was smooth; I had to give her that. I was secretly pleased to see Chris and Rita hitting it off. Of course my pleasure was born from a selfish desire to keep Chris as far away from Allison as possible. Allison stood beside me the entire time, her arm never leaving my waist. "Chris when is your flight?" Allison asked suddenly. "Are you sure that you have time to catch a bite to eat?"
"Not a problem." Chris reassured her. "I can catch a shuttle out in the morning."
"It is morning." Allison pointed out.
"Trying to ditch me Ally?" Chris made an attempt to sound playful but fell short as a hint of bitterness crept through.
Chris' question was followed by an awkward silence. Which Chris herself finally broke. "The truth is that I'm not expected back at the office until after the holiday. I can fly back anytime." Chris explained.
"Uh huh." Was Allison's only response.
"I thought I could spend sometime in Boston." Chris added. "You know so we can work on the case."
"Unbelievable." Allison muttered.
It didn't take a rocket scientist to put the pieces together. Chris thinking that Allison would be alone on her birthday, flew up to Boston in hopes of catching her in a vulnerable state. I had to give credit where credit was due it was a good plan. It would appear that I had thrown a monkey wrench into Chris' plans and she was none to happy about it. "Fine." Chris spoke finally as we retrieved our coats. "We'll just grab a bite to eat. Then drive back to Haven so I can pick up my rental car and then I will be on my way." Chris seemed to be conceding but not entirely, I couldn't help but notice. I quickly did the math in my head. By the time we would leave the club, drove across town, eat and then drove back to Haven it would be about time for Allison and I had to go to work. "You certainly are a clever girl, Chris. You won't be sleeping with Allison tonight and you're making damn sure that I won't be either."
There was no way I was going to give up so easily this time. I knew that Allison was ready to invite me to spend the night. I pulled Allison closer and leaned up so I could whisper in her ear. "Feel like playing hooky tomorrow?" I suggested in a husky tone.
"Why Dr. Grant?" She answered me with a slight blush and a lustful gaze.
She never answered me though? Perhaps I had read the signals wrong. "No way." I thought to myself. I was questioning myself once again when I found myself sitting in a small diner at four am. Chris had order an enormous amount of food and was taking her time eating. I simply ordered coffee, while Allison had settled on the clam platter. Another hour passed as Chris rambled on endlessly about anything and everything. I was on my seventh cup of coffee when I noticed that Allison had grown strangely quiet. I looked over at her with concern as I noticed that her normally dark complexion had paled.
"Hey I just noticed something." Chris said suddenly breaking me away from my thoughts. "You're not smoking."
"I quit." Allison responded in a somewhat confused state.
"I've heard that one before." Chris replied in disbelief.
"It's true." I defended Allison. "She has not had a cigarette since the first of the month."
"No kidding?" Chris asked. "Good for you Ally. I know that this is something that you always wanted to do."
There was a slight pause in the conversation as I looked back over at Allison. The woman looked terrible. "Are you all right?" I finally asked her. "I'm fine." She offered with a wave of her hand. "Just a little tired." Although I didn't believe her I decided to let it go for now. Chris went back to talking about her favorite subject which was of course herself.
"I find it hard to believe that no one asked you out in high school?" I found myself saying to Chris about twenty minutes later. Somehow the tall lawyer had managed to engage me in conversation.
"No one did." Chris explained. "All of the boys thought I was too tall. By the time I was sixteen I was already six feet tall. By the time the guys thought I was interesting, I discovered that I wasn't interested in them. Of course my not dating caused some concern with my parents. I remember the day I graduated from law school they were so proud. I decided it was time to tell them the truth about myself. My Mom burst into tears and My Dad threw me out of the house. I haven't spoken to them since."
"Their loss." Allison said bluntly as she absently rubbed her temple.
"Not all of us can have parents like yours Ally." Chris replied earnestly.
Allison smiled slightly. "Oh yeah my coming out was easy." She said in a shaky voice. "I was seventeen and they walked in on me and my girlfriend making out in my bedroom. They were relieved when I started dating boys again. Then after I went away to school I decided it was time to sit them down and have 'the talk'. I was terrified and I will never forget what they said."
"Well what did they say?" I asked.
"Do we look stupid." Allison said with a chuckle. "That was it. From then on they just simply accepted me for who I was."
"What about your parents Stephanie?" Chris asked me.
"They are both dead." I explained.
"I'm sorry." Chris answered with genuine kindness.
I was about to thank Chris for her kindness when I noticed that Allison was shaking slightly. "Allison?" I placed a hand on her shoulder. "What?" She answered absently.
"I think we need to get you home." I said quickly.
"Probably just the tequila." Allison tried to explain as she slumped over slightly.
"Chris?" I called to her in alarm. Without a word Chris jumped out of her seat and was helping Allison up. "I'll take her the car." Chris offered.
"I'll get the check." I volunteered.
Allison stumbled slightly as she stood her face turned an unnatural shade of green. "I think maybe I'll take her to the ladies room first." Chris said quickly as she rushed Allison towards the restrooms at the back of the diner. I motioned for the waitress and quickly paid the check. I raced towards the restrooms to help them. Just as I approached the bathroom the door swung open. Chris struggling to hold Allison up. I moved to Allison other side and helped Chris drag her outside to the car. As we placed Allison in the backseat I felt her forehead. She was burning up.
"I don't think it's the tequila sweetie." I said to Allison. Chris climbed into the backseat and held Allison.
"I have to agree." Chris said fearfully. "Based on the way that ladies room looked I have a bad feeling about the clams."
"Mass. General is just a few minutes away." I agreed as I plopped into the driver's seat and sped off.
When we pulled up to the front of the hospital I put the car in park and rushed over to assist Chris with Allison. Chris reached into Allison's pocket only to have her hands swatted away. "Hey I'm not trying to feel you up." Chris snapped "I need to get your wallet. " She reached down again and was once again pushed away. "Stephanie?" Chris pleaded. "We need her insurance card." I nodded understanding the urgency. I slipped my hands inside Allison's jacket and reached in the pocket of her jeans and pulled out her wallet. Not only did Allison not refuse my advances she pulled me closer to her. "Jesus Allison." Chris laughed as I pulled myself away from Allison's embrace. I pulled her insurance card from her wallet and handed it to Chris and shoved Allison's wallet into my pocket.
Just then a security guard began barking at me to move the car. "Do you know if Nicole is still listed as her contact person?" Chris asked me quickly. "Probably." I said as I hopped into the car. "Oh Chris!" I called out to her as she was entering the ER. "I think Nicole is on duty tonight you might want to have someone page her." I suggested as I pulled away.
I parked the car in one of the large parking garages and ran off to the emergency room. The placed was full of people. I found Chris and inquired as to what was happening. "They are seeing her now." Chris explained. "By the looks of it the clams at the diner were a big hit tonight. You were right Nicole is on duty and they paged her. That should make this fun." She sighed.
"What do you mean?"
"Let's just say there's no love loss between Nicole and I." Chris grunted. "I can't believe that someone allowed her to practice medicine."
"Really!" I shot back.
"Look I'm sorry." Chris apologized. "Let me try to explain. Nicole was booted out of med school because of her drinking. I watched her drag her family through hell and back. She lied to them, stole from them. The entire time I was with Allison I never once saw that girl sober."
"Well that's not the person I know." I countered. "I don't think you are being fair to her."
"Fair to her?" Chris laughed. "What's fair about being a spoiled brat who has no problem with sucking free legal services from me and then running to her sister telling her to dump me."
"Hold on Chris." I tried to calm her down. "Now let's be honest here. Granted using you was wrong, which I'm willing to bet she has already apologized for." Chris simply nodded in agreement. "But if you were Allison's sister how would you feel about her relationship? You told me yourself that you’re a womanizer."
"Honestly?" Chris asked slowly. "I would never let my sister be involved with anyone like myself. But then again my sister is a nun so I don't need to worry about it."
We sat down and awaited news on Allison's condition. The wait was becoming unbearable. "Tell me something Stephanie?" Chris asked suddenly. "Sure." I answered nonchalantly. "Did you know what I was up to tonight?"
"You mean keeping us out so late that we couldn't have time to do anything when we got home?" I responded with a shrug. "Oh yeah I figured it out fairly quickly. That is why I suggested to Allison that we both call in sick today."
"I knew I liked you." Chris smiled in response. Then she grew quiet for a moment before speaking again. "There something you should know. I really do like you but I love Allison. I fell for her the first moment I saw her. We started at the firm at the same time and she just took my breath away. But Jessica Beaumont was there first. I stood back and watched the two of them together for six very long months."
"Eight months." I said absently.
"No it was six." Chris corrected me. "It's not something that I'm likely to forget. The two of us ended up becoming friends and I had given up on ever being with her. Then one night years later it happened. I couldn't believe it. Then I screwed it up. You see I want Allison back and yet I don't want her back. I know that she doesn't love me. The one thing I want is for her to be happy. If you can make her happy then . . . look what I'm trying to say is don't ever hurt her."
"I won't." I answered frankly. "Now can I ask you something?" I questioned her. "If you love Allison this much then why did you cheat on her?"
"Good question." Chris sighed. "The first time was pure lust nothing else. The second time was because I got away with it the first time. Then I guess I kept doing it because deep down I suspected that she knew and she wasn't going to leave me. I thought I could have my cake and eat it too. Or maybe I suspected that she didn't love me. I think that was the real reason I was sleeping around. It was that I wanted to get caught. Perhaps that is why I brought that woman home to our apartment. Just my luck it proved to be one betrayal too many."
I tried to process everything that Chris was telling me. There was something nagging at me that I couldn't quite put my finger on. It wasn't what Chris had just confessed to me it was something Allison had said to me before. I was closing in on the answer when Chris interrupted my thoughts. "So tell me just what is going on with you and Allison?" Chris asked bluntly.
"It's complicated." I offered weakly.
"Yeah. I've already heard that line from Allison so give." She pushed.
I couldn't believe I was doing this but I answered her question honestly. "For starters when we met I was already involved." I explained.
"Oh." Chris said seeming to understand.
"With a man." I added much to Chris' surprise. "I didn't know that I was gay." I explained further.
"That explains it then." Chris said simply.
"That explains what?" Now I was lost.
"Well you know about Jessica." Chris began slowly. "But do you know about Brenda?"
"Brenda?" I asked. I had heard Nicole mention her once. "Who the hell is Brenda?" I blurted out.
"Brenda was Allison's first girlfriend." Chris explained as her face twisted in an odd expression. "The one from high school. She dumped Allison for a guy. She gave Allison the old it's been fun but it's not like I'm a queer or anything crap. Then she ends up marrying this guy and had the nerve to ask Allison to be the maid of honor at the wedding."
"What a bitch!" I exclaimed a little too loudly as the entire waiting turned around a stared at me.
"Basically." Chris agreed. "Nicole didn't take it too well when Allison agreed to go through with it. She beat the crap out Brenda. She ended up getting arrested for drunk and disorderly and assault and battery. The charges were dropped since Brenda wasn't in hurry to explain the situation to anyone. But everyone agreed that it would be best if Allison bowed out of the wedding party."
"The two of them certainly look out for each other." I said quietly. Chris just nodded in agreement.
"I think I understand what the problem is between the two of you." Chris offered in a comforting tone. "Allison can freak out so easily."
"I probably didn't help things by dragging my feet about breaking up with Peter." I added.
"Knowing Allison she probably stayed as far away from you as possible." Chris said in a disgusted tone. "She tries to put on this act like she has everything under control. But she can run away from her feelings faster than a politician can lie. Stephanie I would give anything if she would just look at me once the way she looks at you."
I could feel how difficult this was for her to admit. "So what do I do?" I pleaded helplessly.
"Don't give her a chance to over analyze this." Chris said aggressively. "Just go for it."
"That's easy for you to say." I confessed as I looked over at the statuesque beauty seated next to me.
I was mulling over everything Chris had told me. I knew that it could not have been easy for her. I thought about her advice and it frightened me a little. But there was something on my mind. "Six months. Eight months. Neither of them would have made that kind of error."
"What are you doing here snake?" A familiar voice snapped me out of my thoughts.
"Brat." Chris retorted to Nicole.
They glared at each other for a moment it appeared that there would be no cease fire coming anytime soon. "How is she?" I asked not caring about tension between the two women. The only thing I wanted to know about at this moment was Allison's health. These two can kill each other later. "She is going to be fine." Nicole reassured me.
A sigh of relief escaped from me. "But." Nicole began as I felt my chest tighten. "There is a problem." Nicole sat next to me and place a hand on my arm. "It was food poisoning. As you can see we've had a run of cases on that tonight. Now her doctor would like to keep her here over night just for observation. The attending physician agrees. Here's the problem Allison wants to go home."
"So what's the problem?" Chris interrupted. "If she needs to be in the hospital just explain it to her."
"I wasn't talking to you." Nicole snapped.
"That's enough." I growled stunning the both of them. "Now behave the both of you." I warned them. "Nicole what aren't you telling me?" I demanded.
"It's just that . . ." Nicole stammered. "Well Allison is . . ."
"Spit it out." I pushed.
"She's afraid." She finally admitted.
"What?" Chris said with disbelief.
I held up a cautioning hand up to Chris. I could see that Nicole was being truthful. "She's terrified of having to stay over night in a hospital." Nicole said quietly. I didn't need to know why. I could see the pain of Nicole's face of having to reveal Allison's secret. "Is it medically necessary for her to be admitted?" I asked firmly.
"No." Nicole answered. "It's just a precaution. Dr. Chang isn't going to release her though unless she knows that someone will be with her constantly for the next twenty four hours."
"That isn't a problem." I asserted. "I wasn't planning on leaving her side even if you did admit her. Now when can I take her home?"
"Thank you." Nicole sighed with relief.
"Hold on." Chris butted in. "If the doctor thinks she should stay. . . "
"No." I said firmly. It was at that moment that I realized that the neither of them would fight my choice. Both her sister and her ex-lover had left the decision up to me. I wasn't sure how or why but Allison's well being had been placed in my hands. It should have seemed strange or uncomfortable but it didn't. It seemed perfectly natural.
"She's been asking for you." Nicole stated. "Funny she didn't mention you snake." Nicole shot out at Chris who just glared in response. Nicole led me into the treatment area. On the way she explained that Allison had to be re-hydrated from all of the vomiting and the alcohol. Then she explained what I needed to watch out for and about the antibiotics that she needed to take. She also explained that Allison was pretty much out of it and she might be confused on and off for the next few days.
Allison looked terrible when I was led into the curtain area. I brushed her hair off of her face and took her hand. She smiled gently up at me. "I'm taking you home." I whispered to her. She just nodded in response and squeezed my hand. Nicole spoke to Allison's doctors and convinced them to release her into my care. Once she was stable enough Chris and I drove her home and put her to bed. I made up the couch for Chris and rushed downstairs and changed into a t-shirt and sweats and raced back upstairs. I peeked into the bedroom to find Allison resting comfortably.
"Long day huh?" Chris said from behind me.
"No kidding." I sighed as I turned to her. She had taken a shower and was wearing Allison's robe. I was too tired to get angry. "Chris I need to talk to you."
"I'm sorry if I was out line at the hospital." She apologized quickly. "I have to admit that, Allison was right when she told me you were easy to talk too. I don't know why I told you half the stuff I did. Well if I stepped on your toes or anything I just want you to know that I apologize."
I smiled at her sincere offering. "You were fine at the hospital." I offered in a friendly manner. "There is something bothering me and maybe you could help me out with it?"
"Shoot." She said as she plopped down on the sofa.
"Don't lawyers need to account for their time for financial reasons?" I asked.
"Always." She answered with a smile. "Billable hours makes the world go round."
"Allison isn't the type who would screw something like that up is she?"
"Not a chance." She answered with curiosity.
"So for her not to able to account for her whereabouts is very unusual?" I pushed a little harder.
"Tell me about it." Chris groaned in frustration. "That woman could probably tell you what she ate for breakfast every day for the past decade."
"She doesn't eat breakfast." I added absently as I tried to piece together my thoughts.
"I know that." Chris snapped back sarcastically.
"I'm sorry." I apologized quickly. "I'm just trying to put something together here. So bear with me okay." She nodded her agreement. "You and Allison were close friends before you were together. She told me that many times."
"Yes. I miss that with her." Chris replied.
"So does she." I said. "Now back to what I was saying. When you are that close to someone, you tell them everything like who you are dating right?" Chris simply nodded again. "Would there be any reason why you wouldn't tell someone about a person you were dating?"
"Lot's of reasons." Chris answered. "You're are embarrassed for some reason. Or you know that your friend wouldn't approve. Then of course if you are seeing someone who is involved. Or if you are involved and you are having an affair."
"Okay I can honestly say that the last one wouldn't have occurred to me." I said.
"What can I say?" Chris teased. "So where is all of this leading?"
"Two things I've heard tonight don't fit." I tried to explain. "Allison told me that when she first met me she was involved. But the two of you didn't start dating until later. When I asked her about that she lied to me and said she must have made a mistake. The other thing is that you told me she was with Jessica for six months."
"That's right." Chris answered in a bewildered tone.
"But sometime ago Allison said it was eight months." I explained hoping that she would get the connection without my having to tell her.
"You must have been mistaken." Chris insisted.
"Chris I have a PH. D in history." I sighed. "I live for details. I hate to say this but I think Allison knows exactly where she was on those dates in question."
"What are you saying?"
"I'm saying that she was involved with someone that she didn't want anyone to know about." I spoke carefully. "Not then and certainly not now."
I watched her as the information sunk in. "Jessica." She finally admitted. "Damn it! They got back together."
"I think so." I confessed to her finally. "I also think that the husband knows and that is why he is going after Allison."
"Well this is just peachy." Chris groaned. "I will have to look into this. Damn it! If what you are saying is true then I spent three years of my life with someone who was on the rebound. This night has just sucked."
"It's not your fault." She reassured me. "I'm going to get some sleep. I'll need to fly home today."
Without a word I left her with her thoughts and went into the bedroom and crawled into bed with Allison. I felt her shift slightly and wrap her arms around me. I set the alarm so I could call the office in a few hours. Then I turned out the light and curled into Allison's embrace and began to drift off. "Stephanie?" A very sleepy Allison called out.
"Next year can we do something different for my birthday?" She yawned as she pulled me closer.
"Absolutely." I promised as we both fell asleep
To Be Concluded In Part Five
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