* * * * *

 

 

This is fucking crazy!  You’re fucking crazy!  A ludicrous grin stretched her face.  Yeah, but it feels great, doesn’t it?  She had just gotten off the phone with Marissa and now was pacing excitedly about her room. It was Friday afternoon and dinner at Marissa’s place was a mere three hours away.  The excitement, the surging of energy through her veins was making her jittery. 

 

Eva was at work and she resisted the urge to call her.  Ever since she told her friend about Marissa, the need to share her doubt, the twittering glee that grew within her, her misgivings, her questions - all of it centering about the tall woman - was indulged by long talks she would have with Eva.  The older woman listened to her, laughed with her, teased her and advised her.

 

Ariana didn’t know what was happening to her or why.  The torrent of emotions, of excitement, Marissa’s image dancing before her eyes swept her away.  She felt exulted and unable to stop grinning.  It was as if the floodgates opened and all of her mirth, all the emotions she barred for so long, came rushing out of the labyrinthine compartments of her heart where she had hid them, and now she was drowning. 

 

If she had stopped to think about what was happening to her, she would have been terrified.  In one swift move all of her protective detachment, her coldness and calculations, were nullified by a pair of blue eyes and a soft kiss.  There was no thinking involved in her actions now, just pure instinct and joy.  The change was so great and sudden; she was swept away by it.  She could see that Eva was worried about her uncommon emotional carelessness.  Her days were filled with laughter and the easy happiness that she was experiencing now was thoroughly enjoyable.  The thought of returning to self-doubt and misery did not appeal to her at all. 

 

It feels good to be happy and have something other than a quick fuck to look forward to, doesn’t it?  Despite her extended sexual experience Ariana was relatively new at the matters of the heart.  What is it that Eva always says? “Get scalded by hot milk, and you’ll be blowing even on yogurt.”  She chuckled at the peculiarity of Eastern European sayings her friend was so fond of.  It fits though, doesn’t it?  You got burnt really bad six years ago and ended up developing a fucking lactose intolerance? 

 

The phone rang, interrupting the flow of her thoughts.

 

“Hello?”

 

“Hey, sexy.  Did you figure out what you’re wearing tonight?”

 

“Eva!  Man, I was just thinking about you!”  She knew she was miserably failing to keep excitement out of her voice.  “No, I have no idea what to wear.  I mean, I’m going over to her place, do I try casual or do I need to dress up?”  Her words caught up with her brain and she stopped.  “I can’t believe I just said that.  I can’t believe I’m actually seriously worried about my choice of clothing.” 

 

Eva laughed.  “See?  I knew there was a femmy side to you just dying to come out.”  Ariana could hear Jarred snickering in the background and she made a note to make him pay later.  Eva resumed in a more serious manner.  “I guess it all depends on what you want to achieve tonight, Syd dear.  Are we talking seduction, intellectual conversation - a mix of both - or are you simply looking forward to a good meal?”

 

“Eva, I’m serious!  I…”  She stopped unsure of what she was trying to say.  “I just… I don’t know.  She makes me nervous, you know?  I mean, I care about what happens next, and that makes me nervous.  It’s different from what I’m used to.  You know?”  She realized she was pacing down the length of her room, her free hand punctuating her exclamations in the air.  She stopped.  “It’s just new for me, E.  Even with… even before, it wasn’t like this.  I wasn’t nervous then, I was excited.”  She stopped, the novelty of being able to discuss her feelings with Eva still making her feel awkward.

 

“I know Syd - I can’t say I’ve ever seen  you like this before.  I… I like the change.”  The hesitation was obvious in the short silence that followed.  “Don’t let it scare you, hon.  Just be careful.”  She could almost see Eva open her mouth to say something else and then clamp it shut.  Instead, her voice came back lighter and more jovial.  “It’s never easy when it just starts getting serious, but it might be worth it in the end.  Have you told Marriiisssa that you are her mystery poet yet?”

 

Ariana chuckled despite herself.  Eva had gotten into the habit of pronouncing Marissa’s name with a horrible Russian accent, rolling her r’s and drawing out her i’s before finishing with a hissing sound.  Then she registered the question and sighed in resignation.  “No, not yet.  It’s just hard, you know.  I mean, I…  after she… God!”  Why wasn’t she born with a tad more eloquence than your regular doorknob?  She had to get this out.  “It will expose me, E.  It’s so… it’s all in the poems.  All of it.”  She sighed, words failing her again.  “All of me.” 

 

How could she explain to Eva the fear that shook her every time she imagined someone reading her poetry?  Her soul had been scraped raw and all the ugly rage and bitter longing drained out of it and onto the pages; there were no secrets left between her and her muse.  Her poetry carried her, exposed her like nothing she had ever done or said.  She couldn’t even bring herself to show it to Eva.  As long as Marissa didn’t add the poems and her together, it didn’t matter if she had read them or not.  Once Marissa knew they described Ariana, she would be at the mercy of the tall woman.  It was a step she wasn’t sure she was ready to take.

 

She sidestepped the issue, not willing to get into it now.  Soon enough she’d show Eva why the poems meant so much to her.  She assumed a lighter tone of voice hoping the older woman would let it go.  “I’ll think about it.  Besides, how does one go about declaring herself as the poet she pretended not to know anything about just a week before?  I mean, what do I say – ‘Well, that was some lovely chicken we just had, how about I recite you a few of my verses as a thanks’?” 

 

Eva chuckled, apparently willing to go along with the change of pace.  “Well, it would be a start.  Seriously though, if you want to pursue this editor woman even remotely seriously, you’ll need to tell her.  It will only get harder as more time goes by.”  

 

“Well, then I’ll just have to figure out how serious I want this to be, won’t I?”  She checked the clock.  “Oh, shit, I have to run, E!  Wish me luck.”

 

“Go get her, tiger!  You have what it takes.  And remember – I want the details in the morning.”

 

“Of course you do.  The R-rated or the PG version?”

 

Eva laughed.  “Oh, hon, I don’t think you could do PG even if you tried.  “Go now and have fun.”

 

She hung up the phone, excitement and nervousness battling for dominion in her stomach.  I have what it takes, huh E?  What if she doesn’t want what I have?

 

 

 

****************

 

 

The apartment was even more luxuriant than she expected.  High ceilings with sturdy wooden beams, spacious rooms, wall-sized windows, expensive furniture - the whole effect was one of subdued elegance and a whole lot of money.  Ariana felt uncomfortable.  When Marissa waved her to sit down, disappearing in what appeared to be the kitchen, she decided to stay standing rather than sit on the leather sofa.  Last thing I want is to scratch that shiny leather.  God!  The place is a fucking museum!

 

Marissa came back with two glasses of wine and handed one to Ariana.  She took a sip trying not to scrunch up her face.  Red wine was not something she would willingly subject herself to.  Thanks, E!  Remind me to ask you for advice again!  Eva had told her she should take a bottle of wine with her when she went to dinner, not to show up empty-handed.  Ariana guessed the tall woman would like red and Marissa seemed pleasantly surprised.  ‘Seemed’ being the operative word.  That was a twenty-dollar bottle of wine; I bet she never drinks anything cheaper than fifty bucks.  She was nervous and uncomfortable and all of the pleasant excitement of the last week seemed to shrivel up inside of her.

 

Now that she was faced with the opulence of Marissa’s existence, the idiocy of her situation seemed overwhelming.  What are you doing here, with this woman?  This is so out of your league, little girl.  She shifted uneasily, still standing rigidly by the sofa.

 

“Is everything okay?”  Marissa was sitting on the sofa looking questioningly at her. 

 

Peachy!  Ariana could hear the small acidic voice inside her head comment.  Just fucking wonderful!

 

She looked away from the blue gaze, taking in the luxurious living room with its thick carpets and tall bookshelves covering the opposite wall.  She wanted to go over and peruse Marissa’s selection, but she knew the tall woman was waiting for an answer.  “I, uh…” she shrugged  “I was just admiring your apartment.  It’s very…”  Ah, what the fuck.  “…rich looking.  Not quite what I’m used to.”

 

Marissa laughed, apparently amused.  Then she twisted in her seat, as if taking in the room for the first time herself.  “Yes, yes it does look a little overdone, doesn’t it?  It was a gift from my parents.”  A sheepish grin crossed her lips.  “The furniture came with it.  I’ve been trying to get myself to renovate it for the last three years.  I guess I’m kinda used to it now.”  She stood up, placing her glass on the coffee table and pushing up the sleeves of her blue silk shirt past her elbows. 

 

Ariana couldn’t help but admire the sight in front of her again.  It was different than the sight that greeted her upon arrival, but it was still very nice.  When Marissa opened the door to greet her, it was all she could do to keep her tongue from rolling out of her mouth in appreciation.  Marissa had been wearing a bulky dark blue sweatshirt proudly declaring “Wellesley” in bold white letters across the back and dark blue Adidas running tights.  Her legs were displayed in all of their long, shapely glory and Ariana had a very hard time noticing the rest of the tall woman. 

 

She was sure Marissa did it on purpose.  Ms Weller, if I didn’t know any better, I’d think you were trying to seduce me.  Are you trying to seduce me?  She suppressed a chortle.  If she could keep her wits about her and her hands away from the tall editor, she might just end up showing Marissa that seduction is a dangerous game to play.  Marissa had apologized for not being ready and had dashed into her bedroom, re-appearing a few minutes later immaculately dressed into black slacks and a soft blue shirt, neglecting to button up two top buttons.  Though not very revealing, the hint of cleavage that appeared was even more distracting.  But there had been something else that didn’t quite add up in her appearance. 

 

She had frowned, trying to pinpoint what it was that seemed different.

 

“Your glasses.”  It came to her.  “Where are your glasses?”

 

The taller woman had looked almost sheepish.  “I took them off.”  Marissa waved her hand in the general direction of her face.  “Contacts.”  She seemed to be embarrassed with that admission for some reason.  “So, uh, let me give you a tour of the place.” 

 

So they had gone through the rest of the rooms in the apartment and with every step they took, Ariana’s mood worsened.  Back in the living room, amidst the opulence of Marissa’s Commonwealth Avenue home, she felt very small and very out of place. 

 

Trying to shake off her mood, she looked up and found the tall woman watching her with an amused smirk.  Apparently she had been caught staring.  “Are you hungry yet?”

 

It was Ariana’s turn to laugh.  It was hard to tell if Marissa was really flirting or Ariana just had a dirty mind.  “I don’t know.  What are you offering?” 

 

A dark eyebrow shot up in response but Marissa couldn’t keep a straight face for too long.  Waggling her finger at Ariana she tried to project an air of stern agitation.  Her smile betrayed her.  “Now, now.  I do believe I mentioned Italian when I invited you over.  I …”  She lingered at that, giving Ariana a significant look,  “…am a bad cook.  I have it all arranged, I just need to make a phone call.”  With that she walked back into the kitchen and Ariana could hear her dialing the phone.

 

She shook her head, placing her glass on the table as well.  Oh, you might be a bad cook, honey, but I bet you’d make a marvelous desert.  Straightening up, she walked over to the bookcases framing the big fireplace.  Oohh, a fireplace!  She bent over, inspecting it, and the lack of ashes or wood of any kind made her think it hadn’t been used in a while.  Pity.  God knows I’d have a nice fire going every night if I had a fireplace. 

 

The book selection was dizzying and arranged in no particular order.  Children’s books were stacked next to huge encyclopedias, soft-cover romance novels resting on top of poetry anthologies.  Some books looked brand new, others seemed well worn with use.  She fingered a hardcover edition of the collected works of Neruda, sliding over to John Grisham’s newest bestseller.  She pulled it out and opened the front page.  On it, in bold and almost flowery letters, it said:  “With my deepest gratitude – your mastery of language and diction is surpassed only by your patience and understanding.  Here’s to you, Marissa.”  The signature that followed it was the same as the one on the back cover, under the author’s photo.  Huh.  Now I know someone who knows a celebrity. 

 

Marissa re-emerged from the kitchen bringing her out of her musings.  “Food’s on the way.  Shouldn’t be longer than ten minutes.”

 

“What did you order?”  She could feel her stomach rumbling and hoped the taller woman couldn’t hear it.  She had been too nervous to eat today. 

 

“Oh, I wasn’t sure what you liked, so I got a little bit of everything from ‘Giorgio’s’.  I hope you can eat, because there’s gonna be a  lot of food here soon.”

 

Her stomach growled in response and she shifted, returning the book to the bookshelf.  “You didn’t have to do that.  I told you I eat pretty much everything.”

 

Marissa smiled and waved her in the kitchen.  “I know, and it’s no bother.  I told you my dad owns the place.  It’s just down the street and I’m his only kid – I do this often.” 

 

“Oh.  Okay.”  She wasn’t sure what to say.  Marissa had told her that her father owned an Italian restaurant and that her mother was a professor, but the images in her head didn’t quite fit with the reality.  She had imagined a sort of a “mom & pop” pizza joint instead of a four-star Italian restaurant on Newbery Street. 

 

She followed the tall woman into the kitchen.  The room seemed a lot less intimidating than the rest of the apartment, with its simple furniture and homey feel, but she still found asking herself what exactly she was trying to achieve here. 

 

The thought that a beautiful, rich woman like Marissa could be even as remotely attracted to her as she was to the editor, seemed intensely ridiculous.  What would she have of interest to Marissa?  Agile fingers and a versed tongue?  A couple of hours of physical pleasure?  And she’d get a fine dinner and a glimpse of the life on the other side before being sent packing back to the poor neighborhood which she came from?  She had let herself romanticize about Marissa, imagine a grand romance in that feeble mind of hers, but now that she was faced with all that the tall editor represented, she knew she was being ridiculous.

 

What does she want from me?  If she just wants a random fuck, would she go through all this trouble?  The thought made her feel better, but then the sarcastic voice piped up.  What trouble?  She called daddy and ordered some food.  Don’t fool yourself, girl.

 

Marissa was half immersed in the huge fridge, rummaging through its contents and naming different things she had ordered off the restaurant menu.  Ariana found herself standing by one of the dining table chairs, gripping the backrest convulsively and feeling decidedly deflated.  I haven’t had a normal relationship in... fuck, I haven’t had  a normal relationship, period.  And now, not only am I  falling for nothing less than a Boston Brahman, I dare imagine she could care about me.  Look around, Ar. You should be lucky she bothers to remember your name.

 

“Syd?... Syd!”  Marissa was out of the fridge now, leaning on the open door, one hand on her hip.  “Hey, I lost you there for a while.  Are you sure you’re okay?”

 

“Yeah.”  She knew she sounded as she felt, but she just couldn’t muster the energy to pretend.  Hopefully the woman would let it slide.  “What’s up?”

 

Marissa stood silently, looking at her with burrowed brows for a few long moments.  Just when Ariana thought she would be asked to explain her sullenness, the older woman’s face broke into a teasing grin.  “Oohh, I bet I know what your problem is.  You are one of those people that get grumpy as they get hungry, right?”  She continued without waiting for Ariana’s answer.  “No, no need to deny, I can tell it by your eyes.  Well, I think I have something here that might lift your mood until food arrives.  Come here.”

 

Ariana gave her a questioning look, but moved towards the fridge.  Marissa continued.  “I remember you mentioning seeing one of these in a bar and wanting it.  I figured my dad’s supplier would know how to track it down.”  She pushed the fridge door completely open, motioning towards something inside. 

 

Ariana peeked in and for a long moment all her mind could register was the brilliant emptiness of Marissa’s fridge.  And then it sunk in.  Right there, on the central shelf of the fridge, sat a small, gallon-sized aluminum keg of Bass Ale.

 

“There’s a little spout that comes along with it, but I decided to let you figure out how to tap it.  The last thing I wanted was to have it spray all ov - umpf!”  Marissa found herself pushed back against the kitchen counter with the force behind the hug Ariana administered, her mouth effectively shut by a pair of grateful lips.  “Mmm...  Sydn - oohhh...  S...”  Finally deciding that talking was not an option now, Marissa gave in to Ariana’s ferocious kisses. 

 

Ariana wasn’t sure what came over her.  She only knew that if she didn’t do something fast, she wouldn’t be able to stop the sudden tears from falling.  The gift was unexpected, uncalled for and exactly what was needed to soothe her insecurities.  She vaguely remembered their conversation from the other night about good beers and her brief mention of a small keg she saw a few years back and couldn’t find anywhere. 

 

It would have been a wonder that Marissa even remembered something as trivial as that.  The fact that she not only remembered, but went out and tracked down the keg, just for her, was... special.  It made her feel special.  With the exception of Eva there hasn’t been anyone in her life to buy her gifts for the last ten or so years.  She ran to the taller woman, pulling her down and trying to imprint some of what she was feeling into the tender skin of her mouth.

 

When she realized what was happening, she had crawled up the editor’s body and was straddling Marissa’s hips, her feet well off the ground and safely crossed behind the taller woman’s back.  Marissa’s hands were supporting her backside, gently kneading her ass, and warm lips were attached to her throat.  She was moaning and she definitely didn’t want Marissa to stop what she was doing.  The doorbell elicited a frustrated groan from both of them.

 

Pushing off and turning around, Marissa deposited Ariana on the counter she was just leaning on.  Ariana was still attached to her, hands tangled in dark hair, legs refusing to let the editor slip from between them.  She was shaking, desire and teary happiness overwhelming her.  She burrowed her face in the cool silk of the shirt before her, squeezing Marissa in a tight hug.  “Thank you.” 

 

Marissa planted a soft kiss in her hair before gently lifting her face upwards.  Ariana tried to blink away the moisture in her eyes, but she knew Marissa noticed it.  “In the case you haven’t noticed, I really liked it.”  She tried to end on a lighter note, offering a wavery smile to the taller woman.

 

Marissa was looking into her eyes and Ariana felt a wave of panic rise in her stomach.  She didn’t want the tall woman to see how moved she was by her gesture.  She had already over-reacted as it was.  She tried to look away but the editor was still holding her face in her hands and she found herself drawn to the warmth of the blue eyes above her.  She imagined she saw a flash of understanding cross Marissa’s face as she took a small step back and let her hands drop on Ariana’s knees.  Her voice was warm but she let a trace of teasing enter it.  “You are very welcome Sydney.  And any time you want to thank me like that... please, feel free to.”

 

The doorbell sounded again and Marissa looked away with annoyance.  “Oh, for God’s sake, of all the times...”  Turning back to Ariana she gave her a crooked grin.  “Well, now that I know you are such a fan of Bass Ale, I’ll be sure to keep a nice supply in here.  I have to go get the door or Mario will take our food away, but I’ll be right back, okay?”  Receiving an affirmative nod from Ariana Marissa quickly kissed her forehead before leaving the kitchen.

 

The editor departed and Ariana was left perched on the counter, feeling drained but extremely lucid.  The clarity of the sudden realization left no room for doubt or second-guessing.  She would take a chance.  She would take a chance at letting Marissa in and being vulnerable again.  She would risk feeling again.  She had let it all fester inside her for too long.  She was simply tired of doubting herself, of doubting every scrap of decency anyone showed her for the last six years.  She needed to move on.  And Marissa would be her chance. 

 

Sliding bonelessly off the countertop she stood still for a moment, lost in thought.  Everything was happening too fast, emotions surfaced and asserted themselves in rapid succession, leaving her overwhelmed and anxious.  But it felt right.  She feels right. 

 

She could hear a muted conversation sift through the doors and Marissa’s laughter focused her attention again.  No more doubt, no more insecurity, no more trying to figure out what was going on between her and the beautiful woman.  Sydney could be a heartless bitch, but she knew how to  get what she wanted.  Now Ariana would use some of that decisiveness and color it with feeling.  This game of seduction just took a serious turn.  And to start things off with a bang, Ariana will make an appearance for the first time.

 

Where with her sudden decision to increase the odds/gamble came an almost detached calmness, the thought of giving Marissa her real name and revealing herself as the poet-wannabe, cramped her intestines with a nervous kind of dread.  Oh, shit.  How the fuck do I do that?  “Oh, hello Marissa, well I know that it’s been some two weeks since we first met, during which time I was able to shove my tongue down your throat a number of times, but did I mention my real name is Ariana Shaw, the discarded adopted daughter of Willyce and Albert Shaw, nicknamed Sydney at the tender age of 10?”

 

The sound of the door closing and Marissa’s voice calling her drifted down the hall.  Shit!

“Yeah?”

 

“Uh, do you think you could give me a hand here?  My dad got carried away.”  Following the sound of Marissa’s voice she found herself by the entrance door, staring with dumbfounded wonder at two huge bags of food sitting on the floor.

 

“Wh..h..what…”  A deep breath.  “This can’t all be just for the two of us?!”

 

“Well of course it is.  Do you see anyone else here?”  Marissa was enjoying the aghast expression on her guest’s face.  Ariana clicked her mouth shut.  “Besides, most of this stuff keeps good and the leftovers should tide me over for this week.  Come on, let’s take these pups to the kitchen.”

 

Lifting the heavy bag with a grunt, she followed the editor back in the kitchen, the two handed bear hug she had on the bag obscuring her vision.  The aromas filling her nostrils were making her salivate.  “God, this stuff smells good!”

 

“Yeah, well just wait till you try it.  Daddy didn’t make a fortune with his restaurant for no good reason.”  Marissa was busy unloading boxes and dishes from the bags in an aromatic pile on the counter.  “Here, can you help me set up the table?”

 

They busied themselves with serving and eating the food, mastery of chef Allan Weller leaving them quiet for long moments as both women indulged in the feast before them.  The small keg was tapped and before long they found themselves sprawled on the thick rug in front of the empty fireplace, drowsy with good food, with mugs of ale in hand. 

 

Ariana was lying on her back, stockinged feet propped on the brick wall by the fireplace, half-empty mug balancing on her stomach.  Marissa was mimicking her pose on the other side of the fireplace, resting on her elbows and finishing her drink.  Looking over at the beautiful brunette, Ariana was amazed at the level of quiet comfort she was feeling at the moment.  Eva had been the only other person with whom she could actually enjoy the companionable silence and not feel awkward or tense. 

 

In all truth, she had always felt most at ease alone, sitting in her room with her books, music and poetry.  Words and melody would wash over her and only when she was alone would she be able to relax and open up and let them penetrate her, loosen the clenched feelings and emotions within her and move her.  Move her to tears, to unhindered laughter, to innocent wonder.  When she was alone, Janis Joplin’s voice filled with broken hope would move her to tears.  Walt Whitman’s verses would renew her respect for life, her emotions would flow freely and drip onto the pages, congealing into poems.  Now, with the lethargic drowsiness of the after-meal hour and Marissa’s warmth radiating through her, she could feel that same sense of ease take over.  Is this how it’s supposed to feel?  Is this why people get that obnoxious urge to spend every smidgen of free time together and call each other non-stop when they’re apart?

 

Giving in to the urge to know more about the woman next to her, she broke the silence, nodding towards the bookshelf above them.  “So, did you actually read all these books, or are they just for show?”

 

Marissa followed her gaze, looking up at the rows of books in front of them as if contemplating her answer.  “Every single one.  Some of them were business but most of them were for pleasure.  I don’t’ have that much time to read purely for pleasure though.”  She turned to Ariana, smiling.  “See anything you like?”

 

This time Ariana didn’t bite her tongue.  “Oh, yes, yes I do.”  She let her gaze fully rest on the taller woman for a long moment, imprinting the meaning of her words, before turning to look at the books.  She could see the blush creep up Marissa’s face and the smile that followed it.  Compliments and romance always work, right?  “As for your books, you could lock me up here and throw away the key and I’d be happy.  I like your taste in books.”

 

“Well, I’m glad you approve.  After all, if I couldn’t impress you with my literary expertise, what could I do?” 

 

Marissa was lying on her side now, her head supported by her hand and Ariana felt herself being drawn into the azure gaze of eyes again.  Placing her glass on the floor beside her, she scooted up, leaning over the prostrate woman on all fours. She let her voice drop to a low purr and her hair cascade around her face in waves, brushing the editor’s face.  “Oh, I think you’d be able to come up with something else.” 

 

Her face was only inches away from Marissa’s, but she stopped, not wanting to be the one to initiate the contact again.  Her eyes were drawn to the wetness of Marissa’s lips and she traced her own lips with her tongue in reflex.  She is so beautiful.

 

Marissa closed her eyes for a moment, taking a deep breath before opening them again.  Her free hand floated up, softly caressing Ariana’s cheek before cupping the back of her head and pulling her down.  The kiss was slow and sensual, lips gliding against each other with gentle abandon, teeth lightly nipping soft flesh, tongues caressing escaped sighs.  Ariana let herself be drawn on top of the editor, her weight fully resting on the tall woman.  Her knee pressed in between Marissa’s legs and the editor moaned, raising her thigh and returning the motion.  Ariana let herself grind slowly against Marissa’s thigh, the warmth and the smell of the editor and the feel of her thigh between her legs stealing all rational thought.  It would be so easy...

 

Withdrawing slightly and breaking the kiss, she placed her elbows on either side of Marissa’s head, smoothing dark hair away from the woman’s face.  Marissa gave her a breathy smile, redness of her lips brought out by the kisses they shared.  Her hands reflected the motion, rising to tuck Ariana’s hair behind her ears, lingering there in a caress.  The dazed warmth of her gaze sent a wave of happiness through Ariana.  She ducked in, touching Marissa’s nose with the tip of hers.

 

“Hey.”  It came out as a quiet whisper.  She needed to tell this woman about herself, needed  Marissa to know the truth.  She wanted to hear the woman whisper her name, her name, not the front she put up.  Until she did, she wouldn’t go any further.  It wouldn’t be fair to either of them.  Now, how to broach the subject?

 

“Hey, you.”  Marissa answered.  “Are you impressed yet?”  Her hands were cupping Ariana’s face now, long thumbs tracing the contours of her lips.  “Or should I try a bit harder?”

 

Ariana turned her head slightly, kissing the thumb lightly before nipping at it.  She could see Marissa’s eyelids lower in response.  Ah, what the hell...  Her tongue sneaked out, running the length of the finger and then she moved in, drawing it in her mouth, curling her tongue around it and sucking gently.  Marissa’s eyes closed and Ariana could feel the woman’s hips moving below her.  She gently bit down once more before letting the finger slide out of her mouth.  Not yet.  Not now.

 

“No need.  You can consider me very impressed.  Any more and I’d be in some real trouble.”  She pushed off, sitting up and moving away until she wasn’t touching Marissa anymore, deciding that if she was to have any rational thought she had to keep away.

 

A slight pout graced Marissa’s lips at her action, but she didn’t comment on the move.  “Oh… and here I thought you were the troublemaker type.”

 

Ariana smiled.  “What can I tell you?  Trouble finds me.” 

 

An eyebrow shot up in response, but Marissa’s tone was playful.  “Aha.  So, I’m trouble now?”

 

Unable to stop herself, Ariana reached out caressing Marissa’s cheek with the tips of her fingers.  “No, you’re not trouble.  You’re irresistible.”

 

Marissa leaned into the touch, smiling, but Ariana withdrew her hand before she could deepen the caress.  God, how do I do this?  “Listen Marissa, I have something to tell you...”

 

Hearing the nervousness in her voice, Marissa sat up as well, hugging her knees and resting her chin on them.  Ariana swallowed.  “I, uh, I am n..”  God!  ‘I am not who you think I am.’  How clichéd can you get?  She opened her mouth, but nothing came out.  This should be so easy:  “Marissa, my name is Ariana Shaw and I would like to get to know you.  Really well.”  Instead, she heard herself saying: “I would like to cook dinner for you.”  Cook?  Dinner?  What the fuck?  She could see surprise on Marissa’s face and she knew she perfectly mirrored it with her own expression.  Where did that come from?

 

“Uh, I mean, I’d like to do something for you, after all this.”  She had to keep talking to cover up the fact that she was visibly flustered.  Chicken!  “I figure that’s the least I can do, or the worse, seeing how my cooking really isn’t that good either, but I just thought it would be a good idea...”  She trailed off.  God, I sound like her now, just not nearly as cute.

 

Marissa was smiling and she reached out and took Ariana’s hand between hers.  “Sydney, I would like that very much.  And as for you cooking, I will willingly take my chances.” 

 

Ariana bowed her head.  She had to tell her.  Just not now.  She needed time to think about how to do this.  She had never lied to anyone before and even though, technically, she wasn’t doing it now either, keeping the truth away from this woman was making her feel… well, bad about herself.  And she wanted Marissa to know, she really did, but for some reason the thought of telling her had her stomach tied up in knots.  Maybe it will be easier on home turf.

 

It was time to go.  She couldn’t draw this out any longer, and knowing that every time she opened her mouth she got deeper into the murky waters of evasive answers and half-truths, it was best if she left. 

 

But she really didn’t want to go.  Well, either you leave or you tell her the truth, now.

 

She squeezed Marissa’s hands before extracting hers and getting up.  “Well, I’m glad to hear that.”  The look on Marissa’s face as she realized Ariana was leaving was precious.  It was a mix of surprise, disappointment, and disgruntled resignation.  Ariana chuckled.  “Hey, don’t give me that look.  I don’t want to leave either, but if I stay I might... not be able to stop myself.”

 

Marissa followed her up and now she was standing next to her, the soft scent of her perfume enveloping Ariana.  She moved in closer, mere inches separating them, and she slowly ran her forefinger down the length of the smaller woman’s torso, stopping at her belt buckle.  Ariana could feel the chill run right back up her spine at the touch.  

 

“And that would be bad, why?”  The editor’s voice was low and sultry and held so much promise that Ariana involuntarily moved forward, closing the distance between them.  Her lips found Marissa’s with blind accuracy and this time there was no tenderness in the touch.  The reign on her desire was tight but now it was unraveling with a vengeance.  The editor was able to soothe her insecurities with a touch or ignite her with a single searing kiss, and now Marissa was trying her best to do the latter.  Marissa’s lips were determined and needy, movements of her tongue in Ariana’s mouth long and demanding. 

 

And she wanted Marissa.  She wanted her naked and covered with the light sheen of exertion, spent and sated underneath her.  She wanted to taste her passion, to have it coat her tongue until that was the only taste she could discern.  She wanted to have Marissa on the precipice of sexual bliss, whispering her name as a plea and as a curse, and if she gave in to the editor’s caresses now, she wouldn’t be able to have that.  For the first time in her life she felt as if she had something worth waiting for.

 

That thought gave her the resolve needed to extricate herself from the editor’s embrace.  Marissa wasn’t about to let her out easy though.  She had her hands under Ariana’s denim shirt and was caressing the smooth expanse of Ariana’s back while her lips were tracing the length of her collarbone.  The feel of large hands sliding down her spine and warm lips exploring every bit of skin exposed by her unbuttoned collar was distracting in the most pleasant way.  She realized with a detached amazement that the soft moans and heavy breathing she could hear were hers.  Again, she could feel her mind losing control under the barrage of pleasurable pulses carousing through her body.  A disjoined thought floated through her head.  God, the verse “my body tractable and loaded up for bliss” takes on a whole new meaning now.

 

“Marissa.”  No response, hands and lips continuing their assault on her self-control.  She tried again, taking a step backwards.  The editor simply took a step with her, her hands sliding over Ariana’s ribs and below the wires of her bra to cover her breasts.  “Marissa I don’t think we should...”  She could feel long fingers enveloping her breasts, palms pushing into her erect nipples.  “Marissa... Ma- mmmm...”  She could hear a little voice in her head counting “Time left until meltdown: T minus ten seconds and counting.”  Okay, I have to get out of here before all the blood drains out of my brain..

 

Cupping Marissa’s face with her hands she gently pried the taller woman away from her throat.  “Marissa, I have to go.  I can’t do this.  Not now.  Not like this.” 

 

Marissa was flushed and breathing heavily and her hair was slightly disheveled as she stared directly at Ariana for a few long moments.  Ariana found herself wondering if Marissa could see how close to giving in to her desire she truly was.  She hoped not, because right now, Marissa looked more beautiful than ever and just one more kiss would be her undoing. 

 

Luckily for her, Marissa shook her head, expelling a long breath and lowering her forehead to Ariana’s shoulder.  “You’re killing me here.” 

 

Leaving, she had arranged for a dinner date in her house for next weekend.  She didn’t want to wait that long to see the beautiful editor again, but Marissa would be gone for the better part of the week on a business trip.  As they were saying their goodbyes they both avoided any physical contact, knowing that the temptation could prove to be too much.  Soon enough, was Ariana’s mantra on her way home, soon enough.

 

 

* * * * *

 

 

The week had been a success.  The three-day trip to a publisher’s convention in New York has all but landed them a promising new writer.  A woman at that.  Soothes my poor little feminist heart.  She was seated in a small booth at an upscale French restaurant in the heart of Manhattan.  The owner was a good friend of her fathers and now she was being treated to a sinfully wonderful lunch.  Being the only child of a star restaurant chef does have its advantages..  Then again, dad does cook better than these people.

 

A content sigh escaped her lips.  This was life at its finest.  Great food, excellent wine, and a quiet afternoon.  The plane to Boston wasn’t leaving for another few hours and a couple hours after that she would be curled up on her sofa, reading a script she had picked up at the conference.  

 

She really enjoyed this part of her job, always having been good at the social aspect of it.  She had schmoozed and oozed pleasantries to so many people she lost track after the first day of the conference.  But she had a near catch in her hand and she was able to pick up a few leads on other promising writers.  God, I love my job!  Nothing like three days of business lunches at the best restaurants New York has to offer and three nights of Broadway shows to dazzle the prospectives.  Now a pleasant tiredness was making her limbs heavy and she leaned back, stretching her legs under the table.  A movement in the corner of her eye caught her attention and she turned.  Her lunch almost came back up to say hello.

 

Her past was walking towards her and she was wearing a predatory smile.

 

Kristin Andersen had had only one duty when she was a part of Marissa’s life, and that had been sex.  The sight of six feet of barely contained sexual energy making her way towards her across the crowded dining room still made her mouth dry.  The self-assured gait and the knowing smirk on the tall blonde’s face told Marissa that Kris had noticed her reaction and Marissa willed herself to take a calming breath and avert her eyes.  How the Hell does she still do that to me?

 

“Hello Marissa.”  The low contralto of the woman’s voice washed over her and she could feel the chill run up her spine raising the small hairs on the back of her neck.  God!  It’s a conspiracy!  How much more sexual stimulation will I be submitted to before I go crazy? 

 

She craned her neck, giving the blonde woman standing in front of her a cool smile.

“Kris.  This is a... surprise.”  No point in faking nonchalance now, the woman  could always read you like a cheap romance novel.

 

“I imagine it must be.  After all, it has been over a year now, hasn’t it?”  The calm detachment in her voice caused another shiver to run down Marissa’s spine.  Some things never change.  Back to our old game, aren’t we Kris?  “Mind if I join you?”

 

She nodded her assent and the blonde woman slid into the booth opposite to Marissa.  The space between them seemed to be shimmering  with crosscurrents of nervous energy.  The change from a lazy afternoon she planned on having to this alert sense of anticipation was sudden and complete.  Marissa could feel her palms getting damp.  She just wasn’t prepared to deal with Kris now.

 

“I won’t be staying here much longer Kris.  I’m already done with my lunch.”

 

The blonde just observed her for a few long seconds, as if contemplating the truthfulness of her statement, and Marissa could feel the old feelings reappearing – anger and desire.  Finally, Kris leaned in, resting her forearms on the table.  She looked straight into Marissa’s eyes and the editor couldn’t help but find herself holding her breath under the intense blue gaze. 

 

When she spoke, the lawyer’s voice was a low purr, the tone she used only in the bedroom and the courtroom.  “You look good, Marissa, just like I remember you.”  She let her eyes slide down to Marissa’s lips and linger there before pining her with her gaze again.  “It’s been far too long since we last… saw each other.”  She pulled back, scanning the room.  “I am meeting a client in a few minutes, but I can arrange to have the afternoon off after that.  Interested?”

 

Marissa swallowed as the full range of possibilities offered to her played out in her mind.  Interested?  God, I’ve been “interested” for the last three weeks now!   She opened her mouth to respond.  There are always later flights, right?  I don’t have to be at work until nine the next morning anyway.  Her body gave her a vigorous nod of approval, but something was not letting the words of assent leave her mouth.  Do I really want to go through this again, even if only for an afternoon?  It would be hard and unemotional, but Kris had always made it worth the effort. 

 

She looked up from the tabletop her eyes had slid to.  Kristin was still looking at her, the corners of her mouth always slightly upturned, as if she was constantly being amused by the world around her.  Her eyes are dead.  It was a startling thought, but the bright blue of the lawyer’s gaze held no depth to it.  Unlike…  She shook her head to clear the image of green eyes darkened with emotion from her mind, and when she looked at Kris again there was an answering smile on her lips as well. 

 

“I don’t think so, Kris.  I have a plane to catch in a few hours and I still need to pack.  Another time, maybe?”  The tone of her voice was sweet but she knew that the sudden lack of interest on her part was clearly evident.

 

Kris’s smile seemed genuine now, a fair eyebrow arched in mock disbelief.  “Oh.  I see.”  She slowly stood up, her palms still planted on the table, leaning in towards Marissa.  “Miss Weller is playing hard to get.  That’s a nice change.”  She straightened up, her eyes not leaving Marissa’s.  “Very well, then.  I’ll give you a call next time I come to Boston.  We can continue this conversation then.  Until then.”  With that, she turned and walked towards the entrance where a gray haired man in a business suite seemed to be waiting for her.  Marissa couldn’t help but notice the expanse of leg revealed by the not-so conservative skirt-suite Kristin was wearing.  What in God’s name came over me? 

 

Still shaking her head in disbelief, she left a handsome tip and walked out of the restaurant and into the cold big-city afternoon.

 

 

******************

 

She planned on starting a new script on the short flight back to Boston, but her mind kept replaying the lunch meeting with Kris.  She still couldn’t quite grasp the fact that she turned down an afternoon with Kristin Anderson.  She also couldn’t come up with a justifiable reason for it.  Why?  Because she’s not as nice as Sydney?  For God’s sake, Marissa!

 

But that was the reason and she couldn’t avoid admitting it to herself.  She thought of Sydney and everything she knew Kris would be able to offer to her suddenly lost its appeal.  Kris … Memories came back full force.  Maybe it’s time to finally get off that roller coaster, huh Mar?

 

She and Kris had stopped seeing each other more than four years ago.  Theirs had been an interesting relationship, to say the least.  She still wasn’t sure if it qualified as a relationship at all.  They had met through mutual acquaintances.  For months before that all either one could hear was “Oh, my God, wait till you meet Marissa/Kristin, she is just what you’re looking for!  You’d love her!”  So after all that time they had chanced on being at the same party at the same time.  It was a great set-up, it really was, Marissa standing in the middle of the room feigning interest in whatever the person in front of her was boring her with, Kristin making a late appearance at the drawing-room door. 

 

She could swear the whole room fell silent as everyone anticipated their meeting.  They didn’t disappoint.  Kristin had been causally stunning in her navy Ann Taylor slacks and baby-blue tank top, blonde hair cascading loosely past her shoulders.  Her shirt matched the color of her eyes perfectly, ice blue blazing across the room straight through Marissa.  Their gazes met and they awarded each other with a curt, almost passing nod, before resuming whatever they were doing.  Marissa returned her attention to the annoying little woman rendered silent by the encounter she witnessed.  Kristin had resumed her regal walk across the room, heading to the bar and then out to the balcony of the huge apartment.  The whole room had suddenly seemed muted with anticipation.  In retrospect, it was hilarious.  Nothing like a little dyke drama to spice things up in Boston’s intellectual lesbian’s community.

 

At one point they had been formally introduced to each other by a fascinated hostess, but had managed to avoid coming anywhere near each other the whole evening.  In truth, Marissa was not impressed by the other woman and could clearly see that the reaction was mutual.  Pompous ass.  I bet she thinks she’s irresistible. 

 

She had come to find out that she had been right – Kris hadn’t been interested in her either.  She thought Marissa to be an uptight prude.  Well, I believe I changed her opinion.  She’s still a pompous ass though.  By the end of the evening everyone had seemed disappointed by their lack of performance and when Marissa got up to leave hardly anyone noticed.  She remembered thinking that Caroline’s adamant refusal to go to any of the “Martha Stewart gatherings”, as she called them, made a lot of sense.  Right as the elevator door was closing Kris had stepped in as well, leaving the two of them alone for the brief ride down. 

 

The blonde had used the full fifteen seconds of the elevator ride for a full once-over, not bothering to look up into her eyes.  Marissa had been too amused to get upset.  As the elevator door opened Kris had finally looked straight into her eyes and said:  “I hate my evenings to end on a disappointing note.  Would you like to do something about it?”

 

All she could do was rise an eyebrow, both curiosity and disbelief fueling the action.  With a lingering look and a knowing smirk, Kris had slowly walked out of the elevator and the building’s lobby and Marissa had found herself following her with no conscious thought.  They had gotten into Kris’s car and after fifteen minutes of silent driving they were in Brookline and at the lawyer’s apartment.  The sex had been incredible.  Marissa carried marks of Kris’s teeth and nails for days afterwards.  They had not spoken more than three sentences to each other the whole night, but neither of them minded. 

 

She still didn’t know whether to be embarrassed or proud of the whole experience.  Kris had the commanding role in the relationship, keeping their encounters brief and brutal.  The force of carnality that overtook her every time she and Kris came together was overwhelming.  They didn’t have dates and they didn’t go to dinners and movies.  They fucked.  Plain and simple. 

 

Kris would walk into Marissa’s office and lean on her door, hiking her skirt up.  Marissa would find herself on her knees and ten minutes later Kris would walk out of her office, calm and composed as usual while she would be left to deal with her frustration until later that night when they would meet again.  It had always been Kristin’s lead and Marissa would find herself unable to resist.  Sometimes it would be all about Kris’s satisfaction and at others she would dedicate hours to Marissa until she had to beg the blonde to stop.  In all of the six months their sex-relations lasted, it had never been about tenderness or intimacy.  It was about rough sex, domination and power trips.

 

It had been a thrilling experience for Marissa, all of her previous encounters having been long-term, soft, cuddly, sexually unimaginative relationships.  Kristin had been her first and only wild girl and she had enjoyed the ride.  Until she decided she had outgrown it.  She had gotten her share of excitement and unpredictability; ladies room orgasms and emotional detachment.  It was simply time to move on.  Of course, it had ended on Kris’s terms, the blonde lawyer sensing Marissa’s lack of interest and ending it herself.  Marissa hadn’t cared; it had been about sex, and it had been good, but it was simply time to move on.  Now Kris was in New York and in the last four years they had come across each other about half-dozen times, and not counting the last one, had had sex each time.  The woman’s definitely a few pages short of a brief, but she’s still the best roll in the hay I ever had.

 

She slowly stretched in her seat.  She needed to go to the bathroom, but the middle-aged car salesman in the first-class seat next to her had finally fallen pray to the fourth gin & tonic he had and was softly snoring in his seat.  The thought of squeezing past his parted legs kept put. 

 

She knew the main reason she kept doubting her decision not to sleep with Kris was the fact that the young blonde she was looking forward to seeing in Boston kept visiting her dreams.  They were some of the most vivid, realistic, pleasurable dreams she was ever privy to experiencing.  Up until she would wake up on the edge of satisfaction.  Much like in real life, so far.  Her hormones were crying out for some much needed exercise and she had no doubt Kris would have been the right person for it.  But she couldn’t make herself do it.

 

Hopefully I won't have to deny myself much longer.  Tomorrow night Sydney, no more backing away.  Sydney was going to make dinner for the two of them at her place, but Marissa was looking most forward to the dessert.  The young piercer was extremely attractive and she had found herself inordinately drawn to the girl, but Marissa was not good at the game of cat and mouse.  Maybe that's the part of the attractiveness - the fact that she's driving me mad with her skittish  behavior.  The dinner at her house last week was a perfect example.  She could see the girl teetering on the edge of jumping her bones and then withdrawing at the last moment.  Marissa couldn't understand why Sydney was hesitating.  I mean, for her this is all about sex.  The thought gave her pause.  Right?

 

The girl was absolutely mesmerizing to Marissa.  The change within the girl, from predatory instinct to warm intimacy and back, drove Marissa to distraction.  She hadn't gotten as excited by someone like that since Kris, and even then, with the cold lawyer, the excitement went only as far as the bed.  Sydney was as sexual, but much more... nice.  With the girl, Marissa had found herself getting excited as much by girl's soft sighs as with her touches.  The contact between them, though parallel to Kris in intensity, just seemed deeper somehow.

 

But it’s still just sex.  She chuckled at the thought, drawing a soft snore from her seat companion.  Just sex, Mar?  You only got to the second base, what would you know about sex with this girl?  Her lips relaxed in a sensual smile.  Enough to know it will be good.  Very good...

 

But something gnawed deep in her, a feeling that would not let her dismiss what was going on with the piercer quite so easily.  Her thoughts returned to the blonde's reaction when she saw the keg of ale she had purchased for her.  Marissa had been surprised by the outburst, the girl's thankfulness almost distracting enough to make her not notice the tears in her eyes.  Sydney had been moved, deeply moved by that simple gift.  Marissa had hardly given any thought to purchasing the keg, attention to detail and small quirks was ingrained in her.  She loved picking up little gifts for people and she did it mindlessly most of the time - she would be reminded of someone by a small knickknack and she'd pick it up.  It was a most natural thing for her, her mother having done the same thing for as long as she could remember.  Her co-workers loved getting her as their secret Santa, her gift was always individual and on the spot.  As a matter of fact, most people were so used to her doing it, her actions didn’t evoke much excitement at all.

 

But Sydney... God, you'd think the girl never received a gift in her life.  But that was exactly the feeling Marissa had gotten when she saw the look in the girl's eyes.  So much childish happiness in the green gaze, but also so much sadness.  She had never seen eyes so expressive before.  Maybe it's just the contrast between the emotions she wants people to see and what her eyes actually convey.  The difference is staggering. 

 

She hadn't known how to react to the emotions playing across Sydney's face, so she had tried to cover up her awkwardness with humor.  Mario had shown up with the food at the most opportune moment.  It had given both of them time to gain some composure.  There just seemed to be so much odd protectiveness in her for the girl.  The emotion would surface and surprise her, the need to hold the girl and put her at ease placing her desire on the back burner.  Yep.  I hit thirty and my motherly instinct finally kicks in. 

 

Well...  She shifted uneasily again.  ...whatever the case may be, she’s not getting out of it this weekend.  It had taken her quite some time to repress everything that was raging after the girl had left after dinner last weekend.  She hadn’t gone to an empty bed that worked up since she was ... dating Kris.  But while the lawyer would do it to her on purpose, Sydney had seemed as equally distressed as she was.  She just couldn’t understand it.  They both wanted it really bad, so bad Marissa could taste it in every kiss they shared.  Why the wait?  I know she’s not the virginal type.

 

It just didn’t make sense.  Her reaction to the girl didn’t make sense.  The logical part of her mind kept reminding her that she was doing this because she was bored and had been feeling depressed and that the blonde piercer was probably just enjoying the ride on the richer part of the town.  However, the logical part of her mind just didn’t seem to make any sense.  The impatient and the horny parts of her seemed to have the upper hand now.  She knew that once they had sex there would either be another stage in their “relationship” developing, or it would end right there.  At this point, she just needed to know which one it would be.

 

Shit, if I don’t know what’s going on, how can I expect Lin to understand?   She remembered the conversation she and Caroline had on Monday before she left.

 

“Soooo, you’re trying to tell me you didn’t get any yet?”  Caroline’s tone was disbelieving.

 

“No, I told you we didn’t do anything yet.  Well... not nothing, but not, you know...”

 

“But you didn’t get into her pants.”  Caroline had succinctly finished.  “I don’t understand Mar, do you want her?”

 

“Yes!”  It came out exasperated and she was sure Lin could hear the sexual frustration rearing its smug head.

 

“...And you say she is interested too...”  Caroline continued, disregarding the small note of desperation in Marissa’s voice  “...and you say you just want sex, but if she’s the one who’s putting things off, that can mean only one thing...”  She trailed off.

 

She really hated it when Lin did that.  Why couldn’t she just finish her line of reasoning?  Why was that one little word so necessary to come out of Marissa’s mouth?  Oh, for God’s sake!

 

“Come on, spit it out, for God’s sake!  What do I have to do, pry it out of you?”

 

She could hear the stunned silence from the other end.  Then Caroline softly snorted.  “Oh, dear God, I didn’t know it was that bad Marissa.”  She could just see it, Caroline sitting on her couch, phone wedged between her ear and shoulder, arms crossed at her chest, a puzzled frown on her face.  “She got you all worked up, didn’t she?”

 

She took a deep breath.  Just because she was sexually frustrated didn’t mean she should take it out on Lin.  She sighed into the phone.  “I don’t know, Lin.  I just don’t know what is going on.  I mean, this should have been a simple sexual encounter, and here we are, two weeks later, and I’m as wound as a cuckoo clock and the little bird just isn’t popping out!”  Caroline guffawed. 

 

“It’s not funny, Lin!  She’s sweet and smart and, God, beautiful, but that just doesn’t explain why I keep getting distracted thinking about her and...”  She trailed off, unsure of how to continue.  When she did, her voice was lower, almost as if she was worried someone could overhear them.  “I just want to get it over with and move on.”

 

Caroline was silent for a few long moments.  When she spoke Marissa could see she was trying to choose her words very carefully.  “Mar, I know that you... have been lonely and not happy for some time now.  No, no, hear me out.”  A deep breath.  “I just don’t want to see another Kristin happen.  It’s not worth it.”

 

She should have expected that, seen it coming from a mile ahead, but the words still stung.  Her relationship with Kris had driven her and Caroline apart.  It didn’t happen right away and it had never really gotten out of hand, but that had been the first and only time someone had come between them.  It had mostly been her fault, Marissa had to admit, she had let Kris separate her from Lin.  The two women developed a bitter animosity the first time they laid eyes on each other; Caroline’s protectiveness blossoming and Kristin’s regular charming self making an appearance. 

 

Caroline had not liked the disrespecting way Kris had treated her and Marissa had not liked hearing about Caroline’s disapproval.  Probably because I knew she was right.  After she had broken things off with Kris, she had made her peace offering to Caroline.  She was wrong, about getting involved with someone like Kris in the first time and especially about letting something like that get in between her and Lin, and she knew it.  She had apologized to Caroline, and they were both only too happy to have things back the way they were.  And then Anne came along...

 

“It’s not like that, Caroline!”  It came out harsher than she had intended, and she counted to five to calm herself.  “I... She...”  Great, you either can’t stop talking or you can’t string two words together!  She tried again.  “Kristin was a mistake, but it was one that had to be made, Lin.  The only thing I regret about that experience is that I let it distance us.  As for Sydney, I don’t necessarily know what is going on, but I do know that she’s nothing like Kris.”  Her libido tapped her on the shoulder and she nodded in defeat.  “Well, okay, so she’s capable of making me feel like a cat in heat, but not like Kris, not like that.”

 

Caroline’s voice was low and Marissa knew her friend still had a hard time talking about this.  “I am sorry to bring her up again Mar, but I’m worried.  Kris is the only one I know that had you acting like that.”  Caroline took a deep breath and when she spoke again there was forced lightheartedness in her voice.  “Your behavior when you were with her was the ultimate definition of ‘pussy-whipped’, after all.  I just don’t want to see that happen again.”

 

“I know, Lin, I know.  I have learned my lesson with her.  But Sydney is nothing like Kris, you’d believe me if you saw her.”  How does she explain something she herself has only had glimpses of?  “It’s just... She... God, I just don’t know, Lin!  I mean, at one moment all I can think of is how much I want her, and at the next, I look into her eyes and I see a part of myself reflected in them and it... it scares me.”

 

The silence that followed was welcomed by both of them.  Marissa had been as surprised by her admission, probably as much as Lin was. Where did all that come from?  Leave it up to Lin to fluster me enough to come up with something like that.  But the words rang true, and they both knew it.

 

“Okay, hon, I didn’t mean to upset you.”  Caroline’s voice betrayed her surprise.  “I didn’t know.  Mar, the last thing I heard was how you were finally going to get some action and now... well, now this calls for a ‘sit-down’ session.”

 

“Bu..”

 

“Ah-ah!  No argument!  Granted, I might have been slipping on my friend duties lately, but if you think you are getting out of this one, think again.”

 

“Caroline, I don’t want you leaving Anne and Michelle on my account.”  Their “sit-down” sessions started in college when they would pull all-nighters if it seemed one of them was getting serious about someone, drinking and discussing every person they had ever been involved in and comparing them to the current object of affection.  By the end of one of them, the enamored woman had either convinced both her and her friend that the love interest was worth pursuing, or she’d never want to see the person again.  They hadn’t done that since Caroline met Anne.  And we certainly didn’t have one of those for Kris.

 

“Nonsense.  Jeffrey is coming on Saturday for the weekend so I will come over then.”  Jeffrey was Anne’s college friend, an eternal bachelor looking for his Mr. Right, and Michelle’s biological father.  “I hope you still know how to do this.”

 

She had closed her eyes, letting some of the relief she was feeling wash over her.  It felt good to know Caroline was still there for her. 

 

“Of course I do.  I also remember that, since it is my head that will be shrinked, I get to choose our poison.”  She heard a groan from the other side.

 

“Tequila?”  There was definite trepidation in Caroline’s voice.

 

The chuckle that answered her was pure evil.  “Among other things...  Tell me, Caroline, do you like ice tea?”  The string of explicatives that came through the phone kept her laughing well after she had hung up.  Thank God for friends...

 

The plane touched down with a jerk and Marissa was stunned when she realized they had landed in Boston.  Home, sweet home.  Time to enjoy the more pertinent things in life…

 

*****

 

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