Characters are my own.  Please send feedback to  Hope you enjoy!  This one is fairly PG (for minor profanity) and depicts romance between two women.  It’s also quite unapologetic in its depiction of the true nature of cats.  If either of these things offends you, first of all – lighten up, secondly, damn - are you ever in the wrong place.

Stalking Jesse

Chapter 1

Lisa Harte was not a stalker - definitely not.  She was a nice, intelligent, hard-working young woman with a wonderful personality and a great sense of humor.  She was also popular and out-going.  She made friends easily.  Blonde (thanks to Clairol) and blue-eyed, she had a beautiful smile, a pretty “girl-next-door” face, a nice body, and a good job. 

Was she a little bored and lonely lately?  Sure.  Tired of being single?  Definitely.  Bordering on desperate?  Maybe.  But she was certainly not a stalker.

Standing at the stove stirring her “everything in the refrigerator that was about to go bad” soup, Lisa glanced down and smiled at Puff, the fat, lazy, and decidedly spoiled gray tabby cat that had been her constant companion since she’d graduated from college ten years earlier.  Fortunately, the un-trainable cat had gotten too fat in recent years to jump up on the kitchen counter, and was therefore languidly gazing up at Lisa from the rug in front of the kitchen sink.  He was engaging in his two favorite past-times – shedding on her possessions and projecting utter disdain.   

“I’m not a stalker am I, Puff?”  Lisa asked the sleepy and disinterested cat, who looked at her with half-closed green eyes.  Puff had started life as His Royal (H. R.) Puffinstuff, and then became Mr. Puffins, then Puffy, and finally, the more mature “Puff” as he got older and more like a feline King Henry the VIII.  Over the years however, he’d failed to respond to any of these names, although he invariably snapped to attention in response to the subdued whir of an electric can-opener.

“Vicki thinks I’m acting stalker-ish – considering I’m going to the library two or three times a week just to see Jesse – Mount Vernon’s very own gorgeous resident librarian – but I like to think of it as more like ‘admiration from afar’ - not stalking.  What do you think, Puff?  Am I deluding myself?  Am I acting weird?”  Lisa pondered as she tasted the decidedly adventurous carrot/cucumber/somewhat soft tomato/onion/wilted celery/shriveled garlic cloves and leftover stewed chicken soup (with the remainder of a tub of not-quite-expired sour cream thrown in) simmering on her stove.  Lisa was infamously frugal, and hated to see food go to waste.  This peculiarity had only occasionally resulted in food poisoning. 

“I know you’ve never seen her, Puff, but I suspect you’d think she’s hot as well – I think she’s a cat lover too.  I’ve seen cat hair on her black wool slacks,” Lisa sighed and bent over to scratch the lazy beast, chuckling to herself.  “Okay, I’m trying to have a conversation with a cat - and a hopelessly self-absorbed one at that.  Maybe I am nuts.  How long can you go without sex before you go crazy, Puffy?”

Puff - the original long-suffering kitty-cat virgin - blinked at her disdainfully.  Lisa grimaced.  “Don’t look at me that way, Puff.  Should I get you a hot little lady cat companion?  Is this my punishment for forcing you to be a bachelor all these years? For cutting off all your fuzzy little boy parts?”  Lisa crossed her arms and glanced down at the bored cat as she leaned against the counter.

“Of course, you probably wouldn’t appreciate it even if I did get you a girlfriend, you lazy thing.”  At this, Puff rolled over on his back, stretched his legs, spread his toes, and assumed his “rub me” pose.   Lisa chuckled and kneeled down, rubbing his fat stomach as she shook her head, “Okay – so maybe you do need a girlfriend…”

“And…maybe your Mom needs one too.  Before she does turn into a stalker,” Lisa sighed reflectively, leaning back in her heels.  Puff, meanwhile, decided to resume his aloof manner and rolled over - turning his back to her and bending over to lick his belly where Lisa had petted him.

“Of course, if I could do that, I wouldn’t need a girlfriend,” Lisa mused, watching Puff and laughing to herself. 

Chapter 2

Lisa had moved from Chicago to Mount Vernon, Ohio over three years ago.  She worked as a Registered Nurse at a small medical clinic in town, and had taken the job because it was an opportunity to work a straight Monday through Friday day shift – a true luxury for a relatively young nurse.  Prior to that, she’d been working a midnight shift in a large hospital in Chicago. 

The fact that her brother Luke – her only sibling - lived in Canton, Ohio, which was just a short drive away, was another reason she took the job.  Luke was married and had two little girls, and Lisa loved being able to spend more time with her nieces. 

The midnight shift Lisa had worked previously was supposedly one of the factors in her break-up with her last girlfriend, Chris – according to Chris at least.  Lisa never had quite figured out how the break-up had become her fault when it was Chris who cheated on her with one of their best friends.  Apparently, the perpetually tired Lisa couldn’t properly attend to Chris’ sexual needs.  But then again, maybe Lisa was tired because she still ended up doing the bulk of the housework despite her killer schedule.  Chris thought dirty dishes and dirty clothes were supposed to age like fine wine before they were washed.  The drama that had ensued in their group of friends after the break-up was yet another factor in her move.  Lisa just wanted to get away from it all.

Lisa loved her new job.  Nevertheless, the culture shock of moving to a smaller town was a whole lot more than she had bargained for.  She’d left most of her friends behind – only maintaining contact with a few of her closest and most loyal friends - and found herself in a town with no discernible gay community.  All of the friends she’d made since moving to the new town were straight – not that here was anything wrong with that – but…

Surprisingly, there actually was one gay bar in town.  It was called “The Pride Zone”, and from the outside it looked like a complete dive.  It appeared to have at one time been a gas station, since there was still a curb out front where the gas pumps had once been located.  Plywood had been installed over what had once been the roll-up doors for the garage, as well as over all the large glass windows.  An extension had been built on to the back to accommodate additional restrooms, a bar area, and a dance floor.  The whole thing was painted dark gray, with pink trim.  The badly hand-painted “The Pride Zone” sign out front had a distinctive rainbow flag style motif added to it just in case the name of the bar didn’t make it’s supreme gayness sufficiently obvious.

Lisa had finally coerced some of her friends from Chicago - Niecy and her girlfriend Kay - into coming down for a visit and going to the bar with her – since the prospect of going alone was just way too daunting. 

As it turns out, “The Pride Zone” looked like a complete dive from the inside as well.  It still smelled vaguely of motor oil and tires.  Most of the patrons were gay men – and they were decidedly not the kind of stylish, moneyed, urbane gay men Lisa was used to seeing in Chicago.  These were largely lower middle-class, small-town, poorly educated gay men – a very different breed.  These were the gay men who didn’t have the money, education, ambition, talent, or good sense to get the hell out of Mount Vernon, Ohio – i.e. classic “flyover” gays.  Lisa had never quite understood the expression before.

There were also a few drag queens, one of whom did a lousy Cher imitation on a karaoke machine (Lisa suspected she could have done a better rendition of “Believe”) set up by the bar, an extremely drunk and loud older lesbian who looked like Jack Black with bigger boobs who harassed the bartender all night, one lesbian couple - both of whom had spiked black hair and were covered in tattoos and were dressed in Harley-Davidson gear, and a few curious, spectating straight couples. 

And everyone in the bar – straight, gay, male, female, and somewhere in between - stared at Lisa and her friends like they were fresh meat. 

The first time Lisa got up to go to the ladies’ room, the female half of one of the straight couples followed her and asked if she’d be interested in a threesome.  Considering the woman wasn’t bad looking and Lisa hadn’t had sex in over three years, she actually considered it for a millisecond.  That fact alone was enough to convince her to never again go back to the town’s only gay bar.

She’d also been on one blind date since she’d moved to Mount Vernon – and one was enough.  Vicki, a nurse Lisa worked with and the best friend she’d made since moving to the new town, fixed Lisa up with her lesbian cousin – Roxie.  Supposedly, Roxie was a nice girl, a little younger than Lisa, who had just broken up with her long-term girlfriend. 

Lisa had talked to Roxie on the phone, and she had seemed fairly normal and somewhat intelligent - so Lisa had arranged to meet her at a local restaurant.  The date had started off okay, but soon went to hell. 

Roxie wasn’t unattractive - even if she was a little more butch than the women Lisa was usually drawn to – but as the evening wore on, she proceeded to get increasingly drunk; so drunk that Lisa was eventually compelled to commandeer her car keys and drive her home. 

After driving the semi-comatose Roxie home, Lisa helped her into the house, where she was confronted with a very angry, belligerent, and not-quite ex-girlfriend.  It was not a pleasant scene considering the ex seemed to be completely unaware that she and Roxie were supposed to be broken up.  When Roxie had left to meet Lisa earlier that night, she had apparently told her girlfriend she was going to visit her Mom.  

Needless to say, that was her last date with Roxie.  Roxie had actually caller her later, said she really liked Lisa, and that she had really and truly broken up with her girlfriend this time – even though the girlfriend hadn’t quite moved out yet since she was still looking for a new place - and begged Lisa for a second date. 

Lisa turned her down without blinking an eye, but not longer afterwards, she had started to get fresh flowers – no card – left at her doorstep or in her mailbox every couple of weeks.  She’d also gotten a few weird hang-up calls that she suspected were either from Roxie or from her jealous and suspicious probably-not-entirely-ex.   Now that was stalking.  That was truly weird – not her harmless distant admiration of Jesse.

Shortly before her desperation blind date with Roxie, Lisa had actually gotten so demoralized she’d started looking for a new job – preferably a job in a more metropolitan area with a more thriving gay community.  Something in Cleveland or Canton would be ideal.  In the process of looking for a new job however, she’d gone to the local library, and had first seen her.

Her.  Jessica Palmer according to the convenient nametag she wore over her sizeable left breast – although her right breast wasn’t bad either, or Jesse, as Lisa had heard her co-workers call her.

Jesse was a veritable vision in a wasteland of frumpy straight women in Wal-Mart fashions revealing their post-baby weight figures.  Tallish, slender, and sophisticated-looking, she looked to be about 5 or 6 years older than the 32 year-old Lisa.  Her long, straight, silky black hair was impeccably styled.  Her always perfectly-fitted and expensive-looking wool, linen, or cotton trousers hung off her frame exactly as the designer intended, and her perfectly pressed tailored shirts were always unbuttoned just enough to reveal a tasteful hint of cleavage. 

She was an estrogen goddess; an orgasm of sublimely pulled-together womanly perfection; a simmering hot female work of art, distaff poetry in motion, and Lisa was utterly fascinated by her. 

Most importantly however, Jesse Palmer exuded a quality that Lisa had difficulty defining.  It was a very faint suggestion of something marvelous and so contrary to the small town conservatism in which Lisa was drowning that she could almost taste it.  Briefly stated, Jessica Palmer was both intelligent-seeming, quintessentially female, and somehow subtly lesbionic - and that intangible quality was like an irresistible flame that drew Lisa’s helpless moth to its demise.  

Jesse was always very friendly and accommodating toward Lisa, and Lisa had to convince herself that she was not being overly warm, or looking into her eyes a little too intently, or going out of her way to help Lisa.  Lisa didn’t want to allow her infatuation to color her interpretation of her interactions with Jesse.

Jesse was just as friendly and just as accommodating to all library patrons – right?

But Lisa was not stalking Jesse; certainly not.  She just had not yet mustered up the courage to do anything more than ask Jesse for help using the microfiche machine, or the Dewey Decimal System, or using the library’s computers, or researching the issue of overuse of antibiotics (she was a nurse, right?). 

Lisa had not exactly been subtle in recent months in advertising her sexuality to Jesse - just in case she was interested.  She’d checked out Katherine Forrest’s “Curious Wine” three times in the last six months alone.  She had “The Joy of Lesbian Sex” on reserve, but someone had apparently absconded with it - it had been unavailable for a year.  She had checked out the few lesbian-ish videos available in the library multiple times even though she had the dialogue to most of them memorized. 

Lisa reminded herself that Jesse’s knowing smirk each time she’d checked out a “Xena: Warrior Princess” DVD was entirely in her imagination.  After all, a woman as gorgeous as Jesse was probably married - or at the very least partnered, right?  Such ruminations only served to freeze Lisa into utter immobility. It wasn’t that she was shy, or afraid, or lacked self-confidence, it was just that - in all honesty – she didn’t want to know the truth.  She was somewhat content with being in limbo, where the prospect of a relationship with Jesse was still a possibility.  

According to her friend Niecy from Chicago and her friend Vicki from work however, there was an expiration date on how long you could crush on a woman from afar before you either moved on or made your move before it qualified as stalking, and – in their opinion - Lisa had passed her expiration date long ago. 

And - as everyone who knew her quickly figured out - Lisa Harte was decidedly not the wasteful sort.

Chapter 3

It was Saturday evening, which for Lisa (at least for the last year or so) meant she was hanging out in the Knox County library.  Considering it was mid-February in northern Ohio, it was a gray, cold, damp miserable day.  Lisa had been at the library since shortly after noon. 

She’d gotten up early that morning, and being the ultimate creature of habit, carried out her standard Saturday routine. 

Beauty routine:  Pluck eyebrows, wax and/or trim nether regions, clip and buff fingernails, remove and re-apply nail polish on toenails, moisturize head-to-toe, and exfoliate.

Housekeeping routine: Change bed-sheets, dust, vacuum carpets and upholstered furniture, use lint-brush on Puff’s favorite napping areas, mop kitchen and bathroom floors, wash delicates, clean toilet and shower, clean-out refrigerator, dump out and disinfect cat litter tray.

Lisa loved her routines.  They made her feel grounded and in control of her life, even if that feeling was illusory.  Just like her routine visits to the Knox County Library. 

After completing these tasks, Lisa had worked out on the treadmill for 30 minutes, showered again quickly, and then made out her grocery-shopping list for the week after looking through the newspaper and clipping coupons.  Lisa was the ultimate creature of habit and pathologically averse to wastefulness.

Her entire Saturday routine was as set in concrete as the Hoover Dam.  Beauty routine, housekeeping routine, pay bills, work-out, assess the contents of the refrigerator and optimize the weekly menu based upon the expiration date of the food, shop, then, after all required tasks were complete, proceed to the library to enrich her knowledge-base, while simultaneously checking out Jesse Palmer – very efficient.  She was multi-tasking.

And that is exactly what she was doing in the Knox County Library at present.  She’d found an interesting book on the San Francisco earthquake and was totally absorbed in reading it, occasionally looking up to see what Jesse was doing, as she sat at one of the long tables in the reading area of the library.  Lisa looked down at her watch and noted that it was about 5:00 pm – the library closed at 6:00 pm on Saturdays. 

Suddenly, she sensed someone standing behind her and turned to look over her shoulder.  It was Jesse Palmer, looking as gorgeous and perfectly put-together as ever.

Jesse smiled at her.  “I’m sorry to disturb you, Ms. Harte, but I wanted to make sure you knew that we’ve got some really bad weather moving in.  I think the road conditions are getting pretty treacherous.  We’ve got freezing rain now and it looks like it’s going to only get worse.”  Jesse said, leaning over close to Lisa and speaking in the subdued tones that seemed obligatory in libraries.

Lisa looked up and suddenly realized she was the only patron left in the library.  Apparently, every one else had been more attentive to the weather.  Lisa had an all-wheel drive Subaru Forester – which did great on slick roads – so she wasn’t too concerned, but nevertheless, it was probably time to head home.

“Thank you, Ms. Palmer.  I really hadn’t been paying any attention to the weather.”  Lisa smiled at Jesse and rose up and headed toward the front desk to check out the book she had been reading.

Jesse checked Lisa out and seemed to take her time doing it, glancing up to smile warmly at Lisa as she worked.  Finally, she handed Lisa her book and Lisa headed toward the exit.

“Um - Ms. Harte…“ Lisa paused, startled to hear Jesse’s speaking in a voice that was elevated above a whisper.  She turned to look at Jesse.

“Please drive home carefully,” Jesse said, looking somewhat flustered.

“Uhm – thanks,” Lisa replied hesitantly, smiling.  “You, too.”

Chapter 4

Lisa left the library, rushed to her car, and quickly climbed in - relieved to be out of the brisk gusty wind.  The wind had picked up significantly since she’d left home and made it feel about 20 degrees colder that it had been earlier in the day.  She blew on her hands and wished she’d thought to wear her gloves.  She also wished she’d worn her warm, knee-length, down-filled coat instead of the light sherpa-lined waist-length jacket she was wearing.

She fished her key ring out of her purse and inserted the key into the ignition, fumbling because of her cold hands.  When she turned the key, the car momentarily started, but then abruptly stalled.  It did the same thing the second time she tried. 

‘Ohhhhhh-kay, no big deal’, Lisa thought calmly, tapping the steering wheel.  ‘It’s really, really cold, and the battery has been a little sluggish lately, right?’  A few days ago, Lisa had inadvertently left the map-light on all day while she was at work.  She probably should have checked the battery, but the car had started okay since then, so she hadn’t worried about it. 

‘No reason to panic – it’s only about 6 degrees outside and I’m under-dressed and sitting in a dark, desolate, empty parking lot with a possibly dead battery while my amply-charged, but forgotten cell phone is on my bedside table in my toasty warm house’ Lisa mused angrily.  

Lisa growled thinking about Puff sitting cozily at home - fat, warm, and happy, and probably busily shedding on his favorite perch – the back cushions of her expensive suede couch.  Lisa sighed, frustrated, “You little furry bastard…”

She turned the key again and engine turned over, but wouldn’t start even after several tries.  “Well great, I guess it’s flooded now.  Dammit!” Lisa muttered to herself.  She turned the key off and sat back in the frigid car.  “Fine, I’ll just sit here calmly freezing my ass off and give it a few minutes.  Then it will start just fine.  Right?  Yeah, right,” Lisa mused hopefully as she leaned back and tried to relax.  “Oh well - it’s so cold, at least my carcass will be well-preserved when they find it...” 

A few minutes later, Lisa almost jumped out of her skin when someone tapped on the driver’s side window.  Glancing over abruptly while trying to calm her breathing, she saw Jesse bending over next to her window and looking at her sheepishly.  “Sorry”, Jesse mouthed silently through the glass, grimacing apologetically.

Since she had power windows, Lisa cracked her door open.

“Are you having car trouble?”  Jesse asked.

Lisa wisely bit back a sarcastic response, something like, ‘No, I’m just sitting here in the dark enjoying the ambience of this lovely sub-zero weather.’  This was her dream woman and potential savior, after all.

“Yeah – I think I’ve flooded it.  I was giving it a few minutes and was going to try to start it again.”  Lisa replied, sighing with frustration.  “Let me see if it will start.  I’ve been waiting for about 10 minutes,” Lisa said, with a forced smile.

Lisa tried to start the car again.  “C’mon, you bitch.  I’m still making payments on you.”  Again the car turned over but wouldn’t start.  After a few more tries, the battery started to weaken, until it finally stopped cranking altogether. 

“Great.  That’s just freaking great.”  Lisa leaned forward and laid her forehead on the steering wheel.  “Damn.  Damn.  Damn.”

Lisa leaned back in her seat, grumbling to herself as she opened the door and climbed out stiffly, considering she was half-frozen.  Jesse was still standing in the biting wind outside her car.

“Do you have any jumper cables?  I could give you a jump.”   Jesse offered, helpfully, trying to not make it too obvious that she was freezing.

“Yes –,” Lisa began and then hesitated, “Wait a minute.  No – no I don’t.  Damn!  I loaned them to my neighbor a few weeks ago and he very thoughtfully never gave them back to me.” 

“Well - how about I give you a ride home then.”  Jesse asked, trying to smile at Lisa reassuringly, which wasn’t easy considering her face was slightly frozen in place.

Lisa looked up at Jesse and had to look away to hide her smile.  Jesse was slightly blue, and had snowflakes melting on her eyelashes.  She was so cute.

“Oh – I couldn’t ask you to do that – I live about 30 minutes away.”  Lisa said, her teeth chattering slightly.  “You could just drop me off at the nearest gas station or something and I can make some phone calls.”

“It’s not an inconvenience, Ms. Harte.  I pass your house on my way home anyway.”  Jesse replied, quickly.

“Oh…uhm - how do you know where I live?”  Lisa responded, confused.

Jesse looked very uncomfortable suddenly, “I - I noticed your address on your registration card.”

“Oh – okay.”  Lisa replied, still somewhat confused.

 Just then, Lisa noticed Jesse’s SUV – a massive Chevy Tahoe – was parked behind hers with the engine still running.  The behemoth had probably burned about $50 worth of gas while Jesse had stood there waiting for her.  Suddenly realizing she was being inconsiderate by dawdling, Lisa smiled at Jesse, “Well, let’s go then, I’m freezing.  Thanks for rescuing me.”

Jesse and Lisa quickly climbed into the mercifully warm vehicle.  Jesse sat back in the driver’s seat and pulled off her gloves, rubbing her hands together to warm them. 

“Oh My God – heated seats.   I’m in heaven.”  Lisa sighed blissfully.

Jesse looked over at Lisa and chuckled as she put the car in gear and began to ease out of the slick parking lot, “You’re certainly easy to please.” 

“Only when I’m half-frozen,” Lisa smirked.

Lisa looked around at the luxuriously appointed interior of the SUV.  “You know, this is a nice car, but somehow it doesn’t quite suit you.  I’m picturing you in something…I don’t know - small and environmentally friendly.”

Jesse grimaced and even blushed slightly.  “Well – that’s because I didn’t buy it.  My parents gave it to me a few months ago after they bought a new Hummer and after my former car died.  They’re not exactly the environmentally-conscious, conservationist type.  I’ve been meaning to trade it in for something smaller and more fuel-efficient, but I just haven’t gotten around to it yet, and it does do great in the snow.”

Jesse and Lisa drove along for a moment in companionable silence, but Lisa could sense Jesse glancing over at her occasionally.  Considering she’d crushed on this woman from afar for several months, Lisa was actually surprised at how comfortable she felt around her.  Jesse didn’t seem distant and reserved at all.  On the contrary, she seemed warm and a little shy.  Lisa found her slightly awkward manner endearing, even though it was very much at odds with her sophisticated outward appearance.

“So – uhm – you’re a nurse right?  Where do you work?”  Jesse asked suddenly, interrupting the silence.

“At the Northside Medical Clinic - just across from the Wal-Mart.”  Lisa replied, slipping off her coat.

Jesse glanced over at her somewhat uncomfortably, “Is it okay if I call you Lisa?”

“Sure – as long as I can call you Jessica,” Lisa replied, laughing.

Jesse looked over at Lisa and smiled, “Call me Jesse, please – my Mom is the only one who still calls me Jessica.”

“Sure – Jesse,” Lisa replied, somewhat bemused at the distinct impression that Jesse was trying to flirt with her.

“So - what were you planning to do about dinner?”  Jesse asked suddenly.

Lisa sighed.  “Actually, I was going to stop at the German restaurant near my house and get a plate to go – I love their Saturday buffet – and I love German food.”     

Jesse looked over at Lisa and smiled shyly.  “Well - that sounds good to me.  I think I know the place you’re talking about and I love their food.  How about if we stop there and have dinner?”

Lisa looked at Jesse thoughtfully, “Sure.  Sounds great.”  Lisa was now convinced that Jesse was flirting.  Dinner?  In this miserable weather?  And her sweet, shy manner was so endearing. 

A few minutes later Jesse pulled up into the parking lot of The GastHaus Restaurant.  They walked inside and were seated in a secluded area at the back of the nearly empty restaurant.  Apparently, not many people had ventured out in the foul weather.

“So –“ Jesse said, glancing up from the plate she’d just filled at the buffet, “- are you going to be okay?  I mean – do you need help picking up your car tomorrow?”

Lisa grinned, “No.  I’ll call my friend Vicki when I get home.  I suspect I just need a jump.  Thanks for the offer though.”

Jesse glanced up at Lisa thoughtfully, “You know, I was kind of surprised to see you at the library today.”

“Oh – why is that?”  Lisa asked curiously.

 Jesse looked confused, “You do realize what today is – right?”

“Sure – it’s Saturday.  I always go to the library on Saturday,” Lisa responded.

Jesse chuckled.  “Okay, from that response, I think I can pretty safely assume you’re not only single, but you’ve been single for quite a while.”

Lisa frowned,  “How…?”  Suddenly, Lisa realized what Jesse was talking about.

“Wait a minute.  It’s February 14, right?  Valentine’s Day!  Oh my God!  I can’t believe I forgot,” Lisa exclaimed, amazed.

Jesse smiled and glanced down, blushing slightly.

Lisa smirked.  “And yes – you’re right.  I am single.  Very much so.”  She looked over at Jesse, who was still looking down at her plate. 

“And I would assume that since you are here with me tonight that you are as well – right?”  Lisa replied, amused.

Jesse sighed and looked up at Lisa.  “Yes I am – very single.  I was in a long-term relationship up until about three years ago – she met someone else and fell in love.  We’d been together since we were in college.  She was my first serious girlfriend and I was hers, and I think we only stayed together so long because of that.  We really didn’t have that much in common.”

Lisa grimaced.  “I broke up with my girlfriend about three years ago as well, but we hadn’t been together that long.  I know that had to be hard.”

Jesse sighed.  “Well, the really hard part is meeting other women.  It’s a little easier when you’re in college.  It’s not so easy when you’re older and living in a small town.  I’ve even tried the internet dating thing, and it was kind of a disaster.  It also doesn’t really help much that I’m not particularly out-going.  Meeting new people isn’t easy for me.  There’s a reason I became a librarian you know - I’m much more comfortable with books than people.”

Lisa sighed reflectively, “I know what you mean - I was used to being part of an established gay community when I lived in Chicago, but it’s not easy here, even though I am pretty out-going.  I’ve made lots of friends, but all of them are straight.  I’ve never tried internet dating, but I did let one of my straight friends coerce me into going on a blind date.”

Jesse laughed, “Okay, that sounds ominous.  Tell me more – I’ve never done the blind date thing.”

Lisa recounted the details of her disastrous blind date with Roxie as she and Jesse finished their dinner.

“Okay – you’ve just strengthened my resolve to never go on a blind date.  My sister actually tried to set me up on one a year or so ago and I balked.  I feel very wise now,” Jesse said, laughing and shaking her head bemusedly.

“Oh, that’s not the worst part,” Lisa began.  “The worst part was what happened afterwards.”

“What could be worse than your date getting knee-walking drunk and being confronted by her angry girlfriend after you drove her home?”  Jesse asked, amazed.

“Well – after the date…” Lisa began as she sampled the apple dumpling the waitress had brought out for their dessert, “…believe or not – she started sneaking around and leaving me flowers – despite the fact I made it clear I wasn’t interested in her.  I’m still getting flowers from her.  I also started getting these weird hang-up calls.”

 “Isn’t that weird?”  Lisa mused, shaking her head.  “The only thing weirder would be getting flowers from some virtual stranger.  She’s like my own private stalker.  It kind of creeps me out.”

Lisa was too engrossed in her dessert to notice Jesse’s sudden pallor.

“Yeah – um, that is weird,” Jesse interjected.  “So, are you ready for the check?”

 Lisa glanced up, belatedly noticing Jesse’s nervousness.  “Sure –“, she began.  “Hey – are you okay?  You look kind of…”

Jesse laughed humorlessly, shaking her head, “I’m fine.  I think I had a little too much to eat maybe.”

Lisa and Jesse walked out to the car silently, Lisa pondering over the sudden awkwardness between them.

Jesse drove her home with very little conversation between them.  Jesse pulled up in front of Lisa’s house and Lisa climbed out of the massive SUV.

“Well – thanks again for rescuing me…” Lisa began hesitantly.

Jesse smiled somewhat sadly and leaned forward against the steering column, “No problem.  I’m glad I was able to help.”

“Okay – so…see you around then,” Lisa said, feeling confused at Jesse’s sudden distant manner.  Was this her way of telling Lisa she wasn’t interested in getting to know her better?

Jesse waited until Lisa unlocked the front door of her house and stepped inside, then waved and drove away slowly.  Lisa closed her front door forlornly as a hungry and ill-tempered Puff mewled at her. 

‘What had just happened here?  What had she done wrong?’  Lisa mused unhappily.

Chapter 5

Lisa sat her tray down at the cafeteria table across from her friend Vicki.  Vicki glanced up at the frazzled blonde and smiled coyly.

“I know that look,” she said, spearing a carrot with her fork.

“What look?”  Lisa said exasperatedly, brushing back the hair that had come loose from her braid.  She rested her elbows on the table and tiredly placed her chin in her hands.

“That ‘life sucks, and then you die’ look,” Vicki remarked, smirking. “By the way, don’t you remember what your Mother always told you about not putting your elbows on the table?”

“Well, it does, and then you do -,” Lisa said humorlessly, “- and what in the Hell does it matter if my elbows touch the table?  On average, they’re probably the cleanest part of my body.  I would eat off these elbows.” 

“Fine.  Your elbows are great, but I don’t want to talk about them.  I want to know why you’re in such a foul mood – or at least more foul than usual.”

 Lisa briefly recounted for Vicki her interaction with Jesse the previous weekend. 

“Things were going so well.  I found out she’s gay and single.  She seemed interested, even flirtatious, and then – nothing.  She took me home after dinner and we barely spoke.    Then, I went to the library Wednesday night, and she seemed to avoid me.  She didn’t talk to me like she usually does or even look in my direction.  I don’t understand it.  What did I do wrong?”

“Okay…so – did you commit some kind of ‘first date faux pas’?  Did it happen over dinner?  Maybe you had food in your teeth…” Vicki pondered thoughtfully.

“I did not have food in my teeth Vicki, and it wasn’t exactly a first date.  Anyway, if she can’t love me between flossings, it’s pretty hopeless,” Lisa replied, rolling her eyes.

“What a minute – I know!”  Vicki exclaimed.  “Did you put your elbows on the table?”

“Would you shut up about elbows?  This is serious,” Lisa leaned back in her chair and sighed reflectively.  “Actually, the last thing I remember our talking about was the disastrous blind date you set me up on with your cousin.”

“Okay – so maybe she knows Roxie and was offended,” Vicki suggested helpfully.

“No – no, I don’t think I even told her Roxie’s name, I just told her about the date – and I told her about how Roxie was still sending me flowers months later and how weird that was…maybe she doesn’t want anything to do with a woman that has a stalker.”  Lisa said exasperatedly.

“Wait a minute – what do you mean Roxie is still sending you flowers?”  Vicki asked, glancing up at Lisa, her brows knitted.

Lisa frowned, “You know what I’m talking about – I told you months ago that Roxie was leaving flowers at my house.”

Vicki shook her head, “That was several months ago, Lisa.  If someone is still leaving you flowers, no way is it Roxie.”

“Why do you say that?”  Lisa asked curiously.

Vicki leaned forward and stared intently at Lisa, “Because, a couple of months ago, Roxie finally dumped her girlfriend, stopped drinking, met someone new, and the last time I talked to her, she was doing great and madly in love.  I’d been meaning to tell you about it.  I’m really happy for her.”

“So – if Roxie isn’t the one leaving me flowers…then who is?   Lisa said slowly, frowning.

Suddenly, Lisa remembered the look on Jesse’s face when Lisa was talking about her “stalker”.  Jesse hadn’t looked put off - she’d looked…mortified.

“Ohmigod,” Lisa exclaimed, sitting up abruptly.  “Oh.  My.  God.  I called her a stalker.  I called Jesse a stalker.  Jesse Palmer is my stalker!”

“A stalker, hmm?”  Vicki replied, chewing thoughtfully.  “All I can say is you sure know how to pick ‘em, Lisa.  So - what was wrong with my cousin the alcoholic?”

“C’mon, Vicki.  Jesse is not a stalker.  She’s a wonderful, sweet, shy, romantic woman – and I’ve probably mortally embarrassed her with my big mouth.  What to I do now?”  Lisa exclaimed frantically.

“For Heaven’s sake, woman,” Vicki said, amused at Lisa’s histrionics.  “Just go to her house, tell her you’ve figured out she’s the one that’s been sending you flowers, and that you think it’s sweet.  Then lay a big wet one on her, rip her clothes off, drag her into the bedroom, and then come to work the next day and tell me all the details.”

“Why in the world would I tell you all the details of my sex life?  You don’t tell me yours,” Lisa asked, frowning.

“So - do you want to hear about me and Roger going at it?”  Vicki asked curiously.  “I’m more than willing to spill all the gory details.”

“Uhm – No.  Please, no,” Lisa replied quickly.  Vicki’s Roger was a sweet guy, but he was bald and had man-boobs, a beer gut, and chicken legs – and Vicki kind of looked like a female Roger.   

“I’m going to pretend I’m not offended by that,” Vicki replied, smirking.  “Let’s put it this way, Miss Thing – since you’re going to be that way - if anything does happen between you and Ms. Hottie, you have to fess up…or I’ll tell you all about how Roger and I celebrated Valentine’s Day on the pool table in our rec room.”

Lisa looked up at Vicki and scowled, “Damn you, woman.  That is so not fair…”

Vicki rolled her eyes, “Hey, I’m a married woman with three rotten kids and a husband whose idea of romance is a quickie during the halftime of Monday Night Football.  I’m desperate for some entertainment.”

Chapter 6

The next Sunday, Lisa pulled up in front of Jesse’s house.  It was easy to find.  Jesse’s name and street address was in the phone book.  Jesse lived in an old part of town that was full of beautiful old homes, many of which had been renovated. 

Jesse’s house was a beautifully restored Victorian with a small immaculately landscaped yard.  Lisa smiled – Jesse apparently shared her love of gardening.  Jesse’s Yukon was parked in the driveway by the house, so Lisa was pretty sure she was home.  She pulled her Subaru up in the driveway behind the massive vehicle.

Lisa walked up on the porch and nervously rang the intricate cast iron door chime.  A short while later, the door was pulled open.  Jesse looked out at her – momentarily speechless.

“Ms…Ms. Harte?”  Jesse said, bemusedly.

“It’s Lisa – remember?”  Lisa said, crossing her arms over her chest and arching her brow at Jesse.

“Sorry… Lisa.  I – uhm,” Suddenly realizing she was being rude, Jesse stepped back and opened the door wider.  “Would you like to come inside?  It’s pretty chilly out there.”

“I’d love to.”  Lisa replied, smiling.

Lisa stepped into the foyer and looked around.  The inside of the house was as beautiful and true to the period as the outside of the house.

“Your house is beautiful by the way.  It’s so authentic.  I love the color scheme outside and I love the scrollwork on the porch.”  Lisa said, looking around the entry, which was graced by a beautiful, curving oak staircase.

“Thanks – this was actually originally my grandparent’s home.”  Jesse said, obviously pleased by Lisa’s compliment.  “I inherited the house and a lot of the furniture from my grandmother, but I love shopping for antiques and going to flea markets and yard sales as well.  So - having a house like this allows me to indulge some of my favorite hobbies.  Everything is vintage – from the doorbell to the clawfoot tub in the master bath.  The only exception is the flat-screen TV in the den – which used to be the sitting room.”

“I love it.”  Lisa replied, sighing as she followed Jesse back to what she assumed was the den.  “My house is a boring old ranch house.  It’s permanently stuck in the ‘70s.  Very Brady Bunch, but smaller.  I have nightmares about waking up next to Marcia Brady. ”

Jesse laughed as she led Lisa into the den, “Living in an older home is fun, but my next home is going to be ultra-contemporary.  This place is a real bitch to heat.  It’s not very energy-efficient.  Plus, I had to completely re-do the wiring and the plumbing and replace all the windows and doors.  It’s kind of like building a new house from the inside-out.”

As Lisa walked into the den, a long-haired white cat ran in front of her, almost tripping her, and darted out of the room. 

Jesse grasped Lisa’s elbow as she stumbled, “That damned cat,” she muttered, glancing back over her shoulder in the direction the cat had disappeared.  “That’s Miss Scarlett.  She’s not used to having company – and she’s not particularly friendly.  I’m not entirely sure she even likes me.”

Lisa chuckled, “She sounds like my cat.  He just barely tolerates my presence in the house, probably because he hasn’t yet figured out how to work a can opener.  They’d probably love each other.”

Lisa settled on the sofa and smiled over at Jesse, who sat down across from her.  “You know, I barely know you, but you’re so easy to talk to,” She remarked, looking over at Jesse thoughtfully.

Jesse glanced down and blushed slightly, “I know what you mean - I’m not usually as talkative as I am when I’m with you – at least not right away.  For some reason, I feel really comfortable around you.”

“Jesse, I…” Lisa started awkwardly, determined not to delay the inevitable.  “Jesse – the reason I’m here is…well, I’ve kind of guessed that you’re the one who has been sending me flowers…” 

Jesse glanced up at Lisa, embarrassed, “Lisa…I…”

“And I want you to know – I think it’s really sweet…and romantic,” Lisa interrupted.  “I’m sorry if I embarrassed you the other night.”

Jesse smiled slightly, looking relieved, “Well, I wasn’t ‘embarrassed’ exactly.  I just kind of suddenly realized that maybe my sending you flowers wasn’t appropriate.  Like I said before, I’m not exactly particularly good at meeting new people or social situations in general.  I thought maybe I’d really screwed up and you’d be really turned off if you found out I’d been sending the flowers.”

Lisa laughed,  “No.  You did great.  The flowers were beautiful.”

Jesse smiled, “I’d tried to very subtly let you know I was interested in you when you came to the library, but you know – it’s not really appropriate for us to flirt with patrons.  I thought you would figure out pretty quickly that I was the one leaving you flowers.  When you didn’t - well…I wasn’t exactly sure how to proceed.”

“Well, now that we’ve resolved that…I have my own confession,” Lisa began.

Jesse looked over at her, smiling, “Okay, what would that be?”

“For the last several months, my primary motivation in visiting the library hasn’t been literary zeal,” Lisa said, looking over at Jesse suggestively.

“Oh really?  I’m shocked Ms. Harte, and here I thought you were a true booklover.  What exactly have you been checking out, if not books?”  Jesse said, moving over to the sofa to sit beside Lisa.

“I was checking out the most interesting thing in the entire township of Mount Vernon, Ohio…” Lisa said, reaching over to brush Jesse’s hair back from her face.

“Me?  No way.  I am not the most interesting thing in Mount Vernon – that would be the beautifully restored B&O Railroad Depot.  I’m a librarian - remember?  I’ve researched this.  I’m a distant second at best…” Jesse said, laughing.

Lisa leaned forward and gently kissed Jesse, a kiss that quickly became more passionate.

Jesse and Lisa leaned back against the sofa, kissing intently as they began to explore each other’s bodies.

Suddenly, Lisa pulled back abruptly and grimaced.  “Damn you, Vicki!” 

Jesse leaned back, frowning.  “Who in the Hell is Vicki?”

Lisa laughed and shook her head, reaching over to grasp Jesse’s hand.  “Vicki is an overly curious friend of mine from work, and a Grade-A bitch – although I still love her dearly.  That is all you need to know right now Ms. Palmer and more than I want to think about at this point in time.”

Quickly purging her brain of unpleasant images, Lisa leaned forward and kissed Jesse again. 

As much as Lisa had enjoyed her visits to the library over the past several months, some things were much better just done - not read about.

Much, much better.