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8 -

The harbor lights were visible over the rooftops, creating a pale yellow halo around the buildings near the hospital. A fog had rolled in and the windows were starting to grow opaque from the heater and their combined breath. Not a word had been spoken between them since Miranda's surprise revelation and the car was beginning to feel a bit claustrophobic.

Nadine was staring through the rapidly-whitening windshield and Miranda had focused on a loose thread from her coat sleeve. Finally, she looked up and saw Nadine chewing her bottom lip. She couldn't take it anymore. She sighed and said, "Well...?"

Nadine jumped and turned to face Miranda. Her glasses were starting to fog over and she took them off, wiping the lenses with her sleeve. "You're gay?"

Miranda nodded.

Nadine put her glasses back on and pressed back against her seat. She looked at the halos of light through the smoky windshield and finally decided on a follow-up question. "How long?"

Miranda thought back. "Since I was about... twenty."

"That long?"

"Hey..." Miranda slapped Nadine's arm.

"Sorry," Nadine said.

They looked at each other and Nadine felt a smile tugging at the corners of her lips. She covered her mouth and shook her head. "I shouldn't... laugh. I'm sorry, it's just... the idea of you being gay. All this time. I mean, we've worked together for five years. I thought I would have... you know... assumed. Or at least suspected. Have you been in any relationships?"

Miranda thought back to her one-night stand after the renaissance faire and shook her head. "Nothing worth mentioning, not since I came to the island. I was always kind of concerned about... well, this." She gestured at the windows. "What the reaction would be if I ever got caught."

Nadine nodded and said, "I wouldn't wish this on anybody." She suddenly shivered violently and grunted low in her throat. "I'd really like to keep talking, but could we do it someplace warmer...?"

"God, yes," Miranda said. She backed out of the parking space and headed for the street. "Where do you want to go...? My place or yours?"

Nadine glanced at her with a raised eyebrow.

Miranda blushed at the double meaning her words might have had and cleared her throat. "I... d-didn't mean that the way it... I just meant that my place has..."

Nadine interrupted and let her off the hook. "We can go to your place. My apartment has crappy heating."

As they drove through the nearly-empty streets, Nadine watched the few people who were out as they passed. Leah was on the air and her sultry voice came through the speakers as soon as Rod Stewart's song finished. "Hey, everyone out there tonight. Whether you're warm in bed or out in this cold, cold night, I hope you have someone with you to help keep you warm."

Nadine and Miranda glanced guiltily at one another and then looked away.

Miranda's route took them past Nadine's apartment building. She turned in her seat as they drove by and Miranda looked in the rearview mirror. "What is it?" The road behind them was clear, so she slowed down. "Do I need to turn around?"

"No," Nadine said as she dropped back into her seat. "I was just making sure nothing looked... out of place."

*Like a big slur on your door,* Miranda thought, even though Nadine's apartment door wasn't visible from the street. "Did you see anything? Should we stop?"

"No," Nadine said. "If something *was* wrong, I would want to stay and fix it and..." She waved her hands like erasing the thought from the air. "No, just keep driving."

"It's not far," Miranda assured her.

They passed the high school and Miranda turned them towards the gated entrance to Sandpiper Condos. As she rolled to a stop, she clicked on the interior lights and waved to the bored-looking guard hunkered in his little wooden shack. He returned the wave as he pressed the button and the gates began to part down the middle. Miranda turned off the overhead light and drove slowly through the gap.

The condos within hugged the stone wall of the community, connected by a single oval road. In the center was a small park that contained benches, a basketball court and a stand of mailboxes. Miranda pulled in at a tidy yellow house that, save for a knee-high white fence around the yard, was identical to its neighbors.

They walked to the front door together and Nadine again huddled into the warmth of Miranda's coat as she found her key. Miranda pushed the door open and they both rushed inside, sighing as they hit the air of the house. It was still cold, since it had been abandoned all day, but it was far more comfortable than it had been out in the wind. Miranda closed the door and turned on the living room light. She gestured at the dark kitchen and said, "Can I get you something to drink? Orange juice, soda..."

Nadine shook her head and said, "Water is fine..."

Miranda headed down a dark corridor and Nadine stepped into the living room. It was nothing like what she expected; it was a quaint living room direct out of any sitcom. A sofa and chair faced the television, a small fireplace with a stack of books in it sat unobtrusively against the back wall next to a window.

Nadine walked to the fireplace-slash-book cubby and knelt down to scan the titles. She laughed when she found a well-worn paperback copy of *Sparks of Love*. She pulled it out and thumbed through. Pages were dog-eared, the binding was cracked and there was a coffee ring on the back cover. The book was obviously well-loved and well-read.

"Ah, you found my library."

Nadine smiled and stood up with the book. "A book called *Sparks of Love* sitting in the fireplace. Appropriate."

"Well, I never used the thing," Miranda said. She handed Nadine a plastic cup from Gail's Seafood Shack. "Pretty soon, the books just... migrated there."

Nadine thumbed through the book. "I guess you don't have to worry about it being removed from this library's shelves."

"Yeah," Miranda laughed and took it out of Nadine's hands. "It seemed so innocent when I bought it. I guess now, though, seeing this is going to be like seeing a rainbow sewn onto somebody's jacket."

"Did you buy it on the island?"

"Mm-mm. Online. Through a second-hand book seller. So it wouldn't show up on my Amazon history." She twisted her glass and shrugged. "I guess not so innocent."

"I guess," Nadine smiled. She took a sip of her water and turned it to look at the logo on the side. She tapped the cursive name of the restaurant and said, "Are you supposed to take these...?"

Miranda, who was drinking something brown and most likely alcoholic, smirked and shrugged. "It's probably not encouraged..."

Nadine smiled. "I only ask because I don't want to offend my one and only sponsor." She walked to the couch and took a seat. Miranda sat on the opposite end and pulled her feet underneath her. Nadine scratched her fingernail along the curved rim of the glass and said, "I don't remember if I've said it yet, but... thank you for being there for me today. I was a total... I-I was destroyed. I can't believe..." She caught herself and looked towards the window.

Miranda reached out and took Nadine's right hand. "What?"

"Mm, no. It's awful."

"I won't tell anyone." She smiled and said, "Trust me; I'm good at keeping secrets."

Nadine laughed and looked into her glass. "I was just thinking on the way here that... it's amazing I didn't try to kill myself."

"You didn't hole yourself up in your apartment, either," Miranda said.

"What do you call what I did on Sunday?"

Miranda shrugged. "You were taking a breather. You let me in."

"Yeah. I did." She turned her hand and, just like that, they were holding hands.

"It only lasted a day. When you had to get up, you brushed yourself off, came to work, cleaned up your front door... whereas Kate just... shut down."

"If I'd been there for Kate..." She looked down at Miranda's hand. "If it hadn't been for you, I don't know. I might've been in that hospital room next to Kate."

Miranda shifted uncomfortably. "I wouldn't give myself that much credit..."

"Oh, I definitely would," Nadine argued. She turned to face Miranda and said, "You've been wonderful through this entire ordeal. If it weren't for you, I'd probably still be in my bathtub staring at the wall and Kate..." She looked away again. "So really... you've saved two lives."

Miranda smiled and took another drink. She sat her cup on the coffee table and said, "I think I've had enough." She glanced at Nadine and said, "Enough alcohol, I mean. Please, continue with the effusive praise."

Nadine laughed and put her glass down. "Actually, I think I'm done, too."

Miranda said, "Well, should I drive you home? Or... I mean, it's awful late. You could go ahead and crash on the couch if you wanted."

Nadine thought for a moment and then shook her head. "I probably shouldn't. That guard saw you pull in here with an island-renowned lesbian. I think it would be best if he saw you take me home, too."

Miranda hesitated. "I want to. I mean, I want to take you home if that's what you want. But I'm not going to do it just so Paul the guard doesn't think I'm gay." She looked down at her drink and then leaned back against the arm of the couch. Without looking at Nadine, she said, "Do you regret it?"


"Coming out. The way you did it, I mean. Do you wish you could take it back?"

"Of course," Nadine breathed. "I mean, my God... Kate wouldn't be hurt, those picketers wouldn't be blocking the front door... But if you're asking would I go back in the closet...? No. Absolutely not. It feels..." She chewed her lip and looked around the room as if for a prompt. "Like I was holding my breath and I finally got to exhale. I definitely wouldn't go back, no. But I would try to find a better way to do it."

Miranda nodded and rubbed the back of her neck. "I can... understand that."

The stifled yawn in the middle of Miranda's sentence prompted Nadine to look at the clock. She gasped and looked at her own watch for confirmation. "Oh, God, is it really that late?"

"We were at the hospital for ages," Miranda said. She checked her watch, confirming the time, and stood up. "If you're sufficiently thawed..."

"I am." She looked at Miranda's glass and said. "Oh... sh-should you be driving?"

"I only had a few sips," Miranda said. "I practically need a carafe before I get drunk."

"Okay. But could I use your bathroom before we..."

"Sure, sure," she nodded. "It's down that hall, second door on the right."

Nadine went down the same dark corridor Miranda had gone down. She found the second door and groped until she found a light switch. She found herself in a slightly messy, thoroughly modern kitchen. She blinked at the unexpected room and stepped back. "Um, Miranda..."

"First," Miranda said, sounding chagrined. "I-I meant the first."

"Okay," Nadine said, struggling to keep her smile under wraps. "I was about to say that was the most unique bidet I've ever seen."

She shut the bathroom door on Miranda's laughter and did her business. When she finished, she took a moment to admire the hard work that had gone into the room.

The walls were streaked with white, blue and very light blue that emulated a waterfall and the floor was white and grey tile. A small gray rug, like a stepping stone, lay in front of the tub, which had a green and white curtain hanging from the rod. Nadine felt like she was standing in a pool of water as she washed her hands.

A picture framed in seashells caught her eye. It was nestled between the hand lotion and soap underneath the mirror and she carefully pulled it free without disturbing the surrounding toiletries. Miranda Powell never seemed old to her, but the version of her in the picture looked like a positively radiant teenager. She was wearing a knit ski cap and goggles, both arms wrapped protectively around a smaller brunette girl. Both were smiling into the camera, the sun burning in the background and washing out some of their color.

She ran her finger over the curve of Miranda's cheek and wondered who the other girl was, if they were lovers or just good friends. She returned the picture to where she'd found it and quickly washed her hands before she slipped out of the bathroom.


Miranda offered to walk Nadine to her front door and, unsure of what they would find, she agreed. Nadine went in first and breathed an audible sigh of relief when she saw that the paint job had survived the day unscathed. She found her keys and said, "Safe for another day. Hopefully there was just the one artist and I scared him away."

"Let's hope." Miranda looked up to the second floor and saw a single strip of yellow crime tape running across Kate's apartment door.

"It looks so lonely," Nadine whispered.

Miranda hadn't realized Nadine was looking, too. She nodded and put her hand on Nadine's shoulder. "She was lucky you came home when you did."

"I was so angry at her. I thought she was avoiding me like I had done to her. If I had just gone downstairs to stew, I..." She looked at Miranda as if surprised to see her there and shook her head. "But I-I'm babbling."

"No, you're *talking*," Miranda smiled. "And I'm listening."

Nadine hesitated but then began to speak again. "If you hadn't come to see me Sunday, I would probably have not come to work today. I probably would have stayed in, like Kate, and wallowed. And... I'm... not sure what I would have done."

"I don't think you would have tried to kill yourself."

"The thought crossed my mind."

Miranda was caught off-guard by this admission and couldn't hide the look of fear that crossed her face.

Nadine saw it and said, "Don't worry. After seeing Kate like that and... You don't have to worry." She turned and put her hands on Miranda's shoulders. She leaned forward and kissed the corner of Miranda's mouth. She let her lips linger for a moment before she fell back and moved her hands away. "Thank you. For being there tonight and for... everything. Thank you, Miranda."

"Y-you're... welcome. Nadine."

"I'll see you tomorrow. Do we have a staff meeting?"

"Hm? No. No, the, uh, third Tuesday of the month."

Nadine frowned. "Tomorrow *is* the third Tuesday."

Miranda blinked and said, "Uh. Yeah. Then, yeah, staff meeting at 10:30."

"Okay." She smiled and said, "Good night, Miranda. Thank you so much, again."

"It was my pleasure," she said. She waited for Nadine to close the door before she stepped out of the foyer. She walked across the courtyard to her car, shoving her hands deep into the pockets of her coat. The wind was whipping her hair like a dervish, her cheeks were raw and her lips were chapped. But the only thing on her mind was that little bit of moisture at the corner of her mouth and the thought that kept circling in a never-ending loop: *She kissed me. Nadine kissed me...*


Nadine stood at the window and watched Miranda walk away. She wanted to run after her, ask her to stay and curl up with her on the couch. She wanted to be held, but she wasn't sure she could trust herself. Where had these feelings come from? This was Miranda Powell, her boss. The same person she had an occasional lunch with. The same person who had yelled at her when she accidentally said a curse word on-air last year.

It wasn't a real attraction. It was the knowledge that Miranda was gay making her feel this way. It was the fact that with so much hatred beating down on her from all quarters, Miranda was still her friend, still being nice to her. That's all it was. She stepped away from the window just as Miranda's car left the parking lot. She went to the couch and turned on a lamp before flinging herself onto the cushions. Her forehead was throbbing, but the thought of popping any kind of pills, even an aspirin, terrified her after the ordeal at the hospital.

She took off her shoes and glasses and leaned back on the sofa. Her lifeguard was gone, she was on her own. It was fine. She would make it until morning without Miranda holding her hand. She hoped. She closed her eyes and heard Miranda's voice in her head.

"I'm gay, too. Surprise!"

God, talk about understatements. Miranda gay? She never, not in a million years, would have thought... never would have considered the possibility. But would she, if she'd been in Miranda's house? The picture in the bathroom, the *Sparks of Love* book... then there was the fact that she was apparently as terminally single as Nadine. It seemed so obvious in hindsight, but she figured she would have chalked it all up to wishful thinking and gone alone her merry way.

She checked her watch and forced her muscles to push her off the couch. As she stood, the headache returned in force and followed her down the hallway to the bathroom. She undressed in front of the sink and sat on the edge of the tub as she ran the faucet. She looked at the freezing porcelain and saw, very clearly, a ghostly image of herself from the day before. So alone, so despondent, seeing her razors next to the sink as a distinct possibility. How they would hurt a little and then all the pain and fear would go away.

She pictured Kate in the same position, staring at a bottle of pills. No one had come to her door, no one had offered a hug and a friendly shoulder. The one person she'd reached out to had shut the door in her face.

Nadine stuck her hand under the flow of the water and let the flow pummel her fingers. When it was warm enough, she stood up and stepped into the water. She sank into the tub, closed her eyes and let the water gather her in its warmth.


Miranda left the overhead lights off and stopped by the mirror in her entry hall. "I'm gay," she told her reflection, who didn't seem shocked by the revelation. She was out, at least to one person. One of her best friends, she had to admit, and someone she worked with. It was out there, the fact that she was gay, and she didn't look or feel any different. *Like I'd been holding my breath,* Nadine had said.

Miranda stopped waiting to feel the change and instead focused on her features. There were little laugh lines next to her mouth and eyes, definite signs that she was getting older. She leaned forward and tried to determine if the blonde of her hair was beginning to turn white yet. There were no signs, but it wasn't easy to check. She didn't want to be vain about it, so she refused to turn on any more lights, refused to continue the hunt.

She went into the bathroom and undressed, retrieving a towel from the closet under the sink. She turned on the faucet and sat on the edge of the tub to watching the water rise. When it was almost full, the cell phone in her pants pocket went off.

Cursing the god of bad timing, she spun the knob until the water stopped and dashed to the pile of clothes. She searched the pockets of her slacks and fortunately managed to find her phone while it was still ringing. She flipped it open without looking at the screen, positive that it was Nadine. Something had happened after all, some mark of vandalism not readily apparent from outside or... oh, God, what if someone had been inside waiting for her? "Hello? It's me, what's wrong?"

There was a short pause on the other end of the line before a man said, "Miss Powell?"

Her eyes went wide and she shot to her feet. "Mr. Dugan. What are you doing calling me at this hour... sir?"

"I've only just gotten off the phone myself, Miss Powell. I've been speaking to Joe Lack about... harassment?"

She closed her eyes and rubbed her temple. She leaned against the sink and caught a glimpse of her reflection when she opened her eyes again. *Oh, shit. I'm talking to Mr. Dugan *naked*. I hope *he's* wearing something. Oh, shit, why did I think of that?!* She stepped into her slacks and bent down to pull them up. "Um... I'm not sure what you're... talking about, sir." She got the pants up and buttoned, but didn't bother with the zipper.

"Mr. Lack requested that his sponsorship be pulled from this Pixie show after the... announcement in yesterday's paper. He said you spent most of today arguing with him on the phone trying to get him to change his mind. He finally said yes just to shut you up, but as soon as you left him alone, he called me. I assured him that Ms. Butler will *not* be advertising for Joe Lack's Pizza any time in the near future."

"You can't do that," Miranda argued. She'd grabbed her blouse and managed to get both arms into it by shifting the phone from one hand to the other. She did two of the buttons to give a semblance of being dressed and it worked; she immediately felt more professional. "Nadine has done nothing wrong."

"If Joe Lack wanted to pull his sponsorship because Miss Butler refused to play his request, we would honor that. If Joe Lack wanted to pull his sponsorship because Miss Butler said something offensive about him or his restaurant, we would honor that as well. Hell, if she mispronounced Saskatchewan and Mr. Lack didn't like it, he could pull his sponsorship. He doesn't *need* a reason. It's his money. We're going to honor this, and all of the other pulled sponsorships to keep their business with our other shows."

Miranda sank onto the closed toilet lid and covered her eyes with her free hand. "Who else?"

"I don't have a full list, but I've spoken with the managers of several places today. Let me check." There was a ruffling of papers and then he cleared his throat. "Yolk Folks, Duck Soup Restaurant, Joe Lack's Pizza as I said, the Spartan Café, Chin's Chinese Buffet, Gail's Seafood Shack..."

"No!" Miranda said, unable to stop the outburst. "No, you can't do that. Gail's is..."

"Withdrawing their sponsorship of Nadine Butler's radio show. I spoke to the owner..."

"Clifton?" Miranda said.

"No, his father, Markus. Clifton is just the manager. Markus Gail, I shouldn't have to tell you, was appalled to hear Miss Butler promoting their restaurant today. He called to make sure I would make amends as soon as possible."

Miranda was on the verge of tears. "Mr. Dugan, please. If all of these places pull their sponsorship, there'll be nothing for her to play between songs."

"Nothing for her to play period."

"Exactly! It's..." Miranda suddenly felt a cold front wash over her body. She tightened her grip on her cell phone and heard the casing crack slightly under her fingers. "You... cannot... do that."

"KELF is still *my* station, Miss Powell, no matter how much influence I let you wield. Nadine Butler has a six hour show, in the middle of the day. If I cannot advertise during that time, I cannot very well justify her paycheck. *Or* the raise you recently debated me about. Tomorrow is your monthly staff meeting, right? I expect you to inform Miss Butler then that she is no longer employed at the station. Tomorrow will be her last show."

"You prick." She couldn't stop herself and, once the words were out, didn't really want to apologize.

"I do not believe in belaboring the point. To allow her another, what, week on the air would only cause bitterness on everyone's parts. And believe me, that week would hardly be quality airtime on her part. It's best to just get her out as soon as possible."

"She's a human being."

"She's my employee. As are you. So I expect the two of you to follow my direction. Do we have an understanding, Miss Powell?"

She leaned forward and covered her face with her hand.

"Do we have an understanding, Miss Powell?"

"Yes," she snapped. "Okay. Nadine... Nadine is gone tomorrow."

She hung up on him and let the phone drop to the circle of carpet in front of the tub. She covered her face with both hands and sobbed.


The next morning, her headache reduced to a dull throb, Nadine rode her bike to the hospital on her way to work. She found Dr. Tom and confirmed that she was allowed to see Kate before making her way up to the second floor room. The hospital was considerably cheerier in the morning hours; a window at the end of the corridor flooded the entire ward with light. Even the tiny waiting room didn't seem as cavernous as it did the night before.

Nadine knocked on the door to Kate's room and entered after a whispered, "Come in." She poked her head in and saw the wide, white-suited back of a nurse. She walked into the room, past the nurse, and smiled when she saw Kate.

The sunlight had done wonders for her, as well. Gone was the ghost Nadine had visited the night before. Some color had returned to her cheeks, her hair had been washed and combed - although it was a bit limper than Nadine was used to - and she actually managed a smile with make-up free lips. "Good morning, you."

"Good morning." She stepped aside as the nurse left the room. She moved closer to the bed and said the only thing that came to mind. "How are you feeling?"

"Like something Death brought with him in a suitcase."

Nadine smiled. "I love it when you quote classic rock to me."

Kate held out her hand and Nadine took it as she sat next to her.

"Are you really okay?"

"I hate that question," Kate said. She groaned and nodded towards the door. "They brought in a counselor first thing this morning. She caught me washing my hair in the bathroom sink and treated it like I was being reborn."

"I guess it was a sign you were planning to be around for a while."

"I guess," Kate murmured.

Nadine shifted in her seat and scooted forward. "Kate, I have to apologize. I am... so sorry about this weekend."

Kate frowned. "Sorry...?"

"I shut you out. You wanted to talk, and I just... turned my back on you. I'm sorry I wasn't there for you, Kate."

Kate looked horrified. "No. Nadine... no. Nothing about this is your fault. Please don't think that. It's all because of that stupid article. If I'd never written it..." She bit her lip and ran her thumb along Nadine's knuckles. "If I had died with you thinking that, I would... i-it would have..." She clenched her jaw and said, "I would've come back to haunt you until you wised up!"

Nadine laughed and covered her mouth with one hand. "You would not."

"Trust me," Kate said. "When I was about to go into the light, I saw two doors. Afterlife. Haunting. I would've picked haunting."

Nadine shook her head. "Well, I was going to worry about you today. But if you were just going to *haunt* me..." She smiled and said, "I know I just got here, but... work. Staff meeting. I just wanted to come by and see you before I went in."

"It means a lot. I've been thinking about you all night."

Nadine bent down and brushed her lips over Kate's. "Mm, you'll have to tell me about it when you're feeling better..."

"No, not that way," Kate smiled. She tightened her hand on Nadine's and said, "Could you... wait? Just for a few minutes? There's something we need to talk about."

"I'm on the bike, and..." She realized the station wasn't more than a couple of blocks away. She checked her watch and nodded. "Yeah, I think I can stay. What is it?"

Kate looked down at their interlocked hands. "I didn't want to do it like this, but... you shouldn't have to wait. Your boss. Minerva?"

"Miranda," Nadine said.

"Whatever," Kate said with a sly grin. "You said she brought you here last night. Sat with you. Held your hand...?"

"Yeah. Kate, you don't have to worry about..."

"Shh, Dean, let me finish, dear, please. You should go for her."

Nadine blinked and nearly yanked her hand back. "What?!"

"Honey, I'm... I do love you. And I love what we have. But I know that you've been drifting away from me lately. In a way, it was my fault you were in that meeting in the first place."

Nadine snapped, "Stop blaming yourself!"

"I'm not, I'm not," Kate soothed. "You were just desperate for a real connection. A date, I guess. I've been lying here thinking and I can't remember the last time we were together on a date. Just enjoying each other's company. That's what the weekend was supposed to be, that's why you came with me to the meeting. Maybe we could've had what you wanted, but... I-I think it's too late for us now."

Nadine bowed her head to hide the tears welling in her eyes. "Are you breaking up with me?"

"I guess," Kate whispered. "Not because I'm angry with you... or tired of you or... it's because I love you, Nadine. You deserve to be in a relationship that's actually going somewhere. A relationship where you can say 'I am in love with this person' and it's not just about sex. Can you honestly say that about us?"

Nadine was awash with emotion; she'd been thinking the exact same thing over the past few weeks, but hearing the words come from Kate. It was one thing to know it with her own heart. It was quite another to know Kate was feeling the same thing. "I can't," she admitted. "I'm so sorry, Kate."

"Don't be sorry," Kate whispered. "Kiss me."

Nadine kissed her again, long and soft and sweet, the kind of kiss they hadn't had in a long time. Kate touched Nadine's cheek and slipped her hand around the back of her head. When they parted, Kate said, "I love you, Nadine. Enough to let you go."

"You're such a cliché," Nadine laughed. Her tears finally slipped free and fogged up her glasses. She hugged Kate gently and said, "I love you, Kate."

"Go to work," Kate said. "I'm crying and I can't waste the moisture."

Nadine chuckled and leaned back, wiping her tears away. "I'll come back after work. Unless... do you want me to?"

"Yes, please. I want to see you." She smiled and released Nadine's hand. "Go on," she said and shooed Nadine towards the door. "I don't want to make you late."

"Okay, okay. I know where I'm not wanted." She smiled and said, "Get some rest, Kate."

"I will."

"See you in a few hours."

She waved once more before she left the room and headed for the stairs in a near-daze. She and Kate were actually broken up. Apart, separated, no more, et cetera. But beyond that, she was shocked by Kate's mention of Miranda. Outside in the cool air, she looked up at the cloudy sky and said, "I'm free. I'm free, Miranda came out last night... I have Kate's blessing..."

She repeated it inside her head as she unlocked her bike and climbed onto the seat. Free. Miranda's out. Kate's blessing.

For the first time in a long time, and especially since Saturday, Nadine felt free. After all this time... Kate was going to be all right and they had finally - finally! - come to an understanding about their relationship. She was ready to cry, she was so relieved. They may have parted, but the break-up had been so easy, so amicable and friendly that maybe some sort of friendship could be salvaged from the ruins.

She rode her bike into the wind, letting the cool breeze assault her face as she weaved down the street. Life was good.

For the next fifteen minutes, at least.


To Be Continued in Chapter Nine

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