Extension 147
by Jynaki

September 2006

General Disclaimer: See Part 1
Feedback: Comments can be sent to the bard at Jynaki@aol.com

Chapter 5

Teela couldn't believe the number of parked cars alongside Solon Road. Jo and Boney's place must be packed. A small gathering of friend my ass. Her friends had decided to throw a party just because and said that it was going to be an intimate gathering of friends. Teela had to park far down the unpaved road, no where near their home.

Teela removed her door key from the key ring. She reached for the safety pin she had placed in her pocket, looped it around the key and then pinned it deep inside of her pocket. checking to make sure the key was secure. She closed the car door and started the walk down the road to her friends home.

As she neared her target, she heard the jarring combo of the stereo and the low hum of party goers. Stepping around the large two-story, she paused in the shadows to survey the crowd. Knowing her friends, it was a mixed group - lesbians, gays, and heteros mingling and seemingly comfortable with one another.

There were three canopies placed in the large back yard, with folding and lawn chairs strewn all around. The tikki torch flames lighted areas, and Boney was in her domain, near the bar-b-q grill. Teela laughed at her friend who was definitely touched, in her chef's hat and shirt, surfer shorts and work boots. Jo has got to love you letting you out in public dressed like that Boney.

"Hey chef, what's cookin'?"

"Hey, Teela. "Bout time you showed up. Jo was getting hosed at you." She extended her arms wide, taking Teela in a hug. They hugged carefully given that she had a spatula in one hand and a beer in the other.

"Things to do. I was visiting Bess. She wasn't exactly a happy camper tonight."

"How is she?"

"Doing good. Real good."

"We've missed you the past week."

"Time got away Boney."

"Tell it to Jo. You know how she is when it comes to you. Come to think of it. How come she worries more about you than me?"

"Because worrying about you and the things you get yourself into would drive her crazy."

"Aahhh. That makes sense."

Suddenly feeling the hairs on the back of her neck rise, Teela turned and surveyed the yard. Something strange was coursing through her. A tugging come from the yard. She had the feeling of being watched. After searching the grounds, her gaze landed upon a tall figure across the way standing amongst a group of people.

Teela felt her breath catch as she found the source, causing her hackles to rise and flutter. The tall woman must have felt it because simultaneously, their hands moved to their respective stomachs to calm the spasms within. I don't know who you are or why I am acting this way. She thought.

Pax had felt the unfamiliar stirrings as soon as the woman had walked into the yard. She had been watching the small blonde talk to the host for some time. She studied the small, delicate features bathed in the flickering red orange flames and felt her heart dance. Who are you I wonder? My God you are beautiful. She saw the blonde stiffen and turn around looking out into the crowd. Are you looking for me? I know that you feel what I do. Find me. Pax pleaded.

Just as the small blonde turned and met her gaze, Pax felt her own body stiffen at the tingling warmth that Teela's gaze had provided, just as Celeste, slid next to her. That issued a sleet of ice wrapping her arm around her waist made her shiver.

"Hey Jo, I'm here." Teela announced to her approaching friend.

"Bout time."

"Yeah, yeah. Hey listen. Who is that woman over there?" trying not to be obvious with her pointing.

"Don't know who the tall one is, but the small possessive blonde is Celeste Caywood."

Celeste followed Pax's line of sight and landed upon the blonde talking to Jo and her wife Boney. She lazily rolled her eyes at Teela and then brusquely turned Pax's head back towards her. Teela watched as the two exchanged heated words and the tall woman stormed off into the shadows.

"I don't know how she knew about this. I did not invite her, because I don't like her."

Amazed, Teela turned to her friend and said, "You not liking somebody Jo. That's hard to believe."

"Not when it comes to Celeste. She likes to ride people's coat tails and then stab them in the back when the time is right. She's manipulative and a liar."

"Hope you are not talking about me." Teela turned coming face to face with a grinning Tanesha. "Hi Teela."

Dressed casually for a backyard party, Teela immediately noticed the tightness of back t-shirt stretched across her broad shoulders. Her jeans hugged every sinewy muscle there that was available. "Hi."

"How have you been?"

"Good. You?"


"Come on Boney, I need your help in the house." Jo grabbed Boney's chef's hat and ran.

"Jo." And she took off after her wife leaving the two alone.

"Jo can be so subtle." Teela replied sarcastically.

"Well most of us psychologists can be. Somewhat."

"Aahhhh. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?"

"Depends on what your looking for. I mean, I could be very subtle and hang around you all night. Or I can ask you if it would be alright to spend some time with you this evening."

She looked into caring light hazel eyes then back to the last place she saw the tall stranger. Seeing the small blonde still looking her way, she turned back to Tanesha instead. "I think that would be alright."

"Great." She exhaled the breath she had forgotten she'd held. "I was hoping to be invited instead of annoying."

Chuckling, "I'm glad I made the right decision then."

"Me too."

A couple of hours passed. Having made it through the "getting to know you" phase, Teela found herself liking Tanesha and not being annoyed at all. In fact, she had finally accepted an invitation to dinner next week, but they were running out of things to talk about on this first round of the dating game and Teela was thankful when a co-worker of Tanesha's called her away. She hoped Tanesha hadn't noticed her scanning the backyard for another glimpse at the tall stranger.

"So, did you two finally hit it off?" Jo sidled up to Teela on the deck steps.

"Did Boney help you with whatever in the house?"

"Oh, yeah. She's a peach."

"Takes one fruit to know another."

"Is your cherry getting acquainted with Tanesha's?"

"JO! I do not believe you said that."

"Sometime you gotta be blunt Teela. You know that."

"Especially when you have been drinking Jo."

"This is true too. But I am not driving."

"Our common interests became acquainted."


"God you are persistent aren't you? We are going out on Friday."

"Good! About time." Boney sat behind her wife and cuddled her in her arms.

"I have not exactly been a hermit. I have given in to my primal nature on rare occasions and sought out female companionship."

"You have?" they sang in unison. "With who?"

She chuckled at her friends. "Not here in town. Everyone knows one another somehow here in town. I have drove to Detroit or Grand Rapids and went to the bars there."

"Aahhh. I see." Boney added, "Where you can remain anonymous."

"Something like that."

"Well, I'll be, Teela. I never would have thunk it."

"I don't do it all the time. Only now and then."

"When was the last time you went?"

"Eight months ago."

"Teela, you can catch cooties that way." Boney cringed.

"Oh I am very careful Boney. It's certainly nothing serious as looking for someone to date. Even when I do go to those places, I still think about Bess."

Teela wandered off and found a tree near the edge of the yard. She sat down and begins to think about Bess and the commitment she still honored. Somewhat honored. What she did not tell her friends of the heavy guilt she would feels for days following one of her escapades out of town.

She felt the familiar stirring in her tummy and instantly looked up and around her area. Walking towards her was Tanesha. Are you causing this? She looked at the athletic woman. The last time she felt this Tanesha was near, but she would have laid odds it was because of the tall stranger. She accepted Tanesha's offer to dance not noticing the glistening pair of ice-blue eyes watching her from the behind the next tree.

Pax had spotted the little blonde sitting under the tree alone. She had waited to get away from Celeste so that she could find the woman and learn her name. Several of the guests she discreetly asked did not know her either. Just as she saw her, the other woman was fast approaching and Pax ducked behind the nearest tree.

Teela accepted Tanesha's offer to dance, and the pair headed for the wooden dance floor Boney laid upon her perfect lawn for party. Boney was particular about the lawn. It was funny after all their years together, Boney was possessive regarding her riding lawn mower, her weed whacker, and other lawn tools. The yard was her domain and Jo could not touch it. Jo was relegated to the flower beds. Of course, Boney hated it when Jo would place a lawn decoration somewhere on the grass, and Boney would have to figure how to cut around it. That drove Boney nuts.

The night ended just before midnight for Teela. Tanesha was proudly walking the small blonde to her car parked down the road. On their way, they could not clearly see them, but she heard two female voices arguing somewhere alongside the road. Tanesha had recognized Celeste's voice despite the slurring words. The other she could not place.

"I don't care who you thought you recognize and went to find." Celeste sputtered. "You left me and it was rude and disrespectful."

"You were talking and I was standing there doing nothing. I don't know those people. They are your friends."

"Doesn't matter. You're my date and you are to remain at my side."

"I am not your pet! Or you seeing eye dog when you are drunk! Two out of the four times we have been out together you have been falling down drunk on your ass."

Suddenly, Celeste started to whine and cry. She threw herself onto Pax and begged for forgiveness. Disgusted and sneering, Pax felt no other choice but to hold onto the inebriated woman.

Tanesha and Teela finally arrived at the white Grand AM. Tanesha was nervous and did not want the night to end. "Thank you Teela. For spending time with me tonight and for Friday."

"It was my pleasure Tanesha."

"I'll call you on Thursday to confirm in case you change your mind, which I hope does not happen."

"I very much doubt that it will." Okay I know you want to. Get it over with. Teela resigned.

With hesitation, Tanesha leaned forward and plants a whisper of a kiss upon Teela's cheek. Surprised, Teela gave her a beaming smile. That was so sweet. Going out with her may not be so bad after all.

Tanesha stepped back while Teela got into the car and locked the door. She waved and waited until she saw Teela pull down the road.


Teela laid in her bed alone. Her tossing and turning was too much for Thumper to deal with. Thumper knew that when her mommy did this she would be better off on the couch downstairs. That's where she was sound asleep. Unfortunately for Teela, the dreams wrapped around her tightly and refused to let her go.

She had arrived home early from work, feeling feverish and the chills setting in her bones. A freak summer flu was racing through the ARCC and many of the residents were on antibiotics and Infection Control Monitoring. The heat and humidity of the summer was making everyone feel even worse and extremely cranky. Those staff whose symptoms were not very severe, showed up for duty. Those who were fortunate not to have symptoms relished the overtime, but today, all Teela wanted was a hot bath, a cup of soup and to crawl upon the couch and vegetate.

Teela pulled in the driveway and noticed Bess' car was parked there as well. Thinking that she may have caught the flu as she had, Teela thought about them cuddling on the couch and watching a movie as they sneezed and coughed together, but when she stepped into their house, she immediately noticed that something was different.

Thumper was not there to greet her.

Teela went through the kitchen and looked out the window. There was the baby lying under the tree in the middle of the day. It was too hot for her to be out there, but where was Bess? She laid her brief case and purse upon the kitchen table and went to the door leading to the backyard. Hearing the door open, Thumper sat upright, noticed her mommy and trotted slowly towards her. Thumper wiggled her greeting then went to her water bowl lapping furiously. Teela patted her baby getting angry as her hands rubbed the too warm caramel coat. She turned and went back through the living room. It was then she heard it.

Someone was talking low and then another squeal. Teela paused at the bottom of the steps, cocked her head and listened. She heard Bess "Oh yeah. There." Tears sprang to her eyes as she slowly ascended the stairs, careful not to make a sound.

Teela, not a deeply religious person, by any means, was offering up prayers to any deity that may know her name at the moment. She beseeched any one listening not to discover what she feared happening in her own home with her lover.

She came to a stop outside the spare bedroom. She did not have to place her ear to the door as the voices on the other side was loud and clear.

"Give me baby. Please." the voice said. "Oh deeper honey. I need you."

"God you are so hot. I had forgotten what is was like with someone on fire," Bess coaxed.

Teela heard the headboard meet the wall in several successive bangs. Her heart beyond broken devastation as she covered her mouth with her hand to muffle the sobs she emitted.

"I want you in me baby."

"Did you bring it?"

"You said to hurry. I was rushing and I forgot. Don't you have something?"

"I can't. That's for me and Teela."

"But she is not here and she won't know."

"I will."

"And the difference now would be?"

After a momentary pause, Teela heard her lover grunting and then a groan of frustration. "Wait," Bess screamed. "We do have another one. Brand new."

"Well what are you waiting for lover."

"I'll be right back. Get ready for me. She has not been wanting to do this, so I am more than ready for a long ride."

Teela's eyes grew wide and just as suddenly narrowed. She widened her stance and waited for her lover to open the door. Bess swung the bedroom door open and was shocked beyond measure to find Teela standing there blocking her way.


"BITCH!" She screamed and punched Bess square in the face sending her hurling back onto the bed.

Eyes blazing with fury, Teela raised her gaze upon the woman lying in her bed, and stalked into the room like a madwoman hell bent on retribution. "Rhonda. Rhonda! You've been sleeping with Rhonda! She said she hated your guts!"

"Teela, honey, wait. Let me get dressed and I'll..."

Evenly, she measured her words. "You will get the HELL out of my HOME!"

"Now wait a damn minute. This is my home too. I pay for half the bills and the mortgage."

"I want the both of you out of here in five minutes." Defeated, Teela turned to leave the room.

"Or what?" Bess stood naked and defiant. Rhonda sat terrified against the headboard, sheet held up to her chin.

Not being one to give into violence before, still Teela could not control the raging inferno inside. She had never laid a hand on anyone in her life. Today, Bess became the first Teela ever touched in anger. She made a slow turn on her heels. Before she knew what she was doing, her foot connected with Bess bare groin. Bess yelped, both hands shooting to cover her bare privates and sunk to her knees instantly.

"Or I will throw you out!"

This time Teela made out of the room and down to the kitchen. she slumped at the table and began to wail and clutch her chest. The shearing was incredible, slow ripping to maximize grating upon each fiber making up the muscle of the heart. She couldn't stop the replay of sounds, words, and visions pounding over and over again in her mind. Each new cycle was met with mournful lamentations.

"Teela," Bess whispered from the door.

"Get out," she replied meekly.

"It wasn't planned honey. I swear. It just happened."


Teela screamed herself awake, startled, she sat upright and dried her face of the tears in the night.


Across town, Pax was struggling with a liquefied Celeste. The small blonde was passive aggressive in her drunken state, one minute wanting to argue, and the next trying to take Pax's, shirt off her body, and they were not even out of the car yet. When she was finally able to get out of the car, and made it around to the passenger's side, she found Celeste had changed once again and refused to get out of the car.

"Don't make me carry you Celeste. Now get out and I'll help you to your apartment," she said weary of the whole scene and the woman.

"Will you stay with me tonight?"

"Yes. Celeste, I will stay with you tonight." Hoping that once she lay on that soft mattress of hers, she would forget the whole world existed.

"Ok." She pouted. "Only because you said that you will stay."

Celeste was not able to stay fully upright all the way to her apartment on the fourth floor. In the elevator, she lost her balance and found another reason to cling like an octopus to Pax.

"Carry me the rest of the way lover."

"I cannot carry you Celeste. My leg, remember?"

"Sure you can. You did before."

"Celeste. That was from one room to the other. Not down a long hallway. Come on. It's tired, and killing me as it is."

When the chime of the elevator sounded and the door opened, Celeste jumped up wrapping her arms around Pax's neck and her legs around her waist. Pax had to grab a hand full of Celeste's ass to keep them both balanced and not crashing into the side of the evaluator. Ooh you are sooo history after this night Celeste. Pax was definitely going to give Celeste her pink slip.

Struggling with each step, Pax made it down the hall to Celeste's door. Refusing to release her, Pax fumbled with the key and the lock to get the door open. She felt her right knee slightly buckle from the weight and general fatigue. She knew she would fall if she did not get the extra 130 pounds off her back and fast.She finally pushed the door open and practically sprinted to Celeste's bedroom. It was a test of who had the fastest hands in order for Pax to get away from Celeste. Once she did, the blonde seemed to meld into the big comforter and drift quickly into dreamland.

Waiting a minute to make sure she did not move, Pax gingerly sat on the edge of the bed, stretching out her right leg and began rubbing it. She hated the numbing tingling that paraded up and down her thigh to her foot. She had over done it with the dancing Celeste insisted on doing and now carrying her. She looked at Celeste who was snoring away and totally passed out.

"I'm done with you. All I have to do is wait until you are sober enough to tell you."

With that and some effort, she stood. She waited until she had her full weight on both legs. Seeing her duffle bag in the corner, she grabbed it and her truck keys, and then left the apartment. In the elevator, in the truck driving home, and later when she was lying beneath her own sheets she thought of another small blonde.


Thumper talked Teela into going in the backyard. There were some squirrels she needed to pay back. So while her mommy was lounging and tanning herself, Thumper chased after the squirrel that had been running in the tree taunting her.Teela watched as the Kamikaze animal clung upside down on the tree trunk and ran in circles around the base of the tree trunk just outside of Thumper's reach. It would scurry down just so far, flick its tail in taunt, then scurry just out of reach further up when Thumper jumped and barked. She watched as it then make its way onto a tree branch, stretching out on it and looking down at Thumper.

Teela heard a noise from the inside of her house. Her name was being called repeatedly. She recognized the sound and groaned. Her mother had decided to pay her a visit.

Caramella Pheamster was a fast-moving moving sixty-eight year old who sought to age healthily. Teela had long since given up trying to keep up with her mother's activities and field trips. Since the death of her father more than ten years before, her mother took an active interest in her health, started eating right and as she puts it "letting her hair gray gracefully." Besides being brassy and nosey, she like everyone else butted into Teela's personal life.

"Hello, Teela dear."


"Oh that was a marvelous greeting. I thought I taught you better manners than that."

"I'm sorry. Good morning Mother. How are you this gloriously bright cheerful and amazing morning?"

"No need to be a smart ass dear."

"What do you want mother of mine?"

"Just come by to see how you are. How is work?"

"The same old stuff. No pun intended."

"I hope not."

"How was your Vegas Trip?"

"Just absofuckinglutely marvelous."


"What? You say it."

"That's different."

"Anyway you prude, I had a wonderful time and met a very nice man in the casino while I was there."

Her mother began to tell her of the dinners that she had with Richard. Teela bided her time listening to her mother's escapades and watching Thumper trying to get the Kamikaze squirrel. After a time, she couldn't listen anymore.

"Mom, please. I am really not in the mood to hear about your liaisons."


Laughing, she said, "Ooh please Mother." Her head fell back on the chair exasperated. How did I get so lucky to have such a liberal minded mother?

"Well you already know how I feel Teela."

"Yes mother I know how you feel, how Jo feels, how Boney feels. I know."

"You are a very beautiful woman, and there are plenty of women in this town to choose from."

"I am not interested in dating mother."

"I just want to see you happy and settled down before I leave this earth. I could go at any time you know."

"Oohh pullleaase!"

"It's true, Teela and you know it."

"I am settled down Mother. I have a job, a house, a dog, and a lover in case you have forgotten."

"Bess cannot be your partner, your lover anymore Teela."

"Don't go there mother."

Caramella looked upon her only child for whom she had wept. Her pain was so deep that she could not see how unhappy she was. Caramella had never really liked Bess. She tolerated the woman because her child loved her so. Now Bess was not the same person anymore, she could not love and partner for Teela anymore.

"Well what about Debbie?"

"Who's Debbie? Ooh wait, I am not going out with anymore of the women you find mother."

"No, no. Debbie is my granddaughter?"

Lost, Teela looked at the older woman. "What are you talking about? What granddaughter?"

"The one you would give me if you had a partner."

Teela couldn't help the hysterical laughter that erupted from her lips. She held her sides as they had began to hurt. "You must be crazy? Even if I was with someone, it still would be impossible."

"Not really. I have been reading some excellent articles on the procedures that are available today. Dr. Wyman at the fertility clinic even told me that it's possible you still can, or if you have a younger partner, then she can."

Laughing she said, "I am not even going to ask Mother. I swear I am not."

"Don't laugh at your mother, Teela. I am only trying to help."

"I know Mom and I truly love you for it. Even when I don't want to. But you have to admit, that is funny."

"Well. I'm glad that I could entertain you dear."

"That you have." She finally regained her control. "Actually, I do have a date for your information."

"Goodie." She clapped her hands together. "What's her name?"

"Tanesha Evans. She is a friend of Jo and Boney's."

"I always did like that couple. They are so nice. Tanesha? is she..."

"Yes, Mother, she is African-American. We happened to be at Jo and Boney's party last night and I accepted. Happy now?"

"No." She slapped her daughter's arm. "Those girls had a party and you did not invite me? You know how I love their parties. So diversified and wild."

"My mother the party animal. Shouldn't you stick to bingo or some other activity for little blue haired ladies?"

"That's the key, dear. It's for old ladies who are probably crotchety too. That's not for me. So what is this Tanesha like?"

"I don't know really. That's what the date will tell me."

"Come on girl. give me details. What does she look like?"

"Her skin is coffee colored with a little cream mixed in, light hazel eyes, hair in braids to her shoulders. Has an athletic build. And seems very shy."

"Can you understand what she is saying?"

"What are you talking about?" Teela looks perplexed.

"Well you know how some colored folk speak that god-awful awful language and you can't understand what they say. It took me a while to learn that 'yo homey' was not a reference to be a homebody."

Teela smiled. "Tanesha does not use slang, but proper English better than Izz do."

"Being a smart ass is not becoming."

"What I do know is that she is well educated and is originally from New Jersey, but thankfully does not still have the accent."

"Do you know how to cook soul food?"

"No and I do not want to know. It's only one date not a marriage proposal."

"Oooohhhh wouldn't that be wonderful if it was? Maybe I'll get you a Soul Food cookbook. What are Chitterlings anyway? You know maybe you should rent that movie Soul Food. Oprah recommends it. You should know some things."

"God help me."

"So tell me something honey, I'm curious."

"I am afraid to ask." Please let it be the recipe for apple pie.

"Is it different?"

"Is what different?"

"You know, the sex. Is it different with black women versus white women?"

Teela groaned, "Mother. Please!"

"I have read some articles about this very thing. They say that there is a BIG difference between white men and black men. Of course I would not expect you to know what that meant, since you have never known a man in the biblical sense."

"No mother I haven't. Can we please change the subject or something?"

"Hmmmm. I shouldn't wait for you to tell me."

"Ohoo God."

"I'd never find out. I should do the research myself."

Teela, unable to take anymore of her mother said, "Isn't there some blue light special somewhere you need to be pushing other old ladies around to get to?"

"Actually, dear, that reminds me of why I came. I want to know if you wanted to go shopping with me and my friend Alice?"

Teela cringed. The last shopping trip with her mother and her friend Alice Freeman was a horrifying experience. They had to enter every store, and Teela became the pack mule. The two of them gawked openly and made comments regarding the men who passed by. Worse was the time, her mother was stopping women whom she thought were lesbians to introduce her daughter to them. Mother tried so hard to make her gaydar working. Most of the time, it was on the blink and she made bad judgment calls. Being an old lady, most of the strangers laughed and forgave her.

"No way Mother. You and Alice find another unsuspecting pack mule for the day."

"Can I take Thumper instead?"

"No way. Thumper does not deserve such a treatment."

"Fine. I expect you to bring Tanesha around for me to meet her."

"HA! Fat chance."


Chapter 6

Nica needed Teela's help on one of her cases. She had asked Teela to come to her office and help her with the MDS coding. They were perusing the resident's chart, especially the nursing notes and the Care Flow Records.

"Looks like you have to do a 30 day exemption for mental health."


"Yeah. She came in to the ARCC on Lexapro with a diagnosis of depression and no cognitive disorder."

"God. I forgot all about that."

They looked up to see Belle walking in mumbling. She spied Teela and said, "And there she is."

Opening her arms, she took Teela in a hug, and a kiss on the cheek. The hug was warm but very brief as she released Teela and resumed her mumbling. Belle opened her hand revealing several wrapped butterscotch hard candies and a couple of peppermints. She placed them on Nica's desk and turned to the small table against the wall and helped herself to one of the large Tootsie Rolls in the basket. Smiling and chattering still, she turned to Teela and asked seriously, "You like me?"

"Very much Belle. Nica and I both like you." Teela smiled. She loved Belle. Never a day went by that Belle did not find her and give her a hug and a kiss on the cheek.

"Good honey, 'cause I like you." She sat in the vacant chair next to Teela and focused on eating her Tootsie Roll.

Carmen, an older Latino woman from the activity department, stopped into Nica's office. "Magda is giving the aides a hard time getting ready for the trip to the Senior Center." Carmen told Nica.

Belle looked up at Carmen, instantly scowling at her, "I don't like her." Teela tried to keep the snicker quiet.

"Belle that is not a nice thing to say."

Belle continued her scowling at the woman in the doorway. Evil eye not wavering, she then took her finger and ran it across her neck as if cutting it.

Teela's mouth dropped and she covered it with her hand. She was rendered speechless. Oh My GOD! I have never seen Belle do anything other than hug or kiss someone. I cannot believe she did that.

Belle stood and Carmen took a cautionary step backward watching her. "I'm gonna go honey." She fluffed her hair and turned to Nica, "Do you like me?"

"Yes Belle, I do." she said, poorly controlling her own snickering. Belle bent down to give Teela another kiss on the cheek, a sloppy sticky one full of chocolate.

Teela was trying not to scrunch up her face at the sticky act of affection. "Thank you Belle." She certainly did not want Belle to start making that deadly sign to her. She watched as Belle resumed her glaring at Carmen who stepped aside so that she can clearly pass.

Teela laughed. "Carmen, don't take it personally."

"I am not the only one Belle does that to." She somewhat pouted. "I have never done anything to her but be nice. It unnerving, Teela."

"I'm sure it is, but she is generally harmless. Right now. Hopefully, she won't become aggressive. Carmen, you may remind her of someone from the past, or that it could have been a shirt color you were wearing one day that makes her react like that towards you. Who knows? Just try not to take it personally."

"Easy for you to say." Carmen said, "She loves you." She turned and walked out.

Nica and Teela continued to snicker. "It really isn't funny. But it is. Hold on while I go see to Magda."

Sitting at Maureen's bed was her estranged daughter, Pax. Pax looked upon her. She was a shell of the woman who gave birth to her, who helped her with the homework. She bandaged her scraped knees from softball and stuffed her with sugar cookies. No, the figure sitting in the wheel chair with the half vacant stare was not Maureen at all.

She still had raven black hair, only the gray had overtaken the rich raven sheen. The cheeks, once so alabaster pristine, with just a hint of rose blush, were now slightly sunken and dry. Pax wiped the tear that left her eyes. Amazing, her hands are still soft. She lifted the hands and placed them on her cheek.

I remember how you loved me mother. I remember.

Pax shivered, seeing her parents in the living room that day. A vision that crept into her consciousness time and time again. Her parents had prided themselves on being able to talk to their children about anything and to have their children do the same for them. Standing before them that fateful Sunday after dinner turned out to be the exception to the rule. Her mother yelled her daughter could not be lesbian. She ranted the holy scriptures verbatim. She slapped Pax across the face for the embarrassment the creature before her had become. Pax had dishonored their family with her unnatural thoughts and actions. It was not to be tolerated. It would not.

Tears long ceased to come from Pax after her mother's dismissal of the daughter she no longer claimed. With swollen eyes, her world bordering on annihilation, she turned to her father for understanding. She had been everything for him: the perfect lady at their social gatherings, dating the boys that he had suggested, helping him with repairing the Chevy. The only man that she had loved outside of her brothers lowered his head and left the room. She remembered jumping slightly at the echo of her mother slamming the door on her face that last time. There was nothing else to do but turn and face the world with four suitcases. It was all that she possessed in the world that day.

Pax glanced above her mother's head and saw the pictures of her father, and her brothers Zander and Damian. There were family portraits of the four of them the family she was forbidden to be apart of.

"You may not like that I am here Mother, but I am. It took a lot for me to move beyond that day. It took a long time, but I am here now. I am not leaving again. I promised Papa. I saw him before he died and he asked me to forgive him. My hope is that there is a little part of you that would ask if we could forgive each other.

"Excuse me?" Startled, Pax jumped to her feet and turned to the door. "I don't recall ever meeting you before." Cautiously moving into the room to stand by Maureen, the woman said, "How do you know her?"

"I'm her...aahh...daughter. Pax Baldwin."

Pax was starting to get concerned at the awestruck face of the woman standing by her mother. The woman's hands flew to her mouth as she froze as if in fright.

"Oh my God." The hands slipped down to her chest. As she stared at Pax, the shape of her mouth drifted an "O" shape to a broad grin. A right hand shot out in offering. "I am so happy to meet you Pax. I am Felicia Baldwin, Zanders wife."

"Oh wow. Okay." My brother has good taste. Pax mused as she shook the hand of the beautiful auburn haired woman. She took in her slender build and large round hazel eyes. "Hello Felicia. Nice to meet you to."

"I have only heard Damian and Zander mention you in passing. Do they know you're in town?"


"Did you move back to town?"

"Yeah." Feeling torn between running and wanting to know more about her brothers, she asked, "So how are the boys?"

"Boys as ever." Felicia laughed. "Let's take Maureen for a walk in the courtyard and talk."

The apprehension that Pax immediately felt upon meeting Felecia quickly faded into an ease she had only known with Jen. She took an instant liking to her as if she had known the woman for years. Pax was amazed at that she felt so comfortable. She knew Felicia was also feeling relaxed now. The courtyard gardens were tended to by the large volunteer group at the ARCC. They tilled, planted, and weeded. They did everything and anything to make the beautiful, brilliantly-colored-flowers and foliage bloom.

Felicia and Pax stopped at a bench under the small shade tree. Felicia and Zander had been married for five years. Her older brother managed to complete law school and work in a moderately profitable law firm. Felicia beamed as she showed Pax a current picture of her handsome husband and the brother her new-found sister-in-law despised.

"Best of all Pax. Are you ready?"

Pax couldn't keep herself from matching the grin upon her new friend's face. She glanced at her mother who was napping in the sunlight. "What?"

She turned to the next set of pictures in her wallet and handed it to Pax. Two little curly haired, coffee-colored colored children stared back at her. Pointing to each one, Felicia introduced the, "Luke and then Effram Davis, soon to be Luke and Effram Baldwin."

"You're adopting?"

"Yes. We hope to have things settled in the next few months, but they have been living with us for the past two years."


"Thanks. And congratulations to you." Pax looked at her curiously. "You're an aunt."

"I'm an Aunt," Pax repeated thunderstruck. Slowly the grin grew wider until Felicia could see what good dental hygiene Pax had.

"I think a celebration is in order. The Baldwin family has grown by one more. And just think, you are already potty trained."

"I hope so." Pax laughed along with her briefly before sobering. "That sounds like a great idea Felicia, but Zander and I parted on bad terms a long time ago."

"Even though I don't know what it was that caused it, I do know that your mother needs her family together and to be strong."

"You don't understand Felicia."

"No, I won't pretend to either. I just hope that it's something that can be mended. Those two little boys have been dealt a nasty start in life and they deserve a chance to be apart of a real family. That includes the fun and pleasant things and the boring and unpleasant things. That's a real family."

Pax glanced at her mother whose eyes were riveted upon her. I thought you were sleeping. How much have you heard? Do you understand what we are saying? "You should speak to your husband first." That was evasive enough. Let my asshole brother explain that to his wife. "Right now, I must be going."

"Really? How will I get in touch with you?"

Pax stood and kissed her mother on the cheek considering that for a moment. She gave Felecia her telephone number. "It was very nice meeting you Felicia. My brother certainly has good taste."

"Thank you. I will be in touch with you very soon."

Teela glanced through the window of Nica's office and noticed two women outside with Maureen. Stepping closer to the window, Teela gasped as she recognized the tall figure standing next to Maureen. It's her. I know it. Turn around. She willed.

Nica entered her office and wondered at her friend. "What are you doing?"

"It's her Nica."

"Her who?" She moved to stand beside her co-worker.

"I don't know her name. I saw her at Jo and Boney's party the other night."

"Wait. Jo and Boney had a party and you didn't invite me? I love their parties."

"God, you sound like my mother. Get your own friends."

Teela knew the instant her heart stopped pumping. It was the same moment Pax turned towards the window and saw her standing there. Teela placed a hand over her stomach to quiet the butterflies that took flight.

In an almost mirrored motion, Pax did the same. As expected, their smiles flourished.

"I'll be right back Nica to finish helping you."

"Wait. Where are you going?"

Teela hurried and made her way out to the courtyard. Oh please still be there. Who are you anyway? What will I say to you? I know you felt that, whatever it was. I saw your hand. I know it.

Pax was rooted where she stood when she looked upon the face of the small blonde. Her heart was elated and stunned when she discovered the face that had haunted her every night since the party. It's you isn't it? What are you doing here? Why would I run into you here? Are you free for dinner?

"Hello Felicia," Teela greeted the one of the two women she knew in the courtyard. The third she hoped would become familiar very soon.

"Hi Teela. How are you?"

"Good thanks. How are you today Maureen?"

"Getting her tan on."

"I see that." She laughed and turned to Pax.

"Teela, this is Pax Baldwin, Maureen's daughter."

"Her daughter?" Teela stretched out her hand. When their fingers touched, Teela swore that she had been tazered. The electrical current sped through her fingers, up her arms and instantly merged into her blood stream. Her hand was nearly swallowed by the larger one, but she was not in any hurry to release herself from the warm current. She rejoiced in the onslaught.

"The proverbial prodigal daughter, I am afraid." Pax covered her nervousness with a strained chuckle.

What the hell was that?

"I am Teela Pheamster, your mother's Social Worker here at the ARCC. You must be the one who has been visiting with Maureen the staff have told me about." For the past several months I have only known Felicia as the daughter-in-law. I never knew she had a daughter. Every family has skeletons somewhere. It wasn't uncommon for a sibling to be excluded from information or making decisions for a parent.

"Aaahhh, could be. I was asking about mother, but the nurse said she could not tell me anything. Something about my name not on the form she was pointing to."

"That's the Disclosure Form, it has to do with the Privacy Act. It says with whom the ARCC can discuss your mother's medical condition and identifying information. The nurse was right. If your name was not listed on that form, then she could not tell you anything."

"So I'll go write her name on it today."

"Has to be the Power of Attorney."

"Oh, I see. Well no biggie. I'll just talk to Zander and have him add you to it tomorrow."

"Thank you Felicia," Pax said turning back to Teela. She held her gaze wanting to say more but dared not risk it right here in front of Felicia. I know who and where you are. I don't know what. After all, it was a mixed crowd that night. "Well, I must be going. Could I call you tomorrow afternoon to check on mother?"

"Please do."

Knowing she should get back to Nica, still Teela wanted to find out a little more about the prodigal daughter named Pax. So she stayed outdoors with Maureen and Felicia discussing that very fact.

"Did Maureen seem to recognize her?" Teela was curious.

"I'm not sure if she recognizes me and the boys really. It's hard to tell. She stares at us, follows us around the room though."

"I was just curious is all."

"Listen. I want to tell you how wonderful it is that all of you are taking such good care of Maureen. We truly appreciate the hard work that all of your staff do."

"Thank you. Be sure the tell the CENAs. They need to hear that from families."

"We want to do something special for them. What do you suggest?"

"Well we are really not supposed to take gifts, but telling them of your appreciation should be enough."

She smiled. "If that doesn't feel like enough, they always love cookies and fudge."

Laughing along with the social worker, Felicia said, "I will keep that in mind."

Teela stood and was sad to say goodbye to the warmth of the sun. She rarely got a chance to be outside during the day unless it was lunch. She had almost made it back into the building when the PA system squawked for Teela to go to the room she knows so well.

"Liz..." She groaned.


Pax made it out to her truck and was headed out for the Metropolitan Park and Zoo. Mother was more alert this time. I swear you were listening to what Felicia and I were saying. You were paying attention. You were always pretending not to be listening when you actually were. So, Teela Pheamster you are the social worker for Mom. Huh? Fancy that. But where the hell did the shock treatment come from? She lifted her right hand from the steering wheel and gazed at it. Turning it over, she did not see any marks or burns. She had seen Teela in her dreams when she did what passed for sleeping. You became one of many nightly haunting dreams, Teela Pheamster. Albeit a very nice one indeed. But now I know where to find you in reality.

Knowing it was just a matter of time before she ran into one of her brothers, she had not expected to meet her sister-in-law. Damian's letters had told her of Zander and Felicia. She had followed their dating and eventual nuptials through penned description and the few photographs Damian had sent. She had been living in town for three months and often thought about calling Damian. Each time, she conveniently discovered an equally opposing reason not do make the call. Most often it was she had enough on her plate with a new job and finding a house to lease. She used just about anything to prevent her from hauling the baggage she carried out into the open. Those bags could wait in the basement for another time.

Sighing wearily, she checked her watch. She had to steel herself for having dinner with Celeste tonight at seven at the Royale. Begrudgingly, she agreed to dinner with the annoying psychologist. Hopefully, tonight will be the last time I have to spend with her. Something is not right about that woman and I want far away from her as possible. I want no part of whatever it is. Celeste was not too subtly pressing her for a commitment. The sex was good, not explosive, but it took the edge off. Pax resigned.

Once, Pax had given her heart away just one time. It died in the fire along with her Jen. She swore never to experience that pain again. It was a vow she had kept for the past fifteen years until she had laid her baby blues upon the social worker.


Chapter 7

Dinner at the Royale was a scrumptious experience. Diners had a varied choice from the menu, but the specialty was seafood, which ranged from sea bass and Mahi Mahi to standard shrimp and perch. The Royale boasted an extensive wine list from twenty different countries as well as beer, lagers, and microbrews. Any pallet could be quenched at the Royale. Shades of red and blue mixed with black caused a somewhat darkened atmosphere if not for the wall sconces and brightly lit chandeliers placed throughout each of the three dining and bar areas, which created a soothing glow. Teela and Tanesha were seated in a booth next to the atrium waiting for their server to return with the Riesling they ordered.

"Tell me something about you." Teela inquired.

"Aaahhh. This is the tell me who you are and I'll see if I like you stage. Isn't it?" Tanesha flashed her a half smile.

"Could be."

"It's a two way street then isn't it?"

"Could be." The social worker repeated coyly.

"A night of possibilities?"

"Could be."

I hope that it is. You are just so gorgeous, I really want to be with you Teela, but I'll wait. Wonderful things happen when I wait. Tanesha reasoned with herself. Just don't make me wait too long. I don't like that. The others did that to me and where are they now? Tanesha grinned. "Well let's see. What hasn't Jo told you about me?" Pretending to think, she said, "I like to read, lesbian novels mostly. I enjoy hiking when I can and do some cycling, generally physical sports."

"Have you always been athletic?" Must be. Just take a look at you.

"Since high school. I was kind of a sickly kid. So when I finally got healthy, I wanted to stay healthy. My passion is martial arts." The psychologist replied.


"Oh yes. Right after I take walks in the garden, and on the beach at sunset." She chuckled with Teela.

"Is that so?" Teela broadened her smile gazing into the large brown eyes.

Tanesha poured her a glass of wine from the bottle the server delivered to their table. "Oh my yes." She smiled. "In truth, I started out competing on the Michigan circuit and after a while, went national and then international."

"That's impressive."

"Not really. It helps keep gravity away." She laughed, sipped her wine and looked at the woman seated across from her. "What about you? Fair play?"

"There is not much to tell. I generally go to work and then home. The love of my life is Thumper right now. You are not going to believe this. Most people have pictures of their loved ones or their children in their wallet," She reached in to her purse and retrieved her wallet, displaying a photo to Tanesha. "I have a Thumper."

Tanesha eyed the big Red Nose Colby. "This is a huge Thumper."

"She is bigger than most females."

"Tell me about Thumper?"

Teela was surprised at how easily the conversation actually flowed between them. Tanesha was charming, and personable. She was not pompous and egocentric nor full of self-important like the psychologists that Teela dealt with at the ARCC. Similar thoughts were wafting through Tanesha's mind as well. She truly enjoyed listening to Teela, but she could not help her mind straying to the lovely social worker's other attributes.

It had been awhile since she had a woman to love and give love to. Her last girlfriend stayed with her only three months. Tanesha didn't know what she had done wrong. All she wanted to do was give her love and have her return it. It wasn't her fault if they became unfaithful. Tanesha knew her lover was before she even knew it herself. She followed. She saw the signs. She knew. Teela is different. I can feel it. Teela is true, loyal. She's the one.

"Hello Tanesha."

"Celeste." They had not even noticed the couple standing at their table. "How're things?"

"Good." She purred and rubbed against Pax.

Pax had lost all awareness when her gaze fell upon the social worker. I desperately want to say hello to you. Actually, I wish it were you I was having dinner with instead of this tripe. Pax felt her breath hitch as she gazed into the green eyes making a mental image of each golden fleck in her irises'. Finding her psalms suddenly moist, she absently wiped them across her slacks.

Unable to tear her eyes away from the blues absorbing her conscious thought, Teela felt herself mentally swoon under the penetrating gaze. If you only knew that I have seen you in my dreams of late. Remembering one of them, Teela breathed deeply attempting to control the pounding cadence within her chest and the resounding vibration in her lower half. It didn't help, but the seriously annoyed grimace upon Celeste's face stilled all rhythm instantly.

"Tanesha, this is my love, Pax Baldwin."

They nodded silently to one another. Pax was oblivious to the irate looks Tanesha shot at her. She would rather gaze upon the angelic face of Tanesha's date instead.

"And it seems as though you two know each other," Celeste sourly hinted.

"Yes. Hello Teela. Nice to see you again."

"Hello Pax." Teela couldn't believe the dryness of her gums at the moment. Everything's seemed to be sticking. She reached for her wine glass to add more moisture in her mouth.

"Tanesha your comment in Team Meeting this morning I thought was rather insensitive regarding your patient. I had been meaning to ask you if you would like to trade cases. I would be more than happy to assume that one." She smiled innocently at her colleague.

"Celeste," Tanesha returned the smile amicably. "I would be willing to listen to your case suggestions on Monday in the office. I prefer not to discuss patients in a public setting. It is unethical and a breach of confidentiality as well as HIPAA. As I am certain of your zest to assist with the case, where we are may have escaped you keen sense of awareness."

Teela tried not to snicker behind her wine glass as Pax turned her head slightly to do the same. Tanesha, grinned victoriously saluting her colleague instant flush of embarrassment.

"Well until Monday then. Enjoy your dinner." She turned abruptly on her heels. "Come on Pax, our table is waiting."

Pax emitted a growl loud enough for Tanesha and Teela to hear. They watched as the couple took a table two aisle across from them. Pax sat facing her. Oh God this could be a problem. I can barely keep my eyes off of her.

"I really do detest that bitch."

"I can see why."

Once seated, Celeste instructed the waiter, "We will have a bottle of Chardonnay."

"She will have a bottle of Chardonnay. I'll have a beer. Any kind of beer. You pick your favorite," Pax amended.

"Pax. Really." She waited until they were alone again. "Are you going to tell me who she is?"


"Why not?" She was indignant.

"You don't tell me who all the people are that you say hello to."

"That's a childish response."

"Children often speak the truth." Let's hurry and get this over with. She thought.

"I think I have a right to know. They way you two were looking at one another."

"Give it a rest Celeste." Pax admonished. Her focus was wavering from the menu to the social worker across the room.

"Yes we are ready to order now." Celeste informed their waiter. " We'll both have the Parmesan Chicken with Manicotti."

The waiter glanced at his left hearing the low rumbling murmur from the beautiful woman. "I will have the steak, medium rare and the Fettuccini." She sipped her beer and gave the menu to him.

"That steak is not very good for you Pax. Could clog the arteries."

Neither are you, Pax retorted to herself and drank deeply from the lager. But she is. She thought glancing over to Teela. Her smile is so warm. I can hear her giggle over here and I want to be there, close up. I wonder what if she felt that shock when we touched. She had to.

Pax cautiously watched Teela throughout their dinner, especially noticing the way she talked with her hands. She seems to like hooking her hair behind her right ear. Her profile was heavenly to Pax. She had long since given up pretending to eat her steak or the Fettuccini. More than once, Celeste had to touch her or call to her loudly to bring her date to attention.

"What is it with you tonight Pax? You have hardly heard a word I've said all night."

Fancy that. If you had said something worth listening to, you'd have a different result. "That is not true. I have listened to everything that you have said Celeste. It's just that you jump topics too fast to keep up."

She saw Teela excused herself and headed toward the bathroom. Good idea Teela. I think it's time I go powder my nose as well. After several minutes Pax excused herself and headed for the bathroom as well.

Pausing outside the women's restroom, Pax deeply inhaled and breathed out slowly. She entered the room just as Teela was drying her hands at the sink. "Hi. Again." Oh that was smooth you dork. Why do I feel so nervous around her?

"Hi again." God why do I sound like a putz.

"Listen. I want to apologize for Celeste. Her behavior I mean."

"First, I am not the one who was offended. And second, why should you apologize for something she did?"

"I'm not sure really."

"Well from what I hear she should be apologizing to the whole clinic."

"I can believe that."

"That is a funny thing to be saying about your girlfriend." Teela said.

"Celeste is not my girlfriend."

"I just assumed. I mean I saw you two together at Jo and Boney's party."

Pax smiles. "You saw me that night.?"

Teela matched the brilliant smile with her own. "Yes, and I believe that we saw each other." There I said. I acknowledged it. Now what?

Okay, so part of the puzzle is solved. Now what? I can't stand here and keep looking into her eyes. Someone is bound to miss us. Pax cleared her throat, "Have you heard from my brother Zander about adding my name to the list?"

God what is wrong with me? Teela clears her own throat, feeling the sudden constriction under the intense blue eyes. "No."

"I guess I am going to have to talk to my brother personally." A shadow briefly crossed her face and is just as quickly vanished.

"Is there something I can do to help?"

"Thank you, no." Ooohh what the hell! "You look very pretty tonight. Tanesha is lucky." She turned and exited the bathroom leaving a stunned social worker behind.

Returning to the table, Pax was wondering why Celeste kept checking her watch. "Is there a fire Celeste?"

Pax asked picking at her meal.

"We are to meet my friends, Mona and Jenny for after dinner drinks at their home. They are a great deal taken with you. They think that that we make a great looking couple. Of course I happen to agree with them, but I guess I am a wee bit biased." She giggled.

God no. I can't take this. Pax rolled her eyes.

"They are preparing to return to their cottage in Northern Michigan , Tawas on Monday and has invited us to join them next weekend. I took the liberty of telling them that we would be delighted to join them. We are meeting them tonight to discuss what we should bring and to plan the itinerary. Oh, Pax you'll love this. Jenny likes to sail and fish. So you and she should get along real well. As you know I can't stand to touch the smelly slimy creatures." She shivered visibly.

Pax drank the remainder of her beer and slammed it on the table loudly. Nearby diners including Tanesha and Teela turned their way. A shaken Celeste looked at her girlfriend's deepening blue eyes with awe. Pax leaned on the table and in the coldest tone she could muster said, "I will NOT be going anywhere with YOU! WE are dating. No correction, WERE dating. We have been out four times, and are neither married nor joined at the hip. I do not feel like I have to call you several times a day. What is that all about anyway? I do not have to account for every minute of the MY day to YOU! YOU DON'T OWN ME! Celeste. I detest your scheduling, telling me what to wear and what to eat. Well not anymore. I am no one's pet!"

Celeste was stunned and her imitation of a fish was not pleasant. After she regained her composure, she tried to mollify Pax, "Honey, I think you are just tired. If you do not want to go to Mona and Jenny's tonight, that is okay. We can take in that movie you have been talking about going to see. That will make you feel better. Won't it?"

"Are you kidding me?"

"I will get with Mona later in the week, but it is no reason to make a scene. We can discuss this later." She signaled for their waiter.

Chortling, Pax shook her head. "You are unbelievable. There will be no more discussions or planning." She turned deadly serious. "Listen to me very carefully. I don't even like you. I don't want to see you ever again." She threw her napkin on the table and stood. She reached into her pocket and pulled two twenty's from a small stack of bills. "Thanks for dinner."

Spurned and angry, Celeste called after her "All you wanted to do was to get me into your bed. Is this how you treat the women that you bed repeatedly?"

Pax stopped and turned, "No. It's how I treated you."

"Why you..."

"I mean it. Don't call, don't come by; just leave me alone." She glanced briefly at Teela before turning and leaving an incensed Celeste.

Tanesha leaned across the table and said softly, "Ooohhh my. Miss Priss got dumped."

"In the worst way," Teela agreed.

Teela smiled at Tanesha, but her thoughts were on Maureen's daughter. She had seen the lightening flash of hurt within those arresting blue eyes. She felt the need to find her and comfort her. Oh yeah, that would go over with Tanesha. Dump her to find a gorgeous tall tree. She giggled recalling how Louanne Marshanucci, the CENA had described Pax. Being a squirrel might not be so bad.

Celeste attempted to regain her composure slowly sipping remainder of her wine glass. She stopped the next waitperson walking by and threw the money upon the tray he is carrying. She stood and walked out with eyes forward and head held high.

Teela and Tanesha watched her leave the dining room. Tanesha smiled and said, "Couldn't have happened to a nicer person." Teela giggled and turns gathering more pasta upon her fork. She was worried about Pax.


It had been a long time since Teela went out dancing. So when Tanesha suggested they go after dinner. Teela hurriedly agreed. Tanesha drove over to the next county to a little know lesbian bar that she knew. It had only been open for six months, but it boasted a better atmosphere than the one in their city. Tanesha especially liked the fact that the DJ played smooth jazz and more slow "groove songs" as she called them. She preferred that over "house" music and the like. A "groove song" that was playing now. Tanesha loved R&B especially when dancing with a woman with whom she wanted desperately to groove.

Tanesha held Teela loosely, at a proper distance. Teela decided to close the distance between them. All that physical exercise seems to have paid off. She feels so tight. I can't think of any other word to described it. She moved her hand across the bicep and then returned it to her back. I feel those ripples through her shirt. Against her will, Teela felt the squeeze of her southern half.

Oohhoo I felt that Teela. I want you too. Let's see if we can't push this a little faster. We both know where this night will end, but the game is the game. As they swayed to the saxophone humming around them, Tanesha shifted her position on beat and placed her muscled thigh between Teela's. The contact caused Teela emit a low moan that vibrated along Tanesha's neck. Her need was building. Self pleasure was not going to meet her needs tonight. Slowly their bodies moved in course with the music. The gentle swaying increased the friction Teela felt between her legs and the heat that traveled up Tanesha's thigh to her own center. Under the ruse of dancing, they were slowly making love.

Let's see if you are ready my princess. She stepped back to a proper distance again. In the darkness of the dance floor, she was able to see the heavily lids of the blonde social worker and the heightened coloring in her face. "Thank you for going out to dinner and dancing with me."

"It has been my pleasure," she breathed. "I've had had a wonderful time. The meal was good and the company was even better."

"Does that mean you will see me again? I mean, go out with me again?"

Teela grinned, loving her shy uncertainty. "I pictured this big bad assed black belt with a little more confidence in herself." Tanesha felt the heat rise to her cheeks.

"Well if this were the ring and you were trying to steal the trophy and the points that I wanted, you would definitely see the Rattler."


"Yeah, it's a nickname my sensei gave me when he watched me in a tournament once. He said it my eyes became so black and deadly. And then when I hit my opponents, they seem to be a little rattled afterwards. So the nickname stuck." She grinned.

Teela said, "Well you can rest assured that I am not out to steal your points or trophies."

Tanesha shyly stated, "You can steal anything of mine you want."

Hesitating just briefly, Tanesha dipped her head giving Teela a chance to pull away. When she did not, but instead crossed the short distance between them, the touch of their lips was tender, uncertain, and innocently sweet. By the end of the song, they were in need of air.

Oooh God that tasted wonderful! Teela gasped silently. I know that she wants me and I definitely would like to be touched by her. But....Can I use her this way? Then she thought of the scene at the restaurant.Will she think that we are an item if we sleep together this one time. Maybe if I explain...explain what?

The beat of the music picked up. Tanesha turned and led them to the table they had been sharing for the past hour. Unsure of what to say, Tanesha leaned over to taste Teela lips again. Without hesitation, Teela met her and their tongues sparred in their joined mouths. Both were moaning and drawing one another close as possible while sitting in separate chairs.

Needing to gain more air, Teela realized what she wanted. She was definitely certain Tanesha did too because she asked, "Do you think we can without expectations?"

In response, Teela leaned forward and ran her finger up the inside of Tanesha's open thigh. The intake of breath was clearly audible above the thundering beats from the tower speakers. Teela leaned further and gave her a kiss of pure lust and desire.

When they parted Tanesha lips curled into a devilish grin. Her throat suddenly parched beyond measure. "Yours or mine?"



They stood before one another devoid of the clothing that had been stripped upon entering Tanesha's apartment. Reverently, Tanesha cupped Teela's cheek and delivered a passionate and tender kiss. Her hands glided down her shoulders, tracing Teela's arms before surrounding her small waist. Teela moaned and pressed her center closer to Tanesha. She could feel hot lava erupting from her center. Teela felt somewhat lightheaded as she stood in Tanesha's arms. Tanesha pressed herself closer. Hands snaked around to cup the firm globes between her fingers, squeezing them to the music of Teela's sighs.

Pulling away, she led Teela to the center of the bed and lay her there. She kissed her again as Tanesha lowered her body onto the alabaster skin below her. Her senses were lit up, incinerating her will to take things slow with the social worker. She felt the beast stalking in the pit of her stomach. It wanted satisfaction now. Take her now it screamed. She is offering herself to you. Do it now!

Tanesha ground her body down into Teela and took the moan as an order to proceed. She moved to straddle Teela's right leg placing her own between the smooth thighs. Teela wildly kissed her fueling the passion within. Suddenly, she let a loud gasp. Her emerald eyes grew wide staring at the ceiling as her back arched into Tanesha's. Her lover had invaded her wet nether lips thrusting two fingers into her.

"You are so beautiful, Teela," Tanesha breathed into her neck. "Come for me baby."

The pleasure and pain shifted into arousal as Tanesha synchronized her thrusts and grinds. Teela willed herself to relax and allow the arousal she had first felt to slowly come back to her. Teela closed her eyes, a magnetic blue pair looked back at her. She saw the tall raven-haired woman approaching, taking her in her arms and kissing her. Teela's hips bucked wildly.

"Oh, yeah, baby. That's it," Tanesha cooed. "We're almost there. Come with me."

Teela released her grip upon the bed sheets and wrapped her arms around Tanesha's back. The lips of the raven-haired woman were meeting her own. Teela dug her left leg into Tanesha's bed and pushed. She felt herself falling over the edge into the abyss of orgasm. She heard her name whispered from the lips of the owner of those cerulean orbs and her body shook, her orgasm rocking her.

Tanesha continued to thrust, deeper, harder. She knew what her partners liked. They all liked to be filled by her. Only her. I will mark this woman. Ruin her for anyone else. Tanesha felt the rumbling thunder in her groin and then the explosion itself. She cried out for Teela and ground further onto the ivory limb beneath. Her body spasmed and jerked in a nearly hideously fashion as her orgasm soared.

When she could move, Tanesha shifted so that half of her lay on Teela. Her arm still wrapped possessively around her waist. She turned and pressed her side against the panting woman and kissed her neck. "That was amazing."

Teela didn't trust herself to responds. What the hell just happened?

Not wanting to think about it any further, Teela rolled over on top of Tanesha and drew her neck deeply between her lips. Teela let herself feel the warm caramel skin beneath and began exploring the question her mother had asked her not so long ago. Is there a difference. She moved quickly to the chocolate nipples waiting for her. They had been perched erect wanting to be suckled. Teela lightly pinched the right one and heard the approval from Tanesha.

The sheets were being clenched savagely as Tanesha held on. Teela traced the brown globe with her tongue, all around the outside making small circles towards the peak, all the while pinching the right making sure it did not feel left out. Tanesha hips jerked and Teela found her own brushing against the firm thigh. Teela flicked the proud button with her tongue. Tanesha's response was even more frantic breathing, her knuckles whitening from the locked grip. Her other hand traced light patterns across Tanesha's torso, brushing closer and closer to the neatly trimmed afro below. Teela pinched the nipple again making sure that Tanesha was with her.


"Please what?"

"Take me baby. Be inside me."

Teela let her fingers trace the outside of the soaking nether lips. They were swollen beyond what she had known before. She felt her mouth fill with saliva and she forced herself to swallow. She wanted to taste this woman. She needed to feel the sacrament upon her lips, the nectar swirl around her tongue. She would take her time making her way to filling that need. Teela nipped the nipple near her mouth.

"Don't tease me baby. Please."

Teela took the chocolate chip into her mouth and pulled. At the same time she thrust her own fingers deep into Tanesha.

"God TEELA!" she bellowed arching into the thrust. Her hand snapped to the back of Teela's head to make sure she did not move. "Just like that. Oooohh God. Like that."

Slowly she withdrew her hand only to return stronger. Tanesha's muscles locked into place. Her body was shaking from its own created tension. Teela repeated her torment once more and Tanesha ground her self onto the wiggling appendages letting her orgasm bind her to the thrill.

When the tremors left their bodies, they crashed upon the pillow top mattress wrapped around one another.

Teela lay upon the pillow with Tanesha's head resting upon her breast. The wisps of breath across her nipples heightened their sensitivity even more. She was wrong to think that their time was over and that sleep would come. Tanesha turned her head slightly and enveloped the hardened pink nipple into her mouth.


Teela's eyes burst open. She lay still, thinking about the dream. They had been yelling at each other. Guards were down. Tempers were soaring without regard to what may be said and could not be retrieved.It was the screaming caused her to awaken.

Teela glanced at the body spooning against her. Gently she lifted the arm from around her waist and got out of bed. Checking to make sure that Tanesha was still sleeping, she found her clothes and dressed. Tanesha had been watching her. She'd been awake for some time listening to the mumbling beside her. One name escaped from the subconscious and intruded into her reality.

"Teela, where are you going?"

Startled, Teela dropped the shoe she held in her hand. "Ssshhh, go back to sleep."

"Come back to bed."

She walked over and sat on the edge of the bed. "I wish I could. But I have to get home. Thumper needs to go out."

"Can't she hold it? She's a big dog."

"That can make a big mess." She chuckled and kissed her forehead. "Now go on back to sleep."

Sitting up on her elbow. "Will I see you again?"

Teela's heart sank. No commitments. "Sure." She kissed her quickly. "I gotta go. I'll see myself out."

Alone in her car, Teela was lost deep in thought. She was stuck in that stupor between seeing and not seeing. It was two in the morning. Traffic was nearly non-existent as she cruised beneath the city lights. Her body still hummed from a night of making love with Tanesha. Or so I thought it was Tanesha. Part Tanesha anyway. What am I saying. What am I doing? I can't see her anymore. It wouldn't be fair. Then she thought a little more. But it was good. I enjoyed it. A little rough, but we were both really excited. Ohhh stop it! She waved her hand at herself.

As it had the other few times she satisfied her needs, the gloom crept in between her chest and her rational mind. She had a sense of betrayal. The near shame of having slept with someone other than the person to whom she had committed herself. The pleasure that buzzed beneath her skin ebbed away into nothing. The weight of the night pinned her in the driver's seat. Only a few more blocks.

She pulled into her drive and killed the engine. She went to step out of the car and found that her muscles had stiffened. She took steps gingerly. She groaned at the three steps leading to her porch and the soft flood light blinding her. We were definitely too excited. She opened her screen door and a package fell at her feet. Retrieving her package slowly bending and coming upright, she quickly opened the door and shut it behind her.

Thumper greeted her wagging her entire backside and the nub she had for a tail. "I know, I know. I am very late. You can chew me out late, but right now mommy is sore and tired. So save it." She led the excited canine through the house and out the back door to the yard. Thumper bolted and finally got some relief.

While she waited for her baby to finish, Teela opened the sack she'd carried. She growled as she read the title of the book "Putting the Soul in Soul Food." "Like I really need this, mother!" She tossed the book upon the table and waited for Thumper to come in.


Chapter 8

Pax's body jerked slightly beneath the comforter. Her eyes moved rapidly beneath the closed eye lids. It was another night of fitful sleep for the zoologist.

She stood before the shell of a house, charred beyond recognition. She could see the old leather couch unmoved in what used to be the living room. Through the window she could make out a tilted frame upon the wall. It was the oil painting with which they had instantly fallen in love at the gallery. It nearly wiped out their savings to buy it.

Pax could see the flames, feel them licking at her skin as it ransacked their life in minutes. She looked to the back of the house. Just off the kitchen was the basement. She heard the scream above the sirens. A single stream of wailing anguish. It was Jen. Her Jen. Pax willed her feet to move: she needed to run and save her. It was Jen. Her Jen. Her soles were rooted to the grass. Vines sprang upward and wrapped her feet and ankles. Struggling she landed face forward in the dirt. And then there was silence.

Feet suddenly free from their binds, she ran to the back of the house and into a sterile, brightly lit room. The stench of embalming fluid and rotting flesh assaulted her instantly. A large rubber gloved hand rested upon her shoulders as she stood in front of the large metal wall. The owner of the hand walked to one of the metal doors marked with a number ten. Pax looked up to see to whom the hand belonged. There wasn't a face where one should be. The scrub hat sat atop a blank oval for a head.

He unlatched the door of number ten and a swirl of cold air blew through Pax taking her breath away. The blank face nodded, reached in and grabbed the metal hands and pulled. Rolling out came a gun metal table. Something or someone was lying beneath the green sheet.

She looked at the faceless person and they pointed to the green sheet. With a trembling hand, Pax took the corner closest to her and pulled back on the covering. Her knees buckled instantly and the tears doused the face below. Pax felt the wrenting of her heart as she looked upon her beloved. Only part of her face remained untouched by the fire and the fall. Pax sobbed bending to clutch the cold head to her chest, not able to bear looking upon the crooked, broken nose, or the empty eye socket. This was not the Jen in her heart.

Pax bolted upright panting. Her face was wet from the tears she had shed. Her body glistened with the sheen of sweat. She placed her head in her hands and continued her weeping.


Parking her truck in front of the two story brick house number the 5675, Pax shut down her engine and sat. Not moving or watching. What was I thinking? I shouldn't be here. She sighed heavily watching someone peak from behind the curtains of the house. The only thing I want from him is my name on that stupid list. She growled to herself. And an apology.

After two weeks, Felicia had called surprising her beyond belief. She wanted her to come have dinner with the family, all of the family. That included her brothers. So, Pax was a tad bit nervous to say the least. She had not seen her brothers face to face since their father's funeral. That was memorable, she grumbled to herself. She would have preferred their first meeting to be on neutral ground not her brother's home. At least I have my car in case I need a quick get away.

The front door swung open and out stepped Felicia. She looks puzzled at Pax and started to walk out to the truck. Pax smiled at the face peering through the car window. Lowering it she asked, "Can I help you?"

"You can't eat dinner from out here."

"Are you sure?"

"Yeah. I am. Look, I know this is a scary thing for you guys, but the first step has to begin sometime and somewhere. Since none of you three would choose, I did. Now live with it and come on." She slapped the car and walked away a few steps.

I really think I could like my sister-in-law. I hope she gives my brother hell. She smiled and exited the truck.

"You didn't put a dent in my truck did you?"

Felicia looked at Pax and her eyes twinkled. "Go ahead and try to sue me. My husband's a lawyer."

"Oh great."

"Besides, I'm thinking it will be great to have another female in the family. All this male testosterone is starting to drive me nuts really."

Laughing she said, "I am sorry to hear that. Mom and I went through the same thing with dad and the boys."

"Good experience. We can watch each other's back."


Felicia led Pax into her home. It was a typical nuclear family home. The furniture was simple but functional.The large screen TV in the corner had to be her brother's idea. But what struck Pax was not the colorfully decorated area and the throw pillows in abundance. It was the photographs upon the wall. She remembered most of them from the walls of her parents' home. Her brother playing in the leaves in the backyard, or standing together on the ski vacation to Aspen the family took together. Even though it was not on the wall, there was a snapshot of all three of them holding their skis and standing arm in arm. It was as if Pax never existed as a child.

Pax was jarred by a booming voice coming from the other room. Then a lighter one came which was children's laughter. Pax felt the anxiety grow and coil itself into tiny knots ready to take flight all over her body. You can do this. It's just dinner. Don't have to do or say anything tonight. Just relax. She coached.

Sensing Pax's anxiety, Felicia hugged the frightened woman. "Come on. They are family." She chuckled. "Time to meet your nephews, Auntie."

"Yeah, right."

"Just think, Zander wants to adopt three more over the next couple of years."

Felicia entered the kitchen and the raucous laughter died immediately. Zander looked at his wife and his features hardened. Felicia projected warning with "the look." Zander tried not to waver knowing what that particular gaze meant. He was well acquainted with the silent signals of his wife. He forced a smile upon his face. Felicia imperceptibly nodded.

"There is someone here for dinner." She stretches out her hand and nothing happened. She entered the other room "Get in here. Don't make me hurt you." Smiling, she returned pulling Pax behind her.

"Pax!" Damian, cheered and ran to greet her. Wrapping her tightly in a bear hug, he squeezed with all his might.

"Damian," Pax choked out. "You baboon. I can't breathe."

"And your point would be?" He let her go and she deeply inhaled holding her chest.

"You ape." She laughs at her younger but taller brother.

"I have missed you Sis. I didn't know that you were coming?"

"Felicia didn't tell you? Obviously not."

Turning to his older brother he questions, "Did you Zander?"

"Yeah, Felicia told me," he said dryly. "Hello Pax. How've you been?"

"Zander. Good as can be expected. You?" The greeting was as frosty as she had expected.

"Great. I was surprised to say the least when Felecia told me that she saw you with mother."

"You've been to see mother?" Damian queried in amazement.

"Yeah. I have."

"How long have you been in town? Where are you staying? What are you doing now?" He rapidly fired at her, hugging her all the while.

Pax turned to the baby brother that she loved more than anything. He was always the first to see the good in a situation or people without hesitation. He then stepped back and lightly slugged her in the arm.

"I am so glad you are home."

Laughing and hugging him tightly Pax said, "Thanks Bro. Its good to be home." She patted the slight bulging of his midsection. "I see you are still jogging."

"Ha ha. Very funny." He returned to his seat. It was then, Pax noticed the two little humans looking at her.

The older one got down from his chair and went to stand protectively beside the littler one. Her heart smiled and so did Pax.

"Let me introduce you to our sons to-be. This is Luke Davis." Pax's smile widened as the curly headed boy looked at her without fear or hesitation. Pax sensed him to be bold and courageous. She noticed he puffed out his little chest in daring. "And this is his brother, Effram Davis." Opposite of his older brother, he was easily more timid and shy. "Boys, this is your Aunt Pax, your father's and Uncle Damian's sister from California."

Luke hesitantly walked up to Pax with a serious scowl wrinkling his face. Standing toe to toe he leaned back to look up at her. Hands on hips he asks, "Can you dunk a basketball?"

She had never expected that question, and looked to Felicia for help. She hunched her shoulders. "Aahhh, I think I can." She bent down as low as she could to meet him on eye level. "I have never really tried though. Why?"

"Because you are as tall as my daddy and he can't. We have a hoop out back. Daddy got it for us."

She looked at a red-faced Zander and chuckled along with the others. "That was real nice of your daddy Luke."

"Maybe we could find out together later if you want to help me. See I'm not sure that I can. One of my legs doesn't work so good."

He thought a moment and looked back to his brother. Pax watched him nod and gently chuckled. "Okay but only if my brother Effram can come and help too."

"No problem."

She watched as Effram looked back at her with great timidity, eyes never leaving hers. He acted as though he would bolt from the room at any minute. He stepped closer to his brother and whispered into his ear then. She looked at her brother curiously and Zander hunched his shoulders. Luke looked at her and said, "What happened to your face? Did you get into a fight?"

"Boys!" Felicia warned. "That is not a nice thing to ask."

"Oh why not? They are curious." Pax smiled and says, "I got these from a Bengal Tiger." She pointed to her scarred cheek."

"No shit!" Damian gasped.


"Sorry. No kidding?"

"He wasn't too happy with me poking around him. It's not a good think to go poking a tiger."

Effram's eyes grew large and his tiny voice squeaked "Really! Wow." She chuckled.


Felicia had shooed the crew out of her kitchen while she cleaned up. She was amazed at the three Baldwin children hated doing dishes and would pout in the same manner to get out of doing them. So they were out in the back yard watching the boys play basketball. The hoop was lowered so that the little guys would be able to make baskets. Pax had steadily took turns lifting each one of them up to dunk the ball. This they enjoyed greatly and continued to say "One more time Aunt Pax. Come on one more time." She was beginning to like the sound of that, but after several one more times, she called it quits and went to sit at the picnic table with her brothers.

Winded she sipped her beer, "Damian how does Zander keep up with the little bundles of energy?"

Damian snorted, "He doesn't. He takes his Geritol and makes Felicia run after them."

"You can just shut up dweeb," Zander ground out.

"So tell me Pax I'm curious. Are you still competing and doing that karate stuff?"

Zander looked at his brother, "Karate stuff?"

"Yeah. Our sister, if I remember correctly is a well known karate champion."

Zander sized up his sister. "You're kidding me?"

"The correct term is 'was' Damian."

Zander glimpsed the shadows crossing her face. "How did that happen?"

Pax said, "That was years ago. I don't do that anymore."

"She had sent me some of the magazines she was in. I'll bring them by sometime for you to see Zander," Damian beamed.

"Wow, you must be good."

Pax chuckled, "Used to be. Not anymore. But more importantly, what have you two been doing? Why aren't you settled down yet Damian?" She desperately wanted to change the subject.

"I haven't found the right one yet. Not looking really. Dating can be scary these days."

"I know what you mean." She frowned thinking of Celeste.

"But Zander, on the other hand, has just won a huge case. He is getting offers from larger firms now."

"Really. I'm impressed big brother." She slapped him on the knee. He shifted uncomfortably just out of her reach. Pax swallowed her beer and tried to ignore the obvious rejection.

"But he is turning them down."

"Really. How come?"

"My family is more important, and taking the other offers would pull me away from them too much. Some things are worth staying put and fighting for." He took a long pull from his beer. "I need to be around for my kids and show them what a family really means. That you hang in there when things get tough and not run away."

Hearing the slight, Pax stood to her full height. Okay, I was hoping not to get into this tonight. You started it so let's finish it. "What is that supposed to mean."

"Nothing. Just making a statement is all."

"My ass Zander." Her anger was rising. "I thought that I had done so well all night not to bring up the past. I just wanted to be with family again. It was the reason I came back home."

Damian knew it would happen sooner or later. Pax and Zander couldn't be in the same room ten minutes without fighting. He too hoped that they could get through the evening as a family. "So if not into karate, Pax what else have you been doing with yourself?"

Pax glared at Zander struggling to calm her fury again. "Nothing much. I left Berkley once a position opened up here at home. So I decided to come back home."

"So you are still hanging around with the monkeys huh?" Damian chided.

She snorted, "Monkeys, elephants, snakes, tigers, you name it; the zoo has it."

Zander couldn't help but listen to his sister's life after leaving home. He was hard-pressed to admit he was surprised and stunned, especially about the karate. He still couldn't believe it. Their heads turned towards the giggling boys and the basketball rolling towards them at the table.

"So you work at the zoo?" Zander asked.

"You work at the zoo?" Luke chimed in amazement. "You work in a zoo Aunt Pax?"

"Yes, I am one of the people in charge of making sure the animals are healthy and safe."

He excitedly turned to his father. "Dad can we go to the zoo with Aunt Pax? Oh please, pretty pretty please. Huh, can we? Huh?" She snickered at his untamed excitement. "Auntie Pax can me and Effram come to the zoo with you?"

"If your mom and dad say that it's okay, then yes, I will take both to the zoo one day."

He looked to his dad for approval. "If it's ok with Felicia its ok with me." Excited, Luke hugged his father around the neck and then ran towards his brother yelling the good news. Soon Effram was screaming too. Together they ran into the house screaming for Felicia. Chuckling at his boys, "That is something that is hard to get used to."

"Their youthful enthusiasm," Damian added.

"No, those sudden blood curdling screams especially when they are playing. It can rattle anyone's cage."

He turned to Pax "Thanks."

"So how long have you been home then Pax?" Damian asks.

"About three months now."

"Damn it Pax. Why didn't you get in touch with us sooner?"

Pax shrugged her shoulder. "I wasn't sure Damian."

Zander snidely chuckled at his brother. "What do you expect? She stays gone, no one hears from her for over 20 years and she suddenly pops back into town. You expected her to send out a notice that she is back or what?"

"What is your problem Zander?" She'd had enough of him. "What do you mean no one has heard from me in over twenty years? Damian has been in touch with me since I left home. He has always known how to contact me. How else do you think I knew about father?"

"Yeah, you were hear long enough to place him in the ground and then left. We were the ones who had to stay and help mother. We had to make the funeral arrangements for dad because mother was too busy having a nervous breakdown to do it." His chest heaved. "I was the one who walked into the house that day and found her barely conscious upon the floor. You were NOT around to clean her up before the ambulance drivers arrived. I did. So excuse me if I find it a little difficult to open my arms and welcome you back like nothing has ever happened."

Pax felt the heat rising and seeping through the neck of her t-shirt. The trickle of sweat dripped down her back and into the valley of her breasts. Through clenched teeth she hissed, "I have tried to reach out to her but she rejected me. I called and she hung up. I wrote and the letters were returned unopened. I tried." She refused to let the tears fall.

"Pax. You don't have to explain. We know." Damian tried.

"No you don't know! I was here and saw father before he died. I held his hand in the hospital while he cried from the pain and called out for mother. I sat in that waiting room, out of mother's sight that day. When I saw people running into his room with that cart, I knew something was wrong. When I saw them leave and I knew. I wanted to be there. He was my father too."


"After you two left the room and I went in there. I wanted to see him. To see her. You know what she did?" She could not stop the tears from flowing. "You want to know what she did to me. She turned and spat on me, Zander." She swatted at the tears upon her cheek. "She reminded me that she did not have a daughter. That this was a time for family not for strangers."

"We didn't know Pax. Why didn't you call me and let me know sis?"

"So don't you preach at me about family and loyalty, Zander. I reached out to her and she kept turning me away. And now, she can't do that anymore. She barely recognizes her own name when it's said, but I go to her anyway. I have been. It's one of the reasons I came home." Pax paused. "Does that answer your question dear older brother or is there something else on your mind from the past you would rather discuss?" She challenged. Say it! You sanctimonious bastard. I dare you to say it now.

Damian looked back and forth from one sibling to the other. "Zander, what is she talking about?"


"Thought so," Pax sneered at her older sibling.

"The three of us are back together again. This should be a happy time. The Baldwin kids are back, striking fear in the hearts of the city." He laughed at their joke from long ago. Looking from one to another, he pleaded. "Why it is that you two are always fighting. Ever since we were kids, you two have been at each other's throats. I should step out again and just let you two morons pummel one another."

"If mother didn't want to see you then, what makes you so sure she wants to see you now?"

"I don't know, but since I have been visiting she hasn't tried to push me away or do anything else that I would consider rejection. If you don't believe me, ask that social worker." She picked up her leather blazer off the table. "I better go." As she turned to leave Zander called out to her.

"She has probably changed the will by now."

Turning back to her brother. "All I am asking is for you to put me on that list."

"I will call the social worker and have it done." Damian volunteers.

"Thank you." She headed for the back door to the kitchen.

Damian turned to his older brother with anger etched on his face. "What the hell was that all about."

"Shut up and mind your old fucking business," Zander snapped. This is a fucking mess. Why did she have to come back here. I hope she doesn't tell Felicia. Starring at the direction his only sister left, he took a heavy swig from his beer.


Teela sat with Bess watching "Godzilla vs. The Destroyer." Bess was more interested in getting all of the pudding from the container than watching the gigantic crab-like monster destroy Tokyo. Thumper had long since lost interest and wandered down to the nursing station for attention. She stroked the unruly mass of hair and thought of making arrangements for her to see the beautician.

"Bess honey, we should get your hair done. Would you like that? I'll have to call Sharon and see if she can tell me what coloring she used. Or better still, see if she can come over and do it for you. Okay? If not, then it will have to be a time when I can be here with you. The beautician won't do you hair without someone there with you. You really shouldn't have hit her like that, Bess." Teela knew there would not be a response or hint of understanding.

"Odd thing. I got a letter from your brother the other day. You guessed right. He wanted to borrow money for one of his hair-brained get rich quick schemes. Of course I didn't give it to him. If he can't bring himself to come and see you, to be apart of your life, he sure doesn't need to be apart of your bank account." Chuckling, she said, "I remember the day you said that to him. He was livid, but you were right then and you are right now. So that's what I wrote back to him."

She helped Bess throw away the pudding container so she could begin her second favorite goodie, the cookies. Teela silently watched her lover enjoying the treats she placed on her index finger. "Jo and Boney say hello. They have gone to Nettles for the weekend. Boney hasn't had a solid playmate since things have happened with you Bess. She misses you terribly. We all do."

"There are so many things I wish I could talk to you about. I miss that. I wish I could tell you about the interesting and funny clients I have now. I know that you never liked going into where I work but some of the people are truly a joy to know. Like Belle." She chuckled.

But then there are things I am glad that you don't understand. I don't fully comprehend them myself. I feel as though there are two people inside of me Bess. The one that loves you terribly, but knows that you can never be with me that way. It's an unrequited love on that level at best. I know this. Sort of. But then when I am with Tanesha. I feel.....guilty for sleeping with her. For going out and doing things with another woman when you are here. I have been seeing her often, Bess, but no one can replace you. You are my first love. She leaned over and kissed the rosy cheek. "I'll be here for you no matter what. I promise."

Continued in Part 3

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