-- These characters are wholly mine. It is true that Sam looks like Lucy Lawless and Annie looks like Renee O'Connor, but any other resemblance to any other people, real or fictitional, is strictly coincidental.
Sex -- This is a lesbian romance thriller. There are graphic, but loving, scenes of sex between women. If you're under 18 or this is illegal where you are, I am legally compelled to urge you to move on.
Violence -- This is a story of violent hatred attacking an innocent gay community. The violence is psychopathic and unsettling, but not overly gory.
Language -- Infrequently, some really scummy people show up in this book, and they use really disgusting language. Even our heroines are driven to cuss now and again. But the purpose is to display certain mind types, and in this, the language is only realistic.
General -- I should probably let you know beforehand that this story deals with bigots and hate crimes. If this is going to be hard for you, you may want to go elsewhere. -- There are hospital scenes dealing with diverse injuries. I am not a member of the medical profession. If the things I have my doctors and nurses do for certain injuries were done by real doctors to real people, it could very well kill them. I only hope that nobody who reads this has a medical background or is thrown into hysterics. -- This is my first attempt at fanfic writing. I would appreciate hearing from you, but please, be gentle.
A TIME TO LOVE, A TIME TO HATE
Tammy was typing reports at the desk when Annie stopped by for a bite of her sandwich.
"What's going on down in the boardroom?" Tammy asked.
"They're organizing a big rally for gay rights to stop this violence."
"Good. I just can't understand what's in some people's hearts. I've been around gays all my life, and I love 'em. My cousin's gay, and I'll tell you a secret," she leaned toward Annie and said quietly, "my brother's gay, too. But don't mention that to anybody, because it would be around town in a minute, and there are some people in town who would give my parents a very hard time about it." She sat back in her chair. "I went to junior college on a basketball scholarship, and EVERYBODY on the team was gay. Me and one other girl were the only two straight women there. And you could never meet a sweeter bunch of girls. Just every little once in a while over the years there's a letter to the editor about the evils and sickness of gay people, and I always write the paper right back saying gays are just as fine as straight people, and the sick people are the people writing these trashy letters!" Tam stopped to laugh.
"I'm a big supporter of the college women's basketball team. Carol Wheaton is the coach. You know which one she is?"
"Yeah, she's in the room now, right?"
"Yes. She's Linley Colridge's partner. I know her pretty well, and I've gotten to know a lot of the gay community around here, male and female, and by and large, I love every one of them. Especially Sam Adams in there. I played basketball in high school with Sam. She is so funny. Sam would flirt with all the girls. I'm a year older than her, and here came this little freshman flirting away with juniors, seniors, cheerleaders for gods sake. I don't think she even realized what she was doing. She just loved females, all of them. And we'd flirt back! Hell, I learned to flirt by flirting with Sam! And there wasn't a thing Sam wouldn't do for you. She's just a big old sweetie."
"Did she used to fight a lot?"
"Well... yeah. I mean, people would fight her. She got into some fights over flirting with girls, not with the girls, but with some of the young bigots around. Of course, everybody knew Sam was queer as a two dollar bill, and sometimes some big bruiser who'd graduated five years ago but didn't grow up, would come around, like after school in the dark when she was walking home from practice, and pick a fight with her. She beat up this huge guy once. He hardly laid a finger on her. She beat up three guys once. Her daddy sent her to the martial arts school when she was like five I think. She has all sorts of black belts. That's another reason guys just can't stop picking fights with her. She's got a reputation."
"Whose Henry Trent?"
Tam snorted with disgust. "Henry Trent is a... Oh-oh. Nettie's coming up the hall. We've gotta start working."
"Is Nettie the Gestapo?"
"Nettie is just very strict about her work code, and everybody else's. She's great, really. I mean, I need Nettie. Otherwise I'd never get any work done."
"Well, thanks for the information." Annie pulled back to the counter behind the front desk to work on some paperwork as Nettie wheeled into the staff area.
"Hey, Annie," Nettie piped. "You better go start kicking people out of Sam's room. Visiting hours are over in ten minutes."
"Good idea," Annie grinned, noticing how aptly Tam had described her co-worker. Besides, that is just where she wanted to go.
The room had cleared out. Sam lay back in the bed, her eyes closed. Annie came up beside her. "Pretty exhausted."
"A bit," Sam replied. "You want me to chair-sit again?"
"Yes. Let me just get Nettie in here to help us."
"You know, I could get over to that chair by myself."
"No way, champ. Dr. Bazen would be all over my case."
"Really? I'd think he'd be proud of me."
"He'd think you were insane, Sam."
"I'd be proud of me."
Annie laughed softly. "Do you want something for pain?"
"No, I feel pretty good. Go get Nettie and let's get this chair sitting underway."
"Okay. Be right back."
Annie left to hunt down her coworker, and when the two got back, there was Sam sitting in the chair smiling at them.
"Sam!" Nettie groaned in exasperation while Annie strode over to the beaming patient and knelt down.
"Sam, do you know how many things could have gone wrong getting yourself into that chair?" the little nurse began.
"Oh, don't chew me out. I wanted you to be proud of me."
"Sam, this is not the way to make your nurse proud of you. This is the way to drive your nurse crazy!"
Nettie came up and stood by the two of them. "Sam, you could have fallen, you could have pulled your sutures loose, you could have disalligned your broken ribs...! The way you were leaning on us this morning, I'm surprised you could even stand!"
"Yet here I am, nice and safe in my little chair. That means I'm getting better. Let the doctor know so I can get out of this place. Nobody here appreciates me."
"Sam, you're just like an overgrown kid!" Nettie sniped. "Okay, if you're alright, I'm going back to my rounds, let this poor harried woman try and look after you." She shot Sam a parting glare and left the room.
Sam watched her leave, and when she was out the door, Sam's face took on a drawn look. "Hey, Annie, I think I might have a couple of Tylenol tablets after all."
Annie put her hands on Sam's arms in alarm. "Dammit, Sam, you hurt yourself, didn't you."
"Only a twinge. Don't tell Nettie. She must never know."
"I should tell Dr. Bazen!"
"No! No doctors, no Nettie. I just need a couple pills and," she looked at Annie with big puppy dog eyes, "And maybe some ice cream."
Annie regarded the face closely assessing it for pain. She sighed deeply. Sam's color was good, and she was obviously in good humor. Actually, Annie wanted nothing more than to lean in and kiss the lovely nose beneath those puppy dog eyes. She stood and placed her hands on her hips. "Okay. I'll get you something for the pain and... and some ice cream. But I'm going to call Dr. Bazen and tell him about this!"
Sam whispered conspiratorially, "But not Nettie. We'll keep this secret from Nettie."
"I won't tell Nettie. But if you do anything like this again, I'll tell Nettie everything. Now. Do you want to lie back down? Or do you think you can stay in the chair?"
"I don't think I want to move for a while. I'm good here."
"Okay." Annie's eyebrow was raised in uncertainty. "I'll be right back, and we'll see how you feel."
Annie left the room, called Bazen, and came back with pills and ice cream. Sam seemed chipper. She ate the ice cream which Annie held. Then Annie bid her good bye for the weekend, extracting a promise from the mechanic to be good, but only after Sam grousing about how the hospital could expect patients to get well with their favorite nurses leaving everytime a weekend rolled around.
Annie came back on shift three days later. First thing she did was pick up Sam's file at the front desk to see how her favorite patient had faired during her absence. A few notations into the record and her heart exploded in fear. In the evening of the day she left, Sam had suffered a pulmonary embolism, a blood clot in the lung. Her eyes flew down the page. She could hardly read her hands were shaking so hard. Intervention was successful. Sam had spent a day in ICU but was now back in her room and doing well. She set the file back with still shaking hands and went down the hallway to Sam's room. The room was dark, pre-dawn shadows lying heavily about. She stepped to the bed and looked down at the sleeping patient. Dark hair spilled over the pillow. The lurid bruises had faded to smudges of yellow and violet, the swelling gone almost completely. The face was heartbreakingly beautiful. Annie stood for a long moment, watching the woman who had nearly died twice now as she lay in repose. Slowly her heart calmed and her mind grasped the fact that the danger had passed. Reluctantly she tore herself away and returned to the front desk, her mind still noisy with fears for the tall mechanic, to begin her day.
She had to wait three more hours before Sam woke up and discovered she was back. Annie entered the room, and Sam looked up from her breakfast, her eyes widening like a frightened child. Immediately, she held out her hands to Annie, wanting her comfort, seeing the panicked look on Annie's face and wanting to comfort her. Annie rushed over and took Sam's good hand and cast.
"Sam, Sam, you had such a close call."
"They won't let me move."
Annie sat down on the bed moving the breakfast tray out of the way and pushing dark waves of hair back from Sam's gaunt face, "They're just being careful. It's procedure, to keep you safe. You're going to be okay. It's all over."
"It won't happen again?"
"It's very unlikely."
"Because I can't die now." She gripped the little nurse's hand tightly, her eyes searching Annie's in agony. "I just met you."
A shiver went through Annie at the stunning words. This was the reason the strong fighter was afraid. Not her own death, but being torn away from what may lie ahead with Annie. With a storm of emotion shaking her, Annie captured the trembling face again and leaned close barely stopping herself from kissing the soft lips. "You're going to be fine, Sam. We have all the time in the world. In a few days I need you to show me Boffler Creek, remember?"
Slowly the dark haired woman calmed. "I want to show you Boffler."
"Hey, I'm not going to let you out of that."
"I'm so glad you're back."
"So am I."
"I feel safe when you're here."
"I'm going to take care of you now, Sam. I'm not going to let anything happen."
That adoring gaze came back into Sam's eyes. "I need you to make me well."
Annie shivered again. "I'm here, Sam." There was documented lore in the medical field that the relationship between patients and certain of their caretakers actually were factors in the patient's recovery. This is what Sam was saying, you help me heal, and Annie understood this. It was a rare and holy bond of the profession. She relaxed back away from Sam and stroked her face. "So... no more need to worry." She rose from the bed and slid the breakfast tray back into place. "I should probably go make my rounds... You're still with us, champ. You're doing a good job." Reluctantly she pulled away from the adoring crooked smile and made her way back down the hall.
That afternoon, on her last round, Annie entered Sam's room with Nettie. "Hey, guess what! Doctor's orders. You get to start moving again. We can get back to some chair sitting this afternoon."
Eddie Wing was in the room visiting. Sam grinned. "Hey, Eddie. I'm back in the saddle again! They're letting me move!"
"You're a marvel, you know, Sam? Get through a beating that could have killed anyone else; get through a blood clot that could have killed anyone, and here you are rearing to go again. You should get a black belt in Defying Death."
"Damn straight! Ladies, toss me into that chair there. Let's get this show on the road!"
"Now, Sam, you just let us do the work. We're gonna move gently here. Not like last time," Nettie cautioned.
"Believe me, Nettie. I learned my lesson."
"And what did you learn?"
"Listen to my nurses!"
"Oh, Sam, the hospital fairy will be so proud."
The two nurses took Sam's arms and helped her carefully to the chair. It was obvious that her body was much stronger; she hardly relied on the nurses' help at all. The extra days had given her incisions and injuries time to heal, and her body really was beginning to become sound again, though still tremendously fragile. Sam felt the progress, too. "Wow. You know what, Annie? I think I'm ready to go home."
"Well, you're definately ready to move one step from the bed to the chair, but let's not pack your bags quite yet."
But the champ had started chafing at the bit. Visions of home danced in her eyes, and she was eager to get on with her rehabilitation. "You should get me up and walking. Not good for the patient to lie around too long."
"Well, I think that's going to be happening pretty soon."
"Only thing... I won't have another blood clot, will I?"
"I don't think that's likely, Sam. You're on medication to guard against that."
"Okay then, bring on my booties and let's get walking!"
But as much as she nagged them to call the doctor and get her on her feet, chair sitting was all Annie and Nettie allowed. And both of them kept an eye on her room as they went about their work to make sure the incorrigible patient didn't get up and start exercising on her own.
The next morning, when Annie and Nettie came to help her to the chair, Sam started in again about walking. The two nurses discussed it back at the front desk, and Annie reported Sam's progress to her doctor. That afternoon, Annie came in to Sam with good news.
"You want me to walk?" Sam sputtered happily amazed.
"Think you can?"
"Sure! Anything if it will help me get out of here sooner."
"Something like that." If she had to stay in this room a minute longer, she was going to scream. "How far do I get to walk today?"
"How far do you think you can get?"
"Let's go down to the Rattler and have a beer."
"How about to the staff room for some ice cream?"
Annie gently helped Sam stand, then wrapped an arm around her waist and slipped a hand under her elbow, and they were off on a teetery walk down the hall. Sam couldn't stand straight and she leaned heavily into Annie's support, taking small steps and grimacing slightly. "So is this like a date?"she asked with her little, crooked smile.
Annie chuckled. "If that makes it sound better than physical therapy, you can call it a date."
"How're you doing?"
"Pretty good. Don't think I'm ready to dance yet..."
"I hear you've got several black belts in the martial arts."
"Fat lot of good they did me."
"Well, Sam, five guys and a crowbar... You needed some backup."
"Yeah, see, it was that crowbar. Got me just as I was turning around. I'd have had them if it wasn't for that."
Halfway down the hall, Annie glanced over at her patient's face. "Sam, how're you doing?" Sam was grimacing deeply.
"Pretty good. Pretty good."
"Sam, I'm taking you back. We're going to turn around now."
"No, I think that I can do this."
"You're white as a sheet. We're going back."
"But what about my ice cream?"
Annie started turning them around. "Oh, I see you'll do anything for ice cream."
"Now you know my one great weakness."
They started slowly back down the hall, Annie with her eyes intent on Sam's face. "You making it okay?"
"Actually, I'm having a little trouble here."
"Nettie!" Annie called sharply up the hall. Sam started wilting, curling slowly over. Nettie appeared at Annie's shoulder. "Get the wheelchair out of her room!" And Nettie was off. "Hang on, beautiful. Can you hang on?"
Nettie tore out of the room, up the hall, and neatly slipped the wheelchair beneath Sam's sinking bottom. The dark haired woman fell into it with a strangled groan and bent forward. Both nurses kneeled at her side.
Annie bent down peering up, lifting Sam's hair away from her face, trying to gauge her patient's state. "What hurts, Sam?"
"Chest... I... I think I'm okay."
Nettie stroked Sam's back. "What kind of a pain is it, Sam?"
"It's going away." Sam grimaced.
"Sure?" Annie checked.
"Ahhhh..." Sam straightened a little, lifting a hand to brush her hair back. "It's going away."
"Okay, we're going to take you back and put you into bed."
"Sorry, guys. I think my muscles just gave out there and something pulled a little inside."
Both nurses rose, and Nettie leaned in lightly against Sam stroking her back. "Well, that's what we're concerned about."
Nettie touseled Sam's hair. "No need to be a hero, Sammy. Nobody here but us chickens."
Annie was surprised and touched with Nettie's affectionate gentleness. She wasn't sure where Nettie fell on the scale of opposition/supporters, but her actions with Sam seemed fully sincere.
They wheeled Sam back to her room and the two nurses carefully helped her into bed. Nettie reached for the blood pressure cuff and Annie bent over the bed.
"Are you still feeling pain?" Annie asked.
"Not so much."
"More than before we started walking?"
"Yeah. Little more than that."
Nettie slipped the cuff on Sam's good arm and shot a glance over to Annie. "Jackson?"
Annie nodded. "I'll page him."
"Who?" Sam demanded.
"Dr. Jackson. He's on call today," Nettie said.
"I don't need a doctor!" Sam groused. "It was just a little twinge. I'm fine. Don't go getting a doctor in here!"
"Sam, a little twinge could be serious."
"Could it be a blood clot?"
"Probably not, but..."
"Then don't call him! He'll send me to X-ray or somewhere and I'll be up all night waiting to get in, and he'll keep me here for another week and a half, all because I had a little twinge that meant NOTHING!"
Nettie threw her hands up. "I'm never going to get her blood pressure now," She sighed taking the cuff off again, and leaned over the bed. "Sam, if you don't let a doctor see you, the hospital fairy will be very mad."
"Oh, cram that hospital fairy stuff, Net. She's been using that hospital fairy stuff on me for the last ten years," Sam complained to Annie.
"Well, it works on the other little kids when they throw a fit about seeing the doctor."
"I don't need a doctor!"
Nettie sighed and looked the petulant patient in the eye. "Sam, don't be a bad ass; are you really feeling okay?"
"Yes! I am really okay."
"Okay," Nettie straightened up in resignation. "No doctor then. I will leave you to your own poor nurse." She headed for the door saying as she went. "If she gives you any guff, just shoot her full of sedatives."
Annie grinned as Nettie swept out into the hall. She strolled back to the bed. "Well, champ. You win."
"Damn straight," Sam huffed.
Annie noticed her patient's color looked good. She checked her face to see if it was drawn in pain. It was drawn in petulance. Hard to tell about the pain. "Still want your ice cream?"
Sam brightened. "Oh, hey. Yeah, I forgot."
"Be right back."
She was back very quickly. "This was the last chocolate there. You're a lucky woman."
"Hah! I knew it! The hospital fairy does love me. She knows what a good patient I am."
"I'm sure she loves you, Sam. Here, let me hold this for you." She pulled the lid off the cup and held it in front of Sam, giving her the spoon.
Sam dug in happily. She sucked in the first bite and moaned with contentment. "Mmmmm."
The bruised and swollen face was nearly healed; the swelling had gone down to nothing, really. Annie noticed again how perfectly beautiful Sam Adams was. The promise of that half battered face was more than fulfilled by what she now beheld. "Really good," Sam hummed. "Awfully nice of you to stand here and hold it for me."
"I like to see a woman relishing her bedtime snack."
Sam froze and her eyebrow lifted a little. But she said nothing. Annie quickly reviewed what she had said, noticing its innuendo, and decided not to say anything either.
"Well, I really relish my bedtime snacks," Sam murmured happily.
Ice cream finished, Annie took Sam through the regimen of pills. Before administering pain meds, she said, "You want just acetominephin tonight, or something stronger?"
Sam looked up and saw the wry lift of Annie's brow. "The usual will be just fine, thank you."
"None. Just the usual godawful ache."
"Okay. I believe you. Here's your acetaminephin." She offered the pills with water and a straw. Sam took them dutifully. Annie unwound the call button from the chair and laid it in the bed. "If you have any pain tonight... any pain, I'm being serious, Sam, you call the nurse, okay?"
"Roger, nurse Ratchet."
Annie quirked an eyebrow. "You have not seen nurse Ratchet yet, Sam."
She was just like a big kid! "I'm off shift now, Sam, and I want you to be good for Edna, alright?"
"I'm always good."
"Sure you are. Good bye, Sam."
"I love you, you know." Sam smiled at her benignly.
"Nurse Ratchet is not as easily duped as the hospital fairy."
Annie turned and left the room.
At the nurses' station, Nettie stopped by Annie's side just as she hung up the phone. "Dr. Jackson?" she asked.
"Yeah. He needed to know. He said he'd see her on his regular rounds this evening."
"Good. I was going to suggest that. She's a rascal, isn't she."
"But I'm sneaky."
Annie caught Nettie before she moved away. "You were awfully sweet to Sam. I wasn't sure what you thought about her."
"Sam? I love Sam."
"With her being lesbian and all, I mean, and so publically out like you said..."
"Oh, yeah. Well, I make an exception for Sam. And only for Sam. Sam is..." She shook her head. "There are very few good people. And Sam is a good person. I wouldn't call her a Christian exactly. Sam's..." She raised her hand quickly to her lips. "Oh, I can't believe I'm saying this." She leaned in closer to Annie and said softly, "Sam's better than a Christian. Because she has no hypocrasy. Christians try to be good, and when they aren't, they try to hide it. But Sam doesn't try to be good or bad; she is just herself, all out there in the open, uncensored, unconscious, for everybody to see. And what you see is good." She took Annie's sleeve and pulled her in even closer and whispered in her ear. "And don't you ever tell anybody I said that, 'cause I'm a Bible thumping Baptist, and this is probably the one thing about me my congregation would never understand. Okay?"
Annie laughed softly. "Okay."
The plump little nurse walked away and Annie smiled after her.
The next day brought the blessing of successfully walking to the staff room, and the next the magic feat of walking the length of the hall and back. That meant Sam could be discharged. Buddy had brought her a change of clothes - T-shirt and jeans, Annie had helped her manage the tight pull over top which was difficult considering the encumberance of being unable to lift her arms due to painfully sore ribs, and button the fly on her jeans - "You'd better get something with a zipper and snap." - and now she sat in the chair in her room, Buddy lying on the bed watching TV, waiting for the doctor to bid her a final farewell.
"Where the hell is he?" she groused for the millionth time. "He was supposed to be here at noon and here it is three!"
Annie stepped into the room, wheelchair in hand, to behold her patient's glaring face. "He's on the wing. He'll be here any minute."
"Is that a normal minute or a hospital minute?" she growled.
"Nettie told me that when you start getting really irritating it's a sign you're well enough to go home."
"Absolutely. So where's the doctor?"
"I see you're all packed."
"Five hours ago."
"Room just won't be the same without you."
"Well... So far as staying in a hospital goes, this was the best time I've had yet," she confessed glumly.
"That's the spirit!" Annie patted her on the shoulder and turned to the rumpled figure sprawled on the bed. "Think you can handle her, Buddy?"
"Oh, she'll be no problem, Annie. I just have to walk her twice daily..."
"Makes me sound like a dog."
"Do all the lifting and hauling, make sure she takes her pills," Buddy continued. "And call you if she starts to hurt anywhere."
"I'm not an invalid."
"Actually," Annie informed her, "You are. And you have to accept that, Sam, and not over do or you'll be right back in here."
"I never went right back into a hospital in my life."
"Except that time..." Buddy offered.
"Yeah, yeah! That was an exception."
"Later, Buddy. Let's concentrate now on being mad at the doctor."
Dr. Bazen stepped into the room and grinned at the restless patient. "Hey. I haven't done anything yet."
Sam grinned. "Doc! Hiya. Just getting anxious to leave."
They all chatted briefly and Dr. Bazen gave Sam liberal cautions and finally his blessing. Annie pushed the wheelchair over to the bed and waited for Sam to object. Surprisingly, Sam moved into it obediently.
Annie snorted. "Thought you'd have a cow at the wheelchair."
"I've learned from hard experience that it doesn't do any good."
"Oh, Sam, there's hope for you yet."
"Hey, Buddy, why don't you go on ahead and get the truck."
"Sure, Sam." He left, and Sam and Annie were alone.
Sam took Annie's hand. "I almost died twice in here."
Annie smiled and squeezed Sam's hand. "But Dr. Bazen and you brought me back both times. I know I get a little obnoxious sometimes, but I want you to know how much I appreciate what all you've done. It was... I think something a little miraculous happened here. I think you made me well, somehow."
"You weren't obnoxious. You were a hoot and a sweetie. And I thank god if I helped you to recover."
Sam pulled Annie's hand to her cheek and held it there for a moment, closing her eyes and drinking in the sweetness and comfort of the small blond woman.
Annie went on. "And I want you to promise me something, Sam"
"I won't over do and I'll call the doctor if I have any pain."
"Good. But what I want you to promise me is that I can stop over tomorrow morning and see how you're doing."
"Oh..." Sam's face lit up. "You don't have to work?"
"I'm off for the next three days. I thought maybe I could come over and give you some pointers on how to live with a broken arm."
"Well, thank you."
"Ten o'clock okay?"
"Sure. Great. Great..." That adoring look came back into her eyes all of a sudden. She had been trying to think of a way to see Annie again, and here it was. "That's great."
They stood for a moment looking at each other with silly grins on their faces before they realized what they were doing. Annie shook herself back into her professional role. "Well, I guess it's time to blow this popsicle stand." And they rolled away toward freedom.
Three sorry assed yahoos sat in a vacant, tumbledown shack down in Bogg's Holler smoking cigarettes and drinking beer. The first said, "I think we oughta get a little cunt of one of these lezzies."
The second one, Henry Trent, said, "Damn it, Booger, you always just got to push it, don't ya."
The third said, "We oughta kill 'em. Take a shot gun an'," he mimed shooting at something on the wall.
Henry said, "Now that would really take care of the problem, wouldn't it, Alvin? We'd have law from every branch of the gov'ment sticking their nose up our asses if we did murder, you dumb shit. We gotta start this thing slow, let it grow. We got to rile people up everywhere. Get folks writing their congressmen, make it a crime. Throw them sumbitches in jail and the problem will go away."
"You're a fool, Trent," Alvin Dick said, "They'll just start hiding. Then we won't know where they are. You got to kill 'em when you see 'em. That's why we gotta have the militia. Armed men who can go out in the night and haul 'em into the woods and kill 'em, and nobody knows what happened."
An argument broke out about whether or not they should just kill the gays and lesbians until Alvin finally got up, shattering his beer bottle against the wall, and stomped out to his truck, throwing his slender, twitchy body inside, slamming the door and tearing off in a cloud of dust. Henry looked at Booger and shook his head. "Fuck, that guy's so crazy he scares me!"
Friday morning. Sam's first day home. Birds we're singing through the open bedroom window, and a fragrant breeze wafted over still closed blue eyes. Sam's luxurious stretch turned into a crumpling spasm and sharp groan as unhealed injuries complained. Damn! Gotta watch that. She relaxed again, opening her eyes to the sunfilled room. It was good to be home. Eventually, a sleepy eye drifted to the digital display of her alarm clock. Nine-forty five a.m. "SHIT!" Annie would be there in a few minutes! Her leap out of bed turned into a slow curl into the fetal position and a sharp cry. "Oh god, lemme die," she rasped. Slowly she uncoiled herself and stood, tentatively feeling her chest and stomach. Everything seemed sound, so she shuffled slowly across the floor, the max speed she had achieved thus far with her walking. But it was good enough to get her out of the hospital, she grinned.
She shuffled determinedly into the bathroom. Hair brushing was a little achey with her ribs, but she already knew from the hospitals that toiletries were managable. Dressing, she suspected, was going cause some problems. She made her way back to her closet and surveyed her wardrobe. Clothes. She knew from the wrassling match she'd had with the T-shirt last night that tight pull over clothes were not a good idea for her yet. A knock sounded on the door. She grabbed a bra, threw it over her shoulders, a short sleeved white shirt, which went over her shoulders, pulled a pair of zipper jeans up the long legs and hightailed it at a snail's pace, holding her jeans up with her good hand, down the stairs and to the front door. Annie stood without, looking in through the large windowed, sheer-curtained door smiling at her. Sam opened the door and Annie beheld her disarray, shaking her head and running her fingers through short blond hair.
"I think I can only give you a C in Dressing this morning, Sam," the little nurse laughed stepping in and closing the door.
"I woke up late."
Sam stood there, barefoot, fly open, her shirt thrown crookedly over her shoulders, with a loose bra hanging over beautiful breasts, holding up her pants.
Annie stepped forward and fingered the blouse. "Buttons are toughies,"
"My ribs still hurt too much for pull overs, so what's a girl to do?"
"Well, let's just figure this out one piece at a time.
Sam slipped off the shirt and tossed it in a chair, then slipped off the bra standing before Annie au naturel from belly button up, totally unselfconscious, holding the bra by a strap over her finger. God, she was so beautiful. A wrap still bound her beneath the breasts, and mottled bruises laid shadows over the muscular torso, but the breath-taking beauty was evident. Annie felt desire pool tantalizingly in her center.
Sam went on, unconscious of the effect she was having "I'll tell you, the tricky part is the bra. I'm sure I'll be able to fasten this bra the day after never."
"You need to fasten it first. Then pull it up from the bottom."
"Nurse Annie, I don't think I can fasten this bra at all."
"Here." Annie slipped the bra off Sam's finger with a little smile. She fastened it, handing it back. "Don't unfasten it till you're well, and you'll be fine. If I can go back to your bedroom, I'll fasten all your bras, so you have a supply."
"Kay. Just let me get this..." Sam stepped out of her jeans and was stepping into the bra, bending over, beginning to coax it up her legs one handed.
The display, from Annie's perspective, was enticing, lovely breasts swaying behind a veil of dark hair, but she tore her eyes away giving Sam some privacy and took the moment to look around. "Sam, your place is beautiful."
The room was furnished in deep greens and subtle reds with simple elegant light wood bookcases, end tables, and a coffee table that matched the curve of a her sofa set.
"This table's beautiful."
"Thanks. A friend of mine made it. Guy up in Butte. Well, this is embarassing."
Annie looked back at Sam. She had managed to pull the bra up to elegantly curving hips where it balked tightly.
Sam grinned. "Don't seem to have the perfect figure, do I? A little pear shaped, I guess."
Annie laughed. "Is it gonna make it?"
"Let me just give it a good hoist here." She fumbled with the balky piece of apparel. "Wish I had a third arm. Normally this won't be a problem, 'cause, see, I'll just give myself an extra hour every morning to get my godsbedamned bra on..." She managed to get one shoulder strap looped over her cast hand, and between that and her good hand, she worked the bra up over her beautiful behind, while her hips and breasts wiggled provocatively. Annie thought she might die right there. The rest of the procedure was a snap. "Ahhhh. Piece of cake."
She bent down retrieving the jeans and pulled them up again. As Sam worried over the zipper and snap, Annie returned her attention to the room. She drew a sharp breath.
"This one over the mantel piece. It's magnificent. Whose is it?"
"That one's mine. I'm glad you like it."
Annie turned to Sam, mouth agape. "You did this?"
Annie's eyes went back to the painting. "You are very talented. Is this one yours?" She moved to the next piece on the wall.
"I love your colors."
"Are you an artist?"
"No, but I took a lot of art classes in college. I love art."
"That's why I love this room so much. Everything in it is just..." She moved to a bookcase and fingered a fascinating ceramic bowl. "Who did this?"
"A friend of mine. Wendy Richenthal. From Seattle."
"I'm going to love hearing the story of all these pieces." Immediately she realized what she had said implied that she and Sam might become more personal, and she blushed, but Sam said smoothly, "You can meet the artists. They all pass through here sooner or later. Say, any tips for this zipper? I seem to have gotten fat or something."
"Lean your bad side against the wall to push the fabric together, then do the snap. Then do the zipper."
"Huh." Sam tried this while Annie went back to the room.
"Now this piece is different. Did you do that, too?"
"Actually no. One of the artists on campus. Ed Black. Okay. Now the buttons."
"But you did this piece."
"God you're good!"
Sam beamed. "Thank you, Annie."
"What a wonderful room."
"Thanks. If you'll help me with these buttons, I'll show you the rest of the house. There are some pieces in back you might like."
Annie buttoned the shirt feeling desire rise in her with the intimate action. A damn blush started to creep up her neck, and she tried to head it off by getting back to business, advising Sam to get some really big pullovers that wouldn't require all the overhead arm motion. They toured the house and grounds, Annie discovering beauty and fascination at every turn; Sam took her upstairs, and Annie oohed and ahhed over Sam's ability to manage the stairway. The heighth of the tour was Sam's art studio in the back of the house. A large porch had been enclosed with the south end glassed in, light and airy. Extraordinary pictures covered the walls by Sam and other artists. Statuary stood here and there, and along the floor, stacked several deep, were works of Sam that she had no room to display. Annie's mouth watered to get a chance to explore them. As they went, the two of them discussed ways to get different kinds of two-armed chores accomplished. Annie rearranged some things that were now too high for Sam to reach comfortably, and did little preparatory tasks to make Sam's living easier over the next few weeks. Now they sat back in the front room looking at each other. Annie spoke first.
"You've done a lot of walking. How do you feel?"
"Not bad. Makes me feel good that I can do it. To tell you the truth, I'm a little tired, though."
"You're doing really well to be able to make those stairs."
"Yeah. Didn't want to sleep on the couch!"
"Hey, why don't I run out and get you some really big pull over tops that you can manage, while you take a nap."
"I don't want to bother you, Annie..."
"No bother. I'd love to. I have a good idea of what you'll need."
So Annie went shopping with instructions to hit Goodwill first since Sam would never be wearing the clothes after she healed, and Sam curled up on the couch. They left the door open so Annie could get back in if Sam was still sleeping when Annie returned, and she was. Annie knocked softly on the door then crept into the livingroom to where Sam lay peacefully. She deposited the shopping bags by the couch, and rose to make her way back out the door when the blue eyes opened sleepily.
"Hey," a raspy voice murmured. "You're back."
'Yeah. Got some things I think will work. Bought them in the men's big 'n' tall section. You're pretty tall."
Sam sat up and ran her fingers through her hair. "How much was it?"
"Next to nothing. Don't pay me back. It'll be my Welcome Back Home present to you."
"You're so sweet to me."
Annie laughed. "Well, you deserve it. Poor little thing, you've had a really rotten, terrible time over the last few days." She reached out and brushed her knuckles over Sam's cheek. Their eyes caught in a look intense with emotion. Annie thought for a moment that Sam might kiss her. But then she realized Sam didn't even know she was gay. She thought about telling her and then kissing her deeply, spending the rest of the afternoon necking passionately on the couch, satisfying some of the desire that had built up in her over the long days of caring for the beautiful woman. But something made her swallow the revelation, and the moment passed.
Sam lowered her eyes to her hands. She had thought that Annie might kiss her, but maybe the little nurse wasn't even lesbian. Still, she felt enormous emotion for her and wanted her as someone special in her life.
"I probably should be going," Annie murmured.
Sam cast around in her mind for a way to prolong their afternoon. Oh, yeah, the obvious idea occurred to her. She had planned to give Annie a piece of her work!
"Annie, I'd like to give you something out of gratitude for all you did for me. You were special to me, really. I'd like you to have something I've done. Any piece you want."
Annie's face lit with delight. "Sam! That's so kind! Oh, I'd love it!"
So the two went back to the studio, and Annie spent an exhilirating hour pouring over the beautiful pieces of her remarkable patient's work. She selected a beautiful watercolor in blues and smokey violets which went home with her, along with a lingering memory of that adoring smile Sam gave her as she leaned in the doorway bidding her goodbye.
Annie sat around the house with nothing to do. She looked at Sam's picture which she had hung over the couch in the living room of her little apartment and marveled again at it's intricate, elegant beauty. For the tenth time that morning she mentally kicked herself for not making plans to see Sam again. Try as she might, she couldn't get the woman out of her mind. Images of an adoring smile and blue crystal eyes, the sounds of laughter and a sleepy voice kept haunting her thoughts. The feeling of soft skin under her fingers. The vision of soft lips. She groaned and got to her feet with a frustrated stomp. She thought she might call Linley Colridge and find out if there was something she could do to support the gay and lesbian community in these troubling times. But Linley Colridge wasn't who she wanted to call. She wanted to call Sam Adams! Beautiful Sam Adams. Funny Sam Adams. Sweet, adorable Sam Adams. "Oh, head! Head! Just stop thinking!" She threw herself back on the couch and picked up the phone book to look up Linley's number. But she opened to the A's and looked up Sam's number again. Sam lived right beside the garage, on the other side from Buddy, and her home phone number was just one digit off from the shop's. That shouldn't be hard to remember, Annie thought. In fact, she realized she had already memorized the number. She felt ridiculous not wanting to be away from the dark haired woman for one day. Rash, imprudent. Like she was throwing herself blindly into a situation that was only going to hurt her badly. But she couldn't stop the longing. And besides, the impetuous voice in her head said, she should call Sam and just make sure she is doing alright. It's only the second day, and all sorts of problems could crop up for her. She made up her mind. Really, the impetuous voice was the voice of reason, she told herself; she should just check on Sam. So she did. As the phone rang, her heart soared. Oh, I am sooooo glad I'm doing this.
It took a long time for Sam to shuffle to the phone, and she was shuffling as fast as she could. Her heart beat quickened as she neared her goal. She hoped it would be the little nurse and feared it would only be Buddy calling about a problem from the shop. When she answered the phone and heard the familiar 'Hello' on the other end, her stomach flip-flopped in happiness. "Hey. How're you doing?" she beamed.
"Well, I'm doing great. How are you doing?" Annie laughed.
"Great. Those big clothes you got me are just the thing. I got dressed really easily this morning!"
"Terrific. I'm glad they helped."
They each sat and smiled for a moment, happy to be in touch across the ether.
"I thought I'd just call and see how you were doing. A lot of problems can come up when you're wearing a cast, not to mention when you have broken ribs and surgical incisions all over your front."
"Hey, I'm shuffling around pretty fast over here. I can actually walk standing up! I get tired pretty easily, but that won't last long. I'm thinking I'll go over to the shop today and look around, maybe pump a little gas."
"You're sounding really good, Sam. I'm happy for you."
"Yeah, I'm doing good."
"Is there anything you need? Something I can bring you?"
Sam's ears perked. Her nurse was willing to come over! She cast around desperately for something she could use. "Um... Um... Well, actually, I could use someone to scratch my back. It's been itching all morning and I can't reach it. It's driving me crazy. I've tried every cow technique I know, but nothing seems to be working. Uh, I've also got a bunch of cards here that I can't get open. Maybe you could help me with them."
"Do you think your back can wait another hour? I'll make you lunch and come over around eleven thirty and feed you and scratch your back."
"Ooo, that sounds so good. I'll see you around eleven-thirty."
Both women hung up the phone feeling bouyant and excited. Annie went directly to the kitchen, cranked the CD player and sang and danced along as she made her never-fail lasagna. She felt giddy and laughed over nothing several times as she simmered and baked away. She was so excited she almost shivered as she packed the casserole up and ducked into her little Metro and took off for Sam's.
When Annie got there, there were three other women present who had brought warm dishes for Sam's lunch, too. Annie and Sam looked at each other recognizing the bemused frustration in each other's smiles. All four women joined Sam for pot luck and more anxious speculation about who was behind the escalating violence here in town. Finally, the three women stood, saying they needed to leave. Sam walked them to the door, hugging each goodbye and promising to call them if she needed anything. The house was sweetly quiet and suddenly peaceful as she walked back to Annie who sat on the livingroom couch grinning at her. For a moment, Annie and Sam just smiled at each other.
"Guess you didn't need me to make lunch," Annie laughed.
Sam smiled her sexy little crooked smile. "None of them scratched my back, though."
Whew! Annie was suddenly hot. "I guess not, huh."
"It's just driving me nuts."
"Here. Let me take care of that for you."
Sam sat down on the couch by Annie, turned her back and lifted the big T-shirt up across her back. She was braless, and, counter to doctor's orders, she had no wrapping around her ribs. The expanse of creamy skin was unbroken and seductive. Annie nearly drooled. She swallowed quickly. She ached to lay her cheek against that skin, to nibble softly along the edges of that back. "I see you've taken your wrapping off."
"Oh. Yeah. The itching was just killing me, so I took it off to try and scratch it better."
"Any point in my urging you to let me put it back on again when we're done?"
"Well, I really don't need it anymore. I figure this way my muscles will strengthen faster."
"That's actually true, Sam. No argument about that. However, it is also true that if anything goes wrong, your ribs will be less protected and your muscles may not be strong enough to keep your ribs from pulling out of allignment."
"Oh. Hmmm." Sam grinned. "You know, it really cramps my style having a nurse for a friend."
They both chuckled.
"At least tell your doctor and do what he tells you to do."
"Well, I know what he's going to tell me."
"Then why don't you do it?"
A tinge of sheepishness crept into Sam's grin. "Guess I've never been very good at doing what I was told."
"A little rebellious?"
"A wild thing?"
"Maybe, a little bit. Just... always had to make my own decisions. Guess I do it without really thinking about it."
"Always had to make your own decisions, huh?"
"Yeah. My mom died when I was four, and my dad wasn't much at raising children, so I pretty much had to decide how to raise me."
"Ah." Annie was touched by this insight into Sam. "Well, I don't want you to get hurt again."
"You're awfully sweet to me."
A flood of tenderness took Annie. She wanted to say, 'Sam, you need someone to take care of you,' but obviously she couldn't. She might as well just propose. But the last few words had thrown so much light onto Sam's nature, and so many questions. Who are you, Sam?
"Why don't you wear your wrap for another couple days. That will help a little."
"Okay. Yeah, I will."
"Now, let's take care of this itchy back."
She put her fingers on Sam's back and gently raked the skin with her nails. Oh, be still my heart. She took a deep breath trying to calm herself. She simply couldn't be near this woman without getting violently aroused. O, to wrap her arms around that lovely back and cradle soft breasts. "Harder?"
"Yeah, a little harder." Sam's voice sounded as choked with yearning as her own. It made the ache of desire even stronger.
She drew her nails from the pale, strong neck down to the line of jeans and back. Over along the sides of creamy flesh. There were red tracks left by her nails on the fair skin. She wasn't going to be able to live through this. Finally, she quickened her ministrations giving the back a good cursory scratching then abruptly, because she had become so aroused it hurt, she tickled her fingers lightly over Sam's back and said, "How's that?"
Well, it was pretty short, Sam thought. She loved the feel of Annie's hands on her back. There was simply nothing better than getting your itchy back scratched. But it had satisfied her itchiness. So, wanting more, and a little puzzled, she said, "Great. Thanks."
Annie stood up awkwardly and then realized she didn't know why she had. But Sam joined her. "Do you have to go?" the tall mechanic murmured.
"I, uh... had these cards I'd hoped you could help me with."
"Oh, the cards! Right. I'd love to help you. Sam, could I get something cold to drink? I'm a little..."
"Sure. Let me..." Sam gathered a large pile of cards from the beautiful bowl on the bookcase and handed them to Annie. "I have soda pop, iced tea..."
"Oh, tea sounds great. Thanks."
"If you want to open these I'll be right back."
Sam hurried and brought them both iced teas, then sat down and started going through the cards with Annie. Well wishes had come from dozens of people, some so funny they had the two crying with laughter. But then Sam came to one that made her sober and pause.
"What is it?" Annie asked looking at her expectantly.
"It's a hate letter," Sam said quietly.
She handed the letter to Annie. In vulgar, violent terms the writer revealed what he thought of homosexuals and Sam in particular, and finished with an implied threat against gays and lesbians if they didn't get out of the town of Boffler. "They must have read the article in the paper. Looked up my address."
The mood darkened as they worked their way through the rest of the letters. Eight letters turned out to be hate mail. None were signed, of course, and all were violent in tone. They sat looking at the pile when they were done.
Sam shook her head slowly. "What the hell is going on in Boffler?" She picked up the eight letters that they had laid aside. "I suppose I should show these to Linny. She's documenting all the incidents that occur."
"Sam, has the FBI come in to investigate this at all?"
"No. I think they still consider it random, unrelated acts and up to local officials to handle. One of the things we're trying to document is whether or not there is some sort of organized group behind this. That could help us get a little help not only from the FBI but maybe from the governor as well." She dropped the offensive letters into the bowl on the bookshelf and scrubbed her face with her hands. "Well, one way to look at it... It's a little more evidence to help us see what's going on."
"I'm so sorry this is happening."
"So am I. Makes me feel sick to think that people feel such hate and take it out on us. Horrible way to think about your neighbors. But we'll get through it. The gay community in Boffler is great."
"I probably should be going, let you get over to the shop for a while."
"Yeah, I really should do that."
"I forgot to wrap your back."
"Dang, you remembered."
"Yeah, leave it to the nurse to remember the little details like taking care of yourself."
Sam got the wrap and slipped her big T-shirt off over her head and Annie bound her ribs again. Sam slipped the shirt back over her powerful shoulders and walked Annie to the door. The two stood looking around trying to figure out a way to see each other again. "Hey do you play softball?" Sam blurted suddenly.
"Is that the game with the big baseball?"
Sam laughed. "Yeah. The gay bar sponsors a community league team. I play and coach, but since I can't play now, they'll need another player. I thought, if you wanted..."
"Sam, obviously I'm not going to help your team. I haven't played softball since I was in grade school."
"Oh, it's just for fun. Pammy and Mel can't play either."
"Well, I'll be like Lucy Van Pelt standing in the outfield looking at the clouds..."
"That's all we need. Honest. We just do it to get together and have fun."
"Okay, then. Sounds like a hoot."
"We practice tomorrow at three at the park. Sound okay?"
"I'll be there with bells on. Wait... that's ice skating."
"Yeah. Wrong sport, champ."
"I'll be there with chewing tobacco."
"Oh, you'll fit right in."
They said good bye, Sam's spirits buoyed again until she looked around and saw the letters.
Continued - Part 3
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