Fool for Love
By Erin Jennifer
Disclaimers: These characters were created entirely by me. Please do not use them or repost this story without permission. This story features dark themes, mildly naughty language and a same-sex relationship between women. However, there is nothing graphic in that department.
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Chapter One: Love's Fool
I don't believe in love. Let me get that out of the way right from the start, so you don't expect one of those fairy-tale happy endings. Oh, I used to believe in all that nonsense. I used to believe that love would conquer all and that there was a special someone out there for everyone. Even me. That was before she came into my life and snuffed out the flickering candle of my soul. But I'm getting ahead of myself. To truly appreciate where I am now, you have to start at the beginning of this little tale.
Five months ago my life was crashing down around my ears. Things were not going well at work, I was flat broke, and my girlfriend of the past year had kicked me out of the house we shared. My previously mentioned financial state limited my options, so I moved in with a co-worker, Ron. It was meant to be a temporary solution, but it worked out well for the both of us. I had a roof over my head and he had someone to share the expenses. Apartments do not come cheap in California, and Ron was glad for the extra cash. Best of all, he didn't mind sharing space with a lesbian. In fact, I think he got some kind of weird thrill out of it. Certainly, it amused him that we both drooled daily over the syndicated exploits of a very hot leather-wearing warrior chick and her equally yummy friend. Anyway, a couple of days turned into a couple of weeks, and the weeks soon stretched into a month. Then, one night, everything changed.
I had spent a sunny Saturday afternoon at my ex-girlfriend Elizabeth's house picking up a few things I had left behind. She was supposed to be away for the weekend, but I guess her plans had changed, because she showed up as I was leaving. When she looked at me in the fading daylight, her eyes were flat and hard, and it was hard to believe that I had ever seen any trace of affection there. I remember wondering how love could wither and die so quickly. It's almost funny now. But, I digress. Elizabeth and I exchanged a few nasty words and I left there feeling lower than a dirty wad of chewing gum stuck to the bottom of a shoe.
On the way back to Ron's apartment, I had to stop to put gas in my car. As I waited for the tank to fill, my gaze wandered across the street to a nightclub that I had passed every day. I had never been one for the clubbing scene, but I knew that this was supposed to be a popular spot. Ron had gone up to Reno on a gambling trip with his buddies, and I wasn't exactly excited by the prospect of spending the evening holed up in the apartment, feeling sorry for myself. What the hell? I decided to drive across the street and check the place out. At the very least, I figured I deserved a good stiff drink.
It was still relatively early when I pulled my car into the mostly empty parking lot. The sky was just beginning to turn that murky shade of deep blue that accompanies twilight, and the tall lights in the lot cast long shadows across the asphalt. Faintly amused by my nervousness, I approached the scarred, black wooden door to the club. The tarnished brass handle was worn smooth from countless hands over the years. I opened the door and stepped inside, pausing to let my eyes adjust to the dim lighting. The smell of stale cigarette smoke lingered in the air as I surveyed the club.
A narrow stairwell led down to a large dance floor. To the left, the bar curved in a long semi-circle. High circular tables dotted the rest of the perimeter. The DJ had not arrived yet, and muted techno music sounded through the myriad of speakers that surrounded the dance floor. I handed a five-dollar bill to the man at the top of the stairs, and he stamped the inside of my wrist without a second glance. It was vaguely depressing to realize that I no longer looked under 21.
I descended the steps and headed straight for the bar. There were few other people in the place at this hour, which suited me just fine. I wasn't in the mood for a crowd anyway. With as much dignity as I could muster, I climbed up onto one of the barstools built for ridiculously tall people. The bartender, a chiseled young man with sun-bleached hair and
deep dimples, turned from organizing glasses and smiled at me. I made an attempt at returning the gesture, though I could tell by the sympathy in his eyes that he had seen my kind too many times before.
"What can I get you, sweetie?" He asked.
I examined the rows of bottles behind him. I wanted something that would get me drunk as quickly as possible. I pointed.
"Tequila. No salt. No lime. Leave the bottle." I reached into my wallet and slapped my platinum Visa card on the bar to show that I was good for it.
Both eyebrows shot up into his hairline, but the bartender merely shrugged and carried out my request. In less than a minute, a shot glass and a tall bottle of liquid golden death sat before me. The young bartender started to speak, but I shook my head. I wasn't in the mood to talk either. He put my credit card inside the register for safekeeping and moved down to the other end of the bar where two men were watching a baseball game on the large TV screen.
I slammed the first drink back, grimacing as the bitter liquid burned my throat and brought tears to my eyes. God, I hated the taste of that stuff, but I loved the warm glow that the alcohol was spreading through my stomach. I took another shot. Then another.
Hours passed that way, and the club began to fill quickly. I rested my forehead on the edge of the bar and tried to block out the cacophony of music and voices that swirled around me. I'm not sure how much time went by that way. Next thing I remember, she was sitting beside me. I raised my head as someone tapped my elbow, and my bleary, tequila-soaked eyes feasted on the most beautiful woman I had ever seen.
She had long, luxuriously dark hair that shone under the strobing lights. I stared at her full, red lips, mesmerized, until I realized that her lips were moving. I shook myself, trying to concentrate on the words.
"Huh?" I asked. Brilliant opening line, I know.
She smiled at me, revealing a row of perfect, gleaming white teeth. "Are you okay?" She repeated. "You've been sitting there like that since I came in."
Dumbly, I looked at her, then at the nearly drained bottle in front of me. Was I okay? After consuming that much alcohol, I was surprised that I was conscious. With difficulty, I pushed myself up and almost toppled backwards of my seat. She grabbed my arms to steady me and an electric charge went through me when her fingers touched my skin.
"Careful. Don't want you cracking that pretty head of yours open," she said.
Pretty? Me? My head spun, and not just because I was hammered.
"I'm fine," I croaked.
She smiled at me again and I noticed that she hadn't let go of my arm. She waved the bartender over and shouted above the din.
"Hey, Brad. I think my friend here could use some nice, strong coffee."
He nodded and glanced at me as he set a steaming cup of coffee in front of me. For just a second, I thought I saw a warning look in his eyes. Something that said, be careful. At the time, I simply shrugged it off. Now, I wish I had trusted my instincts.
"So." The gorgeous woman with the impossibly dark eyes was talking to me again. "I don't think I've ever seen you in here before."
I shook my head. "Never been here."
"I didn't think so," she said. "I would have remembered someone like you."
If I hadn't been so drunk and so vulnerable from my encounter with Elizabeth, I think I would have realized that she was picking me up. Instead, I fell for every word. It had been so long since I had felt noticed or appreciated by anyone, and now a breathtaking stranger was suggesting that I was someone to be remembered. She knew exactly what I needed to hear.
She told me her name. I told her mine. I had never gone home with anyone from a bar before that night. Hell, I had never engaged in casual sex with anyone before that night, period. Somehow though, we ended up back at Ron's apartment. She was gentle and tender, and she made me feel like I was the only woman in the world. Elizabeth had never been like that, not even in the beginning.
I won't bore you with the details, but we had sex over and over that night until I fell asleep in her arms, completely and happily exhausted. Then I did a very bad thing. I fell in love with her. Looking back now, I know how stupid that must sound --- falling in love with a virtual stranger after one night of amazing sex. I had always believed, though, that when the right woman came along, I would know it. Being with her felt so right, and I thought she felt it too. She told me she did.
Gradually, we got to know each other better in the following weeks and my love for her grew. Every look, every touch from her produced these intense emotional responses that I didn't know I was capable of having. She became my whole world. I couldn't get enough of her. She filled my head when we were apart and invaded my dreams while I slept. I was an addict and she was my drug.
We moved in together after dating for two months. Everything was perfect, at first, and I was deliriously happy. I had finally found that one true love that everyone talks about. I'm not sure when it all started to go wrong. Maybe it was wrong from the very start.
A few weeks ago, I began to notice little changes in her behavior towards me. She had become quiet and withdrawn. We rarely talked anymore. Whenever I asked her about it, she would give me a vague, noncommittal answer. I thought it would pass. Every relationship goes through rocky times, right?
Two days ago, I tried to balance my checkbook. Anyone who knows me knows that I never do this. I never really keep track of my money at all, since most of the time there isn't much to keep track of. Her birthday was approaching, though, and I wanted to see if I had enough to buy her something nice. Okay, I admit it. I was thinking about buying her a ring. I wanted us to be together forever.
I called the automated teller system at my bank to find out what my balance was, and then I started adding up my recent checks. The totals didn't match. They didn't match by a lot. In fact, when I added it all up, I realized that my account was overdrawn. I had nothing. At first, I thought it was me. I frequently forget to write down purchases I make with my ATM card. Then, I thought maybe she bought something and forgot to tell me. These things happen. I searched my brain but couldn't come up with anything that would account for the missing money.
That night, when she came home from work, I asked her about it. I'll never forget the look in her eyes. It was that same cold, hateful look that I had seen in Elizabeth months before. She laughed while she admitted to everything. She took the money. She had been stealing from me since the first night we were together. There was another woman, someone who satisfied her more than I ever could.
"Why?" I asked her, when I could trust myself to speak.
She laughed again and I could not fathom the cold disdain I heard in her voice. Numb, I sat down on the couch before I passed out from the shock.
"Because it was easy," she said. "You're such a fool to think that I could ever love someone like you."
"Why?" I asked again. It was the only response I could manage.
"You're pathetic," she said. "No one will ever love you. Don't you know that by know? Do the world a favor and just kill yourself."
She left then, slamming the door shut behind her. Her words echoed in my ears for a long time as the silence pressed in around me. My chest constricted. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't cry. It was like she had reached into my heart and flipped the off switch.
She was right. I was a fool. People like me don't get a happily ever after. I realize that now, as I stand here on these rocks, staring at the waves. That kind of love only exists on the screen or in the pages of a book. It certainly doesn't exist for me. But I'm not sad. I'm not even angry anymore, really. I'm nothing. Empty. Broken.
I stand here, staring at the waves, her words resounding through my brain. I'm pretty sure it won't hurt. I hope I'm right.
Chapter Two: Crazy Little Thing Called Love
Life is not a box of chocolates. Hell, it isn't even a bowl of cherries. No, if you ask me, life is nothing but a bunch of sadomasochistic bullshit. People hurt us, we hurt others, and the whole thing just goes round and round in a great big circle of pain. At least, that's what I would have told you if you had asked me six months ago.
I came here to kill myself. It's funny. Whenever I say that now, it's like I'm talking about a complete stranger. Still, the truth is, I came to this city intending to fling myself into the sea. What did I have to live for? I had no real family left. I was stuck in a dead-end job that I hated. And the woman I thought I loved had robbed me blind and ripped my heart out. For three weeks, I had spiraled down into a quagmire of alcohol-soaked despair until I ended up here. I figured I'd be doing the world a favor by offing myself. That was before I met the love of my life.
I was standing on the large, jutting rocks, watching the waves crash against the base. The constant spray was making things slippery, and I started to worry that I would fall before I could work up the nerve to jump. The way my life had been going, that might have been a more fitting end. I took a long swallow from the pint of tequila clenched in my numb fist and gathered my resolve. Then I saw her.
She was jogging along the water's edge, unconcerned by the light rain or the surf that churned around her ankles. I was mesmerized. I wasn't close enough to see her face yet, but I was fascinated by the smooth rhythm of her strides and hypnotized by the ponytail swinging from the back of her baseball cap. I remember wondering, who the hell jogs on the beach at 2:00 in the morning? My feet moved without my conscious permission, moving me a few steps back from the edge. I watched her come closer and closer. She reached the base of the rocks and stopped, tilting her head up to look at me.
Then, I swear, the most amazing thing happened. A gust of wind came from nowhere and blew the clouds away from the moon. I looked down at her, standing there, bathed in a sudden beam of the most beautiful silvery light. And just like that, my heart started to beat again. I knew I was staring at her, and I didn't even have the sense to be embarrassed by it. Strangely enough, she didn't look like she minded.
"You should be careful up there. The rocks get awfully slick."
There was genuine concern in her voice. I couldn't even recall the last time anyone had spoken to me with genuine concern. She was looking at me with that expectant, cocker spaniel-like head tilt. I had to say something, but my tongue seemed to be suddenly glued to the roof of my mouth. It was just as well. I was pretty sure that "will you marry me" probably wasn't the appropriate thing to say. Especially since I didn't even know her name yet. I made a few unintelligible sounds, and I'm sure she thought I was a lunatic. Finally, I managed to pry my tongue loose and spit out a complete sentence.
"I'm okay," I said, trying my best to appear confident and at ease. Like I climbed jagged, slippery rocks at 2 a.m. on a regular basis.
"Uh-huh." She didn't look convinced.
She shuffled her feet, and I was seized with the worry that she was about to jog right out of my life. I couldn't let that happen, so I blurted out the first idiotic thing that popped into my head.
"So, do you come here often?"
I winced as soon as the words left my mouth. The gods had sent an angel to rescue me from my insanity, and I was subjecting her to cheesy singles-bar pick up lines. This was not off to a good start. Before she could flee, I scrambled down the rock face, slipping once and banging my shin. I could feel the blood trickling down my leg beneath my torn pant leg, but there was no pain. All I could feel was a warm, welcoming glow that seemed to radiate from my newfound savior. It felt like I was curled up in front of a blazing fire with my favorite blanket, a good book and a glass of cabernet. It was comfortable.
"You're bleeding," she noted, kneeling to examine my scraped shin.
The moment she touched my skin, putting pressure on the wound, everything changed. First, there was this strange roaring in my ears, then it all became eerily silent and still. My skin tingled, like someone was pumping low-voltage electricity through my veins. It was like the rest of the world had fallen away and we were all that remained. She seemed to feel it too. Our eyes met, and I was drowning after all, lost in a pair of the warmest, gentlest brown eyes I had ever seen. She smiled at me uncertainly and stood, brushing the damp sand away from her bare knees.
"I think the bleeding has stopped," she said.
She had no idea how right she was. Just like that, with one touch, the bleeding had stopped. Finally.
"I think you're right," I agreed.
"You should clean it out as soon as you get home, though," she advised. "You don't want it to get infected."
"Right. I'll do that." I paused, trying to figure out how to ask her name. "I don't suppose you know of any 24-hour drug stores around here?"
"There's a Walgreen's a couple of blocks that way." She pointed to the east, towards the freeway. "I guess you're not from around here, huh?"
I shook my head. "Nope. Just passing through."
To my surprise, she took the lead from there. She stuck out her hand and dazzled me with her smile. I watched, amazed, as my hand moved on its own. Before I knew it, her fingers had closed around mine.
"Welcome to Santa Cruz," she said. "I'm Faith."
"Faith," I repeated, savoring the way my lips, tongue and teeth formed her name. "Hi. I'm Kara."
"Do you have a car here, Kara?" She asked. I think she sensed the darkness that still surrounded my soul. She didnt seem to want to leave me alone. Not that I minded.
I shook my head again. "No. I took the bus here."
I hadn't brought my car because I hadn't wanted anyone to know where I had gone. I hadn't even left a note or anything. I figured I would just disappear off the face of the planet. I didn't think anyone would care, anyway.
"Okay." Faith nodded decisively. "I'll walk with you to the drug store. I live in that direction, anyway."
I did a little happy dance in my head. At least, I intended to do it in my head. I think I must have squirmed or fidgeted or something, though, because Faith was looking at me strangely. I grinned like an idiot, trying to hide my embarrassment. I'm sure she was beginning to wonder just what kind of psycho I was. It still amazes me that she didn't run screaming into the night. Maybe she's the lunatic. If she was crazy, then I was prepared to check myself into the rubber room next to hers.
Side by side, we walked up the beach. Neither of us spoke. I doubt either of us knew what to say. Walking in the sand can be incredibly tiring, especially if you're already drunk, and before long I was running out of breath. Faith didn't seem to be having a problem with it; after all, this was a woman who jogged along the beach regularly. I tried not to show her that I was struggling, but I think she noticed. She gradually slowed her pace to a leisurely stroll.
"Can I ask you a question, Kara?" She glanced at me, not quite meeting my gaze. "What were you doing up on those rocks?"
I shrugged. Conversational skills were never one of my strong points. She stopped at the line where the sand met the concrete sidewalk. She turned and looked directly into my eyes, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't tear myself away. She was looking all the way down into my damaged soul.
"I'm asking because I don't think you were admiring the view," she said. "Maybe it would help to talk about it."
Before I could stop myself, I was pouring out my entire pathetic life story. I think I even told her about the time my 2nd grade teacher spanked me in front of the entire class for something I didn't do. Sometime during my litany of past sins, we started walking again. I didn't know where I was going, but somehow I knew she wouldn't lead me astray. Throughout my confessional, she simply listened. Not that on-the surface, hearing-the-words-but-not-really-paying-attention kind of listening, either. Faith honestly seemed to want to hear my story. It was weird, to say the least.
By the time I finished telling her about my most recent heartbreak, we had reached the neon-lit front doors of the drug store. I assumed she would leave me there and continue on to her own home, but she followed me inside. As if it was the most natural thing in the world. Despite my protests, she insisted on buying the box of Band-Aids and the tube of antibiotic ointment, and she waited for me while I went into the restroom to wash up.
I cleaned the cut and bandaged it as quickly as I could, getting most of the ointment all over my pants in the process. I fully expected her to be gone when I came out. But there she was, reading one of those silly checkout tabloids. She smiled at me, and I felt it all the way down to my toes. 'Come on, Kara. You're not actually doing this, are you? Remember what happened last time?' I chastised myself mentally.
"Well, uh, thanks," I said lamely as we exited to the parking lot.
I wanted to beg her not to go. I wanted to know more about her. I wanted to watch the sunrise with her. Oh hell, who am I kidding? I wanted to hear her scream my name in the throes of passion, then watch the sunrise with her wrapped in my arms. But things like that don't happen in real life. Not in mine anyway.
"You're welcome," she said. She made no move to leave, and I wondered if I looked as hopeful as I felt.
"Hey, are you hungry?" She asked suddenly. "I'm starved. I'm always hungry after a run. Sort of defeats the purpose, I guess."
She laughed, and I could feel the tattered remnants of my broken heart putting themselves back together. Hesitant and unsure, I suggested the all-night coffee shop across the street. She agreed, and we quickly found ourselves in a booth next to the vast picture window. We talked for hours, through two plates of french fries, two slices of cheesecake and countless cups of coffee.
Several times throughout the night, I experienced an intense feeling of déjà vu. I knew perfectly well that we had never met before, but I kept getting this sense of comfort and familiarity. Like our souls had been coming together time after time throughout the years. Yeah, I know how mushy and romantic that sounds. Believe me, it still surprises me when I realize those thoughts are coming out of MY head.
I remember I was sitting there, in that cracked vinyl booth, swirling the last cold french fry through my ketchup, when I saw the light streaming through the window. The sun had risen, painting the tops of the palm trees with a warm pink hue. I had never seen such a breathtaking morning. I had never been so glad to be alive.
"It's beautiful," I said, staring out at the dawn.
"Yes. It is," Faith agreed.
Only she wasn't looking at the sunrise. She was looking at me. We talked about it later, and we both agree that we heard it at the same time. When our eyes met, we both heard this tiny, musical click when our souls grabbed onto each other and promised to never let go.
That was six months ago. Tomorrow, I'm loading up the moving van and driving back down to Santa Cruz, to the house we rented together. I've never really had a home before. I think I could get used to it. Sure, I still think we're both crazy. But that's okay. Straitjackets come in pairs, don't they?
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