The driver was standing at attention outside the limo's back door waiting when the two women emerged from Kate's house. His instructions had said that there was only one passenger, but it was all the same to him; especially when both of his charges were as absolutely stunning as these two were. They were like yin and yang; the one tall, dark and intense, with the bluest eyes he'd ever seen. The other woman was completely the opposite, six or seven inches shorter, blonde, and approachable, with sparkling eyes the color of emeralds. The smaller of the two lacked the overt power of her taller companion, but she was slender and graceful like an athlete and clearly in great shape. "Yeah," he thought to himself, "It's a tough job, but somebody's gotta do it."
Jay smiled at the uniformed driver as her darker companion stepped aside to allow her to get in first, then, just as she was about to slide in, Kate pulled her back. "Oh no you don't. I refuse to be responsible for you looking like a Shar-Pei," she winked. "Off with the suit jacket." The writer shook her head good-naturedly and complied. Underneath, she wore a simple sleeveless black shell, the top clinging to her breasts and accentuating her slim waist, and the lack of sleeves showing off her muscular arms to good advantage. Kate was inordinately grateful that she could occupy herself hanging up the jacket; she was sure she must have been drooling. "Kyle," she admonished herself silently, "You've got to get a grip here."
When they were settled in the car and the driver had raised the privacy glass, the anchorwoman turned to the blonde. "I'm really glad you're here, Jay. I still can't believe you found me."
"You could've knocked me over with a feather when I turned on my TV set and saw you; I hung up on my editor in mid-sentence. Of course," the writer chuckled, "She's always in mid-sentence."
They both grew quiet then, the motion of the car and the lack of sleep catching up with Jay. Her eyes closing without permission, she slumped unconsciously against her friend's shoulder as sleep claimed her. Smiling, Kate regarded her affectionately. "You look a bit uncomfortable to me, Jay." Her smile turned to a full-fledged grin. "I think I can fix that." Scooting back into the corner of the seat, she gently pulled Jay with her. She settled the blonde's head against her chest, resting her cheek on the soft hair, surrounding her with long arms and joining her in peaceful slumber.
Jay was having the nicest dream. In it she was resting in Kate's arms, listening to the steady beat of her heart. It was the safest, most content she'd ever felt. And then it dawned on her that dreams didn't involve the sense of smell. She inhaled again the delicious scent of Shalimar perfume that she identified so strongly with Kate. Hesitantly she cracked open one eye, her heart rate soaring as she took in her position nestled against the anchorwoman.
She wasn't quite sure how she had gotten where she was, but she knew that she never wanted to move. She could feel Kate's rhythmic breathing ruffling her hair and the thump, thump of a heartbeat against her ear and thought about the fact that she probably should move. The problem was, her body didn't want to go anywhere at the moment. So, with a blissful sigh, she closed her eyes again and drifted back to sleep.
The world intruded gradually on Kate's all-too brief nap; her wounds were making themselves felt and her eyes felt gritty. Taking stock of her location, she noted that Jay remained where she had been when she had fallen asleep, tucked tightly against her body. Kate's arms were wrapped securely around her, and the blonde's arms were resting on top of her stitched and bandaged ones. The pressure accounted for some of the injured woman's pain, but she had no intention of letting that dampen her enjoyment of her position in proximity to her friend.
It occurred to Kate that Jay would soon awaken and she probably should move before that happened; in considering her options, however, it quickly became clear that to do so would mean either propping the writer against the seat or letting her fall to the floor. Since she found both of those possibilities unacceptable, she settled for owing her an explanation when she regained consciousness, which, as it turned out, didn't take long.
Feeling Jay stir and her breathing pattern change, Kate lifted her cheek from the blonde head below hers. "Hi," she began. Jay made no effort to move. "Um, I hope you don't mind too much. You see you fell asleep in an awkward position and I didn't want you to be stiff and sore when you woke up, I figured I would be a decent pillow, and..." She stopped and released a breath. She was babbling uncharacteristically and she knew it. "Anyway," she finished weakly, not knowing what else to say.
She couldn't see her friend's smile. "That's okay, you make a great pillow and that's the best rest I've had in a long time. Thanks."
Kate let out a relieved breath and released Jay from her grasp. Only then did the writer realize where her arms had been. "Oh my God, Kate, did I hurt you?" Moving away, she sat up so that she could see her friend's face.
Seeing her companion's distress, Kate hastened to assure her that she was fine, even as her arms were throbbing.
At that moment, the limousine pulled to a stop. Kate looked out the window at the lightening sky and the NBC peacock logo, then back at Jay. "First stop, are you ready for the circus?"
The door swung open on the curbside and the driver helped the smaller passenger from the car. Following behind, the anchorwoman grabbed Jay's jacket and her own garment bag. Addressing the driver, she said, "Are you going to wait for us?"
"Yes, ma'am, my instructions are to take you to each network, and then anywhere else you have to go today until such time as I drop you at the airport. By the way, I was told to tell you that you are booked on a 2:30 p.m. commuter plane out of LaGuardia."
"Okay, thank you. I'm going to leave the lady's garment bag and briefcase in the car. Is that all right?"
"Yes, ma'am, that's just fine."
"Good; see you in a bit, then." Moving to the curb, Kate helped her friend into her suit jacket and grasped her gently by the elbow, escorting her into the Rockefeller Center studios of NBC's Today Show.
They were met at the reception desk by a harried-looking producer. Barely glancing at Jay, the woman gave Kate's outfit a disgusted look and grabbed at her arm to hustle her away. She was surprised when the tall, clearly under-dressed woman didn't move. She looked up at her impatiently. "I'm Katherine Kyle," the raven-haired woman said with a barely disguised sneer; already she didn't like this producer. "And this is Ms. Jamison Parker."
"I know who ya are, lady, that's why I'm hea."
Kate ignored both the woman's interruption and her grating accent. "Ms. Parker is with me. Would you please make sure that she is made comfortable and given something to eat and some coffee while I'm getting ready?" It was more a command than a request, and the producer knew it.
"Yea, yea, I'll take care a it, okay, now let's go. They're waitin' on ya in makeup." When Kate still didn't budge, the woman sighed in exasperation and turned to Jay with a plastic smile. "Um, would you please come wit' me, too, Ms. Pawka?"
Jay smiled right back at her, though the expression never reached her eyes. "Why, of course, thank you for asking," she said in her sweetest voice. Behind the woman's back, she could see Kate's smirk.
Satisfied that her friend was being well cared for in the Green room, Kate relaxed into the makeup chair. "Good morning," she said to the man who smiled at her in the mirror.
"Hey there sweetie," he enthused. "Oh, this is gonna be fun. Any last requests before I get started?"
Kate couldn't help but smile at the man's upbeat attitude; she knew she looked like hell. The small cuts and abrasions on her left cheek were going to be hard to hide completely, and her normally vibrant eyes looked tired. "Sorry for the major reclamation project," she said, "But you should see the other guy."
Her makeup stylist laughed delightedly. "Honey, it's gonna be a pleasure working with that gorgeous face and hair, believe me. Last week I had to make up Phyllis Diller. Don't even ask."
Half an hour later, Kate emerged from the chair and stopped the nearest official looking person. "I need a phone," she said.
"There's one in the Green room."
"Okay, let me go change my clothes and then could someone point me in the right direction?"
"No problem. I'll wait outside the dressing room for you."
Taking the garment bag with her, Kate disappeared behind the indicated door, emerging ten minutes later and following the waiting lackey to the Green room where guests sat until it was time for them to be on the air.
Swinging open the door to the Green room, she spied Jay sitting on the opposite wall in a comfortable looking leather armchair with her eyes closed and a cup of coffee close at hand. Padding into the room quietly, she gazed down at the adorable blonde head. A lock of hair had fallen into her eye, and Kate eased it off her face. "Jay," she breathed. "Jay, honey, its time to get up."
Jay mumbled something unintelligible before realizing that she had nodded off. Her eyes snapped open and she stared open-mouthed. "Holy mother..." She couldn't censor herself. Kate stood before her in a fabulous navy blue silk suit that had to have been custom made; it fit her like a glove, the skirt stopping at mid-thigh, showing off her incredible legs. Her pale blue blouse was open at the neck, revealing an expanse of lightly tanned skin, and just a hint of cleavage; sheer navy pantyhose and matching navy pumps completed the outfit. Her hair was glossy and loose down her back and cascaded over her shoulders. Her jewelry consisted of a two-carat diamond solitaire necklace and a pair of sapphire and diamond stud earrings.
Gone was the exhausted-looking young woman in the faded jeans and t-shirt; in her place was this magnificently sophisticated, drop-dead-gorgeous model. Jay had to remind herself to breathe. Only the bandages that protruded from Kate's sleeves gave any indication about the ordeal that she had been through in the previous twenty-four hours. "You look amazing," the petite woman gushed sincerely.
Kate gave her companion a brilliant smile revealing rows of perfect, white teeth. "Thanks, Jay, coming from you that means a lot." And that was the truth. Oh, people told her how beautiful she was all the time, but it rolled right off her; with Jay, it was different; with her it mattered. "I just need to make a phone call and then it will be time to go, okay?"
The writer nodded.
"How's the coffee, any good?"
Jay nodded again.
"Are you always this talkative in the morning?" Kate kidded.
"I'm not really a morning person," Jay confessed sheepishly.
Moving over to the phone on the side table, the anchorwoman dialed a number from memory. "Hi, it's Kate. What's the latest?" She listened intently for a few minutes. "Okay, I'm going to give one of my contacts a call over at SPD and see if I can't get anything more solid on the incendiary device. I doubt he'll give me anything, but you never know." A few more seconds of listening and then she hung up the phone. Looking at her friend, she said apologetically, "I'm sorry, I just need to make one more call. I want to make sure I've got everything there is to get on this story before someone asks me a question I can't answer."
"No problem," Jay smiled at her encouragingly. "You just do what you need to do."
Kate dialed another number from memory. "Good morning, Peter. I didn't wake you, did I?" She knew perfectly well that Peter Enright had been up all night helping the State Police Department sort through the rubble of the Capitol to determine exactly what kind of explosive had been used, how much, and by what method it had been smuggled in and detonated. This type of case was his bread and butter. He was an expert in explosives and security and was the man governments turned to when they needed answers and help. Very few people knew about Peter, but Kate had made his acquaintance when she had been working on a story on security at the Governor's mansion as a street reporter several years earlier, before she became the evening news anchor. She and Peter had become good friends.
"Hi gorgeous. Have I told you lately how great you look while crawling on all fours through piles of rubble?"
"Very funny, Peter. Now give."
The technology expert gave a mock sigh; he hated reporters with a passion, but he and Kate had forged an unshakeable friendship based on mutual respect. She was a breed apart, and he never held anything back from her, knowing that she would never betray that trust. "I wish I had something for you. The best I can tell you is that whoever did this really knew what they were doing; they used a sophisticated remote detonator and enough material to take down the whole building. The fact that they set off two devices tells me that they weren't leaving anything to chance. The problem is, it doesn't look like anything local; it has an international flavor to it and that doesn't make any sense to me."
"Hmm. No prior intelligence, no warning?"
"Not that I can find...yet." Kate knew that her friend wouldn't rest until he had every answer he could get. "Oh, and Kate?"
"Yeah," she sighed, knowing what was coming next.
"You know you can't use any of that on the air, right?"
"Why do I like you again?"
"It's my charm and boyish good looks," he shot back.
"Oh yeah, remind me of that the next time I see you."
"Oh, don't worry, I will."
"No doubt. And Peter, let me know as soon as you've got anything I can actually say?"
"You got it, sweet thing."
"'Bye, Peter, be careful out there."
A knock at the door signaled the anchorwoman that it was time for her appearance. Kate reached out a hand to Jay, who remained sitting. "Come with me?" she questioned. "You can stand behind the camera and make faces at me if you want. I imagine that kind of torture might appeal to you."
"Why Ms. Kyle, whatever would make you think I was that kind of girl," her friend smiled wickedly.
The two women accompanied a program assistant to the set, standing silently just beyond the fake living room and out of sight of the cameras until the next commercial break. As the red light on the television camera clicked off, Jane Pauley got up off the couch on the set and walked towards them. She extended her hand as she reached Kate and Jay. "Ms. Kyle, I'm Jane Pauley."
"As if she needed an introduction," Jay thought.
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Ms. Pauley," Kate responded. Turning to her companion, she added, "This is a very dear friend of mine, Ms. Jamison Parker. I hope you don't mind her standing in the wings?"
"No, that's just fine. It's nice to meet you Ms. Parker. Haven't I read your byline in Time magazine? My husband Garry and I love your writing."
The writer was floored. Jane Pauley and Garry Trudeau, the author of the infamous Doonesbury comic strip, read her stories? "I'm flattered, Ms. Pauley. Thank you. It's nice to meet you."
A disembodied voice called out, "30 seconds people." Jane did not appear even to have heard, though Jay knew she must have.
"Clint," she called to an assistant, "Please get Ms. Parker a cup of fresh coffee and show her where to stand to get the best view, will you?" To the anchorwoman, she said, "Won't you come with me?" As Kate followed alongside her, the Today Show co-host said, "That was fantastic work you did yesterday. Very courageous."
"Thank you, Ms. Pauley."
"Please, call me Jane."
They sat down and yet another assistant attached a lavaliere microphone to the inside of Kate's jacket lapel. The disembodied voice called out, "Five, four, three, two, one and, cue the music." The Today Show theme music played and the camera panned in on Jane.
"Good morning, and welcome back to Today on NBC. With us this morning is journalist Katherine Kyle of NBC affiliate WCAP-TV in Albany, New York. Many of you will recognize Ms. Kyle's face if you were paying any attention whatsoever to the news yesterday..." The co-host went on to recap Kate's role in the incident at the Capitol, replaying taped footage of her first report, followed by images of her running back into the building after the second explosion and shots of her helping to rescue and comfort the wounded.
When the studio camera went live again, the shot had been widened to include both the show's co-host and her guest; a classic "two shot." Jane asked Kate, "What was going through your mind when you turned around and ran toward the Capitol building after the second explosion? Everyone else was running in the opposite direction."
The anchorwoman looked at her interviewer, managing to look directly into the camera at the same time. "I was thinking that there was human suffering." She leaned forward slightly. "I believe strongly that there's a time when it's more vital to be a human being than it is to be a journalist." Kate's eyes conveyed her earnestness.
"Weren't you concerned about compromising your objectivity?"
"It was important first of all to be a human being. Second, I would hope that viewers didn't feel that they had gotten cheated; that they didn't get the story they should have gotten. To me the real story here was that in a world where such cruel and senseless violence exists, there is also compassion and the triumph of the human spirit over terror. I tried very hard to capture that essence in my coverage. And if I helped a few people and eased a little suffering along the way, so much the better." Kate smiled an ironic smile at Jane. "Did I break the rules of professional distance? Perhaps. I would hope the viewers didn't mind too much." She winked.
Several more minutes of gentle questions ensued, then the segment was over, guest and interviewer standing and shaking hands. "Thank you for what you did yesterday, Ms. Kyle. In my opinion you gave us all a good name."
"Thank you, Jane. I just followed my heart and my guts. In the end, I have to be able to live with my actions or inactions, not some television executive reading 'Q' numbers on a sheet of paper," Kate said, referring to the polling data rating a celebrity's popularity with the viewers.
"It might surprise you to know, Ms. Kyle, that I've already seen yesterday's numbers. You outscored the President of the United States and Bryant and me combined." She smiled. "Congratulations and good luck."
"Thanks," Kate answered, turning and heading from the set.
When she and Jay were settled in the limousine once again, Kate turned to her friend. "How did I do?"
Looking at her with something akin to awe Jay said, "First of all, the camera and you clearly are having a love affair."
The tall woman blushed.
"Secondly, today you made me exceedingly proud to wear the title of 'journalist'. You were phenomenal."
"Thanks, Jay." Kate plainly was embarrassed by the compliment.
The interviews by the other two networks went equally smoothly, and, as they walked down the corridor at ABC's Good Morning, America headquarters near Lincoln Center, Kate reached in her pocket for her watch. She had been unable to wear it because of the stitches and the bandages, but she hated to be without one. It was not even 8:30 in the morning yet.
She looked over at the small blonde, who appeared to be fairly wide awake, considering that neither of them had gotten more than two and a half hours sleep in the last twenty four. "I can't tell you what it's meant to me to have you here with me through all of this, Jay. You've really been a trouper."
The writer's eyes danced. "I would hardly classify the past eight hours as a hardship, Kate. I've loved every minute of it. I'm so glad I found you."
"You must be exhausted. I'd love to take you out to breakfast, but I don't want to monopolize your time or keep you from a well-deserved nap."
"Kate, I've never turned down a good meal in my life," she laughed lightly, "And I'm not about to start now; especially with such enjoyable company," she added shyly. "I'd love to have breakfast with you. I know a great place in midtown that makes the most incredible waffles."
"Is it a casual place? I'm dying to get out of this suit and back into my jeans."
"I'll just change here then. I won't be a sec."
True to her word, the older woman was back in very short order. She had gone out to the limousine, retrieved her jeans and t-shirt, and told the driver that they would be going to midtown.
Kate and Jay sat across from each other in a corner booth, enjoying their first real opportunity to spend time together, without any distractions. There were so many things they each wanted to know about the other.
At the same time, they both began, "So, tell me..." They laughed. Kate gestured to her companion. "You go first."
"Okay. Where do you come from? What was your major when we were at school? How did you end up in Albany as a news anchor? How many kids are there in your family? What's your favorite pastime? And who's your favorite author?"
Kate, whose eyes had gone round, laughed. "Is that all you want to know?"
"Nope, but I figure it's a good place to start," Jay answered playfully. Her curiosity about this beautiful woman was very real. Heaven knows she'd been thinking about her long enough.
"Okay, let's see. One: I come from a suburb about 25 miles north of where we're sitting right now."
Jay jumped in, "This is your hometown?!"
"Close enough, and I thought I was going to answer all of your questions just the way you asked them; in rapid succession."
The younger woman covered her mouth. "I'm sorry. But you don't have an accent."
"Thank God," Kate rolled her eyes. "Can I keep going now?"
Afraid to open her mouth again, Jay just nodded.
Her companion smiled triumphantly. "Two: I was an American History major with a Psychology minor. Three: Like most great things in life, it was an accident. Four:..."
Jay started to ask exactly what that meant, but her jaw clicked shut at the raised eyebrow she received.
"Four," Kate continued with a smirk, "I'm an only child. Five: That's a tough one. There are many things I enjoy doing, depending on my mood or the weather or the amount of time I have. Let's see...sitting in front of the fireplace in my library on a snowy night with a great book and Fred by my side; hiking in the mountains with Fred on a beautiful, clear day; playing tennis against a quality player; exercise; traveling to explore new places or to visit favorite ones; sitting quietly by the ocean or a peaceful lake. And six: Charles Dickens and Edith Wharton. Sorry, that one's a toss up."
Jay was soaking in all of the information like a sponge. She was amazed at how much they had in common.
"Now you know everything there is to know about me."
"Hardly," Jay blurted without thought. She was fascinated by Kate and doubted that she could ever know enough.
"Your turn," the anchorwoman perked up. "Only I'm going to ask my questions one at a time and reserve the right to follow up."
Jay rolled her eyes. "Were you a lawyer in your last life or something?"
"Ahem," her friend continued undeterred. "Where are you from originally? I know you're not from around here."
"What makes you so sure?" Jay's eyes narrowed.
Kate just gave her a look that said, "What, do you think I'm stupid?"
"Okay, okay," the blonde relented. "I'm from Phoenix. Scottsdale, really."
"Hmmm, I love that part of the country; Sedona in particular, but I've climbed Camelback Mountain in Scottsdale many times and had more than my share of ice cream at The Sugar Bowl.
Jay was surprised that her companion knew the area so well.
"Does your family still live there?" The dark-haired woman noticed her friend tense minutely. Interesting.
Jay did not meet Kate's eyes, although she knew the older woman was looking at her. "No. They moved a little further south to Tucson a few years back."
"Do you have any siblings?"
"I had a younger sister, but she was killed in a car crash when I was eight."
"I'm sorry, Jay." Reaching out, Kate touched the back of her hand.
"It's okay. It happened a very long time ago."
Changing the subject, Kate ventured, "I know that you wrote for the college newspaper, and that you played lacrosse..."
Jay's head jerked up in surprise. "You do?"
"Yees. Geez, what kind of reporter would I be if I couldn't at least find out the basics?"
Well, she had a point there, Jay thought. Unless you were Jay and you had wanted to keep someone a mystery. She knew she could have found out her darker companion's name in college if she had wanted to, but she didn't figure she would ever really get a chance to know her, the mysterious stranger was so far out of her league, and she preferred to use her imagination to fill in her heroine's life story. Now here she was sitting across from her, completely entranced, and finding the truth far more interesting than anything she had dreamed up. She never would have thought this moment possible.
Kate's voice startled her out of her reverie. "What was your major?"
"Uh, American Literature with a minor in Political Science."
"What did you think you wanted to do with your life?"
Jay didn't hesitate. "I wanted to be an author."
"What kind of books did you want to write and do you write now? Other than magazine articles, I mean."
"I wanted to chronicle the human condition. You know, write the next great American novel," the younger woman shook her head self-deprecatingly. "And yes, I still write for pleasure from time to time. I haven't had anything published yet, though."
It was said with such confidence, Jay wondered how she could know that. The question must have shown in her face, because Kate went on, "I have a really good feeling about that. And besides, I've read all of your articles." She looked down at the table, embarrassed by her admission.
The writer's face turned beet red. "You have? You didn't say anything."
"I didn't want you to think I was some sort of deranged fan or something. You're work is really excellent; I love your writing style, the humanity just shines through."
Jay was at a complete loss. She didn't know what to say, and didn't trust her voice just then, anyway. After a moment to compose herself, she said, "I think that writing is a product of one's own life experience," surprising herself with the admission. She hadn't meant to reveal that much.
Kate gathered as much and proceeded carefully, feeling her way. "Jamison is an interesting name. Where did it come from?"
Squirming in her seat, Jay began picking at a napkin and watching the shredding process with seeming fascination. "My father wanted a boy. He got me." When her companion didn't say anything, she grudgingly added, "Just one of many disappointments, I guess. We don't keep in touch much."
Kate thought back to their first verbal encounter on the ski slope. The young co-ed had said there was no one to notify when she had asked her about her parents. The older woman knew that there had to be much more to this story, and she hoped beyond hope that her new friend would share it with her. But she wanted it to be Jay's choice, not because she pushed. So she tried a different tactic and addressed something that had been bothering her for five years.
"You know, Jay," she started softly, "I really wanted to come and see you after that incident on campus. I was terribly worried about you." Reaching out, she grasped the blonde's hand and held it in her larger ones. "But I wasn't sure that seeing me would have been such a great idea for you. I was afraid I would just be a reminder of what had happened, and I didn't want to make things worse for you. I hope you never thought I didn't care, because I did. Very much." She let her friend's hand go. She hadn't been able to bear the thought that Jay would think her well-being didn't matter to her.
Jay could hear the self-recrimination in her companion's voice and was surprised to look up and see unshed tears in those beautiful blue eyes.
In fact, Kate had kept very close tabs on Jay ever since that night. At first, she had prevailed upon Jen, the EMT, to find out Jay's condition that night and the next day after she had left her at the hospital. Jen had told her that the rape counselor who had been with the small blonde that night had recommended a therapist who specialized in sexual abuse issues. Ethically, the woman couldn't reveal more than that.
Having seen Jay's byline in the school newspaper, Kate knew that her good friend Janet would be able to give her some information; she was the managing editor of the paper. And so she had bugged Janet repeatedly to tell her everything she knew. She didn't want to pry into Jay's private life, but she wanted to be sure that she was doing okay. Janet had been a year behind Kate at school, providing an extra year's worth of intelligence on the younger woman's status.
In her senior year, Jay had begun writing articles for the Alumni magazine, which Kate received quarterly. The supervising faculty member for the magazine was a favorite English professor of Kate's, so she kept tabs on Jay that way until the younger woman graduated. The professor had been both proud and happy to report to her that the petite co-ed was one of the best writers he had ever known. He had gotten her a lower level position with Time, knowing that, if given a chance, Jay would advance quickly through the ranks. Kate had taken out a subscription to Time immediately, watching with interest as the writer had rapidly become a rising star at the magazine. Now she was penning cover stories on some of the most important political figures in the country; Kate was inordinately proud of her.
Thinking about what Kate had just said about the night of the attack and the way she felt, Jay was having a colossal debate in her head. "Can we take a walk?" she asked her companion suddenly.
"Sure," Kate responded. "We're not far from Central Park, how about if we walk there?" She wasn't sure what was going on, but she could tell that Jay was working something out in her head, and that it was important. She threw some bills on the table and led the way out of the restaurant. Leaning into the window of the limo, Kate told the driver that they would be a while. Thinking about the area, she arranged to have him wait for them near the Plaza Hotel. She looked at her watch; it was just after 10:30 a.m. She was shocked to see that they had spent two hours over breakfast; it hadn't seemed that long at all. She set the meeting time with the limo driver for noon.
Walking side by side in silence for several blocks, the two women entered the park and took the footpath that skirted the reservoir. Jay chewed her bottom lip, kicking at a few stones on the path, her companion waiting for her to start the conversation.
Looking up at the amazing woman walking next to her, Jay thought about Kate's compassion and genuine caring; first on the ski slope and then during the attack on campus. She had been so gentle, yet so protective at the same time. She remembered Kate holding her hand, never letting it go until she fell asleep in the hospital, and covering her body with her sweatshirt. And she thought about all the many times after that night when she had longed to feel the comfort and safety of Kate's arms around her again to chase away the demons.
There really was no decision to make.
"Um, I'm not really sure where to begin," Jay's voice quivered a little, her nerves apparent.
"Tell me about your parents," Kate said softly. After a moment's hesitation, she followed her instincts. "Did he hurt you?"
Jay's head snapped up. "I..." She swallowed hard, wanting to bolt. Kate put a gentle hand on her arm at the expression of sheer terror on her face. "I've never told anyone," she faltered, "Except for the therapist I saw for a year after the attack on campus. I guess that night brought back a lot of bad memories for me."
They stopped walking, Kate taking Jay's hands in hers. When sea green eyes gazed into crystal clear blue, nothing but a mixture of fierce protectiveness and heartbreaking compassion shown there. "It's okay, Jay. He can't hurt you now."
At that, the smaller woman began to cry, great, gulping sobs issuing forth from her soul, where she had hidden the awful reality of her childhood for so very long. Taking Jay into her arms, Kate held her close until all of the tears had been shed. She rocked her and rubbed her back and soothed her, willing away all that hurt and misplaced shame.
"It started when I was four. When my sister died four years later, I wished it had been me instead." Her voice broke, "I thought she was the lucky one."
"Oh, Jay," Kate whispered, "I'm so glad it wasn't." And Jay knew she meant it; it warmed her to her very core.
The writer recounted the essentials of her childhood; repeated rapes, threats her father made to ensure her silence, her mother's denial and inability to protect her, and her penchant for disappearing into her writing to escape reality. Kate let her talk herself out without interruption.
When she had finished, Kate lifted Jay's chin gently with her fingers. "I'm so sorry for what happened to you. None of it was your fault and it wasn't anything a child could prevent. I know it's hard to accept that, but it's the truth." She looked directly into the emerald eyes before her still shimmering with tears.
"You are an extraordinary woman, Jay; full of compassion, wonder, humor and beauty. And you were an amazingly resourceful little girl who did what she needed to do to survive and become a lovely, talented, incredibly remarkable woman. I count myself exceptionally blessed to know you and I feel privileged beyond words that you trusted me enough to share your story. I want you to know that I will always be here for you. Always."
Jay knew somehow that she would.
They started walking again, Kate keeping hold of one of Jay's hands. She didn't care what it looked like, she wanted Jay to feel a tangible connection to her and to offer all of the strength and comfort she had to give.
After a few minutes had passed, she decided lightening the mood was in order. "I've got an idea. Will you humor me?" Her tone had turned childishly pleading, and Jay had to smile. "Puleease? Please, please, please?"
"Oh, okay," Jay relented. "Boy, I can just imagine what you were like as a kid."
Kate began to jog, Jay struggling to keep up. "Where are we going?"
"You'll see," she said mysteriously.
After several blocks, Kate pulled Jay out of the park and onto the street. When the petite woman looked up, she laughed.
"What?" Kate asked in an innocent tone.
"I might have guessed that you had a carefully hidden juvenile streak in you." Jay shook her head. They were standing in front of FAO Schwarz, the world's largest toy store, on 5th Avenue at 58th Street.
"So," the tall woman said, practically jumping up and down. "Can we go inside?"
"C'mon, ya goofball," Jay sighed as she pulled Kate across the street by the hand.
They spent half an hour romping through the store, trying out the toys, jumping from key to key on the gigantic toy piano that took up a good portion of the floor, playing with the train sets, and generally being kids. Jay was delighted with Kate's ability to have unfettered fun and the dark-haired woman knew she had found the perfect playmate.
When they were both totally exhausted, Kate called a timeout. "As much as I can't believe I'm going to say this, we've got to go, Jay. The limo will be waiting and I've got to get you back to your place so that you can get ready for your interview with the Governor."
"Spoilsport," Jay joked, sticking out her tongue.
Kate was glad she had been able to help her friend have some fun after the seriousness of their earlier conversation. She wished with all her heart that she could give the beautiful young woman back the childhood she never had. And she knew for sure that if she ever saw Jay's father, she probably would rip his heart out of his chest with her bare hands for hurting her.
She told Jay she needed to go make a quick phone call at the pay phone upstairs, and that she would be right back.
When she returned several minutes later, they made their way to the Plaza Hotel and the waiting limo. Jay gave the driver her address in Greenwich Village on Christopher Street, where they arrived within fifteen minutes. Kate asked him to wait in the car for her so that he could take her to the airport for her flight.
Walking Jay to the door of her apartment, she stood back as her companion fitted her key in the lock, opened the door, and threw her garment bag and briefcase onto a nearby sofa. The writer looked back at her friend as she took a step inside. "Can you come in?"
"I'd love to, but the limo is double parked and your neighbors might not take too kindly to having their street blocked."
"Yeah," Jay sighed heavily, "I guess you're right."
Hearing the note of dejection in her friend's voice, and not really wanting their time together to end either, Kate ventured, "Some other time?"
Jay smiled brightly. "You're on." Impulsively she leaned forward and, on her tiptoes, gave Kate a sweet kiss on the cheek. "Thanks for everything. You sure know how to show a girl a good time." Stepping back, she gazed up shyly into her friend's eyes.
Looking into those emerald green depths, Kate knew she couldn't just walk away this time. Reaching out, she gently pulled the pretty blonde to her. Still maintaining eye contact, she inclined her head and softly touched her lips to Jay's. Then she straightened up again, smiling.
"I thought you said there was no kissing on the first date."
A mischievous gleam appeared in the deep blue eyes. "Number one, those were Fred's rules; he's just a teenager, after all. And number two; I wasn't aware that this counted as an official date. But, if that's the way you feel..."
"Me and my big mouth," Jay mumbled under her breath with an aggrieved expression.
Fighting hard to keep the smile off her face, Kate pushed the door open a little wider and took a predatory step forward. Once inside the doorway, she slowly extended her arm and, staring hungrily at the blonde's mouth, ran her thumb lightly across Jay's lips. "I happen to think you have a perfect mouth."
Jay swallowed hard.
Her lips parting slightly, she leaned into the touch, her teeth just grazing Kate's thumb. The dark-haired woman thought she had never seen anything so sexy. She dragged her eyes away from Jay's mouth and up to her eyes, shutting the door behind her with her foot and bending her head in one smooth motion to capture Jay's mouth in a heart-stopping kiss.
Several long, languorous moments later, Kate pulled back slowly and smiled. "I," she began, but had to clear her throat before she could go on, "I hate to kiss and run, but I really do have to get going." The note of regret in her voice was unmistakable.
"Mmmm," Jay hummed, her eyes still closed. It took a few more seconds before the words penetrated her happy fog. "Oh," her eyes flew open. "Yep. Right."
As Kate turned to go, her hand on the doorknob, Jay reached out and grasped her forearm, forgetting for a moment about her injuries. "Um, could...could I maybe call you tonight? You know," she went on in a rush, embarrassed, "Just to make sure you got home all right?"
"Absolutely." Kate grinned.
When Jay didn't release her arm and began shifting uncomfortably from one foot to the other, Kate looked at her questioningly.
"Umm. I don't know how to reach you," she said bashfully.
Pulling out a business card and a pen, Kate wrote her home number and address on the back in bold strokes. "Now you do," she said, handing over the card.
"Okay then, are you sure it's all right? I mean I don't want to disturb you or anything."
"Jay," she laughed, "I've been disturbed for years." With that, Kate opened the door and stepped into the hallway, turning around to wink at her friend before she disappeared.
Closing the door slowly, the sound of the tall woman's sexy laughter resonating pleasantly in her ears, Jay sighed dreamily, "If the world stopped spinning right now, I'd die a very happy woman."
Kate ducked inside the back of the limo as the driver held the door for her. Once inside and alone, she leaned back into the leather interior and closed her eyes, a goofy grin splitting her face. "Oh no, Fred isn't getting to kiss you, Jay. You're already taken and I will not suffer the competition lightly."
Jay leaned her back against the apartment door and stared unseeing into her living room. She touched her fingertips to her lips, unable to process the wonder of what had just happened, and not willing to trust that it really had. Her head was spinning; in less than forty-eight hours her entire existence had been turned upside down. She had gone to Albany grudgingly because the Governor could not see her at his New York City office. That one tiny scheduling snafu had brought the writer face-to-face with a vital piece of her past and, she dared to hope, of her future, as well.
From the day she had seen the beautiful stranger on the tennis court, the mystery woman had commanded her attention. And then when she had rescued Jay on the ski trail and again on campus, she had captured her imagination. For her two and a half remaining years in school, the writer had used Kate as her muse, creating fiction around her dark, confident persona. It had been Jay's jealously guarded and somewhat guilty secret. She smiled ironically. Nothing she had conjured or written came close to matching the reality she had been party to in just the past twelve hours she had spent in Kate's presence.
Jay's thoughts strayed to Sarah. She and Sarah had become lovers early in their sophomore year. They had been friends as freshmen and had decided to room together beginning the next fall. It had seemed logical; they were compatible in terms of study habits and the hours they kept and they were best friends. Sarah had made the move to deepen the relationship. She was sweet and bookish, non-threatening and comfortable, and Jay had gotten caught up in the wonder of something new.
It hadn't been until Jay's encounter with the tall beauty on the ski slope that she had realized that what she shared with Sarah hadn't filled that empty space inside of her. It was as if she had been waiting for something or someone all her life, and the moment Kate had put her arms around her to comfort and warm her, Jay knew she had found it. But she was no fool; she understood that her rescuer had just been doing her job and hadn't felt what she did.
So Jay had resigned herself to the fact that she was never going to have that once-in-a-lifetime fairytale ending where two souls unite and become as one. She had stayed with Sarah, who offered her companionship and friendship and a love deeper than she could give in return. She consoled herself with her fiction, where things could be as she dreamed.
Jay knew why Sarah had just popped into her head for the first time in a long time; the only fight they had ever had centered on the beautiful, mysterious stranger. Sarah had found one of the writer's journals and read it. That particular entry had been one of the more explicit fantasies about her dark-haired heroine. Sarah had accused her lover of cheating on her in her heart, if not in deed. Jay had been furious at Sarah for invading her privacy, and after a night during which neither one of them slept but both pretended to, Sarah had apologized. The apology was accepted and they had moved on from there.
That horrible night that Jay almost had been raped had nearly been her undoing in many ways. The attack had brought memories of her childhood back like a herd of thundering horses. It was as if she had been reliving that entire trauma again as she lay there helpless to stop her assailant, and then her dark-haired heroine had shown up and saved her, and had held her and comforted her again. Although Jay had been nearly paralyzed with fear and despair, her body had registered Kate's presence and her soul knew it had found its home.
Awakening after the sedative had worn off in the hospital, she had opened her eyes willing the compelling woman to be there. Instead, it had been ever-dependable Sarah sitting by her bedside. Feeling guilty, Jay had tried hard to hide her disappointment. She had disappeared more and more into her journal and she and Sarah had drifted further and further apart. Sarah had clung desperately to the relationship but by the time they were ready to graduate, even she had known that it was over.
Jay could still hear the anguish in Sarah's voice that last night they had spent together in their dorm room and she had vowed never to put anyone through that pain again. Since then, despite many offers, she had remained true to that vow, categorically refusing to get involved with anyone. Her life had been ordered, neat and tidy, and simple.
Now here she was, standing in her own apartment, having just shared a mind-blowing kiss with the only woman who had the ability to touch her soul and make her fiction come to life. Jay was afraid that she would awaken any second and find that it had all been a dream; she fingered the business card Kate had given her just to be sure it hadn't been.
For years she had believed that the tall, dark stranger who owned her heart would never know it. Jay had resolved to pour her energies into her work, making allowances for friendships and nothing more. She couldn't, and wouldn't, pretend to feelings for someone else that she knew belonged only to the statuesque, blue-eyed woman that she barely knew, and she wasn't much for one-night stands. She had laughed at herself self-deprecatingly more than once, telling herself it was like living some sort of Greek tragedy. But she could no more change her heart than she could change the color of her eyes.
Now...now. She sighed. If she ever doubted what she knew in her soul, the past day had crystallized her feelings with remarkable clarity. "Well, Jamison, you've always believed that things happen for a reason. There's a reason circumstances brought you to Albany and a reason why you turned on the television when you did. This may be your one chance, don't let it pass you by."
Having made that decision, Jay felt more settled and alive than she had in quite some time. Nodding to herself, she moved to her bedroom to change her clothes for her interview with the Governor.
At exactly 2:30 p.m. She was escorted into the Governor's office high up in the World Trade Center. Stepping from behind his desk, he greeted her amiably. "Ms. Parker, it's a pleasure to meet you. I've read some of your work, it's quite good."
"Thank you, Governor Hyland. Coming from you, that's high praise, indeed," the writer smiled easily.
He was a good-looking man: 6'2", with strawberry blond hair and freckles underlining his Irish Catholic heritage. At 48 years of age, he was in excellent physical shape and enjoyed playing weekly basketball games with his State Police protectors and reporters. In the summer, he pitched for an Executive Branch softball team. During her research prior to the interview, Jay had discovered that the Governor was as competitive on a field of play as he was in the political arena; stories about his will to win were legendary.
He motioned her to a pair of winged back chairs across the room. She noted that he did not seem to have suffered any injuries in the explosion. Had it only been the day before? Jay marveled at how time had seemed to lose its relevance in Kate's presence. Then, just as quickly, she admonished herself for letting her mind wander to her friend when she needed to focus on what she was doing.
She fixed the Governor with a concerned look. "Are you all right after what happened yesterday? You weren't injured?"
The Governor, who was well used to journalists feigning real concern or interest or sympathy in order to get information, could read nothing but sincerity in Jay's open face. "No. Fortunately, I was able to escape without a scratch. I wasn't in the building when the second explosion occurred."
The writer leaned forward a bit in her chair. "Your wife must have been so worried."
"Oh, yes. You can bet I got an earful. She heard the first explosion from the mansion several blocks away and immediately called the front gate to find out what it was. It was all the detail assigned to protect her could do to keep her from coming over to the Capitol. I had to go home just to prove to her that I was fine, she wouldn't believe anyone else." He shook his head.
"It must be hard, knowing that danger always exists for you. Do you think about it often?"
"No, but my wife certainly does."
"I can understand that," Jay agreed. "Does her concern change anything that you do or any decisions you make?"
"I try to be considerate and sensitive to her fears, but the truth of the matter is that I have a job to do, and I must do it without reservation. The people are counting on me."
"I bet your wife wasn't too happy about you coming to the office today."
"Oh, you're right about that. She threw a fit. In the end, though, the Governor of the great state of New York can't appear to be cowed by an act of violence. To stay away today and do anything less than carry on the full duties of the office would have been to send the message that terror works. And it would have been disrespectful to those individuals who lost their lives so tragically yesterday. Their deaths will not have been in vain. The good works of this administration will continue, even in the face of acts of cowardice."
"It is obvious, Governor Hyland, that you are a man of deep principles. In that sense this must be a very difficult time for you. I know that the legislature has been debating state funding for family planning services and abortions. I also imagine that yesterday's attack will ratchet up the talk that has been rather loud lately about reinstating the death penalty in New York. I have heard you say on many occasions that, as a deeply religious man, you are morally opposed to both abortion and to capital punishment. And yet, you have gone on record as supporting public funding for abortion and you have said you would sign a capital punishment bill if one were put before you. It must be incredibly tough to reconcile your personal feelings and principles with your professional judgment; I can't imagine having to make those types of choices. Does that ever bother you? Does it make you worry that you might have to abandon your faith to fulfill your role as Governor? Has it ever made you sorry you chose politics as a career?"
The Governor was completely absorbed in the conversation now. This writer seemed genuinely interested in his answers, not just as a reporter, but also as a human being. He had to give Jay credit, she didn't ask run-of-the-mill questions and had a way of making him want to talk about topics near to his heart, but which his advisors wished fervently that he would avoid.
"I think, Ms. Parker, that there are moments in every politician's career when he or she wonders if this is the right path. The sacrifice can be enormous, as you have gleaned. And yes, there are times when the types of decisions to which you have referred keep me up at night. But the rewards far outweigh the price I have had to pay, or may yet have to pay. The amazing opportunity to improve the lives of so many is a balm to my soul. The professional judgments I make, if you will, are arrived at with the conviction that, when it is time for me to be judged, my steadfast desire to help humanity will count heavily in my favor and my individual actions will be weighed accordingly."
"Governor, I know that you are both a student and a scholar of the history of the presidency. It is a topic that has always fascinated me." Jay smiled at him and wrinkled her nose slightly. "I'd be a fool to pass up an opportunity to learn a little something here."
"If I can enlighten you in some way, Ms. Parker, it would be my pleasure."
"I had a history professor once who included as a final exam essay topic the thesis that, at least in the 20th century, governors tend to make better presidents than those who have never served in that position. He claimed that history had borne him out and he cited as an example, Franklin Roosevelt."
"Ooohh that must have been some tough final. How did you answer the question, Ms. Parker and how much time did you have to do it in?"
With an embarrassed shrug Jay answered, "I respectfully disagreed with the hypothesis, citing a list of governors turned presidents whom I thought were less than stellar in the higher office, and an equal number of non-governors whom I thought had done excellent jobs as president. I backed up each choice with facts and events. And, I did it in ten pages in twenty minutes." She looked across at him with something akin to defiance.
"Hmmm. Sounds like you're still carrying some bitterness at the end result. What was your grade on the essay?"
"I got a B minus, it was the only time in that class that I'd gotten anything below an A. It wrecked my average."
The Governor laughed. "I bet you were steamed."
"Yep, I sure was," Jay agreed. "So, do you think he was right?"
"Well, in theory he should have been, but in practice I tend to agree with you..."
"I knew it."
For the next half hour the Governor of New York, a man thought by many to be a likely future presidential candidate, explained at length why governors should be better presidents, but aren't always. It was great stuff. Jay knew that she had gotten what she came for: the human being behind the politician, a deep thinker and philosopher with a pragmatic streak and a keen sense of history.
At 4:00 p.m. the Governor's secretary buzzed him to tell him he would be late for his next appointment if he didn't get going. He appeared to be disappointed that the interview was at an end.
For her part, Jay couldn't believe that an hour and a half had passed. She thanked him for his time and started to excuse herself.
Impulsively Governor Hyland said, "Ms. Parker, my wife and I would love it if you would join us as our guest for the Legislative Correspondents' Association show in Albany. Have you ever been to one?"
"No," Jay answered, caught off-guard by the invitation.
"Well, that settles it then. No individual's life is complete without the experience." There was a smile in his voice. "I'll have my secretary give you the details. My wife will be so pleased to meet you."
"Thank you, sir," Jay said. "I look forward to meeting Mrs. Hyland, as well."
With that, the secretary ushered her out the door.
Kate checked her watch for the millionth time. She had gotten home from the airport with just enough time to give Fred a good scratch, shower and change her clothes before heading to the station. Since arriving, she had been checking facts, following up on leads, and writing copy for the six o'clock broadcast. And thinking about Jay, which brought an unconscious smile to her face, and her eyes to her watch yet one more time. "Yep, right about now," she thought. Then she sighed as yet another street reporter passed by her desk and pretended to be so engrossed in the piece of paper in front of him that he didn't even notice her.
Fame, however fleeting, was a funny thing. The station management, the photographers and the producers had all gone out of their way to congratulate Kate on her performance on the "big three" that morning. Her co-anchor and the reporters who aspired to sit in her chair someday, avoided her like the plague; their jealousy was so obvious she was surprised they literally hadn't turned green. She just shook her head. She had done what she had to do yesterday, not in some quest for glory, but because it was her job, and it was the right thing to do. She didn't care what they thought, she had work to tend to, and a little less than an hour before she had to be on set.
Returning home at 4:45 p.m., Jay opened the door and smiled with relief. She loved her apartment. The location was great: in the heart of Greenwich Village in a beautifully restored brownstone with easy access to the subway. The space was somewhat cramped, as the cost of living in New York City was obscene and this was the best she could afford. Still, she had done wonders with the place and she thought it was both comfortable and quaint.
Her bedroom was in a loft overlooking the living room, which showcased Mission style furniture, like the rest of the rooms. Off of the living room underneath the loft was her office, and a bathroom, and to the right was a small dining area and a reasonably sized kitchen. Racks were hung from the kitchen ceiling with well-worn pots and pans and wine and champagne glasses. The floors throughout were hardwood, and one wall of the living room featured floor to ceiling windows that looked out over a small park.
Climbing to her bedroom, Jay changed into her comfortable clothes, and then walked into her tiny office and deposited her briefcase on the desk. She sat down with the intention of organizing her notes and revisiting background interviews she had done with some of the Governor's close associates and personal friends. Her mind kept straying, though, and her stomach was tied in knots. Telling Kate about her childhood had triggered the fear that something terrible would happen now that she had exploded the secret, just as her father had said it would so many times, so long ago.
At exactly 5 p.m., the buzzer sounded letting her know someone was downstairs in the lobby for her. She frowned, knowing that she was not expecting anyone. She pressed the intercom button and asked who it was: a delivery for her. Hmmm. Jay was no New Yorker by nature, but she was cautious. She asked the delivery person where the package had originated.
"I was told not to ruin the surprise, miss."
"Well, I have no intention of accepting an unidentified package that I was not expecting. So either you tell me where the package is from or who sent it, or you can just turn right back around and take it back with you."
"Umm. I was told that if you gave me a hard time, I was to tell you that it was from a close personal friend of Fred's?" There was a question at the end of his statement, as if to underscore that he didn't get it, either.
"From Fred's friend, huh?" Jay smiled. "Okay, bring it up."
At the sound of the door latch in the lobby being released, the delivery boy shrugged his shoulders and bounded up the stairs to the young woman's apartment. The package was large and somewhat unwieldy and he struggled not to bang into the walls with it.
Jay waited at the door to her apartment. Whereas she had been wary at first, now she was jut flat out curious and excited. What could it be? When she caught sight of the package (she couldn't see the delivery boy behind it except for his legs), her eyes went wide as saucers. "What the...?" She accepted delivery and slid the huge box into her living room. It was bulky, but surprisingly light. There were no markings to indicate where it had come from, nor who had sent it, though the hint the delivery boy had given her had clarified that matter.
Jay grabbed a pair of scissors from her desk drawer and sliced open the tape binding on the box. Her stomach fluttering happily at the anticipation of the surprise; her first reaction was to laugh after she pulled the top flaps back. Then she got a wistful expression on her face. "Awww. That's just too cute for words, Ms. tough anchorwoman."
In the box was a massive cuddly teddy bear. Jay lifted it out of the box and stroked its soft fur; it had such a cute face and a little potbelly that protruded over its plaid shorts. Then she noticed that he had a card pinned to his adorable little vest. It was the same bold, flowing handwriting from the business card that she had removed from her pocket and stared at numerous times since early that afternoon, which prompted a smile.
The card read, "Jay, this guy looks as though he's got a lot of hugs to give, which is exactly what you deserve. Since I couldn't be there in person, I thought he made a pretty good substitute. Thank you again for the gift of your trust. You are a beautiful person and I enjoyed every minute we spent together. I hope we'll have many more. By the way, his name is Theodore E. Bear. Your friend, Kate."
Jay wiped at the tears that leaked out of her eyes. It was as if, from 150 miles away, her friend had seen into her soul, answering her doubts and calming her fears. In her entire life no one had ever been so solicitous or so attuned to her emotions and thoughts. She knew intellectually that Kate could not have known how rattled she was feeling just then, but it felt as though she had.
Closing her eyes and nuzzling against his face, Jay hugged the stuffed animal to her, and her eyes popped wide open. She pulled back a fraction and sniffed at his fur, grinning delightedly. "Oh, Katherine, were you testing him out? You just got caught." Taking another whiff of the traces of Shalimar that clung to her new companion, she knew she would be grilling her big, tough friend about it later. But for right now, she just wanted to enjoy Ted E. Bear's company and the delicious scent that had been bringing her such comfort for so many years. She decided that a nap was definitely in order, and, carrying her buddy, she trundled off to the loft.
Kate was so tired she wasn't sure she could even make it up the stairs. Not counting the brief nap in the limousine and the even shorter shuteye she'd gotten when she and Jay had come back to the house to shower, the anchorwoman had been up for nearly 48 hours straight. Phil had practically had to prop her up to do the 11 o'clock newscast.
It had been a long day, to be sure, but, she mused, there had been some good points. Immediately, Jay's face loomed in her mind's eye, her smile like the sunshine on a brilliantly clear day. Kate wondered for the umpteenth time what Jay was doing right now, if she had enjoyed her surprise, and if she was dead tired, too.
As if she had willed it to happen, the phone rang just as she reached her bedroom. Already knowing whom it would be, Kate grinned broadly, flopping gracelessly onto the bed, and picking up the receiver. "Fred's Pizza Palace."
There was a second's hesitation on the line, and then a throaty laugh. "Yes, I'd like a thick crust with all the fixins'. Oh, but could you hold the anchovies, the olives, the green peppers (they give me gas), the sausage, the meatballs, the onions, the mushrooms, the tomatoes and the artichokes?"
"Sooo, let's see, then. You want a plain cheese pizza with sauce, right?"
"You got it." Jay smiled into the phone.
"Well, Fred could probably make that."
"I'm willing to bet that you can't."
"Hey, I resemble that remark!"
God, thought Jay, it was great to hear her voice. "Hi, Kate. How are you? Did you get home all right? How was your flight? Did you get a hero's welcome? How was the rest of your day?"
"I'm tired, but fine. Yes. Fine. Yes and no. Loooong."
"Ugh," Jay uttered in exasperation, "I've got to learn to start asking you one question at a time."
"Uh huh." Kate's amusement at her friend's mock frustration was obvious.
"Okay," Jay decided. "You want to play, do you? I can do that." She screwed her face up to achieve a serious tone in her voice. "You won't believe what happened to me today a few hours after you left. A mysterious package arrived, no identifying markings, no labels, no return address, no nothing. I try to be very careful about my safety; after all, this is New York City. The delivery guy tried to give me some cock and bull story about the sender not wanting the surprise to be ruined so he wouldn't tell me where the package had come from," she scoffed.
Kate was dead silent for a few seconds. "Gee, how odd. Umm, so, what did you do?"
Jay loved the note of panic in her friend's voice as she tried for reserved nonchalance. "Well, what do you think I did? I turned the guy away; made him take it back. What idiot would accept a big, unmarked box like that without knowing where it had come from? Especially if they hadn't been expecting anything. Can you imagine?"
Kate had a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. "Yeah, what idiot, indeed."
Hearing the note of defeat in her friend's voice, Jay couldn't carry on with the charade any longer. She laughed. "Hah. Gotcha good that time, girl! I love my Ted E. Bear; he's so cute and cuddly. In fact, we took a nap together this afternoon."
Kate felt an unexpected surge of jealousy. "Of a teddy bear, what is that, Kyle?" "You rat."
"Hey, I just want you to know that I can give as good as I get."
"Apparently," Kate had to smile at being taken in by her friend; she had been pretty convincing.
"Seriously, I do love him and that was amazingly sweet of you. When did you do that? I was with you the whole time."
Kate thought about her trip upstairs to use the phone in FAO Schwarz. She had seen the bear sitting in a huge rocking chair on her way to the back of the store. She had been thinking about everything Jay had been through and how courageous she was, and how hard it must have been for her to tell Kate about it. She couldn't imagine what that felt like, and she knew she wanted to do something to comfort her friend. She had hefted the bear experimentally, first checking to make sure she was quite alone. Then she had hugged it to her chest and rubbed her cheek against his face. Yes, he would do quite nicely. She had gone to the store clerk nearby and explained what she wanted done. He had looked at her strangely, but when she pulled an extra fifty dollar bill out of her wallet, he gladly went along with her wishes.
"Let's just say I have many skills." She laughed.
"Um, there is one thing I don't understand about him, though," Jay said.
"How come he smells like you, Ms. tough anchorwoman?"
Uh oohh: Kate knew she had been busted. "She knows what I smell like?" She spluttered and hemmed and hawed, trying to come up with a plausible explanation. After a few seconds, she knew she had been caught. "Well, I couldn't very well entrust just anyone with such an important job, you know, I had to make sure he was up to the task. There was only one way to do that." She said it with as much dignity as she could muster under the circumstances.
Jay imagined her friend scooping up the stuffed animal in the middle of a toy store and hugging it; the sight made her smile. "Careful, something like that will kill your image."
Suddenly serious, Kate said, "It will have been well worth it if it did. I'm so proud of you, Jay, for everything you've accomplished and the person you are. You are very special and words can't express how much it means to me that you would have shared such a vital part of yourself with me. I really do wish I could be the one there hugging you, but, since I can't, I tried for the next best thing; I hope I succeeded."
On the other end of the phone, Jay was so choked up she wasn't sure she could speak. "I'm so glad you're the one I shared it with, Kate. No one has ever made me feel as safe or as understood as you do. I can't tell you what that means to me. And your gift came at just the right moment. I just had been starting to freak out that now that I've exploded the secret, all of my father's dire warnings about terrible things happening would come true. Ted E. and your note chased the demons away. Thank you from the bottom of my heart."
Kate's chest ached at the thought of her friend, alone in her apartment, and afraid. "Nothing bad will happen, Jay, I promise you; especially as a result of choosing not to carry the burden alone any longer. Your father told you those things to scare you into silence. When you are a helpless child, it's easy to believe such lies. But you're not that kid anymore, Jay, and he doesn't have that kind of power."
Feeling the truth of her friend's words in her soul, Jay breathed, "You're right."
"Any time you need to talk or to be comforted, or just not to be alone, I'll be there for you, Jay." More quietly, she added, "If you want me to be, that is."
"I'd love that."
"Are you going to be all right to sleep?" The concern showed in Kate's voice.
"I will be now. And besides, I've got a big old teddy bear to keep me company."
"If you have any trouble, it doesn't matter what time it is, call me. I mean it, Jay." And she did.
"Thanks. Hey, it's Friday, well, actually, Saturday now that I look at the time. What are you doing for the weekend?"
Kate sighed, "I have a lot of leads to track down on the bombing story. It's sort of my baby now, and the news doesn't take the weekend off, as you know. So, while I won't have to anchor this weekend, I'm going to be putting together some new material that I can get through some of my contacts. I'm going to be pretty much flat out. What about you?"
"I have to have my story on my editor's desk by 10 a.m. Monday morning, so I'll be spending my weekend writing. Aren't we just a couple of live wires?"
"Sounds like it. Can I call you tomorrow to see how you're doing, or will that disturb you?" Kate asked hesitantly.
"To quote a very dear friend of mine, 'I've been disturbed for years.'"
"I'd love it if you'd call, Kate. Do you need the phone number?" She gave it to her.
They both hung up somewhat reluctantly, neither wanting to sever the connection. Hugging the teddy bear, Jay took a strong whiff of her friend's perfume, as, 150 miles to the north, Kate snuggled with Fred for a few minutes, then made her way into the bathroom to get ready for some much-needed rest.
On Monday morning the writer caught the subway uptown to turn in her story. Working throughout the weekend, she had taken breaks only to eat, go running, and talk to Kate. The very thought brought an unconscious smile to her face. True to her word, her friend had called Saturday afternoon.
Jay had been in her office, engrossed in some interesting personal stories about the Governor she had collected from her interviews of his longtime friends. She'd been contemplating how many, if any, of the anecdotes to include in her piece when the phone rang, startling her.
"Hey there, I'm looking for the next great American novelist."
Jay chuckled. "Sorry, you must have the wrong number."
"Oh, do you mean to say that Jamison Parker doesn't live there? You know, beautiful blonde, about 5'4" with golden hair and eyes the color of the ocean in the Caribbean?"
Jay blushed. "She thinks I'm beautiful?" "I don't recognize anyone by that description."
"Hi, Jay, how did you sleep?"
"Ted E. kept me great company, and I slept very well as a result, thank you."
"I'm glad." The warmth in Kate's voice soothed Jay without effort.
"How about you? Did you catch up on some sleep?"
"I don't think you can ever recapture lost shuteye, but I logged in a good nine hours, and I feel much better for it. How's the story coming?"
"Pretty well, I think. I'm just trying to balance the man with the Governor at the moment to make sure that the readers are left with a good, well-rounded sense of who he is."
"I have every confidence in you."
"Anything new on the bombing?"
"Unfortunately, just more victims dying and an ongoing search for survivors and bodies; loved ones looking for those who are still unaccounted for. So far there's nothing more on who might have been responsible. The whole town is pretty subdued. Government is the big industry in this area, and almost everybody knew someone who was in the building at the time of the explosions."
"Doesn't sound like an uplifting way to spend a Saturday."
"It's not, but it's my job. Well, I didn't want to bug you, I just wanted to...um...let you know I was thinking about you and say hi."
"Thanks, Kate. I was thinking about you, too." Jay hesitated, and then plowed ahead, "Same bat time, same bat channel tomorrow?"
"Don't tell me you were a Batman fan!"
"Yeah," she admitted sheepishly.
Kate laughed. "I loved the costumes for Batgirl and the Catwoman."
"Oh, and you didn't?"
"I didn't say that, now did I?"
The Sunday conversation was equally easy, light and comfortable, each woman finding out odd little things about the other. It felt great to both of them, getting to know one another better. Kate had discovered that Jay had an affinity for the Green Lantern. Jay, in turn, had learned that Kate was partial to Wonder Woman, Aqua Man, Captain America and the Flash. They had laughed, and teased, and generally managed to provide a much-needed distraction and enjoyed each other's company at the same time.
Jay smiled as she recalled her friend's uncertain parting words. "Would it be all right if I called you tomorrow sometime?" It was almost as if she were unsure of herself, which, in truth, she was.
"I'd love that. I have to go into the office in the morning to file my story and I'll probably be there until late afternoon."
"I get a dinner break around 6:45 p.m. How about then?"
"Until then, Jay. I'll see you around."
"Yeah, see you around."
The screeching of the subway wheels on the tracks brought Jay out of her reverie. She rushed up the steps and into the Manhattan morning with countless other commuters on their way to work. Trish was already there and on the phone when she arrived at the office, so, opening her briefcase, she pulled out the sheaf of papers and dropped them in the middle of her friend's cluttered desk. Rolling her eyes, the editor indicated that she was going to be a while on the phone, leading the writer to motion that she was going to her desk, and the editor could find her there when she was ready.
As it turned out, it was early afternoon by the time Trish stopped in front of Jay's desk sporting a big smile on her face. She had read the writer's piece several hours ago and had gone directly to the managing news editor with it.
When Trish had wanted to give the assignment to Jay, he had balked. He thought she was too young; not seasoned enough or sophisticated enough to do a good job. Trish had argued back at him that while she might not be long on experience, Jay had more talent and potential in her little finger than most of the rest of the writing staff combined. She had a way of disarming even the toughest interviewee and getting material that nobody else could. She also had a real ability to capture the essence of her subject and draw the reader inside. That was rare, and the editor knew that this woman was going to go far if given the opportunity. Reluctantly, the managing news editor had agreed.
Now, Trish stood there looking like the proverbial cat that ate the canary. The story was fantastic; the managing editor had been raving about it. Trish couldn't wait to tell her young friend.
"Hi, Trish." The writer was anxious, but she didn't want to show it. "Something I can do for you?"
"More like something I can do for you."
Blonde eyebrows hiked up into an equally blonde hairline. When the editor said nothing further, even given the silent invitation, Jay couldn't stand it any longer. "Come on, Trish, you're killing me here. What did you think? Was it okay?"
"Nope, it wasn't okay."
"It wasn't?" she questioned, crestfallen, so softly the editor barely heard her.
"Nope. It wasn't okay; it was the best damn cover story I've seen come across my desk in ages, and believe me, girlfriend, that's saying something." The New Yorker grinned for all she was worth.
Jay's head shot up and she stared at her friend as if she'd sprouted wings. "Really?" Her face lit up like fireworks on the 4th of July.
"Really," Trish nodded. "In fact, it was so good, I took it directly to Lou."
It took a second for that to register. "You took my story to the managing news editor? Before you came back to me with suggested changes?" The writer's voice rose with each word. "Bbbut. Are you crazy?"
"Well," the editor scratched her ear, "Lot's of people tell me so. But I know a great piece when I see it." She regarded the young writer seriously. "Jamison Parker, that was fantastic work; truly first rate. In fact, it was so great that I want you to do a follow up story for next week's issue. It may be a cover again, we'll have to wait and see what else develops during the week."
"You...you do?" Jay was numb.
Trish nodded at her with pride, a thought occurring to her: "By the way, you owe me a story, as I recall. Where in the hell were you when I was trying to find you all over that measly little town up there?"
"Oh, that." Jay was still trying to regain her equilibrium. "Well, it's a long story."
The editor parked herself on the corner of the writer's desk, intrigued at the blush that crept up her friend's neck. She folded her arms across her chest. "That's okay. I've got a few minutes."
Seeing that she wasn't going to get out of it that easily, Jay decided to give her friend the short, very tightly edited version. She could feel the heat in her face, and she wasn't ready just yet to share too much about Kate and their friendship with anyone. "When I got into my hotel room, I turned on the television. The news was on and the anchorwoman turned out to be a fellow alumnus; I recognized her immediately, although I hadn't seen her in five years. She hadn't changed a bit." Jay worked hard to school her face not to break into a grin at that. "When the explosion happened, I was getting out of the shower, and I had the television tuned to the news. I saw that she was down at the scene, so I decided to track her down."
It was quiet for a few seconds. "That's it?" Trish's voice was a shrill shriek. "You saw some broad you knew in college and you walked into the middle of bedlam to say hello? Have you lost your mind, girl?"
The writer glanced up sheepishly. "Well, yeah, I figured if I didn't track her down then, I wouldn't be able to find her." Silently Jay was praying that her friend wouldn't think too hard and realize that there was only one reporter at the scene, and it was Kate.
Trish shrugged. Kids these days. "Speaking of the bombing and reporters, that's sort of what your next assignment is."
Jay looked at her editor expectantly.
"There was one reporter that captured the world's attention in this whole thing. She was local, but she's got big time written all over her. Her name is Katherine Kyle. Did you happen to catch any of her coverage?" Trish didn't wait for an answer. She was looking at her notes now, which was a good thing, since Jay practically had passed out at the mention of her friend's name. The editor continued, "We want a full spread on this chick. The angle is something like 'The New Breed of Journalists' or something similar. I think you can find her at WCAP-TV in Albany. She's a news anchor there. You can look up the number." Finally, Trish looked up at the writer. "Can you handle it, kid? 'Cause you're going to have to get started right away, like yesterday, even."
Jay paused before opening her mouth. She wasn't all that sure she was capable of speech at the moment. They wanted her to do a story on Kate? Maybe even a cover story? What she said was, "Of course, Trish, I'll get right on it. I think I know what you're looking for; I might want to shadow her for a few days, you know, see how she works, what impact this story has had on her, talk to her colleagues."
"Right kiddo, sounds like just the ticket. We don't need too much of the personal stuff here; probably won't have room for it. Focus on the career and the professional approach she takes to her work, her philosophy, you know."
"Yep. In fact, you're right, there's no time to waste. I'll try to get up there this evening if I can, start following her right away. Let me guess, you want it on your desk at 10 a.m. next Monday, right?"
The editor just smiled as she walked away and winked at Jay over her shoulder.
As soon as she was out of sight, the writer looked around to make sure that she was alone. Assured that she was, she let out a little whoop and did a happy dance in her chair; this was too good to be true.
Looking at her watch, she noted that it was 1 o'clock. Kate wouldn't have left for the office yet. Taking out the much-thumbed business card from her wallet, Jay dialed her friend's home number. It was picked up on the second ring.
Jay thought she sounded a little distracted. "Hi. Is this a bad time?"
Realizing who it was, Kate ceased all movement and focused on the voice on the other end. "No, it's never a bad time for you, Jay. Are you okay? Is something wrong?" They weren't supposed to talk until later in the day, and the older woman was the one who was supposed to make the call.
"No, no," Jay hastened to assure her tall friend. "Everything's fine; in fact, I think it's pretty great right now."
"Oh yeah?" Kate couldn't help but smile; Jay seemed about ready to jump into the phone. "Why's that?"
"Well, for one thing, the editor and the managing news editor loved my story. Trish said it was the best piece she's seen in ages!" The wonder was clear in the writer's voice.
"That's terrific, Jay, I told you your stuff was awesome; I'm glad to see that others have good taste, as well." The note of pride and happiness was clear even over the phone. "Really, that's great news; we'll have to celebrate sometime, I'll buy you dinner."
Jay hesitated, suddenly unsure of herself. "Well, now that you mention it, there is a part two to this news."
"Hmm, what's that?" She sounded distracted again.
"Kate, are you sure this isn't a bad time?"
"Huh? Oh, no. It's just that I was on the floor wrestling around with Fred and I lost an earring. I'm on my hands and knees just trying to find it before he swallows it or I step on it."
Picturing the scene, Jay took a deep breath and plowed ahead. "They want me to do a related story for next week, it may be another cover, they're not sure yet."
"Yeah, I think so too. Especially since you're the subject of the story." There was a loud thump on the other end of the phone. "Kate, are you all right? Kate?"
"Oh yeah, I'm fine, just lost my balance for a second there; must have been the way I was kneeling." She was busy rubbing her head where she had slammed it on the bed frame. "Let me make sure I understand you correctly. Your bosses, the editors of Time magazine, want you to write a story about me. Does that about sum it up?"
"You're not making this up to get one over on me, are you?"
The writer was charmed by her friend's befuddlement. "Nope."
"Are you going to give me more than one word answers?"
Jay smiled mischievously. "You never do."
"That's different." Rolling her eyes, Kate sighed in exasperation. "Jamison, please tell me more details," she said in her most contrite voice.
"That's better," Jay gloated at this small victory and explained to her friend what she wanted to do.
By the time she was finished, Kate had already begun to calculate the angles. She would be getting to spend 24 hours a day with Jay, at least for the next few days. Well, that would be tough to take. She smiled an altogether evil smile.
Jay was saying, "So, I can be there in a few hours, get myself settled in the hotel, and then come over to the station."
"What?" Kate practically screamed into the receiver. "There's no way you're coming to my town and staying in a hotel. You can stay with Fred and me. In the guestroom," she added belatedly, rushing on, "We have plenty of space, as you know, and it would be much easier for you to study your subject."
"I don't want to impose, Kate."
"It's no imposition at all, and I won't hear another word about it. How about if you catch the 3:15 p.m. Amtrak and I'll pick you up at the train station on my dinner break? The timing should be just about right and we can get a bite to eat and I'll take you back to the station with me."
Jay didn't even want to say no, so she didn't.
Phil had beckoned to Kate as soon as she had arrived at the station. "Hey. How are you feeling?" The producer was almost never serious, so his tone took her by surprise.
"I'm all right, Phil. You know me, tough as they come, a few cuts and stitches aren't going to stop me."
"Yeah, I know. But I have a right to worry, too, okay?"
"There's nothing to worry about, friend."
"Good, 'cause the next few days aren't going to be easy."
"Why don't I like the sound of that?"
"The brass wants you to put together a one-hour special on the 'Crisis at the Capitol'. They want you to talk to the families who lost loved ones, and people who were in the building at the time. They want it to be a gritty, moving piece. And they want it to air on Thursday." At the last, he couldn't even look her in the eye.
She let out a slow breath. "Geez, they don't ask for much, do they?" she asked rhetorically. Her wheels were already spinning. "I get to name my crew, including the cameraman, the editor, and the producer."
"Am I expected to anchor at the same time? I can't put together a quality program and do my regular job properly."
"They want you to stay visible, Kate. Heck, you're the hottest thing since Miss America lost her crown for posing for explicit lesbian photos!"
The anchorwoman glanced sharply at Phil, who, in his oblivion, was busy eyeing one of his cuticles. Nah, he couldn't know. It wasn't that Kate wasn't comfortable with who she was. It was more that being a woman in her business was difficult enough; being an out lesbian when she was as recognizable as she was simply was out of the question. She would have been fired in a heartbeat and blacklisted in the industry. That was one of the reasons why she had been so careful about who she slept with. That and the fact that she couldn't find anyone who could keep her interest or capture her heart.
She thought about that. In college, she and Jen had become lovers when they both served on the ski patrol. It had been a mutually satisfying arrangement: good sex, and someone to have some fun with. Since her lover hadn't been a student and lived on the other side of town from the campus, there were few complications. Kate preferred it like that, since it allowed her to keep her private life just that. They had things in common like their love of skiing and hiking. Jen knew the area like the back of her hand, since she was a forest ranger by day, doing the EMT thing on a volunteer basis.
Everything had been going fine, or so Kate thought, until the night that Jay had been attacked. The EMT had taken one look at her lover's face as she sat there with the small blonde in her arms, and she had known that her secret dreams of having a real future with Kate were dead.
Jen had never told Kate how much she loved her, or how much she wanted to make a life with her. Instinct had warned her that such declarations would send her lover running in the opposite direction, so the ranger had kept things light and fun, even though her heart had demanded more. The expression on the senior's face as she had held Jay so tenderly, had told Jen more than Kate ever would: she understood that her love would never be returned the way she wanted it to. It was as if Kate's heart already belonged to this petite stranger.
Jen hadn't been able to handle knowing that she could never have her lover on her terms. Shortly after that incident, she had broken it off with Kate, explaining tearfully that, much as she wanted to be able to, she couldn't erase from her memory the way Kate had looked at that virtual stranger. She had been waiting two years to see that look directed at her, and it had never happened. Now she knew it never would.
Kate had been baffled by her lover's reaction. She had never realized how deeply Jen had cared for her, nor could she fathom what "look" the ranger was talking about when she spoke of that night. She wondered if it had been because she had asked Jen to follow up on Jay's condition that night and the next day, but couldn't understand why that should have bothered the EMT; shouldn't she have cared what happened to the girl?
Of course, in the years since, she had tried hard not to examine too closely the reasons why she had insisted on keeping tabs on Jay and the reason why, whenever she heard something about the writer or read one of her articles, it made her stomach flip and brought a smile to her lips.
Now there was no denying what Kate felt; she had known it the second she had looked up from her seat on the bench across from the Capitol to see Jay standing in front of her. She had been glad to be sitting, because the jolt in her guts would have been enough to bring her to her knees. No one else had ever come close to making her feel that way before. It was terrifying and exciting at the same time, and Kate had no intention of running away.
To Phil she said, "Fine. Then at the very least I want to name the copywriter for my stuff so that I don't end up looking like an idiot on the air."
"Done," the producer promised, relieved that she hadn't put up more of a fight.
"Oh, and buddy," the tall woman towered over him as he sat behind his cluttered desk, "I think you should know that Time magazine is doing a feature on me for next week's issue; sort of a 'New Breed of Journalist' type of thing. There's going to be some backlash, I'm sure, but I expect you to see that the writer who will be putting the piece together is given full access to anything she wants and is treated like royalty. Right?" She growled the last.
"Anything you want, Kate."
"Good." She walked away to begin planning the special.
Making her way to her desk, Kate was surprised to find it papered with phone messages from family members of people lost in the blast who wanted to talk to her and from people who had been in the building at the time.
Returning the first few messages, the pattern became clear to her: the media was crawling all over these poor folks like vultures, leaving them feeling overwhelmed. They had seen Kate's coverage, had watched her run back into the ruins to help the injured. They only wanted to talk to her; the rest of the media be damned. She made appointments to visit one of the victims and one of the families tonight, and more tomorrow. By the 4 o'clock story meeting, she had returned every phone call and made arrangements to see all of them; these interviews would form the backbone of her special.
The 6 o'clock newscast was a blur, as Kate had too many things swirling around in her mind. Although her performance was flawless, it was unlikely that she remembered a single story. As soon as the red light went out, the anchorwoman bolted from her chair and hustled down the corridor from the set to the newsroom, grabbing the keys off her desk and flying out the door.
Making her way to the inbound platform just as the train from Grand Central Station pulled in, she watched anxiously until she saw a familiar blonde head pop out of the business class car. With three strides and without thought, she met Jay as her feet hit the platform, catching her up and spinning her around. Even as she thrilled to the greeting the writer's face turned beet red.
She pulled back a little in the circle of the taller woman's arms. "Yikes, how am I supposed to stay professionally detached with a hello like that!" There was a note of teasing in Jay's voice, but also a kernel of truth, which Kate heard without difficulty. She dropped her arms to her sides and quickly took a step back, giving her friend some space. The rebuke had stung a little, even as gentle as it was, but the anchorwoman understood what the writer was telling her: this was business.
"Of course. I'm sorry, Jay, I guess I got carried away."
Her friend looked like a spanked puppy and Jay couldn't stand it. Achieving distance from this amazing woman was the last thing in the world she wanted to do. "No, Kate. That was the best greeting I've ever gotten; I'm thrilled. I'm the one who should be sorry."
"Forget it," she shrugged. "I hope you're hungry, because I've got a great place picked out for dinner."
Jay noticed the abrupt change of subject and the fact that her friend had put about three feet of distance between them, but let her get away with it for now. "Sweetie, I'm always hungry," she said with a laugh.
As they made their way out of the station, Jay couldn't help but notice the stares that her companion was getting. There were some wide-eyed looks of recognition, like those that might accompany the sighting of a celebrity, which, she reminded herself, Kate was. And then there were some folks, mostly men, who turned to watch the blue-eyed woman simply because she was breathtaking. What amused Jay about all of this was that her friend appeared to be completely ignorant of all of the attention she was getting.
Dinner was at Sam's, an out-of-the-way Italian restaurant on the outskirts of the city. The food was fabulous and Jay loved that everyone catered to her companion as if she were royalty. The chef came out to make sure that their meals were satisfactory, the owner's came over to make sure the service had been good, and the bartender sent over free sodas, knowing Kate was still working.
Jay kidded her friend gently about the treatment she was receiving, and Kate blushed an appealing shade of pink and mumbled something about this being one of her favorite restaurants.
From dinner, the anchorwoman drove them back to WCAP, where Gene and Phil were waiting with a station car; she made the introductions, explaining teasingly to Jay that she'd been given her pick of a crew, and, motley as they were, this was it. Jay thought she might recognize the cameraman as the man her friend had hugged at the scene of the explosion that night, and she knew the name Phil from her friend's phone conversations with him, first at the doctor's office and later in the Green room. If Kate had hand-selected them, she must have thought very highly of their work. The writer made a note to herself to get each of them aside and talk to them about their co-worker.
Kate did not miss the appreciative looks both Gene and Phil gave Jay when they thought no one was paying attention. While she admired their taste, she was surprised to find herself feeling both protective and a bit jealous. But this was no time for that, this was business, after all.
She already had filled Jay in on the parameters of her assignment and how she had spent her afternoon. Allowing as how this would be great material for her story, the writer asked if it would be okay to come along on the interviews. Kate agreed, as long as the families were comfortable with the arrangement.
The first visit was to a man who had received burns to his hands and arms and suffered a broken leg. The anchorwoman remembered his face as one of the unfortunate folks who had been trapped on the first floor under the rubble of the second blast; she had helped to free his leg that night. As soon as she walked into the room his face lit up with a smile. She had made the crew and the writer wait outside for a minute to make sure that the man was okay with being taped and with Jay's presence. He enthusiastically agreed, and she motioned the three stragglers into the room.
While Gene set the camera up, the burn victim gestured to Jay to approach the bed. In a conspiratorial stage whisper he told her, "Katherine saved my life, you know. She was amazing; I've never seen a woman that strong. She moved that marble pillar like it was made of Styrofoam. I've thanked God for her every day since," his voice choked with emotion and tears threatened to leak out of the corner of his eyes. "She's an angel."
The writer smiled at the man gently and patted his shoulder, thinking to herself, "I know what you mean."
The interview didn't take very long, the anchorwoman managing to get her subject to take her through his actions up until the point of the explosion and his thoughts once he knew what had happened. It was poignant and emotional, and powerful: just what she had been looking for.
The group thanked the injured man, Kate lingering behind at his request for a more personal goodbye. Hugging her, his eyes moist, he thanked her for her strength and courage in the face of danger, telling her she would always be his angel. She assured him it was nothing anyone else wouldn't have done, but he knew differently.
When they gathered outside in the parking lot, Phil looked at his watch and then at Kate questioningly: it was 9 o'clock. It would be up to her how close she was willing to cut it to get back to the station and get ready for the 11 o'clock broadcast. She told him they could fit in one more interview.
Ten minutes later they were standing outside a tidy little home located in one of the quieter sections of the city. Kate knocked on the door, the others hanging back a little. She introduced herself, explaining who was with her and asking if they might come in. The woman of the house, a short, stocky brunette with graying temples, ushered them all into a neat but well-used living room.
She and her husband sat on the couch and motioned Kate and the others to take seats on the loveseat and recliner. As soon as they were seated and Gene had the camera rolling, the couple began to cry. Wiping his eyes after a few moments, the man looked up at Phil and Gene, finally settling his gaze on Jay.
"You'll have to forgive my wife and me, you see, our Joey just died this morning. He was only eight years old."
There was a stunned silence in the room. Kate motioned to the cameraman to turn it off. Crossing the room, she knelt before both of the grieving parents. From where she was sitting, Jay could see tears in her eyes. "I didn't know, I'm so sorry. He seemed so strong. I want you to know that he was very brave in there; he didn't cry at all, and even smiled. He told me how much he was looking forward to going to a baseball game with you. I don't know what to say."
"Ms. Kyle, we wanted to thank you from the bottom of our hearts." They each had a hold of one of Kate's hands, but it was the wife who spoke this time. "Joey was so excited that he got a chance to meet you, it was all he talked about. He told us how you told him stories and kept him from being afraid. You were a great comfort to him and for that we are more grateful than we can say." The woman turned to Jay. "We want to make sure you put in your story what an angel Ms. Kyle was. We want you to tell that story to the world so that everyone will know that she was a hero to our little boy."
"I will," Jay promised. She was so proud of her friend at that moment. She marveled at Kate's sensitivity and willingness to sacrifice the story rather than exploit the family's grief. And she began to understand a little bit about the scope of what this incredible woman had done that night.
They bid their farewells, Kate taking down the information about the funeral, which was to be Wednesday morning; she wanted to be there.
Once they were back in the car, the producer complained, "Kate, we can't shut the camera down when it gets emotional like that or we won't have any material to work with. That was great stuff."
"It's my call, Phil." Blue eyes flashed dangerously. "And there is no way in hell that I'm going to take advantage of pain like that just to get a story. It was too personal, too raw. For God's sake, the kid just died this morning. Gene and I are going to get some footage of the funeral on Wednesday, don't worry."
Phil wisely didn't answer and the remainder of the short ride to the station was made in silence. Once inside, the anchorwoman went directly to her desk to look over the copy for the 11 o'clock newscast. The writer took that opportunity to pull Gene aside and talk to him about her subject.
It quickly became quite clear to Jay that the cameraman was in love with Kate; it was written all over his face and in the way he spoke about her. The writer felt a rising surge of jealousy and fought hard to keep it from showing. Gene had been working with her friend since she first came to the station, and he shared many stories with her about some of the more interesting assignments they'd been on. Some of them were humorous, and some were downright horrifying, like the explosion. When they were through talking, Jay felt she had a much better sense of Kate as a journalist.
At 10:56 p.m., Kate came over to where Jay was grilling one of her favorite editors. Leaning down menacingly toward the diminutive tape jockey she said, "No telling tales out of school or I'll have you back cutting commercials for toilet paper and tampons." The editor only laughed and winked at Jay. Turning, the anchorwoman said, "If you want to see the magic of television, you'd better come with me now."
Obediently, Jay rose and followed her subject through the labyrinth of offices and corridors to the set. Kate showed her to a seat just out of camera range and gave her an earpiece so that she could hear what the anchorwoman heard. From that vantage point, she could watch the anchors, the director and producer in the booth off to the side, the cameras and the teleprompters. The writer watched the newscast unfold in wonder, as each member of the team did his or her job and the end result appeared to be seamless.
Although Jay knew that her friend had been shaken deeply by the earlier visit with Joey's family, there was no sign of it in her performance. She marveled as Kate looked directly into one camera while reading without seeming to be, then shifted to another without losing the thread of her thought, all the while the director was relaying instructions into her ear. The writer couldn't understand how she could keep track of it all.
On the breaks, new pieces of copy were handed to the anchors and instructions given as to where to insert the words and what to delete to keep the newscast on time. The anchors were also informed whether the newscast was running over or under time at any given point and whether they would have to speed things up, drop things, or fill time. Reporters came and went on the set, along with the meteorologist and the sportscaster. All in all, it was a whirlwind of activity.
When it was over, Jay let out a breath she hadn't known she'd been holding. Kate joked around with some of the crew and then came to get her friend. "Well, what did you think?" she asked as she took the earpiece out of her ear, and collected Jay's as well.
"I think you're the most amazing person I've ever met." Getting no response except for a single raised eyebrow, she added, "Objectively speaking, of course."
"Of course," Kate laughed. "What do you say we call it a night? I'm beat and Fred is so excited that you're coming he broke out a new tennis ball."
"Who could turn down an enticing prospect like Fred waiting with a nice, slimy ball?" Jay threw her head back and chortled.
True to form, the playful Golden was waiting at the door for his mistress and her affectionate friend, tennis ball in mouth. As soon as his mother had crossed the threshold, he began weaving in and out of her legs, his tail wagging, all the while making noises that sounded like Chewbacca, the Wookie from Star Wars.
Jay shook her head. "What is that racket?"
The tall woman looked at the 73 pounds of dog fur between her legs. "Fred, apparently your friend doesn't know talking when she hears it." She paused while the beast continued his welcome home ritual. "What's that?" She bent her ear to him. "We should forgive her this time? You're too easy, buddy." She gave him a few more scratches in just the right places and sent him on to the next hapless victim.
Jay quickly got the idea that if she didn't make space between her legs for Fred, he was going to do it for her. "You are too much, my boy." To her human friend she said, "So it's okay for him to get between my legs on the second date, but not to kiss me on the first date? What kind of manners are you teaching this teenager?"
Kate laughed and pushed her guest ahead of her into the kitchen, wisely choosing not to answer. "Are you hungry, or thirsty?"
"Neither, just whipped."
"Mmm, me too, it's been a heck of a long day. May I show you to your quarters, m'lady?"
"Why, yes, madam, that would be lovely." Jay let her friend guide her by the elbow upstairs to the guest suite, where she deposited her suitcase.
"I hope you'll find the accommodations at this hotel more than satisfactory, miss. There is a customer service survey that you can fill out at the end of your stay so that we can work to improve our performance. Should you need anything, please feel free to call the front desk."
Her guest smiled. "Has anyone ever told you you're a nut?"
"Yes," her companion deadpanned, "But no one who has lived to tell about it. Now, about the activities available to you at this resort...tomorrow morning...errr, make that this morning, she said glancing at her watch, "At 8:00 a.m. sharp the workout facilities will be open in the basement. At exactly 9:01 a.m. a run will commence from the front steps. Breakfast is served, should you choose to skip the continental breakfast, at approximately 10 a.m. in the main kitchen. You may shower at your leisure."
"Wow. I guess this really is a full-service hotel."
"You have no idea," Kate grinned wickedly at her friend and winked.
"No," Jay thought, "But I'm dying to find out." Out loud, she said, "Is there a personal fitness trainer that goes with the workout and run?"
"Of course. What kind of second rate dive do you think we're running here?"
"Well then, all of those activities appeal to me, so I guess that means I'll be at the gym doors when they open at 8."
"My able assistant and I look forward to your presence. Until then, please enjoy the hospitality and sleep well." The mistress of the house turned on her heel, summoning Fred, who had made himself quite comfortable on the floor at the side of the bed. Reluctantly, with a sidelong glance in his new friend's direction, he followed his human out of the room.
In her own room, Kate shed her clothes as she headed to the bathroom. She splashed her face with ice-cold water, hoping that would cure her of the fervent desire to kiss Jay senseless. She wasn't sure how she was going to make it through these next few days, keeping "professional distance" from that gorgeous woman down the hall was proving to be damn near impossible for her.
Still, she was determined to play this by Jay's rules, and she had no intention of inviting any more rejections of her affectionate overtures. She was surprised, truthfully, at how much that gentle rebuke had hurt. Shaking her head to clear it, she set the alarm for 5:15 a.m. It was 12:25 a.m. now, and it was going to be a short night for her, but she had an appointment to keep at 6 a.m. and she couldn't be late.
Down the hall, Jay finished unpacking her clothes and toiletries. Biting her lip, she had to fight hard the urge to sneak down the hall and crawl into bed with the blue-eyed knockout she just couldn't seem to get enough of. No, she didn't think that would qualify as "professional detachment" somehow; instead, she took a quick cold shower and put on her sleepwear, going to the bed and turning down the covers. What she found there caused her to laugh out loud in delighted surprise.
Sitting underneath the covers were three original issue Green Lantern comic books and a flashlight. The note taped to the first cover read: "In case you have trouble sleeping, I thought you might enjoy these. Sweet dreams, princess. See you in the morning. K."
"That woman is just too much. Is there anything she doesn't think of?" Jay scooped up the comics, turned on the flashlight, turned out the light and settled down to read "The Adventures of the Green Lantern."
Continued - Part 3
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