Disclaimer: This is my first attempt at writing an Uber story. Itís no accident that the main characters resemble a certain other couple that we all know and love. But at least their owners canít sue me!

Violence: Heck no!

Subtext: Hey, wasnít that something people wondered about in those "other stories". Well, I had Maintext in those, but nothing graphic. This is my first attempt to put a little spice in my stories. So okay, I might not be too good at it, but I tried. J If you freak out at the idea of two woman who love each other, then please go away now.

About Me: Today is my Birthday, and I am 51 years old. Still very much a proud member of the Xenite community! I think that my whole life, Iíve unconsciously been searching for where I belong. And I have found out in this last year, thanks to finally finding my Soulmate. She has given me reason to live, to hope, to dream of the future--- and I have never been happier.

Thank You: To Mary D at AUSXIP who accepted me as one of her Bards. It was such a joy to meet you at the Pasadena Convention. I owe you so much. And you were the first person to call my Soulmate "My Partner". You could see it, and that made us very happy. To Laura at WHITESHADOW, who has also posted all my work, and created some beautiful things for me---thanks my dear friend. And to Ginny---my Partner--- I love you. Always and Forever.

If you read this story and would like to send me comments, please feel free. I can be reached at RoseXena@aol.com

 

 

 

An Opened Heart

By Rose Corsaro

April 3, 2003

 

Mackenzie Crawford flipped over the sign in the window to read "CLOSED" to all who might approach the door. She sighed, and leaned the back of her tall lanky frame against the cool wood.

Anyone looking at the tall woman would be immediately taken by her near waist length black hair drawn into a poneytail, the wispy bangs that hung over her forehead, and her piercing sky blue eyes. Dressed in form fitting black jeans, a crisp blue shirt, and a light grey blazer, she was quite a striking figure.

"We had a good day today, Mac," came a cheerful voice from across the room. Mackenzie Crawford blinked past the tables and shelves of books in her rustic looking bookstore. Her eyes settled on a portly, middle aged woman who stood smiling next to the cash register.

Macís full red lips drew into a tired, but contented smile, as she nodded. "Yea, we did, Helen." She pushed herself away from the door and walked wearily toward the counter. "For two days before Christmas. Good to see weíll make it in the black again this year."

The older woman grinned as she began to empty the cash drawer into a tan money bag. "Mac, youíve been in the black for 5 years now. When are you gonna admit to yourself that youíre a success?"

"The store is a success, Helen," the tall woman corrected. She had owned and operated the bookstore called Quill and Scroll for five years now, having bought the floundering business from a man who had no business sense or a sense for what the public was interested in. Mac had turned it around in less than a year, with the help of her wonderful right arm, Helen. She had needed someone to take care of the financial books, and Helen had answered her ad in the paper. More than a bookkeeper, Helen had become saleswoman, assistant buyer, and dear friend.

Helen zipped the money bag and started toward the rear of the store. "You are the most stubborn woman in the world, Mackenzie Crawford!" she chided.

"Why donít you leave that for tomorrow and get a move on."

Helen looked at the bag and then at her younger boss. "Well, I could use the time to get some last minute things for the grandkids."

"Go," Mac said waving her off. "Enjoy."

"Now I know why I put up with you," Helen laughed. "Thanks Mac. Iíll lock the money in the safe. See you in the morning."

The black haired woman grinned. Helen indeed did put up with her many moods, some of which were not always good. And she never complained. In a lot of ways, Helen was like the Mother she had lost so many years ago.

A sudden knock at the door brought her back to the present, and she turned and frowned at the intrusion. "Weíre closed!" she yelled at the silhouette standing outside the door. There was another knock, and Mac grumbled "What is it with people---if they canít read the sign, how can they read a damn book!" She stormed to the door, unlocked it, and opened it saying sternly, "I said weíre closed!" Macís mouth snapped shut as she looked at the woman standing outside in the cold evening air.

She was about 25 years old. A good ten years younger than Mac. She was a short, slight thing with short blond hair and the greenest eyes Mac had ever seen. And even bundled up in a blue nylon parka, she looked like she was freezing.

"Please," said this woman in the most panic stricken tone Mac had ever heard, "I need a present for someone, and the party is tonight. I thought Iíd make it here in time. Canít I come in? I wonít keep you long."

One of Macís black eyebrows arched menacingly. "Havenít you ever heard of shopping early?" The young blonde seemed to be shaking from the cold. She was not wearing a hat or gloves or boots, despite the fact that it had to be well below freezing, and there was a foot of snow on the ground. "Not only canít she read, she doesnít know enough to dress for the winter!"

The blonde shivered, and nodded. "I know, Iím hopeless. Please?"

There was something about her admission that made Mac smile. This strangerís voice had a lightness to it. And the look on her face was begging for the bookstore owner to take pity on her. She backed away from the open door and swept her right arm, inviting the woman inside. The little blondeís face lit up, and a beautiful warm smile crossed her lips as she hurried into the bookstore. Mac felt something stir deep inside that she hadnít felt in years. And it startled her. The blonde rubbed her hands together as Mac closed the door and turned to face her.

"SoÖÖwhat are you looking for?" Mac asked, casually hooking her thumbs in the front pockets of her jeans.

The blonde unzipped her parka, and Mac noticed that she was indeed slim, but she looked like she knew the value of exercise. The turtleneck sweater she was wearing accented her trim waist, and small but ample breasts. The color was a Christmas green. It went perfect with her eyes, and her straw colored hair. "Sheís got a lot going for her," Mac mused.

The blonde glanced around the store quickly, almost in a panic to finish as fast as possible and get out before this woman took back her kindness and tossed her out. "I, I was thinking of somethingÖ..well, itís for a friend of mine. Well, actually, Iím hoping weíll be more than friends after tonight."

Mac felt her heart sink momentarily. "All the good ones are always taken," She broke her gaze with the short haired blonde. "Male or female?"

"What?"

"Your friend. Male or female."

The blonde frowned. "Well, male, of course."

Mac nodded. "Of course." She moved away toward the center of the store. "Interests? Hobbies?"

"AhÖÖthe usual. Sports stuff."

"Oohh----an intellectual!" she thought flatly. She pointed to a table towards the rear of the store. "Try there." And she watched as the blonde walked briskly to where she was pointing.

Mac turned her back on the young woman and began to straighten up some of the piles of books on various tables. She glanced back at the woman, who already had a book in hand and was walking toward her, stopping briefly to look at some of the books on other tables.

"Youíve got some beautiful books here," she said.

"Well, I specialize in hard to find subjects and rare books," Mac stated somewhat proudly. She took the book from the younger womanís hand as it was extended. "Golf Courses of the WorldÖÖ.Oh, that sounds exciting!"

The blonde fished in the pockets of her dark brown wool trousers and pulled out some rumpled bills as Mac rang up the sale. "Are you open tomorrow?"

Mac nodded. "Until 3:00." Tomorrow was Christmas Eve, afterall.

"I want to come back and look some more----when youíre open next time." And she flashed the most beautiful smile Mac had seen in many a year.

Trying to keep her composure, Mac returned her change and slipped the book into a bag. "I hope your friend likes the book," she said, unable to control a smile.

The blonde heaved a heavy sigh. "Yea---me too. Hey, thanks a lot for doing this for me, MrsÖ..?"

"Crawford, Mackenzie Crawford. And itís not ĎMrsí." Mac felt once again drawn in by those magnificent green eyes. "And you are?" she asked, hoping not to seem too forward.

The blonde extended her hand. "Dana Byrne. Nice to meet you."

Mac accepted the handshake and found it to be strong for someone so small. And her cold hand was now very warm indeed. "You too. Hope youíll stop in again someday."

Dana tossed back her short blonde head and laughed. "Yea---during visiting hours next time. See you." And she quickly zipped up her jacket and dashed out of the store like a woman on a mission.

Mac leaned both hands on the counter and tried to come to grips with what had just taken place. "A stranger knocks on your door and you get all weak in the knees. Get a grip, Mac. You donít need this. Not now. Not again." She walked over to the door, made sure that it was locked, and pulled down the shade this time. "And certainly not someone who is out to catch a boyfriendÖÖwith a book on golf!" For some reason THAT made her laugh. She had a good strong laugh, when she let it out. Which hadnít been too often lately. Ah, well, at least she knew that she hadnít died inside completely. In a way, that was a good sign, even if it was just for a moment.

Mac switched off the lights in the bookstore, and walked toward the back room to retrieve her coat. It was past time to go home, but it didnít matter. Home was just an empty apartment. At least she had made someone happy today. And for some reason, once again she smiled.

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Mackenzie Crawford sat curled up on the beige sofa in the living room of her modest one bedroom apartment. The sofa was the largest piece of furniture in the small room, but she had always liked having a large cushy sofa to lay on or sit on as the mood struck. There was one other chair, a lounger/rocker of the same beige color, but Mac rarely sat in it.

There were a few tables and lamps, and an old rolltop desk that had been handed down from her grandmother. It wasnít a fancy place, but it was all that Mac needed. Even when she had not been alone, the apartment had been plenty big enough.

It was Christmas Eve, and sitting in her grey sweatsuit, she leaned her head against the back of the sofa and closed her eyes. The Christmas music on the stereo was playing softly. It was the only sign in the room that this was a special night. She tried so hard not to dwell on the past, but at times like this, it was so difficult. The holidays held too many special meanings for her. Even after all these years.

She didnít want them to come, but they did: the voices from the past invading her thoughts. It was times like this that she couldnít keep them away.

"You have to promise me, my Love. You have to promise that you wonít spend your life alone. Donít close your heart."

"Jill, donít do this."

"Promise, damn it! How can I let go if you donít?"

"I donít want you to go."

"Mac, it hurts too much. I canítÖ.."

"Jill, donít cry. I promise. Iím here for you, my dear one."

"Iíll always love you."

"Always and Forever."

"Always and forever," she repeated aloud, wiping the tears from her face with the sleeve of her sweatshirt. Mackenzie Crawford rose heavily from the sofa, and shut off the stereo. Even after all these years, it was so hard. So hard. Strong shoulders drooped, she walked toward the bedroom, pausing only to look at the picture on the table before she turned out the light. The smiling face of a thin, brown haired woman greeted her. Brown eyes twinkling and shining with love. "Merry Christmas, Jill," she said, touching the picture carefully. And Mackenzie Crawford went off to bed alone.

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Christmas Day came and went, and the world seemed to be settling back down to itís less frenzied state. Even the weather seemed to be cooperating. It hadnít snowed for almost a week, and what had been on the ground had shrunk considerably thanks to temperatures slightly above freezing.

At the Quill and Scroll, life had become considerably less hectic. The after-Christmas returns and exchanges had been made, and the monthly statements balanced. The store was going to finish up the month once again in the black. Better yet, this had been a very successful year, indeed.

Mac ambled around the store straightening the tables of books. She was a bit of a perfectionist when it came to keeping the store looking sharp, but to Helen, this was beyond perfection. As she sipped a cup of coffee by the cash register, she called out to her boss, "The books arenít moving on their own, Mac. Or are you developing OCD?"

"Iím not obsessive/compulsive, Helen," the black haired woman said sighing. "Iím bored!"

"Mac, you think youíd be glad for the chance to relax." Helen took another sip of her coffee. "I sure am."

Mac couldnít help but smile at her employee and dear friend. "You know me, Helen. I need to keep busy."

The portly, middle aged woman with graying hair returned the smile warmly. Mackenzie Crawford had given her a job when others considered her too old, too plain, too heavyset. Over the past five years, she had grown to love her as if she were her own daughter. "I know what you need, and it isnít to keep re-arranging those books."

Mac released a heavy sigh, walked over to the counter where Helen stood, and sat her tall well toned frame on a stool. "Helen, you know I get like thisÖÖ."

"Isnít it past time to let go, Honey?" she asked quietly. "You promised her, afterall."

The dark haired woman looked at her with sad blue eyes. "I donít know how," she whispered, her normally strong voice cracking with emotion.

It was the sound of the doorbell chimes that shook them both back to reality. Mac spun around on the stool to face the door, and felt her breath catch in her throat as she saw the short good looking blonde unzipping her parka. Her actions did not go unnoticed by Helen, who looked from the blonde to Mac and back again.

"Welcome to the Quill and Scroll," said Helen cheerfully. "Can we help you?"

She smiled at the woman, then turned her gaze to Mac. "Hi, I said Iíd come back and look around. Is it okay?"

Mac stood slowly. "Thatís why weíre here. Dana---isnít it?" "As if I could have forgotten."

The blonde strode forward and nodded, her hair bouncing as she walked. "Yep. And youíre Miss Crawford."

A smile spread across her lips. "Iím Mac, and this is Helen."

Dana thrust out her hand to the elderly woman, who shook it warmly. "Nice to meet you, Helen."

Helen noticed several things immediately. Dana was cute, well dressed in her blue wool slacks and light blue sweater, had a firm handshake, and Mac seemed to have gone into a trance. This was something she hadnít seen her friend do sinceÖÖwellÖ..for a long time.

Mac tried to keep her composure, but there was something about this woman that was unsettling. She felt emotions stirring inside that she hadnít felt in so long. And she wasnít at all sure she wanted to feel them. "Sheís straight, dammit. Donít do this to yourself!"

Dana looked at her with her beautiful green eyes and said cheerfully, "So how was your holiday?"

Mac was brought back to the reality of the loneliness of her life. "Oh, fine. How about you? Did your friend like the book?"

"Oh, yea. But it didnít lead to anything. We went out. Decided to just stay friends. Story of my life. Iíve got lots of friends." She laughed, and the sound was so melodic that Mac felt she was hearing a voice from her past. For a moment she broke her gaze from the woman, wanting to look anywhere but into her eyes. "Get a grip, Mackenzie!" she scolded herself.

Helen was amazed at the scene playing out before her. The tall, stoic woman she had known for five years was looking like an insecure schoolgirl. She was shuffling her feet nervously, and trying to avoid looking at the blonde standing only feet from her. "Oh Macky, my dear, I hope you know what youíre doiní." She thought to herself.

"So, are you looking for anything in particular?" asked Mac, trying to keep up the conversation.

Dana looked around the store. "Well, you said you have books on ancient history. I was hoping to take a look at them. I love Greek history."

"So do I," said Mac, her face breaking into a warm smile. "I think I know the myths of Greece by heart."

"SoÖ.can I see them?" asked Dana excitedly. "Iím off work today and Iíve got lots of time to browse."

Mac tilted her head toward the back corner of the shop. "Come on. Iíll help if you want some advice."

"Great." Said Dana, following her as she headed to the ancient Greek section of the store.

Helen sighed. She found herself wishing there would be a horde of customers pour into the store. Anything to get Mac away from this woman. She seemed safe enough, but that was the problem. She loved Mac as her own child, even though she was a grown woman. And she did not want to see her going through any more heartbreak. Helen watched as they pulled some books from the shelves and sat side by side at an empty table. It was going to be a long day.

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"Well, Mac, time for me to be getting home," called Helen to the black haired woman seated at the table near the back of the room.

Mac looked at her quizzically. Dana glanced at her watch and gasped, "Oh my God----itís 5:00! I donít believe Iíve been here all day!"

Mac smiled. What a wonderful day it had been. The two of them had sat at the table, pouring over books on ancient Greece, and Dana had wanted to hear some of the stories she knew about the Greek legends. Mac was only too happy to oblige. As they sat and talked, Mac felt herself relax in the presence of this beautiful young blonde with the purest green eyes. She had found out that Dana was 27, unmarried, and worked as a program designer for a video game company. "Donít laugh," Dana had said, "I get to play all the games for free!"

Mac had found herself having more fun than she had had in years. Dana was bright, cheerful, interesting, curious, and beautiful to look at. And Dana seemed to enjoy her company. She hung on every word when Mac launched into a tale of the ancient Greek Centaurs. She never asked a thing about Macís life, but that was fine with her. When it came time for the truth, she suspected that Dana would run for the hills. And she didnít want that to happen, at least for the time being.

Helen came out of the back room, struggling to get one arm into her bulky winter coat. "Mac, can you help me?" she asked, plaintively.

A frown furrowed her brow. Helen never asked for help for something so simple. Mac got up from the table and walked over to Helen to help her get into the sleeve. Helen had her back to her and whispered, "Be careful, Mac."

She smiled. "Yes Mother," she said quietly.

Helen turned around and gazed lovingly into the blue eyes of her employer. "You know what I mean, darliní. I wonít see you hurt again."

Mac drew the woman into her long arms in a tight hug. "Have I told you lately how lucky I am to have you Helen Morgan?" She genuinely loved her with all her heart. Helen had stayed with her through the good times and the bad. And there had been plenty of those. Yet she was still always looking out for her.

"Same for me," Helen said, patting her gently on the cheek. Mac let her go, and she waved to the blonde still sitting in the corner. "Nice having you here today, Dana. You got this woman to stay out of my hair all day! Slave driver!"

Dana laughed out loud. It was a genuinely happy laugh of someone who had enjoyed her day very much. "Goodbye, Helen," she said, as the elderly woman went out through the back of the store.

Suddenly alone with Dana, Mac felt her shyness beginning to return. It had been such a wonderful day. The best day that she had had in years. And she didnít want it to end. Dana leaned back in her chair and stretched, her arms rising over her head. Mac tried very hard not to notice the swell of her breasts thru the tightened sweater. She didnít seem overly endowed, but Mac never had much of a breast fetish. For her it was eyes, smile, personality. And Dana had all that and more. "I know Helenís right, but gods, she is a beautiful woman."

"Well," said Dana rising to her feet, "Guess I should be getting home." Suddenly her stomach growled loudly and she blushed ever so slightly. "Iíd better pick something up on the way. Canít believe I forgot to eat lunch."

Mac noticed for the first time how tall she was compared to the small blonde. The top of Danaís head came about to her chin. "Me too. Iím glad Iíve got a crock pot of beef stew waiting at home."

Dana began to put on her parka. "I didnít know anybody used those things anymore. I love beef stew. I just donít have much time to cook when Iím working."

Mac swallowed hard. This was a moment, and she bravely took hold of it. "AhÖ.youÖ.you wouldnít like to come over for dinner with me, would you? I donít live far from here. We could walk it."

She thought she saw Danaís eyes brighten up even greener. "Wow, thatís tempting, Mac."

"I mean, well, if you have to get homeÖÖ" Why did she feel like a nincompoop. "I just donít want her to walk out of my life."

"No, actually, I donít. Iím on vacation this whole week. Not much business in the video game world after Christmas." Dana pursed her lips together in thought. "You sure itíd be okay? I mean, I already monopolized your whole day."

Macís face broke into a wide, uncontrolled grin. "And itís been a wonderful day. You did me a favor really----I donít get to talk about ancient history to too many people. Especially people who like the stuff."

Dana grinned. Her smile was so warm and genuine. "Well, I sure had a great day. And Iíd really love a home cooked meal for a change."

"Lord, I donít know what I did to deserve this, but thank you," Mac could hardly contain her happiness. "Wonderful. Let me get my coat."

"Oh, Mac, can I buy these two books? I really like these." Called Dana after the enthusiastic woman moving hurriedly toward the back room.

"Toss them in your car and you can pay me later," Mac said, gallantly flipping her leather jacket over her head and slipping both arms inside the sleeves in one smooth motion. Dana smiled. She sure did look good in that leather jacket.

Mac hurried briskly to the door of the shop, flipped over the CLOSED sign, turned off the lights and opened the door. As Dana walked outside beside her, she hoped that the blonde could not hear how fast her heart was beating.

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"Well, this is home," said Mac, tossing her jacket casually on the back of the living room chair.

Dana scanned the small apartment appraisingly, as she shrugged off her parka. "Itís nice. The colors give it a warm feeling."

"I wish it was more than the colors," Mac thought as strode the short distance into the kitchen to check on the crock-pot of stew. "Make yourself at home. Want something to drink?" she asked as she gave the stew a stir and smiled. It smelled like one of her best. When she didnít get an answer, she turned and saw Dana standing at the fireplace, the photo of Jill in her hands. "Well, here it comes," she said silently cursing the inevitable in her mind. If only they could have shared one dinner together first. Her shoulders, usually strong and broad fell as she slowly walked toward Dana.

"Who is this?" Dana asked, admiring the woman in the picture. "Your sister?"

Mac stayed a safe distance away and replied, "Thatís Jill. MyÖlife partner. My Soulmate." Her voice was low and reverent. Nothing and no one could ever make her ashamed of what she and Jill had shared.

Dana shot a startled glance at the black haired woman standing before her. "YouíreÖÖ.." Her mouth closed. She couldnít say the words. But her eyes said it all. Those beautiful green eyes were now filled with a mixture of what could only be seen as confusion and astonishment.

Mac had seen it enough over the years to know. It had never hurt as much as it did at this moment, coming from this woman. Oh, she knew that Dana was straight. She might as well be wearing a sign on her back that said "I LOVE MEN." And she had bought that book hoping to snag a future boyfriend. But there was always that look from most straight women. The look that said "Oh my God----let me out of here!"

Mac nodded, and answered somewhat stiffly, "GayÖa LesbianÖ..a DykeÖ.."

"IÖ.I didnít knowÖ." Said Dana, obviously shocked.

Mac folded her arms across her chest. "Well, we donít wear signs around our necksÖÖ."

"ButÖ.butÖ..youíreÖ..beautiful."

Mac couldnít help but smile at Danaís comment. This straight, young blonde was looking at her with absolute wonder and total confusion. She had the honesty of a child. "Well, thank you for that, Dana. You know, we all donít have butch haircuts and cigarettes rolled up in the sleeves of our tee shirts."

Dana dropped her gaze, obviously embarrassed that she had stereotyped people like her probably all her life. "I never metÖ.I meanÖ."

"Dana, youíve probably met and worked with lesbian women and gay men and never had a clue. Weíre just like everybody else. We work, we go shopping at the mall, we eat, we sleep, we watch televison, we vote, we pay taxes, we have friends. We laugh and cry, we grow old, and eventually we die. Just like everybody else."

Dana looked at photo she was still holding in her hands. "Except you love women." She said quietly.

Mac slowly took a step forward and carefully removed the picture frame from her hands. "I loved one woman," she said quietly, placing the photo back in itís place on the mantelpiece.

"Where is she?" Dana inquired.

"Dead." Mac said, turning and walking back to the sofa. She fell onto it hard, as if all the emotion was draining from her body. "Ovarian cancer. She was 22 years old." Mac bit her bottom lip. She still found it so hard to talk about her death.

Dana moved slowly over to the couch and sat down a safe distance from Mac. But she seemed truly concerned and interested. Maybe it was just curiosity. "What was her name?"

There was something about the tone of her voice that expressed a sadness. Mac was surprised that Dana hadnít fled from the apartment screaming. Now she was sitting not 3 feet away sounding as if she really cared. "Jill," she replied softly.

Dana was silent for a few moments, as if to gather up her thoughts. Then she spoke. "Mac, you loved her a lot didnít you?"

"She was my everything," she replied without hesitation. She felt the hotness of tears welling up behind her eyes and fought for control. "When I lost her almost five years ago, I lost half of myself." She sniffled, shook her head trying to clear it, and said, "Weíd bought the bookstore together. It was gonna be our future." That brought a weak smile to her lips, remembering the day that they opened the Quill and Scroll. What a night of celebration that had been. And three months later, Jill was lying in the hospital with no hope for a future.

The corners of Danaís mouth twitched nervously. "IÖ.I didnít mean to Ö..I meanÖ.I can see it still hurts."

Mac sighed. "You have no idea."

Dana stood and said, "I think I should go, Mac."

"I meant it when I said just dinner," she said, gazing up at her with a harmless smile. She felt emotionally drained talking about Jill after so long. Even she was surprised at the depth of her feelings after so many years. And except for Helen, she had never felt like talking about this with anyone.

Dana nodded, but picked up her parka. "I believe you. ButÖ.I canít handle this right now."

Mac knew that response well. "Dana, Iím gay. It isnít catching, and I donít go around recruiting victims." She rose to her feet, towering over the young woman. She was more than slightly hurt when Dana took several steps back, as if to increase the space between them.

Mac took one step forward, and Dana raised both hands as if to warn her to stay where she was. "Mac, you donít know me. Iíve got enough going on in my head these days. IÖ..I have to go." Dana quickly donned her parka and walked to the door.

"Will I ever see you again?" Mac asked quietly. "At the store maybe?"

Dana shook her head. "I donít know." She opened the door and without looking back said, "Goodbye, Mac." Before walking out and closing the door behind her.

Mackenzie Crawford walked over to the closed door and slipped on the deadbolt, her hand caressing the cool wood. Out that door had just walked the first woman she had felt anything for since Jill had died. She had allowed her heart to open for the first time in years. And it hurt like hell. She leaned her forehead against the door and said quietly, "Goodbye Dana."

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The days passed slowly for Mackenzie Crawford. Everytime the bell tinkled above the door of the Quill and Scroll, she turned or looked up, breathlessly hoping to see a small woman with short straw colored hair and the greenest eyes in the world. But it was never Dana. And Mac began to feel that there was indeed no place in Danaís life for the likes of her----even as just a friend.

As a middle aged man entered the store to browse, Helen saw Macís crestfallen gaze, and she walked over and gently placed her hand on her arm. "Mac, please donít do this to yourself."

She shook her head, her long ponytail swishing from side to side. "I canít help it, Helen. I thoughtÖÖ"

"Darliní you thought wrong. Itís time to let this one go."

Mackenzie Crawfordís blue eyes became like watery pools. "I liked her, Helen. I liked her a lot." The tears began to slowly trickle down her cheek. "I just wanted a friend."

Despite the middle aged man in the bookstore, Helen pulled the tall dark haired woman into her arms. Mac held her close as Helen rubbed her back lovingly. "I know, my Macky. I know. But it hurts me to see you like this. You know I love you as my own, Darliní."

Mac broke the embrace and looked down into the portly womanís wise eyes. "Do your kids appreciate what a treasure you are, Helen,?" she asked, accepting a handful of tissues from her, "Cause Iíll thrash them if they donít!"

Helen tossed back her head and laughed heartily. "Theyíve heard you tell them that enough over the years, Mac!" She patted her arm. "Why donít you come over for supper tonight."

Mac thought about it for a second. "Oh Helen---you put up with me enough all day." She shook her head. "Maybe another night, okay?"

The middle aged man had walked up to the cash register and was impatiently tapping his fingers on the counter. Helen hurried over to do the job that she was being paid for. "Iíll hold you to that one, Mac."

She stuck her hands into the pockets of her black jeans and casually snuck a peak at what the man was buying. Well it helped her to know what the public as craving, afterall. "How to Fix Damn Near Anything. Maybe I should read that one!" She caught herself smiling at her tiny mental joke. With a bit of a more cheerful tone in her voice she said, "Helen, Iím gonna be alright." And she managed a bit of a smile as Helen gave her a thumbs up sign and a knowing wink. "I am" she repeated in her mind, as she went about the store acting again very much in control.

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Mac pulled the pizza pan out of the oven and set it on top of the stove. The pepperoni was crisp, the cheese bubbling, and the crust nice and brown. She removed her oven mitts and brushed a stray strand of her black hair out of her eyes. It looked delicious. She cut up the pizza, brushed her hands on the pants of her favorite grey sweatsuit, and, opening the fridge, pulled out a bottle of beer. "Now this is the way to spend New Years Eve. Pizza and beer." She lifted several slices onto a plate, and went into the living room.

She settled on the sofa, sitting cross legged with the plate in her lap and the beer on the end table beside her. The television was on with the sound turned down low. It was New Years Eve, and Times Square was full of thousands of people celebrating as a light snow fell.

"I think Iím having a better time than all of you," she thought, taking a big stringy bite of pizza. "Least Iím warm and dry. And damn, this pizza turned out good tonight." Right in the middle of a long pull on her bottle of beer, there was a knock on the front door. Mac frowned. Who could that be at this time of night? "Better damn well be Publishers Clearing House with balloons and a big check!" she grumbled as she went to the door.

She unlocked the door and opened it as far as the chain lock would allow. And she felt her body freeze. Standing in the hallway was Dana, her hands stuffed into her pockets, her head tilted slightly, a nervous smile pulling at her beautiful lips. "Hi, Mac." She said quietly.

She swallowed. "Hi, Dana." Gods she was so beautiful. Her blonde hair was windblown, and she was wearing a short black leather bomber jacket over a white turtleneck sweater. And her jeans looked like they were made for her. "Oh, I really donít need this tonight." Mac thought.

Dana pulled her hands out of her pockets. "AhÖ..can I come in?"

Mac blinked out of her trance. "Ah, yea, sure," she said, unhooking the chain lock and opening the door.

Dana walked in slowly. "Iím not bothering you, am I? I meanÖ.if youíre busy."

She bolted the door and smiled. "Yea, well, I was going to head out to the Presidentís Ball tonight."

Dana laughed. "Oh, I love your outfit."

Mac looked down at her sweatsuit and bare feet. "Well, I thought Iíd be a rebel tonight." And she found herself smiling. "Oh Dana, I donít know why youíre here, but Iím glad you are."

"Oh, I can see that," she said noticing the pizza, beer, and Dick Clarkes Rockin New Years Eve on the television. She began to take off her jacket, but paused. "Can I stay awhile?"

"Sure," Mac said, casually flopping back down on the sofa. "Thereís pizza and beer in the kitchen. Help yourself." She watched as Dana tossed her jacket onto a chair and casually went to the kitchen counter.

When she came back into the living room, she sat on the sofa, balancing a plate on her lap and taking a long drink from her bottle of beer. "Wasnít sure if youíd be here. New Years Eve and all."

Mac smiled. "Oh I couldnít miss my date with Dick Clarke. We go back a long way." She watched the young woman in silence for a few moments as she devoured her slice of pizza. "Does she have any idea how beautiful she is?" she wondered. "Thereís more, you know," she said as Dana wiped sauce from her mouth. Her lips were thin and delicate looking. "Oh, how I wishÖ.."

"Thanks. That was great." Said Dana, snapping Mac back to the real world.

"So, what about you? How come youíre not out being wined and dined by some handsome guy instead of eating pizza with me?" It was said rather with a sharp tongue, but Mac remembered how only days before, Dana had walked out of her life.

Dana put the plate on the coffee table and turned her body to face her. Her face had grown serious. "Iím sorry, Mac."

She tried so hard to act indifferent. Rising to her feet she gathered up the empty plates and headed for the kitchen. "Nothing to be sorry for."

"Yes there is," said Dana, jumping up to follow her. "I should have come to the bookstore, or called youÖÖ"

Mac shrugged as she dumped the plates into the dishwasher. "But you didnít. Doesnít matter, anyway. Oh----you still owe me for those two books, though." She closed the dishwasher slowly. It was full and the soap was already in the door, so she turned it on. She needed the noise to cut the tension she felt in the room.

When she turned around, she saw Dana laying money on the counter. "That should cover it," said the blonde flatly as she quickly went back to the living room and picked up her jacket. "Iíll leave now."

"Oh this is great. She comes here out of the blue, eats my pizza, and now sheís running away again!" Mac stormed back into the living room and raised her arms out at her sides. "Why did you come here tonight, Dana?" she demanded.

Dana stopped zipping up her jacket and dropped her gaze to the floor. "I wanted to see you," she said quietly.

Mac suddenly found herself feeling a host of emotions, but in the forefront was anger. This was not fair at all. "Well, here I am. You could have come to the store. Why here? Why tonight? Iím still gay and youíre not, andÖ." She paused to run her hands through her hair in frustration. "GodsÖ..for the first time since Jill died, Iíve had all these feelings in me! And you waltz in here, and now youíre running out again! Donít do this to me, please. GoÖ..but donít come back here anymore." Mac realized she had said more in those few seconds than she had said to any woman in years. She felt the anger slip away, and she just stood still and silent, hoping that the tears wouldnít start again. She wouldnít show that much weakness. She couldnít.

Dana unzipped her jacket and shrugged it off, letting it drop to the floor. She walked slowly to where the tall, dark, and beautiful woman stood, and looked up into her blue eyes. "I came because I missed you. Because I havenít been able to stop thinking about you since I walked out on you." Very slowly she raised her hand and gently touched Macís cheek.

Mac turned her face away quickly, shaking off the gentle, warm touch. "Donít, Dana."

She stood her ground and spoke softly. "YouÖ.youíre the nicest person Iíve ever met, Mac Crawford. Youíre strong, intelligent, sensitiveÖ.fun to be withÖ.."

Mac looked deeply into her deep green eyes. "Then be my friend. But this isnít Be Kind to Lesbians Month. Donít start what you canít finish! I wonít let you hurt me!"

Dana tentatively moved closer. "IÖ.I donít know howÖ.I meanÖ" She gulped so hard that Mac saw her Adamís apple jump in her throat. " I never. But insideÖ..I feelÖ." She shook her head. "I donít want to hurt you, Mac." She reached out again and brushed the back of her hand across her cheek. This time it was less timid, firmer. "IÖ.I want to love you."

No words were spoken as the two fell into a spontaneous mutual embrace. Mac felt Danaís arms slide around her, her hands pressed to her back. Mac held her tightly, relishing the warmth of her body, the smell of her hair, and the way that her head nestled beneath her chin. "Dear God, she feels so good!." Mac slowly raised Danaís chin until their eyes met. Mac wasnít sure what she saw in those beautiful green eyes. It was perhaps a mixture of desire and fear. And slowly, haltingly, she lowered her head until her lips brushed ever so lightly over Danaís. Dana showed very little response, but she didnít pull away. By the third light, gentle kiss, she felt Danaís body lose itís rigidness, and the blonde met her lips in a soft embrace, a slight moan escaping from deep inside her throat.

Mac gently touched the tip of her tongue to Danaís upper lip, and to her surprise, her soft warm lips parted granting her admission. And as they continued to hold each other tightly, two tongues danced sensuously; exploring, tasting, relishing, awakening.

It was Mac who broke off the kiss, anxious to pull back and look into Danaís eyes. What she saw was tenderness, affection, and desire. She also felt her own bodyís reactions to this small, straw haired blond. Her heart was beating so fast, and there was a fire beginning to burn deep inside. She felt the wetness between her thighs, and knew in what sanity she still possessed that this was going too far, too fast.

"Dana," she said as calmly as her voice would allow, "I think youíd better go home now. TomorrowÖ..tomorrow weíll talkÖ."

Dana met her eyes with a warm smile. Her chest was heaving as she tried her best to catch her breath. "No." was her simple reply.

Macís dark eyebrows knitted together in concern. She desperately wanted this to be real, yet feared that a mistake made now would tear them apart forever. "How can you be sure?" she asked.

"Iím not. Have youÖ..Have you always been sure about everything your whole life, Mac?" She watched Mac silently shake her head no. "But did you take a chance----ever?" And this time, Mac nodded.

Dana slowly extended her hand out to her. Mac looked at her small hand, fully realizing that she was being offered a very great gift. She grasped Danaís hand gently, and silently led her slowly into her bedroom. One small lamp was already on, emitting a warm glow in the dimly lit room.

She saw Dana look at the large four poster bed, and said, "I will not hurt you. I will not do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable. If you tell me to stop, I will."

Dana smiled up onto her blue eyes. "Tell me what to do, Mac."

"Youíll know. Just go with what you feel."

The small blondeís hands were shaking as she took hold of the bottom of Macís sweatshirt and pulled it over her head. A slight gasp was heard as she saw her beautiful, firm breasts for the first time. Mac, in turn, removed Danaís sweater and slowly unhooked her bra. Dana held on to it for a few seconds before discarding it on the floor. This slow, silent process continued until both women faced each other naked for the first time.

"Gods youíre beautiful," Mac whispered gently.

Dana bit her bottom lip. "Can weÖ.lay down? My legs are shaking."

Mac crawled on top of the bed and held out her hand. "Come to me, Dana."

What followed was a long lingering period of exploration. A growing experience in which Dana discovered the softness of a womanís skin, the taste, the smell, the textures. Mac reveled in every feel of Danaís hands and body and mouth touching her. And she moved slowly and carefully, pausing when she felt Danaí body stiffen, or if the look in her eyes turned from joy to uncertainty. She waited for Dana to give her a sign to continue: a look, a smile, And sometimes, Dana would take her hand to where she wanted to be touched.

Mac found it very hard to keep herself from releasing every long dormant emotion. "I want you, so much!" she thought as she gently kissed and nibbled at Danaís neck. She lay her body over that of the smaller woman, careful to keep her weight supported on her elbows, and moved her head down until she gently found one small breast. Covering it with her mouth, she began to suckle gently. Dana closed her eyes and moaned, and Mack felt her body rising up from the bed to meet hers.

"Itís okay to tell me if you like it," Mac said, kissing one breast, and then the other. "Let me know. Let me feel you." And she enveloped the other breast in her mouth, harder this time, causing Dana to gasp loudly and cry out "Oh God!"

Macís hands never left her body, touching, squeezing every inch of skin, slowly moving down to Danaís center of desire. She rolled slightly to her side, pulling the blonde with her. "Put your leg between mine, " she said, her voice deep with emotion. And when Dana did as she was asked, the feel of her skin against Macís wetness nearly sent her over the edge.

She forced herself to hold back. It had to be Dana who came first, or the both of them together. She would not ruin this for her now. "Iíll wait for you, my Love." Macís fingers traced the fine silky hair of her mound, and gently brushed against the outside of her soft, hot folds. "Youíre so wet," she whispered.

"IÖ..I wantÖ.." Dana had her eyes closed, and licked her lips hungrily.

"Tell me. Say it. What do you want"?

Her eyes opened and focused on the woman in her arms. "I wantÖ.you. I want youÖ..inside me. Please, Mac."

Mac smiled and carefully slid one finger into the depths of Danaís wetness. Danaís body bucked up to meet hers, her leg pushing against Macís own slick center. Mac groaned and inserted another finger to join the first, and began slow, rhythmic movements in and out, in and out. Her own body was losing control, and she began to grind herself against the leg pressed at her center. Dana met her stroke for stroke, their bodies arching into each other, sweat glistening on their skin.

Dana was getting close. Her speed quickened, and Mac picked up the pace with her hand, suddenly slipping one more finger into her hot cavern.

"Oh God," Dana screamed. "Mac, IímÖ.."

Mac rode her leg as her own climax built, never keeping her hand still. "Let it go, Dana," she gasped. "Come with me. Come withÖ.." Mac was cut short as Danaís body seemed to freeze in mid air. Her body trembled and went rigid, her inner muscles tightly grasping the fingers buried deep inside.

The explosion of her climax brought a deep guttural scream from her throat as she yelled Macís name to the heavens. Hearing that, and feeling Danaís inner muscles grasping tightly around her fingers and spasm with a flood of juices from deep inside sent Mac over the edge. She ground herself hard against Danaís leg, and then her body froze. And she exploded with the first and most exquisite orgasm she had had in years with another human being.

Despite her efforts, Mac collapsed on top of Dana, who seemed oblivious to the weight laying on her body. Both women were breathing heavily, and Mac felt Danaís body still jerking with the aftershocks of their lovemaking.

Mac finally found the strength to roll onto her back, only to have Dana reverse positions and roll on top of her. She pressed her cheek to Macís soft breast and her arm encircled her waist as their legs intertwined.

Suddenly Dana spoke. It was almost a whisper, but Mac heard her very clearly. "I love you."

Mac kissed her forehead, and wrapped her arms around the small body on top of her. "I loved you from the first moment I laid eyes on you."

Dana looked up into her deep blue eyes and asked, "Am I gay, Mac?"

"Well, you seemed pretty happy to me, a few minutes ago." Mac said, chuckling.

"Comedian," said Dana, lightly slapping her side. "You know what I mean."

Mac sighed. "I donít know, Dana. I donít like labels. Labels belong on cans----not people." She stroked Danaís tousled hair gently. "Someone once said to me that it isnít who you love---itís just that you open your heart and love."

Dana sighed. "Thatís beautiful." After a slight pause she asked. "It was Jill, wasnít it?"

"Yes," she replied honestly.

Dana reached up and gently traced the outline of Macís lips. "I want to make love to you." She said quietly. "I wantÖ..I want to make you happy. As happyÖ..as I am."

Mac gave her a firm hug. "Not now. Weíve got all the time in the world. Sleep now, my Dana." They were both too spent with emotion to continue, and all Mac really wanted right now was to hold her through the night. To make her feel safe, and warm, and loved as she herself felt.

A tear began to gently roll down Danaís cheek. "You want me to stay tonight?"

Mac gently kissed the tear, tasting the saltiness of it on Danaís skin. "I want you to stay forever." She whispered.

Dana slowly moved her body from on top of Mac to beside her. She pulled a blanket up over them, and snuggled tightly up against her, holding her close. With her head snuggled in the hollow of Macís shoulder, she whispered, "Happy New Year, Mac." As she peacefully drifted toward sleep.

Mac gently kissed her forehead. "Happy New Year, Dana."

She was smiling as she began to feel the lightness of sleep overtake her. She had not felt this much happiness in many years. This complete. This loved. Mac was almost at the brink of the realm of Morpheus when she heard Jillís voice off in the distant recesses of her mind.

"Happy New Life, my Mac."

Mackenzie Crawford smiled, and drifted into a deep and peaceful sleep.

 


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