By M. Ryan
For disclaimers see Part 1
Comments are welcome! firstname.lastname@example.org
As Laura eased awake in the stillness of morning, she was conscious of a weight on her chest that didn’t move even as she shrugged to dislodge it. Grimacing in irritation, she peeled opened her eyes only to look into narrowed green pools of curiosity that didn’t blink at her cool regard. Then the cat licked her chin.
Startled, Laura scrambled to sit up and the cat leapt away lightly. With a jerk, she remembered where she was and turned to look at the woman sharing the bed with her. Chris was awake and lying on her side, head propped up on a hand and regarding her with what could only be described as a smirk. "You snore." Chris teased.
Laura ran her tongue across her teeth, trying to think of an appropriatly witty response and drew a total blank, so she opted for the safe standby, "How do you feel?"
Chris squinted a bit, taking stock. "Well, my mouth feels like I’ve been licking the carpet, but other than that, not too bad." She sat up and stretched, the front of the silk blouse parting to show a significant amount of bare skin and curves, then she dropped her arms. "So we slept together."
"Yeah." Laura pulled her legs up to rest her chin on her knees, leaning her back against the spindles on the head of the bed. "D’you have a spare toothbrush?"
"Probably." The cat reappeared to push its head under Chris’ hand, purring at the attention of his owner. "Hey Biggio, you were a good cat this morning…You let me sleep."
"You named your cat after the guy who leads all active players in being hit by pitches?"
"Best second baseman in the league," she replied absently. "Why’d you stay?"
Laura twitched uncomfortably, "I thought we’d…you were…" she trailed off.
"Ah…The spirit was willing but the flesh was snot-slinging drunk."
"What happened to ‘I’d never get snockered in front of my boss?’"
"I didn’t. You came looking for me, remember?" Chris’ eyes clouded in memory, "I’m sorry, the story got to me, I was angry and I blamed you. Then Lisa and Trey ratted on me."
"Lisa didn’t want you to get in trouble." Laura rubbed her chin on her knees. "Do you make a habit of that sort of thing when you get pissed?"
Chris scooted around to sit next to Laura, her back against the headboard. "I wasn’t pissed as much as my pride was hurt. You didn’t support me."
"I couldn’t." The simple answer stood between them like a wall. "Which makes things really, really difficult." Laura took a breath as she tried to sort through what she wanted to say, then abruptly gave up. "This isn’t gonna work." She threw her legs off the bed and stood up, moving to leave, but Chris anticipated her flight and intercepted Laura at the door.
"No you don’t. I said my pride was hurt because you didn’t back me up, I didn’t say you were wrong." She pushed the door shut, effectively blocking the only means of escape. "What are you afraid of?"
"Nothing…Everything…This." Blue eyes were dark with confusion.
"Which is it?"
Laura shook her head and went back to the bed. Sitting down on the edge she cracked her knuckles, first on hand and then the other, the noise stark and loud in the quiet. "Just a hunch, but I’m fairly certain that you haven’t spent the night with too many thirty year old virgins."
Chris frowned and nodded, "That’s…pretty accurate." She paused. "How does one get to be thirty without…"
"Having sex?" Laura drew a breath through her teeth. "I’d say that the opportunity never presented itself, or that nobody asked, but that’d be a lie." She looked away. "I just didn’t have time, then I didn’t want to." She blew out an impatient breath, "It wasn’t important, I never really socialized and the guys I knew were jerks. The next thing I know I’m thirty and in a drainage ditch, kissing one of my anchors."
"That’s a pretty simplified answer."
She looked up, slightly annoyed, "What were you expecting? There was no tragedy, no near rape, no abuse…I was…am... a machine…I played golf, I went to school, I worked my ass off and I was comfortable with it. Now everything’s changed and I’m not handling it terribly well."
"What’s the problem? You kept your professional head yesterday. I didn’t. You’ll still be able to run the newsroom the way you always have, ‘cause it’s not in your nature to do anything half-assed."
Laura laughed a little at that, fidgeted for a second, then asked a question out of the blue. "Does your family know about your…lifestyle?"
Chris sat down next to Laura on the bed, hands clasped between bare knees. "Ah, I guess turn about is fair play." She grimaced a bit, "Mom knows…she told me not to tell my dad, but I think he knows. My sister guessed, and my brothers…well, they’re my brothers…they’re kinda dense and I don’t think it would ever occur to them."
"How’d your mother take it?"
"She was disappointed…no grandchildren." She lifted her chin, Go ahead and ask…It matters. "When we did the contract, would it have made a difference if you’d known?"
Laura was quiet for a moment. "It’s a risk Chris, I won’t lie to you." She rubbed her eyebrow the way she always did when she was thinking hard. "Every weatherman I had in Dallas was gay, but it wasn’t public knowledge. It’s different for a news anchor, especially in a conservative market like this one. I signed you…I would have tried to sign you regardless…but you can’t be openly gay."
"Or you’ll pull me off the air." It was a statement, not a question.
"That’s pretty hypocritical given the relationship you’re fumbling around in."
"We’re not talking about me, I’m not a public figure. It’s not fair, that’s just the way the business is."
Chris nodded slowly in understanding, "So as long as I’m an anchor, I have no chance for an open and above board relationship?"
"I’m sorry. I would have told you if I’d known." Regret colored Laura’s tone. "Remember that full disclosure clause in your contract?"
"Consider your supervisor notified."
Chris shook her head emphatically, "No, nothing changes." She turned and barely brushed her fingertips against the skin beneath Laura’s jaw. "There is no way I could’ve had an open relationship with you anyway…you’re my boss, and that presents all kinds of problems, but I’m willing to risk it. If this doesn’t come into the newsroom, and no one knows about us, are you comfortable with that?"
Laura could hardly breathe. "Comfortable is not the word that comes to mind right now."
Chris gave a low chuckle. "Good, but I have to know…is this what you want…with me."
"I wasn’t looking for this, and it’s a world of complications," Laura looked into sea green eyes and she was lost. "But I want it," she managed to get out in a whisper.
A smile lifted the corner of Chris’ mouth and with the lightest of pressure she pulled the dark head closer. "I won’t hurt you."
Of course you will. Laura had time to register the thought before she was sucked into a shivering storm of sensation.
She had to rush to make the eleven o’clock tee time, and had to forego a proper warm-up in the process. Jeremy was waiting at the bag drop, and had just crushed out his cigarette when Laura practically threw her clubs at him, her over-heightened emotions making her movements jerky and uncertain. "Bad night?" He asked.
"No, yes, not sure… Just got caught up in some…things." The muscle in her jaw twitched and the caddy started to ask a question, then thought better of it. They made their way down to the first tee where the starter was waiting patiently with his clipboard, frowning a little in disapproval. Laura pulled on her glove and gave a quick half smile to the threesome that was already waiting with their carts. "Sorry, the time got away from me." The starter gave them the go ahead and her playing partners gave her the courtesy of teeing off first, but things went downhill from there.
It took Laura ten holes to pull herself together, but by then it was too late. Even shooting eight under par on the back nine was not enough to help her break eighty…A horrific omen three days before the U.S. Open Qualifier. Shaking her head at the score card, she tucked it into her bag and looked at Jeremy, "I am not going home with that score. Can you do another round?"
"Sure. You wanna check at the shop? I’ll get us some water."
Her glove was gummy with perspiration so she threw it into a trashcan on the way up the steps to the pro shop. Pushing open the door she was startled to see Peter behind the counter and Laura felt a little uncomfortable when their eyes met. "Hey Kaz, heard you stunk it up today."
"That would be an understatement. D’you have room for me to go again?"
"You and I could go in ten minutes if that’s okay."
Laura picked up a couple of gloves from a rack in the corner and put them on the counter to be added to her account. "Good for me, you gonna walk?"
"I’m playing with you, of course I’ll walk." He passed her the ticket to sign, "What happened today? Mercer said you tore it up on the back, but you couldn’t buy a shot on the front."
She rubbed her temple and mumbled, "Head wasn’t in it I guess."
Peter looked closely at her, his eyes narrowing speculatively, "You’ve got three days to get your head in it, or you’re just a spectator in the crowd at the Open."
Chris poured a handful of tokens on the ledge next to the coin slot in the batting cage. Forty dollars worth oughta do it. She fed one into the machine and stood back, tugged the bill of her helmet, and waited for the first pitch. With a thunk a bright orange ball was launched in her direction, and she swatted it easily with the aluminum bat.
"Your hands are gonna be mush." Kate leaned on the fence, watching her friend swing away with an economy of motion she could only envy. She’d run into Chris at the gym and, concerned about the frantic pace of her workout, decided to follow her to the batting cages.
"I just want to hit something." Again and again and again and again.
"Who is she? I haven’t seen you this bad since Erica."
"This isn’t anything like Erica. I was just mad then." Thunk…Tink! Chris sent one to the left side of the cage. "You don’t know her." Which is true…in a way.
"So what happened."
"Well, mostly nothing." Thunk…Tink!
After fifteen balls, the machine asked for another token and Chris turned to oblige, the physical activity doing nothing to put what happened earlier out of her mind. You said it was all up to her, stop or go…you gave up control, don’t bitch about it now.
She’d pulled Laura down on the bed, resolved to stay distanced enough so that she could stop at any time, knowing that the other woman wasn’t ready. But just like before there was no distance, no control, just a surge of raw emotion that washed away any sense of reason. This time there was no storm, no front porch, just the quiet of her bedroom and the intoxicating presence of innocence and smothering need all wrapped up in six feet of wiry muscle.
Hands and lips seemed to be everywhere at once, exposing flesh and covering it again. She remembered thinking that Laura was too thin; her ribs too prominent, before kissing her way lower, her finger tracing a blue vein under white skin.
And when Laura said stop, Chris nearly died.
She’d caught Chris’ wrists and twisted away, rolling off the bed and gathering the linen blouse to her chest. Her breathing was ragged as she ran her hands through wild dark hair and paced around the bed, willing herself not to tear open the door and run away. "Can’t…Sorry." It was a supremely inadequate explanation.
Chris found strength from some source she’d never tapped before and pulled the remnants of her soul together before answering, "Okay, your call." And she sent Laura away to her golf game or whatever, collapsed against the door and sobbed in frustration.
Is she worth it? Chris dropped the token in the slot, heard the hum of the machine as it started again, and moved back to the batter’s box. She felt the answer to her question from the center of her being, remembering a walk in the twilight and laughing blue eyes.
God yes, if it doesn’t kill me first.
The second round went better than the first, but Laura still forced herself to stay on the practice range till nearly eight o’clock, the swarms of mosquitoes finally sending her to the clubhouse. Under the spray of the shower in the deserted ladies locker room, she allowed herself to think about what had happened in Chris’ bedroom.
I panicked, it’s as simple as that. I am not a teenager overrun with hormones, I am a rational thinking adult, and I understand that there are consequences. It was like riding a roller coaster, she decided. When you go down that first big hill, you reach the point where you don’t think you can stand it anymore, then you’re snapped out of it when the car zooms up instead of continuing to fall. Except that when she reached that point with Chris…
I jumped, ran, fled, vamoosed, split, escaped…Disgusted with herself, Laura got out of the shower and dried off. Catching her reflection in the mirror, she snorted at her appearance. Arms were tanned, legs were tanned, but only to mid thigh, giving testament to a life spent in shorts and sleeveless polo shirts. A golfer’s tan. Gotta say it looks pretty silly. She finished dressing, donning another pair of khaki shorts and a tee shirt, before going to the Grill to grab a bite to eat.
It was after nine when Laura got back to the apartment and her answering machine blinked urgently as she tossed her keys down beside it. One call was from her realtor in Dallas about the pending sale of the house; another was from Keith asking if she was playing softball on Sunday. Nothing from Chris. Disappointed, she sat down on the couch and clicked on the TV. Too early to go to bed, she told herself.
That lasted about ten minutes, before Laura was bored out her mind. The problem with seeing a life outside the confines of the box she’d been living in was that it made her want what she hadn’t known she was missing. I could call her. She might not want to talk. Hell, she’s probably not even home. She picked up the cordless phone and started pacing. This is good…taking the initiative…acting like a teenager…Hoping that the phone’s gonna ring. Emotionally, you’re an infant. Laura punched in the number, deciding that she could just hang up if she wanted to…after she heard Chris’ voice of course.
It rang four times and the machine picked up. Laura listened to the message, smiling at the way Chris treated her answering machine as an opportunity to do a voice over. Talent…jeez. The beep caught her by surprise with no opportunity to rehearse. "Um, it’s Kaz. Just wondering what you were doing…" There was a crash and fumbling as the receiver was picked up.
"Hey. I was just thinking about you."
"Kinder thoughts than the ones I left you with this morning I hope."
Chris gave a low chuckle, "A good workout, a cold shower and I was fine."
"Don’t apologize. How was your game?"
Laura grimaced as she turned out the lamp, preferring the anonymity of the dark, even over the phone. "There are not words to describe how awful my game was."
Good, I’m not the only one who’s messed up here. "Can I take some credit for that?"
"Oh, I think you can." Laura stretched out on the couch, one arm over her head, legs crossed. "What are you doing?"
"I’m in the tub." Chris grinned wickedly, "Shaving my legs. Wanna come over?" She was pleased to hear a sharp intake of breath.
"Aahh, try not to electrocute yourself…"
"You know, this was in that movie The Truth About Cats and Dogs, They had this phone sex scene…"
Laura could feel her eyebrows reaching up to her hairline. "I saw that, but we’re not having phone sex, we’re having an adult conversation…"
"With some overtones." Chris put the razor down on the edge of the tub. "You never did this in high school, did you? Just called up your best friend and talked for hours about nothing and everything." There wasn’t an answer at the other end of the line, just silence, so Chris changed the subject. "When do you leave?"
"Um, Monday morning. I have a practice round in the afternoon. I’m supposed to meet my swing coach at eleven, his son’s caddying for me."
"You have a swing coach? Just like Tiger Woods?" All of Chris’ research was paying off. Climbing out of the tub she put on a terry robe. "Why do you need help with your swing?"
"Well, Louis is really a lot more than that, he’ll watch me and point out any inconsistencies, stuff like that. He’s also a clubmaker, so he’ll want to make sure all my equipment is set up for my game." Shifting to get more comfortable on the sofa, Laura decided that she liked talking to Chris in the dark over the phone, as if somehow escaping from those inquisitive eyes made things easier.
Chris smiled. Without the distraction of Laura’s physical presence, she could listen to just the voice and gather information that the other woman wouldn’t normally share. The fondness for Louis came through loud and clear. "How long have you known him?"
"All my life. He pretty much taught me how to play."
"What about his son?"
"Charles? We grew up together; he’s a teaching pro at a country club in Dallas. He’s always been my caddy. I tried to reciprocate and caddy for him once in a Nike Tournament but we almost killed each other."
"Hmm." Chris could see that. Laura would not give up authority easily. "Did you…Aahh…Ever have a crush on him…or anything?"
The voice that came over the receiver was dry. "No, he was way too annoying. I guess he was more like a brother. Are you still in the tub?"
"No I’m in the kitchen, looking for something to eat."
"You don’t eat enough, Laura, you’ve lost weight since you’ve been here. Those Dockers you’re always wearing are really getting baggy.
"It’s Kaz, and I like baggy."
"Uh huh." Chris found a box of fudge bars in the freezer and unwrapped one. "Gonna play softball tommorrow?"
"I really have to practice."
"S’okay, we’ll just have to beat The Chronicle without the benefit of your glowering presence." Chris’ voice was light, but Laura could hear a little disappointment. "Why didn’t you just leave for Austin earlier?"
Laura rolled over on her side, tucking the phone in between her neck and shoulder. "This is a blackout month, Chris. Department heads aren’t supposed to be out of town during sweeps. Art’s already mad that I’m going to be gone for two days…I gotta admit it makes me nervous too, please be careful while I’m gone."
"Sure, I’ll wait till you get back before I get into any trouble."
They talked for hours, and Chris roamed through her house, lazily straightening things up and periodically snacking as they bantered back and forth. Getting information out of Laura was like pulling teeth, but the News Director was digging too this time, and Chris felt herself blush more than once. Weird, She thought, It must be the voice… The question when it came didn’t surprise her, but she wished she could see Laura’s eyes when she answered.
"I was a sophomore in college…and pretty sure about my…preferences. It was easier in High School just to go with the flow and I dated a lot of guys, but nothing ever happened."
"Anyway I was starting on the softball team…boy, that’s a bit of a stereotype isn’t it? Angie would come to the games and watch. She was sort of a groupie I guess." Chris was quiet for a minute, remembering that she’d filed the experience away in the part of her brain she reserved for cringe material. Laura’s low voice rumbled in her ear, interrupting. "What happened? I mean…besides that."
"I was just a notch on her belt. Naïve enough to think I was different. It hurt for a bit, then I got over it."
Laura pondered the information; the short answers a dead giveaway of Chris’ discomfort with the subject. "What about since then?"
Chris smiled at the other end, hearing an odd note in the other woman’s voice. Is she jealous? Good. "There’ve been a few," she evaded, "Nobody for a while though."
Red digital numbers flashed the time and Chris finally noticed. "It’s three thirty! We’ve been talking for six hours." She held the mouthpiece away and yawned. "If you’re playing early tomorrow, you’d better get some sleep."
"Guess so." Laura didn’t want to stop, but she didn’t want to cling either. "I probably won’t see you till I get back."
Chris swallowed her disappointment, not wanting to press. "Okay, good luck." Reluctant to hang up, she held the receiver until an insistent tone forced her to cradle it. Sighing, she turned over on her stomach clutched a pillow to her chest, and went through the conversation to find some sign that they were progressing.
It was hot and humid on Sunday, the blue sky stubbornly refusing to supply even a few wisps of clouds to block the sun. The softball game was late starting because the one before it went into extra innings. Chris played like a demon; as though exhausting herself would make a difference when it hadn’t the day before. On her third at bat, she walked to the plate wincing at the condition of her hands and berating herself for spending two hours in the batting cages, when her mouth suddenly went dry. How does she do that to me?
Laura was stretched out on the bleachers, leaning on her elbows, a bottle of water swinging from one hand. She smiled when their eyes met and Chris nearly tripped and fell. "Hey," she choked out, "Thought you were practicing."
"I’m between rounds, thought I’d watch for a little while."
"Hey Kaz! Wanna play?" Keith called from the dugout.
"Nope, just watching." She answered, then lifted an eyebrow at Chris. "You gonna hit?"
"Oh, yeah." She shook her head as she stepped into the batter’s box, then slapped the first pitch down the right field line for a double, scoring Trip and Kurt. Chris did a little hop on the bag and grinned. You show off, she thought.
They won the game easily by nine runs and afterwards Chris, Keith, and Rendally sat with Laura on the bleachers to watch the first part of the next game until the she had to leave for her afternoon round. Chris watched her walk away, thinking that the woman had an endless supply of khaki shorts, and she made them look really good.
"Yo, earth to Chris…" Keith snapped his fingers under the blonde reporter’s nose. "Wanna get something to eat?"
She took a breath and smiled, I need the distraction. "Lead the way."
Laura appreciated the convenience of flying, but she hated it anyway. It wasn’t a fear of heights, or a fear of falling, rather, it was the invasion of personal space. She wouldn’t pay double the fare for first class, so she usually tried for an exit row since they had a little more legroom. Deciding against cluttering her mind with paperwork, Laura left her briefcase at home, leaving her with only a portable CD player to pass the time. Flipping through the disks, most of which had been liberated from Lisa Tyler’s collection in college, she chose an old favorite. Music to go home by.
Maybe we’ll make Texas by the morning… Light the bayou with our taillights in the night.
800 miles to El Paso from the state line and we never have the money for the flight.
I’m in the back seat sleepy from the travel, played our hearts out all night long in New Orleans,
Dirty from the diesel fumes… drinking coffee black, when the first breath of Texas comes in clean.
She was looking forward to being in Austin, even if it was only for two days. It’ll be good to see Louis. He never passed judgement on anything except her golf game, and since he helped build it, that was his right, especially after she quit in ’96. Make it up to him by qualifying. That would make twelve Opens between Mom and me…that oughta be some kind of record.
The flight landed, and after what seemed like eons, the doors were opened and the passengers were allowed to escape. Laura spotted Charles easily, his six foot seven frame dominating the tiny waiting area. He crushed her in a bear hug and lifted her off her feet, oblivious to the staring crowd around them. "You’re so skinny, Kaz…you didn’t need to lose weight."
She buried her face in his shoulder, realizing that he and Louis were the closest thing to family she had left. "No Coke." She pulled back and smiled. "I gave it up…too much sugar and caffeine."
"That’ll do it. Bet you were drinking a twelve-pack a day."
Laura chuckled, "Pretty close. How’s your Dad?"
"Doing good. He can’t wait to see you. Let’s get your stuff."
Charles retrieved the hard travel bag that held her golf clubs, and led her through the parking lot to a Ford Explorer. "Still got the Jeep?" he asked.
"I’ll always have the Jeep." She answered. "What happened to the Z car?"
"All God’s children got to grow up. I can haul more stuff in this." Laura hid a smile. Guess that means he’s settling down.
It was a bit of a drive to Circle C Golf Club, and Laura settled in, listening to Charles’ ever-present country western music. It was strange to hear the large black man sing along to Alan Jackson or Reba McIntire, but it was after all, Texas. They drove up close to the clubhouse and unloaded, and after agreeing to meet on the practice range, Laura went inside to change. Practice rounds for out of towners started after one, and her tee time was for one-ten. That would give her about two hours with Louis.
She changed quickly into navy blue shorts and another white sleeveless polo shirt. Pulling her hair into a ponytail she threaded it through the opening in the back of her red hat, and looked in the mirror at eyes that should not be so nervous for a practice round. The hat was from the last U.S. Amateur that she’d won, and she fervently hoped that there was a little luck left in it.
A warm wind was blowing briskly as she walked to the practice range. It’s always windy here. Laura could see Charles up on the rise, and when he moved she could see the slightly smaller form of his father.
"Little Kaz! Charles was right, you have lost weight." Louis threw his arms around Laura in a tight embrace, and she who never cried, not even at her parents’ funerals, began to sob softly into her teacher’s shoulder. It only lasted for a moment, then appalled at her lack of control, Laura pushed away and dashed at her tears with the back of her hand. "Sorry, Louis. It’s been a rough couple of months." She clamped her jaw shut and swallowed, wondering where this inability to maintain control was coming from.
Louis looked at Charles over the top of Laura’s head and raised his eyebrows in question, only to be answered by a shrug. "I heard about everything, Kaz. You did what you had to do. I’m not talking about slugging the guy…He had that coming. You stuck with the company and your Dad would’ve been proud." He paused for a second, "Your mom would’ve laughed. Now c’mon we have work to do. Let me see your hands."
He grabbed her wrists and turned her hands face up, running his fingers over the calluses, tsskking at one on the middle finger of her right hand. "Still overgripping? It’s like shaking hands, firm but not choking. You don’t want to overpower the club." Laura had heard the grip speech more times than she could count, and even after all her success it was the one part of her game that Louis still picked on.
Next they went through all the clubs. Laura hit about five balls with each as Louis made notes on a little pad that he stuffed into his back pocket when he demonstrated what she was doing wrong or what he wanted her to change. The lesson was exhausting and comforting at the same time, but she was glad when they finally called her group to the first tee.
"He’s got two other students that are trying to qualify," Charles told her as they walked to the starter. "They practiced Saturday and Sunday ‘cause they live here in town."
"Anybody else you know?"
"Beth Daniel’s here. She just played a tournament in Austin, almost won."
Laura nodded, "Well Charles, what kind of score d’you think we need?"
"I think you better just start rolling in the birdies and count ‘em up later. Don’t even think about the Open. You ain’t there yet."
Chris was heating up fettuccine in the microwave when the phone rang, and she answered it, licking the spoon she was using to stir the pasta. "Bet you’re eating. Why you’re not big as a house is beyond me."
"Well, if it’s not my favorite Texan. You know, Keith’s right, you could say who you are."
"Why? This makes it more like an obscene phone call."
The microwave beeped and Chris removed her dinner. "You just feel safer over the phone…How’d it go today?"
Laura smiled ruefully at the truth and sat down on the hotel bed, kicking off her shoes. "Good. I’ve played here before, so that helps. It’s hot though. What happened at work?"
"Oh, it was slow. I did a package on teacher payraises then the character generator caught on fire so no supers for the Five, Six or Ten. Lisa tried to kill Richard because he wouldn’t sign the purchase order to get the part to fix it and Elly and Rendally got into it over his promo standup and proper use of grammar. All in all it was pretty normal."
"Sorry I missed it." What do I say now? I miss you? The silence was awkward and Laura couldn’t fill it, so Chris did. "Everything okay with Louis and Charles?"
"Yeah." Another pause. "I wish I could show you Austin."
"That’d be cool," Chris went along easily, "We were on the phone for six hours the other night, it’s okay if you’re talked out."
"I’m not, I just…It sounds corny, but I wanted to hear your voice. I wish I’d seen you last night, and I miss you. I didn’t think I would."
"Why?" Chris was more than a little intrigued.
"Because I’m home. Austin is as much home as Dallas, and it’s strange because I have more of a life in Burkett Falls than I ever had here."
"There’s nothing wrong with that. Everyone changes, everyone evolves."
All God’s children got to grow up…It’s just taking me longer. Maybe I’ll hit my adolescence by the time I’m thirty-five. Laura laughed and Chris smiled at the sound. "I’m flying in late tomorrow night, so I guess I’ll see you Wednesday. Maybe we could do something?"
"You bet." Chris felt the giddiness through the phone line and wondered what was going through Laura’s head. "I hope you play well tomorrow…God knows you’ve worked hard enough."
"It’s never enough." Somehow Chris knew that Laura wasn’t talking about golf. "I’ll see you Wednesday."
The gravel crunched under the tires of the big Buick as Laura maneuvered it along the narrow driveway. Louis had insisted that she borrow his car instead of renting one, over riding her protest that she could afford it. Laura parked under an oak tree and started to walk down a footpath toward a shady corner of the cemetery.
She was still Catholic enough to understand the need to be buried, but practical enough to consider it a waste of real estate. It was quiet except for the ever present Texas wind swishing through the leaves of the trees, but the sound was comforting. At the bottom of the hill Laura looked down at the stones that marked the last earthly remains of her parents. I could’ve brought flowers. She was surprised that the bitterness she’d grown accustomed to was fading away. Three more years, Dad, then I’m free. You were right, I am good at it, though Roger would probably disagree. Gotta qualify for the Open today Mom, it’s at Circle. I tied you there once, remember?
Laura stayed a little while longer, enjoying the peace.
"Yeah, okay, thanks." Trip hung up the phone and turned to face Keith and Chris who were standing in the exact same pose, arms crossed and knees locked with eyebrows raised in question. "The USGA will not release the qualifying results until tomorrow…that’s when they’ll complete the final roster for the Open."
"So unless she calls, we won’t know till tomorrow?" Keith pulled the pencil from behind his ear. "It’s not news unless she qualifies."
"She’ll kill you if you put that in a show," Chris observed.
"I just wanna know, don’t you?"
"What’s the best you’ve done out here, Kaz?" Charles asked. They were on the tee box of the third hole waiting for the group in front of them to get off the green. It was a longish par 3, 193 yards with a little water on the side. She sorted through her mental list of games played and pulled up the answer. "Six under, and it wasn’t a particularly good day." She was already one under par after two holes; a birdie had gone a long way toward making the nervousness vanish.
"Can you do it again?"
The group left the green and Charles handed her a three iron. Her playing partner had bogied the last hole so Laura had the honor. An easy swing put the ball less than six feet from the pin. "I think I’d better." She answered him.
Par was 36 on the front nine, and Laura made the turn at four under, well pleased with a 32. With the difficult number seven behind her, subdued with another birdie and another on nine, she stopped in the restroom to wash her hands. Nine more…don’t fuck it up, she told the reflection. Balling the paper towel, she tossed it in the wastebasket on her way out the door. Charles was waiting and they trudged up the path to number ten. "You drinking enough?" he asked.
"Yes mother." She looked over at him, amused. "You too?"
"I’m just the pack mule, and you never use those big leather staff bags, so I’m happy. You walking at your club?" She nodded. "Got a bagman there?"
"Yeah, he wants some tour work. He’s done some Nike…pretty good guy. If you hear that someone’s looking let me know."
"Does he know about us?" Charles gave a mock leer.
"Sure, he’s insanely jealous. Her playing partner, Tammy, was already waiting at the tee drinking from a quart bottle of water. Laura put on her game face, and Charles handed her the driver. She bent down to tee up the ball, then stood, twirling the club absently to loosen her wrist, then took a practice swing. Laura was confident now, and the drive showed it. Probably a good 280 yards. She gave the club back to the grinning caddy and stood back feeling the warmth of the sun, and let the pleasure of playing well carry her through the rest of the round.
It was after the Six o’clock ‘cast and the few remaining occupants of the newsroom were sitting around the assignments desk having one of those bizarre conversations that bored groups of overworked people often have. "I’d shave my head for a hundred bucks…hell, I’d shave it for twenty." Jody’s confession prompted Keith to jump up and pull out his wallet.
"How ‘bout ten? It’s not like a nose job, it’ll grow back."
The photog snorted, "I have my pride."
Chris laughed from her desk, where she was re-packaging a story for ten. It caught Kate’s attention and she turned. "How much to run naked through the lobby, Chris?"
"There isn’t enough money."
"For a thousand bucks, I’d do it," Bobby quipped.
"Who would you sleep with for a thousand bucks?" The staff pondered Kate’s question while she elaborated. "Anyone in the newsroom…for a thousand dollars." Bobby and Rendally looked at each other and grinned, replying in unison, "Kaz."
Chris lifted her eyebrows but otherwise gave no sign of interest at the howls of laughter generated by the answer. You have no idea…
Tomorrow was a long time to wait to find out if Laura had qualified, and the reporter hoped there would be a message on her machine when she got home. She finished the story, clicked to print the script and stood up rubbing her neck to work out the kinks. One of the phones rang and Keith picked it up. "Hey! How’d it go?" He covered the mouthpiece and said to Kate, "It’s Kaz." Suddenly nervous, Chris put her hands in her pockets, trying to maintain an air of casual indifference as she listened to the one sided conversation.
"Nope, everything went fine…One of the candidates for the sheriff’s race pulled out…No jury for the Bradley trial yet…Uh huh…All vehicles are present and accounted for," Keith grinned at Chris. "No, we can do that tomorrow…You did? Cool…Okay… bye." The Managing Editor hung up the phone and turned around, grinning from ear to ear.
"Eight under par, Kaz is going to the Open."
Continued in Part 7
Return to The Bard's Corner