Are we almost there yet?
Yes. It was at least the fifth time Joshua had asked the question and Sam was relieved that she could finally answer in the affirmative.
The boy had been positively beside himself with excitement ever since his parents had given him permission to go to Tinas with his aunt. He hugged the Seminole flag hed been holding in his lap. Shell be glad to get this back.
I think youre right. It was nice of you to ask your dad for it. And Mike was thrilled to get rid of the thing before anyone arrived for the party. She turned the car into the driveway of Bayshore Palms. Stopping at the call box, she pressed the code on the keypad and Tina answered.
Hi! Were here! Josh shouted across Sam and out her window.
A low chuckle rumbled from the speaker. Come on up, you two. The gate raised, allowing them to pull into the garage and park.
Wow she has an elevator! Josh ran ahead enthusiastically. Can I press the button?
The elevator came and they got in.
What floor, Auntie Sam?
The boy pushed the appropriate number and then danced around happily in the confined space until the doors opened. Tina was standing there waiting for them.
Hi! Joshua handed her the flag. Look what I brought for you!
Thanks. She bent down and hugged the child. You ready for the big game?
Good. She straightened up and smiled as she reached for Sams hand. Hi.
Josh took Tinas other hand and they walked down the hallway to the condo. This is cool! He exclaimed when they got inside.
Glad you like it.
Can I use the bathroom? It was a LONG ride here.
Yes. She showed her small guest the way through the kitchen to the bathroom. Striding back to the living area, she almost bumped into Sam, who was slowly making her way around the edge of the room, eyeing the answering machine warily.
Whoa! Tina wrapped her arms around the distracted woman.
Oh! I Im sorry, the blonde sniffled as she leaned into the embrace.
Its were going to be all right. Tina murmured in her ear. I promise.
Tina? Joshua yelled from the bathroom. Is it okay to use the towel thats here? My mom says sometimes towels are only to look at.
Yes, you can use it, she called back to him.
Sam wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. Youd think at my age Id have a better grip on my emotions. I just need a minute She hurried out onto the balcony.
The boy returned and Tina quickly tried to think of something to occupy him. Would you do me a favor, Josh?
I dont have many pictures around my place. Do you think you could draw something for me? She moved the large chart she had been working on from the dining room table and put it on the kitchen counter. You can sit right here. She indicated a chair that faced away from the balcony.
Oh, yes! I can make you something NICE! He smiled as he sat down.
Thanks, Id like that. She placed the markers and paper that were strewn about the table closer to him. Meanwhile, I need to talk to your aunt for a few minutes, okay?
Okay. The child had already started on his artwork.
Satisfied that Joshua was engrossed in his project, she stepped outside and stood near Sam, who was resting her arms on the railing and looking out at the water. They both were quiet for several minutes. It was Tina who eventually broke the silence. I I want you to know. She was never here.
Cmere. Tina gently guided her partner to the inner corner of the balcony, away from view of the street. Im saying that Andi has never been here. Umm no one has ever slept in that bed but me and you.
It took Sam a moment to find her voice. Why didnt you tell me? Were you afraid Id think it meant something?
No. I wanted you to know it did does mean something. I just didnt get a chance
Oh, Tina. Sam hugged the tall woman. No wonder you waited so long to ask me to stay over. It was a huge step for you. And then, I stormed out of here in a huff now I see that I wasnt the only one who got terribly hurt that day. I will NEVER, EVER leave angry again. No matter what happens, well resolve it together. Does that sound good?
Yes. Tina glanced through the patio door and saw that Josh was still busily working. She bent down for a kiss. I I love it when youre here.
That got her a big smile.
They gazed into each others eyes, oblivious to everything around them, until a high-pitched voice rang out from the condo.
Whose bright idea was it to bring that child with me today? Sam teased.
Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time Tina whispered as she followed the blonde into the dining room.
Look at what I made! The boy waved a colorful paper at them.
Let me see. Tina took the artwork and held it at arms length. Oh, this is VERY nice. It was a drawing of the three of them standing under a big yellow sun. Tina was in the middle with Josh and Sam on either side of her. They were all smiling and holding hands. It was a picture brimming with happiness. I like it a lot. Thank you.
Are you going to hang it up?
Sam watched with amusement as Tina held the paper in various locations throughout the condo and Josh offered his opinion on whether it was the perfect place to put it. They eventually decided to hang it from the fireplace mantle.
Its almost game time! Tina turned the TV on and they all piled onto the couch. The FSU graduate hung on every word as the announcers discussed both teams at length. Sam was paying attention to the Gator band in the background, performing the pre-game show on the field. It didnt take long for Joshua to start asking questions.
How can they play football in a swamp?
Its not A swamp its The Swamp. Thats the name of the Gators football stadium, Tina explained. Its much harder to beat a team when youre at their home field.
Thats a BIG band. What instrument do you like best, Tina?
Hmmm She paused so she could finish hearing what the broadcaster was saying about the quarterback rotation the Gators would be using. I think I like the drums best.
What does he mean the Seminoles are top-ranked?
Sam interrupted the inquisition. Josh, shes trying to listen to the TV dont ask so many questions. She likes the DRUMS?
Its okay. Tina smiled. I dont mind. And, true to her word, she patiently answered every question the child asked. When the first quarter started, she described the basic concepts simply enough that he quickly gained an understanding of the flow of the game. In no time at all, the two of them were hooting and hollering at the action on the screen.
Sam was enjoying their unbridled enthusiasm much more than the game itself. I love seeing her happy
Its GOOD! Tina yelled as they saw a field goal attempt sail between the uprights. How many points is that worth? she quizzed Josh to see if he remembered what shed told him.
Right! They slapped hands in a high-five motion.
And so it went throughout the first half, as they watched the teams move up and down the field. At halftime, FSU was ahead, 13-6.
We ready for some hot dogs? Tina took a long drink of beer to soothe her throat, which was sore from all the cheering she had been doing.
Yes! Joshua answered. He got up and looked out the large sliding doors. Can I go on the balcony for a while?
Sure. She headed into the kitchen as the boy scurried outside. Samantha?
Sam went to see what her partner wanted. You called?
Uh huh. Tina pulled the surprised woman into the laundry room and kissed her. Ive been wanting to do that during the whole first half.
Sam laughed. I didnt even think you were aware I was here, you were so involved in the game.
Tinas voice became deeper. I ALWAYS know when youre around. You make me feel Her words trailed off as she ducked her head down again for a long, lingering kiss.
My goodness. Sam felt her body tingling from head to toe. Whats gotten into you today?
I umm Im trying to tell you more stuff.
So I see and youre succeeding wonderfully. She ran a shaky hand through her hair. Wed better get back in there before Josh comes looking for us. Or before I barricade the door and attack you right now.
Okay I need to hurry up and cook those hot dogs. Tina led the way into the kitchen and began getting the food ready.
Sam noticed the large chart lying on the counter. It had horizontal and vertical lines, with dates in some of the columns. Whats this?
Oh, Im making a training schedule.
Youre SERIOUS about doing a marathon?
I thought it would be kind of a challenge test my abilities.
Should you push yourself that much with your back condition?
Tina turned from the stove where the hot dogs were sizzling in the frying pan and faced Sam. I want to try. I think I can do it.
Well, after graduating from college, I didnt run for over a year. There had been so much pressure on me to get, and keep, that scholarship, I was totally burnt out. Then one day, Steven talked me into going to the track with him. I actually had fun running for no other reason than my own enjoyment. Id almost forgotten what that was like. Tina turned around to resume her cooking duties. I I never ran competitively again, though.
Does it have to be a marathon? Sam walked over to Tina and looked up at her. Its so punishing on the body Im worried about you getting hurt.
Im pretty tough for an old lady. Tina stacked the hot dogs on a plate and filled a large bowl with chips.
You are NOT old! Hmm some of this evidently has to do with that age thing. And if you want to do this Ill support you one hundred percent. Even though I have reservations about it.
Thanks. That means a lot to me. She gave Sam a quick kiss before handing her the bowl of chips.
They arranged the food on the coffee table, refilled their drinks, called Josh from the balcony, and settled in for the second half. Tina almost choked on a potato chip when the Gators intercepted a pass and ran for a touchdown in the third quarter. Consequently, she didnt snack for the rest of the game. The teams battled on and with three and a half minutes remaining, the Gators scored to make it 30-23 with the Seminoles still in the lead. But FSU couldnt move the ball on their next drive, giving the Gators a final attempt to score. Tina was pacing the room and directing all sorts of advice at the television, as if the coaches and players could hear her. The orange and blue team moved the ball down the field until there was only enough time left for one more play.
Its going to be a Hail Mary. Tina mumbled, still pacing back and forth.
Theyre gonna say a prayer? Josh asked.
Sam grabbed the boy and pulled him closer to her. Shhh now is NOT the time to ask questions.
The three of them watched the ball leave the quarterbacks hand and arch very high in the air. It came down in the end zone And a crowd of players from both teams jumped up and tried to catch it. It bounced off the fingers of a Gator player before falling to the ground. The game was over. Bedlam ensued as Seminole players shouted Were number 1! and stomped all over the Gator logo painted on the grass at midfield. The FSU band played the music for the tomahawk chant and the contingent of Seminole fans who were in the stands cheered wildly.
After a little jumping around and yelling herself, Tina joined her guests on the couch. Pretty exciting game, huh?
They whole-heartedly agreed.
Were still undefeated next well play for the national championship. She looked at Josh and explained. Thats like the Super Bowl for college teams.
Yeah its WAY cool. Tina stretched her legs out, putting her feet up on the table. Lets see what the coach has to say.
As Josh and Tina watched the post game interviews, Sam took the dishes into the kitchen and washed them. She put the leftovers away and wiped off the counters. Before leaving the room, she took a moment to examine the marathon training schedule more closely. There were already numbers in some of the spaces indicating how many miles had been run on those days. What are you trying to prove? Whatever it is, it must be important or you wouldnt be doing this. She looked at the dates that extended well into spring and sighed. Theres still plenty of time for her to change her mind not that I think she will.
The football program ended and Tina shut off the TV. She leaned her head back and closed her eyes. Hmm I had more beers than I should have. Ill pay for that in the morning when I have to get up and run.
Sam returned to the living room to find one adult and one small boy practically asleep on the couch. Joshua, she called softly. Its time to go.
Umm hmm. He yawned. I need to use the bathroom first. He got up and groggily walked past her.
Sam sat down next to Tina. Are you okay?
VERY okay Blue eyes opened and regarded her, when youre here.
Sam took a large hand in her own and kissed it. I need to get Joshua home. She entwined her fingers with Tinas.
I wish you could stay.
Id drive to your place but umm Ive had a few beers.
Yes, you certainly did. Sam smiled at the slightly drunk woman. Ill call you after I have lunch with Kathy tomorrow. Maybe you can come over then?
Id like that.
The women shared a few quiet moments holding hands and sneaking kisses while they waited for Joshua.
Umm Im ready. The boy was standing at the door, smiling.
How long has he been there? Sam whispered.
I dont know.
Tina escorted her guests to their car. In between yawns, Joshua expressed his thanks for being invited over and for the football lesson.
Hell be asleep before we get to the interstate, Sam commented.
Youre probably right. The tall woman chuckled.
Tina watched them get in the car and drive away before heading for the elevators.
The next morning, the former track star forced herself to go running even though she felt sluggish from her beer drinking the night before. No more overindulging until after the marathon, T. She did some housework and a load of laundry before having a light lunch. Glancing at the clock for the umpteenth time, she decided to sit on the balcony and read a book until Sam called. When the phone finally rang, she quickly jogged inside to answer it. Hello?
Umm this is Lisa Sams sister.
Tina immediately heard the stress in the womans voice. Somethings wrong. What what is it?
Today Sam went to lunch with a friend of hers.
Yes, I know. Tina felt her stomach twist into a knot. WHAT HAPPENED?
Im at Sarasota Memorial Hospital
shes been in a car
To be continued
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