Something to be Thankful For
By Carrie Carr
Disclaimers: Okay, it was *supposed* to be a short story - guess I lied <g>. I don't foresee this being as big a monster as my other stories, but it will take a few parts to finish up. Guess you can call it a short story, because the parts are shorter, and so are the chapters <wink>. Bear with me.
Again, there is a theme of two women who like each other - we may even hear the "L" word used, you never know (depends on them, not me <g>). There are a few naughty words, probably no nudity, and we'll get to see more of the nasty relatives.
This story is for all of those wonderful folks on the CarriesCrossing chat and email list. (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CarriesCrossing) Thank you for all your support and patience, you are all fantastic! I want to especially thank my wonderful editor, Day, whose magical touch with the grammar and punctuation wand makes this story look so good.
All comments, suggestions, or just notes to say hello can be directed to -firstname.lastname@example.org
As always, my writing and my life are dedicated to my AJ, the brightest star in my universe.
Copyright November 2001 by Carrie Carr
Streaks of sunlight danced across the lightly freckled face, causing the small nose to twitch. Kay moaned and then stretched her arms over her head as her eyes blinked open slowly. The movement caused her to twist her injured leg too far, which made her cry out in pain. "Ow!" She sat up and reached for the plaster-wrapped limb. "This is going to take some getting used to, I think." Remnants of a disturbing dream tickled Kay's subconscious as she looked around the room and struggled to get her wits about her.
The small bedroom looked as if a tornado had torn through it. Clothes were not only scattered all over the floor, but the four-drawer dresser opposite the bed bore the weight of a large stack of clean garments that had yet to be put away. Magazines and books liberally littered every other available surface, and the small computer desk in the corner opposite the closet held a fifteen-inch monitor and a tower system that was in several pieces. Kay riffled her fingers through her shoulder-length blond hair and sighed. Nothing looks different. Wonder what woke me up? She reached for the crutches that were propped against the wall next to the bed. A large smile graced her lovely features. Think I'll go check on my guest.
Kay maneuvered into the small living room, expecting to see a black-clad form draped across her sofa. There had been a short argument over who should take the bed, with Randi finally getting her way. She had claimed that she was an insomniac, and that the television in the living room would be good company for her. Searching hazel eyes widened at the empty room. A metallic clang coming from the front yard caused Kay to hurry over to the door and peer outside.
Randi was squatting at the right rear wheel of the Corvette, a tire iron in her hands. She fiddled with the jack for a long moment, then stood up and threw the factory-bent bar off into the nearby trees. "Stupid son of a bitch!" Randi kicked the tire and then grabbed her left foot, hopping around as she mumbled under her breath.
Struggling to keep from laughing out loud, Kay stepped onto the small front porch. "Randi? What's going on?"
At the sound of her friend's voice, Randi stopped hopping and turned around. "Umm. Hi." She gestured to the car with one hand. "I got up this morning and found out that I had a flat tire. Great time to find out that the jack that's been riding around in my trunk all these years is rusted closed, isn't it?"
"You've never had a flat before now?" Kay asked. "How long have you had the car?"
"Since I graduated from high school," Randi admitted, as she walked up the steps to stand next to her friend. "I've had a few low tires, but I was always able to get them to the shop without having to take them off the car." She turned around and stared at the yellow car. "Mind if I use your phone? Looks like I'm going to have to call the Auto Club, again."
Kay smiled sympathetically. "How about if I call them for you? Give you a chance to get cleaned up a bit, at least." She made looked pointedly at her friend's legs. The dark slacks had twin circles of mud ground into the knees; and where Randi had rubbed her hands, the thighs looked almost as bad. "I'll be glad to put those in to soak."
"Uh, well " The dark-haired woman looked as if she wanted to run. "I appreciate the offer, really; but all my clothes are back at my motel. They're probably holding them hostage until I show up to pay for an extra day," she grimaced.
Kay was determined to get Randi into clean clothes, no matter what it took. She knew that staying in the same outfit for over two days had to be getting uncomfortable. "Okay, how about this? You take my car to get your things, and I'll wait here for the Auto Club for you."
Randi sighed. "Are you sure? You don't even know me that well." But she was beginning to warm to the idea. Spending a little more time here with her is a bonus I don't think I want to miss out on.
Kay nodded. "I'm completely sure. Besides," she grinned, "it's not my car. It belongs to my cousin."
"Aha! Now I see how you are," Randi teased. She pushed the door open and motioned for Kay to go in front of her. "Ladies first."
Shaking her head, Kay did as she was told. "You are a brat, Randi Meyers."
"I aim to please, ma'am," the taller woman joked, following her friend inside.
A heavy knock on the front door caused Kay to jump. With a heavy sigh, she grabbed her crutches and hobbled over to answer the door. She peeped through the blinds in the nearby window and saw a large man standing on the porch. "Who is it?"
"Auto Club, ma'am."
Kay opened the door and had to look up at the person in front of her. "Hi."
The tall man took off his hat and nodded. "Ma'am. Are you the one who requested help with a flat tire?"
"Yes." Kay pointed behind him. "It's the Corvette over there. Our jack was, umm, broken." She decided that there was no sense in telling a complete stranger all the details.
"All right. Did our truck not come out last night? Our log shows that you called for help then, too." He put his hat back on and looked down at the diminutive woman and the cast on her leg. "Can you drive like that?"
Kay ground her teeth to keep her comment to herself. She looked at the name that was embroidered over his right pocket. "No, John, I can't drive like this. But it's not my car. And yes, your truck did come out last night. But we woke up to find the tire flat."
Realizing that he had upset his customer, John held up his hands in a defensive gesture. "Look, I'm sorry, ma'am. I was just trying to make sure that Beth actually came out here last night. That's all. I didn't mean any harm."
"No, I'm sorry," Kay apologized. "I haven't had my coffee yet." She looked down at the cast. "And I'm still trying to get used to this darn thing, so Im a bit touchy. Why don't you go ahead and take care of the tire, and I'll give you a cup of coffee to make up for it? I feel really -" She stopped in mid-sentence when she realized what he had said. "Did you say Beth? That wouldn't happen to be Beth Rodgers, would it?"
"Yeah. She drives the night shift. Bitches about it most of the time, too," he added. "Didn't you see her last night?"
Kay shook her head. "No. My friend met her at the door. I never saw her." That means Beth knew that Randi was here. Would she do something like this? She can be mean, and has a vindictive streak. But stooping to vandalism? Her mental musings were interrupted when John cleared his throat.
"You okay, miss? Do you know Beth?"
"You could say that, John." Kay decided a tactical retreat was in order. "I think I'll go make that coffee. Just knock on the door when you're finished, all right?"
He nodded. "Sure thing." John watched as the door closed. "If I live to be a hundred, I don't think I'll ever understand women," he muttered, walking down the steps.
Feeling almost human after a shower and a change of clothes, Randi tossed her duffel bag into the back seat of the Impala. She had just finished assuring the manager of the motel that everything was fine, and that her not staying in her room the two previous evenings had nothing to do with the accommodations. As she started trying to dial out on the cell phone, she realized that the battery was dead. "Is everything out to get me today, or what?" she complained to no one in particular. Realizing the charger was in the Corvette, Randi tossed the cell phone into the back seat with her bag.
She drove through the quiet town, smiling when she came upon a large grocery store. "Think I'll pick up a few things for Kay. Might as well make her a good meal before I have to leave." Randi parked the car, then went inside to search the aisles of the store. She had placed several items in her basket when she heard a voice behind her.
"Randi? Is that you?"
With an aggrieved groan, Randi turned around. "Hello, Amy. What a surprise."
The platinum blonde smiled insincerely. "Isn't it, cousin? I thought that you'd be back in your big city by now, playing with the animals." Amy stepped forward and glanced in Randi's basket. "Shopping?" She let her eyes rake down her cousin's body. "Maybe you should concern yourself with more low fat items."
"And maybe you shouldn't concern yourself at all with what I do," Randi snapped. "And while you're at it," she growled, stepping away, "try going to a gym once in a while, yourself."
Amy watched as the other woman quickly rounded the end of the aisle and disappeared. "Touchy, touchy." She smiled. "I bet Grandmama would love to know that Randi is still in town. I just can't wait to share the news with her."
Kay sat at the kitchen table, slowly sipping her third cup of coffee. Her right leg was propped up on a second chair, and she had been mentally arguing with herself whether she should tell Randi about Beth, or just let the matter drop. After all, it's not like I have any proof that she had anything to do with Randi's flat tire. The tow truck driver had told her that a large nail was embedded in the tire, and had offered to take it in and have it repaired. I hope I did the right thing, letting him take the tire into town.
The large man had promised that the tire would be ready by early afternoon, and he even offered to bring it back and put it on the car himself. Kay couldn't help but feel like he was trying to impress her, but she gratefully accepted his offer anyway. She heard a key turn in the front lock, and smiled as she heard Randi bustle into the house.
"I'm in here," she called, her smile widening as her friend stepped into the kitchen. "Wow. You clean up nice," Kay teased.
Randi blushed. The faded jeans fit her well, and the dark green sweater brought out the different shades in her brown eyes. "Thanks, I think." She carried two paper bags in and set them down on the countertop. "I picked up a few things at the store. Thought I'd make you a good lunch."
"That sounds great. Oh, by the way, the tow truck driver said the tire had a nail in it. I hope you don't mind, but I told him he could take it into town and have it repaired."
Randi looked up from where she was pulling items out of the bags. "No, that's great, thanks." She noticed the worried look on Kay's face and stopped what she was doing. "Hey. What's up?" A few steps and she was kneeling next to the smaller woman's chair. "Are you all right?"
Kay nodded. "I'm fine. Just been thinking too much."
"Thinking? About what?" Randi placed one hand on Kay's left leg and squeezed gently. "Anything I can help with?"
"No, it's silly." Kay linked her fingers with Randi's and held them tightly.
"C'mon, tell me. You know you want to," Randi joked, then her wide smile faded. "I'd really like to help, if I could."
Kay studied their hands. "I was just wondering." She took a deep breath and looked up into Randi's eyes. "How long can you stay?" Lord. Can I sound any more pitiful?
Brown eyes twinkled with amusement, and something else. "How long do you want me?"
Oh, God. Don't ask me that. The answer might scare you to death, Randi. "Umm." Seeing the glint in the other woman's eyes, Kay slowly leaned down until their faces were inches apart.
Randi echoed the movement, tilting her head up slowly. She saw Kay close her eyes as their lips edged closer. Her eyes closed as well, and she could feel the younger woman's breath lightly tickle her face.
Both women jumped apart as the shrill ring of the telephone broke the moment. Kay almost slid out of her chair, and Randi ended up on her rear end on the floor. The blonde looked down at her friend and fought back a case of nervous giggles.
"I'll get it," Randi grumbled, getting to her feet and going into the living room. She brought back the cordless phone and handed it to Kay. "I've got to go get my bag out of your car," she whispered, pointing over her shoulder to the living room.
Kay nodded and hit the "talk" button on the phone. "Hello?"
"Katherine! Why haven't you called me?" Louise Weatherby practically cried into the phone. "I've been worried sick. I just knew you'd call me last night, or at least first thing this morning."
Right. I wonder what she needs this time. "I'm sorry, Aunt Louise. What's wrong?"
"Wrong? Everything's wrong! Nancy's due to come in this afternoon, and she doesn't have a way home from the church. She's going to need her car back, you know."
"Please, calm down. Why don't you have her take a cab out here, and she can drive her car home?" Kay offered, rubbing her forehead with her free hand. Her aunt's hysterics always brought on a headache.
"A cab? Are you serious? My poor baby has been off in the wilds for months on retreat. You can't honestly think that she'd want to take another long drive so soon after coming home." Louise sniffled dramatically. "I suppose you don't care that your cousin is probably exhausted from her journey."
Kay rolled her eyes. "For God's sake, Aunt Louise, don't be so melodramatic. I don't live that far away." Her voice had gotten louder, and she looked up to see a concerned Randi standing in the doorway. She reached out with one hand and was relieved when the older woman crossed the room and sat down next to her, taking her hand.
"That's the thanks I get, after all I've done for you. Why I should have never -"
Randi could see tears of frustration welling up in the green eyes across from her. "Is there something I can do?" she whispered.
"Aunt Louise, hold on a minute." Kay held the phone to her chest and sighed. "My aunt is going ballistic because my cousin is due back in town this afternoon."
"Well, that's my cousin's car out there in the driveway. Mine broke down right after she left, and my aunt loaned me hers so that I could drive her around town."
Randi nodded. "Okay. So your cousin needs her car back?"
Pinching the bridge of her nose, Kay expelled another heavy breath. "That, and Aunt Louise claims she also needs a ride home from the church. It's only about four blocks from their house," she grumbled.
"Where's your car now?"
"In a junkyard somewhere, I'm sure," Kay admitted ruefully. "The mechanic told me it would cost more to repair it than what it's worth. So, I've been saving up to buy another car."
"Your nest egg?" Randi realized that Kay wasn't in as good of financial shape as she had been led to believe. Poor thing. Finally gets enough money together to buy a car, and she's going to have to live off of it until her leg heals. Rotten timing.
Kay nodded. "I'm afraid so." She heard a muffled sound coming from the phone and put it back up to her ear. "I'm sorry, Aunt Louise. What were you saying?"
"You never listen to me," complained the older woman loudly. "I don't know what Im going to do. How will your cousin get home?"
Randi heard the woman's cries from where she was sitting. She pointed at her chest and nodded, causing a relieved smile to break across Kay's face.
Thank you, Kay mouthed to her friend. "Aunt Louise? I have a friend here that will go with me to pick up Nancy. Then we'll take a cab home. Will that be all right?"
"A friend?" Louise warbled. "It's not that frightful roommate of yours, is it?"
Kay had to stifle a giggle. The last time that Aunt Louise had been to her house, she was still living with Beth. Her girlfriend had taken exception to the way the older woman was acting, and had told her in no uncertain terms that she was no longer welcome in their home. Shame she only did that because Aunt Louise called her a grease monkey. "No, she doesn't live here anymore. This is a new friend."
"Oh. Well, that's good. That woman scared me," Louise sniffled. "Nancy's bus gets in at three. Can you be there?"
"We'll be there. Goodbye, Aunt Louise." Kay hit the "talk" button again, before her aunt could say another word. She looked up into the amused eyes of her friend. "I'm sorry to get you mixed up in this mess."
Randi shook her head. "You have nothing to apologize for, Kay. Believe me, I understand how family can be." After all, her cousin is probably a sweetheart compared to those two bitches I'm related to. She stood up and stretched. "How about I fix up a couple of sandwiches for us, and then we'll head on into town."
"Sounds like a winner to me," Kay admitted. "I think I'll go wash up." She reached for her crutches, but Randi was quicker and handed them to her instead. "Thanks," Kay murmured, wishing that the phone call hadn't interrupted them earlier. She hobbled out of the kitchen, her mind drifting back to the kiss that almost was.
The old Impala slowly pulled into the church parking lot, while Kay searched through the small crowd for some sign of her cousin, Nancy. She spotted a lone figure surrounded by luggage at the far end of the lot. Squinting, she studied the person for a long moment before laughing out loud. "Oh, my God. Would you look at her?"
Randi directed her attention to where Kay was pointing. "What? Is that - " She fought back a giggle herself. "That's your cousin? She looks like a skunk died on her head."
Nancy's hair had grown out at least four or five inches while she was on her trip. Her naturally mousy brown hair crept down past her ears, and only the bottom half of her hair retained the platinum blonde color that she so proudly wore. The large woman didn't look as if she'd lost any weight during her travels, but it was hard to tell with the oversized housedress she was wearing. Bright blue with pink and yellow flowers, she was easy to spot in a crowd. Nancy looked up as the Impala approached, her eyes narrowing. "It's about time," she huffed at Kay, who had her window down. "Who's driving my car?"
The vehicle stopped, and Randi climbed out and hurried around to the other side. "Hi, I'm Randi. Would you like me to help you with your bags?" She held out her hand in a polite gesture, but was almost knocked to the ground by Nancy as the heavier woman rushed by her to get to the driver's side.
"Just put them in the trunk, Sandy. I'll drive." She squeezed herself behind the wheel of the car. With a groan, Nancy adjusted the seat until she was no longer pinned by the steering wheel. "It feels so good to be home," she muttered. As she saw the other woman walking around the car, she pulled the keys out of the ignition and held them out the window. "Hurry up, Sandy. I'm just dying to get home and have a nice hot bath."
"Watch how you speak to my friend," Kay warned. "And her name is Randi." She glared at her cousin. "Did you leave your manners in that other country, too?"
Nancy glanced down her nose at the blonde. "Good lord, Katherine. What have you done to yourself?" She looked in the rear view mirror and watched as Randi struggled to get all of the luggage into the trunk. "Where did you find that one, cousin? And what happened to that truck driver that you had?"
Kay sighed. "Beth wasn't a truck driver. She worked in a mechanics shop." And obviously has graduated up to driving tow trucks. She turned slightly so that she could see Randi, who was almost finished with the luggage. "We broke up months ago. I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't talk about her anymore."
"Fine, fine. What does this one do? She's a bit older than what you normally go for, isn't she?" Nancy loved to bait her cousin, knowing how private Kay was. "Kind of cute, though."
"We're just friends," Kay growled defensively. "Randi found me after I fell and broke my leg. She took me to the hospital, and has been helping me out."
The rear door opened, and the object of their conversation sat down behind Kay. Randi reached over the seats and handed the keys to Nancy, who took them without comment.
Minutes later, Nancy pulled into the driveway of her home. The two-story structure was finished with a dark brown brick; and the home appeared to have been built in the nineteen twenties. Large hedges engulfed the front of the house, and the front door could only be seen once the car parked in front of the garage. Shrubbery grew wild over the front lawn, which was nothing more than dirt and weeds. The home that had once been a showplace had deteriorated after Harold Weatherby passed away.
Kay looked around in dismay, wondering once again how she could be related to people who allowed their home to exist in such a state of disrepair. She knew her aunt had been left a goodly sum of money after the death of her husband, and couldn't understand why Louise didn't spend a little of it on the house itself. She jumped when Nancy climbed out of the car and slammed the driver's door.
"Randa, be a dear and grab my things, will you? I must check on my poor mother." With that, Nancy hurried up the front steps as fast as her bulk would allow.
"I'm sorry, Randi. I never expected my cousin to act like that," Kay apologized, as Randi helped her from the car. She accepted the crutches gratefully. "Thanks."
Randi chuckled. "You're welcome." She looked up at the overgrown hedge. "Think it's safe to go in?"
"Only if you want to. If you think my cousin is unpleasant, wait until you meet my aunt." Kay watched as Randi walked back to the rear of the car. "Don't you dare get her luggage for her, Randa-dear. The lazy old cow can just get it herself."
Oooh. Someone's in a bit of a snit. Randi hurried back to where her friend was waiting. "Yes, ma'am." She studied the ground in front of them carefully, then turned back to Kay and winked. "Do you think you can navigate this, or would you like a ride?"
Although Kay would like nothing more than to be draped over Randi's back, she shook her head. "Uh, no. I don't want to give them any more ammunition than they probably already have. C'mon." She led the way, feeling thoughtful eyes on her back.
They entered the house and found two women standing in the front room, wrapped around each other and crying. Randi guessed from the way the older of the two was carrying on, that she was Louise. Although about the same girth, she was an inch or two shorter than her daughter, and her hair was so blonde it was almost silver in the bright lights of the room. I bet she never misses a beauty appointment, Randi chuckled to herself.
"My baby, my baby," Louise blubbered, rocking the larger woman back and forth. "You've finally come home to me." Realizing that they were no longer alone in the room, she pulled back slightly to acknowledge the visitors that were standing in the open hallway. "Well, who do we have here? Katherine, step into the parlor so that I can see you better."
The "parlor" was actually Louise's affectation for the living room. The rectangular shaped area was filled with uncomfortable furniture and tiny knickknacks covering every available surface. Dark, heavy velour curtains covered the windows, and the entire house smelled of cheap perfume and mold.
Randi quietly stood in the hallway as Kay moved forward to greet her aunt. The stale air in the house was almost oppressive, and she tried to imagine her friend living in such a state. No wonder she lives where she does. I'd be a fresh-air freak myself if I had to spend any time in this mausoleum.
"Hello, Aunt Louise." Kay leaned forward and accepted the dry air-kiss from the older woman.
"Goodness, girl. What have you done to yourself? You're almost skin and bones," Louise chided, stepping back and studying her niece. "You're not doing drugs, or anything like that, are you?" she whispered.
Kay felt like slapping her aunt. Just because I'm not the size of a house, she thinks I'm doing drugs? Gee, thanks for the vote of confidence. "No, I'm not doing drugs. It's called exercise, Aunt Louise. I take a lot of long walks out where I live and enjoy the fresh air."
"Don't get smart with me, young lady." Louise looked down at Kay's cast. "And walking can't be that good for you - just look at yourself."
Having heard enough of the conversation, Randi hurried over to Kay's side. "Accidents can happen to anyone. I'd think that you'd be glad that Kay wasn't more seriously injured."
Louise's eyebrow rose as she stood face to face with Kay's protector. "And just who might you be? I don't recall seeing you around here before."
"My name is Randi Meyers, and I'm a friend of Kay's." Although she was an inch or two taller than the older woman, Randi felt dwarfed by Louise. She held out her hand and was surprised when it was taken and squeezed - hard. Blood red nails dug into her flesh, and it took all that Randi had not to cry out.
"I see. And just how long have you known our Katherine?" Louise pulled the younger woman close to her and glared into the brown eyes.
Nancy stepped over and nudged her cousin. "I don't think mama likes your friend, Katherine."
"That's enough!" Kay ordered, stepping in between Louise and Randi. "As soon as I call us a cab, we'll be leaving." She almost fell trying to hurry away.
Randi waited while Kay made her phone call, then began to follow her into the hallway. She could feel her friend's upset, and was worried that she had done something wrong. It took all of her self-control to walk out the door when she heard Louise's voice echo in the house. She wanted to go back inside and slap some sense into the old woman.
"That's right. Run away like you always do, Katherine. You're weak, just like that miserable excuse for a father of yours!"
Getting a little bit of satisfaction out of slamming the front door, Randi hurried to catch up with her friend, who appeared to be trying to set a land speed record on crutches. "Hey, wait up."
Kay stopped, but didn't turn around. She felt a gentle hand on her back and fought to hold back the tears that she knew she wouldn't be able to stop.
"Hey," Randi murmured, walking around until she was standing in front of the younger woman. She saw Kay's lower lip tremble and was just barely prepared for the armful of crying woman that lunged into her arms.
Unable to control herself, Kay began to cry in earnest. She felt strong arms wrap around her body and gratefully accepted the quiet support that Randi offered. "I can't believe I let them get to me like that," she sniffled a few minutes later.
"Yeah, well, I can't believe I didn't sock one or both of them in the nose when I had the chance," Randi admitted ruefully. "Are you sure you're related to them?"
"She's my mother's sister. Mom was a lot like that, too. Always complaining, thinking that the world owed her more than she got," Kay imparted. "Dad was more of a dreamer, never really caring about money or style. He finally got fed up with Mom's constant whining and moaning, and took off with a manicurist from the mall." She looked up into the concerned brown eyes above her. "I don't know if he's alive, or dead. Never heard another word from him after he left."
Randi reached down and wiped at the damp tracks on Kay's face. "Some guys just can't handle being a father," she commiserated. The honk from the taxi that pulled into the driveway caused her to look up. "You ready to go?"
"Definitely," Kay admitted, making her way slowly to the waiting cab.
Kay entered her living room to the sound of a shrill ring, different from the sound of her own telephone.
"I hope you dont mind, but I plugged my cell phone into one of your wall outlets," Randi explained, closing the door and hurrying over to the small device. "I must have accidentally turned it on after I plugged it in." She picked up the phone and pushed a button. "Hello?"
Sitting down and propping her injured leg up on the sofa, Kay couldn't help but listen in on her friend's conversation. I hope that if she wants privacy, she'll leave the room. I hate to just sit here, but what else can I do?
"I know. Well, I've been away from the phone for a couple of days." Randi paused to listen, then ran one hand through her hair. "Look. I'll be back on Monday, all right?" Another pause. "You tell Dr. Wilde that unless he wants to do everything himself from now on, he'll give me this weekend. Now, you - Oh. Dr. Wilde." She listened for a long moment. "Something very important has come up," Randi tried to explain. "No, you listen. As far as I'm concerned, you can shove Mrs. Thompson's cat right up your -" An incredulous look crossed her face. "That son-of-a-bitch hung up on me!"
Kay scooted down until she was sitting on the middle cushion. She reached out and her hand was immediately taken. "Come sit down and tell me all about it."
Still upset, Randi did as she was asked. "He hung up on me," she repeated.
"I know, honey. But can you really blame him? You did suggest a cat enema to the man," Kay responded with a touch of wry amusement.
Randi looked into her friend's eyes and smiled. "Wasn't the most tactful thing I could have said, was it?"
"Not really," Kay agreed. She looked down at their joined hands. "So, when are you going back?"
"Sunday." No way I'm leaving tonight, just so I can "fix" a damned cat first thing Saturday morning. He can just neuter Ruffles his own self. Randi squeezed the hand she was holding, waiting until Kay looked up at her. "I," her voice cracked, "I don't want to leave you."
Kay bit her lip. "I don't want you to leave," she admitted. "But you have a job you have to get back to. Will you be coming back to town to spend Thanksgiving with your family?"
The dark head nodded. "Yeah, I'm supposed to." Randi reached up and touched the younger woman's cheek with her fingertips. "But I'd rather spend it with you." Good lord, you've taken complete leave of your senses, Randi Sue. You've only known this woman for a couple of days, she berated herself. But I'd like to get to know her better, Randi admitted to the small voice inside of her.
"I'd really like that, too," Kay whispered as she leaned into the gentle touch. "I just wish we didn't have to wait three weeks."
"We don't," Randi blurted. "Come back with me." Am I out of my mind?
Is she out of her mind? She barely knows me. Kay studied the face across from her. "You're serious, aren't you?"
Randi nodded. "Hell, yeah, I'm serious." She blinked. "I mean, yes, I am. Look, you're stuck out here with no transportation, and I have a feeling that your family will be less than helpful while your leg heals."
"True, but -"
"Wait! Hear me out." Randi took a deep breath before continuing. "You said yourself that you can't look for a job right away. I live alone in a two-bedroom apartment, so there's plenty of room." She took the plunge and said what was in her heart. "Kay, I really like you. And no matter how tough you talk," she smiled, "I know that it would be hard to take care of yourself all alone without any help." Randi looked down again, unable to meet the hazel eyes. "Before I met you, I was barely existing, Kay. The two days we've spent together have been some of the best I can remember." To try and diffuse the seriousness of the conversation, she chuckled. "Hell, I ran out of cigarettes yesterday afternoon, and haven't even wanted one. Doesn't that tell you something?"
Kay laughed and shook her head. "That tells me that you're going to live a bit longer, if you keep it up," she joked. "Randi, I really appreciate your offer. But it wouldn't be right for me to take advantage of your sweet nature, and let you take care of me for a few weeks."
"Sweet nature? Are you crazy? I'm one of the crankiest people around. Just ask Dr. Wilde."
"I can't believe you actually work with another vet named Wilde." Kay looked into sad brown eyes. "Oh, Randi. Don't look at me like that."
Randi tilted her head slightly, never changing her expression.
"You're not playing fair," Kay complained. Less than half a minute later, she threw up her hands. "I give up! All right, Randi, you win. I'll go back with you." Like it was that hard of a choice. There's no way I could let her leave without me. Something about those eyes.
"All right!" Randi yelled, jumping up from the couch. "This is gonna be great, Kay. I think you'll really like Fort Worth."
The early glare of the sun was bright, but not completely uncomfortable since they had waited until mid-morning to start traveling. They had stayed up well past midnight the evening before while Kay tried to pack everything that she could for the three-week stay. Glad I packed light, otherwise her stuff would have never fit in my car. Randi adjusted her sunglasses, and even the glare off the truck bumper in front of them couldn't wipe the smile off her face. She glanced over at her friend, who had dozed off shortly after they left Woodbridge.
Kay was curled up in the bucket seat, facing Randi, using the older woman's jacket as a blanket. The car heater worked fine, but when Randi saw the younger woman snuggle up after she dozed off, she couldn't help but cover Kay with whatever had been available.
She just looks so cute. Randi shook her head at the thought. I've got it bad. She thought back to the conversation of the evening before. Kay never even blinked at her outburst when she was on the cell phone with her associate. She even made a joke about it, Randi recalled fondly. And then she wait! Did she call me honey? The smile widened into a full-fledged grin. She did! "Yes!" Randi cheered, slapping the steering wheel in excitement.
"What?" Kay mumbled, waking up and looking around. "Did I miss something?"
Oops. Busted. "Uh, no. You didn't miss anything, really. Sorry I woke you." But the smile that had blossomed on her face didn't waver.
Kay was charmed by the undisguised joy on her friend's face. Although Randi was wearing sunglasses, she could easily imagine the sparkle in the brown eyes that usually accompanied the wide grin. She's just so adorable. Realizing that she was staring, Kay cleared her throat and looked through the windshield. "So, how much further?" she asked, sitting up.
She knew the question was just to cover Kay's embarrassment, but decided to play along. "About twenty minutes, actually. Have you ever been to Fort Worth?" Randi asked.
"No. This is actually the first time I've ever been north of Woodbridge, to tell you the truth. I've been further southwest to visit family a few times, but that's about it. I haven't lived a very exciting life." Kay looked around at the grass-covered hills. She could barely make out a cluster of tall buildings off in the distance, and was awed by the amount of traffic they were already encountering on the multi-lane road. "It's nice, seeing all this open land before you get to the city," she remarked.
Unable to help herself, Randi laughed. "I'm sorry, I'm not laughing at you. But the reason for all this open land is because it can't be built on. The land is too unstable."
Intrigued, Kay studied the passing scenery with interest. "Really? It doesn't look unstable. They're grazing cattle on it."
"Oh, it's safe for cattle," Randi assured her. "But buildings would probably sink. That's the old landfill."
Kay turned and looked at her friend. Her nose wrinkled. "You mean, garbage? Eeew. That's gross."
Randi laughed. "True. But it's much nicer to look at than garbage, don't you agree?" She had to hold on to the steering wheel with both hands as a large truck barreled by.
"I don't know how you drive in all this," Kay admitted. "I don't think I could handle it." Truthfully, she was somewhat frightened by all the different lanes of traffic and the apparent fearlessness of the other drivers.
"You get used to it," Randi admitted. "When I first moved here years ago, I swore I'd never drive on the freeways. But now it's like second nature to me."
Unconvinced, Kay turned her attention back to the scenery. All the businesses had bars on the windows, and there were huge fences that she assumed had houses hidden behind them. "I don't think I could live like that," she murmured.
"Hidden away behind barred windows," Kay lamented sadly. "Are you that afraid of crime here?"
Randi shook her head. "I'm not. But then again, my apartment complex is in the suburbs. Believe me, where I live is more like Woodbridge than the 'hood," she joked.
I hope so. Kay realized that she never asked what kind of apartment Randi lived in. Not too smart, considering I'm going to spend the next three weeks there. What if I hate it? What if there are all sorts of criminals lurking around? She looked back over at Randi and mentally shook her head. She doesn't look like the type who would live in a bad neighborhood.
"You all right?" Randi reached over and touched Kay's arm. Recognizing the other woman's reticence as nerves, she wracked her mind for something that would calm Kay's fears. "I'm really glad I live on the ground floor," she blurted.
Kay turned around and smiled. "What?"
"Umm, well. I just realized that you'd have trouble navigating any stairs. So, I'm glad I live in a ground-floor apartment." She used to hate it. But it had belonged to her ex-girlfriend, Melissa, and she had gotten it by default it when Melissa had found someone else and moved out while she was at work.
"That would have been a problem," Kay agreed with amusement. She loved how Randi would stammer when she became nervous. I have a feeling this is going to be an interesting three weeks.
Exiting the freeway, Randi drove through more sedate city streets for several minutes. She pointed out several businesses to her friend, showing Kay where she did most of her shopping. Driving the car through a wrought-iron gate, she cautiously guided the Corvette through the winding private drive of her apartment complex.
Kay's eyes widened at the homes. They appeared to be condominiums more than the typical box-like apartments she was used to seeing. "You live here?"
"Yep." Randi parked the car under an open carport and pointed to the building in front of them. "Mine's the one on the left." The building looked like a house, only it had four doors instead of the usual one. The second floor had beautiful white stairs that lead up each side, and the light red brick was several different shades. Each half of the lower level was dressed up by neatly trimmed landscaping, and the white doors had polished brass knockers in their center.
"It's beautiful," Kay exclaimed, opening her door. The cool breeze that ruffled her hair was welcome after being cooped up inside the car for over two and a half hours. "It's so quiet here."
Randi stepped around the vehicle and pulled Kay's crutches from the trunk. Before they left Woodbridge, she had jammed them in last, barely able to close the hatch when she had finished packing the car. "Yeah. That's one of the reasons I've never moved. It's quiet, but close enough to things that I don't have to spend all day in the car." A quick study of the wooden implements showed no damage, so she walked over to where Kay was sitting and held out her hand. "Need some help?"
"Thanks." Kay allowed herself to be pulled from the car. She took the crutches from Randi and grimaced when she placed them under her arms.
"Either I'm going to have to get tougher, or these darn things are going to have to get a lot softer," she complained. "Six weeks of this may drive me crazy."
Randi nodded compassionately. "I know what you mean. I have to use them every time I have knee surgery, and I develop the most interesting calluses," she admitted. "Let me show you the apartment, then I'll come back for the bags." She swept one arm out in front of her. "After you, ma'am."
Kay rolled her eyes, but silently moved ahead of Randi.
After she had unlocked the front door, the older woman reached in and flipped a light switch. "Watch your step," she warned, holding the door open for Kay, who hobbled in and looked around.
The small living area was cluttered with mismatched furniture, some obviously in need of repair. A beige sofa was against one wall with several newspapers scattered across the cushions. They spilled onto the heavy oak coffee table that sat in front of the sofa. The forest green loveseat was at a right angle and was restitched in several places, while the dark blue recliner opposite it was covered by a well-used afghan. An empty glass sat on a rickety end table that was also home to a small lamp. The large thirty-two inch television set housed in a nice entertainment center seemed somewhat out of place. More video equipment covered the lower shelves, and there were several speakers around the room.
Kay tried to reconcile the furnishings with the exterior of the obviously expensive apartment. "This is, umm -"
"A pigsty," Randi offered helpfully. She closed the door behind them and ushered Kay into the living room. "The furniture is just some odds and ends that I picked up at garage sales and used furniture stores when my roommate," she bit off the word, "moved out and took all the furniture with her. I've been slowly buying new pieces, but just haven't gotten around to the living room yet." She saw Kay's eyes track to the television. "Well, maybe a little bit."
Kay sat down on the sofa. It was surprisingly comfortable considering the condition it was in. She looked up at her friend, who was smiling. "I love it. It's really homey."
"That's a polite word for it," Randi laughed, scooping up the newspapers and folding them more neatly. "It's usually not quite so messy, but the cleaning lady hasn't been here yet."
"Really?" She has a cleaning lady?
Randi laughed again. "Nah. Actually, I was running behind before I left, and just didn't pick up after myself. Didn't figure I'd have anyone come by and see what a pig I am."
Kay laughed with her. "I see. Now I find out how you really are." She gasped in surprise when Randi gently lifted her cast and set it on the coffee table. "Oh, I can't do that. I'll scratch it." She studied the wood closely, noticing the heavy pock marks and scars that covered the table. "Okay, so I'll scratch it even more. This table looks expensive, Randi."
"Oh, yeah. It cost me ten dollars almost a year ago," Randi assured her. "Don't worry about it. I want you to be comfortable. Besides," she sat down next to Kay and mimicked her posture, stretching her long legs out and placing her scuffed sneakers next to the cast, "I'll feel really guilty if I'm the only one sitting like this."
"We wouldn't want that, would we?" Kay leaned back and sighed. She looked around the room and noticed an open doorway to the right, and a hallway to the left. "This really is sweet of you-to put me up for a few weeks, Randi. I don't know how I'll be able to repay you."
Randi turned her head and smiled. "I'm sure we can come up with something." She blushed suddenly when she realized what she had said. "I mean, uh, we can work something out," she stammered, then groaned and covered her face with one hand. "Damn. I'm sorry, Kay. I think I'll shut up before I end up putting both feet in my mouth." A light touch on one arm caused her to peek out through her fingers.
"It's okay, Randi. Really." Kay found the older woman's nervous chatter endearing. "I knew exactly what you meant."
"Thanks." Randi moved her hand down to her lap and looked up shyly when it was grasped. She watched, mesmerized, as Kay leaned over and her face edged closer and closer. Without realizing it, Randi leaned forward as well. Inches away, Randi could almost feel the softness of the other woman's lips.
Startled, Randi's forehead bumped into Kay's nose. "Damn."
With an audible growl, the angry woman jumped up from the sofa and started down the hallway. "I'm getting to the point where I hate telephones," she muttered as she stomped out of sight.
To Be Continued - Part 3
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