Something to be Thankful For
By Carrie Carr
Disclaimers: Same as before - it was supposed to be short, but quickly took on a mind of its own. Sorry for the misconception. Who knows how much further we have to go? I sure as heck don't <g>.
Again, there is a theme of two women who like each other - we may even get 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 -email@example.com
As always, my writing and my life are dedicated to my AJ, the brightest star in my universe.
Copyright December 2001 by Carrie Carr
Several minutes after her hasty departure, Randi walked back into the living room and sat down in the recliner. "I'm sorry about that," she apologized. "That was the pet boarding house where I left Spike. He's gone on a hunger strike since yesterday, and they've been trying to call me."
"Spike?" Kay asked, intrigued. I should have known she'd have a pet. Although I'm a bit curious about one with a name like "Spike."
Randi nodded. "Yeah. You want to go with me? It's only a few blocks from here."
"Sure. I'd love to see more of the neighborhood, anyway." Kay struggled to her feet and slipped the crutches under her arms. "Lead on."
The short drive was spent in relative silence, except for when Randi pointed out areas she thought might be of interest to her friend. She pulled the Corvette into a small strip shopping center and parked in front of a storefront that read, "Paws to Reflect Pet Spa and Boarding House".
Kay giggled. "That's just too cute." She enjoyed the long-suffering look her companion gave her before Randi climbed out of the car. "Do you send Spike to the spa, too?" Kay asked as Randi helped her from the vehicle. "I've never seen an animal spa before. This could be fun."
With a shake of her head, Randi held the door open for the injured woman. They were barely in the door, when a teenaged girl appeared from the back room and rushed over to them.
"Oh, my God!" she practically sang, tossing her blonde hair over one shoulder. "I'm, like, so glad you're here, Ms. Meyers." She turned her head and yelled to the other room, "Mom! Spike's mommy is here."
Unable to help herself, Kay giggled again. Spike's mommy? Just how funny is that? Randi doesn't look too pleased with the label, if you ask me. She watched in amusement as a very short, very rotund woman walked through the doorway in the back, holding a small black creature to her chest.
"Ms. Meyers," she warbled, "I'm so glad you were able to come. Poor Spike has missed you terribly. I'm afraid he thought he had been abandoned." She held out the animal to Randi, who automatically accepted him.
The small bundle came to life once he recognized the person holding him. Whining and wiggling, the little black and tan dog rose up and happily began to lick the dark-haired woman's face. "Calm down, Spike," Randi muttered, trying to avoid the pink tongue. "It's okay, boy. I'm not going to leave you again."
"That's Spike?" Kay spurted. "But he's a -"
"Miniature Pinscher," the shop owner supplied helpfully. "He's such a sweet boy, too." She leaned close to the excited animal and touched his back. "Aren't you, honey-poo?"
Randi rolled her eyes. "Thanks for taking care of him, Mrs. Landers. If you'll just charge my card that's on file, I'll take Spike home and see if I can't get him to eat something."
The heavyset woman nodded. "That's just fine, dear. You just give us a call if you need anything else, all right?"
"Will do, Mrs. Landers," Randi assured her. She turned around and met the amused glance of her friend. I know I'm not going to hear the end of this, she thought to herself. Much to her surprise, Kay didn't say a word until they were in the car and Spike was licking her hand.
"He's adorable, Randi," she said, giggling as the diminutive tongue continued to clean all of her fingers. "How long have you had him?"
Smiling, Randi backed the car out of the parking space and left the lot. "About a year. He really belongs to my mother. But, ever since my dad retired, they've been going on a lot of trips. Not much time to take care of poor Spike, there." She drove for a moment before stopping at a red light. "And, since I'm the only one in my family who doesn't have children, Spike came to live with me."
"I would think he'd like children," Kay offered. "He's so hyper and friendly," she added, chuckling when Spike decided to taste her earlobe.
Randi looked over at the pair. Lucky dog. The sound of a car horn caused her to shake her head and shift the car into first gear. "Well, I think at one time he did like children," she replied, trying to keep the conversation going.
Kay turned her head and looked at Randi. "What happened?"
"One of my nephews visited my parents at Christmas, and thought Spike was a chew toy. Poor dog is terrified of toddlers, now." Thankfully, she turned the Corvette into the apartment complex. "Let's see if we can get Spike to nibble on something besides you," Randi teased, parking the car in its assigned space.
"Good idea," Kay agreed. "And I think I could use a good scrubbing, without a tongue."
Randi's eyes widened. Oh, don't tempt me, Kay. She quickly jumped out of the car before she said something that might embarrass them both.
With Spike resting peacefully in her lap, Kay sat on the sofa and surfed through the available television channels. She could hear Randi puttering around in the kitchen, but since there wasn't a table or chairs in there, Kay had been relegated to the living room. Tired of watching the channels flash by, she settled on the Discovery Channel, and stroked the silky fur of her new friend. The little dog had practically inhaled his food once Randi set it down, and now was content to snuggle with the blonde and look up at her every now and then with his dark brown eyes.
"You look just like Randi," Kay told him, smiling down as he licked her hand. "And you have me just about as wrapped around your paws as she does," she admitted.
Randi poked her head out of the kitchen. "Did you say something?"
The younger woman blushed. "Um, no. I was just talking to Spike." She scratched the dog behind the ears. "How did such a sweet animal end up with a name like Spike?"
"My mother has a warped sense of humor," Randi explained. "He was the runt of the litter - wasn't even expected to survive. The bitch had too many puppies, and had kicked him out."
Randi shrugged. "Survival of the fittest, and all that." She wiped her hands on a dishtowel and sat down in the loveseat. Spike raised up and looked at her, then sighed and dropped his head back down onto Kay's lap. Don't blame you, fella. I'd do the same thing if I were you. She tried to wipe the goofy smile off her face, but knew by Kay's smile that she was unsuccessful. "Anyway, the breeder called Mom and told her about the puppy. Naturally, Mom couldn't stand the thought of him dying without a chance, so she brought the little guy home and started feeding him with an eyedropper."
"Oh, how sweet. I bet I'd like your mom," Kay said, picking up Spike and giving him a kiss on top of his head. "How could your own mother kick you away? You're just so sweet." She pulled him up to her chest and held him close. "Okay, so he's a survivor. But, Spike?"
"He wasn't always so sweet. When he was a puppy, Spike thought that he was a full-sized Pinscher. Kept attacking toes, that sort of thing. As a joke, my Dad bought him one of those spiky collars. His registered name is Lord Wyndam of Devonshire. But after the collar incident, he became Spike."
Kay laughed. "That is a big name for such a small dog. So, is he one of those expensive stud dogs?"
The brunette shook her head. "No. He's too small. So Mom went ahead and had him neutered. No sense in having him chase all the girls, too." Randi stood up and stretched. "Dinner should be ready in about twenty minutes. I hope you don't mind eating in here I haven't gotten around to buying a dining room table, yet."
"That's fine, Randi. It will probably be easier on my leg if I keep it up, anyway." Kay patted the empty cushion next to her. "C'mere. I'm sure it wouldn't hurt you to sit down for a little while. You've been on your feet constantly since we got here."
Doing as she was asked, Randi sat down. Her legs began to bounce nervously, and her fingers picked at an imaginary spot on the sofa. When Kay touched one leg, she almost jumped out of her skin. "What?"
"Umm nothing," Randi mumbled, feeling the warmth of Kay's hand through her jeans. Small tingles tickled her leg and slowly worked up to her stomach. She turned and looked at her friend. "Kay, I "
Kay leaned forward to hear the quiet words coming from Randi's lips. "Yes?"
"It's, well, you know," Randi stammered, looking deeply into the hazel eyes so close to hers. "I really would like to, umm "
"You would?" the blonde whispered, leaning closer still. Kay was determined to taste Randi's lips, interruptions and nerves be damned. She gently shifted Spike so that he wouldn't be crushed, then reached up and tangled one hand in the dark, wavy hair. Tired of waiting, she pulled the older woman closer and did what she'd been wanting to do since the day she first saw Randi leaning over her.
Soft lips touched hers hesitantly, and Randi was overwhelmed by the feelings coursing through her body. The sensation was so overpowering that her heart pounded, and she almost forgot to breathe. When Kay's tongue touched her upper lip, Randi moaned, and immediately granted her access. The kiss deepened and suddenly the veterinarian identified the something that had been missing all her life. She reached up and cupped Kay's face tenderly, finally pulling back to allow them both to catch their breath. "That was -"
"Perfect," Kay murmured, pulling Randi back to her and capturing her lips again. She couldn't get enough of Randi's taste, feeling an almost insatiable need to connect with her. Her tongue traced the inside of the older woman's mouth, causing Kay to moan as she experienced the sweetness of the moment. When she could no longer go without air, she drew back slightly and watched as Randi's eyes slowly fluttered open. "You are so beautiful," she whispered reverently.
Unfocused brown eyes blinked, while Randi tried to gather her wits. "I, uh, you," she babbled. She licked her lips and took a few shaky breaths. "I dont think Ive ever been kissed quite like that before," Randi admitted.
Kay grinned, running a fingertip down the other womans soft cheek. "I hope thats a good thing," she teased.
"Thats a very good thing," Randi assured her. She reached over and gently pushed Spike out of Kays lap and onto the cushion on the other side. "Cmere," she murmured, partially pulling the smaller woman onto her lap. Wrapping her arms around Kay, Randi held her close to prolong the moment and to enjoy the feeling of the smaller body in her arms.
Although dinner was much later than they had planned, both women enjoyed the spaghetti that Randi had prepared. They sat side by side on the sofa, both trying to stay awake afterwards. Watching Kay yawn for the third time in less than half an hour, Randi stood up and held out her hand. "Come on, sleepyhead. I think it's time we got you into bed."
"W..w..what?" Kay stammered. She had enjoyed the kisses they had exchanged earlier, but was nervous about going any further so soon.
Randi laughed. "Hey, it's all right. I meant I was going to show you to your bedroom. We never did get around to that tour of the apartment." She enjoyed the blush on the other woman's face and decided to have a little bit more fun. "But don't be surprised if you get a bed partner in the middle of the night."
Kay's eyes widened momentarily. "Do you walk in your sleep?"
"No, but Spike does," Randi explained, suddenly glad that Kay was hobbled by the cast on her right leg.
"Oh! You!" Kay jumped up and reached for Randi, but came away empty handed. She shook her finger at the laughing woman. "I'll get you back for that," she plucked her crutches from the floor and situated them under her arms, "but, when you least expect it."
Holding out her hand in front of her, palm down, Randi grinned. "See this? Controlled fear." She led the way down the hallway, Kay following slowly on her heels. "The door on the left is the master bedroom, which is what I've been using," she explained, opening the door and turning on the light. "Don't look at the mess," she directed.
A queen-sized bed sat against the far wall, the wicker headboard matched by the tables on either side of it. Twin dressers were by the doorway, and a partially opened door stood against the left wall. "That's the master bathroom," Randi explained to Kay. "And the bifold doors hide the disaster that's my closet," she admitted sheepishly.
Although sparsely furnished, Kay could tell that Randi was comfortable in this room. "It's really very nice. And it's not half as messy as my bedroom at home is," she assured her hostess.
"Cool. I'm glad you're not a neat freak." Randi switched off the light and pointed down the hallway. "Your room is the door on the right, and that door at the end of the hall can be your bathroom." She escorted Kay to the next door and turned on the light. "I just finished furnishing it about a month agoyou'll be the first to use the bed."
"Really?" Kay edged past Randi and stepped into the room. Like the other bedroom, the furnishings were few, but in good taste. The wrought iron, full-sized bed was covered with a plaid comforter, and the red curtains on the lone window matched perfectly. The nightstand held a small reading lamp, and across from the bed was a neat computer desk. The nineteen-inch monitor was dark, and it looked as if the computer itself had been rarely used. "You into computers, too?" Kay asked her friend.
Randi shook her head. "Not that much, really. I only use it to email my nieces and nephews." She sighed. "It's about the only contact I get with them, I'm afraid. My oldest niece, Samantha, was supposed to spend some time with me over the holidays. That's why I fixed this up as a second bedroom."
"And now she's not?"
"No. My brother, Augustus, decided to take his family on a ski vacation, instead." Randi tried to keep the sadness out of her voice. "Maybe I'll get her for a few weeks next summer. That would probably be better, anyway."
Kay touched her friend's arm in sympathy. "I'm sorry, Randi."
A small smile appeared on Randi's face. "Don't worry about it. At least this way, I had someplace for you to sleep, right?" She pointed to the closed door on the other side of the room. "The closet is empty, and there's a small dresser inside where I set your bags. If you need any help unpacking, just let me know." When she turned to leave, the light touch on her back caused Randi to turn around. "Yes?"
"Thank you for doing all of this for me, Randi. I hope I won't be too much trouble." Kay edged closer and kissed the other woman gently on the lips. "Goodnight."
Randi smiled. "It's my pleasure, Kay. I hope you sleep well." She backed out into the hallway. "Your bathroom should have plenty of towels and such. Just let me know if you need any thing else, all right?" She bumped into the wall behind her and gave a half-hearted wave. "Good night, Kay."
"Good night." Kay returned the wave, and almost giggled when she heard Randi mumble to herself as she bumped into another wall.
"Don't let her bully you like that," Kay cried. "You deserve to be treated better."
With tears in her eyes, the distraught woman continued. "I can't seem to help it. I suppose I've always had a weakness for the bad ones." Unable to control herself, she fell against the woman sitting beside her and sobbed.
Kay shook her head in disgust. "I can't stand to hear any more," she moaned, hitting the off button on the television remote. One look down at her lap confirmed that her brown-eyed companion didn't care one way or another. "Don't you just hate how those talk shows glorify misery?"
Spike raised his head and yawned widely. He gave her hand a half-hearted lick, then dropped his head back into her lap.
"You, too, huh?" Kay laughed at her one-sided conversation, and picked up the book she had borrowed from Randi. It had been over five hours since the vet had regretfully left for work. To keep her from going stir crazy, Kay realized that she would either have to find something more interesting to do, or Spike's conversational skills would have to improve. "No offense, handsome," she murmured, scratching him behind the ears, "but if I don't get someone to talk to soon, I'm going to go nuts."
Ten minutes into her book, Kay nearly leapt from the sofa when the doorbell rang. Startled, Spike jumped to the floor and raced to the source of the sound, barking furiously. His yapping became fiercer when whoever was at the door began to knock.
"Hold on, I'm coming," Kay called, hurrying as fast as the crutches would allow. She peered through the small peephole and saw a well-dressed woman on the front step. Unlocking the door, she opened it just far enough to keep the still-snarling animal inside. "Yes? May I help you?"
The slender redhead reached up with one brightly painted finger and pulled her sunglasses down on her nose, inspecting Kay carefully. "Oh, I'm terribly sorry. I was looking for Randi Meyers." Her deep voice held a strong southern drawl, and her painted red lips curled into a wicked smile.
Kay smiled at the woman, believing her to be a friend of Randi's. "Oh, no, she lives here, but she's at work right now." She looked down at the small dog at her feet. "Hush, Spike," she commanded. The small dog stopped barking, but stood between Kay and the stranger, growling. "I'm sorry, I don't know what's up with him. He's usually very friendly."
"That's quite all right. I'm a cat person myself. Maybe he already figured that out," the woman temporized. "Are you a relative of Randi's?"
"No, just a good friend. Would you like to come in?"
The redhead nodded. "Oh, yes. I'd love that." She waited until Kay backed away from the door, then entered and closed the door behind her.
Kay motioned to the loveseat. "Please, sit down. Would you like something to drink?"
"No, thank you." The woman remained standing, looking around the room with interest. "She's done a bit of redecorating since I was here last," she mused, inspecting the furniture with a superior air. "Or was this your doing, hon?"
Suddenly feeling very defensive and protective of her friend, Kay frowned. "Uh, no. I had nothing to do with her selections in furniture. Poor thing had to start over when her monster of a roommate cleaned her out."
"Is that what she told you? Perhaps you should check the facts before you go spouting off to strangers, little girl." Taking several steps forward until she was standing directly in front of Kay, the woman glared over her sunglasses. "Let me give you a word of warning, sugar. Get out of here while you still can. Randi is more interested in four legs than two she'll push you off to the side the first chance she gets." She reached over and patted the smaller woman on the cheek. "You just tell her, Melissa is back in town. I'm sure she'll be thrilled to hear that."
Before Kay could say another word, the redhead stalked from the apartment, slamming the door behind her. Kay looked down at Spike, who stood by her feet, growling. "I know what you mean, honey. She made my hackles stand up, too." Kay dropped to the sofa, exhausted from the confrontation and wondering if she should call Randi to let her know about the unexpected visitor.
The small balding man stood in the doorway, holding a paper mask over his face. "Once youre finished with that procedure, Dr. Meyers, Id like to see you in my office," he directed to the woman bent over the operating table.
Randi continued her work for another minute, then glanced up. "Right. I should be done in another fifteen minutes or so, Dr. Wilde."
"Very good. See that you are, Doctor." He backed out of the room quietly.
The young woman assisting Randi rolled her eyes. "This may sound cliché, considering where we work, but I do believe youre in the doghouse, Randi."
The vet snickered. "That was bad, Joyce. But I do believe youre right." She watched as the assistant expertly swabbed the area she was working on. "And you want to know something?"
"It was well worth it," Randi admitted, accepting the suturing needle. With skilled hands, she deftly closed up the patient. "And Id do it again in a heartbeat."
Ten minutes later, Randi knocked on the closed door of Dr. Wildes office.
"Come in," he ordered. "And close the door behind you, Doctor Meyers." The middle-aged doctor didnt stand as she walked into the room, but stayed behind his desk, adopting a superior air. Dr. Benjamin Wilde studied the younger woman quietly as she dropped into the visitors chair. As punishment for not returning on Saturday as he requested, he had scheduled her to handle every operation and see as many animals in between surgeries as possible. He could see the exhaustion on her face and in her posture, and was certain it was only a matter of time before she broke down and apologized for her insubordination.
"What is it, Dr. Wilde? Is there more grunt work you want me to handle for you?" Randi asked angrily. She had worked for the pompous man for four years, and had built up his dying practice with her love for the animals in her care and her attention to detail. Since Randi had started working for Wilde Animal Clinic, two more veterinary assistants and another office clerk had been added to the payroll to distribute the workload. They were still shorthanded for office help, but the old veterinarian was too cheap to hire anyone else.
He leaned forward and folded his hands on his desk. "Youve got a real attitude problem lately, doctor. Perhaps youd be more comfortable working somewhere else?"
Randi frowned. "Are you threatening me, Dr. Wilde? Because if you are, its not much of a threat."
"What makes you say that, young lady? I can bring in some kid fresh out of school and pay them a quarter less than I pay you." He pointed to the diplomas on the wall. "This is still my practice, you know."
She jumped to her feet. "You self-centered ass! I could walk out that door right now and take most of your clients with me. Not to mention the women that work here."
Dr. Wilde gave her a knowing smile. "And just what would you do with them? Set up practice in an alley somewhere? From what Ive heard around the office, you lost your savings about the same time you lost your roommate, didnt you?" He knew of her "persuasion" as he called it and, because of it, refused to cut her any slack.
"That was a cheap shot, even for you, Wilde." With a disgusted sigh, she dropped back gracelessly into the chair. "What is it that you want?"
"I want you to drop the attitude and become a little bit more professional around here. Quit treating the help like theyre your friends, and stop taking so much time with each animal. We could bring in more money if youll just do what needs to be done and quit playing around with them."
Randi stood up again and opened the door. "I will not change the way I treat my colleagues or the animals in my care, Dr. Wilde." She walked out to the receptionists desk and peered down at the gray-haired woman. "So, Christina, whos my next patient?" A warm hand on her shoulder caused Randi to turn around and glare at Dr. Wilde, who had slipped his jacket on. "Yes?"
"Im taking the rest of the week off, Dr. Meyers. Youll have to cover for me." He patted her on the back and walked through the door, not seeing the murderous look in Randis eyes.
Christina reached up and squeezed the clenched fist that shook at Randis side. "I was afraid of that, dear. I think he's been planning this ever since you asked to go out of town for your uncle's funeral."
After taking a calming breath, the vet looked down into the secretarys concerned eyes. "Why do you think that?"
"He had me double book the next several days I didnt think he had suddenly developed a conscience and decided to help around here." She glanced down at the appointment book. "Do you want me to call and try to reschedule?"
Randi shook her head. "No. Its not our clients' fault that Dr. Wilde is an asshole. Ill just have to do the best I can." She smiled at the older woman. Christina had been with the clinic since it had opened over twenty years before, and was the resident mother figure. Some of the others on the staff had even taken to calling her Mom. It was because of her and some of the others that Randi wouldnt leave, because she knew that they depended on the money she helped bring in. Dr. Wilde knew it as well, and used that to his advantage.
The phone rang and Christina picked it up. "Hello, Wilde Animal Clinic. How may I help you?" She listened for a moment and nodded. "Certainly. Shes standing right here, as a matter of fact." Holding out the receiver, she whispered, "Its a young woman named Kay. She -"
Worried, Randi grabbed the phone before Christina finished her sentence. "Kay? Is everything all right?"
"Everythings fine. Im sorry to bother you at work, but I didnt know what to do."
"About what? Is there something you need?" Randi turned around to try and ignore the curious look she was getting from the receptionist.
"No, nothing like that. Oh, I feel so silly, interrupting your day like this. Maybe I should have just waited until you got home."
The agitated doctor paced around the desk, almost tangling Christina in the long cord. She stuck her free hand in her lab coat pocket and wished for the tenth time that day that she had bought cigarettes on the way to work. "Youre not interrupting anything, Kay. Please, just tell me whats wrong."
There was a short pause, followed by a heavy sigh. "You had a visitor today."
A feeling of dread started in Randis chest and mushroomed into her belly. "Who?"
"Some woman named Melissa."
The color drained from the vets face, and Randi grabbed at the desk to keep from crumbling to the floor. The phone dropped from her nerveless hand as she fought the sudden onslaught of painful memories that name brought to mind. Her eyes closed, and she started breathing heavily, on the verge of hyperventilating.
Christina jumped to her feet and directed the younger woman into her chair. She picked up the phone from the floor. "Hello?"
"What happened?" Kay cried into the phone. "Is she all right?"
"I think shes just in a bit of shock, hon. Hold on a minute, okay?" Christina put the receiver down on the desk and touched Randis cheek. "Randi, sweetheart, listen to my voice. Everything is all right." She lightly patted the pale face until the brown eyes fluttered open. "Thats it. Just relax."
Randi shook her head. "Im sorry, Christina. I dont know what happened." She took a deep breath and released it slowly. "Its just when Kay told me damn! I forgot about Kay!" She picked the phone up. "Kay? You still there?"
"Are you all right?"
"Yeah, Im fine. Just caught me off guard, thats all. Im sorry about that."
Kay exhaled in relief. "Are you sure? I knew I shouldnt have called you at work. This could have waited until you got home tonight."
"No, Im glad you called," Randi assured her. "But do me a favor, okay?"
"If she comes back, dont answer the door. I dont want that bitch anywhere near you." The venomous tone was uncharacteristic for the usually easygoing woman.
The line was silent for a moment. "All right. But do you promise to tell me all about it when you get home?"
Damn. "Yeah, I promise. Although Im afraid Im going to have to work late tonight. Dr. Wilde suddenly decided to take the week off."
"Thats all right. Im not going anywhere," Kay joked. "I left my jogging shoes back in Woodbridge."
"Cute, Kay. Real cute." Randi couldnt help but smile. "How about we order a pizza tonight?"
"Sounds like a great idea, Randi. Be careful coming home, okay?"
Randi felt her heart swell at the entreaty. "I will. Call if you need anything. Christina will know to put you right through."
"Okay, I will. Bye."
"Bye." Randi sighed at the look on the receptionists face. "Dont say it."
The older woman smiled widely. "Say what, dear?" She took the receiver back and hung up the phone. "She sounds like a sweet woman. Is she the reason you risked the wrath of Wilde?"
"Yeah," Randi admitted, embarrassed.
"Is she worth it?"
"Definitely," the dark-haired woman affirmed.
Kay was in her bedroom working on the computer when she heard the front door open. A glance at her watch surprised her. She had expected Randi home before now, not knowing what there could be to do in the veterinary office until almost nine o'clock in the evening. The pizza deliveryman had surprised her over two and a half hours earlier, and she had stubbornly refused to touch the food until her friend came home. Gathering up her crutches, Kay hurried out of the room and down the hall. The sight that greeted her in the living room tore at her heart.
The exhausted vet was sprawled on one end of the sofa, her head thrown back and her eyes closed. Her hunter green, short-sleeve polo shirt that had been so neatly tucked in early that morning had worked loose from her khaki slacks, which bore several dark spots. Randi cracked open her eyes when she heard Kay enter the room. "Sorry I'm so late." She lifted her head and ran her fingers through her disordered hair. "Just as I was about to lock up, a man brought in a sick puppy." She smiled as Spike, sensing his friend's bad day, jumped up into her lap and began to thoroughly clean her face.
"You have nothing to apologize for," Kay assured her, sitting down next to Randi. "Is the puppy going to be okay?"
Randi closed her eyes and shook her head. "No. I lost him." She felt an irrational pang of upset at the admission. The young Rottweiler was in the final stages of canine parvovirus, and had become too dehydrated to save. The troubled vet kept going over in her mind every action she took. Was I too tired to think of everything quickly enough? Could I have done something, anything, to prevent his death? Randi remembered the look on the older man's face when she told him that she couldn't save his dog. I hate seeing grown men cry. Why do people think that just because they don't live around any other dogs, they don't have to vaccinate their pets? Such a complete waste.
"I'm so sorry, Randi." Kay reached over and touched her friend's arm. "Is there anything I can do?"
"No," Randi shook her head, "but I appreciate you asking." She opened her eyes and studied the woman sitting next to her. "Did the pizza come?"
Kay smiled. "It did. I put it in the refrigerator."
"I see. You saved some for me, huh?" Randi's face creased into a smile at the gentle bantering.
"Uh, well." Kay looked down at the sofa. "I thought I'd wait until you got home, so you wouldn't have to eat alone." She looked back up at the silent face across from her.
Randi's smile widened. "That was incredibly sweet of you, Kay. Unnecessary, but sweet." She leaned over and dropped a quick kiss on the younger woman's cheek. "You sit right there, and I'll bring the pizza in, okay?"
"Sure," Kay agreed, smiling as she touched her cheek and watched Randi leave the room. "Actually, just bring mine cold. I like it better that way," she yelled across the room.
The dark-haired woman walked back into the room, bringing the pizza box and two bottles of Mr. Pibb. "I knew I liked you for a reason," Randi teased, setting the box down on the coffee table and handing one of the bottles to Kay. "Thought a coke would be good with pizza."
Kay accepted the drink and took a sip. "Great idea. Although I figured you for the beer type," she joked.
"I used to be," Randi admitted. "But I haven't drunk any alcohol for a couple of years, now."
Oh. Kay blushed, worried that she had upset her friend. "I didn't mean anything by it, Randi. I just, well, sometimes put my foot in my mouth without thinking."
"No, no. You didn't upset me, Kay. Actually, I feel a lot better now than I did when I was drinking. It wasn't that I craved it, or anything. But beer was a lot like potato chips to me." She shrugged. "You know, can't have just one? And at my age, it's a bit easier to keep from gaining as much weight if I'm not drinking a six-pack a night."
"I see." Kay studied the woman sitting next to her. It was true that Randi wasn't slender, but her stockier build fit her personality. She couldn't imagine what her friend would look like, otherwise. "Well, I think you look great."
Randi blushed. "Um, thanks." Deciding a change of subject was in order, she reached over and took a piece of pizza from the box. "How was your day today, other than the confrontation with my ex? You weren't too bored, were you?" She bit into the slice and chewed.
"No, not really. Spike was great company, although his conversation skills could use a little work." Kay bit into her pizza, as well. "Mmm." She chewed for a moment and then looked around. "Speaking of my boyfriend, where is he?"
"In the kitchen, having his dinner. He won't eat until I'm home, doing the same thing," Randi explained. "Crazy little dog."
Kay laughed. "I think he's cute. He's a great companion to have around."
Randi grimaced and dropped the piece of pizza she had just picked up. She reached beside the sofa, where she had moved the phone last night. "Hello?"
"Hello yourself. Been a while, hasn't it, Randi?" Melissa's sultry tones oozed through the line. "I tried to come by and see you today, but you weren't home."
"What do you want, Melissa?" Randi exchanged looks with Kay, who was watching with interest.
"That's no way to talk to me, hon. I thought you'd be glad to hear from me, after all this time."
Frowning, Randi ran one hand through her hair. "Yeah, right. Cut the bullshit and give me one good reason I shouldn't hang up on you."
"Who's your little friend? She's a bit young for you, isn't she, dear?" The sexy voice deepened. "I've missed you, sugar."
Randi closed her eyes and fought back the feelings that came rushing back to her. "You're the one that left, Melissa. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got better things to do than listen to you." She hit the "talk" button on the phone to disconnect the call. "I so did not need this, tonight," Randi muttered, staring down at the dark phone. She jumped slightly when Kay touched her shoulder.
"Are you all right?" the blonde asked, concerned.
"Yeah," Randi muttered.
Kay wasn't convinced. Her friend's body language spoke of someone who had the weight of the world on her shoulders. "That was Melissa, huh? She call just to drive you crazy, or something?"
"Maybe." Randi slumped against the back of the sofa. "Last I had heard, she had latched herself on to a rare gems dealer and moved to California." The look of gentle inquiry on Kay's face helped her reach a decision. "I met her when I was going to vet school," she began, quietly. "Her brother and I were in the same class together."
"You don't have to tell me any more, Randi. I know this has got to be hard for you."
"No, it's okay. If she's going to keep coming around here, I'd like for you to know." Randi reached out and took Kay's hand, holding on to it like it was a lifeline. "Anyway, Todd, her brother, asked me over for a Saturday barbecue, and that's where I met Melissa. She was really charming, and kept saying just the right things. I fell head-over-heels in love." She laughed mirthlessly. "Or so I thought." Randi stopped and looked down at their entwined hands. "Not too long after we met, the apartment I was living in was ruined in a fire. Melissa was already living here, and offered me the guestroom. It was a great opportunity for me to start saving money, because all I had to do was pay half the rent and utilities."
Kay nodded. "Sounds like she was very sweet."
"I suppose," Randi admitted. "The first month or so, she would parade around the apartment in these little slinky negligee's, and was always touching me. At first, I didn't know what to think, so I pretty much ignored her." She shook her head. "One night, I woke up and she was in bed with mewith nothing on."
"That must have been a shock," Kay gasped, eyes wide. Melissa's a pushy thing, it seems. Better keep my eye on her. She had a feeling they hadn't seen the last of the woman. And, she was feeling more than a little protective of Randi.
"To put it mildly," the brunette chuckled. "Especially since I still hadn't quite figured out that I was gay."
"You're kidding?" the younger woman exclaimed, then covered her mouth with one hand. "Oh, damn. I'm sorry, Randi. It's just that you seem so, well, comfortable with yourself."
Randi laughed. "That's a new way of putting it," she joked. "Actually, most of my life, I felt like I didn't fit in anywhere. Guess it was my wonderful Texas upbringing that kept me so clueless about my sexuality."
"Yeah, you know. I could never figure out why I didn't like boys, but I was too damned stubborn to admit to myself that I might like girls. Mostly because I was afraid of what my family would think. Queers, as my dad called them, were just one rung below illegal aliens in his book. He isn't the most progressive guy around."
Kay nodded. "I know what you mean. I guess I was lucky in that regard. I didn't give a damn what my aunt thought." She shifted into a more comfortable position, propping her cast on the coffee table. "So, what happened when Melissa came into your room? Did you have an epiphany?"
"Not exactly. I screamed like banshee," Randi confided, slightly embarrassed. "She woke me from a sound sleep, crawling into my bed and snuggling up next to me. How was I supposed to react?"
"I bet that went over well." Serves that bitch right. "What happened then?"
The older woman blushed. "She umm, apologized. Told me she thought I wanted her, and then started to cry." Randi shook her head. "I felt guilty, so when she kissed me, I didn't push her away." She rubbed her face with her hands. "Over the next few weeks, we'd kiss on the sofa, hold hands, that sort of thing. I guess the natural progression was that I finally went to bed with her."
"Did," Kay cleared her throat, "did you love her?"
"I don't think so. It was more of a comfort thing. I mean, at the time, I thought I did. But as the years wore on, I never felt that deep emotional connection that I thought I was supposed to feel." Like I do with you, Kay. I've felt more emotion in the past few days than I have my entire life. How do I explain that to you?
Kay felt the knot in her stomach loosen. "Were you upset when she left?"
"Part of me was. But we had this big blowout once I graduated from veterinary school. She wanted me to go into animal research, and I couldn't see myself doing that. So, I wasn't too terribly surprised when she left. Although coming home to a completely empty apartment threw me for a loop," Randi admitted. "She even took the soap out of the shower, and my toothpaste."
"What a bitch," Kay growled. "I wish I had known that earlier today. I'd have slapped that smirk right off her face."
Randi patted her arm with her spare hand. "Nah, she's not worth your trouble." Catching her friend's yawn, she stood up and pulled Kay up with her. "C'mon. I think we both could use a good night's sleep."
Accepting the crutches that Randi had picked up and handed her, Kay nodded. "I think you're right." She almost laughed at the look on Spike's face when he came out of the kitchen. He appeared disappointed when he noticed the two women standing in the living room. "Looks like someone is upset with us."
"He'll get over it," Randi assured her. "I'd better take him for a walk, though. You want to come outside with us?"
"No, I think I'll get ready for bed." Kay leaned up and kissed Randi on the lips. She felt warm hands grab her hips for balance as the older woman pulled her close. After a moment, Kay pulled back and smiled. "See you in a minute?"
"Uh, yeah," Randi mumbled. "Let me just," she pointed to the door," take walk for a Spike."
Kay giggled as the hyper little dog tried to jump up and down while Randi fastened the lead onto his collar. She could tell the vet's hands were shaking, and felt a small rush of satisfaction that she was the cause. This is definitely going to be an interesting three weeks.
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