FINDING MY WAY
BY MAVIS APPLEWATERCopyright (c) September 2000
DISCLAIMERS: This story is mine and mine alone. Although the two main characters bare a strikingly similar appearance to the characters of a certain television show that we all know and love that happens to belong to Renaissance Pictures and Universal/MCA. Please remember appearances aren't everything.
SEX/VIOLENCE & ROADTRIPS: Yes. No & Yes. This story is an alternative/uber story. So if you are underage come back later. If this is illegal where you live get out and come back when you have moved to civilization. If this is a subject matter that you find offensive don't read it. Is everybody happy?
A SPECIAL THANKS: First to the producers of the wonderful web site you found this story on. If not for you so many of us would not have an arena to express our selves. Second to my beta reader and other half of my soul. Third to Half Pint Stewart who keep going on and on about this TV show that I just had to watch. Even though I thought she was insane I caught an episode. (If you had only told me about the subtext I would have watched sooner.) But not only did you get me started watching you turned me onto the wonderful world of fanfic. Also a special thanks to Callie for the wonderful artwork she did .
LOCATION/LOCATION/LOCATION: This story takes place in a fictional town north of Boston. Some places are real (many names have been changed to protect . . . well me) and some exist only in my warped imagination Now that everyone has been mentioned, thanked and egos properly stroked.
As Always For Heather
FINDING MY WAY
I had always thought that I knew myself. I laugh at that now. Life is a constant cycle of change. I had at one time mapped out my entire future. Funny that reality took me off course. I veered in a direction that I never allowed myself to see. My story is simple. My life or should I say my living began one summer morning. I was standing at the back of a classroom listening to a woman speak. I was completely unaware that my life was about to change. If you like I can tell you my story. It all began in late August 1999.
I found myself mesmerized as I watched her speak. The classroom was packed, it was amazing, and in the middle of summer it was standing room only. I hid in the back doubting that even if she had seen me she would remember our brief encounter ten years ago. My God the woman was electrifying. She was the kind of teacher I had always dreamed of becoming. How did she do it? Maybe it was the eyes, their crystal blue intensity were captivating. Ten years ago they possessed a coldness that sent shivers through me. Today she held no resemblance to the arrogant lawyer who had dismissed me without a second glance. Her name is Allison Kendell, she is sitting on her desk with her legs crossed clad in blue jeans and a simple white t-shirt. As I stand here in my Jones New York suit, I cannot help thinking that she looks more like a student than the professor.
Allison Kendell the heir apparent of the Kendell fortune. Allison Kendell who walked away from a top Wall Street law firm to become a history professor at this small New England University. Why in the world would anyone walk away from all of that money and prestige? I guess the rich are different. When I accepted the position at Haven University I had no idea that I would be working with her. Upon my arrival this morning I discovered that we would be sharing an office. I could not believe it. I would have to sit side by side with the woman who had prevented me from writing my first book!
Well she did not prevent me from writing the book but the finished product was not what I had wanted it to be, all because of this woman. The book was my doctoral thesis, which was very well received. I had written an in-depth study on the Louisiana Tigers. A very colorful southern confederate unit during the Civil War. There was a myth regarding one of its members, Master Sergeant Stephan James Ballister. There were several rumors regarding his true identity. Some speculated that he may have not been Stephan Ballister the young plantation owner from New Orleans but possibly a young boy who fought in his place. It had also been rumored that his widow had left a diary and that the family still had possession of the diary. So being the ever diligent pig headed person that I am, I tracked down the Ballister ancestors. I found Nicole Kendell, one of Sergeant Ballister's great grandchildren. I was thrilled when she agreed to meet me for lunch. My luncheon with Nicole could not have gone better. Although she was not personally in possession of the diary she older sister Allison was. Nicole was more than happy to arrange a meeting for me.
At the time I could not believe my good fortune. That should have been my first clue that all was not as it seemed. I knew if I could discover the truth about Master Sergeant Ballister it would be a major coup. I can still remember the train trip from Connecticut to New York City. I was bubbling over with excitement as I boarded the train. But from that moment on nothing went as planned. I had everything planned down to the smallest detail. I even rehearsed what I was going to say. I had booked a modest hotel room that I could not really afford so I could shower and dress appropriately for my meeting with Miss. Kendell.
But instead of finding myself relaxing in my hotel room preparing for the most important meeting of my life, I found myself sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic. It soon became apparent that I would not have the time to freshen up. Instead I was forced to change my plans and go directly to the offices of Wainwright and Griggs. When I arrived I looked completely disheveled. But I knew once that I was inside I could win over Allison Kendell. Except I never made it to the inside of her office. Her assistant who very politely and very firmly explained that Miss. Kendell would be unable to assist me in my research greeted me. I was flabbergasted. I had traveled all this way after meeting with her sister. Nicole Kendell had assured me that not only was the diary real but there was a second diary written by Stephan himself. This was incredible, a second diary! It was not hard to convince Nicole to arrange the meeting with Allison. Perhaps that should have been my first clue that there was some animosity between the two sisters.
I had found myself suddenly standing on the street after failing to convince Miss. Kendell's assistant that I would only take a moment of her time. I found a pay phone and canceled my hotel room. To add insult to injury the cancellation came too late for a refund. But since there was no longer any reason to stay in New York, I just wanted to go home. I called Amtrak and found that I could catch any number of trains heading back to New Haven. I knew that I could still finish the book. But Stephan Ballister had been a decorated southern hero and to finally unveil his true identity would put me at the top of my profession. If the rumors were true I knew that I could receive funding for a documentary. For the first time in my life I faced failure. This had never happened to me before. I faced defeat and hailed a taxi, as I approached my cab I watched in horror as someone else started to open the door.
"Hey!" I screamed. "What do you think you are doing?"
"Sorry." She snarled as she blew a puff of smoke in my face.
I could never erase the image of her. With her sculpted features and raven hair. She was an imposing figure with her six foot frame clad in a designer suit that. Hell everything about her looked as if it had been pulled out of a fashion magazine. Everything but the cigarette. "Allison Kendell?" I said coldly.
"Yes." She replied in an annoyed tone.
"I 'm Stephanie Grant." I shot out boldly as I blocked her from entering the taxi.
"So?" She sighed with annoyance.
"You were suppose to meet with me today." I was infuriated by this woman's arrogance.
"Right . . . the student." She sighed impatiently. "So?"
I was so appalled by her lack of manners that I simply stood there slack jawed. "I do not have time for this kid." She chastised me. I blocked her path as she tried to push past me. "Your sister said that you have the diaries." I pushed.
"And . . .?" She asked dryly as she tried once again to enter the taxi.
"Come on ladies I don't have all day!" The cab driver bellowed.
"Just a second!" I shouted back raising my voice for perhaps the first time in my life. "Look Miss. Kendell." I hissed. "I came a long way to see you because your sister led me to believe that you would be willing to show me the diaries."
"After how many martinis?" She asked snidely.
"What?" I answered in confusion feeling that I was about to loose my advantage.
"You don't remember do you?" She sighed. "Bombay Sapphire martinis extra dry with three olives and she rarely drinks less than a dozen. As you can see, I am very well acquainted with my sister's fondness for gin. I bet she stuck you with the bill."
There was nothing I could say in rebuttal. What could I say it was true? Nicole had invited me to lunch so we could discuss her famous ancestor. I soon discovered that Nicole's version of lunch came in liquid form and she did in fact stick me with the tab. Suddenly I felt very stupid and much smaller than my five foot four frame. It wasn't bad enough that this woman who already towered over but now I felt like a dwarf standing next to a very pissed off Snow White. And if that was the case I was most certainly Dopey.
"My sister is an alcoholic Miss..? " She said quietly.
"Grant! Stephanie Grant!" I snapped feeling my anger returning in full force.
"Miss. Grant." She repeated in quiet firm tone. "As I was saying my sister is an alcoholic and she will say anything you want to hear as long as you are buying the drinks. I'm sorry that you wasted your time. Good luck with your paper. Now I must be going so if you don't mind?"
"It is a book." I hissed at her. "And this is my cab." I remember hearing her laughing as I jumped into the taxi. I had never felt so foolish in my entire life and with my childhood there had been plenty to feel foolish about.
But that was so long ago, the woman that I was watching now bore no resemblance to the one who had been so cruel to me then. All I can possibly hope for now is that she did not remember our first encounter. But a part of me could not help but remain suspicious. Could this charming persona be an act for her students? After all I am certain that many juries found her charming as well. Perhaps I should reserve my full assessment on Miss. Kendell until I have the opportunity to view her without an audience.
I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned to see Dr. Camden motioning for me to follow her. As the chairperson of Haven's history department Dr. Maureen Camden had pursued me relentlessly to come here. In the end I discovered that it was my only real option. At a small University like Haven I would advance more quickly and then after my resume was better padded I could make the jump over to Harvard or my alma mater Yale. Dr. Camden was thrilled when I finally accepted her offer. I did not have the heart to tell her that I was simply using Haven as a short cut to a higher position at a more prestigious University. But no one had to know about that, it was simply part of my life plan.
"Tell me Dr. Camden . . ." I started to say.
"Maureen." She interrupted.
"Maureen." I responded with a smile. "What is your opinion of Professor Kendell's classes?"
"What do you mean?" She questioned.
"Pop Culture, The History of Television, courses of the evolution of TV commercials?" I asked in confusion. "I heard that she even teaches a course on soap operas? How does any of this relate to American History?"
The older blonde who stood slightly taller than myself chuckled. "To fully understand you would need to see her in action." Maureen explained. "Allison is unconventional to say the least. But she really gets through to these kids. And she does not teach a course in soap operas. She does show examples of them and their effects on society in one of her more advanced Popular Culture courses."
"I guess it just seems like fluff and not real hard core academics." I questioned.
"On the surface maybe . . . but she brings it alive and shows how this country tries to redefine it's history through media interpretation." Maureen asserted with a friendly smile.
I knew that I would have to tread carefully, it was obvious that these two women were friends. Maureen showed me around the campus. It was small yet beautiful. Old ivy covered buildings nestled in a small town near the ocean. It was something out of Currier and Ives. This was going to be a very nice place to live and work. Well, until a better offer rolled along. But this was a comfortable place to spend the next two or three years and maybe once Peter could relocate, we could start thinking about moving our relationship along further. Everything was falling into place. Just as I had planned.
After we completed the grand tour, Maureen showed me my new office. It was small but it had a grand old window that spanned from floor to near ceiling, with a view of the campus below. One side was bare with the exception of a desk, chair and a barren mahogany bookcase. The other half was filled completely with clutter. Books and magazines covered the desk and computer and I could detect the outline of a what I could only assume was a sofa. But it was buried so deeply beneath clutter that I could not say for certain that there was an actual piece of furniture laying beneath.
Suddenly the massive pile near a file cabinet began to move. My heart leapt as Allison Kendell emerged from behind it. She was grinning strangely. "Allison!" Maureen scolded the woman who displayed a look similar to a deer caught in someone's headlights. "Are you smoking again?"
"No." Allison answered innocently as a puff of smoke escaped from her lips.
"Allison you know the rules. No smoking on campus." Maureen chastised her.
"Okay. I'm sorry." Allison pouted as she extinguished her cigarette into an ashtray she had apparently hidden behind the file cabinet.
"I cannot believe that you started again. You of all people should know better." Maureen chastised her as the tall brunette rolled her eyes. "And when are you going to clean up this mess? I swear you are worse than my kids."
"I try." Allison teased with a devilish smile.
"Behave." Maureen cautioned her.
"Or?" Allison teased.
"Stop it." Maureen groaned in exasperation. "Allison Kendell this is Dr. Stephanie Grant your new cell mate."
"Stan is gone?" Allison beamed.
"Yes you finally drove him out." Maureen responded in a defeated tone. "The moment Carl announced his retirement Stan approached me about his office."
"You know what this means Maureen? You owe me dinner at the Top of the Hub." Allison smirked.
"Yes, but you started smoking again." Maureen countered.
"So . . . Dutch treat at Church Street?" Allison conceded. Maureen nodded in agreement. Allison finally turned and noticed me standing there. I was more than a little stunned at the exchange. My previous appointments were all business it was professor this or doctor that. No one ever addressed a colleague let alone the department head by their first name.
"So roomie tell me about yourself?" Allison asked her in a friendly manner.
"I gave you her resume." Maureen said dryly.
"You did?" Allison responded in a puzzled tone as she looked around the mess that constituted her half of the office.
"I need to get back to work." Maureen excused herself. "Play nice." She pointed to Allison as she made her departure.
I could feel my heart begin to race as I stood there. For the first time in my life I was at a complete loss as to how I should behave. Allison Kendell was in some ways larger than life. But I suppose you can afford being what my Grandmother would refer to as a character when you have a big old trust fund waiting for you. She began to approach me as my pulse began to quicken. I swallowed deeply as she gently reached out her hand. "Allison." She said with a bright smile.
"Stephanie." I smiled in return as I took her hand and shook it firmly. My arm felt alive from her touch.
"Welcome aboard." She added gently as she released my hand from her grip. My body felt a strange sense of loss as her fingers left my own. "Sorry about the mess." She apologized. "I did it mostly to annoy Stan." Then she mumbled something I could not quite catch. The only word I was certain of was "bastard". I was uncertain of the rest of the statement, since I was more focused on the sudden coolness that swept through my body when she removed her hand. This was most definitely not the same woman I met in New York. I could not help but wonder what had brought on such a miraculous change.
I discovered settling into life at Haven much easier than I had initially expected. I found myself really hitting it off with Allison. I soon discovered that we had a great deal in common. She eagerly taught me the ins and outs of the university's red tape. The best times to hit the copy center. She even expedited the arrival of my computer. Soon I found myself sitting in on her classes instead of hunting for an apartment. Classes would be starting in a few days and I still had not found anything that suited by my needs and my budget. I would not be eligible for one of the University's houses until I had established tenure. I was sadden by the thought that I would not be here that long. Then again Haven already felt like home. Perhaps settling here wouldn't be a bad idea either and the faculty homes were beautiful.
Peter and I were playing phone tag and we had not spoken in almost two weeks. This was the first time we had ever spent this much time apart. He was looking for work in the area and hopefully would be joining me soon. That was one of the reasons I needed to select the perfect apartment. Everything seemed to be falling into place. One of the reasons I knew that Peter and I would be a good match is because of the work he did. Working with computers he could not only maintain stability but he could find work anywhere. So if I received an offer that I wanted to accept we could just pick up and go. The other reason that Peter was perfect was that he was my best friend.
It was all a part of my life plan. My female friends had always teased me about my plan. But I know that I am right. So, I had planned out my life. A map to the future as it was. I watched as my girl friends from high school and college suffer one heartache after another. Not me. I was never one to get all giggly and insecure over some boy. Peter and I had been friends at UConn. and then when I went on to Yale we started dating. So it wasn't all hearts and flowers but in my humble opinion romance was over rated.
Maybe my attitude stems from losing my parents at such a young age. Because of what I had seen in their marriage I knew that I had to be sensible about the men in my life. My Mother had made the wrong choice and it caused her nothing but heartache. That was not going to happen to me. My Father who had never been around much, spent most of his time gambling and chasing other women. His death although it was never proven, was payback from a jealous husband. My Mother died far too young. She left this world a broken and bitter woman. When I was finally old enough to fully understand what had happened to my parents, I vowed that I would always follow my head and never my heart.
This is why I had to have a plan. I did not go steady in High School, I did not want some boy to cloud my judgment. I had watched so many of my friends let their grades slip. Not to mention they also allowed their IQ's to slip as they would act almost juvenile around their one and only. Fortunately I was spared from a great deal of this silliness by entering College early. I did date some in College but I never stayed with anyone for long. My academic work was far too important. I suspected that some of my friends from back then had a pool going as to just when I was going to lose my virginity.
I hope they lost their shirts. I finally did the deed and gave up my virginity in Grad school. I wasn't in love, I just wanted to get it over with. Plus I was curious as to just what it was that everyone was talking about. I was horribly disappointed. I still do not understand just what about it that is suppose to be so great? Maybe I am just one of those women who do not have orgasms. It really doesn't matter.
I have Peter now and he is perfect. I could never understand why relationships could be so traumatic for everyone else? To me it is very simple. You find the person that you are the most compatible with and this the man you should marry. Of course getting married right away is a mistake. I have seen the happiest of couples in college rush right into marriage only to become disillusioned a few years down the road. Peter and I were going to live together for a while before getting married. We had already cohabitated on and off when one of us was in between apartments. Peter has suggested that we make it more permanent. But I am head strong knowing that the time was not right then. Now was the right time. I finally had the right job and once Peter relocated we could start our lives together.
It is all really quite simple when you sit down and think about these things logically. There were only a few distractions in my past but they were silly really. I was young and each time I had been drinking. Besides it was never more than kissing and they had been women. I knew that would never happen again. It was curiosity nothing more. What I need to do now was find the perfect apartment.
So why was I putting it off again so I could go play tennis with Allison? I just wish that I could beat her once. Normally I can muster up a respectable game. But playing against Allison was intimidating. It was her hands. I can never seem to take my eyes off of her hands. They were so strong. Then there was her back. She always wore a tank top when we played. This only served to accent her broad tanned shoulders. If I could just focus on my game this time I know I could finally win.
I was jolted from my thoughts by the eruption of laughter. Allison's class was out of control. "How does she do it?" "Okay . . ." Allison instructed them bringing order back to her class. "For next time. The Brady Bunch and Gilligan's Island. I want you to tell me your favorite Brady then have five of your friends name theirs. Also explain to me why the Professor could build a nuclear reactor from two coconuts but could not fix the hole in the damn boat. Kidding on that one. I want you to think of an episode any episode that reflected the events that happened while the show was on the air. Now it is a beautiful day outside so get out of here, so I can enjoy it."
I watched as the students reluctantly left their seats. I usually needed to wake my students after one of my lectures. Allison finally forced the last of her students out the door as she approached me.
"Gilligan's Island?" I questioned her suspiciously.
"It's a trick." She chuckled. "How many African Americans do recall seeing on that show? How is it that it aired during the Vietnam War and the war was never mentioned? The media's use of escapism. They think that they are going to have an easy lecture comparing Ginger to MaryAnn but what they are really going to be doing is talking about what was happening in this country. The pilot for the show was delayed because of JFK's assassination that alone should get the ball rolling. This is the MTV generation if they don't see it on Nick at Nite then it didn't happen."
"And the Brady Bunch?" I pushed suddenly intrigued by her theories.
"Don't knock the Brady's." She teased. "They managed to slip in a few social issues. Besides your favorite Brady can reveal a great deal about your personality."
"Really?" This I had to hear.
"It's true." She responded brimming with over confidence.
"I don't believe you." I teased in return.
"Your favorite Brady was Jan." She returned in a cocky manner.
"Yes!" I was stunned. "How did you . . . lucky guess."
"It is simple really." Allison's over confidence could really be annoying and yet somehow down right adorable. "Jan was the middle child often overlooked an outsider. She didn't bother with attracting boys the way Marcia did. She just tried to fit in. The only person in the family she was close to was Alice . . . an older women who felt the same way."
"I still do not understand how did you know that I . . ." I felt an uneasiness. How could Allison know that I felt like an outsider? "You will have to explain this theory of yours over tennis."
"Some other time." She answered in a serious tone.
"Are you canceling?" I was more than a little disappointed. I could only hope that my voice did not betray how truly hurt I was. Of course I knew that I was being silly. After all classes would start soon and I know I had a great deal of work to do. "So why am I upset that Allison has other plans?"
"No." Allison smiled back at me. "You are."
"Have you found an apartment yet?" She questioned me.
"No." Now I was intrigued.
"Stephanie classes start in two days and you cannot work out of that motel that you are staying in. Taking a taxi every day must be adding up." She began to explain. "There is a very small and I mean very small apartment that has just opened up in my building. It is not much but it will do for a semester and it is a five minute walk from campus."
I was overwhelmed by her friendship. Without thinking I jumped up and hugged her. She gently pushed me away. Somehow her reaction left me feeling cold and confused. I couldn't look at her, I ran my hand through my short blonde hair and stared at my shoes. "So does that mean you would like to see the apartment?" She said softly. I looked up and was captured by those baby blue eyes and her bright smile. "A girl could get lost in those eyes. What am I saying anyone would get lost in those eyes. Hell Barney Frank's heart would probably skip a beat. Whoa! Get a hold of yourself Stephanie. She is a woman. You have Peter. So why is my heart racing. It is the apartment . . . yeah that's it the apartment. Think about baseball . . . the Red Sox . . .baseball . . .baseball . . .they could did it this year if Pedro's pitching remains consistent. . . . and if . . . ."
"Stephanie?" Her deep voice called me back from my wanderings.
"Sorry." I awoke tearing my gaze away from her. My God I was staring!
"Are you all right?" She said softly.
"I'm fine." I answered firmly as I dispelled the thoughts that were about to break through. "I was just thinking about the Red Sox."
"The Red Sox?" Allison answered in puzzlement. Then with a shrug she seemed to accept my lame explanation. "Yeah too bad they didn't make it to the play offs this year. So . . . did you want to see the apartment?"
"Yes." I felt my composure returning as I brushed away the thoughts of what may have transpired moments ago.
As we walked away from the sprawling campus I noticed that Allison was strangely quiet. Something about her silence disturbed me. Never having been one to just let things lay, I decided to break the ice. "So tell me why you and Stan don't get along?" I asked trying to make conversation.
"He didn't like my T-shirt." She answered plainly.
"Well Stan is very old fashioned." I added knowing that there had to be more to their on going feud than Allison choice in clothing. I also wanted to keep the conversation going, even though it was more than apparent that Allison did not. "I mean jeans and T-shirts are not his style. After all he is Mr. Bow tie."
"It was what it said." Allison stated simply without explaining it further.
"Oh." I answered in confusion. I desperately wanted to keep the conversation going. There was something so painful about her silence. "And just what did your t-shirt say that started a battle between you and Stan?" Allison did not appear to be forth coming with any more details. So I decided that it was time for a new tactic. There was an issue that I needed to air and now was a good of time as any. "Allison . . . wait." I said suddenly stopping her in her tracks. I was thankful that she had stopped her long legs was making it more than difficult for me to keep up. "I have something to tell you." She stared at me deeply with a startled look that could only be described as fear.
"Whoa." I gasped wondering what I did to cause this strange reaction from my new friend. "What's with the look? You would think that I was about to tell that your favorite pet died."
"Cheep Cheep?" She gasped in mock terror.
I playfully swatted her on the arm and received the trademark Allison Kendell raised eyebrow in return. I laughed at her attempt to intimidate me with her glare. Granted ten years ago that look scared the bee Jesus out of me. "Allison." I shot back with a glare of my own.
"Nice try." She smirked. "But it needs work. So what did you want to tell me?"
"Allison we have met before."
"You mean . . . " She looked at me strangely as she spoke. " . . . like in a past life? Are you from LA.?" She began to laugh.
"No." I laughed along with her giving her another playful swat on the arm. "You are such a jerk."
"I am sorry." She smiled trying to stifle her laughter. "So when did we meet?"
"It was a long time ago." I began slowly. "You were a lawyer then."
"I didn't sue you did I?" She asked in a serious tone. "Or cheat your Grandmother?"
"She is not joking?" I thought. "No it was nothing like that." I said quickly hoping to erase the guilty expression from my friend's face. "But I was a real bitch. Wasn't I." She said quietly. I noticed that it was an admission and not a question.
"I thought so at the time." I confessed.
"I probably was." She muttered as she stared at her feet unable to look at me. "Whatever it was I'm sorry for what I did. I'm equally sorry for not remembering you."
"It's not important." I lied. "I just wanted to say something just in case you did remember."
"Boy I must have been in rare form to forget you." She shook off a chill as she spoke.
"It was a long time ago." I said softly gently resting my hand on her arm. She looked up at me the guilt still visible. "I was a kid then and my hair was long. I looked totally different. Forget it Allison."
I watched as some of the tension left her chiseled features. "I 'm so sorry Stephanie." She apologized again. "I wasn't a nice person back then. I will tell you about it sometime."
"Later." I said firmly as I linked my arm in hers. "For now I want to see this apartment and on the way you can tell me all about cheep cheep." Her laughter warmed my heart as we started walking again.
"I don't know." She teased. "It's really a tragic story. Are you sure you want to hear it?"
We walked the short distance to Essex Street, while Allison spun the tragic tale of poor little cheep cheep. Cheep Cheep as it turned out was her younger brother's first pet. The poor little duckling suffered from epilepsy caused by inbreeding. Her parents had been forced to have the duckling put down. But they did not have the heart to tell their young son. So they did what all parents do they told David that cheep cheep went off to live on a farm. It wasn't until David was in High School that he learned the truth. Allison explained that he did not take the news very well.
"Poor little Cheep Cheep." I teased relieved that we were talking again. Over the years my female friends for one reason or another had drifted out of my life. I felt very comfortable with Allison and resolved that I would not let that happen to us. "Poor David." Allison sighed as a darkness over came her. I reached out to her wanting to ease whatever it was that was causing her such pain. "We are here." She said quickly breaking away from me before my hand could reach her. I looked up and gasped when I saw Allison's building. It was a house really. A large Victorian with a huge front porch. "It's perfect." I whispered.
"Don't let Mrs. Giavanni hear you or she will double the rent." Allison whispered back. Just as the words escaped her lips a tiny dark haired woman who was shuffling across the street greeted us. "She lives across the street in the big yellow house and she is very particular as to whom she rents to."
"I heard that." Mrs. Giavanni snorted with a thick accent.
"Of course you did." Allison smiled at her as she went to assist the elderly woman. Mrs. Giavanni slapped Allison away. "You don't miss a trick do you?" Allison teased the elderly woman. I found it hard to believe that this dark haired beauty who was helping an elderly woman cross the street was the same woman who had hurt me so deeply all those years ago.
"Smart mouth." Mrs. Giavanni chastised the taller woman. "This one is fresh. It comes from living in New York."
"She knows everything too." Allison warned me.
"That is right." Mrs. Giavanni said proudly. "I know that . . . that Chris was no good for you."
"My ex." Allison explained shyly. "I told you that she knows everything."
"I know that Allison tries act tough. But she is a good girl and if you are a friend of hers you can stay." Mrs. Giavanni patted Allison's face gently. "So we look at the apartment and then we will go across the street and have tea and you can tell me all about yourself."
"Be careful." Allison warned me. "The CIA could learn a few things from Mrs. Giavanni."
"I heard that." Mrs. Giavanni snorted.
The apartment was very small but charming. It was a studio, which meant that my bedroom and living room were one in the same. The kitchen was towards the back of the room. It consisted of a small counter top and a tiny stove and a sink. Above the stove and sink was a beautiful bay window which over looked a garden. The front of the studio was adorned with glass French doors. The front door opened into a large foyer with a gorgeous mahogany staircase, which led to the second floor.
There was only one problem. There would be plenty of room for a futon, dresser and my computer station. But there was most definitely no room for a second person. Even if Peter and I could survive in such cramped surroundings I sensed that Mrs. Giavanni would never allow an unmarried couple to rent from her. "What I am I going to do? I love this place." Allison excused herself allowing me privacy to think. I wished that she had stayed, I needed someone to tell me what to do. Of course Peter had not found a job in the area yet, I reasoned. And I need a place now. "And I love this place." Plus with Allison just upstairs I could have someone to walk to work with and talk with. "Funny you never cared about those things before?" I dismissed the thought as quickly as it emerged.
We could postpone Peter's arrival. I wanted this apartment. It was so convenient. Close to campus and Allison. Not that was important but it helped. I never lived any place where I actually knew my neighbors. I rationalized. It would be nice for a change and Peter did relocate we could find a new place together.
I followed Mrs. Giavanni back to her home feeling as if somehow I had betrayed Peter. But as I chatted with the older woman over tea, she offered to rent me the studio for a mere $500.00. How could I refuse? As we chatted I quickly learned that Allison was right about one thing, the CIA could certainly learn a few things from Mrs. Giavanni. By the time I made my departure she somehow had managed to learn that my Grandmother had raised me and went to Yale on a scholarship. I also left with the keys to my new home.
I found Allison swinging lazily in the porch swing of our new home. "Well?" she asked dryly as she sipped her coffee.
"Howdy neighbor." I beamed in response.
"Great." Allison responded in a soft warm tone that sent a strange chill down my spine.
"There is one slight problem." I began hesitatively.
"I know no bathtub." Allison said with a grimace. "Sometimes a girl needs more than a tiny shower stall. Fear not my lady. For a small fee I will let you use mine when you need to escape."
"Thank you." I replied with a blush. "But that is not the problem. I was suppose to be looking for a place for two."
"Oh." Allison responded as a look of disappointment flashed across her face.
"I guess Peter will understand." I sighed.
"Peter . . .?" Allison choked on her coffee.
"Are you all right?" I asked as she continued to choke. She pulled away as I began to pat her on the back.
"I am fine." She choked out waving me away as I approached her again. "Sorry."
"Why?" I asked in bewilderment.
"Nothing . . ." She laughed sadly. "My mistake . . . I may have to rethink my Jan Brady theory."
"What?" Now I was completely at a loss.
"Nothing." She was hiding something this much I could see. But soon she quickly shifted gears and smiled back at me as if nothing had occurred. "I have some time before my dinner with Maureen. Why don't we get your stuff from the motel."
"Thank you!" I squealed at the thought of not having to spend another night in that dreary motel. I threw my arms around her and once again she pushed me away. "Why does she keep pushing me away? Relax girl maybe she is not a touchy person, but then again normally you arent either. . . except with her." I looked down at her in confusion. It was at that moment I noticed that she had changed into a pair of faded blue jeans a white t-shirt with bold purple lettering and a denim jacket. It was the T-shirt that made me gasp. Not such much the t-shirt but what was written across the front of it. 'Pretty, Witty & Gay'. The reality struck me hard. This was why Allison kept pushing me away. She was afraid of any misunderstandings or possible rumors or anything else that might be perceived as inappropriate. "Very noble of you Miss. Kendell."
"Would this be the T-shirt that Stan did not approve of?" I asked directly.
"Yes." Allison responded with a slightly defensive tone. "My guess is that he is not a West Side Story fan."
"That must be it." I said with conviction.
"You didn't know?" She questioned me seriously.
"No." I answered simply and honestly. "And now that I do know . . . I don't care."
"Good." She smiled back at me. "I hate all of that uncomfortable crap."
"Speaking of crap, let's go get my stuff." I said as I pulled her up off of the swing. Then in a serious tone of voice I added. "Allison I really don't care that you are a lesbian. Just don't . . . well I don't want you to take this the wrong way . . ."
"Go ahead." She urged me in a dark tone as she rolled her eyes.
"It's just that . . . don't ever go back to being a lawyer." I teased.
"Brat!" She laughed as she pinched me on my backside.
"Yikes!" I squealed at my punishment for teasing her. "Let me guess you were expecting the standard "just don't make a pass at me" line."
"It wouldn't have been the first time." Allison added.
"So my gay friends back home have told me." I explained. "I'm sorry I just could not resist teasing you. You looked so serious. Plus I can think of worse things than having someone tall dark and gorgeous finding me attractive." Allison looked at me with a curious expression. "Come on." I gave her a playful shove. "Let's put those muscles of yours to good use."
"Oh so now I'm slave labor." She teased in return as we climbed into her black Subaru Outback.
Once we returned to my new home there I realized how little I actually owned. I had traveled light not knowing what I could expect to find in Haven. What I hadn't sold I stored at Peter's. "You need furniture." Allison stated the obvious as she glanced at her watch. "It is too late to pick up a futon." I had already checked out of the motel and the thought of sleeping on the floor was less than appealing. I was contemplating buying an air mattress at the local hardware store. But I quickly realized that would be closed as well. The first down side to Haven they rolled up the sidewalks fairly early. I could spend one night roughing it. Suddenly I wished I hadn't been kicked out of the Girl Scouts. "I wasn't my fault. Jenny was the one who wanted to play doctor."
"You can crash on my couch tonight." Allison's offer tore me away from my unexpected trip down memory lane.
"Thank God." I sighed with relief.
"Look I'm having dinner with Maureen." Allison began to explain. "You can join us or unpack . . . well you could if you had something to put your clothes in."
"Dinner sounds great."
"It's settled then. Tonight we eat and tomorrow we shop." Allison offered. "With my Subaru we can probably get everything in one trip."
"Thank you." I repeated.
"Thank Chris." She explained. "If it wasn't for her I would still be driving my little BMW."
"Hey, I love my Outback." She asserted. "Let's go upstairs and get ready."
While Allison was in the shower I took the opportunity to look around her apartment. There were no signs that she was a lesbian. There was also no comparison to the my little apartment downstairs. Hers covered the second and third floor. Her French doors opened up onto a small deck. She had a fireplace with a marble mantle. The mantle was covered with pictures of her family. Above the pictures hung a carefully framed shadow box containing a saber. I did not need to ask. I knew it must have belonged to Stephan Ballister.
"It belonged to one of my ancestors." Allison said from behind me. I turned a felt my pulse begin to race. She was breath taking standing there in nothing but a white terry cloth robe.
"Your Great Grandfather. Master Sergeant Stephan James Ballister." I asserted with confidence.
"That was a hell of a guess." she responded slyly. "But he was my Great Great Grandfather."
I shot her a cocky glare as I turned away, leaving her to stew on how I knew about her famous ancestor. As I showered I found my mind wandering. How could I have not known that Allison was gay. Not that it made a difference. But she did not look gay? Not that it meant anything. I wondered what kind of signs I had been looking for in her apartment. "A Georgia O'Keefe print? A sign that said I like girls! A brand new toaster oven?" What the hell was I thinking? Allison and I are friends. I like her and that is that. Now for the first time in years I was having a night out with the girls. I could not wait. This would probably be our last chance to have some fun until the semester was over.
When I finally emerged from the shower I found Allison smartly dressed in black slacks and a matching blazer. I felt my pulse quicken for the hundredth time that day. This time my heart was racing when I noticed the pearl silk camisole underneath her blazer. "God Allison! Why can't you wear a blouse like a normal person?" She was smiling at something she was reading. Whatever it was Allison certainly found it entertaining as she smoked her cigarette.
"What are you reading?"
"Your resume." She answered as she glanced up at me. "I just found it. "
"So I lack organizational skills." She snarled playfully while taking another drag from her cigarette. "Top five percent of your class at Yale, very impressive. So couldn't get into Harvard?" She teased taking another drag. I walked over and took the cigarette away from her and took a drag myself. I watched as a single eyebrow arched. "Now and then." I said in answer to her unspoken question. "Probably not even an entire pack in my life."
"I hate people like that." She shot out grabbing the cigarette from me.
"I thought you quit?" I shot back.
"I'm working on it." She grumbled.
"So went to Harvard I take it?" I decided to let her off the hook for the moment.
"Law school after my undergrad at Wellesley."
"You know that makes us sworn enemies." I taunted her as I removed her cigarette from her mouth. I looked around and discovered an ashtray on the coffee table and quickly extinguished the cigarette. "Last one." I admonished her.
"I'll try. " She promised. "I just found it. I must have hidden it for an emergency." She blushed at her lack of self-control. Quickly she turned her attention back to my resume. "You got your PH. D at twenty three. That's disgusting!"
"I am going to get dressed." I responded indignantly as I turned to enter her bedroom. Suddenly I felt her hand on my waist. I could feel her warmth emanating through the towel I had wrapped myself in. "Here it is!" She cried out. "Please don't let go." I silently begged.
"What?" I turned to her praying that she wouldn't notice my now crimson face. She did and snatched her hand away quickly. "Sorry." She apologized.
"So just what did you find?" I said quickly hoping to enact some damage control.
"This." She answered pointing to my resume. "This is what I was looking for. Your first book."
Unconsciously I leaned closer to her. "The Executions Of Corcoran and O'Brien."
"I read that." She said proudly. "It was very good. The story of the first execution in the Confederate Army. They were in the Louisiana Tigers , Company B. That was my Great Great Grandfather's company."
"I know." I leaned closer to her as if my body had a will of it's own.
"Is that how we met before?" She asked in a curious tone. "It wasn't the diaries . . . was it?"
"Yes." I whispered finally pressing my body into hers. "I had originally wanted to write about Stephan Ballister."
She closed her eyes and pressed her body closer to mine. I was so close that I could hear her heart beating. I revealed in her warmth. Thoughts escaped me . . . my breathing ceased nothing mattered only the feel of this woman against me. "You should call Peter." She said suddenly. My head snapped at the harshness of her voice. I stepped away from her rapidly suddenly feeling ashamed. It was the realization of what my body was feeling compiled with the knowledge that any thoughts of Peter had vanished.
"I will call him tomorrow after I call the telephone company." I ignored Allison's puzzled stare and raced into her bedroom. I closed the door behind me and tried to regain my composure. "What the hell was that all about? I will not allow this to happen. I just need to focus on Peter. You remember Peter don't you Stephanie? He's the guy that you are planning on marrying. Why is this happening all of a sudden? But this isn't the first or even the second time you have more than noticed an attractive woman. I will not do this again! There is nothing wrong with me. Liar! Shut Up! You shut up! Great now I am arguing with myself. And to make matters worse I am losing."
"I wonder if this is the first sign of insanity." I said aloud. "Maybe. Yes. No. Stop it! Get dressed Stephanie before those nice men in white coats come and drop a net on you."
I finally emerged from Allison's bedroom dressed in a pair of black jeans and a chartreuse silk blouse. If Allison noticed my prolonged absence she never mentioned it. In fact she did not mention much of anything. She smiled simply and told me that I looked nice. There was something different in the tone of voice she had chosen. It was very big sisterish. Allison was clearly drawing a platonic line in the sand. Upon Maureen's arrival, Allison informed her that I would be joining them.
"Great now we can get her drunk and learn all of her deep dark secrets." Maureen teased.
"Too late Mrs. Giavanni already beat you to it." I countered. "She promised not to reveal where the bodies are hidden."
"Clever girl." Maureen responded with a laugh. "So how did Mrs. G get a hold of you so soon?"
"Stephanie is renting the studio downstairs." Allison explained in full big sister mode. "Who is driving?"
The driver was decided by flipping a coin. Maureen lost. "Waste of a good baby sitter." She muttered.
"What are you bitching about?" Allison teased her. "We are the ones that have to be seen in a mini van."
As Maureen drove down Rte. 128, I felt something I had not experienced in a long time fear. I was relieved once we left the highway. My reprieve was short lived. The roads in the city were a mess. "What is this?" I exclaimed as we sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic. "Bureaucracy in action . . . better known as the Big Dig." Maureen snarled.
"Just what are they digging for?" I asked in amazement.
"Whitey Bolger." Allison teased making reference to the reputed mob boss from Southie, who had managed to disappear right under the FBI's watchful eye. As Maureen strung together a list of expletives that would make a sailor blush, Allison explained that the Big Dig was being constructed to alleviate the traffic problems that plagued the city. Boston is a great old city. But the original roads were simply paved over cow paths. This was common in New England. The Big Dig looked great on paper it would ease the traffic without marring the beauty of the city not to mention create jobs. But the reality was that the project had long ago ran over schedule and massively over budget. Some reports stated that if and when the project was completed it would be outdated. "Really?" I questioned.
"Not exactly there is an upside." Allison explained. "The project started in 1982. I forget when the original finish date was. But when it is done a lot of the traffic will go underground. All of those ugly green bridges we crossed are coming down. It will certainly improve the Boston skyline. It just that for the past seventeen years driving in the city has become a nightmare. I think the new completion date is 2004. Personally I'll believe it when I see it."
"Suddenly I feel like Connecticut is another country. I mean we have our share of traffic problems but nothing like this." I sighed as we finally entered Cambridge. "We Bostonians are not known for ability to play well with others while commuting." Allison explained. "Driving is considered a contact sport. Use of directional is considered a sign of weakness. Trust me driving in Massachusetts is not for the faint of heart." I was about to laugh but something about the expression on Allison's face told me that she was serious.
"Moron!" Maureen screamed as she honked the horn.
I looked out the window to see a group of College aged people wandering into traffic apparently having not regard for the crosswalk or traffic lights. "This is MIT." Allison explained pointing to the domed building. "Where they can split an atom but they can not cross the street like a normal person."
"Christ!" I groaned as Maureen sped through traffic. "I need a drink."
"Well you are in luck." Allison said lightly as we entered Harvard Square. Maureen maneuvered around the twist and turns past the famous university. "Church Street is the best TexMex in the area. But watch out for the margaritas."
"Are they bad?" I asked as I held onto my seat for dear life. "How can Allison be so calm? I have already rattled off twelve Hail Mary's in the last thirty seconds and I'm not even Catholic."
"No the margaritas are very good. That is the problem a couple of those babies and you loose all self control." Allison seemed so calm as cars seemed to aim directly at the mini van. Feeling suddenly faint I closed my eyes unable to watch.
"Space!" Maureen squealed.
"Hold on!" Allison cautioned me as Maureen threw the mini van into reverse on a busy street. Her children's toys bombarded me as I held on for dear life while the sounds of honking horns from irate drivers echoed in my ears. Somehow Maureen managed to maneuver the vehicle into a tiny parking space with little effort.
"Yes!" Maureen congratulated herself.
"Still alive back there Stephanie?" I opened my eyes to find Allison's blue gaze staring back at me. "Stephanie? Breath Honey?"
"I think I'm going to be sick." I gasped pulling various squeaky toys off of my lap.
"I have the effect on women." Allison smiled. "Welcome to Massachusetts."
"Does everyone drive like that?"
"Only if you want to get anywhere." Maureen explained.
The restaurant was very noisy and crowded, but there was a homey atmosphere to it. Since there was a line a people that stretch-out onto the street we decided to wait at the bar for our table. Maureen took the pager that would alert us as to when it was our turn to be seated. We pushed our way threw the crowd and managed to grab two seats. I offered to stand and pay for the first round. The skinny blonde bartender raced over as Allison took her seat. "Hey Girl. How are you?"
"Same old same old." Allison responded flatly.
"So grand gold rocks no salt?" The bartender cooed as she leaned slightly over the bar. I couldn't help but notice that movement allowed her a better view of Allison's cleavage.
"You know it." Allison answered politely as she turned to me. "Stephanie what would you like?"
"The same." I answered as I pushed myself closer to Allison and glared at the blonde.
"Make that two, Amy." Allison instructed her.
"I'm sorry I didn't see you." Amy lied. "Maureen what can I get for you?"
"Pepsi." Maureen sighed.
"Lost the coin toss?" Amy laughed.
"Yes damn it." Maureen snorted.
Amy returned with our drinks and an order of chips and salsa explaining that the snacks were on her. I was more than a little miffed when I went to pay and was forced to shove the money at Amy who had not taken her eyes off of Allison. Fortunately another customer began to clamor for Amy's attention before I snapped at her.
"I was really hoping that it was her night off." Allison sighed.
"Why?" Maureen laughed. "All you have to do is look at her and we are waited on immediately. I did not get this much attention when I was pregnant."
"Try the chips Stephanie." Allison offered turning her attention away from the drooling blonde. The chips were excellent and the margarita was everything that Allison promised. The only thing bothering me was Amy. The blonde was really beginning to work my nerves. Every time Allison and I began to engage in a conversation there was Amy. No matter how many times Allison brushed her off she was relentless. The final straw came when for the second time she brought another round of drinks for Allison and Maureen and pretended to have forgotten that I was there. The first time had angered me. The second time I was ready to lung over the bar. Allison's voice stopped me from reaching over and choking the life out of the blonde.
"Amy." Allison's chilly voice rang out. "If it is not too much trouble . . . do you think that you could bring my friend another drink?"
"Oh? I am so sorry." Amy lied once again. "What is that you are drinking?"
"Stephanie will have what I am having. It shouldn't be too difficult for you to remember that." Allison's voice cut through the crowded bar. The steely gaze she cast at Amy made the skinny blonde recoil in horror.
"Right away." Amy muttered as she slinked away.
"Excuse me." Allison said softly as she gently touched me on the arm and stood. Allison walked to the other end of the bar and cornered Amy. I have no idea what the two women were talking about, but I was very well acquainted with the menacing look in Allison's eyes. Having been on the receiving end of that glare ten years ago I was very aware of the fear it could instill. I had a feeling that Amy's days of flirting with Allison were over. I watched with interest until Allison walked away and disappeared.
"Well there goes all of the freebies." Maureen sighed.
"I don't think that Amy likes me very much." I added flatly.
"No?" Maureen laughed. "Maybe she thinks that you are a threat."
Before I could respond to Maureen's observations a felt a warm caress on my shoulder. I turned to find the raven-haired beauty smiling at me. "Our table is ready." Allison said quickly.
"But the beeper didn't go off?" Maureen questioned.
Just then a stocky dark man dressed in business attire approached us. "Miss. Kendell I would be happy to show you and your party to your table." Maureen handed him the beeper as he directed us away from the bar. As we were led to the downstairs dinning area I noted quickly that this man was not a waiter or even the manager. We were seated at a quiet corner table. The little man pulled out our chairs and seated us individually. "I apologize for any inconvenience you have incurred. If it meets with your approval I have ordered the chef to prepare something special for you ladies. Everything is on the house. My apologies again." He repeated as a waiter arrived with another round of margaritas. Allison thanked the man as he made his departure.
The table was silent as the drinks were delivered. A bus boy appeared and began to deposit mountains of food on our table. Allison passed a margarita to Maureen. One would be all right since it appeared that we would be eating for some time. Maureen raised her glass and saluted Allison. "To lawyer Barbie." Allison simply groaned in response taking a sip of her drink.
"I don't wish to appear ungrateful." I said finally. "But the few times in my life when I have worked up the courage to complain about the service the most I ever received was an we are sorry and a coupon for a free appetizer."
"I am a Kendell." Allison stated in a dry voice.
"I see." I answered suddenly thinking at that moment Allison had lost some of her charm. "So the bitch lawyer is still in there."
Suddenly Maureen and Allison erupted into uncontrollable laughter. "Did I miss something?" I questioned feeling left out on the joke.
"Allison's family." Maureen spoke as she stifled her laughter. "Great old family name. One of the countries founding families. Ah to be a Kendell the prestige and history. One slight problem though."
"No money." Allison cut in with a huge grin.
"Excuse me?" I pried. "That is like saying the Rockefeller's live on food stamps."
"It's true." Allison confessed. "Well I don't know about the Rockefeller's state of affairs . . . but the Kendell fortune was blown decades ago. It's an old story. One generation slaves away does nothing but work and amasses a fortune that should last forever. Except the next two generations go through everything without a second thought for the future. Basically because they have no intention of ever working for a living. Too busy drinking and getting laid. By the time my Dad graduated from Harvard all that was left was a great name and a huge debt."
"It must be infuriating to have people assume that everything was handed to you?"
"Sometimes. I'm sure people would be shocked to know that I had a paper route when I was a kid. Being a Kendell made it difficult to find a summer job. I had to use the family connections but I was turned away a great deal of the time because people assumed I was rich and didn't need the money. I give Dad a lot of credit unlike the way he was raised we were never led to believe that we were rich. Of course I am not entirely certain that Grandma knows that the money is long gone. She just keeps spending and sticks poor Dad with the bills. Thank God he makes a good living. But between the bills Gramps left him and his Mother's spending habits it is never enough. Everything my parents and I have we earned. All of the money I made working on Wall Street went to helping my Dad pay off Gramps' debt. That and my kid sister Nicole's love affairs with gin and sleazy men and of course there was all the money I spent trying to get my little brother out of that cult. I did manage to help save the family estate and thanks to God and AA Nicole finally got her life together. Unfortunately David is hanging around Logan Airport handing out flowers."
"You left out how Chris wiped you out." Maureen sneered.
"Hey not my little beach house." Allison protested. "Fortunately, I bought that before we were together."
"What about Wellesley and Harvard?" I asked quickly not wanting to hear any of the gory details regarding the infamous Chris.
"Working my butt off and academic scholarships." Allison replied simply.
"Speaking of Chris?" Maureen cut in.
"Let's not." Allison groaned.
"Is she still trying to use your beach house in PTown?" Maureen pried.
"Yes." Allison responded reluctantly. "But I refused. I told her that she brought plenty of women there while we were together and now she could rent a room at the Boat Slip like everyone else." Allison added defensively.
"I cannot believe her." Maureen moaned in disgust.
"What do expect, she is a lawyer. New subject. Let's eat!" Allison insisted as the waiter arrived with a fresh round of margaritas. While Maureen passed on anymore alcohol Allison and I indulged. The food was fantastic and I was enjoying the conversation. The tequila was beginning to have an effect on me, more than once I caught myself touching Allison's hand or knee. She seemed to ignore my contact until I rested my hand on her thigh.
"Stephanie tell us about Peter." Allison said briskly as she brushed my hand from her thigh.
"Who?" Maureen asked seemingly unaware of what my hands had been doing.
"Stephanie's beau." Allison said directly.
Her message came through loud and clear I was crossing a line. I had to stop. With the reality of my actions and Allison's apparent rejection. I began to talk about Peter. I told my companions how we met, how long we had been together and what he did for a living. The standard conversation. Maureen asked the usual questions while Allison remained very quiet. I could not blame her. Here I was practically engaged to this man and I could not keep my hands off of her. I felt confused and terrified that I had just lost her friendship. One thing was certain no more alcohol for me tonight. Allison also passed on another round.
As the evening passed the conversation turned to gossip about Haven and the history department. Then to Maureen's kids at this turn in the conversation Allison finally rejoined the discussion. Perhaps her return was due to the fact that I had finally stopped groping her. I think it had more to due with Maureen's children. Allison's face lit up during the conversation. It was clear that Allison adored Maureen's children especially Jenny, who was the youngest and Allison's goddaughter. After Maureen gave Allison a halfhearted lecture about spoiling the children, we agreed that it was time to go.
As we stood outside in the cold autumn air waiting for Maureen to bring the car around, I knew that I had to say something to clean up this mess that I had created. In many ways my behavior was no better than Amy's. "Allison . . . I . . . um . . . I'm sorry." I stammered.
"It's okay." She responded lightly. "Tequila it makes you horny and stupid."
"Friends?" I asked hesitantly. To my relief she nodded yes and we gave each other a hug. The gesture should have been quick and friendly. But we seemed to melt into each other. "You feel good." I whispered into her chest.
"So do you." She murmured sweetly in reply as she rested her chin atop my head. I could feel our hearts beating together. Suddenly Allison jumped back pushing me away from her. "Whoa!" She gasped in horror.
I could not believe what I had just done. "Didn't I just finish apologizing for this?" Allison started to chew on her bottom lip. It was a strange sight seeing the normally composed giant woman looking like a schoolgirl. We both stood in silence lost in our own thoughts until Maureen drove up. I climbed into the back of the mini van and listened to the chatter in the front seat. The traffic was much lighter at this hour and the return trip was far more relaxing. Although I am not certain I may have nodded off once or twice during the journey.
When we arrived back at our home I quickly exited the vehicle. Unfortunately the effects of the tequila rear it's ugly head and redefined gravity. Just as I was certain that my face was about to be introduced to the sidewalk I felt strong arms wrap around me. "Easy there Tex." Allison comforted me. "I guess you don't have your sea legs yet?" She teased.
"Yeah." I groaned. "It's a good thing you warned me about the margaritas or I could have made a complete ass out of myself." I blushed as I mentally recalled my actions.
"No worries." Allison laughed. "Let's get you inside."
I teetered up the staircase as Allison held onto me. "I could have sworn that I was beginning to sober up." I groaned. "Hey how come you aren't drunk?"
"Who's says I'm not." Allison protested. "Trust me if I let go of you . . . I would probably end up going down these stairs ass over tea kettle." I eyed her suspiciously. "Uh huh." I added as she searched for her keys. Once inside the apartment Allison guided me to the bedroom. She gently laid me down on the bed and took off my shoes. "You will be more comfortable here. I will take the couch." She explained.
"No." I protested childishly all sense of reasoning departed as I pulled her towards me.
Allison stumbled landing on top of me. I felt her body pressing closer to mine. I looked into those deep blue orbs as she lowered her face to mine. Our lips were so close to touching I could feel her breath on my skin. I hated when these feelings would over take my sense of reality. But I was helpless to resist. "It was the alcohol." I reasoned. "Just like the other times I felt this way. What about Gigi?" My inner voice questioned. "We were kids. It was nothing. Not to her." Although my mind was screaming to stop my body had other ideas. I raised my head and brushed her lips gently with my own. The heat from the gentle caress was overwhelming. I reach up and pulled her into me. Parting my lips I invited her in. Allison accepted my invitation eagerly. The kiss deepen as our bodies pressed against each other. Without realizing it I opened my legs as her thigh nestled between them. Soon our hips began to move in rhythm. "This feels so right. For the first time in my life I am on fire. For the first time I know that I can let go."
Allison gasped for air as she broke away from my lips. I looked into her eyes and I knew that I wanted her. I reached up and unbuttoned her jacket. I gently slid it off of her shoulders. I could see the passion in her eyes as she gazed down at me. She lowered herself and began to unbutton my blouse. In response I reached up and fulfilled a fantasy that had been running through my head all evening. My fingers began to caress the silk camisole. Soon the touch of silk wasn't enough. I wanted to feel her. Running my hand down the silk garment until I could feel the tight muscles of her stomach. I gently tugged the camisole out her pants and ran my hand up her tight body.
While I was preoccupied with my own explorations Allison had managed to not only open my blouse but had unclasped my bra as well. My nipples harden as she lifted the garment up and exposed my breast to the cool night air. She moaned in pleasure as I gently cupped her breast taking her already erect nipple between my fingers teasing it gently. Our hips began to dance together once again. I was mesmerized as I watched her lower her mouth to my breast. "Harder. . . ." I begged as she began to suckle my nipple. I moaned with pleasure as I arched my back trying to offer her more.
Suddenly she stopped and pulled herself away turning her back to me. I caught her by the shoulders and turned her back to me. As I pulled her body towards mine my hands resumed the exploration. This time they roamed much further down her body. I began to unbutton her pants and lower the zipper. She closed her eyes and pressed into me. Slowly I began to slide her pants down her body. As I pulled them lower I allowed my hands to explore her tender flesh. My heart raced as I realized that this was what I had been waiting for my entire life.
"NO!" Allison protested suddenly pulling herself away. With that one word there was no longer any room for debate. In silence I laid there as she sat on the edge of the bed unable to look at me. The events of the evening flooded over me. "What had I been thinking? I wasn't thinking that was the problem!" "Oh God." I sobbed. "I'm so sorry."
Allison turned to me and caressed my face gently wiping away my tears. "Stephanie it is all right." She said softly. "Hey don't cry. I bet in the morning we will laugh about this."
"I must be the worst house guest ever." I sniffled.
"Oh yeah I just hate it when beautiful women want to make love to me." Allison teased.
"Then why . . ." I began to say.
"Stephanie you are drunk and there are rules about that." Allison stated firmly. "And even if you were sober . . ."
"I see." I interrupted her explanation. "She isn't interested in me that way."
"No you don't see." Allison spoke with a sincere gentleness. "Even if we had not been drinking . . . . there is someone in your life."
"Peter." I gasped as the reality hit me. "How could I have brushed his memory away so quickly?"
"Peter." She repeated in a heavy voice. "The fact that the person in your life is a man just brings up a whole new drama. And frankly I'm not up for it."
"How could I ever explain this to Peter? How am I going to share an office with Allison every day not to mention live downstairs from her?" "What did I do?" I whispered as I ground my face into my hands. "Idiot!"
"Hey." Allison whispered softly. "Give yourself a break here. Trust me I am not offended . . . you should have seen some of the stunts my kid sister pulled when she still drinking. Nikki could make a sailor blush. Stephanie please let it go. Personally I will not hold one night of tequila ruin our friendship. So you made a pass at me. Big deal it's not like you kicked a puppy."
"Tequila . . . horny and stupid." I smiled as I wiped away my tears.
"I warned you about those margaritas." Allison teased as she ruffled my short blonde locks. Suddenly even though there was just a few years between the two of us, I felt very young. "I remember my first experience with tequila. Back at Wellesley some of my sorority sisters were bored so they thought it would be a good idea to introduce me to Jose Cuervo."
"You were a sorority girl?" I asked in disbelief.
"Of course." She laughed. "Sigma Kappa Epsilon. Why let me guess you were a Delta girl."
"No I was never in a sorority." I sighed. "I was so much younger than everyone else."
"Oh? That must have been hard?" She said sympathetically.
"At times." I admitted. "So tell me about the night you were introduced to Jose? Did you make a pass at someone too?"
"I wish." She blushed at the memory. "No I climbed up on the roof of the Kappa house took off all of my clothes and sang several chorus' of 'Don't Cry For Me Argentina'. After they managed to get me down before campus security arrived I spent the rest of the evening worshiping the porcelain god. So you see you are ahead of the game. You managed to keep most of your clothing on, you have not sung any show tunes and you haven't thrown up."
"Well if you feel a song coming on or the bed starts to spin, just give me a shout. Good night Stephanie." Allison said gently mussing my hair once again.
"Good night Allison and thank you."
"Anytime." She smiled as she stood to leave. As she turned away she instantly crashed onto the floor. "Damn it!"
"Are you all right?" I called out as I jumped from the bed and fumbled around the nightstand to find the light switch. The sudden brightness was startling. But not as startling as the sight of Allison sprawled across the floor with her pants around her ankles holding her knee wincing in pain. "Allison?"
"I'm fine." She groaned. "I tripped over my pants. I completely fought that they were down."
I couldn't help myself as I burst out in laughter. She giggled in response then moaned in pain. "My God she is hurt!" Instant sobriety kicked in as I rushed to her side. I wrapped my arms around her and assisted the taller woman up onto the bed. "Ouch." She cried. "I am such a klutz. I am always doing this." I raised my eyebrows questioning. "Let's just say that my middle name isn't Grace."
"This doesn't look good Allison." I explained as I examined her swollen knee. "We need to elevate this. Why don't you put on something more comfortable. I will get some ice."
"I'm fine." She protested.
"Right." I admonished her brave attempts. "Do you need help getting changed." She shook her head no. "Good then get changed and lay down I will be right back." I commanded as I stormed out the bedroom and made my way into the kitchen. I fumbled around in the darkness until I finally discovered the kitchen. When I flipped on the light I gasped at the sight before me. It was enormous and fully equipped with everything. I would love to cook in here. I noticed that it was also spotless. I could not believe it after seeing what she had done to her office. Deep down Allison Kendell was a neat freak. It was when I opened the refrigerator that I discovered her true secret to keeping her kitchen in such a pristine condition. The interior was packed with carton after carton of every variety of take out food. It seemed that Allison's version of cooking required the use of a telephone. Shaking my head in disgust I closed the door and opened the freezer to get what I came for. The contents of the freezer convinced me that the rest of Allison's culinary talents were limited to the microwave. I reached for the ice trays and discovered that they were empty. "Apparently she fought the recipe for ice as well." I filled the trays and placed them in the freezer. Then I grabbed the next best thing I could find a handful of frozen burritos. In one of the draws I found a dishtowel that I was certain had never been used. Silently I wonder if Allison was even aware that the kitchen existed.
Wrapping the burritos in the towel I made my way back into the bedroom. I found Allison reclined on the bed clad in an t-shirt with the words Obey Me written across the front and a pair of boxer shorts. I made my way over to the bed and gently raised her knee and carefully placed a pillow under it then I placed the towel across her swollen knee. "Ouch!" She groaned. "What is this?" She asked as she peeked into the hand towel. "Bean and cheese an excellent choice."
"You are out of ice."
"Again? I am always forgetting to fill those things."
"You might want to check out your fridge I think something is growing in there." I explained as I searched her dresser for something to sleep in. I found a large white cotton blouse. Without thinking I stripped and threw it on. Although I am certain it fit Allison perfectly on me the garment was overwhelming. I turned to find Allison staring at me with her mouth hanging open. "That is cute." I said pointing to her t-shirt.
"It belonged to Chris." She explained. "It took it when I left. It was her favorite. I know that must sound petty but I couldn't resist."
"So she got your BMW and you got a T-shirt?"
"Did I mention that it was her favorite?"
"Uh huh." I laughed as I crawled into bed next to her. "Remind me that if I ever need a lawyer that I should call you ex-girlfriend."
She turned off the light and we both drifted off to sleep knowing that we were both sober enough to no longer fear my earlier temptations. My attempt at sexual exploration was over. At least for that night.
The next morning I awoke to the sweet sounds of the birds singing just outside the bedroom window. That sweet tune felt like an ice pick piercing through my already throbbing head. "Kill it!" I moaned as I buried my head under the pillow.
"I would if I could lift my head off of the pillow." Allison groaned in agony.
Slowly I crawled out from under my pillow to be assaulted by the blinding glare of the sun. "I will never drink again." I vowed as I curled up against Allison trying to hide from the offending light. "Poor baby." Allison said softly. "Come here." She whispered as she pulled me into her waiting arms. "Where does it hurt?" She inquired as she gently stroked my hair.
"Everywhere." I sobbed pitifully. "How is your knee?" I asked as I listened to the steady beating of her heart.
"Better. But I think the burritos are done for."
"I'm sorry about last night." I apologized again.
"Don't be I wasn't exactly . . . unwilling."
"But at least you were thinking." I said softly.
"Was I?" Allison questioned with a touch of sadness. "Stephanie?"
"Yes." I responded with a hard swallow.
"Have you?" She began nervously. "Never mind."
"What is it Allison?" I asked as I lifted my body so I could look into her eyes.
"Have you done anything like that before?" She asked hesitantly.
"Well . . ." I began uncertain as to just how I should answer her. "Have I ever gotten so drunk that I put my hands down another woman's pants?" The answer was no. But that wasn't the complete truth. How many times did I have one too many to find myself making out with another woman only to sober up quickly and go running off into the night. Then there was Gigi. Although we never made love . . . technically what we did together certainly went beyond friendship. Of course that is not what I told myself at the time. So I have had urges before. And now here I am lying in her arms feeling more at home than I have ever with any man. "What is happening to me? Nothing is happening except that I am finally waking up." Suddenly I felt my world come crashing down around me.
"Stephanie?" Allison nudged me.
"Trust me I have never done anything like I did last night." I hedged. "But . . . I have kissed a girl before."
"Uh huh." Allison responded suspiciously.
"Well more than one." I confessed. "But it never went past that. And it only happened a few times when I was. . ."
"When you were drunk." Allison finished for me.
"Yes." I admitted feeling that I hadn't explained myself very well. Of course I knew that I couldn't tell her about my teenage explorations with Gigi.
Without a word Allison released her hold on me and got out of bed and walked out of the room. Left alone with my thoughts I started to remember poor Gigi. We were sixteen and the best of friends, even though I had already started college and Gigi was in High School. It all started innocently enough we were laying on my bed talking about sex. When you are sixteen what else did you talk about. The two main topics of conversation were boys and shopping. Since I had already began to formulate my life plan and money was tight, very often I had little to add to the conversation. But talking with Gigi was easier than the other girls that I knew. This particular afternoon the conversation took a strange turn.
Somehow the we began to discuss masturbation and somehow it was decided that we should. That is how it started laying next to each other. Both of us fully clothed with our hands down our jeans touching ourselves. Neither of us achieved a climax but there was something about the event that intrigued both of us. Without discussing what had occurred that day, we continued with our exploration each time that found ourselves alone in one or the other's bedrooms. Our explorations escalated to the point where we would undress ourselves leaving only our panties on. Although this made our afternoons more exciting neither of us had climaxed yet. That changed one afternoon in my bedroom while my grandmother was out shopping.
We were lying side by side staring into each other's eyes. I could feel my excitement growing as I watched Gigi pleasure herself. Frustrated by my own excitement I continue my own exploration. Finally I conceded that it wasn't going to happen so I stopped. "Let me help you." Gigi encouraged as she reached out for me. "No." I blurted out as I pulled away. Seeing the hurt in my friend's eyes I knew that I couldn't tell her that I was afraid. "Let me help you." I explained quickly as I reached out and began to caress Gigi's breast. The moan that escaped Gigi's lips sent shivers down my spine. "Touch yourself." I instructed her in a voice that I did not recognize. Gigi obeyed my instructions. I was overcome by a sudden wave of desire as I captured Gigi's breast in my mouth. I suckled my friend's nipple as I watched the girl pleasure herself. I could feel Gigi's body begin to tremble. Without realizing what I was doing I rolled Gigi onto her side and curled up behind her. I rocked myself into Gigi's backside while playing with her breast. Gigi's hand began to move with intensity in her own underwear. "OH GOD! YEEESSSS!!!!!" Gigi screamed out. I continued to rock my body into Gigi's until the girl climaxed for a second time.
We went on like that for over a year. Never progressing past that point and never discussing what we were doing. Not that Gigi didn't want to. But I was far too afraid. Telling myself that if we didn't talk about it then it wasn't real. So I blocked all attempts Gigi made to take things to the next level. Finally Gigi grew tired of my lack of acknowledgment. Tired of the one sided physical aspects of our unspoken attachment. Gigi simply walked away one day and found someone else. Very quickly I blocked it out and tried not think of just what it had meant to her. Deep down I knew that I was the one that had hurt Gigi. "Forgive me I was afraid." I whispered as I looked up at the ceiling in Allison's apartment.
"So now what?" Suddenly all of the pieces of my life began to fit together and for the first time. Had Allison seen right through the lies that I have been telling myself? For the past few years I had been telling myself that Peter was my life. But I was the one who always put the brakes on when he got too close or tried to take the next step in our relationship. Sure we made love but only when it was convenient for me. He tried so hard to please me. How could I have forgotten that passion I felt with Gigi that had been the closest I had ever come to reaching an orgasm. As I lay in Allison's bed it was becoming all to clear that I was a big fat liar. Somehow Allison Kendell had seen through my facade. I drew the bed covers around me feeling suddenly exposed.
Allison reentered the room. "I put some coffee on." She said stiffly. "I'm going to take a shower. We have a staff meeting at eleven. Then I have a class. Maybe after the Dean's tea this afternoon we could go and pick up a futon for you." She departed the room without waiting for me to answer. I could tell by the intentional distance in her voice that even if my newfound awakening was true I had blown my chance with her. I just prayed that I had not lost her friendship as well.
I gathered my clothing and raced downstairs to my own apartment. I closed the door quickly not wanting to meet any of my new neighbors while racing out of Allison's apartment wearing only a shirt first thing in the morning. Call me crazy but I just didn't think it would make the best of impressions. As I entered my new apartment the emptiness left me cold. I shrugged off the chill and chose a suit that would be appropriate for both the staff meeting and the Dean's Tea. As I climbed into the shower I quickly found myself lost in thought once again. "What are you going to do Stephanie?" Had the light finally dawned or was last night just one of those things. It was possible that I was just curious.
"Stop lying to yourself! This is what got you into this mess in the first place. How could I not know that I was attracted to women? But you did know. What did you think every teenage girl would blow off the mall so they could watch their best friend get off? Let's not forget your helping hands either. Did you think everyone sucked on their best friends nipples so they could come? I was just . . . just what??? Face it last night you acted on pure desire!"
As the water splashed over my body my was coming back to me. All of those almost intimate moments in my life. The female friends in my life. They had not simply drifted out of my life. I had pushed them away. Because they had simply become too close. Those few innocent kisses. I had gotten drunk so I could allow myself to do what I really wanted to do. Then I pulled away when things had gotten too intense. They say you learn something new every day. Today I learned that I had led the majority of my life as a coward. I'm just not certain that I can change that? "Can I do this? Should I do this?"
The temperature of the water dropped suddenly and I was forced to exit the safety of my shower. The internal battle continued. By the time I was dressed I had come to a decision. The decision was simple I was not going to jump into anything. I was far too confused at the moment to make any life altering choices. Basically I was deciding not to decide anything. "Yeah that works. Coward!" I was jolted from my battle as my ceiling began to vibrate from the music that was blaring from Allison's apartment. As the ceiling shook violently, the sweet aroma of coffee filled the air. I needed caffeine and I needed it bad. My courage failed me. Big surprise! After the way I had behaved last night how could I go back upstairs? I was not entirely certain that I would be able to face Allison Kendell again.
I adjusted my suit and packed my briefcase. I hated facing yet another faculty meeting as the newest member of the department. It was like being the new kid in school all over again. Before she died my Mother moved us seven times in as many years. I never really got the hang of making friends. When I went to live with my Grandmother I was finally in a place that was permanent. But I kept skipping grades that was worse than moving around. How do you bond with people who are older than you but not as smart? Let's just say I was stuffed into my locker more than once. The only friends I had made in my life were Gigi and I screwed that up. Then Peter and I had a feeling that I was about to screw that up. And now Allison and that wasn't looking like it is going to last either.
As I repacked my briefcase for the third time I could no longer deny that I was stalling. I should just leave. After all Allison never suggested that we commute together. After what had happened the night before she might prefer it if I just stayed away from her all together. "Coffee?" A voice called from behind me. I turned to find Allison standing in my doorway. She was dressed smartly in a cream colored suit. The light from the French doors illuminated her well-defined body. She was breathtaking. "I . . . um . . . um . . . yes." I stammered. "Idiot!"
"Come on then." She waved to me. Her voice had warmed considerably but I could still detect a hint of coldness to it.
I followed her obediently up the staircase. As we entered her apartment I could not help in thinking just how truly pathetic I was. The music was deafening, but I liked it. The steady rhythm of the guitar was intense. I felt my face redden as the sultry female sing crooned about you little secret. "Sorry about the music." Allison shouted as she made her way over to the CD player and shut it off. "Melissa." She stated simply with a shrug. "It is something of a morning ritual of mine. I never realized how loud it was sounded downstairs. George never complained."
"It is all right. I like it." I answered with a smile. "Who is Melissa?"
"How is your head?"
"Better." I lied. "I still feel as if elves are tap dancing on my skull. How is your knee?"
"Fine." She answered. "How do you like it?"
"What?" I gasped.
"Your coffee?" She offered in a bewildered tone. "How do you like your coffee . . . cream . . . sugar?"
"Just milk please." I answered quickly feeling very foolish once again.
"I think there is some in the refrigerator. I'm not positive though. I drink mine black." She offered in a casual manner. It would appear that Allison was at least trying to forget about the embarrassing events of last evening and this morning.
I thanked her as she placed a mug of coffee on the counter for me. I searched the bizarre contents of her refrigerator until I came upon a small carton of milk. It had been hidden behind something that was unidentifiable. I opened the carton and was suddenly overwhelmed. I do not know if it was the stench emanating from the carton or the tequila from last night or a combination of both . . . but I was about to be sick. I threw the carton into the sink and raced off to the bathroom.
Upon my return to the kitchen I found Allison cleaning up the mess I had made. "I'm so sorry Stephanie." She apologized profusely meeting my gaze for the first time since we snuggled in bed this morning. "Allison Kendell that refrigerator is a disgrace." I said trying to regain my composure.
"I know. . . I know." She looked down in embarrassment. " I keep meaning to clean it out. But I never seem to get around to it. Plus I never cook and I drink my coffee black and . . . and . . . I'm sorry."
"Forget it. I used your toothbrush." I snarled as I retrieved my coffee from the counter.
"That seems fair." She laughed.
"I think I just switched to black coffee as well." I said, afraid to ask for some sugar. As I sipped the coffee slowly I braced myself for the bitter after taste. But there wasn't any just a slight hint of vanilla. I had the impression that Allison was not as inept in the kitchen as would like to appear to be. But then again Oscar Madison had a clean fridge so there goes that theory. "Can I asked you something?"
"Sure." She responded carefully.
"The music . . . who is Melissa?" I asked.
"Etheridge. . . Melissa Etheridge." She answered with a combination of shock and horror.
"Don't you have lesbians in Connecticut?"
"No." I stated blankly. "We send them all to New York."
"Humor?" She teased.
We stood there silence as we sipped our coffee each lost in our own thoughts. "I'm sorry Stephanie." She said finally breaking the uneasy silence. "For?" I responded in confusion.
"Last night . . . this morning." She whispered sincerely.
"Why? You are not the one who got drunk and then made a pass at your hostess. Then there is the inflicting of bodily injury and of course throwing up." I sighed in defeat. "Wait I won't apologize for throwing up that was definitely your fault. Next time remember that they put expiration dates on things for a reason."
"Well you can let yourself off the hook for my knee as well. Technically I did that to myself." She teased.
"While trying to avoid my advances." I insisted.
"Well at least I did not end up in the emergency room." She laughed in a vain attempt to lighten the mood. "Could you imagine trying to explain to some poor intern at three in the morning that you tripped over your own pants."
"The past twenty four hours have been something of a roller coaster ride." I said absently.
"Poor baby." She sighed compassionately.
Somehow I knew that at that moment she wanted to touch me. I also knew that I wanted her to do it. The moment passed and she did not reach out to me. "Everything is suddenly very confusing." I admitted finally praying that she understood what it was that I was trying to say.
"I do not want to cause you anymore confusion." She spoke with such tenderness. I watched intently as she brushed back a lock of her raven hair. "And I won't. I would like for us to friends. But if my friendship causes you any problems I could . . ."
"No." I interrupted her those blue eyes grew dark. "No your friendship won't cause me any problems." I clarified. "Allison I haven't had very many lasting friendships in my life. I am just starting to realize that it is my fault. I treasure your friendship and I would like to keep it."
Allison had insisted on driving to campus. Along the drive Allison complained nonstop about having to wear high heels and a skirt. As she ranted I could not help but notice how great she looked. "Why can't I just stop looking at her? Are you nuts? A blind man could see how hot this woman is. That is so true I may or may not be gay but anyone would stare at those legs that just keep going on and on and . . . . and on . . . and . . ."
"I mean what sick bastard invented these things. Like I'm not tall enough." Allison continued to bitch about her footwear. There something about Allison that I noticed this morning in addition to her legs. She was going to great lengths to avoid eye contact with me. It was a small thing but even during our first encounter Allison had always maintained direct eye contact. After watching her over the past few weeks I picked up on the fact that she made a point to do this with everyone. Until now. Wow I must have really freaked her out. "Why should she be freaked out? Even if I am a lesbian she has made it quite clear that she is not an option."
Upon arriving on campus we went directly to our office. How comforting it all sounded, our office . . .our house. From the other side of the partition that separated our desks I could hear Allison fumbling around. I wanted so desperately to go to her. I pushed the thought from my mind as I dialed the telephone company and made the necessary arrangements to have my new telephone installed. Of course these days there was no actual installation. You buy a new phone and someone somewhere flips a switch. I groaned as the woman on the other end listed my options. I needed to choose a local carrier and a long distance carrier and did I want Internet services, voice mail, caller id and so on. I chose my local and long distance carriers and made a note about the Internet. Not sure if I would need it since I was already on line at my office here on campus. I carefully jotted down my new telephone number as the very pleasant woman read it off. She informed me that my new service would be connected no later than tomorrow afternoon. The woman's voice was very soothing and I found myself doing what I always did. I tried to picture what she looked like. Suddenly I blushed as this innocent game that I had always played took on a new meaning.
I thanked the woman as she transferred me so I could confirm that I chose my local and long distance carriers freely. Sometimes I missed the days when Ma Bell controlled the world. As I waited patiently I looked over to the couch in the corner of the office. I smiled noting that Allison had made good on her promise and cleaned her side of the office. That alone should irk good old Stan. I finished with the telephone company and made my next call to the cable company. This call did not go as smoothly. Unlike the telephone company there was only one option in certain areas as to who could be your cable provider. The problem came from trying to set up a time. With my schedule we could not agree since they came between the scheduled time and hell freezing over. Frustrated knowing that taking an entire day off at the start of the semester during your first week on the job was very unwise. Allison finally came to the rescue when she shouted over the partition that Mrs. Giavanni could let them in. I shouted my thanks to her and set up an appointment. I knew that my meager belongings would be more than safe under Mrs. Giavanni's watchful eye.
I hung up and listened to Allison chatting on the telephone to someone in what sounded like French. I sat there twirling my pencil and debated on whether or not to call Peter. I really should call him after all we had not spoken in weeks. What would I say to him? "Hi sweetheart how is work going? Oh by the way I almost cheated on you last night. Oh yeah and I might be gay. What is new with you?" Twenty-four hours ago my only problems consisted of finding a suitable apartment for Peter and myself and beating Allison at tennis. Granted now those problems were history. I found an apartment that was far from suitable for two people and playing tennis with Allison was no longer what I had in mind. "And just who is she speaking French to?"
"Au revoir et n'oubliez pas de me donner un coup de fil." Allison finished and hung up the telephone.
"I wonder what that means? The Au revoir is pretty simple but . . . way to focus Stephanie! Stop eavesdropping and call your boyfriend!" My hands were shaking as I dialed the familiar number. "What is wrong with me I am almost thirty three years old. I have a PHD in early American history. I have written five books on the hidden secrets of this nation's history. So why am I sitting here with sweaty palms terrified at the prospect of talking to my boyfriend of almost six years? This is insane! Maybe hearing his voice will help put things in perspective? Maybe he is busy and I will get his voice mail? Coward!"
"Peter Burton." He answered cheerfully.
"Damn! I mean Hi Honey." Smooth Blondie! I watched as Allison made a sudden departure from the office stopping at the coffee table located just outside of our office. Maureen joined her and the two began what seemed to be an animated conversation.
"Steffi Sweetheart!" Peter's voice beamed through the receiver. "It is so good to finally hear your voice. I was beginning to think that you didn't love me anymore."
I could tell that he was teasing but that did not stop the guilt from stabbing at my heart. "I miss you too." I lied. As the words left my lips it looked as if Allison was about to reenter the office. She turned quickly and rejoined Maureen. "I found an apartment." I continued realizing that I was about to hurt two very dear people. "But there is some bad news."
"What is it?" He said quietly.
"Well Peter you see it is like this . . ." I hesitated unsure of just what to tell him. "It is a studio." I said quickly knowing that there was no way I was going to do this over the telephone. "It is much too small for two people." I ended quickly.
"That is it?" Peter laughed. "You worry about the strangest things. Look I will see it when I come up in a few weeks for our anniversary. If it is too small then it still isn't a problem. I am being transferred to Providence and maybe by the time I move we can find something together. Maybe someplace between Haven and Rhode Island. I know it will be a commute for both of us. We should think about getting you a car."
"But I agreed to rent it at least until the end of the semester." I argued.
"Sweetheart that is not a problem. I'm not leaving here until the end of the year. And who knows maybe by then I could probably hook up with a company in Boston or Cambridge. There is a lot of new tech companies starting up in Lynnfield and New Hampshire, which would be closer to Haven so I could start looking there." He was so comforting and so willing to do anything to make me happy.
"Peter you love working for Syntak." I protested.
"I love you more." He added. "Great more guilt! How could I have betrayed him so easily?"
To make matter worse while Peter continued his end of the conversation filling me in on what was happening in his life and how much he missed me, I was ogling Allison as she was talking to Maureen. Everything about her set me on fire. How could I be doing this? Here I am talking casually to Peter while I am lusting after Allison. "Can't blame the tequila this time." I needed to sort this out. I was not going to tell him anything until I was positive and I won't do it on the telephone. He deserved better then that.
Peter and I had been friends at UConn. even though he was a few years older than myself. After I went on to Yale we stayed friends. Then when my Grandmother became ill he was the only one that was really there for me. When she past away it was Peter who held me together. He helped with all of the arrangements and took care of me. It was then that I began to see this shy dark haired boy with big brown puppy dog eyes in a new light. After the few family and friends left the house the day we buried her he sat up with me and held me as I cried myself to sleep. Then He helped sell the house and settle my Grandmother's affairs. When everything was finished I took him to dinner to thank him for all he had done.
It was on that night that we kissed for the first time and he has been the man in my life ever since. He was the perfect choice even if a part of me felt as if something was missing. On our first anniversary together He finally confessed to me that he had been in love with me for years but lacked the courage to say anything. I remembered how adorable he was while admitting to the truth. The poor guy turned every shade of red imaginable. It was at that moment that I decided that this was the man I was going to marry. Everything seemed perfect until last night. I suddenly wished my Grandmother were still alive. I needed her now more than ever. She had been the one constant in my life. Is that what Peter was? Did he simply step into her shoes as my guiding light?
If my Grandmother were still alive would I be with Peter? And if that dear sweet very conservative very Irish Catholic lady were still with me what would she say about my current situation? "That would not be pretty! I have a feeling that Peter's reaction isn't going to be any better." Poor Peter. He waited for me all of those years and now I do nothing but take him for granted. Here He is ready to leave a job that he loves just to be with me. Would I do the same for him? What about Peter was my only attraction to him that he is the complete opposite of my Father?
"Stephanie?" Peter voice called to me. I apologized quickly lying about a bad connection. I informed him that my telephone would be hooked up tomorrow and I gave him the number. Then I lied once again and told him how much I was looking forward to seeing him. As I hung up the telephone I felt like a complete fraud. My brilliant life plan had not taken into account that sometimes life has plans of it's own. I have been forcing myself to change who I am to fit some kind of ideal of who I should be. All the while telling myself that I was happy.
Was I happy? The twenty million dollar question. I told myself I was. But that was before Maureen walked into that seminar I was teaching and made me an offer I could not refuse. Prior to Maureen's offer I had been actively pursuing a position at Brown. I had taught a seminar there and the faculty was impressed. But there weren't any openings at that time. If I had just gotten the position at Brown everything would have been perfect. Peter could have transferred and we would have gotten married and started a family. Everything would have been just fine. Until the day the truth would have forced it's way out. Then what would I have done? This is bad enough but at least I found out now. I suddenly realized what I had just admitted to myself. This wasn't about Allison or Peter. This was about me. I was not making a decision. I was simply accepting the truth. The problem was that the truth was screwing everything up.
"Stephanie?" Maureen called to me bringing me back to reality or as close to it as I can get at this moment. "Time for the staff meeting." She informed me. I followed Maureen and Allison to Bradley Hall. There was a large gathering in one of the lecture halls. Maureen had thoughtfully arranged for food services to set up an array of coffee and Danish. It was a welcome treat just the thing I needed to take my mind off of everything. I eagerly helped myself to a large cup of coffee and an apple Danish. I searched for Allison only to discover her surrounded by a large group of people.
Over come with shyness I was suddenly the new kid at school once again. There I was standing on the outside while everyone else gathered in his or her own little groups. I was horrified to see Allison do the same. "So much for the we can still be friends chat we had this morning. Was it my phone call to Peter? I know she must have heard me tell him that I missed him. Was that it? Of course it was. How two faced I must have seemed. But she didn't understand. I owe him. Peter is a decent man. Why should I have to explain this to her? More importantly why do I feel that I should?"
I look around to find a place to seat myself. I looked hopefully towards Allison but she did not seem to notice me. I could not help but notice that mostly women surrounded her. One in particular was an older very attractive woman with dark skin and a slight hint of gray in her hair. I noticed her because she was overly friendly towards Allison. "Great now I am jealous. Last night I discover lust and today I am awaken to jealousy and envy." Years of keeping my emotions in check had come crashing down and I was exposed. I also felt like a major dork standing there with my coffee and Danish with nowhere to go. I was forced to take the only seat available. I sat next to Stan. With his twelve-year-old tweed suit, graying hair and wire rimmed glasses, Stan was the portrait of a history professor. I said good morning to him and he simply grunted in reply. I could not help looking over my shoulder to see Allison. She was laughing at something the older woman had said.
"How are you surviving?" Stan asks finally.
"What?" I question him surprised that the man had spoken to me.
"How are you surviving sharing office space with Kendell?" He snarled as he spoke her name. "She is such a fraud."
"Allison and I are getting along very well thank you." I snap injured by his assessment of Allison. Of course it seems odd defending her while she was sitting on the other side of the room and I was stuck there with Stan. Stan was possibly the most boring person on the face of the earth.
"Just be careful." Stan warned me.
"What do you mean?"
"Well you never know with those people." He cautioned me.
Those people! Is that what I was afraid of? Being labeled. "You know Stan. . . I know that your specialty is early American history . . . but you really should take a look at this century." I snarled at him.
"All I am saying . . ." He began to argue obliviously put off by my tone.
"Stan!" I cut him off. "I'm not interested."
Thankfully Maureen chose that moment to begin and walked up to the podium. Everyone greeted her with applause. "Suck ups." Maureen laughed. Maureen proceeded to give her speech. I could tell by the looks of my fellow faculty members that this particular speech has been heard more than once. Maureen explained that this was the last time the entire faculty would meet as a whole during the semester. The department was divided by several different classifications ranging from time periods and geographical interest. Maureen went on to remind everyone of the constant cross over that would occur within our department as well as with other departments and that teamwork was the key. Then she listed accomplishments of the staff who had published or received awards during the past semester. Then she reminded everyone of the old academic rule of survival publish or perish. I noticed that she was looking directly at Allison as she said this.
Maureen also reminded us not to abuse the interns and TA's since they were here to learn. Then she introduced me as the newest member of the department. She listed all of my accomplishments etc. Everyone seemed impressed. Everyone except Allison. I stood and received a very warm round of applause as my new peers greeted me. Maureen concluded the meeting with a reminder that the departments basketball team the relics still needed positions filled. She assured us that this would be the year that we would finally beat the English department. She looked once again to Allison who simply raised a single eyebrow with a questioning look. "Basketball huh? I always did well with that sport and others. My only hold back was I could never play for my school since my age never matched my grade level. This might be a nice diversion. Then again a little one on one practice sessions with a certain tall dark history professor could certainly be enjoyable."
The room emptied quickly and Allison was nowhere to be found. Dejected I walked back to my office alone. I found Allison and Maureen in a heated conversation. Not wanting to interrupt, I busied myself at the coffee station. I tried not to listen but my close proximity and their raised voices made it impossible.
"Allison I want to see you make tenure." Maureen scolded her.
"So I do." Allison defended herself.
"What about Stanford?" Maureen pushed.
"Nothing is definite yet." Allison sighed. "It would be a seven week seminar with a promise to our Dean that I will return. But I will miss the spring semester here. It would be good for my resume."
"Think about it." Maureen pushed harder. "You need something like this. You also need to publish."
"I know." Allison groaned.
"You could work with Stephanie." Maureen suggested. "Her specialty is the American Civil War. You are always talking about doing something on your family history."
"Stephanie must have a very full plate already." Allison argued.
"Is there a problem? I told you that I want the two of you to get along."
"Oh we are." Allison replied in a dry tone. Her deep contralto voice sent shivers down my spine.
It was time to save Allison. I walked in pretending to be oblivious to the tension. I carried in two cups of coffee both black and set one down on Allison's desk. "Thanks for leaving me with Stan." I teased her. I was not prepared for the fiery blue stare I received in return.
"You left her with Stan!" Maureen chastised her. "Didn't you just tell me that the two of you were getting along?"
"Don't worry we are." I replied with a false air of calmness. "So long as you don't leave me with Stan again."
I was surprised when Allison simply turned to her desk without saying a word. "Stephanie do you play basketball?" Maureen asked out of the blue. "No." I lied. Suddenly I had lost interest in the game. Allison's coldness left me feeling vacant.
"Damn." Maureen grumbled. "Allison if you do go to Stanford will you be back in time for the softball season?"
"No." Allison responded curtly.
"The team needs you." Maureen pushed.
"Why?" Allison laughed. "Is it the way I can't hit, throw or run? Maureen how many times do I have to tell you not all of us girls are good in sports. Look at you. You are a total jock and the picture of heterosexuality. Lesbians having an innate ability for sports is a myth."
"Then why are you so good at tennis?" Maureen teased.
"That is the Martina gene." Allison snorted. "And I am not talking about that snotty little punk who is on the circuit now."
I listened to the two of them banter back and forth. "Why did you lie about playing basketball? A few moments ago you wanted to play?"
"How about you Stephanie?" Maureen asked innocently.
"Do you play softball?" Maureen repeated.
"Yes." I answered honestly this time. "I used to play first base and I did a little pitching. It was hard in school to stay on a team because I was always younger than everyone else. But in Grad school I played with a local team. I did okay."
"Great! You can join the team in the spring." Maureen cheered then she bounced out of the room.
"How is our softball team?" I asked noticing that Allison was still refusing to look at me.
"The Relics." Allison chuckled. "We suck."
"Great." I moaned. "Who cares. I 'm looking forward to playing again. It should be fun. After all winning isn't everything."
"Tell that to Maureen." Allison commented dryly.
I stood there for a moment uncertain as to how to keep the conversation going. I made a couple of attempts and received one-word answers in response. Finally Allison stood and excused herself muttering something about going to the library. Not once did she look at me. I sulked over to my desk and finished working on my syllabus for tomorrow's classes. I worked on the computer for what seemed like hours. I looked at my watch and realized that Allison's class was meeting. I told myself that I was going over there to listen to her theories on the Brady Bunch and it had nothing to do with wanting to see her. I ran hoping to catch the class before it was over.
As slipped quietly in and hid in the back of the room. Luckily her class was running late again. The students were captivated as always. But it was obvious that Allison was wrapping things up. I loved to watch her in action. Maybe I could learn something from her about teaching. I needed to find out what her schedule was for the new semester.
"So what have we learned from television?" Allison asked her students. "From the facts and the distortions that the media has offered to us?"
"That most lesbians would choose Jan as their favorite Brady." One girl shouted out. The classroom erupted with laughter as I blushed.
"Yes." Allison agreed with a smile. "That is true even though neither the character or the actress are gay. Which is too bad since Eve Plumb grew up to be . . ." Allison paused slightly as she noticed me standing in the back of the room. " . . . um . . . she grew up to be very attractive." She finished looking directly at me. I could feel the heat from the haze of blue cast in my direction. Quickly she turned away appearing to be at a loss. "Anyway . . . I . . . um . . . I'm sorry." She apologized and shook her head and closed her eyes for a moment as she ran her hand threw her dark hair. Her eyes opened and she was back fully composed. "Friday is the final and I wanted to talk about that. I am sorry that the summer session ran late this year. But the construction on campus has thrown everything off track." She paused once again and closed her eyes briefly. "For the final there will be eighty questions. No true or false and no multiple choice. There will also be two essay questions." There was a collective groan emitted from her students.
Allison smiled at their response. "I also want you to be prepared that there will be no questions regarding television." Her students were visibly shocked. I had to agree with them. I never heard them discussing anything but television. The first time I watched her all they discussed was the original Star Trek series. Allison just stood there and smiled that all knowing smile of hers as she worked that single eyebrow up into it's familiar arch. "Ladies, Gentleman and others." The students laughed once again but this time their discomfort was evident. "Now before you jump out of your seats and attack . . . allow me to enlighten you. When you signed up for this course, you enrolled in a course offered by the history department. I know that it is easy to forget that when you are talking about I Love Lucy. But all of this time you were really talking about American history. Therefore I am basing the final exam on our discussions. I paid very close attention to those discussions and I am banking on that you did too. Some of you may have continued those discussions after leaving this classroom."
I watched as many students nodded their heads in agreement. "How do we review for the final?" One panicked young man squeaked.
"Relax." Allison reassured her students. "Just think about what we have talked about. We covered a great deal of history this summer. Don't forget that the focus was on a thirty-year span. The three decades we talked about were the 50's, the 60's and the 70's. Remember the name of this course American History A Culture in Conflict 1950 to 1980? Don't freak out! Every time I teach this course everyone ends up in a panic over the final. Trust me on this I am certain that you all will do just fine." No one seemed to relax even with Allison's reassurances. "Now I also wanted to remind all of you that I will be teaching extra classes this fall. Because I may not be here for the spring semester."
My heart sank at the thought of Allison leaving. "You are leaving?" One student said, voicing my own fears. "No." Allison responded calmly. I felt as if I could breath again. "But more than likely I will be teaching a seminar at Stanford. I will return before the end of the semester. It is a possibility that I will teach a short seminar here when I return. Nothing is definite." The offer from Stanford that she and Maureen had been discussing earlier. I know that she needed to do this but still I did not want her to go. What if Stanford offers her a position?
"Professor Kendell?" One older student called out. "Is there any chance that you will be teaching the course on the history of the tobacco industry?"
"No." Allison replied firmly. "That course is being taught by Dr. Steiner. But she will be using my book Signs along Tobacco Road and I have agreed to come in for a discussion."
"But you won't be discussing any of the inside info?" The student pried.
"I can't." Allison answered coldly.
I wondered what that was all about as the students asked a few more questions regarding the up coming semester. "Speaking of up coming courses." Allison's deep voice broke my train of thought. "I suppose some of you have been wondering about our mystery guest for the past few weeks." She direction their attention to me. "She is with the FBI and you are all in trouble for what you said about J. Edgar Hoover." Allison teased. "Seriously this is Dr. Stephanie Grant and she is new to the history department here at Haven. Dr. Grant will be teaching several courses on the American Civil War and one on the history of the Free Masons. So you might want to check her out." Many of the students chuckled at Allison's blunder as she blushed. "I meant to say check out her classes you animals. Now get out of here and do not I repeat do not freak out over the final. I will see you all on Friday."
The students departed with unusual speed. I sensed that they were not heeding Allison's warning not to freak out over the final. "Thank you for the endorsement." I said as I approached her.
"Anytime." Allison replied quietly as she began to fill her briefcase without a single glance in my direction. She was so sullen. It was not like her. After a class she was usually very up. Still not looking at me she sunk into the chair at her desk. It was the first time I had seen her use her chair. Normally she stood or sat on the desk. She seemed so tense as she began to rub her eyes. Without thinking I stepped behind her and began to rub her shoulders. "Don't." She warned me bitterly.
"I'm sorry." I said softly removing my hands. Once again my body reacted before my brain had an opportunity to stop me. It had just seemed so natural to reach out to her. Just as natural as it was to climb into her arms this morning. Had I been thinking clearly I would have realized that I was the source for her tension.
"I have things to do." She muttered coldly. "I will see you at the Dean's Tea."
"Fine." I snapped as I spun on my heels and stormed out.
END OF PART ONE
Continued - Part 2
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