Disclaimer: Women might fall in love, will listen to the fantastic vocal styling of Diana Krall, might quote from published works. There will be angst, might be mild language, but things should turn out okay in the end.
Story and characters copyright © 2003-2005 by JS Stephens.
Emily Lane patiently sat through the toasts in her honor. Emily was retiring from Lane Electronics after nearly forty years in their legal department, working her way up from staff attorney to senior vice-president and corporate counsel. If she heard one more person ramble on about her long ascent through the ranks, she'd scream, at least in her head. Most of the speakers said the same thing, "Emily Lane came to Lane Electronics after law school. Her star started ascending when the founder and CEO, Edgar Lane, fell in love with her after one date, marrying her immediately, thus securing her future with the company." They would ramble on about their marriage, their children, and her fighting her way up the corporate ladder."Emily, would you like to say a few words?"
Emily stood up and walked to the podium, slowly surveying the assembly of friends, family, and employees before crisply stating, "I believe that the other fine speakers have sufficiently covered my past. I appreciate each and every one of you and thank you for being here tonight. I am looking forward to retiring and finding some hobbies." Laughter bubbled up from the audience; Emily was well known for her lack of outside interests. She smiled at one and all. "Ed and I had planned to retire together and spend time traveling in my native England, but that dream was not to be, may God rest his soul. But, whatever hobby I find, it will not be legal." Laughter. "I mean, in the legal field." More laughter. "God bless you all! You may now escape to the dance floor." She regally flowed back to her seat to thunderous applause.
She could not escape so quickly; the inevitable pictures followed. Pictures with the officers and directors of the company, pictures with her children and grandchildren, pictures with friends. Finally, the photographer announced that she was done with the formal shots. Emily resisted the impulse to sigh heavily as she followed the crowd across the hall to the grand ballroom. A few hours of dancing and she could escape, she thought as she let her son, Richard, take her to the floor for the first dance.
"Mom, I have a meeting today that I can't get out of, could you go pick out the pictures from your party?" Susan asked. "I hate to ask you to get your own pictures, but with this new product launch and going to the kids' activities, I can't get to it."
"It will give me something to do, Susan," Emily answered, moving the phone from one ear to the other. "Where is the studio?"
"Oh, Mom, you're the best. Got a pen?" Susan rattled off the directions and the phone number, then asked, "by the way, how's retirement?"
Emily chuckled as she answered, "I finally get to sleep late; so I woke up at 7:30 this morning."
"Oh, real late, Mom. I have to go, my secretary is at the door and looking very impatient. Love you."
"Love you too, Susan." Emily hit the disconnect button, then started punching in numbers as soon as the dial tone came back on. She heard two rings, then a pleasant voice announcing, "Morgan Kincaid Studios, Morgan speaking."
"Yes, I'm Emily Lane and I'd like to come look at the proofs from my retirement party last Saturday."
"Lane, Lane, here you go. They're in, would you like to come over now? I don't have any appointments until after six tonight. Do you have the directions?"
"Yes, my daughter gave them to me."
Laughter. "Oh, that Lane. Your daughter is the one with the meetings, husband out of town, and a million other reasons why she can't pick up your pictures. When you get here, just come on in and yell for me, I'm in the back office today sorting proofs. See you in a bit." Emily stared at the phone for a moment, realizing that the woman on the other end had disconnected abruptly. She replaced the receiver, then went to her bedroom to get dressed. Thank God she didn't have to wear a suit, but what could she wear? She smiled as she reached for worn khakis, royal blue polo shirt, and old but polished loafers. Very un-Emily, as her secretary Karen would say, but very comfortable. She picked up her purse and keys and headed for the garage.
A short time later, she arrived at the Morgan Kincaid Studios and walked in as earlier directed. Emily paused to examine some of the portraits hanging in the lobby, noting the way that the photographer seemed to catch everyone in their best light. Her eye was caught by a picture of two women standing back to back in front of an old barn, soft sunlight highlighting their faces. "Good morning," a voice said behind her shoulder. Emily spun around, seeing the dark haired woman from the picture standing in the doorway. "I'm Morgan Kincaid, Mrs. Lane."
Flustered, Emily noted, "That's you in the picture."
A shadow flitted across Morgan's face. "Yes, it is. Would you like to look at your proofs?"
"Yes, yes I would, Ms. Kincaid."
"Then follow me to the back, and please, call me Morgan," she requested as she led Emily to her office. "Have a seat, make yourself at home. Would you like some coffee or tea?" Emily shook her head no. "I need some coffee, so help yourself to the proofs, yours are in the brown envelope on top. You may spread them out on the table to your left, I'll be right back."
Emily picked up the envelope and gently shook the photos out, fanning them out on the table, pulling her glasses from her purse to peruse the proofs. She rapidly sorted them into groups; pictures for newspapers, pictures for the annual report, pictures for her family. Most of the pictures were the fairly standard groupings, but there were some excellent informal shots of people dancing, talking, hugging. Emily smiled as she picked up a picture of Richard leading her out for the first dance. Richard looked so much like his father, it was almost like seeing a younger version of Ed in the picture. She put it in the "family" pile, then picked up the picture underneath it.
It was of herself, standing out on the balcony, staring off into the distance. Most of the background was in shadow, her face lit by moonlight, a wistful expression flitting across her features. The mood was artistic, dreamy, ethereal. Emily continued to stare at the photo, wondering how the photographer had caught her so unaware. She remembered the moment, stepping out for a breath of air, thinking about her husband, how he would have broken up the stuffiness and formality of the party with whispered jokes, how he would have spun her so gracefully around the dance floor.
"Mrs. Lane?" a voice softly invaded her reverie.
Emily slipped the picture under the others in the "family" pile, squared her shoulders, turned around. "Please, call me Emily," she replied, voice thickened with memories. Embarrassed by the emotion in her voice, she cleared her throat and briskly pointed to the table. "I'd like these pictures for newspaper prints, these for the company annual report, and these for family and friends. When do you need payment?"
Morgan sat down behind her desk, sipped her coffee, then set her mug down and picked up an order form. "You pay when you come back to pick them up, Emily, and I take all plastic and paper. Here's a list of all the proofs I just showed you, so just write the number of photos beside each one. The order will take about a week to process, less if you're willing to pay extra. I can send the annual report and newspaper photos directly to their offices, if you provide me with names and addresses."
"Yes, that would be nice," Emily mused as she picked up the form. "Quite nice, you have thumbnails beside each entry."
"Easy enough with the computer, better than having to look at each picture and remember which number goes with which proof. I can even give you a discount if you buy a package of photos for your friends and family."
"That would be nice," Emily mumbled as she rapidly filled out the form. She hesitated when she came to the picture of herself in the moonlight, not sure who she would give it to even if she ordered it. Maybe the picture was just too revealing, too contradictory of her stern persona, but just one would be nice, not that she often collected pictures of herself. She firmly printed a "1" in the "5 x 7" box, then signed the form with her customary flourish and handed it back to the photographer. Morgan glanced through the form, turning to her computer and rapidly typed in the order. She printed out the completed order and handed it to Emily, saying, "This is your copy for your records. Just bring back the order number in a week and pay for them then. Is there anything else I may do for you today?"
"No, that's fine. Thank you for your time, Morgan."
"My pleasure. Unless you want to join me for coffee, I guess I'll see you in a week."
It was a tempting offer, but Emily resisted, not wanting to take up the photographer's valuable time. "I appreciate the offer, but I have other errands I must complete. Shall I just come in next week, or will you call?"
"Just come in next week, say, Wednesday morning. I open at 9:00, so any time after that. I'm usually not too busy in the mornings."
"I shall see you then." Emily rose, automatically holding out her hand. Morgan smiled, taking Emily's hand in hers, gently shaking it. "Good-bye, Morgan."
"Good-bye, Emily, see you next week." Morgan waited until Emily Lane had left the building, then picked up the proofs, sorting through until she found her favorite, that of Emily in the moonlight, looking like an older version of Maria from the movie, The Sound of Music. She studied the photograph for several minutes before returning it to the pile, then disciplined herself to take care of business.
The week crawled by. Emily stretched her usual visit to the gym from a quick half hour workout to a full hour, followed by a leisurely swim. She guessed that working out was not enough of a hobby, at least not according to Susan, her well-intentioned but meddling daughter. "Mother, you should do some volunteer work," Susan had told her over lunch, "you know, hospital work, Meals on Wheels, the public library, something. You'll stagnate if you don't find something."
"Susan," Emily finally broke through, "let me enjoy life at my own pace. I've lived at a hectic pace for so long that I need to take a little time for myself."
Susan, true to form, didn't hear a word her mother said. "I know, you could volunteer at-"
"Susan Elaine, would you kindly let me get a word in?" Emily snapped. Susan shut her mouth, realizing that she'd made her mother angry - a very rare occurrence. "Now, if you are through telling me what to do, let me tell you what I plan to do. I plan to take some time to be lazy, to sleep in, to plan a trip to England. While I love yours and Richard's families, I want to spend some time doing what I want, not what my family or my company wants me to do. Do I make myself clear?"
"Yes, Mother," Susan whispered, cringing. Before Emily could continue, Susan's cell phone rang and she answered it, praying for deliverance. "Susan Matthews," she stated. She listened for a few seconds, then replied, "I'll be there as soon as I can. I was in the middle of lunch with Mom, but I can get back to the office in fifteen minutes, George. Ask the rest of the team to be ready for a meeting in half an hour." She hit the End button, then turned back to her mother. "I'm sorry, Mom, but there's an emergency back at the office. Do you mind?"
"No, I understand," Emily answered as Susan stood, riffling through her purse for money. "No, honey, I'll pay, just go on back to your office."
"Thanks," Susan smiled as she leaned over, kissing her mother's cheek lightly. "Remember, dinner at my house Saturday night."
"I won't forget. Kisses to the children and Jeff." She watched as her daughter left the restaurant, wondering if she really should take up some volunteer work. Better not, she mused as she trailed her fork through her food, it would interfere with her long-delayed trip to England.
The scene at Morgan Kincaid Studios was one of pure chaos. A woman was frantically trying to corral children while a man bellowed into a cell phone. A couple paced impatiently, stopping to gaze at wedding portraits, then started pacing again. A mother was trying to keep her daughter from taking the bow out of her hair. Emily surveyed the situation for a few seconds, then moved behind the counter and set her purse down, pulling out her glasses. She glanced at the computer, seeing an icon labeled "Scheduler" and double-clicked. A window popped up with today's schedule, complete with boxes to check for arrival, departure, number of proofs taken, and other options. Emily took a deep breath and called out, "May I have your attention, please." The quiet authority in her voice carried through the din, causing the people to taper off, wondering who this woman was. "Thank you. Now, as I call your names, please tell me when your appointment is and when you arrived." As they started talking all at once, she added, "One at a time, please, or it will take forever. You, sir, hang up and pay attention," she added pointedly to the cell phone man. He looked over, scowling, but complied. "Thank you. Holmes family?"
A few hours later, the last of the appointments had left and Morgan was sharing a cup of coffee and a plate of cookies with Emily. "I was busy trying to get a photo of a young woman with her iguana and could not stop to take names. I appreciate your stepping up to the plate and handling everything for me, Emily." She took a sip of coffee. "How in the world did you restore order so quickly?"
Emily smiled as she contemplated another peanut butter cookie. "It's rather easy if you know how. I have the advantage of having had lively children and running shareholder meetings for the company. If you can keep a bunch of angry shareholders at bay, they you can handle anything. So, do you usually have a receptionist, or do you just count on being able to handle everything at once?"
"I had a college student filling in on my busiest days, but she had the audacity to graduate last month and leave me!" Morgan replied with a grin. "Actually, after Amber left, I just hadn't had a chance to hire anyone else, I've either been too busy to interview or I've forgotten to run an ad for someone." Morgan sat back, crossing her arms and cocking her head, studying Emily. "Maybe I should put out an ad for someone with experience in running meetings and lining up children, someone who doesn't mind working part time. Someone with authority in her bearing, someone like you."
"Me? Oh, heavens no, Morgan, I'm planning a trip to England soon, visit some of my childhood friends."
"Oh," Morgan said, disappointment written all over her face. "I was hoping, but I guess it's not reasonable to ask you to work part time for me. I could only offer just above minimum wage, no benefits, no paid vacation. I would throw in free photography lessons if you'd accept."
Emily started to decline, but started thinking about it. A job would be better than volunteer work, especially better than hospital work. A job would give her an excuse to avoid her daughter's schemes to get free errand services. Further, if she did not try to book a trip to England immediately, she could afford to shop around for the best deal rather than taking the first plane over. She had always been interested in photography, but had never really had the time to do much more than family shots or vacation shots. "Are you quite serious?"
"Yes," Morgan answered, "when can you start?"
Emily smiled bemused, replying, "How about today?"
Morgan was pleased by Emily's contributions to her business. Not only did she efficiently shepherd waiting subjects in and out of the studio, but she also hired a young advertising firm to work up several contests that the studio sponsored. Emily also talked Morgan into hiring an accountant to take care of the finances and taxes. Revenue kept edging up throughout the summer and fall months, which made Morgan very happy.
Emily also showed promise in the creative photography arena. Morgan only had to show her something once and Emily was off and running, so to speak. They were able to set aside a few hours each week, usually on a Sunday, to refine Emily's skills with various cameras. Morgan looked forward to Sundays, the day they worked on Emily's photography. To be honest, she enjoyed having Emily all to herself, able to reach around her to make an adjustment to the camera, the tripod, the flash angle, just to smell that subtly spicy scent that she used. Yes, Emily was enticing, but of course, off limits, as all straight women were, so Morgan was surprised one Wednesday morning when Emily was sorting through the mail and asked, "Oh, do you go to the Black Tie Ball? I went a few years ago with one of the attorneys and his partner, I had such a terrific time."
"Um," Morgan stammered, trying to force her brain to work. "Not in some time. How did you know?"
Emily smiled her mysterious smile. "I am an astute student of human nature, Morgan. The picture of you and the other woman, but the refusal to discuss her, the skirting of any conversation that might reveal a preference either way, the way your eyes light up when a woman flirts with you. Shall I reply for you?"
Morgan blurted out, "Would you consider going with me?" The words were out before she thought and her face flamed red at the implication.
"I'd be honored, Morgan. Fortunately, I have a closet full of formal clothes left over from my former life. Have you sent your tuxedo to the cleaners?"
"No, not lately."
"I'll take care of it and the RSVP. Will you be picking me up, or shall I pick you up?"
Morgan finally engaged her brain, answering, "I guess I can pick you up." She furrowed her brow. "Guess I'll need directions first." Emily laughed, playfully pushing Morgan aside to get to the desk chair. She sat at the computer and brought up a mapping site and moments later was printing out the directions. "Thanks," Morgan said, folding the paper carefully before slipping it into her briefcase. "Hey, do you want to take the pictures for the next appointment? You do so well with children and I'm just not in the mood to deal today."
"No problem, as my grandchildren say." Emily patted Morgan's shoulder as she walked out of the office on her way to set up the shoot. Grandchildren? Right, Morgan remembered, I just asked a grandmother out on a date. Come to think of it, Emily was old enough to be her mother, for goodness sakes. "Get a grip," she warned herself as she followed Emily out of the office area, "and don't think of it as a real date."
Emily answered the door, opening it and welcoming Morgan into her home. "Do we have time to sit for a few minutes, or shall we go now?" she asked, gracious as ever.
"I think we'd better go now, parking can be difficult," Morgan answered she admired Emily's dress. It was a shiny, gunmetal gray, not quite clinging, but not loose either. Emily was wearing simple pearl stud earrings and a small matching strand of pearls around her neck. Morgan nervously thrust a small wrist corsage at her. "I wasn't sure what you liked, so I had Mike just make up something for you," she babbled as Emily bestowed a smile upon her. Morgan watched as Emily slipped the delicate corsage over her left wrist, then belatedly asked, "May I help you with your coat?"
"Yes, please, it's hanging on the stand by the door, the blue cloak. Thank you, dear," Emily said as Morgan helped her drape the cloak around her. She tucked a hand in Morgan's elbow, asking, "Are we ready?" Morgan nodded. "Then let's be off." Morgan nodded again, trying not to get lost in Emily's blue eyes, remembering to wait for Emily to lock the door before escorting her to the car.
The dinner was good, for a change, and Emily could enjoy herself. No speeches to make, no watching to make sure her husband didn't start flirting with other women, no gently redirecting attention of other men. Emily sighed contentedly as the waiters were clearing away the dessert dishes. Even the few speakers were sparkling and more importantly, short-winded. The master of ceremonies reclaimed the podium and announced that the dance was about to begin. The sound system came to life, blaring forth popular dance tunes that seemed endless. Emily danced with Morgan for one long tune, then sat out the next few dances to recover her breath. Morgan seemed to be loosening up, dancing with a group of gay men, shaking her bum for all it was worth. Finally, a slow tune came on, Diana Krall's rendition of "The Look of Love." Emily went to the floor and claimed Morgan's hand, gliding into a slow, graceful dance. Morgan smiled, brown eyes softening as the first words flowed out:
The look of love
is in your eyes
the look your smile can disguise
the look of love
it saying so much more than just words could ever say
Emily drew closer, tentatively resting her head on Morgan's shoulder, closing her eyes to feel the music, the rhythm of the dance, the warmth of Morgan's hands through her dress. It felt so relaxing, so right, to be dancing in Morgan's arms, better than it had ever felt with Ed.
Waited just to love you
now that I have found you
don't ever go
She didn't want the song to end, she just wanted to twirl slowly in Morgan's arms for the rest of the night. They drew apart at the end of the song, eyes locking, searching, seeking. Morgan broke the mood by backing away and bowing. "Thank you for the dance, Emily," she said politely, the curtains drawing over her face, "would you like some refreshments?"
Emily shook her head no, puzzled by the sudden withdrawal. Before she could say anything, one of her son's friends found them and exclaimed, "Why, Miss Emily, would you do me the honor of this next dance? You look stunning tonight, I keep saying that you really can't be Richard's mother, you must be his sister."
"Thank you, Robert," she replied as the young man swept her back out to the floor. Robert twirled her around the dance floor, asking, "What's up with Morgan?"
"This is the first time she's brought a woman to the Black Tie dance since Margo left her for a man about, oh, six, or seven years ago." Robert answered.
"Margo? Is that the woman in the picture that hangs in the studio?"
"Reddish-blonde hair, blue eyes, petite figure? Yes, that would be Margo. Darling Emily, would you like for me to take you to the bar for refreshments while I tell you the tale?" Robert's eyes were gleaming with the desire to spill the beans about Morgan's former lover. Emily wrestled briefly with her conscience and won. "Lead on," she commanded playfully.
"Well," Robert started after they sat down, "Margo owned the studio, and accepted interns from local high schools and colleges and in due time, accepted Morgan as an intern. Some time between being an intern and a full-time staff employee, they must have fallen in love. I had been friends with Margo for several years through charity work and only knew that she stopped dating other women and sighed greatly with love for Morgan." Robert stopped to drained his glass and asked Emily if she needed a refill. She shook her head no, then changed her mind and went to get the refills.
Once seated again, Emily asked, "So, what happened next? You mentioned a Margo leaving for a man."
Robert picked up the tale. "After nearly ten years of business and personal bliss, a man walked into the studio to have his portrait taken. Morgan was busy, so Margo photographed the man herself. He asked her out and for some reason, she said yes. Of course, when Morgan found out, she was furious at Margo and demanded to know why. According to Margo, she just fell in love with the man but swore to stop dating him. The next month, however, she married him and had a wee boy seven months later. Morgan was devastated and, as far as I know, hasn't even looked a woman since - until you. But Emily, my dear I had no idea that you were a lesbian."
Emily sipped her wine, then confessed, "Neither did I, Robert, but I am rather attracted to Morgan. Ed and I were married for nearly thirty-two years, but it was more a friendship than a marriage."
She smiled mysteriously. "Let's just say that Margo and I have one thing in common."
"Yes! Richard was a rather large premature baby, after all, just a hair over seven pounds for a seven month baby."
"Can anyone join this hen party?"
Emily and Robert looked up at Morgan, who had a bemused expression on her face. "Certainly, darling, I was just leaving," Robert answered, rising gracefully. "Oh, look, there's my next husband. Ta, loves." He blew exaggerated kisses, then snagged the arm of a handsome older man. "Robert is such a card," Morgan chuckled as she slid into the deserted chair. "How do you know him?"
"He's my son Richard's best friend since grade school."
"Oh, Lord, he probably told you about Margo, then."
"Yes, dear, he did."
Morgan looked down at her hands, clenching and unclenching her fists. "He had no-"
Emily reached over and laid a hand on Morgan's arm. "Morgan, would you like to dance with me?" Morgan nodded, rising to take Emily back to the dance floor to dance to Diana Krall's rendition of "Popsicle Toes."
The evening finally came to a close, much too soon for Emily's liking. Morgan had warmed up after Emily keep dragging her back to the dance floor, shyly, then boldly, holding Emily a little closer during the slower dances. It was close to one am when Morgan returned Emily home, gallantly unlocking the door and ushering her in the house. "Thank you for such a lovely evening," Emily said as Morgan helped her out of her cloak. "Would you like to stay for a bit?"
"No, thank you, I should head home before I start getting sleepy."
"You are a wonderful dancer, Morgan, where did you learn to dance so well?"
"Would you believe that I took ballroom dancing lessons as a child? My parents belonged to a rather exclusive country club and made my brother and me take lessons so would be ready for our junior memberships. My brother detested the lessons until he realized that it made him very popular with the girls. I was usually stuck with my father's friends as dance partners, since none of the boys my age liked me. I guess I was too weird, or too much a geek. Anyway, you are a lovely dancer yourself, Emily."
"I learned at a country club as well. My father was killed during one of the blitzkrieg attacks in England during the war and Mother married an American, a pilot with the Army Air Corps. After the war, we came to America and my stepfather joined one of the fledgling airlines as a pilot. Anyway, I would love to go dancing with you again, Morgan."
Morgan smiled shyly. "Really?"
"Really," Emily answered, stepping closer. She took Morgan's face in her hands, studying the depths of Morgan's dark brown eyes, feeling drawn by some irresistible force to gently touch Morgan's lips with her own. Emily closed her eyes, slid her arms around Morgan's neck and added a little more pressure to the kiss, feeling Morgan slowly slide her arms around Emily, returning the pressure.
The kiss ended as gently as it had begun, leaving both participants breathless and surprised by the sensations started by the kiss. Flustered, Morgan stepped back, but taking Emily's hands in hers, trying to find words. Emily simply stared, blue eyes wide with wonder. Both jumped when the grandfather clock in the den bonged the hour, then started laughing, coming back together in a relieved embrace. Emily rested her cheek against Morgan's shoulder for a moment, then lifted her head and kissed Emily lightly on the cheek, whispering, "It's past the witching hour, love."
Morgan cleared her throat, stepping back again, fumbling for her car keys. "I suppose it is, Emily. Thanks for..." her voice trailed off as her brain refused to supply any additional words. A foolish grin lit her face as she briefly kissed Emily again, then bounded out of the house, turning to wave every few steps until she reached her car and roared off into the night. Emily stood and watched until the car was out of sight, then reluctantly walked back into the house, the same foolish grin on her features as she touched her lips with questioning fingertips. "Oh God, I kissed a woman and enjoyed it!" she whispered to the empty house. "Sorry Edgar."
Morgan spent the next day attempting to do mundane housework but kept remembering the night before instead. The memories of dancing and kissing kept swimming to the forefront of her consciousness, preventing any useful work. She admitted that she had been attracted to Emily for several months now, but hadn't considered anything friendship since Emily was straight. Or supposed to be straight, she was a widow and a grandmother, for God's sake! But Emily didn't feel very grandmotherly in Morgan's arms, she felt like a woman, a warm, beautiful, woman, one to be cherished and loved. Morgan thought she would never forget the initial thrill that chased through her body when she first took Emily in her arms to dance to the seductive voice of Diana Krall, how comfortable and exciting it felt to hold her close. Then she'd been such an ass to back away, but, oh God, it was so confusing. Ever since Margo had left her, she'd not dated, not dared open her heart to anyone, just concentrated on work and paying off the debts that Margo had left behind. But Emily must have forgiven her for turning cold since she turned the heat up with that kiss. Should she even dare hope that Emily meant everything that the kiss whispered?
And what just had Robert told Emily? They had been laughing together over wine, her dear friend Robert and her dear friend Emily, laughing like old friends. She had no idea that Robert and Emily had known each other for so many years, such a small world after all. "Such muddled thought processes," she mused, "but does Emily really want to date a woman, especially one young enough to be her daughter?" Only one way to find out - ask her out again.
Emily caught herself just staring through the windows of her breakfast nook, dreaming of last night again while her breakfast grew cold. Morgan was such a lovely woman, a surprisingly good dancer, a potential lover? Emily had gone out with Edgar when he needed a date for some fancy party so many years ago, then she gave in to curiosity and went to bed with him. A month later, she realized that she was pregnant and told Edgar, who quickly concocted a story about secretly dating her for months. They announced their wedding plans, pretending that they just couldn't wait to marry. They were lucky that they were such good friends and even better business partners. With Edgar's drive and vision and Emily's sharp legal mind, Lane Electronics had grown steadily through the years, with Emily eventually progressing to Executive Vice-president and Corporate Secretary.
Despite being around a number of gays and lesbians over the years, Emily had not considered the possibility that she might be a lesbian. Years ago her secretary, Karen, had reluctantly come out when she left her husband and children for her lover, Janet, and needed to find an attorney to protect her rights. When the dust settled, Karen had teased Emily, "If you weren't my boss, I'd fallen in love with you instead of Janet." Emily had merely taken it as a compliment, thanking Karen, but somewhat envious of Karen's obvious enjoyment in her new relationship. Sex with Edgar had been merely comfortable rather than all-consuming, like books said is should be. After Richard and Susan had moved away from home, Edgar had indulged in a series of discrete affairs, relieving Emily of the pretense of passionate sex.
Coming back to the present, was she really attracted to Morgan, or was it just the magical spell of the music and the dance? Emily pondered the question as she washed her breakfast dishes, recalling how she felt in Morgan's arms, the unfamiliar thrill that shot through her body when they kissed. Did she want more? Oh, definitely more! Did Morgan feel the same way? She hoped so. As she finished putting away her dishes, the phone rang. Emily glanced at the Caller ID box, smiling when she saw Morgan's name and number appear; maybe this was her answer.
It was a joyful time for both women as they slowly explored each other's lives and their emerging feelings. Morgan, still cautious where her heart was concerned, insisted on a slow pace, wanting to make sure that they were really in love and that Emily wasn't just experimenting before they went too far. Emily, on the other hand, would have gleefully landed in bed on the second date out of infatuation and curiosity, but reluctantly agreed with Morgan about pacing themselves. Business had picked up to the point that they hired a full time receptionist and Emily now took nearly half of the bookings. They did manage to steal a few hours on Sundays to share an unhurried meal or to take in a movie or play.
Thanksgiving presented the first rumblings of potential problems in paradise. Morgan usually spent Thanksgiving day with friends, then spent the rest of the weekend cramming in late Christmas portrait sessions. She told Emily that she would need her to stay all day both Friday and Saturday, which Emily agreed to readily. "That will not be a problem, dear," she answered, not dreaming that she was about to start a war. "Would you like to have dinner with me Saturday night? I'd hate to miss seeing you too many days in a row and I'm sure I'll still have leftovers out the wazoo."
"Sure, Emily, that sounds grand. I'll bet that you'll even have stuff like turkey or ham, not veggies and tofu. Thank the gods I have at least one friend who still eats meat."
"Depends on where it comes from," Emily snickered.
Morgan shook her head at the trap that she had just led herself into, commenting, "You'd think I'd realized by now that you have such a gutter mind, my dear. It's almost time to open, so come give me a kiss before you turn on that grandmotherly charm for the kiddies."
"Gladly," Emily purred as she moved into Morgan's arms, melting into a scorching kiss. "God, you still want to wait after letting me kiss you like that?" Morgan just smiled and swatted Emily's behind as she walked out of the office to go unlock the front door. Emily sighed dramatically as she headed toward the portrait rooms, flipping on light switches and checking props. One of these days, she might just surprise Morgan and shove her into bed, no more waiting nonsense! Hearing a noise, she turned to greet the first customers. "Baby's first Christmas? Oh, it wouldn't do to let that milestone pass by," she cooed to the parents as she helped them arrange the baby girl on the rug. "Just wouldn't do at all."
"Mom, where do you keep the corkscrew? Since you reorganized the kitchen, I can't find anything!" Susan whined, opening one drawer after another in rapid succession. Emily patiently pointed to the corkscrew, already laid out by the wine bottles. "Oh, silly me, you always have everything under control," Susan muttered as she picked up a bottle and the corkscrew.
"Hey, Grandmother, is it ready? I'm absolutely starved!" Amy asked as she tried to snag a piece of turkey from the platter. Emily shooed her oldest grandchild away from the platter, asking how school was going. "Senior year, pretty cool, but pretty tense too," the girl replied as she managed to snag a ham scrap instead. She smirked at her grandmother, who just smiled in return. "I'm applying for all sorts of universities. Mom and Dand want me to go to one of the snotty private East Coast universities, but I'm not sure it's what I want."
Susan turned from the bar, frowning at her daughter. "We've already discussed this, Amy, you have been accepted to Smith College, Mills, and Harvard, so you will attend one of them. No more applications."
Amy rolled her eyes, asking, "Why can't I go where I want to go? I mean, I'm not sure what I want to major in, so why not go to a state university for a year, get some of my required courses out of the way? Save you and Dad a bundle of money, you know."
Emily intervened quickly, asking Amy to start taking the dishes to the table. When the girl was out of the kitchen, Emily walked over to her daughter, asking, "Why are you trying to tell her where to go to college? I never did that with you and Richard, your father and I let you go where you wanted to go."
"Mom, she needs to be with our own kind."
"And that is?" Emily asked sharply.
Phillip, Susan and Jeff's son, burst into the kitchen at that moment announcing, "Uncle Richard and Aunt Betty just drove up! Dad's gone to help them, just thought you'd want to know." He dashed back out, leaving the two women staring at each other, the moment broken by his rapid coming and going. Emily finally broke the silence by asking Susan to start carrying out the wine glasses, saying she would follow with the water glasses for the children. She put on her gracious hostess face as she greeted her son's family, wondering what Susan meant by "our own kind." She didn't bring her children up to be snobs, that was for sure. No matter, it was time to eat, she'd find out what was going on later.
Later in the day, Susan and Amy go into a loud argument over Amy's desire to watch football with her father, uncle, brother, and cousin. "Why don't you want to talk to Robin? She's your cousin too!"
"Mother, keep your voice down-"
"No! You'd rather watch football than to sit with your Robin and discuss the Christmas dance!"
Amy glared at her mother, then at her cousin. "Robin, I don't care if we go to the same school, I'm not interested in going to the dance with your boyfriend and his stupid ass jock friends! I've had it!" She ran out of the house, slamming the back door behind her. Susan started to go after her, but Emily motioned for her to sit down, and got up to follow her granddaughter.
Emily found Amy huddled in a miserable ball on the swing under the porch. Silently, she sat down by her granddaughter, waiting for the girl to speak, knowing from experience that Amy would talk sooner or later. Sure enough, after several minutes of gently rocking, Amy muttered to her knees, "I hate them both, they keep trying to make me into such a girl!"
"But you are a girl," Emily pointed out gently, laying an arm across the back of the swing, but not touching Amy. She waited for the next outburst, knowing her eldest grandchild's temper.
"You know what I mean, they're trying to make me wear dresses and stuff like that, I'm not comfortable in dresses. I'd rather wear jeans or khakis, that's one of the reasons I want to go to a state university, they can't make me follow a dress code. I'm applying to one that does not have a chapter of dear Mommy's blessed sorority, so she can't make me join!"
"What's so terrible about joining?"
Amy blew out an exasperated breath, uncurling and scooting closer to the older woman. Emily wrapped her arms around Amy, loosely holding her, offering comfort. Amy responded by laying her head on Emily's chest and wrapping her arms around her beloved grandmother, knowing that her grandmother loved her no matter what. They rocked slowly for a time, just holding each other. Amy finally sat up, her face calmer, but looking worried. "Grandmother," she said slowly, "your secretary, Karen, is she a lesbian?"
Emily was puzzled by the topic switch, but followed, answering, "Yes, why?"
"Well, wasn't she married before?"
"Yes, and had children. What does this have to do with anything?"
"So you're cool about queers. I mean, you're not like freaked or anything."
"No, Amy, and your uncle's best friend is gay, but what does this have to do..." Emily sat up straighter. "What is it?"
"Oh, Grandmother, I think I'm a lesbian! If I go to one of those damned private universities, Mom and Dad will try to fix me up with some snot-nosed blue blood spawn of one of their friends! I know that you and Mother both have careers, but she's trying to make sure that I get married to some asshole the minute I get my degree, if not sooner!"
"I see," Emily said, studying Amy's fearful face. The girl had always been athletic, a tomboy, but Emily never thought about her being a lesbian. Of course, she mused, she never dreamed that she would fall for a woman either. "Don't worry, sweetheart, I won't tell. So, why do you think you are a lesbian?"
Relieved, Amy answered, "Because my best friend Sarah and I spend a lot of time together, sleeping over and such. Well, we always snuggle in bed, but lately we've kissed a few times, telling ourselves that we're just curious. The thing is, though, that we almost got caught by Mom the other night and I think she is suspicious. Now she suddenly wants me to go shopping with Robin, saying, well, she's just a year younger than you are, so she knows what clothes girls like, stuff like that. They never minded me being on the swim team all these years, but now are pushing me to go to all these scuzzy school dances. If I can't dance with Sarah, I don't want to go. I did go with a boy last year, but it never felt right, and it totally grossed me out when he shoved his tongue down my throat and tried to touch my breasts. I touched Sarah's breasts last week and we both started shivering-"
Emily put a finger on Amy's lips, shushing her. "Now, it's one thing to tell me that you have feelings for your friend, but another to give graphic detail. Besides, I know how you feel."
Emily plunged ahead, not allowing herself to consider the consequences. "I loved your grandfather dearly, you understand, but I've met a woman whom I'm quite attracted to, someone I'm dating now." There, she'd told someone in her family.
"Wow, you too? So it's genetic! Have you done the nasty yet?"
Emily squeezed Amy's shoulders, then whispered, "It's none of your business, darling." She cleared her throat. "She's a very beautiful, very intelligent woman, quite talented. Let's just say that I am falling in love with her."
"You what?" Emily and Amy looked up at a furious Susan. "What? Mother, did you say that you are what? Oh my God, get your filthy hands off my child!"
Amy bolted up, shoving her face into her mother's. "Hey Mother dear butt out, this is a private conversation!"
"You're still seventeen, Amy, you will do whatever I say! Mother, are you a pedophile?"
Emily stood up majestically, answering, "No, Susan, I'm a lesbian. I may be dating a younger woman, but I'm not sexually interested in my own grandchild."
"Besides, Mother dear, it's genetic, I'm a dyke." Amy smirked.
Susan whipped around and slapped Amy hard, leaving a perfect hand print on her child's cheek. Amy gawked at her mother, who reared back to slap her again, but Emily grabbed her wrist, announcing firmly, "Enough, Susan. It's bad enough that you accused me of being a pedophile, but to slap your daughter like that twice?"
"She's my child and I'll do what I like to discipline her," Susan snarled, trying to yank away from Emily's grasp.
"By that logic, I should slap the fire out of you, to discipline my daughter. Have you slapped her before like this?"
"What are you accusing me of, child abuse? Let go of my arm."
"Not until you answer my question, Susan, have you slapped either Amy or Phillip like this before?" Emily thundered.
Susan squirmed, trying to break free of her mother's iron grasp, protesting, "Mom, you're hurting me, let go!" Emily relaxed her grip a little, but did not let go as she stared into her daughter's eyes, willing her to tell the truth. Susan sighed heavily, muttering, "No, I usually don't slap my children, but who are you to tell me what to do? You're encouraging my daughter to be a filthy pervert! If Daddy knew that you were such a pervert, he'd be rolling in his grave now!"
Mother and daughter glared at each other for what seemed to be an eternity until Susan finally looked away. Emily let go of her daughter's wrist as the door opened with Jeff and Richard spilling out onto the porch. Jeff looked at the three women and asked, "Would someone mind telling me what is going on here? Susan, Amy, Emily?"
Before the others could frame a reply, Amy blurted out, "Dad, Mom slapped me because I told her that I'm a lesbian. Grandmother grabbed Mom's wrist to keep her from slapping me again. What else do you want to know?"
Jeff rubbed his face tiredly as he turned to his wife. "Susan, Amy, go get your stuff. Mrs. Lane, thanks for the meal, it was delicious, but I should take my family home now. No protests, just do what I tell you." They reluctantly filed through the patio door, leaving Richard and Emily alone.
"Well, Mom, how did all this come about?" Richard inquired as he crossed the patio to stand next to his mother. "Susan slapping Amy, Amy yelling that she's a lesbian, Susan accusing you of encouraging Amy of being a pervert, just the ordinary family Thanksgiving, eh?"
Emily leaned back, shading her eyes with her hand. "Son, you missed the good part of the fireworks. Before Susan wandered out, Amy had confessed that she has feelings for one of her friends, that they have experimented a little bit. Susan and Jeff also seem bent on sending Amy to a university of their choosing, presumably to keep Amy under their thumbs, or, at least, under Susan's thumb. Susan walked up just as I told Amy that I, too, have those feelings, that I'm dating a remarkable woman right now. Susan accused me of being a pedophile and teaching Amy perversions. Susan slapped Amy and I lost my temper and grabbed Susan before she could rear back and slap Amy again. Susan said that she could discipline her children however she wished and I snapped back that by that statement, I could should discipline Susan. Not a very happy time, Richard, not at all. I fear that now they will haul poor Amy off to some shady therapist who will try to convert her to heterosexuality."
Richard let loose a short whistle. "Let me see if I have it all right, you and Amy are both lesbians and Susan is furious. You're afraid that Susan will abuse Amy either physically or psychologically." He shook his head, not quite sure what to think. "I guess I'm a little surprised about you since you and Dad were married so long, but I'm not really that surprised about Amy. Robert has said for the last few years that he thought she was gay. So, who are you dating? Do I know her? When do I get to meet her?"
"The woman I work for, Morgan Kincaid, and she is probably close to yours and Susan's age, maybe a bit older than you. We've only been dating for a short while, but I'm very fond of her. Robert likes her, says she only had one serious relationship previously and has been out of circulation for several years after that relationship broke up. I'm not sure when you'll get to meet her, but it obviously would have to be without Susan's family around."
"That's an understatement, Mom. So, going after a younger woman," Richard chuckled, "maybe that's what's gotten Susan so upset, having a stepmother close her own age."
"It's not that serious yet, son," Emily cautioned.
"We shall see. Are you going to be okay?"
"Yes, remember, I'm British, stiff upper lip and all that."
Richard kissed his mother's cheek and squeezed her hands. "My mom, the ice queen. I must admit that thinking of you dating a woman is a bit of a mind trip, but I'll adjust. Betty will be cool, but I'm not sure about Robin. How my daughter got to be the snob I'm not sure, she takes after Susan more than us. George probably doesn't care at this point, he's only 13. Sure you'll be okay?"
"Yes, son. Why don't you and Betty take the kids and go? I'd like to be alone for a bit."
Richard started to argue, but resisted when he saw a flash of misery flutter in his mother's eyes. She had withdrawn emotionally when Dad died, but was okay, he remembered. "Call me if you need anything. Want us to clean up first?"
"No, I'll do dish therapy," Emily joked. Richard rose, looked at his mother again, then left.
Amy had endured her mother's harping the entire ten minutes home, followed by a longer rambling lecture once they got home. Phillip and Jeff had immediately escaped to the den to watch the rest of the football game, which Amy thought was highly unfair. She didn't expect her brother to defend her, but her father could have had the courtesy to stay and at least interject, instead of leaving her at her mother's mercies. She was finally sent up to her room, which really didn't bother her, as long as they forgot about her internet connection. Since neither of her parents were particularly computer savvy, she figured it was safe for a while. Still, she let another half hour go by before turning on her computer and sending out an IM to Sarah.
Sarah immediately replied, "What's up?" Amy quickly outlined the situation, ending by expressing the wish to see Sarah that night. "Not sure, Amy, can you get out without being detected?"
Amy drummed her fingers on the keyboard for a few seconds, then typed, "Not since they had a new company reinstall the alarm system last year. Remember how Phillip was caught sneaking out?"
Sarah typed, "Oh, yeah, I'd forgotten. Did your mom hear you say that we...um, you know, like each other a lot?"
"Not sure. Maybe not, since she seemed more shocked when I announced that I was gay as well as Grandmother."
Sarah typed back, "Wow, your grandmother is gay? Who is she dating? Some hot young chick?"
Amy smiled as she keyed, "Yes, I think so. She is dating someone younger, someone I think she likes very much. So, we've never really discussed us, you know, how do you feel about me? I mean, we've fooled around some, but how do you really feel about me?"
Sarah thought for a moment before typing, "I've always loved you dearly, more than anyone. You know I've gone out with a few guys, but never felt any sparks. I feel sparks with you."
"Sarah, that's sweet," Amy typed. "Hey, aren't we supposed to go shopping tomorrow? Are we still on, assuming that I'm out of jail? Mom has to work, but your mom doesn't."
"Hey, yeah, at least we could spend some time together. I'll check with Mom to make sure we're still on, then call you. Chat with you in about 10-15 minutes. Hugs."
"Hugs back. Chat you later offline." Amy signed off, then picked up one of her school books. Might as well pretend to be studying while waiting for Sarah to call. She could always start reading her history assignment.
A bit later, the phone rang. Amy jumped up, opening her door just enough to hear her mother answering the phone. "Sarah? Well, Amy is here, but - Oh, I see. Your mother is taking you?" There was a long pause. "If your mother is going, I don't want Amy to, I mean, neither of you have been driving very long and I don't think that the day after Thanksgiving is a very good time to drive. I'll call her to the phone." Amy quietly closed her door, picking her textbook up, finding her place just in time. "Amy, Sarah's on the phone. Here," she said, handing the phone to Amy.
"Thanks Mom. Hey Sarah, what's shaking?" Susan reluctantly started to leave, but Amy stopped her. "Mom, is it okay for me to go shopping with Sarah and her mom? We planned this several days ago, I think I told you."
"Yes, fine, just be home at a reasonable hour and keep your cell phone on."
"Cool. Hey, Sarah, why don't you come pick me up around 8:00? Lots of stores are opening early, but it won't be too early, more like a school day."
"Okay, let me make sure it's cool with Mom." Amy heard the phone clunk as Sarah dropped it on a surface. Seconds later, "cool with Mom. We'll see you at eight, don't be late."
Amy groaned at her friend's rhyme. "Sarah, you're a poet and don't even know it."
"I know, it's why you love me so much."
"Yeah, right. Good night, Sarah."
"Night, Amy, sweet dreams."
Amy sighed heavily, then whispered, "Only if you're in them." She heard answering laughter, then a click and a dial tone.
Morgan stretched out on her couch, pleasantly fatigued by the day. The tofu turkey wasn't too bad, at least it was palatable this year. At least the games they played were a blast, she hadn't played any board games in many years, back when she and Margo used to host parties in their house. Morgan looked around her compact apartment; she was satisfied with the layout, but she sure couldn't host a party, not like you could at Emily's house. Now, that was a party house! "Speaking of Emily, I wonder how her family event went? She's probably still got them all over, feeding them leftovers by now," Morgan announced to the room. Morgan started to doze off, only to be jerked awake by the shattering peal of the phone. She grabbed the cordless by the couch, glancing at the caller ID display before answering. "Hey Emily, how's everything going? Dinner a success?"
Startled by Emily's short, harsh answer, Morgan sat up, concentrating. "What's wrong, honey?"
"May I come over?"
This was very unusual, since they usually met at Emily's house. Morgan glanced around, deciding that it was uncluttered enough to pass inspection. "Sure, Emily."
"I'll be over soon." Click. Morgan stared at the phone a moment, then remembered to push the talk button to shut off the buzzing tone. Emily was never that abrupt, something must be really wrong. Morgan changed into sweats, then zoomed through and touched up the apartment from nervous habit. Margo had always insisted on a perfect house and Morgan sometimes let her apartment get a little cluttered, but it was already clean tonight. On a whim, she pulled out her funky margarita glasses, the ones with howling wolves as the stems. By the time the doorbell rang, she'd whipped up a pitcher of frozen margaritas and set out a plate of sliced lemons and some salt shakers. As a last minute detail, she turned on the gas logs, giving the room a comfortable glow.
She opened the door and was again surprised by Emily grabbing her and hanging on as if for dear life, nearly squeezing the breath out of her. Morgan managed to close the door behind her, then loosen Emily's grip long enough to hang up her coat and lead her to the couch. "Now, what's bothering you?" she asked softly.
Emily poured herself a drink and sucked half of it down before making a face and announcing, "Very sour, I'm still not fond of these. However, they will do." She gulped down the rest, shuddering as the drink slithered down her gullet, then poured herself another before leaning back into the couch. "It's my family, they are driving me insane," she announced.
"What do you mean, insane?"
Emily pondered asking for another drink. "Oh, hell, honey, fix me another drink, will you?" Morgan poured her another drink, curiosity aroused by Emily's tone and uncharacteristic rapid drinking. "Thanks." Emily took a slower sip, then sat the glass down on the coffee table. "My family, specifically my daughter, Susan, is bound to drive me insane. Actually, Susan is determined to drive me and her daughter, Amy, insane. Let me present the evidence. Amy started arguing with Susan over what college Amy is to attend, and then Amy stomped out to the back patio and I followed her, thinking it was still the school issue. Or, I thought it was what she wanted to discuss, but it turns out that she's my granddaughter in more ways than one, she has fallen in love with her best friend. So, I told Amy that she wasn't the only lesbian on earth, that I, too, had fallen in love. I was telling her a little bit about you when Susan came out, hearing me telling Amy about my lover."
Emily paused, taking another long drink. Morgan watched her drink, her gut starting to churn uneasily. "So, what happened next?" she asked, not sure she wanted to hear the answer.
"My beloved daughter," Emily spat sarcastically, "accused me of being a pedophile! Oh, yes, just because I had my arm around Amy and was telling her about my wonderful lover, I am now a horrible woman who will try to lure my own flesh and blood into bed, feeding my depraved appetites! If that weren't wretched enough, Amy jumped up and shouted that she, too, was a lesbian, so get over it, or some such phrasing. Susan slapped Amy on the cheek and I lost my temper, accusing Susan of being a child abuser." Emily stopped to finish her drink, nearly missing the table when she slammed it back down. Morgan started wondering if fixing the margaritas was such a good idea after all.
"So, there we were, at an impasse, but thank God the boys came out and soon everyone left. Susan was threatening me with Lord knows what if I touched her daughter again, and threatened to force Amy to buddy up with my other granddaughter, Robin. At least Richard and Betty understand. Or I assume they do, seeing as how Richard's best friend is queer, just like his dear old mum." Emily smiled sourly, reaching for her glass, then withdrew her hand and asked, "Am I getting soused yet?"
"You might be," Morgan agreed, reaching for Emily's hands, "but it's okay, sometimes you just need to let go, get a little drunk. Of course, I could have made them a tad weaker."
Emily eyed the pitcher, then decided against it as she could feel the alcohol hitting her system harder, making her go from furious to weepy in seconds. "Oh, hell, Morgan, how do you deal with it? I thought I could handle anything, from the time I saw the bombs dropping and my father disappearing under rubble to finding out that oops! I was pregnant with Richard. I've turned back proxy fights, dealt with Ed's little affairs, worried as we thought that Betty would die in childbirth with George, my youngest grandchild. I thought I could handle this, too, but it seems that I can't handle my daughter's reaction to the fact that her mother and daughter are gay. God, what on earth am I going to do?" Her voice cracked at the last sentence, her chest tight and burning with unshed tears.
Morgan reacted by taking Emily in her arms, pulling her close, feeling Emily shaking with fury and the effort not to weep. "Sweetheart, it's okay, I'm here," she crooned, stroking Emily's back comfortingly. "It's never easy to come out to one's family. My parents reacted by asking me to leave and never return - so I obliged them."
Emily sat up so quickly that she banged her head into Morgan's chin. "Sorry, dear, but you never went back home?"
"Nope. In my youth, I decided that if they couldn't accept me as I am, they didn't have to accept me at all. Oh, I've sent them cards when I changed my address or phone, but I haven't talked to them in fifteen years."
"But that's terrible!"
"Might I remind you that you're in the middle of your own battle?"
Emily stared at Morgan, head swirling on a river of alcohol, confusion, and pain. "But I want to keep my family."
"My sweet Emily, I can't go back now. So, what are we going to do about your family?"
"Just screw them." Emily considered, then announced with a wicked smile, "Actually, I take that back, I'd much rather screw you."
"Wait, honey, I thought we decided to wait-"
Emily put her hand over Morgan's mouth, shaking her head. "No, Morgan, you decided that we should not be physically intimate until it was the 'right time.' Well, dear love, it's about as right as it can be now. Have you forgotten that I turn sixty-six in a few months, that only God knows how much time I have on this earth? What's so wrong with wanting to share the moment with you? Yes, I'm drunk, yes, you want to wait, but damn it all to hell and back, I don't want to wait any longer! Instead of talking, put that mouth to better use!"
Morgan felt like someone had just replaced her sweet-tempered lover with a fury, a dark angel. Emily's eyes darkened, deep blue burning in a mixture of pain, desire, and anger. She just stared, unable to utter a word, scared and excited by the woman before her. Sure, she kept trying to keep things on a certain level, not wanting to burn her heart again, but maybe she wasn't being fair to Emily.
Emily watched the confusion swirling on Morgan's face, so she literally took matters into her own hands, grabbing Morgan's face in her hands and pulled her close, closing her eyes as she started kissing Morgan, bypassing tenderness for raw lust. She felt Morgan slowly responding, kissing back, surrendering to the moment. Emily tore away and stood unsteadily, taking Morgan's hand and leading her to the bedroom, shoving her on the bed, renewing her attack with the pent up frenzy of years of unfulfilled desire. Clothes flew through the air, covers were yanked back, bodies met in a violent quest to feed the fire to fever pitch. Morgan's restraint broke completely as she grabbed Emily, pulling her against her, feeling her own need bursting through. It was a harsh, quick coupling, orgasms coming too quickly, but enough to take off the edge of the fury.
Panting, Emily raised her head, still needing more, even as her body quivered with the initial release. "Shall we try again?" she asked, voice husky. Morgan nodded, unable to speak. Emily took complete control, slowly kissing Morgan, moving from lips to ears to collarbones, hands roaming aimlessly as she forced her pounding libido to slow down. She traced Morgan's collarbones with her tongue, eventually wandering down her arm to her wrist, delicately nipping the skin on the underside of her wrist, then taking a swipe at her palm. Morgan was in a blissful state as Emily continued her slow approach, building the fires again, paying close attention to the most erogenous parts of her body, culminating with a slow rolling climax that left her completely wrung out.
Emily watched as Morgan gave herself completely to the experience, finally falling exhausted on her pillow as the waves of pleasure gently subsided. She crawled up beside Morgan, amused at how Morgan's brown eyes were so glazed over, as Morgan fought sleep and lost. No matter what the world threw at them now, Emily knew that she could hold this moment in her heart forever. And damn it, now she was absolutely positive that she was a lesbian! Emily smiled, wrapping herself around the slumbering Morgan, sighing contentedly as she slipped into the best sleep she'd experienced in decades.
Amy was waiting impatiently in the living room, checking her fanny pack for the hundredth time. Wallet, cell phone, change, comb, sunglasses, lip balm, house keys. All present and accounted for, now she just needed for Sarah and her mother to drive up and take her away from the glacial stares of her mother. At precisely 8:00, the doorbell rang, Amy ran to the door, throwing it open to her dearest friend. "Hey Sarah, hi Mrs. Douglas, would you like to come in for a moment?" she asked, determined to remember her company manners and baffle her mother.
"Yes, we would," Sarah's mother answered for them. Amy waited for them to come in before winking at Sarah, who returned it with her heart-stopping smile. Amy could hardly wait to see if they could ditch Sarah's mother part of the day, but at least Mrs. Douglas was pretty cool, even if she was a teacher. "Good morning, Susan," she called out to Amy's mother, "it's a pity you have to work today. It's supposed to be good weather today, mid-forties and little wind."
"Thank you for taking the girls shopping, Laurie. Yes, it would have been nice not to have to work, but I'm on a deadline and should have been at work by now."
"Then we'll just go on and let you get to work. I'll have Amy home by seven or eight tonight, depending on the traffic. We'll call if we're going to be later."
"I appreciate that. Amy, do you have your phone?"
"Yes Mother," Amy answered sweetly. "I'm ready if you are." Susan tried to catch Amy's eye before she walked out, but failed.
Amy, Sarah, and Laurie entered the mall half an hour later, having spent fifteen minutes trying to find a parking place. "I'll meet you girls at the food court around 11:30," Laurie Douglas told them before the trio split up. Amy was grateful to spend the time alone with Sarah, or, at least as alone as was possible with the post-Thanksgiving shopping crowds. "So," Sarah finally asked as they wandered through one of the department stores, "how is your family handling things?"
"Not too well, as I told you last night. I think Dad is not sure whether to join Mom in totally condemning me, or trying to play peacemaker. Phillip is actually being fairly cool right now, for a guy. I'm not sure how he will react if this gets out at school, since he's mister big shot football player. What about your family, do any of them know?"
Sarah shook her head as she looked at a pile of men's sweaters, hunting for her dad's size. "Not yet, but I don't think it will be as bad. Mom is pretty cool with most stuff, takes the long view of life. I guess that's from being a history teacher or something, the pendulum of history and all that jazz. Dad rarely talks about social issues, unless they are directly related to civil engineering and building highways. Tom's home from college, but he's so busy calling his girlfriend that I suspect that he's forgotten that his little sister exists. So, what do you think, the forest green or the navy blue for Dad?"
"The green, it will bring out his eyes. So, no clue?"
"Not that I'm aware of, Amy, do you think we can keep it that way? I mean, none of our folks are friends or anything like that, except to say hello and good-bye when Mom takes us places."
"Well, I'd hoped that you might be able to say, 'sure, my family is cool' so I'd have a hidey hole, but I guess not. Now I can't even escape to Grandmother's house, they sure don't want me to go there."
Sarah picked up the sweater and moved on to the young men's knit shirts. "This look like Tom? Oh, that one with the black and gold stripes looks like Phillip, school colors and all that."
"Yeah, it does look like something Phillip would wear," Amy agreed as she reached for the shirt.
The young women continued browsing until they'd found something for all the men in their lives before the 11:30 deadline. They found Sarah's mother and took turns watching the sacks until all three had bought lunch, waiting until they'd eaten to start the show and tell. "If you girls want to continue, I'll take the bags out to the car," Laurie offered. "Then I'll call you around 3:30 or 4:00 and we can decide what to do then. Fair enough?"
"Sure Mom," Sarah answered for them, checking to make sure her cell phone was turned on, "we'll see you later. Come on Amy, let's go." Amy followed Sarah to the music store, where they wanted to check out the latest music before returning to their mission. Amy was glad, she wanted to see Sarah's reaction to some different singers before she settled on her main gift. The girls browsed the stacks, nearly bumping into two women who were looking through the jazz bins. "Excuse me," Sarah said. The women turned around. "Oh, Mrs. Lane, I didn't expect to see you here!"
Amy whipped around, seeing her grandmother standing with a younger woman, the photographer, she surmised. Grinning, she rushed into her grandmother's embrace, hugging her tightly before kissing her cheek. She took a step back, keeping hold of her grandmother's hands as she looked at her, noting that her grandmother looked much more relaxed than she did yesterday. "What a great surprise to see you here, Grandmother. You look great, really pretty today."
"Thank you, Amy. Oh, may I introduce my friend, Morgan Kincaid. Morgan, this is my granddaughter, Amy Matthews and her friend, Sarah Douglas. Girls, Morgan is nice enough to keep me busy a few hours a week in her photography studio."
"Pleased to meet you both," Morgan said politely as she shook hands with the girls. "Emily convinced me to close the studio early since we had several appointments cancel today."
Amy busied herself by trying to casually check out her grandmother's girlfriend, if you could call an older woman a girlfriend. Lover? It was a weird thought, that her grandmother was dating a woman who was probably her parents' age, young enough to be her daughter. Morgan was pleasant looking, dark brown hair and eyes, wide mouth, sloping cheekbones, not slim but not fat. She could tell that Morgan was a little uncomfortable with the situation, so she decided to be polite. "So, Ms. Kincaid, did you have a good Thanksgiving? Is your family from around here?"
"No, my family lives elsewhere," Morgan answered evasively, "so I spent the day with friends. I heard about your day, Amy, your mom sounds like mine. Sarah, how was your day?"
Sarah was busy trying to subtly check out Morgan but she managed to gather her wits, answering, "Oh, the usual, my big brother is home from college, so we fussed over him and ate too much, watched the game, stuff like that. How did you get involved in photography?"
Was this the day to ask bad questions? Morgan wondered as she pondered how to answer the question. Well, there was the degree. "I majored in photography did an internship in a photography studio, and later purchased an existing business."
Emily decided to it was time to steer the conversation to safer waters, she could sense Morgan tensing up. "Girls, where have you found the best sales?" Amy and Sarah started answering, ending each other's sentences as they started giving their opinions of the various stores and the sales they were running. "Thank you for the run down, girls, but I suppose you'd like to go on your way. It can't be too cool to be seen with your grandmother."
Before Amy could answer, Sarah answered, "If you two would like to shop with us for a bit, we'd enjoy it, I haven't seen you since Amy took me to your house last summer."
"Amy, is that fine with you?"
"Yes, it is, Grandmother. Do you mind, Ms. Kincaid?"
Morgan looked at the other three, then threw her hands up in mock surrender. "I give up, I'm outnumbered. Does anyone have any suggestions for presents for granola types? Some of my friends are very hard to buy for these days, no sausage balls."
"Yes, Sarah, are you one?"
"No, but Dad's sister, my Aunt Margie, is a genuine, Birkenstock wearing granola vegetarian. Dad claims that she's still a hippie, but Aunt Margie just says she's trying to be good to her body and the earth. She likes some of this new age type music over here, do your friends like Enya or anyone like that?"
While Sarah gently steered Morgan toward the new age music section, Amy steered Emily closer to the big band section. "Grandmother, your eyes are twinkling today. What happened? You were pretty upset last night when we left."
Emily smiled mysteriously. "Let's just say that Morgan and I spent some quality time together last night and I have a new attitude."
Amy looked around, then whispered, "Did you spend the night? Did you do it?"
"Not really any of your business, dear Amy, let's just say that Morgan makes a mean margarita and I took advantage of her many skills. Now, what have you already bought and whom have you bought gifts for?" Amy described what she'd bought so far, concluding, "I have stuff for everyone except Mom, you, and Sarah. Which reminds me, if I give you money, could you get something for Sarah? I'm not sure what yet, but I can e-mail you with something. Oh, should I get something for Ms. Kincaid?"
Emily tapped her chin with her index finger, lost in thought for a few seconds. "Well, I'd be glad to help with the gift for Sarah, but I don't know how to answer your question about Morgan yet. This is all still pretty new to me, sweetheart, but I'll let you know when I figure it out. By the way, how did you get to go shopping? I thought your mother was going to ground you for the next twenty years, the way she was acting last night."
"Sarah and I had this planned already, and Mom doesn't want anyone to know, so she couldn't have come up with an excuse that would have sounded right to Mrs. Douglas. Besides, Mom and Dad don't know about Sarah, or she would have nixed the trip regardless of how it looked. Sarah's family doesn't know. Hey, Grandmother?"
"Morgan is way cute, I approve."
Emily put an arm around Amy, laughing. "Thank you, Amy, I approve of her as well. So, how about if we go over to get some of those Alan Jackson CD's for your mom? She hates to admit that she likes country, since it's not the music genre of her social circle."
"Oh, get something to please her and piss her off at the same time, I get it." Amy hugged her grandmother, then pulled loose to look for the country section.
Laurie Douglas was amazed that Sarah and Amy had nearly finished their shopping when she called them that afternoon. The girls decided that instead of "hanging at the mall" longer, they should head back to the Douglas house to watch DVDs and wrap presents. She could hear them laughing in the den as they watched an old Doris Day musical, singing along with the characters. She was glad that Sarah had such a good friend, someone she could laugh with, someone who challenged her to keep up with her school work. Those girls had been running neck and neck academically since they were in elementary school. She knew that her Sarah was good for Amy, who tended to be moody at times, but even Amy was relaxed today. Laurie shut the cabinet as she put away the last dish, wondering if the girls would go on a senior ramble after school, like she did with her best friend Amelia. Laurie smiled, thinking of the two week trip across the state, staying in little motels in small towns, getting lost in the backroads of the country, finding the cutest antique shops and book stores to haunt. It was so much fun, their first big step toward independence.
She guessed that Amy's mother wouldn't let her do such a thing, though. Susan Matthews was so uptight that she squeaked, according to Sarah. Whenever Susan had come to pick Amy up from the house, it seemed that Amy would always get very quiet, tension stringing her young body tight as a guitar string, even if she had been laughing and racing through the house before she heard her mother's car in the drive. She'd been over to the Matthews' house many times to pick up or drop off Sarah and was always struck by how rich, yet cold, the Matthews house was. She had only met the Jeff Matthews a few times, but couldn't get a bead on him. Bud would always laugh about his old hippie wife, to which she would reply that she was far too young to be a hippie, but her older sister was still one. She really should start thinking about supper soon, Bud would be home in a few minutes. Laurie decided to see what the girls wanted for supper, so she headed for the den.
Just as Laurie stepped into the den, Amy's cell phone rang. "Hello, Mother," she answered. Amy listened for several minutes, her body going rigid with tension. "But we agreed that I could stay out until...okay, if that's the way you want it, I'll see if Sarah or Mrs. Douglas can run me home. No, you don't have to come by here." Long pause. "All right, I'll get my stuff together. I didn't get to see Tom yet, he's not home from seeing his buddies, but I guess I'll see him in church Sunday. Bye." Laurie saw Amy turn to Sarah and heard her grouse, "Mother is coming here to pick me up, something about some old friends coming by for dinner and they want to show off the offspring."
"I'm sorry, sweetie," Sarah replied, taking Amy's hand in hers, "it's not very fair, her changing her mind like that."
"Well, it really bites, but this is also why they won't let me take a car except during swim season. They can't be bothered to try to get me to school that early. I hate to say this, but I miss your brother, he could usually sweet talk my parents into letting the three of us go places longer without these changing curfews." Amy leaned forward, her forehead touching Sarah's. "And I can't see you tomorrow, I really do have to finish homework. At least your mom is cool."
"I'm glad to hear that," Laurie said, walking across the floor. The girls jumped, dropping hands, quickly gathering up wrapping supplies and packages. "I'm sorry I disturbed you, but I wanted to know what you two wanted for supper."
"Mother just called, she's coming by to pick me up. Some people I barely remember have come into town and she and Dad want me to be there. Ugh, she'll probably want me to dress up in a skirt and sweater set or something horrible like that."
Laurie smiled. "I know, it's terrible. Poor Amy. Well, maybe you can come back over later this weekend."
"No, I have homework, but I appreciate the offer, Mrs. Douglas." Amy finished gathering her things, standing up to walk to the entrance hall. "I had a good time, thanks for ferrying us around."
"My pleasure, Amy," Laurie replied, reaching out to take part of the packages. Amy handed her a bag and the trio walked to the entrance hall just as a car pulled into the driveway. "Your mother is here." Amy rolled her eyes expressively, then sat her bags down to take her coat off the rack and pull it on. "Maybe you can eat lunch with us after church so you can see Tom before he leaves for college."
"That would be cool, but don't hold your breath," Amy muttered as she zipped her coat. "Thanks again, Mrs. Douglas." Amy turned to Sarah and hugged the other girl tightly, the released her. The girls gripped each other's arms, looking as if they wanted to say more, but couldn't. A horn blasted through the silence and Sarah released Amy, opening the door for her. Amy grabbed her bags, then trudged down the steps to the car, waving before climbing in and slamming the door. Laurie watched her daughter as she went back to the den, wondering what went between the two girls just then. They jumped when she had spoken to them in the den, they seemed to want to say something just now but couldn't. She couldn't quite put her finger on it, but something seemed different in their friendship. She was probably seeing something where there was nothing, Laurie decided as she went into the kitchen to fix supper. Probably nothing at all.
Morgan was staring at her computer screen when Emily came into work on Monday morning, busily clicking up a storm. She stopped long enough for Emily to lean over for their good morning kiss, then went back to what she was doing. Curious, Emily moved behind her lover to see what she was doing so intently this early in the morning. "Why, Morgan, is that a vacation planning site?" Emily exclaimed.
"Yes," Morgan answered as she continued looking at the site, adding different criteria. She stopped, looking up at her beloved. "Oh, you want to know why!" she said with exaggerated surprise. "Seriously, I thought it might be a good idea for us to go on vacation, say, right around the holidays. I know it will cost more at this late date, but I've decided that I'm through with being a stick-in-the-mud. I found a hotel package in Dallas, we could do some shopping and just enjoy ourselves. It rarely snows in Dallas in December. What do you think, Emily, a good idea?"
Emily pulled up a chair and sat down, looking at the monitor, then back at Morgan. "Why the sudden interest in a vacation around the holidays, love? Were you planning for us to be gone at Christmas? Or just between the holidays?"
Morgan fiddled with the mouse, then sighed. "Emily, I was just trying to make things easier on you since Thanksgiving upset you so much. I guess it wouldn't be fair to take you away from all of your family."
Emily leaned back in her chair, crossing her arms and legs, looking sternly elegant. Morgan couldn't help but fall a little deeper in love, even though Emily was looking stern and a bit peeved. She stopped playing with the mouse and ran a hand through her dark hair, admitting, "Well, my parents live in Dallas and I was considering looking them up on this proposed vacation. I haven't actually seen them since I took my ex there shortly after we started dating. And there's lots of good shopping, lots of wonderful malls, I hear." Morgan bit her lower lip uncertainly, considering how to continue, watching Emily's face. "Okay, we don't have to spend lots of money, Emily, but even if my family rejects me all over again, I want to give them a chance. I know this is bad timing considering what happened with your daughter, but I'd appreciate it if you'd come with me. Please." She watched Morgan's face become more animated as she outlined her reasons for wanting to leave. Something else was behind the request, but Emily wasn't quite sure what. Before she could ask, the phone rang, Morgan grabbing it, saying, "Morgan Kincaid Studios, how may I help you?"
While Morgan chatted with the customer, Emily thought about the possibility of meeting Morgan's family. Was this Morgan's signal that she was ready to pursue their relationship on a deeper level? She had never been out of town between Christmas and New Year's, usually spending at least part of the week taking each grandchild to a fun event of the child's choosing. It was a family tradition, one she and Ed had started when Amy was three. Should she throw out tradition to spend the week with her lover?
"Emily, what do you think about the vacation idea? A go?" Morgan asked, eyes bright with anticipation.
"Yes, a go," Emily answered, her heart melting at Morgan's enthusiasm, "let's go meet your family. To be fair, however, I want to give my family the chance to meet you before we take off, even if Susan and Jeff refuse to come. A deal?"
"Sure," Morgan answered, a little less enthusiastic. She turned back to the computer, studying the itinerary. "I'll be brave and just click yes," she said as she confirmed the hotel package. "Could you print out the schedule while I go unlock the doors?" Emily nodded, changing places with Morgan. "Thanks, sweetheart," Morgan whispered, brushing a kiss on Emily's cheek before leaving the office.
"You're welcome," Emily answered to Morgan's departing figure. "Just what have I gotten myself into now?"
Amy felt uncharacteristically shy around Sarah on Monday morning as they moved things around in the locker they shared. Sarah's mom had nearly caught them kissing the other night while they were wrapping presents in the Douglas's den. They had IMed each other later, agreeing that they should be more careful, but it didn't stop Amy from wanting to kiss Sarah, to be able to walk hand in hand with her to class, to take more chances when they were alone. "Damn, it just isn't fair," she muttered, watching other couples walking to class. Sarah looked over quizzically and Amy explained quietly, "They can hold hands." Sarah nodded, acknowledging the sentiment behind the statement.
As Amy shut their locker door, her cousin Robin sidled up, asking, "What happened? Did Aunt Susan read you the riot act?" She turned to Sarah, asking, "Did you hear what happened?"
"Robin, we have class in a few minutes, what are you doing here? Shouldn't you be busy sucking face with your jock of the month?" Amy growled.
"Not nice, cousin, not nice at all. I told Barrett that I'd see him in class, that I needed to talk to you. Speaking of Barrett, he does have a friend who's willing to take you to the holiday dance before break. You know John West? The junior class president? He's a good buddy of Barrett's, we could go on a double date, it would get you out of trouble with your folks. We could all go to the game Saturday afternoon."
Amy stared at her cousin curiously. "I thought that Barrett was a football player. Wait, Saturday?"
"You know, the college game. Sarah, if you could find a date, I mean a boy date, you can come too."
"Robin, I'm not into-" The bell rang, interrupting her sentence. Robin just waved jauntily as she took off toward her class as Sarah stared after her, then turned back to Amy. Amy started walking toward their first class, grumbling softly, "I don't want to date any guys, just you."
"I guess she means well, Amy, but let's talk about this after school," Sarah replied nervously. "Think you can come over to do homework until your folks get home? We can meet at Mom's classroom, then have her take us home. Didn't you ride the bus today?"
"Yeah, I did, Sarah. I suppose it would be all right, I'll call Mom at lunch. I just hope that she doesn't take it upon herself to tell anyone else, it's bad enough that she's enlisted my cousin in her little crusade. Come on, let's get to class." Amy slammed the locker door shut and hoisted her bag, pathetically grateful that she was taking advanced placement classes and would have to concentrate on school, not on her crashing world. It just wasn't fair.
A few hours later, Amy went outside to call her mother and was very grateful to get her voice mail. "Hey Mom," she said, "I'm hanging out with Sarah after school, so she or her mom can bring me home. We're going to do homework, then finish wrapping the gifts we bought the other day. Later." Amy disconnected the call, then quickly turned off her phone so her mom couldn't turn around and call her back immediately. She turned to Sarah, saying, "Mom didn't pick up, so I guess a voice mail will have to do."
"You are so bad, girlfriend," Sarah crowed. "Speaking of bad, here comes Robin with a gaggle of boys behind her. Are you sure that they didn't mix you up in the hospital?"
"Nice try, but Robin is nearly a year younger than I am. Smile." Amy dropped her phone in her backpack before calling out, "Hey, Robin, what's up?"
Robin pasted a fake smile on her face. "Barrett, you know my cousin, Amy Matthews, and her friend, Sarah Douglas. Amy, Sarah, this is my boyfriend Barrett Thomson and his friend John West. We were wondering if you'd like to come with us to the college game Saturday afternoon."
Amy looked over at Sarah, who shrugged slightly, then turned to look at John. He was nice enough looking, she supposed, and did have a nice smile, but what about Sarah? Before she could answer, her brother Phillip came loping up, greeting the group, making an effort to include Sarah in his greetings. "What were you discussing?" he concluded.
Robin frowned slightly but answered, "Plans to go to the game on Saturday."
"Oh, cool, I'd love to go. Hey, sis, if you're going with John, mind if I go with Sarah?" He winked at Sarah, then turned expectantly to his older sister, waiting for an answer.
Amy and Sarah exchanged glances, then Sarah said reluctantly, "I guess it's okay, I don't have any plans Saturday afternoon."
"Cool. Amy, could I talk to you a minute? I left my lunch money at home and wanted to mooch off you." Phillip led his sister off a short distance, keeping their backs to the group. "Hey, I overheard our folks talking and know that they're not happy about your little holiday revelation. So why is Robin trying to fix you up? Same reason? Mom get to her?"
"I think so, Phillip. I thought you were dating Katie or Cathy or whatever her name was. Why'd you volunteer to take Sarah? You're a sophomore, we're seniors."
"Aw, she broke up with me last month, a guy on the varsity team asked her out. Since I'm junior varsity, I'm nothing in comparison, besides, I've always thought Sarah was pretty cool, for a girl."
"But you know-"
"Look, I'm a little freaked about my sister wanting to date the same girls I want to date, but I figure that we stick together. I don't understand it all, but hell, I figure if I'm there, I can keep John from pawing you if you're not into that. Besides, I'm a guy, I'm not supposed to think about how I feel." Phillip clapped her on the shoulder, then held out his hand. "Money?" Amy dug in her pockets, coming up with several bills and some change, slapping it into his outstretched palm. "Thanks, sisters are good for something after all!" he said, stuffing the money into his front pocket. "See you at dinner."
The week went by slowly for Amy and Sarah, even though it was clear that Amy's parents did not suspect Sarah as being Amy's love interest. Amy longed to talk to her grandmother, but was afraid to call for fear that one of her parents would pick up an extension at the wrong time. At least the news that Robin had scrounged her a date for the following Saturday seemed to calm things down some, even though there were some questions about Phillip wanting to date Sarah. Saturday finally arrived and Amy's parents let her take one of the cars so that she and Phillip could pick up Sarah before meeting the others at the stadium.
"There they are," Phillip said as he waved to his cousin and the two guys, "buck up kids." He belated offered his arm to Sarah, who took it shyly, still confused as to why Amy's little brother would rescue them from social oblivion. She smiled at him, thinking that at least he was cute and looked a little like Amy. Her reverie was broken as they approached the rest of the group, making small talk, wondering if hiding again was the best thing to do. She envied John's being able to stand so close to Amy, even if he wasn't touching her. She was surprised by how strongly she felt about the thought of some boy touching Amy, holding hands with Amy, possibly kissing Amy. Doubts started flying in as they took their seats and Phillip handed her a drink and a bag of roasted peanuts. At least he was nice enough to make sure she sat next to Amy, despite the tiny frown on Robin's face when she noticed the seating arrangement. Mischief streaked through her as she flashed a big smile at Robin, making sure to brush against Amy as she settled on the bench. This might turn out to be a good day after all, Amy had never been fond of her cousin and they could both piss her off without Robin being able to say anything about it for fear of ruining her social standing.
"Go, go, go, all the way, all the way!" Amy shouted to the receiver as he wound his way down field toward the goal line. He was hit and spun around, but managed to shake off the defender and slip across the goal line before anyone else touched him. "I can't believe it, he did it!" Amy jumped up and down with the rest of the crowd, face flushed with excitement. "Did you see that?" she demanded of Sarah, "did you see the way he slipped around that last tackle? All we have to do is make this extra point and we've won!" She belated caught her brother's eye, who hugged Sarah with one arm, mouthing, "John." Amy took the hint and turned to her date, hugging him excitedly, then screaming again when the ball wobbled, hit the upright, then barely fell backwards, clearing the goal posts. "We did it!"
John hugged Amy back, then released her to start picking up their stuff. "Anyone interested in dinner, maybe some burgers?" he asked the group.
"That sounds like a wonderful idea," Robin agreed as she pulled out her phone, "I'll just call my parents and have them call everyone else. John, maybe you'd like to ride with Amy?"
"Sure," John agreed, tentatively taking Amy's hand in his, "it was a great game. Amy, do you think we have any chance for a conference bowl this year? Phillip? Barrett?"
The others started answering as Robin called her parents, coaxing her mother to make the other calls. She walked off a little ways so they couldn't overhear her saying, "But Dad, it's going so well! Just call Aunt Susan and Uncle Jeff, then the Mrs. Douglas, please. We'll just go to the Burger Barn, then come home, I promise. Yes, I'll finish my homework tomorrow, I swear! Maybe I'll see if Barrett - okay, I'll do it by myself. I have to go now, Daddy, see you later." She walked back to the group, taking her place next to Barrett. "All set, Dad will call the others, but I had to swear to do my homework tomorrow."
"What about youth group and choir?" Barrett asked, nuzzling Robin's neck briefly.
"I can get it done, I just have a few math problems left. Besides, if I get stuck, I can always ask George, he's some sort of child prodigy when it comes to math, like that kid in the comic strips." She stopped to give Barrett a quick kiss, then started walking again, ignoring the catcalls of the rest of the group. "We'll see you at the Burger Barn," she said when she saw Barrett's car.
The rest of the group piled into Amy's car and joined the slow river winding out of the parking lot. "So," John said, twisting a bit so he could see Sarah and Phillip in the back seat, "that was a fun afternoon and the Eagles played exceptionally well." Mumbles of agreement rose up. He glanced through the front windshield, then back to Sarah and Phillip, who were holding hands in the back seat. "Is this your first date too? If so, Robin is pretty busy hooking everyone up lately."
Amy cringed inside, waiting for her brother and best friend's replies. She glanced in the rear view mirror, seeing them holding hands, wanting to shout, "Stop it!" Phillip just chuckled, answering, "I haven't trusted my cousin since she blabbered to my friends that I still slept with a teddy bear. Now mind you, this was when I was in second grade and she was in third grade, but I got razzed for what seemed like forever, but probably more like a few days. When I came up to hit Amy up for money the other day and hear Robin setting you guys up, I decided to piss her off by inviting Sarah."
"Why would that piss her off?"
Phillip thought quickly, feeling the tension in Sarah's hand. "Oh, you know, girl stuff. I think Robin's always wanted Amy to be her best friend, to be in the popular crowd with her, but Amy and Sarah have been best buddies since I can remember. Robin doesn't like Sarah because Sarah's so smart, so what better way to piss her off than to bring the smart girl to her little party? Besides, how many sophomore guys can say that they've dated a senior girl?"
"Oh," John replied, turning over the convoluted answer in his mind, then turning to Amy. "Do you like to piss off your cousin too?"
Amy smirked. "You bet."
John smiled lazily as he touched Amy's hair gently. "It's the Piss Off Robin Club, then. She or one of her little clique spread rumors about my last girlfriend, made her so mad that she quit the cheerleading squad."
"Why did you break up, then?" Amy asked as she pulled out of the parking lot onto the service road.
"Oh, that. Well, her mom got transferred to another base, so she had to move. We agree to break up since it's hard to keep a relationship going across a couple of states." Suddenly he snickered nastily. "She and Barrett deserve each other, both care more about the outside than the inside, how they look, what circles they run in, stuff like that. I like playing football, but I'm not planning to make it a career like Barrett is, I'm planning to go to college for a degree, not more injuries. Amy, what are your plans? For college, I mean."
Amy waited until she pulled into the Burger Barn parking lot before she answered, "Mom and Dad want me to go to some fancy college, but I'd rather go here, figure out what I want to major in before I spend lots of their money on a private college."
"Sounds sensible," John agreed. "I'm starved, let's go put our names down on the waiting list." He jumped out of the car, going around in time to intercept Amy and offer his arm. She took it, feeling a little trapped until she saw Phillip and Sarah winking at her. She relaxed, maybe this wasn't so bad after all. John seemed nice enough, but her heart belonged to Sarah. At least Mom and Dad would be happy.
Emily hung up the phone, looking very smug as she turned to Morgan. "Dinner at my place, 8:00 tonight," she said, "I've invited both families and they accepted. Of course, Susan hemmed and hawed a bit, but eventually she accepted the invitation, I think she's afraid of losing her inheritance if she doesn't come."
"Oh, great, it's meet the family time already?" Morgan asked as she locked the front door and started wandering around, shutting off lights. She walked back to the counter where Emily was busily banding money and filing receipts. "Good day?"
"Yes, we made a decent profit today, love. Now, dress however you like tonight, it's informal, just sandwich and salad fixings that I will pick up on the way home. Just don't wear the leather jeans, or I won't be responsible for my actions." Morgan rolled her eyes expressively. "Stop that, you look like my granddaughters when you roll your eyes."
"Yes, dear," Morgan smirked, leaning over to kiss Emily's cheek. "If you have this ready, I'll run it to the bank before going home to change. Maybe I'll just wear the other tight jeans, the ones with the hole in the-"
"You dare and I'll wear my 'Dykes on Bykes' t-shirt. Or maybe I'll wear that T-shirt with Willow and Tara on it and put some Melissa Etheridge on the stereo."
"Oh, I'm shaking in my boots, Emily! See you later, drive safely. Don't forget to set the alarm before you leave."
"You forget, it was your last worker, Amber, who forgot to set the alarm." Emily made shooing motions, but followed them by blowing kisses at Morgan. Morgan pretended to catch the kisses, then picked up her coat and the bank bag and left by the back door. She started going from room to room, making sure everything was locked up when her cell phone rang. "Emily Lane," she answered, cradling the tiny phone between her ear and shoulder.
"Mom, are you really planning for us to meet that so-called girlfriend of your tonight? If so, count my family out!" Susan's strident tones screeched through the phone.
Emily walked back to hers and Morgan's office, sitting down. "Susan, don't be such a snob and homophobe, I did not bring you up this way. Let me talk to Jeff." She heard Susan huffing off, then hear her son-in-law pick up the phone. "Jeff, why is Susan backing out?"
"Well, Mrs. Lane, she started thinking about it and decided that it would not be a good moral influence on the children if we attended tonight."
"What do you think, Jeff?"
Silence. Silence long enough for Emily to pull away her phone to see if the call was still connected, then finally, "I don't know what to think, Mrs. Lane, you and Mr. Lane had always been very good to us. I don't necessarily agree with this, and I thank God that Amy is gotten over this little fling and started dating one of Robin's friends. But, I was always taught to respect my elders, so we'll be there. Good-bye, I have to talk to my wife now." Emily disconnected the call, then sat staring at the phone for a moment. Amy, dating one of Robin's friends? What was that all about? Only one way to find out, and that was to hurry up and go home.
"My sweetheart is a genius," Morgan thought as she bit into her heavenly sandwich. Rather than seat everyone in the formal dining room, Emily had laid out the supper makings in the kitchen, then provided TV trays so everyone could sit comfortably in the den, a much cozier room. She sat on one of the love seats next to Emily, but was busy talking to Betty about light in photographic compositions. Emily had mentioned that her daughter-in-law was a commercial artist and Morgan finally connected that Betty Lane was the same as Elizabeth Lane, who was well known for her advertising designs. "So you did that Winter Wonderland series for the pops orchestra last year? Those were fantastic, Betty, I wish I'd be able to do that."
Betty smiled, dimpling. "Not by myself, I just did the designs, not the lettering. Robert did the lettering, you know, Richard's friend. He's a marvel when it comes to layout and lettering. Now, Morgan, I never did get to hear how you and Emily met. Isn't she a wonderful human being?"
Morgan felt a silly grin slip on her face, agreeing with Betty. "That she is. The short version is that she waltzed into my life when Susan asked her to pick up the proofs from Emily's retirement party. I wound up offering her a part-time job, we became friends, then she conned me into taking her to a dance and I really fell in love with her. So, how did you and Richard meet?"
"Through Robert, of course. Robert and I were both doing our internships at the same design shop and he just got it in his head that Richard and I would be perfect together, so he invited me over to their apartment for dinner one night. I was confused at first, I thought that Robert and Richard were dating since they liked to startle people by calling each other 'darling' and 'honey child'. A good dinner, an evening of watching TV, and some snuggle time later and I was convinced that Richard really was straight." Betty took a bite, chewing thoughtfully, swallowed and asked, "So, with Robert around constantly, how did my daughter get the idea that she needs to make her cousin go straight? For that matter, with me for a mom and Richard the computer geek for a dad, where did she get the notion that she has to be such a snob? I swear that she is really Susan and Jeff's child, not ours."
"I heard that, Mother," Robin sniped as she plopped on the couch beside her mother, "I'm just trying to help Amy out, that's all, I don't want to see her get hurt by the kids at school for being queer. As far as me running around with the crowd I do, look at Grandmother, she and Granddaddy ran around with the upper society folks all the time, why can't I?"
"And at the time, the best way to gather business contacts was, and still is, joining snobbish country clubs and making friends with the 'right people' to polish the paths to continued business relationships," Emily added as she handed her plate to Morgan, motioning her to scoot over so she could sit on the sofa.
"Yeah, but didn't you grow up in an upper class neighborhood, Grandmother?"
Emily took her plate back and set it on the TV tray before answering, "In America, yes, my stepfather was the product of old blueblood stock who ran off to join the Army Air Corps to avoid marrying 'the right girl', whom he did not like. My parents were working class Brits, but had taught themselves to speak 'properly' in hopes that I could marry well. After that bombing in London that killed my father, Mother eventually met my dad at a USO dance and after the war, we moved to America with him."
Robin looked confused as she shifted her gaze from her grandmother to Morgan and back. "Okay, so if you're gay, why did you marry Granddaddy in the first place? Wasn't it because it's so totally unacceptable to be gay?"
"Robin!" Betty snapped but Emily interrupted, "It's a fair question, Betty, and deserves a fair answer. Robin, when I was a young woman we were not as well educated about human sexuality as you are today. We all assumed that lesbians were all mannish in appearance and that you could tell just by looking. Or, they were older women who were married but bored, wanting to seduce young girls for kicks. In any case, I was far too busy keeping my grades up so I could get into law school to worry about dating at all. As far as marrying your grandfather, he was nice to me, funny, and treated me like I had a real brain. I had passed the bar exam but was initially hired as a secretary, but after I saved my boss's butt, your father promoted me to attorney over the protests of the entire legal department."
"But how did you know you were gay?" Robin persisted.
"Little clues along the years. I'm glad I married Ed, he was a wonderful partner and a lovely man, but I didn't know what I was missing until I ran into Morgan here." Before she could go any further, loud angry voices filled the house. "It sounds like the rest of our family has arrived," Emily noted dryly as she gracefully rose from the couch to greet them.
Amy rushed in to hug her grandmother as soon as she had her coat off, then reached for Morgan's hand to shake it. "Hey, good to see you again, Morgan," she said enthusiastically, "wait until you meet the rest of my family unit. Mom's furious to be in the same house with you, but Dad is trying to smooth her ruffled feathers. Oh, here they come. Mom, Dad, this is Morgan Kincaid, Grandmother's girlfriend. Morgan, my parents, Susan and Jeff Matthews, and my brother, Phillip. Guys, Morgan is the one who did the photography for Grandmother's retirement party."
Morgan stood up slowly, pushing her TV tray to one side as she walked across the room to meet the rest of the Matthews. "Glad to meet you," she said in her best professional voice, "Emily speaks of all of her family fondly."
Susan just stared at Morgan as if trying to decide whether or shake or spit in her hand. Jeff took up the slack by taking Morgan's hand and making the proper noises. Phillip stared at Morgan unabashedly, shaking her hand enthusiastically. Susan finally pasted a fake smile on and limply shook Morgan's hand, murmuring, "Mother enjoys working with you, Ms. Kincaid, I'm glad that she has something to occupy her time. The pictures you took at the retirement party were quite good."
"Thank you," Morgan replied. "Emily says that you are in marketing, maybe I could get your opinion on a campaign that we're thinking of launching after the holidays to drum up additional business during the late winter. Go get your food, then let's sit over there in the club chairs, I'll grab some paper and pens." Susan looked as if she would protest, but instead went into the kitchen to fix her plate. Emily sidled up, murmuring, "Where did you learn that type of smooth misdirection?" Morgan just winked, answering, "From you, my dear." Emily affected a wide-eyed innocent look, then turned back to her other guests.
Amy came back into the room with her plate, disappointed that the only seat left was by Robin. "May I sit with you?" she asked politely. Robin nodded and Amy sat down, pulling out a tray to place her plate and glass on, then tried to ignore Robin as she started eating quickly. She glanced around at her family, not surprised that Phillip and George were deep into a sports conversation, or that her dad was talking with Uncle Jeff and her grandmother about business, but she was surprised to see her mother talking to Morgan. She grinned when she realized that Morgan must have asked her mother's opinion about a marketing topic, her mother was absolutely passionate about all facets of marketing, something that she personally found boring. She finished her sandwich and started to attack her fruit salad when Robin plaintively asked, "Aren't you going to pay any attention to me?"
"Sure. Oh, it was fun going to the game the other day, thanks," Amy said somewhat reluctantly. She had enjoyed chatting with John, but felt uneasy about the entire charade.
"My pleasure, cousin. Did you like John? Didn't I tell you that he was a sweetheart? Think you'll go to the dance in a few weeks? And how about Phillip and Sarah, I never thought of them as a couple, but they sure were cute together."
"Robin, I appreciate the thought, but, well, I'd be dishonest if I went out with John again, leading him on like that."
Robin waved away the comment. "Now, I've heard Uncle Robert talk about dating girls in high school, even though he's as queer as a three dollar bill, so what would it hurt to date guys for a little while longer? It won't matter as much once you get away from home, but you know that your folks are much happier with you dating guys than girls."
"How can you say that, being brought up in your family?"
"Look, I'm just being realistic, Amy. Grandmother admitted that she was glad to have married a man, so why can't you date John for a while? I don't think Sarah would mind that much."
"Leave Sarah out of this," Amy growled.
"Oh, please, I've been aware that you and Sarah have made puppy dog eyes at each other for the past year. She seemed pretty comfortable with your brother Saturday afternoon, I'm sure she'd be happy to date him until you two graduate. Aren't you planning to go to college together? You can date her then." Robin took a bite, satisfied that she had figured out all the answers.
"I can't believe that you're so heartless," Amy pressed.
Robin swallowed, sighing dramatically. "Hey, you're the one that agreed to the dates the other day, I was just offering a way for you to make peace with your parents. Phillip didn't have to ask your girlfriend out, he did it for family harmony. And let's face it, even if my folks like Morgan over there, they'd probably be freaked if Grandmother had left Granddaddy for a woman while he was alive, don't you think? She's lucky to be retired, rich, and widowed before falling in love with a woman, even if Morgan is young enough to be her daughter. Or do you think Morgan is after Grandmother for her money?"
Amy grabbed her plate and cup, stalking off into the kitchen, fury welling within her. How dare Robin insinuate such things! But was she any better? She hadn't said anything to Sarah yet, but had accepted another date with John. He was funny, considerate, and so far, a gentleman. Was Robin a little bit right? She pushed her food listlessly around on her plate, so tuned into her own misery that she didn't hear her grandmother come into the room until she sat down at the table, asking, "Did you and Robin have another tiff?"
"Oh, Grandmother, nothing is working out right!" Amy exclaimed, "I gave into pressure and went on a date with a friend of Robin's boyfriend, and Phillip went as Sarah's date. Now I'm confused, I like John and I now that Phillip likes Sarah, but I just want to be able to date who I like without having to worry about the consequences. How did you deal with it, or did you even know that you were gay back when you were my age?"
Emily got up and refilled her coffee cup before sitting back down and answering slowly, "I never really gave it much thought, but it's funny that now both of my granddaughters have asked about this today." She took a sip, watching Amy's look of surprise. "As I told Robin, I was so involved in my school work that I didn't even have much time to date, let alone worry about if I preferred men or women."
"But what about Granddaddy?" Amy asked.
"What about him? Ed was a wonderful man, we made a great team, and I loved him."
"Grandmother, how did you meet? I know you worked together, but when did you start dating?" Amy persisted.
Emily leaned forward, confessing, "Ed needed a date for a big party, someone to look like a society hostess. He knew that I had proper manners since we'd gone to several company dinners together, so he asked me to this big party. We just hit it off and were married soon."
Amy stared at her grandmother, something nagging in the back of her mind. Her grandparents were married November 5, 1960 and her uncle's birthday was May 7, 1961. "Wait, that would have made Uncle Richard two months premature, wouldn't it? I thought he was right at seven pounds, what gives?"
Emily replied offhandedly, "Oh, that. You see, he did jump up the wedding a bit, you're old enough to know that. The moral of the story is be careful when you're dating men, especially if you drink too much wine."
"So you were pregnant when you married?"
"I'd like to hear the answer to that one," Morgan said, coming up behind them. "Sorry to barge in, but I came for a refill on tea and overheard just the last bit."
Emily smiled mysteriously, taking her girlfriend's hand in hers. "Yes, I was pregnant with Richard when Ed and I married. There, now you have the shocking secret of our family, guard it well. Or not, I don't care."
Morgan pulled up a chair next to Emily, still holding her hand. "My goodness, woman, you are so wild and wanton! Pregnant when you married, now hustling young chicks, goodness knows what you'll do for an encore."
Amy still wasn't satisfied. "But did you ever have any idea that you were gay before you met Morgan?"
"Yes, I'd like to know too, Miss Emily," Morgan teased.
"Girls, don't you know enough of my shocking past? No? I'll level with you, I did sleep with my college roommate," Emily said, eyes sparkling with suppressed mirth.
"Do tell!" Morgan said quickly before Amy could cut in.
"Well, I'd had nightmares off and on all of my life, seeing the building fall on my real father during one of those Nazi raids. Anyway, the first week of college, I woke up screaming and my roommate, Rachel, came over to see what I was screeching about and I simply said I'd had a bad nightmare, for her to go back to bed. She just stared at me like she didn't believe me, then made me scoot over and decided that I needed comfort. She just held me until I went to sleep. No big deal."
"Oh," said Amy, obviously disappointed. Morgan thought she caught something else in the story, but decided to wait until later to ask about it. "So, Morgan, what about you?" Amy asked, catching Morgan off guard.
"Well," Morgan replied, lacing her fingers through Emily's more comfortably, "I wasn't really sure if I was gay or not, I knew that being around naked girls made me uncomfortable, like I had no idea where to put my eyes. I hated gym and youth retreats for that very reason, since it seemed that the shower facilities were always really open and you could see everyone. I was pretty relieved when I got to college and started dating different men, but it never felt quite right. I went to work for Margo, who owned the studio before me, and she was pretty open about being gay, so when she asked me out after work one night, I said yes. We started dating soon after that and I confirmed my worst suspicions, I really was gay."
"What happened to her?"
"Amy, that's rude," Emily interjected, but Morgan protested, "It's okay, Emily. Margo left me for a man, but let me buy the studio from her. I swore never to date again, but I met your grandmother and everything changed for the better." Morgan looked at Emily, her face softening, smiling. "Well, we should all get back to the lion's den now. Susan promised to talk to her boss about taking on the studio for the next marketing push."
"Hey, you suggested that I needed to get to know your family better and I must admit, Susan has some excellent ideas for promoting the studio, Emily." Morgan gently squeezed Emily's hand, then stood up and turned to Amy. "So come one, girls." Amy reluctantly picked up her plate and cup, following her grandmother and Morgan back into the den, turning over what she'd learned in her mind. Her grandmother really had sex before marriage? Morgan slept with her boss? But was she any better for accepting a date with a boy when she really loved Sarah?
"Give me all the details, Amy," Sarah demanded as she slid into the car, "how was the family dinner last night?"
Phillip called from the back seat, "Hey, why don't you sit back here with me?" Sarah flushed and Phillip laughed. "Sorry, Sarah, just had to razz you a bit. You can sit up there with sister dear, just remember to walk with me before we get to choir practice, make all the guys jealous. And girls," he added, snickering.
"Shut up, brat face," Amy called over her shoulder before pulling away from the curb. "Funny how Mom and Dad suddenly trust me with the car now that you and Phillip are 'dating'," she grumbled. "Okay, dinner went fine, Mom had a hissy before, but Dad talked her into going, he's always liked Grandmother and said that Mom should remember to respect her elders no matter what. They're still not wild about her dating a woman, but Morgan had Mom eating out of the palm of her hand, so to speak, conned Mom into handling the studio's account at a discounted rate. No wonder Grandmother likes Morgan, they're both so business oriented at heart. Anyway, I got to chat with them a bit, they're so cute together."
"They are," Sarah agreed, remembering meeting the women at the mall after Thanksgiving. "So, are we still all going to the holiday dance next weekend?"
Amy answered reluctantly, "I guess so. John asked me earlier this week and I felt like I had to say yes. What about you and Phillip?"
"Hey, I can answer that!" Phillip piped up, "and the answer is yes, if milady wilt have me."
"Studying Shakespeare or something?" Sarah teased.
"Sure. No, seriously, will you go to the dance with me? You can ask me to the prom this spring, unless I have some other hot chick lined up by then."
"Oh, such the gentleman," Amy laughed. "Brother, you are such a guy, led around by your-"
Amy smiled, unrepentant. "Sorry if my language bothers you, Sarah, it's all Phillip's fault. Okay, we're here, all passengers may now disembark."
"Can I drive back?" Phillip asked, bumping his sister as she hit the lock button on the keyfob.
"No, you have to drive with someone eighteen or older, so sorry, dear brother."
"Tragic." Phillip started to run to the building, then remembered Sarah and majestically offered his arm. "Look happy," he whispered in her ear, "I know it's a sacrifice for all of us." Sarah took his arm, still amazed at Phillip's gallantly. At least he was cute and taller than she was, and "a catch" as the other girls might say. She could do worse, but it wasn't the same as being with Amy, who was going ahead, walking up to Robin, Barrett, and John, taking John's arm. As if reading her mind, Phillip commented, "That's gotta hurt, seeing her hanging all over John that way. Okay, this feels weird to say, but it's too bad we have to do these charades."
"Yes, but I appreciate your part," Sarah replied, sliding her arm around Phillip's waist, feeling him slide his arm around her shoulders. She felt him squeeze her as they approached the rest of the youth, feeling even more confused. It was nice, but felt so dishonest. Sarah mentally shook herself and prepared for another evening of pretending to fit in and be straight. Amy just looked a little too realistic in her role as John's latest girlfriend for Sarah's comfort. She also wondered why Phillip was being so nice, playing her boyfriend, but was too scared to ask why. Maybe she didn't want to know that answer.
The next few weeks went by too fast. Amy and Sarah managed to get out on their own the Thursday afternoon before the dance to finish their Christmas shopping, reluctantly buying small presents for their "boyfriends". They decided to go back to Amy's house since no one was supposed to be there for another hour or so, Phillip had gone to a friend's house and her parents were not due home from work for several hours. The girls dropped their shopping bags on Amy's bedroom floor, then sat on the bed, bunching the pillows behind them, reaching for each other's hands. Sarah turned to Amy, asking, "Did we get everything now?"
"Yes, sweetie," Amy answered, turning to face the other girl, bringing up a hand to boldly caress Sarah's cheek. "But that doesn't mean that we have to stop going shopping, spending time with each other." Sarah leaned into Amy's hand, closing her eyes as she enjoyed the contact. It had been too long since they had any time to themselves, too busy lately with homework, spending time with John and Phillip, or time with the youth group as they prepared for the big Christmas Eve service. She sighed happily, then opened her eyes to stare into Amy's deep green eyes, finding herself leaning forward to kiss her best friend.
Amy was taken by surprise by the kiss, she and Sarah had been trying not to kiss lately, but what the heck, no one would be home for hours. Besides, she felt guilty about not spending time with Sarah, other than on double or triple dates on the weekends. She tried to shut off her brain as she took a chance and put her arms around Sarah, pulling her closer, deepening the kiss, cautiously opening her lips for the first time, asking for entry into Sarah's mouth. Permission was granted, she slowly slid her tongue into Sarah's mouth, tasting the mocha they'd shared at the mall. It was an exciting feeling, sparking all sorts of strange sensations, including one of Sarah's hands slowly slipping down her back and creeping up under the hem of her sweatshirt.
They suddenly pulled apart, panting, scared, but wanting to experience more. Sarah boldly jumped off the bed and quietly locked the bedroom door, then jumped back on the bed, this time lying down and pulling Amy on top of her, kissing her again with all of her might, senses overridden by the building fire, not caring what happened. To hell with Phillip, to hell with Amy's dates with John, to hell with them all, Amy was her girlfriend. She moaned softly as Amy started trailing kisses down her neck, brushing her collarbones with fire. She gasped as Amy slowly unbuttoned her shirt, exposing the edges of her bra, nipping at the skin on the top of her breast. Sarah was dizzy with desire, much stronger than she'd ever felt previously in their quick fumblings. Sarah ran her hands up inside Amy's sweatshirt, marveling at the warm skin stretched over such perfect ribs, soft yet strong, wanting to lose all her inhibitions and be able to lay skin to skin.
Sarah flipped Amy over, taking her time in slowly kissing Amy's lips and throat, resisting the temptation to just yank off her sweatshirt and bra. She was fast becoming overwhelmed past the point of no return when she heard a door slamming downstairs. She stopped cold, glancing at the clock on Amy's desk as Amy whimpered from the loss of body contact. "I think someone is home," she whispered, buttoning her shirt as she rolled off the bed and quickly unlocked the door, leaving it ajar by a few inches. She could hear footsteps on the stairs, afraid to call out to see who had come home early.
Desire froze as Amy pulled down her sweatshirt, staring into her girlfriend's huge brown eyes, realizing that it really was footsteps. She reached for Sarah, pulling her into the bathroom that she shared with Phillip, silently handing Sarah a brush as she picked up her comb. They frantically groomed themselves, repairing hair and makeup, barely making it back to the floor, pulling out packages and wrapping paper before a tap sounded at the door. "Anyone home?" Jeff called out.
"Just me and Sarah," Amy answered, thanking God that her voice sounded so normal and bored, "we went to the mall and finished shopping this afternoon. Come on in."
Jeff Matthews opened the door wider, surveying the scene. "Well, as long as you left something for your mother to buy, that's fine," he said with a wink. "Sarah, will you be staying for supper, you think? Phillip would love to see you, I'd think."
Sarah swallowed hard, feeling trapped between being polite and having to pretend and fleeing to the safety of her own home. "I appreciate the offer, Mr. Matthews, but I guess I should really be getting home now. I have a ton of homework to get finished before tomorrow. Amy, it's later than I thought, could you take me home?"
"Sure. Dad, I'll be back in time for supper."
"Okay, be careful, it's dark and there's a few patches of ice on the road," Jeff replied as he withdrew from the room. After he pulled the door back, Amy and Sarah collapsed against each other for a few seconds, then got up and started separating the bags, chattering determinedly about school as they got ready to go back out.
"That sure was close," Amy commented as they pulled out of the driveway, "Dad nearly caught us, Sarah."
"I know," Sarah replied unhappily as she stared out at the drizzle that was coming down. "I'm sorry, Amy, I don't know what came over me."
Amy concentrated on slowing down for a stop sign, testing the feeling of the tires against the slick pavement, turning carefully before answering, "It's just as much my fault as yours, you know. We'd promised not to do this, but we did. It's funny, I used to wonder why so many kids had sex before marriage, or without thinking about birth control, but I think understand now, you just get carried away with the moment."
Sarah nodded, then replied, "Yes, very true." She fell silent again, letting Amy concentrate on driving until they pulled into her driveway. "Want to come in for a minute?" she asked hopefully.
"I'd love to, honey, but I'd better go while the streets are still good and while I still have self-control," Amy said regretfully, shifting into park. She slid a hand over, squeezing Sarah's hand, then pulled away. She sat still for a moment, just looking at Sarah, wishing that things were different, fighting the desire to pull Sarah into a long kiss. "I'll see you at school tomorrow."
"Yeah. Don't forget to come over early Saturday so we can primp for the big dance."
Amy laughed bitterly. "How could I forget?"
Sarah started to open the door but paused to ask, "Do you like John?"
"What? He's okay, hasn't tried anything, but nothing compared to you, honey."
"Just checking. See you at school." Sarah opened the door, reaching for her packages, then slammed the door and fled up the stairs before she could change her mind and go back to kiss Amy goodnight.
"Honey, is that you?"
Sarah fought the inclination for a sarcastic reply, which would only tip her mother off that all was not perfect. "Yes, Amy just dropped me off," she called down the stairs. She could have sworn that her mother wasn't home from school yet since she hadn't seen the car. "How did you get home?"
Laurie Douglas came up the stairs and dropped her briefcase in the master bedroom before answering, "Mrs. Ingalls dropped me off, my battery was dead. I'll get your dad to take me back up to school tomorrow to see what we can do about it. How was your day? I looked for you after school, but I guess you had already gone."
"Amy and I went back to the mall to finish shopping, then we went to her house for a bit, then she dropped me off here."
Laurie rubbed her forehead distractedly as she walked into her daughter's room, pulling out the desk chair and sitting down. Sarah sat warily on her bed, wondering if she had forgotten something. "Sarah, please try to remember to tell me when you aren't going directly home. I tried calling your cell phone, but you either forgot to turn it on or you were ignoring me. Which was it?"
"Mom, I wasn't ignoring you, I guess I didn't hear it with the noise at the mall. I should have called, I know, but I forgot. Amy had the car and offered and I did have some stuff to get. Okay?"
"This time. I swear, you've been absent minded and remote lately. Is dating Phillip that distracting? You weren't just going over to Amy's house to see her brother, were you?"
Sarah relaxed a bit, her mother thought she was sneaking around to see Phillip, not Amy. "No, he wasn't even there."
"At their house, Mom, we went by the house to drop stuff off before Amy brought me home. I thought I told you."
Laurie looked sharply at her daughter, wondering what she was missing. Something was amiss but she couldn't quite put her finger on it, something had changed in Sarah's life and she wasn't sure it was just her suddenly dating a boy two years younger. Before she could probe any deeper, she heard the back door open and her husband call out, "Sarah? Laurie? Where is everyone?"
"Upstairs, Bud," Laurie called back. She stood up wearily, too aware of the number of papers she had to grade this weekend, the rest of the shopping she needed to do, the worry that they needed a new battery for her car. She turned back to Sarah, trying to decide whether or not to ask any more questions, but decided to put it off for now. "Sarah, will you help me get supper ready?" she asked instead. Sarah bounded up from the bed, dashing down the stairs. Laurie started down the stairs after Sarah, still wondering what had happened this afternoon. She was willing to bet it was more than shopping.
Phillip had to admit that his sister was beautiful tonight, from her dark brown hair with its golden highlights to her deep green velvet dress. Amy rarely wore dresses except for church, claiming that dresses and hose were the devil's invention, but the soft drape of the dress followed her figure nicely. She had just the right jewelry, delicate gold filigree tear drop earrings, a slender gold watch, her senior ring, and a delicate gold chain with a small cross. "Hey sis, you clean up decently," he called out, watching her descend the stairs.
"You're not too bad yourself, little boy," Amy shot back, taking in his midnight blue tuxedo. "Nice touch, three button tux and very subtle holiday tie. Hey, you even combed your hair tonight!"
Phillip asked anxiously, "Do you think Sarah will like it? Not too ostentatious? I mean, most guys are not going in tuxes, and your date will be in his best Sunday suit." Phillip took a deep breath, then asked, "I'm babbling, aren't I?"
"Yes, you are," Amy responded fondly, patting her brother's shoulder. "When did your hair start getting darker?"
"This fall, I guess. Dad said his hair went from blond to brown as he got older, so I guess I'm taking after him."
"But you have grandmother's lovely blue eyes."
"Yes, do you think she'll need them back anytime soon?"
Amy groaned, holding up her fists. Phillip responded by holding up his fists and the two mocked each other for several minutes, circling as if they were about to fight. Amy dropped her fists, shaking her head. "Dude, here we are, all dressed to the nines, acting like little kids. Is John picking us up first, or Sarah?"
Phillip led his sister into the front room, making sure that their coats were still hanging on the rack in the hallway. "I think he's picking us up first, since he's been here before. It make sense, he's your date, not Sarah's." Lowering his voice, Phillip added, "Remember, dance with John." She punched him on the shoulder for the remark. "You wound me, Sis!" Phillip moaned dramatically, then sat up abruptly as their parents entered the room.
"Jeff, do you have the camera? Good, Amy, Phillip, could you stand so we can take your pictures?" Susan asked. Without waiting for an answer, she started positioning her children, directing how her husband was to take the pictures. Finally satisfied, she asked, "When will the dance be over? When do you plan to be home?"
Phillip answered, "The dance is over at midnight, we should be home by one. It will take a while to get out of the parking lot and to drop Sarah off at her house. Don't worry, Mom, I have my cell phone on my belt, fully charged." Before Susan or Jeff could ask any more questions, the doorbell rang. Jeff went to answer it, bringing John West back with him. Introductions were made, pictures were taken, promises of good behavior were made. The trio finally escaped the parental onslaught when John mentioned that Sarah was waiting for them.
Sarah was waiting nervously in her living room, glancing at the clock every fifteen seconds. She bet that the Matthews were busy taking pictures, Mrs. Matthews was always taking or directing lots of pictures. Her own parents were sitting across the room, fiddling with their new digital camera, still reading the instructions on transferring the pictures to the computer. Sarah half listened, hoping that they were not planning to buy a disk reader any time soon, she had picked one up during her shopping trip with Amy. On the dot of 6:30, the doorbell rang and her dad jumped up to answer the door, bringing her friends back with him. She rose to greet them, feeling unaccountably shy around Phillip and Amy, but relieved to start the evening. Her parents made the requisite pictures of the couples, the group, then the girls by themselves. After promises of good behavior and obeying the curfew were made, the foursome escaped to John's car.
Amy had a hard time tearing her attention from Sarah as they walked out to the car. Sarah had pulled her dark gold hair into a loose knot in back, leaving tantalizing tendrils around her face, framing the light skin and dark brown eyes perfectly. Sarah was wearing a calf skimming dress of red with gold highlights swirling through it, allowing just a hint of her lovely collarbones to show. Delicate pearl earrings and matching necklace rounded out the picture. John broke the spell, announcing, "Let's go, I'm ready to dance." John glanced at Phillip and muttered, "You didn't say you were wearing a tux." Amy looked up, responding, "But you look quite handsome in your suit, John. The green of your tie matches my dress perfectly." He smiled, good humor restored.
The foursome entered the city convention center, handing over their tickets and wraps, and following the swell of people and noise to the banquet hall. Half of the huge room had been set up with tables, half was set up with a dance floor and small band stand, where a local cover band was pumping out dance tunes. They were immediately spotted by Robin and Barrett, who motioned for them to join them at one of the larger tables. "Oh my, Amy, you are beautiful," Robin gushed as her cousin sat next to her.
"Thank you, you look pretty nice yourself. Sarah and the guys look pretty good too, I think. Where did you get your dress?" Amy asked, pulling out her small talk skills. Two could play at this game.
"Mom and I made it. I'd forgotten what a whiz she is with sewing," Robin admitted, secretly wishing that her parents would buy her dresses from the exclusive shops that Aunt Susan took Amy to. It was true, though, that her mother could turn out professional caliber dresses when she wanted to, and this was a dozy, fitted bodice, full skirts, long sleeves, rich blue material with gold metallic threads shot through. Barrett was in a tuxedo, a handsome addition to her arm. "So, did the parents all have to get lots of pictures?" she asked.
"Of course, " Phillip answered, "first at our house, then at Sarah's house. I'm glad John was driving, I was still blinded by the flashes. I swear that the Douglas's took even more pictures than our folks did. What about Aunt Betty and Uncle Richard? Did they take a lot of pictures?"
Barrett spoke for the first time that night. "Yes, they did. Nice folks. Lots of pictures. Robin, would you like to dance?" He stood, holding out his hand for Robin, leading her out to the floor. Phillip watched his cousin follow her boyfriend to the dance floor, then turned to the rest of the table. "Great conversationalist, that Barrett."
John laughed, reaching for Amy's hand. "Barrett is a man of few words and fewer thoughts."
"I thought you were his friend," Amy commented.
"By proximity," John admitted, "we live in the same exclusive neighborhood, go to the same private club with our parents, attended the same private lessons to turn us into gentlemen. He and Robin seem to be a good match, concerned with looks and their place in society. So, Amy, tell me why I haven't seen you at the club before, don't your parents belong to the Falcon Club?"
"Yes, but I hate going there, it's so stuffy. Phillip and I both got involved in athletics in order to escape all but the summer parties."
Phillip broke in, "Not that we're insulting you, John."
"Of course not," John shot back, smiling. "Amy, would you like to take a twirl around the floor?" She nodded, following her date out to the dance floor, leaving Sarah and Phillip alone at the table.
Sarah watched Amy melt into John's arms, dancing gracefully around the floor, wishing that it was her arms that Amy was in, not his. Yet Phillip was such a sweet boy, posing as her boyfriend when he knew that she preferred his sister, but willing to be part of the whole charade. And John, did he actually know that Amy was her girlfriend? Come to think of it, could she actually claim Amy as her girlfriend, and not just her best friend? Pulling herself out of her melancholy thoughts, she turned and smiled at Phillip, who immediately jumped up and escorted her to the dance floor. At least she could enjoy the surprised looks that came their way from the couples in the popular set. She could imagine the whispers, "Who's that with Phillip? She's not in our social set, but they look so good together!" Ironic, that she was the object of stares for being the date of a football player, when the football player was dating her so take the heat off his sister.
The dance was going better than Amy had anticipated. John was an excellent dancer, Phillip was making Sarah laugh, and Robin was leaving them alone. After several hours, she excused herself to visit the ladies' room. Coming out of the ladies' room, she took a wrong turn and wound up in a dark hall and started to turn back when Sarah caught up with her. "Amy," she said quietly, "wrong direction, that's the way to the conference rooms."
"Oh, Sarah, how's it going? Are you enjoying yourself?" Amy asked anxiously, resisting the temptation to take Sarah's hand in hers.
"Fine," Sarah answered, wishing that Amy could hold her, even for a moment. "Phillip isn't a terrible date, he's a very good dancer. I think I'm envied for the first time in my life," she added, amusement lacing her voice.
Amy quipped, "So, those years of dance lessons paid off." Longing to touch Sarah swept through her, but she resisted the temptation to go off into the dark hall with her. "Come on, let's get back before the boys miss us," she said. "I just wish I could be dancing with you, even though John is a sweet date and a good dancer."
"I wish you could dance with me too," Sarah answered quietly. "Okay, let's go back and face the music, Amy."
They were nearly to the dance hall when they met Barrett and John coming out of the men's room. John looked angry and Barrett looked smug. Amy started feeling uneasy as John came over to her and growled, "Let's go down the hall a bit and talk. Sarah, Phillip's waiting for you back at the dance floor." Amy and Sarah exchanged worried glances before Amy told Sarah to go on. She followed John down the hall until they came to bench, where they sat down. John didn't look at Amy for several terrible minutes, just glared at his hands as he clenched and unclenched them. Finally, he asked, "Is it true that you're gay? Barrett says that your cousin arranged this whole charade because you're gay and Robin took pity on you, was trying to use me to straighten you out. Is it true? I mean, hell, I thought she was arranging this because she thought it would be nice for you to have a date for the Christmas Dance for your senior year, not because you couldn't take a girl to the dance. So what gives?"
Amy took a couple of deep breaths, trying to slow her racing heart, trying to decide what to say. She glanced at John's face, so full of hurt, anger, sadness. God, why had she listened to her harebrained cousin in the first place? But John had been such a gentleman, she owed him the truth, she decided. Amy screwed up her courage and admitted, "Yes, I'm gay, John, and yes, I let Robin set this whole mess into motion because it was easier than to be courageous and to take the girl I like to the dance. Ever since we went to the football game, life has been easier at home, my mother has stopped bugging me, stopped hinting that she and Dad were going to send me to a counselor to try to straighten me out, so to speak. "
"So this whole thing is a game to you," John spat, "I should have figured it earlier, but I've enjoyed your company so much, I put aside the little niggling doubts about why you had agreed to go out with me."
"John, honestly, I never meant to hurt anyone," Amy continued, "I just wanted to be normal. Trust me, if I were straight, I'd love being your girlfriend, you're intelligent, funny, a wonderful dancer, a gentleman. I'm sorry I hurt you, can you forgive me?"
John stared off into space, not answering immediately, then took Amy's hand and tenderly kissed her palm, then laid it against his cheek. "Amy, I don't know what to think right now. You're so much what I look for in a woman, it's hard to accept that you'll never feel what I feel for you. My last girlfriend never understood my references to British sitcoms or Star Trek. It just seemed like a dream come true to find someone who understood me and didn't just pretend to get what I was saying. I don't know what to do, Amy. Part of me wants to pretend this never happened, pretend that we can continue to date, or at least just see each other as friends. I wish to God that Barrett hadn't opened his stupid mouth. I wish I hadn't fallen in the trap of feeling like I needed to date someone, instead of giving myself time to get over Cheryl, after she moved. So where do we go from here?"
"I don't know, John," Amy admitted unhappily, "I guess I should really let you go, let you find a girl who really can be your date." She quirked her lips in a parady of a smile. "Just when I was actually enjoying hanging out with you, this comes up. I'll be honest, I'd love to keep seeing you, even just as friends, but that wouldn't be fair to anyone."
"Maybe." John took her face in his hands, lightly kissing her forehead, then her lips. He let go of her, standing up and saying, "For tonight, let's pretend that this conversation never happened. You are a beautiful girl, I'm a handsome guy, we should be dazzling the other kids with our excellent dancing. Besides, I never liked Barrett or Robin that well anyway, they're too preoccupied with status." He held out his hand to Amy, who took it, allowing him to pull her up and lead her back to the dance.
Christmas had come and gone. Emily fully expected to have part of her family throw a wall-eyed fit when she had Morgan come for the holiday, but no one peeped a wayword word about her presence. She was worried about Amy, who had come over to the studio after school one afternoon and confided about the whole strange situation with herself, Sarah, Phillip, and John. Emily and Morgan discussed it over dinner that night, with Morgan saying that she should keep out of it, but to be ready to help pick up the pieces. Emily wanted to tell Richard and Betty what their daughter was getting her cousin into, but ultimately decided to just wait and see what happened.
Now she had something else to be nervous about, she and Morgan were pulling up in front of Morgan's parents' house. They had arrived in Dallas two nights ago, and had spent the last day and a half seeing the sights, shopping, and enjoying each other's company. Morgan had finally made the call, asking her parents if she could come over, only stating that she was in town for a few days. They had agreed and now Emily and Morgan were getting out of the rental car and walking to the front door, both wondering what type of reception they would receive from the Kincaids. "Here goes nothing," Morgan muttered as she punched the doorbell.
The door opened, revealing a tall man with thick white hair, brown eyes, and a huge smile. "Morgan, honey, it's really you?" he asked.
"Yes, Dad, it's me, and my friend, Emily Lane."
"Well, come in, come in, tell me what you've been doing with your life. Here, let me get your coats," he offered, ushering them into the cozy den. He took their coats, then came back in a moment, just looking at his daughter. "You've grown into a beautiful woman, my girl," he said, taking her hands in his, "just lovely. Oh, give your dad a hug."
Morgan stepped closer, hugging her dad tight, surprising herself at how reluctant she was to let go, smelling the forgotten mixture of Old Spice and peppermint. She wiggled loose, saying, "I forgot part of the introductions. Gregory Kincaid, this is my friend, my partner, Emily Lane. Emily, this is my father, Gregory Kincaid."
Emily held out her hand, shaking his firmly. "I'm pleased to meet you, sir, you have a wonderful daughter."
"I know I do. Call me Greg, no one but my mother called me Gregory. Would you two ladies like something to eat or drink before we sit down? No? Morgan, your mother will be back shortly, she just ran off to finish a few errands. Morgan, are you still into photography? We get your cards every year, but you never say what you're doing."
"Dad, I bought the studio from Margo several years ago when she left the business. I've done fine, but with Emily's help, it's doing even better." Morgan answered.
"I see," Greg said, turning to Emily, "so, are you a photographer, Emily?"
"Not initially," Emily answered, a smile playing about her lips. "I met Morgan when I went to pick up my retirement party pictures. I had been the corporate counsel for Lane Electronics until I retired earlier this year and she had been engaged to take the pictures. My daughter was supposed to pick up the pictures but was too busy, so I was volunteered to run that errand. The second time I went in, it was a madhouse, so I took charge and kept the customers in line and Morgan offered me a job. I accepted, so here we are."
Greg nodded, then volunteered, "I just retired this year too, after nearly forty years in sales. So, you two are business partners now?"
Morgan decided to get the picture cleared up now, before she could get too comfortable. She casually took Emily's hand in hers, replying, "Business partners and more, Dad. Emily is my lover."
"Your lover?" Greg asked, looking to Emily for confirmation. Emily nodded, squeezing Morgan's hand. "But Emily, you mentioned a daughter, I'm confused."
Emily smiled at Greg, saying, "It was a bit confusing for me, too, Greg. I've been a widow for nearly eleven years and have a son, a daughter, and four grandchildren, but after working with Morgan and getting to know her, I found myself falling in love with her, so I found an excuse to go to the local AIDS fundraiser, a formal dance. Now I can't imagine life without her."
"Morgan? What happened to Margo?"
"Dad, she left me," Morgan answered, a bitter edge creeping into her voice. "She left me for a man, but, I did get to buy the studio from her, and Emily has been a wonder at helping me get it on better footing. I confess, I resisted her at first, but I couldn't resist Emily's charm for long."
Greg started to ask another question, but was interrupted by the sound of the back door opening and a woman's voice asking, "Greg? Whose car is that out front?"
"Sweetheart, it's Morgan, come on in the den," Greg called out. His wife rounded the corner and stopped, staring fixedly at Emily, who stared back, shocked. Unaware of the looks between the women, Greg started making introductions. "Emily Lane, my wife, Rachel Kincaid. Rachel, Emily is Morgan's, ah, partner?" Rachel turned white, unable to speak, mouth hanging open in a perfect "O" as she continued to stare at Emily. She finally collected her wits and sat in the chair next to her husband's, asking, "How was the flight to Dallas?"
Emily recovered from her shock, answering, "Quite uneventful, Rachel. This is a lovely house that you and Greg have, would you like to show us around?" Rachel summoned her best hostess manners, motioning for the two women to follow her, briefly showing them the bedrooms, the study, the kitchen area, the formal living/dining room, then back to the den. "And on the mantle, we have pictures of Clark and Linda and their children, your niece and nephew, Morgan. Where are my manners, would you like something to drink before I start supper? Are you planning to stay for supper?"
"Mom, I'll help you," Morgan quickly offered, ushering her mother into the kitchen. "Where do you keep the glasses?"
"In the cabinet just to your left," Rachel answered as she started pulling out a tea pitcher and several different brands of soda from the refrigerator. "The tall glasses, middle shelf." Rachel finished setting out the beverages and turned back to pull out the ice tray, asking as casually as possible, "Emily is your partner? As in lover or business partner?"
"It's becoming both, Mom. I'll take tea, Emily will prefer club soda, please. I'll be honest, she started out as my part time assistant, but started immediately coming up with so many ways to improve the business that I let her start running most of the adminstrative stuff. She's also got a fantastic eye for the camera, especially with pictures of babies."
"So you're still a homosexual. I was hoping that you'd outgrown that phase, Morgan."
Morgan walked over, taking the ice tray out of her mother's hands and setting it on the table. "Mother, please, let's not get into this again. I didn't want to fall in love again, but Emily is very special to me. Can't you accept that?"
Rachel took the ice tray back, clinking the cubes into the glasses quickly and efficiently as she questioned, "Why should I? Good Lord, honey, she looks to be my age, it's bad enough that you're still dating women, but one my age? Isn't that just too strange?" Rachel turned away, replacing the ice tray in the freezer compartment, then walked back to the table, picking up the pitcher, starting to pour the tea. "Morgan, we brought you up to be a normal girl, honey, can't you find a man to settle down with?"
Morgan pulled out a chair, sitting down heavily and crossing her arms, snapping, "Because it is not natural for me to be attracted to a man, Mother. Emily is only the second woman I loved, the first one left me for someone else. Why can't you accept me for who I am?"
Rachel was saved by her husband poking his head in, asking, "Can I help bring out the drinks, honey?" Rachel nodded, handing him glasses and coasters, then following him out into the den. "Are you coming, Morgan?" Greg asked. Morgan nodded, picking up the rest of the glasses and following her dad back into the den.
Supper was initially a strained affair until Greg and Emily started comparing stories about their grandchildren. Rachel was finally drawn in to the conversation against her will, agreeing that it was difficult to understand what today's generation wanted from their grandparents. "Edgar, God rest his soul, didn't live long enough to see youngest grandchild start school, " Emily concluded, "but he was proud of all of them. When our children married and started having babies, you'd think that there had never been any grandfathers before him, the way his office looked. Pictures of grandchildren everywhere, family portraits on the walls. He was very proud of the family we had produced. Rachel, that was a fantastic dinner, may I help you clean up?"
"Oh, no, you don't have to help, you're company!" Rachel protested.
Emily just smiled, adding, "I think Morgan is probably tiring of the 'how wonderful the children are' stories. Honey, why don't you get your dad's opinion on that newest sales pitch we've come up with?" Without waiting for an answer, Emily stood up, starting to stack dishes to carry back into the kitchen. She waited until Rachel had followed her into the kitchen to ask casually, "Were you as shocked to see me as I was to see you?" Rachel started rinsing dishes and putting them in the dishwasher, pretending not to hear the question, so Emily walked over to her, shutting off the water and turning Rachel to face her. "Tell me the truth, Rachel."
Rachel distractedly tucked an errant lock of hair behind her ear, avoiding looking into Emily's darkened blue eyes. "Well, yes. It's bad enough that my daughter is gay, but to be with someone my age?"
"Is it really that, or is it that Morgan showed up with me, your college roommate?" Emily asked, tone deceptively light.
Rachel finally turned to look at Emily, confusion and pain skittering across her face. "You were so absorbed in your school work, nothing like the other girls, a challenge to get to open up, to exchange conversation beyond, 'I'm going to the library'. I was intrigued by your English accent, your deep reserve, your shyness. Then you had that horrible nightmare and I didn't know what to do except to hold you like a baby, like I did with my younger sister. Emily, I didn't expect it to happen, it tore my self-image apart, then when my daughter turned out to be gay, I was afraid that she had inherited it from me. Where did I go wrong? Where did we go wrong?"
Emily uncrossed her arms, taking Rachel's elbow in her hand, steering her to the table. When they were seated, she answered, "My friend, you didn't go wrong, you did not cause her to become gay any more than a few kisses and a night sleeping together turned me gay. True, it surprised me, but I was so terrified by seeing the bricks landing on my father's body that I would have accepted comfort from any friend. I was so focused on school that it never occured to me at the time that it wasn't ordinary to not be attracted to any men. Are you trying to tell me that our one shared experience caused you to doubt yourself?"
Rachel cleared her throat, clasped and unclasped her hands, framing a response, an honest one. "Maybe," she admitted, "just maybe, it made me wonder if I was attracted to women, which is why I married Greg so quickly, I didn't want to be unnatural."
"Were you ever tempted by any other women? Has your marriage with Greg been a good one?"
"No, I never was tempted by women and yes, Greg and I have a good marriage."
Emily smiled, reaching out to pat Rachel's arm. "Dear Rachel, Morgan has told me that she has always felt different, always attracted to women. Put your mind at ease, you did nothing to turn your lovely daughter queer. Also, be grateful that she's the woman she is, very dedicated to her work, very cautious in relationships. Morgan is a very honorable woman, and I've grown to love her very much."
Rachel shifted uneasily in her chair, but had to ask, "So, after years of marriage, how did you know that you were gay?"
Emily sat back, saying, "I didn't stop long enough to think about whether I was straight or gay, I always assumed I was straight. As you know from our college years, I've always had a bad tendency to turn off my feelings, so I ignored any attractions to women. There were times that I found myself admiring the way a woman looked, but I've always been so busy in life that I would have not had time to act on those attractions. The irony is that my secretary was gay and my son's best friend is gay, so I couldn't claim that I didn't know about gays. I knew that Morgan was gay when I first met her at her studio, but it wasn't until I started working with her that I realized that I was attracted to her as more than a friend. I forced the issue by making sure we attended an AIDS fundraiser and made her dance with me, and finally recognized that I wanted to date her, not just be her friend."
"Couldn't you just ignore it? Find a man to date?" Rachel asked anxiously. "Quit working with Morgan, remove the temptation?"
"Why should I?" Emily countered, "Why not accept my feelings and go on from there? Morgan is a delightful woman, a real artist with the camera. Have you ever looked at any of her pictures, Rachel? Have you tried to understand your daughter, to reach out? As a mother, don't you want her to be happy?"
Rachel struggled to frame an answer, torn between wanting the best for her daughter and her long held belief that Morgan would go to hell for giving in to her feelings for other women. Finally, she asked, "Can't you two be friends without being lovers?"
"Let me ask you this, Rachel, why do you think that Morgan decided to come see you after all of these years of no contact?"
"I did wonder," Rachel admitted, "but I'd hoped that she had come around."
"No, she wanted you and Greg to see that she was happy. She wants your blessing, to share with her parents that she has fallen in love, wants you to understand that this time, it's different. Most of all, she just wants your love. Will you give her any of that, or will you tear her apart again by continuing to shun her?"
Rachel thought for a long time before finally saying, "I'm not sure I can every accept that she's gay, but I have missed her. I guess all I can do is ask you not to break her heart."
Emily smiled broadly, reaching for Rachel's hands, giving them a friendly squeeze. "I promise to love her with all of my heart. Believe me, I would never deliberately hurt Morgan, she's much too precious. Now, let's finish cleaning up this kitchen before our Greg and Morgan send out a search party for us."