The Apartment by Lena

The Apartment
by Lena

Disclaimers: There are none. This is an original work by myself alone. These characters belong to me and, though they may hold a physical resemblance to certain characters we know, they are created from my own life’s experiences and so has this story sprung from that well. Please do not plagiarize. This work comes straight from my heart and soul through a lot of sweat.

Warning: Contains references to a loving relationship between two adult women. If this type of relationship is illegal in your neck of the woods then……………..SCAT!

DEDICATION: I dedicate this work to my friends, Liz and Val, who’ve always believed in me and truly loved me unconditionally, and especially Vi. My deepest gratitude to Jerry and Mom, without whose help and support I shutter to imagine where I’d be now. I love you all.

This story takes place in a small country town about 85 miles north of New Orleans.
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Part 1

Second floor apt. avail., rent free, to responsible RN student for personal companion services. Must have good driving record and be available one day a week to drive me to my many and varied appointments. You must be able to do a little cooking and to help lift the heavy stuff. No smoking, drinking or partying. I would also like to speak to your parents so they are comfortable with the arrangement. I am a retired nurse and can help with your studies. I live less than five minutes from campus in a quiet area on several acres with a fishing pond. Lots of breathing space here. If you are qualified and interested, please contact me, Josie, at 555-1377 asap. HAVE A GREAT DAY.

“Good gravy, Beth, maybe this ad thing wasn’t such a good idea. All I’ve gotten is calls from 18 year old children who have never been away from their folks before and haven’t got a clue about real life. I don’t want some young impressionable girl living here. I am too old to change my manner of living, and speaking, to protect their virgin ears.

All I need is some irate parent causing trouble cause the town dyke lured their unsuspecting child into her lair.”

The petite brunette rolled her hazel eyes at her best friend of 25 years. “Jo, no one here knows you’re gay and you are not exactly the SPIDER WOMAN. Maybe you need to be more specific in your ad as far as age and maturity. It couldn’t hurt. Write a new ad and I’ll stop by the campus on my way home and replace the old one. Let’s just see what happens. You need help around this place, Josie. And, you can’t be driving 50 miles, alone, just to see your Chiropractor and go to the mall. I know you do fine around here, but you just can’t concentrate long enough for these trips you have to take into the city, not to mention the 85 miles you have to drive to see your Mom. This was a great idea and I still think it will work.” Beth walked up behind her friend and placed both her hands on her tight shoulders. “Now go get me a flash card and let’s get writing.

Upstairs apt. avail. free to mature, female, RN student for PERSONAL COMPANION services. Must have good driving record and be able to drive me one day a week to all my varied appointments and shopping, do some lite cooking and cleaning, and help lift the heavy stuff. No smoking, drinking or partying. I am a retired nurse and would be able to help you in your studies. Would prefer a more mature woman. You youngsters are a bit much for me. My home is on several acres with fishing pond. Lots of breathing space here and only five minutes from campus. If you fit these qualifications, call Josie at 555-1377. ASAP HAVE A GREAT DAY

***

“Hi, I’m Sandra Abbott. I’m here to be interviewed about the companion position for Josie.” The RN student stared uncertainly at the adorable blonde in the doorway. ‘Maybe she’s the daughter.’ Sandy thought to herself.

“Oh, yes. You’re the woman who called this morning. Come right in. Can I get you a cup of decaf? It’s hazelnut. I grind the beans myself. Just made a pot.” Josie gestured to the beauty to have a seat at the table while she slipped into the kitchen alcove to retrieve two cups of her aromatic blend.

“Thanks. Mmmmmm. That smells sinful.” Sandra gratefully took the cup and devoted a few seconds to breathing in the intoxicating aroma.

“I see you are a true coffee enthusiast too. I was reared in New Orleans and drank café au lait with breakfast as a toddler. Been hooked ever since. People here usually don’t appreciate a good cup of java. There are condiments on the table there. Just help yourself.” Josie rattled on as she grabbed the notebook containing all the pertinent questions she wanted to ask the applicants and the information she needed to give them.

“Beautiful home.” Sandra complimented, admiring the taste and warmth of the medium sized home. She noted how the 9 foot ceilings and polished cherry wood cabinets gave it a feel of the old city.

“Thanks, I designed it to fit my personal needs. I’m afraid I’d have a time reselling it because it only has two bedrooms and two baths, but the second floor is a separate apartment.” The petite blond offered eagerly. “Now lets get down to the interview. Shall we.”

Sitting down in her director’s chair at the head of the dining table, Josie made a concerted effort to be professional about this, but her immediate harmony with the other woman made that difficult. “Now, you read the add and all that will be expected of you, right.”

“Yes, I did. Do you want to go over that some more. And, I’d like to meet her. I think it is important that we can get along together. Your mom might not like me.” Sandra said in all sincerity.

“My Mom?” Josie was puzzled.

“Oh, I’m sorry. I just assumed it was your mother I’d be caring for.” Sandra was a little embarrassed.

“Oh boy…..uh….. No. You’d be a companion, kinda “girl Friday”, to me.” Josie stated hesitantly, looking into blue eyes full of confusion.

“I don’t understand. Why would you need a companion? Are you having surgery are something?” The raven haired beauty tried to figure out what the heck was going on.

“No….. Listen, Sandra, I am ill and have been for a very long time. Some days are much worse than others, then sometimes I’ll go into remission for weeks to a few months at a time. But, I literally don’t know what I’m gonna be able to do, activity-wise, from one day to the next. I need some freedom to plan my week like everyone else does and to do that I need dependable help. And, I do mean dependable.” Josie’s sea green eyes held no room for doubt about the gravity of the situation.

“I’m sorry. It must be very hard on you. May I ask what kind of illness it is?”

“Don’t worry. It’s not catching.” The fiery blond sat back in her chair her defensive wall slammed into place.

“I didn’t mean it like that. If you don’t want to tell me, that’s your prerogative. It might help me to better care for you if I knew what to look for.” Sandra tried to keep eye contact with her potential employer, but the intensity of her glare was too great.

“Well, I guess this didn’t go so well….. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you. I’ll just go now. I hope you find the right person. Thanks for the brew.” Sandra let out a sigh of defeat as she raised from her chair and walked to the front door.

“Wait.” The word was barely a whisper.

Sandra eagerly turned toward the still seated blond waiting as she’d been bade.

“Would you like to see the apartment?” Josie asked looking at the grain in the wood of her table.

“Yes….. Yes, I would like that very much.” Sandra felt her heart become lighter.

“Good. It’s this way.” Josie released an impish grin as she led her new employee to the garage stairs and up toward her new apartment.

***

“It’s not very big but you have a full bath and kitchenette. The rest is all open with two dormer windows with seating area. I love to sit in the window to read or just daydream so I made certain the contractor put that in. If you don’t have furniture, I could put a bed, desk and sofa in for you.”

“No, I have furniture in storage in New Orleans that I might could have one of the students help me bring over. All these country-types have pickup trucks. It seems to be a requirement.” Both women chuckled at that observation.

“So what do you think?” Josie asked hopefully, trying hard to hide the shortness of breath she was experiencing at the exertion of climbing the stairs.

“I think it’s perfect. Just what I need. If you’ll have me, I’d like the apartment and the job.”

“Then, it’s a deal.” Josie offered her hand and they sealed their agreement.

***

The next two weeks were spent moving Sandra Abbott into her new home, then getting her oriented to Josie’s routine. Sandy found it very easy to familiarize herself with where things were due to Josie’s nearly religious devotion to the motto “a place for everything and everything in its place”. Even with two little dogs running about, the house always seemed orderly. That was likely due to the fact that the larger member of her canine family was not allowed inside, except on the rear screened porch.

Her boss was up every morning before 0600 to walk the dogs and get her head cleared of the fog that dulled her mind and senses. The walks never lasted more than thirty minutes, then she soaked in her over sized tub and washed her short blond hair. Feeling rejuvenated, she was ready for coffee and breakfast, which took longer than most folks because of the large number of medications and vitamin pills she took every morning with her meal. It was her habit to read a good mystery novel during breakfast while she relaxed. This, Sandra was soon to learn, was her quiet time and she new to leave her alone. She’d call upstairs if she needed her.

Tuesdays were Sandra’s easy days at school. There were two early morning classes, but no clinicals, so it was decided that Tuesdays would be Josie’s errand day. Sandra’s time and boundless energy was her’s from 10am to 8pm for whatever Josie needed. A bulletin board was placed next to the staircase in the garage so they could communicate. Josie had an inexpensive intercom system put into the house so that Sandra didn’t have to have the added expense of a phone. She let her use the phone in the house whenever she needed.

Things were working out to both women’s satisfaction. The only sign of Josie’s failing health was in her exhaustion when they’d return home on Tuesday evenings. Sometimes she’d fall asleep in the car on the way home and Sandra would assist her to the house, Josie’s much smaller body leaning heavily against her arm. She’d deposit her boss on the bed, retrieve her evening meds and a large glass of milk, then tuck her in for a short nap.

Sandra enjoyed cooking for Josie on Tuesdays because she got to experiment with all kinds of delights in her state-of-the-art kitchen. Her boss had rather eclectic culinary tastes and, both being from New Orleans, were accustomed to the spicy flavors and lots of cayenne.

This particular night, she’d whipped up refried beans with low fat sour cream and jalapeno peppers on a whole wheat soft tortilla. The scent wafting from the kitchen awoke her charge and brought her tousled head shuffling into the living area in her bugs bunny slippers, and long sleep t-shirt with Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs dosing on the front. As she rubbed the sleep out of her eyes her companion thought she’d never seen anyone so adorable in all of her 33 years.

“Hey, did you bring your appetite with you? I’ve made some of your favorites.” Sandra couldn’t help the silly grin plastered on her face.

“What? What ARE you grinning at?” Josie inquired as her sleepy eyes focused on the sweetest little grin on that strikingly beautiful face.

“I can’t help it. You just look so damned cute. Like a six year old.” It was hard for the taller woman not to reach down and ruffle her boss’ hair. But she didn’t want to over step her bounds as an employee.

“Uh…huh. Will you stay and eat with me? It’s such a nice night, why don’t we eat out on the screened porch. I’ll put the ceiling fan on.” Josie asked hopefully as she pointed towards the back porch.

“Sounds good to me. Why don’t you go get comfy and I’ll bring this out to you.”

“No. I want to help. Let me pour the Barq’s and bring our drinks outside and you can bring the plates and napkins. Ok?” Josie said as she busied herself in the kitchen.

“Sounds good to me. Let’s eat.” Sandra gathered their plates and proceeded to follow her employer onto the porch where there was a small wicker table with four chairs for just such a meal.

The women ate in comfortable silence for a time until Josie asked, “Tell me about yourself. We spend all our time together with me drilling you on your studies in micro, anatomy, nursing diagnosis and interventions, but never do we talk about you. Where are you from originally, do you have any family, why is a beautiful woman like yourself alone, etc., etc., etc.”

Sandra took a deep breath. She had learned to care for this little spit fire and wanted for them to become closer friends but didn’t want to say or do anything to compromise her position. “Not much to tell. I’m originally from New Orleans, my parents are divorced, I’m close to my Mom and my little brother, but he got married to a girl he met while studying law at Loyola and moved to Wyoming so she could be close to her family. I don’t get to see him cause I just can’t afford to travel right now. But, hopefully, once I graduate and start making a descent salary I can go visit them a couple of times a year. I hope I’ll be an Aunt by then.” Sandra looked up into curious green eyes and smiled.

“Wouldn’t that be great. You like kids?” Josie inquired around chewing.

“Yeah, I get a big kick out of the little rug rats. It’s teenagers that I find a trial.” She chuckled.

“You and the rest of the sane adults in this world. That’s such a difficult time in everyone’s life and the one time you are least likely to accept advice from an experienced adult. Go figure.”

“Yeah. Go figure.” Josie watched as a pall of grief passed over her companion’s beautiful blue eyes for just a flicker of a candle’s flame then was squelched by a noncommital small smile.

“So, go on.” Josie urged. “Why is a beautiful woman like yourself alone?”

“I’m not alone. I’m here with you.” Sandra smirked.

“You know what I mean.” Josie rebuffed. ‘This woman and I seem to share the same personality traits. That should be interesting…..not.’

“Yeah, I know. How’s about a cup of decaf. I’ll get your lap rug and we’ll have a real talk. Ok.” Sandra proffered as she collected their plates to put in the dishwasher. She didn’t know how much about her past she wanted to share with her boss so she decided to just play it by ear. She wouldn’t lie to her, but she wasn’t gonna offer herself up for sacrifice either.

After cleaning the dishes and brewing some freshly ground coffee, Sandra rejoined Josie on the porch, then covered her up with a warm, soft chenille lap rug. “You warm enough? We could move this party inside, you know.” Sandy asked concern written on her face.

“No, I love it out here. I’m fine, really.” Josie pat her friends arm and noticed a feeling of warm pleasure. She liked it.

“So, you ask the questions and I’ll do my best to answer them, unless I don’t want to then I won’t. But for every two questions you ask me I get to ask you one. I figured I’d give you the upper hand you being the boss and all.” Sandy smirked.

“Fair enough. How old are you?”

“33 back in October.”

“Have you ever been married?”

“Yes” Ok, my turn. At the risk of being redundant.”

“I know….. I am 44 years old and divorced from a very kind moron….. My turn. Why’d you leave the big city to go to Nursing school in a small town?”

Sandy thought about this answer carefully before responding. “I wanted to get away from the dirt and the crime, not to mention the traffic and one way streets. Going to school here was much cheaper and it was much easier to get accepted. The RN programs in New Orleans are either very expensive or there’s a huge waiting list. So, it’s all working out and I think I made the right choice. Of course, I miss the food and the culture. You don’t seem to have any culture here and not a decent creole restaurant for 50 miles.” The tall beauty pouted.

“Oh yeah, I miss the food, the French Quarter, the museum and the zoo. Oh, and the beautiful architecture of the homes with their graceful Great Oaks.” The little blond sighed. “But, there are always sacrifices for the things we want.” Josie said with quiet conviction.

“Yes. That’s true. Now, what made you leave the Big Easy for small town USA?” Sandra sat back with her coffee cup in both hands enjoying the aroma.

“That is a very long story best reserved for a more decent hour. I’m afraid it’s passed my bedtime.”

“Oh, I’ve kept you up too late. I’m so sorry. You must communicate with me. Tell me when you’re tired. Tell me what you need.” Sandra looked sincerely into the gentle green eyes. She felt her gaze captured then released.

Josie saw the concern in her companion’s strikingly blue eyes and something else, something that drew her to the young woman. She shook her head to clear her thoughts. “I’m fine. Just tired. Tuesdays are a big day for me now and I do very much enjoy them, thanks to you. The women stood in close proximity of each other feeling slightly awkward like they should hug or something. Josie, being the more physically demonstrative of the two made the first move. Reaching her arms up to the much taller brunette she instructed, “Come give me a hug.” Sandra was a little off balanced by her boss’s affection but slid her long, graceful arms around the tiny woman’s waist as she leaned down so Josie could hug her neck. “I’m glad you’re here. Now go home. I’ll talk to you tomorrow if I need anything.” The smaller woman pulled away and began to turn toward her bedroom.

“I’ll…uh…just lock up before I leave, Ok.”

“Ok. Goodnight Sandy.”

“Goodnight Josie.”

***

The following week was pretty routine. There were no notes from Josie requesting Sandra’s assistance and the only time the nursing student saw her boss was through her window each morning as she made sure she left for her walk and returned safely.

Returning from her clinicals on Friday there was a note on the bulletin board letting Sandra know that her boss was going to be volunteering her time, along with some other nurses and doctors, offering free vaccinations for the lower elementary school children. She’d been offered a ride by one of her friends and didn’t know what time she’d return, but not to worry because she was in good hands.

‘It’s fucking 10p.m. No school inoculation program goes on this late. Where is she? She should have left me the number of her “friend” who was driving her.’ Sandra mumbled to herself and she paced from window to window.

‘Now don’t panic, Abbott. What kind of trouble could she get into in this podunk town?….. A woman who looks like her….., plenty. Shit! I’m gonna find her.’ Sandra grabbed her keys and headed out to the car determined to search the whole damned town if she had to, starting at the lower elementary school.

No one was at the school. In fact, no one was anywhere. The whole damned town was locked up and everyone had gone home. The eerily empty town just served to frighten Sandra more. ‘Maybe I should just go home and sit by her phone in case she calls.’ The worried beauty turned her car around and headed back to the house.

‘I’ll pass once through the park just in case.’ Sandra thought just to soothe her mind that her friend hadn’t been dragged off by some rapist into the many shadows of the small park and playground.

‘What was that?’ Sandra asked herself as her eye caught the glint of moon light off metal. She backed her car up to get a better look and could make out the outline of a vehicle tucked into the shrubbery. Obviously, somebody didn’t want to be seen.

‘Let me check this out.’ Sandra said to herself as she left the protection of the vehicle and crept over to the rear of the concealed car. Her eyes had not yet adjusted well enough to the darkness to tell definite shapes but the golden hair of her missing boss’ head was unmistakable. A white hot rage gripped the companion inspiring her to take action and she ran to the door nearest her friend and ripped it open with great force reaching in and grabbing the dumfounded woman and quite nearly dragging her to safety.

“Hey!!! Hey!!! Hey…..what are you doing? Let me go!” The terrified woman screamed at her assailant.

“Stop fighting me. I’m trying to save you from being raped, here.”

Sandra was totally nonplused by her boss’ reaction to her heroism.

Josie managed to squirm her little body away from her companion’s grasp. “I don’t need saving. Damn it all! I wasn’t being raped. Now, let me go, Sandra.” Josie had composed her voice to a hard command and Sandra let her go as an imposing looking redhead slid out of the back seat of the car tucking her Wynonna t-shirt into her jeans.

“You Ok, cher?” The redhead looked at the little blond who had just recently been making intense love to her. “Who is this crazy woman? You didn’t tell me you had a girlfriend now. You need to tell me these things so I don’t get shot.” She grinned.

Sandra just stood there trying to figure out what the hell was going on and who this woman was and what they were doing in the back seat of a car and ‘OH SHIT!!!!!!!!!!!’ “Oh shit, shit, shit….., I’m….., oh god….., so sorry. I thought, when you didn’t come home, that something had happened to you and….. Oh shit! It never occurred to me that you were…..” Sandra pointed back and forth between the two women. “Oh Shit!” The very embarrassed companion paced in a circle, running her trembling hands through her long black hair. “I’m really sorry. Oh shit!”

“You’ve said that. Let’s all calm down. Kathy meet Sandra. She works for me, at least she did up until a few minutes ago. We may have scared her away with our antics. Kathy is a very old friend, a nurse I worked with for years who called to tell me about the drive and we kinda took advantage of the moment.” Josie smirked

“You do have a house you know with a nice soft bed. You didn’t have to park out here in the dark where lord knows what could happen.” Sandra felt her anger rising again.

“Like getting attacked by a crazed nursing student?” Josie giggled. “Come on let’s go home. Kathy, sweetheart, sorry for the interruption. Call me. Maybe you’ll give me a rain check?”

“Anytime, ma cher. I think you and Xena here have a lot to talk about.” With that she leaned down to kiss Josie’s cheek and waved goodbye to the still stunned companion.

Josie looked up into vacant eyes and said, “Come on, I’LL drive YOU home.” Sandra just nodded and followed her boss to the car.

Josie pulled into the garage and stopped the engine. “You want some brew and we can talk about this?” She lifted worried green eyes to study the stiffened features of her friend.

“No…..” Sandra sighed then looked down at her hands surprised to find them wringing the tail of her shirt into a wrinkled mess. “I have to think. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”

“Does that mean you’ll be moving out?” Josie was very concerned she’d loose her companion and friend.

“No, no I’m not going anywhere….., unless you want me to leave.” Sandra held her breath fearing the worst.

“No….. Stay. I want very much for you to stay.” Josie softly responded.

“Good. Tomorrow then.” Sandra practically dove out of the car and ran up the stairs to her apartment, locking the door behind her.

***

Saturday morning Sandra kept watch as she always did to make certain her boss safely returned from walking the dogs. She’d not known Josie to skip her morning walk, shorten it now and then, but never not walk her little buddies. They were like her children and she took excellent care of them. There was the big mongrel, Rover, who had just shown up one day after apparently being dumped and decided to stay and then there were the babies, two little sickly long-haired chihuahuas that she adopted from the vets because she felt her nursing skills could improve their quality of life. One had a heart condition and the other was born with a deformed rear leg. She named them Scooby and Doo after her favorite cartoon character, who just so happened to be a Great Dane. Scooby was totally devoted to her mistress as her mistress was to her.

‘I’d better go check on her.’ The companion decided not to just sit and worry when her boss could be in trouble.

She knocked for the 4th time with no response before using her key to unlock the kitchen door. Calling out her boss’ name softly, so as not to frighten her, she walked in. Getting no response to her calls, Sandra quickly ran to her friend’s bedroom, then through to the bath. Not finding her there, she turned back around into the living area. There she found the little blond sitting askew on the sofa next to the fireplace. The logs had burned down hours before. Her skin looked pale and waxy with a sweaty sheen covering her but her chest rose and fell rhythmically. Sandra released an audible sigh of relief.

“Josie…..?” Sandra came to sit next to her boss on the sofa and reached out to touch her forehead. It was burning up. “Come on now, boss, it’s time to wake up.” There was no response. Sandra became alarmed and took a small hot hand into her own, patting it and calling to her more assertively. “Josie, can you hear me. It’s Sandy, honey. Please wake up. You’re scaring me.” The tiny woman stirred, eyelids fluttered to show blood shot green eyes that wouldn’t quite focus.

“Sandy?” She slurred. Her tongue felt thick as the fog filling her mind.

“Yeah. It’s me.”

“Sandy? What’s the matter? What time is it?” Josie tried to orient herself, but it was difficult to concentrate. She recognized the symptoms and new she was no longer in remission. She was sick, yet again, and would need her companion’s assistance to function until she was able to arrest the symptoms one more time. She groaned with the knowledge of what lay in front of her. Then groaned again when she remembered the night before and what Sandy had seen and the talk she knew they had to have. “I’m sick, Sandy.”

“I know, honey. Tell me what you need and I’ll do it. Ok? Can you do that for me?” The sympathetic woman gently brushed the blond’s bangs off of her wet forehead to comfort her.

“I need my morning meds and the prednisone that’s in the medicine cabinet and bring me the tin that’s in there too. I need a big glass of milk and some tin roof Sunday ice cream.” She concluded her list with just a trace of a grin on her pale face.

“Ice cream?” Sandy looked at her friend in amusement.

“For medicinal purposes only. It’ll help bring my temperature down faster….. Well, it will.” Josie giggled, swallowed and made a face. “Gods, my throat hurts. Shit.”

Sandra retrieved all the items requested as well as some tylenol and chloraseptic losenges she found in the cabinet. “Here, let me help you sit up and get comfortable. Now, take these.” The companion handed her boss a few pills at a time and her milk. It took a while since there were about twenty regular morning vitamins and meds. “Now how much prednisone do you need to take?”

“Give me 10 mg for now. And, would you draw up 1000 mcg of the B12 that’s in that tin, please?” The companion did as requested and injected the B12 into her boss’ deltoid muscle. She didn’t even flinch.

“You’ve had to do this often haven’t you.”

“Oh yeah. Too often.”

“Why did this happen? What caused it?”

“I’ve been feeling really good so I’ve been doing more. Yesterday I went way over my limit in activity tolerance. I was on my feet for most of 12 hours, then I had sex, several times, which requires an amazing amount of energy and taps the bodily fluids. Then, getting upset does a real number on me. Add in the pretty good bet that I came in contact with a child who has a cold or pink eye and my immune system went bat shit and attacked.” Josie stopped to catch her breath and closed her eyes to rest. Sandra went into the kitchen to fetch the ice cream as requested.

“Here ya go. Sugar free, huh? Any good?” Sandra noticed how badly the little blond’s hands were shaking while trying to scoop some of the treat from the bowl. “Here, let me do that.” The companion fed small bites of the frozen treat into her employer’s mouth. Causing a small grin to crease her lips.

“Mmmmm.” Josie purred.

“So, if you have an immune system to attack, then you don’t have AIDS.” Sandy said.

“AIDS? No I don’t have AIDS. I have a form of CFS, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, alias Chronic Epstein Barr. It’s like having Mononucleosis one too many times and it decides to live in. Though I’ve had it for at least ten years now, it didn’t get debilitating till about a year ago when I had to have some surgery. It became acute and caused me to quit working so I wouldn’t permanently damage my liver and kidneys. Not everyone gets such an acute case. I’m one of the unlucky few. It’s probably because I have diabetes too and it adds just so much more stress on my little body. Now that it is active again, my blood sugar is probably going banana’s. I’ll need you to check that for me now. My case is in that tin, also.” Josie pointed to the small leather container inside the antique tin.

“I’ve done that for several patients already so I do know how.” Sandy said as she opened the kit and set up her cotton, alcohol swipe, stick gun, test strips and accu-check machine. “Ok, I’m ready when you are.” The nursing student took the finger offered her and proceeded to check the blood sugar.

“Josie, it’s 350mg/dl. That’s really high. Should I get you to a hospital?” Sandra looked at her patient with concern.

“No. It will be Ok. Give me 12 units of regular insulin. That along with my glucophage will keep me under control for now. I’ll start taking 70/30 tonight. That covers me really well during these episodes. I’ll have to check it three times a day to make certain I don’t peak. I’ll need you today and tomorrow to be close by. After that I should be able to monitor myself. Right now my head’s too damned fuzzy to make sure I’m not giving myself the wrong dosages.”

“But you are SURE you need 12 units, right?” Sandra asked reticent to trust her friends judgement under the circumstances.

“Yeah, I’m sure. What I meant was I can’t focus my eyes well enough to gauge the dosage in the syringe.” Josie pat her friends hand and smiled reassuringly.

Sandra gave her boss her insulin injection, then assisted her to the bathroom to brush her teeth. After helping Josie peel off the sweat soaked clothes and wash up a bit, the companion tucked her into bed in a fresh pair of PJ’s. “You get some sleep. I’ll walk the dogs and feed them. Ok?” She asked as she walked around the room, shutting off lights and closing the blinds so her boss could get some much needed rest.

“Ok. Thank you Sandy. We’ll talk later, deal?”

“Deal.”

Josie tried to keep her eyes open, but to know avail. Before Sandra could close her bedroom door she was soundly asleep.

***

“Come along, children, your “Auntie Sandy” is taking you out this morning. You’d better put your Rebock’s on, cause I’m not your mom. I run.” Sandra jogged out of the door and onto the walking track that Josie had created with her riding mower and a grating attachment. It wended through over twenty acres of land that she chose to share with her little canine family and one tall, beautiful nursing student.

***

Sandra had taken over the dining room table with all her books and notes for class so she could keep an eye on her patient and still get her school work done.

It had been three hours since Sandra had put her boss to bed and she was beginning to worry about her. As quietly as she could she opened up the bedroom door and peered in to find her charge still asleep with no visible signs of distress. ‘She looks so small and helpless lying there. I’ve never wanted to protect someone so much in my life. What’s going on with me?’

Sandra sat in the bedroom chair and was instantly joined by two equally distraught little fur balls, both perched on her knees staring over at their sleeping mistress. ‘She’s gonna be Ok , fellas. I promise. I’m gonna take good care of her.’ That’s when the decision was made to move her things into the guest room/exercise room and purchase a noise device so that Josie could get her attention when she needed her.

***

Sandra was busy cooking in the kitchen and reciting the names of all the bones of the human body, all 206 of them, when she was joined by her freshly scrubbed, clear eyed boss. “Hiya, I’m starving. What ya cooking there?”

“Oh, Jesus…! I didn’t hear you walk up. How are you feeling? You look so much better. It’s amazing.” Sandra just kept letting her eyes rake over her patient’s body in awe of her seeming recovery.

“It’s the prednisone mostly and the B12, along with the myriad of other vitamins I take. The prednisone stops the inflammatory process and gives me a false sense of well being and energy. It makes me feel human again. I only take it during bad flare ups. I was able to take a bath and dress myself which I find very valuable in life. How’s your studying going?” Josie asked as she plucked an artichoke heart from the salad Sandra was mixing.

“Great, I find I study really well at your table. I have no problem concentrating here at all.” The tall beauty smiled.

“Good. I’m glad. When’s dinner gonna be ready. I’m starved. Did I eat today? I can’t remember.” Josie looked slightly confused as she took a seat at the table.

“How much do you remember exactly?” Sandra went around the kitchen preparing a plate for her boss and herself to eat as she listened intently to her explanation.

“I remember you fed me ice cream.” A contented smile creased her lips. “That was really sweet of you by the way. I remember you giving me my meds. My sugar was high and you gave me insulin. You washed me up and you helped me to bed. Thank you by the way for helping me get cleaned up. I am sure that was hard for you.” Josie said as she stared at the grain in her table unable to make eye contact discussing something so personal.

“Not a problem. I’ve cleaned more than my share of bare behinds this past clinical. I don’t get embarrassed anymore. I’ve never found flabby butts enticing.” Sandra tried to lighten the mood with a little levity.

“So, then, mine was an improvement?” Josie gave her friend a lascivious grin.

The tall nursing student looked up and winked in retort.

“Do you remember how high your blood sugar was?” Sandra asked.

“No. I remember you took it, but none of the details. Short term memory loss is a problem with this disease and so is concentration.” Josie stated matter-of-factly.

“You probably haven’t eaten anything since supper yesterday, so let’s eat.” Sandra set their plates down and poured them both some Barq’s.

***

“I want to talk to you about what happened last night and, please don’t interrupt. I have limited stores of energy so I can only talk for so long before I peter out. Ok?” Josie stated as she arranged her food on the fork.

“Ok. But can’t it wait till after you’ve eaten?” Her friend implored.

“No. I want to do it now and get it over with. Now don’t argue with me.” The older woman accentuated her point with her fork.

“Ok.”

“I am a lesbian. In case you hadn’t figured that one out yet. I was married, but for all the wrong reasons. He was in love with me but I didn’t reciprocate. We had been friends for many years. He knew my history with women, but we were both willing to believe that I could change because I was so fond of him and I wanted children so desperately. It didn’t work out. It’s like being a heroin addict and just smoking pot. It will eventually bring you back to heroin because that’s your drug of choice. When I started having sexual relations with my husband it left me feeling unfulfilled and brought me back to my first love…..women. We had as amicable a divorce as possible. But, it was still damned painful.” Josie studied her companion’s face looking for any signs of shock or disgust. Finding none, she continued.

“The woman you saw me with, Kathy, is a very old friend and occasional sexual partner. She is a very desirable woman. We thought we might fall in love once, but found we made far better friends than lovers. She knows about my health problems and hasn’t let it negatively effect our relationship. We have a little roll in the hay once every few months when one of us gets a bit too randy or needy. There is no one else. Most women lose interest in someone who is sick all the time. They don’t want to be a care taker or they resent the fact that I don’t have to work to get the bills paid. Thank God I have enough income from my investments to pay the bills, at least, most of the time. I couldn’t afford, however, to pay a companion, hence the apartment idea and an RN student. That would be you.”

“I hope this won’t effect our working relationship or our friendship. I also hope you will respect my privacy and keep my private life to yourself. I have to be very discreet living in a small town. I’d like to feel that I can trust you.” The older woman looked tentatively at her employee and friend.

“You can depend on my discretion, Josie. What goes on in this house and in our lives goes no further. I’ve had a lot of experience keeping secrets. Believe me I have no problem with that, nor do I have a problem with your sexuality.”

Sandra took a deep breath and looked at her friend for encouragement before continuing. “I have often wondered, myself, what it would be like to be with another woman. I have noticed in recent years that all my true friends have been women and I’d much rather spend my time with them than with any man I know. Maybe that’s why my marriage failed. I just lost interest in him, especially sexually, to the point of being repulsed. That made me feel just awful. Then he began looking elsewhere for his satisfaction. Everyone felt badly for me because my husband was screwing around on me. But, it was my fault. I didn’t want him anymore. In fact, I hadn’t wanted him for a very long time. Ever since I got sober. I realized that I had to be drunk to make love to my own husband. I haven’t made love at all since I divorced Jack Daniels along with Frank Abbott.” Sandra took a shaky breath to settle her nerves. She hadn’t spoken this openly about herself to anyone, ever. It felt really good, but scary.

“I’m so sorry, Sandy. How long have you been sober?” Josie reached over to touch her friend’s forearm.

The companion searched her employer’s eyes but found only compassion and understanding in them. “It’s been over three years now.”

“That’s wonderful. You should feel very proud. It’s quite an accomplishment. I’m so glad you told me. Thank you for trusting me and thank you for accepting me the way I really am. Now, why don’t you go on home and get some rest. I’m just going to read until I fall asleep. If I need you I’ll call you on the intercom.” Josie began to get up from the table but was gently pushed back into her chair.

“Actually, boss, I moved myself into the guest room while you were sleeping. I’d feel much better if I was in close physical proximity of you for the next few days or until I am sure you are safe. If you need me I bought you a bicycle horn for you to summon me with.” Sandy took the horn from the kitchen counter and handed it to her patient. “It’s easy to use. Just squeeze the bulb and it makes quite a racket. See.” Sandy squeezed the bulb and a loud “Ah…ooooo…gah” came out.

“Oh, my. Let’s hope I don’t need to use this too often. That’s downright obnoxious.” Both women giggled. “I am glad you’ll be so close by for the time being, but please don’t let it interfere with your school work. I haven’t been putting you through all those drills for nothing you know. I feel like this is our degree and I intend to complete it. Deal?” She smiled.

“Deal. Now let me clean up and I’ll get you your meds. I’ll check your blood sugar just before supper.” Sandra got busy in the kitchen as Josie curled up on the sofa with Scooby and Doo.

“You know, fellas. I am one lucky lady to have found that guardian angel in there. I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

part 2

Josie spent her Sunday resting, reading and admiring her companion who was studying at the dining room table. ‘I don’t believe she has a clue how beautiful she is.’ She studied her face as if to memorize every curve and nuance of form, from her slightly Roman nose to her high cheek bones and strong jaw to full soft lips and elegant neck. As her eyes traveled down she noticed the gentle swell of her breasts under the t-shirt she was wearing. ‘Mmmmmm. No bra today. How nice.’ The sassy little blond couldn’t disguise the lascivious grin that curled the ends of her lips.

Sandra could feel the warmth of her friend’s admiring perusal. She was surprised that it didn’t bother her to have another woman looking at her that way. She knew if she looked up, it would stop. So she pretended not to notice and just enjoyed the moment.

Josie had drifted off into a peaceful slumber that was abruptly disturbed by a sudden growled profanity and the sound of air being forced through pursed lips.

“What’s the matter, kiddo? Run into a snag?” The petite blond adjusted herself on the sofa to face the student.

“I just get so damned frustrated with this. I have clinicals tomorrow and have to present three nursing diagnoses on this patient with five interventions for each one and I just can’t think.”

“Sandy, you’ve been at this too long. You need a break to organize all that information you’ve been absorbing so you can make sense of it. Why don’t we go for a walk, then I’ll sit down with you and read your patient’s history. I’m sure I can help you with this. Ok? Anyway, the dogs and I could use the fresh air.” Josie struggled to her feet and took a deep breath. It was amazing how much better she felt sitting still. Standing up she felt like weights were hanging from her limbs. But, she wouldn’t give into the lethargy. Once she got moving around a bit she was sure she’d feel better.

“Sounds like a plan.” Sandra jumped up from the table, grabbed her boss’ hand and practically ran out of the front door with Scooby and Doo pulling up the rear.

The little blonde laughed. “I guess you were ready for a break.”

The two women enjoyed a leisurely stroll, deeply breathing in the scent of sweet olive and confederate jasmine that Josie had liberally planted throughout her acreage. “It smells like the Garden District at home.”

“Does it make you home sick?”

“Oh, I guess it does, just a little. Especially with all the beautiful camellias and wisteria everywhere. You’ve managed to include so much of what I love about home here.” Sandra looked down upon her friend with affection. “It’s very special.”

“Thank you. That was my goal. I’m glad I succeeded. And I’m very glad you feel at home here.” Josie smiled warmly at her friend.

“I do.” The companion noticed her boss developing some shortness of breath and weakness.

“You alright?” Sandra stopped walking and placed her hand under the smaller woman’s elbow to offer support.

“Yeah. I’m just a little out of breath. Let’s sit here for a while.” Josie indicated one of several concrete benches strategically located along the trail for to sit and enjoy her garden.

“I want you to call your Doctor in the morning. Ok? He needs to know how you’ve been feeling these last couple of days.”

“Ok.” Josie agreed as she released a deep cough. She looked up at her friend with a sheepish grin. “Allergies.”

“Right. Let’s go inside. I want to check your temp. and blood glucose level before we eat. Then, you promised to help me with my clinical.”

“And, I always keep my promises.” Josie allowed herself to be helped to her feet, then wrapped her arm around her companion’s to steady herself on her way back up the trail to their home.

“Ok, lady, you have a temp of 101 and a blood sugar of 250 mg/dl. I’m writing that down with the others we’ve taken since you got sick. I want you to tell all this to Dr. Akras tomorrow.”

“Yes mam, now give me my medicine, so we can get started on your school work. You have a big clinical day tomorrow and I don’t want you up late studying.”

“Yes, mother.”

“Kids.” Josie rolled her sea green eyes in mock irritation. Enjoying the easy banter the friends had fallen into. ‘She makes this place really feel like a home.’

***

“Hey there. How are you feeling today?” Sandy asked as she unpacked her study materials onto the dining room table. “What’s all this?” The companion asked indicating the rather large box taking up too much of what she now considered her space.

“It’s a printer. I saw it advertized in this morning’s paper. My friend, Annie had to go to Super Walmart today, so she took me with her. I saved a bundle on it. Can you help me get it unpacked and hooked up to my laptop? I can’t wait to try it.” Josie was like a child with a new toy and it delighted her friend.

“You didn’t over do it today, did you? And, did you call Dr. Akras?”

“No. I didn’t over do it. And, yes, I called the doctor and he said to rest, monitor my temp. and blood sugar, and call him if there is any significant change. He said to continue all my vities and my B12 shots and my 70/30 insulin until I go back into remission. So we’re doing everything right. Now, help me open my box…..uh…..No pun intended.” Josie raised her eyebrow and giggled.

“We’re really feeling our oats today, aren’t we.” Sandra smirked as she retrieved a knife from the kitchen and proceeded to help her friend unwrap her new toy.

“Seriously, I feel much better today. I think you can stop worrying for a while. Ok?” Josie reached out and touched her companion’s arm.

“Ok….. Well, there you go. You play with your printer and I’m gonna shower and hit the books.”

“Don’t hit them too hard. You might hurt yourself.” Josie laughed at her own joke as she dove into her project.

“Oh, brother. That one was really bad.”

Sandra was in the shower when the strong coughing fit shook her friends chest. “Ow. God that smarts.” Josie went to the medicine cabinet to find some old cough medicine she was sure she’d have left over from last year and took a tablespoon of the sickeningly sweet liquid. ‘It must be aversion therapy. You stop coughing in self defense.’

“How we doin? Got yourself all hooked up?” Sandra asked as she walked back into the living area, drying her long dark hair with a bath towel.

“It works great. Just what I need for my new career.” Josie looked up with a gleeful smile on her lovely face.

“New career? What career is that?”

Josie handed over a flash card. “This career. I want you to post this to your bulletin board at school for me.”

“Let me type and organize your research papers for you. I will correct spelling and grammatical errors. The end product will look professional and polished. I charge per page, not per error corrected.
Call me, Josie, at 555-1377 Have a great day.”

“That’s a great idea. The other students are always complaining about their term papers. Well, actually, the teachers do a fair amount of complaining about their illiteracy as evidenced by their term papers.” Sandra chuckled. “So, that’s why you needed a new printer.”

“Yep. And look at this quality.” Josie handed her companion a sheet she’d just printed of a letter she was sending her Mom. “Isn’t that polished looking to you?”

“That’s really nice. You’re going to have the students come to you, aren’t you. I don’t want you having to run hither, thither, and yon to collect your work. That would kinda defeat the purpose of working out of your home.” Sandra stated with concern.

“Well, I hadn’t thought about it. But, I guess you’re right, especially the shape I’m in right now. I don’t need to be spending energy unnecessarily. I’ll make it clear that they have to come to me or maybe they can leave their stuff with you at school….. No. Scratch that. You have way too much on your plate right now to be step and fetchin for me at school. The students will just have to get here the best way they can.”

“Ok.” Sandra was relieved and it showed on her face. She really wanted to help her friend in any way she could. But didn’t think she could take any more stress. She’d been so worried about her boss that she found her mind preoccupied with her instead of her patients. It had caused her clinical instructors to jump her case more than once for her lack of focus.

Josie read Sandra’s expression and stood up to place an arm around her tall friend’s broad back, rubbing gently. “Listen, my friend, I remember a very smart young woman giving some sage advice. You need to communicate with me your needs and wants. If you are over stressed and need a break, I want to know. You are no help to me if you get sick or if you become unhappy and quit me. Deal?”

Sandra looked down into gentle green eyes, filled with love and concern and tried to fill her smile with all the affection that was in her heart. “Deal….. Thanks.”

***

“Morning Glory, what’s that fabulous aroma?” Josie bounced into the kitchen, feeling better than she had in a week.

“My special New Orleans style french toast and sausage. It’s my Mom’s recipe. I just felt like spoiling us this morning.” Sandra couldn’t hide the strain on her beautiful features. She was homesick, stressed out and exhausted from her constant studying and worrying about her friend.

Josie noticed the subtle changes, but chose not to confront her over stressed companion.

“That was a “mouth fornication”, dear girl. My compliments to the chef.” Josie wiped her mouth with her linen napkin and began clearing the table. “For your reward, I’m going to do the dishes and you can go soak a few minutes longer in the tub. Be decadent.” The little blonde gave her a wink and a knowing grin. “I’ll see you tonight. Hope it’s a good day for you.”

“Thanks. Later.”

***

Josie was relaxing at the dining table, playing with her new printer when she heard her companion let herself in. “Hey slim. How was your day?”

“Ok, I guess.” Sandra put her books down and sighed.

“That doesn’t sound too good. What’s not going well for you. I want to know. Maybe I can help.” Josie didn’t approach the forlorn woman but gave her the space she needed to gather her thoughts.

“I feel like I’m on a tiny ship out at sea, tossing across the waves with no anchor to hold me where I need to be nor sail to catch the wind to move me in the right direction. My Mom’s always been my anchor. I’ve never really had anything to give me direction before….., well before you came into my life. The other students have so much more education than I do that I always feel like I’m playing catch up. I don’t even understand some of the words they use. I sit in class with my dictionary on my lap so I can quickly look up normal words that the instructors spout out. I’m just so tired of always being two steps behind. You know?” Tears began to form in the companions sad blue eyes.

“Sandy, when’s the last time that you visited your family?” Josie maneuvered her friend over to the sofa and sat her down.

“Not for the last three months, I guess. I write my mom and my little brother when I have the time. Mom’s not too good at writing, so she sends cards.” Sandra smiled at the thought of the lovely cards she’d been receiving twice a week since she’d moved away. “I miss talking to her, you know. It’s just not the same without hearing her voice or seeing that smile. Mom’s got the gentlest smile. You’d like her.” Her eyes filled with unshed tears and a painful lump formed in her throat.

“I know I would. I hope to meet her some day soon. Do us a favor, would you. Take the portable phone out on the porch and call your mom.”

“Josie, I can’t do that. It’s long distance. It’ll cost a mint.” Sandra swiped at a tear that had escaped.

“Consider it a bonus for taking such good care of me and my insurance that you won’t jump ship and swim for home. But, hold it down to twenty minutes, please mam. And, tonight….. dinner’s on me.” The compassionate little blond wiped away another tear that had escaped the blue eyes she was growing very fond of. “Tell your mom I said “Hey”. Now go. I have things to do.” All Sandra could do was nod her thanks.

***

Sandra’s tears had been replaced by a joyful smile. She returned to the living area to find Josie was gone. Just then she heard a car drive up and went to investigate.

“Hey slim. I got us pizza and a movie. No stress tonight. I got us Sister Act 1. Is that Ok? I also got us a veggie pizza and garlic bread sticks.” Josie was beaming with pride at her idea to relax her friend.

“I love that movie. That was so sweet of you.”

“I’m a sweet kinda gal. Come on. You get the plates and lots of napkins and I’ll pour the Barq’s.”

The friends laughed and sang along with all the old Motown hits until they were both pleasantly and serenely exhausted.

“Hey, I didn’t know you could sing. You sounded great in there, hanging with Ms. Woopie. What else can you do?” Josie asked amusedly.

“I have many skills.” Sandra responded with a raised eye brow, doing her best Xena impression.

“Oh, please. On that note, let’s clean this mess up and turn in. Don’t forget to brush your teeth. You ate enough garlic tonight to waste a vampire.”

“Me!?! Why you little wop. I oughta pound ya.” Sandra made a fist and waved it threateningly at Josie.

“Yeow!” Josie squealed and ran through the house, over furniture and around tables giggling as she dodged her attacker. Sandra had just tackled her on the sofa when the phone rang, interrupting their fun.

Josie grabbed the phone panting, trying to catch her breath and compose herself. “Uh….. whew…..Hello?”

“Bon soir, ma cher. Comment sa va? You sound all out of breath.” Kathy’s familiar voice said.

“Hey Kathy. Yeah, I am. Sandy and I were just playing.”

“Playing? You and “Sandy” were playing what?” The red head sounded bemused.

“Nothing. We were just kidding around. What can I do you for, my friend?” Josie plopped down on the sofa and rested her feet upon the coffee table and watched Sandy do the same with a smirk. She stuck out her tongue and squinched up her face at her companion and got smacked in the belly by a throw pillow for her trouble.

“Uumph.”

“What was that?” Kathy asked.

“That was me getting throttled by a throw pillow, an obviously dangerous weapon in the hands of Ma Barker over here.” Josie couldn’t help dissolving into giggles as her friend and some time lover began to wonder if she was horning in on something.

“So to what do I owe the honor of this call, oh sexy one?” Josie signaled her friend to stop her antics so she could pay attention to Kathy.

“Well, there is a conference in Hattiesburg on Friday and I thought, if you were feeling up to it, we could get together and maybe finish what we started last week. But, if you and “Sandy” are together now…..well, I wouldn’t want to do anything to upset the apple cart.”

“No, Sandy and me? We’ve become good friends and were just goofing off to release some of the stress she’s been under with school. Actually tomorrow night would be great if you’ll stay through Saturday and maybe Sunday morning. What do you say, Casanova. That will give Sandra the chance to go visit her Mom and not have to worry about me. I’ll be in your, Uh…hum, very capable hands.”

“Well, that’s the best offer I’ve had in a coon’s age. Only one thing could sweeten the deal.”

“Yeah….., you can bring your fishing pole. But I’m not touching any more slimy worms. Yuck! And, you’re not touching me until you scrub that muck off of you. Of course we could always soak you clean out in the hot tub. It’s warm enough to use it now. Would you mind preparing it for us while you’re here?”

“Ah…ha! An ulterior motive. You just want me for my strength and stamina. I think I’m hurt.” Kathy couldn’t suppress her chuckle.

“Oh I definitely am counting on your strength and stamina.” Josie purred into the phone.

“I’ll call you from the conference tomorrow, then. Rest up. I intend to wear you out.”

“I will. Looking forward to it. Good night.”

“A’ bientot, ma cher.”

***

Sandra had left the room and was packing up her things to move back to her apartment. Josie seemed to be doing much better and she wasn’t needed. She’d call her Mom in the morning to tell her she was coming for a visit. She knew she should be excited about going home, but she just felt strangely disappointed. ‘Geesum petes! What is wrong with you Sandra? You have two whole days to spend with your Mom, all the creole cooking you can eat, and no clinicals to prepare for and no one to worry about. Sounds like heaven. Then, why do I feel like I’m being punished? Why does moving back to my apartment feel like I’m being sent to my room for misbehaving?’ Sandra sat in the guest room and tried to figure out what she was feeling and why. But, all she managed to do was irritate herself. ‘Girl, just go to bed and give it a rest. You’re giving me a headache.’ Sandra scolded herself and proceeded to pack.

***

Josie hadn’t noticed what her companion was doing while she was enjoying a flirtation with her favorite Cajun and wondered where she’d gotten off to.

“Sandy.” Josie called out. “Where y’at dawlin?” Sometimes making fun of the New Orlean’s “Y’at” accent was just too tempting. How that Bronx sound ever made it to the deep south was beyond her.

“In here, boss lady.” Sandra responded. “And I don’t talk like a yat.”

Josie came bouncing into the guest room. “What are you doing?” Josie looked around taking in the fact that her companion was packing her things.

“I’m just moving back to my apartment. You’re doing great. You don’t need me to be down here anymore.” Sandra avoided looking into her friend’s eyes as much as possible as she quickly carted her belongings out of the house and up the stairs.

“Oh…..Well…..Ok……Let me give you a hand.” Josie started collecting Sandra’s books from the dining room table and followed her companion up to her apartment.

“What are you doing?” The tall beauty was perturbed that her charge was lugging her books up the staircase that she knew was so hard for her to climb. She quickly placed her bags on the floor and grabbed her books from Josie’s hands.

“I was helping you. I’m not an invalid, you know. I have something to offer, too, damnit!!! Josie didn’t know where her outburst came from, but she found she couldn’t contain her anger, frustration and hurt.

“Your getting sick is not fucking helping. Don’t help me so damned much, Josie. I need to have something else in my life. Not just you and that fucking nursing school.” Sandra pitched her Nurse’s drug handbook across the room as hard as she could as she burst into soul wrenching sobs.

Josie found herself totally shocked at their altercation. “What, the hell, just happened here?”

She watched, dumfounded, as Sandra’s face continued to crumble as her tall frame slid limply down the wall. “I don’t know. I just don’t know anything anymore. All I know is that a moment doesn’t go by that I don’t think about where you are and what you’re doing and with whom. Shit! This is so damned humiliating….. I’ve never felt this way before about anyone and I just don’t know how to handle it or if I even can.”

Josie came to sit next to her distraught friend careful not to touch her at first, just letting their thighs meet. The despair on the beautiful face of her companion was breaking her heart. When she felt it was safe to do so, Josie took a trembling hand into her own and brought it to her lips, kissing it gently and stroking it against her cheek. “Sandra, are you saying you are in love with me?” The compassionate little woman asked, never letting go of her friend’s hand.

Sandra couldn’t trust herself to speak. Sighing in resignation, she nodded her admission.

“And that frightens you?” Josie asked softly as she continued holding her friend’s larger hand in her own.

Again, just a nod. Sandra had yet to look into those beloved green eyes.

“May I ask you a question?….. Why now? I know you have been under tremendous stress with school and taking care of me. You’ve been terribly home sick and we have spent all your spare time together, and you know I am attracted to women. All that has to add up. But what made you have this epiphany now when you were going home and escaping all this for a few days and you knew I would be spending my weekend with Kathy. Was that what caused this? Are you jealous of Kathy because she would be having sex with me?”

Again, she nodded. “I am so sorry, Josie. I’ve never felt so embarrassed in my life.” Sandra sniffled as her tears slowly rolled down her face. “I thought I was being magnanimous about you and Kathy by moving back up here and giving you your privacy. But, when you carried my books up those stairs with total disregard for your health, and in the name of helping me, it was like what I feel doesn’t matter to you. You’d rather be with Kathy having “recreational sex” than “making love” with me.” Sandra took a deep breath and looked into her friends gentle face, seeing no malice, only compassion, she continued. “Where do we go from here?” She looked away again. “I mean, I do work for you and live in your home. I’d like to stay so I can finish school. If that’s alright with you. We could go back to the way it was, just driving you on Tuesdays and being here at night if you need assistance. Strictly business, you know.” Sandra hated that she had placed herself in the position of needing Josie, in more ways than one.

Josie brought her beloved’s hand to her lips, kissing it tenderly. “First, let me make some admissions of my own. Are you listening to me?” Josie sought out her companion’s pain filled eyes as she placed her over heated hand against her face and kissed the palm. “I do love you….. I do want you….. But, I need you to understand something.” Josie stopped to take a deep breath to compose herself. “I need to feel useful. To be useful, especially to the people I love.” She couldn’t hold her tears back any longer. “I want to help you in any way I can……Please, let me.”

Sandra couldn’t fathom what she was hearing. She just continued to look into the eyes she loved as she felt the softness of the skin against her palm. Her own tears began anew.

The little blonde straddled the much larger brunette’s lap and pulled the dark head to her chest to offer comfort. Murmuring words of love and devotion, while stroking silky black hair, Josie was finally able to halt her beloved’s tears.

“Better?” Josie tilted Sandy’s head to kiss her forehead.

“Yeah….., better.” Sandra nodded and swiped at her tears. “I must look a sight.”

“You look beautiful.” Josie moved her stroking hand to Sandra’s flushed cheek. Sea green looked into soft blue with a depth of feeling that both fascinated and frightened the younger, less experienced, woman.

Seeing the turmoil in Sandy’s eyes, Josie decided that taking it slow was a definite necessity or this chick would fly the coop. “Hey, don’t be afraid. We can take this as slow as you want or as fast as you need. You set the pace. Ok? I’m not going any where. I’ll be here when you are ready. I know this is all new to you and a bit frightening. But, believe that I love you and it’s going to be Ok.”

The tall beauty studied her love’s face seeing only gentle concern and sincerity. “What about this weekend.” Sandra stopped and, taking a deep breath to bolster her courage, said what she meant. “What about you and Kathy?” Again she looked away. “I can’t bear the thought of you together…..like that.” Tears filled her eyes again. “Good grief, I think I’ve sprung a leak.” Sandra smiled at her own levity.

“I’ll talk to her. She’ll understand. My happiness is important to her. And, you are my happiness…..Anyway, I think she gets nearly as big a kick from fishing as she does from sex…..I want you to go visit your Mom and get some rest. Don’t worry about tonight. We’ll work it all out. I promise. Kathy and I will have a long talk tomorrow. No sex. I promise. You have nothing to worry about. I’ll explain us to her. You know, she asked me if we were together now.”

“She did? That’s amazing.”

“Sandy? I need to do something, but I don’t want to frighten you. I’ll stop whenever you want, but please….., let me kiss you.” For the first time, Sandra saw desire in the depths of the green eyes she loved. She raised a long elegant hand to stroke pale soft cheeks, trying to memorize every sensation about this moment. She watched as Josie leaned toward her and licked her lips to moisten them. There was a small grin on the full, soft, lips just before they met with their goal. Sandra could feel herself trembling. She’d never been so aroused before. She increased the pressure against Josie’s lips, but the smaller woman pulled back slightly and Sandra pursued, her lips separating begging her boss’ warm tongue to enter at will. And, she did. First there were tentative little licks, just tasting, then entering, deeply perusing all available surfaces, then retreating and inviting Sandra into her warmth. Both women moaned their passion as Josie gently sucked her companion’s tongue, fanning the flames of their mutual desire.

Sandra’s heart felt like it was beating out of her chest and she realized that she needed air. The feelings she was experiencing were all too new to her and way more intense than she could have imagined. She pulled back from her desires. Too emotionally overloaded to handle any more.

“You Ok?” Josie’s voice was full of concern and love.

“Oh, Josie….. That was incredible. I’ve never felt anything remotely like that before. I’m….. overwhelmed. If we continue on, I won’t be able to stop and I know I’m not ready to handle anymore. At least not for a little while.”

“I understand.” The little woman kissed her love’s forehead, her eyelids, then the tip of her nose. “You get some sleep. You still have school tomorrow. I’m going to dream of us and all the wonders there are to discover together.” Josie gave Sandra a soul lifting smile. “And I want you to promise me you won’t spend all your time at home worrying about us. We are going to be great together. I feel it in here.” Josie lifted her companion’s hand over her heart then to her lips.

Blue eyes followed the tiny hand that held her heart in its embrace. “I’ll try. This is all new to me. It might take me a while to get used to…..Josie, I need you to do something for me.”

“What’s that, sweetheart?” Josie searched her love’s eyes.

“Get off a me. I gotta pee somethin fierce.” Sandra lifted the smaller woman off of her lap and sprinted to the bathroom.

The tall beauty stared into the bathroom mirror as she washed away all traces of her previous heartache. ‘She loves me. I heard her with my own two ears. She said she loves me. Wow!’ A smile of genuine joy plastered itself to her face as she brushed the tangles out of her raven hair.

“Honey, you Ok in there?” Josie feared their knew relationship had overwhelmed the inexperienced woman.

The door opened and a very happy woman leaned against the frame. “I am so way more than Ok that I can’t even tell you.” Sandra pulled her beloved into her arms and kissed the top of her golden head. “I love you….. God, it feels so good to say that.” Laying her cheek against silky soft curls, the tall beauty heaved a contented sigh.

Josie rested her ear against her love’s heart feeling like she had come home at last.

part 3

“Momma!” Sandra heartily embraced her mother, spinning her around, causing her to squeal with glee.

“Woah! Mon dieu. Put me down before you strain yourself.” Andre’ Broussard pulled back from her over exuberant daughter’s arms to get a closer look at the face she loved for the past 33 years and hadn’t seen in the last three months. Allowing her eyes to appraise all of her child without restraint, pleased that all the parts were where they should be, she pulled her eldest child to her bosom for another heart felt hug.

“Now, get in this house. The neighbors don’t need to know our business.” Andre’ pulled her daughter through the screen door of her modest six room shotgun home off Bienville, walking distance to Mercy Hospital where she still worked nights as an LPN. She was comfortable with her life. Having the same job and living in the same home for over 30 years gave her a feeling of stability and security. The house was paid for. So, working as many double shifts as possible, she’d been able to save enough to pay for her daughter’s tuition and books so she could attend nursing school and have a chance to improve her life. Even though the RN’s and LPN’s in New Orleans did much of the same work, RN’s made twice the salary. Andre’ never had the chance to go back to nursing school to acquire an RN, with raising two kids by herself. When Antoine Broussard died there was just enough life insurance to pay off their little home. She was determined her only daughter would have it easier. Sandy had made a lot of mistakes in her young life, but Andre’ was certain her future now looked promising. After all, she was only 33, beautiful, sincere, honest and smart. Of course, Andre’ was by no means prejudiced.

“I hope you brought your appetite with you. I’ve made all of your favorites to enjoy this weekend. Tonight we’re having crawfish etouffe’ and I have a pot of red beans soaking for lunch tomorrow.”

“Mom, you didn’t have to go to all that trouble. I just want to spend some quality time with you and catch up. We could have gone down to Mandina’s to eat.” A very grateful child walked through the house she was reared in talking and taking in the feel of home, as she made her way to her old bedroom to unpack.

“Sandra Camille Broussard, I haven’t laid eyes on my only daughter in three whole months. This is a celebration and I will not be denied the joy of spoiling you.” The older woman pulled her daughter back into her arms and gave her a quick powerful hug. “I’ve missed ma fille.”

“I’ve missed you, too, Mom. I’ve missed you so much.” Sandra felt the knot grow in her throat as the tears brimmed in her eyes.

“Hey, hey, hey, what’s this? Tears? Pourquoi, ma cheri?” Andre’ maneuvered her daughter over to sit on the bed. She let her child cry in her arms as she rubbed her back and kissed a dark head. “Has something happened with your school work?”

Sandra just shook her head, ‘No’.

“So your grades are still good and you are keeping up with your clinicals with your boss’ help?”

Sandra nodded her head, ‘Yes’.

“Are you sick?”

The dark head shook, ‘No’.

“Uh…..huh….. You are doing well in school and you are not ill….. Are you in love?” Andre’ pulled back to look into red, swollen eyes and grinned.

Sandra nodded her head ‘Yes’ and burst into tears.

“Oh, mon Dieu. He is married!?!” Andre’ continued to rock her child back and forth in her arms, offering comfort as her mind raced through the multitude of possible heartbreaks her daughter might have experienced.

Sandra shook her head, ‘No’.

“Then what is it, cheri? What could possibly be so horrible?”

“It’s not horrible, Mom.” Sandra sniffled, trying to compose herself so she could talk sensibly to her mother. “Not really.”

“Exactly, what does ‘not really’ mean?” Andre’ pulled back so she could look into the gentle blue eyes once more.

“I’m just so confused. I’ve never felt like this before. I’ve never wanted anything so desperately as I want her, Momma.” Sandra looked deep into her Mother’s eyes to gauge her reaction. Seeing no judgment there, she continued. “Does loving another woman make me a bad person? She’s so good to me. She makes me feel special, like I’m the most important person in the world, that my life has value. I’ve never felt like this before.”

“Oh, mais no, ma cheri, love is never wrong. Only what we do with that love. You are a very special woman. I’ve watched you overcome obstacles that would have destroyed a lesser person. Through it all you came out with your ability to love and trust intact. I am very proud of you and I want to hear all about this young woman who has won your heart. Is she a nursing student, too?”

Sandra grabbed a box of tissues off her night stand and wiped her face and took a deep breath. “No…..Her name is Josie Ladner. She is the woman I work for.” Sandra took a deep breath and quickly tried to relay as much positive information about her friend as she could before her mother had a chance to respond. “She is a wonderful, warm woman, who has been kind and generous to me. She makes me laugh and makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside when she looks at me.”

The smile on her daughter’s beautiful face halted Andre’s immediate objections to the much older woman. “Sandra, she is quite a bit older than you, is she not?”

“She is not that old, just 44.”

“And, she is quite ill. That is why you are living in her apartment, to take care of her, yes?”

“Yes. But she has her good days and bad days. She doesn’t let her illness stop her from enjoying life. I’ve never known anyone who appreciated the value of each moment like she does. Besides, she is not an invalid, Mom. She just can’t drive at times and needs to take a lot of medicines. I really don’t do that much for her.”

“Ok. Since you obviously are smitten, I insist on meeting this wonderful woman of yours as soon as possible. I want to know that you are being loved as you deserve. What do you know about this woman. Has she been married? Does she have children? Where does a retired nurse get the money to live with a companion? What are her intentions toward you. You have not had any experience with such things. In fact, you haven’t seen anyone romantically since you’ve been sober. Speaking of which, are you keeping up with your meetings?”

Sandra’s head was spinning with all the questions. She was beginning to feel on the defensive. “There’s no time for that, Mom. I can’t fit anymore into my day. It’s just too much. Please, I can’t do anymore than I am.” Sandra began to cry again, slightly unnerving her mother.

“Sandra, you need your meetings to handle the stress. After we eat, let’s go to the open AA meeting at church. It will do you good. Afterwards, we can go have coffee and beignet’s with your friends. How does that sound?” Sandra had her head on her mother’s shoulder, wondering how she ever got so lucky to have the best mom in the world.

“Great, Mom, that sounds perfect. Thanks.”

“De rien, ma cheri. Now, how’s about some good ole Cajun cooking, huh?” Andre’ smiled into her daughter’s face as she wiped away her tears.

***

“Oh, God….., Mom, I gotta get out of these pants before I bust the buttons. Why’d you let me eat two orders of beignets? I haven’t eaten that much in a coon’s age.”

“Quelle histoire! Doesn’t your lady friend feed you.” Andre’ laughed at her daughter’s dramatics.

“She is diabetic, Mom. She doesn’t eat french pastries. But she does love a good cup of coffee.”

“Then she can’t be all bad, can she.” Andre’ laughed again, knowing her daughter’s fondness for New Orleans’ favorite beverage.

“Go on and get ready for bed while I put a pot on, then you will sit down and tell your momma all about this Josie. Yes?”

Sandra let out a ‘long suffering’ sigh earning a dirty look from her mother. “I know, I know ‘Quelle histoire’.” Sandra successfully avoided her mothers swipe at her behind as she ran to the safety of her bedroom.

“Smart alec.”

***

“Hiya. How’s my favorite coon-ass?” Josie slipped into her friend’s arms and gave her a hearty squeeze.

“Ooooh, you feel so good. So what’s this important stuff you needed to talk to me about. You kinda scared me on the phone this afternoon. I was afraid you got sick or something. But, you look great.” The tall red head put her arm around the little blond’s shoulders and walked them both into the house and over to the sofa. Josie had a bottle of Merlot and two delicately carved crystal wine goblets waiting for them.

“Oooh, la la. Ma cher, what did I do to rate this. Or is it, what do you want me to do that will earn this treat.” Kathy wiggled her eye brows lasciviously at her friend and sometime lover.

“Please, sit down and pour. We both may need it.” Josie waited for their glasses to be filled, then proceeded with her story. “You know the other day when you assumed that my companion and I had a thing going?”

“Yes. And you said that you had just become good friends.”

“That’s right. Well, things have changed since then.”

“Mais no, that was last night. How could things have changed since last night?”

“Kath, I am in love with her. I know how that must sound. I mean, I’m eleven years her senior and she works for me, for Christ sake. But, I love her. It’s been building ever since that first day I hired her. Something inexplicable happened between us. Some kind of inner connection. She makes me happy to wake up in the morning. She makes me feel there is so much to live for. When I am with her I am whole and lovable and, most important, I feel worthy of her love. It’s been such a long time since I felt that. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever quite felt what I feel with her. She is this wondrous gift from God. I just want to cherish her. I haven’t even touched her, not really. She’s never been with a woman before, so she is scared. We have to take things real slow for now. This is all new to her. So, we haven’t….. made love.” Josie bowed her head down to hide the blush she felt rising up her cheeks.

“You’re shitting me. I’ve never heard you speak this way about anyone before. I’ve never even heard you refer to sex as ‘making love’. I’m…..wow.” Kathy shook her head and tried to assimilate all she’d just been told.

“I know. I don’t recognize me either. I don’t want just fun and games with her, Kath. I want to give her pleasure like she’s never known before. I want to protect her and nurture her and help her be all she can dream of becoming in this life. I really want to share that with her.”

Kathy just sat dumfounded and bemused and excited for her friend, all at the same time. “That is wonderful news, ma cheri. I’m so happy for you. It’s about damned time God sent you a soul mate to share your life with. Unfortunately….., I guess that means we won’t be having sex this weekend.”

“Uh…..Did you bring your fishing pole.” Josie grinned and held her glass up to toast her ex-lover. “Salut.”

***

“So that’s about all there is to tell, Mom. She’s divorced too, no kids, lives off her investments and does have experience with other women. And, no, we haven’t” Sandra looked up at her mother. “Um….. you know, done it….., yet. We’re taking it slow.” The tall beauty could feel her ears burning as her face flushed beat red.

“Before this goes any farther, I want to meet her. Call her and see if we can come up for a visit tomorrow.”

Sandra couldn’t believe what she just heard. “You want to drive all the way up there just to meet Josie?”

“Mais oui. If you are serious about this woman. And, obviously you are. Then, I want to meet her before you get any more involved. And,” Andre’ put up her hand to stifle her daughter’s protests. “it has nothing to do with her being a woman. I’d want to meet anyone my daughter tells me she is in love with. You have never told me that about anyone, not even Frank.”

“Mother, you know why I married Frank. It had nothing to do with being in love. I didn’t even know what that meant then.”

“And you do now?” Andre’ was not trying to goad her daughter into a fight, but she could see that was the direction they were heading in. “Let’s stop here and take a breath. I don’t want to fight you. Those are old wounds, better left alone. I believe you are in love for the first time and that is a profound feeling. I was blessed to feel that for your father. I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything in this world or the next. I just want to protect my interest. And my interest is my daughter’s happiness. Besides, this woman needs to know that we are a family and she is not only gaining a partner, she is gaining a mother as well. Bon?”

“You are the greatest and I love you so very much.” Sandra knelt down in front of her mother and snuggled her head on an ample bosom.

“Merci, ma petite fille. I love you too, very much, and I am very proud of the woman you have become. Now, I have one more question before we call your friend. Does she know about Antoine?” Andre’ lifted her daughter’s chin so she could look into her eyes. Eyes that were suddenly filled with unfathomable pain.

“No.” Sandra pulled out of her mother’s grasp and looked away.

“Then, I will not mention anything about him. It is important for me to know. He was my only grandchild and I do brag about him still. So….., call your friend and make the arrangements. We can bring the red beans up with us tomorrow to warm. First, however, we will go visit my grandson.” The older woman’s posture stiffened as she fought to control her emotions. Even after ten years, the pain was intense.

“I’d like that, Mom. You mind if we cut some camellias from your garden for him? He loved those flowers.”

The older woman leaned down to kiss her daughter’s head ever so gently. “That would be good. Let’s do that. Now, pick up that phone and start dialing.” Andre’ helped her daughter to her feet and stepped out of the room to go throw water on her face. She refused to let her grief cloud their visit. But, she knew if Sandra’s relationship with Josie had any hope of lasting, her daughter would have to tell her everything and tell her soon. The older woman could only pray that their love would be strong enough to survive it.

***

“I already miss you. Are you enjoying your visit with your Mom?”

“I really am. We had a long talk and I told her all about us.”

“How did she take it.” Josie asked as she held her breath.

“Very well, I think. For the most part, anyway.” Sandy hesitated.

“What do you mean, ‘ for the most part’? What’s up?”

“She wants to meet you.”

“Well, I want to meet her too. I’m looking forward to it.” Josie was relieved.

“How’s tomorrow?” Now it was Sandra’s turn to hold her breath.

“What!?!” Josie jumped straight up off the sofa.

“Tomorrow. My Mom wants to come up to the house and meet you tomorrow. She has some red beans she wants to bring up for lunch, too.”

“Oh, my…..,uh….., that would mean you’d be driving back and forth tomorrow and then driving back again on Sunday. That’s too much, Sandy. You’re suppose to be resting this weekend…..Wait, just a minute, Ok?” Josie put the phone on mute and ran outside to where Kathy was cleaning a large, rather ugly, catfish. “Hey Kath, can you do me a huge favor?”

The Cajun was taken aback by her friend’s obvious distress. “What is it, cher? You Ok?”

“Yea. I’m fine. But, I need a ride to New Orleans tomorrow morning. Sandy’s mother wants to meet me.”

“Tomorrow!?!”

“Yeah.”

“She mad at y’all…..? Will you be safe?” Kathy started to feel panicked. She’d had a few confrontations with bigots in the past and didn’t want her friend to be in any danger.

“No, it’s nothing like that. She wanted Sandy to drive her up here to meet me tomorrow, but that’s just too much. She’s suppose to be resting. I’d feel better going to her.”

“Oh….., well….., if you’re sure. I’d be glad to drop you off on my way to New Iberia.”

“Thanks, you’re a doll.”

“Yeah, that’s what they all say.” Kathy said as she returned to the task at hand.

“Honey, you still there?”

“Yeah, where’d you go off to?”

“I’ve made arrangements for Kathy to drop me off at your Mom’s on her way home. All I need now is the address and directions. I’ll just bring an overnight case with me and leave enough food for the pups.”

“That’s great, Josie. I really appreciate this. Call and let me know about what time you’ll arrive, deal?”

“Deal…..Hey….., Sandy….., I love you.”

“I love you too, boss.” Josie laughed at the name that had become a term of endearment.

“Good night, kiddo.” Josie slowly hung up the phone. ‘Oh my God, I don’t believe this is happening. What have I let myself in for now?’

***

“This is it.” Kathy looked at her friend appraisingly. “You sure about this. I can take you to see your Mother. You don’t have to do this. Sandra will understand, cher.”

“No…..Thanks. I need to do it for her. I want this to work out for us. If I have to pass her mother’s inspection, then so be it.” Josie opened the car door, then leaned back and kissed her friend on the cheek. “Thanks for everything, my very dear friend.”

Josie stood on the front porch of the small cottage working up the courage to ring the door bell that would announce her presence. “Awe, shit! Come on Josie, you can do this. Just think of Sandy and those blue eyes. Ok, girl, here we go.” Josie reached out and rang the bell, then leaned back and prepared herself to be appraised.

Almost instantly, Sandra swung open the front door and snuck onto the porch, sweeping her love into her arms. “God, it’s good to see you. Thanks so much for doing this for me. It means an awful lot.” The tall beauty leaned down to kiss the tempting lips. In her love’s strong arms, Josie forgot all about being worried and scared and when she felt a soft tongue begging entrance into her warm mouth, she invited it with soaring passion.

“Girls, move it inside, tout de suite. Not all the neighbors need to know our business.” Andre’ shook her head in disbelief at her daughter’s indiscretion.

Josie jumped back as if she’d been burned. Looking up at her future mother-in-law, she was impressed with the proud carriage and obvious self confidence of the older woman. Josie thought her a handsome woman with her long thick greying hair, worn in a loose bun behind her head, and the same gentle blue eyes as her daughter. Younger than Josie expected, her figure was quite impressive. Despite the thickening of her waist line, her rather buxom figure would still turn the head of many a man and woman.

“Mom this is Josie. Josie this is my Mom, Andre’ Broussard.” Josie was slightly taken aback, but with delight. It never occurred to her that Sandra’s mom could be Cajun. She had many friends from the bayou country and had a great respect for the people and their culture.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you Mrs. Broussard. Sandra has told me so much about you.” Josie reached out her hand, which was clasped firmly in the much larger hand of Andre’.

“My daughter has spoken very highly of you, too. Welcome to my home. I hope you brought your appetite cause I have a pot of red beans on the stove that will make you weep.” Andre’ winked at Josie playfully, immediately putting the smaller woman at ease.

***

After settling Josie’s things in Sandra’s bedroom, the women gathered around the kitchen table enjoying a café au lait and talking about Sandra’s studies and her apartment and her job. But then Andre’ switched the subject to Josie.

“Tell me about yourself, Josie.” Andre’ sat back in her chair trying to look unthreatening.

‘I can do this.’ The spunky little blond told herself. Then, taking a deep swallow from her cup, she dove in. “Well, there’s not much to tell, really. I am a nurse, currently retired. I’m divorced, no kids. I’ve never been arrested, nor has any member of my family. Parents are divorced. I have a guaranteed income from investments. I’m not rich by any means, but I live comfortably. What else? Let’s see, I’m a natural blond. My grandparents move to New Orleans from Sicily to escape the poverty. My grandfather worked as a farm laborer during the day and sent himself through night school for 14 years. He got a degree in law and did quite well. He’s my hero. He had it very hard, but he never complained. He felt privileged to have the opportunity at the American dream. It was very real to him and his generation. Let’s see, in spite of my Sicilian background, I have no connections to organized crime. I love living in the country. I enjoy reading, especially mysteries, and I love writing them. I have a degree in English. I also love music, the study of medicine,” The determined little blond looked the older woman straight in the eye as she leaned forward, exuding as much sincerity as she could through her sea green eyes, she continued. “And your daughter. Not necessarily in that order.” She grinned, reaching over to cover her love’s hand with her own.

“Mrs. Broussard, I know that you are concerned for Sandy. If I were in your place, I’d be worried too and I’d probably be doing exactly the same as you. So, let’s not beat around the bush…..I am a lesbian. I have been with other women….. Sandy and I haven’t been together. Our love isn’t based JUST on sex. Don’t misunderstand, I am very attracted to your daughter. However, this is all new to her and I don’t want her overwhelmed. I am not some worldly woman. I haven’t had loads of sexual liaisons. I just have more experience than she does. But even if we never consummated our love sexually, I’d want to be with her. She makes me feel such joy and wholeness that words can’t express.” Josie had to stop for a moment and take a breath. She didn’t fight the tears that had slipped from her eyes. “I look forward to the day, knowing she’ll be there. Her happiness has become my reason for getting up in the morning. I thank God for her each and every night. I will try my damndest to never hurt her. I know that is unrealistic. Love hurts. It’s a part of the package. But I promise you never to knowingly hurt her.” Josie looked into Sandra’s moist blue eyes and with all the affection in her said. “I love her.”

Andre’ Broussard new she had met her match. But still had an issue or two to cover before relinquishing her only daughter over to this Sicilian spit fire. “You do realize that when my daughter is your age, you will be mine. I am eleven years your senior. That may not seem insurmountable now, but it’s a large gap.”

Josie and Sandra looked at each other. “We realize that. It has not been an issue at all.” Josie responded.

“Then there is the issue of your failing health. Perhaps you just want a live in care taker. You know my daughter is an honorable woman and once committed to you, will never leave you. It won’t matter how frail you become. Is it fair for you to ask her to spend the rest of her youth caring for an invalid?” Sandra’s mother said as gently and sincerely as she could.

“THAT IS ENOUGH. I won’t have you saying such things to Josie. She does not deserve to be treated this way.” Sandra jumped to her feet and stood behind her love with her hands on the smaller woman’s shoulders.

“It’s alright, Sandy.” Josie reached her hands up to cover her partner’s. “Please….., your mother is just looking out for your best interest.” Josie turned her attention back to her inquisitor. “Mrs. Broussard, I can do a lot for myself. When I am in remission I lead a nearly normal existence. When the CFS is active I require a driver, someone to give me my meds accurately, so I don’t accidentally harm myself, and to monitor my blood glucose. Sandy does all that for me. And, she does it well. She knows that’s not going to change. In the future, we could move another RN student into the apartment. Just like I did with Sandra.”

“No, you won’t. I take care of you, boss. Nobody but me. I love caring for you. It gives me great joy. It truly does.” Sandra leaned down and kissed the golden head of the woman she loved. “Mother, I love you like the stars in the skies, but this is my decision and I have found my happiness and I’m never letting her go. So, please accept us and love us….. Trust us to love each other.”

Andre’ Broussard was so impressed with her daughter, she could barely contain her pride. ‘I think I did alright after all with this one. She has become quite the woman. Please Lord, help them. They’ll need it.’

“Sandra, Josie, you two have a long and rocky road ahead of you. There will be many trials and many joys. I will always be here to help you. I will worry. This is a mother’s prerogative. But, I will accept this love of yours. Josie you are always welcome in my home as I hope I will always be welcomed into your’s.” Andre’ Broussard stood up and pulled the relieved little blond from her chair and crushed her to her bosom. “You must call my Andy. If I am to be your mother-in-law, I will not have you calling me Mrs. Broussard. However, I am much too young to have you call me mom.”

Josie was absorbing all the warmth and affection in the larger woman’s embrace. “Thank you, Andy. Merci, beaucoup.”

“Ah…De rien, ma petite fille. Bon! Now, let’s eat.” All three women laughed at the typically New Orleans sentiment. All important issues are resolved over good food.

part 4

After a delicious lunch with Sandra’s mom, the gals were ready to spend some quality time alone. They were having great difficulty keeping their hands off each other.

“The camellias in City Park are all in bloom at this time of year. Would you like to go for a drive and see them?” Sandra asked hopefully.

Josie jumped at the suggestion. “Yes. That sounds lovely.” Then looking over to Sandra’s mom. “Would you care to join us, Andy?” The little blond held her breath in hopes that the older woman would bow out graciously.

“That is very kind of you to include me. But, I think you two need some time to yourselves and I have my garden to attend to. You go have fun. What time will you be back?”

“We’ll be back by six to help with supper. Ok?” Sandra said as she moved Josie toward the front door and out into the brisk early spring air.

***

They parked Sandra’s old VW bug in the shadows of the elegant, moss covered oaks. The two women just sat, their heads lying back, eyes closed, each had a warm hand lying upon the other’s thigh. Just enjoying their connection. After about five minutes of absorbing the peace and quiet, each turned to the other and smiled, feeling they had overcome their greatest obstacle and were quite smug.

“Let’s go see those camellias.” Josie smiled at her companion.

“Yeah, let’s.”

The women walked among the giant camellia bushes hand in hand discussing rare hybrids they’d like to plant on Josie’s acreage. They sat in the shadows among the flowers. Sandra leaned against a tree while Josie sat between her legs with her head resting against soft breasts. Both sighed in contentment.

Sandra absentmindedly rubbed her hands along Josie’s arms, lulling her into a peaceful slumber. The younger woman settled soft kisses on the blond curls and wondered at how life had changed in only a few short months. The scent of her love’s shampoo, mixed with her natural spicy musk, and the feel of the head against her breasts, along with the freedom to pet and stroke the sleeping woman’s body had combined to cause a tingling in her clitoris. She felt her nipples becoming erect and her breath became slightly ragged. ‘Oh God, I want her so badly. But, I just don’t know what to do. I don’t want to disappoint her. Please, help me make her happy. She is everything to me.’ Sandra stopped praying and started kissing her sweet neck, licking and tasting. The smaller woman moaned her pleasure, reaching for her partner’s hand, she pulled it down to gently cup her breast, coaxing a guttural groan of arousal from the inexperienced but eager pupil.

“Show me, Josie. Show me how to pleasure you. Please, I want you so much. I don’t want to wait any more. I just….. don’t know what to do.” Sandra’s voice sounded pleading and nearly broke the little woman’s heart.

“Here? You want to make love here?” Josie turned to look into blue eyes burning with desire.

“Yes. I love this place. No one can see us. Please….., teach me.” With that the taller woman leaned in to capture soft moist lips in a slow, searching kiss.

“You are doing great so far.” Josie said trying to catch her breath. “Sweetheart, wait….. God, you feel so good to me……ungh…..” The smaller, very aroused, woman released herself from Sandra’s embrace. “Good gravy woman you don’t make this easy. But, I will not have our first time, your first time, worrying about passers-by seeing us and us getting twigs in embarrassing places.” The younger woman looked stricken and was about to voice her protest. “Sandra, I love you. I want to make love to you. I want it to be perfect, a memory to cherish for the rest of our lives together….. That’s not to say we can’t neck.” The mischievous little woman grinned and crawled onto her partner’s lap. “But when one of us says stop, that means stop. Deal?”

“Mmmmm, deal” Sandra took the face she loved in her two long elegant hands and leaned in for a sweet kiss. She followed her impulses, licking the luscious lips of her boss, begging entry into her warmth. Josie trembled with need as she sucked gently on her love’s tongue. Sandra pet and stroked the soft skin below her finger tips, traveling slowly down a supple neck over the soft cotton of the smaller woman’s blouse. She shivered as she felt the soft swell of her partner’s breasts over the lace of her bra. She let her palms cup the pliant flesh and moaned as hardened nipples brushed the palms of her hands. She pulled away from the kiss and stared into green eyes filled with love and her desire soared when Josie nodded her consent ever so slightly and the inexperienced woman’s gaze instantly dropped to the plump, fabric covered mounds in her hands. She raised her fingers to the buttons of the blouse and slowly released one and then another as her breathing increased exponentially. Now she could feast her eyes on the actual flesh that was captured in the binds of a sexy beige lace bra. Running her fingers over the skin she was feasting her eyes upon, she bent her head down to kiss and taste the creamy skin causing the aroused little woman to gasp and release her breath slowly trying to control her desire to take the younger woman right there in the grassy shadows of the camellias. Unfortunately, the Museum of Modern Art was all of 100 yards away. “Sandra, if we don’t stop right now, we are going to scandalize those blue haired ladies. We aren’t exactly the exhibition they paid to see.”

Sandra took a deep breath, closing her lust filled blue eyes, blew it out through pursed lips. She looked over her left shoulder to see for herself what Josie was concerned about and realized they were getting too carried away in a potentially public arena. She looked back into green eyes, smiled and nodded, then proceeded to button up her sweetheart’s blouse, covering the breasts that made her mouth water. She kissed the lips she was quickly becoming addicted to.

“Let’s go home. Mom is expecting us.” The larger woman lifted her boss off of her lap and set her aside.

“God, you’re strong.” Josie reached down and pulled her partner to her feet.

“Yeah. When I got into AA, I spent every waking moment I wasn’t in a meeting in the gym. I worked out until I’d just about pass out so I could sleep at night. I traded one addiction for another much healthier one.” Sandra smiled sadly then taking a small hand into her own raised it to her lips and kissed it. “I’ve got so much to be grateful for.”

“Me too.” Josie leaned on her companion’s arm and took a couple of deep breaths. “But, right now I’m pooped. I think I’ll take a nap before dinner.” She looked up into worried blue eyes and smiled. “Come on, let’s go see what your mom is up to in the kitchen.”

***

Sitting in the VW at her mother’s house, Sandra took Josie’s small hand into her own. “You were awesome today. Not many people have the courage to take on Andre’ Broussard.” She looked into her friend’s eyes then down at their joined hands and shyly said. “You are my hero, you know. I hope I never let you down.”

“Oh, Sandy, that’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me.” Josie lifted the warm hand to her lips and gently kissed it. “But, I’m no hero. Please, don’t place me on a pedestal. I couldn’t help but fall….. I’ve made plenty mistakes in my life. And, I guess, I’ve learned from them to fight for what I want and to carefully choose my battles. I want you in every way. It’s gonna take a lot more than Hell and high water, or Andre’ Broussard, to keep me from you.” Sandra looked up and smiled.

***

The girls arrived just in time to help Andy dump the giant gumbo pot full of spicy crawfish into the kitchen sink. There were small ears of sweet corn, Irish potatoes, garlic cloves, onions, salt, cayenne and halved lemons mixed into the Louisiana mud bugs. “We have my famous potato salad and plenty of Italian bread for our guest. I was told you do eat crawfish. Yes?”

“Oh, yes! This is great.” Josie’s face lit up. “I’ll put the newspaper over the table.”

“Boss, why don’t you go lay down for an hour while these guys cool down a bit. I promise they’ll keep.”

“No, no, no. That’s Ok. I’m fine and I love crawfish. I promise that I’ll take a nap after dinner.”

“Ok. But remember you promised.” Sandra gave her best serious look.

Andy observed the interaction between the two younger women. She decided to keep out of it.

The three women enjoyed a playful dinner reminiscing about growing up in New Orleans, going to Pontchartrain Beach, riding the Zephyr roller coaster and walking through the hall of mirrors at the Fun House. “Kids had so much more to entertain them when I was growing up in New Orleans. I remember almost every Friday night my mom would take my friends and I to one of the neighborhood movie houses, either the Beacon, the Lakeview, the Fox or the Pitt. Or, a bunch of us might get together and go roller skating. We had a ball. Then on Saturday, we all went to the amusement park all day and ate cotton candy till our teeth rotted….. But, that’s all gone now. There’s nothing for the kids to do here but get into mischief. Boredom is one reason kids get into so much trouble nower days. What can they do to entertain themselves and burn off all that pent up energy? They hang out in the malls, join gangs, commit violent crimes….. I blame the city. You know the Amusement park, the neighborhood movie houses and the roller rinks we use to have were all family owned businesses and the city never gave them a break. It’s like they made it as hard as they could for these people to stay open. Then, once they were gone, the city sure as hell didn’t offer the kids anything to replace them. I suppose the small business man couldn’t afford to pay the big kick backs our self serving, crooked politicians required. New Orleans is a grand old girl and I love her. But, I left cause I just couldn’t watch her slowly die anymore.” Josie’s face was red as she was working herself up into a righteous hissy fit.

“My Antoine and I, we spent many a Saturday at the Beach. He’d take me on the Wild Maus and I would snuggle into his strong arms pretending to be so frightened.” Andy did her impression of a damsel in distress. “You know, the man he likes to feel macho. Ohhh, those were the days, mon dieu. Life was sweet then.” Andy tried to keep the sadness from her eyes. “I wish my children could have had that too. But, there is nothing to be done about that now. It’s all in the past. Your getting upset is not good. It will change nothing now.” Andy reached over and patted Josie’s hand.

“Gosh, the Wild Maus, I could never ride that thing without tossing my cookies. That was a bit too much for me.” Josie chuckled, crossed her eyes and held a hand over her stomach.

“Come on boss. You’ve had enough excitement for one day. Let’s wrap up all these shells and wash up. Then we can both go lay down for an hour or so. Deal?” Sandra carried their dirty dishes to the sink.

“Deal. I’m sorry I got so carried away on my soap box. I tend to feel passionately that we need to protect our children above all else.”

Sandra dropped the glass she’d been drying, the glass shattering loudly against the porcelain .

“Sandy, did you cut yourself? Let me see.” Josie was instantly at her companion’s side.

“I’m alright. Don’t fuss.” Sandra’s hands were trembling, causing her friend concern.

“Come sit down. You’re shaking like a leaf. What just happened here?” Josie took her companion’s face in her hand, forcing eye contact.

“I’m Ok. Look, no blood.” Sandra tried to make light of her behavior.

“You’re sure?” Josie searched the blue eyes she loved.

“I’m sure. Now, why don’t you go to bed and I’ll be in shortly. Ok?”

Josie was still a little suspicious, but decided to let it go for now. “Ok. Don’t be long, huh?” She leaned over and gave her a chaste kiss.

“I won’t. I’m just gonna help mom with the trash and then clean up a bit.” Sandra watched as her friend left for bed.

“Sandra Camille Broussard, you have to tell her about Antoine. She is going to think you are losing your mind if every time she mentions children, you break a glass or a dish.” Sandra’s mother walked up behind her daughter’s chair and wrapped her arms around her slumped shoulders.

“I’m scared, Mom. What if she hates me. I love her so much. I don’t know if I could handle that. I’ve got so much to lose.” Her throat tightened with the effort of holding back her tears.

“I know, ma cheri, but you must trust her love for you. I haven’t known her long, but, I believe she loves you and trusts you. You must tell her everything now or take the risk of losing that trust when she finds out from someone else. She is not the type of woman to forgive you for something like this.”

Sandra nodded her dark head. “I’ll bring her to the cemetery after church tomorrow. I promise.” Sandra looked into her mother’s compassionate eyes and lost the battle for control over her tears. “Pray for me, momma.” Sandra sobbed.

Andre’ Broussard pulled her daughter’s dark head into her bosom. “Oh, ma petite fille, I shall pray very, very hard that our Blessed Mother guide your words and give you courage to do the right thing.”

“Thanks mom.” Sandra wiped the tears from her eyes. “I’ve gotta go wash my face. I don’t want to upset Josie.”

Sandra was relieved to find her friend soundly sleeping as she joined her in bed. ‘This was not exactly how I pictured our first night together.’ She grinned. ‘At least one of us will get a good night’s rest.’

She spent hours worrying and planning how she would tell Josie of the monster she used to be. It had to be the whole truth or it could cost her everything she held dear. Josie was sleeping soundly when Sandra got up and got dressed. She knew what she needed to do. It was only eleven o’clock, so, leaving a note, the distraught woman headed out to a midnight AA meeting.

After the meeting, Sandra approached a member she knew to have good, solid long-term sobriety and asked to bend her ear for a while. Diana was more than happy to help out and suggested that they go to her house for coffee and fellowship. Sandra talked into the wee hours before dawn and didn’t return to Josie’s side till four o’clock in the morning. Exhausted both emotionally and physically, she fell into a dreamless sleep.

***

“Mmmmmorning.” Josie stretched long and luxuriously. Then cuddled up against the taller woman’s t-shirt covered side. Head on a broad shoulder, arm wrapped around her middle, she looked up and noticed the dark circles around her friends eyes which were red and puffy.

“Hey, you alright? You’re not coming down with something are you?” Josie leaned on an elbow to get a better look.

“I’m Ok. Just didn’t sleep too well. Allergies, you know.”

“Look, it’s only six o’clock. Why don’t you take some benadryl and I’ll get you up around nine.”

“Can’t. Mom likes to go to eight o’clock mass at St. Anthony’s on Canal Street. She’ll be expecting us to join her…… You are Catholic aren’t you?” It had never occurred to Sandra to inquire into Josie’s religious beliefs. She just always assumed that a Sicilian from New Orleans would surely be Roman Catholic.

“Well, technically speaking, yes. But, sweetheart, I haven’t practiced any organized religion in years. I’m afraid I don’t take kindly to being damned for eternity because of whom I love….. But, if it will make your mother happy, I’ll go.” Josie brushed her hand against her partner’s face as a show of affection and to check for fever. She was sure something was not right. She just didn’t know what was wrong.

“It would make us both happy, boss. I always say that God brought me to AA and then AA brought me back to God. Now, I add that God brought you to me.” Sandra leaned in and gently kissed sweet lips. “Now, if you will excuse me, I’ve been missing my morning run. I have to work off some of the food Mom’s been stuffing me with.” Sandra practically dived out of the bed, grabbed her clothes and locked herself in the bathroom to brush her teeth and wash her face before heading out the front door to freedom.

‘What the hell was that all about? Something is going on here and I am gonna find out what it is.’ Josie showered and dressed then joined Andy in the kitchen for a breakfast of black coffee!?!

“I am not eating this morning. I am going to Communion. If you want, I can fix you something. I know Sandra is also going to Communion today and will not be breaking her fast.” Andy opened the refrigerator and pulled out two eggs, some grated cheese, bacon and some of the left over Italian bread from the night before. “How would you like an omelette this morning?”

“I hate for you to go through all that trouble.” Josie complained as her mouth watered.

“It is no trouble. I love to cook and I love to watch little birds like you eat.” Andy grinned affectionately at her daughter’s partner.

“In that case, thank you, Andy.” Josie watched as the older woman worked at the stove and debated bringing up her concerns over her friend’s unusual behavior.

“Andy?”

“Hmmm?”

“Have you noticed Sandra behaving strangely last night and this morning?”

“Strangely? How do you mean?” The older woman’s back stiffened.

“I don’t know, exactly. She’s being secretive. She didn’t sleep well and I could tell she’d been crying, but she denied it. Said it was her allergies. Then, this morning she couldn’t wait to get away from me. She is obviously exhausted but insisted on taking her run. Seems to me she is avoiding something that has to do with me in some way. Do you know what it is?” Josie looked beseechingly at the older woman.

“Ma cheri, I dare not interfere here. I know that my daughter loves you. I know how hard she is trying to do the right thing by you. Please, have patience with her. Sandra has had a very hard life. She truly deserves your love, but she is afraid.”

“Afraid of what? Of me?” Josie stared as Andy came to sit next to her at the kitchen table and took her small hand in hers.

“Yes. She is afraid you will reject her if you know all about her past.” Andy sighed and lowered her head. “I cannot say any more. She would never forgive me. It is not my place. Just remember that she is not the same woman she was. She fought the devil himself to get where she is now. Be patient with her.” Andy raised her fingers to her lips as she heard the front screen door open and her daughter come bouncing into the house.

Josie switched gears and turned to welcome her companion. “Feel better?”

“Much. Unfortunately, I don’t smell better.” Sandra’s spirits had improved as she playfully threatened to hug her friend. “C’mere cutie, how’s about a big ole hug.”

“Oh no you don’t. I just took a shower.” Josie giggled and ran from the kitchen table with her companion hot on her heels.

“No running in the house!” Andy yelled at her daughter. “We leave for Mass in thirty minutes, if you have to go wringing wet. Do you hear me?”

Sandra ran back through the kitchen, Josie close at her heels snapping a wet towel at her exposed thighs. “Yes, mam.” The taller woman vaulted over a kitchen chair and into the safety of the bathroom.

***

Mass was pleasant and the old Church of St. Anthony of Padua brought back fond memories of Josie’s childhood. She enjoyed listening to her companion sing out loud with the rest of the congregation some old standard hymns. She didn’t know any of the newer ones, but read along in her hymnal. After Mass, Andy wanted to stay for coffee and chit chat with her neighbors. She told her daughter to go on ahead and she’d see them later at the house.

“How will you get home. That’s a long walk.” Josie was concerned.

“Don’t you worry, ma petite. I have many friends who can give me a ride home. Now you two go and take care of business.” Andy looked into her daughter’s eyes and smiled encouragingly.

“Ok, Mom, we’ll catch you later then.” Sandra hugged her Mother tightly then, taking the smaller woman’s hand left the Church.

***

“Josie, if you don’t mind, there’s someone I want you to meet.” Sandra stated as she drove toward her worst nightmare.

“Sure. Where are we going?”

“The cemetery.”

Josie looked at her companion’s expressionless face as she drove on. The silence between them was palpable. Josie didn’t know what to say. She knew this was what Andy had been unable to tell her and prepared herself as best she could for what was to come.

The two women walked among the head stones. Because the city is below sea level, the dead in New Orleans are not buried under ground but in majestic marble crypts, making death an expensive proposition. They kept walking until they reached a corner of the cemetery where the poor were buried, not in marble crypts but in dirt graves that were a couple of feet high, surrounded by a short concrete wall to keep the ground intact. Each grave had it’s own small marble or concrete head stone with information about the deceased. A few had a photograph encased in glass to remember them by. Such was the grave that Sandra pointed out to her companion.

“Antoine Franklyn Abbott, died April 24, 1990, age 3 years, 10 months.” Josie finished reading the inscription and felt her heart squeeze tightly in her chest. “Your son….” Josie knelt down to better look at the picture of a beautiful little boy dressed in a pale yellow suit, holding an Easter basket full of candies and a stuffed bunny. His hair was dark and his blue eyes mirrored his mother’s. “He was so beautiful.”

“Yes, he was. Everyone said he looked just like me.” Sandra wasn’t aware of the tears streaking her cheeks.

“I see that….. How did he die?” Josie looked up at her companion.

“Car accident. I’d been drinking. I didn’t think I was drunk. I hadn’t expected to drive the car that day. Frank belonged to the car pool at work, but on this day he got a stomach virus and asked me to come pick him up. I remember strapping Tony into his car seat and putting on my seat belt. We were approaching the intersection of Carrollton and Claiborne. I had the green light so I didn’t slow down. I saw the diesel truck coming down Claiborne from Jefferson Hwy. There weren’t any break lights on and he wasn’t stopping. Then everything went in slow motion. I slammed on my breaks as I hit the horn and turned the wheel to the left to protect my son from a direct hit. I prayed more in those few seconds then In my entire life.”

Sandra replayed the accident in her mind’s eye and the pain was excruciating. She felt blackness beginning to engulf her, until her friend’s strong arms maneuvered her to kneel down in the grass. Josie knelt next to her and held her hand. Sandra’s vision cleared as she stared into her son’s blue eyes. “I remember the sounds of the impact, glass shattering and metal bending, the big truck’s brakes screeching. I screamed out my son’s name before I loss consciousness. I woke up the next morning in Mercy Hospital with a severe concussion, twenty stitches in my head, a broken wrist and collarbone and no life. Mom and our Priest were in the room. They told me my son was killed in the accident. They said he didn’t suffer. He died instantly. So did the driver of the truck. He probably fell asleep at the wheel. He had a wife and four children.”

Sandra stopped to catch her breath. Reaching into the pocket of her slacks, she produced a handkerchief and wiped at her runny nose. “If I hadn’t been drinking maybe I could have assessed the danger in time to react. But my senses were dulled by the booze and many lives were ruined because of me.”

Sandra took her hand from Josie’s and changed her position. Now sitting Indian style on the grass, she took a deep breath and continued. “I got a DUI. The judge revoked my license for a year and I was committed to an alcohol and drug rehab unit at DePaul’s hospital for thirty days. Needless to say, it didn’t work. I was nearly catatonic with grief and self loathing. All I wanted was to die. I wanted to join my Antoine. He was the only light in my life and I snuffed it out. They had me on twenty-four hour suicide watch, no belt, no jewelry and no shoes. I wasn’t allowed anything but paper and plastic. My mom and little brother came to see me as often as was allowed. I really think that, along with the therapy and AA meetings, made me realize that suicide would only serve to hurt the people in my life that I loved and who still loved me. So, I got discharged and went home to Frank.”

Sandra went silent and closed her eyes, waiting for the rejection she was sure would come. She cried in relief when she felt her love kneel behind her and wrap her arms around her shoulders. “I love you, Sandy. And I’m so sorry you’ve had to suffer so. If I could bring your son back to you, I would. Please don’t punish yourself any more. It breaks my heart to see you in such pain.” Josie smoothed the weeping woman’s hair and kissed her cheek. “Do you have any photographs of Antoine?”

Sandra nodded her head.

“I’d love to see them sometime. Ok?”

“Yeah?” There was a tilt of a dark head and a sniffle. “I’ll have to ask mom for them. She put them away for me after the accident. I kept getting hysterical whenever I’d see them. But I’d like very much to share them with you, boss.” Sandra turned around to face her partner. “Thank you, Josie.”

“There is nothing to thank me for. That was many years ago. You’ve punished yourself way more than anyone else could have. You’re a different person now. I believe in you, Sandy. I just want you to believe in yourself. Deal?” Josie stroked the tears from the face she loved.

“Deal.”

The friends walked back to Sandra’s VW hand in hand. “Let me drive. You’re still a bit shaky.” Josie reached for the keys.

“Yeah. That sounds like a good idea.” Sandra folded herself into the car and promptly fell asleep.

***

Josie made tuna fish sandwiches for herself and Sandra, then tucked her under the covers. “I’ll set the alarm clock so you can get a good three hours of undisturbed sleep. You need it. We have a nice drive home this afternoon and I want you bright eyed and bushy tailed.” The older woman reached down to place an affectionate kiss on her companion’s forehead.

“I’m not Peter Cottontail, you know. And, I don’t have a hairy butt.” Sandra grinned as she rolled over on her side and continued. “Of course, you have no proof of that claim.”

“Sandra Camille Broussard, you are incorrigible. What am I to do with you?” Josie sat upon the bed.

The playful younger woman reached over and pulled her friend to lie on top of her. “I have a few suggestions. Want to hear them?” Sandra ran her hand through golden curls and pulled the smaller woman down for a passionate kiss.

“Mmmmmm.” Josie pulled back from the kiss. “Sleep now, neck later. Deal?”

“Oh, yeah. You gotta deal, cutie.”

“Oh, brother.” Josie crawled off the bed and closed the curtains. “Sandy?”

“Mmm…hmmm.” The emotionally and physically exhausted young woman was almost asleep already.

“Thank you for trusting me.”

part 5

It was nearing supper time when they got home, so they agreed to meet in Josie’s kitchen in an hour to whip up some comfort food. To say their weekend had been trying was the understatement of the millennium.

Josie needed some down time to pamper her frazzled nerves. After throwing the dirty clothes into the washing machine and brewing a pot of aromatic coffee, she curled up in her favorite chair on the porch, with her little buddies, Skooby and Doo. She covered herself with a soft chenille afghan and enjoyed some peace and solitude.

Sandy stretched out on her recliner, staring out the window, watching the sun go down. The sky turned red and orange as if the forest below were aflame. It felt good to be able to relax and just enjoy the beauty of nature. She felt as though her very soul had been caught in a vice for the last few days and was now being slowly released. ‘The worst is over. She still loves me. I am the luckiest woman in the world.’ Sandy continued to admire the sunset and ponder her many blessings as exhaustion slowly dragged her into a dreamless sleep.

Josie had the pasta finished and was working on the Alfredo sauce when she noticed the time. ‘7:15 p.m. Sandra should have been down here half an hour ago. I wonder what’s up.’ Josie continued to stir her sauce as she reached for the intercom and buzzed the apartment. ‘No answer? Maybe she’s in the shower. I’ll give her another ten minutes, til the sauce is done.’

Ten minutes passed and the little blond had dinner all ready but no companion. Again she buzzed the apartment, but got no response. ‘I’ll bet she fell asleep. My poor sweet love. She’s had a hell of a rotten couple of days. But, I know just what she needs.’ Josie made a large plate for them to share and headed upstairs. As usual, the door was unlocked so Josie let herself in. She spied her companion asleep in her favorite chair, then, setting their dinner on the small dinette table, sat down herself to catch her breath. ‘God, I hate stairs. They always make me feel so old.’ Once she’d composed herself, she set out their plates and poured Barq’s for them both.

Josie knelt next to Sandra and gently stroked her thigh. “Hey, Sandy, wake up sleepyhead. It’s time for supper. I’ve got one of your favorites. Come on, now. Open those baby blues for me.”

Sandra felt something pulling her toward consciousness. When her bleary eyes opened she was disoriented. “Hey….., boss. Um…..what time is it?”

Josie thought her companion absolutely adorable as she rubbed the sleep from her eyes and struggled to sit up straight in her chair. “It’s 7:30 p.m. Time to eat. Dinner’s waiting for us. So, get up before it gets cold.” Josie stood, then helped her weary friend to her feet.

“Awe shoot, Josie. I’m sorry. I must have crashed. Guess I was more tired than I thought. Did you bring that platter up those stairs?” Sandra looked at her friend in consternation.

“Well, it wasn’t the tooth fairy. Now, don’t lecture me. I’m fine, other than the fact that I am starving! Now, let’s eat, sleeping beauty.” The spunky little blond grabbed her friend’s ear and gently tugged her over to the dinette.

“Ow, ow, ow, let go, you little bully.” Both women laughed until their sides hurt.

The friends enjoyed a leisurely meal, as they talked over the events of their weekend. Josie wanted to ask her companion about Frank and their marriage but decided they’d had enough emotional turmoil for one day. She tried to keep the conversation light and the flirting controllable.

“Oh, my goodness, that was decadent. I’m really sorry that I pooped out on you.” Sandy yawned.

“You need some time to recup from the emotional roller coaster you’ve been riding the last couple of days, and with little to no sleep. Tonight you’re gonna get a good night’s undisturbed rest. So, I want you to get in your jammies right now while I put the rest of this pasta in a container for you to take to school tomorrow. And no arguing.” Josie bent forward and laid a sweet kiss upon her companion’s lips. She picked up their dirty dishes and proceeded to clean up.

When Sandra emerged from the bathroom, she was wearing just an oversized Mickey Mouse t-shirt. Josie’s eyes took in the long tan legs, the lean muscles of her thighs and gentle swell of her braless breasts. She looked incredibly sexy.

“Wow, you look luscious.” Josie tried to control the lust that was building quickly in her loins. “I already opened the futon for you and put new linens on the mattress. All I need is your beauhunkiss to crawl up in there.”

Sandra slipped beneath the covers. “What is a beauhunkiss?”

“That is my new pet word for your fine arse. You are a beautiful hunk of woman my love. Did you know that?” Josie crawled on to the covers. Resting on her elbow, she stroked Sandra’s long dark hair affectionately. The younger woman’s heart pounded in her chest as she couldn’t quite catch her breath.

“You get a good night’s sleep because I have plans for you tomorrow night….., all night.” Josie cupped a soft cheek in her hand. “I love you Sandy and I intend to show you just how beautiful you are to me.” Josie reached over to kiss her friends forehead. “But for now, off to dreamland.”

Sandra averted her eyes. “I don’t like to dream, Josie.”

“Why not? Tell me, sweetheart.”

“Sometimes, when I close my eyes, I’m back behind the wheel of that car and I can hear Antoine screaming.” Tears prevented her from forming words around the lump in her throat.

“Hey, hey, none of that, now.” Josie slipped under the covers and pulled the distraught woman’s head to rest against her breasts. “I’m here. Everything’s gonna be alright, now. That’s all in the past. It can’t hurt you anymore.”

Sandra gasped for breath as she released her grief. “He’s dead…..Oh, God….. Josie….., my baby’s dead…..because of me….. I miss him so much.” Tears turned into heart wrenching sobs, as the dark haired woman turned her face into her friend’s chest and held onto her tightly, seeking comfort from her pain and guilt.

“I pray every day that he can forgive me for not protecting him. I’m his mother. Damn me! I was suppose to protect him. Instead I put him in danger and now he’s gone. I’ll never hold him again or see him grow up and fall in love, have a family of his own. I stole all that from him, Josie. I’m a monster. Oh, God, it hurts.”

Josie’s own tears fell onto the dark head on her chest. ‘How can I help you survive this? What are the words that will take away your pain? I don’t know of any. All I can do is hold you and love you. Please don’t let this horror take you away from me, my love.’

“I’m here, Sandra. I’ll always be here. I love you. I don’t know how to make your pain go away. But we have so much to be grateful for. Let’s concentrate on that. You are going to be an RN soon and can use that degree to help other children. You’ll be making a nice living and can help out your Mom a bit. You have your Mom, who loves you ‘like the stars in the skies’. Right?”

Sandra nodded, smiling at the remembered oath, as she sniffled.

“And I think she actually likes me a bit, even though I am the evil spider woman who has lured you into my lair.” Josie nuzzled her love’s hair.

The dark haired woman giggled and reached for the box of tissues on the night stand. She wiped away her tears and blew her nose as delicately as possible.

“But, our greatest blessing is we have each other. I love you, heart and soul, Sandy.” Josie took the face she loved into her warm hands and gently kissed sweet lips. “Right now, you need to sleep. You’re way over tired. I’ll stay right here and hold you until you drift off. Deal?”

Sandra nodded and closed her weary eyes.

“I’ll set your alarm for 4:30 a.m. so you’ll have plenty of time to get your school work together before leaving in the morning. It’s only 9:00 p.m. now, so you should get a good night’s rest.” Josie scooted them both down into a more comfortable position. Sandra snuggled her head upon the older woman’s breast with an arm wrapped around her slim waist.

“Love you forever and always, deal?” The sleepy woman slurred before drifting off into peaceful slumber.

Josie gently rubbed Sandra’s back. “Deal.”

When she was certain her love was deeply asleep, she extricated herself and quietly went home.

***

Josie was relieved when she heard the familiar accent of Sandra’s mother over the phone. “Andy? Sorry to call so late, but I need to talk to you about Sandy.”

“Oh, mon Dieu! She hasn’t harmed herself, has she?” The older woman’s heart filled with dread.

“No, no. She’s just having a really hard time dealing with her guilt over Antoine’s death. I think with school and our relationship, well, I’m worried about her. She’s an emotional wreck. I thought you might be able to help me help her. Andy, she’s in so much pain.” Josie couldn’t stop the tears from streaming down her face. Seeing her love in such torment was nearly unbearable for her.

“Thank you for calling me, Josie. She drank over his death for years and then, when she got sober, wouldn’t allow his name mentioned outside of this house. She wants to bare her soul to you, to be totally open and honest in order to deserve your love. She needs the support of AA to handle the stress. I made certain she attended while she was here. The night before she told you about my grandson, she went to a midnight meeting and spent most of the night with a member of the group to build up the courage to tell you what she hadn’t told anyone outside of myself and our Priest. Not for ten long years.”

“God, Andy, I didn’t know. How do I find where the meetings are held?”

“Just look it up in the yellow pages and call the Central Office number. They’ll have a list of all the meetings in your area. She’ll need you to go with her. You can go to any Open meeting. That means the family and friends of the Alcoholic are welcome to attend. It will give both of you the support you need. And, if I can be of any help at all, I am always here for you both, ma cheri. She doesn’t believe it, but my daughter deserves to be happy. She is a good person who made a terrible mistake. She shouldn’t be made to pay penance the rest of her life. Please, tell her I love her. And Josie, thank you for loving her too. Bon soir.”

“Good night, Andy, and thank you.”

“De rien. You must get some sleep, ma petite.”

“I will. Bye.” Josie set down the phone and heaved a sigh of relief. ‘I can do this.’ She immediately looked up the number of the AA Central Office in her area and wrote it down. She’d get the information she needed while Sandra was at school, then wait till the time was right to pass it on.

***

Sandra worked hard to concentrate on her patients at clinicals, but her mind kept wandering to the adorable little blond waiting for her at home. She couldn’t help but fantasize about her soft skin and plump breasts, the feel of her lips and the taste of her silky tongue. ‘Whew, I have to get her out of my mind or my instructor’s gonna lecture me again about my lack of concentration on my patient’s needs.”

Her school day finally over, Sandra drove home as fast as her little VW bug could carry her. She ran up the stairs to her apartment, dropped her books on the dinette table and hurriedly bathed and dressed in tight fitting jeans, her favorite lace bra and white form fitting t-shirt. She accessorized with an antique garnet ring and matching delicate dangle ear rings. She curled her long black lashes and applied some lip gloss and headed toward her destiny.

***

Josie set scented candles around the house, making sure to place some long stemmed, dripless, candles, strategically, in the bedroom and on the dining room table, for actual light. Just the faintest scent of apple/cinnamon spice permeated the rooms.

Having bathed and dressed in white cotton gauze slacks and a matching top with small pearl stud ear rings, she finished off the look she wanted with a touch of eye shadow and lip gloss, then topped it off with a spritz of Vanilla Fields bath water.

Josie got the Sushi she had bought for the occasion out of the fridge. She always considered sushi an aphrodisiac. There was fresh salmon and yellow tail sashimi, assorted sushi and two rolls, one California roll and one dynamite roll. She decorated the platter with wasabi mustard and ginger root, then placed the soy sauce on the table. Filling a large glass pitcher with ice water and lemon, she was ready for her guest. Shortly after pressing the intercom buzzer, a vision of loveliness appeared at the kitchen door.

“Wow, boss, this is great. Everything looks so romantic….. Wow….. Sushi, my favorite. Thanks, Josie.” Sandra smiled and blushed slightly, her left hand rubbing against her denim covered hip. “God, I’m so nervous.”

“Hey, it’s alright to be scared.” Josie took her friend’s beautiful face in her warm hands. “I’m scared too. We’ll take things as they come. Now, let’s just sit down and enjoy our sushi and you can tell me about your day in the trenches just like we always do. Ok?” Josie pulled the chair out for her companion.

Sandra took a bite of her sushi and looked into sea green eyes.

“Do you have much work to get done for school?” Josie tried to keep things as normal as possible.

“Just the usual. I have to come up with three nursing diagnoses with five interventions for each. Then I have to research about twelve drugs this patient is on and their possible side effects and interactions. That’s the part I really enjoy doing. Medicine just fascinates me. Maybe you can look at my patient’s history later and help me get it all done, so we can spend more time on us.” Sandra reached over and gently stroked Josie’s forearm and hand.

“Sure, I’d love to….” Josie looked down at Sandra’s hand and took a shuddering breath trying to control her rising ardor. “Ummm….. Have you ever tried Uni?” Josie reached over and picked up a piece of the fatty sea urchin and passed it to her friend who took a sniff.

“Yuck! That smells like the bottom of Bayou St. John. You don’t actually eat that, do you?” Sandra pushed the offending offer away.

“I know it smells awful, but it is a mouth fornication. Just try a taste.” The determined little blonde put a small dab of the uni on her index finger to feed to her friend. “Come on….., for me?” Josie gave her best puppy dog look.

“Geesh, what I won’t do for you. Just cut out the hound dog eyes, ok?” Sandra held her nose and sucked Josie’s entire finger into her mouth. The reticent woman’s eyes opened wide and a grin crossed her lips and she moaned her appreciation. “God, that’s good. How can something that smells that bad, taste so delicious? More, please.”

The women spent their meal feeding each other by hand, licking the remnants off each other’s fingers, causing their desire to steadily rise until Sandra pulled the smaller woman onto her lap, kissing her deeply. “Let me make love to you. Please, Josie.” Sandra panted with lust.

“Ohhhh, Sandy. Yes, please….. I’m all yours….. Love me.” Sandra licked down a supple neck, them sucked gently at the pulse point, savoring the flavors in her skin. Josie shivered and moaned her appreciation, encouraging the inexperienced woman to continue. Sandra covered a pliant breast with her left hand, feeling the nipple become erect against her palm. Looking up into green eyes filled with desire, she tugged at the shirt and, with Josie’s help, pulled it over her head and onto the floor. She sat back to admire her lover’s breasts still trapped in their lace bra. She ran her trembling fingers over the soft lace fabric and looked deeply into her lover’s eyes begging for their release. Josie reached behind her back and unclasped her bra, which went the way of her blouse.

“Oh, Josie. You are so beautiful.” Sandra stared in awe of the beauty before her. The deep tan, nearly pink, aureole contracted around an erect nipple. Tentatively the student touched them with trembling fingers. Amazed at the delicateness of the creamy skin. She tenderly followed pale blue veins running through the pliant globes, then stopped to touch a small mole just outside of the aureole on her left breast. She leaned down to kiss it then kissed the very tip of the nipple, causing the little blond to gasp as she fought the desire to crush her gentle lover’s face to her breast. Sandra tasted the hardened flesh, licking and kissing her nipple, lapping and tasting the soft roundness of the now heaving flesh to her hearts content, driving her lover crazy with need. When the student tried to take an entire breast into her mouth to suckle, Josie new she could take no more. She had to have the beauty now. Her sex throbbed with her arousal. She gently pushed Sandra away. “My bed….., please….., now.” Crawling off the taller woman’s lap, she took her hand and guided her into the bedroom.

The lovers stood next to the king sized bed, Josie gazing up into Sandra’s slightly glazed eyes. “Please, don’t be afraid, love.” Josie reached up to gently stroke long bare arms offering solace. “Just remember that I love you.” Her gentle strokes moved over the taller woman’s ample chest, lightly brushing her painfully erect nipples. “Take off your shirt and bra for me. Can you do that?” The shirt and bra disappeared in a flash. “You are so very beautiful Sandra….. I want to touch you.” Josie looked up into blue eyes, nearly black with desire.

“Please….., touch me.” Sandra panted.

Careful to move slowly so they both could relish this moment, Josie ran her hands over Sandra’s neck and shoulders, traced her collar bone and sternum, then over the swell of her breasts, and around their fullness. “Beautiful” she breathed. She ran the backs of her fingers over the taut dark nipples, causing the taller woman to shudder with arousal, then ventured down to the waist of her jeans and helped free her of those last vestiges of clothing. She quickly slipped out of her own slacks and panties.

They both stood again allowing their eyes to devour each other’s bodies. Josie was the first to move. She slowly approached the taller woman and took her into a warm embrace, the feel of skin upon skin was more thrilling than anything she’d yet to experience. “I love you, Sandra.”

Josie’s lips retraced the path her fingers had so recently laid. She gently licked the swell of each breast, then raised her hands to cup their weight and run her palms over the bare nipples sending a jolt of electricity straight through them both. A groan of desire sounded in Sandra’s throat as she began to sway precariously on her feet. Josie let her hands roam to a broad back and down to cup firm round buttocks to steady her lover while she took a succulent nipple into her warm mouth, flicking it with her tongue, then suckling as if for sustenance. Sandra ran her fingers through the short blond curls, encouraging her lover to remain at her breast until her knees became to weak to hold her.

“I need to lay down before I fall down.” Sandra gently pushed her lover away and crawled onto the bed. She lay on her back, right arm behind her head, posing enticingly for her lover, who stood there admiring the view with fire in her eyes.

“You are a tease…..and I love it.” Josie proceeded to crawl onto Sandra’s long soft body. Placing her weight upon her forearms at either side of her lover’s head she spread soft kisses over her forehead, her eyes, her cheeks, her nose and lips. Sandra instinctively spread her legs so the little woman could slip comfortably between them, allowing their mounds to touch and further stimulate their respective clits.

Josie moved her forearms to either side of Sandra’s torso, allowing her to pump her hips rubbing their mounds together, increasing their pleasure, while she suckled soft breasts.

“Oh….. God….., Josie….., Ung…..ahhh.” Sandra, no longer able to form coherent thought, moved her long, elegant hands down her lover’s back to her round buttocks in a desperate attempt to increase their contact.

Josie’s fevered passion was soon to reach a pinnacle so she forced herself to slow down. She wanted this to be the most incredible sex Sandra ever had experienced.

She slid down the body she had been worshiping, leaving wet kisses and licks along ribs and belly. Sandra watched in aroused fascination as her lover traveled down her body to her sex. The very thought of what Josie intended to do to her nearly sent her over the edge. She lifted her knees and tilted her pelvis upward to meet her kiss.

Josie paused to admire her lover’s sex in the flickering candle light. It was pink and swollen, her labia darkened with engorgement, wet and ready for her. The musky scent of her arousal making her mouth water with hunger. She slid her arms around her lover’s hips as she kissed and licked the strong thighs besides her head. Sandra slipped an extra pillow under her head to get a better look at what Josie was doing. She missed the feel of her lover’s body laying upon her’s, but the pleasure she was receiving was worth the loss. Josie ran her fingers through Sandra’s black curls, luxuriating in the feeling, then used those same fingers to open silky petals to access her throbbing clit. Looking up into the eyes she loved, she smiled and lowered her mouth to her prize.

Sandra gasped with intense pleasure. “Ohhhh….. Josie.” The little blond smiled at Sandy’s reaction to her ministrations. She brought her left hand around to the mouth of her dripping vagina and slowly slid a finger into her moist depths. Bucking her hips, Sandra panted, “More….., PLEASE!”

Josie entered her with two fingers as she suckled upon her clitoris causing her lover to buck furiously yelling out her orgasm and bursting into tears of release.

Sandra held onto the bed linens with all her might as wave after wave of nearly painful pleasure shook her to her very soul.

The smaller woman held on tight to Sandra’s hips with her right arm, desperately trying not to lose contact with her clit. She wanted this woman to experience the thrill of orgasm for as long as possible. Her own release rushing forward caused her to pump into the linens to avoid biting her lover’s tender flesh.

When the aftershocks subsided, Josie lay her head against soft dark curls to catch her breath. She was unaware of the tears that streamed down her cheeks, only of the mellow warmth following her own climax. Giving this woman pleasure caused an arousal in Josie she’d never known before.

Slowly she became aware that her lover was crying and slid up a long trembling body to hold her close. Josie rolled onto her back, bringing her lover along with her, a dark head resting against her breast. “I’ve gotcha….. I’ve gotcha. It’s ok. I’m here, love….. Shshsh, I’m here…..for always.” Josie stroked her lover’s head and shoulder, continuing to whisper reassurances to her. “I didn’t hurt you, did I?” Josie was becoming concerned by her lover’s, seemingly inconsolable, tears.

Sandra shook her dark head and tried to form words to express what she was feeling. “I’ve never felt anything so incredible. I felt like my soul was soaring and then exploded into a million pieces….. I love you, boss. I know I don’t deserve to be this happy, but please don’t ever let this feeling end. I couldn’t bare it.” Sandra began to cry anew and buried her face in her lover’s breast.

“You do deserve to be happy, Sandy. I need you to believe that. I’ll love you forever and always….. I promise….. Deal?” Josie kissed her dark head.

Sandra sniffled. “Deal.”

Josie continued to comfort her lover until they both slipped off to sleep.

***

Sandra was awakened by the snoring in her ear and the screaming of her bladder. She smiled down at the golden head that was now nestled on her left shoulder, a warm arm wrapped around her waist and left leg curled over her own. ‘Now, how do I get out of this bed without waking you up, my love.’ Sandra gazed longingly at her lover and then again at the bathroom door where relief lay. Her bladder won out and she carefully slid off to the necessary.

“Mmmmmm, Sandy? Where ya goin?” Josie asked, her voice husky with sleep.

“Just to the loo, love. I’ll be right back. Save my place.” Sandra leaned down and kissed her moist lips, then ran to relieve herself.

After washing her face and hands, and freshening up, she returned to her lover’s side.

“You awake?” Sandra leaned on her elbow, overlooking her lover. She tenderly stroked her an exposed arm, then, hooking her little finger under the sheet, exposed the object of her desire.

“I am now.” Josie purred. The look of want in the dark haired woman’s eyes started a tingling in her clit. “Touch me, sweetheart. Don’t be afraid.”

Sandra looked deeply into her lover’s eyes and smiled tenderly. Then she boldly admired the petite body before her. She traced every curve and angle with her long elegant fingers, driving her lover to distraction.

Sandra slid down toward the foot of the bed so she could get a closer look at her lover’s sex. She ran her fingers through golden curls and inhaled the musky spice of her. “You smell so good. Could you spread your legs for me, boss.” Sandra looked up into her lover’s eyes just briefly to make certain she hadn’t over stepped her bounds. Josie smiled and spread her legs wide enough for her friend to have free access to her charms. Sandra quickly crawled between her lover’s legs, running her hands up and down soft thighs, committing the sensations to memory.

Josie could no longer contain her arousal and moaned her pleasure as her lover pet her sex ever so gently. She began to involuntarily pump her hips as her ardor soared, her hands moved to her own breasts, pinching and pulling her nipples.

Sandra looked up, begging permission to proceed in her ministrations.

“Please, Sandy, I can’t take much more.” Josie panted.

The inexperienced woman bent her head as Josie lifted her knees and tilted her pelvis to meet her lover’s mouth. Sandra tentatively licked her sex, savoring the spicy taste of her.

“Oh….., yeah!” Josie’s eyes rolled back as her eyelids fluttered.

Hearing her lover’s verbal response to her actions spurred her on as she delved deeper into slick folds, causing slim hips to buck. Sandra licked and tasted and poked her long tongue into her lover’s depths. She just couldn’t get enough of her. She marveled that the more she licked, the more juice there was to savor.

She became aware of the little mewling noises coming from Josie and the trembling of the thighs that framed her head. Remembering what had given her so much pleasure earlier that evening, she took the quivering clit into her mouth, and sucked it rhythmically until rewarded with her lover’s very vocal climax and juices running down her chin. She smiled, filled with self satisfaction.

Josie heard her screams of ecstacy as if they belonged to someone else as she soared, body and soul, and burst into a thousand particles of light. Sandra rested her chin upon her lover’s mons as she observed her ride the waves of orgasm.

“My God, Sandy, You’re a quick study.” Josie was finally able to say. “I’ve never come like that before.” The small woman’s right arm fell over her eyes as she continued to enjoy the tingling sensations throughout her body.

“I aim to please, boss.” Sandra smiled.

“And, please you have, my love.” Josie smiled back. The very satisfied little woman opened her arms to her lover. They cuddled and cooed words of endless love and devotion to each other until it was time for Sandra to prepare for class.

part 6

The ringing of the telephone slowly drew Josie up from warm fuzzy dreams of her lover. She tried to clear the huskiness of sleep from her voice before answering. “Uh…hum, Hello?”

“Jo? Did I wake you?”

“Oh, hey, Beth. Morning, glory.”

“What are you doing in bed, girl? It’s after nine.”

“I was a little busy last night. Actually, I was a little busy this morning too.” Josie purred.

“Well, my goodness. Let me guess, you wouldn’t be enamored of a certain tall dark and beautiful nursing student.” Beth smiled knowingly to herself.

“How do you do that? I didn’t even realize how deeply I felt about Sandy til a week ago.”

“I’ve been your best friend for twenty-five years. I just know when to let you discover things on your own. Let’s have lunch and you can tell me all about it.”

“Oh, God, girl, I’d love to, but I can’t today. Sandy will be home in less than an hour and we have a lot to talk about. How about tomorrow? I could meet you at The Magnolia Café about noon. I hope you have a long lunch hour.”

“I’ll see to it. Tomorrow at The Magnolia. I’ll be there. Love you.”

“Love you too, Boo.” Josie set down the phone and dived out of bed and into the shower.

***

“Hello, AA Central Office, may I help you?”

“Yes, I would like to know about the AA program. Can you recommend some literature for me? And I need to know where your meetings are held in this area, non-smoking if possible.”

“Is this for yourself?”

“No. It’s for my friend. She’s been sober for about three years, but her life has become increasingly stressful. She needs help and support. Her mother, actually, told me to call you. Do you have any non-smoking, open meetings?”

“Yes, mam, we do. Do you have a fax machine. I can send you all the information you need. You will be able to purchase the AA Big Book and other literature at the meetings.”

“What’s the AA Big Book?”

“It’s like the AA bible. It explains the 12 step program in detail and includes stories by recovering alcoholics who share their experiences. It is an invaluable tool.”

“Then I’ll be sure to get one. I don’t have a fax machine, but I do have a computer. Could you email me the information?”

“No one has ever asked me that before, but I don’t see why not. Just give me your email address and I’ll send you a list of open, non-smoking meetings and I can send you the phone number of one of our counselors in your area who also goes to those meetings.”

“Oh, that’s great. Thank you, so much. My email address is mailto:lioness@hotmail.com. Thank you, again. Bye, now.”

***

When Sandra returned home from school, Josie was waiting on the sofa, a notebook and pen in her lap.

Sandra new she had been in class the last two hours, but, for the life of her, couldn’t remember a damned thing her instructor said. All she could think about was the touch and scent of the passionate lover waiting for her at home.

‘God, I’m so nervous. It feels like a family of butterflies have nested in my belly.’ Sandra stood outside the kitchen door, taking deep breaths to calm her racing heart. She opened the door and quietly entered her lover’s domain.

“Josie, I’m home. Where y’at dawlin?”

“I’m on the sofa, slim. Come give me a hug and a big, sloppy kiss.” Josie giggled and stood to welcome the taller woman into her arms.

Sandra stroked back blonde curls and gazed lovingly into sea green orbs. “I missed you. All I did at school today was daydream about you.”

Josie reached up her small, warm hand to cup her lover’s beautiful face. “I missed you too, my eyes.”

“My eyes? You’ve never called me that before.”

“My grandmother used to call me that. It was her way of expressing, in English, how very precious I was to her.” Her small hand tenderly stroked above the dark eyebrows, across, dramatically high cheek bones, down a long, elegant neck. “You are precious to me, Sandra Abbott.”

Sandra’s eyes closed as she allowed herself to just feel the pleasure of her lover’s touch.

Josie put her plans to broach the subject of AA on hold, as her passion for the dark troubled woman soared.

The little blond pulled the dark haired beauty down for a gentle kiss. She lightly licked soft lips, begging entrance. A tiny, high pitched rasp escaped Sandra’s throat as she parted her lips for her lover’s tongue. The kiss was a tender exploration that turned into a demand for fulfillment as Sandra forced her thigh between the shorter woman’s legs, enticing a groan of need from deep within her. Josie slid against her lover as her ardor rose. A small warm hand lifted to lovingly stroke a hardening nipple through cool fabric, causing the taller woman to release sweet lips and latch on to a succulent neck. The little blond placed her weight upon Sandra’s thigh to keep from sliding to the floor as she thrilled at the sensations running through her being.

Josie pulled back from her lover and took her hand, leading her to a soft bed. They quickly disrobed and fell into each others arms, stroking, kissing and licking each other’s flesh. Josie rolled on top of Sandra, “Open your legs wide for me, love, and bend your knees. Mmmm, that’s right. Just like that.” The smaller woman positioned her body so she could stimulate her lover’s sex with her mons, suckle at her breast and squeeze her buttocks at the same time.

“Oh God, Josie….. That feels so….. I don’t know a word for it….. Yeah! ….. Oh, Jesus!….. Don’t stop….. Don’t stop…..” Sandra’s dark head whipped from side to side.

“I have no intention of stopping, my love.” Josie arose from a dark nipple, allowing herself to tilt further into Sandra’s clit. She ground and pumped, never allowing the contact to sever. Thighs and arms trembled as the little woman thrilled at the contact. “Look at me, my love. See what loving you does to me.”

Sandra forced herself to open her eyes and gazed at the body of her lover, the glistening of sweat, the breasts swaying as she pumped, the taut nipples that made her mouth water. She reached up to caress them, causing a sharp intake of breath from her partner. Fascinated with the pleasure this gave her lover, she kneaded the pliant flesh, then rubbed the erect nipples against her palms, causing her own arousal to reach titanic proportions. She suddenly deserted the painfully engorged globes to grab the linens at her side in tight fists. Josie knew they were both at the edge. She ground her lover’s sex as hard as she could as she watched blue eyes turn black with oncoming orgasm. “Oh.., Sandy.., I’m gonna come! I… love… you…, Sandy…..OH….., FUCK…..,ME!!!!!

“OOOOOH! OOOOOH! JOOOOOSSSSSIEEEEE!!!!!” Sandra bucked into her lover as Josie pounded her sex with all she had.

The golden head fell onto Sandra’s bosom, her arms no longer strong enough to hold her, as she sucked in deep breaths. Sandra wrapped her long arms protectively around heaving shoulders.

“Thank you, Josie.” Sandra kissed her lover’s head.

The sated little woman looked up into eyes filled with love and awe. “For what?” She asked resting her chin on a full breast.

“For everything. For opening a whole new world of love and passion, pleasure beyond anything I’ve ever imagined. And for believing in me and loving me, thorns and all.” Sandra whispered as a tear escaped down her sweaty cheek.

“All roses have thorns, my love. And, you are welcome. It is my privilege to love your beauhunkiss.” Josie kissed the breast her head lay upon.

“Sweetheart, I did something for us today. I hope you won’t get upset. But, I contacted the Central Office of AA here and found out when and where the open, smoke free, meetings are. I thought we could attend some together so I can learn more about it and be able to help you more with all the stress you’ve been under. I intend to buy the Big Book and memorize it from cover to cover, too.” Josie searched her lover’s eyes, looking for any signs that she’d upset her. “There is a meeting tonight at Pine Grove Psych Hospital in Hattiesburg. It’s about a forty minute drive from here. I thought that we could, maybe, have dinner in the big city before the meeting. How does that sound?” Josie looked hopefully at her friend.

“You are the most incredible human being I’ve ever had the great pleasure to have in my life. I can’t believe you did that for us. I think it’s a terrific idea. I am so….. I just don’t know what else to say.” Sandra’s eyes filled with tears.

“Nope, no more of that. Let’s go get showered. I have a young man from the college coming by in a little while to give me the pieces and parts he wants me to organize into a term paper. Sounds really interesting. It’s on the chemistry of the brain, you know, neurotransmitters and neurons. I’m looking forward to working on it.”

“That does sound interesting. You’re really enjoying helping the students out, aren’t you.”

“I really am. And the fact that they pay me makes me like it all the more.” Josie giggled and pulled her lover toward the shower, where they took turns soaping and exploring each other’s bodies, even though they didn’t have time to pursue more fulfilling activities.

***

Jason Lee woke up with a slight sore throat and a distinct tickle. ‘Must be allergies. Everything is in full spring bloom right now. It’s a honey bee’s paradise out there.’ He tried to clear his throat and went to the medicine cabinet to take some sudafed. “That should take care of that. Geesh, now I have to collect all my notes and put them in some semblance of order for Mrs. Ladner. Thank God I found someone to organize this shit. I can’t afford to screw up my grades. It’s almost 3 p.m. I’ve gotta get moving.’

***

“Hello, you must be Jason. I’m Josie Ladner. Won’t you come in. You can place your papers on the table there and we’ll go over them together. Would you like a cup of coffee?” Josie was always a gracious host.

“That would be great. Thank you.” Jason thought the hot liquid would sooth his throat, which felt worse now than it had this morning. ‘Man, just what I need a damned cold just in time for Spring break.’

The two sat at the table and hashed out the work needed and the cost. Jason left confident of saving his grades but despondent that he might be spending Spring break in bed, alone, while all his friends went down to the Gulf Coast to party. ‘Sometimes, life’s just not fair.’

***

The AA meeting wasn’t too crowded to the friends’ relief. They each poured a cup of coffee and Sandra pointed out which books and pamphlets for Josie to buy.

A middle aged woman and older man introduced themselves as the moderator for the night’s meeting and the chairman for the month, respectively. They welcomed the newcomers and asked them to take a seat at the large round table as the meeting was about to begin.

“Good evening everyone. This is the regular Tuesday night open meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. I am Roger and I am a grateful alcoholic. I will be your chairman for the month of March. I have asked Jim to read How It Works. It is our custom at this meeting to ask if one of the newcomers would like to read the twelve traditions of AA.”

Josie and Sandra looked at each other and, seeing the fear in her friends blue eyes, Josie volunteered for the task.

The meeting proceeded with the readings and then the moderator was introduced.

“I’d like to introduce our moderator for tonight. She has twelve years of sobriety and some of the best serenity of anyone I know. I hope some of it rubs off on us this evening. Please welcome Tammy C.”

The whole table at one time said “Hello, Tammy”.

“Hi, everyone. We have two new members here tonight, so why don’t we all introduce ourselves.”

One by one each attendee gave their first name and whether they were alcoholic or the friend or family member of an alcoholic, as they went around the table.

They called upon the newcomers last. “My name is Josie. I am here for us.” Her tiny hand covered Sandra’s much larger one.

“My name is Sandra. I am an alcoholic. I’m here cause I’m not all there. But I hope that, with the help of the program and Josie, I’ll get weller.” Sandra blushed and looked into her coffee cup.

“Well, welcome ladies. The topic I’d like to throw out there for discussion tonight is “Attitude of Gratitude”. We’ve all lost a lot during our drinking careers, from family members, to jobs, to our health. Sometimes you feel so sorry for yourself, you can’t get your butt off that “pity pot”. But if you don’t get off the “pity pot”, you wind up with a ring around your ass. So with that, let’s start with Roger and go around the table to his right.”

“Please don’t comment on what anyone is sharing. Here there are no judgement calls, no reading other people’s mail. And remember: “Who you see here and what they say here, when you leave here, let it stay here”.”

The friends enjoyed the meeting very much and felt right at home with the eclectic group, a mixture of long term and short term sobriety, men and women of all ages. Sandra felt particularly comfortable with Tammy and asked her to be her local sponsor, someone she could talk to and ask guidance from. They exchanged phone numbers and email addresses, while Josie purchased her literature. All in all it was a very constructive meeting. They promised to return the following week.

***

The girls arrived home about ten o’clock and dragged themselves over to the sofa and cuddled in each other’s arms.

“You tired, sweetheart?”

“Yeah, just a little. Oh, I forgot to tell you, Beth and I are going to do lunch tomorrow over at The Magnolia Café. I’ll give you her beeper number in case you need me for anything.”

“I suppose my ears will be burning.” Sandra grimaced.

“You can count on it.

***

“Don’t you ever eat anything here other than the Reuben sandwich?”

“Nope. I like em. It’s one of the few decadent treats allowed on my diet, even if I can only eat half. I’ll eat the other half for dinner tonight. How’s your quiche?”

“Jo, you don’t give a rat’s ass about my quiche. Now, quit stalling and tell me about you and your companion. I want all the details.”

“I don’t know about all the details, but I am totally, head over heals, heart and clit throbbing, in love.”

“You do know how to turn a phrase.” Beth rolled her eyes.

The little blond sat back in her chair. “Beth, she’s special. She makes me feel things I never thought I’d feel again and some I never have felt before. She’s so good and has been through so much. The woman’s literally been through hell on earth. Now, she’s starting over. I’m so proud of her. She’s gentle and a little unsure of herself. There are some things about Sandy’s past that I really need to get her permission before discussing with you. You understand, don’t you?”

“Sure. I understand. I wouldn’t ever want you to break a confidence of mine and wouldn’t expect anything less of you with Sandra. But, get that permission pronto, Ok?”

“He…he, he. You slay me. Yeah, I’ll talk to her about it soon. She needs to know that you and I have no secrets. It might take a little while for her to get used to us. I don’t think she’s ever had a real best friend.”

“That’s so sad. I hope she’ll let me in so we can be friends too.” Beth’s eyes filled with compassion.

“I really want that too, Beth.” Josie reached over to pat her best friend’s hand. “So, let’s go shopping. There is a sale across the street at Hand Made Designs in Jewelry.” Josie wiggled her eyebrows.

“You’re on. Lead the way.”

The friends proceeded to share a lovely, if expensive, afternoon.

***

Josie was working diligently at her computer when she heard her companion enter the kitchen door. Sandra gingerly walked into the house holding her low back.

“What happened to you?” Josie jumped up to help the ailing woman to a seat.

“I wrenched my back transferring a patient, a really big patient, from her bed to the wheelchair. Good gravy, that smarts.” Sandra exclaimed as she sat at the kitchen table.

“My poor, love. I’ll get you a motrin. You’d better put something on your stomach before you take it. I have a tuna fish sandwich for you and chips.”

Josie threw her left over Reuben sandwich into the microwave to warm as she poured them each a Barq’s.

“So, did you have fun today with Beth?” Sandy asked as she munched on a chip.

“Were your ears burning? You were definitely the main topic of discussion. And I am proud to say you have received the official Beth Bergeron seal of approval.”

“Really? That’s great. I know her opinion is very important to you.”

“Yes, it is. And you are very important to me. Now take that motrin. I want to finish the page I was working on. It’ll just take a few minutes, then I want you to crawl into bed and let me examine your back .”

“Ooooh, that sounds like a plan.” Sandy reached her long arms around her lover’s waist and buried her nose in plump cleavage, breathing deeply of her spicy sent.

“Now, cut that out.” Josie tried to extricate herself from the larger woman’s hold as a warm wet tongue, lathing between her breasts, sent shivers throughout her entire being.

“Oh, God, you don’t play fair.” She looked down and fell into passion filled pools of blue. “You should know how serious a back injury can be. You might need an MRI or a Cat Scan. You don’t want to be laid up and unable to complete the semester’s clinicals, do you?”

Sandra groaned at the thought. “Anything but that.”

Josie finished her work and shut down the laptop. “You ready to have me examine you?”

“If you’ll help me up, I’m there.”

***

“OW!”

“Sorry! You’ll live. It’s just a strain. I prescribe a long soak in the hot tub with a certain blond nurse and a large dose of tender loving care.”

Josie bent down to kiss the boo boo.

***

“What are you grinning at, Beth? You’ve had the silliest look on your face all through supper. Did something amusing happen at lunch today?”

“You could say that. I didn’t want to mention anything in front of the children. I don’t want to spend the rest of the evening explaining why their Aunt Josie is asking her companion to “go steady”.”

Tommy choked on his expresso.

“Babe, you ok?” Beth patted her husband’s back as he tried to clear his throat.

“Un…hum. You’re pulling my leg, right? She’s not really going to ask that woman to “go steady” with her.”

“Don’t call Sandra “that woman”. She’s a good soul and Josie loves her deeply.”

“I haven’t even MET the woman.” Tommy exclaimed, non-plussed.

“They’ve been very busy with nursing school and getting to know each other. I’m sure Josie and Sandy will spend some time with us when their lives calm down. You remember what it was like when Josie was a student nurse. We were afraid she’d have a breakdown from the stress. She’s just trying to make it easier on her friend. Any way, she loves medicine. She’s having a ball.”

Beth sat down at the dinner table next to her husband. “Tommy, honey, it’s been so long since she’s been truly happy. Let’s support her, huh?” Beth rubbed her husbands arm.

“She’s happy with this woman?” Tommy asked, doubtfully.

Beth sighed in frustration. “Yes, my over-protective hubby, she is truly happy with SANDRA.”

Tommy sighed in resignation. “So tell me all about it. Is she giving her her “class ring”?” He asked, sarcastically.

“Well, sorta. After lunch, we walked over to that hand made jewelry store. There was this garnet ring. It was beautiful, very unique. It was a bar of garnet wrapped in a delicately carved band of sterling silver. She said it represented Sandy’s hold on her heart. It was so sweet. Jo actually had tears in her eyes, Tommy. Our Josie’s really in love. I haven’t seen her like this since Bonnie and that was ten years ago.”

“Yeah, and I remember what she went through when Bonnie went back to Dani. I just don’t want to see her suffer through that again.”

“I know, honey, but she’s forty four years old. We have to trust her judgement on this. Anyway, as far as I know, there is no one waiting in the wings.”

“Well, I want to meet her. Why don’t we invite them over Sunday for lunch.”

“Great idea. Just don’t give the poor woman the third degree. She’s shy. I don’t want you scaring her off.”

“You make me sound like an ogre.” Tommy rolled his eyes at his wife. “I promise. I’ll make her feel welcome.”

“Just see that you do. I don’t want Josie hurt.”

“Geesh, I promise to make nice. Scout’s honor.” Tommy raised his right hand and grinned.

“Sometimes you are so adorable.” Beth crawled onto her husband’s lap and heaved a sigh of contentment.

***

“Oooooh, Josie. This was a great idea.” Sandra felt her muscles ease as the jets beat against them.

“I’m glad you like it, but we need to get out of here before it lulls us to sleep. I have something much more invigorating planned.”

“You do, do you?” Sandra wiggled her eyebrows and grinned lasciviously.

“Yesss, I do.” Josie purred seductively as she kissed her lover’s lips and tongues dueled for dominance.

“Woe, let’s get outta here.” Sandy exclaimed as she tried to catch her breath.

Josie helped her lover exit the hot tub, cognizant of her still sore back. The women dried off, then slipped on their bath robes and went back indoors.

“Why don’t you get your sweet beauhunkiss into the shower and I’ll join you in a moment. I have a little surprise for you.” Josie kissed her lover sweetly and pushed her toward the bedroom.

Josie retrieved the ring from her fanny pack. ‘God, I’m so nervous. What if I scare her away. Maybe it’s too soon or she’ll think I’m just acting foolish. Shit!” Josie battled her insecurities as she placed the ring on her own finger. ‘Well, I have only this moment promised me. I’m going for the gusto.’ Josie took a deep breath and went to join her beloved.

When Josie entered the shower, Sandra was enjoying the feel of the shower massage pounding her low back, causing her to moan in pleasure and relief.

“Sounds like you started without me.” Josie chuckled.

Sandra turned toward the nude blond and let her eyes wander over every luscious inch of her. “You are beautiful, boss. I still can’t quite believe my luck.”

Josie reached up to stroke her lover’s cheek. “I’m the lucky one. Loving you makes me so very happy, Sandy. Please believe me.”

“I want to. I want to so bad, but I’ve never felt happiness like this. It’s hard for me to trust it.” Sandy looked away.

“Sandy, today I got you something. Something very special. It’s a symbol of my love and commitment to you. I want you to wear it always.” Josie reached down and took off the ring and then slipped it onto the ring finger of Sandra’s left hand. She kissed it, tenderly.

Sandra searched her lover’s sea green eyes in disbelief. “I don’t understand.”

“I’m kinda asking you to “go steady” with me.” The little woman smiled, shyly, her face turning a lovely shade of pink. Josie brought the stunned woman’s hands to her lips and kissed first one trembling palm, then the other. “I love you, Sandy. Please say yes.”

Sandra burst into tears, feeling totally exposed in her physical and emotional nakedness, she slipped passed her lover and grabbed her bath robe as she ran away.

“That went well. Shit!” Josie stepped out of the shower and grabbed her bathrobe on the way to find her frightened lover.

A thorough search of the house and porch, proved to Josie that her beloved had gone back to her own apartment. She headed to the kitchen door and stopped cold when she noticed the symbol of her love and commitment for Sandra, lying, discarded on the table. The stricken woman slowly sank into a kitchen chair as she reached for the ring. She looked at it as if she’d never seen it before, perusing every nuance. Then, looking inside the band, she read the inscription “Forever and Always”. And, she cried.

part 7

“Hello?” Andre’ Broussard was busy preparing for work. She’d have to leave in about 30 minutes to make it to the hospital in time for her 11p-7a shift.

“Momma…..?” Sandra could barely speak passed the huge knot in her throat.

“Sandra? Is that you, cheri?” Andre’ clearly heard the distress in her child’s voice.

“Momma, I messed up.” Sandra couldn’t hold back the sob in her throat.

“How’d you mess up, cheri?” She asked, sitting at the kitchen table, her heart filled with dread.

“I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to make things right again.” The dark haired beauty sobbed so hard that her mother could no longer understand her words, but heard her heart breaking.

“Sandra, have you been drinking?” Andre’ held her breath and prayed to St. Anthony.

“No.” Sandra sniffled and tried to catch her breath so she could talk.

“Then what is it, ma cheri? What has you so upset…..? Tell me.”

“It’s Josie. I don’t know what to do. I was awful to her. She offered to commit her life to me, momma. She asked me for the same commitment and I freaked out and ran away.” There was a lull as the distraught woman blew her nose and wiped her eyes. “She gave me a beautiful garnet ring. I left it on her kitchen table as I ran out of the house. What she must think of me. She must hate me. After all she’s done for me, I just threw it all away.” The sobbing renewed.

“C’est domage, cheri. You ran because you were overwhelmed or you ran because you do not love her enough to commit to her?”

“I love her so much it hurts. She’s my life, momma. And I’ve hurt her. How could she forgive me treating her like that. I just panicked. I know I don’t deserve her and I’m sure now she realizes that too.”

“That is just not true, Sandra Camille. Whatever wrong you may have done in your life, you have more than paid for. You must stop punishing yourself. This is your second chance. Don’t let it pass you by.”

“But, how can someone like her love someone like me. I’m a drunk that put her addiction before the safety of her own child.” Sandra sobbed.

“Stop punishing yourself. It won’t bring Antoine back to us. It will only take you away from me too. Please, ma cheri, you are my child. I don’t want to lose you. You need to get involved in AA up there. This is a MUST for you. Have you gotten a sponsor yet?”

Sandra was surprised at first by the question. “Yes, actually, Josie took me to an AA meeting the other night and I asked a woman there to be my sponsor.”

“Have you called her tonight?” Her mother asked.

“No, I hadn’t even thought of that. I guess I should, huh? I have a couple more quarters. ” Sandra reached into her pocket.

“Yes, I think you should. Where are you calling from?” Andre’ was concerned.

“I drove over to the Big K and used their pay phone. I just had to talk to you.” Sandra sniffled and wiped at her red eyes again.

“I am always here for you, ma petite fille. But, as much as I love you, Sandra, and want to take your pain away, it is up to you to learn and to grow. You know what they teach in AA, “there is no growth without pain” and pain hurts. But, you can survive it and become stronger and wiser. Let it work for you, not against you. I want you to call your sponsor as soon as I hang up and be careful. It is getting late. You shouldn’t be out alone, especially when you are so upset. Ok?”

“Ok, mom. I will. I love you.”

“I love you, too, more than all the stars in the skies. A’ bientot, cheri.”

“Bon soir, momma.”

***

Josie cried her heart break and disappointment out at the kitchen table until she heard the familiar start of Sandra’s VW and ran to the door just in time to watch her drive away. Sadness turned to anger and she made the conscious decision to fight for what she knew they both wanted. She went to wash her face and put on her jeans, a t-shirt and her Reeboks. After she felt more human and had her emotions under control, she grabbed her wallet and keys and went in pursuit of her lover.

It didn’t take long for Josie to find the bug parked at the Big K. Just as she was getting out of her car, she noticed Tammy from the AA meeting walk through the doors. Not sure what she should do, now, she sat in her car and waited. She could see the two women seated opposite each other in a booth talking. Sandra wiped at her face with a napkin as she ran her fingers through her long, dark, hair. Tammy nodded and patted her hand, offering understanding and solace. Josie realized that her friend was where she needed to be and went home to await her return.

It was over an hour later when Josie heard the bug drive up into the garage and she ran to the kitchen door to greet her.

“Hey….., you Ok?” Josie stood in the doorway wanting to run to the tall beauty, but not sure she wanted close contact right now.

“Tired.” The emotionally exhausted and embarrassed woman crossed her arms under her breasts and scuffed the ground with the tip of her sneaker.

“Yeah, you look like hell.” Josie teased.

“Gee, thanks. I love you, too.” Sandra shyly chuckled as she looked into her friends shining eyes then quickly back at her feet.

“God, I hope so, cause I love you something fierce.” Josie smiled as the tears escaped down her fevered cheeks.

Sandra looked up. “You do?”

“Yeah, I do….. Sandy, I know you’re scared. I’m a little scared now, too.” Josie looked down as if studying her shoes. “I don’t know what all the demons are that haunt you.” She looked up into blood shot blue eyes. “But, you can trust me and my love for you. Just, don’t run away….. Please, Sandy. It hurt so much to see my ring just….. discarded like that.” Josie returned to her appraisal of her shoe laces.

When Josie finished, Sandra slowly walked up to her, still standing in the doorway, wrapped her long arms around her waist and lay her head upon her lover’s bosom and cried.

Josie stroked her long dark hair. “You know what that ring represents to me…..? The garnet is my heart and the silver band holding it is you. You hold my heart, Sandy. Please don’t forget that.”

The dark head nodded. “I’m so sorry, Josie. There is a lot I need to tell you. I want to explain as best I can why I flew off like I did. It’s not that I don’t love you or don’t want to spend my life with you. I do. More than anything.”

Josie pushed the dark hair from her friend’s face.

“Can we talk after I get home from school tomorrow. I am whipped. I need to get some sleep and just be still for the rest of the night. You Ok with that?” Sandra looked into moist green orbs afraid she may have hurt her lover some more.

“I’m fine with that. I think it’s just what we both need right now. Why don’t you go on upstairs and I’ll see you tomorrow. And, Sandy, everything is going to be alright. There is nothing you and I can’t work out together. I need you to believe that, deal?” Josie searched her lover’s eyes.

“Deal.” Sandra smiled, warmly.

Josie tenderly kissed her friends forehead and said good night. She watched in sympathy as Sandra winced with pain as she climbed up the stairs to her apartment.

***

Both women fell into an exhausted sleep and woke with less than vim vigor and vitality. Josie dragged herself out of bed and struggled into her clothes and shoes as she set out for her morning walk.

Sandra awoke feeling hung over from the emotional strain of the night before. She looked out the window to see her boss walking Scooby and Doo and, the very strange looking, Rover. ‘What kind of dog is that? He looks like a patch work quilt.’ Sandra chuckled to herself.

She thought about the talk she was to have with Josie when she returned from school. It was clear that there were some things that she had to clarify for her, which meant she had to face them herself. Her stomach did flip flops just thinking about it. ‘As they say, today is the first day of the rest of your life. God, I hope that’s true.’ The dark haired beauty got ready for school as she prayed for courage and guidance.

‘Jesus, I’m pooped. I’m gonna have to crawl back into bed for a few hours if I’m going to have that talk with Sandra this afternoon. And, I think an extra B12 shot is in order.’ “Come on kids, back to the corral.” Josie cut her morning walk short in favor of her beauty sleep.

Josie slept with her little companions curled under the blanket at her side. She awoke at 2 p.m. feeling tired and achy. ‘This doesn’t bode well for the home team, guys. I guess I had a little too much stress last night. Gonna have to take it easy the next few days.’

She got up to shower feeling the all too familiar lethargy of the CFS pulling on her limbs, causing her to make the decision to take 10 mg of prednisone. She knew it would hike up her blood sugar, but this talk with Sandra was way too important to put off due to a little over exertion.

***

Sandra arrived home and ran upstairs to shower and change into jeans and a tight red t-shirt. She wanted to look good for Josie. She felt better about things today and didn’t dread this afternoon nearly as much as expected.

She walked through the kitchen and spied the adorable little blond out on the porch, with her dogs, sipping coffee. She looked fresh and sporty in khaki shorts and white lace halter top. Josie was wearing ‘the ring’ and a pair of small garnet dangle ear rings. Sandra just stood there and admired her lover until she was caught.

“Hey there, gorgeous. Won’t you grab a cup of decaf and join me?”

Sandra grinned and blushed. “Yeah, thanks.” She quickly retrieved her brew and curled up in the love seat facing Josie “You look great.” Sandra let her eyes peruse the figure before her.

“You don’t look too bad yourself.” Josie returned the admiring gaze.

Sandra blushed again and grinned. “Um… Thanks.”

“Welcome.” Josie loved it when her lover blushed. ‘She looks like a teenager.’

“We need to talk.” Josie said seriously.

“I know.” The dark head nodded, letting her hair shadow her face.

Josie took a deep breath and sat up straight in her rocker. “Sandy, why did you tell me your parents were divorced.”

Sandra’s head popped up in shock. She’d forgotten telling that particular lie to her boss. “I’m sorry, Josie. I didn’t mean to lie. I just didn’t know you then and I don’t like to talk about my dad. It usually shuts people up if I tell them that. I’m really sorry.” Sandra looked at her inquisitor with apprehension.

“Have you lied to me about anything else?” Josie looked into her coffee cup, fearful of what she might hear.

“I guess I deserve that…..” Sandra took a shaky breath. “No…… I swear it.”

Josie looked up into moist blue eyes and smiled gently. “I believe you.”

“What is it about your Dad you don’t want people to know…..? You can trust me, Sandy. You know that, don’t you? I want to understand where your demons come from so I can help you disarm them. So they can’t hurt you, or us, anymore….. Please, sweetheart,” Josie leaned toward her lover. “tell me.”

“I’ve never talked about it to anyone, ever. Not even my mother.” It was Sandra’s turn to look into her coffee cup for strength. “I don’t know if I can….. But….., I’ll try”

“Just start at the beginning. We have all the time you need.” Josie encouraged.

Sandra took a big gulp of her coffee and began. “I was crazy about my dad. I was definitely ‘daddy’s little girl’. I had him all to myself the first eight years of my life, til Tony was born. Boy, did I resent that little bugger. He took my daddy’s attention away from me. I found myself trying to excel at everything to get his approval and I got really involved in school sports so he’d come to see me play. I don’t think he ever missed a game.” Sandra sighed. “God, I loved him. He was my whole world.”

Sandra took a few sips of her coffee as she allowed her mind to search through the dark shadows of her repressed memories where the pain resided. “When I was fourteen. I was invited to the Junior/Senior prom by one of the boys in the Senior class. I thought it was so cool to have an older boy interested in me. My parents said I couldn’t go, that a boy that age only wanted one thing from a young girl. Boy did we have a fight. My Mom left for work, but my dad and I kept at it. I packed an overnight case and went to stay at my friend Kelly’s house. What my dad didn’t know was that Kelly was going to the prom, with a Junior. I borrowed one of her dresses. Her parents had a lot more money than mine. We had a ball, drinking, dancing and flirting. Then, suddenly, my date had me in a dark corner with his hands all over me. He stuck his tongue in my mouth. I’d never even kissed a boy before. I was so scared and the beer was making me sick to my stomach. I pulled away from him and ran to the bathroom to throw up. I was so miserable. My parents had been right all along. God, I felt like an inexperienced little fool. Kelly came to my defense and insisted that the guys bring us home.”

“I woke up the next morning with a world class hang over. I remember praying to God that, if he let me live, I’d tell my dad everything and take my punishment with a smile….. I never got the chance. My mom called Kelly’s Mom and asked her if she could drive me home. She needed me to watch Tony while she was at the hospital with my dad. He’d had a heart attack the night before while I was out partying. I never saw him again, Josie. He died that afternoon. I always felt that if I hadn’t upset him so much, he’d still be alive.” Sandra swiped at the tears slowly winding down her face. “I couldn’t take the guilt. I thought I killed him.” Sandra’s face crumpled as she allowed her pain to wash out of her for the first time in nineteen years.

Josie rushed to comfort her friend. She held her tight, gently rubbing her back. Sandra let herself be comforted til she was able to compose herself. Then sat back and resumed her story.

“I was so angry at myself and at God for taking him, I started drinking and running around with a rough crowd. My mom couldn’t control me. She had to work a lot of double shifts to support the three of us, so I was left unsupervised at night. I made that poor woman’s life a living hell. How I graduated from high school is a miracle to me.”

The girls agreed to take a break and shared a can of soup and toast. Josie felt her energy waning and her throat getting scratchy, but she wasn’t willing to give up this unique opportunity to look into the psyche of her enigmatic lover. They cleaned up the kitchen and took their coffee, and a box of tissues, out to the porch.

“So what happened after you graduated from high school? Where does Frank Abbott come into the picture?” Scooby climbed into her mistress’ lap as Doo jumped up to snuggle with Sandra, Rover snoring on the floor at their feet.

“I started calming down after I graduated. I knew that Tony needed me. Unfortunately, I was hooked on the alcohol by then and just couldn’t stay away from it for more than a few days at a time. In college I remember going to church and praying that God would help me to change, then buying a half pint of Jack Daniel’s and sticking it in my purse. I’d pick up a Coke on my way to school and mix myself a little toddy to enjoy during class.” Sandra laughed, derisively.

“I’d always wanted to be a nurse like my mom but she insisted I get an RN. So, she sent me to Delgado Community College to take all the prerequisites I needed to get into Charity Hospital’s RN program. My grades from high school weren’t so great, so I tried to do well on my prereq’s. That’s where I met Frank. He was studying some kind of mechanics. His hobby was rebuilding classic T-Birds. I was impressed with his vehicles and his James Dean- like good looks. All the girls were just gaga over him. For some reason he took an interest in me and we started dating. Boy, could he dance. His family was Catholic and his mom was Cajun. Needless to say, my mom was overjoyed with him.”

“Frank was very family oriented and took a shine to Tony. He didn’t mind taking him with us to the movies or staying home with him to watch tv or helping him with his homework. I didn’t want to screw things up with this great guy, so I learned I could drink wine cut with soda and not get falling down drunk.”

“Frank was very respectful, in spite of his reputation. But, after I’d gotten a good buzz on, I’d lose my inhibitions and allow him to have his way with me. He always had a couple of condoms. Sex was nothing like in the movies. I never had an orgasm with him but I did enjoy the petting and cuddling.”

“I was nineteen and almost finished my last semester when we went out drinking and dancing with his friends. I was really drunk and he was feeling no pain either. I went into a black out. I don’t to this day remember when the condom got tossed, but, long story short, I got knocked up. God, I’ll never forget my mother’s face when I told her. She must have evoked all the angels and Saints to save my evil soul. I got railroaded into marrying Frank with the understanding that I would finish off the semester and then after the baby was old enough for Frank’s folks to take care of it during the day, I’d go back to nursing school.”

“Once Frank made me his wife, his property, my wants and needs were disregarded. He didn’t even want me to work. I was suppose to stay at home, be a good wife and mother, house keeper and cook. Our intimacy consisted of one deep kiss, two or three rough squeezes of my breasts, his ejaculating inside of me, rolling over and falling asleep. What a romantic!” Sandra sighed. “I never new what making love meant….. til you.” She looked up, shyly.

“Giving birth to my son was the most miraculous experience of my life. It’s funny how I forgot all about the 27 hours of hard labor when I looked onto that angelic little face. I think that was the first time I fell in love. The second time….. was with you.” Tear filled blue eyes looked into moist green. Both women smiled, warmly.

“I breast fed my son for as long as I could stay off the booze. I heard you couldn’t get pregnant as long as you were nursing. I’ve never known the kind of pleasure and fulfillment that nursing my son gave me. Unfortunately, my sobriety only lasted a few months. I switched Antoine to formula and went on birth control pills that I kept hidden. I still had my dream of going to nursing school and making a life for myself and my son. I didn’t want any more children with Frank.”

“Anyway, Antoine died just before his 4th birthday and I became quite intimate with Jack Daniels. He’s the only man I was interested in sleeping with. Without him there was no sleep, just nightmares.”

“Frank and I shared the same house but I refused to share his bed. We fought constantly. My poor mother prayed for me, daily, and begged me to go back into the treatment center or to AA, but I didn’t care about stopping. I wanted to stop feeling and old Jack took care of that rather well.”

“The rest you know. Frank sought his pleasure elsewhere and I became the poor wronged wife. Thanks to his well known indiscretions he was no longer able to object to a divorce and I moved in with my mom. I was finally free. My mother was able to talk me back into treatment and this time it took. I wanted this second chance at life and, with the love and support of my mother and the AA program, I made it, one day at a time.”

“Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.” Sandra looked into her lover’s tired eyes and grinned. “Josie, I’ve never loved anyone like I love you. It scares the shit out of me. I panicked last night. I am so sorry for running like I did. I’m not a good risk. I haven’t experienced a lot of the normal relationship type stuff that most sober people have. I don’t know that I can handle this commitment and this passion I feel for you. All I know is that, if you still want to “go steady” with me, I’d be honored to wear your beautiful ring.” Sandra looked into shining green eyes that glowed with love and happiness.

Josie slipped off the ring and handed it to her lover. “Read the inscription.”

Sandra wiped the tears from her eyes and squinted to read the small print, “Forever and Always”. A sob racked the tall beauty’s throat and she knelt at her lover’s feet, placing her dark head onto her bosom and held on tight. “I love you so much, Josie, thank you for loving me back.”

Josie ran her hands through thick dark locks. “The pleasure is all mine. No more running, deal?”

“Deal.”

Josie tilted the dark head up and wiped away her tears. “Let’s go to bed. I’m exhausted and you have school tomorrow.”

“Good Lord, Josie, It’s nearly nine o’clock. We’ve been talking for hours. Look, I’ll go upstairs so you can get some sleep and I can get my homework done.”

“No! I mean, I’d rather you worked down here tonight and slept with me. I can’t explain it, I just don’t want to sleep alone tonight. Not that I have the energy to pursue anything.” Josie felt foolish. She knew she was getting sick and wanted the comfort of her companion’s nearness.

“Ok. I’ll work at the kitchen table. I’ll try not to wake you when I turn in. Now, go get some sleep.” Sandra stood up and helped Josie to her feet and kissed her forehead.

“You’re a little warm, love. Why don’t you take a couple of tylenol before turning in.”

“I think I’ll do that. Thanks. Good night, my eyes.” Josie gently kissed her lover’s lips and then raised Sandra’s left hand, kissing the ring that represented so much to her.

***

It was almost midnight by time Sandra crawled into bed, clothed only in an oversized t-shirt from a Wynonna concert she’d attended two years before. Emotionally and physically exhausted, she fell into a deep sleep as soon as her head touched the pillow.

It was several hours later when the groggy brunette was roused from her slumber by an awful sound. ‘What the hell was that?’ Sandra listened until she heard it again. When she was able to identify it’s source she realized her lover was in trouble. She rolled over to face the little blond who was coughing violently. Sandra reached for her to find her covered in sweat, heat radiating off her skin. “Oh shit!” Sandra reached over to turn on the lite and examine her ailing partner.

“Josie? Josie, honey, wake up. Can you hear me?” Sandra tried to control the panic she felt in her heart.

Josie tried to pull away and go back to sleep. Her fevered brain not registering her surroundings. Sandra ran to the medicine cabinet and got the ear thermometer, a glass of cold water and some tylenol.

“Oh, shit! Baby, your temperature’s 103. I need you to take these, Josie.” Sandra firmly shook her lover to rouse her enough to take the medicine. She retrieved the tin where the diabetic supplies were kept.

“Awe, Fuck! Your blood sugar is 480 mg/dl.” Josie continued to sleep as Sandra picked up the phone and pressed 7 on the speed dial.”

“Hello, Dr. Akras here.” Came the sleepy voice.

“Hello, Dr. Akras, this is Sandra, Josie Ladner’s companion. She’s very sick. Her fever is 103 and her blood sugar is 480. I gave her two tylenol but she is incoherent and I don’t know how much insulin to give her.”

“Listen carefully, Sandra. I want you to give her 20 units of regular insulin SC. Can you do that?”

“Yes sir. I’m drawing it up now.” Sandra had put Dr. Akras on the speaker phone and drew up the insulin.

“Good girl.”

“Ok, now what?” Sandra tried to control her fear. She had to be strong to help her friend.

“Get her to the emergency room. I’ll meet you there in 20 minutes.”

“We’ll be there. Thank you so much, Doctor.” He’d already hung up.

Sandra removed Josie’s drenched t-shirt and wiped her down with a cold wet rag before dressing her in a t-shirt and shorts with her slippers on. She pulled on her jeans and got their wallets. Then, lifting her lover like a child, she carefully carried her to the car. She made it to the hospital in exactly 20 minutes as Dr. Akras was driving up.

The waiting room felt very cold as the tall beauty paced and worried. It seemed to be taking way too long for them to assess and treat her friend. It was 45 minutes later when Dr. Akras joined her.

“Josie has a pneumonia, my suspicion is strep. There’s a lot of it going around and she is particularly susceptible. Her diabetes is out of control due to the infection. I’ve put her on an hourly monitor, which should take care of it. I’m afraid her fever is the problem right now. She is not responding to Tylenol or advil, so I’ve put her on a cooling blanket with ice packs at her pulse points. Hopefully that will bring it down and keep it down. Until we get the cultures back, I’ve hung cefazolin and zithromax through a saline drip. I’ve got her on 2 liters of humidified oxygen and respiratory treatments. We are monitoring her very carefully. If you want to stay with her, there is a sleeper in the room.”

“Thank you, I will. May I see her now?” Sandra asked, anxiously.

“Yes. But, she may not know you are there. She’s not altogether coherent.” The Doctor warned, compassionately.

“She’ll know.”

Dr. Akras looked sympathetically at his patient’s companion.

“Perhaps, she will at that. I’ll be back to see her in a few hours.” He patted her slumped shoulder as he rose to leave.

***

Sandra opened the door of her lover’s room as quietly as she could. She stood by the bed taking in all of the tubes going to and coming from her beloved. Their was a pulse oximeter attached to the middle finger of her left hand, monitoring her blood oxygen level. An alarm would go off whenever it went below 97%.

She looked so tiny and frail. Her soft curls plastered to her head with sweat. She shivered periodically and her body was racked with powerful coughs.

Sandra looked at the time and realized she had to be at school in less than two hours. Loathed to leave her lover in the hands of the hospital staff, she decided to call Beth for help.

“Hello?” Beth’s voice was thick with sleep.

“Beth, this is Sandra. Josie’s friend.” Sandra tried not to let her voice belie her calm.

Fear struck the older woman’s heart. “Sandra? What’s happened!?! Where is she?” Beth knew immediately her best friend was in deep trouble.

“She’s at the County hospital. She has pneumonia.”

“Oh, no….. Why can’t she ever get a break? Tell me how I can help.”

Sandra took a deep breath and tried to maintain her composure.

“Look, Beth, I have clinicals today and I was wondering if you could come stay with her until I get off. Til about 4 p.m. If I miss school, Josie’s gonna be really pissed at me and I don’t want to upset her.” Sandra’s voice broke as she lost the last vestiges of control over her emotions.

“Hey, Sandra? I’m here for you both. You’re not alone. Ok? Now, what time?”

Sandra sniffled and took a deep breath to compose herself. “Well I’m going to go home to change and pack a bag for me and one for Josie. I’ll meet you back here in an hour and a half. If that’s Ok.”

“I’ll be there. And, Sandra….., she’s gonna be alright. I know it. She’s a tough little thing.” Beth tried to convince them both.

“Thanks, Beth. I’ll see you later, then.”

Sandra leaned over her lover and whispered in her ear. “I love you, boss. Just hold on to that, deal?” Then, kissed her fevered cheek.

Sandra was on automatic pilot as she packed their bags. She fed and walked the dogs, explaining to the attentive canines that their mistress was sick and would be away for a while. She kissed each one of them before she left to meet Beth.

***

“How’s she doing?” Sandra asked Beth as she entered the room.

“She seems to be having a hard time breathing clearly and she has a god-awful cough.” Beth responded from her friend’s bedside. Beth indicated the IV bags, monitors and cooling blanket. “What’s all this for?”

After explaining, in detail, all the equipment surrounding the frail looking little woman, Sandra kissed her lover’s cheek and left for school.

***

Working the intense pace of her clinical rotation was almost therapeutic for Sandra. Whereas she felt useless to help her friend, she could provide excellent care for her patients.

As soon as her lunch break rolled around, she called Beth. “Hey, Beth. Any change?” Sandra asked hopefully.

“Sandra, I’m so glad you called. She’s having a real hard time breathing. I keep telling the nurse, but all she does is tell me that the doctor already has respiratory therapy ordered for her. But…,” Beth couldn’t help the emotion filling her voice. “I don’t know how much longer she can struggle like this. We have to do something.”

“Ok, don’t panic. I’ll call Dr. Akras myself. It sounds like she needs an aminophylline drip. I’ll call you back as soon as I reach him.” Sandra hung up and dialed the doctor’s office.

“Good morning, Dr. Akras’ office. Linda speaking.”

“Linda, this is Josie Ladner’s companion. She’s in County Hospital in respiratory distress. I need to speak to Dr. Akras immediately. This is an emergency.” Sandra prayed he’d be there.

“The doctor is with a patient right now. Can I have him call you back?”

“NO! Please, interrupt him. This is a medical emergency, Mrs. Ladner is in respiratory distress. I am a nurse. I must speak with Dr. Akras right now.” Sandra demand.

“I’ll inform him. Please hold.” The receptionist new how her boss felt about being interrupted when in with a patient. She took a deep breath and crossed her fingers as she gently knocked for access.

“Excuse me, Dr. Akras, I have an emergency call for you concerning a Josie Ladner.”

The Doctor excused himself and joined his receptionist in the hall. “This had better be an emergency.” He turned on his heel and stomped off to his office to pick up the extension.

“This is Dr. Akras. What is Mrs. Ladner’s condition?”

“Dr. Akras? This is Sandra, Josie Ladner’s companion. I am a nurse. She is in respiratory distress. Her breathing is much more labored than when you last examined her. I believe she is in need of an aminophylline drip. Please, doctor….. Help her.” Sandra’s throat tightened, painfully, with emotion.

“Why didn’t her nurse call me?”

“She was told several times, sir. But did nothing.” Sandra spit the words out.

“I’ll take care of it. Thank you for calling me, Sandra.”

Relief rushed over her as she called Beth. Having reassured her new friend that proper measures would be taken, she returned to her nursing duties, visibly shaken. ‘God, if I make it through this day, it will be a minor miracle.’

***

Sandra ran down the hall to her Josie’s room, not having bothered to stop at the house to bathe and change out of her uniform. She walked through the door and paused, taking in her still, small form. “Did they hang the aminophylline?” Sandra couldn’t take her eyes off of her lover.

“Yes. About two hours ago. She’s breathing much easier now….. Thank you, Sandra. I’ve never felt anything like that before. I was sitting here watching my best friend suffocate. I couldn’t get the nurse to help her.” The strain was evident on the older woman’s face.

“Thank you for being here. This is a small rural hospital. They are unaccustomed to dealing with much more than geriatrics. Complacency is bound to set in when you never deal with new challenges. Our friend was nearly the victim of that complacency. I intend to make certain it doesn’t happen again, at least not to Josie. Sandra and Beth hugged each other, words insufficient to show how they felt.

“I guess I’ll be going. I’ll be back in the morning so you can go to school without worrying too much. But, would you mind taking Jo’s cell phone with you this time, just in case? Today was a little too exciting for me.” Beth chuckled.

Sandra smiled wanly at her new friend. “Now, that sounds like a plan. I’ll see you about 0700 then. Oh, could you stop by the house and feed the dogs for me?”

“Sure.”

“Drive carefully going home, Ok?”

“I will. If…..” Beth couldn’t bring herself to finish the thought.

Sandra just nodded.

Josie was soundly sleeping so Sandra took the opportunity to shower and order pizza delivered.

The tall, tired, woman curled up in the chair she’d pushed against the bed and held her lover’s hand as she told her all about her day. It felt good to do something normal. She accented her story with tender kisses on the small fevered fingers.

A knock on the door announced the arrival of a medium pizza with jalopeno peppers and a one liter bottle of Barq’s. ‘Just what the doctor ordered.’ She paid and tipped the delivery man and curled back into the chair to enjoy her feast.

Josie was vaguely aware of the fog lifting from her mind and pain wrapping around her chest. She felt as if the weight of the world was laying upon her body. ‘Oh, I’ve really done it this time. God, I feel awful. I want Sandy. I must be in the hospital. I can feel the IV’s and the rough sheets and the smells. Mmmmm, what’s that? Pizza? Sandra ordered Pizza? Come on Josie, get those eyes open, girl. At least move your hand. Get her attention. I want some PIZZA!!!’

Sandra was enjoying her pie and watching the slightly ragged rise and fall of her lover’s chest, when she noticed the hand she’d just been holding moving up and down slightly, but purposefully.

“Josie? Honey? You awake, sweetheart?” Sandra put her pizza aside and stood up so she could see down onto the face she loved. Eyelids fluttered and bleary sea green orbs came into semi-focus. The lovers smiled at each other as Sandra took the small hand into her much larger one and kissed it. The very weak woman motioned to her companion with her left hand to lean her ear down to her lips. She struggled a moment to breathe passed her raw throat and bravely whispered in her lover’s ear….. “Pizza?”

Sandra broke into gales of laughter, which caused her patient to laugh also, at her great regret. The pain in her throat and chest was excruciating, causing her to grimace and tears to burst from her eyes.

“Sweetheart, what’s wrong?” Sandra was distressed at the sudden turn of events.

Josie raised a trembling hand to her throat then slid it down her chest. She couldn’t stop the tears of agony she knew were frightening her friend.

“Pain in your throat and chest?”

Josie nodded as she tried to compose herself.

Sandra retrieved her pen lite from the uniform, hanging in the closet.

“Boss, I need you to open your mouth as wide as you can so I can see what’s going on back there, Ok?”

Josie cooperated as best she could and allowed her lover to examine her throat.

“Wow, your throat’s all inflamed and your glands are swollen. That’s gotta hurt. Let me go to the nurses station and see if I can get you some relief.”

Sandra returned with the night nurse, some throat spray and two darvocet-N-100. “Mrs. Ladner, my name is Norma and I’m going to be your nurse tonight. I have brought something to make you more comfortable. I’m going to spray your throat to dull the pain, then I’m going to give you these pain pills. Do you think you can swallow?”

Josie looked from the nurse to her lover, anxiously. She really didn’t know that she could swallow without choking.

“Can I try?” Sandra lifted her lover so she was lying against the taller woman’s chest. The nurse sprayed her throat thoroughly until Josie was able to swallow, then gave her the pain pills. It hurt a bunch going passed the swollen tissues. But she didn’t choke.

The nurse excused herself, feeling there was something strangely intimate about the relationship between these two women. But deciding it was none of her business. If her patient found comfort being held in the tall woman’s arms. She was glad for her.

Sandra enjoyed the feeling of holding her lover’s, slightly too warm, body to her breast. She’d needed this closeness all day and it was soothing her frazzled nerves. She could feel the rumbling of the fluid in her lungs and the constant trembling caused by the aminophylline.

“I’m afraid there’ll be no pizza for you. At lease not for the next few days.” Sandra kissed a hot cheek.

Josie relished the sound of her lover’s voice and stroked the arm wrapped snugly around her then gently pulled Sandra’s hand to her lips and kissed it before sleep took her again, safe and secure in her lover’s arms.

part 8

Sandra awoke in the exact same position where she’d fallen asleep. Josie snored softly, her golden head resting against soft breasts. She lay under her lover for a moment enjoying the vague sense of arousal enveloping her. She stroked her arms and kissed the tempting neck. Realizing she was stoking a fire that her lover was too ill to quench, she stopped her ministrations and gently extricated herself from behind her sleeping patient.

“AWE, GOOD GRAVY, THAT HURTS!” Sandra grabbed at the pain in her low back as she tried to stretch out stiffened muscles.

Josie gradually awoke from the fog that had held her at the sound of the familiar epithet. Looking at her lover’s pained expression, she tried to reach over to touch her, offering her comfort. She was shocked at how weak she felt. ‘When is the last time I ate? It must be 36 hours by now. I need sustenance, but I’ll be damned if I can swallow and my throat can’t handle having an NGtube pushed through it. That leaves IV nutrition. I need to tell Sandy. I need something to write on.’

Josie motioned to her friend for a pen and paper. “Good morning, Sandy. I love you. I’m sorry your back hurts. I need to eat, but my throat and chest are too messed up. I’m getting too weak. I need to be fed IV. Can’t swallow and lymphs in neck hurt. Need EBV panel.”

Sandra had some difficulty reading the scrawl that Josie wrote, but made it out with her friend’s help. “Ok. I can get the parenteral nutrition and EBV panel ordered. Dr. Akras does rounds early before going into his office. I’ll catch him before I leave for school. Beth will be here in a little while to keep you company. Ok?”

Josie wrote, “That’s great. Thanks. Whew, I need a bath and my hair washed. Can you ask the nurse if someone can help me?”

“I’ll help you, boss.”

“No! Your back is sore. You’ll just aggravate it.” Josie scowled.

Sandra looked down, sheepishly, at her boss. “Yes ma’m, I’ll go catch the nurse.”

The nurse’s aide came in with all the equipment necessary to bathe her patient and wash her hair. Josie smiled broadly and motioned to Sandy to read the note she wrote.

“Would you go home to feed and walk the pups while I’m getting de-funked.”

Sandra gave her lover a warm smile. “Sure. I’ll be back within the hour.”

With that, Sandra leaned down to kiss her friend’s forehead.

***

When Josie next awoke, she felt clean and a bit more human. Once the fog lifted enough to focus, she noticed, with relief, the IV nutrition running into the central line in her neck. ‘No wonder I feel stronger.’

“Hey, boo, how you feeling?” Beth walked up so her friend could see her face.

Josie smiled up at her best friend.

“Here. Sandra said to give you this pad and paper.”

Josie gratefully accepted her one means of communication.

“Thanks, Beth. Would you find the number of Rachel Jarvis for me? She’s an attorney here in town. I don’t know her number off hand. It’s important. I want to make out a will. Please, don’t get hysterical on me. I just want to protect the people I love.” She handed the note pad to her friend.

“Oh, Jo. You’re getting better aren’t you? The doctor has your temperature and blood sugar under control. I know you’re still in a lot of pain and your lungs sound pretty wet….”

Josie raised her hand to stop her friend from continuing.

“I can feel the CFS taking over. My joints and my lymphs hurt, my mind’s foggy. I’m sure I can make it through this one with the help of you and Sandy. I’ll just rest easier knowing I’ve done what I need to. I’ll write what I want Rachel to put in the Will. You can read it to her over the phone. Tell her I need the documents here today for my signature. Please, Beth!”

“Ok. You write. I’ll call her office and tell them to set up a phone conference with your lawyer.” Beth kissed her best friend on the cheek and helped her to sit up in bed so she could write more comfortably. She was shocked at how thin and weak her best bud was. She had to struggle to keep the tears from sliding down her face. Beth walked into the bathroom to collect herself before making the call.

“Josie Bossetta Ladner, born June 13th, 1955. I leave my house and the 23 acres it resides upon to Mrs. Sandra Camille Broussard Abbott, born October 11, 1966. As for the income from mutual bonds, interest bearing accounts and rental properties, all of which are in my file at your office, I wish them to be divided as follows: One half to go to Mrs. Abbott for 24 months following my death, one half to Mrs. Elizabeth Bergeron, born April 7, 1957. I wish to make Mrs. Bergeron the executor of my estate and, as such, she will distribute the proceeds monthly to Mrs. Abbott. After the first twenty four month period, Mrs. Abbott will no longer receive proceeds from my estate. All proceeds will then transfer to Mrs. Bergeron to do with as she sees fit. I also wish to bestow upon Mrs. Bergeron my Power of Attorney if I am found to be not of sound mind for an extended period of time. No part of this will is to be contested.”

Josie handed the document to Beth, thanked her and promptly fell asleep.

She slept as Beth spoke with Rachel Jarvis, Esq. Rachel promised to have the document for Josie’s signature by 1400. After She’d hung up the phone, Beth sat watching Josie sleep fitfully. Though her breathing had improved, it was ragged and wet. Her little body seemed to be tiring of the effort. ‘I can’t lose her after all these years. She’s the closest thing I have to a sister. I can’t imagine my life without her.’ Unwilling to fight it anymore, Beth locked herself in the bathroom, turned on the faucet and sobbed.

***

Josie was still asleep when Rachel arrived and Beth gently awakened her. It took a few minutes for her to clear her mind enough to read the document. Satisfied of its accuracy, she signed.

The attorney notarized Josie’s signature and the nurse’s aide witnessed for her. She had a copy for Josie, Sandra and one for Beth to keep. An original would stay in the office file.

“Are you feeling any better?” Rachel asked as she held her client’s, and she hoped her friend, hand

Josie nodded and, in truth, she did feel a tiny bit stronger. But, her chest and throat still hurt and she was glad to see the nurse enter with her throat spray and IVPB antibiotics.

“If you ladies will excuse us for just a minute, we have a little work to do.” The nurse motioned toward the door and Rachel and Beth stepped into the hall.

“Hi, Mrs. Ladner, my name is Debbie and I’m going to be your nurse this afternoon.” Josie nodded and smiled at the young nurse as she watched her set up the overbed table with a glass of ice water and a straw and the anesthetizing throat spray. Debbie adjusted the head of the bed so her patient was sitting straight up.

“Now, Mrs. Ladner, I’m going to spray your throat to deaden it and then I want you to try drinking a few sips of water for me. Ok?”

The nurse didn’t register the look of fear in her patient’s sea green eyes. Josie looked toward the door hoping Beth or Sandra would walk in and intervene on her behalf.

“Here we go. Open real wide for me.” The nurse sprayed Josie’s throat thoroughly, then held the glass of ice water for her as she pressed the straw to her dry lips.

Josie held the delicious water in her mouth, savoring it like fine wine.

“Go ahead, tilt your head down and swallow for me.” The nurse instructed and Josie obeyed.

The spasms that followed wracked her frail body, sending scorching pain down her throat and throughout her chest and back.

“WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON IN HERE!?! Sandra pushed passed the nurse and pulled her lover into her arms “I’ve gotcha, I’ve gotcha, boss. Slow deep breaths. Take slow, deep breaths.” Sandra rubbed her patient’s back trying to calm and soothe her. Sandra looked daggers at the non-plussed young nurse. “Please, call respiratory and get her pain shot.” The nurse nodded and ran from the room.

Josie’s tears of pain and frustration soaked into Sandra’s shirt. “Slow deep breaths, baby. That’s my girl.” She continued to rub her lover’s back as the little blond lay limply against her, totally exhausted.

Sandra lay her lover down gently with the head of the bed elevated to facilitate ease of breathing and began to check for damage at her IV sites, making certain that she hadn’t jerked loose any of her tubing during her coughing spell. She was stricken by what she saw. Their was a small amount of pink frothy sputum on her hospital gown and her chin. Her eyes met Josie’s swollen red orbs as Josie wiped at her chin and looked at what had frightened her lover. Sandra reached for the phone and called Dr. Akras’ office.

The nurse returned with the respiratory therapist in tow and a pain shot for her patient.

Sandra stood out of the way, asking the nurse what happened.

“She choked.”

“On what?” She demanded with a snear.

“On the water I had her drink.”

“You had her drink water? Why do you think she’s on tube feeding? SHE CAN’T FUCKING SWALLOW!?! What is the matter with you people? Can’t you read charts. JESUS! She’s suppose to be safe here.”

The young nurse ran from the room in tears.

Beth, who’d been watching events unfold from the far corner of the room, terrified for her friend, wrapped her arms around the distraught beauty’s shoulders. “Calm down Sandy. You’ll only upset Josie more to see you lose your temper. Come on let’s go for a walk while she gets her breathing treatment.”

Sandra new she had to calm down so she let herself be led from the room.

“I’m sorry, Sandy. When she asked us to leave the room, I thought she was going to spray her throat and do something requiring privacy. You know, like change her gown. I had no idea she was going to try to make her drink. I should have demanded to stay in the room….. God, I’m so sorry.” Beth rung her hands and looked at the taller woman for some sign of her forgiveness.

Sandra heard the need for reassurance in her friend’s tone and tried to not direct her anger at her.

“Next week is Spring Break. I’ll move in here with Josie until she can eat and I can take her home.”

Beth nodded. “Look, I’ll go take care of the dogs so you can stay here with Jo.”

“Thanks….. Beth….. Ummm….. I just want you to know that I don’t blame you for what happened. I don’t want you to think I’m angry with you. I’m just so frustrated with it all. You know?” Sandra looked down into moist eyes.

“Yeah, I know.” Beth rubbed her friends arm to offer comfort.

“Who’s us?” Sandy inquired.

“What?” Beth gave her a quizzical look.

“You said the nurse asked “us” to leave the room. Who’s us?”

“Oh! Rachel Jarvis was visiting Josie.” Beth hoped she wouldn’t have to explain further.

“Who’s Rachel Jarvis?”

“She’s Jo’s attorney.” The older woman looked at her feet as she continued to walk.

“Her attorney? What did her attorney want?” Sandra looked at Beth as they walked.

“Actually, Josie asked her to come. She had me call her.” Beth sighed realizing there was no way for her to avoid the inevitable.

“Josie wrote out a will and had me call it into Rachel, who brought it by for her signature. There are copies for you, me, Jo and the Attorney.”

Sandra had stopped dead in her tracks at this revelation, staring at her friend as if she’d grown an extra head. Her heart galloped in her chest and her stomach twisted into knots.

Beth took the taller woman’s hand and led her to a nearby bench. “Are you with me?”

Sandra swallowed the bile that was rising in her throat. She nodded. Beth continued. “Basically, it says that, in the case of her death, you get the house and the acreage. You’ll also receive one half of the proceeds from her investments. At the end of twenty four months, all proceeds from her investments revert to me. She made me executor of her estate and, in the unlikely case where she would lose her mental faculties, gave me her Power of Attorney. That’s all of it.”

Sandra stared, unseeing at her hands that lay between her knees as she rested her weight upon her forearms. She watched the tears drop onto the dried earth below, replenishing it with moisture, turning it a rich deep color. ‘This isn’t happening. Josie shouldn’t be here. She should be home having coffee with the pups waiting for me to come home to cuddle. Why is this happening? Why can’t God just leave us alone!?!’

Beth was concerned by her friend’s silent tears and rubbed her back gently. “It’s just a precaution, Sandy. She’s been meaning to do it. This just gave her a nudge. She’s going to get better. I know she is.”

Sandra heard the speeding car drive up and saw Dr. Akras trot toward’s her.

“Thanks for coming so quickly.” Sandra said, wiping her tears on her sleeve.

“How is she?” The doctor asked as all three quickly walked back to Josie’s room.

“She’s getting a breathing treatment. She coughed up some frothy pink sputum. She’s very weak and in terrible pain.” Sandra spoke as the doctor grabbed his patient’s chart.

The respiratory therapist was just finishing up and recited the patient’s vital signs for the chart. “Blood pressure is 200/52, Pulse is 134 bpm, respiration 40, Temperature is 101.3 and there are wheezes, crackles and rales auscultated in all lung fields.”

“Thank you.” Doctor Akras marked the chart with the vital signs and turned to the results of the blood tests and x-rays. He listened to his patients lung sounds, then examined her throat and eyes. He checked the pulses in her feet, examined her fingers and palpated her abdomen. After completing his examination, he wrote in the Doctor’s Orders and Progress Notes, while Sandra and Beth sat, anxiously, in silence.

The doctor looked up into worried faces then began. “Ok, this is what we have. Josie has streptococcal pneumoniae in both lungs, complicated by infectious mononucleosis. There are fulminating pustules on her throat accompanied by severe swelling, making swallowing nearly impossible. What happened today will not happen again. Now, this is the tricky part but I think we can handle it. Josie is in congestive heart failure. She’s just not strong enough to get rid of the fluid in her body, so we are going to help her. I’m increasing her aminophylline and putting her on IV lasix until we can dry her up a bit. We’ll continue with the throat spray and add nystatin to help with those sores on her throat. I’m going to give her celestone injections to help with some of the inflammation there, also. She’s on the correct antibiotics for the strep. I’ll give her B12, 1000mcg Im, every day to help build her up and one gamma globulin injection. Those should help fight the EBV, which has caused the mononucleosis. Keep her head elevated and be sure to turn her every two hours. I’ll notify the nurse’s station that she is to receive nothing by mouth, strictly NPO status. I want her blood sugar monitored every four hours

and her vital signs on the hour until stabilized, then q 4. Do you have any questions?”

“What if the CHF doesn’t respond appropriately? What do we do then?” Sandra asked.

“I believe your employer will respond to this treatment plan. But, in the unlikely event that she doesn’t, we can try a dobutrex drip. If the swelling persists in her throat, or becomes more constrictive, I can transfer her to Forrest General in Hattiesburg for a tracheotomy. But I truly do not foresee her condition deteriorating further with this plan of treatment.”

“You really think she can make it through this?” Sandra looked deeply into his gentle brown eyes.

“Yes, I really believe this plan will work. We should see a marked improvement by morning.” Dr. Akras placed his hand on Sandy’s shoulder to emphasize his sincerity.

Sandra covered his hand with her own. “Thank you.”

***

The two friends sat in silence, trying to digest all the information they’d been given. Beth was the first to break the stillness.

“Sandy, I think it’s time we called Josie’s mother. She has a right to know how sick she is.”

Sandy heard the words, but was having difficulty processing them. She looked up, just staring into her friend’s red rimmed eyes.

Beth picked up the phone and began dialing. “It’s alright. I know the number by heart after all these years. Hello? Mrs. Bossetta? It’s Beth, Josie’s friend. I’m fine thank you. Mrs. Bossetta the reason I’m calling is that Josie’s in the hospital. She has pneumonia and Mono, again. No, ma’m. This time is much worse. She’s in congestive heart failure. I’m sorry, but she can’t speak. Her throat is too sore. Ummm….. Mrs. Bossetta, she’s not doing very well. You might want to come see her….. Soon….. I see. Yes ma’m. I’ll call you if there’s any change. But, I know she’d love to see you. It would mean a lot to her….. Yes ma’m, I will. You too. Goodbye.” Beth hung up the phone and took several deep breaths. “That SON OF A BITCH! How can she treat her own child like that. She’s too busy to come so far to see her own daughter who might be dying. Too busy to give her own child the comfort of her love. That SON OF A BITCH!!!!! She’s never been there for Jo….. How she turned out to be so beautiful is beyond me.” Beth cried her grief and frustration into the wall as Sandra sat staring at her trying to assimilate all this new input. She’d no idea what her lover’s relationship was like with her mother. She’d just assumed it was loving since Josie was such a loving person.

“I….. Uh….. Didn’t know that Josie’s relationship with her mom was strained.”

“Don’t worry about her. Josie came to terms with that woman a long time ago. I, on the other hand, obviously, have not.” Beth wiped her tears away. “I’ll go take care of the dogs. I can’t do any more good here. Call me if there is any change. And, you get some sleep. You won’t be able to help her if you get sick too.” Beth pat her friend on the back and walked out the door.

Sandra walked to the phone as if in a trance. She dialed the number without thought and melted into the bedside chair.

“Hello?”

“Mom. It’s me. I called to tell you that Josie’s in the County Hospital…..” Sandra filled her mother in on Josie’s condition as calmly as she could. Her mother, sensing the struggle her daughter was having to keep her wits about her, asked if she could come spend a few days at the house while Sandra stayed at the hospital with Josie. She offered to take care of their little canine family and to sit with their patient while Sandra took a break. Sandra, gratefully, agreed.

Feeling better knowing that her mother would be there in the morning to offer her support, the exhausted woman turned her chair so she could lay her head upon her lover’s hip and watch her sleep.

***

Sandra awoke to the feel of someone playing with her hair. She opened her eyes to gaze into sea-green eyes filled with love and sympathy. “Hi, boss. I love you.” Sandra took the small hand in hers and kissed it gently then held the palm to her cheek. “You scared me today. Feeling better?”

Josie smiled and nodded, then motioned for her notepad and pen.

“I love you, Sandy. I’m feeling better. You must have been exhausted. The nurse passed meds twice while you snored away. So cute! How is your back feeling?”

Sandra just shook her head and buried her face in her lover’s hip. Josie stroked silky hair, knowing this all had to be torture for her.

The dark head rose at the sound of writing. “I’m so sorry, sweetheart. I know this is hard for you. Why don’t you call your mom and talk with her.”

“I did, actually. She’s coming to visit for a few days.” Sandra smiled.

“That’s great news. I can’t wait to see her. I’m pretty fond of her you know. Hope you’re that good looking at her age.” The little blond grinned lasciviously.

“Oh, you must be feeling better.” Sandra took her lover’s hand and kissed the palm.

“When is your Mom coming to visit?”

“This morning. I gave her directions. I need to meet her at the house at about 1000.”

“THIS MORNING! Get that nurse’s aide for me. I need to be bathed and get this hair washed.” Josie wrote in alarm.

“Whoa, tiger. I’ll see to it you get all clean and smelling pretty for momma.” Sandra stood over Josie and kissed her forehead then, ever so gently, her dry lips. “And me. There’s plenty of time. The sun isn’t even up yet. Why don’t you try to get some more sleep.”

“Can you get behind me and hold me like you did before? I know it’s too hard to get around all these tubes and wires from the front. But, I really need you to hold me. I’ve missed you so much.” Josie scrawled and looked up into moist blue eyes.

“Yeah.” Was all her lover would trust herself to say as she gently lowered the head of the bed and lifted her lover to slide behind her, resting the golden head once again against her breasts and sighed.

Josie felt strong arms wrap around her and a gentle kiss upon her neck. The breath tickled her ear and sent shivers down her spine. “God, I’ve missed this. I love you so much Josie. You’ve got to get well and come home to me, to our life together.” Sandra fought to hold back her tears as she nuzzled her lover’s neck.

“You feel so good. When I get home I’m going to make love to you for so long you’ll be walking bowlegged!” Josie wrote.

Sandra burst into, much needed, laughter as she read it. “Is that a threat!?!” Josie lifted a long hand to her lips and licked the palm, sending shivers down her lover’s spine right to her sex. “Ohhhh, Josie.”

The little blond released her lover’s hand just long enough to write. “That’s a promise!” and twist her head to kiss a tempting neck.

Sandra held her lover, rubbing her arms, kissing and nuzzling her neck and shoulder till the frail woman fell into a deep restorative sleep.

***

Andre’ Broussard went to early Mass at St. Anthony of Padua. She prayed to the Blessed Mother to help her child through this newest trial. “Saint Vierage, please, please don’t take this woman away from her. She has brought such joy into her barren life and made her want to live again. Mother, please, I beg of you. My child has suffered enough. She is a good soul. She has been on the right path for years now, denying herself so much that this life has to offer. Don’t make her suffer anymore. You will kill her! Please don’t destroy my child. Help her! Don’t hurt her anymore.” Andre’ rest her head upon her folded hands and let her tears flow as she proceeded to say the Rosary to the Blessed Mother, concentrating on the mysteries of Christ’s life, crucifixion and resurrection. After completing the Rosary, Andre’ felt better, lighter, and new her prayers had been heard.

***

It was 1000 on the dot when Andy pulled up the drive to Josie and Sandy’s home. Her daughter was curled up in an oversized chair on the front porch, dressed in jeans and her favorite T-shirt that said “CAJUNS LIKE IT HOT”. It had red and green chili peppers dancing over a pot of boiling crawfish. She’d felt better this morning because Josie did, but now that she saw her mother she felt her facade begin to crumble. She longed for the warmth and safety of her mother’s arms. She didn’t want to be the adult anymore.

Her mother pulled up and Sandra walked over to greet her. Andre’ opened her door and stepped out of the car. Her daughter seemed to be frozen in place, which struck fear in the older woman’s heart. She opened her arms and Sandra allowed herself to be hugged. As the last of her emotional control left, her face crumpled and she sobbed into her mother’s shoulder. “Oh, mon Dieu! Josie, elle n’est pas…..” Andre’ couldn’t say the words.

Sandra shook her head and croaked out, “No….., no….., She’s alive.”

“Ohh, merci, merci, mon Dieu.” Andre’ heaved a sigh of relief as she stroked her distraught child’ back and let her cry until she’d cried out all the pain, fear and frustration she’d experienced since she woke up besides her stricken lover. “Je suis ici, mon petite fille. Je suis ici.” The older woman cooed into her daughter’s ear and kissed her cheek. She held her daughter until she calmed down and stepped back from her embrace.

“Help me with my bags, then you can fill me in on all that has happened to your Josie.” Andre’ handed her a handkerchief, which she took to wipe her face.

“Yes mam.” Sandra helped her mother get situated in the guest room/exercise room, then they both curled up on the sofa with café au lait.

After Sandra filled her mother in on all the details of the previous week’s horror, they washed out their coffee cups and left for the hospital.

***

“Bonjour, bonjour, comment ca va, mon petite? Ooops, don’t answer that. You must not try to speak yet. Vous faible chose! I will miss hearing your sweet voice.” Andy’ presence was like a balm to Josie, who’d never had a doting mother and absorbed her warmth and concern like a sponge.

Josie wrote, “Thank you for coming. It’s great to see you and I am feeling better with this new regimen I’m on.” Josie gave Andy her best smile.

“You clean up good, boss.” Sandra teased.

Josie swatted at her with the notebook.

“May I examine your throat, Josie? I’d feel better if I knew just what is happening there.” Andre’ asked, trusting her nursing skills and judgement above anyone else’s.

The patient nodded and opened wide as Andre’, using her daughter’s pen lite, thoroughly examined her throat. Andre’ stepped aside, allowing he daughter to also look for improvement. There had been noticeable lessening in swelling and the lesions were beginning to heal.

“That looks very painful.” Andre’ said.

“Actually, it’s much improved from yesterday.” Sandra exclaimed with a smile.

Josie nodded and whistled her delight, causing everyone to laugh at her antics.

The visit lasted only thirty minutes, when Andy insisted that the two younger women needed sleep more than anything else. Josie nodded her agreement and wrote a note demanding Sandra go home and take a nap.

“I’m not leaving you. You can just drop it. You’re not safe here alone.”

Sandra was adamant.

“She will be perfectly safe with me, ma petite. Now, take the car and GO HOME!” Andre’ stood tall with hands on hips.

Sandra looked from her mother to her lover, who was smiling in victory.

“Good gravy, I just can’t win with you two. Ok, Ok, I’ll go home and take a nap.” Sandra leaned over her lover and kissed the tip of her nose. “I’ll call you when I get up. I love you, boss.”

Josie quickly wrote, “I love you, too, kiddo. Don’t forget to eat something. I don’t want to get poked by a bony hip when I get home.” Sandra laughed and promised to eat something sinfully fattening for lunch.

“Now go. I don’t want to see your ugly puss for the next four hours. Allez maison!” Andre’ stomped her foot and pointed toward the door.

“I’m going, I’m going.” Sandra chuckled as she ran out of the room.

***

Mother and daughter took turns over the next three days keeping vigil over Josie, protecting her from harm and lifting her spirits. The doctor was please with her progress and told the women that his patient could go home as soon as she could eat. The IV antibiotics were discontinued, along with the aminophylline drip. Only her parenteral nutrition was continued. She still got her throat spray and nystatin, but now she was allowed to swallow it, which was healing the rest of the lesions.

Sandy slipped quietly through the door of Josie’s room, trying to hide the surprise she’d snuck passed the nurse’s station. She motioned to her mother to not make any noise that would awaken her patient. She sat the surprise out of view and gently sat upon the bed.

“Morning, boss. Time to wake up. I’ve got a surprise for you.” Sandra teased.

Josie no longer had that heavy foggy feeling and awakened easily from her snooze. Sea green eyes blinked open and a huge smile made them twinkle.

“I’ve got a treat for you.” Sandy reached behind her lover and pulled out an ice cold Power Punch Smoothie. “I know you love these things and, if you speak to me this morning, I’ll let you have it. Doc says that as soon as you eat, we can go home.”

Josie looked at her treat, then at her lover with so much glee she looked like a little girl at Christmas. Josie grabbed her throat spray off the bedside table and proceeded to thoroughly douse her throat with the concoction and swallowed. She took a tentative breath and held tightly to her lover’s hand, afraid of the pain that was still vivid in her memory. She closed her eyes and concentrated on forming the words she knew her lover needed to hear and she needed to say. In breathy tones she stated “I….. Love….. You….. Sandy.” Josie smiled broadly as Sandy reached in for a kiss. “Now give me my treat.”

Sandra laughed and handed it over. “Take your time, baby. Don’t choke.” She watched her patient slowly suck on the straw, her eyes rolling back in her head in near orgasmic pleasure.

“Well, I guess we can take you home, huh?”

Josie didn’t stop to answer. Just nodded her head ‘yes’.

“I’ll go tell the nurse, while you get her packed.” Andre’ chimed in. She looked up to heaven and made the sign of the cross. ‘Thank you, Blessed Mother. Thank you.’

Part 9

Sandra gently placed her lover on their bed, two little hair balls dancing in delight at the return of their favorite human. The raven haired beauty lay on her back, pulling Josie down into the curve of her shoulder. Long arms embraced the frail body close to her breast as Josie wrapped her shorter arms around her lover’s waist and held on tightly. Both women sighed, content just to hold and be held, to breathe in the scent of the other. Tears trailed down from blue and green, the relief of being able to lay together again releasing nearly two weeks of tremendous stress and pain.

“God, you feel good to me, Sandy. I’ve missed holding you so much. You are my eyes. You know that, don’t you?” Josie turned her head to rest her chin upon her lover’s chest.

“I know. I love you like the stars in the skies, boss. I was so afraid we’d never have another moment like this one.” Sandra lost her composure. “I was so scared. I can’t fathom my life without you.” Sandra let her tears go unchecked as her lover held her tight with her head upon the younger woman’s soft breasts. Sandra’s long fingers massaged Josie’s scalp as she kissed the golden curls over and over, again.

“Josie, I know this is probably not the time to do this, but I don’t want to wait. Every moment we have together is too precious to me. I refuse to waist a minute of it.” Sandra reached into her pocket and pulled out a small red velvet box. “I have committed my life to you, heart and soul. I want the world to know how honored I am to be your partner, your lover. Please….., Josie, will you marry me?” Sandra said in a rush of breath before she chickened out.

Josie pushed up onto her elbow and looked into the eyes she loved so, then at the ring sitting in its velvet bed. She was awed at its beauty. It was a one third carat diamond surrounded by small glittering garnets, set in gold. “Ohhhh, Sandy, it’s so beautiful. I’ve never seen a ring like it before.”

Sandra took the ring out of its box and slipped it onto the ring finger of her lover’s left hand. “I had it made for you while you were in the hospital. It represents your heart wrapped around my soul….. Marry me Josie. I know we can’t do it legally here. At least not yet. But, we can do it before God and those who matter.” Sandra looked longingly into sea green eyes, shining with emotion. She brought the small hand to her lips and tenderly kissed it. “I’ll love you. Forever and always. I promise.”

Josie engulfed the insecure woman into an excited hug, knocking her back on the pillow. “Oh, Sandy, my sweet, sweet Sandy. You’ve made me so happy. I just don’t know what to say.” Tears shown in her eyes as she gazed, lovingly, from her lover to the ring on her finger.

“Say yes, boss. Please….., say yes.” Sandra pleaded, gently, her heart on her sleeve.

“Yes!” Josie exclaimed as she leaned down to deeply kiss the woman she loved. Sandra felt her whole body soar at Josie’s touch and pulled her weight down upon herself. She delicately stroked her lover’s face, then ran her strong, gentle hands down the smaller woman’s back and froze!

“What’s wrong, love? Why’d you stop? It felt sooooo good.” Josie purred.

“You’re nothing but skin and bone. I can feel your ribs standing out. I need to get you bulked up, boss. I’m afraid I might break you.” Sandra exclaimed in concern.

Josie chuckled at her lover’s remark, and sighed. “Yeah, that not eating stuff is for the birds. But, I’m sure, with your cooking, I’ll be back to my ‘soft round curves’ in no time. What do you think?” Josie whispered as she leaned down to kiss Sandra’s throat, causing a groan of arousal.

“I think you are incorrigible and need to rest and eat some real food.” Sandra flipped her smaller lover onto her back and kissed the tip of her nose. “I’m going to see what mom has cooking while you take a nap. I’ll wake you when it’s time to eat.” The women kissed each other tenderly.

“Ok. You win this round. See you in a little bit. I love you, Sandra Camille Broussard Abbott.” Josie smiled, her heart full.

“I love you, too, boss. Can I tell mom that she has a wedding to obsess over?” Sandra smiled warmly.

“Sure. She should really be able to get her teeth into that one. Oh boy!” Josie rolled her eyes and yawned.

***

Sandra’s mouth watered at the delicious aromas wafting from the kitchen. “What ya cooking?” She asked as she lifted the top off the Gumbo pot.

“Vegetable soup. I thought this was something very healthful that our patient could keep down. Her body needs to learn to eat normally again. It should only take a day or two. But we have to start her off slowly. No meat, or heavy fats. She should tolerate soup and a little whole grain bread.” Andre’ said.

“That sounds good.” Sandra fixed herself a café’ au lait and a cup for her mother then leaned against the kitchen counter staring into space, trying to decide how to break the exciting news.

“You are staring, Sandra. Pour quoi?” Andre’ asked looking into eyes so like her own.

“Mom, do you think we could go sit on the porch. I want to talk to you about something.” Sandra grabbed the two cups of coffee and led her mother out the back door.

Mother and Daughter made themselves comfortable, sipping the aromatic coffee and admiring the vast garden.

Andre’ Broussard was never known for her patience, but was trying to sit quietly until her daughter was ready to begin.

“Sandra, qu est-ce qui ne va pas, ma cher?” Andre’ couldn’t wait any longer.

Sandra looked up in surprise. “Oh, no, nothing is wrong. In fact, everything is wonderful. I’m so happy with Josie sometimes I’m afraid I’ll wake up to find it was all a beautiful dream.” She gushed.

“Quelle histoire! Now I know why I named you “Camille”. So, why are we out here, huh, pour quoi?” The older woman took another sip of her coffee as she searched deeply into her daughter’s eyes for the answer.

“Momma, you like Josie, don’t you?” Sandra began, tentatively.

“Mais, oui. She is an exceptional woman. And I am certain of her love for my beautiful little girl.” Andre’ smiled.

“I’m not a little girl anymore, momma. I haven’t been for a very long time.” Sandra complained.

“You will always be my little girl. Even when you are sixty years old.”

Sandra sighed and smiled at her mother. “Mom, I love Josie with all my heart and she loves me back. I can’t imagine life without her.”

“Ma petite fille, you know the chances of Josie living a long life are not good. I hate to see you suffer. But, I also hate you to miss the joy your love will bring the two of you for whatever time the good Lord in his mercy gives you.” Andre’ reached out and set a comforting hand upon her child’s own.

“I’m glad you feel that way, because I’ve asked Josie to marry me.” It was Sandra’s turn to search her mother’s eyes for some negative reaction to her words. Seeing none, she continued. “I know lesbian marriages are not legally recognized here, but we want to commit to each other in the eyes of God and our loved ones. We haven’t set a date or made any plans yet. We thought you might want to help us with that. That is …..if you will give us your blessing?” Sandra looked hopefully at her mother’s somewhat puzzled expression.

“Sandra, you would certainly have my blessing but, mon Dieu, where will you find a Priest to perform the ceremony. It is a sin against the Church to perform homosexual weddings.” Andre’ stated, deeply concerned.

“I don’t know. Like I said, we haven’t had the chance to talk about it yet.” Sandra frowned at this information.

“You were raised to be a good Catholic. I want you to be married in the Church.” Andy was adamant.

“I’d like nothing more. You know that. But I don’t see how we can.”

“You leave that to me. Father Pierre married your father and I and Baptized you and your brother, as well as your Antoine. If anyone will help us, he will. Let me speak to him. You tell your Josie, there will be a wedding. I promise you.” Andre’ Broussard set her shoulders in a familiar stubborn manner. Sandra knew that if anyone could do it, her mom could.

“Thanks Mom. I’ll let Josie know that we have you in our corner.” Sandra got up to give her mom a big hug and kissed her cheek. “Let me go check on my girl.”

***

Josie was sleeping soundly when Sandra entered the room. The tall beauty sat in the overstuffed chair and put her feet up on the side of the bed, content just to watch her lover sleep, a little dog on either side of her, like furry book ends. Sandra yawned and realized she was pretty sleepy herself. She slipped off her jeans and slid in next to her friend, trying hard not to awaken her. She fell into a peaceful slumber, her heart filled with hope for their future.

It was an hour and a half later when Andy knocked gently upon the bedroom door. She called out, in case they were not dressed, to wake them for supper.

Sandra woke up first. “Ok….., I’m up….. We’ll be out in ten minutes….. Thanks mom.” She stretched, then rubbed the sleep from her eyes. Turning on her side to face her lover, she gently prodded her awake with featherlike kisses down the side of her face, then her neck, then, through her t-shirt, to her left nipple.

“Mmmmm. That feels soooo good.” Josie purred. “Don’t stop.”

“Sorry, boss. Mom has dinner ready for us. And, Lord knows, you need to eat. Besides, it’s time for your meds. I have to get those together so you can take them with your food.” Sandra walked to Josie’s side of the bed. “Don’t try to get up too fast. I don’t think your equilibrium will be so good yet.”

Josie sat up slowly, very aware of her weakness, then dropped her legs off the side of the bed, sitting still until she felt the waves of dizziness cease. “Yep, I’d say you’re right. Would you help me get into my pants.”

Sandra gave the little woman a lascivious grin. “I love getting into your pants.” She said, wiggling her eyebrows.

“God, I wish I had the energy to wipe that grin off of your face with my bush!” Josie heaved a sigh of frustration.

“JOSIE! Behave yourself, woman. Momma’ll be washing your mouth out with soap if you keep that up. I’ve never heard you speak that rough before.” Sandra looked at her lover with an amazed and puzzled expression.

“I’m sorry, sweetheart. That did sound awfully crude. I’m just so frustrated. I’m week as a newborn and as horny as a sailor on Saturday night furlough.” Josie pursed her lips and blew out a lung full of air in frustration. “Would you, please, help me into my pants?”

Sandra thought better of teasing her frustrated lover any further as she helped her get dressed and walk to the kitchen table.

“Ahhh, there you are. I was beginning to think I’d be eating alone. How are you feeling, little one?” Andy asked cheerfully as she pulled a chair out for her.

Sandra assisted her partner to lower herself into the proffered chair. “I’m feeling better. Weak and frustrated, but better.” Josie smirked and looked at her soup like it would bite her.

“Don’t turn your nose up at my soup, young lady. Just eat it slowly. It should go down easily. I held back on the cayenne and salt. I have some whole wheat buns in the oven that should be ready to come out.”

“I’ll get them. You sit down and relax, mom. You’ve been working all day while we napped. Can I get you anything to drink?” Sandra asked as she pulled the buns from the oven.

“I’ll just have water, thank you.” Andy said.

“I’ll have a Barq’s, please.” Josie answered.

“Nope, sorry Charlie, water for you. The carbonation could cause you to cough. Maybe tomorrow you can have some, after I look at your throat.” Sandra wasn’t taking any chances.

“Ok. If you say so.” Josie sighed, yet again.

Dinner was a quiet affair, as everyone was tired, especially Josie, who found eating took a tremendous toll on her reserves. She’d eaten about a half a bowl of soup and two bites of bread when she had to ask to be brought back to her room.

“Sandy, I have to use the bathroom, can you help me to the toilet, please?” Josie was embarrassed when her lover didn’t want to leave her on the toilet unattended and irritated when Sandra sat on the side of their large tub and refused to leave.

“I’m not a child! I don’t need you here.” The words were out of her mouth before she could censor them. “Oh, God! I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it like that.” Josie paused at the pained look in gentle blue eyes. “I’ll call you when I’m done. I promise, I won’t try to get up on my own. You can sit right outside the door and leave it open a crack. Ok!?!” Josie said, in apologetic tones.

Sandra thought about all the indignities her friend had to suffer while in hospital and decided her request was a reasonable one. “Ok. I’ll be right outside the door.”

Josie smiled at her victory and sucked in a breath as her tender tissues burned as she urinated. Keeping the catheter in for so many days had made her raw. “Shit, that burns.”

“You Ok?” Sandy had heard and became alarmed.

“Yeah, It just burns a little when I urinate. That catheter is a bitch.”

“I’m sorry, babe. It will be better tomorrow. Are you done? Can I come in now?”

“Sure, I’m done.”

Sandra came in and helped her friend stand and straighten her clothes.

“Sandy, do you think you could help me bathe in the tub tomorrow? I’d love a good long, hot, soak.” Josie looked up at her lover with her best puppy dog face.

“If you are strong enough and eat all of your breakfast, I’ll reward you with a tub bath. So, you’d better not argue with me about giving you a shower tonight. Ok?”

Josie pouted and allowed her lover to remove her clothes as she held onto strong shoulders. Sandra turned on the shower and removed her own clothes. Then she helped her lover into the shower stall, holding onto her waist, pressing the small frail body against her own. She quickly soaped them both up and rinsed before her charge became too weak to stand even with her assistance. She helped Josie out of the shower and sat her on the toilet seat so she could dry her off and slip a clean t-shirt over her head.”Ok, boss, time for bed.” Sandra half carried her lover to their bed and tucked her in. Josie was sound asleep before her head hit the pillow.

***

The next day was a definite improvement as Josie tolerated her home bound breathing treatments and was able to walk to the breakfast table on her own steam with Sandra there to keep her balance. She ate one poached egg, one slice of whole wheat toast with Polaner’s seedless blackberry jam and a half a glass of ice cold skim milk. It tasted wonderful to the little woman who hadn’t eaten breakfast for nearly two weeks.

Sandra made some café au lait for them and assisted Josie out to the porch. Setting the cups down on the coffee table, Sandra lifted her lover onto her lap and sighed in contentment. “I’ve missed this. I’ve missed you. So much, that there aren’t words to say.”

Josie rested her forehead against her lover’s. “I know. I’m so glad I’m back. Sandy, you make life worth the fight. Thank you for loving me.” Josie smiled warmly into the eyes that held her happiness.

Sandra held her lover tightly and then, gently, pushed her away. “Josie, tell me about your mother.”

“Where’d that come from? Why the sudden interest in my mother?” Josie turned away from her friend and slid from her lap to take a seat in her favorite rocker. She sipped her coffee as her mind raced.

“Well, when you were so sick, Beth called your mom. We felt she had the right to know what was going on…..”

“And, let me guess, she was too busy but asked you to keep her informed of my progress and sent me her love. Does that sound about right?” Josie softly asked of her coffee cup.

“Yeah. That’s about right….. I’m so sorry, Josie. I had no idea she’d respond that way.”

“Don’t be. It’s Ok. I’m use to her. You don’t know how lucky you are to have your mother and not mine. Andy is a terrific mom. She amazes me.” Josie shook her head slowly and smiled. “Mine didn’t have a clue how to be a mother. She had me because all of her friends were having kids and she’d be damned if she’d be the only one left out. Oh, she loves me in her way. We write and she tells me about her art guild meetings and her travels. She accepts me for what I am as I accept her for what she isn’t. I’ve learned not to expect any more from her than she can give. She just doesn’t know how to nurture. She’s intelligent, charming, beautiful, a supporter of the arts and even gives a small stipend to charity, for tax purposes. I think that’s why my dad took off. He was married to this beautiful, exciting woman who couldn’t love him back. I don’t think my mother is capable of empathy. I just don’t think it’s in her make up….. It’s helped me in a way. It taught me I’m the only one I can depend on. It made me strong.” Josie drank her coffee as she allowed her memories to mingle a moment with her present.

“I’m so sorry, boss. I hate that you didn’t get what you needed from your mom.”

“Don’t be. I had the best grandmother in the whole wide world. How she ever raised my mom is beyond me. So, I had love and nurturing and one hell of a role model. My childhood wasn’t all bad….”

“Do you want to tell me about her?” Sandra asked.

Josie got back up on Sandra’s lap and let herself be held for a time. “I’ll tell you anything you want to know, sweetheart. But, not right now, ok? I just want to enjoy us.” Josie nuzzled her lover’s neck. “You make me feel loved and nurtured. Did you know that?”

“I do love you, boss. More than I ever thought I could love anyone. We’ll talk about this when you are feeling stronger.” Sandra kissed her lover’s forehead and rubbed her back, tenderly.

“Now, when do I get my bath?” Josie asked and kissed her lover on the tip of her nose.

“How about we finish our coffee first, then I’ll join you in a soak. Sound good?” Sandra asked.

“Sounds great.” Josie leaned over and retrieved their coffees from the table.

***

“Mmmmmm, Sandy, this is heaven.” Josie purred as she luxuriated in the large tub. Sitting between her lover’s legs, the feel of hardened nipples against her back caused her clit to tingle. Sandra looked over her shoulder and onto firm breasts, floating in the soapy water, and ran her hands up to gently stroke them. ‘I shouldn’t be doing this. She is still so weak. I just can’t help myself. I’ve missed her so much. Just let me feel her breasts and I’ll be satisfied. Oh God, they are so soft and her nipples are so hard against my palms. I need to taste her skin. Just a nibble on her neck and I’ll be satisfied. I can stop there.’ The taller woman licked and sucked her partner’s tender flesh until their breaths were ragged and Josie took one long, elegant hand from her breast and placed it between her legs. She tilted her head back beckoning to her lover’s lips. Sandra kissed her deeply, exploring the warm wet recess with her tongue. Her hips began to pump of their own accord. Both women began to moan and grunt as their ardor rose, tongues battling for dominance. Sandra concentrated as best she could on not applying to much pressure to the excoriated tissues below her lover’s clit, fighting the urge to plunge her long fingers into her slick vagina.

Suddenly Josie stopped her partner’s assault on her senses, demanding to be turned to straddle Sandra’s lap, facing her lover’s dark, puckered nipples. Both women took time to slowly, voraciously, admire their partner’s body. Hands went up to gently stroke aroused breasts, causing each to shudder with need. They let go of their prize to hold each other close, nipples rubbing against each other. One large hand reached between them to once again stimulate an engorged clit, as a smaller hand did the same.

“Oooh, God! Josie! that feels so good.” Sandra panted into her lover’s ear, sending shock waves directly to Josie’s clit, almost pushing her over the edge. She fought for control, trying to wait for her lover’s climax. She didn’t have to wait long.

Josie reached with her free hand to lift Sandra’s delicious breast to her mouth and suckled as if for sustenance. “Oh yeah! Oh! Josie! Oooh! I’m gonna come, baby….. Oooooooooh!!!!!!”

Josie shuddered with her own orgasm, never letting go of her lover’s clit. “Ah…., Aah….., AAAHH!!!!!!!” The tiny woman fell against her lover’s chest, panting into her neck.

The lovers held each other, allowing their tears to mingle with the bath water below.

Sandra tried to talk. “I was so afraid I’d never share that with you again. I can’t lose you, Josie. I love you so much. You are my life.”

“Sh….., Sh….., Don’t cry, Sandy. Please, don’t cry. I’m home and we’re together. It’s over now. I’ve got you. We’re ok.” Josie rocked her distraught lover and stroked and kissed her cheeks. When she’d composed herself, Josie teased her a bit. “Why don’t you get me and that beautiful beauhunkiss of yours out of this tub and into our bed before we prune.”

Sandra grinned and helped her lover out of the tub, then dried them both and crawled into bed. They fell asleep in each other’s arms, both confident that there would be a future together.

***

Blue eyes fluttered open and gazed into clear sea green pools. “I love watching you sleep. Your face is so open and innocent, like a child’s. I love that about you.”

Sandra didn’t know what Josie was talking about. “You love what?”

“That in spite of the many trials and tragedies you’ve suffered in your life, you still manage to be innocent and loving, like a child loves. Does that make any sense to you or am I just babbling.”

“I am anything but innocent.” A dark cloud passed her gentle blue eyes before she turned her face away and stared up at the ceiling as if searching for answers hidden there.

“Look, Josie. I haven’t been able to love anyone or anything since my son died, except for my mom and my sobriety. Then I became obsessed with becoming a nurse and helping to make a better life for her and me. That poor woman worked hard all of her life so that Tony and I wouldn’t have to. I had a burning desire to, I don’t know, reward her, I guess. Those were the only things I cared about…..until you. I met you and suddenly….. started feeling things. Things I don’t believe I have ever felt before and it was magical and frightening all at the same time. It was like I had no choice but to trust you. I trusted you with my love, my soul. It was never a conscious decision. I really had no choice in the matter….. With you I feel fresh and clean. I feel deserving of love and this second chance at life you’ve given me.” Sandra looked down at her lover who’d never varied her gaze. “I swear, you bring out the chatty Kathy in me. I use to never talk to people, unless I was drunk.” Sandra chuckled derisively.

“I’m glad you feel you can talk to me. That you can trust me. I hope you always feel that way. And you are an innocent. The moment you walked through the doors of AA and committed yourself to sobriety, you were born into a whole new life. And, I am very proud to be able to share that life with you….. Ok?”

Sandra kissed golden curls. “Ok. Now how’s about we get dressed and take a short walk with the dogs before lunch. Does that sound good?”

“Sounds like a plan.” Josie said.

Sandra helped Josie dress and they left the house with three dogs in tow.

Josie held onto her lover’s strong arm as she breathed deeply of the scent of jasmine and honey suckle. “It’s so special here. I can’t fathom living anywhere else or with anyone else.” Josie said.

“Yes. I couldn’t agree more. Tell me when you’re ready to turn back.”

“Why don’t we go sit on the bench over there for a few minutes and enjoy the view.” Josie pointed.

The two lovers sat side by side, silently taking in the events of the past twenty-four hours and smiled to themselves. Sandra held Josie’s small hand in hers. “I told mom about our getting married.”

“And….. What did she say?”

“She was really cool about it. Only, she is insisting that we get married in the Catholic Church. The chances of which are slim and none. But, she’s determined. She’s going to speak to our Priest and make him marry us. And, knowing my mom, that poor Priest has my deepest sympathies.” Sandra chuckled.

“Whew, that poor man. I wouldn’t want to be in his shoes for all the coffee and chicory in New Orleans. I guess we should set a date. When would you like to marry me?” Josie looked up at her fiancé with a twinkle in her eye.

“As soon as humanly possible. What are your plans for the weekend?” Sandra laughed, only half jokingly.

“Oh no! You are not getting me into hot water with Andre’ Broussard. I’d just as soon wrestle an alligator. Lets see, she’ll need time to tackle the Priest and plan the nuptials. We have to contact your brother and his wife and see when they can come down to New Orleans and we have to check and see when St. Anthony’s is available. So we need to wait at least till all that can be confirmed.”

“But, I don’t want to wait, Josie. How long do you think all that will take?” Sandra whined.

“Well, gee, I guess about six weeks. So, let’s see, tomorrow is Easter Sunday. Why don’t we plan on six weeks from tomorrow. You’ll be finished school and we can celebrate that too. It can be a combination wedding and graduation celebration. Now, that will be the first week in June. I’ll be a June bride.” Josie batted her eyelashes.

“You’ll be a hot bride. June is sweltering in New Orleans.” Sandra complained.

“Well, we can always wait till October when it starts to cool down.” Josie threatened.

“Nope. Not waiting. June it is.” Sandra leaned in and gave her betrothed a sweet kiss. “Love you, boss.”

“Love you too, Sandy. Now help me back to the house so we can fill your mother in on our wedding date and begin planning our big day.”

“Ok.” Sandra helped her lover to her feet and let her small hand wrap around a strong arm for support as they slowly walked back to the house. “Boss, who are you going to want to invite to our wedding?”

“Well, there’s Beth and Tommy, of course, and my friend Annie and her family. I’ll send my mother an invitation. Not that she’ll come. And, can’t forget Kathy.”

Sandra scowled at the name of the woman who was Josie’s ex, sometime, lover and friend.

“What was that look for? You’re not jealous of Kathy, are you? Sandra there is no reason on God’s green earth to be jealous of Kathy. Please, honey, believe that. She and I have been friends for many years and I don’t want to give that friendship up, just the sex.” Josie grinned at her attempt at humor.

Sandra blew hot air out of pursed lips. “Ok. I’ll try to ignore the fact that you use to have recreational sex with the woman.” Sandra scowled.

‘Oh, boy! Time for damage control.’ Josie spent the rest of the stroll back to the house soothing her lover’s ruffled feathers. ‘Maybe we should just elope!’

Part 10

“Pour quoi? Mais non, I don’t believe that you would refuse to marry my Sandra in your Church. I have been a very active member of this Parish for nearly thirty-five years. I have sat on every committee, participated in every fund raiser and acted as your Eucharistic Minister. And, for what!?! So that you can treat my daughter as an outcast!?!” Andre’ Broussard rose from the plush leather chair she’d been seated in and shot daggers through her ice blue eyes.

“Andre’, it has nothing to do with me. The Catholic Church does not recognize homosexual marriages. I do not write the laws.” The Priest felt the sweat trickle down his back.

“And what about you, Pierre? Would you recognize Sandra’s marriage to the woman she has committed herself to, heart, body and soul . I love Josie like a daughter. She’s given my child her life back. She is a gift from God. If you refuse to marry them, you will break Sandra’s heart. She loves you like an Uncle. Mon Dieu, Pierre, you even changed her diaper on more than one occasion.” Andre’ stopped to collect herself before continuing.

“Forgive me. I meant no disrespect. Father, we have been friends since we played together on the bayou. You were there for every important event in my life and Sandra’s. You married my beloved Antoine and I, baptized our children, and our grandchild, then you presided over his burial. You married my Tony to his little Mary.” Andre’ walked to the large double windows and looked out upon the neutral ground, thinking. “If you cannot marry Sandra and Josie in your Church, would you at least consider performing the ceremony in their home. They simply want to be married in the presence of God and their loved ones. Is that too much to ask?”

“Andy, you are putting me in a very precarious position. I could even lose my Parish, if word got out that I performed a homosexual marriage ceremony. You don’t know what you are asking.” The Priest shook his head as he avoided his friend’s eyes.

“I know exactly what I am asking. I am asking that my daughter’s marriage be blessed by her Priest….. . Look, why don’t you meet Josie. Come out to the country and spend a day, just a day, with them together. You’ll see what I see. They belong together, Fr. Pierre. Please do not deny them the Sacrament of Marriage. Sandra has been through hell and back. She deserves better than to hide her love for such a good woman.” Andre’ looked hopefully into her old friend’s kind eyes. “You think about it, Ok?”

“Ok.” Fr. Pierre walked around his heavy mahogany desk and, taking her arm, escort her out. “You are a hard woman to say ‘no’ to Andre’ Broussard.”

“So I’ve heard.” Andy batted her long dark lashes and flashed a toothy grin. “Be expecting an invitation to the country soon, Pierre.”

“I look forward to it.” Fr. Pierre watched his friend’s shapely form as she descended the stairs from his Church. ‘That’s one formidable woman.’

***

“How is Saturday, June 3rd?” Sandra asked Josie as she sat curled up on the Sofa, looking through her calendar.

“Sounds fine to me. I don’t believe I have any pressing engagements on that date. In fact, I just finished this term paper for young Mr. Jason, which leaves me free to indulge my baser desires as I wish.” Josie smiled at her lover as she collected her work for Jason to retrieve. “Let me give him a call to let him know it’s done. I was so worried the poor kid wouldn’t have a term paper to hand in. Good thing Spring Break came when it did.”

Josie made her call then joined Sandra on the Sofa with a pen and pad to plan their wedding. “Ok, let’s start with the names and addresses of everyone we want to attend.”

“Ok. Then, here’s my list. I got Tony and Mary’s address from mom. Do you want to pick out invitations or design them ourselves and have a calligrapher do them?” Sandra asked.

“Well, actually, my mom is an artist and does beautiful calligraphy. If we have a short guest list, she might consent to doing the art work. I’d kinda like her to be involved.” Josie looked sheepishly at her partner.

“Boss, do you really think she’d do it. She just doesn’t seem to be too interested in your life. I mean….., shit, you know what I mean.” Sandra rubbed Josie’s knee, offering comfort from her own words.

“I know it seems that way, but I do think she really does love me. I want to give her this chance to prove herself….. Sandy, this is the most important day of my life. I want my mom to share in it, if she will.” The little blonde looked so sad, it made Sandy’s heart break.

“Sure. We’ll call her and invite her up….”

“Not gonna happen. We’ll have to go to her. Why don’t we invite her out to lunch and talk to her about it. It will mean driving into the city for the day, but it’ll be worth it. I hope.” Josie smirked and rolled her eyes.

“Well, with the end of the term coming up and graduation, I should be finishing clinicals soon. I think I can devote a Saturday to the cause. When do you want to do it?”

“How does this Saturday sound? That will give me three more days to rest up and get strong enough to enjoy myself.”

“What about your dad? Aren’t your going to invite him.” Sandra asked.

Josie sat there looking at her pad as if studying the guest list.

“Josie, boss? What’s wrong? Don’t you want your dad to come celebrate with us.” Sandra felt like she was walking on egg shells with the way this conversation had been going.

Josie sighed and looked up into gentle blue eyes. “Sandy, my dad left mom and I when I was twenty-three years old and never looked back. He waited till I was old enough to fend for myself and just split. Mom made his life a misery. I suspect he had a woman on the side, and I can’t say that I blame him. I haven’t heard from him since.”

“I’m so sorry, boss. I had no idea. I seem to have foot in mouth disease tonight.” Sandra scooted over to wrap her arm around Josie’s shoulder and kissed her forehead. “Why don’t we put this aside for an hour and crawl into the hot tub. I’m feeling the need for a little TLC. What do you say?” Sandra bowed her head to look into moist green eyes and smiled gently. “Come on.” The tall brunette helped her lover to stand and gave her arm for support as they walked out onto the porch. She then helped her to get undressed and into the warm soothing bubbles.

“You wait right there and I’ll go fetch us some towels and our robes. Don’t go anywhere, now.” Sandy chuckled and ran back inside to fetch the aforementioned items.

The women luxuriated in the hot tub, Josie’s small frame nestled against Sandra’s much larger one, until Sandra could feel, more than hear, Josie snore, causing her tiny body to vibrate against Sandra’s chest. “Somebody needs to go doe doe.” Sandra whispered into her friend’s ear. “Let’s go doe doe, cher. Come on, now. Wake up.”

Josie’s eyes fluttered open and she groaned in protest.

“Come on. Up we go.” Sandy helped Josie to her feet, then crawled out over the side of the hot tub and slipped on her robe. She wrapped a towel around her friend’s shoulders as she gently lifted her out of the water and into her strong arms.

Josie nestled her head on Sandra’s strong shoulder. “You don’t have to carry me, honey. I can walk, you know.” Josie half heartedly complained.

“Don’t spoil my fun.” Sandra demanded as she carried her still too thin lover to their bed.

Josie curled up under the blanket, breathing in the fresh scent of the soft clean linens, then paused and looked up at her lover who was drying her long dark hair. “Ummmm, Sandy?” Josie asked hesitantly.

“Yeah?” Sandra looked down at her as she continued to dry her hair.

“I appear to be missing something here.” Josie grinned as she raised up the blanket. “I’m naked.”

Sandra passed an admiring glance over the exposed flesh. “And your point would be?”

“You know I don’t like to sleep in the nude. Would you pull a T-shirt out of that drawer for me?”

Sandra leaned down to fetch the requested item. “I never get to have any fun. Geesh!” She handed the T-shirt to her lover and leaned down to kiss her on the nose, then crawled in under the sheets to cuddle.

“I have to go to clinicals in Hattiesburg tomorrow till about three o’clock. Will you be ok here by yourself or should I call Beth to come sit with you?” Sandra asked, gently rubbing Josie’s back as she lay with her golden head on Sandra’s broad shoulder.

“I don’t need Beth to SIT with me. I’m NOT an invalid. I can DO for MYSELF!” Josie was tired and frustrated at not being able to get around like she wanted. She hated being so dependent right now and even though she knew it was only temporary and that she really was getting stronger every day, she resented having to depend so much on others. “I’m sorry, Sandy, I didn’t mean that to come out so gruff. I really appreciate your taking such good care of me. And, I’m grateful that your mom stayed a few days to help out. She’s a great lady. To answer your question, I’ll be fine. I’m just gonna call my mom and I want you to call your brother and his wife to make sure they can come on the third. They can bunk here in the guest room. I know money’s a bit tight for them right now.” Josie let out a big yawn.

Sandra kissed Josie’s head and stroked her cheek with her long fingers. “I love you, you know. I want to make sure you’re safe when I’m not here. Just for the next couple of days. Please, boss. I’m sure Beth wouldn’t mind coming to spend some time with you. You gals are a hoot when you get together.” Sandra chuckled, hoping to relieve some of the stress that she was feeling in her lover’s jaw. “Will you call her in the morning?”

Josie took a deep breath, weighing the pro’s and con’s of arguing with her concerned friend. She considered the tremendous emotional stress she’d been under for the past few weeks and decided making her lover happy was more important that getting her way and acquiesced. “I promise. I’ll call Beth first thing in the morning.” Josie tilted her head up to smile into gentle blue eyes.

“Thanks. I’ll bring your cell phone with me in case you need anything.” Sandra kissed Josie’s lips tenderly. “Let’s get some sleep. 0530 comes awfully early these days.”

***

Josie was good as her word and spent the next two days with Beth, working on wedding plans. She called her mother and made a luncheon date for Saturday. She explained the reason for the get together, not wanting to cause any discomfort between her lover and her mom.

Friday rolled around and Josie enjoyed spending her day alone, just relaxing with her pups and planning a romantic evening with her overprotective lover. She had to admit the rest and good food over the last week had done wonders for her. She felt stronger and had a little burst of energy. After setting the table and placing candles strategically around the bedroom and bath, Josie called in an order for stuffed artichokes, hearts of palm salad and cheese cake. She knew the owner of the one local Italian restaurant from when they all lived in New Orleans. She hated taking advantage of friends but this was a special occasion. Plus, she figured his son could use the twenty bucks she offered to pay him to deliver their supper for 1800. This was to be their private engagement party. She had every intention of making it memorable for them both.

Having taken an extra B12 shot, Josie crawled into bed for an afternoon nap, the combination of which she hoped would restore her energy so she could enjoy her plans with the bride to be.

***

Josie was awakened by a pair of soft lips nibbling her cheek. Her eyes fluttered open and peered into sparkling blue. “Hey….. What time is it?” Josie rubbed the sleep from her eyes.

“It’s just about 1600. What’s all the fancy table setting and candles for. We expecting company for dinner?”

Josie reached up and stroked her lover’s soft cheek. “Nope. It’s a private engagement party. Just the happy couple participates.”

Sandra closed her eyes enjoying the sensuous touch. “Mmmm. Sounds lovely. Did you cook?” The dark haired beauty’s expression turned into one of concern.

“Hell, No. I had it catered. Only the best for my future bride.” Josie grinned and her nose curled up in the cutest expression. Sandra’s heart filled with love for this adorable little woman who’d consented to be her wife.

“But first, how about a nice hot bath and a massage. This is your night, my love. I intend to give you a Bacchanalian feast, minus the booze of course. You get the tub running and I’ll light the candles.” Josie sat up at the side of the bed and kissed her lover’s sweet lips chastely.

***

“Oooooh, God that feels so good.” Josie softly exclaimed as she luxuriated in the warm bubbles, her head resting back against Sandra’s shoulder.

“Mmmmmm, yeah. This was a great idea, boss. Want me to wash your hair?” Sandra whispered in her ear.

“I’d like that. Yes. Please.” Josie scooted up to allow Sandra to move into a better position for her task.

Josie groaned and moaned in pleasure at Sandra’s ministrations, causing a distinct ache in her lovers center. “When did you say the food is being delivered?”

“Huh? Oh, about 1800. Why?” Josie was a little foggy from the relaxing, yet arousing, effects of her scalp massage.

“I just wanted to know if I have enough time to ravage you.” Sandra whispered in her lover’s ear, sending a tingle down to her clit.

“Down girl. There’s not enough time for that, I’m afraid. We can continue this later. Now, turn around so I can wash your hair.”

“Nope. I’ll take care of that little chore myself.” Sandra responded as she took the shampoo bottle from Josie’s hand.

“Why can’t I wash your hair?” Josie was confused and just a tad hurt.

“Because when I do it, it’s washing my hair. When you do it, it’s foreplay. And, as you said, we don’t have time.” Sandra smirked as she quickly washed her luxurious dark locks.

***

Sandra helped Josie out of the tub and they both dried off and slipped into some clothes. Sandra pulled on her sweat pants and a T-shirt while Josie slipped into her favorite of Sandra’s T-shirts that said “Cajun’s like it Hot!”

“Do you mind if I wear this one? I know it’s one of your favorites.” Josie asked as she modeled the T-shirt for Sandy.

Sandra perused her partner, grinning lasciviously. “It looks much cuter on you than it ever did me.” Then taking the object of her desire in her arms she kissed tempting lips. Sandra ran her cheek against her partner’s face and enjoyed the tickle of peach fuzz. Josie reached up and ran her fingers through damp hair, pulling Sandra’s head down and licking her sweet lips begging entrance to the warm cavern. Tongues battled for dominance as their ardor rose. Sandra gripped Josie’s buttocks in her large strong hands and pulled the smaller woman’s mound to her own and ground them together, causing both women to moan with desire.

Sandra reluctantly drew away from her lover, panting with need. “If the delivery boy is going to be here soon, we have to stop this now or he is going to get an eye full. We can eat dinner and continue this later.”

Josie nodded, turned and walked into the bathroom to splash cold water on her face and catch her breath. ‘That’s not exactly what I feel like eating at the moment.’ She thought, sighing in frustration. Just then the doorbell rang and Sandra went to collect their goodies, as Josie put on her robe and went to meet her in the kitchen.

***

The two women indulged themselves in a decadent meal, enjoying feeding each other the tender leaves. Josie felt a familiar pull in her belly as she watched gleaming white teeth scrape the seasoning from the leaves as she pulled them from her tempting mouth.

“I never knew feeding you artichokes could be so erotic.” Josie shivered in anticipation as Sandra let go of the leaf and sucked on her finger, eyes dripping with passion restrained.

“Let’s leave the dishes. I can’t wait any longer.” Josie jumped up and took Sandra by the hand and led her into their bedroom.

The tiny woman threw her much larger lover onto their bed and fell next to her. She covered sweet lips with her own, demanding entry, as she gently cupped the fabric covered left breast with her right hand. A small leg encouraged Sandra to spread her long supple thighs and quickly pressed against her sex, causing a deep growl to emanate from her lover’s throat. Sandra struggled with Josie’s T-shirt until she could slip it off over her head, then reached down and removed her own, while Josie helped her slide off her pants. They resumed their positions, both pumping against strong thighs as their hands roamed freely, squeezing pliant flesh. Sandra flipped them over and lifted herself onto her forearms to watch her lover’s face as she continued to grind into her sex. She found her own arousal enhanced by observing the passion and need dancing across the canvas of sea green eyes.

Josie reached down and gently, but firmly, halted her Sandra’s hips. “What’s wrong, boss. Did I hurt you?” A look of deep concern entered dilated blue eyes.

“No, sweetheart. You didn’t hurt me. I want to change our positions. That’s all.”

Sandra reluctantly rolled off of her lover and watched as Josie took a pillow and lay it length wise under her head, neck and shoulders, then instructed Sandra to kneel with one knee on either side of her head and hold onto the headboard for balance.

Sandra was a bit shocked at this knew development in their love making and was reticent to participate at first. “Josie, I am twice your size. I could hurt you.”

“No, baby, you won’t hurt me. Come on, I’ll teach you. Please, Sandy I want to taste you and this position requires very little effort on my part. Your always telling me to conserve my energy.” Josie gave her apprehensive lover a lascivious grin, wiggling her eyebrows, then took trembling hands and led them to the headboard and guided her thighs to either side of her head. The view was incredible. She watched her lover’s breasts sway above her and couldn’t resist reaching up to stroke them and gently tweak the nipples into hardness. Sandra stared down at her partner wondering what to do next and how she would do it without suffocating her.

Josie moved her arms back to her sides and stroked her lover’s arse as she inhaled her musk, sending electrical jolts through her belly. She ran her hands over Sandra’s curly dark mound and felt her lover shiver with desire. Gently, fingers probed and separated the lips of her labia as she took in the silkiness of the tissues and the wetness of arousal.

“Oh God! Josie, that feels so good.” Sandra moved her bottom searching for more contact.

“I know, baby. Now lower yourself to me a little so I can taste you.”

The request alone almost sent the dark haired beauty over the edge. She did as she was bid and gasped as she felt a velvet tongue run the length of her sex. She held onto the headboard as she felt the same velvety tongue lap at her clit, first gently, then with more command. She lapped up and down and side to side, stopping now and then to suck the engorged organ into her warm mouth. Sandra was panting and fondling her own breasts as her hips pumped of their own accord. Josie knew by the increase in her juices, that her time was close at hand. She gently placed two fingers at the opening of Sandra’s vagina, slowly stretching the tissues and hearing the desired effect from her lover. Sandra yelped at the increased stimulation and sucked the fingers deep into her vagina as the muscles began involuntary contractions. Josie, feeling the beginnings of her lover’s orgasm, powerfully suckled her clit in rhythm with the pumping of her fingers, sending Sandra soaring into a mind shattering orgasm.

“Oh God….., don’t stop, don’t stop. Oh God….., Josie….., I’m gonna come…… OH….., JOSIE!!!!!” Sandra bucked her hips and used her vaginal muscles to suck on the fingers pumping her to ecstacy.

Josie slid out from under her lover and turned in time to catch Sandra as she crumpled in a heap. The smaller woman held her lover on her lap, peppering her face with kisses and whispering words of comfort as Sandra tried to catch her breath, tears of release flowing freely.

“Shhh, I’ve gotcha, I’ve gotcha.” Josie repeated as she gently rocked back and forth, soothingly.

“My God, Josie. I’ve never felt anything so incredible before. I felt like my soul was shattering into tiny particles of light. Total release and yet….. total bonding….. Thank you.” Sandra said as she caught her breath.

“The pleasure was mine, my love. Now, why don’t you let me tuck you in.” Josie scooted down on the bed and covered them both with the blanket.

Sandra looked through heavily lidded eyes at her lover. “What about you? Don’t you want me to give you pleasure too.”

“Sandra, your being my partner in life is the greatest pleasure I’ve ever known. More than I ever dared dream of. You are a gift to me….. I love you so much. But, right now we both need to rest. What I want most in the whole wide world is to hold you, your head resting against my breast til we fall asleep. Deal?” Josie said as she stroked her lover’s wet cheek as tears continued to crawl across her beautiful face.

Sandra took a deep breath and let her eyes close completely and nodded. “Deal.”

***

Josie awoke before daylight to a warm, invigorating stroking of her thigh and the light tickle of kisses on her naked shoulder.

“Morning, my love.” Sandra whispered into a tempting ear. “You were amazing last night. I want to make love to you this morning.” Sandra’s right hand slid around to cup a firm breast as she suckled a tasty neck

“What a way to wake up. Oooooh….., Sandy. I…umm…gotta go to the bathroom.” Josie wiggled out of her partner’s arms and headed for the loo. “Hold that thought.” She quickly emptied her bladder and washed her Southerly areas, hands, face and briskly brushed her teeth, then dashed back to her waiting siren, diving onto the bed and into her loving arms.

Josie lay atop the object of her desires and gently kissed soft lips, then forehead, eyelids, nose, cheeks and chin, finally returning to the warmth of her parted lips. She entered to taste, retreating to look into sparkling blue eyes, then returning to explore every centimeter until her lover began gently sucking her tasty muscle, sending the fire of desire throughout her being.

Sandra lifted the smaller woman to grasp a tender breasts in her warm mouth, causing the older woman to tremble. Josie rested upon her forearms, grinding her mound into Sandra’s as the younger woman suckled her like a babe for nourishment. “I want to taste you, boss. Is that Ok?” Sandra didn’t wait for a response as she slid further down lifting her till she could look at her partner’s sex, taking in every nuance of shape and texture. She breathed deeply of her spicy scent and moaned with need.

Josie was beyond words and allowed herself to be moved into position to accept her lover’s probing fingers and tongue. She tried to concentrate on not suffocating the woman below her, but her mind had shattered with the first tentative touch of her lover’s soft tongue.

“You taste so good, boss. Kinda like kosher dills.” Sandra was trying to find a comparison to the spicey, salty, musky flavor of her lover’s essence.

Josie’s eyes popped open at that statement and she absolutely few off of her lover into hysterical laughter. Sandra lost her grip, in shock at her lover’s abrupt departure. She sat up and stared incredulously at the older woman who was rolling back and forth on the bed, holding her sides as tears of laughter flowed down her face.

“What’s so damned funny!?!”

Josie pointed at the stern look and buried her face into the sheets as she shook with renewed hysteria. Finally able to control herself, Josie sensed that her partner didn’t share her sense of humor about sex and dill pickles and scooted up behind a beautiful, nude form sitting stiffly on the edge of the bed looking out of the window. Josie wrapped one arm around her lover’s waist and laid delicate little kisses up her strong back until she nibbled on a graceful shoulder.

“Hey…., Sandy….., what’s wrong?” Josie asked softly, kneeling behind her silent friend.

“I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings, sweetheart. It’s just that comparison struck me right on my funny bone. And…..” Josie saw the drying trail of tears on her lover’s cheek and her heart broke. She raised herself on her knees and wrapped loving arms around her insecure lover’s shoulders, pulling a dark head into soft breasts. “I’m so sorry, Sandy. I’m such an insensitive ass sometimes. Please forgive me.” Josie kissed her dark head and held her tight.

Sandra knew she was being childish about this, but she couldn’t seem to help it. It was her first time trying to pleasure her lover that way and it meant a lot to her to do it right and her lover laughed at her. She felt like an awkward child whose friends ridiculed her. She tried so hard to keep the tears that were stinging her nose and eyes from falling, but they came of their own accord.

Josie felt like the world’s biggest heel when she saw the fresh tears fall from her beloved’s blue eyes. “Awe, Sweetheart, please don’t cry. I’m sorry. I was loving your making love to me. It was wonderful. I wasn’t making fun of you….. Sandy, no one has ever made me feel the way that you do. I’ll never need, never want, another woman’s touch. I desire only you.” Josie gently kissed her partner’s shoulder up to her neck and suckled as she lowered her arms to cup full breasts, enjoying the feel of the nipples hardening against her palms. She heard her lover moan as she leaned back further against Josie’s breasts. Josie licked a tasty earlobe as she whispered enticingly. “Please….., make love to me, Sandy. I need you, baby.”

Sandra removed the small hands from her breasts and raised them to her lips, kissing the palms. Then she turned in her lover’s arms and kissed her deeply, passionately, urgently, her left hand covering Josie’s right breast, tweaking the nipple gently between her index finger and thumb, sending a flood of warmth to both women’s bellies. Sandra forced her lover’s legs apart with her knee and pressed against Josie’s already swollen sex, eliciting a moan of desire from her partner. Josie reached down and gripped firm buttocks as she raised her thigh. “Oh yeah, Josie.” Sandra had to lift herself from her lover’s stimulating body before she lost control. She still wanted to taste her arousal as she pleasured her partner.

She slid down her lover’s body licking and kissing the glistening sweat from her skin. Josie tilted her pelvis as Sandra lifted soft thighs over her shoulders, allowing the younger woman better access to her goal. The dark haired beauty breathed deeply of her lover’s scent. She wrapped her arms around Josie’s hips and, using her left hand to spread the outer lips of the labia, gazed at the flower of her desire as she rubbed her cheek against a silky thigh.

Tentatively, at first, Sandra used her right hand to pull back the hood of Josie’s clitoris to examine the swollen bud that could give such pleasure. She licked the entrance to Josie’s vagina and again thought, ‘kosher dills’, and grinned.

Josie was trying to be patient with her inexperienced lover’s curiosity, but her explorations were fanning the fire in her belly. She craved more and made her needs known. “Sandy….. Please….. I need you.” Josie pumped her hips toward her tormentor.

Sandra smiled and gently licked her lover’s clitoris, causing Josie to groan her pleasure. The novice found her own arousal rose exponentially with every groan of pleasure she could elicit from her lover.

Josie felt long, strong fingers enter her vagina, deliciously stretching her, adding to the tremendous pressure building in her sex, causing her hips to pump of their own volition.

Sandra was totally absorbed in her task as she licked and sucked her lover’s clit and gently pumped her fingers into her. She felt like an extension of Josie. Aware, by the increase in her lover’s lubrication and the clutching of her vaginal muscles around her fingers, that she was close to her climax, Sandra sucked aggressively on her engorged clit as she added a third finger into her vagina, further stretching her.

“OH, JESUS, YES….. AH….., AAH….., AAAAAAAH!!!” Josie yelled out in ecstacy.

Sandra continued to stimulate Josie’s clit with her mouth until her lover reached down and pushed her head away. “No more, please. I can’t….. No more, baby….. Come up here.”

Sandra slid up Josie’s body and fell into her waiting arms. “My God, Sandy, that was incredible…..” Josie panted. “I love you so much.”

“I love you too, Josie.” Sandra responded as she wiped her lover’s arousal from her face.

Josie pulled her lover up, kissing her deeply, passionately, as she raised her knee between Sandra’s legs. Her very aroused partner groaned into her lover’s mouth as she slid her sex on a muscular thigh. Josie placed one hand between their bodies to kneed a sensitive breast, freeing her lover’s climax. Sandra’s head shot up as her back arched into her orgasm, her arms shaking with the strain.

“That’s it, baby, come for me. You’re so beautiful, Sandra.” The exhausted brunette fell onto her lover, completely spent and sated.

Josie reached over and set their alarm clock, giving them enough time to get ready for the luncheon with her mother, then pulled the covers over their sweating bodies and held her lover til she fell into a peaceful, restorative sleep.

***

The lovers had just enough time to bathe, dress, grab a bowl of cereal and a cup of coffee before jumping in Josie’s Accord and heading for the Big Easy.

“So, you have any pointers on how to act with your mother?” Sandra asked, never letting her eyes leave the road.

“Good gravy. she’s a one of a kind. Best thing is just be yourself, sweetheart. She doesn’t bite. She’s really quite charming and artistic. She just doesn’t put herself out for anyone but Rosemary Bossetta. Don’t be afraid of her. She is guilty of crimes of omission not passion. Empathy is not her strong suit. She just omitted me and her husband from her life. I know she loves me in her way. It’s just not enough.” Josie looked into sad blue eyes.

“I’m so sorry, boss. I can’t imagine a mother not loving their child with their whole heart and soul. I wish I could make it up to you somehow.”

Josie reached over and lay her small hand on Sandra’s strong thigh. “You make me so happy every moment of every day. You make me feel special, like I’m the center of the universe.”

“You are special. And, you are the center of this woman’s universe.” Sandra smiled and covered Josie’s hand with her own. The two women road the rest of the way in companionable silence.

***

The women arrived at Ruth’s Chris Steak House with ten minutes to spare and were led to their table. It was tucked away in a little private nook of the restaurant. Josie had reserved it so the three women could speak privately. Josie and Sandra ordered café’ au lait for all three and waited for the third member of their party to arrive.

Rosemary Bossetta arrived, dressed in an expensive wheat colored linen suit with matching purse and pumps. She was impeccably coiffed, with just a hint of make up. Even her jewelry all matched, from her ear rings, necklace, bracelet and ring. This woman put a great deal of time and effort in perfecting her elegant appearance. Sandra was suitably impressed.

The younger women stood out of respect as the older woman perused them, her eyes lingering over the impressive, tall, dark beauty her daughter professed to love.

Rosemary gave her daughter her cheek to kiss in greeting as she put her hand out to shake the proffered hand of the stranger.

“Mother, this is Sandra Abbott. Sandra, Rosemary Bossetta, my mother.”

“Pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Bossetta. Josie’s told me so much about you.”

“Well, since we’ve all been introduced, let’s sit down and enjoy our coffee. I ordered one for you too, Mom.” Josie sat down and took her lover’s hand into her lap for comfort.

“Tell me, dear, how are you feeling? Are you all recovered?” Rosemary smiled as she sipped her coffee.

“Yes mam. I’m getting stronger every day. Thank you.”

“So, you wanted to talk to me about your upcoming nuptials?”

“Yes, we’d like you to participate. That’s if you have the time?” Josie tried not to let bitterness tinge her voice.

“Well, then, have you set a date?” The older woman placed her napkin in her lap.

“We’d like to be married the first Saturday in June. We’re not sure where yet. Sandra’s mother is working on the Priest at St. Anthony of Padua on Canal Street. That’s been her Parish for many years and she’s close to Fr. Pierre. Anyway, she wants us to be married in the Catholic Church, if at all possible. So, we’ll have to let you know.”

“I brought my daily planner as you asked. Let me see what I have planned for that weekend, if anything.” She turned to the appropriate section of a leather cache.

Sandra sat in stunned silence as her future mother-in-law checked her calendar to see if she would be too busy to attend her daughter’s wedding. Anger began to replace disbelief. Only her deep desire to not upset Josie kept her from giving this selfish woman a broad piece of her mind.

“Let’s see Thursday is the Saenger theater, Friday is my hair dresser, Sunday is my Art Guild Luncheon. Well, we’re in luck, my Saturday is free. Looks like I’ll be all yours, dear.” Rosemary smiled charmingly at her daughter and took out her favorite pen. “You said you could use my services. What would you like me to do for you?”

“Well, we thought, since you do such beautiful calligraphy, you might want to make out our wedding invitations. There will only be a half dozen or so. We really only want those closest to us in attendance.” Josie responded in one breath. She felt like a small child again, afraid of her mother’s rejection.

“I can do that. I’ll need the invitation list, the address and name of the Church, date and time of the service and the reception. Oh, I’ll need the paper and envelopes. I suggest a heavy weight paper. It looks much more refined. You can dictate the invitations to me now and get the materials to me this week. Calligraphy takes time and I have many previous engagements. I don’t like to be rushed.” Rosemary Bossetta was all business as she took down the simple verbage of the invitations.

“Now, as mother of the bride, are you expecting me to pay for this soiree. I mean, after all, I did pay for the last wedding. There’s usually only one to a customer….. Usually.”

Rosemary Bossetta busied herself, putting the information she’d just gathered away.

“No, thank you, mother, for offering. But, Sandra and I will pay for it all. It really will be a small simple…..um…..soiree.” Josie retorted with her sweetest smile.

“Your doing the invitations for us is more that we’d hoped for. I’ll call you with the where and time of day as soon as we hear from Andy.” Josie stated.

“Andy? Who’s Andy?” Rosemary gave her daughter and Sandra a curious look.

“Oh, Andre’ Broussard, that’s Sandy’s mother.”

“Oh, yes, the one with the Priest. Well, let me know ASAP. Now, let’s order. I have plans for the evening and would like to get home in time for a little rest.” The older woman smiled, but it never reached her eyes.

The women ordered their meal and Josie excused herself to run to the little girls room, leaving her lover to fend for herself. Sandra wanted to go with her but knew it would be rude to leave Rosemary alone at the table.

“So, Sandra, tell me about yourself. How did you meet my daughter? What do your people do? Have you been married before? Do you have any children? All my daughter has told me about you is that you’ll be graduating from Nursing School at the end of May so I must admit I was expecting a much younger woman.” Rosemary munched her salad as she waited for the dark haired beauty to answer her inquiries.

“Well, let’s see, I answered an ad Josie placed at the Nursing School for an apartment. We hit it off right away. My mom is a nurse at Mercy Hospital. She’s widowed for many years now. I’m divorced. I have no children.” Sandra felt a wave of grief pass over her and tried not to let this woman see her pain. She knew the older woman would be incapable of having any real feeling of empathy for her. Why open herself up to that.

“So what happened?”

“I’m sorry, I don’t know what you mean?” Sandra was confused.

“I mean, why the divorce? What happened to your marriage? I wouldn’t normally pry like this, but you are marrying my only child and heir. I have to look out for her interest. I’m sure you can understand that.” Rosemary sat up straight and proud. Sandra was a little in awe of her presence, but she was still angry that this woman didn’t even take the time to come visit her only child in the hospital when she was terribly ill and needed her love and comfort. She looked down at her plate, trying to think of what to say to placate her without confiding a damned thing about her life. She didn’t deserve her trust and she wasn’t getting anymore from Sandra than the absolute necessities.

“My husband and I married too young. We grew apart. It happens.” Sandra breathed a sigh of relief when her lover returned to the table. Sensing Sandra’s discomfort, Josie gave her mother a suspicious look.

“So, what have you two been discussing while I was gone? Mother?” Josie gave the older woman a look that told her she wanted the truth and she wanted it now.

“We were just getting acquainted, Josie. I asked Sandra to tell me a little bit about herself.” All three women were relieved when the main course was brought to the table. The rest of the meal was eaten over small talk about the older woman’s social calendar and how many of her friends had just let themselves go, while she worked hard at keeping fit with proper diet and exercise. “You should be following my regimen, Josie. That’s part of your problem, dear. I can’t tell you how important proper diet and exercise is, especially at my age.” Rosemary was inordinately proud of her appearance. She knew most women were jealous of her and most men wanted her on their arm,

“Mother, I am a nurse. I’m well aware of my body’s needs. I agree that your regimen is excellent. How many seventy year old women have a body like yours? You should tell folks your age. They just won’t believe it.” Josie couldn’t help grinning at her little jibe. She knew her mother would rather wear white shoes after labor day than have anyone know her real age.

“Let’s just keep that little tid bit of information to ourselves, shall we.” Rosemary gave her daughter a knowing grin and a wink.

Josie smiled back warmly.

Sandra just sat taking it all in. The relationship between these two was just confusing.

“Did you read the information I sent you on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?” Josie asked of her mother.

“I tried to, dear, but it was so involved and those doctors obviously haven’t a clue what they are dealing with. I spoke with my cousin, Sal, who’s a doctor here in town, and he said that they’re not even sure if it exists. He says it might be a mental disorder, like depression. Sounds like something the bleeding heart liberals made up so more people can sit on their backsides, drink their booze and still get a check from the government.”

Sandra couldn’t hold her tongue any more. “Let me clarify this. Are you saying that since Josie has CFS, that means she sits home, drinks booze and collects a check from the government? She has diabetes too. I wonder what benefits she is getting for that one. I’ll tell you. There’s no benefits to gain from either, not even a government check. She struggles to get through every day. Her health is so tenuous that she almost died less than two weeks ago from strep throat, a common virus a normal healthy body would have been able to fight with a weeks worth of antibiotics. Oh, that’s right, you wouldn’t know about that because you were too busy socializing to visit your only child in the hospital, even after Beth called to ask you to come. You are one piece of work, lady. God! Forgive me, Josie. I can’t help it. Rosemary, you don’t deserve a daughter as wonderful as Josie and she certainly deserves a better mother than you. Oh and, just for your edification, your daughter inherited her diabetes from your side of the family. I am aware, even if you aren’t, that your mother had type 1 diabetes.” Sandra reached into her wallet and threw some bills on the table. “I’ve lost my appetite. Josie, we’re going home. Say goodbye to you mother. I’ll meet you outside.” Sandra turned on her heel and stormed out of the restaurant.

Josie was stunned by her lover’s outburst. ‘I didn’t know you had it in you.’ Josie thought to herself and smiled. Her chest just about bursting with pride. “I love that woman….. And I love you too, mom. You’re no Betty Crocker. But, you’re all I’ve got.” Josie grinned at her mother who was staring out into space.

“She’s right.” Rosemary Bossetta stated as her moss green eyes filled with tears.

“What?” Josie thought she’d heard wrong.

“I’m not one for insights. But, I know for a fact I shouldn’t have had you. I’m not mother material. I’m a self-centered, vain woman….. I guess it’s my age, which you so kindly reminded me of. I’ve been reflecting a bit on my life. You were always an after thought. Your father was less than that. I never was “in love” with him, dear. I don’t know that I’ve ever felt that for anyone, not really. I do know that I’ve always loved you. It’s important that you believe me.” Rosemary turned sad eyes toward her child.

“I don’t know that your fiancé will ever accept me the way I am. But, I am too old to change, Josie. I should have come to see you in the hospital. Sandra is right about that and I don’t blame her a bit for being angry.” The older woman sighed, then continued. “It’s not in me to be giving of myself, of my affections. I am sorry, Josie. I did the best I knew how. You are very fortunate you had my mother to teach you about love and nurturing. I always resented her, you know. I resented her relationship with my father and then her relationship with you. I was jealous, I suppose. People were always drawn to her, especially my father. He worshiped her. And how I adored him.”

“I wish you had told me all this years ago, mother. It might have helped me understand you….. us.” Josie’s eyes glistened with tears. “I know in my heart that you love me. I always have. I love you too, mom….. Still want to make out our wedding invitations?”

Rosemary Bossetta smiled warmly at her child. “I’d be honored, if you think Sandra will accept me. I’m not her favorite person at the moment.”

“Let me speak with her. She’ll come around. She’s just protective of me. That’s how people in love are. And, because of that love, she will learn to accept and maybe even grow to love you. So, I’ll send you the materials and you get started, Ok?”

“Ok….. Thank you, Josie. You’re a fine daughter and a much better woman than I ever was. It’s a shame you never had children. You’d have been a good mother.”

The two women stood and embraced. It was a very rare occurrence when Josie’s mother held her tightly to her breast and the younger woman relished the moment. When they pulled apart, Josie took her hanky from her purse and wiped the tears from her mother’s face. “Can’t have you spoiling your make up….. Sandra’s waiting for me. I’ll talk to you soon, mother….. Thanks for trying. It means a lot to me.”

Rosemary Bossetta stood proudly and nodded her head slightly. “You are welcome, Josie. Tell Sandra thank you for taking such good care of my daughter.” The older woman took her child’s hand in hers as they walked out of the restaurant together.

***

Sandra was so angry, she didn’t know what to do with herself once she stormed out of the restaurant. “Damn that woman!” Sandra bellowed as she stomped through the parking lot to the Accord, dived in and slammed the door. She sat there, taking deep breaths and replaying the scene with Rosemary Bossetta over and over in her head. ‘Shit, I think I messed up again. I shouldn’t have spoken to Josie’s mother like that. She must be furious with me. She wouldn’t call off the wedding, would she? Awe, shit!’

Sandra berated herself for losing her temper. Deciding she needed some good advice, she reached into the glove compartment and pulled out the cell phone, dialing her mother’s number.

Andre’ Broussard was sitting on the sofa with her feet up on the coffee table, enjoying her Saturday afternoon, reading about the recent apparitions of the Blessed Mother in the United States. She hoped to save enough money to join a group of Parishioners on a bus trip to Georgia where rose petals fell from the sky as the Virgin Mary appeared to the masses. Sandra would be finished school soon so she shouldn’t need more funds for tuition and books. She planned on giving Sandra a check at graduation to help buy uniforms and shoes for work. But, after that, her money was her own. As soon as she saved enough for her trip, she was stopping all these double shifts. ‘Mon Dieu, but my feet are tired.’

“Hello?”

“Momma….. I think I messed up again.” Sandra blurted.

“Qu est-ce qui ne va pas, Sandy?” Andre’ was instantly alert.

“I just told off Josie’s mother. I didn’t mean to.” Sandra groaned into the phone.

“Oh Mon Dieu! Sandra Camille Broussard, I am shocked at you. You were not raised to be disrespectful to your elders. What has gotten into you!?!” Andy jumped to her feet, reprimanding her daughter for such inexcusable behavior.

“I’m sorry mom, I just….. She was so horrible to Josie. She’s a cold, selfish, self-centered bitch!” Sandra’s anger took over again.

“Mais, non. That might all be true, cheri, but she is still Josie’s mother and your elder. You must learn to control that temper, ma fille….. Did you do much damage?” Andy sat back down and decided to see what help she could be.

“Yeah, I think so. I told her she didn’t deserve a daughter like Josie, that Josie deserves a better mother than her and why. Then, I stormed out of there. They are still in the restaurant. I hope she’s not giving Josie a hard time. All we wanted was to include her in the wedding preparations. Now, I don’t even know if there will be a wedding. Josie must be furious with me for mouthing off like that….. Awe, shit!”

“Sandra, ferme’ la bouche! You know I don’t approve of your cursing.”

“Yes ma’m. I’m sorry. I just can’t do anything right.” Sandra whined as her blue eyes brimmed with unshed tears.

“That’s not true. What you did was at the very least stupid and impulsive. You need to apologize to Josie and her mother. This woman is going to be a part of your lives together, whether you like it or not. You don’t just marry the woman, but the in-laws too. Now, my advice is to go back in there and beg their forgiveness. It does not matter that you were right and her mother was wrong. All that matters is to keep the peace in the family. Then, after the wedding, you will hardly ever see her. I doubt if this will give her a sudden long term interest in her daughter’s life. If it helps any, I feel the way she treats her own flesh and blood is criminal and I hope Josie will let me give her some of the nurturing her own mother hasn’t.”

“It helps, mom. Thanks. I guess it’s time to face the music. I’ll call you later and tell you how it went….. I love you.”

“I love you too, ma fille. And, I’m very proud of you.”

Sandra disconnected the phone, took a deep breath and opened her door, just in time to see Josie and her mother step out of the restaurant holding hands and saying obviously warm goodbyes to each other. ‘What did I miss?’ Sandra thought to herself. ‘Life just keeps getting weirder and weirder.’ She crawled back into her seat and waited for her partner to join her.

Josie slid into the passenger seat aware of the anxiety radiating from her fiancé. She reached over and took one of the hands that Sandy had been wringing together into her own and kissed it . “Everything’s ok, sweetheart. Please, relax. Mother and I had a great talk. Actually, the first one that I can recall having with her. She’s not mad at you. In fact, she agreed with you.” Josie looked into moist blue eyes.

“She agreed with me!?!” Sandra was pleasantly astonished.

“Yes. She did. Why don’t we pass by and see your mom. I’ll tell you all about it on the way.” Josie smiled and kissed her partner’s hand once more before relinquishing it so Sandra could drive.

“I think I should call first and tell her I didn’t ruin our lives with my big mouth, after all. I already know she’s home. I called her after the scene I made in there. God, I’m so sorry I lost it like that, boss.”

“Don’t be. I liked it.” Again Josie took her partner’s hand. “You’re my Knight in Shining Armor……and, I love you.”

“Always? Even when I put my foot in my mouth?” Sandra asked, gently.

“Always. Even if you have Nike firmly imprinted on your tonsils.” Josie smiled.

part 11

The women raced around the house, cleaning and straightening and checking the ducks roasting in the oven for the umpteenth time, both wanting desperately to make a good impression on the Priest that was coming to spend the day with them. Andy was driving Fr. Pierre up from New Orleans and was slated to arrive by eleven in the morning.

“Boss, you’d better relax before you wear yourself out. I can take care of lunch.” Sandra wrapped her long arms around her speeding lover’s slim waist to stop the perpetual motion of the tiny body racing from room to room.

“But, I still have to put the brown rice on the stove. Then I need to prepare the spinach with sliced almonds in about thirty minutes. What about the ginger and orange….. sauce?” Josie turned in Sandy’s arms and lost her train of thought when she fell into the depths of soft blue eyes that flickered with desire and amusement. “I…uh…mmmmmm.” Sandra leaned down and captured succulent lips in a passion filled kiss, slipping her tongue into inviting warmth. When the need for air overcame her, Sandra retreated and gave Josie a self satisfied grin.

“It was the only way I could think of to stop you. You’re like a hurricane when you get your teeth into something.”

Josie just looked into Sandra’s eyes and smiled.

“I want you to go take a hot soak, while I finish up in the kitchen. I’ll join you in a few. Ok?” Sandra stated as she gently stroked her lover’s face.

Josie let out a long sigh, realizing Sandra was right. “Ok. I’ll meet you in the tub shortly.”

“Thanks, boss.”

***

Lunch was a friendly affair, with Andy, Sandra and Fr. Pierre reminiscing about old times, telling stories of all the mischief the tall beauty got into as a toddler. Josie got over her initial nervousness and enjoyed the embarrassing stories of her lover immensely. After they ate and the girls cleaned up the kitchen, Josie and Andy retired to the back porch with their café’ au lait as Sandra gave their guest the grand tour of the property and it’s gardens.

Fr. Pierre was glad to have this time alone with Sandra. He remembered the adventurous, loving child she’d been, and the shell of a woman she’d become. He watched as she fell into the depths of depression and self loathing in the bottom of a bottle. Then he was there to lend a hand as she crawled through the AA program and into sobriety. She was fond of telling him that God brought her to AA and AA brought her back to God. It taught her how to utilize her faith. But it wasn’t until today that he saw her truly happy.

They walked through the gardens enjoying the peace of the pastoral setting. The quiet only broken by the Priest inquiring the names of certain plants he found particularly attractive. When they reached the pond, Sandra motioned to Fr. Pierre to sit next to her on the old concrete bench.

“So, tell me about Josie.” The Priest inquired.

Sandra took a deep breath and, with an huge smile on her face began. “She’s kind, loving, understanding, generous, smart and very adorable.” Sandra looked down at her feet, deep in thought. Her features sobered as she took a deep breath and sighed. “She’s given me a whole new life, a whole new beginning. She knows all about my past and she still loves me.” She stopped to catch her breath, glancing at Fr. Pierre’s compassionate gaze, then continued. “Father….., when I look into her eyes I can see my future, I feel hope, I feel safe.” Sandra hadn’t wanted to cry, but the tears were sliding down her cheeks.

“When Antoine died I thought my life was over. I felt dead. There was no joy in living and no hope I’d ever know happiness again.” Fr. Pierre took her hand in his, offering support. “But now, thanks to that tiny woman in there, that’s all changed. I’ve never been more content than I am now.” Sandra turned to look into moist eyes. “I love her more than I ever thought it possible to love anyone. I want to proclaim that love to the world. It’s beautiful. She’s beautiful. She is the greatest blessing in my life. I want to marry her. I want my God and my loved ones there to witness our union. Can you perform our ceremony, Father?”

Fr. Pierre patted the trembling hand he still held as he seriously considered her request. “I can see the difference Josie’s made in you, my dear. For one, you haven’t said that many words at one time since you were a child.” Both he and Sandy smiled. “You know, the Catholic Church does not recognize gay marriages and teaches that homosexuality is a sin.” There was a pregnant pause as Sandra hung her head and the tears began to fall anew. “However, I cannot see how loving as you two obviously do could be wrong. She’s made you happy. I can see that. She’s given you a reason for living. For that I am eternally grateful to her. I will bless your union. It cannot be, however, inside the Catholic Church.”

“Oh, Father, thank you, thank you. We want to have a small ceremony here in our garden. If that’s Ok with you.” Sandra’s tears of joy were streaming down her face.

“That sounds lovely. Just tell me when and I’ll be there. Now, how’s about we join your mother and your bride to be for a little toddy.” Fr. Pierre pulled Sandra into a hug and walked by her side back to the house. He felt great pride in this young woman he’d seen through so much hell on earth and in himself for doing the right thing in the eyes of God, if not the Church.

***

The four friends sat together on the porch, drinking their coffee, a little drop of Jack Daniels in the Priest’s, and planning the last details of the wedding. All of them elated that everything was going so well.

Sandra grabbed the phone as the others chatted away. “Well, Bon jour, Tony. Comment sa va?”

“Oooh, tres bien.” The tall beauty smiled.

“Elle est tres jolie, mon frere.” She looked admiringly at her lover.

“Mais oui. Beaucoup Oooh, la, la, la.” Josie wondered what was being said on the other end that could make Sandra’s cheeks blush so red.

“Quelle histoire!” Sandra had been looking around at her eaves droppers and decided to let them in on the conversation. “Un moment.”

“It’s Tony. He and Mary will be able to come down for the week of the wedding. But, he says he had to move mountains to arrange it.” Sandra rolled her shining blue eyes.

“We’ll have the apartment all ready for you, little brother. Oui, moi aussi. A bientot.” Sandra hung up the phone as she caught a glimpse of her mother glaring at her.

“He couldn’t talk any longer, Momma. He was in a hurry. He said to give you his love.”

Josie sat staring at her lover as if she’d grown another head. “What? What’d I do, dawlin?” Sandra teased.

“I just never heard you speak french before. I mean, you just never do.”

Sandra’s cheeks blushed again.

“Mais, Oui. As much as I tried to teach my little girl to speak her lovely Acadian growing up, she always insisted that “American’s spoke English.” Andre’ Broussard made a face at her blushing daughter.

“I only speak french to Tony. It’s a habit we got into in school to keep secrets from the other kids. I don’t hardly remember it anymore, but, understand more than I can speak.” Sandra said.

“I think it’s cute that you and your brother had such a special relationship.” Josie grinned. “I can’t wait to meet him.”

“You two are gonna be a handful together.” Sandra shook her head in mock dismay.

“Oooh, I wish I could be a fly on the wall to watch this.” The Priest retorted. Josie chuckled and slapped her hand on Fr. Pierre’s knee who was grinning widely.

“I have many stories to share with you, Josie, about the antics of those two sprites. She was fearless, always following her daddy around, climbing ladders onto the roof to “help” him work, and poor little Tony following right behind her. Of course he, being barely more than a toddler, was always the one getting banged up….”

“Yeah, and I was always the one who got sent to Fr. Pierre to discuss the error of my ways, leading my little brother into danger. Hehehe, but he loved it. He was such a “monkey see, monkey do”. Once, when mom was at work, I tried on her favorite yellow dress, pearl necklace, earrings, heels, lipstick, the works. I thought I was “the cat’s pajamas” walking around the house, admiring myself in every mirror. I was careful to put her stuff away and wash my face before she came home. You can imagine my horror when after we all ate supper and mom and dad and I are sitting in the parlor watching TV and in walks Tony looking like a “mini madam” from the “red light district”. Yeah, I got punished for that one too.” Sandra sighed, dramatically. “Little brothers get away with everything. Life’s just not fair.” She pouted as her lover snorted in laughter.

“That’s enough playing, children, we have a wedding to plan. So, it will be here, yes?” Asked Andre’.

“Yes. June 3rd. We’d better have it in the morning so I don’t poop out on y’all.” Josie said.

“How is 1130. Is that too early to get people to drive up from New Orleans?” Sandra suggested.

“Not for me. How about you, Pierre?” Andre’ asked.

“1130 is good for me, especially since you’re driving.” The Priest grinned.

Andy rolled her eyes. “Then 1130 it is. Now, what shall you wear? I still have my wedding dress in the cedar chest at home…..”

“No! No way. I wore that the first time I got married and look what happened. That dress put the gris gris on me…..the boss and I will go shopping for a nice suit. Something I can wear again on a special occasion. What do you think?” Sandra looked over at her partner.

“Sounds good to me. I’ve had my eye on a little deep green number, should fall just above my knee, with my pearls and some open toed pumps. I’ve been dying for an excuse to buy that dress and I sure can’t think of a better reason to spend the big bucks.” Josie grinned and wiggled her eye brows.

“Deep green in June! You should wear something light and lacy.” Andy complained.

“Mom, it’s our wedding. We’ll wear what we want. Ok?” Sandra gently defended her lover.

‘Oh, mon Dieu! Ok. I’ll butt out.” Andre’ huffed and pouted as she drank her café au lait.

“Merci, Momma. Merci tres beaucoup.” Sandra said leaning over to patt her mother’s hand.

“Food! We need to feed our guests.” Josie piped up.

“You don’t really want to cook the morning of our wedding, do you?” Sandra asked non-plussed

“Not really, but we can’t ask people all the way out here and not feed them.”

“May I speak?” Andre’ raised her hand as if in grade school.

Sandra sighed at her mother’s sarcasm.

“Please do.” Josie beckoned.

“Why not let me do the cooking. I can prepare everything in advance and then stick it in the oven and microwave at your house while the ceremony is going on.”

“Mom, I don’t want you slaving away in the kitchen while the most important event of my life is happening.” Sandra said sincerely as she shook her head.

“Wait! I’ve got it. You know that waitress over at The Mill.” Josie stated excitedly. “What’s her name….ummmm…..Daphne! She told me to keep her in mind if I ever had a catered affair. She cooks and serves, as long as you provide the silverware and dishes.”

“That’s right. And, she’s really nice. Momma could cook a few dishes, freeze them and just bring them to the house in the morning. Daphne can take it from there. What do you think Mom?” Sandra asked.

“Sounds perfect. So what do you want to feed your guests?” Andre’ loved being an integral part of her daughter’s wedding day.

The group spent the rest of the afternoon on menus and decorating ideas until it was time for Andre’ to return Fr. Pierre to St. Anthony’s. All four were filled with a sense of accomplishment and anticipation over the coming nuptials.

***

After cleaning the kitchen and wrapping the leftovers in “silver paper” and putting them safely away in the “ice box”, the lovers slipped out of their clothes and into the inviting bubbles of the hot tub.

“It’s really happening, just like we dreamt it.” Josie said as she snuggled deep into her lover’s strong embrace, feeling soft breasts slide against her back.

“Yeah, it is. Wow! We are really getting married, boss. And by my Parish Priest no less.” Sandra kissed Josie’s golden head. “It all feels like a wonderful dream. But, if it is a dream, I don’t ever want to wake up.”

“It’s not a dream, love. It may, however, be a miracle.” Josie gently chuckled as she raised a long elegant hand to her lips. “I’ve never been happier in my entire life…..Thank you.” Josie whispered as a tear leaked from her sea-green eyes.

Sandra sensed the shift in her partner’s mood and held her tighter as she kissed her slightly too warm cheek. “I love you, Josie, more than anything else in this whole wide world, but right now you need to get some sleep and I need to hit the books. Still have two finals to go this week and then I’m done. Good gravy, I can’t believe it’s almost over.” Sandra shook her head in amazement.

“Not over yet, nursie. You still have to pass State Boards.” Josie piped up.

Sandra let out a loud groan. “I don’t even want to think about that….. Come on, blondie, let’s get you tucked in.” Sandra helped her obviously over tired lover out of the hot tub and took great delight in toweling her naked body dry, having to remind herself that she couldn’t afford to flunk her finals just to have a torrid night of passion with this petite goddess. She groaned again as she wrapped the object of her desires in the terry cloth robe and sent her off to bed as she headed off to study.

***

“Hey, Sandy, sweetheart, wake up. You’ll be late for your exams.” Josie prodded. Sandra was still sitting at the dining table her head resting on a long outstretched arm, sleeping soundly. ‘I guess I’ll have to use the “secret weapon”. With that, Josie turned on the coffee pot, lit the fire underneath the wrought iron skillet and proceeded to make café au lait with french toast.

Sandra began to stir, the aroma of breakfast tickling her senses and making her tummy growl with need. The raven haired beauty lifted her head, sucking in a breath at the painful stiffness in her neck and back.

“Morning glory.” Josie cheerfully greeted.

“Hmmmm, morning. OH….. SHIT! What time is it!?!” Sandra began to panic.

“It’s 0630. Your exam’s not til 0800. So, you’re ok.” Josie placed Sandra’s breakfast in front of her and smiled as her lover looked at the offering with childlike glee.

“You spoil me, boss. And, I love it.” Sandra took a big swallow of her coffee and practically purred as it slid down her throat.

The two women chatted over breakfast and generally enjoyed each other’s company, expressing their mutual affection by soft touches and longing looks that they weren’t even aware of.

“What are you going to do till I get home?” Sandra asked.

“I’m gonna buy me a fancy weddin dress, ma’m.” Josie’s “redneck” accent left much to be desired.. “Then, I thought I’d talk to Daphne. I hope she’s free June 3rd.”

“Gee, I hadn’t even thought about that. I hope so too. Gotta hop in the shower and head out.” Sandra leaned over to kiss Josie’s soft cheek. “See you about lunchtime. Love you.” Sandra said as she rushed away.

***

Josie arrived home with her new dress, a definite commitment from Daphne and an hour to spare to put her plans into action.

“Hello? May I speak to Tony Broussard, please?” Josie asked.

“Speaking.”

“Tony, hey, this is Josie. Your future sister- in- law.”

“Oh my gawd! How the hell are ya , cher!?!” Tony said in the thickest “yat” accent he could muster.

“Oh no. Not another one. What are you and Sandra, clones?” Josie laughed out loud.

“Wait till you see us together. We even look alike. So, to what do I owe the privilege?” Tony asked.

“I want you and Mary to come in a little early, say May 26th. Your sister’s graduation ceremony is at 7 p.m. and I’m having a celebration for her at the house. It’s a surprise and I know she’d be thrilled to have you here. What do you think? Can y’all make it?” Josie asked excitedly.

“You bet we’ll make it. We have some celebrating of our own to do.” Tony answered.

“Oh yeah? What are you two celebrating, if I may ask?”

“I’m gonna be a daddy, an honest to God, father. Aaah…Eeeeeeee!” Tony did his best Cajun yell.

“That’s wonderful, Tony! Congratulations brother-in-law. I can’t wait to tell Sandy. She’s going to be ecstatic.” Josie gushed.

“You can tell Sandy, but don’t tell my mother. I want to surprise her.”

“You’ll surprise her alright.” Josie chuckled. “Look, I’ve gotta run. Your sister will be home any minute. Whoops! Too late. Hold on.” Josie held the phone close enough for Tony to hear the conversation and follow Josie’s lead. “Hey sweetheart. Guess who I’ve got on the phone?” Sandra looked at her lover with a puzzled expression. “Your little brother has some really big news for you. Here, Tony, I’ll let you tell your sister, personally. It was nice talking to you and I look forward to seeing you and Mary at the wedding.” Josie held the phone out to her lover.

“Hey Tony, where y’at dawlin? What’s up?” Sandra blurted as she set her book bag down on the dining table, pulled out a chair and plopped her weary body down.

“You sitting down, sis? You don’t want to be standing for this one.” Tony laughed gleefully.

“I’m sitting.”

“I’m gonna be a father. Mary’s pregnant. And, I did it.” Tony laughed with joy and pride.

Sandra’s face was unreadable as she sat up straight and stared at the receiver. “Wow, little brother. Mary’s gonna have a baby?”

“Yeah. But I had something to do with it too.” Tony whined.

“Congratulations, Tony. That’s great news. I’m very happy for the two of you…..Have you told Mom yet?”

“No, I was going to wait til the wedding and surprise her.”

“Antoine Broussard don’t you dare do that. You call our mother right now and tell her she’s going to be a grandmother….again. If she thinks we kept important news like this from her, she’ll have both our hides.”

“Yeah, I guess you’re right. I’ll call her after I get off the phone with you.”

“You’d better. How far along is Mary?”

“She’s nine weeks today. We didn’t want to say anything until we were sure she and the baby were doing alright.”

“I understand. Look, Tony, give Mary my love and tell her how happy I am for the two of you. I’ll see you in a few weeks. Ok?”

Tony was a bit confused by his sister’s tone. “Ok. Sure. We’ll be seeing you. A bientot.”

“Love you, bye.” Sandra slowly hung up the phone as if in a daze.

Josie took the phone from her lover’s slightly trembling hand, then pulled a chair up next to her. “Are you alright?” Josie asked as she cupped Sandra’s cheek with her left hand and tilted her face to look into the blue eyes she loved. Sandra was being swamped by a wave of mixed emotions, not all of which she understood. She turned her head away.

“I need to take Rover for a walk. I’ve been neglecting him lately.” Sandra said as she quickly stood and walked to the door. “I’ll be back in a little while.” She turned on her heel and left

Josie sighed heavily, stunned by Sandra’s unusual behavior. ‘What was that all about.’

***

“Come on Rover, old buddy. Let’s take a run. Whatta ya say?” Sandy leaned down to ruffle the scruffy dog’s fur encouraging him to follow her down the path as she jogged through the gardens and off into the woods.

Harder and harder she pumped the muscles in her long legs until she felt them burn with the strain and still she ran. Her lungs worked like a bellows forcing the thick humid, hot summer air in an out. Tears burned her eyes, blurring the view of the path before her, as she tried to runaway from the icy pain in her soul. On and on she ran until she felt the odd shape upon which her right foot landed and the sickening pain in her ankle as she fell into the deep red azaleas. The intensity of her physical pain allowed the dam to open and her psychic pain to spring forth. She howled out her grief as memories of her son filled her consciousness. Over and over again with each agonizing breath she took, she saw his face, smelled his hair, felt small arms hugging her neck and soft lips kiss her cheek. All the joy she’d never know again burned like a hot poker in her heart.

Rover walked around his friend several times, obviously upset and confused by her behavior, and, not knowing what to do, the dog lay down in front of her as close as he could, allowing her to hug him and cry into his soft fur until she was exhausted.

***

Josie busied herself making a couple of Reuben sandwiches to share with her lover for lunch. Sandra’s earlier strange behavior concerned her. ‘I thought she’d be happy for Tony and Mary. I didn’t realize….. God, she must be missing Antoine something fierce and is jealous that her brother will have a child soon and she never will again. Of course, that’s not necessarily the case. Gay couples have children all the time these days. That’s what sperm banks are for. I hear you can even pick out the child’s coloring and nationality. When she gets back we can discuss it.’ Josie pondered to herself as she fixed a cup of coffee and went to read on the porch.

Josie had finished her coffee, having read for at least thirty minutes and got up to refill her cup when a terrible feeling of anxiety overwhelmed her, causing her to nearly drop the empty cup from her trembling hand. ‘Oh my God, Sandy!’

She didn’t know how she knew, but she knew Sandy needed her. She grabbed her cell phone, ran to the garage and started up the tractor/ mower she used to keep the acreage around her home groomed and took off as fast as it’s 28 horse power would carry her down the walking trail, calling for her lover and Rover, the mongrel stray that had adopted them, praying she’d find them both unharmed.

***

After several long minutes, Sandra was able to collect herself and sat up, with some effort, to assess the damage. She tenderly rolled up her pant’s leg to see her right ankle. “Oh shit!” The exhausted beauty sighed, tentatively touching the bruised and swollen ankle and foot. She tried to stand, but the pain that shot up her leg caused her to fall flat on her buttocks as she yelled out in pain and frustration.

“Rover, if you were Lassie I could send you home to get help. Too bad we never let you watch old reruns on TV.” Sandra smirked as she realized she’d have to crawl back to the house on her hands and knees. “That’s just great. Shit! Sandra, you screw everything up. SHIT!!!” Sandra yelled out at the top of her lungs inadvertently attracting Josie’s attention, who pointed the tractor in her direction and honked the horn to tell her she was coming.

Josie put the tractor in neutral as she climbed down and raced to her lover’s side. Sandra sat on the ground, holding her aching ankle, her face smeared with dirt and streaked with tears.

“Sandy, you ok?….. What happened?” Josie asked as she knelt down close to her friend so she could touch her.

“I was running and tripped. I think I busted my ankle.” Sandra tried not to cry anymore, but the nearness of her lover made that a difficult battle.

“Let me see.” Josie assessed the damage. “Yep, we need to get you to the emergency room for X-rays. I don’t think it’s broken, but it sure is sprained good. I’ll drive the tractor closer so you can pull yourself up. I’ll sit on your lap and drive her.”

Josie retrieved the tractor and helped her lover crawl up into the seat. “What makes me think I’m not gonna enjoy this ride.” Sandra groaned.

“Well, let’s see. Could it be an aversion to pain?” Josie grinned as she sat on her lover’s lap and directed them back toward the house.

***

“Well Mrs. Abbott, you are a lucky woman. No bones broken or torn connective tissue, according to your MRI, but you have quite a sprain there. I’m going to give you a prescription for Darvocet-N-100 and Motrin. I want you to start with the Motrin and then alternate the two. We should be able to control the pain and swelling better that way. Now, when you get home keep it elevated and ice it down for about the first thirty six hours at twenty minute intervals, then alternate heat and ice. Do you know how to use these crutches?” The doctor handed them to his patient.

“Yes, sir.” Sandra winced as the doctor applied a soft brace to her swollen extremity.

“Good. Now, stay off of it. I want to see you in two weeks. If you have any trouble, let me know.” The emergency room physician finished tightening the velcro straps to his satisfaction and left the room.

“Your limousine awaits, Madame.” Josie pushed a wheelchair up next to Sandra and locked the wheels as she helped her friend into it and handed her the crutches to hold. “Let’s go home. I’m starving.”

“Me too…… Home Josephine.” Sandra commanded, haughtily.

“Yes, Madame.” The two friends giggled brightly. All the angst of earlier that day temporarily forgotten.

***

“MmmmmMmmm, that was beyond a doubt the most delicious stale Reuben sandwich I’ve ever eaten.” Sandy smacked her lips and winked at the cook.

“Why thank you ma’m. Would Madame care for anything else?” Josie responded in her best Geeves accent.

“Yes, actually, Madame would like very much for you to straddle her lap and give her passionate kisses. Since both of us just ate the same lunch, Madame doesn’t feel the need to go brush Madame’s teeth.” Sandra wiggled her eyebrows and gave Josie her best lascivious grin.

Josie crawled upon her lover’s lap, careful not to hurt her injured ankle. “This is highly irregular I must say. Oh yes, this is definitely sexual harassment.” The little blonde mock complained as Sandra unbuttoned her blouse and pressed her lips between firm breasts.

“Do you mind waiting an hour or so before reporting my horrendous behavior to your lawyer?” Sandra replied as she took deep breaths of her lovers spicy clean sent.

“Well, I don’t know….. Oh! Hmmmmm.” Sandra’s large hands covered Josie’s breasts through her bra, thumbs tracing over hardening nipples.

“I tell you what. You please me really well and we’ll forget all about it.” Josie reached her hands into dark shiny hair and tilted Sandra’s head to reach red lips with her mouth. She licked and tasted them before allowing Sandra to do the same.

Sandra reached her long arms behind her lover’s back, unhooked the bra, quickly baring Josie’s entire upper body, never releasing the lips she was exploring.

Josie pulled back so Sandra could feast her eyes and mouth upon her sensitive flesh, moaning at the exquisite arousal caused by her lover’s tongue gently licking and taunting the sweet nipples.

“Off.” Josie could only blurt out the one command as her fingers struggled to pull Sandra’s t-shirt over her dark head. Leaning back as far as she could, Sandra unsnapped her jeans, releasing her shirt and helped Josie remove it Josie was relieved to see Sandy’s bra clasp was in front and quickly disposed of the barrier to her lust. Slightly full breasts, somewhat larger than her own, with dark erect nipples filled her senses. “You are so beautiful, my love. You take my breath away.” Josie stroked the soft breasts with the back of her fingers, amazed that the nipples became more taut. Sandra shivered as a delicious jolt went directly from her nipples to her clit and she felt the wetness begin to leak from her vagina.

“I need you Josie. Help me get my jeans down.” Josie crawled off of Sandy’s lap and helped her pull down the jeans and gently glide them over her injured ankle. “Now take off your’s.” Sandra watched her lover strip for her as she pulled her own panties off and beckoned Josie to straddle her hips again.

The feel of flesh on flesh was thrilling for the women and they kissed passionately, deeply, taking turns sucking each other’s tongue as they pinched and stroked hardened nipples, sweat glistened on their bodies.

Josie pulled back to gaze into Sandra’s eyes as she slid her hand from her breasts to her bush and felt the erect nub of her clitoris. Sandra sucked in air as the touch was electrifying. She reached for Josie’s sex, but her hand was pushed away. “You first, love. I want to watch you come for me, sweetheart.” Josie found watching her lover very exciting, from the little beads of sweat that popped out on her brow to the flush upon her chest and the dilating of the pupils in those gorgeous blue eyes. She stroked and licked the tempting breasts as she dipped two fingers into Sandra’s vagina, coating them with her nectar, then stroking her engorged clit. Sandra grasped Josie’s buttocks with her strong hands as she pumped her pelvis to the rhythm of Josie’s touch.

“Oh, God, Josie….. Don’t stop…..

Josie nearly laughed at this demand. ‘I couldn’t stop now if I tried. God you’re beautiful’.

“I’m….. Mmmmm. I’m gonna come…..Uhng….. Aaaahhhh!!!” Sandra’s head fell back as she relished each after shock of her orgasm at her lover’s hands.

Josie leaned forward to gently stroke and kiss her beloved’s face. “I love you, Sandy. Forever and always. I promise.”

Sandra raised her hand behind Josie’s curly head and pulled her into a deep passionate kiss as her other hand reached between trembling legs to stroke her lover’s engorged sex. She smiled to discover her clitoris very hard and slick with arousal. Josie put both hands behind her lover’s head and deepened the kiss, tongues dueling for dominance. Her hips pumped of their own accord as her need was fierce. Sandra sensing her partner’s urgency slipped three fingers into her sopping vagina keeping constant contact on her clit with her thumb. Josie pumped wildly as her climax rose from the depths of her being. She pulled her mouth away from Sandra’s starved for oxygen and overwhelmed by the need to scream out her orgasm to the skies.

Josie fell upon her lover, totally sated and exhausted. “That was incredible, Sandy. You sure you’ve never been with a woman before me?” Josie grinned.

“Nope, never. That was quite the “little woody” you had for me boss. I don’t ever remember your clitoris being that engorged before.”

“Little woody!?!” Josie was giggling so hard, she had to roll off of her lover to avoid accidentally harming her ankle, which was still elevated on the coffee table. “Oh Sandy. You say the most adorable things. Did you know that?” Josie looked with loving amusement at her embarrassed partner.

Sandra reached down to retrieve her panties and jeans, struggling to slip them on without causing herself great pain and looking even sillier than she already felt.

“Awe sweetheart. I was just teasing you. Don’t be upset with me. I think that’s just about the cutest expression I’ve ever heard.” Josie leaned over to touch her lover’s forearm.

Sandra zipped her jeans and flopped back down beside her concerned friend. “I’m sorry. Everything seems to be getting to me today.” The tall beauty pouted.

Josie got up and dressed, then sat upon the arm of the sofa so she could look Sandra in the eye. “You want to talk about it? This all started when your brother told us about Mary’s pregnancy. What was going on in that beautiful head of yours, huh?” Josie asked gently as she ran a finger down her lover’s jaw.

Sandy’s tears began to fall anew as she looked away from her partner. “I’m a terrible person. I don’t know why you want to marry me.”

“Hey!” Josie grasped Sandra’s chin and forced her to look into her fiery green eyes. “You are not a bad person. And I happen to love you very much. So tell me what you could possibly be thinking.”

Sandra sniffled and her hands balled into fists. “It’s so unfair. Tony gets to raise his child and love his child and I’ll never see my Antoine alive again. I’ll never hear him laugh or feel him hug my neck or tell him a bedtime story….. And, SHIT!!!….. It hurts!….. It still hurts so much, Josie.” Josie pulled the distraught woman into her arms and kissed her head as she let loose her grief.

“I know, Sandy. I’m so sorry. If I could bring your son back to you….., I’d do anything…..” Josie’s own tears took her breath away.

“I am happy for Tony, Josie, I really am. I just feel so….. cheated..”

“I know you are, sweetheart. I know.” Josie kissed the dark head and took a deep breath before broaching the subject of their family.

“Sandra, you know…..sometime…..if you want to…..we could start a family of our own.” Josie held her breath not knowing how her emotionally fragile partner would react. Not getting an immediate negative response, she plodded on. “Lesbian couples do it all the time. They either have a family member donate the sperm, or use a sperm bank. It’s not that big an ordeal these days, Sandy. You’re still a young woman. You shouldn’t have any trouble carrying another child. You’re in great shape and with your working as an RN and my income from my investments, we should be able to put enough aside for education and all that. We would never need to place our child in day care, because I’d always be here to take care of it while you’re at work.”

Sandra pulled back from her lover and searched her eyes for any sign Josie was just trying to placate her. She saw none. “You’ve never mentioned any desire to have children with me before, Josie. That’s a huge commitment.”

“Sweetheart, I told you that the only reason I married my ex-husband was my desire to have children. When that didn’t work out, I made up my mind not to pine for what I couldn’t have. But, now, with you, I may be able to have everything I’ve ever wanted….. Listen to me, Sandy. I love you. I have committed my life to your happiness. Whether or not we raise a family together, I will be with you. But, if you want children, I’ll be there to help rear them into the best little human beings they can be.” Josie smiled broadly.

Sandra shook her head in amazement. She’d never allowed herself to dream she could find love, and now she was being presented with the opportunity to experience motherhood again, healthy and sober. “Thank you, Josie. You are the greatest gift I’ve ever received or ever hope to receive in this life…… We don’t have to decide this today. We are both exhausted. But, it’s wonderful to know you feel that way.” Sandra lifted her hand to stroke the face of her beloved. “When the right time comes we’ll know and in the meantime I think I need to go to some AA meetings and talk with my sponsor. See if I can get a grip on these feelings.”

“I am so very proud of you, Sandy. I’ll be here if you need me.” Josie hugged her tightly.

“I believe you will, boss. I really do believe you will….. Imagine that.” Sandra took a deep breath as more tears rolled down her flushed cheeks. “Look….., I’m on emotional overload. What do you say to the two of us curling up on our nice soft bed and taking a nap together, hmmmm?” Long fingers stroked Josie’s cheek.

“You read my mind.” Josie sighed and helped Sandra navigate on her new crutches.

***

The next two weeks were spent with Josie chasing after her recalcitrant lover, preventing calamity at every turn of a crutch. Exams were a glowing success, the results guaranteeing Sandra a spot on the Dean’s List. The very proud woman was able to make State Boards and her commencement rehearsals with Josie’s help. The swelling in her foot and ankle had much improved, but left an ugly yellowish/green cast to the skin.

“She’ll still need her crutches for the next week to ten days.” The doctor said. “If you don’t over do it, you should be walking on your own two feet by the end of the month with no pain.” Their was a collective sigh of relief.

***

The two women relaxed on the porch, sipping iced tea with lemon, trying to battle the stifling heat of late May. “Thank God that’s the last Commencement rehearsal we need to go to. I bet that rehearsal was longer than the actual ceremony.” Sandra fanned herself and gulped down her iced tea.

“Well, we’ll find out Friday. I’ve got your cap and dress whites hanging in the hall closet all nice and neat. What do you say to your Mom and Fr. Pierre coming over for a little celebration after the ceremony. I could have some finger sandwiches and wine. Nothing fancy. You’ll be starving by time we get home. You have to be at the Hall for 1815 and the Commencement doesn’t start till 1900.” Josie said.

“Sounds good. You’d better order enough sandwiches for the weekend. I love those things.” Sandra grinned.

“You betcha. How about some of those little meat balls too?”

“Oooh, yeah. And chips with salsa?” Sandra suggested hopefully.

“Anything for the new grad.” Josie set her tea down and crawled up into her lover’s lap. “Have I told you just how proud I am of you? Because I am so very proud.” Josie took Sandra’s right hand into her two smaller one’s. “You’ve overcome so much in your life, my friend, and remained a loving generous woman. I’ve never known anyone to try so hard to be all she could be against such odds. I am honored that you want to spend the rest of your life with me….” Josie took a deep breath to speak passed the lump in her throat. “I love you Sandy. And I would be honored if when we get married next weekend….., well….., if we could both change our last names…..” Josie sniffled and looked into her lover’s confused, hopeful gaze.

“You want us both to change our names?”

“Yes. If it’s alright with you….. I’d like us both to change our last names to Broussard.”

“Sandra stared dumfounded at her lover, not knowing what to say. Her heart filled with love and joy to the point of bursting.

Taking Sandra’s silence as meaning she’d made a faux pas, Josie rushed on to explain herself more fully. “It’s because, well…. Our marriages before were mistakes. I want to let go of the past, of Abbott and Ladner, and move on. We are starting a new life, a new beginning, together as a family.”

“But, why not Bossetta? That’s a beautiful name.” Sandra quietly asked.

“You’ve gotta be kidding! No….. Thank you. That’s sweet of you, but, as much as I love my Mother, she’s not much of one. I’d rather we take your maiden name in honor of your Mom. She’s been wonderful to us and represents everything I wish we could be someday for our children. What do you think? Is that Ok with you…..?” Josie looked up hopefully into Sandra’s soft blue eyes filled with adoration.

Sandra pulled Josie into a tight hug, kissed her golden curls and, with tears of joy rolling down her cheeks, whispered, “Yes.”

Josie pulled back so she could hold Sandra’s wet cheeks in her small hands and lay a chaste kiss upon her lips. “Good. I’ll call my lawyer and have the papers prepared for us to sign at the wedding ceremony.”

“You really do love me and believe in me?” The insecure beauty asked, timidly.

Josie was struck by the hope and fear dancing across her lover’s face. “You are my eyes, Sandra. Please don’t doubt how very precious you are to me. I know both of us are highly emotional right now with your graduation and our wedding so close. We have so very much to be grateful for. But, we can’t let it get the best of us. Ok?”

“Ok…… Hey, we never discussed a honeymoon. You want to take a trip somewhere? Somewhere cheap!” Sandra laughed, referring to their extremely stretched finances.

“I’d go anywhere with you, lady. Do you have somewhere specific in mind?” Josie inquired.

“Somewhere far away from people and hospitals. Somewhere it isn’t 110 degrees in the shade.”

Sandra rubbed her iced tea glass against her forehead.

“Can you be a little more specific? Is there something you’ve always wanted to do or some place you’ve always wanted to see?”

“Well, I’ve always wanted to learn how to flyfish. You know, up in the mountains, wading through a fresh water stream, surrounded by giant fur trees.” Sandra searched her partner’s far off expression. “Not very romantic, huh?”

“Oh, sweetheart, I think that’s the perfect honeymoon for us. We can rent a cabin in Colorado and just commune with nature. Whatta ya say?” Josie asked gleefully.

“I’m right witchya dawlin.” Sandra retorted.

“Oh brudduh.” Both women burst into peels of laughter.

***

“This was a nice idea, Josie. I love this new café. The last thing I want to do is faint from hunger up on that stage this evening.”

“Thank you. It was my pleasure entirely. I know how much you like Hannah’s salmon quiche. I figured that was something you couldn’t turn down, even with a nervous tummy.” Josie patt Sandra’s hand.

Josie couldn’t begin to express to her dear friend how very grateful she was that this night had finally arrived and, so far, without a hitch. She couldn’t wait to see Sandra’s face when she saw their friend’s and family sitting together at her graduation. It had taken a group effort. Beth and Tommy Bergeron were picking up Sandra’s brother and sister-in-law at the airport, getting them settled in the apartment. Andre’ was bringing Fr. Pierre and Sandra’s grandmother all the way from New Iberia. Sandra’s AA sponsor, Tammy, and her friend Roger would be there and even Josie’s mother agreed to make an effort to come. Josie was nearly as excited as her lover.

Josie dropped Sandra off at school, picked up the sandwiches and Swedish meat balls from the caterers, drove back to her home to collect their family and friends, and lead the way to the Commencement hall. ‘So far, so good.’ Josie sighed as she parked her car and greeted everyone, making introductions all around, then escorted their group to the closest seating area to the stage that they could all fit in to.

***

“It’s uncanny.” Josie thought out loud.

“I’m sorry. What did you say?” Tony Broussard queried.

“Oh, I’m sorry. I guess I was just thinking out loud. The resemblance between you and Sandy is uncanny. I’d know you anywhere.” Josie was amazed.

“Yeah, people used to tell us that all the time. We had similar personalities, too, when we were growing up. Of course, she’s a lot older than me. But, don’t tell her I told you that.” Tony chuckled with the bright shiny eyes of the innocent and for just a moment Josie saw what her partner might have been like if life had treated her differently.

“She’s going to be so excited when she see’s you two. I can’t wait to see the look on her face. I have my Canon Sure Shot and two rolls of film to take tonight. I want her to remember this for the rest of her life. I’m so proud of her, I’m afraid I’ll burst out crying when I see her.” Josie gushed.

“Mais non, don’t you start, ma petite. If you cry, I’ll cry then ma mere will cry and you don’t want to here all that wailing in an enclosed area like this. Oh, mon Dieu.. N’est pas?” Andre’ piped in, causing everyone to break into guffaws of laughter instead of tears.

“Andy, you are going to be one hell of a mother-in-law.” Josie quipped. “I can’t wait to become a member of the Broussard clan.”

“And we can’t wait to welcome you in, mes ami.” Andre’ said as she patted Josie’s knee.

The ceremony began with several of Sandra’s professors giving the same old speeches they gave for every graduating class. Josie tried to stifle several yawns before the students’ procession passed down the aisle, each looking clean and crisp in their dress whites and caps. She quickly focused her camera and took several pictures of her partner as she approached. She was especially happy to get the expression of surprise and joy when Sandra saw all her loved ones stand to cheer her on. Tears burst forth from her sparkling blue eyes and a thousand megawatt smile brightened her beautiful face. Josie’s heart soared.

***

Josie and Tony sat out on the screened porch, sipping their wine and escaping all the noise and excitement of the party within.

“I’m so glad you came, Tony. I can’t tell you how much it means to her. She’s crazy about you, you know.”

“I know. Believe me when I say, the feeling is mutual. She’s the best big sister any boy ever had. If it weren’t for Sandy, I wouldn’t be where I am now and probably would never have met Mary.”

“Why do you say that?” Josie was very interested in the answer to this.

“Well, I met Mary in law school. Sandy worked like a dog to help Mom pay my tuition. She insisted I not work, but that I carry a full load and make good grades. She kept track of all the courses I was taking, when and where my classes were and who my professors were. It was a little embarrassing at first, but it was just cause she wanted so much for me to have my dream. She lost hers when mom forced her to marry Frank and then when my nephew died….., well I didn’t know if she’d survive.”

“That must have been a nightmare for you all.” Josie stated sadly.

Tony nodded his head and seemed to weigh heavily what he was about to say. “I lost her for a long time after that. She crawled inside a bottle a booze and I didn’t know if she’d ever come out. She was in agony, Josie. I think if it hadn’t been for her faith in God and the fact that I needed her, she’d have blown her brains out. I use to jump every time the phone rang, thinking, ‘This is it. She’s dead.’ I remember holding her on one particularly bad day. She was trying to kick the booze. It was about thirty-six hours since her last drink. Mom and I were allowed to visit her at the rehab center. She’d washed her hair and her clothes were clean, but she looked like death. She was shaking, guzzling coffee and chain smoking.” Tony stopped for a moment, his mind’s eye focused on the past. “After she’d visited with my mother, she came over to kiss me goodbye. I told her how much I needed her and begged her not to leave me behind. She knew what I meant. She held me so tight I could hardly breathe and said, ‘I’m trying little brother. I’m trying with every fiber in my being not to let you down too.’ And she kissed my forehead.” A tear escaped the blue eyes that were so much like his sister’s. “It took some time but she finally did stay sober and moved in with mom. And, only after helping to put me through law school, she went back to pursue the career in Nursing she’d always dreamed of. I’m so grateful to you for believing in her and for helping her to believe in herself….. Thank you, Josie.” Tony wiped a tear from his face as he smiled warmly at his new friend.

“You don’t have to thank me. That sister of yours gave me a new lease on life. You hear that expression every day, but in my case it couldn’t be truer….. I didn’t know that Sandy worked to put you through school. She never shared that with me. I wonder why.” Josie looked puzzled.

“I’m not surprised. My sister is one of the most humble people I know. She never seemed aware of how beautiful she was or how smart. After dad died, she changed from this happy adventurous young girl to a dark brooding specter around the house. Then, when little Tony died, she just fell apart into a million little pieces. I was so afraid she’d…..”

Josie reached out and touched Tony’s arm, offering comfort. “She’d never do that Tony. She’s insecure at times and is emotionally fragile to a degree, but she’s grown so much. She’s learned to live in the solutions not in the problems. I think she feels deserving of our love. Still, I intend to remind her every day of our lives together.”

“She is one lucky lady to have someone like you.”

“Oh, I’d say we’re lucky to have each other. And right now, I have to go say my good nights. I wish I’d gotten to talk more with your grandmother before she nodded off.”

“Don’t worry about it. She fell off as soon as Sandy sat her in that recliner. My mom says Grams is “of an age”, which basically means she can’t hear, can barely see and sleeps 18 hours a day.”

“Oh, Tony, you are terrible. You’ll get old someday and when you do, I hope your grandchildren speak more highly of you.”

“Just wait till you hear how I talk about you when your Gram’s age.” Tony laughed.

“I look forward to it, Tony. From your mouth to God’s ears.” Josie smiled wanly as she hugged her soon to be brother-in-law tightly and returned to the party.

***

“Hey, sweetheart. Can I steal you away for a moment?” Josie asked as she slipped her arm through Sandra’s and pulled her away from a philosophical discussion with Tammy, Roger, Beth and Tommy.

“I’m going to turn in.” Josie said

“Are you sick? We can send these people home, you know. It’s been a great party, but you are much more important.” Sandra’s beautiful blue eyes were filled with worry.

“No. I’m not sick. But I am tired and I want very much to stay well. Don’t let on that I’ve left the festivities or everyone will feel obligated to leave. Ok?” Josie smiled reassuringly at Sandra.

“Ok. If you are sure.”

“I’m sure. Now go enjoy your party. And, Sandy, I’m so very proud of you, my eyes.” Josie laid a chaste kiss upon her partner’s lips then quietly left the room.

***

“What are you doing?” A very groggy Josie asked her partner.

“Sorry…..um….. I was feeling your forehead for fever.” Sandra responded embarrassed that she’d gotten caught being over protective.

“I’m fine. How was the party?” Josie rolled on to her back so she could look at her lover.

“It was a great success. Tony and Mary are upstairs in my old apartment.” Sandy answered then let out a huge yawn and changed into an oversized Skooby t-shirt and pushed the pups, who had usurped her territory, off of the bed. “Our mothers seemed to get along very well, although that may give us pause.”

“That’s scarey.” Josie wondered what in the world those two could possibly have in common. Then it dawned upon her….., us.

“Your mom gave me an envelope as a graduation present. It had $200.00 bucks in it. That was so generous of her. I certainly wasn’t expecting anything. Just her making the effort to be here was incredible.” Sandra said as she slid in next to her lover.

“My mom did that?” Josie questioned in amazement as she turned over and cuddled up against the object of her affections.

“Yeah, she really did. What do you make of that?”

“Maybe there’s hope for her yet. Let’s go to sleep, sweetheart. I need plenty of rest right now.”
Josie said.

“Ok. Sweet dreams. Love you, boss.” Sandra kissed the top of a golden head.

“Love you too.”

***

“We could have been married last night. Same guest list right down to the Priest.” Josie quipped as she whipped up Mexican omelettes for everyone as her partner set the table.

“That’s just about right, huh? Good gravy, think of all the money we could have saved.” The tall beauty chuckled.

“Oh well, too late now. Ya snooze ya loose.” Josie laughed.

Josie walked up behind her lover and slid her arms around her, laying her curly blonde head upon her strong back. “Sandy, sweetheart, I need you to do something for me.”

Sandra heard an unsettling tone in Josie’s voice and turned in her embrace to look into the eyes she loved. “What is it, boss? You know I’d do anything for you.”

“I want you to take my car and bring Tony and Sandy down to New Orleans to visit while I rest. Can you do that for me, love?” Josie looked up into worried blue eyes.

“What’s wrong, Josie? Are you getting sick? Do you need me to check your blood sugar?’ Sandra felt her heart jump into her throat.

“No, no, now, calm down, Sandy. I’m fine and my blood sugar is normal. I just have that feeling I get when my body needs me to rest to avoid getting sick and I don’t want to be sick for our wedding, especially not for that honeymoon.” Josie smiled with compassion at her lover’s panic. “I just need to be quiet for a few days and get some rest, eat healthfully, read and pack our bags for our honeymoon. That’s all I intend to do until Saturday, which I expect will be spent keeping you from fainting.” Josie grinned and stroked her lover’s face.

“Ok. But, you know how much I hate leaving you when you don’t feel well. Maybe I can loan Tony and Mary my bug for the rest of the week and they can do whatever they want.” Sandra offered.

“Sandy, they’d be driving in New Orleans in the summer in a VW Bug with no air-conditioning. I thought you loved your brother.” Josie looked

“I see your point.” Sandra looked perplexed.

“Why don’t we loan them the Accord. My insurance will cover anyone driving it. He is a good driver isn’t he?”

“Oh, yeah. He was always very responsible.” Sandra answered seriously.

“Glad to hear it. So Tony and Mary take the accord to New Orleans and you can spend all your time laying around with me.” Josie proclaimed.

“Just laying around?” Sandra wiggled her eyebrows at her lover.

“Hmmmm, we’ll see about that.”

***

The next few days went according to plan, with Sandra’s brother and sister-in-law taking off with the car to visit friends and family in New Orleans, while Josie got lots of rest and packed for their honeymoon in the Rockies. Beth would have custody of Skooby, Doo and Rover, to her sons’ great delight, while they were gone.

Sandra took over the task of confirming the caterers, cleaning crew, airline tickets, and reservations, which Josie had already made, so her partner could have a few days of stressless rest.

Everything was in order and Josie was feeling so good that Sandra found herself a very fulfilled woman.

Friday night was spent with Tony and Mary, eating pizza, playing with the puppies and just enjoying the calm before the storm. Sandra had adjusted to Mary’s pregnancy and found herself becoming very excited at the prospect of being an aunt as did Josie.

Tony and Mary offered to clean up, allowing the very grateful “brides to be” some time to pamper themselves before their big day..

***

Josie suggested a nice, long relaxing soak before they retired and received a lascivious grin from her partner who proceeded to light the apple cinnamon and vanilla scented candles around the tub and bedroom.

“I said a soak, to relax us so we can sleep tonight.” Josie feigned disapproval. “This looks suspiciously like you are preparing a seduction scene, my love.”

Sandra walked up to her lover as she let the water fill the tub. Long, elegant fingers began unbuttoning her blouse as her gaze never left those sea-green eyes. Josie felt her heart beat race as her breath caught in her throat. ‘How does she do that. No one has ever had this power over me, body and soul, before.’ Josie thought as she trembled in anticipation. Soon she was stepping out of her shorts and panties with a steadying hand on her partner’s strong shoulders. Josie returned the favor, sliding Sandra’s t-shirt over her head and unsnapping her bras, releasing the objects of her desire for her lust to feast upon. She lathed the luscious globes with her tongue, working her way down to unbutton Sandra’s shorts. She knelt down to help steady her as Sandra removed her long, shapely legs from their confinement. Josie had only intended to assist her lover out of her shorts but was unable to control her desire to taste her soul mate with the scent of her arousal so close to her nose.

“Woe, Josie! What are you….. Oh, yeah!” The ability to formulate a complete thought escaped Sandra’s mind as all her concentration narrowed to the sensations her lover was eliciting from her sex. She felt the soft tongue gently circling her clit as it tingled and became engorged. Small hands squeezed her buttocks, sending her passion into overdrive and she grabbed Josie’s head with both hands encouraging her to be more aggressive in her ministrations. She felt one hand disappear from her backside and the sound of running water ceased. Her legs began to tremble as her arousal grew and she knew standing was no longer an option. “Boss….., I, oh baby, I’m gonna fall over.” Josie instantly pulled away from her lover’s nectar and helped her into the tub and directed her to sit on the shower seat, then pulled her bottom out to it’s very edge. Josie knelt in the warm water as if worshiping at the alter of the woman she loved and to her mind that was exactly what she was doing.

Josie looked up into the dilated pupils of her partner, then down the curve of her full breasts, to the swollen areola and painfully hard nipples that begged to be suckled. She raised her right hand to Sandra’s left breast and ran her palm over the hard bud, sending a jolt like electricity through them both. “I love you Sandy.”

“Please….., Josie….., I need you.” The raven haired beauty begged her lover for release as she trembled on the brink of ecstacy.

Josie smiled as the lowered her head and dipped her tongue deep into her lover’s center then swirled her arousal around the engorged clitoris, hearing the quick intake of air as Sandra’s approval. Separating the long legs further with her left hand, then sliding it seductively up Sandra’s inner thigh to her sex, Josie entered her with two fingers as she began suckling on her lover’s clitoris as if it were her nipple. The combination of sensations forced her lover into a soul shattering orgasm. She relished the feeling of Sandra’s vaginal walls pulsing and contracting around her fingers and the muffled cries of the woman above her. Josie lifted her head to gaze at her lover and was alarmed to see her eyes squeezed tightly shut and tears streaming down her face. She looked to be in great pain.

Josie reached up on her knees to wipe the tears away. “Sandra, are you ok? Sweetheart, did I hurt you?”

Sandra shook her head “No”, but was unable to form words yet to explain her emotions.

Josie took the larger woman into her arms and slid her down into the soothing warmth of the swirling waters of the large tub, the buoyancy allowing her to better maneuver her lover’s luscious body as she laid the dark head upon her shoulder and held her until she was all cried out.

“Can you tell me what just happened, Sandy?” Josie stroked a strong jaw.

Sandra sniffled and rubbed the water over her face. “I’m happy.”

“You always cry like a banshee when you’re happy? Josie chuckled.

“I don’t know. I’ve never been this happy before. I love you more than I ever thought possible to love another human being. When you make love to me, I reach heights of passion beyond all reason. It’s a matter of trust, I think. Love and trust. Do you know what I mean?” Sandra inquired gently.

“Yes, my love. I know exactly what you mean. I feel the same way. I don’t know what I did in this life to deserve such a blessing as you. But, I intend to spend the rest of our lives together showing you just how much I do love you.” Josie turned Sandy’s face so she could kiss her sweet lips. The kisses were one’s of loving affection, but that soon gave way to passion. Josie began licking those tempting lips then dipping her tongue between them and sucking Sandy’s plump lower lip gently into her mouth and running her tongue along the delicate tissues within. “I swear I’ll always love you, Sandy.” Josie’s unsated arousal took over and her hand claimed the slick breast that was leaning against her side. She rubbed and squeezed the taut nipple as her kisses deepened and breathing became erratic. Sandra’s passion flamed and she easily twisted underneath Josie’s much smaller body never breaking their kiss. Tongues dueled for dominance as Sandra held Josie close, feeling her aroused nipples brushing against her breasts with each breath. She raised her long leg til she felt the warm wet contact with her partner’s sex and smiled at the sudden intake of air into the smaller woman’s lungs. Josie pulled her mouth away from Sandra’s as she felt the pressure against her slick folds. Her entire body was trembling with need as she watched her lover take her tongue and lap at her nipple, before taking as much of her breast into her warm mouth as she could and began suckling as if for nourishment. Her pelvis began thrusting of its own volition as she couldn’t take her eyes off of the woman at her breast. As if far off in the night, she heard herself calling out as she shuddered in orgasm, until falling limp upon the soft bosom of the woman she loved and for a brief moment all was dark and warm and loving.

“Boss….., we have to go to bed. Big day tomorrow, you know.” Sandra helped her partner out of the tub and they dried each other off before donning there sleep shirts and crawling into bed.

But, on this night their close proximity and the spicy scent of their bodies was too tempting as they slowly and tenderly explored each other’s bodies, tasting and touching until they both were swept up into sweet bliss. The two sated women lay there spooned in their favorite positions waiting to fall into restful, restorative sleep. However, sleep did not come as both were too excited about their impending nuptials, hoping nothing would go wrong.

“Josie, are you asleep?” Sandra quietly whispered into her lover’s ear.

“Nope. I keep thinking we forgot something but I don’t know what.” Josie sighed.

“I know. I have the same feeling, but I can’t think of a thing.” Sandra worried

“I don’t know what it is sweetheart, but something is missing. We’ve forgotten something. Let’s go through the whole thing from beginning to end. Ok?”

“Ok.” Sandra kissed her lover’s head as she happily humored her.

“Ok, now the florist is coming at nine, the caterers are coming at ten and Daphne is going to be with them to set up and serve. I have my green dress all set out, you have your new taupe pants suite with the ivory blouse all set out. Lets see….., Beth and Tommy are arriving at eleven with the boys in their little suits and she has the velvet pillows for the rings. We should have enough time to put them through a little rehearsal before the guests arrive…..”

“THE RINGS!!!!!!” Sandra bellowed.

“The rings!?! We didn’t buy wedding bands did we….. Oh my God.” Josie couldn’t believe they forgot something so very basic to a wedding ceremony. “How could I forget something that important It never even crossed my mind to buy you a wedding band. Oh, Sandy, I’m so sorry. How stupid of me.” Josie was royally aggravated with herself.

“Hey, come on, Boss, I love the ring you gave me. I never take it off and I never will, so your buying me a different ring for our ceremony…..well, I just….. I’d love to wear this ring, if it’s ok with you….. Deal?” Sandra asked shyly.

“Oh Sandy, the ring you gave me has never been off my finger. I’d love to wear it as a symbol of our eternal bond. It’s a deal.” Josie kissed her partner and cupped her face in her hands. “Do you think it would be ok to take a benadryl tonight. I’m never going to fall asleep at this rate and I refuse to have dark circles under my eyes at my own wedding.”

“Benadryl and some warm milk should do the trick.” The excited lovers went to the kitchen to warm their milk and each took a benadryl before crawling back into bed. “That should knock us out.” Sandra stated…… And, it did.

***

<<<DINGGGG—–DONGGGG>>>

“Hmmmmm, Josie, someone’s at the door.”

“Hmmmmm?” The little blonde’s mind was swimming up through a thick, soupy fog.

<<<DINGGGG—–DONGGGG>>>

“What time is it, boss?” Sandra asked groggily.

“Hmmmmm?” Josie reached over to their alarm clock and pulled it to her chest as she willed her bleary eyes to open. “HO!!! GOOD GRAVY! It’s 0900 hours and we are toast!!! That must be the florist. I’ll run and let them in and give them directions, while you hop in the shower.” Josie instructed in one breath as she dragged herself out of bed and threw on her shorts and a t-shirt. “And they’re off……”

Josie supervised the flowers while her fiancé showered and changed into her wedding attire, then Sandra supervised the caterers while Josie prepared herself for their nuptials.

By eleven, both women were properly dressed and stressed and both heaved a sigh of relief upon seeing Beth and Tommy Bergeron drive up with their boys, Seth and Jonathon, 8 and 10 years old respectively.

“Am I ever glad to see you! We over slept and have been playing catch up all morning. I’m so nervous, I feel…..”

“Like a June bride? Come on and sit down on the….. Where’s the recliner?” Beth asked in astonishment to see that the living room had been totally rearranged and the rug missing.

“We had the florist make room for dancing. The sofa and end tables are all that we kept in here. Everything else is stuffed into the guest room.”

“It looks great, Boo. Let me make us all a pot of coffee and then we can go through the boy’s role in your happy day.” Beth grabbed one of the kitchen chairs that had been set about into conversation areas and directed her jittery friend to sit in it.

“Oh, right, Beth, we’re not going to exchange wedding bands. We’ve decided to use the one’s we gave each other before. But we want the boys in the ceremony. Would it look too stupid if they walked up with the legal papers and then they could hand them to the Priest for us to sign after the ceremony is over?” Josie asked hoping she hadn’t insulted her best friend in any way.

“I think that is sweet. No. I see no reason the boys couldn’t do that. Let me go tell them. You relax and enjoy your coffee.” Beth went to instruct her sons. A few minutes passed. Josie figured Beth had accomplished her task when she heard her bellow. “Tommy, you make those heathens keep their suits clean until after the ceremony.” Beth yelled to her husband as she watched him and their two sons approaching the front door with all three dogs in tow.

“Awww, Mom.” They all retorted together as the boys each took a hold of one of Sandra’s hands and marched out the door.

“Don’t you ‘Awww, Mom” me. They are crazy about her, you know. I’ve never seen them take so quickly to any one before. It’s like she’s the pied piper.” Beth chuckled.

“She loves children, especially yours.” Josie smiled at her oldest friend then gazed out of the window at her lover with a strange look upon her face.

“What’s that look for?” Beth inquired as she set two fresh cups of strong coffee with chicory on the dining table and pulled up a chair beside her friend.

“We’re talking about having a family of our own.” Josie mused.

“Wow!” Beth exclaimed quietly. “That’s quite a commitment, Josie. I never thought about you two having kids. How would you. I mean, it’s not like you could knock her up.” Beth shook her head as she pondered that thought.

“Nope. That’s true. I can’t give Sandra a baby, as much as I wish I could. But, there are sperm banks all over and even a few good men.” Josie smiled. “Anyway, I’ll let you know when we decide how to pursue this.”

“Jo, you wouldn’t try to carry a child, would you?” Beth’s tone was full of concern.

“No. I know that’s not an option.” Josie smiled wanly at her dearest friend.

Beth nodded and stroked Josie’s arm gently. No words were needed as everything was conveyed in the knowing gaze that passed between them.

The sound of cars approaching broke their revery. “It’s show time!” Josie exclaimed.

“I’d better go collect my crew and your fiancé. Be right back.” Beth quickly pursued her prey as Daphne went to greet the guests and Josie retreated to the master bedroom to freshen up.

Everyone was made comfortable, the drinks and hors d’oeuvres served, as Rosemary Bossetta and Andre’ Broussard tried to calm a very excited and anxious Sandra. “I’m going to find Josie. We’ll be starting in a few minutes. We’ve had a little canopy erected with folding chairs out in the garden. Why don’t you all go get a seat…..” Sandra gently grabbed her Priest’s arm. “Fr. Pierre…..we are going to be using the rings we’re wearing for the ceremony, so the boys are going to be carrying the legal papers we had drawn up. We’d like to sign them at the ceremony.”

“Alright. Do you have special vows, you want to say to each other?” The Priest smiled kindly at the beautiful woman before him. ‘It’s hard to believe this is the same young woman whose life I saw shattered so long ago. There really are miracles, every day.’

“Yeah. But they are short and very sweet. We won’t be needing any coaching.” Sandra smiled contentedly and kissed Fr. Pierre on his cheek. “You go on. We’ll be there in a few minutes.”

“Tony! You have the camera ready?” Sandra yelled to her little brother. He nodded and waved the camera in the air. Then she looked to see Tommy Bergeron arranging his guitar on his lap, seated just behind the rest of the guests. She gave him a big smile and a wave, then turned to find her fiancé.

Josie was standing at the bedroom window watching their dearest friends and family congregating in the garden, all looking quite dapper and lovely on this sunny June day. She was content in the knowledge that she loved Sandra and would always love her and devote her life to her happiness. Her heart was filled with awe and gratitude that fate had brought to her a soul mate at this stage in her life. She said a silent prayer that she not be a burden to her partner, but a source of strength and love. Even though the thought of Sandra having to care for her again and again through one more illness and one more hospital stay saddened her, she still held hope for their future together. At least neither of them would have to fight their demons alone, not anymore. A wan smile crossed her face as a single tear fell from her sea green eyes.

“Hey, boss, you ready?” Sandra asked gently, not wanting to surprise Josie, who was obviously deep in thought. The tall beauty walked up behind the petite blond and put her long arms around her, pulling her into her breasts and sighed. “I love you, Josie. This is the happiest day of my life. I never dared to dream I could find you and that you could love me, warts and all.” Sandy kissed her lover’s temple and brushed their cheeks together softly. “You ready to marry me?”

“Yes. I am. Are you ready to marry me?” Josie turned in her lover’s arms and looked deep into gentle blue eyes.

“Oh yeah. If this is a dream, I hope I never wake up.” Sandra hugged her lover. “Thanks for loving me, Josie…..and…..”

“Don’t you dare start bawling, Sandra Camille Broussard. Let’s get out there and get hitched.” Josie grabbed Sandra’s hand and pulled her briskly toward the front door. She quickly turned around and assessed both of their appearances, then cupped Sandy’s face in her hands. “I love you. Please, believe me, sweetheart.”

“I do.”

“Not yet. Wait till he gets to the vows.” Josie giggled as she walked out the front door, Sandra’s large hand in her little one and signaled the boys to walk before them while Tommy played Somewhere Over the Rainbow on his guitar. Gracefully, they strode between their seated guests up to Fr. Pierre and their future together.

“Dearly beloved, you are gathered together in the bosom of your loved ones and before the eyes of God to commit your lives to each other in the state of Holy Matrimony…..” The Priest’s words faded into the background as the lovers looked into each other’s eyes and pledged their very souls one to the other for eternity. Their attention was diverted when the Priest asked them to hold out their joined hands as he blessed their rings as a symbol of their eternal bond. Then Fr. Pierre paused and asked them to say their own vows to each other.

“Josie Bossetta Broussard, I promise to love you, comfort you, share all your joys and sorrows forever and always.” Blue eyes glistened with unshed tears as she kissed the ring still on Josie’s left hand.

“Sandra Camille Broussard, I promise to love you, comfort you, share all your joys and sorrows forever and always.” Josie raised her lover’s left hand to her lips and kissed the garnet ring she’d placed there. It seemed so very long ago.

“I bless this union of Josie and Sandra Broussard in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. May your love grow and may God bless your union.” The Priest placed his hands on both women’s heads. “Go with God.” Then he looked at the family and friends gathered for this joyous occasion. “We have a union to celebrate!”

Sandra and Josie gazed into each other’s eyes with tears streaming down their faces, each leaning into the other, they kissed. It was a delicate and chaste kiss filled with love and hope.

Fr. Pierre cleared his throat and handed the legal documents to the happy couple to be signed, then handed them to Beth to witness and Tony to notarize. “You are now officially a Broussard, Josie. Congratulations sister-in-law” Tony beamed as he gave the little blonde a big hug and kissed her cheek.

“Hey, go hug your own wife.” Sandra pulled the two apart and directed her wife back to the house and their wedding reception. Gershwin was playing on the stereo and everyone filled their plates with delicious Cajun food. Both women were too excited to eat, but had their café au lait and cuddled together on the couch as well wishers came up to congratulate them and present them with gifts for their future.

After the rest of the well wishers had moved on to the food, Rosemary Bossetta approached her daughter and her daughter’s wife with some trepidation. “Josie, Rachel, I hope you will always love each other as you do today.” The two younger women rose from the couch, in respect to their elder.

“Thank you, mother. We will. And, thank you for our invitations. Your calligraphy was perfection, as always.” Josie responded with real affection.

“I have something for you. I’ll be right back” Rosemary quickly walked out to the garage and returned with a beautifully framed wedding invitation that she had especially engraved in gold. “I framed this for you. I hope you like it.”

“Oh, mother, it’s beautiful. Thank you so much.” Josie kissed her mother’s cheek.

“It is beautiful, Mrs. Bossetta. Thank you.” Sandra said as she wrapped her arm tighter around her wife.

“I’m glad you like it. I have something else for the two of you. I hope it makes things a little easier for the two of you.” Josie’s mother pulled an envelope from inside her purse and handed it to Sandra who opened it hesitantly as her partner looked on.

“Oh, mon Dieu!” Sandra quietly exclaimed as she pulled a check out of the envelope and handed it to Josie.

“Oh, my God! Mother! $5,000.00! Thank you, so much. Oh, my God!” Josie exclaimed excitedly in awe at her mother’s generosity.

“Mrs. Bossetta. I don’t know how to thank you for this.” Sandra was taken aback by what she suspected to be an attempt by her new mother-in-law at buying a place in their lives. But, the joy in her lover’s eyes was worth ignoring her fears and embracing the possibility that Rosemary Bossetta was sincere.

“Sandra, it would make me very happy if you would call me Rosemary.” The petite, still very attractive, older woman stated with a warm smile.

Andre’ Broussard was standing just close enough to listen to the conversation while appearing to be talking to her mother, who was soundly sleeping at the far end of the couch. She looked up to catch her daughter’s eye and nodded her encouragement.

“Ok….. Rosemary, thank you for making my Josie happy.” Sandra said, making it clear to her mother-in-law why she was accepting the older woman’s generosity. “If you’ll excuse us, I believe that’s our song.”

Sandra took the check from Josie and slipped it into her pocket, then led her wife into the middle of the living room to dance to the strains of Irving Berlin’s “Always”. A hush fell over the room as all eyes turned to the newlyweds as they gazed into each other’s eyes and swayed to the gentle waltz. Sandra’s velvet tones sang in Josie’s ear.

I’ll be loving you…..always

with a love that’s true…..always

When the things you’ve planned

need a helping hand

I will understand always….., always

Days may not be fair…..always

That’s when I’ll be there…..always

Not for just an hour

Not for just a day

Not for just a year

But…..always

“That was beautiful, Sandy.” Josie whispered as she smiled through her tears.

“I meant every word, my love. I will love you….. always.”

The lovers were joined on the dance floor by Tony and Mary, Beth and Tommy, Tammy and Roger, and to everyone’s pleasant surprise, Andre’ Broussard and Fr. Pierre. Even Rosemary found a somewhat willing partner in young Jonathon.

Sandra lifted her voice in song and they all joined in, eyes filled with tears at the promise of the refrain.

I’ll be loving you…..always

with a love that’s true…..always

When the things you’ve planned

need a helping hand

I will understand…..always…..always

Days may not be fair…..always

That’s when I’ll be there…..always

Not for just an hour

Not for just a day

Not for just a year

But…..always
C’est Finis

Continued in The Honeymoon

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