“Please, Danny, don’t!”
I tried not to cry. I tried really hard. But when the other line of the phone went dead, I couldn’t hold back the tears anymore. My chest felt like it was in a vise, each static buzz in my ear turning the wench tighter.
I needed air.
The rain had let up to a drizzle by the time I pushed back through the door of the small convenient store and stepped out onto the wet sidewalk again. Had it only been ten minutes since I’d rushed in here, out of the downpour to run my errand? Ten minutes since I’d gone from being engaged to single again?
I managed a ragged but deep breath and started walking. I wasn’t sure where I was going, but something inside of me said that walking would calm me down. I might be able to think more clearly, but I knew it wouldn’t make everything right again.
Walking wouldn’t solve the problem of my wedding dress waiting for my first fitting next week. Or the box of invitations sitting on my coffee table, still waiting to be opened. Or the non-refundable down payment on the villa we had rented in Tuscany for our honeymoon.
The tears welled up once more, and I wasn’t sure if they were wetting my cheeks or if it was the rain…which had decided to come down harder. I stumbled along, passing light posts that reflected dull yellow in the puddles beneath them. There was no one else in sight, just empty cars parked sporadically along the pothole-riddled street.
I laughed at that thought. Everyone else was home where they belonged. Not out running around in the rain to buy cigarettes, only to get dumped by a phone call.
I have no idea how long I had wandered aimlessly, but by the time I saw the blue neon sign, the rain had soaked through my auburn tresses, chilling my scalp. The light was bright against the otherwise dark sky. It was also the only one lit on either side of the street at this time of night.
I felt it beckoning me, drawing me closer with its warm glow, as if it could ease some of the pain threatening to break my heart in two. Or maybe it was what the sign represented, and what was inside that would kill the feeling of a knife twisting in my side.
I read the words “Maggie’s Lounge” surrounding a miniature martini glass, and then opened the door to view a dimly lit hall. Inside, I shook the rain off my jacket and wrung out my hair to look somewhat presentable. I glanced at my surroundings.
There were two doors, one straight ahead and one to the left. I tried the knob in front of me, but it was locked. Door number two opened to a set of descending stairs. The blue rope lights along the ceiling and floor led to another closed door. The muffled sounds of a heavy base told me I’d found the lounge.
“Okay, Alice, time to go down the rabbit hole.”
I took another deep breath, and then started down, gripping the railing and watching where I put my feet.
Before I reached the bottom step, the door opened. The beat of the music changed to something slower but just as heavy, and I could hear a cacophony of voices. There were colorful, flashing lights in the distance, but the forefront of the room was lit with an array of silver pendant lights that the former lights bounced off of. Underneath the pendant lights were tall tables and chairs, most of which were occupied.
A woman in a black pantsuit stood waiting at the door. I realized that I had frozen on the second from the last stair. Apparently she was waiting for me. I forced a smile and finished my descent.
“Welcome to Maggie’s Lounge.” The woman’s voice was deep, which matched the black of her hair and the green of her eyes. The wall sconce behind her produced a halo of light around her head as she turned to let me pass. She ran her eyes down my body, a smile flitting across her lips. And then she was enveloped in shadows again as she closed the door. “It must still be raining.”
“Yeah.” I cringed, knowing my hair looked like a mop, and my jeans and sweater were damp as well. My raincoat hadn’t been much help against the weather. Then again, I hadn’t thought to secure my coat when I’d rushed out of the convenient store. I had even forgotten to buy my cigarettes. “I’m sorry, I must be dripping water everywhere.”
“Nonsense. Come on in and dry off.”
“Thank you.” I looked around, wondering what to do next. When she took my arm and directed me to the bar, I just followed.
“What’s your poison?”
I stared at her a second, entranced by the full red lips smiling back at me. I shook my head. “I’m sorry. What?”
“What would you like to drink?”
“Oh, um…Southern Comfort and Coke? Thank you.” I stared at the bartender while the woman leaned across the bar to talk to him.
He was a tall man with broad shoulders and well-developed biceps, emphasized by the black T-shirt stretched across his upper body. Definitely in the handsome category, although a little rough-looking for my tastes. I almost smacked myself. What was wrong with me, sizing up men already?
I switched the track on my train of thought and wondered if he could also be the bouncer. Especially when I looked around and realized all of the patrons were women. Whether they were standing at the bar, sitting at the tables, or dancing to the trance-inducing music, every single person in viewing distance was female.
I restrained myself from laughing out loud when reality hit me. I definitely had left my brain somewhere back on 72nd Street. I touched my host on the arm and asked her where the restroom was when she turned back to me.
“Over there, second door on your right.”
My gaze followed her pointing finger, and I could see a neon “Exit” sign on the other side of the bar. “Thank you, I’ll be right back.”
I kept my head down even though I could feel the stares as I passed through the crowd. They didn’t seem offensive, but still, I refused to look at the women directly. I was thankful to find the other stalls empty and locked myself in the fourth and final one.
I sat fully clothed on the toilet seat. And cried.
My chest hurt. I knew if I didn’t stop crying soon, I would get a migraine, but I didn’t care. Every memory I had shared with Danny flashed behind my closed eyes like a silent movie. Some of them made me cry harder. A couple made me pound my fist against the metal wall in frustration. I just didn’t understand why he had done it.
It was several minutes before I heard the door squeak open, the noise from the bar increasing exponentially before being cut off again. The staccato sound of heels walking on the tiled floor made me hold my breath. They passed the first three stalls and stopped in front of mine.
For almost a minute, all I could hear was the beating of my own heart and the muffled music seeping under the closed bathroom door. When I could hold my breath no longer, I let it out in a ragged wheeze. And hiccupped.
“Kat?” a female voice called from the other side of my stall. “Are you okay?”
My heart stopped. Someone had recognized me! I tried to wipe up my tears with toilet paper, stood, flushed, and then pasted a smile on my face before turning the lock.
“Yes, I’m fine,” I said as I opened the door, only to stop with it half open when I saw who was standing there.
Time had only made Jenna Swallow more becoming. She had not been popular in high school, even though she looked like a model. Maybe it was because everyone had assumed she slept around because of her name, therefore teasing her endlessly. I covered my laugh with another hiccup as I now knew the answer to the single, whispered question all those years ago: Did Jenna swallow?
I blinked, but she was still standing there, framed in blue metal with a mirror behind her, reflecting the two of us. Standing between me and freedom. Standing with a smirk on her face.
I blinked again.
“Kat, are you sure you’re okay?” She took a step toward me.
I stepped back, ran into the toilet, and sat down hard on the seat. Bit my tongue. Started crying again. I was so upset that I couldn’t control my emotions that I bawled even harder.
Jenna rushed out of the stall, only to return with several paper towels. She squatted before me, blotting my puffy cheeks. “Hey, it’s okay. I didn’t mean to startle you.”
I hiccupped and then took a deep breath when she told me to. I tried to force a smile and failed.
More surprising than seeing her on the other side of the stall door was the sense of comfort I felt when she laid a hand against my cheek and rubbed away fresh tears with her thumb. Warmth shivered down all the way to my toes when I lifted my gaze to hers.
“Hello, Kat.” Her smile reached all the way up to her violet eyes. I’d always envied her for those. Mine were just a dull brown.
“Hey, Jenna.” The muscles in my mouth suddenly worked, and I felt myself smiling. I tried to think of something else to say, but all that came out was, “Thanks.”
“What brings you to Maggie’s?” Jenna stood and took my hand, helping me to my feet. “And on a night like this? Oh, by the way, congratulations. I saw the announcement in the paper last week.”
I must have squeezed her hand too hard because she let out a sharp cry. I loosened my grip and just barely stopped myself from becoming a blubbering mess in the bathroom of a lesbian bar again. “Sorry. Thank you, but there isn’t any engagement now. Not after tonight.”
Her smile disappeared, and something in her eyes went dark. “No need to explain. Let’s get you cleaned up and then you will come with me.”
I followed her to the sinks where I saw her purse sitting against the mirror. She waited for warm water and then fixed up my makeup with her own kit. Satisfied that I looked presentable again, she pulled out a pick and slowly ran it through my hair.
It was surreal. I no longer felt like crying. For once in my life, I actually felt cared for. Looked after.
Danny had never made me feel that way. At least not without my asking him to do something. And that was kind of pathetic, asking your fiancé to just hold you, for instance. Shouldn’t he just know you needed to be held?
“Okay, I think we’re ready.” The smile was back on Jenna’s red lips. Her blonde hair was that dark shade—dishwater or dirty blonde I think they call it—that went well with the color of her eyes. And the blue-grey color of her fitted pantsuit.
I tried to remember what she had wanted to be when we were in high school—if she had accomplished her dreams—but her tug on my hand pulled me back to the here-and-now. I took a deep breath. She released her gentle hold on my hand only when we got to the door. Then her hand was on my back, ushering me through the doorway.
She led us down the hall and back into the main lounge area. I was oblivious to the music and other people around me. The woman who had greeted me at the door was back at her station. However, a tall brunette had taken her spot at the bar and turned toward us when we approached. She grinned at Jenna, but her smile disappeared as she glanced from me to Jenna and then back to me.
Without a word, she handed a glass to Jenna, said something to the bartender, picked up the two drinks he set in front of her, and then walked away. Jenna followed, and I—being the little lost puppy—went with her.
We stopped at an empty table in a corner furthest away from the music. Jenna sat next to me, and her friend sat next to her. Jenna picked up her glass and nodded toward me.
“Lauren, this is Kat. Kat, Lauren.”
I managed a small smile. “Nice to meet you.
Lauren nodded and smiled back. “You, too.”
I took the drink Jenna pushed my way. I wrapped both hands around the cool glass to quell the tremors that betrayed the remnants of my shock. It didn’t work very well. Without looking up, I mumbled, “Anyone got a cigarette?”
Both women dug in their purses. Jenna came up with a pack first. She pulled out a cigarette, handed it to me, and then held a lighter up while I puffed on it. She offered the pack to Lauren, then they both lit up.
I closed my eyes, inhaling fresh nicotine, exhaling bad memories.
No one spoke for a few minutes. The beat of the music thumped through the silence surrounding us, and I kept my eyes on the table. Eventually, my breathing slowed, the shudders ceasing so that I felt normal again.
“We went to school years ago,” Jenna finally said, motioning toward me with the hand holding her cigarette. With her other hand, she stirred her yellow, fruity-smelling cocktail with the tiny straw that always accompanies mixed drinks and then raised the glass to her dark lips to take a long sip. “Kat was a bookworm, like me. But she was so much better at it than I ever was. Teacher’s pet and all that.”
I blinked. “I was not! I couldn’t help it if they liked me!”
Jenna’s smile got wider. “Everyone liked you.”
“Everyone but Tim Jacobs.” I let out an unladylike snort, remembering how I had tried to get his attention for four years to no avail. I took a long drag, blowing it out slowly.
Jenna rolled her eyes. “He was a jerk. Still is. You’re better off without him.”
“Oh, you keep in touch with him?” I finally took a sip of my own drink and closed my eyes for a moment, relishing the sweet taste, even as it bit the back of my throat.
“He’s my boss.”
I choked but managed to not spew too much alcohol all over the table.
“Here.” Lauren handed me her napkin with a laugh.
I blotted my mouth and caught my breath. “He’s your boss? Damn.”
Jenna laughed herself. “Yep. Cruel world, isn’t it?”
“Men! Who needs them?” I shook my head, and then realized what I had said…and who I was talking to. “Sorry, preaching to the choir, I guess.”
“Preach it, sister,” Lauren said, raising her glass. She clinked it against mine and then Jenna’s before taking a big gulp.
Three hours later, I watched Jenna and Lauren pull away from the curb outside my brownstone. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d had such a good time. In fact, I hadn’t given Danny one thought while us girls had done our share of men-and-boss bashing, reminiscing mostly on high school.
Now, as I turned and walked up the stairs to unlock my door, I tried not to remember how Danny had kissed me right here after our first date. How he had proposed to me on the same spot four months ago. I hurried inside, shutting the door on my past.
I woke up the next morning still wearing last night’s clothes and sporting a major migraine. I was trying to get the cap off the bottle of Aleve when I heard the buzzer for my apartment. I thought I pressed the “talk” button, but no one answered when I asked who it was. A minute later, there was a knock on my door. Confused, I pulled it open and blinked.
“Are you going to invite me in, or are you just a tease?” Jenna gave me a quick once-over and then held up a paper bag. “Looks like I’m just in time.”
I stepped back, watched her pass, and then closed the door. “Sorry, I must have pressed the wrong button.”
“You didn’t want to let me in?” She glanced at me over her shoulder with a smile as she unpacked the bag on my kitchen counter.
“Yes. No.” I shook my head. “I mean I didn’t know it was you.”
“You are a tease. Interesting.” She put her hand on her hip and stared at the cabinets for a moment. “Do you have a martini shaker?”
“Sorry. How about a blender?” I pointed to the garage in the corner, and then shuffled my feet to sit at the lunch counter on the other side of the island. I reached for the bowl where I usually kept a packet of cigarettes, and then cursed under my breath. Last night rushed back way too fast.
She lifted the door, pulled out the barely-used appliance, and proceeded to pour in the contents from the bottles she had brought with her. Then she helped herself to the freezer for some ice. “Did you get any sleep?”
“I remember you dropping me off last night and then waking up this morning on my bed. So I must have slept.” I eyed the concoction in my blender. Based on the ingredients she had used, it was probably a Bloody Mary, but I had never drank one—or wanted to. It didn’t look like I had a choice today.
“Why don’t you go take a shower?”
I cringed. “Do I smell that bad?”
“No, but a hot shower does help with a hangover. Now, shoo.” She wiggled her fingers at me and I obeyed.
It wasn’t until I was stripping down in the bathroom that I wondered why Jenna had shown up on my doorstep this morning. But I expressed silent thanks when I stepped under the hot streams of water and felt my muscles sigh in relief.
When I emerged fifteen minutes later, wrapped in a pair of sweatpants and a big, comfy sweater, Jenna was on her cell phone. She caught my eye and gestured to the glass of red stuff on the kitchen counter. I gave the contents a good sniff and then took a big gulp. No sense drawing it out.
Her eyebrows went up, but she didn’t say anything to me. It sounded like it was a business call, but I couldn’t be sure as the person on the other end did most of the talking. I had finished the drink by the time she ended her call.
She set her iPhone on the counter and smiled at me. “Feel any better?”
“A little.” I followed her into my living room, as if this were her house and I was visiting. I sat first on the couch, and she sat opposite me, kicking her shoes off and pulling a leg up under her. “Not a big fan of Bloody Marys, though.”
“Trust me, it’s better than a migraine. Give me your feet.”
Again, I didn’t think twice about it. Her hands were warm against my right foot, massaging and caressing it. I moaned softly and settled further into the couch.
“How are you dealing with the guy thing?”
I was feeling sleepy again. It took me a moment to realize what she meant. “Oh, Danny. I’m okay, I guess. Haven’t heard from him.”
“You’re probably still in shock. After the fourth drink last night, I knew you were feeling no pain.” She switched to my left foot, and my right foot instantly felt jealous. “You were entitled, though.”
“I haven’t really thought about it much. Maybe I just don’t want to.”
“You’ll have to, eventually. You can’t help it. Something, someone, will remind you and then you’ll just break down when you least suspect it.”
“Speaking from experience, huh?” I suppressed a yawn with my hand and tried to keep my eyes open.
She kept her eyes diverted. “You could say that.”
“Danny and I have gone together for over two years. It became…routine, I guess. Marriage just seemed like the next step. Not that I was opposed to it. In retrospect, maybe he was. At least to me.”
Jenna’s eyes were back on mine now. “Was he cheating on you?”
I thought for a minute and then shook my head. “But I think he wanted to. Why else break off the engagement and say he doesn’t want to see me ever again?”
Her hands stilled on my foot, and she sat up straighter. “He said that?”
I nodded, glancing away. “If he wasn’t ready to get married, he could have just said that. I would have understood.”
“He’s a jerk.” I felt her lean toward me, her movement drawing my gaze back to hers. The same intensity I had seen and felt last night at the bar was there. That deep look of anger… and protection. “He doesn’t deserve you.”
“Thanks.” I blushed and looked down at my lap.
“I mean it, Kat. You deserve so much more.” Jenna lifted my chin so I was looking at her again.
I tried to smile but yawned instead. “Sorry. I’m not the greatest company right now.”
“It’s fine.” She smiled and took my hand. The next thing I knew, I was following her to my bedroom.
I blinked and just stared at her.
“You need more rest.” When I still didn’t move, she gestured to the bed and said, “Lie down.”
So I did.
I watched her pull the covers up over me and tuck them in around my shoulders. Her fingers rested on my temple for a moment, and then she tucked my hair behind my ear.
“I’ll call on you later.” She checked her watch, and then she closed the door behind her.
I stared at the door, listening to the sounds in my apartment. When the furnace shut off, I heard water running in the other room—probably the kitchen sink. A few minutes later, the front door closed, and all was silent again.
I tried to analyze what had happened this morning, but my mind was hazy. I laughed off the sudden thought that maybe Jenna had slipped something into my hangover cocktail. I turned over onto my side instead, snuggling deeper under the covers, and felt dreamland beckoning.
I was feeling much better that evening when Jenna showed up again, this time with Chinese takeout…and cigarettes. God bless her. I had slept through lunch and dinner, and my stomach growled as I followed her into the kitchen and took a seat at the island.
“I hope you like chicken lo Mein.” She pulled three white, cardboard containers out of the bag, and then started opening cupboards. “I have both white and fried rice. Your pick.”
“I’ll take fried, if you don’t mine. Plates are to the left of the sink. Forks in the drawer below.”
I watched her with fascination. How she set two plates on the counter and scooped rice onto the center of each plate in a small mound. How she arranged the lo Mein over the rice. She even put an egg roll and fortune cookie on each of our plates. I blushed. I usually just ate out of the container.
“Thanks.” I picked up a fork when she pushed a plate towards me. I had taken one bite before I suddenly remembered my manners. “Geesh. Do you want something to drink, Jenna?”
She waved me back into my seat and turned, pulling two wine glasses out of the same cabinet where she had found the plates. “How about some vino?”
I laughed. “After my experience last night, I’ll pass.”
“Nah, it’ll actually be good for you.”
“Okay, Doc.” I put another forkful of rice and noodles into my mouth and swallowed before adding, “There should be a bottle in the fridge, but it’s not open.”
Almost two hours later, we were sitting on the couch again, just like this morning. Only this time, my feet were tucked up under my butt instead of laying in her lap. We each had a cigarette in one hand, a glass of wine in the other. The TV was tuned to a classic movie from when we had been in high school.
While she was laughing at the action on-screen, I was studying her over the rim of my wine glass. I was puzzled by her interest in making sure I was okay. I wondered where Lauren was…and if they were a couple. But ultimately, I wanted to ask her if she would be willing to come back tomorrow.
I had received a text message five minutes ago when she had gone to the bathroom. Danny was “swinging by on Sunday” to pick up the few things he’d left at my place. I wasn’t sure I wouldn’t meet him at the door with a shotgun…if I only had one on hand.
I smothered a laugh with a big gulp of wine. Did I want Jenna here to provide the weapon or to keep me from killing my ex-fiancé? I did laugh then, knowing it would be the former, or at least she’d help me dispose of his body.
She glanced at me, then the TV, and back at me, raising one eyebrow. “Did I miss something?”
I grinned. “Nope, it was inside my head.”
“As long as you don’t talk back to the voices, you should be fine.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.” I took one last drag on my cigarette and snuffed it out in the ashtray on the coffee table. “Do you want more wine?”
“Are you trying to get me drunk?” She swallowed the last bit in her glass, then held the glass up to me. “Not that I’m complaining.”
“It was not my intention.” I pulled the bottle from the fridge and emptied it into our glasses. “I have no idea how to cure a hangover for you.”
“Oh, I could teach you.”
I paused with the bottle halfway in the trash can. There was something in the way she said it that made me think she wasn’t talking about the Bloody Mary cocktail she’d made me. I shook my head, closed the cabinet door that hid the trash, and picked up my glass again to take a sip.
When I sat back down, I handed over her glass and reached for the remote to hit the mute button.
“Something’s up.” Jenna turned sideways on the couch and slowly lifted her glass to her lips.
My own lips were suddenly dry, and I licked at them before taking another sip. “Danny called.”
Her hand froze, her eyes darkening over the shiny liquid.
“Or rather, he sent me a text.” I glanced at my lap and picked at a loose string on my sweats. “He wants to come over tomorrow and get his things.”
“Is that so?”
I shrugged. I heard her set her glass down, the springs in the couch squeaking as she shifted her weight. “I guess it’s better to get it over with.”
“You know, you can say no. If you’re not ready, that is.”
“Will I ever be ready?” I shrugged again in answer to my own question. “There isn’t much stuff. I could even get it together tonight. Have it ready by the door so he doesn’t have a reason to stay long.”
“Yes, that sounds like a good idea.” She said it slowly, cautiously, as if still unsure that I was making my own decision or just complying with my ex’s request…or rather demand.
I glanced around the living room, trying to make a mental list of what might belong to Danny. That’s when my eyes fell on the box of invitations. Suddenly, my mind was made up. I jumped to my feet and started down the hall to my bedroom.
“Kat, wait!” Jenna’s footsteps echoed mine. But she stopped in the doorway.
She didn’t say anything as I pulled an empty box out of the closet and ducked into the bathroom. Once I’d located all of his toiletries, I moved back into the bedroom, tossing the socks and underwear and T-shirts from his single drawer into the box. I paused only when I couldn’t see anything else that obviously wasn’t mine.
I had lifted my hand to brush my hair back from my face, trying to think. In the reflection of the mirror on my dresser, I saw the glint of my engagement ring. Still on my finger. I pulled it off and went to toss it into the box, too, but Jenna’s hand on my arm stopped me. It was warm. Gentle. Firm.
“He doesn’t deserve to get it back.”
I felt a strange tingle remain when she took her hand away. I held the ring between my thumb and index finger, watching the light play off the facets of the single stone, off the thin gold band. “Really?”
“Keep it. For now. You can always pawn it.”
I shrugged and took the time to retrieve the ring box from my lingerie drawer. But once the ring was secured inside, I tossed the box into the back of my closet. I grabbed the box of Danny’s things and headed back toward the living room.
Jenna returned to the couch, picking up her cigarette again. I felt her eyes on me as I went through the DVD and CD collection displayed around the TV.
Our movie had ended, and a new one had begun. The current scene showed a man getting down on one knee in front of a woman at a restaurant. Although there was no sound, I had seen the movie before and knew what they were both saying.
“Damn it. Shut that off.” I shuffled through a handful of CDs, tossing two into the box, not caring if they broke as I heard the plastic cases crash together. The TV screen went black. “Thanks.”
I dropped the box by the front door, tossing Danny’s spare leather coat over it. After one last look around, I scooped up the unopened box of invitations and dropped it as the finishing touch on top of his coat. Then I snorted.
“Ironically, he paid for them with his credit card. Said it wouldn’t matter in the long run, because it was going to be ‘our’ money.”
I kicked the box and it shifted, hitting the wall. I turned my back on it and plopped down on the couch, taking one long gulp of wine. It made me feel dizzy for a moment, but I didn’t care.
“Feel better?” Jenna’s voice held no condescension.
“Yep.” I held my glass up, toasting the air. She clinked hers against mine, and then we drank in silence for a while.
She was the first to speak. “If you need me to be here tomorrow for moral support…”
“Thanks, but I should be okay.” I was lying, and part of me wished she’d push harder. But she didn’t.
“All right. You call if you need me. I put a business card on your fridge.” She finished her wine and then stood. “I should get going. Let you get to bed.”
I rose, too. “Thanks, Jenna. For everything.”
“You’re welcome, Kat.” She cupped my cheek in her hand, smiling at me for a long moment. I couldn’t read the expression in her eyes. I felt she wanted to say something more. But she didn’t and just patted my cheek.
I stared after her as she gathered her coat and purse. She gave me a small wave and a smile as she walked out the door.
“Kat, calm down!” Jenna’s voice broke through my sobs. “I’m on my way. Just hang in there, okay?”
I nodded and then realized she couldn’t see me through the phone line. I responded verbally, and then her end went dead.
Ten minutes later, she was rushing through the emergency room doors toward the curtained area where I was sitting sideways on a gurney, my legs dangling over the side, my back to the wall.
“Are you okay?” She slid to a stop, pulling me against her. Her heart was beating wildly against my ear, and her breath came in short gasps.
“You should see the other guy.” I hiccupped and swiped my right hand at my eyes and nose.
She stepped back and gave me a good once-over. “How bad is it?”
I tilted my chin toward my left hand which lay in my lap, wrapped in my kitchen towel. “Broke it.”
A nurse joined us. She picked up my chart and scribbled something before closing it. “It’s a clean break. The doctor will be back in a few minutes to put on your cast and give you a prescription for some pain medication. Sit tight, okay?”
“Sure.” I sighed and leaned my head back against Jenna’s chest. Her arm felt good around my shoulders. Secure. Warm. Although the doctor had already numbed my hand and given me a couple of pills to swallow, the pain still throbbed up my arm. But Jenna’s presence seemed to dull it.
“So you punched him?” She laughed softly.
I nodded. “Gave him a bloody nose, too, I think. He called on the way over. Asked if I could step out for a few minutes while he collected his things. I told him to be a man and face me. Plus I didn’t want him stealing anything.”
She handed me a tissue, and I paused to blow my nose.
“When he finally showed up, I opened the door and asked for his key. Once he’d handed it over, I shoved his box out into the hall and punched him in the nose. Slammed the door in his face. That’s when the pain hit me. I screamed and kicked the door. Forgot I wasn’t wearing shoes. Broke a toe. That’s taped up right now.”
“Oh, my!” She laughed harder. “Then what?”
“He asked if I was okay. I told him to go to hell. After I saw him drive away, I grabbed my purse and asked my neighbor to drive me to the hospital. She insisted on staying, but I told her I would be fine.”
“Oh, Kat.” She tilted my chin up, and I saw that same expression I had seen the night before.
Before she could say anything more, the curtain was pulled aside.
The doctor took a seat on a stool and pulled on a pair of latex gloves. “Let’s get this wrapped so you can get home and get some rest, okay?”
“I’m staying, and that’s all there is to say.”
“Fine, but I’m never a good patient. I tend to turn bi-polar.” The drugs had finally set in, and I was mad that I had let my anger control me. If I’d just let Danny do what he had asked, I wouldn’t be in this situation. Although, I had to admit it felt good to take out my frustration on him.
“I’m tough. I can handle it.” Jenna guided me to my bedroom. “You are going to take a nap. I’m going to run home and grab a change of clothes. You know, you’re lucky you have this week off.”
“Oh, joy. Just how I wanted to spend my vacation.”
She laughed. “Are you always this sarcastic, or is it just the drugs talking?”
“Who knows? Ask Danny.”
“I’ll ignore that one.”
I waited until she left the room to change into sweatpants and a sweater with some difficulty. Then I climbed into bed. The last thing I remember was my head hitting the pillow.
When I woke and wandered into the living room, Jenna had set up her laptop on my dining room table. However, she was standing in my kitchen stirring a pot of chicken and rice soup. Just the smell of it made my mouth water.
“Oh, good, you’re up. How’s the hand, Sugar Ray?”
“Funny.” I grabbed a box of oyster crackers from the pantry and then took my usual spot at the island. When she pushed a steaming bowl in front of me, I closed my eyes and breathed in deep. I didn’t wait for her to join me before I dug in. I think I actually moaned a couple of times.
“I take it you’re feeling better.” She brought her bowl over and sat beside me.
“Yeah. You know, I could get used to this personal service.”
Jenna only smiled. She took a couple of bites and then got up again.
“I feel bad,” I said, watching her pour two glasses of milk and then sit back down. “You’re getting more use out of my kitchen than I ever have.”
“So you don’t feel bad that you’re being a bad hostess, just that I’m using your kitchen?”
I frowned. “That’s not what I meant. I’m sorry I was mean to you earlier.”
She elbowed me gently. “I’m giving you a hard time. Relax.”
After the lunch dishes were cleared, I retired to the couch, but she went to do some work on her laptop. I found a movie on cable that I hadn’t seen, so the rest of the afternoon passed by with us in our own little worlds. It was early evening before I heard her shut down the computer.
“Are you hungry?” Jenna sat down opposite of me. It was becoming a familiar seating arrangement.
“No, I think I’m good for now.” I grabbed the pills and glass of water she held out to me. I swallowed them in one gulp and then snuggled deeper into the corner of the couch.
“Are you tired?”
I shook my head. And then yawned. “A little. But I don’t want to sleep too much during the day. I won’t get any sleep at night. I am, however, curious.”
“About?” She pulled a leg up under her and turned toward me.
Jenna’s eyebrows went up, but she didn’t say anything.
“Is she like…your…”
“But not girl…friend?”
“We work at the same company. That’s all.”
“No reason.” Had she moved closer?
“Really?” There was amusement in her voice now.
“I just thought…the other night…at the bar.”
“Girls out for a drink after work. It’s a comfortable place to go where we don’t have to worry about guys hitting on us. Plus her brother works there. The bartender?”
“Please forgive me, Kat, but I have to do this.”
I had just exhaled when her lips covered mine. I gasped in surprise—fully awake now—and put my good hand on her shoulder to push her away. But instead of moving back, she kissed me harder, pushing me back against the arm of the couch.
“Shh,” she whispered when I whimpered. She ignored my struggling, kissing me again, her hand sliding behind my neck.
Part of me wanted to continue resisting. The other half said to give up. The latter side won, and I found myself kissing her back. Her lips were soft, her breath warm against my mouth. When the tip of her tongue glided over my lips, I parted them, moaning as her tongue darted inside.
I didn’t know what to do with my own hand. It itched to touch her out of instinct, like when I was kissing Danny. But Danny was the last thought in my mind at the moment. I didn’t imagine that Jenna was him. I knew who was kissing me, who I was kissing.
And a part of me rejoiced that I hadn’t initiated the intimacy.
My right hand trembled, but I guided it to her arm and then her head. Her hair was silky, sliding through my fingers. And then I was gripping her shoulder, holding her to me almost desperately.
For several minutes, all we did was kiss. She was so gentle, but every move she made was done with apparent precision, as if she wanted to make sure I experienced the pleasure, too. The thought almost made me cry.
Her kisses became more languid—more erotic. Her fingers kneaded my neck, my scalp, tangling in my hair. I felt my stomach tightening in desire. When she brushed against my breast, I gasped.
I arched against her body, squeezing my eyes tighter. Her hand moved down my side and up under my sweater. I moaned when it slid against my skin and cupped my breast.
A muffled moan of surprise escaped her own lips when she realized I wasn’t wearing a bra. She squeezed my breast in response, rolling my nipple between her thumb and forefinger. Her lips moved down to my jaw and then my neck, nuzzling me there with gentle nips and licks.
“Jenna!” I managed to get a good breath in and out, my mind reeling from the sensations she was creating in me.
She stilled. “Do you want me to stop?”
I whimpered. “Hell, no!”
Her laugh rumbled against my chest, and I smiled, forcing my eyes open. Her violet gaze locked onto mine. I moaned at the desire I saw reflected there. What I had to admit had been there since Friday night. Possibly longer.
“May I suggest we take this to your bedroom?” She grazed the back of her fingers against my cheek, brushing her lips against mine. “I don’t want to hurt your arm. And we’ll both be more comfortable.”
I nodded, reaching my mouth up to hers to kiss her back.
She jumped up and helped me to my feet. I followed her down the hall, my heartbeat racing. She glanced once over her shoulder, her lower lip between her teeth as she smiled broadly at me. When we reached the side of my bed, she took my face in both of her hands and pulled my mouth to hers again.
I felt my knees shake and grasped her arm with my good hand. I wondered in the back of mind if I should be doing this. I pushed the thought away when her hands moved down to my breasts.
“Do you mind?” she whispered, tugging my sweater up.
I released my hold on her so she could pull my sweater over my head, mindful of my cast. I was too scared to do the same for her—unsure how I would do it one-handed—but she didn’t seem to mind. She resumed kissing me, cupping and massaging my breasts once again. My nipples hardened almost painfully against the cool air of the room and the feeling of her thumbs rubbing them.
Jenna turned me so my back was to my bed. With a gentle push, I was sitting down, staring up at her, panting. Maybe I was just curious, or maybe I wanted to do this because it was so taboo. Either way, my breath caught at the knowledge of where this would lead.
She stared down at me for a long moment, and then crossed her arms across her chest, pulling her own sweater up and over her head in one motion.
I stared at my high school classmate in a pair of jeans and a navy demi-bra. Definitely Victoria Secret; I had the same one in red and black in my drawer. My fingers twitched, and slowly, I raised them to graze over her hips. I felt her shudder under my touch as I moved my one hand higher up her side. She leaned toward me so I could reach her.
I was used to touching myself when Danny wasn’t around. But to feel another woman’s breasts was a whole new sensation. The material of her bra was silky. Her breasts were full, firm, and overflowed the tops of the cups to create almost perfect heart-shaped cleavage.
Her nipples puckered against the material, just as mine were. I brushed the pad of my thumb against hers, feeling it harden instantly. She sucked in her breath in a loud hiss, leaning into my touch.
“You’re accepting this more than I had anticipated.”
I giggled to cover my nerves and shrugged. I cupped her breast completely, squeezing so it expanded further over the edge of her bra.
“Aren’t you even a little curious why I showed up yesterday?” She licked her lips and gasped again when my fingers grazed her bare skin.
“I kind of figured it out.” I ran the tip of my finger under the edge and tugged it down until her swollen nipple popped out. “Since I know about Lauren now.”
“And you’re okay with this?”
I looked up and our gazes locked. I leaned forward, darting my tongue out to taste her nipple. Her eyes grew darker, and she growled softly.
“Enough. This was supposed to be about you.”
With that, she pushed my shoulders away, sending me flat on my back on my bed. Her bra went slack and then fell to the floor. Her jeans and panties followed. I tried to get a good look at her, but she was leaning down to pull my sweats off.
“You are one naughty little girl,” she whispered when she realized I had removed my panties, as well, after I had changed from what I’d worn to the hospital.
I don’t know why I had decided to go commando. Maybe somewhere in the back of my mind I had hoped that her reason for insisting on staying here was to do exactly what we were doing now. If it hadn’t, I had to admit I would have been a little disappointed.
And that surprised me.
Jenna pulled my legs up onto the bed and turned me so I was laying properly. She situated a pillow under my left arm, supporting my cast. Then she knelt on the bed beside me. “And here I thought you were such a good girl, Kat.”
I raised my eyebrows at her and watched her head dip so that her lips could kiss my left nipple. I lifted my right hand to stroke her hair, but she slapped it away.
“No. No touching. You’re being punished.”
I stifled a giggle and laid my arm above my head instead. For the longest time, I just watched her lick and suck one nipple and then the other, her hands massaging and caressing both breasts at the same time. Her hair tickled my skin, and I shivered, but it was partly due to the arousal her touch was building within me.
I had resolved to be tortured like this for a lot longer, but apparently Jenna was losing her control. She didn’t look up at me as she crawled over me and shimmied down to lay between my legs.
Her fingers trailed lines down my sides, over my hips, along the juncture of my legs to my torso—which made me shiver again—and then finally over my bed of curls. My hips jumped, and she pressed lightly to still them.
I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do. Did I let her part my thighs? Did I do it myself to show her I was willing? Danny had always hated giving me oral sex, although he would do it if he really wanted a blow job. I had the personal belief that if one wants to give oral, they shouldn’t expect it in return. It should be a gift to the receiver.
I was so lost in thought that I hadn’t realized Jenna had spread my legs and raised my knees up, pushing against them to open my thighs wider. One minute I was wondering what our roles were. The next, I felt her tongue licking my clit.
I gasped, my hips jumping off the bed again. I gripped one of the rails of the headboard above me. Her hands held my legs down and apart. I dared to look at her and moaned at the sight of her bobbing head. The warmth of her breath and mouth mixed with my own heat. The feel of her searching tongue sent jolts of pleasure skittering up my back.
“God, Jenna. Mmm. How long have you wanted to do this?”
Her answer was a moan that hummed against my skin, sending little vibrations deeper inside me. She pulled back, and I realized she had captured my clit between her teeth. She let it go slowly, licking at it. “High school.”
I wiggled beneath her, letting reality soak in. I had missed out on this all of these years. I had been glad I had had sex with Danny and a couple of other men. But the rumors were right. Only another woman can really know what a woman wants. Needs.
She circled a finger around my vagina and slipped it inside, stroking a few times. Then she repeated the whole process.
I felt like crying for a whole new reason now. I wanted to sing. But mostly, I wanted to come.
“Okay, sweetie.” She ended the relentless torture only to press one hand flat above my clit, holding me down. Two fingers slid inside me, stroking and stretching. Then her thumb rubbed my clit.
My whimpers grew with the intensity of the pressure inside my belly and the thrusts of her fingers. There were at least three of those now. I had ceased trying to keep my eyes on her. I couldn’t think. Only feel. And damn, it felt so good.
It had to have been only a few minutes, but it felt like an hour that I was panting and unable to catch my breath. The edge was right there. I had no strength to try to get there, but Jenna helped the whole way. Just when I thought it was never going to happen, pleasure shot through every fiber of my being, shaking me.
My cry of ecstasy came out in a ragged scream. I saw stars behind my eyelids. I couldn’t breathe. I didn’t want to. I just wanted to float in this ethereal place of bliss.
I must have passed out…or fallen asleep. Jenna was lying beside me when I opened my eyes, her body wrapped around mine under the covers. Her hand was stroking my damp hair back from my face, her lips brushing my forehead.
“How was that?” She smiled down at me and ran her index finger along my lips.
“Good.” I licked the tip of her finger and then sucked it into my mouth, smiling back.
“You know, I had thought maybe I was wrong about you. About us. I had hoped, but I was willing to accept it was just in my head.” She pulled her finger free and leaned in to kiss my lips. “I’m glad I was wrong about being wrong.”
I kissed her back. “This may take a while for me to adjust. I’m just warning you.”
“I know, sweetie. I know.” She cupped my breast, her knee sliding over my hip to pull me closer. “But I’ve been patient this long.”
Her hand slipped between my thighs. And as she began stroking me again, I thought maybe—just maybe—my wedding plans with Danny weren’t a complete waste. We still had the villa in Tuscany.