The Tale of Leigh and Jo


The Tale of Leigh and Jo



by Kelly Blake



Edited and Proofread by Alison Mary and Andrea Dimaggio;
Artwork by the Incorrigible Belle Mead



Author’s Note:
This little tale would definitely not have been possible without the help of the above mentioned ladies and their staff.
This tale is dedicated to all those who have ‘little secrets’ and unyielding families


“New Year’s Day…”

Mother, we always called her mother, and I were in the sun room. She wanted to speak with me privately; away from the others. I was gazing out the window into the formal gardens with my back to her as she sat. I was hiding my tears.

“What are you trying to prove sweetheart?”

“Mother…please!”

“Your poor father can’t even face you and that…that…woman you choose to soil yourself with…” She had to emphasize ‘that woman’ as if Jo was a disease.

“But I love her mother. And she loves me.”

I knew this was going nowhere but I felt compelled to defend Jo. After all…she stood by me when nobody else did. Anyway, this conversation was a repeat of every conversation we’d had for the past years. Thankfully…THANKFULLY…my Jo appeared in the door way. She did not have a happy expression on her face, especially after seeing me in tears.

“Hey…what’s going on kid?’ She called me kid even though I was twenty four years old. It was her years of working in construction that made her thirty two years seem like more.

Jo came toward me and I tried to dry my tears with a hand towel and put on a happy expression. But her knowing eyes indicated she didn’t believe my motions for one minute.

“All right. I think we’ve had enough of this shit! We’re out of here!”

Jo’s face was scarlet with anger. She grabbed my arm and began to pull me after her before I could even undo my apron. I knew this would happen. It always happened whenever we accepted an invitation to a family event.

“Bye mom…” Jo’s voice dripped with sarcasm. “…thanks for the meal.”

We strode through the door and into the dining room. My sister Meg and her husband Pat, my brother Edward and his wife Martha, and my youngest brother, Bill Jr., all sat and watched the drama unfold. Meg stood up and came to us. I knew she would. These things were usually her idea and she was accepting of us. Pat was tolerant and even pleasant when they visited with us. But my other siblings criticized my ‘life style’ and choices.

“I’m sorry Leigh. I honestly thought it might be different this time.” I could see tears well up in her eyes. As she spoke softly, Pat stood by her side with a hurt look in his eyes.

“Thanks Meg.” Jo said sincerely. She hugged Meg with one arm, her other still holding onto me as if I would escape if her grip wavered. “We know it’s not you or Pat. But we’ve both had enough, ya know?”

Meg nodded her head in understanding and helped us on with our coats. I had little doubt she and Pat would be leaving next. She couldn’t handle the comments and the snide remarks any better than Jo. I was a glutton for the punishment though and had Jo not come to my rescue, I would have had a panic attack. I don’t know why I became so frozen in these situations.

We got out the door, or, actually. I was pulled out behind Jo. She escorted me to the passenger door of her huge pick-up truck and opened it for me. She shut the door and went around to get into the driver’s side. I knew she was upset; more over my treatment then hers. She turned the key in the ignition and the huge vehicle rumbled to a start.
Jo sat for a moment. Her pale face was still reddened with anger. She pounded on the steering wheel with her fists.

“Dammit! I don’t know why I let you talk me into these…things!”

She didn’t look at me; she didn’t have to. I looked down and away. It was my fault we came. I knew what would happen. The same thing always did.

“I thought it would be different this time.” I said in a whisper.

“Well I wish you would stick up for yourself a little. Sometimes you need to show you have a little…”

“What? A little what…balls?!” I turned to her and hissed.

“Okay…that does it!” She pounded the steering wheel again as a tear or two rolled down her cheeks in anger and frustration.

Jo put the truck into gear and the tires screeched as she pulled out of the space onto the roadway. I turned my body toward the door and leaned my head on the window watching the cars and houses slip past. We both sat in an uneasy silence; too angry to vocalize our thoughts in a manner that wasn’t hurtful.

Jo’s temper didn’t frighten me. I knew that with her flaming red hair and the family name Moran she could have a word or two too profane for ears as delicate as mine on occasion. And with seven brothers to compete with, I knew that she could be…fast? Forward? Maybe a bit aggressive? So she would yell and throw something (I had special plastic cups and saucers for just such occasions). Those occasions rarely happened and she never touched, or berated me in anger.

On the other hand, I would sulk. I would become quiet and moody with one word answers being my forte. I could drive her crazy if the mood struck or, as in this case, I felt defensive or hurt. We were certainly opposites in many ways.

“A Girl Named Jo…”

“Where are your light switches?” I wasn’t even sure what I was asking for. I only knew that the switch thing in my entrance way didn’t seem to work.

“Aisle six Miss.”

I had only just moved into my first apartment after obtaining a teaching and research position at the local university. It was a small one bedroom flat with plenty of light and a nice view in a place called Flushing, Queens. I had managed to paint the place in more suitable colors with the help of Meg and Pat before trying to arrange what little I had into an order that would be comfy for me.

Now I stood in aisle six of the largest home supply store I’d ever seen. As I looked down the aisle, I could see various electrical…stuff…lining the walls from the floor to about seven or eight feet up! I stood there in complete awe; mouth agape and wide eyed with a look of distress on my face no doubt.

“Ya need help sweetie?”

I heard the voice from somewhere in my overwhelmed mind, but I didn’t connect it to the appellation ‘sweetie’. I turned and saw this tall guy with very short red hair standing to my right. He was smiling at me. I noticed that he was adorned with what appeared to be work clothes complete with heavy shoes. His clothes were covered in grey dirt, as were his shoes. The odor of dust and perspiration hung heavily about him.

“You seem a bit lost. What are you looking for?”

Oh my God! It’s a woman! He’s a she! And she was smiling at me as though this was an everyday event; accosting strangers in aisle six and trying to be of help. ‘Maybe she works here’ I thought. Suddenly she started making motions with her hands.

“Huh?”

“I thought you might be deaf or something, so I know some signing, ya know?” She laughed.

I must have looked quite the fool standing there with my mouth agape. This was a bit beyond me. I mean…if something needed fixing in the house, I was the very last person anyone would come to. In fact…I wasn’t even on the ask list.
“I need to get a switch? You know…for…the wall?”

“Your wall needs a switch to work? What happens without it? Does it down or something?”

I giggled at that thought. I really looked at her for the first time. The first thing that struck me was her smile. She had a wonderfully impish grin. There was a mischievous twinkle in her pale green eyes. And freckles…oh my God did she ever have them. I couldn’t help but smile back at her.

“Come on. Follow me.” And off she strode down the aisle with me in tow.

We came to a long panel that displayed all types of switches. There must have been a hundred different ones. My ‘guide’ began to explain what each type did; and quite expressively so! She spoke with her hands waving and her body moving for emphasis. I felt like I was watching some intricate modern dance or performance art piece as she walked slowly along the wall.

“I think I simply need an ‘on’ and ‘off’ switch?”

I was almost afraid I would disappoint her with such a simple request. She put her knuckles beneath her chin and looked at me as though she was peering over the top of reading glasses.

“You know…” She said quite seriously; “…those simple switches rarely, if ever go bad.”

“Hey Jo!” I heard a deep voice say from behind me.

“Hey Mike!” She replied with a wave and a smile. She cast her gaze back to me. “It might simply be a loose wire. Now buying a simple switch is cheap but…” She brought her face quite close to mine. “…do you know how to tell? I mean…can you rewire it if the switch is actually bad?”

“Of course!” Of course! I’m not completely ignorant. “There is one screw on the thing…what do you call it? Anyway…” I continued without waiting for a reply. “…then you just attach the wires.”

Jo…she hadn’t formally introduced herself as of yet…laughed. It was a hearty laugh. I noticed her eyes tended to stay open when she laughed. She pointed a finger at me.

“You’ve just zapped yourself!” A dirty index finger, its nail filed nearly to the quick, pointed at me. “First thing you have to do is cut the circuit breaker so the juice is off.” She smiled. I frowned. So maybe I am that ignorant.

“Well…the super said he’d put a new one in for fifty dollars.” I hated the thought of having to pay him that for what I thought was so simple a task.

“Fifty dollars???!!! For fifty dollars I’ll put in…” She was in thought for a moment, her eyes screwed upward as if the answer was on the ceiling. “…hell…I’ll do six. But that’s only because you seem nice. Normally I’d do four.”

“Huh?”

“I’m an electrician.” She said with another laugh. “Tell ya what…let me buy you a cup of coffee. They have lousy coffee here but at least we can sit a minute and rethink this thing, okay?” Jo looked anxiously toward me.

I thought for a moment and before I could even say yes she started speaking again and walking back down the aisle. I mindlessly followed her as another man had called out.

“Hey Jo! You still faulty wiring the town?” It was the department manager and he smiled pleasantly at her as he spoke.

“Absolutely Walt. Hey…when you gonna get a real paying job anyway?” She laughed.

We continued as she again began to speak to me. I listened and thought that maybe she would tell me how to properly do what I had to do. As we approached the snack counter in the front of the store she absent mindedly pointed to a four seated table. I understood what she wanted and took a seat. She continued up to the counter.

The tables were typical of a fast food area. The four seats were affixed to the floor and two small tables were placed between the chairs so that two couples could sit. She returned with the coffees and took a seat cattycornered from me.
In this manner we occupied the four seats and two tables as she stretched out her long legs and arms.

Placing a coffee in front of me, she emptied the pockets of her vest spilling Half and Halfs and sugar packets out onto the table. Still speaking, she emptied four of the creams into her cup followed by six sugars. I always drank my coffee black with a wee bit of sugar.

“So…” She said. “…let me guess. You’re a school teacher.”

“Well…sort of.” How did she ever guess? “How did you know?”

“You kinda dress like one, ya know? Skirt below the knees, simple striped shirt, skimmers with low heels; it’s like a dress code or something. I didn’t know schools were still in session.” She took a sip of coffee, her eyes never leaving mine.

“Well…I only just got the job. I really don’t have to teach though. I’ll have a G.A. to do that for me.” She suddenly looked at me with more than passing interest.

“What’s a G.A.?”

“A graduate assistant. I’m over at the college but they really hired me for research?” Jo’s eyebrows arched in surprise.

“You’re a college professor? You look so…young…like you’re more of a student or something.” I giggled. That was the usual reaction when I told people what I did for a living. “What kind of research?”

“I have a Doctorate in aberrant child psychology. I also have a P.H.D.” She really looked surprised.

“You’re a Doctor? Like a shrink or something?” Now her mouth was agape and her eyes wide opened. I knew exactly how she felt; kind of like I did when I first saw aisle six. Suddenly that wide and wild grin crossed her face as she leaned toward me and rested her chin in her hand, her elbow on the table. “I bet you’ve been analyzing me this whole time.” Her eyes narrowed and she arched one eye brow.

Oh my God! Here it comes; decision time. Well…I certainly don’t want to blow her off. I need to be careful. Here is a living soul with all sorts of unknown buttons that could be pushed and I didn’t want to do that. I blushed.

“Well???” She sat smiling like the Cheshire Cat. “You gonna diagnose me?”

“It’s not like you’re an aberrant child you know. And I certainly don’t go around trying to find out what makes people tick.” I leaned in closer mimicking her position. “But I will say that there is no reason for you to be nervous around me.”

“What do you mean?” She suddenly sat upright. Crap! A button no doubt.

“Your constant chatter is nervousness. It’s like biting your nails or fidgeting.” She stopped smiling. Crap! I was getting myself deeper into it. “It’s like my silence…but in reverse. When I’m nervous I become quiet and withdrawn.” I smiled.

I could tell she was thinking about what I said. She leaned back in and resumed her position, now mimicking me only she wasn’t smiling now; she was listening.

“What else can you tell about me?” I could sense she was really interested in what I had to say.

“You are comfortable with your peers…those you work with. And that’s because you’re very good at what you do and they recognize that; they respect you for that.” Her smile was back. Whew…I thought I’d blown it for a moment. “You are quite intelligent and have the vision of what could be and how things should be.”

“Huh?”

“You could have simply shown me the thing I wanted. But you showed and explained all the different things and how they are used. That tells me that you want others to know what is possible and you want to open up their minds to different ideas.”

She was grinning again; whew! She suddenly shifted over to the seat across from me; a break through of some sort.

“What else do you know?”

“Well…your name is Jo…” She laughed and held out her hand.

“Jo…short for Joan…Moran.”

“Leigh…short for Leigh…Howard.” I took her hand and she shook mine as if I was a man; vigorously and with a firm grip. In fact a bit too firm which hurt a bit. I winched.

“Sorry…” There was concern in her eyes. She realized that she might have caused me some pain.

“It’s okay…really.” I smiled. “Okay…ready for more?” I laughed.

“I’m not sure. But…okay.” She was still grinning so I was still of interest.

“You are more comfortable with men than with women BUT…” I had to emphasize the ‘but’. “That comfort only extends to co-workers and only goes so far. You may have a beer with them but it goes no further than that. Other women make you nervous and you become the chatter box. I, on the other hand, am nervous around men and I feel more comfortable around women. But my comfort extends only so far as well.”

“Yeah…but I find that hard to believe about you. I mean you’re so…femme? Guys should flock to you like bees to honey.” I could sense a touch of envy in Jo’s voice as she spoke.

We were sitting leaning forward toward one another. I noticed that her eyelashes were sooo thick and full. I wanted to reach out and gently touch them…kind of run my finger tip along them. She must have noticed I was lost in staring at her.

“What?” She giggled as she asked.

“You have such wonderful eye lashes.” Oh my God! I can’t believe I said that!

“Are you coming on to me?” She eyes sparkled with…delight?

“NO!” I thought of a very brief moment. “No…” And another even briefer moment; “No!” I didn’t think so anyway. “I love your freckles.” OHMYGOD!!! Whatever was I thinking? Okay…she giggled again.

“Yeah…well you can have some if you’d like. They were such a nightmare for me in school. I was always getting teased. Guys always wanted to take a pen or magic marker and ‘connect the dots and see what the picture was. Ya know?” Jo laughed.

I couldn’t imagine how horrid that must have been for Jo. Then this weird thought came into my brain and before I knew it…the damned thought was out of my mouth.

“It would be far more interesting if they wanted to connect those dots with their tongue.” Oh my god!

“Are you sure you’re not coming on to me?” She laughed and then had this faraway look in her eyes. “Yeah…that would’ve been cool.” She laughed again. “That I could have handled…I think.”

I laughed as well. That helped to cover up my profound blushing at what I had said. I mean, she was cute…very cute and I could definitely imagine her being pursued by guys at school.

“Okay Jo…you have just gotten my fifty dollar analysis session.”

“Well…maybe we can barter for it? I mean…you still need a switch fixed, right? Where do you live?”

“Oh! So who’s coming onto whom now!”

The truth is that we were building a certain intimacy around us. We were bonding in a really warm, yet weird, manner. Jo was a strange sort of character for me and I’m sure I was far from the usual fair for her.

I lived near the college and she lived off of Union Turnpike in Flushing. We were sort of neighbors…almost.

“I could come over now and fix it if you’d like.”

“Tomorrow would be better for me…if that’s okay with you. Then maybe we could have lunch.” Oh my God…did I just ask her out on a date? Naw!!!

“Yeah…that sounds good.”

She said after taking a moment or two to think. Somehow I could tell that she must’ve been thinking; ‘Did I just get asked out on a date?’ I had to giggle.

“Great! But make sure you shower first!” I admonished wagging my finger for emphasis.

“But it’s not Sunday!” Jo moaned.

We both laughed. I spend at least another hour speaking with her. I got the second, and then the third cup of coffee. The time simply flew and before either of us knew it, darkness had descended to begin an ending of that June day.

“The Longest Night”

To say my mind wasn’t occupied with Saturday would be the greatest of all lies. My new found friend was constantly on my mind. I had these images popping up like a power point gone wild of her done up in various modes of fashion; buzz cut and all.

Jo was really quite beautiful in an odd way. There was no one particular feature that made her unforgettable. Her breasts were no larger than mine. She was tall and sinewy with quite an athletic build. Her face was a bit on the thin side (emphasized by her extremely short hair). She did have wonderfully large and expressive eyes and very full lips.
I think it was more the total package rather than its parts that was alluring. A lipstick and perhaps nail polish to match her shade of auburn would definitely add quality points. A light foundation and concealer to tone down the freckles would cause one to focus more on her eyes. And those lush, full, and auburn colored lashes would bloom beautifully with a swipe or two of rich dark brown mascara.

Oh my God! Whatever could I be thinking? I was dressing her to an image I had formed as if I would be the one of interest in her life. That could never be. That would never do. These kind of dreams wouldn’t come to any fruition because…well…I simply wasn’t the one for her.

But I couldn’t put those thoughts completely out of my mind. I showered, as usual, and as I patted the thick terry cloth towel over my body, I stood before the mirror gazing at myself. Yeah, I was cute and naturally so. But as my gaze slowly descended down past my navel to the place where my towel hide my ‘little’ secret, I shook my head and wished that my ‘secret’ would disappear.

I mean…how would I ever explain that stupid little appendage to a woman who might be attracted to me? And is she attracted to me to begin with? Or will we simply be BGFF with the first ‘F’ being capitalized and underscored?

I had difficulty sleeping as well. She was on my mind. I would play out these little vignettes of us doing different things together…to…get…her!!! Her smile would flask across the darkened ceiling in my mind and my stomach would flutter a bit. Jo’s acrid odor from her physical work lingered in my nostrils. It was enticing and delicious with the fullness of life.

The touch of her callused and powerful hand on mine when we finally exchanged names was electric. That feeling coursed through my body like nothing had before. It had been some time since a stranger, male of female, had touched any part of me. Of course I shook hands frequently whilst trying to obtain a position, but that was nothing compared to her touch, physically and sensually overpowering as it was.

When I finally awoke in the morning, it was premature for sure. I had the proverbial sand in my eyes that lingers with a lack of good sleep. I mindlessly turned on the coffee maker, which I prepared the prior evening, on my way to the bath room anticipating a nice warm shower to refresh me.

I doffed my sleeping tee shirt, a large size that swam on my body, and my bikini cut panties as the water warmed to an acceptable temperature. I opened the glass door and stepped in letting the water dance down upon my body.

I took a moment to think of how I wished to present myself today. In no way, shape, or form did I wish to be the ‘teacher’ again. I used a fragrant body wash and then my herbal shampoo and conditioner. What can I say…I adore the aroma of flowers and herbs. My body was still smooth and hairless from the other day and my patch was neatly trimmed.
I exited the shower after washing out the conditioner and immediately wrapped my bath towel around myself. I took a smaller towel and wrapped my short pixie style hair cut as best I could and returned to the bedroom to review the contents of my closet.

The day promised to be a warm, slightly breezy, cloudless one so a sun dress came immediately to mind. I chose an apple green one nearly the color of my eyes and laid it upon my bed. My undergarments, for the most part, are simple cotton and chosen for comfort rather than allure. I chose a simple white bra with a lacey insert in the cups and a matching pair of panties. Those too rested on the bed.

I quickly inspected my toes nails to make sure that the polish on them was still pristine and worthy of being exposed to the general public; and then my finger nails. Whilst I used clear polish with a pink tint on my finger nails, I wore a frosted pink high gloss polish on my toes.

Today would be a sandal day. I would let the little piggies breath. The pair I chose had good arch support and a one and one half inch heel. The straps were slender yet sturdy and the medium brown shade of the leather would not over whelm.

I returned to the bathroom, stopping briefly to fetch a mug of coffee. I began to do my hair starting first with spraying a conditioner on it. I washed my hair nearly every day and always took precautions to keep it looking healthy.

After blow drying and shaping my hair, I doffed my towel, hung it to dry, and proceeded into my bedroom to get dressed for the day. It was so very second nature for me to be putting on a bra and panties that I didn’t even think about it anymore. Though I had a small bust, it seemed to be in the proper proportion for my slight built.

I loved this particular sundress in apple green. It was very light cotton and the hem, which fell to mid-calf, had a wide swipe so that when the wind caught it, I could feel the sensual teasing of the material against my calves as well as my thighs. I adored the way the cloth seemed to drape my body. I slipped the sandals onto my feet, snugged the straps, and was off to the bathroom again to do my face.

As I sipped my coffee and gazed at my reflection in the mirror, all I could think of was light. A light day and therefore light make-up. I truly wished I had a vanity instead of as plastic tool box to keep my cosmetics in. There was such incredible light in the main room and my bedroom that I could truly see what the shades of powders looked like once applied.

I love earth colors, especially the browns and greys. I decided to go lightly with a medium shade of brown on my upper lid. I single color and a single swipe with a red sable haired brush. I lined my lids with a drop of water mixed into dark brown and brushed along both my upper and lower lash line. Two quick coats of dark brown mascara brought out my eyes even more. I thought how lucky Jo was to have such thick lashes.

Fortunately I usually have good skin tone so concealer is rarely in the mix. I put on a rose tinted clear lip gloss and stood back to check the look. I certainly looked good enough for the day without being overdone. I didn’t think Jo could say I looked like a teacher.

I love to have jewelry in matching sets. I chose an emerald green antique glass bead set which included tear drop earrings, a necklace and a bracelet. After fighting with the earrings a bit (that always seems to happen with thin wire), I got the other two pieces on with no trouble at all. I stood back to have another look in my full length mirror on the back of my closet door.

I really needed to get my ear piercings gauged a bit. I normally wore simple posts during the week and the thin wire of my beaded sets proved too challenging. Hmmm… I looked ready to greet the day in a most casual manner.

I grabbed my mug after closing the closet door and went into the living area. I went to the couch and sat gazing toward the window and the beautiful day awaiting. Then I gazed around the apartment.

There were various framed pictures, paintings and drawings along the walls awaiting their proper place on the wall. There was much yet to be done. Then there were the floors. I loved the nice wooden pattern but I really needed rugs and runners. The boards made noise when I wore heeled shoes and had a tendency to creak even with my modest weight upon them.

Jo mentioned yesterday that she would come over around eleven. A few minutes before eleven the door buzzer sounded and I heard the intercom crackle with electrical noise. I got up and quickly strode to the device alongside the door. I pushed one of the buttons saying; “Hello” not being sure of how it worked.

After pushing the other two buttons and repeating my simple appellation, I heard a knocking at the door. Could she have gotten up here so quickly? Or was I too confounded by the array of useless buttons? Either way I felt my heart go into a slight arrhythmia from the very thought of this woman…this new person in my life if only for a few hours…outside my door.

What could I do? I opened the door and there she stood in all her six feet of glory; smiling like that Cheshire Cat …again!

“Well…” She had such a grin on her face. “…you sure don’t look like a school teacher now. Do you always dress up on your days off?”

I didn’t know what to say. I kind of stood there staring wide eyed and opened mouth at Jo. She was wearing these mirrored aviator sun glasses and I could see my own reflection in them. I finally, after what seemed like a life time, closed my mouth and spoke.

“Hi.” ‘Brilliant’, I thought.

“Ya gonna invite me in or what!” She laughed.

“Oh God! I’m sorry. I was a little befuddled by this stupid thing for the door.” I stepped aside. “Please come in. Would you like some coffee?”

Jo walked in and dropped a cloth satchel on the floor. From the clunking sound it made I assumed it contained an assortment of tools.

“Sure. I’d love some. I even brought some doughnut holes; the breakfast of champions.” She announced boldly.
She handed me a box and continued walking in and checking out the place.

“Wow! A green wall…and a yellow one. I guess you don’t believe in plain old white.” She laughed again. “Nice place. So…you didn’t answer my question?”

“What?” I said as I poured her a mug of coffee. I remembered she liked cream in hers…and sugar…so I placed them out on the small dining table where I had placed the box along with a spoon.

“Do you always dress like this…” She waved her hand toward me. “…on your days off?”

“You mean this old thing?” I blushed and giggled and tried to be calm and collected. I mean…how else does one dress?
“Well…you look terrific. God you’re sooo femme.”

I smiled and looked at her. Jo wore a pair of old but comfy looking jeans with holes in the knees. She had on a white tee shirt with some sort of logo on it. I later found out from her it was the logo of the electricians union. I noticed for the first time that she had a tattoo on her right arm of a green harp with some words in a language I didn’t know written beneath it.

I also noticed for the first time that her ears were also pierced…multiple times. She had a row of studs from the top
of her right ear that traveled down nearly to her ear lobe. In her other ear she had two rings through her lobe. I could see a row of pieced holes across the top of that ear but she hadn’t put anything in them.

“I love your beads.” She said as she removed her sunglasses and began to put the fixings into her coffee. I noticed that she wore no other jewelry save a very sturdy looking watch on her left wrist. “So sweetie…where is this fifty dollar job?”

I walked to the switch alongside the door button thing and flipped it several times. Jo looked around after watching me and walked into the small kitchen area. She looked briefly around and seemed to find what she was looking for. It was a small metal door with a pull tab on it. She opened it as she sipped her coffee and looked inside.

I watched she every move. I noticed that she wore a clean pair of work shoes. She also had some sort of chain arrangement emanating from within her back pocket and terminating with a solid looking clip onto her thick belt. She looked sooo…butch?

I walked up to where Jo stood to see what she was looking at. Even though she was only a few inches taller than me, she seemed so much larger.

“It’s the circuit breaker box. We want to kill the electricity for that switch before we do anything else.” I moved in a bit closer. “They’re not well marked so we’ll kill them all.” And she began to cut off all the electricity.

I was standing next to her with both hands around my mug watching. Suddenly I had this weird urge! I wanted to touch her very short hair to simply know what it felt like. I moved my hand up and ever so softly across the top of her head.

“WHOA!!!” Jo’s entire body kind of shivered. “That felt really intense!” She laughed.

“I’m sorry.” I was. I didn’t mean to startle her. “I couldn’t resist knowing what your hair felt like. I mean…it’s so short and all.”

“Well? Whadaya think?” Jo rubbed her hand over the stubble several times herself.

“It’s nice.” It did feel nice. I had to touch it again and again she shivered and giggled.

“If you keep that up we may never get this thing fixed.” Jo giggled and squeezed her way past me to walk over to the wall switch.

Still giggling Jo bent down and opened her satchel and retrieved a screw driver. She unscrewed the switch plate and handed both screw and plate to me. She looked inside and laughed.

“The wire has been disconnected. That little sleaze of a janitor probably does this to each new tenant. Bastard!”

“What?!” I was shocked and moved closer to have a look. Jo pulled the wire out a bit so I could see.

“Listen, I’ll clean this up a bit and put decent connectors on the wires. They’ve been put on and taken off so many times that the wiring has unraveled at the ends.”

She set about her task of reworking the connections and spoke the entire time. Jo worked effortlessly and quickly, yet very carefully. She probably could have done the work in her sleep. When Jo had finished, she held her hand out for the plate and screw, not even worried about whether the switch would work or not. After resetting all the breaker switches, she asked me to try the switch. It worked, much to my delight.

“Okay…now whadaya say we hang a few pictures?” Jo offered with her face alight with a huge grin. Oh my God! I had no idea we’d be doing this.

“Sure…great!” I laughed.

Jo asked me to get the lease to find out what was allowed in terms of anchoring things to the walls. As it turned out, I would be charged for each wall anchor, whatever those are, and for each nail hole. Fortunately I had nothing of real weight and Jo had those tape-on things to hold framed stuff. As it turned out, her satchel was full of stuff for just such odd jobs she sometimes did for ‘beer money’.

We spent the rest of the morning hanging things. Jo was incredibly patient with me and even suggested a thing or two. We had hung most of the things and before we knew it afternoon was upon us. I was getting hungry and Jo had not only eaten most of the doughnut holes but she had also licked the powdered sugar from the waxed paper that lined the box.

I was determined to treat for the lunch only I really didn’t know the area very well other than that around the campus. I didn’t think I wanted to do bar food, or a bar at all for that matter.

“Listen…tell ya what…I’ll drive. I know this place that has good home cooked style food and we can even take a walk through a pretty nice park afterward.” Now that sounded like a plan to me.

The restaurant offered a simple Northern Italian style of cooking. And the walk through the park afterward was a sheer delight. I found Jo to be a very comfortable woman to be with. She was completely unassuming and straightforward and, aside from an occasional profanity, gentle and easy.

We sat beside a small pond and I watched her as she spoke. Her face, and body, would become so animated when she spoke of the future and her plans and dreams. I felt like I could watch her all day.

Of course I had my turn as well and she was as attentive a listener as she was an active speaker. I often found that we were gazing into each others eyes as we spoke. From time to time we even touched. I would touch her hand to emphasize something or she would touch my knee.

We even held hands for a moment in the midst of a shared joy. Though there was certain innocence about our touching, there was also an excitement that I couldn’t deny, or avoid feeling. Her touch was electricity surging through my body and terminating deep within me.

Touch of our hands was titillating. Though roughened and calloused by her work, I could feel the softness of her soul beneath that tough exterior. I remember sitting in silence with her that day. It was a comfortable silence that only two souls who have managed to touch can feel. I reached over and ran my fingers down her fore arm, feeling the soft minute hairs and touching her freckles. It was a soothing moment for me. I looked up into her eyes with a smile and the exact same feelings seemed to be reflected in her.

When we returned to my apartment, entering the door presented an entirely new look; especially with the pictures and paintings hung. We put up the remaining few and Jo hooked up my television and DVD player properly. Reluctantly, regrettably, all the tasks either one of us could think of at the moment were accomplished.

I could feel that she was as unsettled about the end of the day as I was. I felt there was so much more I wanted to do simply to be in Jo’s company and I could tell she felt the same. We decided to make a date for the next day. We could have our coffee, read the Sunday paper, and perhaps find another little adventure we could share.

Our lips barely touched as I bid her good night at my door with a kiss. But that wasn’t enough! I put my sandals back on and walked her down to her car. Our lips touched once again; this time for a bit longer. The sensation was heavenly and exciting and…oh my God…sooo right. I found it difficult to watch her drive off that evening and I watched until she turned the corner and was gone.

“Mean while…back at the Ranch”

The following morning I was lounging in my robe on the couch doing nothing in particular. I was somewhat bleary eyed after a restless night of pillow hugging and dreaming of my new friend. Waiting for the caffeine to kick in is always a drag and I had no idea of when Jo would arrive.

When she did finally come, her arms were full of various things including the Sunday Times. We kissed a greeting to one another and I took the bags from her arms. As I turned my back to walk to the couch, I felt Jo’s breath on my neck.

“You always smell so good…like flowers or something.”

I giggled as I set the bag down on the coffee table and unloaded the things she brought. Jo had gone into the kitchen and poured herself a mug of coffee. I liked that she felt comfortable and familiar enough to tend her own needs.

We spent the better part of the morning sipping coffee, eating bagels and cream cheeses and salmon. It was relaxed and easy, you know? I always dive for the magazine section and Jo went directly to the real estate.

I enjoyed looking at the fashions and such. Every so often I would hold up a picture of this really hot guy.

“Isn’t he dreamy?”

“Gay!”

I showed her another and received the same reply. Now it’s not a big secret that there are gay men in modeling but…give me a break!

“They’re not ALL gay.” I said after the fourth picture.

“Some of them are bi…but swinging closer to gay. I’m bi in case you haven’t guessed.” She looked up at me with an impish smile on her face. I was a bit startled by the intimate direction our conversation suddenly took.

“Really?” I was a bit shocked at her admission.

“Yeah. I just walk up and say; ‘By the way, wanna fuck?’” She broke out in laughter.

“Jo!” I had to giggle anyway.

“Guys don’t seem to care for me all that much anyway.” Her face betrayed a bit of sadness with her admission.

She kind of muttered something under her breath and I let that one go. I mean she’s really kind of cute. But with her general appearance and cocky attitude I could understand why some guys might be intimidated.

After having our fill of lazing and grazing, Jo asked if I could show her the campus and particularly where I worked. It was another really pleasant late spring day out and I thought that going to the campus might be just the activity for us.

I got my wardrobe for the day together, gathered up the things, and went to shower. Jo seemed content to sit and look through the rest of the newspaper as I washed and quickly dried my hair. When I shut off the drier and placed it in its home in the shelf on the wall, I was surprised to see Jo in the door way leaning against the frame with her arms crossed and a crooked smile on her face.

“I got lonely.” She giggled and, uncrossing her arms, strode in and sat on the closed toilet seat. “Do you mind?”

“Mind what?” I giggled. Fortunately, out of habit, I did have a towel wrapped around myself.

I wasn’t sure what she was asking me and thought it curious that she felt at home enough to serve herself but had to ask permission to join me in the bathroom. I mean it wasn’t like I was doing my ‘business’ and needed a bit of privacy.

“I want to watch while you do the make-up thing. Is that okay?”

“Yes…of course.”

I giggled but then remembered that she had brothers and not sisters! Could she be clueless? Didn’t she have other female friends…like maybe in high school or something? I began my daily ritual by opening up the draw in the sink cabinet and taking out my color palette and brushes.

As I began to apply just a hint of color, I noticed in the mirror that Jo was watching quite intently. I smiled at her letting her know I didn’t mind her watching.

“You do this every day?” She was honestly surprised.

It’s not as though I was the only one in the world that went through this particular exercise. Indeed I had this down to a science more than an art.

“Yeah…I do.”

“Why?”

A good honest question; why do I go through the bother of making myself more…appealing when there was nobody that I truly wished to specifically appeal to? I could give all shades of possible justifications and rationalizations with maybe a wee bit of reasoning as topping but my mind happened at the moment to draw a blank.

“I don’t know.” I frowned in thought. I needed to say something. “It makes me feel completely dressed I suppose.” I shrugged my shoulders. “Why, don’t you like the look?”

“Oh yeah!!!” Jo took on a serious look. “I think you look great. But you look great without it as well. Ya know?
Kinda…terminally cute?”

‘Terminally cute?’ Hmmm… I liked that. I blushed and giggled of course. I continued to do my cosmetic thing, grinning away like a fool.

“I never looked good in that stuff.” Jo frowned again; this time looked a bit forlorn. “I always think I look like a clown, ya know? And I could never get accustomed to the feel of some of the stuff. But you look really super with it on.”

“Well…it does help me look more…adult? Otherwise people sometimes mistake me for a kid.”

“Well…you’re certainly not that far removed yet.” Jo laughed.

I made a sour face trying to suppress, unsuccessfully, a giggle. She was, of course, right. I picked up my eye shade brush and put some of my dark bronze on it. I quickly turned but Jo was reading my mind. Up went her hands and feet to fend me off.

“Oh no you don’t!!!” She admonished and laughed.

“Oh please???” I pled. She gently, but firmly, took hold of my wrists. I persisted. “Pretty please???” My facial expression was nearing that of pain.

I was hoping she would give in. I sensed that she really wanted to try something new and do something a bit different but, like many of us, she needed an excuse. I would give her one. Jo looked up at me with wide eyes and a bit of dread.

“Listen…” She pled with a whining in her voice as she gently, but firmly held my wrists. “…you can’t tell anyone about this, okay?”

“Sure. It’ll be our secret. I promise.” It was then that Jo noticed the two thin white scars across each of my wrists.
“Hey…what’s this?!” The look of concern matched the expression on Jo’s face.

“I had…” I took a deep breath and let it out. “…issues when I was younger.”

“What was up? Ya didn’t like the food or something?” I giggled, blushed and shook my head. Now was not the time.

“Okay. But one day?” She didn’t have to finish her thought. Yeah…maybe one day I would tell her my secret.

Jo put down her legs and dropped her hands from my wrists. She sat with a look of resignation on her face. After taking a deep breath and taking the palette I offered, she looked up at me as if saying ‘I’m ready’.

I took the brush and swiped the color slowly and gently across her closed upper lid. Twice more and I could see the darker shade of the bronze color her pale lids. I then took the same color and went over the upper portion of her lids to give a lighter shade that I could blend. Finally I put some non-metallic gold on a smaller brush and stroked the area just beneath her brows.

I set aside the brushes and lifted Jo’s chin slightly.

“Okay…keep your eyes closed for a moment.”

I blended the three sections so that the shading looked smooth and natural. I wet the thinnest brush and. After dropping a bit of water into the dark brown pot, took some of the liquid color onto the tip. I carefully painted along the lash line on her upper and lower lids giving more definition to her eye shape.

I brushed in a very thin line of dark bronze and the some gold over the thin line on her lower lids. I blew gently making sure that the dark brown shadow was dry and again blended the colors with a cotton swab. I stepped back and asked Jo to open her eyes.

I took a critical look and decided that her eyes looked quite nice considering the rush job and the lack of fore thought for coloration. Oddly enough, the colors that worked for me seemed to enhance and enlarge her eyes as well. Thankfully Jo did pay her brows a bit of attention and their shape was quite full, but definitely nicely shaped.

“Let me see what you’ve done so far.” Jo began to rise up. I pushed her back down onto the seat.

“The light in here sucks and we’re not done yet. You need to trust me that you will look good and if you don’t like the way you look…it does come off you know. Now comes the hard part. I definitely want to do your lashes. They are so wonderfully thick! I am sooo envious. Wait there a minute.”

Sharing cosmetics is so personal. It’s like sharing a tooth brush. Whatever one might be afflicted with on the skin, or from the eyes, is so easy to spread. I definitely don’t recommend sharing with anyone you don’t know well.

I don’t know truly what processed me to share my things with Jo after knowing her only one day but I was so curious and…well…attracted to her. Any logic went right out the window. I took my dark brown mascara and turned back toward her.

“Oh fuck no! Not that crap! No way!” Sorry…way! I grinned and told her to please try it…for me. We could remove everything easily enough but I really wanted her to give it a chance.

This was difficult for Jo. With her eyes opened she could see my hand approaching and the spiraling brush coming nearly into her eye. But, after an unduly long and patient bit of time, I had managed to get her lashes colored and they were magnificent, as I suspected they would be.

“This feels so weird! I don’t think I like this.” Jo gripped her thighs so tightly that her knuckles turned white.

“Please Jo. Just give it a chance to dry and remember not to rub your eyes. Use a tissue to dab at your eyes if you feel the need. Two last things and we’re done.”

“Oh Christ! What now.” I could tell from Jo’s voice that she was tiring of this game rapidly.

I took some pink tinged lip gloss and pulled off the cap. Jo knew what was coming and allowed me to quickly put one coat onto her pouting lips. As Jo rubbed her lips together, I capped the lipstick and placed it in the pocket of my dress. This would need to go into my purse when we left for the campus. Two quick swipes of a brick colored blush and we were done.

I took Jo’s hand in mine and pulled her into my bedroom. I opened the closet door revealing the full length mirror and had her stand about three feet away. The light was good and she would be able to see the difference a bit of color made. Jo turned her head this way and that I suppose in an attempt to see the affect from different angles. She pouted a bit.

“Well…” She paused for a bit before speaking. “…I kinda like the way my eye lashes look? But I don’t see much of a difference. I mean…” She looked down at me and took a deep breath. “…I think my eyes look…bigger?”

“You’re not supposed to look ‘made up’. It needs to look natural, ya know?”

I stepped into view so that we both reflected in the mirror.

“Personally?” I grinned ear to ear. “I think you look terminally cute…maybe even…sexy?”

We both broke into laughter. Jo conceded that she indeed liked the way she looked even if the mascara felt ‘weird’. We had our arms around each others waists as we continued to stare at our reflections. She suddenly turned toward me and hugged me.

“Thanks.” That was all she said. That was all she needed to say. Her smile said everything else.

I slipped on my sandals, put the lipstick into my purse, and, grabbing a knitted light weight sweater, took Jo away from the mirror. We went to gather whatever else we needed to begin our day and left my apartment.

This time I drove so that parking wouldn’t be an issue. As we drove, I spoke about maybe one evening we get all ‘done up’ and go out dancing or clubbing or something. I thought she could really look hot if she was done up properly. I would love to color her lips the same shade as her hair. It would appear so natural.

Jo sat in silence as I carried on and on about how really cool we could look. I glanced over at her to find that she was licking her lips and rubbing them together. She also had pulled down the visor to look at herself in the mirror. I smiled with the knowledge that perhaps Jo discovered a new image of herself.

I parked behind the education building in a faculty spot reserved for me. We walked around to the front of the building and entered. I identified myself at the security desk; I had not yet received my formal faculty badge. I also identified Jo as a guest and we went to the elevators.

The floor that was ‘home’ to the psychology department was quiet and dark. Everyone, or at least almost everyone, was on vacation prior to the summer sessions beginning. I walked in the direction past the reception desk toward the area where my little cubby hole of an office was located.

Jo seems a bit intimidated by the carpeted floors and the various wall hangings of charts, information, and general academic ‘spam’. She would peek into a room as we passed to see ‘stuff’. It’s the wood paneling that does it.

Of course the names on the doors always proceeded by Dr. and followed by rows of letters indicative of degrees achieved.
The moment we found my office and I opened the locked door; Jo swiftly moved past me and planted herself into the arm chair behind my desk. With a very self-satisfied expression upon her face, Jo put her booted feet atop the desk and leaned back into the chair, her hands clasped behind her head.

“I could grow accustomed to this ya know?” She laughed as she rocked back and forth.

I, of course, sat in the arm chair in front of the desk giggling at how at home she looked with her boots, jeans, and, of course, another union logo tee shirt. She probably looked more the psych student or GA than I in my dress and sandals.

The proof was to come when what looked like a senior, or a GA, came wandering in to see who was around. He was dressed in belted shorts and a short sleeve button down collar shirt; red and white vertically striped. OMG! He looked so very preppy with no socks and deck shoes loosely tied. He was definitely a Land’s End boy.

He was clean shaven and his hair was perfectly styled and combed. Definitely a preppy look!

“Doctor Howard?” He asked softly and politely.

“I’m Doctor Howard.” Jo responded with authority.

Oh my God no! Jo answered him. ‘Oh please…’ I silently prayed.

“I’m Gary Hewitt. I’m Doctor Stein’s GA.”

He extended his hand toward Jo. She looked around and found a tissue box. Jo took a tissue, covered her hand, and then shook his. The expression of surprise and shock was thinly veiled on the poor GA.

“Nice legs ya got Gary. Turn around and let me see your butt.”

Jo grinned at Gary whilst attempting to not break out in hysterical laughter. I have never in my life…NEVER…seen anyone turn as red as poor Gary. I couldn’t believe it but he actually giggled. Oh my God! He began to slowly pirouette to give her a look.

“Nice…” Jo smiled and winked at him.

He did have a nice butt. I can’t deny that. I wasn’t sure how long I would let this go on. I pulled my sweater tighter around my shoulders and clutched the sleeves.

“Ever think of dating faculty?”

“Okay…that’s enough!” That was enough…at least for me. We were bordering on something that could become…difficult?

“Oh yeah…I forgot to introduce my wife.” Jo waved her hand toward me. “This is Jo, my wife.”

Poor Gary wasn’t sure whether he wanted to laugh or run screaming from the office. In fact I wasn’t sure which I would choose. I finally opened my mouth.

“Gary…I’m Doctor Howard.” I stood up and pointed toward Jo. “And this is one of my delusional cases. I take her out of the ‘home’ once or twice a week to observe her socialization processes.”

He laughed…praise God he laughed. I continued with eyes blazing at Jo.

“She thinks she’s a he AND a construction worker to boot!”

But Jo wasn’t giving up that easily.

“Listen Gary…if you want we could double date. Wouldn’t that be a blast?”

Gary put his hands in his pockets, took a step backward, and, still laughing and giggling welcomed ‘whichever’ one of us was the real Doctor Howard to the campus. I felt fortunate that he took Jo’s ‘act’ in the spirit it was meant. I now knew, which I already suspected, that Jo was somewhat of a loose cannon but her sense of the bizarre was meant in humor.
I did make a point of asking Jo to please contain herself somewhat when she was here. After all…this was where I ate…so to speak. Of course as soon as Gary did leave to office, we both looked at each other and mouthed ‘gay’ and broke into laughter more for the connection we seemed to have between us than for the fact.

We spent most of the day walking around the campus and found a pleasant spot to simply sit and talk. As playful as Jo could be at times, she had a serious side and a great sensitivity toward the plight of others. As it turned out she was acting union shop steward for her ‘crew’ and was often the ‘straw boss’ or assistant foreman.

She spoke, with great fondness, about growing up with seven brothers.

“I couldn’t get a date!!! I had to plan my own ‘losing it (virginity) party’. They were so protective it was nauseating. But, on the other hand, nobody dared to mess with me.”

She described a closeness and a caring that I’d never known within my own family. Of course there was a price to pay …sort of. Jo was the consummate tomboy and simply never outgrew it. She loved being ‘daddy’s girl so she thought it quite natural to become an electrician like him. He loves baseball so Jo played softball in school and on a union team.
Of course, in many ways Jo felt she had lost out on having a more ‘usual’ female life style. Being more at home with the boys than with the girls, and having a mother who, though attentive and loving, was simply too busy with so many males in her life to acclimate Jo to the finer points of being a girl, left Jo with little recourse but to adjust the best she could. Her mother’s idea of dressing up was a clean house dress and a bit of whatever lipstick happened into her hand first.

I spoke of my experience of growing up in a very limited manner. I told her that we didn’t speak much at dinner and my father was unavailable due to his work which took him all over the world. My mother’s idea of cooking dinner was making reservations. We had a cook and a maid and twice a week a service came to do a complete household cleaning. Mother entertained often and my sister and brothers, and I, were shuffled off into another room, usually the playroom in the basement.

I was even more isolated because I had my difficulties in ways that my family couldn’t understand. Only my sister Meg was sympathetic. Though younger and unable to understand what I was going through, she knew that I hurt and that was enough for her. I was not a leper to her touch.

Of course I hadn’t broached what the ‘problem’ was with Jo. I kept my end of the conversation shallow enough to get by and truly Jo felt the greater need to unburden herself. In a very odd way, she was connecting with her feminine side that had so little stimulus for so many years.

Sunday had ended too so for either of us and though there was the temptation to continue into the night, Jo needed to be up at five thirty in the morning. We parted in what would become our usual manner of a hug and a kiss and me watching as her car disappeared and her watching in the rear view mirror till my image was no more.

Settling In…

The week was one of totally new events for me. Well…maybe not totally new but my perspective certainly was. Monday began early enough meeting with the Director of Research and my newly assigned GA, Sarah Greene. After this meeting I spent most of the morning outlining what I expected from her. The day seemed to drag a bit in the afternoon.

I got one text from Jo. It was a bit of silliness that vibrated across my desk around three fifteen and a welcomed relief it was, sort of. Now my thoughts and soon my energies were focused almost entirely on her…HER!!! But I still had a few things to do and resisted the temptation to run off and play with my new friend.

I called her when I finally returned home around seven. She was, by that time, quite tired. We spoke as I munched on Chinese food I had purchased on my way home. We spoke of nothing consequential; only the remainders of the day. It was simply comforting to hear her voice; to hear her breath.

A tear rolled down my cheek because I could feel her warmth as her speech slurred from exhaustion. Jo was on her bed and ready for sleep but I could feel her desire to be here with me. It wasn’t a sexual thing that drew me closer as we spoke. It was the connection two people sometimes magically feel when there simply isn’t anybody else around. We spoke until she was too tired to continue and then I sang her a little tune I remembered from my early years until she fell asleep, the phone connection still open.

Wednesday I went to watch Jo play soft ball. There was as much beer drinking as there was ball playing and, though I didn’t understand the finer points of the game, I did enjoy myself. Jo got a hit and made a few catches and I yelled my head off every time she did. I created a bit of a stir sitting among a few of the players’ wives and girlfriends.

Which one was I cheering for? ‘That one…my girl friend of course!’

After the game, and a beer or two, we sat in the bleachers and talked. Jo was tired and dirty and sweaty but I could feel her excitement simply because I was there. I loved the way her eyes caught the lighting and seemed to sparkle. I had such an urge to bury my face in her an inhale deeply…very deeply.

I remember how charged up the boys would get when their girl friends would come to watch them at whatever sport they were engaged in. I also remember how charged up the girls would get after the game simply being around the dense cloud of male pheromones that surrounded the exhausted players. Now I understood that as never before.

But we were in public, though everybody had left the field, and I was still prim and proper about such things. So I contented myself merely to be in her presence and basked in her glow. We did make plans to have an early dinner on Friday and maybe even go to a movie. It was Jo’s idea. Oh my God…sounds an awful lot like a date?

Of course when Friday did finally come around, I was working late helping Gary organize his research project! I remembered my ‘date’ with Jo and dreaded making the call to cancel. I felt awful. I really wanted to see her. But being rather childish about the entire issue, she took things in stride.

“YOU BITCH!!!” She screamed.

“But…” I was stunned!

Not only that…she shouted ‘bitch’ so loudly that I think the others in the room heard her. There was dead silence…a very uncomfortable one at that. Then I heard her giggle. I could have smacked her; not hard but playfully on the arm or something. I explained what had happened and she simply told me to call her when I was finished. That is once she could stop laughing long enough!

To my great surprise, delight, and joy, Jo came to the conference room around six thirty with two pizza pies and some cans of soda. I was so overjoyed to see her enter the room that I nearly jumped up and ran to her; for the hug only you understand. And I was touched nearly to tears by her thoughtfulness.

Once we were done eating, she pitched right in and helped us out as best she could. The entire time Jo kept a stream on banter going with her unique observations, humor, and knack for telling tales.

What surprised me the most was her attire. This was the first time I had seen her in something other that a tee shirt, jeans, and she every present work shoes. On this night she wore an emerald green short sleeved blouse that really complimented her eyes. Okay…so she wore jeans but at least they were a bit more stylish than her Levi’s, and they weren’t blue, and the shoes were traded for a pair of somewhat stylish sandals.

Jo wore a bit of jewelry in the form of a gold chained locket and several rings. She even went as far as wearing a bit of lip gloss. My first assumption was that she dressed more in accordance of where she was going; i.e. my place of work. The truth was that she wanted to express her feminine side a little bit and that she rarely, up to this point, got more feminine than she was now. I was somewhat amused at how Jo would occasionally touch up her lip gloss.

We finished late; around eleven. In the parking lot after we all had left the building, she stood with her back leaning against her truck looking at me, smiling.

“I need to ask you something.” She then looked down at the ground and then to her left and her right. Jo was nervous about something.

“Sure…anything.” I reached out and touched her fore arm in what I hoped was a reassuring manner.

“Well…” Jo paused and took a deep breath. “…I’d like to spend the day with you tomorrow?” I giggled. Was that it? But she spoke again. “Could you show me how to do the make-up thing again?” Jo crossed her arms beneath her breasts; a sign of fear…fear of rejection?

I felt I had to be careful. A simple yes wouldn’t quite do. This was definitely dark territory for Jo and I wanted to light her way. A toothy grin and a giggle was always a good start.

“Oh my God!!! It’ll be fun!!!” I put my hands on her folded arms. “We can put together a kit with your colors and try different things. I have so many pots of colors for the eyes and face and whatever.”

Jo looked into my eyes. I knew she was trying to see if I was serious or somehow mocking her. I felt that if I talked long enough she would understand that I was sincere. So I went on and on about all of the holiday ‘specials’ when one can buy an item, such as a scent, and receive these huge cosmetic sampler kits free.

I had to have at least six unopened kits plus the mascaras and eye liners and other paraphernalia that came with them. I also had cream and lotions and scads of other products from cosmetic companies. I had nail polishes that came along with specific ‘looks’ they were trying to sell.

Jo’s arms finally uncrossed and her furrowed brow relaxed. She even smiled!

“You don’t think I’m being weird do you?”

Oh my God! Jo had such a worried look over something that was so second nature to me.

“No…not at all!!! Maybe we can even get dressed and go out somewhere nice for dinner.” Now I was excited!

“I have nothing to wear though.”

“Listen sweetie…” OMG…a term of endearment? “…the way you’ll look, it won’t take much. Something other than jeans and a nice blouse will be fine.” I could see by her distracted look that she was quickly taking stock of what she had to wear.

After profusely thanking Jo for her kindness that evening, we parted in our usual manner with great plans for the next day and evening.

We were approaching the bridge onto Long Island. Jo had calmed down, as had I. I rested my head against the side window and stared out into space. I reached over with my left hand and was met by her right. We sat in silence but the connection that bridged our hands was still as strong as ever.

Unfortunately, and this is true of us all, there usually comes a point in an animated discussion where things begin to turn badly. Our emotions run wild and suddenly we say, or perceive, or actually hear, a remark said for no other reason than to be hurtful. As if that kind of hurt could ever truly be shrugged off or disregarded. We knew each other well enough to recognize when things were getting out of control and we knew that we both were in need of a serious time out.

The next several weeks were pretty much like our first week. There were the ball games, the phone calls back and forth, the visits with dinner when I was working late, and the weekends spent keeping company.

It was a comfortable fit; an easy fit. We could both sit on the love seat, our backs bolstered against the arms and our feet flat against each others. We’d read or watch a movie. But the pattern was always the same. The first thing Jo would do upon entering my apartment is put on some cosmetics.

One Sunday morning I was applying nail polish to my toes. I had cotton balls between my toes and my feet were up on the
coffee table with me on the love seat hunched over them. Jo sat in fascination as I waited for my toe nails on one foot to dry while I applied the second coat on the other.

“Oh…my…God!!! That looks sooo cool! Can we do mine?”

I kept my head in the same downward position and rolled my eyes up to peer at Jo from beneath my brows and I smiled.

“Yesss!!!” Jo literally jumped up and her arm shot toward the ceiling as if she’s just hit a home run or something.

“But we’ll need to use a different color.”

“Why???” Jo was so very clueless about this stuff. “I mean…who’s gonna see them except you and me?”

I took a deep breath.

“Oh Jo…you are so lucky to have your red hair and your freckles. If I were you…I’d get a color that matched your hair. I would do my nails and lips in a similar or complimentary color. Oh my God! It would draw attention to your hair; and your hair to your lips; and your lips to your hands…”

Jo’s blank expression informed me that she was completely clueless and I suspected as much anyway. I had put together a small palette of colors for Jo but she only seemed to wear them when we were together. It was, in a strange yet beautiful way, her ‘girl’ time; our girl time.

“Look, when we go out later, we can stop a see if we can’t find a really good color for you.”

Jo pouted. I couldn’t resist her antics. By this time she knew what buttons to gently push to get her way. And truly I didn’t mind at all because, for the most part, she gave more than she took. So, within about half an hour, Jo had one coat of a burgundy colored polish on her toes. She spent the remainder of the morning and part of the afternoon gazing from time to time at her toes and smiling.

We did stop at a CVS and found a nail polish color similar to Jo’s hair. We picked up two bottles of that and a few other things for her.

“If I had a color picture of you, we could figure out which combinations of lip colors would match your hair as well. Maybe we could stop at your place and get one?”

A look of panic overtook Jo’s features. Uh oh!

“My place is kind of a mess?”

“I won’t look.” I giggled. “Anyway, my place will probably be the same after a short while.” Not!

We stopped at Jo’s apartment. I could understand her trepidation about me seeing it. The apartment itself was a very small one bedroom with two small closets and a stand up kitchen. It wasn’t dirty. It was simply cluttered. There was stuff everywhere.

Stacks of magazines, mostly dealing with electrical stuff, occupied her dinner table, cabinet top, and half of her love seat. The hall closet was jammed full of tools, tool kits, and various electrical parts. A large flat screened television was mounted on the wall opposite the empty space on the love seat. This was a bear cave in the truest sense. The kitchen was spotless; it probably had never been used.

Her queen sized bed took up most of the bedroom space. Plastic bins lined the walls because there really wasn’t enough room for a dresser. The small closet was stacked with clothes; all neatly folded and separated by plastic shelves. Nothing was hung for lack of space.

There were numerous pictures hanging on a large bulletin board oppose the head of the bed. I assumed these people were Jo’s immediate family.

“I’m really sorry about all this mess but…” Jo’s voice trailed off.

“You really have no room. And don’t worry about it anyway.” I was being polite. In truth I could never spend a night here because I would become too claustrophobic to do anything but panic.

“The rent’s right though. I’ve been in here for almost ten years. I know just where that picture is. Just a sec...”
Jo went to a tiny end table and, upon opening the drawer, retrieved a picture taken only a year or two ago. It was perfect. She was at the wedding of one of her brothers and they did a portrait shot of her. We navigated our way out of her apartment and back to my place. I scanned the picture into the computer and then exported it to the sight of a renowned cosmetic manufacturer. They have a special interactive program by which you can see how their products look on your face.

After outlining Jo’s features I showed her how the program worked and she got right into it. Suddenly an entirely new world opened up to her. This was a game that featured Jo and she loved it. I sat on my bed and watched her run through an entire gamut of colors; contrasting, complimentary, and conflicting.

Jo was like a child with a new toy. I finally called her attention to the matter at hand; lip color, or colors, that would match her hair. Just as with blonds, red heads come in God knows how many different shades. Fortunately there were many different shades of lipsticks and lip glosses to use on the test picture.

Odd as it seemed to us, Jo’s closest primary color for her lips was the shade I most often use, named Autumn, with a secondary overcoat of lip gloss called Ultimate bronze. I had a lipstick kit for one of my holiday purchases and we were able to find the gloss. I applied the deep red Autumn lipstick first with a brush and had Jo blot it with a tissue.

“I love this color but I can’t believe the other shit will work!” Jo had lessened the use of profanities lately, but on rare occasions she would slip back into her ‘old’ ways.

I applied the second coating, the gloss, and, as if by alchemy, a new third color appeared. This color did indeed closely match the color of Jo’s hair. She was totally over whelmed upon looking in the mirror. I wanted to go the last step with Jo. I took my bushiest brush and dabbed it into a blush pot; Peach Nuance. I swiftly applied it below Jo’s cheek bones. Before she even realized it…we was done.

“Just a little for your cheeks.” I smiled and giggled.

Jo’s eyes looked sooo large as we gazed at her reflection in the mirror standing side by side. I couldn’t help but grin because of the amazed look she had on her face. She turned her head this way and that appraising our work.

“Whaddaya think?” Jo’s eyes looked at my reflection in the mirror. She was unsure of how she looked and I definitely could relate.

“Oh God sweetie…you look so…beautiful. You’re gorgeous anyway but now…”

Her grin said it all. She was happy and today wanted to face the world. I wanted to go to a museum or something and Jo thought that would be perfect for an outing. The city usually emptied out on weekends with people going to the beach. Our drive in, (Jo driving of course) was quite quick. We found a space very near the museum on eighty-third street.
I am like a homing pigeon at the ‘Met’. I head directly for the Impressionist room. Even Jo with her long stride was barely keeping pace. Of course once we entered the portal, she stopped in her tracks. She had only ever seen some of the paintings on posters or in books. To see them for the first time up close was a definitely spiritual event for her in which I took great satisfaction because it was spiritual for me every time.

I stayed alongside Jo for a bit and then wandered away to watch her reaction to the paintings. I also noticed something else; men were grazing at her. You know the stare; the hungry look. I giggled to myself as I thought of how truly wonderful she looked with only a bit of fussing. I found myself standing across the room from her; watching her. She turned her head and smiled when she saw me. That lovely smile of hers always gave me the tingles.

Every once in a while some man would walk up to her and utter a word or two. She would smile at them and nod her head and take a few steps away in the opposite direction they were originally heading. The persistent would walk a few steps with her. But Jo would say something to them and she would then disengage.

“I don’t know what was happening today.” Jo spoke with surprise in her voice. “They wouldn’t leave me alone!” She giggled as we sat in the museum’s snack shop and sipped our coffees.

“You really are quite beautiful and…well…you seem to attract them.”

“Yeah…like flies to…well…” Jo took a sip of her coffee. “It’s this make-up thing, right?”

I leaned forward across the table as I spoke.

“You’re so gorgeous!” I was speaking in almost a whisper. “The color only emphasizes how gorgeous you really are. By the way…what did you tell those guys that shooed them away so quickly?” Jo laughed and leaned in an inch or two closer. We were nearly nose to nose.

“I told them that I was here with my lover and she was the jealous type.”

I sat back and laughed with Jo. But in my heart I knew that I was deeply attached to her and perhaps loved her. I found myself constantly having to emotionally hold back; to refrain from physically reaching out and touching her.
Although we kissed and hugged (frequently) and held hands, this was all with a degree of innocence. Jo would often lay on the love seat with her feet, or her head, in my lap. And I would often do the same. But our feelings for one another never crossed over the line that separates the fondness, adoration, companionship, acceptance, and mutual respect of friendship, into love.

Anyway, I would rather have Jo in my life then to reveal my deepest secret and chance losing her completely. I would have to be content with the way things were and play the flirting game on occasion. And Jo held back as well. As aggressive as Jo could be, she evidently didn’t want to scare my off either. In a sense, we were both afraid of the same rejection we thought the other capable of. Jo clearing her throat brought my thoughts back to the present.

“Well???” Jo asked with a crooked smile. “Would you be?” I blushed.

She was flirting again. And the problem was that she was so very good at it.

“Maybe a little?” I grinned and blushed an even deeper red. Jo laughed, of course.

“Let’s go out tonight. Let’s do something different.” Now she was almost bouncing in her chair with excitement.

“Like what?”

“Oh I dunno… Let’s go out dancing. I know this club near the mall and I’ve been wanting to check it out.”

“Dancing?!” Dancing!! Oh my God!

“Yeah dancing!!!”

“Dancing???” Oh my God!!! My mind raced over every stitch I owned. What could I wear to go out dancing?

I looked at my watch. It was already getting late. We gathered our things and our museum shop purchases and went as swiftly to Jo’s truck as we could. I was deeply in thought as Jo raced through the streets and over the bridge. I couldn’t quite match her excitement level as she bounced in her seat to the rhythm of the music on the radio.

“What should I wear? I mean…I don’t really have a party dress or anything.” I knew such trifles were not really important to Jo but I felt that I should be dressed accordingly. It’s a child hood thing I suppose. Jo laughed.

“Oh sweetie…” She sighed. “You could wear a paper bag and look hot.” She saw me pout at that answer. “Just…dress nicely. It’s really no big thing. I’m probably gonna wear slacks and a blouse…that’s all. Remember…” Jo admonished.

“… we’re gonna be dancing and it’s gonna be noisy…and packed…and hot. So dress for comfort.”

Jo dropped me in front of my place saying that she was going home to lay down a bit and rest. She would come back around eight o’clock to do her face and we could grab a bite to eat before going. As I got out of her truck, Jo did the same and walked around to lean her butt against the pick-up bed. She could see I was deep in thought. I looked up at her and had to ask.

“Is this a booty call or something?”

“You would be jealous, wouldn’t you!” She laughed.

“No…well…” I looked around trying to think of a way to phrase what I felt. “I’m just not into the meat market thing, you know?”

Jo pushed off her truck with her butt and walked to me. She reached out and placed her hands on my arms.

“Don’t worry. Just wear something comfy that you can dance in.” She kissed my forehead and with a giggle and a shake of her head, she went around her truck, got in, and started the engine. I watched as she drove down the street and turned the corner.

Back in my apartment, I went straight for my closet after tossing my purchases on the bed. I had to solve this…problem before I could rest. I sifted through everything twice before coming up with the only piece that might fill my needs for the evening. It was a cocktail dress…sort of.

The dress was a back zipped midi sleeveless sheath with a wide swept hem. It was a pale gold silk and linen blend with a gathered elasticized waist. I only hoped I wouldn’t be too cool if the AC was blasting. I could certainly dress lightly beneath this piece and it weighed nothing. I would need to bring a wrap of some sort.

I had a pair of matching gold pumps with a wedged two inch heel which would be comfortable and perfect with the matching gold clutch bag. This wouldn’t be half bad at all. I felt the oppression of nothing to wear leave me.

‘Accessorizing will be easy!’ I thought to myself as I laid the dress onto my bed. I had an agate beaded necklace with a matching bracelet. I laid them onto the dress along with a pair of matching drop earrings. Lastly was a gorgeous agate ring. I loved this stone because it closely approximated the green hue of my eyes.

Now a shawl or a scarf would be difficult. I normally wore something with sleeves or at least something NOT bare shouldered so I didn’t have a great collection of silk of wool neck and shoulder scarves. I did have a green paisley silk shawl which would have to do. Having gathered everything in one place, I laid down and tried to rest before Jo returned.

“Save the last dance for me.”

Jo looked really lovely. She arrived wearing an electric lime green lame cami with silver lace trimming. Her black low rise jeans couldn’t have been any lower without seeing her…well… She had black wedged heeled sandals on to show off her new toe nail color.

Jewelry literally dripped from her ear lobes with non-matching drops hanging and different colored studs in her various holes around the tops of her ears. Jo had to have ten different wire bracelets…on EACH wrist as well as ankle bracelets and toe rings.

Jo was totally elated to be going out to dance; especially with me. She couldn’t say enough about how really ‘hot’ she thought I looked. We definitely were not a matched pair and, in all honesty, she was probably more appropriately dressed than I was. She was definitely more toward the teeny end of things and I was more toward…well…the older end?
We quickly did our faces. I helped Jo with some new colors. She wanted to try the slates and grays for more drama but we went for the same lip color to match her hair. I also went with a darker, more dramatic look with heavier strokes of color and more blending. I finished off with a brick colored blush.

I grabbed my scent and gave us both a cloud of spray to walk through. Then we both grabbed our purses, my keys, and we were out through the door. Once again Jo would drive. She opened the door for me before getting in herself. Jo chattered endlessly about nothing in particular as we headed toward the club stopping only to get a bite to eat at one
of the mall’s better restaurants.

After freshening up in the Ladies Lounge after our meal we drove the few blocks to the club. There were a few people milling about outside; it was still early. Huge sky lights swept back and forth and a line of cars were stopped waiting for the valet parking.

Jo drove slowly past so that we could check the small crowd out. There were all manners of dress so I didn’t feel too…over done? And those waiting seemed to be the over twenty one crowd. I had never been to one of these places before and I really didn’t know what to expect.

Jo came across a parking space on the next street so we immediately took it and fed the meter from her stash of quarters. I instinctively took hold of Jo’s arm as we started back toward the club. She gazed down at me as we strolled.

“You’re nervous…aren’t you.”

I looked up at her and nodded. As we approached the place I could actually feel the ground shake from the thumping bass. Jo gyrated her hips to the beat.

“Don’t worry…” She boasted and laughed. “You’re with me. You look terrific you know.”

When we got to the door, she pulled her credit card out of her black beaded clutch (loaned by me) that was draped over her shoulder with the matching strap as she spoke.

“I got this one.”

The woman who took Jo’s credit card informed us that we got one drink each with the price of admission. I peered into the darkness down a narrow corridor from which the music emanated. I could see the glow from neon lighting and actually feel the air move with the blasting of the music. Fortunately I had the presence of mind to place several cotton balls into my clutch bag which now hung from its thin golden silver chain.

I handed two of the little darlings to Jo and she placed small tufts of cotton in each of her ears as I did. I followed her as she danced her way down the corridor and into the large and very tall main hall. I looked at the many large screen televisions playing various images from performing artists to various light show effects. There were several beam splitting lasers working at drawer out designs on opposing walls.

At the center of one long wall was a stage and upon it a booth. Inside the booth was the Dee Jay who controlled the music and the lighting. People seemed to be watching him and every once in a while he would point out someone, or a couple, and mutter something into his microphone.

There was a small crowd dancing and we walked past some of them on the way to one of the bars. Jo was determined to get her drink before the place filled up and the bars became overly untenable. She shouted into my ear asking me what I wanted. I could barely hear her between the music, the people shouting, and the cotton in my ears.

I mouthed ‘anything…whatever you’re having’…to her. She got us ‘T&T’s’ which is about as far from a drink as I would have had anyway. I very rarely drink and when I do it’s usually a wine or something not too strong.

We made our way to one of the many small, tall legged round bar tables that dotted the floor and, after sipping a bit of our drinks, moved away enough so that we could dance. Jo was a monster! She got right into it. Jo threw her hands up over her head and began to gyrate her hips and undulate her body.

I tried to follow her lead but dancing was never my forte. I did manage to find my own rhythm and I closed my eyes and let my body kind of flow with the music. Not being a fan of the electronic techno stuff, or some of the rap music, didn’t help.

I suddenly felt someone rubbing up against my butt! I spun around quickly and, to my surprise, it was Jo. I giggled and kind of got into the touching thing. Suddenly there were several other women dancing with us and we sort of partnered off with this one and that. But we always seemed to wind up back together again.

Every few minutes I’d need to stop to catch my breath and have a sip of my drink. Jo, however, proved to be a perpetual motion machine. She didn’t stop even for a moment. She would dance over to the table and, while still in motion, sip her drink through the cocktail straw.

There was no doubt that Jo was really into dancing. There was no doubt that Jo was into dancing with me! She took my hands in hers and raised them high overhead, drawing my body against hers. She began to rub against me in beat to the music and was simply the picture of joy. And, to be perfectly honest, I loved it as well.

We finally took a break when the Dee Jay changed the rhythm and beat. I took Jo by the hand and pulled her to the bar. This time I insisted on buying the drinks and we got two more of the same. We made our way through the crowd to ‘our’ table and began to dance again.

This time we had more company in our little group. Several guys came over and started to dance and attempt to partner up with a woman. I was remaining close to Jo as I danced but there was this one guy who continually tried to dance with Jo.

I kind of knew what would happen next. He began to try and talk with her as they danced and I could see, in Jo’s body language and facial expression that he wasn’t going to get too far. I must say that he was certainly persistent in a non-threatening way. His friend tried dancing with me and I didn’t refuse. But when he tried speaking with me as we danced, I made hand signs indicating that I couldn’t hear him.

The truth was that I really couldn’t hear him. Between the music, the crowd, and the cotton hidden by my hair, I felt the beat and rhythm rather than heard it. He finally gave up and continued dancing thinking that he would wait for the music to stop for a moment.

When the music finally halted to allow everyone to go to the bar, Jo was quickly at my side and pulling at my hand with hers. She tugged me along and with her other hand beckoned me to follow. I quickly looked back to see the surprised look on the guys faces.

As we disappeared into the now large crowd, I noticed that we were slowly making our way toward the exit. We had only been there for about an hour and one half but evidently Jo had enough of this particular place. We exited out onto the sidewalk which was crowded with people either trying to get in or out taking a smoking break.

“I want to try someplace new.” Jo was smiling and still full of excitement.

“Okay. They’re all new to me.” I giggled.

“Anyway, this place was getting too thick with guys.” Jo looked into my eyes and smiled. “…and I really wanted to dance with only you…or some other woman…if you didn’t mind? I mean…guys kinda become…difficult after a while, ya know?”

That was kinda true. Let them buy you a drink and they think they own you. And anyway, I was at the point where I could afford my own drinks and my own choice in company. I’ve felt violated once too often in those circumstances. And, having imbibed a bit too much on rare occasions, I was left feeling dirty and used. So I smiled and nodded to Jo.

“Sure, no problem. Just save the last dance for me?” I laughed. Jo laughed and took my hand as we walked to her truck.

“”It takes one to know one.” She smiles. And puts her hands in her back pockets, Bette Davis style.” *

“I want to try this place I heard about. It’s a ladies only club and they have a live band.”

“Ladies only?”

“Yeah. That means it’s either gay or they have male strippers.” Jo laughed. “Now isn’t that a switch for ya?”

Male strippers? Well…I’ve heard of them but I’ve never seen a show.

“But…I think it’s a gay club…ya know…lesbians?”

I knew. I had been to gay clubs before but mostly gay men clubs. I mean I wasn’t a male at the time but I was becoming a bit sexually experimental and wanted to see if I could attract maybe a man who was into someone transitioning?

It didn’t work out so well. I mean it didn’t get nasty or anything. But it seemed that the few men I did meet were into the idea of getting some rather than the idea of meeting a human being. So they had their one time experience with me and I had the cleaning bills. After the third time I stopped going to the cabarets and clubs.

But an all ladies club sounded intriguing. I was with Jo and I would make sure I stayed very close to her. I certainly wouldn’t want to be found out by some woman who might have an ‘agenda’. And it would be nice NOT to be bothered by anything as trivial as conversation whilst trying to have some fun. None of the conversation has meaning anyway…usually.

Jo popped the door and held it open for me…again. Then she got in the driver’s side and started the engine. I flipped down the visor to check myself out in the mirror. Jo stared at me for a moment.

“I gotta tell ya…I didn’t even know that thing was there before you used it.” She laughed. “Now I need to remember where it is.” Jo said with a slightly exasperated look on her face.

We finally got under way and drove for about fifteen minutes to an industrial looking part of Queens. I think it was called Hunter’s Point…Hunts Point? Anyway, it looked fairly deserted at this time of night. I could see parts of the Manhattan skyline from where we were.

We turned a corner and were heading down what looked like a dead ended street. Suddenly we saw a few people and then some cars; OMG…signs of life!!! At the end of the block stood a building with a painting of a whale and a porpoise on the front. There was a crowd of people in line evidently waiting to get in.

Jo pulled the truck up to the valet parking because the street was so crowded with cars and a fenced in lot seemed so much more inviting. The attendant opened the door for me. As I got out she wickedly grinned and looked me over from head to foot and back again. I must say that she made me a bit nervous.

Jo hurried around and quickly took my arm. She looked over the crowd.

“Shit!!! I hope we can get in. Let’s move toward the front of the line. Maybe I can give somebody a little something…ya know?”

Jo’s voice sounded a bit frantic as she took my hand and pulled me along the line toward the main door. She really wanted in! Outside the main door I could see three very tall people. Two were definitely BIG women who were, with no doubt what so ever, the bouncers.

The third person was even larger with broader shoulders, narrow waist, and thighs that bulged in spite of the finely tailored trousers being worn. I would’ve sworn this was a large man; a body builder type.

“No…it couldn’t be!” Jo muttered under her breath. “Frankie???!!! Hey…Frankie!!!” Jo was yelling.

The huge figure turned slightly showing an annoyed expression. But when she (yes, I could now tell from her facial features and the tenting of her very costly silk blouse) saw Jo, a big grin broke out across her mouth.

“Jo? Is that you? Oh my God!” She quickly came over as Jo let go of my hand.

The two embraced as if they were long lost lovers! I must admit I was a wee bit jealous as they kissed one another on the lips. They were still embracing as Jo spoke.

“I haven’t seen you around in months! What happened? You moved and there was no number or address or anything. You look…terrific!”

“And look at you! All femmed up and all…” Jo’s smile lessened a bit and she blushed. “I don’t know…” Frankie still held Jo with both hands and shook her head. “Some of us look like clowns with that stuff on…but you…Christ babe…you look killer hot!” Frankie hugged Jo and kissed her again.

“So what happened to throwing up sheet rock?” Jo asked.

Frankie looked down at the ground and shrugged her broad shoulders.

“I got into a beef with these two guys. I laid them both out and put the boot in for good measure…”

Jo turned to me and spoke.

“Frankie is not a violent person at all. Oh…by the way…Frankie? This is Leigh.”

I had to get out from behind Jo to see her. I smiled and extended my hand. Frankie let go of Jo and hugged and kissed me!

“Are you two…?” Frankie’s voice trailed off. Jo and I looked at each other for the lead to this question of questions; especially outside a lesbian club.

“We’re really great friends. We seem to get along with each other.” What else could I say with Jo being tongue tied?

“So what happened? God…we went all the way to get that job.”

“Yeah…” There was sadness in Frankie’s voice. “I’ll never forget that.” Frankie turned to me. “They wouldn’t give me a union card ‘cause nobody would vouch for me and they didn’t want a woman doing the work anyway. I told Jo…I was at her house most of the time when we were growing up…sand box love…anyway…I told her and then her entire family showed up at the hall and made such a racket that they gave me the card just to get us the hell out.”

“My mother picked up a broom and threatened to smack the union rep in the head!”

They both laughed as they thought of the scene.

“Anyway…” Frankie turned serious again. “…turns out one of the guys I decked was a wise guy and the other strunz is his cousin who needed a job.”

“Holy shit! What did ya do???” Jo looked at Frankie with concern.

“Well…I’m kinda sweating it, ya know? Then I get a call from my cousin Bobbie. He hears what happened and wants to know my version.” Frankie takes a deep breath and looks around. “I tell him that nobody told me nothing. These two guys start with me and I finished it. He starts to laugh like it’s the biggest joke he’s ever heard.”

“Which cousin is this?” Jo looked at her with great curiosity.

“Bobbie DeeBee.”

“Bobbie DiBenedetti???!!!” There was a kind of awe and respect in Jo’s voice. “Bobbie Bullets???!!!”

“Yeah…” Frankie giggled. “So he says he has a job for me. This club is his and I manage it for him. He says he knows I deal straight and that’s how he wants the club to run. I can bring in my people…” Frankie nodded to the two women standing by the door. “…and…I make more in one week than I could make in a month throwing up sheet rock.”

“So…Ms. Manager…what’s our chance of getting in tonight?”

“Fergetaboutit!” Frankie laughed. “Me casa tu casa!”

Frankie took Jo under one arm and me under the other and escorted us through the front door. The place was very deceiving. From the outside it looked like three attached two storied brick warehouses. But once through the doors, it was as if one had entered a world one of refinement and sophistication; small wonder that you couldn’t see a pair of jeans or sneakers on the women waiting outside.

I felt as though I had walked into someone’s living room. It’s hard to describe the décor other than being refined.
There were tables for couples and tables for larger parties. The tables had linens and stemware as well as crystal candle holders. The setting was very intimate in spite of the closeness of the seating clusters.

The floors were sealed stone; perhaps marble. There was a bandstand off to one side and a clearing so that people could dance. Along two of the walls were scalloped booths with partitions just high enough to allow a bit of privacy. A magnificent mahogany bar with large cut glass mirrors against the wall ran the length of the street side wall with five barkeepers serving. There were stools at the bar and small high tables with stools several rows deep.

But the most striking feature of the club was the back wall. It was glass and the view opened up to the East River and the midtown Manhattan skyline! There was a catwalk at half height and a number of tables along all four walls. Stair ways to the upper level were located at each corner.

The place was not quite packed but it was hard to see an empty chair anywhere. Frankie stopped at the Maitre De’s station to check the seating chart. A young woman rushed up to her and they quietly consulted for a moment. That’s when I noticed that all the staff was either dressed in decidedly feminine cut tuxedos or black cocktail dresses.

“We have a packed house tonight, as usual. So I have no choice, you get the best table in the house.” Frankie laughed.

“Just follow me.”

With Frankie opening a broad enough path that Jo could put her arm around me and lead me along, we walked toward the glass walled rear and to a slightly raised platform in the corner. I minded my step as I mounted the three steps up the platform to a large scalloped booth for at least six people.

“Please…” Frankie gestured with her arm and I slid in followed by Jo. Frankie walked around the other side and slid in next to me. She leaned across slightly so that we both might hear her. “I love this spot. This is my table but I rarely sit when I’m working. It’s quieter here and I have a great view of the action. It’s also near the doors to the garden out back.”

Frankie barely was quick enough lifting two fingers before a waitress attired in the house ‘uniform’ shuffled over.

“This…” Frankie waved toward the young woman. “…is Jody. She’s the best.” Looking at Jody, Frankie spoke. “This is Jo and…” She turned toward me blushing slightly before remembering. “…Leigh. They’re family to me. Anything they want, okay? Oh…and my usual.”

Jo reached across me touch Frankie’s cheek and pull her over for another kiss on the lips. There were nearly tears in Jo’s eyes.

“Yeah…I know…it’s been too long.” Frankie turned to me and smiled. “We were quite a pair. She was the ‘mick’ Xena and I was the ‘Wop’ Frankenstein. By the time she was seven she had terrorized all the boys on the block. And I was too butt ugly and big for anyone to go anywhere near.”

Frankie looked down at her large powerful hands. There was a true sadness to her voice. I reached out and gently grasped her hand.

“I think the boys were trying to match us up for a fight.” Jo spoke shifting her eyes from Frankie to me and back again. “They figured to divide and conquer…so to speak. One day I wandered over, on a dare, to see what was up with the big girl at the other end of the block. I hop over the fence and go into the back yard and I see Frankie digging up some dirt with her hands.” Jo spoke with a conspiratorial tone to her voice.

“So she comes over and sets down across from me and starts digging too.” Frankie starts to giggle. “She asks me what I’m building…and I tell her ‘nothing…I’m just digging up these weeds’. “

“They were her grandfather’s tomato plants!” Both broke out laughing together.

The two women continued to enlighten and entertain me with their adventures as our drinks arrived. Then the band came out from behind the stage and began to tune up.

“First dance!” Shouted Frankie to Jo. Jo looked at me and I nodded enthusiastically. “This is a really hot all woman band…” Frankie added as an additional enticement; as if…

“Okay!” Jo said excitedly.

Frankie slid her body out from the booth and as I started out, Jo took my wrist and shook her head.

“She meant me…not you.” And she laughed as my disappointment showed.

I watched the two of them walk slowly out to the dance floor; talking and holding hands. I need to tell you that I was more than a bit conflicted. I was even more than a bit jealous though I had no real reason to be. I mean…there was no way I could possibly have any kind of relationship with Jo without revealing my…secret?

As the band played and the dancing began, I rested my chin in my palms, elbows on the table, and slowly sucked on my T & T. They still somehow managed to speak to one another in spite of being in front of the band as if some magic language, the kind that develops between people who have known each other for so long, passed between them.

Anyway, though we’ve flirted playfully, I could never really commit to anything more than a friendship regardless of how I felt. And she has never said anything to lead me to believe that I was of any other interest than a friend; albeit a very close one.

I was so absorbed with my thoughts that I hadn’t noticed that the song had ended and they were both on their way back to the table. Jo held out her hand toward me and I slid around to take it. Frankie had gotten her drink, a juice of some sort, and told us she’d be back later. Jo led me onto the dance floor in her usual hip wiggling manner and we danced. All other thoughts faded away with the rhythm of the music.

We danced to a few faster tunes and paused for a breath and a sip of our drinks before the slower ones. When we danced, my eyes were glued to Jo’s body and face. She looked sooo amazingly beautiful as she undulated and shook to the music. She had this amazing look of ecstasy, almost dreamy pleasure, on her face; her gaze was far away and her smile…well…

A slow romantic ballad began close to the end of the band’s first set. Jo took my hand and wrapped herself around me and began to sway with the music. She held me closely and gazed into my eyes with a dreamy smile. I smiled up at her, closed my eyes, and laid my head on her breast.

In spite of feeling a bit damp from the exertion, and a bit tipsy from the drinking, I felt all too comfortable in Jo’s strong arms. I felt myself drifting gently with her body and bathed in the sensual feel of her aromas, touch, and the heat of her body. I felt Jo rest her chin gently atop my head and the two of us seemed to fuse into one.

Our hands roamed over each others back gently caressing and squeezing along the way. A hug at the small of her back was met with a caress of my butt cheeks. A squeeze of her shoulders was answered by one at my waist. Her pelvis rubbed against my lower belly.

We were still embracing when the music ended and the band readied for the next song. I felt Jo’s head lift up off of mine and I looked up at her. Our gazes locked and there was only us. The rest of the world had gone away. Jo bent her neck and brought her face to within an inch or two of mine. I closed my eyes and went the rest of the way till I could feel our lips touch.

This was not simply a kiss; it was one of the most defining moment in my life thus far! I could feel her soul, her essence, her being flowing into me. And I could feel mine flowing into her. I could feel myself trembling with the power of that mixing of spirits and tears came to my eyes. I was so frightened and over whelmed at what I felt and yet I felt so very complete.

Our lips barely moved and our tongues gently touched. We hugged as if there was no other way of becoming closer to each other. I felt like crawling inside of Jo and having her do the same to me. It was a bonding unlike any I’d ever felt before. I wanted her to be with me forever. I looked up into her eyes and saw the same tears flowing as mine did.

No!!! I can’t do this!!! I firmly push off of Jo’s body and hold my palms up in front of me. I must have had the second most startled look on my face after Jo’s. I remember turning away from her and walking back to the table to gulp down the remainder of my drink. I felt as though I couldn’t breathe. When I turned back to look for Jo, she was gone.
I began to walk toward the oppose side slowly looking for her. She was nowhere to be found. I knew in my heart that I seriously screwed up. She was upset no doubt. I suddenly knew where she was. Jo had retreated to the only place a woman would go under such circumstances as rejection; the Ladies Lounge.

I entered the lounge and found the usual couch and chairs one tends to find in the more upscale establishments; especial of the sort that catered specifically to women. Marble, granite, mirrors, gilt edges; yep, it was all there.

As I turned into the actual facility, I saw Jo with her back toward me speaking with Frankie. She turned her head when Frankie motioned toward me. I could see that she was crying. My heart hurt so badly because I had caused her tears.

She turned toward Frankie and said a word or two, wiped her eyes and nose, and started walking toward me.

“I need to leave now. I’ll get the truck and meet you in front.” Jo touched my shoulder gently as she spoke and walked passed me.

“I really fucked up.” I said with a tear in my eye as Frankie walked up to me.

“No…” Frankie laughed! “Not yet…but there’s always hope.” I looked up at her questioningly. “You know I love her dearly. And she loves me. But I’m not the one she wants, at least at the moment.” Frankie giggled which made me feel worse.

“Oh God!!! What do I do?” I was exasperated. Frankie looked at me seriously, her smile gone.

“Just be straight with her. Think about what you want and…just tell her. Let her speak first. Let her…start. She’s a little bit confused, ya know?”

“I think I’m in love with her…but I don’t know if I can…” My voice kind of trailed off.

“Sure you can!” Frankie patted me on the back. She sounded encouraging.

“How do you know?”

““It takes one to know one.” She smiles. And she put her hands in her back pockets, Bette Davis style.” *

The ride back to my place was difficult. The silence was truly deafening. One million thoughts raced through my mind as the lights flashed by on the roadways. Not a single one of those thoughts would congeal into a positive way to speak about my actions and what I had been keeping a secret.

I have never had to reveal myself to anyone before. I really didn’t need to do so now except, well, I did want her sooo much. All of our teasing and flirting and jousting had really been a courting ritual of sorts; her courting ritual. And now it all made so much made sense.

Silent tears were flowing from her eyes and she would use the back of her arm to wipe them away. I reached out to touch her arm…hold her hand…to connect with her. But she only held her palm up in defense.

When we arrived at the front of my building, Jo didn’t get out to assist me as usual. She simply sat looking down at her hands with those devastating silent tears flowing down her cheeks.

“Please Jo…we need to talk.” I spoke as my eyes filled with tears. “Please come up.”

Without looking up at all, and with a quavering voice Jo answered me.

“What is so wrong with me?”

“Please Jo…let’s go upstairs. I don’t want to talk in the truck. Please…”

I was begging through my tears. But Jo simply sat silently.

“Then let’s go to your apartment…if you wish.”

We sat silently for a moment and suddenly calmness seemed to overtake Jo; or maybe it was resolution. She started the truck and moved into an empty space. I got out of the cab and Jo followed behind me. She had her hands in her pockets and, shoulders hunched, she looked sad and defeated.

The walk up to my place seemed as long as the drive. I really didn’t know how I would even begin to broach the topic and I was hoping that Jo would say something first. Being a bit tipsy from drinking certainly didn’t help and I really had to pee on top of everything else.

I opened the door and walked into my apartment. I tossed my purse on the kitchen table as I went to get two glasses and something to drink from there fridge. Upon rushing back I found the door still opened and no Jo to be seen. I put the glasses and drink on the coffee table and, in sheer panic, ran out the door.

Jo was leaning against the wall, her fore head appearing to be holding her up. She was crying. I went to her side. This was not ‘normal’. I realized that she was at least as tipsy as I was and perhaps a bit more. The truth was that we were both dehydrated from all the dancing and the alcohol only worsened the situation.

“Please Jo…” I said as I softly took her arm. “…come on in and we’ll talk, okay?”

Jo’s approval was tacit and she allowed me to lead her into my place and to the love seat. I poured both of us some orange juice and sat down next to her, my body turned to face her. I reached behind me and grabbed tissues from a box that sat inside the end table. She took a tissue or two and quietly sipped her juice. It would be me who opened the conversation.

“There’s nothing wrong with you. It’s not you…it’s me.”

“Bullshit!!!” Jo’s explosion of anger frightened me. “That’s what guys tell me when they’ve found somebody else they’d rather fuck!!! Is that it??? You’re fucking somebody else???”

I began to cry. Jo’s words were so angry and hurtful…and also filled with hurt…that I sat stunned. Is that something guys said? Was I being ‘read’? Is there still a ‘guy’ hiding somewhere inside me? And then I thought about her hurt. I had, in her mind, rejected her after playing those stupid little flirting games.

But it wasn’t a game. What I felt for her when we danced embracing was real. When we kissed…it was real; it was all the way; it was ‘get a motel room folks’. Aye! But there lays the rub! Everything would be great till my panties came off and that tiny little remnant would be my ruination.

There was no delicate way to approach this. With tear filled eyes I let it out with a burst of emotion to rival hers.

“I was born a boy!” The tears flowed as my ‘ugly truth tumbled out into the light of scrutiny.

“You are SOOO full of shit!!!” Jo’s anger rose again. “I’ve heard some pretty lame shit but yours…yours is first class!!!” She got up and was making ready to leave and suddenly placed both of her hands on her face. “I don’t believe this is happening.”

“You can believe this happened!!!” Now I was angry. I turned my wrists over and pulled my bracelets up revealing the thin white scars. “Please…sit and I’ll tell you about them.”

Jo rolled her eyes, took an exasperated breath, and sat back down on the love seat. I poured us both more juice and sat back down as well.

“I was maybe ten or so. I would get up in the morning, walk into the bathroom and silently scream at what I saw in the mirror. I knew something was…not right? I mean…what I saw before me was more like a bad dream than the person who should have been me.”

I took a deep breath. I really didn’t know how to explain this all to Jo. She was looking at me like; ‘well???!!!’

“I would sit to pee. I had tried to do it standing like my older brothers but…I would wind up dribbling all over myself. As I got older…well…some parts of me didn’t grow like the rest of me. And I just has this different image of myself that I couldn’t explain.”

Tears silently rolled down my cheeks as I held a tissue in one hand and clutched my stomach with the other.

“Are you telling me you’ve had a sex change?” Jo always got to the heart of the matter. “Well what about those?” She pointed to my wrists.

“Fourteen. I woke up for the last time to what had become unbearable. Inside I wasn’t a male and I thought I would be stuck in that body for the rest of my life. School had become a nightmare with the name calling and harassment. I was going insane and I wanted it all to stop. So I took a razor and slit my wrists.”

“Oh my Lord!” Jo’s hands flew to her mouth and a very shocked look crossed her face.

“My mother found me on the bathroom floor. I had passed out from mental shock, not blood loss. The cuts weren’t deep enough to open an artery or vein. I didn’t have enough strength to do that.”

“So…you had a sex change. So what? What does that have to do with anything? What does that have to do with us? I’ve seen you naked when you’ve changed and you look…well…just fine.” She’s seen me naked? She peeked!!!

“No…you haven’t seen me naked. You’ve seen me with my bra off.”

“Oh this is fucking ridiculous!!!”

Jo stood up. I was worried she was going to leave until she pulled her tank top over her head and threw it down on the floor. Then she undid her belt and let her trousers fall to her feet. She undid the straps to her sandals and kicked them both across the room. Those were followed by her trousers, and then her panties. Jo then held her arms up and slowly turned, allowing me to view her body.

This was the first time I had seen Jo naked. Her body was breath taking, at least to me. She was sinewy and yet there were those curves. Her muscles were taught, yet there was that slightest of softness. And she had a bold black Celtic knot tattooed across the small of her back! A small tuft of neatly trimmed strawberry blond hair covered her crotch. I couldn’t help but smile; there were freckles galore!

Jo suddenly sat down in the arm chair at the end of the coffee table and threw her long legs over the arms. She placed the index and middle fingers of both hands in her mouth and wet them. Then she slowly dipped into her crotch and spread the slightly darker pink lips of her vagina, opening herself up for my inspection.

I could see the pinkness of her entry. She gently pulled back the hood of her clitoris, showing me its size; it was somewhat more sizable then the few I’ve seen. Jo then bucked her hips upward and opened herself even more. She placed her fingers inside and spread herself as far as was comfortable. She looked up at me to insure I was watching her.
Jo suddenly withdrew her fingers, put her feet back down on the floor, and rose up to sit next to me again on the love seat. She drew her knees up to her breast and held her fingers out under my nose. I inhaled her essence and instinctively took them into my mouth to clean. I couldn’t help but smile and giggle.

“Okay…” Jo smiled slyly back at me. “…I showed you mine…now you show me yours.” She challenged as she clutched one of the love seat’s throw pillows between her legs and her breasts.

Oh my God!!! Throw down time! My ‘ugly’ secret would be revealed in all its minuscule glory. I got up and reached behind me to unzip the back of my sheath. It dropped to my ankles and I stepped out of it. I bent my knees to grab and sling it over the other arm chair at my end of the coffee table. I kicked off my shoes and placed them at the foot of the chair..

“You’re stalling!” Jo giggled.

I turned off to the side and slipped my panties off. Jo held out her hand with her fingers wiggling indicating that she wanted them. I handed them to her and she immediately brought them up to her nose, inhaling their scent deeply.

“They’re scented!!! You are SOOO femme!” She laughed. Jo then made a spinning gesture with her finger, smiling wickedly.

I raised my arms and began to slowly turn away from her, saving the worst for last. Jo giggled and made the usual sexist comments; ‘nice ass…cute tits…” and so on. She even whistled. Finally I turned to face her. Jo leaned forward, hands over her mouth and brow furrowed.

“Oh my God!!! Where’s the rest of it.”

“Jo!!!” Okay…so I even stamped my foot. I was so afraid of being ridiculed and here it was!

“I’m sorry. It’s just that…” Her voice trailed off as she beckoned me closer with her hand.

Though I had a very neatly trimmed bikini line sprouting of hair, my atrophied penis was barely noticeable. She reached out and gently ran her fingers along the underside, suddenly pulling them back and to her mouth in shock.

“Where…” Jo looked up at me with a…concerned look on her face?

“Long gone. I’m on hormones. Though they weren’t very productive anyway and testicular cancer is estrogen driven. They had to go and would’ve eventually anyway.”

Jo put her legs down on the floor and reached out to take both my hands. She pulled me to her and hugged me, her face on my belly.

“For someone so smart…you’re pretty fucking stupid sometimes.” I felt her tears fall between her cheek and my belly.

“What I feel for you I feel…whatever the package you come in looks like.”

With that she grabbed my butt cheeks and took my penis into her mouth. She gently sucked on it and swirled her tongue around it. Then she slowly pulled back stretching it until it broke free with a small popping sound.

My eyes were closed, my head thrown back, and tears rolled out of my eyes as I smiled. That was the most exquisite…kiss…I had ever received.

“Did you like that?” Jo had to be kidding!!! But I could only nod my head. I was still feeling the lingering ecstasy of that moment. “Do you believe me?”

I finally opened my eyes and looked down at Jo. I was grinning ear to ear…and then some. I bent down and kissed her lips.

“I believe you before…and above everyone else.” And I hugged her shoulders as hard as I could. In truth…there was really nobody else except maybe Meg.

Jo got up and took my hand.

“Then let’s go to bed.”

“Not before we wash and clean our faces.”

“God!!! You are so femme!!!” She laughed.

* * *

If I’m ever asked what Heaven is like, I would immediately think back to waking up the next morning. I was spooned up behind Jo. The blanket was pulled up to her shoulders and me head was beneath it. The aroma of our night’s activities was thick in my nostrils and headily as I breathed it in. Her scent was on my face and fingers. I swore I would never wash again least it leaves my being forever. The heat and feel of her body touching mine was so very comforting and pleasing.

The sun light was streaming in through the window and passing though a crystal I’d hung to bath the room in a cascade of multi-colored light. I reached over to hug Jo to my body, waking her in the process. She turned and pulled me on top of her, bathing my face in kisses. We simply laid there with her caressing my back for several minutes. Then she spoke.

“What are you thinking about right now?”

What???” I hadn’t noticed that we had stopped and the truck was parked.

“I asked you what you were thinking about. You looked a million miles away.”

“Ohhh…just…stuff…us.” I smiled and shrugged.

“Yeah? Like what.”

We had turned toward each other. The ‘storm’ had blown over and we had weathered it as usual. Jo took my hand in hers and kissed my fingers. Her kisses always sent a shiver through my body. I brought my legs up under my butt and smiled at her.

“Like when you told your family about ‘us’.”

“Ohhh…yeah.” She giggled. “That was kind of amazing.”

“And I was only starting to become accustomed to your family get-togethers.” Jo was the runt of the litter! I was surrounded by giant people. Even Jo’s mom was slightly over six feet tall. Dinner with the Moran’s was like dinner with a football team though the boys’ wives or girlfriends were of normal height.

“Oh my God!!! Dinner for…I don’t even know how many. Seven brothers…girl friends and wives…and the grand children??? Twenty? No…more!”

“And your mom at one end of an endless table…”

“Actually two really big folding tables and the babies in arms or laps.”

“And your dad at the other end…”

“…with everybody waiting for the starter’s gun to be first into the food!”

“I was sitting next to your dad and you next to me.” I had to giggle.

“Yeah…and were holding hands under the table.”

“And you said something like…’we’re moving in together’ to your dad.”

“I think I shouted that. I mean…what with all the noise…”

“And your dad says something like…’Good…you’ll save some money being room mates. I never liked you living all alone anyway.’ And he’s going on and on about how great that would be and all the chores we could share.” I had to laugh because he was sooo clueless.

“And then this piece of bread comes flying through the air and hits him in the head mid sentence and my mom shouts at him…’Dan…that’s not what she means!!!’” Jo’s verging on tears she’s laughing so hard.

“And then you hold up your hand holding mine…and there’s silence in the room!!!”

“For the first time all day!!!” Jo’s face lighted up at that thought.

“I can’t believe the blank stare I got as he looked at you, then at me, then at your mom, then back to you…”

“He was speechless for the first time I can ever remember; Dan Moran with nothing to say???” He sat there white haired, red faced, and baby blue eyed.

“And then he looks at both of us, cracks a huge smile, and says…”

“’Mazel tov!!! I’ll have another beer.’” We both broke into hysterical laughter.

“That seems so long ago.” I said wistfully.

“Two years? Oh my God I can’t believe it. Seems like only a week or two in a way.”

“Yeah…” My voice trailed off as I thought about my family and their reaction.

“I remember when my brother Dylan cornered us in the kitchen afterward and he’s asking all around the big question.” Jo laughed as she spoke.

“Yeah.” I giggled. “I remember what you told him. I even blushed!”

“Yeah Dylan…we’re carpet munchers! Lawn mowers! Scissor sisters! Worshipers of the giant hairy clam!”

“I think you said a few other things as well. All I remember was him shouting ‘Nooo…’ and running out of the kitchen.”

“Yeah….” Jo giggled. “…but he got a grip.”

I looked at Jo and her at me. We always seemed to be able to read each others mind and we leaned in to kiss. She took my head in her hands and I embraced her as our lips met, stretched out across the cab of her pick-up. Then we looked into each others eyes again.

“I’m sorry.” Jo spoke solemnly. “I was going to say balls. But that’s not what I meant, ya know? I was just really pissed off at your…family.”

“I don’t know what to do…you know?” A tear fell from my eye. “They just don’t…approve of us. They really don’t like you and they think our relationship is…sick?”

Jo took both my hands in hers. I could see her trying to remain cool and calm. She took a deep breath and looked out the window at the water. We had come to one of her favorite spots on the Sound. There was a small park where people could sit at the water’s edge on a bench and stare out at the wide expanse of water. Then she looked back at me with a smile.

“There’s nothing we can do. They are who they are and that’s that. You have a sister and brother-in-law who love you and they certainly accept us, right?” I nodded. “In the two years I’ve known you, I’ve yet to meet your father. I don’t even think he really exists.”

I giggled at that. I mean…she’s right! He is non-existent in my life; just a shadow in a picture. Jo leaned in and we kissed again; a brief touching of our lips.

“All I know is that I love you. I’ve loved you from the first moment I saw you and I always want to be with you. End of story. Fuck them all if they don’t like me, or you, or us. We’re really all the family we need. Now come on…let’s get a bit of air.”

Jo smiled as she reached into the back of the cab and brought out a down sleeping bag. She opened it up and then, after removing her coat, wrapped the bag around her and came to my side of the truck. I removed my coat and stepped out into the frigid January air. Jo wrapped half the opened bag around me and we walked, arms around each others waists, to a bench by the water.

Jo sat down first with part of the bag shielding her butt from the wooden bench slats. She held the ends of the bag in her out stretched hands waiting for me to sit next to her, or on her lap. Instead I got on the bench with my knees splayed on either side of her and I wrapped my legs around and behind her. I was facing her whilst sitting on her lap.

Jo smiled and brought the bag’s ends together cocooning us as I placed my arms around her and rested my head on her breasts. I was nice and warm and very cozy. Jo rested her chin atop my head and looked out at the water as she held me like a child in her arms. I closed my eyes and inhaled her aroma. She was right. Wherever we were together was our home.

* “Desolation Row” — Bob Dylan. You seriously couldn’t think I could write that. Laika? Maybe.



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