Barbara Clausen woke with the first light of dawn as it crept through the curtains. Moving slowly and carefully, she slipped from under the sheet and swung her feet to the floor. She stood and tip-toed to the chair where her clothing lay. She donned her dress, picked up her underwear, pantyhose, shoes and purse and left.
She stood in the bedroom doorway and looked back at the bed. Lee's dark hair was scattered over her pillow, hiding her face. The sheet had slipped down, exposing one bare shoulder. A shapely leg was uncovered, all the way from the toes to near the top of her thigh. Barb drank in the view, knowing that last night she had tried to possess and be possessed by every inch of the woman asleep before her.
The urge to return to the bed, to wake Lee and take her in her arms was so strong that Barb took two steps towards the bed. Then common sense took over. If she was going to preserve her secret she needed to be gone before the neighboring apartments woke up. She needed to get her Mercedes convertible out of the parking lot. It stood out among the many older vehicles driven by the college students and secretarial workers who mostly lived in this complex.
Carefully she locked the door behind her and walked barefoot down to her car. She slipped behind the wheel and drove off slowly, the remainder of her clothing piled neatly on the passenger's seat. But then she always did everything neatly, precisely, calmly. Everything except Lee.
What was she going to do? She was 54 years old, a partner in one of the most prestigious law firms in the city. "Johnstone, Bridger, Seterin, Hitchcock and Associates" was notoriously straight-laced. Corporate law-firms were like that. Junior partner or not, an affair with someone half her age AND from the pool of secretaries and paralegals AND another female could conceivably see her tossed out on her ear if it came to light. Her lips tightened. And that wasn't fair. Nathaniel, one of the founding partners, could sleep with several of the females in the office, even though he was married, and get away with it. Men still had a lot more leeway. They had "commendable vigor". Women were "sluts".
Barb was divorced, had been for years, ever since their younger child had entered college. Shortly after returning from seeing her settled, her husband, a highly successful vice-president of an investment firm, had announced that it was time to start enjoying life. It was time to start traveling and seeing the exotic locations of the world. And it was time for him to be doing that with a young, sexy woman for a wife.
Barb had been surprised, but not shocked. The marriage had long ago been reduced to two people living under the same roof. She was surprised that he already had his trophy wife picked out. With the proposed division of assets leaving her in good shape, and realizing that it really was time for the two of them to go their separate ways, she had acquiesced.
Her ex-husband was still at his job. In fact, he was back to working 12 hour days 6 days a week as his trophy wife, and then her replacement, had both managed to eat up a great deal of his capital on jewelry, cars and boyfriends before he had woke up and jettisoned them. Barb had briefly considered his half-joking suggestion that they get back together. She certainly didn't hate him, in fact she not only felt sorry for him and wished he hadn't been taken, but retained good memories of their early years together. But there was no point in trying to find a spark in ashes that had been cold even before they separated.
Barb had dated occasionally and occasionally taken one of those dates to bed. None of those times had been serious. She had just wanted someone warm to wake up with every now and then, and every now and then some sexual relief that she didn't have to produce on her own.
Then she had met Lee. She had debated a long time before deciding to attend the Christmas Party. She knew from long experience that someone would get drunk, someone would make a scene, and someone she would want to avoid would try to maneuver her under the mistletoe or into an unoccupied office. She thought of just skipping the whole thing. She thought of asking her ex to go with her. She ended up donning her little black dress and going solo.
The whole evening was pretty much as she expected it. She said hello to the right people and shook the right hands. She managed to escape from the party on the top floor with the senior partners after only a single attempt to work her into a dark corner. Not in the mood to go home to her empty house, she went down three floors to where the regular staff was relaxing on the company's largess.
She had a much better time there. She circulated, chatting with the different people there. Barb genuinely liked people and found no difficulties in being pleasant and interested in the ones who did the yeoman's work of keeping the company running. She told stories and jokes and drew people from the walls and worked them into the groups.
Her eye was caught by a young woman sitting quietly in a corner. Dark-haired and attractive, she looked to be in her early twenties. She was simply dressed in a skirt and a blouse, not expensive but nice. Barb, between groups at the moment, walked over and smiled at her.
"I'd ask if you were having a good time but I'm pretty sure you're not."
The young woman shot to her feet. "Oh Hello, Miss Clausen. I didn't see you coming."
"Please, its the Christmas Party. Tomorrow we'll have to go back to being stuffy but tonight would you please call me 'Barb'? And you are Lee, you're a paralegal and I'm embarrassed to admit I've forgotten your last name."
"Its Waters, Miss Clausen. Lee Waters."
"Nice to meet you Lee, again," Barb laughed as she held out her hand. "And its 'Barb' please Lee, especially on a night like this. 'Miss Clausen' reminds me I'm old and single."
"Well nonsense, Barb," Lee responded rather vigorously as the two women shook hands. For a moment it seemed that Lee's hand was clinging to Barb's, and that it felt good to have it do that. "You're not even old, and as for single, well, that just shows that there are a lot of silly people in the world."
"Thank you." Barb studied the young woman. She was very attractive, with long dark hair and dark eyes. She seemed shy, but with a wistful look in her eyes that Barb couldn't identify.
Wistful, Barb wasn't sure how to handle, but shy was something she understood. One of the hurdles she had in becoming a lawyer was an almost paralyzing fear of public speaking. She had overcome it, but it always lurked in the back of her mind. So she hiked herself up on a corner of the nearest desk and began a conversation with the young woman.
In short order she found that Lee was from California, was single and not dating anyone, and had dreams of going on to become a lawyer herself. That really interested Barb and she engaged Lee in a very animated discussion about law school and getting the younger woman admitted one day.
By now Lee had relaxed and the two of them were chatting like old friends. Barb was slightly puzzled by the glances that Lee kept darting at her. Those glances seemed to take in her whole body, almost lingering on her at times. Barb dismissed the thought as the discussion turned to the other lawyers in the firm and to Barb herself. Lee confided a few gripes that the hourly workers had with those lawyers.
"I've never seen any sign of disgruntlement among the employees," Barb said in puzzlement in reply to a comment by Lee about the Partners.
"But you're one of the nice ones," Lee responded. "We don't go around posting comments, of course, but if you cornered most anyone down here, we all agree. We enjoy working with you. You treat the secretaries and paralegals and even the messengers like people, not like tools."
Barb was flattered "Nice is always good. I never have seen any reason to be a prima-donna. Its not my style."
Lee started to say something and then stopped. Curious, Barb asked "What is it Lee?"
"Come on," Barb teased a bit. "The party has moved on. We're sitting here all by ourselves now. I promise I won't tell on you."
"Okay then." Lee took Barb's hand again and took a deep breath. "I just wanted to tell you, God, you are so beautiful." The younger woman's fingers stroked Barb's palm, making her shiver.
Barb opened her mouth to answer, and found she couldn't. The light in the dark eyes before her was sincere, Lee's whole attitude that of interest, respect and something else that made little chills chase themselves up and down her back.
Still holding Barb's hand, Lee pulled the older woman down a hallway and into a vacant room. The only illumination was from the city lights coming through the windows, but it was enough to see Lee stop and turn to face her. The younger woman opened her mouth, and then closed it as though she couldn't get out the words she wanted to say.
Barb found that she was holding her breath, waiting for, for whatever might come next. She licked her lips in strange anticipation.
Lee leaned forward and kissed Barb. It was a quick kiss, no more than a brushing of the lips. Then the young woman pulled back. There was uncertainty and even fear in her eyes as though she was scared of the line she had just crossed. That fear faded as she seemed to find something in Barb's eyes, for the young paralegal took one quick step forward and her arms went around Barb as she once again kissed the lady lawyer.
.... There is more of this story ...