Vic stood alone in the bedroom, staring at the reflection in the full-length mirror as though taking notes. Dark hair, cropped close. Dark eyes, both by nature and by the distant look of loss in them. Full Mediterranean lips in an olive face. Torso covered by a black t-shirt. The leather jacket that went with it was thrown over a chair. Hips and legs clad in tight faded jeans that covered the tops of lace-up boots.
"Yeah, I'm a sight alright," muttered the well built butch woman. She snorted. Her jeans even bulged as that morning she had automatically donned the strapon she generally wore. Her eyes drifted to the night stand and the picture of her and Marissa. They looked so damn happy there. Marissa, the cute, blonde young femme tucked under her protective arm. Marissa, in her short skirt and heels and low-cut blouse. Marissa, who less than 10 days ago had left Vic a note telling her she was moving back with her old girlfriend. That note had been left not 24 hours after the last time she told Vic "I love you."
"Shit!" The word exploded from Vic. Moved by a flash of anger, she took two steps and swept the picture from the nightstand. The sound of shattering glass didn't make her feel any better. She went downstairs to the kitchen closet, got a broom and dust pan and bent to clean it up. Her lips curled in a smile with no joy in them. She did a lot of cleaning for a butch. But Marissa had never done much of it at all.
"Goddamn princess," Vic muttered as she dumped the broken glass and frame in the garbage. She hesitated, and then defiantly dropped the picture in after it. She took two steps, then turned and reached in the trash can after the picture. A sliver of glass pierced her finger and she swore loudly.
She rummaged through the medicine cabinet, finally getting out a band-aid and some disinfectant. She was an old hand at doctoring cuts and scrapes, having received more than her share of them, mostly from her bike. She went back to the kitchen and stared at the picture. It was where she had dropped it, balanced on the edge of the trash can. She snorted and kicked the lid closed.
Just then the phone rang. Almost eagerly, Vic snatched the handset up. With her mood right now it would be great to tell off some telemarketer.
"What?" She all but snarled.
"Vicky?" came an unfamiliar voice.
Vic was startled. No one but NO ONE called her "Vicky". Her parents had named her "Victoria" and the relatives who actually still spoke to her used that name, but this wasn't one of them.
"Who is this?"
There was a pause. Then, "Vicky, its Nora."
Vic was so surprised she almost dropped the phone. Of all the people that she thought might call, Nora was the very last one. After all, she had said she never would.
The voice was unfamiliar because Vic had only spoken to Nora via text messages on the Internet.
Some eight or nine months ago she had dropped into a chat room.
Supposedly it was for women only, and women interested in other women at that.
Vic had been burned twice in her first month there. Why some guy wanting to pretend to be a woman would actually suggest phone sex was beyond her. Maybe they thought they could convert her or something. Vic had done much better over the years making conversions HER way, but that didn't lessen the feeling of being taken for a sucker. She really hated that.
So that night she had stayed and listened to the conversation in the room, doing nothing more than throwing in an occasional remark. She had enjoyed the word play. Her attention had been drawn by a woman calling herself Nora44. She hadn't seen her before, but Vic really enjoyed the quips and teasing remarks with which the woman had laced her conversation. She also seemed to be quite a flirt.
Vic studied the woman's profile and her picture. Nice picture, that of an attractive but definitely grown woman. Not one of the myriad of 20 year old blondes with big chests that seemed to infest the chat room. Not that she was cynical or anything, but how many women like that needed a chat room to find a date on Saturday night?
When Nora had filled out her profile, she had been very open on some things and ignored some others. She listed simply that she was from "The South". Vic liked Southern women. She cheerfully admitted her age, the fact that she was a few pounds overweight and that her hair was growing gray. She said nothing about her relationship status or her profession. Vic noted that she did list her sexual orientation as "Bi".
Watching the conversation with one eye as she studied the profile, she saw Nora made a remark about art. Being interested in art herself, Vic made a comment in the main room to Nora. They chatted for a while before Nora left. When she did so, she made a flirtatious remark to Vic.
The next time Vic saw Nora she said hello and Nora replied with a cheerful "Hi sexy!" Vic had laughed and asked Nora if she was talking to the right person. Nora assured her she was and then began to banter with her. Vic, not normally known for "bantering" found she enjoyed it and they became friends.
Vic learned more about Nora. Nora's picture was of her face, with just a hint of what appeared to be black lace covering the top of her chest, the garment supported by thin black straps over her shoulders. As they became friends, Vic inquired as to the garment. Nora declined to answer, but the next morning when Vic checked her email she found Nora had sent her another picture.
Curious, she opened it and almost gasped. It was a full length picture of Nora. The outfit turned out to be a black teddy. Nora was wearing it with a pair of black heels, Her back was to the camera and she was looking over her shoulder with a grin, her hands on her hips. Vic nagged her memory for a moment about the familiar pose until she saw the caption. It said "My Betty Grable Pose".
The next time they chatted, Vic complimented Nora on her picture. Mischievously, she commented on Nora's deep soulful eyes. Nora replied that the reason her eyes looked so deep was that she had the picture taken without her glasses and she couldn't see a darn thing. Vic replied that the she didn't need glasses to appreciate Nora's legs and where they led.
On other things Nora was resolutely silent. When Vic asked how she had come to have the picture taken, Nora replied it was for "somebody" but wouldn't say whom. From side comments Vic was certain that Nora had two, possibly three children.
"She's probably married," Vic mused to herself once after a chat, which had included some rather brazen flirtation on both their parts. "That would explain her discretion. Or she could be divorced and her sexuality might cause trouble with her children's custody." She had finally shrugged her shoulders. "If she wants to tell me she will. After all, she's a friend, not a lover, even online."
That had changed during one chat. The teasing had grown intense and they had cyber sex. It wasn't Vic's first experience with online sex, but it had been one of the best. Nora was inventive and fun when it came to playing out a fantasy. Still, they were friends. She knew that Nora had a wide circle of pals, many of whom were known for playing online. Vic valued Nora much more as a friend than as an online playmate. To Nora she showed a side she didn't often reveal, even to herself. A side that was softer, a side that loved romantic poetry. A side that she felt she could trust to the other woman.
When Vic began to date Marissa, Nora was really pleased. Her comment "Everyone should have someone to share their life with", reinforced Vic's conviction Nora was married, or at least in a long-term relationship. When Marisa moved in Nora was ecstatic. Vic had stopped coming online shortly after that. Marissa thought it was "stupid".
Still, she had slipped on to have one final chat and had seen Nora. On a sudden impulse, she had given Nora her phone number.
"I know you said you never let your online and offline lives cross," she had explained. "But I just want you to have it."
"Okay, thanks." Nora had replied.
Vic had really thought nothing more of that night. Things with Marissa were splendid. "Fool," she scolded herself. She hadn't seen it coming at all, just been blinded by her infatuation with the pretty femme. She had been burned before, but this time she had really given her heart away.
The same night she had found the note, still in shock, she had just sat down at the computer and logged in for the first time in three months. Several regular chatters had greeted her. One was a friend and Vic had unburdened herself about Marissa. After that, she had not been back to the chat room. She hadn't seen Nora online. And now she was on the phone.
"Nora? Why are you calling?" Almost before the words were out of her mouth Vic regretted them. Why else would Nora be calling after all?
"Davia told me about Marissa. I'm so sorry, Vic."
"Did she tell you I'm a basket case or something?" Vic all but snapped.
"No, she didn't," Nora replied calmly. "She told me you had a stiff upper lip in place and acted like you were glad to be rid of Marissa. I knew better, of course."
"Of course." Vic paused and took a deep breath. Damn she was being bitchy. Nora didn't deserve that.
Amazingly, Nora laughed. "Yes, of course, you goose. You might be Vic the hard-core butch to the world but I know about the soft center under that crust." She sobered. "If you didn't have that soft inside you wouldn't be hurting. But I know you are, and I was worried."
"Thank you." Vic said, meaning the two words. "So," she tried to change the subject, "So where are you calling from?"
"From a pay phone at a Flash Foods store at Main Street and, what the heck is that other street name? Napier, I think."
"Main and Napier?" Vic was stunned. "You're HERE? Here in town? How did you know?"
"Isn't the Internet a great search tool?" came the reply. "I looked up your area code, and then the location of the prefix. I bet I'm not but a few miles away. Now, how do I get to you?" Nora's voice really did have a Southern accent that intensified as she talked.
"Nora, are you sure? I mean, I appreciate it but," Vic stumbled over the words. "You said you would never do this. I mean call, much less suddenly drop by."
"Yeah, well, so I changed my mind. Now then, directions?"
Still rather stunned, Vic gave directions to her town house. After hanging up, she looked around. Frantically she grabbed the vacuum cleaner and a roll of paper towels and started cleaning up.
In the twenty minutes that it took Nora to get there, Vic hastily picked up the worst of the last week's mess. She rushed upstairs and made the bed. In the midst of doing that, she stopped to wonder if Nora was going to spend the night, and if so, where? Just what was her up-till-now online only friend really doing?
She heard a car door slam and peeked out the window. It was Nora. And oh my, she was driving a pickup truck. Vic watched as the familiar face hopped down from the driver's door. She was pretty much exactly as Vic had imagined her. Her hair was cut shorter than the shoulder length she had been wearing in the picture, but other than that she looked the same. She was wearing a light tan pants suit with a plain white blouse. A work outfit, Vic felt. Then the doorbell was ringing and Vic was opening the door.
"Hey you!" Nora greeted her brightly and swept past Vic, leaving her standing in the doorway with a baffled look on her face. She turned and followed her visitor. The other woman dropped a small overnight bag on the floor next to the couch, kicked off her shoes and sat down with her feet tucked under her.
Vic flopped down next to her never before seen friend. "Nora, I repeat. What the Hell are you doing here? You said you would..."
"Never call you or see you, that I would stay online only. Well, you're my friend and this is an emergency."
"Emergency?" Vic snorted, hoping she sounded convincing. She thought she did, even maybe a bit to herself. "There's no emergency. If you're talking about Marissa, shit, I'm better off without her."
"Well that's good to know," replied Nora, looking Vic dead in the eyes. Vic had the uneasy feeling the smaller woman was not fooled a bit. She decided to change the subject.
"Not that I'm not glad to see you anyway, but what about your family? What did you tell them, especially your," Vic hesitated. She wanted to say "husband" but damn, she just wasn't sure. It could be "boyfriend" or "girlfriend" or even just "roommate" or "friend".
Nora simply sidestepped the question, as she always did. "I'm free and clear until tomorrow night. But I'm not here to talk about me. I want to know about you."
They talked late into the evening. Vic continued to insist she was just fine and changed the subject every time Nora tried to steer the discussion to Marissa. Finally, Nora yawned and asked where she could crash.
"Upstairs is the bedroom. Take it." When Nora seemed to hesitate, Vic assured her, "I'll be fine on the couch. It folds out. Guests first, after all."
"Okay then," Nora's lips curved upwards. She stood, stretched and scooped up her bag. She bent over and kissed Vic on the cheek. Then she bounded upstairs.
Vic touched her cheek. Nora had disappeared so quickly that she hadn't had time to even consider how else she might have handled the situation. A part of her wanted to follow Nora up the stairs, crush her in her arms and make mad love to her. The other part reminded her that this was a friend, one who had taken a tremendous leap of faith to be a friend and that deserved to be treated with respect.
She took the pillows off the couch and piled them on the floor. She pulled the couch open, sat on the mattress and began to unlace her boots. As she did, the night's conversation kept running through her mind. Her anger at Marissa stirred again.
"Vicky?" came the soft Southern voice from the stairway. Vic looked over her shoulder and her mouth literally fell open.
Nora was standing on the stairway. She was wearing her black teddy and the matching high heels. She leaned against the wall, one foot a step higher than the other.
"Nora," Vic heard her voice waver and swallowed, "Are you sure?"
Instead of answering, Nora turned and started up the stairs. Before she disappeared, she stopped and posed as she had for her picture. Then she wiggled her bottom, crooked her finger, and was gone. Vic heard her heels clicking in the upstairs hallway. A somehow remote part of her mind noted that Nora must have waited until she was on the carpeted stairs before donning her heels. Then the rest of her mind took over and she all but bolted up those same stairs.
Nora was standing near the bed. Her face was almost unreadable, with an expression of calm concealing whatever she might have been feeling. She lifted her arms over her head in a gesture of surrender. The blood pounded in Vic's temples and she cast everything to the winds except her need, her lust and her anger.