Brianna O’Connell, Bree to her friends, stood on the sidewalk outside North Cambridge Elementary School, watching as her daughter walked up the path to the main entrance with a few of her friends. As they disappeared inside, the redheaded twenty-eight year old’s thoughts flashed back to a time when she would’ve walked Kellie herself.
But those days were gone as her only child, now a precocious ten, would no longer permit such an embarrassment. In only a few more years, much too soon in the eyes of the ponytailed mom, Kellie would be a teenager. Then what would she do?
‘You’ll do what you’ve always done,’ Bree said to herself as she turned away. ‘You’ll deal with it and keep moving forward.’
With that she started off to where she’d parked her car, only to stop thirty feet along when she heard someone call her name. Looking up in that direction, Bree saw a trio of women standing by the flagpole - women quite familiar. Seeing one of the women waving to her, she started up the small incline towards them.
“Ladies,” Bree said with a smile as she reached the flagstaff, shifting her head left to right to look into the faces of Matilda Dougherty, Yvette Sanchez and Brenda Kauffman. Along with herself and Valerie Stanton, they made up the executive committee of the North Cambridge PTA.
“I thought you couldn’t make it this morning,” Brenda, who had been the one to call out her name, said, “but I’m so glad you did.”
“Make it to what?” Bree asked, focusing her attention on Matilda, who had a look of disappointment on her face.
“Actually, it’s my fault,” Matilda, who was the chairwoman of the committee, said, interrupting the exchange between Bree and Brenda. “As silly as it sounds, I simply forgot to send you a text about this morning’s meeting.”
“Well then, isn’t it a lucky thing that Kellie was running late and I had to drive her this morning?” Bree replied, not believing the explanation for a moment. “So what’s this all about?”
Matilda seemed hesitant to answer, but Brenda had no such reservations, quickly explaining that Matilda had called her and Yvette last night, saying she wanted to go over the plans for the Fifth Grade Social one last time. Based on Matilda’s reluctance, Bree figured it was something the bleached blonde hadn’t wanted her to know about.
The only reason Matilda Dougherty had been elected to the chairmanship of the committee in the first place was because her husband, a local land developer, had made a sizeable donation to the student activities fund a week before the vote. Once sworn in, she’d wasted no time in trying to remake the committee in her own image.
Twice before, Matilda had proposed changes to the social that she felt, in her opinion, would improve the dance. Both times her suggestions had been voted down, the last occurring just a week ago at the regular PTA meeting. Having known Matilda since they were teenagers, Bree wasn’t surprised that the chairwoman had pulled a stunt like this. According to the committee rules, three members were a quorum, and since Yvette would vote however Matilda told her to, the changes would undoubtedly have passed had not Bree unexpectedly turned up.
“Why are we still going on about this?” Bree asked, the irritation in her tone evident. “Wasn’t two votes on the matter enough, even for you?”
“Well, I felt that we should take one more look at it,” Matilda replied, her tone still reflecting her own annoyance at Bree’s appearance. “After all, we do want it to be the best it can be for the kids, don’t we?”
‘More like what’s best for Matilda Dougherty,’ Bree thought but didn’t say. What she did say was, “And what about Valerie, did you forget to text her too?”
“No, I did ask her if she could stop by this morning,” Matilda replied, “and she said she couldn’t because she had a new client coming in.”
Bree doubted Matilda told Valerie why they were getting together or she would’ve been here. Both their kids were in the fifth grade and would be attending the Social, so both had an interest in seeing it go off without Matilda’s changes.
The animosity between Bree and Matilda dated back to their days at Grant High. Even then Matilda was an arrogant little bitch, always trying to make everything all about her. In her mind she viewed herself as Miss Popularity, but at least half the girls in her class had a different soubriquet for her, one that most wouldn’t repeat in public.
The origin of the conflict between the two women could be traced to their sophomore year, when both were nominated to be the class representative on the student council. Certain that she couldn’t beat Bree in a fair vote, Matilda sought to disqualify or at least sabotage Bree’s chances by spreading the rumor that she was pregnant. A claim that, while prophetic, was definitely at the time not true. Unfortunately for Bree, the rumor took on a life of its own when the redhead wound up being sidelined for a month with mononucleosis. Matilda had won the race by the narrowest of margins.
Revenge had been quick in coming as Bree targeted Matilda’s biggest weakness, her ego. Not exactly blessed by the boob fairy, the then brunette was always sensitive about the size of her breasts. So much so that she had taken to stuffing her bra at an early age. She was hardly the only girl to do so, but few took it to the extremes that she did. There was hardly a girl who shared a locker room with her that didn’t know she was barely a B cup, much less the C she presented to the world. What Bree did was arrange a little demonstration that shared that information with the rest of the student body.
Bumping into Matilda in a crowded hallway during first period, Bree surreptitiously stuck a long straight pin into her breast, or more precisely the piles of tissue paper surrounding it. That the pin was there, but not who had placed it, was almost common knowledge by third period.
Matilda didn’t find out about it until the end of the school day, wrongly assuming that the looks she was getting from other students were, at least in her mind, ones of admiration. When one of her entourage finally heard the story and let her know, Matilda’s humiliation was only exceeded by her desire for revenge. The problem was, while she had her suspicions, she was never able to prove who had done it.
“Well, unless anyone has changed their mind since last Friday, it would still be two for and two against, which, however you want to look at it, is a tie,” Bree said. “So it stays just the way it is.”
“Actually, according to the committee rules, in the event of a tie vote, any committee member can call for further debate on the issue,” Matilda pointed out, “and then a final vote afterwards.”
‘She’s just not going to let go,’ Bree thought, not being able to remember anyone in the PTA ever going to such lengths as Matilda seemed willing to go, to get her way.
Glancing at her watch, Bree reminded herself that she really didn’t have time for this. It was her day off and she had a half dozen errands to run, the most important of which was picking up Kellie’s dress at the dry cleaners. Not having a job, Matilda could afford to spend most of the morning debating the issue. Then it occurred to Bree that she had the solution to the problem right in her pocket.
“Hold that thought,” she said to Matilda, holding up her index finger on one hand as she pulled out her cell phone with the other, quickly speed dialing a number.
There was a brief ring during which Bree hit another button that put the smart phone on speaker. On the second ring, a familiar voice said hello.
“Valerie, I’m sorry to bother you,” Bree said, “but I’m here with Matilda, Yvette and Brenda at the school, and it seems Matilda is insisting that we revisit the changes to the Fifth Grade Social that she had proposed last week. Since there are only four of us we’re looking at a tie, so...”
Bree didn’t get any further.
“Hell no, and that’s my vote,” said the voice over the speaker.
“Well, I guess that’s settles it,” Bree smiled, again apologizing for bothering Valerie before ending the call.
“That doesn’t count,” Matilda said as Bree put the phone back in her pocket. “You can’t vote over the phone.”
“Really, and where in the rules does it say that?” Bree said, continuing her smile.
Matilda opened her mouth to say something but couldn’t come up with an answer.
“I didn’t think so,” Bree said, feeling a bit pleased with herself. Then, turning to Yvette and Brenda, she added, “I guess we’re done here, ladies, so I’ll wish you all a good day.”
As she turned and walked back down the small slope, it didn’t take much imagination for Bree to picture the look on Matilda’s face. This hadn’t been the first time she and Valerie had ruined the chairwoman’s plans, but it was probably going to be the last. Next term, Kellie, and Valerie’s son, Mark, would be moving on to Junior High and both North Cambridge and Matilda Dougherty would be things of the past. Of the two, she would only miss one.
Forty minutes later, Bree pulled her 2002 Ford Focus into the driveway of her split level house. Exiting the well worn vehicle with a plastic-covered dress in hand, she took a moment to carefully lock the door. North Cambridge might not be the big city she spent her preteen years in, but it wasn’t Mayberry either. Some small town habits were still beyond her.
As she stepped up onto the porch, Bree didn’t see, at least at first, the figure sitting on the bench just off to the right, hidden from the street by the hedges. It was only when she’d reached the top step and the visitor stood up that she realized someone was there. In alarm, she jumped back before recognizing a most familiar face.
“Jesus, Valerie, you almost gave me a heart attack,” she said, coming to a stop just at the edge of the steps.
“Sorry,” the well-dressed black woman said with a apologetic smile. “I figured you’d head right home after dropping Kellie off, but you weren’t here when I arrived. So I decided to wait a bit in case you were on your way. I only sat behind the hedges because I didn’t want that nosey neighbor of yours to see me waiting.”
“You could’ve told me you were stopping by, you know,” Bree said as she brought her key up to the lock. “We did talk, what, a half hour ago?”
“But that would’ve ruined the surprise,” Valerie grinned.
Bree gave her a serious if not angry look, held it for a few seconds, then stuck out her tongue. Valerie responded with a hearty laugh.
“Well, let’s not put on a show for Mrs. Wilson,” Bree said in reference to the inquisitive neighbor Valerie had mentioned. “Since you’re here, you might as well come on in.”
A smile still on her face, Valerie followed Bree thought the doorway.
In contrast to Bree’s blue jeans and white short-sleeved blouse, Valerie wore a dark, navy blue business suit and skirt. Barely an inch taller than the redhead’s five six, the ebony skinned, thirty-two year old was the owner and main employee of a small but growing law practice.
A natural beauty, she wore little makeup and kept her black afro cut short, only a quarter inch in height. Regardless of what she wore, however, the first thing that men, and most women, noticed about her was her thirty-eight inch bust - the contours of which were plainly visible beneath the white blouse she wore under her jacket.
The two women had been introduced three years before by their respective offspring, and quickly found that, despite different backgrounds, they shared a mutual outlook on life, that eventually blossomed into a close friendship.
“Wait a second; don’t you have a new client coming in this morning?” Bree asked as she hung up Kellie’s dress on a hook rack in the foyer.
“Do I?” Valerie asked, a mischievous smile on her face...
“But Matilda said...” Bree started to say, and then paused. “You are diabolical,” she said instead with a grin.
“No, I’ve just learned from experience,” Valerie replied. “Matilda has a habit of asking for free legal advice, especially if it’s something she doesn’t want her husband to know about. I don’t mind an occasional question or two, but she’s gotten to the point where she should probably be paying me a retainer.”
“I guess I’m lucky that Matilda only talks to me when she absolutely has to,” Bree observed, “and I don’t have anything that anyone else would want.”
“Oh I wouldn’t say that,” Valerie noted with a sly smile.
“So, not that I’m not happy to see you, but what was so important that you had to take time out from your day to come over?” Bree asked as she led Valerie into the living room.
“It just occurred to me, as I was driving to the office this morning, that since I have such a nice new SUV, and you just have that piece of ... excuse me, that classic old car out in the driveway,” Valerie said as she came to a stop about a foot from Bree, “that Mark and I should come by about seven-thirty to pick you and Kellie up. Then we can all go to the dance together.”
“That would be fine,” Bree said, a bit surprised that was why Valerie had stopped by. “Although I don’t see why you needed to tell me that personally.”
“Well, I guess I could’ve just called and told you,” Valerie said as she took a large step closer, “but if I had, then I wouldn’t have been able to do ... this.”
Bree was caught by surprise as Valerie slipped her arm around the younger woman’s waist and, in a sudden, quick motion, pulled her close. Leaning inward, her mouth pressed against Bree’s as she kissed her in a definitely not just a friend way.
The unexpected embrace took Bree by surprise, but only for a moment. Then she began to respond, her arms wrapping around Valerie even as she opened her mouth to allow the press of the other woman’s tongue.
As their mouths shared a mutual passion, excited hands moved across their bodies. Bree moaned softly as she felt Valerie’s hand close around her breast, squeezing it softly. She moaned even louder as that hand opened just enough buttons to create a passage and slip inside her blouse. Sliding up under her bra, Valerie’s fingers found warm flesh, quickly making their way to her nipple, stroking it to a firm hardness.
Valerie’s other hand was equally active, moving with practiced skill as she undid both the belt of Bree’s jeans and the snaps beneath. Keeping her hand within the redhead’s blouse in place, Valerie moved behind Bree, pulling her so tight against her that her breasts pressed hard into the younger woman’s back.
By now, she’d also pushed Bree’s bra up and off her breasts, exposing both mounds. Moving her hand back and forth, she gave them equal attention, covering the supple flesh with her eager caress.
With Bree’s jeans now loosened, it took little effort for Valerie to bring her free hand under the waistband of the heavy corduroys and then that of the much thinner cotton panties beneath. From there it was but a moment’s journey to the lightly haired mound that was her goal. An excited smile filled her face as she made contact and found it already wet to her touch.
“Blessed Mother,” Bree gasped as she felt Valerie’s fingers slide inside of her, using the invocation taught to her by her catechism teachers at Saint Matthew’s in a manner that no doubt would’ve shocked the good sisters.
Valerie began slowly, gently moving two fingers deep within Bree, causing her to become even wetter. Then she quickened her pace, adding a third finger and probing even further. Waves of delight washed across Bree’s excited flesh, her breaths beginning to shorten even as her heart started to race.
With Bree’s head arched back, Valerie took the opportunity to kiss first her neck, and then her lips. The look of bliss on the woman in her arms encouraged her to increase her efforts. It didn’t take all that long for Valerie to work her magic.
“Oh God, Val ... I’m gonna...” Bree cried out amidst labored breaths.
Not that Valerie needed the warning, as the quaking of the body against her gave more than ample warning of the impending explosion. If she could see the motion of her hand within Bree’s pants, it would be but a blur, but she didn’t need to see it to see its effect. Not more than a dozen heartbeats followed before the core of Bree’s sex exploded in erotic fury.
“Oooooooooo,” Bree moaned loudly as she felt her legs grow weak beneath her, her body rocking with joy.
Through it all, Valerie held her tight, sharing part of the delight she had brought her, an enjoyment reflected in the elation on her face. She waited until she was sure that Bree had regained her footing before releasing her hold on her.
“That ... that was nice,” Bree said as she regained her breath, “really nice.”
“I’m glad you enjoyed it,” Valerie smiled as she watched her friend adjust her clothing, restoring a more respectable appearance.
“I don’t think ‘enjoyed’ is a good enough word,” the redhead corrected.
That made Valerie smile even more.
“Not that I’m complaining, mind you,” Bree went on after she finished composing herself, “but what happened to the idea of us keeping things like this for our alone time?”
Valerie didn’t immediately answer. Instead, she looked first to her right, then her left, and finally behind her. An action that left Bree a bit bewildered.
“Well, as far as I can tell, we’re alone here,” Valerie finally replied, “and is any time really a bad time?”
Bree really couldn’t argue with that.
“Do you have time for me to return the favor?” she asked Valerie, desire in her tone...
“Would that I did,” Valerie replied, “but while I don’t have a new client this morning, I do have a late morning appointment I really can’t miss.”
“I understand,” Bree said, disappointment clear in her voice.
“But soon enough, my love,” Valerie promised.
That made the redhead smile once more.
They shared one last kiss and then Valerie was on her way, saying again that she would see Bree at seven-thirty.
Bree resisted the temptation to stand by the door and watch Valerie walk towards the car she had hidden around the corner. Instead, she sat alone in the now empty living room and considered what had just happened and what change it might signify in the relationship she and Valerie had shared for nearly a year. A relationship that had never been planned, but had since become vital to Bree’s happiness. One that had started with the best of intentions, and the most ordinary of decisions.
“Come on, Bree, it’ll be fun,” Valerie said as she dried the dish that Bree had just washed, sharing the cleanup of their weekly dinner together.
This time, it had been Bree’s turn to cook, and after Mark and Kellie had been sent off to do their homework, Valerie had brought up again the idea of Bree coming along with her to Douglaston on her business trip the coming weekend.
“I don’t know,” Bree responded as she rinsed off another dish. “I’d have to find someone to watch Kellie and...”
“Which, if you’d paid more attention to what I’ve been saying, I’ve already taken care of,” Valerie cut her off. “David will be home by Friday, as you well know, and he’s already said Kellie’s welcome to stay over at our house.”
David Stanton was Valerie’s husband, a Lieutenant Commander in the Navy. He spent just as much time deployed at sea as than he did at home, if not more. They had been married almost fifteen years and even with those prolonged absences seemed to make it work.
The trip that Valerie was trying to get Bree to accompany her on was a once a month thing, the business of which only took a few hours of her time. Most other clients would’ve been content to send her the material she needed to review, but Alfred Dukes was a bit of an eccentric. Preferring face to face interactions, he’d rather have her take a three hour train ride upstate and stay overnight. Since Mr. Dukes had been one of her first clients, she was glad to make the effort, especially since not only did he pay both her fare and hotel bill, but over the years had referred a number of more local clients to her.
“Your husband doesn’t mind you going away the first time he’s been home in months?” Bree asked as she handed off the still wet dish.
“David understands how important the monthly trip up to Douglaston is to my practice,” she said.
“Then he’s one in a million,” Bree laughed. “I can’t imagine many men letting their wives out of the bedroom after four months at sea, much less letting her traipse off halfway across the state.”
“Well, we have been married a long time,” Valerie pointed out as she laid the last dish down on the counter. “That part of marriage really isn’t all that important to us anymore.”
“Yeah, like I’m going to believe that,” Bree replied in a skeptical tone.
In the summer of the year they met, with the then younger children safely left in the care of grandparents, the two couples had vacationed together at a resort down in the Caribbean. Much to Bree’s initial dismay, the beach there turned out to be clothing optional, with few guests availing themselves of the option. After an initial hesitation, she finally decided, what the hell, when in Rome, and joined the crowd.
After a few days, the constant nudity all around her seemed so casual, Bree no longer gave it a thought - well, at least as far as strangers were concerned. David Stanton, she discovered once they left their swimsuits behind, wasn’t endowed like the girls back in high school used to whisper about, but was gifted enough to lend at least some credibility to the rumors they’d heard. So much so that, try as she might, Bree couldn’t help wondering what it might be like with someone that impressive. Not that Frankie wasn’t equally impressive, at least in his own way, she told herself.
On their next to last night at the resort, with the men off on a late night hiking excursion that held little appeal to their wives, Bree and Valerie found themselves at the seaside bar downing shots. After having enough of them to wash away her inhibitions, Bree found herself broaching the subject. As soon as the words had left her mouth, however, she immediately felt that she’d gone too far over the line.
To her surprise, rather than be offended, Valerie had laughed and said that if Bree ever really wanted to find out, then she didn’t have a problem with her doing so. Thankfully, come the following morning, the question seemed forgotten and Bree chalked it all up to the two of them having been just a bit drunk.
“You’re sure I wouldn’t be in the way,” Bree asked, bringing a smile to Valerie as she saw her friend was finally at least considering the idea.
“I just need three or four hours on Saturday to meet with Alfred,” Valerie again explained. “Then we’d have the rest of the day and half of Sunday to ourselves. I usually take the three-forty train back home.”
“I guess I could use a day or two away from home,” Bree finally admitted.
Valerie beamed; she had won.
Bree had been depressed of late and the reason was obvious. This month, next week in fact, would be the second anniversary of Frankie O’Connell’s death. Bree had come to grips with his loss in an industrial accident a few months after that Caribbean trip, but that didn’t mean she didn’t feel low at times because of it.
Frankie and Bree had been high school sweethearts, deeply in love, well, lust at least. So much so that she found herself pregnant at graduation and married before the summer was over. In the years since Kellie had been born, however, that love had cooled until, by the time of the accident, they were doing little more than cohabiting. The shared vacation had been a last attempt to rekindle the fires. But even with that being true, she still missed him at times.
Between the insurance settlement and her job at the Food Mart, Bree managed to live a simple but comfortable life with her daughter. It also helped that her father in law, Steve O’Connell, a successful businessman, doted on his only granddaughter and saw that she wanted for nothing. He had made the same offer to Bree, not understanding why she felt the need to work, but she’d declined. His paying her bills was where she drew the line.
Come Saturday morning, bright and early, Bree and Valerie were at the train station to catch the seven fifteen Northbound Limited, and, three hours later, stepped out onto the streets of Douglaston. After checking into their room, Valerie went off to meet Alfred Dukes and Bree headed downtown to check out the shops. She really didn’t plan to buy anything, but it was fun just to browse.
They met up for a late lunch, after which they spent a few hours sightseeing, winding up at the Museum of Art. They’d been admiring the exhibits there about two hours when Valerie drew Bree’s attention to an item of interest not found in the little booklet they’d been given on the way in.
“Don’t look now, but that guy is checking you out,” Valerie said in a whisper, leaning close to Bree so that only she could hear.
“What?” Bree said in surprise, her voice loud enough to be heard by nearby bystanders.
“To your right, over by the painting of the girl on the swing,” Valerie clarified in the same low voice. “The cute one with the short black hair,” she added, identifying him among the three men standing there.
Curious, but not wanting to seem interested, Bree managed to take a look without being too obvious about it. She timed it just right, as she did indeed catch him checking her out. At least five nine and well defined, he looked to be in his early to mid-thirties. Well dressed, she decided Valerie did him an injustice in only calling him cute.
“God, he is, isn’t he?” she said in surprise, her tone now much lower.
“What do you sound so surprised?” Valerie asked.
“I don’t know, I guess it just feels a little bit strange,” Bree replied.
“I don’t know why,” Valerie replied. “You’re an attractive woman, single and available. Or did I miss something when you finally took off your wedding band and went out on a couple of dates a few months back?”
“I only did that to make Steve happy,” Bree said, referring to her father in law. “He felt I needed to get out and start living my life again.”
“And in that at least, he was right,” Valerie said, having not always agreed with the older man. “So what was the problem?”
Before she answered, Bree glanced around her to make sure no one was too near. No one was, but even so, she pulled Valerie off to an empty alcove where they could talk in private.
“Because it didn’t take long for me to realize that all any of the men that asked me out were looking for was to take me to bed,” Bree said.
“And you say that like that’s a bad thing,” Valerie questioned, thinking that she knew a few single women Bree’s age who would’ve been quite happy with that prospect.
“You don’t understand,” Bree said.
“Obviously not,” she countered, “so why don’t you enlighten me?”
“Men assume that since I’m a young widow I’m perpetually horny and that, given the chance, I’d fuck just about anyone that asks,” she said.
“And that’s not true, right?”
“The hell it isn’t,” Bree replied without hesitation. “I’ve been going through batteries so fast these last few months that I feel like I should be investing in Duracell.”
Valerie resisted the urge to laugh. She could sympathize with her friend, because her own night table also contained an assortment of battery powered toys.
“Then why you didn’t just fuck one of those guys you went out with?” Valerie asked. “It’s the twenty-first century: no one expects you to marry a guy just because you share his bed a few times.”
“If I was back in the city, I’d agree with you,” Bree replied, “but as much as I love it, North Cambridge is a really small town. You have no idea how hard it is to keep a secret there. Back when Frankie was alive, I used to hear him and his buddies talk all the time about which women in town were easy lays. Guys like to talk worse than women, especially about who they’ve slept with.”
With David gone more then he was home, Valerie never had to deal with things like that, or have someone like Sarah Wilson living next door who watched not only her coming and goings, but who might be spending the night. Of course if she had, Valerie was certain she’d have had it out with the nosy old bitty long ago.
“Trust me, it’s not as hard to keep a secret as you might think,” she offered, “but I can appreciate your concern.”
She paused a long breath.
“But we’re not in North Cambridge now” she added. “ So if a guy expresses an interest, why not see where it might go?”
“Val, you know I’m no prude,” Bree said. “I gave it up to Frankie on his sixteenth birthday, and some of the things we did after we were married, well, I never imagined myself doing half of them. But as horny as I’ve been, I don’t think I could ever do it with a stranger.”
As they stepped back into the main chamber, the point proved itself academic. The man who had expressed such an appreciation of her assets was now long gone.
It was almost dinnertime when they got back to the hotel, but neither woman was feeling especially hungry. What they both wanted, however, was a drink. So rather than head back up to the room, they instead found themselves in the hotel bar.
“Oh, that is good,” Bree said as she took her first taste of the cocktail she had ordered.
Valerie also sampled her drink, expressing her satisfaction with a broad smile.
“So what’s on the agenda for tonight?” Bree said as she laid her drink on the small table the two of them had taken over in the far corner.
“That’s up to you,” Valerie said. “I invited you along to enjoy yourself.”
Bree thought about it a bit, and not really coming up with a suitable answer, asked Valerie what she did when she stayed overnight every month.
“I’m sure you don’t spend the night up in your room watching cable,” she laughed.
“Oh, I have my entertainments,” the older woman replied, “but I don’t think they’re something you’d be interested in.”
“How do you know?” Bree inquired, taking another taste of her drink.
“You’ll just have to trust me on that,” Valerie answered, picking up her own glass.
That answer left Bree a bit intrigued, but in the end she decided to not delve further into her friend’s privacy.
Looking over the visitor’s guide they’d picked up earlier, they tossed a few ideas back and forth. They finally decided that, since it was such a nice night, they would take a walk down by the Esplanade along the river and find a nice restaurant for a late dinner. But first, a trip up to the room to freshen up and change was definitely in order.
They finished their drinks and exited back into the lobby. They’d just about reached the elevator when a tall, well proportioned blonde walked up to them and began to excitedly speak to Valerie. That the lawyer might know a few people in a city she visited every month didn’t seem unusual to Bree. What was confusing was that, despite the fact that she clearly seemed to know Valerie, she repeatedly called her by another name.
“Victoria, why didn’t you let me know you were going to be in town this weekend?” the thirty-something woman who, Bree later learned, was named Alicia asked. “If you had, I’d definitely have canceled whatever plans I had.”
For the first time since she’d met her, Bree saw her friend flustered. She mumbled an almost incoherent answer about the trip having been unexpected. It was almost as if, in the space of a minute, she’d become a totally different woman.
“Are you going to be at Paradise later on?” Alicia asked. “I’m going to be free about nine and could probably swing by.”
Again, in a tone much less confident tone than Bree was used to hearing, Valerie said something about already having plans for the evening.
In response, Alicia turned to Bree and gave her a long, hard look. One that the redhead found just a bit disconcerting. She couldn’t be positive, but she had the distinct feeling that she’d just been judged and found wanting. Once she was finished, the strange woman shrugged her displease and went on her way.
“What was that about?” Bree asked a notably rattled Valerie once Alicia was out of earshot.
“Not here,” she relied, reaching out to hit the button that would summon the elevator.
The elevator ride up to the sixth floor was a short but one filled with a very awkward silence.
The door to room 6C had barely closed behind them when Bree asked the question she had been holding all the way up.
“Care to explain what the hell that was all about, Victoria?” she said.
“To be totally honest, no,” Valerie replied, “but I guess I do owe you an explanation, so here goes.”
She paused to take a few breaths before going on.
“Although it might have sounded otherwise, it’s really not anything ominous,” she began. “I sometimes take advantage of being away from home to let off a little steam. You know, just party a little, go dancing, and have a few drinks, that sort of thing. Paradise just happens to be the club I normally go to, mainly because it’s not that far from here.”
“Uh huh,” Bree said, feeling just a bit disappointed because, from her perspective, the explanation made a lot of sense. “And Victoria?”
“The first night I went there, oh, about a year ago, I had my monogrammed handbag with me,” she explained. “So when I was sitting at the bar and someone asked my name, I looked down at the engraved V and said the first name that popped into my head. It was a silly thing really, but sometimes it’s fun pretending that you’re someone else.”
That too made sense to Bree.
“So are you satisfied now?” Valerie asked.
“Of course,” Bree smiled. “Why wouldn’t I be?”
The look on Valerie’s face was one Bree recognized as relief.
“So no more secrets,” Bree said.
“No more secrets,” Valerie agreed.
“Great,” Bree smiled. “So what time does the club open?”
“Excuse me?” Valerie asked.
“Paradise - what time does it open?” Bree asked again.
“You want to go to Paradise?” Valerie asked, a tremor back in her voice.
“Sure, why not?” Bree responded. “It’s got to be a lot more fun than just taking a walk down by the water. After all, aren’t you the one who said I should loosen up a little?”
Valerie’s face went blank for a few seconds, then she stepped over and say down on the closest bed.
“Bree, I can’t take you to Paradise,” she said.
“Because it’s not your kind of place.”
“What do you mean?”
There was a very long three or four second silence.
“It’s a lesbian club,” Valerie finally said.
“Really?” Bree said in surprise.
Valerie nodded her head.
“That makes it sound even more interesting,” Bree said.
As she did, she recalled how her cousin used to go to gay clubs all the time, just to dance, and loved being able to party and not get hit on. Since Valerie was very much married, Bree simply assumed she did pretty much the same thing.
“Bree, you don’t understand,” Valerie added.
“What’s not to understand?” she started to say, but only got halfway through the thought when, remembering the woman down in the lobby, turned pale herself as all the dots suddenly lined up. “Oh my God!” she gasped.
She looked at the woman sitting on the bed for confirmation, and got a slow nod of her head. This was definitely not what she expected. Slowly, she took a few steps back and dropped down into the wooden chair by the desk.
“I guess you were right,” Bree said after a long silence.
“About what?” Valerie asked, unsure of what she meant.
“Evidently, it is possible to keep a secret in North Cambridge,” she said.
Valerie slowly smiled as well. Hopefully, if Bree could still joke, then things weren’t as bad she had feared they might be.
“How long have you been ... been into girls?” Bree asked, thinking it was a natural question but unsure how best to phrase it.
“Since I was thirteen,” Valerie said, actually feeling relieved to finally be honest with Bree about it, “that is, if you want to base it on actually being with someone. If you are just asking about attraction, well then, all my life.”
“Fuck!” Bree exclaimed, having expected Valerie to say a couple of years at most. “Does David know that you’re bi?”
“David has known since the day we first met at his roommate’s birthday party, back when he was finishing up his last year at State,” she replied. “There was no way he couldn’t know, because the only reason I was even at the party was because I was dating the roommate’s younger sister. Oh, and for the record, I’ve never been bisexual.”
“What?” Bree said, now even more confused.
“Perhaps I should just explain it all at once,” Valerie suggested.
“That would probably help,” Bree agreed.
Over the next few minutes, Bree listened in fascination as Valerie unfolded her tale. Mark Twain had once written, “Truth is stranger than fiction”, and as the story continued she realized just how true that was.
From the time he was fifteen, David Stanton had one great dream - to fly Navy jets. Single minded in his desire, every decision he made over the next decade was weighed against how it furthered or hindered that goal.
Valerie Campbell had her own dream, one that, at the time she met David, seemed to be slipping out of her grasp as the cost of finishing college, not to mention law school, was quickly becoming prohibitive.