Chapter 12: Friends and Enemies

For Jacques, who has suffered much and now knows beauty
Nous vous remercions de votre compréhension et votre patience. Je chéris ma foi
Cold-hearted orb that rules the night,
Removes the colors from our sight,
Red is gray and yellow white,
But we decide which is right.
And which is an illusion?
Pinprick holes in a colorless sky,
Let insipid figures of light pass by,
The mighty light of ten thousand suns,
Challenges infinity and is soon gone.
Night time, to some a brief interlude,
To others the fear of solitude.

“Hey, cool phone.” Laci looked up, slightly startled. It was her friend Emily.

“This?” Laci said, turning the phone over as though inspecting it for the first time. “I just got it; I hardly even know what it does. Maybe I can find an app that’ll help me get this stupid math class. I don’t know how you get it so easy.” Emily was a casual friend. Laci unconsciously saw her as part of the geeks and nerds group, kids who were ultra-smart.

“I’ll bet they have do apps like that. So, are you going to lunch, or skipping and spending the whole thing in study hall?” The mid-day break consisted of a 45 minute lunch period for half the students followed by a 45-minute study hall, with the other half of the students on the reverse schedule, study hall first, followed by lunch.

“I got a text from Karen, Amy’s Mom. I hafta call her first, but I brought lunch so I guess I’m eating. You?”

“I’m starved. Want me to save a seat for you?”

“That’d be cool.” They were at Laci’s locker. “I’ll be there in a couple of minutes.”

“See you in a few,” Emily said, and then darted off.

Laci traded her backpack for her pink lunch bag, set it down, and called Karen’s cell. Her heart beat faster, and a little worm of nausea wriggled in her tummy. “Hi, it’s me,” she said when Karen answered.

“Hi Honey,” Karen said, her voice cheerful. “Sorry to bother you at school.”

“What’s the matter? Is something wrong?”

Karen chuckled. “No baby, nothing’s wrong. I just wanted to let you know Gail called. The hearing this afternoon is now on Wednesday. The judge is sick.”

“What? You mean, like we’re not going today? We still won’t know yet?” There was a raw edge of panic in her voice.

“Relax baby, it’s not a big deal. We want him as clear headed as possible when we go. Gail promises this is perfectly normal.”

“Oh god! I hope so. Seriously Karen, who needs the extra stress.”

Karen chuckled. “You’re right, but we have each other to get through it. I’ll pick you up around four? do you have enough homework to occupy yourself till then?”

“Yeah, I have plenty.”

“Good. I love you baby,” she said with genuine warmth.

“I love you too,” Laci murmured. A pleasant thrill trickled over her. She closed her phone and headed for the cafeteria.

By the time she spotted Emily in the crowded, noisy cafeteria, Laci had calmed down. She felt a little foolish over her reaction, but she just didn’t need the extra stress. She reminded herself to trust Karen.

Emily had her face buried in a book when Laci plopped down on her side of the table. Emily was definitely a part of the Geek and Nerd crowd. She won the district-wide Spelling Bee last year, the school science fair this year, and she was forever reading science books just because. For all that, she was quite pretty and friendly. She and Laci were casual rather than close friends, but even that seemed unlikely to most people. Emily came from a comfortably middle-class, supportive family. She was genuinely enthusiastic about the challenges and rewards of learning. Laci on the other hand, bright and beautiful though she was, came from a world dominated by crime, drugs, and violence, with a mother who actively hated her.

“Hey Girlfriend,” Emily said, looking up from her book. “What’s up?”

“I’m starving’s what’s up. Whatcha reading?”

Laci opened her bag and pulled out the Tupperware bowl holding the chunks of fresh fruit Karen  cut up for her this morning. There were two big chocolate chip cookies for after, and a bottled water.

Emily closed the book. “Ethan Frome, it’s kind of a love story from back in the olden days. It’s pretty good. I think it’s a book we’ll need to read next year when we’re in Freshman English.”

Laci speared a piece of pineapple with a plastic fork, and chuckled. “You are such a brain. Doing homework for next year this year.”

“As if. It’s a good story. I like it. I bet you would too.”

“I’m just trying to get through math. Mr. Shaw is such a dick, he couldn’t explain how to turn on the TV.”

Emily laughed and took a bite from her chicken salad wrap.

“Seriously,” Laci said, picking out a grape. “I don’t know how you get it, it’s like it just comes to you.”

“I dunno,” Emily shrugged. “Mostly I read the algebra book, and I go online if I really don’t get something. I’ll help you, y’know. All you have to do is ask.”

“I know, but you know, I like don’t wanna be lame or anything.”

Emily shrugged. “You like art and I can’t draw a straight line with a ruler. Do my drawings and I’ll do your equations, we’ll both look like geniuses.” Emily giggled at her own nerdy joke.

“Deal!” Laci laughed. She scooped up the final piece of strawberry, and eyed the cookies. “Want a chocolate chip cookie? Karen – uh, Amy’s mom – made them yesterday. I helped. Mostly by staying outta the way,” she giggled.

Emily marveled at her friend. Nothing about Laci fit into the normal frames of reference Emily used to make sense of her world. In the extremely complex social milieu that was middle school, Laci had always been enigmatic. From a distance, she might look like a round peg, but she didn’t fit in the round hole. She didn’t fit in the square hole either. Instead, it was like she was oblong.

Everyone at school knew what Laci had just been through, yet here she was, as sweet and friendly as ever, wanting to share her cookies. “Sure,” Emily shrugged. “They look awesome. Thanks.”

“She’s trying to teach me how to cook something besides Ramen noodles and Spaghetti-Os. I hope I don’t kill her or something.”

Once they finished the cookies, Emily said, “Wow! That was an awesome cookie. My Mom makes great chocolate chip cookies, but she makes the soft kind. I like the crunchy ones like yours, you can dunk them in milk and stuff.”

“I’ll bring some more tomorrow. We made, like, two dozen because Karen goes that’s what the recipe makes, and she like, won’t have more’n one or two because she’s afraid to get fat and stuff. I’d would have brought more today, but I figured one of the do-gooders would call the cops and have me arrested for giving out food that wasn’t made from lawn clippings and tree bark.” Both girls laughed.

Last year, wellness crusaders had come down hard, forcing the school to remove vending machines, and stop letting clubs have fundraising bake sales where someone might sell unhealthy treats. One boy protested playfully by giving out Oreo cookies to his friends, getting himself suspended for 5 days in the process. “Yeah, well be careful,” Emily said solemnly. “You don’t need any extra BS on your plate. So, y’wanna go to study hall and go over math?”

Laci sighed. “I hate math. Might as well. I gotta go to my locker and get my backpack.”

They stood up, and Emily marveled again at her friend. For all her beauty and confusing background, Laci was still just a kid, just like any of them, and she didn’t try to pretend otherwise.

They were walking through the chattering throng toward one of the study halls as the lunch teams swapped places. Emily was idly explaining why Algebra mattered in the first place, when something caught Laci’s eye.

It took less than five seconds for Laci’s brain to take it in and make a decision.

Just ahead of them, Jenna had a girl backed up against the bank of lockers. Laci knew the girl’s name was Amelia and she was in the seventh grade. Amelia was chubby and on the homely side. She wore clothes that came from Wally World and never close to in style. She was a meek girl who was eager to fit in somewhere and have a few friends, but she occupied the middle school limbo that held prey for the Jenna’s of the social order.

Laci heard Jenna sneer, “You goddamned loser, who do you think you are, bitch?” Three girls Laci knew vaguely from last summer, Jenna’s minions, stood close by, snickering and eating it all up. Amelia’s books were scattered on the floor. There were no teachers in sight.

Laci’s stomach lurched and the hackles on the back of her neck went up. There was no point in wondering what this was about. It was about Jenna bullying a younger girl who had no idea how to defend herself. Amelia’s eyes were wide, and she an agonized, humiliated look on her face. She was on the verge of crying.

“Go ahead, you big frigging baby, cry, see if I care, you useless loser.” Jenna inched closer, terrifying the girl, and gave her shoulder a push so it clunked on the bank of lockers. “Whyn’t you just die and spare the rest of us.”

Do the right thing,Karen said to do the right thing, that I’d know the right thing to do when the time came. Laci thought. A year ago, she would have probably tried to ignore it just as everyone else was trying to ignore it now, and hurried on by. But a year ago, Jenna wouldn’t have been bullying the girl, because Amy wouldn’t hang out with girls who picked on other kids. However, Amy wasn’t here to influence the girls in her circle of friends. Amy was…

Street Laci, the Laci who dealt with thugs, junkies, and crackheads on a daily basis, came boiling out in a fury. She dropped her own books, startling Emily. “Yo bitch!” she cried.

Taken aback, unsure if the sudden shout was directed at her or not, Jenna looked over, frowning. “Yeah you, bitch, what’s up here?” Laci demanded.

Jenna’s frown morphed into a silent snarl. “You talking to me tough girl?”

Laci barged in close, her fists balled, pupils dilated, and nostrils flared. “You’re goddamned right I’m talking to you, bitch. I said what the fuck’s up?”

“Get the outta my face, you slum bitch loser,” Jenna cried. “Mind your own damn business.”

“You are my damn business. Think you’re so tough? Then try me on for size. I’ll kill you, bitch!”

They were nose to nose, and a curious, excited throng, smelling blood, gathered to take it in. Amelia sobbed with terror at the two girls from the higher reaches of the hierarchy swearing and yelling at each other.

“You loser bitch!” Jenna barked. There was more than a whiff of fear in her expression.

Laci could feel herself losing control, and it wasn’t an unpleasant feeling. It was even a bit exhilarating. She could have cheerfully started pounding on Jenna, but an inner voice, powerful if quiet, warned Don’t do anything stupid or get in trouble. “You apologize to that girl, or I’ll mash your frigging face into them lockers!”

Laci hardly noticed Emily had inched closer, just as Jenna’s followers had crept closer to her. Clearly Jenna had not in her wildest nightmare anticipated a physical confrontation, especially not over someone like Amelia. Now, backed into a corner, she lashed out. She slammed both hands against Laci’s shoulders, violently pushing her back. “I said back off, bitch!” she cried.

Laci staggered back, and Emily caught her. Before she could gather her wits and respond, several voices said almost in unison, “Teacher! Teacher!” Those words were followed by the familiar, vaguely feminine voice of Mr. Belden calling out, “What’s going on here! Come on people, what’s going on?”

The crowd of spectators melted away with amazing rapidity. Jenna, now shaking all over, gathered up her own backpack and glared at Laci. “I tol’ you to mind your own fucking business, bitch!” She stormed off with her friends.

“Watch yourself Jenna! I will mess you up.”

“Holy shit Laci,” Emily said in a low, awed voice. “You OK?”

Laci smiled vaguely. “Yeah, I’m cool.” She looked at Amelia, pressed back against the lockers, sobbing, and her face shiny from tears. Laci’s heart gave a pang. There was simply no need for the Jennas of the world to be the way they were. What in the world could a girl like Amelia, as harmless as a kitten, do to make Jenna act that way?

Laci stepped over to Amelia just as Mr. Belden hustled onto the scene. He was about to demand an explanation, but he seemed to instinctively understand it was best to let Laci finish up whatever had been going on.

“Are you OK,” Laci said softly.

Amelia’s chest hitched. She nodded her head, though her expression said otherwise. She snuffled hard and wiped at her eyes with the backs of her hands.

“Emily, can you give me my purse?” Emily quickly retrieved it for Laci. “Thanks.” Laci opened it and drew out a wad of tissue for Amelia. “Here.”

“Thanks,” Amelia muttered as she wiped her eyes.

Laci squatted down and started gathering up Amelia’s scattered books and papers. Amelia, still shaking, composed herself enough to squat down and start in picking up the mess alongside Laci. “Don’t worry about anything that bitch says or does,” Laci said softly. “She isn’t worth a pisshole in snow, thinks she’s so special. She’s been hating on me for years, but she’s scared of me, and I don’t take her shit.”

When Laci glanced at Amelia, she saw it was the pain of embarrassment and humiliation hurting the girl. It was the anguish of being ripped apart by an Alpha bitch in front of the pack, and then having to be rescued by another Alpha bitch. Laci stood up. “Got it all, I think.”

Laci intuitively understood, as any exceptionally attractive teenage girl did, that her looks carried a great deal of weight in her social milieu. Her beauty had carried her a long way in the school environment for a long time, and it would continue to do so. Even now, her head still throbbing and fuzzy from the adrenalin rush of the confrontation, she understood she could ease Amelia’s anguish considerably. That was surely the right thing to do.

Laci stepped up and gave the chubby girl a hug and a genuine smile. “She won’t bother you, or anyone else anymore if she knows I’m around, ‘cause she’s a loser and a coward, and she’s scared of me ‘cause I won’t kiss her ass. Remember that. She’s a loser coward, and you’re not. OK?”

Amelia looked shyly at Laci from under her eyelids, perhaps making sure the girl was sincere. She nodded quickly. “Thank you,” she said, her voice barely above a whisper, before she scurried off. Just as Alex might have a year of quasi-sexual fantasies of Laci after their brief encounter at the restaurant, so might Amelia have fantasies of being friends with the prettiest girl in school.

From start to finish, the whole episode lasted less than five minutes.

She turned and saw Mr. Belden standing there, arms folded and trying to scowl. I am so busted. Well, maybe not, it Mr. Belden, if it was Miss Tompkins or Mr. Shaw I’d be down to the principal’s office in handcuffs, probably, but then he’s a teacher and you never know for sure about teachers, he might get in trouble for not busting me, so who Laci sighed and went to see what her fate was.

In spite of Mr. Belden’s reassurance that she wasn’t in trouble, Laci was antsy and nervous when she sat down at the table in the empty art classroom. Mr. Belden picked up on it, and as he sat in a chair across from Laci, he smiled and said, “Relax, I promise. You’re not in any trouble. I’ve wanted to talk to you about something for a while. You seemed quite feisty out there,” he said with a wry smile.

“I guess. That Jenna, she’s so… mean! Nasty mean! There isn’t even any reason for it. That girl Amelia, she’s not gonna hurt anyone, she just wants to have friends. And Jenna, the b… witch, she starts calling the girl awful names, and pushing her and stuff and nobody’s trying to stop her. Well, I ain’t gonna stand for it anymore, if everyone else is too chicken, I’m not. I’m done with that kinda stuff.”

Mr. Belden listened to her, utterly fascinated. Laci was a genuine enigma. She was easily the most beautiful girl in the school, yet it seemed she either didn’t know or just didn’t care. Most of the other unusually attractive girls in Laci’s peer group were aware of it, and they exploited it for all it was worth.

Then there was Laci’s background. Her mother, at best, didn’t give a rat’s ass about Laci, at worst actively hated the girl. She came from the worst neighborhood in the city, and while she was hardly the only kid from that cesspool to do well and find a refuge in school, she had an undeniable gift. That gift thrilled Jay Belden, because it was in art, his life’s passion. Perhaps she was a prodigy. Helping the girl tap and harness that gift would wipe away a lot of the disappointments he’d suffered teaching art in a world where it wasn’t valued.

As if all of that weren’t unusual enough, the little episode he’d broken up in the corridor revealed a new side to Laci. Of course he knew Jenna was a bully. Jenna knew she was a bully, and she embraced it with enthusiasm. It was Laci who finally stood up and said, “Enough.” Her method of calling out Jenna on her bullying wasn’t the most desirable, but it was the only way Laci knew.

It was best to be circumspect. “It’s commendable Laci, but it’s probably better if you use more conventional methods next time. You don’t want to get suspended.”

She twisted her mouth wryly. “Yeah, I know.”

“Don’t worry about it, dear. How are things outside school? If you don’t mind my asking. You’re staying with Amy’s Mom? Ms. Nelson?”

Laci’s eyes immediately glowed and she sat up. “Yeah, I sure am! And it’s awesome. We’re going to some special court, Probation? So she can be, like my guardian for real, officially. It was supposed to be today, but I guess the judge is sick or something, and now it’s Wednesday. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy in my life, I’m serious, really Mr. Belden, Karen is so amazing! You’ve never seen anybody like her, I mean I told you she bought me a sketch book and a pencil set, and she’s, like having me do sketches everyday, says I need to practice and stuff.”

Belden was amazed at the transformation in Laci’s demeanor the instant he mentioned Karen Nelson. Laci lit up like a Christmas tree, and her body language became animated, even excited. “She’s right, you really have to practice. There’s a silly old joke that’s actually the truth. A tourist in New York City is lost. He can’t find the concert hall. He stops a well-dressed gentleman and says, ‘Excuse me sir, but can you tell me the way to Carnegie Hall.’ The other man says, ‘Certainly, sir. Practice, practice, practice.’”

Laci covered her mouth and giggled. “It is silly. It’s a pun, right? I get it though.”

Good Lord,If I were straight, I couldn’t be in the same room with her for more than five minutes. Belden thought with wonder, He crossed his legs and leaned his elbows on the table. “I’ve always been very impressed by your enthusiasm and your basic ability. Art seems to come naturally to you. I don’t mean just drawing pretty pictures, I mean the concept of art, the totality of artistic expression. You have it in you, the way a Renoir or a Wyeth had it. It’s just there. I’m not trying to embarrass you Laci, and I wouldn’t say it if I thought it would go to your head.”

Laci was indeed blushing, as if unfamiliar with such praise. It looked as if she wondered where all this was leading.

“I have a proposal for you. There’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and now I have the chance. I really want to start an after-school art club for any students who are interested. I’ve been here almost three years now, and to be frank, interested students are very hard to come by. I’ve worked hard to change that, to reach out to those of you who are artistically inclined. I’d just about given up on the idea until you came to my class. When I saw how talented and interested you are, it was like having a fire lit under me. I’ve been meeting with Ms. Anderson and Ms. Bureau, the high school art teachers, to discuss the idea, and they’re on board.

“Next week is February vacation, and when we come back, we start the final semester. The club will start meeting the week we come back. What we’ll do is use the time for some individual and group projects, and some much more individualized instruction. At the end of the year, I’d like to see if we could arrange a public exhibition – maybe downtown, maybe here. It doesn’t matter. What matters is having it as a goal. I see everyone in the club working on one or two projects specifically for the exhibit, maybe everybody help each other push their boundaries a bit, try new media, take advantage of the opportunity to learn from the older kids.”

Belden paused and momentarily let himself get ensnared by Laci’s wide, sparkling eyes and the flush of excitement on her cheeks.

“I’d really like you to be a big part of it, I mean taking a position of trust and authority, like club secretary, or treasurer.”

“Are you serious, Mr. Belden?” Laci almost whispered. “Me?”

“Of course you. I think it’s time you had the chance to show the world what’s trapped inside and trying to get out. And Laci. I can guarantee you, if you join us, Mrs. Bureau will take you in her AP class next year, a year earlier than she normally accepts students.”

Julia Bureau was a treasure the school department did not appreciate. She was a professional artist, a painter and sculptor, on the board of the Baytown Museum of Art, as well as a docent for the top exhibitions. Belden knew she was intrigued by Laci, the unlikely diamond in the rough.

Belden judiciously touched Laci’s arm. She was speechless, squirming, clearly not sure what to say or do. “Oh damn Mr B, you think so?”

Belden laughed. “Yes dear, I do. I hope I can count on you?”

Laci snorted and shook her head. “Count on me? Absolutely, Mr. B!”

Jay Belden smiled. Somehow, the disappointments of the last three years were eased by the beaming girl before him.

Laci glanced at her watch. Almost four o’clock, time for Karen to pick her up. She closed her hated math book and tucked it carefully in its place in her backpack. She distantly wished Emily had been around to help her with it, but her friend had after school clubs she belonged to. It was funny in a way how Emily now really did feel like a friend. Nerd or not, she hadn’t run off during the thing with Jenna. It seemed she had Laci’s back, and what more could you ask from a friend.

Laci wrapped her scarf around her neck and slipped her coat on. It wasn’t lost her how a good many of the kids she thought of as nerdy or shy, some even from the high school side, seemed to go out of their way to say, “Hi Laci,” as they walked by. Normally certain lines weren’t crossed, and besides, Laci was aware a lot of kids were intimidated by her for any one of a number of reasons. Word spread fast through the school’s grapevine.

It started even before she reached the main entrance, the warm bundle in the pit of her tummy unclenching like a fist releasing a swarm of butterflies. When she pushed the door open and saw Karen leaning back against the front of the car studying her phone, a hot pang surged over Laci. Her heart leapt and she had to suppress an almost overwhelming urge to run to Karen and jump into her loving embrace.

Instead, she merely quickened her stride and broke into a glowing smile. No hugging or kissing in public, and oh god! it was so hard to remember that.

Though the shadows were long, the sun was still well above the horizon. Karen looked up and broke into a brilliant smile that made Laci’s breath catch and the warmth in her tummy grow hot. “Am I late?” Laci said. “How long you been waiting?”

“No you’re not late. I’ve only been here a minute or two.”

They both slid into the car and buckled in. Karen glanced around. “Quick,” she murmured and leaned over. “Kiss.”

Laci happily complied and tried for something a bit longer than a peck. “I love you,” she breathed.

“And I love you too. So, how was your day, kitten? Did I ruin it with my bad news?”

“No, of course not,” she said, as if it were the silliest question imaginable. She glanced at the temperature display on the dashboard: 45 degrees. It was probably safe to take her scarf off. “I had a pretty good day.” She suddenly grew animated and excited. “Guess what!”

Karen eased the car onto the access road to the school campus, and glanced at Laci with an amused smile. “What?”

“Mr. Belden, you know? My art teacher? He like, asked me to come see him on our lunch and study hall break and stuff, and I thought I did something wrong, but nope, I di’n’t. So I go to the classroom and he has me sit down, and he goes, when the next semester starts after vacation next week, he’s gonna start an after school art club with Mrs. Bureau and Mrs. Anderson – they’re the high school art teachers, and Mrs. Bureau teaches the AP art program – and he wants megood to join it. The club is so the kid’s who’re interested in art can have a place to start a big project, and have special help with it, work with each other to learn more, and then at the end of the school year he wants to have a public exhibit of our projects, like someplace downtown – the part of downtown, not my old shitty neighborhood – so people could see it, and maybe even buy it. Can you believe that? And anyway, he goes, I don’t mean just join up, I want you to be in, like a leader’s role – that’s what he said, a leadership role – like secretary or treasurer or something. Karen! Can you even believe that? Me!”

Karen was beaming almost as brightly as Laci was. “Oh Laci Kitten! Really? This is so awesome! I hope you told him yes, you’d love to.”

“Course I did! At first I thought maybe I should wait and ask you first, but then I figured you’d want me to do stuff like that, so I go, I’d love to Mr. B, it sounds so awesome.”

“Damned right want you doing things like that, you don’t need to ask me for permission, I trust you to make the right decisions.”

Laci was bouncing with sheer excitement. “I can hardly even wait!”

“I’d like to meet this Mr. Belden, he certainly sounds like he’s got a good eye for talent.”

“He’s gay, y’ know.”

Karen’s laugh was sharp. “Um, so am I, in case you haven’t noticed.”

“That’s not what I meant, Karen,” Laci said, rolling her eyes. “Some of the kids at school call him a fag and stuff, and that ticks me off. There’s no need of it.”

Karen pulled into a Gas ‘n’ Go. “Maybe not,” she teased, “but this car needs gas.”

Smiling, Karen crossed the cement tarmac, her boot heels clocking with authority. It still amazed her that something as simple as pumping gas made Laci feel helpful and valued. When Karen mentioned Laci getting the smell of gasoline on her hands, the girl cleverly snatched a bunch of paper towels from the dispenser and used them as a shield of sorts.

It was busy in the Gas ‘n’ Go. She felt a sensation that, until a month ago, was totally foreign to her, a light giddiness that came from the awareness that people were giving her secret, admiring glances. For the first time since high school, she was aware of herself as a physically and sexually attractive woman, and that exhilarating sensation was all because of the beautiful little goddess out pumping gas.

Karen grabbed a half-gallon of milk and waited her turn, while those ahead of her bought lottery tickets, beer, coffee and snacks. Women like Karen, imposing, attractive, and palpably confident, were not typical customers, and she was given a wide berth. She picked up a chocolate bar. It’d be a nice treat for them to share.

Gas and milk paid for, Karen strutted with natural confidence back to the car. Laci, scarf wrapped loosely around her neck, was waiting for her at the front of the car, bouncing lightly on her tippy-toes, her eyes bright. Karen’s breath caught sharply. Whatever fleeting exhilaration she felt from the admiration of strangers was overwhelmed by the look of beaming, excited adoration on her girl lover’s face. Karen’s  tummy flopped, she flushed, and her knees trembled. Oh my god, Oh my god, does she know what she does to me? Do I do the same to her?she thought.

Karen smiled brightly. She desperately wanted to gather Laci in her arms and kiss her, oh god how she wanted to be able to show the world how…

“Any troubles?” Karen asked.

“No,” Laci chirped brightly. “It turns off by itself, then all you gotta do is squeeze the handle and put it back.” She playfully stuck her wool gloved hand in Karen’s face. “See?” she proclaimed. “Doesn’t smell like gas.”

Karen instinctively pulled her head back. “No, I guess not. Come baby, I want to get home.”

Once in the car and buckled in, Laci pulled off her gloves, folded them neatly and tucked them in her purse. “What’s for dinner?”

“Did you have anything special you wanted?”

Laci shrugged. “Not really. I’m not very hungry. My tummy’s a little nervous tonight.”

“OK. How about a grilled cheese and some tomato soup?” Laci agreed with the suggestion. “Why’s your tummy nervous.”

“Oh, y’know, the stuff with Mr. Belden, and then I was all set for the probation thing… it’s just that it makes me worry. You don’t think it means anything, do you? I mean really.”

“Laci baby, I know how nerve wracking it is for you but seriously baby, if there were anything to worry about, Gail would have said something.”

“I know, it’s just that…”

She’s hiding somethingWho knows? What 13 year old girls and 35 year old women think of as problems are as different as July and January., Karen thought, and she frowned. “What? What else? You have to tell me whatever it is baby, or else I can’t deal with it.” She looked at Laci staring at the dashboard.

Laci twisted her mouth in a unconscious imitation of Mckayla Maroney at the Olympics. “I kinda got in a fight with Jenna,” she mumbled. Before Karen could say anything, Laci bolted upright. “Not a fist fight or anything, and none of the teachers saw – except Mr. Belden, and he already said not to worry about it. It was…” and she tapered off.

Karen gripped the steering wheel tighter. She wasn’t sure if it was significant or not, at least on the short term. Christ, she had to keep Laci away from that Jenna character somehow. Karen only vaguely remembered the girl from a pool party or two, and she hadn’t had a chance to form an opinion of the girl. Still, they didn’t need any potential monkey wrenches. “What happened?” she said as lightly as possible.

Laci sighed. “I was going from the cafeteria to study hall with my friend Emily, and I saw Jenna and her – herd,” she said with contempt, “like ganging up on this one girl, and bullying her because she isn’t pretty or rich enough, who knows, maybe she wears clothes from Goodwill or Wally World, not good enough for Jenna. Whatever, Jenna pushed her and sent her books flying, and…” Laci shook her head. “You hear on TV and stuff about these girls who kill themselves because bitches like Jenna bully them and they don’t know how to defend themselves, or don’t dare. And I saw that, and it pissed! me! off! I couldn’t see any point to it, why she had to pick on someone for whatever. Well, I know she’s scared of me, so ran over and made her cut it out. We kinda yelled at each other, and she pushed me, but that’s when Mr. Belden came and broke it up. Jenna took off with her bitches, and I helped the girl pick up her stuff. Then Mr. Belden told me there’s better ways to deal with bullies, but he understood what I was trying to do.”

Karen sighed. It could have been much worse. “He’s right baby, you can’t take on the world and every cruel bitch there is out there.”

“You woulda,” Laci pouted. “You’da beaten them up, I bet.”

Karen laughed. “I wasn’t a tough girl at your age baby, trust me. You just have to be careful. Don’t make crusades out of everything you see that ticks you off.”

“I know Karen, but I can’t just watch stuff like that, not anymore.”

“I know baby, I get it. Anyway, I’d like to meet Mr. Belden. When did you say the art club starts?”

“When we get back from next week’s vacation.”

“Oh shit! That reminds me. I’ve been thinking about something,” Karen said, her own voice a tick more excited.

“What?” Karen’s tone and expression gave Laci a small twinge of excitement.

“It’s school vacation next week. I’ve been thinking we ought to do something special. Just the two of us. Something that gets both of us away from all this… crap for a while. How’d you like that?”

Laci shifted in the seat so she could look at Karen. “Like what? Go away where?” A hundred visions of paradise rushed through her head.

“Well, since it’s short notice, we’d have to keep it in reason. I thought we could go to Boston for a long weekend. I’d get us a really good room in one of the best hotels, probably the Copley Plaza. It’s right downtown, all the good stuff is an easy walk – Quincy Market, the Aquarium… even better, I thought it would give you a chance to see real art at the Museum of Fine Arts.”

Laci‘s eyes were wide “O’s” of wonder. “Karen! Are you, like, serious?”

Karen smiled softly. “Of course I am kitten. There’s something even better – at least I think so. There’s the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and as luck would have it, they’re performing the greatest Love music ever written, something I know you haven’t heard yet – Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, complete with the full chorus. It’s an unbelievable piece of music, and hearing it live with full chorus is something neither of us is ever going to have the chance to see again.”

Laci’s hair cascading over her face didn’t hide her suddenly glowing eyes. She pushed it back behind her ears. “Karen, are you serious?” she repeated. “A realand art museum, a Karen music orchestra? Both?”

Laci’s reaction thrilled Karen. She didn’t seem just interested, but excited in a fundamental way. “We can take the train from Baytown to Boston instead of driving there.”

“Really? The train? I’ve never been on a train in my life!”

“Well there you go, an even better reason for us to go that way. Besides, I hate driving in Boston.”

Laci suddenly scowled. “But Karen. If we don’t have the car, how do we get around?”

Karen, smiling very softly, shrugged. “Our feet. Taxis. The subway.”

“The subway!” Laci burbled, the tiniest hint of awe in her voice.

Karen had to chuckle. “Let me guess. You’ve never been on a subway before.”

It took Laci a second to understand Karen was teasing her. “Karen. Don’t pick on me. It’s not like we live in a big city or anything. But aren’t subways and stuff, like, dangerous for people who don’t live there?”

Now Karen’s laugh was unrestrained. “Laci my sweet love! You grew up on Bartlett Street, one of the nastiest, shittiest neighborhoods in the entire northeast, dealing with thugs and drug dealers every day of your life. A subway would be a good place for someone like you to take a nap.”

“Hmmph,” Laci grunted, sitting back. “I don’t know these things,” she pouted.

Karen reached over and pinched her thigh. “I love teasing you. You take it so seriously. Reason number five that I love you so much.”

Their light dinner of grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup was finished. All of the evening’s minor household chores done, Karen got a cigarette and lighter from her purse. “I’m going out on the deck to have a cigarette.”

“Can I come?” Laci asked, straightening up from leaning on the island.

“Of course you can,” Karen said.

It was around the freezing mark, downright balmy for seven in the evening. Karen lit her cigarette and took a deep hit. She hoped getting back into the routine of smoking only outside would be the first step in quitting altogether. There was no light except whatever dim glow the over-sink fluorescent leaked out. She looked up at the crystal clear sky and the multitude of stars splashed across the black canvas.

Laci came up behind Karen and pressed close. “Whatcha looking at?”

Karen glanced at her girl lover and smiled. “The sky, the stars, the moon.” Her old friend the moon was now at the waning half.

Laci took the cigarette from Karen for a quick drag. “Is it true,” she began, “that the stars we see are really suns, like millions and billions of miles away?”

Karen shifted so she could put her arm around Laci. She took another hit off the cigarette. “Yup, that’s true, they’re really suns, a lot bigger than ours, but still suns.”

“There’s sure a lot of them. Is it true that you can, like connect the dots on some of them and they’ll make a kind of picture of things?”

Karen smiled at Laci’s simple curiosity. “So they say. It takes a little imagination, though. Some are pretty easy to see.” Karen pointed to a section of the sky. “Look. Have you ever heard of the Big Dipper?” Karen finished her cigarette, and shifted again so she was behind Laci, her arms around the girl’s mid-section.

Laci wriggled back so she was nested snuggly against Karen. She nodded. “Uh huh, I heard of it.”

“Look right there, you can see stars that make the outline of the handle, then four more that make the dipper part – it’s more like a sauce pan, but… Do you see it?”

“Yeah,” she said. A note of excitement crept into her voice. “Yeah, I do.”

“Want to know a cool trick? If you look at the two stars that make the outer edge of the dipper – follow the handle, it drops to make the inside edge, then goes to the bottom star of the outer edge. If you draw a line from the bottom star through the top one and follow it, it comes to a star all by itself. That’s the North Star, because it’s right over the North Pole and it’s always there, no matter what the season. It never moves like the other stars do.”

Laci pointed at the northern sky. “There, I think that’s it, I see it.”

Now Karen pointed in the same direction. “What’s even cooler is the North Star is the first star in the handle of the Little Dipper. It’s not so bright so it’s harder to make out, and there are a lot of other stars around it, but if you look carefully, you can see it.”

It took some squinting and swiveling of her head, but at last, Laci sighed. “Yes. I see it,” she said with quiet amazement. It clearly thrilled her to see such an awesome thing. “How did you know that?” Laci asked.

“About the Dippers and the North Star? Oh, I don’t know. I read it in a magazine, or online I suppose, maybe on a TV program. There’re a lot of things you pick up along the way, stuff that has no real purpose, but it’s interesting. It’s called trivia.”

Laci looked to another section of sky at the moon. She hesitated before asking, “Karen? Is it true that the moon causes the tides?”

Karen glanced up at the half moon. It looked as though it was peaking around a doorframe, ready to skedaddle at the first hint of a question from Karen. It’s light was sharply bright tonight, yet cold and lifeless. “Yes, it’s true. Weren’t you just learning about that in science?”

“Yeah, but I don’t always trust them. Sometimes it’s like they’re making stuff up. My math teacher, he like goes, you can’t divide a number by zero, but you can divide zero by a number. That’s dumb. I think he just made that up to confuse us. Is it true, or just a made up lie?”

Karen chuckled and squeezed Laci. “Well kitten, my calculator won’t let me divide a number by zero, so I’ll leave it at that.”

Laci wriggled around so she was facing Karen, and she nuzzled her cheek between Karen’s breasts. The pliant yet firm globes sent a warm thrill rippling through Laci. Without willing it, the image of Karen offering her breast for Laci to take, her nipple erect and dripping, flooded over the girl. Now in her mind, she took Karen’s offering into her mouth and suckled. She was rewarded with a gush of warm milk. She shuddered.

“Are you cold baby girl?” Karen said, stroking Laci’s hair. “We’ve been out here stargazing for a while, and it isn’t summer.”

“A little, I guess.” She tilted her head to look at Karen. Even in the sterile light of the indifferent moon, Karen was beautiful. Laci silently offered her lips to her lover. Karen accepted the girl’s offer and dipped down so their lips touched, lightly at first then firmly and with purpose. They both felt the kittens get loose in their tummies.

If it were a summer night, Karen mused, they could make love right here on the deck. It wasn’t July, it was February. They had to get inside.

Karen led Laci inside, closing and locking the door behind her. She gathered Laci in so they touched pelvis to pelvis, and when they leaned back they could see each other. “Nice and warm in here.” The faint knot in her pelvis, nagging her for the last two hours, spread out like a rose blossoming. Laci’s eyes and the soft flush in her cheeks spoke volumes. How did I ever come to deserve such a beautiful lover? And why? God why is she not even fourteen yet? Why? Shut up, stop asking why the sun is hot and the moon is cold. Their smiling eyes locked. “Is my baby feeling frisky?” Karen teased, her voice grown thick.

Laci giggled. “I’ve been frisky hot all day.”

Karen rocked Laci, still looking in the girl’s hypnotic eyes. “Well there you go. Did I happen to have anything to do with hot friskiness you’ve been feeling all day?”

Laci squirmed happily, a fresh corona of warmth spreading over her. “You had everything to do with it. You caused it. I started thinking about you, and – well, what can I say.” Laci lifted herself on her tippy-toes and snared Karen’s lips with her own, opening the woman’s mouth with her tongue so she could enter and explore. Karen’s tongue drew Laci’s in deeper with promises. Back and forth, tongues fencing, lips rubbing and tugging, their own delighted love music wafting from their throats.

At last, Karen rubbed the tip of her nose on Laci’s. “Let’s go get ready for bed.”

“Y’know,” Laci observed absently, “I never woulda dared get in my nightie clothes this early even a month ago.”

“Why’s that?” Karen asked, mildly puzzled.

“Because I had to wait until it was time for bed, just in case I had to get out of the apartment fast. I just never knew. Plus, if my mother’s boyfriends or the dirt-bags who were hanging out there knew I was only in jammies, they’da been all over me, trying to see if they could get a look or even cop a feel.” Her tone was surprisingly matter-of-fact.

Karen led the way down to the laundry room in the cellar. It was really disturbing when you thought about it, Karen mused. Here’s a girl, she thought without irony, not even daring to put her pj’s on before bed because being so scantily clad would draw men with unwashed souls like rotted meat drew flies. Karen shuddered involuntarily.

Yesterday’s laundry was neatly folded and on racks, or hanging from a caddy, waiting to be brought upstairs and put away. Karen had no intention of stowing laundry tonight. She found a pair of red and green tartan flannel jammie bottoms and a pink sleep tank tee, and she quickly stripped her blouse and slacks off.

“Karen,” Laci cried, laughing.

“What?” Karen furrowed her brow. “What am I doing wrong?”

“Lookit that,” Laci giggled with delight, pointing at Karen’s outfit choice. “Green ‘n’ red plaid jammie pants and a pink top. Didn’t your mom ever teach you to dress? It’s a good thing you’re not going out. You’d probably get arrested or something.”

“Hey, I never pretended to be a fashionista like you.” Karen tossed her bra into the laundry bin and pulled the offending pink top on and adjusted her boobs. “Besides, who says I plan on still having clothes on much longer?”

“Oooooo,” Laci waggled her fingers at Karen. “Big talk.” She was still giggling when she stripped off her jeans and sweater top. She’d chosen a matching Hello Kitty cami and bottom set. Still, smugly giggling, she said, “I guess I’ll hafta teach you how to dress. Plaid – especially red ‘n’ green plaid – doesn’t go with anything unless you’re, like retired or something.”

“Listen to you, casting aspersions on my fashion choices.”

“Casting what?”

“Aspersions, saying bad things.”

“How do you know so many words?”

“’Cause I don’t waste my time worrying about plaids and pinks, that’s why.” She jumped at Laci as if to tickle her.

Laci squealed and scurried up the cellar stairs, stopping at the top to poke her tongue out at Karen. Karen scuttled up the steps, but rather than dart off, Laci simply sashayed provocatively across the floor toward the bathroom, her moves deliberately exaggerated. “You’re apt to get in trouble twitching that little tushie of yours like that,” Karen said with gleaming eyes.

Laci looked over her shoulder at Karen, purposely cocking her hips, first one way, then the other. Karen raised an eyebrow, then lunged. Laci yelped and dodged Karen’s grasp. She scurried to the bathroom, hurling a final “Nyah, nyah” and stab of her tongue before slamming the bathroom door.

Ripples of delicious happiness sprayed over Karen. “Me. In love, no shit in love! Me!” She giggled like Laci, and pirouetted across the living room floor to the entertainment center. “Now I get it,” she said, looking up at the ceiling, as if talking to some unseen critic. “It only took my daughter’s best friend, but I get it now.”

Smiling broadly, wondering if she’d ever felt so happy, she leaned over to pick some Love Music. Oh yes, there would be love tonight, yes indeed, and a fresh surge of moist heat puffed up her sex. She set about looking for a good playlist, vaguely aware of the bathroom door opening, followed by the minty smell of Laci’s toothpaste coming from behind her.

Laci crept behind Karen, a childish, playful smile on her face. She had to time it just right for the joke to work properly. Karen, ignorant of Laci’s scheme, hummed quietly. Satisfied with her choice, she clicked “Play”.

Laci watched, and at the instant Karen started to straighten, she darted her hand out and pinched Karen’s butt – hard; hard enough to make Karen jump and let out a startled cry. With lightning speed, Laci pinched Karen’s other cheek, bringing another startled yip. “What the…!” Karen cried, spinning around.

Laci jumped back. “Gotcha!” she cried with gleeful exuberance.

Laci’s sparkling smile and slightly crouching posture instantly told Karen she’d been had. Laci wanted to play, and Karen was game. She narrowed her eyes and tried to look menacing. “Why you little… imp!” she growled.

“Gotcha again, gotcha!” Laci crowed. She stuck her tongue out at Karen.

“I oughta…” and Karen pounced. She made a dive for the girl, but with a squeal Laci twisted and just managed to elude her lover’s grasp. “Oh, you are so gonna get it, pinch my bum, will you!”

“Nyah, nyah.”

“I oughta spank your bum just for that.”

“But you have to catch me first, and I’m faster than you are. Nyah, nyah!” Her reactions were sharp. The instant she noticed Karen tensing to leap at her, she darted off for the staircase, with Karen in hot pursuit. Laci lost a bit of headway when her feet slid on the wood floor at the foot of the staircase. Karen groped for her, but with a sharp shriek and a twist, Laci avoided her lover’s grasp.

“Damn,” Karen gasped. “I’m not as old as you think I am!”

Laci pounded up the stairs, half squealing and half laughing. “Catch me, catch me!” She reached the top of the stairs, mildly surprised Karen was a mere step and a half behind her. She turned and tried to scramble away. She made just a few steps when…

“Gotcha!” Karen whooped, grabbing Laci from behind. They laughed with delighted joy. Laci squirmed and tried to get away, but Karen squeezed her tighter, and growling playfully, she kissed and nipped at the nape of her lover’s neck. Her hands automatically slid up and cupped the girl’s small but firm breasts. “I could eat you up!” Karen’s voice grew hoarse.

Laci arched and swiveled her neck. She put her own hands over Karen’s so the woman wouldn’t move them away. Her breathing became heavier. “Promises, promises, you won’t even keep,” she murmured, swaying her body.

“That’s what you think?” Karen cooed into Laci’s ear.

Laci closed her eyes and smiled. “Uh huh,” she teased.

Karen suddenly started dragging her toward the bedroom. Realizing the game wasn’t finished yet, Laci let out a shrill cry and wriggled in Karen’s embrace. She only put up as much resistance as the love game required, and by the time Karen rolled her onto the big bed in their room, she was giggling uncontrollably and squirming as if being tickled. Her muffin was open and wet now, tender and sensitive. Her boy short panties chafed terribly.

Karen wrestled her little kitten onto the bed, and made as if to tickle her. Laci squealed and scrunched up protectively. “No! Don’t tickle me! No! Please, Karen! Don’t!”

Karen straddled her lover. They both breathed heavily. “OK baby, I won’t, I promise. But c’mon, lift your bum so I can pull down the covers. I’ve got a feeling things are going to be wet before the night’s over.”

Laci laughed. “More promises you won’t keep?” she teased, baiting Karen.

Oh she was getting good at the little games lovers played, Karen thought.

Laci shifted and squirmed impatiently so Karen could pull the comforter and sheets down. Oh yes, it was going to be a wet one. Her boy shorts panties were already as wet as if she’d peed. She was hot and as tense inside as a violin string, and her compact, sculpted sex opened like a morning glory at sunrise.

Karen crawled over Laci, and the girl flung her legs around the woman’s waist. Karen was momentarily hypnotized by Laci’s eyes, gone obsidian in the girl’s heat and the low light of the room. Karen drew in a shuddery breath and dropped down to engulf Laci’s lips in hers. Laci sent her tongue out to visit Karen’s, and the woman greedily sucked on it.

Laci was humming inside, her sleek body moving restlessly. With Karen hovering over her on all fours, there was a gap between their restive bodies. She untwined her legs and drew her knees back, fully opening her treasure, which would not be denied attention. Hardly thinking about it, and then only to wonder how Karen might react, Laci plunged her hand between their bodies and groped for her heated pussy.

Laci’s mouth was joined with Karen’s when she found her muffin with her delicate fingers. Fully opened, she plunged her fingers into her vagina and probed the tight, juicy confines. She drew the tips of her fingers up the sleeve of her vulva to her clit. She massaged herself hard and fast. She whimpered into Karen’s mouth while her tongue eagerly danced with her lover’s swirling tongue.

Laci hadn’t really masturbated in quite a while, not since she and Karen started loving the weekend of the blizzard. She didn’t need to with Karen doing magical things to her, and bringing her to little oases of paradise. For so long though, touching herself was the only way she could be with Karen, even if only vicariously. Usually, she’d take a long time before getting to the point where she was actually caressing her muffin and massaging her button, immersing herself in elaborate dreams about Karen. Now though – now, her tender sex was already on fire, and Karen wasn’t a fantasy.

Laci felt the hitching and tugging inside her mound, the orgasm suddenly, unexpectedly there. Breathing harder, faster, bouncing her hips, she looked to see if Karen was upset because she was rubbing herself to a cum. Laci’s whimpers and groans caught in her throat as the cum escaped her and bounced over her body like a rock skimmed over the surface of a pond.

In the warm, hazy grasp of her sweet orgasm, she saw that Karen was not upset. No, not at all. Karen, straightening up onto her knees, was watching Laci intently, enthralled.

Enthralled indeed. Seeing Laci masturbate set Karen afire. They’d played the game before, even if only briefly before Karen could take over. Now though – now, it was different. Her heart thudding and her own mound suddenly swelling like a rapidly overfilling hot water bottle, Karen drank in Laci’s display. Her own breath caught. It was something that appealed to her on a primal level, a way of loving she wanted to share with Laci, watching each other masturbate. It wasn’t until now, watching Laci in action, that Karen grasped just how deeply it appealed to her.

Without willing it, the memory of the day Amy left came boiling up from the vaults of Karen’s brain. She would never forget that moment, no matter how long she lived, or what happened. Climbing the stairs in a distracted fog, basket of laundry in her grasp. One of the girls masturbating and forgetting to close the bedroom door all the way. Then…then, “Karen! Please Karen! Love me!”

Even now, it made her clench inside and shudder.

“That’s it, baby,” she breathed. “You make me so hot doing that! Oh yes you do, sweet kitten!”

Karen stabbed her hand between her own legs and groped for her womanhood. She opened herself and a stream of nectar dribbled out and followed the contours of her labial ridge. Still astraddle Laci, Karen shuffled her knees up until her honey pot was mere inches above Laci’s face.

Seeing Karen’s nest from this angle was a new perspective for Laci. Karen hooked two fingers deep into her tunnel, releasing not a trickle but a stream of honey. Karen growled at the sensation of her fingers probing and squishing deep inside. The rivulet of her nectar dripped off the apex of her labia and trickled onto Laci’s cheeks. Laci opened her mouth to catch Karen’s tangy essence as it drip-drip-dripped from her, hurried along by Karen’s probing fingers.

Laci, still rubbing her muffin, her fingers stroking up and down, in circles, fast, then slow, tried to lift her head to kiss Karen’s pussy. Karen’s fingers were in the way however, frustrating Laci in her quest to make love to the woman’s love nest.

Karen was getting caught up in her own swirling world of passion. Still, she heard Laci’s urgent whines, and she finally noticed her precious baby trying to kiss her kitty. She silently scolded herself for getting carried away so easily. It wasn’t a race to see how quickly she could cum. “I’m sorry baby,” she panted.

“Karen, I wanna kiss you there and make you cum, please let me make you cum!” Laci pleaded.

Karen had to chuckle in spite of herself. How many women dreamed of hearing those words from a lover? “What about you?” she murmured at Laci’s pleading, upturned face.

“No, you first! I had a little cum already.”

Karen, delighted, laughed harder. “Laci, my beautiful baby girl! You are one of a kind!” Karen knew what needed to be done. “Don’t worry honey, we’ll both cum.”

It was easy enough for Karen turn around and face Laci’s feet. Before she did though she reached between them and gently took Laci’s hand away from the girl’s overheated sex. Laci jumped and whimpered but didn’t protest. She watched intently, breathing hard, when Karen sucked her fingers into her mouth. Laci let out a ragged chuckle and wriggled her fingers inside Karen’s mouth.

At last, Karen spun herself around so she was facing Laci’s feet. She debated whether or not to tell her lover what to do – this was, after all, something they hadn’t yet done together. No, she decided, Laci didn’t need to be told anything.

She situated herself, her pussy tensing in anticipation, and lowered herself down between Laci’s spread legs, careful not to put any weight on the girl. Oh damn! The sight of her girl-lover’s fully exposed muffin was enough to make Karen cry out sharply. “Oh Jesus fucking Christ!” Karen whispered hoarsely. Laci’s taut muffin glistened wetly as if oiled, and all the intricate folds, coiled up inside the confines of her compact sex looked sculpted by the hand of a goddess.

Karen, propped on her elbows, hooked her arms around Laci’s thighs and opened Laci’s sex, from her asshole to her tender little clit. Karen massaged Laci on either side of her crevice with her fingertips, and Laci gyrated her hips in response. Her hips snapped when Karen plunged in and devoured Laci’s offering.

Laci knew what was expected of her, even caught up in the throes of sublime sexual passion, everything seemingly reduced to deep, almost primal sensation of pleasure, she knew what she was supposed to do. She’d seen her share of porn videos, enough to know it was called sixty-nine, and it was a way for them to kiss-fuck each other at the same time.

The scent of Karen’s estral bouquet was electric on Laci, filling her with a drug-like giddiness. She pulled Karen’s dripping sex down to her face just as Karen plunged on her muffin. Laci went soaring to dizzying heights as they came together. Was this what it was like when boys fucked straight girls and they both liked it? It wasn’t something she would ever know. All she knew was it was an incredible sensation, as if at last they were melded together.

They writhed and rolled, both woman and girl growling and groaning. Karen got them on their sides so neither of them had to bear too much weight on her arms. Laci frantically licked and lapped Karen’s sex, suckling on her clit, probing it with her tongue, while Karen did the same to her, sending hot bursts of pleasure jolting through her. It was as if they fed off each other. Laci drew in Karen’s passion, it coursed through her own body, and came out of her pussy for Karen to draw from her.

Laci’s cum waves were long, undulating bursts of pleasure. Once when she and Amy were probably 11, Karen took them to the fair with it’s carnival rides. It was like the Tilt-o-Whirl ride, up and down swells, dizzying turns one way then the other, over and over, but never quite over the top. She could feel Karen writhing under her, smell her lover, taste the tea-like tang of her nectar, feel the bumps and dips of her womanhood, but none of it fully registered – it just was.

Karen, in the throes of her own ecstasies, could still feel the shudders and spasms of Laci’s orgasms. Laci wasn’t quite getting the balloon-bursting release she needed. The girl was getting frantic. “Oh Karen!” Laci gasped into her mother-lovers sex. “Oh Karen! Oh fuck, oh KAREN!”

Karen’s own orgasm was hot and wondrous, not unlike going down the steepest, twistiest water slide at the amusement park, pure exhilaration. Laci hitched in Karen embrace, whining, crying. Karen, her fingers wet and slippery, found Laci’s rosebud, and unceremoniously pressed her middle finger passed the weak resistance of the girl’s anal sphincter, burying it deep into her rectal vault.

That’s what it took to pop the cork of Laci’s full blown cum. It surged out of her like champagne from a magnum.

And the sheets did indeed become soaking wet.

It was something that would never cease to amaze Karen. Hardly 15 minutes after nearly coming apart at the seams, Laci was as recharged as if she were waking from a nap. They were face to face now, embracing lovingly, when Laci announced, “I hafta potty. I should bring back some towels for where we wet the bed.”

Karen smiled. She said it so matter-of-factly, all in a days work my good man.

They separated unenthusiastically. Laci stretched her sleek body before she pulled down her bunched up cami and got up. Her inherent neatness led her to automatically gather up the  garments scattered on the floor before she went to the bathroom.

Karen watched Laci strut across the floor on her tippy-toes, almost awed by the girl’s form. Karen shuffled over to the middle of the big bed, away from the large wet spot. She lay on her back, her arms folded behind her head, her legs crossed under the covers, and stared up at the ceiling. She wasn’t exactly spent; more like pleasantly groggy.

Laci came in the room from the bathroom, hitching up her Hello Kitty boy shorts and straightening her cami top. Satisfied, she tossed a handful of thick towels on the bed and quickly shook them open to cover the wet area. “Want some help?” Karen said with a smile.

“Nope,” Laci chirped. “I can do it. I wonder if other girls are as wet as we are when they love?” Satisfied with her handiwork, she leapt onto the bed like a high jumper. She crawled to her side and flopped on her tummy and propped on her elbows facing Karen.

Karen slipped an arm from behind her head and reached over to twirl a strand of Laci’s hair around her finger.

Chin in her palms, her knees bent and her lowers legs scissoring back and forth, Laci observed, “You look tired.”

Karen smiled languidly at her. “I am. A little. I’m an old lady and you wear me out.”

Laci stuck her tongue and gave a quick raspberry. “Old my foot.”

“What? Your foot is old? How did you manage that? Buy it out of the bargain bin?”

Laci giggled and gave Karen a longer raspberry. “You’re foolish y’know.” She rolled her eyes toward the ceiling. “What music is that?”

Karen frowned. She hadn’t been paying attention; it was just background sound. At last, “It’s called ‘Peer Gynt,’ by a guy from Norway named Edvard Grieg.”

“I think I heard part of it on TV or something.” She looked at Karen with shy admiration. “How do you know this stuff?”

“What ‘stuff’?”

“This music stuff. You like know all the songs – um, music – and something about them. You didn’t just wake up one day with all of it stuck in your head.” She inched closer to Karen until, instead of vaguely perpendicular to her, she was almost parallel.

Karen rolled onto her side to face Laci, and she lifted the blankets in invitation. Laci twisted around seemingly without effort, and pushed her feet under the sheets. They faced each other, both glowing with love.

“So how did I end up with all that ‘stuff’ in my head… well, I’ve been listening to it for a long, long time. My Dad – he’s kind of unusual. You remember I told you about my Grampy who was toughened up, fixed things and built things, and wore work clothes all the time? Well, my Dad is kinda like that. He was a contractor – he’s retired now – built houses and stuff, carpentry, bulldozers and such, real tough customer. Ah! But he has a secret! He’s a real softie.”

Laci laughed. “Like you! Tough business lady who scares people, but you’re really a softie. Don’t deny it, I know it’s true even no one else does.”

Karen smiled tenderly. She leaned forward to give Laci a quick kiss. “Ssshhh! Our secret! We don’t want it slipping out or my reputation’s shot. So anyway, the only kind of music my Dad likes is classical music like this. It’s all we ever heard in the house. I don’t ever remember a time when it wasn’t played. I just grew up with it. When we – Dad, Mom, me – would go on long trips to the ocean or something, Dad would have classical music playing, and he would teach me about it, explaining what was going on, what the composer was trying to get you to see in your mind, to hear the story in the music. All this music has a point, something the composer is trying to get across. He’s expressing an idea or a story, but instead of using words or paint and canvas, he’s using music. It isn’t a just melodies and percussion strung together to sound nice. Once Dad got me to start hearing it that way, I fell in love with it. So, I’ve just heard so much over the years that it gets stuck in my head. Do you like it?”

“I don’t really get it like you do, but I’m starting to a little. And like you said, it just sounds nice to my ears and my head. It kinda reminds me of some of the paintings and sculptures we study in art class, like Mona Lisa. I don’t know for sure why I think it’s cool, but it looks good to my eyes, and it makes me think.”

“I think it’s awesome Mr. Belden wants you to join the art club and do some of the important work. He knows talent when he sees it.”

“Do you think I have art talent? Really, seriously.”

“Laci, baby – Yes. In fact I know you have art talent. A lot. You’ve had hardly any teaching at all in art, and just look at the drawings you do – honey, they’re amazing.

Laci snuggled closer. “I don’t even know what talent is. I grew up on Bartlett and Walnut Street and stuff. Thugs and drugs. Talent there was how much welfare money you could screw outta the state, or how long you could go before a thug screwed you. Karen? That’s one of the things I just don’t get, and it isn’t fair! You’d get in trouble for loving me because you’re a grownup ‘n’ stuff. But you go down to my old street, you see girls my age with babies! Babies made by grown up men who brag about it and then never even stick around – like my father, whoever he is. Do they get arrested for getting those girls pregnant? No they do not! Why? Why don’t they get in trouble, but you would. It isn’t fair! Them girls are pieces of meat, warm holes to put their nasty things in.” There was intense bitterness in her voice.

Karen stroked Laci cheek. I don’t want to go there, I don’t, I don’t, I don’t understand it any more than she does, but I’m supposed to have the answers.can “Laci honey.” Karen sighed. “We can’t waste our energy worrying about things like that. I know it’s not fair, but it is what it is. We need to worry about the things we control, not the things we can’t control. How in hell did we get from beautiful classical music to thugs on Bartlett Street. Strange how that happens, huh?”

Laci giggled softly in spite of herself. “Yeah, it is. Speaking of beautiful music, what’s this one?”

Again Karen hadn’t been listening. She focused on it for a second. “It’s by Johann Sebastian Bach, I’ve played his music for us before. It’s called ‘Air on a G-string.’”

“What?” Laci cried, lifting her head suddenly. “Air on a G-string? How do you get air on a G-string, and how did an olden days guy know about girls’ panties?”

Karen chuckled with delight and shook her head. “Oh, you silly goose.” She brushed Laci’s nose. “It’s not that kind of G-string. G is the musical note, it’s pitch, how high it sounds, like a girl’s voice is high pitched compared to a boy’s. So what it’s talking about is a string on a violin  tuned to the G note. An Air is a certain music form. You’re funny, you know that?”

Laci snickered. “Well, I didn’t really think ladies from those days had G-string panties, they probably had, like petticoats and long johns. I’ve seen pictures of paintings from those days, and all the women are dressed in long, heavy gowns, and everybody – I mean everybody – wore wigs, even the men. Why did they do that? Wear white wigs?”

“I don’t know. I heard once that it was because they weren’t good about washing their hair, and that’s what they did to cover it up. I don’t know if its true or not, but…”

“Ewwww, that’s gross. Even my mother washed hers a couple of times a week. Usually.” Laci shuddered in disgust. “Gah! I think about stuff like that and it makes me wanna barf.”

“I promise I’ll always shower and brush my teeth at least once a week,” Karen needled.

“Karen!” Laci cried, and she pushed her lover’s shoulder. “Don’t be gross!”

Laughing softly, Karen took Laci’s face in her hands. “Laci, Laci, Laci, you are one of a kind, you know that? I love teasing you!” She slipped in to kiss Laci gently but fully. “You know that I love you. I’d never been in love with anyone until you came prancing into my life and stole my heart right out of my chest. Now you’re hiding it somewhere and won’t let me have it back.”

“Of course not,” Laci sniggered. “It’s mine now, but I have it in a safe place. Plus I gave you mine anyhow.”

“I guess you did, and it’s in a safe place, too. I made sure of that.” Karen subtly pulled Laci closer. She had never been one to be comfortable with close physical contact for its own sake. It left her with uncertainties. Now with Laci, the one who held her heart, she craved it, needed it. She breathed deep. “I can tell you wash your hair more than once a week. It smells as beautiful as you.”

Laci laugh was a satisfied trill. She shifted and found Karen’s breast with her fingers. She lightly, almost hesitantly caressed the summit until her mother-lover’s nipple woke. It was that time, and she wanted it, too. She was about to offer when….

“Karen?” Laci said in her “don’t be mad at me” pout.

Karen smiled and kissed the top of Laci’s head. “Yes precious?” She felt the girl tense.

“Are you still thinking of, um, like we talked about before?” Her voice was hesitant. “Getting medicine so, you know, your boobs, your breasts might be able to make baby milk?”

Karen stroked Laci’s cheek with the backs of her fingers. “Well kitten, I’ve stopped thinking about it, that’s a waste of time. I’ve decided when we get back from Boston, I’m going to call my doctor and go discuss it with her, and have her prescribe it for me.”

Laci’s body jumped as if shocked. “You have? Karen, are you teasing me? Please don’t tease me about – this.”

Karen gave herself a mental kick. No, this was a subject where playfulness had to be used with great care, if at all. “No baby, I’m not teasing you. I mean it.”

“How’re you gonna do that?” Laci said with a pensive frown.

“Simple. Call her office, make an appointment to see her, go in and tell her I want to do it.”

“You can’t do that.”

“Of course I can. Why not?”

“Well, first of all it’s wicked embarrassing.”

“Not to me it isn’t.”

“But Karen, you can’t just go to a doctor and say ‘I want medicine that’ll let my boobs make baby milk.’”

“Why not?”

“Karen! She’ll ask you embarrassing questions and stuff!”

Karen chuckled. “In case you haven’t noticed baby girl, I’m not someone who embarrasses easily. I’ve been seeing this doctor since before Amy was born. She’s had her hands up my works, her fingers in my butt, she’s looked in my ears, eyes, and down my throat, and she’s felt my boobs – and no, we’ve never had sex, that’s just how it goes with doctors. Once you’ve had a doctor sit between your legs like a baseball catcher waiting for you to spit out a baby… well.”

Laci turned her face up to look at Karen, and she was beaming. “Isn’t it illegal or something? What if she asks you why?”

“It’s not a matter of ifis she asks me why, she going to ask me. I’m going to tell her the truth. I’m going to say I’m in a relationship with someone I love, and we want to do this.”

“Karen, isn’t she going to think you’re weird or something?”

“I don’t much care whether she thinks I’m weird or not. I’ve done some looking around on the internet, kitten, and it’s not at all unusual, a lot of people do it, it’s called an adult nursing relationship. There are websites – clean sites, not porn – all about it. It kinda surprised me, but it’s out there. So, no, I have no problem whatsoever going ahead with it. It’s something you want, and I know it’s something you want very badly. Come to find out, so do I.”

Laci rubbed her feet together, a sign Karen knew that she was either sleepy or uncertainly anxious. Or maybe both. “You can’t like, tell her it’s me your doing it for, can you?”

“No, but that doesn’t matter. It’s none of her business ‘who’. Maybe I want to be able to suck my own boobs. What difference does it make.”

Laci chuckled. She pushed her hair back and looked up with eyes that adored. “I’ll bet there’s no one else in this whole world who’s anything like you, Karen, nothing bothers you.”

“Let’s not get over dramatic here,” If the girl only knew. Plenty bothered her, the key was not letting it show. Once the object of your discomfort discovered your fear, then the show was about over. Karen remembered her father once telling her she’d make a helluva poker player – and she was only 16 at the time. The memory brought a fresh smile.

“How does it work? I mean, how do you get your boobs to make milk? You talked before about a medicine.”

“It’s called domperidone, its used mostly for other things, I guess it’s kinda hard to get in America because some doctors worry about side effects too much. But it’s not illegal, we just have to find a drug store that will make it for us.”

“Jeezum Karen, you’d seriously do all that just because of me?”

“Of course I would. I love you Laci, I am deeply, madly in love with you,” Karen said with force as she swam in Laci’s wide doe eyes. “Never mind if it’s important to you, it’s important to me, when I started thinking about it, it seemed like an awesome thing to do together, sexy and full of love.”

Laci took Karen’s hand in hers and brought it to her lips so she could kiss her lover’s palm. “Karen.” she whispered. “The world needs, like a million more you’s, but I’m the one who has you, and that means I’m the luckiest girl in the world.”

“Well there you go,” Karen said a trifle flippantly, trying to keep things light. “That must make me the luckiest woman in the world.”

Laci giggled afresh, but it was followed by a yawn she tried unsuccessfully to stifle.

Karen lifted Laci’s chin with her fingertips, and she marveled. How did I … She simply pushed the line of thought aside as a dead end. Instead she glided in and kissed her lover, long and sweet. “I think I have a baby who’s ready for night-night.” She kissed the tip of Laci’s nose.

“I’m sorry.”

“Ssshh, baby.” Karen moved around so she could lift her top up and comfortably expose her breast. Her nipple was fully erect, ready and waiting patiently. “I don’t know if you know it or not,” Karen said while she situated herself, “but it feels awesome to have you nurse, probably as nice for me as it is for you.”

“Karen, I love you so much, it hurts sometimes.”

“Ssshhh.” She lifted her breast, and Laci drew her in, Karen’s skin rippling into goosebumps in response.

There was silence but for the deep yet lulling violins of Beethoven’s Romance number two. Karen glanced at the clock. Only a little after 10, likely too early to fall asleep. Instead, she let herself be carried away by the music. She hummed the melody as best she could for Laci while she stroked the girl’s hair and basked in the wonderfully warm sensations of nursing.

Laci’s suckling slowed, became intermittent, then tapered away. Karen could feel herself getting restless. She tried to relax, but finally surrendered. She at least needed to get something cold to drink. When she was sure Laci was asleep, she carefully slid out of bed and donned her heavy fleece robe and slipped on her scuffies.

She was about to step out of the room when she hesitated. She glanced at the vanity. She shouldn’t be alone, I know it’s silly, but if she wakes up and I’m not next her, she might get scared. C’mon Karen, what’s up with this rationalization? She picked up the teddy bear, Bearianne now, and snuggled it under Laci’s chin… just in case.

After downing a glass of orange juice, Karen turned to go back upstairs when she hesitated. Maybe she felt like having a quick cigarette. On the deck at one o’clock in the morning? In February? Yup, that’s what I mean. Besides, I can’t see the moon from upstairs tonight.

She lit a cigarette, snugged up the sash on her warm bathrobe, slid the door open, and stepped onto the deck. The backyard was bathed in the surprisingly bright, cold, spectral light of the half moon. She found the moon in the heavens, its face still peaking around the door jamb. Her voice barely audible, she said, “Why the fuck do I talk to you? Tell me why the fuck do I talk to you?”

The moon simply offered its usual indolent stare.

Unbidden, a thought had flitted about her consciousness all evening. She kept batting it away like some annoying mosquito, but it kept coming back. I’m the one who should be scared. There it was in a nutshell.

I’m going to lose her someday. That’s just the way the world works. She’ll decide when and who, and that’s as it has to be. “Why do I love her so much?” she whispered.

Silence. The moon was no more inclined to answer now than any other time she asked. A tear dribbled down her cheek. She sniffed and wiped it away with her thumb. Why the fuck am I worrying about five, ten years down the road. Let’s get through this week.

Karen finished her cigarette and left the moon to its own devices. The bed, kept warm by her precious girl lover, waited for her.