Chapter 8: Unbowed

For Sammie from Down Under, a fellow nurse who is as brave as Karen and then some, truly one of the world’s Angels.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud
Under the bludgeoning of chance,
My head is bloody, but unbowed
Well, you're dirty and sweet
Clad in black, don't look back, and I love you
You're dirty and sweet, oh yeah
Well you dance when you walk
So let's dance, take a chance, understand me
You're dirty, sweet and you're my girl
T. Rex

In Laci’s world, the police were as much a part of the daily landscape as the tatted up thugs selling drugs on the stoops. They did not intimidate her. She knew from Karen’s warning that they were apt to track her down about what happened the other night. However, she didn’t expect it to be at school away from Karen’s protective presence.

She was walking down the hall to her next class, when the assistant principal, Mr. Donovan, hustled up from behind. “Laci,” he called.

Startled, Laci turned around. Her first thought was, “Oh no, what did I do?”

“Laci,” he called again. The other students passing by snickered sure she must have been caught getting high, or stealing something.

“Yeah?” she answered, clutching her books closer to her chest. “What’s the matter?”

“I need you to come with me for a few minutes?” he said, his expression neutral.

“Why? What did I do?”

“You didn’t do anything. I just need you in the office for a few minutes.”

“I have science,” she pleaded, pointing at the classroom door.

“Don’t worry about that.”

Laci sighed. “I wish you’d tell me what’s going on. I’m not a kid, y’know.”

Laci’s heart throbbed and a wave of dizziness washed over her when she walked through the main office door. The school’s police Resource and DARE Cop, Officer Saunders, was sitting in a chair, and her guidance counselor, Ms St Amand stood next to him. 

Laci didn’t know Saunders as except as an occasional presence in the corridors. He was tall and muscular with short hair, and soft smile. He could have been one of the school’s sports coaches. He was dressed casually in a pair of gray slacks and a long-sleeved shirt open at the collar. He didn’t look mean.

Officer Saunders stood up when Laci stepped into the office. He smiled, and it made him handsome. “Hi Laci. We’ve never had the chance to meet. I’m the school’s resource and DARE officer, Dan Saunders.”

“I know,” Laci mumbled, looking down.

“I’m sorry to drag you away from class, but I’d like to talk to you for a few minutes.”

“Why? What did I do wrong? Am I in trouble?”

Saunders smiled gently. “No, you didn’t do anything wrong. Absolutely not. I just want to talk to you for a few minutes. You’re not in any trouble.”

Laci sighed and shrugged. She had an idea what this was about.

Saunders led Laci into the assistant principal’s office. He motioned to a chair in front of the desk. “Have a seat.”

Laci sat in the chair, feeling very small and frightened. Assistant principal Donovan and Ms St Amand sat on either side of the office’s window, and Saunders sat at the desk, opening a folder and shuffling the papers in it. “Relax, Laci,” he said. “Considering where you live, your circumstances, I’d guess you’re not much scared by a cop.”

“No, but I’m not a troublemaker, so I don’t, like, know you guys by name or anything.”

Saunders smiled. “You ought to be proud of that. So. Do you know why you’re here.”

“Not really.” It was a small fib.

“I need to talk to you about what happened at your apartment a couple of nights ago.”

Laci rolled her eyes and muttered, “Shit.”

Saunders partially suppressed a smile. “I guess you had quite the scary episode with your mother and her boyfriend.”

Laci shrugged. She desperately wanted Karen with her.

“Laci, what happened there was serious. I’m going to be very honest with you. Your mother and her boyfriend are in big trouble, no matter what you tell me today. They’ve been arrested for possession of methamphetamine, and they’re both in jail. I doubt they’re getting out any time soon. What they did to you was very bad. Very bad. They need to be in jail just for that. That…boyfriend of your mothers is seriously bad news. Now, I need your help to get him locked away for a long time. I need you to tell me what happened there.”

Laci looked at the floor. She crossed her ankles and nervously rubbed her hands. “I’m scared. Can I, like, have a grown-up or something with me?”

Saunders folded his hands. “That’s what Mr. Donovan and Ms St Amand are here for. I just want your side of the story of what went on there Monday night, what happened to you. My boss, the chief of police, figured it was best for me to talk to you, since you at least know who I am. I don’t bite. Promise.”

Tell the truth honey, . Don’t lie. Just don’t say anything – anything – about what we do in private, even kissingKaren told her. 

That scared her. What if I screw up and let something slip. It might be Karen going to jail. “I really don’t want to have to remember that stuff.”

“I know Laci. I wouldn’t ask you if it wasn’t so important.”

Laci sighed. “OK. But if you make me cry, I’m going to stop talking to you.”

“Fair enough. I’ll do my best to not upset you. If I do, tell me so I’ll know, OK? So, why don’t you tell me what happened starting, say, when you got to the apartment.”

“Well, I went there to get some of my stuff. I haven’t been staying there much lately.”

“Where are you staying?”

Alarms went off inside Laci. “At a friend’s.”

“What friend?”

Laci looked up at Saunders. She wrung her hands and squirmed. What should she say. Karen said don’t lie, and Laci promised not to lie. But would it get Karen in trouble? Her lip quivered and tears threatened. “My friend Amy…her Mom.”

Saunders’ watched her carefully. This was a touchy subject for the girl. Pushing too hard and upsetting her over a small detail might put valuable information out of reach. “I’m sorry Laci. Do you need some tissues?”

“I think so,” she nodded

Assistant Principal Donovan got up and opened his desk drawer, offering a box of tissues to Laci.

Saunders took a deep breath. “Okay Laci, go on when you’re ready.”

Laci blew her nose and held the wad tightly. I wish I at least had the teddy bear, she thought. “I got there and when I went in, I could tell they’d been smoking meth from the smell. Believe me, I know that smell.” She glanced at Ms St Amand, and except for a small scowl, her face was impassive. “Well, as soon as I got in, my mother started screeching at me, calling me awful names, and she didn’t have any reason, ‘cause I didn’t even say a word. I was scared ‘cause of the meth.”

“The boyfriend, Gerard Biron, was he there.”

“Yeah, like I said, they were smoking meth. So, I tried to go to my room to get my stuff, but she chased after me. She accused me of stealing her stuff, her drug money. She tried to take my bag, an’ I tried to run out. But she grabbed my hair. Anyway, she had it and she started slapping me, an’ I couldn’t get away. And then her boyfriend, he came up and grabbed me, so my mother could punch me and stuff, and  then he pushed me against the table, it’s always a frigging junk pile, an’ everything went crashing. Then he grabbed my hair and punched me…”

“Excuse me Laci, I want make sure I get it right. Biron punched you after pushing you against the table?”

Laci nodded. “Yeah. Then he grabbed me and held me so my mother could punch me some more. I think she grabbed a knife, but I’m not sure. And he goes, like, ‘No, me first, then you can do whatcha gotta do.” The guidance counselor’s eyes were closed, and she was rubbing her temples.

“You must have been terrified.”

“I was scared shitless. I was sure he was gonna…rape me. Or kill me.”

“How did you get away?”

Laci paused a long time. At last, she said, “My friend’s Mom came up ‘cause she heard me screaming.”

“That would be Karen Nelson,.” Saunders said matter-of-factly. He couldn’t see any point in interrogating her about something they already knew. “So, how did you get away?”

Laci paused, momentarily stunned. They already knew about Karen. She closed her eyes, fighting tears. “I don’t remember it good. I heard her – Karen – scream something about letting me go, and they did, and I ran away.”

“What next?”

“I ran to her car.”

“Did you see how Biron got hurt?”

“No. I wasn’t sticking around, I just got outta there.”

Saunders smiled grimly. “Sounds like a wise move. Do you have any bruises or marks from all that went on.” 

Laci shrugged. “My neck.”

“Can I see?”

“I’ve got make-up on,” she said, but lifted her hair and turned her head.

Saunders looked closely at her and shook his head. In spite of her make-up, the bruises on her neck and the side of her head were clearly visible. “Laci, I’d like to take a couple pictures for evidence. Is that OK”

Laci shrugged, but kept her head turned and her hair back.

Saunders took a small digital camera and clicked series of pictures. Finished, he put the camera away. “OK,” he said sitting back. “So. Are you still staying with Mrs. Nelson?”

“For now.”

“Good. From what I know, it’s the safest place for you right now. I know you’re upset Laci, but we really want to put this guy in jail for a long time, and you’re being very helpful. I’d like to ask you about things besides that night, okay?”

“I’ll try.” It was easier to go on knowing this was all to put that motherfucker in jail – and her mother, too.

“The boyfriend, Biron, how long has he been your mother’s boyfriend?”

“I dunno. It seemed sometimes like she had a different one every week, they were all gross pigs, they all wanted to touch me…” Laci shuddered visibly. “And make me… have sex with them.”

This bit of information was mildly startling to Saunders. “Laci, don’t take this the wrong way, but did you ever have to have sex with any of her boyfriends?”

“No!” Laci said emphatically. “I wouldn’t let those disgusting, sick pigs touch me! Once when I was seven and didn’t know any better, one almost made me… do something sick. Later my mother blamed me, said I was trying to steal her boyfriend.”

Saunders’ eye widened involuntarily. “How old were you?”


St Amand grimaced, and Saunders shook his head and sighed. “Do you remember the first time you saw Biron? Approximately.”

“Around Christmas time, I guess.”

“Did he move in?”

“If you wanna call it that. He’s one of them guys who kinda go wherever with whoever will give them a place to stay and drink and do drugs. My friend Tasha calls them Street Thugs. They’re scary, they look like they don’t give a fuck whether they hurt you or not.” Laci was unconsciously slipping back into street talk.

“Laci, did you ever see drugs in the apartment when Biron was around?”

Laci snorted. “All the time. There was always drugs, always.”

“What kind?”

“Oh, pot, oxy, crack, meth, sometimes heroin, sometimes Ecstasy. I didn’t mind when they shot up heroin or popped oxy, cause that made them sleepy and they’d leave me alone. But when it was meth or crack, it was wicked scary. I’d leave or lock the door to my room.”

Saunders shook his head. “Did you ever see any weapons? Guns? Things like that.”

Laci scrunched up her nose. “I’m not sure. I think a couple of times he had a gun like you cops have, but I ain’t sure, I almost wanna lie just to make sure he goes to jail.”

“No, Laci, don’t do that. The truth is plenty helpful, you don’t need to make anything up. Did you ever see people come up and buy drugs? Not when you thought they were, but did you ever actually see money  and drugs exchanged?”

“Oh sure, all the time. Especially oxy, he even bragged about, like, robbing a drug store somewheres.”

Saunders nodded his head slowly. This girl might turn into a goldmine. Best to be careful and not push her too hard today. She was cooperative but clearly getting edgy. “Almost done Laci. You’re being very, very helpful. Did Biron ever hit or hurt you anytime before Monday?”

“No, he tried to make me have sex with him last week, said he’d pay me twenty bucks, but I told him to fuck off, that he was a loser, and I ran off.” She shuddered visibly at the memory.

“Okay Laci, I think you’ve had enough for one day. It seems like you’re doing well staying with Ms. Nelson, you happy there?”

Laci almost smiled, but she had to be careful. “Yeah, I like it a lot. She keeps me safe, I have a nice bed to sleep in, she makes sure I eat, helps me with my homework, takes me shopping. I think she’s the…nicest lady I’ve ever known. And she saved my life.” Laci looked up and her eyes brimmed with tears. “You know that? She saved my life, and she kept them from chasing after me!” Her tears welled out and ran down her cheeks. “Would you do that Officer Saunders? Save the life of a girl you hardly knew, when you ain’t even got a gun or anything? She did, and she ain’t even big or anything!”

Saunders got up, took a wad of tissue and squatted down to her level. He handed Laci the tissues. Her face was quivering and distraught. He was struck by how naturally beautiful she was. He put his hand on her shoulder and said softly, “Laci, you are an amazing young lady. My son goes to school here, his name is Jake Saunders – do you know him?”

Laci sniffled, looking directly at Saunders. He looked nice up close, and he didn’t make her feel nervous. She nodded, and said softly, “Kinda, I know who he is.”

“Well, I’ll tell you something, just between you and me. I think you’re a hundred times braver than he is. And Ms Nelson? I think she’s braver than any officer on the police force. If the world had more Laci’s and Ms Nelson’s, we’d be all be better off. Now tomorrow, I’m going to bring you a paper that will be about what we talked about here. You can read it to make sure it’s the truth, and if you’re sure, you’ll sign it, okay?”

Laci, the cuffs of her sweater sleeves hiding her hands below the knuckles, held her fists up to her face. She nodded quickly.

“I’m all done pestering you. You have been very, very helpful. I know how upsetting this whole thing is, but we’ll get through it, OK?”

She tried to judge his honesty, whether he meant it, or was just saying it to make her feel better. He seemed honest – well, except the part about her being braver than his son, that was a lie, or a fib anyway. She nodded quickly again, wanting to get out of there.

When Saunders stood, Laci quickly picked up her books and clutched them to her chest. “Mr Donovan, can I have a pass so I can go to the liberry?”

The assistant principal took a pass from his desk and gave it to Laci. “You know Laci, you can take the rest of the day off, if you want.”

“No thanks, I ain’t got anywhere to go til Karen gets out of work.” Laci, like a frightened little bird, took off, bloody, but unbowed..

“Extraordinary,” Donovan murmured. “I had no idea it was that bad.”

“I hear what you’re saying,” St Amand said, looking up from her files. “A girl that age, that beautiful, should have every wannabe Tomcat from 13 to 30 chasing her down, and she does. What’s amazing is that she hasn’t given in and gotten involved with scary people just for the attention. There are four girls in her class who are already pregnant, father’s unknown because of multiple partners, and most of those partners are adults. Yet look at Laci, abused, neglected, exposed to heavy drug use, and she’s never failed a class, she’s made high honors six times since the consolidation, and Jay Belden swears she’s the next Wyeth.”

“You know anything about this woman she’s been staying with?” Saunders asked. “Karen Nelson?”

“As a matter of fact I do,” St Amand said. “She’s a realtor with the Perham Agency, sold me my  house a few years back. She was a joy to work with. Her daughter Amy was a student here until she moved to the west coast to live with her father. She – Karen – never missed a conference, she was a very proactive advocate for her daughter. If Laci’s with her… well, I can’t think of a better set up.”

“Well I’ll tell you,” Saunders said. “It takes some serious cojones for anyone to barge in on what’s basically a rape in progress, in a crack house, and stand up to two seriously methed up thugs. I would not want to have that woman pissed off at me.”

“You ever met her, Dan?” St Amand said with a chuckle. “She’s all of five three and 110 pounds, very attractive, not someone you’d normally expect to rescue a girl being raped and beaten in a crack house.”

Karen grabbed her cell-phone and a cigarette from her purse, and stepped out through her door to the back of the building. It was the warmest it had been since a week before the blizzard. Forty was in shouting distance. She took a deep drag from her cigarette. She scrolled through her contact list and found the number for her old friend and attorney Gail Wright.

Karen felt a sense of relief that she’d finally been tracked down by the police about Monday night. She probably should have taken the initiative and called them yesterday rather than wait for them to come to her. She hoped her passivity didn’t come back to bite her in the ass, but the detective she’d just spent half an hour talking to, Sergeant Potvin, didn’t seem overly concerned that she hadn’t reached out to them. Maybe it was sincere, maybe it wasn’t. It was time to get Gail involved one way or the other. It would be stupid to navigate these waters alone.

The phone was answered on the second ring. “Phillipon and Lynch Law Office, this is Janice, how may I help you.”

“Hi Janice. My name is Karen Nelson. I need to speak with Gail Wright on an urgent matter. Is she available?”

“Are you a client, Ms. Nelson?”

“No. If she’s in the office, please tell her Karen Nelson is on the line,” Karen said, her voice hardening. “I’m not interested in getting into details with you. She’ll understand.”

Karen paced restlessly, smoking her cigarette quickly. Finally, a bright, perky voice said, “Karen! What’s up? It must be important for you to scare the shit out the receptionist…’I’m not interested in getting into it with you.’ Somebody watching that pretty little ass of yours would have no clue you can be such a hard-assed bitch.” Gail laughed, but it tapered when she realized Karen wasn’t laughing with her. “Alright, Love, what’s up. Small talk’s done.”

“I need to talk to you, Gail. Soon. Today soon.”

“Personally? Or professionally?”

“You can decide when we talk. I’m not being dramatic.”

“OK sweetie. For you, anything. Come on over now. I’m just working on briefs, and they can take a backseat to the best fuck I’ve ever had.”

Now Karen smiled. It was an old joke going back to the time they had a brief but very intense affair during Karen’s divorce. “Thanks babe, I’ll be there in 15 minutes. You think your receptionist will be surprised to see I don’t have snakes for hair?”

Gail laughed heartily. “God, I should have married you! I guess we’ll find out, won’t we? See you in a few Sweetie.”

Karen went inside and grabbed her coat, shutting everything down. As she left, she said, “Night Marcie.”

Marcie’s eyebrows went up. “This early?”

“Yup, I have a couple of new listings I want to look at.”

Marcie knew Karen was lying, but she didn’t dare pursue it. When Karen got ticked off, she’d scare a Marine drill instructor. ‘Okie-dokie smokey, see you tomorrow.’

Karen slid into the car and lit another cigarette. She whipped out her phone and quickly tapped out a text to Laci. “U there? If ur in class text me on ur break.”

Karen decided to wait a minute in case Laci texted her right off. She did. “Karen!!!!! Im here.”

“hi sweetie. might be a little late picking u up. Important meeting.”

“Karen the school policeman made me talk to him. I didn’t say anything bad but im vy scared.”

“Shit!” Karen spat. “Its ok babygirl. I know you didn’t say anything bad. We’ll talk tonight k?”

“Im still scared really really scared.”

“Everythings ok sweetheart don’t worry – please. K?”

“k i wish u were here NOW i need to be with you to feel better.”

“I know kitten. Ill text you when my meetings done k?”

“I LUV U!!!!!!”

“Luv u 2 – bye for now.”

Karen tossed her cigarette and left for town.

The Law Offices of Phillipon and Lynch were in a large, stately old Federal-style mansion located just on the edges of the city’s downtown proper. Karen couldn’t help smiling quietly when she introduced herself to the pudgy but pretty receptionist. “I’m Karen Nelson, here to see Gail. And as you can see, I don’t have snakes for hair.”

The receptionist looked at Karen as though she might be dealing with a dangerous psychopath. Obviously, Karen thought, she wasn’t bright enough to understand the joke. “I’ll let her know you’re here.”

Gail came out, and for just an instant, chills rippled over Karen. Their brief affair had burned like a super nova until they both realized that the same things that sent them into orbit in the bedroom would lead to tragedy if they ever started getting serious. 

Until Laci, Gail was the only one who’d ever been able to take Karen to magical places. She’d almost fallen in love with the woman. She was achingly lovely, about Karen’s size with long (Laci long) dark hair, and the most devastating blue eyes Karen had ever seen – eyes you could drown in.  “Karen!” she bubbled like an excited child. “I’ve missed you! Come, let’s go to my office. Jan,” she said to the receptionist. “Unless it’s the DA or Mr. Lynch himself, do not disturb us, or I’ll sic Karen on you – and she hasn’t eaten yet today.” Gail laughed at her own joke, and Karen joined in in spite of herself.

Karen followed Gail through the ornate halls of the mansion, still vaguely impressed by the elaborately framed paintings on the wall. There was an original Monet somewhere in there. Once they were in Gail’s office, the lawyer closed the door and grabbed Karen in a full embrace. She kissed Karen flush on the mouth, hard enough that she thought Gail might French kiss her.

Gail released her, and those blue eyes sparkled naughtily. “God, I needed that,” Gail bubbled.

“Jesus Christ Gail, be careful or I might just have to fuck you!”

“I wouldn’t complain. I’m sorry babe. You know me.”

“Yeah, I do, better than most.” Karen doubted if more than a couple of people in the building had ever seen Gail when her mask was off. When the hard-nosed, ambitious attorney facade was pushed aside, she was an irresistibly perky, flirtatious tease. Men drooled over her, but Gail was interested strictly in other women.

“OK, my passionate friend, let’s have a seat and see what’s got you so wound up.”

Gail’s office was dominated by a huge mahogany desk and ornate built-in bookcases jammed with law books. The chair Karen sat in was an antique Queen Anne worth over a grand. Karen closed her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose between her thumb and middle finger. “Jesus Christ Gail, I don’t know where to start.”

“How about the beginning. That’s usually the best place to start.”

Karen smiled. “Okay. Good idea. When Amy left to go live with her father, she had one little friend I was very worried about. She’s a sweet girl who comes from Bartlett St.” Gail winced. “Somehow, she and Amy hit it off in a big way, they became very close. Well, this kid’s life at home was pure shit, but she never complained, never was anything but sweet, polite, appreciative. Jason and I both grew very fond of her, and we went out of our way to make sure the girl felt at home with us. It seemed like the decent thing to do was give her one place that was safe and fun. She actually became like family. When Amy left, I told the girl that if she ever needed a safe place to go when things went bad at home, my door was open.”

Karen paused and looked at Gail, who reclined in her chair, legs stretched out, eyes closed. Karen knew this was a sign that Gail was listening very carefully, digesting every single word. She was an attorney now, not a friend and former lover.

“Well, the night the blizzard started, she suddenly landed herself on my front steps – took a taxi with her own money. At that point, she was mine whether I wanted her or not. Fortunately, I hadn’t disassembled Amy’s room yet, so she had a warm bed to sleep in. Well, when two women are cooped up together for three days…” Karen saw Gail wince uncomfortably, but she didn’t open her eyes or say anything. “You tend to learn a lot about each other.” Gail nodded her head almost imperceptibly, as though relieved. “Well, I learned that her home life was much worse than I’d ever imagined. It broke my heart, because this kid is beautiful and very, very smart, smart enough for Amy to comment on it. Anyway, when the storm was over, I was dug out, and school reopened – that would be Tuesday – I dropped her off at school, after giving her some of Amy’s left-behind clothes to wear, and told her if things got bad again, she should call me. I told her I was going shopping that coming Saturday, and she was quite welcome to join me. Well, things got bad again, because she called me, all worked up, Thursday.”

“How bad?” Gail said simply.

“I’m getting to that. You’ll see in a few minutes. So I went to get her. She’d grabbed a few things, and I brought her home. At that point, for better or worse, I was not going to let that child go back there until things settled down. Not if I wanted to be able to live with myself. Well we began to settle into a nice little routine. It was almost like having the old Amy back home.”

“What’s the girl’s name?”

“Laci. Laci Harper. So anyway, come Monday, Laci wanted to go back to the apartment to ‘get something’, what that something was, she didn’t – wouldn’t – say. I wasn’t at all comfortable with that. I didn’t think it was safe for her yet. But she insisted and I gave in.”

“That’s a first.”

“So I dropped her off, and suddenly it hit me like I was punched, what the fuck was wrong with me, letting her go up there alone. I had a very bad feeling about it. So, I went in. I opened the front door of that fucking cesspool, and…and…” Karen took a deep breath to compose herself. It didn’t work well. The tears started. Gail had seen her cry many times, so Karen let the tears trickle out of her burning eyes. Gail only frowned slightly.

“I…all I could hear was Laci screaming bloody murder, screaming my name, pleading for me to help her.” Karen sobbed, and her voice choked. “So, I ran up the stairs. What the fuck kind of low-lifes can hear a kid scream like that and not call the cops? 

“When I got to the top of the stairs, the door was open just a bit, and the things I heard in there would make the Devil himself cringe. I threw the door open, and….and I…I saw the mother’s boyfriend holding Laci by the hair, while the mother punched her, not just once my dear. So, I screeched to let her go. And by Jesus, they did. I think they were shocked when I barged in screaming like a pissed off banshee. I told Laci to get the hell out. She took off, and I thought I needed to buy her a little time to get out, so when they both said who the fuck are you, I basically said I wasn’t a 13 year-old girl, and they’d have a tougher time handling me than her.” 

Gail smiled, but didn’t open her eyes. 

“Well, the boyfriend came running at me. When he got close I pushed him. Well, that was like throwing gas on a fire. The mother grabbed a knife, and he came running again. I stepped back through the door, and when he came plowing out, I stuck out my leg and tripped him. He pitched forward and bashed his face against the newel post of the banister. I found out later they were both fucked up bad on meth. I figured then it was time to get the fuck out of Dodge. Laci was in the car, an absolute hysterical wreck. I brought her to the house, tucked her into Amy’s bed and sat with her all night. On the way to the house, we were passed by a bunch of cop cars and an ambulance, and I assume that’s where they were going.

“Okay, I knew by then, by yesterday morning, that it was only a matter of time before I had a visit from the cops. And today I did. A sergeant Potvin paid me a visit. I told him basically what I’ve told you.”

“Karen, you know I’m not a criminal lawyer. That shit holds no interest for me.” Her eyes were still closed. “Go on.”

“Well, apparently the boyfriend is being charged with possession of meth, felony domestic violence assault, and resisting arrest. The cops apparently had to use their tasers on him – twice. The mother is being charged with the same thing. Anyway, that’s story.” Karen fell silent.

Gail didn’t move or open her eyes for a minute. Then she sat up. “So, what it boils down to is you saw fit to take in and assume responsibility for a troubled teenaged girl, and in the process, you got yourself involved in a methamphetamine, DVA crime.”

“That just about sums it up.”

“Okay darling woman, gimme a dollar. Just shut up and gimme a dollar,” Gail demanded, impatiently wiggling her fingers.

Karen frowned and dug out a dollar bill. “Payday loan?”

“You might say that.” The dollar bill hung from Gail’s finger like a limp flag. 

“So. Now, you have a decision to make. If I keep this dollar, I am your attorney and anything that passes between us regarding this…situation is privileged information. By law, I cannot be compelled to divulge any of what we say to each other to anyone. However!” Gail said, holding her hand up. “There’s an important caveat. If you reveal anything illegal to me – say you really went there to buy meth for yourself, or you’ve lied to the police and you really walked into a calm situation and provoked the violence – that is not privileged. In fact, as an officer of the court, I am bound by law to report it to the authorities. Do you understand?”

“Yes dear.”

“Scenario two. If I give this back to you, we remain on a strictly personal basis. You can say whatever, tell me you shot the Pope for all I care, and I won’t say a thing. However, if I’m sworn in, or otherwise under oath, I am obligated to tell the truth, just as you’d be obligated to tell the truth if I told you I hit an old lady with my car and took off. Okay?”

“I get it. Keep the dollar.”

“You’re sure? Good.” Gail put the bill in her desk. “Now, a question. Are you out of your fucking mind?” Gail cried, sitting bolt upright and slapping the desktop. “Jesus jumped up Christ Karen! There’s a time to be a tough bitch, and a time to be a sane human being! Do you have any goddamned CLUE what a stupid fucking move it was for you to play the hero and stand up to a goddamned meth-head who’s wound tighter than bark to a tree? Karen, be VERY thankful he fell, because if that scumbag got his hands on you, I’d be at your funeral right now.”

“I know, the detective told me the same. But Christ, how was I to know?”

“Karen, you go to an apartment in that neighborhood, you go in assuming meth is being used. Look, I know you were all adrenalined up, and I know you can be a serious hard-ass at times. It’s one reason we never would have been a good married couple. I’m the same way, and we would have murdered each other within six months, but come on.”

“What can I say? I did it, it’s over, I’m in one piece. Now my question. What about Laci?”

“What about her?”

“What do you mean, ‘What about her’? I want the kid staying with me. She needs an adult who’s actually an adult, and cares about her. I’ve got too much of my time and soul wrapped up in this kid to see her dragged off to some fucking foster home.”

Gail sighed. “Karen, don’t be so dramatic. Nobody’s gonna show up, slap her in cuffs and drag her ass off like she’s a criminal. Has anyone from DHHS contacted you?”


“Good. They will. Soon. But right now, it means they’re comfortable that Laci’s safe with you. I’d imagine the cops told them to relax.”

“That’s what that detective told me. I get the sense they want her help nailing the mother and boyfriend.”

“Good point. I’m sure she’s seen a lot of nasty stuff going on in that apartment. I’ll have to talk with her soon. Tonight soon if possible.”

“Gail, I dunno, the kid texted me to say the school DARE officer questioned her about this during school today and she’s scared shitless. She might be a basket case. Let me talk to her first, make sure she’s up to it.”

Gail sighed and shook her head. “OK, I’ll cut you a tiny bit of slack. It MUST be tomorrow morning. You need to be here by 8:30, with the girl in tow. Got it?”

“Got it. We’ll be here.”

“Now, I’d suggest keeping Laci out of school for the rest of the week – call them, let them know – don’t you frigging scowl at me! They know, Karen! If she was questioned by a cop, somebody from the school’s admin had to be there as her adult advocate. So just call them. And you stay out of your office. 

“You are going to be visited by, minimum, Child Protective by Friday, and I would be very surprised if the state police and  state DEA don’t visit you with you within a week. And those cops are not nice men, they don’t always like to play by the rules when it involves meth-heads. They will stomp you into the ground if that’s what they need to do to pin that nasty motherfucker to the wall. I will fire your ass, disown you as a friend, and never kiss you again if you so much as tell those guys the time of day without me sitting on your lap. I know you don’t intimidate easily, but these guys are used to dealing with some of nastiest, meanest scum out there. They aren’t likely to be intimidated by a cute five three, hundred pound woman even if she is Karen Nelson. You tell them just as politely as you can, ‘Excuse me officer, while I call my attorney.’ DO NOT let them sucker you into thinking you really don’t need me there.”

“Gail, I need to know, am I in any trouble? Criminal trouble?”

“Not unless you have a secret stash of meth in your cellar, or some other deep, dark secret you’re not telling me. And if so, don’t. Tell me, I mean.”

“Gail, you’re frigging piece of work.”

Gail grinned broadly. “I know. And you love it.”

They both stood, smiling. They came together in a deep embrace. “God Karen, I would jump you right now if I dared. You’re still the best I’ve ever had. I beat off to fantasies of you.”

Karen laughed. “So eloquent. There is such a thing as a phone y’know. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m not getting laid any more than you are.”

They instinctively kissed, deeply. Karen’s knees began to tremble and she felt herself getting wet for the first time in days. Yeah, Gail was a special one, not to be forgotten. They broke their kiss, fortunately, Karen thought, before their tongues got involved. They both sighed.

“Okay sweets,” Gail said. “Tomorrow morning, eight thirty. Sharp. I have to be in court at one, and there’s a lot to do

“Yes dear.” Karen grabbed her coat and slipped it on.

“And Karen. No more tough girl heroics, okay? I don’t want to live in a world without you.”

Karen smiled broadly. “Yes mother, message received. See ya love.”

It turned out to be a long and miserable day for Laci. It started out pretty good. For the first time since it happened, the agony of Monday night was receding enough that Laci felt able to go to school. She listened raptly to Mrs. Johnson’s lecture on dependent and independent clauses, secretly delighted that she was understanding it almost effortlessly. She noticed that Mrs. Johnson gave her funny looks a couple of times, but she didn’t dwell on it.

Then the bottom fell out. Dragged off like a delinquent to talk to the cops and reopen the wounds. Saunders, the DARE officer seemed nice enough, and he promised she wasn’t in trouble, but he was a cop for God’s sake. Considering where she came from and who her mother was, they’d probably already written her off as a punk. And oh God! Didn’t any of them understand how bad it hurt inside to relive that nightmare? And she didn’t even have Karen with her.

Laci was lost for the day after that. She moved like a robot from class to class, hardly aware of where she was. Her mind churned endlessly, reliving Monday night, terrified she might have said something that would get Karen in trouble and they couldn’t be together any more. That was the thought that wouldn’t go away.

Her moping was so bad, Mr. Belden, her art teacher, took notice. After class, he called Laci over, and he gently put his hand on her shoulder. Mr. Belden was her favorite teacher. She didn’t mind when he touched her; his touch didn’t feel threatening like it did when some of the other men teachers got too close. Mr. Belden was very handsome and very gay, and maybe that’s why she felt okay with him. Maybe, but mostly because he was so kind and gentle and warm. He’d be a good Dad to have, she thought.

“Laci dear. Is something wrong sweetie?” he asked gently. “When my very bestest, favoritest student is so blue, it worries me. My regular Laci, who lights up the room like the sun, looks like she has a cloud over her.”

Laci shrugged. “I dunno Mr. Belden. I think I’m getting my period. That always makes me feel kinda yucky.”

Of course Belden knew that was a fib. The police had questioned him, along with Laci’s other teachers yesterday. There were fibs and then there were fibs. If she wasn’t inclined to open up, well, as long as she knew he was there if needed. He squatted down to her level and said in a low, conspiratorial voice, “I’ll have to take your word for it, since I don’t have that problem.”

For the only time since English class that day, Laci managed a small but honest smile. She looked at him shyly, her eyes open and pained, and he felt a lurch. Someday, this girl is going to devastate some boy – or girl – with those eyes. 

The text with Karen didn’t help. What kind of meeting? With the police? Officer Saunders knew about her. How did they even know about Karen? 

It was only when Karen picked her up at three-thirty that she perked up. Karen seemed her usual self, smiling and affectionate. Sadly, there could be no kisses in public, though that would have gone a long way toward easing Laci’s pain. When she tried to bring up the day’s ugliness, Karen shushed her and said, “Not now kitten. Let’s wait ‘til we get home.”

Laci pouted a moment before taking Karen’s free hand in both of hers so she could nuzzle her face there and breath in Karen’s essence. She whispered again and again, “I love you, I love you,” into Karen’s palm. She needed to feel Karen, to reassure herself that she was really still there.

“My!” Karen said with a girlish giggle. “You’re an affectionate little muffin.”

“I missed you today. Bad. Really bad.” 

“I know kitten. I had no idea they’d sneak up on you like that, or I would have kept you home from school. But don’t worry, we’ll talk all about it when we get home. We have to stop at the grocery store. There are a few things we need.”

“Okay,” Laci murmured. “What are we having to eat?”

“Is there anything in particular you want?”

Laci shrugged. “Not really.”

“We’ll look around and see if anything catches our eye.”

They hurried into the store and Karen grabbed what she needed: milk, fresh bread, real butter, yogurt, and a can of coffee. Laci didn’t see anything that interested her. At last, Karen said, “To hell with it. Let’s get a container of ice cream and call it good.”

Laci smiled. “Cool. I like chocolate and vanilla.”

Karen got a half gallon of Gifford’s fudge swirl. “How’s this?”

“Perfect, totally perfect,” Laci said, hugging Karen’s arm.

They got in express checkout line. Laci looked at Karen with undisguised adoration, not caring whether anybody in the store knew she loved Karen so much it hurt. At last, Laci had to look away; she was feeling an almost overwhelming urge to pounce on Karen and hug her.

Laci sighed and stepped aside to look at the fashion magazines to distract herself. She found one that caught her interest and she grabbed it to take a peak. Maybe Karen would buy it for her. 

When she looked up, a girl from school named Jenna was in the next line with her Mom. Jenna looked at her and squealed, “Ohmygod! Laci!”

Laci disliked the girl. She was pretty enough, but she was mean, a bully, a girl who’d talk to you nice, then go behind your back and say awful things and spread lies.

“Oh, hi Jenna,” Laci said with cool politeness. God, why does she have to be here?

“You okay? I mean, like, everyone’s saying you, like, hadda talk to the police in, like the principals office. And I go, like ‘No way,’ and wow, is it true?”

Laci could almost see the girl lick her chops. “Kinda,” Laci muttered.

“Wow, so not cool! What happened? You didn’t, like, kill someone didja?” Jenna laughed.

God, why can’t I lie or something? Or be like Karen and just tell her to fuck off. “Nah, it was about my mother. No big deal.”

Jenna’s eyes were wide, drinking it all in for later editorial adjustment before broadcast. “We, like, heard your Mom’s in jail!”

Laci was getting very angry. She answered with a shrug.

Jenna’s face was gleeful. “Wow, is that Amy’s Mom? Wow, are you, like stayin with her now?”

A thought flashed across Laci’s brain. She reached over and patted Karen’s arm. Karen turned with a smile. “Yes dear?”

Laci said, “This Jenna from school, one of me and Amy’s friends.”

Karen understood immediately what was going on. She looked at the girl with a smile, vaguely recognizing her from a pool party or sleepover. “Hi Jenna,” Karen said. “I remember you from a pool party. How are you dear?”

Jenna immediately shrank back into the protective orbit of her own mother, muttering, “Fine.” Karen kept her eyes fixed on the girl, smiling in a way that was at once friendly yet vaguely unsettling, as if the smile contained a subtle warning. Don’t fuck with us little girl. 

Karen looked away. It was time to unload the groceries onto the counter. Laci tried to shrug off the anger Jenna provoked. Fuck her, she’s gonna say shit about me anyway. Bitch. Laci sighed and turned to Karen. “Karen? Can I get this magazine?”

Karen glanced at it. “Sure honey. Toss it on the conveyor.”

Laci helped Karen load the groceries into the car. “You didn’t seem very happy to see your friend,” Karen observed with a matter-of-fact tone.

“She’s not my friend,” Laci grumbled. “She’s a bitch! She smiles at you, then talks behind your back. She tells lies about people, nasty lies. I can tell she’s already making up stuff about me and telling them as the truth when they’re all made up lies.”

Karen half-smiled. Middle school girls, living in their own separate world, with its own private rules, distinct from the larger world even in the midst of pain and suffering. Even Laci, a girl with a harsh, terrible a background, got upset over a classmate spreading gossipy lies. To Laci, she said, “Don’t worry about people like her, baby. She’ll tell her lies regardless. You’re better than her. She doesn’t even deserve the snot from your nose.”

Laci’s laugh was gleeful. Karen had such an awesome way of putting true things.

When they got home and the groceries were put away, Karen took Laci by the hand and led her to the living room. She clicked on the gas fireplace, turned on a table lamp, and she scanned the playlists on her stereo system – nothing too taxing or emotional. There, Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos, easy enough, not aggressive. She put it on and led Laci to the sofa. “Sit with me kitten, so we can talk.”

“Can I sit on your lap and…cuddle?”

“Of course. Nothing would make me happier.” Karen sat and patted her lap. “Come.”

Laci snuggled as close to Karen as she could. She rested her cheek on Karen’s chest. “Now I feel better,” she murmured. “Do you know how good and safe I feel when I’m close to you?”

“Well, I know how good I feel when I have you close to me.” She looked Laci’s face up and down, marveling again at her beauty. She caressed the ball of her thumb over Laci’s cheek, and let herself be hypnotized by the girl’s ethereal emerald eyes. Come hell or high waterI will do whatever it takes to keep you with me. I will not let you go., Karen vowed, Karen bent her head and kissed Laci’s forehead, and the child closed her eyes, giving her face a divine beauty that took Karen’s breath away. 

What kind of disease, what monstrous inner deformity of the soul could cause anyone to hate anything so beautiful and sweet, Karen wondered. All she ever wanted was to be loved. Couldn’t you have spared this angel an occasional hug? Taken her for a walk and held her hand? 

But Karen knew Laci’s beauty, her sweetness, her active, bright mind were the problem. Laci was everything her mother wasn’t and never could be. An accident in the first place, when it became clear Laci was exceptionally gifted, she became intolerable, a debasing reminder to Sandra that her own time was long past, a dying ember to Laci’s glowing radiance. From then on, Laci had to be despised and tormented and broken until she no longer mocked Sandra’s emptiness and failure. Laci must be brought down to wretchedness so her presence no longer taunted the mother for her failures.

Karen understood this after endless hours of laying awake in the dead of night.

Karen bent her head, Laci’s eyes opened, and their lips met, very lightly. Karen slowly turned her head side to side so her lips brushed Laci’s. Then she nuzzled her lips more firmly, and Laci kissed back gently.

Time to come back to earth, Karen thought, enough ruminating. She brushed loose strands of Laci’s hair back from her cheek. “I guess you had a pretty bad day today.”

Laci, her face clouding, nodded. “Uh huh, really bad. Karen, when I saw the cop, I thought I’d faint. It was like they tricked me. I knew I was gonna have to talk to them eventually, but I never thought it would be in school, when you weren’t with me.”

“Yeah, it was a trick on their part. I think they wanted to intimidate you.”

“But why? Ida told them the same thing if you were with me, I didn’t lie, I told the truth just like you said.”

“I don’t know honey. I think maybe they thought you’d try to protect your mother – honey, it’s true, kids in positions like you will protect their parents even though they’re being beaten, because it’s the only world they know. You’re pretty remarkable, baby, you understand that’s no way to live. But the cops didn’t know that, so they figured it was best to catch you in a bind.”

“I didn’t say anything wrong,” Laci pleaded. 

Karen kissed her forehead. “I know you didn’t kitten.”

Laci looked up with wide eyes and bit her knuckle. From behind her fist, she said, “I wasn’t even going to tell them your name when they asked, it was none of their business, but then he said they already knew. I thought he was lying to trick me, so I still wasn’t gonna say, but then he said your name, and that another cop was talking to you, an’ I don’t know how they knew, because I never said anything to anybody. How did they know?”

Karen wasn’t about to tell Laci. Detective Potvin took a little basic evidence, questioned Laci’’s teachers, put two and two together, and made the connection. If Karen told Laci that, she might lose faith in her teachers. “From what I can tell, someone got my license plate number.”

“Oh,” Laci mumbled, and in her naïveté, it was a perfectly valid explanation.

“Were they nice to you, or mean?” Karen asked.

“Mostly nice. The assistant principal and my guidance counselor were there.”

“You were very brave today, kitten. I am so proud of you.”

Laci shook her head. “No Karen, I wasn’t brave. You were brave when you rescued me.”

Karen chuckled softly, still stroking Laci’s temple. “No kitten, that wasn’t bravery. That was love. I wasn’t about to let anybody hurt my baby, no matter what.”

In Laci’s eyes, the scary, terrifying thing was the possibility of them being forced apart by dark strangers who couldn’t understand how they were so in love. She had to ask. She had to know. “Karen, are the police going to…take me away from you?” Her eyes welled up with tears.

“Baby, dear, sweet Laci. Didn’t I tell you I wouldn’t let anybody hurt you? Tomorrow, we’re going to meet with a lawyer, who also happens to be an old friend, and she’s going to help fix it so we can be together once and for all.”

“Really? Oh my God! Oh, I would give anything for that to happen! Anything!”

“There are other people we’re going to have to deal with. Someone from DHHS is going to come around soon to check up on you and make sure I’m taking good care of you.”

“DHHS. That’s where my mother goes to get her food stamp card and her medical card. She dragged me there couple of times to prove I was real and still living with her.”

Karen smiled. “I think more police are going to want to talk to you, and they’re probably going to be tougher than the DARE officer. But Gail – that’s the lawyer – will be there whenever they want to talk to you from now on. They really want to get that boyfriend in jail for a very long time, and they think you can help do that. And don’t worry kitten, I’ll be with you the whole time.”

“I’ll be strong Karen, I promise, I’ll do whatever I have to do.”

“I know you will, kitten. I don’t doubt that for a second.”

Laci sighed. She was toying with Karen’s diamond tear-drop necklace. At last, shyly, not looking up, she murmured, “Karen? We haven’t loved each other in… a while.”

Karen chuckled and brushed back a loose strand of Laci’s hair from her forehead. “No we haven’t, have we. Well, we’ve had other things on our minds and all I’ve been able to think about was making you better. I knew you’d tell me when you wanted to love again. Are you really, truly ready? Don’t fib.”

Laci nodded her head vigorously. “I am so ready!” Still toying with Karen’s necklace, she looked down shyly. “You don’t think I’m some kinda slut for wanting us to love each other, do you?”

Karen smiled and tweaked Laci’s nose playfully. “Laci Laci Laci! What am I going to do with you? Wanting to make love with someone does not make you a slut.”

Secretly, Laci feared Karen would think she was terrible for wanting to love again so soon after the Bad Night. She couldn’t help it though. She ached for Karen’s touch, the sensation of their bodies melding together, the amazing way Karen made her whole being sing. She needed to feel Karen’s love again.

Laci’s insides were getting tense and squirmy, and a flush spread over her. She shifted restlessly, rubbing her feet together. Her taut muffin blossomed and grew very wet. She shifted until she was on her knees straddling Karen’s hips. Her cheeks red, she sighed and laid her head on Karen’s chest. “Oh Karen,” she murmured. “I just…”

“It’s OK,” Karen crooned, stroking her silky hair. “You’re my baby girl, and I adore you with all my heart. Love me any way you want. I belong to you tonight.” That’s exactly how it needed to be, Karen thought. Laci had to be the one who decided where to go and how to get there.

The urgency inside Laci grew rapidly. It almost felt like something was trapped inside her and clawing to get out. That something was a need to make sure Karen knew how much Laci loved and adored her. She took Karen’s face in her delicate, trembling hands, her breath shallow and rapid. Laci had the overwhelming feeling that she hadn’t expressed to Karen just how much she loved her since the Bad Night. Now that feeling was ready to explode out of her. 

“Oh Karen,” she mewed like a little kitten. She dove on her mother-lover’s mouth, her hair spilling in a cascade around their faces. Laci pushed her tongue passed Karen’s wet lips, and a tremulous moan, almost a whine, slipped from the girl. From her knees, she squirmed her body against Karen’s.

Karen was taken aback by the sudden urgency that seemed to overcome her girl lover. Laci was squirming and whimpering, her body humming like a high voltage power cable. Karen’s own body responded immediately to Laci’s passionate assault. There was something more than raw sexual hunger in Laci’s passion.

Karen sucked Laci’s tongue like a nipple, then let it go. Laci dragged her mouth over Karen’s face, kissing, nuzzling, tasting all at the same time. Little gasping whimpers leapt from her with every breath. Her hands were pressed against the back of the sofa for support, yet her arms trembled. 

“Karen,” she mewled again, and there was a tiny note of pain in her voice. “Love me! Please love me!”

“Yes baby girl, I love you. I’ll love you.” Karen knew Laci needed her now. They devoured each other’s mouths, while Laci’s hips danced in an agony of sexual heat.

Karen worked her hand between them and cupped Laci’s sex, squeezing firmly, almost roughly. Laci, her lips against Karen’s cheek, let out a loud whimper, and her hips froze and stiffened. The fabric of her leggings was already damp. Her precious little muffin quivered under Karen’s touch. Karen stroked her hand up and down very firmly. The double sensations of her firm touch and the fabric of Laci’s leggings and panties rasped against the girl’s sex. Karen felt her lover’s slit open under the layers.

Laci squealed and stiffened. A bolt of primal pleasure rocketed through her like a streak of lightening. She was neither able to nor interested in resisting the bursting wall inside her. Her breath caught and her body arched. When it let go in a pulsating surge, Laci grimaced and let out a long squeal. A gush of wetness welled out of her sex. Karen felt the rush of warm nectar spread over Laci’s leggings, soaking a large patch. 

Karen massaged Laci and murmured with soft enthusiasm. “That’s it baby girl, don’t hold it, let yourself come for me.”

Laci wrapped her arms tightly around Karen’s neck, squeezing her eyes shut. She grimaced and stiffened again, then exhaling with a gust and a cry, another orgasm washed over her like a wave spending its force on a beach. Enough, Karen thought. It would be too easy to come the girl out. She moved her hands to Laci’s hips and held her mound close to her own hips.

Still whining in her throat, Laci assaulted Karen’s mouth, jabbing her tongue in her adult lover’s. She kissed Karen frantically all over her face, her neck, behind her ears, until Karen was squirming and laughing. At last, Laci let herself slump and nuzzle her face in the crook of her lover’s neck. Suddenly, she began to giggle. Wasn’t it just awesome? They were both beaming when she looked up at Karen. Laughing softly, they kissed, playfully now.

“Well,” Karen said softly. “That came out of nowhere. I guess you did need to be loved.”

Don’t apologize,She’s happy it happened that way. Laci thought. Almost nose to nose, Laci giggled. “Karen, you are so bad!”

“Why am I bad?” Karen said in a faux-pout worthy of Laci herself. 

“’Cause look how wet you made me. It’s almost like I peed my pants.” Before Karen could answer, Laci sucked her lover’s lower lip between her own lips and nibbled gently. As she nudged her tongue out to dance with Karen’s, Laci began undoing the buttons on the woman’s blouse. 

Karen laughed softly into Laci’s mouth. “Now who’s being bad,” she teased. “What are you doing, young lady?”

“Undressing you,” Laci said patiently, but in her best “Duh” tone. “I can’t love you right if you’re dressed.” And she kissed Karen anew, sucking on her lips again, nuzzling her tongue in a gentle waltz with Karen’s. All the while, her fingers steadily worked the buttons on of Karen’s blouse until it fell open. Laci drew her fingers up Karen’s sides, making the woman gasp at the tickling thrill. “Is your bra a frontsie or a backsie?” Laci said in a little voice.

“A frontsie,” Karen answered. She stroked her fingers through Laci’s hair, pushing it back.

Laci once again let her lips brush Karen’s, making love to her lover’s mouth. She fumbled with the front of Karen’s bra, working it until the clasps came free, releasing Karen’s full breasts. Karen squirmed her shoulders, and with Laci’s help, shed her blouse and bra.

Laci cupped Karen’s firm globes, squeezing firmly, even roughly. She rolled the balls of her thumbs over Karen’s nipples, waking them and bringing them to stiff attention. Karen closed her eyes and sighed with pleasure. Laci kissed her way over Karen’s chin, down her arched neck, all the while, massaging the woman’s breasts and tweaking and tugging on her nipples. Laci’s kisses, her firm manipulation of Karen’s breasts had an almost hypnotic effect on the woman. She let herself bask in the relaxing warmth of Laci’s love.

Laci knew she had Karen in a nice place. She herself loved the soft feel of Karen’s skin on her lips and tongue. She slid down until she had her face buried in the valley between Karen’s breasts. She drew her lips up the slope of one mound. Karen’s nipple was stiff and beckoning, and the nursing fantasy unfolded in Laci’s head. She shuddered with pleasure at her dream. She worked up a mouthful of saliva, then let it drool out onto Karen’s nipple. She lazily strolled tongue around the glistening ruby, nudging it, circling it, before suckling it into her mouth.

Karen let herself luxuriate in the warm pleasure of Laci’s attentions. Each nip of the girl’s teeth, each swirl and prod of her tongue sent thrilling electric sparkles over Karen, some making her shiver. Her hands were thrown over her head. Each exhalation was a soft sigh, occasionally tinged with a faint moan. Her pussy slowly began to tense up, and her pelvis knotted.

Laci moved deftly between each breast. She suckled Karen’s nipples in turn, hoping, dreaming she might get a trickle of milk. I wonder what baby milk tastes like? I bet it’s warm and sweet. I wonder if a girl can make baby milk even if she doesn’t have a baby. Oh it would be so awesome to drink milk from Karen, that would so make me come! I’ll bet Karen knows if a woman without a baby could make milk, but I’ll ask her later since its probably a stupid question, but what if it’s true!Laci idly mused.

Laci sensed Karen’s growing restlessness. Karen’s breathing was more urgent, her sighs more pronounced, and her body movement fidgety. When she took Karen’s nipple in her teeth and stretched it, the woman gasped and plunged her hands into Laci’s nest of hair and caressed it in her fingers. Laci let the bud snap from her grasp, making Karen jump.

Laci raised herself. Karen’s eyes were barely open, and her cheeks were flushed. Laci rocked forward so her mouth hovered a mere inch above Karen’s. “Do I make you feel good?” Laci said in a muted voice. 

Karen opened her eyes, but they remained heavy, almost lethargic. She managed a soft chuckle. Before she could say anything, Laci touched her lips down and lured Karen’s tongue out to play. “Now,” she purred, “I hafta love you.”

“You do?” Karen mumbled in a thick voice.

“I do,” Laci nodded. She dipped in for one more lingering kiss. Now she drew her mouth down Karen’s body, kissing her way down to Karen’s hidden treasure. She paused to probe Karen’s belly button with her tongue. Karen twitched and laughed but kept her eyes closed. At last, Laci’s lips started up the gentle slope of the rise of Karen’s pubis. By now, Laci slid her body so she was kneeling on the floor. She nuzzled the smooth flesh of Karen’s lower tummy while she drew her fingers down Karen’s tender flanks. Laci hooked her fingers under the waist of Karen’s slacks. “Karen,” she said in a soft voice.

Karen’s eyes flickered open. They were heavy and distant, almost as if she were stoned. “Yes baby,” she crooned, her voice thick.

“Lift you bum. I need to take your pants off.”

Karen chuckled. “OK baby, I’m sorry.” She arched her back enough so Laci could wriggle her slacks and panties off. 

Karen did feel groggy and almost drugged. Her mind was empty but for images. A song buzzed through her head in an endless loop, a song she first heard in middle school, though it was even then 10 years past its prime – a classic, she thought. But she heard it, over and over “You’re dirty sweet, and your my girl,” “Get-it-on, Bang-a-gong, get-it-on”. She was aware that her pussy was swelling and wetting. Another image came flitting across her brain. Bubbles of lava boiling and burping, creeping along the back roads of Hawaii. And that’s what she felt growing in her pelvis, a percolating, expanding bubble of lava. Naked now, Karen tossed one leg up on the top of the sofa, and rested her other foot on the floor, fully exposing her cunt for Laci.

Karen’s pussy shimmered in the soft light. Her pelvis rolled slowly to an internal rhythm. Laci breathed in the marshy smell of Karen’s female essence. She scooted closer, then threw a quick glance up at her lover’s face. Karen’s eyes were closed and her face looked supremely content, as if she was looking at some beautiful landscape in her head only she could see. I’m the only one who can make her feel like this, And we’re lovers.Laci thought. Laci marveled at the beautiful words. We. Are. Lovers. She was dimly aware that music – Karen Music, Love Music – played softly.

Laci drew her tongue up the crease between the broad ridges of Karen’s outer labia and her thigh. She tasted a heady mixture of sweat and nectar. She dropped her head and used her hands to spread Karen’s butt cheeks apart. She nestled her tongue against the rosebud of Karen’s asshole, and a giddy thrill trickled through her as if she was doing something outrageously, deliciously naughty. Karen jumped at the unexpected touch of Laci’s tongue on her asshole. 

Laci rolled her tongue over Karen’s intricate rosebud, drawing a soft moan from the woman. It gave the girl a thrill to taste such a forbidden spot. She shuddered, then stroked her tongue up the seam between Karen’s asshole and the base of her cunt. “Oh Laci, baby,” Karen moaned as softly as a summer breeze. She undulated her hips almost imperceptibly. 

Laci never failed to be entranced by the sight of Karen’s incredibly intricate sex. Beguiled, she marveled at the vision of beauty before her. Wet and shiny bumps and nubs, glistening creases and fissures, dewy folds, intricate flaps of dark flesh, it was… it was… enthralling, beautiful.

Laci pushed her tongue into Karen’s tight pussy hole like a hummingbird gathering nectar from a flower. She sucked at Karen’s cunt hole, slurping in the juice to savor. Laci zig-zagged her tongue up the channel of Karen’s slit to the apical button of the woman’s tender clit. She hooked an arm around Karen’s thigh so she could reach around to massage the rete underlying the woman’s clit nest. She poked and swirled her tongue around Karen’s nub, probed firmly to expose and tickle the small, intricate creases of Karen’s clit hood. She finally sucked Karen into her mouth, probing the base of her clit, stabbing at it while she sucked. Saliva bathed Karen’s hooded pearl, mixing with her nectar to create a heady cocktail. Now she vibrated her tongue over the woman, shook her head and slurped. Careful, do it slow, don’t make her cum too fast. Laci thought, That said, she moved her other hand up so she could work two fingers into Karen’s cunt. She once again cautioned herself to be careful. Don’t go to her magic spot, she wants to be loved slowly.

Karen’s body rolled and gyrated without conscious input. She restlessly jiggled her feet, skated the lower one over the floor, bounced the upper one up and down. Karen was  immersed in her own world of deep, enshrouding pleasure. Hot panging jolts coursed through her with every flick of her girl-lover’s sublime tongue. Karen’s restless hands found her breasts, and massaging them, tugging and twisting her nipples, was a way of masturbating and giving herself an extra layer of pleasure. Oh god, her teen lover had the most amazing mouth, so hungry, so eager to please.

Laci slowly, steadily kneaded Karen just above her clit, while sucking and licking her pussy, and relentlessly worked her fingers in and out, in and out of Karen’s juicy cunt. There was no hurry in her loving attentions. She savored Karen’s sex as she’d savor an ice cream cone. Laci let herself be entranced by the wonder of pleasuring her woman-lover. She was totally in tune with Karen’s movements, and the purrs and sighs she let out with each breath. She didn’t vary the tempo of her loving, even as she sensed Karen ever slowly climbing to the top.

Oh, it was wonderful! How did Laci do it? Karen marveled. How did she bring Karen to such warm, wonderful places, Karen wondered distantly. Even Gail wasn’t this amazing. The same song from her adolescence continued in Karen’s head, clear, steady, over and over. Her pelvis throbbed like the hubcap diamond star halo in that song, the steady, thrumming bass chords, and planking twangs of the lead shooting through her like little bullets, mimicking perfectly the way she was feeling. It was sheer, unadulterated bliss. Yet she steadily climbed higher up the mountain, ever closer to the top. The sensations throbbing through her grew ever more urgent, and her breathing became sharper. Oh yes, she was almost over the top.

Laci looked up at Karen as she loved the woman. From her moans, her sighs and purrs, from the way nectar oozed and her hips and legs moved with greater fervence, Laci knew she was very close. At last, she opened her mouth, pushed her tongue against Karen’s clit and assaulted it with her tongue. Side to side, up and down in staccato bursts, probing circles, more flicks, until… until Karen let out a long, low moan and her body stiffened and relaxed, stiffened and relax, again and again.

And oh yes, it was just like long, slow, heavy rolls on a tropical ocean, deep inner undulations, one following the other, not frantic, but so wonderfully soothing and sublime. Then, like a ship’s prow burying itself in the trough of a wave and coming up in a great splash of water, Karen was spent.

Karen lay in blissful warmth for a minute or an hour. Time meant nothing. At last, she felt Laci climb atop her and nuzzle her warm, perfect, nubile body close against her own glowing body. Karen let her eyes open, and Laci, her achingly beautiful face, now glistening with saliva and nectar as if she forgot to towel off after washing up, hovered inches away. Karen smiled softly. “Oh Laci,” she whispered, shaking her head slowly, weakly.

“Karen,” Laci whispered back. “Did I love you good?”

Karen laughed gently. She plunged her hands into Laci’s hair. “Oh my god,” Karen breathed, each word a phrase unto itself, “Laci, my precious little fairy princess, you take me to the most wonderful places in the universe. Ohhhh god.”

Laci smothered Karen’s face with short, loving kisses. She nibbled Karen’s ear and snuggled close as Karen wrapped her arms around the girl. “How long did that last?” Karen wondered aloud.

Taking it as a literal question, Laci shrugged and said, “ ‘bout 20 minutes, half an hour.”

Karen laughed again. “Oh sweetie, I didn’t intend for you be down there so long. You are so patient with me.”

“Karen, I love you! Ida stayed there for 20 hours if you wanted or needed me to. I love tasting you and loving you!”

“Laci, Laci, God broke the mold after making you kitten.”

After a time, Karen shifted and said, “I need to sit up, love.” They disentangled and Karen struggled up. “Phew! Laci honey, can you go get my cigarettes out of my purse? I might fall down if I try to stand up.”

Laci giggled, then hugged Karen. She got up and skittered into the kitchen. She throbbed with exhilaration. I make her feel things no one else ever made her feel! She fumbled in Karen’s purse for her cigarettes and lighter, and scurried back. She slid in her stocking feet across the polished wood floor as if she was surfing. She collapsed on the sofa in a giggling heap, simply delighting Karen.

“Aren’t we suddenly perky!” Karen laughed.

Still giggling like a six year old, Laci squirmed up and nestled against Karen’s side. “Here,” she said, handing Karen her cigarettes.

Karen lit one and took a deep hit. That was going to be the only thing she missed when she quit, that cigarette right after making love.

Laci reached her hand out. “Can I?” She took the cigarette from Karen and had a deep drag.

“How do you do that?” Karen asked, puzzled. “Go days without smoking, then have one and not just flat out start back up again?”

Laci, her eyes twinkling, shrugged. “I’m special, I guess.”

Karen laughed solidly. “Special, huh? That’s the understatement of the century. You about ready to head upstairs, O Special One?”

Laci laughed and playfully punched Karen’s arm. “Stop teasing me!”

“OK, I will. For now,” Karen said with a twinkle in her eyes. “Come, help me up.”

Laci stood and pulled Karen by the hand. “I always have to help you get up after I love you,” she said with mock frustration and a sly smile.

Karen pulled her baby girl into an embrace. “Well there you go,” Karen said while rocking Laci side to side. “All the proof I need that you really are special.” She kissed Laci firmly. When she pulled back, she looked at Laci as if she was noticing something for the first time. Then she laughed. “Oh Christ, we’re quite the pair, aren’t we? Here you are, naked from the waist up, and wearing wet pants, and I’m completely naked. Come, let’s get upstairs before we freeze to death.”

They went upstairs, leaving behind clothes littering the living room floor like so much flotsam and jetsam. As usual, though still cool, it was a tad warmer upstairs than downstairs. Laci jumped on the bed. “You gonna play music again tonight? Karen music, like you did downstairs just now?”

Karen frowned and smiled at the same time. “Karen music,” she chuckled. “What do you mean by that?”

“You know, Love music, that classical stuff.”

Karen laughed heartily. “Well there you go. I’ve never heard it called that before, but I guess it fits.” Laci’s unexpected request delighted Karen. She hoped to one day expand the girl’s musical horizons beyond the typical pop that dominated the world of girls Laci’s age. Now, Laci was actively seeking out something unfamiliar, because she associated it with love. Maybe, just maybe, something positive would come out of the madness of Monday night. “Sure, sounds like a good idea to me. I’d let you choose, but I don’t think you’re familiar enough. Love music, huh?”

Laci sat on the bed cross-legged. “Yeah, Love music.” She was idly cupping her small breasts and toying with her nipples. 

Karen shuddered at the sight. Her own nipples responded. She leaned over the stereo controls. What to play. Not the music she’d played Monday night. It was much too soon to play that yet. There was something sacred about it. Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Overture, followed by “Bolero”. “Bolero”; now there was love music, the musical expression of a woman’s orgasm Gail had explained one night last year after making love. Karen thought she was on to something.

The sounds drifted out of the hidden speakers like swirls of mist, and they tickled Laci’s ears. Funny, but she never noticed before how this kind of music seemed to nudge some unfamiliar place in her brain. There was no point in wondering about it now – just take it in while loving with Karen.

Karen climbed on the bed and scooted over to Laci. “Now,” she said playfully. “The sixty-four million dollar question. Why do you still have your pants on? Don’t you think it’s about time you got yourself naked?”

Laci laughed and flopped back on the bed. “I can’t do it by myself,” she cried, and laughed again. “I need your help, silly.”

“So that’s it. You should’ve told me about this handicap before now. Come, lift your bum.”

Smiling, biting her knuckle, Laci lifted her butt off the bed and Karen wriggled her pants down, panties and all. Karen brought them to her nose and sniffed, making Laci giggle. Though Karen was teasing Laci, the smell was intoxicating and irresistible nonetheless. “You smell better than apple pie fresh from the oven.”

Laci tittered and playfully pushed her foot against Karen’s face. “Apple pie,” she scoffed.

Karen grabbed her by the ankle and sucked Laci’s big toe into her mouth, tonguing it as she might the girl’s nipple. Laci jumped and squealed, instinctively pulling her foot back. Karen held it tight, and with glimmering eyes, watched the girl closely. Karen traced the tip of her tongue along the wash-boarded underside of Laci’s toes, and Laci squealed again, laughing and squirming hysterically. “Karennnnnn! You’re tickling me!” Karen traced her tongue over the ball of Laci’s foot, then over the arch to her heel. The girl squirmed and laughed, and pleaded.

At last Karen let her ankle go. “That’s what get for sticking your foot in my face.”

“Karen! That’s gross!” Laci cried with an amazed smile. 

“Why is it gross?”

“That’s my foot! It’s been in my boots all day!”

“So? I kiss your sexy little puss all the time. And you tickled my butt with your tongue. How’s a pretty little foot gross?”

“Well, it tickles anyway.”

Karen helped her now naked lover sit up. She took Laci’s face in her hands and kissed the girls mouth with love. Their tongues darted together, and Laci made little hungry noises. “Come closer baby,” Karen said. 

Laci scooted closer until she was sitting with her legs straddling Karen’s hips, and Karen’s legs were straddling her in the same way. Their chests touched, small, immature but firm breasts pressed against full, mature, maternal breasts, nascent woman melded to woman. They looked at each other with something like awe.

Smiling, their lips, and then their bodies, came together in a dance of love.

Tchaikovsky’s passion filled the air like a winter snow, just like the snow that was falling outside, before giving way at last to the warm intensity of “Bolero”. Before laying her lover onto her back, Karen reached over and turned off the lights. The snow acted like a billion tiny mirrors, each one reflecting a small bit of light until a soft, ghostly glow illuminated the landscape. The bedroom glowed dimly with the light, ever so much more tender than the harsh light of the cold moon.

They moved, shadowy figures wrapped together, in the spectral light. Laci’s quickened breathing became soft sighs, then little moans that were almost musical. Delighted murmurs drifted between them, then more soft coos from Laci.

The increasing intensity of Ravel’s Bolero seemed to mirror Laci’s building passion. It was almost as if he had written this piece specifically for Laci on this night. Karen caught the tempo of the music and matched it perfectly.

The music, like something out of Scheherazade’s world, slowly built, each measure a little more intense and urgent than the last, and Laci’s chirps and coos and groans matched it exactly. A small whisper of wind murmured in the eaves, adding it’s own musical comment to Ravel’s story. And then the cymbals clashed and the horns groaned and cried, and ended with satisfaction. 

Laci returned from the bathroom – she was still squeamish about using the toilet in front of anyone, even Karen – and Karen lifted the blankets and opened herself so Laci could snuggle in close.

“We have a busy day tomorrow, kitten,” Karen murmured softly. She caressed Laci’s temple. “We have to be up early, school day early.”

Laci sighed. “It’d be cool if we had a day where we could just stay in bed. Like the day of the blizzard.”

“Someday soon, once all this nonsense is played out, we’re going to take at least a week for just us.”

“That would be awesome. Karen, you aren’t worried about, you know, us being able to stay together?”

Karen inwardly grimaced. Please, please, let’s not fight demons tonight. “I worry about everything baby girl, I’m an adult, it’s part of my job description. But if Gail tells me everything will be fine, I trust her. I think you’ll really like her. She’s one of a kind.”

“That’s kinda how I feel. If you tell me it’ll be fine, I know not to worry.” Laci fell silent. She felt good this night, calm, calmer than she’d felt since Monday night. There were no scary thoughts trying to get out, which surprised her after all the bullshit she’d been through today. Instead, her thoughts drifted to Karen’s breasts, how suckling them like a baby pleased her and made her feel safe and warm. The only thing missing was the milk. Without consciously intending to say anything, she said, “Karen?”

“Yes kitten?” There was no angst in Laci’s voice.

“Can a woman make baby milk if she doesn’t have a baby? It might be a dumb question, but….”

Karen chuckled. So that’s where the child’s mind was tonight. “Well, I don’t know for sure honey. I’ve heard it’s possible. I’ve heard there are medicines that make it happen. Is that something you’d like?”

“If it was possible… yeah, it’s a nice, sexy idea.”

“Tell you what. Once life settles down, we’ll look into it together and see if it’s possible.”

“Would you do that for me?” Laci said in a soft, demure voice.

“If it’s possible and not dangerous, I absolutely would do that for you. Would you like to pretend nurse again tonight?”

“Yes,” Laci sighed.

And she nursed, her mother-lover’s nipple firmly in her mouth.