Two women, straight and lesbian, come together part 1.

I was sitting on the couch waiting for my daughter,
Rachel, to finish getting ready. We were going to a gay
and lesbian festival in the park � a fundraiser and
luncheon – at the request of Rachel’s new girlfriend
Kate. So, as a show of support for my daughter, I said
I’d come along.

Almost two years prior to this, when Rachel was a
freshman in college, she came home one day from school
and, over dinner, broke the news that she was a
lesbian. Or so she said. The only reason I had my
lingering doubts was because of the way she acted about
it, as if it wasn’t a big deal. Granted, it shouldn’t
be, but she seemed to be taking it in rather casual
stride, considering it was a bit more than simply
changing your hairstyle or college major.

Only a few weeks before, she had been talking about
seeing a young man in one of her classes, even going so
far as to have lunch with him twice. But now she was a
lesbian and, although I had my doubts, and even though
we did talk about it to some length, I accepted her
decision and left it at that. If it were a phase, she’d
likely get over it at some point. Even she admitted it
could be such, which only fueled my doubts.

Rachel had been dating Kate for a little over three
months. She was a nice enough girl, but a bit rough
around the edges. Aside from several tattoos, she also
sported a number of piercings, which seemed to do more
to attract attention to her, than act as an outward
expression of her personality. And, although I never
saw her doing so, I assumed she smoked, due to the
residual smoke I could smell on her from time to time.
But, over all, she was a decent, kind person. Rachel
seemed to enjoy her company a great deal, and, as long
as she was happy, that’s what mattered.

Whereas Kate was an Art History major, Rachel was
studying Anthropology. My understanding is that they
met in an art class. And, while Kate was adorned with
numerous body modifications, Rachel had none. Well,
that is, until her new girlfriend talked her into
getting her tongue pierced.

At first, it was a little unsettling to see them
holding hands. I think any parent would feel that way.
You know someone all their life, and then one day
something shifts dramatically about them, and it takes
some getting use to.

When I saw them kiss for the first time � not that I
was gawking, mind you; I simply walked into the living
room at the wrong time � I didn’t cringe because my
daughter had her tongue in another girl’s mouth. I did
so because it was so utterly foreign to me. And, to be
frank, I did so because I was seeing a relatively
intimate moment between my daughter and her girlfriend,
something I’d normally assume to be inherently
personal.

It wasn’t a bad thing. I wasn’t mad or upset. It was
strange, because it was all so new to me. But now,
after a few months to acclimatize myself to their
relationship, it wasn’t so unnerving.

Rachel at last came tromping down the steps.

“Ready?” she huffed, throwing her arms into her jacket.

A short time later, after picking up Kate at her
apartment, we arrived at the park.

Just like with so many other things in her life, Rachel
typically threw herself into whatever it was currently
holding her interest, be it classes, music, clothes,
friends, and the like. Now that she was a lesbian, she
and Kate joined the student Les-Bi-Gay-Trans
organization on campus.

I never really gave them a second thought, to be
honest. To me, they were just regular people. Maybe a
bit strange, though only, as I said, in light of the
fact that it was all so new to me. After all, it’s not
every day you see a large bearded man strolling down
the street in a dress, let alone your own daughter
holding hands with another young woman.

After I parked the car, the three of us walked to the
park, about a block away and smack in the middle of
town. There were four streets on four sides of the
park, so there was no way you’d miss seeing the event,
should you drive through town. There were balloons,
booths offering different sorts of foods and beverages,
as well as various types of books and literature. And,
of course, it wouldn’t quite be a party without games,
clowns, and assorted one-person acts in the form of
jugglers, musicians, and magicians.

I suppose it’s fair to say, although I was glad to see
everyone smiling and happy and out in the open about
their sexuality, in the back of my mind, I did have to
question whether this sort of thing had a bit too much
of a carnival atmosphere to it, seeing as how kids
going by might form a different impression, wondering
what the hubbub was all about. After all, there was a
slight sexual undertone, and sometimes more than simply
slight. Some of the prizes at the game booths were
condoms and the like, and one of the jugglers did toss
about a few adult toys.

Suffice it to say, though, I was pleased to be there
with my daughter, as a show of parental support, but I
did feel a tad squeamish, too.

Our trio walked around the park, checking out one booth
after the next, Rachel and Kate occasionally stopping
to chat with a friend. At one point, as they engaged in
a lively conversation with another young woman adorned
in tattoos and body piercings, I kept myself occupied
by thumbing through a book of poetry at a nearby booth.

“You interested in that?”

I looked up and saw a short, portly woman with a broad
smile standing on the other side of the table from me.
She had long, straight black hair and large glasses
that made her eyes seem unusually large; large, but
friendly.

I glanced at the book in my hand.

“Oh, uh… Yeah… I guess. It’s interesting.”

I hadn’t even had a chance to read anything in it.

She smiled again.

“I wrote that,” she said, gesturing to the small book
in my hand.

“Oh, I see.”

She leaned down under the table and pulled out a small
plastic bag, and then reached for the book.

“Here ya go,” she said, taking it from me and placing
it in the bag.

I took a deep breath, saying it was ok, too embarrassed
to tell her I didn’t actually want to purchase it. But
she seemed to sense this and dropped the small book
into the bag and handed it to me.

“Yours to keep,” she said with the same friendly grin.

With my face turning red, I chuckled.

“Oh, really… No, that’s ok. I can’t.”

“S’ok,” she replied. “I gotta whole box of ’em down
here and haven’t sold one all morning. You’re nice,
you’re pretty… what the heck,” she exclaimed happily.
“You’re the only person who’s opened one up.”

My apprehensions faded, though I was slightly
embarrassed by her remark about being pretty. I took
the bag, albeit reluctantly, and thanked her. She only
shrugged, still standing there and smiling, looking at
me with those big eyes. I stood there fidgeting for a
moment, and then mumbled that I should probably get
going, but not before thanking her once more.

“Sure,” she said, giving me a small wave.

I stepped back over to Rachel and her friends, standing
with my back to the table, trying to hide my
embarrassment.

After a tortuously long wait, the conversation between
Rachel and Kate and their friend ended, and we
continued on our way.

A short time later, the three of us found a bench to
sit on. While Rachel and Kate went to get us a bite to
eat, I sat on the bench alone, watching them stroll off
into the distance, walking from one food vender to the
next. I sighed and smiled and crossed one leg over the
other and waited.

I guess I’m a people-watcher by nature. As I sat there,
I looked out at the milling crowd. Maybe a few hundred
people were there. Men holding hands, women holding
hands, and a sprinkling of couples of mixed gender,
obviously heterosexual. It was actually quite pleasant
to see everyone, regardless of what sort of person they
were on the inside, laughing and chatting and enjoying
a beautiful afternoon in the park.

I turned my gaze toward where Rachel and Kate stood in
a long line. Rachel had her arm draped over her
girlfriend’s shoulder, while the later had her hand in
the back pocket of Rachel’s shorts. I smiled and just
then saw Kate’s hand come out and grip Rachel’s butt.
She jumped, as if startled, and playfully poked Kate in
the ribs. I chuckled and turned away and down at the
plastic bag sitting along side me.

Just as I picked up the bag and pulled out the little
book of poetry, a large man, bald and chubby, with a
small dog on a leash, came and stopped in front of the
bench.

“You mind if I sit and rest a moment?” he asked in,
dare I say, a rather effeminate voice.

I smiled and said sure, but glanced down at the girls
to see if they were heading back any time soon. They
were still waiting in line, though making progress
toward the front.

“God, thanks,” he huffed, as he plopped down next to
me.

The little dog yipped up at his master, and the man,
fanning himself with some sort of leaflet, sighed.

“No, no, sweetie. Daddy’s gotta rest a minute, ok?”

Then he turned to me, saying, “Lord, it’s brutal out
today, don’t ya think?”

I closed the book, trying not to chuckle, and looked up
at the sky. We were sitting in the shade, and I was
wearing sunglasses and my straw garden hat.

“Yeah, a little,” I replied, giving him a smile.

He rolled his eyes and shook his head.

“Yeah,” he said. “Just a little.”

After a few minutes, he finally hefted his heavy body
off the bench.

“Ok, stinker,” he said to the little dog. “Let’s keep
moving.” Then he looked down at me.

“Thank you so much, dear,” he said with a big grin.

I smiled in reply and watched them slowly trot away.

No sooner had I gone back to my book, than yet someone
else asked to sit on the bench. This time it was a
woman’s voice. I placed my hand in the book and put on
another smile and looked up. A woman, probably in her
mid-thirties, stood before me. She was tall and slender
and tan, with long brown hair pulled back in a
ponytail, and a blue cap atop her head. She was smiling
down at me from behind her sunglasses, holding a
Styrofoam cup in one hand and a plastic bag with what
appeared to be books in the other.

I sighed and smiled, repeating my previous performance
with the man and his little dog.

“Sure,” I said, placing my bag on the other side of me,
so as to give her more room.

“Thanks,” she replied with a toothy smile.

As she sat down next to me, I turned back to my book.
From the corner of my eye, I could see her do as
myself, crossing one long tanned leg over the other. A
runner, I thought. She had to be a runner or, at the
very least, athletic. I could see the toned muscles of
her legs bulge slightly, not to mention the running
shoes. Then she set her bag down on the bench between
us, and I quickly darted my eyes back to the book in my
hands.

A minute or so later, I heard a slurping sound and
looked up. The woman was holding the straw of her cup
to her lips, and then pulled it away, giving it a
dissatisfied expression. She must have sensed I was
watching and turned to me.

“Empty,” she said, giving the cup a shake.

I smiled, and then she turned and dropped the cup into
a trashcan behind the bench. Just as I went back to my
book, she softly exclaimed, “Oh, I have that.” I looked
up and smiled, raising my eyebrows.

“Pardon?”

She grinned and gestured to my book.

“I got that, too,” she said.

I looked down and held it up.

“This?”

She grinned and chuckled and opened her plastic bag,
pulling out the same book of poetry. Then she glanced
over her shoulder, back in the direction of the stand
from which we both found it, saying, “You got it from
Darla, right?”

“Oh, um… Well, I guess. Don’t know her name.”

I looked over at the booth and saw the woman in
question talking to someone in front of her table. They
were laughing, and then she leaned down and pulled out
a plastic bag from under the table, while at the same
time reaching for the book in the other person’s hand.

“Uh, yeah. That’s who I got it from,” I replied. Then I
turned back to the woman sitting next to me. She
smiled, and, in an instant, something struck me as odd
about it. But before I could put any more thought into
her smile, she held out her hand.

“I’m Gayle,” she said.

I took her hand in mine, and she gave it a gentle
squeeze.

“Jess,” I replied.

As she released me from her soft hand, I heard Rachel’s
voice.

“Ok, hope you like what we got, because we’re not gonna
go back and stand in line.”

I turned and looked up, as Rachel and Kate stopped in
front of me.

“Oh, hey, Gayle,” said Kate.

Apparently, the two were acquainted.

Rachel glanced up from the brown paper bag full of
food, splotched with round grease stains, upon hearing
Kate, and said hello to Gayle, as well. Rachel then
looked at me, and then to Gayle.

“Oh, uh, mom, this is Gayle. Gayle this is…”

But Gayle and I smiled, glancing at each other.

“We’ve met,” I said.

Gayle nodded and smiled at my daughter, and then to me.

Rachel blinked and stared at us for a moment, finally
replying, “Oh, uh… Ok, then.”

Then came the awkward moment I’d almost forgotten
about. Rachel and Kate stood before us silent, holding
the bag of food, and then my daughter gestured to the
bench.

“So, uh… how’s this gonna work?” she asked with a bit
of a chuckle.

The four of us exchanged puzzled expressions, and then
Gayle quickly gathered up her things.

“Oh, here,” she said hurriedly. “Sit. You guys sit.
Sorry, didn’t mean to intrude.”

I looked up, as she stood, and smiled at her.

“No intrusion,” I replied with a friendly shrug.

Gayle paused for but a brief second and smiled. And
then I noticed it again, something about that smile,
something strange about it, almost mysterious.

Still grinning, I swallowed, trying to hide my
embarrassment.

When she had everything in her hands, Gayle bid Rachel
and Kate farewell, and then turned to me.

“Nice to meet you,” she said, wiggling her fingers, as
she walked away.

“You, too.”

For the remainder of the afternoon, we browsed and
shopped, sampling various types of food and beverages,
and finally sat in the grass near where the talent show
would be taking place. And, as had been typical for
most of the day, Rachel and Kate found another friend
to go over and chat with.

As I sat on a blanket, I pulled out my book, and, no
sooner had I opened it, than I heard a familiar voice.
I turned and saw Gayle sitting not far away. She was
talking to someone, another woman, and they seemed to
be having a rather lively and friendly conversation.
Smiling, I returned to my book, but found it difficult
to concentrate, as every now and then, I’d hear Gayle
laugh, a light, airy giggle. And every time she did, I
found myself smiling in reply.

Most of the poetry in the book was only so-so. Not all
that interesting or unique, to be honest. But it was
something to do, while waiting for the show to begin.
But soon I noticed something had changed. Over the din
of laughter and voices all around me, I didn’t hear
Gayle’s voice any longer. Curious, I turned to where
she had been sitting, to see if she had left, but, no,
there she was, sitting like myself, with her legs
crossed and hunched forward reading her book.

She had taken her cap off, her hair still in a long
brown ponytail. Gayle was slender, but not skinny;
small in the bosom, but not without a figure. Her face
was narrow, tipped off with a thin nose and high
cheekbones, and her arms seemed long, but maybe that
was because of the shirt she was wearing. It was white
and sleeveless with a low-cut neck. As for her shorts,
they were fairly routine: khaki with snapping pockets
on the thighs. Below all of this, she wore small white
tennis shoes and no socks.

In a word, Gayle was a handsome woman, with sharp
features you’d expect to see of a model adorning the
cover of a magazine. I could almost imagine that, if
she were dressed more formally, she would strike quite
charming image. She did seem, as best I could tell by
our very brief conversation, to be somewhat of a strong
woman, strong in character that is; an independent
spirit of sorts. She seemed to be the type of person
who would sit in an office somewhere high up in a
skyscraper making great financial decisions; a woman of
business prowess, clever and deft and intelligent.

As I sat staring at her, I began to wonder who she was,
what she did for a living, the things she liked and
disliked. And then she stretched her long arms over her
head, pushing her chest out, and smiled over at me,
when our eyes met. I smiled back and she grinned more
broadly in reply. That’s when it suddenly dawned on me
that I had been staring at her, probably longer than
was considered polite. Embarrassed, I quickly glanced
down at the ground, trying to think of something to
say.

“You, uh… by yourself?” I asked.

Gayle smiled and leaned closer, holding a hand to her
ear.

I fidgeted and turned more toward her.

“You alone?” I called a bit louder.

She sat up straight and looked about with a forlorn
expression, holding her hands out, her book clasped in
her fingers. Then an exaggerated frown crossed her lips
and she nodded very unhappily. I laughed, then Gayle
laughed, and I asked if she’d like to come over and sit
with me, gesturing to my blanket.

Apparently confused by my offer and unable to hear me
clearly, she, in turn, gestured to me, then to her, and
then, bewildered, held up her hands. We both laughed,
and I cupped my hands around my mouth, calling out
loudly, “Would you like to sit with me?” A few
conversations that had been taking place around me
suddenly came to a halt, as all eyes turned in my
direction.

“Sorry,” I mumbled with a blush to the couple sitting
closest.

A moment later, Gayle was slowly striding over to me.
As she sat down, she looked at the couple to which I
had apologized.

“Sorry ’bout that,” she said with a big grin. “She’s a
bit hard of hearing.”

They only smiled half-heartedly and nodded, and then
resumed their conversation.

Gayle plopped down next to me, crossing her legs and
smiled.

“Thanks,” she said.

I shrugged. I wanted to apologize for staring, but
thought better than to bring it up. Maybe she hadn’t
noticed.

She unscrewed the cap off a bottle of water and, while
taking a gulp, gestured to the book in my hand.

“Oh,” I replied, holding it up slightly. “Yeah, still
sorta… you know, pluggin’ away at it. Trying to,
anyway.”

Gayle nodded and brought the bottle down and replaced
the cap.

“Where’s Rach and Kate?” she asked, looking around the
crowd.

I gazed about, as well, until I saw them sitting not
far off.

“Over there,” I replied, pointing in their direction.

Gayle slowly nodded, playing with the bottle in her
hands. Now came the moment of awkward silence.

“So,” I asked, planting my hands on my lap. “What is it
you do? For a living, I mean.”

Gayle smiled and uncrossed her legs, pulling her knees
up and wrapping her arms around them.

“Um, physical therapist,” she replied.

My hands twitched, as I quickly shot back, saying, “Oh,
I shoulda guessed.”

“Why’s that?” she asked with a grin.

And there it was once more � that suspicious smile of
hers. There was just something about it, something I
couldn’t quite put my finger on.

I could feel my face turning red, as I tried to think
of a way to word my reply. No matter what I said, it
was going to be painfully obvious that I’d been staring
at her, specifically her body.

“Well, you know,” I mumbled.

“No, I don’t,” she said, shaking her head and still
wearing that smile.

I thought about it for a moment, and then decided to
simply give in.

“You just look like someone who… I dunno,” I
stammered. “Maybe you run or play tennis or something
like that. I’m just saying…”

Gayle slowly nodded, as I tried to explain myself, her
grin growing wider. Then she chuckled and placed her
hand on my knee, saying, “Ok, you can stop now.”

As she pulled her hand away, she turned to her side and
produced a small white paper bag.

“Cookie?” she asked, holding the bag between her thumb
and forefinger.

I smiled.

“Um… Sure, ok.”

She pulled out one large chocolate chip cookie between
her long tan fingers, and then carefully handed it to
me.

“Thank you.”

Gayle licked her thumb and finger, replying,
“…welcome.” Then she plucked one out for herself.

For a moment, neither of us spoke, and an uneasy
feeling came over me. I glanced at her from the corner
of my eye, watching her chew and look around, as we
waited for the talent show to start. Then she took
another bite.

“And whadda you do?” she asked, holding a hand over her
mouth.

“High school teacher,” I replied, breaking off a piece
of my cookie.

Gayle slowly nodded, and then turned her eyes to me.

“Yeah, I coulda guessed that,” she said with a grin.

I chuckled, breaking off another piece.

“And why’s that?” I asked.

She shrugged.

“The way you’re dressed.”

I chuckled again, my shoulders bouncing up and down.

“And how am I dressed?”

Gayle snickered, replying, “I dunno… like a high
school teacher… a school marm.”

I smirked and nodded, taking a bite.

“Ok,” I said. “Fair enough.”

“Whatcha teach?”

“English,” I replied, smiling back at her.

Gayle grinned, saying her younger sister was an
elementary teacher, as was their mother, though retired
now.

“You like it?” she asked.

I picked away at my cookie and shrugged.

“Yeah, for the most part. But I dunno… Sometimes I
think it’d be nice to be able to teach it to people who
really wanted to learn it.”

Gayle chuckled.

“Yeah,” she said, reaching for her bottle of water. “I
can remember being bored to tears in that class. The
Great Gatsby,” she said, holding the bottle to her
lips. She took a few gulps, and then dropped the bottle
down again. “That was a real snoozer,” she added with a
light laugh.

I grinned.

“Yeah,” I said. “I guess it is a bit worn out.”

Gayle set her bottle down and rotated her body so she
was facing me. She crossed her legs and gave me her
patented mysterious smile. And, I don’t know why, but I
could feel my face turning red.

“So what’re you guys reading in your class?” she asked.

I slowly brought the cookie to my mouth, replying, “The
Great Gatsby.”

Gayle doubled over and slapped her hand to my knee,
laughing out loud.

For the next hour, we sat and talked, even after the
talent show had long since started. Every now and then,
we’d stop to watch a particular act on stage, but then
one of us would start up the conversation again.

Gayle was lively and fun, sometimes animated, when she
spoke, and whenever she listened, she did so with great
intensity, leaning forward and smiling and slowly
nodding her head. There never really seemed to be a
dull moment, during the conversation, getting to know
one another. And the more she spoke, the more I wanted
to know. So, it was with some sadness that it ended,
when the show stopped and Rachel and Kate came walking
over to us.

Gayle helped me to my feet, and then helped pick up my
blanket and assorted belongings. We giggled and
laughed, the same as we had been doing for well over
the last hour.

“It was really nice meeting you,” she said, holding out
a delicate hand.

I grinned wide and offered her mine, and said likewise.
And, as she held my hand in hers, she gave it an almost
imperceptible squeeze, running her thumb gently over
the top of it. My smile twitched, though I’m sure she
didn’t notice, and then, just as she released me, she
winked, very quickly, but there all the same, and said
goodbye.

That evening, as I sat at home watching television and
nothing in particular, I found myself wondering what
Gayle was doing at that moment. I couldn’t imagine that
someone like her – pretty and intelligent and a
wonderful conversationalist – would be sitting at home
alone. I turned to look up the steps, up toward the
bedrooms. Rachel and Kate were in her room with the
door closed. The stereo was playing, though not loudly,
and every now and then, I’d hear one or both of them
laugh. I turned back to the television and smiled and
sighed. At least someone was having a good time.

When I finally went to bed, they were still in Rachel’s
room, although, once in a while, they had made sudden
quick appearances throughout the course of the evening.
Otherwise, they remained cloistered away inside her
tiny bedroom.

I turned off the lights downstairs, save for that in
the kitchen, in case someone woke in the middle of the
night. Then I crept up the stairs to my room. As I
reached the top step, I could make out the faint smell
of incense coming from my daughter’s room. I paused
briefly by her door and could hear very soft music
playing from inside. Then I heard what could only be a
sigh. I took a deep breath and briskly stepped into my
bedroom and shut the door.

I walked over to the nightstand beside the bed and
clicked on the light. My room was large, and I had been
its sole occupant for the last four years. My husband
passed away much too soon, and I missed him terribly,
but what I was starting to miss most of all was the
company.

I had long ago come to terms with his death, but never
quite with the emptiness in my heart, my life, my home,
even my bed. About a year and a half after his passing,
Rachel suggested I might start dating � with her
permission, of course. That’s a difficult thing to do,
no matter how you slice it. Sadness, regret, shame,
even embarrassment. I felt it all, at the very thought
of dating, of actively seeking out someone else, after
having devoted myself exclusively to one person for so
many years. My one true love was gone, the man with
whom I thought I would grow old. But, more and more, I
grew unhappy in being without a close friend, a
companion, someone I could lean on and hold. I was
tired of being alone.

I never told Rachel, but a short time after her
suggestion, and while she was away for a weekend class
excursion, I went to a bar in search of what I thought
I needed. Not what I wanted, but what I needed. I met a
man there, wholly not my type, and brought him home
with me. We had sex, if you could call it that. I
kneeled on the floor in front of the couch and took him
into my mouth. He didn’t last very long, and soon I was
gagging, as he worked my head up and down.

After he ejaculated into my mouth, I crawled over to a
waste paper basket and spit, to which he responded with
a disapproving chuckle. Even still, I crawled back and
took over masturbating him, keeping his erection so I
could have a chance to feel good, too.

When he was fully erect again, he had me turn and drop
my jeans and panties. I handed him a condom from my
purse, and then he entered me roughly and fucked the
same. And, as before, his ejaculation came all too
soon. I hadn’t felt much of anything, as we briefly had
intercourse, except for a deep sense of regret that
slowly enveloped me, as he thrust into my body.

I pulled up my jeans, and he did likewise, and then
left with no great fanfare. He got what he wanted, and
I was left feeling ashamed and angry with myself and
the life I felt was unfairly handed to me.

To be sure, I had friends. I had friends at work,
friends next door, even a few of my husband’s former
colleagues and pals who occasionally said hello, on the
off chance we bumped into each other. But they had
their own lives and families. Friends come second to
family, something I could hardly hold against them.
Sure, I had Rachel, the only child of our marriage. And
since my husband’s death, she and I had become closer.

I still couldn’t help but think of her sudden “outing”
as a lesbian was more a result of coping with the loss
of her father, than it was a part of her nature to be
attracted to the same sex. She had dated boys for a
very long time, but I suppose this was her way of
dealing with the trauma and loss. Mine was to sit at
home and feel sorry for myself, trying to cope as best
I knew how.

But Gayle struck me as a ray of hope – a possibility,
though I don’t know exactly why. It may have been a
combination of things. I liked her personality, and we
seemed to get along well enough, if only for the short
time we talked. But what I think most intrigued me was
that she didn’t know my story or me. She seemed to know
Rachel and might know something about the tragedy that
befell our family. Still, Gayle didn’t know me.

Our friends, after my husband’s death, treated me with
kid gloves, and, to some extent, seemed to keep a
respectable distance, likely their way of letting me
mourn. The thing is, they never came back. A few tried,
but when we made the attempt at resuming our normal
routine, I could tell, it wasn’t quite the same. They’d
drop me off to a darkened home, while they returned to
their family, and an air of discomforting gloom seemed
to settle upon us, as we said goodbye for the evening.

But Gayle wasn’t like this. She didn’t treat me as if
she felt sorry for me. With her, it felt like starting
with a clean slate. Others might look upon our brief
encounter in the park as insignificant, shrugging it
off as one of those minor occurrences in life; you make
a new acquaintance, perhaps with the possibility of
becoming a friend, but if not, oh well.

They already have plenty of those, as it stands.
Friends come and go. But, in my mind, meeting Gayle
carried slightly more weight. She could very well be my
way back to a life of normalcy. I liked her, and she
seemed to like me. We enjoyed each other’s company. To
me, she fit the bill. Gayle was what I wanted.

The next morning, I walked downstairs to breakfast and
found Rachel sitting at the kitchen table, eating a
bowl of cereal and reading the newspaper.

“Kate go home already?” I asked.

Rachel looked up and bobbed her head, as she chewed.

I opened the refrigerator and pulled out the milk.

“What time she leave?”

Still reading the paper, Rachel shrugged.

“Maybe half hour ago,” she replied.

I walked over to the table with a bowl in one hand and
glass of ice tea in the other.

While Rachel continued reading, I tried to think of a
way to bring up the subject of Gayle. I reached over
for part of the newspaper under her elbow, and she
lifted it, still keeping her gaze fixed on the paper.

“Hey, I wanted to ask you something.”

Rachel took another bite of cereal and looked over at
me.

As I carefully opened the paper, trying to act very
nonchalant about the whole thing, I asked if she knew
Gayle’s last name.

“Mah-nin,” she replied with a mouthful of cereal.

I tilted my head and cocked an eyebrow.

“Pardon?”

Rachel chuckled, wiped the milk that had drooled onto
her chin, and swallowed.

“Martin,” she said.

Then she went back to reading the paper.

I tried to think of another way to ply her for
information, but then she reached out for her glass of
orange juice, and spoke.

“Why?” she asked.

“Why what?”

“Why’d ya wanna know?”

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