Carrie Ryan & K. Darblyne
"... I feel as if I'm floating… Not aware or in control of what I am..."
The sound of brakes screeching to a stop caused the dark-haired woman’s head to snap upright and her pulse to quicken. Through a barely opened, raw, reddened eyeball she surveyed the area outside the bus. The dim light of early morning did little for the few buildings scattered along the street. Older and on the verge of dilapidation, it could have been any one of a number of mid western towns they had already passed through. Sighing, she looked over her shoulder to see the only illuminated area. It was a small sign proclaiming a vacancy outside the single story motel.
“We’re here,” the bus driver proclaimed, opening the door of the vehicle.
Brooke scrubbed her face with a hand, trying to wipe away the remaining haze of sleep that threatened to haunt her the rest of her life. Wearily she cast her other half-opened eye out the window looking for some sort of recognizable landmark. Seeing none, she turned her attention back to the front of the bus. “And that would be?”
“Calvin’s Creek or at least what I think is Calvin’s Creek,” he rubbed his forehead. “Hey, I followed the directions you gave me lady. This is your show.”
“My show?” Brooke grimaced. “Don’t remind me.” She straightened up, trying to get the kink out of her back, then exited the bus, heading toward the motel’s office door. A few moments later Brooke returned. The only sound emanating louder than the bus’ engine was that of staggered snoring resounding off the walls surrounding her.
Raising her hand over her head, she slammed it repeatedly into the sheet metal of the bus causing a loud ruckus. “Alright you hoodlums, time to get up. We’re at the next stop on your tour.”
One bleary-eyed musician struggled to come to his senses. “Already?” His whining voice sounded more like a woman than a bad ass rocker. “Man, we just got to sleep.”
“Yeah, already.” Brooke smirked, realizing just how tired the members of Line of Fire were. She’d come down hard on the band when she’d taken over their tour and now she had proof that her plan was working. The hint of a smile came to her face. She remembered the shock they all had exhibited when she’d informed the band their road crew had been cut from the budget.
“Do we have to unload the equipment now? I just got to fucking sleep,” another delirious musician voiced his opinion without opening his eyes.
“Yeah, me too!” A voice croaked from the rear of the tour bus. “I’m going to look like a freakin’ trog on stage tonight without my beauty sleep.”
Brooke hesitated, working the muscles in her neck as she rolled her head from side to side. “Well, at least this way I know you’re too damn tired to be destructive.”
“Come on, you’ve been a slave driver since you joined us on tour, Brooke. The least you can do is let us have a little time off for good behavior…for sleep,” the man pleaded from underneath his blanket.
“Right. How can you expect us to perform if we don’t get our rest?” The rocker gathered his favorite pillow under his arm and stood up. “Think of our fans. What will they say when we fall asleep in the middle of our first set?”
“In this town…” the driver surveyed the predawn view of the sleepy little mid-western town, “I don’t think they’d even notice.”
A dark eyebrow arched high on Brooke’s forehead as she mulled over the comment. “True,” she agreed before turning her attention inward. “Speaking of sleep, I could use some myself.” Brooke sighed. “Alright, enough about me, everybody out of the bus. We’ve got rooms number four through seven.” She turned to face the bus driver. “Joe, you’ve got four.” She tossed the man his room key. “I’ll take seven.” Brooke pocketed her own key, then turned to face the musicians. “The rest of you can pair up how ever you choose and take rooms five and six.” She moved into the seat and reached for her bag. “And remember, we’re here to spread the sound of your music, not the sound of you causing havoc and destruction.”
“We got the message, loud and clear.” The first rocker moved passed her, accepting the key handed to him, then headed toward the door.
“Man, don’t cause any more trouble.” The musician following nudged his band mate.
“I’m going, Andy. You don’t have to shove.”
“Sorry,” Andy mumbled. “I just want to go back to sleep.”
“Me too,” piped up a voice from the rear. “Come on, Jess, I’ll bunk in with you.” He called ahead to the third man in line.
“Fine with me, Frederico. I’m too tired to care whom I’m sleeping with.” He held out his hand toward Brooke, an invitation obviously twinkling in his eyes.
“Not a chance, buddy,” Brooke sneered, bypassing him and handing the room key to the last band member walking down the aisle. “You’re not even close to my type.”
“I could change,” Jess offered, lingering at the door of the bus.
“I doubt it.” Frederico gave his band mate a push out the door. “You never change.”
“Yes I do. My underwear,” Jess threw back over his shoulder and laughed, “weekly.”
Once the bus was emptied, Brooke dropped to her seat. She followed the band members with her gaze until the last one had vanished through their respective room doors. Only then did she close her eyes and take in a deep breath.
“God, you know you’re getting old when the latest rockers on the scene act like thirteen year olds.” Brooke shuddered at the thought before glancing down at her watch.
“Four in the
morning,” she mused, calculating the time difference between where she was now
and her home in
The dark haired woman sucked in a breath. Hearing the sleepy voice of her lover a smile finally came to her face. “Morning Darlin’.”
“Yeah. Time to rise and shine.”
“But I was dreaming about you, Brooke.”
“Of course, I was. Who else would I dream of?”
The sound of Sam’s gentle chuckle warmed Brooke’s heart.
“How you feeling, baby?”
After a pause Sam replied softly, “Lonely. I miss you.”
“I miss you too, Darlin’.” Brooke stopped short before her voice gave her away. “Soon, Sam. I’ll be home soon.”
“God, I hope so.” The sound of Sam sucking in a breath, then letting it go came floating over the phone. “I’ve got a phone meeting with your replacement today.” Sam’s voice faltered for a moment. “Well, I hope he’s your replacement.”
“I have faith in you, Sam. You’ll close the deal.”
“I’m going to try.” The voice on the other end paused. “Well, I better get my day started. Thanks for waking me up, Brooke. I love hearing your voice first thing every morning even if you can’t be right here next to me.”
“Me too, Darlin’. Me too.”
“I love you.”
“And you know I love you.” The words rolled off Brooke’s lips as the ache in her being intensified. All she wanted to do was reach out and hold the woman she loved in her arms, close to her, never letting her go. A lump caught in the woman’s throat. “I ah…I better let you go or you’re going to be late for work.”
“What are you up to now?”
“Sleep, Darlin’. Nothing but sleep.”
“What time are you due into the venue?”
“Too soon for my liking. We have to set up the sound system and get all the equipment unloaded by five.” Brooke glanced down to her watch. “If I get to sleep in the next few minutes, I just might get eight hours.”
“Then you get to sleep and I’ll talk to you later, Hon. ‘Night.”
“Goodnight Sam.” Brooke slowly pulled the phone away from her ear, savoring her lover’s voice as it ran through her head.
The sound of the elevator doors opening drew the office manager’s attention away from the stack of papers clutched tightly in her hands. Her eyes met with the only passenger, a determined looking blonde.
“Morning, Ida.” Sam never broke her stride as she headed toward her office door. “Hold all my calls this morning. I’ll be working out some delicate negotiations and I don’t want to be disturbed. Give me five minutes, then get me the tour manager Peter contacted the other day on the phone.”
“Sure thing, Sam but… ” Ida hesitated biting her lip.
Sam paused at her office door, turning to look back at the office manager. “But what, Ida?”
“He’s on the West Coast.”
“And your point is?” A blonde eyebrow rose in question.
“It’s a three hour time difference, Sam.” She glanced down at the clock on her desk. “It’s barely five in the morning for him out there.”
“Good,” Sam smirked. “The negotiations will be in our favor then.” She turned to enter her office. “West Coast, huh?” The executive glanced over her shoulder to see Ida mutely nod. “Great, that will make him all the more closer to releasing my girl,” Sam muttered under her breath as she disappeared behind the closed door.
Ida stood there stunned for a moment. Slowly a gloating smile surfaced on the woman’s face. “Now I see why Brooke was attracted to you. You’re a matched set.”
Sam spun around in her chair and tossed the cordless phone onto her desk. “I can’t believe he can function on that level after being roused out of a dead sleep. No wonder Brooke suggested him. The man’s worse than my mother when I was growing up,” she muttered, running her hand through short golden locks, then sighed as she reached for her calendar. Taking out a red marker from her desk drawer, Sam quickly found the agreed upon date and circled it. The anger buried deep in her stomach made her more determined than ever to never revisit the losing side of a negotiation again. Her heart wouldn’t be able to take it, not when losing time with Brooke was a major part of it. The young woman sat there transfixed to the date until the knocking on her door drew her attention.
“Yes?” Sam’s gaze rose from the calendar and settled on the door as it slowly opened.
“I was going for some coffee. Would you like me to get you… ” Ida stopped short, trying to decipher the strained look on the woman’s face. “Is something wrong, Sam? Did I miss something?” She glanced into the hallway, then back again.
Sam was pensive for a moment, deliberating her own shortcomings. She took in a breath and let it out. “You didn’t miss anything, Ida. I’m just a little miffed at my own negotiating skills.”
Ida scooted inside the office and quickly closed the door. “He’s not taking the offer?”
She got up from the chair and stood in front of the window, letting the ocean fill her view. “Oh he’s taking the offer alright,” Sam said in a mindless trance. “He’s just not rushing to it.” She turned and cast her gaze to the floor. “I… ” Sam bit her lip. “I couldn’t get him to break his contract. He said it would be…”
“In his best interest to complete the tour.” Ida finished the sentence for her.
Disbelieving eyes rose to meet the spoken words. “Yes.”
“That’s why he’s so good, Sam. He takes his job seriously.” Ida crossed her arms over her chest and began to tap her foot as she thought. “So how long until his contract is up?”
“A week, ten days,” Sam mumbled under her breath. “Something like that.”
“Well, that’s not too bad.”
“For you maybe.” Sam sniffed, fighting back the tears that threatened to fall. “I was counting on getting Brooke home sooner.” Her shoulders shrugged slightly. “I guess I’ll just have to wait,” she whispered.
Ida looked around the room trying to come up with any kind of encouragement she could. “Things happen, Sam. This business is crazy like that. Don’t let it get you down. You gave it your best shot. That’s all that matters.”
“You sound like Brooke.”
“Yeah,” Ida smirked. “Don’t I now. She rubs off on you the more you’re around her.” Ida tried as best she could but the eyebrow wouldn’t budge. “Well, some parts of her do.” The woman’s grimace gave way seeing the slow smile changing Sam’s scowl.
“Thanks, Ida. I needed that.”
The pungent smell of stale cigarettes lingered in the air, irritating Brooke’s nose worse than the rough cotton sheets that made her every move under the covers a constant reminder that she was not at home. Another night, or day rather, she had not experienced a restful sleep and it was beginning to show. Quick tempered to put an end to the torture, Brooke grasped the covers in her hand and threw them off her. She sat on the edge of the bed, staring at the god-awful wallpaper and threadbare drapes that did little to keep the light out of the room.
“God! It’s as bright in here as it is in the middle of the day.” Brooke glanced over to the tiny alarm clock on the battered nightstand. “It is the middle of the day,” she mumbled, raking her hands through her long, dark hair. “I can’t believe this is what we dreamed success was all about. God, I was so immature then.” She shook her head, coughing as she tried to clear her lungs of the repugnant air. Brooke took the material of her tank top and wiped her mouth. She sniffed and immediately her face twisted into a very unpleasant look. “Damn! I’m never going to get rid of this smell.” With that said, she pushed herself up off the bed and headed for the shower, depositing her boxers and top along the way.
The lyrical sound of her cellphone going off made her stop short. “Sam,” she muttered, a smile coming to her face as she swiftly turned around and dove for the phone in the middle of the bed. Cool and collected, Brooke flipped the phone open and with her sexiest voice greeted her caller. “Now that’s what I call perfect timing, Darlin’. I’m naked and ready. How about you?”
“I…well…sure.” The voice on the other end stammered. “It is kind of hot out but don’t you think having lunch in our birthday suits will be a little too…revealing? I mean, hell Brooke, I think it would be a dead giveaway for the restaurant staff that we were celebrating our birthday, don’t you?”
The question hung in the air like a load of bricks. Brooke pulled the phone away from her ear and looked at the number displayed. “Shit! I’ve got to remember to change your ring.” She closed her eyes and repeated the explicit word several more times under her breath before bringing the cellphone back to her ear. “Ah…sorry about that, Janet. I thought you were…”
“Oh, so that’s how you talk to my best student,” Janet ribbed her life long friend.
“My wife,” Brooke stated. “Remember, I married her.” A satisfied smile settled on her face. “Besides if I wanted to meet you for lunch in my birthday suit, Sam would trust me.”
“Sure she would,” Janet’s voice dripped with sarcasm. “It’s just the rest of the population minus your family that would have to worry about a certain blonde’s wrath.”
Brooke thought about it, then nodded. “You’ve got a point there.”
“I know I do,” Janet said smugly. “So is that your excuse for standing me up? You’re not dressed for the occasion.”
“Standing you up?” A look of confusion crossed Brooke’s face. “Janet, what are you talking about?”
“Our birthday ritual, Brooke.” Janet paused. “Tell me you don’t remember we have a standing date every June third at the Ice Cream Emporium?”
“June third? It’s not June third.” Brooke’s eyes shifted around the room as she searched for her watch. “It’s June… ” Finding it, she drew the watch into her eyesight and stared amazingly at the date. “Third?”
“That’s what I said. Happy Birthday, Brooke.” Her words were met with dead silence. “You know, the polite thing would be to say ‘Thank you’ and return the greeting.”
“Damn! I’m sorry. Forgive me, Janet. I didn’t mean to be rude. I’ve…I’ve just lost all track of time being out on the road.”
“Well, thanks for letting me know. I mean, if I hadn’t called, you never would have come.” Janet’s voice turned teasing in nature. “You do that, don’t you? Come.”
“Oh, I come, Janet. I come.” Brooke sighed. “Just not lately,” she muttered under her breath.
“Thank the gods. At least you haven’t forgotten that.” The hint of laughter came through in Janet’s voice. “I was afraid the Alzheimer’s was setting in already.”
“Remind me again why you’re my friend.”
Brooke’s droll tone was countered with nothing but laughter for several seconds.
“Why, Brooke! I’m your best friend. I always have been since we were little.”
“And younger,” Brooke countered.
“That too,” Janet sighed.
“If I remember correctly, I turned your Midge doll into a G. I. Jane.”
“I still don’t forgive you for it. Although, Midge and Barbie did make a cute couple after that.”
“Yeah, that they did.” Brooke chuckled. “That’s why I kept you for a friend.”
“And if it wasn’t for my teaching prowess, you would have never met your soul mate.”
Brooke considered the statement carefully. “I see…payback.”
“You could call it that.”
“Sure it was,” Brooke smirked. “Oh, and Janet?”
“You’re right,” Brooke smirked. “You are my best friend. Thanks.”
“You’re welcome, Brooke, but it’s still not going to get you off the hook for standing me up on our birthday.”
“Guess not. I’m sorry, Janet. I’ll make it up to you as soon as I get home.” Brooke cleared her throat having a second thought. “Well, maybe not as soon as I get home,” she teased, “But I will make it up to you. How about my treat for lunch any day you pick, birthday suits notwithstanding?”
“Sounds good to me. Happy birthday, Brooke.”
“Happy birthday, Janet.”
As she terminated the call a melancholy mood came over her. “Yeah, right! Happy birthday to me,” Brooke muttered as she gazed around the pitiful excuse for a motel room. “This was supposed to be the year you celebrated with your wife.”
She rubbed her forehead with her fingers trying to massage the headache away that was starting behind her eyes. “Ideas, Loran. You need to be using your time to think of ideas, not feeling sorry for yourself.” Hell bent on making things happen, she flipped open her phone.
Dragging his feet, Peter lingered in the hall gathering as much information as he dared before pushing open Sam’s door and poking his head inside her office. “Hey boss lady, got a few minutes for me?”
Green eyes rose to meet the hesitant man at her door. “Sure, why not. My day’s ruined already.” She tossed the papers in her hand down onto the desk. “Come on in.” She watched as Peter paused for a moment, then glanced back over his shoulder before stepping into her office. “Something on your mind, Peter?”
The man scratched his chin in an effort of serious thought. “Is Ida dating anyone?”
Taken aback by the question, Sam fumbled with an answer. “I…well…I’m not sure, why? Isn’t she a little old for you?”
“ME?” His eyes grew rounder at the implication. “Yes!”
“Then why did you ask?”
“Something I overheard her saying.” Peter shrugged, “It just got me to thinking. It sounded like she was setting up a little rendezvous over the phone just now. You know…like a secret trip or something like that.”
“Ida?” Sam queried.
Peter nodded. “Yeah, she was hushed and secretive-like on the phone when I came down the hall.”
“Well, whatever it was about, I’m sure she has everything well in hand,” Sam sighed. “Unlike some of us.” She stared blankly at the papers scattered across her desk.
“Yeah,” Peter studied the young woman for a long moment before venturing his next question. “So, how’s it going, Sam. Is there any news as to when our fearless leader will return?”
“It’s going, Peter. Unfortunately I can’t say when Brooke’s coming back. Seems there was a little hold up with our new tour manager getting to Line of Fire’s next gig.”
“Geez!” Peter smacked himself in the forehead and stumbled farther into the room. “That sucks.” Peter collected his composure and stood next to Sam. “So,” he peered out of the window with her. “What are you going to do for her birthday?”
“I…I don’t know.”
Peter nodded, unsure of what to say. Finally Peter broke the long silence. “You could have something delivered.”
good idea.” Sam turned back to her desk
and shuffled through some papers before coming up with the tour schedule. “Let’s see…” she drew her finger down the
list of cities and dates that Line of Fire would be playing. “So what do you think my chances are in
Peter turned to see her questioning face and met it with one of his own. “How should I know?”
“You toured didn’t you?” Green eyes become intense.
“Well, yeah but Sam… we never made it to,” he grabbed the list from her hand and looked for the date. “Calvin’s Creek.” He handed it back to her and scratched his head. “Who the hell is Calvin anyway?”
Sam rolled her eyes. “Peter, you’re not helping me.”
“What can I say Sam?” The man put on his most apologetic face. “Sorry.”
Sam opened her mouth to speak but was stopped short by an urgent knock at the door.
Without waiting for permission to enter, the door opened and Ida stuck her head into the office. “Sam, you better pick up line two.”
“Great! Now what? Is something wrong?”
“Don’t know,” Ida shrugged. “Depends on how you look at it.” She pointed to the flashing phone on the desk. “Well, I’m off on my vacation. See you in a week or so.”
“Whoa!” Sam swiftly turned her attention from the phone back to Ida. “You have a vacation? Who approved that?”
Ida smiled. “Why Brooke, of course.”
“W-w-when?” Sam’s voice faltered.
“A while ago.” Ida stated matter-of-factly. “I’ve got all the paper work on file. You want to see it?”
“No. I believe you.” Sam sighed, looking over to Peter.
“Hey, have a good one.” Peter quirked a grin. “Take lots of pictures wherever it is you’re going.”
“Thanks, I will.” Ida pointed back to the phone and waved. “Don’t worry, Sam. You’ll do just fine without me. I’m sure of it.” A second later she was gone, leaving them staring at the flashing phone line.
Slowly, both individuals’ gaze rose to the other and held. Caving in first in the stare down, Peter tossed up his hands. “Hey, it’s your phone. I’m not going to answer it,” Peter gave the desk a wide berth as he walked around it.
“Chicken shit!” Sam sneered at the man, then pressed the speakerphone button. “Brownstone Records, Samantha Gordon speaking. How may I help you?”
“Hello, Beautiful. What are you doing?” Brooke’s vibrant tones filled the office and brought a smile to Sam’s face.
“Talking about you.” Sam’s smile threatened to overtake her face. “Say, what’s there to do in…” she took the paper off her desk and quickly perused it. “Calvin’s Creek on a Thursday night?”
Peter nodded eagerly. “Good idea, Sam,” he whispered. “Ask her where they’re eating tonight. Maybe you can send her a bottle of wine or something.”
“Not much of anything to do here, other than wait that is. Hold on, Honey, there’s a plane flying over head.”
plane?” Sam’s brow furrowed. “Is there even an airport in
“Calvin’s Creek, Sam.” Peter stage whispered.
“I knew that.” Sam hushed her co-worker with a swipe of her hands. She cleared her throat. “I mean Calvin’s Creek.”
“Well…I wouldn’t exactly call it an airport.” Brooke paused. “It’s more like a landing strip. A grassy landing strip for that matter.”
“Jesus Christ, Brooke.” Sam’s eyes grew more intense. “Tell me Line of Fire isn’t flying in drugs now, are they?”
“No Baby.” Brooke chuckled. “I’m waiting on Jonnie. She’s supposed to be here in about ten minutes.”
“Does that mean you’re pulling the plug on the tour?”
“No, I’m out of here.” Brooke cleared her throat. “I’m coming home, Darlin’.”
“You’re coming home?” Sam gulped. “Tonight? But I thought you had to keep a close eye on…”
Brooke interrupted her wife. “Yeah, yeah. I know.” she sighed. “I’ve got that all covered. They’ll have eyes watching them like a hawk.”
“But I…” confused, Sam looked to Peter. “Never mind. You’re the boss.”
“You’re right, Sam, I’m one of them.” Brooke chuckled. “Anyway, I should be home in a little over four hours.”
“Four hours?” Sam gasped. “So soon?”
“Don’t sound so excited, Sam. I’ve only been gone three weeks, four days, seventeen hours and,” there was a small pause, “twenty-seven minutes.”
“Thirty-two seconds,” Sam added looking down at her watch.
“I said thirty-two. No, make that forty-three seconds now. That’s how long it’s been since you’ve stepped foot on that plane.”
“Aw, Darlin’, I take it you missed me?”
“Like a chocoholic on her period with no candy bars in sight,” Sam confided. “Yes, I missed you.”
“Was that a good miss,” Brooke teased, “Or a bad miss?”
“Missing you is never good,” Sam sighed. “Hurry home, baby. I’ve got a present waiting for you.”
“Present, huh? What kind of present?”
A coy smirk settled on Sam’s face. “The kind that will put a smile on your face.
“Darlin’ everything you do puts a smile on my face. Care to give me a hint?
“Well,” Sam turned away from Peter’s gaze. “It’s the kind that starts out small and just keeps growing.”
“Hmm…” Brooke purred sexily. “I like that kind.”
“I knew you would.” Sam paused to savor the moment.
“I can’t talk much longer, it looks like Jonnie’s making an approach on the runway.” The sound of a jet engine grew louder with each second until it almost drowned out the voice on the other end. “I’ll see you soon. Love ya, Darlin’.”
“Love ya! Be careful.” Sam rushed to add her sentiments before the room went quiet. Hesitantly she terminated the sound of dead air with the touch of a button.
“So, what’s up with the present?” Peter asked.
“Don’t worry about the present. We’re on condition red.”
“Condition red?” The man was more confused than ever. “What’s condition red?”
“Move your ass and start calling everybody you can think of. We’ve got a party to plan.” Sam started rummaging through desk drawers.
“In Calvin’s Creek?” Peter’s voice cracked.
“No.” Sam slammed a drawer shut and reached for another one. “Here. Didn’t you hear her? Brooke’s coming home.” Sam’s smile beamed brighter than a billion-watt bulb. “We’ve got four hours to pull this soiree together.”
“Soiree?” The man scratched his head. “What the hell’s a soiree?”
“Party, Peter. Party.” Sam’s exasperated state was evident. “We’re throwing Brooke a surprise party tonight.”
“Oh.” He looked relieved. “Why didn’t you say so?”
“I just did.” Sam’s expression changed as she found what she was looking for. “Ah, there you are.” She tossed a passing glance in Peter’s direction as she settled down into her chair. “So, why are you still standing here? You’re in charge of inviting everyone. Go invite. You better hurry. You’ve only got three hours and fifty-seven minutes before she walks in the door.”
“As ever,” Sam said, making her determination more than evident. She looked up from her list she was making to see Peter scurrying towards the door. “Hey, where are you going?”
people,” Peter looked over his shoulder without breaking his stride. “Isn’t that what you just asked me to do?”
“Yes! Just remember to pack the house.” Sam tapped her pen nervously on her desk. “My house. I mean,” she cleared her throat, “Our house. Brooke will never expect that.”
“Gottcha!” He turned on his heels and saluted, then quickly exited the office.
“Well, that will keep him busy the rest of the afternoon,” Sam muttered as she got back to her list. “Okay, now where was I? Cake, beverages, snacks, decorations…”
No sooner had the door closed Sam’s cellphone began to ring. “Now who?” She sighed and reached for the phone. “Hello.”
“Hey sweetheart, it’s Daddy. Mother and I are just in the area and we were wondering if we could take you out to dinner?”
“Any other night and I’d love it, Dad. Unfortunately Brooke’s birthday is today.”
“Say no more. We understand.”
“No, you don’t. I’m throwing a kind of impromptu surprise party for her. Why don’t you and mother stop by around seven tonight? Sarah too, if she’s able to come.”
“I thought you told us that Brooke was out of town?”
“She is, but in three hours and fifty-four minutes she won’t be.” Again a smile lit up the young woman’s face. “I just found out she’s coming home a few minutes ago.”
“Wow! That’s impromptu.”
barely make out a muffled exchange of words before her father’s voice sounded
loud and clear again. “Do you need any
help getting ready?”
“I’ve got guests to invite, food to supply, and gifts to buy, not to mention trying to find a cake big enough for everyone to enjoy.”
“Okay. So, what can your mother and I do?”
“Daddy, you’re a lifesaver.” Sam was quick to make her decision. “You could decorate for me. There’s a store close to the house that has everything you’d need. Call me after you leave the store and I’ll give you the code to the front door. I’ve got a little shopping to do myself for Brooke’s gift.”
“Shouldn’t we get her something, too?”
“Leave the gift to me, Daddy. I’ve already got it covered,” a coy smile graced Sam’s face.
“Sammie, are you sure this is going to be alright? I mean with us being in your house while neither one of you are home?” Her father paused. “What about Mario?”
“He knows you Dad. Don’t worry. Just talk to him, he’s just a big baby.” Sam tried to calm his fears. “Besides, Mario just loved Sarah when she stayed with us at the house.”
“Well, if you say so.”
“I do. See you soon, Daddy. Mother, too. Bye.”
Sam turned her attention once more to her list and promptly drew a line through decorations. “Okay, one down many more to go. She’ll come through for me,” Sam muttered as she punched in a number on her speed dial then waited.
“Sam, you know I use this line for job interviews. Make it short or hire me.”
“Sorry C.C. but this is an emergency.” Sam apologized half-heartedly.
“What kind of emergency?”
“A good kind. Brooke’s coming home. She’ll be here in three hours and we’re throwing her a surprise party for her birthday.”
“O-o-o-o-o-h! I like parties.” C.C. squealed. “Dancing and food.”
“Speaking of food C.C., I’ve got a little job for you.” Sam took in a breath and slowly let it out. “I need a cake. A big cake.”
“Do you think Aunt Brooke will be expecting a surprise?” David tugged at his mother’s arm.
“Not sure, honey.” Randi turned to the woman standing next to her. “What do you think Janet? Are we going to surprise her?”
“I think so. She didn’t even remember what day it was until I called her this afternoon.” Janet looked over at Sam who was nervously peaking out the window. “I think Brooke thought it was Sam calling her. I got the most intimate of greetings when she answered the phone.”
A dark eyebrow rose in question on Terri’s forehead. “Oh really?” She leaned in toward Janet. “I’ll pay you fifty bucks to repeat it to me.”
“David, why don’t you go find Julie for mommy?” Randi gave her son a warm smile and a push. “Go ahead. I’ll be right here getting the scoop on Aunt Brooke.” She turned her gaze to Janet.
“What? And have Brooke chase me down to my dying day? You’ve got to be kidding me. I know what you and your sisters would do with that information.”
“Who?” Randi said as innocently as a first time offender.
“Us?” Terri clutched her hand to her chest and feigned a shocked look. “Never.”
“Yeah, you two. It would be the opening fodder for the next round of Gordon family table etiquette.” Janet cleared her throat. “I’ve been to a few of those dinners.”
“You always were her friend,” Randi shot back disgustedly.
“And a good one at that.” The smugness of Janet’s smile was evident as she winked at Randi.
“Speaking of birthday girls,” Terri’s gaze turned toward Sam a few feet away from their group, “shouldn’t Brooke be arriving soon?”
Randi glanced down at her watch. “The nerve of her being late for her own party.”
“Don’t look now but I think she’s coming.” Janet giggled seeing Sam’s frenzied peeks through the curtains so as not to be seen.
“Oh boy!” Sam drew back from the curtain. “I think she’s here. Everybody hide.”
Immediately the room fell silent as people froze where they stood. The only noise came from the sound of footsteps pounding up to the porch. A second later, the door flew open and C.C. rushed inside.
“Hurry,” the out of breath woman gasped, her brown eyes looking desperately about the room as she pushed the door closed with her foot. “She’s coming up the driveway. I cut her off at the light and hauled ass to get here.”
“Cjersti, give me the cake before you drop it.” Mable stood up from her chair.
“No time, Mom.” C.C. took off for the kitchen. “Out of my way. Coming through. Excuse me.” She shifted from side to side with every stride trying not to lose hold of the huge cake box in her hands. “I hope you all appreciate what I’m going through.” She rounded a group of guests and let out a startled scream. “AWK! Hey! No free feels.”
Sam glanced over to see Eddie and Sarah both whistling nonchalantly and staring up at the ceiling. “Enough you two.”
“Sarah!” Elaine chastised her youngest daughter.
“Elaine, it’s all in fun,” Samuel scuffed at his wife.
“C.C.’s a big girl,” Henry spoke up in Sarah’s defense. “She can take a little ribbing.”
“I don’t think
a little ribbing was what C.C. got,”
“Oh my!” Aunt Sandy blushed.
“I swear they’re all children,” Sam muttered, rolling her eyes before turning to address the roomful of guests. “We can talk about this later. Right now it’s show time.” Without a second’s hesitation she flipped the light switch, sending the living room into total darkness. “Now find a place and hide.”
The sound of scurrying feet soon gave way to muted laughter and soft giggles as everyone attempted to find a place to hide.
“Hey, I was here first.” A male voice whispered out from behind the sofa.
“Sorry,” Peter apologized and turned, falling over an arm of a chair.
“Oh no you don’t.” Terri pushed him away. “This chair’s already taken, by two of us.” She wrapped one arm around her abdomen and used the other to guide Peter along.
“Damn!” Peter grunted as the noise of movement around him began to settle down. “All the good spots are gone.”
“Phsssst! Peter,” Eddie whispered loudly trying to get his attention. “Over here.”
“Huh?” Disoriented by the darkness, Peter turned from one corner of the room to another in search of the voice. “Where?”
“Here.” Eddie answered.
Peter moved toward one corner.
“The other here, Peter.”
“Oh yeah.” He turned to the opposite corner, hastening his steps. “That here.”
“Hurry, Peter. She’s almost at the door.” Sam whispered sharply. “Ready with the camera, Rick?”
“Yep. I’m ready.”
“I’m ready too, Sam. She’ll never know it’s me,” Peter giggled, placing a lampshade on his head.
“Yeah, right!” Kevin blurted out from behind a full-length curtain.
“Kevin!” Randi and Brian simultaneously corrected their son from opposite sides of the room.
“Sorry,” the scolded child offered to no one in particular.
Sam sucked in a breath and let go with her final warning. “Sh! I can hear her coming up the steps.” Miraculously, all noise ceased and a satisfied smile came to Sam’s face. It’s amazing what fifty people can do when they put their minds to it. She slid back into the shadows and waited.
It seemed like an eternity until the door finally opened and a tall form filled the doorway. Dropping her suitcase into the corner of the foyer, Brooke walked over to the hall table and deposited her briefcase. “Honey, I’m home.” She turned toward the living room where a blinding light startled her.
“SURPRISE!” A chorus of unrehearsed voices set Mario howling.
“AUGH!” Brooke’s arms flew up into the air. “Who? What?” Huge blue eyes bugged out like sunny side-up egg yolks and she grabbed her chest as she sank down to the floor.
“Good God! We killed her,” Mable gasped.
Brooke let a smile grow broadly across her face as she pointed at her mother and yelled. “Gotcha!”
“Oh you!” Mable chastised her daughter.
“Sorry,” Brooke winked as she got up off the floor. “Nice party hat, Peter.” She joined in the group”s laughter “Hi, everyone. Mom, Dad,” Brooke greeted them with a nod of her head and smiled. “You didn’t have to do this for me.”
“We didn’t,” Henry chuckled. “Sam did. Happy birthday, Brooke.”
“Happy birthday, baby.” Mable gave her daughter a quick hug and a kiss on the cheek. “Your father’s right. Sam’s to blame for all of this.”
Brooke gazed around the room for the mastermind of the surprise. Having made eye contact with her wife, a sly smile slowly lit up Brooke’s face. “Darlin’, all this and you taught the dog how to say surprise, too. How sweet!”
“Actually, he did that himself.” Sam walked over and wrapped her arms around Brooke’s neck. “Happy Birthday, Honey. Welcome home.”
Their gazes held and the distance between them shortened until they were wrapped up in the other’s arms. Lips pressed tenderly together in a welcoming kiss, each one letting the other know exactly how much they were missed. The insistent sound of catcalls and whistles kept Brooke from letting the kiss go beyond the point of no return. Slowly the two pairs of lips parted.
“Thank you,” Brooke whispered. “I’ve missed you, Sam.” She tightened her embrace for a moment, then held her wife out at arm’s length. “So, how’s my girl?”
“We’re doing fine,” Sam tried not to blush, “Considering.”
“Oh yeah?” Blue eyes twinkled in delight. “What are we considering?”
“Well…” Sam smiled coyly. She opened her mouth to speak but was beat to the punch.
“Is it safe to come out now?” Peter asked with the lampshade still on his head.
Brooke restrained her laughter. “It’s been safe around me for a long time, Peter. Is there something you’re trying to tell us?”
The man took the lampshade off his head. “You mean other than happy birthday?” Peter giggled. “Dream on.”
Peter.” Brooke winked at her
friend. “I’m not sure
right! I wouldn’t have.” Over the course of several seconds,
“Yeah, Darlin’,” Brooke nuzzled her wife’s ear as she wrapped her arms around Sam’s waist. “What did you get me?” Blue eyes teasingly glanced around the room.
“Don’t worry, I’ve got it right here with me.” Sam smiled and laid her hands over Brooke’s arms. “I’ll give you a few hints.”
“Hints?” Brooke’s face lit up. “What kind of hints?”
“Well…” Sam paused as she thought. “Hints like,” Sam looked around the room at the gathered crowd. “What do three of the Gordon sisters have in common?”
Randi flashed a smile. “That’s easy. Good looks.”
“Good jobs,” Terri spoke up.
“They’re all incredibly sexy.” Peter spoke without thinking. The silly grin on his face was soon dismissed by the slap to the back of his head. “OW!”
about it later, Peter.”
“Well, three of us are married,” Brooke glanced from Randi to Terri and smiled.
“That’s part of it,” Sam hedged, biting her lip.
“What’s part of it?” C.C. rounded the corner of the kitchen, blowing a lock of stray hair off her face. “Did I miss something?”
“Only the boat,” Randi mumbled.
“Sh!” Mabel shushed her eldest daughter. “Is that nice?”
“Only if you’re not C.C.,” Brian whispered.
“Yeah, and that’s why only three of them are married,” Rick leaned in toward Terri and kissed her check.
“HEY!” C.C. crossed her arms over her chest in a defiant manner. “I’m not married because Mr. Right hasn’t swept me off my feet yet.”
Eddie leaned toward Peter. “No, but I’ve heard that Mr. Wrong, Mr. Broke, Mr. Slimeball, and Mr. Jobless have.” The two men failed to stifle their laughter.
C.C. swung around to face them. “But it’s only keeping me in practice.”
“Practice,” Eddie smirked. “So that’s what you call it.”
“I’d call it a load of sh…” Peter’s word was stopped short.
“Please!” Sam was quick to intervene. “Watch your language. We have young, impressionable ears present.”
“Darlin’, since when does it bother you what people say in our house?” Brooke queried her wife.
“It’s not just in this house but everywhere.” Sam looked up, locking her wife’s gaze with her own. “Trust me, Brooke, I’m finding that there are impressionable ears everywhere I go.”
“What are you talking about?” Brooke’s stare grew more intense.
“Yes, Sam,” Samuel looked at his daughter. “By all means, what are you talking about?” Silence swept over the room. One by one he looked around to his fellow guests until his eyes met Elaine’s. “Does anyone have a clue?”
C.C.’s hand shot up into the air. “Pick me. Pick me,” she waved her hand excitedly back and forth. “Oh, please pick me.”
Green eyes glared a warning. “C.C., shouldn’t you be getting the cake ready right about now?”
“Damn!” C.C. sounded dejected. “You’d think I’m still a kid getting sent out of the room when the good stuff is about to happen.”
“No you’re not,” Brooke teased her youngest sister. “If you were still a kid, I’d have no coffee table.”
The sound of sisterly laughter lit up the room.
“Girls!” Mable warned.
“Yes, Mother.” A unified chorus of Gordon sisters answered without skipping a beat.
C.C. pouted, looking around the room. “Well that’ll explain a lot of things. Excuse me while I go set the cake ablaze.” She turned to gloat at Brooke. “You know, some of us aren’t getting any younger.” The insolent woman stuck out her tongue, then hastened her departure with long determined strides.
Brooke worked hard to subdue a grin. “So, Sam.” She turned her attention back to her wife. “Where’s my present?” She leaned closer to Sam and whispered in her ear. “You can show it to me here, can’t you?”
Their eyes met and Sam was further enticed by a pair of wiggling eyebrows. Slowly she looked around the room, then back to Brooke. “You really want to see it right now?”
“Sure, I do.” Brooke nodded.
Sam sighed, then looked down to see her fingers toying with the hem of her camp shirt. Seconds seemed like minutes before the woman worked up the courage to continue. Slowly she took hold of the material of her shirt and looked up into Brooke’s eyes. “Happy…”
C.C. took the cue and ran with it as she carried the flaming cake into the living room. “Happy birthday to you,” Hearing no one joining in, C.C. started again. “Happy birthday to you. Come on, sing,” she directed weaving her way through the crowd.
“Happy Birthday to you,” the guests added their voices to the song. All eyes turned to the cake as C.C. placed it on the table behind the couch. “Happy Birthday dear, Mavis.”
“Mavis?” Peter shouted out stopping the reverie. “Who in the hell is Mavis? I thought it was Brooke’s birthday.”
All eyes slowly turned to C.C.
“What do you expect?” C.C.’s voice took on a defensive tone. “It wasn’t like I had time to order it or anything like that. All the bakeries were closing and it was the only one left.” C.C. looked over to her mother. “Can’t you just rearrange the writing with a toothpick or something?”
“Cjersti Chase, what am I going to do with you?” Mable shook her head.
Sam closed her eyes and sighed. “God,” she whispered under her breath. “I’d like to rearrange your as…” Realizing what she was about to say, Sam didn’t finish her thought. “Oh, whatever,” she mumbled in disgust.
“Auntie Sam?” Julie tugged on Sam’s leg.
“Yes, Julie?” Sam looked down at the child.
“Aunt Bwooke get pwesents?”
Eyes filled with hope led Sam back to her goal. “She sure will if I ever get a chance.”
Renewed with determination, Sam pulled all her courage together for one last attempt. “Okay, everyone, freeze,” Sam raised her voice to be heard. “Not another word.” She looked directly at C.C., then to Peter, and lastly the two remaining Gordon sisters. “Not another question from any of you until I give Brooke her gift.”
The tone of Brooke’s voice sent a chill through Sam’s soul. Dumbfounded, Sam looked over to C.C. in an accusing manner.
“Hey!” C.C. held up her hands feigning any wrong doings. “I didn’t say a word.”
Confused by her wife’s actions, Brooke sought out the cause. “Well somebody better say one.” She turned to Sam and grasped her shoulders. “Sam?” Leaning down, she stared her wife in the eyes. “Are you alright, Darlin’?”
“I’m…peighanit.” Sam mumbled quietly.
“What?” A dark brow quirked high on Brooke’s forehead. “What did you say?”
Blonde brows furrowed, and Sam let out a breath. “We’re pregnant, Brooke.”
“YES!” Eddie made a fist and pumped his hand down to his side. “Alright!” A triumphant smile beamed from his face.
Blue eyes glazed over as tears of joy threatened to roll down Brooke’s face. “We…w-we did it?” She asked, glancing down to Sam’s abdomen.
“We did it,” Sam confirmed with an all out smile.
Taken by surprise by the intimate moment, shock filled the room.
“Oh Lord!” Elaine gasped as her world went spinning wildly in front of her.
“Elaine!” Samuel reached for his wife. Before he could lay a hand on the woman, her knees gave way and she sank to the ground with a dull thump.
“Lordy! There she
“You got that right, Crystal.” Rick said, coming up behind her. “You stay sitting, Terri. We got this one.”
Lyrics from this week's installment by Sahaj Ticotin.