Title: You’re Aging Well
Author: Green Quarter
Archiving: http://www.realmoftheshadow.com/greenquarter.htm Great gobs of gratitude to Kim for hosting.
Disclaimer: Characters of Popular belong to someone who is taking their sweet time releasing the DVD’s.
Feedback: Always appreciated, at above address.
Shoutouts: Props to Alex O’Neal for kicking ideas around with me all those months ago, much appreciation goes to JuneBug, my quick-like-a-bunny beta reader, and many thanks to Betsy, for patiently answering all my stupid questions.
Notes: This is the last story in a series that began with “The Mercy of the Fallen” (or ”Here’s Where I Stand” if you’re going chronologically), which can be found at the above link, if you are at all interested. If you haven’t read any of it, Sam and Brooke have already gotten together, and this story begins about five years after the events of “An Ever Fixed Mark,” which ended with Brooke and Sam deciding to move back to California.
And to satisfy my anal desire to bring everything full circle, the title of this fic is taken from another Dar Williams song.
Brooke hoisted her board out of the back of the car and carried it down to the tide line. She stood at the water’s edge for a moment and surveyed the conditions. Another perfect early morning, the sky gradually lightening from purple to pink, the sun not yet breaking over the low skyline behind her, and five to eight foot swells coming in regular intervals in front of her. The waves were the just the right size for her this morning. She didn’t want or need to push herself by going big today, she just wanted to bring a little focus and clarity to a day when she knew she would need to be calm and centered. It was important to go about this day as if it were any other.
She plunged into the surf, throwing herself down on her board and paddling through the white water, and shivered as she duck-dove under a late breaking wave. Brooke congratulated herself on deciding to wear her short-sleeved rash guard and board shorts this morning, as it gave her a little more protection from the cold than her bathing suit would. If she had it together enough to listen to the surf report she would have known the water temperature this morning, but she was never that organized at six in the morning.
“Hi Richie,” Brooke smiled at the dark haired teenager bobbing in the water as she took her position in the lineup. She sat up on her board and looked back to where the next set was starting to roll in.
“A little small today,” Richie commented. “And it kept some people away, so less waiting.”
“Good. I want to ride as many as I can. I only have an hour.” Brooke replied, looking at her watch.
“So what else is new?” Richie grinned cheekily. “Where’s Sam today? I haven’t seen her in a while.”
“She had a deadline this morning and worked into the wee hours last night. I didn’t want to wake her.”
“To be continued,” Richie said, lying flat on his board and paddling furiously to get in position to take his wave.
Brooke saw that Richie got a good one, but the one coming behind it looked even better, and she too lay down on her board and began paddling at an angle, committing herself to the wave. She used all of her strength to paddle through the water as she felt the momentum of the wave lift her, and she leaned forward, waiting for the vertiginous feeling of sliding down into the trough. In a well-practiced move, Brooke sprang from her prone position into a crouch, noting that the wave had set up perfectly, the wave face a vertical blue wall, and she would only have herself to blame if she wiped now.
This was a feeling that Brooke had found herself living for, ever since she first took to the water with a flimsy slab of fiberglass beneath her body. It was an exhilaration that kept her coming back morning after morning, driving a half hour at the crack of dawn, when she could have been using the time to sleep for a few more precious hours. All that surfing-zen-art-of-the-wave business was something she had written off as iron john-esque poetic nonsense until she had successfully ridden her first wave. Then she knew that all the poetic descriptions in the world couldn’t do justice to how it felt. Corny as it sounded, she was one with the wave, both its passenger and master at the same time.
She rode the wave until it had lost most of its power, dropping down on to her board and turning around, and paddled her way back out to the lineup. What an ideal way to start the day.
“Dude, that was awesome,” Richie said admiringly.
Brooke smiled at him, and saw the appreciative nods of the other surfers as she sat up and straddled her board once again, waiting. “Not bad for an old lady,” she said, deprecatingly.
“Old lady?” Richie snorted. “Whatever.”
Brooke was not usually sensitive about her thirty-three years, but sometimes among all these youthful surfers she felt positively ancient. They were all so young and innocent, yet trying so hard to be badass. All the surfers here were very respectful and treated her like a local, even though she hadn’t lived here in Santa Monica since high school. She and Sam had been fixtures on this beach, the one closest to where Mac and her parents still lived, for five years at least, when they had returned to California from the east coast. They had been true to a promise made to their sister, Mac, and had all learned how to surf together. It was something they all enjoyed doing, but Brooke made it a priority; making time in her busy life for something she had come to enjoy so much. She found she had a real talent for it and sometimes she felt more at home in the water among these cherubic teenagers than she did at the office.
Richie was a transplanted Hawaiian, and a classmate of her sister Mac. Mac had met and befriended him out here at the beach the summer he came to the mainland, and Brooke and Sam had a private bet to see how long it took for Mac to wake up and see how much Richie liked her.
It sometimes floored Brooke to think that Mac was now a student at Kennedy High, the same age that she and Sam had been when their worlds had collided all those years ago. Brooke counted herself among the lucky to have found Sam again. She likened it to her and Sam’s lives flowing as separate tributaries from the same body of water that had somehow met again, becoming stronger and more forceful for joining together, and spilling into this vast ocean of peace and love they had been swimming in for over five years now.
“You’re up, Brooke,” a towheaded boy with zinc oxide applied liberally to his nose and cheeks informed her.
“Thanks, Darren,” Brooke had been lost in thought and hadn’t noticed the queue moving. She had to struggle to get into position, but she made it. She didn’t want to waste a single wave, and letting one go was considered bad form. This time was for her, she wanted to use every second of it.
An hour later, Brooke prepared to take her final wave of the morning. She turned her board towards Richie. “I’m done after this, Rich. See you tomorrow. Don’t be late for first period, you know how crabby Glass can get.”
Bobbi Glass was still terrorizing the students of Kennedy High, and Mac and Richie had her for Biology. Brooke didn’t think there was a force in nature that could stop the androgynous being from teaching. Even if there was an Extinction Level Event on planet earth, Brooke was convinced that Bio Glass would endure, along with the cockroaches, Cher, and possibly, Little Richard.
“Don’t remind me,” Richie groaned. “She hates me.”
“She hates everybody,” Brooke laughed; she wouldn’t go back and relive high school for all the money in the world. “Hey, when you see Mac, tell her to get her lazy butt out of bed and come see her sister once in a while. She should be loving these waves.”
“You tell her, she won’t listen to me,” Richie griped. “And tell Sam I said hi.”
“I will,” Brooke said over her shoulder, racing to meet her last wave. “See you.”
Normally, Brooke would head straight from the beach to downtown, take a shower at the gym and be at her desk by nine, but today was not a normal day. She was returning home, and for once the building rush hour traffic was flowing in the opposite direction, as she made her way into the hills of Los Feliz. She and Sam had been unable to afford a place in Santa Monica or any of the other surrounding beach communities when they had returned to Los Angeles, and truthfully, they still couldn’t afford it. They had found a nice, albeit a bit shabby, Craftsman style bungalow here in the changing neighborhood of Los Feliz, which was equal parts older couples and families who had been here for years and urban hipsters descending on the latest edgy must-live destination.
The little house’s biggest claim to fame was a view of the famous Hollywood sign from their bathroom window, but that wasn’t what sold Brooke on the place. She loved the sunlight that poured through the bedroom windows in the mornings, slanting columns of light that warmed the amber oak floors and brightened the buttery yellow walls she and Sam had painted when they moved in. As with any older home, there was a never-ending list of household projects that still needed to be seen to, but they were slowly working their way through it.
She pulled into the driveway to see Sam standing in the yard, staring at the front page of the paper, which she had evidently just picked up from the front walk. Sam looked up and smiled at her, refolding the paper and walking over to the car. She took Brooke’s board out of the back and brought it into the garage, leaning it against the wall where two other boards stood.
“How was it?” Sam asked as Brooke got out of the car.
“Good. Mostly five to eights, but I got a couple of good ones,” Brooke replied, meeting Sam in the driveway. “Did you get enough sleep?”
“Yes, thanks for not waking me.” Sam put her arms around Brooke’s still slightly damp waist and drew her into an embrace, kissing her on the cheek. “Hello, salty goodness.”
“Good morning,” Brooke returned, smiling, liking the cheek action but preferring Sam’s lips on her own. She remedied that by awarding a leisurely, comfortable kiss on the very appreciative recipient standing before her. “You’re dressed and ready,” she commented, as they parted.
“Yeah. I didn’t think there would be much time when you got back, given your proven track record of lollygagging at the beach for ‘just one more wave.’” Sam teased.
“Oh, you know me so well,“ Brooke said, walking into the house with Sam. “I guess I’d better hit the showers. Then we can go.”
At the front door, Sam turned back to look out at the street for a moment, and saw what she was looking for. She held the door open for a shambling, ambling feline, who crossed the front yard and unhurriedly made her way up the porch steps. “Come on,” Sam said impatiently. “In or out. I don’t have all day, you know.” She began to close the door and the cat bolted through at the last second.
Several minutes later, when Brooke was in the shower washing the salty residue from her hair and body, she felt the misty air in the bathroom cool for a moment, and knew that Sam had entered. She heard the porcelain toilet seat come down, and knew also that Sam had taken a seat and wanted to talk. She lathered up her hair and waited.
“You know this means no alcohol, right?”
“Yes,” Brooke replied. It was so obvious when Sam had been reading.
“And no cigarettes?”
“Sam, when was the last time you saw me smoke?”
“Good point. And no sushi, you know.”
Brooke sadly contemplated a future without spicy tuna rolls, even a temporary one. “Yes,” she sighed.
“Did you know that you can’t have goat cheese?” Sam asked.
Oh yeah, Brooke remembered, a pasteurization thing or something. What is this, Stump the Band, she wondered. “Yes, Sam, I knew that.” Brooke turned off the taps and wrung the water from her hair. Sam’s arm materialized with a towel, and Brooke took it, drawing back the shower curtain and looked at Sam quizzically.
Sam stood before her. “You love those salads we get at Souplantation, the ones with goat cheese.” She went and sat back down on the toilet, crossing her legs. “And can you go nine months without sushi?” she asked doubtfully. “And caffeine, I forgot caffeine, you can’t have that either.”
“Sam, what is it? You know that I know all of this already. There is no one more informed than me. And I’ve pretty much given up all those things since we started this, except for the sushi. You know that. Remember? ‘A healthy body is a fertile body,’” she quoted one of the umpteen pregnancy books she had read. “What’s really wrong?” Brooke picked up a thermometer from the sink and put it under her tongue by force of habit. She had already taken her temperature this morning. She dried herself off, watching Sam stare at the floor tiles.
After a moment Sam looked up. “I just have this feeling,” she said seriously. “I know it’s going to work this time.”
Brooke gazed at Sam in amazement. In all the months that they had been trying, Sam had been distinctly low key about their efforts to conceive. It was always Brooke who read aloud to her from pregnancy books, or comparison-shopped strollers, and it was always Brooke who took charge of their doctor visits, armed with her list of questions. That was not to say that Sam was not helpful or completely supportive; she was. Brooke had gotten the feeling that Sam felt this to be Brooke’s domain, probably because they had decided that Brooke would carry the child, and so had abdicated her say in almost everything related to their endeavor to Brooke. To hear Sam make a statement of faith like this was big, and it moved Brooke. She dropped her towel and sat herself down on Sam’s lap. Sam took the thermometer from her mouth and examined it.
“Same as yesterday,” Sam reported, frowning at the reading. “Still a little low.”
Brooke grabbed the thermometer with one hand and Sam’s chin with the other, forcing brown eyes to look into hazel ones. “It is going to work,” she said with absolute certainty. “We’re going to have a baby.” She pulled Sam into a hug, and felt Sam’s arms close around her. If she could have, Brooke would’ve spent the entire day right there in the safe harbor of Sam’s arms.
“And no more surfing,” Sam said into the silence.
Brooke sighed. That was going to be tough, but so worth it, if she ever actually became pregnant. “Yes. No surfing for the duration. So you’ll have to surf for me,” she said, pulling back and giving Sam a kiss. “It’s been awhile since you’ve come with me, even Jimmy-No-Mates was asking for you today.”
“Jimmy-No-Mates talks?” Sam asked, surprised, and then declared, “I will be your surfer-by-proxy, but you may want to hide your eyes from all of my wipeouts. You’re so much better at it than me, Gidget.” She kissed Brooke back, with pleasure. “But now, you’ll have to remove the naked hotness that is you or else I can’t be held responsible for making us late.” She smacked Brooke on her bottom lightly.
“Sam,” Brooke reprimanded teasingly, “you know you’re not supposed to start with the S&M until we’ve decided on a safe word.”
“Oh, yeah, I forgot,” Sam grinned, “how about we use the word ‘breakfast?’ As in, do you want any?”
Brooke stood up and picked up her hairbrush, undecided. “No… Yes… No… I don’t know.”
“That was really helpful, Brooke,” Sam said dryly, “How about I pour you a big, healthy, fertile glass of milk while you think about it?”
“Okay,” Brooke couldn’t resist leaning in for one more kiss, and then grinned as she watched Sam back away and whack her arm on the doorjamb.
“See what you do to me even after all this time?” Sam complained, flustered, rubbing her elbow. “We’re going to be late. And please put something on, I don’t think I can handle seeing you wearing nothing but a milk mustache.”
Sam waited impatiently in the driveway, looking at her watch. Brooke finally appeared, still putting on one shoe, and carrying a triangle of the toast that Sam had made for her a half hour before in her free hand. Sam moved to the driver’s side and got in, it looked like she would be driving this morning. Their neighbor was retrieving his trashcans from the curb, and Brooke offered a cheery hello.
Sam turned and smiled, “Morning, Paul.”
Paul Plum greeted them on his way up the driveway. The Plums had lived in the house next door for way longer than Brooke and Sam had been alive. Paul and Marge had raised their family there and now whipped out pictures of their grandkids to anyone who would stand still long enough. Marge was a retired nurse and Paul taught linguistics at UCLA.
Sam grinned as she started the car. “Professor Plum, in the billiard room, with the candlestick,” she said, and slapped the steering wheel in amusement. “I tell you, that never gets old.”
Brooke rolled her eyes. “Yes it does,” she muttered.
Sam made the same joke every time she saw her neighbors, varying only the room and murder weapon, but she really only did it now because she knew it annoyed Brooke, and that was half the fun.
Brooke’s cell phone began to ring, and she handed Sam her piece of toast to hold while she buckled her safety belt and put one of those adult sippy cups in the drink holder before reaching for her phone. “Hey, Nic,” she said into the phone. Sam glared at the cup pointedly and looked at Brooke, who put her hand on the receiver and mouthed ‘herbal tea’ at Sam, then started pointing at her watch and making ‘vamanos’ motions.
“Nic, how could I approve the marketing plan when I haven’t even seen it? Well you heard wrong. I have a meeting with them this afternoon. Yes. Yes. Yeah, I’ll remember. Okay. What? What do I suggest we do about it?” Brooke’s voice went from matter-of-fact to incredulous
As she drove, Sam listened to the one side of the conversation amusedly, marveling at the unique working relationship Nicole and Brooke shared. The two of them had been the heart and soul of Julian Cosmetics ever since Brooke had taken over the chief executive reins five years ago. It had been a steep learning curve for her, but the long-term strategies Brooke had put in place for fiscal growth and expansion were finally starting to bear results. Both Nic and Brooke had worked like fiends, and chose to take moderate salaries in order to channel as much capital back into the company as possible. Nobody was getting rich, yet, nor would anyone if the nation’s economic situation in general, and the cosmetic industry in particular, continued in it’s current downturn, which had put plans for taking the company public on hold indefinitely. Still, Sam knew that Brooke enjoyed the challenges and rewards her job gave her, and the push-pull working relationship she had with Nicole was simply the way they worked best.
“I suggest you get back in the lab and make sure we have a product to market, Nic!” Brooke exclaimed. “I’ll take care of the rest, okay? Don’t worry. Listen I have to go, I’m on my way to the doctor’s. Yeah, that’s today. It’s okay. Okay. Yeah. I’ll be in… whenever I get there. Bye.” Brooke snapped her phone closed and threw it in her bag, disgustedly. “God, she’s such a micromanager,” Brooke complained to Sam. “She’s science gal, I’m supposed to be business gal, why is she asking me about the marketing anyway?”
Sam kept one eye on the road and one eye on Brooke, watching as she closed her eyes and took deep calming breaths. She thought she heard Brooke murmur, “Serenity now.”
Brooke had been stressed about the new line of hypoallergenic makeup that Julian was going to be launching in a few months time. Sam didn’t think the additional job-related worry was helping Brooke’s baby-making mojo. She reached over and patted Brooke’s knee. “Just try to relax, okay?”
But Brooke rummaged in her bag and picked up her phone again. “Do you mind if I make a few calls?”
Sam shook her head, and Brooke was soon on the phone with her assistant, coordinating the rest of her day, already looking past the impending visit to the fertility specialist. Sam couldn’t really blame Brooke for wanting to treat the appointment in a casual manner, so as not to imbue it with more meaning than it deserved, but didn’t think that getting all worked up right before was the way to go either.
Sam didn’t know what had prompted her interrogation in the bathroom this morning. She knew Brooke had been diligent in excising all potentially problematic substances from her diet. And all that stuff was Pregnancy 101. Although she led Brooke to believe that she wasn’t very informed, Sam had actually read every word of every book on pregnancy, fertility, parenting and childcare that Brooke had brought into the house, and had done tons of internet research on her own. The reason she maintained this faux ignorance was so Brooke wouldn’t feel the added pressure of Sam’s own expectations. She never wanted Brooke to feel like she was letting Sam down after the disappointments had started piling up. Sam had gone from being a reluctant participant back in the early days when the idea of a kid was just a thought in their heads, to actually going into churches and lighting candles for their yet-to-be-conceived baby, praying to her own personal god to aid them in their intention. She found that as the prospect became more real, she wanted this to happen just as much as Brooke did, but her concern for Brooke prevented her from displaying this now fervent wish.
Even before they had actually started trying, there had been much discussion about exactly how they would make their family. After months of back and forth, they had agreed that an anonymous sperm donor would be best, not because they didn’t have some great gay and straight men in their life to ask, but because they didn’t want the threat, however small, of a custody battle with the biological father. It wasn’t as if they didn’t want their child to have a father, either, but the two of them were going to be the parents, and they believed that that would be more than enough. They did have a concern that their child might someday want to find out who their father was, so they had added identity release to the already long list of donor criteria they had compiled.
So they had gone to the sperm bank and made a withdrawal. There was no question that Brooke would be the biological mother of the child. Sam knew this from the first moment they had talked about it years ago. And she was fine with it. Together they had learned about vaginal insemination, or the so-called ‘turkey-baster” method, a term that made Sam cringe. The two of them had become completely attuned to Brooke’s cycle, using ovulation predictor kits and the basal body temperature method, but after six months of trying with no success, they decided to take the next step and visited a reproductive endocrinologist.
And now they were on their third attempt at Intra-Uterine Insemination, which Sam had learned was a procedure where the sperm was injected directly into the uterus, and was done in their doctor’s office. The first two times they had used frozen sperm; obviously without the desired result. This time, they had used a third party to obtain a fresh sample from their chosen donor, and the chances of success were much higher. This was the first of two visits on consecutive days, so that they could take advantage of Brooke’s ovulation period.
If this didn’t work, Sam didn’t know what they would do. They had been throwing money at this endeavor hand over fist, and insurance didn’t cover much, hardly anything, really. She knew it was callous to think of it in terms of dollars and cents, but their reserves were getting low; maybe they would just need to take a break from it for a while. It was either that, or Sam could suggest that they try vaginal insemination again with her as the bio mom. Sam was very willing to do this, but she didn’t want to take the act of bringing a baby into the world away from Brooke if she didn’t have to. No doubt Brooke would be surprised by that suggestion, Sam had never mentioned that she might want to have a baby herself, she had only begun thinking about it seriously just recently.
Sam pulled into the parking lot of the nondescript medical building, and Brooke ended her conversation, tossing her cell phone back into her bag. They sat silently for a moment in the car, and Brooke took Sam’s hand. It seemed to Sam like she was trying to gather some strength or a sense of calm from the hand, as she placed it on her thigh and held it in both of her own, tracing with her thumb a faded scar on Sam’s index finger.
Sam was convinced that this time they would be successful. She didn’t know how she knew, she just knew. Allowing herself to think of any other possible outcome was not an option. She tried to send Brooke an ESP message, “We can do this. It’s going to happen this time. I love you.” She repeated the words silently in her mind like a mantra while watching Brooke.
Brooke suddenly looked up at her. “Let’s do this.”
Sam saw Lily before Lily saw her. She had arrived at the café near Lily’s office a bit early, having just come from an appointment in Long Beach. She had decided to keep her ubiquitous laptop in its bag and just enjoy the midday sunshine while she waited with her glass of iced tea. She stood up and waved at Lily, now inquiring with the hostess, who nodded when she saw Sam and weaved her way through the outdoor seating to Sam’s table.
The years had been kind to Lily Ford, nee Esposito. She could still be a high school student; she looked so young. Only the addition of eyeglasses did anything to distort the memory Sam had of her friend when comparing her to her present self. Lily had welcomed with open arms both Sam and Brooke into her and her family’s boisterous lives when Sam had renewed contact with her after returning to the west coast. With two kids, a husband, a busy career, and an alarming number of side causes and commitments, Sam’s time with Lily was limited, but they had become as close again as they had once been.
“You’re late, Ford,” Sam complained, but her smile softened the words.
“Am not. You’re early,” Lily retorted, smiling herself. “I just got a call from Carmen, she had to cancel, some kind of crisis or other.”
“Again?” Sam asked. “That’s the second time, this new job must be making her crazy.”
“Yeah, I guess,” Lily said noncommittally.
It was no secret that Lily thought Carmen had made a huge mistake when she had left the Public Defender’s office for a cushy new position in a large firm. Lily had equated it with joining the dark side, but Sam saw Carmen’s point of view. After many years defending the scum of the earth and the financially underprivileged, Carmen simply saw her new position as trading up to a new kind of scum. And if her new job allowed her to free up some of her time for pro bono work, which the Public Defender’s office definitely didn’t, then so much the better.
Lately, Sam could certainly see the point of a cushy job with a large income. After nearly five years as a freelance journalist, she was hardly scrounging for jobs, in fact the opposite was true. She had built a solid professional reputation for meeting deadlines with consistent quality writing, and often had way too many things on her plate at one time. Building up a network of contacts at various local newspapers and magazines had taken time and persistence, but her name now preceded her, and she had turned down a few staff positions because she liked the unpredictability of freelance. She never knew what she would be writing about next.
That didn’t change the fact that although she and Brooke were satisfied with their professional lives, they weren’t exactly raking in the big bucks. Even if the insemination didn’t work this time, they would eventually have another mouth to feed, and a college education to think about. She knew Lily and Josh didn’t make bucketloads of cash either, with Lily making the world safe for lab rats and Macaques monkeys through her work with PETA and Josh teaching High School PE and coaching football. How did they do it?
The waitress approached their table and took their lunch order.
“How are the kids, Lily?” Sam asked, pulling herself out of the mire her thoughts had become.
“Jeanie just made the basketball team, her father is so proud,” Lily said, rolling her eyes, “and Travis has just obtained four new fish for his aquarium, their names are Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. I don’t know what that says about my son, he doesn’t even go to catechism.” She looked at Sam with a bewildered look on her face.
Sam shrugged; she didn’t know either. “What happened to Spanky, Alfalfa, Fresh Prince, Curly, Larry, Moe and Fonzie?”
“Oh, they’re still there, swimming around that little moss-covered plastic castle. Except for Larry, he went down the toilet into the great unknown a few weeks ago.”
“I’m so sorry for your loss,” Sam said seriously, patting Lily’s hand. Then she couldn’t help but grin, and Lily laughed.
“How about you guys? What’s happening with The Thing?” Lily asked.
Sam knew what she was talking about. “It’s been two weeks since the insemination, Brooke’s taking a pregnancy test tonight.”
“What if it doesn’t work again? Are you going to try?”
Sam sighed. Even in high school Lily had shown a knack for getting to the heart of a problem. After losing contact with Lily for several years, Sam was extremely glad to have her back in her life. She was her touchstone. But Lily could still be a real buttinsky sometimes. “I don’t know, Lil, maybe we should just stop trying for awhile.”
“Why?” Lily was nonplussed. “You want children; you have to keep trying. Brooke sure wants them, and I know you do, you’re like a goony little kid whenever the subject comes up. It’s nearly impossible to shut you up about it. God, you two must talk about it non-stop over at your house.”
“Actually, we don’t talk about it much,” Sam confessed. “It’s like this thing between us. It’s as if we’re carefully balancing ourselves on some kind of seesaw, and if I start to talk about it, my side is going to plummet to the ground, catapulting Brooke into the air. I know she’s disappointed, so I just keep quiet about it because I don’t want her to feel like she’s letting me down.”
“That’s just asinine, Sam,” Lily said plainly. “How do you know that she’s not taking your silence for indifference? You two have to talk about this.”
Their food arrived, and the two of them began to eat.
Sam knew Lily was right, but something else was plaguing her. “Lily, do you ever get scared that you and Josh won’t be able to financially take care of Jeanie and Travis?”
“Oh my god, we worry all the time. It goes with the territory.” Lily sipped from her club soda, and looked at Sam shrewdly. “Sam, if you let yourself become paralyzed by the ‘what-ifs,’ you’re going to have trouble enjoying being a parent. Yes, money is an issue, a big issue, but you and Brooke are doing okay, you don’t need to be millionaires to have a kid.”
“I know that, but what if Brooke secretly wants to quit her job so she can be a stay-at-home mom but she can’t because we need the money?”
“Well, does she?” Lily asked.
“I don’t know, she’s never said anything like that, and I know she likes her job, but I think in a perfect world that is what she would want to do.” Sam was guessing, but she didn’t think she was that far off the mark.
“Sam, honey, we don’t live in a perfect world,” Lily said rationally. “You know there are very few families these days who can afford to have one parent not work, if those families are lucky enough to have two parents to begin with. That’s reality.”
Sam wanted Brooke to have the option, if that was what she wanted, but she didn’t make nearly enough money to support both Brooke and a baby. But she was working on a way to augment her income to at least make it a possibility. It was a long shot, but it was the only thing she could think of to do. It was either this or go back to waiting tables as a second job, she thought ridiculously. No, she would never go back to that, no matter what the future held. But at the moment things were at a standstill, and she would just have to cross her fingers and hope for the best. It was all still hypothetical anyway, since Brooke wasn’t even pregnant yet. But that might change tonight, Sam thought, feeling a flutter in her stomach, as she did every time her hopes were raised following the insemination procedure.
“I really think you two need to talk about all this,” Lily insisted seriously, laying down her fork, finished with her meal. “Having a kid is a major thing, and you both need to be on the same page.”
Sam looked at Lily, wondering what she would do without her. She was her therapist, her drill sergeant, and her cheerleader all in one. Sam knew she had a tendency to overthink her problems to the point of utter confusion, getting bogged down in irrelevant details and failing to see the big picture. Somehow Lily always seemed to get her back on track, injecting the voice of reason and lucidity into her muddled brain. She was glad that this personal failing didn’t carry over into her professional life, as she would be one piss poor writer if that were the case.
“We are on the same page, Lil,” Sam smiled ruefully, putting her napkin on the table. “But I think that Brooke’s probably following the whole story somewhere at the top of the page while I’m engrossed in an obscure footnote down towards the bottom, and wondering about the typeface.”
“You both should be reading the whole story,” Lily replied. “Let the footnotes take care of themselves, for now, at least.”
Sam nodded, as she efficiently stacked their empty plates, getting them ready for whoever would eventually be bussing their table. It was an annoying habit that drove Brooke batty, but Sam couldn’t seem to stop herself from doing it. Once a waitress, always a waitress, she supposed. And that was also why she always left an exorbitant tip, regardless of the quality of service.
“So, you two should come over some time to see the new pool, the kids love it,” Lily moved the topic away from the Oprah therapy session it had become. “Then you can also meet Travis’s New Testament posse, he loved it that you were so interested.”
“We’d love to,” Sam returned, thinking of the afternoon she had obligingly listened to Travis earnestly tell her all the amazing facts he knew about his tropical fish, and there were a lot of them. She looked at her watch. “Oh god, is that the time? I still have another meeting and I need to get to the supermarket before I go home. I’m cooking Brooke a nice dinner tonight, I don’t want her to have to worry about a thing.”
“Meatloaf again?” Lily dryly asked, smirking.
“Shut up, Lily!” Sam grinned, defensive about her culinary skill, or lack thereof. For all the time she had spent in a restaurant kitchen, not much had rubbed off. She only had one or two items in her gastronomic repertoire. “Brooke likes my meatloaf. It might not be rack of lamb, but it’s the perfect comfort food. I’m just praying that we won’t be needing the comfort part tonight.”
“I’ll be praying, too,” Lily said soberly.
Sam didn’t want to leave on such a somber note. “Yeah, praying that my meatloaf doesn’t give Brooke indigestion.”
Brooke entered the front door to find an empty house; she had made a point to get home early today. She was mildly surprised that Sam wasn’t around, as Brooke could usually find her parked at the kitchen table, papers spread all around her, laptop on, tapping away while trying to keep the cats off the keyboard. But Sam often had days of running around from one appointment to the next in pursuit of a story too. She had been awfully busy lately, getting up early in the morning to begin working and not quitting until late at night. Sam had always been driven, Brooke remembered, especially in the early days when they had just moved to LA and she was scrambling for any writing job she could find, desperate to avoid a return to food service, but Sam was now established enough that she shouldn’t have to work so hard, and yet she seemed to be working longer and harder than ever.
She had decided to surprise Sam by making her specialty, and Sam’s favorite, penne a la vodka, figuring she could just leave out the vodka. Retrieving a sauté pan from the cabinet under the stove, she heated up some olive oil, and then started washing some lettuce for a salad.
Brooke heard the garage door open, and shortly after Sam entered the kitchen through the utility room, with a grocery bag in one arm and a large paper cone of flowers in the other.
“You’re home,” Sam said, sounding surprised.
“I came home early so I could make you dinner,” Brooke smiled.
“You don’t need to do that.” Sam put down her groceries and sidled up to Brooke, bestowing the flowers on her. “These are for you, my love,” she said, kissing Brooke soundly on the lips.
Brooke peeked into the cone and saw a vibrant bunch of blue and white irises. “Sam, these are gorgeous, they must have cost a fortune.”
“Nah,” Sam replied self-effacingly. “The gas station was trying to get rid of them, a buck and a half for the lot.”
Brooke eyed Sam dubiously. The paper the flowers were wrapped in clearly displayed the name of a tony florist on Fairfax. She knew why Sam had bought the flowers, and kind of understood why she was downplaying the gesture. They would either be in celebration or consolation, but neither of them wanted to discuss that just yet. She would just accept them gratefully. “Thank you, they’re beautiful.”
Sam nodded. She picked up her grocery bag and started to put things in the refrigerator and the pantry.
“I didn’t know you were going food shopping,” Brooke commented, adding some chopped garlic to the pan.
“Yeah, well…” Sam started to say, looking at the dinner preparations already begun, and then decided against it. “Never mind.”
But Brooke had been reminded of something else. “You didn’t by any chance get some bread, did you?”
“As a matter of fact, I did,” Sam replied, holding up a long, skinny loaf of French bread. “Why, what’s cooking?”
“I’m making penne a la vodka, minus the vodka.”
“Yum. My favorite,” Sam enthused, rubbing her hands together. “Do you need a sous chef?”
“Yes, please,” Brooke handed Sam an onion and a knife. “Can you chop this for me? A small dice. And then you can make the garlic bread.”
“My timing is impeccable, as usual,” Sam grumbled. “I always seem to offer my help just when an onion needs to be chopped.”
“Oh, come on,” Brooke cajoled. “Your tear ducts will get rusty if you don’t use them every once in a while.”
“Yes, dear,” Sam said resignedly, and set to chopping.
They each worked at their tasks, not speaking. The silence became more oppressive as the minutes passed, and neither wanted to be the first to speak of the elephant in the tiara and belly shirt in the corner of the room. Finally, Sam couldn’t stand the tension any longer.
“You can do the test at anytime, right?” she asked, although they both already knew the answer to that question.
Brooke nodded, not looking up from the can of crushed tomatoes she was opening.
Sam moved in close and put her hands over Brooke’s, stilling her movements. “I’m not going to be able to concentrate on anything until we know.”
“I know, but-“ Brooke stopped speaking, at a loss for explaining her hesitation.
Sam understood. “Don’t be scared. If it’s negative, we’ll just try again,” she said with all the reassurance she could muster. “And if it’s positive, well then, we’re laughing.” She smiled at Brooke in encouragement. She went to the grocery bag that was still on the counter and pulled out the slim box of a pregnancy test and handed it to Brooke.
“We should have bought these in bulk a long time ago,” Brooke joked weakly, having the presence of mind to turn off the flame under the sauté pan.
The two of them left the kitchen, and began to perform what had developed into a ritual for them, even though they never acknowledged it. Sam escorted Brooke to the bathroom and waited outside while Brooke administered the test, and then she left the test stick in the bathroom and walked with Sam out the front door. They held hands and slowly circled their house three times, allowing more than enough time for a result to materialize. Sometimes they talked, sometimes not, but it was always exactly three times.
When they were halfway through their second revolution, Sam spoke. “Brooke, do you like my meatloaf?”
If Brooke was surprised by the question, she didn’t show it. “Yes. Why do you ask?”
“I had lunch with Lily today. She led me to believe that my meatloaf was sub par.”
“Sam, Lily has never had your meatloaf. She’s a vegetarian, remember?”
“Oh, yeah,” realized a suddenly indignant Sam. “What gives her the right to pass judgment on my meatloaf?”
“Your meatloaf is great, the best I’ve ever tasted,” Brooke began, choosing her words carefully.
“But. There’s a but coming, I can tell from your voice,” Sam said.
“Well, it’s just that maybe you could broaden your culinary horizons a little,” Brooke said tactfully. “Learn how to roast a chicken, or make a casserole or something.”
“I do more than just meatloaf,” Sam protested. “I can make mashed potatoes and roasted baby carrots, too.”
“That’s one meal, Sam,” Brooke pointed out. “Look, there is no question that what you can do, you do well, but I’m afraid it’s gotten a little boring, sweetie.”
By this time they had completed their circuits around the house and started up the porch steps and back through the front door.
“I made that vegetarian lasagna for Lily’s party last year,” Sam began to list her few food-related accomplishments, “and I can grill stuff. And I made that lobster dinner when we were on the Cape that time.”
“That was, like, five years ago, Sam,” Brooke said, chuckling, marveling at Sam’s ability to get her mind off the huge thing looming before them even for a minute.
They entered the bathroom together and leaned over the test stick. Brooke grabbed Sam’s arm. For the first time in nine attempts, there were two pink lines on the indicator instead of one. Brooke snatched up the test stick and peered at it closely.
“Does this mean what I think it means?” she asked
“I think it does,” Sam replied, looking over Brooke’s shoulder at the test stick. “Wait, let’s do another one.” She ripped open the medicine cabinet, grabbed another test and handed it to Brooke. This time they broke protocol and Sam sat on the edge of the tub, staying with Brooke while she took the test. After Brooke was done, she sat next to Sam on the tub, holding the stick in her hands. The two of them watched in silence, waiting for the result to show. When two lines appeared once more, plain as day, Sam jumped up and let out a whoop that reverberated off the tiled walls of the bathroom. She pulled Brooke to her feet and enveloped her in a bear hug, then immediately pushed her away and said, “Oh my god, I don’t want to crush the baby.”
“You’re not, you’re not,” Brooke said giddily, grinning her fool head off. “We’re having a baby,” she said, wonder in her voice. “You. And I. Arehavingababy.” She pointed to Sam and started to laugh, big hearty belly laughs that shook her whole body, and Sam couldn’t help laughing in joy and relief right along with her.
She grabbed Brooke around the waist with one arm and extended their other arms away from their bodies, tango-ing them out of the bathroom and down the hall into the living room. Sam waltzed Brooke around the room a few times but stopped before she made her dizzy, and dropped to her knees. She lifted Brooke’s shirt and kissed her stomach. “Brooke, you don’t know how happy I am, how ecstatic I feel, how bursting with pride over the tenacity of your reproductive organs. You go, uterus! Good job, fallopian tubes! Oh Brooke, you did it. You did it.” Sam was so carried away she barely knew what she was saying, the relief she felt made her voice tremble, and she was both laughing and weeping while she punctuated her words with kisses to Brooke’s abdomen.
Brooke felt the tears coming on too, and looked down at Sam, who was hugging her around the middle, on her knees before her. In her more insecure moments, Brooke sometimes doubted Sam’s commitment to their goal, but seeing her now, so obviously gladdened, had taken away all of her doubts. Ever since she’d known Sam, even in high school, Sam had always been one to keep her emotions mostly hidden, Brooke should have known that there would have to be an incredible depth of feeling percolating just beneath the surface.
Brooke got to her knees as well, and wiped the tears from Sam’s face. “No. We did it, Sam. This couldn’t have happened without you, biological impossibility or not.”
Sam nodded, too overcome to continue speaking. She embraced Brooke to her and sobbed into her shoulder. Finally, after calming down a bit, Sam said, slightly embarrassed, “Who needs onions to give their tear ducts a workout? Hoo boy. I think this is going to be happening a lot over the next nine months.”
“And I’m the one who’s supposed to be getting all emotional.” Brooke cupped Sam’s face in her hands and kissed her tenderly.
Sam looked at her, suddenly realizing they were kneeling on the floor in the middle of the living room. “Come on, the mother is not supposed to be on the floor,” she took Brooke’s hands and helped her up, leading her to a seat at the kitchen table. She went to the fridge and poured a large glass of orange juice and put it in front of Brooke. “We have to keep you healthy and happy so Junior can thrive. I don’t want anything preventing his timely arrival in nine months’ time. Now you just sit there, and direct me. The Sous chef is going to earn her keep and begin expanding her repertoire tonight.”
Brooke surveyed the kitchen, with its abandoned dinner preparations, feeling as if it had been years since they had left the room. She watched Sam grab the flowers, which had been leaning in the sink, and tear the paper from them. A vase was located, and Sam dumped the irises into it and filled it with warm water, then set them in front of Brooke for her to arrange however she pleased. But they had fallen into a haphazard natural arrangement, a riot of vivid and vibrant color that seemed to symbolize the additional life present in their home.
“I’ll call the doctor tomorrow and set up an appointment for an ultrasound,” Brooke announced.
Sam looked up from the stove, smiling, seemingly unable to remove the expression from her face.
Brooke knew that this was just the beginning. Although it felt like they had crossed some kind of finish line, the main event had yet to really start. This was really just the prelude to the prelude, and she hoped with all her heart that they would take home their prize in nine months.
Sam came into the bedroom, ready for bed, with an issue of the New Yorker that was several months old. She couldn’t seem to get on top of her reading and was always a little behind on movies, books and television, which was kind of odd for someone who made their living in current events. She was forever suggesting things to Brooke like seeing a movie that had already left the theaters, or setting the VCR for an episode of Charlie Rose that had aired weeks ago. She got under the covers next to Brooke, giving her a kiss on the cheek, and began to read.
“What do you think of Lucy?” Brooke asked, out of nowhere. She put her book on the nightstand and regarded Sam. Brooke was more like her old self these days, after the nausea and exhaustion of the first trimester. Now she even stayed awake until nine o’clock on occasion.
“Lucy who? ‘I Love Lucy’ Lucy? She’s great. I was watching it the other night and it was the one where Lucy created a huge problem for Ricky and then she had some ‘splaining to do,” Sam said absently, not looking up from her magazine. She was used to Brooke’s bedtime conversational stream of consciousness, and replied with whatever popped into her own head. Her response was usually in the right ballpark about half the time, but this was not one of those times.
“Har Har,” Brooke said sarcastically. “No, I mean what do you think of the name Lucy?”
“I like it,” Sam said cautiously. “Why? Are you thinking of renaming one of the cats?”
“No, I’m thinking of naming a baby in about five months’ time, smarty,” Brooke said, pulling the magazine out of Sam’s hands and holding it out of her reach.
Sam looked at Brooke for a moment, then directed her gaze to the foot of the bed, where a tortoise shell colored cat lazily washed himself. “Sorry, Bootsie, I tried for you, but it looks like you’re stuck with it.”
Brooke rolled up the magazine and swatted Sam with it, startling Bootsie, who glared accusingly at Brooke. “If there is a cat that needs renaming, it’s not Bootsie, it’s Nobes!”
About a year ago, Sam and Brooke began to notice a couple of visitors hanging around their backyard. Two similar looking cats, both tortoise shells, would come up on the deck while they ate breakfast outside, or would perch on the fence while they worked in the flower beds, or would even sit on the window sill, peering in while Brooke did the dishes or Sam worked at the kitchen table. They tried to resist, as neither one of them really wanted to embrace the stereotype of the multiple cat-owning lesbian couple, but in the end they couldn’t help but succumb.
Over the course of several months, Brooke grew very attached to the animals, and they would rub against her and purr whenever she went outside, and allow her to pet them. Sam also enjoyed their new feline friends, and started calling them Balls and No Balls, as one cat had that part of his anatomy intact, while the other did not, and it was the only way she could tell them apart. Brooke simply rolled her eyes at the names, but after a while she began to refer to them in that way as well, and would worry if she didn’t see them around. Then Sam began to leave a can of tuna out for them every once in a while, and it became clear that they were stuck with the two homeless cats.
One Saturday afternoon, they took the cats to the vet, who figured from their friendly and unwary behavior that they were indoor cats, most likely brother and sister, and had been abandoned by their owner, which had upset both Brooke and Sam to no end. Who could do that to two poor defenseless sweet little kitties? They decided then and there to adopt the cats, and had No Balls spayed (she was a girl cat) and Balls neutered. As they were leaving the vet’s office, they had to fill out some paperwork for the cats, including their names. Sam wanted to keep the names (even though technically they could both be called No Balls now), but when Brooke objected, she suggested they each name one cat, and Brooke changed Balls’ name to Bootsie, for no other reason than because she liked it. Sam decided not to change No Balls’ name, but allowed it to be shortened to Nobes when Brooke declared she would never bring the uniquely appellated cat to the vet if she had to utter the words “No Balls” out loud in public.
It turned out that No Balls was sort of a misnomer anyway, since Nobes was fearless and reckless almost to the point of stupidity, and was always getting into scrapes with other cats, raccoons, dogs, and, one time, a really big squirrel. Sam said that if Nobes had had them, they would probably be made of brass. Nobes continued to prowl the neighborhood, enjoying her freedom but coming home at night for meals and the comfort of a combo nap and grooming sesh on any available lap in the evenings, while Bootsie had completely retired from outdoor life, relinquishing any desire to return outside once he found his food bowl and the litter box in the laundry room.
“Nobes is a perfectly fine name, any cat would be glad to have it,” Sam said calmly, knowing that the real discussion had not yet begun. “What made you think of Lucy?”
“I don’t know, it just popped into my head today. It’s a classic name, not trendy like Britney or Madison, it sounds good if you’re a kid, unlike, say, Helen, and also as an adult, unlike Tiffany. With any luck, there won’t be six other Lucies in her class, either. And it’s biblical. Isn’t it biblical?” She looked at Sam, who shrugged. “Plus, we could call her Luce, which I think sounds cool.” Brooke looked at Sam. “I always wanted to have a name that could be shortened to one syllable, like yours.”
“Brooke, your name is one syllable,” Sam stated the obvious.
“You know what I mean,” Brooke said. “So, what do you think?”
“I don’t know,” Sam mused, “I’ll have to think about it.” She briefly thought of the number of times she would use and hear the name repeated in a day, should this be the name they eventually decided on; she guessed it was better than a lot of names. Certainly it was better than her own name, which she had never really liked all that much. She reached down to the end of the bed and dragged Bootsie into her lap, giving him his favorite scritches behind the ears. He began to purr loudly.
Nobes walked into the room, looking as if she were miffed that no one had invited her to the party.
“Here’s my girl,” Brooke exclaimed, patting the bed. “C’mere Nobes.” Nobes jumped onto the bed and flopped on her side in front of Brooke, presenting her belly for some attention, which Brooke obligingly rubbed.
“What if it’s a boy?” Sam asked.
“Oh, I already have a name picked out for a boy,” Brooke disclosed breezily.
Sam was piqued at having been left out of the loop. “Oh really,” she said, letting her annoyance show. “What name is that?”
“Joseph,” Brooke said, simply, and looked up from her attentions to the cat into Sam’s eyes.
Sam smiled, her eyes filling with tears. “Joseph. I like that.” Trust Brooke to think of the perfect name for their baby boy, if the chromosome fairy deemed it so. It was the highest possible tribute to a man Brooke had never even met, and Sam felt her heart fill almost to bursting, and she had an almost uncontrollable urge to take Brooke in her arms and smother her with kisses. But since about the eighth week, Brooke had lost all desire for any kind of amorous closeness, and wasn’t amenable to being touched, even. Sam had to respect this, had even expected it from all the reading she had done, but she still hadn’t been prepared for the loss of physical contact that she hadn’t realized had been such a vital component of their relationship.
She leaned in and kissed Brooke chastely on the mouth, quickly pulling away before she lost control and ravaged her. Sam understood that Brooke’s desire for sex had dropped way down on her list of fun things to do, falling in somewhere between eating the reproductive organs of an endangered species on a reality TV show and doing her taxes. Maybe that was a bit of an exaggeration, she acknowledged to herself, but Brooke’s libido, definitely a mosquito, as Kurt Cobain had so succinctly put it. Knowing that didn’t stop Sam from wanting Brooke just as she always had, but she was resigned. Pregnant women just didn’t want to have sex; all the books said so. And Brooke had been tired and feeling like she was about to hurl for three months straight, who could blame her for not feeling romantic?
“Joseph. Joe. Joey. Little Joe. Big Joe. Hey Joe. Joe Cool. Joey Bagadonuts. Joe Lies. Cuppa Joe,” Sam babbled, trying to subdue the arousal that had flared up in her, like the surge of the tide. “I love it.”
Brooke could see Sam trying to keep her hands to herself, and she was both touched and turned on, for the first time in months. She was glad that her libido hadn’t completely deserted her, and Sam’s obvious need for her allowed her to overcome her embarrassment over her body. It had been quite awhile since they had had sex, she guiltily thought, and while Brooke knew that it was because of her diminished sex drive, she also couldn’t help feeling an irrational fear of Sam’s reaction to her body. She had gone from being ultra-comfortable with her naked self to never letting Sam see her without clothes on. Intellectually, of course, Brooke knew that her body must change in order for her to have what she wanted, but emotionally, she couldn’t help feeling that pregnancy made her body look and feel like a sack of potatoes. She took a deep breath. She couldn’t hide herself from Sam forever.
“Good,” she smiled. “I’m glad you approve. Now kiss me again like you mean it.”
Sam was surprised. “I do mean it. But I don’t want to start something I can’t finish,” she said honestly.
“Who says you can’t finish it?”
Sam silently stared at Brooke, trying to decide if she was serious. It had been difficult, abstaining from intimate contact with Brooke over the past few months, and she would welcome the chance now, but the last thing she wanted was to push Brooke into something she didn’t want to do.
Brooke looked at her reassuringly and brought her hand up to caress Sam’s face.
“You really want to?” Sam asked.
“You’re not just doing this for me, are you?” Sam asked suspiciously.
“Would you shut up and just kiss me, already?” Brooke replied, exasperatedly.
“Oh, thank god,” Sam breathed, taking Brooke’s face in her hands and kissing her, pouring all of her pent up frustration into Brooke’s mouth, using her lips and tongue to convey her need for several long minutes. Brooke laced her fingers at the back of Sam’s neck and met Sam’s passion with her own, which was gradually rising like the mercury in a thermometer. They drew apart when breathing became an issue, and Sam realized that they had an audience.
“Okay cats, scram. I want to be with my woman and you’re cramping my style.” She unceremoniously dumped the cats off the bed, not hearing Bootsie’s howl of protest, and was out of her pajamas in seconds. She turned back to see Brooke, still fully clothed, reaching to turn out the lamp on the bedside table, but Sam stayed her hand. “No, please, I want to see you.”
Brooke nodded uncertainly and turned away from Sam, removing her flannel pajama top.
Sam couldn’t resist placing her hands on the smooth skin of Brooke’s back, saying, “You feel so good, Brooke.” Her lips soon followed her hands and she kissed her way up Brooke’s spine to her neck, and Sam felt the enormous tension in those muscles in her shoulders and around the neck. “What is it? What’s wrong?” she whispered, reaching around to hug Brooke’s waist from behind.
When Brooke seized her hands as she tried to pull her close, Sam realized what was wrong. How was it possible that Brooke was having pregnant body issues, and how was it possible that she hadn’t realized it before this, Sam reprimanded herself. She thought that Brooke’s lack of desire was purely a chemical thing: baby growing inside = mama losing interest in sex, but it looked like that might not be the problem for Brooke. What was it they said about assuming, Sam rebuked herself.
She moved away from Brooke and started plumping up the pillows, making a comfortable nest right in the middle of the bed, up near the headboard, while Brooke watched, curious. When she was finished she scrambled around to Brooke’s side and helped her move into the center of the bed.
“McQueen needs her throne,” Sam announced grandly, making sure Brooke was comfortable and supported at every place where her body rested against the bed and the pillows. She then went to the foot of the bed and knelt before Brooke, putting her hands together and bowing down in supplication “And now, I’m going to worship you in the custom befitting the embodiment of the nurturing-maternal-earth-mother-fertile-goddess-madonna-heavenly-being that you are.”
Brooke had been sitting with her arms crossed over her chest and stomach, still uncomfortable, but relaxing at Sam’s obvious strategy to put her at ease. “Don’t you think you’re laying it on a bit thick?” she asked, her skin pinking at Sam’s lavish praise.
“Never too thick,” Sam said, moving up the bed to Brooke’s side. “May I remove these?” she asked, indicating Brooke’s pajama bottoms.
Brooke nodded, smiling.
“And these?” Sam had tugged the bottoms down far enough to reveal Brooke’s panties.
Brooke nodded again.
Once Sam had Brooke completely naked, all she wanted to do was stare at the amazing changes pregnancy had brought to this once familiar body, but she wanted Brooke to be totally comfortable, and she knew from Brooke’s posture and crossed arms that it wasn’t happening yet. She returned to the foot of the bed, and lifted one of Brooke’s feet. “Ah, the feet. So beautiful and unique, unlike any other feet in all the world.” She kissed the top of both feet and each of Brooke’s ten toes.
“Unique?” Brooke asked, disbelieving. They were feet, everyone had them, and they all looked the same.
“Absolutely,” Sam averred. “ After all, you are the only person in the world who will ever stand on these feet. I’d say that makes them very unique indeed.”
Brooke laughed; she couldn’t fight Sam’s logic.
“The calves,” Sam continued, stroking the silky skin of the lower part of Brooke’s legs. “Artists would weep at the curve of your calves.” Sam ran her tongue up the left shin and placed a kiss on Brooke’s knee.
“The knees. Gangsters would put down their sledgehammers and flat out refuse to do any harm to your lovely knee caps, even if you had stolen their pinkie ring or their mama’s cannelloni recipe.”
Sam placed a hand on each of Brooke’s thighs, slowly moving upwards while kissing and licking and nibbling at the soft skin up one inner thigh, bypassing the jewel at the center, and down the other. She was gratified to hear Brooke’s breathing become audible and ragged, and she saw in her peripheral vision Brooke unfold her arms and place her hands flat on the bed.
“The thighs,” Sam said between kisses, “have skin as soft as rose petals, are as long as a country mile, and are so important because they support these,” she moved her hands up and stroked the skin of Brooke’s hips.
“You forgot something,” Brooke said, hoarsely.
“Did I?” Sam asked, innocently. “Too late now, I’ll have to come back to it at the end.”
“You’d better,” Brooke threatened.
“Now where was I?” Sam asked herself. “Oh, yes, the hips. Dare I call them child-bearing? Seems appropriate. Which leads to your unbelievably sexy belly.” Sam let her hands roam all over Brooke’s stomach, which wasn’t that big yet, but definitely pooched out a little bit. Sam reveled in the feel of Brooke’s belly, gazing in wonder at the actual manifestation of the life growing inside her. “Honestly, Brooke, I cannot wait for you to get bigger,” Sam looked into Brooke’s face. “You are so beautiful; don’t you know that? And so sexy. You don’t know how wet I became just from looking at you.”
Brooke smiled bashfully. “Well, you’re not alone in that respect.”
Sam kissed Brooke’s stomach, then lay her head against it. “So beautiful,” she sighed, then lifted her head and spoke into Brooke’s belly button. “Do you hear that, Baby? One of your mommies is the sexiest, most beautiful, most caliente woman on the planet.” She cocked her head to the side, thinking. “Now that I think about it, it’s kind of weird for me to be talking to you while I’m trying to make sweet love to your mommy, so just go back to sleep or back to playing Solitaire or whatever it is you’re doing in there and you can join in this conversation at a later date, okay?”
Brooke chuckled and stroked Sam’s hair fondly.
“Back to our originally scheduled program,” Sam said, and lifted one of Brooke’s hands and kissed the palm. “Your hands,” She began, only to be interrupted by Brooke.
“Hey, you’re skipping all the good parts,” she protested.
“I’m not skipping them,” Sam countered, “I’m just saving the best for last. But you’re right,” she added hastily. “I think we can rush through the rest in order to get to the, ahem, good parts.”
Brooke nodded, satisfied, and Sam went into hyperdrive.
“Hands, so pretty, arms, blah blah blah, shoulders, good place for an ‘I heart Sam’ tattoo, neck, slender and blah blah, face, we could spend days on your face alone, so we’ll leave that for another time,” she paused dramatically, “which brings us to the breasts!” Sam grinned like a loon.
Brooke grinned back, taking Sam’s hands and putting them on her breasts. Sam opened her mouth and rolled her eyes back in her head comically. “Oh my god,” she monotoned, looking like she had at last found Jesus and was about to be saved. Brooke cracked up.
“Brooke’s Rack 2.0, the new version,” Sam remarked. “Now you know that I’m not a size-ist, and you know that I adored your, um, unpregnant breasts, but damn, Brooke. How have you kept these hidden from me all this time?”
“They’re a semi-recent development, so to speak,” Brooke smiled ruefully.
“They’re gorgeous,” Sam said, looking up into Brooke’s face, then quickly back down. To tell the truth, she had been sneaking looks at them ever since Brooke had lowered her arms, but it was nice to be able to gaze openly at them now. “They’re so full and voluptuous,” she commented, hefting their weight in her upturned palms.
“Yeah, I’ve been wearing your bras for the past couple of weeks, but I think even they are getting too small for me,” Brooke confessed.
“What are you trying to say about my boobs, Brooke?” Sam challenged.
“Only that they’re beautiful, and normally a little bit bigger than mine.”
“Hmpf, nice save,” Sam said mock sourly, then she grinned in anticipatory glee. “I can’t believe you have these amazing new tits and you didn’t let me see. So can I test them out? I’m the best breast tester around, you know, and try saying that ten times fast.”
“Well, yeah, I’ve been waiting,” Brooke urged, smirking, but then she became serious, wanting to explain a little further. “I was just a little shy about them, and my belly, too. They changed so quickly, I just couldn’t deal.”
“I understand,” Sam said, giving Brooke a quick kiss, and massaging her left breast. “But I think you’re going to have to get used to it. After all, when the baby comes, you’ll be flashing all and sundry come feeding time. Remember Mom? She had no qualms about letting it all hang out when she was breastfeeding Mac.”
“Okay, Sam, this conversation is so not sexy anymore.”
“Consider the subject dropped,” Sam said immediately. “Just one more thing,” she said hesitantly. “I know you haven’t been feeling up to being intimate, and that’s fine. But even if we don’t have sex, do you think we could still cuddle and maybe make out once in a while? I really miss being with you this way.” Sam knew it sounded like she was begging, but she didn’t care, she needed to have that closeness with Brooke. They had let things go on too long without talking about it this time.
“Oh, Sam, I’m sorry,” Brooke was really contrite. “Now that you made me feel so comfortable about my body, so desired and loved, maybe it won’t be an issue.”
“So now that I totally ruined the mood, have I lost my chance to sex you up?”
“Oh, I don’t know. I’m sure if anyone can increase the Cinemax After Dark quotient in here, you can.”
Sam grinned wolfishly, “Well, I am a can-do kind of girl, and I have not yet begun to worship you.”
“There’s only so much veneration a girl can take before she needs to do some worshipping of her own,“ Brooke replied, slumping down on her throne of pillows and pulling Sam in for a heated kiss.
“That’s what I like to see,” Sam said breathlessly as she pulled away after a few moments. “A goddess of the people, who actually knows when to step in and personally answer her faithful acolyte’s most fervent prayers.”
Brooke entered the bedroom the next morning, fresh from the shower, a towel wrapped loosely around her waist and another enclosing her wet hair. Sam was still in bed, getting Nobes all riled up with a shoelace while she procrastinated starting her day. When she saw Brooke her eyes darkened with desire and she got up and approached her. She could tell that Brooke had a bit more confidence in her body this morning, she wasn’t scurrying to put her clothes on immediately, for one thing, and Sam hoped it was because of last night. She still felt a bit stupid for not picking up on it earlier.
She tentatively put her hands on Brooke’s hips, not knowing if Brooke had reverted back to not wanting to be touched, but Brooke didn’t seem to mind. In fact, it looked like she was still basking in that comfy morning after glow.
“You know what?” Brooke asked. “It occurs to me that we haven’t done nearly enough celebrating to herald the arrival of this baby.”
“One can never have too much celebration,” Sam agreed, not knowing where Brooke was going with this.
“Can you give me a ride to work this morning?”
“Sure,” Sam replied, confused by the subject change. “Is there something wrong with your car?”
“No.” Brooke replied. “Can you pick me up at the end of the day, too?”
Sam ran through her day in her mind. “Yeah, I can do that.”
“Then I’m going to say to you those three little words that every woman loves to hear,” Brooke paused, a small smile on her face. She leaned in and kissed Sam, then moved so that her mouth was right next to Sam’s ear. “Let’s eat out,” she whispered.
Sam grinned in amusement. “You’re so funny. You just don’t want to eat my cooking again.” She had insisted on taking over the food preparation since Brooke had become pregnant. The How to Cook Everything Cookbook had become her new bible, and she thought she was getting better.
“Not at all,” Brooke denied, laughing. “You deserve a break from slaving away over a hot stove night after night. And besides, I really think we need to celebrate something. Don’t you?”
“I never need a reason to have an evening out with you,” Sam said gallantly. “Hey, let me make the reservation. There’s a place I want to try.”
“Okay,” Brooke said agreeably. “Now put some clothes on, driver. I have to get to work.”
When Sam pulled up to the valet at L’Orangerie, Brooke was suitably impressed. The French restaurant was a grand dame in Los Angeles, having been around for decades, but neither Sam nor Brooke had ever been there. Sam had heard it was the best French food in the city, and in her newfound culinary curiosity, she wanted to know what that tasted like.
“How did you manage to get a reservation so last minute?” Brooke asked, as they were seated at a secluded table for two in the lovely garden room with its retractable roof. Walking through the restaurant to get to the table had been like moving through a richly appointed French chateau, with candle light, and beautiful art, and explosions of fresh flowers every few feet.
“Jonathan owed me a favor,” Sam explained, referring to a friend of hers, who was the food critic at LA Weekly. Even though this place was expensive, and would put a noticeable dent in their budget, Sam thought they deserved it. She had been working very hard lately, and wanted whatever time she spent with Brooke to be quality, and Brooke deserved to be in a beautiful place like this, she thought, as she watched her delightedly take in their surroundings. Besides, they wouldn’t have many opportunities to do things like this once the baby was born.
If it was possible to fall in love with a restaurant, than that is what Brooke had done. She felt as if she was living in a fairytale, like she had entered another time. “Sam I love this place,” she lowered her menu and whispered, “I want to eat every meal here for the rest of my life.”
Sam smiled. “Why don’t we try the food first, before taking up residence in one of the bathroom stalls.” But she congratulated herself on picking a place that impressed Brooke. She might even get lucky two nights in a row.
She tried to concentrate on the menu, but her thoughts had turned serious. Sam wanted Brooke to have whatever she wanted, even if that meant fancy restaurants that sold snails at a three thousand percent markup. Although she knew that Brooke would disagree, she thought of herself as the breadwinner of the family, now that Brooke was having the baby. It may have been some kind of antiquated nuclear patriarchal society ideal which didn’t begin to describe the modern alternative family she and Brooke were going to create, but she couldn’t help thinking that way all the same. It was her responsibility to find a way to provide Brooke and their child with a comfortable life, which was why she had been taking any assignment offered to her, and working so hard lately. She simply couldn’t afford to turn down the money.
After they had ordered, Brooke looked at Sam, her face an expression of pure pleasure. “What a great idea. I’m glad I thought of it. Aren’t you happy to have a night off from the kitchen?”
“What? You think I can’t make shirred eggs with Sevruga caviar?” Sam scoffed, referring to the starter she had ordered.
“What are shirred eggs, Sam?” Brooke questioned, ingenuously.
“I don’t know,” Sam admitted, “I’ll tell you when they get here. But rest assured I will be whipping up batches of them in no time. If they taste good.”
Sam changed the subject, needing to get some answers to the questions that had been whizzing around her brain for the last little while. She reached for Brooke’s hand where it lay across the table. “Brooke, how do you picture our lives after the baby comes?”
“What do you mean?”
Sam was ruminative. “Do you want to take an extended leave from Julian? Do you want to go back to work right away and get a nanny?” A thought suddenly occurred to her. “Do you want me to cut back on work and take care of the baby?”
“I guess I just assumed that we would both take maternity leave, and then we’d work something out between the two of us,” Brooke replied.
Sam shook her head, “Since I work for myself, I would be able to take maternity leave, which would really be just a regular, garden-variety, unpaid leave. Personally, I don’t think we can afford that. But even if I worked for some company, how would it be possible for me to take maternity leave? I don’t exactly have any proof that I’m going to become a mother.”
Brooke wanted to put a stop to this kind of thinking right away. Sam was just as much the mother of this baby as she was. The lack of societal recognition Sam would face as the non-biological mother of their child was something Brooke had been thinking about more and more lately. It was important for Sam to know now that she was an equal in Brooke’s eyes, so that it would carry over into all aspects of their existence. They needed to present a united front to the world: to doctors and medical personnel, to school administrators when the time came, to any people who came in contact with their daily lives, really.
“We’re going to do the second parent adoption as soon as we can after the baby is born,” Brooke said adamantly, her face determined. “Adoptive parents are entitled to maternity leave.”
“Okay,” Sam said appeasingly. She didn’t want Brooke to get upset about a hypothetical situation, and she hadn’t meant for this to become a discussion about the issues surrounding non-biological motherhood. She knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but she could handle it. And this was California, where an alternative family was not seen as a freakish thing so much, unlike a lot of places. They were lucky to live here. People cobbled together their families in all sorts of different ways these days, just look at the family her mother and Brooke’s father had shaped for them when they were teenagers. But this had not been the point Sam had originally been trying to make. “I think what I’m really trying to figure out is what you want to do when the baby comes. If money, and your career, and the expense of childcare were taken out of the equation, would you want to stay at home?”
Sam watched as Brooke deflated slightly, switching gears from crusading lesbo mom, to the thoughtful, introspective woman Sam knew a little better. “Well, we can’t really take those things out of the equation, because they are factors. If there were no obstacles in the way, I guess I would prefer to stay at home, but that’s not really an option, and I don’t mind working. I love my job.”
Brooke leaned her elbow on the table and rested her chin in her hand, looking dreamily at Sam. “Speaking purely from a place of fantasy, I would wish that we could have lots of children, and you and I could both stay at home to raise them, and we could live in something like Barbie’s Dream House on the beach in Malibu. And you would have a big office where you could work, instead of using the kitchen table, and Mac could have a room of her own for when she came to visit, and our parents too. If I did start working again, my commute would be no longer than ten minutes door to door. And we would hire a maid whose only job is to clean the cats’ litter box,” she added, and laughed a little at the absurdity of her vision. “Maybe we should just concentrate on successfully having the first one before we think about all of that.”
“That sounds really nice,” Sam said, wistfully. “While we’re at it, could we hire a cook?”
“Oh, absolutely,” Brooke grinned. “For all we know, shirred eggs take ten hours to prepare, and then where would you be? Working all day long to satisfy my raging shirred egg addiction with no time for anything else? No, we’d have to get a cook just for that.”
“So now you’re addicted to them?” Sam raised an eyebrow. “Without even tasting them?” As she was speaking, a waiter arrived with their first course, and the much-discussed dish was placed before her. She looked at the simple presentation of the baked egg still in its shell, with a dollop of caviar on top, and said, “Somehow I don’t think this takes ten hours to prepare.”
She took a bite, and had to admit that it was a pretty damn tasty egg. She scooped up some more and passed her spoon to Brooke so she could taste. Brooke took the offered bite and paused, her eyes growing round as she swallowed.
“I am addicted. Let’s trade,” she picked up her dish of stuffed zucchini blossoms and thrust it toward Sam.
Sam obligingly switched dishes with Brooke and tasted it, rolling her eyes in satisfaction. “God, Brooke, these are awesome too. Did you try them?”
“Oops, this egg got me all excited, I forgot.”
Sam laughed, holding out her fork again so Brooke could try her original choice.
Brooke took the forkful and tasted the zucchini blossom, and she moaned at how good it tasted. “Wait. I want to switch back,” she said. “I’m holding your fork hostage until we switch back.”
“Hang on just a second,” Sam held up an index finger. “Just because you’re pregnant doesn’t mean that you can hijack the first course. You’ve tried them both. Which one do you really want?”
Brooke considered. “That one,” she said, pointing to the zucchini with Sam’s fork.
“All right,” Sam handed her the plate, and Brooke passed over the egg plate, along with Sam’s fork. When Sam reached for her spoon to continue eating, she let out a frustrated, “Hey!”
She looked up at Brooke, who was giggling silently into her napkin, her mouth full of zucchini.
“You ate the whole thing!” Sam cried, picking up the empty eggshell with her fingers.
“I’m sorry,” Brooke exclaimed. “I couldn’t help it, it was just so good. Come on, I’ll share this with you,” she held out a forkful of her food, which Sam tried to remove from her hand. “Oh no, the fork stays in my hand, McPherson. Do you think I’m stupid?”
“You must think I’m stupid,” Sam muttered, letting Brooke feed her the bite.
“Not stupid,” Brooke replied, smiling. “Just gullible, and entirely too good to me.”
Sam just shook her head, trying to look stern and failing utterly. “You are not getting one more bite of my food tonight.”
Brooke nodded, letting Sam think this was the case, but knowing better.
Their evening continued with more good food, and the best sparkling water money could buy. Sam was secretly relieved that Brooke couldn’t drink wine, and that she was driving. It would keep the cost down somewhat, then she felt guilty for thinking that. Brooke tended to not dwell on money as much, although if Sam asked, she could probably recall their checkbook balance within about ten bucks. Brooke was definitely the fiscal expert of the pair, and she never seemed to stress about their finances. Sam hadn’t a clue how much money was in the bank, yet she couldn’t stop worrying about it. It was only since trying to conceive that the subject had occupied Sam to the extent that it had. She sometimes remembered fondly the days when she was a carefree traveler with no responsibilities to anyone, living hand to mouth, and wished that she didn’t have to think about money all the time.
The dinner plates had just been cleared away and Sam asked to see a dessert menu. She didn’t think she could eat another bite, but it wouldn’t hurt to look at what they had. Maybe she and Brooke could share something, even though greedy-guts Brooke didn’t deserve it. Somehow Brooke had managed to get a taste of Sam’s duck, even though Sam had tried mightily to prevent it.
“You should get coffee, Sam, I bet they have great coffee here,” Brooke recommended, perusing the dessert selections.
“You could get decaf if you want,” Sam suggested, she hated to partake of any of the forbidden foods in front of Brooke.
Both Sam and Brooke looked in the direction from where the heavily accented voice was coming. A woman about their age was approaching the table, her eyes locked onto Sam.
Brooke knew for certain that she had never laid eyes on the woman before. She was practically spilling out of a wildly colorful print blouse that was either vintage Pucci or Pucci-inspired. Her skin was that burnt orange color from too much time in a tanning bed, and it looked like she had spent a lot of money to get her frosted hair to look that trashy. Brooke took an instant dislike to the woman.
Sam frowned at the woman, sure she knew her from somewhere, but she couldn’t place her. The voice was instantly familiar, and the Italian accent. “Paola?” she asked uncertainly as the woman stopped and leaned over their table.
“Si, si,” Paola smiled broadly, laying her hand on Sam’s shoulder. “I knew it was you, you look just the same.”
Sam stood up, and Paola immediately pulled her into a hug. “Wow. You look so different. It’s been…” Sam was at a genuine loss for words, “… a long time.” She stepped back and looked at Paola. It was nothing short of surreal to see someone from so far in the past, so removed from the context from which they knew each other. Sam had met Paola years ago, when she was still living her nomadic existence, before she had reconnected with Brooke in New York City.
“Five years, at least,” Paola agreed, looking expectantly at Brooke.
“Oh, I’m sorry, where are my manners?” Sam distractedly made introductions. “Brooke, this is Paola, we met in Israel. Paola, this is Brooke.”
Brooke glared at Sam, incensed at the lackluster introduction.
But Sam was staring at Paola with a mix of consternation and wonder. “What are you doing here?” Sam asked, then suddenly realized how rude she sounded. “In Los Angeles, I mean.”
“My father is in the movie business now,” Paola said excitedly. She turned and included Brooke in the conversation. “In Italia, the family business is marble, we have been stone masons since the sixteenth century. We export all over the world, but it’s not glamorous, believe me. Now Papa wants to make movies, and he sent me to be his representative in Hollywood. His English, not so good.”
“You’ll fit right in,” Brooke said dryly.
“So Sam, what have you been doing? Tell me everything,” Paola exuberantly held onto Sam’s shoulders. “I can’t believe you haven’t changed one bit. Do you remember the time we went out to the quarry and you wanted to dive in because it was so hot, but you didn’t have the… como se dice costume da bagno,” Paola muttered to herself, trying to find the words. “Bathing costume!” She clapped her hands in triumph.
Sam could see this would quickly degenerate into a humiliating conversation of all her past indiscretions, which she wanted to avoid if possible. Before Paola could finish her story, she grabbed her by the elbow and steered her away from the table, saying over her shoulder, “I’ll be right back, Brooke.”
She pulled Paola under an archway that connected the garden room with the restaurant proper, and tried to stay out of the way of the waitstaff. She stood so she could still see Brooke over Paola’s shoulder, and saw that Brooke was fruitlessly trying to get their waiter’s attention with her water glass, which needed a refill.
“Look, Paola,” Sam said, ‘it’s really wonderful to see you again, but now is not the best time for me to catch up.”
“Is she your latest girlfriend, Sam? So bellissima,” Paola turned around to look at Brooke.
“No, she’s not a girlfriend,” Sam started to say, before Paola turned to face her, and interrupted.
“She’s not? Then you must come with me to the Beverly Wilshire. I have a suite, we can talk and laugh and whatever else you want to do,” she said suggestively.
Sam got annoyed; she remembered now Paola’s irritating habit of interrupting at the drop of a hat. She was a spoiled rich girl, who had never worked a day in her life.
“Brooke isn’t just my girlfriend, she’s my life partner, we’ve been together over five years,” Sam clarified.
Paola looked at her. “So maybe you won’t come to the Beverly Wilshire until later, after she falls asleep.”
“No, Paola,” Sam shook her head emphatically. “I’m not the same person you once knew.”
“You look the same, but you are different, “ Paola commented, finally getting the message.
“I guess I finally grew up somewhere along the line. We’re having a baby, you know,” Sam announced proudly.
Paola’s eyes lit up and she grabbed at Sam’s belly with both hands. “You are? But that’s wonderful!”
“Actually, Brooke’s the one who’s having the baby,” Sam took Paola’s hands and put them back at her sides.
“How did you and your partner decide which of you would have the baby?”
It was just like Paola to ask the inappropriate questions. “We flipped a coin,” Sam said sarcastically.
“Really?” Paola’s eyebrows went up.
“Well, I’m sure the baby will be very beautiful. You look happy, Samantha, and that’s good. I am happy for you,” Paola smiled at her, almost pensively.
Sam suddenly remembered how big a heart Paola had, and how this woman had been there for her when Sam had needed a friend badly, and she was ashamed of her obnoxious behavior. “How are things with you?” she asked awkwardly.
“Oh fine, fine. I’m still spending my father’s money,” Paola laughed humorlessly. “Still trying to find interesting things to do, and meet interesting people to do them with.”
“That sounds like fun,” Sam said amiably, although she could see that Paola thought it was anything but fun, and was leaving a lot unsaid.
“Yes, lots of fun,” Paola seemed to pull herself together, readopting her jocular tone from before. “Oh! I left my brother around here somewhere, he doesn’t speak any English,” she slapped her forehead and smiled brightly at Sam. “I must go find him. It was lovely to see you, bella Samantha.” She put her hands on Sam’s shoulders and kissed her on both cheeks. “Remember, I’m at the Beverly Wilshire until next Wednesday.”
Sam put her hand in her pocket, searching for a business card to give to Paola so they could keep in touch, then thought better of it. She watched her old friend go, and thought about earlier in the evening when she had wished for the return of her itinerant lifestyle. How could she have ever thought that? There was no comparison between the miserable girl she had been then, desperately trying to fill up her emptiness with the interesting things to do and the interesting people Paola talked about, and the person she was now. For all its problems, Sam would take her current life any day of the week. She would worry over money, clean the litter box, and cook dinner every night if it meant that she could share her days with Brooke. Any day of the week, and twice on Sundays.
Brooke could not sleep. Back at the restaurant, while Sam was talking to Paola, she had wanted nothing more than to be home and in her bed. Now that she was, sleep was elusive.
Sam had returned to the table and had apologized profusely, and had striven to return them to the pleasant evening they had shared up until that point, but the mood had been irretrievably broken, the bubble they had enclosed themselves in before the interruption had popped. Brooke had paid the check while Sam was gone and was only waiting for Sam so they could leave, saying she was feeling very tired and had a headache.
While waiting for the valet, Brooke had wished for once that she hadn’t asked Sam to drive. Usually when they went out on weekday evenings, Brooke hated to end the night by getting into separate cars in order to drive back home. But tonight she would have welcomed a little solo time to think about what had just happened.
And now that she was alone, her mind couldn’t settle. She could hear the muted tapping of the keyboard coming from the kitchen, Sam had returned to work soon after they got home, after kindly seeing Brooke into bed with a glass of warm milk.
She got up, turned on the light and walked over to the closet, throwing the doors open and contemplating the contents, trying to decide what to wear tomorrow. But the sight of so many of their belongings crammed into such a small area distracted her. Their little old house was severely lacking in storage space, and Brooke mentally added separate, gigantic Hers ‘n Hers walk-in closets to the floorplan of her fantasy Barbie Dream House. Her work clothes took up the majority of the hanging space, while Sam’s more casual stuff occupied a fraction of the closet on the left side. She looked at the shelf above packed with untidy stacks of folded clothes, and the shelf above that, overcrowded with teetering boxes and other items they seldom needed.
She lifted a pile of messily jumbled sweaters from the shelf and brought them to the bed. Channeling her inner Gap employee, she began to neatly refold them, anally stacking them according to the ROYGBIV color spectrum.
It wasn’t Sam’s fault that Paola had shown up. Sam had talked a little about her on the car ride home, saying that the woman had come a long way from the Birkenstock shod, fashionable political slogan t-shirt clad, neo-hippie Sam had met years ago. She had deadpanned that she thought Paola had become Italy’s answer to their old classmate Mary Cherry. Brooke had refused to be drawn into conversation about the woman, however, and Sam had let the subject drop.
Over the years, Sam had occasionally told stories of her travels, sometimes including the names of the girlfriends who had been her partners in crime on her exploits, although she had never explicitly referred to them as her girlfriends, always calling them simply “a friend.” At one point, long ago, they had had a discussion about it. Sam had tried to be as honest as she could with Brooke about the years she had been away without spelling everything out, wanting to spare Brooke’s feelings. The implication being, Brooke had realized, that Sam had not lacked for female company, nor had she lived like a nun. Sam’s insistence that none of the women she had spent time with had meant anything to her was all very well and good, but it didn’t do much to quiet Brooke’s jealous imagination when she had occasion to dwell on Sam’s past. Not that Brooke could claim to be any different, having had several male partners in the intervening years as well.
But Sam was her one and only, and as irrational and overly dramatic as it sounded, she couldn’t help dying inside a little bit when she thought of Sam with another woman. And to have to actually meet one of them face-to-face had been nearly intolerable. Brooke knew that this was her issue, and she needed to get over it. It would only plague her own happiness, and Sam’s by extension, if she let it. There was nothing to be done about the past, and how could she begrudge Sam the companionship that she herself had sought so freely with guys before they were together? But her love, and the accompanying jealousy, didn’t have to make sense, and she couldn’t help the way she felt.
Brooke slid one hand under the now precisely folded sweaters, and placed her other hand on top, returning to the closet and carefully sliding the stack onto the shelf. She stood back and observed her handiwork: one stack of perfect sweaters lining up with regimental exactness among a shelf of chaotic and sloppy piles of clothes. She wanted to refold the entire shelf, but her exhaustion was catching up with her. As it was, she wouldn’t be getting anywhere near the ten hours of sleep she found herself needing these days.
She knew she should talk to Sam about how she was feeling, but what could she really say? And what was Sam supposed to do about it? All this time had passed and now Brooke was supposed to bring it up? No. This was one time when she didn’t think there was anything to be gained from open lines of communication. It would only make Sam feel bad.
She started to close the closet doors when a box on the top shelf caught her eye. It was a dusty, blue, Adidas shoebox, and Brooke knew exactly what was inside. She considered taking the box down and going through the contents, but knew if she went down that road she would never get to sleep.
Brooke turned away from the closet and got back into bed. She reached over and turned out the light, careful not to spill the long since cooled glass of milk on the bedside table, with the skin that had formed on the top.
|Section 2||Green Quarter||Popular||Main Index|