Part III

Chapter 7

 

Mac and Randi didnít emerge from the bedroom until nearly 10 a.m. Both women felt worlds better after a good nightís sleep, but Mac still had to assure Randi that she wouldnít see any dead people on the way to the kitchen, before the older woman would agree to leave the bedroom. She also spent several tense moments trying to convince the brunette that the house did not look exactly like the one in "Nightmare on Elm Street." Which was bullshit... because it did. Mac shivered. Damn that freaky Freddy Krueger!

Randi followed Mac down the long hallway. Blue eyes took in the lovely home with a mixture of nervousness and dread, as Randiís stomach did flip-flops. This was it. Any minute now sheíd see that skinny bitch, Sandra. Convincing Macís family that she and her stalker were a Ďcoupleí was one thing... but Sandra knew her. Shut up, dumbshit, she told herself. You knew her, too. Things change... sometimes big things... sometimes really big things.

Mac reached behind her, finding Randiís hand; she lightly squeezed it as she led the taller woman down a small set of stairs.

Randi swallowed nervously but returned Macís gentle, comforting pressure. "Where is everyone?"

"I donít know. Maybe Mom had to go to the church this morning. But I smell coffee."

The women followed their noses to the kitchen to find a short, blonde man sitting alone at the table. The man looked up at Mac and smiled smugly. Randi knew instantly that this little shit had to be Macís brother. How could he bring Sandra, the slut, here to flaunt in Macís face?

Randi shook her head. Her dad may have locked her out of the house when she was still a teenager, and, sure, her mom occasionally forgot to make sure her skirt wasnít tucked into her nylons before exiting a public restroom, but, dammit, even they looked liked winners compared to Macís piss poor excuse for a brother.

Mac stopped dead in her tracks, her eyes locked onto ones barely a shade lighter than her own.

"Hello, Morag," the man sneered.

Randi looked at Mac. Her name wasnít Mackenzie?

Macís body went rigid, and her hands shaped into fists. "Hello, Angus," she sneered back.

Randi made a disgusted face. Just how twisted were Macís parents?

"Call me Mac!" the siblings both shouted in unison.

Randi stepped in between the brother and sister, wondering if theyíd come to blows. Macís face was scarlet and Angusí forehead had sprouted an angry, pulsing vein. "Calm down, Mor..." Mac flashed Randi a look that would melt steel. "...err... sweetheart," she finished lamely.

Macís anger instantly drained away at Randiís words, even if they were just for show. "Okay, honey," she said in a voice so sweet and sincere that Randiís heart lurched even as her head spun.

"Ahemmm!" Angus cleared his throat loudly. "Arenít you going to introduce me to your amazon friend?" The man stood up to his full 5í 6" height, raking his eyes over Randi as if she were on the auction block. "Iím Doctor Mackenzie, but you can call me Mac," he said to Randi, not waiting for his sisterís answer.

Mac rolled her eyes. "You can call him shithead, like I do. Or Doctor ShitheadÖ" green eyes twinkled "Ölike his staff at the hospital does."

Randi barely swallowed a laugh. Meeeeeoooooow! Mac was vicious! The former driving instructor gave Angus a thorough once over before turning to her partner, a slender, dark eyebrow at its zenith. "Proctologist?"

Mac just smiled adoringly.

Angus glared at his sister, unable to get any closer to her because of the tall, athletic body blocking his path. Had Morag been hanging out in those biker bars again? He could definitely picture this bitch in leather. Oh yeah. Lots of tight, black leather.

Angus tore his eyes off Randi, more than a little envious of his younger sister. What could Morag offer this drop-dead gorgeous woman that he, a virile, manly doctor, couldnít? He sighed. Tits. It had to be the tits!

"Gee, Sis... youíre not still bitter about Sandra, are you?" Angus gibed, knowing damn well that she was. "I really thought youíd be over that by now."

"Who?" Randi inquired innocently.

"Nobody important, honey." The blonde took a step forward and wrapped her arm around Randiís waist. The taller woman reciprocated the gesture, and Mac didnít try to stifle her contented sigh at the affectionate touch.

"So, shithead... " Mac said, enjoying the angry look on her brotherís face ,"... where are mom and dad?"

"Outside," he snorted, not offering any other information.

Randi gave Mac a quick squeeze, causing her to exhale explosively. "Okay... Jeeze," Mac hissed under her breath. "Angus?"

"Huh?" Grumpy blue eyes looked up from a medical journal they were pretending to read.

"Where are you hiding my sloppy seconds? I havenít seen her yet this morning?"

A huge grin split Randiís face. OH, BABY! If she were into chicks, Mac would be the Ďoneí!

"You wouldnít be talking about me, now would you, Morag?"

***

The squirrelsí eyes widened with anticipation, the steady sprinkle of icy, cold rain doing nothing to dampen their enthusiasm. They were enthralled. The storyís villain had finally arrived.

"Bitch-slap her!" the male squirrel cried, no longer able to contain his excitement.

"Shut up, fool!" his mate hissed, smacking him in the back of the head and sending him sprawling onto his rounded stomach. "You know Iím opposed to violence!"

The female squirrel flicked her paws in the universal "continue" motion. "Go on, go on," she urged the human.

Randi sneezed and reached into her pocket for more tissue. Empty. "Crap," she muttered.

The dark-haired woman sighed as she watched another apartment go black. Were people going to bed already? She didnít look at her watch. It didnít really matter what time it was.

"And there she was, just like I remembered...."

***

Mac and Randi turned as one to face the freckled, painfully-thin redhead. "As a matter of fact, I was referring to you. Hello, Sandra," Mac said, trying to keep her voice even.

The nurse watched with supreme satisfaction as the color drained from Sandraís face. Thatís right, bitch. Itís Randi! Shit a solid-gold brick!

Mac felt a wave of tension roll through Randiís body. She gingerly moved the hand that was wound tightly around her partnerís waist and began softly stroking the taller womanís rigid back. Címon. Donít lose it now, Randi.

"Hello, Sandra. Long time no see," Randi drawled, as she desperately tried to silence the eerily robotic chant that was running through her mind. She... must... die... She... must... die...

"Ra... Ra... Randi?" the redhead stuttered in a stunned voice. Oh God! This couldnít be happening, could it? Like a bad penny, or an unusually spooky Ďthird cousiní who shows up at all the family reunions and eats and eats and eats, but no one actually knows who he is, Randi was back.

The lanky woman took a small step forward towards Sandra. Still in shock, the gym teacher stumbled backwards so quickly that she ran into the kitchen counter. The cabinet stopped her lower body, but her momentum kept her upper body in motion, causing her head to slam against the cabinet door with startling force. Brown eyes rolled back in their sockets as the skinny woman crumpled into a heap on the floor.

"Stand back! Iím a doctor!" Angus proclaimed as he rushed over to his fallen girlfriend.

Mac and Randi just rolled their eyes.

"Any chance that sheís dead?" Randi whispered, watching with amusement as Angus tried to examine Sandra.

"Like weíre that lucky," Mac snorted.

"True."

Randi fought back a myriad of emotions as she studied her sworn enemy... the woman who changed her life forever... the woman she despised above all others... the woman who betrayed Mac. What the hell? Randi was shocked to find her anger at Sandra for hurting Mac equal to, if not greater than, her anger over the sabotage of her own future.

Sandra groaned and slapped away Angusí inquiring hands.

"Angus, do you need me to get you some KY jelly and a rubber glove?" Mac offered helpfully.

"What are you doing here?" Sandra asked Randi as she grasped Angusí arm and pulled herself to her feet. The redhead regained her composure with lightning speed and went on the offensive. "The last time I saw you, you were being sentenced to seven days in jail and 300 hours of community service," she snarled.

Mac tried not to look surprised. Jail? Randi was a criminal? Not that I can really be critical, she mused wryly. The thought of Randi and a pair of handcuffs temporarily derailed Macís mind. If she asked me to bend over and pick up her bar of soap, Iíd sure as hell be happy to do it!

Randi looked as though she might reach out and strangle Sandra on the spot, so Mac answered for her. "Sheís with me."

Sandra curled her fingers into quotation marks (the most annoying gesture in the history of mankind). "With you. Honey, youíre going to have to try a lot harder to get me to believe that! I know her and sheís not gay!"

"I would have said the same thing about you," Randi interjected. "And maybe it wasnít me that broke into your car!"

Sandra narrowed her deep, brown eyes. "Do you expect me to believe a common thief would steal it, glue orange shag carpet to every possible surface, and then return it?!"

Randi wisely decided to drop the subject of her Ďinnocenceí. "Just remember, Sandra, that restraining order you got against me ran out years ago," Randi reminded her with a menacing look; a look that was designed to wreak havoc on Sandraís bladder control.

Despite her best efforts not to, Sandra twisted a little.

Thatís right. Be afraid. Be verrrry afraid.

Angus scowled, unable to follow the thread of the conversation. He had given up trying to figure out exactly who this ĎRandií person was. Someone would tell him... eventually.

"She does like men!" he finally exclaimed petulantly, several seconds too late for it to really make sense in the conversation.

Mac stood nose-to-nose with her brother. "That still doesnít explain why sheís with you."

Sandra stole a glance at Randi. Could she and Mac actually be Ďtogetherí? This had to be a trick. But what if it wasnít? Sandra watched as Randi gazed at Mac with warm, puppy-dog eyes. It was true! Randi was gay! How could she not have noticed?

Sandra kicked herself repeatedly. For a night with the raven-haired beauty, whom she hated more than Kathy Lee Gifford and Martha Stewart combined, sheíd even risk being thrown off the Doctor Dumbass gravy train.

"Your brother is right, Morag." Sandra turned to Mac and curled her fingers into quotation marks (still the most annoying gesture of all time). "I donít like women in Ďthatí way."

Mac raised an eyebrow as she cocked her head to the side. "Oh really?" Her hands went to her hips. "You could have fooled me. Especially when you had your face parked between my..."

"Morag, dear, you finally made it!"

 

A petite woman in her late fifties came barreling into the kitchen. "Howís your head?" Motherly hands inspected Macís forehead and placed a gentle kiss on the bandage. Then she looked around the room at all the angry, sour faces. "Did Angus fart again?"

Randi could only stare at the woman. This was Macís mother? The minister? Ever since Gopher from the ĎLove Boatí had been elected to congress, Randi suspected God had a wicked sense of humor. Now she had proof.

"Oh, Iíve missed you!" Mac pulled the tiny woman into a fierce hug, temporarily forgetting about Angus and Sandra.

"Same here, daughter," Macís mother added, kissing her again.

Randi stood by awkwardly as the mother and daughter embraced. The former driving instructor immediately liked Macís mom, who exuded warmth and a refreshing honesty. But most of all she liked the way she greeted Mac. Randi firmly believed her mom could be like that too. But only if she really increased her meds.

Mrs. Mackenzie finally untangled herself from her daughter and approached Randi. Smiling, she held out her hand. "Iím Belle. You must be Randi. Iíve heard so many wonderful things about you."

Randi nodded as her face colored. She glanced at Mac who had her eyes firmly trained on her shoes and a slight grin tugging at her lips. "Itís nice to meet you, maíam."

Sandra groaned a little, trying to draw everyoneís attention away from Randi and garner a little sympathy for her bruised head. Even Angusí eyes were riveted on the striking woman.

Belle completely ignored the gym teacher. That scarlet-haired tramp wasnít nearly good enough for her lovely daughter, Morag. Belle looked over at Angus and rolled her eyes. He, on the other hand, was lucky to have a companion that didnít require an air pump or batteries.

In the darkest corner of her heart, Belle clung to the flickering hope that indeed there had been a mix-up at the hospital, and Angus was not a blood relative. The Lord truly did work in mysterious ways. Love and $175,000 had allowed Angus to become a doctor. Who knew that Tijuana had a medical school? Of course, that meant her true son, no doubt cruelly named Cletus, was probably the moderately successful assistant manager of a dirty bookstore, or the perpetual "guinea pig" for one of those politically correct shampoo companies that doesnít test its product on animals. Belle said a prayer.

The kitchen suddenly became even more crowded, when a handsome, bald man in his middle sixties joined the fray.

"Daddy!" Mac flung herself into her fatherís outstretched arms.

"Hi, Sweetheart," he greeted his daughter in a booming voice. Randi immediately detected a slight accent that she associated with that fruity midget from the ĎLucky Charmsí commercials.

Mac proudly introduced Randi, who stood silently as Mr. Mackenzie seemed to evaluate her... judge her. The tall woman squared her shoulders and lifted her jaw. Was she, an unemployed, broke, former driving instructor, worthy of his little girl? A light sweat broke out across her brow. Could he be fooled? Oh, the pressure!!!!

"I love Melissa Etheridge! I swear it!" Randi finally blurted out, buckling under his withering gaze.

Mac closed her eyes. Randi had been doing so well.

Mr. Mackenzie raised bushy, gray eyebrows. Huh? Oh well, if his baby loved this woman, that was good enough for him. Anyone was better than that skinny, opportunistic slut, Sandra. He finally extended his hand. "My name is Sean. But you can call meÖ"

"Mac," Randi immediately supplied as she grasped the stout manís hand in a firm handshake.

Sandraís face contorted in rage. That ghoul had never said she could call him Mac. And I toured that horrific embalming room! she seethed.

"Címon, Randi. Let me show you my boat, before I get too busy this afternoon." Belle grabbed Randi and began dragging her out of the kitchen. Randi looked helplessly back at Mac, who was being herded out the other door by her father.

How was she supposed to make Sandra suffer, if they werenít even in the same room? She didnít drive 1500 miles to see some damn boat! "Um... Belle, shouldnít we invite Sandra to come along too?" Randi asked as Belle practically pulled her out of the kitchen.

"Hell, no! Why would I want to spend anytime with that horrible, scrawny woman?"

"Umm.... Umm..." Oh no! I canít think of a single reason! I need time to think! Deep in her soul, Randi knew that her decision against becoming an air-traffic controller had been the right one.

With hate filled eyes, Sandra watched Randi leave the kitchen. Oh, how she had underestimated Mac (she only called her Morag to her face to annoy her). She should have realized the blonde had hard feelings about their break up, when she stepped on her super deluxe health meter Ė okay... scale Ė and noticed that taped over the high-resolution digital screen was a piece of paper that read, "YOU ARE ONE FAT BITCH! DIE! DIE! DIE! DIE! DIE!"

***

"I spent the next three hours Ďlookingí at Belleís boat, "The Deliverer", drinking homemade strawberry wine, and talking about Mac. Belle explained that Macís dad wanted to help her pick out a new car, so they probably wouldnít be home until late afternoon, when the rest of the family and friends would arrive for the gathering."

"No one actually called it a Ďpartyí." Randi lifted an eyebrow at her audience. "But it was one. I asked Mac about it later, and she explained that if there were no balloons, it couldnít be a party." Randi shrugged. "I had to take her word on that since I didnít have a freakiní clue what she was talking about."

"I should have been angry that we were almost immediately separated. I mean, we were on a schedule here. But how could I begrudge her dad for wanting to help and spend time with her? I felt exactly the same way." Randi had hoped the bald mortician would talk Mac out of getting a Volkswagen. How many FahrvergnŁgen jokes could one woman be expected to know?

Randi coughed, uncomfortably aware that her sore throat was getting worse. The cold wind was making her eyes feel dry and itchy, so she closed them for several long moments. She burrowed her face into her coat, and her audience noticed that her breathing seemed to slow. Except for the occasional gust of wind, the park was now silent.

"Is she asleep?" the male squirrel asked.

"Why donít you jump up on the bench and get a closer look," his mate suggested, knowing she wouldnít do it herself.

"Ha! Are you crazy? Isnít it obvious that sheís demented? Sheís a convict, for Godís sake!" The male squirrel folded his furry arms across his chest and scowled. "Besides, I donít appreciate the way she is portraying the males in this story. We are not all arrogant, farting simpletons!"

His mate was impressed by his uncharacteristically impassioned speech.

The male squirrel danced eagerly. "I just wish sheíd hurry up and continue. I canít wait until she tells us who this Morag person is!"

The female squirrel hung her head and sighed. Why did Mother always have to be right?!

Randi suddenly lifted her head. With an irritated hand, she rubbed her eyes, which were now conspicuously wet.

The squirrels looked at each other. Was she crying? They couldnít tell.

The woman cleared her voice a little before she continued. "I got a ton of great Ďblackmailí material about my stalker. But best of all, I found out that both Belle and Macís dad hate Sandra."


"Belle believes that Sandra made a pact with Satan, where she gets to live forever in return for bringing misery to the Mackenzie family." Randiís watery eyes glistened in the hazy lamplight. She smiled weakly. "Belle is a very interesting person."

The brunette turned sideways on the bench and stretched her long legs out in front of her, soaking the back of her already damp jeans. "Belle was right. I didnít see Mac again until the back yard was full of people, and a small band began the torturous process of tuning their instruments... or playing... I wasnít quite sure which. Doesnít that sound like a damn party to you?!" Randi snorted.

The squirrels nodded. It was party time.

 

 

Chapter 8

It had been a glorious day of torturing Sandra. After Randi was finally able to convince Belle that sheíd adequately Ďappreciatedí her boat, she became Sandraís annoying shadow. The brunette followed Sandra around the house from room to room without ever actually confronting her. By early evening the redhead was fit to be tied, and Randi was in heaven! Macís plan was working better than sheíd even hoped!

Sure, Sandra was skeptical that she and Mac were a real couple... but with each passing moment Sandra was starting to doubt herself more and more. And Randi gleefully exploited these doubts. Should the former driving instructor be enjoying this so much? Of course! Some days were simply a bitch... and Randi had waited, not so patiently, for 15 long years to be that bitch.

During the few times the women did engage in brief conversation, Sandra mostly threatened to hire someone to kill Randi, and the taller woman helpfully pointed out that gym teachers didnít make enough money to hire hit men. But hey, at least they didnít have to work summers!

Other than that, Randi almost exclusively talked about Mac. She even thanked Sandra for foolishly moving along to Angus and clearing the path for her. Blue eyes twinkled when she saw how that dig especially was right on target. Enjoy the money, stupid bitch, Ďcause otherwise you got screwed, and you know it! There are no second chances with Mac for you!

Randiís thoughts turned dark. Mac wouldnít go temporarily insane and decide she wanted Sandra back, would she? No. That wouldnít happen. Randi wouldnít let it.

***

"Oohh, hatred mixed with jealousy! This story is taking a turn for the better. I just know thereís going to be a loverís triangle and then a gory, bloody murder!" the male squirrel shouted gleefully. If he wasnít going to get any more flaming crotches, murder was certainly the next best thing. A prison scene would surely follow!

"Mmmm.... No," his mate stated flatly. "Havenít you been listening? Randi is jealous because she is developing real feelings for Mac."

The male scrunched up his face. "Huh?" Did that mean no murder?

The female squirrel let out a disgusted breath. "Just listen..."

***

Sandra tried to escape Randi by fleeing into the back yard, which was still green despite the fact it was nearly Thanksgiving. Randi watched her go and smiled. Better to give her the false illusion of peace for a while, so the torture would be even more potent later. Oh, no, Randi wasnít loving this... not at all.

Randi wove her way through the throng of laughing, talking morticians and their families. Who knew they were such a lively bunch? She was literally surrounded by short, blonde or red-haired clones. Although, none of them, she smugly noted, was nearly as lovely as Mac.

Randi was in what she considered a crowd of miniatures. Damn, didnít they know inbreeding was dangerous? Wasnít Angus proof enough? She noticed only a few other painfully obvious outsiders. The tall woman felt like the proverbial bastard at a family reunion. I wonder... if I dressed up like Snow White, would they all follow me home and clean my apartment?

Then Randiís gaze drifted upward and spotted a shiny, new Volkswagen bug sitting proudly in the parking lot. She groaned out loud and closed her eyes as she pictured the cramped ride home. Shit. It just had to be Macís.

An hour later, Randi was frustrated beyond words that she still hadnít been able to track Mac down. How had Ďherí blonde snuck past her? But why should she be surprised? Mac had excelled at stalking... the sneaky runt!

Then she saw her... talking to an elderly couple near the punch bowl. Randi blinked. Mac looked... the older woman searched her mind. Gorgeous, her brain belatedly supplied.

The nurse was dressed in tight white jeans and an emerald, satin, long-sleeved blouse. Silver hoop earrings sparkled in the last rays of the dayís setting sun when Mac tilted her head toward the sky and let loose a hearty laugh.

Randi stood watching for a moment as the blonde animatedly spoke to the couple. She fought the immediate urge to rush to her side. GOD! She frowned. What is the matter with me? So she looks pretty... and vibrant... and happy. Does that mean we need to be joined at the hip? YES! NO! YES! ARGHHHH! Randi briefly considered fleeing the party and Macís life altogether, and her nausea returned.

Mac suddenly stopped talking. As if she sensed Randiís presence, she turned around and looked directly at the darker woman. The tension in Randiís guts immediately eased when Macís lips shaped into a warm, inviting smile.

Excusing herself from the conversation, Mac deftly moved through the crowd until she was standing in front of Randi. Without hesitation the blonde wrapped her arms around Randi in an affectionate hug. The taller body remained stiff for several seconds, then Randi exhaled shakily and returned the sweet embrace with surprising strength.

"Hey, you. I missed you today," Mac whispered softly in Randiís ear.

Umm... Randi inhaled deeply. She just washed her hair. Dark brows knitted together. No one else could have heard what Mac was saying. Mac Ďreallyí missed her?

"I... I... um..." Randi shouldnít have missed her. But she did! As fabulous as it had been tormenting Sandra, a dozen times during the day Randi had considered how much better it would have been if Mac were there, too.

Mac pulled back, literally feeling the confusion and tension coursing through Randiís long frame. "Itís okay, Randi," she said, making an effort not to sound too disappointed. Mac forced herself to take a step backwards, even though every cell in her body craved closer contact.

Green eyes searched blue, hoping to find even a spark of interest. What she saw was terror mixed with near panic. Mac cursed her foolish hopes and told herself to stop looking for something sheíd never see. "Are you ready to put on a good show tonight, partner?"

Randi swallowed audibly. "I... I think so."

"I take it you had a successful day, hero?" Mac motioned with her chin toward the buffet table where Sandra was piling more food on an already overflowing plate.

Randi smiled. She could deal with revenge. "I just happened to mention to Sandra, in passing, that it was nice to see she wasnít as skinny as she was in high school." Which was a horrible lie. A stiff wind would blow the bitch all the way to Mexico.

Mac winced but couldnít help the mischievous grin that stretched her face. "How long did she spend in the bathroom after that little comment?"

Randi shrugged and returned the grin. "I got tired of waiting for her."

Both women chuckled, relieving what, to Randi, was a nearly unbearable tension. No. This wasnít just tension. It was toe-curling, pulse-racing, wouldnít-it-be-better-if-we-were-rubbing-against-each-other-naked, sexual tension! The really good kind.

Randiís eyes widened. This could not be happening. She didnít even own any corduroy clothing. She had never been to a WNBA game! A friend had given her free tickets to Lilith Fair, and she had rented a movie instead! Gods above, she had never even seen an episode of ĎXenaí! Okay... maybe just a few.

***

"Sheís definitely gay," both squirrels said in unison.

"Do you think she was gay before or after she started watching Xena?" the male squirrel asked. "That subtext works like a nasty termite. It undermines the structure of human females from within."

I knew I married him for a reason... other than being knocked-up, that is. "I think itís one of those chicken or egg things," his mate finally offered, sagely.

***

"Randi, are you okay?" Mac looked worried. What was going on behind those drop-dead gorgeous eyes? Mac stuffed her hands into her pockets, afraid if she touched the older woman right now, Randi would bolt.

"Iím okay," Randi lied. She was nowhere near okay.

Mac took a deep breath of the fragrant night air. Her parentsí back yard sloped gently down to the lakefront, and the breeze brought with it the sweet smell of the water. "It doesnít seem like November, does it?" Mac willed the older woman to relax. Being seen together as a couple wouldnít be that bad.

Randi shook her head. Everything was messed up, even the weather. It was fall, for Peteís sake. "How were so many people able to come to this Ďnot a partyí on such short notice? We barely made it ourselves."

Mac smiled at Randiís unsubtle movement toward safer ground. "Angus and I were the only ones who really had to travel. The Mackenzies are from Nevada. When my parents moved to Boulder City they were really moving back to Boulder City. They both grew up here."

An Aunt walked by and stopped Mac, demanding she be allowed to photograph her lovely niece and beautiful new girlfriend, who, by the way, seemed much nicer than that skanky redhead, Sandra. Randi hesitantly wrapped her arm around Mac, blushing fiercely as the picture was taken and more praise was heaped on Mac for her good taste in lovers. Randi took a deep drink of her wine. Did nothing faze these people?

Macís sexuality was a non-issue with her family. They greeted Randi without fanfare or rancor. It was obvious that she was the only person here who was nervous and worried. No one else cared, with the possible exception of Sandra, the two-timing slut.

Angus approached Sandra at the buffet. "You look nice tonight, Sandra," the doctor offered, trying not to stare at her enormous pile of food on her enormous pile of food.

"Whatís that supposed to mean?" the redhead hissed. "I can have all the onion dip I want!" With that, Sandra smeared her heaping plate against Angusí chest and stomped off in search of liquor and cake... not in that order.

Angus looked at his shirt helplessly. Were pert tits and not having to be worried about being arrested for solicitation really worth this hassle? Angus smiled. Absolutely! Besides, those damn rechargeable batteries never lasted as long as they advertised. He moved into the house to get a clean shirt.

Sandra spotted Mac and Randi on the way to the cake and made a reluctant detour. "Iím watching you both!" she shrieked. "You canít fool me. This is just some trick."

Randi suddenly grabbed Macís hand and began pulling her toward the band. "Letís dance."

Green eyes widened. "Uh... okay... but... but, Randi, nobody else is..."

"Weíre going to dance now... together. Is that alright with you, Sandra?" Randi taunted.

Sandraís eyes narrowed, and an evil smile twitched at her lips. Now she would catch them at their little game. Randi had sworn off dancing in high school. There was no way sheíd dance with Mac in front of fifty strangers. "Go ahead then... dance."

AHHHH!!! The bitch had called her bluff. Of course, Sandra knew she had sworn off dancing forever! Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!

Mac sensed that Randi was floundering. "Címon." She took the lead by finding an open spot and wrapping her arms around Randiís neck.

To Randiís dismay, Sandra followed her and Mac every step of the way, grabbing Angus as he stepped out of the patio door. "Weíre dancing too," she ordered.

"Huh? Thereís no dancing here!"

"Shut up, Angus, or I wonít care how nice your stock portfolio is; itís back to rubber women and whores for you."

Die, Bitch, die! "Iíd love to dance, dear."

Mac silently mouthed Ďpussy-whippedí to her scowling brother as he and Sandra moved alongside her and Randi, who had yet to start dancing.

"Randi, we need to do something!" Mac whispered. Oh boy, Randi was taking a slow tour of meltdown city.

The taller woman just stared blankly ahead in shock, as Sandra looked on with a satisfied smile.

"Randi?" Mac whispered again, this time placing her lips directly on Randiís ear. "Just relax, hero. Iíll lead, if youíll let me." Mac pulled back slightly and grasped one of Randiís dangling hands.

The feeling of Macís warm palm against hers seized Randiís attention, and she looked down into smiling blue-green eyes. Randi wanted to join Mac in the present, but as Mac began to sway against her in time to the music, Randi was lost in a high school memory.

It was Prom Night and Randi had a date with Rory Johnson, Captain of the football team. The evening had been a raving success until Rory suggested that they actually Ďdanceí at the dance. He only knew the Ďfootball player shuffleí (where the girlís hands go around the boyís neck, and the boyís hands are wrapped snugly around the girlís waist, and the couple moves in a microscopic circle, in the same spot, and at the same speed, no matter what music is playing). But even Ďthe shuffleí wasnít too terrible until Rory decided it was time to cop a feel.

Randi jumped when two meaty paws grabbed her ass and squeezed it tightly. Then she was blinded by a sudden flurry of flashes. When she stopped seeing spots, she realized Sandra and her gaggle of bitches had preserved the moment for posterity. The photo was blown up to a glorious 8" X 10" and was the only colored picture in a book of all black and white. Randiís humiliation became the inside cover for over six hundred yearbooks. For the Class of Ď85, it was Ďthe thing to doí to have "Have a great summer!" written directly over Randiís ass.

***

"Ahhahahahahahaha!" the male squirrel laughed hysterically. "Ahahahahahahahaha! Whew!" He wiped his eyes with a tiny paw. "That Sandra was a devil!"

Randi narrowed her eyes at the shaking squirrel. Was he laughing at her teenage misery? Grabbing her bag of seeds, she stood and moved over to the animal that was convulsing in the mud.

"It wasnít funny, squirrel," Randi said coldly.

The female squirrel swallowed nervously. Oh well, her mate wanted a murder in the story. She would miss him. She just hoped he didnít have one of those hidden Swiss acorn accounts. They were so hard to access without the proper I.D.

Randi lifted what was easily a half-pound sack of seeds over her head, then simply dropped it.

The male squirrel looked up just in time to see the huge bag of food crash down on his head. His last conscious thoughts were, "In my dreams, there was always beer."

The female squirrel shook her head sadly. She knew he would have liked some beer to go along with his last seeds. She could hardly keep him out of those Budweiser cans. Damn, littering college students!

Randi cleared her throat as she sat back down on the bench. "As I was saying..."

***

Macís movement was persistent, and Randi found herself unable to ignore the subtle commands of her partnerís body, her own body responding without conscious thought. "Thatís it, hero," Mac encouraged softly as the older woman pulled her closer, and they began to sway in unison.

"Stalker, youíre not going to grab my ass, are you?" Randi whispered nervously.


Two eyebrows shot skyward. "I wasnít planning on it, killjoy." Mac made a mental note: No ass grabbing while dancing.

The two couples had broken the ice, and now at least ten other couples were dancing on the soft grass.

Belle and Macís dad approached Mac and Randi. "Are you girls having a nice time?" Belle asked, wondering whether the girls had had a loversí quarrel. Randi looked a little shell-shocked.

Mac smiled, certain Randi was having a terrible time. She had to keep reminding herself they were here on a mission, not for fun. "Sure, Mom. By the way, the yard looks beautiful."

Randi nodded in agreement. Soon after the sun disappeared, Chinese lanterns were lit and white Christmas lights that had been strung through the bushes were switched on. The yard was bathed in a soft, twinkling glow. The band even seemed to figure out which ends of their instruments were up, and Randi thought she recognized the tune. The setting was almost... romantic. Just great, Randi thought, like I need more temptation!

When Macís parents waltzed away, Randi glanced over at Sandra who was trapped in an endless Ďfootball player shuffleí. Ha! Angus must have been the towel boy. The redhead was staring at Mac with undisguised lust and envy. Thatís right, bitch. You lose. I win. Game. Set. Match. Mine!

Mac looked over at Sandra and Angus, who had somehow drifted closer to her and Randi while dancing. "Sandra, youíre letting Angus do the laundry, arenít you?" she queried seriously.

Sandra didnít want to acknowledge Macís question. I wonít. I wonít. I wonít. But in the end, she couldnít help herself. "Why?" she asked warily.

"Well, itís just that your dress is looking a little snug. But Iím sure itís only because he left it in the dryer too long."

Randi looked down at the grass, trying to keep a straight face as Sandraís gaze drifted to the dress that practically swallowed her.


Instantly, blazing brown orbs pinned Angus. Then, without warning, Sandra brought her heel down sharply on his instep. The short doctor began to howl as Sandra moved away from the band, muttering something about chocolate, Tequila, and the bathroom.

Randi and Mac both burst out laughing, and the taller woman suddenly began leading the dance. She dipped Mac gracefully. "You are fantastic," she complimented sincerely.

White teeth and green eyes sparkled brighter than the Christmas lights. "Thanks, Randi!"

Randi spun Mac around and began dancing in earnest. For the next several hours neither woman even checked to see whether Sandra was watching. Instead, they danced and talked and laughed as Mac introduced Randi to the rest of her family.

When her grandfather asked Randi what she did, Mac was ready to intervene and save Randi the embarrassment of saying she was unemployed. But before she could speak, Randi told the elder mortician that she was changing careers, and that she was considering going to college... something sheíd always wanted to do. When anxious blue eyes met Macís, Randi found that Mac was simply beaming.

The last hour was spent in quiet conversation, as though no one else even existed. Finally, Mac tore her eyes away from Randiís long enough to notice that the last of the band members was rolling away a portable keyboard, and the rest of the yard was empty.

"I guess your Ďnot a partyí is over," Randi said softly, not releasing Mac from the casual embrace theyíd been in since their last dance.

"I guess." Macís gaze dropped to the full lips just a few inches in front of her. The blondeís mouth was suddenly dry, and she licked her own lips nervously. Slowly, she brought her right hand up to rest beneath silky black tresses and on top of the soft, fine hairs at the nape of Randiís neck. She wouldnít get another chance like this and she knew it. She wanted this so badly, her soul fairly ached for it! Mac felt as though she would die if she didnít kiss Randi this very moment.

Randiís pulse began to quicken, and she suddenly became very aware of the warm body in her arms. Macís satin blouse felt cool against her hot fingertips, and she was vaguely aware that she was drowning in the dilated pools of emerald so close to her.

Mac leaned forward until the entire length of her body was pressed firmly against Randi. A gust of warm wind blew dark strands of hair over the taller womanís shoulders, causing them to gently tickle Macís neck.

Mac gasped when Randiís hands slid around the small of her back, pulling her closer still. Mac knew she should stop. This wasnít what Randi wanted. Sheíd made that abundantly clear. But none of that mattered to Mac at this very second. The blonde slowly brought herself up on tiptoe, drawing a soft moan from Randi when her taut nipples brushed against the taller womanís.

When Macís lips were only a hairbreadth away, Randi whispered softly, "Thereís no one watching us."

Mac pulled away ever so slightly. "Does it really matter?" she breathed, praying it didnít.

Randi didnít answer. Instead, she closed her eyes and ducked her head until she felt Macís gentle breath caress her lips and the hand on her neck tighten its grip. Another heartbeat and the softest, feather-light touch sheíd ever felt brushed against her...

"Morag!!" Angus shouted from the back porch, startling both women.

Randi instantly pulled back, confused eyes darting wildly around the empty yard. "I... I... God, I... didnít," Randi stuttered as her heartbeat thundered in her ears.

"Dad needs you to move your car RIGHT NOW! Uncle Albertís blocked in by that ugly piece of shit you bought. Heís been wanting to leave for the last hour, and heís tired of waiting!" Angus yelled.

Mac ignored her brother and took a step towards Randi, who was backing away from her with her hands held up as if to forestall Macís advance. Shit! Macís stomach clenched when she saw the look of sheer panic in Randiís eyes. "Randi, wait!" she called after the older woman who suddenly turned and began running toward the lake. "No! Wait!"

Mac moved to follow her but was interrupted by her fatherís insistent voice. "Morag, get up here and move that car! You can kiss your woman later."

Mac hesitated for just a second, then watched ruefully as Randi disappeared into the night. Randiís rejection stung just like she knew it would. No, that was a lie. It more than stung. What the hell was she thinking? Randi could never have real feelings for her. The darker woman came right out and told her it would be impossible to love her that very first night when they agreed to this wretched plan. Macís heart twisted painfully in her chest. But it had felt so real! Tears stung her eyes as she sped up her pace into the house. "Tell Uncle Albert to give me a second... I just need to get my bag."

 

***

Randiís feet hung over the edge of the dock, dangling in the warm water. The moonlight reflected off the lake, giving the entire area an almost ethereal quality. The entire evening had been like that.

Things with Mac and her family hadnít gone as planned. The tall woman laughed cruelly. Big shock. Why should this night be any different from the rest of her life? Nothing ever went as planned.

She wasnít supposed to start having feelings for Mac or start liking Macís parents. She tried to continue to deny it, but couldnít. Randi liked it when Mac touched her. She wanted Mac to touch her. She craved it. Macís skin was soft and warm, and when the nurse held her hand, the grip was firm and comforting. When Randi looked into those sea-green eyes she felt... something more than friendship.

Randi recognized the first familiar signs of panic and let them come. What was she doing?! How did things get so out of control? She hated out of control. She was going to kiss Mac... not for show, not for Sandra, but for herself! Christ, if Angus hadnít broken her out of her spell, she would have crawled underneath the womanís skin in an attempt to get closer!

Being around Mac was like peering over the edge of a cliff. It was frightening and exhilarating and somehow, no matter how close Randi got to the edge, she still found herself inching forward, despite herself. It was as though some unknown force had grabbed her by the collar and was threatening to send her free falling. She felt like she was fighting gravity itself. The confusing part was, Randi didnít know why she was fighting at all.

Randi desperately wanted some pain tablets for her throbbing head, but decided they probably wouldnít mix well with all the strawberry wine sheíd consumed. I need to go apologize to Mac. I shouldnít have run away like that. She probably thinks... Hell, who am I kidding? I have no clue what she thinks. Although, Iím quite certain the words Ďassholeí and Ďteaseí will be mixed in there somewhere.

"Randi?"

"Yes?" Randi turned her head and wiped her eyes as Belle sat down next to her on the dock.

"Morag asked me to give you this." Belle held out a slender wooden box with a note attached. Randiís eyes widened. She knew that box! Sheíd seen it displayed at the mathematics competition! Her hands shook as she reverently grasped the cool, wooden container. Then her heart stopped beating.

"Why..." Randi swallowed past the sudden lump in her throat. "Why isnít Mac giving me this herself?"

Belle sighed. Morag was always so brave in everything except matters of the heart. What had she gone and done this time? "I donít know, child. Morag tore out of here in that awful little car of hers." Randi immediately closed her eyes, and Belleís heart went out to the young brunette. Sometimes love just sucked.

The tiny woman rose to her feet and clasped Randiís shoulder firmly. "She took her bags with her and said goodbye to me. I donít think sheís coming back."

"I see." Randi gazed out at the still lake, feeling sick.

"Have faith, Randi," Belle said quietly as she left the younger woman to her thoughts.

Several long moments later, with shaking hands, Randi opened the note, which was easily readable in the bright moonlight.

Hero,

I shouldnít have tried to kiss you. Iím sorry. I just couldnít help myself. I fully admit that Iím taking the cowardís way out by leaving without talking to you. Iím a coward. Iím sorry about that, too.

Thereíll be a plane ticket waiting for you at the Northwest ticket counter. Iím sure Mom will drive you.

I believe this belongs to you. Wear it in good health, Randi. You deserve it.

Despite everything, Iíll always think of this as a great trip. We really did make a wonderful team.

Love,

Mac

Randi ran the tip of her finger along the faint script, lingering over the last two words. Love, Mac. She folded the note closed. Love? Love.

Randi laid the note aside and carefully lifted the wooden box that weighed almost nothing. Sheíd gotten everything she came for. Sandra was probably still in the bathroom. And in her hands was the prize sheíd been seeking for 15 years. So why do I feel like what I should really be after is driving across the desert without me?

Randi pushed herself to her feet, and she looked down at the small box once more before launching it forward with all her might. She watched it for just a second or two before it disappeared, and she heard a tiny, far off splash.

It was time to go home.

Chapter 9

The male squirrel weakly poked his fuzzy head out from under the heavy bag of seeds. A groan escaped his lips, assuming squirrels have lips, and he shook his tiny head, trying to dispel the loud ringing in his ears. What was that? He focused on the faint, ragged sounds coming from the bench. Crying? Yes! His heartbroken mate was weeping over his untimely demise! He knew he made the right choice when he married the somewhat promiscuous but highly desirable female squirrel. Mama donít know squat!

And look at the teary-eyed human. Donít worry, human! Itís not a crime to be clumsy!

The female squirrel was sitting on the bench next to Randi, shaking uncontrollably. "Boohoohoohoo," she sobbed. "Boohoohoohoo." She knew if she was patient "The Story of Me" would turn out to be a tragic love story!

Randi glanced over at the male squirrel. "Joining us again, I see." Whew! The tall woman didnít need homicide... err... rodentcide... on her already burdensome conscience.

The female squirrel followed Randiís gaze. Her mate was alive! She jumped down off the bench and watched proudly as he struggled free of the lethal sack of seeds. How could she have given up on him so easily? Shame colored her cheeks, though oddly, they still appeared brown. Wasnít it her mate who, just last spring, had thrown himself in front of an oncoming lawnmower in order to save her life?

"Donít fret, Sweetheart. It takes more than a human to do me in!" He smiled at the admiration that shone clearly in her eyes. Ever since he dove in front of that lawnmower to rescue that half-full beer can, heíd been liviní on easy street! He shifted his attention to the very sad looking human, then back to his mate.

"What did I miss? What did I miss?" he asked eagerly.

"Umm... Nothing. Youíll catch on." Not!

The rain had stopped, and the sky was now filled with a million bright stars. Randi stood up and shook her soaked jacket, scattering icy water droplets in all directions. Deep blue eyes naturally drifted to the small apartment building. There was only one apartment with its light left on. Somehow she knew it was Macís.

"Iíve been back in town for nearly five days now." Randi sniffed and rolled her stiff shoulders. "Macís back, too. I went over to the hospital today to stalk my stalker." The woman cocked her head as if to really consider the question; "Life is really twisted sometimes, isnít it?"

The squirrels had no choice but to agree. In the wild, untamed world of the City Park, theyíd damned near seen it all.

Randi took a deep breath and gathered her courage. "Enjoy the seeds, rats. Itís about time I got an ending to my story." And with that, the human began walking toward the apartment complex.

The male squirrel looked at his mate in horror. "Iíll catch on, huh? Not! Sheís leaving!"

"No!!!!!!" both the squirrels shouted in concert. What did she mean Ďgetí an ending? There was no ending now?! ARGGGHHHHH! Didnít the human know how long these past few hours had been in squirrel years?

The female squirrel stomped her paw dramatically. "I gave her the best damn years of my life!"

Oh, the misery! The male squirrel starting crying pathetically.

"Itíll be okay," his mate comforted softly, grabbing hold of her own tenuous emotions. "Iíve got an idea." Her beady, black eyes took on a determined glint. "Weíll know what happens to the human woman... or youíll die trying!" she declared.


The male squirrel paled, although strangely, he too still just looked brown. "Uh oh."

***

Randi stood outside the apartment complex door with both hands in her pockets. Maybe it was a security building, and she wouldnít be able to get in? She could always go the hospital and find Mac tomorrow. Randi tested the doorknob, sighing when it turned easily. Maybe not.

The lobby wasnít just warm -- it was hot. And the drastic change in temperature caused the tall woman to shiver violently. She immediately peeled off wet gloves and held her hands over the radiator. God, Iím colder than a witchís tit, she mused as she sniffed for the hundredth time in the last five minutes.

The unemployed driving instructor scanned the resident listings and a building map. Mackenzie 201. Macís apartment was on the corner of the second floor facing the park. I knew that was her light. Sheís still awake. Crap, no more excuses.

The tall woman tried to calm her nerves and order her scattered thoughts. They were a jumble of conflicting emotions and feelings. And Randi hated feelings. Not all feelings, just the Debby Boone version and messy, pathetic feelings. Like fear.

Fear was one very big, very compelling feeling. Fear, with a little help from Sandra, the lying trollop, had turned a mathematical genius into a second rate driving instructor. What had already colored Randiís past, threatened to steal her future.

Randi stopped outside the door with a gold number 201. She closed her eyes. This was her last chance to stop before she made a colossal fool of herself. Not that that had been much of a deterrent before in her life, but stillÖ

Dark eyebrows drew together in deep concentration. Was love more compelling than fear? Nope. It was ultimately fear that had brought her to this point Ė and she knew it. One fear was just stronger than the other. Randi was simply afraid not to try to capture what she had only caught the barest glimpse of in the car on the way to Nevada, and in an empty corn field along the side of the road, and in a small stinky jail cell, and most definitely in the Mackenzieís back yard.

Her mindís eye flashed to a moonlit dock and a neatly written note whose simple words had rocked her to the core. Love. Did Mac mean it? Was that what this was?

Face it, fool. You went and fell in love with your stalker. Randi let out a shaky breath and felt the healing power of acceptance. Just saying the words in her mind released a pressure that had been building almost from the very beginning. But that stark truth brought with it a whole new set of fears. Chiefly, what if Mac wouldnít accept her love? A band tightened around Randiís chest, and she gasped at the intensity of its strength.

Iíll just keep trying until she gives me a chance! The pang deep in her heart eased even as her stomach threatened to rebel. Or else, Iíll get really scared and freak out and throw up all over her. One of the two.

Randi shook her head to clear it. Enough with the guessing and mushy, philosophical bullshit! She had ass to kiss and a girl to convince. White teeth flashed in an almost feral smile. Ready or not, stalker, here I come.

Randi lifted her hand to knock on the door, but before she could strike the wood the door opened.

"Thanks, Mac. Iíll see you later," an attractive blonde called over her shoulder as the bedroom door slammed. She took a step, without turning her head, and ran smack dab into Randi. "Oh, excuse me." She pointedly looked around the tall woman who was clearly blocking her path.

The former driving instructor didnít say a word out loud. Internally, however, several extremely loud voices were raging. The main theme went something like, "Sheís got a fuckiní girlfriend already?! Jesus Christ, sheís been home less than two days!"

The blondeís eyes widened as she took in the soaking wet woman in front of her. This was a friend of Macís? "Macís in the bedroom, I was just leaving."

"You sure as hell were! Here, let me help you!" Randi grabbed the front of the womanís denim shirt and pulled her into the hall. "And donít come back!" she shouted as she made her way into the apartment without so much as a backward glance. It wasnít easy to look intimidating with snot running out of her nose... but Randi managed to do a fairly decent job.

"Sheesh, I was already going," the woman complained, trying not to stumble. "How rude!" she murmured as she made her way down the hall. Oh well, the tall brunette was already nicer than that skinny slut Sandra.


Randi shut the door behind her just as Mac emerged from the bedroom wearing only a powder-blue bra and French cut panties.

The older woman tried not to stare at the feminine but muscular form in front of her, although she sincerely appreciated the rush of hot blood toward her extremities... and other vital body parts.

"Randi?!" Mac jumped when she suddenly saw the woman standing in her living room. "You scared the crap out of me!"

"Who the hell was she?" Randi folded her arms in front her chest.

"What?" Mac went scurrying for something to cover herself. Sheíd spent the last six days in misery over the way she left things with Randi. The last thing she needed was to be standing in her underwear, facing the woman she had told herself was off limits. "What are you doing here?"

"Answer my question first," Randi said in harsh, flat voice.

Randiís tone stopped Mac dead in her tracks and the blonde felt her hackles rise. "What business is it of yours?" she said slowly through clenched teeth.

***

"Tell me what you see! Hurry up!" the male squirrel hissed.

"Shut up!" The female squirrel thumped him on the head, drawing a loud grunt. "Itís not easy to listen through the glass you know." She stood on her mateís shoulders as she peered into Macís second story window.

The male squirrel was perched on a rickety piece of vine that clung to the building but unfortunately changed directions about a foot and a half below the window. He groaned under his mateís weight. Damn rotten, gangster-ridden construction unions and their greedy-ass kickbacks. What kind of builder is too cheap for a window ledge?

"Hold still," the female complained.

"What do you see?! Tell me now, or Iím sending us both careening to our deaths!"

"Fine," she groused, unhappy at the interruption. "The tall human yanked some blonde out the front door and then walked into the apartment."

"Morag?"

"Ha! You finally figured out who she was. Good for you!"

"Well...?" he asked impatiently. "Youíre not getting any lighter, you know. Humph!" Another paw to the head was meant to improve his attitude. No more cheese-coated popcorn for his mate. She was frigginí huge!

"No, it was some other woman. I donít think sheís important to the story. Oooooh, this must be Mac." She watched as a petite, fair-haired human moved into the living room with Randi. "Sheís nearly naked!"

"Ewww!!!" The male squirrel was suddenly grateful for his position on the bottom. That guy in the long trenchcoat had given him all the taste of naked human he ever wanted, thank you very much.

"Macís hands are on her hips. Now sheís shaking a finger at the tall human."

"A fight?" Was the storyteller completely hopeless? "Has she even tried to remove Macís fleas?"

"I donít think so," the female purred as her eyes glazed over with lust. Ohh, heís so got my number.

"Wasnít Mac naked the first time she went to the other humanís apartment?"

"No, it was the other way around. Do you think itís some sort of human ritual?"

The male shrugged, causing his mate to wobble dangerously.

"HOLD STILL!!!"

"Sorry."

"Ohhh, I think the fightís over. Mac hands arenít flailing around anymore, and the taller human is staring at her shoes."

"She lost."

"Yep."

***

"I didnít see any Tupperware in her hand," Randi offered sheepishly.

"Thatís because she was returning it. For Godís sake, whatís wrong with you?"

"Itís really late."

"Itís 11 oíclock, and she said she saw my light on."

"But youíre almost naked!" the former driving instructor groaned.

"How perceptive. I thought I was alone, and I was on my way to the shower. Is that all right with you, Randi?" Mac added sarcastically.

Randi nodded and stepped forward out of the shadow she had backed into during Macís tirade. God, but the woman had a bad temper!

Mac gasped. "Youíre all wet!"

"I... I..."

The blonde grabbed a box of tissues from the end table on the way to the older woman. She yanked out a wad of tissue and held it to Randiís nose. "Blow."

"But..."

"I said blow!"

Randi immediately complied, wondering if the nurse had been a drill sergeant or mother in a former life. "Thanks."

Mac tossed the tissue into the wastebasket, then reached up and stroked Randiís wind-burned cheeks with the back of her hand. Macís hand moved upward, and she pushed aside the damp bangs stuck to Randiís forehead, flattening her palm to feel moist, hot skin.

The darker woman leaned into the cool touch.

Pale brows furrowed with worry. "You have a fever."

Randiís eyes swept down Macís body. Youíre lucky I havenít had a heart attack. "Iím feeling fine."

"Shut up. Tell me why youíre here."

Randiís eyes widened as she tried to figure out how to comply with Macís request. Finally, she just gave up. "Huh?"

***

As soon as the female squirrel relayed the words, her mate began to howl with laughter. "The tall human is the guy! I knew it!"

The female squirrel just groaned.

***

Mac blushed when she realized what sheíd said. "I mean... Donít shut up, and please tell me what youíre doing here."

Randi tried to maintain eye contact. She really did. But it was impossible. The woman wasnít wearing any clothes! And she was gorgeous!

Green eyes rolled. "Just a minute." Mac disappeared into the bedroom, then returned wearing a soft, knee-length robe.

Randi looked at the now respectably-clad woman. Relief was warring with disappointment and losing... badly.

"Talk," Mac commanded as she stripped off Randiís soaked coat. It weighed a ton. Mac scowled. Why was the crazy woman out in the freezing rain?

"I... um... I wanted to apologize."

"What for?" the blonde asked as she began unbuttoning Randiís shirt.

"For running away instead of talking to you."

Mac just nodded.

"What um... what are you doing?"

"Youíre freezing. You need a hot shower," she answered, as though that explained the fact that she was undressing the woman. Then Mac stopped and looked at her hands as though they had a mind of their own. "Iím sorry. I..."

Randi grabbed the suddenly shaky hands. "Donít be sorry." She swallowed hard. This was the important part. "Iím not."

Mac suddenly looked up. "But you said..."

"Forget what I said. I was an idiot... a scared-out-of-her-wits idiot."

Mac laid her palms flat against Randiís chest. She could feel the older womanís heart pounding wildly. Could she mean...? "Are you saying youíre Ďinterestedí in me?" Mac was tempted to wriggle her eyebrows for effect but managed to resist the impulse.

"Yes."

"No."

"What?"

"I said no." Mac suddenly backed away as if she were afraid to stand too close to Randi.

"Youíre turning me down?" NO!!! SHOT DOWN! CRASH AND BURN!! REJECTION!!

"Yes."

Macís words were unequivocal, but there was a slight hesitation in her voice, and Randi pounced. "Why?"

"Because, hero, Iím not an experiment. What was impossible before, is now possible? You donít know what, much less who, you want."

Randi stepped forward and wrapped her arms around Macís waist. "Thatís not true," she said softly. "I do know."

Tears immediately sprang into Macís eyes as she weakly tried to pull away. "It is true," she persisted, her resolve already waning.

"Itís not. I promise." Randi tightened her hold and pulled Mac closer.

Mac shook her head Ďnoí, so Randi continued. "I was confused and scared. And to tell the truth, Iím still scared... just not so confused."

Randi brought up one hand and gently cupped Macís chin, forcing eye contact. She waited until glistening green locked on blue. "Mac..."

The smaller woman nearly swooned at the sound of her name. It was the first time Randi had called her anything other than Ďstalkerí. Although she had to admit, the nickname was starting to grow on her.

"Iím sure that I want you."

"Randi..." Mac wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. "You have to be sure. I just couldnít take it if you just up and decided that..."

Macís words were cut off when two fingers were gently pressed against her mouth. "I promise," Randi said as she slowly moved forward to claim the soft lips she didnít want to live without.

Mac closed her eyes and tossed her fears to the wind, rolling the dice with her heart one more time. Some things were worth the risk. A split second before their mouths touched, when she could feel Randiís breath mix with her own, the older woman stopped.

"I should tell you, Mac. I think Iím getting sick," Randi whispered.

"Like I care," Mac breathed as she surged forward and crossed the tiny distance between them.

The lips brushed together gently, then with more pressure. The kiss wasnít the least bit tentative, but it was achingly soft, and sweet, and exceeded Randiís expectations in the first few seconds alone. Randi couldnít stop the moan that escaped her throat at the delicious touch.

Mac firmly told herself to go slowly, but when the lips brushing hers parted ever so slightly, she couldnít help but deepen the kiss. Hot tongues collided, and there was another moan, this time Macís. Small hands tangled in dark, wet hair, and both women threw themselves into the kiss as though it might be their very last. Pulses raced as hands and mouths sought closer contact still.

Finally, Randi pulled back gasping for air. Damn! Now that was what a kiss was supposed to be like.

Macís body was on fire. She drew her fingertips across Randiís lips in simple awe. Wow! More than wow. Then nervously she looked up to meet deep blue eyes. "Are you okay, hero?" Oh God, sheíd better be, or Iím going to die right here.

The younger woman was immediately pulled into a fierce embrace. Randi nodded her head as a sudden surge of emotion closed her throat and caused tears to sting her eyes. "Yeah," her voice cracked a little as she spoke. "Iím great."

Mac smiled into the soft skin of Randiís throat, then kissed it gently before pulling away. She held out her hand. "Shower?"

Randi took the younger womanís hand and intertwined their fingers as they slowly moved toward the bathroom. "Alone?"

"Pretty sure of yourself. Huh, beautiful? What if Iím not that kind of girl?" Mac smiled impishly. Okay, it was a stretch, but Randi didnít need to know that.

"What if I am?!" Randi smirked. "Besides, Iíve already met your parents. Donít tell me thereís more that I have to do to properly court you. Iíve already taken you to the best jail in the south, and thatís not enough?"

Mac cocked her head to the side and scrunched up her nose speculatively. "Could be."

"You want to hear the ĎLí word, doncha? I knew it." Randi pulled open the bathroom door. "Fine. Iíll be the first one to say it. Lucky. I really want to get lucky."

Mac laughed and shook her head. "Sorry, hero. Try again," she teased as she pulled two aqua-colored towels out of the hall closet.

"ĎLoofahí? Youíve got a big old loofah sponge in there, and youíre going to scrub my back?"

Mac giggled as she walked into the bathroom ahead of Randi.

"Iíve got it! ĎLozengeí. I could sooo use a throat lozenge."

Macís robe landed on the floor at Randiís feet. Blue eyes widened, and Randi hummed appreciatively. "Tease! Oohhh, Ďlusciousí. Luscious is such a good ĎLí word."

A bra sailed right over Randiís head, and the taller womanís jaw dropped. "Lord, have mercy," she croaked. "Okay, the word is lust. Iím certain."

An enormous grin shaped Randiís lips when a naked arm suddenly reached out of the bathroom and tugged her inside.

***

The female squirrel let out a deep, contented sigh. She loved happy endings.

"Well, what was the ĎLí word?!" her mate asked. "Iíll bet it was lice. The blonde human was hinting about grooming. I tried to tell Randi!"

The female rolled her eyes. "Letís go home," she said as she dropped gracefully from her mateís shoulders to the rain-soaked vine alongside him.

***

"OH MY GOD!" came Randiís cry, loud enough for the squirrels to hear her on the way down the building.

***

"I guess she finally figured it out," the male speculated as he jumped onto the sidewalk. Way to go, human!

"It looks like the female human wasnít so dumb after all."

"Nope." He sighed happily when his paws left the hard concrete and dug into rich moist soil. "Even a human will eventually figure things out when itís true luuuuvvvvv."

The femaleís smile was broad enough to show her sharp pointy canines and stretch her furry squirrel face.

"Ohhh... Look! The serial killer is back, and he brought Ritz Crackers! Letís go!"

The couple took off across the park, trailing the small, intellectual-looking young man with the shovel. The rodents plopped down in front of their bench and snuggled together to fend off the cold night air. The female couldnít help but look back. Her gaze drifted upward just in time to see Macís curtains being drawn and the small apartment go black.

The man settled into his story. "I wasnít an easy child to potty train...."

 

The End. Almost.

 

Disclaimer: No squirrels were harmed during the production of this story. Although priests, morticians, sluts, proctologists, Big Gulps, Debby Boone, Scottish names, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Volkswagens, Ďthat ugly chickí, gym teachers, eating disorders, Dr. Pepper, and stalkers were all seriously maligned.

What ever happened to? (In no particular order)

Paulaís (Randiís sister) kids - got a book deal for their story, which is tentatively entitled "Auntie Dearest". You can find it under the Ďwhiny loser relatives who leech off someone with their own lifeí section at amazon.com. Order in time for the holidays.

Angus - finally got fed up with Sandra. Taking his cue from Mac, he fled into the night after the Ďnot a partyí. Opting for the peace of the open road, Angus rented a Mercedes and began driving. On the way home, he was stopped for speeding by a police officer named Bubba. Angus served 30 days in jail for resisting arrest and used that time to get in touch with his Ďfeminine sideí.

The male squirrel - became a raging alcoholic, but was ultimately redeemed, becoming president of The Potter Park A.S.S. (Alcoholic Squirrel Society). He is truly an inspiration to his fellow rodent.

Bubba - is thoroughly enjoying Angusí feminine side. Upon Angusí release from jail, he and Angus opened a gourmet pet food shop. They are expecting their first child in November.

Belle - received a computer for Christmas. She began reading, then writing, ĎStar Trekí fan fiction. She was assimilated. Macís father has planned an intervention for "once the busy dyiní season is over".

The jailer - who the hell cares about the jailer?

Sandra - has been on the run ever since it was discovered that the one wall of her locker room office was a two-way mirror. She is now a fugitive from justice and was featured on last monthís ĎAmericaís Most Wantedí. If seen, do not approach. She is believed to be armed and dangerous and hiding somewhere in the state of Texas (where someone keeps scratching off the weight listed on her wanted poster so that it reads 97 pounds. She was listed as 98).

Macís father - is still doing what he loves. Whenever he walks by, people always say, "Nobody loves dead people like Mac!"

The priest that Randi screwed during the Christmas Eve church service in 1993 - was transferred to Australia, where he was cast in a remake of ĎThe Thorn Birdsí. God, he loves Ďmethod actingí!

The female squirrel - finally listened to her mother and left her mate. After a brief Ďwild periodí where she was courted by small skunks, she came to her senses and tried to reclaim her squirrel soulmate. They are currently in couplesí therapy.

Cletus - was actually named Bill Gates by his adopted parents. He is evil incarnate.

Randi and Mac - do you even have to ask? They, of course, lived happily ever after.

***

Cast of Characters (Okay, this is a book, NOT a movie. But if it WERE a movie, and I WERE the casting director, which I WOULD BE because in my fantasy realm I RULE THE UNIVERSE, these are the folks that would get the casting nod):

Randi: Dar

Mac/Morag: Renee OíConnor (I canít find that funky little accent for the Ďwrongí letter of her first name... but you know who I mean)

Sandra: Jennifer Aniston

Angus: Ted Raimi

Belle: Cheryl Ladd

Macís Dad: Bond, James Bond

Bubba: the President of the United States of America, Mr. Bill Clinton

The priest that Randi screwed during the Christmas Eve church service in 1993: Tom Selleck

The male squirrel: Alf

The female squirrel: Chip, but sometimes Dale

 

The Actual End.

 
Click the book cover to order "The Story of Me".

 

"The Story of Me" has been published by the Writers Club Press and is
now available for purchase! To order direct from the publisher: click on
the above icon. Or, you may order through Amazon.com or your favorite
bookstore after 10/24/2000.  ISBN#  0-595-13744-X .