Disclaimer: All the characters of in this story are of my own creation. Any
physical resemblance the people in this story may have to real people is
coincidental and no infringement on anyone’s rights is intended.
Subtext Disclaimer: This story contains references to physical relationships between consenting adults, who may happen to be of the same sex. If this offends you, or you are under 18 years of age, or you reside in an area where this type of material is illegal, read no more. There is plenty of general fanfic out there for you. Go find it.
Paradise Series #5.
Storyline: Hustle, bustle and headaches abound on a fictional Caribbean island as a recently, nearly completed resort is brought to life and we follow the lives of the people who are trying to make it happen. In the middle of it all is a closer look at two strangers, two women, who are thrown together by outside forces and struggle to contend with the problems they will have to share if the Paradise Beachside Resort is to open on time, and their own emotions as strange happenings make them question themselves, and each other.
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Enjoy, I hope.
WELCOME TO PARADISE
Written by FlyBigD
The menu for lunch was to be a chef salad, steaks grilled with onions and pepers, baked potatoes with the fixings and corn on the cob. It wasn’t a traditional island meal and it wasn’t going to make the lunch time frame either with Teddy and Rolando fighting with the rust and each other over its removal. Wire brushes in hand, they took turns scrubbing the large metal rod cooking surface while the other washed away the debris with the hose. It was dirty work that left a huge mess when they finally stopped shouting, and squirting long enough to reach a shining result which wouldn’t cause lock jaw. Then it was time for building the fire in the grill and the disagreements started all over again.
That’s what was going on outside. What was going on inside was much quieter and better organized. Preparing the vegetables side by side in the kitchen, Holly and Maria worked in comfortable coexistence with Maria slicing the peppers and onions on her end of the counter, while Holly prepared the potatoes and corn on the cob for their insertion into coals they all hoped would be glowing before the lettuce wilted in the salad bowls.
However, meal preparation was not the only thing going on up on the mountain. As you would expect, with the two suspects in separate holding cells, their respective interrogators took the chance to do make some casual observations and subliminal inquiries.
“Rolando, this is not a date. Alright?” Teddy told her friend when he made the assumption while pouring a twenty pound bag of charcoal into the base of the grill.
Okay, so not all the inquires qualified as subliminal. Some were out and out frank, but they were asked with good intentions and Teddy’s best interest behind them. “I did not say that.” Rolando shook his head as he put the empty bag on the ground. “I merely mentioned how nice it was of you to offer Holly a second opportunity to have the pleasure of your company in your home. I said nothing about a date.”
One hand on her hip, Teddy picked up the can of lighter fluid and began squirting it onto the charcoal. “I know what you said and I know what you’re implying, and you can give that over active imagination of yours a rest. There is nothing going on between me and Holly, okay? I asked her up here to give me some help picking out what fish I should get and to give her something to eat besides canned ravioli. That’s it.”
“That’s enough.” He said firmly.
“Rolando.” She protested.
“Not Holly. The lighter fluid.” Pointing to the soaked coals. “Do you intend to burn your home to the ground as an encore?”
“I should have gone with the Van Gogh look.” Teddy grumbled as she ceased with the flammable application. “It’s my house. I’ll burn it down if I want to.” She grumbled in a louder voice.
“Suit yourself.” Rolando replied as he stepped away from the grill. “You don’t seem to be heeding my advice of late, anyway.”
A deep set frustrated expression on her face, Teddy turned to face him. “Look, Rolando. I know you’re just trying to watch out for me and I appreciate it, but there is nothing going on here, okay?” Crossing her forearms, she swept them out to her sides. “Nada. This was a good will gesture for dumping her in the mud and nothing else, and I do not plan on making this a habit, so give it a rest. I’m tired of talking about this with you, okay? Holly is not Jennifer and I am not in the market for another blonde with an attitude to make my life miserable. I’ll help her if she asks for it and I’ll be her friend, if she wants, but that’s it. Got it?”
Methinks the lady doth protest too much. “As you wish.”
“Thank you.” Sighing her relief, Teddy turned around to fire up the grill. The box of matches close at hand, she backed up beside Rolando, struck one and tossed it at the grill.
The windows along the back of the house rattled with a loud boom. “What the hell!” Spinning around, Holly saw a fireball rising skyward and two dark willowy figures in the bright orange glow. “Shit!” Dropping the ear of corn she was wrapping in aluminum foil, the blonde bolted for the back door, slamming it open as she ran outside. Heat and flames licking the air high above the grill, she closed the distance to Teddy and Rolando’s still forms in earnest, grabbing the brunette by the arm when she arrived. “Are you alright?” She glanced from one to the other and their blank stares met her worried frown. “Teddy? Rolando? Are you okay?” Shaking the woman’s arm, she cupped Teddy’s chin in her other hand. “Teddy?”
Teddy blinked out of her stupor to look down at Holly. “Did I burn my eyebrows off again?”
Closing her own eyes, Holly sighed as her fears slowly began to ebb. Her eyes open again, she gazed up at Teddy to find the answer to her question. “Lemme see.” She said, taking a firmer hold on Teddy’s jawbone and as she pulled gently downward, two dark eyebrows came into view. Keeping her hold with one hand, she licked her other thumb to rub it on the brunette line to make sure it wasn’t just residual ash. “No. They’re still there.” Smiling upward, she brushed the back of her hand against Teddy’s cheek as she released her chin. “Are you alright?”
The touch, the sparkling green eyes and the concern in them brought a smile to Teddy’s parched lips. “Am now.”
Holly was one big smile. “I’m glad.”
Noticing the odious odor of singed hair, lighter fluid and big trouble in the air, Rolando came around quickly. His head snapped in the pair’s direction in time to catch the same kind of visual exchange he had seen before. Bells, gongs and sirens all going at once to augment the ringing from the explosion, he shouted over the din in his head without realizing his volume was too high. “Theodora! Are you injured?”
“No, no! I’m fine!” She returned the shout with a finger in her ear for protection. What has that family got against my ears?
“Rolando!” Maria called from the doorway. Unfazed by the explosion because she had seen her husband and her friend survive much worse, she strolled out to where they were shaking her head. “Stop shouting.”
“What? Oh, forgive me.” Lowering his volume from beginning to end, he smiled his apology.
Cast and shattered, the spell floated away and Holly stepped back, her hands clasped behind her as she chuckled. “Are you alright?” She asked of Rolando.
“Me?” Asking himself that, Rolando finally looked down at himself to make sure he wasn’t injured. “No, I am fine.” He smiled, patting his smokeless clothing.
Given the appropriate amount of time, Teddy came back to her senses to smile proudly at the blaze still abnormally high shooting out of the grill. “That was a good one. That ought to get those coals toasty pretty damn quick. Ha!” Drawn in by the flames, she walked toward the grill.
Maria moved in behind Holly to whisper in her ear. “Now you know why I do not allow a grill at our house?”
Holly’s head jerked sideways in surprise, then she frowned when the words registered. “This is normal?” She asked over her shoulder.
Maria nodded, taking Holly’s arm. “Come. Let the children play.” Urging the younger woman to follow her.
Green eyes rolled and a heavy sigh was muffled by the sound of crackling flames. “It just gets better and better.” Holly moaned as she turned around.
With the distance between Holly and Teddy widening, Rolando’s mood improved. “I believe you may have outdone yourself, Theodora. I believe the sun is jealous of you.”
“Ya think?” Teddy asked, happily staring up at the white hot orb overhead.
“My ears are still ringing.” He offered up as proof of the explosion’s magnificence.
Tendrils of smoke filled the tropical air with delicious aromas to tantalize the taste buds of non-vegetarians and the grill was no longer billowing fire toward heaven. The flames were down to flickering wisps dancing over glowing embers as four large steaks sizzled above. Potatoes and corn on the cob double wrapped in heavy aluminum foil, slowly cooked amid the coals, basting in the lightly salted butter Holly had smothered them in. A feast in the making, Teddy, the self proclaimed Master of the Grill, tended her wares dutifully while chatting with her assistant in the culinary chores, Holly. Joking and laughing, they stayed by the grill and each other, as the ever observant agents kept tabs on the pair from the safety and shade of the arbor.
Sitting lengthwise on the wooden love seat with her back against her husband’s chest, Maria stroked Rolando’s arm around her waist as she used both of her observation skills. Listening and watching, what she heard became as important as what she saw. Though the conversation was light, it was informative as Holly and Teddy teetered between sharing information you would expect of two people who had just met and talking as though they had known each other for years. A symbiosis of dialogue, the discoveries made seemed only to enhance the underlying camaraderie that was evident and as the verbalization continued, Maria listened. Work and play. Hobbies and habits. Pleasures and pains. Likes and dislikes. Agreeing and disagreeing, the discourse went on uninterrupted like water flowing from a endless river of thought. There were almost no breaks in the stream of conversation as the course of the river changed from subject to subject in an easy going rhythm, meandering where it would, but not everywhere. And this too was just as important. The subjects that were avoided by not being brought up showed a conscious effort not to tread on thin ice too quickly on the part of both women. Neither asked about intimate details of each other’s life, other than what was common knowledge, although sometimes questions were asked for clarification of the obscure, to which every reply was quick and honest. No hesitation. No deceit and as far as Maria could tell, there was nothing to indicate anything but a budding friendship in the making by what was said. However, when the conversation was combined with what she saw, the deeper interest was revealed.
As Rolando had explained, his worries originated from the way they looked at each other and Maria could see the truth in it. There was something behind the shining eyes that made her aware of the deeper interest she suspected wasn’t far beneath the surface of the superficial conversation. There was an intensity to the way they looked at one another, though both Teddy and Holly seemed oblivious to it. Or, as she suspected was closer to the truth, they didn’t want to admit to themselves that there was something more going on, but she could see it. And, although she knew Teddy’s denial could be her usual way of not letting everything show to protect herself, she wasn’t sure if Holly was just playing along, or if the young woman really didn’t know she was falling in love.
“Rolando, you said Teddy asked you to find out something.” Maria said quietly in her native Italian.
Hearing the change in language, Rolando used his native Portuguese when he responded. “Yes, my love.” He answered, turning to study his wife’s profile. “She asked me to find out if Holly was gay.”
“And what did you discover about Holly’s personal life?” Asking as she turned her head to face him.
Rolando looked into his wife’s dark eyes. “I haven’t made any serious inquiries. Why?”
Maria sighed and brought her hand up to stroke his cheek. “I think you need to.”
Turning his head once more, he looked at the couple by the grill for a long moment, then back at Maria. “Was I right? Is Holly to be another Jennifer?”
Lowering her hand, she looked past Rolando at Holly. “No. Not this time.” Whispering, Maria brought her gaze back to her husband to send via her eyes what she couldn’t say. “Teddy and Jennifer knew what they wanted from the beginning, but,” she said then paused. “I’m not sure Holly does.”
There was another pause as Rolando deciphered both messages, then he sighed heavily when their meaning became clear. “I see and I will make the necessary inquiries post haste.”
“Do, Rolando.” Maria warned softly. “I don’t know how long we have to prepare before they realize what is happening in their hearts.
The sun dipping toward the horizon, there were four tummies full of good eating and a good time had been had by all, despite Maria’s foreboding. Enjoying the day, when it came time for the three guests to leave their hostess, they did so after putting Teddy’s home back in order, which was a lot closer to the order it should have been in than when they arrived. Dishes washed, grill cleaned and put away, the quartet separated for a few minutes when it came time to bid farewells.
Rolando and Maria stayed on the front deck to enjoy the vista, Teddy walked Holly to the Land Rover. Opening the door, the brunette held it for the blonde, then closed it once Holly was inside. “Thanks for coming.” She said with a smile as one hand tapped lightly on the side mirror.
“Thanks for the invitation. I had a good time.” Smiling back, Holly fiddled with the steering wheel.
Bending down, Teddy leaned against the door with her forearms resting on the top of it, a playful smile on her lips. “You’re welcome.” One size eleven bare foot going up on its toes it swayed back and forth with the tentative question. “So, when are you going to pick up your rain check for that sunrise I owe you?” She asked as her fingers found their way to Holly’s sleeve to tug on it.
A sly smile on her lips, Holly sat back in the seat. “I thought it was an open invitation?”
“Oh, it is. It is.” Nodding quickly, Teddy shrugged off her earnestness. “You don’t have to make an appointment or anything. I was just wondering. I don’t want to eat up all the ravioli if you’re coming by.”
Green eyes rolled as a smirk vanquished the smile. “I’ll be sure to call first.” She said sarcastically.
Teddy chuckled and gave the material another pull. “You’ve got my number?”
“Rolando gave me your cell phone one.” Holly replied, then frowned. “Which reminds me. Where did you call me from the other day. I didn’t recognize that one.”
“That’s the phone in the bedroom.” She said quietly and lowered her eyes to where her fingers were playing.
“Oh.” Holly replied as softly and took the break in eye contact for an admitted mistake. “I’ll make sure to call the other one for my appointment.”
“Either one is fine.” Teddy smiled as she brought her eyes back up. “As long as you don’t start calling me in the middle of the night for work related advice. Hate that.”
Let off the hook as only Teddy could do it, Holly smiled again. “I’ll try to control myself.”
“And don’t get it mixed up with the pizza delivery place.” She went on. “I don’t deliver.”
Holly shifted her body to the side, further away from Teddy so she could give the woman an amused stare. “Anything else I should know?”
“Ummmm, yea.” Her smile growing, Teddy slapped the door. “Don’t call me if you get this thing stuck in a mud puddle.”
The reference being too much to let slip by, Holly wrapped her hand around Teddy’s laughing face and shoved it out the door. “Get away from me.”
An evil chuckle filled the air as Teddy stepped back out of range. “Gotcha. Hehehehe.”
“Rolando! Are you ready to go?” Holly shouted, though her narrowed eyes were glued to the bouncing brunette. “Asshole.”
Phhttt. “Truck dinger.”
“I believe the party is over.” Rolando smiled as he offered his arm to his wife for the walk down the stairs. “Shall we?”
Maria shook her head in disbelief as she wrapped both her arms around her husband’s elbow. “I adjust my judgment, James.” She said as they started downward. “They will only see what is in their hearts if they can ever stop bickering.”
Rolando let out a deep throated chuckle. “I see you are as perceptive as ever, my love. That was to be my assessment as well.”
With the resort not yet open for business, Sunday found the stretch of shoreline between the Paradise and the sea devoid of the throngs of tourists that would soon crowd every inch of snowy sand. It also found Teddy doing some relaxing sun worshiping in the choice spot, sitting on a cloth beach chair in a purple bikini. Sunglasses in place to protect her sensitive blue eyes, she read a book in peaceful solitude while her olive complexion skin absorbed the abundance of rays. Her back to the resort, the sun overhead, her eyes moved back and forth across the pages to the rhythm of the waves rolling in from the sea in front of her. Lost in the book, Teddy didn’t know she had company until the sound of sand being crushed under foot broke her concentration. Using one finger, she lowered her sunglasses a hair to glance over her shoulder to where the sound was coming from. “Geez Louise. Isn’t any place safe from you?” She called out to the intruder on her solitude.
A smile their accompaniment, Holly’s green eyes sparkled behind her sunglasses. “This is my beach, remember? You’re trespassing!” She called back. Loaded with everything she needed to do some tanning herself, she bore it across the sand in no apparent hurry and aimed for the spot to Teddy’s left.
“And you’re a snot nosed brat who ruined my view. Now go away!” Teddy insisted with several waves to ward off Holly’s approach. “Shoo!” She reiterated. Then, when it became apparent the invasion was going to take place against her will, she faced the sea again to make the useless attempt at seeming to be peeved by Holly’s choice of camp site.
Holly’s smile, sure and confident, didn’t fade as she came up from behind to drop her belongings beside Teddy. “Ahhhh.” She said in annoying bliss as she stretched her arms to the sun overhead. “Great day, isn’t it?”
Mumbling something under her breath, Teddy turned her head, looking down as she spoke. “Don’t get any sand on my blanket.” She remarked about the close proximity of Holly’s things to the blue and green plaid material her chair was setting on.
“I’m not touching your blanket.” Holly claimed calmly as she toed a small spray of sand on the item in question before turning away to begin setting up her things.
One long tan arm reaching out, Teddy dusted off the offensive sand from the edge of the blanket, then returned to Crime and Punishment with an irritated vengeance. From the outset, Dostoevsky was fighting a losing battle with the troublesome blonde for Teddy’s attention and it didn’t take long for the brunette to stray as Holly began moving around. “Why do you have to be so close?” She asked, finally putting the poor dead Russian author out of his misery with a thud. “There’s plenty of beach, ya know.” She said, pointing in both directions in turn.
“I know.” Holly smiled as she smoothed out her blanket next to Teddy’s. “I like this spot.”
Yea, I bet you do. Teddy frowned. “What are you doing out here, anyway? Don’t you have some work to do, or something?”
“It’s a free beach and nope.” Popping the ‘p’ in nope, she smiled congenially at her neighbor, then reached for her chair. Unfolding it, she heard some grumbling going on and she had to fight to keep from laughing out loud.
“Can’t you go find some?” She asked, the frown intact. “I was reading.” She professed, holding up the book.
Holly glanced at the book as she set the unfolded chair down on her solid, pale yellow blanket. “Don’t let me stop you.” She said with slightly broader smile and a wave of encouragement for Teddy to continue. “I’ll be as quiet as a mouse. You’ll never know I’m here.”
“Too late for that.” Teddy grumbled and dramatically opened the book to pretend to be reading while she watched Holly out of the corner of her eye. “You didn’t park too close to me, did you?” She asked when staying quiet became too hard to do. “I don’t want to have to call my insurance agent again.”
“Right beside it.” Holly gloated as she bent down to pull off her shoes. Left then right, she dropped them precariously close to Teddy’s blanket and smiled when one bounced across enemy lines.
Scowling at the shoe, Teddy picked it up with two fingers and flung it back where it belonged. “Typical. Must be the one you brake with.” She mumbled snidely.
Holly chuckled softly at the remark. Bare feet safely on the blanket and off the hot sand, she pulled off her shirt, showing off the light blue bikini top underneath, before she continued her goading. “Got anything good in there?” Pointing to the cooler on the other side of Teddy.
Pale skin covering muscled abs staring her in the face, Teddy stared back at them in surprise as she responded instinctively. “Get your own. I’ve already fed you twice.” She said and forced her eyes upward, only to have them filled with a healthy view of barely covered ample cleavage. Oh, this isn’t good. Can’t stay here. Upward they went again and just in time to escape getting caught ogling. “And what happened to being quiet as a mouse?”
Seeing blue eyes peering at her over dark sunglasses, Holly put her hands on her hips, stuck out her tongue and turned around. “Be that way.”
Thank you, God. Teddy sighed in relief as Holly put her back to her. The temptation out of sight, she wanted to cry when the blonde bent over to take off her shorts right where Teddy didn’t need her to be to remain sane. This is never gonna work. I gotta get outta here. “I need to cool off. Don’t touch my stuff.” She said as she fairly bolted out of her chair. Leaving the book behind with a quick toss, she strode purposefully toward the water without a backward glance and dove into the first wave that came along to soothe the unnatural heat built up beneath her skin.
Abruptly abandoned, Holly looked from the chair Teddy had quickly vacated to the woman swimming away from the shore. “Was it something I said?” She laughed, holding her hands innocently in the air.
Teddy was underwater by this time, and didn’t hear the question. Totality of silence around her, she swam in a downward incline, heading for the darker, cooler water further below and stayed there until her lungs burned for air. Returning to the warm water and the surface, she lingered above the swells long enough to fill her lungs, then she was gone again.
“What is she? Half fish?” Holly whispered in amazement as she settled into her chair. Watching from the shore, the first couple of times Teddy disappeared, Holly had become frightened by the length of time that passed before the brunette reappeared, but as she picked up on the rhythm of the dives, her fears were put to rest and her curiosity piqued. Shaking her head as she covered herself in sunscreen, she counted off the seconds in her mind with each dive, but eventually grew tired of the exercise about the time she put the bottle away. Then Holly considered joining Teddy in the water, but she thought better of it, since she had already run the woman off once, so she stayed put and did what she was told not to. Mess with Teddy’s stuff. Still curious about Teddy in general, Holly picked up the book she had left in the chair and read the title. “Crime and Punishment? You’re kidding me?” Familiar with the work, her surprise had nothing to do with a conflict between the depth of the writing and the level of Teddy’s intelligence. More, it was sheer wonder that anyone would consider Dostoevsky light enough reading to read it on the beach. “I smell flowers to relax and she reads Dostoevsky on the beach.” She compared and sat back in her chair. Sending her eyes out over the water, Holly waited for Teddy’s head to appear, then she shook her own. “There’s definitely more than meets the eye with you, isn’t there?” As she asked, her hands opened the book, but she didn’t look down at it until Teddy disappeared. Once she was gone, Holly lowered her head, flipping the pages to find the first one of text and began to read Dostoevsky on the beach until Teddy came back to claim her book.
By the time Teddy was ready to come out of the water, she was a long way from shore, nearly exhausted and out of breath. Cleansed, so to speak, of her desires, she concentrated on getting her breathing under control as her body continued to hold her head above the swells. Spinning in the waves, she turned herself around until the resort came into view, then her eyes shut when the distance to the Paradise was calculated. “Way to go, Teddy.” She sighed, then shook her head as she opened her eyes to look at the distance again. “There has got to be a better way.” A conclusion made in hind sight, she didn’t make the effort of closing the distance to solid ground right away. Rather, she pointed her head toward the resort, letting her feet rise to the surface to float on her back for a little while so she could regain her strength and think about what she was going to do once she faced Holly again.
It had seemed like such a simple thing to do and a good idea, at first. Just go in for a swim and forget about the gorgeous body attached to her boss. A few dives down to colder water and that would be that, but that isn’t what it had turned out to be. As Teddy made her dives to cleanse herself of lustful desires, she had made some discoveries in the darker cool waters. Discoveries she hadn’t asked for and that left her in a completely different mind set than when she had started out. Holding her breath in the silence of the sea, drifting with the tide, it was as though her thoughts coalesced of their own free will and she gained a clarity of thought she hadn’t had before. Stray fragments which hadn’t meant anything before came together to form the discoveries and once those were made, Teddy knew why ignorance was considered bliss.
Going deep, she hadn’t realized what was going on until thoughts about Holly began to come together. Pieces really and of no substance apart, they had made her pause in her descent when they started to fit together. Arms waving slowly to and fro, Teddy hung suspended under the surface, eyes closed against the stinging salt and saw things in a way she hadn’t seen them before as she relived the moments she and Holly had shared. Those weird vibe moments that had confused her in the beginning and gotten stronger with each encounter. The ones she had sworn off for good and then turned right around to walk dead into. The ones that sent a shiver down her spine when green eyes searched her soul. The tingling she got when Holly touched her. The way she needed that contact, even over the phone. The ache she felt when it wasn’t there. Under the waves it all became perfectly clear, though Teddy almost let herself drown before she admitted it, but as she breached the surface to gasp for air, she couldn’t deny she had fallen in love with Holly. In four short days, Teddy had fallen in love with a complete stranger. “No. No.” Slapping at the water in frustration, she shook her head. “I can’t be in love with Holly. I like her. She’s a lot of fun, but I am not in love with her. I can’t be. I don’t even know what her favorite color is.” Blue. “Shut up! Just shut up. This is crazy. Crazy! I haven’t even known her a week.” Yes, you have. In your heart and in your soul, you have known her forever. “Oh, don’t you get all mystic on me, brain. Save that shit for the paying customers. I know what I’m talking about, here.” Do you? A moment ago you admitted your love. “A minute ago I was drowning. That doesn’t count.” And now? Can you really deny what is in your heart? Can you say the words with conviction and deny the pain they inflict on your soul? Can you? Teddy closed her eyes and felt the pain without needing to make the denial. “Heaven help me, I am. I’m in love with Holly. Rolando is going to kill me.” Sighing heavily, Teddy took a deep breath quickly after to hold as she sank beneath the waves to figure out what she was supposed to do now.
Trouble, trouble and more trouble sending her mind in a whirl to find solutions, the ends were definitely going to justify the means if it meant getting Holly and as Teddy went deeper, she felt the temperature change begin to straighten out the chaos in her head. Not understanding the connection between the cold and the clarity, she didn’t question it this time. Going with the tide and the flow, she let the pieces fall into place without fighting whatever results they would come up with. And again, they began to revolve around Holly with the same images as before coming back to her. The visions of the looks they had exchanged, but this time, her thoughts weren’t focused on what they meant to her. This time, Teddy seemed to be seeing things as Holly saw them and as the different perspective took shape, the second discovery she made nearly sent her straight to the bottom.
Holly had felt something too and she didn’t understand the emotions anymore than Teddy did, but their reactions were completely different. Teddy had backed away from them, subconsciously recognizing them for what they were and Holly was drawn in by them, but not out of love or lust. What captivated Holly about their moments was the familiarity she felt when they looked at each other and she approached the strangeness with innocent wonder. That’s what Teddy had seen in her eyes. Wonder, not some kind of masked desire. Holly hadn’t been trying to hit on her, because it never occurred to her that there was anything else to be had out of their relationship besides friendship. That’s all she was looking for. That’s all she could see. Teddy was her friend. No more. No less and though there was affection there, it wasn’t the kind Teddy felt. Holly wasn’t falling in love with her. Holly wasn’t even interested in her. Holly wasn’t attracted to other women. Holly wasn’t gay.
The question Teddy had asked Rolando was answered by her own mind as she floated to the surface in heartbroken devastation. She had discovered she was in love only to find that that love would never be returned and there was no hope that she was wrong. The feelings were just as clear as the images in her head. Holly liked her. She liked being around her. She trusted her and she even felt close to Teddy, but beyond that, it just wasn’t there and it never would be. Teddy had fallen in love with a woman who would never love her back.
So, what’s left? She asked herself as one more trip to cold water began. Raising her hands over her head, Teddy pushed her body downward again and again, until she felt the cold begin to encircle her legs. A little further and she was surrounded once more. What now? She asked, when nothing happened. Completely quiet, even inside her head, she waited for an answer, but received none. Whatever had given her the clarity before, was gone now, leaving her feeling alone in the darkness, which is where she stayed until, a thought started to come to her as her lungs caught fire. Fighting to stay down, Teddy could feel panic set in as her body screamed for air. Muscles tightening in her arms and legs, she refused to give up until the words she had been waiting for finally came to her.
She needs you.
Those where the last words Teddy heard in cold water. She didn’t wait to find out if there was more. She swam for the surface with everything she had left, which wasn’t much, but it was enough. Long legs kicking, arms flailing, she shot out of the water, a groaning, heaving sound jumbled with the splash. This is where we found her exhausted, breathless, a long way from shore and heading in with her discoveries weighing her down. The last words ringing in her ears, she rolled over to swim the rest of the way as the last pieces fell into place. She needed to be near Holly, even if the woman couldn’t return her love and Holly needed her friendship. It was a poor substitute for what could have been, but Teddy was willing to live with it. The only question was if Teddy could she keep her emotions in check, now that she knew what they were? It wasn’t going to be easy and she’d have to watch her step around Holly, but it could be done. She’d be the friend Holly was looking for and keep her private emotions the way she always had. Private.
Holly was well into the book by the time she heard some splashing amongst the
waves and looked up to see Teddy start up out of the water. Doing a quick double
take, she felt her jaw go slack as her mind went numb and everything seemed to
slow way, way . . . way down. Teddy’s long, sleek, tan body rose out of the
waves like a goddess. Graceful and breathtakingly beautiful she emerged to move
like fluidity itself as clinging droplets made her smooth, dark skin glisten in
the sunlight. Long dark hair swept back by the sea, Teddy raised her arms,
laying her head back as she pulled her hair around and Holly heard her breath
stop as she watched a single drop of water trickle down a smooth cheek to a
supple neck where it left to slowly trace a meandering path over the swell of a
round breast to disappear from view. Holly let out a sigh as an exclamation to
the ethereal feel of the experience and as the gently swaying body came ever
closer, she was unable to take her eyes off Teddy. She was mesmerized by the
flowing grace and stunning beauty of the woman coming towards her. Unlike
anything she had ever seen before, it was as though Holly was seeing Teddy for
the first time. As though the Teddy she had known for the past four days was
someone else, this woman captivated her in a way that seemed to heighten her
senses, making her aware that something was being stirred. Something within her,
in places she didn’t have a reason for, but couldn’t be denied. Something
that stole her breath away as the overwhelming presence towered beside her.
Something that made her heart pound in her ears. Something that sent sane
thought out of her reach. Something that made her sound like a blithering idiot
when she opened her mouth. “I . . . uh . . . um . . . swim . . . stuff . . .
you . . . book?” She smiled weakly as she held up the item.
“Keep it.” Teddy said quietly as she moved her chair off the blanket. “I’m done on this side.” Keeping her eyes off Holly, she knelt down on the blanket, then stretched out on her stomach, turning her head away from the blonde to lay it on her hands and closed her eyes. Resolved, but not yet ready to face Holly completely, she laid there trying hard not to imagine what would never be.
Holly didn’t know what to say after that. She had been so dumbfounded when Teddy walked up that by the time she thought of something intelligent to say, the opportunity was gone. Her presence had been dismissed and she sat there staring at the other half of the body that had tied her tongue in the first place. Still glistening from the sea, this side was just as long, sleek, graceful and beautiful, and Holly found it just as mesmerizing. Teddy’s long legs stretched out, the sinewy muscles were relaxed, but she could see the power in them and her back was the same way. It was smooth, but there was more under there than a rib cage and as Teddy shifted her shoulders, Holly saw the muscles ripple along the length of her back and up into her shoulders. Sighing softly, she let her eyes wander where they would, exploring with her gaze as her fingers absently mimicked each subtle contour and she felt the something stirring again. Coming from an unexplored region within herself, she could feel something happening, even as she looked away. Staring out at the sea, instead of at Teddy, Holly could feel it still. That familiar something between them. The one which only happened when she looked into those blue eyes, before now. The one which signaled a moment being shared. The one which usually diminished when their eyes were no longer locked together. But she hadn’t looked in Teddy’s eyes this time. Not the way she had the times before, yet the feeling was still there and it wasn’t fading. It was getting stronger. Strong enough not to need the visual connection to be felt by her. It wasn’t just in those blue eyes anymore and Holly began to realize those eyes, the ones that made her heart flutter and her breathing cease, were only the key to unlocking the feeling, the door, that seemed to be opening inside her. The door open and waiting, but once open, causing more questions to be asked than revealed answers. Why now? She asked herself. What did it all mean? Why isn’t the feeling going away? Why are my her hands shaking? Why do I feel so far away from Teddy when she’s right there? What is happening? What is this sadness I can’t shake? Where is it coming from? Why can’t I make this feeling go away? Why don’t I want to make it go away? Why does everything seem to be coming back to Teddy?
Holly turned her head to look down at Teddy again. Her long form lay still, relaxing in the sun, her skin growing a richer bronze, but nothing else had changed. She hadn’t moved. She hadn’t shifted positions. Nothing about her was different except the way Holly saw her. The more than meets the eye Holly had uttered was now in the eyes of the beholder and as she looked again, the more was her’s to explore with no more understanding coming, but without the need for it because the one thing she had always felt in their moments remained. The familiarity that gave her a sense of comfort, of security with Teddy she had felt with no one else and though it was still a new, strange sensation, it was no less real to her because of it.
Teddy felt something brush against her leg and she shook it to make it go away. When it did, she heard a soft chuckle come from Holly’s direction. Smiling, she opened one eye to slyly glance over her shoulder as the blonde fly lit again. “What are you doing?” She asked quietly.
Having laterally duck-walked her chair to within easy arm reach of Teddy, infringing on the plaid blanket, Holly sat forward in the chair to rub her finger lightly over a round yellowish purple spot on Teddy’s calf. “This is mine, isn’t it?” She said sadly.
“The leg or the bruise?” Still smiling, Teddy rolled her shoulders back to raise her head and prop it on her hand for a better look behind her. Seeing Holly’s expression, she bent her knee to get the woman’s attention. “I’ve had worse.” Using a reassuring tone. “You just bit me. My sister shot me in the back with a pellet gun.”
Holly looked up to meet Teddy’s twinkling eyes. “Where?”
Teddy had to go down on her stomach again to reach behind her for the small scar below her shoulder blade. “Uh, it should be around there somewhere.”
A deep scowl creasing her features, Holly leaned back in the chair, then turned it around to face Teddy, so she could search more closely. Leaning on her thighs, she found a small white scar close to where Teddy’s finger was pointing and brushed her finger tip across it, feeling an indentation. “Why did she shoot you?” She asked, her eyes never leaving the scar.
Teddy laughed softly. “I flushed her Barbie’s head down the toilet. They come off really easy, ya know, but you’ve got to twist them just right.”
Holly’s finger paused in it’s motion as her eyes rolled skyward. “Teddy, you didn’t?”
“Took a couple of tries to get it down, too. Those little suckers float like a cork.” The memory bringing more mirth, Teddy’s body shook with it. “You should have seen it when the Roto Rooter man got through with it.”
Holly’s eyes disappeared from view as her hand came up to cover them. Her head hanging low, she shook it slowly. “That’s so mean.” She admonished and started to chuckle despite her words.
Rolling her shoulders again, Teddy rose up on the other side to prop her head and smile wickedly. “Wanna know what it looked like?” She asked and tapped Holly’s big toe to get her attention.
“No.” Shaking her head more vigorously, Holly dropped her hand to stare into twinkling blue eyes. “Did it hurt when she shot you?”
“Not really.” Teddy shrugged. “I didn’t even know she’d hit me until my brother started screaming. Connie shot Teddy! Connie shot Teddy!” Chuckling again, she sighed a moment later. “Little squealer.”
“Then what happened.” Spoken quietly, Holly wrapped her arms around her legs, resting her head on her knees.
“Then it hurt like a son of a bitch and I started screaming bloody murder.” Smiling with the retelling, her hand strayed to rub the side of Holly’s ankle. “My mother nearly fainted when she came out of the house. I guess my back was pretty bloody by then and she had to send my brother to the neighbors house to get Mrs. Francis to drive us to the emergency room. Oooooo, Daddy wasn’t a happy camper when he got home.”
“No?” Holly smiled.
“Not even close.” Teddy said with conviction. “Once he had to fork out the money to get the toilet unstopped and my little brother spilled his guts, me and Connie got our little white asses torn up one side and down the other.”
Holly chuckled when Teddy cringed. “I guess Barbie was safe after that, huh?”
“Until my shoulder healed. Then I shaved her head.” Teddy laughed. “Got my ass torn up for that one, too.”
“Teddy, you’re supposed to learn from your mistakes, not repeat them.” Holly sighed, then she started to laugh along with the brunette. “So what did your sister do about her bald Barbie? She didn’t shoot you again, did she?”
“Couldn’t. Daddy hid the pellet gun, so she threw a stick in the spokes of my bike as I was making my get away.” Lifting her hand, Teddy rubbed the top of her head, feeling around for the scar she knew was there. “I crashed into the mail box. Got seven stitched right there and Connie got her ass torn up.”
Holly shut her eyes as her shoulders slumped in dismay. “Tell me Barbie was safe after that.”
“Connie didn’t have any left and Daddy refused to get her another one. He said his insurance company called them a health hazard.” Laughing out loud, Teddy slapped the blanket. “Connie was sooooo pissed. She whined for another one for years after that, but Daddy never budged. I don’t think she’s ever forgiven me for that either.”
Turning her head, Holly buried her face in her knees.
Her story over, Teddy’s laughter died down to a chuckle after a little while and she continued to smile as she reached out to gently tug on a long piece of blonde hair hanging over Holly’s shoulder. “So, what about you? I showed you my scars. What you got?”
Holly smiled as she looked up again. “My brother wasn’t in to Barbie dolls.”
“Ohhhh, come on. There’s got to be a story around here somewhere.” Teddy protested as she sat up to poke and prod at anything that looked like a scar on the parts of Holly’s body she could reach.
“No.” Squirming to one side, Holly slapped at the hand tickling her ribs. “I don’t have any scars.”
“Everybody has scars. You just gotta know how to look for ‘em.” And Teddy kept looking, zeroing in on every spot that made Holly jump. “What about here?”
“No.” She said firmly and fought the urge to giggle. “Stop it.”
“I said no.” Holly giggled.
“This looks interesting.” Teddy said slowly and poked her puddle buddy just below the rib cage and almost got her teeth knocked out when Holly’s knees came up suddenly. “Oh, yea. That’s the spot, all right.”
“No it isn’t!” She yelled as Teddy’s hands seemed to multiply in number. Slapping at all of them, Holly curled up to protect her vulnerable sides, laughing her ass off as she called for a cease fire. “Stop it! Stop it! Teddy, that tickles! Leave me alone! Teddy! Stopitstopitstopit!”
Teddy tickled to her heart’s content, her fingers lingering only a moment to wiggle a little bit before moving on to sweeter territory. “Dum di dum dum dum.” Warming up her pipes, she broke into song as Holly’s peels of laughter threatened to shatter her eardrums. “Puddle buddy, you’re the one. You’re the one who makes tickling so much fun. Puddle buddy, dum di dum. That’s all the words I know, by the way. Puddle buddy, you’re the one . . .”
By the time Holly got her cease fire, her cheeks were bright red and damp with tears. Curled up in the chair, it took a couple of minutes of coaxing from her tormentor to get her breathing back to normal and her body unfolded. Then it took several more minutes of just sitting there before she recuperated enough to go on the offensive. Unwilling to let the torture go unrequited, she used the same basic tactic she had when she was dumped into the mud. Grab on tight and use her pistons for every inch of thunder thigh they were worth. Of course a sneak attack was a big help, too. “Teddy can you hand me my sunscreen. I think I sweated all of it off.”
“Where is it?”
“In my bag over there.”
“Oof. Holly! What are you doing!”
“I wonder if my puddle buddy is ticklish, hmmmm? Maybe I’ll check right here.”
“Hey! Hey! Hey! Stop that! That’s private property! Stop it! Haha! I said leave me alone! Hahahaha. Holly! Get off me! Hahahaha. Nonononono not there! Aaaaaaahahahahahhahahahahahahahahahahaha! Quit it! Help! Police! Aaaaahahahahahaha! Rolando!”
Two women lay side by side on their blankets exhausted but content. The day they had spent was a happy one enjoying each other’s company. Filled with light hearted fun and laughter, revenge and multiple chase sequences up and down the beach, they had swam together, splashed, dunked and swam again, until their bodies had called for rest and sustenance. Then it was back to the blankets to talk and laugh as they picked over each other’s food. Easy and comfortable, as it had been the day before, the conversation flowed as they swapped stories, shared their thoughts and questioned the other’s opinions, but not to clash. To explore. To discover what they already knew and confirm their connection in the process, though neither revealed the revelations they had had individually. Those remained unspoken, like a shadow in the background to enhance the camaraderie or issue a pang of regret at not being able to share all of themselves.
“So this water thing, is a problem you’ve been afflicted with for a long time.” Teddy smiled. Lying on her side, up on one elbow, she absently picked at her blanket, her eyes and mind on the woman on the next parcel of sand.
“I guess you could say that.“ Holly agreed. On her stomach, back curved, her elbows held her off the pale yellow material as she smoothed it out with her finger tips. “I’ve always loved to be around the water.”
“And how does the Caribbean compare to the Ohio river?” She asked with another smile.
Facing the Paradise, Holly glanced over her shoulder to see the waves dancing in the sunlight. “It’s beautiful.” She said thoughtfully as a wistful smile appeared on her lips. “I remember, when I was little, I saw this picture of a tiny island sitting in the middle of the bluest water. It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen and when I got home, I drew the picture over and over again, but I could never get the color of the water just right.” Chuckling softly, she shook her head.
The reference to the color blue sparked Teddy’s memory of her epiphanies at sea, which brought up mixed feelings, but she was curious to find out if her brain had been right concerning Holly’s favorite color. “I take it blue is your favorite color, then?”
Holly’s gaze moved from blue water to blue eyes and as she looked in them, she would have sworn they were the same color blue she had seen in the picture. “Not all blues.” She answered after a pause. “Caribbean and indigo are my favorites.”
Teddy heard an ‘I told you so’ from somewhere in the back of her mind. Nobody’s talking to you. She told the voice.
“What about you? What’s your favorite color?” She asked with an interested gleam in her eye and saw a secretive one start to shimmer in Teddy’s.
“What do you think it is?” Teddy asked playfully, closing one of her eyes as she did.
Holly’s first impulse was to say green, but she let that impulse go by and dipped her head to look over her sunglasses at the woman across from her. “Hmmm.” Came the sound of deep contemplation.
As green eyes appeared and a shiver went down her spine, Teddy had a sudden panic attack as everything that had happened to her out in the water came flooding back. All the emotions that went with her discoveries convoluted into a fear of having them found out by the woman they revolved around. This was a bad idea. She thought and put on a winning smile as a smoke screen to cover the feelings the stare was invoking. Humming the theme to Jeopardy as extra insurance, she flooded her mind with any thought that didn’t have anything to do with Holly as she felt her soul go under the magnifying glass.
The distractions were hard to ignore, but Holly managed. She knew where to look for the answer and searched twinkling blue eyes to try to make the connection to find out what Teddy’s favorite color was. As though attempting to force one of their spontaneous moments to happen, it did happen and her brow slowly knitted together as a glimmer appeared within the twinkle. Catching only a glimpse before it disappeared and the twinkle itself began to glaze over, Holly was certain she had seen sadness in Teddy’s smiling eyes, and she felt it as well. Just like the sad feeling she couldn’t shake when Teddy came back from her swim, she felt it again, and then suddenly it clicked.
Damn. Teddy cursed, knowing she had been had. It was like looking in a mirror as she watched her own emotions take shape in Holly’s eyes. “Time’s up.” She snapped happily, adding a renewed smile in a desperate attempt to reverse the damage done.
“I don’t know.” Holly whispered as the shadow over Teddy’s heart cast itself over her own.
Soft and tinged with sadness, the words shattered the barriers Teddy was trying to reinforce, leaving her with nothing to hide behind as her smile finally faded. Exposed and helpless to do otherwise, she spoke from the soul as she stared at the woman who held it in the palm of her hand. “Green.”
Holly didn’t understand a lot that had happened today, either within herself or with Teddy. Their interludes of normalcy had been dotted with moments like this, where brief glances turned into something more, but now it felt like those moments had only been clues, hinting at something else to come. As if the day had been building up to something all along, to this one point in time, where everything was supposed to finally become clear. A catalyst. A crux. An epiphany to sort out everything she didn’t understand and in a way it did. As she stared at Teddy, she saw something she had seen before, but had taken for something less than what it was. All the while, with every other moment they had shared, she had stared into the bluest of eyes to search them deeply and seen herself reflected there, and every other time she had assumed it was merely a surface reflection, a mirror image from the outside. But when she looked this time, as the answer was given, she saw herself in Teddy’s eyes and slowly, as the word sank in, Holly realized she was the green spoken. Then, just as she felt the moment begin to end, as Teddy started to look away, Holly finally understood and though she knew it would never make sense to anyone if she tried to explain it, the whys that had baffled her since the moment they met were no more complicated than the reason why she had never been able to recreate the perfect shade of blue that had eluded her as a child. The water she had seen in the picture hadn’t been a true blue. It was a blue/green, the same shade as the waves lapping at the shore behind her and the one she’d seen Teddy’s eyes turn when she finally saw herself in them. It explained everything. The familiarity. The looks. The moments. The comfort. The closeness. The connection. Teddy was the blue to blend with her green to become the perfect shade she had never been able to match on her own.
When Teddy looked away, her eyes went out to the gently rolling sea that had been her catalyst to insight. She watched the endlessly moving, she watched the waves break quietly on the shore as the motion seemed to calm the torrid storm of conflict raging within her. The mistake had been made and there was nothing else to be said now. She had said too much already and her only hope of keeping the closeness they had gained was if Holly had missed the meaning completely. If she had picked up on the emotion behind the word, it was all over because Teddy wouldn’t stay where she wasn’t wanted and she knew that was going to be the case if Holly ever found out she was in love with her. Hiding how she felt was the only way to keep what she already had and though it wasn’t what she wanted, it was better than the alternative.
Teddy closed her eyes and rolled onto her back to berate herself as the alternative began to take shape. Just as Holly had tuned into her sadness, Teddy could feel something changing with the woman beside her and call it pessimism, but Teddy wasn’t disillusioned enough to let her hopes turn into pipe dreams. If there was a change going on, it wasn’t going to go in her favor. She was sure of what she had seen out in the water, that she was in love with a woman who wasn’t gay and, evidently, Holly wasn’t blind either. She got it. Dammit, she got it. She thought as her world began to crumble and her arms went out to the side in depressed resignation. It’s over. I blew it.
Teddy’s intuition wasn’t wrong. There was a change going on beside her and it had everything to do with Holly’s feelings towards her, but not in the way Teddy thought. What had inspired the intensity of emotion to transcend the physical barriers between them was Holly’s staring at the blanket Teddy was laying on. Although she hadn’t been looking for a sign to validate her metaphoric revelation, seeing Teddy amid the interwoven blue and green plaid seemed to bring it all home for Holly. Any doubt she might have had about being right vanished and as she glanced down at the pale yellow beneath her, then up again to another version of the perfect blend, she knew without a doubt where she was supposed to be, though she had no idea what she was going to do once she got there.
If there were ever a case for ‘gloom, despair and agony on me’ coming true, it was Teddy lying on her blanket in abject desolation at the idea of opening her eyes to find loathing in Holly’s. It was the worst of the alternative scenarios to living happily ever after and the one Teddy was least prepared to deal with because it included alienation from the woman she had just admitted to herself had fallen in love with. Although they had just met and Teddy was definitely not the love at first sight type, it didn’t matter a hill of beans that it didn’t make any sense, which was enough proof to make it true. That’s the way love worked, or so she’d been told. Love liked to sneak up on people when they least expected it and then whammo! The next thing ya know your brain is trying to drown your ass, you’ve got little hearts floating around your head, butterflies in your gut and some fat lady singing Puddle Buddy in your ears because you can’t remember all the words to Rubber Ducky, and ya feel like an idiot for picking the least romantic song you could have come up with as your song. That’s what love felt like and that’s what Teddy felt like, among other things. She felt like an idiot for not seeing it coming in the first place and for letting her heart run away with her mouth to ruin the whole damned thing before it ever got out of the starting blocks. It didn’t matter that it was never going to get out of the starting blocks because there was no place for it to go. It still would have been nice just to sit there at the starting line and look where it might have gone, if she hadn’t opened her stupid mouth an blown it all to hell in a hand basket. But she had and now she was going to have to live with less than she had before. Now, she was sure, there wasn’t even a chance they could stay friends. She didn’t know how she knew, but just as she knew she was in love, Teddy knew she had lost Holly completely. This day was the last day they would spend together without Holly looking at her differently. This is crazy. What am I still doing here? I don’t want to see that look. I gotta get outta here. Where’s my book . . . there it is . . . that’s not my book . . . what is that . . . oh, shit.
Holly had a curious perplexed expression on her face as she raised the book off her lap to watch Teddy’s hand move around on her thigh, then slowly pull away. Having invaded Teddy’s space while the brunette was wallowing in grief, she hadn’t wanted to disturb the owner of the blue and green plaid blanket, though she was unaware of the wallowing going on, so she sat beside her, quietly reading until the hand had interrupted her. Once her concentration was broken, she continued to watch the hand retreat, then moved her eyes up to a face that could only be described as looking very panic stricken. “Teddy, are you alright?” She asked as she set the book beside her.
Abject desolation had turned to abject fear the moment Teddy realized exactly where her hand was and removed it. Her worst case scenario on a downward spiral, she didn’t hear Holly’s question because her heart had relocated itself to her head and was trying to get out through any portal possible, which is why her eyes were squeezed shut, and her jaw was locked closed. Muscles taut, body rigid, she laid there holding her breath in anticipation of the ramifications of mistakenly fondling Holly’s thigh.
The only ramification Holly had in store was to become more concerned over Teddy’s strange behavior. Placing one hand on a bunched up shoulder, she shook it gently. “Teddy. Teddy. Are you alright? What’s the matter? Teddy?”
Needless to say, this wasn’t the kind of ramification Teddy had anticipated. What she expected was a furious blonde to flog her unmercifully until the police arrived to take her away. So, when that didn’t happen, Teddy’s confusion factor multiplied exponentially and as she gradually ran out of air, her brain, the one she was seriously considering having removed, had a two part brilliant idea. One, breathe. Two, open your eyes. One, I can do, but I’m not so sure about number two.
Holly was on the verge of panicking herself when Teddy took a deep breath and opened her eyes. Rolling her own, she felt her heart slide down from her throat as she leaned over Teddy, placing her other hand on the woman’s forehead. “What were you doing? You nearly scared me to death.”
Amazing what oxygen can do for the hearing, because Teddy actually heard her this time, but she still didn’t answer. She was too busy searching Holly’s eyes for the change she feared and knew was in there somewhere. Searching for a flicker of disapproval, revulsion, loathing or the other negative expletives in the English language to describe what she expected to see, Teddy didn’t find the slightest hint of any of those things. All she found behind green eyes was concern and a little confusion, so she searched again, only to get the same results the second and third time. I don’t get it. She thought in amazement. Its not in there. Its got to be in there. I know what I felt. I know how she feels. Where’s the change? She can’t be that open minded. Nobody is that open minded. Maybe she didn’t get it. No. I know she got it. So, where is it? She asked herself and decided to do another search when something stopped her. A small movement, she felt Holly’s fingertips take the place of her palm on her forehead and begin to lightly stroke their way back into her hairline. Not once, but again and again they moved back and forth in a gentle gesture that made Teddy draw back her focus to see the warm smile accompanying the soft touch. Relaxing stroke by stroke, she tilted her head to the side and closed her eyes to become absorbed in the best case scenario for however long it lasted. Somebody please shoot me before I wake up.
Holly’s smile never dimmed and her fingers never ceased as she unfolded her legs to slide her body down beside Teddy. Lying on her side, she braced on her elbow to study the panic gone peaceful expression before her. Mesmerized by the serenity and the beauty, her hand slowly slid upward from Teddy’s shoulder, over a slightly curved neck to caress the supple smoothness of a bronze cheek. “Would you like to tell me what you were doing a minute ago.” She said quietly.
Teddy told herself to think fast. She told herself not to panic. She told herself honesty was the best policy. She laughed at herself. She told herself not to panic again, then she opened her eyes to a questioning gaze. She closed her eyes. She sighed. She opened her eyes. “I thought you were going to hit me when I grabbed your thigh by mistake. I was looking for my book. I didn’t know you were there.” Damn honest streak.
“That’s my fault.” Holly apologized. “I moved in without telling you. Sorry about that.”
Wait a minute. I grab her thigh and she’s apologizing. Is it me, or is there something wrong with this picture? What did she say? “Moved in?” Teddy asked as her eyebrows came together.
Holly smiled and cocked her head to one side. “Don’t worry. I didn’t get any sand on your blanket.” She said in a reassuring way.
Don’t worry. I didn’t get any sand on your blanket? Teddy asked her confused self as she raised her head to frown over Holly’s shoulder. I moved in without telling you? Where was I? In a coma? She asked, seeing Holly’s blanket and beach chair folded, and stacked next to the cooler, which was now next to her blanket. Teddy fell back, confused again and getting pretty tired of it. For a woman who was used to being one step ahead, this one step behind business wasn’t making her happy. Okay, so Holly’s my boss and maybe that gives her a few liberties that other people don’t have, but since when did the qualifications to become a resort manager include stealthiness? And why isn’t she on her blanket where she was supposed to be? She asked as confusion gave way to frustration. What’s all this ‘moving in’ business about? She’s supposed to be completely disgusted with me right now, not moving in on me! And, and! She most certainly is not supposed to be looking at me like that! That is not a disgusted look! That is a warm, glowing, caring, kind . . . understanding . . . content . . . happy . . . flirty . . . radiant . . . thing . . . kinda look thing. Running the gauntlet of everything good there was to be had in a look, Teddy’s head of steam petered out, the warmth in Holly’s gaze soothing her frustration into complacency. “Okay.” She said and as the radiance grew in her favorite color, a smile toyed with her frown before sending it packing.
Where she was supposed to be and given license to stay there, Holly didn’t feel the need to move at all because she had all she needed at her fingertips. A profound statement to be made, even if it wasn’t spoken aloud, the magnitude didn’t register a tremor on her conscience. For the same reason she had changed her plans about working today, when she spotted Teddy on the beach and then gone home to change her clothes to join her, Holly felt no conflict between the means and the ends. It was simple. All she had done was recognize a desire that had been innate and gone with it. She had closed the distance to what she wanted and felt a sense of completion, of fulfillment when she got there. Holly was a very happy camp invader.
Now, back to miss ‘I can’t leave well enough alone’ and ‘this is too good to be true, so there has to be a catch,’ Teddy. Psyche! Teddy was a happy camper too. Infected by warm caresses and staring into the essence of contentment, she suffered from a considerable lack of will power to ask the questions she wanted answers to. The why, what, how and where is this going would have to wait for now, so she could enjoy the moment for what it was. Paradise.
To be continued -- Part 6
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