Finding My Way ~ 2
By Mavis Applewater
copyright (c) September 2000
See Chapter 1 for disclaimers
NEW DISCLAIMER: It has been brought to my attention that I may have been less than kind to members of the legal profession. (Yes Cathy I know your comments were made in jest.) Hey I know lawyers get a bad rap and although some of them deserve it not all members of the bar are low life scum sucking ferets. I promise to make at least one kind comment regarding members of the bar somewhere within the next four installments. No Lawyers were injured during the production of this story. <G>. Any resemblence to any persons living or dead is just a conincidence. Honest! So don't sue me I have enough trouble ducking those people after me over my student loans. (If you do come looking for me do you think my parents really named me Mavis <G> or did you miss the Furies episode)
The Dean's Tea was incredibly dull. It was divided into two groups of people. Those who were fighting for Dean Tanner's attention and those who were trying to avoid him. However it did allow me an opportunity to meet some of my new associates. Everyone seemed to be very nice. There was a feeling of family among my fellow staff members. I knew that I was going to love working at Haven. All I needed to do was to get Allison Kendell out of my system once and for all. That seemed to be getting easier by the moment. I spent the majority of the afternoon searching the crowd for the familar tall dark figure that had turned my world spinning. Allison was nowhere to be seen. It was not likely that I simply could not find her. Even with the large crowd, the six foot raven haired beauty was a commanding presence.
I could not blame her. After all I was the one who kept crossing the line. Maureen approached me and touched me gently on the shoulder. "Can I talk to you for a moment." She said quietly so she would not be over heard by prying ears. I simply nodded my consent and we made our way down the path into the garden located behind the Dean's home. Once we were alone Maureen finally spoke. "Stephanie I am worried about Allison." The worry was written plainly on the usually jovial woman's face.
"Why?" I questioned uncertain as to what I should and should not say regarding Allison's notable absence.
"She has been tense and flashing attitude all day." Maureen explained with concern. "I know Allison has a smart mouth. Hell it is part of her charm. But it is not like her to be such a bitch. This morning she almost took poor Grace's head off." Grace was the secretary that Allison and I shared with two other instructors. The elderly woman was always cheerful and there was nothing she could not accomplish. I honestly believe that she could locate Jimmy Hoffa's remains if requested to do so.
"Maybe she is just hung over from last night." I lied hoping to offer some explaination that would ease some of Maureen's worries.
"I hope that you are right." Maureen sighed in exasperation. "She was never a big drinker. But still she really needs to be here and she knows it. I know that this tea is nothing more than an ass kissing contest but Allison is in a vulnerable position right now."
I thought back to the heated conversation I overheard this morning between the two women. "Are her chances of making tenure in trouble?" I asked worried that I had somehow let my new friend down.
"Yes." Maureen confessed. "It is not fair she is twice the teacher of anyone in the department, myself included. But she has not published anything in almost two years. And the works that she has published in the past are not literary gems." I felt a stab of guilt as Maureen's words hit me.
"Publishing means that much here?" I sneered in disgust. I will never understand the politics of higher learning. Allison was truely gifted when it came to teaching. That didn't seem to be important. What was important is that she pad her credentials so the University could parade them around.
"It means the same here as any other University." Maureen explained. "You do not have any worries. With everything that you have already published and your more than impressive background the Dean thinks I scored a major coup by getting you to sign on. Even though Haven is just probably a stepping stone for you."
"How did you know?" I asked in horror.
"Don't be so shocked." Maureen answered with a knowing smile. "I know Haven has a stellar reputation. But we are not Ivy League. Many instructors come here just to pad their credentials. Myself included. When I first came here I simply wanted to put in my time build my reputation and then move on to bigger and better. Before I knew it this became home to me. When I got married I could not think of a better place to raise my children. Plus being offered the department chair was a big incentive as well."
We stood there in an awkward silence knowing that Maureen needed to say more but she seemed reluctant. Finally she asked the one question I been dreading. "Stephanie what happened between you and Allison?"
"What do you mean?" I choked. How am I going to get out of this one?
"What I mean is that last night the two of you were like two peas in a pod. Then today she seems to be avoiding you. Hell she dumped you with Stan." Maureen explained in a bewilder tone. "I meant it when I said that I wanted the two of you to get along. It is not because she is gay is it?"
"No." I laughed at the irony of her statement. "It is most definitely not her homosexuality." "It's mine." I added silently.
"Then what is it?" Maureen pushed harder.
"Nothing." I lied once again.
"Stephanie, I consider Allison to be a good friend of mine." Maureen was determined. "Right now something is very wrong with her and I am getting the same feeling that I get with my kids on report card day. I know you know what is going on so stop hiding it and just spill it."
I was suddenly relieved that I was not one of Maureen's children. She wasn't going to except anything but the truth. So I might as well get it over with and face the music. "Maureen . . . you do not have to worry about Allison and I getting along." I swallowed hard terrified that I was about to make a huge mistake. "That is the problem." Maureen just stared at me blankly waiting for the rest. I had no options but to continue. "Last night we got along a little too well." I blew out a breath and waited for everything to hit the fan.
"Well that explains it." She responded calmly.
"I wish someone would explain it to me." I whined in despair. "Wait. You do not seemed to be surprised? Maureen before Allison mentioned my boyfriend did you think I was gay?"
"Yes." Maureen answered reluctantly.
"Why?" I shouted in amazement. "How could she have seen something that I spent a lifetime hiding from myself?"
"I don't know." Maureen answered shyly. "My brother is gay and in college I played a lot of sports and as a result I have many lesbian friends. Over the years I think I developed my own sense of gaydar."
"Did Allison think I was gay?"
"Well . . . um . . . yeah." Maureen admitted. "We talked about it."
"You what?" I gasped in shock. "I can not believe the two of you sat around and discussed my sexuality!"
"Hold on." Maureen raised her hands in defense. "It is not what you think. After the two of you met I simply asked her if she thought that you were her religion. She said yes and that was it. Of course I was secretly hoping that the two of you might hook up. She has been single for far too long and I thought that you would be good for her. But she has this thing about dating colleagues."
"Really? Why is that?" I questioned suddenly intrigued about this new revelation.
Maureen was about to answer my question when I heard very familar footsteps approaching. I knew it was her before I heard her sultry voice. "Because Chris and I worked together and whenever we had problems the entire firm knew about it. Sometimes before I did." Allison explained in a flat tone.
"Allison!" I gasped suddenly feeling like a deer caught in the headlights of an approaching vehicle.
"Relax." She smiled. "You haven't done anything wrong. I would have told Maureen myself."
"Where have you been?" Maureen questioned her sternly.
"I have been making nice with the Dean." Allison explained.
"Really?" Maureen question her suspiciously.
"Yes really." Allison defended herself. "I know I was late so as soon as I arrived I spent all of my time sucking up to the old coot. I may be in a pissy mood but I am not an idiot."
"So is everything all right between the two of you or am I going to have to separate you?" Maureen folded her arms across her chest eyeing the both of us.
"Everything is fine." Allison answered quickly for the both of us. "And just for the record nothing happened last night." "Maybe not for you." I thought to myself.
The three of us strolled back to the party which appeared to be breaking up. Maureen and Allison talked by themselves for a moment. Maureen waved goodbye to me and made her departure. Allison turned to me a tense smile crossed her face as she approached me. She bit her lip as she stared at me intently. She sighed a heavy breath and smiled a more relaxed smile. "Come on. We need to find you some funiture." She said in a soothing voice.
"You still want to do this with me?" I asked carefully.
` "To be completely honest I considered just loaning you my car." She confessed. "But then after I had a chance to think things over I realized that I have been behaving very badly today. I was put off by what I heard you say to your boyfriend. I shouldn't have been. It is none of my business . . . it was that this morning . . . I . . . well that is not important. I also realized that I need to stop over reacting to every innocent gesture. It's just that after last night I felt confused. Instead of realizing that you and I were comfortable with touching one another in a friendly manner before all of this happened . . . I over reacted." She seemed relieved at having explained things to me finally.
"I do not think you over reacted." I said sincerely. "Well maybe just a little. But I did not help matters any. Look I am the one who started all of this." I put my hand up stopping her from interupting me. "Enough. I'm sorry and you are sorry. Let's try to do what we promised each other this morning. I want our friendship back and so do you. I don't know about you but I am getting a headache from all of this drama. A drunken make out session isn't worth all of this stress."
She smiled sweetly at my declaration. We began to walk away when I touched her arm. I was pleased that she didn't flinch are make any attempt to refuse my offer. "Allison in regards to your behavior, you need to remember that I have seen act much worse than this." I teased her.
"That is right." She laughed. "I keep forgetting that you got to see me as the lawyer bitch. Tell me something back then I didn't make you cry did I?"
"As a matter of fact you did." I admitted. "But I did manage to hold off until I was safely away from you. How did you know?"
"Back then I made everyone cry. Even my own Mother." Allison admitted with a dejected shrug.
We drove into town to the futon shop and I looked around. I had to budget everything very carefully since I would not receive my first paycheck until the end of the month. A polite young salesman showed us around. I could tell by Allison's demeanor that shopping was not one of her favorite things to do. I on the other hand loved to explore and take my time. I curbed my usual prowling and selected a simple full sized model. The saleman looked at me oddly and suggested that perhaps a queen size or perhaps a king size would be more suitable. I explained that a full size was more than suitable for myself. Politely pointing out my height or lack there of.
It was when he cast a shy glance over to Allison that it dawned on me that he thought that we were a couple. I held back a laugh thinking that if his assumption was correct than yes, we would definately require a much larger mattress. I was about to correct his error when Allison whispered to me. "How tall is Peter?"
"A little taller than you. Why?" I whispered my reply not wanting to embarrass the poor sales boy any further.
"Then I think this guy is right." Allison explained. "With your build the full is all right for just you, but what about when . . . you know?"
"You are right. I didn't even think about that." I confessed.
"Why would you? When you are my height you think of these things." Allison teased me as she patted the top of my head to stress her point.
I informed the salesman that a king size would be more appropriate and was relieved when he confirmed that the model I had selected was available in that size. The model I had chosen was a simple wood frame that could be pulled down easily. This way I would not have to go to great lengths each morning and evening. With one tug the futon snapped down into a bed and with a simple push it instantly converted back into a couch.
While the futon and it's mattress were being loaded into Allison car the salesman suggested that we look around at some of the slip covers they had available. As we sorted threw the various designs I leaned over and whispered to Allison, "You know the salesman thinks we are a couple."
"I know." She giggled. "Does that bother you?" She asked quickly.
"No." I answered honestly.
"How about this one." She said holding up an ivory colored cover with a simple floral design.
"Perfect." I smiled. "What size is it?"
"Full." She frowned and we both began searching for the correct size. In our search our hands touched and I felt a spark race through my body. Neither of us moved as our eyes met and our breathing became labored. It was the briefest of moments but the intensity of the innocent touch was almost over powering. Allison slowly pulled her hand away and crossed her arms in front of her. I paused for a moment to catch my breath and then proceeded to resume my search. Finding the correct size I walked over to the counter and paid for my purchases.
After we departed the futon shop we proceeded to browse through every shop Main Street had to offer. Everywhere we stopped people greeted Allison. As she introduced me I realized that Haven was a very small town, populated mostly by students and members of the faculty from the University. I could tell by the expressions on most people's faces that they were already assuming that Allison and I were a couple. It bothered me that people just assumed that because Allison was a lesbian that meant since we were out shopping together that we must be lovers. It wasn't the assumption that I was lucky enough to have this woman as my lover. But it was the narrowed minded assumption that a gay woman could not be just friends with another woman.
Allison of course true to her nature took every opportunity to make it perfectly clear to everyone that she was just showing her new friend around town. It was more than apparent to me that Allison had been down this road before. "I need a break." Allison whined. "Let's go in here my feet are killing me." Needing relief from all of the walking we had down I saw no reason to argue with her suggestion. I waved packages towards the doorway and we entered the little ice cream parlor. Like everything else in town it was a throw back to another era. With it's art deco lighting and furnishings it took my breath away. I groaned when I noticed that it was also packed with people.
"This is the only place in town to get ice cream." Allison explained noticing my dismay. "Fortunately it is great. Look I think there is a booth opening up." We moved quickly and grabbed the booth as soon as the two young gentlemen who had been occupying it stood.
"Good work." I complimented her.
"I had no intention of standing outside." Allison griped as she discreetly slipped off her high heels. "It is not usually this busy during the week but with classes starting tomorrow everyone is out running last minute errands."
"How can there be only ice cream place in town?" I asked in amazement recalling how small I had always viewed New Haven to be.
"Haven is a small town." Allison stated simply. "There is only one ice cream palor, one Chinese restaurant, one bakery, one drug store, etc. Every couple of years or so some big chain tries to move in. They never survive. Sometimes I think that this town is stuck in somekind of Normal Rockwell painting. After all of those years with the hustle and coldness of living in New York City I have really come to love the quiet of this little town. And if I get bored with the crickets chirping I can always head down Rte. 128 and go into Boston. And of course this time of year a trip to Salem is always a lot of fun."
"The Witch City?" I could barely contain my excitement. "How far away is Salem? I am really looking forward to spending sometime there. The history is fascinating."
"Salem is only about fifteen minutes away by car. I could take you there some weekend. I know which tourist traps to avoid." Allison offered.
"I would love it."
"Unless of course you wanted to go with Peter." Allison added sullenly.
"Peter." I sighed. "Here we go again."
"Stephanie don't." Allison cautioned as she rubbed her eyes. For the first time I could see how withdrawn she looked. The dark circles under her eyes caused my heart to drop. "I mean it Stephanie." Allison said firmly as she looked deep into my eyes for the first time since last evening. They were bloodshot. Has she been crying? What have I done? "Look I owe you an explaination. Well not an explaination really just that I should make a few things clear about myself. We have a few moments before our waitor will get a chance to make his way over here. Why don't I try to fill you in."
I nodded in agreement anixous to have some insight into this woman who had captivated me. "You know about Chris." Allison began slowly. "Well as I said this afternoon we worked together. What hurt me the most was when I realized that most of the people I worked with must have known that she was running around on me. To know that my colleagues just turned a blind eye to it and probably gossiped about it behind my back really hurt my feelings."
"I can understand that."
"What you don't understand and what Maureen does not know is that in the end I probably hurt her more than she ever hurt me."
"That I don't understand." Now I was really confused. Chris cheated on her betrayed her trust and left her open for gossip in her workplace. How could anyone hurt someone more than that?
"After we split Chris wanted a second chance." Allison explained. "When I flatly refused she began to drag out our break up. We had lived together and there were details that needed to be taken care of. Chris was in no hurry to close our relationship. I don't know maybe she thought given enough time she could win me back. At that point I just wanted out. Finally one night in a moment of anger I admitted to her that I was never really in love with her. That our getting together had more to do with timingthan passion. I know this is going to sound cold but she simply fit into my life plan."
A wave of guilt rushed over me as I realized the cruelty of the situation. A cruelty that I was also guilty of with Peter. Did I truely love him or did he just fit into some ideal that I had been creating? "It was at that moment that our amicable break up turned very ugly." Allison went on.
"So that is how Chris got the BMW."
"And I got out." Allison admitted with a deep sigh. "I know that Chris gets a bad rap from Maureen. But you have to understand that I was never really there for her. On the other hand she is not a monogamous person by nature. The worse part of all of this is that Chris and I had been really good friends before we were lovers. It has taken a long time but we are friends again. But we will never be as close as were once were. Of course it doesn't help that every once and awhile she tries to hand me that baby won't you please come back crap."
"Would you ever go back to her?" I asked with hesitation.
"No." Allison answered firmly. "It would be easy to do. Life with Chris would be comfortable. But she has the fidelity level of a Kennedy . It is not even that honestly, the bottom line is that I am not in love with her. When I walked out on her I knew that I wanted more from life than to settle."
Thankfully our waitor chose that moment to arrive before I could further berate myself for the way I had been directing my life. "Would you like luncheon or dessert menus Professor Kendell?" He asked sweetly.
"Neither Vince." Allison instructed. "I will have the Aloha Sundae."
"Great." He beamed. "And what would you like Maam?" He asked innocently as Allison choked as I mouthed the word 'maam'.
"What would you recommend Professor?" I teased her.
"For you Dr. Grant I would have to say, you look like the kind of girl who would love the Sinful Chocolate Boat." Allison blushed slightly as she made her recommendation.
"You are Dr. Grant?" Vince beamed at me. "I will be taking your course of the History of the Free Masons."
"Good for you Vince!" Allison congratulated him. "Vince is pre-law but what he really wants to do is become the next Jack Kennedy."
"An honest Jack Kennedy." Vince cut in. "No myths of Camelot. Just honest leadership."
"How was you summer in New York other than hot?" Allison asked the proud young man.
"Great! Thank you again. I really learned a great deal from Ms. Beaumont." Vince gushed. "She asked about you a lot. She told me that if it wasn't for you reccomendation she would have never considered me. She runs the type of law practice that I would like to work for."
"Good to hear Vince. Now go get our ice cream after all of the walking we did today we deserve it." Allison shooed the youngster away.
"Yes Maam." He responded brightly as he rushed off.
"You know Allison if that boy really wants to make it politics, he needs to stop calling every woman over twenty five Maam." Allison laughed at my observation. Then she seemed to drift off somewhere. I watched her run her long fingers threw her raven hair. I could sense that there was something more she needed to tell me. For some reason she was uncertain. "So how old are you?" I said suddenly breaking the uneasy silence.
"Excuse me!" Allison gasped as she feigned false indignation. I simply arched my eyebrows in response. "Oh all right. I will be thirty six next November."
"A scorpio?" I purred. I am purring! Am I flirting with her?
"Watch it." Allison warned. "I for one do not believe in all of that stuff."
"You know the bad reputation that all scorpio's have. That we are mysterious and secretive and . . ." Allison started to laugh. "Okay so maybe some of it is true. And just how old are you Dr. Grant?"
"Thirty two." I admitted freely. I never understood why women felt a need to lie about their ages. Perhaps my self assurance stemmed from the fact that at times I could pass for a teenager. "You know the first time we met I would not have guessed that we were so close in age."
"Well back then I was lawyer Barbie." Allison explained with touch of saddness. "I worked very hard to fit that image. And I did. Except for the gay part."
"Did you ever try to hide it at work?"
"Never." Allison said firmly. "Chris and I started at Wainwright and Griggs at the same time and she was all hung up on people not knowing. But that was the one thing that I refused to compromise on. Granted I didn't rent a billboard in Times Square. But I never lied about my homosexuality. When I left I was on my way to becoming a named partner. But I never kidded myself. Deep down I knew that it was my name more than my talent. Maybe that is why I wasn't afraid of being out in a very conservative law firm."
"It was nice of you to help Vince out." I said trying to keep the conversation going. I knew that there was something she was not telling me. It amazed me that after such a short period of time I felt as if I really knew this woman.
"He is a good kid." Allison replied simply. "I just wanted to see him start off on the right track. Jessica's firm is a good place to start. She does a lot of probono and women's rights cases not to mention her constant battles with the slum lords in New York. Firms like hers will help him keep focused." She paused for a moment and swallowed hard. This was it! I knew that she was finally ready to tell me what was troubling her. "Stephanie, there is something else I need to explain to you . . . about why I was . . ."
"Allison!" A voice called out to her. I turned to see the older woman from this morning's staff meeting approaching us. "This town is just way too small!"
"Hello Ruth." Allison greeted the woman warmly. I on the other hand just sat there quietly thinking "Go away! Go away! Go away!"
"Can you tell it is the start of the semester?" Ruth laughed as she looked around at all of the people crammed into the small ice cream palor. "Hello we haven't had a chance to meet I am Ruth Steiner." She said as offered her hand to me.
"Stephanie Grant." I answered accepting her hand. "Now go away!"
"Ruth's specialty is the effects and defects of the American Constitution." Allison explained to me before turning her attention back to Ruth. "How is Emily?" Allison asked. "Please don't let Emily be her daughter!"
"She is good. Right now she is at a conference in San Diego." Ruth sighed sadly. I on the other hand smiled. "Yes she has a girlfriend!" Ruth went on about missing her girlfriend who was due home in a few hours. I had lost interest. I just wanted this woman to leave so Allison and I could finish our conversation.
Thankfully Vince arrived with our ice cream. Allison's sundae was a mountain of whipped cream and pineapple. My fudge boat was just that a very large boat of chocolate. I would never be able to finish it. As I sampled my first bite I moaned in pleasure. "Perhaps chocolate could be the key to help me survive celibacy?"
"Oh My!" Ruth exclaimed as she eyed our gluttonous portions.
"No need to worry I will work it off tomorrow." Allison explained. "Are we still on for tennis?"
"If you are sure that you are up for it Allison?" Ruth questioned her with concern.
"What do you mean?" Allison snarled.
"Well Allison you look . . ." Ruth hesitated. " . . . forgive me for saying, but you look like hell."
"Thank you." Allison snorted. "I am fine. I just had a late night."
Ruth flashed a knowing smile in my direction and before Allison could correct her she quickly said her goodbyes and was on her way. Alone once again silence overcame us. So we focused on our desserts. To my surprise we both finished the mounds of ice cream. I was beyond full. "I may never eat again." I groaned as I rubbed my stomach. "You want a cigarette don't you?"
"No." Allison lied as she shook her head yes.
"We probably have some time before Vince makes it
back over here with the check." I pushed. "Why don't you finish
telling what you were going to say."
"I don't know." Allison stalled.
"Allison." I pushed again.
"Okay." She finally agreed. "Well . . . like I told you before Chris and I were together were friends for many years. Before Chris and I were involved I was with someone else."
I braced myself fearful about what she might reveal. What if she had slept with dozens of women? How could I compete with that? Of course according to everything we had agreed upon I was not in the running for Allison's affections. Or was I?
Allison paused for a moment and collected her thoughts. Finally she cleared her throat and began her story. It was obvious that this was a very painful subject for her to recall. "When I first moved to New York . . . I met this woman at a local bar. Jessica Beaumont. Jessica was older and really fascinating and the kind of lawyer that I should have been. But after eight months I discovered that she had one major character flaw."
"Which was?" I pushed once again not certain that I really wanted to hear about this woman.
"Jessica had a memory problem." Allison sneered. "It seems that she kept forgetting that she had a husband. I was furious when I found out. When I confronted her she made it painfully clear that it was true. She had no intention of leaving him for me because she was not a lesbian. I was just someone that she cared about. This woman managed to convince herself that she was straight. Even though I had found out that I had been one of many women in her life. Jessica is so far in the closet that she would never admit to anything. Funny here she was telling me that she was straight. But she kept an apartment in the city that her hubby did not know about so she could entertain her girlfriends. And she cruised women's bars constantly. I was amazed at how carefully she had built a barrier around her closet door. I was also very hurt. I loved her and I thought that she loved me. When I realized that she was just using me I was devastated. I was her dirty little secret."
"Wow." I gasped shocked at how this woman's mind worked. I knew that I had been kidding myself about my feelings. But next to Jessica Beaumont I was a rank amateur. "So when I showed up and came on to you. A co-worker with a boyfriend you must have wanted to douse me in holy water."
"Trust me that is not what I wanted to do with you." Allison teased. "Stephanie this is not about you. Last night just brought back a barrage of memories. Ones that I thought I had dealt with. And I have . . . . but it hurts. None of this is your fault. But I have been down this road twice already and I have no intention of treating myself like that again. Been there done that! I like my life. I love my job. Yes, I would like to meet someone but I will not loose my self respect again."
"What if . . ." I started to argue.
"Don't!" She stopped me, holding up a protesting hand. "I have already ruined one friendship and gone through a great deal of turmoil. You and I are becoming friends. You also have a boyfriend, who is probably a great guy. Whatever questions or curiosity you are fighting with . . . I can not help you. I was being truthful when I told you that I do not want to confuse you any further. Plus I will let you in on a little secret. Most lesbians do not want to be another woman's first. Out of fear that it is just experimentation or just lust not love. Maybe I am being a coward. I do not know but for now I feel that I need to be honest with you."
"I appreciate you honesty." I lied. I really did not appreciate the obvious line in the sand that she had so clearly drawn. How dare she decide what is best for me! I knew in my heart that I did not want just Allison's body. I wanted her, mind, body and soul. Because Chris slept around and Jessica was a big old nut job Allison Kendell would not touch me with a ten foot pole.
"Now as your friend I think that I should take you to the grocery store." Allison offered suddenly avoiding eye contact. "Since we both know you can not rely upon my cooking."
"You know where the grocery store is?" I teased her.
"I think so." She laughed.
After a brief discussion Allison allowed me to pay the check. I wanted to thank her for all of her help. We strolled down to the local market. As we shopped we shared a cart- it made sense. I could not help but notice the looks we were receiving. As we strolled up and down the aisles we went over a list of what I needed. I felt comfortable with her as we argued over what to buy. I tried to convince Allison that fresh fruits and vegatables were a good idea. She in turn extold the virtues of Pop Tarts and coffee. When I mentioned that I would need a table for my computer, she questioned me as to where I would put it?
"I should be able to squeeze something in." I protested knowing that she was right.
"I have a suggestion." She offered. "My apartment is actually two. I took over the upper floor when the old tenants moved out. I pay a lot more but I needed the space for all of my books and stuff. I have a spare room upstairs that I never use. You could use it as a study. I mean if you would like to?"
"Are you sure?" I questioned her as I wondered just how does someone take over a second apartment and convert it? Most people would just move to a bigger place. Yet another mystery.
"It is just sitting there. I never use the space except for storage. The good news is that there is already a desk in there. The former tenants left it."
"It will not fit through the doorway. Believe me I have tried." Allison replied. "I think it has been up there for years and somewhere along the line someone changed the doorway. Probably when the house was converted into apartments. Someone just forgot to remove the desk."
After I reluctantly agreed to accept the use of Allison's spare room she decided to fill me in on our neighbors. Mine was the only apartment on the first floor since the entry way was so large. Which was typical of the architecture of the time. Behind her apartment on the second floor was Hal. He was a physics professor at Haven and a transvestite, so I should not be surprised to see a man wearing a dress wandering the hallway. Above Hal was Althea she was a cop on the local police force and I may never meet her since she worked very odd hours. After she filled me in on the neighborhood gossip we paid for our purchases and drove home.
Allison helped me unload my groceries and I kept mulling over her offer. I really needed the space and I would love an excuse to get closer to her. I just didn't want to push any harder than I already have. Lord knows I have not been the picture of diplomacy the last twenty four hours. "Allison, are you certain that it won't be an inconvenience my using that room?" I finally asked. " I do not want to invade your privacy."
"Please." She scoffed at me. "I lead a nun's life. It would be nice to have some company."
"Why don't you use the desk or the extra room?" I asked.
"The room is not very big and I have been using the same writing table since I was a teenager." She explained as she looked for a place to put all of the can goods I purchased. "Then again we may need that space for all the food you bought." She teased. "Stephanie I would not have offered it if I didn't want you there. It is just going to waste."
"So tell me what is so special about the writing table that you use?" I questioned her as I relieved her of the cans of soup she was holding.
"It was my GreatGrandmothers." She answered proudly. "Actually she was my Great Great Grandmother. The extra great just sounds a little silly."
"Haley Ballister?" I gaped in wonderment. "She does all of her work on Haley Ballister's desk!" The historian in me was drooling at the thought.
"Yes it was her's." Allison confirmed. "You know that ninety out of one hundred Civil War historians have no idea who Stephan Ballister was?"
"It is an interesting story." I retorted. "A gentleman from the upper levels of New Orleans high society chooses to enlist in a company full of immigrants and drunkards. Why?"
"And your theory is?" She asked as she folded the paper shopping bags neatly.
"He was not your Great Great Grandfather." I answered simply. "Excuse the extra great and any implications against your family name."
"Please." Allison scoffed. "You don't even want to know how the Kendell's made their money. As for the Ballisters they were plantation owners in the deep south. I do not have to explain to you what that means. They made their name off of the backs of people they enslaved. Not a very proud history if you ask me."
"Is that why the family won't show the diaries?" I began to wonder if I was on the right track with my theory.
"No." Allison answered with a smile. "Haley wasn't like the others. Truth be told we have shown the diaries. But no one wanted to tell the true story."
"You are kidding?" I was amazed. "What was in those diaries? Maybe nothing at all? Then why not just say that?"
"No." Allison sighed deeply. "I have always wanted to. You know that Maureen is pushing me to publish."
"I heard." I answered quietly trying not to get my hopes up.
"Oh?" Allison smiled with a cocky grin. "My previous books were well . . . let's just say they had a lot of pictures in them. Your books on the other hand are brilliant. Is there any chance that you would consider co-writting Haley's story with me?"
I wanted to leap into her arms and not just because she had just offered me the opportunity of a lifetime. I really need to find some way of controlling my emotions. "Are you certain?" I asked carefully. "After last night do you think that you can trust me?"
"Last night was last night." Her deep voice answered soothingly. "You are a brilliant writer and a dedicated scholar. Just because you found me attractive while under the influence of tequila is no reason not to trust you. After some ups and downs we did manage to get through today. I am thinking that it was just the tequila talking."
"And if it wasn't?" I asked seriously.
"Peter." She responded flatly.
"Do you find it strange that you mention his name more than I do?" I said quietly. "I am starting to realize that I might be doing to him what you did to Chris."
"You make your own choices." Allison stated sadly. "I would like to make one suggestion. Perhaps the next time you kiss a woman you might want to try it sober. It just might be harder to find an excuse." There was something cruel in her voice that made me shiver. Jessica Beaumont's wound may have healed; but she definitely left a scar. I was never going to be anything more than a friend to this woman. And a part of me hated her for forcing me out of her heart. A larger part of me wanted to hunt down Jessica Beaumont rip out her heart and scatter it to the four winds. I was forced to abandon my thoughts of revenge when Allison suggested that we bring the futon in and get it set up.
After we unloaded the car and set up the futon we then proceeded to move my computer into the small upstairs office. Allison even offered to have a second line installed so I would have my own internet access. When I protested about running up her phone bill she explained that she used a cable service instead. She showed me on her own computer, it was amazing just one click and there you were. Even at the University we still had to dial up and deal with the constant disconnections and busy signals. I accepted Allison's offer when she agreed to allow my to pay for the instillation and the small additional monthly fee.
After we finished with the computer and setting up the last of my things in the tiny apartment, we decided to relax. We sat out on the balcony of Allison's apartment and looked at the stars. Allison opened a bottle of white zinfandel. She gave me a glass after I pledged scout's honor not to let it go to my head. I knew that she was teasing. But I was also aware that there was just a hint of truth in her joking. A part of me was hurt and a part of me was offended. How could I be feeling so many conflicting emotions at once. As I stared at the stars I wondered had I really been living my life of just simply walking through it?
Allison excused herself for a moment and upon her return she handed me a leather bound journal. I ran my hands over it as if it were the holy grail. "I have read all of them. If you want to do this then you have some catching up to do." Allison said with a smile. My heart skipped a beat at the sight of her standing there in the moonlight. "That is the first one it covers the war years." Allison went on to explain apparently unaware of my staring.
"I can not believe that I am holding this." I gushed.
"I am going to bed." Allison answered with a yawn. "Stay if you like. I often come out here to read when the weather is good. There is something about the stars and the faint smell of the ocean. I find it peaceful."
I thanked her as she went off to bed. I decided to stay and read. For the first time in my life I was not looking forward to sleeping alone. Normally I hated it when Peter and I slept together. I did not treasure the intimacy the way he did. Tonight I wanted nothing more. I wanted to lay beside Allison as we had this morning all warm and close snuggled up in the feather bead safe in her arms. I promised myself I would read for a short while than go downstairs to my apartment and sleep on my new futon. I sipped my wine and opened Haley Ballister's journal. My heart skipped a beat as the musty scent from the pages surrounded me. I had dreamed of this moment for years. Nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to discover.
June 10, 1862
It feels good to finally have the time to put my thoughts on paper. My old journals are forever lost since my banishment over two years ago. I am a Yankee trapped in a world that I simply do not understand. I will never return home. Home? I must learn to accept that I no longer have a home. I was a happy child living with Ma and Pa on our farm not far from Lowell. I will never utter the name of that hateful place again. The good God fearing church folk sent me away and told me that I could never return. My family made no valiant effort to save me from the disgrace. For I have shamed them in the eyes of the Lord. Now I live in another small town somewhere in Virginia. The town is called Haverstone. I am not entirely certain as to where in Virginia it is located. Haverstone is simply where I stopped. I had been traveling for so long. I walked into Haverstone as I had walked into so many towns. One looking like all of the others I have seen in my travels. I look for work but it was the same as everywhere else. I have no skills or references. I am a young girl traveling alone, which to many all means one thing.
With the war there is very little work here for those who live her much less for a strange Yankee girl. I remember thinking that perhaps I should travel back North. There must be some work in New York. But I tried New York once before and the only offers I received were indecent. My first day in town had been a disappointment. When night fell I made my way to the stables. I have found that by going there late in the evening I could sometimes find an empty stall and sleep there. It was risky but I knew that I could not trust the openess of the streets. I cried myself to sleep not for the first time. I was awaken by the sight of a very large man standing over me. Fearful I tried to run but he caught me easily. I struggled to free myself. "It is all right." He reassured me. I have heard those words from men before. The end was always the same. They would provide me with safety only if I gave myself to them. I am ashamed that I have allowed this transgression to occur.
My fortune changed when this man turned out to be different from the others. He told me of a woman who would take me in for the night and feed me. No questions asked and no payment required. I still did not trust him entirely. But the thought of a bed and food was far too tempting. I could not remember my last meal. He brought me to a grand house just outside of town. He led me around back so I would not be confused with one of the working girls. My stomach learched as I realized where he had brought me. I assumed that he would recieve somekind of payment for his new find. I had heard the women in town cackling about this place. Mrs. Moorehouse's whorehouse. To my surprise my savoir delivered me and told me to take care and then simply left.
I turn to run out of the door when I was greeted by an gentle lady. Anna Moorehouse turned out to be the kindest soul I would ever meet. She took me and fed me without asking for anything in return. She only offered me a place to stay and a job as a cook. I failed terribly in the kitchen. Anna patiently tried to teach me. She made it clear that I would not become a working girl. I was no cook and I was no fool I would not live off this woman's generousity. I needed money and it was I who offered my services to the house. Anna tried to talk me out of it. I explained that it would not be the first time I earned my way in this manner.
I was saw true saddness in the older woman's face upon hearing these words. Finally she accepted my offer. Anna explained that if I did go to work for her in that manner that I would not be allowed to stay on. She instructed me to earn the money that I needed and then I was to go and start a new life and I was to forget this place. I quickly learned that this was Anna policy. She helped all of her girls get back on their feet and build a savings then gave them a little something extra and helped them relocate and start a new life.
Over the next few months I learned how this fine lady came to be a Madame. She was living in Savannah with her husband and child. Her husband was a doctor and her life was very proper. Until the unthinkable happened. The good doctor abandoned her and her child. Instead of recieving kindness from her neighbors she was shunned. Disgraced in the eyes of proper society. Funny her husband was a cad and yet she and her child paid the price for his misdeeds. She was left with the good doctors debts and no skills. A marked woman much like myself with nowhere to turn. Finally she sent her daughter away when she lost their modest home. Then she was turned out onto the streets and began the only trade available for a woman on her own.
Some years ago Anna's daughter Sarah died from scarlet fever. Anna was forever gratful that young Sarah never learned of her Mother's profession. I found myself trusting her so much. Though she never asked I told her my own story. Of how a beautiful young girl who lived from the upper levels of my town's society, charmed me and took me to her bed. Emily and I found pleasure with one another for almost three years before our secret was revealed. Since Emily was from a good family I must have been the one who had led her down this evil road. She never defended me or our love. She lied saying that I had been the one who seduced her into committing unnatural acts. I begged her to speak the truth and tell them of our love. She turned her back on me and I was driven out of town and told never to return.
The days are slow. Saturday nights is when we really have to work. Haverstone was out of the way so Mrs. Moorehouse's little hide away just outside of the neighboring towns was ideal for discretion. Many of the men we entertain travel in groups. I soon discovered that many of them were not really interested in coming to a whorehouse but it was what is expected of them. Men are such unusaul creatures. Many of them are happy if you just sit and talk to them. They marry women for business reasons and not for love. Now they find themselves alone with no real companionship. This does not mean that they do not want me to touch them. But they so many seem to enjoy the conversation more. Of course it does not matter if they do or do not touch me. The moment they depart my chambers they are boasting to anyone who will listen about their grand exploits. Those who have no desire to converse are at least quick about their business. For this I am grateful. I have no desire to share my bed with them any longer than neccessary.
With the war coming closer and closer even our Saturday crowds have dwindled. With spend most of our time waiting for the soldiers. The soldiers are trouble but at least they are quick with their business. Many of the girls have left knowing that they can make more money by following the troops. I prefer to stay. I enjoy Mrs. Moorehouse's company and I feel safe here. Anna and I spend our days just talking dreaming of the day when she can turn this house into an Inn a real Inn. This of course is just a dream.
I must confess even though I do enjoy Anna's company I have enjoyed a few evenings with some other the other girls who have chosen to stay on. I do not apologize for my actions. I do not enjoy the company of men. I only wish that I could feel something more than desire or friendship for those ladies with whom I share my favors.
I put down the journal briefly. So Allison's Great Great Grandmother was a working girl and a lesbian. That couldn't be why nobody wanted to tell the story. In this day in age that is hardly scandelous. I could not help but feel simpathy for Haley. She was trapped in a cruel world forced to sell her body just to survive. So how did she meet Stephan Ballister? I took a sip of my wine and continued.
June 11, 1862
We have recieved word that some soldiers are coming to call upon us. They are from New Orleans I think. Some of the other girls warn me that they are a rowdy group. They are know for their drunkenness and the company is mostly foreigners. Men are men none are to trusted. Sharla told me to go after the men in the Gray uniforms if I can. They are the officers. I find this puzzeling. Don't all of the rebs wear gray? Sharla explained that in this company they wear a more corlorful uniform with stripped pants and straw hats. How unusaul. Can you imagine straw hats in battle? The more Sharla and the others tell me the more I become concerned.
These boys from Louisiana have an unsavory reputation. Of course I know from experience that talk can be just that. But still I am worried. I expressed my concerns to Anna while we were unloading the fresh shipment of spirits. Anna quieted my fears. She knew her girls and would select their companions carefully. Admitedly some of the girls do like the wild ones. Anna knew me and she knew people. She could size up a man's character in the blink of an eye. A skill she claims to have learned after her husband left her high and dry. She has assured me that my companion or companions for the evening would be gentle or fast. Still I am relieved to hear that she has hired on some extra help for the evening. Some local boys who are big and strong.
Before the war Anna had been hiding run away slaves. Some of them have stayed on to work for her fixing up the house and keeping the peace. Anna has strict rules for the patrons for a price you can drink as much as you can handle and keep company with one of her girls. But any man who raises his hand in anger will find himself tossed out into the street wearing nothing but a promise that he would never enter her house again. As unsavory as our trade is Anna tries to maintain some dignity. Not one of us has choosen this path. The rules of proper society has left us no other choice. Someday Anna promises that we will no longer have to sell our bodies. I want to believe her.
Sometime I find it difficult to understand this woman. Before the war I know she helped runaway slaves. But now she uses her house to gain information to help the Confederacy. When I questioned her about this she simply shook her head and explained that she is a southern lady and that was that.
June 14, 1862
I am still reeling from the events of last evening. The boys from Louisiana arrived and brought with them many surprises. Sharla had been truthful about their strange attire and fondness for the bottle. More than one of the lads found themselves thrown out into the street. Anna pulled me aside to tell me that she had found my beau for the evening. He was a Sergeant and a gentleman from a fine New Orleans family. When I looked at him I was shocked. He was nothing more than a boy. How could someone so young fight much less hold such a high rank? There was something about his slight stature that I found attractive. I have never looked at a man in that manner before.
Anna explained that it was his birthday and some of his companions had paid for his present. His present of course was to be me for the entire evening. I immediately became fearfull at the thought of spending an entire evening with someone. Anna quickly calmed me. His commrades had explained to her that they feared that the poor boy was a virgin. He was young and if he was indeed a virgin this would be an easy night for me. I agreed. I remember as Anna escorted me across the room to meet my new beau that I barely caught his name over the noise. He name was Stephan James Ballister. I took the young man by the hand and led him upstairs while his company cheered him on. As they shouted their encouragement I noticed that a smile never crossed his face. Although it was difficult to see since he kept his hat pulled down so that it cast a shadow over his features.
Once we were alone I went to touch him. He refused. I tried to encourage him. Yet he still refused. I remeber thinking that this was going to be the easiest money I ever made. I explained to the boy that my services had been paid for and he could have a warm bath that based on his odor he needed. I also offered him my bed to sleep in. He could tell his buddies in the morning that he showed me the time of my life. "Why would I lie?" He asked me in the softest gentlest voice I had ever heard. I quickly informed him that he should lie, since his friends were convinced that he was pure and if he refused me they might think that he did not care for the company of women. I silently feared that this might be the boy's problem.
He laughed heartily. "So this is why they have chosen such an odd present for me." He smiled for the first time. I liked his smile. "I do like women and I have known the pleasure of their bodies. I just do not believe that a woman should be forced to sell herself." He explained. In anger I told him that unlike a man I had no choice. "I know." He answered me with such sweet sincerity that it almost broke my heart. I thanked him for his kindness. He was a real gentleman and I have not met many in my life. Seeing him standing before refusing my favors on sheer principle was something new to me. I told him that he should at least enjoy a bath and a good night's sleep. Suddenly he seemed to become very uneasy. I tried to explain that he could not return downstairs before dawn or his troops would loose respect for him. And he certainly would not be sleeping in my bed smelling the way he did. "You smell like a pig sty." I teased him as I removed his hat and ran my fingers threw his hair.
There was a saddness in his eyes that captured my heart. I kissed him. He returned my kiss with such passion that I have not felt in a very long time. His kiss also told me that he had been truthful. He has known the touch of a woman before. When our lips parted I was left wanting more. For the first time in my life I wanted a man. This man. I looked into his deep blue eyes and suddenly I knew. I could not believe that I had not seen it before. How had so many others missed it? Stephan was not a man.
God had smiled upon me and sent me this dashing woman who now stood before me. The sight of her set my body on fire. I ran my fingers down her long neck and kissed her again. This time when our lips parted it was she who was breathless. "How could I have not seen it before?" I asked her. Her face changed quickly as the words escaped me. She was afraid. I quieted her fears quickly as I kissed her again. I told her that I would never reveal her secret but I did want her to accept her birthday present.
She protested that she still did not believe that I should have to sell myself. She also informed me that it wasn't really her birthday it was Stephan's. I did not care if it was Robert E. Lee's birthday! I wanted her.
"Think of it as a gift for me then. It has been so long since I have known the pleasure of a woman." I whispered in her ear.
"Then you are like me?" She whispered back.
"Yes, we are the same." I answered her.
Well I certainly didn't see that coming! I was overcome be weariness and could not read any further. Reluctantly I closed Haley's journal and retreated downstairs. Curled up on my futon I could almost hear Haley's words "Yes, we are the same." I fell asleep with the image of these two women. One in uniform while the other explored the secrets that laid beneath. "Yup this is helping with my confusion!"
I was awaken by the sounds of Allison's morning concert. Today it was Cher. I groaned as I rolled out of bed. The futon was comfortable but not as comfortable as the feather bed in Allison's big brass bed. I had to stop this. I was going to get over my feelings for Allison if it killed me. "And it just might!" There I stood and my first thoughts of the day were of Allison. "Yes, we are the same." Echoed in my head. Granted not the most poetic way to say it but still it was so simple and honest. I had so many questions. I showered and dressed quickly for my first day of classes. As I checked the lines of my skirt I wondered if maybe I should dress more casual. The way that Allison does. Perhaps the students would be more at ease with me and I would be more comfortable.
The aroma of coffee drew me upstairs to Allison's apartment. As I walked in without knocking I told myself that I needed to stop being so familiar. That like Allison I should put some distance between us. I should have never accepted her offer to use her spare room. I vowed that I would use my new study only when I absolutely had to. As I passed the couch I could see Allison's tennis bag. She had a game planned with Ruth. Perhaps I should go? Allison emerged from the kitchen dressed in blue jeans and a simple white oxford. She warmed with her smile as she walked over and shut off the music. "Coffee?" She asked me brightly. "I bought some milk yesterday." She added in sweetly.
I thanked her and accepted the coffee. We went out on to the balcony and sipped our coffee. Allison made some comment about it turning into an Indian Summer and how she could never live in the midwest. I agreed after these few weeks at Haven I knew that I could never live that far from the ocean again. She invited me to come up on Saturday to watch the women's finals of the US Open. I happily accepted quickly ignoring my earlier vow of distance. I did caution myself not to read to much into her invitation. When I inquired about when her match was with Ruth, she quickly explained that they had already played.
For a brief moment I thought I caught Allison's sneaking a peak at my legs. Suddenly I was happy I had chosen the simple gray skirt that landed just above my knees. All of that working out finally seemed to be paying off. "Getting court time once the semester starts is a real pain." Allison explained as she gave me another careful glance. "Yes she is looking all right!" "But it worked out. Ruth was so tired from her girlfriend's home coming that I was able to trounce her in straight sets. Ruth is a great player you two should play sometime."
"You really love tennis." I said simply trying to distract myself. "So tall dark and brooding does find me attractive!" I must admit that I do look good today. I am so glad that I cut my hair. With the new shorter style I no longer look like I am still in high school.
"I know it is a stereotype." Allison teased. "If tennis were a religion Wimbleton . . ."
"Would be it's cathedral." I cut in. "I love that ad."
"What did you think of my Great Great Grandmother's diary?" Allison questioned me slyly.
"I wish that I could have stayed awake to finish it." I sighed. "I have so many questions."
"I bet you do." Allison added knowningly. "Before I answer your questions and I will not answer all of them. I want to know what it is about my ancestors that interested you in this story?"
"Okay I know I have told you some of this already but here goes. When I first came across Stephan Ballister I began to question his identity." I began to explain.
"Because he was a proper gentleman from New Orleans who opted to serve in a unit filled with immigrates." I explained. "No one from his station in life would have done so. And from what I have learned about him prior to the war it was not in his character to do so. Plus he was already enlisted in a unit more appropriate to his station. He was a corporal in a rifle company along with many of his school chums."
"True. His rank was earned solely by his station in society and no he would never associate with anyone he felt was beneath him." Allison added.
"So why run off and join Company B?" I went on. "A man in his position would have stayed with his peers. He joined Company B in the middle of the night. I never believed the story that he was eager to join the battle. Everything I read about his life prior to the war indicated that he was not that kind of man. Granted it makes a great story but somehow it does not ring true. Here was a guy who leased his slaves out to farmers in Texas because he knew that the war was coming. He would not take the chance that his slaves would be freed. He also started building business dealings in England and sold equipment and supplies to the North just to make a buck. Which I think he hid in England."
"All true." Allison confirmed. "So the great old southern tale is nothing but lies."
"Yes." I agreed. "Enraged by the approaching Yankee troops as they made their way down the Mississippi River he runs off to join the fighting immediately. Telling his sister to be brave and that he will return. That is also hard to believe since everything prior to the war indicated that they got along about as well as Newt and Candace."
"Oh yes his sister." Allison chuckled. "Eleanor the spinster school teacher, who dies when the Yankees burn down the family plantation."
"Now she was an abolitionist?" I inquire.
"Yes." Allison answered. "You certainly have studied this. Eleanor worked for the underground railroad prior to the war. I have a feeling that she was not very popular with her family or anyone else in New Orleans."
"You know what nailed it for me." I explained. "I came across a letter from a man named James Belmont. He had written to his wife. Now Belmont had known Ballister from New Orleans and he claimed that the man he met at the Battle of Cross Keys was much smaller and younger than Stephan Ballister. He suspected that he was a boy who was too young to enlist, so he simply stole Ballister's name. He also went on to say that he would not expose the young man since despite his youth he was one hell of a soldier."
"You are a very clever woman, Stephanie Grant." Allison complimented me.
"Not that clever." I confessed. "Never in my wildest dreams did I suspect that Stephan James Ballister was a woman."
"No." Allison replied with a smirk. "Stephan James Ballister was a man. Master Sergeant Ballister was a woman."
"Who was she?" I demanded.
"Keep reading." She teased.
"Brat." I growled in frustration.
"Come on where is your sense of adventure. This way you will enjoy the mystery more." Allison gave me a cocky grin. "You are so very close to the truth."
"I think I know." I confessed. "I can not understand how this happened. It never ceases to amaze me how history can be distorted so easily. Stephan Ballister is remembered as a brave soldier of the Confederacy who ignored his station in life to fight for his home. He will always be remembered as a fallen hero."
"Not when we get done with him he won't." Allison stated bluntly. "Ballister was a piss ant who bought and sold human beings simply because he thought it was his right to do so. You know that we are going to take a great deal of heat from the southern historians."
"I know." I sighed. Never have any of my books been a source of controversy. "What the hell if you are going to shake up your life Stephanie you might as well go all the way." "They have been extolling his virtues for over a century. Then again these are the same historians who have been writing that Anna Moorehouse was a widow who ran a little Inn."
"And Haley was a simple farm girl who bravely carried on her husband's memory." Allison added. "Although by the end of the war the whorehouse was in fact an Inn. But they washed away the fact that it was originally a house of ill repute ant the noble Mrs. Ballister had been a working girl."
"Speaking of which . . ." I began with hesitation. ". . . are you certain that you want to expose your Great Grandmother?"
"Of being a prostitute or a lesbian?" She asked pointedly.
"Either." I swallowed hard as I answered her.
"She was not ashamed of her homosexuality." Allison stated firmly. "And she was always very honest about what society had forced her to become. She had no options it was either sell herself or die. I think that she must have possessed amazing courage to survive everything that she did. Her story was never hidden away from us like some deep dark secret."
"I can feel her strength as I read her words." I told her honestly. "I just can not figure out how she managed to marry a woman and have a child by her? After all this was long before the days of the turkey baster babies."
"Now where did a nice girl from Connecticut learn about that?" Allison teased me. "Stephanie you are so very close to the answers."
"How can I figure out Haley's life when I can not figure out my own?" I said absently.
"You are close to that too." Allison said with a hint of hope in her voice.
"Thank you." I told her sincerely.
"For sharing this with me." I responded as I touched her arm gently.
She did not answer me. Allison just closed her eyes and ran her fingers threw her hair. "Where do you go when you do that?" I could feel her drifting away from me. "What secrets are you hiding Allison Kendell?" Perhaps there were no secrets. Perhaps she simply wants to pull away from me and all of my baggage. I try to convince myself that she does not feel the same way that I do. But somewhere in my heart those words ring false. We are the same.
Upon arriving at our office I was greeted by Grace. It amazed me how the woman could complete any task assigned to her and then collate it. Grace handed me my mail and informed me that I had something waiting for me in my office. I walked in to find a very sweet arrangement of roses in a porcelain vase sitting on my desk. I did not need to look at the card to know that they were from Peter. Like other offices woman began to find excuses to drop by my office. Everyone wanted to know who they were from and to compliment me on my thoughtful boyfriend. Everyone except Allison. She never said a word. Instead she simply retreated to her side of the office and busied herself with work.
The card was typical of Peter, Good Luck on your first day. I miss you and can not wait to see you. Love, Peter. Granted he was no poet, but he could still pull at my heart strings. If only I could feel for him what he so apparently feels for me. Life would be so much easier. I called him to thank him for the flowers. The sound of his voice failed to sway me from what I now know to be true. Since that night with Allison I keep catching myself looking at women in a new way. One night of lust had opened a Pandora's Box and there seemed to be no going back.
It was clear to me that if I am gay or not doesn't matter. I need to end my relationship with Peter. I am not being fair to him. "You keep saying it but you are not doing anything about Stephanie. Because I am realizing that I was using my best friend to complete some half ass plan I came up with years ago. Okay quit your whinning you have going to have to do this in person. This is going to be the hardest thing I have ever done." It was time for my first class for the moment I could forget about Peter.
My classes went the way I had expected. The usual grunts and groans when I explained the work load. The usual scrambling for pen and paper when I began my lecture. I tried to relax and make things light and fun the way that Allison does. But as I faced the same blank stares that I have faced so many times before I knew it was useless. How did Allison do it? I reviewed the final exam for her summer course, and based on the questions she did in fact manage to cram a great deal of history into those six weeks. Somehow she made it fun. I was encourage when I noticed one young man in the front paying close attention to me. Until I realized that he was interested in me and probably had no clue as to what I was saying. Now if my legs and breasts could give the lecture this guy would pass with flying colors. The poor thing left at the end of the lecture with his text book carefully placed in front of himself.
When I returned home I began to fix dinner. I decided to make a home cooked meal for Allison. A thank you, I lied to myself, for all of her help. I changed into a pair of old blue jeans and a tattered Yale t-shirt and began to boil the noodles for a lasagna. Just as I was about to start layering the noodles and cheese the telephone rang. It was Peter. We talked casually as I prepared Allison's dinner. He wanted to know how my first day went. I informed him that it was the same as always. He was so sweet and supportive and told me not to worry. As we talked I quickly mentioned that perhaps we could get together before our anniversary. There was no way I was dumping him on our anniversary! His excitement over my suggestion filled me with even more guilt. Poor Peter he deserved better than what I had to offer him.
Peter and I talked for over an hour while I cooked. It felt good to talk to him and it reminded me why he was my friend. I just wished I could feel something deeper for him. While the lasagna cooled I said my goodbyes to Peter. I went to my bathroom and quickly checked my appearence in the mirror. I combed my short blonde hair and brushed my teeth. When I looked up into the mirror I saw something reflected in my green eyes that I honestly never saw there before . . . desire. I brushed this thought aside and headed out to my tiny kitchen. I grabbed two pot holders and retrieved the lasagna and made my way upstairs to Allison's apartment.
Allison smiled when she opened the door and discovered me standing there. "Food!" She exclaimed happily as she ignored me and stuck her head down to inhale the fragrance of the fresh baked meal. "And Stephanie." I teased. "Yeah . . . yeah now bring the food in." Allison teased. Allison let me in and ran to fetch some plates and forks. We settled in and ate our meal. It was so comfortable. After dinner Allison cleaned up. I had offered to help but she insisted. "No way you cooked. I will clean. Coffee?"
"Sounds good." I answered as I rubbed my sated stomach.
After the coffee was brewed we sat on closely on her couch. But not close enough to touch. With our legs tucked under ourselves we sipped our coffee as I told Allison how my first day of classes went. "They never expect a lecture on the first day." Allison sighed shaking her head. "I don't care if they are Freshmen or Seniors it always comes as a complete shock."
"So you lecture on the first day?"
"Of course." She confirmed. "This isn't Junior High."
"I just wish that I could get my students involved the way that you do." I stated with regret.
"I am sure that you can." She said honestly. "Your books are exciting and you are a bright intellegent woman. I sure that you will get through to them."
Allison stood to refill our coffee cups. I watched her as she moved. There was something about this woman's presence that made me insane. Maybe it was her long dark hair or the way she would tilt her head just slightly when she was about to say something. Then again maybe it is the baby doll t-shirt that is clinging to her breast. "I have got it bad."
"Speaking of books. . ." I started as she reentered the room hoping to distract myself. "Thank you again for Haley's journal."
"You are welcome."
"Yeah, it was just what I need to reading right now." I added in a sarcastic tone.
"What do you mean?" Allison responded in confusion.
"Nothing. It just that I spent years dreaming of reading this woman's diary." I shake my head at the irony I am about to reveal. "And when I finally get the chance to read it . . . I am swimming in a pool of sexual confusion. So what do I find on the very first page . . . two women kissing!"
"I am sorry." Allison blushed as she spoke. "I never looked at it that way. I always found the romance to be sweet. But I must admit I was always grateful she never got graphic. After all she is my Great Great Grandmother and the idea of intimacy is well . . . you know . . . yuck. It is like thinking about my parents doing it." Allison shuddered at the last comment.
"Allison your parents have three children."
"Don't!" She warned me. "My parents never had sex."
"Allison if you want I can book you on a trip down a certain river in Eygpt. I am pretty certain that I have built up frequent flier miles by now." I know that I shouldn't tease her but she is just too cute when she is flustered. "As for Haley's diary, she may not have been graphic but there is some pretty hot stuff in that old diary."
"What are you saying?" She pried.
"I guess what I am trying to say is that it wasn't the tequila." I replied quietly hoping that maybe she would not hear me. By the stunned expression on her face I knew that she had. "Since that night I have been reviewing my life and there were so many woman and girls that I had such obvious crushes on. I can not believe that I never saw it before. The other night was like a bright neon sign telling me it was time to wake up."
"Wow!" Allison gasped. "That has to be the quickest coming out in history."
"Not really." I sighed deeply. "It took me thirty three years to stop lying to myself even though I had experimented more than a little in the past." Allison cast a knowing smirk and flashes those baby blues at me. "When did you come out?"
"Which time?" She laughed.
"What do you mean?" I asked in bewilderment.
"Let's see first there was this girl in High School." She admitted shyly. "While we were together I came out to myself and my sister. Then after we stopped messing around I managed to convince myself that it was just her and I started dating this boy named Kenny."
"You are kidding?" I was in shock. Allison seemed so at ease with her sexuality.
"Hey I have the prom pictures to prove it." She joked. "Then the summer after High School he came out. Then I went out with another guy, Ralph. I think he was seeing Kenny on the side. Then there was Paul and he also turned out to be gay. Then I went to College."
"Wesley." I added.
"Nothing but women." She laughed. "After half a semester of trying to convince myself that I had not met the right guy I had an affair with this girl. That was it I finally came out. To myself and my friends and family. I have been with women ever since."
"Were there many?" I asked not really wanting to know the answer.
"Yes." She answered honestly. "Before New York I played the field. Which is funny because when I was dating guys I managed to keep my virginity. "
"That's because they were all gay." I laughed. "And correct me if I am wrong but hadn't you already lost your virginity to that girl in High School?"
"True." Allison confessed. "The subconscious is an amazing thing."
"Tell me about it." I agreed. "I am with Peter because he is safe. My father ran around on my Mother and I knew that Peter would never chase after another woman. I never stopped to think that I might. Why did I never let myself see myself?"
"Are you sure about this?" Allison questioned me in a very serious tone. "It seems so sudden?"
"It isn't." I answered honestly. It was amazing up until a few moments ago I was still telling myself that I was confused. Or at least I thought I was confused. But there I was ready to say it and knowing that it was the truth. "Allison I am gay." A wave of relief washed over me. It felt so good to finally say it. "And even if I wasn't a Jan Brady girl leaving Peter is the right thing to do. I am not in love with him." "Wow that was so easy! But now how do you tell her that you think you are falling in love with her? I am? Of course I am. Come on no more hiding."
I reached across the sofa and touched her lightly on the thigh. Now was the time to tell her everything. She seemed to sense what I was about to say she leaned closer to me. I moved my body closer to hers. I could feel my heart beating out of control. I never wanted to kiss anyone so badly. I felt her strong fingers gently caressing my cheek. I tilted my head up as she leaned down towards me. I could feel her breath on my face. I swallowed hard knowing what I wanted. The telephone rang breaking the spell. Damn it! Allison jumped up and closed her eyes. I watched as her back tensed. She paused for a moment and excused herself to answer the annoying ring. The moment had passed. I stood and brought my coffee cup into the kitchen. It was time for me to leave. As I approached her bedroom door I could hear the tension in Allison's voice. "That is not my problem Chris." It then I decided that I could stay awhile longer. "I do not understand." I heard Allison protest. "Well you are the lawyer . . . I know that I still am . . . but only in the technical sense."
I mentally slapped myself for eavesdropping and made my way back into the living room. While Allison continued her conversation my mind bounced back to what almost happened between us and the fact that she was now talking to her ex-girlfriend. Allison finally emerged from her bedroom. She was visibly upset. "I am sorry about that." She apologized and then stood there awkwardly. "Timing is everything." She muttered to herself.
"Problem?" I asked finally.
"Nothing important." I could tell that she was lying.
"It is amazing." I said shortly. "How do you do that? How do you just shut down like that?" How could you be ready to kiss me one moment than turn to ice the next?
"Stephanie . . ." She began as she closed her eyes once again. ". . . look I think it is great that you are coming to terms with everything . . ."
"But." I added knowing that it was coming. She looked at me with a startled expression. Then her face grew cold.
"But there is still a guy out there sending his girlfriend flowers." She finished bluntly.
"Allison Kendell the portrait of virtue." I sneered not knowing who I was really angry with Allison or myself.
"Oh sure that is why I defended the tobacco industry." She flared suddenly. Realizing what she had said she turned away from me. This was something that Allison obviously had no intention of letting people know.
"You what?" I gasped in horror.
I could tell by the look on her face that she was desperately struggling for words. I swallowed hard and calmed myself. It wasn't easy. "The tobacco industry! Jesus Christ these were the bad guys. Weren't they. Calm down Stephanie deal with that one later for now focus on what started all of this." Okay I had flown off the handle and I had no idea why. Allison had made her position clear and that position was that she was not an option. Despite all of her warnings I had crossed the line yet again. I took a deep breath and calmed myself. I touched her innocently. "Allison." I began softly as I watched her chewing on her bottom lip. "Let's stop this right now. I should have never tried to . . . . to start anything again. It was not my intention when I came up here tonight."
"No I am the one who is sorry." Allison groaned. "You keep blaming yourself as if I did nothing. Then I am the one who gets upset. Damn why is this so hard?"
"Hey forget it." I said gently. "Look we can stand here all night apologizing and blaming ourselves or I can go downstairs and get some sleep." Allison smiled at my suggestion and we said our goodnights at a distance.
I retreated downstairs to the only woman that I was going to be with tonight . . . Haley Ballister. I changed into my favorite flannel pajamas since the nights had grown cold in more ways than one. I picked up Haley's journal and started to read where I had left off. It was June 14, 1862 and the war was raging and a young Haley had just met a beautiful woman in uniform.
As I unbuttoned the jacket of her uniform I thanked God for sending this vision of beauty to me. I removed her jacket slowly and then I unbuttoned her shirt. Beneath her garments I discovered bandages that she had wrapped tightly around her bossom. As I unwrapped each one I felt the excitement of a child on Christmas morning. Even now as I sit here wtiting these words my body tingles as I recall the sight of her nakedness standing before me. I poured a hot bath. Anna had instructed me to prepare the hot water for my special guest earlier. At the time I had no idea just how special my guest would be.
I lowered my beauty into her bath. Her face glowed. After all that she has endured the hot water must have felt like walking threw the pearly gates. While she soaked in the warm water. I gathered up her clothing and raced down the back staircase. I gave them to Sam on of the handy men. I paid him what little money I had to have him clean and stitch the uniform. I know that washing the uniform of a southern officer was not a pleasure for Sam. I had to plead with him to do it. Finally agreed to do it for me. Washing the clothing of any white man was the last thing Sam every wanted to do again. But for me he did it and refused to take my money. In a few days Sam was to be heading North. I know that I would miss him and I was truely sorry for what I had asked him to do. But I could never tell him my true reasons why.
Upon returning to my room I found my sweet angel just as I had left her. I washed her back and gently scrubbed her raven hair. With each touch I felt my heart beating faster and faster. After bathing her completely, I stood beside that old tub and disrobed. I stood there exposing all that I am. She smiled at the sight. I climbed into the bathtub offering myself to her. With each touch I could hear her pleasure. She pulled me to her body and kissed me as I had never been kissed before. As she released me she asked me to take her to bed. How could I refuse? I obeyed without protest.
I dried off my soldier and led her to my bed. I pulled back the bedding and lowered her down onto the bed. We laid together our bodies touching. I kissed her neck and tasted the sweetness of her shoulders. I looked into her deep blue eyes and swept her black hair from her face. I kissed her again and again. I asked her name. She did not answer. "Tell me your name. Before I give myself to you I must know who you are. Your secret will be safe with me. But I must know who has captured my heart." Never had I need to hear anything so desperately. "Eleanor." Was all she said before taking my body.
We loved until the call of the rooster distrurbed our bliss. We pulled the bedding around us and held each other tightly. Each of us knowing that this could be the last time we would ever see the other. I asked her where she had come from before finding herself here. "We just finished out running the Yankees in the Shenandoah Valley. We walked for days. I thought we would never stop walking. But Old Jack got us into trouble and we had no choice but to keep moving ahead of the Yankees." I was amazed by the courage that my love possessed. Yes I think of her as my love. Perhaps this is presumptuous of me but I can not help myself.
I asked her why she was pretending to be a man. She explained that Stephan was her brother and that she knew that the Yankees were approaching and New Orleans would more than likely fall. Stephan had sold off everything he could not carry with him and then he ran to Florida. Eleanor thinks he may be in England by now. I was stunned. I asked how he could just leave her behind. She explained that Stephan was a coward who did not care about their home. She laughed as she told how because of her actions in battle Stephan would be remember as a hero while everyone thinks that she died in the fire that claimed the family plantation.
I had so many questions for my lady. Eleanor answered as many as she could. Before the war she had been a school teacher in Baltimore. After the incident at Fort Sumter she returned home and continued to run slaves to the North. She had been involved with helping free slaves for many years. Home was a large plantation in New Orleans which her brother controlled. According to Eleanor he was a scoundrel. He had sent their parents to Newport so he could take over the plantation in their absence. Now they were trapped in Rhode Island and he had taken the family fortune. This bastard even tried marrying her off to an elderly neighbor. Stephan had hoped to gain control of the neighboring plantation.
When word reached New Orleans of the Yankees approach, most of the troops left to fight with General Lee. The Southern Navy would never hold the Union Army on the Mississippi. Stephan fled and Eleanor took his place and raced down to Nachez and joined Company B. Because of Stephan's social standing she was made an officer. She wasn't afraid of dying and she had killed others in battle. She was afraid of being captured or discovered. Her fear was that she could not rely upon her captors to behave like gentlemen. She made it clear to me that she was not fighting because she believed in slavery. She did not. She was fighting because New Orleans was her home. She told me that even though she was a woman she did understand that this war had nothing to do with slavery. I do not understand what she means by this.
When she left my bed this morning in her freshly pressed uniform I was breathless. She promised to return to me if she could. Until then I will have my memories of her touch. The sweetness of her taste and how I held her body. Unlike Emily this woman gave herself freely and took only what I offered. I was so taken with her that I offered her everything.
June 25, 1862
I find myself unable to perform for my guests. My only thoughts are of Eleanor. Is she safe? She promised to write but she needed to be cautious with her words. Each day I pray to hear something. I need some sign that my love is alive and will be returning to me.
August 4, 1862
More of the girls have left as well as most of the hired hands. Still no word from Eleanor. Anna and I busy ourselves with the much needed repairs to the house. I no longer wish to entertain gentleman. Anna has agreed that it is time to close the business and convert the house into an Inn. Our carpentry skills are lacking and the roof will not stop leaking.
August 13, 1862
Anna has recieved some news. There was a battle at Cedar Mountain a few days ago. Our boys rallied and Jackson led them to victory. Strange that I now think of the rebs as our boys. Many of the boys fell but Anna has heard that my young sergeant is alive and well. Thank you God! I pray for her continued saftey so that someday she may come back to me. It is strange the war is all around us and yet it can days sometimes weeks for us to find out what is going on. Where are you Eleanor?
August 15, 1862
I am truely blessed. Eleanor and her unit returned. They could not stay long. Many of them were disappointed that there were no longer woman to entertain them. Anna offered them food, bathes and a dry place to sleep. This pleased the weary men. I could barely hold back when I saw her walk threw the front door. I grabbed onto her and rushed her upstairs. After we made love, I returned downstairs and helped Anna care for the others. When they were finally settled down for the night, I returned to my room and Eleanor's waiting arms. What I shared with this woman was more than passion. I gave her my body, my heart and my soul. She left me before dawn. She promised to return as soon as she could. I begged her to stay. She refused explaining that they had a truce with the Union Army so they could bury the dead.
August 20, 1862
I praise Jesus for Anna's unknown sources. For they have set my mind at ease once again. It seems that the truce was not honored. More fighting broke out. But Eleanor's unit was not involved. They were engaged in a small skirmish elsewhere. Fortunately it was not serious. Each I day I look out over the hills that surround this small town. I know that just over those hills somewhere is the one who has captured my heart. Each dawn I look for her to come back to me.
I finally closed Haley's journal for the night. After reading everything that this woman endured so bravely and without question, I suddenly felt like a wimp. Here a sat in my comfortable home and I don't even have the courage to break up with my boyfriend. Disgusted with myself I turned off my reading lamp and crawled under the covers and drifted off to sleep.
I walk into our office Allison had departed quitetly this morning without her usual fan fair. I found her sitting at her desk working intently on her computer. I could smell cigarette smoke in the air. I walked over to her and gave her a knowing glare. I looked behind her file cabinet and discover what I am seeking. There nestled behind the file cabinet is a pack of Merits. Without a word a retrieved the half of pack of cigarettes and brush past her. I opened the window behind her and unceremoniously tossed the cigarettes out of the window.
"Brat." Was her only response to my actions.
I brushed past her without bothering to comment and proceeded to my desk. I placed my briefcase on my desk and returned to her side of the office. I slumped down onto the couch adjusting my the pleat of my skirt. "I missed my morning concert." I said softly.
"Things to do." She replied without looking up. "Here we go again. One step forward and two steps backward."
"I can see that." Was all I could muster up to say. If she did not want to talk, I was not going to force her. We continued to sit in an uncomfortable silence. The only sound was the constant clanking of Allison's keyboard. It was hard for me to phathom that just last evening I was a hair's breath away from kissing this woman and this morning I was being treated like a redheaded stepchild at a family reunion. The typing stopped. "Don't push Stephanie for once let her come to you."
"I can not beleve that you threw my cigarettes out of the window." Allison said finally looking at me. I laughed as she tried to intimadate me with her classic scowl. I shot her a look that said nice try. She just flashed me a cocky smirk.
"It is for your own good." I explained calmly. "What are you working on?"
"Notes for our book." Allison offered blankly as if nothing had happened between us. I did not know if I should be angry or relieved.
"Great." I answered with enthusiasm. Relief was the option I selected. "So it was Eleanor. What an incredible story."
"It is going to upset people." Allison stated bluntly.
"Do you care?"
"No." She answered firmly. "Now that you know ask me anything."
I smiled at the offer. "Anything huh? So Allison could you ever love me?" Sure ask you anything but the one thing I really need to know. I decide it was safer to stick to the book. "Did Stephan make it to England?"
"Yes." She answered. "But he did return briefly near the end of the war. He had changed his name to Arthur Fennamore. He sailed back when he heard that the Confederacy was certain to fall. Then he began to buy up property from the war widows."
"What a sleeze bag." I choked. "First he runs away then he comes back and takes advantage of those who stayed and lost everything. I mean if he had some moral objection to the war I could understand his leaving."
"He had no morals." Allison answered shaking her head in disgust. "While he was hiding in England he was selling arms to both sides. Just as everything is about to come to a close he hopped on the first ship heading to the States. Then he buys up land dirt cheap." I groaned in disgust. "It gets better." Allison sneered. "While traveling through the South ripping off widows and orphans he hears about a young Sergeant from New Orleans."
"No!" I gasped.
"Yes." Allison confirmed. "I don't know if it was curiousity or his over sized ego but he decided to pay a call on the widow Ballister. Haley's diary is a little sketchy on the subject. I get the definate impression that he blackmailed her into sleeping with him. The timing was just close enough that everyone assumed that it was her husband's child."
"Nice guy." I blanched. "Okay now Eleanor died in battle."
"No." Allison teased. "The end of the war was approaching. Eleanor sensed that the Confederacy was about to surrender so she deserted. She was terrified of being captured."
"Since she could not rely upon the union soldiers to behave like gentlemen." I cut in recalling the words from Haley's journal. "But many women were discovered passing as men and they were treated very well."
"She could not have known that." Allison added sadly.
"Tell me just when did she marry Haley?"
"Just after Eleanor returned from Gettysburg." Allison explained. "She had been wounded. Though it was not serious she became concerned that she may not live until the end of the war. They were very much in love and Eleanor knew that by marrying Haley she could give her respectability. With one simple cermony Haley went from fallen woman to an officer's wife."
"Well, this certainly explains alot." I said absently lost in thought. The historian in me was thrilled beyond belief. "In Haley's diary she said that Mrs. Moorehouse's daughter Sarah had died in childhood. That confused me since I remembered that my earlier research led me to believe that when Mrs. Moorehouse and Haley and her son moved up North, Sarah Moorehouse had traveled with them."
"It was easy enough to pull off." Allison explained knowing that I had figured out how Eleanor stayed with them. "After the war everything was in upheaval. And with no birth or death records. While they were still in Virginia Eleanor simply kept out of sight. If anyone asked they simply explained that she was Sarah Moorehouse. No one in the area had ever asked Mrs. Moorehouse about her past. Those who had known her before she became a prostitute knew that she had a daughter who she had sent away."
"Whatever happened to Stephan?"
"He returned to England and from there I have no idea what happened to him." Allison answered.
"I will research that." I volunteered.
"Great." Allison responded finally sounding relaxed. "There are some more papers and Eleanor's journal at my parents house. I will get them when I go home for Thanksgiving. Or as we call it Football Day."
"Why Football Day?" I was intrigued.
"Because my Grandmother is a Native American and if you mention anything at all to do with the Pilgrims she goes ballistice." Allison laughed.
"I can understand where she might have a problem with that." I added. "I can not believe that after all of these years I finally know the truth." I said with joy. I knew that I wasn't simply referring to the mystery of Stephan James Ballister. "I am looking forward to working with you Allison. I hope that after the past few nights that we still can."
"Don't be silly." Allison chastised me. "I was a jerk last night. It was the phone call. It was from Chris. It seems that my old law firm is being investigated. Some of my old cases have come into question. She wants me to go down to New York and work on the case."
"Will you?" I asked suddenly frightened by the thought of Allison leaving to work closely with her old flame.
"No." Allison snorted. "I am not a lawyer. Even though I still pay my bar dues. But I only do that to keep my parents happy. The only time I pratice is when I do some pro bono work for a woman' s shelter in Boston. Chris my have been a lousy girlfriend but she is a damn good lawyer. I sure that she can straighten out this mess without my help. I am not worried. I may have been a complete bastard but I never broke the law. Bent it a few times but never broke it."
"Speaking of which . . ." I wasn't certain that I wanted to bring this up. But it had been a nagging thought in the back of my mind since she mentioned it last evening.
"The tobacco industry." Allison asked directly.
"Well yes." I stammered. "I know that it none of my business. But I can not see you doing something like that. I lost my Grandmother, the person who raised me to cancer."
"I am sorry Stephanie." Allison answered sincerely. "I was a different person then. I truely believed then and now that everyone is entitled to a proper defense. My clients were major players in the industry. When I took the case I convinced myself that it was just another case, I was simply doing my job. Both sides of my family tree is loaded with tobacco plantations. Hell I smoke. If you recall back then the tobacco guys were winning. I was winning. Then one night I was working late per usual and I came across one of those now infamous internal memos. It made me sick. I packed everything up. Then I walked into one of the senior partners office. One who had the misfortune of also working late that evening. I quit on the spot. I went straight home to tell Chris. I found her in bed with another woman."
"Wow!" I gasped. "Your job and your girl all in one day. What did you do?"
"Came home." Allison asserted brightly. "I moved back in with Mom and Dad. I went back to school and I just started over again. I am finally happy. It is amazing really. Your life can change so quickly. For me it was when I read that memo. I knew then how much I hated my life and I was living a lie."
"So is that why you won't teach the course of the history of the tobacco industry?" I asked.
"I can not." Allison said simply. "It would be a violation of Attorney Client privilege. When I wrote my book I had to be very careful. Even though it was about the history of advertising cigarettes and I never once said or implied anything negative. The boys from Wainwright & Griggs went over it with a fine tooth comb."
We ended up talking about our book for awhile then Allison left for one of her classes. Per usual I watched her walk out of the room. I honestly do not know which I prefer more, watching her enter a room or leave it. The rest of my day went the way of the previous. Inside I felt a gnawing in my stomach knowing that I needed to break up with Peter. I also knew that I needed to get over my feelings for Allison. Last night my actions caused her to pull even further away from me. When was all of this going to make sense?
I found myself in my last lecture of the day and I was not looking forward to returning home. I was about half way through my lecture. My students were not interested. Most of them were looking at their watches. It was then that I saw a face hiding in the back of the lecture hall. Her head was resting in her hand. "Am I keeping you awake Professor Kendell?" I asserted boldly. The class was stunned. The turned and sought out Allison. Many of them seemed amused by her presence. After all Allison was one of the most popular instructors on campus. No wonder Stan did not like her. She just flashed that cocky grin of hers in my direction. "So Professor Kendell what is your opinion of the Free Masons?" No way I was letting her off the hook. This time she was in my classroom.
"A bunch of white guys creating a secret society?" She yawned. "What is so special about that?"
The look on my face must have been priceless. "Is she challenging me? The nerve of this woman. How could she be doing this to me? For the first time in ten years I had an overwhelming desire to kick Allison Kendell's arrogant ass!" She just arched that eyebrow and flashed that cocky smirk at me. "Tell me Dr. Grant why do you find this subject interesting?" She was challenging me! The nerve of this woman she comes into my classroom and challenges me in front of my students. I looked around at my students who were visably stunned. No way I was going to let her get the better of me. I squared my shoulders and stared her down.
"Well Professor Kendell since you are so interested in the subject allow me to enlighten you." I began to explain to her. I was on fire. I focused solely on the raven haired beauty who had challenged me. "The Free Masons started out with a very noble ideals. Today the organization tries to reflect these ideals and offers a more inclusive membership. But in the begining the structure of the society was very exclusive. Not intentionally but when you form a secret society these things happen. They drew the guild practices from the medevil stonemasons. The first Grand Lodge was organized in London in 1717. During the American Revolution the Masons were active in the Revolution and continued as a force in later politics. George Washington is known to have been a member of the society. It is rumored that his life was spared during the war when the British discovered that he was a mason." I was meeting her challenge. How dare she? First I find her napping in my class then she called me on the carpet regarding the subject matter. I had no choice I let her have it with both barrels. As I spoke about the intricascies and history of the Free Masons, I was on fire. Suddenly so were my students. For the first time in my teaching career my students were asking questions. When it came time to dismiss the class many students approached me with more questions. I gave them some references and explained that I did not want to get too far ahead on the first day. Some of them seemed disappointed and wanted to know more about the infamous murder.
Finally I managed to clear the classroom. I approached Allison who was still sitting in the back looking very pleased with herself. "For the first time in my teaching career my students were paying attention and not because the final was coming up. Thank you." I explained to my new friend.
"You love what you teach." Allison told me flatly. "They do not need to love it as well. But let them see why you do." She placed her hand over her heart. "Make it personal. Teach from here."
"I don't know how I can thank you." I said honestly.
"Buy me dinner." She laughed.
"Deal." I agreed. "Chinese all right?"
Since it was a nice night out we decided to walk into to town to the Jade Garden, Haven's only Chinese restuarant. Over dinner we talked nonstop about everything. We discussed Haley and the war. I was mesmerized by everything she had to say. I found myself staring at her neck and the slight hint of cleavage her blouse was exposing. Allison had unlocked so many doors for me. Thinking that she might be leaving in the spring suddenly made me feel empty. "Is this how Haley felt each time Eleanor left her?"
A week later I returned to our office after teaching one of my classes. I walked in to find a raven haired woman searching the contents of Allison's desk. Although I could only see the woman's hair instintively I knew that it was not Allison. "Hello?" I called out to the stranger. Her head popped up and I was greeted by a familar smile. The same hair, cheek bones and cocky grin. The only difference was her eyes they were definately not her sister's dazzeling baby blues. No Nicole had deep brown eyes. Of course the first time we met I don't think I ever saw her eyes. In fact I seemed to recall that during our entire luncheon the woman never removed her sunglasses. "You're not Stan." She said slyly.
"What was your first clue?" I teased.
"No bow tie." She said dryly. "And you have much nicer legs."
"Ah that Kendell charm." I sighed.
"What can I say?" Nicole smiled brightly. "You can relax though skirts are my sister's style not mine."
"No kidding." I snorted. She stood and noticed that she stood a few inches shorter than her older sister. "Why do get the feeling that between the two of you that growing up nobody's sons or daughters were safe?" I could not help but feel the Kendell charm eminating from this woman. Nicole just laughed. "Stephanie Grant." I extended my hand knowing that the chances of her remembering our first encounter was slim to none. Nicole accepted my hand and shook it warmly. "Nicole Kendell." She greeted me. "But you already knew that." She added in a questioning tone.
"Actually we met years ago." I answered hesitantly.
"Oh Dear." Nicole sighed. "What did I do?"
"How do you know you did anything?" I asked.
"Law of averages." Nicole answered flatly. "Come on. You will have to fill me in on just how big of a jack ass I was. To be perfectly honest most of the nineties are a bit of a blur to me."
I was more than a bit surprised by this woman's candor. "Well you and I had a luncheon meeting that you drank your way threw and then stuck me with the check." I explained hoping that I would not offend her.
"I'm sorry that really doesn't narrow it down for me." Nicole explained. "So tell me Princess is there more?"
"It is not important."
"I'm afraid it is." Nicole added honestly. "You see I take my steps very seriously. One of the twelve steps is that I need to apologize for the trangressions I commited while I was drinking. So out with it what did I do?"
"Well I was working on my thesis and you agreed to arrange a meeting with your sister so I could see the family diaries." I explained.
"No?" She was shocked. "Wow I must have really been pissed off at Allison. I am sorry that I set you up. That wasn't a nice thing to do."
"Water under the bridge." I brushed it off.
"More gin under the bridge." Nicole added with a smirk. "Hey I don't want you to be uncomfortable. I spent far too many years lying and hiding my drinking. I am a drunk." She said with a shrug. "I no longer hide it. Instead I prefer to have it out in the open."
"No problem." I replied warmly. This was definately a different woman than the one I had met almost a decade ago. "So why are you ransacking your sister's desk?"
"I need a smoke." Nicole explained as she resumed her search. "What can I say I traded one vice for another. I had the train ride from hell on the way up here. There was this kid behind me who only stopped coughing and sneezing long enough to kick the back of my seat. His Mother was to preoccupied with his screaming sibling to notice. I swear that family follows me everywhere."
I couldn't help myself but smile. Nicole was so much like her older sister. "I hate to be the one to break it to you . . . but Allison is trying to quit smoking."
"Yeah . . . yeah." Nicole snorted. "I am very familar with how the amazon tries to quit smoking. She always keeps a pack hidden away for emergencies."
"Well she did have a pack tucked behind the file cabinet . . ." I grimmaced recalling my actions. ". . . but they met with an unfortunate accident."
"Get away from my desk." Allison's voice boomed from the doorway.
"Whatever Amazon." Nicole grunted at her approaching sibling. "Where are you cigarettes?"
"Someone threw them out the window." Allison growled as cast an accusing glance in my direction.
"Got her trained already." Nicole chuckled. "Good for you! Don't you take any crap from the Amazon here, sometimes she is just too butch for her own good."
"Se tromper, petit soeur." Allison said quickly.
"Menteur!" Nicole scoffed. "Lesbienne?" "Well that last word was fairly easy to figure out?" I thought to myself. "The only other word I understood was petit. So what do we have little lesbian. I so do not like where this conversation is going!"
"Non. . . " Allison stuttered and was answered by a disbelieving glare from her sister. " . . . oui . . . complique'!" Allison groaned in frustration. It felt like I was watching a foreign film without the benefit of subtitles. The only sense of relief I felt was I now knew who Allison had been speaking French to a few weeks ago.
"Qu'est-ce qui se passe?" Nicole pushed.
"Rien du tout!" Allison asserted. But Nicole just stared back at her in disbelief. "Mon ami."
"Excusez-moi!" Nicole chuckled. "Pourquoi? Une belle femme. Vous etes d'accord, n'est-ce pas?"
"Oui." Allison sighed as she looked at me. "Elle est vashement belle. Ce n'est pas bon."
"Quelle dommage." Nicole looked sadly over at her sister.
"Excuse me ladies." I chimmed in. Enough was enough. "I would like to point out that someone in this room doesn't speak french and she is standing right here. Normally I wouldn't mind but I get the distinct feeling that I am being talked about."
"No." Allison lied.
"Yes you are." Nicole volunteered as she was greeted by an icy stare from her sister. "What? Well we were." Nicole scoffed. "Get over yourself Amazon and take me to the lunch you promised me. Stephanie would like to join us? Stretch is paying."
"Uh Nicole . . . I asked you to visit so I could discuss something with you." Allison explained looking suddenly embarrassed.
"Okay." Nicole began slowly. "So you want to talk about Stephanie when she is not in the room."
"Couillon!" Allison spit out.
Nicole's jaw dropped. "I'm telling Mom." She threatened. Allison just glared at her sister. "Sorry Ally." She said quickly. "Stephanie it was a pleasure meeting you. I am sure that we will meet again." Allison started to push her sister towards the doorway. "Hold on Ally." She slapped her sister away. "Stephanie I want to apologize again for what I did to you before."
"What did you do?" Allison flared angrily.
"I will tell you at lunch. Now feed me." Nicole demanded.
I watched them arguing their way out of the doorway. They exchanged a few more phrases in French which I was quite certain should not be translated in public. "My God, their Mother must have the patience of a saint." I thought to myself. "Maybe the brother is normal?" I said aloud.
Later that evening I returned home alone. As I stepped up onto the porch I could hear the Kendell sisters bantering just outside of Allison's apartment door. "Nicole did you listen to anything I said at lunch today?" Allison's voice rang out in frustration.
"Yes." Nicole responded calmly. "Did you?"
"What is that suppose to mean?"
"Allison I let you rant and rave about this tired ass list you have for why you should stay away. Frankly if you believed any of it you wouldn't need to keep saying it. I would like to add that maybe you need to have an operation to remove that stick that is so firmly shoved up your . . ."
"The truth hurts?" Nicole added gently. "Ally I love you but you are driving yourself insane over this. I listened to all of your excuses. I also saw the way you looked at the girl."
"News flash little sister. I'm a lesbian she is an attractive woman I checked her out. Big surprise!" Allison argued.
"That wasn't lust I saw in your eyes." Nicole countered. "Well not just lust. Allison you are very lucky she had her back to you when you entered the room. I never thought I would see you look at someone like that. I'm happy for you. Why can't you allow yourself to be happy too? I understand your track record hasn't been great."
"Better than yours." Allison shot back.
"Liz Taylor has a better track record than I do." Nicole teased. "Of course she has been married fewer times than I have. Allison stop taking care of everyone but yourself. You have worked so damn hard to get to this point in your life. Take the next step. She isn't Chris or Jessica and she is certainly not Brenda. And frankly not a one of them deserved you. I like this girl and so do you."
I was touched by Nicole's endorsement. Granted I was only assuming that it was me they were discussing. I suddenly became very aware that I was once again evesdropping. I stepped into the hallway and made presence known. "Hi." I called out sheepishly to the approaching pair. "Hi." Nicole responded in a surprised tone.
"Hey you are just getting home?" Allison smiled at me.
"Wait you live downstairs?" Nicole laughed uncontrolably. Allison nudged her sister. "What? You going to call me a bastard again?" Allison held up a finger in warning, silencing Nicole.
"I' m going to drive this idiot to the train station." Allison explained. "Unless you want to change your mind and let me drive you home?" Allison asked warmly.
"The train is fine." Nicole responded gently.
"You know if you let me help you get your driver's license back you wouldn't need to take the train." Allison pushed.
"I don't know." Nicole began hesitantly. "That judge was very clear that he would see to it that the Commonwealth would never grant me another drivers license while I was still breathing. At least I think that is what he said, I was pretty loaded during my hearing."
"I'm sorry I missed that one." Allison groaned.
"Well my DUI hearings were like my weddings. If you missed one you could always catch the next one." Nicole teased.
"Nikki . . ." Allison began sadly.
"Hey I need to face what I did." Nicole said firmly suddenly looking much older than her sister. "You can't save me. I'm the only one who can. This is the way it works."
"I hate it." Allison grumbled.
"I know." Nicole sighed. "Now if we are done sharing with the neighbors I have a train to catch."
"Come on." Allison conceded.
"Bye Stephanie." Nicole addressed me. Then she pulled me aside and whispered, "Good luck. Just remember she isn't as stronge as she thinks she is."
"Thanks." I whispered in response as she pulled away.
Allison looked at us suspicously. "Come on." Nicole ordered.
"Uh huh." Was Allison's only response as she eyed the both of us.
I watched the siblings bickering as they strolled over to Allison's car. Suddenly I was relieved that I had been an only child. Personally I don't think I could have survived that kind of stress on a day to day basis. Two things were clear. One was that deep down Allison and Nicole adored each other. The other was that Nicole was definately in my corner. The only question was . . . would Allison listen to her? I was exhausted. Normally I would have waited for Allison's return. But tonight I think that maybe she needed time to think about what Nicole had said. I showered and put on my favorite flannel pajama's and crawled into bed. I was fast asleep before I knew it. My dreams were filled with visions of a certain dark haired beauty.
END OF PART TWO
Tell me what you think firstname.lastname@example.org
Although Stephan James Ballister, Haley Ballister and Anna Moorehouse are fictional. The Louisana Tigers Company B was quite real. All references other than those involving fictional characters are accurate (Such as dates and battles the company was involved with). The company consisted mostly of foreigners and right or wrong the members of the company recieved an unfavorable reputation. The Louisanna Tigers were also known as the River Rats. Two of their members O'Brien and Corcoran the first members of the Confederacy to be excuted by the Confederacy. My apologies if anyone takes offense to my story suggeting that a member of the company was a woman. Although there were several woman who were involved with the American Civil War, some openly as female and some disguised as men. There is no evidence to support the claim that any member of Company B was female. So all of you nice folks down south just keep repeating "Well what did you expect she's from Boston. Damn Yankees!" Of course when we say that here we are talking about Baseball. F.Y. I Company B is still active today. If you would like more information check your local library or on line. Hey I did my own research so can you. :)