This is a sequel to my fic "Touch". You probably can still read this and make sense of it even if you haven't read "Touch" (but c'mon, give it a try --- "Touch" is only 7 pages long!). And as with its predecessor, this fic centers around a romantic relationship between two women, so if that's not your cup of tea then, well, read something else!
Also, it would help if you've seen the episode "Britrock". Unfortunately, you can't get this one on DVD so if you need a summary, send me an email.
Rated PG-13 for language and adult themes.
Thank you, Denisia, for beta-testing. I would be up a creek without a paddle if it weren't for you.
Stormer sat in the backseat of the taxicab crying softly, wiping her runny nose and eyes on the sleeve of her designer shirt. She rummaged through her purse but was unable to find any tissues. Then she remembered – she had given the last of them to Roxy during the plane ride, when Roxy had accidentally smudged her eyeliner. Stormer remembered looking at her lover and thinking how both comical and endearing she'd looked with a straying line or two of blue eyeliner marring her beautiful face.
Stormer looked up and glanced out the window. She nearly yelped to let the driver know that he was on the wrong side of the street but stopped herself in time. Everything would be different here. She went back to trying successfully to muffle her tears.
"You okay, miss?" the driver asked awkwardly, his first words to her since she'd told him her destination.
"Yeah," she mumbled, too upset to appreciate the driver's accent. She didn't know if British taxi drivers could be as loquacious as American drivers, and didn't care. She certainly didn't want to pour out her heart and soul to this stranger who was just as liable to turn around and ring the editors of the gossip magazines.
Besides, Stormer soon would be with someone who cared, someone she could open up to. Thoughts of seeing her brother again brightened her mood and helped her sit up straighter in the seat. 'At least I did what I had to,' she consoled herself. 'I spoke up and told the others that I was gonna go to London and see my brother.'
But Roxy had made no attempt to halt her. She hadn't even said goodbye. No words, no hug, no sign that Roxy cared one way or another whether Stormer spent the next few days with her or not. Jetta had started after Stormer, calling out, "But Stormer!" and there appeared to be genuine concern in her voice.
'So why the hell can Jetta make it seem like she cares more for me than Roxy does!' Stormer pondered, anger slowing beginning to replace sorrow.
She blotted the last of her eyes' dampness onto her fingers.
It was time to turn over a new leaf with her brother, Stormer knew. For far too long she had hidden way too much from him. Up until about a year ago, Craig had known only that she played in a band called The Misfits and that they were successful (though not nearly so much on his side of the Atlantic). She'd left out pretty much all else until Craig had visited LA and seen it all – too much – for himself. Stormer kept meaning to subsequently tell him more but the opportunity hadn't arisen.
Of course….Craig didn't exactly call often and he rarely wrote. They spoke on the phone about once a month, Stormer insisting upon paying for the calls. In terms of written material, no matter how often Stormer sent letters, the best she could hope for in return was a birthday or Christmas card with a few scrawled lines. She shrugged it off. Craig was a guy in his twenties. They weren't known to have a fondness for sitting down and crafting long letters, especially not to their sisters.
Two months ago, she had mustered her courage and told him in a letter that she was seeing a woman and had been doing so for a while, and that "things are pretty good between us". She did this soon after purchasing the earrings for Roxy. Stormer didn't give Craig any more detail than that. He had called her back as soon as he got the letter and told her that he wanted her to be happy and was glad she found someone. He hadn't sounded surprised to learn that he had a gay sister; perhaps – Stormer surmised – he had figured it out before. Craig hadn't pressed for more details, nor had Stormer been forthcoming.
"Roxy? The woman you're seeing is Roxy!"
Craig nearly spat the words out. The duo sat inside his tiny London flat, which he had cleaned in anticipation of Aja's arrival. Stacks of records and tapes, an old acoustic guitar, and rock posters – including two Jem and the Holograms' posters – were the sparse living room's main accessories in addition to the sofa and two mismatched chairs, one of which was a folding chair and the other Craig had bought at a flea market.
"Why are you so shocked?" Stormer asked, taking a sip of the beer he'd offered her, trying to feign nonchalance. She leaned back further onto the vaguely-musty smelling couch. "I mean, sheesh, you know what it's like playing in a band. You hardly get to spend time with anyone else."
"That's not the point," Craig replied, shaking his head. His shock over the news had launched him from his seat; he stood facing her and looking down. "The first rule of thumb in the rock world is that you never date a bandmate. And that rule goes double for you, given that your bandmates are a pack of vicious, conniving, low-life –"
"Craig. Stop," Stormer ordered, though it sounded much more like a plea than an order. "They're not that bad."
"Not that bad?" he echoed incredulously. "Did you forget what Jetta did to Raya's father's nursery? Did you forget the fact that they – including your lover – threatened to kick you out of the group?" He paused and then added, his voice full of disgust, "I should've let them. It would've been the best damn day of your life if they had."
"Roxy never threatened to kick me out," she responded quickly. She then added, passionately, "And Craig, four months after all that, I made a solo album with Kimber Benton and it went double platinum. They found me at Starlight Music and humbly asked me to return to the group. They know they need me now. Things are so different," Stormer said, impressed with the steadiness of her voice.
"Okay, fine. But you don't need to date one of them!" He shook his head. "Roxy's like a street thug to me. She – "
"She did grow up on the street," Stormer insisted. "She's someone whose family didn't take care of her at all. She had to pull herself up, take care of herself, and she's done an awesome job of it. She's incredibly strong. Give her some credit!"
"Yeah, and she probably lied and cheated her way through it," Craig snapped. "Come on, Mary. I've seen her in action. She doesn't have a conscience. I doubt she even has a soul. How could she care about anyone? She's like a shadow of a person. Not a real one." He paused his stream of words to take a breath. "I can't believe that this is what you want in a relationship. Are there no other lesbians in LA?"
The siblings talked in circles for the next ten minutes. Stormer knew her face was red. She lost the energy to defend Roxy, amidst thoughts of Roxy's failure to bid her farewell at the airport.
"Craig, this just has to stop now. I don't want to hear any more about what you think of Roxy or our relationship. I'm an adult now," Stormer said, keeping her weary voice low.
"Okay, fine," Craig replied. "If that's what you want, then it's what you want and I can't stop it." He now sat next to her and looked her directly in her eyes, which so mirrored his own. "But I tell you, Mary, that this is going to bring you nothing but unhappiness. When she's done something else awful and you're crying your eyes out, I want you to know that I'll always be there for you. And she will have to answer to me for what she's done."
That night, Craig tossed and turned. He was excited at the thought of seeing Aja again and hadn't been able to sleep well for days due to anticipation. The row with his sister, however, had been unpleasant. Not nearly as unpleasant as the news that her paramour was Roxy though. He overheard his sister from the next room shifting her position on the sofa.
Craig searched through his memory. Didn't his bandmate James have some distant relatives in LA? Maybe one of them knew a woman they could hook Mary up with. Someone else who'd be discreet and someone who would treat her right. He made a mental note to ask him about it. James had enjoyed playing matchmaker for another friend, Craig recalled. An hour or two before the sun rose, he drifted off to sleep.
Stormer gave up trying to slumber on the creaky old sofa. She fumbled for the lamp's on switch and found her novel in her bag. After ten minutes, she realized that she'd had no idea what had happened on the last two pages she'd supposedly read.
'A shadow of a person,' Craig's words haunted her. …Not a real one…Nothing but unhappiness…' The words planted themselves inside her head. What if there was a ring of truth to them? Roxy's lack of caring at her departure yesterday was a bitter ache assailing her gut.
Though she really wanted to call Craig out on the fact that he was lecturing her on relationships (she wished she'd remembered during the argument that Craig himself would have been going against his advice, dating a bandmate, had he been made a Hologram), she also wanted their visit to be a pleasant one. 'Maybe that can never happen,' she mused. 'Maybe as long as I'm dating Roxy, it's going to ruffle the feathers of someone, for one reason or another.'
Still, Craig was all she had outside of the Misfits. There were no living relatives, other than some distant cousins in Chicago whom she hadn't spoken to in a decade. Her unruly bandmates were the only family Stormer had, as dysfunctional a relationship as it was and as little as any of the others would ever admit to their bond.
She wondered what they were doing now. Was Jetta's story true? She had seemed confident on the airplane, but that meant nothing. Unlike the others, Jetta hid her emotions easily – you never knew exactly what was behind those smoky gray eyes. The fact that the British woman had looked cool as a cucumber during the flight really meant nothing; she wore her mask better than any of the others. But still. If Jetta had been lying, surely she would have called off the trip before they left.
But maybe, a thought crept into Stormer's mind, Jetta had been lying and her plan was to ditch the Misfits and hide – in her home country – to escape Pizzazz's wrath. She realized with a shiver that she might never see Jetta again. Stormer didn't mind admitting that that fact disquieted her. Over the past year or so, she'd quietly and gradually won over Jetta's respect and thus had actually experienced a modicum of warmth, sprinkled here and there, from the saxophonist. Stormer's defection to and success with Kimber had probably helped the most on that count.
She shook her head. Running and hiding wasn't Jetta's style and, again as much as the saxophonist would be loathe to admit it, being a Misfit meant a tremendous deal to her, Stormer instinctively knew. No one talked about their bonds but they all liked being in a pack. Even Pizzazz, for if she hadn't wanted to be part of a group she could easily have had a solo career.
She sighed. Her band would likely never be the same again after this. If Jetta's story was true, then things would change drastically for Roxy. She would have to live with the fact that she had been wrong; Roxy would lose even more face before Pizzazz. Roxy wouldn't be happy about that at all – she cared about Pizzazz's opinion more than she would ever admit out loud.
Stormer wondered what Roxy was doing right now. Was the jet lag bothering her? Did she regret not saying goodbye to Stormer? Did she miss sharing a bed with her? Were the sheets cold and uninviting without Stormer's presence? Did she miss touching and caressing her – for her touches had become so much gentler lately. Roxy had even allowed Stormer to touch her on occasion. The last few times they'd made love, there had been moments when an astonished Stormer took the lead and Roxy had seemed to move from tolerating to actually enjoying her caresses.
The first rays of sun began to poke through the uneven window blinds. Giving up on sleep and deciding that she would just try to nap sometime before Craig's show, Stormer reached for her toiletry bag and headed into the shower.
The next 24 hours were a blur. Stormer sat shaking, feeling every aftershock of the explosion. She didn't remember too many of the details. She recalled Kimber hovering over her, handing her a glass of water and later gripping one of her hands as a disapproving Jem looked on. She remembered watching events and sensing them bounce off her skull as if they couldn't be happening and she was instead trapped inside a dream. She remembered how they gradually sunk in and she slowly came to understand. Craig was safe. He and Aja had, thankfully, reunited and Stormer was well enough to feel a tug of well-hidden jealousy.
The siblings hadn't had much of a reunion themselves. The day following her arrival had been so busy, they never resumed their conversation from the evening before.
Stormer remembered Craig driving her to the airport in his beat-up old car. She had to meet her bandmates for their flight home. Stormer would have to see her brother play with his band some other time. He dropped her off at the check in and swiftly kissed her goodbye. The Holograms would be in town for just one more day and he wanted to spend all the time he could with Aja.
Sitting in the gate area, Stormer touched her body, feeling her legs, her arms, her hot face. They were all there, trembling slightly and still feeling the aftershocks but unharmed. Too much had happened during the last few days.
Her bandmates were typically late. It was a private, chartered flight on one of Harvey Gabor's Concorde jets; the plane would wait as long as need be so as to not risk the ire of its pilot's boss.
At long last, thirty minutes after the flight was to have departed, three figures approached the gate area. Stormer forgot her own fears and disappointments, and rose to her feet.
As the trio moved closer, Stormer could make out the looks on their faces. Pizzazz looked disgusted. There was another look too behind those eyes, one that Stormer had seen before, once even directed at Stormer herself – pain and betrayal masquerading as anger. Roxy meanwhile looked triumphant. And Jetta….for the first time ever she looked contrite, defeated, and perhaps a bit afraid.
So Roxy had been right after all!
"What happened?" Stormer asked.
Roxy snorted. "Jetta's story was a bunch of bull crap."
"Her parents are a pair of gambling addicts who live in a cruddy little port town," Pizzazz added.
Stormer's eyes darted from bandmate to bandmate. Maybe asking the question, as she had, was a mistake. She'd known the outcome as soon as she saw their faces. Jetta said nothing, only gazed at the floor. She looked more uncomfortable than Stormer had ever seen her, and perhaps even a bit repentant. She immediately felt tugs of sympathy at seeing the normally unshakable Jetta like this.
"So, uh – let's get going then," Stormer said, looking towards the gate and feeling glad to be able to avert her eyes from Jetta's face. "They're waiting for us."
During the flight, Roxy took several pot shots at Jetta. The guitarist had been subdued since Jetta's deception had been revealed, not wanting to attack a bandmate in public. Now that the band was in private, she stopped holding back. Several of her remarks involved Roxy affecting a (very suspect) British accent and imitating the Queen, a Queen who had no idea who Sheila Burns was but thought she may have been one of the palace's servants. Pizzazz cackled merrily. Stormer, silent during much of the flight, bit her lip to keep from laughing at that point. Jetta did not return fire at all, for the first time ever. She sat with her face flushed, pretending to read a fashion magazine and looking about as comfortable as someone on the receiving end of a colonoscopy.
Roxy grinned enthusiastically as she continued to trash the saxophonist, and Pizzazz frequently joined in the roasting. Stormer watched the display and was reminded of the old days, the deadly duo that a fiery Pizzazz and Roxy could form. Despite everything, their bond had always remained but Stormer had never been jealous. It was a platonic one. Stormer suspected that Pizzazz wondered once or twice what Roxy saw in Stormer and why she wanted a romantic relationship with the softie, but doubted that Pizzazz cared enough to ever ask Roxy about it.
However during the airplane ride, the subject that most occupied Stormer's mind was the conversation with her brother. Craig's words continued to roll around the inside of her head. She kept glancing at Roxy, looking at those sparkling violet eyes and wondering how he could say that she was a mere shadow of a person. She silently cursed Craig for not understanding, not even trying to understand. If he didn't love or care for her, then this would be easier on her heart and she could write him off, as her bandmates had done with their worthless families.
Roxy sat next to Stormer and occasionally held her hand, as she often did. "So, how'd it go with your brother?" Roxy asked, taking a break from mocking Jetta.
"Oh, fine," Stormer replied. She didn't want to go into more detail than that, and knew that Roxy would respect it. Someday she'd tell the others about the encounter with Jem and the Holograms and the explosion. This was a group that, if nothing else, respected the desire to keep quiet. She could also tell that there was plenty they were holding back, too.
'I can't tell her what I talked about with Craig though,' Stormer mused. 'What the hell kind of relationship is this if I can't share doubts about it?"
Hours later, both Roxy and Jetta slumped in their seats, dozing. The guitarist softly snored. Stormer shifted her thoughts from her relationship with Roxy to the Misfits' future. Seeing that Pizzazz was still wide awake, Stormer walked over to her and asked whether she could sit in the empty seat next to the singer.
Pizzazz shrugged, and Stormer took her place at her side.
"You must be pretty pissed at Jetta," Stormer began. She knew that no opening to the necessary conversation would be perfect and so just grabbed the first one that came to mind. It was better than beating around the bush, and Pizzazz sure didn't care for small talk either.
"What, did you take a goddamned therapist's class over the last two days?" Pizzazz muttered.
"No," Stormer said, mentally struggling to hang on and not allow her latent fear of the leader to surface. She had to appear strong and steady if Pizzazz was to listen to her words at all. "I was thinking about the Misfits' future though." She met the gaze of Pizzazz's stony eyes and, seeing that they were listening, continued. "If we kick Jetta out, it'd be bad. We need her for a lot of our songs now. Half the songs on the last album used her saxophone – some of them were big hits that we gotta do in concert -- and four of the ones we got ready for the next album use her sax too."
"We can always get another saxophonist," Pizzazz said, her voice emotionless.
"I know," Stormer admitted. "But the publicity is a whole 'nother deal. You don't want to admit that you -- er, I mean we -- were taken for a ride. And you know the public doesn't like bands whose members don't get along. You remember how our popularity tanked for a while after our fight on Video Madness. We kick Jetta out, then Cool Trash and everywhere else will have a field day, running articles about how we hate each other and such."
"Yeah, yeah," Pizzazz admitted, thinking of that disastrous Video Madness appearance and the subsequent misery that followed it. She sighed. "I'm not kicking that lying weasel out. I'll make her stay, and pay for it."
Stormer nodded and made her way back down the aisle. That conversation had been far too easy. Obviously the singer had already – long before Stormer's entreaty – decided to retain Jetta. But at least the reasons Stormer provided could serve as a way for Pizzazz to save face. The singer would never have to admit to having an affinity for Jetta; she could say it was all about the music and the publicity. However Pizzazz worked it out in her head, Stormer didn't care. She just wanted her group to stay intact.
Returning to the comfort of her seat, Stormer nestled her body closer to Roxy's. The sleeping guitarist automatically moved her head to take its place on Stormer's warm shoulder.
When the band arrived back at the Gabor estate, its members retired to their rooms for rest and refreshment. Jetta skittered away the fastest, like a mouse seeking the shelter of the dark. Stormer watched and wondered whether Pizzazz was going to follow through on her threat to make Jetta pay, or whether the singer was just going to forget the incident in the hopes that everyone – Pizzazz included – would forget how easily she had been duped.
"I'm exhausted," Roxy moaned, as they entered Stormer's neat room in the mansion. Roxy reached her side of the bed, kicked off her heels, and unceremoniously flopped down on it.
"But…aren't you hungry too? The last thing you ate was that awful meal on the airplane." Even Harvey Gabor's private jet was subject to run-of-the-mill airline food.
"Yeah, I guess I am. You got any Snickers or Twix in here?"
"Now, Roxy," Stormer began soothingly, "you know that you gotta eat healthier. I'm gonna go downstairs and make you a salad!" she suggested, with gusto. She had seen proof, during the past few years, that Roxy functioned much better when she'd been coaxed into eating healthy food rather than fast food and candy bars. "You need fresh vegetables, and I just know you've eaten nothing but junk food the last two days."
Roxy raised her eyebrows and smirked, but Stormer knew she was touched that anyone would be concerned for her welfare.
"Whatever," Roxy said, still faking indifference. "Just make sure you use that dressing I like. I keep it----"
"I know, I know. It's in the fridge inside your room."
Although Roxanne Pelligrini was not a particularly finicky eater, she was devoted to one brand of salad dressing and thus kept her own stash of it in her room, lest it be accidentally thrown out by one of the servants in the main kitchen. Stormer didn't mind fetching Roxy's favorite dressing. If it would make eating vegetables more pleasant for Roxy, then Stormer was happy to do it.
Stormer gingerly opened the door to Roxy's room and peered in. Entering it was always a perilous activity. The nights they shared a bed at the mansion, it was always Stormer's, never Roxy's.
The mess seemed even worse than last time Stormer had braved the room. The floor was strewn with clothing, guitars, record albums, tapes, cosmetics, shoes, bags from department stores, sex toys, a dilapidated drum set, soap, hair brushes, and countless other items. Some surprising sundries covered the floor: a loaf of bread (Stormer gingerly picked it up and pitched it towards the garbage can), two candles, a battered copy of Cool Trash, the latest issue of Guitar World, fashion magazines, and even a grade-school level book or two. Stormer waded through the chaos, placing each footstep carefully. Only tiny patches of the carpet were visible; most every inch of floor was covered by some item haphazardly deposited on the ground. Stormer continued her careful journey, attempting to reach Roxy's small fridge and hoping that the maids still sometimes ventured inside this room to clean the fridge. She held her breath and opened the door.
Yes. The inside of the small refrigerator was clean and only a couple beers and the beloved salad dressing remained.
Much later, the two women sat on Stormer's bed and leisurely ate the salads she'd prepared. She glanced at Roxy. A tiny sparkle peeked out from the guitarist's thick hair. Stormer smiled as she realized that Roxy was wearing the tiny earrings she'd given her.
"This is really good, Stormer," Roxy said, as she chomped on the vegetables. Stormer's salads weren't just a few shreds of iceberg lettuce and chopped tomatoes. She piled on whatever vegetables she could find that Roxy would eat: black olives, cucumber, creamy avocado, thinly sliced carrots, red pepper, and a few hearts of palm for which Roxy had recently acquired a taste.
"I'm just glad I was able to find the damn fridge," Stormer laughed. "Roxy, that room of yours…."
"Yeah, what of it?" Roxy asked, her back nearly arching in the usual defensive gesture.
Stormer looked at Roxy. "I'm not asking you to change it, Roxy," she said softly. Her voice contained no judgment or disapproval. "If you wanna have a messy room, then have a messy room. It's not up to me to say what your room should look like. It's just that…" her voice trailed off and she paused. "It's just that I wonder why you keep it so messy. I mean, even a hotel room that you spend one night in tends to look like a disaster hit it." When they went on tour, Roxy and Stormer always had adjoining rooms booked, which had raised the eyebrows of more than one hotel employee. Stormer then asked, simply, "Why?"
Roxy munched on her salad in silence for a few moments. She then let out a long breath. "I dunno. It's like I don't wanna….I dunno," she let her voice trail off as a darkness came over her face.
"You don't wanna what?" Stormer gently asked. "What were you going to say?"
"I can't explain it," Roxy sighed. She groped for words for a few moments, and finally said, "It's like I don't wanna leave anything like not done."
"But what do you mean by not leaving something? Are you planning on going somewhere?" as Stormer asked the question, she felt her heart rate slowly accelerate. She couldn't explain her nervousness, only that this was new territory for her and Roxy. She wanted to get inside Roxy's head even though she feared what she might find lurking in the shadows if she probed enough.
Roxy shook her head. "I just got a weird flashback from the time when I was a kid."
"Can you tell me about it?" Stormer asked. Her soft voice again was like frost on a peach; the normal throatiness was smoothed over.
Roxy again let out a breath. Her eyes met Stormer's, which were deep pools of caring. "Okay," she said.
Roxy told Stormer about eighteen peaceful months of her childhood – the only part of it that could be dubbed peaceful -- when she lived with her Great Aunt in the suburbs. Her mother had dumped Roxy there, for which Roxy later thanked every lucky star. Her Great Aunt was gentle and kind, though just as poor as Roxy's mother, nearly blind with untreated diabetes, and suffering from severe arthritis due to decades working as a cleaning lady at a motel. Inside the old woman's rickety house little Roxy even had her own bedroom, though it was smaller than most of the closets in the Gabor mansion. Roxy had never had her own room before; she had always slept on sofas or sleeping bags in her mother's apartment. Meanwhile, her Aunt Terry fed her, clothed her, never asked her where she'd spent the day, and never ever hit her. Money was about as tight as it could get, but Aunt Terry didn't spend it on drugs, alcohol, or lend it to boyfriends who never paid it back.
Roxy dreaded the day that her mother would return for her. Her stomach dissolved into acid at the thought of going back to her mother: the random beatings, nothing to eat but ramen noodles and Starkist tuna and plenty of cheep booze though Roxy didn't want it, shivering in pain at the cold once the electricity had been shut off again, and her mother's litany of loser boyfriends. (One of whom would later try to touch her. He inadvertently led her to hanging out with the Red Aces since her "home" was less safe than ever).
"Oh my god," Stormer said quietly. She always knew that Roxy's childhood hadn't been easy. Sometimes she tried to stop even herself from thinking about how bad it must have been.
"So anyway," Roxy continued. "It didn't go the way I wanted it to. Aunt Terry died. At the time, no one told me anything about it but I guess it must've been the diabetes. So I had nowhere to go but back to my mom. She didn't even bother to pick me up. I remember sitting on a train and then on a bus to get back to her and her crappy apartment. And everything else that I hated there."
Stormer gently set her salad dish down and reached for Roxy. She circled her arms around the guitarist's shoulders. Her touch was like silk. It was delicate but firm enough.
"So when I was thinking back to stayin' with Aunt Terry, I remembered that I always kept my room there a total mess. I put whatever I could find in there, I dumped stuff from the kitchen on the floor – whatever I could do to make it a dump. When I got back to my mom's, I did the same with the area around the sofa I slept on. As soon as I got my own place, the same thing. It all started at my Great Aunt's."
"I still wonder why, though," Stormer speculated, riveted. "Can you think of why you started messing up your room at Aunt Terry's in the first place? Do you remember what was on your mind?"
Roxy shook her head. "There was one thing on my mind at the time. 'I ain't goin' back to stay with mom.'" Roxy paused. "The thought of going back to her…made me wanna end it all. You know. Kill myself."
"Did you feel that way a lot?"
"Yeah. But mostly when I got to Aunt Terry's, 'cuz thinkin' back to livin' with that bitch – my mom – again was makin' me sick. And scared. So I started thinkin' about ending it all. I –" Roxy broke up abruptly.
"You what?" Stormer probed. One of her arms remained around Roxy's shoulders.
Roxy shook her head and snorted. "Maybe that was it," she said. "I didn't really wanna kill myself. I liked Aunt Terry and I really didn't want her to have to clean out that dump of a room I kept. So it was like…." she paused, her eyes wide, "it was like as long as that room was a mess, I wasn't gonna do it. I was gonna live. So I kept it a mess. And even now…I don't think 'bout dyin' anymore, but I still keep my room a mess, just as like a way of saying that I'm gonna survive, I'm gonna make it." Roxy's eyebrows knit. "So that's it, whether it makes sense or not."
"It makes a lot of sense to me. The messy room was a means of survival for you," Stormer said. She was embarrassed. She'd always thought that Roxy's room was messy because Roxy was just plain lazy or just inherently a slob. Her heart hurt with the way she'd underestimated Roxy. Everyone did. Stormer let out a breath. "Thank you for sharing all that with me. I know…it's gotta be hard. I'm glad…er – this sounds weird, but I'm like really glad you don't think about dying – killing yourself – anymore. I love you and I want you around."
"Yeah? Well, ditto," Roxy said, accepting another hug from her lover.
Roxy then swallowed and said, "Well, since we're – uh – on a roll here, there's something I wanted to ask you about."
"What is it?"
"What was the deal with runin' out on us at the airport? I was really bummed when you left us to go to London," Roxy spoke the words without anger, but because she was not a woman to mask her emotions, her disappointment came through loudly.
Stormer was momentarily stunned. She struggled for words. "I was really hurt when you didn't say goodbye to me."
"And I wasn't thrilled when you ran for that taxi like you had fire in your pants," she responded, with a bit of humor in her tone. Her words were serious though.
Stormer didn't know whether to be more surprised that Roxy had been hurt by her actions or by the fact that Roxy admitted it. Her own blindness to Roxy's point of view on the situation also stunned her. "I – I'm sorry," she managed. "I really wanted to see Craig."
"I felt like shit that night. Like he meant more to you than I did. And it was all the worse 'cuz I had to go to bed in this room in that damn mansion that Jetta was pretending was hers. It was like I was wrong about that, and I didn't have you. That sucked."
"I hope you don't think that you don't mean as much to me as Craig does. It's just that…I love you both, and I hadn't seen him for almost a year. I was so looking forward to seeing him. I know – um, your blood relatives weren't any good, other than your Great Aunt, but to me family means a lot. As mushy as it sounds. And I was like afraid that if I hesitated, you or Pizzazz or Jetta would make me stay. I couldn't stand the thought of traveling that far and not seeing Craig."
"Okay. But I guess I didn't say goodbye at the airport because I was shocked and really really disappointed," Roxy admitted.
"So…are you okay with me now?" Stormer asked. "I was hurt about you not saying goodbye to me, but I get it now. Do you get why I rushed out to see Craig?"
"Yeah. I'm cool with it." The pair hugged again, and then Roxy pulled away to reach for her salad dish again. "Man, we've been hittin' all the mushy stuff today. I feel exhausted!" She crunched a slice of red pepper.
"One more mushy thing?" Stormer asked, her eyes supplicating, knowing she was testing Roxy's patience.
"I love you."
"Love you too," Roxy responded.
The duo ate their salad together peaceably and chatted about the plane ride home and Jetta's insane scheme. After a while though, Stormer knew she had to mention another burning item. "I told Craig about us," she admitted.
"Yeah?" Roxy asked. "Lemme guess. He said I was no good for you."
"Well…pretty much," Stormer said quietly. For some reason, a memory flashed inside her mind – suddenly she was stranded on an island and kneeling before a hermit, telling him that love wasn't easy for her. She felt the balmy air breeze against her face, remembered the feeling of her clothing in tatters, and the way her face reddened at the hermit's attentions. She knew her words at the time had been true, as were the words Kimber had said to Jem afterwards. Love's not easy for anyone.
"You believe him?"
"No," Stormer replied, firmly. "No, I don't. I think if he only knew what I knew, he'd realize that we're good together."
Roxy shrugged. "That might not ever happen."
"I know. But it doesn't change things between us."
Roxy reached for Stormer and, with tenderness, pulled her closer. She beckoned Stormer to snuggle against her as she placed a few delicate kisses along her face. Soon Roxy coaxed Stormer to lower herself against the bed's silky sheets, while Stormer marveled at the tough guitarist's gentle and strong hands.
Several days later, Stormer found herself on the phone with her brother.
"You'll never believe it, Mary," Craig was saying. "I've been doing a lot of digging and I found out that James has some family that lives in LA. One of them is friends with this woman who's an agent for actors. She's single, she's supposed to be really cool, she's older than you but I don't think that should be a problem. She's very….um, discreet – I guess no one knows about her except a few people; she's even got a boyfriend for cover. James mentioned that he knew someone else who was single and…discreet too, and she was interested. Do you want to meet her?"
"No. Not at all. Craig, I know you mean well and all -- but I'm with Roxy for the long haul. I love her. I think it's too bad that you don't like it, but it's a done deal." Her hands shook but the voice remained firm. Stormer was glad for the fact that they spoke over the phone instead of face to face.
Craig audibly sighed. "Well, I guess I can't stop you. If you change your mind…."
"Sorry, but James' friend shouldn't hold her breath. I'm not gonna change my mind."
"Alright then," Craig said, and the siblings went on to talk about other things.
Stormer later found herself driving to the store. First on her shopping list was salad dressing for Roxy though she also thought she'd purchase a bouquet of flowers and see how Roxy reacted. Unlike during her taxi ride in England, Stormer's face was lit up by a bright, irrepressible smile.
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