The plane ride had been long. Six hours after their plane departed the busy O'Hare airport, Kim and Kerry arrived at LAX, only to collect their bags and rental car before a two-hour drive into the desert. Kim had motion sickness and Kerry's hip was, as she referred to it, "very sore," but both women tried to look beyond the temporary discomfort and think about the fun that they would soon have.
About a month ago, Kim's friend Joel had called, inviting them to stay with him and his partner Craig at their home in Palm Springs. Kim knew Joel from medical school at Johns Hopkins, and they remained close friends. Although she had visited him a few times after he and Craig moved to Palm Springs, in the ten years she had been with Kerry, life had gotten in the way of them ever being able to go.
Despite Kim's excitement, Kerry remained nervous throughout the entire car ride. She would periodically look up from the current issue of JAMA she was working on and would stare into the distance; a posture that those closest to her knew betrayed her inner anxiety.
"I don't understand how you can go on a two-month stay with the Tuareg people in the Saharan desert and yet be worried about spending six days with Joel and Craig in their air-conditioned house," Kim said with a laugh. Sometimes she felt like she might never completely understand Kerry, but she was sure that only made her all the more irresistible.
"I don't know, hon, I've just never met them before," Kerry said, shifting in her seat for the hundredth time.
"Come on, Ker, they're some of my closest friends. They're so excited to meet you in person after seeing ten years of Christmas cards!"
Kerry looked up at Kim, acknowledging silently what her mind knew to be true. Now if only she could convince her insecure inner ten-year-old that she was older now and would no longer need her assistance.
Kerry popped a Crosby, Stills, and Nash CD into the player. The two women sang along to song after song as they drove past countless windmills and endless shrubbery before arriving at a mid-century home nestled into the hills just outside downtown Palm Springs.
Realizing that she was, indeed, excited to meet Kim's friends, Kerry put aside her fears, smiling at Kim before she stepped out of the car. After a quick stretch, she walked over to the trunk to help Kim with the bags.
"It just hits you," Kim said, already sweating as she pulled out her suitcase which hit the ground with a thud.
"The heat?" Kerry asked, clarifying, as she pulled out her own, much smaller, suitcase.
"I suppose this is nothing for you, my very own African beauty," Kim said, planting a cheek on Kerry's lips as she pulled her head close.
"Oh, gosh, Kim, your shirt is nearly soaked through!" Kerry exclaimed, laughing.
"I know, it's like a free run with every trip outside," Kim said, returning the laughter. "You ready, Ker?" Kim asked, placing a hand on the shorter woman's back.
Kerry nodded, and together they walked up to the Spanish-tiled entryway.
A few seconds after they rang the doorbell, a tan man with dark brown hair and a warm smile opened the door and welcomed them in.
"Kim!" he exclaimed, pulling the blonde into a hug. Releasing, he turned to Kerry. "Very nice to meet you," he said, shaking her hand. "I'm Joel. I see you've helped Kim with her packing; something my advice has never seemed to be able to do."
Kerry laughed. "I did try to convince her that it wasn't necessary to bring three sweaters to color coordinate with different outfits just on the off-chance that it might get chilly."
"Well, we're never against color coordination, but I doubt that it will be very chilly!" he said, pointing to a wall thermometer that currently read about 118°F.
A tall blonde man with layered hair and thin-rimmed glasses came down the hallway. "Hello, all! Welcome to our sunny paradise!"
He walked into the foyer, giving them both hugs and introducing himself to Kerry as "the Craig you've seen in all of the Christmas cards."
"Mojitos, anyone?" Joel asked, heading for the kitchen.
"Oh, that sounds wonderful," Kim replied. "We've had such a long day of traveling!" She glanced over at Kerry, who heartily agreed.
"May I take your bags and show you your room?" Craig asked, picking up Kerry's suitcase and pulling Kim's.
He led them down the sunlight-filled hall, past a bathroom and study, and into the guest bedroom. The room had several large windows and décor that echoed traditional Mexican furniture meets modern art. Although a seemingly immiscible combination, Kerry had to admit that it was pulled off flawlessly.
"This is gorgeous, Craig!" Kim exclaimed. "I see that the years of remodeling have finally paid off." She turned to Kerry to explain. "When they first bought this place, it was a mess. But Craig and Joel designed this entire wing of the house and re-did all of the bathrooms. Honestly," she said, turning to Craig, "you both should have been architects."
"You exaggerate, Kim. Really, Kerry, the most hands-on we got was walking to some of our friends' galleries to pick out inspiration pieces," he said with a laugh. "Anyway, make yourself at home. And don't worry about taking your time, Joel can get to be a little perfectionist when he mixes drinks," Craig said, exiting the room.
Kim collapsed onto the bed, her fall softened by a mound of decorative pillows. Kerry began to unpack her suitcase, pulling out her cosmetics bag and taking it into their en suite bathroom. After filling a glass of water, she swallowed two Aleve and grabbed a motion sickness pill for Kim. 'God,' Kerry thought to herself, 'we are getting to be like an old married couple.'
She sat on the edge of the bed and placed her empty hand on Kim's thigh.
"How do you read my mind so well, my dear?" the blonde asked, taking the pill out of Kerry's soft palm and swallowing it down.
Kerry moved her hand to Kim's back and calmly moved it in circles, massaging any tension. "Didn't you know that I trained in Africa as a shaman?" Kerry said, completely joking.
"You don't say," Kim replied, playing along with the ruse. "And what was your signature treatment for motion sickness?"
"I haven't told you?" Kerry asked, feigning shock. "A nice massage from a devoted wife followed by mojitos."
Kim rolled over to allow Kerry's dexterous hands better access to her back and neck. "I promise not to disobey the doctor's orders."
I'm just getting back into the fanfiction swing after a long absence. Any and all reviews are much appreciated. Thank you.