Come Out, Come Out...

Info Smokey125
06 Jul. '16
Come Out, Come Out...

Originally published April 2016 as Smokey Saga #62

*****

Greetings, friends! Here’s an intro to this next story to tell you a thing or two about it. It’s set a couple years in the past based on factual events that happened at this time. These events observed by the characters are true, but these characters themselves and their story are fictitious. I hope you enjoy it, and I should mention that feedback on my stories is always welcomed, valued and appreciated. So feel free to drop me a comment!

*****

Let’s Play Anagrams: The Word Is “Vote”

Friday, November 9th, 2012, 5:41 p.m.

Out of all the individuals in all the diversity of human nature in all the world, they never would have expected it of their own Bridgette.

Every Friday, a group of four friends met to hang out, visit and just generally catch up. All graduates in the same collegiate class, they collectively straddled the line between early and mid-20s. While none had a life-spanning career laid out just yet, three of them worked part- or full-time. And now having moved out of Denmore’s dorms, a different three of the four proceeded to set camp back up with their folks, for both security in shelter and familial comfort, while gathering together pieces of their own futures.

In the meanwhile, each member of the quartet found or made time in their late Friday afternoons for food, a few laughs, and social discussion. The ritual originated as a series of biweekly encounters between classmates Emily Conwell and Sam Madden, who shared a history course a few years earlier. They sat in neighboring seats and got a friendship off the ground by helping each other study. Then one day Emily introduced Sam to her dormmate and best friend Bridgette Carter.

Sammy’s friend bond with Em was important to him, and he didn’t want to do anything to hurt it. But meeting Bridgette challenged him not to fall for her, practically on the spot. Not that this was a new phenomenon to Bridgette (or Emily). Shapely, 5’7”, fair-haired and ivory-skinned, with mystifyingly big blue eyes, Bridgette was counted among the exceptionally beautiful. On her own, Emily was considered by many cutely above average, but lacked her B.F.F.’s effortless charm to entrance a gynephile out of his—or her—shoes.

Regardless, single and unattached as he was, again, Sam wanted to hold on to Emily as a buddy. So he drew the line with Bridgette at mere friendship as well. After a while hanging out as a trio, Sam eventually brought onboard a friend of his own. He’d originally met Ian Summers as a teenager, and had reconnected with him after falling out of touch for years. Now he wished to open one of the corners, and turn their triangle of camaraderie into a square. He first “prepped” Ian, explaining to him though one of these two girls was a hot blonde vixen, she was off-limits if their friendship was to remain intact. And then there were four: two boys and two girls.

Little did Sam suppose that once he introduced them, another impact would hit. While he’d agree his pal Ian wasn’t half-bad-looking either, to his surprise, when his girl-chum Emily saw Ian, she went silly in the head. Ian was, in fact, exactly the type of man Emily found wildly handsome and sexy. Her eyes practically turned into hearts and jumped right out at him. Like Sam, Emily valued their friendship, but oh, was he devastating. Sam and Bridgette had a feeling something was up when they met, but they knew their suspicion was confirmed when they started hanging out. Emily turned into one flirty bird with Ian around, and giggled like a giddy schoolgirl when he said anything remotely clever or witty—more than once prompting Sam to think, Geez, Em, he’s not that funny; calm down! Of course, when Bridgette made the occasional joke, Sammy couldn’t deny the urge to compliment her by L.O.L.’ing as well.

When they weren’t just relaxing—and/or sleeping over—in their college dorms, they jaunted over to the nearby Rainforest Cafe, a staple in their home state of Minnesota. It had become their favorite restaurant as a foursome. The very first location appeared in Bloomington’s monumental Mall of America, and a decade later, another sprouted in Juniper, just a few blocks from the college. It was here they found themselves this crisp, windy autumn Friday.

“Well hey, guys!” greeted a member of wait staff who’d made their acquaintance over the months. “Welcome back!”

They ordered drinks and away went the chat du jour, starting with one of Emily’s famous stories.

“Omigod! Okay, so check it out—you are not gonna believe this,” said Em, this being the way she began each anecdote. “I was at work the other day.”

Sam smacked the table with a palm, sending a small rattle through the flatware.

No way!” he exclaimed, teasing her prematurely. “You are kidding! Get the heck outta here right now!”

Emily cracked up. “No, wait!” she laughed. “That’s not it yet! So I’m at my desk, right? And I look up, and I see Annie and Natalie go by. And I’m, like, just casual, ‘Oh, hey, where you guys going?’ And they kinda just stop, and’re like, ‘Uh…nowhere.’ And I wasn’t even wanting to know what they were up to; I’m just trying to make conversation, y’know, but the way they acted made me curious. So I kinda peeked back behind me to see where they were heading off to, and I see them go in one of the supply closets together.

“So, just kinda the way they go in there, I’m getting real curious now. So I started to sit down to go back to work, but I guess it got the better of me, ’cause next thing I know, I’m heading back there myself, see if I can find out what’s going on. And the door’s got one of those…whaddaya call it, like, grates on the front, that look like Venetian blinds, or…somethin’—so anyways. I can’t really look through it, and I dunno if I wanna go in after ’em just yet, but I kinda turn to the side, to listen, y’know…and I start to hear giggles.”

Really?” asked Ian.

As if on cue, Emily giggled. “I know, right?” she cooed to him, surreptitiously stroking his hand. “So I’m like, ‘What the hell?’ And I think I can hear them whispering, but I can’t decipher any words. But then two seconds later, they open the door.”

Her friends’ eyebrows jumped.

“And they see me, and they’re like—” Emily gasped, imitating her co-workers’ mutual gasp upon seeing they’d been caught by her. “And I go, ‘What is going on? What’re you guys doing in there?’ And they’re automatically all, ‘Nothing! Nothing!’ Then I look a little closer at ’em, and I see it. Their hair’s messed up. And their lipstick’s all smeared and their faces are flushed. And I look down, and their nipples are hard! All four of ’em! I can see ’em, poking right through their shirts!”

Whoa-ho!” chorused the boys. Bridgette remained silent.

“So I look at ’em and I go, ‘Oh my Gooood! You guys were making out!’ And at first they try to deny it, like, ‘No we weren’t!’ But they know I got ’em. So then they start going, ‘Emmy, please don’t tell anybody, we could get in trouble.’ And I’m like, ‘I won’t tell!’ Well, y’know, won’t tell anyone in the office. But I’m like, ‘Wow, this is so cool! How long’s this been going on?’ Then they got real shy, like, ‘Oh, we just kinda fell in love a couple days ago.’ And I’m like, ‘Aw! That’s awesome! But hey, listen, you guys gotta be careful. You try to pull a stunt like that again, someone else might catch you. Like the boss.’ But, how cool is that, you guys?! They’re in love!

Sammy and Ian expressed visible approval. Emily’s best friend beside her said still nothing.

“Oh, and hey,” added Sam. “Speaking of which, we had something kinda cool come up this week, didn’t we?”

Bridgette sucked a little too hard on her smoothie and took a small choke, coughing and giving herself a whap in the sternum.

“Whoa, y’okay?” Em clapped her on the back. Bridgette cleared her throat, nodded and threw her pals a thumbs-up.

“Well, Ems,” Sammy went on, “Should things take this turn, hopefully we helped make it possible for Ann and Nat to go all the way.”

Emily and the boys displayed mutual agreement. Only once they piped down did they notice their lass Bridgette merely went on sipping her smoothie. Eventually, she noticed six eyes turn her way.

“…Bridge?” came her galpal Em’s voice.

She closed her teeth on the straw. “Hm?”

“…You were with us on this, right?”

Bridgette sucked a little more, gulped, smacked and licked her lips. “…On…uh, on what again?”

Their faces turned to confusion.

“The gay marriage vote, Bridgette,” Ian chimed in. “It popped up on our ballet Tuesday. We all voted no banning it, right?”

“Well, I sure did,” said Sam.

“I would’ve fifty damn years ago,” Em concurred.

The next thing Bridgette knew, once again, her friends were upon her.

“…Bridge?...” repeated Emily. “…You…did say no…right?”

Another server made his way by. Eager to escape the subject, Bridgette tried to obtain his attention.

“Waiter? Sir? Could I have some water, please?”

Sammy dropped his glass on the table with a clonk, almost spilling some liquid.

“Oh, my, God,” he stated in disbelief. “You said yes…didn’t you.”

Bridgette stammered slightly, but didn’t deny it. And that was all the confirmation they needed.

“Whoa, hold on a sec,” said Ian. “You mean the rest of us vetoed the same-sex marriage ban, and you voted for it?”

“Bridge, wh—…what the hell!” exclaimed Em. “You gotta be kidding me! I…I can’t believe this! My best friend!

Bridgette finally threw out a sigh, prepared to admit it now that they’d sniffed her out.

“Well, it’s…I’m sorry, but it’s just not that simple for me!” she asserted. “I mean…you guys know my Mom! I’m…” Another sigh. “I just…I just can’t afford whatever she might do to me if she knew I really wanted to say no. So, so, c’mon, are we ready to order here?”

“Bu—Bridgette!” Emily continued. “How cou—…y—…you’re a grown woman! You’re 23 years old! You can’t just let your crazy-ass mother make your decisions for you your whole life!”

“I’m-I’m sorry, guys!” Bridgette insisted. “I wanted to say no, I really did! But, I…our relationship’s already on shaky ground as it is, and she’s not real thrilled with my Dad right now either. Besides, I’m back under their roof now. If I went against her like this, I mean, God only knows; she might kick me out, or even disown me. Then what would I do??”

“Oh, Bridges, come on!” snapped Em. “I mean, she’s not my Mom, so maybe it’s easy for me to say this, but you are selling out your own principles here! You’re letting her still influence your decisions and impose her beliefs on you as an adult, and that’s wrong! Honestly, Bridge, I’m…I’m really pretty affronted by this! Do you realize that if this ban goes through, you’ll be part of the reason??”

“Yeah, and y’know what, Bridgette?” Ian stepped in. “I may not have any right to say this, but if your Mom has these kinda issues with your beliefs, your Dad, and who knows what else…then maybe this is all more like her problem, not yours.”

Bridgette stared down at her empty place setting, feeling a bit of shame creeping over her.

“I guess I hadn’t really thought about it like that.”

“Bridge, all else aside, you’re my best friend,” Emily reiterated. “Even on the chance your insane Mom did throw your ass to the curb, you know damn well I make more than enough money for me, and my spare bedroom’s just sitting there going to waste! God’s sake, you could stay with me as long as you wanted!”

“I…I know, you’re right!” Bridgette conceded. “You’re all right. I just…I’m…”

Sigh. “…I’m out of excuses. I’m sorry.”

“All right, guys, all right,” Sam said. “Let’s cut her a little slack. I mean, clearly, no one’s thrilled about this, but…it’s done. It’s in the past. I’m sure that now if Bridgette could go back and vote the ban down, she would. Right, dudette?...

“…Right, Bridgette?”

Ahem. “Um, waiter?”

*****

Thick’nin’ The Plot

Saturday, November 10th, 2012, 12:00 midnight straight up

BOOP-BIP-boop-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-bip-beep-BOOP-boop: ringringclick.

“Em?”

“Hey Sammy…”

“Oh, hey, girl, what’s up?”

“Well, dude, to be honest, I’m really glad you’re still awake…you’re not just about to go to bed, are ya?”

“Uh, well…no, not right this second anyway…what’s on your mind?”

“Oh, good…well, it’s just…you’re my best friend beside Bridges, and…I just really need to talk to you about this thing with her. It’s just got me actually really upset, even more than I thought.”

“Oh, the vote thing? Oh, yeah, that kinda threw me for a loop too…but y’know, at the same time, I kinda feel a little bad for her. It can’t be easy on her, being brought up in such a conservative family, and now with such liberal friends.”

“You’re right, Sammy, I know, you’re right, but…” Sigh. “I’m-I’m still so disappointed in her! I mean, she’s my best friend, and we all have other gay friends together! Doesn’t she care at all about their happiness?? About their future?”

“Well, yeah, that is true. She’s usually always right with us on stuff like this.”

“Sammy, buddy, I gotta tell you something. I was at Target last week, and I met this chick named Lauren who works there. And we got to talking, and really started to hit it off. Then she told me she was gay.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah, so…she’s single too, I’m pretty sure. I think she was actually a little disappointed when I told her I wasn’t gay…but I said hey, you wanna meet my friends? I told her we’re all really liberal, and we love gay people. And I said to her, y’know what? On Tuesday, me and my friends are all gonna vote to give you the right to get married.”

Ohhh…God. I gotcha.”

“Yeah…she was really happy to hear that…”

“Aw, Em…I’m sorry, girl.”

“I mean, I know Bridgette only voted the one time, like all of us, and it’s extremely unlikely her one vote’ll sway the whole thing, but…I just…I-I know it sounds kinda dramatic, but, I just feel…betrayed. And I’m not even gay!”

“No, no, Em, I actually think I understand. It’s not the vote itself, it’s what it means. It’s the principle of it. That’s not really dramatic, it’s just how you feel. And it is a sad thing; like you said, she is your best friend.”

“Exactly! That’s exactly it, Sammy. You know just how to cut through to the real truth. I always admired that about you.”

“Well…thanks. But, Em, this’ll be okay. I mean, Bridgette knows how we feel about this now, to say nothing of how strongly. And she won’t be under her mother’s roof or thumb forever. It’s okay if you’re mad at her now; we’ll move on from it eventually.”

“Oh, I’m not mad at her. I’m just…well…kinda…well, maybe a little angry with her.”

“…Uh-huh. Well, we could do something to take your mind off it. Wanna hit the bowling alley tomorrow?...Or, uh…today, rather?”

“Yeah! That sounds good. And maybe we could go to the East Moon for lunch. Make a day of it.”

“Shoot, why not throw in a movie while we’re at it?”

“Omigod! Sammy, dude, I just had the craziest idea. Okay, so check it out, right? I know I said I wasn’t mad at Bridgette, but…I dunno, I’m…all of a sudden, I’m kinda feeling like…having a little fun with her. Just to kinda like mess with her mind, and maybe even get her thinking straight again…as it were.”

“Oh, I can’t wait to hear this.”

“Okay, so y’know how I was talking about Lauren, the girl from Target, and how she told me she’s a lesbian?”

“Yeah…”

“Well…how do you think Bridgette would feel…if she was in love with a girl…and couldn’t get married?”

“…Well, what does that have to do w—…OH…I see…”

“Hee-hee!...Right?? Let’s set ’em up together!”

“Well, I mean, Em, that is pretty funny, but, well…seems a little out there, doesn’t it? You are still Bridgette’s best friend, and I don’t wanna spoil the fun, but…you sure that’s a good idea?”

“Oh, Sammy, I’m not gonna let it go that far. Nobody’s gonna get hurt or anything. And if I know Lauren like the little bit I think I do, she’ll get a kick out of it.”

“Well, I think you should definitely ask Lauren first.”

“Oh, of course! And, Bridges won’t have to know; we’ll just introduce Lauren to her as our new friend, wind it up and let it go.”

“Well…if you’re sure it’s not gonna backfire, come back and bite us in the butt.”

“Trust me, dude.”

“A’right.”

*****

Pixie Chicks From Pixieland

Friday, November 16th, 2012, 5:56 p.m.

Lauren Marsiglia’s Friday shift at Target ended at 4:00, affording her some time to go home and pretty up before heading over to Emily’s to meet her friends. Having a couple semi-close friends but certainly room in her life for more, she was excited. She wanted to bring a gift, and wasn’t sure what everyone would like, but figured she couldn’t go very wrong with chocolate. So she grabbed a generously sized assorted box and made her way to the address Emily’d supplied.

Emily was in the clerical game, a resources consultant who already did pretty well for herself. She kept a modest but comfy one-story on Donaldson Street which she hoped to share one day with a lucky, lucky handsome gent. It was fun having Sammy over, of course, but when he brought Ian along with him, which was pretty much all the time now, Em naturally got extra excited.

Ian, though intelligent and perceptive enough, didn’t sense that Emily was infatuated with him. By her coy little touches, caresses, grins—and the way she hugggggged him extra tight whenever they met and parted—and by the occasional peck on the cheek—he had a feeling she was flirty. But he wasn’t used to women showing initial interest in him. He noticed she wasn’t this blushy or coquettish with Sam, but thought maybe this had something to do with…him being her friend…first? He didn’t know. But Em was a sweet, pretty young lady, and if she was into him, his feelings could well grow to be mutual.

He may not have been a model, but Ian reminded Emily an awful lot of a younger Ryan Reynolds. She wasn’t proud of the fact that when she thought about him, sometimes an impure scene or two entered her mind, but she kept herself in check. She neither anticipated the fact that Sammy originally fostered a crush on her galpal upon meeting her, but Sam’s situation was a bit different, as he gradually trained himself out of it, treating Bridgette as nothing beyond another good friend.

But this evening wasn’t much about any of them, thought Em as she retrieved her snack and veggie tray. It was about Lauren, and hopefully welcoming her into the group. Emily’d briefed her beforehand that “this is not a fix-up, Laur, I promise. My friend Bridgette’ll be there, and I just wanna introduce you to her and the others. I know her pretty well, and I think deep down inside she’s gay too, but she can’t admit it to herself because of her Mom and her Christian upbringing. But I promise, you don’t have to flirt with her. Unless you want. Anything happens, coolness. But we’re not gonna force it. No presh.”

She’d also broken the news to Lauren about Bridgette’s gay marriage vote. Logically, Lauren was saddened to hear, but Em hastened to add that Bridge hadn’t done so of her own free belief. That while Bridgette had a semi-significant relationship with her Dad, it was her mother who really carried influence. She was a hardcore Christian, and raised Bridgette not far behind. Em went on to explain that Bridgette was passive—that while she didn’t live and die on the approval of others, it mattered to her nonetheless. That she was under the roof of her parents—including her mother—and needed to maintain a modicum of approval with her. But just hanging out together with their buddies, Bridgette was “free” to be just as liberal as they. While this made Lauren feel a little better, she still felt sorry for Bridgette’s home situation, being an adult and a woman of 23 and yet stuck under her Mom’s adamant Christian thumb.

“Just keep in mind, babe, Bridgette knows I’m gonna have you by, but she doesn’t know you’re gay. I promise, I didn’t not tell her that ’cause I feel embarrassed or uncomfy about it; I don’t. I didn’t tell her that ’cause it shouldn’t matter. But besides, what with this whole gay marriage vote thing and how strong she knows I feel about it…if I automatically introduced you one week later and said, ‘This is Lauren, she’s a lesbian!’…I just…have a feeling she might get the wrong idea…if that makes any sense.”

Lauren was a bit confused, but felt she had the basic gist of Em’s remarks. And so she came to Emily’s Friday night with the understanding that she needn’t conceal nor suppress her sexuality; it was merely desirable to exercise discretion, not to just set foot in the door and blurt the words, “I’M GAY!” In any case, she couldn’t see this business about sexual politics either making or breaking the evening, and so she decided just to go, meet Em’s friends and have a very nice time.

The sun was just starting to set as she pulled in, exited the car and trotted on up. She was about to ring the doorbell as she realized she could hear conversation and laughter from inside. Ding-dong.

“Oh—that must be her!” she heard Em’s voice say. She smiled nice and big, already a bit glad she’d located the right house. Footsteps approached, and the front door opened. There she was indeed.

“Heeeey, babe!” greeted Emily, waving Lauren in and throwing a hug on her. She turned to the remaining three in the living room to announce, “Guys?...My new Target pal, Lauren Marsiglia.”

Normal pleasantries were exchanged. Sam, Ian and Bridgette studied the new girl, as did she them while nestling in. She was very cute: 5’5” with a slim build, no more than 115 pounds, with an almost spritely quality about her. She had very short brunette hair, with two small tufts over her ears. Then she had bright blue eyes—with lips to all but match, by how cold it was outside—a diminutive, slightly turned-up nose, and when she removed her jacket, underneath lay two small breasts, shrouded in a light red T-top that covered her midway down the upper arms. From at least the waist up, she looked amazingly like a pixie. It really was uncanny. For all the three of Emily’s friends guessed, she could have stepped in here directly out of FernGully. All that was missing were the wings.

As for Lauren, all she needed to know was which of the guys was which, and her intro info was complete. She of course already knew Emily, and that left only her beautiful, blonde-haired, blue-eyed best friend. Wow, Em wasn’t kidding about how foxy she was. And when Bridgette stood to offer her hand with a curtsy, she added a polite smile as well. Even in a non-flirtatious form, Bridgette’s smile was a bit lopsided and goofy, but just so charmingly, the smile seemed to reach right into Lauren’s heart and tickle it from the inside.

Bridgette had always been considered notably striking. She sported layered golden hair, big blue Windexy eyes, smooth pale skin and size 34B breasts, with pink bubblegum nipples. She was moderately thin, with nicely shaped legs, but also a pleasingly large, round posterior. She’d collected her share of compliments on her big bubbly butt. Well, Lauren may not have been required to flirt with her or make any magic happen, but now felt a bit of a sensation creeping up on her—a sensation that said, “Hmmmdon’t mind if I do.”

For understandable reasons, Emily hadn’t disclosed to Bridgette this could lead to a fix-up like she had Sammy and Ian, but as she’d told Lauren, she knew Bridgette was drawn to a cute chick. She just knew; the instances she’d witnessed were too obvious to dismiss. And the way her galpal’s Windex eyes lit up meeting this pixie only confirmed her knowledge. Still, she didn’t think she could let Bridgette know she’d invited Lauren here for, well, her. Both her old friend and her new friend had a chance at true happiness together, but it couldn’t be rushed. Bridgette would have to find out for herself if Lauren liked her, vice versa, and so on from there.

Besides, while she didn’t want to make her buddy Sam feel like a fifth wheel, Em was already a bit preoccupied with Ian in her house.

She thanked Lauren for the chocolate and arranged it beside the veggies, chips and dip. She then put on a DVD of one of her favorite movies, for the newly formed quintet to settle in with their snacks, get down to brass tacks, and chillax.

As the film progressed, no verbal communication passed beyond snippets of whispers about this or that. But Em, Sam and Ian now and then snuck a peek at the two girls…just to see. They were paying attention to the engaging movie, for which they couldn’t be blamed, but the hostess and two gentlemen thought they saw a few shy and lopsided smiles tossed in one another’s direction.

“So…Lauren,” Bridgette munched to her at one point, “What do you do at Target?”

“Oh…” Lauren paused to swallow. “A little bit of everything. I push product, I cashier, I stock shelves, sometimes I woman the counters and help or advise customers about this and that…and then they have me do the odd maintenance. I can’t do everything, but I guess you could say I’m a jill of many trades.”

“Wow, how cool,” chuckled Bridgette. “Next time I’m there I’ll look for you.”

“Well, that’s sure to put a smile on my face,” Lauren smirked. “And what do you do then, Miss Bridgette?”

“Oh, well, I’m not actually working right now, but I’m planning to go to med school.”

“You’re gonna be a doctor??” Lauren seemed especially impressed.

“Well, that’s the plan. I’m well aware how much schooling it’s gonna take, and I think that’s actually gonna be the fun of it for me. I love medicine, I love the idea of making sick people better…and I love studying too. I know, weird, right?”

“Not in the slightest!” Lauren assured, waving a hand. “What’s more attractive and admirable than an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, combined with a drive for one of the most noble and prestigious careers attainable?”

Um, wow. Okay. “Well…thanks, Lauren! I’ll…keep your approval and support in mind when it gets tough.”

“You-you know, I like studying too,” Lauren said, pretending to stammer to appear coy. “If you ever want a study buddy, maybe, or someone to pl—…” She turned a bit red and blew a raspberry. “Sorry. I just…” Lauren put a hand over her mouth and giggled. “I almost said if you want someone to play doctor with.” She gave Bridgette’s arm a playful pat. “Gosh, how embarrassing would that have been.”

Bridgette went pink in the cheeks and shyly smiled away. As basically everyone except Bridgette was “in” on the “game,” the rest of the party’s attention shifted to the exchanges between the blondie and the pixie. They could get together again and watch this DVD anytime. And the fledgling interaction between their old and new gals here held its own entertainment value.

“Nah, but I’ve never been much for that label-y stuff myself,” Lauren informed the group, having tangented through a few more topics. “I mean, the way I see it, no one person can fit all characteristics of any group without a single one of another. And I understand being passionate about things, but why let social issues get in the way of an association when you could have so much else in common?”

She turned out to be arguably as interesting as any of the four of them, if not more. While they didn’t know a great deal about her yet, from what they did know, her personality reflected her appearance: bouncy, fanciful, free, a bit spontaneous, just a skosh eccentric. And to her, Bridgette looked so darn cute just sitting there listening to her, Lauren was finding it a challenge to hold back from flirting. She also seemed very agreeable to almost whatever Lauren said, even contradicting viewpoints. She thought she’d find out.

“I think as far as French post-Impressionists go, Gauguin could give anyone a run for their money,” she said. “What do you think?”

Bridgette began nodding pensively for a moment before answering. Emily smiled as she got an inkling of what was going on.

“Oh-oh, absolutely,” she concurred. “I don’t know everything about Impressionists—well, or post-Impressionists—but Gauguin’s gotta be up there with the best.”

Uh-huh, processed Lauren. Now perhaps she’d try a more popular, accessible example.

“But then on another hand, everyone knows that Bruce Springsteen’s the greatest rock star who ever lived.”

This time Bridgette did not start nodding, but darted her eyes back and forth. While she too liked the Boss, she had lots of musical tastes, and this was harder to fully agree with. This had been Bridgette’s dilemma since she was a child. For some bizarre reason, her peers’ contrasting viewpoints always seemed to be validated, she noticed growing up. Yet, when Bridgette Carter managed to pipe up and speak her mind—which was already a bit challenging in and of itself (requiring 1] a location and sequence of the words she wanted, 2] a gap in conversation, and 3] no changes of subject until such gaps opened), her opinions were met with either skepticism, argument or outright dismissal. It was doubly discouraging to her after already working up the energy to share a thought.

As a result, she craved approval and solidarity at a disproportionate rate from her schoolmates. Joining discussions with her own contributions grew daunting at certain times and disinteresting at others, anticipating whatever she said being “shot down,” as it were. But she still wanted the approval. So she learned to play passive, and go along with most anything that was shared with her. It turned out to be not so difficult while young. Coincidentally, her mother Charlotte was growing more and more adamant vis-à-vis her religious Christian beliefs by this time, and patently intent that her daughter follow in her footsteps. Still impressionable and not difficultly led, Bridgette honored her proud Mom’s wishes. Her father, though not necessarily in agreement with her mother’s persuasion, took gratification in such familial harmony. As long as his wife and daughter were getting along and happy, he was happy.

Happiness, alas, wasn’t in every hand of the proverbial cards for anyone, and the Carters weren’t an exception. Before any of them knew it, little Bridgette was teenage Bridgette, letting her rebellious adolescent life take priority over other little trivialities surrounding her such as…school. Grades. Church. Family obligations. As Bridgette descended under the impression that she knew everything and her folks nothing, inevitable fights ensued. And Bridgette spent exponentially growing amounts of time in her room, a result of being grounded by either her parents or by herself (i.e., just wanting some time alone). Needless to say, when the time finally came to push through finals and head off to the college dorms, and Denmore told her to jump, Bridgette was all too happy to ask how high.

As it turned out, a little time in college and an intro to the real world was just what young Bridgette needed. The harsh reality that she’d soon have to grow up and look after herself finally penetrated. And convinced her she’d do well to stop acting so tough and omniscient, sit down and learn a few things instead. Now that her eyes were opened, and she saw that she had her pick of future careers if she really applied herself, she also found her true penchant for medicine. It suddenly came clear to her along the way that she wanted most of all to be a doctor, and was prepared to undergo the mountain of schooling paving her path. And thankfully, she had her dormmate and best friend Emily to lean on when it got tough. And then also the support of Em’s boys Sam and Ian as well.

She never did stop craving that oh so important approval, however. And now back at home with Mom and Dad, it was her folks with whom she again needed to make things work. While her father Nick was somewhat more flexible in his beliefs, he tended to side with Charlotte on social issues, such as the vote on gay marriage. And whether Bridgette felt differently or not, there was truth in what she’d told her friends. Her mother Charlotte, gosh-darn her, could smell a daughter’s fib a mile away. And if Bridgette tried to vote against the same-sex marriage ban and get it past her Mom, she’d never manage to pull that wool over Charlotte’s eyes. She knew her mother. Charlotte Carter was a human polygraph machine. And regardless of what her friends said, the potential threat of being banned from home or even disowned was very real. All the more reason to just hang out with her chums whenever the chance arose, and converse with a new gal friend from Target about innocuous things like pop music.

“Well, I…eh…I suppose my tastes are a little more towards the modern, you might say. I really like Rob Thomas and Taylor Swift, and…like that,” she finally replied to Lauren. “But-but you’re right, certainly,” she quickly added. “As far as classic rock goes, Springsteen’s one name that is and always will be pretty legendary. He’ll be remembered forever a’right.”

Em’s hand sat firm over her grinning mouth to hold her back from giggling. It may have been a little devious to toy with her best friend this way, and yet Emily couldn’t help but find it fun. She wasn’t either about just how upset Bridgette’s action of the previous week had made her, and while she supposed this appealed to her indulgent, naughty side, she couldn’t help it. Putting Bridgette in this playfully awkward position just sort of…tickled her.

It equally pleased her just how increasingly shy and blushy Bridgette was getting as Lauren carried on bubbly conversation, with doses of fun flirtation tossed in here and there. Bridgette liked her—or really wanted to—Em could tell. This spoke to her loyal side that remained happy for her friends. She’d watched Bridgette go on quite a few unsuccessful dates, which gradually took a toll on her. Dating guys proved fruitless, and Emily felt a sweet fairylike lesbian would be a nice change of pace. That was, assuming anything occurred. Though she wouldn’t say it out loud, Em secretly hoped Lauren flirted Bridgette into a budding romance. Of course, she knew her mind was jumping the gun a little. Bridgette (probably) didn’t even know Lauren was gay.

Although she thought she noticed her growing a clue, as Lauren went on joshing and giggling with her, laying little touches on her wrist, her shoulder, her…thigh?...

“Hee-hee-hee!...Oh, you!” Lauren kidded.

“Heh…heh…oh, me!” Bridgette agreed, looking away with her crimson-flushed face.

Had either of them focused on the other three, they would have seen a rapt audience. It would seem Em’s little “fix-up” had the desired first effect, and then some. This almost seemed to be working even better than Em had hoped, but, she thought, well, what’s the harm? This pixie girl really was very nice and sweet, if a little overly flirtatious. She, Sam and Ian exchanged a mutual look that said the same all around. They had virtually never seen that silly little lopsided grin on Bridgette’s face get just so…giddy.

*****

Ain’t No Party Like An Em’s Office Christmas Party

Monday, December 24th, 2012, 4:13 p.m.

Fast-forward a month and change, and yet another eventful Christmas Eve was upon Juniper. And of course—among other things—this meant another famous holiday party thrown in the offices of MD&M Enterprises, where the group’s own Emily Mae Conwell had taken Em-ploy for the last two years. And while it wasn’t extremely common, employees were perfectly free to invite their friends or families to join them. So Emily reached out to her buddies to break the Friday tradition and see if they could come.

To her delight, she was three for four. Sam and Lauren had been released from their respective shifts at Lucky’s and Target, and Bridgette was not actively working. To her slight disappointment, though, Ian had to continue at the Rite Aid—at both the front counter and pharmacy—but at least this way Em could focus on her plan without being distracted by his rugged handsomeness.

The party—to which an MD&M bash tended to aspire—was a heck of an occasion. It wasn’t quite wall-to-wall people, but it was a decently jumping event. It was in fact crowded enough for Em to hang on to two of her friends but misplace one.

“Sam?...Dude?...’Dyou guys see where Sammy went?”

They hadn’t. It would seem Sam had slipped away to do some solo mingling. Oh well, they’d locate and meet up with him later. Emily took the girls through the sea of cubicles, amidst gabbing, laughing colleagues and holiday music, looking for friends to introduce Lauren and Bridgette to. Sam had been to her office before, previously meeting Em’s mates, and one of them was a comely young lass he’d particularly fancied. And the next time he saw her, today or some other future date, he hoped she’d find out as well.

Meanwhile, Emily continued threading Bridgette and Lauren through the throng, hand in hand in hand, just so as not to lose each other. They finally came to a halt at a refreshment table for some punch and cake a la mode.

“Oh!” Em gasped a few cups of punch later. “Guys?” she shouted. “I gotta hit the ladies’ room. Guess I’m thirstier than I thought.”

She scooted off, squeezing between co-workers to get to the lav, tossing up a couple dozen “’Scuse me!”s.

Once out of eyeshot, she broke out giggling. Again, Em was up to a bit of matchmaking mischief. She did have to use the john, but unbeknownst to her dear, easily led bestie, she’d begun cahooting with Lauren to enchant Bridgette’s socks off. Indeed, when Lauren and Bridgette first met the month before, Emily intentionally neglected to mention Lauren was a lesbian. After the collection of guff they’d served her up for voting against same-sex marriage, Em presumed Bridgette unappreciative of being immediately introduced to a gay girl, lovely though she may be. Tactless yet retributive, it would seem like punishment for her veto. As if Em said to her, “Now see what you’ve (possibly) done? You’ve thumbed your nose at the basic rights of this living, breathing human being right here, and you’ve hurt her feelings.” While she had been piffled off at Bridgette, she’d more constructive strategies to consider. Such as this one.

While Bridgette now knew full well Lauren Marsiglia was gay, and while they’d exchanged some mutual flirting, Lauren was pleased Bridgette couldn’t read their minds and spoil their Cupid play. Now that Em left them momentarily alone, it was time to execute her part of the scheme. She waited for the current Christmas song over the speakers to fade, approached Bridgette, and called out to her.

“Bridgette, would you like to dance?”

“What?” Bridgette shouted.

Lauren leaned up to her ear to shout back.

“WOULD YOU LIKE TO DANCE WITH ME?”

Oh…” A shy smile beautifully painted Bridgette’s lips. “Why, yes, I’d…I’d love to, Lauren,” she nodded enthusiastically.

Lauren grinned, took her hand and linked their fingers. “WONDERFUL.”

And so one nice Christmas gift was enjoyed a few hours early. Smiles on their faces and stars in their eyes, Lauren and Bridgette kept two of their hands clasped, stepped in together, and rested their other hands on one another’s shoulders, guided to rhythm by a cheery ’50s rendition of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” They settled in contentedly and romantically, and danced.

Then, Lauren added another seductive whim. She opened her mouth as the vocals joined, and lip-synced the lyrics to Bridgette.

I really can’t stay…”

The corners of Bridgette’s lips curled up, welling her eyes in affection as she saw what the pixie girl was up to. She lacked the presence of mind to pick up the other part of the song right away, but obtained it after Lauren provocatively flipped her eyebrows at her.

I’ve got to go ’way…” Lauren mouthed.

Bridgette’s heart began to swoon. “But baby, it’s cold outside…” she coyly mouthed back, starting to blush again.

Bridgette couldn’t remember all the words, and she felt a bit funny lip-syncing the male part, but couldn’t deny she was having fun. Lauren was beautiful, no doubt about that, and Bridgette secretly surmised she liked her. Bridgette hadn’t met anyone like her before. She supposed she imagined lesbian girls in general to be more…she didn’t know, masculine. Or “butchy”…another term she’d heard bandied about, whatever exactly that meant. But that was silly; everyone was different. She also knew tomboys who were straighter than a road in North Dakota. And were she the suspicious type, she’d have almost thought Em ran off to the ladies’ room to leave them alone on purpose, so Lauren could ask her to dance. But that was a silly thought, she processed with a chuckle. Wasn’t it?

Lauren batted her eyes at her.

…Wasn’t it?

Bridgette,” Lauren paused her lip-syncing to lean close and whisper in her ear. “…I think I like you.”

Wasn’t it?

Bridgette’s silly lopsided smile descended as her mouth slipped ajar. She felt them continue dancing, though it seemed all these office-mates of Emily’s abruptly swirled out of existence. Try as she might not to fall for Lauren, it was becoming a losing battle. She’d certainly found out in the past month that Lauren was gay, but never quite connected their encounter to the fact she’d voted against the girl’s right to marry. In fact, she’d all but forgotten the vote. Still, Em had seemed pretty mad about it. And even so, Bridgette didn’t pick up on a correlation between these elements. Of course, picking up on anything this lofty would be pretty difficult right about now.

“You’re so pretty, Bridgette,” Lauren said, levitating her right hand off Bridgette’s shoulder to caress her pink cheek.

Bridgette had to think about this a little. She knew it wasn’t she who chose love but vice versa, yet she never imagined being enamored of another girl. Her whole life had been spent in the active belief and practice of heterosexuality. She was raised Christian, taken to mass every Sunday, and even to Sunday school just after. This infatuation went against everything taught and drilled into her head as a child. And indeed, produced a hell of a chance that her mother might in fact actually, literally disown her.

So why did it feel so gosh-damned right??!

Em had a point. She was an adult now. And while estrangement from her mother—and logically also her father—would break her heart, she couldn’t help how she thought she felt about Lauren. And even if Charlotte did boot her out, Em had offered her pad for Bridgette to crash, presumably as long as she wished. She and Emily could possibly be roomies. Shacking up with her bestie seemed like tons of fun in theory, but she mustn’t jump to the conclusion. And coming up with a bit of coin for her share of food and utilities wasn’t ideal, unemployed while instead spending big money for med school. This tangent suddenly threw a big scare into Bridgette. Her parents were footing the college bill. If they cut her off, she’d have to find some other way to afford her schooling. She’d have to get a full-time, high-paying job. And then when would she sleep??

“…Bridgette?”

She looked back up into Lauren’s eyes.

“…Huh?”

“Are you okay?”

“O—…okay?...Am I okay?”

“Yeah. You suddenly look worried. Like you’ve got something weighing on your mind.”

“Well…sort of. But it’s…it’s kind of a long story. I’ll…uh…maybe I’ll tell you later.”

“Oh. Okay. Well…while we’re waiting—”

Lauren leaned in again, and this time kissed Bridgette’s soft button nose. Bridgette gasped, giggled and felt her heart flutter. She was relieved Lauren still wasn’t laying passionate kisses on her lips. She wasn’t sure if she could handle that just yet. Or if Emily’s co-workers all around them could. Come to think of it, was anyone around them reacting in a specific way to their flirty touchy dancing?

Oh, it wasn’t important…as long as there was no one here who knew her…

Right, Em?

“Lauren?”

“Yes, Bridgette?”

“Forgive me for imposing, but…do you think I could maybe please come hang out with you…at your place…sometime?”

Lauren thought a moment and shrugged.

“…Well, sure. I’d like that. Then perhaps your place next time.”

She had to expect that. This scenario made Bridgette apprehensive, but she forced up a half-smile and nodded uneasily.

YyyyyyeahMom?...Dad?...This is my, um…friend…Lauren. Myfriend, that Ihappen todance and make out with sometimes.

“Lauren, I…have to tell you something.”

“What is it?”

Bridgette leaned up close, gulped, cleared her throat…

And kissed Lauren back, right on the nose.

“…Merry Christmas, darling.”

*****

Charlotte’s Lebb

Saturday, January 12th, 2013, 1:47 p.m.

Bridgette didn’t think it perfect timing to spring her news on her folks in the midst of the holidays, or the turn of the new year. But at the same time, she couldn’t bear to wait too long either. So passed a few more exhilarating Fridays in the company of the lovely Lauren Nicole Marsiglia, during which Bridgette’s budding devotion only deepened. The girl had a natural charm. Dining out, for example, involved casually tossing the heads-up over to Bridgette, “It’s cool, I’ve got it; you can get the next one.” Bridgette took delight in the numerous little touches and flirtations Lauren bestowed upon her. She really was falling in undeniable love. So while Bridgette knew this was going to be one of the most difficult conversations she would ever have, she had to do it. She had to tell her mother.

She decided to stop at the store and get a box of her Mom’s favorite candy. Not to think of this as a bribe, but it wouldn’t be easy for either of them, and she couldn’t see this gesture possibly doing any harm. It crossed her mind to bring alcohol, but getting her mother a little tipsy or just downright blind to tell her the news seemed to defeat the purpose. Even if things went over okay with Charlotte sloshed, she’d eventually still find out sober. And then Bridgette was back to her original dilemma.

She parked the car, got out, made sure she had the candy, and timidly shuffled up the driveway. She thought she was going to start sweating even though her folks lived in the coldest corner of Minneapolis and Juniper, and it was barely 20°, and flurrying outside. Bridgette was bundled head to toes, to the nines, and suddenly felt as if she didn’t need all this padding on.

Finally, she reached the front door, retrieved her key, and let herself inside. “Mom? Dad?”

“Hi, sweetheart!” Charlotte smiled from the living room. “I’m right in here. C’mon in.

“Oh, and I see you’ve come bearing gifts!”

“Well, gift,” Bridgette chuckled. “I, eh…I know how much you love your Whitman’s.”

“You know well,” her Mom appended. “Well, come on, have a seat!”

“…’Kay,” replied a nervous Bridgette, removing articles of now superfluous clothing. “So…where’s Dad? Is he here?”

“Oh, no, dear, he went to the grocery store. Just a little while ago, actually.”

“Oh.” Rats. Bridgette had thought her Dad might lend her a little support, and even if not, could serve as a buffer between them.

“Well…maybe I’ll just hang out for a little bit, if that’s okay…can we watch some TV?”

“Oh? You wanna watch TV with your ol’ Ma? How interesting; we don’t usually have the same tastes in entertainment.”

Well, that was true. Bridgette hadn’t really thought of that, but then, she had other things on her mind. So the Carter women channel surfed for a spell before settling on a program they could both enjoy, in this case the Antiques Roadshow. Bridgette, however, was having a bit of trouble enjoying the show or paying attention.

“Wanna play one of our TV drinking games?” asked Charlotte. “I’ve got your favorite: cherry Kool-Aid.”

“…Maybe a little later, Mom…” Bridgette waited for a commercial break, got up, and looked out the window for her Dad Nick’s car.

“What’s the matter, hon?”

“Wh—huh?”

“Bridgette, you’re clearly preoccupied about something. What is it?”

Her rightly preoccupied daughter turned back from the window and blew out a sigh.

“Okay…you wanna pause the TV, please, Mommy?”

“‘Mommy’?” Charlotte picked up the remote to honor her request. “I can’t remember the last time you called me ‘Mommy.’”

Bridgette joined her on the couch.

“Well, the fact is…Mom…” she began, taking her mother’s hands, “…I have something to tell you…something you’re…um…

“Something you’re really not gonna like.”

“Oh, dear. Are you in trouble, Bridgette?”

“Well…not really. At least…I don’t see it that way. But…” Bridgette gulped, releasing one of Charlotte’s hands to wipe her brow.

“Oh my gosh, this is harder than I thought. Uh…you see, Mom, there’s something you and I don’t quite see eye to eye on. But that alone is gonna be news to you, and…and I’m afraid that’s not even what I have to say.”

“Well, goodness, Bridgette…for heaven’s sake, tell me. Please.”

Bridgette swallowed again.

“Okay…” she murmured, looking 90° from her mother. She was finding it a bit hard to look her in the eye right now.

“Mommy…I think I’m…in…love…”

Charlotte gasped. “Well, honey, that’s wonderful! Congratulations! I’m so happy for you!”

“…With a girl.”

Bridgette immediately turned 135° away, and shut her eyes. The sudden, cold silence she knew was coming settled over.

“…What?

More silence. But now it was Bridgette’s turn to speak again. Anyone could see this “What?” wasn’t asking for repetition or clarification. It was accusatory, curt, and undoubtably hostile. Just as Bridgette knew it would be. She began rapidly spilling her guts.

“Her-her name’s Lauren, Mom. I-I dunno for sure if I’m in love, but I’m definitely having really strong feelings for her. She—”

Bridgette…Yvonne…Carter…”

Ooooh. Middle name. That was never good.

“…If you think that’s funny, or facetious in any way, you’re sorely mistaken.”

Her daughter shook her head. “I’m not laughing, mother.”

“Bridgette…look at me. In the eyes. Right now.”

Oh, this was going to be unpleasant, very much so. Bridgette obliged, to a glare in Charlotte’s hard teal eyes.

“Now, I want you to tell me you were just making an attempt at a joke two moments ago.”

This was getting quite ugly, quite fast. But Bridgette had never been a good liar to begin with, and lying was just about the last thing she would, should or could do right now.

“It’s true, Mom.”

Charlotte slowly, ominously shook her own head.

“No, it is not, Bridgette.”

“Mommy…plea—”

“Young lady, not only is that a fact, it’s an order. This is not the way I brought you up, and it is not the way I’ll tolerate you today. Now, you’re still my daughter, and I still love you. And so that’s why I am going to assume that you are merely confused, and will come in time to realize your true nature.”

Bridgette dropped her dampening eyes.

“I’m sorry, mother. But I already have. And…and I voted against gay marriage, but I didn’t want to. I only did it to appease you, because I didn’t wanna make you react like this. But if I could go back and do it again, I’d vote for it, without a second thought. I’m grown up now. I’m going to make my own decisions. And I don’t agree with your beliefs, Mom. I hope they do legalize gay marriage.”

Charlotte was quickly losing patience. “You will not forget the rules of this house, young lady. And if you want to stay in it, you’ll abide by them. Listen to me, Bridgette, and listen good: homosexuality is not only a sin. It’s an abomination. And I will not stand for it poisoning my own flesh and blood.”

Running low on patience herself, Bridgette was becoming very hurt by her mother’s words. She stood from the couch. “Mother…

“You’re wrong. I’m sorry, I really am, I am so very sorry, but you’re wrong. Just so completely dead wrong.”

Charlotte began to stand as well. “Now let me tell you something, Bridg—”

“NO, no, no, let me tell you something, Mom,” Bridgette pointed. Her voice was rising, and she knew she was getting out of line, but it wouldn’t be helped. “I may be bisexual, or I may be a flat-out lesbian; I don’t know for sure yet. But what I do know is I’m not in love with a boy. I told you this was gonna be hard, and you wouldn’t like it at all. But I’m not confused about who I am, mother. I might be confused about some things, but this…this couldn’t be clearer to me. I know the time goes fast, Mom, I know you can’t always keep up. But I’m not a little girl anymore. I’m 23 years old. I know what I want. I know who I am. And no one, mother, not even you, can change that. I may still be your daughter, but if you won’t accept me this way…then you don’t love me, and you’ve never loved me at all.”

Another silence. Both women stood, staring each other in the consternated eyes, as outside, a car pulled up in the driveway.

“Bridgette…” Charlotte’s voice cracked, as her eyes welled. Bridgette stood motionless, expressionless, hoping so very much that she had awoken something in her mother, that she’d ignited a small spark of enlightenment in her. But she hadn’t. Her Mom pointed in the direction of the door.

“…Please leave my house.”

Bridgette felt her heart break. “Oh, mother…”

Charlotte turned her back on her. “Just go. Go with Emily. I know she’s offered to let you stay with her. I’m sorry too, Bridgette…I just cannot have you in my house now.”

She shut her eyes tight to maintain stone-hard authority. But another moment later, she heard her daughter weeping behind her.

“Fine…fine. As you wish. Goodbye…Charlotte.”

The key turned in the door before Nick realized it was unlocked. He pushed it open, carrying a first bag of groceries.

“Oh! Well, ladies, hope you’re hungry!” he announced.

Understandably, he was less than prepared for what happened next. His face morphed to surprise as a tearful Bridgette turned in his direction, hugged him, and kissed his cheek.

“Bye, Dad…I love you…and it’s been nice knowing you.”

“…What?”

Logically, her father’s “What?” positively begged for clarification. His obliviousness to the whole situation only made Bridgette sob harder. He looked up to see his wife standing in the living room, her back turned, a single hand covering her face.

“I’m sorry I can’t stay and explain,” their young lady sobbed. She abruptly turned pointedly in Charlotte’s direction, and declared—

“I have to go away now…for good.”

Without another word, she collected her extra winter clothes, didn’t even put them back on, and fled the house.

*****

Girls’ Night Uncloseted

Friday, January 18th, 2013, 4:32 p.m.

Bridgette curled up under the blanket on the sofa with the remote as once more, for the fifth time this week, she heard the door unclick.

“Oh!” Em exhaled, sweeping in. “What…a day. Thank God it’s the weekend!”

Bridgette only listlessly continued channel flipping.

“Oh, Bridge,” Emily groaned, floating almost low enough to match her friend’s solemnity. “Not again…not today too…”

No response.

“Sweetie, for hell’s sake,” pleaded Em, “Would you please get up?? All you’ve done for the past week’s sit there sulking with the TV and playing Candy Crush on my laptop! No one goes through seven hundred levels in six days!”

Bridgette pushed another melancholy breath through her nose and surfed another channel wave. She knew what Em said was true, but failed to care. She remained legitimately heartbroken. Her Mom was all she could think about. She’d braved the news-breaking, and her worst fear was confirmed: her mother had in fact all but disowned her. And the most devastating aspect of all: as much as she wanted to say she couldn’t believe it…she could. Her mother was one hardcore Christian, and her pious devoutness was impossible to overestimate. Bridgette felt forlorn, abandoned, and virtually exiled from her own home…but one thing she was not was surprised.

When Bridgette appeared at Em’s door covered in tears, Em didn’t need to ask a single question. All she needed to do was hold out her arms and welcome Bridgette on in. She prided herself on being a great friend, and followed through. She’d offered the cozy shelter of her home, and wasn’t about to weasel out. Bridgette needed her right now, as much as she ever needed anyone. So they sat together on the sofa to watch TV, sharing the blanket. And indeed, the first three days, Em was all too willing and able to hold and console her.

The latter three were a bit of a different story. Bridgette slept on the sofa, barely moving except when nature called. Monday morning, Emily readied herself for work, telling her guest to just keep making herself at home. Nine hours later, she returned to find a stationary Bridgette still right there, staring at the tube. Again, Em felt and understood her friend’s pain, and so she went on looking after her. But as the entire week proceeded to pass with zero progress on Bridgette’s part, Emily started to feel more like her waitress than her hostess. As her guest, she couldn’t expect Bridgette to help her with things like household chores, and she certainly couldn’t expect her to contribute to the bills with no income. But she was getting slightly tired of having a veritable zombie crashed on her couch.

“A’right, well, y’know what?” she told her. “You’re not just sitting here again tonight. Like it or not, it is Friday, and we are going out. Sammy and Ian are having a boys’ night, so we’re gonna have a girls’ one. Lauren wants to take us to this club she knows. Now get up and get dressed, young lady; I’m not taking no for an answer.”

“Great,” Bridgette muttered sarcastically. “Now I’ve got two mothers who’re unhappy with me.”

So for the first time in a full week, Em dragged Bridgette to her feet, gussied her up good and pretty, called a cab, and off they went to meet Lauren at the Opal Room. From the bit Emily knew thus far about Lauren, it well suited her tastes. It was colorful, chromatic and vivid, just as Lauren had shown herself to be. As a matter of fact, Bridgette and Em had yet to see just how colorful, until Lauren spotted them with delight and pulled them out to the main floor. Every color Crayola had ever produced was represented in the spasming lights, and many many more, somehow all simultaneously. It was downright trippy.

“IS…LAUREN, IS THIS A GAY BAR??” Emily shouted over the music.

“WELL, SORT OF, BUT THEY LIKE TO ENTERTAIN THE HETS HERE TOO,” Lauren replied. “LIKE, IF THERE’S A COUPLE DUDES HANGING OUT, BUT THEY’RE JUST BUDDIES, THE GIRLS LIKE TO KINDA TEASE ’EM BY DANCING TOGETHER. JUST ’CAUSE, Y’KNOW, GUYS LIKE THAT.”

“AH,” Em nodded. “WELL…COULD YOU POINT ME TO ONE OF THEM? I MEAN, NO OFFENSE OR ANYTHING, BUT A COUPLE CHICKS TOGETHER DOESN’T DO MUCH FOR ME,” she chuckled.

So much like at the Christmas party the previous month, Em scampered off—this time to prowl down a cute guy—leaving Lauren to take the still downcast Bridgette out onto the floor. As terrible as Bridgette felt alienating herself from her Mom, unjust though her principles may have been, she had to admit that touching Lauren’s hand went a good way towards making her smile again. But shifting back into dance pose and gazing into those big beautiful pixie eyes brought tears a long way back to Bridgette’s.

“SWEETHEART, IT’LL BE OKAY,” Lauren hollered into Bridgette’s ear.

“IT DOESN’T FEEL OKAY,” Bridgette shouted back. “MY MOTHER HATES ME, LAUREN. AND I DON’T THINK SHE NEEDS TO MEET YOU TO KNOW SHE’S NOT TOO CRAZY ABOUT YOU, EITHER.”

“BRIDGETTE, YOU’RE NEW AT THIS,” Lauren smiled gently. “I’VE KNOWN I’M GAY MY WHOLE LIFE. I ALWAYS LIKED PLAYING WITH GIRLS, BUT I NEVER TOUCHED A DOLL ONCE. I WANTED TO RACE HOT WHEELS INSTEAD. I’M NOT SAYING ALL LESBIANS ARE LIKE THAT, BUT YOU GET THE IDEA. HONEY, I’VE SEEN THE WHOLE SPECTRUM. I’VE SEEN EVERY REACTION IN THE BOOK. IT’S 2013. LOTS OF PEOPLE’RE GONNA ACCEPT YOU, AND SOME JUST AREN’T. IT’S THE LEAST FAIR THING IN THE WORLD, BUT, BRIDGETTE…THAT’S JUST THE WAY IT IS.”

Bridgette furrowed her brow, sighed and tried not to become angry.

“BUT THIS ISN’T ‘PEOPLE’; IT’S MY MOTHER!” she yelled. “THE PERSON WHO GAVE BIRTH TO ME! WHO MOLDED ME INTO A YOUNG WOMAN AND TAUGHT ME EVERYTHING THAT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE RIGHT AND WRONG! THIS IS MORE THAN JUST HEARTBREAK, LAUREN; I’M SCARED! I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO HERE! I MEAN, THINK ABOUT WHAT IT WAS LIKE FOR ME GROWING UP WITH HER, AND THEN NOW THE WAY I FOUND OUT I FEEL ABOUT YOU! MY GOD, YOU MAKE ME HAPPIER THAN I’VE EVER BEEN IN MY LIFE! I—”

The current song blasting over the speakers suddenly ended.

“THINK I’M IN LOVE WITH YOU!”

A dozen nearby club-goers just as abruptly whipped around to hear Bridgette’s declaration loud and clear, piercing through the sudden silence. In the midst of circulating, Emily Conwell too directed her gaze to the eye of the crowd. She’d know the voice of her B.F.F. anywhere. And she knew what she had just heard Bridgette say. Omigod! she thought with awe.

The next voice she heard was Lauren’s.

“…Wh—a’right, what’re you people staring at?! Never seen two girls in love before?? Go on, leave her alone! Play the next song!”

Well, that’s terrific, thought Bridgette. Now on top of everything else, she had embarrassment to add to her list of emotions. The following song indeed started, but Bridgette paused dancing. She waited for the lights to go back down, seized the initiative, palmed Lauren’s cheeks, and stole the first miraculous, romantic kiss.

Lauren gasped through the sudden new seduction, feeling a coat of invisible hot fudge molassing down over her each and every inch. The next she felt was the present moment become the happiest of her life. She forewent the cheeks and threw her arms irremovably tight around Bridgette, and kissed back, good and hard. Neither could discern how many minutes, songs or fellow clubbers passed by as they made out. For all they were aware, the lights could’ve come back up and with them, a hundred cat calls hurled their way. Lauren didn’t care; she was too overjoyed. Bridgette didn’t care; she needed this. She needed Lauren. And she needed Lauren to need her too.

Mmmmmmmmm—” SMACK. Gasp. “OH MY GOSH, BRIDGETTE!...THAT…THAT WAS THE BEST KISS I’VE EVER HAD!”

“ME TOO, LAUREN, ME TOO…” I love you, by the way.

They collected their bearings back, reminding themselves where they were and of all the people and music swirling around their dizzy heads. But for some reason or other, Bridgette’s legs began to feel weak. She wanted a little break.

“LAUREN, I REALLY WANNA KEEP DANCING WITH YOU, BUT COULD WE SIT DOWN FOR A MINUTE AND HAVE A DRINK?”

Lauren obliged, leading her by the hand, out of the crowd and back to the bar. Em spied them and made a beeline.

“Omigod! Oh, my, God, I can’t believe it!” she exclaimed with elation. “I can’t believe you guys are actually in love!

“Okay, easy, Emily, easy,” Lauren chuckled, patting the seat beside them. “We might be, but, just…y’know, one step at a time.”

The bar was quieter, and easier to just hear each other’s sentences. They ordered a round…then another. Now that Bridgette sat to throw some back, she could hardly believe she’d waited so long. Alcohol merely numbed the sting, but she desperately needed relief. The small break turned into a drinking mini-marathon. Another libation or six later, things finally began to haze and feel better.

“Does she usually drink like this?” Lauren called over to Emily.

“Oh, hell, no,” Em waved off. “Not at all. She just needs a little booze anesthesia.”

While the girls would certainly get more chances to dance, there’d be no more fantastic light-tripping this evening. Just regular stumble-tripping. After Bridgette asked someone to take her to the girls’ room, and Em volunteered, “I got this,” and Lauren pointed them to it, she sat by herself for the moment and ordered one more. She held her liquor pretty well, and even had she not been drinking, she knew clear as a bell what Bridgette told her out there on the floor. It was impossible not to. Her heart swelled and pounded with happiness, repeating those seven magical, heavenly words to herself over and over and over. And she knew it was a full promise. They hadn’t touched a drop yet. Bridgette was stone sober at the point of stating her devotion. And Lauren believed she felt the same way. Over the past several weeks, whatever she did, said, thought, wherever she went, she found her thoughts kept returning to Bridgette.

It was a true shame about her Mom, and Lauren felt a little bad being so happy when Bridgette was so…not. But vis-à-vis her mother…well, they’d figure something out. They had to. Lauren couldn’t bear to be any reason Bridgette’s mother never spoke to her again, or vice versa. And while she wouldn’t force herself on the situation, she also wouldn’t mind just trying to talk or reason with Bridgette’s Mom herself. Obviously, it wouldn’t be easy, but she had trouble imagining any parent this difficult. Then again, like she’d told Bridgette, she’d seen the full spectrum, from the atheists to the hopelessly devout and beyond. This Mom would be a tough cookie.

But all of this was in the indeterminable future. She couldn’t do anything right now past waiting for Em and Bridge to emerge from the ladies’ room. Then she’d let the former take the latter home. Much as she’d like to take Bridgette to her own home, the girl’s faculties were compromised. And she was already mentally unsteady, and in need of some guidance. What she didn’t need right now was to be taken advantage of. Lauren would be hard-pressed to forgive herself if she took home the tipsy Bridgette and had her way with her. It was simply not an option. She needed patience for the situation to sort itself out, and for desired final resolution.

However they reached it.

*****

To Tell The This Or Double That

Friday, March 8th, 2013, 6:32 p.m.

The next several weeks passed similarly. Bridgette went on rooming with Em, too apprehensive to call her mother, yet very curious. She couldn’t help but wonder if Charlotte’s mind pried itself at all open to Bridgette’s lesbianism, but she didn’t count on it. Her Dad Nick may’ve been more capable of compassion, if he didn’t allow himself to be cowed and overruled by Charlotte in matters of family and household. It would appear Bridgette got her passivity from him. It really was unfortunate, Bridgette thought. Charlotte made the rules, rigidly adhered to them and insisted those under her roof do the same. It went without saying that in her world, romance, relationships, sex and marriage strictly involved one man and one woman, and that was all she wrote. Still, Bridgette hoped, one day…

At least Bridgette had recovered enough to go on living her life. She no longer camped on Emily’s sofa twenty-four hours a day. She helped her with household duties when Em was both at work and relaxing at home. The rest of the time, she went about looking for a job. Part-time, full-time, shift hours weren’t so important. Bridgette felt she could consider herself now snipped from her family’s financial cushion, and needed to round up a few dollars on her own. She wanted to further her education, and Em might’ve been able to support the both of them as was, but she couldn’t put food on the table and Bridgette through medical school.

Finding employment wasn’t terribly easy for Bridgette, who fell only a lightyear or two short in experience. Excepting a few jobs in high school and college—which didn’t pay but instead shaved a chunk off her tuition—she’d practically never worked in her life. This was discouraging, but, she thought, someone had to take a chance on her eventually. Everybody had to get started somewhere. And now with a four-year college degree, she felt the odds were more in her favor.

Some days she looked for work, either out and about or online, and other days she just hung around and took it easy. Or studied. Or went to the mall or library. Or vegged. Or thought longingly about Lauren, shadow dancing with her or writing her love letters. Lauren’s Target salary afforded her a studio apartment and nourishment to go on inside of it, but not a great deal more. She too wished to broaden her future horizons and build a fruitful career. Bridgette couldn’t thank Emily enough for introducing them, and decided that like it or not, her homophobic mother would just have to live with it—if, that was, she actually still wanted Bridgette in her life.

They got together a few more times each week, excluding Fridays when, as always now, all five met up. February brought even more happiness than January, and they hoped for more of the same in March. March’s second Friday returned them to Emily’s—and Bridgette’s—digs once more. And today Emily had a little something special in mind. She sat them together on the floor in a pentagon.

“Okay, so check it out, gents and ladies!” she announced like a game show host, drumrolling on her thighs. “It’s time to plaaaaaayyy…

“…Strip-Truth Or Dare!”

A curious silence dropped over her friends. They looked about to one another a moment.

“R—…really, Em?” asked Sam.

“Yeah, what…is that, exactly?” Ian wanted to know.

“Well, what the hell’s it sound like, dudes?” Em laughed. “It’s like a normal game of Truth Or Dare, except if you refuse to either tell the truth or do the dare, you have to give up a piece of clothing!”

Both guys and both girls around her turned a bit red.

“So, if you choose truth, but then refuse, you can still take the dare. But if you refuse the dare too, then you have to start stripping. But! If you choose dare, and decide you don’t wanna do it, then that’s it; you still automatically have to take something off.

“And here’s the deal: we go alphabetically by name,” Emily continued, “To be sure you can’t just pick the same person over and over.” Even though that might be kinda fun, she thought. “So on your next turn, you have to go to the next person alphabetically.

“Which meeeeeans…” she grinned, turning to her left. “Bridge?...You’re up first…and I’m your target. Take your best shot.”

“Hmmm…” Bridgette mused, a bit nervously. “Okay, uh…truth or dare, Em?”

“Truth.”

“…Am I wearing out my welcome in your house?”

Emily chuckle-scoffed. “Bridge, of course not! I love having you here; you’re my best friend! I told you I’d take care of you as long as you needed, and I meant it! Now c’mon. Go again; that one doesn’t count. And ask me something juicy this time.”

Bridgette sighed in mock exasperation. “Okay, I’ll try to get in the spirit of it. Um…” She thought. “…A’right, Emmy…

“What…gives you…a nice big lady-boner?”

Bridgette immediately blushed and giggled again as soon as she got the question out. Their three other companions reacted similarly.

BRIDGette!—…Oh my gosh!” chortled Lauren.

“No, no, that’s—yes! That’s good! There you go; that’s more like it!” Emily assessed. “See? That’s the whole fun of this game!

“Okay,” smirked Em, turning a little pink herself. “Well, I don’t usually get lucky enough to see it up close and personal…” Giggle. “But when I see a picture or whatever of a dude, with his shirt off, and he’s…chiseled…enough to have that little ‘v’-line, from his ribs down to his midsection…whew…” Em exulted and exhaled, resisting the urge to start groping at herself right then and there. “Yeah. There it is. Instant, major, arousal. Doesn’t even make a huge difference how the rest of him looks.”

Emily swiped at her forehead. “Wow. A’right! I’m up. Ian? Your turn…”

This was going to be fun. She honestly hadn’t planned it this way, just serendipity that Ian The Incredible Hunk’s name came next.

“…Truth or dare?”

“Eh, I’ll have to go with truth.”

Rats. Oh well. Em was hoping he’d choose the dare, but maybe she could hit him with an awkward enough query to change his mind.

“’Kay; truth it is…where’s your favorite spot to do it with a girl—both geographical, and on her body?”

Sammy whistled. “Dang, Em!” he said as the girls again sniggered. “You don’t mess around, do ya?”

“I never mess around where intimacy is concerned,” Em declared. “Now c’mon, Ian; out with it.”

Ian indeed made the sort of awkward face she was hoping for. “Do I…have to answer?” he tittered.

“Not at all!” Emily eagerly leered. “You can take the dare, or you can take off an article of clothing.” …And either way, I “win.”

“Ummm…what’s the dare?”

Time to indulge herself. Keeping the saucy grin on her face, Em reached around to her back, beneath her top, and went to work.

“Dare: reach under my shirt…” She undid the clasps as her friends’ faces again went into startled amusement. When she was done, upping the ante even further, she whipped off her bra, produced it before them, and tossed it behind her.

“…And fondle my boobs. For ten seconds.”

The room teemed with shocked laughter. Em arched her brows, defying him more bravely. It would seem that even though Emily’d honestly answered Bridgette’s question, she was eager to get the “strip” part of the game underway. The best was that no one—except possibly Ian—took this as a revelation of Emily’s crush on him. For all they surmised, she could have chosen anyone—one of the guys or one of the girls—to grope her breasts. Nobody suspected Em of being so devious as to just want some hot foreplay. But she was.

Really…” Ian smirked, arching and flipping his own eyebrows. “Well, I…think I can handle that…”

Just as in the scenario she’d described to them a moment before, Emily felt a surge of arousal jolt through her. Still careful not to let on how excited she was, she kept her cool and sat still as Ian approached. He was to reach under and fondle her boobs, but that was all. There’d be no flashing her friends—although clearly none of the four of them would loathe her for it. Her belly tingled as he finally slipped his hands inside her shirt, slid them the couple inches upwards…and one of Emily Conwell’s dreams came to life.

OOOO-hoo-hoo!” she squealed, visibly elated, as the three others counted out loud to ten. Secretly hoping they never got there, Emily tried to make these the longest ten seconds of her life. Alas, they weren’t nearly long enough.

“Oh-ho-ho-ho…” she chuckled, tingling again as Ian’s fingers left her skin and emerged back out. “Oh, Ian, that felt good!

He gave her a funny stare. “Were you expecting it to feel bad?”

“Well, no, but, y’know, you’re my buddy. I wasn’t sure if it would feel funny, or weird, or what. But, that…that was nice.”

Her juices were in motion. A silly smile was pasted on her face. If they didn’t know she had a crush on him before, they were certainly given a hint now. Ian had performed his dare, and therefore remained fully dressed, and it was time to continue the game. The only problem was, now that Em had had a taste of Ian Summers’ touch, in one of her most delicate regions, she really wanted more.

“All right, Ian, it’s your turn now, and you have to ask Lauren truth or dare.”

“Okay then,” agreed Ian, turning to their newest group addition. “Lauren…what she said.”

“Dare,” Lauren grinned.

“’Kay, let’s see…star-sixty-seven somebody, any random number…and prank them with the ‘refrigerator running’ thing.”

“Oooh,” chorused the others, including Lauren, getting up to fetch her cell.

“And put it on speaker so we know it’s legit!” Emily added as Lauren reclaimed her pentagonal corner. She obeyed, letting her fingers float over the buttons until all digits were dialed, with an area code that would lead them who knew where.

“Here we go!” Lauren announced as she pressed in the Send button just enough to activate it. They heard it ring. And again. And—

Click. “Yehlo?” said a Southern-sounding voice.

Lauren almost promptly cracked up, but kept her cool. “Hi there! Is your fridge running?”

“…E’scuse me?”

“I said, is your refrigerator running??” Lauren repeated, feeling the laugh breaking through.

The less than amused recipient of the call caught on. “Oh…a’right. I get it…har har. Very funny.”

“Yep! So you know what you better go do!” Lauren shouted, quickly hanging up before the inevitable laughter ensued.

“I always wanted to see a girl do that!” Ian crowed, smacking his knee. “You are the best, Lauren!”

“Oh, tell me something I don’t know,” Lauren scoffed. “So, that makes it my turn?”

Emily confirmed with a nod. “And Sammy’s your target.”

“All right, well, uh…truth, why not,” Sam decided. “Let’s have it.”

Lauren took a moment to think, and came up with her griller. “All right, so, Sam…d’yever kiss another dude?”

Natch, followed the next series of “Ooooh”s and giggles. Luckily for Sammy, he was pretty good at thinking on his feet.

“‘Kiss’?” he asked. “No.”

The girls let out a few hoots and cheers. Ian shot Sam a slightly strange look.

“Hmm, y’know, Sammy, I’m not sure I believe you!” Emily said.

“Yeah, that seemed a little suspicious to me too,” uttered Bridgette. “Ian? You wanna disprove that theory for us?”

More laughter. “Okay, okay…” Sam waved his hand. “I answered the question; I think we can move on now.”

Allll right,” Em agreed as the gals stopped laughing. “All right, Sammy, we’ll let you off the hook this time. You better watch out when we come back around to you, though. But for now, you get a little chance for revenge. You’re up, and Bridgette’s on your business end. Now’s your chance to torment her. Let her have it.”

Sam rubbed his palms together. “Okay then, Bridges, here we go,” he sneered, affecting a scary unplaceable accent. “Truth…or dare?”

Feeling brazen, Bridgette stared him right back down. “Dare, sucker.”

“All right, Madison County, you asked for it,” Sam taunted her. “Go outside on the front porch, and take one of us—or better yet, all of us with ya. Then face the front door, drop your pants—”

He paused for effect, letting the rest of the group respond accordingly.

“—Moon the neighborhood…and twerk that nice round ass of yours for us, for fifteen seconds, sucker!

“WHOA-HO-HO!!” Emily cackled, almost crying from laughing so hard. “Sammy, that is ruthless!”

“It might be,” Ian concurred, “But I’d like to see it anyway!”

Bridgette was far too intimidated by this evil dare to even consider it, so she waited for everyone else to calm down, and simply pulled off her socks. Wadding them up into little balls, she flung them Sam’s way. “Well, here’s what I think of that!” she conceded.

“Heyyyyy!” said Em. “And there’s the first stripping of the evening! All righty then, gals and pals, congrats on a nice first round! Well, let’s move right on to round two, shall we? Bridge, your turn again. But now you go to the next person after me, which is Ian.”

“Oh-kay…Ian, truth or dare?”

“Considering what was going on in round one, I think I’d better say truth,” opted Ian.

“Good choice!” Lauren chimed in.

“Remember, big guy, you’re under oath,” Em reminded him. “Consider us your own personal lie detectors.”

“A’right, Ian,” Bridgette launched in. “Have you ever had naughty thoughts about any of our—or your—relatives?”

The obligatory whooping followed. Ian was again embarrassed, but felt he could answer this one.

“Actually…yes,” he honestly stated. “Do I have to disclose who?”

“Actually…” Em parroted, “If it’s one of theirs, go ahead. If it’s one of mine, I don’t wanna know.”

“Ha! Nor do I,” said Bridgette.

“I could’ve done without even knowing that much,” Sammy kicked in.

“And I don’t think you’ve even met anyone in my family,” said Lauren.

“…Well, then, maybe we should just leave it at that,” concluded Ian. “Who’s next?”

“Okay!” Emily clapped her hands. “My turn! Lauren.” She gestured for the pixie girl to make eye contact with her, by indicating her own eyes with two fingers, then Lauren’s, then her own once more. “You ready?...Truth or dare?”

“Eh, what the hey, let’s go with dare again,” Lauren shrugged.

“Nice,” Sam opined.

“I told you she was the best,” added Ian.

“All right, you got it,” cooed Emily, smiling wickedly at her. “French-kiss Bridgette…”

All four faces lit up at the first part of this challenge. No one, however, anticipated the second part.

“…And…at the same time, tickle her coochie till she goes crazy.”

Bridgette’s and Lauren’s faces whirled on each other, almost instantly blushing. Sam and Ian responded simultaneously.

DAMN!” Sammy shouted. “HEL-lo!” Ian overlapped him. Bridgette buried her face in her hand.

Emily!” Lauren laughed out loud. “That’s-that’s…bonkers!”

“Maybe so. But, y’all’re in my house, you’re playing my game, and I made the rules. And I don’t remember setting any statutes or limits on ‘bonkers,’” their hostess grinned. “Now do it or lose it, sister.”

Oh my gosh…” Lauren awkwardly uttered through her teeth, as her red-faced dare-mate looked back up from her palm.

“Okay, time out,” Lauren requested, forming the capital ‘T’ with her hands. “I have a question. If we decide to do it…do we actually have to do that right here with you guys? Or can we go in another room and, like, record it with our phone or something?”

“You gotta do it here, with us,” said Em. “But if you do, and should things take that turn, I have a feeling you’re gonna wanna go off by yourselves, and…do even more. And you won’t have to deal with any ruthless friends or bonkers dares for that.”

“Welllll…” Bridgette stalled, feeling her coochie tingle thinking about Lauren tickling it, “Can I ask you guys to do me a favor if we do this, and keep the cheers and whistles and taunts to a minimum?...I can’t speak for Lauren, but you’ll just make me self-conscious.”

“Mm, a’right, fair enough,” Emily agreed, as the two gentlemen nodded in cooperation.

Lauren took a quick breath. “’Kay,” she murmured. She slicked her lips, turned to Bridgette, scooted her butt over close, and placed one hand—the non-dominant paw, which would perform no pussy tickling—on Bridgette’s back. She coyly, demurely batted her eyes, inviting and imploring Bridgette to do the same. Bridgette didn’t know about Lauren, but she was nervous doing this in front of the rest of their friends, almost as if acting out a porno for them. But maybe if she shut her eyes and pretended they weren’t there…

Lauren indeed felt self-conscious herself. After all, Bridgette just had to sit there and be toyed with. Lauren was the one with the dare upon her, to set the kiss in motion, to play with Bridgette’s pussy—through her pants, for now, she had to presume—to make her giggle, possibly even laugh, or more. Well, though she didn’t know Bridgette was thinking the same thing, if she just closed her eyes, and too pretended no one else was there…

She leaned into Bridgette for support, and their lips came together in the same splendid, sumptuous mesh. Once their latest kiss was underway, it became far easier to fall into the moment, letting their eyes drop closed to remember the wonderful dances and affections they’d shared. The Frenching part couldn’t be less of a problem or more of a pleasure. Getting their taste buds involved only made the kisses ever so much hotter. Focusing to pull off the other part of her task was what Lauren had to remember.

She slid her other paw—that which knew what it was doing—from Bridgette’s knee along her thigh till it got closer and closer to the erogenous zone. Bridgette heaved, whimpered, breathed in deep through the nose, and felt a balloon of goodness inflate her. She abruptly realized that Lauren was about to touch her ladyhood. Over her jeans, yes, but even so. She couldn’t lie and say that she hadn’t touched it herself, thinking and fantasizing about Lauren touching it. The realization made her almost instantly moist. And it felt good.

Bridgette tensed up and braced herself, prepared to start snickering through the kiss as Lauren’s fingers finally reached her dampening cunt to dance over it. But when they did—to the still audible delight of Em, Sammy and Ian, and Bridgette’s utter surprise—it didn’t tickle. It only added…or…no, no, make that multiplied her arousal. The first time Lauren touched her down there—regardless of what form the touch took—felt like magic. It made her want to scream with joy from the rooftops.

My God, if this feels this good with my pants on…

Though her recollection of anyone else’s presence was now a bit hazy, Bridgette thought she remembered Em saying something about them doing more than just this. And that, in turn, triggered the reminder of just how lonely Bridgette was in the intimacy department. Lauren was the first girl she’d fallen for, and any romances she’d had with boys never got half this far.

None of the five expected Emily’s dare to Lauren to go quite this far. Bridgette yanked Lauren horizontally down to the floor with her, trying to crush her hand between two practically burning thighs. Em, Sam and Ian looked to each other, feeling the awkwardness shift their way, as if the three of them and the two lovebirds on the floor should be in separate places. They were about to say so by reaching over to tickle Bridgette’s feet while Lauren was tickling her pussy, but the girls stopped and started to get up on their own.

“Um…plea-please excuse us,” a sheepish Bridgette stammered, plucking Lauren’s mitt out of her crotch to lead her away by it. “Can we, uh…can we finish the game later??”

“Oh, of course!” Emily said, nodding vehemently. “Uh, fellas? Whaddaya say we go head out and give the girls some privacy.”

*****

Feelin’ Groovy

Friday, March 8th, 2013, 7:44 p.m.

That Saturday back in November after the Rainforest Cafe was the last visit they’d paid Juniper Lanes & Billiards, and the three of them agreed they could go for a few frames and racks. And that ought to give Bridgette and Lauren plenty of time. So Emily, Sam and Ian piled into the car and off they went. Meanwhile alone in Emily’s guest room—n.k.a. Bridgette’s bedroom—Bridgette shut the door, even though Em and the boys had left, turned back around to Lauren, and approached to slip her arms around her.

“Oh my God, Lauren…” Bridgette gushed as they resumed kissing. “You don’t know how I’ve started to long for this.”

Lauren’s heart swooned. “Oh, I…think I have a pretty good idea.”

“No,” Bridgette adamantly shook her head. “I don’t think you do. Sweetheart…I’ve fallen in love with you…”

Lauren smiled warmly, this indeed being the pretty good idea she thought she had.

“…And now I can’t wait to make that love to you.”

“Why, Miss Bridgette Carter,” Lauren whimsically purred. “You roguish thing, you.”

They passed a few more fiery kisses, shuffling in the direction of the bed. One moment later, they tumbled in with a mutual squeak and giggle. Their bodies warmed up almost instantly folding and pressing into one another. They interlocked perfectly. It felt simply delicious, spectacular, and right. As if they were meant for each other, cosmically connected. As they huggled and made out minute after minute, Bridgette saw all her problems slowly vanish, one by one: the rocky relationship with her Mom, her lack of any source of income, the inability to continue her schooling, or go live back at home if she did wear out her welcome with Emily…

It was fortunate she was being distracted from these things rather than reminded of them. Ironically, they’d kept all of their clothes on inside the house, so as to fare well in the Truth Or Dare game. Of course, it was still winter in Minnesota, during which time Em’s house was heated at a steady 74°. Now having advanced to the current point, it failed to occur to them to slip anything past their shoes and socks off. Now they were becoming very heated themselves.

“You really are so beautiful,” Lauren proclaimed, anointing Bridgette with butterfly kisses. “Your face, your hair, your lips…and I love that adorable little triangle on the tip of your nose,” she cooed, dabbing at it. “I don’t know why that’s so darn cute…but it is.”

“Oh, yeah,” Bridgette uttered. “I know what you mean. And if you look at the bridge of the nose and down, it looks like an arrow.”

Next came the frantic shimmying off of the clothing, article by article, starting with Bridgette’s sweater. This took longer than planned, and compelled Lauren to resist the urge to raspberry her bared tummy. She instead helped Bridgette with the sweater, getting right back into the liplock action immediately. From there, they moved on to Lauren’s top, their bras, and on down to the trousers. They took their time as much as each deemed necessary, which wasn’t quite much. Somehow, through a mess of fumbling about, they finally got each other stark naked as a couple of jaybirds, kicking and throwing stray garments everywhere. Even more wildly turned on in their nude hides, they hungrily seized and groped for each other, mashing together mounds of ripe, seared, sweaty flesh.

Lauren’s hand caught in Bridgette’s thick blonde locks, so she cupped the fair-haired lass’ chin with her free paw while throwing every locatable vestige of passion her way. Bridgette responded in kind, smoothing fingertips down Lauren’s pixyish eyebrow, temple and cheek, reaching downward to grip one of her other cheeks at the same time. Lauren slid herself close as could be to make things easy on the both of them. Once they could no longer sufficiently breathe through their noses, they pried their lips apart like suction cups, producing a loud unisonous gasp. They grabbed a quick needed breather, and went right back at it.

Lauren got her hand free, and seized Bridgette’s right tit, with a firm yet demure grasp. Bridgette yelped as an inner sizzle lit her up. Her natural impulse was to reciprocate, upping the ante in the process, so she tweaked Lauren’s right nipple in one hand, and snatched her wet snatch with the other. Her aggression worked. Lauren mooooaned, and punctuated with an uncharacteristic expletive.

So much began to race frantically within them: hearts, blood, hormones, juices, a host of sensations coming together to puff up their no-longer-so-privates and melt them at the cunts, making them leak and drip. The arousal was well on its way to being too much to bear. Lauren gingerly sank her teeth into Bridgette’s bottom lip and tugged. Not to be outdone, Bridgette slithered her hand back between Lauren’s legs, diddling her asshole with a single innocent fingertip. That got a rise out from her. Lauren squealed in sensitive surprise, releasing her lip. Bridgette grinned at her, unassumingly yet mischievously, as if to announce, “Gotcha.”

Again, the initiative drove Lauren crazy with desire and devotion. She gazed into Bridgette’s naughty smiling eyes for another second, then abruptly dove between her jaw and shoulder to hickey her neck. She nabbed Bridgette’s wettened pussy with one hand, and reached around to her back with the other, scraping her nails down to the ass, leaving white trails that then turned pink. Taken unawares, it was Bridgette’s turn to give up some verbal applause. Her eyes rolled back and her own mouth swore.

Lauren raked her fingernails back up Bridgette’s spine from the rump, and forced her legs wider apart. She then pushed against Bridgette, shoving her over, half onto her back, and poked her dominant thumb upwards from the pussy to reach her hardening clit. Unsure what to expect and unwilling to put anything past her, Bridgette felt the clitoris massage, and went insane. She howled and roared like the blazing young tiger she was. But Lauren was far from done. Still at her lady-friend’s swan-like neck, she added small but firm nibbles and bites, inching back up to her jaw, her ear, her cheek.

Her drive was rewarded. Bridgette screamed, bouncing echoes off the walls. She instinctively reached for Lauren’s cunt through her landing-strip pubes, but her technique was rendered more than a bit inept. She pawed like a blind wolf for the pixie’s tits to the same lack of avail, but Lauren didn’t care. It was the time of her life. She threw in a bit of footsie just to give her peds something to do.

She had Bridgette—veritably owning her—right smack dab where she wanted her. And by this point, that particular “where” was the fast track to Climaxland. In the midst, careful not to lose too much time or effort, she scrambled up atop Bridgette, shifted position, aligned their pussies as best she could, slipped her paw in between…curled her fingers inside…pushed up her hood…rubbed their engorged clits together…dropped her head to torso level…and proceeded to dine on Bridgette’s breasts for supper.

Bridgette rolled her head back and shrieked to the ceiling, wincing in intense bliss and pleasure—almost disguised as agony, the way Lauren was gnawing at her girls. In fact, between the clit nubbing, digital penetration and entire bodily stimulation in general, Bridgette felt herself bombarded in the ecstasy of a thousand shooting stars. Lauren at last ignited her like jet fuel, sending her rocketing, beyond the speed of light, towards the mighty orgasmic portal. There was no so much as thinking about turning back now. Lauren thrusted her on, rubbing and humping, pushing her just the very last little distance she needed to make it. Neither had breath left to go on making out, but Lauren, with a bit more, went on dotting Bridgette’s red flesh with lipprints and teeth marks, from her ear, to her jaw, to her neck, to her clavicle, to her shoulder…Bridgette, unable to believe the finesse demonstrated on her, sifted her digits through Lauren’s pixie ’do and relaxed, letting the magic fairy dust sprinkle over her. Finally…

Finally…it was time. The countdown hit at warp speed before Bridgette had any idea what was going on.

Fivefourthreetwoone!!—

“Oh-OH-AAAAAOOOOOHHHHH!!” Bridgette erupted, cumming more violently, more fiercely, more savagely than she could ever recall in her life. She saw heaven in its infinite reaches in those few precious moments, circling the apex uncountable times, until gravity took over. Lauren felt her hand and her own cunt caked in hot cum, finally shoving her over the line of true, doubtless adoration. She positively loved Bridgette. She loved her, and there was no going back now. Time went still in the few moments they lay together, extending the most beautiful night of their lives by a few more glorious minutes. At last, the explosive sparks fizzled out, ceasing to juggle Bridgette in their trance, and she weightlessly fell into the afterglow pool. The killer orgasm was far too much to recover from any time soon. She dropped her appendages from the air, and collapsed in the mattress, almost instantaneously dead to the world.

Lauren used all the stamina she had left to rub Bridgette’s cum into her own pussy, and quickly jill herself into a lubricated climax that couldn’t compare to the majesty of Bridgette’s, but satisfied her nonetheless. She was euphoric. She knew right then that she too was officially in love. No one had ever cum like that for her before, and she knew no one could cum like that and not mean it. She was so happy. She kissed her fingertip, dabbed it once more down to the triangle at the tip of Bridgette’s beautiful nose, slid horizontally beside her, took her sleeping girlfriend in her arms, and tenderly whispered three sweet, tranquil words.

You’re welcome, darling.”

*****

Wherever You Are (What Goes Around Comes Out Of The Closet)

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013, 6:45 p.m.

“…And in other news,” read the anchor, to the rapt attention of Bridgette Carter, Emily Conwell, Sam Madden, Lauren Marsiglia and Ian Summers, “Governor Mark Dayton has officially signed the bill passing same-sex marriage into Minnesota legislature. Effective Monday, July 1st, Minnesota will have become the second midwestern state after Iowa to legalize and perform same-sex weddings. The vote came down on the side of ratification by a percentage of 52.6.”

“YAY!!” half the gang cheered, overlapped by the other half’s equally resounding, “YES!!” They lifted their cups and glasses for an all-around toast to the wonderful news. Bridgette and Lauren embraced and shared a warm celebratory kiss.

It was another exception to the group’s Fridays ritual, this being the day the gay marriage verdict would be announced. This time the gathering took place at Sam’s apartment, which was nearest in average proximity to Target, MD&M, Rite Aid and Lucky’s. Most of the four employed pals worked weekdays overall, one of the reasons they chose Fridays to meet. The aforementioned jobs discouraged them from going out tonight to celebrate and paint the town ROYGBIV, but no big deal; they’d simply do so Friday.

Now that the hot button topic from last November had come full circle and played out in their favor, Bridgette again felt a little bad about her original vote, and allowing herself to be swayed by her mother’s overbearing values. But she couldn’t be more delighted to have been outvoted. As Emily had suspected, Bridgette’s solitary vote did not overturn the entire table. Moreover, Bridgette convinced herself not to feel bad because a mistake though her vote may’ve been, it didn’t reflect the way she really felt inside. Bridgette was a good-hearted, kind person with a wealth of love to give, and had been doing a lot of thinking about this issue from November up till now. And while she would’ve felt guilty had the bill been rejected in favor of the ban, she felt just as validated. It seemed karma had won. It had forgiven her misguided decision, and paved the way for her eventual, long, happy future in lesbian wedlock.

But first, she had a little something to settle.

A short while later, four fifths of the clan exchanged goodbyes for the evening, departed Sam’s place and piled back in their cars. Bridgette slid into Em’s passenger seat beside her as Lauren climbed into the back.

“So…home?” asked Emily.

“Actually, Emmy…there’s somewhere else I wanna go first. And I wanna bring you there too, Lauren.”

“Sure; where?”

“…Home.”

*****

Get Used To It!”

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013, 8:03 p.m.

It had been just over four months, and Bridgette was one nervous nelly.

“Oh, gosh, Em…” she breathed uneasily as Emily pulled up and parked. “I know what I said, but…I dunno if I can do this.”

“Babe, you’ll be fine. Your sweetie-honey-bear and I’ll be right there with you.”

Bridgette marched to the door, a supporter on either side. She still had her key with her, but considered it a better idea to ring the bell. She almost chickened out and dashed back to the car, but held on to her courage. If she didn’t do this tonight, she didn’t know when she might muster up the moxie again. She slowly pressed her finger into the doorbell, and winced as she heard it activate.

Well, she couldn’t back out now. She was terrible at Ding-Dong-Ditch, or Ring ‘N’ Run, or whatever they were calling it these days. But at least the torturous suspense didn’t last long. A couple moments later, she heard the other side of the door click. Her heart rate doubled and her breath caught in her throat. For a half a second she thought she would throw up.

“…Bridge?”

“Oh…hi, Dad.”

“…Well, hey, pumpkin, haven’t seen you in a while.”

“Yes, well…there’s a reason for that, Dad…but it’s not you.” Nick nodded. “Oh, yes, this is Lauren…” Bridgette gestured her over.

“…M—…my girlfriend.”

“…Oh, yes...” Nick replied indecipherably. Bridgette didn’t know if the way he reacted was good or bad news, but he egressed and offered his hand. “Well, it’s so nice to meet you, Lauren.”

“You too, Mr. Carter. I see Bridgette has your lovely blue eyes.”

“Eh, yes, yes, we’re all gorgeous,” Bridgette stepped in. “Dad, is…um…”

She swallowed. “…Is mother here?”

“Certainly is, honey, right upstairs. You want me to go get her for you?”

“Mmmm…actually, Dad, maybe instead, you could let her know we’re here? Uh…see how she reacts?”

“Oh, sure, pumpkin…though, be honest, I don’t think there’s anything to worry about,” Nick nodded, stepping inside. “Just a sec.”

He disappeared back behind the front door. Bridgette’s heart started going like a hammer. Her Dad’s words were a good sign, but…

“Guys?” She held out her hands. “Hold on to me. I have a feeling I’m gonna need some comfort in a sec.”

It was a 66° spring evening, but the blood in Bridgette’s extremities felt cold as ice. The other reason she’d asked Em and Lauren to hold her was so she couldn’t bolt for the car again. She stood brave, waiting for the axe to fall, for Nick to return with the predictable epilogue. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity later, the door creaked back ajar.

“Okay, wait a second, Dad, I-I think I’ve changed my…”

The figure who appeared at the door was not Nick.

“…Mo—?

Charlotte stood before them, her expression inscrutable. The step up to the front door was only three inches, but right now her mother looked eight feet tall, towering and looming over her like an ominous presence.

Bridgette’s mouth went dry. Her words panicked and ran in fright. She didn’t know what to say. To her amazement, however, though Charlotte’s face remained unreadable, she opened the door.

“Bridgette…I’d like you to please come inside.”

A flicker of hope ignited in her daughter’s heart.

“R—…really??”

“Yes. And your friends too.”

She took them to the living room, where Bridgette first broached the news to her in January. “Go ahead and sit down, girls.”

Bridgette took her usual seat on the couch beside her Mom. Lauren perched next to her on the other end, which Bridgette allowed, even though she wasn’t sure it was a great idea. Em sat on the other side of the room across from them.

“Erm…mother?...Pardon my uncertainty, but…should we be frightened?”

“But no, dear daughter. Not at all.”

There was something about her tone Bridgette didn’t quite trust.

“…Then…why am I?”

Charlotte placed a hand over Bridgette’s, on her thigh.

“Bridgette…I said some things to you that day…and though I was too proud to admit it until now…

“…I owe you an apology.”

Bridgette’s eyebrows catapulted up about two miles.

“Mother?...Um, all due respect; I mean nothing by this…are you drunk?”

Charlotte smiled for the first time. “I’m not the slightest bit tipsy.”

“High? Medicated? On painkillers?”

She even got Charlotte to chuckle with these three supplemental guesses.

“No, no, and no. But you see, I’ve been thinking a lot about all this since that night, and I cannot lie to you, Bridgette. At first, I was quite crestfallen. And very disappointed in you. I tried so hard to figure out just where I went wrong. I even prayed for God to give you hope and support and guidance. I mean, you cannot believe just how—”

Bridgette waved it off. “YEAHyeahyeahyeah,” she leapt in. “I-I get the picture, Mom. Can we get to the part where you apologize?”

“Of course. You see, a couple of weeks ago I finally visited St. Ipsen’s to speak with Father O’Hanlon. I told him how I wasn’t sure what to do about this, or how I should feel. Do you know what he told me?”

“I don’t see how I could, mother, not having been there myself, but go ahead, go on.”

“He told me that he and I have something in common. His daughter Valerie is gay too. And she’s deeply involved with someone.”

Really??”

“That’s exactly what I said. I asked him a lot of questions, and he gave me a lot of answers. Bridgette…sweetheart…

“…He…actually…really opened my eyes. This is not easy for me to admit, but in the midst of my virtue and spirituality…I had something to learn. He quoted some scriptures and Bible verses to give me context, and the way he interpreted them was…new to me. It was like an entire new world opened up. He made me see that…that there can be another way of looking at things.”

Her daughter and her girlfriends looked around at one another. Lauren and Emily seemed very pleased. Bridgette was a bit skeptical.

“Well, that’s…that’s great, Mom, but…are you asking me to believe that you’ve had some sort of mind-altering epiphany?...I mean, you made it pret-ty gosh-darn clear how you felt about this four months ago.”

“A lot can happen in four months, Bridgette. I remember that night too, and…” She sighed, shaking her head. “…This is difficult for me, but…I am so ashamed of the way I felt and the things I said to you then. Bridgette…um…” She looked about. “…Bridgette’s friends…

“…I was wrong.” She dropped her eyes to her lap, then brought them back up to meet Bridgette’s astonished gaze. “I was…I was just so very, very wrong. You are still my daughter, you always were, and you always will be. And I do love you…just like Father O’Hanlon loves his daughter. It’s like I told you: he truly, truly enlightened me. And I may not be able to make you believe me, but, cliché as it sounds…I’ve come to see the light. God loves all the flowers He plants, all the beautiful varieties. And you’re my little girl, and…even if you’ve grown up to be different from me, in this regard…that can’t make me stop loving you.” She held out her arms. “Nothing can.”

That was good enough to convince Bridgette. “Oh, Mom!” she joyfully cried out, flinging her arms around Charlotte and squeezing her. “Oh my God, I wish you’d called and told me this before!”

“Oh, honey, I would’ve,” said Charlotte, rubbing Bridgette’s back, “But after that night, I wasn’t sure if you’d ever speak to me again.”

“Ever speak to you again??” Bridgette repeated. “You’re my mother, mother!”

“True. But the title of World’s Poorest Mother’s Daughter has to go to someone.”

“As long as Christina Crawford’s still around, that title’s never coming near me. I love you, Mom!”

Bridgette felt another pair of arms embracing her from behind. “And I love you too!” Lauren rejoiced.

“Erggh…uh, mother?” said a sandwiched Bridgette. “This is Lauren…the girl I told you I was in love with. She’s my girlfriend now.”

Charlotte shook Lauren’s hand under Bridgette’s armpit. “It’s lovely to meet the person who’s captured my daughter’s heart.”

“Likewise, Mrs. Carter.”

Emily bounded over to them and joined the group hug. “And I love all you guys!!”

ERRGGGHH…uh, and of course you know Emily, Mom.”

“Hey, Mr. C.!” Em shouted over her shoulder. “Get in here! We’re having a group hug!”

“Oh, God!” Bridgette grunted. “I don’t know if I can handle all this love!”

It turned into a wonderful evening. Bridgette had back everything she thought she’d lost. After another short spell, she told Emily she believed she could take Lauren back without her. Em acquiesced, formulating a mission to get herself on. Creating this matchmaking masterpiece inspired her to go home, strike up contact and declare her feelings for a certain Mr. Ian Summers. As her honey and her B.F.F. headed off together for tonight, Bridgette realized how tired she was, what a toll the day had taken on her. Before she knew it, she was off to put herself to sleep, back in her old room again, in the snug comfort of her beloved childhood bed.

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