Disclaimer: This is an uber fanfic and the characters are mine, so I won't disclaim them. All characters, the story idea, and the story itself are the property of the author. This story cannot be sold or used for profit in any way. Copies of this story may be used for private use only and must include all disclaimers and copyright notices.

Love/Sex Warning Disclaimer: This story depicts a love/sexual relationship between two consenting adult women. If you are under the age of 18 or if this type of story is illegal in the state or country in which you live, don't read it. If depictions of this nature disturb you, you may wish to read something other than this story.

Constructive Criticism/General Comments: I welcome both. Contact me at: juleskurre@aol.com

Bar Girls will be published by Renaissance Alliance Publishing this summer. For details, visit their website: rapbooks.com

Copyright March 1999 by Jules Kurre. All Rights Reserved.

 

Bar Girls

By Jules Kurre
juleskurre@aol.com

 

 

 

Chapter One

 

Keagan looked at her apartment with distaste. The place was a mess and she only had an hour to clean up. If Jill got there and saw the assortment of old newspapers, empty Coke boxes, and random clothing strewn about Keagan would hear nothing but complaints all evening. "Iíll never get this done in time." She rushed about throwing the trash away with alacrity. Dashing into the bathroom she gave it a good once-over. Her CD player blared Led Zeppelinís, "In the Evening." As she listened to the music, Keagan considered why she was going to so much trouble for Jill when she could barely tolerate her presence. They went on two dates, Jill spending an indecent amount of time criticizing Keagan. Jill was good for one thing: providing material for a story she was writing. The characterís main trait was vindictive cattiness, and Jillís personality was a perfect match. Keagan frowned at the thought of another evening with her.

"So what the hell." She turned Zep down, picked up the phone, and dialed Jillís number. After three rings, she heard the answering machine: "Hi, this is Jill. My heart goes out to you because your fondest wishes of the moment, being talking to me, are not going to be realized. Leave me a message and maybe Iíll fit you into my schedule and return your call. Beep." Keaganís face showed part disgust, part nausea. Hoping to sound ill, she cleared her throat noisily, talking more slowly than usual. "Hi, itís me, Keagan. Um, Iím not going to be--"

Jill picked up the receiver. "Keagan, you sound awful. Are you done cleaning yet?"

"Oh, no. Iím sick and wonít be able to go to dinner with you tonight. Sorry." Keagan coughed horrendously for several seconds.

"Hmm. Too bad. Well, feel better and finish up that cleaning, hon! Bye!" Click.

Relief flooded through her as Keagan headed to the back room where her computer was. Calling up the file of her current story, she skim read the first chapterís opening paragraphs. With a frustrated sigh, she took off her reading glasses and rubbed her eyes. Figuring her mental block was due to fatigue, she closed the file.

She went into the bedroom to change into a sleeveless T-shirt and shorts. If she couldnít tackle her writerís block, she could at least do her daily workout. That was something Keagan could immediately accomplish. Returning to the living room, she picked up the 10-lb. dumbbells lying on the floor. She purged her mind of thoughts while lifting, the feeling of muscles stretching and her heightened breathing being more than enough for her to focus on. Her wish to clear her mind was thwarted, however, when her thoughts turned to how important writing had become to her. As a child she had used it as an outlet from reality. But as an adult, it had become her lifeís ambition. Her one fear was that she would never accomplish anything. As her arms rose and fell in the replaying of this ritual, Keagan felt her thoughts turning negative in spite of the usual comfort and escape lifting weights gave her. Regaining focus, she pushed the possibility of her fears coming true from her mind.

 

A light sheen of sweat broke out on Keaganís forehead as her workout continued. As she focused on breathing, she considered what her nightís objective would be. Keagan always had specific intentions when going to the bar. Although her goal was usually to write about the people there, sometimes it would be to play pool, spend time with friends, or simply get drunk. Getting picked up was never on her agenda. She dated people like Jill because that personality type provided character material for her writing. Whenever a date wanted something more serious, Keagan ended the relationship.

After showering, Keagan dressed in black. She tied the laces to her combat boots, smiling to herself, already knowing what her choice of cologne would be. In the volatile mood she was in, it had to be Polo. There was something about that scent and her being on edge. They went together. Concluding that she needed new ideas for her story and the bar would be a good place to get them, she decided her aim for the evening would be to write.

 

 

Keagan walked into the Grotto, not spying the usual crowd because it was early. She sat down in her favorite spot without getting a drink, knowing Mabel would be over soon. Looking to the pool table, she happily noted Charís absence. The self-appointed womanizer of the bar frequently hit on her, and Keagan wasnít in the mood to spar.

She glanced up to see Mabel walking toward her table. "Hi, Mabel."

"Hi, hon. Whatíll ya have?" She smiled at Keagan who grinned back. Mabel was peppy, constantly clearing tables or taking orders, and lending an ear to patrons in the process.

"Just a water." She indicated her notebook.

"Ah, a writing night. And what are you writing about? A woman whoís going to walk through that door and change your life perhaps?" She smiled devilishly.

"Oh, I donít think so. But if she arrives, youíll be the first to know."

Mabel chuckled. "Okay, honey." She headed back to the bar to get the water. When she returned, Keagan had a frown on her face and stared at the far wall deep in thought. She set the water in front of her. "That boss of yours giving you a hard time again?"

Keagan looked up with nonchalance. "Nothing I canít handle."

"What happened this time?"

"I got a review full of lies, thatís all."

Mabel nodded sympathetically. "How can she get away with that?"

"Itís easy enough. She knows I wonít complain and that even if I did, nothing would be done. Iím just a little fish in a big pond." Keagan laughed at the bad metaphor.

"But donít they have a higher up manager you can tell?"

Keagan snickered at Mabelís ignorance of retail practices. "Itís commonly referred to as inhuman resources. Oh, I mean human resources. My complaint would be on the bottom of the list. Itís not considered important. They have bigger fish to fry, if you know what I mean."

"But why would your boss do this?"

"Mabel, you will find this very hard to believe, but Iím a big troublemaker."

Mabel looked skeptical, knowing Keagan to be neither a troublemaker, nor someone devoid of a work ethic. "I donít believe it."

"Believe what you want. Itís true. You see, I had the gall to complain when she cut my hours and gave them to her cronies she goes out with." Keagan sipped her water.

"How can that happen?"

"Oh, I donít know. Maybe because theyíve let this evil woman run amok for years. My theory is that she hails from a far off universe, one devoid of all logic, reason, and sensitivity. But her own kind tired of her machinations and banished her to earth as punishment. In response, sheís made her lifeís goal to take revenge on humanity because she canít take revenge on her own kind. Years ago, when I started working at Gigantic, she singled me out, determining to make my life a living hell. Through me, she would achieve the greatest satisfaction she ever knew. This, of course, all culminated by giving me a review that was six points lower than my last. The only question now is what will be her next evil deed?"

Mabel laughed and ruffled Keaganís hair affectionately. "You are something else, you know that?"

Keagan sighed. "So, Iíve been told. The question isÖwhat?"

"Thatíll be revealed in time, Iím sure. Now, why donít you try to enjoy yourself and forget about work for awhile."

"Thanks, Mabel." As the barmaid left, Keagan shook her head wryly, appreciating that she took the time to ask her about work.

The sound of music came from the jukebox since it was the DJís night off. The bartender controlled the sound level and sometimes it got so loud that Keagan couldnít think, much less write. It was on these occasions that she switched her nightly plan to getting drunk. Tonight wouldnít be such a night because the bartender was Cody, her frequent confidant. If it got too loud, sheíd give Cody a look and the music would be turned down. She looked over at the bar and waved to her friend who winked back.

Keagan scanned the bar for potential material when she saw three women come in. Two she recognized as Eileen and Tate, regulars who had been dating for three years and held the "token couple of the bar" title. Keagan didnít know the young woman with them and so began writing about her. She glanced up periodically to take in the developing scene.

Eileen and Tate sat at the bar with their young friend talking quietly. Keagan watched as the young woman smiled or laughed. She couldnít tell her eye color due to the distance between them, but this newcomer was beautiful. Several inches shorter than herself, Keagan pegged her as quite young also; not more than twenty, she guessed. When the young woman caught her eye and smiled, Keagan realized she was staring. She looked away, embarrassed as Char sauntered up. Keagan, so occupied with the young woman, hadnít noticed her nemesis enter the bar.

"Hi, Keag. Notice the new meat at the bar?" Char grinned and directed a purposeful leer toward the young woman.

"Oh, yeah. Now Iím into teenagers." Keagan didnít care for the way Char looked at the young woman. She had a reputation for seducing all the newly out women and then dumping them.

"Sheís not that young." Charís brow crinkled in worry. "You think?"

"What do you care? You donít look like her type." Char wore a red flannel shirt, old stone washed jeans and cowboy boots. A key ring hung from her belt loop, the keys of which jingled whenever she walked. Keagan often wondered if Char realized that she was providing a built-in alarm for her potential prey. In contrast, the attractive young woman had on khakis and a white, long sleeved blouse. Her shirt buttons were undone, allowing Keagan a view of the tight fitting stretch shirt she had on underneath.

"Opposites attract," said Char.

"Not in your case."

"What is it? You want her for yourself or somethiní?"

"No. Char, can you go away, please? Iím busy tonight." Keagan, surprised at her own bluntness, ignored the fact that it stemmed from her eagerness to continue writing about the beautiful woman at the bar.

"Writing? Why do you do that here, anyway? This is a bar. Youíre supposed to have fun here."

"This is fun to me."

Keagan winced at the odor as Char leaned closer. The smell was a combination of Old Spice aftershave and tobacco. Not at all pleasing to the olfactory nerves. "I could show you a different kind of fun." Her voice held a suggestive lilt that made the writer cringe.

Keagan directed a menacing glare toward Char. "And I could show you many things all of them involving pain."

Char retreated. "Touchy tonight, arenít we?"

"Yeah, you could say that."

"You just need to get laid." Char chuckled as she walked off.

Keagan shook her head in disgust at the insinuation that sex was the answer to her problems. Turning her mind back to the woman, she named her to make things easier on her writing. Since she was a strawberry-blonde, Keagan called her La Roux, a French name meaning red-haired. She watched as La Roux got up and headed toward the jukebox. Keaganís eyes werenít the only ones following her. Charís joined them. When La Roux returned to the bar, K.D. Lang could be heard singing, "Big, Big, Love."

Keagan watched Eileen and Tate head for the dance floor. True to character, Char zeroed in for the kill not five seconds after they left. Keagan rolled her eyes and watched the proceedings.

"Hi, Iím Char. Youíre new here, arenít you?" She held out her hand to La Roux who shook it gingerly.

"Yes."

"Whatís your name?" Char leaned against the bar and gazed intently at the young woman. Her keys jingled a bit as she shifted.

"Iím Rudy."

"Ah. Short for--?"

"Rudelle."

"Thatís a very pretty name. Would you like to dance?"

"Um, not really, thanks." Rudy had come to the bar to socialize, not get picked up. And she could tell Char wasnít looking for just a dance.

"Oh, come on, what can one dance hurt?" Char leaned against the bar and put her hand over Rudyís. "Címon, hon, youíve probably never had the opportunity for any real action, have you?"

Rudyís stomach fluttered. She had never encountered a woman that came on this strong. "I donít think--" She noticed a hand placing itself on Charís shoulder. It was the woman who had been looking at her earlier.

"Char, I think Cody wants to buy you a drink...down there...at the other end of the bar."

"Tell her later." Char turned to face Keagan. Her voice tone and facial expression told Keagan that she wouldnít retreat easily.

Keagan put her arm around Char and ushered her away. "Címon, címon, Codyís waiting." Char glanced longingly back at Rudy. "But, but--"

"Char, sheís a young kid, leave her alone for god sakes. Havenít you scarred enough of them for life?"

Charís eyes narrowed and she cocked her head at Keagan. "Iím that much of a heartbreaker, huh?"

"Whatever. Just keep your distance from that one." She retreated back to her booth in the corner.

Char stewed for awhile but accepted the drink from Cody. She knew it wouldnít be wise to upset Keagan so she scouted around for another target.

A disappointed Rudy watched Keagan retreat to her secluded corner. She wanted to thank her as well as get a better look at those stunning blue eyes. "Cody?"

Cody looked over to the young woman Eileen and Tate introduced to her earlier. They had chatted and Cody found her to be intelligent and witty. She returned to Rudyís end of the bar. "Yes, Rueday?" Cody had begun teasingly drawing out the syllables in Rudyís name during their talk earlier.

"That woman over there, the one in the corner, whatís her name?"

"Thatís Keagan. Iíd stay away from her if I were you."

"Whyís that?" Rudy asked, intrigued.

"Sheís pretty introverted, keeps to herself, likes to write. I donít think sheís looking for anything."

"Maybe someone needs to introduce her to the concept of serendipity, then." Rudyís eyes twinkled.

"Whatís that mean?" Cody hated it when people used big words.

"When you find something youíre not looking for. What does she like to drink?"

Keagan watched Cody and La Roux talk. After the incident with Char, she lost her concentration and quit writing, La Roux distracting her too much. When Keagan found herself wanting to look into those beautiful green eyes again, she stifled the feeling.

Cody came over with a rum and coke. "This is for you, my dear, compliments of Rudy."

Keaganís eyes widened. "Who?"

"Rudy. The lovely young strawberry-blonde knockout sitting at the bar. The one you helped earlier?" Cody chuckled. "She asked about you."

Keaganís brow arched in skepticism. "Tell her I said thank you. Wait a minute. Sheís not old enough to buy alcohol."

"21, Keag."

"Hmm. She looks younger."

"Oh, yeah. If I was about fifteen years younger--"

Keagan laughed. "Thank her for me, please, Cody."

"You can thank her yourself, darling. Thatís how these things usually work."

"Not interested."

"Not interested? Sheís gorgeous, Keag. Plus, sheís really nice. Iíve been talking to her. Sheís funny, and sheís new, probably doesnít have any baggage. Perfect for you."

 

"Why are you guys always trying to set me up?"

"Because, deep down, you want to be set up and you know it!"

"Oh, sure. Justify your manipulations by saying I want it!" Keagan glanced at the bar, her eyes meeting those of the young woman in question. Rudy gave a short wave to Keagan who couldnít help but smile back. She shook her head in disgust at her own weakness. It was time to leave.

"Can you sneak me out the back, Cody?"

"Hell, no! What are you so afraid of? She likes you."

"Damn! I just wanted a nice, sedate, evening."

"A what? You know I hate it when you use words I donít know!"

"Why donít you write me a list of all the words you do know, and Iíll be sure not to use any others around you!"

"Snarl, snarl, growl, growl! You just need to get laid, honey!" Cody chuckled as she walked back to the bar.

Keagan sighed in frustration. "I really wish people would quit saying that!"

Cody returned to Rudy, enjoying her role of go-between. "Keagan says thanks."

"Hmm." Rudy wondered why Keagan didnít say so herself. She looked over at the solitary woman who scribbled in a notebook. Rudy didnít know that Keagan only pretended to write.

 

Keagan eluded Rudy until the bar got busier. She noticed the strawberry-blonde looking at her, but averted her eyes whenever she did.

By the time her friend Brad Martin arrived it was approaching midnight and Keagan considered leaving. She had enough material for the night. "So what are you writing about?" Keagan liked Brad for his loyalty. He was a good person to confide in and she couldnít think of one person in her life, including her family members, about whom she could say that.

"I picked out this cute girl at the bar, a new girl, and Iíve been writing her story all night." Keagan indicated Rudy. Brad turned and looked toward the bar.

"Whoo! Hot stuff. If I was a horny young lesbian, such as yourself, Iíd be asking her to tell me her story up close and personal, if you know what I mean!" Brad raised his eyebrows suggestively.

"I am not horny! What is it with you people? First Char, then Cody, now you. Maybe you all need to get some. Maybe youíre the ones with the problem."

"Hmm. You might have a point there."

"So, howís it going with Ted?" Ted was a cute, young man that he met at the bar the previous week. Brad actually went out with him more than once.

"Who?" Brad looked confused.

"Teddy. Cute, little, blonde Teddy? Remember, you were calling him your teddy bear?" Keagan recalled the good-looking young man.

After a few seconds, Brad spoke. "Oh, yeah. Yeah, well, he and I discovered we didnít have one very important thing in common."

"And that was?"

"A belief in monogamy?"

"Are you asking me or telling me?" Keagan laughed at her friend.

"Telling?"

"Someday, youíll date someone more than three times. Then youíll move in together and Iíll be coming over for dinner. I can see it."

"I think it would sooner happen for you. Like little hot stuff at the bar up there."

"Nope." Keagan rolled her eyes.

"Why do you come here anyway, if you donít want to meet anyone?"

"You know why."

"To find a story? Nah, I donít believe that!"

"Okay. Peace and quiet?"

Bradís eyes lit up. "Ooooh, look, girl, here she comes. Sheís coming over." Brad jumped up to leave. "Later, girlfriend!"

Keagan grabbed his arm. "No, no, no, wait--" As Brad left, Rudy came over and sat down in his place across from her in the booth. Keagan froze, wondering what La Roux wanted.

 

"Can I ask you a question?"

"Sure."

"How can you see?"

"Hmm...?"

"To write. Isnít it too dimly lit in here?"

Keagan expected a typical come-on, not a logical inquiry. "I see all right. I have good eyesight."

Rudy smiled at the straightforward answer. "Good. You wouldnít want to miss anything worth looking at, would you?"

An uneasiness settled in Keaganís stomach, but it was the good type. "No, I wouldnít." The two women continued to stare at each other until Keagan spotted Jill coming into the bar. She didnít like confrontations but knew there would be one when Jill noticed her. She ran her hand through her dark hair and tried to steel her resolve. Her eyes focused on the front of the bar where Jill stood. "Rudy, thereís somebody here I need to avoid."

"An old girlfriend, perhaps? I suppose you want me to help you make her jealous?" Rudy was only joking, but the mischievous look in her eyes indicated a willingness to play along.

Keagan allowed a slight grin, not wanting Rudy to know that she found her question amusing. "Yeah, why not." She took her notebook and pen off the table and placed it on the seat beside her.

Rudy turned around, looking toward the front door. "Is that her?" She indicated a drunken, brown-eyed blonde beginning to make her way over.

"How ever did you guess?"

Rudy got up and planted herself next to Keagan, sliding close, and putting her arm around her. Keagan inhaled the pleasant smell of her hair and cologne. The scent was subtle, not overbearing. As Rudy put her head on Keaganís shoulder, she found her soft touch welcoming.

 

Jill stomped over, making a sincere attempt to avoid falling. It was obvious she was drinking. Her entourage stood behind her. Keagan referred to them as the Jill entourage: her group of followers that went wherever she did. "So, Keagan, feeling better?"

"Oh, much better, thanks." Rudy raised her head from Keaganís shoulder and regarded Jill.

"And what have we here?" Her eyes looked Rudy up and down. "I donít remember seeing you before."

"Hi, Iím Rudy, nice to meet you." She smiled at the woman and offered her hand, which Jill refused. Rudy ignored her lack of manners and continued. "You havenít seen me before because this is my first time here."

"Thatís obvious. Look, little girl, youíre way out of your league here. I wouldnít mess with this one, if I were you."

"Why not? She seems nice to me."

Keagan remained silent, hoping the ordeal would end soon. She admitted to herself that she enjoyed Rudyís attentions, but would not let it go any further.

"Let me give you some advice. Sheís a liar. She was supposed to go to dinner with me tonight and instead she faked being sick to come here. She canít be trusted!" Jill glared daggers at Keagan, whose eyes focused back at her with calm.

"I canít imagine why she wouldnít want to go out with the likes of you." Rudy tired of being nice to this social pariah.

Jill got up in Rudyís face. "You little slut! I oughta--"

Keagan leaned over and grasped Jillís arm. "Be nice." Hardened, cold blue eyes stared into brown, daring Jill to make one more move.

Jill backed away. Her entourage did the same. "Youíll pay for this, Keagan. You could have had the best, and you blew it!"

"Well, I blew you off, thatís for sure." Keagan smiled icily at her.

"Iíll get you back for this!" She stumbled away. Her entourage followed.

"Iím shivering in my boots." Keagan gave a mock glare to Jill as she left.

"I was wonderingÖ" Rudy got a contemplative look on her face. "Do you think I have a shot at getting into her group?" She stared guilelessly at Keagan.

Keagan couldnít help it and laughed. "Yeah, but you would need to stay away from me."

Rudy grinned, knowing she wouldnít agree to that stipulation. Thinking it best to change the subject, she scooted away from Keagan, not wanting to invade her space. She continued to sit next to her, though. "That was fun."

"Thatís your idea of fun?"

Rudy nodded. "Yeah. Sometimes, I donít think I have enough excitement in my life. That really got the old adrenaline going, let me tell you!"

"I could suggest something else that might get your adrenaline going, too."

"Oh?" Rudy smiled, and appeared interested.

Keagan thought furiously to come up with a quick answer to cancel out her verbal blunder. "Rock climbing! Yeah, ooh, what a rush!"

"Youíve rock climbed?" Rudy couldnít picture Keagan rock climbing. She could, however, picture her reclining and listening to classical music, something like Bach perhaps.

Keagan gave up. "No. I havenít rock climbed. I have a friend who does it and says itís a real rush. It was nice to meet you but I have to go home. I have to work in the morning at six."

"Oh. Okay." Rudy rose, allowing her to get by. Keagan stood awkwardly for a few seconds, bid Rudy goodbye, and then stopped at the bar to say goodnight to Cody and a few of the others. As she headed out the door, someone touched her arm. It was Rudy.

"You almost forgot your notebook." She grinned and handed it over to Keagan, who rolled her eyes.

"Thanks."

Rudy smiled and watched her go, thinking sheíd be the type to go home and listen to classical. She was right.

 

 

Chapter Two

The cold, late January air made Keagan shiver as she headed to her car the next morning. She grinned, even as her teeth chattered. No snow. It was one of the things she liked about living in Columbus. Usually, there was little of it in that part of Ohio.

She waited for her car to heat up, reflecting on the previous night. Rudy was attractive, charming, and funny. But when she confronted the fact that Rudy might be interested in her, she pushed it to the back of her mind.

When Keagan got home from work that afternoon, she opened her notebook and read over the previous nightís notes. Coming to the end, she noticed something scribbled in an unfamiliar hand. The note read, "So, do you think I should go out with Char or not? Rudy." Next to that, she had left her phone number. At first, Keagan feared someone had read her notes, but when she recognized the author as Rudy, she knew the young woman wouldnít have had time to read anything. She was only separated from her notebook briefly.

Rudyís handwriting was neat and orderly for being rushed. Wondering if that revealed anything about the woman herself, she paused in thought. Was everything in Rudyís life as organized as her handwriting? Or did the handwriting indicate a disorder in her life that she tried to compensate for? Keagan chastised herself for her tendency to analyze everything. But she almost regretted not seeking the answers.

Keagan tore the note out and tacked it onto her corkboard in the kitchen. She didnít know why she did it, except to torment herself. Shaking her head wryly, she glanced a last time at the note, and exited the kitchen, her heart heavy. And then the phone rang.

The answering machine kicked in. Keagan never answered her phone before screening the caller. On those rare occasions when she did answer, it was always someone trying to sell her something or attempting to collect on a late credit card bill. She found these types of people to be annoying more times than not, often finding herself ending such conversations abruptly. The machine was a great way to avoid all this tension. "Hi, Keagan, itís me. I hope youíre there. Pick up the phone, itís about mother." Keaganís chest tightened. It was her mom calling to tell her about the latest family catastrophe. This happened at least once a week. She debated on whether or not to answer, before finally picking up the receiver.

"Helooo." She tried to begin the conversation on an upbeat note.

"Hi, Iíve got a problem. Your grandmotherís out of control and Seanís not answering his phone." Joan Raffertyís tone was frantic. Keagan knew to choose her words carefully or her mother might burst into tears.

"He never answers his phone when thereís a problem. Whatís up?"

"Iíve had it! I canít live with this anymore! Iím not going to allow any more alcohol in this house. If she doesnít like it, she can move!"

"What happened now?" Keagan softened her voice in an attempt to soothe her mother.

"She was supposed to go over to Blancheís house for that reunion party but when I got home from shopping, she was sitting there on the couch looking half gone! She drank the whole bottle. When I told her she was in no condition to go and said I wouldnít take her, she started screaming at me. We had a fight, I broke that heirloom vase of hers, and then I tried to call your brother, who as usual wasnít available. Now, sheís in her room. I hate the sound of that door slamming!" Joanís eyes filled up, on the verge of tears.

Keagan felt trapped with no escape. She couldnít solve her grandmotherís problems any more than she could make her mother happy. She could only listen and offer support. But it was never enough. Often, she had a hard time reconciling her strong feelings of love for her grandmother with the painful reality of her weakness. Her grandmother should have been one of the best people she would ever know. Instead, she was often one of the biggest disappointments in Keaganís life. "You broke that vase? Which one?"

"You know, the one thatís been in the family for over 50 years. I donít care about it. I just lost control when she called me a bitch!"

"Iím sorry. Do you want me to come over?"

"No, honey, thereís no need for you to do that. I know how busy you are. I just needed to talk. Iím sorry to bother you." Joanís voice conveyed genuine remorse. She regretted venting to Keagan about an impossible situation, but she didnít have anyone else. A drunken mother was not considered an appropriate subject for her circle of friends.

"Please donít apologize. I told you Iím here if you need to talk. I mean that. Sheíll calm down later."

"Oh, yeah. The Ďhoneymoon phase.í" Joan laughed to dispel the tension. The honeymoon phase described the aftermath of an argument when the alcoholic offered no apology or acknowledgment of the emotional pain to the family. Things went on normally with false happiness, the wronged family members harboring resentment toward the alcoholic. Of course, another hurtful incident would follow as the pattern continued. "Iíll talk to you later."

"Bye." As Keagan hung up the phone, she could feel the tightness in her chest subside. It returned to the back of her heart where it commonly retreated.

She called her brother, Sean. Maybe he would feel like going over to Joanís for awhile. His machine came on. "Sean, itís me. Pick up."

"Yeah, what?" He had just gotten back from a long haul on the road and didnít feel like being bothered with family.

"Did you get a message from Joan?"

"Uh, huh."

"She and grandma had another fight. It seems to be getting worse, lately. She was pretty upset. Maybe you could go over there and talk to grandma or something."

"I donít want to get in the middle of this. In fact, thereís no way Iím getting in the middle of this. Iím exhausted. I just got back from a 3-day trip. The only plans I have are for sleep."

"Well, Sean, I sympathize with you, I really do. I have many things Iíd rather be doing, too. Like writing my novel, for one. Butó"

"Howís that going?" Sean had never understood his sisterís fondness for that hobby. It seemed like an incredible waste of time to him. She could be out on the road, making $30+ an hour like he did. But instead she chose to pursue a profession that would surely bring her only one thing: nothing.

Keagan considered not answering, but Sean was the only one who ever asked about it. "Iíve had a bit of a block, lately, but Iíll get through it. Iím having a problem establishing the plot, thatís all."

He shook his head in response to her nonsense. "Once you figure out what you want to do with your life, itíll all fall into place. What is it you want to do with your life, anyway?"

Keagan resented the question. She had told him repeatedly that she wanted to be a writer. He was in denial. She thought with amusement that wanting to write was very much like being gay. Only tell a select few. "Iíve told you before that I want to write. How many times do I have to say it?" Keagan knew it was a mistake to show agitation toward her volatile brother, but she didnít care.

"Will you chill?! Youíre too fucking sensitive! I have to get some sleep. Bye!" Click.

Enraged that he would hang up on her, she slammed the phone down. Why did I even bother?

She had an overwhelming urge to call Rudy, but stopped herself from doing it. She figured that Rudy might have more interesting things to do than listen to her unsolvable family problems.

 

Later that night, Keagan went to the bar to forget her family problems. Her objective this night would be to get drunk. Not falling down, drunk, but pleasantly inebriated. Having the next day off, she determined to have a good time. No writing, no contemplation, no socialization. The new quarter began in a couple of days and she wouldnít be able to cut loose until it ended, so it was just as well.

She entered the bar with a flourish, determined to be happy, even though her familyís problems were not far from her thoughts. Glancing to the bar, she spotted Cody. Avoiding casing the place for familiar faces, she sauntered over to Cody and gave her a smile. "Good evening."

"Hi, Keag. Whatíll it be?" Cody smiled back, keying in to the false mood her friend portrayed. Knowing it wasnít a good idea to pry into Keaganís problems, she said nothing.

"Rum and coke. More rum than coke." The jukebox played "Big, Big, Love." Recalling that Rudy played that song the night before, Keagan began to turn around.

Before she did, Cody spoke. "Oh, yeah, sheís here. Over there, talking to Danielle." The bartender snickered.

Keagan took a big drink of the rum and coke Cody brought her. "Oh?" Her voice drawled out the inquiry. "Who?" She crinkled her eyebrows in confusion, although she knew quite well of whom Cody spoke.

"Very funny. Like you donít know. You better go stake your claim now before somebody snatches her up."

Keagan ignored the comment and went to sit at the end of the bar. From her position, she viewed the booths, tables, and dance floor with ease. Her gaze made its way surreptitiously to where Rudy sat talking to Danielle. Keagan knew of Danielle, but had never dated her. She was okay, Keagan guessed, but never seemed to date anyone for longer than a couple of days or a week at most. It disturbed her to realize that Danielle was a female Brad Martin. And she was talking to Rudy. Finishing up her drink, she motioned to Cody. "Another, please." She smiled sweetly.

Cody returned in a few seconds with another drink for Keagan. "When she came in, she asked if you were here."

Keagan gave up and grinned. "Who?"

"Donít even--" Cody gave her a knowing look. Sometimes she wished Keagan could lay off the sarcasm. But the bartender knew it was a defense and she relied on it. "Then Danielle came swooping over and scooped her up, and theyíve been talkiní ever since. That was about a half an hour ago."

"You make Dani sound like a vulture." Keagan took a sip of her drink and glanced over at Rudy.

"She is."

"In any case, thanks for the update. The unsolicited update."

"Dammit!"

"The update I didnít ask for! Sorry." Keagan looked back over to where Rudy and Danielle sat. They were both laughing. Danielle put her hand on Rudyís arm and squeezed it. She tried to fight down a wave of jealousy that rose in her chest upon seeing this. Without realizing it, she continued to stare at them. As Rudy caught her eye she looked away but didnít miss the smile that came from the young woman. It wasnít difficult for her to smile back and nod out of politeness. Rudy had one of the most endearing smiles she had ever seen. Of course, Cody was observing everything.

"Okay, so now you guys are doing the eye thing. Why donít you just go over and talk to her?"

"First of all, sheís talking to someone else, and secondly, I donít see any reason to."

"How about, sheís nice, sheís sweet, sheís attractive, and for completely unknown reasons, she seems to like you." Cody hit Keagan playfully on the side of the head for emphasis.

"Iím not looking for a one night stand."

"I donít think she is, either."

"Or anything more." Keagan reminded herself that there was a reason she didnít have relationships. Breaking her vow to herself would indicate that she couldnít trust her own judgment.

Cody left well enough alone and went to the other end of the bar. As Keagan continued to sit alone, what she feared would happen, did. Rudy left Danielle and within seconds plopped herself down on the barstool next to her. "Hi."

"Howís it goiní?"

Rudy smiled, almost as if she knew the affect it would have on Keagan. "Pretty good. Pretty good." She continued to stare at her.

"Oh. By the way, my answerís Ďno.í"

This appeared to catch Rudy off guard, as Keagan hoped it would. "Your answerís Ďnoí to what?" She looked briefly confused before catching on. Keagan referred to the note she left in her notebook. "Why not? Me, Char, we could get a little butch-femme thing going on, donít you think?"

"Nope."

"What? You donít think Iím femme enough?"

"Oh, no, thatís definitely not it." Keaganís voice took on an unconscious, sultry edge. "I just donít think sheís your type."

"And whatís my type?" Rudy found herself responding to Keaganís closeness and shifted a bit. When she did, her knee touched Keaganís. She neglected to move it away not wanting to appear rude. On the other hand, if she left it there, it might send another message. To her surprise, Keagan appeared to ignore the action and continued talking.

"Oh, I donít know," she mused. When Rudyís knee made contact with hers, a pleasurable jolt shot up her leg. She wondered what would happen if Rudy replaced her knee with her hand. Forcing herself to abandon these thoughts, she continued. "Youíd probably go for someone more stable, someone like Deb." She pointed out a woman with short, brown, hair sitting in the back by herself next to the dance floor. "Deb met her girlfriend about three years ago, here. Thatís Kristy." She indicated a tall, demure, blonde sitting at the other end of the bar. "Thatís Debís girlfriend."

"But why arenít they sitting together, then?"

"Because theyíre picking each other up. Watch, you can see them looking at each other. Look." Rudy turned her attention to the two women. Deb caught Kristyís eye and smiled at her. The other woman nodded her head in response. Pretty soon, Deb indicated that Kristy should come over. In a few seconds, both women sat together at Debís table.

"I donít get it."

"They do it to put excitement into their relationship. Deb explained it to me once. They agree to meet between the hours of eight and ten, but nothing specific. That way, whoever gets there first wonít know when the other one will get there. I guess they find it fun. Itís one of those relationship things." Keagan shrugged. She had no idea why she disclosed that to Rudy.

"Thatís kind of sweet."

"If you say so. I think itís kind of sappy, myself. Either youíve got it or you donít. No one should have to work that hard at it."

"They seem to be enjoying themselves, though."

"Whatever."

Rudy sensed Keagan retreating. She changed the subject back to their previous verbal play. "Well, youíve convinced me. I decided not to go out with Char."

Keagan took a long swig of her drink. "Good. You deserve better than that." It came out of her mouth before she realized it.

"I do?"

Keagan focused on Rudyís green eyes, and sighed. A few years ago, she would have asked her out. But now dating wasnít on her agenda except to generate story ideas. And she knew Rudy would be more than that. "Yes," she replied. Before Rudy could respond, Keagan rose and joined her friends at the pool table.

Rudy watched her retreat with interest. "Hey, Cody! Címere!" The bartender turned, amused at the lesbian soap opera unfolding by the minute. "Yes, my dear?"

"How do I get a date with Keagan?"

"You donít." At Rudyís sour look, she continued. "But you can get her attention."

 

When Keagan spotted Milligan at the pool table, she saw it as a good excuse to relieve herself of Rudyís distracting company and went over to watch her friend play. Milligan was playing against Jackie. Several of the bar patrons nicknamed her "Jackie Daniels," due to her love of whiskey. "Hi, Mill. Jackie Daniels, howís it goiní?"

"Pretty good. I love that name! Itís great!" Keagan grinned at the shorter woman. She found Jackieís pride in her nickname amusing. Milligan nodded to Keagan, but was concentrating on her shot. It looked like it would be the final one of the game. "Eight ball in the left corner," Milligan called, as she prepared to shoot. The area around the table quieted as Keagan, Jackie, and a few other spectators watched to see if Milligan emerged the victor. She aimed at the cue ball and brought the cue stick back to strike. Just then, Rudy appeared and stepped up next to Keagan. "Whoís winning?" She looked at the table, wondering if the balls were allowed to hit each other. Rudy didnít know anything about pool, but it seemed to her as if people enjoyed it. She had always wanted to know more about the game and saw this as her opportunity.

Unfortunately, she chose the moment that Milligan was shooting to speak. This break in her concentration caused the cue stick to slip out, barely tapping the cue ball. It didnít go anywhere near the eight ball. "Dammit!" the woman groaned.

"Yes! Yes!" Jackie jumped up and down, knowing she had another chance at winning.

Milligan turned her eyes toward Rudy with an ominous glare. "Who are you?" she drawled. She was the type of pool player who took the game too seriously.

Rudy gulped and her eyes widened, as she realized the woman was quite angry. "Iím really sorry." She glanced at Keagan for support.

Keagan rolled her eyes and tried to keep from grinning. "This is my friend, Rudy. Donít mind her, she canít help being a nuisance."

"Hey. I am not a nuisance!" Rudyís reply was indignant until she realized that Keagan referred to her as a friend. "Friend?"

Keagan said nothing, but stood watching Jackie shoot. The eight ball flew into the left corner pocket, winning the game. Milligan grimaced. She didnít like to lose. "Okay, friend of Keagan, you owe me. You and me, now!"

Rudyís face showed confusion, until she realized that Milligan wanted her to play pool. "Um, I, I donít know how to play pool."

"Keagan, you can show her how, I donít mind. I just want to beat her!"

Keagan sighed, wondering how she got herself into these situations. Itís because Rudy keeps following me. She said nothing and went over to the cue sticks aligned on the wall, picking a suitable one for Rudy, who stood looking back at her with disbelief. "Oh, no. I said I donít play pool."

"You only said you didnít know how. Not that you donít play at all." Keagan had a mischievous look in her eye. She handed the cue stick to Rudy, who held it as if it was diseased.

"I canít do this."

"Sure you can. Itís easy. Iíll show you." Keagan regarded Rudy as if they were conducting a business transaction. What she didnít understand was the way her heart beat faster the moment the Rudy stepped up to the table. She ignored it.

"Címon, I donít have all night. I would like to get in some real action too, not just play and beat some amateur." Milligan racked the balls.

"Oh yeah? What makes you so sure you can beat me?" Rudy took the cue stick in her hands with confidence and strode forward. "Címon." She indicated Keagan with impatience. "You said you would show me. So, show me."

Keagan raised her eyebrows at Rudyís assertiveness. Milligan racked the balls and stepped back, indicating for Rudy to break. "Okay, La Roux, letís go."

"What did you call me?"

"La Roux. Itís my fictional name for you. Itís a French name meaning red-haired. I was writing about you last night, and I had to call you something." Keagan deadpanned her whole statement, hoping to make light of the admission as she moved in behind Rudy, and put her arms around her to show her how to shoot. She told herself it wasnít out of line to share this information with Rudy. It didnít mean anything, certainly not that she had any prurient interest in the woman. Not at all.

Rudyís heartbeat sped up with Keaganís closeness and her use of the nickname. If they hadnít been surrounded by a group of women watching their every move, she might have asked if that was akin to a pet name. She might also have asked what Keagan was writing about. Instead, she nodded her head, regarding her companion with a hint of a smile.

"Right now, all you want to do is whatís called breaking. You hit the balls with the white ball, the cue. Whoever gets a ball in first, goes first. You can pick stripes or solids, but most people pick the color of the first ball they shoot in. Got it?" As Keagan talked, she positioned Rudyís cue stick to shoot.

Rudy was only aware of Keaganís voice and her hands positioned on top of hers. The pressure Keaganís fingers made on Rudyís hands distracted her. She tried in vain to clear her head and concentrate.

"Got it?" Rudy heard Keagan repeating. "Oh, yeah, yeah. Gotcha. No problem."

"Okay then, shoot." Keagan moved away from Rudyís body, telling herself she didnít miss the contact.

Rudy hit the cue and saw the striped four go into the right pocket. She looked to Keagan expectantly. "Now all you have to do is hit the rest of the stripes in and hit in the eight ball last and youíll have this loser beat!" Keagan directed a challenging look to Milligan, who smirked at her.

"Fat chance of that!"

"Um, Iím not sure I have the shooting part down right. Could you show me again, please?" Rudy turned around, smiling sweetly at Keagan. She pretended it was serious business to hide the fact that she wanted Keaganís arms around her again.

Blue eyes met emerald, as Keagan regarded Rudy with suspicion. "Sure." She stepped forward and put her arms around her again. "Now, everyone, has their own style, of course, but really what you want to do is position the stick in the way that you have the most control in." As she said this, Keagan glanced downward and noticed that she had a good view of Rudyís bra. Since her top two shirt buttons were undone, Keagan could see that it had lace at the top. She wondered if the rest of the garment was lace. Her eyes traveled of their own volition to Rudyís breasts and she looked back up, hoping no one noticed. Milligan hadnít missed it, though, and directed an amused and knowing smirk to Keagan. She glared at her and continued her instruction. "You can shoot like this." She put the cue stick on top of Rudyís index and middle fingers. "Or like this," she continued, positioning it between her index and thumb. "It all depends on what you feel comfortable with." She stepped back and allowed Rudy to decide which way she wanted to shoot.

"Thanks."

"No problem."

Keagan gave Rudy pointers as she played Milligan. She cut back on their physical interaction, though, because she enjoyed touching her too much.

Rudy, for her part, did well, in spite of her growing attraction to Keagan. She put up a good fight, but every time Keagan spoke it distracted her, making her lose all concentration. She lost the game, but didnít care.

"Good game, kid. I almost forgive you for messing up my other game!" Milligan shook Rudyís hand and turned to Jackie. "Doubles next with Sue and Jen," she told her. "Weíll play again, sometime, Rudy."

"Okay. Thanks." Rudy turned away from the table and walked to the bar. Keagan stepped in beside her.

"I think you won her over."

"With your help."

"Nah. You have a natural talent for it."

"Really?"

"Yes, really. I thought you were quite good." Keagan spotted an opportunity to leave the situation and took it. "I see my friend, Brad over there. Iím going to go say hello. Later, Rudy."

"See ya." She sat down and Cody brought her a drink. She took a sip. "Thanks, Cody."

"I should keep my big, fat, mouth out of this, but what the hell. She was checking you out, big time, over at the pool table."

Rudy grinned. "She was, huh?"

"Oh, yes. I could see the battle being waged behind those gorgeous baby blues. She likes you."

"I like her, too. But if I tell her, Iím sure sheíll bolt like a gazelle or something. Sheís not exactly approachable."

"Then donít tell her, show her."

Rudy smiled and contemplated the bartenderís words as she took another sip of her drink. "Hey, do you have any peanuts?"

 

Meanwhile, Keagan bolted like a gazelle over to Brad, who stood near the dance floor. The jukebox was playing, "Enjoy the Silence," by Depeche Mode. As the lyrics ran through her head, she greeted her friend. "Bradley, good evening."

"Youíre so damn polite, youíre going to make a great catch for some lucky, young girl. Wait a minute!" His eyes darted to the bar. "Thereís a girl right there. How about her?" He indicated Rudy. "Sheís cute, sheís hot, sheís happeniní. Ooh, and sheís lookiní this way!"

"Why donít you go out with her, if you like her so much?"

"Because youíd kill me!"

"I would not. She can go out with anybody she wants to. I donít care."

"Oh. She doth protesteth too much, methinks!"

"Ouch! Did you actually attend that Shakespeare class?"

"Why, certainly. Thatís where I met that cute guy from the video store, remember?"

"The one who gave you free rentals?"

"Oh, yes. And thatís not all he gave to me."

"Didnít he give you about a weekend?"

"Why must you turn every one of my relationships into something sleazy?"

"Iím not the one who makes them sleazy!" Keagan laughed at Brad. She enjoyed their light banter, so devoid of tension.

"Ha. Ha." Brad looked to the dance floor. "You want to dance?"

"You know I donít dance."

"I bet youíd dance for little cute stuff at the bar!"

"Nope." Keagan leaned against the wall and stared at the dance floor feeling lonely, even though she was in a bar full of people. She didnít think twice about it because it was normal to her.

 

Closing time came an hour later. Keagan abandoned her earlier plans to get drunk and sat around chatting with Brad. He chose to shift their conversation from Rudy to easier topics, sensing that Keaganís mood was getting worse.

After Brad left, Keagan was the last one in the bar. She got up to leave, and said goodbye to Mabel and Cody. As she stepped outside and zipped up her leather jacket, what she saw both surprised her and made her heartbeat speed up. There was Rudy sitting on the hood of her car, her scarf tied over her lower face, and her gloved hands intertwined. She looked up at Keaganís approach and lowered the scarf from her mouth. "Hey."

"Would you mind telling me what exactly it is that youíre doing?"

"Iím praying to Krishna, what does it look like Iím doing? I locked my keys in my car! Duh!" Rudy looked beyond exasperated. She had waited on Keagan for awhile and received plenty of offers for help, but there was only one she wanted to accept.

Keagan snickered. "You need some help?"

"Donít laugh at me! This is not funny! I never do these kinds of things!"

"Maybe something distracted you this evening."

"Maybe it did!"

Keagan stopped laughing and assessed the situation. It was 2:30am, on a Sunday morning. Not a great time to call anyone for help. "I take it all your keys are in there?"

"Yes, my apartment keys, too."

"You live with anyone?"

"I have a roommate, but--"

"I could take you home, I guess. You could come back in the morning with your extra keys."

"My roommateís gone for the weekend."

Keagan reassessed the situation. Rudy had no keys, her roommate wasnít home, it was the middle of the night, and freezing. She couldnít believe that she was about to ask this woman to spend the night with her. "I guess you could--"

"I could just spend the night at your place." She slid off the hood of the car, her green eyes staring expectantly at Keagan.

"You planned this, La Roux!" Keagan walked up close to Rudy, intending to stare her down and make her admit it. She underestimated her opponent.

"Ha! You are full of yourself, arenít you? I did not! And I resent you even suggesting it!"

"Yeah, Iíll bet you do! How many offers for help did you get before I came out here?"

Rudy remained guileless. "None." She tried to inject sincerity into her voice.

"Oh, right. Here you are, looking so damn beautiful, sitting on the hood of your car and not one single person leaving that bar asked you if you needed help? You think I was born yesterday?!"

"You think Iím beautiful?" Rudyís body heated at Keaganís words, in spite of the dropping temperature.

"No! I mean, yes...no!" Keagan threw her hands up in irritation. "Letís go!" She headed to her car.

Rudy followed Keagan with a hidden smile on her face, and tried not to feel guilty. She didnít have to try very hard.

Continued...Part 2


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