LEGAL DISCLAIMER: Xena: Warrior Princess, Gabrielle and all other characters who have appeared in the syndicated series are the sole copyright property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this fan fiction. This story cannot be sold or used for profit in any way. Copies of this story may be made for private use only and must include all disclaimers and copyright notices.

LOVE/SEX WARNING DISCLAIMER: This story graphically depicts a love/sexual relationship between two consenting adult women. If depictionís of this nature cause you distress, this story is not for you, stop now, save your time: life is short, enjoy. If you are under 18 years of age or if this type of story is illegal where you live, please do not read it.

VIOLENCE DISCLAIMER: Though not graphically, this story does depict violence against women and attempted rape, both of which are pivotal to the plot. If scenes of this nature disturb you, please be forewarned.

GENRE: Uber-Xena

THANKS TO:

B L Miller - As always, an invaluable help.

Lunacy - Her input and encouragement rescued this from the recycle bin.

Pam, my partner - One of my strongest motivations in writing is knowing Iíll get to read the numerous comments she scrawls in the margins. I smile, I groan, I laugh and I continue to write. Thanks love.

I welcome comments or constructive criticism at wlw@penn.com

 



Email Comments to Friction at wlw@penn.com

*****

Part I

*****

The figure scaled the wall effortlessly, dropping silently on the other side. A small hand-held electronic device took out the globe illuminating the rear entrance with a soft pop. In minutes the security alarm was disabled and the intruder was inside, moving seamlessly though the shadows of the mansion.

The safe was not a problem. It was a clean job. Things were going according to schedule. The dark figure moved slowly toward the exit. The narrow beam of the flashlight scanned the open door halfway down the hall. It was a small den. A quick glance revealed nothing of interest and the intruder started to turn away, when something on the floor glimmered in the soft light.

The thief bent to examine it. The gloved hand gently fingered the object. It was a writing nib, the tip of an old fashion fountain pen. The intruder paused momentarily and set it on the desk. Beside it lay a leather bound book. It was old, unique, covered with intriguing symbols. With little hesitation, the thief deposited the book in the bag of stolen goods and exited the room, continuing down the hall. But the brief stop proved costly. Soft footfalls warned of someoneís approach.

The intruder ducked into the closest doorway, a bedroom, and listened intently. Someone was steadily approaching. The thief pressed against the wall behind the door and firmly gripped the handle of the razor sharp knife. A woman entered and set a plate of food on the table by the bed. The intruder edged forward, preparing to take her out. Unexpectedly the woman changed direction, walking to the adjoining bathroom. The thief slipped back into the shadows and watched as the woman closed the bathroom door behind her.

The dark figure waited a beat and slowly came out of hiding, moving cautiously to exit. Suddenly, the bathroom door opened. The woman was framed in the doorway against a backdrop of light, her golden hair now clearly visible. The thief froze, mesmerized. Although the reappearance of the woman presented a problem, it wasnít concern that the thief felt, but wonder. The blonde was strikingly beautiful, almost ethereal in the pale light.

The intruderís trance was broken when the young woman shut of the light, shrouding the room once again in darkness. The thief leaned against the wall, motionless, hoping to escape notice. It seemed that the woman would walk past, but at the last moment she stopped as if sensing a presence. Just as she was about to turn and face the intruder, the thief clasped a hand over her mouth and pressed the cold blade to her throat.

Startled, Danielle gasped. Her heart pounded wildly as adrenaline rushed through her veins. She tried to move but the thiefís hold was firm, the strength of the arms daunting. She was powerless. Danielle tried desperately not to panic as she was pushed forward, toward the dressing table. The blade tightened against her neck as the assailant released her mouth and reached for something on the dresser. She inhaled, about to cry out when she felt the cool silk of her own scarf pressed to her mouth. Purposeful fingers parted her lips and pushed against her teeth. A sense of dread flowed through her as she realized what was to be done. The blade pressed insistently at her throat. Her resistance withered and her jaw went slack. She tried desperately not to gag as the scarf was pushed into her mouth.

Before she had time to think about her situation, she was turned and pressed back against the dressing table chair. Her eyes instinctively sought out the intruderís face, hidden by a black ski mask. The dark form of her attacker melded with the blackness of the room, making it difficult to get a clear view. The coolness of wide blade burned against her skin, forcing her attention to return to the knife at her throat.

All at once, Danielleís terror was doubled as she watched the gloved hand reach for the tie at the front of her robe. She froze, holding her breath as the tie was unfastened and pulled from the loops of her robe. The sensation of it gliding slowly across her hips made her shiver in dread. Her flimsy robe hung open, revealing her nakedness. A fear induced sweat coated her body, causing the cool air to sting her exposed skin. She was utterly vulnerable.

A shuddered passed through her as the gloved hand reached for the opening. She held her breath. Her heart beat wildly as she watched agile fingers grasp the edge of the thin material of her robe, lightly brushing her abdomen. Danielle closed her eyes, preparing for the worst. She would have begged for her assailant to stop, but the gag prevented all but a guttural moan.

Before she had a chance to react further, the robe was pulled tightly closed around her. Her eyes sprang open in surprise. Startled by the small act of kindness, she risked a glance at her captor. The gentleness she saw in the brown eyes deepened her confusion.

The intruder quickly put the belt to use, tying her hands behind her back. With firm pressure, she was guided to sit and the belt was secured to the chair. The loose end bound her feet.

Danielleís mouth and throat were dry, scratchy. She tried to swallow, but the scarf made her cough, causing the silky material to shift in her mouth. She gagged and inhaled deeply. The forceful intake of breath drew the scarf to the back of her throat, blocking her windpipe. Her eyes watered and her chest heaved as she fought for air. She struggled desperately against her restraints. Just as panic overtook her, she felt the gentle touch of cool leather under her chin. The intruder quickly removed the scarf and looked into her eyes.

"Shhh....shhh." The voice was calming, vaguely familiar. Soon, her breathing leveled off and her body relaxed. A leather-clad finger pressed to her lips indicating that she should remain quiet. Danielle did not utter a sound. She was entranced, lost in her thoughts as she tried to recall the melodic whisper.

She watched the intruder pull a roll of tape from the backpack and tear off a small length. The soothing eyes watched her intently while gentle fingers wiped her tears and pushed several loose strands of hair from her face. Danielle thought she saw the eyes sadden as the tape was placed over her mouth. She met their gaze for but an instant before the thief backed away, in a movement so fluid it seemed an apparition.

*****

Alex Lord stood at the bathroom sink. Tonightís job had come close to ending badly. Too close. The old man was supposed to be the only resident. Her information had been wrong. There were too many mistakes on her part, enough to warn her that she was losing her edge. She removed the brown contacts and looked into the mirror. Her blue eyes reflected the concern she felt.

She stripped out of her dark work clothes and slipped into her robe. The experience had shaken her. She had allowed her emotions to rule over her better judgment. Her steely control was slipping, something she could little afford.

She poured herself a scotch and walked across the room to the fireplace. It was the one thing she required of her temporary residences. This one was magnificent. Sitting by a fire calmed her, made her focus on the present and push back memories of her past: things better not remembered.

Tonight the brilliant flames reminded her of the golden highlights in the young womanís hair. She sipped her drink and tried to concentrate on the problem at hand. She had broken Julianís number one rule: leave no witnesses. Yet from the first moment she laid eyes on the blonde, killing her had been out of the question.

She tried to rationalize her decision. The woman had seen nothing. She would not be able to identify her. Unlike Alex, who sensed she would never forget this woman. The blondeís image was seared in her mindís eye. She felt a pulling deep inside as she pictured the woman bathed in soft light and tried to dim the image with a long sip of scotch. She grimaced. Letting the woman live hadnít been her only breach of his rules.

Something about this woman had thrown her off balance. Although they had never met, there was a familiarity that unnerved Alex. It was as if part of her awakened when she first looked into the blondeís emerald eyes. It distressed her beyond her understanding to see the womanís confusion and fear as she had bound and gagged her. To Alex she seemed the embodiment of innocence, completely naive and uncomprehending of the treachery that necessitated such an act.

Alex became increasingly uncomfortable as she recalled the young womanís panic as she struggled for breath. What a stupid move that had been. Knocking her unconscious would have been more logical and certainly kinder, but it had never even occurred to her. The mere idea of striking this woman was disturbing. Rubbing her eyes, she finished her drink and refilled the glass. Ten years was too long for anyone to be in this business.

*****

Danielle sat motionless after the thief had gone. Her heart pounded furiously. This was the closest she had ever come to real danger. She felt utterly charged. The adrenaline rush lingered, making all of her senses more acute. Danielle listened intently for any sign of her uncle, silently praying he was all right. She tried to wriggle her hands free but the belt held her securely. She was considering tipping the chair over when a noise down stairs caught her attention. Her heart thudded loudly as footfalls approached.

She watched the door anxiously as two police officers rounded the corner into the room. Relief washed through her. They had responded so quickly that she wondered if the thief had been caught.

A young officer peeled the tape back from her mouth.

"My uncle, is he okay?"

"We havenít found him yet, maíam." He began working on the knots binding her hands.

"His bedroom is the last on the left."

The officer motioned to his partner to check and continued untying her. "Are you all right?"

"Yes, I think so."

"It was fortunate that a neighbor noticed something suspicious and called us." Danielle rubbed her wrists and moved toward the door to check on her uncle.

She released an anxious breath as she watched him rush down the hall toward her. "Honey are you all right?" He hugged her tightly.

"Iím fine. Are you okay?"

"Iím embarrassed to say that I never even woke up."

The police officer interrupted him. "Sir, can you show us where you keep your valuables?"

"Certainly, the safe is located down the hall." He lead the officer to the large study.

Danielle went back to her room and sat on the bed, her relief was followed by a sudden weariness.

"Can I get you a drink of water?" the policeman asked politely.

"No thank you. Iím just a little shaky, Iíll be fine."

"Maíam, were you hurt... in any way?" His question was awkward, tentative.

"No, he didnít hurt me." She thought back to how gentle he had been.

"You were lucky. These things can be very nasty sometimes."

A short blonde man walked into the room and stepped forward to introduce himself. "Ms. Stafford is it?" She nodded.

"My name is detective Bowin, I know this has been a trying evening but I need to ask you a few questions. Do you feel up to talking about what happened?"

"Yes." But even as she began answering his questions, she felt a heaviness settle in her limbs.

"The style of this robbery is similar to other cases Iíve been following." There was one glaring exception that he didnít mention. Until now, the thief he had been tracking had been too clever to leave witnesses. The jobs had been well planned and perfectly executed. He hoped he finally had the breakthrough heíd been looking for.

"Anything you might remember would be helpful."

Danielle spoke about her brief interaction with the thief as the detective took notes. Confused by the robe and choking incidents, she purposely left them out.

Detective Bowin tried to establish as many details as possible while they were still fresh in her mind. His questioning went on for nearly forty minutes before he noticed her exhaustion and finally eased off. He ended by asking her to come by the station the next day to finish her statement.

*****

Her uncle circled her like a mother hen. He was appalled that she had to endure such a thing and kept wandering into her room to make sure she was all right. Finally, realizing there wasnít anything more he could do, he let her rest.

Although tired, Danielle was too keyed up to sleep. Her mind was flooded with conflicting emotions. The police had handled her with care, as if she were in shock, and maybe she was. Why else would she have purposely misled them about his height and the color of his eyes? Although it made no sense, she felt reluctant to see him captured. There was something in his manner that had been almost apologetic. She blushed as she remembered how her skin had tingled when he touched the tip of his finger to her lips.

Danielle berated herself for these irrational thoughts. She could have been raped or killed. She was being foolishly sentimental. Still, somehow deep inside she knew that she had never been in danger. She was certain that he never would have harmed her, even though it defied all logic. Danielle shivered as she thought of his eyes riveted to hers, his gentle touch and soothing voice. Her senses had been keenly alert through the whole experience. She remembered the aroma of his leather jacket and something else, something that tugged at the edge of her memory. Danielle glanced around the room for an item that might have held his scent. There was nothing, even the scarf he had used to gag her was gone.

She scolded herself for romanticizing. He was a common thief, who had broken in, tied her up and taken what didnít belong to him. The safe had been cleared out. Over two million dollars in jewels and cash were stolen.

Even so, the loss was minor in scope of her uncleís wealth. But there was one item among the contents of the safe that could never be replaced: her motherís medallion. It had been handed down through the generations to the eldest daughter on their twenty-third birthday. In a couple of weeks it would have been hers. Now the tradition would end. The thief had taken a piece of her birthright along with the jewels.

The thought distressed her. Feeling too edgy to sleep, she decided to write in her journal and discovered it wasnít where she had left it. An exhaustive search of the house turned up nothing. A chilling thought occurred to her. Maybe the thief had taken it. The idea seemed ludicrous but she had no other way to explain its disappearance.

Her pulse quickened as she thought of him reading her private thoughts. What could he want with her diary? Was he hoping to find information, secrets? Her mind jumped to a variety of unpleasant conclusions. Luckily she had only recently inserted new pages, filing the old entries away.

She tried to recall what she had written in the last few weeks and groaned as she remembered the park. Was she allowing her vivid imagination to get the best of her? Surely if he had taken the journal, he would throw it out, probably without even reading it.

*****

Alex poured herself another drink. Her behavior this evening was worrisome. She was indeed slipping. How else could she explain her phone call to the police? She squeezed her eyes shut. God, what had she been thinking?

She grabbed her leather jacket from the chair and pulled the colorful scarf out of the pocket. Her mind flashed back to the fear she had seen in the young womanís eyes, and she winced. Remembering the womanís suffering distressed her. Hoping to erase the vision, she stuffed the scarf deep into the pocket.

Her reason for alerting the police was simple. The thought of the innocent woman bound and uncomfortable had been unbearable. She had to call.

Her actions were completely out of character. She never allowed herself such sentimentality. It was too dangerous in her line of work. But there was more to it than that. She couldnít shake the feeling that she knew this woman from someplace. Looking into those emerald eyes had felt like coming home. She had wanted to kiss her, to take her in her arms and protect her from the world. A ridiculous thought, considering she was probably the only one to ever pose a threat to the young woman.

Alex couldnít explain her feelings, but it was clear that her heart wasnít in her work anymore. She would have stopped years ago, but the decision was no longer hers to make. He was calling the shots now, and she knew it would never be enough. He owned her.

She walked to the table and dumped out the contents of her bag. It had been a good haul. There was approximately $500,000 cash and an additional two million in jewels. They were high quality, many antiques. An unusual medallion caught her attention and she pulled it from the pile. It was oval shaped, made of gold with an intricate spiral pattern engraved on the front. It was obviously very old. Alex turned it over in her hands, examining it closely and felt a tingling sensation in her fingertips. She set it down and took another drink.

Her attention was drawn to the leather book. She picked it up and sat next to the fire, gently running her fingers over the cover. This was old too. The spiral design on the front was similar to the one on the pendant, and there were symbols she couldnít decipher. Its pages were held in place with leather ties. The cover was beautifully cured and oiled. It must have meant a great deal to someone, as it was well cared for. She leafed through the pages and smiled. She loved the scent of ink. Ever since she was a kid she associated the aroma with pleasant memories.

She glanced at the first page. The handwriting captured her attention right away. It was written with an old fashion fountain pen. The strokes widened and narrowed with artistic flair. Looking at the page as a whole, the script formed a beautifully abstract design. The penmanship was flowing, pleasing to the eye. As she looked closely it became obvious that it was a journal. She took another sip of scotch and began to read.

................................................................

      7/1

      It was another sleepless night in an unending chain. The darkness calls to me. Iím drawn to the risk, the mystery. The element of danger promises fulfillment, an escape from my ordinary life. I hunger for adventure.

      I chose to walk through the park even though my uncle had warned me how dangerous the city was as night. The air was warm. I walked quickly, trying to cool myself with the breeze my movements created. I was lost in my thoughts, as I so often am.

      A noise to my left caught my attention. I turned and listened. It was a deep moan. Curiosity drew me to the sound. The area was dimly lit and I had to strain to see two people in the distance. I edged closer. I was only twenty feet way when they came clearly into view. The woman was leaning with her back against a tree. Her lover was pressed tightly against her, their mouths locked in a steamy kiss. The woman was delirious with pleasure, her moans escaping the seal of their lips.

      I felt like an intruder, but I was transfixed. My feet wouldnít move. My eyes were locked on their undulating bodies. I stood frozen, watching his hands glide up the outside of her thighs, raising the light weight skirt above her hips. His lips were moving against her neck and I could see the intensity of her need in her expression.

      The raw sensuality of it, stirred something in me, bringing me to my senses. I stepped back, intending to leave, when the unthinkable happened; a twig snapped loudly under my weight. I quickly glanced up to see if the couple had heard me.

      They had, both were facing me now. I willed myself to run, but a realization settled over me and I hesitated. They were both women.

      I ran. Flushed with embarrassment, feeling like a common voyeur.

      My reaction to these women confuses me. My interest in this couple makes me more aware than ever that I need to get a life. I havenít been out with anyone in over a year. Dating has always been awkward for me. Iím uncomfortable in intimate relationships. There is no desire.

      I thought for a long time that the sexual part of me was dead, but tonight, for the first time, I felt... something. Maybe I am capable of those feelings, maybe they are lying dormant, waiting to be awoken. For the first time in my life I have a flicker of hope that I might be capable of falling in love.

      Itís time I took the initiative, and tried another date. John, one of the sports reporters at work, has approached me several times. Heís friendly and attractive, maybe the time is right. Tomorrow I will ask him out for a drink.

................................................................

Alex was captivated. She felt like a bit of a voyeur herself. But the young womanís words drew her in and she couldnít resist. She smiled and took another drink. Closing her eyes she tried to picture the blonde woman coming across the couple in the park. Instead she found herself fantasizing about the young woman leaning against the tree while she kissed her. The image was so vivid it was like reliving a memory.

She frowned when she thought about the sports reporter. Something told her this date idea had disaster written all over it. Reluctantly, she put the journal down. She needed to contact her fence. It would be dangerous for her mother and brother if she were late with her payment.

*****

Alex walked through the dimly lit lot to the back entrance of the pawn shop. She rapped lightly on the door, and within minutes Sal answered and ushered her in. He hit a button under the counter revealing a hidden panel. Upon keying in his code the wall behind him slid to one side. There was a metal door behind it. Alex stepped past him and walked in. Once inside he hit another button causing the wall to slide back into place.

He grinned at her. "The wonders of modern technology." He loved gadgets, anything and everything electronic fascinated him.

Alex frowned. "You always did have a flair for the theatrical."

She had known Sal since the early days. He had a bubbling personality, that, while on occasion grated on her nerves, she also found endearing. Their relationship was not built on trust, for Alex trusted no one. Rather she viewed their association as mutually beneficial. He had been fair in his dealings with her and was discrete. It was in his best interests that she not be caught because their association was very profitable for him.

Although the nature of her work demanded that she relocate frequently, she did business with Sal whenever possible. There was a familiarity with one another that gave her comfort. He represented consistency in a life riddled with change.

He carefully emptied the bag she handed him onto the table. "This stuff from the Palanos heist?"

"Yeah."

"Didnít think that one was yours." He eyed her curiously. "Iíve never known you to have any witnesses. What went wrong?" She shrugged in response. Silently wishing she knew the answer. He sorted through the pile of jewels and continued to make small talk.

"You made the front page of the early edition."

She looked at him with sudden interest. "What did it say?"

"Seems the witness is Palanosí niece, his sisterís kid, ...Danielle something" The mention of the woman made her pulse quicken.

He picked up the paper from the chair and scanned the article "Yeah, her name is Danielle Stafford." He tossed the paper on the table. "Evidently she was just visiting for the weekend."

He looked up and smiled. "Guess she picked the wrong time to visit." Noting Alexís lack of reaction, he continued.

"Anyway she wasnít hurt and, if she saw anything, the police arenít disclosing it. She works for the newspaper. Thatís probably how they got the story so fast. I had to laugh though. The article says the man got away with about 2.5 million in cash and jewels." He saw Alexís uncharacteristically troubled expression and tried to cheer her.

"Hey, if she thought you were a man, she didnít get a very good look. My eye sight isnít exactly twenty-twenty but itís a mistake I would never make." He grinned at her.

"Donít be so sure. I wasnít dressed in typical feminine attire." She grabbed the paper and read through the article as he examined the jewels.

"These are nice pieces. Shame to remove them from their settings. Hmm... this is interesting." He picked up the medallion and examined it closely.

Alex looked up from her reading and took it from him abruptly. "Iím keeping this." She pushed it into her pocket. "How much for the rest?"

"Iíll give you 1.5."

She shook her head. "And they call me a thief. Havenít you made enough to retire yet?"

"Alex, you know Iím not in it just for the money." He winked. "I get to meet such interesting people."

She ignored his comment and handed him a piece of paper. "Have the money transferred to this account by Friday."

*****

Danielle arrived at the station early and waited outside Detective Bowinís office. There was something about the place that made her nervous.

Marisa Sands walked past Danielle and entered the office.

"You wanted to see me?"

"Yeah, It looks like we might have a lead on the Palanos case. It seems our man left a witness this time.

"Well, thatís good news."

"Iíll tell you though Marse, something about this doesnít feel right."

"You always look a gift horse in the mouth." She smiled and shook her head.

"Why, after all these robberies, would he slip up? It just doesnít make sense." Bowin puzzled.

"They all make mistakes eventually. Maybe this isnít one of his?"

"No, Iíd bet money it is, too many similarities. I can feel it in my bones. And if Iím right, we donít have much time. If he holds true to pattern heíll be moving on soon."

"Okay, so whatís our next move?"

"I want you to sit in on this one. Keep an eye on her while I do the questioning." She nodded and looked towards the door.

"You think sheís involved?"

"Iím not sure. Evidently she doesnít visit often. Makes me wonder if itís just bad luck on her part or something more."

Marisa shrugged. "Want me to call her in?"

"Yeah, lets see if she can tell us more."

Marisa led Danielle into the office. Detective Bowin stood politely to greet her.

"Ms. Stafford, thanks for coming down so early. I hope youíre feeling better today.

"Yes, thank you."

He shook her hand gently. This is my assistant, Detective Sands."

Danielle nodded.

"We wonít keep you long. I just had a few things I wanted to clear up." His tone was casual but he watched her carefully.

"You say the thief grabbed you from behind and held one hand over your mouth while he put a knife to your throat?"

"Yes"

"Do you remember which hand held the knife?"

Danielle thought of a moment. "It was the right."

"I would like to try a little experiment. See if we can trigger any memories, if thatís okay with you?"

"All right."

Detective Bowin stepped behind and put his hand over her mouth pulling her back. It felt wrong to Danielle: his short stature, the body type, the grip, the very presence was different.

"Marisa give it a try." Marisa positioned herself behind Danielle.

"Sheís a bit taller than me. It will give us a different perspective." Bowin explained.

Marisa pulled Danielle against her, covering her mouth. A shiver went through Danielle. The detective was strong, forceful. She hadnít expected that from a woman. There were definite similarities and it unnerved her.

Danielle pulled away, obviously a little rattled.

"Are you okay?"

"Yes, just brought back some unpleasant memories I guess."

"Please have a seat."

"So, was he closer to my build or Marisaís?"

She hesitated only a moment and lied, "closer to your height and stature, I think." Both detectives watched her shift nervously.

"When the thief was tying you up, did you notice anything about him? You said his eye color was green."

"Yes, green I think." Her voice quavered slightly. But she recovered quickly. "Itís kind of hazy and I was frightened."

"Of course, thatís completely understandable. Was he white then?"

"I think so. He wore gloves and a mask. I never saw his skin."

"Hmm, but the eye color would indicate someone of light skin."

"Yes" Danielle was feeling uncomfortable with her lies. Why was she protecting the robber?.

"Did he speak to you at all?"

Danielle hesitated again. "No."

Bowin cast a quick glance at his partner, wondering if she had noticed Danielleís eyes lower. "Anything about him that was unusual? Mannerisms, walk?"

"Nothing I can remember."

There was something strange going on. Bowin could feel it. He decided not to press the woman too hard. He could always call her back later.

"Well, thatís all I can think of for now. Youíll be available if we have further questions?" He stood and smiled. Danielle nodded, wondering if he was asking or telling her.

She was relieved to be leaving. Her head was pounding. She could not imagine what had caused her to lie, but she had done it with barely a thought. It had almost been instinctive. Uncomfortable with her fabrications, she wondered if her face may have revealed her discomfort. She took a deep breath as she exited the station. It was over now and she would just have to deal with the consequences.

*****

It was early morning by the time Alex arrived home. She poured herself a cup of coffee and settled on the couch. The journal lay on the table where she had left it. She ran her hand lightly over the smooth leather, her fingers tracing the curious design. ĎOkay Danielle, howíd the date go?í Turning the pages to the point she left off, she began to read.

................................................................

      7/2

      The date was disastrous. We went out for drinks and then back to his apartment to see his autographed sports collectibles. God, how do I manage to get myself into these things? I knew

      early on it wasnít working out, but I wanted to give it a fair shot. After the second drink, his subtle advances escalated to heavy groping and forceful kisses.

      He did all the things that make for effective love scenes in movies, the same things others before him have done. I felt nothing. Fortunately, he was oblivious to my disinterest and seemed genuinely reluctant for me to leave. At least, I didnít hurt his feelings. He even asked me out again. At least one of us had a good time. Of course, I declined. It wouldnít be fair to him. Whatís the point, Iím hopeless.

      Whatever triggered the sensations in me last night in the park, wasnít there tonight. Was I attracted to the forbidden, the voyeurism, the sense of danger? Maybe it was the simple fact they were both women? But, my body had reacted long before I knew their sex, or had something deep within me known it all along? Iím curious.

................................................................

 

"Iíll bet you are." Alex smiled. Something told her that the young woman was far from hopeless. She had seen the fire in those green eyes. It was clear to Alex that the right person would have no trouble stirring the passion she sensed was smoldering below the surface. She got up to pour another cup of coffee, then sat back down to continue reading.

................................................................

      7/3

      I made plans to spend the weekend with my uncle. He is such a kind and lonely man. I feel a little guilty for not making more of an effort to visit him since Iíve lived in town. He was so supportive of my decision to move here. Without his help, my parents would have made it even more difficult for me. They were dead set against me coming out here.

      If it werenít for my grandmother, I would think that I was adopted. I have nothing in common with my family. They are appalled by my need for adventure and will never understand why I broke my engagement to Paul. It was the right decision. As nice as he is, I knew we werenít right for each other. I like him, but I could never love him, not the way he wanted.

      My father will never forgive me for the embarrassment I brought to the family, breaking the engagement and leaving town. But, my leaving was hardest on my mother. It made the memories of my grandmother surface. When I left, I could see the pain in her face. I knew she was remembering my grandmotherís scandalous affair.

      It took all my courage to leave what was safe and familiar. I could have spent my entire life trying to fit in there. I never would have. I had to find myself.

      7/4

      I went to see the fireworks with some women from the paper. They were spectacular. Iíve always enjoyed looking up at the night sky. The stars fascinate me. My friends seemed much less interested in the fireworks than the men that passed by.

      I feigned interest in their observations. Puzzled by what they found so alluring. None of the men we saw interested me physically. But then, they never do.

      After the night in the park, I find myself thinking about women, wondering if thatís where my attraction lies. Iím more aware of women since that night. I appreciate the beauty of the female form. The soft sloping curves of a womanís body are pleasing to me. Still, there is no physical attraction except for that glimmer of feeling I had watching the women in the park.

      I will be twenty-three in a couple of weeks. That has been a milestone year for women in my family. My grandmother was that age when her life changed. Maybe it will be my year for self discovery, too.

      7/5

      Six years of journalism and Iím stuck writing obituaries. If only I could get a shot at writing a real story. Iíve only worked at the paper for five months but Iíve got some great ideas. I wish they would let me try one. I sent the outline for the domestic violence story to Liz, the editor of the womenís section. I wonder if she bothered to read it. Itís just the kind of story I have dreamt of doing. An opportunity to help people through my writing.

      Elaine encouraged me to follow through with my idea for the story and agreed to talk to the women at the shelter about setting up a meeting. She has been the director for a number of years. They have come to trust and respect her. I hope we are able to get a few to participate. She thinks it might give some women in abusive situations the courage to leave.

      I owe Elaine a phone call. We havenít gotten together in a couple of weeks. She has been a good friend to me, but lately her attempts to set me up with her male friends have made me uncomfortable. She only wants me to be happy. I guess Iím going to have to work up the nerve to discuss it with her.

      7/6

      I have been trying to avoid John all week but today he caught up with me at lunch. I donít know how to let him down easy. Although heís a nice guy, I donít think that he has any close friends. I should have left things as they were. Now, our friendship seems strained. Iíll have to talk to Elaine. She usually knows how to handle these relationship things. Who knows, maybe she could set him up with one of her female friends.

      Maybe I should ask her to set me up with one of her female friends.

      Since the night in the park, I havenít been sleeping well. I am restless. Until that night I thought little about sex. Now my dreams are filled with longing. I chase a stranger whose face eludes me.

       7/7

      I walk the park nightly, secretly hoping I will see the lovers. I canít stop thinking of them. They haunt me. I canít shake the feeling that they hold the key that would unlock my heart and end my loneliness.

      I believe the answer is linked with this incident. I donít know what Iím searching for, only that I canít give up trying to find it. I feel on the verge of discovering something I once knew and have now forgotten. There is a piece of myself that is missing. Without it, Iím incomplete.

      Itís a promise of something wonderful, something I have waited my entire life for. My eyes linger on each woman I pass and I wonder if they are one of the lovers from that night.

      7/8

      An odd thing happened at the hair stylistís today. I was waiting to have my hair trimmed when I glanced at the woman seated in front of me. It wasnít the woman herself that caught my eye, but her hair. She slid a towel off her head, revealing long dark hair. It was wet and hung in tangles down her shoulders. I felt a shiver run down my spine.

      I watched entranced as she ran her fingers through it, shocked that I wanted to do the same. I donít know how long I stared at her. Time had stopped for me. My heart was pounding furiously. She turned to pick up a magazine from the counter and faced my direction. She was beautiful, but somehow I felt disappointed. What had I expected? Who had I expected? Did the woman against the tree in the park have long dark hair? I canít remember. Iím not sure that I even noticed. I only know since that night I have changed.

................................................................

Alex put the journal down and stretched. She wondered for a moment what Danielle would think of her long dark hair. She ran her fingers though it and laughed at herself. What an unlikely pair they would be. They were as opposite as night and day.

Although they were worlds apart, the similarities in their circumstances hadnít escaped her. Something was lacking in her life too. Loneliness was a pain she had learned to bear. Like Danielle, she had never been able to commit to a relationship. She took care not to let her guard down. It was the one valuable lesson Julian had taught her. But, unlike this innocent woman, not committing hadnít stopped her from using lovers of both sexes. In her short life, she had slept with numerous men and women. But, for her part it was always a manipulation, she had never opened her heart to anyone. She never felt love for them.

Reluctantly, she closed the journal. There were many things she had to take care of, and she needed to rest. Her fingers slowly caressed the journalís surface. The spiral design on the front fascinated her. Hesitantly, she laid it down and walked to the bedroom.

Continue to Part II

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