The Hardest Answer: Carsbycawastedyouth©
At the bar on a crowded early Friday night, Lauren sat across from Julia at a private booth away from all the mingling couples, watching all the other women at their table suspiciously. She leaned back on her left elbow to take in the crowd that Julia assured would be discreet. But that didn't matter really; Lauren was perturbed at her first encounter in what could best be described as a match making session. Almost everyone at the table was single. They were all very experienced. Lauren just listened, not really taking a part in the conversation. She had been introduced to everyone earlier, but the names hadn't registered.
Though they were all hard and fast lesbians who had long come to terms with their preferences, Lauren could see the subtle culture differences. Though the initial impression of each woman fell along the lines of 'butch' and 'femme', Lauren had a sense of not just their role, but how they would function in the real world. It did not make one identity more or less than the other, but just provided more observation for Lauren.
'I wonder what Julia is.' Lauren's thought wandered.
"How do you know Julia?" asked the one sitting directly next to Lauren. The others were busy in their beer and chatting about their week at work and other various activities. The conversation had not wandered over to Lauren since she had been introduced.
"Julia and I work at the same school." Lauren stammered having been stunned from her protective cocoon to participate in the conversation.
"Oh? What subject do you teach?" she asked sincerely curious, but to Lauren, all she wanted was out of this situation.
"I'm working with the special education program, helping the physically and mentally challenged students integrate into the classroom."
"Wow, you must have a lot of patience. Was that what you wanted to do?'
'Tracy? No, Kerry? Some name ends in 'y'.' Lauren's mind tried to hunt down the name that she had been given earlier. Twelve new names and they were all sped by and Lauren had tried to keep up. She had been emotionally taxed on everything today. A student had a long and complicated break down that had needed to be addressed immediately and as professionally and as rationally as possible. 'Tracy' was a tall brunette who favored her couture look of a tailored skirt suit and was well manicured. Lauren felt underdressed in a t-shirt and an unbuttoned black oxford shirt and jeans sitting next to her. But much to her relief, the other women in the group had managed to keep things equally casual. Jeans and t-shirts seemed to be the acceptable dress code. Lauren had wondered earlier when she had left her apartment to walk to the bar. She regretted not consulting with Julia before she had chosen what to wear.
"I wanted to do anything that paid the bills." Lauren answered candidly. 'What is her name?' Lauren's mind fretted.
Another little echo in Lauren's mind spoke up, 'It's okay! You can do this; you need to meet more people. Maybe you'll date one. Then you'll be able to get this awkwardness behind you.' The little cheerleading voice was drowned by her vexation over what 'Tracy's' real name was.
"Where has Julia been keeping you all this time? She never said there was anyone else gay where she worked. I bet you're keeping a whole list of lesbians at work that you're tearing through and letting us have the leftovers." Accused someone across the table and to the left of Julia.
Lauren's mind was distracted and she looked in the direction of the heavily pierced butch, and then wished she hadn't.
"They're all mine." Claimed Julia raising her eyebrows provocatively. "Lauren was just too young for my tastes."
The comment pierced Lauren's heart shattering it into a million pieces. Lauren took a deep breath. She didn't want that comment to be true. She wanted to touch Julia and find out if that was true.
'How can I be attracted to her and never have her!' Lauren's mind panicked. Lauren said nothing more and finished her beer.
"I'm sorry, I need to go, I have some things waiting for me."
"Can I walk you out?" asked Tracy standing up and looking Lauren in the eyes, smiling.
Lauren reached into her pocket and pulled out fifteen dollars and ran a hand through her hair and shrugged.
'Out. I want out.' Lauren's mind turned directly to the door.
"Have fun!" Julia called out distracted by a conversation she was having between herself and someone else at the other end of the table.
Though the bulk of her attention had been on the conversation she was having, Julia had watched the short exchange and she was worried. It had taken Lauren nearly twenty minutes to warm up to the group, and then when Casey made real conversation with Lauren, Lauren seemed to speak as if she had never spoken before. Julia did take into consideration that perhaps Lauren might have just found Casey overwhelming and possibly even attractive. Julia had initially believed that Casey was very attractive when they first met. But the look of fear that drew all the blood from Lauren's face when Eddie had spoken up had made Julia wish she hadn't introduced Lauren to so many people all at once.
When Lauren excused herself, Julia hadn't been surprised one bit. She had watch Lauren withdraw more and more and the conversations went on. Lauren couldn't find her place with the group and without Julia sitting right by her side to encourage her to actively participate, Lauren was just not going to find any common ground with these women. What had shocked her was that Casey had asked to join Lauren outside and Lauren, either not understanding what Casey was going to do, or understanding what was going to happen and wanting it, was about to allow it to happen.
Casey was going to follow Lauren outside and then drag her to the car where Lauren would experience perhaps fifteen minutes in heaven. If she made the 'cut' as Casey had always put it to the group, Lauren might make it home with Casey where they would have unbridled, and unrestrained casual sex. Lauren would then find herself alone the next day wondering what had happened the previous night.
Julia had never made it past the door. She had not been comfortable with dating just yet and Jeremy had been too young then to be left alone all night with the sitter, Julia had left their relationship as a friendship. She had heard endless tales of Casey's exploits. It had opened Julia's eyes to the probability that life in its rich variations still continued on regardless of gender preference.
'I never warned Lauren.' Julia felt guilty. Another pain entered Julia's mind, which she would later realize was jealousy. She didn't want anyone else having a stab at Lauren, which made her comment about Lauren not being old enough for her even more distressing.
'Why am I feeling this way about Lauren?' Julia wondered for the briefest moment watching Lauren and Casey walk away.
Lauren led the way as she and Casey left the bar. Nearing the exit, Casey put a hand on the small of Lauren's back, and was surprised as they walked out together that Lauren had jerked away. No one had ever jerked away.
"Julia is such a bad judge of what she needs!" Casey hissed in Lauren's ear. "You're so young and beautiful. I'm appalled she isn't in to you."
The warm breath from Casey's mouth sent shivers down Lauren's spine stopping her in her tracks. Her eyes were wide and lost and she spun around as she stepped outside and stared unbelievingly at Casey.
"Come on Lauren, you know what's coming next. This way to my car." Casey motioned to the silver BMW on the far end of the parking lot.
"Car?" Lauren's brows furrowed. "I'm sorry I'm not following you at all."
"Julia didn't tell you? I want to test drive you for the night, see if you're any good." Casey walked closer and tried to draw Lauren with her body language. The frank crass nature of Casey's comments stunned Lauren.
'Why would she want to test drive me?' Lauren gawked for a moment and then the light bulb was finally turned on. Lauren's eyes got wide and she tried to control her growing fears for herself.
"Um, no, Julia doesn't tell me things like that. And I'm not a car. There's nothing on me that needs to be tried."
"Oh, I find confidence sexy. I just make keep you around for one more night!" squealed Casey and her hand came up, the back of her hand brushed Lauren's cheek on the way to draw Lauren close for a kiss.
Lauren slipped out of Casey's way. "I'm sorry. I really do have to go." Lauren turned and jogged away through the parking lot to the bike trail as quickly as she could without looking back. At the first bench she found, she sat and sobbed, frightened and just not sure why she was so upset.
Casey's mouth drew a thin line and she re-entered the bar. Casey returned to the group and sat across from Julia. The entire group of women stared at her unbelieving that Casey had been so quick with Lauren.
"What happened? She's not a keeper?" asked Eddie clearly amused that Casey had so obviously been rejected.
"She up and ran from me." Casey was annoyed. "You're right Julia, she is too young. Too bad, she's very pretty." Casey took a drink as another beer was put in front of her.
"Where did she go?" Julia stood up and paid her tab.
Casey shrugged without a look of regret. Lauren would have been just another notch to her. "On the bike trail, I guess home. Where are you going?" Casey picked up another beer as it came to the table.
"To go get her. Guys, Lauren just came out. She's very sensitive to everything around her. I brought her because I thought you of all people would understand." She glared at the entire table wishing that those sitting around it had protected Lauren earlier.
"Isn't she a little old for coming out?" asked Eddie skeptically.
Julia suppressed her anger but not her annoyance with how narrowly her friends viewed Lauren. "No one is a 'little old'. Lauren just had to take her time." Julia rubbed her forehead trying to clear her mind and get to Lauren. "I'll see you guys next time."
Julia hurried out from the bar and up the darkening paved trail by the river that ran through town. She was grateful to find Lauren curled up on the first bench.
"Are you all right?" she asked sitting on the edge of the fiberglass bench covered in scars from people trying to carve their mark into the bench.
Lauren looked up startled and wiped her eyes. Her sneaker-covered feet fell to the ground and she wiped her nose on her sleeve and then rolled it up past her elbow.
"Yeah." She swallowed hard. Looking at Julia, any part of Julia would remind her all to vividly of what had just transpired.
"Here." Julia pulled a pack of tissues from her purse.
"I'm sorry Casey was such a jerk to you. I really thought they'd be more welcoming."
Lauren shrugged. 'Hey that was her name.' A grin came to mind, but could not make it to her face. Her mind settled down a little trying to find anything but to cry in front of Julia. It was disconcerting to Lauren to cry in front of Julia.
For the first time since Lauren and Julia had reunited as adults, Lauren was unable to form words.
"They're really a great group when you get to know them. I should have made your situation more clear to them. I'm sorry." Julia placed a gentle caress on Lauren's hand.
"It's all right, I was going to have to learn sometime." Lauren stammered staring at Julia's hand where it was touching her.
'I'm too young for you. You said so in the bar.' Lauren looked at the caress mournfully suppressing the shudder that coursed through her memory and pained her tender heart.
"Do you need a ride home?" Julia asked softly looking as the sun dipped lower turning the sky into hues of pink and purple.
Lauren looked to the direction of the setting sun, so Julia couldn't see her heart breaking. "No, I'll manage. Thank you."
"You're not all right Lauren, tell me, did Casey try something you didn't want?"
"No, it wasn't Casey."
"Eddie then? She really is a softie. Most hard butches are."
"No." Lauren wished Julia would just leave her alone. Lauren knew that if she had a few minutes more to sniffle in self-pity she'd be fine. But with Julia sitting this close to her, intoxicating her, it made it harder to deal with the rejection from Julia, from just not understanding being gay, from unrequited heartache.
'She didn't know I have a crush on her.' Reasoned Lauren's inner voice and her ragged breath calmed itself. It wouldn't do to have Julia guess that she had shattered Lauren's only fantasy.
Julia looked at Lauren and then carefully reached out and felt Lauren's chin with its trails of tears.
"Someone hurt you Lauren, tell me, please." She asked softly.
Staring into Julia's face, Lauren could not stand more than a second and looked away, gritting her teeth. "I hurt me."
"You hurt yourself? How?" The question harkened back a haunted memory of a teenage Lauren who was so difficult to reach.
'Don't tell her!' Lauren held the argument in her mind trying to find reason, trying desperately to answer Julia, trying to fill the silence so her mind would not have any additional reason to continue to confound her.
'But she won't let me go until I tell her. I'm not a child anymore.' She admonished herself.
But nothing was said. Julia waited for Lauren to clarify, and Julia realized very quickly that there would be nothing to clarify.
"I expected too much. It was overwhelming I shouldn't have stayed as long as I did." Lauren lied.
"I do want to take you home Lauren. I want to be sure you get home safely."
"I can't do that right now Julia." Lauren felt her heart clog her throat. She just needed to be out of Julia's presence.
"You're probably right. But I can wait. When you're ready, I'll be right here." Lauren closed her eyes, wishing now she hadn't lied to Julia. Julia reached for Lauren and watched her shudder. Julia's heart ached for her young friend wishing she could read Lauren's perplexed mind.
Julia spoke up after a few minutes allowing Lauren a few difficult sniffles that Julia was certain bruised her pride. "I'm sorry for bringing you here under these conditions Lauren. I should have known you were not ready for all of this. Well," she considered for a moment. "at least them."
"It will all come together Lauren. You've made such progress!" Julia encouraged.
'Made such progress that I'm sitting with someone who I have an unrequited crush on and I can't tell her a thing!' Lauren anguished.
"I'm ready. I'd like to go home now if you're still offering to drive." Lauren stood, forcing herself to just pull whatever strength together and head out to Julia's car.
Lauren shoved her hands deep into her pockets, her head bent down and scuffed her toe along the asphalt and trudged to the car. Julia watched Lauren walk away and only went after her after a moment.
Lauren looked up at the silhouettes of bare tree branches against the night sky. Julia came up right next to her as they sauntered down the path to Julia's car. Lauren wasn't necessarily dawdling nor was she hurrying along. She just wanted something to go right. This experimental phase did not have to last forever, but right now, it was certainly not leading her anywhere. Women were intoxicating.
Lauren clarified her thought: 'Julia is intoxicating. I forget myself when she's with me.' Lauren recalled her hand being caressed just a few minutes ago, certain that she would find a mark from where Julia had touched her.
They reached the car.
Julia walked up to the driver's side of her car and dropped her keys. She wasn't sure at the time why she did it; however, she knew it was the right thing to do. Lauren was right next to her in the next instant.
"Julia, did you finish your water before you came to join me?" Lauren looked worried on Julia's behalf.
"No. I didn't get through the first half pint." Julia fumbled around on the ground trying to pick the keys up in the limited light around her car with equally limited motor skills.
Lauren bent down and plucked the keys from right in front of Julia's hand. "I'm driving you home and I can walk home from there." Julia knelt in front of Lauren and caressed her face. "I can't ask you to do that. You're distraught."
Lauren swallowed hard fighting to look Julia in the eye. 'Not as distraught as I am right now.'
"I'll manage." She replied.
"What's wrong Lauren? You're so, withdrawn tonight." Lauren helped Julia up.
Lauren looked away and straightened up. "Come on, I'll let you in on the passenger side."
Julia reached for Lauren's hand. "You should learn just to relax Lauren. I know it's not in your nature, but when you're relaxed, you do so much better. You know that as well as I do." Julia pulled Lauren closer to her.
Lauren looked into Julia's eyes puzzled. "Julia, please don't do this. You have no idea..." Lauren was cut off by Julia's kiss.
'Soft. Oh God, don't let her stop.' Lauren deepened her kiss to Julia not sure where any of this was going, but it was not important. Julia's tongue flicked her own, sending new sensations shivering through Lauren's body.
"I was so jealous when Casey walked you out and then I saw you flinch when she touched you. I knew I had hope." Julia whispered.
Lauren's heart was pounding in her ears as she heard Julia speak. Julia's hands were on either side of her face, her forehead touching Julia's.
"What does this mean?" Lauren asked softly.
"I want you to drive me home Lauren and I want you to stay." Julia looked up at Lauren and waited to see what Lauren would say. Lauren instead said nothing but unlocked the car, letting Julia in.
Lauren would not remember later the next day how she got home from the bar. She would not even remember the stunned stares as she passed Julia's friends who were heading out of the bar in search of a livelier crowd. She would just remember the look on Julia's face as they parked in Julia's garage and let the garage door close them off from the outside world. And her next memory would be the look on Julia's face as she was led through the darkened house to Julia's bedroom.
Julia had held Lauren's hand on the way home. She had not even been the slightest bit drunk. But allowing Lauren to believe so had given Julia an excuse to cross the barriers Lauren had been erecting in her experimentation. She had felt the tremors coursing through Lauren's body when she had reached for her. Lauren had nearly melted on the spot when Julia had kissed her so provocatively. But Lauren had kept herself together, which was promising.
'Oh, yes, I did have to think hard about bringing Lauren in so close under false pretenses.' Julia admitted to herself watching Lauren drive. But the kiss had been quite eye opening. It revealed something Julia had been surprised to learn about Lauren, but Lauren was a quick study. She reciprocated the unintended kiss without loosing a step. Julia could feel her heart pounding with desire, something she herself had not experienced in quite a while.
'No regrets tomorrow morning.' Julia made herself promise as she drew Lauren into a forbidden embrace that Lauren would never forget the beauty of her entire life.
Julia's slow lingering kiss to Lauren's lips raised Lauren's heartbeat to nearly hummingbird speed. Lauren's head dropped as Julia pulled away, feeling Julia's hands on her waist. Lauren's eyes were closed and she tried to slow her breathing.
"Please look at me Lauren." She begged softly pulling Lauren to the bed and to her.
Lauren swallowed hard as she lifted her head and into Julia's eyes. "Tell me what you want." Lauren rested her head on Julia's shoulder.
"You." She said huskily.
The lights were dimmed and Julia carefully peeled Lauren's clothes off. Lauren closed her eyes and tipped Julia's face for another kiss as their bodies closed the gap between themselves.