"Oh yes Ms. Valour, we are just now seating a few stragglers and then we will pull from the gate, just make it quick" she said with a smile before continuing on.
The woman pulled out her phone and pushed a button to turn her screen on and using her manicured finger to open the phone line. She went down a list of numbers and names that Amy could see and chose one to tap twice on. Putting the phone to her ear she listened into it. Amy could hear the rings and then a funny beeping. In disgust the woman put the phone down and tapped on it again hanging up the call. She then pushed a few more things on the screen and pulled the keyboard out from under the screen and typed a quick message that Amy could see.
'Leaving O'Hare now, Florence in 11, Ciao baby" before she pressed send. Turning off the phone this time she quickly slipped it into her bag which she pushed under the seat in front of her.
"Are you meeting someone in Venice?" Amy asked curious.
The woman smiled wryly "Yes, my girlfriend will meet me at our hotel when I get there but I also have a couple of business meetings that have been set up so it's good timing to go." It didn't sound like she was that enthused.
Amy was surprised that the woman so openly admitted to meeting a girlfriend. Where she came from people didn't do that. It was hidden for the most part. She had gone to a university where it was a little more accepted but she had never expected a sophisticated woman such as this to admit it so openly.
"Have I shocked you?" the woman asked amused.
Amy shook her head and smiled "no, just a little surprised."
"In this day and age?"
"No, not that, just that, that you...." she didn't know how to finish what she was trying to say. She heard the door to the plane being closed and realized she hadn't felt nervous for awhile, that all returned at this moment.
The closing of the door didn't phase her traveling companion though, she was continuing on their conversation as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened. "What, that someone like me would be gay?" she asked.
Amy returned to their conversation with a nod.
"It takes all kinds to make up this world" the woman answered. She didn't sound defensive and she certainly wasn't apologizing. "What about you?" she asked surprising Amy.
"What about me?" Amy repeated stupidly realizing the plane was pulling away from the gate.
"Are you gay or straight or bi?" the woman looked at her kindly and curiously.
"I don't know" Amy answered truthfully.
"You don't know?" she asked surprised. Her impeccably groomed eyebrows rose up on her forehead.
Amy shook her head "I don't know because I have been concentrating on getting my degree for years now. I've dated guys, I've felt attracted to women, but I don't know if I would prefer one or the other." She looked around curiously as the plane began to roll towards a large expanse of concrete.
"This is your captain again, we are eighth in line for take off. Everyone please buckle their seat belts and sit quietly while we wait, all phones and other electronic devices please turn off." The metal sound of his voice was awful over the speaker.
As they moved inexorably towards the tarmac and turned Amy could see through her window the other planes before them as they rolled into line. The captain kept them going slow enough that they never quite stopped as they moved up one at a time in line.
"Are you okay?" the woman asked Amy and she spun around from the window she was looking out nearly giving herself whiplash in doing so.
The woman looked down where Amy's hand was wrapped around the arm rest, her nails were digging into the upholstery and they were icily white. Amy was surprised, she hadn't realized she was doing it at all. "I think I am a little nervous" she told the woman breathlessly.
"Sometimes it helps if you just close your eyes. Taking off and landing are the worst" she told her.
"Flight attendants take your seats" the captains tin voice came over the speakers and they all knew they were next.
"Here, hold my hand" the woman said and took Amy's unprotestingly in her own.
The plane lurched as they sped up down the tarmac. Amy was surprised how quick they went and then with a sickening, at least to her, lurch they were up and began climbing rapidly. She held onto her new friends hand desperately, hating the motion that reminded her of too many rides at the carnival. It all smoothed out though, a lot quicker than she would have thought possible. She looked out and was surprised to see clouds outside her window. She looked over at her new friend gratefully.
"Thank you" she said as she tried to extricate her now numb hand.
"Your welcome" the woman replied as she settled comfortably in her chair. "By the way, my name is Alexis Valour, call me Lexi for short" she held out her hand.
"I'm Amy, Amy Gray" Amy shook the delicate hand with it's impeccably manicured nails.
"Pleased to meet you Amy. It's a long flight, I'm glad your sitting next to me" Lexi smiled.
"Thank you Lexi, I'm glad your here too" Amy said fervently. It made it a lot easier to fly now that she had made a friend.
Lexi asked her about her college years and Amy explained how she had gone year round in order to get her bachelors in record time and then her masters so that she could get a better job. She had applied to and gotten for her first year out a position on Long Island in one of the best paying teachers jobs in the country. It hadn't been easy to get but she had great references, good grades, and she knew how lucky she was.
"Do you have somewhere to live out on Long Island?" Lexi asked her.
Amy shook her head "I thought I'd move out and go to Long Island and look around for a month or so before school started."
"How long are you going to be in Venice?" Lexi asked concerned.
"About six weeks. Most of my stuff is in storage anyway, I stayed in the dorms while I went to school so it was easy to move out last week and put the rest in there."
"What about your parents?" Lexi asked and then was immediately sorry for asking as she watched Amy's expressive face.
"They died six years ago. I think I went a little crazy after their accident. I had planned to go to college right after high school but I got into a bit of trouble and it took awhile before I realized I was heading no where fast. They wouldn't have been proud of the way I behaved after they were gone but they were all I had. No brothers, no sisters, and after the way I behaved, no friends. I applied for college and amazingly I got accepted. I packed up and moved across the state and started over. I kept to myself except for a few people I had to work with, a few I had all my classes with, or my roommates over the years. I figured hard work was enough to make up for the time I wasted. It wouldn't bring my parents back but it would make them proud." She hung her head at the shame she felt for doing things that would have disappointed her parents.
"Hey, they didn't see it and maybe they would have understood" Lexi said kindly.
"Maybe, but probably not knowing them" she said. "I never got the chance to get past the terrible teens, I hope they knew how much I loved them" she said sadly.
"They knew, all parents realize how rotten their kids are as teens, they hope and pray they will grow out of it, and if they are rational adults, they get past it and forgive it."
"Mine never got the chance" Amy said miserably.
"Maybe they would have" Lexi said astutely.
"How do you know so much?" Amy asked.
"My children are in their twenties, I saw it all, the rebellious teen, the slackard, the defiance. What they didn't realize was that I had also been a teen once and done those same things to my own parents." Lexi said with a smile of remembrance.
Amy looked at her in surprise that she would have children that old "you don't look old enough to have children that age" she said in astonishment.
"Thank you for the compliment, I've been genetically blessed" Lexi laughed at her surprise and flattering compliment.
"I bet you were a straight A student and never looked back" Amy smiled teasingly.
Lexi laughed, a genuine laugh. "Nope, straight B's and occasional A's, but I worked hard to get ahead, had my children, started my own business, sold it, and met my girl" she smiled as she said it.
"Your girl?" Amy was surprised to that Lexi was dating a girl. She visualized this sophisticated woman suddenly with a girl in a Catholic school girl's outfit.
Lexi smiled wryly "my woman then? I've been with her a long time, my girl and I refer to each other that way, I guess it's habit."
"She's younger than you?" Amy asked curious as to what type of woman would hold this amazing sophisticated woman.
Lexi shook her head "No, she's older, more worldly than me."
Amy was amazed, sure Lexi had to be teasing her but she was serious. That this woman would think there was someone more 'worldly' than her astounded Amy. She was sure she had misunderstood her. "What's she like? How did you meet her? What's her name?" Amy surprised herself by firing off the questions quickly.
Lexi smiled at her enthusiasm. She had to remember back...
It was just ten years ago when she had taken her first trip to Europe to consult with a company that was merging with the American company she represented. Her advice and expertise was needed to make the transaction smooth. Her reputation in the business world was well respected and her advice sought after by all the best firms. It helped that she had run her own successful businesses for years before selling them just before the bottom dropped out of the market. Going independent meant she took a lot more risks with various companies that meant they had to pay her for her advice and expertise. Fortunately for her bank account she was paid well. She was set for life and didn't have to work after selling her companies but she wanted to work, she needed to work. Her oldest son was 15 so it was okay for her to leave her children for a couple of weeks that she needed to finish this job. The kids were well taken care of and responsible and she didn't have a worry leaving them for extended periods of time. They were used to it and she brought them the best presents. They knew their own hard work at school was necessary and when time allowed she took them along and they had seen most of the country from one end to the other.
She walked into the European branch of La Orange with a confident walk and announced herself to the receptionist. Apparently she had been expected, but Alexis Valour was NOT what THEY had expected. She had been firm, she had been efficient, she had cut through the bullshit that executives tended to put in the way of what should have been a smooth transition for the American firm. She had been diplomatic but resorted to brass tactics when she had to. Her higher ups had been delighted. She did more in the weeks she was there than what a team of people hadn't been able to do in months. They gave her a glowing report that led to her next job, and her next.
While she was in Germany she kept herself amused in her down time by visiting museums, the zoo, and occasionally clubs. Her name, her firm, and her money got her into all the best but she didn't let that go to her head as some would have. A drink was a drink as far as she was concerned. If you paid $10 for a drink that should cost $2, you were a fool. Alexis Valour was by far no one's fool as she had proven time and again. She enjoyed dancing, she enjoyed meeting people, she didn't spend unnecessary dollars, euros, pounds, or marks. Whether or not they were her own money.
She was at one such club on a rather grueling Friday night. She had to let go a pair of executives from the firm who were not on board with the current plan of unification. They obstinate behavior had cost the company time and again. Repeated discussions had been to no avail and although she didn't like to do it she had fired them. She was using the club to relax and unwind. They hadn't taken the fact that she was a woman, an American, and an invader onto their turf very well. Their dismissal had been brutal and she needed a drink, she needed to relax.
"May I have this dance?" an exotic voice with a touch of a foreign accent asked her in English over her shoulder and Lexi turned to see one of the most stunningly beautiful women she had ever seen. She was shorter than Lexi but only by an inch or so. Her blonde hair had streaks of a darker color in it that was hard to see under the club lights. Her face was heart shaped, her lips infinitely kissable, and her eyes amazingly bright in the club lights. Lexi was stunned for only a moment before smiling brilliantly at the invitation.
"I'd love to" Lexi said as she tossed off the last of her drink and grabbed her clutch. She followed the blonde to the dance floor and was immediately enfolded in her arms. They rocked quietly, not too strenuously to the rock beat. It wasn't fast enough to dance apart but not slow enough for a slow dance, they compromised and held each other as they danced and chatted.
"I'm Sasha" the blonde said exotically to her.
Lexi was enthralled, the voice alone would seduce the most frozen heart. "I'm Alexis" she answered back.
"Ah Alexis" the exotic beauty said putting a spin on the name that had Lexi enthralled. "Such a beautiful name for a beautiful woman" Sasha breathed.
And so began a wonderful friendship. From the beginning Alexis was captivated by the blonde. She learned Sasha was from the former Soviet Union. Her father and she had capitalized on the upheaval and managed to make an absolute fortune for themselves.
"Sasha is one of the wealthiest women in the world" Lexi told Amy with some pride.
"I thought Oprah was" Amy put in naively captivated by Lexi's story and wanting to hear more.
"Oprah is one of the wealthiest but there is wealth that isn't reported to Forbes magazine" Lexi grinned at her companion before continuing her story.
Sasha had heard of Alexis through business contacts and what she was doing for La Orange. That she was whipping it into shape so the merger went smoother was most impressive. That she hadn't taken any prisoners in her desire to make the job work was no secret. Sasha had been intrigued. Hearing that Ms. Valour happened to prefer women only made her more desirable. She had been afraid that Alexis Valour wouldn't live up to her reputation and having contrived to meet her at the club she was thrilled to not be disappointed.
Alexis was attractive in her own way, not beautiful but commanding and there was something about her that drew people. She had a presence. Sasha turned the dance into a date and the date into much much more. Within a week she was making love to the incredible woman that was Alexis Valour and even that didn't disappoint in any way. It had annoyed her that it took a week to get into her skirts but Alexis wasn't playing hard to get, she wanted to be sure before she succumbed to Sasha's undeniable charms.
Sasha was childlike sometimes in her desire to get what she wanted when she wanted it but her undeniably beautiful body had gotten her far. Not that she slept her way to the top, she was a little more choosy than that but just the fact that she was a beautiful woman had opened many doors for her over the years. She accepted her looks as a matter of course and used them shamelessly. She didn't however sleep with just anyone. Alexis Valour she wanted to sleep with and it had taken all of her persuasive charms to get her to succumb. To get her surrender. It had been a sweet surrender. It had been worth the wait, it had been worth the anticipation.
Lexi had surprised Sasha with her unabashed enjoyment of sex. Her passion had overwhelmed the beautiful Russian and Sasha had never been sure who was in charge by the time they had come up for air. Lexi was inventive, she was mischievous, and she left Sasha gasping. By the time her time was up in Europe Sasha had begged her to stay and be her mistress. Lexi thanked her but said she had to go home. Sasha had followed her of course, in love for the first time in her adult life. She had never met someone who told her no, who accepted none of the many gifts she wanted to bestow on her, who was firm in her own wants and desires and was willing to leave Sasha. Lexi could hold her own, she was strong, she was firm, she could be soft, loving, and kind. Sasha was captivated as never before, the love had surprised her with it's power.
Sasha Brenhov had been born poor in a little village outside of Moscow. Her father and mother had moved to Siberia for a better chance at a better job. By the time her brother had come along her parents were fairly well off in the notoriously poor Soviet Union. Her parents saw the way the political field had lain and they sent both of their children to college to learn business. Her mother died while Sasha learned hard lessons of business at the harsh hands of Russian scholars. Many were only anxious to get in her pants and while she learned that she did not want men after her numerous attempts to be normal, she realized she enjoyed women too much to deny her sexuality. As the seeds of rebellion had been sown her brother became a victim of random violence and her father hardened as he saw his dreams come crashing down in the death of his only son. Sasha was his only heir and in her he was surprised to see more brilliance than his son had ever shown. Her graduation on the eve of the collapse of the Soviet Union had afforded them both chances that they took with both hands. Hers legal and his not so legal. The resulting influx of money changed both their worlds. Since Russian rubels weren't reported to magazines such as Forbes and most of it was hidden in Swiss bank accounts and elsewhere around the world they went unnoticed and continued to amass their immense fortune. Sasha's father died a happy man, he had more money than Midas in his mind and a brilliant daughter to continue his legacy. The first thing she did upon his death was to get rid of his more illegal enterprises. She kept her contacts of course, one never knew who might be useful for what, but she kept her businesses fairly legitimate and certainly with in the realms of the law. As a Russian citizen she gave greatly to charities and paid her taxes willingly. She was a model citizen as far as their current government was concerned. Her enterprises brought in a lot of money for their economy, provided necessary and needed jobs, and her contacts brought foreign trade that helped their economy and more. Sasha Brenhov was a very respected citizen. She was smart enough to realize though that any government could come and go, she respected the American democracy but she studied other's for their socialism, communism, even the dictatorships and invested wisely. She knew keeping her money in one country would be a fatal mistake. She enjoyed her life and the fruits of her labor too much to risk it.
Lexi had traveled all over the world for Sasha but she still managed to keep her independence. She grudgingly accepted an occasional gift from her lover but would never let her buy her houses or yachts or anything else she felt was ostentatious. She tried valiantly to keep from taking all her jobs from Sasha. She needed to keep her balance but Sasha Brenhov was a very stubborn woman and wanted the love of her life by her side always. Lexi felt it was important to keep her independence. To keep from becoming a cog in Sasha Brenhov's wheel of immense wealth. She also instinctively knew that keeping Sasha from taking her for granted kept her intrigued, kept her coming back, kept her from becoming bored with her. She knew from time to time that Sasha had her followed, the first few times had enraged her and the fights the two of them had had, had been something to see, were legendary among Sasha's employees. Lexi realized it was just the fact that Sasha was a bit insecure that made her do such things but it didn't excuse her from being accountable. Sasha had met Lexi's children over the years and attempted to 'help' them out. Lexi had been furious over this obvious attempt to 'bribe' or 'buy' her children and the resulting fight had been incredible. Sasha had thought she had truly blown their relationship, that it had been irreparable from her actions. Lexi though loved Sasha and forgave her. There were definite lines drawn though over which Sasha no longer dared to cross, she didn't want to lose Lexi, she became Sasha's moral compass in the business world and finally in her personal world. The fact that Lexi was the one person in Sasha's world who could love her without all her money surprised her and gave her a comfort she got no where else.