"I don't know," I answered softly. "Maybe alone. I hope not. But I hope to die with God's forgiveness. I want to be blessed."

Janneke grunted as Julius suckled harder. "Blessed. That is good," she sighed. "But better is to be loved. To be loved by someone, Kate."

I nodded.

"But the most sacred thing is," she paused, "the most sacred is—to love. That is why God made us," she said firmly. "Find the person you were meant to love," she encouraged, " and do that will all of your heart and soul. Then you will truly have God's blessing."

Moved, I went and sat with her. It became very still in the apartment. Janneke looked down at her child. She gently caressed him, then reached out and gently stroked my face.

The idea of loving someone unto death now seemed like a very noble calling. I believed I could do that with more zeal than I could muster for International Treaty Law. And the idea of marrying a "good friend" and being able to deliver sex on schedule now seemed like the waste of a life.

I went to bed.

Why could I not stop thinking of Sabine? Why did the thought of living with her make me so happy and excited? I could imagine breast-feeding our baby while she made dinner.

"Find the person you were meant to love and do that will all your heart and soul."

Did it matter that if "loving" and "being loved" were with another woman? I had been taught that was a sin; but now my heart seemed to be saying something very different.

Oh Lord, why hast Thou forsaken me?

Janneke's words kept running through me: "you can form your life however you want at this moment." I realized the truth of those words. I had been taught that sometimes God speaks through the voice of others. I felt that He was speaking to me through Janneke.

But what was He saying? Follow my heart? Obey His commandments? Janneke was unambiguous, but I couldn't see the path ahead. Who was I meant to love? Was Sabine my guide to eternal salvation or a ticket straight to hell?

I spent a wonderful weekend in Vienna. I imagined Sabine was with me every moment.


The next Monday, I dressed more carefully than usual for work. I chose my best pair of jeans and pressed them carefully, then went with a green t-shirt, pink oxford button-down and a blue sweater. I added a small silver necklace, and felt like I was looking pretty good.

I danced my way to the office, humming some Johann Strauss and loving the morning Viennese ambience. When I got there, I tossed my stuff on my desk and headed up to Sabine's office. My heart stopped. It was empty and the door was locked. Not even the secretary was there. Damn. Then a horrible thought: what if she were delayed a few more days?

Feeling suddenly deflated, I began to trudge back to my space. Halfway there, I heard footsteps behind me. I turned, and there she was, standing in the hallway and smiling.

"Well, I see you are early today," Sabine chuckled. I blushed. She looked at me and crooked her finger in a "come hither" gesture. When I complied, Sabine led me into her office and closed the door. Placing her hands on my shoulders, she pressed me back against it, and brought her face close to mine.

"Good morning," she said with a wide grin. "I missed you."

"Same to you," I gasped. I reached up and rested my hands on her outstretched arms. She took my hands.

"Unfortunately I have much work to do today," she told me, bringing one of my hands to her mouth and kissing it, "I have to write a big report. But when we are done, I want to be with you." She looked up and smiled. "Dinner again?" she asked.

"Of course," I replied. Sabine kissed my fingers, then pressed them against my mouth, transferring her kiss to me. A thousand thoughts immediately began flying around in my head.

"Ok. Then we must do our work," she said with mock sternness. "I want to keep my job."

We had a lovely "welcome home" dinner for Sabine, and afterwards walked around Vienna holding hands and talking. It was such bliss to be with her again. And my heart sang when I saw how she had missed me.

I now understood how beautiful it was to love and to be loved. Yin and yang. Salt and pepper. Horse and carriage. Love and marriage? Well, I thought, let me at least see what this love thing is about before worrying about that. I had my hands full with just that.

We kept things as they were—holding hands, hugging and kisses on the nose—and allowed our relationship to grow. I now had opportunities to watch Sabine address various UN committees and meetings of international diplomats. She was so masterful and competent, and was treated with enormous respect by people who were all older than her. I knew she would make a real contribution to the world. I was so proud of her!

I also realized that having some random intern running into her office every day to moon over her couldn't be making her look very good. So we became very sensible: as our relationship deepened, it moved out of the workplace and into the wonderfully romantic streets and cafes of Vienna.


A couple of weeks later, I got an assignment to do a report on child soldiering in Africa and legal bases for intervention. I worked down in the library and became wrapped up in the subject.

I was scribbling notes as I flipped between a couple of books and a German/English dictionary when I felt a presence behind me.

Startled, I jumped in my chair and turned to see Sabine's face right in front of mine. We were so close that our noses almost touched.

"So. You no longer want my help with your reports?" she teased.

"No. I want to save you for more important things," I blurted out. I immediately blushed afraid that I might have given her the wrong idea. "Wrong idea about what?" my conscience interrogated.

"That is good," she quipped. "I am available for important things." She paused and tapped the memo giving me my assignment. "But I should tell you that you have been given a very big job. A very big responsibility." I looked at her, not really understanding. I had thought this was just another of the menial tasks that came my way.

"Important? Did you—I mean, why me?" I asked. She shook her head.

"I had nothing to do with it," she told me bluntly. "Frankly if I had been asked I would have said this is too important for an intern to do." She looked at me intensely. "What comes from this conference will probably save or kill 10,000 children," she said, "and this report will help set the agenda. Please take this very seriously. It is important." That sobered me.

"But how..." I began. She cut me off.

"You last report was so impressive that the group unanimously asked to have you do this," she smiled. "You can't possibly know how proud I am of you, Kate. You remind me of myself when I was younger. I think you will have a great future."

"Wow. Ok, Sabine, I will make this absolutely perfect," I assured her.

"I did not however, come here to talk about work. It is 6 PM and I have not heard from you all day," she scolded. I looked at my watch. The day had flown by—I realized that I had been working hard. I hadn't even thought of stopping for lunch. I was starving. "Let's go to dinner," Sabine suggested.

I packed up my work in record time, grabbed my coat and we headed out. This time, she took me to a fun Italian place and ordered salads, pizza, a dish of spaghetti with pesto and a really nice bottle of wine. It was amazing.

After we ate, she pulled out her cigarettes and offered me one. I took it and we began to talk, sharing our life stories with each other. My religious upbringing fascinated her, especially as it contrasted with her cosmopolitan roots. She was born and raised in Vienna, and had been exposed to high culture and art since her youth.

We were soon holding hands as we talked, and I realized that her touch was having greater effect on me as the days went by. It had always been both soothing and exciting. Now it was exciting and arousing. I could feel myself getting turned on. After a time, she took both of my hands and looked into my eyes.

"Would you like to come see my apartment?" she offered. I hesitated for a second. Then I realized that I would joyfully visit Hell itself as long as we were together.

We made our way to her apartment. Once inside, she took me in her arms. This was now a more familiar place, and my inner turmoil was not as great as before. I was able to relax and enjoy the feelings that she aroused.

By now, I knew that I was head-over-heels in love, but I still didn't know what I wanted to do about it. I just grabbed her and hung on tightly. She was the only thing that I was sure of. My rock, my foundation, my salvation.

Sabine's eyes met mine and I became terrified. She put her hand on my cheek and my throat went dry. Our faces were close together. We were scruffy, slightly red-eyed, and smelled like cigarette smoke.

She was beautiful; I was a mess.

Sabine began playing with my hair. "You have lovely hair," she teased. "It's very like a girl. But you don't seem like a girl in some ways. Why is that, Kate?"

"I never wanted to be 'like a girl,'" I told her. "But I don't want to be like a boy either. It's complicated, I think."

She began running her hand through my hair, massaging my scalp.

"Maybe it is more simple than you realize," she said.

"no. no. no." I whispered, more to myself than to her.

I was in love and I was afraid. This was dangerous. It might... I might...

Sabine ignored my inner colloquy and simply continued to caress my hair. I looked at her in desperation. Help me, Sabine.

Her face was impassive as usual. The soft light made her short hair and slender body seem even more boyish. God, I wanted her so badly.

"no no no," I said softly. Her hands continued to caress my hair, her face impassive.

Apparently I was not very commanding. Her caresses deepened. Apparently I didn't want to be. In a burst of honesty, I realized that I was yearning for her to touch more than my hair. My legs felt very weak.

The ghosts of my past assailed me. "Katie Ann. Just what do you think you are doing, young lady?" I could vividly picture mom's voice as she scolded me. Years of Sunday school and religious indoctrination flooded in. Sex outside of marriage is against God's will. It is a sin. And sex with another woman—well, that would be a crime against Nature and God. Unthinkable. I heard the other girls taunting, "Lizzy Lezzie."

"Kate, you know this could get out of hand. I know you will do the right thing," mom's voice told me. Reasonable. "Trust in our redeemer. You know you can't trust yourself around this—this person."

Why was it so hard to say, "around this WOMAN?" Am I that petrified that a woman is touching my hair? Yes, I am. I am terrified. Yes, I love it. I love her.

"Your hair is so beautiful," Sabine sighed, now running both of her hands through it. "You are a beautiful woman," she said, bringing her fingers to my face. She ran her fingers across my features as though she were blind and needed to know what I looked like.

"no no no," I whispered. The phrase had become my Mantra.

I chanted to God. He would know that my heart was pure. I chanted to merciful Jesus, who died for my sins. Dear Jesus, please forgive me for the sins I have committed, and for those I have yet to... For those I am about to? no no no. no no no. no no no.

Sabine's hands slipped back into my hair, then ran down to my neck, massaging. Tension and anxiety melted out of me.

"no no no," I chanted, my eyes firmly shut. As long as I didn't look it would be ok. As long as I didn't see that it was another woman, it wasn't queer. I decided that would just keep my eyes closed. If I did that, whatever happened would be ok.

This can't be happening to me. I can't be feeling these things. I can't...

"Kate?" I heard Sabine's beautiful voice whisper to me. It was close, like a guardian angel.

I opened my eyes and her face was right in front of mine. My heart turned to water as I realized what she was going to do.

"no no..." my chant was interrupted as her lips closed on mine. She was wise. She didn't press her advantage, she kissed just long enough to let me feel it—longer than a friendly kiss, but still a nice, safe, closed-mouth kiss.

"no..." I began, then stopped. Who the fuck was I kidding?

Sabine kept her face near mine, but waited for me to decide. Plan A was shot to hell. What was Plan B? I considered in silence, then decided.

I simply looked into her eyes, and allowed her to see into me.

The kiss was gentle and slow—like a comforting warm bath. It gradually deepened, loosening and peeling away layers of self-deception and doubt, the way warm water loosens and peels away scabs.

As our tongues met, I felt warmth, joy and happiness along with the arousal. I felt tears of joy and relief running down my face. Sabine instinctively knew what I needed. She kissed away my tears and took me in her arms. She was crying too.

"I am so glad I have found you," she said, kissing me again.

"Me too," I whispered, blinking away another burst of tears. I grabbed her and held on tightly. We kissed, deeply this time. My heart was racing.

My hands went to Sabine's beautiful face and held it as we kissed, marveling at how small and delicate it was—so unlike a man's. That made my nipples go instantly erect.

I noticed how her tongue fit my mouth; how delicately it danced and probed; how feminine and light and delightful and sexy and playful and... Fuck, now I was soaking wet.

She kept kissing and I kept dropping away old pieces of myself, making room for new sensations and feelings to fizz up like bubbles in a champagne glass.

Encouraged by the ease with which I succumbed to her kisses, she guided me to the sofa. She continued to kiss me and began caressing my body. It felt wonderful, but in spite of my desires, her caresses made me tense and anxious.

When her hand brushed my legs and trailed up toward my crotch, I felt the arousal drain out of me, replaced by anxiousness and fear.

Sabine stopped and looked into my eyes. She nodded and smiled. "I think we must take a break, yes?" she asked lightly. I nodded. "How do you feel?" she asked.

"I feel wonderful," I began, "but I think I'm not ready to be touched like that." Sabine smiled and hugged me.

"Thank you for telling me what you didn't like," she whispered into my ear.

"You're not upset?" I asked, fearful that she would be angry with me for teasing her.

"No," she replied softly. She pushed me back and regarded me. "I know this is new for you," she told me. "And if you say you're not yet ready for touching, it tells me two things." She smiled.

"What does it tell you," I asked, returning her smile.

"It says that you like being kissed," she paused and looked questioningly at me. I nodded.

"I like it when you kiss me. I like it a lot," I told her. She nodded like a professor approving of her student's answer.

She continued with her lesson. "It also tells me that if you're not ready now, that in time you will—you could—be ready," again she regarded me.

I chewed my lip. "I don't know about that," I answered honestly, "it's a big step." Sabine said nothing. "It's—for me, Sabine, it's very confusing." She took my hands in hers.

"I don't want to confuse you," she said firmly. "I want to you to be happy. You must do what is in your heart—not what is in mine."

When she said that, my eyes filled with tears. She saw and smiled. "Yes, darling Kate. It's true. I love you," she said softly. "I have fallen in love with you."

I took a deep, shuddering breath.

I had come a long way in a very short time—and now that I had experienced it, I was pretty ok with the idea of kissing a girl. But to have this woman telling me that she was in love with me? That was getting into pretty deep water. Too fast. I was at a loss for words.

Finally I blurted out, "It's not fair. If you were a boy, I wouldn't have any trouble saying, 'Oh Sabine, I love you too.' Except—except that I would never feel this way with a boy. With you I feel this way, and I can't... It's just very complicated for me."

She leaned forward and kissed my cheek, taking a quick peek to be sure it was still ok. I couldn't help but smile.

"Ok. I think we should get a glass of wine and we can talk some more," she said. "No need to have complicated feelings—let's enjoy our time together." I smiled and nodded.

"I think that we must give you—give us—time," she continued. "I think, darling Kate, that you must," she paused, searching for words, "Scheisse. Doch..." She wrinkled her nose and I fell even more deeply in love with her. "Versöhnung..."

"Reconciliation," I chimed in. My vocabulary was improving thanks to my research.

"Yes. You must reconcilliate? No—reconcile—your feelings," she looked at me questioningly. I couldn't tell if she was asking if her English was correct, if I understood what she had just said, or if I agreed. It didn't matter. I nodded—I got the idea, and she was right.

I followed her into the kitchen and she got us some wine. We talked, drank wine, smoked and shared more about ourselves. I learned that she had had several woman lovers—never a man—and had been "very much in love" with one of them. I told her that I had only bumbled around with men, and had never really been in love.

"I always thought that romance just wasn't important to me," I told her. I now knew that wasn't true at all.

"And so what did you learn now," she asked in her direct way.

"I learned that I have feelings I was never aware of," I began. "And that my feelings are making me frightened and confused."

"So Kate, what do you do when you are frightened and confused?" she asked.

"I pray," I replied instantly. She looked very surprised.

"Praying is important for you, isn't it?" she asked finally. When I looked at her questioningly she took my hands. "It is important for you, so I must understand," she explained. "I have never prayed—not unless in church. Only for—one might say only for the rituals. Do you understand?" I nodded.

"That's how most people pray," I told her. "But I was raised to pray all the time. Prayer is the best way to be close to God—to understand how to live through Him," I tried to explain. She frowned. I tried again.

"Sorry. I forgot that you and God are not on speaking terms at the moment. Think of it this way. Praying can be sort of like thinking out loud, or like talking with a really good friend—a friend you can tell anything to. A friend who wouldn't judge you and who wants to help you."

"But this 'friend' is only in your mind?" she asked. "And does your 'friend' really not judge you? And you must pray out loud?" The questions tumbled out of her.

"Well, think about it. If He is really just in my mind like you said, God can be whoever I need Him to be, right?" Sabine looked confused. "And judging by how my life is going at the moment, I hope to Heaven he isn't the judging type," I added. That got a chuckle.

"But—this makes no sense," she said. Her nose wrinkled briefly.

"But it doesn't matter," I interrupted her. "When you pray enough, it becomes real. It's hard to explain, but it works for me. I always feel better, and it helps me a lot. I know that is real—it's true for me—so I do what works. That makes sense, doesn't it?"

Sabine regarded me silently—probably trying to figure out just how much of a nut case I really was, I thought. Finally, though, she said simply, "Kate, would you pray for me?"

"What?" I asked. "What do you need?" I had only every prayed for people who were in distress.

"I want to see you pray," she clarified.

"Oh, I see. It sounds like you want me to pray WITH you. Or more like, you want to pray with me?" I looked at her. Now she seemed uncomfortable.

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