Trick and Treat


In the morning, Pauli awoke to the feeling of being held. It was very nice so she snuggled into the cuddle. Ash woke her later and asked if she wanted breakfast. "I know I need to eat something. I'm sorry for shutting down last night. I have to figure out my future, Ash. I'm not sure I can afford law school." They got up, showered, and dressed. Karen heard them and started breakfast. By the time the girls came down, the house was filled with the fragrance of the food Karen had made.

Paulette explained her fears for the future to Karen and Scott. Both assured her that things would work themselves out. Pauli did start tearing up from time to time, as did Ash. Death so close was new to them. At lunch time, Ash took Pauli out for burgers and then, that afternoon, to do the shopping they had to do. The shopping was very hard for them -- they were buying clothes for Connie's funeral. All the ladies in the clothing store were helpful. Many had known Mrs. Aston and were very saddened.

Both Ash and Pauli made decisions: Ash picked a deep navy pantsuit she would wear with black flats. She bought a conservative hat and a shawl in case it was cool. Pauli went with a black pencil skirt, a white blouse, and a black blazer. She chose a veiled black pill box hat, black gloves, and a small clutch that she could put a few things in. Ash helped the sales staff with Pauli's footwear, low-heeled black pumps. The clothing was marked by the store's tailor for minor alterations, which the staff said would be free to honor Connie.

The girls came home to a sedate Karen Martin. "The funeral home called. They need to discuss the date and time and would like some clothing. Are you up to going home and picking something, Pauli? Ash and I will come with you." Pauli just nodded. This was all happening too fast. But it had to be done.

The three headed over to get the needed items. Pauli knew the dress she would choose. A dark blue business suit that her mother wore when she was thinner. She picked out jewelry: A gold necklace and two rings that her mom liked. As a final touch, a white scarf with a simple grey pattern. Karen approved of Pauli's choices. They headed to the Preston Funeral Home to finalize the plans for Connie's interment. The best date was Friday at one p.m. for visitation, a short service in the chapel, and burial. Pauli called her Aunt Jillian and her father to tell them the details. She was emotionally exhausted and lay down to rest.

"Pauli, do you want to eat dinner?" Ash asked, gently shaking her awake.

"Ah, I guess so. Can I borrow your computer later? I need to write some things."

"Sure. Mom made ragu fettuccini. It's really good. What do you need to write?"

"An obit. And I plan on giving her eulogy. So I need to put that together."

"Jesus! It just doesn't end, does it? Can I help?"

"I need to ask your mom a few things, but I will have to do the service by myself."

Karen helped Pauli write an obituary and submit it for publication. There was so much Paulette wanted to say, but it was decided to save that for the eulogy. Pauli had the info on her aunt and father. She knew the names and dates of her mother's parents' deaths. Scott produced an obit that Connie had written which was very helpful. Except it made Pauli cry at being called beloved and the other praise her mother gave her.

Pauli was one of those people who had memories from a very early age. She remembered her mother breastfeeding her and changing her when she had soiled herself. She had cherished the memories of them playing on a quilt on the living room floor. She also recalled how hurt her mother had been when her father had left them. The number of memories was overwhelming. Many were very intense and emotional. It took hours for her to log them all. She then had to edit the list to represent her memories. When she finished, she decided to ask Ash if she wanted to say anything. Ash said absolutely. She also asked her aunt who also wanted to speak to their childhood and parents.

There were several others who expressed a desire to share their love for Connie, Karen among them. When Pauli had her list of people, she edited her remarks so as to not make the service too long. She did add in many humorous anecdotes. This was all quite emotionally draining.

Her mother had made Scott the executor of her estate to relieve her daughters burden. He had prepared everything beforehand. Once the hospital had filed the death certificate, he ordered 50 certified copies. Connie's will needed to be probated and her life insurance dealt with.

Paulette worked very hard to write the eulogy. It was her formal chance to say good-bye. Ash stayed out of her way, but they still had time for each other, to go shopping or out to eat. Ash also spent time on her own eulogy. She did not want to speak for a long time but had things to say. Karen was also doing the same, as was Aunt Jillian and several of Connie's co-workers. By Friday, they were ready. Aunt Jillian Tate and Uncle Rob Tate had come, as had Pauli's father.

Pauli's eulogy was the most difficult thing she would ever do. It was interspersed with bits of humor, punctuated with her mother's kind teaching and ability to show love to everyone. Pauli recalled how her mother had brought home a homeless woman for Thanksgiving one year. They had given the woman a place to sleep and clothing while hers were being washed. All three shared the dinner, but in the morning the woman was gone, along with the money from Connie's purse. Later that day she came back and apologized, handing back the cash. She had gone job hunting and wanted to be sure she could get back.

The woman had found a job at a small diner near the house, and now she needed to find a place to live. She totally refused to stay with the mother and daughter. She felt she had been a burden already. Connie took her to a rooming house near her new work and paid three months' rent. The lady swore that the funds would be repaid with interest. And indeed they were. In the time she was with them, they had never learned her real name.

Millicent Harper worked herself hard to repay their kindness. She volunteered for every job. None was to menial for her: She cleaned bathrooms and scrubbed the kitchen every night. She had been taken on as a waitress, but she was always at the diner to see if she could help. Eventually she bought out the owner when he wanted to retire and renamed the place 'Millie's'. It was featured on TV as an upcoming new place. Millie had never forgotten the kindness Connie had shown her and had asked to speak if there was time.

Pauli made it through her speech without tears, but when Ash came up to speak they hugged. The wetness on Ash's shoulder was obvious, as were the wet lines down Pauli's face. A woman she knew only as one of her mother's workmates grabbed her up and dried her eyes. The rest of the eulogies were delivered and the crowd was directed to the grave site. The mortuary was a part of the complex with the funeral parlor.

After the interment, Pauli tossed a rose on her mother's casket, followed by a handful of soil. The woman who had dried her eyes came up to her to talk. "I'm Mary Jackson, Paulette. I was very moved by your words earlier. You said you always worried that your mother was lonely. I can assure you she was not. She kept her private life just that. She did not want you to think poorly of her. Or for you to be influenced by her choices. About six months after your father left, she and I became lovers. She insisted we not let you know. I will admit that in our minds I was helping raise you. We shared every triumph and skinned knee. Your mom asked me to deliver this note to you after she was buried." Mary handed the envelope to Pauli and kissed her cheek. Then she walked away.

Pauli turned to see that Ash had been watching the interchange. She walked over to her friend and they went to the car. On the ride home Paulette opened the note. It was on a floral stationary and written in her mother's hand.

My dearest Paulette,

If you are reading this, you must have met Mary. I am sorry I was not there to hold both your hands. She saved me from a lonely life and I again found romantic love. I am so sorry we hid from you. I know it hurt her, and I think you as well. I could not risk your disgust or damnation. Nor did I wish to influence your choice of sexual identity. I now know that was worry poorly placed. All I did was deprive us all of the joy of a family. Please forgive me, Daughter, my misguided worry.

Mary knows so much about you. Please keep her in your life. Her address and phone number are in my address book at home. I think she loves you without knowing you. My hope is you two will become acquainted, at least. Karen knows about us. Ask her if there is anything you want to know, if you don't want to ask Mary.

I have no ill feeling for your father. He did not owe me his happiness. I am glad that he found it; I hope you are also. If he had not left, I would have never found my true love either.

I am so sorry to leave you this soon. I wanted so to see your future and the wondrous things that will happen to you, for you, and because of you.

Your mother,


PS. Please share this note with Ashlyn. She is also my girl.

Karen heard a whimper and saw Pauli's dress was soaked with tears. "What's wrong, Paulette?" Paulette handed the note to Ash as her mother had requested. As Ash read, she also started crying, and at the end she let out a mournful moan. "Ashlyn, let me read that please." Ash instead handed the note back to Pauli -- it was hers to share or not. Without a thought, Pauli passed the note to Karen, who read it more than once. Through her own tears, she muttered, "Oh, my sweet Jesus. That poor woman." She handed the note back to Pauli, who returned it to its envelope and into her bag. Ash leaned over to give her a sympathetic hug while Karen reached back to caress her knee in a motherly gesture.

"That must have been a powerful note to elicit so much emotion," Scott said. Paulette reopened the note and read it verbatim aloud for Scott. "Your mother has a powerful way with the language," Scott croaked out while drying his eyes.

They had to attend the wake that afternoon. It was very hard for the girls. Paulette sought out Mary, and they talked for an extended time. Paulette explained that this was all so new that she needed a little time to come to grips with it all. In the end Mary gave Pauli her email and cell number, asking Pauli to send her own when she felt ready. Ash walked around as if in a trance. She had not allowed herself to register the magnitude of her loss.

Pauli took time to get to know her Aunt Jillian and saw photos of her cousins, whom she had never met. She also made her peace with her father and met her stepmother. She found Grace to be a nice enough person, not the harpy of fairy tales. They talked for a while. Pauli thanked her for the Christmas gift, saying it would pay for her undergrad education.

Then Pauli noticed that Ash had sat down with her head in her hands.

"What's up Ash? Are you OK?"

"Sorry, Pauli it just hit me that I will never see her again. I'm sorry. I should be strong for you." Pauli wrapped her in her arms, trying to stem her tears of grief as well as Ash's. Karen came over and saw how distraught her daughter was. She went and talked to her husband, explaining how upset Ash was.

Scott came over to the girls and stated, "We can leave whenever you two want."

"I'm ready now, Mr. Martin. I think Ash is, too." Paulette was almost ready to join Ash in a crying jag. The four said their good-byes and Scott drove them home to a symphony of sniffles from the back seat. Both girls' new clothes would have to be sent out for dry cleaning. They finally collected themselves and joined the adults in the den to watch TV. The rest of spring break was spent getting organized to go back to school.

Back in the dorm, word made its way around how the roommates had spent spring break. Several of the girls on their floor stopped by to offer them comfort and talk. Pauli buried her self in her school work. She was spending a lot of time in the library. This left Ash with plenty of play time if she chose to do so. She was also a dedicated student. On a late April day, she had one of her bedmates over. As usual she texted Pauli. Pauli's last class was canceled, so she headed back to her dorm, stopping to check for any texts. Her phone was dead. Now what should she do?

Pauli thought that Ash would not be doing anything so she went on up to her door. She stopped to listen and heard nothing so she unlocked the door. She was quiet as usual so as not to disturb her roomie. She opened the door and was greeted by the sight of a naked bottom up in the air. Her jaw fell open. The girl was on her knees with her face between the legs of another girl. She saw the hair of the woman being pleasured. It was blonde so it was Ash's wet sex in front of her. Pauli's eyes took in all of what she saw, the little rosebud of her anus pulsing in excitement and dripping vulva. She could see one of her friend's breasts as the one being licked started moaning as her orgasm approached. Pauli stealthily exited so the two could finish.

She sat down in the hall and wrote a note explaining that her phone had died. She had overheard that Ash had a visitor and said she was going to study downstairs. She then slipped the note under the door and took off down to a quiet room. Realizing she was aroused by what she had witnessed, she stopped into a restroom and masturbated. Pauli almost came before she had her panties down. It took next to nothing to finish -- one slight touch was all. She had often wondered if she was asexual. She knew now she was not. One orgasm was not enough. The vision of Ash's stimulated sex would not leave her.

When she had finally sated her libido, she found a quiet place to sit and read her economics text. It was complex and was made much harder by the recurrent memory of what she had observed. Ash came down and fetched her. She was a little worried. She had no idea what Pauli had heard. Ash told her she could come up any time, so Pauli packed up her books a followed her upstairs.

"I'm sorry, Ash. I didn't want to interrupt what you were doing. I'm going to buy a new charger so I can put it in my backpack." The room had a distinct smell of arousal that almost forced Pauli back to the bathroom. Pauli was trying to understand why this had her so cranked up.

"Ash, what does it feel like?"

"What does what feel like, Pauli?"

"Passion, Ash. Just passion. I assume it is similar for gay and straight people. I've had orgasms, but I don't think they are the same as passion.""

"Well, Pauli, I think passion is a temporary state of euphoria and ecstasy that would be impossible to maintain. It would burn you up inside. But you can have it over and again with the same person. In between, love can hold you two together. It is a more permanent state of being. I think a balance between is where happiness lives. Does that make any sense, Pauli?"

"I understand, Ash. I wish I could feel those things someday. Thanks for the explanation."

The two were getting ready to return home for Easter with Ash's family. They drove over to check Pauli's old home. It seemed so empty to them both. Pauli collected some things of her mother's that she wanted to keep. When they arrived at the Martin house, Scott greeted them and asked to have a word with Pauli. During the time she was gone Connie's life insurance had paid off. She had kept a large policy. Her daughter was the beneficiary Scott handed her an envelope she opened it and gasped. The check was for half a million dollars. Scott told her that there would be no taxes to pay.

Pauli now had the funds to go to law school and more, if she wanted, when combined with the money her father had given her. Later, she talked to Ash about moving off campus the next year. Both liked the idea.

Connie's will was to be probated the next week, and there would be more assets for Pauli. This was upsetting to her. It cemented her mother's death once more. Ash talked living off campus out with her parents and the deal was settled. Life was looking up for Paulette -- she could make plans again. When they went back to school, they found a two-bedroom apartment in a quiet complex for the next year.

At the summer break Pauli went to talk to Millie about working in her diner. Millie hugged her like a long lost child, telling her she had two waitress positions open. Pauli took one, and Ash gladly accepted the other. Neither had to work but they wanted to fill the time constructively. Pauli texted Mary to set up a time to get together. It had been long enough now. Pauli had inherited all her mother's things house, car, bank accounts, IRAs included.

After talking to Scott Martin, Pauli had decided to sell the house. He would represent her interests. She then went to Mary's house to talk over the sale, as well as to get know each other. She walked up to the door and knocked.

"It's so nice of you, Paulette, to visit me. Come in, please." Pauli kissed her cheek as she passed into the house. Mary blushed. It was more than she expected.

"How have you been, Ms. Jackson? I'm sorry I didn't contact you before. I am still dealing with Mom's death." Pauli's eyes took in the room -- there were many photographs of her mother and Mary. There was little doubt that they were deeply in love. Her face appeared on many of the other photos, sometimes with Ash. The shrine was slightly upsetting. Pauli ask Mary about selling the house. Mary thought that was a good idea since Pauli was not planning to live in the town anymore. Mary told her that home prices in that area were good and demand was high. The house would sell quickly.

The two spent the afternoon getting to know each other. Mary had collected together Connie's things that she had left in her home in case Pauli wanted them. Pauli told her she could keep anything she wanted. That brought a tear to Mary's eye. Mary told her of the times they had shared together, showing Pauli the love letters Connie had written her. By the end of the afternoon, they knew each other well and Pauli felt a little attachment to her.

The roommates were notified that they were on the dean's list with GPAs of 4.0. Working for Millie gave them time to do other things. Ash volunteered at the SPCA. Pauli worked in Scott's law practice when she could. She was very well thought of by everyone there. As usual, summer shot past. The girls went to the university a week early to set up their apartment. They moved some of the furniture from Pauli's house. Most of the other things were in storage. Connie's IRAs were all in Roth accounts so Pauli would pay no income taxes on the money. There were state inheritance taxes as well as federal estate taxes. The inheritance tax was 4.5%, and the federal exemption was not met, so there would be no tax. The house sold in late August for just over $300,000. Pauli insisted that Mary take her commission of six percent, since she had both listed and sold the home. In the end, Pauli was a millionaire. She was also a frugal woman and wasted nothing.

The two girls vied for valedictorian. Their majors made that difficult -- economics and biochemistry were hard. Ash and Pauli had minors in psychology. In their junior year Pauli had the most unsuccessful date of all time. She went out with a man she had been introduced to, Jesús Amore. Who was reputed to be a gentleman. They went dancing. His hands did not wander nor did he grope her. He was so smooth. Until they were dancing to a slow song and he whispered in her ear. "Ah, mi puta." Pauli knew what that word meant. She was livid. She excused herself to go to the restroom. She called a taxi and made her way out of the dance hall and waited. When she got back to the apartment, she knew Ash was entertaining in her room. Pauli laid down on the sofa and cried silently. Ash came out to get drinks but stopped dead when she saw Pauli. She snuck back into her room and put on a robe and came back out, followed by her friend, Gabriella.

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