ONE SUMMER NIGHT
It was hot. Much too hot for June, she thought, as she pointed the air conditioning vent toward her face and sped down MoPac in her new black Mazda. Peering out the sunroof she saw nothing but blue skies, not even one puffy white cloud to shield the sun. She grimaced. Summer in Austin had hit with a bang.
Again she wondered why she had let herself be talked into going to the softball tournament. Betsy, her best friend, had been calling all week asking her to come until she had finally relented. Summer was her time. Her time to be alone and catch up on all the things she had missed during the year. With no classes to teach until the fall semester, she wanted to spend the summer going to Lake Travis when the mood hit and catching up on her reading, not sitting in the hot sun watching women run around the bases. But Betsy had argued that if she was ever to meet anyone, she had to get out. Well, Johanna Marshall didn't want to meet anyone, she stubbornly insisted, but Betsy wouldn't hear of it.
"You're only thirty-six. My God, you're acting as if your life is over and you've resigned yourself to being an old maid.
"I'm not an old maid. I'm just not interested in a relationship right now," she told her.
"Who's talking relationship? You never go out, Jo. I hate to think of you always being by yourself. It's been three years, you know."
"I'm well aware of how long it's been."
"Then come out with us. We'll drink a few beers and cheer them on."
So, she had agreed finally. After all, it had been over three years since Nancy left her to return to New York. A job transfer, she had said. Johanna laughed bitterly to herself. Three years had not squelched her anger. When she found out Nancy had been secretly seeing someone else for nearly six months before she and her new girlfriend had both up and moved, Johanna had been devastated. How could she have been so blind that she hadn't noticed? Had she grown so complacent in their relationship that it just never occurred to her that Nancy had become distant? That Nancy had another lover? They had spent four years together, the last two sharing Jo's house on Bull Creek, and where she had been naive enough to think things were perfect between them.
She shook her head, not wanting to dredge up those old memories. Instead, she concentrated on driving, hands tight on the wheel as Saturday traffic zoomed by around her. She was still protective of her new car, and had not yet reverted to her usual habit of cutting in and out of traffic. Spotting her exit, she was soon just a few blocks from the large complex of ball fields in South Austin. An acre of cars filled the parking area. Johanna remembered Betsy had said it was the largest women's tournament Austin had ever hosted. Teams from all over Texas, as well as a few from other states, were there.
She finally found a parking space on the back row and opened her door to the heat. She scowled again. Summer in Austin was not her favorite time of year. Oh, she loved going to the lake and floating in her tube on Bull Creek, but each year the summers seemed to last longer and longer. She was thankful she had worn a tank top. The slight breeze was not helping much. She pulled the top away from her breasts, fanning cool air inside. She rarely wore a bra, one benefit to being small-breasted, she thought. Probably the only benefit. Taking her lawn chair and her small cooler of beer from the trunk, she walked to the fields.
There were ten softball fields here. She headed to field number three, where their team was playing. She spotted Betsy and Janis and made her way through the crowd to them, excusing herself as she bumped into people with her chair and cooler.
"You came!" Betsy exclaimed, standing up and making room for her.
"I told you I would," Johanna said, forcing a smile. She was already crabby as she felt sweat trickle between her shoulder blades.
"Yes, but you're late. It started a half hour ago."
Johanna shrugged, opened her chair and shoved her cooler under it. "Hello, Janis. Hot enough for you?"
Janis laughed at Jo's usual comment and introduced her to the others sitting with them.
"This is Kerry and Shea," she said, pointing to two older women sitting next to her. "I'm sure you've heard me mention them."
"Yes," Jo said and smiled.
"And that's Lucy." She motioned toward a younger woman who looked up and smiled, then turned her attention back to the game.
"Lucy works with Deb," Janis explained.
"I haven't seen Deb in ages," she said, plopping unceremoniously into her chair, her eyes closed against the heat. "God, I could be sitting in the water right now," she murmured.
"Oh, give me a break," Betsy said. "It's not that hot."
"Ninety-five and June's not even half over. What's August going to be like?"
"One hundred, like always," she said. Reaching under Johanna's chair, she took a beer from the ice and handed it to her. "Here, cool off."
"Thanks." Jo twisted the top off the bottle, drank nearly half of it, then rubbed the cold bottle on her face. "Oh, that's so good, " she sighed.
"So, what's the score?" she asked.
"We're up by one," Janis replied and yelled at Cindy to get a hit.
Betsy and Janis had never played softball. In fact, Jo doubted Janis had ever played any sport. Nevertheless, they made every softball game, and Betsy jokingly referred to themselves as the team's mascot. They made an odd duo. Janis, short and pudgy. Betsy, tall and thin, with a head full of red curls. But they were the happiest couple Jo had ever met, still going strong after thirteen years.
Jo turned her attention to the game. She knew nearly everyone on the team. Not that she made that many games, but they had been playing together for years, and since they were all friends of Betsy's, she had been out with them before. A few of the regular members couldn't make the tournament, and Jo knew Christy had come in from San Antonio to play.
"Is Kay playing?" Johanna asked. Kay was a friend of hers from college who she had introduced to Betsy years ago.
"She's playing second today," Betsy said. "Christy brought someone along with her from San Antonio to play third."
Christy was Betsy's cousin and, despite that, they were good friends. Betsy looked at her and frowned. "Didn't you bring a cap?"
"No," she said, squinting her blue eyes against the sun. "I left without sunscreen, too. Do you have any?"
"I do," Janis offered, reaching into her bag for the sunblock. "God, it's hell getting old. Isn't it?"
Johanna flicked her a wry glance and opened the tube.
"I mean, remember when we would stay out for hours and not even think about wrinkles?"
"Skin cancer, Janis," Jo told her. "Not wrinkles."
"There was no such thing as sunscreen when we were young. I'm sure the damage is already done."
"What do you mean, when we were young?" Betsy asked with a laugh.
"I'm nearly forty, if you'll remember. My days of youth are past."
"You've been nearly forty for three years," Jo teased.
"Yeah, well, this time, it's for real," she said.
Betsy winked at Johanna. "Three more months," she said quietly. "That's how long we'll have to listen to it."
Cindy smacked a fly ball out to center field and the inning was over. Jo spotted Kay as she headed to second base and waved at her.
"I haven't seen Kay in a while," she said.
"Well, if you would come out with us more, you would," Betsy retorted.
"You know I don't go to the bar during the semester."
"Everyone knows you're gay. What's the big deal?"
"I just would hate to run into one of my students there."
The players ran to their positions, and her eyes followed a woman she didn't know. The woman was tall and lean and very tan. Jo watched as she jogged to third base. Pulling her cap off, the stranger ran her fingers through her short, dark hair, brushing it away from her face. She was very dark, one of those people who had a tan no matter what time of year it was, one of those people Johanna had always been jealous of. She had to work at her tan, being so blonde and blue-eyed.
The woman pulled the cap back on her head and kicked dirt with her foot. She pounded her glove with her hand, and then crouched in the ready position while Johanna stared at her. God, she's cute, she thought.
"That's Kelly Sambino," Betsy said, following her gaze.
"Who?" Jo asked innocently.
"Oh." She pulled her eyes away, embarrassed. She had never been one to stare.
Sharon, the pitcher, was the youngest member of the team, not yet thirty, and she turned around, making sure her teammates were ready before tossing the first pitch. Johanna watched as it sailed high, then slid her eyes back to third base. The woman yelled something to Sharon, then moved in a little closer on the infield. The next pitch was hit high to the outfield, and the left fielder moved under it, caught it effortlessly and then threw it back to the infield.
Johanna sat back in her chair to watch Sharon pitch but couldn't keep her gaze off third for long. Her eyes followed the ball bouncing up the third base line. Kelly Sambino charged it, picked it up smoothly and fired it to first base. The runner was out by three steps. Jo smiled as Kelly turned and walked back to third base. The next hitter flied out, and Jo's eyes followed the dark woman as she jogged back to the dugout, accepting congratulations from her teammates.
Johanna couldn't see her in the dugout so she purposely kept her eyes on the field. Kay was the first to bat, and Jo cheered her on when the first pitch was hit over the shortstop's head into the outfield. Then her breath caught as Kelly Sambino walked confidently to the plate, taking a few practice swings before stepping into the batter's box.
"Come on, Kelly," Kay yelled from first base.
"She hit a home run her first time up," Janis said.
"Really?" Jo murmured, trying to sound nonchalant, all the while watching intently as Kelly waited for the first pitch. It was low, and she stepped back and took another practice swing. Johanna saw the muscles in Kelly's arms stand out as she clutched the bat. She strained to hear as Kelly spoke to the catcher, smiling briefly before turning her attention back to the pitcher. The next pitch was perfect, and Kelly sent it flying to the outfield. The left fielder turned and ran toward the fence but the ball sailed over her head. Kay was already rounding third. Kelly ran past second base and raced for third, diving headfirst to the bag, just beating the throw.
Jo found herself cheering along with the rest of the crowd, watching with interest as Kelly stood up and dusted off her pants and shirt, her hands moving over her breasts and stomach absently as she grinned, teeth white against her tan. Johanna stared at her, unable to look away as Kelly chatted with the player from the other team, all the while a smile firmly in place, as if she was surprised at her hit.
"She's quite a player," Betsy said. "Christy said she used to play college ball in California."
Jo nodded and again forced herself to look away. It was becoming embarrassing, the way she was staring. It was so unlike her to have such an instant attraction to someone, especially someone she had yet to meet. Besides, she doubted she would even like her. Women like her had girls falling over them all the time. Kelly probably had a string of women littering the streets of San Antonio at this very moment.
The next two batters struck out, and Kelly still stood at third, clapping her hands, urging Deb to bring her home. Deb hit the first pitch, and it rolled between first and second, just out of the other team's reach, and Kelly trotted home, stepped on the plate and picked up Deb's discarded bat.
"Way to go, Sambino," someone yelled from the dugout, and Jo watched as Kelly walked in front of them, still smiling. For a second, she looked their way. Jo froze as dark eyes settled on her briefly. Then Kelly went into the dugout, accepting handslaps from her teammates, now out of Jo's view, who turned her attention, with effort, back to the field.
The game ended twenty minutes later, and Jo stood to stretch her legs. The heat she hadn't even thought about during the game now settled around her again. Grabbing another beer from her cooler, she took a long swallow and wiped her brow. The teams were on the field shaking hands and talking. She forced her eyes away from Kelly Sambino and settled them on Kay, who was walking toward the fence.
"Jo! Glad you came," Kay called.
"Hi. You had a good game, Kay."
"Thanks. We've got another one at three. Are you staying?"
"Yes," she said immediately.
"Good. I'll talk to you in a minute," Kay said and walked to the dugout.
Jo waved at Deb as she walked back to the dugout and realized that she had not spoken to Deb since Christmas. Or was it New Year's? They had been good friends once, sharing meals and movies. When they had both been single, they'd spent many an evening together. But then Jo had started seeing Nancy and Deb had disappeared from her life, except for group holidays, it seemed. She sighed. Wasn't that how it always was? Give up your friends for a lover, and when the lover leaves, your friends are gone, too. Jo sighed again. It was as if they were strangers now, and Jo made a mental note to invite her to dinner some night soon.
Feeling a tap on her shoulder, she realized where she was, looked away from the field, and followed Betsy and Janis as they went to meet the players. Johanna was acutely aware of her nervousness as her eyes searched for Kelly Sambino. She spotted her talking to Christy and knew that Betsy and Janis were heading that way. She briefly hung back, almost afraid to meet her, but Betsy turned around and motioned for her to follow.
"Are you kidding? I was lucky to make it to third," Kelly was saying to Christy with a smile, and Jo caught her breath as Kelly looked around and rested those dark eyes on her again.
"Great game!" Betsy applauded. "A shutout."
"Yeah. They were picked to win the tournament, too," Christy grinned. She turned to Johanna then. "Jo, this is Kelly Sambino, a friend of mine from San Antonio." She turned to Kelly and pointed at Jo. "Johanna Marshall."
"Hi," Kelly said and stuck out her hand.
Jo was forced to take it, to feel Kelly's fingers wrap around her hand, to feel her firm grip. She kept her eyes down as their hands clasped, then raised them to meet Kelly's deep brown eyes directly.
"Nice to meet you. You had a good game," she said.
Kelly released her hand slowly and grinned. "Thanks, but those were lucky hits. My softball days ended years ago."
"Oh, please," Christy groaned. "I had to practically beg her to play and look what she does."
Kelly grinned, showing off even, white teeth. "It's been a lot of years, Christy."
"You're far from the oldest one on this team."
"I think you hold that honor, don't you?" Betsy asked, and they all laughed.
"And you're not too far behind me, cousin," Christy shot back.
Jo smiled and raised her eyes again, only to find Kelly Sambino looking at her. She met her eyes briefly, and then looked away, back toward the field where another team was warming up.
"I've got to get something to drink," Kelly said, and to Johanna, "Listen, it was nice to meet you. I hope you hang around for the next game."
"I will," she said and smiled.
"Good." Kelly turned to the others. "See you later," she said and left them.
"She's good, Christy," Janis commented, when Kelly had walked off. "Where did you find her?"
"She teaches at St. Peter's. Well, for the last year anyway. She's from California originally and used to play for Stanford when she was in college."
"So where did you meet her?" Betsy asked.
"Out at a party awhile back. She's very nice. I really like her."
Jo listened to the conversation, her eyes following Kelly Sambino as she walked toward the parking lot. She was intrigued with her, to say the least. Actually, infatuated would be a better word.
They stood in the shade, visiting, and Jo was glad she had come. Kay came over to catch up, as they had not seen each other in a couple of months. She also got reacquainted with the other players she hadn't seen in awhile, but she couldn't keep herself from scanning the parking lot for Kelly, waiting for her return.
Jo turned around and smiled at Deb, giving her a quick hug in greeting.
"It's been so long, Deb. How are you?"
"I'm good. You?"
"Fine," she said. "We haven't seen each other in ages. Why did we let that happen?"
"Well, we just sort of lost touch when you started dating Nancy," Deb said, "and never seemed to connect again after you two broke up."
"It was my fault," Jo agreed. "Why don't we have dinner some night? Or is that not a good idea?"
Jo looked around to see if someone were watching them. "Are you seeing someone?"
"No, no. You know me, always single," Deb reassured her. "Dinner sounds good."
"Terrific. We'll get together and catch up," Jo said.
Deb left her and Jo turned around, looking for Betsy, but aware that she was searching for Kelly Sambino, as well. Oh, she was acting like a teenager with a huge crush. She purposefully strode back to her lawn chair, thinking she really did need to get out more.
Kelly did not reappear until just before the start of the next game. The others were already warming up when she hurried on to the field, carrying her bat and glove and a bottle of water.
Despite telling herself how foolish she was being, Jo watched closely. She stared as Kelly picked up a ball and began throwing with Christy, her lean body angling into every throw. She smiled often and chatted with the player next to her as she absently tossed the softball back and forth. Jo was mesmerized. She couldn't tear her eyes away.
"Hey," Betsy said to her, bringing her around.
"What are you looking at?" she asked with a smile.
Jo blushed and cursed silently to herself. "Nothing."
"Yeah," she said, punching her arm. "Nice to know something's still alive in there."
Jo ignored her and took another beer from her cooler.
Their team was in the third base dugout this time and although she had a perfect view of the bench, she purposely refrained from staring. Instead, she pretended interest in the other team as they warmed up, trying to find someone to hold her attention as Kelly Sambino had done. No one did.
The game started, and her eyes never traveled far from third base. Kelly played her position expertly, grabbing every ground ball that came her way and throwing a bullet to first base each time. Jo was impressed, to say the least. But it was Kelly's hitting that won the game. Her first time up, with two runners on, she smashed the ball to center field, and Jo smiled as it sailed to the fence. Then she watched as Kelly ran the bases, her long legs gracefully touching each one as she hurried to home before the ball ever made it back to the infield.
Kelly's grin was huge and contagious as she crossed home plate and hit hands with the others who had crossed in front of her. Jo watched her with awe all the way to the dugout.
"Wow!" Janis exclaimed.
"Yeah," Betsy agreed.
After it was over, Johanna stood with the others as they talked about the game, going over each play again. Kelly seemed embarrassed at the attention she was getting and once again attributed her hits to sheer luck. Jo was secretly pleased that someone with her obvious talent wasn't conceited or arrogant about it. Then again, maybe if she was a little more stuck-up, it would quell this attraction Jo was feeling for Kelly Sambino.
Everyone was deciding to go for Mexican food, and Jo found herself agreeing to dinner before she even realized it.
"Don't be late this time, Jo," Betsy admonished as they were leaving.
"I won't." She closed her trunk with a bang and settled inside her car, turning the air conditioning on high as she drove home. She refused to acknowledge that she had agreed to dinner simply because Kelly Sambino was going to be there. It was high time she went out. Like Betsy keeps saying. Right! With that, she shoved a CD in and listened to Elton John on her way home.
Of course she was late. After her shower, she couldn't decide what to wear. It was still so hot out, she couldn't see putting on jeans, but then shorts seemed too casual. After ironing both and laying them on the bed, she decided on the jeans anyway. Tucking in a crisp cotton shirt, refusing to speculate on the extra effort she was making with her appearance, she carefully applied the minimal amount of makeup she normally wore and sprayed perfume lightly on her neck and wrists. Her blonde hair was cut short for the summer and she brushed it away from her face with a few quick strokes.
She stared in the mirror longer than usual. She had been in the sun too long and her cheeks showed it. Peering closer, she rubbed a finger lightly under one eye. Wrinkles! They were starting to show and she stepped back. They were not nearly as evident from this distance. Laughing at herself, she put her hands on her hips and threw back her shoulders, hoping it made her look taller. It didn't. She wasn't really short. She just wasn't tall. She had spent her high school years wishing she were short and petite so that the guys would notice her more. Then she had spent her college years wishing she were taller, especially after she had developed her first crush on a woman, a basketball player, no less! But she was the same average, boring, and middle-of-the-pack size she had been since she had turned seventeen. She gave her hair one last brush with her fingers and hurried out.
They had agreed to meet at Bonita's Cafe on Congress Avenue at seven o'clock, and it was already fifteen past when Johanna drove by slowly, looking for a parking spot. After cruising by twice, she finally parked two blocks away and hurried along the sidewalk, spotting Betsy's car only a few spaces from the front door. Some people have all the luck, she thought.
She heard them before she actually saw them. Before the hostess could ask her, she simply smiled, pointed and made her way through the crowd waiting for tables.
"Jo, I thought maybe you had decided not to come," Betsy said. She had saved a place next to her and motioned for her to sit. Johanna thankfully sat down, saying hello to those around her.
"Running late, as usual," she murmured.
"Well, I ordered you a margarita. I hope that's okay."
"That's fine," she said, smiling her thanks. Only then did she look around the table. Most of the players and their girlfriends were there, and Jo knew most of them. Her eyes stopped when they met the glittering dark ones of Kelly Sambino. Kelly smiled at her from across the table, holding her gaze, and Jo felt the heat that she thought she had left outside. She flushed and looked away, grabbing the glass of water in front of her. She took a long swallow, avoiding the gaze from across the table.
Her margarita came, and Jo sipped gratefully; feeling the coolness of it slide down her throat. It was just hot out, she told herself. She had been in the sun too long! She ordered her usual enchilada dinner, then munched on the warm tortilla chips and salsa that were placed within her reach. The conversation around the table centered on the games, and as they enthusiastically rehashed every play and every hit, Jo listened, all the while conscious of the woman sitting across from her. As Kelly told about her hits, how she had just lucked into the home runs, Jo was able to observe her. Her long, slim fingers held her glass lightly, and she absently rubbed the frost from the side as she spoke. She seemed almost embarrassed about the attention she was getting. Jo noticed how she quickly turned the conversation to Sharon, who had pitched two shutout games.
"Oh, like I didn't have help behind me," Sharon said. She was sitting next to Mattie, who Jo had only met once before.
"Let's face it, we've got a good team," Deb said, and they all agreed.
Johanna was silent through most of the meal, but she missed little, least of all Kelly Sambino. She watched her constantly when she wasn't looking, lowering her eyes quickly whenever Kelly glanced her way. She spoke quietly to Betsy and Janis, but didn't take part in the conversation around the table. She wasn't quite certain what to make of her attraction to Kelly. It was so out of character for her that she attributed it to the heat of summer. Why else would she be staring at a virtual stranger, wondering if brown eyes could really be that dark?
After dinner, they stood on the street, the air having cooled to a tolerable seventy-five degrees. No one was ready to end the evening, and as they stood around talking, Sharon suggested they go dancing.
"Lakers has country music or we could go to Uptown," she said.
She was met with groans from the older ones. "Uptown is filled with college students," Janis said.
"Okay, then Lakers. It's still early. Our game isn't until nine tomorrow."
They agreed, and before Johanna could offer a protest, they were splitting up, each hurrying to their cars. She paused beside Betsy's car, watching as Kelly got into Christy's van.
"I won't stay long," she told Betsy pointedly.
"Of course not," Betsy agreed with a smile.
"Really. I'm only going for one drink."
"Okay. Sure." Betsy and Janis both grinned at her.
"You can wipe those smiles off your faces, too," she called over her shoulder as she walked toward her car. So, she was infatuated with the woman. Big deal! After three years, she was happy to know that that part of her was apparently coming back to life. It wasn't as if she was going to do anything about it. But still, she wondered if Kelly might ask her to dance. Then she wondered if she would allow herself to accept.
She slammed her door and locked it, then turned the AC on high. Sitting there for a moment, she caught a glimpse of her bright eyes in the mirror and attributed it to the margarita, nothing else. Hell, for all she knew, Christy and Kelly could be seeing each other. But she doubted it. Christy had been living with the same woman for years now and was very happy. But then again, Johanna would have said the same thing about herself only three years ago.
She drove the few blocks to the downtown bar and found a parking space easily, as it was barely nine and the regular Saturday night crowd had not yet arrived. Betsy and Janis were waiting for her at the entrance. Each paid the cover charge and walked into the dark bar. It was already smoky, but thankfully cool. Loud country music blared from the speakers. They had pulled several tables together, and once again, Jo found herself sitting across from Kelly, who already was sipping a drink.
"What'll you have?" Betsy asked.
"Rum and coke, please," Jo answered, and Betsy left to get their drinks.
"Betsy says you rarely come out with them," Christy said from across the table.
"Rarely," Jo said and smiled. "I'm too busy during the regular terms."
"Kelly teaches also," Christy said. "Though this may be her last year. She's got a novel published and it's due out this fall."
"Really? What do you teach?" Jo asked, looking at Kelly directly for the first time but avoiding the dark eyes that tried to capture hers.
Kelly gave her an amused smile. "Journalism."
"Giving that up to write books? God, who could blame you," Johanna said and grinned.
"I really enjoy teaching, but it leaves me little time to write."
"What kind of book?"
"It's a murder mystery. Takes place on a college campus. What else?" she laughed.
"I can think of several professors at my own campus who would be candidates for either the victim or the villain," Jo said and smiled at her.
"Really? Maybe you should try your own. It's great therapy," Kelly said. "Especially if your dean won't cooperate with you." She leaned forward, placed elbows on the table, and Jo did the same. "What do you teach?"
"English," Jo admitted, suddenly feeling like the frumpy old professor that Betsy claimed she was evolving into. "And composition," she added, as if that sounded a little more glamorous.
Betsy came back with their drinks, then pulled Janis up to dance. Jo sipped hers, then looked back at Kelly. "You're from California?"
"Yes. San Francisco."
"What brought you here?" Jo asked.
"The teaching position. It was something different. But mostly, I wanted to see what a real summer was like."
"And what do you think?"
She laughed. "I'm wondering how I've survived two of them. No wonder the lakes are so popular around here."
Betsy and Janis came back as a very old Anne Murray song came on and Kelly looked at Jo and smiled. "I'm not much for country music but I think I can manage this song. Would you like to dance?"
Johanna hesitated, her drink halfway to her mouth. She set it back down. "Okay."
Jo walked around the table and Kelly took her hand, leading her to the dance floor. Their eyes met before Jo lightly laid her hand on Kelly's shoulder. Though they danced with nearly a foot of space between them, they moved together gracefully, as if they had done this hundreds of times before. They didn't speak, and Jo avoided looking at her. Instead, she watched the other couples around them, all dancing much closer than they were. When the song ended, they pulled apart and again their eyes met.
"Thanks," Kelly said quietly, and led her back to the table.
She met Betsy's amused glance with a scowl and ignored her as best she could. Kelly then danced with Christy, and Jo watched as they moved on the floor, noting that Kelly held her with the same distance between them as she had with Jo. That pleased her, though she didn't speculate as to why.
Conversation was sparse around the table. They were too many to talk comfortably, and the music was too loud to hear anything from the other end of the table. She was very aware of Kelly sitting across from her, daring to meet her eyes from time to time, answering her soft smile with one of her own. Kelly did not ask her to dance again until another slow song came on. Jo accepted with a smile, laid her hand in Kelly's outstretched one and followed her to the dance floor.
Kelly held her closer this time, but still there was a space between them, and Jo found herself wishing she would hold her tighter. Jo closed her eyes, letting her palm lay flat on Kelly's strong shoulder. They danced slowly, their feet moving together effortlessly, and Jo took a breath, smelling the light, fresh perfume that Kelly wore. When the song ended, they moved apart slowly, their eyes holding for a long moment before Kelly smiled.
"We dance pretty well together, don't you think?"
Smiling, Jo nodded and followed her back to the table.
Johanna accepted the new drink Betsy had bought for her. "Are you trying to prove a point?" she asked, still smiling, well aware she was past the one drink she had said she would stay for.
"You just looked thirsty from all that dancing," Betsy said pointedly.
Jo ignored her and turned away. So much for best friends. She looked up and found Kelly watching her. Their eyes held again. Jo finally looked away, flushed. She was not used to this, this sexual attraction for a stranger. Giving herself a little mental shake, she silently scolded, "Summer nights! It's just the summer heat."
She felt a tap on her shoulder, roused herself and looked up at Christy.
"How about a dance?"
It was a fast two-step, and they moved together well, spinning around the floor. Winded and thirsty when they returned to the table, she downed her drink.
"Another?" Betsy asked.
"No, thank you," she said. "I'll wait."
Betsy laughed and patted her shoulder. "You're such fun to tease, Jo."
"Obviously," she said dryly.
But she was having fun. Maybe Betsy was right. Maybe she did need to get out more.
When another slow love song came on, Jo bravely raised her eyes across the table, and Kelly was there, silently asking her to dance with an arch of one dark brow. Jo nodded and stood. She was aware of Betsy watching them, but no longer cared. She was having fun. She was feeling again.
This time, when they moved together, Kelly held her close, their bodies brushing, touching. She let her hand move behind Kelly's neck, ignoring the pounding of her heart. Her breath caught when Kelly's hand moved lower on her back, turning her expertly around the floor. The song ended all too soon, and they stood there, still in each other's arms, neither wanting to move away. Kelly's brown eyes were very dark as they looked into Jo's, and she continued to hold her hand as they made their way back.
This time, she accepted the drink from Betsy thankfully. She was hot and it had nothing to do with the weather, she thought with a smile. The bar had filled up. Quite a few players from other teams there now.
"Crowded tonight," she said commented.
"Yeah, there's lots of women in town," Janis agreed.
Jo nodded and watched the dance floor, now filled with couples doing the Cotton-Eyed Joe. She was thankful no one had dragged her out for that one. A fast line dance was next and she watched with amazement as everyone turned and stepped in unison, the strangers mixed with the locals. She had never gotten the hang of line dancing, maybe because she rarely tried. Nancy had seldom agreed to go dancing, even though Johanna enjoyed it. Then, after Nancy left, Jo had isolated herself. She could count on one hand the number of times she had come here since.
Kelly was watching her, she knew, but she didn't look up. She didn't trust herself. She was much too aware of her as it was. Staring into those dark eyes was too much of a temptation. However, when the next song started, she couldn't resist looking up.
"Come on," Kelly said, motioning to the floor.
Jo locked eyes with her and stood, reaching for her hand. They moved together quickly, their bodies pressed close together, Kelly's heart beating against her breasts. She clenched her jaw and closed her eyes, her hand moving into Kelly's hair. Oh, dear Lord, she thought. What am I doing? This is a perfect stranger!
Kelly's hand moved low on her back, pressing her closer, and as their hips came together, Jo couldn't suppress a low moan. Their flushed cheeks touched, and as she felt Kelly's lips graze her ear, Jo involuntarily pulled her closer. Her feet moved with a will of their own, her thoughts on anything but dancing. The dance floor was dark, masking their movements. When they were in the back, Kelly pulled away, staring at her. This time, Jo didn't look away. She watched Kelly's gaze drop to her lips, and her heart hammered in her chest as Kelly slowly brought her eyes back to Jo's. Jo watched in anticipation as Kelly's lips came closer. She closed her eyes, waiting for the kiss, wanting her kiss.
Even so, she wasn't prepared for the rush of desire that consumed her when Kelly's lips finally touched hers. Her mouth opened eagerly under Kelly's, and her feet stopped moving entirely, unable to continue their meaningless motion when all she wanted was for their kiss to continue.
Kelly drew her lips away slowly and continued their dance, forcing Jo to move with her around the floor. Kelly's arms held her tightly, and Jo was thankful, certain that she would collapse right there without them. They didn't speak when the song ended, but their hands remained locked as Kelly led her through the crowd toward their table.
Jo's eyes darted to Betsy and Janis, feeling certain that they had seen them kissing, but they were talking to Christy across the table, and no one seemed to have noticed. Flustered, she sipped her drink, refusing to look across the table at Kelly. My God, what have you done? Kissing a total stranger right on the dance floor! She downed her drink, letting the rum wash through her. If it wasn't the heat, it was the alcohol, she decided. Three drinks were one past her limit. She twirled the ice in her glass, drinking the melted water. Closing her eyes, she tried to fight the attraction she felt for Kelly Sambino and failed miserably. She looked up to find Kelly watching her, and Kelly raised her brows, giving her a small, gentle smile. Jo didn't return it. She was too embarrassed. Did Kelly think she did this sort of thing all the time? That she was used to picking up strangers in a bar? Oh, Lord, if she only knew how out of character this really was!
A slow Trisha Yearwood song started and, with a will of their own, her eyes sought Kelly.
"Dance with me," Kelly said softly, and Jo was powerless to refuse. She moved into her arms eagerly, refusing to think about what she was inviting. Kelly held her tightly, both arms behind Johanna's back as Jo slid her arms over Kelly's shoulders, pulling her close. They danced together slowly, feet barely moving, bodies pressed together. Jo closed her eyes and let the music wash over her, breathing deeply as she smelled the perfume at Kelly's neck. Her lips pressed there before she knew what she was doing, and she heard Kelly's sharp intake of breath, felt her arms tighten around her. It was the rum, she reasoned. Why else would she be acting so wantonly? Kelly moved her head, and her lips found Jo's in an instant. Her own mouth opened. Feeling the tip of Kelly's tongue she thought her knees would buckle from desire. Her own tongue found its way into Kelly's mouth, and she moaned deep in her throat, forgetting the other couples dancing around them. Kelly pulled her into a dark corner in the back and pressed her against the wall, her hand boldly cupping Jo's breast. Jo leaned into her, her nipples hard and sensitive to Kelly's touch. Their kiss was hungry, passionate, tongues dancing, desire growing.
"I want you," Kelly whispered into her mouth.
"Yes," Jo agreed. God, how she wanted her, too.
"Let's get out of here."
Jo was too drugged with desire to offer a protest, and she nodded. She blindly followed Kelly to their table.
"Johanna is leaving, so she's going to give me a lift to the hotel," Kelly told Christy.
"So soon?" Betsy asked sweetly.
Jo met her eyes, sure she was blushing, and forced a smile anyway. "It's been a long day," was all she said.
They left quickly. Kelly followed Jo to her car. They didn't say anything on the way to Jo's house, and she was glad. She wasn't sure she would have been able to carry on a conversation, considering she was taking this stranger to her home with the intention of making love with her. It was almost midnight, the streets were quiet. They sped along MoPac, heading to Northwest Austin.
In no time, they pulled into her driveway, and they paused as the garage door opened to let them inside. Standing in the garage, the overhead light glaring, their eyes meeting across the car. Jo refused to think. If she did, she would send Kelly away immediately. But right here, now, she knew that was not what she wanted. Not tonight. Tonight, she wanted to lay in this woman's arms and enjoy the feelings that she brought to her. No matter that this was something Johanna Marshall did not do. Had never done. But the promise in those dark eyes was too much for her to deny. It had been too long.
They stood there for a long time, long enough for the light to blink off. Only then did they move. Kelly walked around the car to her, took her hand, and Jo led them to the door. They entered the kitchen, Jo shut the door after them and feeling amazed at her boldness, led Kelly into her bedroom.
They did not speak aloud. Yet the energy between them spoke volumes. Jo turned and moved into Kelly's arms. Their lips eagerly sought each other, and it was clear their desire had not dimmed during the drive. If anything, the anticipation had increased it. Now, there was no audience to witness their passion, no reason for them to stop. Jo let her hands travel over Kelly's back, caressing her just as their tongues caressed each other.
She drew in a sharp breath as Kelly pulled Jo'sblouse out of her jeans and began unbuttoning it slowly. She stood still, eyes on Kelly's, hands resting lightly on her shoulders. Strong hands went to Jo's bare breasts, moving over them slowly, thumbs rubbing the taut nipples.
Their breath came quickly, and Kelly drew her close, kissing her softly, then more eagerly. She pulled back as Jo tugged Kelly's shirt out. Jo wanted to touch her. Her hands trembled as she undid each button slowly. She reached behind Kelly, unclasped her bra, and then touched her breasts for the first time. They filled her hands, and she stood with her eyes closed, fingers lightly touching Kelly's nipples, feeling their hardness. Oh, they felt so good to her touch.
Kelly cupped Jo's face with her hands and drew Jo up, kissing her, her tongue tracing Jo's lips, slipping inside and over her teeth. With sudden urgency, she pushed Kelly's shirt off her shoulders and let it fall to the floor along with her bra. She let her own shirt fall behind her, and they stood together, bare breasts touching as their mouths eagerly sought each other.
Kelly's hands went to Jo's jeans at the same instant that Jo went for hers, and they both laughed softly. But the laughter died quickly, replaced with an urgency that would not be denied. Soon, they were naked, standing by the bed, both with uncertain smiles on their faces.
"Are you sure about this?" Kelly asked softly.
"No, but yes, yes," Jo replied, trying hard to ignore the fact that she was giving herself to a perfect stranger.
"You're so beautiful," Kelly whispered.
"So are you."
Jo reached for her. Their bodies touched, and then their lips sparked. Jo felt the heat assail her again thinking her legs would buckle. She knew how ready she was for Kelly, how wet she had become. Pulling the covers back, she laid down on the bed. Kelly came to her, pressing her weight on top of her, lips moving over her face and neck, her tongue snaking into her ear as Jo sighed and held her close. Kelly's fingers moved over her breasts. Jo desperately wanted her mouth there, and she felt Kelly slide down, her lips moving tantalizingly over her, tongue tracing Jo's nipple, swirling over the taut peak before covering it with her mouth. Jo groaned deep in her throat, holding her near, her hands on either side of her face. Kelly moved to the other breast, sucking it into her mouth. Jo pressed her closer, holding her there, thinking that she had never before felt such pleasure.
Kelly moved lower, her lips tracing a path over Jo's flat stomach and into the hollows of her hips, causing Jo to rise up to meet her. She whimpered softly as Kelly moved her legs apart with her shoulder. Kelly's tongue washed across her inner thighs over and over.
"Please," she begged softly, and Kelly's mouth settled over her, causing her to cry out. Her hands clutched the sheets, head arching back as Kelly's tongue moved over her, inside her, stroking her expertly as Jo writhed beneath her mouth. Dear God, she felt like she would surely explode. Closing her eyes tightly, her hips pressed up to Kelly's face. She breathed deeply, then held her breath as this woman, this stranger, brought her so close to ecstasy. She started to take a deep breath and then gasped. Suddenly, her hips stilled, pressed up into Kelly's expert mouth, as her orgasm clutched her, consumed her. She cried out loudly, shocked by its intensity.
Jo brought Kelly up to her, holding her close as her breathing calmed. She swallowed hard, eyes still tightly closed. Kelly said nothing, just let herself be held as Jo moved her hands gently over her smooth back. Before long, Jo's lips began exploring Kelly's neck. She rolled Kelly over, laying by her side, one leg pinning her to the bed.
They gazed at each other, their eyes missing nothing. Jo softly kissed her lips, tasting herself on them, and it stirred her so. Her tongue moved inside Kelly's mouth, over her lips, wetting her face. Jo kissed her neck where her pulse throbbed, her teeth nipping at Kelly's skin, sighing against it. She wanted to please this woman, this stranger whom she just met. She wanted her to feel the same instensity she felt. Her hands cupped Kelly's full breasts. She moved her mouth over them, thrilling in the feel of their softness. Kelly's nipples were hard. Jo's tongue teased them, making them swell even more before she took each of them into her mouth.
Kelly's hands ran through Jo's hair, holding Jo's mouth to her, hips pressing up against Jo's leg. Jo could feel Kelly's wetness on her leg as her hand moved down between their bodies, seeking Kelly's warmth, feeling her surge up to meet her fingers as Jo delved into her smooth, silky softness.
Jo's lips left her breast, her mouth followed the path of her fingers, kissing the warm flesh of Kelly's stomach. Her chin grazed Kelly's soft, fine hairs, and she heard Kelly moan softly, and she smiled, wanting to please her. Her tongue wet a trail along one thigh, down her leg, and up the other thigh, and Kelly begged her to touch her.
"Please. Now," she demanded.
Jo pressed her mouth to her, letting her tongue slowly move over Kelly, tasting her. She settled between Kelly's legs, hands pushing them apart, tongue and mouth quickly stroking her. She felt Kelly press up into her. When she slipped her tongue inside her, Kelly clutched at her shoulders. Her mouth sucked and her tongue swirled over her. Kelly screamed out, hips thrusting forward against Jo's mouth as her orgasm exploded.
"Dear God," Kelly breathed as her body slowly calmed. She then laid back against the bed, arms and legs limp against the covers.
Kelly drew Joe up into her arms, one hand caressing Jo's hair. Kelly's fingers slid over her body gently before cupping her intimately. Jo pressed against her hand, wanting to feel Kelly's fingers on her, inside her. Kelly teased her, and Jo reached for her hand, placing it firmly between her legs. Kelly moved over her softness, feeling her readiness. Several fingers slowly slipped inside her and Jo surged up to meet them. Kelly moved with her, her thumb rubbing, her fingers plunging deep, as Jo's hips rose and fell with her rhythm. Her breath came quickly, and she clutched at Kelly's shoulders as orgasm claimed her. Holding Kelly inside her, she squeezed her thighs tight around Kelly's hand.
When Johanna finally relaxed, allowing Kelly to move away from her, she reached for her and held her close, hands brushing the hair from Kelly's face. She should be tired but she didn't want the night to end. Lovemaking had never been like this before. She kissed Kelly's mouth softly, gently, trying to tell her without words how she felt. Kelly lay still, seeming to understand.
They made love again and again, finally falling asleep as the first rays of dawn brightened the eastern sky.
Johanna woke slowly, feeling disoriented. Her mind cleared, and her eyes snapped open. She turned her head quickly, looking at the bed. Empty.
"Oh, God," she said out loud and shut her eyes. Her limbs felt heavy, and she stretched, every muscle screaming out its protest. "What have I done?"
She rolled over and looked at the clock. Ten already. Kelly had a game at nine.
Johanna squeezed her eyes shut against the memories of last night, covering her face with her hands. Had she really spent the entire night making love to Kelly Sambino? Yes, she admitted, groaning aloud.
"Oh, God," she said again. She turned her head into the other pillow and took a deep breath, smelling Kelly's perfume mixed with the sweet smell of their lovemaking. "Oh, God." .
Rolling back onto her side, she clutched her knees to her stomach. "What have I done?" she whispered. "Oh, God."
She lay there with her eyes closed, trying to deny the truth, but the reality of last night came crashing down around her. She hadn't had a lot of lovers, had certainly never spent an entire night making love. Even when her relationship with Nancy was brand new, she could not recall spending more than a few hours in bed. None of her experiences had ever been as consuming as this. Even now, disgusted with herself as she was, she felt a warm feeling wash over her as she remembered all the things Kelly's hands and lips had done to her.
"Oh, God," she said again. "Was I out of my mind?"
Lying still, she let her mind go blank, soon drifting back to sleep. An hour later she woke to the phone ringing but ignored it. Let the answering machine get it, she thought. She sat up, feeling light-headed, and blamed the rum. Hell, she blamed the whole night on the rum. Or, better yet, the summer heat. She rubbed her forehead and then her eyes. She stood up, naked, and looked at her clothes lying in a heap beside the bed. "Oh, God," she repeated, shaking her head.
The phone rang again, and she walked into the living room, listening as the answering machine picked up. Her grandfather's voice startled her into action.
"I'm here," she said, quickly switching off the machine and picking up the phone.
"You're late," he said.
"Oh, Harry. I'm sorry. I overslept." They had had a standing date for Sunday brunch for years. She rubbed her forehead lightly, trying to ease her headache and her conscience.
"It's okay. I can put everything on hold, Jo-Jo."
"No, No, Harry, I'm sorry," she said again. "I'll be there in half an hour."
She rushed through her shower, refusing to dwell on the night before, pulled on shorts, a T-shirt and her Teva sandals, and hurried out. Her grandfather lived on Lake Travis in a house he and her grandmother had built long before the lake had become popular with Austinites wanting to escape the city. Now, the mansions that had sprung up around him dwarfed his small, modest house.
She drove down the familiar winding drive to the house she had called home since she was twelve. After her mother, Sarah, was killed, her grandparents had taken her in and tried to repair the damage caused by the loss of her only parent. Johanna had never known her father. He had left when her mother was seven months pregnant with her and was never heard from again, but they managed to survive. Her mother worked two jobs and went to college at night, finally finishing when Jo was seven. Sarah became a teacher at a suburban elementary school, and they moved into their first house a year later, leaving the dingy apartment behind. Then, on a rainy afternoon in March, when Johanna was twelve, her mother's car skidded around a curve, colliding with a tree. She had been killed instantly.
Harry and Beth Marshall had willingly taken Jo in and saw it as their life's work to try to make her happy. Sarah had been their only child. Johanna was their only grandchild. As a teenager, she had rebelled, of course. She was a hellion, silently bitter about her loss. But that, too, passed. After high school, she enrolled at the University of Texas, graduated in three years, and then continued until she had her master's degree. She had been teaching at Austin City College for ten years now, and didn't have any desire to move on.
Harry was waiting for her on the porch, sitting in his usual rocker. She parked in the shade of the old oak tree, walked up and hugged him.
"I'm so sorry," she began.
"Nonsense," he said, dismissing her apology. "You're entitled to oversleep now and again."
Harry Marshall, eighty years old, didn't look a day over sixty-five. He had thick white hair, which he wore much too long for a man his age. But he looked fit. He still swam the lake every day, even in winter. Only his eyes showed the years, and the sadness that had been there since his wife, Beth, died.
Jo had been coming to brunch on Sundays ever since college, and because her grandmother had passed away two years before, she often stayed the whole afternoon with Harry, fishing in the lake, going on a boat ride, or just talking.
She smiled and knew he noticed the dark circles under her eyes. Four hours sleep was not nearly enough for her, especially after a night like she had spent. She lowered her eyes, hoping he wouldn't ask. He didn't.
He served them chicken over a bed of rice, fresh vegetables from his small garden and iced tea in the same glasses she remembered from her childhood. The table was crammed into a nook at the back of the house, facing the lake, and they watched the boats on the water, some pulling skiers behind them, others just cruising by. She was quiet and knew she was not being very good company. Turning away from the lake, she smiled at him, murmuring how good lunch was.
"Have a late night?" he finally asked.
"I went to a softball tournament yesterday and out to dinner," she answered, avoiding his eyes.
"With Betsy," she volunteered.
"You haven't brought her around in a while," he said.
"I haven't seen her in a while, either."
"Well, now that summer is here, you should have more time for your friends."
She looked up quickly. "Yes."
"I worry about you, you know."
"I know," she said. "Thank you. I love you for it."
"You need someone other than me."
He gave her a smile and said what he always said. "I wish you had someone, Jo-Jo."
"Oh, Harry, I'm fine. You know that."
"But still, I won't be around forever."
She dismissed that comment. He had been saying that since the day her grandmother had died.
After they cleaned up the dishes, they took the boat out and cruised around the lake, taking their time as they marveled over the expensive houses dotting the shoreline.
"Hard to believe we were one of the first ones out here," he said, like he usually did.
She nodded, like she always did, and smiled at him. He was all she had left, and it saddened her. He had aged since Beth had died and she knew it was a struggle for him to hang on. Part of him had died with her, despite how much Johanna needed him. He had lost his wife, his partner and Johanna couldn't even begin to know what that must be like. The devastation she had felt when Nancy left couldn't even begin to compare to the death of a spouse after fifty-two years of marriage.
"Let's go out for dinner this week," she suggested, as they were tying the boat up.
"Sure. Mexican food?"
The memory of last night flashed by, and she shook her head. "How about Italian?"
They brought out the worn deck of cards and the pitcher of iced tea and settled at the picnic table. The breeze off the lake and the shade of a giant oak made the heat bearable. They played cards and chatted, Jo thankful for anything to keep her mind occupied. If she concentrated really, really hard, she could almost forget that she had spent last night in the arms of a complete stranger. Occasionally, though, images would sneak through and she would feel herself go hot as she saw a flash of herself on the bed, arms reaching for Kelly, silently begging for her touch.
She grabbed her glass of tea, embarrassed by her thoughts. Touching her face with the cold glass, she sighed.
Jo nearly sputtered at his innocent question and pretended interest in her cards. "I'm a little warm," she said. "But I guess it's that time of year."
"I don't even think about it anymore," Harry said. "If I get hot, I just strip down and take a dip."
"Harry! You're not still skinny-dipping during the day, are you?"
Last summer, Harry's new neighbor had been near the property line, cleaning brush, and had spotted Harry in the buff, and called the sheriff's department.
"I think she sits on her porch with binoculars," Harry said, his eyes twinkling with amusement. "Maybe she's just looking for a thrill."
"They warned you that they would fine you next time, Harry," Jo reminded him.
"Oh, bullshit," he laughed. "Wouldn't that make good news? Slapping a fine on a shriveled-up old man for indecent exposure."
Then he laughed again. "But I guess that would be an indecent sight."
Jo laughed, too. Harry had not been in such good spirits in a very long time and, despite her headache, she stayed for another round of cards.
It was after three when she finally left. During the drive home she tried in vain to forget about last night. Without Harry to distract her, images of Kelly Sambino kept intruding. Her stomach did a slow roll as she remembered how her mouth had reluctantly left Kelly's breast, only to travel down her body to a warmer, wetter place.
"Oh God," she murmured.
She turned the air vent to her face, then the fan on high, stubbornly refusing to let her mind replay any more of the events of last night. Instead, she spent the rest of the drive chastising herself for acting like a wanton harlot!
She knew she was being foolish, but she parked in the driveway, not wanting to go into the garage and remember the long moments they had stood there, staring at each other across the car. But she sat in the car and remembered anyway, hands gripping the steering wheel, unaware of her accelerated breathing. She was aware, however, of the warm sensation between her legs, and her eyes closed slowly as she saw first Kelly's hands, then her mouth move over her body. She shuddered at the memory of her own urgent hands guiding Kelly to the ache between her thighs.
The low moan in her throat startled her, and her eyes flew open. She buried her face in her hands, trying to erase the images, trying to curb her arousal.
When she went inside, her answering machine was blinking. Ignoring it, instead she took a beer from the refrigerator and poured it into a frosty glass from the freezer. Despite the heat, she went out onto the deck and sat in the shade, drinking her cold beer and staring out toward Bull Creek as the clear water rushed over the limestone bottom. She loved her house. It was a little bit of the Hill Country nestled in the foothills of West Austin. Thick groves of cedar and oak lined the creek and gave her privacy from her neighbors. It was a small creek, barely four feet deep during the wet season and only twenty-five feet across in some places, but it was a haven to her. On hot, sunny days, she would take a tube and float downstream, then paddle back up and do it all over again. The cold, spring water was a blessing during the hot days of summer.
She watched a cardinal land on her empty bird feeder and frowned. She had forgotten to buy birdseed again. The ringing of the phone echoed in the house and she shut her eyes, not wanting to talk to anyone. She knew it was Betsy, wanting to know all about last night, and she wasn't ready to talk about it. She might never want to talk about it. After three rings, the machine picked up. She let her mind go blank as she focused on the rushing water and the hungry cardinal pecking at her empty bird feeder.
Her beer finished, Jo went back inside and stood before the answering machine. She had intended to ignore it, but the flashing light beckoned her and she pushed the "play" button, her heart hammering in her chest. She expected to hear Kelly's voice, and she wasn't at all sure she wanted to.
She needn't have worried. None of the messages were from her. Betsy had called four times, and Susan Gruber, her dean from the college, had called, inviting her to a barbecue the next weekend. She didn't know if she was glad Kelly hadn't called or disappointed that she hadn't bothered. Perhaps Kelly was used to these one-night stands. Maybe she was feeling none of the anguish Jo felt.
Walking into her bedroom, she saw her clothes, still lying on the floor from the night before. She stopped, raising her eyes to the ceiling.
She gathered the clothing quickly and shoved it all into the hamper. Out of sight, out of mind, she thought.
The phone rang again, and this time she picked it up.
"Jo? Where have you been?" Betsy demanded.
"I've been calling since early this morning," she retorted.
"Yeah, well I went early this morning," Jo lied.
"You didn't make the games," Betsy accused.
"I don't remember telling you that I was going today," she said dryly.
"Well, I just assumed. . . after last night."
Johanna let that pass and rolled her eyes to the heavens.
"How did they do?" she finally asked.
"They lost the first one, then won the next two and made it to the finals but lost five to four."
She wanted to ask how Kelly had done but bit her tongue. She shouldn't even care.
"Listen, we're going out to Adam's Ribs for barbecue this evening. Why don't you come along?"
"Oh, I don't know," she said. "It's too hot to stand in line."
She was scared to death of seeing Kelly again, although she wondered if she had already left for San Antonio.
"Come on, it'll be fun. Bring some beer. You know they don't sell any." When Jo didn't respond, she added, "We'll stand in the shade."
Johanna finally agreed, against her better judgment. She chastised the part of her that wanted to see Kelly again, and prayed that she had already left town.