CHAPTER 8: "Meeting The Family..."

Michelle! Are you in there? Hurry up!" Tammy pounded on the door of Michelle's apartment impatiently. A door across the hall opened and a large woman's head popped out.

"I don't think she's home, missy," the woman said in a grating voice. "Least I didn't hear her come in."

Tammy was somewhat irritated by this. "And you know this for a fact?"

"Hey, lemme tell ya, I been hearin' some wierd stuff goin' on in there, the last couple a weekends -- "

"You know, I really dislike nosy neighbors," said Tammy frankly. "Why don't you go watch some soaps, eh?"

"Hey, I'm just tellin' ya -- are you a friend o' hers?"

Tammy raised and annoyed eyebrow. "No, I'm the Avon lady." She pounded on the door again. "Michelle! Open up!"

"Yeah? And since when does the 'Avon lady strut in here dressed like that?" the large woman demanded, referring to Tammy's outfit for the day -- a yellow and green visor, oversize sunglasses, a purple one-piece bathing suit with matching shorts pulled over, and a pair of leather sandals. "You oughta be ashamed, struttin' around here like that -- "

Tammy turned. "Hey, lady, why don't you just piss off --" Just then, the door opened, and Michelle, clad in a robe, hair disheveled and still looking very sleepy, peeked out.

"Oh my god! Tammy!" To the woman across the hall, she said, "I'm fine, Mrs. Hillard."

"Okay," Mrs. Hillard said, ducking back into her apartment. Michelle opened the door wide.

"God, I'm sorry -- I just woke up -- come in..." Tammy entered, and Michelle greeted her with a perfunctory hug and kiss. "Ye gods, what time is it?"

"Time we were hittin' the road, sweetie," replied Tammy, cooly.

Michelle nodded, then headed in the direction of the kitchen. She glanced back at Tammy. "Cute outfit," she commented.

Thanks," replied Tammy somewhat curtly. "Your neighbor out there didn't seem to think so."

"Oh, Mrs. Hillard?" Michelle chuckled. "Aw, she's just an old snoop. Some kind of 'Jesus freak,' I think. She's always mindin' other peoples' business."

"I hate people like that," growled Tammy under her breath.

"Hey -- honey, don't let it bother you like that," said Michelle suddenly, turning to put a hand on Tammy's shoulder. "She's just a nosy old cow." Tammy turned away somewhat coldly. "Tammy -- I'm sorry I there something else wrong?"

Tammy folded her arms across her breasts and looked up at Michelle. "So, where were you last night?"

Michelle's eyes popped wide open at this. "Excuse me -- ?"

"The old lady across the hall said you didn't come in last night."

Michelle gave a short laugh, then turned back to grinding coffee beans. "I didn't know people were keeping tabs," she retorted.

"I called here a couple of times, and didn't even get your machine."

"Did you think of trying the library?" asked Michelle, pouring the brown powder into the coffeemaker.

"At 10:30 at night?"

"Yeah," replied Michelle. "10:30 -- 10:45, actually."

"C'mon, Mishi -- that place closes at 9:00."

"Yes, to the public -- but there's a lot more that goes on there. I should know."

"So, where were you?"

Ye gods, is this an inquisition?" Michelle demanded. She was starting to get irritated. She pushed past Tammy on her way out of the kitchen. "Excuse me," she said, curtly.

She went into the bathroom an slammed the door. Tammy stood outside. "Look, Michelle -- "

No response.

"Michelle -- come on -- "

Again no response.

"Michelle, I'm sorry -- "

Finally, the sound of the commode flushing, then running water.

"Mishi -- "

There was a gargling sound, followed by the sound of a door or cabinet shutting. Tammy sighed and turned, leaning with her back against the bathroom door.

Suddenly, the door swung inward, allowing Tammy to fall backwards. She cried out, only to be caught in Michelle's arms. "You really shouldn't do that," Michelle said matter-of-factly, planting a lavish kiss on Tammy's mouth. Tammy turned and threw her arms around Michelle.

"I'm sorry, mija, " she said contritely. They kissed again, then began moving back toward the kitchen.

"It's all right, honey," replied Michelle. "I was just so damn tired last night -- you knew I was working down there about fourteen hours a day, didn't you?"

"I guess not -- I mean, I know you did sometimes -- "

Michelle shook her head, "Every day," she replied. "That way, I only have to be down there three or four days a week."

"Oh, I see -- " Tammy started. Again, Michelle turned, putting her hands on Tammy's face.

"And that gives me the time to take off for a long weekend at the beach with a certain wonderful person," she said, with a twinlke in her eye.

"Oh, mija..." Tammy sighed, as their lips met in yet another long, sweet kiss. It was just on the verge of becoming passionate when there came a hissing sound from the kitchen.

"Oh, the coffee!" exclaimed Michelle, turning around and heading for the kitchen. "Want some?"

"I'd love some," replied Tammy.

* * * * * *

"That's a darling outfit," said Tammy appreciatively as Michelle emerged into the living room, carrying her bag for the trip. She was clad in her favorite wide-brimmed sun hat, a two-tone blue one-piece swimsuit, white shorts and flops. In her hand was a pair of large, round "60's-style" sunglasses.

"I must say, I got the idea from you," Michelle confessed. "You look pretty darling youself."

Tammy grinned, then stood up. "Well," she said, stretching, "are you all ready to go?"

"Ready and anxious," Michelle replied. Just as they were about to leave, the phone rang. "Just let the machine get it," said Michelle.

"You're machine's not on, remember?" Tammy reminded her.

Shit, Michelle thought. The phone rang a couple more times. Finally, Michelle picked it up. "Hello?"

"Mishi, it's Kathie," said the voice on the other end. Michelle looked up at Tammy with an almost guilty expression.

Uh -- hi, Kat," she said. "What's up?"

"Oh, I just called to find out what you're up to, and if you still wanted to ride with Andreas and I."

"Ride with you -- " then Michelle remembered. "Oh, you mean over to Riverton."

"Yeah," said Kathie. "You're still planning on going?"

"Uh -- yeah," said Michelle, feeling awkward.

"Everything alright?" asked Kathie.

"Uh -- yeah, it is...look, Kat, I'm just heading out the door -- "

"Oh, I'm sorry -- do you want to meet somewhere?"

"Uh, no -- look, Kat, there's been a change of plans. You and Andreas just meet me at Momma's place, okay?"

"Oh -- all right...what's up?"

"That friend I told you about -- "


"Yeah -- anyway, she invited me to go to her brother's beach house for a few days -- "

"Oh...I see."

"Yeah, so we're gonna swing by Momma's place on the way out."

"I're leaving right now?"


"Okay...well, I'll just call Andreas and tell him we can leave anytime, then."

"You'll be there, then?" asked Michelle.

"'ll probably get there before we do."

"Well then, we'll hang out until you get there. I really want to meet this Andreas."

"And I look forward to meeting your new friend."

"Sounds great," said Michelle. "See you."

"Bye. Love y--" but Michelle had already hung up the phone. She sighed.

That your cousin Kathie?" asked Tammy quietly.

Michelle nodded. "She and I used to be so close...just seems like we've drifted apart these last several months..."

Tammy put a hand on Michelle's shoulder. "Its all right, mija," Tammy said gently. "I understand."

Michelle looked at Tammy fondly, but thought Oh, I don't think so....but it didn't seem to matter now. Kathie had made her choice...and now Michelle was making hers. Instead, she said "Shall we make like el mierde del caballo and hit the road?"

Tammy laughed, and replied, "After you, sweets."

* * * * * *

"My god, Tammy -- where'd you get this car?" exclaimed Michelle, running her fingers appreciatively of the green metal of the late-model Dodge Viper sport roadster.

"The less you know, the better," replied Tammy in a conspiratorial tone.

"Please tell me you didn't steal it," said Michelle.

"Oh, no -- no, I borrowed it from an old friend." She slipped in behind the wheel and opened the passenger side door for Michelle. "He owed me a favor."

"I see," said Michelle. "You're right."

"About what, mija? "

"The less I know, the better."

* * * * * *

They arrived in Riverton about forty minutes later. Although only thirty miles from Port Landers, Riverton might as well have been on a different planet. The town might have been right out of a Norman Rockwell painting -- the typical "Main Street" with its shop-fronts, a town square complete with Romanesque court-house and war memorial, the flag flying everywhere, well-dressed housewives out shopping and farmers in pickup trucks. Tammy's green sportscar -- as well as Tammy and Michelle themselves -- drew not a few glances (and even a disapproving shake of the head).

As ther drove slowly through town, Tammy remarked "Ay caramba, mija! You really grew up here?"

Michelle nodded. "It's really not as bad as it looks," she admitted.

"That's good to know," replied Tammy.

"It's actually worse."

Tammy chuckled.

"Oh," said Michelle as they came to a stoplight "turn here."



"I mean, which way?"


Not easy, since Tammy was in the right lane. "No problem," Tammy declared, and cut across to the left lane -- right in front of a patrol car.

"Tammy, are you out of your fucking mind?!? Oh shit!" For, at that moment, the red and blue lights came on. "Great...fucking great."

Tammy seemed very calm as she pulled over to the side of the road. Slowly, the patrol car opened and a rather tall, rangy-looking officer, complete with "western style" uniform hat, emerged. Looking at him in the mirror, Michelle was reminded somehow of Gary Cooper in High Noon.

"Good afternoon, ladies," drawled the officer.

"Hi," said Tammy, weakly.

"May I see your license and registration, please?"

Tammy fished in her purse, pulling out a wallet, then grabbed the registration certificate from off the driver's side visor. The officer examined the license, then the registration. Finally, he said, "I take it you're not Antonio Rodriguez," he said simply. At that, Michelle looked sharply at Tammy. Antonio?

"No, officer -- he's -- a friend of mine."

"I see. All right, Miss -- I'm sorry, how do I pronounce this?"


"Okay, Miss Carvallo, I'll be right back." At this he returned to his patrol car.

Michelle folded her arms and gave Tammy another sharp look. "Gee, Tammy -- that wouldn't happen to be Tony, your ex-fiancˇ, now would it?"

Tammy simply said, "It's like I told you, mija-- he owed me a favor."

"I see," replied Michelle. After that, there was silence. Finally, "Officer Friendly" returned and handed Tammy back her license and the registration.

"All right, Miss Carvallo," said the officer. "I'm giving you a written warning on this -- you won't need to appear or pay a fine this time...but in the future, I suggest you be more careful...especially with a borrowed vehicle."

"Thank you, officer," said Tammy, taking the yellow slip of paper.

"You ladies have a nice day."

As they drove on, Michelle remained silent. Finally, Tammy said, "I need to know where to go."

To hell, for all I care, thought Michelle briefly -- then immediately regretted it. My god, what's my problem? Aloud, she said, "Two more streets, then turn right -- it's a yellow house on the next corner." She sighed. "There'll probably be a white Mercedes in the driveway."

They arrived to find not only the white Mercedes, but a blue-and-white VW van. Hmmm...looks like Kathie and Andreas already got here, Michelle thought.

"Well...are we going in?"

Michelle turned in her seat, facing Tammy. "I thought you said you'd broken up with Tony."

"I did -- I have."

"But he lets you borrow his fancy new sports car."

Tammy sighed. "Mija, it's like I told you...he owed me a favor."

"Well, judging from this, I'd say it was a doozy," retorted Michelle dryly. "What'd you do for him? Or do I even want to know?"

"I got him out of a lot of trouble awhile back," Tammy said. "Now look, could we just let this drop?"

"I guess I'm just wondering where things must stand between you two -- and where I fit into it. What am I, Tammy?"

Tammy took Michelle's hand gently. "You're more special to me than you could ever know, mija."

"And Tony?"

Again, Tammy sighed. "Look, I was engaged to the guy for almost five years. He practically saved my life at one point...just because you break up with someone doesn't mean you just forget about that." She paused, then added, "In a lot of ways, Antonio is an arrogant, irresponsible, self-centered ass...but he's also very honorable. He always pays his debts..."

"Even to his ex-fiancee?"

Tammy smiled. "Even to his ex-fianceˇ," she said. "And I do mean 'ex.'" She giggled, then said "And that, mi dolce, is why we have this fancy car for the weekend."

It was Michelle's turn to giggle. "You know, I'm glad this day's gone the way it has."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, it's nice to know I can get mad at you -- and even nicer to know I can't stay mad at you."

"Oh, mija," said Tammy, leaning over. The two of them embraced and shared a brief kiss.

"Well," said Michelle, "shall we go in and meet the family?"

They got out of the car and walked up to the door. "So, what's your mom like?"

"Eccentric," said Michelle.

"Like you?" grinned Tammy as Michelle knocked on the door.

"Oh, I wouldn't say that, exactly," replied Michelle, dryly.

The woman who answered the door was in her late fifties -- perhaps even sixty -- but youthful looking, despite a few "crow's feet." Except for her hair, which was more of an auburn color shot through with gray and white, and wire-rimmed glasses, she was almost an older version of Michelle.

"Michelle!" the woman exclaimed, holding her arms out.

"Hi, Momma," replied Michelle, embracing the older woman.

"Come on in! And -- who's this?"

"Oh, Momma, this is my friend Tammy -- Tammy Carvallo. Tammy, my mom."

Just call me Lorraine, dear -- all my friends do," replied Michelle's mother, taking Tammy's hand.

"Gracias, mucho gusto," Tammy answered politely.

"Well, come in and get comfortable -- Tammy, was that Spanish I heard?"

Tammy nodded. "I'm from Puerto Rico, originally."

"Really? You look so -- Oriental..."

Michelle rolled her eyes in exasperation. Mother, you're being rude, she wanted to say, looking daggers at her...but Tammy was taking it in stride.

"My mother was Hawaiian."

"Really? How fascinating -- please, girls, sit down? Can I get either of you a drink?"

"I'd love some iced tea, if you have any," Michelle said.

"Me, too, I think," replied Tammy.

"Oh, come on, girls -- this is a celebration -- I have some lovely May wine in the refrigerator -- "

"Uh, Momma, we're not staying -- Tammy and I are on our way to Quadra Bay."

Oh. I see," said Lorraine, somewhat disappointedly. Then she perked up. "Well, I hope you don't mind me having some." At that she turned and went into the kitchen. "You know your cousin and her new beau are here, don't you?"

"I saw Kathie's van out front -- where are they?"

"Oh, they're out back looking at the flower garden -- you knew I had that lovely Linda Porter rose, didn't you?" Lorraine returned to the front room with the wine, three glasses and a bowl of strawberries.

"Momma, Tammy and I are driving -- and anyway, isn't it a little early in the day?"

"Oh, nonsense, baby. Live a little."

Michelle rolled her eyes and looked over at Tammy, who was glancing back at her with a wide grin on her face.

"I'll join you, Senora Devereaux," said Tammy.

"Tammy!" whispered Michelle

"Oh, wonderful, Tammy -- but please, call me Lorraine," the older woman said, pouring the wine, then squeezing a strawberry into the glass and dropping it in.

"It's all right, mija, " said Tammy. "If nothing else, I'll let you drive."

Michelle shook her head as her mother handed Tammy a glass. Pouring herself a glass, she raised it and said "Salud!"

Tammy smiled politely, raising her own glass. "Salud," she replied. Lorraine took a healthy swig from her glass, but Michelle noticed that Tammy, though raising the glass to her lips, didn't even take a sip. Tammy winked at her slyly, and the two of then sat down on the divan while Lorraine sat in an overstuffed eask chair across from them.

"So, Tammy, what do you do?"

Ye gods, Mother! thought Michelle.

"I'm a bartender -- and I sing with a band," Tammy replied.

"A bartender! Oh, I'll bet you know how to make a delightful margarita, don't you? Your people are famous for those -- "

"Mother!" exclaimed Michelle, horrified.

"Actually, margaritas are from Mexico."

"Oh, really?"

"Puerto Ricans invented the pina-colada."

"Oh, what's the difference -- "

"Mother, that's enough! " said Michelle vehemently.

"Actually, Senora Devereaux, other than the fact we both speak Spanish, we're pretty different from people in Mexico," said Tammy.

"Well, dear," said Lorraine, draining her wineglass, "you simply must make me up on of those lovely margaritas sometime."

Michelle rolled her eyes again and sighed, but Tammy simply answered "I'd be delighted to, Senora."

"Lovely!" Lorraine replied, getting up. "But please, you must call me Lorraine. I'm going to find out what's keeping your cousin and that young man." At that (much to Michelle's relief), she left.

"Ye gods, I'm sorry," said Michelle, shaking her head.

"Mija, it's all right," Tammy reassured her, slipping her hand into Michelle's. "I understand."

"You understand my mother is slightly alcoholic? You know damn well she had a few before we got here."

"I get the feeling your mama's in a lot of pain, mija."

Once more, Michelle rolled her eyes. "That woman has been in pain as long as I've known her. She sure as hell never let me in on what it was -- but she sure took it out on me growing up."

Tammy nuzzled Michelle's cheek. "It'll be all right, mija," she said.

"God, I'm glad you're with me here today," said Michelle earnestly, tightening her hold on Tammy's hand. At that, there was a sound of a door closing and three voices -- two women and a man -- laughing and talking. The man's voice had a distinct European accent.

"Mishi!" cried Kathie when she and the others entered the room.

"Hi, Kat," said Michelle, standing up to embrace her cousin.

"Oh, is this your new friend Tammy?" She held her hand out. "Hi, I'm Kathleen Norville," she said.

"Tammy Carvallo", replied the other woman, taking Kathie's proffered hand. "Michelle's told me a lot about you."

"Really -- ? Well, it's probably all lies," Kathie said, chuckling and giving Michelle a sidelong glance.

"No, really," Tammy protested. "She says you're best friends."

"Kissin' cousins, right, Mishi?" said Kathie with a giggle.

Oh, Kat -- let's not go there, Michelle thought. Instead, she giggled nervously, and said, "Sure -- whatever you say."

Oh. and this is Andreas -- Andy, my cousin Michelle, and her friend Tammy -- I'm sorry, what was that name -- ?"

"Carvallo," replied Tammy.

"Well, now that we're all acquainted," announced Lorraine with a flourish, "shall we all have some wine?"

"Uh -- none for me, thank you," said Andreas.

"I'll pass, Aunt Lora," replied Kathie.

"I see -- how about you, Tammy -- oh, you've barely touched yours! Don't you like it?"

"It's wonderful, Senora Devereaux," Tammy said, then raised the glass again, pretending to take a drink.

* * * * * *

If Lorraine Devereaux had been drinking, she seemed to hide it well. She functioned well enough to fix everyone an oversized lunch of sour-cream enchiladas and avocado salad. While in the kitchen, the three young women chatted -- Andreas, Michelle was noticing, was a man of few words.

"Michelle tells me you work over at the Tin Lizzie," Kathie said.

Tammy nodded. "For about three years now," she said.

Really? I went there once in college," Kathie replied. "It was -- different."

Tammy giggled nervously. "Yes -- you could say that."

"Kathie runs her own plant shop," Michelle commented. Why the fuck is our society so fixated on a person's occupation, she thought. Every time someone's in the newspaper, its always 'So-and-so, age something, occupation something. "But, you know, there are probably more interesting things to talk about."

"Mishi!" said Kathie with a hurt look in her eyes.

"I'm sorry, Kat -- I didn't mean that the way it sounded. I just meant -- why are we always talking about 'oh, so what do you do?'"

Andreas spoke up. "And what is it that you do, Michelle?"

Michelle looked the big Dutchman right in the eye and said, dead-pan, "Well, mostly I lay in front of the T.V. drinking beer and masturbating."

Kathie's mouth dropped open, while Tammy burst out laughing. "Mishi!" exclaimed Kathie, "Jee-zus! I don't believe what I just heard!" But a second later, she too was laughing out loud.

Andreas seemed confused. "Kathie, I don't understand -- I mean, I understand the drinking of beer -- but what means 'mas-tur-ba-ting?'"

By now, Kathie's face was a red as a beet. Slowly, she leaned over and whispered in Andreas' ear. Andreas said, matter-of-factly, "Ja...everybody does that...but for a profession?"

This sent all three women into gales of laughter. At this point, Lorraine re-entered the room, wearing an apron, carrying a spatula in one hand and a glass of wine in the other. "Sounds jolly in here, girls -- wanna let the old lady in on it?"

"Not really, Momma," said Michelle.

"It's nothing, Aunt Lora," added Kathie. "Just an old college joke."

Lorraine snorted, then announced, "Well, lunch is served."

At that, the five of them adjourned to the dining room.

"We were just talking about occupations," offered Tammy, as they sat down. "My, this smells so wonderful."

"Why, thank you, Tammy," Lorraine replied graciously. "I'm sure they're not as authentic as your people make them -- "

Kee-rist! thought Michelle. Here we go again.

"Enchiladas? Oh, those aren't Puerto Rican -- "

"Nonsense, dear. I'm very well versed on ethnic cuisine -- "

"Momma, please -- " Michelle started, but Tammy put a hand on her arm and gave her a look that said It's okay...just humor her.

If confused as to food's origin, Lorraine was indeed a wonderful cook. Andreas, Kathie and Tammy ate with relish, although Michelle barely picked at it.

"Senora Devereaux , this is muy bueno," commented Tammy.

"Oh, yes, Auntie've really outdone yourself," Kathie agreed.

"Thank you, girls," replied Lorraine.

"If Michelle grew up with this, I marvel at how she was able to keep her figure," remarked Tammy with a twinkle in her eye.

"Believe me, it wasn't easy," Michelle muttered under her breath.

"Actually, she did get a bit plump when she was sixteen or so," said Lorraine. Michelle gave her mother a sharp glance, but Lorraine kept on: "Heavens, I remember -- I was afraid she'd gone and gotten herself pregnant."

"Momma, puh-leeze --" Michelle interjected.

"Well, darling, it was true, wasn't it?"

"Momma, I didn't even go out on a date with a boy until I was almost eighteen -- "

"Yes -- well, about that -- how are things between you and that nice Lebanese boy...the banker?"

"Momma, I dumped him almost a year ago."

"You dumped him? You mean you broke it off with him? But baby, why? He was good-looking, polite...and quite well off, I believe -- "

"He was a self-centered, mysogynistic fuck!"

Lorraine's eyes grew wide, as Kathie put a hand to her mouth attempting to hide a grin. "Michelle Devereaux, I don't care if you are grown-up...there's no call for speaking like a deck-hand in this house."

"Alright, Momma...I apologize...but I wish you'd leave me alone on the subject of men -- "

"But baby, you have to think about getting married and having children -- "

"No -- I -- DON'T," replied Michelle, starting to get angry.

"Baby, you are twenty-four years don't want to put it off too long."

"What makes you think I want it at all?"

"But Michelle, you have a duty -- "

That was too much. Michelle rose up out of her chair, upsetting her waterglass, and stalked out of the room. A minute later, the back door slammed.

Michelle went out to the flower garden and sat down on a bench. She noticed it had clouded up a little, though the day was still warm. She stared at a rose bush for several seconds. Eventually, the image blurred -- tears of rage and frustration had come to her eyes.

A few minutes later, Kathie came out. "Mishi -- are you okay?" She walked over to the bench and sat down next to her cousin. "Hey," she said softly, putting an arm around her. Suddenly, Michelle started sobbing, throwing her arms around Kathie and burying her face in her shoulder.

"God -- damn -- her!" Michelle sobbed. "Every time! Every time I come to see her, she embarasses me and humiliates me! God damn her!"

Kathie began stroking Michelle's hair, trying to soothe her. "It's all right, honey...she doesn't mean to be cruel or insensitive..."

Michelle continued crying. "Why does she do it, then? God! I'm sorry she's a widow, I'm sorry she's been lonely, but WHY does that have to be MY problem?"

Kathie replied, "Aunt Lora has the problem, Mishi...not you..."

Michelle began to recover somewhat. "I don't call her or come to see her because -- Kathie, she won't get a life! When I was growing up, I was her life -- and now, I'm twenty-four, I'm out on my own, I have a successful career -- and she still wants me to be her life!"

"I know," said Kathie. "I don't know what to say, Michelle -- just 'shine her on,' like Grandmama used to say.

Michelle sniffed. "God, I wish Grandmama were here now."

Kathie's eyes misted a little. "Me, too," she said. The two cousins held each other for several minutes. Then the back door opened, and Michelle looked up to see Tammy standing there -- her face was expressionless, but Michelle got very strange "vibes" from her -- almost like (jealousy -- oh, come on! ) she was hurt. Michelle motioned her over, and sat up, continuing to hold Kathie's hand.

"Are you okay, mija? " Tammy said gently, sitting on the bench on Michelle's other side.

"I will be," Michelle replied, leaning over and brushing Tammy's cheek with her lips. "Thanks."

"Look," said Kathie, glancing at Tammy, "why don't we go back inside and finish lunch, okay? And then, I want to see what it was Grandmama Katie wanted us to have."

"God -- would you believe I almost forgot about that?" Michelle chuckled. The three women stood up and walked back to the house slowly. Michelle held Tammy's hand on one side, while slipping an arm around Kathie on the other. "I love you, you know that?" she said with a smile.

"Hey," said Kathie. "Best friends forever."

Michelle glanced over at Tammy, then slipped her other arm around her waist, pulling her close. She met Tammy's almond eyes with a look that said and us , too. Tammy smiled and leaned her head against Michelle's shoulder.

They continued the meal almost as if nothing had happened -- except that everyone ate in near silence. Finally, Kathie said, "Auntie Lora, Mishi and I are curious -- what exactly was it that Grandmama Katie left to us?"

"Ah, yes -- that is why you all came over today, isn't it? Well, dears...I have it upstairs. Tell you what -- you girls help me clean up here, and then I'll go up and get them for you."

"Momma, why don't you relax -- you cooked -- Kathie and I will put everything away."

"I'll help, also," said Tammy.

"Hell, no! This is your vacation!" Michelle protested.

"Michelle, your language -- " warned Lorraine.

"Sorry, Momma -- anyway, Tammy -- it's okay."

"Mija, I'm used to it -- it's part of what I do for a living, remember?"

"My point exactly," replied Michelle.

It became apparent that they were going to waste more time talking about it than actually doing it, when Andreas piped in, "Look, ladies -- you got things to talk about -- I'll take care of it."

"Hey, that works for me!" said Kathie, a bit too enthusiastically. She reached up and gave Andreas a peck on the cheek. "Let's adjourn to the front room, shall we?"

Michelle smirked, giving Andreas a look, and nodded. "I knew men were good for something." With that, the three younger women laughed out loud, while Lorraine shook her head.

"Girls, that's not the way to a man's heart," she admonished.

Michelle wanted desperately to say blow it out your ass, Momma, but held her tongue (with great difficulty).

Lorraine disappeared up the stairs while the three younger women sat down in the front room -- Kathie on the sofa, Michelle and Tammy on the love-seat.

"So," said Kathie, "how did you two meet?"

"Well," said Tammy, with a grin, "I was supposed to meet my fiance -- that is, ex-fiance at Ashley's Place a few weeks ago. The bastard stands me up. Anyway, I notice this redhead at the bar -- and you talk about someone who knows how to handle men!"

"Really? Michelle, is this a new technique?"

"Oh," said Michelle, "it really wasn't -- "

"Oh, Kathie -- you should have seen this girl in action!" Tammy interrupted. "She was something to see!"

"Well, what was she doing?"

"She was busting their balls with her tongue!"

Kathie's eyes grew wide. "Whaaa -- "

Michelle held her hand up, trying to stifle a laugh. "Words, Kathie! With words!"

"Yeah," said Tammy, giggling. "That's what I meant."

"You see, Kat -- someone talks 'clean,' and you're listening 'dirty.' "

Kathy laughed at that. "Okay -- so you were flippin' them shit."

Tammy nodded. "And she was so good at it -- I just had to meet her. So I did, and now here we are." She slipped her hand into Michelle's, their fingers interlacing.

Kathie regarded them for a moment, her face expressionless. "You two seem really close, " she said (almost wistfully? )

And you don't know the half of it, Michelle thought. At that point, Lorraine entered the room with two large packages, wrapped in brown paper.

"Here you are, dears -- one copy for each of you." Handing one to Michelle and the other to Kathie, she said, "your Grandmother wanted you to know more about her than she was willing to tell you in life -- not because she didn't love you and trust you -- I think mostly, she felt you needed to be older -- the same age she was when she wrote most of this. I don't know if you understand -- " the effects of the wine were starting to become apparent.

Michelle nodded. "I understand, Momma."

* * * * * *

Tammy and Michelle were back on the road an hour later. Goodbyes were hurried, and perfunctory -- ostensibly because they wanted to reach their destination before dark (it was a four-and-a-half hour drive), but really because Michelle had had enough family for one day.

"You know," Michelle said as they drove.

"What, mija?" asked Tammy.

"You choose your choose your enemies...but family? That's roll of the dice."

"I thought they were very nice."

"Oh, I adore Kathie," Michelle said.

"So I noticed," Tammy replied.

"We've been best friends since we were little girls," Michelle added.

Tammy was silent. Then, she said, "She's a very nice lady."

They were silent again for awhile. Then, Michelle said: "I'm still a little miffed at you."

Tammy raised an eyebrow. "Why?"

Michelle sighed. "I know you were trying to be polite when you were pretending to drink that wine -- but what you were really doing was 'enabling' her."

"I'm sorry -- 'enabling'?"

"It means you're contributing to her behavior -- giving her permission to drink."

"I see." A pause, then: "I'm truly sorry about that, mija." Tammy sighed again. "I was hoping this would be a nice time for us -- seems all we've done is get angry at each other all day."

Michelle looked over at Tammy. If not for the dark glasses, one would have noticed an almost mischievious twinkle in Michelle's eye. Finally, she said, "Tammy -- can I tell you something?"

"I told you that first night, mija-- you can tell me anything."

With that, Michelle leaned over as if to whisper into Tammy's ear -- but instead, began nibbling on it, teasing with her tongue.

Tammy gasped. "Whoa..."

"Sorry," said Michelle, mock-contrite.

Yes, well...about that..." with this, Tammy put one arm around Michelle, pulled her against her shoulder, then started running her fingertips gently over her breast through her bathing suit.

Michelle closed her eyes, and sighed "Tam-mee...god..." Then she turned the face Tammy, and said, "So...ya wanna be that way about it? Take this -- " and with that, she commenced to reach over and stroke the inside of Tammy's thigh.

Tammy said, "You know, you shouldn't do that while I'm driving..."

"I know," replied Michelle, leaning over and gently kissing Tammy's ear again. Tammy responded by cupping Michelle's breast, stroking her by-now hardening nipple with her thumb.

For the next four hours, Michelle and Tammy playfully teased each other as they drove along. Tammy threatened to pull over more than once, but Michelle insisted, "No -- you said yourself...we need to get there before dark."

"Oh yeah...I keep forgetting..." and with that, Tammy tickled the inside of Michelle's leg.

"Stop that!" Michelle giggled, leaning over and quickly running the tip of her tongue over Tammy's neck.

They finally arrived at the beach house toward six that evening.

"Well," said Tammy, putting the car in gear and setting the brake, "here we are."

"It's nice," said Michelle. "Mmmm...feels nice, too," she added as the ocean breeze ruffled her red curls.

They got out, grabbed their bags, and walked leisurely up to the door. Tammy pulled out a key, opened the door, and said with a slight bow, "After you."

Michelle grinned. "Thank you." She picked up both Tammy's and her own bag and carried them inside. She had no sooner set them down in the front hallway than she hurt the door slam and suddenly felt Tammy grab her from behind.

"Now, you -- " Tammy said huskily. She spun Michelle around, pulled her close in an almost violent fashion and fastened her mouth onto Michelle's, thrusting her tongue deep. She grabbed Michelle's ass, pushing her against the wall and grinding herself against her.

Michelle's response was almost as lively. She clutched at Tammy's body, pushing one leg between Tammy's thighs, thrusting her own tongue deep into the other woman's mouth, sucking Tammy's even deeper into her own. They duelled with their tongues, kissing violently and ravenously. Still locked together, they stumbled, gasping for breath, into the living room, falling onto the carpet. Michelle began gently biting Tammy's neck, sucking and licking. Tammy cried out with a mixture of surprise and pleasure, then began pulling at Michelle's swinsuit. Michelle responded, and the two of them began pulling at each other's clothing. There was a ripping sound, but neither woman seemed to notice as they struggled out of their clothes. With seconds, Tammy and Michelle were naked, their bodies wrapped around each other, writhing and undulating. Michelle found herself wanting to lick and suck every inch of Tammy's body, kissing her breasts, stomach, thighs...meanwhile, Tammy had run her own tongue all over Michelle's breasts, her flanks, and over her hip...finally burying her head between Michelle's thighs, kissing and licking her molten center.

At the touch of Tammy's tongue on her sex, Michelle cried out sharply. All she wanted at that point was to give Tammy what was being given her. Slowly, she turned, kissing her way down Tammy's body, until she reached the juncture of her thighs, and began giving Tammy the same treatment she was getting. They stayed like that for several minutes, until Michelle exploded in a massive orgasm. She continued pleasuring Tammy until she felt the throbbing sensation under her mouth. Tammy gave a short scream. Michelle licked Tammy's legs, then turned around and sat up. Still panting, Tammy once more met Michelle's mouth with her own, tongues first. Sweat began pouring from their bodies as they wrestled and writhed on the carpet, rolling back and forth, their slick smooth skin sliding together as they made love in a tangle of arms, legs entwined, their hips grinding together faster and faster...

* * * * * *

Two hours later, Tammy and Michelle lay on the floor, panting and spent...their naked bodies still entwined.

"Wow..." said Michelle quietly.

"Wow, yourself, mija..."

"What...what happened?"

Tammy giggled softly. "That's what happens when you tease me for four hours." She raised her head and saw what was left of Michelle's bathing suit. With a free arm, she picked it up. "I'm sorry, mija...I think I ripped your bathing suit."

Michelle raised her own head and looked at it. "It's okay, was worth it..." She kissed Tammy's lips again. "It looks like a seam...I can fix it...besides, I've got another one."

They lay quietly there on the floor in the darkening room, gazing into each other's eyes, kissing and caressing.

Tammy said softly, "Can I tell you something?"

Michelle nodded. "You can tell me anything."

Tammy hesitated. Finally, she said, "I...I think I'm falling in love with you."

Falling in seemed strange...and yet it wasn't. Michelle had felt it herself...though she'd tried to deny it. But it was true. For the first time in her life (no, really the second time -- right?), she was actually falling in love...with another woman. Remember, thought Michelle. No labels, no analysis...just enjoy it for what it is. She looked into Tammy's eyes and kissed her again on the lips. "I love you, too, Tammy," she said. She sighed. "I guess I knew it from the beginning."

"Oh, mija." sighed Tammy, a contented smile on her face. Again, their lips joined in a long, sweet kiss, and they made love once more...slowly and gently.

Much later, they sat out on the back patio, sipping wine and sharing a supper of bread, fruit and cheese. The full moon was rising throught the trees. Michelle and Tammy lay together on a double chaise-lounge, gazing at each other between bites and sips.

"So..." Michelle said finally. "What happens now?"

Tammy shrugged. "What do you mean?"

"Well...I guess this means we're officially 'lovers,' huh?"

Tammy giggled. "Does it have to be 'official'?"

Michelle smiled and drew Tammy close. "I guess not," she finally admitted. Tammy laid her head on Michelle's shoulder. Michelle gazed up at the moon and said, "I like this feeling...and I ask nothing more."

Afterwards, they went into the bedroom, where Tammy opened the curtains and the window. The light of the full moon shone down onto the bed. Michelle sat down at the foot, and Tammy knelt down next to her.

"You are so beautiful, mija, " Tammy murmured.

"We are so beautiful," Michelle replied as their lips met.

And for the next several hours, Michelle and Tammy celebrated their new relationship, making tender, yet passionate love with each other into the small hours of the morning.