With only twenty minutes left to her shift, Isabelle Alvarez turned an experienced eye to the number of people standing on her checkout line and how many items each had in their shopping cart. The thirty-two-year- old had worked at the Stop ‘N’ Save long enough to be able to judge how long it would take to handle each customer and decided that the young mother with the two toddlers in tow at the end of the line would just about finish her for the day.
Handing the customer she had just finished with her change and receipt, Isabelle paused before starting on the next one just long enough to switch off the open light on her lane. The robust redhead knew that turning the light off before the end of your shift ticked off the kid who was now assistant manager, but he would just have to get over it. As long as she still had a customer on line when five o’clock rolled round, there was little he could say about it.
Sure enough, her timing was again perfect as the second hand of the large analog clock on the wall had just swept past the hour as she handed the young mother her receipt. Isabelle was always happy when the day was over, especially on a Friday with the promise of the weekend to come. And promise it was because she planned to spend it with someone who had become quite special to her.
It only took a few minutes to close out her drawer, after six years she could probably do it in her sleep, and she quickly carried her cash drawer over to the service desk. Patricia Brown, one of the head cashiers working the desk, took the drawer from her and began to check her tally.
“Big plans for the weekend?” the older woman asked as she added up the coupons and checks that had been in the drawer.
“What makes you say that?” Isabelle replied, her tone perhaps a bit too defensive.
“Just the way you sped through close out,” the black woman answered. “It made me think you were in a hurry to check out, that’s all.”
“Oh,” Isabelle said, realizing she had overreacted.
“You and Perry going down to the shore again?” Patricia inquired as she started counting the remaining cash. “It might be a little too cool for swimming, but then that probably won’t make a difference to the two of you.” She added with a knowing smile.
Since just about everyone in the store knew that she had been dating Perry Wagner, who drove one of the delivery trucks, over the summer, the question was understandable. What wasn’t common knowledge was that she and Perry had come to a parting of the ways over a month before.
Their relationship had started off well enough, quickly progressing from shared coffee breaks to lunch together and then out to dinner on an actual date. Perry was careful to do and say all the right things, treating her like a lady wanted to be treated.
If anyone asked, and in a store as small as this where everyone knew everyone else’s business, Isabelle could honestly say she hadn’t slept with Perry until after they had been going out over a month. What she didn’t need to say was that long before that, the goodnight kiss had been replaced by the goodnight blow job. She knew how to keep a man interested while she made up her mind about him.
Isabelle was hardly shy about sex, having lost her virginity to a high school classmate after graduation. Not the most attractive of girls back then, she tended to be on the stocky side. Isabelle made the same mistake a lot of girls did and found popularity by letting it get out that she put out. What she only later came to understand was that, while a guy was perfectly willing to take her out and have a good time; few envisioned anything more than that with her. She wasn’t, as the old saying went, the kind of girl you brought home to meet your mother.
Her love life, or more precisely her sex life since the occasions where love might have entered the picture were few and far between, seemed to follow a familiar pattern. After a while, despite hopes to the contrary, her relationship with Perry proved no different.
At first, it was dinner and a movie, then back to her place for a rumble in the sheets. After a while, it was just dinner and off to bed, until finally she was lucky if they got takeout before their Friday night fuck. As nice as the sex was and continued to be, she was long past the age where she wanted to be just some guy’s fuck-buddy.
“I’m not seeing Perry anymore,” Isabelle said, deciding that she might as well finally get that out there.
“Oh,” Patricia said, more than a touch of curiosity in her voice. “Is there someone new?”
“I guess you could say that,” Isabelle offered.
“Anyone we know?” Patricia further asked, her curiosity aroused.
“I doubt it,” Isabelle replied, the brevity of her answer saying more than the words.
“Do we at least get a name,” Patricia asked, as if it was everyone’s right to know, “in case he calls the office looking for you.”
“You’re not likely to get any calls like that,” Isabelle replied, “but if you have to have a name, let’s just make it Jamie.”
“Just Jamie,” Isabelle repeated, https://www.cfimi.com knowing full well that the white haired woman was mentally running though her almost encyclopedic knowledge of everyone in town to see if she could come up with a Jamie.
“You can’t give me something else to go on?” Patricia said as the look on her face said she couldn’t come up with a match.
“I think I’d rather just keep it private for now,” Isabelle answered, disappointing the senior cashier, “at least until I see where it goes.”
“Oh I understand,” Patricia said, the reluctance in her voice saying just the opposite. “Well it looks like everything balances,” she added as she handed the younger woman a receipt. “Have a good time with Jamie and good luck.”
Isabelle thanked her and after clocking out, slipped into the jacket she had left on the coat rack. Glancing back over her shoulder as she zipped up, she saw that Patricia had already gone back to what she’d been doing before. Nice as she was most of the time, Patricia had a long standing reputation as being one of the worst gossips in town. The juicier the secret, the more she was incapable of keeping it to herself, regardless of what damage it might cause.
A recent example, still fresh on Isabelle’s mind, was the store’s Memorial Day picnic over by Blue Valley Lake. Judy Myers, who had worked in produce even longer than Isabelle had been at the store, had a little too much to drink. Actually, since she was quite unaccustomed to drinking in general, that little had an effect all out of proportion to the amount.
So much so that the tipsy twenty-six year-old had let her most secret urges take control and wound up with nineteen-year-old Jeffery Winters in the boat house while just about everyone else had sat down to eat. When Ira Kennedy, who had gone to the boat house to look for her sunglasses which she had dropped somewhere, came upon them, they were both in a highly disorganized state, at least clothes wise. Even more shocking was the fact that Judy was down on her knees performing a highly erotic act on the stock boy.
That both were unattached and of legal age never entered Patricia’s thoughts once she was told what happened by her good friend Ira. It didn’t even take till the end of the day for everyone she could corner to learn of the indiscretion. While most of them found the news titillating, the majority also felt it was Judy’s business and that Patricia had been wrong to spread it. Despite that, Judy felt totally humiliated and not only did she never come back to work after that day, she moved out of town a month later. Yet even after that, Patricia couldn’t break her lifelong habit.
Walking to her old Escort on the far end of the parking lot, Isabelle considered that Patricia was probably already telling people that she and Perry had broken up and that Isabelle was already seeing someone new. Imagine the field day Patricia would have, Isabelle thought as she slid into the front seat, if she knew that her companion for the weekend was not only ten years her junior, but also another woman.
If anyone had suggested to her, only a year before, that she and someone like Jamie Delgado could find enough in common to be friends, much less becoming intimately involved, Isabelle might’ve wondered what they were on. To anyone who knew them, it would’ve been hard to imagine two more dissimilar women.
Isabelle was ten years older, twenty-eight pounds overweight and seemingly doomed to never having a long term relationship. True, she had actually been engaged when she was twenty-six, but that lasted less than a month. In a rare flash of clarity back then, Isabelle had realized that the only reason she had said yes was the fact that Manuel Lopez had been the only one who ever asked. His reasons for doing so were simple enough, he was twenty years older and desperately wanted a son and heir. Not content to become just a broodmare, she had broken the engagement.
Jamie, on the other hand, was only a year out of college and almost a fanatic about physical fitness, going so far as to have been on several teams in both high school and college. She had also been in a totally monogamous relationship for over three years.
In fact, the only thing the two women seemed to have in common was that both used the gym at the same community center. Jamie, simply because it was an inexpensive and convenient way to stay in shape, and Isabelle because she was on another of her frequent quests to improve her life. She would get inspired about once a year, usually after a relationship had just turned sour, and try to lose weight. Like many other things in her life, this also followed a familiar pattern. She would lose a few pounds, then hit the wall and become frustrated by a lack of further progress. Eventually she would give up and go back to her old ways.
That all changed, however, the night Isabelle exited the center after a late night workout and saw smoke coming out from under an Escort much like her own. At first she had thought it was her car, since it was parked in the same section, but as she got closer she saw that it was only one that had originally been the same color. If anything, it was even a few years older.
Standing next to the car, watching the engine burn out, was Jamie Delgado. Isabelle recognized the younger woman from other nights, even though she didn’t think they’d even exchanged more than a few words over a couple of months. With the parking lot just about empty, Isabelle decided that she might as well see if she could be of any help. In the end, all she could really do was offer Jamie a lift home after the auto club towed away the car, but that was to prove a fortunate gesture.
Originally, Isabelle had just considered it a good deed, the sort of thing she hoped someone would’ve done for her, and promptly forgot about it. So when she went back to the gym a week later, she was surprised when Jamie came up to her and offered to help her improve her workouts. A few suggestions on how she could exercise more effectively led to them having coffee afterwards, over which they had an even better conversation about what she had been doing wrong and how she could better control her weight.
In the weeks and then months that followed, Jamie was as good as her word, encouraging Isabelle at every opportunity and keeping her on track. The result being that today, Isabelle was within ten pounds of no longer being considered overweight. Most people erroneously concluded that it was her relationship with Perry that had led to the change, but it had definitely been Jamie’s doing.
The friendship that grew between them soon extended beyond the gym as well. They started socializing on their days off, even going out some nights when neither had other plans. Eventually, Isabelle felt closer to Jamie than any other woman she knew.
It was about two months ago, about the time Isabelle had begun to reconsider her relationship with Perry, that she had what she would forever refer to as the great duh moment. She had met Jamie at the community center for a Saturday morning workout and afterwards they had stopped at a health food store to get some fruit drinks. They’d taken the drinks across the street to a local park and as they sat on a bench, Isabelle found herself telling her friend about her growing dissatisfaction with the man in her life.
Jamie didn’t have any answers for her, and in truth Isabelle really wasn’t looking for any. She just needed to vent and was appreciative that she had someone who was willing to listen. Had she chosen anyone at work, they would’ve undoubtedly tried to convince her that Perry was the best thing that ever happened to her, despite their growing problems. In was only at the end of her tirade that she tossed out a casual thought that changed her life.
“It’s a pity that I can’t find someone as nice as you to date,” she said without really thinking about it.
“Then why don’t you?” Jamie asked in reply.
“I guess you didn’t hear me,” Isabelle answered, “I said I don’t think there are any guys like you out there.”
“I heard you,” Jamie said. “What I was asking was, why does it have to be a guy?”
Isabelle looked at Jamie with a blank look that said she still didn’t understand.
“Isabelle,” Jamie said after a moment, a look of realization finally appearing on her own face, “you can’t tell me that you don’t know that I’m gay. I know I’ve never brought it up, but you must’ve seen me with Heather at least a dozen or so times.”
“Yes, but…” Isabelle started to say, then as the words finally sunk in, she had her ‘duh moment.’
Heather Boston was Jamie’s best friend, a holdover from her college days. Isabelle really didn’t know her, but she’d seen her many times when she dropped off or picked Jamie up after her car had been declared DOA by the mechanic. Evidently, they also shared an apartment until Heather was transferred by her company to their West Coast office not long after the engine fire.
Thinking about it now, Isabelle reflected that the two women had seemed overly affectionate towards each other, but she’d just assumed that was the way the younger generation was. Women their age these days just seemed more comfortable with things like that than Isabelle and her friends had been. The sudden realization also explained why Jamie had taken Heather’s leaving so hard.
“I can’t believe that you didn’t know,” Isabelle heard Jamie saying as she snapped back to the present, then her voice became more concerned and she asked if it made any difference. “Between us I mean,” she explained. “I mean we’re still friends, right?”
“Of course,” Isabelle replied almost automatically, “why should it make any difference.”
That response put a look of relief on Jamie’s face. Back when she had first come out to her family and friends during her first year of college, too many of them had decided that they no longer wanted anything to do with her. One of them had been her oldest and closest friend, Pamela Rosario. The hurtful words Pam had used when their friendship ended still pained Jamie.
A short time later, after Isabelle had dropped Jamie off in front of her apartment house, the older woman found herself asking if what she had told Jamie had actually been true. Had nothing changed between them?
Over the next week, that question had still haunted Isabelle. At times, she really didn’t know how she felt about it. Before Jamie, Isabelle had never even met a gay woman; at least not any that she knew for a fact were gay. The closest she could remember were two women who lived in the same apartment building she had grown up in. Several times she had heard her mother and her friends talking about the two and when she asked about the unfamiliar word, lesbiana, her mother had grown angry and said it was an evil word and none of her concern. If there was one word Isabelle couldn’t imagine applying to Jamie, evil was it.
Jamie had told her two weeks before that she would be away the following week so Isabelle didn’t think anything of the fact that her friend wasn’t at the community center when she went to exercise. Jamie’s younger sister was getting married upstate and the two of them had never lost the close relationship they’d shared growing up. Originally, Jamie had planned to skip the wedding lest her presence provoke certain other members of their family. Joanna Delgado, however, wouldn’t even hear of it. She told Jamie that if anyone else had a problem with her big sister being her maid of honor, then they were perfectly welcome to stay home. She needed Jamie at her side when she walked down the aisle more than she needed any of them.
The brief separation couldn’t have come at a more opportune time as it gave Isabelle a chance to sort out her feelings. That she missed Jamie was understandable, considering how close they had become. But now, once the thirty-two-year-old allowed herself to consider the possibilities, other emotions began to come into play.
One thing Isabelle was certain of. Regardless of any other decision, her relationship with Perry had run its course. Once she accepted that she wasted no time in letting him know. He didn’t take the news well, insisting that they talk about it again. Isabelle had said that there was nothing more to talk about, not that they had done much talking at all these past weeks. It had been fun, she’d told him, but that was all it had turned out to be.
That behind her, she considered anew the question of if she was capable of dating another woman. What would people think? What would they say? Did she care?
Elusive as the answers to these questions seemed to be, they became less important once Isabelle replaced “another woman” with Jamie. Once the question became specific, no one else’s opinion seemed to really matter. The concept of being involved with the younger woman quickly became more than acceptable. Of course that didn’t mean she had to proclaim it to the world right off. Better to keep it between the two of them, at least in the beginning. After all, what if she asked and Jamie said no. Or if they found that they really didn’t work on that level.
Isabelle couldn’t wait until Jamie came home at the end of the week so that she could ask her. It was all she could do to concentrate on her job, the dark-haired girl never really out of her thoughts. So much so that two worries began to take shape. The first was pretty far out there, the idea that while she was away Jamie might meet someone else. If she did, well there was nothing Isabelle could do about it so there wasn’t any point worrying about it.
The second concern seemed much more of a possibility, at least in her mind. What if, she asked Jamie out, and she said yes, and things worked out as she hoped, did she have any idea how to make Jamie happy? It had been more years that she liked to think about since she had to ask that question in regard to a man, but what did she know about pleasing another woman? Some things would be the same, she thought, but just as many things had to be different, didn’t they?
Sitting alone in the back storage room of the Stop ‘N’ Save that doubled as a break room, Isabelle considered how she handled that problem back when she was younger and inexperienced. None of those solutions seemed to apply now, well at least most of them.
The best way to learn about guys and sex, aside from actually doing it, she remembered was to compare notes with her girlfriends. Back in high school, there didn’t seem to be anything too personal not to share with her friends. She had no idea what guys shared, little of the truth she always assumed, but it was different with girls.
Looking back, it now seemed amazing how much information every girl shared. Before you even went on a first date with a guy, it was a good chance you already knew what turned him on the most. Who was into breasts, who loved a round ass, and who was the rare guy who was willing to go down on you. Even Isabelle had been shocked to learn that Johnny Cage, who was probably the closest thing to a choir boy in the school, was fanatical about anal sex. That the girl who shared that information was not only still dating him when she passed on that tidbit, but eventually married him as well. It just went to show what she enjoyed.