I had time for a drink before Clarice arrived. Brian poured me a glass of wine and started the spa, then came back and sat with me while he drank a beer. Clarice arrived about eight. She looked about how I felt.

Clarice sells toys. That doesn't sound very stressful, right?

Actually, she works in marketing. I need to be careful not to get too specific here, even generalizing to an industry would be a problem, given where we are and how few there would be in that industry. Let me just say that she sells rights to use a certain name which is attached to toys for young kids.

At times, where she works has to be the most fun in the area. When they do new creative work, they all pitch in, sometimes running around the halls playing. Then when they get beyond creative and try to make money, it can be more stressful than any position in the company I work for.

This was one of those weeks, and it has been really hard on her. Brian poured her some wine, and she relaxed and finished it quickly. Then she scowled at the empty glass; I knew what she was thinking.

"Hey," I said, "why don't you plan to stay here again? We can get blitzed in the spa, and you won't need to go home afterwards."

She thought for a moment. "Yeah, why not? Let me just run home and pick up a few things."

"It won't be as much fun as last time," I said.

Clarice brightened up at that. She gave Brian a hard look, then said, "It could be..."

"Don't even think about it," I warned her, grinning.

"Since when have you known me not to think about it?" she asked, and grabbed her keys.

"Should I offer to go help?" asked Brian, innocently, and I growled at him.

She lives only a few minutes away, and was back soon with a small bag. and a couple of six-packs of wine cooler. By then, Brian was already in the spa drinking his beer. I had changed into my swimsuit, and was wearing my robe while I waited in the house.

Clarice took the drinks to the spa, and changed while I put ice in a cooler and took it out. Emerging from the bathroom wrapped in her towel, she went outside while I was collecting glasses. She was talking to Brian as I approached.

When she unwrapped the towel to climb in, the glasses almost hit the deck. So did Brian's jaw, though his eyes were fixed somewhat higher, though noticeably below Clarice's chin.

"Uhhh... Clarice?" I said, putting the glasses down carefully.


"You're naked."

"And?" she said. "Aren't you?"

I slipped off my robe, and she studied my swimsuit. Then she shrugged. "Near enough," she said.

She had a point. But... I didn't know what to do. Neither, from his strangled look, did Brian.

"I guess I should have asked," said Clarice. She actually looked a little shamefaced. "I just assumed... would you prefer me to leave? Or do you have a spare?"

I looked at her for a moment. Then, "Oh, what the hell," I said, and unfastened my top. Brian's eyes bugged out again as my breasts bobbed free, and I eased off the bottoms before climbing in.

"I hope you're not expecting me to..." said Brian, hoarsely. I looked at Clarice, and she winked at me.

This time I shrugged. "We're all friends here. You know you'd be happy to if Clarice wasn't around."

"Yeah, but isn't that the point?" he whined.

"Not like there are any kids here," said Clarice. Then she extended a hand underwater and stroked my stomach. "Unless there's something you're not telling me?"

I grinned and shook my head. "You may as well," I said to Brian. "Or we might feel discriminated against, and we might just have to take matters into our own hands."

He grimaced and worked his swimsuit off. Though the water was foamy, and I couldn't see what he was doing, he seemed to be having trouble removing it. I hid a smile as I poured Clarice and me a wine cooler.

Brian carefully placed his swimsuit within easy reach. Of course, I picked it up and moved it away... then, "Brian," I said, "why don't you go get yourself another beer?"

He picked up his can, which was almost empty. "I don't think I'm thirsty anymore."

Clarice and I giggled. Then I felt guilty. It was unfair to embarrass him, I'd hate for anyone to do that to me. I picked up his swimsuit and threw it to him. "Hey, make yourself comfortable," I said. "I don't want you thinking we were picking on you."

He held the swimsuit for a moment, indecisive. Then, reaching a decision, he threw it up onto the deck, out of everyone's reach. "What the hell," he said, as Clarice and I eyed each other. He guzzled the rest of his beer, turned away from us, and climbed out. Of course, he grabbed his towel immediately, and we really only saw him from the back (though not before I caught enough of a glimpse to know for certain why he had trouble removing his swimwear), but Clarice whistled. He'd thrown in his lot with us crazies, and that was cool.

Returning with the rest of the six-pack, he laid it in my ice, and carefully backed into the spa after dropping his towel.

From that point, things were much more relaxed. More so, I think, than if we had been wearing swimsuits. There's a barrier that you seem lose when you shed your clothes; perhaps nudists have made an important discovery. Though I did catch Brian's eyes on Clarice from time to time. And on me, perhaps more often, even though he already knows what every inch of my body looks like.

"Promise me one thing," I said to Clarice at one point.

"What's that?"

"You won't insist on nudity if you bring Rob over here."

"Why not?" She frowned.

"Because he's my brother."


"God, Clarice, I don't want to see him naked. And I certainly don't want him seeing me like this."

"Why?" she said again.

"It would be... indecent," I said. I couldn't think of a better word.

"Aren't you interested?" she asked.

"Clarice, you're sick. Brian, tell her."

He shrugged. "You don't care if your friends see my body. Why should you care if your brother sees yours?"

Doesn't either of them understand? I hope Rob does.

"So, what's going on with him?" I asked Clarice, changing the subject.

"He's getting ready to move, I guess," she said, deliberately misunderstanding me.

"No, what's going on between you and him," I pressed.

"Hell, Helen, I don't know. I haven't felt good since he left. It's... it's making me angry, if you must know. I don't want to be tied down, but when he left, it's like he took a part of me with him, you know? Bastard," she added, in mock-seriousness. "I'm sure he did it deliberately."

"I was getting worried that you might be jealous of me. Might be looking for your own Brian."

"Why would I want my own?" she asked, eyeing him. "Borrowing yours occasionally would be fine." She sighed. "No, I think what you have is wonderful for you. I mean it, but I don't want that. Didn't want that. God knows what I want right now. What I want, what I want, is for him to be here, and I'd take him home and screw his brains out. Then tomorrow I'd say 'Bye, Rob, it was nice knowing you.' But I wouldn't. Tomorrow would come, and I'd want more. And not sex. Not just sex."

Clarice was getting tipsy. "You know what it is, I think? There are nice guys, and there are guys who turn me on, and I guess they've always seemed like distinct groups. I go with the ones who turn me on, they're fun for a few days, but I don't especially like them, you know? Your brother turns me on... I mean, he really turns me on, but he's a nice guy. Hell, maybe I've just been feeling old since my birthday. How old is he, anyway?"

"Rob? He's... uhhh... he must be thirty-two."

She scowled and drank some more. "Damn, that's just how I like them."

Then she leaned back and closed her eyes. "I love this," she said.

"What, the hot tub?"

"That, and having friends like you to talk to," she said. Now I knew she must be getting drunk :-)

"Hey, you know I'll always be here for you, Clarice," I said. "I hope you don't feel that seeing Rob would come between us. Or ditching him, if that's what you do."

Her left arm was stretched out along the back of the spa. I leaned towards her, and laid my right arm along it to squeeze her shoulder, and she turned her palm up and held it. I sat up again, sliding my hand back to her forearm, but we still gripped each other. I lifted my left hand in invitation to Brian, and he moved across and let me drape my left arm over him.

Clarice opened one eye. "This is wrong, though. He should be the one in the middle."

Brian rolled his eyes, gave me a quick squeeze and excused himself to the bathroom.

"You know I wouldn't flirt with him if I didn't trust him," she said quietly after Brian had gone inside.

"What do you mean?"

"Brian. If I really thought he might be tempted, I wouldn't do it."

"That's what he said, too. Either you and he understand each other, or you're having an affair and keeping your stories straight."

"I wish," she grinned. "Nope, he's your soulmate, not mine."

"Soulmate?" I grumbled. "Don't start that crap." I pulled my hand back away from her arm, but she caught it and held it in her own, gripping me tightly.

"Listen to me, Helen. If he were anyone else, I might try to take him, because he wouldn't be worthy of you. You must know what he is."

"I think you're drunk," I said, mildly.

"Yeah, and I think you're pretending to have your eyes closed," she retorted. "You know I wouldn't lie to you, Helen. You're very special to me."

Just then, Brian came back out of the house, saw us holding hands, and gave me a half-smile. He must have known we were talking about something of great moment. When he arrived at the spa, he turned away from us as usual, dropped his towel, then lost his footing as he tried to get into the spa. He ended up facing us, then he shrugged, and climbed in normally.

Clarice used her grip on my hand to pull me towards her. In a loud stage whisper, she said, "What I just said about leaving him to you? I changed my mind."

We didn't talk any more of Rob. Clarice's mood had lightened, and we giggled a lot and drank... the wine cooler eased my stomach cramps. I thought it would make me worse, but it felt good.

I caught Brian looking absently at Clarice's breasts, and I took his face in my hands. Moving it to about six inches from my boobs, I said, "These. They're what you're supposed to be looking at, not hers."

"Why?" he asked, plaintively. "You've been watching them plenty."

I blushed. It was true, I find her body fascinating. Clarice naked is really quite lovely, and not what I imagined. Her breasts are quite small, but they're so perfectly proportioned, and her long, lean body... if I weren't committed to Brian, I might seriously question my sexual orientation. At least temporarily.

"Just..." I scrambled for an idea. "Just scoping out the competition."

"There is no competition," he said. "Like I've said before, you have my heart. Sometimes, other parts are temporarily on loan to Clarice."

The subject of our discussion had her hands behind her head, arching her back slightly to show off her boobs, grinning at our comments. Then we all giggled and relaxed again.

It was late and cold when we went to bed.

Inside the house, each of us wrapped in a towel, Clarice hugged Brian and me together. "I love you guys," she said. "Thanks for such a great evening." She put her head on my shoulder and hugged me, then turned to Brian, and gave him a brief but passionate kiss on the lips. Her towel wasn't holding up too well, either. Then she scurried off to her room.

I eyed the bulge in Brian's towel. "Looks like we need to do something about that, before you start associating it with Clarice."

"I thought you were in too much pain?" he asked.

"If I can survive a day like I had at the office, I can survive a few minutes with you."

It was more than a few minutes, and it was a little painful at times, but it was worth it. And if that's how he reacts to Clarice's teasing, perhaps I need for her to visit more often :-)

But it didn't help me sleep. I've found that a few times now. The "afterwards" with Brian is different than it has been with anyone else. I think it's the way making love with him screws with my emotions. Sometimes I have a hard time getting to sleep, sometimes I wake up way too early. Today was one of the latter.

So I put this entry together; it's way too long, I know, but as long as it was all still clear in my mind... It's really strange, as different as the three of us are, but we had great fun last night. I'm not sure if I got that across.

Clarice came through a few minutes ago, wanted to know what I was doing. I told her I was making notes.

"Where's Brian?"

"He's still asleep," I replied. "I should be too."

"Sure as hell should, the way you were going at it last night."

"Oh, God, could you hear?"

"If I put my ear to the wall, and stayed very quiet..."


"I didn't. I didn't hear much, but you know how thin these walls are..."

That was true. I thought about the night she met Rob.

"You have any plans today?" I asked her.

"Just grocery shopping."

"Why don't you stay with us? I thought we might go to the nature museum, go for a walk."

"When sleeping beauty wakes up?"

"Yeah," I said. "And me, too, I've been awake for too long. I might just catch another hour."

"Yeah, go get some sleep. If he wakes before you do, I'll keep him entertained."

So perhaps I'd better not sleep too long :-)


Well, that was a strange place to leave things... But I got busy, and Brian got sick.

We did the "nature museum" thing. It's a lot less boring than it sounds... it's a place about twenty miles from home, and though it's called a museum, it's really a few hundred acres of land allowed to run to nature. It's home to all kinds of species of birds, it has trails, lakes, native plantlife. It's a very pleasant place for a long walk.

Clarice did stay, and though Brian woke well before me, he didn't report any unsolicited advances (and I hope he didn't solicit any :-). In fact, he reports that Clarice is on very good behavior while I'm not around.

Back when Brian was in San Diego and Rob was in town, our little threesome had a really good time. Well, our threesome of Clarice, Brian and me seems to be very comfortable together, too.

Brian started complaining of a stomach ache towards the end of the walk. I figured he was just not used to walking... my pains had subsided to occasional twinges, and I got through okay. But by late afternoon he was in pain, and it seems that it's just like I had earlier.

Clarice said there's a stomach flu going around, several of her friends have been out of work with it. So probably that's what Brian has, and is what I'm recovering from... so much for E. Coli. I guess I'd better finish the antibiotics, but I'm sure what I have is viral, whatever the doctor said.

And that means I gave Brian the bug. If the doctor had gotten the diagnosis right, perhaps I could have stayed away...

Well... perhaps I couldn't.

Saturday night he developed a fever, and was just over a hundred by Sunday morning. He's much sicker than I was, he has the pain and the flu symptoms; I just had the pain. He didn't eat much, though I managed to get him to eat some soup and toast last night. It's like sleeping next to a small furnace, I can feel the heat radiating inches away, but he's mostly cold.

He was supposed to be leaving for San Diego tomorrow. Doesn't look like it is going to happen. That part's good, at least...

In the meantime, I worked more on the Palm version of the stories. See "Mobile Stories" if you have a Palm Pilot. Brian's excited by the idea, though he hasn't felt much like testing for me. Currently they're all there, but I want to add bookmarks, as it takes forever to scroll through most of them.

I've found a lot of errors in the text as I've been working, and I need to talk to Brian about Unlikely Choice... see if he sees what I see... but I'm not going to inflict any kind of serious discussion on him while he feels as bad as he does.

So I'll probably be slowly updating stories, especially the "mobile" versions, over the next couple of weeks.

One thing I did find... and I made reference to this in the Storyboard message I wrote to Holger... I'm not as dissatisfied with my old work as I thought I would be. The Trade Show is much better than I expected to find it. A few problems, but nothing major. And, interestingly, it might be a story I couldn't write anymore. I think it benefits from being a little more raw, a little naive. I couldn't have written The Old House at that time. Perhaps that's the way it should be.

I did find some serious point-of-view problems in Guilt, which definitely need fixing...

Anyway, it's a quiet day at work, and I may sneak out early to keep Brian company.


Brian's still sick, and still not going to work. I think they're rescheduling his trip for next week. Shit, I hope that doesn't slide into his vacation time... he already has it approved, but you know how little that means these days. Let's see... he said no more than three weeks. So if he's out there from May 11-27... that should still leave us a full week between him getting here and our vacation starting. Work time off is June 7-18, we plan to be in San Antonio from June 5-19.

We should be okay.

Unfortunately, he will still be gone when the movers are due here on Wednesday next week. Still, I had planned to manage that by myself. I really shouldn't have any trouble, all the hard work has been done, except for actually moving the furniture, and I don't plan to do that.

We plan to use the garage for overflow for now. Probably it would be better to get a cheap storage place... in fact, I still haven't convinced myself that I want to use the garage at all. The advantage is, of course, that the boxes will be here while we sort what of his is going to move in with us, and what will be stored. The disadvantage is that we'll need a second load of moving, from the garage to storage when we finally do it.

I keep telling myself that it will be worth it.

And I keep dreading working through those boxes with Brian. As bad as he was packing, he'll probably be worse when it comes to moving things out and deciding what to do with them. That will take some real decision-making.

I was so miserably hot in bed last night I stripped and slept on top of the covers. Brian is feeling so cold, we have the heating turned up... from starting the air conditioning last week... and it's hot and humid and he's radiating heat like a broiler, and I'm lying there naked, my lover just feet away and I'm unable to do anything about it. Ugh.

(Or, putting it another way, I'm lying there feeling sorry for myself, while he's the one in pain, shivering and feverish. I guess that does get the perspective a little better :-)

And the storms, of course. They started here about midnight, by that time they'd already spread tragedy through Oklahoma and Kansas. An F5 tornado in Oklahoma City, over a thousand homes destroyed. And there was I, in perfect safety, feeling sorry for myself.

Of course, Selky didn't know we were safe, and my poor terrified cat spent the whole storm trying to hide his head under my stomach.

I should have taken the time to start writing another story, or to work on the "bookmarking" project (see yesterday), but I was tired and not thinking clearly. The last week's stomach pains have been hard on me, and since Saturday I've been running around accomplishing nothing, so I've worn myself out; frazzled but not sleeping well.


I guess I compensated for Saturday's way-too-long entry by skipping a few days. Brian's almost fully recovered, back at work now, though still with a tender stomach, and I'm still up in the air, at least as far as the job is concerned. If I didn't trust Jack, I'd be beginning to believe that he hadn't mentioned anything about me.

That's the summary :-)

Tuesday evening we sat outside watching fireflies. Brian still didn't want to chance the hot tub (he probably didn't want to chance what I'd do to him afterwards :-) But it was a good opportunity for him to look over what I wanted to show him.

I gave him his Palm III and asked him to read Unlikely Choice. The Palm III is backlit, so he could read easily. It was quiet enough to hear the slight whistling sound of the backlight.

I didn't make any other comment, wanting to know how he'd react to the story unprepared.

He seemed puzzled, perhaps a little upset, when he finished.

"Is that really how you see me?" he asked.

I had to smile. He'd seen the same as me, but didn't know what it was. "I think you're missing something, Brian."

"What's that?"

"All the way down at the end."

He read out the last couple of lines of the story.

"No, below that."

"There isn't anything below it. Just the copyright notice."


"Well, I know you wrote it." Then it struck him. "1998? But we hadn't even met."

"It only seems like you've known me forever."

"But," he was confused. "But that's you, and Clarice, and isn't that me?"

"It's definitely Clarice. I think she works well. It isn't really me, not quite. And any resemblance between the guy in that story and you is purely coincidental."


That's the part I'd seen when I reviewed the story. Brian may have been upset when he thought I was writing about him, because the guy - Sean - is different enough to be embarrassing; erotica fan (but what's wrong with that? :-) divorced, terminally shy. But the thing is, Brian is more like Sean than he is different. He's sensitive, somewhat inexperienced (well, we cured that), and though he's confident enough in a group, he's quite a shy individual.

And the "me" in the story fell for him very much as I fell for Brian. Even "Sandy's" comment at the end echoes what Clarice has said since we started dating.

"It isn't an exact match," I said to him, "but it's close enough that I find it eerie."

He turned off the Pilot. "I guess it just shows that we were destined for each other, Helen. You were looking for me all along."

"Oh, God, don't you start," I retorted. "Clarice started in on soulmates a few days ago. I don't believe any of that stuff, and I don't think you do, too."

I expected him to agree, but he sat quietly for a time. "No, I don't," he said, finally, "but I guess I can understand why people do. It seems to me that I have been waiting for you for a long time. I just didn't know it was you. It's like... I've had an idea about, umm... my perfect woman... for a long time, and... and don't take this wrong, but what I thought she'd be like was... something completely different from you, to be honest. But it was just what I thought that was wrong, because when I met you I realized that you suited me far more than she did, and I discovered it very quickly, as if I already knew, deep down, what my real ideal was."

"Do you think there was anything mystical about it?"

He shook his head. "I don't know. It feels like it is, and in a way, that's what matters. It doesn't sound rational, I guess, but I feel connected to you in a way that goes beyond the fact that we fit together so well."

I had to admit that I feel the same. Probably it's purely a function of biology and expectation, but the effect is magical. Whether that makes us soulmates... whether it does probably depends on what movies you've seen.

"So, what was she like?"

He frowned. "Who?"

"Your perfect mate?"

He laughed. "Oh, I can barely remember anymore. She was blonde, probably a little taller than you, but she had... pretty much your figure. I figured she was probably a teacher, or an artist of some kind. Not a techie. I could never have imagined her as a programmer or an engineer."

"I paint," I said.

He seemed shocked. I guess it's just something we've never talked about.

"And I write, of course, if you consider my writing art."

"I would," he said. "I guess I never made the connection. What do you paint?"

I shrugged. "Animals. People. Nudes, from imagination. Me. I'd love to paint you, but I wouldn't be able to let anyone see it. Even if I didn't finish, the modeling sessions would be worthwhile."

"I'd like to see your work," he said.

"As soon as you're well enough to ask nicely. You probably won't like it, I only mentioned it because of the way your ideal woman was an artist."

"My ideal woman is an artist," he retorted, "I just didn't know it. But your story... do you think you were looking for someone like me?"

"I certainly didn't think so. But it seems like my expectations didn't have much to do with my feelings, so perhaps I was. I don't know, Brian. I love you for what you are to me now. I don't need to believe that we were predestined to be together. I certainly don't want to start analyzing my stories to see what they mean to us, I just thought this one was an interesting coincidence."

So I don't think we resolved anything, and I don't think it matters.

We did both wish that Brian's stomach pains had gone away that night, but he was hurting too much, and still feverish.

Brian worked Wednesday. He reconfirmed his trip with the customer for next week. He'll be leaving Tuesday.

When we got home, I was feeling depressed already. Alright, I know it's silly, I know it's still a week away, and I know he'll be back soon, but still... I guess we really do need this, because I'm going to have to get used to him being away occasionally, but damn, last week we couldn't make love because of my aches, this week because of his, and now he's going away again...

So when we got home we held each other for a long time, then he decided that perhaps his stomach ache wasn't quite so bad...

I do prefer being on top, but I insisted we switch this time, because I didn't want to squash his tender belly. The missionary position doesn't usually work as well for me as alternatives, partly because the stimulation's all wrong, partly because it's over too quickly for him, so usually we only do this after some very serious foreplay, or after something that has left me so turned on that I'm on a hair trigger. Then it can be quite special.

This time that wasn't the case, and I wasn't really expecting much, just the closeness... which as I've mentioned before is the best part. But Brian was being so careful... we moved together, instead of against each other, and we took a long time, and somewhere on the way the butterflies got loose. When I came I had to work hard not to react so violently that I would hurt him, and then when he came the closeness was so intense that I felt we had made up for the whole time we'd been sick. Sometimes we are so good together that it hurts to think about it.

Having learned from a previous mistake, we locked Selky out of the room :-) We figured that a cat landing on Brian this time, as much pain as he was in, would be sure to spoil the romance.

Last night we went to see "Never Been Kissed". This time perhaps we shouldn't have ignored the critics. It would have been a decent movie if it had been compressed into the last twenty-five minutes.

On the subject of movies, I told Brian that if he goes to see the new Star Wars movie in San Diego not to bother to come back home, because I'll never speak to him again. I still haven't forgiven him for seeing "The Matrix" without me.


Oh, God, of all the days.

I was late getting ready today, and it's Friday ("casual dress" day at our office), so I threw on a pair of jeans and a short-sleeved sweater, barely bothered with makeup. I've been a comfortable slob all day.

Just after I called Brian to ask if he was ready to leave, Terry, the software group manager, stopped by my office. He wanted to talk to me. I had no idea what I had done, Terry is definitely not in the chain of command for my regular work. I figured I had screwed up his network somehow.

I called Brian back, told him to wait, and went to talk to Terry. He closed the door. Then I knew I was in trouble.

But it wasn't what I thought, though trouble it may be.

"Jack tells me you want his job."

That's a hard comment to follow. "Not in the sense I'd try to take it from him, but yes, I think I could do it."

Terry is a nice guy, I've always liked working with him. He does have a tendency to talk to my breasts, which normally I resent, but Terry's attitude is pleasant, and I can't get annoyed with him. Of course, today, in a tight sweater, I was feeling self-conscious when he did it. I had to keep fighting the urge to check myself and brush off imaginary flecks.

So he interviewed my breasts, and I answered as best I could. Part of the reason I would find Jack's job stressful is I think we're working with the wrong software. Jack was never given the option; the decisions were imposed on him, and on us, and we simply had to make it work. I had to step gingerly around the fact that I didn't have faith in the products we use, while telling Terry that I could keep the department running and commit to supporting them. It was definitely a concern for him.

When we were through, I didn't know where I stood. He said he would get with me next week, they are "considering all their options". He probably wasn't bullshitting me; I trust Terry more than any of the veeps.

I do wonder, though, why him? He's a manager, in a different group. Why didn't Ken interview me? He's Jack's boss, I'd be working for him. So I'm a little puzzled, but at this point I can't do anything, and I'm not going to let it bother me this weekend.

So I grabbed Brian and we headed home. It's Friday evening, the spa is warming up, and I am going to wear my swimsuit, if only to give Brian the satisfaction of being able to remove it.


Domestic, we are. Scary, isn't it? Yesterday (Saturday) evening, Brian invited one of his friends from the office to dinner. Kevin is Brian's closest friend at the office (present company excepted :-), and Vicky's his wife. She's a cute, giggly little thing. God, was I ever that young, I was thinking. I guess she's the same age as Brian, chronologically, but in maturity... same for Kevin, really. He must be older than Brian, but it doesn't show.

Maybe Clarice's comment about me preferring older men still holds true. Brian must be one of those people who is older than his physical age. He's so much more mature, more confident, more wise, I guess, than guys - and women - I know who are his age.

Perhaps that revelation can keep me from worrying again about our age difference.

Other than that, it has been a peaceful weekend. We were out in the tub for a long time Friday. It wasn't just working out the week's kinks... the fireflies were out in force. There isn't too much light pollution where I live, we're still on the edge of the newer development, and the sky was dark with bright stars, no light from the neighboring houses, and the yard full of flickers of light. It was quite magical.

And when I sat in Brian's lap, facing him... well, that became quite magical, too. Afterwards I dunked my head under the water to get the sweat out of my eyes, and then relaxed, watching the lightning bugs, pleasantly cool from the drying water.

I've had another idea for a story. But I'm not sure if that's good or bad... I think it's potentially a great idea. The problem is, the more I think about it, the more I wonder if the side issues it could deal with wouldn't be more worthwhile than the erotic component. Should I really "waste" it on an erotic short story, or should I try my hand at a novel?

I think I could do a novel justice, now. I couldn't have done a year ago. But, God, what a commitment of time.

It would be a cool novel, it would deal with racism, teenage sex and censorship, all of which are near and dear. It would probably be a nice erotic short story, too. I just don't see it being both.


Couldn't sleep last night. The usual reason... I wish I had a handle on why that is. After a pleasant evening in the spa, we got up to our usual fun and games. Brian fell asleep straight away, but my brain was working overtime, and I couldn't get to sleep immediately. Then, about one o'clock a big storm moved in, and as I was just beginning to doze there was a lightning strike right outside the house - it seemed so, and it knocked out power in the area for a few seconds - and I jumped violently enough to wake me right back up.

So there was no point trying to get back to sleep, and I decided I'd go ahead and work on the story I was thinking about. I got caught up in it, and finished it later today. So this one was done in record time. Of course, it has taken days for the ideas to evolve, and I'm still not sure if I shouldn't have shelved it for a potential longer dramatic story. But I guess I can always rework it later, if I decide to. Obviously, what I have here isn't enough material for a novel, but I've glossed over a lot of the things I thought of.

So I hope you enjoy Julio and Juliet.

I showed the story to Brian this evening, and he's a little disturbed by it. He's not sure that I should be writing about underage sex. And that's something I've thought long and hard about in the past year. I've come to the conclusion that it's like not necessarily including condoms in a story. It isn't my job to preach about safe sex, or avoiding underage relationships. I'll write condoms in when it doesn't hurt the story, but it isn't a requirement. This is fiction, and needs to be read as such.

I've already snuck in underage drinking in at least one story.

No further word of what's happening at work, and Jack only has four days left. And Brian leaves tomorrow <sob>. Whether I can sleep afterwards or not, he's getting a special send-off tonight. Perhaps we'll just let the fun last... he can sleep on the plane tomorrow :-)

Except that I'm so tired after last night, we might not even make it, and that would be tragic. I'm not even sure I'm writing coherently right now. Forgive me if this entry doesn't make sense.

I wish I understood what was going on. Perhaps I need to go talk to the doctor. Right. I can see it now, "Hey, Doctor, I can't sleep if I make love to my boyfriend."

Hmm. Now this is really off-the-wall, and definitely not something I'd be likely to think of in my alert skeptic mode, but is it one of those tantric things? I've heard of people claiming to draw on their partner's energy in sex, and the way Brian seems so totally zoned, usually about the same time as I get hyper, maybe I'm draining him somehow. He always claims so, but I figured he meant more physical draining... No, it's a silly idea, there's no rational explanation for energy transfers and all that, but hell, I need an idea here.

C'mon, folks, I have about three weeks to figure this out. Ideas, please, to the StoryBoard. But please don't suggest sleeping with anyone else to see if I still have the problem. Those days are behind me.

Besides, I already know the answer to the question: No. Before Brian, it didn't happen.


Well, he's gone :-( I drove him to the airport this morning. Yes, we found the energy for a worthwhile send-off last night (and this morning :-) but three weeks is a long time.

I wish that was all today's bad news. I talked to Clarice this evening. Rob's manager (it's really strange, getting news about my brother from Clarice) is backing away from his agreement to let Rob transfer. He tried the increased salary trick, now he's refusing to sign the approvals.

Rob thinks that the deal here is important enough that the senior management will override him, but he isn't certain. Since he had his boss's verbal approval, he's probably violating company policy to back away now, but, hell, managers are managers. I guess I can understand MBAs and management trainees being taught not to give a damn about their staff, but most engineering managers were once engineers. What is it about a desk and a cost center that makes them become jerks?

Except for a few. Jack, who can certainly be a jerk, but not unfair. Perhaps being a hard case is how he compensates for being a reasonable manager. Terry seems okay, too, in spite of being able to hold eye contact, and in spite of him not having told me anything since Friday.

I wonder, if I get Jack's job, will I become a jerk? If it gets that way, I'll trust Brian to let me know, and I will quit.

I guess I'm just depressed. I'm not usually like this, most of the managers even at our company, which is a little odd, are actually quite decent people, just as overworked as the rest of us, and perhaps their failings are just a little more noticeable because they affect more people, but they're not really bad guys.

Anyway, back to Rob. Clarice says he's seriously considering coming here anyway, if the transfer doesn't go through. We have as good job opportunities as there are in the Valley right now, he really really needs to get out of California, we have cheap housing, no state income tax, comparable salaries... and I guess we also have Clarice.

In the meantime, Rob isn't happy, Clarice isn't happy, I'm not happy, and if Brian is happy when I call him later, I'll kill him :-)

Oh, and tomorrow's The Big Move. But if all goes well, I just stand around and watch a bunch of heavily-muscled young men manhandling furniture through my house. Maybe I should call Clarice and see if she wants to call in sick and join me.

Hmm... maybe that isn't such a bad idea. Clarice and a trip to the liquor store. And we can wrap up the day recovering in the spa. My life is looking up :-)

[moments later:] Yes, it's all set. Clarice is planning a one-day flu. See? This diary is good for something after all :-)

Now, if only the weather will cooperate... at the moment the sky is almost constantly aglow with lightning, and my fat ex-tomcat is trying to push the notebook off my lap to hide himself.

Time to go run up the long-distance bill.


Owww. My head hurts.

Of course, I deserve every ounce of the pain :-)

Yesterday looked bleak when we started. The rain hadn't stopped since the previous night's thunderstorms, just a light rain, but by the time we met the movers at Brian's place. There were four of them. Two young kids, maybe college age, a middle-aged guy, and one who must have been in his twenties with blond hair tied back.

"Heads or tails," asked Clarice, eyes narrowed.

"I'll call Rob," I said, and she scowled. "Sorry. Do you think that's going to work out?"

She shook her head. "I don't know. He thinks so. He's so desperate to get out of there, though, it might just be wishful thinking."

Other than that one sour note, the move went well. They were through and out of Brian's house in under two hours. At mine, they moved the spare room furniture into the garage and my bedroom furniture into the spare room, then stopped for lunch.

Clarice flirted with John, the blond-haired mover, a little, but backed off when he seemed interested.

After lunch they emptied the truck into my bedroom and the garage, Clarice helping direct traffic, and they were done just after five. John tried a couple of times to get Clarice's phone number, but she brushed him off without too much trouble, and I saw him cast a couple of regretful looks at her as they left.

Clarice and I cleared around the two bedrooms, remaking both beds. Then she bounced on the new bed, Brian's, in the master bedroom, and lay down. "I can see why you wanted to switch," she said, staring at the ceiling. "This is really comfortable."

"Actually, I switched for the colors and the dresser," I replied. "They go better in here than mine. Nicer quality."

She bounced again. "I'll bet."

"Clarice, you have a one-track mind."

"Not just my mind, girl." She levered herself off the bed. "So, are we gonna get bombed in your spa?"

"Why not? Are you staying over?"


I turned the spa on, but first we went to get pizza. She unburdened herself a little more about Rob. She's quite depressed about the turn of events.

"You know, Helen, it's one thing if he's transferred here. But if he quits to come here, does he think he's doing it because of me? There are other places he could go."

"You need to talk to him about that, Clarice," I replied. "I asked him something similar about accepting the transfer, and he basically told me it was his life, and his decision. And yours," I added, as she frowned at me.

"Yeah, I guess it is. Both. It just seemed so easy when he was coming here anyway."

I laughed. I couldn't help it.

"What's so funny?"

"Welcome to true love," I said, which earned be the blackest look I've yet seen. Then she broke down and laughed along with me.

Back at the house, the spa was warm. After the other evening, there didn't seem to be any point in wearing anything but a towel out to the spa. I found myself more uncomfortable with our nudity than I had the other day, though. With Brian here I have no ambivalence, he's a magnet for my emotions. Without him, I get these strange little tingles from Clarice.

It isn't... this is going to sound odd, but... it isn't that I'm attracted to her. Not sexually. It's just that... I can feel why others are attracted to her. Like Rob. Like Brian, to a point. He isn't reticent about it, which is good, because if he was, I'd know he was lying. I can feel the pull, she's a very sexy individual, but it doesn't affect me.

Alright, perhaps it affects me just a little.

I'd like to paint her. She knows about my work, and she has never offered to pose... but it would be my job to ask, not hers to volunteer. I really hadn't thought about it until I was telling Brian about painting nudes from imagination. But I couldn't suggest it. Perhaps when Brian gets back... without him here, it would sound like a proposition, and I don't know how either of us would react to that.

My concerns Tuesday about the weather weren't realized. From the time the drizzle stopped in the morning it was fine. Overcast and cool, perfect for working, sunny, warm early evening, and peaceful later, no wind to make the spa feel cold. We soaked and drank Brian's beer.

Fortunately he had left plenty.

At some point, I dripped my way back into the house for the portable phone, and called Brian from the spa. He was back at his hotel.

"You sound like you're having fun," he said.

"You mean I sound drunk, don't you?"

"Yeah," he chuckled. "I wish I was there with you."

"I wish you were, too," I said, "especially since I'm in the spa, totally naked."

"Oh, is this an obscene phone call? Cool."

"Not quite," I replied. "It would be if I didn't have company."

Clarice took the phone from me. "You want me to describe exactly what she looks like, in case you're forgetting already? ... You want me to describe exactly what I look like?"

I snatched the phone back while Clarice giggled, and had a fun, if drunken, conversation with Brian for a few minutes. I don't think I ever did ask how his job was going.

When we were through, Clarice and I lay back watching the lightning bugs for a time, talked some more about Rob. I told her some of the most hair-raising stories I could remember, then I talked to her a little about Pam. Rob hadn't really given her much detail about his marriage. She soaked it in, pleased, perhaps that Rob hadn't seemed bitter, because from my account he certainly could be justified in becoming so.

Then we dried off and headed - staggered - in. "I guess neither of us will be keeping the other awake tonight," she said. "Shame."

I squeezed her arm. "I hope things work out with Rob, Clarice."

She gripped my wrist briefly and headed for the spare room.

And this morning, my head is full of little men with jackhammers trying to pound their way out. But it's worth it.


I spent most of yesterday tired and daydreaming about nothing. Probably I should just have slept in, I would have been more productive. Usually if Clarice and I "tie one on", which we don't do very often, appearances in this journal to the contrary, it's on a Friday and I use Saturday morning to recover. I could certainly have used some recovery time yesterday.

When I got home I did go to sleep; Brian woke me up, and I was headachy and bad-tempered. And he would pick that day to start an argument...

He visited the site yesterday, and noticed that I have cookies enabled. I started doing that only a couple of months ago, the idea being just to track what parts of the site generate the most interest. Which itself developed from idle curiosity about how many people read my journal regularly. Do they visit once and then go away? Do they keep up with me daily?

A remarkably high number visit often enough that they really must be interested in keeping up with my life. Which pleases me. I guess I'm just enough of an exhibitionist to like the idea that others are sharing my joys and sorrows.

But Brian brought up the issue of collecting data on users.

"I don't collect anything," I argued. "The cookies don't identify who has visited, only where they went, and how often they've been to the site."

"To do that, you must have all of those cookies stored somewhere," he said.

"That's right, but no-one can see them."

"OK, tell me what happens here. Mrs. X is divorcing Mr. X, claiming that he's a bad influence, spending all his time reading erotic fiction and visiting porn sites. Mrs. X's lawyer subpoenas your cookie file."

"But it doesn't say who," I interrupted, but he raised his voice to talk over me.

"And then he compares the cookies on Mr. X's computer with the ones in your cookie file to show how many times he has been at your site, and exactly what he did while there."

I thought for a moment. "Oh."

"So they can identify who visited, if you have access to the client system."

"I guess so," I said. "I hadn't thought of it that way."

"You're doing your users a disservice by keeping that data. And yourself, because the next step is you get called to testify to the accuracy of the logs. Maybe even get sued for causing emotional harm or whatever. Stupid, perhaps, but you can't predict a jury."

I didn't agree to remove the cookie tracking at the time, but I'm thinking now that I will do. This weekend I'll revamp the site, delete all the old log files, disable cookie tracking and perhaps even the page counter. Last night I was irritated with Brian, but today I think he's right.

Tonight Clarice is coming over with Bev, a friend of hers from work, and we're going to see "The Mummy".


This time I'm glad we didn't listen to the pundits. I guess after they were proved right by "Never Been Kissed" I was not expecting too much... and they weren't wrong, not really, Brendan Fraser did act awfully dumb, he's much better if they give him a chance to think as well as do, and Indiana Jones it wasn't. but I think they missed something important. It was fun. And Brendan... Brian, if you're reading this, if Brendan Fraser ever comes calling: Bye! :-)

No, not really. Just kidding.

I think. :-)

Perhaps it's just that the critics don't see Fraser's appeal. It was the same with "Still Breathing", about half of them (including a really pissy review at sidewalk.com, I sure hope the writer thought it was clever) didn't see the magic, and gave it a really low rating. The rest did, and gave it very high marks. And I think it was because you had to see the magic in the art, and to do that, you had to see the magic in the artist, who was, of course, Brendan Fraser.

Anyway, if I talk about him anymore, Brian will get jealous...

I like Clarice's friend Bev. I've only met her a couple of times, but she's a good complement to Clarice. If I say she's cynical, it sounds negative... she has a sharp tongue, but she's quietly confident, not an extrovert like Clarice. She's black, shorter than me and thinner than either of us. She certainly is much more down to earth than Clarice.

Before the movie we went to a new restaurant near my house. It's an Italian restaurant, and I had heard that it was very good, though pricey. (I had heard correctly on both counts, we paid more than I'm used to but it was worth every penny.)

Our waiter was a real hunk, a lot like a thinner version of John the mover, with lighter hair, perhaps, but very long, tied back. Every time he came to our table, Clarice would make eyes at him, and giggled when he left. She acts more like she just turned fourteen than twenty-eight.

The poor guy seemed to take it in stride, and he was very attentive... as much as the restaurant cost, and as good a tip as we left him, he should have been :-) Anyway, Bev caught my look and rolled her eyes at Clarice's antics, and I knew we'd hit the same wavelength.

Clarice is bringing her back tonight to dunk in the spa. This time she's driving home, and I insisted on swimsuits.

I forgot to mention Jack's last day earlier, and yesterday's entry was written before lunch...

Yesterday was Jack's last day, of course. It was pretty sad, as all such events are... other than the bosses and our group, no-one had been told until Thursday that he was leaving. The veeps figure it's disruptive to have someone around to talk to about their reasons for leaving, and what the job market is like. They're probably right, but it leads to problems, when you're planning something that needs an individual's help, and she vanishes almost without warning...

In Jack's case, that shouldn't be too much of a problem. Susie, Larry and I should be able to handle anything anyone had planned for Jack. But when the email went out late Thursday afternoon, there was a collective gasp... everyone thought Jack was a permanent fixture. And at lunch yesterday most of the engineers, hardware and software, were there. Jack seemed surprised and pleased that so many had made the effort.

Terry even picked up the tab for everyone, which is unusual at these goodbye lunches.

I sat by Jack, and he spent most of the time at lunch talking to me. He still seems to think I'm his natural successor, though I haven't heard anything from Terry or Ken or anyone in management. Jack admitted that he didn't know anything, either. So I'm still in the dark, up in the air, add your own cliché here.