Juanita, whom we interviewed earlier this week, has accepted our offer. She should be starting on the eleventh. I called Mel today. He needs the weekend to decide.

I interviewed two more guys yesterday, and didn't think either of them would be suitable.

My first official lesson with Charles was fun. We focused on waltz, which isn't something I've ever done, and it's harder than it looks. The basic step is very easy, but when he starts shaping you to balance against him and making you keep your chin up and not look at your feet, then it feels unnatural to be so blind.

Of course, you're always dependent on your partner. He can see where you can't, and you can see where he can't, so whoever is moving forward has to give direction. The waltz shaping really only emphasizes that, giving you solid body contact for when he's leading you, or when you're moving him backwards, and making it hard to look around when you're supposed to be following.

I guess I've never been good at being dependent :-)

Still, I'm improving, by the end of the lesson he wasn't repositioning me as much, and had danced me through several simple waltz steps.


I took my promised bike ride this morning. Not for too long, because I had to do some Christmas shopping. Long enough to make my muscles twinge for the rest of the day. I do need to ride more.

After I'd taken a shower I headed to the mall. There's a different atmosphere near Christmas... well, that seems like it shouldn't need to be said, but I'm not meaning in terms of "Christmas Spirit" or even overcrowded stores. Because Christmas shopping involves pretty much everyone, there's a much wider cross-section of people than the usual teen-heavy yuppie crowd.

A young couple caught my eye. They were probably about eighteen, arms around each other in obvious affection. He was in a rumpled shirt and jeans, she was in a bulky woolen track suit. Somehow the contrast with the usual tight tops and perfect makeup made them seem very genuine. It was heart-warming to see love for what they are rather than need for an image.

Of course, just after that, I saw a girl in heavy makeup, perfect blonde hair, low, push-up bra, white tee shirt several sizes too small, cut so low that the edge of her bra was visible, the top her breasts floating a half inch above their confinement. She was with her mother, and must have been all of twelve or thirteen.


The new story is almost complete. It will be webbed later this week, as "Cousins".


Great news! Both of the guy we wanted have accepted their offers. Mel will be starting on the first week of the New Year, and Vince, the other interviewee from last Tuesday will start on the eighteenth of this month. Mel quit today and left the building immediately - which he had been expecting, he's in a sensitive position, and his employer doesn't like short-timers being on the premises. So he called me this morning, he's going to drive down next week while his wife finishes packing, fly back, and drive down with the family just before Christmas. As long as the weather holds...

Mary suggested we invite him to the Christmas party if he's here by the fifteenth. I should call Vince, too. He may as well get to meet his crazy co-workers.

Jill sent me email yesterday. It read like she was hurried, not like the long, thoughtful message about Dating and polyamory, this is Jill close to the end of semester, I think. I can remember what that was like.

Brian isn't going home for Christmas. She had been wondering why, he seemed secretive about it. She figured it out from my comments about Clarice's New Year's party, since she knows Brian has committed to be best man at the surprise wedding.

Other than that, she apologized for still not having finished the story that has been nearly finished for months :-) We will have a new Jill story. One day :-)

Perhaps if Brian isn't home to distract her she'll have more time to write at Christmas.

The Christmas Party is going to be held at the restaurant that I mentioned last year, the steakhouse which is a C&W bar / stage / dance hall. I should see if I can persuade Charles to go over two-step before then. In fact, I wonder what he's doing, I need a date for the party...

Though if I ask him at this point, he might get the wrong idea. Maybe I should talk to him about it Thursday.

I've been wondering what to do with myself for Christmas. I haven't spent Christmas alone in years. I certainly won't be going to see my mother, that would be the worse than Christmas alone...

Well, as I was writing this entry, an idea came to me: San Antonio. Not that I have any idea what happens in San Antonio over Christmas, but it's a place with a strong Catholic tradition, which means that the holiday is likely to be a big deal. It's a town I love anyway, it's easy to get to, and it isn't here :-)

This will take some thought and some research on the web, but on the surface heading to San Antone for a few days looks like a great idea.


So it seems that Cousins is a hit. It seems to have generated as much immediate response as Best Friends did. Maybe more.

Or maybe y'all are just suffering from withdrawal, because I haven't written anything for so long :-)


With three new hires to prepare for - assigning them, getting developers' schedules ready to train them, rearranging offices - and still planning for a couple of short work weeks, life at the office is hell. I am totally stressed out. Of course, when I approved vacations, I didn't have any idea we would de in this heavy recruiting and training mode.

Mary offered to abandon her vacation, but she has eight vacation days to take, or she loses them. I thought I could get HR to approve carrying them over to next year, but they won't. So Mary's taking the time off, and I may not even get my trip to San Antone. And since someone who has been there at Christmas emailed me to tell me some of what goes on, I want to go even more than I did.

I made myself so late with work that I was pulled over for speeding to my appointment with Charles. By twenty miles per hour.

While the cop was checking my license and registration, I was desperately trying to remember when I had taken the defensive driving course, because you can only get automatic ticket dismissal with defensive driving if you haven't taken the certification in a year. But smiling at the officer worked, and he just warned me.

I asked Charles about the two step and the Christmas party. He was happy to switch to two step for a time, but he has a commitment on the night of the party, so I won't be taking him.

He sensed my tension while we were dancing. Well, it wasn't hard, I was tripping over my feet. So I explained what was going on. He has this irritating technique of making me talk while I'm dancing, to distract me from thinking about my feet. With the twin results that I suffer more missteps but can feel that I'm getting more comfortable with the steps. That way they become more natural.

Anyway, when we were done, he took me through to the back room, sat me down, and started massaging my shoulders. It helped a lot. What helped even more was that a few minutes after he started, Laurel and Yolanda turned up - they were going somewhere with Charles, and Laurel took over for a few minutes. She made me unfasten the top buttons of my blouse so she could work without interference, stretching the tissue from the front of my neck to under my arms, and from my shoulders down to my breastbone.

"I could take over there," said Charles. We all three glared at him.

Then Laurel massaged my neck, shoulders and upper back.

"That's all we have time for," she said after just a few minutes. "We're really gonna have to go."

"Oh, that's fine," I said, "this feels so much better." I lifted my elbows to stretch my arms, and squeezed her wrists. "Thank you."

As she was putting her coat back on, she suggested that she could do more on another day.

"Will you be here next Thursday?" she asked.

"Sure, I should be."

"I don't think I have anything going on." She said it almost as a question, looking to Yolanda and Charles, who shrugged. "I guess I can treat you to..." then she paused melodramatically, and said in a resonant voice, "The Table."

Immediately Charles and Yolanda started wailing, "No! Not... The Table! Nooooo!!!!" They danced around campily, waving their arms over their heads, going "No! Noooo!"

Laurel grinned at me.

"Alright," I said, "I have to ask."

"What is the table?"

"The table is all around us," intoned Charles, "here, even in this room. You can see it out your window..."

"Oh, shut up," said Laurel, and Charles stepped back to pose with his wrist to his forehead. Laurel continued, "It's just that table there." She pointed to a heavy wooden table with a vase of dried flowers. "We pull it out, strip the cushions from the couch, and you can lie down while I give you a real workover."

"How much do you charge?" I asked.

"Oh, me lady," she dropped into her Faire accents, "you know I'm only too 'appy to do for yer."

That started Charles and Yolanda into their fake English personas, and as I left them they were talking about it "being time to go to the pub now", and in loud stage whispers about whether "me lady" was "a bit of alright". I was still chuckling as they headed in the opposite direction from me, arm in arm.

They're all crazy.


Thank God It's Friday. This week has seemed soooo long...

It has been cold, my car is cold for a long time into the drive in the morning, and the drive lasts longer than it should with Christmas nearly here. (On Wednesday a light drizzle added maybe forty-five minutes to the drive, and when I left in the evening there was a wreck, which added about thirty.) Rushing around at work. Getting the new story online was a high point in a horrible week.

So I stayed home and watched TV and surfed the web. Realized I hadn't visited Rose's site in a while, so I went over to catch up on her journal. Rose, you seem to be twisting in as many directions as I am. At least you've still been writing :-)


Took another bike ride today. Almost as far as the ride I took last month that made me so ill. But although it was cold, there was no rain, which not only makes the ride far more pleasant, but much easier. It's hard riding in a half inch or more of water.

I took it easier, too, using the time to think about new stories. Actually, just one new story, which has been trying to make itself known to me for months. I just don't know if I can make it work. It will be a fantasy, medieval, somewhat dark, not so strange as The Prince, but definitely not run-of-the-mill erotic fiction. It will be an effort, even if I can make it work.

I should have been doing some more Christmas shopping, but I couldn't face the mall today. Not as stressed out as this week has made me; the ride was relaxing (even though I can already feel my legs complaining :-) and I wasn't going to spoil it facing the crowds. Maybe tomorrow.

Besides, I'm stuck with a dilemma. I'd kinda like to get a gift for Brian. Even if we're through, he's still special to me. I'd like to show him that. I just don't know how he'd take it. Maybe if I can find him something that can't possibly have a romantic symbolism.


Reading Rose's site reminded me about the new science fiction show, "Andromeda". I remember ads for it, but hadn't ever seen an episode. From emails we've traded in the last year or so, I know she and I like similar TV shows (although, Rose, I can not see the attraction of Formula 1 :-), like Babylon 5, and movies like The Matrix. So I thought I'd see when it played.

It was on last night, and I saw it for the first time. I guess they must be into repeats already, this looked a lot like a pilot. Still, I think it has promise. Kevin Sorbo is cool. Hercules may have been a campy show, but it was fun, and he always made it worth watching. He has the presence to make a great starship captain. (I liked the quip about him being "like a greek god" :-) Patrick Stewart has an even greater presence, even though I didn't ever take to "Next Generation". So did Avery Brooks, in DS9. Janeway doesn't, but then I hate pretty much everything about Voyager, and William Shatner never did, but the genre was new.

Oddly, I never thought that either of the Babylon 5 commanders really had as much presence as Picard or Sisko, but the storyline being different didn't require it. Gary Cole could possibly have developed it, if Crusade had continued. Still, the way it has gone, I've liked the actors heading the Roddenberry series more than those in the Babylon 5 universe, even though I infinitely prefer the latter as a show.

So that's a plus mark for Andromeda, and the show itself looked like it had some interesting ideas. I hate time travel stories, but being found three hundred years in the future under the time dilation effects of a black hole isn't quite as silly as most Star Trek time travel stories. (Although being rescued is.) The villain at the end looked really menacing, too.

As long as they stay with what seems to be the premise, they'll do fine. If they start with the Star Trek technobabble, inventing solutions by using jargon for problems that only existed to elicit those solutions, or if they start in with the time travel, either to the present day or to the ship's point of origin, three hundred years in its past, I'll lose interest very quickly.

Even Kevin Sorbo couldn't have overcome Q, time travel, or the many "they woke up and it was all a dream" stories in the Star Trek universe. It has always seemed to me that if they traded just a few percent of the effects budget for Star Trek for a decent writer or two, they'd have had a far better series. Any one of them, from the original series on (except possibly Voyager, which is unsalvageable).

It's funny, one of the best Star Trek episodes ever was a time travel story. It was called "The City on the Edge of Forever", and the reason that it worked was that it was written by Harlan Ellison. I had heard of it long before I saw it, it must have been about twenty years old before I saw it in reruns, but it was a good story. Maybe its success is the reason the Star Trek writers never realized just how bad time travel stories are.

I've wondered from time to time about setting an erotic story in zero gravity...

Waiting a day must have helped, or else this Christmas is a bad one for retailers. The mall... a huge, new megamall, was very quiet.

I bought Brian a shirt. It's a little more flamboyant than he wears. Scratch that, it's a lot more flamboyant. He may never wear it, but I think he'll appreciate it.


Yesterday was very mild, even more so than Saturday, when it was a little cool for my bike ride. This morning I thought it would be the same, and I went to work in a light jacket...

Well, a norther must have blown through around noon. This evening I was way too cold until the car finally warmed up. I think the heater must have a problem.

Juanita started today. She seems worried that she may be out of her depth. I guess I'm pleased that she recognizes that... I think she'll do just fine.


Today's weather forecast promised ice and sleet, but the morning was just cloudy and cold. Like most others, I ignored the forecast, though I did wear my heavy coat.

By three o'clock, the storm had already moved in to the west. By four, when I managed to leave, it was right where I needed to drive. Of course, everyone else wanted to leave ahead of it too, which meant that the freeways were already pretty much stationary as the weather worsened.

In the end, it took me three hours to get home. And a Miata is not a car for driving on ice.


As I pretty much expected, I'm frozen in today. The roads probably aren't as bad as they were late last night, but most businesses are closed, including my employer, so there isn't much point going out. I might try to get out later, I'd like to get something for the party Friday.


The forecast had promised a thaw yesterday, and maybe it happened, but with the temperature in the low twenties last night, the freeway bridges were again iced over, and traffic was bad until late morning. So yesterday I did go in to work, but only for a short day.

It probably seems strange to anyone in a cold state just how bad things become here when the weather turns cold, but there are a couple of factors at work.

One is that we rarely get snow. We get ice. Sleet, freezing drizzle or rain touches the ground and turns instantly to slick ice. Imagine a treacherous patch of black ice on the road. Now expand it over all of the freeways and side streets. Ice so slick you couldn't stand on it securely, but drivers still think they can do fifty plus miles per hour.

Then there's the mix of drivers. Folk from the west coast don't recognize the conditions, and when they figure it out, they overcompensate, driving ten or twenty miles per hour below safe speeds.

Texans may recognize the conditions, but have never learned to drive in it, and don't have enough experience.

And east coasters and mid-westerners think it's just like snow. It's not. I've driven in fresh snow, in packed snow and ice, and a blizzard in Cleveland, and I promise you that there's nothing quite like layer upon layer of freezing rain laid on a clear smooth road surface over a five hour period.

I heard a girl from Brooklyn say that she's probably the only one who knows how to drive in those conditions. My guess is that she's so far from the truth that she's more dangerous than those who know that they're inexperienced.

Just as last week, Charles and I had the studio to ourselves for my lesson. Being less stressed out from the short drive, I wasn't as tense, but I was still hoping Laurel would show. Last week's massage had felt so good I was looking forward to the full version.

She turned up just before Charles and I were finished, and when we went through to the back room, she had already pulled the table from the wall, replaced the dried flowers with cushions from the couch, covered with a towel, and started coffee brewing.

She handed me another large towel, then took Charles's arm to lead him out. "Not a stitch," she said. "Call me when you're covered."

"I could stay to help," offered Charles, as Laurel dragged him through the door.

After I'd folded my clothes neatly, I climbed onto the table and positioned the towel, lying on my back. Then I called the others back in.

"Did you want me on my front or back?" I asked Laurel.

"You're good like that," she said.

Charles poured coffee, and I sat up clutching my towel to drink some.

"Time for you to go," said Laurel to Charles.

"Go? Where? Why?" he complained.

"You know why," she said. "I don't want to be responsible for any accidental flashing while I work."

"What about you?" he argued. "You'll be right there."

"That's different, I'm a girl."

"I can be a girl," he said. "Remember that play last year? Look, Helen even left me some clothes... they may be a little tight..."

"Enough," Laurel chuckled. "If you want to stay, turn your chair around. If Helen doesn't mind."

"I don't care," I said, "long as he keeps away from my clothes."

So he turned his chair to the wall, grumbled good-naturedly about "being put in timeout", and started reading a book. I'm sure he'd have left if either of us really wanted him to. Then I lay back down and Laurel started work.

I winced as she pulled on the skin between my neck to my breasts. I hadn't realized there was so much tension there, but I knew from last week that it was worth the pain.

She pressed hard with her fingertips, so that she could draw out and spread the tissue. But that first pressure was enough to make my eyes water.

"You really have some knots, she said.

"Tell me about it."

She didn't treat the towel as a boundary. It was there as a sop to modesty, not to impede her work. There were some horribly painful knots under my arms, almost up to to my breasts, and she teased them out.

I felt... softer, when the was done. Not quite relaxed, I was too sore to be relaxed, but my skin tingled, and the stiff, painful points had gone.

Then Laurel took some oil from small plastic bottle, and rubber it firmly into my skin. It was very aromatic, smelling of herbs. Lavender, perhaps, and basil.

I did relax as she worked on my neck and face, then firmly smoothed the oil over everywhere she worked. The pain of the massage lifted away from me, and I started to doze as Laurel stroked my face.

"Time to turn over," she said.

"Does that mean you're going to hurt me some more?" I complained. "I'm enjoying this part."

Laurel smiled at me, then ran the back of a slightly oily finger over my face.

"I'll hold the towel," she said, "You roll over."

"An' I'll come to catch 'er if she falls," piped up Charles., but he stayed in his chair with his back to us.

So I turned over, and Laurel worked the same miracle on my back as she had to my chest, drawing out the pain in my shoulder blades, making my skin tingle as my muscles relaxed.

I was lying with my arms stretched out beside me, head turned to the right, so Laurel was able to fold the towel back without revealing anything - my arms hid my breasts adequately. That allowed her to work all the way down my side. The number of painful knots she found surprised me.

"You must have a long drive," she said.

"Horribly," I agreed.

"You need a back support cushion for your car. I can tell you where to find one."

"Mmm, okay," I said. My back was feeling so relaxed that I didn't want to think about driving.

"You might want to see a chiropractor, too."

I was even more non-committal about that. I've always thought of chiropractic as being a step above quackery, if even that.

Moving out from my spine, Laurel worked to soften more painful little knots under my arm - or maybe they were the same knots she'd found from the front. Then she worked up the side of my ribcage with her palms, the circular motion both stretching and relaxing.

As she stroked, her fingers brushed against my breasts. Diffidently at first, but when I didn't react negatively, her touch grew more positive. She'd tilted her read to the side, studying my face, and I'm certain that even a small frown would have made her back off.

But I didn't frown. It felt ... I don't know, comforting is probably the best word I can think of. Not exactly erotic, though the idea that Laurel liked touching me was warming. It felt nice, much as snuggling with her on Mary's couch had.

Instead I gave her a quick smile, to let her know that I was okay with what she was doing.

Of course, my arms were hiding the contact from Charles, should he happen to turn.

When she took the aromatic oil and rubbed it into my skin, she took the opportunity to fondle me a little more, letting her fingertips lightly touch my nipples.

She grinned at me, and I returned her smile, less at her touch than at our shared amusement at Charles having no idea of what we were doing.

She didn't keep that up for long, though, switching to working the oil into my shoulder blades and the now-relaxed muscles along my spine.

"Just your legs now," she said. "They are probably hurting after Charles's workout."

"Mainly from last weekend," I said. "I've been riding my bike."

"Good," see responded. "That will help in the long term," and she started kneading my calf muscles. "Though it will aggravate your back pain if you don't do something about that drive."

"Ouch," I said. "I didn't know I was so sore."

"You're tense," she said, "so you're not giving the muscles chance to recover." She tapped my butt. "This is the problem. We'll deal with it."

She left the muscles in my calves and thighs stinging but relaxed. Under the towel, she pinched and pressed at my butt, generating enough sharp pain to bring tears to my eyes.

Laurel made me suffer for several minutes. I yelped aloud at tome of her manipulations, but she was right, this was the focus of the tension in my legs, and as she massaged the most tender places, the soreness slipped away, replaced by an almost euphoric soft feeling throughout my body.

Now her touch became less abrupt and more sensual as she drew the flat of her hand across my ass in a firm circular motion, then over my hips and into my thighs, easing the last of the tight places in my butt.

After the brief fondling Laurel had given me earlier, her touch now, especially when she smoothed the oil over my legs, had a distinctly intimate edge. When she stopped, I found myself disappointed, because the closeness felt so good, and relieved that I didn't have to deal with the implications of not wanting her to stop touching me.

But she was done, and my body felt rejuvenated. Laurel spread the towel for me to roll back over, then made Charles warm up my coffee.

"How do you feel? She asked as I sat to drink it.

"Wonderful," I said sincerely.

"You know, you don't have to wait until you're knotted up with pain," she said, "and you don't have to suffer whats-his-name over there waiting his chance to sneak a peak."

Charles protested, but she ignored him. "Call me," she said, "I can make you more comfortable at my place than on this hard table."

I finished my coffee and dressed when they were out of the room. Then we straightened the place up and went our separate ways. At least, I left them, I don't know what Charles and Laurel did.

So now I'm feeling very confused. I like Laurel a lot. The idea of intimacy with her has been on my mind for a while. I've flirted with her recently, especially at Mary's, now perhaps she's calling my bluff. Suddenly I'm finding myself excited by the idea, in a way I never was in my idle thoughts about being attracted to Clarice.

But I'm also scared. Making love to another woman... it seems so very alien to me. Not wrong, exactly, and not repellent in any way, just... just not me. I can't see myself as "bi". I just can't. Other than Clarice, I've never felt sexually attracted to another woman, and crossing that line from being attracted to Laurel to being seduced by her... I don't know if I could go through with it, knowing what it would say about me.

Am I even reading her right? She touched my breasts quite deliberately, and quite erotically. But what does that really mean? That she's signalling that she's willing to go further? That she was just playing? That she was just taking advantage of her position, and isn't really interested in me?

No, I can't believe that last. Inviting me for a more "comfortable" session at her house was a pretty clear overture that she wouldn't have made if she had no interest in me. And I know (or at least I stronly suspect) that Laurel is bi, or at least into experimentation beyond two-party hetero activity. I'm damn sure she isn't playing dominoes with Charles and Yolanda behind closed doors.

I'm also pretty sure that Charles, Yolanda and Laurel don't have exclusivity. Apart from his attempt to seduce me (which neither surprised nor disappointed Laurel, as far as I could tell), he seemed to have no jealousy about Yolanda's date. They're hardly an example of a "permanent" poly grouping. Nor do I think Laurel's overture was to me to join their group. It was just for her and me, alone...

And the thought of that does turn me on.