It seems unusual to have the day to myself. The last few Sundays have been so busy. I feel like I should be packing, or something.

Friday night we had thunderstorms in the area. Nothing like the killer storms a few days earlier, up in the Panhandle and Oklahoma, but I heard yesterday that there may have been a small tornado very close to me.

Saturday was virtually cloudless. Just a few of those small tufts of white that let you believe that the sky is real, not just a blue wash overhead. I called Barry to invite him over for an evening in the spa - we'd talked last week about getting together, but had no specific plans. I started the water heating, and worked on pulling weeds.

I think that this year I might have to hire someone to look after my yard. I like to do the work, but last year I found that I was getting too far behind, and this year is shaping up to be no more relaxing.

Unfortunately, even before the sun went down, the temperature dropped quickly. By the time Barry arrived the day had cooled off too much to use the spa. He made a comment about having been looking forward to help me undress, so I told him I hated to disappoint him, and suggested he do it anyway.

It wasn't until almost nine that I put my robe on to start cooking - sesame garlic chicken with chopped cayenne and udon noodles. Yolanda isn't the only one who can cook chicken in interesting ways. (Though I can't say that I'm in the same league as her.)

After we'd eaten, we watched a DVD - Barry had brought over the new Bond movie, Casino Royale. Somehow I have managed always to be too busy or in the wrong place to see it, though I'd heard it was very good. Even so, I think it exceeded expectations. Daniel Craig may be the best Bond ever - at least for the reasons that matter - looks, charisma, and just enough of a rough edge to be very sexy.

He also looks believable in the expected gun-toting poses, which I guess defines Bond to the other fifty percent of the audience; those who wouldn't want to get him into bed. Beyond that it's just script and acting, and I think Casino Royale may have been a little weak in terms of script and plot (or maybe I was just distracted) - but Daniel Craig's presence overcame any deficiences, and made the movie the best Bond I can recall.

After the movie - well, no prizes for guessing what came next. My robe stayed behind on the couch...

As I unrolled the condom into place, I asked him if he'd let me do something very selfish.

"Sure," he said, sounding puzzled.

So I kissed him as his fingers wandered. Lying along him, I was tempted to change my mind, and just slip him inside me, but I wanted to do this, so I reluctantly disengaged.

Then I straddled his stomach, facing away from him, and slid down his body, lifting myself and leaning forward to get him inside me.

That angle can be painful for a guy, especially with a very hard erection, so I kept asking Barry if he was okay. Then he was all the way in, his cock pressing hard against the front of my sex as I started to move.

I bounced against his hips with very small movements at first. It's not the most natural position for either partner, especially with the discomfort of pressure in that place. After a time, though, the stimulation overcomes the akward sensations, and then...

With his cock pressing my G-spot, my arousal caught fire, making my breath catch. As I kept moving, I felt Barry's hands cover my breasts, and I leaned back slightly. He released me while he moved pillows to prop himself up, then his fingers found my breasts again, and his lips brushed my ear.

The feelings that spread out from my sex were almost painful. My muscles felt jittery, like I wasn't in full control of them, and I stopped moving. Barry tweaked my nipples, which tightened my sex around his shaft and made me moan.

Turning my face to the left, I found his lips, but after his tongue found mine, he moved his hands down to my hips, and started bouncing me against him, in the same rhythm as before, but using his grip to press me hard against him as he thrust, his cock ramming against that over-sensitized spot.

I had to release his lips to breathe, reaching my arms back around his neck, leaning against him for support as I cried out with each thrust. Then the fire within me took over, building, building - and my whole body seemed to buzz as my sex ignited with orgasm. I remember yelling Barry's name, but the memory is more like a dream, as something I found myself doing when I was beginning to come out of a haze of passion.

Seeking Barry's lips again, I kissed him as the feelings became more manageable. Then, after he let me stop moving, I slid off him, moved the pillows for him to lie back down, and turned around.

I wanted to get him inside me, to give him his own turn at pleasure, but found he was already going limp. "Oh," I said. "Did you...?"

He nodded, with a big grin on his face. "Yeah," he said. "As turned on as you were getting, I couldn't help myself. That was quite... intense."

"I'm sorry," I said.

"Nothing to be sorry for," he said. "It was good. Though, I have to say I like you facing me, too." He wrapped his arms around me and kissed me, my breasts squeezed to his chest.

"So do I," I murmured, when he had to release me to attend to the condom. "Stay the night, and I'll show you how much."

And he did, and I did.

And today - well, after Barry left - I've lazed around. I think the most energetic thing I've done was to answer the phone. It was Yolanda, inviting me over to watch Battlestar Galactica.

I wonder if I should call her back and ask them if they'd prefer to bring the tape over and hang out in the spa for a while. According to, the temperature will reach the 80s today.


I almost uploaded yesterday's entry as March 31 instead of April 1. I did have to correct the date of Friday's entry from March 29 to 30. I mentioned that I lose track of dates easily when I travel, and I must have done that last week. I was okay up until Wednesday, but Friday I'd slipped by a day.

This is relevant here because that made yesterday April Fools' Day, which I barely considered when I was editing in my corrections. Inviting the twins over on April 1 is just asking for trouble.

Yes, Yolanda thought that coming over with the Galactica tape and spending the evening in the spa was a good idea. So they both showed up about an hour after I had called.

Yolanda gave me the tape. It was labelled in her small, very precise handwriting, as "Battlestar Galactica Season Finale." I plopped it into the VCR, then went to make coffee.

When I came back, we all sat before the TV. I pressed play, and... nothing. Gray static.

"Oh, my God," said Laurel. "Please don't say we screwed up the recording."

My heart sank. There had probably been repeats of the show last week, but they'd be over now. I'd have to wait to see it in re-runs. I ejected the tape, just to be sure, and it was the same one I'd put in. I pushed it home again, and tried playing. Still nothing.

I ejected the tape, and took it back with me to the couch. "I really do thank you for trying," I said. I was very disappointed.

"Aww, Helen," said Yolanda. "I'm so sorry... that you're such a trusting fool."

She took another tape out of her purse. This one was labelled "Battlestar Galactica - non-April-1 version."

"Oh, God," I said, as they both laughed at me. "You... two..."

Sure enough, this tape wasn't blank. And - damn, I wish I could talk about spoilers, but the show may not have made it out to everywhere yet. If you're a Battlestar Galactica fan, and you haven't seen this episode, you need to. It ranks up with some Babylon 5 episodes as being among the best science fiction shows ever. I don't know how they packed so much drama into one hour. And the ending - wow.

And now I have to wait until 2008 to find out what happens next. Aargh!

I spite of the forecast, it was barely warm enough for the spa. The breeze was quite strong and dry, uncomfortably cool on wet skin. Still, the yard is well sheltered, and staying low in the water was warm and relaxing.

After we'd soaked for about a half-hour, I heard a car driving up. Laurel said, "Oh, that's probably Charles. I hope you don't mind that we asked him to join us?"

"Laurel!" I squealed. "You didn't!"

"What's wrong?" She frowned at me.

"We're naked! I don't want him to..."

"Oh, you can be such a prude," said Laurel. She yelled "Come in!", and the garden gate opened as I was halfway out of the spa, trying to grab a towel.

In came - not Charles, but Bev and Paula, carrying drinks.

I sank back down into the water. "You did it to me again, didn't you?"

Laurel smirked.

"Hi," said Bev. "What's all the commotion?"

"Hi Bev," I said. "Hello Paula. I'm just discovering how - wonderful - it can be to have friends. Last week at this time I was on my way to Canada. Now I'm tempted to emigrate."

We warned the newcomers about the chilly air, then I sent Bev into the house to get glasses for the wine while she was still warm and dry.

I mentioned that I was planning to fly to California to help Clarice and Rob pack and move, and about Clarice wanting to spend a few days travelling, so Mara can see the Grand Canyon and whatever other sights they can take in.

"Ooh, can I join you?" asked Laurel.

Yolanda gave her a wet slap across the shoulder. "It's a family thing. Stay out of it."

"Well..." I said, "it isn't, really. I mean, it is for them. I kinda figure I'm going to try to stay out of their way as much as possible." I thought about it for a moment. "D'you mean it?" I asked. "Or is this an unplanned April Fools' trick?"

"I'm serious," she said. "I've been talking about taking a break. A long drive with friends - sounds like it could be fun. If your brother and Clarice would let me."

"You know," I said, "my original thought was to use up some frequent flyer miles. I'd still have to pay for motels on the trip. If you're flying - well, paying for a flight wasn't the idea. Two flights, I guess, with Yolanda, and another room."

"I can't," said Yolanda. "I can't take the time off work right now. Not around tax time."

In a loud stage whisper, Laurel said, "And she's no fun to be around at tax time."

"That's true," sighed Yolanda.

"Would it be okay with you?" I asked Yolanda.

"Sure," she said. "Why not?"

"I'll have to check with Clarice," I said, "but... if you want to come, I'd like that. We'd have two drivers for each car."

"Oh, don't let her drive," objected Yolanda.

"Hey, it's just one ticket," said Laurel. "And I'm working on that."

"I'll watch her speed," I said. "She'll be okay."

After we abandoned the spa I called out for pizza. I did manage to get to talk to Laurel alone.

"This, umm, vacation. Are you thinking... umm, will we be getting separate rooms?"

"God, Helen, you always want to make rules," she said. "I just want to come along for the ride. No expectations, okay?"

I really need to cut down on the length of these entries. They're taking too long. I've had so much to write about recently, though, and I'm enjoying doing it. Not that it seems I have many readers these days.

I still haven't seen Clarice. She came to my house last Wednesday, and stayed until Friday, but left to see relatives over the weekend. She's back in the house now - I spoke to her a few minutes ago, and will be staying until Wednesday. She turned thirty-six last week, and I still don't have a birthday gift for her.

And I think I just solved that problem! Another case where updating my journal affected my thought process, because I doubt if I would have come up with this without the juxtaposition of the moving trip / vacation and Clarice's birthday.

I need to call Rob to figure out the precise itinerary. I will have to tell him why, and have him keep it a secret for now.

If we're going to the Grand Canyon, then, according to Google, our trip will (or at least could) take us straight through Las Vegas. If we could stay one night in Vegas, I can buy tickets for a show for Clarice and Rob. Since I'll be there, I can babysit Mara. I think that the idea is quite brilliant... I'll need to get on it right now, though, to have the tickets arrive in time. Or, I suppose, I can just pay in Clarice's name and have her pick up the tickets there...


It turns out not to be as easy as I thought to get tickets. I spent time poking around on the web, and figured that Clarice would love to see Cirque du Soleil, and there are tickets available, but I can't buy them for a third party. So I ended up asking Rob if he could buy them, and I'll send him a check.

His plans call for them to finish packing on Saturday 14th and we'd leave on Sunday. Monday we'll drive through Yosemite. Tuesday would have had us getting close to the Grand Canyon, but he's updated the schedule to give us a night in Vegas. That gives us some padding beforehand so that we can guarantee the date, though I wouldn't want to cut short our time in Yosemite.

I talked to both Rob and Clarice today about Laurel, and they both had no objection to her coming with us. Then I called Laurel and asked how she'd feel about leaving on Friday (13th - hmm, I hadn't noticed that) so that we can help with the final day's packing. She's fine with that, so I booked our flight and hotel close to Clarice's place. Rooms are priced like everything else in California, so we're sharing. I reserved a room with separate beds, though.

Clarice has gotten a lot accomplished in her time here. She's made an offer on the house I saw - the larger of the two that Dave showed me. She can take care of details from California. They'll be living with me until they're ready to move in anyway, so there's no urgency. Except for Mara's school, and Clarice has her signed up now at the elementary school near the house she's trying to buy. And at the day care I found.

I don't remember her being this efficient. I remember a Clarice with short, straight, dark hair and an easy way with men. Well, the hair's longer, the men became Rob, and she shows a tender side with Mara and efficiency to the rest of the world. Only when I get her on her own, or with friends like the twins, does she revert to her snarky self.

That's where we were yesterday evening, at the twins' place. Talking about the move and our trip. And about how Clarice feels so much more at home already at just the thought of getting out of the "pressure cooker." Maybe that's the reason for the way her personality seems to have taken a back seat. It's obviously still there somewhere.

The weather's warming up enough to leave the windows open at night. I much prefer sleeping in the fresh air from outdoors. I would set up a tent in the backyard and sleep there, if I could make it comfortable enough :)

I should mention that my allergies seem to have passed. I don't normally suffer. I think the odd winter had some unusual pollen or something.

Oh, I've scheduled vacation from 16th - 24th. I figure we'll need a couple of days after the trip to get Clarice and Rob settled in. I need to call Barry and warn him that I'll be unavailable for a while.

And now I must cut back on the time I'm spending maintaining this journal, at least for a few months. With work and a planned vacation I'm getting behind on my MBA studying. I'm planning to take books to read on the trip (which should be more feasible with Laurel sharing the driving), and I have the group's permission to skip two sessions (but I'll make them if I can, if I am able to get an internet connection at the right time).

(I'm not planning to cut back on my time with Barry, though. With his schedule, I already don't see as much of him as I'd like.)

Expect a "reduced schedule" until somewhere around late June :)


Clarice left on Wednesday morning, after taking care of paperwork again all day Tuesday.

A cold front moved in on Wednesday, and it has gotten progressively colder, until we had a freeze warning last night. It's disappointing that I haven't been able to leave the windows open.

Since I wasn't working Friday, I called Barry to see if he'd like to spend the day here. He also had a long weekend, but his son would be staying with him this weekend. We talked for a while about whether it would be okay for me to go see him instead, or whether his ex might try to use my presence against him, or against Josh, his son.

Though they're legally divorced, and he has court-ordered visiting rights, it's not unknown in Texas for a judge to modify an order if one party seems to be acting against his (usually fundamentalist Christian) idea of morality.

Anyway, in the end, he decided that hiding a relationship wouldn't work for long, and that this weekend was the only chance to see me before I leave to travel with Clarice, so I went over to his place around noon yesterday.

Josh is a very intelligent eight-year-old who looks a lot like his dad. His hair is lighter and chin slightly more pointed, but he's clearly his father's son. From behind blue-framed glasses he usually has a very serious expression.

He had brought his GameCube, and I spent most of the afternoon being humiliated by his skill at various sports and racing games. He was pleased to have an opponent. Barry doesn't like to play video games.

After Josh had gone to bed, I helped Barry clear around after him. I suggested that I head out to Blockbuster to find us a video, but after avoiding displays of affection all day we needed to take a few minutes on the couch first - and then it was more than a few minutes, and needed more privacy than the couch.

Which was much more fun than watching a movie anyway.

I left early this morning to change at home and head back this afternoon. I hadn't realized until then just how cold it has become. It felt close to freezing.

I'm going to take my PS2. Maybe I can find one of the old games that Brian and I used to play to I offer Josh a decent challenge.


I was very confused yesterday. I spent a while digging around for video games that I played with Brian, and found none. The only one I've played without him is Final Fantasy X, which isn't a game for kids. Not young kids, anyway. But while he was here, we'd occasionally play a two-player game. He had several. I usually lost, of course, but winning isn't necessary, especially when playing with a good friend.

So those are the games I was remembering, and I couldn't find them. Not being a gamer myself, I didn't really know what I was looking for, but recalling that Laurel plays video games, I called her for help. When I described what I remembered, she said they sounded like Nintendo 64 games, and gave me names. 1080 Snowboarding was one, and as soon as she mentioned it I knew she was right, because I remember the voiceover announcing "1080" at the start. She said she had that game, and others, and I was always welcome to come over to play with her (insert obligatory groan from Helen).

So that answered my confusion. I couldn't find the PS2 games I was looking for, because they weren't PS2 games. They were Nintendo 64 games. But I don't recall Brian taking the N64 away. (I do vaguely remember having it.) I guess he must have done, though it seems odd that he left one console and took another. Perhaps one of his friends wanted an Nintendo 64, and I certainly wouldn't have had a use for it, but it seems strange that I'd forget.

It doesn't matter. I'm only explaining why I didn't have anything to take to Josh, because I was mistaken when I thought I had the games that I recall.

So I did a couple of hours' studying, packed up my PS2 anyway, because I told Josh I'd take it, then headed back.

Josh did find a couple in the pile that he wanted to try, and since they were all single-player games, that gave me more time with Barry. He (Josh, that is) asked me what my favorite game was, and I told him the only one I'd played was FFX.

"But you can't play that," I said, "it takes far too long." Then I said, just for Barry's ears, "And besides, he's too young. You can't appreciate that game until you're old enough to cry."

Of course, I had to explain that comment. Barry thought it was "cute" that I could be so moved by a video game, so I glared at him, and he put his arm around me.

Later, Josh interrogated me while Barry was out of the room - in the kitchen, making coffee, I think.

"Are you my dad's girlfriend?"

"Uh, yeah," I said, "I guess so."

"Are you going to get married."

"No, we're not," I said. "We're just friends."

He frowned at me. "Oh."

"Why, Josh?" I asked.

"'Cause no-one in my family will play with me."

"I guess you'll just have to be sure your dad invites me over when you're here," I said.

"Yeah, okay." He seemed happy enough with that answer.

I reported the conversation to Barry after Josh was in bed.

"Should I be nervous that I'll lose him to you?" he asked, grinning.

"It's something to be careful of," I replied, quite seriously. "You don't see enough of him now. You certainly don't want all his time to be taken up with video games."

"Yeah, but I want him to enjoy himself," he said.

"True. You should just have me visit for a couple of hours or something."

"Maybe, if it's the last couple of hours before his bed time."

"Oh?" I raised my eyebrows. "And why would that be?"

He ran a finger down my face, letting it drift on down to my breast. "Because I want your visits to be about more than video games."

I lifted his hand to my lips and kissed his fingertips before pressing it back to my breast. "I think you'll have to show me what you mean, mister."

He did, leaving no doubt about his meaning :). Not that I had any to start with...

Afterwards, we lay holding hands between the sheets.

"Helen?" said Barry.


"Does it trouble you that Josh is here?" he asked.

"Why would it?"

"That - I had a family. That I still have."

I thought about that for a moment. "Maybe, in a way," I said. "Not in the way you're thinking, though."

"What do you mean?"

"I know you were married," I said. "That's never bothered me. The fact that you have a son, that doesn't bother me. That you're a loving father - it would bother me if you weren't. Josh is a great kid. It's ... why now?"

"I don't understand," he said.

"Well, you have a wife, an ex, who seems somewhat vindictive. You're concerned that she could hurt your relationship with your son if she finds out about me. But you could have told me not to come over this weekend."

"Like I said, I figured she'd find out eventually."

"That's what I mean," I said. "Eventually - eventually could be a long while. When we met, we both made a point of insisting we weren't looking for long-term. If we're not planning to stay together, there's no need for your ex to know anything."

"Oh, umm..."

"And it isn't just you," I said. "I told Josh that I'll be around to play games with him. The thought that I might be setting him up for disappointment when I'm not around, it didn't enter my mind. I guess ... I don't feel that my outlook has changed, but I feel like we might have drifted into expecting this relationship to last."

He lay silent for a while, then asked, "Do you think that's a big problem?"

"I don't know," I said. "This is starting to feel very ... natural, and that scares me."

He was quiet for even longer. I began to think he'd gone to sleep. I snuggled up close to do the same, but as I did he lifted a hand to stroke my face.

"You're looking at the choices very negatively, I think," he said. "Yeah, we could keep Janet from knowing about us for as long as we need. Probably. But then you wouldn't get to meet Josh, and I'd have to cut you out of my life whenever he's here. I don't want to do that. And if we did, it would be for all the time we're together. I can't help thinking that ... I'm in no hurry for it to be over."

"Neither am I," I said, and slid my body against his as I kissed him.

I woke Barry early this morning, so that we'd have time to make love again. We had to be quiet, because I heard Josh wandering around the house, but it was still very good. After last night - it seems that we're both on the same page. Knowing that seems to make the experience more meaningful for me, and when I reached that special moment I felt a sense of peace with the pleasure.

Then I took a quick shower, dressed, and took over the kitchen to make breakfast for the guys. They had to get ready for church. Barry's ex-wife had insisted that he take Josh to Easter Sunday services, so I helped by making coffee, sausages, eggs and biscuits and gravy.

I didn't accompany them. I'll go to church for others' ceremonies, weddings and such, but for myself it would be hypocrisy now. I wasn't a frequent church-goer even before the Easter service I attended with Brian, and since then - especially since 2003 - my dislike of religious zealotry has far outweighed what little interest I may once have had.

So I'm working on my notebook on Barry's table while Josh and he are at church. Unfortunately, this is going to be another cold day, or I'd suggest taking Josh to the nature center.


I spent most of the remainder of yesterday reading course material and writing homework essays. I think I'm well ahead of where I need to be now. I should be free to take a week off at the end of this week. Work is going to take precedence this week as I try to anticipate my vacation week there also.

We didn't take Josh out at all, but I've promised that we'll go to the Natural Science Museum (I guess I should use its correct title) if the weather is better when I see him next.

After Barry took Josh to his mother's, he told me that he'd told Josh that he had no secrets. He's to tell his mom whatever she wants to know, including about me. I guess that's smart; he would anyway, but he might otherwise think he was betraying his dad.

I left for work straight from Barry's this morning. I'm not going to have chance to see him for a couple of weeks now.


Whee, I'm ready to get out of here. I have tried to pack so much into this week - not including maintaining my journal, as you see - that I'm worn out. I'm well ahead with my studies. I have all of my paperwork in order at the office. I've generated reports that were due next week for Ken - which took some cajoling of co-workers, since they weren't scheduled to give me their input yet.

Anyway, it's done. Tonight I'll be in San José, and tomorrow we'll finish packing Clarice and Rob's stuff...


I left work early yesterday to shower and finish packing. The taxi was scheduled for five. It arrived a few minutes early, and we picked Laurel up on the way to the airport. Our flight was at eight, changing in Phoenix, and we had left plenty of time to check our bags and deal with security.

We knew we were in trouble on the drive out there, as the skies darkened and then opened with intermittent torrential rain. When we made it to the airport the storms were intense. (I heard later that a small tornado touched down not too far away.)

Our flight was more than a half hour late departing, and was full. I didn't think we'd make our tight connection in Phoenix, and I was tense for the whole trip. Laurel just closed her eyes and fell asleep, collapsed against my shoulder for much of the time.

We arrived with very little time to spare, and being trapped while the full complement of passengers deplaned was frustrating. We ran to the new gate to discover that the second leg was delayed. I don't think I've been pleased about a flight delay before.

While we were waiting to board, I asked Laurel if she planned to visit Scarborough Faire this year. That being, of course, where we first met.

"If I hadn't been catching up to be ready for this trip, I'd have been there last weekend," she said.

"Oh? I didn't know it had started."

"Uh-huh," said Laurel. "Opening weekend. Bev was there, and it was thirty-five. Snowing. You know how Bev dresses."

"Oh, God, she must have been freezing," I said.

"Yep," Laurel agreed. "She said it was a gloomy opening. The actors didn't want to face the weather, although there were a lot of comments about it being 'Real Olde-English weather'."

"Sounds like you did well to miss it," I said.

She grabbed my hands in both of hers and simpered at me, fluttering her eyelashes. "Oh, Helen!" she cried. "Thank you for protecting me from such a terrible fate!"

"Idiot," I said, laughing as I extricated myself. Several people were staring at us, and I felt my face getting warm. "You are such a ham."

As I say, it's never boring around Laurel. Embarrassing, often, but never boring.

In the end, we were only about 20 minutes late arriving in San José. We were out of the airport a little after midnight, though by the time we were done checking in at the hotel it was almost one. That was three a.m. by my biological clock, and I was ready to crash.

I wheeled my bag into the room - and discovered that they'd given us a room with a king-sized bed, not the two queens that I was promised. So I turned right around and stomped back into the lobby, only to find that the hotel was completely full, and they didn't have any other option for us.

The night clerk was very apologetic. The reservation clearly showed a king room - whoever made it must have misunderstood what I was asking. So I grumpily went back to our room with Laurel.

"I suppose we don't have any choice," I said. "If it was earlier, I could call Clarice and sleep on her floor, but I'm not going to disturb her this late."

"We'll be fine, Helen," Laurel said. "If you really don't think you can control yourself around me, just go take a cold shower."

"Me?" I squawked. "I'm worried about someone else waiting until I'm dozing, and ravishing me while my defenses are down!"

"Ravishing you?" Laurel smirked. "Have you been peeking into my dreams?" Then she frowned at me. "Helen, love, though I know I will regret it for all eternity, I can keep my passion for you in check. Now, which side of the bed are we - I mean, are you - going to sleep on?"

I laughed. "You are just ..." I shook my head. "I'll be on the left. And you won't."

She frowned in mock-disappointment and headed to the bathroom to change.

At some time during the night, I woke to find Laurel's limbs all intertwined with mine. We were both in the center of the bed, and I don't know which of us sought out the other, or if we were both looking for comfort while asleep. She felt so warm and soft in my arms that I suspect it might have been me.

When I disentangled myself, Laurel made a happy-sounding "mmm", then rolled away, and I slept uninterrupted after that.

This morning, I woke to the sound of the shower. The right side of the bed was empty. I wrote up the start of this entry; now I'm finishing it after my own shower. Laurel wants to know what I'm doing. I told her "Personal stuff," and left it at that. In a few minutes Rob will be picking us up to take us over to his and Clarice's apartment. With luck, I'll be able to upload from there.


We arrived at Rob and Clarice's place to find reasonably well-organized confusion. The movers were due to arrive at ten, and Clarice was going over each room looking for things that she did not want them to pack. There wasn't much.

"Before you let the movers take everything," I said, "did you keep one nice outfit for the road?"

Clarice frowned at me. "Yeah," she said. "What's with that? Rob told me to do it."

So I told her about Las Vegas, and her eyes lit up. "Oh, I love it," she said, then gave me a big hug. "Thank you!"

Mara kept getting underfoot. She seemed to be doing it deliberately. Laurel decided to take her aside and talk to her. A few minutes later, Laurel took my hand.

"Helen, can we talk a moment?"

I nodded, and followed her outside.

"Your niece is upset, because she's going to miss her friends. Do you think Clarice would mind if I called their parents tried to get the kids together today?"

"Ask her," I said. "I think it's a good idea. She won't be offended if you ask."

A few minutes later, she was sitting outside the apartment with her cellphone and a list of numbers. The task took until after the movers arrived, then she sought me out. "We're all meeting at Chuck E. Cheese at two, but I'll need to borrow Clarice's car, or have her drive Mara there."

"I'll do it," I said. "I'll take Rob's. I'm not much help while the movers are here."

I drove Laurel and Mara to the pizza place and stayed with them. Laurel paid for everything - pizza, drinks and game tokens for the kids. I felt bad about that, and offered to split or pay for everything, but she insisted that she take care of it.

(I'm paying for hotel rooms for this trip. I would have been doing that anyway, and it costs no more for Laurel to stay with me, so I refused to let her. She had her own air fare to take care of. She claimed that paying for the party was a contribution to the trip, and I'm fine with her choice.)

Mara was very glad to see all of her friends, and seemed to forget that it was a going away party. For my part, I approached all of the parents for email addresses. I'll let them know Clarice's email address later, so the kids can stay in touch through their parents.

Not that they will. I'm sure that they'll forget quickly enough, but knowing that they can should make the process less traumatic.

After the party, we headed back to find the apartment stripped. Clarice had boxed up those few things that we were going to carry with us, and Rob was out renting a carpet cleaner. Laurel took charge of the vacuum (which we'd also be taking with us) and started on the carpets, while I swept and mopped the floors.

Rob and Clarice had reserved a room at a nearby motel - not the one where Laurel and I were staying - and after we were done with the apartment, which was about ten p.m., we all went to an all-night restaurant before going our separate ways. Mara was really tired, but seemed very happy.

Rob let me keep his car. We'd have it for the drive to Texas, while the three of them would take Clarice's. So I drove us back to our place after we'd eaten.

"That was a very nice thing you did for Mara," I said, after we'd turned the lights out.

"Thanks," Laurel said. "I just hope Clarice didn't mind."

"No, Clarice was very pleased," I said. "She wouldn't have had time to put anything like that together. And Mara was over the moon. It was very thoughtful."

I felt Laurel roll over, then touch my arm. "Are you saying I'm not usually a thoughtful person?"

I laughed, then squeezed her hand. "I think you are," I said. "When you're not ravishing me in my sleep, that is."

"I told you to stay out of my dreams!" she grumbled.

"I did," I said. I lifted her fingers to my lips, kissed them, then pushed her away. "Those were mine."

I heard her chuckle as I curled up to sleep.

She took the shower first again this morning. And again, she's curious about what I'm working on. I'm not sure when I'll get chance to upload this entry, since Rob packed his wireless router. Maybe I'll be able to find a free Wi-Fi connection - surely there have to be several in San Jose of all places. Not having an Internet connection, I can't look them up, of course. That's a lack of planning on my part.