After we checked out of our hotel yesterday, we met Rob and Clarice for breakfast, then headed back to the apartment for one final check, and to pack the cars. Clarice found a few odds and ends that we'd missed in cabinets, which she added to one of the boxes. I asked Rob about the Internet, and he said we could stop at a coffee shop on the way out of town - which sounded good for a second reason. I didn't really want to start a two thousand mile journey without a good jolt of coffee.

(I failed to get a wireless connection at the coffee shop, and had to upload from the hotel in the evening by dialup. But the coffee was good!)

Before we left the apartment, Rob gave me one of a pair of FRS radios. Typical for an engineer like Rob to do that, I guess - but it's a great idea. The radios have a range of maybe 1/2 mile car to car, which is plenty for coordinating stops along the highway or navigating around town. We tested them on the drive to the coffee shop, though Laurel insisted on operating ours, and making snide comments along with parodying radio-speak.

At the coffee shop, Clarice suggested a change of plans. She wanted me to switch places with Rob. Tomorrow we would be travelling through Yosemite, and she would like to have her family together in one vehicle, but she wanted me to travel with her and Mara so that we could talk, since we've barely done more than see each other in passing for such a long time.

"That means Rob and Laurel will be travelling together," I said to her. "Alone. Are you sure you know what you're asking?"

Laurel laughed, but Rob looked embarrassed. "We'll just have to keep them in sight," said Clarice.

By the time we left the coffee shop it was early afternoon. We didn't have a long way to travel, though. Rob's schedule called for us only to go as far as Mariposa.

Clarice and I had a good opportunity to talk, interrupted often by Mara, though she slept for a good part of the drive, and occasionally by Laurel with a salacious comment or sound effect on the radio. Clarice really does feel that she has become a different person in her time out here, and she doesn't much like it. She still considers Texas "home".

Rob also grew up in Texas, of course, though he has lived in California most of his working life, so I am sure he'll quickly make the adjustment. He was fine when he and Clarice lived close to me.

Rob had Laurel make us reservations just outside Mariposa, and we arrived there in the early evening and checked in. This time we had two queen beds in the room.

After we'd eaten, we came back to the room for an early night. I have access to our company's dialup Internet account, so I used a few minutes to upload yesterday's journal entry.

"What do you think to Rob?" I asked Laurel, after I turned out the light.

It was still light in the room, so I could see her as she rolled over in the other bed to look at me.

"I have met him before, you know," she said.

"Yeah, but never really to talk to."

"True," she replied. "I like him. He's smart, he has a good sense of humor, and he's almost as delectable as his little sister."

"Oh, God, Laurel," I laughed. "You never miss an opportunity, do you?"

"Hmph," she griped. "Yes I do. I miss every opportunity that you deny me."

I rolled my eyes.

"I think he's missed you," she said. "He talked about when you all were together, when he and Clarice started dating. He doesn't seem to have anything like that out here."

"I got the same impression from Clarice," I said. "I'm looking forward to having them back in my life."

"Helen - he also told me about your mom," Laurel said.

"Now that, I don't think he understands," I said. "He's never seen how she is with me."

"I think you're wrong," Laurel replied, softly. "He knows that's what you think. He's seen how differently she treats each of you. She's a bitter woman. Those are his words. I don't think you know how much it upsets him to see her treat you that way."

"Really?" I asked.

"I could see it in the set of his face, Helen," she answered. "You know I'm pretty good at reading people. He feels very guilty that she favors him, and he wishes he could make her understand what she's doing to you, but she's a lost cause."

"I guess ... I didn't know," I said.

"Uh-huh," Laurel said, quietly.

I lay quietly for a while. When I looked over at Laurel, her soft eyes were still watching me.

"You know ..." I had to clear my throat. "You know, after the last couple of days - this feels wrong."

"What does, hon?" Laurel asked.

"Having to talk to you past this ugly built-in nightstand," I said. "It doesn't feel right that you're halfway across the room."

"Well, you know you can do something about that," she suggested, lifting the sheet.

"Yeah," I said, then, after a moment's hesitation, I climbed out of my bed, and into hers. She didn't roll away or move to the right side of the bed, though. Instead, she wrapped her right arm around my stomach, and rested her head on my shoulder.

"I've missed them, too," I said. "All three of them. You know, when Rob was moved back to California, it was just after Brian had taken the job in England. And for the same reason. When Brian went to work for Rob's company, it seemed like such a good idea. Then when everything fell through - they both went away."

Laurel stroked my waist.

"I think I've always felt that it was my fault," I said. "My encouragement put Brian in a position where he was going to lose his job, and he moved. I introduced Rob to Clarice, and when he had to move away I lost my best friend."

"You could blame everything on Rob for the same reason," Laurel said, "and it would be just as unhelpful. None of us can predict the future. You can only make choices based on what you know now."

I nodded.

Laurel wriggled a little closer, kissed my cheek, then lay still. A few minutes later she said, "Helen - I don't think I realized until now just how much you lost. But, you know, blaming yourself - I think better of you than that. You know it wasn't your fault, but you've been hard on yourself for all these years, haven't you?"

"Yeah, I think so," I said. "I've been reconciled to it recently. I don't think I blame myself anymore, but I have to say I'm glad I'm getting my family back."

"I'm sorry for our part in your troubles," Laurel murmured.

"You know I've gotten over that," I said. "I'll feel bad if you keep bringing it up - but you're right. It was like, bam, all of the people I loved were gone. Brian to England. Rob, Clarice and Mara to California. You and Yolanda. I was very lonely for a time there."

She started to say something, but I interrupted.

"Shh!" I hissed. "I know what you're going to say, and you don't need to apologize any more. I've got you back. And Yolanda. Clarice is coming home. My brother and my niece. I'm really happy about it all."

"Brian?" she asked.

I shook my head. "Even if he wanted to come back, I don't think it would work. Your relationship with family doesn't change with time and distance. With Brian it would be ... different. Starting over. And I have Barry, now."

"Do you love him?" Laurel asked.

"Barry?" I shook my head. "I might come to. I like being with him. I like being with him a lot, but I'm not in love with him." I grinned. "Great sex, though."

Laurel chuckled, her breath tickling my ear.

I twisted slightly to face her, then lifted my left hand to stroke her face. "I do love you, though. It isn't just a word. You know that, right?"

She smiled at me as her right hand slipped down below my long tee, then back up my thigh to caress my waist. "I do, Helen. Yolanda does, too. I love you, too."

I kissed her forehead. "I like being with you, too," I said. "A lot."

"And ... great sex?"

"Oh, God, Laurel." I lifted her chin, then brushed my lips against hers. "Always," I breathed, before fitting my mouth to hers.

Immediately her right hand slid up my side to my breast, and as she started kneading, she pried my legs apart with her thigh, pressing it against my pussy.

She was so demanding it seemed that she was grasping the opportunity I'd presented with both hands, as if I might withdraw the offer at any moment.

Although I was no different. When she tried to pull my pajama tee over my shoulders, I didn't move for a moment, since it would interrupt me unfastening her top. But I lifted my arms to oblige, then got back to her buttons as she rolled onto me, kneading my breasts.

When I'd finished the last button, I lowered my lips to take my reward. Laurel's breasts are small but lovely, and very sensitive. She ran her fingers through my hair as I sucked, tonguing her nipples erect.

After I'd tugged her shirt over her arms, I wrapped my arms around her, and rolled her onto her back. Then I took her hands in mine, pushing them out and up, pinning them to the bed. Laurel made contented sounds as I suckled, her belly twisting and arching against me.

Then I released her hands, grabbed her pajama bottoms, and stripped her of pajamas and panties in one movement. As I slid back onto her, she relieved me of my panties, then pressed her thigh between my legs as I moved against her.

I brushed my lips against hers, but made her chase me while I slipped my fingers inside her. I rocked my hips, letting my fingers carry the movement into her, and she made soft grunts of pleasure as her hands found my breasts.

Then she pushed my fingers out of her, and gripped my hips. She squeezed me to her, moving me in time to the rhythmic pressure of her pussy against mine, her sex stroking my clit.

God, that soft touch felt so great. I broke away from her lips, resting my head against her left shoulder, so I could focus on keeping that contact.

Laurel's small sounds of pleasure became more animated as we moved. After rushing each other to this point, our mutual desire now seemed to make the moment last, our movements almost mechanical for several minutes, though I could tell by Laurel's breathing that she was beginning to have trouble holding back.

Then she released my hips, reaching the fingers of her right hand around, into my sex from behind, where they pressed me against her. I could feel the nub of her clit stroke mine.

At the same time, her left hand moved up, her fingers tangling in my hair.

I guess I hadn't realized just how aroused I'd become, because the pressure on my clit pushed me into overdrive. I gasped for breath as I felt myself nearing orgasm. Laurel's fingers tightened in my hair, pulling me closer to her. I bit her ear, then cried out as I came, and felt Laurel shuddering as she groaned in pleasure.

She turned her face to mine, and I kissed her lips. Laurel's face glows when she comes. It's a beautiful sight, and a beautiful feeling to know that I'm the one who made her glow.

Later - much later, it seemed - when our movements had slowed, I could still feel the deliciously sensitive thrill in my sex. I whispered, "Now that that's out of the way, do you promise to leave me alone for the rest of our vacation?"

"Hell, no," Laurel breathed.

"I hoped you'd say that," I replied, and kissed her.

This morning I woke before Laurel.

"Morning," I heard, her usually melodious voice scratchy. She peered up at me through one half-closed eye.

"Morning, Laurel. Having trouble facing the new day?"

"Hmph. Like you had nothing to do with it." She rolled onto her back, and her smile grew broad. "Worth every ounce of tiredness though." She reached out and gripped my hand. "Don't you think?"

"Mmm," I said. "Yeah, but now I'm feeling guilty."

"About Barry?" She opened her eyes, and her voice was sounding almost normal.

"No, about Yolanda."

"You are? I'm the gravity cat, remember."

"Yeah, but... is she really okay with it?" I asked.

Laurel rolled her eyes, then pushed back the sheet and stalked across the room, naked, to get her purse. A moment later, she was talking to her cellphone.

"She's feeling guilty," she said. "Talk to her." She handed me the phone without waiting for an answer.

"So she should," came Yolanda's voice. "She hasn't called. I'm sure she hasn't sent me a postcard."

"Err, hi Yolanda," I said.

"Why are you feeling guilty?"

"Well, Laurel and I, umm, we made love last night."

"Well, of course you did. She gets mean when she doesn't get any."


"If Laurel goes too long without getting laid, she gets cranky," Yolanda said. "I'd hate to be stuck with her on a long drive if she's in one of her moods. Do what you must to stay sane."

"So you're not jealous?" I asked.

"Hell, yes, I am," Yolanda said. "You should be with me, not her!"

"Erm, okay," I said. Those two ... "I promise I'll send a postcard from the Grand Canyon, okay?"

After I'd hung up, I handed the phone back to Laurel. "She says you get cranky if you go too long without sex."

She climbed back into bed and ran her fingers over my stomach. "We wouldn't want that to happen, would we?"


I thought our morning lovemaking would make us late, but even after we'd both showered and packed, Clarice and Rob weren't ready. Having to work around a youngster slowed them down, Clarice explained.

After we'd found breakfeast, we drove into Yosemite. It's still too early in the year for the pass to be open, so we stayed in the valley, but all the same - it is just amazing. Laurel and I drove in almost silence. Occasionally she'd reach over and squeeze my hand, or point to something, but - I guess you run out of superlatives quickly in that place, and nothing less is worth saying.

Rob called us on the radio several times so we could pull off for sightseeing. The air was cool, but it was a clear, sunny day. A quick check of my camera and video DVD recorder shows some wonderful images. Clarice has a great photo of Laurel and me standing together with the mountains behind, both in sunglasses, with our arms around each other for the photograph. (Whether Clarice could tell that it wasn't only for the photograph, I don't know.)

Laurel commented while we were driving that she'd like to bring Yolanda here for a summer camping trip. I'd be lying if I said I had no twinge of jealousy there, but I think it would be good for the two of them.

We spent so long in the valley that we were way behind on our schedule to reach Bakersfield. Clarice called a hotel there to make a confirmed reservation, so we wouldn't have to worry about finding a place late. We ate on the outskirts of town (which is when we looked at the video and still images), and it was almost eleven when we arrived at the hotel.

Of course, as tired as we were, Laurel and I still found the energy to, well, tire each other out even more. After that, though, I fell asleep before we'd even separated, and Laurel woke me in the middle of the night trying to get comfortable. I didn't stay awake long, though.

This morning Rob woke me by calling my cell. I had to drag myself out of Laurel's embrace to pick it up. We'd planned to make an early start, and we did, being showered and away by a little after six. Drive-through breakfast, and we should get to Las Vegas in the early afternoon.

Laurel's driving now, while I'm catching up on my journal. She still gives me occasional curious looks. With those dark glasses she wears for driving, it's hard to see what she's looking at. I'm pretty sure she can't read my screen from there.

I'm tempted to tell her about my journal. I'm sure that she and Yolanda would get a kick out of my site - especially after Laurel talked about contemplating writing erotica. I would be good to have someone I can talk to about it. I worry, though, because of the effect it had on my relationship with Brian.

I also worry that she'd be uncomfortable with the level of detail of Monday's entry - or of our first time. I've almost persuaded myself that it wouldn't screw up our relationship, since, unlike Brian and me, we're not in a committed relationship, but the detail factor - I can't quite persuade myself about that. Especially since both Laurel and Yolanda would know, and be able to see what I have to say about each (and what I've done with each).


I took a nap after finishing yesterday's update. After I'd woken up we traded off and I drove the rest of the way to Las Vegas. Laurel didn't take the opportunity to sleep.

Ok, here's another argument against telling Laurel about my site. I'm finding myself reluctant to detail our conversation during the rest of the drive to Vegas, because it was personal, and she might be upset that I'd posted it, even though she's perfectly anonymous.

But I have to write, or I should drop the effort. So here's what we talked about.

"I have a question for you," I said. "I guess it's been on my mind since I figured out what you and Yolanda are to each other. You know, at first, I thought you were just roomies."

She was looking at me, but I couldn't tell what her expression held behind her sunglasses.

"Anyway, this is personal, so if you want to tell me to stay out of it, please do. I mean it."

"Okay," she said. I couldn't tell whether her voice carried uncertainty or amusement.

"See, I guess that technically, I'm bi, but I can't think of myself that way. The only women in my life are you and Yolanda. I mean, I had some thoughts about Clarice at one time, but who wouldn't? I guess I'm saying that I still think of myself as straight."

"I thought you said you were asking me something?" Laurel said.

"Yeah, it's - what are you? Straight, bi, what?"

She pursed her lips. "You know, I don't find that names are always useful. Attraction isn't between one person and half the human race. It's between individuals, and who cares what sex they are, if they want to be together? We need gay rights in this country, not because gays are different, but because they're not, so why do we need a label that says they are?"

"Isn't it important to know who someone might be attracted to?"

"Your label is straight. That means you can't be attracted to me, right?" Laurel grinned.

"Well, if you put it like that..."

"That's what I mean," she said. "The label might tell you something, but it doesn't tell you enough - and at the same time, it tells you too much. At least too much for those with closed minds. For me - well, when I first hooked up with Yolanda, I'd never been with a guy. Even now, the only ones I'm attracted to are those who are very close friends, or who are special to Yolanda."

"Including Brian and Charles?" I suggested.

"Yeah," she said, "for both reasons. Yolanda, though - we met in college. We'd been best friends for a long time before our relationship progressed beyond that. She had further to go than I did. By your labels, she's straight."

"I see," I said. "You seem so alike..."

"Well, she sees women through my eyes, and I see men through hers. I guess that would make our tastes similar."

I reached over and squeezed her hand. "That sounds like a good arrangement."

She returned the pressure, then snickered. "It's gravity," she said, then wrapped her fingers through mine, so I had to drive with one hand for a time.

We arrived in Vegas around two, and found our hotel. Not one on the Strip, of course. Those are expensive. Even the one we were in wasn't cheap.

"Listen," I said to Laurel as we checked in, "I don't want you to feel that you have to stay with me today. I'm looking after Mara. You should go enjoy yourself. Play the slots or something."

"I might," she said. "Later. Let me have some time with you and Mara first."

After we'd changed - we'd both brought skirts and jackets for the day, though we wouldn't be outclassing Clarice - we brought Mara's things to our room, since she'd be staying with us. Rob and Clarice would have the rest of the afternoon until the morning to enjoy themselves and take in the show.

Laurel and I took Mara to GameWorks, a huge arcade / gaming center. Mara loved it, and I put a fair bit of cash on a game card for her. Laurel may have spent even more on herself - she was in her element among the VR rides and extended console games.

She tells me that there's a GameWorks within driving distance from us in Texas. I don't know how they compare, but I can see I'll have to take Mara there sometime.

When I finally managed to pry the kids - well, the girls - away from the games, we did some sightseeing on the strip, then visited the indoor malls at Caesar's Palace.

Mara wanted to know how it could be daylight inside when it was getting so late outside. It's a good question. The illusion of beautiful blue sky overhead is so close to perfect it's a little disturbing.

Although Mara didn't much care for the shops, she loved the huge aquariums and the fountains, and she was so fascinated with the surroundings that she didn't object to Laurel and me window-shopping.

She frowned at the replica of Michaelangelo's David... Laurel thought that was funny.

When we stopped at a cafe in the shopping center to eat, Laurel decided to take her leave. She gave me a quick kiss and told me not to wait up for her.

After we'd eaten, I took a taxi back to the hotel with Mara, played War (the card game) with her for a while, then went to bed right after her.

I'd fallen asleep when Laurel returned to the room. She woke me up, but I didn't say anything to her until she'd gotten into bed.

"What were you doing? Did you have a good time?"

"Sure," she said. "I played Blackjack some. I lost, but you know what they say, unlucky at cards..."

"Yeah," I whispered, "but you're not getting lucky tonight. We have a six-year-old in the next bed."

"I bought you something," she said, giving me a small package. Inside was a bottle of perfume, and I recognized the fragrance instantly. "I remember you used to use this. It reminds me of you."

Caesar's Woman, it's called, and I remember that Rob had given me some, many years ago. It was long gone, and I hadn't even thought about getting more while we were at the Caesar's Palace hotel.

"Thank you, Laurel," I said, "that's very sweet. Did you get any for yourself?"

"Oh, I'm not leaving empty-handed," she said.

I used a little before putting the bottle down on the nightstand. I've missed the fragrance. Laurel snuggled close to smell my neck, then I felt fingers sliding up my thigh.

"Don't, love," I whispered.

"Don't worry, I'll be quiet," she replied, her fingers slipping inside my panties.

She was, very quiet and very gentle, but very sensual. The effort of avoiding making the bedsprings rattle was also erotic, feeding my arousal and giving a pleasurable intensity to my climax.

Then, of course, I wanted to reciprocate, so I made Laurel turn away from me, snuggled against her back, and nibbled her ear as I unfastened her top, so that I could play with her breasts before sliding my hand down lower.

I was intending to frustrate her by turning her on and backing away, but she seemed to be enjoying the experience so much that I just kept touching her gently until she was ready, then tweaked her clit between my finger and thumb.

Laurel panted softly as she came, then turned her face back for me to kiss her lips.

Mara woke us this morning, babbling away to "Auntie Helen" and "Auntie Laurel." She wanted to know where her mom was, but we made her get washed and dressed and wait for us both to shower and be ready before we disturbed Clarice.

At breakfast, Clarice told us about the show. She thought it was incredible, and a wonderful birthday present.

Then Mara piped up, telling Clarice about all of the games she'd played at GameWorks.

"Actually," I said, "she was too young for most of the video games. She mostly played the kind of things you can find at Chuck-E-Cheese. The other child in the party had a blast. AGH!" I felt my face get warm as half the restaurant turned to look at me.

"Oh, I'm sorry hon," said Laurel, smiling sweetly, "I think my hand slipped."

Knowing exactly where I'm ticklish is something she has only learned in the past few nights, and I wasn't expecting her to use it against me in public.

"You're revealing classified information," I muttered to her. "Be prepared for a tongue-lashing at your next debriefing."

"Woohoo," she whispered. "I can't wait."


Yesterday was another Big Day in our trip. As soon as we'd finished breakfast, we headed to Williams, Arizona, where we turned north to the Grand Canyon. Rob was the only one of us to ever see it up close, so for the rest of us it was a new experience.

It was cool but sunny again when we arrived at the visitors' center. The driving was beginning to take a toll on me, and I was happy to get out and stretch my legs.

It's hard to wrap your mind around the size and scope of the Grand Canyon. As you're standing there, you still can't take it in. It just doesn't seem real. The longer you look at it, though, the more it begins to be less of a painted backdrop and more of a vast reality, huge distances and amazing heights and depths. When that happens it becomes a humbling experience.

I needed to move away from the edge. Both the vastness of the depths and distances and the strong gusts of wind made me feel nervous at the rail, and I stepped back a few paces. Laurel's warm hand brushed mine, then folded itself between my fingers. "I know how you feel," she whispered, and we stood together keeping other people between us and the canyon to give us a sense of perspective.

Clarice wouldn't come close to the rail, hanging nervously on to Mara. I could understand why. She gave me a curious look, and I felt self-conscious about holding Laurel's hand. Releasing it, I walked over to Clarice and asked if she wanted me to stay with Mara while she went up to the rail.

"No, I can only feel that she's safe if she's with me," she said. "Not that I don't trust you, but this place makes me need to be overprotective."

"Yeah, I understand," I said.

We drove along the road, eastbound along the rim, after that, stopping frequently to see different views. There were some overlooks that I couldn't approach, even though I don't consider myself afraid of heights. Laurel and Rob seemed completely unconcerned, in spite of the unsettling gusts, so they'd wander up to the edge while I would hang back with Clarice and Mara.

From Desert View on the eastern end of the road, where it turns back south, you can see the twisting of the river and the wide, complex pattern it has cut. That's an awesome sight, too. This time I took Laurel's hand as we headed to the observation tower. I bought some postcards, and wrote one to Yolanda as promised right there.

Then we climbed the tower, which has a scarily high, clear view of the canyon. There weren't many people there, just one group, and when they went back down, Laurel turned me to her and kissed me.

"Thank you for bringing me here," she said. Then she squeezed my hands, released me, and went back down ahead of me.

I looked around some more, then caught up with Laurel writing her own card to Yolanda.

"Wish you were here?" I asked her.


"Is that what you're writing?"

She grinned. "No. Another time for that."

Our stay was at a motel just outside Flagstaff, Arizona. It was late evening, and I begged off joining Rob and Clarice for dinner. We'd had cookies and soft drinks throughout the day, and I didn't feel hungry enough to want to sit through a full meal. Laurel came up to the room with me.

"How tired are you?" she asked.

"Weary," I said, "but I'm sure I'm not too tired for whatever you're planning."

Her smile was wicked. "Our conversation yesterday - it made me realize there's probably something you haven't yet tried. And we were in Vegas..."

She brushed her lips against mine, and I knew that as tired as I was, and whatever she had in mind, I wanted her. Not in the "friends with benefits" way that I'd mostly been feeling through the week, but in a "my very existence depends on having sex with you right now" kind of way.

Judging by the way she attacked my tongue and upper lip, Laurel's feelings were about the same as mine, though we undressed each other slowly, letting the passion between us build.

When the last of our clothing had landed on the floor, she pushed me back onto the bed, and lay along me. I felt her pussy pressing against mine as her hands explored my body.

Taking my hands in hers, she folded her fingers between mine, her lovely breasts pressing against mine as she devoured me with her kiss. Then she pushed my arms up, releasing me to move the pillows aside, then taking my wrists and moving my hands to the headboard.

"Hold that," she said. "Don't let go. You're not allowed to interfere."

Then she rolled off me, touched my lips with hers as her fingers explored my pussy, but only briefly. As soon as she found how wet I'd become she nodded. Then she slid off the bed, went into the bathroom - and returned a little while later with tissues, lube, and a long, pink double-headed dildo. I've seen pictures of them, but never seen one close up.

"These can be awkward," she said, climbing back onto the bed. "Just follow my lead."

With that, she kissed my nipple and slipped a finger inside me, stroking, making me even wetter. Then I felt the head of the dildo against me, as she carefully worked it into me. She worked it in and out, allowing me to take in more of its length.

When she was satisfied with the results, she positioned herself on top of me, and with her fingers started to manipulate the dildo into herself. It took a while, and it's quite an unerotic sight, but when she was close to done, and lay on top of me, filling me inside as her body touched mine - well, that was worth the effort.

She very gently rocked her hips until the device was completely inside each of us, then lifted herself up and looked at me.

Laurel's eyes smoldered, and her small breasts hung down, grazing mine. I wanted to touch them, but she had told me not to interfere. As if to confirm the point, she gripped my arms as she started to move.

She rocked her hips, and the feeling was like having an erect shaft inside me - but not completely like that, as I could also feel her sex pressed against mine. Then, after moving like that for a while, she stopped, and slid against me instead, horizontally, towards and back, her body stroking my sex.

Lifting herself up higher, her hands beside my chest, she thrust against me again. I responded, pressing against her, and she smiled at me as she moved.

Gradually her movements became a little faster, and it was clear that she was as turned on as she was making me. Stopping to repeat the sliding motion intensified my response, as I felt her clit against mine.

Then she gripped my waist and started moving against me with quick, strong thrusts. My self control was breaking down. I still held the headboard, but used the support to arch my back against her. Laurel was gasping too as she pumped away, then...

"Ahh.." I cried, feeling my climax about to break upon me. "Oh, God, Laurel..."

She kept thrusting, groaning as she shook against me. My thighs stiffened and my back arched further. "AAAH," I called out, as the tide overwhelmed me. "Oh... Oh..."

Then Laurel collapsed on me, desperately seeking my mouth. I locked my lips to hers as she squeezed her sex to mine, grunting, "Mmph! Mmph!" as we kissed. She reached up to my arms, pulling them away from the headboard, and I wrapped them around her as we revelled in our mutual pleasure.

"Aah..." Laurel gasped, breaking away from my lips for a moment. "Oh, Helen..."

I ran my fingers through her hair. "Laurel," I whispered, then kissed her again.

When she finally slid off me, she took a handful of tissues and set the dildo aside, then she nuzzled against me, kissing my cheek. "So, Helen, my love, what do you think?"

"I think... I'm going to have a hard time letting you go back to Yolanda this weekend."

Laurel laughed. "I know it," she said. "But ... you know we'll have other times. Keep the toy for yourself for when we get together."

"Thank you," I said. "I will. But - you know - I don't think I'd want to use it every time. This was ... amazing ... but I like to feel - just you, too."

She nodded. "Yeah, I know what you mean."

"I love you, Laurel," I said. "I will be able to let you go, just in case you're wondering. But I'm glad I still have a few more days with you."

"Me too," she whispered, then snuggled against me for sleep.


On Thursday we took a meandering drive though Arizona to Colorado.

First was a big loop through the Painted Desert, ending in the Petrified Forest National Park.

You'd think that after Yosemite and the Grand Canyon I'd be losing my ability to be awed, but no. Seeing mile upon mile of flat-top mountains striped with God's own Photoshop is fantastic. Reds, purples, golds even whites and blues.

Fractured canyons of different heights have different colors, and the ground under the close in scrub brush is red or gold. This time, our snapshots didn't come close to capturing the sights, though of course we stopped to take plenty.

Our photos of the Petrified Forest were better, because there is so much to see up close. We drove through the park, stopping to walk around one of the shorter trails before reaching the museum.

Mara loved the dinosaur pictures (does any kid not like dinosaurs? I don't recall being as fascinated by them myself, but perhaps I'm just forgetting). Rob was explaining prehistory to her, and her eyes were big.

While she had a few minutes free from her daughter, Clarice steered me away from the group.

Point blank, she asked "What's going on between you and Laurel?"

"Well, ummm..." But this was Clarice. We've never had any real secrets about guys and dating, and even though Laurel doesn't fit either of those... I sighed. "Just exactly what I'm sure it must look like," I said.

"I thought she was with Yolanda," Clarice said, frowning. "Hell, only a couple of weeks ago... and you...?"

"She is, and I am," I said. "They're different. They're fine with it. And Laurel and I - it's been an occasional thing for a few years now."

The woman in question was at a display case a good way away, and I saw her glance in my direction a couple of times. Obviously she figured that Clarice and I were having a private conversation.

"I wondered if something was up when we were with them a few weeks ago. It's so hard to tell what's real and what's innuendo with them."

"Both, usually," I said. "I know it's probably a shock, Clarice. This week has been a bit of a shock to me, too. I hope you don't think we're a bad influence on Mara. I think we're mostly keeping things low-key in public..."

"Who do you think you're talking to?" Clarice said. "This is me. If I bring Mara up to be a prude I'll have failed as a parent."

I grinned at her and gave her a quick hug. "Thanks, Clarice."

As I released her she grabbed my arm, and whispered, "Next week, when Rob's not around, I want details, girl."

"Just like old times?"

"Yep," she agreed. "Just like old times."

After that, our party split for the first time. Clarice thought that more walking would be too much for Mara, and Laurel and I were interested in seeing one of the longer trails with big petrified logs. So Rob and Clarice left with instructions to check us all in and scout out eating places for this evening in Cortez, Colorado. Then Laurel and I took the trail.

(And yes, without the others, we felt more free to hold hands, or to put our arms around each other when we stopped to see the sights. We got some odd looks, of course, but that's less of a problem when they're strangers.)

Seeing something that looks like a tree, down to the detail of the wood - that was a tree, many millions of years ago, but now sparkles like quartz - again, it's incredible to imagine. I've definitely used more than my quotient of wonder on this trip.

We lost an hour (or is it gained? No, it must be lost) between Flagstaff and Cortez. It was an hour later when we arrived than it would have been in Arizona.

As soon as we got close to the hotel, we used the radio - well, Laurel used the radio, complete with idiotic remarks about rubber ducks and breakers, and Rob came out to meet us, with our key.

After unpacking quickly we followed Rob to a Mexican restaurant. Mexican food is a lot different out here than it is in Texas. Seems less spicy but more varied - but that probably is only a newcomer's perspective. Likely the variety is about the same as it is back home. After that, back to the hotel for the night.

"I want a bath," I announced, when we were back in our room. "Maybe soaking my behind will make it possible to survive another day. Right now I feel like I would rather walk the next five hundred miles than drive."

Laurel nodded. "Soak. When you're out, I think I can help you feel better."

"Erm, Laurel, do you mind if we don't, tonight? To tell you the truth, I'm feeling a little sore there, too..."

"Not that, idiot," she said. "The magic hands, remember? I have a little oil with me."

"Oh," I said. "Oh, right! Yes, one of your massages would be just wonderful."

I soaked until the water became uncomfortably cool, then returned to the bedroom to find Laurel watching Showtime. She killed the TV - which was a shame, because it was Penn and Teller, but I needed to relax for her to work on me.

When she was through my aches were history. I slipped into my tee, kissed her, then fell asleep before she'd finished running her own bath.

Though I'd had every intention of keeping my hands off her, somehow that didn't work out as planned. I woke slightly when she came to bed, wrapped my arms around her and drifted back to sleep. Then, sometime later, I woke to find myself fondling her breasts, which seemed so pleasant that I held her close and did it some more... and soon she was waking up, and enjoying my attentions.

"I thought you were too sore," she said, after she'd rolled over to face me.

"I am," I said, "but now you've gotten me all turned on..."

"Me?" she objected.

"And I want to show you how good you make me feel," I continued. "Uhh... remember I promised you a 'tongue-lashing'"?

"Uh-huh," she said.

"Take your clothes off," I instructed.

She gripped the head of the bed, the same way she'd had me do the previous night, giving me complete freedom to explore her body, which I did, finally hearing her groan with pleasure as I stroked my tongue along her clit.

After I'd drawn out her climax as long as I could, I snuggled back against her to sleep.

"You don't want me to...?"

"No, love," I said. "I need to sleep now. Tomorrow night, okay?"

"Okay," she agreed.


I don't know if I'd have survived Friday without Laurel's massage on Thursday night. I thought that Mesa Verde was right beside Cortez, and it is... kinda... but that's a long, bumpy slog of a road from the park entrance to cliff dwellings that we were there to see.

That was somewhere that Rob hadn't been, but he had heard that it was interesting, and he wasn't misled. You can see the ancient dwellings from the road. It takes a moment to understand what you're looking at. They look like unusual rock formations, at first. Then it hits you that you're looking at something human-made.

Up close they're less dramatic, but more impressive as you're walking among buildings set into a cliff, 700 years and more ago.

We took the guided tour, which was rough on Mara, the walking, standing around and most of all listening, and Clarice had to speak sharply to her a couple of times. After that we drove the loop, which has some great overlooks of the buildings.

And that, really, was our last sightseeing stop. Which was a little disappointing, after all we've seen, to know that it's just solid driving from here on. We left in mid-afternoon, found what turned out to be a very nice restaurant close to Grants, New Mexico, and then finished the trek to our motel, east of Albuquerque in late evening.

My phone beeped while we were eating. Barry had left a message.

I called him after we left the restaurant. Laurel was driving the last leg, to Albuquerque.

"Hi Helen. How are you?"

"Tired," I said, "this has been a long week. How are you?"

"Fine. When are you getting back?"

"Tomorrow, I think. Late."

"I wondered if you wanted to do anything this weekend," he said.

"I don't think so," I replied. "I think I'm going to need it to recover. I'll call you when I'm in town. Maybe next week?"

"Sure. I'm looking forward to it."

"Me too," I said. "Oh, and Laurel says hi."

"I guess this is our last night," I said to Laurel.

"You make it sound so tragic," she said. "You know we can be together whenever we want."

"Yeah, but there's Barry, and Yolanda, and travelling for work, and being worn out from study... this week has been special for me."

"And for me," she said. "I'm just saying that you shouldn't have any regrets. It isn't like we're breaking up."

"True." I smiled. "Maybe we should do this every year."

"Love, Yolanda would kill me for that - unless we invite her."

I laughed. "No, I think you need to be vacationing together. This was a one-time affair."

"Oh, affair, is it?" she chuckled. "How can it be an affair when everyone knows, including my partner? Ahh... I guess yours doesn't, does he?"

"Not that kind of affair," I said. "You're right. I don't have regrets, like, the world is ending. More like - really, it's more like the end of a vacation. Back to humdrum existence for a while, but you know you can do it again. Being with you has been like an extra vacation. I'm sad it's ending, but I don't feel that it's over."

"Hey, Helen," she said, quietly, "sometimes you can sound very selfish. I'm going to miss you, too, you know?"

I put my arms around her. "Yeah, I know, love. I guess that makes it our duty to make tonight worthwhile, right?"

"Oh, you really think so?" She grinned and drew me close.

We started slowly, undressing each other. I used to think that the reason Laurel excited me so much was the "forbidden fruit" aspect of our relationship. Maybe it was. Maybe, to an extent, it still is - but being with her no longer seems unusual, yet she still excites me.

She's very empathic. Much more so than Yolanda, and certainly more than any guy I've been with. Which doesn't mean she's always accommodating to what I want, because she knows when to take the lead. It's probably obvious that I'm still much less experienced than her in many ways, but her empathy goes beyond simple understanding of what I know and think I want.

That still isn't the whole story...

Making love is an experience that involves the emotions - which seems obvious, but it's what I try to write in my stories, and what I find missing in so much porn. However you look at it, sex is rarely an activity that leaves you unaffected. Even if you don't much like someone, having sex with them is going to mess with your emotions, and that can cause problems. If you do like someone, then both of those outcomes are even more true.

Conversely, if you're willing to give your emotions over to the act, if you accept and welcome the emotional closeness with your partner, sex can take on a new depth that's both more intimate and more glorious than any amount of variety or technical excellence.

The love I have for Laurel is in some ways very different from what I've felt before. I - mostly - don't resent the fact that she does have a partner, who isn't me. I have no need - and really, no desire - to spend the rest of my life with her.

But when we are together - then, because of what she is, because of her caring and understanding, her empathy and her experience, I'm willing to lose myself in her. I trust her so implicitly that I'm willing to give myself to her completely; to allow my emotions to be entirely focused on Laurel.

Maybe it's because we're not looking for commitment that it's possible to do that. Maybe it's that we know where we stand with each other, so that the risks are low, and are easier to take. Whatever the reason, knowing that we will take each other without reservation is intensely erotic.

Sitting here, now, as she's driving and the Texas landscape is speeding by - just thinking about this as I'm writing makes me want to have her pull off the freeway and make love to me right now.

Alone with each other, with the night to ourselves - yeah, that's beyond being exciting.

So... <cough> where was I? Oh, yeah, we were undressing each other, and I was already turned on. When she lifted my tee I stretched out my arms for her to remove it, then lay back on the bed.

Laurel lay beside me, stroking my waist as I unfastened her cotton blouse, then her jeans, nuzzling her neck as I drew them off. Then my jeans joined the pile of discarded clothing, and my tongue brushed hers as her hands explored my body.

"Laurel," I whispered.

"What, love?" She ran her fingernails over my stomach.

"Nothing," I said, "just... Laurel." My heart fluttered in my chest. "God, I want you."

She smiled at me, then brought her lips to mine. I sighed as we kissed, feeling her fingers caressing my ribcage. Then sliding up my arms, catching my bra strap and drawing it down...

She peeled my bra away and cupped my breast. I hooked my hand behind her neck and drove my mouth against hers as she caressed my boob.

Without releasing Laurel's lips, I lifted myself slightly off the pillow, and shrugged out of my bra. Then I rolled onto her, wrapping my arm around her head to hold her close, and fitting my left leg against her sex, while feeling her thigh pressing mine.

She kept squeezing my breast as I wriggled against her, sliding myself against her pussy. I felt myself getting wetter as we moved.

I sucked her upper lip, and she sighed in pleasure. She moved away slightly, rolled me over onto my back, then sank down on top of me.

Though Laurel is slender, her body is deliciously soft. Running my palms over her waist felt great. I explored her back with my palms, then unfastened her bra behind her. She lifted up from me to allow me to slip it off, then lowered herself again, her breasts nestling against mine.

We moved so slowly - as turned on as I was, she could have had me at her mercy in seconds. I wouldn't have been able to help myself. But she just kept squeezing her leg against my sex.

Sliding my hands down her body, I started working her panties down. She lifted up slightly to help, then pressed herself against me again. I moved my lips to her ear.

"Laurel," I whispered, "I love the feel of your body."

"I love the feel of my body," she said, "when you make it feel like this."

I kissed her earlobe. "I love you, Laurel," I said.

"You're only saying that to get me into bed," she said. Her breath tickled my ear.

"Seems to be working," I said.

"Not at all," she said, sliding her body against mine. "It's pure coincidence that I wanted to get you into bed, too."

"Oh, yeah?" I squeezed her ass, pressing her to me, and was rewarded with the feel of her thighs tensing. "If you want my body so much, how come I'm still wearing my underwear?"

"Because I don't want to let go," she murmured. Then she grunted and rolled away. "But if you insist..." She drew my panties down and ran her fingers over my sex.

Threading my legs between hers, I kissed her cheek and stroked her breasts.

We lay intertwined like that for a while, then I disengaged. I arranged all of our pillows in a pile, and told her to sit up. She did, and I lowered myself into her lap, my legs enclosing her. Then I moved closer.

Laurel is so much taller than me that sitting like that sets me at just about the right height to kiss, so we did, as I rocked gently in her lap.

Threading my right hand under her leg, I lifted it slightly, then stretched my fingers out to find her pussy and slowly penetrate her. When I'd worked two fingers inside, I squeezed forward, and felt Laurel respond, her breath becoming ragged as she lifted herself slightly, pressing against me.

Leaning forward gave me better contact with her, so I did, and Laurel matched the rhythm of my body against hers.

I pushed my fingers more firmly against the front of my sex. She broke our kiss.

"Uhh," she gasped, "wait..." and took hold of my arm, pushing it back so that I couldn't reach her sex. "I want to wait for you to be ready," she said, softly.

"Oh, I am, lover," I said, moving against her. Laurel smiled as I bounced in her lap, my sex pressed firmly against her. She rocked her hips, faster now, her arms wrapped around me, pulling me close.

"Helen..." she said, her voice soft, but thick with emotion. "Oh, Helen..."

Hearing her say my name with such feeling inflamed the passion within me. "I'm ready, love," I whispered, then turned her face to mine, fitting my mouth to hers as I rammed myself against her. She whimpered against my lips, her breathing rapid, and I felt her legs stiffen as she reached orgasm.

I wasn't quite there, but close, so close. I pressed harder, her body against my clit, the feeling in my sex climbing, climbing. I groaned as I reached the precipice, then gasped for breath as I came.

Laurel broke away from my lips, her soft eyes open and holding mine, her lips parted, her face glowing with pleasure. Wrapping my arms around her, I drew her to me, feeling her damp cheek against my shoulder as I nibbled her ear.

"Oh, Helen," she said again.

I kept rocking my hips against her. "I love hearing you say my name in the heat of the moment," I said.

"Mmm," she replied.

I felt her turn her face towards me. Her lips touched my ear. "I love you, Helen," she said.

"I know you do, Laurel," I answered, "and it makes me very happy."

"Hey," she said, as I held her. "I want a picture."

"What?" I squawked. "Like this?"

"Yeah." She laughed. "What better way to remember our vacation? Don't you want one?"

I frowned. "Well... I guess it would remind me of the best of our trip."

She turned on the light and ran over to her purse to take out her camera. Then she balanced it on the TV.

"Wait a moment," she said.

The flash blinded me. "Hey, you're supposed to be in the picture too!"

"Just testing," she said. Then, looking at the results on the rear display, she said, "Yeah, that one's a keeper."

"Damnit, Laurel," I laughed. "That's unfair."

"All's fair in love and photography," she said, frowning at the camera. Then, "Okay, that should be it."

The camera blinked a couple of times as she hopped back into bed. Instead of sitting beside be, though, she turned my face to her and drew me close. I leaned into her kiss, her lips working with passion against mine. Her hand caressed my side, then drifted over my breast... and the camera flashed.

She ran back over to the TV and brought the camera to show me. I have to admit, that as a symbol of our vacation, it would be hard to beat.

"Yolanda's going to love this," she smirked.

"What? No!" I yelped, scandalized. "This is... personal!"

"Well, if that's what you want," Laurel pouted.

"Oh, God, you..." I rolled my eyes. "Okay, you can give Yolanda a copy - but only if you make love to me again, before we're both too tired."

"Deal," she said, and put the camera down.


Yesterday's drive was a killer. All the way home from Albuquerque. Half a day's drive and another hour lost.

Thank God we could drive in shifts, because I seriously doubt I could have made the trip alone. And it's not like there were any great sights to stop to see. Just an early start, late arrival, and behind-numbing car seats in between.

This time Laurel did manage to get some sleep while I drove. With the previous night's pastimes, and the morning's early start, I think we'd had no more than four hours' sleep.

We offered to take Mara for a time, to give Clarice and Rob a break. She was with us for the first four hours. When she was awake, "Auntie Laurel" would recline her chair and tell her stories.

Mara decided she wanted back in the other car about when we crossed into Texas, so we pulled up for coffee in Amarillo, moved the car seat back, and Laurel drove for a while. That's when I wrote up yesterday's entry - you can see from its length how much time I had to kill.

Laurel had me call Rob on the radio to ask him to slow down a couple of times. She didn't want to get another ticket before she's finished her dismissal. She still hasn't taken her defensive driving class.

I was driving again when we started seeing the familiar landmarks of our part of town. It was about seven p.m.

"Helen, hon?"

"Yes, Laurel?"

"Could you take me home tomorrow, instead of today?"

"Are you sure?" I asked.

"If you don't mind me staying with you for another night." She seemed a little anxious.

"Of course I don't," I said, "but what about Yolanda?"

"I haven't told her our schedule. She'll be fine with tomorrow."


She didn't answer for a moment. "Last night - I said it was okay for the vacation to be over, because we can see each other whenever we want. I guess I'm not quite as ready as I thought, love."

I reached out and squeezed her hand. "Just promise me that Yolanda won't come gunning for me."

"I'll make it right with her," Laurel answered, returning the grip.

We arrived home just before eight, and had the cars unloaded by nine. After helping Clarice and Rob with essentials, Laurel and I said goodnight to them, getting out of their way as they got themselves situated.

"I need a shower," I announced, after I'd gotten my own case unpacked.

"Or a bath," Laurel agreed. "Soaking would be nice."

"Well, you could go get a bath, all alone, and I could take a shower, all alone..."

She grinned. "Are you trying to tell me something?"

"There's room for two in the shower," I said. "I'll go heat the spa, so you can soak before we leave tomorrow, if you like."

So I went out to start the spa while Laurel adjusted the shower to her liking, then I joined her in the cozy warm rain.

I had to fight with Laurel for the stream to wash my hair. "This was never a problem with Brian," I grumbled. "Quick shampoo, rinse, and he was out of my way."

"If you hadn't noticed, my sweet but slow-witted friend, I don't have short hair, and I'm not a guy."

I reached around from behind her to soap her breasts. "Oh, I've noticed."

After we were done, I made Laurel sit while I turned the drier on her, gently brushing out her blond hair. She seemed distant. Pensive.

I combed my hair through, quickly, not drying it completely. Then I took Laurel's hand and led her to bed.

"What's wrong?" I asked her.

"Nothing," she said, without much conviction.

"Don't give me that," I said. "What is it?"

"Nothing's wrong," she insisted. "It's just ... going to take me a while to get adjusted, I think."

I reached out to stroke her waist, and she moved closer. "To what?"

"Not being with you," she answered. "If it weren't for Yolanda - I think I'd be trying to make you mine. As it is, I'm torn."

"No regrets, you said, just last night," I said.

"Yeah, I know. That was before we... that was before I realized just how strong my feelings had become." She reached out and stroked my cheek with her finger. "I don't want to let you go."

"After the last few days," I said, "I don't much want to let you go, either. But you know it wouldn't last. You and Yolanda have something that I could never give you. I almost wish I could, but if I were to try, we'd both regret it."

"I know," she said. "I just - underestimated how much you'd gotten inside me, I think."

"When you get home, tomorrow," I said, "tell Yolanda that. Don't hide it. Let her know how you feel. I don't know her as well as you do, but I know she trusts you, and she wants you to be who you are."

"Yeah," she said. "I will. Helen?"

"What is it, Laurel?"

"Please... make love to me now."

I took her hand and kissed her fingertips. Then I gently pushed her onto her back and eased myself on top of her. "If you insist," I said.

If anything, we tried even harder than the previous night to keep each other satisfied. I wasn't willing to accept that each orgasm I drew from Laurel would be her last, so I worked her to the point of exhaustion, while she continued to surprise me with the strength of my own response.

When we finally had to admit that we were too tired to continue, we had to remake the bed, as my sheets were scattered everywhere. I held her to me as we kissed goodnight.

I had enough in the fridge to make breakfast for everyone, though I had to wake Laurel to send her to pick up milk while I brewed coffee.

"The things we do for love," she grumped, as she returned, then kissed my cheek.

"How are you feeling?" I asked.

She thought for a moment. "Just fine, Helen. Last night helped, I think. Thank you."

"Mmm, if that was a therapy session," I said, "I can only hope you need my services again."

She leaned against my back and slid her arms around my stomach. "Sure. I'll trade you a massage for one of those any time." Then she nuzzled my neck, making me shiver.

We heard a door open, and Laurel drew back quickly. Clarice wandered into the room, looking worn out. She gave us a quick knowing grin.

"Laurel! Coffee!" I commanded. "Cups are there."

"Yes sir!" she said, with a mock salute.

"Hey, Helen?" Laurel said.


"I still feel like soaking in your tub, but I don't have my swimsuit."

"When has that ever stopped you?"

"Well, we usually don't have a six-year-old around," she said.

"Ah, good point. I may be able to find something..."

"Well, what I was thinking - if you don't mind, let me have Yolanda come over to pick me up. She can bring mine and join us."

"Oh, yeah, do that. Tell her to park on the street, though, we seem to have filled the driveway."

I spent the rest of the morning clearing around the kitchen and emptying the fridge. For the next few weeks it will have to hold groceries for four. Laurel helped, while Clarice and Rob finished their unpacking.

Yolanda showed up around one, and we were soon relaxing in the spa. Just as it was last time, the weather was really too cold for it, but hunkering down inside the heated water was fun anyway.

As much as Laurel was torn last night, it's obvious who the woman in her life truly is. I had very mixed feelings, seeing them together. I'm going to miss this last week, and yes, I am jealous that Yolanda can have what I can't, but at the same time, this is so obviously what Laurel wants, even if she isn't always certain of it. I have to be happy for her. I really am.

After we were out of the spa and dried, Laurel went into the house to pack.

Yolanda put her blouse and shorts on over her swimsuit.

"Did she give you any rest?" she asked.


"Laurel. I hope she left you in one piece."

"We've had a very good week," I said, honestly, "but I think she'll be glad to be home."

"We'll see how long that lasts when it's her turn to do housework," Yolanda grinned.

After they left, I called Barry. We're going to go out on Wednesday, though we don't know where, yet. That should give me a couple of evenings to get caught up with my study group.


A few random thoughts / notes now that the vacation is over.

One week ago today was the Virginia Tech atrocity. I'm sure virtually every blog in the country was full of commentary about the horrible events in one form or another.

We heard about it Tuesday. On that day I wrote several paragraphs, then deleted them. I'd like to explain both actions, as best I can.

What I wrote was not about the shooting itself, but about the reasons that I wouldn't be spending any time talking about it.

Mainly, I don't feel that it's appropriate for me to use these pages to talk about controversial topics and my own views of them. I am, in a sense, my own fiction. I try to remain anonymous, and as I've pointed out before, how closely this journal mirrors reality is something I will not specify. I have changed significant details, and I will continue to.

So I can never really say "my experience teaches me X," because you don't know whether that experience is true, or if I'm inventing it for the sake of making an argument. (I'll qualify this below.)

Anonymous sniping is often used on the Internet as a substitute for political argument, and I think it's a cheap tactic, so I'd prefer to avoid it.

At the same time, any expression of sympathy from an anonymous source has a similar problem. Yes, my heart goes out to the families and loved ones of the victims of a hideous, brutal, senseless act. But if I say more, I run the risk of, again, being or being perceived to be insincere. So I'd prefer not to discuss it at all, other than for this explanation (which is close to what I wrote on Tuesday.)

Why did I delete the comments after writing them? Because I felt that acknowledging the atrocity and then going back to reporting on my fun vacation activities would seem callous. Along with most people in this country, my life continued as normal, but talking about that, especially as enjoyable a time as it was, in juxtaposition to the shooting, would be insensitive.

So, my vacation continued, I reported it as normal, and planned to make a comment when my trip was over - which is what I'm doing now.

Instead of making any political points, or expressing the sympathy that I feel, allow me to say this: if you're as affected by the events in Virginia as I am, there's a practical, non-partisan thing you can do. Virginia tech has established a memorial fund, which they will use for counselling and assistance to victims and their families. Please contribute here.

Qualifying my stance on controversial issues: there are some that affect me, as a writer of erotic fiction, directly. Those things that directly affect my lifestyle and writing, I'll comment on. It would not make sense for me to ignore them.

So I'll talk about censorship, especially suppression of sexual content in literature, or the stupidity of "abstinence-only" education. (This made it into a story, in Best Friends.) That clearly positions me against the conservative religious establishment, particularly in this area.

I'll also mention how ludicrous I believe it is that my friends Laurel and Yolanda, as loving a couple as you could hope to meet, will always be treated as second-class citizens in this and most other states. "Domestic partner" statutes do not have the legal or social benefits of marriage.

UvidaVestimenta on the forum directed me to Dan Savage's column, which includes this article on a small victory, with some indication of just how small it is.

Another site I found from referral logs is Coranth Gryphon, who links to me here. I don't know him, but following the referral back and poking around led to this essay, which shows, among other things, just how unequal "civil unions" are (at least here in the US).

We supposedly separate church from state in this nation, yet we limit marriage - with all of its social and legal benefits - to what is acceptable to our major religious institutions. I think this is fundamentally wrong - which again, places me far from social / religious conservatives.

Beyond that - I think I've hinted at how badly I believe we've squandered the good will that was ours to use to counter terrorism after 9/11, but I've mostly tried to stay out of how I really feel, or (for instance) how I intend to vote in the next election. That gets too close to anonymous sniping.

I spent some time with Rob this morning. His first day of work is tomorrow. Clarice started today, but she's expecting to be taking a lot of time with personal business over this week.

Rob tells me that Clarice spent a fair amount of time on last week's drive on the phone, at least when we were close enough to major cities to have cell coverage. As a result, they're waiting to hear back from the seller today, but they believe that everything will be in order for them to sign the papers this week for their house.

All of their furniture will be in storage by now, and they'll complete the move just as soon as the current owners move out - which is the only remaining point of contention. At the latest, they should be able to move in by July 1, though they're hoping for early June.

I've had an idea for a story, so I should be able to get back to writing soon. I feel a little odd about it, though, after last week... I had envisioned it as a regular M/F piece, but as I thought about it, I realized it would work much better as F/F.

This has nothing whatsoever to do with my relationship with Laurel, but if it hadn't been for last week, the change in the story might not have suggested itself.

Yolanda just called. She claims that she's "inviting herself over" tomorrow to cook for us. Laurel's planning to spend the day with her defensive driving DVDs, as she's running out of time to take the course. Since Rob and Clarice are going to be so busy for a time, Yolanda wants to help out.


I've been wasting far too much time with the new story. I even have a name (which is rare; usually I have the story finished before I decide what I want to call it). It will be "Play it for me." And I've written several pages, and still haven't quite gotten to the (obligatory, of course) sex scenes, which is exactly the pacing I want for it.

Good progress is no guarantee that it will be uploaded soon; I've abandoned stories further along than this (including one that I completed), but so far I think it's a keeper.

As promised, Yolanda came over to cook dinner. She'd baked chicken breasts in a tandoori paste earlier, then cooked them in a cream sauce at my place. Zucchini stir-fried in olive oil with spices, and rice. The result was rich, but not too spicy for Mara.

Storms moved in last night, serious ones. We were under a severe thunderstorm watch in the late evening, and by the time we had the cookware Yolanda had brought cleaned and ready for her to take away, we were being bombarded with hail and constant lightning. We didn't want her to drive home until it had calmed, so she came to my room to talk for a while.

It seems that Laurel has told her pretty much everything about last week, and how she felt over the weekend. I was glad of that, it wouldn't be my place to say anything, but I wouldn't want to hide anything, either.

"So, how are you both?" I asked.

"Fine," she said. "Better than fine. I think she was getting burned out at work. Now she has her enthusiasm back."

"Well, tell her I miss her," I said.

It was still raining quite heavily when Yolanda left at around 11 pm, but the high winds and lightning had moved out of our area.


I mostly finished the new story yesterday. I still have a few tweaks to add, but I'm hoping to publish today. Yesterday afternoon I had an idea for an epliogue, which fits this particular story perfectly. (In my biased opinion, of course...)

Barry picked me up at seven-thirty for dinner and a movie. It was the first time we've been to a movie together. He let me choose, which is why we saw the last showing of "In the land of women" rather than "300". He admitted afterwards that he hadn't expected to enjoy it, but that he'd been surprised.

So was I. It's really a great film.

After the movie we stopped off for a drink, where I gave him a heavily-edited account of our trip from California, then he ran me home.

"I can't really invite you in tonight," I said. "Maybe we can get together this weekend?"

He was disappointed. "Is everything okay?" he asked.

"Yeah," I said. "It's just that I'm a little crowded right now."

He nodded. "Okay." He still looked uncertain.

"What is it?" I asked.

"I shouldn't pry," he said.

"No, what's wrong?" I insisted.

"Well... you seem to have been very distant tonight. Am I... am I losing you to her?"

"Who?" I asked, though I figured I knew what he meant.


"Why would you..." I shook my head. "No, you don't deserve evasions. No, Barry, I'm very glad you took me out. I've been thinking about something completely unrelated," which was the story, and I guess I had drifted a few times thinking about it, "and the only reason I'm not ripping your clothes off is that my brother and sister-in-law are in there."

"Okay," he said, looking less uncomfortable.

"Look, let's get together this weekend, and I'll show you how much I've missed you, okay? But at your place, not mine."

Kissing him helped convince him. After that it was difficult to pull myself away.

Of course, I had to endure a grilling from Clarice about why I came home alone. I just... I don't know. I don't really understand why it bothers me. We've each had partners within earshot of the other on more than one occasion - including her first night with Rob, of course - but it seems different now.

She may be my best friend, and know enough embarassing intimate details of my life to blackmail me to eternity and back, but she's a wife and mother now. The house feels a lot more crowded with another family here than it ever did with just Clarice.


Well, it's done. Play it for me is now online. I hope some of you are as happy with it as I am. Reading through it while proofing I find that it works well for me. That's not always the case.

I would hope that even younger readers would recognize the content, but just in case: the "You played it for her..." quote is from Casablanca. If you don't know it, go buy or rent it right away. It truly is one of the greatest movies of all time. The song that the quote introduces, "As time goes by," has been covered many times, and is a piano standard.

I heard the Scissor Sisters first album back before they were well-known in the States, even though they're from New York. A co-worker who returned from England introduced me to them. The song I used is something I can picture being covered in the way I describe, and the biting, sexually charged lyrics could be effective both towards the audience and between the young women. "I'll take you to a back street, in the shadows you can touch one another now and I'll just watch the show."

Aside: the album is deceptive. On the surface, it's mostly danceable songs and fun lyrics, but when you really listen... those are some dark thoughts, and the more powerful for being so. My favorite track is the beautiful "Return to Oz," which, it turns out, is about crystal meth abuse in gay communities.

I would strongly recommend the whole album .

Though I'd originally envisioned this as a girl-meets-boy story, I realized that girl-meets-girl gives the possibility of a nice little barb. Once I'd envisioned it, though, I liked the possibilities that the relationship implied, so I didn't end at the barb, but added an epilogue. I don't generally do that; the stories are about first seduction, not "happy ever after," but this time it seemed that the girls wanted to show that their relationship was more than just one night.

Rob and Clarice have taken the day off work signing papers. It looks like they have all of the details worked out, and should be able to take possession of their new house by mid-June.

Since making the domain switch a couple of months ago, I've been trying to get links to my site changed. Up to yesterday, the only success I had was (of course) Rose.

Yesterday, the fine folks at DMOZ did make the change. When I went to check, I discovered that not only had they fixed the link, but had given me a star, their "cool site" designation. My site currently has pride of place at this page.

So it seems they still think I'm cool after all these years...