There was no hint of wind and the heat bore down on them. Even the cycling jerseys were no match for the sun. Everything dripped with inner moisture evaporating before it hit the ground. Life was just not where it should be. One step forward five backwards. Just when she thought she was free from the past it would come roaring back and sucked her under.
Why did she always have to be the nice guy, why was she the only one that had to follow the rules? She was tired of being taken advantage of.
She pushed harder with her right leg, then her left. She wanted to scream into the thick heat of the afternoon.
Fuck this shit.
The silver infinity symbol clinked against the metal zipper of the jersey. Her legs found rhythm with the clinking.
Why did she have to be responsible?
Right, clink, fuck.
Why did she have to do this alone?
Left, clink, this.
Why wouldn’t the past just die?
Right, clink, shit.
Her world had crumbled to the ground a few years back. Granted, she had started the slide into reclaiming her life, but now, now it was beyond her control. No matter how hard she pushed, no matter the choices she made, nothing was clicking into place as she wanted it to. It was like the godfather, “No matter how you try, they just suck you back in.”
The anger boiled inside matching the furnace of the desert heat. Her jaw clench, her legs ached yet she pushed on. Blocking all things around her. She would not cave. She would not second guess. She would not cry.
The last corner to her right was at the top of a hill that had kicked her ass since she had started riding this route. Her legs screamed and her mind turned dark.
“I want a divorce.”
Maria’s head snapped up. The blue eyes went dark, soulless. A long static moment passed.
Kris swallowed past the nervous laughter that threatened to escape, “Because we are not good together anymore.”
Maria studied her.
Kris wasn’t going to back down this time. She had been contemplating this moment for the last couple of years. Every trip in and out of town, she thought of nothing more than moving on. Contentment was not happiness and she wanted to be happy.
The tall dark haired woman that used to be her life, pushed back from the wooden table, coffee untouched. Kris couldn’t hear the sports car roaring down the long private driveway over the thundering of her heart and the echo of the front door in her ears. Relief exhaled and it was past the point of no return. The time to return to who she was and wanted to be had started.
Despite a handful of manipulations and attempted guilt ridden conversations, Kris agreed to remain in the house until Maria could financially get on her feet. She dreaded moving out, the packing, the decisions of who gets what. It was painful to leave behind memories and items that made up her life — made her who she was today, but she was determined to do it.
Within a few weeks of her moving into the guest room, Maria had moved on with a new girl. So much for true love.
At first Maria was rarely around which left the initial packing and deciding who gets what on Kris’s shoulders. As the spring came around it was Kris’s turn to remain out of the house as much as possible. At first she couldn’t tell why she felt she needed to be absent so much, but the unspoken hurt whenever Maria and her were in the same space became more and more evident.
Dividing friends wasn’t hard, since the friends Kris had were not the same as Maria’s — it was easy for friends to choose their loyalties. Not that Kris thought there were sides to be chosen — not at the time anyway.
“We need to talk,” Kris said from the opposite side of her desk. She pushed down the nervous laughter that threatened her credibility.
Maria stopped in the office doorway, but said nothing.
“I can’t stay if she is moving in.”
The sneer came quickly to the corner of Maria’s mouth before she blinked it away in a look of innocence, “Karin is not moving in. She just needs a place to store her stuff while she moves into a friend’s apartment above her garage.”
“There are boxes and furniture, that’s not just storage. Besides, they have places like that that will hold that stuff or her.”
“She can’t afford it, it’s not hurting you or taking anything away from your space.”
“We also agreed we wouldn’t bring our girlfriends home when the other is present.”
Kris signed leaning forward, “And bringing the girlfriend home after midnight when you think I’m asleep and smuggling her out before I get up it not honoring the agreement. I’ve started looking at places.
“Stop being so dramatic. I just told you she is not moving in. Get a girlfriend and bring her around, see if I care. I’m moving on with my life, so should you.”
Maria disappeared down the hallway before Kris could respond.
The crumbling silent agreement not to bring girlfriends home started getting louder in the “conversations” between Maria and Karin which usually occurred around two or three in the morning. Karin bemoaning how she couldn’t move in because of “the princess upstairs” and her stuff strewn through four places. The end of the month couldn’t get here soon enough.
The odd new girlfriend was polite enough when Maria was around, but Kris kept her at arm’s length. She was always around, even when Kris asked Marie to talk about the division of property without Karin. It was impossible to be with Maria alone. After a while, Kris gave up and just started packing in what she thought was a fair split.
The tension was getting to her and she couldn’t wait to find a place. At first she thought the whole upheaval of her life, finding a new place and the dissolution of her marriage was making her memory fuzzy. The stress of coming “home” was physically weighing her down. Missing emails, texts she was sure she replied to or sent, small knick knacks that she couldn’t find. She couldn’t wait to move.
“I’m going to crush you like a bug.”
A cold sweat broke out across Kris’s forehead, she willed her hand not to shake as she replaced the coffee pot back on the heating pad. She turned to go back to her room, all thoughts of being hungry vanished.
The short spikey haired woman with mud brown eyes looked up at her, blocking her retreat.
Kris willed her hands not to shake, “Excuse me,” she said softly as if trying not to poke the sleeping bear.
“You heard me.”
Kris licked her lips, ”I need to go to work so if you don’t mind — “
“I do. I mind every fucking thing about you.”
Kris inhaled softly noticing the deep lines around the corners of Karin’s mouth, the blueish black color underneath her eyes. Stale cigarette smoke and the sour odor of wine oozed off her breath.
“There’s always a paper trail. I’m going to find it and choke you on it.”
Kris’s knees started to shake, air was hard to come by. What the fuck was this woman talking about?
“I’m going to call the SCC and make sure they know that you are stealing from your parents, then I’ll make sure you lose your job over it. I’m going to make your life a living hell. And if I can’t reach you, then I’ll get one of my boys to make sure you spend a long time in the hospital.”
If the threat wasn’t so quiet and so close, Kris would have laughed. She bit the inside of her cheek and turn her back on Karin. She made her escape around the far side of the island and up the stairs as Karin got louder and louder in her threats.
“You are going to wish that you never met Maria. You will pay for hurting her. Karma is a bitch and I am karma.”
Kris felt like she was going to hurl as the threats kept escalating and turned more violent. Within hours, her friends had come to rescue her and move her into her new secure building by night fall.
While she physically felt safe in her new place — when she was in the new place — she was on edge whenever she was out doing routine things, like grocery shopping or dining out with friends. The sports car that Maria owned suddenly seemed to be trolling around the area where she moved. Random calls in the middle of the night from blocked numbers popped up. A few times she thought she saw Karin or one of her boys watching her as she went biking. She shook it off as pure paranoia. She was safe, she had moved on, Maria had moved on, it was just bullying on Karin’s part nothing more.
She decided to have a friend move in with her when “someone” called her employer ranting and raving about her morality and ethics. If the employer was smart, they would let her go before they got involved in a lawsuit with the SCC. Someone else called the apartment complex and informed them that one of their tenants was facing criminal prosecution for extortion.
She couldn’t breathe much less think. What would happen next? A rabbit in boiling water on the stove?
Something had to give, but Karin was nothing if not half way smart. She never gave her name to her employer, she never filed any formal charges, she never showed up anywhere there were cameras.
Her lawyer could do nothing because she had no proof that the threats or the stalking was even occurring, much less who was responsible for it.
The sudden argument between friends at a bar, or the banging of fists on a table top sent her pulse racing and her heart set to explode. The lack of sleep was now impacting her job and while her employer was willing to ignore the phone call, the lack of production was not acceptable. The final straw came while she was hiking in a park with a friend. They had returned to her car to find that it had been side swiped. The vehicle, while drivable, had been hit from the rear driver panel all the way to the front quarter panel. The only thing they could tell for sure was the person who caused the damage was driving a blue car.
The cops never could ascertain what happened and her lawyer stated once again, there was no reason for a restraining order.
There was nothing more she could do except move — far far away.
“Wow,” Amy said as she braked to a stop near the garage door. “That was the best ride I’ve seen from you since you’ve been here.”
Kris inhaled silently, deeply, she would not cry in front of anyone. She would be strong.
“You ok?” Amy asked removing her helmet and shaking her hair free.
“Yeah,” she replied leaning her bike against the car. Kris had not told Amy of the drama that was playing out in her life. It was something she kept to herself because that was not something anyone wanted to hear.
It wasn’t that people didn’t know, but rather that Kris didn’t want to introduce her problems to anyone in this new world. She had moved half way cross country to leave the past drama behind. She had stayed long enough to get her parents settled in a new secure place, file for a legal divorce once same sex marriages were recognized, and find a new job. The job was the excuse she gave everyone for relocating.
Kris could feel her chest collapsing and the world tilted. For a brief moment the world seemed to go black. Not one of those fade to black moments or blacks that you could kind of see some lights or gray tinged black, but one of those power outages with no lights or moon or stars blacks.
“Would you like a beer?” Amy asked
Kris frowned at her.
Amy nodded at the ground near a tree a few yards from where Kris stood with her back against the car.
Her white helmet with a crack on top lay at the base of the tree.
Now how had that gotten there?
Kris nodded as her legs gave out and she slid down the side of her car, fighting the tears that threatened.
Why couldn’t she find someone to hold her hand, to hold her and help her through one more round of crap that her past was dishing out? She was tired of the only one to be responsible, of making the decisions. It was time someone else stood up and took some of the never ending stress off her shoulders. The last set of legal accusations ranging from fraud to embezzlement arrived on her doorstep this morning. Her shoulders hurt and the elephant on her chest wouldn’t budge.
Amy hunched down near her outstretched legs, holding a cold brown bottle, “Want to talk about it?”
Kris took a long deep pull enjoying the cold liquid sliding down her throat. The tears were too close, she needed to pull it together, to calm her nerves, to get into her car and drive away before she made more of a fool of herself.
“Just stressed. Nothing big. Work shit.”
Amy watched her for a long silent moment, “You are angry. A deep anger. It’s more than work.”
Kris took another sip of beer, looking past her friend into the neighbor’s yard.
White and blue flowers bloomed in a freshly made bed. The brown mulch darkened by a recent soaking of water. On either side of the flowers a small neatly trimmed green hedge stood guard. A quick small bark beyond the wooden fence broke her revere.
It wasn’t until Amy touched her wet cheek that Kris realized the tears were streaming down her face.
“I’m so tired,” she whispered.
Amy leaned forward kissing her salty tears. Kris tried to drop her head, but Amy moved closer, brushing her lips against Kris’s.
Kris could taste the saltiness on Amy’s lips, on the tip of her tongue as it pushed into her mouth. Kris was in a free fall. She should push back, should say no, but she was lost in Amy’s touch.
Kris pulled away leaning her head against the side of her car, biting her bottom lip.
Amy took advantage, trailing light kisses across her jaw, down her throat to her collar bone.
“We should go inside,” Amy said softly into her ear.
Kris didn’t want to move as Amy pulled her up.
She rocked to her feet, winding one hand into Amy’s long dark hair, pulling her forward. She drank deeply from Amy’s mouth not moving until Amy pushed her back, gasping for air.
“Come,” Amy said pulling on one hand and spinning Kris’s bike around with the other.
The garage door slid shut as they walked inside. The place looked like a cave, with none of the windows open. Shades prevent the heat of the summer from breaking through.
Amy pulled her through a dimly lit living room to the main bedroom on the other side.
Kris opened her mouth, this was not a good idea. She should leave, she needed to leave.
The zipper slid too easily and Amy slid one hand around her bare torso and another around the back of her head. Pulling Kris down for a long and desperate kiss.
Kris’s body melted, her feet betrayed her with every step until the back of Amy’s legs met the side of the bed. She moan into Amy, fanning the flames of desire deep inside. Little sparks of hunger erupted as the tips of Amy’s fingers played along her rib cage, across the heat soaked bra, until her nipples ached for more.
“I’m sweating,” Kris protested lamely.
“Good. I can’t wait to taste you.”
Kris’s legs almost gave out, but Amy was waiting for that. She deftly caught Kris around her waist, spinning her around.
The coolness of the room brushed against her skin as the jersey slipped to the floor. She trembled with the heady elixir of hot and cold as the last protective covering followed the jersey.
Amy pinched her nipples erect and the smoldering fire between her legs shot into her chest. Amy licked at her nipples before rolling them between her teeth.
Kris curled her hands in the light blanket, fighting back the scream at the base of her throat when she felt Amy’s breathe against the side of her leg. Her body arch upwards, begging for more, wanting to leave this reality, from this moment in time.
Light kisses trailed up her leg, nibbling against her hip, then a light quick flick of the tongue just in between her legs.
Kris bit the inside of her cheek, how thick were the walls in this house?
The fire spread as the tip of Amy’s tongue pushed inside. Kris soared gripping the blanket with both hands, resisting the urge to reach down and grab Amy’s head forcing her closer, making her go higher.
“Please…” Kris begged. Something she should have stopped from happening she now wanted more of. Her body ached and craved and wanted the release that only Amy’s tongue was going to be able to give.
Amy took her time, slowly fanning and cooling the desire in Kris.
She swore she could feel Amy smile against the inside of her thigh.
Kris lifted up and came down in a steady rhythm which didn’t stop until wave after wave of pure bliss crashed over her, through her.
Kris slid out of bed after the water started in the bathroom. A loud vibration came from the night stand. In the half-darkness the cell phone lit up with an incoming text. Kris glanced down and the face.
“Did you find her yet?” The text read.
Kris’s breath caught at her throat, the room felt hot.
The text was from Maria.
It wasn’t possible, was it?
Kris was fully dressed and half way through the kitchen before Amy called out for her.
“Hey, you just going to slip out without saying anything?”
Kris pressed her eyes shut briefly before turning around, “Sorry, I just, I need to get home.”
Amy frowned at her, grabbing at her wrist, “You don’t look so good. Are you ok?”
“Yes, fine, but I do have a cat I need to go feed and I just,” she shrugged. “I have to go.”
“I was hoping to make you dinner. Just relax.”
“Thanks, but really, I shouldn’t have stayed. I need to go.”
Kris pulled her wrist free from Amy’s grasp and took a step back toward the garage. Her heart pounded in her chest, do or die, right?
“Ok. You know, you can talk to me. I’m a great listener.”
“I know, but not yet.”
Kris turned and tried not to bolt out of the house.
The coffee had just finished brewing and was scalding hot. Kris was making a fresh pot of coffee even though it was almost lunch time. Monday’s always seemed slow moving to her, but today was even longer than normal. She kept replaying the text through her mind and wondered how Amy and Maria could possibly know each other.
Kris turned at the soft southern drawl of her boss. She fumbled with the coffee cup in her hand at the sight of two local police standing in the break room.
“What’s going on?”
“The police would like to talk to you.”
“What about?” Kris asked trying to remain calm despite the urge to run in the opposite direction. She glanced at her boss before meeting the steadying gaze of the police.
She had done nothing wrong, there couldn’t be a warrant out for her arrest could there? Did “they” make up some lie to get her arrested? All the way across country? This couldn’t be happening.
“Miss Curtis?” One of the officer’s asked.
“I’m Officer Lombard and this is my partner Officer Jenkins. We would like to talk to you privately for a moment if we may.”
There were no handcuffs, they weren’t reaching for their guns, they just wanted to talk.
“Um, sure. We can sit here,” she motioned to one of the white round tables.
“I think your office would be better,” her boss suggested.
A couple minutes later Kris was seated behind her desk with the police on the other side.
“So what can I help you with?”
“Do you know a Miss Garand?”
Thunder crashed through her ears.
“How do you know her?”
“She’s my ex-wife. Well, soon to be ex-wife. Why? What’s going on?”
“Do you know a Miss Moore?”
“Not really. She was living with my ex the last I heard. Why?”
“How long has it been since you’ve seen either of them?”
“I don’t know, a couple years. I filed for divorce once it became legal to do so. I moved here almost eighteen months ago, so yeah, about two years give or take. Why? What is this about?”
Officer Lombard glanced at his partner then looked back at her, “I’m sorry, but Miss Garand was killed.”
“Come again?” Kris shook her head, trying to clear the white noise in her ears.
“Saturday night, Miss Moore shot and killed your estranged wife before taking her own life.”
The office seemed to go dark, Kris frowned at him. She heard the words, but they made no sense. Killed?
“I’m sorry, what? How? Why?” She jumped up suddenly feeling claustrophobic.
“There appears to have been an argument which started Saturday afternoon during a BBQ. From what we have been told, it was after everyone had left that the argument escalated and resulted in Miss Moore shooting and killing Miss Garand. Then she took her own life.”
Kris turned around to face the two officers who were standing by the guest chairs.
“So why am I being informed? Why not Maria’s family? Her parents and siblings?”
“As you pointed out, you are legally still married which makes you the next of kin.”
Kris leaned back against the window sill dropping her head in her hand.
“I’m sorry for your loss,” officer Jenkins said as they opened the door.
Kris looked up and gasped.
Amy stood in the doorway.
“What’s going on?”
“If you’ll excuse us,” Officer Jenkins said and stepped around Amy as she entered the office. She glanced at the backs of the officers as the walked down the hallway.
The tall blond turned slowly back toward Kris, “What the hell? Are you in trouble? Are you ok?”
Kris frowned at her, was it only just yesterday that she was in Amy’s bed?
“Kris?” Amy walked up to her the concern turning the corner of her lips down.
Yesterday seemed like years ago and the day before that, well she couldn’t even remember Saturaday.
Amy grasped her hands in both of hers, “Is this why you left so suddenly yesterday?”
Kris asked pulling her hands from Amy’s. “What are you doing here?”
“I was worried about you. The way you left — ”
Kris stepped around Amy her heart still pounding. Words running in and out of her head.
“So you just show up at my office?”
“I’m sorry. After yesterday I didn’t think you’d mind.”
Kris rubbed her forehead trying to smooth out the wrinkles above her brow. So much had happened in the last few days and putting it all in perspective was threatening to overwhelm her.
“I just wanted to make sure you were ok. You didn’t answer my texts. I was worried.”
“I was a little busy,” Kris replied walking toward the office door before turning to her left. A half step later and she was straightening the books on the shelf. It was dusty, something she should fix.
“No. I told you why I left. They — they were just here to tell me…”
The image of the text from Maria at 6:30 pm on Sunday flashed through her mind.
“Tell you what?”
Kris slid her hands into the pockets of her black slacks. Frowning she stared back at Amy. What was she supposed to say? Maybe she should keep the events of Saturday to herself. She should cry, feel sad, right? To tell or not to tell.
“My ex is dead.”
“What? What are you talking about?”
“Apparently a murder-suicide.”
“Your ex killed someone?”
“No, just the opposite. My ex’s girlfriend shot her then killed herself.”
“Oh my god. Kris — “
Kris closed her eyes briefly then walked on wooden legs to one of the guest chairs.
“When did this happen?”
“Saturday afternoon, er, evening.”
Amy knelt down beside her and squeezed her hand, “Are you ok?”
Kris looked at the floor.
“I think we should get out of here.”
“No, I should work. I have things to do. I can’t,” Kris licked her lips standing.
“You don’t look like you’re in any shape to do anything.”
“Nothing to do. Maria’s dead,” Kris moved around Amy toward her office chair.
Tears rushed to her eyes. Whatever had happened between Kris and Maria didn’t warrant Maria being murdered. She had only wanted to move on, she wanted Maria to find happiness and peace. Kris couldn’t provide that, but she had hoped someone could.
“Let’s go. Tell your boss you’re taking the rest of the day off.”
Kris started to shake her head.
“I’m not taking no for an answer. I’m going to take you to my place. I’m going to take care of you. You can lean on me for a few hours, or days, or whatever.”
“Amy — “
“No buts. Let’s go,” Amy stated as one hand slid up her arm wrapping her fingers around her upper arm pushing her forward. ”I’m going to take care of you.”