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Wedding Bells Are Ringing

Chapter Text

It was close to midnight on June 24, 2011 inside the Senate Chamber at the Capitol Building in Albany, New York. There were hundreds of people anticipating to hear the historic final decision coming from the state Senate, and thousands more outside near the front of the building. The general atmosphere was tense, as tensions and anticipations ran deep within the two groups: those who were for the bill and those who were against it. It would be a life-changing event for many involved, and the outcome would change the state and potentially the entire nation for years to come.

Inside the building as part of the forestalling audience were two woman who were on different ends of the spectrum on virtually everything, but they did agreed on at least two things, that they loved each other madly, and that the bill must pass.

"I hope all that work that we put into it finally paid off unlike two years ago," Jo said to her soul mate of over twenty-five years.

"I hope so too. I had to bend over backwards just to convince some of the Senators to get on board," replied Blair, a proud member of the Log Cabin Republicans (a group of gay, lesbian, bi, and transgendered Republicans).

"Well I'm glad you are doing it. I don't think I could convince a Republican Senator on anything."

Blair smiled, "Trust me dear, Republicans are not as narrow-minded and as stubborn as you make them out to be. You're with me, aren't you?"

"Yes I am, and my heart wouldn't want to be with anyone else but you, despite of our differences." Then she got closer to Blair and tenderly stroked Blair's left cheek, "And also despite that one particular similarity we share."

Blair just smiled, "Well what we share is very precious and special, and no stupid law or opinion will change that."

Jo responded with a firm yet caressing hug as she rested her head on Blair's right shoulder. "Yeah, no stupid law will change that."

At that moment, Jo got a text message on her phone. She pulled it out of her pocket and read it.

"Hey Jo, I got word from confidential sources that Michael Grisanti and Stephen Saland will vote for it, so there will be enough to get it passed."

Jo then got Blair's attention, "Hey Blair, Nat said that the bill will pass."

"Really? I hope she's right?"

"You know her skills as a reporter; she's usually right when comes to things like this."

Then Jo received another text message. It stated, "My iPad2 rocks girl! It really kicks the iPad1's ass, and the Galaxy Tab isn't even in its league!"

Jo just shook her head in disbelief over Nat's obsessions with fads. It was that same obsession that got them selling inflatable palm trees and plastic fishes with pens in them when they opened the store Over Our Heads.

"What else did she say?" Blair asked, knowing how many times Natalie texted Jo on a given day since she had the iPad2, enough to make a newsletter.

"Oh she's braggin' 'bout her new iPad2, as usual, sayin' how it's much bettah than the original iPad."

Blair has a puzzled look on her face, not fully understanding the different between the two. "So what makes the iPad2 more special than the iPad? They're basically the same to me."

"I dunno Blair. I agree with you, but she's makin' a big deal about it! You know Natalie longer than I have; she always has to get the latest junk that's out there. If you ask me 'what's the difference', then I'll tell ya the difference is 200 bucks!" Blair chuckled at Jo's small wisecrack. "And another thing is that ever since she got that thing, she's been textin' me nonstop! She might as well be her own news ticket or Twittah!"

Blair laughed at that one, "Well it looks like she's keeping you busy, I can't seem to get you off of your phone ever since she's got that thing. You're beginning to spend more time on the phone then with me," she said with a fake pout.

"Blair…" she sighed with her eyes rolling.

Finally the speaker came up to the podium.

"Joey, they're going to announce it right now!" Blair chirped. Jo turned her focus to the podium and looked as the secretary of the Senate addressed the audience with the final outcome.

"… Those who recorded the negative are senators Ball, Bonacic, DeFrancisco, Diaz, Farley, Flannigan…"

Jo muttered in anger, "That mother-fucker Diaz."

"Jo," Blair replied with a touch of disappointment on her lips.

"But I'm upset with him. I used to help him and his church out a lot when my patrol was stationed in his district. I feel like he just hawked and spitted on my face!"

"I understand, but honey there's not need to get upset about it. He was against it from the get-go."

And Blair was right. A few seconds later the secretary announced the total.

"Ayes: 33, Nays: 29"

Blair and Jo were totally stunned at what they just heard. Did they hear it correctly? 33 to 29? It was only two years ago that the bill was figuratively slaughtered. Now the everlasting dream of getting married became a reality.

They didn't say anything for a second or two, as the shock was still in effect, then suddenly they screamed and jumped for joy. Then they hugged each other like never before, not even the early days when their attraction for each other was new. Tears were flowing from the couple's eyes like the iconic New York natural beauty Niagara Falls and both were overwhelmed with the sudden explosion of happiness this has brought unto them.

"Oh my God, we finally get to put hyphens in our last names!" Blair joshed.

"Yeah I love to call myself Joanna Polniaczek-Warner, and that birthday/engagement party you had for me was not in vain."

"Natalie was right! I should give her a gold bracelet for it!" Blair said ecstatically.

"I know Natalie won't object to that!"

They had been engaged since 2005 (see the FoL fanfic: Joanna (I Love You)) and now they could finally and legally say that they were a couple. Their plan was to add the last names of their partners to their existing one, so Blair Warner will become Blair Warner-Polniaczek and vice versa.

Still rejuvenated by the wonderful news, the couple finally locked lips and kissed to show their love for each other. After they finished their kissing, a couple came up to Blair, "Oh my God, this is like so amazing! I can't believe this is going to happen, all thanks to you." The woman speaking was a friend of Blair and also a fellow Log Cabin Member.

Blair smiled then chuckled, "Well, if you know who you know, anything can happen!"

"All because of that speech you gave at the conference in the Poconos two weeks ago."

Two weeks ago, Blair gave a stunning speech to the Republican senators about gay marriage and how it was part of a Christian virtue of equality. She used references of Ruth and Naomi as examples where the Bible encouraged same-sex relationships. But the biggest one was that she made it clear that the Republican Party was about government out of people's lives, and that it was not in their place to say who should and who shouldn't be married. She emphasized that it was not a government nor a state issue, but a church issue. Apparently it worked with at least four of the Senators, they voted for it.

"We should give those two a call back to New York!" Blair exclaimed.

"We should. I wonder how people are reacting in Greenwich Village." as Jo reached into her slacks pocket to get the phone. But as soon as she was about to call, she got a text message.

"OMG! I can't beleive the day has finally come! I'm so xcited! We can finally get married!" One of Jo's friends texted. She was so excited; she didn't bother to correct her spellings.

While still talking to Blair, Jo texted back, "I know. Me n' Blair are crying over dis! So how are things over there?"

"A blast! The people r going crazy over here. Lady Gaga music is playing and the people are dancing, but hey, it's Stonewall Inn 4 crying out loud!"

The woman was texting from Stonewall Inn, the same place where back in 1969, a confrontation between the police and the patrons of the bar started and thus began the Gay rights movement.

"Well we'll be there tomorrow. Tell everyone thanks for their support."

"Will do!"

Jo then faced Blair. "There's no need, she texted me back. " She showed the text messages to Blair. Blair took the phone from Jo's hands and read it. When she tried to scroll down, she accidentally pressed the wrong button and instead music came out of it. It was the sentimental 80s ballad, "Hold Me", by Whitney Houston and the Teddy Pendergrass. It was loud enough that people near their surrounding heard it and started giggling. Jo quickly took the phone from her and turned it off.

Red as a cherry from the embarrassment, Jo gave a bashful apology, "Sorry about that." Blair was just as embarrassed but she didn't say anything.

"Isn't it too soon for something like that?" one stranger joked.

"That was an accident, sorry." Blair replied. However that song gave her a 'brilliant idea.'"

"Hey, this should be our wedding song. Remember you played that song on our special night?"

Now Jo was red for a much different reason. "Of course I do, that's when we truly became intimate."

"I can't think of a better song for our wedding dance, because I do want you to hold me – tight."

A mischievous smile formed on Jo's face, "Why not right now?" Jo said as she quickly grabbed her and wrapped her arms around the love of her life. Jo was firm yet still soft to hold. Blair always loved that about her, she was tough on the outside, but tender on the inside. Blair instinctively laid her head softly on Jo's neck and shoulder and wrapped her arms around her soulmate's waist.

Blair then started speaking from her heart, "Our love must be very special, because we're almost totally different, yet somehow we can't live without each other's love."

"That's because we complement each other." Jo said. "We look out for each other and we know that we will always be there for each other." Blair just nodded her head in agreement.

As the celebration was still going on, they continued to embrace each other, savoring the wonderful moment they were sharing.

Back in Greenwich Village at the Stonewall Inn, a short, natural wheat-blond girl in her early-40s with light brown eyes finished her texting and ordered another drink in celebration. She was wearing just a T-shirt with a pair of jeans.

"Hey bartender, give me another Red Bull and Vodka!"

"No problem honey child!" he replied.

Her partner came out of the bathroom. She too was a blond, but her hair was more like sunshine blond and she was a few inches taller as well. "So did it pass?" she said with a Midwestern accent.

"With flying colors honey! It was 33-29!"

"Great!" She responded with a kiss to her lover's lips. "This is one of the happiest days in my life." Now she started to cry, and it made her soul mate cry as well. Their blissful embrace added more to the joy that was in the air as there were other couples rejoicing on the good news.

Finally after their hug, the first woman said, "But honey, an even happier day will come later on this year, thanks to those wonderful 33 senators."

The other woman smiled, understanding what she really meant. "And who said all politicians are idiots?"

The coupled laughed, but then the latter got serious again. "I'm glad to be living here in New York, where at least there's an opportunity for something like this to happen. I can't say the same back in Kansas."

It also made her devoted partner sad as well. "Don't let it get to you, sugar. Eventually things will change. Your parents and relatives weren't accepting of me when they first heard about us right?"

"Right," she said while holding her head down. "And some are still not."

"That's because they're with that Westboro Baptist Church wacko, Fred Phelps. However, the rest of them now consider me a part of their family. One day, Kansas will finally see us as equals and one day other people will also be able to marry whoever they see fit over there." The other woman smiled.

"I can't wait to see that day."

"I can't either, but for right now let's talk about our day, we need to make a date to say 'I do'."

"I say we need at least six months to prepare for the wedding. I can get the invitations ready and you can work on finding the location."

"That's not a problem. I already know a place, thanks to Blair. I can call and find a spot for six months from now," the shorter girl informed her.

The other women had a huge smile when she heard that, "Oh that's so awesome! I can't wait for that day to come."

"Yeah, we can finally call ourselves Mrs. and Mrs. Cindy and Sue Ann Weavster." They ended with a smooch.

Chapter Text

"So when are Molly, Tootie and Natalie coming?" Sue Ann asked.

"Soon. They told me they were held up in traffic."

"I hope so. I want them to get here before the party ends."

"Trust me, we're dealing with queers here, the party isn't going to end anytime soon," Cindy joked.

"That's so true," Sue Ann laughed back.

A few seconds later, Cindy got a tap on her shoulder and she turned around, "Molly! You gals are here."

"It's women," she corrected Cindy. She just looked at her with a serious look.

"Molly..."

"Oh ok, how are you doing?" she hugged Cindy. "Congratulations! Finally you two can get married!"

"Yeah, now you two can be miserable like the rest of us!" Natalie kidded.

"Already been for the past thirty years," Cindy joked back. Sue Ann playfully slapped her on the shoulders.

"Cindy!"

Cindy just smiled and hugged her, "But I wouldn't trade those years for anything in the world."

Molly smiled, seeing the couple as lovingly happy as they were in the past.

"I know, it's been over thirty years since we've confessed our love. I thought that this day will never come in my life." Cindy said with a smile. Sue Ann grinned as much as she told Molly, "But you've been a big help as well, helping bridge the gap between the lesbians and the straight feminist groups."

Molly Parker, a coordinator who works for the National Organization for Women (NOW), helped gather various feminist groups to work together to get the bill passed. She smiled as she was very thankful for Sue Ann's compliment.

"It's wasn't just me. It was Tootie, who help promote same-sex couples and marriage on her show. It was also Natalie, who wrote opinion pieces and wrote heart-warming stories of gay and lesbian couples in the New York Times. It was all of us. It's amazing at what we can do when we can work together, and today is a perfect example what womanhood and unity could achieve."

"Amen sister, preach on!" Natalie responded in a joking mood. Molly however didn't take it as a joke and she gave a cold glare to Natalie. Natalie defended her response, "Oh come on Molly, I'm just playing with you. Of course I agree with you, but tonight let's celebrate this wonderful moment. Let's cherish our accomplishment!"

"So I heard that there is going to be a performance tonight?" Natalie asked Cindy.

"Yeah, there are going to be some drag kings and drag queens doing some lip-synching on the stage."

"Really?" Tootie said. "That must be interesting. Maybe some of them can appear on my show."

The girls laughed and Sue Ann said, "That's the last thing you need on your show, more homos!"

"Yeah, the critics are already saying that your show is 'more gay than a Lady Gaga concert'!"

"Well that's their problem. I want to show the human side of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgenders, instead of the one-sided circus performances you see on TV. By the way, Lady Gaga agreed to appear on my show for next week, I hope you're watching!"

"Really!" said an excited Cindy, "You know I'm gonna record that!" Then she told Tootie, "But really Tootie, this is nothing new, they do this all the time in gay bars. Since today is about the marriage, you might see a wedding theme going on."

About seven minutes later, the host came up to the stage. He was a clearly a man in drag trying to look like Katy Perry. "I know everybody excited about the good news today!" Everybody in the room yelled with excitement. "And to think that all this would not have been possible if it weren't for the brave few who took a stand on that night in June 27, 1969. Some of them are here with us tonight, let's give them a toast of appreciation for making this day possible. Cheers!"

Then everybody said "Cheers."

"Now let's get the show started. From Yonkers, New York comes a male-and-female duo that will sizzle you with their performance. Please give a hand for Shelley and Tommy!" From the curtains came a woman dressed in a wedding tux and a man dressed in a wedding dress. The music started with the familiar wedding song, and then it quickly switched to Bruno Mars' "Marry You", with the drag king lip-syncing to the drag queen. The girls were enjoying the performance.

"This is so funny!" Tootie laughed.

"I know!" Natalie replied as she was dancing with a man wearing a wedding dress.

About thirty minutes later, the girls left the bar and went outside. It was just as crazy outside as it was in the bar, as the lively party atmosphere were going on. There were men dressed in wedding outfits, and women with tuxedos. There was singing, dancing, and even a group of men throwing flame sticks at each other. The atmosphere was more like a circus!

The girls were soaking up the jubilation surrounded them as they were dancing and singing their way to the nearest diner. When they got there and got seated, Sue Ann brought up Jo and Blair.

"I wish they were here to witness all of this."

"I'm sure there's something going on in Albany. Knowing Blair, she probably created her own party down there." Natalie responded while tweeting on her iPad2.

Molly then looked at her with some embarrassment and said, "Are you surgically attached to that thing?"

"I tried that but I found out that I had to pay Steve Jobs for licensing fee if I did that." Natalie jibed.

The girls laughed and then Molly asked Natalie, "How did you know that Jo and Blair was a couple."

Natalie smiled, "I had my suspicions since 1983, but I was very sure about it sometime around 1985, a few months before we opened Over Our Heads when the two went to the old drive-in. Jo didn't know that Blair wanted her for a long time, until I gave her a hint. When did you find out?" She asked Molly.

Molly instantly remembers, "I probably knew before they probably knew themselves, or at least before they finally admitted it! I remember one particular argument they had in their bedroom when I came over to study with Tootie for the Chemistry mid-terms. It had to do about that Harrison guy that Jo was dating. I saw the interaction between Blair and Jo and I noticed Blair's body signals. Her body language didn't give off just an angry woman, but a jealous, angry woman. Her body wasn't just showing signs of anger, but of hurt, like when somebody breaks your heart. It was like her body was saying, "Why do you love him instead of me?" There was also something like that from Jo, where she tells Blair that she loves him but her body was saying otherwise, like an act. Also, I couldn't ignore how passionate the argument was, like it was some sort of foreplay." Then she added, "By the way Natalie, it was me who told Jo first."

"Yeah, I remember…" Natalie muttered bitterly. She remembered very well that Molly beat her to the punch. Molly just smiled.

"Yeah, I think that's their way of making out," Cindy said. "Me and Sue Ann do argue, but not like the way they do."

"Actually I got a confession to make women," Molly said.

"What is it?" Tootie asked.

"I was able to figure out Jo and Blair's arguments based on the argument that Cindy and Sue Ann had during the time they were competing each other for the race. Truth is, Cindy and Sue Ann do have their passionate fights, but they're not as common. However, when they do have them, they're more explosive."

Cindy and Sue Ann's faces went pale when they heard Molly's revelation. They just looked at each other in a bit of shame. In all their years together, they never knew that part of their relationship. Molly had exposed them to a blind spot of their relationship. Everybody went silent for a bit. Wanting to get rid of the tension surrounding the table, Natalie quickly asked Cindy, "How did you know about Jo and Blair, Cindy?"

"Jo told us. Since the both of us were one the biggest dykes in Eastland, she and Blair told us, but I knew long before thanks to my gaydar. I have to turn my gaydar off every time I'm near them for fear of explosion." The girls laughed.

"Blair was hesitant to admit it, since she didn't want to look like a hypocrite in front of Cindy, but she told her that all was forgiven and then she finally admitted it on her end." Sue Ann recalled.

"I can't lie though, I enjoyed watching that prig admit it." Cindy smirked.

"So did I." Sue Ann responded with a smile.

Molly then asked Tootie, who remained silent the whole time, "When did you find out Tootie?"

"I didn't find out until the day we went to our first karaoke. Remember that girls?" The group laughed as it brought memories of that night. "Boy did we make a scene at that place! I remember while I was singing Whitney Houston's 'You Give Good Love' that Blair and Jo started dancing along with Cindy and Sue Ann. I was so shocked; I stumbled on part of the words." The girls were laughing at Tootie's revelation as she continued. "When I was living in DC, Blair and Jo came to my house holding each other's hands. My father was there and he told them a few words that weren't cool, and then they angrily left. I had to ask them for forgiveness over the situation. My dad told me I shouldn't be hanging around with people like them."

"People like them…" Cindy muttered with a bitter tone. Sue Ann squeezed her partner slightly around her waist with her right arm, calming her down a bit. Then Cindy laid her head on Sue Ann's right shoulder.

Molly then continued, "So is your father okay about their relationship now? It's been like nearly 20 years."

"No, I don't think so. He was the lawyer who worked with the African-American and Latino Churches in order to block the Marriage bill in DC. It failed and he's still bitter over it."

Molly sighed, "Intolerance. I especially don't like it when one minority does it to another, but that's just how the old generation feels about it. It doesn't matter, because they're on their way out."

Finally, the food came with their drinks. With a glass of water in her hand, Molly made a toast.

"This is to a new era in equality. We finally achieved here in New York what 44 other states have yet achieved. We still got some ways to go before this country achieves full equality, like they do up in Canada. But for now I say 'to equality'."

Everyone in the tabled responded "To equality!" as they toast to their accomplishment.

The next day, a few of Jo's friends were at her home near Central Park. There was Sue Ann, Cindy, Natalie, Jo and Willis Jackson, Mr. Drummond's adopted son. They just finished watching the Yankees defeat the Rockies in one of the interleague games.

"Thank God A. Rod and C.C. Sabathian is on the team." Jo said.

"That's because the Yankees buy their championships," Sue Ann responded.

Jo just smiled and responded, "A little jealous Sue Ann that your team, the Royals, is always in the cellar and always used that worn-out excuse for their inability to field a competing team."

Sue Ann looked at her and gave her the finger. "We wouldn't be in the cellar if we had the money and the market that the Yanks had. It's not an excuse, it's the truth! Everybody knows the Yankees has a monopoly in the league."

Sensing a fight was about to brew, Natalie changed the focus of the conversation. "Who cares, what's really important was how hot and sexy A. Rod looked when he was fielding the ball in the 7th. God, he's such a cutie even without the steroids!"

Everyone else looked at her like she was crazy. Willis responded, "If you haven't figured it out Natalie, you're the only one who likes guys in here."

Natalie looked around her and said, "You're right. I wish Tootie was here, she would agree with me."

"Yeah, but she went with Blair, Bailey, and Kimberly to go shopping down at Madison." Jo stated. "Blair's doing her sabbatical shopping again."

"What is she buying?" Sue Ann.

"Quite a few things for the wedding, she wants it to be top notch. You know Blair."

Willis snickered as he looked at Cindy and Sue Ann, "Yeah I know her. How come you two aren't with Blair for your wedding stuff?"

"I guess you've never been shopping with Blair before, have you?" Sue Ann said with a serious look at Willis. "She can drive you nuts with her indecisiveness and her quick whims of decisions."

"Oh I see."

"Besides, we already had it planned since two years ago. So all we need really is the ring and a few other things. It will be a wonderful Weavster wedding!"

Then Willis started to laughed, "Weavster… hahaha!"

Jo and Natalie started to laugh as well. Only Cindy and Sue Ann weren't laughing.

"Hey, what's so funny? It's the new trend that's out there!" Cindy said. "I mean, you got Brangelina, Britanna, etc… Heck, our website is named like that."

"What?" Natalie said. "Are you for real?"

"Yeah, . Sue Ann made it a few years back. We haven't updated it for a while since we mostly use Facebook."

"Is your Facebook page named 'Cinann-forever'?" Jo asked.

"Of course." Sue Ann responded.

"Cinann, what kind of name is that." Jo said while trying not to laugh.

"I think they mean 'cinnamon'!" Willis joked. Everyone else was laughing besides the couple.

"It's not cinnamon, it's CinAnn! It's the combination of Cindy and Sue Ann. Come on Jo and Willis, it's the latest thing." Cindy said.

"Yeah Jo, get with the times!" Natalie added while trying to stifle her snicker.

Jo looked at Natalie dismissively and said, "I'll just stick with Jo and Blair thank you, and we're going to use hyphens in our last names, so hopefully I'll be Joanna Polniaczek-Warner in the next six months."

Willis then asked, "So tell me then, when are you two going to have the wedding?"

"Blair is the one who knows more about it, but I do know it will be at least six months from now. We will be holding it at St. Thomas Church. Isn't that where you two will be having it as well Sue Ann?"

"Actually no, we're going to have it at Spring of Life Methodist Church in Peekskill. Blair was able to get us a great discount over there."

"Really?" Willis said.

"Why not? It was at Peekskill that we fell in love, right?" she blushed at Cindy.

"Right honey," Cindy responded with a kiss on her lips.

Willis smiled, "I'm glad to see you three finally get the right that me and Sharon already have."

"Ya know, it seemed like it was yesterday since we became a couple. If you asked me back in 1985 that we will be able to get married, I would have laugh at ya! It all began a little more than twenty-five years ago…" Jo said.

Chapter Text

(Flashback to 1985)

Molly smiled to herself as she watched Jo placed her right ankle on her left knee and stretched her right arm along the back of the booth where she and Blair were sitting. The drive-in movie was packed with both Eastland and Langley students that night since it was going to be demolished the following day. 'They are so cute together', thought Molly as she noticed Blair subconsciously lean to her right so that her shoulder nestled into the crook of Jo's arm.

Molly's revelry, however, was disrupted by the obnoxious couple in the booth next to hers. They were making sarcastic jokes about Jo and Blair, infuriating Molly. The seriously-minded redhead stood up and confronted the rude couple.

"Don't you have anything better to do than to spew your hatred and ignorance?"

The boy in the booth stood up and towered menacingly over the petite girl.

"What are you going to do about it, Red?"

Molly, who took everything literally, considered her options.

"I'm going to become a political activist and work to make this world a better place for my friends. What are you going to do with your life, Jughead?"

The boy clinched his fists at his side and scowled at Molly, who took a step backward. Molly was afraid that she may have gone too far by calling the boy a jughead.

"Jughead huh? Who do you think you are? Archie Andrews? Well, you might be redheaded just like him, but when I get done with you, you will also be red-faced as well! Right, Honey?"

"That's right, Sugar, and I'll shut your mouth as well, you little turnip!"

Just as he was about to approach Molly, he took a step back. Molly felt a protective hand on her shoulder.

"Is this twerp giving you a hard time, Molly?" Molly turned and smiled into the bright green eyes of Jo Polniaczek, before glaring back at the boy who had been taunting her.

The girlfriend was puzzled why her boyfriend backed away. "What are you doing running away from a chick?"

"That's no ordinary chick, that's Jo Polniaczek, the one who kicked Freddie's ass a few months ago when he called her a carpet munching, diesel-dyke!"

"That's right, and if you get anywhere near my friend, or insult me, or her in any way possible, you will end up just like your friend." She scowled as she cracked her right knuckles. Then she asked, "Say, is he starting to eat regular foods again?"

"Let's get the fuck out of here." The boy grunted his dissatisfaction, but he wasn't about to tangle with Jo, so he and his girlfriend left the refreshment bar.

Molly sighed in relief and smiled, "Thanks, Jo."

"Hey, anytime. What was that about, anyway?"

Molly, who assumed that Jo knew that she was gay, answered honestly, "They were making fun of you and Blair . . . as a couple. I got angry and made them stop. It's none of their business who you love."

Jo blushed and stammered.

"B . . . B . . . Blair . . . and me?"

"You don't have to pretend with me, Jo. I know that you and Blair are in love with each other."

"B . . . B . . . Blair . . . and me?"

Molly frowned, wondering why Jo kept repeating herself.

"Why are you so surprised that I figured it out? You were practically hugging each other in the booth over there."

Before Jo could question Molly further, Blair ran up to her roommate and grabbed Jo's arm.

"Come on, Jo! They've fixed the projector, and we'll miss part of the movie if we don't hurry. You know I can't keep up with what's happening if I miss more than a couple of minutes."

Jo allowed herself to be pulled along by Blair, but continued to mutter to herself.

"Blair and me? Blair and me? Blair . . . and me!"

On the other end, Molly was stunned that Jo never knew about it. "Oh my, what did I just do?"

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Later that night, after the police retrieved Mrs. Garrett's stolen car and Natalie, Tootie, Jo, and Blair were in the bedroom they shared over Edna's Edibles, Jo continued to reflect on her conversation with Molly. She looked over at Blair, who was filing her nails, and frowned.

'Nah, it's impossible', reasoned Jo. Moments later, Blair noticed that Jo was staring at her and she smiled over at her roommate, twirling her hair and giggling.

Recognizing the flirtatious gesture, Jo smacked herself in the forehead. Natalie, who was going through her Garbage Pail collection, started laughing. Jo grabbed her younger roommate by the arm and dragged her from the room.

"Why ya laughin'?"

"Why did you smack yourself in the forehead?" Natalie asked, finding it rather amusing.

"None of your business."

Natalie figured it out. "Jo, it's so obvious. You saw the way Blair was flirting with you, and you finally got a clue."

"You knew, too?"

Natalie, who prided herself on being the first to know everything, lifted her eyebrows questioningly.

"Who else knows?"

"Well, Molly said something at the drive-in tonight that got me to thinking about it."

"Damn that girl! I should have known, her body language skills are totally awesome."

"So, you think she's right? You think that Blair and me . . . that we're . . .?"

Natalie shrugged and returned to her bedroom, leaving Jo to figure things out on her own. Natalie almost knocked Blair down as she entered their room.

"Where's Jo? What were you two talking about?"

Natalie started to respond with a funny quip about Blair being nosey, but she took pity on the couple.

"Why don't you go down to the lounge and ask Jo? I think she wants to talk to you about something."

Blair immediately left the room and sought out her best friend. She found Jo sitting on the sofa in Mrs. Garrett's lounge. Jo was deep in thought, so Blair tried to be as quiet as possible when she sat down beside the reflective brunette.

"Is there something wrong, Jo? Are you mad at me again?"

Jo tilted her head and gazed into sincere brown eyes.

"Why would I be angry with you?"

"I don't know. You get angry with me all the time. I never know why."

Jo pursed her lips thoughtfully.

"You get mad at me all the time, too. I don't know why, either. Why do you suppose we're always fighting with one another?"

Blair squirmed, a little uncomfortable with the topic.

"I guess we just make each other mad."

Jo shook her head, unsatisfied with Blair's answer.

"But why do you only get mad at me? Nat and Tootie do some of the same things I do, but you don't get mad at them."

Blair shrugged, "It's different with you. I expect more from you."

"Why?"

Blair stood and began pacing in front of the sofa.

"I don't know why. Why do you have to analyze everything? Can't we just accept how things are without having to know why we do the things we do?"

Jo stood and blocked Blair's path. They stood toe to toe, staring into one another's eyes.

"No, Blair. I can't let it go. I have to know if . . . if . . ."

Jo never had a chance to finish her thought because Blair's lips were suddenly touching her own. It was their first kiss and they owed it all to their observant friends.

As they kissed, Jo slowly wrapped her arms around Blair's waist and drew her closer to her. She wanted more than to just to kiss her; she needed her to be close to her. She needed to feel her softness, she needed to smell that expensive Chanel perfume she was wearing, she needed that thick silk-like hair of Blair's rubbed against her face, she needed all of her, for she hungered for Blair's love and she couldn't let her go.

Blair in return held Jo tight as could. She felt loved within the strong arms of Jo. She felt security when she looked at Jo's green eyes. She felt complete when their lips touched for the first time.

After what seemed like an eternity, they parted from their kiss, yet kept their arms wrapped around each other. Looking deeply into Blair's dark brown eyes, Jo husked, "...if you love me." Part of her hair was over her face.

Blair smiled reassuringly and lightly brushed off Jo's hair off her face. "I think I gave you my answer, just as much as you gave me yours." They both giggled and then they continued their embracing and kissing, savoring their newfound love. All the while, they were unaware of the investigative reporter snooping from the stairs as Natalie had a smile seeing her friends finally recognizing their long-denied love for each other.

Chapter Text

Wedding Bells Are Ringing - Chapter 4

(Returning back to the present)

"And from that point on, we became a couple. Two days later, I told Cindy about it during a game of hoops. I knew she wouldn't have any problems with it since we went to a few gay bars together. She asked me 'what the hell took me so long to figure that out?'"

Everybody just chuckled, "Yeah, I was like 'it's about time girl!' Couldn't you see that for a long time?" Cindy joked.

"Well, I was in total denial, probably due to my strong Catholic upbringings. Besides her and Sue Ann, only Natalie knew. Blair and I dated other men to keep up the charade for other people. I even once dated El DeBarge when I met him at Over Our Heads once. I really don't wanna talk about that." Jo remembered unfortunately.

"Yeah, big mistake..." Natalie trailed.

"Tootie, of course, found out when we went to the karaoke place, but Mrs. Garrett found out without us telling her."

"How so?" Willis inquired.

"She told me that our attitudes towards each other have changed dramatically. She also said that she noticed that we were sharing a lot more things than before. Plus, she already dealt with a lesbian couple before, so what we were doing was nothing new to her. However, all of that was just pure speculation on her part, until she finally got solid proof, from us..."

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It was 10:30 PM on Christmas night 1985 and Jo and Blair were sitting on the couch with Jo wrapping her arms around Blair while Blair muzzled up next to Jo. No one else was there, so they had some much needed quality time for themselves. They were sipping on some warm cinnamon apple cider and enjoying each other's company. For most of the week, Blair was too busy being her mom's "coach". Jo understood that, but she couldn't help feeling a bit miserable because of not being able to spend quality time with the woman she cherishes.

"So you and your mom got yourselves a surprise Christmas gift, huh?"

"We sure did, and it came in 6 pounds and 12 ounces!" Blair beamed while Jo grinned in return.

"So why did you name her Bailey?"

"I named her after my grandfather, who I still fondly remember."

"I see. Why not call her Diana? After all, Princess Diana is your role model," Jo chaffed.

Blair lightly punched Jo on her shoulder, "She's not my role model. Estee Lauder is."

Jo just chuckled, "But I'm glad to see that you got a sibling."

"Thanks," Blair responded with her warm smile.

"It's probably the closest thing that we can ever get to having a child," Jo sulked, thinking of the impossibility of them producing a child.

Blair quickly turned around and looked at her lover, "Don't say that. We can adopt children, or we can have artificial insemination. Just because we're both women doesn't mean that we can't have a family. Jo, I want to have a family with you. I want to build my life around you, just as much as you want to build your life around me. But then again, with what I have to offer, who wouldn't?" she gleamed.

"Blair!" Jo spat.

"Just kidding, Sweetie. But regardless of what others have to say, I truly believe that God wants us to be together. Nobody has ever made me feel as special as you have." Then she moves in closet to Jo, "And nobody or no deity will stand in between us."

Feeling Blair's warm breath, she asked "Is this the time that I kiss you?"

"You better. Look above you."

Jo raised her head up and saw Blair holding a mistletoe. She then looked back at Blair with her sly smile and slowly kissed her. However, they weren't aware that Mrs. Garrett came downstairs for a glass of water. She was shocked, but not appalled. She tried to quietly go back upstairs but the second step creaked.

Jo and Blair instantly turned around and saw Mrs. Garrett nervously looking down and fiddling her fingers.

"It wasn't what you think it was, Mrs. G!" Jo blurted in a state of panic.

"Yeah, it's was that… Jo got something stuck in her teeth," Blair explained, using one of her not-so-brilliant-ideas. Jo looked at her like, 'Couldn't you think of a better lie, Princess?'"

Edna just smiled, then she calmly collected her nerves and told them, "There's no need to panic, I had expected it for a while." The girls were stunned to hear her revelation. "I saw how close you two have become in the past year and knew that there was more going on. Truth is, I was hoping you two would reach this point."

"Really?" Jo questioned, shocked at Mrs. Garrett's revelation.

"Absolutely. I think you two were made for each other, regardless of what others think. I've seen one lesbian relationship blossom before my eyes and they are still doing fine, despite the obstacles they've faced."

"Cindy and Sue Ann, right?"

"Yes, Jo. However, just like when they were living here, you two will have to follow the ground rules as long as you call this home. That means no excessive public display of affection, and you two must sleep in separate beds."

"But, Mrs. Garrett, we're over 18 now!" Jo protested.

"Yes, but you have two roommates who have yet to reach 18. Plus I need my sleep!"

Jo and Blair blushed after her comment. "We haven't reached that point yet in our relationship, but I understand, Mrs. G.," Jo responded.

"Good. Also, you have to be careful. I don't think I need to tell you that some people are not as accepting as I am. Sue Ann and Cindy can tell you all about that."

"Yeah, Cindy told me quite a few stories…" Jo brooded with a touch of fear in her voice.

"Look, I'll leave you two alone and get my water. But, please, be careful, you two. I'm very serious," she warned as she looked at the two young partners with a straight face.

As Mrs. Garrett headed to the kitchen, Jo and Blair smiled, feeling like some of the weight on their shoulders was gone. Then they resumed their kissing.

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"And that's how she found out," Jo informed them.

"Well, it's great that she's been supportive of you two," Willis rejoined.

"You know Mrs. G. She might be old, but she's a cool lady. She supported your marriage with Sharon, even though she's white," Sue Ann reminded him. Willis nodded in return.

"Yeah, I'm thankful for that," he grinned. "So what about you and Cindy? How did you two became a couple."

Sue Ann looked up to him, "Well, it happened after the whole race debacle…"

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It was spring of 1980 when Mrs. Garrett tore the picture of the former friends into two, she handed the picture to them. Cindy took a look and saw a smiling Sue Ann. She really missed that smile and wanted it back, for deep down she knew that she loved her. The same with Sue Ann, she harbored deep feelings for her friend before the whole racing nonsense. She wasn't sure that Cindy felt the same way, but she didn't want to end their friendship either. Also, she was told by her family that same-sex relationships were not okay.

After they took the picture with Mrs. Garrett, they went upstairs and they had their own private talk.

"I'm so sorry, Sue Ann, I was being a jerk." Cindy said regretfully while looking down on the floor.

"It's okay, it was me who got jealous first. Let's learn from this and continue on with our friendship."

Cindy smiled, "Yes, I do want our friendship back." What she really wanted was Sue Ann to be her girlfriend. She had learned and accepted the fact that she was not 'normal', and that she was gay. But she didn't know if Sue Ann felt the same way. As she tried to move her neck, she felt pain.

"Ouch! My neck hurts!"

Sue Ann said, "Where?"

"Right around the area between my neck and the back of my shoulder blade," she pointed.

"Here let me help you," Sue Ann said as she started to massage her roommate. Her soft, firm hand started to drive Cindy crazy as the limber fingers worked her stiff neck muscles soothingly. Sue Ann was also trying to repress her own feelings for Cindy, thinking they were unnatural. Eventually, they both looked at each other and stopped for a minute, gazing each other. Cindy inched in for a kiss. Sue Ann didn't pull away. In fact, she inched in as well and finally their lips touched. They kissed for a bit, as each was exploring each other. Cindy tightly wrapped her arms around Sue Ann, as she didn't want to let her go.

When they broke off, Cindy responded, "I never hated you. In fact, I've always loved you."

Sue Ann didn't smile, instead a worried look was on her face. "I don't know what to make of this. Where I'm from, it's not okay to feel this way, but I do. "

"This is not Kansas, Sue Ann, this is New York, we are free to love each other as we see fit. We're far away from your family's prying eyes."

"But what about Mrs. Garrett, or the rest of the girls including Blair? She will use it against us," Sue Ann said with great concern.

"After you decked her in the eye, she will use anything against you, though I think she deserved it," Cindy chuckled and Sue Ann did in return.

"Yeah, she sure did. But what if others found out? I really do love you, and I don't want to be with anyone else, but I'm afraid the consequence outweighs the reward." A tear was starting to slide down her right cheek.

Cindy then looked at her and dried her eye with her right hand. "I seriously doubt that. The rewards of love far outweigh the consequences. Nobody else makes me feel so special than you do, and I want to make you feel special too. I want to make you happy, and I know we got a wonderful and special thing going on. I'm sure that Mrs. Garrett will be very accepting of our relationship. The other girls will come around, trust me, Sue Ann. As for Blair, who cares? If she decides to cause any trouble, we got Mrs. Garrett to back us up! Plus, she knows that we both can kick her butt any time!"

Sue Ann saw the conviction and love in her partner's eyes. However, there was still that one lingering question. "But you still haven't answered about my family."

"When they see how happy you are, and how much we love each other, they'll accept it. If they don't accept it, then we'll find other friends who will accept us. We're not alone, even though it feels like it. There's Greenwich Village, after all!"

Sue Ann smiled, "Yeah, you're right, I really shouldn't worry. It's just that…"

"I understand. It's not 'normal' but who wants something normal and ordinary? Why want something normal when you can have something unique and wonderful… and special? That's what our love is, special," Cindy told her as she closed in for another kiss.

Sue Ann whispered, "Yeah, our love is special." Their lip's finally touched and they kissed even more passionately than before. They were in their own world for nearly a minute until they heard a knock on the door.

"I'll get it," Cindy said followed by a peck on her lover's lips. Sue Ann blushed. Cindy opened the door. It was Molly.

"Hey, Cindy, I –," She immediately paused as she examined the flushed face of the lovers. She knew there was always an attraction between the two, but now she knew it was more than that, from their blushing faces and the fact that there was some lip gloss smeared on Cindy's lip. After all, Molly was a master of reading body expressions.

"Umm… I was going to ask you two to pose for another picture, but I see that now is not a good time…"

"Oh no, we would love for you to take our picture, right, Sue Ann?"

"Of course!" she emoted.

Molly didn't know what to make out of it, so she went ahead to prepare for the picture. When she got them in her camera range, she was surprise how much radiant energy those two were given off.

"Oh, my God, I think I need some sunglasses to deal with this!" she thought to herself. She noticed how much closer the couple was to each other than in the previous shot. Molly adjusted the lenses and took the picture.

"Can you take one more, please?" Cindy begged.

"Oh, ok," Molly responded without any problems. In fact, she wanted to take a lot more so she could analyze the couple. What she noticed is how very touchy Cindy is compared to Sue Ann, meaning she is probably more affectionate to Sue Ann, but also more emotional and sensitive, which could be a good and a bad thing. Cindy had her arms more wrapped than Sue Ann's and she was softly stroking the side of Sue Ann's hip with her index finger, thinking that Molly wouldn't notice it.

Molly reloaded the film, and took a shot. "Well, that's two, do you want me to take more?"

"No, no thanks. We got other things to take care of. Thanks though," Cindy responded.

"Oh, ok. Well, take care, you two," and she left the room. Cindy then quickly locked the door and showed a sly smile on her face. Sue Ann showed her own as well. Without saying a word, Cindy came up to her and started their passionate kissing once again…

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"And that's how it happened," Sue Ann beamed. Cindy smiled as well.

"But how did Mrs. Garrett found out?" Willis inquired.

"She said that she had her suspicions since I hanged around a bit with Sue Ann, however it was when she went into our room and noticed that there were two pillows on Sue Ann's bed and none on my bed," Cindy recalled.

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Several months later after the race, Cindy had just walked into the room and saw Mrs. Garrett instantly turn towards her.

"Hey there, Cindy."

"Hi, Mrs. Garrett."

She closed the door gently and then she looked at Cindy with some concern, "I want to know something."

"What is it, Mrs. G?"

"Why are there two pillows on Sue Ann's bed and none on yours?"

"Well..." Cindy was trying to think of something quick. "Sue Ann was complaining about her pillow last night being too flat, so I gave her another one and told her to shut up."

Mrs. Garrett took it as a reasonable response, but she also noticed something else.

"But your bed is well made, unlike your dresser and the rest of your part of the room."

Cindy was now starting to get nervous and her face was showing it. Mrs. Garrett detected but continued her interrogation.

"Also I see some of your clothes in Sue Ann's pile, can you explain why?"

"I-I-I think there was some mix up going on..."

Cindy thought she got away with her lie, but the crafty Mrs. Garrett had one more trick up her sleeve. She went to Sue Ann's bed and pulled Cindy's pajamas from underneath her pillow. It was clearly her's since it had her name on pajama shirt.

"Care to explain this?" she simply asked. Cindy stalled a bit, trying to come up with another lie. Mrs. Garrett wasn't in the mood for Cindy's lies, so she frankly asked her, "Cindy, can you please tell me the truth, are you and Sue Ann in love with each other?"

That moment, she instantly froze and hesitated, "Uh-uh-uh?"

Mrs. G. then smiled, "You don't need to worry about me, I see nothing wrong with you two being in love."

Cindy first looked at her with shock, then finally with a beaming smile on her face, feeling like a ton of brick was finally off of her.

"Really?" she exclaimed.

"Yes. I have no problems with it. In fact, I think it's wonderful that you are in love."

Cindy still had that huge gleaming smile on her face and told her, "Oh, thank you very much!"

"No problem, but I want to talk to you and Sue Ann about a few things when she comes here. You two may be in love, but you still have to abide by the rules here."

"I understand," she responded, knowing Mrs. Garrett's rules very well.

"Get me when Sue Ann comes back from her shower."

"Okay."

About fifteen minutes later, Sue Ann entered into the room.

"Hey there, Babe," Cindy smiled.

"Hi there, Sweetie, what's up?"

"Um, stay here for a bit, I'll be back."

Sue Ann was a bit worried, "What's wrong?"

"Nothing, I'll be back."

Cindy went downstairs to get Mrs. Garrett. They came into the room and Cindy sat right next to Sue Ann. She held Sue Ann's hand. Sue Ann was shocked and scared about it.

"Cindy!"

"Don't worry about it, Sue Ann, I already know," Mrs. Garrett reassured her with her smile.

"But how?"

"You should have kept only one pillow on your bed," she said with a coy grin.

Sue Ann's eyes nearly popped out, then she turned to Cindy and scolded her, "Cindy, I told you she'll find out that you were sleeping with me."

"What?!" Mrs. Garrett shouted.

"It's not like that! We never did 'it', it's just that Cindy wants to be close to me, so she sleeps with me in the bed during the night."

"You better stop doing that from this point on, because that's one of the ground rules here. As long as you're staying here, you two will be sleeping in separate beds."

"Okay," Cindy responded, feeling ashamed for her actions.

"And there won't be any extreme public display of affection, you two understand?"

"Yes, we do."

"Highly unlikely, if people found out about us, we would be in deep trouble," Sue Ann informed.

"That's another concern," Mrs. Garrett warned as she gave them a sorrowful look. "You two have got to be very careful about your relationship. I know you want to shout it out to the world that you love each other, but the world still sees your love as a sickness."

"I know, Mrs. Garrett. I know my family would be ashamed that I'm with a girl," Sue Ann answered while trying her best not to cry. Cindy instantly comforted her.

Mrs. Garrett tried not to cry as well, feeling Sue Ann's pain, "I can't speak for your parents, but I can speak for myself that no matter what, I will support you both. You don't have to worry about that."

Sue Ann then smiled, "Thanks, Mrs. Garrett."

"Thanks, Mrs. Garrett." Cindy responded.

The smile returned to Mrs. Garrett's face, "Good, now I need to continue cleaning the kitchen."

As she left the room, they embraced each other and then they kissed.

(Return to the present)

"I'm so glad that Mrs. Garrett was accepting of our relationship. I thank her for accepting us as we are. Also, she may have laid the ground rules on us, but we found a way around that." Sue Ann stated with a slick smile.

"How so?" Willis asked with intrigue, his heterosexual male curiosity was getting the best of him.

"There's a barn near the place, I'm a farm girl, there are noisy animals in the barn, and we got lots of blankets. You do the math." A blush appeared on her's and Cindy's face. Willis started to blush as well while the others laughed.

"Well that's one way to go around her rules," Jo sniggered. "Anyhow, I need to check up on Blair." So she pulled out her cell and called Blair.

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Chapter Text

Wedding Bells Are Ringing – Chapter 5

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Blair, along with Kimberly and Nancy, were at Kleinfeld, a top-rated wedding store in Manhattan, which shouldn't be that much of a surprise, since Blair is known to only want the best.

There was Blair, standing in front of the mirror with Kimberly and Nancy sitting a few feet away. The two were examining the dress, seeing if it fits their approval. However, it wouldn't matter much, because Blair's approval was the only one that really mattered.

"So what do you think, Kimberly?" Blair asked while posing in a rather regal manner.

"I think it's perfect for you, Blair." Kimberly nodded.

"Yeah, I really like it myself." Blair grinned, showing her pearly whites. The smile quickly disappeared when Blair looked at her watch, as she was wondering what was taking Tootie and Bailey so long.

"It's been past two hours and they're not here yet!" She complained, which sounded a bit like whining.

"Come on Blair, don't you know how many invitations you ordered in such a short time?" Kimberly tried to reason with Blair, while Nancy nodded.

"Not really, since I pre-ordered those invitations six months ago, so they should have been here by now!"

"You're acting like you're going to get married tomorrow. The wedding is not for at least six months." Nancy dismissed.

"Actually, I was able to move it up to next month just a few minutes ago. Jo's priest was more than happy to accommodate a slot for us." She ended with a wide grin that could give the Cheshire cat's grin some competition.

"What!" Kimberly and Nancy jumped out of their seats and shouted in unison.

"Does Jo know about this?" Nancy asked with slight fear.

"Nope, but she will soon." Blair responded nonchalantly.

Kimberly and Nancy shook their heads and went back to their seats. They knew that the very methodical and forward-planning Jo would not like Blair's spontaneous rescheduling. As it was shown at the birthday/engagement party, Jo did not like surprises.

"Oh boy…" Nancy muttered.

Then all of a sudden, the store's front door flew open. Tootie finally came back from the printing press with Bailey, both winded. In their hands were some of the over 10,000 invitations printed, and that was only half of what Blair ordered!

"What took you so long?" Blair admonished unreasonably to the two women.

"Well, if you didn't make an order to print out invitations for the entire city of New York, then we would have been here sooner." Bailey derided.

Blair just huffed and didn't bother to say a word to her sister.

Tootie didn't bother to respond either; instead she looked at the dress and gushed about it. "Wow, that's a great dress. I know Jo will love it!"

"I don't know, Tootie. She looks a bit fat in it." Bailey dryly teased.

Blair knew her sarcastic sister well enough not to get too angry about it, even though she had weight problems in the past. She was no skinny pencil, but she was at a comfortable and healthy weight that highlighted her curvy figure. None the less, she still spat back at her. "Oh shut up Bailey!"

The rest of the women just giggled, not taking Blair's angry spat seriously.

"Yeah, we finally found one that's perfect for her. It was a relief, since we went through like ten already…" Kimberly derided.

"But it was worth it." Blair chimed. "I want nothing but the best for the wedding."

"I can understand. That's how I was in my wedding. It seems like yesterday when me and Roger got married." Nancy brought it up in a dreamy matter.

"Yeah, that was a wonderful wedding." Kimberly reminisced.

"Wait 'til you look back at your wedding photos and see the hairstyle you had!" Tootie joked. It was in 1986, and it doesn't take much to imagine how bad the hairstyle was back in the eighties.

"Oh God, that big hair of mine…" Nancy shuttered, remembering the big bangs she had. It was "totally rad" back then, but now she would consider it to be "totally bogus". "Yeah, thank God those days are gone."

They all chuckled. Then Blair's phone rang. She looked at her iPhone screen and it displayed "My Sweetie."

"Oh, it's my future wife calling." She squealed like she was still twelve.

She answered it, and Jo's distinctive Bronx accent came through the phone.

"Heya Blair, what's up?"

"Oh nothing. I'm trying on the wedding dress. I think I found one that I really like."

"Wedding dress? You already goin' shoppin' for a dress? I thought you went to get stuff like napkins or decorations?" Jo questioned as her confusion started to grow.

"Of course, sweetie!"

A puzzled look appeared on Jo's face. "Okay… What does it look like?"

The rest of the group were just as puzzled as Jo, and they started to look at each other, questioning what was going on.

"A wedding dress? …Already?" Natalie questioned to Willis. Willis just shrugged his shoulders.

"Yeah, why didn't she tell me about this? I could have gone with them." Sue Ann questioned. "How inconsiderate of her!" she huffed.

"Don't even bother, honey. Blair does whatever she feels like." Cindy pointed out to Sue Ann.

"I know that Blair was looking forward to getting married, but I didn't think she was going to go this far!" Jo fretted. "Sometimes, I wonder what my heart was thinking when it chose Blair to be my life-partner."

Back at the wedding shop, Blair took the phone off her ear and asked the group. "Jo wants to see the dress. Can someone send a picture to her?"

"No problem. I will." Tootie responded. She whipped out her new Samsung Galaxy s2 and was about to take a picture before Blair stopped her.

"Hold on. I need to have a better pose."

Blair then put on yet another regal wedding pose with her trademarked hair flip and Tootie took the picture. She then emailed the picture to Jo's email.

On the other end, Jo got a message saying that she received an email. She checked it and saw the photo. Jo rolled her eyes, then smiled. She turned around and showed the picture to everyone.

"Hey check it out, folks."

All the women in the room squealed and gushed about it, even tomboyish Cindy.

"Ahh, she looks so wonderful!" Sue Ann gushed.

Willis smiled when he saw it. "That dress kinda looks like what Sharon wore on our wedding."

"Oh it sure does!" Natalie chimed, while Cindy simply nodded.

However, Jo was in no mood to be ingratiating over the picture.

"I know you really want this wedding to be wonderful n' all, but it's at least six months away." Jo wondered as she expressed her confusion with her free hand.

"Not anymore."

Jo nearly dropped the phone when she heard that. "Whaddiya mean 'not anymore'?" Now Jo was really perplexed.

Blair got nervous and stuttered, "I-I-I w-w-was able to move it up to next month."

Jo nearly had a heart-attack after Blair's last statement, as Jo's well-known short fuse went off.

"WHAT?! NEXT MONTH?!"

"L-l-listen honey, the sooner, the better. There shouldn't be such a long delay for our marriage."

But Jo wanted to hear none of that. "Blair! Why do you keep on doing these things?"

"Because I love you honey, and I want us to be wife and wife soon. Don't you want us to be married?"

"I do, but I wish you would talk about these things with me first. I haven't even picked my bridesmaids!" Jo stressed out.

"You got enough time to pick your bridesmaid." Blair added with a matter-of-fact tone. In her mind, she had already picked hers.

"That's not the point! We're supposed to do this together, that's what couples do. What the hell is wrong with you? Why do you keep on throwing caution to the wind?"

On the other end, Blair was steaming up.

"You have the audacity to say I throw caution to the wind! Who's the police officer here? Who rides the bike here? Who messes with electricity or electrical items here?"

"For the bike part, we both do. I taught you." Jo interrupted.

Blair huffed at the other end. "You know what I mean Jo!"

"I sure do, but they are not good excuses for what you just did! At least you know that I'm a cop, and that I ride a bike. And I always have a plan when I do things. I don't do them at a spur of the moment. Heck, you haven't even gotten your bridesmaid."

"Actually, I have. Could you please put it on speaker?"

"Okay…" Jo selected the speaker button and told Blair "You're now on speaker." She then held her phone out in the room for everybody to hear.

"Good. Sue Ann, do you want to be my bridesmaid?"

"Uh… Sure." Sue Ann answered uncomfortably, as she was put on the spot.

"Good, then you'll join Kimberly, Bailey, Nancy, and Tootie as my bridesmaids."

The four women in the wedding shop were both surprised and delighted. However, Jo still wasn't.

"That's fine, but what about me?"

"Well you can ask Natalie and Cindy, I bet they won't mind." Blair simply suggested. She knew that they would obviously say yes.

"Most likely, they won't. That makes two, I still need three more."

"There's also Molly, I know that she wouldn't mind being your bridesmaid, since you two are very good friends."

"That means nothing, Blair. I still have to call her and see if she will accept it." Jo replied. Unlike Blair, Jo don't take things for granted.

"Then call her and see. If she says no, then it's not the end of the world. You got friends at your job that wouldn't mind being your bridesmaid."

"Okay, I got it Blair. I will give her a call." Jo sighed at the end. She was getting tired of this already, and Blair could detect it in her voice, but she kept silent about it. Instead, she brought up that Jo still needed more bridesmaids.

"That will be great. Now that leaves you with two more."

Jo thought about it for a bit before answering. She was thinking about some of her co-workers being potential bridesmaids, but in the midst of her pondering, a special person in Jo's life popped up. She had a profound effect in Jo's life, ever since that day when Jo's car broke down on her way to Yale. She came to pick her up to take her there, had a wonderful chat in the car, and Jo felt her life has been for the better since.

"Hey, do you think your sister Meg would mind?"

That took Blair by surprise. She was expecting someone from Jo's precinct, or one of her old friends from the Bronx.

"…Uh, I don't think so, but why her?"

"Well, ya know ever since that day we talked, I became more religious. She was one of the reasons why I wanted to be a cop. I wanted to do good for a cause that's greater than I am, and I think this is my way of saying thanks."

Blair smiled on the other end. "Well, do you still have her number?"

"Even though it's been over two years since I've talked to her, I still do."

"That's great. Now you only got one more. So who's the last one?"

Jo was irritated again, as she told Blair.

"Blair, will ya' quit rushin' me? Don't put me on da spot because ya can't wait ta get married."

She replied back in the same manner. "Look! I did it for the both of us, whether you appreciate it or not! Now tell Sue Ann that I'm available anytime tomorrow so that she can try on her dress. Good bye!" Blair hung up and was still fuming. The women were looking at her with some sympathy.

"I told you earlier that Jo wouldn't like it." Bailey admonished with an eye rolled as a touch.

Blair simply responded, "Jo will get over it. I hope…"

They didn't have much time to dwell on the blowup, since they had to start looking for their bridesmaid dresses. After all the trying and fitting in the clothes, Kimberly asked, "So Blair, who's going to be the best woman?"

"Yeah, we need to know now since wedding rehearsal is coming up." Nancy asked.

Blair knew she had to make the decision at that moment. She didn't like to be on the spot, but with the serious glares directed at her, she had no other choice.

"Well Nancy, we've been good friends for over thirty years. I couldn't ask for a better friend." A small blush appeared on Nancy's face. "And Bailey, you're all that I could ask for in a sister, when you're not busy being sarcastic and cynical." At first, she rolled her eyes, then she smiled and nodded. "Kimberly, we used to be enemies, but now we're good friends, and I'm thankful for that." Kimberly chuckled, remembering those verbal fights they had back in their Eastland days. "However, Tootie, you've been the closest to me besides Jo, and you have been a great friend for many years, from the days of Emily Dickinson and that van crash, to now. So I have to say that I want you to be the maid of honor.

The news brought an elated Tootie to tears. "Oh thank you so much!"

She jumped out of her seat and hugged Blair, while the other three watched happily. As Tootie joyfully hugged her, Blair smiled, knowing she had made the right choice on that day.

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When Jo hung up, she sighed without saying a word.

"I wonder if Blair was once a baseball pitcher in her past life, because she likes to throw curveballs at you." Cindy stated while shaking her head.

"Yes, she does… Why does she always do this?"

"I don't know." Cindy shrugged. "But while you were on the phone, screaming at Ms. Park Avenue, Natalie and I did agree to be your bridesmaids."

A small smiled formed on Jo's face, even though she had little doubt that they would turn it down.

"Good. Now I need to give Molly and Sister Meg a call."

"Is she still a nun?" Sue Ann asked.

"Yep. She still is. She moved to that monastery on 83rd Street a few years back. She really loves it. I don't know how she stays celibate."

"With all those women around, what makes you think she does?" Natalie joked with a wink. Everyone laughed, even Jo.

"Ah come on now, Natalie. Not all nuns are repressed lesbians! Most are really straight." Jo dismissed lightheartedly.

"Only thing straight about them is that they like to go straight to the muff!" Willis jibbed along, and that caused even more laughter from the group.

"Oh stop it! Sister Meg is a faithful nun. She wouldn't do those things." Jo dismissed again, this time with her head shaking in disbelief.

"We're just kidding, Jo. We know she is. So who's number five, Jo?" Cindy asked.

"Yeah, don't hold up the suspense, Jo!" Willis added.

However, Jo wouldn't answer their question. "I dunno really. I need to think that one over. Let's just get back to the game. Jeter's up at bat." Jo dismissed in a hurry, clearly she didn't want to talk about it anymore. She left the group hanging, and the conversation switched back to the game.

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After the game was over, everybody was leaving, except Natalie. Jo stopped her.

"Hey Nat, can I see you for a moment?"

"Sure. What's up?"

"Umm…" She was nervous about this. It should be simple, since she's been in life-threatening situations before, yet she was still jittering. "I need ta ask ya sumthin'."

"Okay, what is it?"

Sweat was starting to form on her face. She was getting more tense and nervous. "Do you mind being my maid of honor?"

Natalie quickly got excited. "Of course! I was hoping something like would happen to me."

"Great! Thanks."

Natalie said no more as she left the place. When she was outside, she saw Cindy and Sue Ann waiting.

"So she told you?" Sue Ann chimed.

"How did you two know?"

"Jo wouldn't stop anybody like that unless it's something very important." Sue Ann answered.

"But are you okay with that, Cindy?"

She shrugged, "Sure. You're basically her best friend, next to Blair."

"Yeah, it was obvious that she would choose you." Sue Ann shrugged.

"Well, thanks for both of you understanding and not getting upset."

"That's cool, but who could be the last bridesmaid?" Sue Ann asked.

"Like Jo said, she hasn't decided yet on who is going to be the last one." Natalie shrugged. "Well, she'll eventually tell us. Though I have a big hunch who she is."

The blond couple looked at each other. Sue Ann replied, "You mean…"

"Her?" Cindy finished. She knew who Natalie was referring to.

"Yep, her. Hey, she's one of Jo's dearest friends." Natalie defended.

"I have no problems with her, but Blair on the other hand…" Cindy cautioned.

"Yeah, well she owes her a big apology. I'll tell you more about that later."

"I see. Let's go to a bar or some Irish pub and celebrate. Congratulations Natalie!" Cindy chimed.

"Thanks," Natalie replied as all three headed to their cars.

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Chapter Text

 

Jo should be used to Blair’s spontaneous nature by now, and she is, but even so, it still didn’t make things easy for her. She was still steaming over the fact that Blair had bumped the wedding date up to one month because it didn’t leave her a lot of time to do any planning or preparation. Nevertheless, she found herself making a few phone calls to her close friends and relatives, including her mother, Rose, telling them about the new wedding date that Blair pretty much Shanghai’d her on.

The good part about it is that her relationship with her mother has greatly improved since that birthday/engagement party. They talk at least on a weekly basis by phone, and they visit each other as often as they can, though it used to be Jo who visited her mother because Rose was pretty much always working. However, Blair stepped in and gave Jo’s mother some money so she could finally stop working and enjoy early retirement. However, work was so ingrained into the elderly woman’s bones, that even though she was getting close to seventy, she got quickly bored, so she got herself a part-time job at Starbucks.

Jo was more than happy to air her complaints to Rose, who listened carefully like a loving mother would. Rose paid close attention to Jo’s numerous frustrations.

“Sometimes, I want to strangle Cupid for making me fall in love with Blair. Now I got to call up Sister Meg and Molly to see if they want to be my bridesmaids. Jesus… This always seems to be the case, me having to scramble for everything because of one of Blair’s whims. I feel like I have no control!”

Rose shook her head like a concerned mom right after Jo finished her rant. “My, you haven’t changed one bit. You’re just like your dad; you let things overwhelm you too much. What you should do is have a heart to heart talk with Blair. Let her understand how you feel about her impulsive decisions.”

“But I do ma, I really do!”

“I mean a cordial discussion, not one of those frustrated outbursts you usually have.”

Jo swallowed a lump and stammered on the phone. “Uh – uh…”

“I know how you are. You are my daughter, after all, but I think it would be wise for you to make her understand how you feel when she does these things. Make sure you address how powerless you feel and how stressful it is to you. Those are very essential,” she told her daughter in a matter-of-fact tone.

“Yeah, I really do feel powerless and stressed out, like a hamster in a spinning wheel. The only difference is that the hamster doesn’t mind because the hamster’s in control.”

Rose chuckled, and then in a calm tone she told Jo, “Look, you need to have that talk with her, regardless, capiche?”

“Si, io capisco,” Jo responded in Italian. She’s been learning some Italian lately. “Thanks, ma.”

“No problem. Please, don’t let it get to you.”

“I won’t.” Then Jo hung up. She took a breath and thought to herself, “Ma’s right. I really got to have that talk with Blair. Whenever I try, she usually blows it off or doesn’t take it seriously. However, this time I got to make her give her full attention to me and see how serious I am.” She made a mental note to prepare a short outline for the talk. After that, she called Molly. The phone rang three times before Molly picked up.

“Hello?” Molly answered. Jo could hear what sounded like a copier in the background. At the time, Molly was in the copy room, making some printouts for a meeting.

“Hi Molly, how you doing?”

“Fine, what’s up?”

“You know about our wedding, right?”

“Yeah, I got it down on the calendar for the fall…” She paused a bit and then asked, “Wait a minute, Blair changed the date, didn’t she?”

“How’d you guess?”

“This is Blair we’re talking about. Remember that time when she changed the date for the ski trip to Vermont?” Molly quietly chuckled to herself, remembering all the commotion between those two over the directions on the map. Molly eventually had to take over as the navigator.

“Yeah, that’s true. Well, are you available for lunch tomorrow?”

“Sure I am. Tomorrow seems to be a slow day here at the headquarters, so it would be perfect.”

“That’s good to know. Is Café Zaiya fine with you? I know you’re very picky about what you eat,” Jo noted, knowing how health-conscious Molly was.

“Café Zaiya is a great place. They have excellent tofu dishes.”

In the back of Jo’s mind, she was thinking, “Tofu? Yuck, who could eat that crap?”

“Yeah, and someone else will be there too.”

“Who?” Molly asked in a surprised tone.

“Sister Meg.”

“You mean Blair’s sister?”

“Yep,” Jo simply replied.

“Well, that’s cool. I bet it will be an interesting lunch. I hope she doesn’t try to convert me.”

Jo was a bit offended by Molly’s statement, thus she had to tell her in a slightly angry tone, “Just because she’s a nun, doesn’t mean she’ll try to convert you, nor does it mean she’ll talk about religion and Jesus 24/7. She knows that you’re an atheist and she knows better than to try and convert you, so don’t make any assumptions about her.”

Molly, feeling a bit ashamed, apologized, “I’m sorry about that.”

Jo replied to her in a rather stern tone, “It’s okay, but don’t do that again, got it?”

“No problem. Oh, and Jo, one more thing?”

“What is it?”

“Yes, I’ll be one of your bridesmaids,” Molly said as she smiled.

Jo was thinking in her mind, “What the fuck…?” “Nothing escapes you?”

Molly smiled proudly at the other end as she claimed, “Nope. Nothing really does.”

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Immediately after her phone call to Molly, Jo called Sister Meg. She instantly saw Jo’s name and her phone number on her Nokio N8.

“Hi, Jo.”

“Hey there, Sis.” Sister Meg couldn’t help but chuckle whenever Jo called her “Sis,” instead of her full name. “Are you available for lunch, tomorrow?”

Sister Meg knew Jo well enough to tell that she wouldn’t set up a lunch unless it was important. “Sure,” she answered. “What’s up?”

“I would rather tell you in person during lunch. How ‘bout Café Zaiya in Midtown?”

Sister Meg smiled on the other end. “That will work, since Café Zaiya is not too far from the monastery. What time?”

“About 12:30. I got sumthin’ to share!”

“Like what, another breakthrough?” Sister Meg was gleaming on the other end.

“…Sumthin’ like that.”

“Okay, I’ll be there. God bless.”

“You too, Sis.”

Jo hung up and took a much-needed deep breath. She was sure that Sister Meg wouldn’t say no, but unlike Blair, she didn’t take things as 100% guarantees.

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The next day, Jo ordered a cup of mochaccino and a chicken curry sandwich as she waited for the other two women to arrive. They weren’t late because Jo came early and it was still 12:15. She didn’t have to work today, so she was wearing her light blue Polo shirt with dark blue jeans. As she looked at the other folks in the cafe, she spotted Molly. She waved to get her attention and Molly soon saw her. As soon as Molly got to the table, she greeted Jo with a hug.

“Hey Jo, how has this day been, since Blair changed the wedding?”

“Well, not so great, since I had to go and quickly pick out my dress about an hour ago.”

Molly couldn’t help but chuckle at Jo as she seated herself. “You? Wearing a wedding dress?”

Jo shrugged before sitting down. She considered herself more feminine than how others generally perceived her. “Hey, I may not be a girlie-type of woman,” said Jo, “but I am still a woman. Wearing a dress doesn’t bother me that much, as long as I don’t have to wear one every single day.” She paused a bit to look at the time and then continued. “What I would wear is not exactly your typical wedding dress. Probably more like a white blouse with a blazer and a skirt.”

“Hey, I have no problems with you wearing a wedding dress, even though I’m a feminist. It’s just that it doesn’t seem like you.”

“Yeah, I understand. I’m not as butchy as people think I am. Believe it or not, I do have a few high-heeled pumps in my closet.” They both laughed. However, in the back of her mind Jo was still wondering if Molly really found out that she was a bridesmaid from someone else. “But seriously, did Natalie, Cindy, Sue Ann, or the Human Twittah herself, Tootie, tell you I was gonna make ya one of my bridesmaids?”

Molly giggled a bit. “No, none of them did, surprisingly. I figured that you would make me a bridesmaid, since we seem to get along well, and that you wouldn’t arrange a lunch at a high-end cafe unless you had something important to tell me. Usually, we meet at a diner or at a bar.”

“Good assumption,” Jo said shrugging.

“So, I guess in addition to Sister Meg; Natalie, Cindy, Sue Ann, and Tootie will be your bridesmaids?”

“Just about half-right. Natalie and Cindy are my bridesmaids, while Sue Ann and Tootie are Blair’s. I have to decide on one more person.”

“Oh, really? So who are you considering?”

“You wouldn’t know. It’ll likely either be one of my co-workers at the precinct or a friend from my old neighborhood.”

Judging from Jo’s body language, Molly knew that Jo wasn’t telling the whole truth, but she didn’t bring that up. Instead, she asked about Blair’s bridesmaids. “Okay, so who else are Blair’s bridesmaids? I assume that there will be five bridesmaids, since me, Natalie, Cindy, and Sister Meg make up four, plus the yet–to–be–decided bridesmaid?”

Jo took a sip of her drink and quickly informed Molly, “Well, Blair also has Nancy, Bailey, and Kimberly as her bridesmaids.”

Hearing that, Molly made a deductive conclusion on who Blair chose as her maid of honor. “And my informative and deductive guess is that Tootie's her maid of honor. Correct?”

“More than likely, yes, knowing Blair. Then it wouldn’t be any surprise to you that Natalie's my maid of honor.”

“No, I'm not surprised there. You and Natalie are like best buds. I would have been surprised if you picked someone else besides Natalie or Cindy.”

“Hey, did ya evah think of becomin’ a detective? You’d make a killin’!” Jo joked.

Molly laughed as she answered, “No, I couldn’t see myself working for ‘The Man.’

After that, Jo and Molly talked about a few other things, some of them not related to the wedding, while they waited for Sister Meg. At 12:28 pm, Sister Meg arrived.

She wasn’t hard to find since she was still wearing her habit. She was now in her 50s and had gained a few pounds since Jo first met her. Plus, her face now showed wrinkles. No one in the café could see it, but she also had a good amount of gray in her hair, though her hair was still mostly blonde. She was also wearing some wireframe glasses.

"Hi Jo, it's good to see you again,” Sister Meg greeted with a hug. Then she turned her attention to Molly.

“And you're Molly, right? It's been a while since I saw you last."

"Yes I am, Sister Meg,” Molly replied with a handshake.

"Well, how have things been going Jo? My sister told me that she moved the wedding up to next month, so I know you must be in a rush to get things ready."

"Yes, I am, Sis. I just came from a wedding shop looking for an outfit to wear. I haven't even gotten all my bridesmaids together. Blair got five bridesmaids, so I have to get five bridesmaids of my own."

"And who have you gotten so far, Jo?"

"Well, there's Molly here, plus Natalie and Cindy.”

“Oh, okay. How are those two doing?”

“Cindy’s still running that model agency with her partner, Sue Ann. Oh, by the way, they’re getting married later on this year. At least they stick to their wedding date…” Jo disgruntledly grumbled. Sister Meg patted her on her right shoulder.

“Don’t get too upset about it, Jo. Consider yourself lucky that you can get married. Anyhow, so how’s Natalie doing?”

“Natalie’s fine. She’s been working for MSNBC for a while as a researcher for ‘Countdown with Keith Olbermann.’”

Sister Meg was quite impressed. “Wow, she must be happy to have a job like that.”

Molly intervened. “Not really. He’s very demanding. I know Keith Olbermann personally, and he can be a total dick.”

“Molly, watch your language! Do you realize who you are talking to?” Jo spat.

“Jo, don’t worry about me. I’m a nun, but that doesn’t mean I need to shield myself. If Jesus can expose himself to the lepers, then I can expose myself to bad languages.” Molly had to fight the urge not to sigh or roll her eyes about Sister Meg’s comment. Realizing that they had gotten sidetracked, Sister Meg returned to the main subject. “Well, you’ve told me three so far. What about the other two.”

Jo looked at her and slyly answered, “Well, I was hopin’ to have one of those two slots filled before we get outta here.”

"What do you mean ‘before we...’" Then she realized who Jo wanted the fourth bridesmaid to be. "Are you asking me to be one of your bridesmaids?"

"Yeah, Sis," Jo confirmed. She was also thinking in the back of her mind, "Well, I'm glad that Blair didn't ruin it by telling her already."

With a wide smile on her face, Sister Meg happily agreed to Jo’s offer. "I would be glad to be one of your bridesmaids! Thank you so much, Jo." She got up from her seat and happily hugged Jo. Even the cynical Molly smiled.

"No, thank you for making a difference in my life Sister Meg. I don’t know what type of person I would be, had I not met you."

“I’m surprised that you would pick me over some of your other friends, like Pippa, or Carla, or Jessie.” Then she stopped herself, as Jo and Molly gave her shocked looks. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to bring her up.”

“It’s okay, Sis. I wish she was around to see this day,” Jo stated as she started to tear up. “It’s been over ten years since she’s been gone. To this day, I regret having that argument and hanging up the phone on her. I didn’t know it would be the last time we would speak. Every time I think about it, I feel like I’m a horrible person.”

Sister Meg started to choke up. “Jo, don’t say that. You were angry at the time. How could you know that it would be the last time you two would speak? Guilt is one of the ways Satan gets us. As long as you love and trust the Lord, you will overcome this.”

Molly muttered, “Whatever…” Jo noticed and gave Molly a stiff glare who quickly looked away in shame.

Jo returned her attention to Sister Meg and responded, “Of course I do, Sis. I will always love the Lord, no matter what, and I’m sure he’ll help me through this.”

There was a question Molly had to ask. She figured it would be the right time, since Sister Meg brought up the Lord.

“But Sister Meg, you’re a Catholic, they don’t approve gay marriages. Aren’t you going to get kicked out of the church because you take part of a gay marriage?”

“I seriously doubt it, Molly. The group I work for are pretty liberal. Also, there’s nothing in the church’s guidelines that says that you can’t be a bridesmaid or groom of a same-sex marriage. I knew a priest who was the best man for a friend of his who was marrying another man a few years back. There was some discussion about it, but no disciplinary action ever took place.”

“Well that’s very good to know,” Jo said in relief.

"So have you found the last bridesmaid?" Sister Meg asked.

"I haven't decided yet. But you'll find out by the time of the rehearsal."

Sister Meg felt a bit suspicious about Jo’s answer, but she didn’t bring it up. Instead, she asked, "When will the rehearsal be?"

"This Saturday at 2 pm. However, we need to meet at 10 am so that you guys . . .”

“Ahem,” Molly injected.

“Sorry, Molly. I mean, you WOMEN,” Jo emphasized the woman part for Molly’s approval, “can get your dresses. We won’t need our dresses for the rehearsal. Blair wanted to do that at first, but I was able to talk her out of it by pointing out that it would give them more wear and tear. However, I wanna get it outta the way as soon as possible. It will be at Kleinfeld. Blair recommended it."

"Kleinfeld? That's top-of-the-line stuff," said Molly.

"Well, that's my sister for you. She only wants top-of-the-line stuff," Sister Meg noted. “I still remember the time I got her some ice cream when she was a kid, but she refused to eat it because it wasn’t Hagen Daz!” Everybody laughed.

"Sister Meg is right. The last thing Blair wants is for us to look like bums," Jo informed.

“But what about the other bridesmaid? Will she be at Kleinfeld?”

“She should be, Molly, but I can’t guarantee it.”

Molly didn't say anything. Once again, she knew Jo was lying based on her body language. She was wondering why Jo was being so secretive about her last bridesmaid. Then she remembered what Natalie told her and it became clear who the last bridesmaid would be. Molly now realized why Jo was being so coy about it. It wasn’t looking good for Molly, as she was thinking in the back of her mind, "Something tells me that there's going to be nothing but trouble at the rehearsal..."

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Saturday finally came and Jo’s bridesmaids were at Kleinfeld getting fitted for their dresses. Cindy was the first to be fitted.

“You would think being a former model, I would get used to wearing dresses. I still haven’t.”

“Not really. Just like me, you weren’t born with dress-wearin’ DNA,” Jo joked.

“Oh, is that the same DNA that makes girls like us wear jeans, play sports, and like other girls?” Cindy wisecracked back.

“It sure is!” Jo grinned. There were laughs coming from the group.

“So this is the style you like? I know you’re into black, but I didn’t think it was that much!” Natalie said as she examined the dress she was holding on her left arm.

“Well, the guy told me it goes well with Blair’s bridesmaids’ dresses. Plus, I got these for a discount, so I’m goin’ wit’ ‘em!”

“You got a boat load of money, and you still look for bargains?” Cindy asked.

“Now you see why Sue Ann insists on handling all the money? Look, that’s Blair’s money. This is my own money I’m usin’!”

“You still got that independent streak in you?” Cindy jostled a bit.

Jo scoffed a bit, and then she told Cindy, “You have to, because Blair will try to take you over.”

“Yeah, like colonial England!” Natalie quipped.

“Dad once said that if Blair ever becomes a world leader, she’d make Margaret Thatcher look like Mother Teresa!” Sister Meg joked, as she was checking out her dress. Everyone laughed, knowing that it could possibly be true.

Even with their joking and fooling around, it took no more than an hour to fit all the women in the group.

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It was 3:00 pm at the church, and things got off to a rocky start. Blair was late, as usual, which only made Jo more irate. Then when she got there, she got upset about over the carpet and how it was unsafe for her shoes.

It didn’t get easier when she found that ten of Nancy’s twelve kids were there. The other two were in out-of-state colleges. Ranging from three to fifteen, they were anything but little angles. They were consistently crying, running around, and making a racket. One of Nancy’s sons nearly knocked Blair over when he was playing tag with his siblings, and another one of her sons made a certain loud noise that came from his behind... Needless to say, Blair was not very happy with them.

“Nancy, don’t you have a maid or a babysitter to watch these kids?”

“Yeah, but Mulu had to go back to Ethiopia today, because her mother’s sick, and Roger’s back home at a meeting with a lobbyist.”

Her husband, Roger Butler, is a U.S. Congressman, representing the 5th district of New Jersey. They live in Alpine, New Jersey, one of the richest cities in the United States.

“Well, you better do something with these kids!” Then as Blair was walking down the aisle, she tripped over a cable from a camera. The rehearsal was being recorded, but not for Blair or Jo. It was for Nancy. She, Roger, and her family were part of a reality-TV show called Twelve Is More Than Enough!

“And why can’t these idiots watch where they lay their cables! I could have fallen over and broke my nails, or ruin my mascara if I fell on my face!” Of all the other things that could have happened, she was more concerned about her makeup and her nails.

“I’m sorry, Blair, but when they heard about me being your bridesmaid, they wanted to come,” Nancy sincerely apologized.

Blair, not hiding her anger, told her, “Well, then they should be shooting me. It’s my wedding!”

“You mean OUR wedding!” Jo butted in. She wanted to make it clear that it’s not all Blair’s, even though she had almost total control it.

“You know what I mean, Jo,” Blair rebutted, not willing to go further with Jo. However, Jo didn’t want to end the conversation there.

“No, I don’t know what you mean, Blair. In fact, it’s been nothing but you, you, you, ever since you hijacked this wedding. I haven’t really gotten my say in this stupid wedding!” Jo barked back, matching Blair’s anger.

Feeling insulted, Blair roared back, “How dare you call this wedding ‘stupid’? We’ve wanted this for years, even decades, and you have the audacity to call it ‘stupid?!!’”

“It is very stupid! And just about everything about it is stupid! How ya’ want the flower girls to throw the pedals, how ya’ want a 25-piece orchestra instead of an organ to play ‘Here Comes the Bride,’ and other things. I mean everything about it is stupid! And besides, it was always you who wanted it more than me, ever since we talked about it at Nancy’s wedding!”

There was some truth in her statement, as it was discussed during Nancy’s wedding back in 1986.

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Flashback to November 20, 1986

The wedding was held at the Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer. Nancy and Roger were at the altar. Blair was one of the bridesmaids along with Sue Ann and Cindy. She was also the maid of honor, taking Molly’s place since she was not available. It was being recorded on video, thanks to Natalie. The décor was more like 19th century French, since Blair did not really like the 80s modern look. It was more like Blair’s wedding than Nancy’s, since Blair took charge of being the wedding planner and made the wedding more like how she wanted it. Jo was sitting with Natalie and Andy. Tootie joined them after singing for the soon-to-be married couple.

“I’m telling you, Tootie, it may be expensive, but it’s worth it, when they look back twenty years from now.”

“I bet it will be. I can’t wait to see my performance, it was totally awesome!” Tootie giddied.

“I bet it will be,” Andy replied, with a flirtatious look.

Tootie lightly hit him on his stomach. “Oh stop it!”

“But why? It was totally awesome,” Andy said in defense.

“It sure was. However, I’m kind of disappointed that we aren’t really part of the wedding. We should have been in the bridal party.” Natalie moped for a bit. Jo, who was silent the whole time, just shrugged.

“Hey, at least you two got involved. I’m just happy that I was invited, since I don’t know those two very well.”

“Yeah, but still, we knew Nancy for over eight years!” Natalie complained. Then she remembered something and brought it up to Jo. “Hey Jo, I need to tell you something.”

“Yeah, wut is it?” she asked in her Bronx accent.

“I saw Blair crying in the dressing room. I mean she was really crying.”

Jo twitched when she heard that. “Really? She’s not really much of a crier unless she’s in great pain or something very tragic happened. I wish I could hold my tears like she can.”

“Yeah, that’s what made it unusual. I was going to ask her about it, but I got interrupted by Roger, who wanted me to interview him.”

“I see. Well, I’ll talk to her about it later.”

Natalie said with concern, “Please do.”

“I will, Natalie. Let’s get back to the weddin.’ I think they’re ‘bout to say their vows.” Jo advised them, and they turned their focus back to the wedding.

The couple finally said their ‘I do’s’ and left the church, going to their reception at the Tarrytown House Estate and Conference Center. It was the only place in the area Blair thought was suitable enough for a reception.

Everything seemed to go well with the reception. However, Jo saw sadness on Blair’s face when she was not pretending to be happy. When everybody hit the dancefloor, Blair went straight to a small room. Jo was about to follow her, when Sue Ann stopped her.

“Where’s Blair?” asked Sue Ann.

“I just saw her go into that room. Why? You need sumthin’?”

“No, I was just wondering what was wrong with her. I saw her crying earlier today,” Sue Ann stated.

“You too? Let’s go togetha’ and see what’s up.”

Sue Ann nodded and they went into the room. As soon as Jo opened the door, she saw Blair crying.

Concerned for her partner, she asked, “What’s wrong, Blair?”

Blair looked at her and replied, “Nothing. Just nothing.” Then she quickly looked away and dried her eyes.

“You’re not really the crying type. You only cry when something really, really bad or emotional happens, so sumthin’ must be goin’ on,” stated Jo in a matter-of-fact tone.

Blair knew that Jo could be quite persistent, so it would be best for her to tell Jo the truth. “Well, just seeing Nancy and Roger getting married got me very emotional.”

“Yeah. It’s a great day for those two. They’re so lucky.” Sue Ann added.

“Yeah, luck that I’ll probably never get,” Blair moped.

“Huh? I don’t get ya, Princess?”

However, Sue Ann did.

“Are you bothered that you and Jo can never get married?”

As soon as Sue Ann asked that question, Blair, with tears still flowing from her eyes, looked at her, and cried even more. Jo, looked up to the ceiling, and muttered to herself, “Holy Mary, give me strength.”

“Blair, it’s okay, it doesn’t make you two’s relationship any less important.”

“Yes, but don’t you want to marry Cindy?” Blair asked with some cracks in her voice.

Sue Ann wished Blair never asked her that question. It bothered her that she could never marry Cindy. “Of course, I do. I brought it up to her once, but she got really upset, saying that it will never happen, so why even bring it up.”

“Ah, come on Princess. It’s no big deal. So what if we don’t get married? It’s not like we really need the tax break.”

In a second, Blair went from sad to livid. Jo’s response triggered a bomb inside her that went off immediately. “So what? So what!?! This is more important than just tax breaks!”

Sue Ann tried to hush Blair. “Shh! Hey, don’t forget that people can hear us.”

“That’s my point, Sue Ann. I don’t want to have to hide our relationship. I want to be able to proudly say that we are a couple. I want to be forever linked together,” Blair barked, letting out her frustrations.

“But really, Princess, we don’t need some stupid wedding to say that we’re a couple.”

“It’s more than just a ‘stupid wedding,’ grease monkey! But you’re too stupid to realize that!”

Blair then left the room angry.

“I don’t get her,” Jo lamented to Sue Ann.

“I do. Blair thinks getting married is important, more than just showing off. To her, it’s a symbol of equality, that your relationship can be treated of equal status with that of a straight relationship.”

Jo still didn’t see the point, and replied, “But really, who cares what people think?”

With her hands on her hips, Sue Ann informed her, “You do just as much as Blair.”

Jo was surprised and replied with a small sneer. “What?”

“You get upset when people call you a butch or a bulldyke. You want to be treated just like everyone else. You want just as much rights as everyone else. That’s why she wants to be legally married, so that she can say with pride that she loves you and she’s not ashamed of it.”

“I see…”

Blair came back into the room, after she went to the bathroom to wiped off the tears. However, she started to cry again.

A second later, Natalie came into the room.

“Hey guys, you should come on the dance floor. Roger is trying to do the Cabbage Patch with Tootie!”

“Oh, my God, are you serious?” Sue Ann asked while trying to hold in her laughter.

Natalie nodded along with her response. “Yep!”

Both Jo and Sue Ann shook their heads in disbelief.

Then Natalie asked Blair. “Hey Blair, check it out!”

Blair didn’t even bother to look at her. Instead, she continued to cry. Natalie was puzzled.

“What’s wrong with her?” she asked Jo.

“Nothing. Don’t worry about it. I guess it’s best to leave Blair alone for now.”

Sue Ann nodded and the three headed out of the room, leaving Blair to cry alone.

The subject was dropped after that. Blair and Jo discussed it on a few occasions, but they never went in-depth because of the expected reactions between the two. That changed when the mayor of San Francisco issued wedding licenses in 2004. It gave Blair the idea to start campaigning for same-sex marriage in New York. Jo helped, even though she was nowhere near as vocal about it as Blair. After that, it became part of the usual discussions between them.

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Now it turned into an all-out war between Jo and Blair. They had many nasty disputes before, but a lot more was at-stake on this one: the wedding, the relationship, and everything else.

As usual, Blair was not going to let Jo have the last word, so, without shouting, she replied in a surly tone, “Well, since you had the nerve to bring up how stupid this wedding is, may I remind you that you are contributing to the stupidity.”

Jo was perplexed by Blair’s accusation, and asked her, “Whaddiya mean?”

“Well, for one, what in the world were you thinking of having black dresses for your bridesmaids?”

“What’s wrong with black? Black is beautiful, isn’t it.”

“Not with purple! We’re wearing purple and you chose black? You were supposed to use another color, like yellow, or pink, or even green, but not black! Another ‘stupid’ thing of yours is, it’s been over twenty minutes, and your last bridesmaid hasn’t come yet. Do you even have a fifth bridesmaid, Jo?”

Already on the edge, Jo tersely answered, “Yeah Blair, I do. She will be here any minute, so hold your horses!” She was thinking, “You of all people should not be talking about people being late.”

The priest had to bring things back in order. “I think we need to focus on the rehearsal, please.” They both nodded and continued on, yet the amounting tension between the two of them was still in the room. “Now, Natalie and Dorothy, make sure that you have the rings in your hands when I say…”

During that time, the show’s narrator/host started asking Nancy a few questions. “So, Nancy, how does it feel to take part of a same-sex marriage?”

Nancy blushed a bit, and reminded the host, “Well, the marriage hasn’t taken place yet, but I am honored to be a part of such a special event.”

“But does your husband share the same feelings you do about the wedding, considering he has repeatedly said that same-sex marriage is wrong?”

The host’s question made Nancy squirm a bit, for her GOP Republican-party husband had been rather vocal against gay marriage.

“Well… Uh… Umm…”

Then Blair got on Nancy. “What are you doing, Nancy?”

“I was just answering some questions the host was asking me.”

Blair was infuriated as she shouted, “Don’t you have any common sense? We are having a rehearsal.”

The host intervened, trying to apologize.

“I’m very sorry, Ms. Warner. I just wanted to ask her a few questions.”

“But why are you asking HER a few questions when it’s my wedding. Why aren’t you asking ME questions? This is my wedding, can’t you buffoons see that?”

Jo was starting to get worried about Blair, and she knew that Blair was very agitated at her, so she told the priest to get Blair’s attention.

“Hey, you need to tell her to get back to rehearsal because she’s about to explode like an atom bomb!”

The priest nodded and nervously reminded Blair to get to the rehearsal.

“Excuse me, Ms. Warner, but we need to continue with the wedding. We are already late and I would like to finish the rehearsal as much as you do.”

Blair took a deep breath, and replied, “Okay. Sorry about that.” She then returned to her position, which was in front of Jo, and the priest continued with the rehearsal.

“Now where was I? Ah, yes. Natalie and Dorothy, when you have the rings, make sure you two…”

Just as the priest was talking, a loud Bronx-accent echoed throughout the cathedral.

“I hope I ain’t too late! Sorry, but my flight from Houston was delayed.”

Jo and Blair quickly turned around and saw the woman who made her entrance. Everybody was in shock to see her, even though most of Jo’s bridesmaids had figured that she would be the fifth bridesmaid, but no one was more shocked and angry than Blair.

“Hey, Kel, I’m so glad you made it.”

It was indeed Kelly, the one who nearly knocked Blair’s lights out at Jo’s birthday/engagement party, after Blair insulted her. Kelly Donovan was her full name. She had shoulder-blade length curly red hair and blue eyes. She was wearing a yellow blouse with black jeans and a pair of Nikes. She had been friends with Jo since her days in the Bronx and she was also friends with the late Jessie. She also knows the other Kelly, Kelly Affinado, and she doesn't like her either. Jo quickly went down the aisle and hugged her lifelong friend.

“You kno’ I won’t missed it for da world, even though I had ta’ make some last minute arrangements with my job and find a last-minute flight. I shoulda takin’ Southwest!”

Jo smiled and shrugged it off. “Ah, don’t worry ‘bout it. As long as you got here, that’s all that mattas!”

“Yeah, but I wanted to get here earlier so that I, I, I…” Kelly stuttered.

Kelly was unable to continue her sentence because a certain brown-haired girl caught her eye. Kimberly looked in Kelly’s direction and their eyes met. The instant chemistry was more than a distraction; it was pure passion being shared through the windows of the soul. There was a moment of intense electricity being communicated through both sets of eyes. As Kelly looked at Kimberly, her heart began to beat more rapidly and her pulse began to race. Kimberly’s girl-next-door beauty was enough to make Kelly forget words and look like a lovesick puppy. What Kelly didn’t know was that Kimberly was feeling it too.

When Kimberly looked up to see who had come in the door, she was immediately hypnotized by the redhead with sparkling, blue eyes. She was in a trance that far surpassed any dream she ever had before in her life. An instant spark was ignited between the two girls, and was evidenced by the rush of blood to both of their faces. The fact that both girls were absently blushing and ogling each other did not go unnoticed by all of the bridesmaids. In fact, Molly instantly noticed the quiet connection between Kimberly and Kelly. It was the same sort of looks that Cindy gave Sue Ann back at Eastland, combined with the intense stare downs between Jo and Blair. Jo, however, was oblivious to the interaction as she unintentionally interrupted the silent serenade.

“Kel? What were you going to say?”

Snapping back to reality, Kel continued. “Oh, yeah. I wish I had come here earlier.”

Blair was beyond furious. She walked up to Jo and showed her displeasure.

“Of all the people, it had to be her?”

Jo knew what was coming, and she was prepared. “Why not? She’s been my friend since back in Bronx, so back off!”

However, neither Jo nor anybody else in the cathedral was prepared for what Blair was going to do next.

“That’s it. I’m calling off the wedding!”

Everybody was in total shock.

“What?!! You just can’t call it off just like that, especially since it was you,” Jo emphasized with her finger-pointing, “who wanted the wedding to be moved up.”

“Well, I can, and I say it’s cancelled!” Blair quickly hustled out of the main area and went to one of the small rooms. Jo furiously banged on the door, pleading with her to come out, but Blair refused.

Now everybody was in shock, and the worst part about it was that the cameramen had recorded it all. Thus, there was a 99.9% guarantee that the disastrous rehearsal would be aired on worldwide television or uploaded live on the Internet.

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Chapter Text

 

After nearly three minutes of Jo's futile attempts to get Blair out of the room, she finally resigned. “You know what, Blar? I had enough of this, so g’bye!” Jo then stormed out of the main area. As she was storming out to the front entrance, Kelly, along with some of the bridesmaids, caught up to her.

“Hey, where ya goin'? Don't let Blair get to ya like this,” Kelly pleaded.

“I'm not!” Jo spurted with tears flowing down her face. “But I can't keep chasing her forever. I'm gone, Kelly. Don't bother askin’ me where I'm goin,’ because I don't know myself. I just needa get away for a while, so please.”

With that ending note, she left the church. As she was moving towards her car, the other bridesmaids approached her from both sides, asking questions, but she didn't say a word. The cameramen were also following her, but she still kept her silence. She just quietly got into her car and left.

The bridesmaids went back to the church and talked for a few minutes.

“Oh my God, will the wedding ever happen?” Nancy asked in shock.

Sue Ann shrugged and followed it with, “I dunno. It seems that Jo really had enough this time.”

Cindy shook her and said, “Knowing Jo, she will disappear for a good while.”

Blair was still in the small room, seething over the fact that Kelly was one of Jo's bridesmaids. Deep down, she knew that it was a possibility, yet it still irked her to see Kelly in the church.

Nancy than knocked on the small room's door, with the cameramen behind her.

“Come on Blair, can you please come out? Jo’s gone.”

“No! As long as that redheaded she-brute friend of hers is still out there, I'm staying in here!” Blair protested. Her face was now a total mess, as her mascara was smeared from her crying.

“Blair, you're being very unreasonable. Kelly was Jo's choice, and you must respect that!” said Molly as she tried her best to reason with Blair.

“Molly, please be quiet. This is my wedding, not yours.”

Molly started to turn red, like her hair, and she barked right back at Blair, “See, that's the problem. You're acting like the wedding is all yours. You're basically controlling just about everything, making all the decisions; and the one time Jo actually makes a decision, you flip out about it! That's totally unfair!”

Blair didn't bother to respond to Molly, for she didn't have an answer to refute Molly's comment.

However, Kelly had something to say. “Ya kno' what, Blair? I was actually goin' to apologize to you for what happened at the engagement party. But since I see that you're still a spoiled bitch, I'm glad that I didn't. I'm outta here.”

Kelly then started walking out of the church with Kimberly and the cameramen following her.

Just as she was about to leave the church, she turned around to face the cameramen and said, “Look, I don't wanna be followed by you guys. If ya continue to follow me, I’ll have ya arrested.” Then she headed out, with Kimberly right behind her.

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While Kelly was walking, Kimberly tapped her on the shoulders.

“Are you okay?” asked Kimberly with a small smile on her face. She was still blushing; admiring that Kelly was even more beautiful up close.

“Yeah, I’m alright. What's your name, sweetheart?”

Kimberly blushed even more as she responded, “Kimberly. Kimberly Drummond.”

“Say, you're that rich guy's . . .” Kelly had to pause to remember his name. “. . . um, Phillip Drummond’s daughter, right?”

She nodded. “Yeah, that’s my dad.”

“Cool! I met him once, through Jo. He's a real nice guy.”

“He really is a great dad,” said Kimberly as her smile broadened. “So, what's your name?”

“Kelly. Kelly Donovan.” She smiled as she offered Kim a handshake.

Kimberly was obviously smitten with Kelly's beauty. Kelly was two years younger than Jo, but she was quite a catch for a 44-year old. She had flowing, curly red hair that touched her shoulder blades and sparkling blue eyes. Her face carried a few winkles, but not too much to take away from her natural beauty. Like typical Irish-descent redheads, Kelly also had a few freckles, but they didn't diminish her beauty either. She was not as curvy as Blair, but she was shapelier than Jo. In fact, when she and Jo would go out, she attracted the attention of more men. However, she was like Jo in that she was not very girly and she rarely wore a skirt. Yet, she was not a total butch. The term tomboyish would best describe her.

Kimberly was three years Kelly's senior, yet she was able to keep some of her own girl-next-door cuteness. Her brown hair, with some gray mixed in, was cut to a bob, as she rarely let her hair grow long nowadays. She had a slimmer figure than Kelly's, yet Kelly had a hard time taking her eyes off Kimberly's body.

“We both have the same initials too! That’s so cool!” elated Kim. Kelly chuckled in response and Kim even found her laugh quite cute. “Anyway, do you want to go and have a cup of coffee?”

“Sure, why not?” Kelly responded as she smiled. She didn't care where they went; she just wanted to be around this beautiful woman as much as she could. Her heart was beating like crazy for Kim, just as Kim's heart was beating for Kelly. “How about the Europa Cafe? It's two blocks away. It may not be the prettiest place in the world, but they make great coffee,” suggested Kelly.

Kim smiled as she responded, “Why not? I’ve never been there before.”

Kelly had a huge grin on her face. “Cool.”

So, they walked to the coffee shop together.

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“Is she finally gone?” Blair asked after a couple minutes.

“Yeah, she's gone,” Natalie shouted through the door.

Blair stepped out and sighed, “Thank God!”

But Molly wasn't finished with her. “Thank God for what? You practically drove Jo and Kelly away, and quite possibly Kimberly too.”

It totally surprised Blair when Molly said 'Kimberly.' “Kimberly? What makes you think she would want to drop out of the wedding?”

“Because of Kelly. From what I saw just a few minutes ago, there's an instant attraction between Kelly and Kimberly.”

That thought made Blair a bit queasy and question Kim's taste of a potential partner.

“Eww, that girl never had any taste when it came to lovers – men or women.”

“I could say the same for all the boyfriends you had before Jo,” Molly derided.

Blair got really upset with that comment. “Look who's talking about bad taste in men. It’s Ms. Feminazi herself.”

Molly gritted through her teeth, “What did you just call me?”

“What are you . . . deaf? I called you a feminazi.”

“Blair, that’s completely unfair. Limbaugh used that term to demean women.”

“Yeah, but maybe he had a point. You want to be with men you can control – men that you can brainwash to believe in what you believe in and do what you want.”

“Like you, Blair,” Molly shot back. “Why don’t you look in a mirror and, instead of admiring yourself, take a good look at the person below the surface. Trust me, Blair, it’s not pretty.”

“Who are you to attack my looks?”

Everyone wanted to stop the verbal war between Molly and Blair, but no one got involved just yet. Meanwhile, the cameramen just continued to capture the spectacle on film.

“I’m not attacking your appearance, Blair,” Molly continued, “but you should take a good, long look at yourself before accusing me of trying to make people do what they want.”

“I do nothing of the sort.”

“Um, hello? This whole last-minute wedding plan was your idea, not Jo’s. You think you’re in charge of this whole wedding, but it’s not all about you. I know that’s an alien concept to you, Blair, but you gotta get it through your airbrain, as Jo would say.”

“Don’t you call me names, you Raggedy Anne, she-Hitler, wannabe.” Natalie, Tootie, and Sister Meg, had to literally hold Blair back from jumping on Molly, while Cindy and Sue Ann kept the redhead from charging the blonde. Nancy just looked on in shock.

“Don’t you EVER put me in the same breath as Hitler. His regime went out of their way to silence feminists – going as far as to kill them. You should know better than that, Blair.”

Blair’s face began to fall in shame as Molly continued, “And what do you think they did with homosexuals, huh? He sure didn’t invite them over to his house for brats, schnapps, and strudel. They represented the flaws in a perfect race. Case in point, Ernst Röhm.”

Clearly, Blair was feeling bad about what she said.

“Face it, Blair, we’re in the same boat here.”

Blair shook her head in agreement as she reflected on the number of times she went to hear Gloria Steinem speak on the importance of limiting infighting. Division is what keeps groups from reaching their goals. Right now, it was important to stand united.

“I’m sorry, Molly. I never should have called you those names.”

“Apologies accepted, but I can’t be around here right now,” said Molly as she wiped a tear from her face. “Because at the moment, Blair, you’re giving off negative energy.” With that, Molly left. Eventually, all of the bridesmaids followed Molly’s lead and left Blair to think about what she said and evaluate her actions. Blair didn’t say anything; she just moped as things seemed to be falling apart around her.

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As the bridesmaids got outside, it was still a sunny and warm mid-afternoon; it was perfect to offset the chaos that took place minutes ago.

Molly was obviously upset after getting into a shouting match with Blair. She understood that Blair was mad at Jo for choosing Kelly as a bridesmaid, considering their history, but Molly just didn’t understand why Blair couldn’t put their differences aside for this one occasion. Why was it such a big deal? Blair needed to realize that it was both their day and that Jo should have some input. Otherwise, their partnership was in jeopardy.

“Molly, hey, Molly, wait up,” shouted Natalie.

“Dang, girl. You’re goin’ so fast that I should break out my old roller skates just to keep up with you,” said Tootie.

“Sorry, I didn’t realize I was walking so fast,” apologized Molly.

“Fast? The way you were going, Mr. Bradley woulda had more luck putting you on the track team at Eastland. Right, honey,” Cindy asked her partner.

Sue Ann huffed as she came up to Cindy’s side, “Right.”

“I just don’t understand Blair. Doesn’t she get that she’s jeopardizing her and Jo’s relationship before it even officially starts,” asked Molly still upset.

Sister Meg came up beside her and gently laid a hand on the redhead’s shoulder. “If there’s one thing you need to know about Blair is that she’s persistent and will keep at something until she gets her way.”

“But Meg, with all due respect, she can’t make people do what she wants,” replied Molly.

Ignoring the fact that Molly didn’t properly address her as Sister Meg, she responded, “Blair has had a very privileged life, Molly, with people who cater to her every need. I don’t agree with it, but I’ve come to accept it. I think, to a certain extent, Jo has learned to live with it as well, but Jo is also a very independent person who holds her pride very high. I think that this incident was just the breaking point of something that has been boiling for quite some time.”

“But, she’s going to ruin everything,” Molly said through sadness.

The other girls were stunned because Molly typically didn’t wear her emotions on her sleeve and they couldn’t recall seeing her so close to tears. Sister Meg sensed the tension and stepped in.

“How about we all go discuss things over a cup of coffee or something?”

“Sounds good to me,” said Tootie.

“We’re down,” said Cindy as Sue Ann just nodded in agreement.

“I’ll go back and help Nancy round up her kids and we’ll meet you there,” said Natalie. As Natalie started to walk off, she suddenly turned and asked, “Umm, where are we going to meet you?”

“Meet us at the Europa Café,” Cindy responded.

“Okay,” answered Natalie.

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Nancy was outside of the chapel trying to corral her ten kids. She wanted to make sure that Molly was okay, while giving Blair time to herself, but trying to control all of her kids was difficult. What was worse, was that the cameramen were just taping the spectacle instead of offering any help. 

“Hey, Nance, you need a hand,” asked Natalie as she approached the Butler brood.

“Nat, I think I need a few hands,” Nancy laughed.

“Well, the other girls want to meet at Europa Café for a cup of coffee.”

“I’d love to go, but I promised to take the kids to Baskin Robbins. How’s Molly?”

“She’s fine.”

“Mommy, mommy, let’s go,” pleaded one of the youngest children as she pulled on Nancy’s hand.

Nancy shook her head and looked at Natalie. “I hate bribing them, but sometimes it’s the only thing that works.”

Natalie chuckled and said, “Maybe you should just say what Mrs. Garrett used to say – Quiet.”

At that, the kids got silent for a second.

“See,” said Natalie, “sometimes it still works.”

Nancy just smiled as she started herding her children toward Baskin Robbins.

“Hey, Nance,” called Natalie stopping Nancy in her tracks, “one of us will let you know what happened later.”

“Thanks, Nat,” said Nancy as she walked down the sidewalk.

Natalie started to head toward the café, but stopped as she saw Blair in a very heated discussion with a man she recognized as one of the crewmembers from Nancy’s show. Blair had tears rolling down her face and she was pointing to the young man in front of her. Natalie, being ever in investigative reporting mode, opened the door a crack to listen to the confrontation.

“Don’t you know who I am? I’m Blair Warner.”

“Ma’am, I understand that, but we have creative license to do with the footage what we wish.”

“Not at my expense. I did not agree to anything. I did not sign anything allowing you to exploit my personal business. If you show that tape, I will have you so bogged down in court that you will never find another gig anywhere.”

“Miss . . .”

“It will be career suicide,” yelled Blair as she stormed off.

The man looked conflicted as he started to gather his things to follow the cameramen and Nancy.

Natalie knew that Blair wasn’t kidding. She would do everything in her power to stop the fight between her and Molly from being televised. However, that didn’t mean that she wouldn’t need a little help. The ever vigilante reporter reached into her bag and pulled out her iPad 2. She knows that you never know when a good story would come along, so Natalie was always prepared. She typed in the name that was on the man’s name tag so she could contact him later, then headed off toward Europa Café.

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Once Natalie got to the meeting place, it didn’t take long to spot her crew. Although the place was roomy, their group was unique and stood out to the investigative reporter. As she approached her group, something caught her attention. At one of the tables by the window sat Kimberly and Kelly. Normally this wouldn’t garner a second glance, but something about the sight struck Natalie as odd. Both girls had their hands on the table, but Kelly’s were resting on top of Kimberly’s hands. Kimberly was giggling and tilting her head to the side in a coy manner while Kelly talked. Then Natalie’s eyes traveled downward. Under the table, Kelly was taking her feet and gently running them up and down Kimberly’s legs from her calf to her ankle. The sight brought back images of Jo and Blair when they first started dating. There was no way that Natalie could keep this breaking development to herself.

As Natalie approached the group, she was about ready to burst.

“Hey, Nat,” piped in Tootie, “where’s Nancy?”

“Oh, she took her kids to Baskin Robbins, but you won’t believe what’s going on.”

Tootie, ever the one for the latest gossip, asked, “What is it, Nat? Spill it, girl!”

“Oh, there is just so much stuff going on you wouldn’t believe it.”

“Well tell us,” exclaimed Sue Ann.

Natalie finally sat down as she started. “Well, first Nancy’s camera crew got the whole fight between Blair and Molly on tape . . .”

Molly looked down and away in shame.

Natalie continued, “. . . and Blair went completely ballistic on one of the guys. Talk about your Blair witch project.”

“More like Blair bitch project,” Molly muttered under her breath.

The girls ignored Molly’s comment and looked on in amazement.

“But guess what? That’s not even the best scoop of the day,” said Natalie.

“Well, don’t keep us waiting, Nat,” said Cindy.

Natalie took a breath and continued, “I saw Kelly and Kimberly at a table – together.”

“Well, that’s no surprise,” said Tootie a little disappointed. “They’re both in the wedding party after all. If there’ll be a wedding that is.”

“Since they’re here, we should invite them to come over and join us,” said Sister Meg as she began to rise.

“Umm, I don’t think that’s such a good idea,” countered Natalie.

“Why not, Nat,” asked Sue Ann.

“Yeah, it seems to be extremely rude not to ask them to join us,” added Cindy.

“You don’t understand. They’re here together. Not just as friends, if you know what I mean.”

Molly chimed in and said, “Well, it would confirm what I saw earlier.”

“Wait,” interjected Tooties, “you’re not saying . . .”

“Yes, Tootie, I am. I think those two have the hots for each other. Sorry, for being so crude, Sister Meg,” finished Natalie as she looked at the nun.

“It’s quite alright, Natalie. I may be a nun, but I’m also human.”

“Oooooo, this is just like one of Blair’s old romance novels,” piped in Tootie not wanting to change the subject just yet.

“Wait a minute, Natalie” started Sue Ann, “how do you know they’re here – together. They could just be getting acquainted since they’re both friends of the brides.”

“Oh, they’re getting acquainted alright,” quipped the reporter. “Do you remember how you used to steal glances at Cindy when you thought no one was looking?”

Sue Ann blushed.

“Molly here was all over your body language and got me to watching you guys. You guys were the perfect pair with whom to sharpen my journalistic skills and practice my powers of observation on. Trust me, you guys were bound to get together.”

“So. What does our body language have to do with those two,” asked Cindy.

“Duh. Isn’t it obvious? That same silent chemistry existed between Jo and Blair too. Of course, they were more vocal about it.”

The girls were just looking at her in disbelief.

“I may be wrong, but everything points to there being an instant attraction between Kelly and Kimberly. Molly, you’re the expert on body language and non-verbal cues. Why don’t you take a peek and see what you think.”

Molly got up and followed Natalie to where they could see Kimberly and Kelly, but they couldn’t see them.

“See, look at that,” Natalie whispered as she indicted how Kimberly was giggling and exposing her neck and how Kelly was stroking Kimberly’s knuckles. “Tell me that doesn’t look like they have something going on between them.”

“Well,” stated Molly, “it sure looks like there’s potential there for sure. The look they gave in the church was for real.”

After their quick analysis and confirmation, they headed back to their table.

“Well,” asked Tootie.

As they sat down, Molly claimed, “Nat’s right. It sure looks like those two have something going on.”

“Ooooo. Well, at least something good came out of this day,” chimed in Tootie.

“Yes, but what about Blair,” asked Natalie.

“Knowing Blair, she’s probably thinking right now that Jo will come back tomorrow or something like that, so I don’t think she’s worried about that. However, I know that she’s very worried about the entire rehearsal being recorded and the potential airing of it. I think she will be focused on making sure the video doesn’t get out,” Molly noted. The rest of the table nodded.

“And she’s probably gonna go shopping as soon as she can. It’s like therapy for her,” Sue Ann added.

Tootie then spoke up. “Excuse me; I gotta go to the bathroom.”

She got up and left the table; however, she wasn’t heading in the direction of the bathroom.

Although it was obvious where Tootie was heading, Molly looked at Natalie and said, “She’s not going to the bathroom.”

Natalie shook her head in agreement with Molly.

“This is Tootie, we’re talking about here. Where else would you expect her to go when there’s potential for a good piece of gossip,” Cindy reminded them.

“Yeah, but I just hope she doesn’t blow her cover, or ours for that matter,” Molly said with concern.

“Don’t worry, Molly. Tootie’s an expert in covert operations. She can teach the CIA a thing or two,” Natalie assured her.

The rest of the table laughed.

Tootie came back about three minutes later, which would have been enough time to make it look like she went to the bathroom.

“Ooooooh, you shoulda seen what I saw when I came outta the bathroom.”

“Tootie, don’t even try to kid us,” started Cindy.

“Yeah, we know you weren’t in the bathroom because the bathroom’s that way,” said Sue Ann pointing.

The girls started laughing again.

“Fine, but listen,” said Tootie anxious to tell her news, “Kelly and Kimberly were holding hands. They were going to kiss!”

Tootie exaggerated the truth as usual, but the rest of the girls squealed anyway. Molly just shook her head because she knew that Tootie was blowing it out of proportion. She could tell by the look on the gossip’s face and the way she was talking animatedly with her hands. Everything was screaming, “This is an inflation of the truth.” However, with the way the day had gone, the girls needed to have some fun and Molly didn’t want to be a spoilsport. The girls continued to squeal . . . loudly. Everyone in the café could hear the commotion, including Kelly and Kimberly.

“Did ya hear dat?” Kelly asked Kim.

“Yeah. It must be a bunch of excited school girls,” Kimberly shrugged.

“Lemme go check it out.”

As soon as Kelly got up, Kim grabbed her right hand and pulled her back down.

“No need. You could spend your time on better things,” said Kim, who winked and continued flirting with Kelly.

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When Jo got back to their house, she immediately packed her clothes, and all of her necessities, which included her toothbrush, hairbrush, feminine products, and a few magazines that catered to her tastes, such as Popular Mechanics, Motorcyclist, American Cop, and also Maxim... Hey, she likes girls! Then, with her backpack on her back, she went to her garage and hopped onto her motorcycle. She left her home without even leaving a single note.

She drove in the direction of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, thinking that would be the last place Blair would ever find her. As she drove on her cycle, tears of frustration, anger, and sadness flowed from her eyes. She was totally frustrated and angry that the woman she loved would do this to her, over and over again. She was getting tired of it, and she wanted it to come to an end. If she wasn't so much in love with Blair, she would have broken up with her long ago, but her heart wouldn’t let her. She knew that no one else in this world would love her the way Blair did.

As she finally crossed the Pennsylvania border, she was thinking of finding a place in Easton. However, when she thought about it, she concluded that Blair might look for her in that city, remembering that they stayed there in the past when they were at the Poconos. So, Jo decided to head north, past Monroe County, past Pike Country, as far as she could go without having to make a gas stop. She got as far as the township of Hawley, PA, which was located in Wayne County. She rode up to two and a half hours. By the time she got where she was going, the LED screen on her 2009 Kawasaki Concours 14 indicated that it was near empty. She figured that it was the perfect time to look for a room. There was a Motel 6 nearby. She checked it out, but it wasn't up to her standards so she left. Her finickiness made her realize how much Blair had spoiled her when it came to hotel accommodations. If this was over thirty years ago, she would have been fine at the Motel 6, but now that she had gotten used to five-star hotels, she couldn’t be bothered. She eventually settled on staying at The Settlers Inn. It wasn't like the Waldorf-Astoria, but it sure beat Motel 6.

When she finally got her room, she got her laptop setup. The inn provided free Wi-Fi, so she didn't have to worry about Internet usage minutes and whatnot. Based on her skills in detective work, she knew how to make a mostly-anonymous SMS and phone call. Using Tor, she went to an anonymous SMS text-sending website, and sent a text to a particular number…

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Back at Natalie’s classic six apartment in the vibrant Morning Side Heights, Natalie was watching Disney's The Princess and the Frog with her two children and her husband, Robert, when she suddenly got a buzz on her iPhone 4, which meant she was getting a text. She looked at it and saw “111980.” She immediately knew who it was.

“Something wrong, honey?” Robert asked.

“Yeah, it looks like a very important text. I gotta take care of it right now. Take care of Bobby and Sally for me.”

“Sure thing.”

She went to her workroom and picked up her Android phone from her desk. She waited until the Redphone appeared on her phone, showing that someone was trying to call her. Redphone is an encrypted voicecall app, which makes it very hard to trace. She picked up and answered in a low voice.

“Jo, is that you?”

“Yeah, it's me,” Jo responded in an equally low voice. They had this setup so Jo could relay some important info from her job to Natalie.

“Where are you?” Natalie asked, though she knew that Jo wouldn’t directly tell her.

“Somewhere not in New York City. That's as much as I can tell you.”

“I see. Well, the rehearsal ended about twenty minutes after you left. Blair and Molly got into a shouting match over Kelly’s role in the wedding.”

Jo sighed on the other end. “Why am I not surprised?”

“Because it's Blair we're dealing with here, and Molly is just as volatile as Blair.”

Jo shook her head on the other end. “Listen, I'm gonna be gone for a few days. I need to get away from all this, and especially from Blair.”

There was some trepidation in Natalie's voice when she asked, “Does this mean you and Blair are going to...”

“No! Not at all. Blair will always be my other half, but she needs to learn a lesson here. I will only talk to her when she finally gets her head outta her ass and she finally agrees to have a serious talk with me. You understand?”

“Totally,” Natalie confirmed.

“Now, don't tell Blair or anyone else that you have heard from me. This is only between us.”

“Not even Kelly?”

“Not even Kelly. I want Blair to eat some humble pie before I tell her where I am.”

“I got you.”

“Good. Use Redphone to communicate with me, but don't call me no earlier than two days from now, unless it’s a serious emergency, and I mean A SERIOUS EMERGENCY. Got that?”

“Got it.”

“Good, now take care,” Jo said as she ended the phone call.

Natalie closed her eyes and sighed. “This is not going to be easy on Blair.”

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Meanwhile, Sue Ann and Cindy were having dinner with their children, enjoying the Chicken Tikka Masala with Aloo Paneer that Sue Ann had made earlier. Their Queen Anne home was in the vibrant and highly-prestige area of Park Slope, Brooklyn. The couple had four children – two adopted and two biological, with Cindy and Sue Ann giving birth to one each. While they ate, Cindy and Sue Ann told their children what happened at the church.

“So what's going to happen between Blair and Jo?” Emily asked. Fifteen-year-old Emily is the biological daughter of Cindy and Sue Ann's oldest brother, via artificial insemination.

Sue Ann rolled her eyes at first, then she told her daughter, “Blair had one of her moments when she found out that Kelly was going to be one of Jo’s bridesmaids. She totally flipped out. The sad part about it was that it all got recorded.”

“Why doesn’t that surprise me?” Max asked in a very sarcastic tone. Max is Sue Ann and Jeff’s – one of Cindy’s friends from her modeling days.

“Because ‘Drama’ happens to be Blair’s middle name,” Cindy replied.

Sue Ann gave her that look and said, “Oh, you shouldn't be speaking about drama.”

Cindy asked in puzzlement, “What are you talking about?”

“You’re just as much of a drama queen as Blair.”

“No way!” Cindy protested while folding her arms.

“Yes way!”

They went back and forth, jibbing each other, as the children laughed until they decided to stop.

Opposite Sue Ann at the dinner table was a seven-year-old Japanese-American kid named Yuji. He is Cindy and Sue Ann's adopted son.

“Mother Sue Ann, when will Melina coming back?”

“She will be coming back on Friday, baby. I know you miss her.”

Melina is their Filipino housekeeper. She was on vacation to visit her family back home.

“I hope she brings some dolls back, like she did last year,” Anna replied. Anna is the couple's adopted daughter from Colombia.

“I'm sure she will, honey. She knows how much you like those dolls,” Cindy told her with a sweet smile. Anna smiled back.

“Now, back to the rehearsal. Is it bad enough that Blair and Jo will probably break up?” Max asked.

Sue Ann shrugged her shoulders. “I dunno, dear. I hope it doesn't lead to a breakup.”

“Blair has had it coming for a long time,” Cindy muttered, though it was loud enough for Sue Ann to hear.

“Oh come on, sweetie. Don't say that!” said Sue Ann.

“Sue Ann, Blair has been pushing Jo around for too long with her whimsical decisions and her flaky attitude. I think she needs to be more respectful with Jo's time, and just about everybody else’s for that matter. She needs to be taught a lesson,” said Cindy rather irritably.

As Sue Ann was about to respond, Emily got a call.

“Hello? …Hey, there sweetie, how are you doing?” she flirted.

Sue Ann asked, “Is that Rebecca?”

Emily nodded and returned to the conversation. “So did your mom say it was okay? Great! I'll tell my moms after I get off the phone.”

“Tell us about what?” Cindy asked. Everyone was now looking at Emily.

“Becca, sweetie, I'll call you back later? Okay, bye!” She got off her cell and explained the conversation to Cindy.

“The group PINS will be having a concert on Saturday and her mother okay'd it. So I was wondering if you would let me and Becca go see PINS? It’s their first time here in NYC!”

“Only if one of us go with you,” said Cindy.

“I knew that you would say that, so I was hoping that you would come with us.”

Cindy was usually the one Emily and Max asked for stuff like this, since she was considered the “hipper” of the two moms.

“Sure. I don't mind listening to some music. I assume that it's a rock band?”

“Yeah. They're an all-girl rock band from Manchester. Their sound is kinda like Joy Division, a bit New-Wavish.”

Cindy's eyebrows rose when she heard that. “Oh really? How do you know about Joy Division? That was my time, when I was your age.” If the truth be told, she only knew about the band through Molly, who listened to them back then.

“Oh, I saw the movie Control. It was great,” Emily elated.

“Really? Molly told me about that movie, but I never got around to seeing it,” Cindy informed her daughter.

Sue Ann changed the subject and said, “I'm rather jealous of you and Becca?”

Emily paused for a moment before she spoke. “Why?”

“Because you two can go anywhere without any fear. Cindy and I couldn't do that back in the day.”

“Oh, mother Sue Ann. That's true, but you can do it now, so there's no need to look back.”

“Yeah, but I still remember when we went to see Duran Duran back in ‘84. We couldn't even hold hands for fear that someone might see us or a security guard would kick us out,” Sue Ann said with a touch of sadness. She felt that part of her childhood was ruined because of homosexual intolerance.

“Like Emily said, there's no need to look back. We're actually lucky to even be in this position. Do you know how many gay and lesbian couples from the past wish they had the option to marry?” Cindy reminded her. The last thing she wanted was for her lover to dwell on something from the past that they couldn’t control.

Sue Ann thought about it for a minute and smiled. “Yeah, you're absolutely right,” she said.

Max then asked, “Mother Sue Ann, did you say that the rehearsal was recorded?”

“Yeah, there were cameramen there for Nancy’s show. Blair got upset with them because they were more focused on Nancy than on her.”

Emily giggled while Max just shook his head in disapproval. “It will be something when they show it on TV.”

“I highly doubt it, knowing Blair,” said Cindy.

“Why? Likely once it’s recorded, it will be up on YouTube or somewhere else,” Max added.

“No, not likely. Knowing Blair and her law background, she will do everything in her power to stop the footage from being released. She will use every tactic she knows to stop it from airing, either through bribery or through some legal action,” Cindy responded.

“To be honest with you guys, I hope it doesn’t get out. It was very embarrassing.” Then she looked at Emily. “Emily, I hope that if you and Becca get married, your rehearsal doesn’t end up like Blair’s!”

Emily and the rest of the family laughed as they continued eating their dinner.

 

Chapter Text

“So, Kelly and Kimberly are into each other?” asked Nancy as she talked to Tootie over the kitchen speakerphone while trying to rock her youngest baby to sleep.

“Hell, yeah! Girl, you shoulda been there. They were flirtin' and holdin' hands and all that.”

“Really? Oh, my God!” said Nancy excitedly. “I wish I had been there!”

“Yeah, it was sumthin! It looked like they were gonna kiss!”

Nancy nearly lost it when she heard this bit of information. “Damn! I really wish I had been there! I just knew there was some kind of spark between them at the rehearsal.”

Nancy’s husband, Roger, was not too far away. He was in the workroom, reading up on some legislature, but he was able to hear the whole conversation. The conservative Republican was revolted that he had to listen to something like this, and he was also disgusted that his wife found the news exciting. “What a bunch of sickos,” he muttered.

“Well, I gotta go, Nance,” said Tootie. “That new show, Staten Island Cakes, is coming on!”

Staten Island Cakes?” Nancy asked. She was completely puzzled.

“Yeah. Do you remember Vinny Buzzetta? The one who did Mark's birthday cake last year?”

“Yeah! I remember! It was an awesome cake!” said Nancy who reflected on her son’s birthday cake.

“Well, he has a new show, so I'm gonna check it out. Check you later.”

“Same here. Bye.”

A few seconds after Nancy got off the phone, her husband walked into the kitchen.

“Did I hear that there was a fight between Jo and Blair and Molly?”

“Yeah, there was. First, Blair and Jo had a fight at the wedding rehearsal over one of Jo’s bridesmaid choices. Then, when Jo left, Blair and Molly began yelling at each other.”

“What a bunch of looney lezbos.”

Nancy quickly got upset. “You know that Molly’s not a lesbian. She's dating a guy!”

“Bullshit. She's a man-hating carpet muncher herself. I just don’t understand how you can hang around all those queers.”

“They're not queers, they're my friends. Besides Molly, Tootie’s not gay and neither is Natalie.”

“No, but those two are nothing but a couple of embarrassing liberal losers. They all have radical ideas about equality. Those repulsive homosexuals are trying to ruin our way of life.”

“Roger, they’re just fighting for the same rights as everyone else.”

“And that’s the problem with the political system. Too many Democrats.”

“No, the problem with the political system is that people like you who have skewed perspectives of reality are in positions of power.”

“Mark my words, all your damn Democratic friends will screw society.”

“Hey, Sue Ann was once a Republican, but it was morons like you who made her leave the party and become a Libertarian. Also, Blair's a conservative Republican, just like you, you idiot!”

Roger’s voice quickly became more threatening. “Hey, what did I tell you about calling me an idiot among other things?” Nancy had a scared look after Roger raised his voice. She didn’t think he would strike her, but he was known to have a bad temper when one threatened his authority. Roger then continued his tirade. “And don’t you dare put that Sappho-slut in the same league as me. Blair may call herself a conservative Republican, but she's not true to the party platform. I can't believe she had the nerve to make that speech.”

Nancy had an exasperated look on her face. “What does it matter to you? You're not in the New York State Senate.”

“No, but whatever happens in New York will affect my district. There's only a river separating us from New York, Nancy. I hope you realize that. The next thing you know, those queers will try to force New Jersey into this sham.”

Nancy completely lost it. “It's not a sham! Gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgenders deserve to enjoy the same rights as straights, and that includes marriage!”

“God made it clear that it's not right for two people of the same-sex to get married. He also made it clear that if you were born a man, you stay a man. If you are born a woman, you stay a woman. People who go against the holy doctrine are sick in the head.”

“There's nothing wrong with them. They're all normal people who would function fine if society would just stop treating them like shit!”

“You’re blaming society for their deviance? It’s not society’s fault that these people are sick.”

“The only thing that’s sick is how society views people who don’t adhere to the norm.”

“I can’t believe you’re really condoning the blatant disregard of social constructionism.”

“Roger, you have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Yeah, I do.”

“What? Who's the sociologist here? Remember there’s only one of us in this room who has a PhD in Sociology and it certainly isn't you!”

Unfortunately, they had gotten so loud that their kids could hear them from upstairs. The oldest boy commented to one of his siblings, “Mom and dad are arguing again.”

“At least they're talking to each other...”

Downstairs Roger continued, “Yeah, you like to wave that meaningless lefty degree like a flag of accomplishment. You just love to rub it in my face, don’t you? But let me ask you this – how long has it been since you did any real sociology work, huh?”

“Well, . . .”

“You can’t answer that can you? You wear your worthless degree like a badge of honor, but you have nothing to show for it. If you were as good as you let on, you’d have your own practice by now. Well, where is it?” he asked as he raised his arms and looked around.

“I . . .”

“You don’t have one, do you?”

“That’s because we had four kids at the time and I didn't want the nanny to raise them by herself. I wanted to be a part of their lives, Roger. You know that!”

“Face it, Nancy, you're an immoral, degenerate, leftist loser! You’re no different from the rest of those human blemishes on society that you hang around with.”

Nancy was infuriated at this point. “And you're nothing but a fucking bigot! That's why Kimberly slapped you in the face when you called her a confused idiot.”

“Speaking of Kimberly, did I hear correctly that that confused, druggie bi-slut is dating a woman now? One of Jo's low-life, sewer rat friends from the Bronx no less?”

At that moment, Nancy wanted to grab a frying pan and hit him across his face. Instead, she held her anger in check and spat at him, “You really are a piece of work. Here you’re calling Kim a 'bi-slut,' yet you were trying to get me to have a threesome with her not that long ago.”

Roger was starting to sweat because he remembered when he wanted to 'spice up his marriage' by convincing Nancy to have a threesome with him and another woman. When he heard that Kim just moved back from Los Angeles, he figured that it was his chance to live out one of his fantasies. Around the same time, Roger was trying to get Nancy to join in some swinger clubs, which she vehemently denied. Unlike some of her more adventurous friends, Nancy is very much straight.

Nancy was fed up with the argument. She knew that Roger would not admit defeat, but she couldn’t listen to him put her friends down anymore. So, she decided to do the only thing that seemed like the best solution – she walked out of the room and headed straight to the front door.

“Where do you think you’re going?” asked Roger.

“Anywhere to get away from you! Who knows, maybe I'll go visit Cindy and Sue Ann and have a lesbian threesome with them, since it seems that threesomes are what you’re into nowadays. They could probably do a better job satisfying me than you ever could anyway!” With that final verbal jab, she slammed the door behind her and left the house.

Of course, Nancy would never even think about having sex with Cindy and Sue Ann, but she couldn’t pass up the opportunity to ruffle Roger’s feathers a little bit. It was just so pleasurable. Nancy had to find some ways to pleasure herself considering Roger wasn’t so proficient in that area much anymore because he always had his head stuck up some political brass. Anyway, she had no clue where she was going to go as she got into her car. She just knew that she had to get away from that house for a while.

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Nancy was not the only person who was having problems with her partner. In New York, Blair was dealing with her own anxiety about seeing Jo again. The blonde was emotionally drained by the time she got home. Nothing that day went the way she had planned. She hated when she and Jo fought because they both knew the best way to hurt each other. Granted, the makeup sex was rather nice, but getting into such heated arguments just seemed to push them further and further apart. Blair took a deep breath before entering the home she shared with the love of her live, while preparing herself for the possible argument to come.

“Jo,” Blair called once she had stepped inside. “I’m home.”

When Jo failed to respond, Blair figured that she was just giving her the silent treatment. Sure, it was childish, but sometimes not saying anything was the best way to avoid an argument. The blonde went throughout the house, preparing herself for when she would finally find her lover. However, Jo was nowhere to be found.

Blair heaved a heavy sigh as she realized that Jo must have run off again. That was her answer every time. When things got tough, the tough got going right out of the door. It was silly that Jo would revert to her childish behavior of running away from her problems, but Blair learned that it was her way to deal with problems. Once she was given a little space, Jo would return. Blair decided to relax and wait for her lover to come home so they could discuss everything that happened that day.

Blair waited until well into the night, but still no Jo. There was not so much as a phone call to let her know that Jo was okay. Finally, Blair decided to call Natalie because, if Jo would contact anyone, it would be the reporter. Blair took a deep breath before dialing Natalie’s number.

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When Natalie’s phone started playing Madonna’s “Material Girl,” she flinched as she checked the id already knowing who was on the other end. She took a deep breath before answering.

“Hey, Blair. What’s up?”

“Hey, Nat. Have you heard from Jo?”

“No. I haven’t spoken to her since the wedding debacle.” Natalie really hated lying to her friend, but she had to keep her promise to Jo. Being caught in the middle was no fun. It was as if she was the human rope in a game of tug-of-war. “Why do you ask?”

“Oh, I think she’s run off again. I hate it when she does this to me. We really need to talk.”

“Well, Blair. I don’t know what to tell you.”

“If she contacts you, will you call me?”

“You’ll be the first person to know,” assured Natalie.

“Thanks. You’re a true friend. Bye, Nat.”

Natalie shook her head, “Bye, Blair.” The reporter felt horrible for flat-out lying to Blair because she knew she was hurting. However, Blair always landed on her feet.

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After getting no answers about Jo’s whereabouts from Natalie, Blair decided to call Nancy, Sue Ann, and Kimberly and ask them to join her on a girl’s day out of shopping. Shopping always made Blair feel better, so there was no reason to believe that it wouldn’t work this time. Yet, Nancy and Sue Ann could sense that something wasn’t quite right with Blair when they all met at Neiman Marcus in The Westchester mall. Of course, this did not necessarily fit most of the girls’ tastes, but this shopping excursion was meant for Blair to take her mind off her missing lover. Thus, the girls silently agreed that they would make the best of it.

“So, Blair, which do you like better,” asked Nancy as she held up two equally expensive looking blouses.

“Oh, they both look good,” replied Blair with her chin resting on her hand. The blonde was currently sitting on a bench watching her friends try on different outfits. It was clear that something was wrong because she was usually the one modeling outfits for her friends. Today, she just wasn’t in the mood.

“Come on Blair, which one do you think Roger will find more devastating? I really need to apologize for our argument last night.”

“Hey, Nancy, it doesn’t matter which one looks better on, it’s which one he’d rather get off that counts,” quipped Kimberly.

“You are so bad,” admonished Sue Ann as she playfully slapped Kimberly on the shoulder.

“Tell me the best part of getting a nice outfit isn’t taking it off in front of Cindy,” Kimberly shot back.

Sue Ann blushed while Nancy just shook her head.

All of this talk about dressing and undressing for their lovers was just making Blair more and more depressed. She didn’t even know where her significant other was at the moment. It just wasn’t fair. Blair sighed as she watched her friends joking back and forth. Suddenly, Kimberly received a text and her demeanor quickly changed.

“Umm, guys,” Kimberly started, “I’m sorry but I have to run off for a bit. Can I meet you guys later sometime?”

“Is everything okay?” asked Sue Ann.

“Yeah, everything’s fine. I just have somewhere to go right now, but I’ll catch up with you later. Oh, and Blair,” Kimberly turned her attention to the downtrodden debutante, “enjoy yourself. Just have fun with your shopping spree, okay. Later.”

The other girls watched as Kimberly disappeared. “What’s with her?” asked Nancy.

“Who knows,” said Sue Ann. “Hey, Blair, how about we get ready to go get some food? Ever since that whole dieting thing back in Eastland, I’ve learned to listen to my stomach and, right now, my stomach is saying it’s about lunchtime.”

“Wait, Sue Ann, can we have another twenty minutes or so. I have to find the perfect outfit for Roger to try to make up for last night. Please?”

“Well, it’s up to Blair. Blair?”

“Oh, yeah, Nancy, take your time. We’ll go grab something to eat as soon as you’re ready.”

Nancy smiled, but Sue Ann said, “But let’s not be all day about it.”

About thirty minutes later, Nancy finally said she was ready to make her purchases and go grab some lunch at the little mall food court on the fourth floor. Truthfully, Blair wasn’t really hungry, but she knew she needed to keep her strength up.

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When Kimberly had looked at the text on her phone it read, “I’m at Starbucks Coffee, on the third level. Meet me there, cutie ;).” She knew that she was blushing, but she couldn’t tell the other girls the real reason for her sudden departure. Based on what she saw the previous day at Blair and Jo’s wedding rehearsal, it would have been an extremely bad idea to bring up Kelly’s name. Kimberly didn’t want to hurt Blair’s feelings, but she felt drawn to the redhead from yesterday and she wanted to know if there was something behind that initial spark. So, she decided to leave Blair in the capable hands of Nancy and Sue Ann while she met up with her new friend.

As she arrived at Starbucks, she saw the redhead who had swept her off her feet only the day before. Kelly was sitting down, watching a YouTube clip on her phone while sipping on some vanilla chai latte. Kimberly thought it was so cute that someone would actually wait on her. Here they had just met and Kelly was already seeking Kimberly out. Kimberly felt herself blush again as she approached the redhead.

“Kelly! How are you doing?”

Kelly looked up and smiled. “Great. It’s been a long time since I’ve been here, girl.”

Kelly got up and gave Kim a hug. The hug felt magical for both of them, confirming that they were meant for each other. Neither one of them wanted to let go, but they both knew that they couldn't just hug each other in public for a long time with no repercussions. Although society was taking a step in the right direction with New York’s legalization of gay marriage, there were still plenty of people who were against equality for all sexual orientations. Unfortunately, complete acceptance was still far from a reality, and gay couples still had to be careful. It was a sad truth that same-sex couples still had to fear ridicule and physical threats. With this in mind, Kelly broke the hug first.

“Really? So you've been here before?” asked Kimberly who was clearly surprised.

“Oh, yeah! I came here lotsa times during the 90s! Come have a seat, Kim.”

Kim took Kelly’s offer and sat down across from her.

“Sorry for being so rude. I shoulda asked you if you wanted something to drink?”

Kim smiled, “Sure. I love the Green Tea Frap here.”

The girls got up and got in line to order Kimberly’s drink. As they waited in line, they chitchatted for a bit.

“Do they have anything like this in Houston?” asked Kim. The rich debutante had never set foot in Houston before. She had visited Dallas a few times, but she had no idea if there was anything like this in the Houston area.

“Nah, not really,” Kelly replied. “They try, but it ain’t the same. You know, with Houston bein' a risin' city and all dat, they got their upscale malls, like the Galleria, which has a lot of nice stores, but it ain't nothin’ like here. NYC is still the king.”

Kim chuckled as she said, “Yeah. As impressive as Beverly Hills was, it's still nothing like Park Avenue.”

“Oh, yeah, you did live in Los Angeles, didn’t you?”

“For a good while,” Kim confirmed as she gave a nonchalant shrug. People were always in awe when she told them that she used to live in Beverly Hills, but for Kim, it was nothing special.

As soon as Kim got her drink, she asked, “Hey, do you wanna go to American Eagle and check out some clothes?”

“Sure!” Kelly chirped.

For the next fifteen minutes or so, they spent their time in American Eagle. Kim was mindful of Blair’s tendency to avoid most of the 3rd floor stores. She didn’t think anything would happen, but knowing the friction that obviously existed between Blair and Kelly, Kim wasn’t about to take any unnecessary chances. She really valued her friendship with Blair, but she also wanted to see where her blossoming feelings for Kelly would go. Thus, Kim decided that the best answer would be to keep them separated. Thankfully, Blair would have little need to venture this far up.

After a few minutes of shopping, Kimberly and Kelly agreed that they were both hungry, so they went to the food court on the 4th floor. There were a few really good food choices, but the truth is that they just wanted more time to talk and get to know each other. So far, they knew that they had similar tastes in clothes and they had an instant, natural attraction to each other. From their previous brief conversations, they knew that they apparently came from two different backgrounds, but they didn’t know much more than what they had a chance to divulge. Thus, a lunch for two was the perfect ticket to get even better acquainted. They sat down so they could chitchat some more.

“So, you said you’ve been here before?” Kim asked.

“Yeah.”

“But isn’t this a bit upscale for you?” Kim didn’t mean to sound harsh, but it was hard for her to imagine a poor Bronx native shopping in such an upscale area, unless…

“Well, I had a lot of money back in the 90s,” answered Kelly.

“Really? What were you doing?” asked Kim.

“Umm… distributions,” Kelly muttered in embarrassment. She really didn’t want to go into full details about her past “occupation.” She was afraid that this wasn’t the right time, and that the truth about her past had the potential to drive a wedge between their growing friendship.

Kim, however, was no dummy. She was far past the innocent, naïve, sheltered girl from Park Avenue. She immediately knew what Kelly meant by “distributions,” but before she could press any further, Kelly asked, “So, how long have you lived in LA?”

“Nearly 20 years.”

“Wow! I bet you hobnobbed with all the stars there.”

“Of course. I used to be a make-up artist for the stars in movies and TV shows,” Kim informed Kelly in a matter-of-fact tone. Although Kelly seemed impressed with this information, Kim acted as if it was no big deal. Just like living in Beverly Hills, Kim saw nothing special about interacting with celebrities.

“Really?” Kelly then whispered, “So, uh, then you must know some hot, juicy rumors.”

Kim simply chuckled. Sure, she knew a LOT of rumors, some of which involved her, but she always made it clear that, “What goes on in LA, stays in LA.” “Sorry, Kelly,” replied Kim, “but I’m sworn to secrecy. That means I can’t tell you anything,” she said with a smirk.

“Not even one tiny morsel of gossip?” Kelly begged like a little child. She even pinched her forefinger and thumb together to emphasize “small.”

“Nope,” answered Kim, trying her best not to laugh.

“Ah, okay, but what about the parties. I bet you went to a lot of parties.”

“In fact, until I moved to LA, I didn’t think it was possible to be exhausted from too much partying. However, LA proved me wrong,” Kim stated as she slowly rolled her eyes. “There were all types of parties, and boy, did I party!”

“Now you make me wish I was there!”

“Why? Are you a party girl?”

“Pretty much. See, I grew up around boozin’ and parties. My mother was a ragin’ alchy who would get so drunk sometimes that she couldn’t tell ya her own name. She’d also throw many private parties for her and her boyfriend of the evening.”

“Wait. Do you mean your mom drank and had strange men over while you were in the house?”

“Hell, yeah. In fact, some of those bastards beat the shit outta me.”

Kim was totally surprised by Kelly's confession. “What?”

“Yeah, some of ‘em would beat me senseless, but she didn’t care. She’d be so shit-faced that she couldn’t see the truth. Even when I had the welts and bruises to prove it, my ma always took their side over mine. Shit, she’d just call me a liar who was jealous because she knew had to please a man.”

“Gee, I’m sorry. It sounds like you had it rough,” said Kim in a sympathetic tone. She always dreamed of a mother’s undying love, but a mother like Kelly’s made her second guess her fantasies.

“Eh, things weren’t always so bad. Like I said, I could find myself a good party, too. When things got tough, the tough got goin’ right out the door and on to the next party.”

“Really? Where’d you go?”

“Anywhere I wanted. Wherever I was, was where the party was.”

“Well, weren’t there certain limitations due to your age?”

Kelly vehemently shook her head. “Nah, man. All ya needed was a card sayin’ you were 18. I had one of ‘em when I was 12.”

Kimberly was clearly surprised at how quickly Kelly had to “grow up.” Not only did her father’s early departure and her mother’s clear lack of concern force Kelly into premature adulthood, but it is possible that her lack of supervision led her down the path she took. Thus, it shouldn’t have been shocking to find out that Kelly had a fake ID at such a young age, but it did.

“You mean you had a fake ID?” Kimberly gasped.

“Sure, I had a couple of ‘em, in fact. You always wanted to carry a spare just in case someone got wise to ya and took it away. I could be as old as I needed to be so I could get into anywhere I wanted.”

“But that’s so dishonest.”

“Well, I couldn’t just be an innocent victim and let my mom’s boyfriends keep treating me like a punching bag now could I?” said Kelly with a shrug.

“No,” answered Kim softly.

Kelly looked down at her hands as she prepared to come clean to Kimberly. She knew that she had to tell Kimberly all the dark parts of her past if they were ever going to start an honest relationship. “Listen, Kim, the truth is, I did plenty of bad shit in my time.”

“Oh, it couldn’t be that bad,” assured Kim as she reached over and gently grabbed Kelly’s hands.

“I did far worse than you can imagine. I got in trouble for vandalism from the time I was nine, I stole everything from candy to records to vehicles starting at the age of three, I lied, I drank, I smoked, and I got into brawls. Heck, I was in a gang from the time I was ten.”

“I know it sounds bad, but you had a hard life. It’s nothing we can’t look past or overcome,” said Kimberly, who had plenty of skeletons in her closet as well.

“Listen, Kim, it gets much worse.”

“How bad can it be?”

Kelly took a deep breath before continuing. “Look, Kim, I needa tell ya sumthin’.”

“What is it, Kelly?” asked Kimberly nervously.

Kelly took another deep breath as she started to sweat. She was clearly worried that what she had to say could negatively affect their potential relationship. “You asked me how I was able to get the money to shop here, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, I used to sell meth.”

That revelation shocked the hell out of Kim. She had assumed that “distributions” meant that Kelly probably sold drugs, but meth was the heavy stuff. The news obviously had taken Kimberly aback.

“What???” Kim yelled.

“Yeah, back in the mid and late 90s, I used to sell meth. I was called the ‘Meth Queen of the Bronx.’ Later, I became known as the ‘Meth Queen of NYC.’ Everyone who was anyone knew to hit me up if they wanted the good stuff for the right price. I was Mrs. Walter White before Vince Gilligan even thought of him!”

Kim was clearly surprised by this recent revelation.

“I hope this news doesn’t affect our friendship or whatever,” said Kelly as she looked down in dismay.

“No, not at all. I’m just surprised that you had it in you.”

“Hey, when you’re broke, you’ll do anything.”

“That’s true,” replied Kim in an understanding voice.

“Listen, I can understand you being apprehensive about seeing a former drug dealer, but . . .”

“Hey, calm down. Listen, the truth is I’m no clean queen myself.”

“Really?”

“During my time in Paris and LA, I was heavily into drugs and alcohol, just like you. I never dealt drugs, but I did coke, heroin, acid, and weed. The one thing I never did was meth.”

“Wait, you did heroin?” Kelly was still shocked that Kim admitted that she did drugs.

“Yeah, and it was a bitch to get off of,” said Kimberly in a matter-of-fact tone.

“I know how hard it is to kick. See, I did heroin, too.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. Jo didn't talk to me for a while because of my drug addictions. It wasn't ‘til I got busted in 2000 that she started speaking to me again. Honestly, she helped me out a lot in trying to get myself back on track. Apparently, she saw more potential in me than anyone else and she wanted me to make something of myself. I also think our best friend, Jessie’s, death had something to do with Jo reaching out to me. See, Jessie died in a car accident while she was under the influence of drugs and alcohol. The indirect influence of drugs caused Jessie’s death that year and she was only two years older than me. The news of her death was hard on Jo because there was nothin’ she could do. I think Jo decided then that she would not let me die, too.”

“Wow, I’m sorry to hear about your friend,” said Kim sympathetically.

“Well, that the way many good people went,” replied Kelly as she looked away to hide the sadness in her eyes. She really missed Jessie. Although Jessie’s death had resulted in Jo and her getting her back in touch, the circumstances were not ideal.

Kim suddenly broke the awkward silence. “So, how long were you in jail?”

“Five years.”

Kelly’s answer took Kimberly by surprise. “Only five years! For pushing meth? Who the hell was your lawyer? Saul Goodman? I need his or her number for future reference!”

Kelly laughed. “Well, thanks to Jo I got a good lawyer. But you also gotta remember that back then, meth didn't have the dirty image it has now. Thank you, Walter White,” said Kelly as she just shook her head.

“Yeah, he makes it look cool, when it isn't.”

While Kim and Kelly were lost in their own world, the trio of Blair, Sue Ann, and Nancy arrived at the food court. Blair was trailing behind Nancy and Sue Ann because she was still just going through the motions. When they got to the top floor, Nancy and Sue Ann stopped dead in their tracks. Blair didn’t realize that they had stopped short because she wasn’t paying any attention. As she approached the other two girls, Sue Ann turned around, grabbed Blair by the shoulder, and turned her away from the food court.

“What are you doing?” asked Blair. “I thought you said you needed to eat something.”

“Umm, there’s a huge line and we didn’t all want to stand there waiting. Nancy said she would get us a table and wait for the crowd to disperse.”

“But where are we going?”

“Uh, I saw something in the sporting goods store when we passed it downstairs that I really need to check out – now.”

Blair glanced at Sue Ann from head to toe and said in disbelief, “You? You want something from the sporting goods store?”

Sue Ann glared at Blair as she said, “Don’t forget that I just happen to be into fitness and sports. However, what I need to check out is for Cindy. You know that she wouldn’t want to be caught dead in a mall. Besides, every time I drag her somewhere to go shopping, people come up to her and bug her for an autograph or selfie. Since she likes her privacy as much as she can get it, I told her I would look for it for her while I was here.”

“What is it?”

“Uh, um, uh,” Sue Ann stuttered.

“Come on, Sue Ann, stop kidding around.”

“It’s some officially licensed apparel down in Lids.”

“What?”

“Come on, it’s just two stores down once we get off the escalator. It won’t take that long and, by the time we get back, the crowd will have thinned out.”

Blair was clearly getting suspicious of Sue Ann’s behavior. “Sue Ann, you are so . . .”

About that time something caught Blair’s eye. Right above Sue Ann's left shoulder, Blair spotted a distinctive redhead who was sitting with a brown-and-gray haired brunette. Both women were facing away from Blair. Although she couldn’t see their faces, she knew exactly who they were.

“What the hell,” Blair yelled suddenly.

Sue Ann tried her best to block Blair’s vision, but it was too late.

“What is she doing here?” Blair snapped.

Blair started forward, but Sue Ann tried to hold her back.

“Blair. Blair! BLAIR!”

Blair struggled forward as she shouted, “Let go of me, Sue Ann!”

She pushed Sue Ann to the side and broke free. Then the disgruntled debutante headed over to Kelly and tapped her hard on the shoulder.

“What the hell are you doing here?” Blair spat.

At first, Kelly was surprised to see Blair standing behind her, but in a quick second her surprise turned to anger. How dare that bottle blonde intrude on her and Kim’s time together? This was no open party where anyone could just crash without an invitation.

“It’s a free country,” replied Kelly with a scowl on her face.

“You shouldn’t be here,” asserted Blair with her hands on her hips.

Kelly was pissed that Blair would say something like that to her. She was thinking, “Does Blair really think that she owns this fucking mall? Granted, she may have a charge account at every fucking store, but that doesn’t mean that she can decide who can and cannot patronize this mall. I don’t see the name Blair Warner on this fucking mall and, the last time I heard, Ms. Muffin Head’s last name was not Westchester.” “Why? Who are you to stop me? Princess Di?” replied Kelly as she stood up and faced Blair.

The familiar insult that Blair had heard from Jo many times over the years, coming from Kelly’s mouth infuriated the socialite even more.

“Don’t you call me names,” Blair yelled as she pushed Kelly into the side of a table.

Kelly had turned her attention to Kim as she was laughing at the Princess Di insult, so she didn’t see it coming. The force with which she hit the table took Kelly by surprise, who didn’t waste time pushing Blair back.

“You’re lucky I don’t give ya a shot,” shouted Kelly as she pushed Blair.

“You barbarian,” yelled Blair who pushed Kelly into the table again. This time she pushed her so hard that the table lifted and the condiments shifted.

Kelly couldn’t stand for that, so she returned the favor again. This time Kelly pushed Blair so hard the blonde fell to the floor. “Shut it, Barbie doll before I rip your head off.”

Now everybody in the food court was watching the spectacle. In fact, quite a few people grabbed their cell phones and started recording the catfight.

Kelly turned her back on a fallen Blair, thinking she had won.

Blair, however, took the opportunity to get up and charge Kelly. Unfortunately, Kelly’s street sense alerted her in time and she moved out of the way causing Blair to slide across the table and end up on the floor again. Kelly walked over and stood above Blair. Some of the patrons were laughing as well.

“Had enough, Blondzilla?” smirked Kelly.

That was it. Blair had had enough. She grabbed Kelly by the shirt and pulled her down. Once they were both on the floor, Blair hopped on top of Kelly and grabbed her by the lapels of her leather jacket.

“No one treats Blair Warner like that.”

She had drawn back her right hand as she prepared to punch Kelly right in the face.

“Now, I’ll show you why.”

Sue Ann came up behind Blair and grabbed the blonde’s raised hand. Then, with Nancy’s help, they began pulling Blair away. Kimberly knelt down by Kelly’s side.

Blair couldn’t believe her eyes. One of her friends was actually fraternizing with the enemy. By this time, Blair was clearly steaming. “Kimberly,” she shouted, “it's either my wedding or her. Make your choice."

"Come on, Kel, let's go," said Kimberly as she helped the redhead to her feet.

Kelly had a satisfying grin on her face as they started to walk away.

“What! Why you traitor. You mean you’re going to take that ruffian's side over mine? If you do, Kimberly, you can just forget about being one of my bridesmaids."

Kim immediately shot back, "Fine. Fuck you and your damn wedding. Go find yourself another dumb bitch to be your bridesmaid.”

Blair was shocked and was left standing speechless as Kimberly and Kelly left the food court. No one ever had the gall to say no to Blair Warner. Even Jo usually conceded when they had differing opinions. Yet, Kimberly openly stood up to the socialite and told her off. As soon as Kimberly and Kelly were out of sight, Blair just crumpled to the floor. She began howling and shaking. Despite, Sue Ann and Nancy’s best efforts, it was clear that Blair was inconsolable. After at least a five-minute tantrum, Blair slowly got up and left with her friends.

The mall event gave Blair a feeling that she would never want to remember and was an incident that she would soon want to forget; however, the power of technology would not allow this public outburst to simply be swept under the rug. Unlike the episode at the wedding rehearsal, Blair could not threaten videographers with injunctions and civil suits against unlawful distribution. The number of people who witnessed the event were way too many to suppress. The number of patrons who were present and who had recorded the incident were in the hundreds; however, one in particular was smiling with malice. She was wearing a white hat with a white Chanel dress and a pair of Chanel designer boots. The bottle brunette was all grins. “I finally got you, Blair.”

88888888

After the mall episode, Nancy and Sue Ann thought that it was imperative that they call an emergency meeting. They called Molly to see if they could all meet at her place. Of course, the redhead agreed because she was the only one who didn’t have to worry about any children, and she also lived in nearby White Plains. All of the girls were worried about Blair because her behavior was so erratic. They knew that the blonde was missing Jo and, since none of them claimed to have heard from the brunette, they decided to call a meeting in an effort to ferret out Jo’s whereabouts. Natalie was very nervous because she knew that Molly was an expert at reading body language. In fact, at Eastland Molly was known as the human lie detector. The reporter knew that she couldn’t lie to Molly about hearing from Jo, but she really didn’t know the location of the detective. Secretly, she had tried an app on her phone that could tell her if a “Jo Polniaczek” was registered at any hotel, motel, bed and breakfast, campground, or any other establishment in the United States that provided sleeping accommodations to guests. Unfortunately, she had come up empty. That meant that Jo was not registered under her own name. Natalie was just afraid that the others would think she was blatantly keeping Jo’s location a secret.

In addition to Molly, Tootie, Natalie, Nancy, Sue Ann, and Cindy, Bailey, Sister Meg, Kimberly, and Kelly were invited. It was truly an intervention without the subject combined with a seek out mission. Bailey was all too happy to help her sister. She knew how Blair could get when things didn’t go her way, and it wasn’t pretty. If things were already as bad as the others said they were, then Bailey knew that Blair would soon go crazy. Blair’s younger sister wished that she could have had first-hand experience of what was going on, but she missed the rehearsal due to a doctor’s appointment. As a result, she based everything off of hearsay; however, Blair’s reactions were highly possible. Sister Meg could also shed some light onto Blair’s strange behavior because she had first-hand experience as well. Since she knew Blair as a teenager as well as a step-sister, she could explain to the others why she acted the way she did in certain situations. However, Sister Meg was going to be busy at the monastery, considering it was a Sunday afternoon. It was a hard decision, but Sister Meg chose God over Blair. This was not exactly true because she would never turn her back on family in a time of crisis, but she would be available later to help with Blair’s problem. Besides, this was not the first time Blair had such a breakdown, and Sister Meg knew that there would be ample time to lend her hand. Her choice would allow her to accomplish both of her missions.

Once they all arrived, with the exception of Kimberly and Kelly, they sat down around a table. Immediately all eyes turned to Natalie.

“Natalie,” Sue Ann started, “do you have any idea where Jo is?”

“No,” answered the reporter.

“You mean to tell us,” started Cindy, “that Jo has not contacted you once since the rehearsal?”

Natalie looked down and away as she said very quietly, “No.”

Right away, Molly could tell that the reporter was not telling the whole truth.

“Natalie,” interjected Nancy, “you don’t understand. Blair is completely out of it. You should have seen her today.”

“Yeah, she about ripped Kelly’s hair out at the mall. She was kicking and screaming and blaming Kelly for everything,” put in Sue Ann.

“Then, she just broke down after Kimberly and Kelly left. She collapsed to the floor and began crying uncontrollably. It was a mess,” said Nancy.

Bailey sighed. “That's my sister, alright...”

Molly was watching all the girls’ body language the whole time and knew they weren’t lying. However, Sue Ann and Nancy had a reputation for blowing things out of proportion a little bit, so the sources were not fully reliable. She decided to keep quiet for the time being.

“Girl, if they’re telling the truth, we gotta find Jo. Blair could go ballistic,” said Tootie just so she could be part of the conversation.

“Yeah, Nat. Blair is going out of her mind – more so than usual. Where’s Jo?” demanded Cindy.

Natalie looked away from everyone and claimed, “I told you, I haven’t heard from her.”

Molly noticed the direct attempt to avoid eye contact, which is a clear sign of deception.

“Umm, Nat, can you join me in the kitchen to get everyone something to drink? Is punch okay with everyone?”

All the girls nodded in agreement, so Molly and Natalie headed to the kitchen.

“Whew, thanks, Molly. I owe ya one.”

Molly gave Natalie a stern look as she replied, “Nat, I know you’re lying.”

“What?”

“Come on. How long have I known you?”

“For over 30 years.”

“And you don’t think I know when you’re lying?” asked Molly in a pragmatic tone.

“Me? Lying? About what?”

Molly folded her arms in front of her chest and looked at the reporter with contempt. “Don’t even try to kid me, Nat. You know where Jo is or at least you know how to contact her.”

Natalie was looking down and twiddling her thumbs. She was making it even easier for Molly to deduce that she was lying. “Umm, well . . .” she stuttered.

“Nat . . .”

“Fine. Yes, Jo called, but she made me promise not to contact her for a couple days. She needs some time to herself to get her mind right.”

“Well, shouldn’t you at least tell Blair that Jo’s okay? I mean, she may be going out of her mind with worry,” said Molly. Even though Molly had gotten into a verbal argument with Blair, she didn’t want her long-time friend to be hurting. At the very least, Molly thought that Blair had the right to know that Jo was okay, just to ease the tension a little bit.

“Molly, I can’t. I told Jo that I wouldn’t tell anyone that she contacted me and I’m only supposed to call her if there’s an extreme emergency. She’s run off before, so Blair will be okay.”

“I don’t know, Nat. The others seem to be pretty adamant that Blair is close to losing it.”

“Please, Molly, I beg you. Don’t tell anyone. I will keep you updated on everything, I swear, but you can’t tell anyone that I’ve spoken to Jo. Please.” Natalie was in a desperate begging mode as she clasped her hands together and pleaded with Molly not to tell anyone.

“Okay, Natalie, but if this gets out of hand, I’ll have no choice, but to tell them what I know.”

“I understand completely. Thank you, Molly. Thank you,” Natalie hugged the usually hands-off Molly.

Molly and Natalie rejoined the other girls and passed out the drinks. They acted as if nothing happened.

Luckily, the others didn’t have time to continue interrogating Natalie because there was a knock on the door. When Molly answered the door, Kelly was standing there.

“Hey Kel, how are you doing?” Molly asked.

“I woulda been fine if Ms. Snobby Snoot didn’t try to fight me today.”

“Well, come on in and join the others. We just got started.”

“Thanks, Red.”

“It’s Molly, Red,” she wisecracked back to the other redhead.

“Hey, I coulda called ya Ginger,” said Kelly as she snickered under her breath. Molly just tilted her head and glared at her fellow redhead. “Okay, okay. I’m sorry, Molly.”

Kelly then went in and everyone greeted her before they all sat back down.

“Hey, wasn’t Kim going to come with you?” asked Nancy.

“Yeah, but she had ta’ leave, to see her father about sumthin.’ However, we’ll meet later on tonight for our first official date,” answered Kelly as she wiggled her eyebrows.

All of them got excited as soon as Kelly told them that.

“Oh, my God, so is this for real?” asked Tootie, the ever-so-nosy-one.

“It is. I hope it leads to bigga n' betta things!” Kelly ended with a wink.

There were a lot of squeals from the women. The only male in the house, Jamaal, Molly's boyfriend of ten years, just shook his head.

“Y'all girls are so typical.”

“Oh, be quiet, Jamaal!” said Molly.

“You must be a special girl, Kelly, because it takes a special person to deal with Kim!” Sue Ann jibed.

“Oh, stop it, Sue Ann! Kimberly may be a bit on the wild side,” scolded Cindy.

“A bit?” Sue Ann responded, emphasizing the ‘bit’ part.

“Okay, a lot! But that doesn't mean that Kelly won't be able to handle her,” finished Cindy.

“Ha. You guys don't know anything about me or my background, so how can ya assume whether I can or can’t handle Kim?”

“Well, if you’re anything like Jo, I bet you’re not as dangerous as you let on,” said Natalie. “In fact, I’d venture to guess that you put on this tough exterior, but inside you’re not all that mean.”

“Yeah, kinda like a sheep in wolf’s clothing,” put in Tootie.

“Dude, has Jo told you nothin’ about her past?” asked Kelly.

“Well, she alludes to things, but never really explains them,” said Sue Ann.

“Ha, that sounds like Jo. I doubt you know anythin’ ‘bout Jo before she went to Eastland,” Kelly informed them.

Quickly, all eyes turned toward her. Natalie was the first to speak.

"So, what was Jo like before she attended Eastland?" the reporter asked.

"Tough and miserable."

“That sounds like Jo when she first got there,” chimed in Tootie, “but we figured it was just an act.”

“Lemme tell ya somethin’, kid, it was no act. Back in the Bronx, me n' Jo would go and steal hubcaps and stuff just to make ends meet."

“Well, didn’t her mom provide for her?” asked Cindy.

“As much as she could. But ya gotta understand that even workin’ two jobs hardly paid the bills. There were days when Jo’s mom couldn’t bring home handouts from her job so Jo’d either go without or have to find a way to eat.”

“Maybe that’s why she was slightly skinny when she first came to Eastland,” said Molly. “Not that she was ever fat of course.”

“Yeah. Me n’ Jo lived on three-square boloney and cheese sandwich meals – when we could afford it that is,” replied Kelly.

“What would she do if she didn’t have anything to eat?” asked Tootie.

“We’d either panhandle on the street or swing by Kimmelman’s Candy Store and swipe a couple empty soda bottles and bring ‘em back for the deposit money. It was an easy way to make a quick buck.”

“Geez, I guess we never really knew how rough it was for Jo in the Bronx,” said Nat.

“Yeah, and if that didn’t work, we’d have to pickpocket from passing tourists. Ya could always tell when people weren’t from around the city cuz they always looked lost. One of us would be a distraction while the other would slip in and outta their pockets. When Jess was with us, we were the Sticky Finger Trio.”

“Jo stole money?” asked Nancy in disbelief.

“Money, jewelry, whatever was worth something. A couple times we even slipped into department stores and walked out with a five finger discount.”

“You mean shoplifting?” asked Sue Ann.

“Yeah, but it wasn’t like it was for keeps. We’d return the merch to the store for a price or sell it to someone else for cheap.”

“So, that’s why she was so calm about it back at Eastland,” interjected Nat.

“What?” asked Molly.

“Well, the first year Jo was at Eastland, she lifted a Hawaiian shirt from Harrison’s Department Store for Mrs. Garrett’s birthday. Tootie and I was there for that one. However, she ended up working off the debt.”

“Yep. That sounds like Jo. She always felt guilty about robbin’ some poor, innocent stiffs. If she could find a way to square the deal, she’d do it in a heartbeat,” replied Kelly.

“But how did you guys even meet?” asked Tootie. “I mean, she is older isn’t she?”

“We basically grew up together. I can’t recall when I first met Jo or Jessie, but the earliest time I remember was when I was six and they were eight. They were shooting rubber bands at me!”

The girls at the table laughed.

“We were all poor and none of us had a stable home life. My dad left my mom when I was only three and I didn’t get along with any of my mom’s boyfriends. When I was eleven, I went to my mom and pleaded for her to dump the guy she was with. He was a God damn, mother-fucking asshole, but she didn’t listen to me. I told her she sucked as a mother for pickin’ a man over her kid and that the only thing that sucked more was her suckin’ dick. Immediately, she told me to get the hell out of her house. She was so drunk, she didn’t know what was goin’ on or remember what happened the next day. All I know was that she insisted I get the steppin’ if I knew what was good for me.”

The room went quiet.

Finally, Bailey asked, “What’d you do?”

“Jo let me crash at her place.”

“What did Rose say?” asked Sue Ann.

“Oh, she wasn’t home. I don’t think she really approved of Jo hangin’ out with me. She said I was a bad influence. In fact, she used to blame me for ‘turning’ Jo gay. Anyway, she was workin’ a triple shift, so Jo and I got beer and went back to her place and crashed.”

“I’ve always wondered,” piped in Nat, “how’d you get the beer?”

Kelly just looked at the reporter and answered, “We got the beer. That’s all you need to know.”

“O-o-kay,” Natalie replied nervously.

“That is so Jo,” replied Tootie.

“Yeah, well, Jo is Jo,” said Kelly in a matter-of-fact tone.

“Man, there’s a lot about Jo we didn’t know,” said Nancy.

“The only thing ya need to know is that we completed each other. She, Jessie, and I were like the Three Musketeers. What one lacked, the others made up.”

“What do you mean?” asked Bailey.

“Let’s put it this way – Jo was the serious and tough one, Jessie was the strategic one who came up with all the money-making or stealing schemes, and I was the wild and adventurous one who was dumb enough to try to pull it off.”

“I’m not getting you,” said Natalie.

“Well, for example, one day we needed some scrap to buy some beer. Jo wasn’t with us at the time. She was out doin’ somethin’ else. Anyway, Jess and I put our heads together and she came up with the brilliant idea to lift one of the Bronx Barbarians’ bikes.”

“Lift whose what where?” asked Sue Ann.

“She suggested we steal a rival gang members’ bike.”

“That’s right. You were in the same the gang as Jo. The Young Dodos,” said Cindy.

Kelly rolled her eyes before responding. This wasn’t the first time she heard this type of stupid jab about their gang name. “Diablos. Yeah, we were usually kickin’ it with our gang when we weren’t home. We got super tight and we could count on each other. So, when Jess suggested liftin’ a bike, I figured I’d have someone to have my back.”

“So, what happened?” asked Bailey.

“Well, like I said, I was the adventurous one so I volunteered.”

“What happened?” asked Molly in awe as she placed her chin in her hand.

“I snuck to their hideout. It was scary bein’ alone on their turf, but I knew I could outrun and outsmart most of ‘em. Anyway, they were standin’ around, smokin’ and talkin’ bullshit, as usual. I crawled to the nearest bike and climbed up. After a little fiddlin’ with the wires and switches, I was off.”

“You hotwired a bike?” Tootie asked in amazement.

“Not just hotwired. Hotwired and lifted,” responded Kelly with pride.

“What happened next?” asked Tootie.

“Unfortunately, one of ‘em saw me and alerted the others. The chase was on.”

“Weren’t you scared?” asked Sue Ann.

“Yeah, shitless. But I made it back to our turf.”

“And?” they all asked in unison.

“And what? You’ve seen Jo. Sure, we were outnumbered five to one, but no matter. Jo showed ‘em what’s what?”

“What’d she do?” asked Nancy.

“Let’s just say they’re lucky they left only missing a bike. I’m just thankful she came around right when I arrived. I coulda takin’ one or two of ‘em out, but not five.”

“Dang. You led one dangerous life,” said Bailey in awe.

“Oh, honey, that ain’t nothin’. We were always gettin’ into scrapes like that. Jess would come up with the ideas, I’d carry ‘em out, and Jo’d save our assess. She had a rep that was bigger than the Bronx. People knew not to mess with us and, if they didn’t, they’d soon get a quick education.”

“Wow,” they all said in amazement.

“Hey, we did what we had to do,” said Kelly while shrugging her shoulders.

“Sounds rough,” said Cindy. “Did you ever have any fun?”

"Oh, yeah. It was great growing up in the Bronx during the late 70s. Hip-hop was just blossoming. We used to go to a lot of block parties, house parties, or parties in abandoned buildings."

“Sounds kinda scary,” said Nancy.

"Eh, not really. But many times I had to drag Jo and Jessie to some of those neighborhoods because they were made up of mostly blacks and Spanish people. Sorry, I mean African Americans and Latinos. Anyway, there were a lot of times we were the only whites there!”

“Didn’t Willis and Kimberly go to some of those parties?” asked Tootie.

At that Kelly stopped for a second. “It couldn’t be. I’d recognize that cutie anywhere.”

“Well, she was a little different back then,” added Natalie without saying much more.

“Hmmm. Anyway, our color and sex got us into some of the most restricted parties. The black and Latino men saw as “prized trophies.” Havin’ a white girl as a girlfriend was considered the ultimate, back then. So, they all wanted to please us white chicks. We were the perfect arm candy. The only problem was keepin’ ‘em offa us. Sometimes we had to hold ‘em at bay, and by we, I mean Jo. We did pretty good keepin’ their hands offa us and kept most of them from gettin’ too grabby. However, many of the black chicks and Latinas got jealous cuz their men flocked around us. Some of them tried to jump us for stealin’ their men, but we kicked their asses!”

“Man, it doesn’t sound like it was so great a time,” said Nancy.

"Are ya kiddin’. The hip-hop scene was great! We saw Whodini, Newcleus, Doug E Fresh, Kool Moe D, and the father of Hip Hop himself, DJ Cool Herc."

Jamaal, who was from Teneck, NJ, which is near the Bronx, spoke up and asked, “So, you're the redhead I used to see a lot?!"

“Probably! We’d go to those parties and always had a good time.”

Molly’s boyfriend interjected, “But many of those parties were straight-up ghetto where drugs, fights, and alcohol were not uncommon. Not to mention, many of the dudes there were thugs.”

“Yeah. So?”

“So, you three young, white chicks attended those parties on your own?” asked Jamaal in a skeptical tone.

“Yeah. Why?” Kelly asked nonchalantly as she just shrugged at the question.

“They’re dangerous.”

“Yeah, but you went, right?”

“Well, yes, but I wasn’t a young, white girl. They knew who I was, and they knew my crew, so they knew not to mess with us.”

“Dude, we had Jo. Ya shoulda known her rep back then. She was just as good as havin’ three straight-up hood thugs.”

“I remember her rep, but that doesn’t mean you couldn’t have easily gotten in over your heads. Those hoods were known for some real fucked up shit,” asserted Jamaal.

“I’m not sayin’ we were always smart. In fact, we used to do some real dumb shit when we were either drunk or high. Like one time, I was able to get this awesome weed from a Jamaican. So, me, Jo, and Jessie, smoked it while downing a couple bottles of gin and a six-pack of beer. It was during that time that Jo came up with this alter ego named ‘Jinny Exstead.'"

Everyone in the group laughed.

"Jinny what?" Natalie asked.

"Exstead,” replied Kelly. “It was J-I-N-N-Y E-X-S-T-E-A-D. Like I told ya, we had some good weed that day!" Kelly smiled while everyone else at the table laughed. Kelly continued, “She was saying, 'nothing makes me feel better than a bottle of gin and some ecstasy.' And somehow, outta dat, came 'Jinny Exstead,'” Kelly ended with a laugh.

“Yeah, you gotta be pretty high and drunk to come up with a name like that,” deadpanned Bailey.

“You’re not kiddin’ kiddo!” replied Kelly as she continued to laugh.

“But ecstasy?” Bailey asked in shock. “Isn’t that dangerous especially when mixing it in an alcoholic cocktail?”

“Yeah, but we knew what we were doin’. It was the New Wave Movement so we had to jump in.”

“But ecstasy wasn’t that easy to get, was it?” asked Cindy.

“They weren't as common as they are now, but you could get them in Studio 54 and Paradise Garage.”

Almost all the women's eyes bulged in surprise when she said “Studio 54” and “Paradise Garage.”

“You mean you and Jo got into...” Tootie asked in shock.

Kelly put her hand up in a stop position and smiled. “That's another story for another time.”

As Kelly was still talking with the girls, Natalie quickly pulled out her iPad2 and took down the name ‘Jinny Exstead.'

It's only a hunch, but it just might work,” Natalie thought.

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Later that night as Natalie was taking the train back to her home, she started to do some investigating. Sure, she promised Jo that she would not call unless of an emergency, but according to the others it sounded like Blair was losing her mind. She was so on edge with everybody and no one seemed to be able to talk her down. Blair refused to listen to anybody and no one could make her see sense. Of course Blair had a tendency to lose her temper when she didn’t get her way, but the scene that the other girls described didn’t seem like Blair at all. After talking to Kelly, everyone was left with the question “Why did Blair have so much pent up animosity toward the redhead?” Nat knew about some of their history, but it still didn’t seem enough to physically attack Kelly – especially in public. Blair’s personal affairs had already run the risk of being televised from the recorded fight at the wedding rehearsal, but now she had lost it in front of thousands of people who all had the means to tape the spectacle with their personal video recording devices. Everything was just getting out of hand, so Natalie began to put a plan into action. The first step was to track down Jo’s actual location. The second step was to contact the network responsible for Nancy’s reality show and talk to the producer whose name she had recorded on her iPad2. The trick was to convince him to send her a copy of the fight so she could show it to Jo. If Jo saw how Blair was acting, there was a good chance that she would return home.

Natalie searched for the name “Jinny Exstead” through the same private Internet application she used to look for the name “Jo Polniaczek.” This time, the name of The Settlers Inn appeared as a potential match. It took more than three minutes to get the results, but at least there was a possibility. Based on the location of the inn and the rarity of the name that was registered, Natalie hypothesized that this was the most likely place to find Jo. Just to be sure, she did another search for the name “Jinny Exstead” and narrowed the search results down to the upper eastern part of the United States. Natalie didn’t think Jo would go too far out of her comfort zone. The reporter then cross-referenced the results to all the people with that name who were registered at temporary sleeping accommodations. The Settlers Inn appeared to be the only possibility matching all of Natalie’s specific parameters. With this information, she could try to investigate her lead. Unfortunately, Natalie was scheduled to go to work the next day and all the other girls had work or their families. Not to mention the fact that Natalie didn’t really want to admit that she had been in contact with Jo. The first person who came to mind was Molly. Natalie had already admitted to the redhead that she had talked to Jo, plus, Molly didn’t have a family. However, Molly was going to be busy at work. So, Natalie had another idea – Kelly. Kelly was a good friend of Jo’s and if anyone could convince the stubborn Bronx native to return home, she could. Plus, since she’s on vacation for the next two days, she’s available for the trip. Natalie knew that Kelly had a date planned with Kim, but if she could call her quick, it wouldn’t interrupt. Natalie dialed the number that she just learned the other day. Kelly immediately answered the phone.

“Yo,” answered Kelly.

“Kelly?”

“Speaking.”

“Hey, this is Nat.”

“Oh, hey, Nat. What’s up?”

“Listen, could you do me a huge favor?”

“Depends.”

“Look, I know you’re not fond of Blair . . .”

“You bet I’m no fan of that bleach blonde . . .”

“Okay, Kelly, I know, but this is about Jo.”

The mention of her friend’s name stopped Kelly’s tirade.

“What about Jo?”

“Well, she’s been out of reach of everybody and I think she should be checked on.” Natalie deliberately left out the fact that Jo had already contacted her and she knew how to reach the Bronx native in case of an emergency.

“Okay. But if she’s not reachable, than that probably means she doesn’t wanna be reached,” answered Kelly matter-of-factly.

“Yeah, but I know her and Blair. She has to be missing Blair just as much as Blair’s missing her. However, she’s too hard-headed to just give in.”

“I agree.”

“So, Kelly, I was hoping you’d go and see if you could convince her to come back. If anyone can, you can.”

“Dude, we don’t even know where she’s at.”

“I might.”

“How?”

“I searched that name – Jinny Exstead – and found someone registered under that name at The Settler’s Inn in Pennsylvania.”

“And you want me to go and try to bring her back?”

“Yes.”

“Man, I gotta date.”

“I don’t mean tonight. I was thinking tomorrow. See I have an idea and you’d have to swing by my place before you head out. What do you say? For your old pal, Jo?”

“Oh, alright. Tomorrow. Right now, I gotta date.”

“Thank you Kelly, oh, and good luck.”

With that, they hung up. One thing was off Natalie’s list. Now she had to call the producer of Nancy’s show and convince him to send her a copy of the video showing the fight between Blair and Molly. She opened her iPad2 and looked for the name 'Steve Foster.' Unfortunately, this name was a lot more common than the name Jinny Exstead. “Of course it couldn’t be that easy,” Natalie thought to herself. After considering her options, Natalie decided to use LinkedIn to find his phone number. Despite her ingenuity, the name “Steve Foster” was still too common. As a result, she narrowed her search down to producer and got a number. She then took that number and searched it along with the name of Nancy’s reality television show. Once she confirmed that it was a match, she gave him a call.

“Hello, Steve Foster of Realview Mirror Studios.”

"Hello, my name is Natalie Harper, and I know you have footage from Ms. Blair Warner's wedding rehearsal. I need to send a copy to her partner."

"I'm afraid I can't, Mrs. Harper. Ms. Warner informed me that she is an attorney, and she can sue me for unauthorized distribution."

"Actually, I'm not planning on mass distribution; I'm planning to show the footage to Ms. Polniaczek, Blair's partner."

"Wait, you know where she is?"

"I do, but I was sworn to secrecy. I think she needs to see that footage to see how bad the situation has gotten. Wait,” Natalie suddenly stopped, “how did you know that Ms. Polniaczek was missing.”

“Um, confidential sources say that TMZ will be airing a segment on Ms. Warner soon. The big scoop is that her finance has disappeared right before their wedding and no one knows where to find her.”

“Well, I know how to contact her, but I need your help.”

After a while of negotiation, they came to an agreement.

"Okay, Mrs. Harper, I will send you an email that has a link to a web page containing the video. It will be password protected and you are only authorized to share that info with Ms. Polniaczek. In return, you will give us details of Keith Olbermann's behind-the-scene antics. Understand?"

"Understood."

Natalie hung up knowing that her plan was in place, but the news of a potential TMZ segment unnerved her. Hopefully they weren’t too late and this situation hadn’t gotten out of their control.

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Chapter Text

The past couple of days had been pretty chaotic for everyone. The apparent blossoming relationship between Kelly and Kimberly was a great distraction from the bigger issue between Jo and Blair. The blonde socialite was losing her mind and was lashing out at everybody. From what Nancy and Sue Ann described, Blair was on the brink. It was interesting to hear what Kelly had to say about her and Jo's past. Who knew that Jo was really as badass as she said she was? The news was still sinking in as everyone returned home to their families.

At Tootie's 2-bedroom condo on Times Square, the revelations were far from over. Tootie's husband, Andy Moffett, was putting the couple's son, Brian, down for the night as she came through the door.

"Honey, I'm home," shouted Tootie with a flourish. She still loved making a dramatic entrance whenever she could. It was great real-life practice that could only benefit her career. Her motto was to live life like the play of a lifetime – with gusto and grit. Andy had long become accustomed to Tootie's flair for drama, and it was an attribute that he wouldn't change for the world.

"Hey, babe," Andy replied as he came into the living room and met Tootie with a hug and a kiss.

"How was Brian today?" Tootie inquired.

"Oh, he was perfect," replied Andy as he continued to hug his wife.

"That's mama's boy," said Tootie as she headed toward the baby's room to check on him. "He's such a sweet little angel," she said as she looked at her husband. "I just wish mom and dad would spend time with him," Tootie sighed as she headed back toward the couch in the living room. "I still can't believe they would take their prejudice out on an innocent little baby."

"Dear, I'm sure they'll come around – eventually."

"Yeah, but it's still disappointing," Tootie said with a slight pout.

"I know, I know," said Andy as he shook his head. Suddenly, he perked up and got his wife's attention, "Oh, here's something that might make you feel better."

"What's that?" asked Tootie skeptically.

"While you were gone, Willis called."

"Oh," asked Tootie suddenly interested, as she took a seat on their coach. "What does he want?"

"He said that he, Sharon, and the kids were planning to stop by for a visit. So, if Brian wakes up, he'll have someone to play with," Andy informed his wife as he sat down next to her on the couch.

"When are they going to be stopping by?"

"Well, actually, they're supposed to be here any minute. I thought they'd beat you home, in fact," said Andy as he looked at his iPhone for the third time.

Tootie immediately jumped up and yelled at her husband, "Andrew Mackenzie Moffitt. How dare you spring this on me without warning? You know I always want to make sure the house is in order before we have any company over."

"It's fine, dear. They're coming to see you, not the house. Besides, what was I supposed to do, tell them not to come? Anyway, I thought, you'd be happy."

"Oh, I am. I love visiting with Willis and Sharon, but I just have had a lot thrown at me lately, that's all. The wedding rehearsal disaster, Jo splitting, Blair going bonkers, and Kimberly and Kelly becoming an item. It's just so much to take in during one weekend!"

Andy chuckled. "Well, maybe it's a good thing Willis is coming over then. He may want to discuss Kim's new love affair if he has been told anything, since it's so recent. And admit it, you know you want to know any juicy, inside details," he said with a wink.

Tootie thought about it for a second and then said, "You're right."

"Ahh, it's always nice to hear the truth from others," said Andy with a smile.

Tootie just slapped him on the shoulder and then rolled her eyes. A few minutes later, there was a knock on their door. Tootie got up and answered it.

"Hey, what's good, Tootie?'" asked Willis as he stepped inside and gave Tootie a hug.

"Nothing much, Willis. How are you guys?"

They all exchanged pleasantries – the girls hugging, the guys shaking hands, and Andy giving Sharon a friendly hug. Then, Tootie got the children settled in the other room so they could watch a movie while the adults talked.

"Hey, do you guys want some wine?" Andy asked.

"Sure, I'll take some but Willis can't, cause he's driving," said Sharon.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah...," sighed Willis.

Andy headed to the kitchen, which is next to the living room, to get some red wine.

"So," asked Tootie as she returned to the living room and sat down with the others, "what's new?"

"Well, we heard about Jo running off after she got into it with Blair over Kelly being a bridesmaid. Man, I never knew Blair to blow her stack like that," commented Willis.

"Oh, I have," corrected Tootie. "If you think about it Willis, you'll remember that Blair has been known to go to extremes. Like the time she found her dear, old grandad was a member of the KKK or when she and Jo kept one-upping each other over that silly Helen of Troy contest."

"Yeah," interjected Willis. "I remember when she decided to be the 'working rich' and had me toting around her Countess Calvet beauty products," said Willis as he shook his head at the memory. "You're right, Tootie, Blair has been known to go over the deep end."

Andy came back from the kitchen and handed a glass of wine to his wife and another to Sharon. He handed Willis a glass of soda, since he had to drive. At least soda was better than plain water.

"Yet, it seems like this time is so much worse than all those other times put together. The girl has totally split her banana."

"Well, what should we do about it?" asked Sharon.

"There's not much we can do. All we can hope for is Jo to return soon and bring Blair back to the planet Earth. Anyway, let's not talk about that. Instead," she looked straight at Willis, "why don't you dish about the latest on Kimberly and Kelly."

"Well, Kim said that Blair pretty much cut her and Kelly from the wedding. She didn't go into too many details, but she said that 'if Blair is going to be that way, she doesn't wanna be a part of her damn wedding anyway.' Then, she just claimed that Blair could get another dumb bitch to take her place. She was really mad."

"Oh, well, that's just Blair opening her mouth before she thinks again," said Tootie, "but I was talking about Kim and Kelly." She emphasized her point by hooking her two pointer fingers together.

"Whatcha' talkin' 'bout?" said Willis, having an Arnold moment.

Tootie let out an exasperated sigh. "I mean, what's the scoop on Kim and Kelly – together."

"Wait, what?" asked Willis in a shocked tone.

"You mean you didn't know?" Tootie wondered, her eyes bulging.

"Know what?" asked Willis as he put his arms up in utter confusion.

"That Kimberly and Kelly are an item."

"What? You're kiddin' me? Kim and Kelly? Really?" Willis asked in complete shock. He looked down for a minute, contemplating what Tootie just said. Then, a smile spread across his face as he asked, "Girl, you ain't bullshittin' me, are ya?"

"Nah, no bullshit," replied Tootie as she put up her hand as if she was approaching the witness stand.

"Unbelievable," said Willis as he just shook his head in disbelief. Willis had met Kelly a few times, and, honestly, he thought she was a nut. "Man, Kimberly's a character herself. She don't need to be with someone crazier than her!"

"Yeah. I'm surprised myself," said Sharon agreeing with her husband.

"Are you sayin' you don't approve?" asked Tootie in complete disbelief.

"It's not that. It's just . . . Kim doesn't need to be messin' with someone who's nuttier than a Payday. Lord, knows Kelly likes to try anything, but she can be beyond reckless. Hell, I'm surprised she's still alive considering all the crazy and dangerous things she's done. From what I've heard from Jo and from the few times I've been around Kelly, I can honestly say that the girl can be hell on wheels. I remember when she convinced me to go car surfing with her!" exclaimed Willis.

"But, honey, it sounds like Kim's in love," replied Sharon leaning into his shoulder.

"Love? Love! Humph, sounds just like another crazy whim to me. You can't fall in love that quick."

"Hey, love works in funny ways, right Tootie?" said Andy followed by a wink. Tootie giggled, knowing how some people perceived their relationship as "odd."

"Yeah. If someone had told me ten years ago that Andy would be my next husband, I would've smacked them upside the head!" Everyone in the room laughed.

"You know," said Andy as he turned his attention to his wife, "I remember you telling me that I could ride in the basket - of your bike." Andy's comment drew laughs from everyone in the room. "Now, it looks like you can ride in the baby seat – of my car!" Andy joked. Tootie lightly slapped him on the shoulders, but it stopped him from laughing.

Willis added, "Yeah, I still remember those days when she used to ride her roller skates everywhere, just so she looked taller than she really was."

"That ain't true! I did it because I found it faster to go places," Tootie protested.

"Yeah, faster to snoop in everyone else's business," Willis joked. Everyone laughed in the room, except Tootie, who was slightly embarrassed by Willis' jab at her past.

"Hey," she claimed, "I'll have you know that I just had a need for speed. Why walk when you can roll."

Willis stopped laughing for a second and said, "Yeah, you remember that one night at our house that you rolled right down the stairs."

"I thought I was pretty graceful, if I do say so myself. Besides," she said looking at Willis with a sly grin ready to jab him back, "when we had sleepovers, I had the assurance that I wasn't the smallest thing in the house."

Willis nodded his head in agreement, "You're right. That award goes to Arnold." Everyone broke out in laughter again.

"You know," said Tootie, "I thought after tagging around with Arnold on the bike path for so long, I would never go for a shorter or younger man," she ended looking lovingly at her husband. "And imagine, a white man to boot."

"But I know you don't regret your decision?" said Andy with a grin.

"Absolutely not," Tootie smiled back and then gave her husband a peck on the cheek. "Though I did have some reservations at first."

Andy rolled his eyes and sighed, "That's just because of your stupid cousin, LaRon."

Tootie rolled her eyes the moment he said "LaRon." "Ugh… Don't remind me," she said through clenched teeth.

"Yeah, he's an idiot. Tootie told me what he said to her when we first started dating, and it went something like this: 'Why you messin' wit' dat pasty-ass whiteboy fo'? He ain't gon nuffin fo' you. You can do bettah than dat bama! You needa leave that punk-ass bama behind an' get yo'self a real brutha, ya know what I'm sayin'?'" said Andy, mocking LaRon's voice while animating his facial patterns. That got Tootie and Willis laughing, while Sharon sat apparently puzzled about something.

Finally, Sharon spoke. "What's a 'bama?'" Sharon asked. She was obviously not familiar with certain African-American slang, even though she'd been with Willis for nearly twenty years.

"A 'bama' is a DC insult slang for calling someone 'country,' or a loser, or that they dress poorly, like someone who dresses like they're from the country. It comes from the word 'Alabama,' which many in the DC area, and pretty much most of the country, sees as 'country,'" Tootie informed Sharon.

"Oh," said Sharon who was still looking a little confused.

"Hey, it's okay," comforted Andy. "It took me a while to understand what half of Tootie's family was saying when I visited them in DC. They throw words around like 'cised' (pronounced like pre-cised), 'lunchin',' 'sweatin',' 'joanin',' all over the place!" said Andy with a look of disbelief on his face.

"Wow, it sounds like I'd lose my mind if I hung around them," said Sharon.

Willis chuckled. "Honey, it's not that bad. Just like how you understand what me and my friends be saying, you'll understand them eventually."

"I don't know about that, Willis. I still don't understand what goes on upstairs in LaRon's mind," said Andy with a snarky tone.

"Not just him, Andy, but my entire mom and dad. I still don't understand them. I mean, I understand that they're still upset about Aunt Sylvia remarrying Uncle Brian, and they're none too happy that I married a 'white boy,' but how can they refuse to spend time with their grandson," said Tootie as she put her head down, clearly upset.

"Maybe it's the combination of us deciding to name him after your Uncle Brian and the fact that I'm white. I mean, it's easy to say you're not prejudiced as long as mixing doesn't happen in your own family."

Tootie looked up with tears threatening to fall, "But how can they say that our children will be nothing more than confused zebras? That they will not make it anywhere in life."

"Well, that's just like your cousin, Michael," added Andy. "He married that Latina girl from Venezuela, and suddenly he becomes ousted from the family."

"Oh, yeah, Michael. Ironically, he's really the only relative I talk to on a regular basis. Most of the rest of the family says he's a race traitor who will be cursed with unsuccessful half-breeds. I just can't believe how narrow-minded my family's acting."

"And yet they're probably big-time supporters of that other 'half-breed,' Barack Obama," derided Sharon.

"Yeah, talk about hypocrisy," said Tootie.

"Hey, isn't Michael the one who went out with Natalie once?" asked Willis.

"Yeah, he did, but it didn't last long," replied Tootie looking away.

"I wonder why..." Andy deadpanned as he and Willis both eyed Tootie accusingly.

"Look! I didn't know any better back then. I was reacting based on what happened to Uncle Brian and Aunt Sylvia. I mean, you gotta understand my situation and how things were like back then." Tootie was now in total defense mode, with her mouth wide open and her eyes growing big, as she felt that they were all going to gang up on her. "I know I messed up, but I was brainwashed by my family's beliefs."

"We're not really accusing you of anything, but we're just saying that prejudice can touch everyone," assured Andy. "I mean, hey, I was a skinny white boy who will never be good enough in your parents' eyes."

"Yeah, but what scares me the most," interjected Tootie, "is that when Brian gets older, he'll see how my parents treat him differently from Tisha. I'm afraid that he'll ask questions and discover that the difference in treatment doesn't stem from their gender or their ages. It terrifies me that he'll find out that he's treated differently just because he's mixed race." It was clear that Tootie was on the verge of tears. Andy reached over and had her lay her head on his shoulder as he comforted her.

Willis and Sharon shook their heads in disgust. "I'm just glad that Dad was never like that. Neither was Sharon's parents," said Willis.

"Well, it helps that my parents are from California," Sharon joked, trying to lighten the mood.

"And it also helps that you're from California," said Willis as he squeezed his wife.

"You know how jealous I am that you got a wonderful dad?" asked Tootie as she lifted her head from Andy's shoulder and wiped away any tears. "I'll trade my dad for yours any day!"

Willis laughed. "Yeah, he's a cool dad, but he has his moments."

"Gee, even my parents have their days," said Sharon. "I think it's parents' jobs to try to find fault in who their kids choose to spend their lives with, just because they feel that no one's good enough for their kids. Maybe they don't want to be replaced or maybe they just want to feel needed."

Andy claimed, "Well, Tootie's parents certainly find fault in me. Hell, her parents weren't happy that I'm five years younger than their daughter. I think they feel I'm looking for a mother figure or something."

"Well, to be honest," said Willis, "it was kind of a shocker. Even I was surprised that she agreed to marry you, especially since she rejected you a long time ago."

"People change, Willis, and so do their attitudes toward others. I opened my eyes and realized that race is only skin-deep. As for Andy, he was a young wise-ass. Now, he's an old wise-ass!" Tootie joked. Andy just laughed, not taking it personal. He knew his wife too long to get upset with her playful jabs. Besides, she had a point. She overcame her racial prejudices and her apprehension of marrying a younger man. He couldn't get mad at her.

"Well," said Willis, "I'm glad you're not worried about her aging."

"Yeah, what happens if she gets older?" Sharon asked.

"Why worry? She'll still look better than me because 'black don't crack!'"

"You got that right!" Tootie joked while Andy and Willis laughed. Sharon simply sighed.

"Aww, honey, you'll never age," said Willis noticing a hint of sadness in Sharon's demeanor. "You'll always be my young, white chickie. And besides, if you age, you'll be like a fine wine – good to the last drop."

This got Sharon to perk up and snuggle next to her husband.

"Well, I think we all did good in the mate selection process," said Andy as he hugged his wife.

"Yeah, it could have been worse. A lot worse, right Tootie?"smirked Willis, as he hinted about a certain member of the Jackson family.

"You betta not be talkin' 'bout Jermaine Jackson!" shouted a miffed Tootie. Immediately, Willis started to laugh.

"I sure am. Mr. California Raisin himself!" said Willis as he was about to fall on the floor laughing.

"Oh, yeah!" exclaimed Andy as he started to laugh hysterically. Sharon looked confused for a moment, but then she joined in the laughter as well.

Tootie was a bit hurt by the ridicule. "Hey! I didn't know he would turn out like this!"

"Oh, my God, Tootie? Jermaine Jackson. Really?" Sharon jibbed.

"Yeah. People called Michael, 'the Gloved One,' well Jermaine's 'the Greasy One!" joked a laughing Andy.

"Yeah, every time he comes on the TV, I have to get some Windex to wipe off the grease." Willis was laughing so much, his stomach began to hurt.

Everybody in the room was laughing, with the exception of Tootie who was embarrassed and was about to walk out of the room crying. Andy noticed the hurt look on Tootie's face and and immediately tried to defuse the situation.

"I'm sorry honey, we were just kidding," comforted Andy as he put his hand around his wife. "I apologize if we took it too far."

Tootie didn't say anything. She was clearly upset.

As if on cue, Willis returned to the subject that started this discussion so Tootie would no longer feel targeted and attacked. "Well, if Tootie's right and Kim starts something with Kelly, I hope it'll work out for her. Her last marriage," said Willis as he started to get angry, "was a total disaster."

"He was a complete jerk," Sharon gritted. "I wanted to grab a baseball bat and beat the shit outta him."

"And he only served six months in jail," seethed Willis. "Now he's married again, and I heard he's beating her up, just like he did with Kim."

"So, if he ends up in trouble again, will Kim be called to serve as a character witness?" Andy asked.

"No doubt. Kim will do anything to make sure he never leaves his prison cell again."

Willis' current openness gave Tootie the opportunity to ask him the question that she always wanted answered. It always seemed that she forgot or the conversation just never allowed for her to ask. Finally, the opportunity presented itself and she took full advantage of it. "Umm, Willis, what made Kimberly change?" Tootie asked. "She was never really like this, was she?"

"Well, she always wanted to be independent. She never really wanted to be known as 'daddy's little rich girl,' like Blair. Thus, she went on to get a job outside of Trans-Alliance and even left Eastland to go to the same public school as Arnold and I. She was getting sick and tired of being so sheltered. According to her, she needed to go out and experience life if she would ever be prepared to live it."

"So, is that where the wildness, the drugs, the alcohol, and the bisexuality came in?" Andy asked.

"Well, she's had female partners since she was 14, when we just moved in. Arnold and I weren't really sure at first, but she seemed to give off a gay vibe sometimes when she was around certain girls. Then, one day, I walked in on her when she was supposed to be studying with a friend and saw her and this other girl kissing. I still wasn't convinced because girls sometimes experiment just to curb their curiosity, but she later admitted to me that she is attracted to girls as well as to guys. So, yeah, she has always dated both genders for as long as I've known her, though back in those days, she had to keep her female dates a secret from Dad. Kim kept the truth about her sexuality hidden from Dad until we went to visit her in LA. At that time, she was working for a couple as a live-in housekeeper, in between cosmetic jobs. The couple's mansion had an indoor pool, so one day Dad and I decided to go swimming. Everything seemed normal at first, but when we walked back inside, we caught them having a threesome!"

That news shocked Tootie and Andy. Sharon already knew about the pool incident and Kim's earlier sexual escapades.

"I'm surprised Mr. Drummond didn't have a heart attack right then and there," said Andy, who was still reeling from the news.

"He nearly did!" Willis quipped. "When he finally regained his composure, he sat Kimberly down and asked her what the heck she was doing. That's when she revealed that she had always liked both males and females. Of course, he asked how it was possible because she always went out with guys, and she told him about hiding her dates with women or just playing them off as visits and sleepovers."

"I just can't believe he wasn't more vocal about it. I mean, Kim is his only daughter and they moved in a certain social circle," claimed Tootie. "I mean Blair's dad wasn't thrilled about her and Jo and, although he finally came around, he openly disapproved of Blair's decision."

"And Jo's dad was even worst. He stopped talking to her and cut her out of his will," said Andy.

"Oh, yeah, he had serious issues with Jo's lesbianism," Tootie replied. "Well, he won't have any problems with it anymore – he's dead."

"Yeah," replied Andy.

Well, anyway," said Willis, "I guess that's where Dad was different than Mr. Warner, and much more different than Mr. Polniaczek. Sure, he was bothered a bit by the news that Kim had always liked boys and girls, but he never shunned her for her choices. He always accepted and loved her unconditionally."

"Yeah, that's why Mr. Drummond is such a cool dude," Andy commented.

"Yeah," agreed Tootie."He didn't judge Kim or make her feel bad about her sexuality. Maybe that's why Blair had such a rough time at first. Her parents were publically disappointed about Blair's choice in a sexual partner. I remember when they kept asking if she was sure – was she just experimenting because that's what girls do. Finally, they had to accept her decision. Personally, I think it still weighs on their minds a little bit, but I think they like Jo enough and wish for Blair's happiness too much to fight it anymore."

"Still," interrupted Andy, "it seems like her behavior and stuff came out of nowhere. I mean, she didn't seem to be the type to get into so much trouble."

"That's what everyone thinks. People assume that her change in attitude and behavior was sudden, but it really wasn't. She was slowly starting to get more in touch with her wild side, even before she moved to Paris. We used to sneak out of our house and go to parties, especially the ones in the Bronx when hip-hop was still king and underground. If it wasn't for the time that thug pulled a knife on us, we probably would have continued going to those parties. The drugs, alcohol, and total wildness came when she moved to Paris. Then it just intensified when she moved to LA," Willis informed the others.

"I see," said Andy.

"The truth is, Kim thought that getting away from New York was the best decision she ever made. She told me that she felt like she was free in Paris and LA because she didn't have to deal with the stuck-up, socialite crowd of New York. I didn't understand at first because LA has its socialite crowds as well, but she claimed that they were different. I think it had something to do with the fact that she didn't know them. In New York, the crowd knew her so her behavior and actions made her stand out, but in LA she could blend with the crowd. Also, no one knew her by Dad's name, so she had to make it all on her own merit. It was the decision to move to LA that made her bolder and more apt to try new things," explained Willis.

"Willis, honey, you should be thankful that Kim moved out to LA because if she didn't, we never would have met," said Sharon as she snuggled against her husband.

"You're right," agreed Willis. "That's so true."

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(Flashback to 1993, LA)

World-renowned producer, Jack Tavarian, was holding a party at his house. Jack, a friend of Willis and Kim's, was in LA to visit the latter. Inside, people were mingling as Willis was checking out the scene. At that time, Willis had a low-fade haircut and wore one of those colorful shirts that were popular in the early-90s. Kimberly had a wavy, asymmetrical, bob haircut and wore a mustard yellow blazer over a black and white stripped vest. Underneath the vest, Kimberly wore a white butterfly-collar shirt. She also wore matching mustard yellow bell-bottoms and black platform shoes. It was clearly the 90s style.

Jack's get-together was a typical meet-and-greet party that were common in LA, with watered-down house music playing in the background. Willis was somewhat used to these events because he had already attended a few with his sister. Since he was accustomed to these types of parties, he didn't expect much out of this one. Kimberly knew a lot of people at the party, but Willis didn't, so he just followed her around. As Kimberly was looking for Jack, Willis started a conversation.

"So, Jack wants you to do makeup for his next movie?"

"Yeah. It's a sci-fi flick, so I will be doing some serious overtime."

"Will you get some good money this time?"

"I better," Kim growled. Her last few jobs had barely paid for her moderate living standards.

As she was looking for Jack, Kimberly noticed a very attractive dark-haired woman standing against a wall about halfway across the room. It looked like she was waiting for her turn in the bathroom.

Kimberly licked her lips as if she was looking at a tasty dessert. Willis noticed that Kimberly was checking the woman out.

"See something you like?" he asked, trying to get her out of her trance.

"Yep," Kim answered matter-of-factly.

"How do you even know she likes girls?" asked Willis.

Kimberly looked at him and said, "I don't." She ended her statement with a smile.

Willis was shocked as his sister boldly strode up to the girl and introduced herself.

"Hello there," said Kim in a pleasing, but not seductive, voice as she placed her hand on the wall and leaned against it.

"Hi," replied the brunette.

"I assume you know Jack."

"Actually, I don't, but my friend who's in the bathroom, does."

"Oh, I see," replied Kim as she looked at the woman from head to toe. "So, are you from around here?"

"Yeah. I live in Santa Monica. Where do you live?" the girl asked, trying to be polite.

"I live around this area – about four blocks from here," replied Kim still ogling the woman.

"Cool," was the woman's only reply.

Kimberly was clearly interested and wanted to kick it up a notch. "So, tell me more about yourself."

The dark-haired woman laughed. "My name is Sharon Lebedowitz, I'm an accountant, and you are not my type because I'm straight," she ended with a chuckle.

Kim felt a slight sting from the rejection. "Oh," she said dejectedly, "So, what is your type."

"He's my type," Sharon nodded toward Willis and started to blush. Willis noticed the girl's reaction and looked around as if to ask, "Who me?" He was clearly taken by surprise.

"You mean, my brother?"

Sharon's eyes jumped as she asked, "Your brother?!"

Sharon did a double take on Kim and Willis – twice! Kim laughed as she clarified, "He's my adopted brother."

Sharon laughed as she said, "Oh, I see."

"His name is Willis. Hey, come on," said Kim as she grabbed Sharon's hand and started leading her in Willis' direction, "I'll introduce you to him."

A big smile appeared on Sharon's face. "Sure! Thanks."

As Kim approached Willis she said, "Willis, this is Sharon. Sharon, this is Willis."

"Nice to meet you," Willis said as he blushed and held out his hand.

"Nice to meet you, too," said an equally red Sharon as she shook his offered palm.

Sharon continued to examine Willis and Kimberly because they looked a bit familiar to her. Finally she said, "Say, you two look very familiar. Did I see you on TV or something?"

"Well, you probably saw us on 20/20 a long time ago when they interviewed our dad," replied Kimberly.

"Oh. So, if you don't mind me asking, who's your dad?"

"Phillip Drummond, head of Trans-Allied Inc.," said Kimberly proudly.

Sharon was speechless. When she regained the ability to speak she said, "Oh, yeah, him! I read an article in Time magazine about him and his kids! I guess it was talking about you guys."

"Yep, that was us, back in 1982," gleamed Willis.

"Oh, my God! I'm totally a fan. I wondered what it would be like to meet you guys in person because your story sounded so fascinating."

"Ya hear that, bro?" asked Kimberly as she playfully elbowed Willis in the ribs, "I guess we've made it." She couldn't help from laughing.

Willis just rubbed his torso – not because of Kim's playful jabs, but because of the butterflies that were flying around in his stomach. Kim noticed the interest her brother had for their newfound friend, but she also knew that he was too shy to ask the girl out. So, she took control.

"Umm, Sharon, how would you like to come to my place for dinner? Willis is visiting me and maybe you can get to know each other better when we're not surrounded by all these strangers."

"I'd be delighted," replied Sharon, who was trying to hide her excitement. She was trying to play it cool.

Kim glanced at her brother whose head had been hung in embarrassment. He looked at her and mouthed the word Thanks as she gave him a wink.

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"And that's how we met," said Willis. "Sharon came over to Kim's and . . ."

"And we fell in love," finished Sharon as she snuggled closer to her husband.

"Of course," continued Willis "our wedding was interesting, since it was a mixture of both Jewish and Christian ceremonies. You know, I never thought I'd be breaking the glass!"

"So, where'd you guys go on your honeymoon?" asked Andy.

"We actually went to Cape Town, South Africa," replied Willis proudly.

"Trying to get back to your roots there, Willis?" joked Andy.

Willis just glared at Andy before he replied, "No. We stayed at Atlantic House, which was right up the hill from the beach."

"It was so breathtaking," piped in Sharon. "We could sit out on the deck and watch the sun set over the water."

"The place was designed for relaxation and privacy, which we took full advantage of, didn't we, honey?" asked Willis as he turned toward his wife.

"Umm, it was glorious," answered Sharon as she snuggled even closer to her husband.

"It sounds so romantic," said Tootie dreamily.

"Hey, I thought our honeymoon was pretty romantic," pouted Andy.

"Oh, it was, honey, it was." Then Tootie chuckled, "Despite our little mishap on the water."

"What happened?" asked Sharon who was completely intrigued.

"Well, we were in Venice, Italy on our European honeymoon vacation," started Tootie as Andy just rolled his eyes, "when swift here decided to take a dip in the Grand Canal."

"Really?" asked Sharon as Willis just laughed.

"The gondolier told us to remain seated, but Andy decided he was going to stand up, and down he went," said Tootie through laughs.

"Hey, I was going to serenade you," said Andy scowling with his arms crossed across his chest.

"It was a romantic gesture, sweetie," said Tootie as she lightly stroked his arm. She then turned her attention back to her company. "The sun was setting as we were traveling town the Grand Canal. We could hear music playing from somewhere, and it was just perfect. Well, until Andy went overboard," Tootie chuckled.

Andy just mocked his wife as he kept his arms crossed.

Tootie continued, "He spent the next coupla days in bed with a small cold as I nursed him back to health." Tootie then reached over and playfully pinched Andy's cheek.

"Okay, okay," said Andy, "but tell them how I made up for it."

"Well, then we went to Paris, and, oh, it was so romantic. Andykins took me to the top of the Eiffel Tower and we looked down over the city. It was so magical," gushed Tootie as it was Sharon's turn to look on dreamily.

"Well, I'm glad you guys had fun in Paris," said Willis.

"We sure did," said Tootie as she continued to snuggle into a now smiling Andy.

"Because I can't say the same for Kimberly. For her, the experience was far from romantic," proclaimed Willis as he looked down and shook his head.

"What really happened to Kimberly while she was there?" asked Tootie curiously. "She never told us the full story."

"You know that she wanted to become a model in Paris," started Willis.

"Yeah," acknowledged Tootie with a nod.

"Well, when she got there, she got a reality check."

"What do you mean by that, Willis?" asked Andy.

"She was considered too short for modeling," explained Willis as she shook his head, "so she tried extreme measures that would stretch her torso. Kim was already suffering from bulimia, so the physical stress took a toll on her body. She was in bad shape for a long time."

Sharon reassuringly put her hand on Willis' back as he put his hand up to his eyes.

"No matter what she did," continued Willis, "no one would hire her as a model. She got very depressed while still doing everything she could to get work. I think she was desperate. So, when a man approached her one day and promised that he could make her a star, she was all too willing to take the work. All she had to do was sign a contract saying that she voluntarily agreed to do a couple of films."

"Uh, oh," said Tootie, "I don't think I like where this is leading up to."

"Yeah, they were French porno movies," admitted Willis.

"Poor Kim," said Andy shaking his head.

"She never told us," chimed in Tootie who was clearly shocked.

"The funny thing is," continued Willis, "was that she didn't have any complaints about the sex acts she had to perform. In fact, she told me she enjoyed it."

"What?!" asked Andy and Tootie in unison as their eyes bulged in surprise.

"Yeah, that's Kimberly for you. Lying beneath her girl-next-door image was a sex addict just waiting to get out. I guess it makes sense, now, why she liked both guys and girls. Gender doesn't matter to her as long as the sex is good," claimed Willis.

Tootie and Andy both still looked shocked at the news.

Willis continued, "Kim later told me that she felt like she was living out her fantasies. That she was finally free to do what she wanted without anyone discouraging or criticizing her."

"I can't believe we didn't know that side of her," said Tootie. "Yet, it makes sense. People who grow up sheltered for the greater part of their lives tend to rebel. I guess it had to be hard trying to hide her true self for so long, that the freedom had to be exonerating."

"Yeah," proceeded Willis, "but the problem was the work rate and low pay. The filming process could be long and tiresome, and the pay could be dismal. It was hard to justify doing so much work for such little money."

"So, what happened?" Tootie asked.

"Cindy happened. During one of her modeling shoots in Paris, she was able to obtain a lesbian porn movie. As she watched it, she recognized Kimberly. I'm sure she probably had to watch it again, just to see if her suspicions were right."

"Yeah," interjected Tootie, "our Cindy the ever vigilant one for detail. Are you sure that was the real reason why she watched the movie a few times?"

Everyone in the room laughed.

"Why doesn't it surprise me that Cindy would watch lesbian porn?" asked Andy.

"Because we all know how Cindy like's to be 'active,'" Tootie jibed, as more laughs came from the room.

After the laughter calmed down, Wills continued, "Well, when Cindy confirmed that Kim was indeed in the movie, she made it her mission to find my sister. She knew how much Kim wanted to be a model and, after seeing Kim in that movie, she just felt kind of guilty since her career took off as Kim's plummeted. So, Cindy called her mom who was a cosmetic expert for the Hollywood stars and asked if she would train Kim in cosmetics and hire her as an assistant. Since Kim was a former friend of her daughter's, Cindy's mom agreed to help Kim if she moved out to LA. Of course, Cindy didn't mention the real reason why she wanted to help Kim out."

Tootie and Andy were staring in awe at what Willis was saying.

"Anyway," continued Willis "from what I heard, it wasn't easy for Cindy to track down my elusive sister. She lived in a very small, run-down apartment on the outskirts of the city. When Cindy saw her, she realized how physically drained Kim seemed and wasted no time in convincing her to take the job in LA. She promised that the pay would be good and Kim would no longer have to live like she was."

"Gee," said Tootie breaking the silence, "it had to be a shock for Kim to see someone from her past show up on her doorstep like that."

"Yeah," agreed Andy, "especially after spending so much time trying to break away from her roots. What did people think when they found out what she had been up to?"

"Well, honestly, she was something of an embarrassment to dad. Her wild escapades and her drug and alcohol habits were the talk of the circle. Things didn't get any better once she moved out to LA and her alcohol and drug additions worsened. She was just lucky that the tabloids only printed two stories about her, and that they were back burners. Kim always wanted to keep a low profile, but it was difficult with her reputation. Since dad didn't work in something more glamorous such as running hotels or defending celebrities, there was little mention of Kim in national news; however, there were a lot of rumors and unflattering gossip circulating within dad's circle," said Willis as he shook his head.

"I can see how hard things were for her now," replied Tootie.

"Now, can you see why I'm apprehensive about her hooking up with Kelly? I know about Kelly's past, and I'm afraid that the two of them together will not add up to anything good," admitted Willis.

"Dear," interjected Sharon, "I'm sure Kim will be fine. She has a good head on her shoulders, and I'm sure she will make the right decisions."

Sharon patted Willis' back as he replied, "I hope so. I really hope so."

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At that moment, Kimberly and Kelly were entering the Corner Bistro at West Village for their first official date. The Corner Bistro is a popular place for late-nite food affairs – nothing fancy. The menu consists only of burgers, chicken sandwiches, fries, and drinks. It was the perfect place for Kim, who does not like to flaunt her wealth like Blair. Kelly was just happy to eat one of their burgers, since it had been over six years since she was last in NYC.

After they sat down and ordered their food, they tried to pick up where they left off earlier that day before Blair so rudely interrupted.

"Man, I still can't believe Blair," said Kimberly shaking her head. "I've never seen her act like that before."

"Really?" Kelly asked skeptically. "Because I have seen her act like that before."

"But I thought you guys just met."

"Ah, no. Me and Ms. Money Bags almost turned Jo's 40th birthday party into a WWE Smackdown. And I was about to layeth the smacketh down on her WASP candyass!"

"What?" asked Kimberly in shock.

"Oh, Blondie and I almost had a hand-to-hand combat when we were supposed to be celebratin' Jo turnin' the big four oh. If she woulda just kept her big mouth shut, everything woulda been fine."

"Yeah, you're right. Sometimes Blair speaks before she thinks. She has a good heart, it's just . . .

"It's just that she thinks her shit don't stink. Well, I have news for that Marshmallow Head . . . her shit don't smell like peaches. If you're human, it all comes out smellin' the same."

In the back of Kim's mind, she was thinking, "Thank God we haven't eaten yet, I would have lost my appetite by now."

"Kelly, you just have to try to see things from her perspective."

"What from the Ivory Tower? I'm sorry, I can't bow to someone who looks down on me. I'm not one of her peons ya know."

"I know, but . . ."

"But? But? Kim, she ousted you from her wedding just 'cuz you sided with me," replied Kelly grabbing Kim's hands in her own.

"I think she'll get over it," said Kimberly as she looked away uncertainly.

"I don't think so, Kim. She still hasn't forgiven me," muttered Kelly under her breath as she slowly looked away.

"Do you mean for the party?"

"No, for what I did before goin' into the slamma."

"What are you talking about?"

"There was this high class society dame that started comin' around my turf. 'Memba when I told ya I was the 'Meth Queen of NYC?'" Kelly's Bronx accent started to come through, even though she spent the last six years in Texas. As Jo always said, "You can take the girl outta the Bronx, but ya can't take the Bronx outta the girl" and Kelly was proving that right now.

"Yeah, I remember when you told me that."

"Well, I kinda got this chick hooked on meth."

"What does that have to do with Blair?" asked Kimberly with her eyes wide.

"How was I 'sposed to know that broad was one of Blair's besties pre-Eastland," Kelly blurted as she threw up her hands in defeat. She was so loud, that she briefly gained the attention of the people around them.

"You mean to tell me that you sold drugs to one of Blair's high-society friends?" Kim asked in shock.

"Yo, I was just supplyin' to a customer. I didn't do a background check. How was I 'sposed to know she was Blair's friend?"

"Blair had a lot of friends. Well, so-called friends, anyway. So, I can see how you may have had a run-in with some of them, though I don't think anyone would believe any of them would get into drugs."

"That's what ya gotta understand about the high-society set, Kim. Just cuz they wear shirts with little alligators on them, it doesn't mean they don't do drugs."

"Well, duh. I know that from personal experience."

"Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to imply anything."

"It's okay," said Kimberly reassuringly.

"But the truth is, many of them really think they're above getting hooked."

Kimberly shook her head as she said, "Those socialite snobs. Honestly, I can't stand them, and Blair can't stand some of them. I don't know Boots St. Claire too well, and that's probably for the better, because the few times I met her, I wanted to stuff my ears with earplugs. That voice 'Whamo, Warnsie, isn't it just ta da and the most," said Kim mocking the Gamma Gamma alum with a flick of her wrist.

"Heh," Kelly chuckled.

"But I do know some of the others like Margo Thomas, Daphne Blake, Sarah Watson, Dina Becker, Rachel Sterling, and, of course, Kathy Hilton."

While Kim was ratting off names, Kelly's eyes jumped and Kim noticed.

"Is something wrong?"

"Umm... no, nothing. I'm just surprised you know all those people," replied Kelly as she averted Kim's eyes. Her cover-up wasn't completely successful, but Kim decided not to dwell on it.

"I'm sure you might have known some of them, too, since you had your share of wealth during your meth days."

"Not really. I was something of an outcast. I may have run into some of them, but nothing more than that."

"But you just said you sold to one of them. Who was it?"

"Never mind that. All you need to know is that Blair blames me for getting one of her snooty friends hooked on meth."

"So, what did you do?"

"I got myself together, got outta jail, and I headed to Houston."

"Yeah, Houston," said Kimberly dreamily. "What's it like in Houston?" Kim asked.

"It's big, just like everything in Texas," Kelly answered.

"You mean it's true what they say? Everything's bigger in Texas?"

Kelly just rolled her eyes as she said, "Yes, and things grow fast down there. It's a booming city"

"I see. So, is it like Dallas?"

Kelly thought for a second, "People say it's nothing like Dallas, but, to me, they have quite a few similarities. They both like to brag that they're the best. They're also very Southern, though Houston has more of a Mexican flava to it. And they both are crazy for their professional teams."

"Oh, okay. So, when can I visit, Kel?"

"For you, anytime you want. Hell, you can bring ya whole family. Your brothers, your father, your mother…"

Kimberly winced when Kelly said "mother."

"I don't have a mother," said Kimberly as she looked away in an effort to hold back the tears. "She died when I was ten."

"Oh, I'm sorry," said Kelly with a sorrowful tone.

Kimberly was trying not to cry, but her memories of her mother made that hard.

"I know it's been nearly forty years, but it still hurts when I think about my mother being dead."

"Wow! I guess I never knew what it was like to have a mother who really cared. I think my mom died when I was born – or at least when my dad ran out on us."

"I'm sorry," said Kim as she tried to keep her tears at bay.

"At times, I even wish my mother was dead. I woulda been better off," said Kelly dejectedly.

"Don't ever say that. I know that you had problems with your mother, but the last thing you should ever say is that you wished she was dead," Kim admonished Kelly. "You don't know what it's like til you lose her.'

"You're right. My mother did put me on this earth, but that's the only good thing she has ever done. All I can thank her for is supplyin' the egg at the time of my conception and not terminatin' the pregnancy," said Kelly who looked away in anger and sadness.

"I'm sorry, but I loved my mom."

"By the way, can I ask how your mom died?"

Kimberly started to cry, "Sure. It's not much of secret, especially the way the she died."

"Huh?" asked Kelly confused.

"She was raped and murdered by some scumbag."

"What?! That's not fair," yelled Kelly.

"Huh?" asked Kimberly through sniffles.

"Here my mom made herself available to every John, Harry and Dick, but it's your mom who suffered. That's not fair."

"I don't understand," said Kimberly confused as she tried to hold back the tears.

"My mom couldn't get enough sex. She asked for it every day, but your mom was raped and murdered? She didn't ask for it, yet she's the one who's in six-feet deep."

"No, she didn't."

"Your mother was an innocent victim, Kim. How did you ever deal with it?"

"Her unnecessary death is so hard on dad and I that we rarely, if ever, talk about her. It's our way of coping with the pain."

"Oh, my God. My mom played so fast and loose, she coulda easily ended up dead."

"Yeah. Now do you see why I said to never wish that on your mom? She may have been horrible, but the loss is indescribable."

"I guess sometimes ya just have to leave your past in your past, huh?"

"Yes," replied Kim as she looked into Kelly's eyes. There was something in Kim's mind that kept nagging at her. She wanted to say something, but she kept forgetting to bring it up when she saw Kelly. As she got lost in Kelly's eyes, she suddenly remembered it.

"For some reason, you look so familiar. Like someone I saw way back in the past?"

"I hope that's a good thing, considering that we just agreed that the past is better off in the past," Kelly said nervously. She had every right to be apprehensive, considering her past.

"I think it's good. You remind me of a girl I saw when I used to go to those parties back in the day. There were only so many white people there," said Kim as she tried to remember.

"Hey, wait a minute. Were you the one who hung around with that droopy-eyed black guy, and used to do those ballerina moves combined with the popping and locking."

"Yeah, that was me!" Kim laughed.

"Oh, my God! I actually had a crush on you, but I thought you were going out with that black guy, so I never asked."

"That black guy was my brother, Willis – Willis Jackson."

Kelly looked Kim up from head to toe. "Your brother?" asked Kelly skeptically.

"My adopted brother," Kim clarified.

Kelly sat silently for a minute as she searched her memory bank. That name – Willis – and his face had an air of familiarity. Suddenly, it dawned on her as the connections hit her like a bolt of lightning.

"Oh, yeah, I know him! He's Jo's buddy. So, that was who you were with?" asked Kelly.

"Yeah. He went there to protect me."

"Damn. The world is so fuckin' small," exclaimed Kelly with a hint of regret.

"So, you knew my brother?"

"Hell, yeah. In fact, we went car surfin' one time!" explained Kelly as she talked animatedly with her hands.

"What?! He never told me that!" said a totally shocked Kim.

"Yeah, and you shoulda seen his face afterwards," Kelly laughed as she remembered that adventure. "Anyway, back to you and Willis. Gee, if I only knew you two didn't have it goin' on, I woulda approached ya for sure."

"Well, can I tell you a little secret?" asked Kimberly rather shyly as she coyly looked up at Kelly.

"Shoot," said Kelly as she leaned forward, intrigued about what Kim might say.

"I had a crush on you, too, but I had problems with Jessie at the time. She said I stepped on her foot."

"Wow! So that cutie really was you," said Kelly with a huge smile on her face.

Kimberly blushed as she answered, "I guess so."

"God, I wish I knew that ya weren't goin' with Willis," repeated Kelly. "I didn't know him until 1981, when Jo introduced us. But I never knew you guys were brother and sister. All I know is you guys stopped coming around after I met him and I never got the chance to ask questions about your guys' relationship. What happened?"

"Somebody tried to stab me and Willis, so we decided never to go back."

They got their orders, but continued to chat. What they were learning about each other was much more important than filling their stomachs.

"Man, that's too bad. If I woulda had the chance, you and me coulda tore up the town."

"Well, I didn't go to a lot places. Besides. We couldn't go beyond some of those parties."

"Are ya kiddin' me? I was able to get into Studio 54 and later on Paradise Garage with Jo and Jessie."

Kim dropped her chicken sandwich. "How'd you do that?" she asked. "I've been to the Garage, but not 54."

"It was easy. The guy who chose who could come in and who couldn't, had some sparkling, silver platform shoes. They were very interesting, so, while Jo and Jessie were with me, I said 'nice shoes,' and he let us in."

"But you could't have been old enough to get in," claimed Kimberly who was looking at Kelly in complete shock.

"Well, confidentially," said Kelly in a low whisper as if her younger exploits really mattered, "he let us in even though we were nowhere near 18. Sometimes, Kim, it's who ya know that gets ya places," finished Kelly with a smirk and a wink.

"Man, it sounds like you lived an interesting life. I wish I knew you back then."

"Well, you know me now," said Kelly as she clasped Kimberly's hands and got lost in her eyes.

They sat there staring at each other, lost in their own private world, until a gay couple sat down in the opposite booth. Kimberly took her eyes off Kelly and looked at one of them.

"Oh, they're totally gay," Kimberly joked.

Kelly looked and snickered. "Yeah, totally. They could easily be the poster children for the Lady Gaga fan club."

They laughed as they continued to gawk at the couple.

"Too bad, because one of them is cute."

That comment stopped Kelly right in her tracks.

"What?"

"The one facing us is cute. He reminds me of one of the men I had a threesome with back in LA."

"Huh?" asked Kelly with a combination of shock and disgust.

"I had a threesome with a husband and wife when I worked as a housekeeper in LA."

"Wait, are you saying that you're a bi?"

"Uh, yes, but I prefer the term pansexual. See, I also dated a transgendered male once."

The conversation turned south as Kelly abruptly took her hands away from Kim.

"How could you deceive me like that?" asked Kelly.

"I thought you knew? I was married twice and I have a son back in LA. Didn't they tell you?" Kim asked in complete surprise.

"No, not at all," Kelly said while looking away.

For a while, Kimberly kept talking, but Kelly only said yes, no, or okay. Finally, Kim had had enough.

"Okay, what's the problem?" Kim demanded, not caring about what the people around them thought.

"You're the problem," Kelly yelled back while pointing at Kimberly. "I don't deal with bi-sluts like you," she proclaimed as she stood up.

Kelly then put a $20 bill on the table and walked out.

About two minutes later, Kimberly started to cry.

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After Kim left the restaurant, she texted her brother.

"Are you home?" she texted.

"No, I'm at Tootie and Andy's place. How'd the date go?"

"Terrible. Fucking, terrible!"

Willis was shocked when he saw the text. "Wanna come here? We're goin' to be here for a bit. It's not too far away."

Kimberly replied, "Sure."

While Kim walked the 20 minutes to Tootie and Andy's condo, she thought about what happened. Reflecting on the date just got her more and more upset. By the time she arrived at their door, her eyes were red and puffy from all the crying she had done. She tried to compose herself before knocking on the door, but she was still clearly upset. When she finally knocked on the door, she heard Andy call out, "I'll get it."

Andy opened the door and looked at her for a minute before saying anything. "Um… come on in," he finally said as he moved out of her way to let her pass.

Kim quietly walked into the living room and saw three more sets of eyes staring at her. She looked from Willis to Sharon to Tootie back to Willis before shouting, "God damn lesbians!" Then, Kim crumpled to the floor as she continued to cry.

"What's wrong?" asked Willis as he got out of his seat and knelt beside Kimberly. He helped get her up and walked her to the couch. Kim continued to cry for a minute before speaking.

"Kelly walked out on me because she found out that I also like guys," sobbed Kimberly. Willis sat down next to his sister and offered her his shoulder to cry on. She sobbed for a while before letting out another huge outburst.

"I should have learned my lesson by now – not to deal with those God damn, vile, mother-fucking lesbians! They're all petty. PETTY! PETTY! PETTY!" She banged on Willis' chest with each word before slumping into his protective embrace as she continued sobbing. She was loud enough to wake Brian, who immediately started to cry.

One of Willis and Sharon's kids came into the room and asked, "What's going on? It sounds like Aunt Kim is upset."

"It's okay. We have it under control. Just go back to the other room."

"And miss this?" the kid beamed. "This is better than Saturday morning cartoons."

Willis gave him a stern look and the kid immediately obeyed, although he grumbled under his breath.

"I'll take care of Brian, you guys deal with Kim," said Tootie as she went into the baby's bedroom.

Willis, Sharon, and Andy tried their best to comfort Kim, but she was on the verge of hysterics.

"I know your heart's broken," said Sharon.

"Broken?" Kim interrupted. "She didn't just break my heart. That red-headed, devil bitch kicked it, slammed it, shattered it, drove a truck over it, and then dropped an anvil on it. That's what she did!" Kim then went back to her wailing.

Willis was amazed. He had never seen his sister get so upset over someone whom she claimed broke her heart. She always seemed to get over it quickly and move on to the next love affair. In fact, the only time he could think of that was even close to this was when David broke up with her. She cried that time, too, but it was nowhere near the hysterical display he was witnessing now. Maybe Kimberly was genuinely in love this time, which is why it hurt so much. Willis knew that he'd have to do something about it, but what?

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The day had not gone as planned for anyone. Blair had hoped that her shopping trip would make her feel better, but it only made her feel worse. It seemed like everyone had somebody – even that fallible, insufferable, brute, Kelly. All Blair wanted was Jo. She missed her so much, even though it was only the second day Jo was gone. She couldn't take it anymore, so she got out her laptop and Googled Jo's name. Blair knew that it was a longshot, but she was getting desperate. As she scrolled down the results, one blurb caught her eye. It was a mention of Jo's name in TMZ news. Of course, Blair assumed that there could be no relevant connection, but her curiosity got the better of her.

As Blair got on the TMZ website and began reading the headlines, nothing seemed out of the ordinary – Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher were splitting up, Hugh Grant was becoming a father at the age of 51, Arnold Schwarzenegger was implicated in a love child scandal, Amy Winehouse was found dead in her London home, Charlie Sheen was having a major meltdown, and WHAT! Blair couldn't believe her eyes as she read the headline again – "Heiress, Blair Warner, Found in Food Fight after Fiancé Flees Own Wedding Rehearsal."

"That lying scumbag," shouted Blair. "How could he lie to my face and tell me that he would not publicize this." As her blood began to boil, it dawned on her that the crew member of Nancy's television show knew nothing about the food fight. So, who could have tipped off TMZ? Although the news struck Blair hard, she didn't even care at this moment. All she wanted was Jo because everything was just going all wrong.

"Joanna, please come back to me. Please!" pleaded the blonde as she grabbed Jo's pillow and clutched it tightly to her chest before crying herself to sleep.

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While Blair was wallowing in the loss of her mate, a dark-haired woman sat in her New York City apartment sipping from her bottle of beer. As she reread the headline about Blair, a smile spread across her face.

"So, Jo has run off again, huh?" she thought. "Well, I'm just the one to get her to come out of hiding."

She then finished off her beer, turned her computer off, and went to get some supplies for the trip she had in mind. The whole time, she was smiling and chuckling evilly to herself.

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Back in Pennsylvania, Jo had decided to clear some files from her computer. The seclusion was great, but there wasn't a lot to do. In fact, it was on the verge of boring. "Why did I cut myself off from everyone?" she thought. At least Natalie would talk to her, or even Kelly would be a nice conversation companion. However, Jo knew that she had to stick to her guns if she would succeed at showing Blair a lesson. Still, it was getting pretty monotonous. Jo had listened to all the music on her phone, had read all of her magazines cover to cover – twice, had watched a couple things, but nothing seemed to be piquing her interest. The last resort was clearing her computer files.

Deciding on a pre-bed activity, Jo grabbed her laptop and sat down on the bed. She began condensing her files and deleting anything that she didn't need anymore. Suddenly she came across a file titled "Memories." For some reason, Jo could not remember what these files contained. Since she didn't know what was in these files, and she didn't want to accidentally delete something important, she sat back and opened them.

The first image that popped up was her and Blair's high school graduation picture. Two girls were smiling into the camera with their arms wrapped snugly around each other. Tears pricked Jo's eyes as she ran her finger over Blair's face. She then clicked the next image, which showed her giving Blair a piggyback ride. Blair was wearing a black skirt and blazer with a light blue shirt, while Jo was wearing her army green shirt, forest green cargo pants, and green camo overshirt. Jo was flashing her right fist at the camera while Blair was giving Jo bunny ears. Again, both girls were smiling as it looked like they were having fun. The next image was obviously taken right after the previous one, as both girls were wearing the same outfits. The only different is that they were on the floor, apparently after collapsing in laughter. Blair had her arm around Jo's neck and Jo had her right hand on Blair's left knee. It looked like such the perfect time.

Jo kept looking at picture after picture, remembering all the good times she had with Blair. She had to repeatedly wipe tears from her eyes and cheeks because the memories were just too much for her to hold in her emotions. Eventually, Jo had to stop. As she logged off her computer, put it away, and climbed under the covers, Jo couldn't stop thinking about Blair. She really did miss her and wished that they were together. Jo turned off the lights, hoping that sleep would take her, but to no avail. Her last resort was clutching a pillow to her chest and cry for her lover. At last, Jo cried herself to sleep.

Chapter Text

Wedding Bells Are Ringing – Chapter 10

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It was six o'clock on Monday morning when Jo's internal clock started to ring. Groggily she woke up and looked at her phone. The digital display said that it was exactly 6:03 am. The brunette rubbed her eyes to make sure she saw the time correctly. Sure enough, it was 6:03 in the morning. Jo yawned as she wondered what would get her up so early. Then, suddenly, she saw the date in the corner – June 27, 2011. She stared at the day for a while because this was a very significant date for Jo. Eventually, she stopped looking and tried her best to hold back her tears. Despite her efforts, one tear was able to slip out and run down her cheek. Vivid memories of what happened eleven years ago today were coming back to her in graphic detail. It was as if it was only yesterday that Jo talked to Jessie for the last time.

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(Flashback to June 27, 2000)

Jo was volunteering at her uncle Sal's garage on that spring afternoon. It seemed like an ordinary day, and there was no hint that anything significant would happen. Getting her hands on bikes and cars never got old, and Jo wanted to give her uncle a hand since his kids had less time to help him since they had jobs and families of their own. Family was important, and Jo couldn't see her uncle Sal Largo struggle by himself. It was mid-afternoon and Jo was busy tinkering with a chopper when she suddenly got a call on her Ericsson T28 flip-phone. She pulled her phone out of her pocket and looked at the number. The display showed that the number was unavailable, but Jo answered it anyway.

"Hello?" asked Jo somewhat apprehensively.

"Hey, Joey, it's me, Kelly."

Kelly was calling from jail because she was recently busted for drug dealing. She had been sentenced to twenty years in prison, but was in due for parole in five. Four other inmates were waiting their turn to use the phone, but Kelly didn't care. She needed to talk to her old friend.

"Hey, what's up, Kel? How are things in the slamma'?"

Kelly looked down at her prison sanctioned orange jump suit and replied sarcastically, "Well, the duds do nothin' for me, Joey. Ya think Blondie can get us a new spring line from Gucci?"

"All right, all right, smart ass. Seriously though, Kel. How's it hangin'?"

"Well, prison kinda sucks here. I'm tryin' my best to stay clean so I can get that parole, yet people want to come after me or want me to join a gang. I guess my rep as a kid followed me here. It's like I'm the go-to chick and they all want my skills. But, I know if I join a gang, it will be next to impossible to get parole, for I'll be under their whim. If they get into a beef with another gang, though, I'll have to jump in."

"Yeah, that's true," Jo simply said.

"The only good thing here is the women. It's like a smorgasbord!"

"Kelly, don't tell me you're busy screwin' around?"

"Hell, yeah, I am! I'm basically drownin' in pussy here! I've bagged at least seven girls and even had two threesomes," exclaimed an excited Kelly, who enjoyed boasting her sexual escapades to Jo. "Besides fuckin', there really ain't much ta do. There's readin', workin' out, and watchin' TV, but that's it. So, gimme a break, huh? Plus, things ain't free, so you gotta get a 'job' and work for stuff like food, cigarettes, etc."

However, Jo couldn't give her friend a break because she was concerned where her sexual adventures could lead. "Kelly, you need to be careful. You don't know what they're carrying. Lesbians can still get AIDS ya know. Also, you may bang the wrong chick that belongs to Big Bertha, who may shank ya for tappin' her piece of ass."

"Stop bustin' my chops. I can handle myself," Kelly claimed gruffly.

"Kel, you're in a maximum security prison. Chicks in there are tougher than they are on the streets. Ya can't take the chances you're used to. In the slamma it could end with more than just a beatin' and I ain't there to bail ya out."

"Like I said, don't worry 'bout me, Jo. I got this. Memba, it's not like this is my first rodeo. I know how to buck like the rest of them."

"Whatever, Kel."

Sure, this was not Kelly's first time in jail, but those other arrests were for minor charges, and she never went to maximum security. The girls in maximum security were nothing to play around with, but Kelly was too proud to admit that it could be intimidating. Besides, you couldn't show your weaknesses or you'd be done for in a minute.

"Anyhow, I'm not callin' for me, Joey. I'm callin' ya 'bout Jessie. She's not doin' so good right now, and I think ya need ta talk ta her. I tried, but I ain't getting' through ta her."

"Oh, no... You know Jessie doesn't want to talk to me."

"That's not what it sounded like when I talked to her."

"You heard what she said to me a few years ago. She never wanted to speak to me ever again."

"Yo, that was five years ago, Joey. Times change, people change, for better or worse. Jessie may be for worse, but she's still your homie. Come on. Ya used to be tight."

"Yeah, that's the operative word there, Kel – used to be."

"Don't be that way, Joey."

"What way? You're right, people change and I happened to grow up while Jess didn't."

"Come on Jo, she will always be your ride or die, just like you and me."

Jo heaved a heavy sigh over the phone.

Kelly continued, "And ya ain't given up on me yet."

"But that's different."

"No, it ain't, Joey. Please, don't turn your back on her. You need to straighten her up, get her head on straight. Come on, at least do it for me."

"Oh, alright," said Jo as she rolled her eyes. "Give me her number and I'll give her a call. I can't make any promises, but I'll give it a go."

Kelly smiled as she gave Jo the number.

"That's all I'm askin' for, Kid. Talk ta ya later."

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That night, Jo tried to call her old friend, Jessie. She didn't get through on the first attempt, which concerned her a little bit considering what Kelly told her. What if she was too late? There was no way Jo was going to stop now. So, she tried again, and this time Jessie answered. Come to find out, Jessie only had a simple, cordless phone that lacked a digital display, so she was apprehensive about answering. She figured that if it was important, the person would call back. So, when Jo called again, Jessie answered the phone.

"Hello."

"Heya, Jess, it's me."

Not expecting to her old friend's voice on the other end, Jessie answered, "Jo?"

"Surprised to hear me?"

"Hell, yeah. It's almost like gettin' a call from the President. Ya ain't tried to talk to me in a long time. What's it a national emergency?" asked Jessie sarcastically.

Jo suspected that Jessie was under the influence of some substance. Her speech was slurred and she was a bit incoherent. Jo guessed that Jessie was a bit drunk and a bit high. Neither was good news, but Jo knew that the combination could be lethal. Sure, she made illegal cocktails in her youth, but she knew how deadly mixing drugs and alcohol could be. At least Kelly got arrested before she could kill herself. The jail would provide rehab and help Kelly overcome her addictions. Jessie needed help and Jo knew that she should have kept in touch. "Well, sorry for not callin' and talkin' to ya for a while. Ya did say you didn't wanna speak to me ever again, though."

Even in her clouded state, Jessie remembered their last conversation.

"Yeah, I did, but I thought you still might try to contact me. I just figured ya had given up on me, 'cuz there was no hope."

Jo was feeling bad now. "I'm sorry. I would never give up on ya, Jess. It's just," Jo had to pause to find the right words to say, "I was so angry at you at the time."

"Well, then what makes ya call me now? Nothin's changed."

"Because Kelly said something's wrong with you."

"Well, Kelly's full of shit," Jessie sneered as she threw her friend under the bus.

"Hey! Seems to me that she's right. You sound drunk and high right now."

"Sounds can be deceivin.'"

"You ain't foolin' me, Jess. I deal wit' drunks and druggies all day. Remember, I'm a cop."

"Yeah, I rememba. Ya fall on the other side on the thin, blue line now and take pride bustin' your friends."

"Jess, it ain't like that. I really care about you and Kel."

"Hell, Jo. Ya don't give a lick for me or Kel."

"Dammit, yes I do." Jo took a deep breath before she continued because it sounded like she was losing Jessie. She needed to regain Jessie's confidence if she had any chance of talking some sense into one of her former best friends. "Listen, Jess. Kel tells me you've been drinkin' heavily and you've been doin' drugs hardcore."

"Yeah, so? What's it to ya?" Jessie responded flippantly.

"Dammit, Jess, you're my friend! I don't wanna see you end up like Kelly, or worse."

"Oh, so now you're feelin' guilty? Is that what it takes for you to care about us?" she derided.

"What are yo talkin' bout? I've always cared for you guys."

"Don't bullshit me, Jo. When ya went to that snotty school, ya forget where ya came from."

Jo sighed. "Jessie, I never forgot 'bout my roots."

"Don't give me that. Your loyalties shifted, Jo. You care more about Ms. Moneybags and your preppy friends than ya do 'bout us."

"Of course I care about Blair more than anyone else. She's my woman, my other half, my reason for breathing, and I love her! Jess, when I went to Eastland, I had to grow up. I couldn't just screw around anymore."

"So, you're saying that's all I do – screw around. Well, fuck you, Jo." Now Jessie was speaking in a more blunt tone.

"That's not what I meant, Jess."

"Well, what'd ya mean then, traitor."

"I just had to change, Jess. Sure, I lived in Peekskill, but the Bronx was always my home."

"Yeah, great way to show it. Walkin' out on us and siding with the hoity toity bunch."

"Jess, I was put in that situation. Ya think I didn't feel any pressure? I had to change or I'd be screwed. Hell, I got arrested the first night I was there."

"Yeah, but ya got bailed out by that old bag."

"Don't you dare insult Mrs. G!" Jo spat. Although she wanted to appeal to Jessie and make her see reason, she was really pissed that Jessie would insult the woman who was more like a mother to her than anyone else.

"Ooo, touchy, touchy," Jessie mocked. "Look, Jo, we all don't have people goin' to bat for us. We have to fend for ourselves. We're the ones down in the trenches. We don't got people on our side to help us out of a jam and vouch for us."

"You had me, Jess. You always had me in your corner. Can't ya see that?"

"All I see is a sellout who chose her new friends over her true friends."

"Jess, I grew close to Blair, Natalie, and Tootie. Don'tcha get it? We went to school together, we worked together, we ate together, we slept together."

"Yeah, I'm sure ya did," said Jessie mockingly.

"You know what I mean."

"Well, you got it easy. You were given a chance. Kel and I weren't so lucky."

"Jess, you had a choice. You chose drugs."

"Like you chose to bust Kel on a bum rap just to fill your quota for the month?"

"Sellin' meth? That ain't just a bum rap. Hey, besides, I was doin' her a favor. She'll get the help and treatment she needs in jail. It was her decision to deal drugs and it was my choice to save her from herself," Jo said in her own defense.

"No matter what you try to say, Jo, you fuckin' betrayed us."

Now Jo was beyond frustrated as she screamed in anger, "Dammit, Jess, I was doin' my fucking job! I had no choice but to help in the investigation. Besides, I helped get Kelly the best lawyer she could get! What the fuck else do you want from me?!"

"How 'bout the truth?"

There was no point in sugarcoating it, so Jo replied matter-of-factly, "The truth is she'll get help in rehab, and you need help kickin' the drugs and alcohol before ya end up six feet under."

"Why the fuck do you think we want your help of any kind? Why, dammit!" said an infuriated Jessie.

Instead of screaming back, Jo calmly told her, "Because you sound like you can use some help."

"Whatcha goin' to do? Arrest my ass too?"

"Jess, you're not in a right state o' mind. Don't try to fool me. You're hurtin' inside."

Jessie started to cry. "No, I'm not hurtin' inside. And why should you care anyway? My boyfriend left me. Kelly's in jail, and I might be next. What the hell do I really have to look forward to, Jo? Huh? What?"

"The rest of your life, Jess. You can still make sumthin' outta it, but you need ta kick the drugs and alcohol," said Jo, trying to sound like a caring friend.

However, Jess could care less. "It's too late, Jo. I don't got a sugar momma to help me out like you do. Truth is, I want nothing from ya. I'm through with ya. Why don't ya just go back to that snooty rich bitch of yours and leave me the fuck alone?"

"You take that back," said Jo in a cold and angry tone. She could take the verbal insults if they pertained to her, but nobody took a jab at her woman.

"No, I won't. Ya know what? Fuck you, your rich bitch, your old bag, and your preppy, loser friends."

Jo was pissed that Jessie would insult everyone who was closest to her. It was such a low blow, that Jo couldn't even let a former friend get away with it. All she wanted to do was help, but all Jessie wanted to do was push her buttons. This was the last straw. "Fine," yelled Jo, "fuck you too."

Jo slammed her phone shut then began to pace to cool down. How could Jessie be so insensitive? They both grew up knowing that if ya poke your nose in family business, ya end up breathin' through your ears. They also knew that family came first and if ya mess with one member, ya end up dealing with them all. How could Jessie not understand that? Was she so drunk or high that she had forgotten some of the most basic rules in the Bronx code. Or did she just not care? Either way, Jo couldn't let her get away with it. Not by a longshot.

After Jo cooled down, she started to feel guilty about how they had left things. Maybe yelling at Jessie wasn't the best thing to do. After all, Jessie was clearly under the influence of something and she wasn't being herself. So, after a little while Jo tried to call again. However, all she got was the sound of a disconnected line. It was obvious that Jessie wanted to make it clear that she didn't want to speak to Jo again. As a result, Jo reluctantly decided not to bother Jessie again.

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Four days later, while Jo was in her office during a night shift, she got a call from a Bronx cop.

"Polniaczek," she answered automatically.

"Hey, Polniaczek, it's Detective Robert O'Ryan from the 44th precinct in the Bronx."

"Hey, O'Ryan , how are you?" asked Jo. She knew Detective O'Ryan personally because she used to work in the 43th precinct in the Bronx, so they ran into each other very often.

"I'm fine, Jo," said the detective as he slipped into his conversational tone, "but I got some bad news for you."

One thing that immediately struck Jo was the way Detective O'Ryan informally addressed her. Cops tried to maintain an image of professionalism while on duty, so the fact that he addressed her by her first name caught her attention.

"Yeah, what is it?" she asked. Jo also knew that if a cop was calling her from the Bronx about some bad news, then it likely pertained to someone she knew, like her mother or a friend of hers.

"Remember Jessie, the one who used to hang around with your old friend, Kelly, a lot?"

"Yeah? Of course, I remember Jessie." Then it hit her. "Please, don't tell me…"

"I'm sorry Jo, but she was in an automobile accident. She crashed into a building at the intersection of East 165th Street and Brook Avenue. No tests have been done, but we found two open whiskey bottles and 10 grams of heroin in the car. Evidence shows that she was not wearing a seat belt at the time of impact. She's in critical condition."

"Is she still at the scene?"

"Yeah, and from your 10-20 (cop talk for location), chances are, if you leave now, she'll still be here when you arrive."

"Okay, I'm leavin' right now!"

Jo quickly left her precinct in Manhattan and headed straight to her old stomping ground in the Bronx. When she got arrived at the scene of the accident, she saw a covered stretcher. It was clear that there was a body under that white shroud of death.

As she approached the scene, a rookie cop stopped her and wouldn't let her pass the yellow tape.

"Sorry, Ms.," said the cop as she held up a hand to stop Jo's progress. "Authorized personnel only."

In response, Jo whipped out her badge and showed it to the young officer. "This is my ticket to pass," said Jo as she waited for the rookie cop to confirm her credentials.

"Sorry, Sergeant Polniaczek," said the rookie as she looked away in embarrassment and returned Jo's badge.

As Jo was passing the young officer, she flashed a small smile and put her hand reassuringly on the rookie's shoulder. "Hey, it's okay," said Jo, "you were just doing your job."

Jo's reassurance made the rookie officer smile back and nod her head. "Thanks," she said.

The superior officer nodded back and ducked under the police tape. Jo had to respect a fellow female officer doing her duty. If the circumstances weren't so grim, Jo may have offered to take the rookie out for a beer when their shifts were over. As it stood, however, Jo had some personal business to attend to.

As she approached Detective O'Ryan, Jo couldn't keep her eyes off the covered stretcher.

"Hey, long time, no see, Polniaczek," said Detective O'Ryan as he offered Jo his hand.

"Hiya, Bob," replied Jo as she returned the handshake. She didn't even bother with formalities. Right now, being professional was the furthest thing from her mind. "I know my life's mainly in Manhattan now," she continued, "but I never forgot my boys back in the Bronx. I guess that's her right there," said Jo as she pointed to the covered stretcher.

"Yeah, that's her," answered Detective O'Ryan as he looked away. He couldn't bring himself to face his former colleague. "When we spoke, she had a weak pulse, but five minutes later, she died." Detective O'Ryan placed a comforting hand on Jo's shoulder as he said, "I'm so sorry, Jo."

The brunette placed her hand on his and gave a nod of gratitude before walking toward the stretcher. She tried desperately to hide her tears as she approached the covered body. Jo knew it had to be Jessie, but it still hurt. She showed her badge to the surrounding cops and pulled down the sheets to reveal the body's head and chest. It was indeed Jessie. Jo instantly started to cry, and she had to walk away.

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Now Jo was kicking herself for not calling Jessie back or doing more to help her former friend. Jessie's death could have been prevented, she thought. Her head was filled with heavy regrets and her inactions made her hurt on the inside. If only she would have put more effort into stopping Jessie, she'd still be alive today. Maybe she should have contacted someone to arrest her former friend when Jessie refused to answer her phone calls. There were people in law enforcement who would be willing to do her a solid. Jo had done many favors over the years without ever asking for anything in return, so she knew that she could have convinced someone to take Jessie in. Although Jessie would have been mad at Jo and probably would have accused her for setting her up, at least she would have received the help she needed to kick her habits. Yet, Jo decided to heed Jessie's wishes and leave her alone. Now, Jo was thinking Jessie's death was all her fault.

Later on that night, Jo called Kelly in jail and told her the bad news. Not much of a crier, Kelly tried to hold her emotions in check. No one wanted to look weak in the general prison population because it'd get you jumped in a second. However, when Kelly returned to her cell and made sure she was alone, she started to cry. She just couldn't hold it in any longer because a childhood friend of hers was dead. Gone were the days of running around in the Bronx, going to nightclubs, and raiding rival gang's territory. They had done many crazy things together and they always seemed to come out on top. Yet, this time it was not meant to have a happy ending.

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A few days later, a funeral was held for Jessie. Sadly, it was a small gathering because Jessie didn't have as many surviving relatives or friends. That's the breaks growing up in the Bronx. However, Jo made it a point to attend her former friend's funeral. It was the least she felt she could do to honor Jessie's memory. Kelly, who was escorted by two prison guards, was also in attendance.

Jo met up with Kelly after the funeral to talk about Jessie.

"I shoulda called her before the accident," said Jo sadly.

"No need ta feel guilty 'bout it, Joey. At least ya called her before she died. Ya got some sense of closure."

"But I shoulda done more. I shoulda helped her," sniffed Jo.

"Listen, Jo, this guilt trip is gettin' us nowhere. All it's done is split us up, sent me to the slamma,' and drove Jess to an early grave. We need ta squash it here and now."

Jo thought about it for a bit and said, "You're right, Kel."

"I'm serious, Jo. We need ta move forward or else we'll end up like Jessie. I'm now thankful for ya bustin' me because I got a chance to clean up my life for once. I've hurt so many people," Kelly was trying her best not to cry, "and did so many bad things. I just wanna move on and do better with my life. I wanna make somethin' of myself like you did."

"You're right, Kel. I can't blame myself for what happened to Jessie."

"No, you can't, and you shouldn't either. Jessie was given many opportunities to stop with the drugs and alcohol, but she didn't. That's not your fault, that's hers. You know we all have choices: that was Jess.'"

"You're right, Kel. It was her choice, so let's just move on from here. At least you're still around."

Kelly smiled and then they hugged. Thankfully, the chains in the cuffs where long enough for the former friends to embrace with little difficulty. They looked at each other and continued to hug as they both looked forward to a brighter future.

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(back to present)

After her reverie, Jo was wondering why Blair just couldn't get it. She had a responsibility to her friends. Jo was not one to like "mush," but she wanted to spread herself around to all her loved ones, but they were spreading her thin. Why did they have to make her chose? Why couldn't they just put their differences aside for once? Jo didn't ask for much, and all she wanted was for her two worlds to coexist instead of colliding. However, that did not seem to be likely. Now, she was worried that Blair might end up with a similar fate as Jessie is she didn't do something about it soon.

Breakfast at the inn's restaurant didn't open until 7:30 am, so that gave Jo enough time to jump on her computer. While she was checking her email, she noticed that Natalie had sent her one marked URGENT. She opened the email and saw a link to a video. It was the wedding rehearsal, in all of it's infamy. There was Blair having her hissy fit, Nancy and her rambunctious kids, and Kelly's appearance, which caused the whole thing to go sour. She also saw the argument between Blair and Molly and, although she wasn't sure about it, she thought she also noticed a spark between Kelly and Kim. She brushed off the notion that Kelly and Kim could have any attraction between them because they were completely different and, besides, they just met. No one could possibly fall that fast. As proven by how long it took Jo to realize that Blair liked her, combined with the fact that she needed Molly and Natalie's help to finally figure it out, Jo was like Stevie Wonder when it came to romantic attractions – totally blind.

As Jo closed the video page, she knew she had to get back home soon, or else things would get worse for Blair. Little did she know that it already had gotten worse for her fiancé, but she didn't find that out until she went to the restaurant for breakfast.

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Later that morning, while having a sprouted-wheat toast with cage-free eggs and non-concentrated orange juice, Jo was watching TV along with the rest of the restaurant's patrons.

The TV was on and the channel just happened to be tuned into TMZ on TV. In the intro, the announcers showed the footage of the food court fight with Blair and Kelly going at it. Jo was immediately embarrassed, but it got even worse when they showed Jo's face and proclaimed that the heiress's fiancé was missing. All at once, everyone turned to look at Jo. Apparently, they noticed the resemblance between her and the woman on the screen.

"Oh, shit..." Jo muttered.

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Meanwhile, back in New York, Blair turned on her TV and began surfing through the channels. She couldn't get the memory of seeing her outlandish behavior mentioned on the computer the previous night out of her mind. With any luck, no one would pay attention to a small blurb on the internet. As long as no major television networks got wind of the incident, Blair's image would be intact. However, she soon realized after turning on the television that she had a reason to be uneasy. Most of the channels were talking about the food fight incident. She eventually stopped on TMZ on TV because a familiar face flashed on the screen.

"Lez-splosion!" As the announcer shouted followed by an explosion.

The reporter walked over to a woman in a full-length mink coat who had an evil grin on her face.

"This individual approached us with some interesting information about Ms. Warner – Ms. Margo Thomas."

"Hello, darling," said Margo as she gently shook the reporter's offered hand.

"First off, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to give us this exclusive interview."

"Oh, trust me, it's my pleasure," answered Margo as she looked directly into the camera. It looked as if was looking straight at Blair with those cold, cruel eyes of hers. Blair knew that this could not be good, but her curiosity got the better of her. She had to watch.

"So, Mrs. Thomas, what can you tell us about Ms. Warner?"

"Well, Blairy Pie used to be part of a powerful threesome on the Eastland campus," began Margo with a flip of her hair.

"Huh?" the reporter asked questioning Margo's choice of words.

Realizing the confusion based on the expression on the reporter's face and wanting to avoid such implications, Margo spouted, "Ewwww! Not that type of threesome! I'm not a lezbo! Blair's the only queer here. Excuse me, I mean, lesbian."

"Uh, please continue," the reporter pressed, not willing to draw attention to Margo's homophobia.

"It was her, Alison, and me. We gave each other cute little nicknames: Blairy Pie, Allie Kins, and Margo Cakes. We were an unstoppable force on campus – the queen bees of Eastland. Let me tell you like this, we were the original Mean Girls before Lindsay Lohan was even born."

"That's an interesting analogy, Mrs. Thomas. What happened?" asked the reporter who appeared clearly interested. After all, Lindsay Lohan was a favorite media icon and the mere mention of her in connection with this story piqued the reporter's interests. She was like a shark drawn to the blood of the wounded in a small body of water. Now, she just needed to go in for the kill.

"Well," Margo began, "then, Alison goes off and gets pregnant, drops out of school, and marries her Prince Charming. I thought, okay, it's still me and Blair against the world. Then that homo hoodlum from the Bronx shows up, gets Blair in trouble, put on probation, and literally rips her away from her former life."

"Mrs. Thomas. It sounds like you're a little jealous of Ms. Warner's relationship with Ms. Polniaczek."

"Jealous? There's nothing to be jealous of. That girl had nothing going for her."

"But you said Ms. Warner was ripped from her former life."

"Yes, yes," yelled Margo. "That little delinquent witch swooped in and cast a spell on Blair. She conned her into cutting all ties with her real friends."

"Can you explain exactly what happened?"

"What happened? What happened! Blair forgot about me. All she cared about was that little dyke on a bike."

The reporter wanted to say something to Margo about using the word dyke on camera, but she kept quite instead. "It appears that you still harbor ill feelings toward Ms. Polniaczek for befriending your childhood chum."

"Of course I'm not happy. I tried to extend an olive branch to BOTH of them. I even tried to give that little ragamuffin friend of Blair's a job as a waitress at one of my parents' parties, and what did Blair do? She took that Bulldagger bitch's side. She even shoved a pie in my face. That's gratitude for you."

"So, this recent incident doesn't surprise you?" asked the reporter as she sought the connection to Blair Warner's current erratic behavior.

"Hell, no. Blair likes food fights. It's so fitting of one that fell so low to do kitchen duty in high school. She went from debutante to domestic just like that," said Margo as she snapped her fingers for emphasis.

"It seems like you enjoy people seeing Ms. Warner at her worst," claimed the reporter.

"Honestly, I just want people to see the true Blair Warner. She is a self-righteous, conniving, lezbo bitch, who will stop at nothing to get her way. But I got her this time. Do you hear me, Blair," shouted Margo as she grabbed the microphone and looked in the camera, "You're done, bitch!"

"Thank you," said the reporter as she tore the mic away from Margo who was still ranting in the background. Security literally had to hold Margo back from chasing down the cameraman and continue her verbal blasting of Blair.

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The next image was of another reporter approaching a longhaired brunette woman in jeans and a short, black leather jacket. She was chewing gum with her mouth wide open – obviously she had no thoughts about how she looked in the public eye.

"Hello, Ms. Teresa Barksdale," the reporter started

"Please," interrupted the woman, "call me Tumpy, man."

The reporter looked at her questionably as she confirmed what she just heard. "Tumpy?" inquired the reporter.

"Yeah, Tumpy."

"Okay, Tumpy…" the reporter replied. She was thinking, "What the hell is a middle-aged woman doing, going around calling herself 'Tumpy?'"

"What is your relationship with Ms. Warner?" continued the reporter.

"Ha, relationship? Right. I thought we were cool back in Eastland, man. You know, tight? But she betrayed me, man."

"What do you mean 'she betrayed you?'" asked the reporter.

"I not only got her into the most exclusive group on campus, but I allowed her little friend to join, too."

"Are you referring to Ms. Warner's fiancé, Ms. Polniaczek?"

"What? Hell, no. I don't even really know that little street punk. I'm talkin' 'bout Blair's hillbilly friend, Sue Ann Weaver. I convinced my group that they were both cool. And how does Blair repay me? She snitches and gets me and the group kicked outta school. I coulda pulled her extensions out, right down to her natural roots. And, honey," she said as she put a hand on the reporters shoulder, "they ain't blonde."

"Did you say Sue Ann Weaver? Do you mean the co-owner of the W Group modeling agency? Isn't that former supermodel Cindy Webster's lover?"

"Yeah, man. That's her alright. You shoulda seen Cindy back in those days before she became this supermodel. She had pig-tails and bug eyes!"

The reporter was trying not to laugh when she said, "Really?"

"Yeah, I got a picture on my tablet." So, Tumpy pulled out her tablet and went to the Gallery app, then searched for the picture until she found one of Cindy holding a trophy. Tumpy had gotten the photo from the 1979-1980 Eastland Yearbook. When the reporter saw the picture, she couldn't hold her laughter in any longer.

"See that? That's your supermodel right there," Tumpy said as she grinned. "Cindy Crawford was always hotter, in my opinion."

The reporter then returned to the main topic of discussion, although this new information was quite intriguing and tempting to jump on. "So, you're implying that Ms. Warner takes advantage of people?"

It was a pretty ironic statement considering it seemed that Tumpy was willing to take advantage of the opportunity to discredit and try to embarrass her former classmates.

"She would step on anyone to get ahead," replied Tumpy. "Her whole family's nothing but a bunch of crooks and liars, man. You can ask Kathy Hilton about that."

"Oh, we shall," said the reporter with a smirk. "But is there anything else you want to tell us about your relationship with Ms. Warner?"

"I have a personal stake bringing her true colors to light. She walked out on one of her best friends to slum with a member of the Sweathog gang. Then she bit her tongue when I was thrown outta school for doin' drugs. Let me tell you, man, she's not Miss Innocent. She has a tarnished past, believe me."

"Can you elaborate anymore on her questionable past? Like why did she attack this particular woman?"

"Well, I'm not defending that scum bucket either," replied Tumpy as she slightly turned away from the camera.

"What do you mean?" asked the reporter.

"The woman Blair attacked – I can't say she didn't deserve it. That bitch got my woman hooked on meth, and then stole her away from me. For all I care, Blair coulda whooped that homewrecking bitch's ass. Point is, Blair Warner would stoop lower than the lowest if she got the chance, man. Her act is just that – an act."

"Thank you for that insight Ms., oh, uh, Tumpy."

"No problem, man."

After the camera stopped rolling, Tumpy approached the reporter and asked, "Hey girl, are you free tonight?"

The reporter was shocked at the woman's blunt attempts.

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The camera flashed to another TMZ reporter who was approaching two women in exquisitely expensive matching attire. The younger woman was holding a Chihuahua that was wearing a corresponding pink doggie top. It was obvious that these women meant business as they both stood with a hand on their hips. Clearly, they wanted to look good for the camera.

"Upon the suggestion of Ms. Tumpy Barksdale, we tracked down Ms. Kathy and Ms. Paris Hilton. Of course, you two lovely ladies don't need any introduction," said the reporter as he addressed the two women.

"Well, thank you, darling," said the older lady as she took her free hand and slid her fingers down his necktie.

"Ahem," said the young reporter as he was clearly uncomfortable. "Ms. Kathy Hilton, how do you know Ms. Warner?"

"Oh, the Hiltons and the Warners go back years. Let's just say that her whole family's wealth is built on the shoulders of others. They are involved in insider trading, tips, and secrets that form the foundation of their wealth. They are ruthless people."

The younger woman then piped in, "And she is sooooo not."

"Not what?" asked the reporter.

"Hot," replied the younger blonde as she giggled and flipped her hair.

"Is there anything else you can say about Ms. Warner or her family legacy? Inquiring minds want to know."

The older lady continued to speak, "Her father David Warner was known for trying to find loopholes so he wouldn't have to pay his taxes and engaging in questionable dealings."

"That's interesting. Ms. Paris Hilton, what can you say about Ms. Warner?"

"Um, I don't wanna cause drama and talk bad about anyone," she said kind of whining as she looked at the older lady.

"It's okay, Paris," encouraged the older woman, "tell the man the truth."

"Well, she's not as fabulous as I am. It's too bad she doesn't have the strong family like I do," said the younger woman as she put her head on the older lady's shoulder. "It just seems he needs to get a grip. I wish her all the best though."

"I'm sorry to say that you guys seem to be avoiding the question," accused the young man.

"Listen, the Warners are notorious for underhanded dealings. It is no surprise that Blair Warner would follow in her family's footsteps. Sure it was a bit of a surprise that she went out and got herself a girlfriend . . ."

The younger girl interrupted, "Do you mean like Nicole Richie?"

"No, dear," the older woman said turning her attention to the younger woman, "I mean her lesbian lover."

"Oh, I love the theater," chirped Paris.

"No, no not thespian, dear," corrected Kathy. "Lesbian."

"Oh, like John Bowab, Asaad Kelad , and Shakira," said Paris.

"No, not Lebanese, dear. Lesbian. Blair has sex with girls."

"Oh," said Paris as she processed the information. "Oh. OH! Eww."

"Sorry about that," said the older lady as she returned her attention to the reporter.

"Oh, that's quite alright, ma'am," replied the reporter with a smile. This was going to be television gold for their show.

"Anyway," Kathy continued, "we were surprised when we found out about Blair's relationship with a woman – a poor cop from the Bronx no less – but we just figured it was for the attention. Blair always liked being in the spotlight. But the truth is, she just didn't have any consideration for anyone. She didn't care how her scandal could affect her family. This just goes to show that she only cares about one person – Blair Warner," said Kathy in an arrogant and snooty matter.

"That is some very good information, Ms. Hilton. Is there anything you'd like to add?" asked the reporter as he turned his attention to Paris.

The younger blonde looked up from a bout with fake sickness and simply responded, "Ewwww."

"There you have it. Thank you women for your time," he said addressing the women who just nodded.

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Finally, yet another reporter was shown approaching a dark-haired girl in a white Chanel skirt and jacket combo who was primping her hair. It was obvious that her hair was dyed to cover up the noticeable gray. "We are now going to interview the woman who recorded the fight between socialite Blair Warner and former drug dealer, Kelly Donovan. Now, I understand that you know Ms. Warner. Could you tell us about your relationship with her?"

The woman turned around and had a huge smile on her face as she waved to the camera and said, "Whammo! Hello, all you wonderful people out there in TV Land."

"Please, forget the cameras are there, Ms. St. Claire," said the reporter.

The interviewee cleared her throat as she tried to compose herself. "I'm terribly sorry," she said as she crinkled her nose and giggled at the camera.

The reporter rolled her eyes, as she continued, "Please, tell the viewing audience who you are."

"I thought you said to ignore the cameras," said the now confused looking interviewee.

The reported sighed in disbelief thinking, "How could someone be such an airhead?" "Miss, just answer the questions, please," said the reporter.

"Well, my name is Boots – Boots St. Claire."

"So, Ms. St. Claire, what is your relationship with Blair Warner?"

"Well, I remember Warnsie from our college days. She was always the risk taker," said Boots in her sickingly sweet voice and her flourish of hand gestures.

"Can you explain what you mean by risk taker?" asked the reporter.

"Well, one time she threatened Heather Hunt for trying to steal her boyfriend. Isn't that a hoot. Of course, that's before she ended up with what's-her-name," said Boots with a dismissive hand.

"Jo Polniaczek."

"Yeah, that female Fonzy wannbe," Boots ended rolling her eyes.

The reporter wanted to laugh right there, but she managed to keep it professional.

"So, you know Ms. Warner to exhibit violent tendencies?" prompted the reported.

"I don't know if I'd say violent per se, but she does have a skitch of a temper." said Boots as she pinched her finger to emphasis on the "skitch."

"Uh, huh. So, this public outburst doesn't surprise you?"

"Warnsie has always been the unpredictable one. Though usually she keeps these things out of the public eye. Oh, well," Boots shrugged. "I guess it goes to show you never know."

"Thanks, Ms. Sinclair, for your time."

"Oh, thank you and ta everybody," she said as she waved to the camera.

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Blair couldn't believe what she had just seen. All these ghosts from her past coming together in a clear attempt to smear her name. Why did they have to kick her while she was down? All Blair wanted was Jo. She couldn't deal with this nonsense right not – not by herself. She needed someone to understand and support her. Yet, she also knew that she needed to check on her status and image. There was only one person she could call. Blair reached for her phone.

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Andy was busy talking to one of his clients, Geri Tyler. Geri had been on a national tour, which is one reason why Blair hadn't asked her to be a bridesmaid at her wedding. Of course, Geri was going to have a prominent place in the wedding. After all, she was Blair's cousin and they had become very close over the years. Blair just assumed that Geri was scheduled to be on tour for a while longer and refused to bother her well-known, celebrity cousin with something as trivial as being a bridesmaid. Besides, Blair was hoping Geri would perform at her wedding, but, in typical Blair fashion, she didn't want to ask too soon. Thanks to Andy, who had both Blair and Geri as his clients, Geri was going to be able to make the wedding with no scheduling conflicts anyway.

"I think you're better off going to that Barnes and Nobles store in Brooklyn, instead of that Borders store in Queens, because Borders is on its way out," suggested Andy as he was discussing business with Geri. "There are no guarantees that they will have the money to pay for your book signings."

"I know, but I'm good friends with the owner of that store, and I promised to make an appearance. Please, I'm willing to take a smaller share, if that's what it takes."

Andy relented, "Alright. But you can't do this for everyone now."

It just so happened that Geri had a scheduled stop in New York, so she decided to swing by her agent, Andy's, house and discuss business. Of course, she had seen the food fight fiasco and thought about contacting Blair while she was in town, but Andy informed her that it was probably not the best time. He had filled Geri in on Blair's erratic behavior and they agreed that she should give her some time before barging in. Blair would let her know when she needed her.

As if on cue, "Ride of the Valkyries" – the famous classical piece from Richard Wagner – began playing from Andy's cell. He knew who was calling him without looking at the name because he used that ringtone for only one person.

"Hello, Blair," Andy answered. "How are you doing?"

"What do you think? Everybody knows about what happened yesterday, and I just saw those interviews by those evil witches!"

"Yeah, we saw them," Andy replied.

"Who? You mean you and Tootie?"

"No, I mean me and your cousin Geri."

"Geri's there?" asked Blair a bit confused.

"Yes, she's there."

"Well, tell her I said hi. I can't really talk to her right now because I'm in a crisis. I need help fast!" yelled Blair hysterically.

"Whoa! Calm down Blair," soothed Andy as he shook his head at Geri.

"Calm down? Calm down! I am calm!" shouted Blair.

"Blair, just take a deep breath. We'll figure this out. Why don't you come over here and we'll discuss it. I've got some business with Geri anyway and maybe between the three of us we can fix this media mess. Okay?" asked Andy as he tried to comfort the raging blonde.

"Fine," agreed Blair.

"Umm, Blair," stated Andy before they could hang up, "you may want to be careful. I know TMZ and everyone else will be after you. You're #1 on the paparazzi's list," Andy warned.

"I know. I do have a disguise," assured Blair.

"Great. Wear it, though it might not help much. Also, use your heavily tinted Range Rover you usually drive to try to keep them from recognizing you."

"Will do," claimed Blair who then hung up her phone.

"Good luck," said Andy as he looked over to Geri.

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In Morningside Heights, Natalie had just seen the TMZ segment and was beginning to worry about Blair's potential reaction. She considered calling Blair and telling her about Jo's location or calling Jo and telling her that all hell was going to hit the fan if she didn't get her butt back to New York. However, she had already made arrangements and she decided, against her better judgment, to stick with the plan.

Natalie went back to doing some research work for Keith Olbermann's next show, when she heard a knock on her door. The reporter looked up and saw that it was a little after 9 am. It had to be Kelly.

"Coming," Nat shouted as she went to the front door. She looked through the peephole and, sure enough, it was Kelly.

What timing, thought Natalie. Kelly had just missed seeing her face plastered all over the television screen. Maybe it was for the best because she needed to be in a clear state of mind for the 2 ½-hour drive that awaited her. However, when Natalie opened the door, she found a seething Kelly who looked as if she was about to blow a major gasket.

"Hi, Kelly," greeted Natalie nervously.

"Don't 'hi' me, girl!" shouted Kelly as she pointed her finger in Natalie's chest. "Why the fuck didn't you and the rest of those bitches tell me about Kimberly last night."

"Wait. What about Kimberly?" asked Natalie with a puzzled look on her face. Kelly wasn't making any sense. Kimberly had nothing to do with the TMZ segment, so the reporter was completely lost.

"Don't play dumb with me," yelled Kelly.

"Hey, I roomed with the greatest actress on the whole east coast, so I know how to play dumb, but I assure you, I don't have the faintest idea what you're talking about."

"Zip it before I stuff your mic right down your throat. You shoula told me about Kim."

"Again, told you what?"

"That's she's a dirty, flaky bi-slut!"

"Actually, she's pansexual. She's –"

"Same goddamn difference! They're both groups of nasty sluts!" shouted Kelly.

Natalie didn't say anything, so Kelly continued her rant.

"You coulda at least warned me about her before I decided to put my heart on the fuckin' line!" yelled Kelly. "I feel like right along with God, you guys played a cruel joke on me."

"What cruel joke? We didn't say anything because we thought you already knew. Besides, it's no big deal?"

"Not a big deal?" she angrily questioned Natalie. "NOT A BIG DEAL!?" she repeated, this time in a much louder tone. "Are you a fuckin' idiot?"

"No, I'm not an idiot. There was great chemistry between you two. I didn't see any problems, and neither did the rest of the gang. You shouldn't let the fact that she likes men get to you," said Natalie.

"Yeah? Well, it does," spat Kelly.

"Why?" To Natalie it was a trivial situation. She couldn't understand why Kelly was so hung up on it.

"Because bisexuals are flakes that will leave you for a man in a minute, and only fuckin' idiots like you can't see that."

Natalie couldn't hold her anger in anymore, so she snapped back. "No, you're the fucking idiot here! Not all bisexuals or pansexuals are like that, and I'm sure Kimberly is not like that. In fact, she had a few long-term lesbian relationships, from what I've heard."

"Bullshit! She's no different than all the other bi-sluts out there."

"And what makes you any different from all those other white-trashy, ex-con, Bronx losers out there, huh? How do you like that type of generalizing? Does it make you feel good?" spat Natalie in a rather unusual angry tone for such a happy-go-lucky woman.

Kelly knew Natalie got her there, and she desperately wanted to give her a good comeback, but she had nothing. So, instead of continuing the argument, Kelly just said, "Tell me where I needa go to find Jo."

Natalie told her the address and Kelly recorded it on her Motorola Flipside. Kelly was surprised how far Jo went. It was nothing new to hear that Jo ran when things got too tough, but she had never run so far away before. Kelly knew that Jo must really be hurting to go so far from home.

"All the way up there?" asked Kelly, still shocked at the distance Jo had traveled. "Man, she really wanted to get away from Blair, huh?"

"Yeah," Natalie replied. She was just as surprised as Kelly was at how far Jo would go to run away from a potential fight with her fiancé.

"There's one problem though," Kelly said suddenly. "I don't have a car. My car's back in Houston."

Natalie had forgotten to take that little detail into consideration.

"Okay," she said shaking her head at her missing a detail, "I'll let you borrow my car."

She got her keys to her Lexus and gave them to Kelly.

"A Lexus? Sweet!" chimed in Kelly.

"Please, be careful with it. I'm still paying it off," said Natalie slightly afraid that Kelly might share Jo's need for speed.

"No problemo," assured Kelly. "I'll take care of it like it was my own." For some reason, that didn't make Natalie feel any better.

"Boy," thought Natalie as she saw Kelly tear down the street, "both Jo and Blair's going to owe me big time for this."

As the reporter was heading back to continue her research, a couple things struck her. First was Kelly's intense reaction to Kimberly's sexuality. Why was it such a big deal? As long as Kim had feelings for Kelly, wasn't that enough? The other thing that struck Natalie was a mark on Kelly's arm. The Bronx native was wearing a T-Shirt and jeans when she came to Natalie's house and the reporter thought she saw a tattoo that looked like it said D-Ball on Kelly's arm. She was going to ask her about it, but the impromptu shouting match diverted her attention and made her forget about it. However, Natalie was not one to give up. She had a few tricks up her sleeve and she was determined to find out what D-Ball referred to, or her name wasn't Natalie Green the Scoop Queen.

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After Blair got into her disguise, she jumped into her Range Rover and drove to Andy and Tootie's place. Just as Andy had predicted, there were camera crews waiting for Blair as she left her garage. On her way to her friends' house, she noticed that two cars were following her. It had never been like this since the 90s, when her relationship with Jo was discovered. Luckily, Blair knew some of the side streets that she could use in an effort to elude the paparazzi. She wasn't going to let them have a repeat performance of the Princess Di incident of '97 if she could help it.

Despite Blair's best efforts, some photographers managed to tail her to Andy and Tootie's house. As soon as she arrived, she quickly parked her car in the garage and headed straight to the elevator, trying to beat the rush of the paparazzi. She was lucky enough to make it before the press could catch her and she began to pound on the door. Andy looked out of the peephole and saw a black-haired woman with glasses standing outside. He wanted to laugh, but he held it in and opened the door. Blair rushed in and Andy slammed the door shut and locked the door.

When she got into the living room, Geri was there, snickering.

"What's so funny, Geri?" asked Blair.

"I didn't know you were trying to be one of the Kardashians," replied Geri as she and Andy began to laugh.

"Yeah, you take Keeping Up with the Kardashian too literal," said Andy as he and Geri continued to laugh,

"Oh, please! I wouldn't make it as one of them because my breast and behind are real," said Blair sarcastically.

"And also, there are no videos of you getting busy in bed with a rapper," joked Andy.

"Thank God no, but there is one of me acting like a complete nutcase in a food court," replied Blair as she tried to broach the real reason she came over.

"Yeah, Lez-splosion!" shouted Andy in jest. Geri was laughing hysterically now.

"Oh, ha, ha. Very funny," deadpanned Blair. Going back to the Kardashians in an effort to get their attention, Blair said, "I don't know them too well, since they spend most of their time on the West Coast, and I can't stand Bruce Jenner. I never thought I would meet a family that were bigger attention hogs than the Hiltons," said Blair as she slyly tried to get them refocused on the TMZsegment.

"Well, I guess they somewhat found their way back to relativity by trashing you," noted Andy with a look of disgust.

"Yeah. Those witches!" shouted Blair with a look of disgust of her own.

"They're witches alright, with broomsticks up their asses," Andy derided. Geri and Blair simply nodded in agreement.

"Well, at least they can still walk straight. I can't even do that," Geri quipped.

"Enough of the jokes you two," admonished Blair. "I got a serious crisis on my hands."

"Like what, your hair?" asked Geri, as she and Andy started to laugh again.

However, Blair wasn't in the laughing mood when she said, "No, something even more tragic – my image!"

Andy stopped laughing and said seriously, "Okay, you're right. You, along with Kelly and Kim, will be the butt of everybody's jokes for a while. Expect to see many late-night TV hosts crack jokes at your expense. I'm going to be honest with you, this isn't going to go away anytime soon."

"Well, what am I supposed to do?" asked a miffed and frustrated Blair as she shrugged her shoulders.

"Blair," Geri said seriously as she placed a reassuring hand on Blair's shoulder, "you'll bounce back from this."

"Geri, people are laughing at me," said the image-conscious Blair.

"Hey, that's how I make my living."

"But this will ruin me," Blair replied. Next to either her or Jo dying, her reputation being tarnished was what she feared the most.

"As your PR manager, I'll do everything I can so it doesn't ruin you, Blair," piped in Andy. "I'll have stories of your charitable work plastered all over newspapers and TV. I'll have you do interviews on shows like 20/20 and Oprah that will show people the real you. I will make sure that we can minimize the damage this incident has caused."

"How about you make an appearance on Tootie's show?" asked Geri.

Andy shook his head and said, "No. That would be considered a conflict of interest, since everybody got the information that Tootie is Blair's friend and maid of honor. It would hurt more than help the both of them."

"You don't understand. This is tearing me apart," Blair whined.

Geri continued with her hand on Blair's shoulder, "Cuz, you are Blair Warner. You'll come out of this on top – right where you belong."

"But this would be so much easier if Jo was here," said a distraught Blair with her head in her hands.

Geri shared some words of advice to Blair. "Blair, you can do this, with or without Jo. You gotta stand on your own two feet, take responsibility for your actions, and move on. Don't give it more attention than it deserves."

Blair smiled, for she finally got some much needed advice. "You're right, Geri. Thanks."

"No problem, Blair," Geri smiled back.

Blair then said "But I still wish that Jo was here with me. I bet you would feel that way if Yvonne ran away and didn't tell you where she was going."

"Actually, I'd have a party," joked Geri. Andy chuckled and Blair shook her head.

"Seriously, Geri. Jo's more like family to me than my own family. Besides you, Bailey, Sister Meg, mom, and dad, no one on either side supports my relationship with Jo."

"Join the club, Blair. Nobody in the Warner family, besides your dad, supports my relationship with Yvonne either. But back to the main subject. Jo still loves you, but she can't keep on dealing with your whimsical decisions."

"Think about it, Blair," chipped in Andy. "See the situation through her eyes. She constantly has to change her schedule and her whole life for you. That's not fair to Jo."

"Yeah, you're right. It's not fair to her. How come I didn't see this before?" asked Blair dejectedly.

"Because you're Blair Warner," Andy deadpanned. Blair gave him an icy cold look.

Geri stepped in to break the tension. "What he's trying to say is that sometimes you get in the way of yourself. It's not just Jo, but everybody. You need to take into consideration other people's time and resources before you go making all these spur of the moment plans."

"Yeah, ditto on what Geri said. It's not only Jo that you've done this to," Andy added.

"Don't forget you two are a couple. You know Yvonne and I have to talk things out together before we make any big decisions that would impact our lives," Geri noted.

"That's another thing. Jo keeps running away, so it can be hard to talk about things sometimes," said Blair.

"That's something you need to address with Jo. Tootie and I have seen this many times before from Jo," recalled Andy. "See, you two have things that needs to be discussed before you tie the knot. It's the only way you two will ever succeed as a couple."

"Yeah, Jo needs weights on her ankles and you need to wait for others to decide things," said Geri.

Blair let it sink in for a minute before she spoke. "Yeah, you two are right. Thanks." Blair waited a couple minutes before speaking again. After what Andy and Geri had just told her, she was afraid to spring this on her cousin out of the blue. However, she figured it was better to ask now instead of waiting much longer. "Ummm, Geri."

"Yeah, cuz?" asked Geri.

"I know I'm springing this on you, but will you be my MC at my wedding reception and maybe perform a little."

Geri looked at her sternly before answering, "Sure I will, Blair. I'd be honored."

"Thanks," said Blair as she hugged her cousin.

Unfortunately, the tender moment was disrupted a few seconds later when Blair's phone began to ring. She looked at the screen and saw that it was Natalie calling. Thinking that her friend might have heard something about Jo, she immediately answered her phone.

"Hey, Nat. Any news about Jo?" asked Blair in a tone of desperation.

Natalie began to lie on the phone "No... But I do have a question to ask you."

"Okay. What is it?"

"Do you know anything about D-Ball?"

Blair dropped the phone the moment she heard the word "D-Ball." Thankfully, her phone fell on the carpet.

Andy and Geri quickly looked up at her. "Is something's wrong?" asked Andy.

While still on the phone, Nat was calling Blair's name.

"Blair? Blair? Are you still there?"

Blair picked up her phone and replied, "Sorry, Nat? What were you asking me again?"

"D-Ball. I saw it on one of Kelly's arms the other day. I've been wondering about it ever since and, since I can't ask Jo because she's not around, I thought maybe you might know."

"Yeah, I know what D-Ball means," snapped Blair.

Natalie was relieved on her end because she had been trying to figure it out ever since Kelly left her house, but to no avail. "Oh good. So, what does it mean?"

"It's the 'street name' for Dina Becker," Blair said in an angry tone.

Natalie was puzzled and shocked at the same time. "What would someone like Dina Becker be doing with a street name?"

"What do you think? Besides charity work and occasional PR appearances, there would only be one other reason why a rich person would visit the slums."

Natalie thought about it for a bit, and then it hit her. A long time ago, Blair had mentioned that her former friend from Manhattan, Dina Becker, was sent to rehab for her extreme meth addiction.

"To buy drugs!" shouted Natalie as the realization hit her.

"Yes," replied Blair in a spiteful tone.

"So that means… Oh, my God. Kelly was Dina's dealer!" said a totally shocked Natalie.

"You got that right! Kelly ruined Dina's life! Now you know why I'm so upset with her."

"Okay, but enough to go berserk on her and risk your reputation?" asked Natalie.

"Heck, yeah! After everything she did to Dina? Absolutely!"

"What do you mean, 'everything,' Blair? I don't understand. You mean there's more than just the drugs?"

"Yeah, there's more, Natalie. Much more. Kelly screwed Dina in more ways than one!"

"How so, Blair?"

Then after a short pause, Blair shouted, "Kelly and Dina were also bedroom buddies."

"You mean . . ." started Natalie in shock.

"YES! KELLY WAS FUCKING DINA! KELLY IS A SLIMY, MANIPULATIVE, FUCKING BITCH!" yelled Blair at the top of her lungs.

Natalie, Andy, and Geri were shocked to hear Blair curse. No one could recall ever hearing Blair curse.

Blair was also shocked, for she hadn't cursed since the time Jo punched her in the face back in their Eastland days.

"I'm so sorry... I didn't mean to say that. Please, forgive me," begged Blair.

"Why all the animosity, Blair?" Andy asked.

"I just don't get it. Why would Jo continue to help her? Why would Jo take Kelly's side over mine after everything?"

"Blair, they were friends. Just like you and Dina. She wanted to remain loyal to a point, just like you tried with Dina," Natalie informed her friend.

"But Kelly ruined Dina's life," said a remorseful Blair. At that point, she was close to tears.

"No. Dina made a choice, Blair," said Natalie. "Just like you stand by Jo, just like Jo stands by you."

"But why did she have to choose MY friend?" asked Blair through her tears.

"Sounds like circumstances to me. But the fact is that no one knows, except for Dina and Kelly. However, you can't hold that over Jo," said Natalie.

"But she chose Kelly's side," reasoned Blair.

"No she didn't, Blair. She chose you. Jo would do anything for you, but you have to learn to agree to disagree and let the little things slide because, if you don't, you run the risk of losing Jo forever."

"This isn't a little thing, Natalie. Getting someone hooked on meth and destroying her life is not on the same level as using up someone's shampoo," said Blair in a more angry tone.

"True, but you have gotten on Jo's case for some of the most trivial things imaginable. Remember, I was your and Jo's roommate for nearly a decade."

Blair thought about Natalie's words of wisdom. As much as she despised Kelly, she couldn't keep making Jo choose between her and the rest of the world. Beside, at the end of the day, it was always Blair's arms that Jo came back to. Blair began to break down.

"Nat, what have I done?" cried Blair. "I need to get Jo back and tell her I get it now."

"Blair, don't worry. I'm sure Jo is getting just as homesick for you as you are for her. I have a reporter's hunch that she'll be back before you know it."

If there was one thing that Blair learned to pay attention to over the years, it was Natalie's hunches.

"Thanks, Nat! Thank you so much," squealed Blair with a sense of renewed hope.

They hung up and Natalie just sighed. I just hope Kelly comes through.

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Jo had been thinking a lot about Blair, too. Just because she was the one who had walked out, it didn't make the distance any easier. The nights were lonely and Jo missed her pampered princess, as annoying as she was sometimes. Yet, Jo knew she had to teach Blair a lesson and prove to her that she couldn't always get everything she wanted. It just stunk that it caused her so much pain as well. So, when she heard the knock on her hotel room door, she was hoping to find Blair standing there. Jo wiped any remnants of tears from her face because she didn't want Blair to see her in moment of weakness, though it didn't made much of a difference – everybody knew that Jo cries a lot. The brunette was aware that with Blair's resources and Natalie's know how coupled with Kelly's inside knowledge – if she and Blair could ever see eye-to-eye – Jo could easily be found.

Jo walked to the door and opened it to find, not a beautiful blonde, but an exotic Asian with dark hair.

"Hello, Jo," said the woman as she pushed her way into the room.

"M . . . M . . . Miko? What are ya doin' here?"

"Oh, I'm here for you. Cozy little place you got here."

"How'd ya find me?"

Miko looked at Jo with a smirk, followed by a huff. "Come on, Jo, it doesn't take a genius to know that you'd register under your alias – Jinny Exstead."

During Jo and Blair's brief separation, Jo and Miko had gone to a restaurant in Greenwich Village. Jo made a reservation under her alias, so Blair wouldn't know that she went out with Miko. The blonde never really liked Miko, ever since she came to Eastland as an exchange student. Her bond with Jo seemed stronger than Blair wanted to admit, so her jealously followed her to their adult years, even right up to the point at Jo's 40th birthday party, when Blair was considering kicking Miko out, but that would upset Jo too much. So, when they separated and Miko asked Jo on a date, the Bronx native agreed, only if she could keep it hidden from Blair. Thus, the alias would avoid any paper trail or evidence that Jo went out with the girl who once idolized her.

"But, but, but . . ."

"Seriously. Once I saw on TMZ that the fiancé to the heiress of the Warner throne was missing, I just started searching for activity under that name. You should have known by now that I'd find you."

Miko started getting really seductive and even came up to Jo and pulled out her shirt collar.

"I will always be able to track you down," she whispered in Jo's ear. "Because you belong to me."

Jo backed away from Miko as she asked, "Do you want somethin' to drink? Beer? Coke? Water?"

"Jo, I want you."

Music started coming from Miko's phone as she walked behind Jo and but her arms around Jo's waist. She pulled Jo into her as she whispered, "I love you, Jo. I can make you happy." Then, she started kissing on Jo's neck.

At first, Jo just kind of leaned her head back and moved it from side to side as Miko ravished her neck. She then tried to pull away. "Miko, this isn't right," said Jo as she tried to walk out of Miko's grasp. However, Miko just kept hold and pulled Jo back into her.

"Oh, it's right for me, Jo. Jo, I don't think you understand. I will not take no for an answer. I know you want me, too," she whispered in Jo's ear. Suddenly, Jo felt Miko's hand slip under her shirt and start scratching along her skin – leaving a trail of goosebumps behind.

A deep groan resonated from Jo's throat as she almost melted. Seemingly, she had no control over the sensations she was feeling. No one but Blair had ever made her feel this way – until now.

"Miko, please, stop."

It was clear that Jo missed the physical contact of a beautiful woman, but she didn't want to betray Blair. However, her resolve slowly started to fade as Miko continued lavishing her with kisses and rubbing her hands up and down Jo's torso and back. If the truth be told, it was driving Jo wild. Miko took advantage of her apparent control and led Jo to the bed. In an instant, Miko started kissing on Jo's neck and unbuttoning Jo's top.

"M . . .M . . . Miko, p . . .p . . . please, stop," stammered Jo.

Yet, Miko continued kissing Jo as she straddled the detective's lap. Suddenly, "Hold Me," from Whitney Houston and Teddy Pendergrass, began to play and Jo couldn't stop herself. She began kissing Miko passionately as she started to relive her first time with Blair in her mind. As things were just heating up, Jo saw a flash reflected in the mirror. Then, the words she uttered at her 40th birthday party came rushing back, — "I will consider this as a symbol of our union, and that I am yours fo'evah." Then another flashback came, as the Kool and the Gang song "Stone Love" began to play - "No need, Princess. I am yours, forever."

"I'm sorry, Miko, I can't," said Jo as she tried pushing away from Miko.

"Why, Jo?"

"I'm committed," answered Jo as she tried to move away from the persistent Asian.

"You should be if you'd choose that bleach blonde over me. She doesn't love you like I do – like I could," replied a frustrated Miko as she kissed Jo's neck.

Jo just leaned away. "I love Blair, Miko. I always have. She's the only one for me. She's the only one who loves me in a special way that no one else can. Believe it or not, she can bring passion out of me that no one in the universe can, not even you."

This struck a chord in Miko and she was no longer willing to play nice. She forcefully pushed Jo back onto the bed and pulled out a pair of handcuffs. In one swift movement, she locked Jo in the cuffs. The headboard was made of iron bars, so Miko had put one cuff on one of Jo's wrists, slipped it around a couple bars, and locked the other cuff. Thus, Jo was stuck. It all happened so fast, that Jo was still in a state of shock as Miko straddled her. The next thing Miko did really upset Jo and snapped her out of her stupor. Miko had taken the ring that never left Jo's finger off and flung it across the room.

"Miko, let me up right now," yelled Jo struggling to get free.

"I told you I wouldn't take no for an answer," replied Miko as she ripped Jo's button-up shirt open. Although she continued to struggle against her restraints, Miko started kissing Jo's exposed torso.

"Miko, stop it!"

Miko just ignored Jo and continued her oral assault. The Japanese vamp had her prey trapped. Soon she reached for Jo's pants and undid the belt. Jo was thrashing as best she could under Miko's weight, but she couldn't do anything to stop the aggressor. The great Jo Polniaczek – former gang member and tough-as-nails detective – was rendered helpless.

"It's time for me to taste your sweet nectar," said Miko, while licking her lips. She then slid her hand down into Jo's pants, right between her legs.

As Miko finished undoing Jo's belt and was preparing to get rid of her pants, there was a knock at the door.

"Hey, Joey, are ya in there? It's me, Kel!"

"Go away. Jo's not here," replied Miko as she continued to fumble with Jo's pants.

"Help me!" screamed Jo in desperation.

"Then what was that?" asked Kelly.

"That was the TV. Now, bug off!"

"Help, me Kelly!" yelled Jo.

Miko quickly got her duct tape that she had brought with her. Apparently, she was prepared for rejection.

Jo's eyes got as big as saucers as she screamed out a final "HELP!" as Miko tapped her mouth shut.

"No one's going to save you now, not even that stupid meth-head friend of yours. That is Kelly, right?"

Kelly couldn't open the door. She tried ramming it with her shoulder and kicking it with her feet, but this was a strong door that refused to give. Kelly had no idea what was going on behind that closed door, but if Jo was yelling for help in that tone, Kelly knew it was serious. She could recall only a couple occasions when Jo ever asked for help – and none of them sounded as desperate as Jo sounded right now. She had to get in there. Suddenly, Kelly had a "brilliant idea."

Kelly waited a few minutes and then knocked on the door again.

"I said go away! Can't you see the Do Not Disturb sign?"

"Excoos me! I need to kleen dee room! There is no sign, Senorita!" Kelly said in a funny Spanish accent.

Miko, having had enough of the distractions, opened the door and was about to say, "Didn't I say..." when Kelly kicked her in the stomach, then struck her in the face. Miko went down in a heap as she grabbed her cheek and Kelly pushed past her. She couldn't believe her eyes. Jo was lying handcuffed to the bed with her shirt open and her belt hanging loose. She was desperately struggling against her restraints. Kelly rushed to her friend's side and ripped the tape from Jo's mouth.

"What'd that cheap, foreign floozy do ta ya?"

"What's it look like? No, . . . don't answer that. Just get me outta here," Jo pleaded.

"Um, where's the key?"

"I don't know. Just get me outta here," begged Jo as she struggled against her cuffs.

"I can't get ya out without the key."

At that point Miko rose with a devilish smile. "There isn't a key. Good luck," and she was out the door.

"Get me outta here," pleaded Jo with a hint of fear in her eyes.

"Okay, okay. I got the skeleton key." Kelly pulled out a key pick similar to those they used to use when breaking into places. "Always comes in handy." In a minute, the cuffs were opened.

As soon as she got uncuffed, Jo quickly went outside to find Miko.

"Oh shit! She's gone!" Jo cussed.

"Not without her bike." Kelly smiled, as she held up Miko's keys.

Jo shook her head in disbelief, and then smiled. "I'm a cop and I should do something with you. Assault, picking a lock, and theft."

But Kelly's simple response was "Yeah, but then the cop would have to admit to being handcuffed and restrained by a crazy Asian."

"Point taken."

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When Miko got to her bike, she realized that her keys were gone. She cursed out in Japanese, as she began looking for her keys.

Finally, Jo and Kelly arrived at the outside parking lot. Miko spotted them and got off her bike. As soon as they started to approach her, Miko went into a karate stance.

Kelly said to Jo, "You didn't tell me she's a black belt bitch?"

"Hey, I didn't know!"

"Well, at least she ain't no 'Killer Kung-fu Wolf Bitch,'" said Kelly trying to lighten the mood.

Jo looked at her as if she was crazy. "Where did you get that from?"

"Oh, from The Boondocks. It's one of my favorite shows!"

As they were approaching an angry and defensive Miko. Jo asked Kelly, "So, how's your life and dental insurance, Kel?"

"Pretty crappy, why?"

"Well, expect to pay high premiums after this."

Jo and Kelly then prepared for the big showdown with the Black Belt Bitch.

Chapter Text

Being a detective and a former gang member in one of the toughest areas in New York, Jo prided herself on her knowledge and understanding of how to fight. She had taken many self-defense classes throughout the years, ever since Natalie was attacked one night when they were still at Eastland. So, Jo knew that you should only attack when you feel threatened and not go looking for a fight. However, Miko had crossed a line and all logic had gone out the window. Even Jo's dabbling in martial arts didn't quite prepare her for what she was about to face.

Miko was an expert in karate, so both Kelly and Jo knew this fight was going to be next to impossible to win, but there was two of them and only one of her. They liked those odds. However, so did Miko.

The women just stared at each other for a while, sizing up the competition. Kelly glanced over at Jo as Miko got into another karate stance and asked, "This is what we got ourselves into?"

"Yeah. Sucks doesn't it?" replied Jo.

"Gee, where's Mr. Miyagi when ya need him?" asked Kelly sarcastically. "This is worse than that time we had ta fight all ten members of the East Bronx Vixens – and they had chains and brass knuckles," Kelly lamented.

"Not ta mention facial hair," said Jo while shaking her head in disgust. Kelly followed suit.

"Yet, they were probably better looking than that money-spending whore of yours, Jo," Miko said in spite. She was clearly trying to goad Jo into fighting her.

Jo wasn't happy one bit about Miko's rude remarks about Blair and took the bait. She came in swinging wildly, forgetting everything that she ever learned from her self-defense and martial arts classes. Jo struck first with a well-aimed punch, but Miko deflected it with a simple wave of her arm. Then Kelly took a swing at Miko with a straight right, but the kung fu master easily blocked it with her back right arm. Jo then attacked with a series of quick combos, but Miko was able to block them with relative ease.

In karate, the emphasis is on efficient attacks, so Miko didn't strike unless she knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that her attacks would be true and efficient.

Jo and Kelly took turns with their varying fighting styles, hoping to get in a hit, but Miko was too good at deflecting their attacks. At one point, Miko did a leg sweep on Jo, which ended with the detective landing hard on her tailbone.

"Shit," exclaimed Jo as she grabbed for her lower back and butt. "That bitch literally busted my ass."

"I'm turning you girls into chop suey," responded Miko as she stood over the fallen brunette. "The fortune cookie was correct. It said, 'I just kicked your asses.'"

Kelly tried to come to the rescue with an attempted roundhouse kick to the back of Miko's head, but the disciplined karate expert dodged the blow and saw an opening to the redhead's back. Miko kicked Kelly in her back, who immediately crumpled to the ground.

"Jesus, Jo," Kelly called out, "I didn't know we were facing Bruce Fuckin' Lee."

Miko kicked Kelly in the ribs to punctuate her dominance as she sneered, "That was too easy. It was like snapping chopsticks with an axe. I thought you Bronx girls were supposed to be tough." Miko then turned her attention to Jo and said sarcastically, "Even Japanese school girls in Kyoto could kick your Bronx bitches' butts."

"Oh, yeah," declared Jo as she got to her feet. "Well, I'm gonna kick your ass back to Kyoto!"

Jo charged and tried to aim for the head with a right jab, but Miko blocked it with her left arm and simultaneously grabbed Jo's right arm. Then she proceeded to give Jo two right jabs to the gut, followed with a head butt that ended with Jo lying flat on the ground.

As Jo fell, Miko jumped on her, straddling her waist. Kelly came in for a blindside, but Miko's karate sense alerted her to the oncoming attack. The crafty Asian slightly tilted her head back and hit Kelly in the face with a stiff backhand, knocking the redhead out cold.

Now that Miko had gotten Kelly out of the way, she smiled as she prepared to claim her "prize." She ripped Jo's shirt and pulled it away from her chest and part way down her arms. As she inched closer to getting her hands on her trophy, the woozy-yet-conscious Jo bucked her hips, catching Miko off guard and reversed their positions. Jo then unleashed a furious torrent of punches on Miko's face.

"Take that, you gung ho, psychotic bitch!" exclaimed Jo.

Despite the assault Jo was inflicting upon Miko's face, the Asian was still lucid enough to feel around with her hand for a weapon. Once she found her motorcycle helmet, she hit Jo square in the face. The blow was like getting a left hook from Manny Pacquiao. Jo was dazed – laying on her back, blinking back the blood and darkness that threatened to overcome her vision. Miko stood over her, smiling ferally at her prey.

"It's lunch time. Time for my sushi," claimed Miko as she bent down and started to unbutton Jo's jeans. The woman had to be completely out of her mind to try to forcibly undress Jo in an open parking lot so she could "eat her lunch." She didn't seem to mind that two or three people were actually recording the fight on their cell phones.

Kelly, now conscious, picked up the discarded helmet and hit Miko in the back. The blow caused Miko to drop on top of Jo first, then she rolled onto the pavement. The next karate kid was grimacing in pain as she put her hand behind her back. That's when she noticed a shadow looming above her. It was Kelly with the helmet, ready to strike.

Before Miko could react, Kelly said, "Sayanara, bitch!"

With tremendous force, Kelly knocked Miko over the head, rendering her unconscious.

A teenage boy who had witnessed the whole fight, approached Jo as she got to her feet and said, "Hey man, that was amazing." The look of awe on his face was evident.

"Uh... Thanks?"

"Can I say one thing to her? Please?"

"Well, she's out of it right now," replied Jo a little confused at the boy's request.

However, Kelly had a good idea what the boy was going to say. "Ah, come on, Joey. Let the kid say it."

"What can he say to her? She's knocked out."

"Don'tcha rememba that scene from Friday, after Deebo got knocked out?"

A look of understanding flashed across Jo's face. "Oh," she said. Reluctantly, she relented. How many times would a kid get a chance like this?

Kelly whipped out her phone, ready to record. "Go right ahead," she urged the boy.

The boy came close to the unconscious Miko, bent down, and said, "YOU GOT KNOCKED THE FUCK OUT!" He turned around with the biggest smile on his face as if he just lived out a lifelong dream.

Kelly was able to record the whole thing.

"Thanks, guys. That was so totally awesome," exclaimed the boy as he ran off.

"Ya know, it's amazin' how small things can make a kid's day," said Kelly.

"Well, I remember how those little things meant the world to three, young, dumb kids," said Jo a little misty-eyed.

Kelly noticed the tears that Jo was holding back and said, "Aww, Joey. You, me, and Jessie weren't dumb – just resourceful."

Her joke made Jo laugh a little. "Yo, Kel, ya better call the cops to come get Miko before she wakes up and remembers what hit her."

"Uh, the cops?" exclaimed Kelly a little apprehensively. "Ya know my reputation. I don't fair well with the law."

"Kel, I'm part of the law. It'll be fine," assured Jo. "My phone's in the room and I need to make sure she stays immobile until the authorities get here."

"Okay, Jo," replied Kelly as she dialed the local police station.

It didn't take long for the authorities to respond. Of course, they immediately wanted to take Kelly and Jo in for questioning. It was standard procedure to take down each party's account and make a police report of the incident – particularly since there was clear evidence of bodily harm and violence.

"Excuse me, Officer . . . Hernandez," Jo said reading the cop's nametag who was currently supervising her and Kelly. "Who's in charge here?"

"That would be Captain McEvoy," the young officer replied as he pointed to an older looking officer who had the unmistakable air of authority. Jo had correctly pegged the older officer as the one in charge, but she figured she should make sure.

"Pardon me, Captain McEvoy," asked Jo as she walked up to the older man and tapped him on the shoulder. "I understand that you need to take my friend and me in for questioning, but may I run by my room first?"

"What makes you think we would do you any favors? Just because you're on TV right now doesn't mean I have to do favors for you," replied the captain rather gruffly.

"Well, sir, I am a police officer myself," started Jo.

"And you think we owe you special privileges? Ha, not in my jurisdiction."

"Sir," continued Jo, "I'm just asking for a little professional courtesy."

"Let, me see your badge."

Jo felt around her pockets and realized that her wallet and badge was still in her room.

"Sir, I left my wallet with my badge in my room."

"Sounds convenient," snickered the captain.

Jo was obviously getting increasingly irritated. "Sir, please, have one of your men run a quick check on Captain Joanna Marie Polniaczek out of New York."

The captain ran the check himself, although Jo had to slowly spell her last name out for him a couple times, and the smug expression on his face quickly disappeared. "You're a police captain?" asked an astonished Captain McEvoy.

"Yes, and of a slightly bigger jurisdiction. So, as I see it, I outrank you."

"Yes, ma'am."

"Now can my friend here and I please run to my room and grab a couple of my personal effects, including my badge, before going downtown with you fellows?"

"Yes, ma'am. However, I insist you visit the medic first."

"What?" asked Jo as she caught a glimpse of her bloodied face and disheveled appearance in the captain's side mirror. She completely overlooked the fact that she may look a mess after her altercation with Miko.

"Oh, I guess that's a good idea," replied Jo.

After Jo and Kelly got cleaned up the captain said, "You can now go get your belongings, but be advised that we are going to ask Hernandez here to escort you just to ensure you guys don't try to flee. No offense, it's just protocol."

"I know the drill, Captain. Thank you."

Jo headed back to her room followed by Kelly and Officer Hernandez.

Once Kelly and Jo were back in Jo's room, Kelly prepared to tell her friend everything that had been happening back in New York. However, before she could get started, Jo got on her hands and knees and began crawling around on the floor.

"Uh, Jo," asked Kelly as she stood staring at her friend, "did that Lucy Liu wannabe knock ya in the noggin' harder than I thought?"

"This is no time for jokes, Kelly," replied Jo as she sat back on her ankles with tears threatening to fall. "Miko ripped off my ring and threw it across the room before she, uh, . . ."

Kelly clearly understood how much Jo's engagement ring meant to her so she offered to help her look. Even Officer Hernandez offered to help look for Jo's engagement ring because he knew the importance of such a sacred symbol. After all, he had just proposed to his high school sweetheart a month ago, so he understood how much something could mean to a police officer. Sometimes it was a simple reminder such as a ring to take extra care in such a dangerous profession.

While they were looking for Jo's ring, Officer Hernandez started to chat with the women.

"It'll be such a trip to tell my friends that I helped you two out. You guys are all over the TV and internet right now."

Jo just shook her head. "Yeah, I wish all this would just disappear."

Kelly, who wasn't as introverted as Jo, but didn't like the negative attention either, agreed. "Totally."

"I mean, first the wedding rehearsal, then the food fight, and now this. You know people will be talking about you guys for a long time," said Officer Hernandez as her put his head to the ground to check under the mini fridge.

Jo sighed and Kelly groaned when he said that.

"I know, I know," Jo lamented. "But the less talking we do, the sooner we'll find the ring and the sooner we can go downtown and get this little issue resolved." She was clearly not in the mood to talk about all the craziness that was going on. Officer Hernandez nodded and continued with the search of the elusive ring.

After a few minutes of looking, Kelly found Jo's ring underneath the upright furnace.

"Yo, Jo," yelled Kelly as she removed the ring from its hiding place.

"Oh, Kelly. Thank you so much," said Jo as she grabbed the ring and placed it on her finger.

Kelly saw the utter joy in Jo's face. "You really do love her, don't ya?"

Jo looked solemnly at her friend as she replied seriously, "More than you will ever know."

"Even after everything she's done to ya?" asked Kelly as she rose to her feet.

Jo grabbed her wallet and her phone before the two women started out the door followed closely by Officer Hernandez. Then, Jo answered, "Kelly, when you're in love – I mean, really in love – you are willing to forget almost anything, no matter how air brained it is." Officer Hernandez nodded in agreement with Jo, for he knew he would do the same for his lover.

It was clear that they wanted to continue their conversation, but they were not given the chance. There was already a slew of cameramen and reporters trying to cross the yellow barrier. It looked like a pack of wild wolves, licking their chops to jump on their intended prey. Officer Hernandez tried his best to fend off the vultures, but they were intent on overpowering him and getting answers from Jo.

"Ms. Polniaczek, why did you run away from your fiancé?" asked one reporter.

"Are you aware of what Ms. Warner is going through?" asked another reporter.

"Why did you beat up this woman?" asked a third reporter as she indicated a slow moving Miko.

Jo couldn't take it anymore and held up a hand in a halting gesture to her police escort. She then slowly turned to the cameras and addressed the media. "I love my future wife, Blair Warner, very much and I know she's going through a lot right now. I will handle things when I get home. As for her," Jo indicated Miko with her head, "it was an act of self-defense and, as an officer of the law, I was able to contain her until the local authorities could arrest her."

"Are you going to press charges?" asked one of the reporters.

Jo took a deep breath before answering, "I have nothing more to say on the matter, so I am invoking my Fifth Amendment right to remain silent."

Then the reporters tried to ask Kelly questions, but she followed Jo's lead and said, "I am also invoking my Fifth Amendment right to remain silent, so there will be nothing more from me either."

The New York superstars then followed Officer Hernandez to his awaiting police car.

As Jo and Kelly sat in Officer Hernandez's cruiser, with bandages on their cuts, they watched as Miko was attended to by medical personnel and then led to another police car. As they sat in the car, they could see from within a ten-foot radius a swarm of reporters, looking like a pack of wolves ready to attack a dying gazelle. For a few minutes, they said nothing because they were too busy licking their wounds.

"That animal belongs behind bars," said Kelly breaking the silence. She was referring to Miko, the nympho ninja.

"What about those other animals?" asked Jo indicating the ever-growing sea of press closing in around them.

"I think they all need to be caged," replied Kelly.

Jo looked down at her ring and began fingering it. She seemed lost in thought. The friends sat in silence for a minute before Kelly asked, "So, you really do care about Blair, huh?"

"Yeah, and I'm really worried about her," admitted Jo sadly as she looked up and her eyes met Kelly's. "I also miss her very much and I can't wait to hold her in my arms again."

"But ya ran away."

Jo looked away guiltily. "I shouldn't have done that. I was wrong."

"Jo, she demands too much of ya. Ya can't just give in."

"No, but I should have talked it out with her. We needed to discuss things like adults, but instead we both overreacted," Jo replied as she hung her head like a kid who was being scolded and punished. She was just realizing how childish her actions were.

"How can ya forgive her so easy?"

"Kelly, like I said, when you care about someone, you are willing to make sacrifices. You are also willing to compromise. Besides, I'm not 100% perfect either. I did run away like a child."

"But what if they've done something ya can't forgive?"

Jo could tell Kelly was not just talking about Blair and her relationship – something was wrong with her former Bronx buddy. "Kel," said Jo, "what's this really about?"

"Joey, I think I love Kim, but her past . . ." She clinched her bottom lip in anger to prevent herself from cursing up a storm.

"What about it?"

"Jo, she's been married. She has a kid. She still likes dudes."

Jo sighed because this was not the first time she had this talk with Kelly. She knew about Kelly's biphobia for a long time, and tried to reason with her on bisexual and pansexuality. "Kel, Kel, Kel. Kim is pansexual, but if you care for her and she feels the same way, it could still work."

"How, Joey? There are things a man can give her that I can't. What if she leaves me?"

"Then she wasn't good enough for you."

"But ya know how fickle bisexuals . . ."

"Pansexual," Jo corrected.

"Fine, pansexuals are. Those bitches can't commit to a full-on lesbian relationship. I don't wanna compete with guys."

"Kelly, don't forget both Blair and I used to date guys. Before we knew that we were meant for each other, we went through men like Kleenex. Especially Blair. Yet, when we realized what was right in front of us, we had to admit that there was no one else. Sure, we fight and we disagree, but we belong together."

The redhead looked away as if she didn't want to hear anymore. However, Jo continued, "Kel, you're not a gold-star lesbian either. You slept with men for a time until you turned 20."

"But that was just to make people think I was straight. I had no real feelings for them."

"So? You've also slept with bisexual women and straight women who were still figurin' things out, like Jessie, when she was in her bi-curious phase."

"But that's sleepin', not datin' and shit, Jo. Big difference."

Jo simply shook her head at her friend's stubbornness. "The point is why should it matter that Kim likes men? Lesbians have been known to cheat on bisexuals and pansexuals as well, ya know. All ya havta do is ask Kim herself. She once dated a lesbian who cheated on her. And ya know why she cheated on her?"

"No, why?"

"For the same reason you dumped her. She thought Kim would eventually leave her for a man."

Kelly didn't say anything for a minute, feeling a bit like a hypocrite, before Jo spoke again. "Now, was that fair to Kim?"

"No..." Kelly responded quietly, like an ashamed child. Then Kelly sighed and said, "I guess I should at least try to talk to Kim."

"I think you should," Jo agreed.

The two women just sat there for a few minutes before Kelly broke the silence again. "Joey," she said as she looked over at her friend, "what the hell was that Japamanx doin' to ya when I got there anyway?"

"You couldn't tell?"

"I mean, why was she here?"

"I don't know. She said she knew about my disappearance and she knew how to track me down. She's just crazy."

Kelly nodded her head in understanding.

"It musta had something to do with that fuckin' footage."

"Oh," said Kelly shamefully, "then you saw the mall incident."

"Yeah. What the hell happened, Kel?"

"Listen, it was just a misunderstandin.' I never thought anyone was watchin' and was goin' to get it to TMZ."

"Shit. This is gonna be rough. I have a feelin' this is gonna get bad."

"Hell, ya ain't kiddin.' I'm already gettin' calls and texts about it."

"What?" asked Jo with a hint of concern in her voice.

"Let's just say, it was an interestin' ride here."

"Whatddya mean?" Jo asked with a very puzzled look on her face.

"First, I got a call from my friend Shirley in Houston."

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"Hey, Kelly, it's Shirley."

"Hey, Shirley. What's up?"

"Uh, you're still in New York, right?"

"Yeah, I'm still here. Why?"

"Is it true that you got in a fight at the Westchester Mall?"

"Um, well I . . . How do you know?"

"It's all over TV and the video already has like four million hits."

"What?!"

"Yeah, you're more popular than Rebecca Black."

"Shit. Well, thanks for the heads up, Shirley."

"Can't wait to see you back in Houston, Superstar. I'll be expecting an autograph."

"Put a sock in it."

"Sorry, Kelly. Bye."

"Later."

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"When I hung up from talkin' to Shirley, I figured I better check it out. See," said Kelly shrugging her shoulders, "Shirley can be a bit of a gossip and stretch a story a bit outta proportion."

"Oh, ya mean like a Texas Tootie."

"Huh?" Kelly asked a little confused.

"Oh, sorry. I meant Dorothy Ramsey Moffitt."

"Oh, yeah. I keep on forgettin' that you guys used to call her 'Tootie,'" replied Kelly.

"Hell, I still do," replied Jo. "We been callin' stretch that ever since our Eastland days. Anyway, so what happened?"

"Well, when I got in a traffic jam at the George Washington Bridge I figured I'd check it out. The first thing I noticed was my Twitter app, which said I already had 338 tweets in my account. There were posts ranging from 'You go girl!' to 'Haha, Blair punked you!' I thought it couldn't get any worse than that, until I checked YouTube."

"What was on YouTube?"

"Oh, Joey. Ya wouldn't believe it," said Kelly as she vigorously shook her head. "When I went to YouTube on my phone, I didn't have to go far. The video was at the top of the Trends section and it already had over four million hits, just like Shirley said."

"Wow," exclaimed Jo.

"Oh, that's not even the tip of the iceberg," continued Kelly. "Right underneath the mall fiasco footage was something I didn't even know got caught on tape."

"What's that?" asked Jo curiously.

"At 3.9 million hits was the video of your and Blair's wedding rehearsal."

"What?" exclaimed Jo as she abruptly put her hand in her hair.

"Yeah, it showed Blondie havin' her bitch fit and goin' off on Molly."

"What the hell!" shouted Jo.

Kelly continued. "I then looked at my Facebook and MySpace messages and that food fight was posted everywhere. I had messages on there saying everything from 'Ya got the shit knocked outta ya by a rich bitch' to 'Ya shoulda laid her out' to 'Nice bout – when's round two.' Joey, it's a mess."

"Nat said the wedding video was not going to go public when she sent me the link," replied Jo. "I can only imagine how Blair's taking it."

"She's probably pullin' her hair out down to her brown roots."

"Kel," said Jo sternly as she glared at her friend.

"I'm just sayin'," continued Kelly, "that she can't be takin' this well. I think ya need to be headin' back soon."

"Well, as soon as we get through at the police station, we can head back to the room, gather the rest of my stuff, and head out."

"How long ya think that'll be?"

"Well, they'll need to take down our statements and do a little investigatin.' Since the parking lot had surveillance cameras and there were witnesses, I don't think they'll hold us past tonight."

"Wait, ya think they'll lock us up?"

"They'll probably put us in a holding cell, just until they figure out what went down," Jo paused before continuing. "Hey, since you have that video of that kid, maybe they can even track him down. Everyone saw what happened and all the video footage will collaborate our stories. Don't worry. Things will work out."

What neither Kelly nor Jo knew was that all hell was breaking loose back in New York.

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Ever since Natalie got off the phone with Blair, Geri and Andy continued to comfort the socialite. They even got her to laughing about some of the things that happened in the past.

"So, Blair started singing 'My Boyfriend's Back' like Julie Andrews," laughed Andy.

"Blair, you know you're no Mary Poppins," said Geri.

"Hey, we happen to share something very special in common," replied Blair as she flipped her hair in traditional Warner fashion.

"Yeah, you both need sugar to help the medicine go down," quipped Geri.

"I only did that a couple times when I was a kid," defended Blair.

"No, no, no. She thinks all she needs to do is snap and everything will be in order," joked Andy.

Blair just stared at him before saying, "No. We're both practically perfect in every way." She then smiled as she looked from one then to the other.

Geri and Andy both rolled their eyes simultaneously. "Well," said Andy as he continued the story, "we finally got it right and that's how the girls met El."

"Andy, you're so lucky that Jo isn't around right now. If she heard you talking about El DeBarge after what she went through with him, you'd be the same size you were back then. She'd beat you down instead of up," said Blair. "And remember how she reacted when you played El's greeting to her on your iPod?"

"Aww, she's been tamed over the years," brushed off Andy.

"Sure, but the subject of El DeBarge is like waving a red cape in front of a raging bull. It's instinct to charge," replied Blair.

"Yeah, Blair, and you know all about charging," replied Geri. "Like Jo says, shopping with you is like going up San Juan Hill."

"Yeah, and you better not be the enemy or you might end up like Kelly."

They all broke out in laughter. It seemed like the tension that filled the air only an hour before had lifted. Suddenly the laughter was broken by the sound of Geri's phone. She composed herself before answering the call. Andy and Blair only heard Geri's side of the conversation, but it sounded serious.

"Oh, hi. Yeah, I got my agent to agree to the terms of . . . What?!" asked Geri as her face turned to a look of shock and disappointment. "But why? What does that have to do with . . . Yes, I understand, but . . . Well, what about future engagements? No, I'm sorry. No, I will not do that and exploit my cousin?"

At the mention of cousin, Blair looked up and mouthed, "What?"

Geri just answered by putting up her finger in a Wait a minute gesture as she continued to talk on the phone. "Because I put family before business. Yes, I understand what that could do for my career. Well, if that's the way it has to be then, so be it." With that, Geri closed her phone.

"What was that all about?" asked Andy.

"I just got told that my book signing tour is canceled," replied Geri in a state of shock.

"Why?" asked Blair, but she was slightly afraid of the answer.

"They said it was because of my association with you," Geri answered reluctantly as she looked solemnly at Blair. "But I could still proceed if I agreed to have a press conference and expose you to the press. I told them no, so I've been dropped."

"They can't do that," replied Andy.

"They did," said Geri.

"This is all my fault," declared Blair sadly as she put her head in her hands. "Because of my recklessness, you are suffering."

"Oh, don't worry, Blair. I'll be fine. This will blow over. These scandals always do."

"Scandal? Scandal?" shouted Blair.

"Maybe not the best word to use," admitted Geri. "Look, cuz, everything will be fine."

Just then, a disheveled Tootie came through the front door and leaned her back against it. It looked like she had been ravaged by wild beasts.

"Tootie, honey, what happened to you?" asked Andy as he rose from his seat and walked over to his wife.

"Oh, Andy," said an upset Tootie as she walked over and melted into Andy's comforting embrace, "you would not believe what I've been through today."

"What, dear?"

"Well, I was at the station just going over a few things when my boss came out and asked me to see him in his office. When I did, he asked me if an associate of mine could do a show focusing on Blair."

At the mention of her name, Blair responded, "Really? Well, let's do it. This could be the publicity I need."

Tootie just shook her head as she solemnly said, "No, Blair. They want to smear you."

"What do you mean?"

"They want to focus on the negative stuff and they want to make you look bad in the public's eyes."

"You'd do that to me? Sell me out for your show?" asked Blair with a sniff.

"I'm not going to do it. I couldn't anyway because it's a conflict of interest since you're my friend."

"So, why'd your boss need to talk to you if you couldn't do the show?" asked Andy.

"Because they wanted me to convince Blair to do it. Basically, they wanted me to say whatever I needed to get her on the show."

"You mean lie?" asked Geri.

"WHATEVER it took."

"Et tu, Tootie?" said Blair in a whisper.

"I told him I wouldn't sell out my friends for a lousy television show. He then yelled at me and told me that my same-sex segments have been corrupting society and if I knew what was best for me I'd agree to give them Blair on a silver platter. I told him where to get off."

"What'd he say?" asked Andy.

She looked up with tears threatening to fall as she said, "You're fired."

"He fired you?" asked Geri as she got up, walked over, and hugged Tootie.

"Because of me," they heard Blair say softly. "It's all my fault."

"No it's not, Blair," replied Tootie as she sobered up for her friend.

"Yeah, that executive at Sony Pictures Television is a real jerk," added Andy.

"But if it wasn't for me, Tootie would still have her job."

Tootie walked over and sat next to her longtime friend. "It's not your fault, Blair. I shouldn't have popped of like I did."

"What are you going to do now?" whined Blair.

"Oh, I'll find something. I have plenty of fans and they won't stand for this. Trust me, it's not Too – Too – Tootie goodbye just yet."

Blair looked at her friend and smiled.

"Well, why do you look like you've been ravaged by wolves? Looks like the result of a mob of crazed Jermaine Jackson fans," quipped Andy.

Tootie glared at him as she said, "You know you are never to mention that name again."

"Sorry, dear," Andy replied with a sheepish grin.

"You aren't far off though. There are tons of cameras out there and I don't know how many media vans are lining the street."

"What?" asked Andy.

"See for yourself."

Andy went to the window and saw a sea of cameras.

"What the hell? I knew they might follow Blair, but this is ridiculous."

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Andy had no idea just how ridiculous things were going to get. After Natalie got off the phone with Blair, she got a call from the network producer who gave her a copy of the wedding rehearsal footage.

"Mrs. Harper?"

"Yes, this is she."

"Hello, this is Mr. Foster from Realview Mirror Studios . . ."

"Oh, hello, Mr. Foster. What can I do for you?"

"Well, Mrs. Harper, I hate to be the one to tell you this, but the footage of Ms. Warner's wedding rehearsal has been leaked."

"What?!" exclaimed Natalie as she almost dropped the phone.

"Apparently someone made a mistake and leaked the footage to the different media outlets instead of disposing of it."

Mr. Foster's story seemed awfully convenient and Natalie was pretty skeptical about his story.

"Well," she continued, "how can something like that happen?"

"We believe it was an honest mistake. I hope there are no hard feelings over this unfortunate accident."

"I can't speak for Ms. Warner," replied Natalie, "but I'm pretty disappointed."

"Well, Mrs. Harper, if I didn't pull up the video to make you a copy, then this would probably never have happened. It would have been well hidden away in a secret zip file. However, when we opened that file, it became clickable and distributable. I am sincerely sorry, but neither you, your friend, or your friend's attorneys can hold us accountable for this mistake."

It was quite clear to Natalie what was going on here. Her experience in and around the media field taught her how people like this operated. The producer was obviously able to find a loophole when he gave her the link with the video attached. He could say that Natalie was the one who leaked the footage and, knowing that Blair and Natalie were best friends, Blair couldn't sue him without hurting Natalie in some financial or criminal way. Basically, if he went down, than so would Natalie, and he likely bet on the fact that Blair would not do that to one of her friends. Not even the snooty Ms. Warner. Never in a million years could even she be that shallow. Thus, Natalie deduced that the sleazy producer gave copies of the video to TMZ and other tabloid and even traditional media companies. As Jo would say, "What a creep."

"I hope you understand, Mrs. Harper," continued Mr. Foster, "but that's showbiz."

"Yeah, I understand all right," Natalie replied sarcastically.

"Bye, Mrs. Harper, and thanks for everything."

Natalie hung up her phone and put her head in her hand.

"Blair is going to kill me," thought Natalie. "What am I going to do?"

About that time, her phone began ringing again. It was her boss from her part-time position with The New York Times.

"Hey, Natalie, since you're friends with that crazy socialite on the television, maybe you can give me some details that no one else knows."

"Sorry, Mr. Keller, but I don't think I can do that."

"Awww, come on. It'd be great to scoop the TV stations with an in-depth, exclusive, inside story. Think about it. This story could skyrocket both our careers to the moon."

"Mr. Keller, Blair Warner is not just a singing, two-headed dog – she's my friend. I couldn't do anything that could hurt her."

Her boss suddenly turned demanding. "Listen, Harper, I'm telling you that the Warner story is your assignment and you better get it because if you don't, you can consider your part-time position at The Times terminated."

"You mean . . ."

"Yes, F-I-R-E-D." He then hung up.

As Natalie was reeling from this information, her phone rang again. This time it was Keith Olbermann.

"Hello," she answered apprehensively.

"Hey, Nat. This is Keith."

Keith Olbermann had called her a few times before and they had become pretty close friends, so his air of informality was nothing new; however, she had a feeling that this was more than a friendly, casual call. It didn't take long for her suspicions to be confirmed.

"Hey, Keith. What can I do for you?"

"I know that you know Blair Warner and Kimberly Drummond, so what can you get for us on them?"

"Keith, they're my friends and I ain't gonna snitch on them."

"Aww, come on Nat. This could be our big break. The story of a century. Nat, this could soar us past the Falafel King himself. Just think about it, will ya?"

Natalie knew how much Keith Olbermann would love to take a bite out of his biggest competitor the Falafel King, Bill O'Reilly, and his two-bit show The O'Reilly Factor, but she really didn't want to sell out her friends. Since she didn't want to disappoint Keith either, she simply said, "I'll keep it in mind," as she shut Olbermann up and hung up the phone.

This was beyond ridiculous. Now Natalie was being pulled in three different directions – from The New York Times, from Keith, and from her loyalty to Blair and her friends. She was really in between a rock and a hard place. Coincidentally, she was not the only person facing fallout from the so-called Lez-plosion.

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It was still morning time at the monastery and the media were itching to get into the building. In a place of worship, the cameras and lights were a huge distraction away from daily activities. After morning prayer, the reverend mother summoned Sister Meg to her quarters.

"Come in, my child, come in," said the elderly woman as she looked up from her desk. Her glasses sat on the tip of her nose, safe from falling completely off by the chain that wrapped around her head. Sister Meg thought that she had no need to fear this woman who sat before her, but she felt her gaze and sensed the wrath of God.

"What can I do for you, Reverend Mother?" asked Sister Meg as she entered the tiny room with her hands clasped in front of her.

"Please, Sister Meg, take a seat," said the mother superior.

Sister Meg slowly approached the wooden chair that sat across from the imposing woman. She sat down and her gaze lifted to the cross that hung on the wall above the reverend mother's head. Sister Meg felt the eyes looking at her – judging her – blaming her for the recent uproar at the church. She had sinned by bringing the media into the sisters' midst and disrupting their holy duty with the evils of the public. It was a wrong that no amount of penance could rectify – not even a thousand Hail Marys could bring forth forgiveness.

"Sister," repeated the reverend mother as she snapped Sister Meg out of her trance.

"Yes, Reverend Mother?"

"I asked what you intend to do about this media frenzy outside our church."

"I don't know what to do, Reverend Mother. I invoke my vow of silence when it comes to the reporters. I refuse to say anything that can come back and hurt the church."

"Sister, it is not your words, but your actions that harm the church."

"What does that supposed to mean?" asked Sister Meg as she looked up at her superior, already fearing the answer.

"You accept your half-sister's lesbian lifestyle and you have even agreed to participate in her same-sex marriage. You know what the Bible says about homosexuality. It is a sin against nature."

"With all due respect, Reverend Mother, I know how people interpret the Bible, but I believe that love should not be punished."

"So, you approve of this sinful behavior?"

"I may not prefer my sister's decision, but I understand that it is her choice."

"Sister, homosexuality is a sin in the eyes of God."

"I understand the beliefs professed in the good book, Reverend Mother, but I am not at liberty to change my sister's mind. I feel that God will understand and love her regardless of how she chooses to live and who she chooses to love."

The reverend mother put her hands on her desk and clasped them as her expression turned serious. "Sister Meg, aside from your sister's homosexual lifestyle, the media is disrupting the daily activities of the church. All of our sisters are being accosted by the press, and our walls cannot fully protect them. Your association with these people are creating problems for the church and are affecting all of the sisters."

Sister Meg had a feeling of impending doom as she asked the reverend mother, "So, what are you saying, Reverend Mother? Am I to be punished for supporting my family?"

"All I ask of you, Sister, is for you to take a retreat from the church."

"You're kicking me out?" asked Sister Meg with tears pricking her eyes.

"We are just asking you to step away from the church until this issue is resolved. Once it is over, you will be welcome back into our convent with open arms."

"But where will I go?" asked Sister Meg. "The convent is my home. I have nowhere to go outside these walls."

"God will help you in this time of need. We do ask that you be out by the end of the day, though."

Sister Meg slowly stood up and walked toward the door, "Oh, and Sister," said the elderly nun.

"Yes, Reverend Mother?"

"May God bless all your footsteps."

Sister Meg just turned and practically ran down the hall. She needed to get to a phone – fast.

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"Hey, Bailey, it's me Sister Meg."

Bailey could hear the tears in Sister Meg's voice. "What's up?"

"Listen, I've just been asked by the Reverend Mother to take a retreat away from the church until the madness dies down. I think they mean until after Jo and Blair get married."

"Can they do that?"

"They did it."

"What are you going to do now?"

"Well, I need to find somewhere to stay. Before entering the convent, you have to give up all your worldly possessions so I have nowhere to go," said Sister Meg as she sniffed.

"I guess you can stay with me if you want. I mean, I can't compete with God, but I have a pretty good pad."

"Thank you so much, Bailey. I know we don't know each other really well, but I appreciate it. I would go to Blair's, but I don't think that's a good idea right now."

"Well, if it's the press you're worried about, I'm afraid you won't be able to escape them."

"What do you mean?"

"They're everywhere. Hounding me about Blair and asking me embarrassing questions. My boss even asked me to leave my job a little around 10 this morning just because the media was causing a ruckus. Sister Meg, it's a mess."

"I know. Well, hopefully we'll at least have the good Lord on our side."

"I hope so. Anyway, give me just a little bit and I'll be right over there to pick you up. Okay?"

"Great, and thanks again, Bailey. You're a real lifesaver."

"No problem."

Bailey had just hung up her phone when her mom called.

"Hey, mother. Gee, I'm popular today."

"Whatever do you mean, darling?"

"Oh, Sister Meg just called me. She's going to be crashing at my place for a while." Bailey didn't divulge any more information than she deemed necessary. If Sister Meg wanted people to know what was going on, she'd tell them in her own time. Until then, Bailey didn't feel it was her place to tell other people's business.

"That's nice, dear," replied Monica Patel. "Listen, have you heard from your sister."

"Blair?"

"Yes, darling. What other sister do you think I mean?"

"No, mother. Not since the day she went to pick out bridesmaid gowns. Why?"

"Well, there are swarms of cameras outside my door and they are all asking for information on Blair. I can't leave my house. They've even been pestering my husband at work."

Monica Patel lived in a prestigious neighborhood in a Park Avenue condo fit for a society queen. It was no surprise that she remarried well again, this time to Indian communications giant, Anil Patel, of Patelink Enterprises LTD. She was the perfect poster woman for the society pages and she loved the spotlight, so cameras didn't usually bother her. However, it was the nature of the paparazzi's questions that unnerved the woman. Reporters were asking very personal, very embarrassing questions about her older daughter and Monica did not want to say the wrong thing. Thus, she called her younger daughter when Blair did not answer her phone.

"Like I said, Mom, I haven't heard from her."

Monica sighed as she said, "Out of all the things that Blair has done, this has to be the most reckless."

"Yeah, tell me about it. Does Mr. Warner know about this?"

"I don't know if he has or not. I haven't visited him in two years, but I know that since his stroke six years ago, he can barely speak or talk. The news about his only daughter would devastate him, Bailey. Although we are no longer together, I hope he hasn't heard about this, for his sake of sanity. The last thing he needs is another stroke."

"I agree, Mom. He really doesn't need this when he's in this condition. He's in a very fragile state and could suffer a major stroke that could kill him. Then, Blair would be devastated."

"She's probably devastated already, Bailey. You know your sister."

"Yeah, I wouldn't be surprised if Blair was suffering a nervous breakdown from all of this negative publicity," said Bailey.

"Knowing Blair, she may panic from all this at first, but she'll get herself together and will find a way to put an end to all this nonsense."

"Yeah, Mom, I know she will. Right now, the question is when and how much will we all suffer from her mistakes."

"Only time will tell, Bailey. Only time will tell."

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At their company's building in East Manhattan, Cindy and Sue Ann were bombarded by the paparazzi as they were preparing to go to a business lunch to meet with some potential international investors.

"Ms. Weaver, can you confirm if Ms. Warner has any mental issues?"

"No, she doesn't." Sue Ann tried her best to answer the question without going full blast at the reporter. "That was a very untypical moment for Blair. She's normally not that violent."

"Then can you explain her meltdown at the food court to us? I mean, you and Dr. Nancy Butler were dragging her away from a former hardcore drug dealer."

"And also the wedding rehearsal?" added another reporter.

That was somewhat of a shock to the blonde couple because they thought that Blair would have successfully blocked the wedding rehearsal from ever being shown, but they also knew that there was a small possibility of a leak. Also, Kelly never mentioned to them that she used to sell drugs.

"Well, Blair's a perfectionist and Nancy's kids were causing a lot of trouble on what was her preparation of the biggest event in her life, so she had every right to be upset," Sue Ann responded.

"Okay, then what about Sondra Levitts?"

"Sondra who?" Sue Ann asked the reporter.

"Sondra Levitts, the woman Blair attacked at a drive-in movie theater in Peekskill twenty six years ago?"

"Huh? What drive-in movie theater?" Sue Ann asked. Cindy, however, remembered the incident quite clearly.

"Honey, the reporter's talking about the incident at the Blue Dell Drive-in the night before they tore it down. Don't you remember them talking about that? Apparently, Blair hit that girl with a mop because she kept threatening to punch out Blair's porchlight."

"Oh, yeah, but honestly, we really can't tell you much about it because we weren't there. We were told what happened after the fact."

Cindy looked at the reporter and said, "But, really, from what we heard it was self-defense if anything. Blair had every right to protect herself from bodily harm."

Another reporter tried to change the subject and asked Sue Ann, "Teresa Barksdale called you a hillbilly on TMZ. What's your response to that?"

Sue Ann and Cindy didn't see the TMZ show because they were at work at the time that it aired, so it came as a surprise to both of them.

"You mean Tumpy Barksdale, the musician, right?" Sue Ann asked.

"Yes, that Tumpy Barksdale."

Sue Ann rolled her eyes and bit her bottom lip for a bit before she responded with, "Why should her opinions about me matter? I mean, what was her greatest accomplishment? Once her band reached the top 30 back in the 80s. I, on the other hand, became instrumental in the success of two companies: LeChic Designs and our own, The W Group modeling agency. I have many awards and nominations under my belt, including 1993 Top Female Executive by Woman's Business Journal and 2005 Top Fashion Designer Executive by Fashionista Weekly. I turned a small time company – LeChic Designs – into one of the biggest fashion empires in the world, before leaving that and building our modeling agency. Yes, I did grow up in the Midwest and I was a farm girl, and I'm still a farm girl at heart, but this 'hillbilly' has accomplished more than what that small-time socialite session musician has ever done."

The reporters liked her comments; they had something to work with here. Sue Ann's rather arrogant statement could come back to bite her, but Cindy was proud to see Sue Ann defending herself from the reporters. She could not hold back the smile that flashed across her face. Sue Ann wasn't as used to the media as Cindy, but she maintained her composure and handled herself well in Cindy's eyes.

Another reporter asked Cindy, "How come you look so different now than in your photo from thirty years ago? How many plastic surgeries have you had to enhance your look?"

Cindy knew that the reporter was really saying that her looks were fake. "I only had two plastic surgeries in my life. It's the nature of the business. I haven't done anything different from what any other model has done. I can't be ashamed to admit that I do what others did to make it in such a demanding profession."

"Do you have any more of your pictures from the past?" snickered another reporter. "They are quite hysterical. One of America's beauties was really a tomboy with pigtails and blue jeans." A few others laughed as well. Cindy was very upset, but she kept her cool when she replied.

"I bet your old photos aren't that flattering either. Anyhow, I posted a few of my old pictures on our Facebook and MySpace account. You can find them under CinAnn Forever. I have nothing from my past to hide. That was the time period, and that's how I looked. Hairstyles and fashions change, so you can't expect me to stay the same forever. And yes, I was, and still am a 'tomboy.' If you would rather call me 'butch,' well fine by me. However, if you were in the business or if you kept current with the times, then you would understand. Now if you would please excuse us, we have more important matters to attend to."

The couple was able to get into the limo, just to find out that their meeting had been canceled due to the fear the distraction could cause. Cindy and Sue Ann were informed that the investors hadn't decided when the meeting would be rescheduled, or even IF the meeting would be rescheduled. That was the beginning of the uncertainty for the couple's company, as the stock market just started their day…

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Across town, Molly was also facing the wrath of the press. When publicity helped a cause, Molly was all for it; however, when reporters were out to discredit people on false pretenses, Molly could just scream. When she arrived at work at the NOW-NYC building, she was greeted by reporters who asked her questions about her argument with Blair at the wedding rehearsal.

"Ms. Parker," shouted one reporter as she thrust a microphone in Molly's face, "why would you fight with a bride at her wedding rehearsal?"

"Wait, where did you hear about that?" asked Molly. It was at that moment that she realized that somehow the video taken at Blair's wedding rehearsal had been leaked.

"Was she being a bridezilla?" asked another reporter.

"She was being Blair," answered Molly as she tried to avoid accidentally smearing her friend.

"So, do you hate Ms. Warner?" persisted the reporters.

"No, I don't hate her. We may have our differences, but I consider her a friend."

"You mean you're still friends with a conservative Republican who called you a feminazi?" asked one of the reporters. Boy, these guys were ruthless on their quest for a juicy story, thought Molly.

"Look, I bet all of you have had arguments with your friends that appeared cruel or offensive at the time, but I bet you quickly forgave them as well. That is, if you were truly friends to begin with. Would you really cut off a 20-plus year friendship over some trivial words that meant nothing?"

All the reporters quickly nodded their heads or said 'yes.' Molly just looked at them with disgust.

"Hypocrites," she murmured before entering the building. The administrative assistant, Raul, approached Molly as soon as she got inside.

"Hey, Molly. The president told me that she wants to see you in her office PDQ," he said.

"But I just got here," replied Molly.

"Well, she said to have you go to her office as soon as you got in – before you got settled."

"Oh, no," lamented Molly as she headed toward the president's office. Whenever the boss asks you to come to her office before you could get settled in for the day, the news had to be bad. As she walked down the long corridor, she felt as if she was walking the green mile. As she slowly opened the door, she saw the president, Sonia Ossorio, sitting at her desk waiting for her.

"Please, have a seat, Molly."

Molly quietly sat down, half expecting an electrical shock.

"I guess you know why you are here, right?"

"Yes, I do, but please, let me explain –"

"No need to explain, Molly. I saw the videos of the wedding rehearsal and the fight at the food court in the mall. Although I know you weren't involved with the food court incident, the fact that you are associated with a woman who openly hurled insults at our organization is not only an embarrassment to NOW, but to feminism in general."

"But I didn't take it lying down," Molly protested.

"I know. I saw how you defended NOW and feminism, and I commend you for your efforts. That is why I am not firing you right now. However, you have to understand my position. I am sorry, but I have to ask you to take a leave of absence until all this has cooled down."

"Seriously, it's no big deal," replied Molly as she channeled Jo. "You know how journalists are. You were once one yourself."

"You call the fact Raul has been getting phone calls all day and had to whisk away five reporters, no big deal? Molly, it's distracting and it does not show our organization in a positive light. Guess what, Molly; it's only going to get worse. Trust me, I know the media much better than you do because, as you said, I was once a journalist myself."

"But I love my job, and there's so much I can do," argued Molly.

"Listen, I'm not firing you like I said. How about you do some work from home? That way you're still an asset to the organization minus the media distraction."

Reluctantly, Molly agreed. As long as the incident didn't cost her the best job ever. She left the building a slightly dejected woman as someone escorted her back to the White Plains train station where she had left her car. This was just a strange day.

Chapter Text

Meanwhile, the third player in the food court video, Kimberly, was going through her own media mayhem. At her St. George home in Staten Island, the media and paparazzi swarmed her house. Every time she looked out of her window, there were more of them. She couldn't believe that she was trapped inside her own home. Her dad, Phillip Drummond, was also in astonishment with the frenzy going on. Since she was his primary caretaker, he was living with her. He had sold his penthouse in Manhattan a while back and moved to the quieter Staten Island neighborhood with his daughter. The older man hadn't experienced anything like this since Kim's tumultuous time in California. Mr. Drummond had thought that his bouts with unflattering press was over, but he was proven wrong.

"Oh, my God. Dad, this is crazy."

"I know, dear."

"Travis called, and he said the media keeps on asking questions about me. Such as 'How does it feel to have a mother who was once a porn star?' and 'How often was your mother drunk or high when she was raising you?' Stupid stuff like that."

"Listen, Kim, you can't let them get to you like this."

"I know, Dad. I see how they mess up some of my friends in Hollywood." Kimberly sighed. "Now I really regret even thinking about going out with Kelly."

"Now, dear, don't be so hard on her for that. She wasn't the one who provoked the attack."

"No, she wasn't, but I still can't believe she would leave me the way she did," Kimberly said as tears starting to flow down her cheeks. It still stung her.

"Dear, I don't think you should give up on her."

She looked at her dad with a mixture of befuddlement and anger, "Why not? She gave up on me. She walked out on me. Just like a lot of lesbians do when they find out that I'm pansexual or when I tell them I like men as well as women. Why are they so hung up on me being attracted to the opposite sex?"

"Because they probably think that you would leave them for a man, and that's probably due to society emphasizing that you'd be better off in a heterosexual relationship than a homosexual one."

"But that's so stupid. Most bisexual and pansexual women are not like that at all, including myself. Why are lesbians so insecure about that? I don't get it."

"I can't answer that question, honey. I don't know myself."

Finally, a black Cadillac Escalade arrived. The media quickly switched their attention to the luxury SUV and out came a rather calm yet seething Willis with his wife, who looked terrified by all the people surrounding her. Unlike Willis who had gotten used to the media's bombardment ever since he took over his father's company, the media frightened Sharon. Willis noticed his wife's apprehension and quickly held her by his side in an effort to shield her from the cameras. As the couple tried to walk their way through to the gate of the house, reporters start pestering them with questions.

"Sir, does your adopted sister still do porn?"

"First of all, she's my sister, period, so stop calling her 'adopted,' and no, she hasn't done porn in over twenty years."

"Are you ashamed of the fact that your sister has done porn?"

"No, I'm not. She moved on from the porn industry and became one the most sought-after make-up artists in the industry. In fact, she was once nominated for Best Makeup and Hairstylist at the Oscars. Now if you excuse me, we are going to see our family."

As soon as he got in, Kimberly opened the door for the couple and quickly slammed it shut.

"Are you okay, Kim?" Willis asked.

"No, I'm not. I can't believe how crazy things have turned for me in one day."

"Yeah, I understand, with this and that disastrous date with Kelly yesterday."

"Don't you ever mention that bitch's name to me ever again!" Kim shouted angrily, followed with a tear rolling down her cheek.

"Do you still have feelings for her?"

"Yes I do, Willis."

"I'm sure this can be dealt with. I'll talk to Kelly if I have to."

Mr. Drummond slowly walked down the steps and saw Willis and Sharon.

"Willis and Sharon, how are you two doing?"

"Fine, for now," Willis replied. Sharon just timidly nodded her head. The shy accountant was clearly frightened by all the unwanted attention.

"Any word from Arnold?"

"Yeah, Dad. They've been asking him questions about Kimberly too. He ended up taking a day off to deal with the mess down at DC." Willis' younger brother, Arnold, worked as an executive for Amtrak in Washington, DC. Thus, the media attention was clearly not confined to New York.

"This has gone too far," Willis continued.

"Willis, why are we friends with Blair again?" Kimberly asked the rhetorical question.

"Good question… I wonder what is going on with Jo. She just disappeared like that," he emphasized by snapping his fingers.

"I'm not surprised. Jo runs away a lot. What I am surprised by is how she has managed to put up with and stay with Blair for so long," said Kim.

"Maybe they were meant to be together," replied Mr. Drummond softly.

"Yeah, but look at where that got them. Blair's reputation is all but destroyed."

"Yeah," cut in Willis "and the others are going through the same thing. Tootie just called before we got here and told me how much her exec at Sony Pictures Television are pressuring her to have Blair on the show. Then Jamaal called, telling me that Molly was forced to take a day off from her job after she got a tongue lashing from her boss."

"I also got off the phone with Mrs. Garrett a few minutes ago and she said the Warner Hotel is packed with a horde of reporters who are asking her questions and making accusations against her," put in Mr. Drummond.

"Wow, it's gotten that crazy?"

"Yes. Very much so and I'm afraid that it's only the beginning."

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It was clear that the media wolves were targeting all the girls, but it didn't end there. Anyone who was associated with Blair seemed to be up for grabs. The Warner Hotel was being bombarded by the press. Mrs. Garrett was busy helping Chef Gaugan prepare lunch when her son, Raymond, burst into the kitchen and leaned against the door.

"Mother, it's a madhouse out there," Raymond said slightly out of breath.

"Well, what do you want me to do about it, son. You're the concierge."

"No, Mother, you don't understand. There's like 100 reporters and cameramen all asking about Blair."

"Oh, come now Raymond," replied Mrs. Garrett as she crossed to the door. "I thought I'd go senile before you."

Raymond moved out of the way so Mrs. Garrett could look out at the spectacle in the hotel lobby.

"Oh, my," said Mrs. Garrett.

"What should we do, Mom?"

"Well, Raymond, I'm sure we can reason with them," said Mrs. Garrett as she began to open the door.

"But, Mother . . ." Raymond started, but it was too late. Mrs. Garrett was already through the door.

"Mrs. Mrs.," said one reporter as she tried to get Mrs. Garrett's attention. "Isn't it true that you're the one responsible for being gay?"

The question completely threw Mrs. Garrett for a loop. "Well," she said, "I never judged any of my girls . . ."

"And isn't it true that you even knew about Cindy and Sue Ann's relationship, but refused to tell the Eastland school's administration?" interrupted another reporter. "The two principals of the school during that time, Mr. Stephen Bradly and Mr. Tim Harris, said that you never informed them of any lesbian activities occurring in your dorm."

Mrs. Garrett was furious on the inside, but she didn't show it. Instead, she was firm and assertive with her answers. "I always told my girls to be honest with me and talk out their feelings."

"How is it that so many of the girls who were put under your supervision ended up being so screwed up?" inquired a third reported.

At that moment, she snapped because this reporter crossed the line. "Listen, those girls came to me with many problems. My job was to straighten them out the best I could," she defended herself as she pointed her left index finger at the rude reporter.

"Seems to us," replied another reporter as his cameraman zoomed in on Mrs. Garrett's face, "that girls come to you straight, but end up homosexualized."

"That's not even a word," chided Mrs. Garrett.

Despite the correction, the reporter continued, "Even Kimberly Drummond, whose family hired you as housekeeper prior to your employment with Eastland Academy, showed no indication of liking girls before you entered her life. Also, after your influence, she ended up doing porn movies in France during the 80s. It appears that you are grooming girls to be homosexuals and are pushing the lesbian lifestyle. As for Ms. Kimberly Drummond, you have accepted her decision to do porn and even encouraged her to engage in the business. Do you care to comment on that?" he asked as he shoved his microphone in her face.

Mrs. Garrett was totally speechless at the implication and Raymond couldn't take the ill treatment that his mother was receiving from the press anymore. She was a proper lady and no one ever dared question her motives. So, he puffed out his chest and stepped between his mother and the cameras.

"Mom," he whispered with his hands her shoulders and his back to the cameras, "I think you better call Blair and tell her what's going on. I think you should also call Mr. Drummond and give him a head's up as well."

"Raymond, I . . ."

"I'll take care of things here," he said as he turned back around to face the press.

Mrs. Garrett was so proud of her son. He was standing up for her and was willing to face those beasts on his own. As she headed to a phone, she heard him say, "There will be no further questions for Mrs. Garrett-Gaines. Okay, anyone who wants any business here better make a reservation or leave this property immediately," he said as he took his station behind the concierge desk. "That is, unless you want to be escorted out by our security team. You are taking up room from the paying customers."

Mrs. Garrett smiled as she left her son to hold down the fort. He had become such a strong man. Now, she needed to display the same bravery as she contacted her former employer and friend as well as her surrogate daughter. Something was really wrong, and she needed to find out what before it was too late.

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Back at Andy and Tootie's place, things continued to spiral out of control. Andy had to call security to remove the media from his front door because they were doing everything they could to get in. Then, things got harder when two of Andy's clients called to drop him as their agent.

"What? Now come on, not many people even know that Blair is my client, so you don't have to worry. …You already made up your mind? I hope you would reconsider. Okay, then. I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors. Goodbye."

Andy showed his frustration, "I can't believe this is happening. This is so ridiculous."

"Yeah, things are getting hectic," said Geri.

"I think I better call mom and tell her that I'm sending someone to get her," said Andy. "I don't like her living alone."

"She can still drive herself, can't she?" asked Geri.

"Yeah, but that's all we don't need – her pulling in here with that RV of hers. No, I want to try to keep a low profile."

"I think I'll check on Nat and Molly," said Tootie. "Then, I'll see if they can contact Nancy, Cindy, and Sue Ann."

"I guess I should call Bailey," replied Blair. "I just got a text from Mrs. Garrett asking what's going on. I just can't believe these people are targeting my family and friends."

"Well, it's the nature of the business," replied Andy. "Why don't you tell Bailey to come over and pick up Mrs. G on the way? I think we need to regroup and all discuss this mess."

Andy looked really concerned. His normal air of confidence had faded away in light of the current events. He was obviously trying to take control, but the media feeding frenzy had clearly startled him.

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Nancy had yet to feel the sting of the craziness, but it would not be long before she too, fell victim to those vultures. Her kids had just finished lunch after a morning of watching cartoons. Although Nancy hated using the television to "babysit" her children, it did give her time to do the daily chores such as laundry. With so many kids, there always seemed to be mountains of laundry to do. After lunch, she told her kids to all meet in the living room and get ready for their lessons. One good thing about having doctorate degrees in both sociology and in psychology was getting her kids to do as she asked – most of the time. She felt that homeschooling her kids was the way to go in terms of education and Roger agreed because he didn't want his children to befriend deviants in public or private schools. In other words, he pushed for the idea of homeschooling so his kids wouldn't end up like Nancy.

"Settle down, children," said Nancy in her motherly voice. "Let me finish up in here, and I will be right there to start today's lesson. I think we will begin with math."

There were a few groans coming from the living room, but the kids did as they were told.

"Umm, Mom," said Gloria, one of the younger girls. "There are a lot of cameras outside."

Nancy went over to the window while drying her hands on a towel.

"Hmmm, I didn't think those guys were going to be here today. Production for this week isn't scheduled until tomorrow. Oh, well. I guess they could be preparing for the show. Those guys have to know what they're doing."

"Mom," came the voice of her son, Alan. "I don't think those reporters are from the show."

"Why do you say that, Alan?"

"Because our show is on TLC and those reporters are from rival networks."

"Well, maybe they're collaborating," reasoned Nancy.

"Trust me mom, network battles are like real life turf wars. The only difference is that they fight over the airways instead of in the trenches. Their weapon of choice is media technology. They shoot people with cameras instead of guns and artillery shells," said Richard – lovingly known as Rich. She refused to call him 'Dick' because that's the name she reserved for Roger when he was being a total... Nancy was slightly unnerved about her son's talk of violence, but the metaphor did its job.

Clair added, "Competition for ratings will more than likely keep them from working together. Only big stories will allow for cross-network alliances."

Nancy smiled at how intelligent her children sounded, but it was unsettling why people would be outside her front door if they weren't with the television show.

"Then, what are these people doing outside my house?" Nancy asked aloud, although she wasn't really expecting an answer.

"This may have something to do with it," said Jenna – one of the twins.

Nancy went over to her child's computer and read an article about Blair Warner's antics as caught on tape. She was in complete shock after reading the article, but it was only the beginning.

"There's an accompanying link," said Jerry – Jenna's twin brother.

They clicked on the link and it showed both the wedding rehearsal footage and the food fight video.

"Oh, this doesn't bode well," said Nancy.

No sooner did she make that declaration that her phone began to ring.

"Hello?"

"Hello, Mrs. Butler?"

"Yes, this is she."

"This is Mr. Foster from Realview Mirror Studios."

"Oh, of course, Mr. Foster. What can I do for you?"

"I regret to tell you Mrs. Butler that your show will be postponed indefinitely."

"What do you mean? There are cameramen outside my door."

Although Nancy knew that they were not from the same studio, she figured that if she feigned ignorance, things might work in her favor. After all, so many people only saw her as the dutiful housewife instead of the licensed psychologist. This would be a great opportunity to try out her powers of persuasion. However, Mr. Foster would not be swayed.

"Well, they are not with us," he said matter-of-factly. "Due to current circumstances surrounding your friends, we are forced to pull the plug on this project."

"Are you canceling the show?"

"We are postponing it until a decision can be made. As of right now, your contract is hereby terminated. Thank you for working with us."

Nancy was stunned as she hung up the phone. However, her problems were just beginning. At about 2 o'clock that afternoon, Roger came storming through the front door.

"Nancy," he bellowed.

"Hey, dear," she said as she came in to give him a kiss.

"Don't you dare, dear me. What the hell are all those cameras doing outside?"

"I don't really know, dear."

"Well, I do," he fumed with his arms folded across his chest.

"Oh?" said Nancy genuinely surprised.

"Yeah, it's because of those queer friends of yours. I told you they meant nothing but trouble, but you didn't listen to me. Do you know how many phone calls I got today regarding your association with those freaks? This bad publicity has really thrown me off my campaign run. You know I have to get back to DC in two days."

"But . . ."

"More than I care to admit. You are a disgrace to this family and I can't stand to be here. In fact, I just came home to get a few things and then I'm outta here."

"Where are you going to go?"

"As far away from you as I can get. At least until you distance yourself from those lesbians, liberals, and losers."

Roger grabbed a suitcase, packed what he needed, and headed out the door. Nancy was still so shell-shocked that she could think of only one thing to do – call Cindy and Sue Ann.

"Children, please go to your rooms," said Nancy as she was nearing tears. "I have an important private phone call to make."

"But, Mom," a few of the younger children whined.

"Please," begged Nancy.

"Oh, okay," they relented.

Once the children were out of the room, Nancy called Sue Ann who picked up on the second ring.

"Sue Ann Weaver."

"Oh, Sue Ann," Nancy sobbed. She couldn't keep it in anymore.

"Nancy? What's wrong?" Sue Ann asked a little concerned.

"Roger left me."

That news really shocked Sue Ann because Nancy and Roger always seemed attached at the hip – ever since Eastland. "What do you mean he left you?"

"He found out about the videos of Blair and he had been getting phone calls at work. When he got home, he took it out on me."

"He didn't hit you did he?" Sue Ann fumed.

"No, but he left. I don't know what to do," Nancy continued to sob.

"Oh, honey. Listen, the press has been hounding Cindy and me all day as well. Why don't we come and get you and the kids and come back to our place. I'm sure our kids will love a slumber party. It will be like the good old Eastland days."

"Won't Cindy mind?"

"I think Cindy will be fine with it," answered Sue Ann after getting the affirmative nod from her partner who was sitting by her side. "I don't think any of us need to be alone right now. Just get some overnight bags and we'll come get you in a couple hours. Okay?"

"Thank you, Sue Ann. Oh, but do be careful. There are swarms of reporters outside."

"Oh, trust me, I understand. See you soon."

"Okay, bye."

After hanging up the phone, Nancy called to her kids.

"Everybody grab some overnight bags, we're going to Aunt Cindy and Aunt Sue Ann's tonight."

As she heard a resounding "Yeah" from upstairs, Nancy couldn't help but wonder what the future held for her and Roger. He was so unreasonable. It was as if he blamed her for everything. Times had been tough before, but he was acting as if he had a better alternative this time. Nah, not Roger. Sure, he had a wandering eye in the past, but he would never act on it. He was one of the few honest politicians who didn't engage in sordid affairs. Nancy was just being paranoid. Oh, well. Some time apart may do them good and bring them closer together. She was just thankful that her "loser" friends were willing to stand by her side in this moment of crisis.

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Once Nancy and her children were settled at Cindy and Sue Ann's place and the kids went upstairs to play, the adults grabbed some coffee and sat down in the living room for a small discussion. Inside, Cindy and Sue Ann were slightly worried about the limited space in their house. Their house was nowhere as big as Nancy's, and they wondered how their kids would react when they came home from school to see all this. Emily and Max might be able to take it in stride, but they weren't so sure about Yoshi and Ana.

"So, what got into Roger's crawl?" asked Cindy.

"Oh," sniffed Nancy, "he got upset because he said that he had been fielding calls all day about Blair's antics. Since many of his colleagues know me from social functions and they also have seen me in Blair's presence as a friend, it just stands to reason that they would focus on the bad. Many of them just look for scandals, and this one just seemed to fall in their laps." Nancy put her head in her hands.

"Oh, hun," said Sue Ann reassuringly as she put her hand on Nancy's back, "Roger just needs to calm down. He knows you aren't to blame."

"But why does he do that?"

"Do what?" asked Sue Ann.

"Run away. He doesn't want to sit down and talk things out like adults. He just ups and walks out."

Cindy and Sue Ann exchanged glances.

"Umm," began Cindy, "maybe we're not the best people to ask about this."

"What do you mean?" asked Nancy. "You're my friends."

"Yes," affirmed Sue Ann, "but neither one of us run away when things get tough."

"And we're both good at running," said Cindy with a smile as she tried to lighten the mood.

"Stop it and be serious," admonished Sue Ann.

"Sorry, babe," said Cindy as she hung her head and looked away.

After a brief pause, Sue Ann said, "Nancy, I think you should talk to Blair."

"Why?" asked Nancy not connecting the dots.

"Because Jo's a runner," said Cindy. "She prefers to run away when things get rough instead of buckling down and discussing things. It sounds to me that Roger is the same way."

"Yeah," agreed Sue Ann. "If anyone knows how to deal with this sort of thing, it's Blair."

"Maybe I should call her and ask her about it. Thanks guys."

"No problemo, Nancy," said Cindy.

"Yeah. You know we're always here for you."

"I don't care what Roger says, you guys are awesome."

Cindy and Sue Ann just looked at each other. They wanted to do whatever they could to help Nancy, but Roger could be quite the jerk. Did they really want to help mend his and Nancy's relationship? They figured that they'd let Blair talk to her and then they could step in if need be.

Twenty minutes later, the 17-year old Max came in, looking like a beaten-up middle-aged man. Along with him were Emily, Yoshi, and Ana. Usually, Yoshi and Ana would take the bus, but due to all the attention they brought to their elementary school, they were sent home early, and so was Max and Emily. Instead, Max picked them all up in his Honda Accord and drove them home.

Cindy, Sue Ann, and Nancy looked at Max as if he came from a disaster.

"Are you okay?" Cindy asked.

Max looked at her like she was crazy. "Am I okay? What? Do you realize how crazy it is out there? Those reporters won't leave us alone!"

Emily stepped in. "They were harassing us so much, that Yoshi started to cry. These guys are like animals!"

"Yeah, they were asking me a lot of dirty questions about you two," Ana said pointing to Cindy and Sue Ann, "and I'm only nine years old!"

Yoshi was also there, but he didn't say a word. Instead, he coward behind Ana.

Cindy muttered under her breath so no one could hear, "Damn you, Blair."

"And why's Aunt Nancy here?" Max asked. Before the couple could answer, he figured it out. "Don't tell me that all her kids are here too?"

"Yes..." Sue Ann replied hesitantly.

Max, Emily, and Ana sighed while Nancy hung her head low, knowing that things weren't going to be easy.

"Where are we going to sleep?" Emily asked.

"How about you four go to Uncle Billy Ray's and stay there until everything dies down?" Sue Ann suggested. Billy Ray is Sue Ann's older brother who moved to New York. He works as an accountant in a firm in downtown Manhattan.

"But he lives in Queens! That's too far from school!" Max elated.

"I don't know what else to tell you, Max," said Sue Ann.

"I do, I' m gonna give Blair a call, because this has gone too far," said a rather miffed Cindy. She pulled out her iPhone and angrily punched in the number on the touchscreen.

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While Blair and everyone who was closest to her were feeling the wrath of the media feeding frenzy, the formation of the unholy trinity was about to be forged. Boots St. Claire was in her Manhattan penthouse waiting for her guests to arrive.

"Ms. St. Claire," came the voice of Boots' live-in housemaid, "is there anything else I can get for you?"

"No, no, Esmerelda," replied Boots with a wave of her hand, "everything is all honky dory. You can resign to your bedroom now. Ta."

"Thanks, Ms. St. Claire," said the petite woman as she bowed and headed down the hall to her room.

"Hmmm," thought Boots as she watched her housemaid walk down the hall, "there are some perks to being a single, multiple divorcee."

After waiting a few more minutes without any hint of someone showing up, Boots began to fidget. She grabbed her gold iPhone and saw that it was 4:00 pm. Her first guest should be arriving soon. When Boots called her earlier that day and invited her to meet up to discuss their utter destruction of the Blair Warner Empire, she seemed all to excited take part. As for her second guest, she wasn't so sure; however, if it was at Blair's expense the possibility was there. Punctuality was not the strong suit of her second guest, who sounded a little wigged-out when Boots called her. Yet, she could be wrong. As she was pondering the possibilities, her intercom buzzed – announcing the arrival of her first guest.

"Whammo! Right on time," said Boots as she rose and went to the door to ring in her guest.

As Boots opened the door, the Queen of Mean herself – Margo Thomas, nee Worthington – entered as if she owned the place. She had the same air of superiority as she did at Eastland. Some things never change.

"Do come in dear," said Boots although Margo had already pushed past her.

"My pleasure." Margo scanned her surroundings as if judging whether it was a good enough place to meet. There were certain places she wouldn't be caught dead in and she needed to be sure this environment lived up to her standards. Upon her approval, she continued, "Bootsie, darling. So glad to see you," proclaimed Margo as she air kissed both of Boots' cheeks. "I love your home. Simply grand." Margo was really a piece of work.

"Margo. I'm so happy to have you," said Boots as she took Margo's fur coat and put it in the closet. "Please, have a seat."

Boots couldn't imagine wearing a fur coat in the middle of summer, but some people were willing to undergo pain to keep up a certain image. Margo was one of them. After putting Margo's coat away, Boots went to the kitchen.

"Would you care for some wine, Margo? I have some Chateau Haut-Brion Pessac 1982. Simply top drawer."

"That's fine," said Margo as sat down on the sofa, "though I generally prefer 61."

"Splendid," Boots replied as she grabbed three glasses and poured two glasses of wine. She then put the bottle, the full glasses, the empty glass, and the bucket of ice on a tray and brought it into the sitting area.

Margo looked at Boots questioningly as the hostess put the tray on the table and settled in a chair. "Don't you have people for that?" asked the Mean Queen bluntly with a slight sneer.

Boots bit back the retort that rested on the tip of her tongue because she needed Margo on her side right now. "I do," replied Boots, "but I let Esmerelda retire early for the evening. I figured it'd give us some privacy."

Margo couldn't argue with Boots' logic, for it was a sensible answer, so she nodded in agreement. Almost instantly, she seemed to have noticed the empty glass. "Who's that for?" she asked pointing to the extra glass.

Boots didn't think it was the right time to drop the bomb just yet. "Umm, for another interested party," she said as nonchalantly as possible. Margo got immediately suspicious and wanted to say something, but she figured right now was not the time to rock the boat, so she remained quiet.

No more than half a minute later, something came to Margo's mind.

"I'm glad that you got that video of the heifer, the porn slut, and that redheaded hoodrat, but what were you doing in Westchester Mall? Didn't you know that a lot of those peasants shop there?"

"I know, Margo, but I was able to get these totally awesome Gucci leather boots that go so well with my leggings. Also, I know a woman who works at David Yurman's, and it's much easier to get the latest jewelry from her than from those twits on Fifth Avenue, like this bracelet here," she said as she waved her gold and diamond bracelet in front of Margo. The Mean Queen was clearly impressed.

"Hmm. I see. I've heard a few good things about that mall, but still, I can't be in an area filled with smelly commoners. I'm not Blair, after all."

"I think you should try it at least once. It's not that bad."

Margo shrugged, "Okay, maybe sometime later this month."

After taking a sip, Boots put down her wine and exclaimed, "Guess what, Margo!"

"What?" asked Margo as she expected some news about the Lez-plosion and subsequent feeding frenzy by the media wolves.

"Hope Solo actually favorited one of my tweets and sent me a direct message on Twitter."

Margo was caught off guard by Boots' declaration at first, but then her face lit up as realization seemed to hit. "Oh, that Harrison guy on that movie who hangs out with that furball? He's a hunk. Looks damn good in his tight pants, too. Although, I don't get what a big screen hottie from the 70s has to do with anything."

Boots rolled her eyes. It was nice to know that Margo was at least trying to take steps of becoming human. Her pampered upbringing and new lavish lifestyle usually kept her sheltered from such trivial things as the Star Warsmovie series, so she was making progress. And of course she'd focus on what she considered a stud because movie plots went over her head, despite how high in the clouds it was. However, Boots couldn't believe how disconnected Margo was when it came to real life and relatively current events.

"No, no, no, Margo," said Boots as she shook her head. "Hope Solo, not Han Solo. She's an awesome athlete. A goalie – uh, that's for soccer – to be specific. Hope was the goalie in the 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup, but that moron, Greg Ryan, benched her in favor of a 36-year-old has-been. That's why they lost to Brazil in the semis. Then people get mad Hope her for blasting her teammates. I don't blame her for being mad. Idiots."

"Um, Boots, I don't have the slightest idea what you're talking about."

Boots sighed before continuing, "Hope Solo is a celebrity soccer player, Margo. And she does look damn hot in her uniform. The point is, she favorited a tweet I sent out about the Blair/TMZ thing. It was something like: 'The moment when your enemy gets played. #SweetRevenge #Victory #Pumped.' The tweet went with a picture of Blair with more than just pie on her face."

That comment brought back memories when Blair slammed a pie in Margo's face. Finally, Blair knew how it felt. Suddenly something struck Margo about what Boots just said. Did she say that another woman looked hot? The thought nearly made Margo puke, as she wanted to be as far away from lesbians as she could, which would make things interesting when the lesbian Tumpy arrives.

Boots continued, "Not only that, but she totally messaged me back. It was sooooo ta da because it was a direct message saying she liked my competitive spirit. I mean, how gravy is that? Hope Solo favorited me, followed me, and actually messaged me. I could just toss my seat."

"That's great, Bootsie."

"Great? It's superb. Don't you know what this means?"

"No. What?"

"We have celebrity support. Whammo! Like, total success."

Boots was so happy that she was practically jumping for joy. Margo just couldn't bring herself to tell Boots that celebrities like that tend to do that sort of thing for fans sometimes. Well, she could, but she needed Boots on her side right now.

"That's great, Boots," she repeated.

"Yeah, like totally top drawer news."

After a few minutes of Margo sipping her wine and Boots calming down from her exciting news, the latter exclaimed, "Can you believe what's going on with Warnsie and her Nimrod friends?"

Margo then got excited. "No! I can't believe it. This is beyond my wildest dreams! Blair and her butch bitch are going through hell right now, as well as those loser cunt friends of hers. Especially that liberal bitch, Molly. It's about damn time!"

"I'm not familiar with Molly myself," said Boots a little confused, "though I heard through the grapevine that she's like a total bra-burner."

"Oh, she is, Bootsie. We were friends for a short time in high school, but it ended when I told Jo and Blair to go fuck themselves."

"I guess they took that piece of advice quite literally," replied Boots with a small, amused smile on her face.

That made Margo chuckle a bit. "You know, I never thought about that. All I know is that's one part of my life I wish I could do over again. I can't believe I was hanging out with a Democrat voter! What the fuck was I on? That redheaded bitch doesn't even date white guys. All I ever see her with is some thuggish, savage black or some junkie Hispanic, or even one of those nerdy, pencil-necked geek Asians."

Boots tried to comfort Margo who had put her head in her hands and was shaking her head. "Yeah," she said, "all Democrats are losers, but for some reason Blair likes to hang around with them. She must be brainwashed."

Margo abruptly raised her head, "Hang around with them? Bootsie, she's about to marry one! Jo is a rock-solid libtard Democrat! Blair may belong to that joke of a group called Log Cabin Republicans, but she's a true RINO. There's no conservative in that bleach-blonde head, muff-diver at all! She isn't brainwashed, Bootsie, she's simply déclassé."

It seemed to be the perfect opening to mention the other expected guest. "Speaking of lower class, gay Republicans, Tumpy's coming over."

Margo nearly spilled her drink when she heard that bit of news.

"WHAT! Why did you invite Ms. Stonehead lezbo here! You know I don't like that bitch one bit! Ever since she and those closet-case dykes in the Group kicked me and Alison out back at Eastland."

"Simmer down, girl. Tumpy wanted to come because she doesn't like Blair and she sure as hell hates Kelly."

Margo sneered her nose when she heard Kelly's name. "I told Dina not to hire that homo hoodlum. I had a feeling that she'd ruin her, and she did!"

"But how'd you guess Kelly was bad news?"

"First of all, she's Jo's buddy. That says it all. Those two dirty dykes probably lick each other's sardines all the time."

Boots had to really restrain herself from slapping Margo every time she said something homophobic because Boots liked women as much as men; especially her housemaid and secret lover, Esmeralda.

"Second, that bitch pulled a knife on me and threatened to cut me if I kept fucking with her. I simply told her I'd never be so hard up."

"Margo, she said fucking with her not . . ."

"I know, Bootsie. But that leaping lezbo had her sights on Dina and I was trying to chase her out of our neighborhood. I wanted that sewer rat to know that none of us high society girls were into stooping to the slum level. Except for Blair, that is."

"What happened?" asked Boots clearly interested.

"Dina took her side and took her in. All I got was a smile from that redheaded devil bitch, Kelly, and warning from Dina that I could accept her taste in company or distance myself completely. I can never forget that hoodlum for driving a wedge between me and one of my best friends, and for turning Dina into a dyke."

Boots had to use every fiber of her being to keep herself from choking Margo for her homophobic ignorance. Instead, she replied, "Well, then how could I say no to Tumpy? Don't you see, we need to band together to discredit these cretins."

"I guess," relented Margo.

"Hey, at least Kelly's going through hell as well. Can you say payback's a bitch?"

Margo smiled. "Yeah, you're right. This is great indeed. Seeing those cunts suffer, especially Blair, Jo, Molly, and the dynamic dyke duo, Cindy and Sue Ann."

"Cindy and Sue Ann? What's your tiff with them?"

"That muff-diving dyke Cindy once punched me in the nose for calling Sue Ann a pig-fingering, Hillbilly Redneck hick."

"But Sue Ann is all that and more. Just because she now runs a multi-million dollar agency doesn't mean that she has chance. She's still a backward yokel. The truth hurts a smidge when it comes to light, huh?"

"True, and look at all those girls in their agency. They all look like something you find on a street corner! They're supposed to be 'exotic beauties,' but they just look like Third World whores and ghetto hoochies to me. Cheap ass skanks. Plus, what were they thinking getting those fucking plus-sized models? They have no taste whatsoever. Those idiots are saying fat is beautiful, and encouraging people to be fat. I guess it makes sense with the company they keep, just look at Natalie – or should I say Fatalie – but isn't this country full of fat, obese slobs already?"

"Yeah, puleeez!" Bootsie scoffed. "I looked more desirable in my knee-high socks and plaid skirts in college."

"Hell, even our Eastland uniforms beat what those harlots wear," Margo added.

Boots then smiled. "Well, they're all losers and they're getting just what they deserve. Blair is forever tarnished and her dumb-ass friends are all getting their just desserts. Cheers!" ended Boots as she offered a toast.

"Cheers!" replied Margo as she clinked Boots' glass before downing the rest of her drink. As she was refilling her glass, the doorbell rang.

"Whoosh, our other guest has arrived. I'll be back in a tick," said Boots as she rose from her chair to answer the door.

This meeting was going to take more liquid courage so Margo quickly downed two more glasses of wine before refilling it again.

Boots buzzed Tumpy in.

"Hey, what's shakin, man?" asked Tumpy as she entered the living room. She was wearing a leather jacket over a green blouse and jeans. Boots thought she detected a hint of alcohol on Tumpy's breath, but she wasn't going to ask any questions.

Just as she stepped in, Tumpy went from her usual mellow tone to complete rage, as she saw one of her old nemesis sitting in the living room. "What the hell's that bitch doin' here?" asked Tumpy as she stopped in her tracks.

"How dare you call me a bitch, you sick drugged-out lezzie dyke," yelled Margo.

Tumpy walked up to within an arm length of Margo and sneered, "Call me that again and see if you don't get a mark on your throat like what that redheaded bitch, Kelly, nearly did to ya," threatened Tumpy.

Margo huffed and downed another glass of wine.

"And ya didn't answer my question," shouted Tumpy. "What the hell are ya doin' here?"

Suddenly Margo smiled. "I'm just chillin,'" said Margo as she held up her glass and hiccupped. "Umm, Bootsie, you may need to get another bottle."

"Yeah, booze," said Tumpy. "Ya got any hard stuff? Gonna need it if we're gonna talk turkey without plucking each other," declared Tumpy as she sat in the chair furthest from Margo.

"I don't do that," responded Margo.

"I said plucking you airhead snob, not . . ."

Tumpy's voice faded as Boots went into the kitchen and grabbed another couple bottles of Chateau Haut-Brion Pessac and a bottle of Whyte & Mackay's "Original" 40 Year Old Aged Blended Scotch Whisky for Tumpy. The years may not be the best, but Boots had a feeling that by the end of the night, it wouldn't matter.

When Boots returned to the living room, Margo was downing yet another glass of wine and Tumpy was sitting in the chair with her foot on the table, glaring at Margo.

"Come on guys, we're here to celebrate our victory. No awkward poohs allowed," said Boots as she sat down with a glass of wine. "So, Tumpy, we were discussing how successful Operation Discharge Warnsie was. What do you think?"

"I think they're gettin' what they deserve, man. Better than I ever thought. I even got the number of the cute reporter who interviewed me. Once you jump the Tump, ya know all others are chumps."

Margo wanted to say something back to Tumpy, but Boots quickly gave her that look to warn her against it, then she faced Tumpy.

"Okay," replied Boots.

"Oh, by the way," Tumpy added, "did you hear about Sondra Levitt?"

"Oh yeah! The woman Blair beat up a long time ago?"

"Yeah, man! It's totally funny!"

Margo was too scared at the moment to say anything. Suddenly her phone went off and indicated that she had just received a text message. After she looked at it, she finally broke her silence.

"Oh, my God," she claimed. "Guess who just texted me and asked if he could crash in my guest bedroom."

"Who?" asked Boots.

"Congressman Roger Butler."

"You mean Nancy's old man?" asked Tumpy.

"Yeah, isn't that a hoot?" asked Margo imitating Boots.

"Why would he contact you?" asked Boots.

"Because he and my old man know each other and we have an extra bedroom."

"Whatcha goin' do, man?" asked Tumpy.

"What else? Try to bag him of course. You know that they say, always on the prowl for my next ex," said Margo as she shot a glance to Boots. "Besides, it could destroy Nancy."

"But you're married," said Boots.

"Yeah, so. The ring doesn't mean I can't have a fling. It'll mean nothing. Just some quick pics then he can hit the bricks. Besides, do you think my husband, Georgie, could satisfy me? Hell, his old ass is only good for one thing – living high on the hog."

"What's with all the rhyming?" asked Boots.

"Maybe it's something in the water," mused Margo looking at her glass as she downed yet another glass of wine.

"Speaking of wine," interrupted Tumpy, "I wonder if that old bag Garrett has hit the booze trail yet."

"Yeah, she was always nipping the cooking cherry," added Margo.

"Really?" asked Boots.

"She had to. After all, she was running that lesbian brothel of hers. Cindy and Sue Ann, Blair and Jo, and who knows how many other sex-crazed girls under her roof," replied Margo.

"Yeah," added Tumpy, "Maybe that's the real reason her husband left her old ass. They say she dumped him for being a gambler, but she's the one who was really tossing her chips."

"True. What other guy would have a dyke dealing bitch who hid the truth from everyone," replied Margo. Tumpy and Boots gave Margo a cold glare, and she immediately backtracked. "I didn't mean dyke."

"So, I guess she did more than cooking quiche," input Boots just to be part of the conversation. Unlike Margo and Tumpy, she didn't know about Mrs. Garrett prior to the opening of Edna's Edibles in Peekskill.

"Maybe she was closeted herself," suggested Margo. Boots and Tumpy simply shrugged in agreement. In their minds, that was a very good possibility.

"And when she wasn't encouraging lesbian sexcapades or drowning in booze she was allowing the girls to gorge themselves on drugs and food."

Tumpy looked away at Margo's remark because she was one of the girls who were dismissed for doing drugs, but she didn't let anyone see her reaction. "Yeah, that fat ass Natalie and Thunder Thighs Sue Ann proves that point."

Boots then asked, "Natalie's a Jew, right?"

"Yeah," replied Margo and Tumpy in unison.

"Then, how come she's such a porker?"

"Who knows?" said Tumpy. "Maybe she gave up her Jewish values about food for lent."

Margo inserted, "Hell, I'm surprised the upstairs ever survived under the weight of those two fat pigs and that fat cow Mrs. Garrett herself. Even Blair got chunky there for a little while."

Margo then pulled out her gold iPhone and went to the gallery app. After a few swipes, she reached a photo of Blair from 1982, when she was at her heaviest. The three started to laugh at the unflattering image of a chunky Blair attired in a granny dress.

"I once showed it to Joan Rivers, who never really liked the Warner family because David once called her a horrible bitch, and she was laughing up a storm!" They were laughing it up even more before Boots spoke.

"Then you have that short stack, Andy, marrying Aunt Jemima!" put in Boots. "Not to mention Cindy and Sue Ann procreating."

"Great," said Margo. "That's all we need – a whole new generation of baby dykes. They already adopted two mongrel children from other countries, like most typical liberal Hollywood celebrities who hate their own race."

Boots and Tumpy looked away. They knew that Margo could be mean, but this was almost over the line, plus it was hitting too close to home. Boots could see the rage in Tumpy's eyes, but her calming glance kept Tumpy from overreacting. Then, she directed her attack onto Kimberly's family.

"How about porno queen, Kim?" asked Boots. She's getting her dues as well.

"I wonder how that old saggy ass Drummond's taking this press," said Margo.

"Man, he's probably totally buggin," replied Tumpy. "His rep's being dragged through the mud again by that porno slut daughter of his."

"Yeah, who knew someone could fall so far. Such a waste," chided Boots.

"Well, serves that family right."

"What do you mean, Margo?" asked Boots.

Margo answered, "That old do-gooder. He takes in two black kids from the projects. That's when his troubles started. He shouldn't have adopted those two savage thugs."

Tumpy wanted to knock Margo out for saying that, but she knew she had to keep her cool. Instead, she decided to joke back in an effort to maintain peace.

"I wonder if Willis tried tapping that ass."

"Tumpy!" Boots said in shock.

"Well, think about it, man. Kim and Willis were the same age. Willis coulda tried to make that snowflake his shorty. That's what coulda turned her away from men."

"But if what they say about black lovers is true," said Margo "that shouldn't be the case. Of course, it's bullshit about black lovers. They're uncontrollable savages in the sack and in everything else for that matter."

"That's not always true. It's just like the stereotype that all Asian men are on the 'short end' of the stick. However," claimed Tumpy in an effort to mask her true feelings and avoiding a clash with Margo for defending "the Others," "maybe Willis didn't rise to the occasion, so Kim switched teams."

Boots looked on in apparent awe – trying to live up to her prim and proper image.

"You mean . . ." asked Boots.

Tumpy simply replied, "Yeah. Brother may not have been able to stand up to the expectations."

Margo laughed. "Well," put in Margo "a limp noodle could totally turn Kim to women."

"And that other brother of hers?" said Tumpy. "If Willis was bad, that shrimpo was worse."

"Yeah, it'd be like an inch-worm," laughed Margo.

"It would explain why he fled the Big Apple, man," chortled Tumpy.

The two enemies started laughing and acting cordial toward each other. Boots didn't know if it was the alcohol or their mutual disdain for Blair and her friends, but this was a step in the right direction.

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Back at Andy and Tootie's apartment, there was a sudden knock at the door. Fearing that it was a member of the press, Andy slowly approached the door and looked out the peephole. He saw his adopted mother, Beverly Ann Stickle, standing there with two security guards who were trying to fend off the press.

He opened the door and greeted his mother.

"Hi, Mom, thanks for coming." Then he gave his thanks to the security and shut the door behind him. He was still paranoid of the media and paparazzi.

"No problem. It's bananas out there!"

"I know mom. I know."

"How's my grandson doing?" asked Beverly Ann with a hint of concern.

"Brian's fine. He's sleeping now," Tootie replied.

"I think it's time we call a meeting," said Andy. "We all need to get together and work this out."

"All of us?" asked Geri. "Even . . ." she looked over at her cousin afraid to say Kim's name. Although Kimberly and Kelly had had a falling out, she knew that Blair would still be upset that Kimberly chose Kelly over her.

Blair then spoke up without argument, "I know the perfect place."

Chapter Text

Sorry for taking a long time, but due to work and family issues, I was unable to work on this story for over a year. The scene where Kelly and Jo are staying the night in jail has been moved from chapter 12 to this one.

"I think it's time we call a meeting," said Andy. "We all need to get together and work this out."

"All of us?" asked Geri. "Even . . ." she looked over at her cousin, afraid to say Kim's name.

Although Kimberly and Kelly had had a falling out, she knew that Blair would still be upset that Kimberly chose Kelly over her.

Blair then spoke up. "Yes, even Kim."

She had to bite her tongue after saying Kim's name, and her facial expressions made it clear how angry she still was with Kim. Nevertheless, she continued. "I know the perfect place where we can all hide out until the heat is off from the press."

"Where? Is it around here?" Beverly Ann asked.

Blair shook her head. "Not really. There's a hideaway place in upstate New York that the Warner clan owns. We all can stay there until things die down."

"Oh, I've heard about it, but I thought that it was something that Uncle Steven made up," Geri said.

Blair shook her head and replied, "No, Uncle Steve isn't making it up. He was there last year, so he's telling the truth."

"Really?" Andy questioned skeptically. "You know that's a lot of people," he claimed. "We're talking about at least 20 people, not including Nancy's kids!"

"Trust me, it's big enough for all of us to stay there. The thing is that the directions to get there are kind of tricky so we all need to meet first so we can all go there together. However, I don't think this apartment is big enough to hold all of us for a meeting. Instead, let's go to the hotel and hold it there. It's up on northern Manhattan, which is central to everybody, and there are a few large conference rooms we can use."

"Great idea, Blair," stated Andy. "So should we call the others to meet us over there?"

"Yes, and I'll call Ray and tell him where we'll be."

"Good."

But just before Blair could call Raymond, someone called her.

She looked at her phone and saw Cindy Webster's name on the screen. She was hesitant to answer, knowing that Cindy would only call her in case of emergencies or if she was just plain pissed at her. Usually it was the latter. The last time Cindy called her, it was to address Blair about making fun of Los Angeles - Cindy's hometown. However, Blair knew that if she didn't answer Cindy's call, she would have to answer to Sue Ann. Ever since that time in high school when Sue Ann accidentally slugged Blair, the latter dared not get in the other girl's way. Besides, there was a slim chance that it could be Sue Ann who was calling. Sue Ann had used Cindy's phone to contact Blair on a few occasions, so maybe it wasn't Cindy on the other end waiting to bite Blair's head off.

Silently praying to God that it was Sue Ann on the other end, Blair picked up her phone and put it on speaker, since her phone was charging. As much use at it got on that day, it had already run out of battery life in a few hours.

"H-h-hello?" she answered nervously.

"What the hell, Blair?!" Cindy yelled from the top of her lungs. Much to Blair's chagrin, it wasn't Sue Ann. Everybody in the room was caught by surprise by the outburst.

"What's wrong with her?" Andy asked Tootie, but she quickly hushed him.

"Ssh! I'm trying to listen here!"

"Cindy, we got our kids here!" Sue Ann warned, but it was useless, for Cindy was already on rage mode.

"You two, go to the kitchen right now. I don't think you need to hear this," Max told his two younger siblings as he pointed to the kitchen. Ana shrugged while she took her brother, Yuji, by his hand and went to the kitchen.

"Cindy, l-l-let me explain," pleaded Blair on the other end of the phone line, as her nervousness was apparent. She was thankful that she wasn't holding the phone.

"There's nothing to explain, woman! You and your stupidity put all of us into this shit! Just because you have some petty bullshit issue with one of Jo's friends, you had to embarrass yourself in front of everybody at a goddamn mall of all places, and we ended up paying for it! Now my kids got kicked out of camp, Nancy and her kids became refugees in our house, and Jo ran away from you because she got tired of your shit, and I can't blame her one damn bit! I've been sick and tired of your shit for over thirty years!"

"Cindy, calm down. I can explain everything!" Blair pleaded, but she wasn't having any of that.

"Calm down?! Who the hell are you to tell me to 'calm down?' You sure as hell didn't calm down at the rehearsal, and you sure didn't calm down at the mall. It's all over the internet of how much of a horse's ass you really are!"

Beverly Ann whispered to Geri, "Wow! She really is pissed." Geri simply responded with a nod.

Blair was trying to put in a word during Cindy's rant. "But, but, but…"

However, Cindy wasn't going to stop her tirade. "If I ever get the chance to see you again, I'm gonna punch your lights out and kick your pompous ass all over New York City, you spoiled, privileged, high-society, snooty bitch! Jo deserves better than a Kardashian-wannabe bitch like you!"

That was the last straw for Blair, for she had taken enough of Cindy's verbal abuse. It's one thing to be insulted for being part of the elite class, but it's another to be compared to a black sheep of the elite class. Next to being compared to Paris Hilton or anyone else of the Hilton clan, being compared to a Kardashian was the ultimate insult according to Blair.

Without a second thought, she got steamed up and struck back.

"Listen, you big-mouth twit! You are not going to keep on insulting me like this, Ms. Hollywood! If you think you can intimidate me, you're wrong!"

"Oh, and what do you plan to do about it? Your muscles have run away. You have nothing to back you up, besides your mouth. You wouldn't lift one finger to take me on in fear of breaking a nail."

"Well, my nails are tougher than you, you wannabe thug. I remember bringing you to tears before the Harvest Ball back in high school. Heck, you cried so much they should have called you Cindy Weepster."

That struck Cindy's neves because she didn't want to be labeled as being too soft. Infuriated she shot back, "You prissy peacock. I could take you out just like that," she emphasized with a snap of her fingers. "You may be like twice my size, Miss Piggy, but I can take you out just as good as Sue Ann can."

"Cindy," shouted Sue Ann as she grabbed at her partner's arm. Cindy simply pushed her away and just continued as if she didn't even notice Sue Ann's presence.

"I don't care if you did take that self-defense class back in high school, Gucc-illa, mess with my family anymore and you will be breathing through your ears cuz I will pop you in your puss. Then you will need another nose job, Bimbo Beak. I will also pull your hair out by the roots so we can all see what color they really are." Cindy sounded like she was on the verge of hyperventilating.

"That's enough!" Sue Ann screamed and tried to grab the phone away from Cindy from behind. Cindy quickly flipped her over the ground, but somehow Sue Ann managed to hold on to Cindy's arms. A few seconds later, both women found themselves on the floor rumbling, cursing each other out while trying to grab the phone. The phone was still on, and Blair was able to hear all of it. She was trying her best not to cry over the drama that was going on.

While Sue Ann and Cindy were in their tussle, little did they know that Nancy and some of her kids just came in, hearing the commotion. Nancy was about to step in, but Max and Emily beat her to the punch and stepped in to break up the fight.

"Stop it you two!" Emily screamed as she held Sue Ann back, while Max restrained Cindy. Both women looked red and were a mess. Their hair were all over their faces, their clothes were dirty, and the iPhone now had a cracked screen. Nancy picked up the phone and saw that it was still on. However, by the time Nancy was about to answer, Blair had hung up.

"You two are acting more juvenile than Yuji!" Max spat. "We are in a major crisis here and we need to cool down so that we can come up with a plan."

"We wouldn't need a plan if it wasn't for Blair!" Cindy shouted to Max.

"There's no need to be raising your voice at Max!" Sue Ann shouted back.

Just as Cindy was about to scream back, she quickly filtered what Sue Ann said, and was able to somewhat calm herself down. However, she was still on attack mode.

"Every time Blair does something stupid, you stick up for her. Why do you keep on sticking up for Blair?"

"Because she's my friend."

"Well, as her friend, you should do a better job of holding her accountable for her actions," Cindy scolded back.

"She's your friend too. Remember, she was the one who pulled a few strings to get you out of that prison-like contract with Elite Modeling agency," Sue Ann reminded with an equal angry tone matching Cindy's.

"That's because she did it as a favor for you, and that she hated John Casavantes." John Casavantes was the CEO of Elite Modeling agency, and a notorious scumbag. During her early years of modeling, Cindy appeared as a high-fashion model in ritzy places such as on magazine covers and pages. However, it was very far off from the truth, as Cindy barely made ends meet, even though Sue Ann was living with her. Sue Ann didn't have a high-paying job at the time. She was merely an assistant in a law firm - basically a gopher.

Cindy understood and went along with the business. However, when Cindy's dad had pneumonia, Cindy requested a temporary leave so she could go back to LA and visit her dad, but John refused, telling her that the shoot for the Christmas issue of Glamour was much more important. She had enough, and told Sue Ann about the situation. Sue Ann later shared it with Blair, and Blair immediately took action.

Due to a favor John owed David Warner, he agreed to let Cindy out of her contract without any penalties. This allowed Cindy to find another company. LeChic Designs heard that she was available and quickly signed her to a contract, more favorable to her finances. Though it wasn't part of the deal, she was able to get her life partner a job at LeChic Designs. After Sue Ann proved herself more than competent, she was able to rise within her company - up to an executive level.

"At least she did something for us. We wouldn't be where we are right now if it wasn't for her."

"Bullshit! I would have made it with or without Ms. Park Ave. poster child's meddling."

"No you wouldn't!" Sue Ann rebutted.

"Yes, I would have!"

They kept going back and forth until Nancy stepped in.

"Stop it you two!" Nancy shouted. Then quickly stopped and then they looked at her. "There's no need for you two to be fighting like this."

"We wouldn't be if Blair wasn't such a dumb ass, and if Sue Ann wasn't kissing it all the time."

"What the hell did you say?" Sue Ann demanded.

Nancy quickly intervened again, knowing from her psychology background how things can escalate. "Hey! Blair might be a lot of things, but she does not deserve to be insulted. Now we can't change the past. This is the situation we are in now, and we can't run away from it." Thoughts of Roger leaving her were still in her mind when she said that.

"I'm not going to run away, but I'm not going to be in the same room with her," said Cindy, as she angrily pointed at Sue Ann. "And Nancy, don't bother trying your psychology crap on me. I'll be in the fitness room," Cindy chided, as she went down to the basement. At that moment, Sue Ann broke down and cried. Nancy was there to comfort her.

"Look, Sue Ann, you need to let Cindy chill. Knowing her, she's probably working out just to get rid of her anger." Like Molly, Nancy knew their personalities enough to predict how they would react, and what they do when they tend to be angry. Cindy would work out, while Sue Ann watched movies.

"I know, but with all this going on, it's just becoming a tragic Shakespeare play."

"Not really. Nobody has died yet," Nancy joked. Sue Ann was not in a joking mood and she gave Nancy a cold stare with her lip shut tight. Nancy got a little nervous from the stare, but got over it and continued. "Let me call Blair back. I think she needs to talk to someone."

"Go right ahead, Nancy," said Sue Ann as she went to get some tissues to wipe her tears.

Back at the apartment, Blair felt terrible for everything that was going on. She was feeling even guiltier for causing the riff between Sue Ann and Cindy.

"God must really hate me," she bemoaned.

"No he doesn't. He's probably just teaching you a lesson," Beverly Ann suggested.

"I know, I had that pep talk with Andy and Geri before you came here. Now let me get back to calling Raymond."

But just before she was able to call, she was interrupted once again. This time by Andy. He had received a text from his secretary.

"Hey, Andy, I think you need to see this."

It was attached to a link to a Yahoo article. He clicked on it and it showed the article of Jo and Kelly fighting Miko at the inn. Andy quickly stopped Blair from calling.

"Hey, Blair, I think you might need to look at this."

"What's going on?" she asked as she turned her head around and looked at him.

"I'm not sure, but I think Jo is in trouble."

"What!" everybody in the room shouted.

"Yeah. Jo was at some place in Pennsylvania when she got into a fight with someone."

There was a mixture of surprise, hurt, and anger in Blair. She was surprised to see that Jo would go as far as Pennsylvania to get away from her, hurt by the fact that she went that far, and angry that she got into a fight. Blair approached Andy so that she could read the article. Under the article titled "More Lezsplotion Drama: Fight in Inn Parking Lot Shakes Quiet Town," there was a picture of Kelly ready to strike Miko with her helmet. Obviously the photo was captured by someone's phone because the picture wasn't completely clear, but the identities of the participants were unmistakable. Despite the quality of the photo, the picture itself gave an idea of the severity of the fight.

"Do you know exactly where she is, Andy?" Blair asked, to the point that it sounded like pleading.

"No. I haven't read it fully yet. Tootie, check and see if this story is on CNN. I bet that it is, since even though it's on Yahoo, the article was written by the Associated Press."

"Sure," she replied as she turned on the TV, and then changed it to CNN. Sure enough, the story was on Breaking News. This was hardly news, nowhere near the level of the tsunami that hit Japan earlier that year, yet it got just as much hype. There it showed a battered Miko in a police car, who basically was a Japanese tsunami herself. Blair was surprised to see her condition. Even though the article's picture gave a good indication of how brutal the fight was, it didn't capture the true impact that live video does. Blair knew that if Miko was that badly beaten, chances were that Jo was just as wounded; though, at the same time, inside she was gleaming that Miko got hurt. The encounter at Jo's fortieth birthday was still fresh in her mind.

Guess you won't be seeing Bruce Springsteen anytime soon, huh Miko? Blair was thinking to herself with a smirk on her face.

CNN's newly acquired Erin Burnett then appeared.

"Believe it or not folks, there's more drama to the so-called 'Lezsplosion'. As you all know from our exclusive coverage, Sergeant Joanna Polniaczek, better known as Jo, recently went into hiding. Well, apparently, the hiding didn't last very long. Jo, partner of socialite Blair Warner, resurfaced after an altercation with Miko Wakamatsu, from the famed Wakamatsu family. The incident occurred at the Settler's Inn, a bed and breakfast in Hawley, Pennsylvania. However, Sergeant Polniaczek was not alone. She was with her friend, Kelly Donovan, who you know was in both the wedding rehearsal video and, of course, the 'Lezsplosion' incident at Westchester mall. Now she's in yet another recorded fight."

Then it showed a personal recording of the fight between the three women from a witness' cell phone. Blair was shocked to see what Jo endured, to the point that she shed a tear. She badly wanted to go to the area, but when she heard that they were detained for questioning, she knew that they wouldn't be released for a while. Oh, the things that she knew being a policewoman's partner.

Erin continued. "That Kelly woman can't seem to get herself out of trouble. Well, what do you expect from a former drug dealer?"

It wasn't until a few minutes later that the camera showed Jo and Kelly in another car together.

"What the hell is Kelly doing there?" Blair asked, with anger. "How come she knew where Jo was and not the rest of us?"

"Yeah. Why did Jo cut all of us out?" Tootie questioned.

"Maybe she wanted Kelly to know, because she's the only one she can trust to not tell Blair, I guess?" Andy suggested while shrugging. Blair was thinking of another reason… One that could bring her onto the verge of explosion.

Then a certain type of jealousy was starting to build up in Blair. "Those two better not be..."

However, Andy was quick to diffuse that bomb, knowing what Blair was thinking. "No, that couldn't be possible. Kim was here last night, talking about their date, so chances are that she went up there today."

"Yeah, Andy's not lying about that," Tootie stated to back up her husband.

"Speaking about their date; how did it go?" Blair asked.

"Very bad. Kelly dumped her because she found out that Kim was pansexual."

"Well, what's wrong with that?" asked Blair, not seeing why it would make a difference.

"Apparently, Kelly wasn't happy that Kim could possibly be interested in guys as well as women," confided Tootie.

Another reason for Blair not to like Kelly, was that Blair was also still attracted to men, even though it seemed to be fading more and more. Kelly's reaction wasn't exactly news to Blair because Jo had told her a few times before that Kelly was biphobic; however, it still upset her that someone who was marginalized herself could be so critical.

Blair tried her best to hide her smile as she thought, "Well, at least that trash is finally gone from Kim's life." Despite her happiness from the news, she refrained from saying anything for it would cause even more drama than she was already in. Instead, she simply responded with, "Oh, that's too bad."

After finding out what happened between Kelly and Kimberly Blair was able to cool down a bit, but she still felt slightly angry over the fact that Jo reached out to Kelly and not her.

"Excuse me, but where is Hawley, Pennsylvania?" Beverly Ann asked, breaking the silence. "It doesn't sound like a place that people would know unless they're from that area."

"I don't know, but I know we got to contact them somehow," Geri said as she glanced over toward her cousin.

Blair shook her head at her cousin, knowing it wasn't possible. "We won't be able to for a while since they'll be detained. I am going to contact Raymond, however, and start planning for all of us to meet at the hotel."

"All of us?" Beverly Ann asked.

"All of us who were affected by this whole mess. That includes everyone in this room, plus Cindy and Sue Ann, their children, Molly and Jamaal, Natalie and David, their children, Nancy and Roger, and their children."

"What? Are you crazy? Nancy and her family will need a bus," Geri said.

"That's already covered."

Beverly Ann noticed an important flaw in Blair's plan. "Well, with the exception of Nancy's children, who we know are with Nancy basically all the time, it wouldn't make sense for all of the other kids to go to your hideout. I think some of them have day camp and other activities like that, so I really don't think it would make sense to travel four hours away."

Blair pondered that for a moment before responding. "You're right, Bev. We'll just tell everyone, except for Nancy, of course, to come by themselves. If they have any problems getting someone to watch their kids, I'll make the appropriate arrangements."

"Sounds good enough," Beverly Ann replied.

"Well, since we have a lot of ground to cover, let's start calling people," Tootie shrugged. "I'll call Cindy. I know she'll answer if I call her."

"Okay, then I'll give Natalie a call," Beverly Ann stated.

"And I'll give Molly a call," Andy added.

"Good. Then I'll just call Nancy, since I'll be able to make arrangements for her and her family better," Blair finished.

"Hey, what about me?" Geri asked. "I would like to help out too. Who can I call?"

Blair thought about it for a minute, and then she remembered Kim.

"Give Kim a call. I think it's best for you to call her. She's probably blocked my number."

"Right," Geri ended.

Afterward, everybody got on their mobile phones and started dialing.

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Molly was the first to be reached, since she was back home in White Plains. Outside of her home were a few camera crew, waiting for her to come out. She was in her "She Shed" or "Femme Den" as it is also called - basically, the female version of the man cave. There were posters of radical female trailblazers such as Amelia Earhart, socialist leaders such as Che Guevera, and a few rock bands such as the Cure and REM (before they went totally commercial), and a few girl bands and performers such as Joan Jett, the Runaways, and even the Bangles. Bookshelves were filled with Feminist, Socialist, and other left-leaning books.

There were also pictures of Molly with famous and prominent people. Most of them were feminists, social activists, and certain left-leaning politicians, but there were a few musicians and actors/actresses as well. However, Molly didn't consider those pictures to be as valuable as the ones with her friends and her boyfriend, Jamaal. Despite all the aforementioned items, it wasn't all hardcore feminism in the room. She also had a stuffed elephant on the couch, as a small nod to femininity. She was listening to an indie rock band when she got a call from Andy. She looked at the number.

"Andy? I bet it has to do with what's going on right now." He didn't call her too often, so she knew it had to be about what was going on around them.

"Hey, Molly, do you have some time?"

"I got all the time in the world, unfortunately," said a miffed Molly.

"I know, I know. Listen, Blair is having a meeting today at her hotel."

"I don't know if I want to be around her right now, because I'm afraid that if I see her, I'll slap her face off," exclaimed Molly as her face turned red in anger.

"I understand, after the way she treated you at the rehearsal. But listen, Blair wants to make it up to you, and she has a plan that will get all of us away from the media."

Molly rolled her eyes when she heard that. "Oh, please, we all know about her so-called 'brilliant ideas', which they are anything but."

"Trust me, this one is. She has a hideout in upstate New York that will get all of us away from the media."

"When you say 'all of us' do you mean the whole group, like Natalie, Tootie, Cindy, Sue Ann, etc?"

"Yep, so that means you won't be with Blair alone. Whaddaya say? You can either hang with your friends or you can hang with the media all over your house and, as we both know, the media isn't going anywhere anytime soon."

Molly took a look out of the window and saw the media there, waiting for her to come out.

"Trust me, it's worth your time. Do it for me, as a favor for helping you get the sponsors for the Women's March two years ago."

She sighed before responding, "Okay. I'll do it, just for you."

"Cool. Thanks a lot," he said with a grin.

"No problem, Andy. However, after this, we're even."

"I understand. The meeting will be at the Warner Hotel, the one where Mrs. G. works at, 8 PM, after rush hour. Like I said, this is a hideout, so we will be gone for a few days, so bring some clothes and stuff."

"Okay. Does it have internet?" Molly asked. The internet was a deal-breaker. Her work and life depended on it.

"Lemme check. Though knowing Blair, she would have it."

Andy asked Blair about the internet and she nodded back.

"She said yes, so grab your laptop."

"Great. Then I'll see you at 8. By for now."

"You too."

After the conversation ended, Andy let out a sigh of relief. "Well, at least she's on board."

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Beverly Ann contacted Natalie, who was at her place. There was a camera crew over there, but they were from Fox News and MSNBC - her employer's rivals. When she looked at her phone, she saw "Bev Ann" appear. More than happy to see one of her best friends calling, she picked up.

"Hey, Beverly Ann. Have the wolves captured you as well?" joked Natalie. Even in situations like this, she always kept her sense of humor.

Knowing what she meant, she replied, "Yeah, they're treating us like we're buffalo meat!"

"Welcome to the dark side of the media." Natalie sighed, feeling embarrassed for being a part of the media.

"Well, I wanted to tell you that Blair wants to have a meeting of what has been going on later on tonight, when the traffic dies down."

Being the ever-prepared journalist, Nat whipped out a notebook and pen to write down the details. She had a good enough memory, but she couldn't seem to get herself out of reporter mode no matter how hard she tried.

"Alright, Beverly Ann. Shoot," said the reporter as she readied her pen.

"It's going to be at 8 PM at the Warner Hotel. Blair booked one of the conference rooms to accommodate everyone."

"I'm assuming you mean the one where Mrs. G. is working?" Natalie asked.

"Yep. The flagship one."

Natalie finished writing down the info. "Got it. Okay, I'll tell Dave and have him cover for the kids."

"You might need to have him cover for a few days."

That threw Natalie in a loop, with a puzzled look on her face. "Huh?"

"Oh, I forgot to tell you. Blair wants to tell you more about her hideout upstate."

Natalie's investigative journalism nature peaked. "Oh, that one. I've heard about it. I heard it's real big!"

"From what I've heard, it sure is. So you might need to bring a few pairs of clothing."

"So, wait," replied Nat, scratching her head with her pen, "Blair wants to gather us all to talk about her hideout?"

"Well, you'll learn more about it at the meeting, but Blair wants to invite us all to that place to escape the media circus. So, you just want to bring everything you need."

"Oh, so we are literally going underground, huh?"

Beverly Ann shrugged. "I guess you could say that."

"Hmm, it could give me some good material for a story," contemplated the writer. "Okay, I'm in," she said after a moment's pause.

"I'll see you later, bye!" Beverly Ann ended. "Well, Natalie is up for it," Beverly Ann said with a smile.

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As Blair was about to call Nancy, Nancy called her instead. She was upstairs with some of her kids.

"Hello Nancy, I was going to call you."

"Well, the coincidence couldn't have happened at a better time because Cindy and Sue Ann had a fight – over you!"

"Oh great.." Blair muttered feeling targeted by everyone as being the cause of this mess. She was hoping that Nancy wouldn't blame her so much. "We heard a little bit. How bad was the fight?"

"Very bad. They were grabbing each other and rolling all over the floor."

"What else is new?" asked Blair trying to lighten the mood. "I thought that was called foreplay."

"It's not funny, Blair. Sue Ann was near tears and Cindy snapped at the kids. Humor is not the appropriate response for such an explosive reaction. They are clearly displacing their anger and transferring it to innocent people. And Sue Ann, her emotions are all over the place."

Blair sighed in despair.

"Listen, at 8 PM, I am holding a meeting at my flagship hotel. I have a place where we can get away from the media for a while."

"Look, I don't think Cindy will step foot in the same room as you right now."

"Nancy, you can work your psychological magic. We all need to put our differences aside to escape the vultures. I will admit I was" she gulped as she managed to squeak out "wrong."

"You – Blair Warner – are going to admit you were wrong? Hmmm, Cindy might come to see that after all. Then Nancy remembered something. "But what about my kids?"

"Bring them with you. I can put them in one of our congress room while we hold the meeting in another."

"Thank God! They would get bored quickly and make it near impossible for the adults to discuss serious matters."

"Well, they're kids. Heck, maybe I will have ice cream or something delivered to keep them occupied. They will be well taken care of by the staff. Anyhow, please keep me informed of the Cindy-Sue Ann situation."

"I will do my best, Blair. Even if it means using every trick in the book."

"Thanks, Nancy. See you then."

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As Tootie dialed Cindy's number, she was quietly praying to herself that Cindy wouldn't blow up when she answered. After the blow up that she heard earlier, Tootie was afraid that Cindy would bite her head off because she'd assume that Tootie had taken Blair's side. The actress thought that she could convince her friend to meet at the hotel with the secret card she had up her sleeve, but she was only hoping she'd get the chance to play it. Besides, if history applied, Cindy would probably be working out or something physical to get her aggression out, so it was a good chance that Tootie would be talking to Sue Ann anyway.

When Cindy's phone rang, Sue Ann picked it up and saw that Tootie was calling. She didn't think Cindy would mind her answering the phone since she did it many times before. They both trusted each other in their relationship, so there was no need for complete privacy. Also, Sue Ann was curious to see how much damage was actually inflicted on the phone during her and Cindy's scuffle.

"Hello?" said Sue Ann, still trying to hide the sadness in her voice.

Tootie let out a sigh of relief when Sue Ann answered. "Hey, Sue Ann. What's wrong?"

Sue Ann shook her head. She should have known she couldn't hide anything from Tootie. No one hardly ever could.

"Nothing Tootie. It's just, oh, Cindy's phone is a bit . . . busted. Cindy and I kind of got into it and she stormed off to work out."

"I was going to ask why you were answering Cindy's phone."

"You know how Cindy gets when she's upset," sighed Sue Ann. "I couldn't let it go unanswered though. I'd like not to lose all our friends today. Cindy and Blair already had it out. She is super mad at Blair right now."

"You know why, don't you?"

Sue Ann arched her eyebrow and asked, "Why?"

"It's because they are so much alike."

Sue Ann had a puzzled look on her face that lasted a few seconds. "What? They couldn't be any more different if they tried."

"No, really. They are both stubborn and prefer to have things go their own way. When it doesn't, they blow up."

"I do not," shouted Cindy who had come into the room, sweat running down her face, neck, and back. She was on her way to the kitchen to get some water when she overheard the conversation.

Apparently when the phone cracked it got stuck on speaker.

"Umm, exhibit A," said Tootie.

"Don't you dare compare me to that . . . " Cindy stopped in her tracks as she noticed that Sue Ann was using her phone. "What are you doing with my phone again?"

"Sorry, dear," answered Sue Ann sheepishly, "but I didn't want to get all our friends mad at us. You already upset Blair . . . ."

"Listen, I want nothing to do with that bleach-blonde bimbo. She's ruining all our lives and . . ."

"Cindy," interrupted Tootie, "don't be so dramatic. I'm the actress in this group. Isn't over exaggerating something Blair would do?"

"Stop saying her name. Blair, Blair, Blair, Blair, Blair. She's not the center of the universe. Least not mine."

"Then why do you keep talking about her?" questioned Tootie.

"I, uh," stammered Cindy.

"And another thing," continued Tootie, "both of you keep trying to steal the spotlight and be the one in the leading role with no consideration for the ensemble. I mean look at your latest photo shoots. How many of them have been solo lately?"

"Will you stop with the theater talk, Tootie. I am not a character in one of your plays."

"Well, actually, you'd be a cast member playing a character . . . ."

Cindy sighed and rolled her eyes at the same time. "Whatever Tootie. This is real life not some off-Broadway performance."

"Exactly, so why do you always have to play to an audience?"

"Whaddya mean?" asked Cindy confused.

"You tend to make a spectacle of things when a simpler solution would be the better alternative. For instance, when the basement flooded that one time and you came up looking like a half-drowned rat because just because you had to save your spikes."

"Hey, if my memory serves me correctly, you just had to go out to the stables to save your rabbits," Cindy noted.

"Yeah, and you even refused to take off your roller skates," added Sue Ann, backing up her partner, even though they were currently not on good terms.

"So, who is the one who is always looking for attention?" asked Cindy.

"Well, I was born to be an actress. What's your excuse?"

"Ummm,"

"Exactly, you just can't help it . . . . just like Blair."

"I thought I told you . . ." Cindy gritted.

"And you think you are always right, just like Blair. But Blair is prepared to do something she NEVER does if you come to the hotel at eight."

"Oh, yeah, and what's that?" asked Cindy skeptically.

"Apologize," answered Tootie.

"Blair Warner apologize?" asked Sue Ann in awe. "You're kidding."

"No. Honest and truly. She wants to apologize for all this mess and try to make it right."

"This I gotta see," stated Cindy.

"Well, then come to the Warner Hotel at 8PM. Oh, and don't forget to pack some stuff. That's all I'm going to say."

When Tootie hung up, she heaved a huge sigh of relief, but nodded that Sue Ann and Cindy had reluctantly agreed to meet them. A big smile appeared on everybody's faces along with a group sense of awe because she had done the impossible - convincing Cindy to be in the same room with Blair.

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Geri started calling Kimberly. She knew that Blair and her had a falling out, but she knew that someone had to talk to her, regardless.

"Geri?"

"Yeah, it's me."

"Did Blair tell you to call me? If so, then forget it. I don't want to have any part with that bitch!"

Geri was shocked at how resentful Kim was.

"Listen, Kim. I know you are mad at Blair . . ."

"Mad? Mad doesn't even begin to describe how I feel about her right now," fumed Kim with a steamed look on her face. She was clutching her cell phone so tightly that her knuckles were turning white. There was no mistaking how angry she was feeling.

"Look, I know Blair can be a pain sometimes . . .

"That's the understatement of the century," huffed Kimberly.

". . . but," continued Geri, "she can try to come through in the end."

"Right. What would you know about it?"

"I grew up around her."

"I'm sorry, Geri," replied Kim as she lowered her voice a little, "but she is trying to stick her nose in my relationship."

"Been there," interjected Geri.

"What?" asked a puzzled Kim.

"Back when Blair was in high school, there was this dance and the French teacher asked me on a date. We decided to see each other a little after that, but Blair was convinced that he would hurt me. Just because I have Cerebral Palsy, she thought she knew what was best for me."

"But she doesn't understand what's going on with me," declared Kim in frustration.

"And she didn't know what was going on with me either. She wanted to put me on a shelf so I wouldn't get broken, but she didn't think how lonely it is there. Being put up and displayed from a distance is worse than being enjoyed and closed to someone."

"Hmm, it is similar, I guess."

"We all know Blair has airhead moments. Hell, sometimes I think she's going to float off somewhere, but she really does want to make up for the mess she caused. Ha, I guess she learned something working at Eastland. God knows she still can't cook all that great . . ."

"Or make her bed," Kim said with a chuckle. She knew that it never was one of Blair's best things. "Okay," sighed Kimberly after a moment's pause, "I guess if you can give her another chance, I can too. Besides, I'm tired of these vultures and I am prepared for any ideas . . . even Blair's."

"Thanks a lot. You won't regret it."

Kim raised her left eyebrow the minute that Geri said that. "Are you sure?"

"Well, not in the end. Oh, by the way, it's at 8 PM at the main Warner Hotel and you may want to bring some clothes and any essentials. Just warning you. Oh, if you need to make any arrangements for your father, then I suggest you do it now."

"That won't be a problem. My housekeeper will watch him."

"Great, so that is one thing that is taken care of. So, I'll see you at 8, okay?"

"Okay, Geri. Talk to you soon."

"Bye."

Geri heaved a sigh of relief and flashed her cousin the thumbs up sign.

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Finally, all the people were reached. Then another number appeared on Blair's phone. It was her sister Bailey. She answered.

"Hello?"

"Hey, Blair. Look, these news people are driving me nuts. In fact, Sister Meg can't even go back to the convent, they are hounding her so bad. So, she's here with me and we were wondering if we could lay low in the hideout you just renovated?"

Blair was stunned. "Funny you should mention that. I was just going to make plans for all my friends and their families to go there until everything cools down."

"That's a brilliant idea, Blair."

"One of the things I'm best known for," replied Blair as she subconsciously flipped her hair.

"Blair . . ."

"Seriously though, Bailey, do tell me, how in the world did you know? It's like you read my mind or something."

"Well, I would have done the same thing if I had a secret place like you do," Bailey noted.

"Wow, what a coincidence."

"Maybe it's just because we share the same blood and I think just like you do. I guess great minds do think alike."

Blair paused for a bit then shrugged. "True. Listen, since you brought up the place, I was going to call and tell you to meet me at the main hotel at 8PM. We will be in one of the large conference rooms."

"A large conference room? Why unless..."

"Yeah, like I said . . . it's going to be EVERYBODY. Including all of Nancy's children."

Bailey and Meg's jaws nearly dropped when they heard that Nancy's kids were coming.

"Nancy's kids? Does the place have that much room?" asked Bailey in shock.

"That family's like the Brady Bunch times two!" Meg exclaimed, yet it wasn't loud enough for Blair to hear.

"Of course the place has enough room. Look, don't worry about Nancy and her family. Just bring some clothes for a few days and tell Sister Meg to do the same."

"I got you on speaker, so Sister Meg heard you."

"Oh really? Well then, hi Sister Meg!"

"Hi, Blair. How are you doing?"

"Crappy! But after we get to the place, I think I'll feel much better."

"Don't be discouraged, Blair. Things will get back to normal, I hope..."

"Ha. That doesn't' really sound too confident on your end, Sister," Blair noted.

Sister Meg sighed. "Yeah, I know. I can't hide the fact that this experience has been very trying for me, but I believe that my faith will not be broken. I know that it is just God testing us and, with His help, I know I'll get through this . . . we all will."

Blair smiled. "I agree with you, Meg. I totally do."

"Now, you are the one who doesn't sound too confident."

"Well, if you believe that everything will work out in the end, then I guess I can trust in your faith as well. Although I'd be lying if I'd say it won't be hard."

"God gives us obstacles to test our strength, Blair. This is our test."

"I guess so. Anyway, so you guys will meet us at the hotel, then?"

"Yes, Blair. We will be there."

"Thanks, Meg. See you then. Bye."

After Blair hung up, she declared to the room, "That must be everybody."

"Yeah, I can't think of anybody else to call," Tootie responded.

"Well, now all I need to do is call the hotel and make all of the arrangements for tonight," concluded Blair.

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Cindy was able to talk Max into taking care of the house while they were gone and to have Emily help out. Natalie was able to get in touch with her husband and her kids, telling them that she would be gone for a few days. Nancy tried to contact Roger, but he blocked her call. She used Blair's phone to call him back, but he didn't respond. Instead, she left a message on his phone telling him that she had the kids with him. Molly had the fewest problems, for she only had to tell Jamaal that she would be gone for a few days. He understood and told her to be careful. Tootie wanted Andy to come along, but he told her that since he was Blair's PR representative, he needed to stay behind to face the media. However, Brian accompanied Tootie instead.

It was 8:15 PM, and everybody was in the main conference room. Everybody, except for Blair. She was trying to get the bus ready and to get the hideout prepared with a lot of people through the housekeeper.

Everybody was in the room. Tootie, Natalie, Molly, Mrs. Garrett, Sue Ann, Cindy, Nancy and her kids.

"Typical Blair, always freaking late!" Cindy complained.

"Cindy," Mrs. G. said. "Be patient. I don't think Blair is fashionably late on this one."

Cindy sighed and responded, "Sorry."

Finally, Blair entered the room. It looked like she ran all the way there because she was panting.

"Sorry folks. I had to help out with some mechanical issues on the bus, plus check up on the hideout," she said while huffing and puffing. This wasn't a big surprise that Blair was helping out, for Jo taught her some auto-mechanical skills.

"Well look at her now - Mrs. Goodwrench," Natalie jibbed.

Blair chucked. "Well, that's what happens when you have a grease monkey as a partner."

The rest of the room laughed. After the laughter died down, Blair began.

"As you know, the media is in a frenzy because of my actions."

"Stating the obvious there, Blair?" Cindy sneered with an angry look at Blair. It made her feel uneasy a bit.

"Please, let her speak," Tootie responded.

"Thanks, Tootie. Now, I know I did wrong, so I'm willing to make it up to all of you. For a few days, we can stay at my secret place. I hope it's okay with all of you?"

Everybody in the room was discussing it with themselves until one of them spoke up.

"What's it like?" Molly asked. "I mean, I've heard bits and pieces about it, but I want to know what we're getting ourselves into."

"Well, it wouldn't be much of a secret if I told you guys," Blair said. "Don't tell them either, Bailey, Sister Meg," said the blonde directing her attention to her younger sister and her stepsister.

"Blair, if I can take a vow of silence, I can surely keep the secret . . . well, secret," Sister Meg claimed calmly and quietly.

"Trust me, it is really nice," Bailey whispered to Molly.

"I hope so, because I don't like to be kept in the dark like this."

"I understand that you are not big on surprises, but I can tell you it's upstate, around Ithaca."

Some people were surprised by Blair's declaration.

"Ithaca? That's a good four hours away from here!" Nancy exclaimed.

"Yep, which is why it's perfect," Blair stated. "I mean, we will be a good distance away from the media and from the craziness of New York City. I know that we can't disappear from the media forever, but it will give us a good amount of time to get our personal lives back for a temporary time and to at least plan for our next steps in dealing with the media. Who knows? It may die down."

"I don't know, Blair. It may or may not die down. Trust me, I work for the media," Natalie stated.

"But what about our kids?" Sue Ann asked. "Someone has to watch them. Our housemaid is on vacation."

"Yeah, did you think about that, Blair?" Cindy snarked. "Plus, we have jobs, you know. Some of us here work for a living."

"So do I, Cindy. Yes, and that's why I said for only a few days. Any more questions?"

The group asked Blair a few more questions, which the blonde promptly answered, before the meeting was adjourned. While everybody agreed to staying at Blair's hideout for a few days in an effort to escape the scrutiny of the media, not everybody saw any good in doing so.

"I can't believe I'm doing this. I'm only doing this for you, Sue Ann," said a reluctant Cindy. It was clear that she was not thrilled about the prospect of spending any amount of time with Blair, let alone a space where she was bound to run into her.

"I know that, and I'm thankful for it, but you and Blair need to settle your differences."

"That's not only true for Cindy, but with me as well," Molly added. "Blair owes me a bit of an apology for what happened at the rehearsal."

"Don't worry, Molly. I'll see to it that you and Blair settle things as well," Sue Ann said.

"Umm, I'm right here you know," said Blair, waving her hand to the group. "But, you're right Sue Ann, I will do whatever I can to make everything up to everyone. I owe all of you my deepest apologies. Please, go with me to my safe house and let's try to figure out what to do next."

The group went into the garage and saw two huge buses that resembled Greyhound buses. They were painted with brown, green and gold and it had the Warner Hotel sign and logo on each side. The outside may have resembled a typical bus, but the inside was different. It was rather luxurious. The inside was a creamy beige color, with matching leather seats that had enough room for someone to have a comfortable sleep. There was a fold out tray to the side so that someone could do work or put their laptop on it. It was equipped with Wi-Fi and it had a kitchen as well as two bathrooms. It was equipped with microwave, refrigerator, and stove, so one could literally almost live on the bus. There was also televisions, CD players, game systems, and anything children could want. Although Blair had no children of her own, this bus was perfect for her friends' children. Since the bus belonged to a five-star hotel, and since many hotel visitors who had lots of money sometimes brought their kids with them, Blair always made sure that it was equipped with the most up-to-date, top-of-the-line gizmos, gadgets, and games that would make any child happy.

"Wow, Blair, is there anything you do that's not high class?" said one of Nancy's kids.

"Nope. High class is my middle name," Blair gloated. "I got two buses, one for you guys and Nancy, and the other is for the rest of us."

"Oh, thank you so much, Blair," exclaimed Nancy as she gave Blair a huge hug.

"No problem Nancy. It's the least I could do for you."

Everybody boarded as they were going to take a trip far, far away from the Big Apple.

During the four-hour ride, Blair decided to text Jo so that she knew where the group was going. It was also a last ditch effort to contact Jo, for she wanted her other half back. She knew that Jo was going to be held overnight, and that she probably wouldn't get message until she got released from jail, but it was the only available option for her right now. So, she calmly typed in her message to Jo, though deep down inside, she wanted to cry.

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Around the same time that night at the Pennsylvania police station, Jo and Kelly were just settling down for the night. Although they weren't being charged, the officers asked if they could hold them overnight just so they could confirm their stories. Not even Jo's badge could get her out of this one. Jo agreed on the condition that nothing was placed on their records and they would be released first thing in the morning so she'd have the time to swing by the bed and breakfast, gather her belongings, and check out without having to pay for an extra night. The officers made the deal. In fact, they gave Jo and Kelly the best holding cell accommodations and even let the women keep their cell phones – which was not normal protocol. However, Jo's status allowed the girls this particular perk as a professional courtesy.

As Jo and Kelly were getting ready for bed, Kelly's phone began to ring.

"What the fuck?" exclaimed Kelly.

"What's the matter?" asked Jo.

"It says it's my mom, but I ain't talked to her in four years."

"Well, why don'tcha answer it and find out what's up?"

"I guess." Kelly took a deep breath before answering the phone. Jo tried not to overhear the conversation because she knew it should be a private conversation between mother and child, but it was hard not to listen in since they were sharing a cell. Although she only heard one side of the conversation, she knew that Kelly's mother wasn't calling to express her undying love for her daughter.

"Hey, Ma. Why ya callin' me again fo'? I told ya that I don't wanna speak to you evah again! . . . Whatcha mean that I can't diss you like that? So what if you're my mutha? Some mother you are. You're the one with the boozin' and the man whorin' ways. . . . So what if you friends are laughin' at ya right now? They're losers, just like you. . . . Well, whatdya mean . . . No, . . . Well, fuck you too! . . . And don'tcha evah try to call me again. I'm blockin' ya fa good! . . . Good bye and eat a dick, I know that's a delicacy fo' ya!"

"Bitch," exclaimed Kelly as she slammed her phone on to the bed. It bounced off of it and hit the wall. She picked it to check and see if there were any bad damages.

"What's wrong?" Jo asked.

"Oh, that man hoppin' whore had the gall to tell me I had no right to talk to her like dat and that she's da laughin' stock. Like I need her bull shit right now." She followed her rant by a fish pound to the wall.

"Kel, you're not a disappointment."

"That slut just needs to stay outta my life," declared Kelly as she wiped her eyes before the tears began to flow.

"Everything will be okay, Kel," reassured Jo.

"I hope so. Everything has gone crazy since I've been here. Blair, Kim, that Yoko-Ono wannabe bitch, the mother-fuckin' media, and my bed-hoppin' mother. They are all drivin' me nuts," Kelly said through her tears. "Videos and memes about me are all ovah da news an' da internet. My face an' my name is connected to everything bad. I'm more notorious now than I ever was as a dealer! I wouldn't be surprised if my company fired me for the bad press." She tried her best to stop the tears from flowing, without much success.

Jo gently touched her right shoulder in support. "Kelly, it'll be okay. No need to overreact."

Kelly slowly shook her head while tightly closing her eyes, yet the tears were still able to seep from out beneath her eyelids. "Ya don't understand, Jo. I ain't shy, but I ain't happy that all the craziness I went through was caught on camera and no one is lettin' it go. You may be used to possible scandals and bad press since gettin' in with the richie rich an' dealin' with Blair's shenanigans, but I sure the hell ain't. That's what we call bad for business."

"Hey, don't forget that I came from the same area as you. I know the importance of keeping your private life private."

"But you're used to livin' in the scrutiny of the public eye. Evah since you got involved with Ms. Moneybags." Kelly took a breath before saying, "Ya know I'm not much of a crier, but here I am sobbin' like some idiot. This is the worst vacation evah!" Kelly ended with her balling in tears. Jo comforted her by letting Kelly cry on her shoulders.

"I know, Kel. It has been crazy since the day Blair changed the wedding date. Don't worry, we'll get through this, ya know?"

Jo was surprised to see her usually strong friend reduced to a shy shell of herself. It was at that point she understood just how overwhelming this must be for Kelly.

Jo's cell buzzed twice. She knew that it had to be a text message, so she looked at the phone and saw that it came from Blair. It said, "Jo, I know that you probably won't get this message until you get out of jail, that's if you finally got me off block, but I just want you to know that I really, really, really miss you. I never, ever, ever wanted to put you through this. I love you so much."

Jo eyes started to water as she read the text, but she quickly wiped off tears with the back of her right hand, as it was holding the cell phone. Her left hand was on Kelly's back, comforting her.

Just then another message came through. Jo looked at it.

"Oh good, it wasn't blocked. If you get this message, and I hope to God that you do, then meet me at Ithaca. You know what I mean."

"Ithaca? Oh yeah, that place," Jo said to herself as Kelly was still crying on her shoulders. Finally, another message came in.

"Please come back to me. PLEASE!"

Jo tried to hold back her tears, but it wasn't working, as she knew she wanted to be back in Blair's arms. To smell her expensive perfume. To nuzzle up to her thick, flowing, bottle-blonde hair. Blair was her other half and she knew deep in her heart that she wasn't complete without Blair in it. She could text Blair back right now, but she decided to wait until the next day when she would have more energy to respond. She knew that Blair would either text her like crazy or talk to her so much it'd feel like she was in a marathon.

Before they went to bed, Jo told Kelly about the message, and about the hideout. Kelly was happy that there was a place for them to get away from the media, but not so happy that Blair would also be there. Still, she figured that as long as Jo was there as a buffer, nothing serious would happen. However, she had a feeling that Jo hadn't told her everything, and she might be right on that one...

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It was 11 PM, and Roger was staying at the Deedee's Townhome Hamilton Park in Jersey City. It wasn't a five-star hotel (it's really 4.5), but since Roger was good friends with the owner, he was allowed to stay there for free for a few days. He was in his room, watching Fox News with a bourbon in one hand and the remote control in the other.

Mad and angry at his wife, he was doing his best not to let his wife's "stupidity," get the best of him. As he was watching a conservative pundit talk about how the new nation of South Sudan would be just like any other African country, Roger noticed that he had received a text message on his phone. He knew that it couldn't be Nancy because he had blocked her number, so he decided to read it in case it was important.

"Hey there handsome. I heard that you left Nancy because of what's going on. Want to meet up and talk about it?"

Roger looked at the number attached to the message but didn't recognize it. Since he was curious about who the message could come from, he decided to call the number. After two rings, a middle-aged female answered.

"Hello?"

"Hello, who is this?" Roger asked curiously as he answered the phone.

"It's Margo."

A shocked look appeared on Roger's face. "Margo? How did you get my number?"

"I have my ways," Margo teased. "Anyhow, I bet you are lonely right now. Maybe you can use some company," Margo seductively stated.

Roger wasn't stupid. He knew what Margo really wanted. He knew very well that Margo wanted to have sex with him, as many other women seemed to desire. After all, he had landed in the top 10 most handsome congressmen in GQ Magazine, so he figured that it wasn't surprising that women like Margo was attracted to him. In fact, one could say that Nancy's job was to ward off all the women who tried to steal him from her. Of course, there were also men who wanted to steal Nancy from Roger, especially after her reality show aired and became a hit, but she always had the willpower to resist temptation.

There was an Id/Ego boxing match going on in his head, with his Id, who looked like an angel, saying "don't forget, you're married," while his Ego, who looked like a devil, said, "go ahead and have a little fun. Margo's a hottie for her age."

"Yeah, but Nancy's just as attractive as Margo," thought Roger's Id.

"But Margo's probably better in bed than Nancy. Everybody knows Margo's a freak in the sheets," argued Roger's Ego.

"That's another reason why you don't want to be seen with Margo," reasoned Roger's Id. "Her reputation."

"Well, it's not like Nancy was giving it up much anymore anyway," Roger's Ego retorted. "A man has needs."

"But it's not always about sex. You should be thinking about the love you and Nancy share. It's what makes you two so – YEOWWW!" screamed the Id as his butt got stabbed by the Ego's pitchfork, before getting a swift kick on his behind.

With only the Ego left standing, he told Roger, "Go ahead and take this booty call."

On that note, Roger smiled and said, "Well, I guess I could use some company over here."

"I'm sure you could. After what Nancy put you through, you have every right to get away from her and her freakshow."

"Yeah, Margo. There are so many things going on here. Nancy and her friends could destroy everything that I worked so hard for," he said in frustration. Just thinking about Nancy's friends gave him a headache.

"I totally understand. Listen, tell me where you are and I can come by and visit. I could bring some fine Chardonnay, aged in the 50s."

Roger smiled. "Thanks, but I'm not in a wine mood today. I need something much stronger, considering all the shit that took place today."

"I figured that, knowing that you're a bourbon guy."

Roger was clearly stunned, as he dropped his cell phone onto the carpet. He quickly picked it up and asked, "How did you know that?"

Margo slyly smiled on the other end. "Like I said, I have my ways. Anyhow, I got some of that 25 year old bourbon from Old Rip Van Winkle."

"You're talking about the $14,000 bourbon?" Roger asked with a touch of skepticism.

Detecting his skepticism, Margo responded, "Yep, and I'll prove it to you. Give me a sec."

She went to her wine cellar and pulled out the bourbon. She put a sign that read, "See, Roger?" next to it, then took a picture of it with her iPhone, and sent it to Roger. When Roger saw the picture, his jaw nearly hit the carpet.

"Oh my God, you know how rare that is?"

"I know. It's some good stuff though. So, do want me to come over or not?"

"Absolutely, please come on over." At that moment, Roger didn't know what he wanted more - the bourbon or Margo.

"Great. Where are you located?"

"I'm at the Deedee's Townhome Hamilton Park in Jersey City."

Just the word "Jersey City" or anything with the word "Jersey" in it made her cringe, unless it was the island of Jersey on the English Channel, which is a tax haven and one of Margo's favorite vacation spots. Like most New York socialites, Margo avoided New Jersey like the plague, with a few exceptions, and Roger knew that.

"I know it's not up to your standards, since it's in Jersey and it's not a five-star hotel, but it's not so bad."

Margo was very tentative to answer, but she knew that she had to make the sacrifice for the group's "cause." "Umm, okay. I'll be there."

"Good. I'm looking forward to seeing you," Roger said.

"Same here."

Right after he hung up, there was a big smile on Roger's face and an even bigger smile on Margo's face.

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The ride up to Ithaca was a few hours, but the trip was uneventful, minus the few media trucks following them, though no one is complaining. Everybody wanted a break from the drama of the past few days. Eventually they got to Ithaca, and a few minutes later, they were in a rather secluded area with a fortified gate. The media trucks were behind them, but were a good 300 to 500 feet away. The guard came up to the driver of the first bus and he showed a badge.

"Where are we going?" Sue Ann asked.

"Underground," Blair replied.

"What? You mean your hideout is underground? Why didn't you tell us this?" Molly questioned.

"I wanted it to be a surprise," Blair said. "Well, for most of you anyway." She was always full of surprises.

"Will this place be big enough to fit all of us?" Tootie asked with concern.

"Trust me, it is."

Finally, at about 200 feet below ground, they got to the big, steel door. The drivers scanned their badges and the door opened like a giant metal mouth. It was a garage big enough for a few cars, definitely big enough to fit the two buses.

Finally, they got out and saw a grandiose door with intricate adornments. The door itself was a rich mahogany and was inlaid with silver and gold. In addition, there were jewels used in fancy patterns and the knob was pure pearl.

"Ready to be surprised, folks?" Blair said with sly smile on her face.

"Please, it's a bunker. It couldn't be that impressive," Cindy snarked, while rolling her eyes.

Blair looked at Cindy with a smirk and punched in the code to open a small area next to the door. The area was only small enough to put her hand in it, which was made for that. It was a hand scanner.

"Good God, Blair. You have this place protected like it's Fort Knox!" Natalie chided.

"Trust me, when you see inside, you'll know why," she replied as she placed her hand on the scanner. Suddenly, the door opened and what they saw amazed them. Little did they know was that it was only the first floor…

Chapter Text

This is my longest chapter yet. Hopefully the rest of the chapters will be shorter.

“Ready to be surprised, folks?” Blair asked with a sly smile on her face.

“Please, it's a bunker. It couldn't be that impressive,” Cindy snarked, as she rolled her eyes.

Blair looked at Cindy with a smirk and punched in the code to open a small area next to the door. The area was only large enough to insert her hand. Everyone realized that it was a hand scanner designed to read a person’s fingerprints, so only those who were approved could gain access to the entrance.

“Good God, Blair. You have this place protected like it's Fort Knox!” Natalie chided.

“Trust me, when you see the inside, you'll understand why the maximum security,” she replied as she placed her hand on the scanner. Suddenly, the door opened and what they saw amazed them. Little did they know it was only the first floor - a waiting room if you will.

The room looked like the entrance to an art museum, complete with marble statues and masterful paintings. There was even a fountain with pure gold inlays. The sight was truly breathtaking, but, as elegant as the room was, it wasn’t quite big enough to accomodate around 20 people, so it was rather crowded.

Despite the cramped quarters, it appeared that the place was enough to awe her friends. “Wow, Blair. I’m impressed,” Nancy said.

“Hey, this is just the waiting room. Wait until you see the rest of the place.” Blair pressed a button which emitted a dull buzzing sound.

“You have someone here?” Beverly Ann asked.

“Yep. I do have a housekeeper.”

“Wouldn’t that be a bunkerkeeper?” Natalie cornally jokes. There were groans from around the room. Blair didn’t say a word, but rolled her eyes instead.

When the door opened, the person who greeted them took Mrs. G., Tootie, Natalie, and even a few others by surprise.

“Kelly Affinado?” Tootie exclaimed in shock.

“Oh, my God! Is that really you?” asked a stunned Mrs. G.

Back in 1983-1984, Kelly was a short, tomboyish brunette who frequently visited the gang and followed them around like a little brother . . . er, sister, but the woman who stood before them now had long hair and was wearing more woman-like clothing. She had traded in her jean jacket and tennis shoes for a pair of leggings tucked into knee high boots and a black and white striped knitted cardigan. She topped the look off with a wide-brimmed black felt hat and sunglasses, even though she was indoors. It was apparent that the 43-year-old woman was into the hipster style.

“Heya, Tootie!” exclaimed Kelly as she gave Tootie a hug. “How ya doing?” With Kelly’s newfound fashion sense, it was clear that she was less street than she was in her past, but socialwise she was obviously still a work in progress.

“I wish I could say fine, but you know what’s going on. I mean, you do have a TV down here, don’t you?”

Kelly chuckled. “Of course there’s a TV down here. There are many TVs down here. Would you really expect anything less from Blair?” Sensing the tension that existed between many of the people and noting that no one was really laughing at her attempt at a joke to lighten the mood she soberly continued. “Seriously though, I know what’s been goin’ on. I saw on MSNBC that you got fired from your show?”

Tootie dropped her head and responded, “Yeah, it sucks.”

Kelly patted Tootie on the back and said, “Well, if it makes ya feel any better, each bedroom has its own TV so ya won’t have to fight over the remote control. We also have cable. Hell, Time Warner really hooked Blair up. I guess it’s a family thing, ya kno’?”

This time, everyone in the group laughed, especially Blair. “Well, it is one of the privileges of being a Warner.” At that moment Blair commented, “Kelly, you’re indoors now, you look silly with those sunglasses on in here. Take them off!”

“Okay,” Kelly pouted. After she took her sunglasses off, she continued, “Anyway, we got cable, wifi, high-speed internet, an entertainment center, a workout area, a spa/sauna, and even a swimming pool!” Kelly chimed as she looked at the kids.

“A swimming pool,? Wow!” exclaimed Mark. “Can we go swimming, mom?” he asked excitedly as he bounced on his heels.

“Not until tomorrow. You all need to get some sleep,” Nancy commanded.

“Aw, come on,” pouted Mark.

“What did I tell you?” she unflinchingly responded as she placed her hands on her hips and gave her children “the mother stare.”

Kelly bent down until she was eye level with the boy and said, “Hey, it’s okay. It will be a lot more fun tomorrow because you will get to swim in the pool all day long.”

“Yaaaaaaaaaaay!” screamed all of Nancy’s kids, 12 and under, in unison.

“So, how did you even come by this place?” asked Cindy. “I mean… Darn!” Although Cindy was still irate at Blair, she was mindful to censor her language around the kids.

“Well, there’s an interesting story behind this building. Back during the prohibition era of the 1920s, my grandfather, Judge Carlton Blair, decided to get into the illegal bootlegging business.”

Natalie stopped her with her hand. “Wait a minute. Your grandfather was a judge, yet he got into bootlegging?”

“Well, he’s also the same grandfather who joined the KKK,” Tootie reminded her best friend with a distasteful look.

“Very true, Tootie,” replied Blair as she hung her head in shame. “The ironic thing was that during the time, the KKK was against alcohol. However, my grandfather saw an opportunity to make a quick buck, and you know the motto of my family, “Money matters . . .do whatever it takes to get the green, no matter who you need to step over, or on, to get it.”

“Cash rules everything around me. C.R.E.A.M. Get the money. Dollar dollar bill y’all,” Natalie quoted from the Wu-Tang Clan’s rap song C.R.E.A.M. Everybody began laughing while Blair gave Natalie that “You’re silly” look.

After the laughter died down, Molly spoke up. “He was taking a real chance. Those guys in the KKK don’t mess around. If they found out he was doing something that they didn’t agree with, it could have been curtains.”

“Yes, but they were benefiting from him as well. They needed the money just as much as he wanted it.”

“But, Blair,” said Sue Ann, “they could have gotten what they needed from him and then decided to go after his family.”  

“Well, that discrepancy just shows just what a self-serving, pompous, ass . . .” started Blair, but then, seeing the children, continued, “. . . cot wearing money grubber my grandfather could be.” The correction that Blair made didn’t go unnoticed by the group. Everyone knew what hard feelings she harbored for her grandfather, but at least she tried to watch her vocabulary around the children as well. “Anyhow, back to the story. He was importing liquor from Quebec and serving it in speakeasies throughout the eastern part of New York. . .” She paused for a second to look at the shocked faces that were looking at her before she continued. “He didn’t only serve NYC, but also sold to the rest of Long Island, and as far up as Syracuse.”

“So he was practically the sole supplier of alcohol to NY? I guess when everyone was getting sloshed, he was getting drunk on money and power,” claimed Natalie.

“Isn’t that just the Warner way,” commented Kim as she rolled her eyes.

“Girls,” exclaimed Mrs. G in a combined shout and whisper.

“Anyway,” continued Blair as if she was never interrupted, “he needed a storage place to hold all the alcohol. Him and the mayor of Ithaca were college buddies, and they had an incomplete salt mine, so Judge Blair was able to make a deal with the mayor to make it a hidden storage facility for the liquor. From what I’ve heard, it took him three months to get it set up for the alcohol storage, and it was used as that until Prohibition ended.”

“It’s pretty bad knowing that the mayor and the judge were in cahoots,” claimed Tootie.

“Yeah, politics at its finest,” added Molly who was no stranger to crooks in positions of power. However, knowing that Blair’s ancestors actively abused the judicial system and that Blair was okay with benefitting from it in the way of this place, just reignited the anger she had for the Warner clan. “You know, it’s pretty funny that your family seemed to love to break the law, yet you end up with someone who is determined to uphold it. Seems sort of fishy to me.”

Cindy added, “Yeah, the whole Warner tree seems to have a lot of rotten apples. They are no strangers to scandal and controversy.”

Mrs G., who always tried to be the voice of reason, but may not have sensed the tension behind those words, just sighed and said, “I guess none of us should have been surprised by all this. Knowing Blair’s family’s reputation, we should have known that she’d be under constant scrutiny.”

Blair just shook her head before continuing. “Afterwards, the space remained unused until World War II, when my uncle let the US Army used it for storing arms and ammunition. It was also a designated space for safety if the Germans or Japanese attacked. After the war, the building was left vacant again, and my grandfather gave it to his son, Uncle Brandon.”

“Uncle Brandon? Do you mean the uncle who thought he could see into the future with his fake crystal?” Natalie remembered.

“Yeah, him. During the 50s, the whole Cold War scare happened. Uncle Brandon, being a total patriotic nut and totally anti-Communist, got caught up in it. So he decided to make it into a living quarters. He expanded it a little bit to three stories, and he made it into a luxury suite. In fact, after the divorce, he started living here more and more, cutting himself off from the rest of the world.”

“Just like Howard Hughes?” asked Molly.

“Yeah, but Hughes wasn’t as reclusive. My uncle stayed there until his death in 1996. After that, it was left abandoned again. It was then passed down to my cousin, Rachel, as part of her inheritance. However, since she was more of an outdoorsy person, she didn’t do anything with it because she thought it was stupid. Then, when her company was about to go under because of the recession two years ago, she was willing to sell it to me for some much needed cash.”

“When I first got it, it looked like a nightmare. The ceilings were covered with mole, everything was rusting or breaking down, and don’t even mention the bathrooms,” she informed them with a disgusted look on her face. It appeared as if she had just swallowed a lemon. “Oh my goodness, it was like the ones you see in prison movies. When I went to the bathroom on the third floor, a furry creature with big ears came out of the toilet and ran across the floor!”

A few of the women squealed at Blair’s description. They knew how big the rodents could get in New York. They were about as bad as the rats in Washington, D.C. and other major cities, though the rats in D.C. walked on two feet and held federal government positions.

“Yeah, we laid a ton of rat traps around the place, and I invited some of the best exterminators in here like six times just to make sure all pests were gone. Not only did they find a few nests of rats in the walls, there were also huge spiders that had to be feeding on the insects that had taken residency in the building and pigeons roosting in some of the upper rooms. Aside from the animal crisis, which took some time to get under control, I had to update the building itself so it would be fit for occupancy. It took me a full year to expand it from three floors to five and do a complete renovation.”

“So, what’s the floor setup?” asked Beverly Ann.

“Well, this is the main floor and includes the living room, dining room, kitchen, powder room, and a sunroom . . .”

In response to the raised eyebrows and strange looks she was getting from everyone, Blair clarified, “in order to get yourself some Vitamin D and save yourself from going crazy.”

The group began to laugh, but Blair jokingly admonished them.

“Hey, don’t knock it. People have been known to get depressed and moody if they stay a long time underground.”

“I guess that explains why zombies always seem to be angry when they rise,” Natalie whispered to Tootie.

“Yeah. Like Blair when her beauty sleep is interrupted,” snickered Tootie.

Blair just glared at her friends and continued. “The second floor is where all of the bedrooms are located. There are twelve guess rooms and two master bedrooms.”

“Jesus, Blair. It’s almost like a floor at the hotel,” said Mrs. G. in awe.

“I bet the hotel mode is stuck in her,” Molly quipped.

Blair simply shrugged. “I like to do things in style.”

“Yeah, I bet everything fits your tastes, Blair,” claimed Tootie with a smile on her face.

Picking up on the cue, Natalie commented, “Yeah, and I bet if, say Jo didn’t like it, they’d be told they could simply go spend time in the garage,” chuckled the reporter.

Blair remembered that time when her and Jo had the house to themselves and she took over all the decorating decisions. At that point, she did fit things to her personal style, but she had since learned to take others’ suggestions into consideration. That said, the mention of Jo’s name made Blair wince, but she attempted to hide her feelings as she continued to describe the floor plan to the group.

“On the third floor is the conference room where people can discuss business or other important matters, and on the fourth floor there’s an entertainment center with computers, games, and practically anything you can imagine. Finally, on the fifth floor is an exercise room, which Jo insisted on having,” she said as she flashed a look at Tootie and Natalie, “and swimming pool.”

“It’s a darn good thing that the pool is far away from you,” Cindy retorted. Blair gave her a cold, hard stare.

Seeing that Blair and Cindy were about to jump at each other, Tootie asked a lingering question to break the tension. “But where does Kelly fit into this whole picture?” asked Tootie still dumbfounded at seeing a former face.

“Kelly was a housekeeper for a couple who lost their house in a fire. Since she lost her job and the couple lost their home, I decided to let her and the couple be the caretakers of the hideout.”

“That’s unusually nice of you, Blair,” Kim said uncomfortably.

“Hey, I can be extremely nice. Remember, I’m the one who helped paid for your last rehab,” Blair reminded her. Kim looked away in embarrassment.

“So is this place a private residency or is it an underground hotel?” asked Sue Ann as she was examining the place with wide eyes.

“It’s really a private residency, but since we hardly use it, and it has a lot of bedrooms, it functions like a hotel when I’m not around. Every heard of AirBnB?”

Everybody shook their heads except for Natalie.

“Yeah, it’s a service where instead of staying in a hotel, you get to stay at someone’s house for cheaper.”

“Correct. Well, this place functions like that, but it’s for a higher-end clientele. The cost is $2,500 per night.”

Shocked looks, utterances of “Oh, my God,” and whistles were all over when Blair stated that.

“Oh, okay, I hope you didn’t have to kick anyone out for us,” Nancy said.

“No, the last client was here two weeks ago. It was for a singer named Justin Bieber. He had a concert around here.”

“Justin Bieber! Oh, my God, Emily likes him!” Cindy exclaimed. Sue Ann shook her head in confirmation.

“Yeah, I heard his stuff before, and he’s no different from other cute boy singers and groups like New Kids on the Block and Backstreet Boys,” Blair shrugged. “Anyhow, enough of the history lesson. Let me get you guys something. Feel free to watch something. I’ll go and see if the beds are ready for the kids.”

Blair pulled out her cell and called someone. “Hey, Eric, are the beds ready yet? … Oh, okay, can you come over with Tracy and take the kids with you to the big room? …Great, see you in a bit.”

“Is that the couple?” Molly asked

“Yes. They help out Kelly a lot.”

“They sure do…” Bailey snide. Sister Meg had a disgusted look on her face, and Geri tried to restrain her giggles. Blair gave her younger sister a rather frigid glare. She quickly apologized.

“I’m sorry.”

About two minutes later, the couple appeared. They looked to be in their mid-30s. Tracy was a rather voluptuous redhead and Eric was a rather buff blond with a goatee.

“Wow, so this is the troop that’s fleeing away from the wolves?” Tracy joked.

“I would, if I was them,” Eric replied.

“Everybody,” Blair declared as she presented the two people with a sweep of her hand, much like Vanna White on The Wheel of Fortune, “ this is the couple who assists Kelly with her duties - Eric and Tracy Gatling.”

“Pleased to meet all of you, especially Sue Ann and Kim here,” Eric said.

“Yeah, you two look better than your age,” Tracy said while checking them both out.

Sue Ann was trying her best not to blush as she was checking out Tracy’s curves. However, she was not the only one. Kim was also enthralled by Tracy’s figure. Cindy noticed how Sue Ann was looking at the woman and was beginning to get very upset.

Eric saw the anger in Cindy’s eyes and knew that he had to defuse the situation before it exploded. “Come on, kids,” he said as he started herding the children away from the group. “Let’s head to the elevator.”

He lightly nudged his wife as his eyes suggested for her to accompany him. “Yes,” said Tracy as she followed Eric, “though we might have to make a few trips since it holds no more than six people at a time.”

“Elevator?! Jesus Christ Blair!” Beverly Ann exclaimed.

“Hey!” Sister Meg warned.

“Sorry for taking the Lord’s name in vain, but Jesus, I mean geez!”

Sister Meg didn’t try to correct her again and just looked away like nothing happened.

Mrs. Gaines-Garrett was tired and asked if she could come along, so she could get some rest. When the couple nodded she joined them.

A somewhat miffed Sue Ann asked Blair, “What the hell was that?”

Bailey, Sister Meg, and Geri looked the other way.

“Oh, I forgot to tell you guys that Eric and Tracy have an open marriage and they’re into swinging.”

“What?!” some of the women shouted.

Kim just grinned. “I know who I’ll be hanging out with tonight.”

“I don't think my kids need to be hearing this,” Nancy said with a shocked look on her face.

“Mom, this is 2011.”

“Correct, Gloria. And they’re both bisexuals, so Tracy was probably checking Sue Ann and Kim out,” Blair informed the group.

“Well, she sure has good taste,” Kim joked. “Probably better than that other redheaded witch.”

“Kim. Let go of Kelly. You can do a lot better than her. Trust me on that,” Kelly A. told her with a distasteful look on her face. “She’s nuthin’ but trouble and pain. I should know. We were once a couple.”

That took Kimberly and a lot of people by surprise. “Really?” asked Kim.

“Yep. We dated for two years, after Dina got sent to rehab, thanks to that redheaded witch, and before Ms. Meth Queen got busted. I regret everyday that I went out with her. She’s a hottie, but she’s also a hot mess. Ugh...” Kelly A. sneered at the end. “She thought she could convert me ta bein’ a pure lesbian, but she was wrong on that.”

Blair vouched for Kelly A. “She’s not lying. They had a lot of problems.”

“Too bad Blair didn’t knock that stupid ginger’s keister off!” Kelly A. spat. “I gotta admit, though, it was badass how Blair had her pinned,” she snickered.

“Hey, watch it, we got kids here,” Sister Meg chided. Kelly A. just rolled her eyes.

“Oh, come on, Sister Prude, we’ve heard worse thing than that,” said one of Nancy’s older kids, who was waiting for the couple to pick them up.

“But that doesn’t mean you should be hearing it. It also doesn’t mean Kelly should be saying it.”

Before any more tension could rise, Beverly Ann asked a question “Hey, Sister Meg, didn’t Blair say there’s a sunroom around here?”

“Yeah, let me show you. Of course the sun’s not out, but it’s still a nice room.”

Sister Meg was more than happy to show Beverly Ann the room. A lot of people let out a sigh of relief.

“Thank God she’s gone,” Kelly exhaled. Then she looked up the ceiling like she was looking up to God and said, “Yeah, I mean it, God. Let me live my life will ya? I don’t need one of your salespeople ta tell me how.” Then she turned her attention back to the group and scowled at Blair, “Why the hell did you bring Sister Hag with you?”

“It’s Sister Meg, Kelly. At least show some respect to my sister,” Blair scowled back.

Kelly felt ashamed. “I’m sorry.”

“That’s okay. I brought her here because of the same reason I brought all the others here - to get away from the media. Plus, she had no place to stay. She got kicked out of the covenant.”

“Oh… But still, Blair. The last time she was here, she was critical of Eric and Tracy’s lifestyle, to the point that Tracy told me she would have knocked her out. She takes boxin’ classes now, ya know?”

“I know, and I can’t blame her after the way Kelly D. beat her up before she left for Houston.”

The video of her fight with Miko already showed how tough she was, but it also made most of the people in the group fear her even more.

“That’s another thing, is that bitch comin’ here? Because if she is, I’ll -.”

Blair quickly told her, “Look, Kelly, she’s not here, so just focus on getting the guests settled in, okay?” Deep inside Blair was panicking and trying to think of how to avoid a confrontation with the two Kellys. She knew that if the couple get involved, it would be even worse.

“She’s coming, isn’t she?” Tootie whispered to Natalie.

“Mmm hmm,” Natalie hummed back in confirmation.

Kelly A. softly nodded. “Okay, let me get the TV on at least.”

“Please do,” Blair replied.

There was so much going on. With Cindy, Kim, and Molly being angry with her, and with Kelly D. coming, she was on the verge of a nervous breakdown, yet somehow she was able to delicately keep it together.

Even though it was around 2 AM, Kelly turned the television on for the group. What was on for the most part, the local channels were broadcasting reruns of tonight’s late-night talk shows. The TV did have cable, courtesy of Time Warner cable, who were good friends with Blair Warner.

The first channel showed Jay Leno doing one of his usual sketches.

“Well, today Japan can lay claim to two disasters - one in Fukushima and the other in Hawley, Pennsylvania.”

Blair immediately changed the channel. “Lame has-been,” she retorted.

The next channel was Jimmy Kimmel Live! In this one, he created the Lez-splosion crystalball, predicting the next wacky outcome.

“We go our next prediction. Vince McMahon will sign Blair Warner and Kelly Donovan to be the main event at Wrestlemania 28 !”

The channel was quickly changed.

The next channel showed David Letterman and he was doing his usual Top 10 jokes. Not surprisingly, the top 10 was based on the “Lez-splosion” event.

“... #6 - Every two-bit comedian will now have a joke containing ‘a drug dealer, a porn star, and a socialite went to a food court one day.’

#5 - From the same people who brought you Girls Gone Wild , they now offer Lesbians Gone Nuts!

#4 - When Miko Wakamatsu goes back to Japan, she will be offered the lead role in the new blockbuster movie ‘Lezilla!’”

They quickly changed the channel.

“CNN reports that the women involved in the whole Blair Warner mishaps are hiding somewhere in Ithaca, New York. Sources say that they are in a luxurious underground bunker, owned by Blair Warner herself. Here’s the latest footage we got, before they disappeared.”

Blair stood there in silence. CNN didn’t say anything shocking to get her upset. Blair already knew that they would dig up that information. They showed the video of the two Warner Hotel buses going into the tunnel from a distance, since their news vans couldn’t go beyond the gate.

She was just happy that she was able to get them away from the media, but she didn’t totally take in the factor of those in the room with her.

“Thank you very much, Blair. You turned us into a national laughing stock,” Molly derided. “Now my chances of getting a new job is next to nothing!”

“Yeah, all because of Blair’s massive ego!” Cindy followed. “It already hurt our business. Our stock has gone down 5 points!”

“Not to mention that it has probably pushed my dad one step closer to death!” Kim spat. “Good job, idiot!”

One could cut the tension with a knife, and it looked like Blair was about to be dogpiled, but she was saved from an unlikely source - her younger sister.

“Hey! Stop it now! Blair is doing her best to help us get through this!” spat an angry Bailey. “She could have thrown you all under the bus, but, instead, she let you on the bus. She could have easily left you all out there and fend for yourselves against those vultures, but she decided to open up her hideout and help you guys. Be grateful that she’s protecting us.”

“Aww, look everyone,” snickered Cindy, “Blair’s letting her baby sister fight her battles now that her big, bad protector isn’t here.”

“First of all,” shouted Bailey as she pointed her finger in Cindy’s face, “I am NOT a baby. In fact, with all you guys whining and griping and fighting, I’d say I’m the most adult of the group. Second of all, Blair can handle things herself. She can totally take the fight to someone if she’s not held back, just ask Kelly. Thirdly, she is being super gracious to you guys despite the snide remarks and verbal attacks.”

“Yeah, we’re grateful. Sure we’re grateful. Grateful for all our lives being uprooted and disturbed and for what . . . some stupid, childish . . .”

“Oh, come on Kim. You know that each of you have just as much fault in all this as Blair. It’s just that it’s easier to point the finger at someone else than pointing it at yourself. Unless you’re looking in a mirror that is.”

“How is any of this our fault? We’re the victims here, remember?” Molly chided.

“Yeah, it was Blair who had the temper tantrum at the wedding rehearsal, it was Blair who drove Jo away, and it was Blair who attacked Kelly,” Cindy responded to back up Molly.

“So, instead of helping her through the situation, you’re attacking her. Some friends you are. How would you women feel if this happened to you?”

All the girls looked away for a second as it seemed that Bailey’s words were getting to them.

“Cindy, didn’t she help you with your modeling career?”

Cindy sheepishly answered, “Yes…”

“Kim, didn’t she pay for your rehab when your father couldn’t get the money for you on time and you had to pay your lawyers for the custody case?”

Kim huffed, “Yeah.”

“And, Molly, wasn’t it Blair who helped you when your parents got a divorce while you guys were at Eastland?”

“Well, all the girls and Mrs. Garrett was there for me when that happened . . .”

“Oh, really? The way I heard it was that the girls had you lying to your parents because you wanted them to stay together and it was Blair who convinced you that it was better to be happy separated than being miserable together.”

“I guess,” mumbled the redhead.

“Molly…” shouted Bailey as she tried to prove her point.

“Oh, alright! She did, okay? She did.”

“Well, then. The way I see it is that Blair has helped you all when you needed her the most, and now when she needs your help the most, you just want to turn your back on her. Who needs enemies when you have friends like you guys?”

Although Cindy, Kim, and Molly couldn’t easily put their animosity toward Blair aside, they had to admit that the heiress did use whatever resources she had to try to help her friends. Heck, in high school she even used her connections with one of her mother’s boyfriends - who happened to be a judge - to try to find Natalie’s birth parents. Then there was the whole sending in Jo’s scholarship application to keep her in school and graciously stepping aside to let Tootie become the fresh new face for Jonathan Dutton, going as far as volunteering as Tootie’s fashion consultant. Granted, the man turned out to be more child pornographer than photographer, the fact was that Blair was willing to give up something she really wanted for her friend. Blair always seemed willing to help her friends however she could. Not to mention when she was willing to help Mrs. Garrett out when she lost her pension or when the girls discovered that Mrs. G had high blood pressure or when she was willing to stake out the rival shop who was stealing Mrs. G’s customers. The list went on and on. Blair was willing to help out even when others didn’t want or need it.

Finally, they relented.

“Well, did I make my point clear enough?” Bailey asked, breaking the silence that had fallen over the group.

“Yeah…” the three agreed with a defeated tone. Bailey smiled and Blair flashed a small smile in return, but inside she was gleaming.

“Excuse us for a second,” Blair said to the group and she and Bailey went to the dining room.

“Thank you so much!” Blair elated as she began hugging her sister.

“Okay, Blair, that’s good enough. Now you can’t say that I’m just the sarcastic little sister with snide comments.”

Now that she got the group under control, they proceeded to watch more TV.

8888888888888888888888888888

Meanwhile, back in New Jersey, Roger was in his room, watching the latest footage from Fox News on the Warner Hotel buses. He had a big feeling that Nancy and his kids were in those buses.

He figured that he had to take action, but before he was began to make a lot of phone calls, he heard a knock on the door. He knew it could only be one person. He opened the door and saw a Margo with a huge smile on her face. She was wearing a French vanilla vest with matching slacks and a white blouse, and was holding a bottle of bourbon in her right hand.

“Margo, it’s nice to see you.”

“It’s nice to see you as well. I brought your favorite,” she said with a smile as she showed him the bourbon. Roger was grinning like the Cheshire cat.

“I see. Well, come on in.”

He moved out of her way and she flirtatiously sashayed into the room, and examined the architecture. It was beneath her, but she never expected much from anything in New Jersey.

“It’s rather… quaint,” she managed to say with a gulp. It was not too convincing, but it sounded like was at least trying. “Sorry it took me a while to get here, but it’s been ages since I’ve been to Jersey. I always make it a rule never to set foot anywhere that Snooki Polazzi sets her foot on.”

“I take it you’re not a fan of Snooki or any of her shows - especially Jersey Shore .”

“I hate the bitch and the show itself,” she exclaimed with a look of distaste. “Imagine someone profiting off their life. Ugh, reality television . . . really. All of those people want nothing more than their 15 minutes of fame, and they have no real lives.”

Margo’s comment was meant to reflect Nancy since she did a television show, and she was hoping she could use that fact to get Roger to distance himself from his wife.

Roger smirked, for he agreed with her 100% on that one.

“Yeah, I thought it would work in our favor, like it has for the Duggars. I thought that the ratings and public exposure would give me the upper hand for re-elections. After all, families who display their personal lives in front of millions of people tend to have nothing to hide. The idea was to humanize me and make me appear personable for the general electorate. However, the whole thing has totally backfired on us.”

“Well, you have to remember, you are running for the seat of Congress in New Jersey, not for the President of the United States, so you don’t need the approval of every American,” Margo stated.

“Yeah, that’s true for now. However, in the future, like 2016, if Obama is re-elected for his second term and fulfills it, God help us if he does, then I would try my shot at the US presidency.”

Margo’s eye jumped at Roger’s declaration. “Are you serious?”

“Yes, very,” Roger replied firmly. However, he started to look down at his drink. “But I don’t know if that’s possible now.”

Margo reached for his chin and turned his face toward her.

“Hey. You can’t let Nancy and her stupid friends get to you or destroy your dreams.”

“Yeah, but I really don’t know what to do.”

Using her left hand, Margo gently rubbed Roger’s right shoulder. “Hey, don’t think too much about her tonight. Enjoy the freedom you have at this moment.”

Roger smirked, forgetting to realize that he didn’t have to deal with Nancy or the kids.

He immediately smiled. “Yeah, you’re right,”

Instantly, he saw a glimmer of passion in Margo’s eyes. He wanted to take the time to kiss her, but Margo quickly changed the subject.

“You know,” Margo said as she took a sip of the bourbon, “you should hold a press conference.”

“Huh?” asked Roger. That made him feel like Margo just threw him a curve ball.

“Yeah, to talk about how much you want Nancy to come back for the kids’ sake. That way, you end up looking like a sympathetic figure and, at the same time, we get to flush Nancy and her stupid friends out of the rabbit hole. That might give you a leg up in the 2016 elections.”

Roger thought about it and grinned. “You’re right. It would give me the upper hand and if I divorce her, then nobody would question it. She’s already looking like a bad mother, so if we divorce, the general public would understand, if not, support me for my decision.”

“Exactly, handsome,” Margo sneakily, yet seductively, replied.

Roger and Margo took a sip of their bourbon, then Roger said, “Hey, thanks for coming over here tonight. I know how you feel about the area and I am sure you could have had many more important things to do.”

Margo blushed on purpose to lead him on. “No problem. Don’t belittle your problem. What you have on your hands is quite major, and I want to help you out as much as I can.”

Then Margo let a part of her silky brown hair fall onto Roger’s shoulders and down his neck, where the soft silkiness brushed against his skin. It came to rest right under his nose, close enough for him to get a scent. The aphrodisiac and delicate scent of the Lily of the Valley flower turned him on. Margo smiled slyly, knowing the effect it had on him.

With her left hand, she gently squeezed his right hand for comfort and support, but she knew her soft skin, thanks to her lotions and baths, would trigger another effect.

“You can’t let this get to you. Nancy took you for granted.”

“Yeah, she has…” He replied calmly, but he was burning up inside. His face didn’t show it, but his eyes did, and Margo saw it. She slowly stroked it to comfort him again, and at the same time stoking the fire of frustration and rage that was consuming him, but it also doubled as a flirting technique. She felt it was better not to say anything, but to let her hand soothe him.

“I’ve been a faithful husband to her. I made sure there was a roof over our heads when Nancy was studying for her Ph D. in Psychology and Sociology.”

“Two degrees that she ends up not using, right?” Margo said. It was more like a statement than a question.

“Yeah…” steamed Roger.

Margo looked at the time. It was 2:30 AM.

“I have to get going. Georgie gets up at five and he would be suspecting something if I don’t arrive.”

“I understand.”

Margo got up from the couch and headed to the door. Like a dog on a leash, Roger followed.

“Can I walk you to your car? This is New Jersey after all.”

Margo smiled, with a small touch of flirtation. “Thank you, but I’ll be okay. I parked in the garage.”

“Are you sure,” he asked with a touch of concern in his voice.

“I’m fine. Just get yourself some sleep.” As she stepped out to the hallway, she told him, “Have a good night, and don’t let it get to you.” She ended with a wink before she sashayed her way to the elevator. As she was walking, she didn’t look back, but she knew that he was looking.

Finally, when she got in the elevator, she grinned like the Cheshire cat. “I got him just where I want him,” she finished with a self-assuring chuckle.

8888888888888888888

After Blair left because of the fallout in the main quarter, some of the group went to their bedrooms, while others hung around a little longer. Molly was one of them. She turned on the television and watched the whole rehearsal debacle unfold on TruTV , while a whole bunch of comedians made fun of the scene. After a while, she flicked off the TV and went downstairs to a small conference room where she plugged her laptop into the ethernet cable and started working.

Beverly Ann went straight to bed, so did Nancy.

Blair went to her bedroom, but she couldn’t sleep. She was missing Jo big time and the mention of her name earlier didn’t help matters much. Blair knew that Natalie and Tootie were just trying to lighten the mood in spite of everything that was going on around them, but hearing Jo’s name without her being there was just not right. Basically, Blair wasn’t Blair without Jo. In an effort to take her mind off of things, she flipped on her television set and tried finding something interesting on TV.

After a while, Geri lightly knocked on Blair’s door before entering the room. Seeing how distraught her cousin looked, Geri walked over and sat down on the edge of the bed.

“Are you missing Jo?”

“Like heck I am!” Blair shouted, then she started to break down. Geri hugged her while Blair weeped on her left shoulder.

“I just want my Joey back. She’s my everything.”

“Ahh, Blair, don’t worry about it. You know it’s a 99% chance that Jo’s coming back tomorrow.”

“But what about the other 1%? She could just leave me forever.” After saying that, she broke down again.

“Knowing Jo, I seriously doubt that she would do that to you. She loves you too much, and I know she will be here. I wish I could say the same for Yvonne.”

Now it was time for Geri to cry, as she was missing her other half.

The two weeping women hugged each other and used each other’s shoulder to cry on. It was at that moment that Bailey walked in and saw them in such a state. She sighed and knew she had to help them out.

“Hey, what’s the pity-party for and why wasn’t I invited?” she joked.

Geri sniffed as she spoke. “Blair and I are missing our soulmates.”

“Yeah, I can understand that. I would feel the same way if I didn’t see Mark for a long time as well.”

Blair, with her flushed face, looked at her sister. “I hope he doesn’t run away if things go wrong.”

“So far he hasn’t. He’s stuck right by my side, just like I know Jo will do for you,” Bailey said.

“Yeah, but still. Why does she always resort to running away to solve her problems?”

There was that buzz again and Blair immediately got up.

“I’ll get it.”

“Isn’t that Kelly’s job?” Bailey asked.

“Yeah, but I told her to take the rest of the night off. Come with me.”

She went upstairs with Geri and Bailey trailing close behind her. As Blair opened the door, in walked a beautiful woman who appeared to be in her mid-40s. The woman had medium caramel-brown skin with long, curly jet-black hair flowing down her back and an hourglass figure.

“Yvonne!” Geri shouted with unbridled joy. She quickly ran to the woman, almost knocking Bailey and Blair over in the process, and passionately hugged her lover. Amazingly, she didn’t trip or fall over herself, due to her cerebral palsy. The embrace was followed by an equally passionate kiss.

“Mmm… That’s a delightful way to say hi, no?” Yvonne joked in a sexy French accent.

“But how did you-” Geri was about to ask, but her lover immediately interrupted her.

“Mademoiselle here helped me,” Yvonne said as she pointed to Blair.

Blair smiled. “I had a limo driver pick her up at Manhattan. It was worth it.”

“Absolutely! I got to drink some great Burgundy wine of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, watch NetFlix, and listen to some 80s Italo-disco and French New Wave music. It was magnifique!” said the grinning French woman.

“Well, I’m glad you enjoyed the trip. Ours was not bad, considering the amount of tension on the bus.” Blair glommed when she heard that. “But it was uneventful, for once.”

Yvonne smirked and shook her head. “It has become a big mess, no?”

“You’re not kidding...” Blair derided.

Tootie and Natalie came to see Yvonne.

“Hey Yvonne, how are you doing?” said Tootie.

“Good to see you again, Yvonne,” Natalie said.

Since Geri was Andy’s client, she and Yvonne had visited Tootie’s place multiple times, and usually Natalie was there as well.

“It’s great to see you two as usual. You two are always together, no?”

The two friends looked at each other before Natalie responded, “Yes, but we are not together together.”

“Right,” Tootie chimed in. “We’re best buds.”

“Soul sisters,” Natalie added.

“I swear, you two must have been twins in your previous lives.” Yvonne said.

“We are sisters from different misters,” Natalie and Tootie replied in unison.

They all then broke into laughter.

Before they headed downstairs, Cindy and Sue Ann went to see who arrived.

“Is this Yvonne? The woman you told me about on the bus, Geri?” Sue Ann asked.

“Yep,” she smiled proudly.

“This is she,” Yvonne said proudly.

“Ooh la la. Got quite a catch there, Geri,” Cindy stated while wiggling her eyebrows. “Geri’s shown us pictures, but, damn, they do not do you any justice.”

A charming smile appeared on Yvonne face while a small scowl formed on Sue Ann’s.

“I’m glad a model like you think I’m beautiful. Especially one who’s as beautiful as you are,” she ended with a wink. That pointed compliment did not make Sue Ann feel any better.

At that moment, Kim arrived and quickly sized up the woman who was holding onto Geri’s waist. Even though they’ve met before, she still likes what she sees, but she was wise enough not to go any further.

“Yvonne, Je suis bien content de te voir,” said Kim in French. Translated it meant, “I’m very glad to see you.”

“Pareil pour moi (Same here),” replied Yvonne.

“Pas autant que je le suis pour te voir avec plaisir (Not as much as I am gladly to see you),” Geri answered before giving her lover a tight hug.

Geri vous a beaucoup manqué (Geri missed you very much),” Blair said.

“Vraiment? (Really?)” Yvonne responded.

While Yvonne, Geri, Kim, and Blair was in their own francophone world, the rest of the crew were looking at them in puzzlement. Blair recognized the confusion by the looks on her friend’s faces and decided to bring it up.

“Si nous allons parler en français, faisons-le ailleurs (If we are going to talk in French, then let’s do it somewhere else),” declared Blair.

“D’accord (I agree) ,” Yvonne replied. “Oops.”

“How about we speak French a little later on, when all the English speakers are gone?” Kim suggested as she reverted back to English.

“Yeah. Don’t want them to feel left out of our wonderful conversation,” cracked Yvonne.

Eventually, they all congregated into the living room. Geri and Yvonne settled onto a two-seater, while everyone else found their own seats. Yvonne rested her head on Geri’s left shoulder, and Yvonne’s right hand and Geri’s left hand entwined like a pair of boa constrictors wrapped around each other.

As soon as they got comfortable, the group started asking the exotic French woman questions.

“So, what part of France are you from? Because you don’t look…” Sue Ann asked, trying to stay in the PC realm.

“Sue Ann…” Molly warned.

Yvonne chuckled a bit and rolled her eyes. “Don’t worry, the PC police won’t come after you. I’m from Marseille, but my father is from Tahiti and my mother is from Corsica.”

“Corsica?” Sue Ann inquired.

“Oui. It’s a small island south of France and north of Sardinia, an Italian island.”

“Remember the photo shoot I did over there back in ‘91?” Cindy reminded Sue Ann.

“Oh, yeah. I remember. The beaches were wonderful.”

“So, Geri, how did you and Yvonne hooked up?” Cindy asked.

“Yeah, you two never told us the full story, besides Blair setting up a blind date and you two getting back together a few years later,” Natalie said.

Geri blushed and smiled. “Yes, it’s true. It was through Blair, who set up a blind date.”

Blair smiled in return. “I had to make it up for the French teacher disaster.”

“Yeah, instead of a French teacher, I got myself a French belle. I call that a trade-up,” Geri replied as she smiled. Yvonne blushed as she nuzzled more into Geri’s shoulder.

“See, it just goes to show that my middle name is Cupid. I’m the ultimate matchmaker.”

“And match-breaker,” Geri joked as she put her free hand over her mouth in an effort to stifle her laughter. Yvonne took her head off of Geri’s shoulder and snickered. Everyone was laughing except for Blair, who first gave Geri that glare , but then began shaking her head and laughing with the rest of the group.

Yvonne then spoke up and said, “But believe it or not, Geri and I met earlier. It was when I was working as a cabaret singer for various clubs in NYC. When I was at Bespoken -”

“Hey, I remember that spot!” Natalie chimed in.

“Yeah, great spot, rest in peace,” Yvonne replied with a slight sound of melancholy in her voice as she remembered the old venue. After a moment of silent reflection, she continued, “As I was saying, when I was at Bespoken, Geri was there as well to perform her stand up routine. I was in the dressing room when Geri walked in…”

(Flashback to 1990)

“Oh, sorry. I didn’t know someone was in here,” proclaimed Geri as she quickly turned her face away, but kept her eyes trained on the beautiful woman before her.

“No harm done. I am already dressed. I will just get my things and get out out of here,” replied the French woman as she began to move around the comedian.

“No need,” said Geri as she moved past Yvonne while secretly scanning her from head to toe. “I just want to look in the mirror and see if anything looks out of place. Gotta make sure cause those guys will kill you. Besides,” chuckled Geri, “I want them laughing at my jokes and not my appearance.”

Yvonne looked at Geri. “You look fine, actually,” she stated as she glanced Geri up and down.

“Thanks,” Geri answered with a smile.

Then Geri asked, “Are you the French singer this club got to perform tonight?”

“Oui.” she smiled.

“Cool. My name’s Geri? What’s yours.”

“Yvonne. Nice to meet you, Geri.”

“Nice to meet you too.”

“We looked at each other rather lovingly. I think I saw a bit of red in Yvonne’s brown cheeks.”

“You did, love. I was blushing.”

“Hey, are you also a model?” Geri asked.

Yvonnet smirked. “No, but I get that a lot though.”

“I’m not surprised,” commented Geri as she took a longer look at the French woman. “A babe like you would succeed as a fashion model.”

“Well, I did try modeling for a short time during college. I thought it was a quick way to make some money and some of my close friends said it’d be easy and I’d love it. They were so wrong. I hated it. It’s so boring.”

“Oh, I didn’t know that.”

“Yeah, behind the glamour is the mundane,” Yvonne commented. “Besides, being a singer still lets me show off a little,” said Yvonne a little seductively with a sly smile on her face. “People still get to see my beauty, but also my musical talents and my dancing skills.”

“I see. So how long have you been here?”

“In the states?”

“Yeah.”

“For about a month. I’m here on a temporary work visa. I only got five more months to be here, so I have to make the best of it.”

“I think you will, Yvonne.”

“We looked into each other’s eyes once again. There was that spark between us. I couldn’t explain it, but it felt magical for a while, until our own silent moment was shattered by the club manager.” Yvonne said.

“Yo, Tyler, where are ya? You’re up!” shouted the club manager.

“... Oh, shit!”

Geri tried to move but she fell down.

“Is there something wrong?” asked Yvonne with concern in her voice as she leaned down.

“Well, I need some help walking.”

“How come?”

“See, I have cerebral palsy. Thus, my coordination is bad. Think of me as the opposite of MC Hammer.”

Yvonne laughed. “I hope so. He’s a great dancer, but he’s not the best looking guy in the world.”

“Yeah, he’s not the most handsome guy in the world, but he sure knows how to dance. I’m jealous of him.”

“Oh come on now, Geri. Just because you can’t dance doesn’t mean he’s better than you. You probably have a different type of talent than he does.”

“That’s true.”

“Tyler, the crowd’s waitin’ fo’ ya!” yelled the club manager.

Both women could hear the anger and irritation in his voice.

“I better get going,” said Geri as she tried to get up.

“Here, let me help you out.”

Yvonne held Geri by the waist as Geri grabbed for her cane.

They left the room and saw the club manager.

“There you are. Ya kno’ I was lookin’ fo’ ya!” the club manager shouted.

“Sorry ‘bout that. I was having some trouble with my balance again.”

“I remember seeing the guilt on the club manager’s face,” Geri said.

“He looked like someone who got caught robbing candy from a baby, no?” Yvonne said. They both laughed afterwards.

Yvonne continued. “Look, I didn’t mean it. I totally forgot about your situation,” the manager replied more calmly.

“No worries. I’m ready to get out there!”

“Great! I’m get the crowds warmed up a bit.”

The manager then left the women and went back out on stage.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we got ourselves a one-of-a-kind comedian. Geri Tyler.”

I wished Geri good luck and I helped her to the stage. Then, I went back to my dressing room and finished getting myself prepared.”

At that point, Geri took up the story. “After I finished my set, it was Yvonne’s turn to perform. When she got up on stage and sang her French songs, I was mesmerized. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. I was in a trance, which was only broken when my ride arrived and the driver came up to me and tapped me on my shoulder. When he told me that it was time to leave, I couldn’t move . . . and not due to my CP. Yvonne had me frozen to the floor, like the many statues in France. I told my driver that I was going to stay until after the performance was over, but I left immediately after that. Yvonne and I didn’t see each other again until a month later, when Blair visited me at home.”

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“Hey, Geri, I got someone you should meet.”

“Really, Blair. I don’t know…”

“Oh, trust me, you’ll like her.”

“It’s a girl you’re pairing me up with?”

“Yeah. You told me the other day that you like women.”

“True, but I wouldn’t expect you to find someone that fast, especially one of the same sex!”

Blair grinned at me and said, “That’s because I’m a gifted matchmaker.”

“I rolled my eyes when she said that, but Blair just continued as if she didn’t hear me,” Geri chided a bit, looking at Blair.

“I did see you, but addressing it would be pointless. Besides, I owe you one for the whole Professor Suave fiasco,” Blair commented.

“You sure did,” Geri recalled. “I had to chuckle on that one because she rarely admits to owing people favors.”

“Because I usually don’t!” Blair protested.

“Whatever, Blair. You owe a lot of people favors, otherwise we wouldn’t be here.” Then Geri continued with the story. “As I was saying…”

“Yeah. Okay, Blair. I’m game.”

“You are?” Blair asked her cousin with her eyebrow looking like it was trying to reach for the skies.

“Totally!”

“And just so that you don’t feel totally uncomfortable, we’ll make it a double date. Jo and I, and you and Yvonne.”

“Yvonne? That’s the same name of the sexy woman I told you about that I met at Bespoken.”

“Well, I bet she’s not a sexy as this one. Trust me, when you see her, your jaw will drop.”

“We’ll see, Blair,” answered Geri with a roll of her eyes.

“When we arrived at La Maison, and after we were seated at our table, I began wondering how many sexy Yvonnes there could be out there. Then, when she entered, my jaw did drop.”

With a pleased look on her face, Blair leaned over to Jo and whispered, “See, do I know my cousin or what?”

As Jo rolled her eyes, Geri’s eyes were roaming over the French woman. It was obviously the same woman she met in Bespoken, but she assumed that she liked men. When Yvonne got to the seat, she proclaimed, “Hi, Geri.”

Despite the slight accent in her voice, Blair clearly knew that the French woman had uttered her cousin’s name.

“Wait, a minute. You two know each other?”

“Mais oui.” Geri said.

“But how?” asked Blair a bit confused.

“I told you, Blair. This is the hot woman I met at Bespoken.” Geri then turned her attention to Yvonne, “But I did not know that you were into women.”

Yvonne simply shrugged. “Well, I am into some women. Into some men too. I am attracted to who I am attracted to, despite their gender.”

“Oh,” replied Geri while hanging her head for a moment.

“And,” continued Yvonne, “I found you quite attractive at the club, but I was not sure that you liked women and I had to be careful making assumptions in America. These things aren’t as acceptable here as it is in France, no?”

“Ha, you didn’t catch me looking you up and down?”

Yvonne smiled. “I thought I caught you stealing glances, but I was not sure. I had my suspicions the minute we met, but I did not want to assume anything. Did you not see me stealing glances at you?” she finished with a smile.

It was Geri’s time to smile. “I think I did. Just like you, I wasn’t very sure myself.”

Blair looked at Jo and mouthed, “I told you so!” Jo just rolled her eyes and huffed.

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“For the rest of the night, we talked about various things,” declared Geri with a wide smile. “It was wonderful, and in my mind I had already decided on a 2nd, 3rd, and 4th date!” The group listened, enthralled by Geri and Yvonne’s story.

“That’s it, Geri? I was thinking about calling up U-Haul to move in with you! At that moment I was more than certain that you was it.”

“Oh, my God… That lesbian U-Haul joke,” Cindy groaned. The rest of group laughed more before Yvonne continued.

“We made it official two months later, but it didn’t last long because my visa expired. I had to move back to France for a while, because of my visa expiring, and my job. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to come back until seven years later.”

“It was a long seven years and a lot had changed during that time.” Geri said.

“Oui. I mean, yes. When we meet again in 1997, Geri was seeing someone else and I had just broken up with my guy of three years three months earlier. It was a mutual breakup, but I think it was mainly because we were not meant to be together.”

“Yeah, he wasn’t the one for ya, Babe,” Geri responded with a wink.

Yvonne lightly smacked her on the shoulder before continuing. “Anyway, I had to get away from France and everything. I knew that my future was in America . . .”

“Because I was in America,” joked Geri in a whisper.

Yvonne just looked at Geri and shook her head. “Ahem, . . . and I knew that was where I needed to be. So, I got on the first available flight to New York City. Once we landed, I knew that Geri was the first person I wanted to contact. However, I had heard from a mutual friend that she was in another relationship. The news left me heartbroken, but I was hoping we could at least be friends. After all, I did not know many people in America.”

“What Yvonne didn’t know,” interrupted Geri, “was that me and my partner at the time were having problems. He actually cheated on me and I cheated on him as payback.”

“With another man or with a woman?” Sue Ann asked.

“Another man. My cousin, Michael,” Tootie interjected with a smirk. A lot of jaws dropped at that revelation, but Geri simply grinned.

“Tootie’s right. He would have been a more permanent option if this French belle didn’t come back.”

“See, Blair wasn’t the only one who was making up for past mistakes. Nat was in a serious relationship at the time, as rare as that was back then, thus I didn’t want to ruin it, so I told him that Geri was interested and ready to move on. I just didn’t factor Yvonne into the equation.”

Yvonne just smiled. “Sorry about that, Tootie, but my cherie wasn’t meant for Michael,” she ended as she flirtatiously nuzzled into her lover’s neck.

Geri blushed, a very rosy red tint on her face, as she laughed. “I couldn’t agree with you more.”

After she finished blushing and laughing, she said, “I need to continue the story. That relationship wasn’t meant to be. So, when I learned that Yvonne was back in the city and that she was single, I immediately broke off my relationship, and my affair, and began pursuing her again . . . .”

(Flashback to 1997)

“It was a typical night in early February. I was just settling in at my apartment near SoHo when I heard my doorbell ring. I wasn’t expecting anybody - especially at that hour - so I just assumed it must be Blair or someone stopping by. However, I was not expecting who I saw on my stoop.”

“I must have given you a surprise, no?” asked Yvonne coyly.

“No . . . I mean, yes,” stuttered Geri while the others looked on.

“Anyway, I opened the door and there stood Yvonne. Although it had been seven years, she was as gorgeous as ever - aged beautifully like a fine French wine - but without the stinky cheese.”

“French cheese doesn’t stink,” interjected Yvonne with a sour look on her face.

“Umm, Camembert cheese?” Geri asked.

“Okay, you got me there,” Yvonne surrendered jokingly.

Geri went on. “She was wearing a mustard yellow sweater with black slacks and had that black choker that was popular in the 90s. She wasn’t trying to dress sexy, but with that 90s style bob haircut that went real well with her thick curly hair, I nearly melted.”

“Like your stinky cheese?” quipped Yvonne, throwing the comedian's joke back at her. Everyone laughed, while Geri just gave her that look.

Geri continued with the story. “So, Yvonne, welcome back.”

“Merci beaucoup, Geri.”

“We didn’t say anything for a while because I guess there was a lot of tension between us. I don’t think either one of us was sure that the attraction was still there for the other partner. Eventually, I ended up breaking the tension.”

“Well, are you going to just stand there like a statue or are you going to come in? If you choose the former, you’d be better off being one in here instead of out there,” I said. “Fewer pigeons.”

“If there are pigeons in the hallway, then your apartment must have some serious problems.”

“Remember, this is New York City. If there are rats who own the places, why not pigeons in the hallways?”

“You are not convincing me,” she deadpanned.

“I just have to say, my place would have fewer problems and would look much better if you got your sexy self in here.”

At that, Yvonne smirked then chuckled and came in.

“I see that you still haven’t lost your sense of humor, no?” she said as she examined the place.

“I hope not. I wouldn’t be able to afford this place if I did.”

“I see. You seem to be doing well for yourself.”

“Yeah my stand-up performances and my appearances in TV shows and movies sure pays the bills.”

“Looks like you got everything you need, mon ami.”

Geri looked her up and down before grabbing her waist and saying, “I do, now that you’re here.”

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“Ooooooo, this is getting good,” interrupted Tootie. Natalie squealed along with her buddy.

“It didn’t stay that way for long. I was thinking we were going to go in for a kiss, but Yvonne went and pushed her way out of my grasp.”

“Well, mon amour, I was not sure it was the right time at that moment,” Yvonne stated in a factual tone.

“You have a point. It was weird. We were together but apart. I know I wanted so bad to be with her, but her reaction told me she felt otherwise. I was afraid that the chance was long gone. It felt like we were in a circle.”

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After breaking out of Geri’s grasp, Yvonne walked over and sat down on the couch. Geri followed and took a seat in the chair.

“So, why are you here?” Geri asked.

“Well, I moved back to the city and I wanted to say hi.”

“That’s great, but why did you move to New York? Job? Money? Love?”

“When I said that, it looked like a bolt of lightning struck her.”

“Yeah, love. And my heart brought me here.”

“When she said that, I felt that a bolt of lightning struck me.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Geri, I think I still love you, am in love with you.”

“But . . . . then why did you break out of my embrace.”

“Because it wasn’t the perfect moment. It was a little too soon.”

“So, ummm, you said you came back . . . for me?”

“Why, but of course.”

Geri got up from her seat and walked towards the window, which overlooked the SoHo neighborhood. “Honestly, I thought you stopped thinking about me over the years. I saw in the French gossip magazines when you got into your last relationship, and I thought I was old news.”

“No, my love. I didn’t stop thinking about you. I thought you stopped thinking about me.”

Geri turned around and looked at Yvonne. “I could never stop thinking of you, Yvonne.”

“But I never heard from you again. I figured you had found someone else.”

“I’m sorry. I should have sent you an email or something,” Geri said, looking down as she was feeling a bit ashamed.

“How could you? I just got an email account four months ago.”

“Oh…” Geri responded. “Still, I should have tried harder to contact you somehow.  I apologize. Not a very good girlfriend . . . or friend for that matter.”

Yvonne looked into Geri’s eyes, assuring her with her soft dark-brown eyes. “There’s nothing to be sorry about, Geri. It happens when people separate due to long distances.”

At that comment, Geri walked over to the couch. After a look of assurance from Yvonne, she sat down next to the woman she loved. The tension between them was high. Their eyes were telling each other how much they wanted each other. The attraction between them was as thick and heavenly as condensed milk.

“Now that we’re in the same area, let’s start loving each other again because I don’t want anyone else but you,” Yvonne requested.

“Fair enough. But I need to tell you straight from my heart, Je t’aime,” Geri said.

Je t'aime aussi.”

“I leaned in, hoping that Yvonne wouldn’t move away from me again. This time, she leaned in toward me.”

“Now’s the right time,” whispered the French woman.

“Then we started kissing each other tenderly, then it turned passionately. We were making up years of not being together. It was so riveting, I still remember it like it was yesterday.

Then Yvonne said, “During our making out, I remember Geri saying, ‘I’m not letting you go, this time.’”

“I don’t want you to let me go, because you belong to me, no?”

Geri just grinned, “I sure do. Forever”

“Then we continued our kissing,” Geri ended.

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“We kept it up for a while. We didn’t want to each other go that night as the passion transferred to the bedroom. Right then and there, we became a couple,” Yvonne said with a blissful smile as she closed her eyes, reminiscing about that magical moment they had.

“And we’ve been a couple ever since,” Geri gleamed and Yvonne nodded her head in confirmation.

“Aah, that’s such a sweet and romantic story!” Tootie gushed.

“Yeah, especially the makeout part,” Natalie snickered. The two were acting like they were in Eastland again.

“You two will never grow up, will you?” asked Geri jokingly.

“Hey, we weren’t the ones going at it like two high school kids,” replied Natalie.

“Oh, but practice makes perfect,” said Yvonne with a smile as she grabbed Geri’s face and gave her a huge kiss.

“Okay, Toot, it’s time we get outta here before they start taking the kissing to France,” commanded Natalie as she grabbed her friend’s arm and began dragging her out of the room.

On the way out, Geri and Yvonne could hear Tootie exclaiming, “How romantic.” The rest of the group stayed with Geri and Yvonne, continuing their conversation with the couple.

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A little later, Kim left the living room and went downstairs to the entertainment room. She wasn’t quite ready for bed yet, but she also didn’t want to hear anymore from the loving couple. It wasn’t that she was not happy for Geri and Yvonne, but something just bothered her and made her feel a pang of jealousy toward the couple. So, Kim figured that she would find something to occupy her time and get her mind off of relationships and all that sort of thing. All the talk about love and relationships did was remind her of Kelly Donovan. Although she didn’t want to admit it, in her mind she knew that she wanted Kelly badly, and she was sure that, deep down, Kelly wanted her just as much. However, it was frustrating that Kelly was resisting the obvious connection due to what Kim considered a rather trivial problem. Though she had been down this road before with lesbians, it was different with Kelly for some reason. The feelings Kim had for Kelly was stronger, but so was Kelly’s resistance and protests.

It didn’t dawn on Kim that she was doing the exact opposite of what she wanted to do - escape the thoughts of love and relationships. She really needed to find something to take her mind off of Kelly D. At that moment, she realized that Tracy, Eric, and Kelly A. were there, conversing with each other. Kim decided to join in, in an effort to escape her thoughts.

“Hey, whatcha guys talkin’ about?” she asked curiously.

The trio turned and looked at her. “Nothing much,” replied Eric as he sized Kim up.

“So, we heard that you were into swinging,” said Tracy as she eyed Kim up and down. “You know, with you being a former porn star, I bet you have had some wild experiences. I mean, you were in some very risque films, and you can’t do some of those scenes without some, ummm, experimenting,” she added while lifting her eyebrow.

At first, Kim kind of looked away because she didn’t know how they couple would take her past. She hoped that they would not be put off by what she was rumored to do, and what she actually did during her years as a porn star.

“Don’t be shy,” commented Tracy as she noticed the slight change in demeanor. “Some of my friends back in LA told me that they had some very fun times with you.” Eric was next to Tracy, grinning.

Happy at the reassurance she seemed to be getting from the couple, Kim replied with a giggle, “Yeah, I had my share of threesomes, foursomes, and my favorite, orgies.”

“Ooooo, we love orgies,” Eric said while Tracy nodded in agreement.

“Yeah, and we were thinking that with us and Kelly, we could have some foursome fun, especially with someone as cute as you.”

At first, Kim started at the name, but then she realized that the couple was referring to Kelly A. Usually at a time like this Kim would already be naked and ready for action, but for some reason she couldn’t do it. Something in her heart stopped her and that something was Kelly D. Kim still had strong feelings for her and, deep down, she knew that they still had a chance. She really felt that Kelly D. was the one. After hearing how much Kelly D. hated Kelly A. and the couple, Kim concluded that joining in the couple and Kelly A.’s orgy would definitely hurt things more than help. She didn’t want to cause any conflict of interest or create any reason for Kelly D. to hate her more than she already did. Yet, was Kelly D. worth it? Was she worth it so much to pass up an orgy? Deep inside her heart she was saying yes, Kelly D., with all her flaws, was that one-in-a-billion for Kim. Kelly D. was going to be very special for Kim. As good as sex is to Kim, love is even better.

After weighing the pros and cons, Kim politely declined. “No, I can’t, but thanks for the offer.”

Tracy shrugged and said, “No problem. You know where to find us when you change your mind.”

Kim got up and went to her room. She went to sleep, thinking about Kelly D. all night long.

After she left, Eric asked Tracy and Kelly A., “What the hell does Kim sees in Kelly? The redhead Kelly, I mean,” he added as he glanced at Kelly A. “She’s cute and has a nice body, but that’s it. She’s rather trashy and ghetto.”

Kelly A. replied, “Kelly has a certain charm to her that’s hard to pinpoint. I fell for her once, memba? I don’t know what Kel did ta her, but Kim will regret it, just like I did.”

Tracy said, “Yeah. I’m glad we got you out of that trainwreck.”

Kelly A. then smiled. “So do I. Hey, let’s go to our rooms and have some fun.”

The couple smiled at Kelly A. and nodded, then headed straight to their master bedroom.

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When Cindy and Sue Ann went to bed, they didn’t say anything for a while, until Sue Ann mentioned something.

“Cindy, this is silly,” she said in the dark.

“What’s silly?”

“How we’re acting. Getting angry with Blair and, what’s worse, getting jealous of each other.”

“For the first part, remember, we’re here because of her, but for the second part, you’re right. We’ve been together for over thirty years and, if we wanted to split and date other people, we would have done that a long time ago,” Cindy noted.

“True, but just because we’re in this situation doesn’t give you or me the right to act like a bunch of nasty bitches. We need to stop badgering Blair over this whole mess. She’s doing the best that she can, and she’s pretty much holding out the olive branch to us, especially you.”

“Yeah, you’re right.”

“And also, there’s no need to get upset when people find us attractive. We’re two good looking people. Cindy, you’re a model for God’s sake.”

“I agree, but that also goes if we find other people attractive. Sure, I think Yvonne is hot, but as long I don’t try to pursue her, or keep on talking about it, then it should be okay. I know you were sizing up Tracy as well.”

There was a blush on Sue Ann’s face that Cindy couldn’t see in the dark room.

“Yeah, you’re right. We’ve been acting like fools.”

“We are, Sue Ann, but let’s not lose sleep over it. Let’s just go to bed.”

“Okay. Goodnight, Cindy.”

“Goodnight, Sue Ann.”

They went to bed their usual way, embracing each other.

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In Tootie’s bedroom, Natalie and Tootie were talking about the recent events.

“I’m thankful that the day is over. There was so much drama today, it could fill two weeks of my show!”

Natalie chuckled. “Yeah, there’s so much gay drama going on around here.”

Tootie thought for a bit. “It’s weird that we are the minority here, and I’m not talking about race or religion, but sexuality. There are more gay women here than on The L Word and a Xena Warrior Princess convention combined!”

“Yeah, now I see how they feel being the minority. Having to hear nothing but straight relationships all the time. Even with all the tension going on, they don’t seem to be as reserved as they usually are in pubic when it comes to the cuddling, kissing, and other types of PDA.”

“True. But it does make me think about the stuff we take for granted.”

“Like what, Tootie?”

“Like marriage.”

“That’s so true, Tootie. I guess they feel a bit of freedom here.” Then a question popped into Natalie’s head. “So, Tootie, what did you think about Geri’s French dish?”

“She has not changed one bit. If I didn’t know her already, I would have thought that she was another member of the staff here. I would be waiting for her to break out the whole costume and everything.”

“You can’t stereotype people like that, Tootie. You of anyone should know better than that.”

“Hey, girl, with all our crazy friends, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if she did have one of those kinky French maid outfits stashed away somewhere.”

“Tootie!” admonished Natalie with a shocked look on her face.

The younger girl just continued as if she didn’t hear her friend. “In fact, I bet she knows how to kiss only how French woman can.”

“Watch your mouth young lady,” shouted Natalie.

“Oh, Nat. I’m not the same little girl in pigtails and braces who used to roll around on skates.”

“Still, girl. I’m shocked. You sound a lot like me.”

“You shouldn’t be so surprised, Nat. Look at what’s on my talk show. Or have you not been watching like you promised?” asked Tootie as she sat up, put her hands on her hips, and pouted.

Natalie quickly defended. “Of course I watch your show, Tootie. It’s just those comments are something I’d say.”

“I guess that’s my fault hanging around you too much,” Tootie shrugged.

Both girls began laughing.

“Seriously though, one more person to add to this whole boiling pot. I’m not sure how that’s going to work.”

“Yeah and did you see the looks Sue Ann was giving Yvonne as Cindy was eyeballing her?” asked Tootie with a whistle.

“Yeah, but don’t forget that Cindy was about to kill Sue Ann for her eyeballing that curvy redhead Tracy.”

They both giggled after that.

“Yeah, and speaking of Tracy, what about Kelly A. and the couple who works here. Geesh, there are so many sparks flying, I feel like I’m in a fireworks factory.”

“I just hope one of those sparks don’t ignite a powder keg. I’m hoping everyone can just watch their emotions and keep them in check. We got Bailey, of all people, to thank for suppressing the explosion today. I just hope we can keep it up.”

“Me too, Tootie. Me too.”

“But I’m afraid that the the biggest igniter is going to arrive tomorrow. I have a feeling that a keg is bound to be lit by a fiery redhead from the Bronx named Kelly D.”

A worried look crossed on Natalie’s face. “I just hope we can extinguish it before it gets out of control. To do that, we best be getting some sleep. We’ll need our strength tomorrow, Soul Sister.”

“You’re not kidding. Have a good night, Natalie.”

“You too.”

Natalie got off the bed and went to her bedroom to get a good night’s sleep.

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It was late in the morning the next day, and both Jo and Kelly were still in jail. The police arranged for a truck to carry Jo’s bike and Natalie’s Lexus that Kelly borrowed to their destination. Kelly was sitting there in the bed, doing nothing. Jo took notice.

“What are you doing, Kel?”

“I don’t know whether I had a dream or a nightmare.”

Jo really had a puzzled look on her face when Kelly said that.

“What makes you say that?”

“Well, the dream was that I was in a dark alley, n’ someone was followin’ me. He or she was wearin’ a grey hood and had his or her face covered. So I picked up a trash can and shouted ‘Come any closer and I’ll knock ya out!’. Then the person took off the hood and it was Kimberly.”

Jo looked on and said “Interesting…”

“Then she said ‘Kelly, why are you doing this? Can’t you see that I love you, and that you love me?’ I responded with ‘I couldn’t love a person like you.’ Instead, she came up closer, to the point that she was like half a foot ‘way from me. Then she said, ‘Can you honestly say that you don’t love me?” I said to her. “I couldn’t love a filthy, flaky cockroach like you, ya gate-swingin’  slut! People like you I’m gonna -”. Then she grabbed my head and drew her face close to her. Instantly, we kissed. It was the type of kiss that sent shockwave all ovah my body. It was wonderful, and I didn’t want it to end. Then the phone alarm went off.”

“You know what that means, Kel?”

“That the beds and pillows here suck so much, they give you nightmares?” wisecracked Kelly. Jo knew that Kelly knew what it meant, but she didn’t want to admit it.

“No. It means that Kimberly is the one for you. What does it matta’ that she likes men? Kim feels the same way fo’ you,” Jo emphasized by pointing her right index finger right at Kelly, “and that she won’t leave you for anybody, man or woman.”

“That’s a bunch of horseshit,” Kelly sneered.

“No, what’s horseshit is your biphobia. This is gettin’ ridiculous, Kel. You need ta -.”

Then the guard came to the cell and told them, “Get yourselves ready, we’re in the process of getting you two out of here.”

Kelly let out a sigh of relief. “Thank God. I didn’t know how long I could bear to be in a cell.”

The guard chuckled. “Don’t worry. It won’t be too long. Just get yourselves ready.” Then he left.

Kelly quickly changed the subject that was greatly uncomfortable to her. “I can’t say that I’m gonna miss this place. I didn’t like it the first few times I’ve been in jail, and I don’t like it now. Even if ya pay me, I won’t be steppin’ inside one evah again.”

Jo chuckled. “At least you get to leave today.”

“Yeah, Hallelujah! And I get to go back to Houston two days from now. I can’t believe I’m actually looking forward to leavin’ my hometown. I don’t even wanna be here for the next 100 years!”

Kelly’s cell rang and she answered. “Hello? ...This is she.”

She didn’t say anything for a while. She just listened as her face began to fall.

“Wha’ do ya mean I ruined yo’ reputation? What reputation do ya even have? You guys are a telemarketing company fo’ cryin’ out loud!”

“Kel, is everything okay?” Jo asked. Kelly signalled for Jo to wait a moment.

“Afta’ all the hard work an’ dedication I put in this job, you gonna dump me like that ‘cuz of those videos? ...Ya know what? Fuck you all and goodbye!” Kelly spat as she slammed the phone once again. This time the phone flew up in the air and landed on the bed after a few tumbles.

Jo came over to her friend. “So they fired you?”

“Yeah…” She sat down and cried again just like last night. Jo sat next to her and comforted her.

“Look, Kel. I’ll help ya get yourself situated after all this is ovah. Okay?”

But Kelly didn’t say anything, she just cried some more.  

It was around this time that Blair called Jo from her bedroom. Jo looked at her cell and saw Blair’s number. She knew she had to pick up this time, but she first took a deep breath before answering.

“Hello?”she answered as she held back her tears.

“Jo!” Blair elated.

“Hiya, Blair,” she said calmly, though deep down inside she was jumping for joy as well.

“I miss you so much,” Blair said as she started to weep. “I am so sorry for everything. I just want you back. I’ll do anything to have you back. You don’t know how much it hurts not having you around.”

“Actually, I do. I really do. I miss you a lot too, Blair. I really felt lonely when I went to bed,” Jo replied as she started to tear up. “Look, we can talk more when we get to the place. I’m dealing with a terrible situation here. Kelly just lost her job.” She looked to the left and saw Kelly sobbing uncontrollably as she covered her face with her hands.

That made Blair even more upset. She knew she was the reason Kelly lost her job.

Blair continued, “Oh, speaking of Kelly, you can’t tell her that Kim and the other Kelly is here.”

“What? Are ya serious, Blair? I think she should know what she’s gettin’ into.”

“No, that’s not a good idea. Kelly is quite thick and stubborn.”

“She might be stubborn, Blair, but we can’t have her unknowingly entering what could be a hornet’s nest. What, do ya want another incident on your hands?”

“Listen, Jo. I have a plan to keep them separated until the time is right to let them know.”

“Ya think ya can keep them separated forever?”

“Just trust me, Jo. Don’t tell Kelly.”

Against her better judgement, Jo agreed to keep it a secret . . . for now.

Luckily for Jo, Kelly didn’t hear any of the conversation due to her weeping.

Just then, the guard then called them. “Polniaczek, Donovan. It’s time.”

“Look, I’ll talk to you later, okay? We’re leaving now.”

“Okay, please call back.”

“Will do. Bye sweetie.”

“Bye.”

As soon as they were released, they were taken to a police car. A big truck was behind them, and it held the Lexus Natalie loaned Kelly and Jo’s motorcycle. Jo told them to take them to Ithaca.

“Ithaca?” Kelly questioned.

“Yeah, the place where we are going to hide out for a while is in Ithaca.”

“All the way up there? Maybe we can get some delicious apples while we’re there.”

Jo didn’t say anything but just smiled.

Curious, Kelly decided to Google Ithaca and the building Jo was talking about on her phone. She was not familiar with the area and wanted to find out what she was getting herself into. When she typed in the name, a link to a CNN article appeared as on of the first hits. Fearing that the media knew the location, and just getting the news about her job, Kelly was not looking forward to entering a chaotic scene again. She already had enough bad exposure from the press to last her a lifetime, so she wanted to at least prepare herself. So, she clicked on the link which directed her to CNN ’s website. As she was looking at the article, it said that Blair Warner and her friends were in a secret location in Ithaca. The website listed the names of the people they suspected to be with Blair in the hideout, and Kimberly Drummond’s name appeared. Kelly put two and two together.

“God dammit,” she muttered.

“Is sumthin’ wrong, Kelly?”

Kelly quickly hid her phone from Jo and responded, “No, Jo. Nothing’s wrong.”

However, that was far from the truth, as Kelly was getting very nervous inside, but was trying not to show it. For the rest of the trip, Kelly didn’t say much, for she didn’t want to bring it up to Jo, and she didn’t want Jo to know how nervous she was.

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It was late-morning at the hideout and, thanks to Bailey, there was peace in the place. Molly, Blair, Mrs. G., and a few others were watching CNN and they were talking about the “lez-splosion incidents.”

“I think the events caused by Blair Warner, Jo Polniaczek, Molly Parker, Kimberly Drummond, Miko Wakamatsu, and Kelly Donovan can hurt progress towards a nationwide gay marriage,” said one panel guest.

“I hope it does and shows what a shame it is!” said a right-wing panel guest. “A lot of these gays and lesbians are not fit for marriage and these recent events prove exactly why.”

Then they showed a segment where a reporter interviewed random people on the streets about the topic.

“As a gay man, I’m very scared that this could hurt all the progress we have made to get gay marriage nationally recognized and legalized. I must say that I believe that none of these women represent the gay community in any shape or form.”

“I hope it shows that marriage was, is, and always will be meant for Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve or Adele and Eve.” Then the guy continued. “Maybe companies can stop giving benefits to gay couples and they go back to the closets where they belong.”

“I think this whole thing has been blown out of proportion,” said a woman. “Would people use this as an excuse to stop straight marriages if these women were straight? No.”

Blair couldn’t watch anymore of it, so she changed the channel.

“Come on, Blair. You didn’t have to change the channel,” Molly complained.

However, Blair ignored her. When she changed the channel, she saw on BBC International that the Japanese ambassador was apologizing for Miko’s actions, saying that they didn’t reflect the ideals of Japan and its people.

Now Blair threw the remote on the couch and covered her face in shame.

Eric and Tracy tried to comfort Blair.

“Blair, screw what those losers have to say. They don’t live your life, you do.”

“But you don’t understand,” Blair moped.

“We do, kind of,” Tracy retorted. “We know that you’re very conscious of your image, but sometimes you just need to learn how to not give a shit.”

Blair thought about it for a bit. “You may be right.”

Then the alarms on their watches went off.

“Honey, it time to check the air filters,” Tracy reminded her husband as they got up.

“Yeah, let’s get going.”

As soon as they left, Molly asked Blair a question.

“So, what exactly does that couple do here, Blair?”

“Yeah, you didn’t mention their roles around here,” Mrs G. added.

“They maintain the place” Blair simply stated.

“But doesn’t Kelly do that?” Molly asked.

“No. I mean they’re the ones who do the electrical and mechanical maintenance around here. Tracy’s an electrical engineer and Eric’s a biochemist. They help keep the air conditioning, airflow, water flow, etc. working. They also do the plumbing, fix elevators, and all of the other mechanical stuff that I still don’t quite understand. I’m getting better thanks to Jo, but . . .” At the mention of her partner’s name, Blair sniffed and just continued. “I couldn’t have had the place built the way it is if it wasn’t for them. Also, two additional rooms are created just for them. One is a going to be a control center for them to control the house. They would be able to use the camera to watch the area, except the bedrooms of course. They would also be able to monitor the lights in the house, control the pool and sauna temperature, making sure the air from up there comes down so that we won’t burn up, etc.”

“That sounds pretty impressive,” Molly uttered with a whistle. “So, what’s the other room going to be?”

“Their own playground for them, Kelly A., and their friends…”

“...Say no more…” Molly responded. It doesn’t take too much imagination to figure out what Blair meant, but it was something Molly didn’t want to imagine too much anyway. Mrs.G. didn’t say anything, but her face turned pale and her eyes got wide, which said a lot.

Meanwhile, Geri and Yvonne was with Cindy, Sue Ann and Kim in the sunroom, while Nancy was homeschooling the kids in the large conference room. Beverly Ann and Sister Meg were swimming in the pool, and Bailey was in the game room playing Ms. Pac Man on an arcade machine that can host thousands of games thanks to the Mame emulator.

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It took them two and a half hours to get there, but Jo and Kelly finally arrived. The buzzer was rung, and it was rather loud inside the place.

“I’ll get it,” Kelly A. said, but Blair stopped her.

“No, I’ll get it. Why don’t you go to the entertainment center and check up on Kim and Nancy. I don’t know if they can handle all those kids by themselves.”

“Sure thing,” Kelly A. agreed as she went to the elevator.

After Blair saw Kelly A. get in the elevator, she opened the door to let Jo and Kelly in. Immediately, she pushed Kelly D. away and grabbed Jo like her life depended on it, which it kind of did.

“Jo! You’re back,” Blair shouted. Tears were running down her face like Niagra Falls. Jo was no better, as she was crying, happy to have the love of her life back.

“Yes, Princess, I’m back.”

The minute she hugged Jo, it turned into a long embrace that got them lost in their own world, and unaware of their environment for a while. Blair felt complete once again, and so did Jo. Neither wanted to let go of the other. It was a reunion of two pieces of a broken heart joining back together as one. The celebration would have continued unabated if it wasn’t for a particular redhead...

Kelly D., on the other hand, wasn’t so happy. “Damn, Ms. Elitist, you could have at least said ‘excuse me!’”

Blair pulled away and addressed Kelly D, ignoring her insult. “I’m sorry about that.”

“Yeah, you should be. There’s a lotta things you should be sorry about.”

Jo quickly stepped in between them. “Kel! This is not the time.”

Blair quickly paused Jo with her hand. “No, Jo. Let me deal with this.”

Jo looked at her and saw conviction and forgiveness in her eyes. She stepped aside and Blair stepped up to an angry and miffed Kelly D.

“Kelly, I just want to tell you that I am deeply sorry for how I acted towards you in the rehearsal and how I attacked you at the food court.”

But Kelly wasn’t so quick to forgive. “This is not the first time you’ve done dis to me, Blair. How will I know you won’t do this to me again in the future? Cuz of your actions, my life has been a fuckin’ livin’ hell!”

All of Kelly D.’s shouting got everybody on the first floor rushing into the living room.

“I’m not going to make big and sweeping promises, like I usually do. What I would do on my end is to show you the respect you deserve.”

Kelly D. sneered at her. “I dunno. I don’t believe ya, ya spoiled snob!”

Jo had heard enough, so she stepped in. “Look, Kel. Give Blair a chance, will ya? At least do it for me.”

“And I’ll help you get a job here in NYC,” Blair pleaded. “I owe you that much.”

Blair’s offer just seemed to infuriate Kelly more. “I don’t want anything from you, ya scumbag witch!” she spat. “It’s bad enough that we have to breath the same air.” Blair was quite hurt by Kelly’s words, but she did her best not to show it.

Jo quickly intervened. “Look, let’s talk about it in another room.”

“Fine. I’m still mad at Blair, but if it will get me away from her, than I’m willing to go to another room.”

Jo took her into the powder room where Blair kept all her cosmetics and beauty products. It was somewhat Blair’s sanctuary, so it was ironic that Jo chose that particular room to have a heart to heart with her friend.

“Kel, you need to let it go!”

“Why! That woman ruined my life. I’m a laughin’ stock and I no longer have a job because of her. Let me tell you right to your face, I don’t like Blair one bit! I don’t know how you can stand her!”

“I’ve had plenty of practice. Besides, there’s another part to Blair that lies below the surface.”

“Sumthin’ bettah?” Kelly sneered.  “‘Cuz all she is on the surface is a superficial bitch who tries to look good to everyone. That offer to help me get a job meant nuthin.’ She was just frontin’ for everyone so she’d look like some sort of saint or sumthin’.”

“Kel, she’s tryin’,” pleaded Jo.

“She’s tryin’ all right . . . tryin’ my patience. I don’t give a fuck if she’s tryin’!”

“Look, give Blair a break, will ya?!” Jo shouted back.

“Oh, I’ll give her a break all right . . . break her scrawny neck or knock her teeth out.”

The threat of bodily harm to her partner infuriated Jo and she couldn’t hold back anymore. Jo knew better than to take Kelly’s threat lightly. The incident at the engagement party was still fresh in her mind. “Remember one thing, Kel, Blair owns this place, and if all you’re going to do is cause trouble and make her life and everybody lives in here miserable, because I know you Kel, then you’re making my life miserable, and if that happens, then you will see your way out, capiche? You will have to deal with the media yourself with no job and, frankly, no friends to back you up.”

Kelly just stood there in silence. Sure, she had some friends back in Houston, and even a few former lovers there, but none of them would be able to help her out in New York.

“Blair is doing everything in her power to help you out. You don’t want to burn the bridge of a socialite who has tons of connections, now do you?”

“Like she’ll ever use any of them to help me.”

“Whether ya want to believe it or not, Blair tends to stand by her word. She doesn’t offer things she doesn’t intend on delivering.”

“But for me?”

“Even for you. You and I are tight and she’ll help my friends if I ask.”

“So, she wouldn’t do it because she’s wrong.”

“Kel, Blair doesn’t normally admit guilt. Just think of it as saying she was wrong and caused your problems so is trying to make amends. I don’t think you guys will ever be sitting down to afternoon tea together, but at least you can agree to disagree.”

“I guess I can do it for you, Jo, but if she crosses me, I swear . . .”

“She won’t,” interrupted Jo. “I promise, and you know my word is good.”

“It bettah be,” sneered Kelly.

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They left the powder room and headed back to the main quarters. Blair was sitting on a couch, reading a lesbian novel that she got for Jo.

Kel came up to Blair and said. “Blair, I know you wanna talk to me, so let’s talk.”

Blair looked up to Kelly and said “Okay, please hear me out. I know you have every right to be upset with me, but let me help you out. It’s my fault you lost your job and I want to make it up to you.”

“Listen, Blondie, you don’t like me, and I don’t like you, so let’s not pretend. That said, I don’t fully blame you for everything that’s happened, but I did lose my job over this stupid mess, because you’re such a stupid, little -”

“Kel! This is my only warning to you!” said an angry and stern Jo. Kel quickly shut up.

“Thanks Jo, but I’m fine here,” Blair said. She continued. “I know, Kelly, and I take responsibility for my part in it. Believe me, I have a few connections and a strings I can pull to get you a better job than you had.”

“Look, I don’t . . .”

“You don’t have to say it. I know you probably don’t want to feel beholden to me, but you won’t be. You will have to rely on your talents and skills to keep the job. I can just get you in the right doors.”

“But then I’ll owe you, right?” asked Kelly.

“Kel,” Jo interrupted as she placed a hand on her friend’s shoulder, “a wise woman once told me, ‘You owe the gas company. You owe Bloomingdales. You don’t owe your friends’ or your friends’ life partners,” she ended as she winked at Blair.

“You’re right, Jo. So, truce?” asked Kelly as she put out her hand.

“Truce,” replied Blair as she attempted to shake Kelly’s hand. At first Kel looked at Blair’s hand in disgust as she was about to refuse her offer, until Jo gave her a chillingly cold glare to her. Immediately, she shook Blair’s hand.

At least one explosion was halted . . . for now.

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It seemed that a sense of peace had descended upon the group, but it was not meant to last. After Blair and Kelly D. had made amends, the former decided that it would be best not to mention Kelly A. just yet. Blair knew about the Kellys’ tumultuous past, and she wasn’t ready to bring those two forces together yet. Not when she had just made amends with Kelly D. So, Blair had made it a point to keep the two as far away from each other as possible. However, Blair could not be everywhere at all times, so it was only a matter of time that the two Kellys would come face to face.

Blair had excused herself to use the bathroom, while Jo, Kelly D., and Cindy were watching a Yankee game on the living room TV.

“Damn, Colon’s got no game this year,” Jo complained.

“Yeah, Girardi outta send him back down to AAA. Dude’s ruining any chances the Yanks have at making the Series this year. Geesh,” Kelly derided, as she shook her head in frustration.

“I agree. I mean, losing to the fuckin’ Orioles . . . at home? Bush league. Shit.”

“It’s all good, Jo. The Yanks always bounce back,” Kelly consoled.

Cindy snickered. The two New Yorkers looked at the Los Angeles girl with a bit of contempt.

“So, how are the Dodgers doing, Cindy?” Kelly inquired. “We gave ya Donny Baseball as a manager and ya team still can’t win.”

“The season ain’t over, Kelly. The Dodgers can still pull it off.”

Now it was Jo and Kelly’s turn to laugh.

“Yeah, right,” snickered Jo. “That’d be a true Field of Dreams .”

“Right, build a decent team and the fans will come,” added Kelly. “Nah, we’re talkin’ real life, not Angels in the Outfield .”

“Awww, shut up and watch your team blow another game,” retorted Cindy.

While Jo, Cindy, and Kelly D. were watching the game, Kelly A. had come up to grab some paper towels from the kitchen. Blair thought she heard the sound of the elevator from the bathroom, but she just shrugged it off. Besides, she’d be out in just a minute anyway, so no worries . . . or so she thought.

The game had just reached the 7th inning stretch and Kelly D. decided that she needed to grab something to eat.

“Hey, Jo, Cindy, I’m gonna go get me a bite to eat. Want something?”

“You mean other than a competent bullpen?” Jo sulked.

“You’d be looking for years, especially after Rivera is gone,” whispered Cindy under her breath.

“I mean something to eat,” corrected Kelly as she glared at Cindy before turning back to look at Jo. “I can’t do miracles.”

“Nah.”

“No, thanks,” chimed in Cindy.

“Ha, you’re a Dodgers fan, ya gotta fend for yourself,” Kelly shot with a smirk. “Ummm, so, where’s the kitchen anyway?” asked Kelly D. as she got up and looked first to her left and then to her right.

“You could just wait for Blair. She’d get you something. She does for me when the game’s on,” laughed Jo.

“I’m sure ya got the wife well trained,” joked Kelly D. “but I can do things for myself. So . . . .”

“There are some Doritos and Cheetos in the pantry. Plus, there are some Icehouse brew in the fridge,” Jo pointed out while her eyeballs were glued to the TV screen.

“Sweet. Thanks.”

When Kelly D. got to the kitchen she saw a faintly familiar figure. Granted, she could only see the person from the back, but there was something that just seemed recognizable, though she couldn’t quite place it. Then, all of a sudden the person turned and the two Kellys came face to face. Both Kellys were shocked, but soon that shock subdued and transformed into rage. At that moment, the war began . . .

End of Chapter 14.

Chapter Text

When Kelly D. got to the kitchen she saw a faintly familiar figure. Granted, she could only see the person from the back, but there was something that just seemed recognizable, though she couldn’t quite place it. Then, all of a sudden the person turned and the two Kellys came face to face with each other. Both Kellys were shocked, but soon that shock subdued and transformed into rage. At that moment, the war began . . .

“You!” Kelly D. spat through gritted teeth. Immediately, she struck first, landing a right jab to Kelly A.’s left cheek. Kelly A. staggered backward a bit, before regaining her footing. As Kelly D. was about to strike again, Kelly A. dodged the blow, then grabbed Kelly’s other hand and threw her into the pantry door. Kelly D. slammed her face right on it. The loud noise got everybody’s attention.

“What the fuck?” Jo cursed as she looked towards the kitchen. “I didn’t know getting a bite to eat was a contact sport.”

“That did not sound like someone getting food to me,” replied Cindy.

“Then what the hell was that noise?” uttered Jo as she leapt off of the couch.

As Jo was heading toward the kitchen, Blair rushed from the bathroom.

“What was that ruckus, Jo?”

“The hell if I know,” she replied as she ran past the blonde and into the kitchen.

As soon as Jo got to the kitchen and saw that it was the two Kellys fighting, she muttered, “God, dammit, Blair! I told ya it wouldn’t work.”

Overhearing Jo’s comment, Blair yelled, “Hey, this is not all my fault. I thought you were keeping Kelly D. occupied.”

“But I thought you were supposed to keep Kelly A. busy on the other side of the house.”

“Well, I can’t watch her all the time,” shouted Blair.

“And I can’t keep my eyes on Kelly D. all the time either.”

“Well, don’t just stand there, Jo. Break them up . . . please,” Blair pleaded.

By this time, Kelly A. had connected with a left jab to the face, but Kelly D. countered with a left jab of her own.

“Yo, Cindy. Get your ass in here. I need your help,” yelled Jo as she got ready to step in between the battling Kellys.

Cindy came running into the room and screamed, “Oh, my God! The two Kellys are going at it like Ali and Frazier!”

At the sound of all the yelling, especially the ones that came out of Kelly D’s raspy, Bronx mouth, the people who were in the sunroom quickly ran into the kitchen and froze at the spectacle.

As Kelly D. was ready to strike again. Jo and Cindy grabbed ahold of her and held her back.

“Get the fuck off me! I’m gonna murdah that bi-slut bitch!” Kelly D. screamed.

“Not if I get to ya first! Ya crazy, carpet-munchin’, sticky-fingers dyke!” Kelly A. responded.

“You shouldn’t talk. You probably put your fingers up that STD-carryin’, couple’s assholes. Not ta mention, yo’ tongue!”

“Oh yeah? How many dirty, meth-ho bitches wit’ sourdough yeast infection have you ate, bitch? I ain’t includin’ Whitney Houston!”

“Well, at least she was a bettah fuck than you were!” Kelly D. spat back. “An’ she nevah gave me crabs either!”

“Hey, don’t go mistaken me for one of yo’ skanks from the ho-house you sleep with,” Kelly A. shot back with the same venom. “That’s where ya got ya crabs from!”

“How could I mistaken them for you? Unlike you, all the utha’ girls I’ve been wit’ understand da concept of douchin’!” Kelly D. said.

At that, everyone’s jaws about hit the floor, especially Mrs. Garrett’s who wasn’t as accustomed to such language without serious repercussions. However, these two were not her girls and she didn’t feel that she should step into the middle of it . . . yet. She was silently hoping that either Jo, Natalie, Tootie, or any of the girls who she supervised prior to becoming the school dietician would step in. After all, they should have picked up on something during her time as dorm mother. She couldn’t be the peacemaker all the time. Meanwhile, Sister Meg was just happy that none of Nancy’s kids were present to hear the vulgarity coming from the two Kellys. Sure, it was the 21st century and all, but she didn’t think it was proper for Nancy’s children to be exposed to such things if she could help it. Besides, with their lives being in the public eye, if the media got wind that Nancy allowed her children to witness such behavior, it could result in serious repercussions from Child Services. Being a nun, Sister Meg was familiar with cases where contributing to the delinquency of a child by putting them in certain environments resulted in the children being removed from a parent or guardian’s custody. In Nancy’s case, the children could be removed and placed in Roger’s sole custody. Although she didn’t think Roger would physically or verbally abuse the children, she was concerned that without a mother’s care, the children would be emotionally scarred. Besides, maintaining a supportive, stable nuclear family was important - a luxury that she missed out on at times.

As the Kelly’s continued their verbal sparring match, Sister Meg began to feel that the language and such was not only inappropriate for the children, but for herself as well. She had been exposed to more insanity than she ever had before - despite being a nun in New York who may be used to such things - stood with her hands over her ears like the Hear No Evil monkey. It was true that she was used to hearing profanity and Unchristian-like subject matter, but only in small doses. Just like when Molly said to Jo in the cafe when they both were selected as bridesmaids. However, what was going on now was a whole experience that was definitely different from her time in the convent. Again, she thanked God that none of the children were around to bear witness to such a sight.

With Jo and Cindy holding Kelly D. back, Kelly A. saw the opportunity to strike. As she was about to attack, however, she felt a strong pull on her right arm. Before she could react, her right arm was quickly held to her back, and then her left arm. She was surprised to find herself unable to break her arms free from the vice-like grip that was holding her back.

“You need to chill, ma puce ,” said Yvonne, as she restrained Kelly A. Almost everybody was taken aback of how Yvonne was able to seemingly manhandle Kelly Affinado so easily. Geri just smiled as she stood with her arms crossed over her chest, knowing that Yvonne was more than just a pretty face and an angelic voice. The French woman had many secrets that the group had not yet uncovered.

“Wow,” exclaimed Sue Ann. “I didn’t know that Yvonne was such a badass!”

“Hey, Sue Ann. Back me up here, s'il vous plaît, just in case this Kelly tries something slick,” Yvonne requested.

“Sure,” acquiesced the blonde who did not want to be on the receiving end of Yvonne’s wrath.

Sue Ann grabbed one of Kelly A.’s arms with her hand and held her steady.

“Oh, my God, what’s Fifi doin’ here?” Kelly D. directed at Yvonne, a name that she does not like. Her and Kelly D. had met before, at Jo and Blair’s place before she left for Houston. A drunk Kelly said something rude about the French and wars. Yvonne got upset about Kelly’s comments and warned her never to insult the French ever again. Kelly wouldn’t let up and then it became a shouting match that took a violent turn when Kelly charged at Yvonne. Kelly had assumed that she could take Yvonne because she felt that the French were lovers and not fighters. Besides, the French always surrender when it came to confrontation. However, Yvonne put her in her place, and subsequently erased any stereotype, by punching Kelly’s lights out. Kelly D. didn’t know at the time that Yvonne was a 2nd degree black belt in kung fu.

“What did I tell you about calling me Fifi, Lucky Charms?” Yvonne spat. “It’s for girls named Josephine. My name isn’t Josephine. You want me to show you one of my kung fu moves again? It would be worse than what Miko did to you.”

Immediately, Kelly D. shut her mouth.

Blair couldn’t believe what she was seeing. She stood there in shock as all her good intentions were blowing up in her face. After a few seconds, which actually seemed like hours, Blair began to cry and ran into the other room. Jo wanted to go after her, but she was busy holding Kelly D. who was now trying to lunge for Yvonne, which she knew personally was not a wise idea. She had sparred with Yvonne before and knew very well what she was capable of, and so should Kelly.

“Kelly, Kelly, ya gotta chill. Memba our little chat?” asked Jo.

“Yeah, but ya didn’t tell me this bi-slut, ratchet ho and Fifi were going to be here. Your word means nuthin,’ Jo. By the way, I know that disgusting, switch-hittin’ whore Kim is here too!”

“Hey, now just wait a goddamn minute,” yelled Jo as she spun Kelly D. around and pointed her finger in Kelly D.’s face, almost knocking Cindy down in the process. “I’m as good as my word and I promise ya that if ya don’t stop it now, I’m gonna loosen some teeth and rearrange your face. That’s if Yvonne doesn’t beat me to it.” It didn’t go unnoticed that Yvonne was giving Kelly D. glares that could kill.

“Shut the hell up, Jo,” yelled Kelly D. as she tried to break free from Jo’s grasp.

“Ha ha! Look at ya! Ya dumbass! Lookin’ stupid as usual, Kel,” Kelly A. said as she was doing her best to goad Kelly D. since she her hands were literally tied behind her back.

Yvonne squeezed her wrists tighter, whispering to her. “If I were you, I would keep my mouth shut, compris? ” Kelly A. thought it best to comply.

Kelly D. looked at Kelly A. like she was crazy. “What? Are ya as blind as Stevie Wonder? Just look at ya! Burgundy skinny jeans, lavender skinny shirt, a scarf longer than what Dr. Who would wear, and some thick-ass glasses that Steve Urkel would be ashamed to put on. You don’t look hip, you look like a clown! You’re a forty-year-old dressin’ like a goddamn hipstah! Are ya fuckin’ retarded?”

“Hey, watch what you are saying!” shouted Yvonne. She took great offense to those who used the word “retarded,” a word she heard used some many times to belittle her lover. Geri was upset with Kelly D. already.

Kelly A. decided to dig deeper into the other Kelly. “Hey Jo. Just knock that Ellen-wannabe, fish-eater’s lights out! Ya know ya wanna after her upsettin’ your woman n’ all.”

Yvonne squeezed harder to the point that Kelly A. screamed.

“AAAHH!”

“What did I say to you?” Yvonne reminded her.

“This has nuthin’ to do with Miss Park Avenue Priss, though I’m not too happy she didn’t warn me of the rats in this place. This is about you, ya flaky, fence-jumpin’, hipsta-wannabe!” Kelly D. spat. “Besides, I hate you more than I hate her, so why don’t ya try zippin’ your lip yo’self before I shut it for ya permanently.”

Tired of the spectacle, Mrs. G stepped in between the two Kellys. She may have been small, but she was brave.

“All of you, knock it off!” she shouted. By this time, the people who were downstairs had come up, which included Nancy, the couples, and Kim.

“This is getting ridiculous. With all this fighting and bickering going on, it makes our trouble with the media pale in comparison. We came here to get away from trouble, but you girls just can’t keep the peace. Why don’t you let bygones be bygones, agree to disagree, and shake and make up?”

“Oh, shut up, Grandma!” Kelly D. spat at the elderly woman. However, Kelly A. wasn’t going to let her former partner insult Mrs. G like that.

“You bettah take that back about Mrs. G.,” Kelly A. replied. “She may not have been my guardian growing up, but she treated me with respect and I demand the same courtesy to her now.”

Edna looked at the girl and said, “Kelly Affinado, thanks for the offer, but keep quiet. Let me talk to the other Kelly.”

“This Kelly, that Kelly. Man, this can sure get confusing,” Tootie whispered to Natalie.

“Yeah, Toot. It’s like a tennis match being played by a couple of drunken apes, and one’s not Bobby Riggs.”

“Ugh, don’t even mention that male chauvinist’s name in my presence,” scoffed Molly who had overheard the conversation between the two best friends.

“Sorry, Molly, but at least Billie Jean King shut him up in the Battle of the Sexes,” replied Nat. “What I wouldn’t have given to cover that story.”

“Nat, you may get a chance to report on something as big - the Battle of the Kellys.”

“Tootie, as Blair would say, that’s a brilliant idea. I just hope I don’t have to write anyone’s obituaries in the process.”

Meanwhile, Mrs. G approached Kelly D. and said softly and with a hint of compassion, “Look. I understand that you are going through a lot right now, but there’s no need to take your anger out on me.”

“I wish ya would stop spouting all yo platitudes n’ stuff at me, ya bag of bones. Who exactly do you think you are?”

Mrs. G. gave her that, “You don’t know who you’re taking to, do you?” look. “Who am I? Well, let me share you something about myself. I’m the woman who helped raise four girls I thought of as my own and had a hand in helping at least four others through their years of puberty. I also single handedly raised two boys and ran two successful businesses while going back to college. All of those who I helped with turned out to be pretty productive members of society. And now, I’m trying to help you.”

“Ya really wanna help me, huh?” asked Kelly D.

“Not just me, but a lot of people here do.”

There were coughs and throats clearing the minute Mrs. Garrett-Gains made that declaration.

“Well, okay so not a lot of people do, but that’s why you need to listen to me.”

Kelly D. looked around and saw all the icy glares focused on her. They were so icy, in fact, that it was making shivers run up and down her spine . . . literally. She realized that Mrs. G. was right, and that it would be wise for her to listen to the older woman or suffer the consequences.

“Okay, lady, your turn to talk.”

Mrs. G looked at both Kellys before speaking.

“Look, I don’t know much about the history between you two, besides the fact that you two were once a couple, but I do know that whatever animosity you two have in the past should stay in the past. Move on. We came here to escape the media explosion and you two are tearing everything apart from the inside. It’s squabbles like this that make us look even worse than what the public perceives.”

“How can it be any worse? Haven’t you seen the news lately?” Kelly inquired with a mixture of puzzlement and exasperation on her face.

“Yes, I have and it is pretty bad, but at least you girls can coexist in this place. It’s so huge. I mean, my girls had their bouts, but they always worked it out . . . and they only had one room. There’s plenty of space here that you girls can just avoid each other if you so choose. However, I would hope that you are adult enough to work it out.”

“Why the hell should I work things out with this bi-slut bitch? After the way Ms. AC/DC here used me.” Then she turned her attention to her main enemy. “You broke my fuckin’ heart, you whorin’ bi-slut bitch!”

“Keep callin’ me a bi-slut bitch an’ see if I don’t break all of yo’ teeth outta ya mouth, ya stupid dyke!”

“Call me a dyke again an’ see if I don’t -”

“That’ enough!” Mrs. G. screamed from the top of her lungs. “There won’t be any more cursing or insulting or name calling from this point on, especially from you,” she scolded as she angrily shook her finger at the redhead Kelly. “Stop calling the other Kelly a bi-slut. You didn’t like it when she called you a dyke, now did you?”

“No,” Kelly D. said firmly.

Everyone was shocked that Mrs. Garrett actually said bi-slut and dyke. Those words coming from her lips was surprising, and it was evident on everyone’s faces that is was unexpected. However, Mrs. G. figured out that using their own language was the best way to make them stop insulting each other, since both are very unfiltered and blunt.

“Well, then, stop calling her that.” Kelly A. smiled because she assumed that the matriarch was taking her side. Then Mrs. G. turned her attention to Kelly A., “And you, Miss, will not call the other Kelly a dyke again, will you? I know that you didn’t spend a lot of time with me, but I did teach you about respecting other people, right?”

Kelly A. look down and remorsefully said, “Yes, Mrs. G.”

“Good. Now the insults and shouting at each other ends now. Agreed?” Mrs. G said as she looked at both Kellys with a mixture of anger and frustration.

Neither woman said a word until Mrs. G. loudly repeated herself. “Agreed?”

“Agreed,” they both said.

“Good. Now Kelly D. said that you broke her heart. Is that true?” Mrs. G asked the brunette Kelly.

“Yeah, it’s true,” Kelly A. answered kind of under her breath. Then she raised her eyes and stared at Kelly D. “and the only regret I have was not doin’ it sooner!”

“Why you,” started the redhead.

“Girls!” shouted Mrs. G., stopping the fight before it flared up again. “Continue Kelly.”

“Well, she was boring, so I left her for a man . . . and I haven’t looked back. She was the last female I’ve ever had a serious relationship with, and I’ve learned an important lesson from that fiasco - don’t fall in love with girls, just fuck them!” Kelly A. said.

“Kelly Affinado!” scolded Mrs. Garrett. “Didn’t I just warn you about your language?”

“I’m sorry, Mrs. G., but it’s true.”

“Now you see why I hate all bisexuals on sight?” yelled Kelly D. as she made a gesture with her hand. “They take your heart then stomp on it by running off with men.”

“And you see why I gave up having a serious relationship wit’ women. They’re boring and clingy!” Kelly A. retorted. “At least men are more available, easier to get, easier to deal wit’, and easier to get rid of! Plus, you don’t always have to do all the work in the bedroom with them. They can take the reigns and be the dominator.”

“Well, good job representing gender fluidity, Kelly A.,” Kim said sarcastically, but the brunette Kelly didn’t seem to catch on.

When Kelly Donovan saw Kim again, she quickly went into rage mode. “Kim, shut your nasty -”

“Kelly, shut it!” Mrs. G. quickly said to the fiery redhead.

“No need to use big words like that. Some genders just aren’t worth givin’ your heart to,” Kelly A. responded with an apathetic attitude, like it was no big deal.

“You didn’t catch my sarcasm, did you?” Kim snarked. “It’s people like you who make bisexuals and pansexuals like us look bad and have straights and gays resentful to us as a whole.”

“That’s their problem, not mine,” Kelly A. said coldly. Kelly D., meanwhile, just rolled her eyes at Kim, thinking that she should just butt out.

“And that’s where you’re wrong. You used Kelly, and she’s hurt from it.” Kim said to Kelly A. “That does not excuse her from attacking you, but what you did is still wrong. I’m not surprised she reacted the way she did, to be honest.” At that moment, Kelly D. really didn’t know how she should feel. She was surprised that Kim would defend her.

“Who asked you anyways? I would have that gay-ass ginger knocked out anyhow!”

“Kelly, that’s not the point!” Mrs. G. intervened as she looked at the brunette Kelly. “Besides, I told you about your language, remember?” Kelly A. nodded with some shame before Mrs. G. continued. “Kelly D. was hurt at how you cheated on her and then dumped her. How would you feel if the same thing happened to you.”

“It doesn’t mattah how I feel, because she has done the same thing with her former lovers as well. I mean, they’re all girls n’ all, but still, she ain’t no angel when it comes to relationships,” Kelly A. rebutted.

“Is that right, Kelly?” said Mrs. G. as she was looking at Kelly D.

Kelly D. hung her head in shame. “She’s right.”

“So see, she got what she deserved,” Kelly A. proclaimed, feeling justified for her actions.

Kimberly then stepped forward and spoke. “But that also proves that two wrongs don’t make a right. Whatever animosity you two had for each other is basically null and void now. At this point you two should at least make an effort to promise not to attack each other again - physically or verbally.”

“So, are you two willing to make the effort?” Mrs. G asked both Kellys as everyone else held their breath.

“I will make the effort, Mrs. G., if Kelly agrees to no assaultin’ or shoutin’ at me again,” replied Kelly A.

“I guess I have no choice,” said Kelly D.as she turned toward Jo, “as long as there’s no more surprises because any trust I had in you is gone now, ya lyin’ Bronx bitch!”

Jo clenched her fists as she was about ready to knock Kelly D.’s lights out, but Mrs. Garrett quickly stepped in.

“Kelly, didn’t I warn you about the language?! It doesn’t apply to the other Kelly only! As long as you are here, you are going to show respect to everybody in this place. Understand?” Mrs. G said with her head cocked down, eyes wide and eyebrows raised.

Kelly looked around her and saw a few people besides Jo with clenched fists, so she finally surrendered. “I understand… However, I don’t think it was fair for Jo not telling me that Kelly, Yvonne, and Kim were here. I already knew about Kim because I did some homework before we got here, but the presence of Kelly and Yvonne here took me by surprise. What kind of friend hangs your ass out to dry like that?”

Considering the situation, Mrs. Garrett let that one slide.

“And If Blair was behind this,” continued an irate Kelly D. “and I bet my Lawrence Taylor signed jersey that I’m 100% correct, then I blame her as well.”

“No it wasn’t fair for them not to tell you about Kelly Affinado, Yvonne, or Kimberly Drummond, and I hope that does get addressed at some point while we are all here, because I hope that I taught my girls better than deliberately hiding things from their friends when they know it can hurt them,” she said as she glanced at Jo, “but at the same time they offered you a place to get away from the media attention. You of all the people in this underground mansion have taken the brunt of the media attacks, so I suggest you be grateful and not bite the hand that feeds you. You need Jo and Blair’s help more than anyone else right now,” Mrs. G. said with a factual tone. She was getting fed up with Kelly D.’s antics, but she knew how to play a cooler hand than either Jo or Blair.

Kelly thought for a bit before speaking. She had to take everything into account, instead of relying solely on her usual instinctual reaction. Finally she spoke and said, “Okay. I won’t cause anymore problems, but for now, nobody, and I mean nobody, say a word to me while I’m here. Got it?”

Everybody nodded and a few said yeah. Then she looked at Mrs. G.

“Mrs. G., that includes you.”

Mrs. G. answered with a small shrug and said, “Sure. As you wish.”

Then she looked at Jo and asked, “Okay, this is yo’ joint, so tell me one place around here nobody will bother me? Ya at least owe me that much aftah what ya put me through.”

“That would be at the business center on the third floor. It’s right where the conference rooms are.”

“Thank you.” Kelly D. quietly walked to the elevator and took it to the third floor.

When the elevator door closed, a huge sigh of relief came from everybody. Jo quickly went up to Mrs. G. and hugged her.

“Thank you so much, Mrs. G.! You’re a lifesaver once again.”

As happy as Mrs. Garrett was that the argument was over, she was also disappointed with her girls, especially Jo.

“I am very disappointed at what happened here today. First of all, you or none of the other girls in here tried to stop the fight.”

“But Mrs. G.,” started Jo.

“I’m not talking about holding them back from each other. No one thought to try to talk to them like human beings. Instead, you girls, and yes, Molly, I said girls,” proclaimed the older woman as she shot a look over to Molly before returning her glare to Jo, “let it escalate to a profanity-laden shouting match. You women are all past 40 and are mature enough to stop things like this before it blows up. I can’t be the one solving all the disputes all the time. I’m not going to be around forever, after all. Second of all, and more importantly, I don’t condone your friend, Kelly’s, actions, Jo, but she has every right to feel hurt after what you and Blair did to her.”

Jo stepped back from Mrs. Garrett with a look of confusion on her face. “What we did to her?”

“Yes. You set her up for a fall. Without telling her that Kelly A. was going to be here, you inadvertently put her in a bad position. I know you may not have done it on purpose, but you and Blair kind of hung Kelly out to dry, and that’s no way to treat your friends, Jo.”

The brunette looked down and away - trying to avoid any eye contact.

“And before you start, don’t try to defend Blair on this either. I know that Blair was involved because it has all the markings of one of her brilliant ideas.”

Jo felt bad that she had let Mrs. G. down. With sadness she looked up and told her mentor, “Yes, it was mainly Blair's idea. And as you can see, it was not brilliant by any stretch of the imagination, but I do take responsibility for my part in it. I tried to warn her that it wouldn’t work, but I should have been straight with Kelly from the get. It was wrong to lie to her by omission.”

“Jo, you’re one of the most big-hearted people I know, and one of the brightest too, but sometimes you fail to use your head. You knew about Kelly D.’s temper and how she might react to seeing someone who has cut her so deeply in the past. You just should have used common sense in this situation.”

“I know Mrs. G. I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay, Jo. Now, when Blair calms down, I want you to tell her that I’d like to speak to her as well.

“As you wish,” replied Jo. She really wanted Mrs. G. to have a word with her partner. She felt that Blair deserved it after all. Mrs. G. didn’t say anything else, but quietly left the area. She was greatly disappointed at what just transpired and wanted to get away from it for a while herself.

Jo, feeling embarrassed and angry, wanted to see Blair immediately and tell her ‘I told you so,’ but she noticed Kelly A’s physical state. Kelly was hurt and had bruises all over her skin. She covered her face with her hands, embarrassed at how she let Kelly D. inflict wounds on her. Even though Jo was never a true friend of Kelly Affinado, she couldn’t just leave her hurt like she was. Maybe part of it was her policewoman’s instincts and her strong feelings about the evils of violence and abuse.

Jo slowly approached Kelly and examined the bruises on her skin. “Are you okay? She sure did a numba’ on ya.”

“Yeah, I’m fine. She’s done worse to me when we were togetha’.”

That was a bit shocking to Jo and everyone else in the room that the Kellys’ former relationship was also abusive.

“Oh my, Kelly…” was all the Jo could say.

“Kelly, I didn’t know Ms. Redhead was capable of that much damage,” Natalie said as she came over to stand next to Jo.

“That’d be a major lawsuit,” chimed in Tootie. “I’m sure my parents know some people in DC if you want to take her to court.”

“Yeah, I mean, at the very least it is an assault if ya wanna press charges,” added Jo. “I see this a lot in my line of work and Kelly should be punished for her actions.”

“Nah, don’t worry about it. I don’t wanna talk about it. Let me just clean up this place and I’ll head back downstair for treatment.”

“Are ya sure you don’t need it now?” Jo asked. “I’m sure Mrs. G. will know what to do with her nursing background and all.”

“No, don’t bother her. I’m fine.”

“Then can I at least help you clean up?” Jo asked. Kelly was surprised that Jo was being so nice to her, because she usually wasn’t.

“Yeah, I think it’s the least we can do for you,” said Cindy.

“Sure. Thanks.”

88888888888888888888888888888888

After the chaos died down and Jo finished helping clean up the kitchen, she went downstairs to check on her fiance. When she entered their bedroom, she saw Blair lying face down, crying into a pillow. The muffles were loud enough for Jo to hear them. Jo came up to the bed and sat on the other side of the bed. She gently put her hand on Blair’s back, and then Blair turn around. Her face was flushed and tears were still rolling down her cheeks.

“Blair, you look like a mess.”

“Does it matter? Everything is a mess.”

“Yes it is, Blair. Everything is a mess. I told you we should have told Kelly. Things are under control now, thanks to Mrs. G. and Kimberly, but it shouldn’t have gone this way.”

Blair sat up in the bed and spat, “Well, it wouldn’t have gone that way if you would have watched that redheaded barbarian carefully! But no, you had to let her get away from you.”

“And it wouldn’t have happened in the first place if Kelly would have been warned ahead of time, and you sure as hell didn’t make the situation any better by running away either!” Jo yelled back as her face turned red.

“Yeah you know quite a lot about running away!” Blair yelled back.

“What do you mean by that, Blair?!”

“Exactly what I said. You always run away when things get rough! You even admitted it to Princess Alexandra when she came to Eastland,” Blair shouted back with much anger and frustration in her voice.

Before she was about to respond, Jo thought about it and began to feel ashamed. She remembered when Princess Alex came to Eastland and was going to run away before giving it a chance. That was exactly what Jo was going to do when Margo got under her skin the first week. She claimed that her thumb could get her anywhere she wanted to go and it didn’t need spark plugs. If she had left when she did, she never would have grown as close as she did to her surrogate family, and never would have discovered the love of her life, despite how much of a pain in the butt she could be. Running away was not the answer and she helped convince Princess Alex to give Eastland a chance.

“I know running away is not the answer to all your problems,” said Jo as she hung her head.

“But you do it all the time,” shouted Blair.

“I do not!”

“Oh, really. You just ran away to Pennsylvania when things got rough here. Right?”

“...Right,” replied Jo under her breath.

“And back in high school, you ran away when you found out that Mrs. Gallagher was dying. Remember? It was my birthday and you were too preoccupied to enjoy it.”

“Blair, Gail was not only my teacher . . . she was my friend. When I found out she was sick, I had a hard time dealing with it, okay?”

“You avoided her, Jo. You risked losing your scholarship by skipping her classes instead of just talking to her. Not to mention you avoided us and broke curfew and everything.”

“Blair, I needed some time to myself to think. It’s hard facing people who you care about when there’s so much tension.”

“Or people who care about you,” huffed Blair under her breath.

“What do you mean?” demanded Jo, who had obviously heard Blair’s comment.

“Like when your dad got out of jail and came to see you. He came to Eastland because he cared about you, but all you were worried about was his past and how that would make you look.”

“He may have cared about me when I was considered ‘straight.’ But he . . .”

“That’s just how it was at the rehearsal. You ran when things got rough for you, despite the people who care about you.”

“I see what you mean.” She was silent for a bit before speaking. “Blair, we need to talk, and I mean a serious talk.”

“Yeah, we do need to talk.”

Blair got up from her side of the bed and slowly walked to Jo’s side. She sat next to Jo’s left side. She took her time to wipe her eyes. Jo got some tissues and handed them over to Blair, sitting down at the same place she was.

Blair delicately wiped the tears from her face, making sure that it didn’t ruin her makeup. After she was done cleaning up her face, she then looked at Jo and said, “You go first, since you brought it up.”

Jo cleared her throat before proceeding, thinking about what her mother said to her over the phone. Diplomatically thinking and planning what to say to Blair, she started with, “Okay, Blair. I need to tell you how much trouble and pain it causes me when you make your sporadic decisions. I mean, I feel like my life has been turned upside-down when you do that. I have to stop everything and focus all my attention on whatever plans you have made. I can’t seem to have a normal life.”

“Well, you already knew that your life would never be normal again after you decided to be with me.”

Jo shrugged. “I know that. But it doesn’t mean you have to make my life feel like an earthquake is about to happen every minute. Just because this has happened to me many times doesn’t mean I have to plan my life around it, and it sure doesn’t mean it has to be in my life. Stability is a good thing.”

“Are you saying you regret your decision of being with me?” asked Blair as she hung her head and tears started to well up in her eyes again.

Jo sighed and then she continued. “No, but I think it’s the reason why I have borderline high blood pressure.”

Blair was now starting to feel guilty and tentatively asked, “Are you saying that my whimsical actions are causing your health to go bad?”

“Yes! Physically and mentally. I’m under a lot of stress almost all the time. I can’t follow your whims all the time. You do a lot of things without even bothering to consult me first. If we’re gonna be a married couple, we’re gonna have to work like a couple. As Yvonne would say, compris?

Blair didn’t say anything for a bit, thinking about all that what Jo said. She was finally realizing what she had put her soulmate through. The last person on this earth she wanted to cause pain was Jo, but that’s exactly what she had been doing all along.

“I understand. You’re right. We do have to work together like a couple. I know I have done many things without your approval or consultation in the past. I do have the tendency to do that, and I’m sorry Jo. I didn’t realize how much it was hurting you.” Then the tears were about to run down Blair’s face again. “The last thing I want to do is hurt you. I’m so sorry!” Now she was crying. Seeing the state that her partner was in, Jo realized how truly sorry she was as well. In just a few days, Blair had said she’s sorry more than she probably ever said in her lifetime. Quietly, Jo offered her shoulder for her lover to weep on for a while.

“I can’t believe how much hurt I’ve caused everybody, not just you,” she said as part of her mouth was on Jo’s green Banana Republic long-sleeve shirt. She was just audible enough for Jo to comprehend what she was saying.

Slowly, Jo took her shoulder away from Blair, and then she gently lifted her chin up so their eyes could meet. Jo looked at Blair’s flushed face and said, “Looking forward, let’s work together.”

Blair nodded at first, then she took some more tissues to wipe off her face. Just like last time, she delicately wiped it off, minding her makeup. When she finally stopped crying, and her vision was no longer blurry, it was her turn to speak her mind.

“What you said is correct, Jo. We do need to work together and communicate better, but if we are going to do those things, then I need for you to stop running away.”

Jo was annoyed, but she knew it was coming. “ Didn’t we talk about this earlier? Why are you bringing it up again?”

“Because I need for you to really realize how much it hurts me. Jo, whenever things get rough, you run away. Granted, you’ve never went so far and so long as you did recently, but you have done this quite a few times. Just like how you are uncertain about whether or not I’m going to have another sporadic decision, I feel uncertain that you will always be there for me.”

“I get it already, Blair. You already highlighted the important incidents,” said Jo as she rubbed her hands together nervously. She had thought that Blair had already made her point earlier and was hoping that her mate would not dwell on the subject, but apparently Blair had plenty more to say.

“Ha,” Blair scoffed at Jo then huffed at her. “Not really, Jo. There are a few more important examples I didn’t bring up yet. For instance, remember when your parents couldn’t afford your college tuition because your dad failed to invest the money in the stock your mom wanted? Instead of sitting down together and discussing your options like adults, what did you do? You ran away from them. Correct?”

“...Correct,” Jo whimpered.

“And when they were getting along and you were convinced that they were going to get back together, but your dad was seeing someone else and your mom accepted it? You tried avoiding the situation and even snapped at Mrs. Garrett about privacy, if I remember correctly.”

“Yeah, that’s true,” conceded Jo.

But there was one instance that stuck out vividly in Blair’s mind. “However, none of them bothers me as much than when you dated a certain guy.”

“I have no idea who you might be talking about,” Jo said sarcastically.

“I’m talking about Eddie, Jo!”

“Yeah, I know. You’re sore because I was goin’ to run off and marry Eddie instead of sticking around and facing my real feelings with you guys.”

“Not exactly, what I mean Jo.”

“What?” Jo asked, not getting what Blair was hinting at. “What do you mean then?”

“Sure you ran off, planning to marry Eddie, but you just as quickly ran away from Eddie because you weren't ready to marry him.”

“Oh, yeah,” replied Jo with her head down.

Blair then looked at Jo with fear in her eyes. “Jo, I’m afraid you might do the same thing to me.” Blair said as she was about to cry again.

Jo really felt a sting when Blair said that. She knew that she wasn’t deliberately trying to stab her in the heart with that comment, all Blair did was spoke what was in her heart, but it still hurt.

“Is that how you felt when I ran away?” Jo asked hesitantly.

“Yes! Absolutely!” Blair shouted with a touch of anger. Jo didn’t expect that reaction from Blair, and probably neither did Blair herself. “And it hurts when you do it. I feel alone and in pain when you do it. I need you to be by my side . . . always. Children run away, not couples!”

Now it was Jo’s turn to hear and feel Blair’s frustration. It was also her turn to cry. As she was crying, Blair offered her shoulder. As Jo cried for a bit on Blair’s shoulder, Blair didn’t say a word, figuring it would be best for her to shut up and let Jo deal with it herself.

This was an uncomfortable period for the couple, but it was very much needed if their relationship was going to grow in the future. Each one pointed out the blind spots of the other that they couldn’t - or refused to - see. There’s an old saying that goes, “There are some things that you don’t know, that you don’t know.”

After the crying ended, Jo then looked at Blair and said, “So, where do we go from here?”

Blair first looked down as if she was thinking something, and then she looked at Jo and said, “Well, let me first ask you this question, do you still want to proceed with the wedding?”

Jo thought about it for a while, weighing the pros and cons of continuing with the wedding. Eventually, she figured that the pros outweigh the cons. “Yes, I absolutely do. Even if it is only two weeks away.”

“And you agree to this 100%?” Blair asked while pointing her finger in the air.

Jo smiled. “Yes, Blair. I do agree to this 100%.”

Blair than looked at Jo with a more serious look. “Good, then as a decision made by both of us, the wedding date still stands. Now, will you please promise me to never run away again?”

“I promise.” Jo sweared with her right hand up.

Now it was Jo’s turn to asked Blair. “Now, will you promise me to come to me first whenever you need to make a major decision that will affect both of us?”

Blair smiled with her right hand raised up in the air. “I promise.”

Jo smiled. “Good, now to make our promises official, we need to seal the deal with a pinky swear.”

Blair looked at her like she was crazy. “A pinky swear? Jo, we’re not in elementary school!”

Jo stuck her right pinky out while wearing a silly smirk on her face. “Come on now, Blair.”

Blair gave her that “Really, Jo?” look, and then she chuckled. “Ah, okay.”

Blair’s pinky locked with Jo’s and the promise was made official.

Then Blair said, “Now that we have sealed the deal your way, I want to seal the deal my way.”

“And how’s that?”

With a sly smile, Blair responded, “Like this.”

Blair quickly grabbed Jo’s head and brought it in her direction as she gave her a passionate kiss. They had kissed many, many times before, but this was absolutely one of their best kisses ever, almost right up there when they first kissed back in 1985.

The kiss had Jo lying on her back while Blair was on top of her. They had a lot of “making up” to do for the days they were separated. They were at it for a while, before Blair stopped.

“All this arguing and kissing has got me a little frisky,” Blair said.

“Same here,” Jo agreed. “So what do you wanna do?”

“You know exactly what I want to do,” Blair replied with a devilish grin. That response was all that Jo needed.

First, Jo was going to unbutton her shirt, but Blair stopped her.

“Allow me,” she said with a sly smile. Jo just grinned back.

Blair slowly took her time to unbutton her shirt, like she was purposely teasing her, which she was. When the shirt was off, she started kissing Jo’s chest area, where it wasn’t covered up by Jo’s black sports bra. As she was kissing, Blair was taking off her bra. Jo had her eyes closed, savoring the moment of Blair lips and tongue caressing her chest.

When Jo’s bra was finally off, Blair went straight for her breast, letting her tongue do the massaging around the mound. Jo let out a soft moan, wishing the moment would last forever, while at the same time, running her left hand through Blair’s thick, silky, wavy hair.

Blair then stopped and looked at Jo with passionate love and lust. She wanted Jo to caress her with her tongue as well, so she removed her shirt and bra. Her breasts were bigger than Jo’s, and Jo quickly moved in. Now it was Blair’s turn to enjoy the feeling.

.As Jo rhymatically sucked on Blair’s right nipple and erotically fine-tuned her left nipple with her right hand, Blair was enjoying the blissful moment that only Jo could bring in her. After a few minutes of ravishing Blair’s breasts, she started to kiss down her stomach, all the way down to the top of her jeans. The brunette was just about to undo Blair’s jeans when the blonde stopped her.

“Not right now, Jo. We’ll get to that later.” Instead Blair got off the bed and slowly took off her jeans and then her panties. She was doing it slowly and almost in a dance-like manner. It was not quite a striptease, but it was surely getting Jo excited. Blair knew exactly how to seduce her partner, and she was pulling out all the stops.

Jo just grinned, as she took off her jeans and panties as well. They both looked at each other with burning desire, as Blair came up to Jo and passionately kissed her. Then she wrapped her arms around her, holding her tightly, wanting Jo’s naked body near hers.

As they passionately kissed each other, they fell onto the bed, consuming themselves with passion and pleasure from each other. It was like an all-you-can-eat buffet of desire - they kept going back for seconds, but couldn’t satisfy their hunger for each other enough.

Blair was on top of Jo. She started to kiss her all around her face, then down her neck, all the while her left index and middle was inside Jo’s ripe bud. As she felt her, she knew that Jo was more than ready, but she wanted to tease her just a little bit. As she was about to go to her breast, Jo stopped her, not wanting to be teased any longer.

“I don’t need you up here, I need you down there,” she said pointing downward.

Blair smiled. “Of course.” Afterwards, Blair gave a quick thought about it and suggested, “How about I satisfy you down there while you satisfy me down there too,” Blair said as she pointed to the spot between her legs.

“Oh, okay. I see. Us doing things together like a couple.” Jo grinned.

Blair smiled. “Exactly.”

So the couple repositioned themselves in the bed, lying side by side, with Jo on the left and Blair on the right. Blair moved her head to Jo’s flower and instantly savored her partner’s nectar. Jo was doing the same, with her right fingers inside of Blair. Going by their partner’s natural rhythm, they were pleasuring each other for a few minutes, making sure their partner was getting the maximum amount of ecstasy, before they both reached their orgasmatic climax.

Afterwards, they both entered into a blissful state that only each other could bring. Since Blair was at the bottom of the bed, she positioned herself to the top of the bed, and kissed Jo deeply again while they embraced each other tightly.

Following their love making, they lay down next to each other, both with their eyes closed and huge smiles on their faces. Blair’s head rested on Jo’s shoulder and Jo had her left arm wrapped securely around Blair’s curvy body. They were both savoring the moment they had with each other. They were in a world of their own, as finally Jo and Blair become one again.

Blair and Jo made love a few more times after that. Finally, they were in bed, resting and enjoying their pillow talk.

“Ooh, that was so heavenly, Jo. I really needed it after how the day turned out,” said Blair in a satisfied tone.

“Yeah, I know what ya mean,” Jo replied just as blissfully. However, she knew she had to tell Blair what Mrs. Garrett had said, though she hated the thought of potentially ruining the moment. “It’s good for ya, before you hafta face Mrs. G.”

Blair was stunned to hear that. “What?”

“Mrs. G. wants to talk with you about keeping secrets from people, like Kelly D.”

“Why?”

“Uh, duh, Blair,” replied Jo as she rolled her eyes. “Mrs. G. feels that we hung Kelly out to dry by not telling her that Kelly A. was here. She thinks that it was harsh and rather mean to do.”

“It was never my intention to hurt her.”

“But it did, and then she hurt Kelly A. as a result. Face it, Blair, if we were honest about it from the beginning, it might have softened the blow a little bit. Ya know?”

Blair heaved a huge sigh. “I can’t dodge this, can I?”

“Nope,” said Jo as she slowly shook her head. Then, Jo thought of something else.

“Also, since we did just kind of threw Kelly into the lion’s den, we have to apologize to her.”

Blair heaved a huge sigh, “Again?” Blair said with a look of surprise and shock.

“Yeah, but this time I’m apologizing with you. We both have to own up for what we did to her.”

Blair just closed her eyes and huffed out, “Oh, boy…”

“Blair,” Jo simply whispered with that certain look on her face that the blonde could not refuse.

Blair looked at her life partner and said, “You’re right, Jo,” replied Blair with a hint of fear and nervousness in her voice. “The way we put her out there was not right.”

She saw the worry and fear on her partner’s face, so she told her, “Blair, don’t worry about it right now. Let’s just enjoy this moment we have with each other. They’re very precious and should not be wasted.”

Blair looked at her partner and replied, “You’re right. I don’t want to ruin this right now.”

They went back to snuggling each other and talking about other things, returning back to their own world like they never left it.

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As she mentioned, Kelly Donovan wanted to be away from everybody for a while, so she went to the business center of the hideout and got on a computer. She watched a few YouTube clips to take up her time. In one of the clips, she watched a trailer for Tyler Perry’s “A Madea Christmas.”

She only watched it because she was curious to see a Christmas movie trailer in July. She was not a fan of Tyler Perry or the character Madea, calling it “the same ol’ crap each and every movie or play he evah made.” During the trailer, they had a small interview with Tyler Perry, talking about how his Christmas was before he became a playwright, when he was homeless. He claimed that many of his Madea plays and movies are based on his real life.

Something about that triggered a spark in her. She was thinking that if he could make a lot of money writing about his life, then so could she. She had a very wild and interesting life, from living in a broken home, to clubbing at Studio 54 at the age of 12, to her gang activities, to her discovering her sexuality, to her lesbian adventures - some of which were famous celebrities and even a model or two - to her working with drug dealers, and finally, to her days of running a drug empire when she ruled the meth kingdom in NYC. She had a lot to tell and many people were making big bucks off of their biographies, so why not her? The impending question was which part of her life should the novel be based on?

Immediately, she clicked on Microsoft Word 2010 and thought about which aspect of her life she wanted to write about, but nothing came, so she went back to YouTube. However, her inspiration hit her the minute she saw a trailer for Breaking Bad Season 4 . She was going to write about her meth-dealing days.

“Now lemme think of a title…”

Amazingly, it didn’t take more than ten seconds for her to think of one.

“Aha! I got it!”

She started her story with the title: The Meth Queen of NYC , and she smiled.

Three hours later when she was suffering from screen fatigue, she had already typed a 12 page rough draft. Knowing how much work and effort she put into it, she didn’t want to lose it, so she emailed it to herself. It was a start, a start to a new life for Kelly Donovan.

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Ever since Kim had seen Kelly D. in the kitchen, the feelings started fluttering inside her again. She knew that everyone was not attacking Kelly, but she also knew that it had to hurt feeling like an outsider looking in. With the way she got deceived by her best friend and how they treated her after she found out, Kim knew that Kelly D. wasn’t exactly feeling like she was at home here. Feeling like you are alone is the worst feeling in the world and she wanted to let Kelly know that she wasn’t completely on an island by herself. Deep down, she knew that Kelly wanted a companion at this time - a life companion. Granted, she knew that Kelly had asked for some time to herself, but after three hours, she felt it was time to approach Kelly D. and have a conversation. Slowly, she made her way down to the third floor and spotted Kelly in the conference room. The conference rooms and business center had a glass wall, so it was possible to see into them from the hallway. Kelly was sitting in a chair and looked pretty content at the moment. Kim took a deep breath before entering the room, knowing about Kelly’s fiery temper. Slowly, she opened the door and walked in.

Kelly didn’t notice her until she was within a few feet from her. When she did, she quickly got up from the seat, and angrily spat at her, “Kim, what part of ‘nobody, say a word to me while I’m here’ do you not understand? I don’t wanna - ”

Kim quickly raised her hands up and paused her from speaking.

“Shut the fuck up for once. You listen to me this time, Kelly.” Kelly was taken aback by Kim’s abrasiveness, and Kim had the scowling face to match it. “Look, I fully understand why you feel the way you do for people who are gender fluid. I understand that you were greatly hurt in the process, just like how I was hurt when that skank lez-ho cheated on me.” Kelly was surprised to see this side of Kimberly. Kimberly was far from the prim and proper girl she was during her days at her dad’s penthouse. “Yes, Kelly Affinado is a bitch for the way she dumped you, but that doesn’t mean I’ll treat you the same way. And it doesn’t give you a goddamn reason to treat me like shit!” Kim spat. Her red face showed the anger that Kelly brought out of her because of her ridiculous biphobia. Kim had to stop herself from exploding, so she stopped to catch her breath while she waited for her heartbeat to slow down.

When she was calm again, she looked deeply into Kelly’s blue eyes. In the instant that their blue eyes meet, Kelly felt like she was in a trance, like she was able to see that Kim was baring her soul to her. “I truly believe that what we have is special, and I do want to be your woman, and I do want to make it serious. You just got to give me a chance, Kel.”

However, Kelly let her stubborn conscious take over once again. She scoffed. “Hah! I don’t believe it one bit. I believe ya nuthin’ but a -”

Without giving Kelly much time to protest, Kimberly quickly moved in for a kiss. Kelly was taken aback by it, but she didn’t stop it. The kiss had her conscious shut down, and her subconscious taking over. It was just like the dream she had. She didn’t want it to stop, she wanted to savor the passionate moment as their tongues serenaded each other. Kim didn’t want it to end, as it finally confirmed that Kelly was the one for her.

They kept at their lip serenade for a while until oxygen was becoming a scarce source between the two. When they broke the kiss, then looked deeply into each other’s eyes, and they let their eyes and their souls do the talking. Finally, Kelly broke the silence.

“You sure know how to shut a woman up!” Kelly joked.

Kim grinned and responded, “You needed it.”

Kelly just laughed, for she knew that Kim was right. Then Kelly said, “You know what else I need?”

Kim looked at her with a puzzled look. “What?”

“I need you in my life,” she said in a deeper, husky and raspy voice.

“Request granted. I’m all yours, Kel.” Kim said blissfully.

“Same here.”

Kelly then drew Kim close to her and started kissing her again. They were madly in love with each other and there was nobody else in their world. Since they were so focused on each other  they didn’t see some of Nancy’s kids watching them make out.

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With everything that was going on inside the “compound,” one would think that the outside world was slowly forgetting about the Lez-splosion disaster. However, that was not the case. Aside from late night talk show hosts poking fun at the group and memes appearing all over the internet, there was dissention brewing a little closer to home. Roger knew that it was time for him to go public.  

Roger wasn’t going to let Nancy win this latest argument, especially after getting some reassurance from Margo. He couldn’t let her keep the kids away from him because they were his children too. He thought about what Margo had said, about holding a press conference, but then he realized that it could take a few hours to have things set up and whatnot. Plus, it also made him look more like an opportunistic politician instead of sympathetic figure. These were things that he learned from years of being in the public eye. Instead, he called up the station manager at WNYW , Fox 5 in New York City. He was good friends with him and Roger had his hand in helping him get that position, so he knew he was good to return back a favor.

Roger asked them to send a reporter over to his house so he could tell his side of the story. He knew that Fox News and other media outlets would play the interview, and he knew that having it at his house would make him appear to be a sad father who was missing his children, than a vindictive husband wanting to make his wife suffer from public scrutiny. It was a win-win situation for Roger.

In a matter of a few hours, Fox 5 News was already there and had everything set up. It made it easier that his house was already set up for the cameras.

“This is Sam Perriworth at Congressman Roger Butler’s house in Alpine, New Jersey. We have been granted an interview with Congressman Butler pertaining to the whereabouts of his wife and children.”

“Congressman Butler, it’s a pleasure to speak with you.”

“Thank you very much.”

“So have you contacted your wife and children at all?”

“No, not at all. I’ve contacted Warner Hotels, and they said they’ve contacted Blair at their hideout, and Blair told them that Nancy would call them back, but she hasn’t.”

“As a concerned father, do you feel that your wife has taken your kids away from you?”

“Let’s not go there yet. I am, however, concerned for my children’s safety, and even though we do have problems in our marriage, my concern is for my children first.”

“Have they contacted your two older children, who are out of state?”

“I talked to Jr. and Irma and they said they haven’t heard from either Nancy or any of the kids.”

“Do you find it odd that your wife has not contacted you or her other children?”

“Of course, I do. I have no idea what’s going on, and the environment my kids are in is not exactly healthy.”

“Can you expand on that?”

“Well, there are people at the hideout who are flaunting their sexality and, I know for a fact, that individuals there are violent and do not filter their language.”

“For example?”

“Kelly Donovan. I mean, everyone who was on the rehearsal video - all cramped up in one space. I mean, I’m afraid my children are doing to pick up some bad habits, or worse, get hurt. Everyone there is a bad influence and I don’t think it’s appropriate that my kids are being subjected to such behavior. Also, let’s not forget the public fight that she and Jo Polniaczek had with Miko Wakamatsu. There were kids watching them. In fact, Kelly openly encouraged a teen to curse and taunt a wounded Miko. That is not very Christian-like and it is not a person I want my kids to be around for an extended period of time.”

“Do you intend on taking any action against your wife for putting them in the same location as these people and succumbing them to such negligent behavior?”

“Well, I just hope she comes to her senses and return home. If she doesn’t want to come back, I beg that she at least let the children come home.”

“Congressman Butler, it sounds like you just want what’s in the best interests of the children.”

“Of course that’s all I want. I know for a fact that Nancy has put my kids in harm’s way and I want them safe and out of that environment.”

“Thank you, Congressman Butler.” Then Sam Perriworth turned toward the camera and addressed the viewing audience. “And there you have it folks . . . a man pleading for his children’s safe return. I’m not saying that Mrs. Nancy Butler is an unfit mother, but she is surely not thinking of what’s best for them. It is a sad situation all around. I am Sam Perriworth. Good night and God bless.”

The interview with Sam Perriworth was scheduled to be televised later that night. Roger got in touch with Margo and told her what time the interview was going to be on. Since she was the person who convinced him that going public was a good idea, he figured that she would want to watch it. After hanging up with Roger, Margo contacted Boots and, reluctantly Tumpy, and invited them to come over to her place so they could watch the interview together. Since Tumpy didn’t want to come alone, she decided to bring a friend along with her, even though Margo didn’t specifically invite her. She thought that her friend would enjoy the show as well.

“Sondra Levitt, what brought you here?” asked Margo as she opened the door and saw who Tumpy had brought along with her.

“I just wanted to enjoy the moment when Roger smokes that heifer out of her hideout, and to see what this place is like. Wow! This joint is classier than my Uncle Mordecai’s place in Miami Beach.”

“Hey, is your uncle Mordecai Alperstein of Alperstein and Radowitz?” Margo asked, astonished.

“Yep, that’s him.”

“Cool. He’s my accountant!”

“Small world, ain’t it?” asked Sondra.

“Sure is, and getting smaller,” answered Margo with a slight smirk.

Then Margo pulled her surprise guest to the side.

“Since you’re with Tumpy, are you two...”

“No, I’m 100% straight,” she interrupted Margo since she knew where she was going with it. “I’m not into pork, and it’s not because I’m Jewish. Also, the only fish I eat comes from the water and  have fins and scales.”

Margo smiled. “Glad to hear that. Did she ever try to-”

“Yeah, Tumpy tried. She’s such a Sappho pervert. She tried to bang my best friend as well, but she was also straight.”

“Yuck!” Margo said with a disgusted look on their face. “Then why in the world do you hang around with her?”

“Because she’s cool and funny. I’m used to her kind. I worked at Lilly’s Place as a bartender.”

“What? How on earth do you survive in that homo dump in Greenwich Village?”

Sondra couldn’t believe how homophobic Margo was, but she answered her inquiries anyway. “The pay and high tips are what keeps me from leaving.” Then Sondra said, “I got a question for you, why are you asking me all this stuff?”

“Honestly, because I was hoping that I wasn’t the only one who sticks with beef and chicken. We know about Tumpy, but I suspect Boots as well.”

“I can tell yeah, she’s totally AC/DC. She used to frequent the bar until she picked up her maid, Esmeralda. She sleeps with both men and women all the time, and so does Es.”

“I knew she was into fish tacos. Disgusting.”

“Welcome to the new normal,” Sondra proclaimed.

“New normal? More like new stupidity.”

Sondra was ready to chew her out on her homophobia when Tumpy came in to the discussion.

“So, Marge...”

“It’s Margo!” she spat at Tumpy.

“Okay, damn! You don’t have to go off on me like a tiger!”

“You two, please, stop it,” Boots pleaded. She didn’t realize how hard it would be to mediate between the two. Sondra just stood there and watched because she didn’t know what to do at that moment.

“I can’t stand this nasty witch!” Tumpy bellowed out.

“Well, I can’t stand this drugged-out homo either!” Margo shot back.

Boots had had enough of Margo, and uncharacteristically told her, “If I hear another homophobic word out of your mouth, I’m going to give Roger a call and tell him everything. You got it?!” she shouted, as red began to fill her angry face.

“Boots, that so does not sound like you,” said Tumpy with an awed look on her face.

“Well, why should I be all ‘whamo,’ ‘scootch,’ and ‘smootches,’ when you hens are here just cackling at each other. We need to form a strong, unified alliance to topple Warnsie off her high and mighty pedestal and dissolve that league of misfits of hers.”

The other women just looked at her in amazement.

“Oh, and by the way, the gay-to-straight ratio around here may appear to be 50/50, but I got some news for you . . . looks can be deceiving. I know Sondra, and she’s cool with gay people, so I totally think the score’s more 2 ½ to 1 ½. Now, I may have never been much of a math whiz, but if my calculations are correct, that means we gotcha beat,” she commented with a slight smile. “Game . . . set . . . match.” she ended, looking at Margo.

The other women appeared to want to respond, but Boots’ rant was not over.

“I know it may not make you comfortable, but the gays have the advantage, so whazoo. Now, understand this, Esmeralda is more than my maid, she is my life-mate. That means that she is tied to me and will be protected by my circle. Clarification, if any of you try to hurt us - physically or verbally - then believe me, I will get all of high society to come after you, just like that!” Boots ended with a snap of her fingers.

“Bootsie,” began Tumpy.

“And Little Miss Margo, don’t think for a tish that the upper crust has forgotten about your antics. I believe that your standing with the group is still, shall we say, on the rocks. Ever since you crashed Tinsley Mortimer’s party last year and called her a, what was it, a Tar-heel Tramp because of her one year college at North Carolina, our circle has not been keen on you. Not to mention the time you wore a fur coat at my vegan and animal activist friend’s party and said that only people who bed down with dogs and other mammals would care about what she was wearing. After all, fashion is the most important thing to you, isn’t it Margo?” spat Boots.

“Well . . .” began Margo.

“Then there was the time you called Phyllis Gabor a fat, bloated, bitch, then proceeded to slap her in front of everyone before dumping her expensive Chardonnay all over her. Or how about telling Casey Johnson that she’s a dirty dyke and that she should be dead already or the time . . .”

“Okay, okay, I get your point!” Margo loudly surrendered. She knew that Boots had a strong influence in the NYC high society crowd. Tumpy and Sondra just smiled, looking at a disheveled and defeated Margo.

Then Boots returned to her normal perky self. “Well, super goody. Now that everything’s all hunky-dory, let’s talk about our next plan - the wedding.”

“You still think they’re gonna continue with it?” asked Sondra.

“Totally for sure,” Boots sighed. “Those two are so gaga for each other that nothing will stop the wedding. Thusly, I have a backup plan.”

“That’s great!” said Tumpy.

Boots then shared the plan she had for the wedding. Everybody listened intently.

During the discussion of the wedding plan, Margo felt a buzz coming from her pocket. It was her cell phone. She knew that it was a text message. She checked and saw it was from Roger.

“Hey, Margo, thanks for the advice. When can we meet up?”

“Is that from Roger?” Boots asked.

“It sure is,” she beamed as she showed them.

“Oh, my God! He’s really into you.” Boots replied.

“I know. I’m simply irresistible,” Margo said with a satisfied smile. Tumpy and Sondra rolled their eyes. Boots had to bite her tongue. “Well, as the kids say nowadays, I got him thirsty,” she smugly smiled, as she took a sip of her wine.

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Chapter Text

Back in the business center,  Kim and Kelly D. were having their time together - kissing and embracing. After they had their moment of intimacy, Kim had a word with Kelly.

“Kel, you know you can’t stay here forever?”

“Yeah, I know, but I just don’t wanna see any of them, especially Kelly!”

“I know, but you gotta eat and sleep. Neither of which you can do here.”

Kelly sulked a bit before realizing that Kim was right. “Yeah, I getcha… So? I guess I have to face the lions, huh?”

Kim chuckled. “The lion is actually you!” She pointed, as she laughed at Kelly. Kelly couldn’t help but to laugh as well.

“Yeah, but still, I can’t believe what they did ta me…”

That made Kim bring something up that had been on her mind. “Ummm, Kel…”

“Yeah?”

“Were you abusive to the other Kelly when you two were together?” Kim asked with some trepidation in her voice. She really didn’t know how their relationship would be affected after she asked that question, fearing Kelly’s reaction. Considering her experience with domestic abuse, she didn’t know if she could forgive Kelly’s possible physical violence.

The redhead rolled her eyes. “Did she tell you that?”

“Yeah. She hinted that you have done worse damage to her in the past and that the injuries you inflicted to her earlier in the kitchen was nothing in comparison.”

Before Kelly could answer, she saw Jo and Blair coming to the business center with anger in their eyes.

Kelly rolled her eyes again and said, “Oh, shit…”

“What is it, Kelly?”

Kelly pointed to in the direction of the angry couple. “Jo an’ Blair are comin’, and they don’t look happy at all. I guess they found sumthin’ else to rip my ass into.”

Kim turned around and saw the pair stomping toward the room.

When they arrived, Jo opened the door, and immediately said to Kelly, “Okay, you have a lot of explainin’ to do about you and brunette Kelly, and it ain’t about what happened earlier.” Jo had an authoritative look on her face, with her arms folded across her chest and her eyebrows furrowed.

Kelly knew exactly what Jo was referring to and said, “I bet she made it sound a bit one-sided, huh?”

Jo looked at her differently, yet with arms still folded, and said, “What do you mean by that?”

“I mean she made it sound like I was always the abuser in our relationship, didn’t she?”

“Of course. The proof was all over her arms, Kel. You can’t go hittin’ people like that.”

Kelly shot Jo a doubtful glare and responded, “Oh, don’t be playin’ little miss innocent, queen of the Young Diablos. It’s not like you haven’t busted some heads in your time, Jo.”

Jo replied back in an exasperated fashion, with her arms showing how exasperated she was. “Yeah, but nevah in a relationship. Kel, there are some things you just don’t do.”

“Right, and she made me out to be a villain and made sure you knew about our past domestic violence. That manipulative bitch...”  Kelly muttered, the last sentence in a low growl.

“Yeah, but she didn’t want to talk about it anymore,” Jo said angrily. “I know battered people are too scared to talk about the punishment they go through from people who are supposed to love them. Remember, I have training in counseling and training in domestic violence and abuse.”

Kelly shouted back, “But despite all your goody goody education and your training at the academy, you still can’t read all situations like you think you can, Jo.”

“Whatcha mean?” asked Jo with a confused look on her face. Blair and Kim just looked on as the two friends went at it.

Kelly steamed up a bit, then let out a slow huff to calm herself down. “There’s a reason why Kelly didn’t want to talk about it anymore.”

“Why’s that, Kelly?” Kim asked as she gently placed a hand on Kelly’s shoulder.

Kelly rolled up the left sleeve of her shirt and revealed a long knife wound that travelled from her forearm to her shoulder.

“Memba when I told ya when you first saw this that a woman gave it ta me, but I refused to tell you her name?”

“Yeah,” replied Jo as she raised her eyebrow.

“Well, guess who gave it ta me? Just guess.”

“Oh, shit…” Jo shouted as realization hit her. Kim and Blair were as equally shocked. Blair knew that Kelly A. was a troublemaker, but she didn’t realize how far she would go.

“Yeah. And it was because I told her that she was a thievin’, lyin’ whore! She didn’t like it, so the bitch cut me!”

Jo and Blair looked at each other, realizing that this wasn’t as clear-cut as they were expecting. Kim was just speechless.

“What made you call her that?” Blair asked.

“Does it really matter, Blair?” Jo asked. Blair just looked at Jo back, not saying a word.

“Yeah, that’s trivial at this point, Blair,” Kim added.

“Exactly, Jo. It doesn’t really mattah! But since Blair asked, I’ll tell her. One night I went ta bed with a thousand bucks in my wallet, but when I woke up the next mornin’ it was gone. I didn’t wanna go accusin’ anyone, but there was only two people who coulda taken it.”

“You mean . . .” began Kim.

“Well, I had my suspicions, but I couldn’t prove it. Besides, maybe I did misplace it. Anyway, Kelly had left, sayin’ that she had to go run a few errands for me.”

“You mean that brunette Kelly helped you out in your business?” Blair asked in shock. “She never told me that.”

“I’m not surprised,” Jo said plainly.

“Hell, yeah! She helped me collect from my workers,” Kelly said referring to the dealers under her. “She’s just lucky that I didn’t snitch on her!”

Blair was shocked to hear that, and Kelly looked at her in amazement at her naivete.

“Ah, come on Blair, don’t be so fuckin’ naive. Don’t you realize that Kelly is a street hoodlum to da bone? Don’t let her current taste in bad clothin’ fool ya!”

Jo just nodded in agreement with her redheaded friend. Blair had to face the facts on this one.

“You’re right. It should not surprise me,” Blair said with a disappointed tone, agreeing with Kelly.

“So, yeah. Anyway, when Kelly got back I asked her about the dough. She told me I was just bein’ a blamin’ bitch and that I should mind my own fuckin’ business and not go givnin’ her the third degree. So, I confronted her about her thievin’ past and she called me a paranoid ho who just blames everyone for everything. That’s when I called her a thievin’, lyin’ whore and she carved me up like a Thanksgivin’ turkey.”

“Wow,” exclaimed Kim.

“An this ain’t the only time she done shit like this to me. She has punched me, kicked me, even thrown a brick at me!” Kelly said with a serious look on her face.

“Damn, Kel, I had no idea,” replied Jo as she shook her head. “Why didn’t ya ever tell me?”

“Yeah, like anyone would take my word ovah hers. Jo, I know you don’t like her, but Blair here does and I know you’d side with Blondie here over me.”

Jo felt bad about what Kelly said. “It doesn’t matter, Kel, we’re supposed to be friends.”

“Probably not to you guys, since I’m just a drug-dealin’, foul-mouth, street hoodlum rat,” she spouted, emphasizing every word.

“It sure the hell does matter, Kel,” interrupted Kim. “And you’re not a street hoodlum rat, so stop calling yourself that!” Kim paused for a bit, then continued. “Look, I’ve been in an abusive relationship before, and I know what it’s like.”

“Really?” Kelly said with surprise.

“Yeah. My ex husband used to do terrible stuff to me like beat me up, kick me down the steps, and stuff like that. In fact, he hit me so hard one time, I lost my hearing in my left ear for a few days.”  Everybody in the room was surprised by her revelation.

“Jesus, Kim,” Blair said.

“I know, Blair. And those incidents happened when he was stone-cold sober. It was worse when he was drunk or high.”

“Gee, Kim. I’m sorry to hear that,” commented Kelly as she placed a hand on Kim’s shoulder. “You don’t deserve that.”

“No one deserves that, Kelly,” replied Kim with a slight sniff. “I never reached out for help either, Kelly, but I also never fought back. Your situation was not one-sided like mine, but that does not give you both the right to continue abusing each other. It also doesn’t mean you should have taken the abuse and suffered in silence either.”

“And you think anyone seriously would have taken my side?” Kelly asked. “I mean, what’s a hoodlum’s word worth anyway, right?”

“Kel, I have taken your side before. Remember at the rehearsal? And don’t forget that I have helped you outta many jams in the past. So, why wouldn’t I have helped you back then?” Jo reminded her.

Kelly thought about it for a bit before acknowledging that Jo was right. She wanted to kick herself for being so blind in anger at her best friend. “You’re right. You woulda helped me.”

“And, sure we would have helped the other Kelly too,” Blair said matter-of-factly. “You both needed help. It was a toxic relationship all around and, honestly, it’s great that you both got out of it before it spiraled out of control.”

“You’re right, Blair,” Kelly said. “But there’s nothing that can be done now. The damage is long done.”

“Maybe, but I think if you two apologize to each other, at least that can heal some wounds and give you a sense of closure. At the very least, it can eliminate some of the animosity you two have with each other,” Blair said. Then she thought of something. “If you don’t mind, I can arrange a time for the both of you to apologize either later today or tomorrow, if that would be okay for you?”

Kelly thought about it for a bit, before saying, “Sure, Blair. I’m okay wit’ it. I just hope Kelly is.”

“Trust me, let me work my magic, and she will comply,” Blair smiled.

Jo was smiling. “Well, I’m glad to see some progress on this.”

“Same here,” smiled Kim.

“You’re right, Jo. I’m happy this has somewhat of a good ending, and speaking of apologies…” Blair decided it was time to change the subject. “This may come as a surprise to you, Kelly, but we also came here to apologize to you for not telling you that the other Kelly, Yvonne, and Kim was here.”

Both Kelly and Kim looked at each other in astonishment. There would be a better chance of seeing snow in the middle of the Sahara Desert than hearing Blair apologize to the same person twice in the same week.

“Did I just her Blair apologizing to me... again?” Kelly asked in awe.

“Did I just see that?” Kim replied in the same astonishment. “Is the world really turning upside-down?”

“Who would have thought this day would ever happen?” Kelly said to Kim. Jo couldn’t help but snicker.

“Okay, okay, Kelly! Don’t make it sound like it’s something earth-shattering. I can be humble!” Blair spat in frustration.

The three other women in the room laughed.

“Now that’s funny!” said Kim.

Blair was feeling a bit hurt, and Jo saw that, so she told the others to stop laughing.

“Hey, you two, chill out okay. I think we’ve upset Blair enough.” Jo said, while trying her best to stifle her laugh.

They both stopped, knowing it would be best for the both of them to listen to Jo, and Kelly said, “Apologies accepted, but that doesn’t excuse you for not telling me about their presence beforehand.”

“Yeah, Blair. You should have told her, like you should have told us that Kelly was coming with Jo.” Kim said. “Though most of us suspected that, but still. It wouldn’t hurt to give us a heads-up.”

Blair hung her head low. She just wanted to go back in time and redo the whole Kelly Donovan mistake. Jo was there to comfort her.

“Blair, what’s done is done. The more you mope about it, the worse it’s gonna get.”

“Yes. Let’s just learn our lessons and move on, making sure we don’t make the same mistake again,” Kim declared.

“I agree,” Jo added. “Speakin’ of movin’ on, let’s go downstairs and have some fun!”

Everybody agreed to it and they left the business center, happier than they were before entering it.

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Jo, Blair, Kim, and Kelly met with Cindy, Sue Ann, Geri, Nancy, and Yvonne in the entertainment center. Kim, along with Blair and Jo, were able to persuade the rest of the group that Kelly was okay, though there was still some weariness towards her. Nevertheless, none of them let it dampen the mood.

“This place is awesome,” Kim said to Jo.

“Thanks. The entertainment center was my idea and design,” Jo said with a beaming smile.

“So, Blair did let you decide on something for once?” Cindy said.

“Yeah, because she had no clue how to set one up, though the stage and karaoke bar was her idea. Oh, and the exercise room and pool downstairs was my idea as well. I told her I needed somewhere to work out and stay in shape.”

Blair simply shrugged. “I knew those things were out of my element. Plus, I like to work out as well, so I didn’t object to having an exercise room.”

“Blair doesn’t mind sweating?” asked Sue Ann in mocked shock as she brought her hand to her chest.

“Let alone doing anything physical that might damage her nails,” Nancy joked.

Cindy smiled at her partner, while trying to keep her laughter at bay.

Blair glared at Sue Ann and replied, “I don’t sweat . . . “

“You glisten,” everyone finished, laughing.

Jo shot Blair a smile, remembering their high school days when Blair wouldn’t engage in anything so strenuous as exercise.

“Besides,” continued Blair without missing a beat, “if I did damage my nails, I have the best manicurists money could buy to fix them right up,” she finished with a snap.

“Well,” broke in Cindy, “I’m just glad there is one. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to get in my morning exercise while I was here. The only way this place could be more awesome was if there was like a basketball court or something like that,” Cindy replied.

Jo chuckled first then smiled. “There is one actually.”

“WHAT!” everyone said in unison except Blair.

“That can’t be true!” Sue Ann exclaimed. “This is like straight out of a movie!”

“Get real!” Kelly said.

“I’m not lyin’ to you folks,” Jo said.

“How come you didn’t tell us about this the last time we were here?” Yvonne asked Jo.

“It was still under construction.”

“Oh,” was all that Yvonne could say.

Still, Jo saw doubtful looks on the group’s faces, so she said, “Don’t believe me? Let me show you.”

Jo walked to the left end of the entertainment center where there was a regular door. Jo pulled out her keys and opened the door. When opened, there was a small hallway with a door to the end. Half of the group followed with Jo to the hallway up to the door. Blair, Geri, and Nancy decided to stay back.

Jo opened the door and the minute the group laid eyes on the basketball court, what they saw amazed them. It was only half-court, but it was of NBA regulation size.

“Jesus, Jo,” exclaimed Cindy as she looked around the court, impressed by what she saw. “I know where I want to be if this country was threatened to be nuked!”

“Yeah, and that’s a huge possibility with Putin still around,” Sue Ann replied with a hint of dismay.

Yvonne looked on in amazement. “I remember when this was just a small empty spot. At the time it was going to be Jo’s personal room.. It didn’t seem possible to make much out of that blank canvas, but all I have to say now is ‘wow!’”

Jo grinned. “Yeah, it was my own pet project. I made sure that I saw over the work and made sure it was getting done without any of Blair’s meddling interference.”

“Yeah, that can be a good thing,” Kelly said, as everybody, including Jo nodded in agreement.

As the group was checking out the court, Kelly got an idea that she hoped would help her bond with the group.

“Hey, let’s get a team together,” Kelly suggested.

“Cool, I’ll have Yvonne on my team,” Jo said.

“You’re goin’ to take Fifi? She probably don’t even know how to dribble the ball.” Kelly laughed, with some joining her. Yvonne just kept quiet.

Jo just smiled. “Fine then, I’ll take Kimberly, and you can join the Blonde Duo there.”

“Cool,” said Cindy.

After the team was selected, the women went to change their clothes and came back to the court.

Since this was home court, Jo’s team got the ball. As soon as Jo passed the ball to Yvonne, Kelly trash talked her.

“Whatcha gonna do Frenchie, try to kick the ball into the basket? This ain’t soccer, Zidane!”

Yvonne just looked at her with mild amusement and smirked back, “No, but I’ll do this instead.”

She crossed Kelly up, making her fall on her butt in the process (or as they would say in the playgrounds, Yvonne broke Kelly’s ankles). Then she drove to the basket, but Cindy was there to attempt to block it. However, Yvonne quickly did the Eurostep and laid it in the basket. Needless to say, everybody but Jo was shocked to see how well Yvonne played.

On the next possession, Jo passed the ball to Kimberly, who then passed the ball to an open Yvonne who was behind the 3-point line. She shot it and it was nothing but net.

“Damn. Frenchie got mad skills!” Kelly said.

C’est vrai , Mick!”

“Huh?”

“I said, ‘That’s right, Mick!’”

“Don’t call me that!” Kelly spat.

“Then don’t call me Frenchie or Fifi. My name is Yvonne!” she spat back.

The game was never close, as Kim was proven to be good at stealing the ball and passing, while Yvonne was just too good overall.

The score was 20-4, with Jo’s team crushing Kelly’s, thanks to Yvonne’s skills and Kimberly’s ability to steal the ball.

Cindy, Sue Ann, and Kelly were tired and defeated.

“I can’t believe that Ms. Grey Poupon here kicked our butts!” Kelly said, referring to Yvonne with a motion of her head.

“It’s Yvonne, Ms. Guinness.”

“Hey, Kel. Looks like Yvonne’s gonna trade ya wisecrack for wisecrack,” chuckled Jo. Everyone else just laughed at the banter between the former NY daredevil and the French badass that they all came to see in Yvonne.

“It’s all good. I don’t mind being called Ms. Guiness anyway. It’s not a bad beer,” Kelly said smiling.

“Ugh. The beer taste horrible. Though I did have guinness ice cream before and it’s good,” Yvonne commented.

“Whoa, wait a minute, there’s an ice cream made from guinness beer?” Sue Ann asked with a sour look on her face.

Oui . It’s popular in Jamaica. Geri and I had it while on our trip to Montego Bay.”

“Hold on, you went to Jamaica and you didn’t get lynched?” Kelly asked. “I always wanted to go to Jamaica, because I love reggae and dancehall, but I was always afraid to go there . . . for obvious reasons... After all, I knew a few Jamaicans, and they’re crazy!”

“Are you sure it wasn’t for the ‘greenery’?” Jo slyly hinted. The rest of the group laughed.

“Well, yeah, that too,” Kelly replied with her cheeks turning red.

“Montego Bay is actually pretty gay friendly. The rest of Jamaica . . . not so much,” Yvonne commented. “We had to be very careful there.”

“Oh I see.” Kelly said. “Well, I’ll just wait until things get better down there.”

“So, Where did you learn to play ball like that, Yvonne?” Cindy asked.

“Oh, I played professional for three years during the early 90s in Europe. Mostly in France, Spain and Italy.”

“Were you ever like an all-star?”

Yvonne shook her head while answering. “Nah. I was basically a role-player. I started a few games when the starter was hurt, but I was never considered an all-star.”

“So, did you stop singing to play pro ball?” Sue Ann asked.

“Only during the season. On the off-season I went back to singing.”

“Then what made you stop playing?” Sue Ann continued asked.

“I ruptured my left achilles tendon. I wasn’t the same after that.”

Everybody cringed when she said that, replying with “ooh…” and “ouch!”

“Oui.” she responded. “I was on crutches for a while.”

“Well, next time we play 3-on-3, we’re gonna take Yvonne!” Cindy proclaimed. Everybody laughed. Yvonne just had a bright smile on her face.

They left the court and went to the locker room to change and take showers.

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Later on in the day, some of the group decided to go to the entertainment center.

“Ooh, a stage!’ Tootie exclaimed as she saw the setup for karaoke.

“Brings back memories, huh?” Nancy recalled.

“Oh yeah, that karaoke place we went to back in 86.”

“Yeah, it was totally a trip. I remember always picking that one song . . . and slaying it.” Tootie smiled.

“Well, guess what? I have that song,” Blair said.

Tootie quickly got excited when she heard that. “Really?”

“Yep.” Blair grinned.

However there was one problem... “Umm, I don’t exactly remember all the lyrics, Blair. It’s been a while, after all. I may be a little rusty.”

“Don’t worry. The lyrics will appear on the screen for you. Just wait until it comes down.”

Blair pushed a button on the control deck next to the stage. A 30-inch widescreen TV came down from the ceiling.

Tootie was amazed at how well the place was set up. She looked at Blair and said, “That’s so cool!”

“Yeah, thank Tracy for building it. She’s the mechanical genius around here.”

Tootie got on stage and Blair typed in the song’s name on the screen. She selected it with the lyrics option check out and started on the music. It was Whitney Houston’s first solo single, “You Give Good Love.”

Instantly in many people’s minds who were there at the time, it took them back to the time they visited one of the first karaoke bars in New York City...

(Flashback to 1986)

It was yet another night hanging out in East Village. It was Blair, Jo, Natalie, Tootie, Cindy, Sue Ann, Molly, and Nancy hanging out together. While they were walking down the street, they noticed a place with a weird name: Karaoke Klub.

“Ka-ro-kee? Ka-ra-oak? How the hell do we say this name?” Cindy asked.

“I dunno, but it seems interesting. Let’s check it out!” said the adventurous Natalie.

“You sure?” Nancy asked.

“I’m sure,” replied Natalie. “Besides, the night is still young and we might meet some available bachelors.”

“Maybe it’s a new form of self-defense like karate. I think it could be fun,” said Jo who secretly knew something about martial arts.

They all agreed to go in. Upon entering, they saw a middle-aged Asian woman sitting behind a podium.

“Welcome to NYC Karaoke, it’s a pleasure to meet you,” said the woman. Her accent was clearly Japanese.

“What is this ka-ro-kee place?” Jo asked. “Some sort of dojo where we can mix it up a little,” she inquired while punching the air. Some of the people in the group were laughing.

“It’s Ka-ra-o-kee,” she said correcting the pronunciation. “It’s where you get to sing over a song with just the instrumentals. Think of it as a modern version of the player piano. Instead of a piano, it’s a portable stereo with two tape decks and a microphone.”

“That sounds interesting,” Molly said.

“I say we check it out. We have nothing to lose,” piped in Tootie who was always ready for the spotlight.

“Great. We have a stage over there.” The hostess said as she pointed to the stage on her right.

They looked at the stage and it looked ordinary. Just a small stage with a microphone. The seating area was not much bigger. There were around eight small table, with two taken.

There, they saw a guy singing to the tune of the Romantics “What I Like About You” way off-key.

The gang took sat at two tables, with Blair, Jo, Natalie and Tootie at one table, and Cindy, Sue Ann, Nancy, and Molly at another.

“Oh, my God, this guy is terrible!” Blair shouted as she made a sour face.

“Yeah, someone call the music police because this man is murdering that poor, defenseless song,” joked Natalie as she plugged her ears with her fingers.

“Heck, my pop sings better than that in the shower!” Jo joked. She spotted the waiter who was nearby and then asked him, “Why is the guy allowed to sing?”

“Oh, this is a karaoke bar, and karaoke is when a person sings over recorded music. So anybody is allowed to sing, as long as each one of you order two drinks minimum.”

“Is that part of karaoke? The two drink minimum?” Cindy asked.

“No, that’s just house rules,” the man replied.

“Guess you gotta make your money somehow,” Jo justified, “cuz it sure ain’t the entertainment.”

“Plus, some people may need to drink before going up there and making a fool of themselves,” added Molly.

“I guess some people would need the liquid courage or at least something to help them forget afterwards,” chimed in Cindy.

As they were watching the man’s performance, Tootie was very unimpressed.

“I can sing way better than that!” Tootie boasted.

“Oh, yeah?” Sue Ann said. “I doubt that.”

“Are you questioning my singing skills?”

“Yep.”

“I bet you $10, I’ll get people out of their seats and dancing in the aisles.”

Sue Ann grinned. “You’re on!”

The waiter overheard her and said to Tootie, “If you want to sing right after the guy, just stand right next to the stage.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, I think he’s only gonna do one song.”

“Thanks.”

Tootie quickly got up and waited near the stage. After the guy was done, Tootie was ready to get on stage.

When Tootie got on stage, there was a book of songs to look through, and it had the available songs listed in alphabetical order. She looked through the book and saw Whitney Houston’s “You Give Good Love.”

“Hey, you got this one?” she pointed it out in the book to the waiter.

“Sure. It’s rather popular.”

The guy went out to get the cassette tape. He put it in and then asked Tootie, “Do you need a lyrics sheet for the song?”

Tootie shook her head. “No, I know the song by heart.”

“Alright then. Get yourself ready.”

Then he hit play, and the song began.

The synthesizers came, and after the intro, it was Tootie’s turn to sing:

I found out what I've been missing
Always on the run
I've been looking for someone

Now you're here like you've been before
And you know just what I need
It took some time for me to see

Just as the bridge was about to start Cindy decided to do something - she grabbed Sue Ann and started to dance with her like a couple would. Some of the customers were shocked to see two girls dancing together.

Blair and Jo was shocked at their bold behavior at first, but then they decided to join along, so they got up and danced as Tootie was singing:

That you give good love to me, baby
So good, take this heart of mine into your hands
You give good love to me
It's never too much
Baby, you give good love

At this time, some of the patrons left, while others complained to the owner about what was going on. The owner told them that the group was fine and if they didn’t like it, they could just leave. Besides, it was just a couple of friends out having a good time, so no harm done.

Tootie noticed the people complaining and leaving, but she kept on singing.

Everybody who remained cheered at Tootie’s singing and clapped. Tootie won the bet.

She bowed and said a lot thank yous before she left the stage and told Sue Ann, “Pay up, you lost the bet.”

“Oh, alright, here you go.”

She handed the $10 bill to Tootie and someone shouted, “Encore. Encore”

“Go ahead and get back up there,” the waiter said. “I’ll exempt you from the two drink minimum.”

Tootie got back up on stage and instead of singing the same song, she decided to sing another Whitney Houston song - “Saving All My Love For You.”

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As Tootie was singing the song, Cindy and Sue Ann were slow-dancing to the tune like they were 25 years earlier, as well as Jo and Blair. This time, however, Kim and Kelly joined in on the act, as well as Yvonne and Geri. Yvonne carefully guided Geri who was not usually one to dance, but she felt comfortable doing so her. Heck, even Molly and Nancy got in on the act, as they got up and danced together. That got some chuckles from Nancy’s kids and everybody else who was watching.

“Hey, you two planning to switch teams and join the club?” Cindy cracked. The new “couple” just laughed it off.

Mrs. Garrett-Gaines and Beverly Ann were watching with delight, seeing the girls they helped raise acting peaceful. They were even proud that Kelly D. was not in rage mode. She was basically leaning her head on top of Kimberly’s as they were dancing to the music, considering she was the taller of the two.

As Tootie finished up the song, everybody applauded.

“You still haven’t lost it,” said her best pal, Natalie.

“Thanks, I didn’t know how I’d do since I totally forgot the lyrics.”

“Well, you still did good. That’s all that matters.” Jo smiled. “It brought us back to that day we went to thak karaoke bar in midtown.”

“That was like 25 years ago, right?” Cindy asked.

“Yeah. I can’t believe it was that long ago,” Jo replied.

“Didn’t ya drive half the customers away because you two were dancin’?” Kelly asked without a serious face as she was pointing at the two lesbians before she laughed.

“Yeah, I wish I was there to see it,” Kim said as she giggled along with Kelly.

“Unfortunately, some people were small-minded and left, but we were just lost in the music, and ourselves,” she said as she smiled at Jo. “Yeah, I’m sure it sure the hell surprised many of them, but who cares?” she added.

“I know the waiter and lady told them to leave us alone when they complained because we were ‘just a couple of young friends who were out for a good time.’ Whether they knew the truth or not, it was nice that the owners of a place didn’t kick us all out for giving the place a bad name,” proclaimed Molly with a smile on her face.

“But I gotta admit, it was fun watching some of those narrow minded people being shocked,” Sue Ann joked and Cindy laughed with her.

Then Natalie screamed, “Encore!”

“Yeah, another encore, will ya?” Kelly D. cheered. Then others joined in.

“Okay, okay.” Tootie grabbed the mic from the stand and looked at Blair. “Hit it, Blair!”

Blair nodded and she started the song again…

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After the song was done, Tootie was a bit tired, so she asked, “So, who’s gonna sing next.”

Nobody said a thing for a bit, so Geri tried to edge Yvonne into singing.

“Come on, Yvonne, go ahead,” she whispered to her partner.

“Sure?” said Yvonne.

“Very sure. French or American?”

“American, the last time we were here, she didn’t have many French songs. Besides, since we are in an 80s R&B mood, I do want to do a song from the same genre.”

Geri smiled. “You mean that song?”

“Yeah, mon trésor .”

“Well, then, go right ahead.”

She quickly gave a peck on Geri’s left cheek and then approached Blair.

“Hey do you have this song?”

“What song?”

Yvonne told it to her and Blair nodded. Immediately, Yvonne got on stage as Blair was getting the song ready.

“So what are you singing, Yvonne?” Jo asked.

“The Jets - You Got It All.”

As soon as she said that, the the slick and polished mid-80s synthesized sound came out.

I, I was the game he would play
He brought the clouds to my day
Then like a ray of light
You came my way one night...

All the couples in the room grabbed a partner and started slow dancing, except Geri, who was watching her lover singing one of their favorite songs. Then Tootie came up to her and offer her a dance.

“Care to dance, ma’am,” Tootie asked, trying to sound like a gentleman.

Geri smiled, “Sure.”

Then they started to dance. Yvonne noticed and nearly flubbed on the song because she was about to laugh.

When the song got done, every clapped and cheered.

“Bravo, Yvonne,” Blair said as she got back to the panel.

“Thanks Blair. Hey, I wanna sing another song. It’s a song by a fellow Southern Frenchman, named Charles Trenet.”

“Let me guess, La Mer ?”

“Oui, but most Americans know it as ‘Beyond the Sea’ , done by Bobby Darin, but trust me, his version is better.”

“I don’t think Blair has the song. She said she didn’t last time,” Geri said.

“I do now,” Blair replied with a smile.

“Great! Whenever I get homesick, I sing this song. It brings me memories of Marseille.”

As soon as Blair pulled up the song and hit the button, she started to dance with the song.

La mer
qu'on voit danser le long des golfes clairs
a des reflets d'argent,
la mer,
des reflets changeants
sous la pluie.

(The sea,
We see dancing along the shores of clear bays,
Shimmers with silver
The sea
Changing shimmers
Under the rain)

Even though only 3 or 4 people in the room understood what she sang, everyone clapped at the end.

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While the other women were still doing karaoke, Mrs. G. found the perfect time to approach Blair, as she was sitting by herself. Jo had taken over the control panel.

“Blair, we need to talk,” the older woman said in a serious tone.

Blair knew why Mrs. G. wanted to have a word with her, thanks to Jo’s earlier warning, but she wasn’t looking forward to it. Granted, Mrs. G. was pretty much always fair in her lectures and treated the girls like equals, she never liked feeling like she had disappointed her mentor. Despite her reservations, she complied.

They left the entertainment area and went upstairs to the business area. They went to one of the smaller conference rooms, and Mrs. G. had her word with the heiress.

“Blair, I am VERY disappointed in you. Your actions against Kelly D. was beyond deplorable and I expect much better from you.” Mrs. G. scolded her in a normal tone, but was sure to emphasize the word very .

“My actions?” Blair asked, since Mrs. G. hinted that there was more than one bad act.

“Yes, actions. From the way you carried yourself at the rehearsal, to you attacking her in the mall, to not telling her about the other Kelly being here. These actions are reprehensible and I know that I brought you up better than that. At least, I thought I raised a responsible young woman with a strong moral foundation.”

For once, Blair was completely speechless. She had no answer for Mrs. G. who was 100% right on everything she was saying to Blair. All Blair could do was just stand there and listen.

“And you didn’t tell her about Kim or Yvonne either. Your actions this past week have been unsatisfactory. Now, I don’t justify Jo’s actions for running away, but with the way you’ve been acting, I have to say that you pretty much scared her off, Blair.”

“I know. I know,” Blair blurted out as she tightly hugged herself.

“And of course, let’s not forget the last minute change in the wedding,” continued Mrs. Garrett as if she didn’t even here Blair’s exclamation. “I know you have always been pretty impulsive when it came to certain things, but to do that to Jo and everyone else who was willing to participate is just plain wrong. You slipped by with it when you were younger, but Blair, you’re in your 40s now, not your teens. You have to change your ways.”

“Yeah, Jo and I talked about that a while ago,” Blair said as she slowly shook her head in agreement. She paused a bit before continuing, thinking over a lot of things. “She addressed my issue of making sporadic decisions, and I addressed her issue of always running away.”

Mrs. G. had a small smile on her face, but revealed why she couldn’t fully smile to what Blair told her. “Well, it’s a start, along with you offering the rest of us a place to hide, but you have to do more than that.” Mrs. G. paused for a bit and took a deep breath before continuing. “And I’m afraid to tell you that it won’t be a quick fix. You have done this so often that people expect nothing else but this behavior from you. You may not be as quick tempered as Jo, but your temper can be just as vicious. Just ask Kelly.”

“Yeah, but -” began the blonde.

“Yes, I have the feeling that I already know what you are going to say. From what Jo told me yesterday, I know about what Kelly did to Dina, and you have every right to be angry about that. However, attacking her, setting her up for an emotional confrontation, and belittling her every chance you get is just wrong. Kelly did her best to rectify the situation, after all. She did pay for Dina’s rehab before she was arrested, and she did visit her at the institution when she got out. Also, I know that Kelly tried to punch you at Jo’s 40th birthday party, but I also know that you provoked it by insulting her.”

Blair couldn’t look up as she was really feeling ashamed of her actions.

“See, your actions against Kelly was uncalled for too. So as I see it, you are even with Kelly now, so please, let it go between you.”

“That’s a lot to ask for Mrs. G.” replied Blair as she looked up to meet the older woman’s eyes.

“I’m not asking you two to become best friends or anything. Just coexist without baiting each other.”

“I guess I can at least do that.”

The older woman wasn’t going to let her off that easily. “Blair, a lot of people were hurt by your actions, and that’s not going to be remedied in a day. You will have to change how you treat people and respect their time as well. That’s going to take months, maybe even years.”

Blair couldn’t say anything to refute her because Mrs. G. was right, as usual. So instead she quietly agreed.

“You’re right, Mrs. G.”

Mrs. G. saw how sad and depressed Blair was getting, so she told her, “Look, moping about it will do you no good. It won’t fix the situation, nor will it make your life or any of the people around you better. Start by respecting Kelly, and take other people’s time into consideration, then build upon that. The worse you can do is to not try, and I sure as heck didn’t raise you to be a quitter.”

Blair then finally looked at Mrs. G. and drew a small smile. “No you didn’t. Not at all.”

“Good, because the Blair that I know is not a quitter. Now, let’s join the rest of the group and enjoy our time here. Heck, I feel inspired to sing a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T. I know I sound nothing like Aretha, but who cares?”

Blair smiled. “I may even join you,” she said as Mrs. G. put her arm around her girl and they walked back to the entertainment center to continue on with the karaoke.

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It was late at night, and mostly everyone were in their bedrooms. However, for the most part, the couples weren’t doing any sleeping, especially Jo and Blair.

As they were in their master bedroom, Blair was wearing her Japanese silk robe, with nothing underneath. She was on her tablet, reading an article at Vanity Fair’s website. Jo was wearing a blue cotton bathroom robe with nothing underneath, she just came out of their bathroom, finishing brushing her teeth. They both knew exactly what the other had in mind.

“Well, I’m glad things turned out peaceful at the end of the day, anyway,” Blair said.

“Same here,” Jo replied.

Jo got in between the sheets, joining Blair.

“I just talked to Affinado, and she agreed to the truce.”

Jo let out a sigh of relief. “That’s good. So, we are going to have them agree to it tomorrow?”

“Yes. I want them to at least be peaceful while they’re here,” Blair said. “I don’t think they’ll ever fully forgive each other, but agreeing not to make waves is at least a start.”

“I agree 100%, Blair. Some people will never fully get along. As long as they don’t try to destroy each other like they did earlier today, well, that’s good enough for me.”

“Also, I was thinking, and of course it’s only if you are okay with this, but maybe we should have Geri and Yvonne as one of mine and yours bridesmaids respectively?”

Jo shrugged. “Why not? We’re going to redo the rehearsal right?”

“Yeah.”

“So, let’s tell them tomorrow and see if they are okay with it.” Jo paused a minute and then asked, “But if Geri’s not going to be the MC, who will?”

“I can make a few calls and contact a professional who can to it,” replied Blair with a quick flip of her hair.

Jo chuckled. “I can always call Flyman and . . .”

“I am NOT going to have someone named Flyman MCing my wedding rehearsal” interrupted Blair.

“Blair,” Jo glared at the blonde, “you’re not taking my suggestions into account again.”

“Well, I just don’t want him to upstage me. Besides,” she said as she snuggled up to Jo, “he tried to woo you away from me.”

Jo smiled at Blair. “We could always ask Tootie to contact Jermaine Jackson for us.”

Blair tried her best to hold in her laughter. Instead she snorted, and said, “If you bring that up to her, she’ll probably take a baseball bat to our heads!”

“Yeah, and show the Yanks what they have been missin’ all season.”

“Huh?”

“Never mind, Princess,” said Jo as she kissed Blair on the top of the head. “But, seriously who could we get to MC?”

“Well, there’s this one singer, Gloria Loring who I heard is not bad. We could see if she could do it.”

“Yeah. Hey, didn’t she sing at Mr. Bradley’s one shindig years ago?”

“Oh, yeah,” exclaimed Blair. “They could duet singing “Friends and Lovers.” I mean, it does sound fitting doesn’t it?”

“As you wish, Blair,” said Jo with a smile.

Then Jo looked at Blair and said. “Enuff talkin’, let’s do some lovemakin’!”

“Even though we did it earlier today?” Blair said with a tease.

“I know, but I want more, Blair.” Jo said, wagging her eyebrow.

“Well, if we’re going to do it, at least make it special.”

Blair got the iPod and put it in the speaker system. She selected the song “Hold Me” by Whitney Houston and Teddy Pendergrass. Instantly, their minds make a time-travel trip back to 1985, when they first made love.

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(Flashback to August 1985)

Blair and Jo finally had alone time together in the living room at Blair’s Park Avenue home. Her mother was not at home, as usual. She was out there either at a party or social gathering. Blair was hoping that her mom didn’t get anything to drink, since she was five months pregnant. They were watching a tape that Blair had bought - the romantic thriller, Against All Odds . It was romantic, yet somewhat boring. Jo only knew about the movie because of the hit soundtrack Phil Collins sang about the previous year.  This was the night that they sealed their relationship together - by making love.

“Well, that was an interesting movie,” Jo said.

“It sure was,” Blair replied . “But it wasn’t as good as the original.”

A surprised and puzzled look appeared on Jo’s face. “Huh? Are you saying that it’s a remake?”

“Yes. It’s a remake of the film Out of the Past. It was done sometime in the 1940s and Robert Mitchum was in it. My mother and I watched it on HBO last summer.”

“Wow, you two actually had some bonding time? I’m surprised,” Jo said. She knew the history between Blair and Monica and was surprised to see them doing something together that involved entertainment.

Blair, at first, simply nodded, then she said, “Well, we were bored and I was flipping the channels looking for something decent to watch. Mom said that she saw it in the theaters when she was younger so I thought I’d give it a try.”

“Oh,” was all that Jo could muster.

“And trust me when I say this, but it’s a lot better than Against All Odds .”

“Well, maybe we should pick it up at Video Room someday.”

Blair responded with a small smile, then she said, “Perhaps, but I have something else in mind.”

“Really? I hope it doesn’t involve wearing leather. I still remember that time you came with me to the Chug-A-Lug when Black Flag was having a concert there! You can’t pull off a punk look!”

Blair huffed. “No! It’s nothing like that!” She then rolled her eyes and said, “Just follow me.”

Jo shrugged and obliged, following Blair to the hallway.

Blair wanted to wait until she got married to lose her virginity, but now that she knew that her life partner was a woman, she knew the chances of her getting legally married was practically zero.

So, unknown to Jo, she made a makeshift wedding in her room.

As Blair led Jo to her room, there were a thousand thoughts running through her mind. She wanted this moment with Blair, but she wasn’t sure if the time was right.

When Blair opened the door to her bedroom, Jo was taken aback at what she saw. The room was decorated with Blair’s bed covered in velvet red sheets. There were dimly lit candles, a bottle of champagne on the nightstand, and a rose on top of the bed.

“Wow, Blair. You’re serious about this?”

“Yes, I am. I know I want to be with you for the rest of my life.” She smiled with a tint of red showing on her cheeks. The slight blush was just visible enough for Jo to see, given how dim the candlelights were.

Blair took Jo’s hand and slowly led her to her bed. As they got there, Blair stopped and looked at Jo lovingly. Neither said a word, as they let their eyes do the talking. For many years their eyes said more than words ever could, but the intensity that they shared never burned like the fire in their eyes at this moment. The chemistry was so evident that any spark could set off an explosion of passion. However, instead of a grand gesture, the slightest touch was all that was needed. Blair was the first to act as she began to stroke Jo’s cheek. Jo followed suit, by stroking Blair’s luxurious hair. Blair then brought Jo closer and she started to kiss her. It began with small pecks that graduated to tongue-sharing smooches. They started to explore each other as they kissed. Blair stroked the firm muscles of Jo’s arms and legs, appreciating her well-toned and athletic partner. All those years complaining about how sweaty Jo was when she came home from a field hockey game or pick-up game of basketball were forgotten as she now appreciated what they did for Jo’s form. Meanwhile, Jo’s hands trailed over Blair’s curvaceous body, admiring Blair’s voluptuous breasts and bottom as a skilled sculptor admiring his work, though Jo knew that only she could hold this masterpiece with her own hands. Blair’s natural softness made it even more enticing to Jo. Finally, Blair fell onto the bed with Jo on top of her. They continued to make out and touch each other until Blair suddenly stopped it.

“I want it to go on, but I need some music,” claimed Blair, slightly out of breath.

“Really, what do you have in mind?” Jo asked, equally breathless. She was expecting Blair to put on some sort of classical music.

“Well, there’s one song I listened to quite a bit recently, thanks to Tootie.”

“What is it, Princess?”

“It’s “Hold Me” by Teddy Pendergrass. He sings good, but I was more impressed with the female singer. I found out it was some young girl named Whitney Houston.”

“Oh, that’s interesting.”

“Very interesting once you hear her. You would think that she’s 30, when in fact she’s barely past 20.”

“Oh,” was all that Jo could say about it.

“I think this is a special moment for us, so I wanted to use a special song.”

Blair got off of the bed and walked across the room to her CD player, putting in the Teddy Pendergrass’ Love Languages CD.”

Jo walked over and took a look. “Wow, that must be a new player, and it’s from Sony!”

“Yeah, I just had to get it since I heard that a lot of the classical music sounds better on a CD.”

Blair pressed the forward track button a few times until she got to the song she wanted. As they got back to the bed, Jo said, “Let’s continue where we left off.”

Blair grinned. “No problem.”

As they started to kiss again, they began to take each other’s shirts off, leaving them with only their bras on. Jo admired Blair’s voluptuous figure, while Blair admired Jo’s firm figure. Blair was the first to take off her bra and Jo really liked what she saw.

Jo immediately went to Blair’s neck, kissing a line from it down to the middle of the chest. Then she went for Blair’s left nipple, sucking and nipping on it with pleasure, while gently squeezing the other nipple with her right hand. Blair started to moan.

“Yes, Jo, don’t stop!”

She kept at it for a while, until Jo stopped, and then she undid her bra and tossed them along with her panties across the room. Blair followed, taking off her underwear. She was now fully naked to Jo.

“Wow, Blair.”

“What? What’s wrong,” asked the blonde as she glanced at herself.

“That body of yours would put a lot of porn stars to shame.”

Blair just giggled. “Well, be glad that I will only perform for one person.”

Jo smiled, and started with Blair’s outer thighs. She was kissing it down to near her knees, then she switched to her inner thighs, kissing it up all the way to her moist area. Right there, her tongue went in to taste Blair. She went up and down in Blair for a few good minutes.

“Ooh yeah! Jo!!!”

Jo kept at it until Blair reached her peak, letting out a wave of fulfillment and bliss. As soon as Blair was able to come down from her climax, she returned the favor. She seductively got on top of Jo and started to kiss all over Jo’s body, eventually reaching her breast, sucking it with tenderness while her left hand was in Jo’s moist area.

“Oh Blair! It feels so good!”

Blair didn’t say anything, as she slowly went down between Jo’s legs and started her tongue activity there.

Jo didn’t want it to stop, she was in total ecstasy as Blair was having her way on her. She kept at it until Jo finally released herself in climatic orgasm, rewarding Blair in the process.

They made love at least two more times before tiredness kicked in and they fell asleep - naked and entwined with each other. Now they could truly say that they were a couple as they consummated their relationship.

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Back in the present, the two partners were naked between the silk sheets - embracing each other as the Isley Brothers’ love-making classic Between the Sheets was playing. However, they weren’t the only ones who were enjoying their moment together.

In one bedroom, Cindy and Sue Ann were keeping each other busy by kissing all over each other’s bodies. In another bedroom, Geri and Yvonne were passionately making love with each other, as Geri was holding tightly to Yvonne’s soft behind. Then there was also some wild threesome action going on between Kelly Affinado and the couple. Even Kim and Kelly D. were getting busy, despite the short amount of time they knew each other. However, both Kim and Kelly were both known to have lots of unrestricted sexual energy so it wasn’t much of a surprise that they were engrossed with each other.

Throughout the bedrooms on the floor, all the partners were having their precious time with each other; meanwhile, Natalie and Tootie were busy playing Uno.

There was no escaping the “noises” that were coming from all the rooms. It almost made it hard to concentrate on the game.

“Oh, my God. I can’t believe all this going on!” Tootie exclaimed.

“Yeah, makes me wish my honey was here,” Natalie said with a sigh.

“Same here,” Tootie lamented. The thoughts of missing her husband and her baby was already on her mind, even though it had been only a few days.

“All of this makes me feel like I am in a club I cannot join.”

“What do you mean?” asked Tootie.

“It’s almost like a girls only club if you think about it, but with a twist. A club we are not a part of.”

“Oh,” said Tootie understanding what her best friend meant. “And they’re doing a lot more than just twisting.”

“Chubby Checker, look out.”

Both girls laughed before Tootie spoke in a more serious tone. “You know, Natalie? Even though I had fun here, I already miss my family.”

“Same here. Maybe we should talk to Blair about it. Sooner or later, we need to return back to civilization.”

“Yeah, I know,”  Tootie said followed by a small sighed. “You know what else?”

“What?”

“Uno! I won!” exclaimed Tootie.

“Dammit, that’s four in a row!”

“Well, that’s because of my mad Uno skills.”

Natalie took a pillow and hit Tootie in the head. “Oh, shut up!”

Tootie winced in pain and then rubbed her head. “Are you asking for a pillow fight? Because I will win in that as well.”

“That’s what you think, short stuff!”

“Hey, remember that night we were all studying for our midterms and I knocked that ridiculous hat off of your head with a pillow?”

“Yeah, and if I remember correctly, I told you I would lay you out. I think now is the time to do just that.”

Natalie once again hit Tootie with the pillow. Tootie quickly retaliated with a quick pillow hit to Natalie’s face, which left a red mark on her cheek. Now it was on.

The night ended well for the group.  The next day was going to be Independence Day, so there was a good chance for some fireworks, in more ways than one...

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