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17 cherry tree lane

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November 1990

Jamie had woken up beside Dani plenty of times before. Since she was thirteen years old, there were weeks when she spent more mornings in Dani’s bed than her own. And in college, at least once a week, it seemed, Dani crossed the room to Jamie’s bed in the middle of the night; claiming it was comfier than her own (despite them both having the same shitty cots provided by the school).

Since then, there had been plenty of random little sleepovers in their adults years. Not nearly as many as when they were younger, but still more than two grown women would (or should) normally have. And Jamie would be lying if she said she didn’t love them; The mornings, especially.

When they were younger, Jamie was the late-riser; the one who could sleep all day if she were given the chance. Dani was the opposite. She got up with the sun; Bright eyed, bushy-tailed, and ready to start the day as soon as possible. But at some point in the timeline of their friendship, they had switched.

Dani was unable to sleep late when she had two kids, a dog, and typical “wifely duties” to fill her day with. But she was virtually un-wakable when she didn’t have to wear her ‘wife’ apron and ‘mom’ hat. Jamie, on the other hand, being her own boss who made her own schedule, technically didn’t have to wake up early. But after two years in a shitty foster home, the desire to get up and out as soon as possible seemed to be etched into her brain; Something she hadn’t quite grown out of just yet.

Something she would never grow out of, however, was the feeling that spread through her whole body when she woke up with Dani’s even puffs of breath on her neck and the feeling of her chest rising and falling against her back. That was something that she would never get tired of. And something that she would certainly never take for granted.

Thinking back to the night before, Jamie’s lips curled into a small smile as she slowly came into consciousness; Grateful that it was all real and not some sick and twisted dream that her brain cooked up just to torture her. The chill that ran down her spine when Dani’s fingers raked through her hair, scratching gently at her scalp: real. The sounds of sheer relief that fell from Dani’s lips when they meshed with her own for what felt like hours: real.

And now this, waking up on her pull-out sofa, Dani’s legs tangled with hers while pale fingers clutched onto Jamie’s to keep her close: real. It was nothing new to them, though. In their unconscious shifting during the night, they often woke up in positions like this one. But this time just felt different. Because it was different, wasn’t it?

They basically admitted to having feelings for one another last night. That had to change things. How could it not? But things were so much more complicated than they were back in high school. Which was odd, because in high school, Jamie didn’t think things could possibly get any more complicated. But now, things weren’t as easy as she would have hoped.

Dani was a widow; And had been for only three weeks. Not to mention she had two kids and a whole life that just couldn’t be interrupted. And Jamie was running a business; One where she would likely be moving out of state for a while if things went according to her expansion plan. Not to mention they lived an hour apart already.

She hadn’t even opened her eyes yet and Jamie could already feel a headache coming on. And she certainly didn’t want to have it still lingering when she and Dani had the talk that they needed to have later. Once her eyes were open, she took in the orange glow of dawn that was seeping in through the windows, filling the room with warmth despite the early November chill outside.

As much as she wanted to stay where she was, letting herself succumb to the circumstances she’d found herself in, Jamie knew that she couldn’t. The angel on her shoulder always seemed to win when it came to Dani, even though she always wanted to listen to the devil on her other.

Moving as slow as she possibly could, the brunette managed to untangle herself from Dani’s embrace, grateful that she only stirred a little with a small, discontented noise before settling back into a deep slumber. Jamie didn’t look in her direction for too long, though. She knew that if she watched her sleep for longer than a few seconds, she would say “fuck it” and crawl right back under the covers beside her.

She fixed the t-shirt where it had twisted around her waist and slid her sleep shorts off once she got to her bedroom, changing into a pair of track pants and a hoodie before tugging on her running shoes. And after a quick brush of her teeth, her hair was tossed up into the best bun she could manage and she was tip-toeing back out into the living room.

Dani was still fast asleep with her arm extended and flopped against the mattress where Jamie had been laying just minutes before, mouth slightly agape and nostrils flaring with each breath she took. Jamie considered leaving her a note, just letting her know that she’d gone out and would be back within the hour. But instead she sat on the edge of the pull-out, gently running her hand along Dani’s sleeve and up to her shoulder, shaking her gently to rouse her from sleep.

“Dani…” she muttered quietly, waiting until the blonde stirred and blinked her eyes open, squinting in the orange tinted light, “Hey, I’m just going for a jog. Didn’t want you to wake up wondering where I was.”

“Mmkay,” she yawned, blinking tired blue eyes up at her from where her head remained propped against her bent arm on top of the pillow, “You’ll come back?”

“Course I will, it’s my flat,” Jamie smirked, chuckling a little at the way Dani’s lips curled into a smile that told her that she thought it was funny, but she was too tired to put effort into a laugh.

But she apparently wasn’t too tired to lift her hand up just a few inches off the mattress with her pinky out, mumbling out a slurred, half asleep, “Promise?”

As always, Jamie linked her pinky finger with hers, clutching onto it tightly and dropping a kiss to her warm knuckles. And before she could even think to stop herself, she bent over to press a lingering kiss to Dani’s temple, gently rubbing her side before pulling the blankets up to her shoulders. “Promise. Go back to sleep, love, I’ll be back in a bit.”

And after a smiling hum from Dani as she nestled back into the warmth of the bed, Jamie stood and grabbed her keys, taking one last look at her best friend before heading out.

June 1976

“Jamie, I’m not letting you pay your own way into the roller disco on your own birthday,” Dani eyed her best friend dubiously as she swapped a few books in her locker.

The brunette was leaning against the wall of lockers beside her, rolling her eyes with a fond smile. “I have a birthday every year. Let me spend my first real paycheck however I want.”

Dani gave her a proud grin around the little metal door, despite the way Jamie was arguing with her. Because she was proud. Jamie, especially lately, had been through a lot. Just a few weeks ago, her family had been literally ripped apart and she’d been sent to live with a new family. A nice family, at least, from what Dani had heard. But it still must have been rough being away from her own.

On top of that, Jamie had landed herself in a bit of hot water just last week, just two days after she started her new job at the Johnson’s flower shop. Evelyn Williams, the head editor of the yearbook, had told the whole school that Jamie had tried to touch her in the locker room or watch her shower or something. She’d heard a few different things from a few different people. Whatever it was, it wasn’t true. Dani believed Jamie over anyone else. She just hated that Jamie had become some kind of spectacle ever since the rumor started.

Even if the rumor wasn’t true, Jamie didn’t seem to show any shame in her sexuality; Not that she had any reason to. But Dani admired the way that even though the whole school thought badly of her because of it, Jamie seemed to walk with her head held even higher than she had before, almost like she was daring people to try to hurt her feelings.

“No more talk about my birthday. It’s not til Saturday anyway,” Jamie chuckled, lifting her foot to rest back against the lockers.

“Jamie, it’s on Friday.”

“But we’re not celebrating til Saturday.”

“What? Why not?”

“Friday’s your date night.”

“Jamie, it’s your birthday, I’m sure it’s not gonna kill Eddie if I skip one Friday night at Rudino’s.”

“Dani—“

“We’re going,” blue eyes stared firmly at her as she shut her locker a bit harder than normal for emphasis, though she still held a kind smile on her lips.

“You’re impossible.” Rolling her eyes again, Jamie just pushed herself off the wall of lockers and cocked her head in the direction the next hallway, “Come on, Poppins, let’s get to algebra.”

“Don’t you mean French?” a voice asked smugly from not far behind them. There were several voices from around this school that Jamie found unbearably annoying (one of them, being the voice of her P.E. teacher), but none of them gave her that instant ‘nails on a chalkboard’ reaction like Lisa Peterson.

“Peterson. Always a pleasure,” Jamie turned to face her, nonchalant as always as she placed a hand on the hip of her baggy overalls while the other held to the backpack that was slung over her shoulder, “Do I even wanna know what you mean?”

“Well, you guys are lezzies, right? You like, french each other all the time?” Lisa smirked as her little band of mindless robots giggled behind her.

“Why? You jealous?” Jamie raised her eyebrows with feigned suspicion, stepping closer to the former pep squad captain.

The redhead gave her a disgusted look, eyeing her up and down, “Yeah, right.”

“You sure? You certainly seem interested. I can probably squeeze you into my schedule around 3:30,” she glanced down at her watch snidely, “Anything after that it might be a little bit of a wait, y’know, I’m pretty booked up.”

“Jamie, let’s just go,” Dani appeared behind her, tugging gently at her elbow to pull her back from stepping any closer.

“Yeah, Jamie, you don’t wanna be late for following Danielle around like a puppy-dog,” Lisa gave them a fake wave with a sarcastically sweet grin as they turned to walk together down the hallway.

Dani kept her arm linked with Jamie’s as they ignored the venomous laughter from the girls behind them. She didn’t want Jamie to get detention for fighting again. Not so close to the end of the school year or her birthday.

“God, she’s always been so weird,” Lisa could still be heard talking behind them, not far enough out of hearing range just yet, “No wonder her mother left, she was probably too embarrassed to be seen with her.”

Dani stopped, her white sneakers echoing as they squeaked against the tiled floor.

“Dani, come on,” Jamie sighed, trying to tug her along. She’d heard what Lisa said. She’d be lying if she said it didn’t cut a little bit. But they were about to be late for class and she knew how much Dani hated being marked tardy.

“I heard her dad got thrown in jail for selling drugs out of their basement.”

“I heard they had a whole meth lab in their house.”

“She and her brother got thrown into foster care, right?”

“Yeah, and her brother is in my little sister’s class. She said he’s like, retarded or something.”

“All that and she’s a dyke. That whole family is fucked up.”

Their words all blended together mixed in with their malicious laughter. Jamie was used to it, and she was getting better at letting it roll off her back. Girls and boys alike all had nasty things to say about her and her family even before they moved here. She’d been broken in the past, letting their words seep under her skin. But as the years went on, they became too repetitive for her care. Though the wound of her father’s arrest was still a bit fresh since he was still in jail awaiting a trial, she remained as unfazed as she could.

Dani, however…

Before Jamie could even react, her best friend had spun around, dropping her books to the floor before practically stomping back up to Lisa and her posse. Blonde waves bounced against her back with each determined step, but Jamie managed to catch up to her just before she could pounce, holding her by the crook of her elbow. And when that plan started to falter, she wrapped her other arm around her waist, attempting to pull her back.

“Don’t ever talk about her or her family like that!” Dani’s voice nearly reached a shrieking decibel, red-faced and squirming against Jamie’s tight hold on her in an attempt to get free.

Dani had never been the fighting type. She’d never even been the confrontational type. She didn’t even like to complain when the burger shack put onions on her burger when she asked for them to be left off. So holding her back from clawing Lisa Peterson’s eyes out was a completely new experience that Jamie never thought she would have in her lifetime. Dani was a cheerleader; She had leg and arm muscles that Jamie was honestly no match against. But she still managed to hold her back, narrowly avoiding an elbow to the tit every few seconds.

“Dani, let’s go, it’s not worth it,” Jamie muttered in a surprisingly calm voice as she strained against her, pushing and pulling, “Come on.” It didn’t help that the group of popular girls were still laughing, this time more at Dani’s expense.

“No! No, you heard what they said!” Dani practically clawed her way out of Jamie’s grip, but stood in place, directing her fiery rage towards her, but not at her.

“I heard what they said and it’s. Not. Worth it,” Jamie stared into her eyes that looked like angry ocean waves, crashing on the shore in the midst of a storm. But tears of hurt and frustration shined in them as well as Jamie held firmly to her shoulders, trying to calm her down. She’d never seen Dani like this, and she hated that it was on her behalf.

Dani’s erratic breathing came stubbornly through her nose as her lips were pressed into a tight, angry line with a clenched jaw. The girls’ laughter reached their ears again from just a few feet away, and Jamie could see Dani’s eyes shift to her left, glaring daggers before she began to turn to face them again. But Jamie caught her quickly with a hand raised from her shoulder to her jaw, keeping her facing forward instead.

“It’s not worth it,” she repeated quietly, unconsciously tracing her thumb across Dani’s heated cheek in an attempt to soothe the angry tremors that had spread through her body.

“They shouldn’t talk about you like that,” Dani’s voice was low, almost ominous as she stared fiercely back into Jamie’s green eyes, “I can’t let them talk about you like that, Jamie. I can’t listen to it anymore. They’ve been at it since middle school, it’s not—“

The bell rang over their heads as students began to scramble to get to their classes before the second ring. Lisa and her gaggle of minions took off in different directions, and soon enough Dani and Jamie were the only ones left in the hallway.

“Come on, let’s get to class,” Jamie took her to pick up her books from where they’d been dropped on the floor and draped an arm over her shoulders as they headed towards their algebra class.

“Can we just skip today or something?” Dani shook her head, taking in a deep breath as her steps fell a little short, dragging behind Jamie, “I’m not in the mood for algebra.”

But the brunette just scoffed, tugging her along with a breath of laughter, “As much as I’d love to, I‘d hate to see your perfect attendance record ruined so close to the end of the school year.”

Dani just sniffled and ran a finger under her nose. She knew Jamie was right, and she was so close to getting her certificate with only a few days left of school.

“Thanks, y’know,” Jamie smiled a bit, leaning her head against Dani’s as they walked with their legs in sync, “For sticking up for me. Never thought I’d see the day Poppins comes at anyone with guns blazing.”

“She’s a bitch,” Dani gave her a watery chuckle and wiped under her eyes, “And you’d do the same for me.”

“Any day. I love a good scrap,” she smirked, “And you know I’d love to add Lisa fucking Peterson to the tally of people I’ve had to fight around here.”

November 1990

Jiggling her key in the lock, Jamie let herself back into her apartment quietly, not wanting to disturb Dani if she was still sleeping. She’d been gone for a little over an hour, and she could feel the after-effects from the cold weather settling in her body. But she knew that the small case of sniffles would fade once she had a hot shower and a cup of tea.

Her plans changed, however, when the smell of bacon wafted to her nostrils and she heard a Blondie record play quietly from the old turntable she’d thrifted a while back. From what she could see, the pull-out mattress had been folded back into the couch, and the blankets and sheets had been folded and placed nicely atop the cushions.

Stepping further into the apartment, Jamie kicked off her shoes by the coat hook and breathed a light chuckle at the sight of Dani turned towards the stove, humming quietly to “Atomic” as she flipped an egg over in the frying pan; unaware that Jamie had returned.

The brunette just leaned against the bar top counter, drinking in the vision before her. Dani seemed almost blissful with damp, wavy hair falling over her shoulders from the shower she must have taken while Jamie was gone. And her hair was just wet enough to stain the shoulders of her grey t-shirt; The t-shirt Jamie recognized as the one she, herself, had been wearing just this morning before she got changed for her morning jog.

“Y’know, if you keep stealing my clothes, I’m not gonna have any left to wear,” she finally spoke up, laughing a bit at the way Dani gasped in surprise. Though her own cheeks flamed up a bit at the way her words sounded coming out of her mouth. But thankfully Dani didn’t seem to notice. If anything, she was too caught up in her own embarrassment of being called out for stealing another item from Jamie’s wardrobe.

“Sorry,” she breathed out with an awkward smile, “Nothing I packed was really...comfortable enough.”

“Well, you know you don’t have to go rifling through my laundry. Closet’s full enough,” Jamie smirked, leaning onto her elbows as she watched the blonde turn the stove off and move around the kitchen. It was odd how new this all felt, despite none of it being new at all. This wasn’t the first time Dani had stayed the night. It wasn’t the first time she’d made breakfast in her kitchen. And it certainly wasn’t the first time she’d stolen an article of clothing from her.

But it all was different. This was Jamie’s first time waking up to all this with the knowledge that Dani saw her as more than just a best friend. And if she gathered the information from last night correctly, she’d seen her as more than just a friend for a while, now. Much longer than Jamie ever expected. Then again, she never expected this to happen at all.

“I know, but...it smelled like you,” the blush bled even heavier into her cheeks as she bit her lip, transferring food onto plates for the two of them and taking them to the table. “I, um...I made you tea,” Dani set the plates down, gesturing to the two steaming mugs that were already waiting for them on the table.

“Oh god,” Jamie chuckled as she pushed herself off the counter, rounding it so she could meet the blonde at the round table in the little dining space beside the kitchen.

Dani just laughed along with her, unconsciously smoothing out any wrinkles in the thighs of her blue jeans before sitting down. “I think I did it right this time, I swear,” she sat stiffly, almost curling into herself as she waited for Jamie to try the tea she’d worked so hard to perfect. She’d been failing at making a “proper brew” since she was thirteen, no matter how many times Jamie tried to teach her.

She watched with bated breath as Jamie slowly lifted the mug to her lips and took a careful sip, taking it as a good sign that she didn’t immediately spit it back into the cup like she used to. “Good?” blues eyes widened with a hopeful smile.

“Tolerable, at best,” Jamie chuckled an honest admission, shaking her head as she set the mug back down, “But if I didn’t know any better, I’d say you were trying to kill me with all that sugar.”

Pink lips quirked into a bit of a grin as Dani sipped from the mug she’d made for herself. “I think you just need to learn how to like sweetened tea.”

“I’ll start liking sweetened tea when you stop stealing my shirts,” a thin eyebrow quirked up at her, accompanied by a knowing smirk, fully aware that that day would never come.

“Fine,” Dani huffed, crossing her arms over her chest as Jamie gently tossed her head back with laughter, “Keep your bitter leaf water.”

“I will. But I’m still gonna want that shirt back.”

Everything felt so normal between them that for a moment, Jamie forgot that they even needed to talk in the first place. Things could easily just fall into place on their own. But she didn’t trust her luck enough to do that. Things didn’t just work out for Jamie. Anything she ever wanted, she had to work for it. The only good thing that had simply happened to her was Dani.

“So, uh…” she started, clearing her throat gently poking at her eggs with her fork as Dani did the same, “Last night.”

The blonde nodded her head, suddenly stiff again. “Yeah, I’m sorry,” she mumbled, “For barging in here, I mean. And for yelling at you.”

“You already apologized for all that. Told you already, I kinda deserved it,” Jamie gave her a crooked grin.

“I know, I was just...trying to ease into apologizing for the other stuff…”

Her heart dropped a little with the assumption that Dani regretted any of what happened last night. Why else would she apologize for it? Unless she thought that Jamie had any regrets about it. “No need to apologize for that either…” her voice was quiet, testing the waters as her heart thumped deep in her chest.

“Really?” Dani asked quietly with her head ducked down in shame, though she still peered up at the brunette through the strands of wavy, drying hair that hung down in her face.

A reassuring smile curled on Jamie’s lips as she instinctively reached across the short distance between them, tucking Dani’s hair back behind her ear. “Course,” came out almost inaudible before she retracted her hand and cleared her throat.

Though her head was still tipped down, she could just barely make out the flush that was bleeding its way into Dani’s face with a shy grin; A grin that told her that Dani didn’t really want to apologize for kissing her at all. And that was fine with Jamie. She didn’t want any apologies. If she were honest, all she wanted was to relive the endless string of kisses from last night over and over again; Maybe even make new memories rather than rely on the ones that were spinning in her head now.

But she knew it wasn’t that easy.

“However,” she started, a little louder this time as she took a deep breath, “Think we need to...maybe talk about it...Make sure we’re on the same page, y’know?”

“I think we’re on the same page, Jamie,” Dani smirked a little in her direction.

The brunette just laughed a little, sipping at the tea in front of her with minimal cringing behind the mug, “Even if we are, you know there’s a lot more to take into account…right?”

Dani just nodded, starting to simply push food around her plate with her fork, distracted and most likely overthinking every little thing that came to mind. But Jamie just reached over for her free hand that was resting delicately atop her jeans, squeezing her fingers before blindly looping a pinky around hers.

Worried blue eyes met hers as Dani took in a trembling breath, nodding again at the silent promise from Jamie that talking it out wouldn’t mean talking themselves out of whatever they both wanted. And when her shoulders relaxed at the reassuring squeeze of her little finger, Jamie lifted their hands to her lips to press a kiss to each of Dani’s knuckles, hoping that she could feel the devotion she poured into every one.