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17 cherry tree lane

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November 1990

A playful giggle was breathed against Jamie’s lips, sending a delightful shiver down her spine. She could swear that this was some kind of cruel trick being played on her. After everything, all these years, she was having a hard time believing that she was in this position; laying across her bed, trapped under Dani, who had her arms pinned down and her lips smiling against hers.

For the first time in a long time, she genuinely felt like a kid again, play-fighting with Dani like she used to when they used to play keep-away with the TV remote control on summer days when it was just too hot to play outside. Clearly, this was different. When they were kids, there was no kissing, no wandering hands creeping under shirt hems. Now they were two full-grown adults making up for lost time in any way that came to mind.

They’d had their talk over breakfast. It had been hours of communication, bringing up concerns and things that needed to be considered before they could move any further.

For starters, there was the matter of the kids. Miles and Flora would always come first. There was no argument there. Dani and Jamie knew that whatever happened between them would remain between them to begin with. Obviously, if things progressed enough in the future, the kids would have to know; But neither of them wanted to involve the kids just yet. Especially not so soon after they lost their father.

Jamie was worried that it would be confusing for them, seeing their aunt holding their mom’s hand or kissing her around the house. But to Dani, there was no one better. The kids already adored Jamie, so this would save her the trouble of having to introduce them to a stranger if the circumstances were different and she chose to start dating again after a while.

Secondly, there was the clear fact that Dani was still recently widowed. And she was still grieving. Not to mention Jamie couldn’t help but feel bad for getting more than friendly with Dani when Eddie had barely been gone for a month.

It was nice to know that Dani’s feelings were sincere and that this wasn’t just some kind of coping mechanism for her. But even if Dani never felt any semblance of romantic feelings for her husband, he was still a major part of her life. Her whole life. And she still needed to adjust to life without him.

But Dani eased Jamie’s worries a bit with the mention that she had a family therapist lined up for herself and the kids so they could all work through it together, as well as a separate one for herself. And Jamie made sure to tell her, repeatedly, how proud she was of her for seeking out that help.

The third concern was the distance. Living an hour away from each other may work out in the beginning while they’re taking things slow, but they would have to figure something else out at some point in the future. And if things went according to her plan, Jamie would be leaving for Vermont for at least a few months. She didn’t know when, but if she opened the New England store she’d been dreaming of, it would put her even farther than just an hour drive.

But all these concerns and worries were things they could work through later when the time came to deal with them. At some point during their conversation, Dani had boldly slid herself into Jamie’s lap, smoothing the worry lines on her forehead with little pecking kisses and the delicate tips of her fingers. And Jamie let her arms slip comfortably around her waist, holding her close like she always did.

And from there, everything was as it always was. Just a little different this time. Jamie still oversaw Dani after she offered to water the plants around the apartment, worried that she would drown every last one of them (like she’d unfortunately done several times after trying to help). But this time, she thanked her with a smiling kiss to her lips after she’d finished.

Like always, Jamie made lunch for them both while Dani sat on the kitchen counter, dangling her legs off the edge as she chatted about any old thing. But this time, while the food simmered on the stove, Jamie stood against the counter between Dani’s knees, chuckling into deep, steady kisses as Dani held her close with arms looped around her neck.

And they still retired to Jamie’s bedroom at the end of the night. Dani still stole one of Jamie’s many band t-shirts even though she brought pajamas of her own. But this time, somehow, they ended up wrestling on top of the comforter, pinning each other down victoriously as they filled the dimly lit room with blissful laughter.

Jamie had Dani pinned to the mattress at one point, kissing around her neck and jaw with playful little bites as tickling fingers crept under her t-shirt to her sides, knowing exactly where Dani was most ticklish. But Dani had managed to break free and flip them over, planting her knees on either side of Jamie’s hips as she held her arms down and giggled against her lips.

The day just felt so easy. It was strange how they’d done exactly what they always did when Dani came to visit, just with one major difference. They’d always been close, and the feelings were always mutually there. But now, those feelings were out in the open, finally free and allowed to be felt. Even kissing felt so normal; Like they’d been doing it all along. They’d wanted this all along. So, as normal as it already felt, it was no less exhilarating to finally have it; To have each other.

April 1973

“You want another marshmallow?” Dani smiled brightly. Even without the light from the moon or the flames from the unscented candles in the grass between them, Jamie was sure that Dani’s smile could light up the whole town. Even more so now that she’d gotten her braces off a few months ago.

“Think I’ve had enough to keep me up all night,” the twelve year old gave her a bit of a laugh, watching as Dani held another marshmallow for herself over the large, cylindrical candles that were sitting steadily in the grass.

This wasn’t how their night was supposed to go. Dani was supposed to be at Marcia Sheppard’s slumber party for the night. And Jamie...well, Jamie had homework she could catch up on; Maybe even get a jump on reading a few more chapters of To Kill A Mockingbird for English class.

But instead, both of them were sitting outside the tent Dennis had set up for them in Jamie’s backyard. The “tent” was just a sheet thrown over the clothesline that was held down with rocks on each of the four corners, but it was perfect for the two small girls and their sleeping bags.

“Sorry you’re stuck here with me,” Jamie sighed as she gave in and reached for another marshmallow, putting it on the small twig beside her so she could roast it over the small flame of their little makeshift campfire.

“I’m not stuck here with you, Jay.”

“Well, the party would probably be a lot more fun,” green eyes rolled with a shy grin when Dani reached over to shove her shoulder.

“Not without you there.”

Jamie gave her an incredulous look, like she was crazy for thinking that. “Marcia has a brand new color TV.”

“A color TV can’t toast marshmallows and point out constellations with me,” an eyebrow raised on Dani’s forehead, challenging Jamie to come up with a counter argument. And she simply grinned victoriously when she couldn’t.

Jamie just chuckled at Dani’s smugness, shaking her head as blew on her freshly cooked marshmallow puff. Marcia Sheppard’s family had quite a bit of money, but that really was her only redeeming quality. Aside from that, the girl was pretty boring from what Jamie knew about her.

They’d hardly spoken at school, but Jamie knew Marcia didn’t like her. She was just like the girls back in England that would tease her for her hand-me-down clothes or her hair. And apparently, little superficial things like that were enough to keep Jamie from being invited to her slumber party. She didn’t want to go anyway. She didn’t really like any of the girls at school enough to want to sleep over their houses; color TV or not.

Dani had been invited to the party earlier in the week when Marcia was handing out invitations during lunch. The girl with long brown hair came up to their table, handing Dani her invite with a smile. But after learning that Jamie wasn’t invited, Dani politely handed it back to her and carried on eating her peanut butter sandwich. And Jamie, as flattered as she was, had been berating her about it all week.

“Well…thanks,” the older girl offered her a half smile as after she swallowed her marshmallow, wiping her mouth on the sleeve of her sweatshirt.

She and Dani had been friends for a little more than a year and a half now. She’d never kept a friend for that long before. And she was starting to get comfortable with the fact that Dani just might be around for longer. She’d held herself at a distance for a while, not wanting to get too close to this new person in her life if there was a strong probability that Dani would just get sick of her and cast her aside like other people had done.

But the blonde had been doing nothing but the opposite since they met; Whether it was inviting Jamie places with her and Eddie, or refusing to go places because Jamie couldn’t come along. She’d been proving herself as a friend ever since the beginning when she came over to help Jamie with her fractions. And the brunette couldn’t have been more grateful to have her around. Because who knows where she would be or who she would have to hang out with if she hadn’t given Dani a chance?

A little later in the night, they were laid out in the grass, gazing up at the endless sky full of stars. For some reason it always freaked Dani out, looking up and getting caught up in the thought of the great infinity that existed outside of earth. Even on their sixth grade field trip to the planetarium last year, Dani was clutching the armrests of her seat in the planetary dome as the employee explained the stars and planets over their heads.

“You okay over there?” Jamie chuckled quietly, turning her head to see Dani’s fingers digging nervously into the grass.

“It’s just crazy to me that there’s so much out there. And we’re all just specks on a floating rock, worrying about who has the biggest TV or the neatest looking pair of jeans,” the blonde let out in one breath, not tearing her eyes from the dark sky above them.

Jamie glanced over from where she was sprawled out in the grass beside her, taking in the way her blue eyes widened and her jaw slacked, like she was being hypnotized and being sucked in by the sky. “Crazier to me, that space and somehow you and I ended up right next to each other,” she breathed a puff of laughter, shaking her head as she traced the big dipper with her fingertip.

“Lucky us,” Dani giggled and turned over onto her stomach to pick at the grass, needing the distraction from the thought of infinite space.

Sitting up, Jamie pulled her knees to her chest with a content sigh, distractedly toying with the frayed hem of her pajama pants. “Can I tell you something? You can’t laugh.”

“Of course,” Dani sprinkled the bits of grass from her fingers before sitting up as well, wiping any dirt onto the skirt of her long flannel nightgown.

A tongue flicked out over Jamie’s lips as she thought of how to word what she wanted to say. She always liked to think that she was pretty articulate for a twelve year old. But at times like now, when it came to being open and vulnerable with another person, she could never quite put the right words in the right order.

“I, uh...I think you’re my best friend,” she mumbled, pulling her knees closer so she could rest her chin on top of them.

“You think I am?”

“Yeah. Pretty sure,” Jamie nodded, furrowing her eyebrows when she looked over and saw Dani’s lips pressed together to hide the giant grin that was begging to be set free, “Hey, you said you wouldn’t laugh.”

“I’m not laughing!” Dani said through a contradicting giggle, “Why are you telling me this now? Did you not know before?”

The brunette just snorted and rolled her eyes with a tight smile of her own, feeling the tickle of heat forming in her cheeks. “Well, I try not to make a habit of handing out that title like it’s Halloween candy,” she stated firmly with a shrug, “Takes a lot to earn my trust, I guess.”

“So you’re saying I’ve earned your trust?” Dani’s grin practically reached her ears.

A single eyebrow quirked in her direction, “Any reason you shouldn’t have?”

“No,” she shook her head, scooting over to sit flush against her side so she could bring Jamie’s folded up body in for a hug, “You’re my best friend too.”

“Thought Eddie was your best friend.”

“I can have two best friends,” Dani rested her chin on Jamie’s shoulder, watching from the side of her face as her closed smile grew, “I like having a girl best friend cause we get to have sleepovers. I don’t do that with Eddie. I wouldn’t really want to anyway.”

“Why not?”

“He snores,” Dani’s nose scrunched up in disgust, making Jamie laugh when she saw the look on her face, “He always has. Ever since we were kids.”

“Hey, we’re still kids,” Jamie nudged her gently with a playful smirk, “Don’t be so quick to grow up, Poppins.”

November 1990

“Oh, come on, now you’re just cheating.”

“Am not!”

“Are too!”

“You had something in your hair!”

“Uh huh, sure,” Jamie just rolled her eyes with a laugh. She’d had her thumb pinned down under Dani’s again after Dani used her free hand to take advantage of the fact that Jamie’s whole body shivered when her fingers raked against her scalp; A piece of information she’d learned earlier today.

She wasn’t sure how long they’d been playing this game, but it felt like no time had passed at all, even though a few hours had probably passed since they’d turned in for the night. At some point in the last few hours, they’d gone from rolling around and innocently pinning each other down on the mattress, to laying beneath the covers, caught up in a game of thumb war. But in this game, whoever lost each round had to share a secret.

It had just been an exchange of silly stories so far; Little things that weren’t important, but still secrets that they’d yet to share with each other, even after nineteen years of friendship.

“Spill,” Dani chuckled, “You lost fair and square.”

Jamie just scoffed a quiet, “Fine,” before thinking of what she could say. With Dani’s obvious cheating, she’d been having to come up with more secrets and she was starting to feel like she was running out.

She’d already told her about the time she’d given her first grade teacher a valentine with a marriage proposal back in England, and the fact that she had Xanadu (Dani’s favorite movie) on VHS and put it on whenever she missed her. She knew Dani was never going to let her live that one down, considering Jamie was always so vocal about how much she detested that movie. And she had a feeling that Dani was going to make her watch it tomorrow before she went back home.

“I, uh…” she started with a smiling huff, “I almost tried to hook up with your cousin at your wedding.”

“Jamie, you did try to hook up with my cousin at my wedding. Do you not remember that I caught you two in the coat closet?”

“No, not Theo,” she shook her head, “First choice was Nell, actually.”

“Nell? Really?”

“I mean, I was a miserable fuck having to watch you get married,” she admitted with a snort and a shrug, “Guess I figured trying to get with your twin was gonna help. If I remember correctly, drunk me thought it was a genius idea.”

“I imagine it would’ve been kinda hard to steal her away from Arthur,” Dani smirked, though her eyes were a bit solemn as she fiddled with Jamie’s fingers.

“Exactly why I went for Theo. Who am I to try to steal a straight girl from her boyfriend?” Jamie chuckled.

Despite the distant sadness in her eyes, Dani couldn’t help but laugh a little at the comment, “Well, Nell actually likes men and women from what I’ve been told. But she’s been in love with Arthur since college.”

“Blimey,” Jamie’s eyebrows raised as she took in the information, “Good for her. Sucks for drunk me, though.”

The small bout of laughter between them faded as a new round of the thumb war started up. But Jamie had Dani’s thumb pinned in seconds as if the blonde wasn’t even trying. And before she could even grin in her victory, Dani was letting her confession fall from her lips.

“I feel really guilty...about all this,” she cleared her throat after a deep breath, “Not that I don’t want to...do this, but...I can’t stop thinking about how we just...lost so much time, y’know? It could have been you and me since high school.”

Jamie’s brows knit together as she listened, weaving her fingers through Dani’s as she listened intently, trying to understand.

“But...I feel so selfish for thinking that. I don’t like thinking it was wasted time because...cause I love my kids so much. You know I do. And I...I did love Eddie. I did. And he took care of us. But I wasn’t…in love with him,” Dani rambled through shaky breaths as she tried to explain, “I just...I don’t know how to love the time I had with him and wish that things were different at the same time. Either way, it feels like I’m hurting somebody.”

Nodding slowly, Jamie brought her hand to Dani’s cheek, grazing her thumb soothingly over her skin to calm her down a bit. “Hey, I get it. Nothing wrong with wishing we had more time. And you know I love those kids and wouldn’t trade’em for anything. Not even if I was given the chance to do it all over. Y’know why?”

Dani shook her head, her eyes glassy as she melted into the palm on her cheek.

“Cause we’ve got now...right? The circumstances are a little...different. Not really ideal, but...it is what it is. And...y’know what, I think maybe it’s better this way,” Jamie pursed her lips together as she attempted to form any kind of helpful, coherent thought, “We were still kids back then; still had a lot of growing up to do...Things may not have gone the way we like to think they would’ve.”

The blonde nodded her head slowly, leaning across the short distance to press her forehead to Jamie’s.

Jamie stroked her thumb across the line of her jaw as she held her close, breathing in the minty toothpaste on her breath. “I feel pretty guilty too, if I’m honest.”

“Do you?” Dani pulled back a little to look at her, curious.

“Yeah. I mean...I dunno. Feels a little fast for me to be making moves on a guy’s wife so soon after...y’know. Don’t wanna be disrespectful or anything,” she attempted a chuckle, still not sure how to go about talking about Eddie’s death with her. But Dani’s lips were on hers after a moment of silence, warm and reassuring like she’d been doing it for years.

“Technically,” Dani started between slow, smiling kisses, “I made the moves on you.” She pushed herself a little closer, letting a leg get tangled loosely between Jamie’s to get as close to her as she could. “And second,” she released an airy breath against her lips, “I was never...his. Not really.”

It sent a shiver down Jamie’s spine, thinking about just how long Dani was playing pretend. It was just about her whole life, really. She couldn’t even imagine how trapped she must have felt; Especially when she felt like she didn’t have anyone to confide in about her sexuality. At least Jamie had people she could talk to about Dani; Whether it was Hannah or Carson or whatever poor bartender she would drunkenly rant to. But Dani had been lost and wandering in her own head for thirty years, too afraid to even tell her diary about her feelings.

“So, please don’t feel guilty,” Dani continued in a whisper as her eyelashes tickled Jamie’s cheeks.

Nodding her head, Jamie brought her lips to hers again, pulling the fabric of the t-shirt at her side into her fist, trying to bring her impossibly closer. It really was crazy just how naturally everything came with Dani. Nothing was awkward or uncomfortable. And as much as she wished they could have been doing this all along, at least they had it now, just like she’d said. She didn’t know about tomorrow, or next week, or next year. But she was already considering herself the luckiest woman on earth just for what she had here and now.

Pulling breathlessly back from the kiss, Jamie just rested her forehead against Dani’s again, feeling the heated skin of her neck under her palm. “I fucking hate raisins,” she blurted as she caught her breath, causing an awkward silence to form between them as Dani pulled back with a confused crinkle between her brows.

“What?”

“I hate them. Always have. Just...never had the heart to tell you.”

“But...the cinnamon raisin cookies I always make that you love so much—“

“I spit the raisins out when you’re not looking,” she winced.

“Jamie…” Dani pulled back farther, putting some distance between them as she feigned offense with a hand placed on her chest, “I don’t...think I can do this anymore.”

“No, come on, this is why I didn’t wanna tell you!” Jamie pleaded through a fit of laughter, reaching to pull her back.

But Dani sat up and turned her back with her arms crossed defiantly over her chest, “Nope. I’m hurt,” she stated firmly, shaking her head so her hair shook against her shoulder blades.

“Dani,” Jamie chuckled, staring at the back of her t-shirt in the moonlight coming through the sheer curtains. She smirked a bit to herself as she leaned up to wrap her arms around Dani’s waist and pull her down to the mattress, holding her down as she hovered over her and kissed her through her giggles. But she quickly released her hold on Dani’s arms, smirking against her lips when they immediately wrapped around her neck to bring her in closer.

“I guess I can...make chocolate chip or something...when you come over,” the blonde panted as her throat bobbed, staring up into the green eyes above hers after she pulled back for air.

Jamie just breathed a quiet chuckle, ducking her face into the crook of Dani’s neck, mumbling, “Perfect,” as she peppered flushed skin with kisses. And she wasn’t at all surprised that she never wanted to stop.