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All the usual disclaimers apply; even though this is an Uber-Xena story and the names have been changed, well, we all know who it really is!!
Subtext: Hades, yes! Although it's about on the par of an "Ellen" episode. But I won't guarantee that it will stay that way if I continue this story!
No little creatures were harmed during the making of this story, although a certain pastry did get demolished while in the creative process.
Enjoy! And as always, let me know what you thought of it and if anyone would like me to continue with these characters.
Brie sat nervously in the car, waiting for Jackie to arrive. She had been through so many changes lately that she didn't know how she was ever going to make it through another one. Especially this one. Other cars were arriving in the parking lot as the light grew dimmer and the dark of the evening crept in. A shiver ran through her body, but it wasn't from the cool air.
Other cars had arrived and parked while she waited, various types of people getting out and heading toward the doorway in the back of the building. She was a little surprised at the diversity of the group, but chalked it up to common pre-judgement. Brie looked at her watch for the umpteenth time and was starting to get really nervous and had just about decided to leave when a familiar blue car pulled into the parking lot. 'Jackie', she thought to herself, 'finally!'
The blue car pulled by her and parked about six cars away, but Brie was already out the door and walking toward Jackie's car before her friend even opened the door. "Jackie!", she called "I thought you'd never get here!"
"Sorry I'm late, sweetie, but Norm got home a little late and so dinner ran late, too. The meeting hasn't started yet, though, so we've got time." Jackie called over to her as she closed and locked the door. Then turned to Brie and gave her a short hug. "I didn't mean to worry you. You weren't planning on taking off, now were you?"
"Naw, I just wouldn't have gone in without you. This whole thing is scary enough." Brie stepped into place next to her friend as they walked toward the doorway. "You know, I watched a lot of people go into the meeting and I was surprised by all the different types."
"I told you that there were all kinds of people that come here. You don't need to feel out of place." Jackie relayed to her as she opened the door and they both walked through. They were in a short, wide hallway that was just about lined with people sipping on coffee and chatting away amicably. The first doorway to the right contained a small kitchen/break area where there was a very large pot of coffee on a table along with all the usual 'fixings'. This seemed to be the initial gathering place before the official meeting began and Jackie headed there along with all the rest of the group, dragging Brie along with her. She poured a cup for herself and one for Brie, fixing it just like she did for her at work - one sugar and light on the cream.
Brie and Jackie both walked down to the end of the corridor where there was a doorway to some offices and to the right of them, the entrance to the church hall. Brie walked in looking around cautiously as if expecting something weird to happen to her at any minute. What she saw was carefully placed tables and chairs that were just about filled with the gathering of people that had arrived before them. Jackie wound her way through the tables and chairs and sat down to the right of the table that formed the focus of the meeting. Brie sat down next to her and continued to survey the room, trying to take in the sights and the sounds of so many people talking all at once in so many different conversations. It seemed that everyone was talking or listening to someone and that they all knew each other in a most intimate way.
Brie continued to sip on her cup of coffee while discretely taking in all of the room. Her eyes traveled past the front of the room where a few people were already sitting and seemed to be deciding when to get the meeting started. Her gaze suddenly landed on a pair of startling blue eyes that were staring back at her! The eyes belonged to a stunning, dark haired woman who sat at the far wall with her chair leaning against the marred paint. Even though she was sitting, Brie could tell that this woman was tall and well muscled. She had a long angular face with a full mouth and high cheekbones, and her olive toned skin contrasted with the white of her collared shirt. Draped over the crisp man's dress shirt was a well tailored black leather vest, set atop her washed out jeans. Brie pulled in a sharp intake of breath as she looked down quickly, embarrassed that she had been caught blatantly staring at this vision of a woman. "My god, she's beautiful!' thinking to herself that she could even be looking at a model, for all she knew.
Brie looked over to her right to see what Jackie was up to, only to find that her friend was deep in conversation with an older woman that was sitting at the table behind them. She didn't want to disturb her discussion so she waited quietly and looked around a bit more, being careful not to look in that woman's direction. Soon the gathering of people started to quiet down and when it was a manageable noise, then one of the men at the front table tapped a small gavel to quiet down the rest of the group. Jackie turned back to Brie, paying her some attention. She started to inform Brie that she didn't have to say anything about herself but that she should at least just say 'hi' and her name.
Brie tapped Jackie on the arm and quietly asked her if she knew who that tall, dark haired woman was seated against the wall. "Oh, Brie!" she exclaimed to her as she followed the discrete pointing finger that belonged to Brie, "That is Zim, and a lot of trouble if you ask me!"
"Why? She seems quiet to me. I was just struck by her different features."
"Brie, Zim has done time in jail and she hangs out with the wrong kind of people, and I've even heard rumors that she actually killed a man, once. That's enough reason for anyone to stay away from her!"
"Is that why she sits alone and no one comes over to bother talking to her?"
"No, Brie. She isolates herself. She doesn't seem to want to get close to anyone here in the group and most people keep it that way!"
Brie stole a quick glance toward the dark haired woman who was looking toward the speaker in the front. Zim was still tilted back in her chair with her arms loosely folded over each other in her lap, but her concentration was definitely on the person speaking. Brie decided that she needed to pay attention too, after all, that was the reason that she was here.
"...and now let's get right to our main speaker this evening. He's a guy who's been around these groups for a long time and usually has a lot to say. Let's welcome Jim from the Springdale group." The speaker in the front of the room was just finishing as Brie turned her attention to the front.
Another man sitting at the front table got up and started to speak, "Hi, my name's Jim and I'm an Alcoholic!"
"Hi, Jim!" a chorus of voices called out from all the people in the room.
Brie sat forward and listened to this man as he told his story of drinking too much an how it had affected himself and his family, how he lost a job and friends and had even gotten arrested. She thought at times while listening to him, how doing this would ever help her with her problem. She didn't see the connection. But then, he was done and a woman who was sitting up front as well, got up to speak after Jim.
"Hi, my name is Helen and I'm an Alcoholic."
"Hi, Helen!" the chorus answered.
This quiet, well dressed woman spoke softly but the words rang loud in Brie's ears. She had slumped back in her chair as the former speaker had droned on about drinking with his buddies and fights and arguments and on ... and on... But this voice spoke of familiar things. "...I drank alone, for the most part ... he would go out with his buddies and come home late ... isolated ... no meaning in my life anymore ... arguments over nothing ... more time alone, drinking to feel nothing ... a whirlpool dragging me under ... no place left to go ..." Then Brie heard the words that lit a light for her darkened soul. "I found a peace among the camaraderie here, in the sharing of stories, thoughts and meaning in our lives. We together share a purpose on this Earth and it is blessed. We, all of us together, in all of our different varieties, form a light that shines out into the darkness of men and women's souls and call them home. Collectively and individually, we make a difference. Thank you for letting me share."
The woman sat down and Brie let out a sigh. There were tears in her eyes that were on the verge of falling, so she quickly reached up and wiped them away with the back of her hand. As she did that, her head tilted so that when she opened her eyes they again stared into brilliant blue from across the room. This time she smiled and nodded her head. The blue eyes blinked once and an eyebrow arched in wary surprise, but the head nodded back in recognition.
It was break time and Jackie got up to get another coffee, "You want one?" she asked of Brie. "No, I'm all set. I'd like to get to sleep tonight." "Ok, I'll be back." Jackie headed to the kitchen, chatting with another woman that she walked with.
Brie glanced over to that intriguing woman and noticed that she still sat there alone. The chair was no longer leaning against the wall and she was taking a drink from a plastic water bottle. Something inside of Brie made her get up from her chair and walk over to this woman. She sat down in the chair on the opposite side of the table from the dark haired woman and said "Hi" when the blue eyes looked up at her.
Brie's right hand went out towards the woman as she pushed the words out of her mouth, "I'm Brie. It's my first time here."
Zim looked carefully into bright green eyes and with just a little hesitation, reached out her hand and shook Brie's in greeting. "Name's Zim. Nice ta meet 'cha." She pulled her hand back quickly and closed the small book that she had been reading. She wasn't sure how to take the friendliness of this woman.
"What're reading?" Brie asked while turning her head to try to read the title.
"Tao Te Ching." Zim answered, knowing that this woman would have no clue as to the meaning of it.
"Dow ... what? You're reading Chinese?" Brie asked.
"No," with a chuckle and a smile, "it's an English translation of Chinese philosophy. It's known as The Way."
"Wow, pretty heavy reading."
"Actually, it's a pretty light book."
Brie looked up quickly from the cover of the book and the long strong fingers that were holding it, into twinkling blue eyes. Realizing that this was Zim's attempt at humor, she smiled and then laughed out loud. Zim smiled with her.
"You're not so intimidating!" Brie let slip out of her mouth before even thinking about it.
The look on Zim's face quickly became grim. "I suppose your 'friend' already filled you in on me. Is that why you're here, to see how much of it is true."
"No, I don't judge people by what others say about them. I'd rather make my own judgement."
"Then why did you say that?"
" I don't know. It just came out. I'll leave you alone, if that's what you prefer." Brie turned in her seat as if to get up, but then turned back to face this mecurical woman. "But, first, I want to know why you kept looking over at me!"
Zim looked up from fidgeting with her book, "Same reason that you kept looking over at me, I suppose."
Green eyes locked on electric blue ones and there suddenly seemed a strange familiarity about this exchange. They both smiled, and then laughed, neither knowing why, both knowing only that it felt comfortable.
"Break time is winding down, you better get back over to your seat or people are going to start talking about you on your first night."
"Why? Is it that bad to be seen talking with you?"
"In some people's eyes, yes."
It was a simple statement of fact and Brie could see little emotion coming from the blue eyes to give the statement any other meaning. "I ...I guess so. Maybe we can talk later sometime," as she got up to leave the table.
"Maybe." Came the doubtful reply.
Brie wended her way through the tables back to the other side of the room, just as Jackie was making it back with a fresh cup of coffee. "Here, Brie, I got you another coffee. Sometimes you need it to get through the meeting." She handed it to her with a wink.
"Thanks, Jackie." Taking a sip from the steaming cup, she stole a glance in Zim's direction.
"Brie, were you over talking to that woman?" Jackie asked as she noticed the direction of Brie's eyes.
"You know, I told you that she's nothing but trouble!"
"Why? She was nice to me."
"Oh? And how nice was she?"
"What do you mean by that, Jackie? She was just ... pleasant."
"Are you sure she wasn't coming on to you?"
"What? Coming on! You're joking ...."
"Brie ... she's ... you know, one of those women."
Jackie was exasperated now, "You know! They want to be with other women?!"
"Oh." Brie paused and looked over to Zim for a second, who was sitting quietly reading her book. She looked back and straight into the eyes of her friend. "Lesbians. Jackie, they're called Lesbians. I may have been sheltered a little the past few years, but I'm not stupid. I read a lot. And I know that they're not predatory 'beasts' like some people like to think!"
"Well, I wouldn't want to get too close to them!" Jackie said with a wave of her head in the air.
"Why? Afraid one of them might bite? C'mon Jackie, I'm not that vulnerable!"
Jackie looked at her friend and laughed a bit, "Ok, sorry I got so protective. It's your first night at a meeting and all..."
"I'm ok. Hey, don't we have more of the meeting to go through?" Brie said, pointing to the speaker table.
"Yep! Guess we better shut up and sit down!"
Brie smiled at her friend and sat next to her, but her mind wandered miles and miles away. Suddenly, all of these thoughts and feelings started to swirl around in her mind. She couldn't sort them out, they seemed too jumbled together to even find an end and unravel the thread. Before she knew it the rest of the meeting was over and people were standing up to form a circle around the room, joining hands in the process. A quick prayer was said and then the meeting broke up.
Brie woke up out of her reverie to find that the walls seemed to be caving in on her and she knew that she had to get out of there. She looked quickly to the exit and, seeing the crowd of people standing around it, knowing that it would be a while before she made her way out the door. "I need to get out, Jackie. I get a touch of claustrophobia on occasion - and this is one of those occasions!"
"Ok, no problem. Just push your way through! They'll get out of the way!" Jackie started to push her way through the crowd with Brie right behind. "'Scuse us. Pardon me. 'scuse me. Just passing through! Hi Bart, nice meeting tonight!" It didn't take long to wend their way through the tables and bodies that were blocking Brie's way to the doorway.
Soon, they were out of the hallway, and Brie was breathing the cool night air. "Wheew! Too many people in there! I thought I was gonna lose it in there! Thanks for playing 'linebacker' for me!"
"No problem. Say, want to come over to the house for coffee or something? The kids should be in bed by now."
"No. No, that's ok, Jackie. I'm kinda tired ... and this is all so new ... I think I just want to go home. Maybe take the scenic route and do some thinking on the way there."
"You sure, now? Cause it's no bother...."
"Yea, I'm sure." They started to walk towards their cars. "Look, I'll call you if anything comes up. Otherwise, I'll see you at work on Monday. I got a lot of stuff to do around the house." Brie tried to get into the car so that she could leave as quick as she could. She felt like laughing and screaming and yelling at the same time, so she didn't think that it was a good idea to be around her friend at the moment. Her car door was open and she slid into the seat as she called out, "Night Jackie, see you at work!"
Brie closed the door and let out the air that she was holding in her lungs. Her hands gripped the steering wheel but her body slumped back against the seat while she tried to get her bearings. "Let's see. It's about a ten minute drive to the house, and even if I go the long way, it's still only 20. Huummp. Maybe I just need to drive around for a while." She started the car and slowly pulled out of the parking space and then out onto the street. She took a left knowing that it took her away from her house and just drove without really thinking.
Her body remembered to stop at red lights and keep to the right and even to stop when someone pulled out in front of her from a parking space. But Brie's mind was elsewhere and her feelings of anxiety were pushing her more and more. She just kept making turns and unconscious choices so that soon the part of the city that she was in, was totally unfamiliar. She slowed down and noticed the littered streets and unkempt buildings that lined the street. Something red caught her eye and she slowed down even more as the car came closer to it. It glowed out it's friendly welcome and she took it as an omen to pull over and stop. "Bud Light" the sign beckoned to her. She got out of the car and started toward the door to the left of the sign. 'Just one. I'll just have one to get me through the rest of the night.' Her thoughts propelled her into the doorway.
Brie opened the door and was greeted by some C&W song that was blaring from an ancient jukebox. The sound was off and scratchy, but at this point she didn't really care. She looked around quickly and saw that the bar was a typical 'beer joint' with just enough room for the actual bar, a few tables and chairs, the ubiquitous jukebox and a pool table that took most of the floor space. There were less than a dozen men in there and one sloppily dressed woman sitting at the far end of the bar. Brie went up and stood at the center of the bar and asked for a 'Bud Light', deciding to pay homage to the sign that brought her in here.
"Draft or bottle, miss?" the slightly overweight bartender asked.
"Draft is fine." Brie reached into her right pants pocket and pulled out some folded bills. She peeled off a five from the top of the folded stack and placed it on the bar top. A hand from her right pushed it back at her, "Put it back, lady, I'll buy you this one!"
Brie turned to look and was not thrilled with the unkempt, drunk man who had slid over to sit on the barstool next to her. He had a beer belly and breath that told her how he cultivated that feature. The man already had a few to drink and was obviously coming on to her. She didn't quite know what to think or how to deal with this guy at the moment, just enough sense came through her anguished mind to refuse the drink so as not to lead him on with any false impressions. "No, thanks mister, I can buy my own drinks -- thank you."
She thought that her reply in that certain tone of voice would dissuade him from further advances. She was wrong. Brie turned back to her left and reached for the tall glass that was not sitting in front of her. Her hand had just started to bring it toward her lips, when a strong had reached over from behind her and clutched her wrist. At first, she thought that it was the annoying man trying to get her attention again, but then a soft, low voice whispered in her left ear. "Don't do it! It's not worth it. You'll just have to start all over again."
Brie was startled and stared briefly at the strong, supple hand that held her wrist so firmly. She shuddered slightly at the sensation that it was causing her. Then she looked to her left into sky blue eyes that held a very concerned look. "Z ..Zim, what ...?" Zim opened her mouth to say something but was interrupted but the slurred voice that leaned towards the both of them.
"Hey! Girlie! I wasz talkin' to her firrsst. You wanna girrl? Go ta one a those fag bars." He leaned over more and went to grab onto Brie's arm.
Zim had been concentrating on Brie's face the whole time so noticed the look of disgust on her face when the drunk moved to grab her. That was all the reason that she needed.
"C'mon, girl, I'll ..." The obnoxious man never got to finish his thought as his face met up with a backhanded fist. He staggered back and grabbed his nose with both hands. "Dou broge my dose!" he exclaimed as he looked up at a calm, but irritated six foot, dark haired woman.
"No, I didn't break you nose. I tempered the punch so that it would just be bruised, but I need to let you know something right now." Zim moved up to the balls of her feet and took a smooth fighting stance with both hands apart and opened, ready for any movement on the man's part. "If you insist on continuing this altercation, then I have to inform you that I hold two black belt degrees and at the moment I am armed with a deadly weapon, my body. I would advise you to back off."
The man raised his hand in surrender and backed off, stumbling over the barstools behind him. He retreated to the last barstool at the end of the bar, and rubbed the bridge of his nose as he glared at the two women.
"You ok?" Zim turned to Brie, her face quickly softening.
"Yeah, I don't think he would have hurt me..."
"Look around, Brie, this ain't exactly the Ritz!"
Brie didn't have to look around, she was aware of the seediness of the bar, she just hadn't cared at the time that she walked in. But the rush that went through her when she heard this woman speak her name for the first time! Wow! Where did that come from? What's going on with me? Aloud, she said, "I just wanted a drink. You know, to calm things down."
Zim leaned a little closer to her so that the others in the bar couldn't hear her. "Then why were you at the meeting tonight? Curiosity? No, I know your story, I don't have to hear it - but I'd like to. Let's go somewhere and get some real coffee." She held her hand out to Brie to help her down from the tall stool. Brie took her hand and extracted herself from her perch.
Zim called out over Brie's head to the bartender, who had backed away when the disagreement started. "Hey Chet, sorry about the interruption. Hope the rest of the night goes quietly!" She smiled and winked at him.
"It's alright, Zim. Wouldn't want the place to get too boring, now, would we??" He smiled back at her and waved as she turned to go.
"I'll stop by for a coffee sometime, Chet." Zim called out over her shoulder as she led Brie out of the dark and dreary place.
They walked out the door and headed up the street to where both of their vehicles were parked. Brie noticed the slightly worn Toyota truck parked behind hers, clean and polished to a gleaming shine. "Yours, I take it." She said to Zim, pointing toward the blue truck with silver trim.
"Yeah, my 'pride and joy'!" Zim's face lit up a little when she said it. "So, would you like to go somewhere to get a 'real' cup of coffee? The swill they serve at the meetings just doesn't cut it for me."
They had just stopped in front of Brie's car, she was about to reply when Zim heard a noise behind her and spun on the ball of her right foot and launched her left foot into the stomach of the man from the bar. He doubled over in pain but started to straighten up and lunge for Zim at the same time that her hand shot out from the stance she had quickly assumed and nailed him on the jaw. Even though he had four inches and about 50 pounds on Zim, he went down quickly. "Damn it!" she swore down to him, "Didn't you listen to me? I didn't want to hurt you!" She backed away covering his path toward Brie and the vehicles. "I think you'd better get checked, I might have cracked the lower rib with that kick." She turned away, certain that he wouldn't get up and follow them.
"So," Zim said to Brie, "Coffee?"
Brie was still staring at the man down on the ground and in a bit of shock at what she had witnessed. She just looked up at Zim and nodded.
"Good, follow me. I know of a good place not too far from here. But," she paused looking around the seedy neighborhood, "it's a much better location." She raised an eyebrow slightly as her eyes twinkled a little in the light of the street lamp.
Brie finally found her voice, "OK, lead on."
The ride was short, only a little over a mile, but Zim had been right, what a difference in neighborhoods. The area was on the fringe of the downtown area, a section that has gone through recent renovations. The truck pulled up near a neat row of small specialty shops, a coffee house being the one in the middle of them. Brie parked her car just beyond the truck when she saw a car pulling out. Zim waited on the sidewalk until Brie gathered herself together and joined her. They walked through the door of the "Coffee Clash", Zim holding it open for Brie. She motioned Brie over to a small table in the back and settled into a chair against the wall, facing the door.
The waitress came over to the table with a smile and a nod, "Hiya Zim! Long time no see! What can I get you tonight?"
"Large. Half Hazelnut, half Vanilla."
The waitress looked over to Brie, "Wow that sounds good. I'll have the same."
"Anything to munch on, ladies?"
"Brie, want anything to eat?" A nod and then a puzzled look as she tried to find a menu on the wall or the table. There wasn't one. "Hey, don't bother, the cook decides what to make each day, so they don't have regular listing!" To the waitress, "What's good?"
"Ya mean, what's edible?" The waitress tried to keep a straight face, but failed.
"I mean, the best of today's goodies!" Zim arched an eyebrow at her.
"OK, two apple strudels, coming up!"
"I take it you come here often." Brie made the observation.
"On occasion, when I feel like having a little humanity around me. Mostly I just come here to enjoy some coffee and desert and indulge in some reading."
"Like the book you showed me at the meeting?"
"Yea, I've been getting into eastern philosophy recently. Goes with the black belts. Of course, I should have learned the philosophy while I was getting the black belts, but I was too busy drinking at the time."
"Is that a hint for me?"
"No, just a statement of fact."
The waitress brought their coffees and plates of apple strudel, "There ya go, Zim. Let me know when ya need a refill on those cups."
"Thanks, Terry, I will." Zim smiled up at the older woman as she turned to walk back to the counter.
Brie stirred some milk and sugar into her cup, then took a quick sip from it. "It's good." She put it down and looked over at this extraordinary woman. "Why did you come after me, Zim? And how did you know where I was going?"
Zim had just taken a bite of the strudel, so chewed thoughtfully and swallowed before she answered. "Try the strudel, you'll like it."
"I'm sure I will, but why won't you answer my questions?"
"Because I don't have an answer, yet." Zim said quietly as she cut off another piece of strudel and brought it to her mouth.
"What do you mean, you don't have an answer yet?" Brie said anxiously as she leaned across the table toward the taller woman. "How could you not know why you did something?" The frustration of communicating with this stoic woman already taking it's toll on the younger one.
"It's not that I don't have an answer, it's just that I don't have a n answer for you, yet. At least, not one that you'd understand." She took a sip of her coffee, all the while keeping her bright blue eyes focused on the brilliant green ones that glared across at her.
Brie unconsciously brought a hand up to her face and rubbed her forehead as if trying to get some relief from this round about discussion. "OK, let me piece this together. We talked at the meeting and then you followed me after it was over - for no reason whatsoever-then came into the bar and stopped me from taking another drink, while at the same time, protecting me from some drunk guy who was making a pass at me. But you can't tell me why you did all of this."
"Yes, I can tell you one thing. I followed you out of the meeting because I knew that you were upset and that you would probably end up somewhere that you didn't need to be with something in your hand that you didn't need to indulge in. I didn't want you to start all over again." Zim's voice was low and controlled while speaking, absently pushing her coffee cup back and forth between her hands. She only looked up occasionally, feeling shy at revealing this much to the younger woman with warm, green eyes.
"You told me at the bar that you didn't want me to start all over again. Why?" The look in the green eyes was almost pleading.
"Sobriety" Zim began, looking down at the cup in her hand, "... is not an easy path, but it's ... the only way to take control for people ... like us, who have bodies that won't allow us to drink and ... stay in control. It's the price that we have to pay, if we ... truly want to live our lives." This was clearly difficult for Zim to get out of her mouth and she sighed slightly when finished, finally looking up into those mesmerizing green eyes.
Brie looked intently at her, a realization washing over her that truth, her truth, had just been so elegantly laid out for her. Tears filled her eyes at this and she impulsively reached over and laid her hand over Zim's. "Thank you," she said a little shakily, "I think that I really needed to hear those exact words tonight." She glanced down from gazing into blue eyes and realized where her hand was. The sudden energy surge that she felt from the contact caused her to pull away, maybe a little too quickly. "I ...I'm sorry," she said quickly to Zim, "I didn't mean to impose myself on you." She blushed slightly and looked down again.
"Hey," a long, strong finger touched her chin and pushed her face up to look into blue eyes again, "don't ever apologize for doing something that comes from instinct. You just had a 'eureka' experience and it's important that you understand that."
"What's 'eureka'?" Brie asked while still staring into deep pools of blue oceans that she felt she could surely drown in.
"Well," Zim smiled and lowered her hand back to the table, but continued to lean toward Brie, "it means that you've suddenly discovered something, usually the answer to a problem or some such thing, but it could also mean you've found a piece of the 'truth' that fits into the puzzle that we call ourselves. It's a good first step toward finding your spirituality."
"Spiritual stuff," Brie spat out of her mouth and leaned back into her chair. "I can't deal with all that church crap that is handed out! It's a bunch of bullshit!!" She proceeded to fold her arms over her chest in what appeared to be her final say on the matter.
"Ha!" Zim smiled broadly for the first time that Brie had known her, "religion and spirituality are usually two totally different animals!" She leaned back in her chair as well, and put her hand up and swung it wide around to her back. "I could talk most of the night about the differences between spirituality and religion, but, it's getting late and I have some things I need to do early in the morning."
Brie leaned forward again to the table. "Could we talk again soon? I'd really like to hear more ... and ... and I'd like to know why you're studying eastern philosophy after you already have two black belts. I bet that would be an interesting story!" Green eyes flashed and sparkled at the tall, dark haired woman.
"Brie," Zim started softly, "are you sure you want to talk more? After all ... didn't ... well, I mean ... your friend ... did she tell you ..."
"That you're a lesbian? Yea, she did. Not in quite those words ...." Brie had leaned forward to lower her voice so that only Zim would hear, "...but, Zim, I don't care. I'm not ... a narrow minded person. I like people for who they are, not what someone labels them." Her passion for her statement showed through like a beacon in the dark.
"Well, that's good to know about you." Zim smiled a crooked smile, then looked down at her hands that were fidgeting with a piece of napkin. "I am though. A lesbian, that is ... not just a label that someone gave me. Been out with myself all my life. So," she said slowly as she raised her blue eyes to green, "if you want to back down from your offer, I'll understand."
"Zim, I don't want to back down from anything! I truly enjoy your company and would love getting together again with you, just to talk. Look, what are you doing for dinner tomorrow night?"
"Uuummm, grabbing a pizza and sitting down to read?"
"Well, how about we meet somewhere for dinner and we can continue this discussion?"
"I don't ... I wouldn't ... I ... I... guess I could meet you somewhere."
"Great!! Pick a place and name the time."
"Amphipolis Gardens. It's Greek. Corner of Elm and Western Ave. 6 o'clock ok with you?"
"Perfect! I love Greek food! 6 is just fine." Brie smiled at the dark haired woman who suddenly looked ...scared? "What is it? Is something wrong?"
"No... no, I just thought of something I had to do tomorrow. Hope I can get it done in time to meet you." Zim's eyes got a far away look and then her brows knitted together in some deep thought. "No, it shouldn't be a problem. I can get there for 6." She smiled her crooked smile across the table at the concern in those green eyes.
The green eyes softened with the message and Brie smiled back. "Ok then, it's a date!"
A dark eyebrow shot up and the blue eyes faded somewhat to gray, "No, it's not a date." She sat back in her chair in what was certainly a defensive position. "Don't get the wrong impression on this."
"Zim, I didn't have any impression about this. Only that two people who seem to have hit it off as compatible, could get together and share some dinner and conversation. And maybe, just maybe, get to know each other better. And perhaps become friends."
Zim visibly relaxed. She leaned forward again across the table, "I'm sorry about jumping to conclusions, it seems to be one of my favorite exercises lately."
Brie burst out laughing at the remark. When she stopped, her hand unconsciously reached over to cover Zim's. "So, you do have a sense of humor!" The hand underneath hers moved it's thumb up to wrap over hers and both hands squeezed just a bit at the contact, and then both pulled away. Brie's stomach jumped at the brief contact. Zim didn't seem to react at all.
"I have to get going." Zim announced with a little urgency, "It's getting late and I have a lot to do tomorrow, before we meet for dinner."
"Wait," Brie cried out as Zim pushed her chair back and got up. "I don't have your number and you don't have mine, you know, in case something happens to change our plan."
Zim motioned to Terry who came strolling over, "Need the check, Zim?"
"Yea, that and can I borrow your pen and a piece of your pad?" Terry tore off their check and put it on the table, then tore off another sheet from the back of her pad and handed over her pen. Zim leaned over the table and quickly scrawled a telephone number on the top half of the paper, tore it off and handed the bottom half to Brie. She quickly printed out her number and wrote 'Brie' under it, so there would be no mistaking who's number it was.
Zim picked up the paper after getting a ten out of her wallet and handing it to Terry along with the check. She glanced at it and then stuffed it in her pocket. "Keep the change, Terry. I'll see ya the next time I drop in! Oh, and tell Howie that his strudel was fantastic, as usual! Gotta keep his swelled head pumped up or he might just stop making such great desserts!" She winked at Terry and then turned back to Brie. "I will see you tomorrow. Drive safe, now."
"I'll be fine. I will be there tomorrow, you can count on it." Brie had stood as well, feeling somewhere in her being that she should be giving this tall dark haired woman a hug, but holding back, knowing that it wasn't appropriate.
"Ok, goodnight now." Zim turned and walked to the door and out to her truck. Brie watched every second of movement until she could see her no more. She wasn't aware that Terry was still standing there on the other side of the table.
"Nice person, isn't she?" Terry spoke up after another minute had gone by.
"What?" Brie turned to this kindly, older woman who was smiling knowingly at her. "Oh, yea, she's ... very interesting. And nice."
"Are you going to finish your strudel and coffee, or is it a little too much for you right now?"
Brie was aware enough to catch the double meaning of that sentence. "Terry? Is that it?" Terry nodded to acknowledge her name. "How well do you know Zim?"
"I know her enough to know that she is a good soul. She's a loner and a very quiet one at that, so anyone that breaks through her barriers has to be as good a soul as she is." Terry smiled at the strawberry blonde woman with the striking green eyes. "You'll do just fine, dear, just fine."
Brie sat down at the table again and looked at her hardly touched plate of strudel. Looking up at Terry she said, "I suppose I should eat this - if only not to insult the cook!"
"That's right! Howie would have a fit if I brought that plate back into the kitchen! Want me to warm up your coffee so that you can finish your dessert?"
"That would be fine."
Brie sat in the coffeeshop for a while after Zim had left, eating the wonderful dessert and finishing up her coffee. She went over the events of the night in her mind and could only wonder where this fork in the road would take her. She got up to leave and went over to the counter to say goodbye to the more than helpful waitress.
"Goodnight Terry, I'm sure I'll be back again. Tell Howie that his strudel was great!"
"I will. I hope that you and Zim have a good time tomorrow." Terry smiled and raised an eyebrow that was almost a carbon copy of Zim's. If she didn't know better, she would have sworn that the two women were related.
"Thanks!" Brie called back as she pushed the door open with her shoulder. She stepped out into the night air and took a deep breath. Everything felt different to her all of a sudden, even the smell of the night air. 'I can't wait until dinner tomorrow,' she thought to herself as she opened her car door and got in.
'Well,' she said to herself as she absently started the car, 'I know it will be an interesting dinner!'
She drove straight home and went straight to bed, anxious for tonight to become tomorrow.
Copyright 4/2/98 D. A. Baird
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