Chapter 2 - Moonlight and Lobsters
Laura Junso was not only a participant in the stasis program; she was a major contributor to the research. She had taken on the role of sales representative because she and her colleagues agreed that they didn't want to leave the business of recruiting clients to someone who didn't completely understand the project and was only interested in collecting a commission. Linda continued to ask questions, but not so much because she was looking for answers. She knew everything she needed to know and was more than ready. She hoped that the discussion would spark Dee's interest, but Dee sat quietly through the remainder of the meeting with her arms folded across her chest.
Maria quizzed Laura with her usual pit-bull diplomacy. She was concerned about the lack of public information on the project. Laura admitted that Timeless Inc. was not interested in publicizing their discovery and that its existence would have remained in-house, however, the ultimate goal of the project was to one day fulfill the promise cryogenics once made. Their goal was to "pause" the lives of terminally ill patients while they were still alive and revive them when a cure was found, thus eliminating the problems involved in dealing with a body that had already died. For this they needed additional financing. They were also waiting for the aerospace industry to mature to the point where it would begin sending deep space missions that would last for decades. Until that time, Laura Junso and Timeless, Inc. were offering to sell a taste of immortality to those who were willing, able and wealthy.
By the end of the afternoon, Maria was satisfied that her clients welfare was not in jeopardy, or at least no more so than any of Linda's other adventures in pursuit of newer and bigger thrills. Although stasis was the most fanciful scheme had yet to pursue, it appeared to be far less dangerous than bungee jumping or photographing tornadoes, both of which Linda had gotten out of her system before meeting Dee. Maria had hoped that the relationship would mellow Linda, but the old restlessness continued to exhibit itself in new ways. Whatever Linda was seeking, at least this one seemed less likely to kill her. On the bright side, if it all panned out, Maria would have a few years respite from Linda's insanity while she slumbered in stasis.
"This really is the chance of a lifetime, you know," Linda exclaimed as she wove her way into the northbound traffic on Highway 1. Her effusive assertion met with cold silence from Dee. Determined to elicit some kind of response, she moved from the far left to the far right lane, cutting across the front bumpers of several vehicles and leaving a chorus of blaring horns in her wake. It was a maneuver that usually elicited a severe scolding from Dee, but she there was no indication that she had even noticed.
Linda pulled the car off the freeway and stopping in the parking lot of a San Mateo mini mall.
"What's the matter?" Linda said, turned toward Dee.
Dee continued to look straight ahead. Her jaws flexed as if she might be grinding her teeth. Dee enunciated in a clear, strong, unwavering voice, "I'm not doing this."
Linda didn't have to ask what. Dee had been more than a little hesitant about some of the schemes Linda had proposed in the past, but this was the first time she had completely rejected one without discussion. Linda furrowed her brow then restarted the car.
Days went by with no mention of Timeless Inc. or the stasis project. Everyday, Linda awoke early and left the house before Dee could drag herself out of bed. Linda appeared beside her for a quick peck on the lips and a cheerful farewell and returned late in the evening - always tired. With another peck, she would fall into bed and pass out before the sheets could absorb the warmth of her body. After several days of catching nothing but brief glimpses of her partner, Dee forced herself to get up when Linda did and joined her for breakfast. Instead of her usual leisurely coffee, eggs and toast over the morning paper, Dee walked into the kitchen to find Linda retrieving a pastry from the toaster.
"Where have you been going so early?" It wasn't the first time Dee had asked, but so far, Linda had managed to evade the question either by saying that she had to go and they would discuss it in the evening or that she was too tire and would talk about it in the morning.
Linda nibbled a corner off the breakfast square and washed it down with juice. "Nothing much. Sometimes I go to the library and do research. Sometimes I walk along the beach. Different stuff."
"Give me a second and I'll come with you."
Linda set her meal on the counter, caught Dee by the arm and pulled her into a tender hug. "Please, honey, I have things to do that you wouldn't be interested in and, well frankly, I feel like spending some time alone. You don't mind that, do you?"
Dee didn't see how she could reasonably object. They had agreed long ago that they wouldn't to be joined at the hip like some couple and where free to lead their own lives. Dee, who worked full time as a librarian before she met Linda, volunteered several days a week at the local school, but it was closed for summer break, leaving her little to occupy her day.
"No, but I would like us to spend some time together." Dee listened to herself and cringed at the whine that crept into her voice.
"Let's go out tomorrow night?"
"Sounds great," Dee replied, with more glee than she felt. The idea of making a date to spend time with her woman didn't set well with her. "Why don't we do it tonight?"
"I'll be late getting home tonight," Linda purred, giving Dee a conciliatory stroke on the cheek. She glanced at the clock. "And speaking of late, I'm gone. Tomorrow night. It'll be special, " she said as she planted a lustful kiss on Dee's mouth. After days of nothing but pecks, it almost made Dee swoon. She watched Linda disappear out the door, leaving behind her abandoned breakfast.
Notions were forming in Dee's mind at least one of which was very dark and ugly. For over five years, fidelity had been the corner stone of their relationship. Linda's previous reputation for excess included a sexual appetite for every size, shape and variety of partner. Be they man, woman, transsexual, transgender or hermaphrodite - they knew and were known by Linda Cahalo.
Linda was never at a loss for partners in her sexcapades. Not only was she wealthy, she was attractive. A thick brush of lashes veiled her sapphire blue eyes, hinting at the mischief behind them. A narrow nose perched symmetrically above chiseled lips that twitched in and out of a smile faster than most people could wink and with the same effect. Black shoulder-length hair swept back over modest ears that complimented the long contours of her face. Linda's body was soft where it should be and substantial to embrace despite being somewhat on the thin side. The thought of someone else knowing that embrace niggled at the edges of Dee's consciousness. The specter of Laura Junso came to mind. It had been a long time since they spent this much time apart and the feelings of abandonment where preying on Dee's insecurities. She felt like a golf widow, only Linda didn't play golf, which left Dee to wonder what sport her mate was engaging in?
Dee was surprised when she looked down and found the countertop littered with the crumbled remains of Linda's toaster pastry. She wiped the remnants from her hands and brushed the crumbs into the sink.
Despite her best intentions, Dee fell asleep before Linda returned that night. In the morning, she was awakened by a gentle shake. "I'm on my way out, but I wanted to remind you about tonight. Dress formal. I'll be back by 6:00."
Except for the fact that Linda was wearing different clothes, Dee might have suspected the woman had been out all night. By the time she could formulate anything more than a mumbled response Linda was gone.
Dee's emotions vacillated between irritation and eager anticipation as the day passed. Several times, she considered ignoring Linda's advice and dressing casually for the evening just to be contrary.
Dee chose a black velvet dress that flattered her assets, while concealing her deficiencies. The bodice had beaded straps that fell off her broad, bare shoulders. It hugged her ample bosom in a way that was both modest enough to be acceptable and revealing enough to be provocative. The skirt was asymmetrical - cut high, just below the hip on one side and swooping below knee length on the other. Although somewhat stout, Dee had a good thigh and shapely calf and the line gave the illusion of added length. She'd worn the dress once before. The bodice was stiff and suffocating, but it would be worth the minor discomfort if she could see that same look of desire in Linda's eye that rewarded her on its first outing.
She was closing the clasp on her favorite pendant when the Cahalo family limousine pulled into the drive. Dee guessed that Linda had borrowed the car and driver for the night. Instead of opening the car door to discharge his passenger, the chauffeur came to the front door of the house and knocked. He explained that he had been instructed to take her to meet Linda at the lake house.
It took over an hour to get to the Cahalo's Sonoma County cabin. By the time the driver opened her door, the sun was hanging low in the sky. Dee approached the rustic building feeling more than a little overdressed. She walked across the porch and leaned forward on the railing. The lake was blackening into an irregular terrain paved with a golden road that traveled toward the horizon. Soon the road would terminate in a great, white sphere and then disappear as day folded into night.
"You look beautiful." Linda stood behind her, propped against the doorway, giving Dee an appreciative perusal. "Sorry I couldn't pick you up myself. I had a few last minute things to take care of here." The light of the setting sun was absorbed in the mat black of Linda's tuxedo, with the exception of the satin lapels and white shirt, which reflected the rosy hue of the evening glow.
"You're looking pretty sharp yourself," Dee remarked. "We're not going all the way back to the City, are we?"
"No, I thought we'd eat here."
"Will you be using the hotplate or cooking over a campfire?" Dee teased. "If I'd known I'd have worn hiking boots instead of heels."
Linda embraced Dee at the hip, caressing the exposed flesh of her thigh, and whispered in her ear, "Boots don't do nearly as much for these gorgeous gams of yours." Linda ran the tip of her nose along the outer curve of Dee's ear and into the warm hollow of her neck, breathing deep to capture her scent.
Stifling a moan, Dee hummed a few bars of nonsense in harmony with the music that was rolling through the open doorway. "Still, do you think I'm properly attired for a cookout? My dress will be ruined." She was remembering the cobweb-infested room that served as eating, sleeping and living quarters in the one room cabin. Linda's father had purchased the property primarily as a retreat to escape the watchful eye of his mother. Linda had accompanied him on his weekend fishing trips. Since his death, the building remained boarded up most of the time. Linda's choice for their romantic rendezvous surprised Dee since Linda had seemed so uncomfortable the one and only time they were there before.
"I've been cleaning up the place," Linda replied as she detached herself from Dee's throat and tugged at her hand to lead her inside. "You won't recognize it."
Linda was right. The interior had been white washed to purity. It glowed in the candle light flickering invitingly off the crystal stemware on the cloth covered table in the center of the single room. An antique dining set had replaced the folding chairs and card table that Dee remembered. Soup was already steaming in the fine china bowls that dominated the elegant place settings.
"Sit, sit," Linda directed, holding the chair out from the table. "The soup will get cold."
Dee sat and took a delicate sip. "It's fantastic."
"I'd like to take credit, but Maurice is our chef for tonight." A man standing motionless to the side and dressed in the standard chef's apparel gave a little bow at the mention of his name. "He's also our waiter."
"My compliments," Dee said, toasting him with a spoonful of the delicious liquid.
Boiled lobster followed the soup. Dee marveled at Maurice's ability to prepare such a feast on the cabin's hotplate. He explained that even he had his limitations and that the meal had been prepared in the mobile kitchen in his catering truck. After he'd served the lobster, Linda dismissed him, telling him that they would take care of dessert themselves. With a smirk, Maurice and his movable feast were on their way and the two women were finally alone. When the lobster was gone, they moved to the bed where they fed each other spoonfuls of baked apple - Dee's favorite.
"So this is what you've been doing all the time you've been gone?" Dee asked, between bites.
"Part of the time," Linda replied.
"What prompted you to do this?"
"I've been thinking about the past and the future. I felt like I needed to do something, something that would let me leave this place behind."
Dee searched the impassive face before her. "You must miss your father."
Linda did not reply. Instead she brushed her lips against Dee's with the light strokes of a butterfly's wings, slowly increasing the pressure until Dee was helpless to do anything but respond to the silent seduction of Linda's mouth. Dee savored the satin texture of its folds and the taste of apple and spices on her lover's tongue.
Realization seeped in slowly. Something was wrong. Dee inhaled. Something was missing.
"You've stopped smoking," Dee cried. Over time she'd come to associate the taste of Linda's kiss with the flavor of tar and nicotine. While Dee wasn't fond of the taste, it seemed strange to find the familiar tang and acrid smell missing.
"I want us to do it," Linda stated. "Why shouldn't we try stasis? What is preventing us? You've got no family to hold you and all I've got is Gran. And it isn't as if we were going into cold storage for centuries. Five years isn't such a long time. People take that long traveling around the world."
The mention of travel brought to mind some of the vacations they had taken together. Where many people suffered the discomforts of travel to reach their destination, Linda was just the opposite. The moment she arrived somewhere, she was ready to leave. The restless need to move from place to place persisted until she returned to the familiar soil of San Francisco. Of course, once there, she would begin another quest for a new diversion. Given the choice between Linda's impatience in a foreign port and her local pursuits, Dee preferred the latter. Stasis was the perfect answer to Linda's vacation needs. She could go away for five years and still be safely ensconced just down the peninsula from her home.
"You're not worried about what might happen?" Dee reasoned.
"It doesn't seem to have done Laura any harm. I'm satisfied that you'd be at least as safe as you were riding up here, but if you're still concerned, I'm sure that Laura would be happy to show you data from the project. You heard her. Since they figured out which elements interfere with the process they've had a 100% success rate."
"Why is it always something?" Dee cried in exasperation. "Why can't you just enjoy the moment? Here we are, sharing a delightful evening together in this romantic place, eating a meal fit for royalty with beautiful music in the background. It's perfect."
"Yes," Linda agreed, "but even perfection gets old. There's only one thing that never gets old, never loses its appeal, never fails to enthrall you. It's the first time. No matter how much you enjoy something later, there's never anything like the first time. Remember the first time we made love?"
"You're kidding. You thought that was great sex. You were premenstrual, I was half drunk."
"So it wasn't the fuck of a lifetime. Do you remember how you felt?" Linda's hand moved down Dee's bare arm, pausing at the wrist, where the tips of her fingers proceeded to taunt the sensitive inner flesh. "Do you remember that feeling of nervous anticipation? The uncertainty? The awareness that fantasy was becoming reality? The discovery? First time isn't about being the best, it's about being distinctive."
The cadence of Linda's voice along with her finger dance mesmerized Dee. When both stopped simultaneously, it was like being jolted from a brief slumber. Linda paused for a few heartbeats and then resumed the caress and waited silently for Dee's reaction.
There would be no stopping Linda. She might even leave Dee behind. Dee wondered how she could survive for five years without this touch. This wasn't like the time she refused to go skydiving. This wasn't something Linda could do by herself and come back a few hours later. On the other hand, this probably wasn't as dangerous as skydiving, which Linda had finally talked her into - tandem skydiving at that, with Linda in control of the parachute. Maybe that was what bothered Dee the most - Linda always seemed to be the one in control of the chute.
Linda's fingers stilled again and Dee's flesh screamed for the sweet torture to resume. It was always like that when Linda made love to her - slow, attentive and intense. If she sometimes wondered if Linda really loved her, one night of passion was all Dee needed to reassure her. No one would take that kind of time and care with someone they didn't love. Oddly enough, when Dee tried to return the act in kind, Linda encouraged her to increase the pace, preferring to spend as little time as possible being pleasured. Dee didn't see how this could be very satisfying for Linda, but Linda assured her that it was.
"I'll do it under one condition," said Dee. She might not control the parachute, but she would be damned if she going to be a doormat.
"Name it," Linda murmured just before her tongue dipped into the dark recesses of Dee's cleavage.
"This is to be the first time AND the only time. After we do this, it's over and I never hear about stasis again."
"I accept your terms," Linda crooned. Dee felt the parting lips against her breast as Linda's mouth distorted into a smile. Hot wind crossed a bare nipple that had somehow escaped the confines of Dee's dress. "And now I'd like to show my appreciation."
Soft, wet flesh enveloped Dee's nipple and she was certain she'd made the right choice.