Disclaimer: See part one.
A Sacrifice for Friendship
By DS Bauden
We took the elevator downstairs and Annie was extremely quiet along the way. I think she was just feeling a little exposed and vulnerable with her face all bruised. I looked over at her and met her eyes.
"Are you alright, Annie?" I asked.
"Yeah, I guess I'm just a little uneasy right now. I look like I walked in front of a truck."
"Nah, a bike maybe." I kidded hoping to make her smile. Luckily for me, it worked.
"Funny, Frankie. Just a laugh riot." She said sarcastically.
"Sorry, I just wanted to make you smile." I said and pretended to pout.
"Quit that. It won't work. I know you are full of shit."
"Great, way to blow my cover." I played along with her.
"No problem." She gave me a full smile and I immediately returned the gesture. How could I not?
The doors opened and we walked out into the corridor leading to the foyer. As soon as we walked into view, Betsy came bounding over to us.
"Annie! Babe, where have you been?" She said running towards us.
"Hey, Bets. How are you?" She said trying to hide her face.
I placed my hand at the small of her back to try and relieve some of her stress. I knew she didn't want to see anyone yet.
"Annie? Jesus! What happened to you? Or do I need to ask?" She said as she took one of Annie's hands in hers. "Come on Annie, it's not a secret." Betsy whispered.
I could see Annie's eyes begin to well with tears. She turned to me and fell into my arms. I guess this was her way of telling me she needed a hug. She held onto me as if I was going to let her go.
Not this time. I'm staying right here; where you need me.
"Shhh... it's ok, Annie. You are with friends." Betsy cooed leaning into Annie's ear. "You are with friends." She reassured.
I could feel Annie's body shake with each gasp of air she took trying to calm her sobs. I continued to rub her back and held her securely. I rested my cheek on the top of her head and gently kissed it. Annie burrowed deeper into me and Betsy watched with interest. Annie's head was tucked under my cheek and her face was snuggled into my chest. I could hear her sobs ease and her breathing became deeper as she tried to compose herself. I felt her take one deep breath and she let go of me and stood on her own legs.
"I'm sorry about that. I don't think I have let myself feel like that in a long time. It came without warning. Sorry, Frankie." She apologized.
"Hey, anytime you feel a need for a hug, you let me know. I will never deny a hug. Annie, you have been through a lot. I'm surprised you are doing as well as you are." I stated flatly.
"She's right, Annie. I feel like a total shit, too. I had a feeling that was going on with Billy. I'm so sorry I didn't do anything to help." Betsy confessed.
"Betsy, what were you gonna do? You couldn't do anything until I was ready to do something. This tall Italian here convinced me to finally tell someone. Billy's not going to do this to me or anyone, anymore."
"Good for you, Annie. I know that couldn't have been an easy decision for you to make." Betsy said as she took one of Annie's hands.
"No, but it's a smart one." Annie said. She wiped her swollen eyes with the back of her sleeve. "So, Bets, what are you doing down here?"
"A group of us are going down to the beach to have a bonfire. Lacey is gonna bring her guitar and we'll have some beer and whatnot. Just gonna hang out. You guys want to come?"
I looked down to find green eyes looking back at me looking for an answer. I gave her a smile to let her know if she wanted to go, then that's what we were gonna do.
"Sure, Bets. You guys have any food down there?" She asked hope filled.
"We got some dogs and some burgers, nothing special, but you guys are welcome to whatever we have down there."
"Thank you, Betsy. It'll be nice to get out and see people again. I just didn't want anyone to see me this way."
"Actually, Annie, it's not that bad. Once we get down there, it won't be that easy to see your face. Don't worry alright? Just have some fun tonight."
"That's a good idea." I agreed.
"Well let's get to it!" Betsy said excitedly.
"Lead the way, babe." Annie said while taking Betsy and my arms. We headed on out of Mertz Hall to have some fun. Lord knew she needed some fun in her life.
I hope those burgers are ready, God I'm starving.
We walked down to the same beach area where we played volleyball. The only thing missing was Billy's big mouth. It was something I wasn't missing at all.
As we walked our way down to the circle, a group of girls were sitting around the fire that was already blazing. Lacey I was guessing the one singing and playing the guitar. It sounded like she was attempting Suite: Judy Blue Eyes by Crosby Stills Nash and Young.
Not bad at all. She actually can sing too.
I walked over to the grill with Betsy and Annie and helped myself to a hamburger and bun. I took one bite and felt an ecstasy that only food can provide when you are extremely hungry. You know that hungry you get when the first bite of whatever it is you are eating is the greatest thing you have ever tasted? It probably tasted pretty normal, but since I was starving, everything moved up a couple of notches.
I felt like I inhaled my burger, but I felt a whole lot better. I just had this nagging feeling inside because I didn't know when I was gonna have to go back home.
God, I hope I can spend more time with her than I did last time. So far, so good. I am really enjoying her company. She is just an amazing person. She has an amazing spirit, not to mention a great body under that beautiful head of hers. Oh man, I got it bad.
I continued to watch her interact with Betsy and the rest of the women at the fire.
Funny, there are no males here at all. I wonder...
"Hey, Annie? Your boyfriend coming tonight?" One of the girls shouted from the fire.
I watched Annie's expression change dramatically with the question. "I would hope for his sake, that he doesn't show his face any where near me or this one." She said as she motioned to me. "Fucking bastard. I hope he gets hit by the next town bus." She mumbled loud enough for me to hear.
Oh I wish I was a bus right now. There isn't anything I would like more than to hit that piece of shit.
"Amen, girl. I like this one much better anyway." The same girl smiled back at Annie and looked back and forth between us, then winked at Annie.
Ahh, I thought so. So Miss Annie... do you bat for my team? Would you be willing to pinch-hit? I would love to pitch to you. God, I'll even pitch slowly to make sure you can hit anything that I throw.
I could hardly contain my happiness with the knowledge of the possibility of her wanting more than friendship from me.
"Settle down, Mary, I need another relationship like I need a whole in the head." She said back to the woman at the fire. "No pun." She smiled.
Well there goes the wind from that sail. Damn. Time to get out the paddles.
"I dunno, Annie, that one may be worth the pain." She laughed and continued to smile at Annie. "If you don't want her, God knows I'm no stranger to a little bit of anguish. Hurt me baby. Hurt me."
"Mary! Behave yourself." Annie chided.
Oh my, I have walked into a den of undersexed women. God, help me.
I suddenly felt like I was on display in front of all these women I didn't know. Annie came up to me and took my arm.
"Come on Frankie, they really are harmless. Lesbians don't bother you, do they?"
"Ahh... well... actually..." I stammered horribly.
"Don't tell me that you are one of those close minded people, Frankie. I won't be able to forgive you. There is so much crap in our world right now with blacks and whites, now we have issues with people loving each other."
"No, Frankie, I can't believe you would feel that way. You seemed so much more open-minded. I had the hardest time dealing with the fact that I was bisexual because of people that can't deal with anyone that is a little different than they are."
"Annie, I never..." I tried to stop her ranting.
"No, Frankie, I won't accept any kind of reasoning here. We are just people. I am no different then you are. I put on my pants the same as anyone else every single morning..." She continued as she poked my chest with each of her points of her rave.
I am getting a verbal ass kicking because why? I have to stop her before she blows a gasket.
"No one is gonna tell me how to live anymore! I can't believe I let myself worry about you when you are someone that just isn't able to..."
I took Annie's face in my hands and firmly pressed my lips against hers. I had never felt such softness before. Her body stopped flailing and leaned deeper into the kiss. I felt her hands against my chest and I pulled away. I looked deeply into her eyes and saw both disbelief and relief all in one look. The catcalls and howling that were coming from the bonfire were deafening. I'm not sure if either of us really heard any of them at all. It was all about us, nothing else mattered.
"Does that answer your question?" I said as I smirked.
"You... um... wow... so you're gay?" She couldn't seem to form a sentence. I was glad that she felt it too.
"Good guess. That was the only way I could get you to shut up. I didn't mean to invade your space, but I had no choice. I wasn't going to get my ass reamed for no reason at all." I laughed.
"Ahh... God, I'm sorry. I just hate all kinds of prejudice and I was just running off at the mouth. I do that sometimes."
"Really?" I said sarcastically which earned me a jab to my belly for my troubles.
Annie was looking at me like she had seen me for the first time. I guess the kiss we shared was messing with her train of thought. God knows it was messing with mine. I had never wanted to do something again so badly, like I wanted to kiss her again.
"Did you umů get enough to eat?" She softly asked.
"Yeah, I don't even remember tasting my burger though. It was gone all too fast." I answered.
"Well there is plenty, eat more if you want." Betsy chimed in and skipped over to the fire.
"Thanks, Betsy." I said. I was feeling so flustered; even more than the first time I ever kissed a woman.
I grabbed a beer for Annie and myself and we made our way over to the fire. The night was absolutely perfect. It was only about sixty degrees, but there was hardly any wind and the sky was as clear as crystal.
God, Crystal, I wish you could see me right now. I feel so complete with Annie at my side.
We took our place at the end of a broken log and relaxed with the rest of the girls. I took a deep pull from my beer as Lacey looked over to me with questioning eyes.
"Do you play?" She asked.
"Oh... well... I play a little. Nothing you guys would know though."
God wasn't that the truth.
"Oh, Frankie you play? Oh you can play whatever you want." Annie said excitedly. "We'll be a captive audience I promise."
"Oh, I don't know. It's been awhile since I've played at all." I really hated playing in front of people. That had always been a very personal thing for me. The only one I had ever played for was Crystal. And that was only because she was too sweet to tell me I sucked. She was the perfect fan. I was my own worse critic though.
"Please, Frankie? For me?" She looked at me with those big green eyes and I was toast.
"Oh, alright." I acquiesced. The women started cheering again.
I took the proffered instrument and started to tune it to my key. I did a couple of warm ups and decided that I was ready.
"This is a song... well let's just say it's an original." Not my original, but hell they probably don't even know who Patty Griffin is. Hell I don't even know if she is even alive yet. Play Frankie, you have an audience waiting for you.
I emptied the contents of my beer for confidence and began to play.
"This is a song that reminds me of my father. The most loving person I have ever had in my life. This one's for you, Pop."
As the strumming of the guitar got louder the attention was drawn completely to me and Lacey's guitar.
Occurred to me the other day
I remember where I was
And I wonder where you are
Today my heart is big and sore
Cuz you can't make somebody see
And I wonder where you are
Some better way to say good-bye
Whoa......... Whoa......... Whoa..................
I finished the song's chords and slowly ended it softly with a final strum.
The fire was quiet and I heard a couple of sniffles. I felt a little embarrassed because I knew that I put a lot of feeling into singing the lyrics that were so true to me.
"Oh, Frankie, that was beautiful." Annie said with glistening eyes. "I felt every word you just sang to your father. I'm so sorry, but Frankie? I thought you said you had just visited your father a couple of weeks ago."
Shit, here we go.
"That's a long story, Annie. I will tell you though, I promise."
"Ooh, more secrets eh? You are just a bundle of surprises aren't you?" She smiled.
More than you could ever imagine.
"Frankie, will you play another song? You have a beautiful singing voice." Mary gushed.
"Oh, I think I have maxxed out my talents today." I tried to explain.
"Aw C'Mon, Frankie. I bet you know a hundred songs. Pleeeeaaasssseeee?" Annie pleaded.
Man she is gonna be the death of me. Saying no to this one is NOT an option.
"Alright then, did you guys have any requests? I may know something you want to hear." I played along.
Annie got up and got us both new beers. It was nice to see her so relaxed with her friends. This was a side to her I could definitely get used to. It's no mystery why Billy wouldn't want to let this one go.
Too late pal, she's not gonna be on the market for long.
"No, Frankie, just play whatever you want. Do you have any more originals?" Mary asked.
"Sure. Let me think for a bit." I said.
I could play anything after 1975 and it would be an original. Dr. Evil, eat your heart out. I know one that may be a little premature, but hell, why not?
"OK, this one doesn't have much guitar in it, but after I set a beat to it, I would love it if you'd clap along. Sound good?"
A cacophony of "sure's" and "cool's" were all around me. I sat back and tried to remember the rhythm of my favorite song of all time.
"Ready?" I asked.
"Go for it, Frankie." Annie said anxiously.
"This one is for that someone special in everyone's lives. Call me a sap, I don't care." I joked.
This one's for you Annie.
I began to clap in a one three one beat and everyone seemed to follow easily. I plucked out the few chords there were to this song and I began to sing.
La da da da da da da da...
There comes a time in everyone's life
I never imagined that love would rain on me
Forever, forever, baby I want you forever
La da da da da da da da...
There comes a road, in everyone's journey
You are my hero, you are my future
Forever, forever, I want you baby, baby forever
La da da da da da da da da...
The chords faded out as I strummed lighter and lighter until it was finished. The girls were totally into the song as I sang each lyric. Annie just sat there looking like she was trying to figure out if I was singing that song to her. All she had to do was ask. I knew my life wouldn't be complete without her in my life.
Oh yeah, Frankie, you have fallen hard.
To Be Continued in Part 9.
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