DISCLAIMER: The Facts of Life and its characters are the property of Columbia Pictures Television and Sony Pictures Television, no infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
31 Slices of Jo/Blair Life
By Della Street
A flash of green sailed past. "I'm late!" Blair shoved her foot into a matching pump. "This is all your fault!"
Jo sipped her coffee. "Blair, I've warned you. You come downstairs in that flimsy thing, and you're going to get fucked."
Hairpin, broach, belt. "Why don't you control yourself just once?"
"If you don't like it, why don't you throw away that nightie?" Jo picked up the garment from the kitchen floor. "Here. I'll do it." She reached for the cabinet door that concealed their trash bin.
Blair snatched the nightgown from her and headed upstairs with it.
Whew . . . .
For the first time in hours, Jo was suddenly at her side. "I'm headin' out," she said. "Why don't you come with me?"
Poor Jo; she needed to get out more. "That would rather defeat the purpose of having a'date,'" Blair explained.
"Listen . . . ." Jo glanced over at Blair's boyfriend, who was chatting with a frat brother over by the DJ. "John's had too much to drink."
"Don't be silly," Blair said. "He agreed to stop at two."
"Yeah, well, he had number three when he went to the john, and four and five when he went out to the shed for ice."
How did she know? Before Blair could ask, her handsome date rejoined them. "Ready to go, Gorgeous?"
As he began to steer her away from the others, Jo grabbed her wrist. "He's drunk, Blair," she said.
"You're full of shit, Polniaczek."
"She's not going with you," Jo persisted.
Blair yanked her arm away. "John, did you have another drink out in the shed?"
He shot Jo an angry look.
"You said you'd only have two," Blair reminded him.
"Five," Jo interrupted.
"no big deal," he said. "You know I love you, Babe. Would I let you ride with me if I was drunk?"
She studied him for a moment. "You're right," she said. "Someone who loves me wouldn't let me ride with a drunk."
A few minutes later, she tightened her arms around Jo's waist.
"Don't let go," Jo called back to her.
The Last and Final Time That Blair Warner Would Ever Set Foot Inside Harrison's Department Store For As Long As She Lived . . . .
Jo tapped her foot impatiently. Damn it. The air brain was supposed to have met her here twenty damn minutes ago. She checked her watch. Make that twenty-two damn minutes.
It was always a tough decision for Jo: Tag along with Blair to keep her on some semblance of a schedule, or check out some other part of the mall that didn't make Jo gag and then stand around like an idiot waiting for Blair to remember that she existed.
She looked around for something to occupy her attention, but there was no one at the security desk to chat with. If they didn't bolt soon, they were going to be late for their shift, and Mrs. G had threatened them with extra duties if they were tardy one more time. Blair Warner was the most spoiled, self-centered, shallow, inconsiderate . . . .
In dressing room three, Blair beamed at the saleswoman. "Why, yes, I can make anything look good!" she agreed. She draped the skirt over the woman's arm with the others. "Now, let's try"
"BLAIR WARNER, GET YOUR ASS TO THE LOBBY," the security intercom blared. "BLAIR WARNER, ASS TO THE LOBBY."
Blair froze. "Please charge these to my account and have them delivered," she mumbled, hurrying out of the dressing room. "I'm not speaking to you," she said as she ran past Jo.
Jo grinned at her. Bonus!
Driving lessonyea! With Mrs. Garrett's keys firmly in hand, Tootie raced out to the garage.
Wait a minute . . . . Was it her imagination, or did the Volkswagen seem to be moving? She inserted the key and opened the door. Eying a bent coathanger lying in the passenger seat, she nervously called out, "Hello?"
"What the" The grumble came from the back.
Relieved at the familiar voice, Tootie said, "Jo, is that you?"
"Uh . . . ." The car shifted again, and then Jo's head popped up. "Yeah."
"What are you doing?"
"Uh . . . ."
The top of a disheveled blonde hairdo appeared over the back seat.
"Tootie, hi," Blair replied. "I thought Mrs. Garrett couldn't give you a lesson today."
"She got home early," Tootie explained. "So, what are you guys doing?"
Jo glanced down at her unseen roommate. "We're . . . ."
"Looking for my contact lens," Blair's voice reported.
"Looking for Blair's contact lens."
But . . . "You don't wear contacts."
That Blair, always trying new things. "Want me to get Natalie and help you look?"
"No!" both girls exclaimed.
Jo said, "I don't think it's here, Blair." She started to move. "I guess we'd better"
"Wait," Blair murmured. "My hand..."
Suddenly, Jo jerked forward. "Oh, shit!"
Jo closed her eyes. "Man, I wanna finish looking," she said. "Bad."
"Laundry roomfive minutes," Blair declared.
"Want Nat and me to"
They looked and looked down there but never did find it, Tootie later informed Natalie. If only they had been willing to ask for help....
She knows he's dead. She knew it even as she nodded and smiled at the man trapped in the elevator with her, agreeing that one day the brother he had not seen for forty years might indeed walk through the door.
June 18, 1944. I've heard Blair repeat the date so often that I have it memorized. Carl Watowski died June 18, 1944, in a concentration camp in Poland.
His older brother Sam is an usher at the old RKO Keith Theater. Before that, he ran the elevator at The Palace Hotel. He chose both places in the hope that his brother's interest in architecture would draw him there.
I'm supposed to meet her at six. She has spent the day interviewing men who answered her ad in the Post informing Mr. Carl Watowski of a possible inheritance. I offered to stay, but she declined. I hope she doesn't think I would make fun of her for this. I wouldn't, although I might tell her to let it go.
I watch her smile politely at some guy who is obviously too young. She's beautiful.
She doesn't say anything when I sit beside her, which is okay. As I lean over to ask about dinner, she suddenly rises, staring at a man who has just walked in. "Carl Watowski?" she asks.
"It's Waters now," he replies.
She digs her fingers into my shoulder. "You look exactly like your brother."
Later that night, as she cries into my neck, I love her.
"Hello, Darling." Blair turned her face up for a peck.
"Hi." Jo reached for an apple from the fruit bowl. "Busy day?"
"Not really," Blair replied. "A meeting, then some shopping . . . ."
"Oh." Jo shrugged. "'cause, you know, you didn't call me today."
Blair carried their mail over to the couch. "I thought you didn't want me to," she said.
"Where did you get that idea?"
"Oh, I don't know," Blair said casually. "Perhaps it was the 'What the 'F' do you want? I'm 'F'ing busy here!' that I got yesterday."
Oh, shitshe'd been too distracted to realize what she was saying. "A perp was makin' a break for it, Blair," she apologized. "I'm sorry I said that."
"No, that's all right," Blair said. "I won't bother you any more unless it's an emergency."
"It doesn't have to be an emergency."
Blair resumed reading their mail, discarding most of it.
"I don't mind if you call."
A letter opener sliced into another ornate envelope, an invitation to some fundraiser, no doubt.
"I mean, it's not the worse thing that happens to me during the day."
The prospective donor scanned the latest request for her time and/or money.
Squirming slightly, Jo finally said, "Look, I like it when you call, okay?"
She steeled herself for the sarcastic response. Instead, Blair laid the letter opener on the coffee table and opened her arms. "Thank you," she said. "Now come here for a proper welcome."
A welcome, yes, but hardly proper, Jo mused later.
Not again. "Where's my highlighter?" Jo asked the number one suspect.
Blair glanced up from her textbook. "Why are you asking me?"
"Because you had it the last three times it disappeared, Blondie."
"By calling me that, you are perpetuating a gender-based stereotype."
Perpetuating a? "Don't give me that Women's Studies b.s.," Jo said. "Hand it over."
"I refuse to dignify your accusations with a response."
"Hand it over," Jo warned, "or I'm gonna look for it. Everywhere."
As Jo began to roll up her sleeves, Blair's eyes widened. "Wait!" she said.
"Lock the door first."
She couldn't go home. Even if she could walk without grimacing, she couldn't hide the busted lip. If she skipped dinner, she might be able to afford a night at the Shitz, then maybe go home for the weekend . . . .
She accepted the bottle of painkillers and turned to leave Shit. In the doorway stood Blair, who gasped at her appearance.
"What are you doing here, Blair?"
"Aimee called me," Blair replied. "She was afraid you would ignore doctor's orders."
Which was none of Nurse Aimee's damn business.
Casually, Jo said, "Got mugged."
"Gimme a break."
"But you don't have any money," Blair said. "Everyone in Peekskill knows that."
"Maybe they were tourists!"
"They?" Blair echoed. "How many were there?"
Jo avoided her gaze. "Enough."
"What aren't you telling me?" A horrified expression crossed Blair's face. "Oh, nowas it Nick?"
Blair's fuck boyfriend that Jo caught trying to buy drugs at the store? "No."
"Was it Steve?"
The fuck's connection? Jo couldn't lie. "It's over now," she dodged. "Listen, Mrs. G will go ballistic, so I'm gonna crash at the Ritz." Normally, she wouldn't do this, but . . . . "Can I borrow a twenty?"
Blair pressed buttons on the lobby phone. "Hi, Mrs. Garrett," she said. "Jo and I will be working late on the rally, so we'll probably just get a room tonight. . . . Okay; see you then." She caressed Jo's cheek. "Ice bags, large pepperoni, full body massage. Let Blair make it all better."
And for once, Jo would.
Eight, nine, ten. Jo spun around and started back the other direction. One, two, three . . . Her pacing stopped when the door opened.
"Well, hello!" Blair greeted her with a smile that, until this morning, Jo would have thought was sincere. "What are you doing home?"
"I'm goin' in late."
Blair set her purse on the counter. "How late?" She ran her fingers down Jo's neck suggestively.
Like Jo was falling for that. "Late," she said. She waited to see where Blair would sit. Oh, sureon the couch, leaving room for her. Jo perched on the arm of the recliner instead. "Where have you been?" she asked.
"Brunch with Marie."
Right. Jo crossed her arms, waiting for Blair to crack. Finally, she said, "That's it? Nothin' else to say?"
"You need a haircut."
If there was a lack of communication in this relationship, no one could say it was all Jo's fault. "So, are you leaving me or what?" she said bluntly.
Blair's hand flew to her chest. "What?"
"Dr. Evenstein's office called this morning about your appointment."
"Yes, they called my cellular, too."
"I looked him up," Jo said. "He's a counselor."
"A marriage counselor."
A corner of Blair's mouth went up. "Ah," she said. "Yes, I believe that he is."
"Well, I'm new at this, but it seems to me that couples counseling oughta be for couples." Jo stood up. "It's kinda hard when one half of the couple doesn't even know there's a problem."
Now Blair was on her feet, tooand mad. Good. "And it seems to me that one half of the couple ought to ask before jumping to conclusions," she replied. "Marriage counseling is just one part of his practice. He also sees individual clients."
"Why do you need therapy at all?"
"I don't," Blair said. "He's all the rage these days, so I thought I'd give it a try. But I couldn't think of anything wrong with me." She frowned. "Except perhaps an impulsive lover who is apparently more insecure than I realized."
Jo's anger was losing steam. "Why didn't you say you'd made an appointment?"
"You hate it when I do things just because the other 'bluenose vacuum heads' are," Blair reminded her. "This was just a lark; it wasn't worth mentioning."
One of them was an airbrain, Jo realized, and it wasn't the blonde.
Sternly, Blair said, "Now, why don't we discuss why you assumed that I'm unhappy. You didn't seem to have any doubts last night."
An image flashed into Jo's head: Blair, straddling her shoulders, arching her back in pleasure . . . .
Blair laid a hand on her cheek. "Is it the jokes?" she asked. "Do you want me to call you my little lammiekins instead, and tell you how much I just wuv my widdle"
"Are you sure, Sweetheart?" Blair patted her cheek. "'Cause I just think you're the cutest little"
Jo reached for the phone and dialed 411. "Yeah, get me the number for Dr. Paul Evenstein . . . ."
Blair seemed to be scribbling a lot for someone who wasn't listening. A moment later, a piece of paper landed on Jo's desk.
She ignored it. Yes, Blair found Civics boring, but if there was one teacher at Eastland who had the balls to send Blair Warner to detention for passing notes, it was Dragon Lady Hendricks.
Great, now Blair's foot was tapping hers. Hendricks would never notice that. To avoid a scene, Jo unfolded the note.
"Do you think Nancy is prettier than I am?"
Oh, for. Subtly, Jo shook her head.
Minutes later, another note appeared. Damn it!
"Want to go shopping after class?"
You won't be going anywhere if you don't cut it out, Jo thought. Oh, no-Hendricks was bearing down on them! Blair was toast.
Hurriedly, Jo wrote, "Sure. You going to buy that VCR for the teacher's lounge?"
Hendricks held out her hand. "I'll take that." As she finished reading, the teacher pursed her lips thoughtfully. Finally, she said, "I assume you found this on the floor, Miss Polniaczek?"
"I don't see any more paper down there, so I assume you won't be picking up anything else."
"No, Ma'am . . . ."
Afterward, as she waited for Blair, who was happy to trade a VCR for detention, Jo wondered why she bothered. It made no sense to help out her sworn enemy like that.
Rushing up to her, Blair exclaimed, "You saved me!" She threw her arms around Jo and kissed her cheek.
No sense at all.
Whatever she had imagined would happen when she got caught camping out in Blair's dorm room, this was worse.
Yes, they understood that it was against the rules for Jo to live in the dorm without paying.
Yes, they understood that Jo's unfortunate financial situation was no excuse.
"I don't want you to think that Langley College discriminates," the Dean said. "I know that sometimes girls...form certain attachments and want to be together, but we can't"
Jo shot to her feet. "Wait!" she said. "You don't think we're...." She couldn't bring herself to say it. Blair, clueless as usual, blinked at them.
Rising, the Dean walked over and closed his door, then returned to his desk and leaned toward them. "My own daughter," he began. "Well, let's just say that I sympathize."
Jo gripped the back of her chair. He had to be freaking kidding. Blair and her? Everyone at Langley well, everyone but the Dean, apparently knew that she and Blair didn't even like each other, let alone
"See, Jo?" Blair turned around in her chair. "He understands."
She considered explaining to Blair in vivid detail what Dean Richardson thought the two of them had been doing to each other in Blair's room at night. Nah, Mrs. G would hand Jo her ass if she gave Blair a heart attack. Jo weighed her next words carefully. "Blair, he"
"Which is why I'm not going to expel you."
"really does understand...." She laid a hand on Blair's shoulder. "...Babe."
"See? Told you," Jo whispered. This movie was a dog. There were, what, three people in the whole place? Fatal Attraction was just starting next door; they could still sneak in there, she suggested.
Ignoring her, Blair felt her way along the back row, choosing a seat in the center.
The previews began rolling as Jo settled in. What a waste of two bucks this was going to be.
Blair reached over and laid a hand on her thigh.
Well, that made things a little better. Blair was looking especially hot this evening, as Jo had pointed out over dinner, but her suggestion that they skip the movie and go find an empty parking lot instead had been rejected. No public sex for Princess Warner.
To Jo's amazement, as the Columbia Pictures logo filled the screen, Blair's hand slid casually over and unzipped Jo's slacks, then slipped inside. You gotta be kidding. Blair was going to? Oh, hell, yeah. Jo stiffened.
No one was looking, fortunately. They wouldn't have seen Blair's hand, but they might have noticed her forearm moving as sheoh, God . . . oh, yeah . . . . Jo gripped the arms of her seat, tensing, untiloh, yeah! yeah! . . . yeah . . . yeah . . . . Oh, Blair . . . .
After a moment, Blair withdrew her hand and returned it primly to her own lap.
Dazed, Jo sat there, pants still open, until she finally had the presence of mind to zip them up.
This movie was just fine, she decided. In fact, they might go again tomorrow night . . . .
No, she could not just drop everything and rush out to see this utterly delightful apartment, Jo explained. And, by the way, "I thought you wanted a house."
"After all those years of living in a house in Peekskill, I was afraid that I might be wanting a house because I liked living in a house," Blair replied.
There was probably some logic in there somewhere.
"Can't you take a late lunch?"
She could, Jo agreed, if she hadn't already taken her lunch. It was three o'clock, in case Blair hadn't noticed.
She could feel her co-workers smirking. Like she never heard them muttering, "Yes, dear; okay, dear." They were just as whipped as she wasmore, in fact. She told Blair no all the time, and even stuck with it occasionally. This was going to be one of those times. The important thing was to do it in a way that avoided the couch tonight.
"What if she rents it out by tomorrow?"
"In the next two hours?" Jo replied. "Is there a line behind you?"
"I just know you'll love it!"
"Of course I will," Jo said. "I've liked all the places you've dragged me to." Who wouldn't? They were all disgustingly opulent. "Look, I don't care where we live, as long as you're there."
Sometimes schmaltz got her a roll of the eyes, sometimes it got her laid. She waited for the result.
"Tell them you'll be in late tomorrow . . . ."
Mmm . . .
". . . after we see that apartment."
She was setting herself up for rejection, Jo knew, but she couldn't stop herself. Her mind kept returning to the scene she had overheard a few days ago: Blair, begging her father to take her to a baseball game, or a football game, or anything that wasn't tax deductible.
Well, Jo Polniaczek was an expert in those kinds of activities. Sitting on the couch watching Blair flit around, she said, "Listen, my old man got tickets for the game this afternoon, but he has to make a run to Jersey." She forced herself to choke out the rest. "You wanna go?"
Blair seemed confused. "With you?"
Here it comes.
Jo felt stupid for even having asked. "Yeah, well, forget it, okay?" she snapped. "They wouldn't be fancy box seats up to Warner standards anyway, so just drop it. I don't need any of your crap."
"All right," Blair said quietly. "I was going to say yes, but . . . ."
"It depends," Blair said. "This isn't just a write-off for you, is it?"
"You got me," Jo said. She held up the tickets. "The cost of these babies would have offset my annual income for 1983."
"But what the heck," Jo said, "I'll still take ya even if I won't make any money off it."
Bitterly, Blair said, "How novel."
"Give him a break, Blair," Jo urged her. "That's just how business works. Now come on; we're gonna outfit you in some geniune Polniaczek sportswear." Because that was how friendship worked.
Blair ducked down in front of the couch just as Jo hurried in from the kitchen to answer the phone.
"Blair's not here," Jo said. ". . . Yeah, I'll take a message."
Sure she would. Like she "took the message" about the postponement of the Helen of Troy contest last week. Blissfully unaware of this information, Blair had arrived at the gymnasium and walked onto the floor twice expecting to be crowned the undisputed winner, only to be tossed into the air instead and dragged up and down the court by Louie the Langley Lion.
Swatting Jo in the face with Louie's tail spoils of the now legendary Blair/Louie rematch was just the beginning of Blair's revenge. Her roommate's real reward was yet to come literally. Now that that little matter with the Aviation Security and Hazardous Mail Department had been cleared up, Blair checked the mail daily.
Granted, the basketball team had credited Blair with inspiring its amazing run through the playoffs, even giving her its honorary Sixth Man Award. And yes, she had been asked out by half the men in the stands who "liked her spunk," as one put it, but that wasn't the point. The point was that Jo had intentionally refused to give her an important message Blair was convinced of that, in spite of Jo's denials and because of it, Blair had been tossed around like a human salad.
"Louie who?" Jo asked. "Oh, yeah?"
Louie? The only Louie that Blair knew was
"No lyin'?" Jo laughed at her own joke. "Hey, you still got Blair's shoe? Those things cost more than my Kawasaki."
That boorish mascot had the nerve to call here? Perhaps it was to apologize.
"Yeah, right, Langley spirit," Jo said. "She's full of it."
Blair gritted her teeth. She didn't know which of the two to be more furious with.
From her vantage point, Blair couldn't see what her roommate was doing, but the noises at least suggested that she was writing something down.
"'Since Blair got a piece of your tail, you want a piece of her'"
The cad! Blair had spent enough time around Jo to know what that meant.
There was a pause, and then Jo snarled, "Listen, Creep, Blair Warner is classy. You ever talk that way about her again and I'll come down to the gym myself and it won't be just your tail that gets torn off."
Oh, my. No one could threaten bodily harm quite like Jo.
"You'll be Louise the Langley Lion," Jo went on. "And while we're at it, anyone ever asks you, that whole wrestling thing was Blair's idea. You got that?" Whatever Jo heard next apparently satisfied her. "Okay." She slammed the phone down, threw her pencil onto the desk, and stormed upstairs.
Long after she could no longer hear the muttered "Jerk" and other four-letter descriptions, Blair remained on the floor.
A few days later, the doorbell announced the arrival of a package for a Ms. Joanna Polniaczek.
"No way." Jo backed away from the postman.
Blair got up from her chair, walked over, and signed Jo's name. "Thank you," she said. She held it out to her roommate.
"Forget it, Blair."
"I thought you weren't afraid of me," Blair taunted her.
"I'm not afraid of you," Jo replied. "I'm afraid of your mental illness."
With a sigh, Blair tore open the package, drew out the new motorcycle seat, and laid it on the table.
The other girls stared at it until Jo finally picked it up, holding it away from her body. "Is this gonna explode?" she asked.
"Only if your bike explodes," Blair replied. "Which should be any day now, the way you drive." She watched Jo run her hands across the smooth material, admiring the seams.
"I don't get it," Jo said. "This is your revenge?"
Sounding a little confused herself, Natalie piped up, "Blair, that's not what you"
"Of course it is," Blair interrupted airily. "Can you think of a sweeter revenge than making Jo worry for two weeks for nothing?"
"This is supposed to make Jo sorry for not giving you the messages?" Tootie asked.
"I did leave a message!" Jo insisted. "The second time, anyway."
"One of us had to be an adult," Blair said, "and we couldn't wait that long for Jo."
Her roommate's expression was familiar, torn between insulting her and thanking her. Blair laid an arm across Jo's shoulder and said quietly, "I think we're even now . . . ."
Gleefully, Blair tapped Natalie on the shoulder. "I've finally figured Jo out," she said. "Watch this."
She wandered over near the brunette and announced loudly, "I look awful!"
"You look great," Jo countered.
"None of the boys will ask me to dance."
"They'll all ask ya."
Natalie snickered and gave Blair a thumbs up as she headed off to class.
"You think I'm ugly," Blair continued.
"I think you're" Jo paused, and then frowned. "Selfish and shallow."
"And you're crude and barbaric."
They stared at each other.
"As long as we understand each other," Blair said.
"I think we do . . . ."
Elaine hoped this wasn't a mistake. She had been open about her lesbianism, but just because her application to Eastland had been accepted didn't mean that she would be accepted.
Nervously, she waited for the Mrs. Garrett who was going to explain the cafeteria rules. Through the window, she saw a pretty blonde girl emerge from a taxi and call out to an equally pretty brunette, who walked over and was swept up in an enthusiastic embrace. When she was released, the brunette picked up the other girl's luggage and, while the blonde chattered, toted it inside the cafeteria building and up some stairs.
With her "Welcome to Eastland" brochure and this week's menu in hand, Elaine noticed the two girls walking in again. Did they live here or something? This time, the brunette was carrying a mountain of textbooks and listening patiently while the blonde waved her hands around animatedly.
"In fact, we already have a . . . ." This Tootie kid lowered her voice slightly. ". . . gay couple at Eastland. Mandy and Sarah."
"I know," Elaine said.
Now the two were coming back down. As the brunette headed toward the front door, the blonde caught up with her and looped their arms together. The other girl tried to pull away, but the blonde just laughed and tightened her grip. Eventually, the brunette gave in, and the pair strolled side by side to wherever they were going.
"I've seen them. They're adorable."
"That's funny," Tootie mused. "I thought they weren't coming til tomorrow . . . ."
"No way," Jo said. When they continued to wait for a response, she muttered, "I'm tryin' to work here."
A rumbling of disapproval ensued. "Come on, Rookie," Todd said. "You one of us or not?"
"I am not talking about my sex life," she repeated. They might sit around gossiping about what their wives would or wouldn't do and how often, but not Jo. "Blair would kill me."
"Like she'd ever know," her new partner said.
"With my luck, she'd find out somehow." Probably just by asking. Blair would say, "What did you do at work today?" and Jo, stupidly, would tell her. "And then I'd have nothin' to talk about."
"Maybe you already don't have anything to talk about," Jimmy suggested.
"Well, Blair's hot, but she's kinda prissy."
Prissy? "Oh, yeah?" Jo retorted. "Well, last night she calls me into the dining room and"
Their eyes widened at her tale.
"twice. On Saturday, she"
They gawked at her.
"the back of her Mercedes. And this morning, I'm in the shower when"
Jo leapt out of her chair. "What thewhat are you doing here?"
"I just thought I'd see if you were free for lunch." Blair smiled at the others. "Am I interrupting anything?"
"You are a goddess," Jimmy blurted.
"Why, thank you," Blair said happily. "It's nice to be appreciated."
"Oh, I think you're appreciated," he said.
Jo glared at him. "Let's go," she said, rushing Blair out before she ended up depreciated.
I'm sitting here watching her, as I have countless times over the past fifty-four years. It's different today. Instead of watching her sift through her closet, or charm some total stranger, or accept a philanthropic award, I'm watching her sleep in a converted hospital bed in our own bedroom. She's still breathing on her own. I know, because I watch each rise and fall of her chest.
I remember the first time I did this. I was sitting in a dining room, watching in disbelief as she flirted with a band of idiots from Bates Academy who ate it up.
I am rooming with Blair Warner.
Of all the girls in this hell hole, I had to get stuck with the snootiest, shallowest one of all. I swear, if this hadn't been Ma's dream, I would have been out of there faster than Princess Warner could say "Charge it."
My feelings about Blair mellowed over time, of course. Sometimes she was funny, and even nice, and I could stand her at times. I realized that something had changed one weekend when we went home to see friends, and I found myself not only happy to get back to Peekskill but actually relieved to see her drag that ridiculous luggage into the station twenty minutes late.
I don't mind Blair Warner.
Through high school, through college, through law school, through one bad marriage and a few near misses, she was there.
I am in love with Blair Warner.
After my divorce (hallelujah!), my first thought was to see Blair. It didn't strike either of us as odd, her suggesting five minutes after I arrived that I should move in with her, and me agreeing. A week after I moved in, I curled an arm around her while we watched the news together and she leaned into me. Two days later, I spent my first night in her bed.
I am marrying Blair Warner.
The State Assembly finally gave Blair what she had always wanted. We were first in line for a license, which got our picture in the Times. Blair loved it.
I have spent my life with Blair Warner.
She has had hordes of lawyers and accountants in to put her affairs in order, as she calls it, making sure that I am taken care of. I don't need her money; 31 years with the NYPD earned me a decent pension, and I did okay on some investments. But Blair loves to fuss, so I've twiddled my thumbs while they reassigned stocks and transferred real estate and whatever else.
While the bean counters were at it, I had them put my own affairs in order. I don't plan on sticking around long after Blair's gone. My life began when I met her; it will end when I lose her. We'll see each other again, and I really don't want to wait. Blair always told people that it felt like we had been together for an eternity. Guess we'll see.
"Jo!" Blair raced into the shop. "A man just grabbed my purse!"
Jo chewed her turkey on rye. "Did he have a forklift?"
"He's wearing a blue windbreaker and tacky hightops, sort of like yours. Go!"
"He's probably halfway across Peekskill by now," Jo pointed out. "Call the cops."
Sympathetically, Tootie said, "It's such a hassle to replace credit cards. Did you have much cash on you?"
Blair waved it off. "A thousand," she said. "And a sketch."
The brunette looked up. "Me?"
"From last month," she said. "At the summer house. After you and I . . . ." She glanced at the other girls. ". . . went swimming. When you fell asleep on the lawn chair." She repeated, "After we went swimming."
With wide eyes, Jo ran for the door. Forty minutes later, she returned with a tattered lavender clutch.
"Wow," Natalie said, "I'm impressed."
Jo held out the purse. "Credit cards and cash," she announced. She plucked something from the interior. "Creep's tooth."
"You may keep that," Blair said. "Where's the sketch?"
"Trash can on Elm--in pieces."
Blair nodded. "I should reward you for getting my purse back," she said.
"Not everything is about money, Blair."
"Uh oh." Natalie grabbed Tootie's arm. "Love to stay for the argument, but we're late for a movie."
Watching them go, Blair said slyly, "So, you don't want my money?"
The brunette strolled up to her. "Nope."
"Do I have anything else you would accept?"
"Yep." Jo grinned at her. "But no sketching afterward . . . ."
They should move. Nat and Tootie would be home any minute. But knowing and doing were worlds apart.
"We oughtta get upstairs."
Blair nestled closer into her on the couch. "Hm-mm."
Apparently that was a no.
"I don't want to, either," Jo said, "especially after what you just did to me."
"Mmm . . ."
"Come on," she coaxed. "We wanna tell 'em, not show 'em."
"Mmm . . . ." Blair suddenly drew back. "Wait did you just say we want to tell them?
Jo shrugged. "I think I'm finally ready." She pointed toward the floor. "But fully clothed, okay?"
Nodding, Blair reached for her blouse.
"Oh, Jo, you're so wonderful."
"I want to be just like you."
What was up? Jo was just helping Miko adjust to America. Hell, all the time she was spending with the new student was cutting into Jo's torment-Blondie time; Blair should be thrilled. Instead, Blair was nice enough to Miko, but when they were alone, this odd hostility emerged.
"Next thing you know she'll be proposing."
Jo looked up from her textbook. "Don't worry, BlairI'm holdin' out for you."
As Blair grabbed her book and stormed off, Jo grinned. So many things to love about Eastland..
He had her at the sneer. In hindsight, Jo wasn't surprised that Blair had fallen for an overbearing handyman who insulted her at their first meeting. For all her talk about pedigrees, Blair Warner could not resist a bad boy.
Or a bad girl. No two women had insulted and sniped at each other more than the two of them, yet no two women were closer. Actually, that probably wasn't true, Jo mused. She knew two women who were a couple. That would trump what she had with Blair. They had the intensity and she forced herself to admit it the love, but not the added intimacy that came with sex.
Jo let her mind wander to what sex would be like with Blair. Picturing Ben or some other guy with her was ick, so she focused on her roommate, who was across the room flirting of course with some football players. More bad boys already?
She tried to picture Blair's face in the throes of passion, something that guys had probably done a hundred times . . . her body hovering . . . arching . . . twisting . . .
Tootie's greeting startled her.
"Which what?" Jo growled.
"Which one of those guys are you hot for?"
"Yeah, right," Tootie said. "I saw the look on your face." She tugged at Jo's sleeve. "Come on; Blair can introduce you to him."
"Forget it," Jo said. "I was thinking about" Oh, crap. "About the one in the jacket."
"You have good taste."
Jo sighed. "Yeah, I know.".
"And that" Blair pointed across the room "is Jo."
"Oh, my Lord!" Amber exclaimed. "Are you sure she didn't take a wrong turn on the way to Bates Academy?"
"That's her lucky jacket," Blair said. "Camouflage."
"Unfortunately, it's not working we can still see her."
In the distance, Jo glanced over, and Blair beckoned to her. "I'm getting used to it. It only gives me a slight headache now."
"Well, she looks like a boy. I don't know whether to avoid her or date her."
Watching Jo stride confidently toward them, Blair murmured, "I don't either . . . ."
As Jo trudged into the penthouse, Blair held up an index finger in warning. "New carpet!"
Not again. Oh, well; at least some women's shelter had practically new floor coverings now. Tiredly, Jo drew off her loafers, then padded into the living room.
Holding back a sigh, she took off her uniform jacket and handed it to Blair to hang in the closet.
Enough with the new shit. Jo removed her belt and handed it over. "Anything else?"
Blair arched an eyebrow. "New sheets . . . ."
Jo reached for the buttons on her blouse. She loved new shit.
Everyone was gone by the time that Blair came back to give her a ride home. Instead of greeting her in the doorway, Jo perched on one corner of her desk and watched Blair make her way through the darkened space, carefully avoiding anything in her path that might be grimy. Princess Warner did not like to get her hands dirty, except on certain occasions, of course.
When she eventually made it to where two rickety desks sat next to each other, one for the Center's director and one for his assistant, Jo rose and walked over to her. "Blair, I want to thank you for buying the Center," she said.
"Well, that's what I do," Blair cooed.
"No." Jo circled Blair's waist with her right arm and used her left to reach over and flip the light switch. "I mean I want to thank you."
Blair gasped as she correctly interpreted Jo's intentions. "Not here!" she whispered.
"You got a better place?" Jo asked. "At home, biting your lip with Nat and Tootie in the next room? In a dark alley?" Blair had really hated that, so nervous about every stray noise that they hadn't even been able to finish. "The Ritz again?" With the cockroaches? She caressed Blair's hip.
She was wavering, Jo could tell.
"Nobody can see," she assured her. She kissed her, then sank to her knees and thanked her, leisurely and with loving attention.
She was very welcome, Blair would have said if she could.
Jo was trying to control her anger, but it was hard. "You even think about comin' near that store again, you can forget about breathing," she warned.
She meant it. This twerp had terrorized Blair into forking over fifty dollars in protection money, but this wasn't about money.
Jo wished she had been there. If she had, the only jar that would have been smashed would have been over the little shit's head.
"Why are you still busting my chops?" Kelly whined one afternoon.
"You scared Blair."
"Gimme a break! How long are you gonna hold that against me?"
Blair examined the paper carefully. "The rattle?" she asked.
"There," the mechanic replied. He pointed at one scribbled line on the receipt.
Was that what that meant? She would have to take his word for it. "And it's safe for me to drive home?" she asked again.
"Yes, Ma'am," he assured her.
Satisfied, Blair handed over a credit card and took possession of her keys. On the way home, she lowered the top and enjoyed the sunshine. Such a lovely Saturday . . . .
She found her partner puttering restlessly around the apartment, picking things up, putting them back, blowing air out of her cheeks.
"You're back!" Jo said happily. "Wanna go out and do something?" She eyed the hint of cleavage afforded by Blair's new blouse. "Or better yetlet's do somethin' and then go out . . . ."
"I'd love to," Blair replied, "but my car's acting up."
Jo perked up. "Oh, yeah?"
With a touch of distress, Blair said, "It's not accelerating normally, and there's some kind of rattle . . . ."
"No shit?" Jo said excitedly.
"I was going to call a mechanic, but"
"No! No, I got it!"
"Well, good," Blair said. "Why don't you take care of that, and then" she unfastened another button on her blouse "come back in and take care of me?"
Jo hurried over and kissed her. "This is the best day off ever!" She rushed into the bedroom to get changed.
Kicking off her shoes, Blair lay back on the couch and picked up her new Cosmo. "You're welcome . . . ."
Geez, picking up Blair's purse was like lifting weights. "You got bricks in here?" Jo groused.
"It's my new cellular!" Blair explained excitedly.
Blair took the purse from her and pulled a rectangular object out of it, handing the gadget to Jo for inspection. Below the stubby antenna, it had numbers zero through 9 on the front, just like
"A phone!" Blair replied. "Everyone who's anyone has them now. It goes through a satellite or something, I don't know. The important thing is that I can use it anywhere I am!"
"In populated areas, anyway," Blair went on. "So now I can call you from anywhere in Peekskill!"
From school, asking if Jo could drop off the book that Blair forgot. From Bloomies, wondering whether she should buy three sweaters or two sweaters and a vest. From the theater, chiding Jo for answering the phone when she should be on her way. From wherever the hell Blair got the urge to let her fingers do the walking.
Until the day it disappeared. Darned if she knew where it was, Jo shrugged. Blair would have to order another one? Too bad. Jo hoped that something didn't happen to that one, too.
For the next few blissful days, things were back to the way they were supposed to be. Crossing her ankles as she read Nat's column in the Peekskill Press, the sound of an 8-cylinder out front caught Jo's attention. The other girls were already home and it wasn't Blair's Porsche; Jo knew that purr by heart.
Opening the front door, she saw her roommate walking up the sidewalk, accompanied by a uniformed officer. Blair rushed up and threw her arms around Jo. "Oh, Jo, it was awful!" she said.
"My car broke down."
Jo glanced at the cop. "What else?"
"I waited forever, and finally this jogger stopped," Blair said. "He seemed so nice . . . ."
Oh, no. Jo could see smudges on her friend's dress.
Blair released her and laid a hand on her escort's arm. "Thank goodness you scared him off."
"Glad to help, Ma'am," he said politely. "Will you need help with the car?"
"I'll take care of it," Jo interjected.
Inside the house, Blair provided more details of the jerk who had fondled her. Gray t-shirt, white sweat pants, blue tennies? Jo made a note. "I'll go check out the car," she said. "If I get it started, I'll come back for you. Oh, yeah, and" She hurried up the stairs. When she returned, she held something out to Blair. "I found this."
"My cellular! Where was it?"
Gesturing vaguely, Jo muttered, "Uh, you know . . . up there . . . ."
"I already ordered another one," Blair said. "Oh, well, I guess it won't hurt to have an extra. What if I lose this one again?"
Jo shook her head. "I don't think you will."
Blair's eyes lit up. "I knowyou can have it!" she declared. "Then I can call you wherever you are, too!"
"I really don't care for this assignment," Blair said again.
Jo checked her hair in the mirror. "Yeah, I think you let that secret out."
Thoughtfully, Blair said, "Maybe I could . . . ."
Oh, no, she didn't. "Blair," Jo interrupted, "if you call my captain and complain about this assignment, I'm gonna call your board of directors and complain about your trip next week."
That bought her a brief reprieve.
Fluffing her hair out with her fingers, Jo asked, "Don't you have to get ready for the Snooties of the Colonies?"
"Hildy has it under control," Blair replied. "Can't you smell the croissants?"
Mm, yeah, she could. "I think I'll grab one before I go," Jo said.
"Try the ham and sherry," Blair suggested. "It's a new recipe from the chef at the tea room."
"Sherry?" Jo said. "I'm on duty here."
"Don't worry," Blair replied. "It burns off."
"I'd better stick with something safe, like cheese."
Blair frowned. "I didn't have her make cheese croissants," she said. She chewed her lip. "Do you think I should have? It's not too late."
"I think you could give'em dogmeat and they'd sign you up, with that big fat carrot you're holding out," Jo said.
"I've told you, this donation is completely unrelated to membership," Blair explained. "Yes, I do expect them to make me an honorary Lady of the Colony, but it's all about supporting a worthy cause."
"So this has nothing to do with the fact that they turned you down fifteen years ago?"
"I barely recall what you're referring to."
"Mm hm," Jo replied. She pulled open the drawer on her bedside table. "Where are my stockings?"
In a plastic bag in the walk-in closet, apparently. "I had them dry cleaned," Blair said. She drew out the black fishnets, along with matching black leather miniskirt and a red-and-black halter.
"You had these dry cleaned?" Jo sat on the bed and dipped a foot into the hosiery. "At Emile's?"
"Of course not," Blair replied. "I had Hildy take them somewhere under her name."
Noticing Blair's interest as she smoothed the skin-tight leather across her hips, Jo teased, "I'll be on the corner tonight if you wanna pick me up."
Blair appeared suitably appalled. "I hardly think so," she sniffed.
"Oh, come on." Jo walked over and slid her arms around Blair's waist. "You drive up, and I'll tell you what you can get for a hundred bucks." She leaned in for a kiss. "Last night would have cost you an extra fifty."
Blair let her head fall back as Jo nibbled on her throat. "What would it have cost you?"
"A fortune." Jo bit down lightly. "Pick me up," she said against Blair's skin. "We'll play 'Rich Dame and Hooker Who'll Do Anything.'"
"If I feel a sudden urge to have my car stripped, I'll swing by," Blair replied.
"Okay," Jo relented. Reluctantly, she let Blair go; she really needed to get to work. "I wanna stop by the Kroger after work anyway. You knowthat thing that's like a store, only with food instead of clothes."
Indignantly, Blair said, "I did plenty of grocery shopping at Eastland!"
"No, you didn't," Jo countered. "You always made me do it."
"And you always let me make you."
"Mm, sounds dirty," Jo said with a leer.
Blair rolled her eyes. "This assignment is turning you into a sex maniac," she said.
"So you're saying you like it now?" Jo grinned at her. "Hey, you got lunch money?" she asked. "I was gonna stop by the ATM, but I'm running late."
Blair eyed her outfit. "Where would you put it?" She nodded toward the living room. "On the mantel. Near the coat."
Ah, yes, the floor-length Miu Miu that Blair insisted be worn in and out of the building, and anywhere else in which there was even a remote possibility that Jo might run into someone they knew.
"Did you find the cash?" Blair's voice inquired from the bedroom.
"Got it." She snagged a twenty from Blair's purse, tugged up her skirt, and tucked the bill into her garter. "Forty-seventh and Lafayette if you're in the mood tonight," she yelled.
"I'll find someone closer and cheaper," Blair called back.
Heh, heh. She'd be there.
Turning to leave, Jo saw five wide-eyed Ladies of the Colonies standing in the foyer.
Uh oh. Jo poked her head into the bedroom. "Uh, Blair?" she said. "You might want to skip the croissants and go straight to the sherry . . . ."
"Now look what you've done!" Blair exclaimed angrily. The flashing red lights grew closer in her rear view mirror.
"Me?" Jo replied. "Someone might have wanted to use that other lane. This ticket is all yours, Princess."
"Don't be silly," Blair said. "Blair Warner doesn't get tickets." She put the Coupe de Ville in park and fluffed out her hair. "I just need a moment . . . ."
"And I just need a barfbag." Jo watched in her side mirror as the cop stepped out of the car, and thena wide grin spread across Jo's face. Thank you, God.
The Cadillac's electric window whirred as it rolled down.
"License and registration?" a voice requesteda female voice.
One had to give Blair credit; she didn't scream. That's right, Babeno Y chromosome for you to wrap around your little finger. Calmly, Blair produced the requested documents.
"Have you been drinking tonight, Miss Warner?"
"No, she always drives that way," Jo piped up.
Glaring at her passenger, Blair said, "No, officer. I was just attempting to get my hairbrush, because someone refused to help me."
"I couldn't reach it!" Jo said. "It's clear behind your seat."
"I managed to reach it," Blair countered.
"Only by driving like the steering wheel fell off!"
Blair turned back to the third woman present. "Just ignore her," she said. "I've had to for years." With a smile and a flip of her hair, she started in on one of her mindless monologues that inexplicably mesmerized one-half of the city's populace, but would go down like a lead boat with the other.
Officer Petrous listened silently, eyes concealed behind reflective sunglasses, as Blair rambled on. Finally, the woman took off her glasses, and Jo sat up in anticipation. This was for all the men and women out there who had never Blaired their way out of a traffic ticket.
"So, you go to Langley?"
What? What kind of interrogation was that?
"We're sophomores," Blair said. "Do you know anyone who goes there?" Flip, giggle.
Now Peekskill's finest was talking about some friend of her brother. What the hell? Eventually, the woman closed her pad and said, "Well, let's try to be more careful, Miss Warner."
What the hell?
And then she was gone, striding casually back to her car, not having issued the ticket that should have been issued.
"I don't believe this," Jo groused. "Now you're flirting with women?"
"That wasn't flirting."
"The hell it wasn't. If you'd flipped your hair one more time, it woulda come out in a clump!"
"With men, I'm flirting," Blair explained. "With women, I'm just being charming."
"And I'm being sick." Jo shook her head disgustedly. "If I'd been that cop, you would have gotten a ticket." It wasn't much consolation, but it made her feel better to say it.
"Now, Jo . . . ."
"Forget it, Warner," Jo said. "Your 'charm' wouldn't work on me."
Blair smiled as she started the car. "If you say so."
Damn right. "Now let's go get that dress you wanted . . . ."
Lucky dog, Jo's colleagues said. For the next week while the little woman opened a new Warner Hotel in Arizona, Polniaczek would enjoy a no-nag zone.
"Think she'd take our wives with her next time?" Keith asked.
It wasn't all that great, Jo said. She had to make her own meals now.
"Blair doesn't cook," he countered.
"No, but I'm not havin' people wait on me while she's gone," Jo said. "I gave 'em the week off." Smugly, she added, "I think I'll watch a dirty movie, make some chili, and toss my shit on the floor."
Tomorrow, the guys would be over for Game 1 of the Series. Real sports fans cussing and cheering instead of Blair's occasional glance and polite, "That was good, wasn't it?" yeah, this was the life.
Jo looked around their empty apartment. Alone at last!
She pulled on a pair of shorts and the Official Busch Inspector t-shirt that Blair hated, and sat in front of the TV flipping the channels. Nothing really suited her mood. Well, that was okay. She moved onto the couch and popped a Coors.
Peace and quiet for once. No monologues about who wore a ridiculous dress today and who was getting divorced tomorrow. Yeah . . . peace and quiet . . . .
After a moment, she reached for the cordless and dialed a number.
Jo smiled. "Hey, how's Phoenix?"
"Warm," Blair replied. "You'll never believe the mixup at the airport. Do you want to hear about it?"
"Yeah," Jo said. Every word.
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