DISCLAIMER: None. The characters are all mine. If you want to imagine our two favorite leading ladies as them, you have my blessing.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story was originally written last year for Royal Academy of Bards' 2011 Halloween Invitational. I added a few pages to round out the characters.
WARNING: The lead characters are women who desire other women and the suspicion of infidelity.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To Cheyne255[at]gmail.com

By Cheyne


"Are you sure you don't want to go?" Lily asked Layne, her partner of eight years.

"No, my headache is too bad still." Layne rubbed her forehead for emphasis.

"You and your freakin' headaches," Lily said, in a not-so-nice tone of voice. "Well, just so you know, I love Wendy's Halloween parties and I'm going without you."

"Fine. I think you should. You have a better time when I'm not there, anyway," Layne said, honestly.

Lily took a threatening step toward her. "What are you accusing me of – again, Layne?"

"Nothing. I'm just making a statement of fact. Why are you getting so defensive, Lily, if you don't have anything to hide?"

"How do you know what I do when I'm not with you unless you spy on me?"

"I don't need to spy on you. All of our friends tell me how you are when I'm not around."

"Oh, here we go," Lily said and rolled her eyes. "I am so out of here. Do whatever you want but I'm going to have a good time." Lily grabbed her mask off the hall table and left, slamming the door behind her.

"I'm sure you will," Layne said quietly and the closed door. Layne didn't really have a headache; she had a plan that was now time to put into place.

Every year, Wendy Elroy threw what she called her Hellacious Halloween Happening. She was an eccentric, elderly lesbian and the gay community's unofficial "mayor." She owned a huge mansion where she held all of her seasonal soirees and this one was always the event of the year. It was a party where everyone was required to show up in costume, full masks required, and not tell anyone who was who. She even insisted that participants disguise their voices, if necessary. At exactly midnight, everyone would be required to unmask themselves. Although all attendees were supposed to be members of the gay community, occasionally a few straight partiers sneaked in. After a rather interesting incident, a few years earlier, where one of the hetero party crashers found himself in bed with a delicate, feminine gay man in a sexy, vinyl Storm from X-Men costume, it became an annual reminder that if you hooked up at this party before midnight, you took responsibility for your own actions.

If what happened at Wendy's, stayed at Wendy's, the parties might not be as legendary but even the people who swore they'd never return to another Halloween bash always showed up the next year. It was at last year's costume party where Layne heard about how badly Lily had behaved without her there. When she questioned her partner about it, Lily made her feel so crummy for bringing it up that she dropped it. Layne had suspected, however, that their flame had begun to die long before Lily got the seven-year itch.

Layne brought up their relationship issues more than once and was rewarded by being called a nag, suspicious and paranoid. She even suggested a trial separation but Lily refused, even though they had become more like roommates with occasional benefits than the loving couple they had been in their first few years. The last couple of years, especially, the benefits were less and less as they became more distant. Layne realized she wanted out and knew the only way Lily would let her go was that if Layne caught her blatantly cheating. She was tired of being told that she was lucky to have Lily and that no one else would want her. She had reached the point where she would rather be alone than with someone and lonely.

Layne went to her bathroom, showered, removed her female Captain Jack Sparrow costume from its hiding place and put it on. She liked the way she looked in it. The mini-dress was a crushed velvet material in royal blue over a cream-colored satin petticoat with a matching sash. She buckled the second of two belts over her slim waist and slid the plastic sword in its scabbard. She tied the maroon paisley bandanna around her forehead over the mid-back length, wavy black wig, slid her knee-high cuffed pirate boots on and checked herself out in the mirror one last time. She had a white mask to go with it and an eye patch if she felt she needed it. The ensemble showed off all of her physical attributes, more than a little skin and it was the perfect disguise. It had been so long since she dressed this sexy, she forgot how liberating it felt. Certainly, it was an outfit Lily would never suspect she'd wear and Layne could go to the party undetected by her partner.

If she were going to be accused of being suspicious and spying, she figured she might as well be suspicious and spy.

The party was in full swing when she arrived. Layne had her mask on sans the eye patch and she received what she guessed to be many appraising glances if the way her admirers' heads moved was any indication. She nodded at everyone and made her way to the open bar where all the drinks were Halloween-themed. She picked up what she hoped was a chilled glass of white wine. The wine glasses were drizzled with "blood" which was really a mixture of corn syrup and red food coloring. Other proffered drinks had what appeared to be eyeballs and brains in them and although they were probably tasty, the content was unappetizing. She would have normally gone right for a beer but she wanted to give no clues to who she might really be, just in the remotest off-chance that Lily were on the lookout for her.

Even as large and as spread out as the party was, it didn't take Layne long to spot Lily. Layne stood leaning against a wall, sipping on her wine, watching her partner work the room. Lily was a natural flirt so that part didn't bother her but the way she moved told Layne that she had already had enough to drink to relax her.

She observed Lily in her skin-tight, leather Catwoman attire (the Michelle Pfeiffer version). As much as her partner annoyed her of late, Layne couldn't deny that Lily certainly had the body to wear such a seductive costume. Her partner's obsession with working out paid off on a night like tonight where she could show off her enviably fit and supple form.

Layne finished her wine and replaced her empty glass with a full one on a passing tray. All wait staff were dressed in French maid costumes, including the men. Another server walked up to Layne, holding a tray of hors d'oeuvres. She stopped in front of Layne who selected a crab Rangoon and a mini olive tapenade bruschetta. After the server left, Layne returned her attention to Lily. She was enjoying the strong flavor of the bruschetta when she stopped in mid-chew. Lily's hand was on the breast of what looked to be a pretty full-bosomed Renaissance wench, and the wench copped a feel back. Someone dressed like a matador came up behind Lily and slid her hands around Lily's waist and kissed her on her vinyl-covered neck. Although Lily did not kiss the woman back, she stayed in the woman's arms and allowed the woman to maneuver her backward to the dance floor. When Lily turned in the matador's arms, they ground their bodies together in a sensuous dance that made Layne's mouth water. She remembered when Lily danced with her like that and then became angry because Lily shouldn't have been dancing with anyone like that except her.

She made her way through vampires, werewolves, Jedi Knights, cops, gladiators, cowboys, Greek gods, soldiers and many other costumes until she was at the edge of the dance floor. When she spotted her partner again, the matador had lifted the clear mask that slightly distorted the lower half of Lily's face and was kissing her. Deeply.

I knew it. I just fucking knew it! Layne marched onto the dance floor toward Lily and stopped when she saw Lily push the matador away, pull her mask back down and wag her finger at her. Lily turned to walk away and stopped when she saw Layne. Shit. She knows it's me. No. She can't know it's me. I wouldn't even know it's me. Lily's eyes blatantly traveled up and down Layne's body and Layne swore, from the motion behind the mask, that Lily licked her lips. This is about to get very interesting.

Layne took a deep breath and moved seductively toward Lily, making sure she walked in a manner that was unlike her usual stride. She stood in front of her partner and boldly held her hand out. Lily took it and gently tugged her further onto the dance floor, leaving the matador insulted and gaping. The song had a pulsating beat and instead of matching the rhythm with dance moves, Lily pulled Layne to her and swayed slowly to a beat in her own mind. At first, Layne was stiff with anger but then she reminded herself to relax and when she did, her body melted into the taller, stronger one holding her. It suddenly felt like old times and the situation brought tears to Layne's eyes. Thankfully, the music was loud enough that Lily couldn't hear her sniffle.

They danced slowly to several more songs with Lily's touches becoming more intimate each time. Layne was incensed that Lily would so behave so brazenly with someone who wasn't her yet Layne let the pawing continue because, after all, it was territory Lily had already – unknowingly - traversed. During a small break, Lily retrieved them drinks, they danced some more and Lily made her move.

"I have a little proposition for you, if you're interested," Lily whispered in Layne's ear after another slow song ended.

"What's that?" Layne asked, speaking in a breathy voice, higher than her normal register and putting on a fake British inflection.

"Let's go find one of the bedrooms. You're driving me crazy." Lily's voice was still a whisper.

Layne was incensed and wanted to reveal her identity to Lily right there. But there was still that uncertainty that Lily may have known it was her and was toying with her. No, Lily wouldn't play this game with me, she'd be pissed that I showed up without telling her and accuse me of spying on her. I'll keep up this façade as long as she does. "Aren't you here with someone?"

"Oh, God, are you British? Jesus, I love that accent," Lily continued to whisper in her ear. "No, I'm not with anyone but I really want to be with you." She stepped away and held out her hand.

Layne took it and Lily led her upstairs to one of the empty bedrooms. Lily locked the door behind them. She found Layne in the dark, removed her mask and brought their lips together in a searing kiss. It had been so long since Lily kissed her with such passion that it took her breath away. Lily continued to kiss her with a hunger Layne had not experienced in her before. By the time they made it to the bed, Lily had unbuckled Layne's belts, untied the sash and pulled the Velcro strips apart that held the costume together. Lily's hands were everywhere and touched all the right places to make her respond. Layne's anger became ardor in the frenzied desire that drove them both. First Lily's mouth then her long fingers pushed Layne to explode in multiple orgasms.

The room was still so dark that even after her eyes had become accustomed, Layne could only see her partner clear enough to decipher that she had not removed her Catwoman cap mask. She was undecided as to whether that pleased or frustrated her because the more Layne had thought about what just happened, the more betrayed and confused she felt.

She was profoundly hurt that Lily couldn't work up that kind of passion for her anymore, that Lily couldn't touch her in that manner that made her feel so desirable. Maybe it was the perceived anonymity of it that turned Lily on. Or…maybe it was what she had begun to think of late, that Lily just didn't find her attractive anymore. Out of respect, the least Lily could do was wait until they were separated or completely apart until she decided to go out and have meaningless sex with a total stranger.

"Are you okay?" Lily asked, once again, her voice a whisper in her ear.

Layne tried to speak but words failed her. Her body was still recovering from the powerful cluster of climaxes and her emotions were too bruised to form sentences.

"Fifteen minutes until midnight!" The announcement was called out several times so that no one would miss the news that the big unveiling was upon the guests.

Lily sighed and moved off Layne and off the bed. "I'll meet you downstairs."

"Wait -!" Layne heard the door close. She slowly sat up, dressed herself and wept. She didn't think the truth of Lily's infidelity would hit her so hard.

Layne had not stayed for the unmasking. She left though a back door and drove home. A sadness had enveloped her that she couldn't shake. When she got home she removed her costume, put it away and showered the remnants of the evening's activities off. She dressed for bed and waited for Lily to arrive home.

She had fallen asleep on the couch when the sound of the front door closing, awakened her. Lily stopped and looked at Layne curiously. She had her costume in her hand. "What are you doing up? I thought you'd be in bed. Guess your headache got better." Lily's tone was amiable, almost affectionate.

It took all Layne had in her not to jump up and slap Lily across the face. "How was the party?"

Lily shrugged. "Okay." She walked to the hall closet and put her costume away in a box.

"Just okay? Really?" Layne was trying not to bite off every word. "Meet anyone new?"

"No, I didn't." Lily closed the door and turned around to face Layne, who was now on her feet. "Why the questions?"

"I'm just wondering. I couldn't go and I wanted to know how it was. You said you have a better time without me so since I wasn't there, it makes me wonder why you just had an okay time."

"No, actually, you said that, not me." Lily walked to the kitchen and took a bottle of water out of the refrigerator. Layne followed. "But, if you really must know, I walked into the party and right into a fight between Debby and Cate. And then the police came and hauled out two homophobic party crashers who were determined to cause problems and it put me in a bad mood. So I went out to the guesthouse with Shelly, Jean, Pat and Bonnie and played poker all night. I had much more fun."

"What?" Layne's eyes were large. "But…your costume…"

"I lent it to Dru Patterson. She's that café owner that just started a business in town. She didn't have time to find a costume and we're the same size, so…"

"D-Dru P-Patt…" Layne thought she was going to faint.

"Yeah. Remember? We stopped in for coffee and flan there a few weeks ago? She's pretty gorgeous and the costume must have worked for her because she said she got lucky with a pretty hot pirate."

Layne couldn't speak. Dru Patterson was an extremely attractive soft butch who caught the eye of every lesbian in town when she opened her business less than a month earlier. Layne felt paralyzed as the ramifications of her own behavior hit her.

Lily passed her and stopped to study Layne's expression. "What's wrong with you? You look like you've seen a ghost."

"I'm, uh, fine…" Her thoughts went back to the multiple orgasms she'd had hours earlier. By Dru Patterson. She closed her eyes.

"You sure?"

"Yes. Yes, I'm sure. It's late. Let's go to bed. We'll talk in the morning."

The next morning, Layne woke up alone in bed. She was still reeling from her illicit activities of the night before. She was torn between guilt for unknowingly cheating on Lily and a newfound, passionate infatuation with Dru Patterson. She sat up in bed and hugged her knees to her chest. She smelled fresh coffee brewing and decided to get up. Layne had made the decision before she had fallen asleep not to confess to Lily – at least not yet. She needed to reconcile her own feelings first.

She walked into the kitchen to find Lily reading the daily paper. She took her favorite mug down from the cupboard and poured coffee into it. She stirred in some cream and sat down at the table, across from Lily. "Morning."

"Yep. It is morning," Lily commented, without looking at Layne.

"Lily? What happened to us?" The question was posed as a sincere one without any accusatory or snide tone to her voice.

Lily sighed, annoyed, yet refused to take her attention away from the newspaper. "I'm not starting the day with a fight."

"I don't want to fight. I just want to know what happened?"

"Nothing happened. If you have issues with our relationship, they're yours, not mine."

"Lil –"

"Stop nagging me, Layne! Jesus!" Lily closed the newspaper abruptly and slammed her hand down on it. She glared at Layne and then stood up. "You start our morning like this and then you wonder what's wrong. Look in a mirror, Layne! That's what's wrong." The hurt expression on Layne's face only made her angrier. "Great. I'm out of here. Going over to Shelly's. At least she doesn't irritate the shit out of me."

As tears rolled down Layne's face, Lily ignored them and left the house, closing the door behind her with force.

The bell on the door jingled to advise that someone had either entered the café or had exited. Layne closed the door behind her and looked around. She had only patronized this establishment once and she was pleased at the casual, friendly atmosphere the café exuded. The color scheme consisted of teal, tan, red and gold and a Southwestern motif. There was a ceiling border of hand painted steer skulls, suns and geckos. The tablecloths were sewn with a western geometric pattern, which matched the hand painted designs on the chairs. The dishes and cups matched in style but not in color. Artwork of desert scenes, coyotes and cacti decorated the walls. The food options consisted of a Tex-Mex menu and the mouth-watering aroma wafting out from the kitchen instantly caused Layne's stomach to growl. A server approached her and told her to sit anywhere. Layne found a small table away from the window in case Lily walked by. She did not want her to know she was in there.

She removed a menu from the napkin holder that also contained salt, pepper and hot pepper sauce and green chili sauce. As she looked over her choices, a shadow crossed her table.

"Welcome to Dru Canyon Café. Can I start you with something to drink?"

Layne looked up, mildly surprised to see that Dru was the one waiting on her. "Hi. Um…yes. Could I get a raspberry iced tea, please?" She locked eyes with the beautiful woman and swallowed hard.

"Sure." Dru tilted her head and studied Layne. "Do I know you?"

Layne felt herself blushing and cursed her pale complexion for betraying her. "No, we've never officially met."

"But we've unofficially met?" It was clear that Dru was trying to place her.

"We, um, travel in similar circles, so I guess you could say that." Layne's heart was nearly pounding through her chest. In or out of costume, Layne was wildly attracted to the nearly perfect specimen of womanhood that was Dru Patterson. Then, once again, guilt overtook her. The vivid recollection of Dru bringing her to orgasm repeatedly forced her to think about her infidelity. But you didn't set out to be unfaithful and you really did think it was Lily.

Dru extended her hand. "Dru."

Layne reached out, accepting the handshake. "Layne Mathias."

Dru slowly pulled her hand back. "I'll go get your iced tea." She started to back away but stopped. "Are you sure we don't know each other? There is something so familiar about you."

Layne could stand the scrutiny no longer. She stood up as tears glistened in the corner of her eyes. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have come here. Excuse me." She hurried out the door.

Minutes later, as Layne was about to get into her car, she felt a hand on her shoulder. She turned around to face Dru. "It's you. From last night. The pirate." Her voice was barely a whisper.

Layne shut her car door and leaned against the car. She crossed her arms and stared at the ground. "Yes."

Dru reached over and gently lifted Layne's chin. The look in her eyes was gentle, searching. "Why did you leave?"

"Um…" Layne looked away from her. "I thought you were someone else."

Dru's hand dropped to her side. "I don't understand. Can you come back inside and talk? I'll buy your lunch." She sounded hopeful.

Unable to resist her, Layne nodded and silently followed her back inside. They returned to the table Layne had previously occupied.

"Janie, I'm going to take a break. Just holler if you need me. And bring my guest a raspberry iced tea, please."

"I think I'm going to need something a little stronger," Layne said.

"Bring my guest a raspberry margarita, please." Dru waited for Janie to acknowledge her and sat opposite Layne. "I looked for you for over an hour last night. I couldn't believe you left. What happened? I thought we, you know, hit it off."

"We did but it was under false pretenses, I'm afraid. You were wearing my girlfriend's costume and I thought you were her. She went to the party without me and I thought she was cheating on me. So I went to spy on her. I thought you were her."

Dru absorbed the words Layne said and then processed their meaning. "Wait, wait… You went to catch your girlfriend cheating on you and you ended up cheating on her?"

"But I didn't find out it wasn't her until last night after she came home and told me she walked into a scene between Debby Jarvis and Cate Bellinger and she decided not to stay and instead gave her costume to you and went to play poker in the guest house with-"

Janie brought the margarita to the table. "Can I get you anything, Dru?"

Dru did not take her eyes off Layne. "Yes. A shot of Patrón, please." She waited until Janie was gone. "You're Lily Criss' girlfriend?"

"Yes," Layne responded, after she took a sip of her margarita.

Janie came back with Dru's shot and handed it to her. Dru tipped the glass back and downed it without salt or lime. She handed the empty glass back to Janie. "Thanks." She stopped Janie before she could leave and snatched the shot glass back. "Maybe you better bring the bottle over." Janie nodded and went back to the bar.

"How do you know Lily? Other than her giving you the costume last night."

Dru waited until Janie brought the Patrón bottle and then left. "I'm a little confused. How could you not know I wasn't your girlfriend? How long have you been together?"

"Eight years."

"Eight years and you couldn't tell the difference between me and Lily?" Dru poured herself another shot but did not drink it. "And you were convinced she couldn't tell it was you?"

"You don't understand. We're hardly intimate anymore. We haven't been for over three years. I chalked up the contrast in lovemaking styles to her being different with who she would think was a stranger. Believe me, she used to be as, um, amorous our first couple years and then I don't know what happened. It was an honest mistake. It was dark. You are both the same height and you both wore that costume like a second skin. And I went there convinced she was the one wearing that costume. You whispered and I spoke with a British accent because we were all told to disguise our voices. So yes, I thought you were her."

"And you found out differently after the party, when she got home? Why didn't you two go together?"

"She made me so miserable that I told her I didn't want to go. Like I said, I thought she was cheating and I wanted to catch her."

"Why didn't you just ask her?"

"I have. Several times. She always denies it."

"And you're not buying it."

Layne bowed her head in shame. "It seems I was wrong."

Dru sighed and drank the shot of tequila. "No. You're not wrong."

Layne's head shot up and she looked at Dru with shock. She took in Dru's demeanor and added it to her nervousness and shooting tequila and then said, "Don't tell me you're sleeping with my girlfriend…"

Startled, wide eyes engaged her back. "Me? No, it's not me. But she is cheating on you. In fact, let me be honest since you are unnecessarily beating yourself up. Lily Criss is such a player, finding out she has a live-in girlfriend is the biggest shock I've had since I moved here. Well, other than finding out that I slept with Lily Criss' live-in girlfriend."

Layne paled at Dru's statement. "So she really is being unfaithful…" She burst into tears.

"Wait – oh, shit, I'm sorry. You said you suspected."

Layne picked up her napkin and blew her nose with it. "But I was hoping I was wrong. All our friends hinted at it but I kept thinking that it was just because she was a flirt. Thinking it and finding out it's really true are two different things. How could she do this to me?"

Dru reached across the table and took Layne's hand. "Hey… Better that you know for sure, isn't it?" Her tone was soothing. "I have to be honest, Layne. Personally, I'm thrilled that you know the truth. She obviously doesn't deserve you."

Layne shook her head and pulled her hand away. "What makes you any better? I saw the way you were on the dance floor. You let people you didn't know paw you all over and kiss you and you were a little grabby and affectionate yourself. And we danced just four times before you took me upstairs and fucked me senseless." She hadn't realized that her voice rose with every word and when she finished her last sentence, she noticed everyone in the café was staring at her and Dru.

Dru looked around and smiled sheepishly at the patrons before returning her focus to Layne. She lowered her volume. "And you had no problem going upstairs with me, did you?" Her tone was defensive.

"I told you. I thought you were Lily."

Dru leaned back in her chair and exhaled audibly. She studied her empty shot glass while continuing to turn it around with her fingers. "First of all, I'm single. Second, from what I was told before I went to Wendy's party was that it wasn't supposed to be a church social. I feel I behaved accordingly. Third, everything before you was harmless. Everything I did with you was not casual. I have never, ever had anonymous sex before. You affected me in a way I've never felt. I don't have words for it and I cannot explain it. I have never had anyone be so responsive with me and you took my breath away. I really meant it when I told you I would meet you downstairs. I really wanted to meet you. I don't want to sit here and start pointing fingers and laying blame. We both did things out of character and we both have to accept the after effects of our actions." She leaned forward again. "So…we both have a decision to make. Yours is do you really want to stay in a relationship with someone who so openly disrespects you and tries to make a fool of you? Mine is if you do the smart thing and leave her, if I can wait long enough to make sure whatever we might have together won't be a revenge or rebound thing."

"You mean, you'd still want to…be with me?" Layne was sincerely stumped.

"I'd like to be your friend, at the very least. What happens after that is up to fate."

Layne was still reeling. Her partner of eight years was a liar and a fraud. What was worse, her significant other was a psychological abuser who had isolated her from family and friends and made her feel as though she was not good enough for anyone else and that she was solely responsible for her own situation and Lily treating her the way she did. "How did I let myself get here?"

It had been a purely rhetorical response but Dru decided to address it anyway. "She groomed you. She's nothing more than a common bully, Layne. Even if nothing results from our tryst last night, I can say that I will be proud to have played my part in opening your eyes, as ambiguous as it was."

Layne absorbed Dru's words and finished her margarita. She was shellshocked at the epiphany. Dru gestured to the shot glass and the bottle but Layne shook her head. Her mind seemed to be racing at a hundred miles an hour.

"What are you going to do?" Dru asked, gently.

"I'm going to leave her." Layne looked up at Dru, as the tears spilled over again. "I have to leave her. As battered as my self-respect is, it won't allow me to stay with her."

"Do you have any place to go?"

"Yes. My apartment. She moved in with me, my name is on the rental contract and I pay the rent. She'll have to move out."

"Will she? I mean, without a fight?" There was genuine concern in Dru's expression.

"She's never been physically abusive, if that's what you're asking. She might put up a fight, though."

"Do you want me there with you when you evict her?"

Layne wiped her eyes. "Why would you want to get mixed up in this?"

"The way I see it, I already am. And she came on to me full force when I first opened the café. She also knows I know a lot of her secrets. For example, she didn't 'loan' me her costume. She offered the costume to me last week when she was in here with Shelly Bascomb. She asked me if I had a costume and she said since she and I were about the same size, it should fit. I always wanted to be Catwoman so I said sure."

"So she was pretty sure I would not go to Wendy's again this year, too," Layne said, mostly to herself. "Is she sleeping with Shelly?"

"Yes. And Bonnie and Jean and Pat."

Layne's mouth dropped open. "All of them? She said they played poker in Wendy's guesthouse."

"They played 'poke her' all right but it wasn't a card game. It was widely known that anyone who wanted to be a part of a group grope could go directly to the guesthouse." Seeing the look on Layne's face broke Dru's heart. "Sorry, Layne."

Layne shrugged as she wiped her eyes again. "It's not your fault. I just wish I'd known. I feel like such a laughingstock."

"Why should you care what she or her selfish friends think of you? I can guarantee they don't care what you think of them. And you're better than that, Layne."

"Thank you, Dru."

"You're welcome. So if you want to call her and tell her to meet you at your place, I'll come with you and back you up. I will bet you a date, she won't give you any trouble because she'll figure you and I have already talked."

"You'll bet me a date? I thought you said you just wanted to be friends."

Dru grinned. "I was talking about a sweet, brown oval fruit. What were you talking about?" Her humor brought a smile to Layne's face. "You are beautiful, you know." These words made Layne loudly burst into tears again, which caused the diners to once more look in their direction. Dru reached over across the table and took Layne's hand again. "She really beat you down, didn't she? God, what a dope. How you two ever ended up together, I'll never know."

"She was different, in the beginning."

Dru squeezed her hand. "Sweetie, abusers always are. That's how they hook you. You can stay here as long as you'd like. When you're ready to call her and confront her, let me know and we'll do it together. Until then, I'm going to help out my staff."

When Dru got up, she leaned over and kissed Layne softly, on the forehead. Layne watched her leave and studied her while she went about her business. About twenty minutes later, after much thought, Layne flipped open her cellphone and pressed a button. She waited, expecting to be put into voicemail. She was surprised when Lily answered. "Lily? Take your fingers out of Shelly or Jean or Bonnie or Pat and get your ass home. I want you to pack and I want you out of my apartment. Today!" Before Lily could respond, Layne hung up. She stood up and walked over to Dru. "Okay. I'm ready."

The End

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