DISCLAIMER: I'd love to own the rights to this wonderful series, but sadly I don't.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is written for the July Passion and Perfection rare fandoms. The story takes place five years after the series finale. I believe the year would be 1993. Special thanks to Debbie for taking the time to beta and showing me the solution to my conversation problem.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Thursday Evening July 6
The phone rings in a New Rochelle condo for the third time in the past hour, and the owner stubs her toe on the nearby couch while attempting to answer it before the machine picks up. Grumbling into the receiver, she yells, "Damn it, Rick. I talk to you more now than when we were married. I've already told you I'm not interested in investing in your latest music video. What the hell do you want now?"
On the other end, Edna Garrett Gaines pulls the phone away from her ear before responding, "Jo Polniaczek, you should be ashamed of yourself. I know I taught you better than to answer a phone in such a manner."
Jo cringes on the other end as she replies, "Sorry, Mrs. G. I just assumed it was Rick. He's been calling me non-stop for the past two days, and it is really piss . . . er, making me mad. Anyway, it's great to hear from you. How have you been?"
Sighing, the older woman responds, "I'm feeling fine, Jo, but I need you to come here for the weekend. One of the girls is in big trouble, and we have to help her out. I thought if we all got together and came up with a solution, then we could go present it to her. She doesn't want anyone else involved, but I don't think she will get out of this mess by herself. What do you say? Can you come?"
Jo immediately asks, "Who is it?"
Mrs. Garrett answers, "I'll tell you when you get here. Please Jo, we need you."
Jo doesn't hesitate to tell her that she'll be there Friday evening.
Elated, Mrs. Garrett replies, "Thank you, Jo. Be careful on the drive. I'll see you Friday." She smiles and hangs up before looking up the next number on her list.
Friday Evening July 7
A shiny new BMW convertible pulls up into the Gaines driveway, and the occupant sits behind the steering wheel for a few minutes before stepping out. Jo feels a bit guilty for not visiting Mrs. Garrett, or rather Mrs. Gaines, in quite awhile. She smiles as she realizes she can still just call her Mrs. G.
Grabbing her bag, she walks up to the front door and rings the bell. The door opens, and she is engulfed in a hug by her old friend Natalie. "Jo, I've missed you. How have you been? I've heard your business has taken off. Sorry about Rick. I never really liked him anyway. He always had a weird look in his eyes if you ask me. Come on in, Mrs. G. and Tootie are in the den. We've been waiting for you."
Jo shakes her head and grins at the non-stop speech as she follows Natalie into the den. The grin immediately drops from her face when she realizes Blair must be the one in trouble.
Upon entering the den, Jo becomes the recipient of a Tootie and Mrs. Garrett group hug; she then takes a seat in the wing chair. The four women sit around and reminisce about the old days for over two hours before Mrs. Garrett changes the subject to the task at hand.
Clearing her throat, she says, "Girls, it's late so I'm only going to outline the problem tonight. Blair is being blackmailed. It's been going on for over a year now, and it's getting worse instead of better. First, the blackmailer only wanted money, and Blair has complied with all the demands. Now, the woman wants Blair to step down as headmistress of Eastland. She wants Blair to name her as the new headmistress."
Pausing, Mrs. Garrett adds "Blair came here last week very distraught. She had been drinking heavily, and I thank God she took a cab. Anyway, she detailed the scheme and even had pictures. I put her to bed, and the next morning, she apologized for bothering me and said she would take care of everything herself. Blair made me promise not to tell anyone, but I had to. She will lose everything she has worked so hard for."
After a few moments of silent contemplation, Jo finally says, "You did the right thing, Mrs. G. We all know how stubborn Blair can be. Tomorrow, we'll figure out a plan to get her out of this mess. I'll talk to her and make her understand. Blair and I sort of have a bond when bad things happen. One of us can always make the other swallow her pride and listen to reason. You'll see."
Mrs. Garrett smiles, and replies, "You're right, Jo. I know together we can find a solution. Now, let's get some sleep. Robert is gone on a fishing trip with his brothers for the next two weeks so Tootie and Natalie can stay in our room. I'll sleep in the guest room down the hall, and Jo can sleep on the pullout in the office." The four women say their goodnights and head for their respective bedrooms.
A short time later, there is a knock on Jo's door, and Mrs. Garrett sticks her head in before entering. She walks over to the small couch and takes a seat. Turning to Jo, she says, "Jo, there are some things I want you to know tonight. Cynthia Parks is the one blackmailing Blair."
Confused, Jo replies, "Cynthia Parks? The same Cynthia Parks that Blair set up with my dad when he and mom divorced? I thought she was Blair's friend."
Mrs. Garrett shakes her head, and replies, "So did Blair, but that's not the worst of it. Um, Jo, when was the last time you spent any time with Blair?"
Jo pauses and then answers, "Two years ago. She had a conference in New Rochelle and stayed at my place. We didn't get to visit too much though. Why?"
The older woman nervously replies, "Because apparently she's . . . er, gay?"
Jo laughs and says, "Is that a question or a joke? Cause Blair is about as boy crazy as anyone. If she didn't have a boyfriend, she would break out in hives."
Mrs. Garrett smiles and replies, "Yes, but that was years ago. I haven't heard her speak of a man in her life in the past four years, and I talk to her all the time."
Jo sits down next to Mrs. Garrett and says, "That doesn't mean she's gay. Maybe she's finally decided to wait for Mr. Right or maybe she's been so busy with the school she hasn't had time to date."
The older woman gets up and removes an envelope from the top desk drawer. She hands it to Jo and retakes her seat. Jo hesitates before pulling a set of photos from the envelope. She quickly rifles through the set and then goes through them again, examining each one very carefully. Each photo has a very clear and concise picture of Blair dancing with another woman. The last four show Blair exchanging what appears to be a very heated kiss with four different women.
Jo swallows and says, "These sure look real, but there has to be some sort of explanation. I just can't believe Blair would allow herself to be photographed in compromising positions. Plus, Blair's not gay."
Mrs. Garrett pats Jo on the leg as she rises from the couch. "Jo, Blair confessed to me that she was gay. She didn't act on it until about two years ago. She has never had a serious relationship, but she does frequent lesbian bars. She makes it a point not to go out with someone more than once. She realizes in her position that she can't go public."
Dumbfounded, Jo just stares at Mrs. Garrett in disbelief. The older woman walks to the door and says, "I just wanted you to know first, and I think you need to take a closer look at all those women in the pictures. Good night, Jo." With that, she turns and leaves the room.
Jo sits in silence for quite some time before she finally picks the envelope back up. Focusing in on the other women, she finds each of them to be around 5' 6" with dark hair and green eyes. Shaking her head, she feels something is just out of her grasp.
Deciding to sleep on it, she puts the envelope back in the drawer and pulls out the sleeper bed. She finds the sheets and pillow on the chair so she quickly and efficiently makes her bed. Turning out the light, she crawls under the covers.
Suddenly, just as she feels herself drifting off, Jo opens her eyes to the darkness as she realizes the connection. 'All those women look like me!'
Saturday Morning July 8
The sunshine filters into the room and right onto Jo's face. Grumpily, she pulls herself from bed and makes her way into the kitchen. She has only managed a couple of hours of sleep, and it shows in her appearance. Natalie is the first to remark as she says "You look terrible, Jo. Did something keep you awake all night?"
Jo glances toward Mrs. Garrett and replies, "You could say that."
Tootie places a mug of coffee in front of Jo and says, "Here, Jo. Drink some of this. It is guaranteed to wake you up." Jo grabs the mug and doesn't say another word until she has finished. Standing, she walks over to pour another cup as Mrs. Garrett begins to prepare breakfast.
As the four sit down to eat, Tootie says, "Okay, Mrs. G. You said you would tell us about Blair this morning. Well, its morning. So what's up?"
Mrs. Garrett hesitates before answering in a very serious tone. "You girls have to promise none of this will ever leave this house." Natalie and Tootie nod their head while Jo continues to quietly eat her omelet.
The older woman recounts the same story she told Jo the night before except she leaves out the fact that she has pictures of Blair and the other women. During the explanation a small problem occurs when Tootie misunderstands Mrs. Garrett. When Mrs. Garrett quietly tells of Blair being a lesbian, Tootie immediately replies, "What's wrong with that? I'm one too."
If takes a few minutes for everyone to realize her error. Natalie is the first to figure out the problem. She laughingly points out, "Lesbian, Tootie, not thespian."
Mrs. Garrett finally finishes the story while Tootie and Natalie sit with their mouths agape as the news slowly takes hold. Jo doesn't react at all. She just rises to get another refill.
Natalie finds her voice first as she replies "You have got to be kidding, Mrs. G. Blair Warner, gay? That's not possible. If you were to tell me after all this time that one of us was gay, I would have to go with Jo. After all Jo, you hated to dress up and loved to play mechanic. Plus, you wore all that leather."
Tootie immediately agrees with Natalie's assessment and adds "Yeah, and you could beat up any of the boys at school."
Jo turns to the three women sitting at the table and calmly replies, "Actually, Natalie, you're right. I am gay. You sure could have saved me a lot of trouble if you could have told me when we were in school. I didn't figure it out until after I got married." With that, she walks from the room and heads for the den to drink her third cup of coffee in peace.
Thirty minutes later, she is joined by the other three women. A very uncomfortable silence ensues until Jo finally breaks the ice. "Okay. We've got to figure out how to get Blair out of this situation. I think we need to find out everything there is to know about Cynthia Parks. Natalie, she's originally from New York. Do you think some of your researchers can find out anything about the time she spent there?"
Natalie grins and says "That's a great idea. If we can find some dirt on her, maybe we can turn the tables. Let me go make a few phone calls."
Tootie excitedly turns to Jo and asks, "What can I do?"
Jo smiles and replies, "If my suspicions are correct, you will play an important part in nailing Cynthia, but for right now, why don't you and Mrs. G go back over everything Blair has said about the blackmail? There may be something we missed that will help us. I'm going to call a friend of mine to see if she can get the scoop on Ms. Parks since she's moved to Peekskill. We'll all meet back here in an hour."
Jo returns to her room to retrieve her cell. Closing the door, she dials a familiar number. A voice picks up on the second ring as Jo says, "Hey, Trish. Is she in? . . . Sure, I can wait." Jo lies down on the bed while she is put on hold.
A few minutes later, she hears, "What's up JoJo? Don't tell me you got yourself in trouble?"
Jo laughs and replies, "Cassandra, I've never been in trouble, and you know it. Listen, I really need your help. Can Trish fly you to Peekskill this afternoon? There's a woman I want you to check out. I'll get her address when you get checked into the Alexander Hamilton House; it's a bed and breakfast about 6 miles outside town. I need you to follow this woman for a couple of days."
Cassandra teasingly replies, "Is this one of your exes or new blood?"
Jo smiles and answers, "You know you are my only ex, and I'm not in the market for anyone. I've got a friend in trouble, and you are the only one I trust to get the job done. I'll meet you in Peekskill tomorrow afternoon to fill you in on all the details. Cassandra, this is very important. I'll pay all your expenses and double your fee."
Without hesitation, Cassandra says, "Okay, Jo. We'll be there, and you don't need to pay extra. I'll have Trish call and get the helicopter ready. We can be there by two this afternoon."
Relieved, Jo answers, "Great. I'll call ahead and make the reservations. Thanks, Cassandra. I'll see you tomorrow." Smiling, Jo closes her phone and quickly dials her assistant to find Cynthia's latest address.
An hour later, the four women meet once again in the den. Natalie can only report that Cynthia went to an all girls private school in New York's Upper East Side. Jo grins at the news, and the others are confused as to how the school could be used against Cynthia.
Jo lets the others gripe and complain about being left out of the loop before she finally details her suspicions. "Cynthia saw Blair in a lesbian bar and has been following her and taking pictures."
Frustrated, Natalie replies, "We already know that Jo. What's that got to do with anything?"
Leaning back, Jo answers, "Aren't you the least bit curious as to what Cynthia was doing in a lesbian bar before she happened to see Blair? Perhaps she learned some extra curricular activities at her private school."
A chorus of 'ohs' fill the room before Natalie says, "Oh my, she must be gay too. Poor Blair, she's being blackmailed by a fellow lesbian. How can they turn on each other like that? Um, no offense Jo."
Smiling, Jo replies, "No offense taken, Natalie, and you're right. Lesbians don't usually out each other, but from what I remember about Cynthia Parks, she will do whatever it takes to get ahead. It's going to be up to us to stop her. Now, here's what I have in mind."
Jo outlines the plan and gives each woman an assignment for the week. Natalie is to dig up as much dirt on Cynthia as she possibly can, Mrs. Garrett's responsibility is to talk Blair into spending next weekend at her house, and Tootie . . . well, Tootie is to find an actress who is willing to play the part of seductress. Jo explains that the girl needs to be an absolute knock out and points out that she will be paid very handsomely if she can garner Cynthia's interest.
The four women agree to meet back at Mrs. Garrett's next Friday night, but for now, they decide to relax and catch up on old times.
Sunday Afternoon July 9
After a very relaxing Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning, Jo makes the drive to Peekskill where she checks into the room next to Cassandra and Trish. The two women are not in their room so Jo decides to take a nap while she waits for their return.
A short time later, Jo hears movement in the next room and smiles when she hears a knock on her door. She opens the door and is almost tackled by a tall blonde. "JoJo, we've missed you. You never call anymore." Jo looks over her shoulder at a smiling Trish standing in the doorway.
The three women sit on the bed in Jo's room going over all the information they have accumulated on Cynthia Parks. Cassandra hands Jo a picture and says, "You were right about this one. Last night, we followed her to a gay bar about fifteen miles out of town. She sat at the bar for about ten minutes before she left with some butch." Grinning, Cassandra pulls more photos from her pocket and adds, "Trish took some really nice shots. I bet the guy at the photo shop fainted if he got a look at these."
Jo reaches for the photos and laughs aloud as she looks through them. There is no mistaking the intent of these two women. Trish got a picture of them through the window that left nothing to the imagination. Bringing the picture closer, Jo says, "Would you look at the size of that dildo! This alone is enough to stop her from blackmailing Blair, but I want to play her. I want her to suffer."
Recognizing the name, Cassandra reaches out and takes Jo's hand. "Jo, did you say Blair? Your Princess is being blackmailed? For what?" Jo just looks down and bites her lip. Trish comes over and gently rubs Jo's back as the two try to console their upset friend.
Finally, Jo chuckles and says, "After all this time, I find out she's gay. Can you believe it? I've been pining for this woman all these years, and I might have had a shot at her. Pretty funny, huh?"
Cassandra softly replies, "Why can't you try for her now? She's all you've ever wanted. I was so hurt when I realized I wasn't number one in your life, but I got over it. Besides, I've got Trish now, and I want you to be happy too. I think you should go for it, JoJo."
With a wavering voice, Jo replies, "It's too late. Besides, Blair is in a position where she has to be so careful. This instance of blackmail is the perfect example. She would always be looking over her shoulder, and I can't live like that."
Trish moves her hand up to massage Jo's neck and says, "Jo, you are independently wealthy, and even though Cass and I are probably the only ones who know, I still respect your privacy. But please think about it. You've made millions in investments, you own your own company, you are the silent partner in our investigating firm, and God knows what else. Blair doesn't need to work."
Rising from the bed and moving away from the other women, Jo shouts, "You don't know Blair. She used to act like she wanted nothing more than to be some rich man's wife, but deep down, she wanted to be her own person. It took years for her to realize that, and there's no way she would settle for anything else. I finally get to a point where I can give her everything, and it's the last thing she wants."
With tears streaming down her face, Jo whispers, "Irony, thy name is Jo." Trish and Cassandra rush over and engulf the sobbing women in their arms.
Thursday Evening, July 13
Jo finishes packing all the reports and copies of the photos for her trip to Mrs. G's. Cassandra and Trish have kept the originals on file in case other copies need to be made. As she prepares to crawl into bed, the bedside phone begins to ring. Remembering her last faux pas, she answers in a pleasant voice which pays off as Mrs. Garrett asks how things are going.
"Hello, Mrs. G. Everything is ready on my end, and both Tootie and Natalie have phoned with good news. We'll be ready for our 'Blair intervention' when she arrives."
An upset Mrs. Garrett replies, "She's not coming, Jo. Nothing I said would change her mind. I told her it was the first time in years that we could all get together, and she said she was just too ashamed to face us. I don't understand. She doesn't know I've already told all of you. Why would she be ashamed to come?"
Furious, Jo answers, "Because she's scared we're going to find out. Don't worry, Mrs. G. I'll leave early and go pick her up. I'll carry her to the car kicking and screaming if I have to, but she will be there. We'll see you around 3:00. Bye now." Jo hangs up the phone and begins to develop her strategy for the kidnapping of Blair Warner.
Friday Morning, July 14
Jo pulls up in front of the headmistress' office at Eastland School. She walks into the spacious office and is greeted by the secretary. Smiling, she says "Good morning. My name is Jo Polniaczek, and I'm an old friend of Blair Warner's. I was wondering if she was free to see me."
The secretary returns the smile and replies, "I'm so sorry, but Ms. Warner is out sick today. I can give her a call if you'd like."
Jo quickly answers, "No! I mean, no that's okay. I know where she lives. Maybe I'll swing by to say hello and make sure she's okay."
The secretary responds, "I think she would like that. She hasn't been herself for months now, and frankly, I've been worried about her."
Jo assures the secretary that she will check in on Blair and for her not to worry.
Climbing back into her car, Jo mutters, 'So you've taking to hiding out now. Well, you better get ready because here I come.' She turns on the ignition and backs out of the space with fire in her eye.
A few blocks from the campus, Jo pulls into the gated drive and heads for the house set well back in the trees. She breathes a sigh of relief that she has at least made it through the front gate. Of course, the fact that it wasn't locked helped matters tremendously.
Driving around the circle drive, she stops just outside the front door. Jo sits in her car for a few minutes to steady her nerves. This will be the first time she will see a 'gay Blair,' and she wants to make sure not to let on.
Jo walks up the steps and knocks loudly on the door before holding the doorbell down so that the chime sounds endlessly. An irate voice can be heard from the other side of the door. "Hold your horses, I'm coming, and please quit ringing that annoying bell!" Grinning, Jo presses it even harder hoping it would somehow make the bell louder.
The door swings open revealing an exhausted looking Blair. She's wearing blue jeans, t-shirt, and no shoes; her hair is pulled back in a ponytail, and the circles under her eyes look as if they are painted on, but the real shocker is that she isn't wearing a stitch of makeup. Jo takes one look at her and sees only beauty.
Before Jo can explain the reason for her visit, Blair shouts, "You! I should have known. No one else would keep ringing that damn bell. What do you want?" Jo doesn't say a word; she just brushes by Blair and enters the house.
As Blair closes the door, Jo turns and says, "I want you to listen to me, Princess, and listen good. Mrs. G has gone to a great deal of trouble to have us this weekend for a mini-reunion. She even sent her husband off on a fishing expedition. Natalie and Tootie both gave up engagements to be there, and I cancelled an important meeting. Now, march up those stairs and pack your bag; we're going to Mrs. G's!" Jo puts her hands on her hips as she finishes her lying speech.
Blair stares at Jo for several endless minutes before turning to walk up the stairs. Jo blows out a relieved breath as she takes a seat in the nearby den. She eyes the liquor cabinet before deciding that a) she has to drive and b) drinking lowers her inhibitions and she needs to keep her walls up when Blair is near.
Thirty minutes later, Blair descends the stairs with suitcase in hand. She still has on the jeans and t-shirt, but she has put on both shoes and a touch of makeup. Jo meets her at the bottom of the stairs and takes her suitcase. The two walk out the door without speaking a word to each other.
Friday afternoon, July 14
Jo and Blair make good time, even after stopping for a quick bite to eat. The conversation between the two has been stilted at best. Blair closes her eyes the second part of the trip feigning sleep, and Jo gladly lets her get away with it.
Mrs. Garrett greets the women with open arms and says, "Oh, Blair. I'm so glad you could come." Blair can barely make eye contact with Mrs. G, but she hugs her back tightly. Jo shakes her head as she gathers their luggage.
Stepping into the house, Mrs. Garrett directs both girls to her bedroom saying, "I thought you two could stay in my room, Natalie and Tootie can stay in the guest room, and I'll sleep in the pullout in the office."
Jo stands behind Blair vigorously shaking her head back and forth, but when Blair turns around, Jo reaches up as if rubbing her neck and replies, "That will be fine, Mrs. G. I'll take our things in there now." She walks off leaving Blair and Mrs. Garrett standing in the foyer.
When Jo clears the corner, Blair whispers, "Mrs. Garrett, I can't stay in the same room as Jo. What if she finds out that . . . you know? Why don't you sleep with Jo, and I'll sleep on the sleeper sofa."
Mrs. Garrett starts to reply, but closes her mouth when Jo returns saying, "Okay. I put your suitcase on the bed, Blair. I didn't know where you wanted it."
Blair replies, "Thanks, Jo. I'll take care of it later. Hey, Mrs. Garrett, do you have any of your famous lemonade?"
The older woman smiles and links her arm in Blair's as she says, "Well, it just so happens that I do. Let's go try some, shall we?" Jo follows closely behind thinking that this is going to be the most difficult weekend of her life.
Friday Evening, July 14
Both Tootie and Natalie arrive bringing a more pleasant atmosphere with them. Mrs. Garrett had been barely able to keep a conversation going with just Jo and Blair. No matter how hard each of them tried to relax, it was to no avail.
Dinner proves to be quite enjoyable with Natalie and Tootie providing the entertainment. They each have numerous stories to tell about both the publishing and acting industries. Tootie's are the funniest as she tells of the many auditions she took part in.
The five women fall into a normal routine when it comes to clearing the table and washing the dishes. Each assume their usual job and manage to stay out of the other's way. Mrs. Garrett can only smile when she recognizes the old pattern.
After cleanup, they retire to the den. Natalie has brought a few bottles of wine so Jo chooses the wine, Natalie assumes the honor of opening and pouring, and Mrs. Garrett uses her wine glasses and silver tray to serve.
When Tootie takes her glass, she laughingly says, "Bet we could have solved our problems faster at Eastland if we'd had a glass of wine each night." The others join in the laughter, all except Blair. The mention of trouble has her looking down at her glass.
The laughter dies down as each woman notice Blair's expression. Mrs. Garrett looks at Jo and nods her head as the other two women also look at her expectantly. Jo swallows the last of her wine and places her glass back on the tray. She steps toward Blair and says, "Blair, we know you are being blackmailed, and we want to help."
Blair's head snaps up, and she turns to Mrs. Garrett with tears in her eyes saying, "You told them? You promised me you wouldn't tell." She puts her hand to her mouth as a sob escapes. "Oh God, I can't believe you told them."
Mrs. Garrett puts her hand out and says, "Blair, I . . .," but her words fall on deaf ears as Blair runs from the room.
Jo watches Blair flee the room and says, "Shit. We sure fucked this up." Glancing at Mrs. Garrett, Jo adds "Sorry about the language, Mrs. G."
Mrs. Garrett bites her lip to keep from crying and replies, "That's okay, Jo. I think your words were appropriate this time."
Natalie leans back in her chair and asks, "What are we going to do now?" Tootie shrugs her shoulders and Mrs. Garrett begins to cry.
Jo looks toward the hallway and says, "I'm going to go talk to her. This might take some time. Don't wait up." With that, she walks toward the master bedroom.
Standing behind a closed door, Jo reaches for the knob and is relieved when it turns in her hand. She slowly opens the door and steps inside. Blair is lying on the bed curled in a ball with her back to the door. Quietly closing the door, Jo moves to the other side of the bed. She watches Blair's shoulders shake as she tries to suppress her sobs, and her heart breaks at the sight. Decision made, Jo crawls on the bed and hugs Blair from behind.
A couple of hours later, the sobs have stopped, and Blair is left with the hiccups. Jo reluctantly lets her go and walks to the bathroom. Glancing around, she finds a cup dispenser and fills one with water from the tap. She returns to the bedroom and squats down in front of Blair.
"Here, Blair. Drink some water. It will help with your hiccups." Blair reaches for the cup and downs the liquid in one gulp. Handing the cup back to Jo, she stifles a yawn and flips over to face the other direction. Jo places the cup on the nightstand and once again walks around to the other side of the bed.
As Blair starts to turn over again, Jo jumps on the bed and holds her in place saying, "Don't you dare. You and I are going to talk about this. There is nothing to be ashamed of. We love you, Blair, and we want to help you. In fact, we have already started to help you."
Blair finally looks into Jo's eyes and asks, "How? No one can help me Jo. I've really messed things up this time."
Jo brushes the hair from Blair's face and says, "Princess, we can help you. Cynthia Parks is nothing more than a parasite, and we're going to eradicate this particular organism from your life. If I have my way, she will never consider blackmailing anyone ever again."
Blair stifles another yawn as she once again voices her uncertainty. "But how, Jo? How are you going to convince her to leave me alone?"
Looking deeply into Blair's eyes, Jo asks, "Do you trust me, Blair?"
Blair nods in assent, and Jo carefully answers the nod. "I promise you she will not bother you again, but it's late and you need to get some sleep. I'll explain everything to you in the morning. Now, close your eyes." Blair blinks heavily a few times before she finally shuts her eyes. Within minutes, she is sound asleep.
Jo gets up and gently removes Blair's shoes and socks. She retrieves the comforter from the end of the bed and pulls it up over Blair. Taking off her own shoes, she crawls under the covers with her. Instinctively, Blair snuggles up next to her as Jo joins her Princess in the land of dreams.
Saturday morning, July 15
Blair opens her eyes to the light coming through the shades. She feels arms wrapped around her and realizes she is being spooned from behind. Freezing, she tries to remember where she is as she always leaves before morning's light. Her eyes focus on the night stand to find a picture of Mrs. Garrett and her husband, Robert. She begins to relax only to tense up again when she realizes the arms wrapped around her belong to Jo.
The bedroom door cracks open, and Mrs. Garrett's voice filters into the room. "Girls, breakfast will be ready in about thirty minutes. Don't be late." The door closes returning the room to its previous silence. Blair lies as still as she can and waits to see what Jo will do when she awakens in this position. She doesn't have long to wait as Jo begins to stretch against her, and she reaches deep into her reserves to keep from moaning in pleasure.
Jo lightly kisses the curve of the elegantly, displayed neck and says, "Good morning, Princess. Did you sleep well?"
Blair replies with a squeaky "Yes."
At the same moment, Jo becomes aware of her reflexive action. 'Shit, I just kissed Blair. Well, sort of kissed her. I mean, it was only on her neck. Oh face it Jo, necks count.'
Trying to gloss over the moment, Jo whispers "That's good. You know, we'd better get up before Mrs. G sends Tootie and Natalie in here. They may just try to jump on the bed like old times, and we're much too big for that. The bed may break or something." Jo slowly untangles herself from Blair and sits up against the headboard while Blair continues to lie on her side, not moving.
More silence ensues until Jo softly says, "C'mon, Blair. We've got to get up. You have to face them sometime, and it may as well be now."
Blair shakes her head and replies, "Jo, you don't understand. How can I possibly face them? They are all going to be so disappointed in me, maybe even repulsed. I couldn't bear to see that in their eyes."
Jo reaches out a couple of times to touch Blair's shoulder, but she pulls her hand back each time. Knowing how much Blair needs the reassurance, Jo reaches out a third time and makes contact. She lightly rubs Blair's shoulder and says, "Blair, you need to have more faith in our friendship. We're all adults now, and no one is going to judge you. Mrs. G told me she struggled with her promise to not tell, but she knew we would be behind you one hundred percent so she decided it was worth breaking her promise. She believes in us so you should too."
Blair pats Jo's hand before rising from the bed. She turns back to Jo and says, "Okay, let's go get this over with, but I want you to promise me something." Jo nods her head so Blair continues. "If things don't go well, would you please take me home?"
Sliding off the bed, Jo replies, "Yes, I will take you back to Eastland if you want to go, but I don't think we'll be making any trips today." Jo reaches her hand out to Blair and asks, "Shall we?" Blair looks down at Jo's hand and smiles as she grasps it. Together, the two walk toward the kitchen.
Mrs. Garrett smiles as she turns to see Blair and Jo enter the kitchen. The two women take a seat at the empty table as Mrs. Garrett says, "Good morning, girls. Natalie and Tootie should be here shortly. Would you care for something to drink?" Blair asks for orange juice while Jo opts for coffee.
Tootie and Natalie enter the room debating over a scene in "Jurassic Park." Natalie asks the two women sitting at the table, "Jo, Blair, in your opinion, do you think that kid could have been revived after receiving mega jolts of electricity? I mean, really, if there was enough juice in that fence to keep a T-Rex in, that kid should have been toast."
Jo and Blair smile at the familiarity of the typical conversation between the other two women, and they break out in laughter when Mrs. Garrett reprimands Tootie and Natalie. "Girls, what a horrible thing to be discussing; I think we need to change the topic of conversation." Blair immediately tenses at the words, but she calms as Jo pats her leg.
The topic only strays to other released movies, and once again the women fall into a natural give and take conversation. There are some agreements and disagreements over which movies merit a good review, and of course, Tootie adds her personal review of the actors and actresses in each role.
When they adjourn to the den, Blair decides to take Jo's advice and just jump right in with her explanation of the recent events. "I want to say something, and I would like it if you could wait until I've finished before you make any comments. I'm afraid if I don't get this all out at once; I'll never be able to finish. So, let me begin by apologizing if I have disappointed any of you." Natalie starts to say something but is stopped by the shaking of Mrs. Garrett's head.
Blair barely hesitates as she continues. "I knew something was off with me our last year at Eastland. I no longer enjoyed going out on a date even if the guy was to die for. I just figured I was going through a slump of some kind, and the appeal would return. It never did, but that didn't keep me starting to date again. After awhile though, I began to accept fewer and fewer requests to go out until finally I wasn't dating at all. And I was happy."
She walks toward the window and looks out at the backyard. "My first year as headmistress, there was a woman consultant who met with me on numerous occasions to help guide me through the ups and downs of the job. We began to have lunch dates which soon turned into dinner dates, and then one night, she kissed me. I was in shock, not because she kissed me either, but because I liked it. She wanted to strike up a relationship, but I told her I couldn't. Afterward, I threw myself into work and concentrated on making Eastland a success."
Turning back to the others, she adds, "And guess what? I did. I have that place practically running on its own which leaves nothing to occupy my time. I was so lonely and miserable until a couple of years ago. I began to go to a lesbian bar outside Peekskill. I would have a drink and dance, and on rare occasion, share a kiss. That went on for about a year. I guess I made my decision to take things further at the same time Cynthia somehow found out. I still can't figure out how she knew. She must have followed me one night and took pictures. From the photos she sent, she must have tailed me for months."
Blair moves to the couch and takes a seat next to Jo as she winds her story down. "One night, she shows up on my doorstep with these pictures and demands money. I didn't hesitate to pay her. Then she started showing up every couple of months demanding more money. I still kept paying her hoping she would eventually go away, but last month she came back and made the demand that I step down from headmistresses and name her as my successor. She gave me six weeks. So next week I'm going to have to resign my position." Blair blows out a breath and sits back on the couch awaiting her judgment.
Natalie is the first to express her opinion as she says, "Blair, I'll admit finding out you're gay was one of the top five surprises of my life, but I don't think of you any differently. You are still the Blair I practically grew up with, and I love you just the same. Now, Ms. Cynthia Parks on the other hand is not one of my favorite people. I did some research on her and can explain the possible reason for her blackmail. Her parents are broke, and little Miss Trust Fund no longer has a well to dip into. She is desperate for money."
Jo looks at Blair and asks, "How much have you paid her so far?"
Blair looks down at the floor and mutters, "Half a million dollars."
Jo jumps up and yells, "Are you out of your fucking mind?"
Mrs. Garrett disapprovingly says, "Jo" at the same time Blair shouts, "Well, what else was I supposed to do?"
Jo yells back, "Call me for help!"
Suddenly, the bickering women are pulled up short as Mrs. Garrett raises her voice to order, "Girls, stop it!"
Jo plops back on the couch and folds her arms, anger surrounding her like a shroud.
Tootie timidly asks, "Why don't you tell Blair about your plan, Jo?"
Jo continues to seethe on the couch while the others look at her expectantly. Blair, holding onto a bit of anger of her own, refuses to look at Jo.
Natalie smiles and says, "Okay, since I've been in touch with Jo this week, why don't I outline the plan? You can step in at anytime, Jo." She waits a beat before beginning. "Well, on a hunch, Jo had Cynthia followed last weekend and guess where she went? That's right, a lesbian bar. Some big bad butch picked her up and took her home where she fuc . . . um, had her way with her in a most convincing manner. Jo's friends took pictures of the whole thing, and I do mean the whole thing including accessories."
All the pent up anger and frustration is replaced by shock as Blair asks, "Cynthia is a lesbian?"
Tootie pipes up and says, "Oh yeah, talk about the pot calling the kettle black."
Blair turns her attention to Jo to ask her second question. "You have pictures?"
Jo mutters, "Yes. They are good enough to get her off your back, but I have another plan as well."
Natalie smiles and says, "And it's a doozy, too."
Jo slowly begins to detail how she wants to cause Cynthia heartache by hiring one of Tootie's friends to wine and dine her until Cynthia is comfortable and pleased with the relationship. The minute Cynthia expresses a strong liking or even love of the actress; she will be dumped like yesterday's trash.
Listening carefully, Blair seems quite interested. When Jo finishes explaining her plan, Blair sits very quietly as if contemplating when and where she wants the plan to take place. She surprises everyone in the room when she says, "No. If the pictures are enough to stop the blackmail, then I'm satisfied. I don't believe in stomping on someone's heart. As much as I hate Cynthia at this moment, I will not inflict that sort of pain on her."
Tootie disappointedly says, "Oh man, Carla is going to be devastated. She has been working on researching this role 24/7. Plus, she really needs the money."
Jo quietly replies, "I'll still pay her, Tootie. If this is what Blair wants, then we'll just go with the pictures. When I take Blair back to Eastland, I'll go with her to meet with Cynthia. This whole blackmail scheme will be over once and for all."
Natalie sits back in her chair and says, "This is so weird. Last week, the only gay person I knew was one of my editors. Now, a week later, there are three more of you. Of course, Cynthia is not someone I really know. Actually, I guess she's the enemy."
Confused, Blair looks at Natalie and asks, "Three?"
Natalie's eyes almost pop out of her head as she nervously makes a show of looking at her watch and says, "Oh my, would you look at the time? Mrs. G, we better get in there and make that cake if it's going to be ready in time for tonight's dessert."
Mrs. Garrett looks at Natalie and replies, "Huh? Oh! Yes, the cake. C'mon, Natalie let's get to it, and Tootie I think we're going to need your help as well." The three women get up and quickly flee the room leaving Blair and Jo sitting on the couch.
Blair watches the women almost sprint from the room before turning to the only remaining occupant to ask, "Jo, what is going on?"
Jo rises from the couch and begins to pace. Finally, she stops and replies, "I'm the third person, Blair."
The expressions on Blair's face change so rapidly Jo can barely keep up. She vacillates mostly from confusion to doubt and back again. There is a bit of hopefulness and anger in the mix as well. The last expression can not be mistaken; it is one of hurt.
With a shaky voice, Blair asks, "Why, Jo? Why didn't you tell me? Why did you make me go through this alone?"
Jo moves to sit on the coffee table in front of Blair and replies, "Because you needed to face this alone, Princess. I've already faced Natalie, Tootie, and Mrs. G. You would have used me as a shield, and those three women hiding in the kitchen deserve more. They needed you to trust in them."
Jo's words slowly seep into both Blair's mind and heart, making her realize Jo is right, she needed to do this on her own.
After a comfortable silence, Blair says, "You must have quite the partner to allow you to venture out to help some old school chum."
Jo shakes her head and replies, "I don't have a partner, Blair. I don't even have a girlfriend. No one seems to be taken with my charms."
Laughing, Blair answers, "Oh, I'm sure there is someone out there who thinks you are wonderful. After all, you're kind, caring, beautiful, and loyal to a fault. What's not to love?" Pausing, she asks, "Do you have someone in your sights?"
Sighing, Jo answers, "Yes, but she is way out of my league. She's one of those independent, righteous, stubborn, and oh so beautiful women."
Sometime during the conversation, the two women have intertwined their hands and are leaning very close to each other. Neither one of them knows exactly when and how it happened, but both are now keenly aware of their positions at this moment.
Jo swallows and asks, "Princess, would it be okay if I were to kiss you?"
Blair leans in and replies, "Yes."
Jo covers the rest of the distance as the two destined to be lovers touch lips for the first time. As the kiss slowly deepens, the door to the kitchen quietly closes behind three smiling women.
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