From Chapter 7

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Morning, Princess, Sean’s voice murmurs between the kisses he trails down Graham’s exposed stomach.  Sleep well?

Sunlight dapples the room, dapples their bodies, dapples Sean’s tanned, bare back.  They’re at the cottage by the lake, Graham remembers through the fuzz of her half-asleep, half-awake mind, the cottage Sean’s father owns, the one Rosita calls her favorite place on God’s green earth.

“Yes,” Graham answers her boyfriend, letting her eyes stay half-closed.

“Yes what?” he asks.

“Yes, I slept well.  Did you?”

There’s a gruff snort.  “Sweetheart, you didn’t let me sleep at all until about two hours ago.”

Graham smiles… until it registers that this isn’t Sean’s voice.

Because Sean is dead.

There are no more trips to the cottage by the lake, no more sweet kisses in sun-dappled lofts.

Graham sits halfway up with a start.  A blonde head of dreadlocks near her hips comes into view.  “Nikki?”

The girl looks up.  “Yes?”

“Oh, crap,” Graham says, flopping back down onto twisted, damp sheets and draping a forearm across her eyes.  Now that she’s awake, the sun is entirely too bright for her pounding head.

Nikki just laughs.

The night comes back to her in bits and pieces.  She remembers dressing up and heading out to Grounders, hoping she’d run into Nikki or one of the other girls she’s met there over the last few months.  And

It’s your lucky night, Princess.

she lucked out, because she spotted Nikki posted up by the bar more-or-less the moment she walked through the front door.  It didn’t take her long to convince Nikki that she was indeed back for more.  Several shots, two beers, and three hours later, she was stumbling out the front door, arm draped around Nikki’s waist.

Graham takes the forearm from her eyes.  “Did we… do I remember correctly that we ran into my friend from church last night?” she asks Nikki, who’s gone from kissing her stomach to merely resting her head on it.

Nikki looks up.  “How much of last night do you actually remember?”

“I remember enough.  Most of it… I think.”  Graham shifts her position enough to reach down and tug Nikki towards her.  The girl with the blonde dreadlocks scoots up from the bottom of the bed, nestling into the crook of Graham’s shoulder and reaching an arm across her bare chest.

“But yeah, we ran into a girl you knew,” Nikki says.  “Like, literally, ran into her.  And I didn’t know you went to church.”

Graham nods, and the lie rolls off her tongue easily, because it’s really only half of a lie.  “I do.  Every Sunday.”

“That girl we ran into…”

“Alex.”

“Yeah — that’s right, Alex.  I’m ninety-eight percent sure she’s one of the Lady Raiders.”

Graham giggles at this assertion.  “Well, duh, she’s a ‘lady raider.’  Why else would she be at Grounders on a Wednesday night?”

Nikki shakes her head.  “No, no.  That’s not what I mean, you dirty-minded girl.”  She cranes her neck, kisses Graham on the cheek before settling back down onto Graham’s shoulder.  “I mean like the Rosemont University Raiders.  The Lady Raiders.  I think your friend from church is a varsity basketball player.”

“You follow basketball?” Graham asks, surprised.  She never would’ve pegged Nikki for the sporty type; she thought the girl was more into things like Occupy Wallstreet and acoustic guitar jam sessions and pot brownies.

“Of course I don’t follow basketball,” Nikki scoffs against her shoulder, as if  offended by the question.  “But come on, this isn’t that big of a town.  There are only so many lesbians to recognize.  And it’s pretty common to see a handful of athletes — both from State and from Rosemont — at Grounders on Wednesdays.”

Graham can’t help but roll her eyes a little, because it seems like such a stereotype of an assertion to say that a lot of the female athletes from the town’s two big universities would make cameo appearances at the only pseudo-lesbian bar in town.  It’s the kind of “don’t-put-people-in-boxes,” borderline homophobic statement that Nikki would bristle at if it came out of anyone else’s mouth.

Cautiously, still a little worried about sounding too politically incorrect, Graham asks, “So… Alex is on the Rosemont basketball team?”

Nikki nods against her, yawns.  “Yeah, pretty sure it’s her.  My friend Terri talks about her all the time, it’s how I recognized her.  Terri acts like she’s some sort of avenging angel or Norse warrior-goddess.  Totally smitten with her.  But way too intimidated to actually approach her.”

“So you’ve seen her Grounders before last night?”

There’s another scoff against her shoulder, and Nikki says, “Sweetness, your friend from church is at Grounders practically every Wednesday night, along with half the rest of the Raiders’ starting line-up.  Although… from what I hear, only she and one of the other Rosemont basketball players is actually gay.”  Nikki pauses for a moment, adds, “With the emphasis on player, player.”

Graham smirks at that, flicks at a dreadlock.  “Did you just call me a player?”

“Did you waltz right up to me last night, flash your cleavage under my nose, and ask when I was going to offer to buy you a drink?” Nikki retorts.

“Yeah,” Graham admits sheepishly.  “I guess I might remember having done that.”

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