Laguna Nights

by Carole Giorgio

Chapter 3

Alex listened to the sound of silence as she retraced the steps she and Samantha had just taken down the hall to the elevator.

Funny how comfortable it was to have her here with me. She thought to herself. Of course she knew that Samantha had no idea of her lifestyle and that she would probably have nothing to do with her if she did. So, she began thinking of ways to keep her new friend within arms' reach without getting romantically involved with her. Not getting amorous about Samantha was really going to be hard, because she already found herself feeling extremely attached to the young woman.

Take it one step at a time, Alex, and see where it leads. You may end up with just a really good friend and you've needed a good friend for a long time now.

Her immediate agenda was to plan something special for their next encounter and there was only one night to come up with an enticing suggestion.

Alex decided to take a slow look around the lower level of the clinic. Things were beginning to fall nicely into place. The gym area was totally completed as well as the locker room and shower areas. The workers finished constructing the climbing wall a few days prior and today the finishing touches were all on. She was pleased with the aesthetic look of what she thought might have turned out to be a monstrosity.

The idea to add the wall to the establishment came to her when she was in the Cave Wall down in Old Town in San Diego. The implications for use of this equipment were abundant: dexterity, peace of mind, bodybuilding, and just plain entertainment. The fun began when she started picking out the colors and shapes of the climbing holds. As she looked up at the wall with the overhead lights illuminating it, she admitted to herself that the colors were spectacular.

She decided to mix and match when it came to the holds. All together there were four different shapes and colors: The drips were an aqua blue and reminded her of water droplets; the mushrooms looked like natural fungus hanging on the wall and were various shades of browns and tans; the desert holds were an assortment of lizards, snakes, pottery, and cattle skulls and these were a beautiful coral in color; lastly there were the pebble holds that included every color under the rainbow and ranged in sizes from a silver dollar to that of a fist. The arrangement of the holds could be changed on a bimonthly basis and that way the regulars would not get bored with climbing the same wall week after week.

Alex was glad she decided to put some angles in the wall to make the climbing more of a challenge for the experts and at the same time safer for the beginners. She told the construction people go through the ceilings and open the warehouse up, all the way to the top for this project, making it the full three stories high with a glass ceiling. Looking through the huge skylight at night was beautiful. There was still a touch of light in the sky this evening, but on a dark night the stars would all be visible and the moon would shine down and illuminate the wall with silver light. Alex was tempted to christen the wall with a trial climb, but decided against it and instead walked back to the elevator.

On the way up to her living quarters, she realized that she was a little hungry. Funny, I hadn't even thought of food while Samantha was here and now it's almost 9:00 and I haven't eaten dinner. Lucky for her she ate that pizza at lunch. At least now she wasn't starving. Besides that she did have the left over pieces -- she could eat them now instead of saving them for breakfast. If she had been smart, she would have invited Samantha to go out for something to eat after the sunset -- Stupid, she scolded herself, Why do I always think of things after it's too late. Oh, well there'll be other times. Remember, no rushing, I don't scare her away.

The elevator came to a halt with an easy jerk. She got out and went back into the apartment. I guess I could give Mom a call. Actually, I do need to tell her that I won't be down this weekend. Dreading the reaction her mother would have to her not coming, she walked over, picked up the receiver and dialed the familiar number.

The phone only rang twice before Aurora's voice came through with her typical, "La Jolla Paradise."

"Hi, Mom. I didn't get a chance to call yesterday so I thought I'd give you a buzz and let you know that this weekend is not good for me to come down and visit." Alex started the conversation.

"Oh, Honey. We were so looking forward to seeing you. Exactly when Do you think you'll be coming down and why can't you make it this weekend?" Her mother whined at her through the telephone line.

Alex hated having to tell her mom no, she always felt like such a bad daughter when she did.

"Listen. Something just came up. Well . . . that's not exactly true . . . Some--one just came up." Alex confessed, deciding she wanted to talk to her mom about Samantha. After all her mom was just about the closest friend she had right now and she was usually pretty easy to talk to.

"Oh, really. And is this Some--one any--one we know, Alex?" Her mother inquired.

"No. In fact, I just met her tonight. She's a really nice person and she's new to Laguna. I told her I would show her around this weekend." Alex answered, trying to keep the emotion out of her voice.

"Uh, huh. So . . . This is an . . . obligation kind of thing?" Aurora asked with a slight hint of sarcasm in her voice.

"No, Mom. It's not an 'obligation kind of thing.' I made a conscious choice to ask Samantha if she wanted me to show her around as opposed to coming down to La Jolla for the weekend. There! I said it. Now, I'm ready for the 'we never get to see you' lecture." Alex responded.

"Okay, Alexis. No lecture. I know you have a life of your own. But you do know we love you and just want to see you once in a while. I know we'll be coming up for the Pageant of the Masters in July. You will find some time to go to that with us won't you, Alex?" her mom asked.

"Yes, Mom. I'll do my best to make sure I put that weekend aside -- Are you coming on the weekend or are you going to come up during the week when it's less crowded?" Alex asked.

"We don't know yet, honey, it's according to whether or not Kelley can get the time off. I'd rather come during the week but you know how busy the summer months can be." Her mother then decided to change the subject. "All right, I'm over you not coming down this weekend, so tell me all about this Samantha. Is she a new love interest or what?" Her mother asked.

"Well . . . if it were up to me, she'd most definitely be a new love interest but I don't think she even knows I'm gay. We just . . ." Alex began but was interrupted.

"Alex! You know better than to fool around with straight girls! They can be nothing but trouble for you. What are you thinking? You jeopardize your heart before you even start when you mess around like that!" Her mother chided her.

"Mom, give the girl a chance. As I said we've just met but I Really like her, even if it never goes any further than a good friendship. I need a friend here in Laguna. Someone close that I can talk to and do things with. And please don't go giving me the 'I'm your friend, Alex' talk. I know you're my friend, but you're my mom first and that can get in the way sometimes. Just let me sort this out. I promise I will come to you if or when I need help. And I promise to keep you well informed. Is that fair enough, Mom? Let me at least try to act like an adult occasionally, okay?" Alex finished with a plea in her voice that registered all the way to La Jolla.

"Well," her mother started, "She must really be something to have you that much on the defensive after only the first meeting. So, tell me a little about her and where you plan on taking her this weekend." Aurora said with as much compassion as she could muster, feeling that her only child was again heading for disaster in the love department. She hated it when Alex fell for someone who would eventually turn around and hurt her. Aurora simply wanted Alex to find someone who would love her and be good to her, someone who would love her for who she was and not for what she possessed. If she had someone like that Aurora could stop worrying about her pride-and-joy so much.

"Mom, she's about 5'4" and has short blonde hair that reminds you of fairies, it's so soft and fine. Her bangs are feathered and she has that girl-next-door look to her. She's built really cute, just right actually, not like a lot of the anorexic bathing beauties that dot the beaches here. And she has a bubbly personality that makes me want to smile just being with her. She has the greenest eyes I think I've ever seen. And her imagination would give yours some competition. She told me a story about the sunset tonight that was absolutely beautiful. Her name is Samantha Riley, so I guess the green eyes come from Irish ancestry. She reminds me of you in that she is or wants to be a writer and maybe after I know her a little better I can bring her down and introduce you to her or maybe if you guys don't mind she can come with us to the Pageant of the Masters -- that is if she wants to."

Aurora thought of interrupting with a question but it seemed that her daughter was on a roll so she just let her continue talking.

"She's really interesting to talk to and she seems to like at least some of the same things I do . . . well . . . she likes the beach and sunsets. Anyway, I like her and hope we can become very good friends. Maybe, if I'm exceedingly lucky she'll be gay, too. Maybe she's as afraid of scaring me off as I am of scaring her off -- but I doubt that." Alex told her mother.

"Alex," Aurora finally got a word in, "She sounds lovely and I wish you all the luck in the world. Just keep your heart intact until you get to know her a little bit better, okay, Hon?" Her mother beseeched her. "Now, tell me about your apartment and the business. How's everything coming along?"

Alex described all that happened in the last week since she talked to her mother, including the altercation with the construction worker, which got Aurora a little more than slightly upset. She then stated that most of the equipment was already in place and that she was looking forward to opening the doors to the public. She asked her mom if she and Kelley would be coming to the grand opening and Aurora gave her the already assumed affirmative. She further described the unfurnished condition of the apartment and told her mom that it would probably not be fully furnished before the opening of the clinic. She made sure her mom knew that getting the clinic set up right was her first priority and that the apartment took second place. She made Aurora promise not to push her about the situation and in return promised that Aurora could pick out a picture or something for the apartment and that she would not balk about it.

"Well, Alex," her mother finally chimed in, "we've been gabbing for nearly an hour already and Kelley's giving me that 'get off the damn phone' look. So, listen, sweetie, you take care of yourself and call me if you need anything, understand?" Aurora said to her daughter.

"I will Mom. You know I always do. I love you, and Kelley."

"We love you too, Alex. Hey, listen. Before I hang up, I've been thinking . . . you know that Sawdust Art Festival is starting soon there in Laguna, that might be just the place to take your new little friend. What do you think?"

Mom -- I think that may be perfect. There is something for everybody there. Thanks, I knew I could count on you to help think of somewhere interesting to go. I really love you, Mom."

"I know, honey, I'll talk to you later. Bye." With that Aurora hung up.

Alex let out a sigh of relief. She always enjoyed talking to her mother but sometimes she could be a bit overbearing, in a loving motherly sort of way. She knew her mom was right about falling head over teacups for a straight woman but in affairs of the heart Alex felt one didn't always have a choice. It would make things a lot easier if Samantha turned out to be gay, but Alex found that the easy way was not usually what she ended up with. Now at least she knew where they would be going this weekend, if Samantha agreed to go. She felt very lucky to have such an understanding Mom, one she could talk to about almost anything.

It was beginning to get late so she dismissed the thought of eating and decided to pour herself another glass of wine. While getting her wine she remembered that she had not told her mom about her decision to cut her hair. Oh, well. It's always good to leave some things left unsaid. Maybe I'll just wait and let them SEE what I've done. She giggled to herself as she ran her fingers through what was left of her black tresses. I don't care what anyone else thinks. I feel like I've shed 10 pounds and five years -- it's cool, easy to take care of and what's most important is that I Like it!!

Alex walked into the bedroom, mentally reliving the activities of the evening as she undressed, sipped her wine and finally sat down on the bed to watch the movement of the ocean below her windows. She convinced herself to retire early, well not exactly early but earlier than usual. It had been quite a busy day.

The moon was now high in the night sky as Alex finished her wine. The moonlight streamed across the waterbed and she felt a pang of loneliness as she lay back on the huge bed that she shared with no one.

Stop feeling sorry for yourself, Alex, she thought. Look at that ethereal view out of your bedroom window . She listened to her own thoughts and turned back around to watch the silver light dance on the water as tiny white caps rose, rolled and then broke on the beach. It's another beautiful Laguna night. She was blessed to be here in this place of quiet that she loved so much. The only thing that would make it more of a paradise to her would be to have someone special with whom to share the moonlight and with whom to share her life. Maybe if her wish came true tonight, that person would be someone she had just met.

As Samantha pulled away from the warehouse and out onto the private road she noticed headlights pulling out behind her when she made the first turn off of what would soon be Alternative Paradise Road -- if Jane's rumor was correct. Funny , she thought to herself, I don't think there are any other buildings on that stretch of the road. Maybe someone else found the beach like I did. By the Gods I hope not, I want that beach to stay as private as possible. She did a double take on that thought. Why do I feel that I should have anything to say on the privacy of that beach? It doesn't belong to me. She laughed at her feelings of possession; after all she was an interloper.        

But, she did want the beach to remain private -- the isolation is what attracted her to it in the first place. There were plenty of coastline beaches for others to explore. She had found her quiet place and she selfishly wanted it to remain just that. Slipping around in her mind were other thoughts that she was not quite ready to give voice to, so she let them remain elusive and concentrated on her driving.

The ride toward home was short one but there was so much to think about. Samantha couldn't wait to tell Suzanne that she met the tall, dark-haired stranger from the beach. She never thought she would meet her this soon. She wanted to tell Suzanne how nice Alex was and how beautiful she was up close and personal. What she couldn't understand was why she felt so damned happy about meeting her and why she was actually missing her at this very moment. Never before had a stranger affected her in such a fashion.

Maybe we were friends in another life , she thought. That would explain why I feel so good just being around her. Maybe we've been through this all before and that's why we're so comfortable with each other.

She got the impression that Alex seemed to be as comfortable around her as she was around Alex. The inexplicable element was why she felt such inner warmth when she touched Alex or when Alex touched her. It was more like the kind of a feeling you are supposed to get when you find someone you're romantically attracted to. She actually felt a tingle from her hand to the top of her shoulder when Alex touched her hand reaching for the Dictaphone machine earlier in the evening. At the same time she got that little catch in her throat and throb in her heart that she gets when watching a romantic movie and the two main characters touch. She couldn't explain it to herself but she was worried more about the fact that she wasn't worried about not being able to explain it.

Her stomach rumbled at her and she decided to stop at B.J.'s for a 'to go' pizza and a salad. Even though she was obviously hungry, she didn't feel like cooking at this hour. It would have been nice if she had thought enough ahead to invite Alex to join her for dinner, but she hadn't been thinking of food when she left the warehouse. Strange as it seemed to her, food never entered her mind when she was in the company of the dark-haired beauty. Dinner together would have made a great finish to what began as a standard business meeting.

Speaking of the warehouse, she didn't even get to take the royal tour of the building. She would have to remember to ask Alex to show her around the next time she was there. Actually, when she stopped to think about it she didn't even give Alex her phone number. It might not be a bad idea , she continued with her self-conversation , to call the office in the morning and tell them to give my telephone number to Alex Dorian if she calls. I could always say I was concerned about the woman not totally understanding how to use the dictation machine. Yeah - Right! She laughed as she neared the pizza establishment.

When she pulled up to B.J.'s, her Volkswagen was almost rear-ended by a car that was obviously following her too closely and didn't anticipate her pulling over into the loading/unloading zone in front of the pizza place. She got out of the VW and gave the other car a menacing look. Watch where you're going. She mentally told the stranger.

Sam decided to sit at one of the tables and eat her salad while she was waiting for the pizza to cook. She hadn't realized how hungry she was until she walked into the restaurant and smelled the aroma of Italian cooking. It only took about 15 minutes and she was soon on her way back out the door. Parked at the curb across the street was the car that almost hit her. Guess that person has nothing better to do on a Monday night than sit around in front of pizzerias waiting for cars to tailgate and almost hit, Samantha sarcastically thought to herself as she put her food into her own vehicle and started on her way home, again.

Turning into the apartment driveway she decided to stop and get her mail. This is a useless stop -- nothing but junk as usual. Junk and bills -- same difference. She turned to throw the unwanted mail into the trashcan located next to the boxes when she again spotted the car that had almost run into her downtown. Great, now I have a new neighbor, a tailgater, s he mused to herself. After she finished what she was doing she got back into her car, pulled up in front of her building and parked in her regular spot.

Samantha had turned on the outside lamp before she left the apartment, knowing that it would be dark when she arrived home. When she opened the door the red blinking light on the small box next to the phone actually illuminated the front room enough for her to find her way through to the kitchen. Answering machines, what lovely devices, Samantha thought as she walked into the cooking area, turned the light on, put the pizza down and went back to look at the number of calls she received. Only one message tonight, good. I'm really not in the mood for going through voice mail.

She pushed the button and the message began . . . same beginning as her earlier message . . . "Hi, Sammie. It's Mom. I thought you would have gotten back to me by now. I'll be up until around 11 tonight if you want to give me a call. We miss you, honey. Bye."

"Darn," Samantha spoke to the air, "I didn't want to but I guess I'd better call her tonight." She opened up the pizza box and put two pieces on a plate, got a large glass of water, and went to sit down by the phone and call her mother. She had no idea what she was going to say. Until she moved to California she never had the luxury of doing everything her way and in her own time. She wanted her folks to visit, but she wasn't sure she was quite ready for them to come so soon. July would be here this weekend, so maybe with a little fast talking she could get them to put off coming down until the middle of August. That would give her at least another month to get everything squared away and know the area a little better. Not that anyone ever needed to know the area with her father around; he was never shy about asking the locals questions.

"Ok, here goes," she picked up the receiver and dialed home.

"Hello, Riley residence." Her mother answered the phone.

"Hi, Mom. It's me."

"Well Hi, Sammie. I'm glad you got back to me tonight. I was beginning to wonder whether your machine was working or whether everything was all right. Everything is all right, isn't it." Her mother asked.

"Yes, Mom. Everything's just fine. I was doing an evening job tonight for my boss. She asked me to deliver a machine to one of our new clients who's opening up a business here in Laguna." Samantha answered her mother.

"Well, what do you think about our coming to visit next month?" Her mother asked.

"Mom, I think the visit is a great idea (Samantha lied) but why don't you wait until about the middle of August. It's not really good to come just when these things open. I think they're better about half way through because all the really big crowds are gone by then and you get a better chance at seeing everything without being pushed around." Samantha told her mother, knowing that her mom didn't like large crowds. She was hoping her statements would delay the early visit.

"Gee, Sammie, when you put it like that I can see that maybe the middle of August would be a much better time to come. It will also give Daddy a little more time to get the itinerary together. You know how he loves to plan everything out so we don't miss a thing." Her mother said with a smile in her voice.

"Oh, yeah, Mom. I know exactly how much Dad loves planning for a vacation. Will Sally be coming with you?" Samantha asked as she thought to herself -- Oh, Please say YES.

"If we came in July as we anticipated, she wouldn't be able to take off but if we give a month's notice I can see no reason why she couldn't come with us. It will be a real family reunion then. We miss you a lot, Samantha. Are you sure you're happy living there in California? Don't you miss the lake and the woods?" Her mother asked.

"I miss all of you, too, Mom. To answer your question, yes, I do miss the lake and the woods, but the ocean has a magic all its own and it was a lot easier to make the transition than I thought it would be. I love Laguna and I know you will too when you see it." Samantha said. "So, Mom . . . why don't you talk everything over with Dad and then get back to me. If I'm not here just leave a message like you did and I will get back with you as soon as I can. Remember it is summer and there are a lot of things to do here, so I am out of the apartment quite a bit when I'm not working."

"Okay, Samantha. I'll talk to Daddy and we'll get the dates set and Daddy will make the reservations for the plane and the motel. I'm getting excited already. Tell me Samantha how do you like your new job?"

"Mom, it's just great. It's like being my own boss. I get my work when I want to basically and have 24 hours to get it back to the main office. If I want to take a day off, no problem as long as I give a little notice. It's great. I'm happy here, Mom -- Really."

"Well, honey. I'm happy if you're happy. I'll let you go for now, this is costing you a lot of money. Give yourself a kiss and a hug from me and I'll tell Daddy and Sally you said 'Hi'."

"Okay, Mom. I'll talk to you soon. I love you." Samantha ended the conversation.

"We love you, too, Samantha. Bye for now." The connection was terminated as her mother hung up the phone.

Well, Samantha thought to herself , at least they won't be coming until the middle of August. I can get all my shit together by then I'm sure. Sam was glad she used the approach she did on her mother. It didn't make her sound like she just didn't want them coming down yet.

She got up and went to the front door, set the deadbolt for the evening and switched off the outside light. It had been a long day filled with new experiences and hopefully the beginning of a budding friendship. The only friend she knew in the area, so far, was Suzanne and soon she would be occupied with her boyfriend, Danny, when he came home on leave. Perhaps now Samantha would have an alternative to tagging along with them everywhere.

The pizza she put on the plate was virtually untouched. Normally there would have only been a couple slices left, but for some strange reason her appetite was taking a back seat to the anticipation of her pending conversation with Alex tomorrow. She put what was left of her favorite meal into a baggie and refrigerated it for breakfast in the morning.

Bedtime rituals were interspersed with memories of tonight's meeting. Alex's soft contralto voice permeated her thoughts and the recollection of coming face-to-face with the tall, dark-haired, female Adonis set her heart to racing. As ridiculous as it would have sounded, she put voice to her thoughts, Samantha talked herself into believing that if she went directly to bed, tomorrow would come much sooner and her second exposure to Alex would be accelerated.

She stood quietly in front of her bedroom window, with only a miniature version of the view she observed tonight from the penthouse on the cliff. Stars peppered the velvet sky as emerald eyes stared up at mythical constellations. Samantha lost herself in recollection of the events of the past few hours.

Again the idea of calling the office in the morning and telling them they could give Alex her phone number, if she happened to call for it, popped into her head. She shook the thought clear and decided she wouldn't wait for Alex to call. Perhaps I'll simply go for another morning swim. I wanted to start doing that on a daily basis anyway. If tomorrow is as lucky as today was, Alex will have the same idea and this time I won't have to watch her from a distance. The decision to rise early and head for the cove also settled the question of what her evening wish was going to be:

        Star light -- Star bright --

        Make my wish come true tonight.

        Tomorrow when I go to sea,

        Make Alex, also, right there be.