On Raven's Wings

by Carrie Ryan

"...You walk in and my strength walks out the door

Say my name and I can't fight anymore..."

Chapter Seven

They brought the bike back to Jake's. It's not like they could pick up the kids with it. Jake unlocked the house and they went inside. She knew she was going to have to put the bike up for winter soon. The air had started to get a bit cooler at night. Not to mention the fact that a storm was coming in. Jake shut the door.

"I'm going to go upstairs and change out of these pants before we pick the kids up. I'll be right back." Mandy smiled at her.

"O.K. Would it be alright if I called the house and checked my answering machine?"

"Sure. If you need anything, you, pretty much, know where everything is." Jake went upstairs and changed into a pair of jeans. She walked downstairs a few moments later. She found Mandy sitting in the living room.

"Hey there." Mandy looked up and smiled.

"Hi! Well, Claudia called sometime around Ten and said she'd rather the kids just go ahead and stay there. She said she already tucked them in and they're sleeping." Jake shoved her hands into her pockets.

"O.K. Well, do you want to stay here or would you rather I take you home?" Jake was nervous for some reason now. Mandy got up and walked over to her. She wrapped her arms around the taller woman and rested her head against Jake's shoulder.

"Well, we're already here. Is that o.k.?" Jake held her tight against her.

"That's just fine. Come on. It's kind of chilly in here. I'll get a fire going in the fireplace. Jake started a fire and the two women sat on the couch, talking.

Jake told Mandy about her father and Mandy told her about the death of both her parents in a car wreck right before Gellar was born. She also told Jake about her brother, Alan. How he was always kind of a "bad apple" and getting into trouble. She hadn't seen him since before their parents died and he never showed up at the funeral. During their conversation, the two women had ended up lying on the couch. Mandy placed her head on Jake's shoulder and Jake pulled an afghan down off the back of the couch to cover them. They switched topics to something a bit lighter- their Halloween costumes. At Mandy's insistence, Jake had agreed to dig out her uniform from the Chicago PD and wear that.

Before long, both women were sound asleep.

The next night, Jake refused to tell Mandy where they were going. As far as Mandy still knew, Jake had no idea it was her birthday. She had driven Mandy to her house to get ready. The two women had spent the day together at the movies and just staying around the house. Mandy couldn't think of anything she really wanted to go do otherwise. It was killing Jake not to wish her a happy birthday but, she didn't want to spoil the surprise. Claudia had called and said she was taking the girls to Colonial Williamsburg and not to expect them back until tomorrow.

Jake had told Eph the night before where her spare house key was hidden. As they had left Jake's house, She diverted Mandy's attention away from oncoming traffic when she recognized Pony's car. They would go into the house with the birthday cake and then leave to go set everything up at the concert. Jake was a bit worried about the plans she and Eph had made. The sky was starting to get cloudy and it was supposed to start raining. She just decided to play it by ear.

Her attention was drawn to the back of the hallway where Mandy had just stepped out of her room. Freshly showered, she wore a pair of blue jeans and white shirt. She was wearing a brown flight jacket, to fight off the chill that had started setting in the air. Jake was wearing a pair of worn Levi's and a black silk shirt under her leather jacket.

"You ready to go?" Jake asked as she put an arm around Mandy.

"If I knew where we were going, I could answer that. So you tell me, am I ready?" Jake stood back and looked at her. Mandy held her arms out and looked down at her attire for the evening. Jake placed a finger against her chin, as if in thought.

"Hmmm... Almost. Come here." When they first arrived, she had asked Mandy if she could see the Shania Twain shirt. She now took it and folded it up to use as a blindfold. She placed it over Mandy's eyes and tied it in the back.

"Jake? What're you doing?" Jake smiled to herself.

"No peeking! Now you're ready." She shouldered the bag of clothes she had asked Mandy to pack. She grabbed her hand and led her out the door. She took the key from Mandy's hand and locked the house up then helped her into the truck. She shut the door and walked around to the driver's side. Once she got in, she looked over at Mandy who was laughing at the situation she found herself in.

"Comfortable?" Jake asked.

"I guess as comfortable as I can be with a shirt wrapped around my head." Mandy giggled.

They drove for a little over half an hour, talking and listening to the radio. A weather report came over the air. There was a severe thunderstorm warning in affect for the entire Hampton Roads area. Then the announcer stated that the Shania Twain concert was still going on rain or shine.

"Great. Just what I need today of all days- thunderstorms." Jake looked over at Mandy with a knowing grin on her face, glad that Mandy couldn't see her through the makeshift blindfold.

"Why today of all days? Why is today different?"

"Oh, no reason really. I just don't like thunder." Mandy answered.

"Yeah. I remember. That would suck, though. First the Shania concert, then thunderstorms. Today just isn't your day is it, Darlin?" She watched as Mandy bowed her head. The look of disappointment on the young woman's face was almost too much for Jake to bear. She was thankful that they were turning into the parking lot for the Amphitheatre. She reached over and took Mandy's hand in hers. Mandy smiled when she felt Jake's lips brush across the back of her hand.

She felt the truck slow down and heard Jake roll down the window. Jake paid the parking attendant and proceeded to drive into the parking lot.

"O.K., we're here. Leave that blindfold on."

"O.K." Jake turned off the ignition and got out. She walked over to the passenger side and helped Mandy out of the truck. Mandy was getting excited, anticipating what Jake had planned. It seemed like they walked forever before they stopped. Obviously, in line for something. After slowly advancing in line, Jake handed their tickets to the usher. As soon as they walked out onto the lawn, she spotted Eph who was waving them over. She kept hold on Mandy's hand and started over towards Eph.

Eph leaned up and spoke in Jake's ear, carefully so Mandy would not hear her.

"She's about ready to go on. Pony's over by the blanket. Everything's set up just as you asked. The cake is on your kitchen counter and the key is next to it. Here's your change." Jake placed her hand on Eph's shoulder.

"Keep it. Thank you."

"Jake there was about Fifty bucks left over!" Jake shrugged her shoulders.

"Buy Pony a shirt. Just keep it. I owe you one, Thank you."

"No problem. Did you take care of everything with the radio station?" Jake nodded as they continued to walk to where Pony was waiting, guarding the area she had staked out for Jake and Mandy.

"Yeah. I got a call in right before she left. They had me on hold forever, asked me a bunch of asinine questions but, they said she'd do it."

"Cool! There's Pony." They walked over to Pony and tapped her on her shoulder. She turned around and almost lost it at the sight of her friend with a t-shirt tied around her eyes. Jake nodded her approval at how everything looked. She nodded at Pony and Eph who took off for their seats. Since Pony had won their tickets, they were actually in seats where Jake and Mandy were on the lawn.

The only thing Mandy could tell was that they were outside, obviously in a crowd. The noise was almost deafening.

"Jake, can I take this thing off yet?" She asked, wanting to see what was going on.

"Not yet. Just a few more minutes, I promise." Jake stood behind Mandy with her arms wrapped around her waist. Her chin rested on Mandy's shoulder. A moment or so later, the lights above the stage went out and the crowd got louder. Jake whispered in Mandy's ear to keep her eyes closed. She reached up and took off the blindfold. She told Mandy to open her eyes.

It was now dark and what stars could be seen were out. Mandy was looking ahead of the crowd and had not looked right in front of her, yet.

Soft blue lights illuminated the stage as a guitar began playing. A harmony of voices began to sing.

"Black eyes, I don't need 'em... Blue tears give me freedom..." Mandy gasped in shock as Shania Twain walked out, center stage, and began the show. She looked around them and noticed the setup in front of her.

There was a blanket set up with three-dozen roses in various shades of white, yellow and peach along the edges. There were candles set up at either corner. A bottle of wine and two glasses were there as well. She was speechless. She couldn't believe all the trouble Jake had gone through.

She turned around in Jake's arms. Jake wondered if she had made a mistake by the tears in Mandy's eyes. The last thing she ever wanted to do was make her cry.

"Mandy, why are you crying, Honey? Don't you like it?" Jake asked softly as she leaned down to look Mandy in the eye. Mandy saw the look of concern on her friend's face and realized, without a doubt, that she was falling in love with the woman standing before her. She wiped her eyes before she spoke.

"I love it, Jake. But,... how did you...? I mean,... why..." Jake reached around to her back pocket with one hand and placed a finger against Mandy's lips with the other.

"Shhh... Happy Birthday, Amanda." She brought her other hand from around her back and handed one flawless, single red rose to Mandy.

The tears that had threatened to pour from Mandy's eyes earlier now fell freely down her cheeks. Jake reached up and wiped them away with her fingertips. She kissed Mandy's cheek and pulled her into a tight embrace.

"Why did I do this? Because I'm falling hopelessly in love with you."

The two women stood like that for a few moments. Jake knelt down and moved some of the roses so they could sit on the blanket to watch the show. She poured them each a glass of wine. Mandy sat between Jake's legs and leaned back against her chest.

Shania sang all of their favorites. About forty-five minutes into the show, she took a break so she could talk to the audience.

"How are you doing Virginia Beach?" Everyone started screaming in response.

"Yeah! I love a responsive crowd! You guys sound great! How many people here listen to Eagle 97.3?" The audience screamed louder.

"Well, as I'm sure most of you already know, I did an interview there earlier this afternoon. I had the pleasure of speaking to a lot of you. Well, let me tell you about this phone call the station received just as I was getting ready to leave."

"This person calls in and tells me about a surprise for a friend's birthday. Now, I say this was told to me because this person didn't realize I was still in the room listening in on the speakerphone." The crowd began laughing. Jake buried her head into Mandy's shoulder.

"Anyway, they'd be placed on hold and I would ask a question for the DJ to relay during the course of the call. I happened to find out that I happen to be the surprise tonight. Now, from the way it sounded to me, these two apparently have a thing for each other." The crowd let out with a chorus of wolf-whistles.

"Now, we don't usually play this song but, under the circumstances, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to break it out of the archives. Thought we'd try to push these two along. I decided that I wanted to get in on the birthday fun so, I have a little surprise of my own. Jake went through a lot of trouble for this evening so there are two backstage passes waiting for you and your friend. Happy Birthday, Amanda. This song is for you, Honey. See you after the show.

Jake and Mandy looked at each other, both in shock at what just happened. Then the song began.

"Deep in Denial Ville... trying to fight the way I feel... I go Jell-O with your smile.. I start blushing, my head rushing... If you stand too close to me I might melt down from the heat...If you look my way one more time I'm gonna go out of my mind..."

"Whatever you do... Don't even think about it. Don't go and get me started. Don't you dare drive me crazy. Don't do that to me, baby."

"You stop me in my tracks, my heart pumping to the max. I'm such a sucker for your eyes, they permanently paralyze..."

"Whatever you do... Don't even think about it. Don't go and get me started. Don't you dare drive me crazy. Don't do that to me, baby."

"You've got my heart under attack... You give me shivers down my back... Do you have to walk the way you do? I get weak just watching you..." Mandy turned around to look at Jake for the duration of the song, trying to let her eyes convey what her lips weren't quite ready for her to say.

They sat together, holding on to one another and enjoying the rest of the show. They continued to drink their wine and just enjoying being together.

They drove back to Jake's after the concert, each woman thinking about the evening. They had made their way through the crowd to the backstage area. There were several couples trying to tell the security guard that they were Jake and Amanda, which caused both women to laugh. After showing their driver's licenses to the security guard, he handed each woman their pass and they were allowed to pass through to the backstage area.

After waiting for about fifteen minutes, Shania walked out to greet each woman. She talked to both of them for a while. She stopped a security guard who was walking past with a disposable camera. She asked him what was on it and he sheepishly admitted that he had been taking photos during the show. After finding out that he had a few exposures left on the roll, she convinced him to trade her the camera for a couple of autographed photos and a shirt. After he left, she called one of her roadies over to take a picture of her with Jake and Mandy. The last few pictures were of Shania and Jake, Shania and Mandy and one she insisted on taking of the two of them together.

She autographed photos for each of them and gave them a few more for Raven, Jason and Eph and Pony. She said goodbye to both women after spending nearly an hour with them. Jake grabbed their picnic basket with the roses and wine inside, along with everything they had acquired at the concert.

Now, they were just around the corner from Jake's house. They had taken their time driving back, due to the rain. It had started pouring just as they reached the truck. A few moments later they pulled into the driveway. Jake turned the truck off.

"OK, I'm going to go unlock the door. Wait till I get it unlocked then make a run for it."

"O.K." Jake got out and ran for the porch. She fumbled with the keys for a moment before actually getting the correct key in the lock. Once the door was unlocked, she waved at Mandy who quickly got out and ran for the house. Jake locked her truck with the electronic remote on her key ring. She shut the door and turned on the light. She set the basket down next to the door and hung up her jacket. She walked over to Mandy and asked for her jacket as well. Mandy handed it to her.

"Go ahead and have a seat and I'll start a fire."

"O.K." Jake started building a fire in the fireplace while Mandy sat on the couch watching. Once the fire was started, Jake turned around to catch Mandy watching her.

"Whatcha doin over there, Green eyes?" Jake asked as she smiled at the woman who had managed to break down every wall she had so carefully constructed around her heart.

"Watching you." Mandy answered, honestly. Jake got up and walked over to the couch where she sat. She began to sit down when she remembered the cake.

"Hang on, I'll be right back. I almost forgot." She got up and headed towards the kitchen.

"Forgot what?" Mandy called after her. Jake poked her head out the kitchen door. "You'll see." She walked back out with two clean wine glasses and a bottle of red Sweet Mountain Laurel from the wine festival. Mandy smiled as Jake opened the bottle and poured each of them a glass.

"Hang on, I'm not done." Jake literally ran back into the kitchen. Mandy laughed as she watched her. As soon as Jake entered the kitchen the power went out, causing Mandy to squeal in alarm and Jake to yell, "Shit!" Jake poked her head out the kitchen door.

"Mandy, are you o.k.?"

"I'm fine, Jake. Are you?"

"Yeah. I just hit my damn leg on the table. I'll be right out." A few minutes later Jake walked into the living room and lit the candles above the fireplace. She walked back into the kitchen.

"Ready?" Jake called from the kitchen.

"For what?" Mandy asked as she turned towards the door. She noticed a soft light, working its way into the living room. A moment later, the source of the light walked in. Jake was carrying a birthday cake with lit candles, as she sang "Happy Birthday". Mandy placed her hand over her mouth in surprise as Jake sat the cake down on the coffee table. Jake sat down on the couch next to Mandy.

"Jake, Honey... you have gone overboard for my birthday but I love it." And you.

"Hey, you only have one birthday a year, right?"

"That's true. Now all we need is some music." Jake thought for a minute before getting up.

"I can fix that." She walked out of the room and, soon after, returned with a battery-operated radio.

She placed it on the mantle above the fireplace and turned it on. She changed the dial until she found something Mandy liked.

"Ohhh... That's Dr. Luv. Have you ever listened to her show?" Mandy asked. Jake shook her head, "No."

"She's so much fun to listen to. The woman plays anything ! She usually bases her show on requests from the listeners. She brings in cd's from her own personal collection. The woman has some strange tastes in music, let me tell you." Jake sat down on the rug in front of the fireplace and motioned for Mandy to join her. Mandy grabbed their wine glasses and joined her friend on the floor.

Just after she sat down, an old man's voice could be heard through the radio.

"Could you possibly play You Go To My Head? The Frank Sinatra version? My wife, Edith, just loves that song."

"You know, Sir... I can do that. I just so happen to have it right here. Then I'll play one of my own personal favorites. So for all you lovebirds out there, here's Ol' Blue Eyes, himself, singing You Go To My Head."

Jake closed her eyes in memory.

"Jake? You o.k.?" Jake opened her eyes and looked at the woman sitting next to her.

"Yeah. Just remembering. The greatest memory I have of my mother is her and my father dancing to this song in our kitchen on their anniversary. At least I think it was their anniversary. They were always dancing to this song, even if Dad had to hum it." She smiled in memory. If she closed her eyes, she could still see it happening. Her mother, pregnant with her baby brother. Her father dressed in his Navy uniform. The old battered kitchen table with the aluminum trim and the plastic covered chairs with the white cotton poking out through the rips her and Ryan had put in them.

She could still see the hideous yellow wallpaper, peeling at the seams and the curtains that matched it. If she opened her eyes, it was gone. She did open her eyes, though. She found that Mandy had stood up and was holding a hand down to her to help her stand. She took Mandy's hand and stood up.

"What?" She asked, quietly. Mandy wrapped her arms around Jake's neck.

"Nothing. I just want you to dance with me." Jake wrapped her arms around the small of Mandy's back and smiled at the woman in her arms.

"You go to my head and you linger like a haunting refrain. And I find you spinning 'round in my brain like the bubbles in a glass of champagne. You go to my head like a sip of sparkling Burgundy brew. And I find the very mention of you like the kicker in a julep or two."

"You go to my head with a smile that makes my temperature rise. Like a summer with a thousand Julys... you intoxicate my soul with your eyes."

Jake pulled Mandy in tighter against her until the song was finished. The next song began to play and Jake recognized it immediately. She pulled away from Mandy and began to walk away. Mandy reached out and placed her hand on Jake's arm to stop her from leaving. Jake turned around to look in Mandy's eyes.

"Jake?" Mandy pleaded with her. Then in a painful whisper... "Please?" Jake waited only a brief moment before wrapping her arms back around Mandy as the song began to play.

" Electricity. Eye to eye. Hey, don't I know you? I can't speak." Jake wouldn't have been able to speak at that moment if she tried. Mandy had placed her head on her shoulder and was running her hands up and down Jake's back.

"Strip my senses on the spot..." Mandy started kissing Jake on her neck as Jake's hands began to run across her back as well.

"I've never been defenseless, I can't even make sense of this. You speak and I don't hear a word..." Mandy traced her tongue just along the inside of Jake's ear as the first line of the chorus started. Jake's eyes rolled back as she closed them. She ran her hands down Mandy's back. She grabbed her hips and pulled the smaller woman tight against her body.

"What would happen if we kissed? Would your tongue slip past my lips? Would you run away? Would you stay? Or would I melt into you? Mouth to mouth, lust to lust, spontaneously combust..." Mandy made no move to let up on her assault of Jake's ear. She began to sing in a quiet, breathy voice into Jake's ear as she ran her hands across Jake's shoulder blades and tangled them into long, ebony tresses.

"The room is spinning out of control. Act like you didn't notice, brush my hand." Jake felt as if her entire world was spinning out of control. She was powerless to do anything but hold on tight and wait out the ride. Mandy continued to sing to her.

"Forbidden fruit, ring on my finger. You're such a moral, moral one to throw it away no questions. Will I pretend I'm innocent? What would happen if we kissed? Would your tongue slip past my lips? Would you run away? Would you stay? Or would I melt into you? Mouth to mouth, lust to lust, spontaneously combust... What would happen if we kissed?" Mandy placed her head back on Jake's shoulder. Jake could feel her warm breath against her skin. She could feel both of their hearts beating, they were so close. With each passing moment, Jake, continuously, pulled Mandy closer as Mandy pressed herself into Jake. As the first line of the last verse played, Mandy pulled back away from Jake, their cheeks brushing softly against each other. Both women were breathing heavy at what they were experiencing. They looked deep into each other's eyes.

"I struggle with myself again to keep the walls from crumbling..." In a quiet whisper, Jake sang the last line to Mandy.

"Don't know if I can turn away..." Mandy stared deep into Jake's eyes as she tangled her hands in her hair. She couldn't handle this any longer. She began pulling Jake's head down to hers. Jake was leaning in, willingly. They were so close they could breathe the same air. Their lips were a hair's width apart. She stopped, briefly, to make sure this was what Mandy wanted. She already knew this was exactly what she, herself, needed. Mandy looked at her, wondering why she stopped. Her voice was nothing more than a whisper against Jake's lips.

"God, Jake, please! Please kiss me." They had waited long enough. They had been interrupted too many times. Nothing would stop them this time. They were only aware of each other as their lips slowly met in the softest caress. The pressure increased, painfully slow at first then with much more intensity.

"What would happen if we kissed? Would your tongue slip past my lips?"

Jake ran her tongue across Mandy's lips asking for, and soon receiving, entrance. A small moan escaped the throats of both women.

"Would you run away? Would you stay? Or would I melt into you? Mouth to mouth, lust to lust, spontaneously combust..."

Jake and Mandy pulled back slowly, both realizing that they had plenty of time. They stood there, quietly holding each other, looking into each other's eyes. They leaned in until their foreheads were touching and continued to exchange the softest of kisses. Jake turned her head, slightly, to glance at the birthday cake still sitting on the table. The candles were still lit. She turned her eyes back to Mandy.

"Baby, you need to make a wish and blow out your candles." She placed a kiss on the tip of Mandy's nose.

"Nuh-uh... it already came true. I wanted you." Jake placed a kiss to each of her cheeks.

"Well, now you've got me." As their lips met again, each woman had the same thought running through her head- " I love you."

"What would happen if we kissed?..."

To Be Continued...

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