By K. Stoley

This is Part II of a III part series (New Paths I, New Paths II and Journey's Path).




"I don't think either one of us is ready for more than this," she said indicating their entwined hands.  "Why don't we just take it slowly and this way we will each have time to know what we both want."

"I think you are right," agreed Sarah.  "This is all new to me and I am not sure what I am feeling, except that I want to be near you."

"I'm not going anywhere," Taylor murmured and kissed the hand she held.  "Why don't we get some sleep and we can talk more in the morning?"  Taylor moved to walk ahead of Sarah but was pulled back by the young woman.  She looked back inquisitively and green eyes locked on blue.

"Kiss me," Sarah whispered, "I need to know if it is more than just a passing feeling."

 Startled, Taylor hesitantly pulled away until she saw a sadness enter those green eyes, and pulled the young woman to her.  Their lips touched in a light hesitant meeting that only fueled their desire for more.  Pulling away, Sarah looked into Taylor's face and without a word spoken, returned to the older woman's lips.  This time there was no hesitation in their meeting.

Taylor sat behind her desk thinking over all that had transpired since that night.  It had been nearly three months since that kiss, spent mainly in getting to know one another.  Sarah had moved in with Taylor while she went back to school.  They had kept the physical contact to hugging and the occasional hand holding but an undeniable closeness had developed between them.  Things were eventually going to start heating up at this rate, and Taylor wasn't sure if either of them was ready for what lay ahead.

Shaking these thoughts from her head, Taylor realized it was late and proceeded to lock up the office for the night and then headed home.  'Home...that has a nice ring to it,' Taylor thought and speed up the car, suddenly anxious to get there.



Taylor stepped into the living room to find Sarah sprawled out on the floor with papers and books everywhere.  She stood watching the young woman for a moment and noticed the frown that creased her brow as she shuffled papers around in desperation.

"Problem?," Taylor asked concerned.  Sarah had been so absorbed in trying to study that she hadn't heard Taylor come in.

The young woman looked up frustrated to the point of tears, "I just can't do this!  What ever made me think that I could go back to school?," she cried.  Taylor calmly walked over and sat down next to the young woman and looked at the work in front of her.

"What's the problem?," she asked quietly trying to get the young woman to settle down.

"The problem is that I just don't get this garbage!  Just tell me why I need statistics in accounting anyway?," she snapped.

"I'm not sure but, it can't hurt to know it, even if it is just to learn how to look at things in a different manner," Taylor offered.  "What part is giving you trouble?  Maybe we can figure it out between the two of us."

"Okay," Sarah relented and took a deep breath and showed Taylor where she was having the most trouble.  They spent the better part of two hours going over the textbooks and working the problems out.

Taylor watched Sarah working on the last problem.  She smiled at the concentration displayed on the young woman's face and secretly, she was proud of how far Sarah had come in such a short time.  The young woman had registered herself a week after moving in, and had been taking a full load of classes ever since.  She was still plagued with nightmares but thankfully, those too had begun to lessen.  Even after the sleepless nights that accompanied them, Sarah had been up the next morning and off to classes without much complaining.  She never once wanted to throw the towel in.  Taylor thought to herself and had to grin, 'Although there is the occasional temper tantrum like tonight.  But, look at her, she gets right back in there and hangs on until she succeeds.  God, I love that about her.  I can't believe it has only been 3 months and yet I feel like it's been this way forever.'

Sarah looked up to find Taylor staring at her with a silly grin on her face. "What's so funny?," she asked cautiously. Taylor focused her attention back to the present and shrugged her shoulders.

"Nothing, just day dreaming that's all," she replied.

"It looked like more than that to me.  Come on what gives?," the young woman prodded.

Taylor smiled and sat back leaning her back against the sofa.  "I was just thinking about how far you have come and how proud I am of you.  You've gone through some rough times but you've never quit and...," she hesitated, not sure she wanted to tell her all she was feeling.

Sarah knew there was more to that statement and for some reason, she really needed to hear it, "And?"

"And...," Taylor stuttered, suddenly afraid to admit her feelings, she looked down at the pencil in her hand.  Sarah sensed her nervousness and moved closer to the older woman.  She removed the pencil from fidgeting fingers and pulled the hand to her causing Taylor to look up at her.

"There isn't anything you could say to me that I wouldn't want to hear," Sarah offered and tried to ignore the other thought, 'Except, that you don't have the feelings for me that I have for you.'

"And...that I think you are something special," Taylor answered, knowing how lame it sounded in her ears and thought, 'No, I think of you as definitely more than just special.'

Sarah smiled and thought, 'Not exactly the flaming declaration of love I wanted to hear but it would do for now.'  Reaching up, she stroked Taylor's cheek and replied, "I wouldn't have had this opportunity if you hadn't helped me.  Thank you."

The doctor stood, put a hand down to help the young woman up, and replied, "Anytime I can be of service, all you have to do is ask."  'And I mean anytime!'

"Anytime?," Sarah asked slyly as she reached up to take the offered hand and thought, 'You mean like if I asked you to take me in your arms right now and make love to me, you would?’

Taylor pulled the young woman to her feet and looked at her questioningly.  'Just what are you thinking, lady?' 

Sarah smiled and hugged the taller woman to her.  They stood this way for a few moments before Sarah pulled away to look up at Taylor saying, "Thanks for helping me out tonight.  Finals are tomorrow and I was getting a little crazy over everything."

"I am glad I could help," Taylor smiled looking down at the tired woman in her arms.  "Now, it's time for bed so you will be alert and ready for tomorrow," she ordered and she pushed Sarah down the hall towards her room.

"Don't worry, Doc.  I don't think I will have any problems sleeping tonight. I'm exhausted," Sarah replied yawning.  Taylor gave her quick kiss on her cheek and continued on down the hall to her own room.  Turning before she reached her door, she called, "Hey, call me tomorrow and let me know how the exams went, okay?"

Sarah popped her head back out the door and smiled mischievously, "No problem, aces for sure," she laughed and ducked her head back in her room.

"I don't doubt it for a moment," replied Taylor shaking her head in amusement and going into her room.

Suddenly insecure, Sarah stuck her head back out and shouted down the hall, "But, I'll call you just the same."



As Taylor finished writing her notes in her last patient's chart, the phone on her desk rang.  "Hello," she answered.

"Hey Doc, where are you taking me to celebrate tonight?," came an excited response.

"I take it your exams went well or are you just trying to get me to take you to dinner?," the doctor laughed.

"Both!," came the quick reply.  "When do you think you will be home?," Sarah asked.  Taylor looked at her calendar and replied, "I have one more patient to see.  I should be home by 5:30."

“Great!  I gotta run, my bus is here.  I'll see you when you get home," Sarah yelled, hanging up the phone and sprinting for her bus.  Taylor smiled to herself as she hung up the phone, 'We need to do something about getting you a car of your own.  Tomorrow, I'll call around.'  Taylor got up hoping her next patient was already here so that she could get home on time tonight.

Sarah heard the back door and went racing into the kitchen.  She threw herself at the unsuspecting woman's shouting, "I did it! I really did it!" and danced Taylor around the kitchen.  Taylor laughed and hugged the smaller woman to her in an effort to calm her down before they both got dizzy and fell down.

"I never had a doubt that you wouldn't," Taylor replied releasing the young woman.

Sarah looked up at Taylor seriously and remarked, "You've always believed in me even when I couldn't believe in myself.  Why?"

"Because I know potential when I see it.  You always had it in you, it was just waiting for a chance to come out," Taylor replied leaning casually back against the counter.

"I wasn't so sure myself but you know everything just felt right today and...I couldn't wait for you to get home so I could tell you...," Sarah began as she moved to stand in front of the taller woman.  She stood for a moment looking up at Taylor before she reached up and briefly kissed her.  "That this feels right too," she replied and kissed her again.

Taylor didn't hesitate as she reached down to hold the smaller woman.  'I couldn't agree more!,' she thought.  When the kiss ended, Sarah looked up with sparkling green eyes and teased, "So where are you taking me to dinner?"

"Anywhere your heart desires.  Tonight is your night!," Taylor replied kissing the tip of the young woman's nose before releasing her.

"Great, first I want to get something to eat and then...,"the young woman started on her list and Taylor cringed but continued to smile as the young woman followed her back to her room.

When she finally reached her room, she realized that Sarah had stopped talking. Concerned, she turned to find the young woman standing in her doorway uncertain if she should enter.

"Come here," Taylor called over to her and Sarah hesitantly stepped forward.  Taylor met her half way and took her in her arms and whispered in her ear, "We agreed to take this slowly and that is how it will be.  You don't ever have to be afraid of coming in here or something happening that neither of us is ready for.  I care about you too much for that to happen, okay?"

Sarah nodded her head and replied, "I know, it's...I'm more afraid of how much I want this to happen."

Taylor tightened her hold on Sarah and pulled her away to arms length and responded, "I also want you to know that the feeling is very mutual.  Let's just take it one step at a time.  So, what do you say we worry about dinner first and take things as they come?"  Sarah nodded, relieved that she had finally admitted to Taylor what she was feeling.

The evening was spent in celebration and too much wine.  They flirted outrageously with one another, each trying to out do the other, until they were both hysterical with laughter.  The ride home turned sober and neither woman said much as they thought about where the evening was headed. 

Taylor stopped just outside Sarah's bedroom door and before the doctor could say goodnight, the young woman put her arms around the taller woman's neck and pulled her down.  She kissed Taylor long and hard trying to put everything she was feeling into that one kiss. Taylor gently pulled away and hoarsely whispered, "Good night," before fleeing down the hall to her own room. 

Sarah stood in the hall sadly watching Taylor's retreating figure.  She had been ready to push forward but was secretly relieved when Taylor hadn't responded.  She leaned her head against the door and thought, 'Is Taylor hesitant because she isn't ready or I am just not what she wants?'  As she walked into her room, a deep pain surfaced into her thoughts, ‘Maybe, Jose was right and I am 'damaged goods'.’

Taylor closed the door to her bedroom and leaned back against it.  The fun of the evening had been dimmed by her own insecurities.  She knew Sarah wanted more but Taylor wasn't sure she was ready to make that commitment just yet.  There was a part of her that was afraid to chance feeling again.  ‘What if what I have to give isn't enough?  It hadn't been before.'  That thought had been haunting her all evening and she just couldn't face that again.



Sarah awoke to the sun streaming in the window and leisurely stretched.  It was Saturday so she didn't have to go to classes and, since finals were over, there was nothing to study until next semester.  She looked over at the clock and realized that it was almost 1 p.m.  'I really slept in today,' she thought grinning.  As she lay in bed, she began thinking about the night before.  She was afraid to get up and face the remnants of last night but she knew that she needed to do just that.  'All my life I've been living as others have told me to live.  I don't want to live in the shadows anymore.  I want to follow what I feel is right for me.  I know I love Taylor like I've never loved anyone before.  Am I afraid because she is a woman?  Or am I letting the thoughts of others influence me?'

Sarah thought back to the time when she was out with Jose and they had sat across from two men in a restaurant.  The men looked like they were enjoying a nice dinner together.  Sarah watched the way they looked at each other and sadly thought that she had never felt that way about anyone.  She looked over at Jose and knew that she would never have those feelings for him.  She watched envious until Jose caught where her attention was directed and started making crude comments loud enough for the two to hear him.  Sarah had felt so embarrassed by the scene and tried to quiet Jose.  Jose gave her a look and abruptly called for their check.  He hadn't said anything on the way home but, after they returned home, he proceeded to show her what a ‘real man’ was.  Sarah shivered and the memory and sat up on the edge of the bed.  She knew that she wanted more out of her life and that she wanted it to included Taylor.  'There can't be anymore secrets or fears between us.  We need to get this out into the open and deal with whatever it is that we are feeling.  I need to know if she wants the same thing.'

Sarah got up and went in search of the woman in question.  All was quiet, Taylor was nowhere to be found in the house.  Her bed was made and there was no sign as to where she had gone.  'Maybe she went for a run on the beach?,' Sarah thought and headed to the kitchen to make herself some coffee.  She found the coffee pot was on and a note draped over the top.

Didn't want to wake you this morning.  Went into the office to catch up on      some paperwork.  I'll be out most of the day.  Don't wait dinner for me. 

See you later,


Sarah stood holding the note until the words became blurry and she realized that her eyes burned from unshed tears.  "God, why am I so upset about this?," she said out loud rubbing her eyes.  'Because it isn't like her to go in on her day off without knowing in advance and saying something last night.  She didn't want to face me this morning!'  She quietly set the note on the counter and walked outside to sit on the beach and think.

Taylor stayed at the office until she knew that she had no more reason to stay.  She wasn't ready to face the questions that she was sure were going to come from Sarah.   'She is going to ask me what is wrong and I'm not sure myself what that is so, what am I going to tell her?  What good will I be to her if I can't commit 100%?  I just need a little more time to work this through that's all.'  This inner dialogue carried on until she was almost home and it was clearly beginning to sound like an excuse, even to her ears.  She wasn't ready to go into the house and walked around back to the beach.  The moon was full and as she looked out at the waves had no problem spotting the lone figure that sat at the edge of the water.

Sarah sat hugging her knees tightly and Taylor could tell by the slump of the young woman's shoulders that she was troubled.  'This is my fault.  I've done the one thing that I have been trying to avoid.  I've hurt her and I've compounded it by running away.  Why do I always do that?,' she berated herself.  She walked over to the young woman but knew that she couldn't face those green eyes just yet.  Taylor had an undeniable need to just hold her and sat down on the sand behind her, stretching her legs out to the side, she scooted close enough to wrap her arms around the small body and pull Sarah to her.

Sarah was startled when someone sat down behind her until she felt arms wrap around her and pull her gently back.  She didn't resist and let her body relax and laid her head back to rest against Taylor's warm body.  Taylor rested her cheek against Sarah's head and in silence they watched the waves dance in the moonlight.  Sarah shivered at the evening chill and Taylor pulled her in tighter and breaking the silence spoke softly in her ear, "I am sorry.  I know that I have hurt you and that is the last thing that I wanted to do."

Sarah listed to the timbre of Taylor's voice and knew that she wanted to hear that sound for the rest of her life but she needed to know if there was a life here.  Sarah's voice sounded scratchy from disuse "Taylor...," clearing her throat to continue, "I don't know where we stand and what you want from me.  I need to know what you are feeling.  I need to know what I am feeling?  Is it the same thing?"

Taylor closed her eyes for a moment to contemplate what to say, "I know we need to talk and I don't want you to think that I am shutting you out but I just don't know what to say.  I don't know what I am feeling right now except that I don't want to lose you.  I do need you.  I am sorry I ran off like I did today, it won't happen again.  I don't want anything to come between us.  Just give me a little more time and we'll get through this, I promise."

Sarah heard the hesitancy in Taylor's voice and knew that there was more that needed to be said but when she turned to look up into cloudy blue eyes, she knew that she would wait if that is what Taylor needed.  "Do you know that I am in love with you?," she asked in a quiet voice.  Taylor nodded not trusting herself to speak and leaned down to capture the lips that lay before her.

They lay on the beach in each others arms, the pounding of the waves keeping time with the rapid beating of their hearts.  The kisses deepened as hands began their exploration until they both pulled away breathless.  Sarah took Taylor's hand in hers and stood up saying, "We had better stop now because if we go any farther, I won't be able to stop.  I am willing to wait until it is right for both of us."

"It will be soon.  Trust me and believe me when I say that I care, I really do," Taylor replied.  Sarah nodded and squeezed Taylor's hand in hers as they walked back to the house and promised, 'If I have to wait an eternity for this woman...I will.'



Taylor arrived home after a long day at the office and was assaulted by the smell of roses.  Stepping into the kitchen, she saw that there were flowers everywhere.  The counter top was filled with vases of red roses.  'What's she up to?,' Taylor mused but her smile quickly turned to a frown when she found Sarah sitting in the living room holding a white envelope.  The young woman looked like she had the cares of the world on her shoulders and Taylor felt that something bad was about to happen and stopped when she thought, 'Oh God, not Jose!’  She took a deep breath and warned herself, 'Okay just breathe and don't jump to any conclusions.'

"Hi," Taylor called from the doorway and felt her heart sink when watery green eyes looked up at her.  Silently, Sarah arose and walked over to her and handed her the envelope.  She looked up at Taylor and without a word walked down the hall to her room.  Taylor looked from the young woman to the envelope in her hand.  With shaking hands, she looked at the envelope and saw that it was her name that was written on the outside.  Confused, she opened the envelope and pulled out a single white card which simply read,

Miss me? I've missed you.

We will be together again soon.

I love you.

Taylor felt the muscles in her stomach clench and she thought she would be sick and quickly sat down on the sofa.  Putting her head in her hands she knew that the past had finally caught up with her and the running was over and it was time to face it.  'Oh, God, this can't be happening.  How did she find me?  What do I do now?,' Taylor closed her eyes and saw green eyes that had been so filled with pain and moaned.  'Sarah, isn't what you think,' she thought, 'It's much worse!'  Taylor knew that she needed to explain to the young woman and if she was to get through this, she needed Sarah to know everything.



Sarah had sat staring at the envelope in her hands.  She had put the flowers in the kitchen because she reasoned that the fragrance was too strong and was beginning to bothering her.  Deep down she knew it wasn't the flowers that were making her sick but she just couldn't bear to look at them any more.  Her head sunk lower as her insides burned, 'Oh God, why?  When things are finally beginning to make sense to me does this have to happen? She wanted time and I gave her time.  Or, was that just to keep me away?  Was I just a little rescue project that she couldn't get rid of?  When I finally fall in love, it is with someone who doesn't love me.  Somehow, I thought with Taylor it would be different somehow.  But I guess it doesn't matter whose involved, Love is pain and that's all there is.  Oh, why did I have to look in that stupid envelope?’

She heard Taylor enter the kitchen and pause before coming into the living room.  She kept her head down staring at the envelope in her hands, not knowing what would happen next.  She heard Taylor's greeting but couldn't trust herself not to cry and remained silent.  Finally, she looked up into the doctor's eyes and saw the truth of her fears.  What was it that she saw? fear.  She rose and without another word handed Taylor the envelope and went to her room.





Taylor stopped before the closed door and hesitantly knocked gently calling out, "Sarah, can I talk to you?"  There was no answer from the other side except for the sound of drawers being pulled out.  "Please, Sarah talk to me.  Let me explain, it isn't what you think," Taylor pleaded, "Please don't shut me out now."

The room became quiet and, after a few moments, Taylor turned to walk away.  She walked down the hall and into her room closing the door and laid down on the bed.  'I just can't watch while she walks out of my life.'

Sarah wasn't sure where she could go but she knew that she didn't want to stay where she wasn't wanted.  She didn't want to be a pawn in anyone's game.  It had hurt too much already.  'How could I have thought that she would actually want me?'  As the tears fell, she opened the closet and pulled down her suitcase.  She heard Taylor's knock at the door and ignored her request to talk.  'I can't!  I can't bear to hear what you are going to say.  Why did you make me believe you loved me?  But, I guess, you never really actually said that, did you?'  Weary, Sarah sank down on the edge of the bed willing Taylor to go away and leave her be.  Soon she heard footsteps down the hall and a door close softly in the distance.

Taylor must have fallen asleep sometime during the night but something woke her.  She sat up and wondered if Sarah was still there and decided to go take a look.  She didn't want to think about the young woman wandering around at night.  'I should have gotten her a car, at least I know she wouldn't be out walking the streets.  No!  I want her here with me.  She has got to let me explain.'  Taylor walked quietly down the hall and heard the muffled sound again.  The door to Sarah's room was still closed and she quietly opened the door and peered inside.  She saw Sarah twisting and wrestling on the bed with an unseen foe. 

Another strangled cry escaped from her as Taylor reached the bed.  Kneeling, she lightly grabbed the young woman's shoulders in an effort to calm her down and gently called, "Sarah, come on wake up.  It's okay.  Everything's okay."

Sarah's eyes snapped open and she fought against Taylor.  Concerned, Taylor leaned closer and called again, "Sarah, hey, it's okay.  It's me.  I'm here and you’re safe."  The young woman's struggling turned to trembling as tears began to run down the side of her face onto the pillow.

Sarah was wandering in a cold, dark room trying to feel her way around.  She was cold and tired and wasn't sure why she was in this place.  She heard a sound behind her and turned to see a figure step out of the shadows.  She couldn't make out the face but she knew that it wasn't a friend.  As the figure came closer, she saw that it had no face and she began to scream.  She ran out of the room and found herself in a dark hallway and ran until she came to a door, opening the door she found another corridor which seemed darker than the first. 

Each time she paused to open the door, she saw that the shadow was just behind her and that it grew closer each time she turned around.  She came to the end of the corridor and this time there were two doors to choose from.  She didn't know which way to go and before she could decide, the figure pressed in closer.  She could feel its cold fingers through the sleeves of her shirt and the cold breath that blew on the back of her neck.

She started screaming and kept screaming until she heard her name being called from behind one of the doors, without hesitation she turned towards the sound and wrenched the door open.  The shadow began to fade as the room lightened and she found herself looking up into concerned blue eyes.  'Taylor!,' she cried.  It was her voice that she had heard and followed.  Silently she began to cry when she realized that it was more than just a nightmare.  Taylor's heart had heard hers and had answered.

Taylor saw recognition in the green eyes below her but Sarah didn't say anything.  Worried, Taylor sat on the edge of the bed and touched the woman's cheek. 

"Sarah, what's wrong?  Are you okay?"

Sarah nodded and replied, "Yes, I am sorry.  It was just a nightmare.  I'm okay."

"Are you sure?  Do you want to tell me what it was about?," Taylor asked.

"No, not now, maybe later.  Do you think you could just stay here for awhile?," Sarah asked, not wanting to fall asleep for fear she would find herself back in that place.

"Sure, I'll stay," Taylor answered.  Sarah moved over and patted the bed next to her.  Taylor laid down next to the young woman, afraid to get to too close, unsure what Sarah wanted.  "Maybe we can talk about what happened earlier?," Sarah offered and curled on her side next to Taylor.

Taylor rolled to her side to face Sarah and said, "I'd really like that.  I wanted to tell you before that it isn't what you think.  Now, I know I need to tell you everything, okay?"

Sarah nodded and let Taylor continue, "Remember when I told you about Brice and how the relationship had turned bad.  I think Brice sent those flowers."

Sarah began to interrupt and Taylor shook her head to stop her, "Before you ask...No, I haven't seen or spoken to her since we broke up."  Sarah settled down and decided to let Taylor finish with the whole story.  "What I didn't tell you was that I left one day without saying anything to her.  What I mean is that, I just ran away."

Sarah sat up and looked down at the older woman and asked surprised, "You mean you didn't say anything?  No note, nothing?"

"Nothing," Taylor replied quietly.  She looked up into startled green eyes and tried to explain, "I had tried leaving many times before.  At first, Brice would be sorry and promise that things would be better and I believed her.  Things would be good between us for awhile, and then something would happen that would set the old cycle in motion again.  Finally, towards the end I was just plain afraid of her and too scared to say anything that would set her off, let alone that I was leaving."  Taylor looked away as she felt a tear slide down the side of her face.  "So, I just packed one day and left."

Sarah reached down and caught a tear as it rolled down Taylor's check.  She rubbed the back of her hand against the soft cheek in an effort to soothe the pain she saw etched there.  'I think I understand a little clearer now.  I know why she is so hesitant to open up totally.  We've both been hurt but she hasn't had to face her pain.  At least, not until now.'

"How did she know where to find you?," Sarah inquired still stroking the other woman's cheek.  Taylor closed her eyes as the fear of that question hit her.  Opening her blue eyes, she looked up and saw trust and love in the eyes looking back.  She shook her head and admitted, "I really don't know."  'But, it can't be good.'

Sarah had known it had been hard for the doctor to help her, and dredge up painful memories, but now, she knew it had been compounded by the guilt and insecurity of not confronting her own demons.  She knew they had a rough road ahead of them and remembered her nightmare and shivered.  'It makes more sense now and I won't let my fears keep me from her.  It was her voice that directed me and I know, without a doubt, that I love her too much to fail her.' 

She shook off the remnants of that dream and smiled down at the doctor confidently, and said, "Whatever happens, we face it together, agreed?"

"Agreed," Taylor replied feeling a bit of the weight lift off her chest.  She pulled the young woman down against her and cradled her head against her shoulder as Sarah's arms wrapped around her.  Taylor sighed as they both drifted into sleep.  Somewhere in the back of her mind was still a nagging doubt that it wouldn't be that easy.




Things had returned to normal between the two women with the exception that they were able to talk more openly about how they were feeling.  The next day Sarah had insisted that the two of them take the roses to the medical center and distribute them among Taylor's patients.  Taylor felt more at ease with their relationship during the past two weeks and was looking forward to spending the weekend with Sarah.

As Taylor pulled into the drive Friday evening, she noticed the house was dark except for the front entry light.  A moment of panic and fear prickled her skin causing goose bumps to form.  She knew it had more to do with fear than the cool weather outside.

 Sitting in the parked car, Taylor got a hold of her senses and reasoned, ‘Look the front light is on and it's late.  Sarah probably just went to bed.’  Pulling her jacket around her, she caught a faint scent of burning wood and walked around the house and let herself in the back door.  Removing her jacket and hanging it on the rack, she looked around.  It was quiet and everything seemed to be in its place.  Grabbing an apple, Taylor walked through the kitchen into the family room and saw that a small fire was burning.  As she stepped closer to the couch, she noticed the young woman asleep.

She stood for a moment and watched how the firelight danced with the golden hues in the young woman's hair making it look almost red.  Taylor was transfixed by the look of utter peace on the young woman's face.  Sitting on the edge of the coffee table, she watched the young woman, not wanting to awaken her from her safe haven.  Finally, she got up and got a blanket, and proceeded to cover the sleeping form.  Before she could pull away, two hands reached out and stopped her.  Taylor looked down into sleepy green eyes and smiling said, "Sorry, I didn't mean to wake you."

"No, I'm glad you did," Sarah replied.  "Stay with me," she asked and pulled Taylor down to sit on the couch.  Taylor sat back and pulled the smaller woman into her arms and pulled the blanked over them.  Sarah leaned her head back to rest on Taylor's shoulder in the crook of her arm.  They sat in companionable silence staring at the fire.  "This is nice," murmured Sarah, her head resting back on Taylor's chest.

"Yes, it is," replied Taylor tightening her hold and kissing the top of the golden red hair.  'It feels like home,' she thought.

"Are you working tomorrow?," Sarah hesitantly asked.

"Nope, I'm free all weekend," came the reply.

"Would you be interested in going out with me tomorrow?," Sarah quietly asked.

"Is this a date?," Taylor asked jokingly.

Sarah turned to look up at Taylor, searching her eyes for any hesitancy and replied, "Yes, I guess it is."

Taylor looked directly at Sarah and, without a moment's doubt, answered, "Yes."  The physical pull was undeniable and Taylor leaned down to kiss the young woman.  Sarah returned the kiss with equal enthusiasm.  As passion sparked passion, the kiss soon turned into an exploration of hands and lips.  A moan escaped the young woman as the kiss broke and both gasped for air.  Sarah laid her head down and listened to the rapid breathing of the woman beneath her.  "What time?," came the rumble from beneath her ear.

"Huh? What time for what?," Sarah asked lifting her head to look into mischievous blue eyes.

"What time are you picking me up tomorrow?," Taylor laughingly asked.

Sarah got up, looking down at the reclining woman and responded, "How does noon sound?"

"Sounds good to me," Taylor replied, reaching out to pull Sarah back down onto the couch.

"Oh,," Sarah purred squirming out of the doctor's grasp. "You had better get some sleep so you will be ready for tomorrow," she smirked.

"Just what do you have in mind for me?," Taylor's eyebrow raised in question.

"You'll just have to wait and see now won't you?,” Sarah teased and headed for her room.

"Oh boy, what am I getting into now?," Taylor moaned loudly as she got up to put out the dying fire.



Sarah was up early the next morning and headed straight to the kitchen to get everything ready.  She had spent most of the previous day shopping and preparing for this picnic in the hopes that Taylor wasn't working.  With Taylor working late last night, it had afforded her the opportunity to get everything ready without the older woman knowing.  It was going to be a perfect day for a picnic and for what Sarah had planned.  She knew it was time to take their relationship to the next step.  Although their relationship was new territory for her, she had no doubts about her feelings for the doctor.  Looking out at the ocean, her thoughts confirmed what her heart had been telling her all along, ‘I don't think I've ever felt this close to anyone in my life.  I don't know where I would be if it wasn't for Taylor.  I never felt as though I belonged anywhere until her.  When she looks at me, it is as though I am whole again and so much more.'

Taylor laid in bed listening to the rustling of the young woman in the kitchen.  She debated whether she should get up and see what Sarah was up to but decided on letting the young woman play through her surprise.

Finally, getting restless, she got up and showered.  Unable to decide what to wear for the day, she pulled on her robe and headed to the kitchen.

Taylor stood in the doorway and caught Sarah daydreaming.  'Wonder what she is thinking? By the look on her face it can't be all bad,' Taylor mused and said, "See anything good out there?" 

Sarah jumped, momentarily startled, and turned around.  "Hey, it's not nice to sneak up on people," she replied. 

Taylor laughed, "I couldn't help myself."

"I'll bet," Sarah replied and moved to pour the woman a cup of coffee.

"Thanks," Taylor replied taking the offered cup.  "So, what is on the agenda for today or is it still a secret?," the doctor inquired trying to see what was behind the young woman in the picnic basket.

Sarah swatted her hand away and replied, "Well, I thought we could go on a picnic to begin with and sort of go from there.  Sound, okay?"

Taylor sat down at the counter grinning, "Sounds better than okay, especially the last part." The doorbell sounded before Sarah could respond to that last remark. Taylor smiled and headed out to answer the insistent buzzing of the doorbell.

"All right, already I'm coming," she shouted and yanked open the door.  If one could be frozen to one spot in time, this was that time.  Taylor stood and looked face to face with the last person she had hoped to ever see standing at her door.

"Hello Taylor, long time no see.  You gonna ask me in or am I going to stand in this heat all day?," came the sarcastic reply from the muscular woman.

"Brice, what are you doing here?  How did you find me?," Taylor stammered.

"I'm really hurt, Taylor.  Aren't you glad to see me?," Brice smirked.

Taylor stared at the woman and thought, 'Glad?  Here is the woman she had once thought was everything she ever wanted out of life and glad definitely wasn't what she was feeling.’  Taylor had to admit that Brice looked better than she had in a long time but she also knew what was behind the deceptive facade.

"What's the matter cat got your tongue?  Come and give us a hug, it's been way too long," Brice drawled and took a step towards the stunned woman.

“No!," Taylor instinctively stepped backwards until she ran into Sarah who had come to see what was keeping Taylor so long.

Sarah ran into Taylor as the tall woman backpedaled through the doorway almost knocking her over.  Sarah looked up and saw a beautiful muscular blond on the front porch and looked at Taylor inquisitively.

Sarah saw surprise in shadowed blue eyes and something else...fear.

"Taylor, is everything okay?," she asked placing a hand on Taylor's back.  Sarah could feel the tension emanating from the doctor and it was making her uneasy.

"Well, who do we have here?," Brice asked as she stepped through the doorway effectively gaining entrance into the house.  Taylor protectively kept Sarah behind her and turned to face Brice.

"Aren't you going to introduce us?," Brice asked innocently.





"She's just a friend," Taylor answered calmly earning her a surprised look from Sarah.

 "A friend?," Brice queried and turned her attention to Sarah.  "Taylor and I used to be pretty close friends until she disappeared.  One day I came home from work and she had just packed up and left without so much as a note or a phone call.  You can guess how sad that made me feel and now, I have found her again and she acts as if she isn't all that happy to see me.  My name is Brice, by the way, and you are...?," The muscular woman asked as she held out her hand to Sarah.

"Sarah, 'just a friend'," the young woman responded surprisingly with a touch of anger in her voice.  'Where did that come from?,' Sarah thought and reached around Taylor to shake the offered hand.  Sarah winced as her hand was held in a vise grip that pulled her from behind Taylor.

"Nice to meet you.  Any friend of Taylor's is a friend of mine," offered a smiling Brice.  She dropped the young woman's hand and turned to face Taylor once again. She brazenly looked over the dark haired woman leaving no doubts as to her intentions.  "Well, you're a sight for sore eyes!," Brice remarked causing Taylor to self-consciously tighten the belt on her robe, regretting her decision not to get dressed earlier.

"What are you doing here?," Taylor abruptly asked, angry at herself for letting the this woman rattle her so much.

"What am I doing here?," Brice responded surprised.  "It's taken me six months to finally find you.  What do you think I am doing here?"

"You shouldn't have come," Taylor replied turning away, suddenly feeling very tired and alone.

"Is that how you really feel?," Brice asked quietly.

"Yes," replied Taylor.

"You left and didn't say anything and now you won't even talk to me," Brice said running a hand through her hair in frustration. 

"Will you just tell me one thing?," she asked.

Taylor knew where this was going and just stood there looking at the blond without responding.  Brice walked towards the door and turned back,


"You know why," Taylor responded flatly.

"I'll admit we had our problems but things weren't all that bad.  I was under a lot of stress then, but things have lightened up now.  You know I love you don't you?," Brice asked quietly.

"No, you only think you do," replied Taylor sadly.

"How can you say that?  What we had was real!," the blond countered.

"What we had was pain," Taylor retorted.

"Give me another chance.  My life doesn't mean anything without you.  I'll live anywhere you want.  Here if it makes you happy," Brice pleaded.

Taylor lowered her head as she felt the first of many unshed tears sting her eyes and whispered, "No."

Sarah watched anxiously knowing there was nothing she could do to help.  Finally, she turned and walked into the kitchen, not wanting to intrude but also not wanting to be too far away.  She knew that Taylor had to choose her own path this time.  She just hoped that path did not lead Taylor away from her.

Brice continued to watch Taylor shake her head no and couldn't believe what was happening.  In frustration, she ended the silence,

"Just tell me you don't love me anymore and I'll leave and never trouble you again."

Brice knew that this was the last thing she wanted to do but she had to reach the dark haired woman somehow and get her to see what was right.

Taylor looked up directly into hazel eyes and responded, "I don't love you anymore.  Please leave me alone."

Brice was rocked back on her heels with Taylor's admission, "You don't mean that."

"I've never meant anything more than I do this, it's over.  It's been over for a long time but we just wouldn't admit it.  Now, please leave and don't ever come back," Taylor finished and turned her back on the blond woman.

Brice stumbled to the front door and walked out into the bright sun.  'She can't mean this.  She doesn't know what she is talking about.  Doesn't she understand that I love her?  I told her I've changed.  What does she written in blood?  I gave her everything.  Now, she thinks she is too good for me.  The high and mighty doctor.'  Brice drove not knowing exactly where she was going, turned onto the main road and into the first bar she could find.



As the front door closed, Taylor turned and leaned against it with her eyes closed.  She needed to get out of the house and away from what had just happened.  She went to her room and put on a pair of shorts and a shirt and walked out the patio door.  She headed down the beach and started running.  She ran until she couldn't catch her breath and a pain in her side made her stop.  She continued walking until she came to a secluded spot and sat looking out over the water.  The tears had finally arrived in full force and Taylor let them fall in a cleansing release.  She shed all the silent tears that had been held for the past two years.  She cried for the pain, and she cried for the first love that had died so long ago.

'Funny, the first time you fall in love, you think it is forever.'  She sat for a long time, until there were no more tears left.  Taylor wiped her eyes and felt a peace she hadn't felt in such a long time.  She was finally free to live her life without the shadow of the past.  She had put that past to rest and now it was time to get on with living.  The afternoon shadows had deepened and she noticed that she had walked a long way from the house.  She thought of Sarah and realized she needed to see her and talk to her, and headed home.

Sarah hadn't heard a sound coming from the living room in awhile and debated whether she should take a look.  She busied herself putting away the items for the picnic.  The simple planning of a picnic no longer held any joy, so she quietly put the food away.  Finished, she looked around for something else to do to keep her mind occupied and heard the closing of the patio doors.  She walked into the living room in time to see Taylor running down the beach.  Sarah stepped out onto the patio and, as if feeling a part of her die, she watched the tall woman grow fainter and fainter until she was gone.  The young woman sank onto a lounge chair and put her head in her hands and cried, 'Oh God, I can't lose her now.  I've just found her.'



Taylor stepped out of the evening shadows and onto the patio, and found Sarah asleep on a lounge chair.  She felt a sense of peace watching the young woman and walked over to her and knelt next to the young woman.  She watched her for a moment and reached over to push an errant strand of hair off her face.  At the touch of a hand, Sarah woke up and saw a very tired but welcome face.

"Hey," she murmured sleepily.

"Hey yourself," Taylor replied.

"Are you all right?," Sarah inquired sitting up.

"I am now," Taylor responded wearily getting to her feet.  "Why is it I always find you waiting for me?," the older woman asked as she helped Sarah to her feet.

Sarah stood and looked up at her thoughtfully and answered, "Because there isn't anywhere else I would rather be."

"Oh," was all Taylor said before she slid open the glass door and allowed Sarah to go in ahead of her.

"Are you hungry?," Sarah asked as she turned on the lights in the kitchen.

"Yeah, actually I'm starving!," Taylor grinned and started rummaging through the refrigerator.

"Let me," Sarah offered.  "Go sit down and I'll throw something together."

Taylor backed away and said, "Okay, I'll make some coffee."

Sitting side by side at the counter they had an impromptu picnic.  'Not exactly what I had in mind for our picnic,' thought Sarah, 'but, I'm just glad she's back.'  Taylor smiled at the young woman next to her and impulsively leaned over and kissed her on the cheek.

"Not that I am complaining but what was that for?," Sarah asked smiling.

"Just for being here, I guess," Taylor replied casually.

"Oh," Sarah responded and they both grew silent, each thinking about everything that had happened.  Finally, Sarah broke the silence, "Do you want to talk about it?  If you don't, I'll understand.  I just want you to know that I am here."

Taylor turned to Sarah and touched her cheek.  "First, let me tell you how glad I am that you are here.  What happened today was a long time in coming but now that it is over, I feel, I don't know, like the sun is shining and I can breathe again.  I'm just sorry that you had to be a witness to the mess.  And, I am sorry that I messed up your picnic plans."

"Hey, don't be sorry.  I'm glad I was here.  I know how rough it was for you, and I just wish there was more I could have done," Sarah said.  "And as for the picnic, there is always tomorrow.  What do you say?  Want to try again tomorrow?"

Before Taylor could respond, there was a loud crash of breaking glass in the front room.  Taylor and Sarah jumped up and headed towards the noise.  They reached the room in time to see shards of glass strewn across the living room and a large rock sitting in the middle of the floor.  Taylor turned to warn Sarah as something rammed the front door.

"Run!  Call 911!," Taylor yelled to Sarah as the second attack on the door sent it crashing inwards.  Before Sarah could react, they were confronted with a very drunk and very mad Brice.  She stood in the doorway radiating anger and looking for a place to vent.

"Hello, I'm home!," shouted the intoxicated woman striding forward into the room.

"You're not wanted here, Brice.  I told you I didn't want to see you again," Taylor replied facing the angry woman.  'Have to keep her focused on me so Sarah can get away.  If she goes after Sarah, she won't stop her until she kills her,' Taylor thought and maneuvered the woman's attention towards herself.

"Well, I'm here!  I am not going away until I have some answers!  I don't know what you think you've accomplished by running away and playing house with little missy here but I am back and we have a few things to straighten out," Brice grabbed Taylor's arm and wrenched her closer.

"Hey!," Sarah exclaimed and started forward.

"No!," Taylor shouted and pointed to Sarah, stopping the young woman in her tracks.

 Sarah caught the look in her stormy blue eyes and realized that Taylor needed to handle this by herself but she wasn't going to wait until something bad happened either, and slowly back away into the kitchen and dialed 911.  Hanging up the phone, she heard Taylor scream and ran back into the living room.

Taylor slowly turned to face Brice and coldly looked down at the hand holding her arm, in a eerily calm voice, she said, "Take your hand off me."

"Excuse me?," Brice responded tightening her grip on Taylor's arm.  Taylor could see the muscles in the offending arm bunch as the woman applied more pressure.

Taylor saw red and as her anger flared, she repeated, "I said, Take your hand off me!" and began pulling her arm away from the vice-like grip.  Brice tightened her hold on Taylor until the woman cried out in pain.  Taylor knew that the muscular woman was capable of breaking her arm.

Brice drunkenly grinned when she saw that she had Taylor right where she wanted her and said, "Now, maybe you will be a little nicer to me."

"What do you want?," Taylor asked trying to hide the pain she was feeling.

"Want?  I want what I've always wanted.  You!," Brice answered and pulled Taylor closer until she could wrap her other arm around the woman.

Taylor could smell the alcohol on her breath and turned her face away.  Brice grabbed a handful of hair and pulled the woman's head back and began to kiss her.  Taylor could not get away from the woman and when Brice forcefully deepened the kiss, she thought she would be sick. 

Sarah screamed for Brice to stop and the blond looked over and laughingly replied, "Don't worry, honey.  There's enough to go around," Taylor struggled with the blond as she began to rip at the doctor's shirt.

Sarah couldn't just stand by and watch this animal rape Taylor and jumped into the fray, punching and pulling at the muscular body.  Brice let go of Taylor's hair to backhand the annoying young woman, and send her flying into the couch. 

With the taste of blood in her mouth, Sarah slowly got up and began looking for a weapon.  When she heard the police sirens, she ran for the front door and down the walk shouting for them to hurry.

Taylor felt the release of her hair and used this advantage to punch at Brice.  Brice ducked and Taylor ineffectually hit a well-muscled shoulder.  The blond smacked Taylor hard across the face and grabbed her by the throat angrily responding, "That wasn't very nice.  You make me hurt you, Taylor.  It's your fault.  I don't want to!"

Taylor saw the fist as it came towards her but there was nowhere for her to move.  Her head snapped back as a blinding pain ripped through her eye.  The pressure on her neck continued and Taylor knew she had to get free.  Steeling herself, she slammed her head forward right into Brice's face.  She heard the satisfying crunch of bone and then everything started to fade.




Sarah ran back into the house when she was sure that the police had seen her.  She reached the door in time to see Taylor butt her head hard against the other woman's face.  Brice fell back grabbing her face, as the blood streamed down from her nose.  Sarah could see that it was broken but was more concerned with Taylor's swaying form.  She ran towards Taylor ignoring the other woman until she felt herself being grabbed from behind.

"That bitch broke my nose!," Brice shouted as she pulled Sarah away from Taylor.  She shoved the young woman across the coffee table and reached again for Taylor.  Her fury had risen in response to Taylor striking back at her as she repeatedly slapped Taylor in a mad frenzy.  Taylor knew she was outmatched, and did all she could to protect herself while trying to get away from the enraged woman.  Sarah reached down, trying to pick herself up off the floor between the table and the couch, and her hand hit her textbooks.  Picking one up, she threw it with all her might at the attacking woman.  The textbook slammed Brice in the back of her head momentarily knocking her off balance.  Taylor took the advantage and slammed her fist home again into Brice's face.

Taylor felt her hand hit bone again and slide across Brice's blood streaked face.  Gaining momentum, she began to strikeout at Brice, hitting her anywhere she could reach.  Taylor's emotions ran high and she hated the woman before her.  She wanted to hurt her as she had been hurt.  She wanted Brice to feel the pain that she had felt for so long.  She continued her assault on the blond, even after Brice had dropped to her knees, covering her head in an effort to protect herself from Taylor's violent onslaught.

"I hate you!," Taylor hoarsely shouted as she struck out, "How does it feel to be on the receiving end?  Not fun is it?"  As anger gave way to realization of what she was doing, Taylor staggered back a step and grabbed the recliner for support.  Stunned, she realized what her anger was doing to her.  For a moment, she had allowed it to turn her into the monster she had hated in the other woman.  She knew it wasn't Brice she hated but what she had become. 

Exhausted, she looked down at the huddled figure with pity, and in a hoarse whisper asked, "Did you get a good laugh telling your friends all about it?  How pathetic I was afterwards believing all your promises.  Well, no more!  You will never hurt me again, do you understand?  It's over!"  Her throat burned from the abuse it had taken.  Taylor couldn't remember her body feeling so tired.  She pulled her torn shirt around her and prayed, ‘I just want this to be over.  Please God, let it end here.'

Sarah stood in the doorway with the police.  She had heard Taylor's last comments and paused before moving forward.  She knew, no matter what, that Taylor had needed this cleansing.  She looked at her partner and friend and saw the pain and exhaustion etched on her face.  But, when their eyes met, she saw something else that made her smile.  She saw hope and strength.

As the police moved forward to arrest Brice, Taylor turned to look for Sarah.  She looked past the officer in the doorway and there she was.  Sarah stepped forward into the room and when Taylor looked into those green eyes, she saw love shining back at her.  No deception or fireworks displays, just a solid and true love that was meant for her alone.

Suddenly, she felt a weakness that went beyond just the physical.  Afraid that her legs wouldn't support her much longer, she moved to sit in the recliner.

Two officers led a subdued Brice out to their patrol car as a third moved to question Taylor.  Sarah stepped into the kitchen and ran a towel under cold water and went back into the living room.  She walked over to Taylor's chair and sat on the armrest and placed the cool towel over the doctor's rapidly swelling eye.  Taylor reached up and grasped the hand that held the towel and smiled.  After answering the detective’s basic questions and promising to give a full report the next morning, he left.



After walking the detective to the door, Sarah went into the kitchen and filled a bowl with ice for the doctor's eye.  She went back into the living room to find Taylor with her head back and the towel covering her face.  She returned to her perch on the armrest and pulled the towel away from Taylor's face and asked, "How do you feel?"

"As compared to what?,” Taylor responded dryly.

"Very funny," Sarah responded and filled the towel with ice and replaced it over her eye.  The young woman inspected Taylor's neck and remarked, "You’re going to have some dandy bruises on your neck.  Is there anything I can do for that?"

"Not really," Taylor shook her head.

"Are you sure there's nothing I can do for you?," Sarah asked continuing to fret over Taylor.

Taylor reached up and pulled the young woman into her lap and held on tightly to her. "Just be here with me," she answered.  She felt the tears stinging her eyes and buried her face in the young woman's neck and thought, 'The past will soon be put to rest and I'll be able to actually live again.  Here, this is where my life is, in Sarah's arms, I'm finally home.'

"I'm not going anywhere.  I'll always be here.  So much has happened to both of us and I think it has made us stronger.  I know what I want and that is to be right here with you.  I love you too, I think I always have," Sarah answered and put her arms around Taylor's shoulder, and pulled her tightly to her.  They stayed that way for a long time each feeling a sense of peace that they had never known before.



Together they watched as the sun began to rise over the water as Sarah casually rubbed Taylor's back.  The beauty of a new morning and a new life was dawning before them.  Taylor reveled in the enormity of the moment and sighed, breaking the silence she called, "Sarah?"

"Umm," the young woman responded lazily.

"Remember when I asked you to give me more time?," she inquired.

"Yes," Sarah cautiously answered.

"Well, I don't think I will be needing it after all," Taylor shifted to look up at the young woman in her lap.  She smiled at the love she saw mirrored in the green eyes above her.  Taylor knew that whatever feelings she had for Brice had not been love.  At least, not a love that could compare to what she was feeling now.  Whatever her future held, she knew it would include those eyes.  Reaching up, Taylor kissed the lips before her and finally understood, 'Sometimes love is forever.'


 To Be Continued.......

See Conclusion...Journey's Path.