“It’s Stephanie, call me.” I replay the message again to make sure I had heard it correctly. Just hearing her voice again after all this time makes my heart pound faster. My fingers tremble as I pick up the phone and dial. “Hello?” The sound of her husky voice makes me smile. “You rang?” “Yeah, I need money. When are you going to pay me?” “Pay you?” “The five hundred for the plane ticket I bought for you.” “Is-is that the only reason you called?” “Yes.” “Oh…okay.” My heart sinks as I say the words. “Well? When am I going to see my money?” “I’ll see what I can do Stephanie. I’ll need time to get it. I just don’t have it right now.” Taking a deep breath I change the subject. “How’s school going?” “It’s going better. How’s it going for you?” “It’s………going, I guess.” “It doesn’t sound like it.” Stephanie must think it’s college that has me upset, so I let her keep on thinking it. I suffer through a few more minutes of stilted conversation and say good-bye. I sink into the chair in front of my computer and just stare at the blank screen in front of me. I don’t understand her anymore. She’s not the Stephanie I fell so head over heels in love with. Maybe she never existed except in my own little fantasy world where relationships like ours aren’t treated like a carnival sideshow attraction. My mind goes back to the day that I first met Stephanie face-to-face. The day I jumped into the rabbit-hole feet first and never looked back… ******** “Are you sure you want me to stay and wait with you?” Darlene, my best friend, asks me. Her light blue eyes gaze steadily at me. “Yes if you don’t mind. I’m a little afraid to meet this woman by myself.” I laugh. “What if she’s just looking to satisfy a curiosity? Or worse yet, a psychopath?” “I’m new to this too. No one ever said I’d be helping my best friend look for Miss Right.” “You have a level head when it comes to romance, I don’t.” I sit and play with my coffee cup. “You’re married and have a child. To me that’s stability.” “Yes but how’s that going to help you in this situation? Men I can help you with, but not other women.” “I trust your opinion. You’re brutally honest with me when no one else is. I need that.” “That’s because everyone else is afraid to be blunt with the big bad female truck driver. You don’t scare me.” Just then a vision from my dreams walked into my reality. “Hi, which one of you is CJ?” She asks, looking at both of us. “I’m CJ, you must be Stephanie.” I quickly get to my feet. “This is my best friend Darlene.” They greet each other pleasantly as Darlene gets up. “I’ve got to get home before my child decides to do something destructive. It was nice meeting you Stephanie.” She gives me a hug and whispers in my ear to call her, no matter how late. “Won’t you have a seat?” “Thanks.” She sits and I can’t help but notice her eyes. The color is a deep blue with a ring of black around the outer edge, absolutely gorgeous. “So, can I get you a cup of coffee?” She nods and I flag down a waitress for a fresh cup. “You’re really a truck driver?” She asks, smiling at me. “I’ve always been fascinated by the big rigs.” “Yes, I’ve been doing it for a long time now.” I laugh, finishing my coffee. “Would you like to see my truck? It’s parked in my driveway and I don’t live far from here.” “I’d like that. Can I follow you in my car?” She asks, getting up. “Sure, where are you parked?” “In the back of the coffee shop.” “So am I. Lead the way.” I follow her out into the parking lot, admiring the view as I go. She’s about the same height I am, give or take an inch. But the rest of her is pure femme beauty. From the long, brown hair to the graceful way she walks it’s pure poetry in motion. “By the way, you lied in your description of yourself.” Stephanie calls over her shoulder as she stops at her car. “I did? How?” “You’re not stocky, you’re muscular, and it looks really good on you.” She turns and playfully kisses me. “Actually it makes you look very sexy.” I just smile because her kiss has left me tongue-tied. “Where’s your car?” “Actually it’s the black pick-up right next to yours. I’ll back out and you can follow me.” She nods and I get into my Ford Ranger and back out of my stall. Looking into my rear-view mirror I see her following me and smile. Maybe this time I’ve finally found someone to share my life with… ******** A wet tongue on my face and two paws on my shoulders bring me back to reality. Nikita, my Chow-Chow, looks into my face with a puzzled expression on hers. “I’m sorry girl, just spending some time in the past. Do you need to go outside?” She barks twice in response, which means yes. I grab my jacket and her leash. Nikita looks up at me with her tongue hanging out while I fasten the leash to her collar. We’re going back on the road soon, I promise. As soon as spring semester is over.” Her reply is to wag her short, curled tail. “Let’s go for a walk.” She barks again as we leave the house. My mind drifts back to the reason Stephanie had called me. She wanted me to fly with her to see her brother over Thanksgiving and I didn’t want to go… ******** “It won’t be that bad, you’ll see. I just don’t want to go by myself.” Stephanie looks up at me with those gorgeous eyes of hers. “I need you with me.” “All right, I’ll go.” She covers my face with kisses. I pull her closer to me and hold her tightly. “I’d do anything to make you happy.” The flight to Salem is a pleasant one, which is good since flying terrifies me. At the airport Stephanie decides to rent a car so she can show me her hometown. We drive past her high school and some of her favorite hang outs from that time in her life. “I hope you’ll like my brother David. He can be a bit old-fashioned at times, but is really a nice guy.” Stephanie says, glancing briefly at me. This is the most she’s ever told me about David beyond his name. “You did tell him you were bringing me along? I don’t want to be dropping in unexpected.” “Yes, I did. I even told him your name and mentioned that we’re living together.” She reaches over and tousles my hair. “I just didn’t tell him if you’re housebroken or not.” “Thanks, even Nikita would be offended by that remark.” I grumble, trying my best to sound upset by it. She just leans over and kisses me on the cheek. “David will love you almost as much as I do.” She pulls into the driveway of a beautiful old colonial home. “Are you ready for this?” “No choice now.” I joke as we get out of the car. The front door opens and an older male version of Stephanie steps out and picks her up in a bear hug. “Sis! It’s good to see you!” I just watch as they hug and talk briefly. Stephanie turns and holds a hand out to me. I smile and grasp it tightly. “David, this is CJ.” “Hi, it’s nice to meet you.” I hold out my other hand and he slowly shakes it. “It-it’s nice to meet you too.” He stammers, looking at his sister in confusion. “I thought you were bringing your boyfriend from the way you talked.” “I told you I was bringing CJ, whom I love very much. She’s my girlfriend.” Stephanie quietly answers him. We start to follow him into the house and I hold her back. “He thought you were bringing your boyfriend? He had no clue you’re a lesbian?” I look at her, my head still spinning. “This might not have been the best time to tell him.” “It’ll be all right, I promise.” Stephanie puts her arms around my neck and kisses me. “Once he sees how much I love you, he’ll have to accept it. Come on, let’s go inside.” Oh boy is this going to be a fun holiday… ******** After taking Nikita back home I go to the bank and get approved on the spot for a personal loan. I guess I’m still doing anything I can to make her happy… ******** I walk into her apartment and look around. It’s the first time I’ve been inside. It’s small, but clean and well kept. Stephanie motions to a chair and I sit down. “I was able to get the money for you.” I set the envelope on the table between us. “I still don’t understand why you left after we came home from that trip.” “We fought the whole time we were at my brother’s. Isn’t that reason enough?” Stephanie scowls, still standing. “Maybe I realized it was wrong to fall in love with you.” “Wait a minute, you fought. I didn’t, at least not with you.” “No, but you did enough of it with David to make up for it.” “What was I supposed to do, just sit there and let him attack you like that? I love you!” Getting to my feet I walk over to her. “You are the most important person in my life. No one hurts you in front of me and gets away with it.” I tilt her chin up so she’s looking at me. It’s then I see the tears running down her face. “There is nothing wrong with how we feel about each other. All I want to do is spend the rest of my life making you happy. I can’t stop or change how I feel about you. Turning Nikita into a cat would be easier than trying to stop my love for you.” “You-you said love, not loved. Does that mean you still love me?” Stephanie whispers. “Yes, I still love you. But I’m not going to play games or do anything to hurt you. If we’re together it has to be what you want.” Letting go of her chin I gently wipe the tears from her face. “I can’t think clearly right now.” Stephanie admits, trembling. “I need time to think.” “I won’t pressure you, but I’m going back out on the road for the summer in two weeks. I’d like an answer by then.” I kiss her on the forehead and leave… ******** Everything’s in my rig ready to go and I’ve just finished talking with couple that rents my home for the summer. Nikita’s already in her seat, anxious to get started so after taking one last look around I walk toward my rig. “Hey Driver, going my way?” Looking toward the road I see Stephanie walking toward me. “Depends. Where are you planning on going?” I ask, fighting the rising lump in my throat. “I’m listening to my heart, like I should’ve done a long time ago.” She stops in front of me. “I love you CJ. I want us to spend the rest of our lives together. Can we please start over?” A wave of emotion floods me as I hold her. “Always Stephanie. Always.” I open the truck door for her to get in. “You’re going to have to kick Nikita out of the jump seat.” She climbs in and so do I. Gunning the engine to life I pull out into the street, ready to start a new chapter with the woman of my dreams.