Chapter 20. Steam quickly filled the bathroom as Amanda lounged gratefully in the huge tub

Steam quickly filled the bathroom as Amanda lounged gratefully in the huge tub. She leaned back and closed her eyes, letting the water cover her aching body up to her neck. Poor Lexhow could anyone treat her that way? At least that explained what my grandparents were trying to tell me. Amanda vowed to bring that exact subject up the next time she spoke to them on the phone. Letting her mind wander, she thought back to when she was in high school, and finally figured out she wasn't 'like the other girls'.

Amanda was sitting in the back row of the science lab, listening to her friends giggle and carry on about the Junior Class dance. It was going to be patterned after an old-fashioned sock-hop, and the girls had been actively planning their wardrobes, and placing bets on who would go with whom.

" I'll just die if Charlie doesn't ask me! " Francine whispered melodramatically. She had a crush on the lanky basketball player, and had been shamelessly flirting with him for months.

Karen, the sturdily built brunette sitting next to her grinned. " Bobby already asked me." She poked Francine in the ribs. " And I didn't have to practically fall on top of him in study hall to get his attention, like some people I could name, but won't."

Francine returned the poke. " I couldn't help itmy books were falling out of my hands, and I lost my balance." She whined, flipping her dark blonde hair over her shoulder. She was taller than Karen and Amanda, and her coordination was still trying to catch up with her body. Francine looked over at Amanda, who was just staring at the front of the class with a slightly dazed look on her face. " What about you, Mandy? Have you gotten anyone lined up for the dance? " She waved her hand in front of the smaller blonde's face. " Hellllooo? Earth to Amanda Cauble."

Amanda jumped. " Sorry, guys. What were you talking about? " She loved her friends, but sometimes they could be so immature.

Karen nudged her with an elbow. " WE were talking about the danceyou know, that thing where everyone gets together and then moves around to music? Where were you just now? " She leaned in closer. " Who are you going with? Has Ronnie talked to you yet? "

Amanda sighed. " No, he hasn't. But I don't know if I even want to go" she caught herself staring back at the front of the class, where Judith Patterson was sitting. She was fairly new to the school, and Amanda had taken it upon herself to show the new girl around. They were fast becoming friends, although Judith didn't care much for Karen and Francine, so they usually would just meet after school to study, or go to the local mall. Last night, Judith had held Amanda's hand, and told her she was gay, and that she'd understand if Amanda wanted to break off their friendship.

That had certainly opened Amanda's eyes. It made her sit back and think about her own feelings. She'd never really been interested in boys like her friends. Amanda thought that maybe she just wasn't as mature as they were, and that she'd grow into it after a while. She thought about asking her mother, but a discussion like that would probably send Elizabeth Cauble straight to the emergency room. Her mother had a problem discussing sensitive matters - and if her younger daughter were to ask about sexuality, she'd most certainly have a stroke.

" Mandy! You have to goeveryone's going to be there! " Francine saw where Amanda's eyes were pointed. " Is it because Judith can't get a date? " she lowered her voice, " She's weird, MandyI don't know why you're friends with someone like her."

" Don't say that! " Amanda snapped, turning her head and glaring at her. " She's not weird, she just doesn't like to sit around all day and giggle about guys." The bell rang, and the girls picked up their books and followed a large group into the hallway. " Look. I'll call you later, okay? " she quickly made her way through the crowd and caught up with Judith.

" Hey, Judith! " she pulled on the back of the girl's sweater. " Want to come over tonight and help me study for the chemistry exam? Mom and Dad have a banquet to go to, so the house will be quiet."

The redhead stopped and turned around. " Are you sure you want to be alone with me, Amanda? " She had a sad look on her face. " I don't want you to be uncomfortable."

The little blonde smiled. " How can I be uncomfortable around you? We're friends, aren't we? " she leaned in closer and whispered, " And you'd be surprised at how much I think we may have in common." Amanda stepped back again. " Soyou coming over, or what? "

Judith smiled. " I'd love to. Somebody's got to get you past this semester of chemistry."

After that, the two girls developed a deep friendship. But it wasn't until the end of their junior year that they got more serious about their relationship. Hours were spent in each other's rooms, snuggling and kissing. But they had both agreed early on that they didn't want to just jump into bed.

" Just because we're girls, doesn't mean it won't count." Judith said, when Amanda asked her why they had never taken that final step. " You may find someone later on that you want to share that special moment with, and I care too much for you to ruin that."

" But Judith, I really care about you! " Amanda looked into the dark hazel eyes below her. She was sitting on Judith's lap in her bedroom, where they had just finished Judith's term paper. " Have you everummbeen with someone? " She was embarrassed to ask, but was curious as well.

" Yes, I have. Last year, at my other school." Judith traced a light pattern over Amanda's face with her finger.

" Did, " she faltered, " did you love them? "

Judith wrapped her arms tightly around the smaller girl. " I thought I did. But now, I don't think so. I really cared for her, and she cared for mebut there were no 'fireworks', if you know what I mean."

Amanda snuggled into Judith's neck. " Yeah." Then she sat up, alarmed. " Summer's almost here! " she looked panicked.

" So? What's the big deal about the summer? We'll have more time to spend together." Judith was confused at the look on the blonde's face. " What's the matter? "

Large tears welled up in mist-green eyes. " I spend every summer with my grandparents in Texas." Several tears fell. " We'll be separated all summer"

Judith gently brushed the tears from Amanda's face. " Okaywe'll just have to write back and forth like crazy, and maybe call each other once a week." She hated to see Amanda in pain. " It'll be okay, really."

Amanda wrapped her arms tightly around Judith, not wanting to let go. " We only have about a month before I leave" she kissed the other girl's neck. " Please Jude, make love to me tonight. I want to be loved by you as much as possible before I have to leave."

Judith hesitated. " Amanda, there's nothing in the world I would rather do, but do you think it's wise? " She brushed the fair hair away from the bright green eyes. " I do care about you a lot, but this is a major step."

Amanda could only nod. " Yesplease." She kissed Judith tenderly. " Let's go to bed. I've already told Mom and Dad you were spending the night - they think we're watching movies." She stood up and pulled the other girl to her feet. " C'monI've got some serious studying to do." Amanda led Judith to the bed, then pulled her into an embrace. " And I intend to work at it all night."

Amanda smiled to herself. That was one heck of a study session. Looking back at that time in her life, she was so glad she had met someone like Judith, who had given her what she had so desperately been missing. They never called it love - but it sure was fun! Her grandparents were so cool about it, too.

Amanda had been at their house for over a week, and every day she seemed sadder and sadder. Anna Leigh figured it had to do with someone back in Los Angeles, because the young woman would spend hours a night writing letters, then mailing them off the next morning.

Anna Leigh took Jacob aside one morning, before Amanda had come downstairs. " Sweetheart, I'm terribly worried about Mandy. Something is definitely bothering her. Has she said anything to you? "

Her handsome husband scooped her into a hug. " No love, she hasn't. I think she's missing someone back home." He knew the signs of lovesickness. He himself was nearly incapacitated with it when Anna Leigh had gone overseas with her parents, back when they were just dating. He leaned down and gave his wife a sweet kiss. " Do you want me to talk to her? "

Anna Leigh returned his kiss, wrapping her arms around his neck. " No. I think this should be one of those 'woman-to-woman' chatsI'm sure that it would be easier." She pulled his head down for one more kiss. " And if we keep this up, she'll get quite a showI hear her coming down the stairs." But she didn't release him, just turned around in his arms. " Good morning, sweetheart." She directed her greeting towards the staircase, where a sleepy-eyed young woman appeared.

Amanda rubbed her eyes and smiled. " Good morning." Seeing her grandparents all snuggled together reminded her of Judith, and she felt a wave of sadness wash over her.

Jacob noticed the change and squeezed Anna Leigh a little tighter. " Well, ladiesI'm off to the shop. Got to finish that table for Mrs. Wilcox." He released his wife, and kissed his granddaughter on the head, as he walked through the kitchen.

Anna Leigh opened her arms, and Amanda stumbled into her embrace. " What's the matter, Mandy? You seem so sad. Is there something Jacob or I can do? " She kissed the blonde head.

" Oh, Gramma" she cried, her head tucked under her grandmother's chin. " There's nothing you can doit's something I have to handle myself." She backed up and wiped her face.

" Oh, honeywe love you. If there's something we can do to help, even if it's just to listen, we're here for you." She gently guided the sniffling young woman to the kitchen table. " Would you like some breakfast? We had donutsJacob had a yen for Apple Fritters."

" No thank you, Gramma. I'm really not very hungry." She sat down at the table and sighed.

Now Anna Leigh KNEW something was wrong. Her granddaughter could out-eat the football team on a good day " Okay, that's it." She sat down at the table next to the young woman, taking one of her hands and squeezing it. " You can't go on like this any longerplease talk to me"

Amanda began crying again. " I really don't think you want to hear this."

Anna Leigh lifted Amanda's chin with her hand. " Honey, there is nothing you can say that I don't want to hear. Nothing will change the fact that we both love you dearly."

Amanda looked into her grandmother's eyes, and saw nothing but truth and love. Maybe it was time to tell someone. " I've met someone, Gramma." She felt the older woman squeeze her hand. " And I care for them very much we've only been together for a little more than a monthand I miss her so" Not exactly the best way to tell someone, but she already felt like a huge weight had been lifted from her chest.

Anna Leigh was not too surprised. She knew that love had no boundaries Look at her and Jacob. He was from poor, but loving home. She was raised by nannies in mansions all over the world. 'Poor childI know she could never speak of this with her own parents.' She and Jacob raised their son Michael with all the love and support they could, but somehow it wasn't enough. He was so unlike the both of them, business came first, family second. His wife, lovely woman that she was, would rather be shopping in Paris than raising a family. 'How this dear girl turned out so well, I'll never know.' But part of her did know she and Jacob practically raised Amanda they tried with her older sister Jeannie, but she was more her mother's child. " Would you like to tell me about her, sweetheart? If she has your heart, then I'm sure she's a wonderful person."

Amanda took a deep cleansing breath and smiled. " She is wonderful, Gramma and I know she would love both of you. They had continued their letter writing throughout the summer during that time, they had become much better friends, and decided that while the affection they had for each other was deep, it certainly wasn't love. When school started again in the fall, they still spent most of their free time together. Judith met a girl at the local college, and fell deeply in love, but she still remained her close tie with Amanda. They still went places together, determined to keep their friendship.

Wasn't that long ago that I got her last letter, either Judith and Emily had two children, with one on the wayand Amanda had been present at each christening. She looked back on her first love fondly, and with a great deal of appreciation.


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