While grief is fresh, every attempt to divert only irritates. You must wait till it be digested, and then amusement will dissipate the remains of it. Samuel Johnson (1709 - 1784)
Claudia Joy Holden closed the door to Jeremy Sherwood's bedroom after calming him down and assuring him that the one thing his mother needed now was space. Space, and a distraction that lasted longer than five minutes. Something that let her forget the possibility that her husband might be dead.
It wasn't an easy task Claudia Joy assigned herself, but having known Denise as long as she had, she was sure she would be able to get the other woman talking about something that would distract her, even if only temporarily. Later, after she had gone home, Denise would wind up dwelling on tonight's events. It would haunt her dreams. It haunted every Army wife's dreams.
Walking into the living room Claudia Joy saw Denise sitting on the couch, her legs folded up in front of her, one arm around them, holding her knees to her chest while the other cradled the glass of wine Claudia Joy poured for her before taking Jeremy upstairs. She looked every bit the depressed, grieving wife waiting for the finality of the knock on the door. Carefully, Claudia Joy moved to sit next to her friend and reached for a topic that was as far from tonight as she could think of.
"So, you really didn't experiment at all in college?"
She needed to draw Denise away from thoughts of the many various scenarios that could be going on right now. Needed to sideline her with something that would occupy her mind; distract her thoughts. Continuing the conversation from earlier seemed like the best place to start.
Denise didn't turn to look at her, but Claudia Joy could see the initial confusion cross her features, before she closed her eyes and sighed. "You knew me in college, what do you think?"
Claudia Joy shrugged, "I guess I always figured you were just quieter and hooking up with one of the pre-med students in a class or two. You dated and talked it up with the best of us." She trailed off, unsure of where to take it and not wanting the conversation to turn to Frank. "You never experimented at all?"
Denise let out a rather unladylike snort and Claudia Joy almost spilt the wine she poured for herself.
"I was a virgin when I got married, Claudia Joy, not a saint. I just don't seem to have been quite as... adventurous as others." Her posture and facial expression held such an indignant sass to them that Claudia Joy had to smirk.
She briefly considered dropping the subject but came up short of another topic that didn't revolve around the respective men in their lives, so she pushed a little further with her questions and avoided the quiet accusation in her friends' words. "So I guess you never played fifteen minutes in the closet or kissed one of our sorority sisters?"
Denise did turn at this, her eyes seeming to size up Claudia Joy to determine just how serious she was - and, perhaps, why she was asking.
"Kissed one of the sorority sisters?" She repeated dubiously. Her eyebrow quirked.
Claudia Joy pressed her lips together, bringing her own legs up under her while she took a sip of her wine and offered a cursory one-shoulder shrug in defence. "It was a time of experimentation. I was curious."
Denise turned to face her friend more fully, her attention seemingly diverted from the earlier news, the curiosity plastered across her features. "When? Who? What was it like?"
Smirking, Claudia Joy didn't respond until she felt her friend's foot nudge hers encouragingly - or possibly threateningly. The smirk remained as she finally answered. "Sophomore year. Not who my ultimate choice would have been. And it was different. But hot. Very hot, actually."
"Not who your ultimate choice would have been?" Denise parroted eagerly.
Claudia Joy shrugged, "I think it would have been a bit more comfortable if I had known the person better, been closer with the person to begin with. Someone more..."
"Someone more like me?" Denise's voice was soft, barely above a whisper, as she picked up where the other woman had trailed off.
Claudia Joy looked over, her shoulders moving up in a shrug. "Possibly. Who knows. That was a long time ago."
"And you're telling me now."
Though not quite a question, Claudia Joy felt compelled to defend her decision to go down this path. "Well the topic did come up at my house tonight. The topic of college and experimentation anyway."
Denise shook her head, taking another sip of wine.
"What it is?"
"Do you ever wonder what other things you've missed out on? What you might never have the chance to experience? I mean, first Roland thinking I should re-evaluate my decision not to stay in nursing and now this..." Denise sunk into the couch, her right hand waving around with the wine glass. "What else have I deprived myself of?"
Claudia Joy sat there, surprised. When she'd brought up the subject to try to divert Denise's attention this wasn't exactly what she expected as the outcome. "Sweetheart, you shouldn't feel like that. Not at all. It's not a time to start going over the list of regrets in your life."
"Like wondering what it would be like to kiss your best friend?"
The surprise turned to shock. "Excuse me?"
"Claudia Joy Holden, we've known each other for years. Decades even. And I am just now finding out that you kissed one of our sorority sisters in college and think it would have been better if it were me." She gave her a look of shocked incredulity. "What did you expect?”
Sitting there, looking at her friend, Claudia Joy had no idea what she thought Denise's reaction would be. Come to think of it, she wasn't even sure why she felt the need to open the proverbial floodgates about all of it in the first place. The woman's husband had been in an accident, either missing or dead -- and Lord knew which was worse. What had she been thinking?
Before any rational conclusions would come to her, Denise leaned over toward her, downing her wine in one easy gulp, whispering, "Okay, let's go."
"I beg your pardon?"
Claudia Joy was sorely tempted to ask Denise if she were drunk. If it were any other night she probably would. Tonight... it would be better if Denise could use the alcohol to dull her senses. But not in order to dull them into oblivion, to the point where she would do something she would regret. Or make a brazen joke like that.
But the more she looked at her old friend, the more Claudia Joy realized it might very well not be a joke and she sincerely hoped on some level that it wasn't.
"You're serious." It was meant as a question, but instead it sounded like a statement, and Denise continued to stare at her, unwavering.
Downing her own wine as quickly as she could, Claudia Joy wondered how much the Dutch courage would affect her, or if she even needed it. After all, hadn't she started this?
She leaned forward, coming up on her knees on the couch cushions as she approached Denise. "You're sure about this?"
Denise nodded, her tongue running briefly over her lips before she took in a deep breath. "As I'll ever be."
Claudia Joy smiled and laughed nervously. Never in a million years did she think she'd be doing this tonight. What was this world coming to?
She braced her hands on Denise's knees for support, hoping that they weren't shaking as she moved closer. Her breath caught when she noticed that Denise was closing her eyes in anticipation. They were both insane. This was insane. And she'd thought about this night, this moment, for more than the last twenty years.
Claudia Joy took one, final, deep breath before her lips connected with Denise's.
It wasn't her best kiss. It didn't have the perfect finesse that she'd thought that it might. It was a bit clumsy and sloppy in its execution. But the contact was real, and the emotion behind it stopped her thought processes for a moment.
Denise's fingers on her neck made her instinctively take in a slightly startled breath. The separation in her lips lending the perfect opportunity for Denise to deepen the kiss, to slip her tongue between Claudia Joy's lips and suddenly she wasn't the one calling the shots anymore.
Now, Denise was the one pulling her closer, moaning ever so softly into her mouth and causing her eyes to flutter back into her head. This was a very different ball game than the one Claudia Joy thought they had set out to play.
Finely trimmed nails scratched across the skin of her neck as Denise shifted position and Claudia Joy found herself inching closer on the couch. Her moan was louder than she liked and she almost didn't realize that it came from her until she felt the slight uplift to Denise's lips as the other woman realized she could have this reaction on her best friend.
Denise, for her part, just sighed and gave in.
Claudia Joy decided that making out with your best friend of thirty-odd years on a night like tonight was one of the last things they should be worried about right now. This was something both of them thought about and never quite had the guts to do. If this night showed them anything it should be the fact that you shouldn't take things for granted. Shouldn't waste the moment. Shouldn't hold back on what you wanted.
Because you could never be sure when the opportunity might vanish forever.
So Claudia Joy allowed herself to get lost in the kiss. Allowed herself to relish every last moment of it. She allowed herself to move a little closer, shift her weight, and cup Denise's cheek in her hand as she sucked gently at her upper lip.
Tonight wasn't about college or any of the other things they might have discussed and told themselves.
Tonight was about them. Them and their stolen chance.