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AUTHOR'S NOTE: Beauty Crowds Me: Chapter 6 of 16 Chapters. Quotes in italics are direct quotes from Season 2, Episode 6, Shoplifting.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Beauty Crowds Me
6: Girl Friends and Girlfriends
"Are you sure your cousin won't tell anyone about us?"
"Stop worrying. Geri's not like that, we can trust her."
"You should have at least asked me before you told her."
"I didn't tell her, she figured it out on her own."
"How? She was only here one day."
"Geri knows me very well, Jo, and you heard all the things Tootie was telling her when we got home from the awards ceremony. Besides, Geri already knew that I'm gay. No one else is going to suspect anything, I promise."
"You said that no one would ever suspect you of being gay!"
Blair could hear the panic growing in Jo's voice.
"They wouldn't, but Geri is family and well, uh, I guess I should tell you something."
"What is it now?"
"Uh, a couple of years ago, my parents kind of walked in on me when I was kissing another girl."
Jo was stunned. She couldn't imagine what it would be like to have her mother walk in on her in that situation. She couldn't imagine having 'anyone' walk in on her in that situation.
"So, you're family knows that you're gay."
"No, they don't. Geri is the only one who knows."
"But if they walked in on you, they must know?"
"Listen, my parents sent me to this place for something called sexual reorientation therapy and now they think I've been cured of my so called lesbian tendencies. It's complicated and I really don't want to talk about it anymore right now, but you can rest assured that Geri is the only one who knows that I'm gay. No one else will be suspicious of our friendship."
Jo didn't blame Blair for not wanting to talk about what had happened. She'd be devastated if her mother found out about her like that, not that there was anything to find out about.
"Have you told anyone else about us?"
Blair lied. She couldn't help it. Jo was completely unhinged when she found out that Blair's cousin Geri knew about their relationship. It wouldn't do anyone any good at all if Blair admitted that she had also written to M.J. about Jo. Jo would have enough trouble understanding Blair's relationship with M.J. without making it seem like she was blabbing about Jo to everyone she knew.
"I just don't like for people to know personal stuff about me, Blair. I'm kind of private anyway, not just because it's important that we keep this a secret."
"Sometimes I'm not so sure you do know. Do you know that I could lose my scholarship if anyone found out about us?"
Blair liked to think that Jo was being overly pessimistic, but then she remembered how her father had acted toward M.J. If M.J.'s father had been any less prominent, Blair felt sure that her father would have tried to do something to make it difficult for her Blair didn't finish the thought, distracted by her struggle to find the correct term to define her current relationship with M.J. Seeing the serious look on Jo's face, Blair continued to try to reassure the intense brunette.
"I know, Jo. If we ever decide to tell anyone, it will be our decision. You can trust Geri. You saw how she acted this morning before she left. She didn't treat you any differently than she did yesterday."
It was true. Geri was the epitome of discretion. Jo was beginning to calm down, but she had a lot of trouble dealing with the knowledge that Blair considered her a girlfriend, much less knowing that someone else thought of her that way as well.
"Well, I don't want her thinking that I'm your girlfriend or something. I hope she didn't get the idea that I'm gay too, because I'm not."
Blair sighed deeply and looked out over the landscape. She loved sitting on top of Cooper's Rock with Jo, it made her feel like they were the only two people on earth.
After Jo's initial trepidation at Cooper's Rock, Blair had worried that she would never venture back up to the breathtaking hillside, but Jo was not a person to allow her phobias to keep her from doing the things she wanted to do. It took several hikes up the mountain, traveling a little further onto the ledge during each trip, but eventually Jo conquered her fears and was able to climb across the narrow ledge and onto Cooper's Rock, as long as Blair was holding her hand.
Blair felt Jo's arms tighten around her from behind and leaned back against her girlfriend. Blair was amazed at how dense her brilliant girlfriend was when it came to the topic of being gay. Jo had just spent the better part of the afternoon showering Blair's face and neck with kisses and still refused to acknowledge that they were both gay. Jo wasn't just book smart; she was street smart as well. She was the most perceptive person Blair had ever known, except when it came to her own sexuality. Blair had struggled with her sexual preference for years and was terribly confused and conflicted after undergoing the intense reorientation therapy her parents had inflicted upon her two summers earlier, but she no longer had any doubts.
Blair knew what it was to question her sexuality, but just one kiss with M.J. had left no doubt in her mind that she was gay. How in the world Jo could make out with her day after day and still deny that they were girlfriends was a mystery to Blair. There must be something Jo wasn't telling her. Perhaps Jo had more reasons to be afraid of getting caught than just the loss of her scholarship. Jo was painfully private about herself, confiding very little to anyone, even to Blair. Blair felt that Jo would eventually have to come around to the truth, but she was content with the current state of their relationship and didn't want to give the skittish brunette any more reasons to be nervous.
"Hey, have you finished reading Death of a Salesman?"
"Well, that's a clever way to change the topic. Don't worry, I'm not going to argue with you about being gay anymore. No, I haven't finished our reading assignment, have you?"
"Yeah, I haven't started my report yet. It's pretty grim."
"Don't spoil the ending for me, I haven't finished it yet."
"Let me know when you do, we can talk about it before we do our reports. Okay?"
"Sure. I wish we could spend more time on poetry. It's much more fun to read."
"You're the only one who thinks so, Blair."
"I don't care. I'm a romantic at heart."
Jo nuzzled Blair's neck from behind.
"I can be romantic."
Blair closed her eyes and enjoyed the attention Jo was giving to her neck. Jo could protest Blair's contention that they were girlfriends all she wanted, as long as she kept kissing her and holding her hand and writing her love poems and gazing lovingly into her eyes at bedtime.
Blair could wait as long as it took for Jo to admit that she was gay. Or so she thought.
"You're doing it again, Blair."
"Doing what? Does my studying bother you that much?"
"You're looking at me again."
"Looking at you how?"
"I don't know, just looking."
"What exactly do you think I'm looking at?"
Blair knew she was pushing Jo's buttons, but Jo was so adorable when she blushed. Jo must have noticed her staring, even though it only happened when Jo's back was turned to Blair.
Blair let out a deep sigh. It didn't help Jo that it was very much like the sound Blair made whenever Jo was showering her with kisses.
"I should never have let you see the sketch I made of the field hockey game. It put ideas into your head, didn't it?"
"Huh? Now who's not making any sense?"
"Admit it Jo, you strut around here in your tight little field hockey shorts on purpose, trying to distract me from my studies."
Jo was outraged. Not only was Blair accusing her of being a tease, she was insinuating that she was distracted by Jo's field hockey shorts. Jo never gave much thought to any of her clothes, but she always felt most comfortable in her sports clothes. Now she felt exposed in the tight shorts, realizing just what part of her anatomy Blair was watching.
"Oh, don't try to act so innocent. People call me a tease, but you are just as bad as me, flaunting your assets, so to speak."
"You, you're. I don't know why I even try to have a conversation with you."
Blair loved playing games with people and it was especially fun teasing Jo. Jo's apple red cheeks confirmed that Blair's game was successful.
"Well, you can't jump all over me for looking at you when you put yourself on display like that. I'm only flesh and blood, Jo. I'm not made out of stone. By the way, that last goal you made today was exhilarating."
Jo suspected that she'd seen Blair at some of her games, but Blair had consistently denied it. Now, Jo felt she'd caught the blonde vixen in an obvious lie.
"You said you never came to any of my games."
"So, the sketch I showed you of your first game here didn't clue you in that I might not have been totally forthcoming?"
Blair was at her most condescending.
"I knew that was one of my games in your picture, but you said you didn't like field hockey."
"Hot girls in tight shorts, hum, what's not to like?"
Blair was enjoying herself immensely, at Jo's expense. The scowling brunette was becoming increasing uncomfortable with the conversation and her attire, but was too stubborn to change clothes just because of Blair's teasing.
"So that's what you were doing there, checking out all the other girls?"
"No. Frankly, I was there to see which of the other girls might be checking out Jo Polniaczek."
Jo's voice turned menacing.
"I've told you before, Blair. I ain't into girls. I'm in love with Eddie and I'm going to marry him. You don't own me, Blair."
All teasing left Blair's eyes. She was confused by the quick turn of the conversation. Blair didn't need another reminder of where she stood with Jo. Jo made it clear on a daily basis that Eddie was the one great love of her life. Of course, that didn't keep her from accidently bumping into Blair every chance she got, or from continuing their weekend visits to Cooper's Rock.
Blair sighed again, bored with her game, and flounced out of the room.
Later that day, Jo decided to pay Blair back for the earlier taunting and she knew that nothing got to Blair more than the mention of Eddie. Knowing that Blair could hear her conversation with Natalie, Jo started talking about Eddie, somewhat indirectly, while she and Natalie were washing the dishes.
"When I get married, I'm not gonna do dishes."
The last thing Blair had wanted to hear was another reminder of Jo's intention to marry Popeye the sailor man.
"You won't have to, you and your husband will just eat the chicken right out of the bucket anyway."
Blair was sharp, Jo had to admit it, but she hated it when Blair used her wit to demean Eddie, or Jo's relationship with the sailor. Knowing from experience that most people quaked when confronted with Jo's physical presence, she walked over to the irritating blonde, invading Blair's personal space while leveling her threat.
"How would you like a finger lickin good trip to the moon?"
Blair wasn't fazed, smiling pleasantly at Jo as she replied.
"Can you carry on a conversation without sounding like Sylvester Stallone?"
Natalie giggled nervously in the background. At first, she had found the fights between her two roommates exciting, but sometimes the drama reached an uncomfortable level. Natalie had seen Jo use her fists to express her displeasure on boys in town, but Blair seemed clueless of the danger as she continued to swap barbs with Jo without any hesitation. Nothing Jo did seemed to intimidate the clueless debutant.
Later that week, Natalie recalled once again the nausea she had felt while listening to Jo and Blair's argument escalate. The feeling of impending doom was so similar to how she felt the day Jo hotwired the school van. The bickering between the two older girls escalated each day and eventually focused around Mrs. Garrett's birthday gift. After the van incident, Natalie had promised herself to pay attention to her weak stomach, but she had forgotten her lesson far too soon. Once again, failure to remember her promise to herself had gotten her into trouble. Jo had drawn both Natalie and Tootie into her latest scheme and now all three girls were once again in trouble with Mrs. Garrett and lucky they weren't in jail. Jo Polniaczek was nothing but trouble and when she was angry at Blair, she was trouble with a capital 'T'.
After all the drama of Mrs. Garrett's birthday was over and everyone else was sleeping, Blair looked over toward Jo's bed in the moon lit room. She had been unable to fall asleep, and she'd seen Jo tossing on her bed as well.
"Jo, why would you do such a thing?"
"I don't want to talk about it, Blair."
"But you told Mrs. Garrett that you didn't want to see a smirk on my face if your gift wasn't as nice as mine."
"Can't you just forget that I said that?"
"No. You can't blame me for what you did."
"I wasn't trying to blame you, Blair."
"You weren't? It sure sounded that way to me."
"Well, what do you expect? Giving Mrs. Garrett a Gucci hand bag that probably cost more than she makes in an entire week, did you think I could possibly compete with that?"
"It wasn't a competition."
"It's always a competition with you, but that doesn't matter. You're right, I was wrong to try to blame anything on you. I was mad at you about the things you said to me after the field hockey game. Sometimes you act like I'm your girlfriend and I don't know how to feel about that. It's not your fault I got caught shoplifting."
"Jo, can I ask you something, seriously?"
"I'd rather not talk about this anymore, but if it will shut you up, then please ask your question so that I can go to sleep."
"Are you sorry that you stole the blouse for Mrs. Garrett, or are you sorry that you got caught?"
Jo didn't respond for a long time.
"Sometimes people have good reasons to steal, like Jean Valjean in Les Misérables."
"Jo, you can't be serious. Jean Valjean was stealing food for his family. You were stealing a birthday present for a woman who could not have cared less if you spent any money on her at all."
"I'm not saying that what I did in this case was right. I'm just saying that it isn't always as black and white as people make it out to be. Sure, my situation was different, but that security guard who arrested Mrs. Garrett didn't know that. Too many rich people think like the inspector in Les Mis and they get so caught up in the rules or laws that they lose sight of what's good and what's evil."
Blair leaned back on her pillow and gazed at the ceiling. She wasn't surprised by the philosophical turn of the conversation. Blair had never met anyone who thought so hard about things like 'good vs. evil'. Blair had never questioned the universally held criteria as to what was right and what was wrong. She often had trouble grasping Jo's relative perspective. Jo was of the firm opinion that what was right and what was wrong could change depending on the situation. In this case, however, Blair didn't see how Jo could possibly continue to defend her actions.
"Hey, are you still awake?"
"Yeah, I was just thinking. So, what you're saying is that someone like Jean Valjean, who violated the law in his past, shouldn't have been made to go to prison once he was captured because he made up for his past misdeeds with all the good deeds he performed later in life."
"That's part of it. The fact that he didn't have a choice is the other part. Which is more evil, stealing or letting your family die of hunger? People deserve a second chance to prove that they can do the right thing, maybe even make up for some of the bad things they did before."
"Sometimes it's hard for people who have never had to make hard choices to understand that things aren't always black and white. I never meant to make you feel like I was taking our friendship for granted, or that I expected more from you than you are ready to give. I wasn't judging you, Jo. But I admit that I'm disappointed that you stole that blouse. I know how resourceful you can be when you want something. There's nothing you can't achieve if you put your mind to it, and you don't have to go outside the rules to do it. I wish you believed in yourself as much as I do; you can have anything in the world that you want if you work for it."
"What if having what I want would hurt other people, like my mother for example?"
Blair realized that they were talking about much more than a stolen blouse, so she choose her words carefully.
"How could anything that made her daughter happy hurt your mother?"
"You know the answer to that. Why do you think your parents sent you to sex camp, or whatever the hell kind of place that was? Don't you think they believed that they were doing what was right for you?"
"They may have believed that, but it still didn't make it right. The inspector in Les Mis chased Jean Valjean around his entire life, because he thought it was the right thing to do. He wound up throwing himself into the river when he realized that he had wasted his life trying to do the right thing for all the wrong reasons. Like you said before, it's never as black and white as it seems."
"I don't want to live my life always looking over my shoulder Blair; afraid that some inspector is going to discover who I really am and punish me for it. I don't know why I keep messing up, but I have to try to do what's expected of me. Blair, no one is going to send me to a shrink if I screw up, they're going to send me back to the Bronx and there won't be any more second chances for me."
"I don't know what to tell you, Jo. I guess we all have to make our own decisions. I know that it's easier for me. If I screw up in my parent's eyes, or in the eyes of Eastland Academy, the consequences won't be so harsh for me. Even so, I am as much a fraud as Jean Valjean, because I'm always pretending to be someone that I'm not, so that I won't have to face the consequences associated with who I really am. Who am I to judge you for not risking everything, when I'm not willing to risk less than half as much?"
"I don't think that you're a fraud."
"Do you think that my being gay is wrong?"
"Not in itself, but I think that a lot of people can be hurt by it, mostly you."
"That doesn't change who I am."
"I know. I just wish that I wasn't so scared that you'll get hurt."
"You're scared for me?"
"Sure. From what you've told me, you've already been hurt pretty bad because of what your parents did when they found out. There are a lot worse things that can happen to ya Blair. I couldn't stand to see you get hurt like that."
"I wouldn't want you to ever get hurt either, Jo. I just wish you didn't feel like you had to prove anything to me."
"Listen, I'm sorry that I stole the blouse. I regretted it the minute I walked out of that damn store. It's been eating me up ever since it happened. I stole it out of pride. But the worst thing is . . . well, I'm sorry I disappointed you and Mrs. G."
"I think I'm falling in -"
"Blair, wait. Try to go to sleep. We can't talk about this now."
Blair knew that Jo couldn't respond the way she wanted, but she had wanted to say the words. She'd questioned her attraction to Jo ever since they first met, but she knew in her heart that her feelings for Jo weren't based solely on physical chemistry. Perhaps it had started that way, but what she felt now was far deeper. Miserable, that's how Blair would feel without Jo in her life.
Blair shook away her depression. She wouldn't dwell on the future. Instead, she would focus on the present. Blair intended to take advantage of every opportunity to be with the intense brunette so long as they were both at Eastland. What she and Jo needed was a little more private time together.
At first, their visits to Cooper's Rock had been short, but later Blair began packing a picnic basket and they would often spend the entire day overlooking Eastland from their vantage point on the cliff. Sometimes they would snuggle and make out, but as often as not they would sit and talk, enjoying their private conversations together.
"Oh c'mon Blair, you don't want to talk about this."
"I do, really. So tell me, how many girls have you kissed?"
"Of course counting me. Good grief Jo, surely it can't be so many you have to think so long about it."
"Ok, but you have to give up some information too."
"I've kissed three girls, counting you. The first was M.J., when I was thirteen, but that almost doesn't count because our parents walked in on us before we really got started. Then I kissed Allie. That was the biggest mistake of my life, but that's a long story. So how many girls have you kissed?"
"First, you have to answer my question."
"I just did, three, counting you."
"Not so quick Blair. I didn't ask how many girls you've kissed, I want to know how many boys you've kissed."
"You heard me."
"Jo, I have no idea how to answer that."
"You've kissed that many boys?"
"Well, yes. They didn't mean anything, they never do. Jo, you know I only do it to keep my parents happy. Otherwise they'd send me back to therapy."
"You're exaggerating again Blair."
"I am not. After they walked in on me with M.J., they sent me to a shrink for the entire summer. Jo, it wasn't the kind of therapy where you go visit the doctor once a week. I had to live in that clinic twenty four hours a day. I'm supposedly cured, but if they got the least bit suspicious, I'd be back in Psycho Shrink's office in a heartbeat. I'd probably be out of Eastland too."
"Jeez Blair, your parent's really did that to ya?"
"I wouldn't exaggerate a thing like that Jo."
"I guess not."
Jo thought about what Blair had just told her. No wonder Blair hadn't wanted to talk about what happened when her parents caught her kissing another girl. If Blair could confide so much to Jo, the least she could do was to answer Blair's questions.
"Ok, I've kissed three girls, counting you."
"Really? You're not just saying that because it's the same number I've kissed?"
"Really, can we change the subject now?"
"I gave you names so you have to give me names."
"Ok, my first girl on girl kiss was with a girl named Jessie when we were both drunk. The other girl was Gloria, but I think she was just sort of experimenting with me. Are you happy now that you know?"
Blair considered the question.
"Yes, I am happy now."
Jo leaned over and kissed Blair, slowly and languidly.
"Have you ever done anything more with a girl? You know, more than kissing?"
"Uh, no. I've told you before, Jo, I'm not like my mother. I'm not that kind of girl, with boys or with other girls."
"Okay, don't get so steamed."
"What about you? I mean, you and Eddie are pretty serious? Have you ever done anything more with him."
"No, Blair. I've never done anything more than kiss anyone before. I never wanted to do more. I've never kissed anyone the way I kiss you."
"Mmmm, don't stop."
"I mean it. I never knew a kiss could make me feel things all over, until I kissed you."
"Me too. Feel. All over. Mmmm."
Jo smiled as she continued to suckle her girlfriend's neck, knowing that any words she might say, however sweet, would go unnoticed by the impassioned blonde.
7: Humpty Dumpty Had a Great Fall Part 1
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