DISCLAIMER: The Facts of Life and its characters are the property of Columbia Pictures Television and Sony Pictures Television, no infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Beauty Crowds Me: Chapter 9 of 16 Chapters. Quotes in italics are direct quotes from the Facts of Life Series, Season 2, Episode 9, Gossip.
MEDIA LINK: http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=192C5D50428674AB
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
THANKS: To Stacey for the Beta.

Beauty Crowds Me
9: Courting Blair

By Slave2Free


Jo had expected Blair to be angry. After all, Blair had done everything short of getting on her hands and knees and begging Jo not to run away with Eddie. The morning after Jo's bungled elopement brought more than the first snowfall of the season to Peekskill; it marked a dramatic change in Blair's attitude toward Jo. Once Blair's initial sense of relief had worn off, she was left with the type of bitterness only born of rejection. Blair had opened her heart to Jo, she had professed her love for her temperamental roommate and she had pleaded with Jo not to run away to marry Eddie. Jo had answered Blair's sincere admission of love with what Blair considered the worst kind of betrayal.

Jo closed her eyes and pressed her fingers against her temples, trying to untangle the knots she had created in her life over the past several days. Jo had verbally attacked Blair for attempting to interfere with her plans to marry Eddie and Blair's pleas continued to haunt Jo.

"What I did was out of friendship, Jo, you matter to me."

Time and again Blair had put her heart on the line, only to have Jo squash it.

Jo's mother's words came back to haunt her as well, but for entirely different reasons. Jo had been furious with her mother, but Blair was the one she lashed out at and now she had lost Blair's trust. Jo knew how much Blair feared rejection - from anyone. Blair felt abandoned by both of her parents and was painfully sensitive to any sign of rejection from friends or even teachers. Jo had treated Blair as badly as her parents and now she held little hope of regaining any type of friendship with the insecure beauty.

The worst of it was that Blair was gone. Blair hadn't spoken to Jo after their conversation at Cooper's Rock the morning after the elopement attempt. She had taken her exams that Monday morning and she had flown to Monte Carlo late that afternoon.

In Blair's absence, Jo was forcing herself to go through the motions as if everything was okay. Her grades were better than ever because all she did after Blair left was study. The icy weather prevented Jo from riding her motorcycle, so she stayed in her bedroom most of the time. It was difficult to see Blair's unoccupied bed. Even Tootie and Natalie seemed down in the dumps and often spoke of how much they missed Blair. The two younger roommates didn't realize how much entertainment the dizzy blonde brought into their lives until she was gone.

Jo was running late for class, or she would have noticed the icy walkway. Cursing her absentmindedness, the normally agile young girl found herself sprawled across the pathway watching several papers from her notebook being swept across the lawn. It didn't help Jo's mood to hear someone laughing nearby. She was prepared to display her fiercest glare upon whichever classmate had the misfortune to be caught making fun of her when she realized that the young girl rushing around the lawn gathering up Jo's papers was not a young girl at all, she was a teacher.

Extending her hand to assist Jo, Gail Gallagher continued to smile broadly at the scowling young student.

"I apologize for laughing. Finding enjoyment in someone else's misfortune isn't a very attractive quality, is it?"

Jo wasn't sure whether or not the question was rhetorical, but decided it was best not to respond. Instead she allowed Miss Gallagher to help her stand.

"That's a nasty scrape on your knee, why don't you come to my classroom and let me get a bandage for it?"

Jo looked at the scratch on her knee. Due to the amount of blood, she figured that it looked worse than it was.

"Nah, it's nothing."

"I'm afraid that I'll have to insist. I'll never forgive myself if it becomes infected, especially since I had the insensitivity to laugh."

The young English teacher bent down to pick up the rest of Jo's books and then began walking toward Bailey Hall, where her classroom was located. Since Miss Gallagher was carrying half her textbooks, Jo didn't have a choice but to follow the charismatic young teacher.

"My class doesn't start for another half hour so you can sit at any desk while I get some antibiotic cream and a bandage from the first aid kit."

"Thanks. It's really not that bad."

"You're a tough girl, huh?"

Jo was uncomfortable, uncertain whether or not the attractive young teacher was still making fun of her.

"I ain't as fragile as most of the pampered girls ya teach, if that's what ya mean."

Miss Gallagher raised an eyebrow.

"Is that a Bronx accent I hear?"

"Ya gonna laugh at that, too?"

As if on cue, Miss Gallagher laughed again.

"Jo Polniaczek, right?"

Jo could feel her face blushing as Miss Gallagher continued to smile in spite of Jo's surly attitude. It was the same response she often received from Blair when Jo was unnecessarily abrasive.


"I'm Gail Gallagher. It's a pleasure to finally meet you, Jo. I've heard a lot about you."

"Nice to meet ya anyway."

"You have quite a reputation for a student who has only been at Eastland for one semester."

Jo frowned.

"Don't believe everything ya hear."

"Oh, I realize how that must have sounded. I only meant that you already have a reputation as a gifted student."

"You didn't guess my name because I sounded gifted."

"No, I didn't. Your writing teacher, Mrs. Wallace, is a good friend of mine. She often asks me to comment on some of her students' writing assignments. She's particularly impressed with your work and she mentioned to me that you originate from the Bronx. Since we don't have a great many girls here from our neck of the woods, it wasn't difficult for me to guess your name."

"OUR neck of the woods?"

Gail's smile grew.

"You're as quick as Diane indicated. Yes, our neck of the woods. You didn't think you were the first girl to use education as a means by which to make a better life for herself, did you? Of course, your old neighborhood is like a walk in the park compared to mine, but it's still nice to know that I have a kindred spirit here at Eastland."

Jo was instantly impressed. Anyone who grew up in a neighborhood like hers and wound up teaching at a school like Eastland Academy had earned her admiration.

"I sure don't recognize your accent."

"Oh, it still comes out at the least opportune times, believe me. However, an English teacher has an image to uphold, so I had to lose the accent."

Jo thought about how she had intentionally clung to her old accent. As if leaving it behind would be an act of disloyalty toward her family and old friends. Miss Gallagher understood Jo's conflicted expression, but didn't comment further.

Gail handed a clean damp cloth and antiseptic cream to Jo so that she could clean her knee, then she applied the bandage.

"Do you need a tardy pass for your class, Jo?"

"Yeah, that'd be great."

Gail wrote the pass and then began organizing the papers she had gathered from the lawn. She stopped abruptly and began reading from one of the papers. As soon as Jo realized what Miss Gallagher had stumbled upon, she leapt from her seat and grabbed the paper.

"That's private. Just because you're a teacher doesn't give you the right to read my personal stuff."

Gail was both surprised and embarrassed.

"Jo, I'm sorry. I didn't realize the nature of the poem until . . ."

"Yeah, right."

Jo was furious. She'd been so upset about Blair that she'd thought of little other than how to apologize to the other girl. She'd written and discarded numerous letters and poems all week. The poem Miss Gallagher had been reading would leave little doubt as to the depth of Jo's affection for the person for whom she had written the poem, or of the sex of the intended recipient.


Miss Gallagher reached for Jo's hand, but was rebuffed.

"Jo, I'm sorry. I should have stopped reading when I realized that it wasn't something you had written for class. Please believe me when I tell you that I would never break a confidence."

"It's none of your business."

"Of course it's not. Jo, please don't be embarrassed or upset."

"I ain't embarrassed. I just . . . I don't know."

Jo sat back down in her chair. She was exhausted from trying to figure out her feelings. She'd at first believed that her feelings toward Blair were the result of some phase she would outgrow because that's what Jessie had told her. According to Jessie, all girls experimented a little, but it didn't mean anything. Jo wasn't sure if what Jessie said was true for most girls, but she knew that what she felt for Blair was not an experiment or a phase she would outgrow.

Jo didn't know why she wasn't more upset with Miss Gallagher. Something about the compassionate teacher made Jo feel at ease. She was also somewhat relieved to have her feelings for Blair out in the open. She desperately needed someone to talk to about Blair, but Jessie was the only one she could tell and she didn't think Jessie knew any more than she did about relationships.

Miss Gallagher glanced briefly at her watch and then back at the distressed girl in front of her.

"Feel like playing hooky?"

"Uh, what?"

"Come on, Jo, you can't tell me that you've never skipped class before?"

"Yeah, but you're a teacher."

Miss Gallagher laughed again and Jo found herself smiling with her. She'd rarely met anyone who was so easily amused.

"Teachers are human, too, Jo. We like to take a walk on the wild side every now and again. Come on, we'll eat the kind of greasy food that Mrs. Garrett would never allow in her kitchen."

"I don't know."

"I'm buying."

"Well, in that case, how could I refuse?"

Miss Gallagher wound up getting a substitute for all of her classes that day, deciding that being a teacher meant more than teaching her students about literature.

"But don't ya ever wonder why you got to go to college when all your friends didn't?"

"Don't you think it's possible that I earned the right to attend college? After all, in addition to earning a scholarship, I also had to work to support myself."

"I didn't mean it like that."

"Jo, don't you feel like you deserve to be at Eastland?"

"How can anyone think that they deserve to have more than someone else?"

"How can you think that you deserve to have less?"

"I don't. I don't know."

Gail Gallagher hesitated, not wanting to give too much unsolicited advice, but she felt strongly that Jo needed to hear from someone else who had grown up in poverty. People who grew up in affluent homes rarely understood that being on the receiving end of a great deal of good fortune was often a difficult adjustment for those who had previously had to struggle.

"Jo, you have an opportunity to have the best education available. You have an obligation to yourself to take advantage of it, whether you earned it or not, whether you deserve it or not."

Jo didn't respond, but she didn't walk away either, so Miss Gallagher ventured even further.

"You know, Jo, the opportunities afforded you at Eastland extend well beyond the quality of your education. You're being exposed to an entirely different way of life and interacting with girls you'd never have a chance to get to know otherwise."

Jo's expression signaled an impending storm.

"I didn't come here to talk about . . . that."

"Didn't you?"

"No, I didn't!"

Jo stood up to leave, but Miss Gallagher touched her by the arm.

"Jo, please, just hear me out. If you don't want to discuss it with me again, that's fine."

Jo reluctantly sat back down, questioning whether or not she had subconsciously wanted Miss Gallagher to bring up the subject.

"Writing down your feelings is a great way to work things out in your own head, Jo. The last thing I'll ever do is to tell you how you should feel. You're the only one who can do that. It does help sometimes, however, to talk with someone else when you're hurting. If I am interpreting your poem correctly, you are in a great deal of pain and I'd like to help if you'll allow me."

"I ain't the one who got hurt. I'm the one who did the hurting."

"Eastland is a small campus, Jo. I try not to listen to gossip, but it's common knowledge that you attempted to elope with your boyfriend. Were you running away from your feelings toward someone else?"

"No. Trying to run away had nothin' to do with her."

"If she was hurt by it, she must care about you."

Jo couldn't hold back any longer, she looked directly into Miss Gallagher's kind eyes and spoke her heart.

"She could have anyone. Why would she want someone like me? I can't even admit to her that I'm gay."

"Why do you use the word admit, as if there's something wrong with being gay?"

Jo was stunned. Of all the reactions she had expected, this wasn't one of them.

"I don't want to hurt her."

"Jo, I'm confused. If this girl likes you, and it seems like she does, how can you hurt her by telling her that you feel the same way?"

"Because it can't last! If I tell her I'm gay, she's gonna start pickin' out china patterns for us."

Gail laughed despite the serious nature of the discussion.

"Were you ready to pick out china patterns with the boy you ran away with?"

"No, but that's different."


"Loving me can't hurt Eddie the way it can hurt Bl . . ."

Jo stumbled, not wanted to reveal that Blair was the girl they were discussing.

"Loving someone always involves an element of risk, Jo. Most people think it's worth it."

"She doesn't understand what all she'd be risking. She doesn't even realize how much it's going to cost her to be a lesbian, much less being with someone like me."

"You talk as if she has a choice. Is that what you believe?"

"Not about being a lesbian, but she has a choice about who to be with."

"I'm not sure we get to choose who we fall in love with, Jo. You can't make someone stop loving you any more than you can make them start."

"I don't want her to stop loving me."

It was a soft admission and Gail could tell how difficult it was for Jo to make it.

"You know, she probably doesn't feel like she deserves your love any more than you feel like you deserve hers. Did you ever consider how being in a same sex relationship might benefit her, instead of focusing on what you think it will cost her?

"It doesn't matter anymore. She hates me."

"Did she tell you that?"

"She said that if I ever cared about her then I should stay away from her."

It hadn't been so many years since she was a teenage girl that Gail had forgotten how tumultuous those relationships could be. She imagined that it must be especially difficult for teens in a same sex relationship.

"Are you still in love with Eddie?"

"I love Eddie, but I was never in love with him."

"Can't you tell her that?"

"I don't think she cares anymore. She's better off this way anyway."

"Don't you think that should be her decision? I mean, would you want someone else making that sort of decision for you?"

Jo considered the teacher's words. It did help to have someone else to talk with about her feelings and Miss Gallagher did seem to know a lot more than Jessie.

"Miss Gallagher, could I come by and talk to you again sometime? I have a lot to think about and my, uh, she won't be around for a while."

"Yes, Jo. I'd be honored if you should choose to confide in me. You and I have a lot in common. It would be nice for me to be able to talk with you sometimes as well. My fellow faculty members all grew up in much the same type of homes as the students here and I'd love a chance to talk with someone with a background more like my own."

Jo believed that Miss Gallagher was saying that just to be kind, but it made her feel better anyway.

"Yeah, that'd be nice."

Monte Carlo

"I can't believe you crashed Mother's wedding! Are you out of your mind?"

"Sweet Blair, do you still care?"

Blair fidgeted beneath her stepsister's gaze.

"You know that I do."

"What about this new girl you wrote to me about?"

"What about your fiancé, Paul?"


Blair sat across the table from M.J., worried by the angry glances from her aunt.

"Um, I don't think we should be seen talking with one another."

"Blair, your Mother and Casanova left hours ago. We're practically the only people still here."

"Geri's mother is still here and I don't want her saying anything to Mother. She will be upset when she finds out we spent time together."


"So, I'd prefer not to spend another summer in therapy."

"I can't believe that your mother went along with that, especially after what she told me that summer."

"What are you talking about? You saw my mother that summer?"

"Sure, I ran into her in London. We had a blast. We must have shopped for ten hours straight. She told me all about an affair she had with another girl when she was in college. It was nice for me to talk with someone else who had experimented with girls."

"Experimented? Is that what I was, an experiment? Did you only kiss me out of curiosity?"

"Don't act as if I did something you didn't want, Blair. I could tell you were interested in me and I was curious to know what it would be like to kiss another girl. Is that so wrong?"

"I cared about you, Meg! You were the first girl I ever kissed and as soon as it was over you ran away! You let them send me to sexual reorientation therapy and you didn't do anything to try to help me."

Meg laughed.

"Sweetie, if I had known that you were a lesbian, I would have tried to intervene. For all I knew, you were also experimenting."

Blair stared at Meg, dumbfounded. She couldn't imagine why she had ever been attracted to her frivolous stepsister.

"It was a religious clinic, Meg. My primary therapist was a priest. His goal was to convince me that homosexuality was a sin and that if I didn't see the error of my ways I would spend eternity in hell. It wasn't fun and it's not funny."

Meg's entire countenance changed. She reached out and took Blair's hand, gazing directly into her eyes.

"I'm sorry that I made light of it, Blair. I didn't even know that you'd been sent away until after I was in Europe. You know that I'd never deliberately hurt you. Please don't be mad at me, Blair. You're the only person in my life who hasn't given up on me."

"I'm not mad at you, M.J., but I'm still a little sensitive about what happened."

"Have you talked about it with your new girlfriend?"


"Why not?"

"She's a devout Catholic."

"What difference does that make?"

"I don't believe in God anymore, Meg. I can't. I can't believe in a God who would send me to hell because of who I love."


"That's all you have to say?"

"Yeah. What else is there to say? You know that I'm Catholic, right?"

"Of course I know that you're Catholic, we lived together for three years. Jo is a real Catholic. She goes to church and everything."

"I go to church."

At Blair's raised eyebrows, Meg elaborated.

"Okay, so what if I only go on Holidays, I'm still a Catholic."

Blair rolled her eyes.

"Do you believe that it's a sin for me to love another girl?"

"Are you in love with this girl, Jo?"

"Answer the question."

"No. Now you answer my question."

Blair tugged her lower lip into her mouth. Meg recognized the nervous habit and pushed the question.

"You are, aren't you?"

"It's not like that, Meg. We broke up."

"Oh. Did you break up with her or did she break up with you?"

"Does it matter?"

"Of course it matters."

"If you must know, she eloped with her old boyfriend. So, I guess you could say that qualifies as breaking up with me."

"That was a skuzzy thing to do."

"It's no worse than what you did. At least she came back."

"She didn't go through with it?"


"I suppose that now she wants to kiss and make up."

"It's not like that, Meg."

"Are you going to defend her?! Blair, what are you thinking?!"

"Listen, this is not the place to talk about these things. Would you like to come to the house for dinner one night this week?"

"I would love that, but Paul insists that we visit his parents this Christmas. Give me a rain check?"

Blair knew that a rain check might mean several years, but she didn't want to argue with Meg any longer.

"Sure, that'd be great. Come on, I'll walk you out so that Aunt Geraldine doesn't have a chance to accost you."

Blair helped Meg on with her coat in the small entryway and leaned in to give her stepsister a hug. Meg, however, had something different in mind. Before Blair understood what was happening, Meg captured her lips for a very un-sisterly kiss. Blair didn't refuse Meg access, but she didn't participate either.

"Still curious, Meg?"


"You're running out of excuses."

"It's always good seeing you, Blair. Don't let that girl back at Eastland take advantage of you."

"Are you afraid she's after your job?"

"Don't be like that sweetie, you know I love you."

Blair sighed. In her own reckless, careless way, Meg did love her.

"I love you too, Sis."

Meg smiled at the new nickname, glad that Blair would always be part of her family. Blair solemnly watched Meg walk away.

'So you and Mother had a real bonding experience over what happened that summer. You two were having a nice shopping holiday while I was . . .' Blair stopped mid-thought when she felt a tiny hand grab hold of hers. Looking down, she smiled into the bright blue eyes of her little friend.

"What shall we do tonight, Alex? Manicures or pedicures?"

Alex looked down at her fingernails and frowned.


Blair laughed.

"Biting your nails is a bad habit, but don't worry about it. By this time tomorrow, you'll have the most beautiful nails in all of Monte Carlo."

Blair was rewarded with a brilliant smile.

"I wish you were my sister, Blair."

"So do I, Alex. So do I."

A few days before Christmas break, a postcard arrived from Monte Carlo addressed to Natalie, Tootie, Jo, and Mrs. Garrett.

"Your presents are under my bed. Merry Christmas, Blair."

After the debacle Jo had made of Mrs. Garrett's birthday, everyone was curious as to how much Blair had spent on their presents this year. Mrs. Garrett, however, insisted that they wait until the last night before Christmas break to exchange presents.

That evening, the three girls and their guardian met in their bedroom to see what Blair had bought for them.

Mrs. Garrett was the first to open her gift and her eyes filled with tears when she saw it. Blair had drawn a picture of Natalie, Tootie, Jo, and Blair in their school uniforms with Mrs. Garrett watching over them from behind. In the years to follow, Edna Garrett would often take out the drawing Blair had prepared for her whenever she felt lonely or missed her girls. She treasured it always.

Natalie and Tootie also received drawings. Tootie's picture was a scene from her performance in 'A Streetcar Named Desire'. For Natalie, Blair had drawn a picture depicting Natalie and Tootie looking over a newspaper. The byline for the headline on the other side of the paper was for Natalie Green.

At first, it appeared that Blair had left Jo off her Christmas list, but Mrs. Garrett persisted in looking under Blair's bed, knowing that Blair would not have addressed the card to all four unless there were four presents. Jo's present had been the most difficult to spot because it lay flat on the floor while the other drawings had been rolled and tied with a ribbon. Jo's present was too thick and large to be rolled.

Mrs. Garrett gingerly pulled out the object and presented it to Jo. Jo wasn't sure how to react. She and Blair worked hard to make people think they disliked each other and now that Blair really did hate Jo, she had given her the largest Christmas gift of all.

Jo carefully unwrapped her gift, hoping that she had also received a drawing. Jo's gift was also a work of art, but it was a colorful painting instead of a chalk drawing. Blair had already given Jo many smaller drawings of motorcycles, one of which Jo had tacked on the wall above her bed, but this was something entirely different.

The painting was of a motorcycle and rider. The bike was in midair as it raced over a dirt track and the number on the rider's shirt matched the number Jo wore on both her field hockey uniform and her racing jacket. Jo looked away from the painting to keep from crying. No one had ever given her anything like it.

"Wow, are you going to hang it on the wall behind your bed, Jo?"

"No, I'm going to hang it on the ceiling, where it slants toward the wall, so I can see it when I'm in bed."

The painting had to have taken months to create and the other roommates knew that Jo and Blair's fragile friendship had been stretched to its limits when Jo ran away with Eddie.

Jo waited until she had a chance to speak with Mrs. Garrett alone to ask for advice about the painting.

"Mrs. G, do you think it'll be okay if I hang that painting?"

"Of course."

"Do you think Blair still meant for me to have it? I mean, maybe she forgot it was under her bed with the others."

"Jo, Blair included your name in her Christmas card because she wanted you to have the painting. I think she would be hurt if you didn't hang it."

"Okay, I'll put it up before I go home for Christmas."

Jo hesitated before continuing.

"Mrs. G., will you be staying here for the holidays?"

"Yes, Jo. I'm not the sort of person who feels the need to travel during the holidays. My sister is visiting me on Christmas Eve and she'll stay a couple of days, but all of my friends are here in Peekskill now so this is where I like to spend my holidays."

"Um, my mother said that she and Jack were gonna break up, but sometimes she means to break up and then never gets around to doing it."

"I'm sorry to hear that, Jo."

"Yeah, well I was just wondering if maybe I could come back early if Jack and I don't get along so good. Sometimes I try to make things better for my mom, but making her boyfriends mad doesn't always make things better for her."

"Or for you?"

"That, too."

"Jo, this is your home. You can stay here anytime you want. You never have to ask permission."

"Thanks, Mrs. G, you're the greatest."

Jo had been waiting anxiously for Blair's return. Her eyes had been glued to the window all morning, searching for Blair's limousine. When the car she was looking for pulled in front of the Eastland Cafeteria, Jo bounded down the stairs so fast she almost knocked Mrs. Garrett over on her way to the door.

"Easy, Jo. I know you missed the other girls, but a few extra seconds isn't going to make any difference."

At Mrs. Garrett's slight admonishment, Jo shrugged her shoulders and tried to pretend she wasn't excited.

"Blair! You look wonderful! Monte Carlo must have agreed with you."

"Thank you, Mrs. Garrett. Do you like my new outfit?"

"It's beautiful. Did you and your mother go shopping?"

"No, I went with a friend. I'll show you the rest once I'm settled."

Blair only nodded at Jo as she passed her on her way up the stairs. Jo wasn't deterred. She picked up one of Blair's suitcases and followed close behind Blair to their room.

"Aren't you going to hang up your new things?"

"What do you care?"

"I just thought you might not want them to get wrinkled."

Blair let out an exaggerated sigh and gathered her new clothes. As soon as she opened their closet to deposit a few of her purchases, Blair stopped and stared. Jo watched eagerly as Blair examined the new shoe rack.

"Where did this come from?"

"I made it."

"It's wonderful, Jo. When did you do this?"

"I came back to school a little early. Do you really like it?"

"Of course I do. I can't believe you made something like this for me."

"It's your Christmas present. Since you made something for me, I thought it would be a good idea if I made your gift, too."

Blair's mind was racing.

'Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. She only did it because she wants something from me. Does she really think that building a shoe rack will make up for breaking my heart?'

Blair looked over at the painting Jo had mounted above her bed.

"It's beautiful, Blair. It's the best gift I've gotten."

Blair picked up the Christmas gifts Natalie and Tootie had left on her bed.

"It's not hard to compete with sparkling socks and Christmas cookies."

"No. I mean it's the best gift I've ever gotten in my entire life. No one has ever done anything like that for me before."

Blair was reeling, but she wasn't about to give in to those feelings. Jo edged closer, constantly gauging Blair's reaction.

"Blair, the painting is so -"

"Jo, stop. I don't want to talk about the painting."

"Blair, we need to talk."

"If you need someone to talk with, you should call Eddie."

"Blair, I need to explain what happened."

"I'm sorry, Jo. I don't care to hear your explanations. If you'll excuse me I have a lot of luggage to bring up."

"Would you like help bringing up the rest of your luggage?"

Blair accepted Jo's offer of assistance, grateful for a break from the awkward moment. She wasn't sure what she had expected when she returned to Eastland, but she hadn't expected Jo to be so nice.

It was a relief for both Blair and Jo when Natalie and Tootie arrived later that afternoon.

"Blair! It's great to have you back, we missed you. Did you bring back any souvenirs from Monte Carlo?"

"I bought some new clothes, but I didn't pick up any souvenirs."

"So how was the wedding? I'll bet it was so romantic! Imagine, getting married in Monte Carlo."

Blair smiled at Tootie's level of excitement.

"It was romantic, if you like that sort of thing."

Natalie piped up.

"And who doesn't like that sort of thing - romantic beaches, romantic music, romantic moonlight, and romantic flower arrangements. Tell me there weren't any celebrities at the wedding."

Blair laughed.

"There are celebrities at all of Mother's weddings. What's the point of getting married so often if you can't impress everyone with all your social contacts?"

Blair's lips were turned upward, pretending to smile, but something in her tone gave away her true feelings. Blair wasn't thrilled that her mother had gotten married again, it was written all over her face.

Natalie and Tootie worked hard to draw Jo into the conversation, but since neither Jo nor Blair asked one another any questions, it was difficult to keep them both involved.

Tootie continued to regale the others with stories about Christmas in the Ramsey household into the evening. Although Natalie never appeared to lack for Christmas presents, she was consistently lamenting the lack of a traditional Christmas celebration within the Green home. It struck Jo that she and Blair were the only two who didn't seem enthusiastic about sharing holiday news.

Jo reminded herself that she had expected Blair to still be angry with her. Although the hostile blonde's behavior didn't provide much hope, Jo had to believe that in time Blair would be able to forgive her.

As the weeks continued, Jo continued to look for ways to assist Blair.

"What's all that you're trying to carry?"

Blair once again tried to wrap her arm around the art canvas, but she couldn't reach the distance. In her other hand, she was balancing her textbooks.

"You can't carry all of that. Here, let me have your books and you can carry the canvas."

"Jo!" Natalie's voice registered her shock.

"Are you offering to carry Blair's books?" Natalie continued to smirk, earning equally scathing glares from both girls.

"It's okay, Jo. I think I can manage."

"You'll wind up dropping the painting. Come one, give me your books."

Blair glanced toward Natalie before handing Jo her books.

"Hey, can you repeat that exchange after I go get Tootie's camera?"

Jo's patience was getting dangerously thin.

"It's a good thing I'm loaded down with books or I'd have to cram that camera up -"

Blair tugged Jo's arm before she could finish, dragging her toward the door.

"Come on, Jo. My art classes are in the fine arts center and you'll have to double back to get to Bailey Hall. If we don't hurry, you'll be late."

Jo continued to glare at Natalie on her way out the door, but her mood brightened as soon as she and Blair began walking across campus.

"You don't have to keep doing this, you know."

"Doing what?"

"Being nice to me."

"You couldn't carry all of this by yourself, Blair."

"I just don't want you to think that there's any way that things will ever go back to being the way they were between us."

Jo tried to mask the hurt.

"I know that. Can't we be friends?"

Blair couldn't look at Jo. A month earlier, she would have loved to have Jo carry her books across campus for her. Old desires began to creep into her heart, but Blair resolutely refused to allow herself to give into them.

"I guess, if that's what you want."

"Yeah. I want to be friends."

As the two continued to walk toward class in silence, Blair considered Jo's words.

'She wants to be friends. That's all she ever wanted. Why did I humiliate myself by pursuing someone who gave me no encouragement? We'll be friends. I can do this. I can do this.'

The following weekend, Tootie excitedly entered the lounge.

"Hey, Blair. That movie you've been wanting to see starts playing today. Do you want to go this evening?"

Blair was thrilled. She needed something to take her mind off of Jo and she'd been looking forward to this movie for weeks.

"That's great, I thought it didn't open until tomorrow. I'd love to go. How about you, Natalie, would you like to go to the movies?"

"Nope, I have to finish this article for the Eastlander. They really need to start paying me for this job."

"That's too bad, Nat. Well, it looks like it's going to be just the two of us, Blair, unless Jo wants to join us?

Tootie phrased the statement as a question for Jo, not expecting Jo to answer positively. Jo hated sappy love stories.

"Sounds great! Give me time to grab my jacket and I'm ready."

"Jo!" Natalie was once again registering her shock at Jo's behavior.


"You said you hated mushy love stories."

"I don't hate ALL of them. It won't kill me to watch a love story every so often."

Blair felt trapped. She needed to distance herself from Jo. She didn't need to sit beside the other girl in a cool dark theater. It would be the first time she and Jo had gone to the movies together since returning for second semester, the memories it would evoke would haunt her.

"I thought I heard you tell Mrs. Garrett that you were going to fix the toaster this evening?"

Jo smiled, happy that Blair had been paying attention to Jo, even though she pretended to ignore her.

"I fixed it earlier. I'm free as a bird all evening."

After learning that Jo planned to attend the movie with Blair and Tootie, Natalie decided that she also wanted to tag along. Jo had been acting odd lately and Natalie's journalistic curiosity was piqued.

Once in the theatre, Natalie and Tootie took their usual places, leaving the two seats by the aisle for Blair and Jo. Blair wasn't comfortable sitting beside Jo, but sitting anywhere else would prompt Natalie to start asking more questions.

"Would you like some popcorn or a drink, Blair?"

"Sure, give me a second to get out my wallet."

"Nah, I got it."

Before Blair could object, Jo was gone. Several minutes later, she returned with two drinks and a large box of popcorn.

"Uh, you don't mind sharing a box, do ya?"

Blair started to complain, but she already felt bad that Jo had purchased the snacks. Before meeting Jo, Blair had never considered how hard some people had to work to earn money for the bare necessities of life. Jo worked harder than anyone Blair had ever known. Snacks in the movie theatre were notoriously overpriced and Blair couldn't imagine how long it had taken Jo to earn the money to pay for the popcorn and drinks she bought.

"Sharing is fine, Jo. You didn't have to pay for everything."

"I don't mind. You buy the snacks all the time, it was my turn."

Blair smiled her gratitude and reached for a handful of popcorn. She would have insisted on paying her share, but she knew how sensitive Jo was about money and decided that making a big deal of the small purchase would embarrass Jo. Blair sighed. It wasn't going to be easy to continue shunning Jo when she was being so nice.

Halfway through the movie, Jo nudged Blair.

"Are you cold?"

"No, I'm fine."

"You look cold. Wrapping your arms around yourself isn't going to help, why don't you take my coat?"

"I do not want your coat."

Jo frowned and slunk down in her seat. Blair had never actually seen Jo pout before, so it was a bit of a shock. 'She's so cute when she pouts.' As soon as she realized what she was thinking, Blair severely reprimanded herself. 'No one humiliates Blair Warner and gets away with it.' Blair repeated the phrase over and over in her mind, trying not to look at the disappointed girl sitting beside her.

Several minutes later, Jo excused herself. Once in the lobby, she asked to speak to the theater manager.

"My friends and I have been coming to this theater forever and it's always been so cool and comfortable. Why do you have the heat blasting in there today?"

"It's winter."

"It's like a furnace and most people are wearing sweaters. If this wasn't such a popular movie, people would be walking out."

"All right, all right, I'll turn on the air conditioning."

Less than a half hour after Jo returned to the group, Blair, Tootie, and Natalie were all huddled in their seats attempting to ward off the cold.

"Listen, Blair, it wouldn't mean anything if you took my coat. If you're cold, I don't mind if you need it."

Blair was freezing. The movie theater was always a little chilly, but today the air conditioning was turned up in spite of the winter weather outside.

"Okay. You understand that I'm only taking it because I'm cold?"


Jo smiled as she removed her denim jacket and held it while Blair slid into the sleeves. As soon as the coat was around her, Blair realized her mistake. Wearing the jacket always made Blair feel closer to Jo. Jo's fragrance always lingered for the first several minutes and anytime she touched the sleeves, it reminded her of all the times she had touched Jo when she was wearing the coat. Looking over at Jo, whose face had transformed in minutes, Blair worried that the walls she had worked so hard to build might already be crumbling.

As soon as the movie ended, Blair carelessly tossed the jacket toward Jo as if it held no value to her. Jo caught the jacket and was about to put it on when Natalie grabbed hold.

"Well, if she doesn't want it any longer, give it to me. It's going to take all night for my body to defrost."

Jo smiled indulgently at Natalie and helped her into the jacket while Blair pretended not to fume. She didn't want to wear Jo's jacket any longer, but she didn't want Natalie wearing it either.

'What is wrong with me? It's just a stupid jacket. She'll lend it out to anyone. Why do I keep thinking I'm special to her?'

Blair took Tootie by the arm and walked quickly toward the exit. In contrast to other movie nights, Blair took the seat beside Tootie before Jo and Natalie entered the bus. Natalie gave Tootie a questioning glance, but Tootie shrugged and tilted her head toward Blair.

Natalie cautiously leaned forward to speak with Blair.

"Would you like the jacket back, Blair?"

"Why would I wear that nasty thing any longer than necessary? It's not cold on the bus, Natalie."

Natalie sat back and smiled sympathetically at Jo. It was going to be a long ride home from the movies.

Jo had been looking forward to the class trip to New York City, but she was afraid that it might be a disaster since she and Blair had signed up to room with one another long before the rift in their relationship. Jo was therefore surprised when Blair approached her for a favor a few days prior to the trip.

Blair asked Jo to cover for her one night during their class trip. Blair's reluctance to tell Jo why she wanted Jo to cover for her sent off alarm bells in Jo's head. New York City was a wonderful place, but it could also be a dangerous place. Jo wanted to know what Blair was going to be up to so late at night.

When Jo found out that Blair planned to attend the ballet with Nancy's boyfriend Roger, she was shocked. Jo couldn't understand why Blair would hurt Nancy over a boy she was certain Blair had no interest in.

Jo was surprised at Blair's cavalier attitude. This was exactly the type of thing that Blair's mother would do and Blair was always trying to prove that she wasn't like her mother. Jo knew that Blair thought of boys as nothing more than play things to keep her entertained until she was old enough to defy her parents, but Nancy had been a close friend of Blair's for years.

"Don't get me wrong. I am NOT after Roger."

Blair smiled.

"I'm after Baryshnikov!"

Jo was fully aware of the fact that all three of her roommates were infatuated with the Russian dancer. She was concerned however, that Blair was risking a long friendship just to go to a stupid ballet. There had been other things about Blair's behavior since returning from Christmas break which were also out of character and Jo felt a tinge of guilt at the possibility that Blair's new callousness might have something to do with the hurt inflicted by Jo.

Blair's attitude toward Jo was not the only thing that had chilled that semester. Blair was snubbing all of her friends. She was more caustic and condescending than Jo had ever known her to be. Jo knew that one of the reasons even Blair's most prestigious and snobbish friends had encouraged her friendship with Jo was because Blair's temperament toward her friends was always kinder whenever Jo was around. Although Blair would often lash out at Jo during their first semester together, she had been uncharacteristically sweet and accepting of her other friends and had even begun to be nice to less popular classmates.

Jo entered the cafeteria just as Nancy was dumping ice down Blair's shirt.

"You're hot stuff, maybe this will cool you off."

Jo watched as Blair tried unsuccessfully to dig the ice cubes from her shirt.

"What's the matter with Nancy?"

Blair glared at Jo as she lifted the bottom of her shirt, trying to shake the ice from within.

"Skip the question."

"You louse. You are so low. How could you?"

Jo knew it wasn't in her best interest to find the scene funny, but seeing Blair with one hand down the top of her blouse and the other up the bottom in an effort to trap all of the ice cubes was too funny to resist.

"Is there something you want to get off your chest?"

Any other time, Blair would have seen the humor in Jo's question. On this day, however, she was livid. It didn't help that Jo couldn't seem to remove her eyes from Blair's chest as she made fun of her.

"You blabbed everything about me and Roger, didn't you?"

Jo's humor quickly vanished.

"I told you before, I don't squeal."

"Not much. I should have known better than to trust you."

"Hey, nobody says I break my word."

"I just said it."

In response to Blair's scathing accusation, Jo reverted to old behavior and formed a fist.

"You want to say it again."

"No. I never want to say anything to you again - ever."

"Is that a promise?"

Jo was infuriated. She stormed across the kitchen and snapped the towel she had been carrying across the counter.

"She thinks I'm a lousy snitch, can you believe it?"

Gail Gallagher didn't know what to believe. She had been enjoying a rather peaceful Saturday afternoon when Jo Polniaczek had arrived at her front door in a rage. Gail didn't even have an opportunity to invite the troubled girl into her home. Jo simply stomped past her and continued ranting as she paced back in forth.

"Jo, you have to start at the beginning. I don't know who you are talking about."

"My girlfriend, that's who! She thinks I'm a snitch. It's one thing for her to be mad about Eddie, I can't blame her for that, but she should know that I would never break my word to her."

"Your girlfriend? So, you two worked things out after all?"

"Nah, she's still mad as hell about Eddie."

"But you've told her how you feel about her?"

"I shouldn't have to tell her. You can't believe how nice I've been to her ever since she came back from Christmas break. She'd have to be an imbecile not to know how much I like her."

Miss Gallagher directed Jo to sit on the sofa with her.

"So, tell me more about this brilliant girl. What happened?"

"Well, ya know about the big cultural field trip coming up, right?"

"Yes, I'm one of the chaperones."

"Oh, cool. I didn't know that."

"You were saying?"

"Uh, oh yeah. Well, my girlfriend told me that she plans to sneak out one night during the field trip and go to the ballet with this guy. The problem is that the guy is dating one of her best friends. Anyway, her friend found out and now my girlfriend thinks I'm the one who blabbed. Now you understand why I'm so mad."

Miss Gallagher didn't understand anything the frantic brunette had told her.

"You're angry with your girlfriend because she doesn't believe you kept her confidence?"


"Well, if she can tell how you feel about her without being told, shouldn't she be able to know that you didn't break her confidence without being told?"

"It's not funny. I'm angry!"

"Are you angry with her because she is planning a date with another friend's boyfriend?"

"Huh? Oh, no. She's not interested in Roger, not like that. She's just using him because she wants to go to the ballet."

"Why does she think you told?"

"She thinks I did it because I'm jealous and because I'm the only one she told about it."

"Hum, why do you think she told you?"

"She wants me to cover for her while she sneaks out."

"Could Roger have told someone else?"

"She says that he didn't. After all, he has the most to lose if his girlfriend finds out."

Gail Gallagher had speculated within her own mind as to with whom Jo had developed a romantic attachment, and she had hoped that it was anyone other than Blair Warner. As she listened to Jo's description of her girlfriend's behavior, Gail had little doubt that her worst fears had been confirmed. It wasn't that Blair couldn't be very sweet, when she wanted to be, it was simply that she was incredibly spoiled. Gail had trouble accepting that a girl as shallow as Blair Warner was alleged to be was capable of returning the depth of affection Jo exuded. Regardless of Blair's feelings toward Jo, the young Bronx native was going to have her hands full dealing with Blair Warner.

"I told her that nobody could say that I broke my word."

Jo raised her fist to emphasize her point.

"She said she doesn't want to say anything to me ever again."

Miss Gallagher could practically feel the heat of Jo's temper.

"Did you raise your fist like that when you were talking to your girlfriend?"

"Huh? Oh, I guess."

"How romantic! I'm sure that impressed her. How could she fail to see that you'd never betray her trust or want to hurt her in any way?"

"Give me a break! She knows that I'd never hit her. Not in a million years would I ever hurt her. She just makes me so mad sometimes."

"So what do you accomplish by waving your fist around? Listen Jo, I think that this entire misunderstanding could be cleared up if you would simply tell Blair how you feel about her."

Jo felt the blood run to her feet. She'd never given Miss Gallagher the slightest reason to suspect that Blair was her girlfriend.

"We are talking about Blair Warner, aren't we?"

"Is it that obvious?"

"Not at first. It's no secret that the two of you argue quite often and that the arguments are usually very heated."

"So now you see why it's impossible for us to be together."

"No, I don't see that at all."

"Uh, have you seen her? Do you know who her Daddy is?"

At a small school like Eastland, students weren't the only ones to keep the gossip lines humming. More than once, Gail had walked into the faculty lounge to hear other teachers discussing Blair Warner's mother's latest tabloid exploits. Gail felt it was unfair to make assumptions about the young heiress based on her mother's behavior, but the daughter's avid social life did seem to add credence to the rumors that promiscuity ran in the family. Blair's callous treatment of the boys she dated and carelessly discarded was legendary. Gail worried that Blair might also be toying with Jo, but she knew that she couldn't approach that subject with Jo until she'd earned more of Jo's trust.

"Jo, before the incident with Eddie, do you believe that Blair liked you in the same way that you like her?"

Jo smiled, understanding Miss Gallagher's concern that Jo might have misinterpreted Blair's feelings.

"Miss Gallagher, before I ran off with Eddie, Blair told me that she loved me, and I know she meant it. That's why she hates me so much now."

"Did you give her the poem I read?"

"No, it wouldn't make a difference."

"You know, Jo. I don't believe that Miss Warner is as good a mind reader as you think. If she had never told you that she loved you, would you know?"

Jo pondered the question.

"Maybe you're right, Miss Gallagher. If my actions haven't shown Blair how I feel about her, perhaps words will help."

In spite of her anger, Jo couldn't bear the thought that Blair was feeling betrayed for a second time. Jo felt like she had to find Blair and convince her of the truth.

"Blair, you have to listen to me."

Unaware that Tootie had overheard her telling Jo about her date with Roger, Blair still assumed Jo had confided her secret to Nancy.

"Come on, Blair, you don't really believe that I told Nancy about your date with Roger."

"I didn't tell anyone else, Jo."

"Well, someone else must have found out about it because I wouldn't do that."

"Please leave me alone."

"Are you going to be like this the whole time we're in New York?"

"I've been meaning to talk to you about that."

"What about it?"

Jo had an uneasy feeling this wasn't going to be good news.

"Now that the newspaper is sending Natalie, I was thinking that I'd rather room with her."

"Well, who am I supposed to room with then?"

"Why don't you room with your good friend, Nancy? You two share all your secrets with one another. I'll bet you even told her that you were going to elope with Eddie."

Any time Blair was willing to play the 'Eddie Card', Jo couldn't win. She threw down her books and left their bedroom.

The next day, Jo found out that Blair had already told everyone that she and Jo didn't want to room together in New York. Since Blair planned to ask Natalie to room with her, Jo needed to find a new roommate. It wasn't going to be easy since there was no one else Jo wanted to share a room with.

Since Blair wasn't talking to Jo, except by necessity, she was keeping her other friends closer than usual. Nancy, Sue Ann, and Cindy rarely sat around the cafeteria while Blair worked, but they'd been sticking to Blair like glue all week. Even Nancy, who should have been furious with Blair, was right in the middle of their little snob fest.

Fortunately, Cindy didn't seem to totally blame Jo for the disagreement between the two roommates. Jo thought it was especially nice of Cindy to offer to share a room with her on the trip to New York. Jo was just about to accept Cindy's offer when Tootie entered the cafeteria and got everyone's attention.

Tootie's gossip had finally caught up with her and Mrs. Garrett was forcing the little girl with the big mouth to tell everyone the truth about the rumors she had been spreading. During her speech, Tootie also admitted to Blair that she was the one who blabbed to Nancy about Roger. Blair felt ashamed of herself for doubting Jo's word. She was still hurt by Jo's rejection, but Jo had never lied to her about Eddie and she felt that she shouldn't have suspected Jo of lying about Roger either.

"Jo, I'm sorry that I didn't believe you when you told me that you hadn't blabbed to Nancy."

"I'd never do something like that, Blair. I thought you knew me better than that."

"Let's face it, Jo. I don't know you very well at all. You never really confide in me about anything. I deceived myself into reading more into our friendship than was ever there. It's not your fault, but I get it now."

"Blair, I think you know me better than you think."

"Well, I hope you'll accept my apology and I was thinking that we could ask Natalie to share our room in New York. That way neither of us will be left without a roommate and it will make Natalie feel good to be asked."

"I had kind of been looking forward to being . . ."

Jo stopped herself short of acknowledging that she still hoped to be alone in the hotel room with Blair. It wasn't as if Blair was ever going to let her get anywhere near her again.

"Uh, you're right. We should ask Nat to stay with us. Why don't you do that at dinner tonight?"


"Speaking of New York. Um, are we still going to go through the Guggenheim museum together? I mean, you know all about art and stuff and I guess I figured maybe I could learn something from you."

Blair looked at Jo suspiciously.

"You're interested in learning more about art?"

"Sure. I've been to the Guggenheim bunches of times, mostly to skateboard outside, but I'd like to know more about the stuff inside, too."

"Well, I am kind of an expert."

"That's why I'd like to go through it with you."

Jo was glad to see that at least Blair's outrageous ego hadn't been damaged by her rejection.

"Well, I guess it's kind of my responsibility to teach others about the difference between real art and all the phony stuff thrown at people these days. I'll go to the museum with you."

Jo smiled. It wasn't much, but at least Blair hadn't shot her down completely. At dinner that night, Blair and Jo asked Natalie if she would like to room with them in New York.

"What about it, Nat? It's not all four musketeers, but three is better than none."

"Well, Mrs. Garrett already said I could room with her."

"You mean that you'd rather room with Mrs. Garrett than with us?"

Blair was confused.

"No offense, but being around the two of you is like walking around with a time bomb around your neck. You two aren't fighting much anymore, but everyone knows that eventually all the angry silence between you is bound to erupt into one heck of an earthquake. I think I'll be safer with Mrs. Garrett."

Jo worked hard to restrain her smile as she turned to Blair.

"Oh well, it looks like it's going to be just the two of us."

Post Series Flash Forward: Tootie Returns to Peekskill

"Blair, I know what you are trying to do and it's very sweet, but I'm not interested in rehashing the past. I may not even attend tomorrow night."

Jo knew that it would hurt Blair if she didn't show up, but she didn't want to face Mr. Gideon, no matter what he might have to say to her.

"Obviously, you haven't read the entire program for tomorrow night."

Jo picked the program up again and browsed through the names. She didn't see anything that would change her mind.

"There's no one there I want to see again, Blair."

"There may be someone there you'd like to honor. Look at the last thing on the back of the program, Jo, the dedication."

Jo's hands trembled as she read the information. The new literary library, funded by the Warner Foundation, was being dedicated in memory of their former literature teacher, Gail Gallagher.

"Blair, this is -"

Jo was too choked up to continue.

"Miss Gallagher's parents and sister will be here for the dedication, along with two nephews. I thought perhaps you would speak at the dedication. It will mean so much to her family to know the impact she had on us, even though she couldn't be with us for very long."

Jo didn't try to prevent the tears from flowing down her face.

"How is it that you continue to surprise me, Blair?"

"Does that mean you'll speak at the dedication?"

"Of course I'll speak. I'd do anything to honor Gail."

As she had done numerous times that day, Blair reached out once again to touch Jo's cheek.

"I love you, Blair. Thank you for doing this for me. Thank you for doing this for Gail."

Blair had worried that Jo might object to remembering Miss Gallagher in the context of a reunion celebration, and she was gratified to see that Jo understood her intent to honor Jo's favorite teacher and dear friend.

Jo and Blair were interrupted for the hundredth time that evening, when one of the waiters informed Blair that her assistance was needed in the kitchen.

"The chef is terribly temperamental", Blair explained with an apprehensive glance toward Jo.

Jo smiled her understanding and watched as Blair maneuvered through the crowd. After Blair's mother lost her long battle with breast cancer, Blair was asked to fill her mother's shoes as President of the Eastland Alumni Association. She'd spent countless hours planning the largest reunion in Eastland's history and Jo was thrilled that Blair's hard work was finally paying off.

'She could have used this event to honor her mother', thought Jo. Instead, Blair had shifted the focus of the reunion onto a woman who was both a teacher and friend to Jo. Jo couldn't think of another living soul, other than Edna Garrett, who had influenced her life more than Gail Gallagher. Most importantly, Gail had helped Jo to understand her feelings for Blair. Jo wasn't going to be able to wait until later in the evening to express her appreciation. She smiled as she followed Blair into the kitchen area of the country club.

"Jo, what are you doing back here?"

Jo took Blair's hand and led her into the vacant manager's office at the back of the kitchen. Once inside, she easily lifted Blair and placed her on the edge of the desk. Jo grinned as she placed her hands under Blair's thighs and positioned herself between Blair's legs.

"You have to be kidding, Jo. We are supposed to be celebrating our teenage years, not reliving them!"

"Heh, I only dreamed about doing this back then. You're the one acting like a teenage virgin."

Jo began at Blair's neck and kissed her way up to Blair's lips. By the time their lips met, Blair wasn't thinking anything.

"Jo, seriously. Everyone in that kitchen saw us come in here. You know what they must be thinking."

Jo leaned back and smiled into her lover's eyes.

"Of course I know what they're thinking. I'm thinking the same thing. Now all I have to do is get you to come around to that way of thinking and this is going to be a great night."

Jo returned her attention to Blair's neck.

"I can't believe you can still do this to me."

"Heh, I can't believe you're still letting me do this to you."

Blair wrapped her legs around Jo's waist, pulling her closer.

"It's been a long time since we were this reckless, Jo."

"Too long."

Blair wanted to lose herself in Jo's kisses, but she had guests arriving and thought it would be rude not to welcome them.

"Jo, you have no idea how much I want to be with you right this minute, but I have responsibilities."

Jo stopped kissing Blair's neck, but she continued to hold Blair, resting her head on Blair's neck.

"I understand."

"You can't imagine how happy I am that you still want to do this sort of thing, but . . ."

"I understand."

Blair began stroking Jo's hair.

"It's not like we won't be able to go home together at the end of the evening."

Jo's voice was gentle each time she spoke, communicating the sincerity of her words.

"I understand."

"Natalie will take one look at us and know what we've been doing."

"I understand."



"Lock the door."

10: Breaking Point

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