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"So you think you can do it? Really?"
"I think I can. The Hamburg deal has closed, the Indonesian arbitration is settled and last quarter's numbers were through the roof. I deserve a reward."
"Halleluiah," Jo Polniaczek exclaimed. "A two week vacation. It seems like forever since we've had a break that long."
"I know," Blair Warner concurred. "We should make it special. But warm. Let's go somewhere warm."
"I'm down with that," Jo said, as she crawled into bed beside the blonde. "In fact ."
"Well, I was talking to Kelly and she was telling me
"You were talking to Kelly?"
"Yes Blair, I was. You know she works with me on the community outreach program. Our paths cross."
"It's hard to believe that extortionist has become a responsible adult."
"Well, she has. She does a lot of fine work. She's turned out to be a good person."
"Who still has a crush on you."
"Oh please. Anyway, Kelly was telling me about these cruises they have."
"A cruise? That's exactly what I was thinking," Blair announced excitedly.
"Really? OK, here's the brochure." Jo reached into the drawer in the night table and handed the paper to her partner.
Blair's eyebrows rose as she flipped the pages. "These pictures: they're all women. "
"Yeah. It's run by this company called Olivia. It's a lesbian party ship. Doesn't it look great? Kelly goes practically every year. She's says it's wild."
"A lesbian party ship? So there are no men on board?"
"Well, maybe some of the crew. But other than that, no. It's all gay women. I think it would be really fun. What?" Jo added, catching Blair's grimace.
"It just seems "
"I don't know. Too ghetto like."
"Ghetto like? What's that supposed to mean?"
"Just lesbians. It's so segregated. No men at all?" Blair repeated incredulously.
"No, Blair. That's the point. Women are free to be themselves without worrying about what men or straight people think. It sounds very liberating."
"I suppose," Blair said doubtfully.
"All right," Jo snapped. "I can see you aren't thrilled with the idea. What's your plan?"
Blair brightened. "You remember Alexandra, don't you? From Eastland?"
"The dopey princess? She's kinda hard to forget."
"Well, she called me a few days ago about some charity she's running; you know, to see if Warner Industries could be involved. We got to talking. And she mentioned that this is the time of year her family takes the Royal Yacht on a cruise through the Greek Islands. Before you know it, she invited us to come."
"The Royal Yacht?"
"Oh Jo, it would be so fabulous. All these wonderful archeological sites. This amazing boat. The finest food and wine. We would be treated like-- well, like royalty."
Jo groaned. "You want to go traipsing around a pile of ruins with a bunch of inbred leftovers from some second rate monarchy? That's your idea of a fun vacation?"
Blair bristled. "More fun than doing tequila shots with a bunch of overweight, cosmetically challenged " She stopped.
"What, Blair, what's the word you're going for dykes?"
"No. Of course not." Blair sighed. "I just found the idea of a high class trip in civilized company to some of the world's most beautiful places to be very appealing. Clearly, you do not. Let's just drop it." She turned over, with her back to Jo. "Good night"
"Fine," Jo retorted, retrieving the Olivia brochure. She thumbed the pages longingly before putting it away.
"I figured Blair wouldn't want to go on a lesbian cruise," Kelly announced to Jo at lunch the next day "After all, she really isn't a lesbian."
"Excuse me?" Jo sputtered.
"Sure, she's with you, a woman, but culturally, emotionally, and every other way, she's straight. I mean, the hair products alone ."
"You're an idiot, Kelly," Jo snapped. "You're supposed to want to get rid of stereotypes, not promote them."
"All right. Just let me ask. How many gay people do you hang out with?"
"A lot. There's Ricky, George, Steve, Henri "
"I'm talking about gay women."
Jo thought for a moment. "OK, not that many. But in our work--I mean, law enforcement, executive board rooms--it's a pretty conservative crowd. We aren't talking Cherry Grove, if you get my drift."
"You just haven't made the effort," Kelly announced. "You've let Blair run things. She's more comfortable in straight society so you've let your queer credentials slide. And, Jo, unlike Blair, you really are a queer. It's why I liked you right away."
"You don't know what you're talking about. I do not let Blair run things."
"Oh please, you are so whipped," Kelly laughed. "So prove me wrong. Make her come on the Olivia cruise."
"I'm not going to give her an ultimatum. We don't do that."
"Then come without her. We'd have a good time; I promise."
Jo looked doubtful. "I don't think Blair would go for that."
"What? She doesn't trust you? "
"Of course she trusts me."
"So what's the problem? And anyway, isn't she just dying to go on that floating snob fest with the princess?"
"Yeah, I think she is," Jo admitted.
"So this way you both get what you want. Couples take separate vacations all the time. It's healthy. And Jo, it would be good for you to be part of the community more. After all, you're a role model."
"Hardly," Jo laughed. She paused. "I don't know."
"Cold beer, hot sun, hotter women. C'mon, you know you're dying to go."
"Y'know, I sorta am," Jo concurred.
"It just sounded so common. Like some kind of frat party," Blair complained to Natalie as they sat in the Lincoln Center Theater, waited for the ballet to start.
"As I recall, you never had a problem with frat parties," Natalie pointed out.
"Well, I've grown up a little," Blair sniffed. "And come on, a ladies-only booze cruise to Cancun just doesn't compare with a voyage on Royal Yacht to see the glories of Ancient Greece."
"The yacht will have a higher grade of vodka, I suppose," Natalie mused. "I don't know, Blair. While the trip with Alexandra might be interesting--keep her away from the galley, by the way--the Olivia thing sounds like it would be good for Jo."
"She'd be able to let loose. To be who she is. And she'd be with people who've all dealt with the same pressures and prejudices that she's had to deal with. It could be very liberating."
"Liberating, that's the exact word she used," Blair sniffed. "Exactly what does she need to be liberated from? Me? And, may I just mention, Jo has never had any problem showing the world who she is."
"True. But it must be hard for her sometimes. Always a little bit on the outside. She's had to deal with that ever since Eastland."
"And I haven't?" Blair inquired archly.
"No offence, Blair, but get real."
"What precisely do you mean, Natalie?"
"Simply put, you dazzle people."
Blair tossed her hair a little. "Dazzle? I hardly dazzle do I?"
Natalie rolled her eyes. "Yes Blair, you dazzle. And because of how you look, and who you are, and, frankly, the size of your wallet, people suck up to you."
"Jo certainly doesn't suck up to me," Blair pointed out.
"Except in a good way," Natalie laughed.
"Nat! Really!" Blair exclaimed, red faced.
"Sorry. Anyway, as I was saying, you're always going to be acceptedno matter what gender you're sleeping with. It's different for Jo. This Olivia trip would give her the chance to be somewhere where she felt like she truly belonged."
"So we really have to go on this Girls-Gone-Wild bacchanal with that hooligan Kelly?" Blair asked mournfully.
"Well, not if you make it sound like a root canal," Natalie retorted.
Blair sighed. "I know, but Nat, I've been working so hard. The Royal Yacht seemed to be the perfect break. And Alexandra said that some of the Grimaldis are coming and we may even get to meet up with Prince Charles in Crete. It just sounded so elegant."
Natalie paused. "OK. So let Jo go on the cruise and you go with Alex. Separate vacations. It's not unheard of."
"Really? Do you think Jo would agree to that?"
"Sure. Look at all the couples where the guys go off on fishing trips and the wives go on spa vacations. It's perfectly normal."
"I suppose," Blair mused, as the lights dimmed and the music started. "I mean, we aren't joined at the hip."
"Except in a good way," Nat repeated.
"Will you please behave," Blair laughed, poking her friend's shoulder. "Check out Jock Soto," she said, referring to the strikingly handsome male dancer who'd just leapt onto the stage. "That should distract you."
"Oh Jock," Natalie sighed. "I'd sure like to take a cruise on your ship."
Blair walked into the brownstone and was greeted by Bella's barks and a delicious aroma coming from the kitchen.
She picked up the tiny canine. "Hello precious." Happily squirming, Bella licked her face in response. "Jo, where are you? What smells so good?"
"Hey babe. I'm back here. Making my special Bolognese sauce for dinner. How was the ballet?"
"Wonderful," Blair said, putting down the dog and walking into the kitchen. "Bolognese sauce. What's the occasion?"
"It's sleeting. The Knicks lost. Tomorrow's Monday. I thought we needed something to cheer up the evening."
"Good idea. I'll open a nice Barolo to let it breathe, shall I?"
Blair uncorked the wine and started setting the kitchen table. She looked appraisingly over at her partner who was tasting the sauce. "Jo, can I be honest with you?"
Jo snorted as she put down her spoon. "Honest with me? It's not like you've exactly been walking on eggshells for the past two decades." Noticing Blair's glare, she quickly added, "OK, yes, you can be honest with me."
"I don't want to go on that lesbian cruise."
Jo shrugged resignedly. "I figured."
"But I can see that you do. So I think you should. Without me. With Kelly."
"Whoa, do you mean that?"
"Yes. We don't always have to do everything together. We have separate interests. After all," Blair announced seriously, "we are very different people."
"Ya think? " Jo smirked. She paused for a moment. "You know, it may not be a bad idea because, lemme tell you, as much as you don't want to come on the Olivia Cruise, I really, really don't want to spend two weeks with Alex and her buds talking about the good old days with the Czar and how those pesky wage and hour laws just give the servants ideas. But "Jo continued, raising her hand to stop Blair's protest. "I know that a trip on the Royal Yacht is probably some life-long dream for you. And you've been working hard, so you deserve to do what you want on your vacation."
"Thank you," Blair said. "Then we're agreed?"
"Yeah, I guess we are," Jo replied, turning back to her sauce.
A few moments of silence passed.
"So, do you plan to take off your top?" Blair inquired.
"I was reading the Olivia brochure. They seem to imply that swimwear, indeed, any kind of sportswear, is optional."
Jo sighed. "No Blair, I do not plan to take off my top or play nude volleyball or wrestle in oil or whatever frat boy fantasy you seem to have bought into about what groups of lesbians do. I plan to read, catch some rays, do some snorkeling, and maybe meet some nice women we could have over for dinner someday."
"Oh, all right. Don't get snippy. I was just asking."
Jo shook her head. "You know, I could ask you the same thing. There you are--champagne flowing, surrounded by decadent aristocrats--I can definitely see you hitting those European beaches and whipping out the twinset."
"Don't be ridiculous. Anyway, it's hardly the same thing. Nudity in Europe is just a reflection of the healthy attitude they have towards the human body. It's not a wet tee shirt contest. It's socially acceptable self expression."
"Tell you what," Jo offered. "Let's make a deal. We both have permission to take off our tops if it's in the context of socially acceptable self expression."
"Hmph," Blair muttered, setting out the pasta bowl.
Jo grinned. "After dinner, let's go upstairs and practice, OK?"
Suppressing a smile, Blair retorted, "Perhaps. As always, you clearly need my instruction about the subtleties of appropriate behavior."
Jo nudged her as she brought the sauce to the table. "Instruct me, gorgeous, instruct me all you want."
"Quite a scene, isn't it?" Kelly declared to Jo, as they stood in the ship departure area waiting to check their luggage.
"Amazing," Jo replied. She had never seen so many women in one place. And never so many women, hugging, kissing, draping arms around each other. She felt like she'd walked into some kind of mass honeymoon.
"Chiquita! Que pasa?" A striking Latina ran up to Kelly and gave her a scorching kiss.
After they broke it off, the woman turned to Jo with a curious look. "And who's this? Kelly, you little tramp. A new lover?"
"No, no. Just a buddy," Jo interjected quickly. "Hi. Jo Polniaczek."
"Rita Carzon. Well hello, Jo." She gave her a long look. "Where has Kelly been hiding you?"
"Now don't eat her alive, Rita," Kelly said. "Jo's taken. Her, um, partner was otherwise engaged. Be nice. This is Jo's first cruise."
"Stupid partner," Rita uttered matter- of-factly. "You will be very popular."
Jo blushed. "Uh thanks, but I'm really just here to chill."
Rita smiled. "If you say so. Kelly, I'll see you and your friend at Mohito Madness tonight? Si? Oh my god, there's Vikki. Doesn't she look hot?" Rita ran over to the newcomer and threw her arms around her neck with a squeal of delight.
"An affectionate woman, isn't she?" Jo laughed.
"Rita's great," Kelly averred. "We had a little shipboard fling two years ago. But yeah, she's affectionate. Everyone is when they get here."
"I've noticed," Jo said dryly, looking around at the embracing couples
"You can't blame them. Jo, you live in Manhattan- a gay friendly bubble. For a lot of these women, this is the only place where they can openly kiss, hold hands, or make out, without getting cursed at, beat up, or worse. Naturally, there's a lot of pent up energy. "
"I suppose you're right. It's something though."
"I'm guessing Blair isn't really one for PDA," Kelly mused.
"Well, you'd be wrong," Jo retorted. "You don't know her at all."
Jo thought back to early that morning as they had said goodbye at JFK. Blair had grabbed her into a lip lock that must have caused a few raised eyebrows among the limo drivers and baggage handlers. After the kiss, she had laid her head on Jo's shoulder and whispered. "I'll miss you. But promise me you'll have fun."
"I will," Jo had replied, surprising herself by tearing up. "But you know, don't you, that I would never ."
"Shhh. I'm not worried. Just go and be who you are."
Jo was struck by a wave of emotion at the memory. Who she is. That's what this was about, wasn't it? She looked around at all the women, laughing, flirting, touching. Open with themselves and others. This was no place to lie, Jo decided.
"Fuck," she blurted out.
"What?" Kelly asked. "What's wrong?"
Jo bit her lip and turned to her companion. "I'm sorry. I can't do this. I can't go. I really really want to, but I can't."
"Why the hell not?"
"Because I don't want to imply that I'm available or unhappy. Because the first time I do something like this should be with Blair. Because you're right, I'm whipped. Because who I am is a dyke in love with a ditsy blonde, semi- straight, annoying socialite I can't live without. I'm sorry."
Kelly drew back. "Well, that was something. Jo Polniaczek, romantic. Who knew?"
"You're dead meat if you tell anyone. But Kelly, I feel bad that I've screwed this up for you."
"You haven't. I'll put the extra bed to good use. And anyway, you were going to be a terrible wing-man."
"Do you ever look in the mirror, Jo? The wingman isn't supposed to outshine the lead pilot."
One of your more stupid moves, Polniaczek, Jo thought as she entered the brownstone, dropped her bag, flipped on the hall light and looked around the deserted interior. What the hell was she going to do for two weeks by herself in sleet-filled New York? A brief fantasy of trying to fly to Greece and hire some fishing boat to track down the Royal Yacht was quickly dispelled by the idea that the Royal Guard would probably shoot first and ask questions later. Anyway, Jo mused disconsolately, Blair probably didn't want her there putting a damper on the Princess-Palooza.
She wandered aimlessly through the house. Bella wasn't even around to keep her company, having been taken by Monica and Bailey, enthusiastic dog sitters, to Monica's ski house in Quebec. Nat had gone to visit Tootie on her movie set in LA. Jo considered joining them but it seemed too far. Going back to work wasn't really an option. Not taking already allocated NYPD vacation time created a bureaucratic nightmare.
"I guess I'll just hang," Jo spoke aloud. Talking to herself already--a little scary.
The idea of going upstairs to their king bed alone didn't appeal, so Jo grabbed a soda, retrieved her novel and stretched out on the living room couch. She was asleep within minutes.
A few hours later she awoke with a jerk. Someone was rattling the front door. "Great, burglars. A perfect end to a perfect day," Jo muttered. She got up and crept over to the hall closet where she pulled out a flashlight and her softball bat. Standing beside the vestibule entrance she watched as the door opened and a shadowy figure appeared.
"Police! Freeze! Put your hands where I can see 'em!" Jo cried, shining the light in the intruder's face and brandishing the bat.
"Eeek!" Blair Warner screamed.
"Ack! " Jo replied. "Blair! What the hell are you doing here?" she yelled, switching on the light.
"Having twenty years taken off my life, apparently. My Lord, you gave me a coronary. Will you please put down that bat?"
They looked at each other. "Why are you back?" They spoke in unison.
"Um. I.. I " they both stuttered and then paused.
"Well, this is silly," Blair pronounced. "Why don't you get my bags, let me get my heart rate under control, and then we'll talk."
"OK." Jo brought in Blair's luggage, went into the kitchen to make some tea and returned to the living room where her partner was reclining against the pillows of the couch with her eyes closed.
"This will calm your nerves," Jo stated, offering her a cup.
"Thank you. I must say, your scare-the- criminal voice is pretty impressive."
"Thanks, I try. So what's the deal? Did Alexandra accidently sink the Royal Yacht?"
"No. I " Blair gave her a sideways look. "Oh dear. I didn't think you'd be here. I thought I could come up with some excuse by the time you got back."
"What do you mean?" Jo asked suspiciously. "What happened?"
"It's pathetic. I got to Athens and met up with Alexandra and her brother, who is very attractive, by the way. They started telling me about these amazing things we were going to see, these incredible places we were going to visit, and all I could think was, I want to show them to Jo. I want her with me when I see the moon rise over Mykonos or the sun set over Santorini. It just didn't feel right being there without you. So I called my father and had him fake a sudden work emergency. Then I turned around and came home." She shook her head. "Honestly, I don't know what comes over me sometimes. Go ahead and gloat."
Jo sat down, put her arm around the blonde and smiled. "Just like that Christmas all those years ago. Remember? When you decided not to go to Vail and spend it in Peekskill with me and Mrs. G. instead?"
"I do remember."
"Y'know, Blair," Jo confessed. "That was the best Christmas I had since my parents divorced. It was the first holiday where I felt like part of a family again."
In response Blair swung her legs onto the couch and rested her head on Jo's lap. She looked up at the brunette. "I'm glad. It was the same for me." She put her hand up to touch the side of Jo's neck. "So why aren't you on the cruise with Kelly?"
Jo gave her a rueful smile. "Equally pathetic. I got there and it was amazing. All these women who were being so honest and free. It just seemed really, you know, special. I just didn't want to share it with anyone else but you." She swallowed. "Blair, I know you don't like labels-- except if they're Gucci or Prada-- but I really do want us to meet more gay women. I think Kelly's right; I need to get involved in the community."
"All right, if it's important to you."
"It is. Don't worry, though. I know what you're thinking. I'm not going to make you cut your hair, or wear Birkenstocks, or go to WNBA games. And you can still admit that you find guys like George Clooney or Alex's brother hot."
"Well, thank you. I would look terrible in Birkenstocks."
"So," Jo asked, stroking the blonde's hair, "what are we going to do for the next two weeks? Go skiing?"
"No. We'll get a private cabana at the Warner resort in Anguilla for five days and then come back and spend the rest of the time on a special project that I was thinking about on the flight back."
"What project? Redoing the basement?"
"Hardly." Blair paused. "Jo, I promise that I'll go with you on an Olivia cruise someday."
"OK. Abrupt change of subject aside, why?"
"It would have to be the family cruise. The one with couples and their kids. That's our project. Investigating adoption agencies, coming up with a list of sperm donors, researching surrogates. Jo, it's time. I want to us to have a baby and I want to start trying right away."
Jo's eyes widened and a grin spread across her face. "Are you shitting me?"
"Now that's a repulsive phrase that will never be uttered in front of our child. But no, I am not."
"Oh Princess, that's just awesome! I'm totally ready, too. Scoot over." Jo positioned herself on the couch behind her partner and pulled her close. "So, what're you thinking? I mean there're a lot of kids who need homes but I was kinda hoping for a baby Blair. We could finally put your natural blonde claim to a scientific test."
"You're so amusing--not. However, I must admit that sperm donation does have its appeal, particularly after I met Alex's brother. Did I mention how handsome he was? And Jo, our child would technically be in line for the throne. I realize the chances are remote that he or she would actually ascend, but still "
"Oh my god," Jo groaned. "You want designer sperm. I should have known."
"It's just a thought," Blair sniffed. "I'm open to other options."
Jo shrugged. "Hey, I'm flexible too. As long as the Little Prince doesn't get any bright ideas about donating the old fashioned way, I'll consider it."
Blair's tone changed. "It's going to be something, isn't it? The two of us with a child."
"The kid won't be bored, that's for sure. Just watching us bicker about feeding schedules will be a source of entertainment."
"There'll be a lot for him or her to deal with, in society, I mean," Blair noted.
"We'll teach 'em how to deal." Jo grasped the blonde's hand. "Blair, you and I, we're so different, but in terms of what we want for our family, we're exactly the same. We're going to give this kid a great home."
Blair welled up. "I know we will. And Jo, maybe I'm not 'gay' enough for Kelly, but let me tell you, I'm spending the rest of my life with you whether she likes it or not."
"So no more separate vacations?"
"Well, if we have a girl, naturally I'll take her on shopping trips to Paris. You may not be invited."
"Oh yeah? Well, if we have a boy, we're going to the motocross championships in Daytona and you can't come," Jo retorted.
"Given my take on Alex's brother, if we do get his sperm, there's a good chance that our son will want to go to the French fashion houses with me."
"Yeah?" Jo considered this. "That would be OK."
"Really? You seriously wouldn't mind if he was more interested in haute couture than Harley-Davidsons?"
"Hey, he can design dresses-- hell, he can wear dresses-- if that's what he really wants. We're letting our kid be who he is."
Blair sighed in contentment. "Who he is. I can't wait to find out," she murmured drowsily.
Jo watched as Blair's breathing relaxed and then pulled the throw blanket over them both. "Me neither," she whispered, closing her eyes to dream of the adventures to come.
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