Snow. White glitter sparkles just out of reach of my fingers as I press my palms to the glass. For a moment, I allow myself to sit here, breathing deeply, half-mesmerized by the perpetually changing patterns that drift and whirl before me. For a moment, I forget my surroundings and imagine myself at her side. It's a beautiful sight, I'm happy tonight, walking in a winter wonderland.
Then reality comes crashing back, and I slam my hand on the side of the t.v., trying to intimidate it into functioning. Goddamn piece of shit. Although what did I expect for $25 at the Goodwill?
It takes a second for me to realize that the pounding sound out of tempo with my palm is coming from the door. Door's unlocked and vamps rarely knock, so I just yell, "Yeah?" without getting up and start shaking the set.
I know that it's her even before I glance back. She's been avoiding me for weeks, but it's all still so familiar: the slow, easy swing of the door, the way the air shifts in the room to make space for the shape of her body. Although my heart leaps into overdrive, I manage to say, "Hey, what's up?" without obvious enthusiasm, then turn my attention back to the t.v. "Work, dammit!"
"Hey," she says softly.
I finally turn off the t.v. and stand to face her, still trying to act casual. "What's going on?" And then, gibing, "Scary monsters?"
"Nope," Buffy answers quickly. Her hands are clasped firmly in front of her, probably to keep them from trembling. She takes a few tentative steps further into the room, looking as nervous as I feel. "Um..." A deep breath, then she plunges ahead. "We're having Christmas dinner at my house and I thought that, um, if you didn't have plans-"
I can feel myself break into a knowing smirk as I interrupt her, "Your mom sent you down, huh?"
Buffy covers her surprise, but hesitates a split second too long before saying no. I know damned well she's lying, but at the same time, I'm kind of touched that she would bother. Then it occurs to me that maybe this is charity work, Buffy's Good Deed for the Day or something. Sharing Christmas cheer with the poor relations.
"Well, thanks," I tell her. "But... I got plans. There's this big party I been invited to. It should be a blast," I conclude, smiling. Don't worry about me, I'm doing just fine without you.
Now it's her turn to pretend to believe me. "Okay. Cool." For a moment I assume she's relieved, but then she surprises me by persisting: "But, if you change your mind, the offer..."
"It's nice of you," I say quickly to cover my confusion. "Thanks. But I got, uh, I got that big party that I been invited to, so..."
Buffy doesn't answer this, only walks to the door, pauses. "I like the lights," she offers finally. This moves me, too. She's really making an effort. And I want so badly to believe that she came because she missed me, that it was her idea to ask me to spend the holidays with her family. But I can't.
"Yeah, well, 'tis the season," I say, but then I harden my heart and finish, "...whatever that means."
We stare at each other for a moment in silence, and then she turns and walks out the door. Her scent and warmth linger for only a few seconds. I cover my face with my hand.
I can't get her out of my mind. Inviting me over wasn't her idea, I'm as sure of that as anything, and yet by the time she left my apartment, there was sincerity in her eyes, and something like wistful hope. Or was it pity? And if so, fuck her - who the hell did she think she was? These possibilities go bouncing back and forth in my head like a pinball, rattling my brains until I can hardly see straight.
I pace the confines of the apartment for a while, go for a punishing run, then scrub myself down in the shower, still feeling torn. It's a strange feeling. Want, take, have, was all I ever knew or needed to know before. Somehow Buffy's coming into my life, or more accurately my coming into hers, has made everything a hell of a lot more complicated. In the end, though, I have to give in and admit that she's made me an offer I can't refuse. That, natch, brings on a whole new set of difficult decisions.
First, there's the problem of gifts. I'm flat broke, but I'm too fucking proud to turn up at their door empty-handed. More importantly, Joyce has been kind to me. And Buffy... well, kind isn't the word for what she's been to me, but I would give her the world wrapped up with a shiny ribbon if I could, and there's no excuse like Christmas.
The mall is several miles away, and it's already getting dark. Luckily, there's a Walmart knockoff a couple of blocks from my apartment, with plenty of loose items that fit conveniently into a pocket.
Tiny bells jingle as I push into the store. You'd be surprised how many people do their last minute Christmas shopping at cheap-ass joints like this, mostly men, roaming the aisles in packs with their arms full of smudged sweaters and appliances. One pudgy bald guy holds a piece of nasty nylon lingerie in front of his saggy tits and glances at his friend for approval. Yeah, great choice Holmes, she'll eat that shit up - you couldn't even spring for silk?
But I don't have time to stand around snarking; I'm on a mission. Joyce's present is easy enough; I just lean casually against a shelf full of frames, and a few seconds later a bronze 4x6 slides into my pocket. It will set off Buffy's eyes, and mothers always have loads of photos of their beautiful daughters to display with affectionate pride. Or so I've heard.
I'm not as sure about Buffy's gift. There's lots of cheap jewelry in reach, but I want it to be something special. I wander from one counter to another, fingering a bracelet here, a pair of earrings there. Nothing really reminds me of B except a delicate cross on a thin gold chain, and it's not like she needs another of those. But without a better alternative in mind, I continue to stare at it, watching it blur as my eyes lose focus.
Finally one of the clerks, a teenager with a bad case of pizzaface, leans over the counter and leers at me. "Can I help you with something?" When I don't answer right away, he follows my line of sight to the chain display and nods. "Pretty, aren't they?"
"Yeah," I say. "But not quite what I'm looking for."
"Bet I can help," he says. "Let me guess... you're looking for something special. Best girlfriend?"
"You could put it that way."
"Got just the thing." He pulls a little sign into view and points to a smooth golden disc about the size of a nickel. "We personalize them. Lots of girls put 'Best Friends' on them, they're very popular."
I must look like a moron but I just don't get it. "So what's the big deal?"
"Oh, it's simple. See, we cut them in half and then you and your friend each wear a piece. Like, it takes two to make a friendship, know what I'm saying?"
"That's sweet," I say automatically, but my mind is racing. This is it. It's perfect. Two halves of the same whole. I put my hand on his bony wrist. "I'll take it."
He blushes, grins, and finally stammers, "Uh, great. Great. What do you want it to say?"
I have my answer ready. "Chosen Two."
"That's one I haven't heard before," he says. "But okay. Takes about an hour. You wanna pay for that now?"
Pay. Right. "Uh, how much did you say that was?" I ask innocently.
"You want that with two chains?"
"Sure." What the hell.
"You want this style?" He holds one out, thin gold links glittering under the light.
"Looks expensive," I observe, and then I realize to my chagrin that I've said it aloud.
His dull blue eyes narrow fractionally. "Could be. How much were you planning to spend?"
I stare back at him, knowing damned well that I have about ten bucks' overdue rent in my back pocket and not a cent more to my name. Then I lean conspiratorially forward so that he gets a real good view. "To tell you the truth, I was hoping that you and me could... come to some kind of arrangement, if you know what I mean."
He gulps and turns really red under the white pustules. It's not a pretty sight. "Uh, uh..."
"We could go in the employees' restroom," I murmur. I figure with a face like that, he'll consider himself lucky to cop a feel. If he washes his hands first, I might even let him get to third.
He looks nervously over at the middle-aged women managing the next counter, then back down at me and mine. "Uh... okay. Okay. Now?"
"No. The pendants first. I'll come back in an hour."
"Hold on," he says as I turn to go. "They don't really take an hour. I'll get on it right away." I watch with amusement as he sweats through the job, his Adam's apple bobbing up and down with effort. I can't see below his belt but I'd bet dollars to jellybeans he's got a woody the size of Florida just thinking about what's to come.
The restroom is dank and dim, although bad lighting can only improve the prospect of giving Pizza Face payment in full. This close, I can smell his arousal under the wrinkled uniform. He looks me up and down for a few seconds, his eyes lingering frankly on my cleavage. Then he licks his cracked lips and says, "Blow me."
Oh, please. Get down on my knees for this pimply little prick? But it's getting late and there's not really another option except maybe for knocking him unconscious and running off with the chains, and I'm tempted for a moment but that is one thing that Buffy Definitely Would Not Do.
Although, as I kneel and unbutton his crusty fly, it occurs to me that Buffy probably wouldn't do this, either.
It doesn't take long; the kid can't be more than eighteen. Afterwards I spit in the sink and rinse my mouth out. My knees are cold and sore from the tiled floor, but I got what I came for.
I get all the way back to my apartment complex before I realize that I should have asked him to throw some gift wrap in while we were at it. A discarded newspaper has been blown against the side of the building; it's a little creased but seems fairly clean. It will have to do.
I'm running really late by now, but I linger in my room for a long time, trying to decide what to wear. Buffy and her mom will probably be dressed up, it being Christmas and all. I pick through my wardrobe, but even my favorite clothes suddenly strike me as cheap and trashy. Cordy was right. Top after top gets tossed onto the rapidly wrinkling heap at the foot of my bed. Too low in the neck, too tight in the chest, too violent a red.
Finally I settle on a long-sleeved ivory blouse I'd forgotten I owned, or appropriated anyway. It goes over the most modest of my black skirts and the least scuffed of my shoes. A little lipstick and I'm ready to roll.
But before I leave, I scrutinize myself in the mirror for a second, torn between pride and shame. I look almost... normal. Like the girl next door. Like someone Buffy's mother would ask to the house for Christmas dinner.
Not like who I am. The girl who sucks cock for what she can't shoplift and gets off on killing things with her bare hands. The girl who seduced Joyce Summers' dutiful daughter in a dirty diner restroom and now would do anything, or anyone, to get her back.
Their house is one of the few on Revello Drive without Christmas lights festooning the eaves, but somehow it manages to project warmth and festivity without any trappings. I stand out on the porch for a while trying to screw up the guts to knock. There's such a perfect little domestic scene framed in the window that I'm really reluctant to intrude. Joyce is in front of the fireplace with her back to me. Buffy kneels on the floor, looking gorgeous in a burgundy top with spaghetti straps and black pants.
She seems to be daydreaming in front of the magnificently decorated tree until her mom gets her attention, apparently offering her a choice between an angel and a star. I don't know why Buffy suddenly looks so uncomfortable, but I figure it's my cue and ring the bell.
Buffy opens the door. She looks even more incredible up close, with her hair up in an elegant French twist and a diamond pendant nestled in the hollow of her throat. I can barely get my voice to say, "Hey."
She's obviously surprised to see me here after all, and it takes her a second to reply cautiously, "Hi."
"Uh, it looked like that whole party thing was gonna be kind of a drag..." I look down, faltering, then shrug and come clean. "Ah, I didn't really have anything... y'know." My eyes dart quickly to her face and a silent understanding passes between us.
Now Buffy smiles at me and says with apparent sincerity, "I'm glad you came."
I can't help smiling back for a moment, then remember the gifts. "Uh, here."
Buffy takes them and invites me, "Why don't you come in from the entire lack of cold?"
I follow her into the house and poke the rectangular package telling her, "Uh, that one is for your mom. They're pretty crappy."
Joyce stands and approaches us. "Faith, you made it!" Buffy holds out the gifts. "Oh, that is so thoughtful."
"They're pretty crappy," I say again, embarrassed. Joyce nods politely without batting an eyelid, and her welcoming smile doesn't waver.
"I'm gonna go upstairs and get your gifts," Buffy announces.
"Would you like some nog?" Joyce asks me graciously.
As she brings me a glass, we can hear Buffy hollering from the top of the stairs: "Okay, Mom, don't touch yours or else you're gonna know what it is!" The distant slam of a door follows this warning; Joyce catches my eye with an amused twinkle and shrugs.
We stand around awkwardly, sipping at the chilled eggnog. I wonder what's taking B. so long. The most obvious answer is that they weren't expecting me, she doesn't have a gift ready, and even now she's kneeling on the floor of her room wrapping something of her own that she hopes will pass for new. But a Slayer's instinct prickles the back of my neck, keeping me alert for sounds of struggle.
Eventually I'm rewarded by a muffled shout, "Leave me alone!" followed by the impact of flesh on grass. Something has dropped to the lawn; I rush to press my face to the glass. The heavy shape rises, wavers a moment, shaking its head ponderously like a baited bear, then melts with supernatural swiftness into the night. Scant seconds later, Buffy comes charging down the stairs, a long-sleeved black top pulled hastily over her head and coat in hand.
She spares me only the words necessary to keep me here: "Something's wrong with Angel. I'm going after him alone. I just need you to stay with Mom in case he comes back."
"Yeah, I'll play watchdog," I reassure her without hesitating. "I don't really get it, though."
Buffy can't get out the door fast enough. "I'll explain later. Everything, I promise."
"Watch your back!" I call after her, but she's already disappeared into the gloom.
I glance back at Joyce, who looks older and sadder than a moment ago. "You okay?"
She sighs, trying to smile and failing. "Honestly, Faith, I don't know what to think. It seems like things have changed between them every time he comes by. Are they friends? Enemies? Lovers? I can't keep track."
"Know what you mean," I mumble, fingering the new gold chain at my throat.
Almost a minute passes before Joyce remembers her manners and goes all Mrs. Cleaver again. "I'm sorry about all this, Faith. We were really looking forward to spending a quiet Christmas Eve."
"Yeah, well, comes with the job," I tell her. "No big."
She regards me steadily for a moment. "You know, Faith, I'm glad you came to Sunnydale. I think it's been really good for Buffy."
I feel suddenly shy. "Really?"
"Well, I just think sometimes that Buffy's been an only child for too long. She's used to being the center of attention, and although that's given her a self-possession I envy, I think it's good for her to have someone around who can keep up with her. Give her a run for her money."
She winks at me, and I can't help grinning back. For a second I allow myself to wonder how different things would be for me if I'd had a mom like her. But I snap myself out of it quickly; past is past, and regrets are a fucking waste of time.
"I also think," Joyce continues more seriously, "that she must have been pretty lonely in some ways before you came. I know she has friends, but none of them can really understand her position, can they? I've certainly tried, I want to be a good mom, but she's not an ordinary girl. So it's wonderful that she has you here now. Don't get me wrong, I know you two are very different, but you have so much in common, too."
"Sure," I tell her. "Buffy and me, we share a lot." Fleeting recollections of some of the things we've shared make the blood rise in my cheeks, and I turn quickly to face the fireplace, a ready excuse for my heated glow.
Joyce seems to feel her overtures have been gently rebuffed; she gathers up the glasses with their thin films of eggnog and moves towards the kitchen. "Can I get you anything else, Faith? Are you hungry? We've had dinner, but I could certainly warm up some leftovers for you..."
Leftovers. Inwardly, I'm suddenly shaking with the force of my resentment at being offered something once B's done with it yet again. The crumbs that spill from her friends' affections. The corner of Giles' watchful eye. Joyce's overflow of protective maternity. I'm a fucking charity for Buffy's leftovers. Aloud, I say politely, "No thanks, I'm good."
Joyce must have picked up on my vibe, no matter how hard I tried to hide it, because she looks away for a second, uncomfortable. "Well. What would you like to do? We could see what's on t.v."
I squirm through "It's a Wonderful Life" for the better part of two hours. What a crock of shit. Joyce is dabbing tears away with a Kleenex when I finally meet her eyes again, trying not to look as concerned as I feel. Why isn't B back yet?
"What a beautiful story," Joyce sighs. "You probably think I'm a sentimental fool, but it always gets to me." She glances down at her watch and presses her lips together in a worried line.
"It's getting late, Mrs. Summers," I tell her. "Why don't you just go up to bed. I'll keep an eye on things until Buffy gets back."
"I don't think I'll be able to sleep, knowing she's out there somewhere... with him."
The same thought is on my mind, of course, but I can honestly reassure her, "Don't worry, she can take care of herself." She'll kill him if she has to.
Joyce nods, hauls herself up out of the couch. "All right. Help yourself if you need anything, okay? There are spare blankets in Buffy's closet if you get cold."
"Thanks. Good night."
The living room is still more than cozy between the SoCal weather and the crackling fire, so I don't bother with blankets. My stomach is growling, though, so I finally swallow my pride and pad into the kitchen for some food. Ham, mashed potatoes with gravy, green beans, and really rich plum pudding, yum. I wash it all down with a Coke and wander back out to stand watch.
A soft scrabbling at the front door jerks me fully awake at my post. Ugh, my eyelids are raw, and I have a crick in my neck from lolling my head on the back of the couch. But I stifle the groan as I slide to my feet and creep towards the door, stake at the ready just in case it ain't old Saint Nick.
Peering through the peephole, I'm a little surprised to see that it's Buffy, alone, leaning heavily against the door. I open it immediately, and she practically falls in on top of me. There's a confused moment of tangled limbs and hair in my mouth before I manage to help her to the couch and go to shut the door.
When I turn back to B., she's sitting slumped on the edge of the sofa, gazing at the palms of her hands with infinite weariness. I've never seen her like this - she must be badly injured, maybe in shock, but there isn't any blood. I get down on my knees next to her, awkward in the skirt, and take her hands in my own. They are lightly coated with a layer of fine grey ash. I look up at her and realize that her face is also grimy, and streaked with tears, although her red-rimmed eyes are dry.
"What'sa matter, B? What happened out there?" I keep my voice soft, but she flinches in pain at my words and pulls her hands out of my grasp.
"It's Angel," she whispers, so quietly that I have to strain to hear her over the gentle pop of the fire. She rubs her palms together, raises them to her face, inhales, then spreads her dirty fingers wonderingly out to me. "It's Angel."
Sudden understanding knocks me off my ass like a tidal wave. If I wasn't already on the floor, I'd probably fall over with the bewildering rush of surprise, triumph, and pity that surges through me. Angel - my rival - the former scourge of Europe - the centuries-old demon who pierced my girl on her seventeenth birthday and then celebrated by stalking and killing her friends - is dead. And Buffy is cold and lifeless beside me because of it.
A zillion questions are zinging through my brain: why, how, were you forced to kill your lover again, were you too late to save him, or did you stand by and watch while he ashes to ashes and dust to dusted? But even through my shock, I'm dimly aware that none of these words should be spoken, and what's more, no words whatsoever are of any use to B. right now. So I haul myself up onto the sofa next to her and gather her rigid body into the comforting circle of my arms.
She is absolutely still for a moment, both of us holding our breaths. Then she sags against me and starts to shake, a low keen building deep in her throat. Although I'm roasting in front of the dying fire and Buffy is bundled in her long cream coat, her teeth knock together like ice cubes in an empty glass. I press my cheek to hers, and the rattling spreads into my own skull.
"F-f-faith," B chatters, her voice vibrating into my jaw, "I c-c-can't f-f-feel you. I c-c-can't f-f-feel anything..."
There's only one thing I can think to do for her. "C'mon, baby," I croon, struggling up off the couch with my arms around her unresisting frame. "Let's go upstairs and warm you up."
Our ascent to the upper floor is slow and unsteady. B has trouble finding her footing, her ankles twisting under her as if they belonged to someone else. I keep my arm around her back, trying to support most of her weight, but she braces herself against the stairwell wall anyway, leaving a trail of smudged handprints in our wake.
B hesitates at the bathroom, so I help her in. She stops short in front of the mirror, staring at her filthy face with an expression of betrayal. As I watch warily, she brings one hand up to touch her forehead. Her fingertip bares the skin beneath, Ash Wednesday in reverse.
I pick up the nearest washcloth and run warm water into the sink. "Let's get you cleaned up there, B," I say, but she twists her head away and moans a wordless protest. "Okay, okay," and I drop the offending object in the basin. "I'm sorry, B, I don't know what you want..."
"Don't leave me," she whispers. Her eyes are enormous and her hand grips mine like cold iron.
Her room is exactly as I've pictured it, chaste and vanilla, posters and butterflies on the pretty striped wallpaper. I'm forcefully reminded that before she met me, B was practically a virgin, only test-driven once. She's never brought a lover into the sweet sanctity of this space until now.
B leaves me at the door and crawls shivering under the covers. I close it, looking for a lock and finding none. I hope Joyce isn't a light sleeper.
I slide into bed next to B and gather her into my arms. She holds onto me as desperately as a drowning kitten, but when I try to kiss her, she turns her face away.
I content myself with her ears and neck, covering every visible inch of skin, lapping at her to bring the warm blood flooding back. At first it's like licking a marble statue in a museum, chilly and unyielding and chalky on my tongue. But gradually the friction kindles something softer and more human, and B begins to respond to me, shifting her head on the pillow and sighing.
I slip my fingers beneath the collar of her coat, stroking the gooseflesh hidden by its folds, and she bites her lip and pulls me tighter with a mewl of frustration. "Too many clothes," I mutter. "Let go a sec, I got no leverage."
She releases me and starts fumbling at my blouse, clumsy fingers popping my buttons every-which-way in her haste. I grapple with her belt, her coat, unwrapping it from her icy stiffness like a winding sheet, and after a few feverish seconds of tugging and tearing, all of our clothes are on the floor or stuffed down at the foot of the bed, and I'm lying on top of her, letting her soak the heat right through my skin.
B lifts her hips, grinding against me, her hands cold claws on my bare back. I can feel the desolate wasteland of her body stirring under mine, sap crackling and running again as the frost retreats. I entwine my legs with hers and push eagerly back, coaxing the tentative trickle into a torrent.
Need glazes her eyes over and quickens her breath. I can smell her arousal, rich and raw, like thirsty earth under the first drops of spring rain. B still won't let me touch her ashen face, but I trail hard wet kisses down her throat, past the jeweled pendant, between her breasts and down into her navel. Her hands slide reluctantly up the length of my back, then stop and dig into my flesh abruptly as my tongue reaches the tender corner just above the triangle of dark curls. She squirms and moans, threading her fingers through my tangled hair, unable to decide whether to pull me closer or push me away.
She who hesitates is lost. I swing around, breaking contact for a second to straddle her, facing her legs. Bracing myself on my elbows, I ease her open, brushing my lips along the glossy silk of her thighs. She splays with a sigh as I make my final approach, darting my tongue into the fragrant folds of flesh, unwrapping her like a shiny pink present. The familiar taste of her makes me shiver in recognition.
Then cool hands clutch the backs of my own thighs and startled, I jerk up and out of her. Buffy is tugging on me, awkwardly stroking my skin, trying to pull me down. I wriggle back a little and lower myself, hesitant, unable to believe that this really is happening. B has generally taken from me as willingly as I've given, but this is something new that prickles my eyes and throat. I'm almost afraid to breathe, sure that any minute now she'll change her mind, relinquish her hold, turn her head away.
But now tender, uneven kisses pepper my inner thighs, making me bite my lip against the sudden shameful tears. Astonished joy and acute arousal both surge through me in a dizzying wave. B's lips inch closer, unsteady but sure. When the tip of her tongue delicately touches my clit, I let out a low groan of gratitude and wonder.
Closing my eyes, I bury myself in her again, trembling as my movements are mirrored by B's tentative tongue. I imagine a fine line of light looping from my lips to hers, threading through our taut bodies, pulling us more and more tightly together. I'm struggling not to bear down, not to scare or smother her, even as she thrusts her pelvis urgently up into my face. I'm drowning in her salty swells, slurping greedily at the sharp taste that tells me how very close she is to spilling over the edge.
And then she quivers and crests, and a stronger, muskier brine floods my mouth as I continue to caress her. For a split second I worry that inexperienced as B is, she's going to bite down, but instead she sucks hard and the golden thread that anchors us jerks, dragging me after her with a roar.
When I sit up at last, I can feel my mouth stretched in a big goofy grin despite the tears streaming down my face. Strange. I swipe roughly at my cheeks and turn around to look at B. She's still lying on her back, limbs sprawled every which way, her features smeared with sweat and ashes but suffused with heavenly peace. I slide up the bed and wrap my arms around her, pulling her close. She nestles against me for a second and then pushes herself up on one elbow and shyly pushes a stray curl away from my face.
"Faith," she begins, and I shush her gently, intent on rocking her to sleep.
"Faith. Faith!" Someone is shaking my shoulder. Somehow I'm back downstairs in front of the fireplace, my whole body humming with unfamiliar feelings of joy and hope. For one confused moment I'm still stuck in the dream, staring up at Buffy, but then I blink my bleary eyes and it's just Joyce, with frowsy curls and no make-up. "Come look. It's snowing."
What, does she think a girl from South Boston's never seen snow before? Then it occurs to me that in Sunnydale, this must be highly unusual, maybe even a first, so I stretch the kink out of my back and walk to the window.
Snow. White glitter sparkles just out of reach of my fingers as I press my palms to the glass. For a moment, I allow myself to stand here, breathing deeply, half-mesmerized by the perpetually changing patterns that drift and whirl before me.
Then Joyce opens the front door and steps out onto the porch, wrapping her robe more securely around her thin pajamas, and I follow, shivering a little. It can't be much after dawn. I move out further from under the protection of the roof, holding my palms out in wonder, and snowflakes touch my face lightly as a benediction.
Everything is pristine, flawless, pure, a blank slate on which to tell new tales. I can write my own story. I can make my own happy ending. I float down the steps into the yard and spin around and around, laughing at the sky, as fresh flakes continue to fall, brushing softly against my eyelashes and the tips of my outstretched fingers.
Eventually I find myself whirling one way as the world turns another and lose my balance to fall heavily into the lawn. The snow starts melting under my ass, soaking my skirt, and my feet are freezing, but I don't care. I just sit here, face still upturned, enjoying the featherlike caresses. Sooner or later Buffy will get back, and I'll give her the present and tell her I'm hers forever. We'll start over, and everything will be perfect.
My eyes fly open, and my welcoming smile freezes on my face. Buffy is back, but she isn't alone. She's clinging to the arm of a tall, handsome man in a heavy black overcoat. A tall, handsome, very familiar man who has no business being out here in the middle of the morning.
Something deep inside me turns over and dies.
The blood is rushing hotly to my face. I struggle out of the snow, still a little dizzy, and feel my new pendant bounce between my breasts. My hand catches it, clasps it so tightly for a moment that its edges cut into my palm.
Then with one quick snap it's soaring over the snow, and I'm shoving past B and her boy, running blindly down the street as fast as I can go.