It was during her journey home from the office, where she was employed as a copywriter for a small publishing firm, that AnnaLee Bradley began making plans for the evening.
The weather for November in New York, was bitterly cold and the forecast gave no let up for the next few days. So, rather than go out, she decided upon a TV dinner washed down with a light californian white wine. Then allow herself to be entertained, in her two bedroom apartment, by her favourite TV chat show that she had recorded the previous evening.
One of her neighbours, Sarah Bernstein, was to have been among the audience for that evening's show and AnnaLee wanted to see her reaction to the topic given in the TV guide, 'Living With Your Sexuality – A Lesbian's Viewpoint.'
Their paths had crossed on a number of occasions. A nod or swift, "Good morning," was usual, though on two occasions they had talked briefly. Those momentary meetings had allowed AnnaLee some insight into her neighbour's character.
A more poignant word to describe Sarah's character would be – strange.
At twenty-four years of age and 130 pounds, both women were the same age and weight.
AnnaLee's five foot seven inch figure was all curves, with over the shoulder wavy, dark brown hair that glowed with vitality. Her hair was parted slightly offset to allow one side of her oval face to remain partly hidden: her 'Mata Hari look.'
Sarah always looked wickedly sensual. A redhead, whose tousled tresses jounced agilely to the quickness of her step. Her appearance demanded attention from both sexes. She had an imperious air that inflamed a reaction within the observer. They either admired what they saw or they yearned to stick out a foot, 'Just to see the stuck up bitch land face first in the gutter.'
To AnnaLee's keen intuition she wondered if she could be a woman out of her depth who had developed a mask under which to hide her true self.
Having filled her appetite, from the stodgy TV dinner, AnnaLee lounged casually on her large, dark beige leather sofa. She held a glass of cool white wine by its stem in her right hand, whilst her other pressed the remote control and the TV/Video came alive.
The evenings chat show mixed audience participation with guest celebrities who aired their own thoughts and ideas as to how society in general viewed lesbianism.
The camera captured heart-rending emotions from individual experiences. Each woman had a story to tell and on at least three occassions Sarah could be seen on camera either close to an interviewee, or in close-up as an interested onlooker.
As the programme progessed the director obviously thought her looks warranted special attention because he focused more and more on her face. It was not long before the show's female host got the message and asked Sarah a question.
"How has your life been affected by your sexuality?"
"I have no affinity towards these people. They are an abomination in the eyes of God and will be severely punished on the Day of Judgement."
Completely unperturbed the host swept away from Sarah and moved onto another member of the audiece asking her, "Would you agree with that…"
AnnaLee gasped in amazement at what she had just heard. She had almost choked on her wine. Never in her mind had she considered Sarah to be religious, yet she had just condemned all lesbians.
"Who the hell does she think she is, making such a crass statement like that against me and my sister's?" she said to the screen, though her words 'crass' and 'sister's' were slightly slurred. "I'll sort you out miss high and mighty."
It was a little over two weeks later that AnnaLee put her plan into action.
Sarah Bernstein studied the editorial photo's for the twentieth time that day and rearranged them once more on her computer screen. Seemingly satisfied at last with the effect she tagged the file to an email and sent the results off to her publisher's office in Montreal.
Pleased with her day's work her thought's were interrupted by a knock on her apartment door.
The door's spy hole revealed a young woman who she recognised as one of her neighbour's.
She unlocked the door and said, "Hello, AnnaLee."
"Hi, Sarah, are you free for a few moments?"
"Sure, what is it that you want?"
"I'd like to invite you up to dinner. Either tonight or tomorrow evening. Which would be more convenient for you?"
"Well, that's very kind of you but…"
"I'm sorry… Jack and I were hoping… That is… Look… Could I come in for a few moments?" she pleaded, "It's kind of awkward out here."
"Now you've got me intrigued. Sure. Come inside."
They settled into a comfortable sofa and AnnaLee spun her web.
"I'll start at the beginning, it will make things easier to understand, so, bear with me.
"A few weeks ago my brother Jack came to visit me and as we sat eating dinner he saw you on TV. Now, smitten is a small word but it has a great deal of meaning. Since that evening he's been pestering me for an introduction so here I am asking you to dinner at my apartment with Jack and I. Will you say yes?"
"Truly you won't be sorry. Look," said AnnaLee, taking a crushed piece of glossy paper from her jeans pocket, "here's Jack's photo." She passed it across to Sarah who studied the magnificent hunk wearing his swimming suit with pride.
"Mmmm," muttered Sarah, apparently admiring what she saw.
"Jack works on Time magazine as a freelance reporter. Will you come?"
"Well… providing I bring the wine and that it's tomorrow night? I have to visit someone tonight," she stipulated, handing back the photo.
"Great. Yes of course. That's a date then. Tomorrow night, say, around seven-thirty?"
Sarah stood up. "Please don't expect too much from this dinner though, I don't make friends easily and although Jack looks great, 'beauty is only skin deep.'"
"I understand your feelings Sarah, and I'll tell Jack that this is just a get together to allow you both time to get to know one another."
As the door to Sarah's apartment closed behind her, AnnaLee was heard to softly say, "Yesss."
A great deal of research had gone into inviting Sarah for a meal, even down to the evening that she knew Sarah could be free.
AnnaLee had meticulously studied, followed and delved into Sarah's past. She knew more about Sarah than probably Sarah knew about herself.
Sarah didn't know that AnnaLee was an only child.
The smell of succulent cooking wafted through the opened door as AnnaLee, a glass of white wine in her hand, welcomed Sarah into her apartment.
"Hi Sarah, come inside. Let me take that bottle. We'll certainly enjoy this with our meal," she said, studying the label. "Can I get you something to drink?"
"I'll join you in a glass of white wine, if I may?"
"Sure, sit down while I pour. I'm afraid that you and I will have to eat alone tonight though," she said, nonchalantly. "Jack just phoned to say that he's been called away on an assignment in Mexico. I hope this won't spoil your evening?"
"No of course not. In spite of what I said to you earlier about my inability to make relationships work I tend to get along better with women than I do with men. Do you think that makes me a lesbian?"
AnnaLee almost let slip the wine glass as she handed it toward Sarah.
"Ummm… well. I think we should get along just fine because that about sums up my attitude to relationships too. Strange because it's something I had not realised till you brought up the subject," she lied.
"But you haven't answered my question, AnnaLee," said Sarah, sipping her drink.
"I'm sorry Sarah what was your question?"
"Do you think I may be a lesbian because I appear to get on better with women than I do with men?"
"No. I don't think that at all. There are many ways a woman can feel at ease with another woman without there being any sexual connotation involved. Men have to compete. It's in their very nature to do so, although today's society makes them do it in ways that are far different to their fathers, forefathers or even their ancestors. A woman, may compete for a man's affection but if they cannot gain sole ownership then in most cases they will compromise. If a man cannot completely have a woman to himself then he finds ways and means to eliminate the competition. Do you agree?"
"Yes, I understand what you are saying, but human relationships can be categorised to the nth degree without realising that the most basic relationship comprises of human emotions. We let our heart rule our head. For better or worse. My glass appears half empty?"
"No, I believe it's still half full," said AnnaLee, smiling.
"That's right we both see the same thing but describe it differently."
"Time to eat and feed those grey cells. Can I top up your glass while I serve dinner?"
"Yes, please. Can I help?"
"No, that's alright. It won't take a minute. All the preparation took place before you arrived," said AnnaLee, topping up Sarah's glass. "I won't be long. You can put on some music if you like."
AnnaLee disappeared into the kitchen.
They ate their meal to the accompaniment of 'The Eagles' latest CD – 'Hell Freezes Over.' Candlelight flickered romantically around the four square walls. Sarah mellowed considerably but whether this was due to the fine wine or AnnaLee's good humour it showed in her laughter.
AnnaLee found that she loved Sarah's laughter.
She took stock of the situation. She'd almost lost sight of her goal but could be forgiven. She so loved the sound of Sarah's laughter that she constantly sought out gems from her memory of funny stories, anecdotes or situations in which she had found herself.
Sarah's sides hurt from laughing. She had not had such a good time in… she knew not when. This woman had gone to so much trouble to seduce her that she wanted to reach out and touch her and say, "Stop, no more. Let's not pretend. Take me in your arms and hold me. That's the reality of this evening."
How did she know?
It was the glint in AnnaLee's eyes.
A man in love was sometimes condemned for 'wearing his heart on his sleeve.' For a woman in love it was in her eyes. All AnnaLee's emotions were contained in two glittering orbs that spoke volumes of love, adoration, attraction, desire, passion, warmth, yearning, longing.
"Can we wash the dishes together?" said Sarah. "I'd like us to be together for the rest of the evening rather than for me to sit out here listening to you alone in the kitchen."
"Well, I had thought of just leaving them until the morning."
"If that's what you want, AnnaLee, then we'll wash them in the morning."
She leant across the table and took AnnaLee's hand in both her own. "Do you think it terrible of me for making the first move?" she whispered, softly stroking and manipulating AnnaLee's hand.
"No. I'm a little subdued. Your laughter seduced me and I was definitly not ready for your question about lesbians when you arrived."
"It's a trait that I have when I'm not in control over the situation."
"Would I be right in assuming that…" with realisation dawning, "would equally apply to audience participation on a recent chat show?"
"Oh, you saw my religious outburst," she laughed. "Timed to bring the audience out of its melancholy."
"Before the show went on the air, the floor director asked me if, when questioned, my answer would be… what you heard. It served my own purpose as well. If any of the staff on the magazine were watching then they'd know that I was not a lesbian. I guess you also missed the sly wink from the show's host. I have to tell you that I told her last night that it was over between us."
"I… I'm… not sure I'm in control here."
"Does it matter that much…"
Still holding hands they stood up and moved towards one another. The tension spun around them… or was it in them. They slipped easily into a warm embrace. Their perfume mingled. Softness. Tingling. Hearts pounding.
Still holding each other they broke slightly apart to allow their lips to brush. With closed eyes, their first kiss was a shadow of softness. The second a hint of passion. The third was a lustful urgency.
"Come with me," whispered AnnaLee.
The time for talking was over. In the bedroom's subdued lighting, they undressed each other, gazing at revealing patches of bronzed flesh as each garment was removed. AnnaLee kissed Sarah's bared shoulder. Sarah reciprocated and this ritual was used as each item of clothing was removed.
At last, naked, they fell onto the bed.
"Hold me," said Sarah, her eyes fixed onto AnnaLee's, her voice husky with emotion.
For a long time they held one another.
"I want us to hold each other, like this, last thing at night and then upon waking. This way we won't harbour bad feelings. It should keep our relationship stronger for longer."
"Sarah, I see I've still got a lot to learn about relationships. Will you teach me?"
"No I won't. We'll learn together. Trust me, I'm a lesbian." They laughed.
They made love. At first slowly, gently then more passionately.
From the lounge 'The Eagles' sang, "…they had one thing in common, they were good in bed."