Flaws in the Design

And that little voice in the back of your mind
Just wants you to know, just hopes that you know

October, 1989

She was doing it again. She knew she was. But she couldn't help it. Those eyes—she didn't even know what color to call them. Her own eyes were called hazel because they were greenish brown. But those eyes were like a kaleidoscope: green and blue and brown and gold and even grey. She felt like she could stare into them all day.


Honey loved the way her name sounded when it came from those lips. That tiny dark speck at the bottom of those lips, just right near the corner—she wasn't sure if it was a freckle or mole—whatever it was it just made them all the more beautiful. And the shape of those lips, especially when they smiled or laughed, was just mesmerizing. The left corner would turn down just the tiniest bit making the top of the lips seem fuller somehow.

"Honey!" The voice was whispered, urgent.

"Hmm?" Honey smiled dreamily at the speaker.

"Mrs. Cowles is staring at you. She asked you what reaction you got when you added the nitrate solution to the beaker."

"Hmm?" Honey looked back into those eyes. She could stare at those eyes forever.

"Honey Wheeler!" That wasn't her lab partner speaking. That voice came from the front of the class, and it was louder; angry.

Honey sat up. "Yes, Mrs. Cowles? Sorry, Mrs. Cowles?"

The student she'd been staring at grinned. "Busted."


"How'd it go?" Her lab partner stood outside the door of their chemistry room, waiting for her. Chemistry was the last class of the day, and Mrs. Cowles had kept her after class to talk about her slipping grades and lack of attention.

"Not so good." Honey looked down at her feet, afraid to stare into those mesmerizing eyes again. "If I don’t bring my grade up in time for report cards, I could be kicked off the team." Honey had joined the Sleepyside swim team and had to maintain at least a C in every class in order to stay on it. She'd never had trouble with that before, although she had to work hard for the grades she earned. She got mostly Bs, a few As, and every once in a while a C. Her chemistry grade had apparently slipped to a low D.

"Maybe you should come over to my house to study. I can help you get your chemistry grade back up." Denny's voice sounded hopeful.

"Oh, I don't know if that's such a good idea, Den." Honey blushed. She couldn't believe she said that; it sounded so tactless. Besides, going over to Denny's sounded perfect, but she was almost afraid to go there. She was afraid to be alone with the person standing in front of her. It was definitely a bad idea. She dared herself to look up and saw the broad smile on her lab partner's face.

"Of course it's a good idea. I'm acing this class, and you need to get your grades up or you'll be kicked off swim, and even worse, you might not get to be my lab partner anymore." Den winked. "Besides, my dad was in a baking mood this weekend."

Honey knew she should decline. There was no way she'd be able to study anyway, not in the presence of this incredibly gorgeous and charming person.

Den's thin, dark eyebrows waggled suggestively when she failed to answer right away. "Come on over to the dark side. We have cookies."

Honey giggled. Like a nervous schoolgirl, she thought; but then she was a nervous schoolgirl. "Your dad bakes?"

"He does." Denny grinned. "Makes the best pies I have ever tasted. Apparently lots of other people think so, too. Dad is Dennis Gardner, of Gardner's Delights?" The shop name was posed as a question.

"Oh my gosh, really? He does make the best ... everything." Honey thought about all the delicious cakes and pies and other goodies she'd gotten from that bake shop since it had first opened earlier in the year. She hadn't even made the connection that it was also around that time that she had first laid eyes on the amazing Den Gardner. She mentally shook her head. Focus on the bakery. "Even the bread. Cook won't even buy bread from the grocer anymore since Gardner's opened."

"Cook?" One of Denny's eyebrows rose in question.

Honey blushed. "Tammy; Tamiko Sato. Our cook. But we have a tradition of calling our cooks 'Cook'. I don't think she minds. At least, I hope not."

"Your family has cooks? Don't your parents ever cook?" Honey was embarrassed by how shocked her friend sounded.

"Well, no. I can't even imagine my dad going into the kitchen. I'm pretty sure he's never stepped foot in there in his entire life. And Mother ... oh, gosh no." Honey started laughing. "She's practically scared of pots and pans." Honey wished her parents would try to cook sometimes, but she was glad Cook let her help out and taught her a few recipes. "So, are you named for your father?"

Denny nodded and grinned. "Yep, sure am. So you'll come over, then? Right? And tell me all about the lifestyle of the rich and famous?"

"I ...."

Denny must have sensed her hesitation. "Okay, I don't need to know about the secret lifestyle of the wealthy. Just come over, enjoy some cookies, and learn some actual chemistry so Mrs. Cowles doesn't flunk you."

Honey blushed profusely. Chemistry is definitely what she had on her mind, just not the kind that could, or should anyway, be learned in a high school classroom. "I guess so."

"Great!" Honey heard the excitement in her friend's exclamation and blushed even more.

Could Den actually like her? No, that couldn't be. "Let me just tell Trixie and Di to go on home without me." Honey shifted the books in her hand and smiled.

"Okay. I'll meet you out front in a few minutes." Denny waved at her and sauntered off to the front of the school.


"Honey? Are you paying attention?" Denny waved a hand in front of her face. "Yoo-hoo."

Honey blinked. She had been staring at those eyes again, daydreaming about them. She giggled. "Yoo-hoo. I say that, sometimes, especially when I'm walking into Trixie's house."

"I know. I've heard you." Den grinned widely. "I mean, not at Trixie's house, I'm not stalking you or anything. But I've hear you say it around school. So, are you paying attention now?"

"Yes, of course." Denny paid attention to her outside of class? Honey cleared her thoughts and tried to concentrate on the task at hand. She looked down at the science book that lay open on the dining room table. "When the lead-two nitrate solution comes in contact with the potassium iodide solution, one of the products is that yellow stuff, right?" Honey put her head down over the page, looking for the name of the compound.

Den laughed. "Right. But 'yellow stuff' is not going to get you a passing mark on Friday's test."

Honey looked up from the page and forgot the answer immediately. All she could think about was how close Denny's face was to hers, and the light woody scent of shampoo or soap, and those incredible eyes, and the fascinatingly beautiful imperfection of those lips. Honey ran her tongue over her own lips, and then forced herself to snap out of it and turned her gaze back to the boring text in spite of the erratic pounding of her heart. "Lead-two iodide?"

"You got it! That deserves a cookie." Den slid the plate of cookies closer to them.

They both reached for one at the same time, and maybe it was on accident, or maybe she'd done it on purpose, but their hands touched. Honey's hand was on top, and she left it there, far longer than she should have. She wanted to hold the other hand, to grab it and place it over her racing heart as if that would help keep the beating under control. She started to caress the fingers underneath hers.

What am I doing? She stood up, suddenly, and started gathering her things together. "I have to go."

"Honey?" She heard the hurt and puzzlement in the voice.

Tears started to brim in her eyes. "I'm sorry. Thanks for the help." She hastily shoved her books into her backpack, hoisted it on to her shoulder, and walked quickly to the front door. "I'm sorry."

"Honey, wait!" Den called after her.

A tall, lanky boy nearly blocked her exit as he entered the house. Honey muttered a quick, "Excuse me," and skirted past him.

"Who was that?" she heard him ask.

And she heard the sadness in the simple reply. "That was my lab partner."

And then, thankfully, the door closed, and Honey ran down the street. She wasn't even sure which direction was downtown, but hopefully she'd find her way to Main Street and a pay phone somewhere so she could call Tom to come pick her up.

Honey had been dreading chemistry class all day. She'd nearly gone home sick after lunch just to avoid it. Usually, chemistry was the class she looked forward to the most. But that was before the full flood of emotions that had surfaced at her lab partner's house the previous day, when she'd gotten lost in those eyes, felt the tingle on her skin when they'd touched. No, she couldn't possibly face Denny Gardner.

"Are you okay, Hon?"

Honey closed her locker and turned to face Trixie. "Yeah. Yes. I'm fine."

Trixie quirked an eyebrow, disbelieving.

"Okay, not fine. I think maybe I should go home." Honey clutched her stomach.

Trixie shook her head. "I thought you liked chemistry. But I guess that was before Mrs. Cowles talked to you."

Honey listened halfheartedly to her friend. Mrs. Cowles was not the problem.

"It's the last class of the day," Trixie went on, as she piled some books from her locker into her arm. "I'm sure you can make it. I don't even think there's a test today."

"Right. Chemistry." Honey felt herself going weak.

"How did the study date go yesterday, anyway? That bad?" Trixie grimaced.

"Date? It wasn't a date." Honey shook her head and tried not to panic.

"Not that kind of date, silly. I know that." Trixie finally found her English book in the messy locker and carefully replaced the other books she had removed. Then she held everything in place so she could slam the door shut. "Still no better understanding of bromides and iodides or whatever?"

Honey walked with Trixie down the hall. She could do this. She'd have to sooner or later. Or maybe she could ask Mrs. Cowles if she could switch lab partners. Or switch classes.

"See you later," Trixie called out, as she turned down a different hall. "You can survive the next forty-two minutes."

"Right." Honey tried to smile but she wasn't sure she really could survive. Well, she'd have to try.

She stood outside the door to her class, debating whether to go inside or just make a run for it. The door opened as one of the other students pushed past her into the room. With a deep breath and a determined attitude, she walked in and quietly took her seat next to Denny.

She avoided looking at the other student, and she'd managed to get almost half way through the class without speaking to Denny either.

Mrs. Cowles closed her text book, indicating the lecture was finished. "Okay, class. You should have all the supplies you need at your stations. Please do the experiment as outlined on page 124, and make sure to document your procedures and record your results." Mrs. Cowles turned to write the homework exercises they were supposed to complete after the lab on the chalk board.

Honey stared forlornly at the surface of the station that also served as her desk. The black countertop, the small stainless steel sink, the little shelf that contained beakers and test tubes, the labeled vials of the different chemical compounds: they all seemed to mock her.

"Honey?" Den's voice was soft, patient, but Honey didn't dare turn to face the speaker. "We need to get started."

Honey nodded mutely. She reached for her binder and took out a piece of paper to start writing down all the materials they were going to be using.

"Are you ... mad at me?"

Honey shook her head. "Let's just get this done."

"Why did you leave so suddenly yesterday?" She could feel Den staring at her.

The words she'd written on her paper started to blur, and she knew she was about to cry. She swallowed loudly and blinked back the tears, trying to focus on the work at hand. "I didn't mean to ... I ...."

Den reached over and touched her hand, lightly. "Could you come over again today? Please?"

Honey shook her head, her hair swishing over the paper in front of her. But that tingling sensation from the touch was overtaking her senses.

"Honey? Please? We need to talk about this, about ... us."

She heard the pleading, the worry, the hope in Den's voice. Honey turned to her lab partner, avoiding looking into those enchanting eyes at first. But she had to. And Denny's eyes were as amazing as ever, sparkling with the myriad of colors. And Denny was smiling at her. And still touching her hand. And she hoped, madly, crazily, that this could work. Somehow.

"Okay." She tried to smile.

"Good." Den grinned.

The second hand taunted her as it ticked slowly around the face of the clock. She thought she had wanted class to end so she could get away from Den Gardner, run home, and pretend these feelings didn't exist. Now, she needed class to end so she could find out if these feelings could possibly, somehow, lead to something that she was sure would be magical.

Trixie raised an eyebrow when Honey had arrived at the locker after class. "I take it chemistry went well."

Honey nodded enthusiastically. "I'm going to go over to Denny's again. To study."

Trixie frowned slightly. "Oh. I thought we were going to work on the Halloween decorations for the fundraiser project today."

Honey had completely forgotten about the fundraiser. "We can still work on that this weekend, right?"

"Work on what this weekend?" Di had come up to the two of them, a couple of school books and a binder in her arms.

"The fundraiser for UNICEF. Well, specifically the Halloween decorations for the UNICEF fundraiser." Honey sighed. She didn't want to disappoint her friends. And she really didn't want to cancel on Denny.

"Oh, could we? Instead of tonight, I mean?" Di looked down at her books. "I have a huge history assignment due on Friday, and I could really use some more time to finish it."

Trixie shrugged. "I guess so."

Honey was still torn. "I'm sure I won't spend that long at Den's. We could still work on them later tonight, too."

"You're going over to Den's again?" Di grinned.

Honey looked at her friend, worried about the grin. Did Di know? How could she?

"Mart will be so jealous. They have the best blueberry pie at Gardner's." Di rubbed her slim tummy. "I wish I could have some right now."

Honey chuckled, relieved that Di was just thinking of food. "I'm going to their house, not to their bakery."

"Okay, well, stop by when you get home." Trixie smiled, clearly not upset with Honey. "I know you're trying hard to keep your grades up. I'm really proud of you for managing school and swimming, although how you manage to get here at six-thirty in the morning for practice I will never understand."

Honey grinned. "It helps to have a chauffeur, and a maid who will drag me to the car even when I'm half asleep."

"You have a chauffeur and a maid?" Honey turned to see Denny standing shyly a couple of feet away. "I didn't mean to interrupt. I was just wondering what was keeping you."

"The Wheeler household is fully staffed." Di winked. "But 'staff' isn't really the right word. They're more like family."

"Sorry, Denny. I'm ready." Honey smiled and hoped the heat she felt in her cheeks wasn't obvious to her friends.

"I didn't mean to embarrass you." Den blushed, too. "I just didn't realize you were that rich. I mean ... oh shoot. I better just stop before I put both my feet in my mouth."

Trixie laughed. "That's usually my line."

Honey gulped. "I'll see you later, then, Trixie, Di." She looked at Denny, anxious to get going.


"Your friends seem really nice." Denny smiled at her as they walked along Eastern Avenue.

"They are." Honey was getting nervous again. What if she misunderstood Denny?

Denny turned up a driveway and led Honey into the house. It looked the same as the previous day, except this time there was a humongous brown dog sitting on the couch. The fur around its mouth and nose was darker than the rest of its face, and its eyes looked sad. It was almost as if it was trying to hide under its drooping ears.

"Oh, no. The Pony." Denny went up to the dog and rubbed it vigorously. "What are you doing inside you big goof?"

"He's beautiful." Honey approached the dog slowly.

"He's a sweetheart. Don't let him scare you." Den motioned for her to come closer.

"I'm not scared. I love dogs." Honey grinned at the beautiful beast. "What kind of dog is he?"

"The Pony is a Great Dane. And he is usually kept outside when no one else is home." Den looked up suddenly as a loud crash came from the kitchen. "Hello?"

"Damn stupid, Dennis!" Another crash followed. "Goddang rich folk and their effing country club gatherings!" Two more loud banging noises. "Think a guy can just bake up two dozen pies in an hour ...."

Den was turning beet red. "Maybe we shouldn't have come here today, after all."

Honey stared nervously at the kitchen door. "I, uh, should we go to my place? I can call Tom to pick us up."

"No, I'm sure it's fine." Den went over to the door and slid it into the wall.

Her sense of smell was hit first with the delicious aroma of warm fruit and cinnamon. She had sensed it before when she first walked in, but it was much stronger now. However, her eyes could not match that heavenly fragrance with the scene that greeted them. Mr. Gardner, for surely it had to be him, was covered in flour, and so was the rest of the kitchen. Four pie tins were on the counter, waiting for filling. And something was definitely baking in the oven as well. Cherry, she guessed, by the red-colored stains covering the counters and parts of the floor.

"Denny!" The man smiled widely, and then turned to Honey. "Oh, dear. I didn't realize you had company."

Denny went over to the man and stood in front of him shaking a finger at him in a tsk-tsk fashion. "Dad, this is Honey Wheeler. Honey, this is my dad, Mr. Dennis Gardner."

"Mr. Gardner, how do you do?" Honey stepped forward to shake hands with the man.

Mr. Gardner wiped his hands on his apron, which did no good at all, and started to reach his hand out to her. He must have noticed it was still not clean and waved sheepishly instead. "Nice to meet you, Honey." He looked around the kitchen and blushed. "Excuse the mess."

Denny raised an eyebrow. "Why is the kitchen a mess, Dad?"

The Pony pattered into the room and immediately started lapping up something from the floor.

Mr. Gardner frowned. "Mrs. Dalmeny is hosting some sort of charity event at the country club. Tonight. And she has decided just this afternoon that she must have pies at the event. And they must be the best pies in the whole state of New York."

Denny's eyes moved around the room. "Couldn't you just say no?"

Honey shook her head even as Mr. Gardner replied. "No."

"No one says 'no' to Mrs. Dalmeny." Honey smiled sympathetically. Even her parents wouldn't say no outright to the older society woman, though her mother had learned how to tame the shrew, so to speak, through manipulation.

"And you couldn't bake these at the shop?" Denny picked up a dish rag from the sink and started trying to clean up some of the mess.

"No. One of the ovens there has been on the blink." Mr. Gardner let out a small groan. "And I had scheduled the repair for this afternoon, since Wednesdays are usually the slowest. Teresa is manning the shop, but the electrician will need to shut the power off at times, which will affect all four ovens there."

"How many pies do you need to make?" Honey was very familiar with Mrs. Dalmeny and her whims. "And how many have you finished?"

"She wants twenty-four. I have two ready, two cooling, and two in the oven." Den's father let out another groan. "I don't know how I'm going to get it all done in time."

"I might be able to get you out of it." Honey bit her lower lip. She hoped she could anyway.

"What!? How?" Denny looked at her as if she'd grown another head.

"Well, I can't promise, but I can try. Can I borrow your phone?" Honey looked around the kitchen but didn't see one anywhere.

"If you could do that, you'd be a life saver." Mr. Gardner cleared some bags of flour and sugar off the counter, revealing the telephone on the countertop.

Denny tossed her the dish rag and Honey giggled as she caught it. She gingerly wiped flour off the phone and then dialed her home. "Hi, Miss Trask? Is Mother home?" She crossed her fingers and smiled at Denny and Mr. Gardner.

"No, she's at the country club helping arrange things for the Auction for the Arts tonight," Miss Trask answered.

"Oh." Her face fell. "Well, actually, it's about that charity for the arts that I'm calling."

"Really?" Miss Trask asked. "What did you need? Maybe I can get a message to her there."

"Why, you know Mrs. Dalmeny, right?"

"Everyone knows Mrs. Dalmeny." Honey could imagine the expression on Miss Trask's face by the way she said the name.

"I was hoping Mother could talk her out of wanting pies at the auction. You know how Mother can charm her ...."

"What pies? Mrs. Dalmeny wants pies?" Miss Trask sounded confused. "For the guests, or to actually auction off?"

Honey glanced at Denny and smiled. "I'm not actually sure. I just know that Mrs. Dalmeny decided earlier today that she needed pies for tonight."

"I see. And I suppose she expects someone to bake a half dozen pies or more in time for the auction. Let me talk to your mother. I know she'll think of something to change Mrs. Dalmeny's mind." Miss Trask paused. "Maybe she can mention something about allergies and dieting."

"That would be perfect. You're a genius. Thank you, Miss Trask!" She gave Denny a thumbs-up sign.

"Where are you anyway? Are you over at Trixie's?" At the older woman's questions, Honey realized she had forgotten to call her after school.

"I'm at a friend's house in town. I need some help with chemistry." Honey bit her lip, hoping she wasn't in any kind of trouble for not calling for permission first.

Of course, she wasn't. Miss Trask wouldn't get upset over such a little thing. "Very well then; just call Tom when you need a ride home."

"Okay, thank you. I'll see you tonight."

She hung up the phone and turned around to see Mr. Gardner staring at her expectantly, but Denny was standing there, mouth agape. "Miss Trask is going to ask Mother to call Mrs. Dalmeny and explain that pies are not a good idea for tonight's event."

"And just why wouldn't pies be good for the auction?" Mr. Gardner grinned. "So I have an excuse ready for the next time."

Honey bit her lip. "Well, people might have food allergies—fruit, nuts, wheat. And you know how women are, always watching their figures. No offense."

"Oh, none taken. None taken at all." Mr. Gardner wiped the sweat from his forehead with a paper towel. "Thank you. Thank you so much." He threw the paper towel in the garbage under the sink and quickly washed his hands. "I suppose I'll keep working until we hear for sure."

"Can I help with anything?" Honey looked around the kitchen, not sure what she could do to help.

"Dad? I think you owe Honey an apology first." Denny frowned.

"Apology?" Mr. Gardner wrinkled his brow in confusion. "Oh, for my outburst earlier. I thought I was alone. I'm sorry for all the bad words I probably yelled out."

"And for the comment about 'rich folk'?" Den sighed. "You realize Honey here is one of the wealthy people you were just bad-mouthing."

Mr. Gardner suddenly turned red, almost as red as the cherry filling in the mixing bowl on the counter in front of Honey.

"Wheeler, you said? Honey Wheeler? Oh my gosh. I am so sorry. So sorry." Mr. Gardner started stammering over his words.

"Oh, it's okay, really. I wasn't offended by it." Honey smiled kindly.

"Hi, Dad; Hi, Denny; Hi, Lab Partner." The tall lanky boy Honey had seen the previous day entered the kitchen. He stepped over some spilled pie filling on the floor that The Pony hadn't gotten to yet and opened the fridge. He then grabbed a bottle of milk and gulped heartily from it. He wiped his mouth with his sleeve, closed up the bottle, and turned around to leave. "Bye, Dad; Bye, Denny; Bye, Lab Partner."

Denny looked up at the ceiling and uttered something incomprehensible. "And that was my brother, Ryan."

Honey laughed. Any tension she had been feeling when she first arrived had completely dissipated in the chaotic events that had unfolded over the last few minutes.

Mr. Gardner shooed them out of the kitchen, and they took The Pony with them before he could cause any real trouble for the baker.

"Who's Miss Trask? One of your maids? For that matter, didn't she even question why you didn't want Mrs. Dalmeny to have pies at the auction?" Denny still looked a bit dumbfounded.

Honey blushed. "No, Miss Trask is our estate manager. She used to be my governess—"

Denny went over to the couch where they had dropped their books earlier and then brought them to the dining room table. "A governess? What is that?"

"Kind of like a nanny." Honey bit her lip.

"Oh." Denny apparently didn't know what to say to that.

Honey flipped open the chemistry book and started reading the lesson Mrs. Cowles had covered in class.

Fifteen minutes had gone by before the phone rang. When Mr. Gardner got off the phone he stuck his head out of the kitchen, grinning widely. "It worked! That was Mrs. Dalmeny. Apparently she's decided that she doesn't want pies after all, thanked me for my trouble, and promised me a check in the mail to cover the expense."


The nervousness was back ten-fold. She was sitting on Denny's bed, in Denny's room, with Denny. And the door was closed. "Why don't you two go upstairs and study in Denny's room? That way my banging around while I clean up here won't bother you, and The Pony will leave you alone." That was what Mr. Gardner had suggested. Was the man nuts?

Denny sat on the bed, legs crossed, on the other side of the chemistry text book. But Denny wasn't looking at the book, and Honey wasn't either. "You are so beautiful."

Honey blushed.

"Honey, promise me you won't take off like yesterday ...." Denny's voice trailed off.

Honey nodded and Denny reached for one of her hands. Honey closed her eyes. They shouldn't be doing this. This was wrong.

"Honey, I want to kiss you. And I think you want to kiss me, too." Denny took a deep breath. "If I'm wrong, I'm sorry, I won't bother you again. But if I'm not ...."

Honey swallowed nervously. "You're not wrong," she whispered. She felt Denny's fingers tighten around hers.

Denny pushed the school book out of the way and moved closer.

Honey opened her eyes and looked into Denny's. Her heart pounded erratically in her chest. "We shouldn't."

Honey regretted the words as soon as she had said them. The hurt she saw reflected in the eyes of her lab partner seemed to stab at her heart.

"Okay." Denny let go of her hand.

Honey reached for the hand again. "We shouldn't. But I really want to."

Denny took the second chance she had offered and closed the gap between them. Honey closed her eyes and let her lips find the other girl's.

The kiss had been everything she imagined and more. She wanted it to go on and on and never end. She parted her lips and let her tongue reach for Den's. It must have shocked the other girl; she pulled back momentarily, and Honey opened her eyes. Denny was staring at her, not with the shock Honey expected, but with longing.

They kissed again, and Honey gently parted Den's lips with her tongue. The sensation was unlike anything Honey had ever felt before, and she thought she finally understood what Di meant when she talked about how kissing Mart made her feel "all zap-pow inside". She reached her left hand to Den's shoulder and pulled her in closer. She felt Den's fingers tighten around hers in her other hand. Her breathing became labored, but she didn't want to pull her mouth away from those soft lips.

Denny did finally pull back, panting heavily. "Honey."

Honey sighed contentedly.

"I expected you to taste like honey, but you taste so much better than that." Denny grinned at her and leaned in for another kiss.

The reality of what she had just done suddenly hit her. This wasn't her daydreaming, some fantasy she was having while lying in her bed. This was real. Denny was here, in front of her, and they had kissed. Honey started to panic again. She scooted away from the other girl, letting go of her hand. "We shouldn't be doing this. It's wrong, isn't it?"

Denny shook her head. "It feels right to me." She sighed and sat up straighter.

"It felt ... fantastic," Honey admitted. "But you're a girl. And I'm a girl."

"I hope so." Den grinned.

"It's not right." Honey frowned. "I'm sorry, Denny. I ... I should go."

Denny touched Honey's arm as she stood up. "You promised you wouldn't just run off. Please."

Honey nodded and sat back down. She looked around at the room nervously. The door was closed and a poster of a horse was taped to it. The walls were a very pale green. A pine dresser and bookshelf took up one wall. A small framed picture of Denny and an older woman, probably her mother, stood on the dresser, and a lacy doily served as a place mat for a handful of small perfume bottles. On the other wall, a window framed in simple pale brown curtains looked out on a lawn. From this angle, all she could see were a few trees and the sky, darkening, but still blue. She looked back at the bed; the flowered spread was mostly blue, but also had shades of pink and purple mixed in with the green of stems and leaves. And then, with a breath, she looked back up at Denny.

The other girl was staring at her, smiling, but Honey saw a hint of tears in her eyes as well. "It's not right," Honey repeated.

"Why?" Denny's eyes reflected the hurt her statement had caused.

"What if someone sees us?" She wasn't just talking about there, in the other girl's room. She meant anywhere, anytime.

Denny gazed around the room. "It's just you and me. No one else is here."

Honey nodded, but in the stillness she heard muted noises coming from the kitchen below.

Denny touched her cheek. "I like kissing you. You seemed to like kissing me. We're not hurting anyone."

"But we shouldn't like it." Honey struggled to get the words out, especially with the feel of Denny's soft fingers on her cheek. "It's not normal. It's not natural."

"What's normal? What's natural?" Denny shrugged and her hand dropped from Honey's face. "They find three-legged frogs and two-headed snakes in nature all the time. Those are natural."

Honey laughed, in spite of the maelstrom of emotions she was experiencing. "Are you saying I'm like a three-headed frog or something?"

"No, no, no!" Denny held her stomach as she laughed with her. "I just meant that what people think of as unnatural still happens in nature. Maybe I should find some better examples."

"Maybe." Honey wanted to kiss the girl beside her again.

"Ok, look throughout history, the ancient Greeks and Romans, there's mention of girls lying together, and boys, too, of course. And there have been so many stories written about two women living together independent of men as far back as literature goes." Denny smiled at her. "I'm saying maybe this is actually normal. We're certainly not the first two people to feel this way."

"I know." Honey bit her lip.

Denny groaned softly. "Don't do that if you don't want me to kiss you. I may not be able to help myself." Her eyes twinkled softly.

Honey smiled. "Sorry." Then she frowned again. "It's just ... it's wrong. I know it's wrong. We're supposed ... I'm supposed to feel this way about boys."

"Honey, how can something that makes the two of us feel so good possibly be wrong?" The other girl slid closer to her and Honey gave in, eager to feel the warmth of Denny's lips on hers again.

Honey broke off the kiss, still struggling with what they were doing. She looked searchingly into the other girl's eyes, imploring her to understand. "But ... I can't tell my parents, my brother, my best friends. How can something that needs to be kept secret be okay? How can this possibly be right?"

Denny wiped a tear from Honey's cheek with her thumb. "I don't know. All I know is I like you. And I like kissing you. God, how I like kissing you." Denny grinned, as if remembering the kiss, and then frowned. "I'm sorry. If you're uncomfortable with it, we should stop. The last thing I want to do is make you unhappy."

Honey touched her cheek where Denny's finger had been. The gesture had been so intimate and it made Honey's heart leap wildly in her chest. She took a few calming breaths and stood up. "We should stop. But I don't want to stop. I'm just ... I'm so confused." Honey started gathering up her things. "I really should go. I can't even think straight when I'm around you. I promise I'm not running off. I just ... I need to clear my head." She leaned over and gave Denny a quick peck on the lips.

Denny nodded. "And when I see you at school tomorrow?"

"I guess we'll just have to try to act normal." Honey frowned. She didn't know how she could possibly do that.


Tom had arrived twenty minutes after Honey had called him, and it had been a very awkward twenty minutes. She had insisted they stay downstairs in view of Mr. Gardner, so she wouldn't be tempted by Denny's eyes or lips or that smell of cedar or pine or whatever that scent was that came from her skin. She was relieved when the doorbell finally rang and Denny walked her to the door, armed with two of the pies that Mrs. Dalmeny had ordered.

She sat in the back seat of the dark blue sedan quietly, her thoughts still on Denny. She wished she could just walk down the halls at school with her, holding hands like other couples did. She wanted to walk her to class and give her a quick kiss on the lips as they parted. She dared to dream she could go to a school dance with Denny on her arm. She felt tears slip down her cheeks as she realized that could never, would never happen. But the thought of not being with Denny ... well, that was just unthinkable.


Author's Notes:

Word count: 6,131

The story title and lyrics at the top of the story are from "Robots" by Dan Mangan (the Canadian musician, not our wood-chopping Bob-White, natch!) and is used without permission.

Jo (JJsGirl) and Dana, thank you both for editing this and for your positive feedback. I very much appreciate both of you!

Partial Heterochromia Iridum is a condition in which the iris of one (or sometimes both) eyes have different colors.

Characters are either copyright of Random House publishing or my own created characters. Every detail about my characters is complete fiction, and any similarities to any real persons is completely coincidental. All copyrighted and real characters are used with no permission whatsoever but with tons of love and admiration.

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