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Authors: Joan Elizabeth Lloyd

Club Fantasy

BOOK: Club Fantasy
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Books by Joan Elizabeth Lloyd
THE PRICE OF PLEASURE
 
NEVER ENOUGH
 
CLUB FANTASY
 
 
Published by Kensington Publishing Corporation
CLUB FANTASY
JOAN ELIZABETH LLOYD
KENSINGTON BOOKS
All copyrighted material within is Attributor Protected.
Chapter
1
“G
len asked me to marry him last evening,” Jenna Bryant said as she put her Garfield mug on the table beside the cozy overstuffed sofa and propped her feet on the coffee table.
Marcy let the dead leaf she'd pulled from one of six cyclamen on the living room windowsill fall from her fingers, and dashed across the small room to drop onto the couch beside her sister. She wrapped her arms around her ninety-five-seconds-younger sibling and shrieked, “That's wonderful!” Marcy's grin almost split her face. “I'm so happy for you. I knew you and Glen were perfect for each other. He's a great guy.”
Jenna eased her sister away, heaved a deep sigh and squared her shoulders. “I told him no.” Jenna watched her sister's face turn from elation to disbelief to uncertainty and somehow it appeared to confuse her still more.
For several moments Marcy just stared, then she said, “It happened around ten last evening, didn't it? I was sitting watching TV and something spooked me, frightened me from the inside.”
“Yeah, that was about the right time.” Although the two women always made fun of the alleged connection between identical twins, they couldn't deny that occasionally strong emotions seemed to be transmitted from one to the other.
“Tell me,” Marcy said softly as she settled at the other end of the nubby oatmeal couch, curled her feet beneath her, and reached out to take Jenna's hand. Jenna marveled at her sister's calm strength. She was a wreck.
Although the women were twins, their mother had always tried to bring out different characteristics in her two daughters. Thus the two women were very different. Where Jenna was spontaneous, Marcy was a planner. Jenna's desk was covered with little slips of paper. Marcy had a neat, organized day-runner.
Physically they were unlike as well. Although their features were identical, Jenna constantly dieted and worked out at a gym three or four times a week while Marcy allowed her tendency to be overweight to take over her eating habits and had ballooned until she weighed almost forty pounds more than her sister. At five foot seven, Jenna's 130 pounds looked wonderful, with large breasts and flat abs. At 170, Marcy was a size sixteen and, although she was what some might call zaftig, behind her back others bluntly said she was fat.
Both women were attractive but, where Jenna used cosmetics to enhance her large gray eyes, soft full lips, and high cheekbones, only occasionally did Marcy even spread on light lip gloss. Jenna's light brown hair was softly layered, falling to her shoulders; Marcy's was longer, usually caught behind her neck in a wide barrette.
It was only ten o'clock on a spring Sunday morning and while Jenna had pulled on a pair of forest green, stretch pants and a soft yellow, SUNY Albany sweatshirt, Marcy wore her uniform: black sweat pants and an unadorned black sweatshirt.
“It should have been so lovely,” Jenna said, remembering. “We went to dinner at Miragio's, and Glen had arranged for champagne and special flowers on the table.” She shrugged. “I knew he was going to ask me.”
“And,” Marcy said, gently, when her sister paused.
Jenna felt her stomach muscles tighten. “He's so nice and I'm so fond of him. He looked so wounded and I feel like such a shit, Sis. I've known how he felt for several weeks, and I realize now that I've been trying to sidestep that moment hoping I wouldn't have to hurt him. Finally, last evening, I couldn't avoid it any more.”
When Marcy took a breath to speak, Jenna held up her free hand. “Let me say this my way.” Explain. How could she explain it to her sister when she didn't fully understand it herself? She loved him, didn't she? Did she?
When Marcy nodded and squeezed her hand, Jenna continued. “Glen's a wonderful guy but the closer we got the more restless I became. As he drew me nearer, somewhere inside I wanted to break away. Don't get me wrong. He wasn't doing anything that didn't flow naturally out of our relationship. After almost a year it's natural that he'd think in terms of something—something more permanent.” She huffed out a breath. “Listen to me. I sound like some guy who can't even say the word marriage without stuttering. But when I think about it, my stomach hurts.”
She disentangled her hand from her sister's, picked up her mug and sipped, more as a prop than from a desire for the tepid coffee. “After a leisurely dinner, dessert and coffee, he took the predictable blue velvet ring box from his pocket, opened it and asked me. I froze.”
Just the thought of it had her on her feet pacing the small living room, from the curtained windows that faced a quiet residential street to the fireplace, its mantle topped with framed, family photographs and a vase filled with recently cut lilacs. “It was everything a woman could want. He told me he loved me, wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. He said he wanted a house, kids, but we'd wait with either or both if I wanted. He laughed and said that, since we had no folks to ask, he had considered asking your permission to marry me, but in the end, he said, I was the only one who mattered.” Jenna felt her eyes fill. “It was so romantic, so perfect.”
When she didn't immediately continue, Marcy said, gently, “But you told him no.”
“I saw myself ten years from now, still here in Seneca Falls.” Her tone hardened as she continued, “Gateway to the Finger Lakes. Two-point-six kids, a house with a white picket fence around it, a dog, all the things that lots of women want. I felt like I was being crammed into a box. All I could hear was that song. Something about ‘You'll cage me on your shelf' and ‘I'll never get the chance to be just me first, for myself.' I felt my throat close and my hands sweat. I was totally panicked. I heard my heart pound in my ears. I couldn't catch my breath. While he sat there across the table looking at me with such expectation in his eyes and that damned ring box in his hand, something in my head was banging on the inside of my skull trying to get free. I couldn't do it. I just couldn't do it.” As she told the story, she felt her fingernails dig into her palms and her chest tighten. “I haven't been leading him on. I thought it would work out, I really did, but when push came to shove I couldn't.”
What she couldn't discuss, as close as the sisters were, was that she also wanted more out of her sex life than Glen offered. He was workmanlike in bed, and amazingly predictable. She'd often suggested more creative activities and Glen always obliged, but he quickly slipped back into his boring pattern. There must be more to sex than this, she found herself saying over and over. Like Glen, Marcy wouldn't understand, Jenna thought. They're both just too straight.
I need more,
she cried silently.
“It's okay, Jen,” her sister said. “You don't have to do anything you don't want to do.”
Jenna unclenched her fingers that ached with muscular tension. “I know. And I know that you'd give your eyeteeth for that kind of life. You wouldn't be the flighty one who slammed someone so nice.” She swallowed the urge to cry, picturing Glen's handsome face fall as she refused his offer.
“I'm me and you're you, Jenna. We may have lots of genes in common but we are two different people. What I might want and what Glen wants have nothing to do with you. You've got to be true to yourself. Marriage is forever, or at least it should be.”
Jenna sniffled and swiped at the tear that was trickling down her cheek. “You always know how to say the right thing, don't you, Sis?” She sat back down in an unintentional mirror image of her sister's pose, legs tucked beneath her. “So I told him that I couldn't marry him. He was totally shocked and I guess I was too. What was worse, I couldn't really tell him why. I tried to explain but he just shut the ring box and stuffed it back in his jacket pocket.”
She picked up her mug and played with the handle. “Then I did a really bad thing. I tried to lessen the pain by saying that we might talk in six months or so. Maybe Thanksgiving or Christmas. He grabbed on to that. I should never have said it.” She felt her eyes fill with tears of both pain and frustration. “I have no idea whether there is any hope, but I gave him some.
“I wanted to leave him right then but we had come in his Nissan. He dropped a few bills on the table and, like the polite guy he is, helped me into my coat, and then into his car. You should have seen his profile. It could have been carved out of the side of a mountain. His jaw was locked, eyes straight ahead. From the moment we left the restaurant to pulling into our driveway, he didn't say another word.” More tears flowed down Jenna's face and Marcy sniffled in sympathy. “He put the car in park, draped his arm across the back of my seat and said, ‘I love you, and I'll wait as long as it takes.' Then he looked at me with those gorgeous brown eyes. I got out of the car and didn't look back.” Jenna sniffled. “He didn't leave until I was in the house and had turned off the porch light.” It had been so final. Was she right to be so selfish? Yes. She had to do this. “I hate myself for not being more forceful. Don't wait, I wanted to say. Make a new life with someone who loves you more than I do.”
“Do you love him?”
“I don't know. I thought I did, but could I do this to him if I loved him? I'm not sure I know what love is. Watching him last evening broke my heart, but it didn't change my mind.”
Marcy unfastened the barrette that held her hair and clenched it between her front teeth. She reflexively combed the straight brown strands through her fingers and refastened the clip as she did dozens of times a day. “What now?” she asked.
“I was up most of the night trying to figure that out. I must look like death warmed over.” She tucked her shoulder-length, chestnut hair behind her ears.
“You look just fine, nothing a good night's sleep won't cure. What's done, is done and it's time to move on. Glen will do okay. He's tough. You need to look out for number one, you.”
“I know. I'm so confused that I don't know who I am or what I want any more.” She shuddered. “This isn't easy for me to say, Sis, but I made a difficult decision at about five this morning.” God, she was going to hurt someone else; first Glen, now her sister. “I've got to get away from here. I love you but I've got to take some time to be by myself.” As she watched her sister's face close up just the way Glen's had, she wondered how she was going to get through the day. She had to make Marcy understand, better than Glen did. She just had to. “Do you realize that we're almost thirty-one and we've never lived alone?”
“You mean I'm part of this too?”
“It's not you. I love you.” She stared at all the family pictures on the mantle, then turned to her sister. “It's being twins. As different as we are, we've always been part of a set, maybe not to anyone else, but to me. Jenna and Marcy. The girls. We had the measles together, got poison ivy together, started menstruating on the same day. Remember when we each broke an arm within a week of each other? Big joke, but it's not a joke at all. It's not you, it's us, with a capital
U.
I'm drowning in US.”
Marcy slumped back onto the sofa cushions. “I never realized that you thought of it all that way.”
“I don't think I ever focused on it until last night. It feels like a giant case of claustrophobia. Once it surfaced it was as if it had all been there forever.”
“I'm sorry you resent me,” Marcy said, her voice tiny.
Jenna saw her sister's face reflect all the hurt she must be feeling and almost changed her mind.
No, I can't or it's going to be this way for the rest of my life.
Hadn't Marcy ever felt any of the same things? “I don't mean to hurt you, Sis, even a little, but think very hard for a moment. Can you honestly say that you've never wanted to be an only child?”
“Of course not,” Marcy said immediately.
“Think harder. Is that your final answer?”
Marcy sighed. “Maybe occasionally.”
“If you think about it a little more you might discover that it was more than occasionally. I don't mean to play amateur shrink and you know I love you more than anyone, but I think we both need space.” Was she just rationalizing doing something so traumatic to her sister? “Maybe we should have done this when we came back here after graduate school, but it was so easy just to move back into the folks' old house and with AAJ based near here, the rest just seemed to happen.”
With an almost uncanny ear for languages, the two women had majored in comparative linguistics at the State University of New York at Albany and had both obtained masters' degrees. They spoke half-a-dozen languages fluently and had gotten jobs as translators for AAJ Technologies, a multinational computer manufacturing firm based between their hometown of Seneca Falls, New York, and Syracuse. Their parents had died in their final year in graduate school, and had left them their house. So, after graduation, they had moved back into their old rooms and had flowed along that way for almost eight years.
Jenna had met Glen, a lawyer who had represented AAJ in several high-profile cases, when he had needed a German translator for a patent dispute. They had dated for almost a year until the previous evening.
BOOK: Club Fantasy
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