Story: Joanna I Love You (all chapters)

Authors: mandygirl78

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Chapter 1

"Hey Jo, are you ready yet?" Blair shouted to her girlfriend from the steps at their Upper West Side townhome in the heart of New York City.

"Yeah, yeah, I'm comin'!" she yelled back in her bedroom.

"Come on now, grease monkey, you don't want to be late."

"Well, what makes you want to be punctual for this? Punctuality is like a disease to you," Jo dryly noted.

"Ha ha, very funny." Blair deadpanned. "I'm not that bad!"

"Honey, you were late for every single date we had," Jo yelled down from the bedroom.

Blair smirked a little in remembrance. "Ah, but there was a method to my madness. I couldn't have you thinking I was desperate or something. Being slightly tardy gives the appearance of having very valuable things to do with one's time." Her smile grew as she continued, "Besides, it drove you crazy to have to wait on me, and I so love seeing you flustered."

"So, what's the big deal about being on time now?"

"Because this is important and people are depending on us. We're going to repair the community center's gym for the youth. Isn't that a good enough reason to be punctual?" Blair countered.

Usually, Jo was the punctual one and Blair that was terrible with time because of her endless primping and preening in front of the mirror. Unknown to Jo was that today was a special day.

Jo walked out of the bedroom, running her hands through her dark hair. "Okay I hear ya, but I need to find my jacket before I leave."

Blair stood at the bottom of the stairs holding Jo's favorite leather jacket on her arm. "I got your jacket right here so let's go!"

Jo immediately grabbed the jacket from Blair and they left, heading straight to the community center at Jo's old neighborhood in the Bronx. Jo knew very well how important the center was to her old neighborhood, so unlike most of Blair's 'brilliant ideas', she didn't hesitate to help her out on this one.

As soon as they got in the car, Jo noticed a bag on the backseat. "Hey, honey, what's that bag doin' back there?"

"Oh, that's just an extra set of clothes. Just in case we make a serious mess on these old rags we're wearing," she scoffed as she pulled on Jo's beat-up sweater.

Jo and Blair were wearing some old worn-out clothes – well Jo was. She was wearing an old silver Langley College sweater with a pair of light-blue, beaten-up, denim jeans and a very dirty pair of white Adidas. What Blair was calling 'old rag' for her was really only a few months old! Blair, on the other hand, was wearing a light-pink Chanel sweat suit with a pair of white Reeboks that were even barely worn.

"Old rag? You just bought 'em three months ago!"

"They are indeed old, sweetie. The 2006 version just came out two days ago!"

"Jesus, Blair…" she stated while rolling her eyes in contempt.

During the drive, they had their usual conversation of Blair bringing up something about herself that made Jo do her smart comments. And of course as usual, they ended up having yet another one of their trademark arguments. Luckily enough, they didn't get into an accident.

Finally, they got to the place but Jo noticed that there were more cars than usual on the parking lot.

"What are all these cars doin' out here?'

Blair shrugged, trying to act nonchalant. "Maybe they're having a party at someone's house nearby and they are using it for space."

"You're probably right, I remember people doing that for the birthday parties we held." Jo found a parking space and parked the car. When they got out of the car, Blair made sure she got the bag and they headed to the building. When she got to the door, Jo noticed that the lights were on inside.

"That's weird. There shouldn't be lights on at this time of the night."

Blair was a bit nervous; she had to think of something quick, "Well, maybe they forgot to turn off the lights."

"Who's 'they'?" she asked puzzlingly.

"The plumbers. They came here yesterday to fix some of the bathrooms," Blair responded, thanking herself for her quick thought.

"Oh I see." Jo shrugged.

Blair sighed in relief as Jo opened the door with her keys and they found their way to the gym. When they finally opened the gym's main entrance doors, Jo was greeted with a surprise.

"Surprise, happy birthday!" everybody said in unison. The gym was decorated with balloons and streamers, with a big "Happy Birthday Jo!" banner on top of the stage. In addition to the guests, there was a band on the stage, ranging from around 10-13 members, with guitars, keyboards, drums, and even a horns section! They were playing mostly R&B and Jazz music. Jo noticed something familiar with the band, especially with the lead singer, but she brushed it off and turned her focus back on her lover. Blair knew she didn't like surprises, especially ones that involve celebrations. Fortunately for Blair, Jo's best friend from the neighborhood, Kelly, met them before Jo had any time to protest. She got her best friend's attention by lightly punching her on the shoulders.

"Yo' Joey, what's up!"

"Hey Kelly, how ya' doin'? It's been a while."

"Doin' great. It's been eight months since I've been out of the slamma'."

"That's good to hear!"

"Yeah, I finally got my life together. I got a job now."

"Really? What do you do?"

"I work for a telemarketing company, sellin' window siding." She grinned.

"That's a real improvement, Kelly. Maybe in the future you can sell rain gutters," Blair said sarcastically. Kelly picked it up but didn't let it get to her, figuring that Blair was just being Blair. Jo, on the other hand, gave her a short, cold frown.

"Nah, too boring!" Kelly retorted. Blair rolled her eyes in disbelief as Kelly continued. "Besides, I'm on a fast-track training program for management and they're planning on opening a new call center in Texas. So, how are you two doin'?"

"Great! I became sergeant about four months ago. I finally got my own office!"

"That's great, Joey! I don't know why you still workin' when you got Ms. Money-Bunny here. So tell me how many Porsches do ya own?"

Jo looked at her with a somewhat dissatisfied look. "You know I'm not into that type of stuff. I still drive a Honda."

"Ah come on now Joey, don't be so modest. I know that you got a vacation home in the Hamptons."

"No, but we have one in Tahiti," Blair intervened in the conversation.

"Wow, that is so cool!" she said honestly. "I know where I can stay if I ever get tha' money to vacation down there!" she said excitedly. Blair had a disgusted look on her face when she said that but Kelly continued, "Well now that I'm out, maybe I could come by and visit some time."

"It might be sooner than you think," Blair muttered. Kelly heard it and she wasn't very pleased. Jo was surprised at what she heard, and Kelly was simply livid.

Mad as hell, Kelly spat, "Alright ya' bleach-headed, blond bimbo. Hope ya' plan ta visit yo' plastic surgin' down at Madison Avenue, cuz I'm 'bout ta' punch a button on that button-nosed face of yours!"

Kelly stepped up and tried to swing a punch, but Jo quickly blocked it and then restrained her. "Stop it Kel, stop it!"

"Yeah, you need to stop it, you uncivilized Neanderthal!" Blair goaded, adding more fuel to the fire as usual. She was acting tough, yet she cowardly backed as far away from Kelly as she could. Soon the crowd noticed Kelly's struggling to get to Blair and one other person within the crowd helped Jo holding her back. Eventually, Jo moved Kelly to an isolated area and had a small talk with her.

"Listen Kel, don't let her wind ya' up like that! I know that you could be betta than that!"

"You're right Joey, I should not let her get ta me like that."

Eventually, she calmed down and congratulated her best friend.

"Well, Happy Birthday, Joey, it's good to see my old buddy turning the big fo'-oh'," she cheered followed with a friendly hug.

"Thanks a lot."

"No problem, you take care of yo'self! Later." She ended with an icy cold glance to Blair as she was walking away.

When Kelly was out of sight, Jo spat at Blair, "Why the hell did you do that? You can be such a snobby ass sometimes! For once in her life she's doing something good and you can't appreciate that!"

"Do you consider telemarketing as a positive direction? Pul-leeze, who would buy from her? She can't even enunciate her words correctly. But you're right Jo, it could be worse; she could be a spokesperson for 'Hooked on Phonics'!"

Jo started to grit her teeth. "And you could be a spokesperson for the Trust Fund Children Society!"

"What is that supposed to mean, grease monkey?" Blair squeaked.

"It means you need to learn how to shut your trap, you spoiled princess!"

The other two musketeers, Natalie and Tootie, saw yet another epic argument brewing. Knowing the couple for over twenty years, they knew too well how far they could go. Before Blair and Jo could get into their usual all-out quarrel, they came over to avert the impending riff.

"Hey Jo, congratulations on your 40th birthday!" Tootie elated.

"Yeah Jo, congratulations!" Natalie shouted and then they hugged her nearly to death. Feeling like a wrestler experiencing a bear hug from Andre the Giant, Jo had to stop them.

"Ok, ok, knock it off! It's a birthday party, not a funeral!"

"Sorry, but we're so happy!" Tootie said delightedly as they finally let go of their death grip.

"Okay, okay, I get the point, but I do want to live to see 41, if Blair doesn't kill me first!"

Blair took a small offense to her wisecrack and lightly backhanded her in the stomach, causing a small "oomph" to come out of her. Nat and Tootie were chuckling.

"Hey Jo, we got you something for your birthday," Natalie said.

"I hope it's not something like that fleece poncho that you gave me."

"I thought you would like it." Natalie sighed in disappointment.

"I did at first, until it started to make me itch and I got a rash from it."

"Sorry, I didn't know, but this one is a lot safer."

"A lot safer huh? So, what is it?" she asked.

"It's a ticket to a special episode of my talk show." Tootie said as she showed the ticket to her. Jo sighed when she heard that.

"You know I'm not into that type of stuff."

"Just a ticket to your show?" Blair scoffed. "What makes it different from all your other shows?"

"Well, this one is 'Biker Chicks and the Women Who Love Them!'"

That got some strange looks from Jo and Blair.

"Eh?" Jo puzzled. Then Blair knew why she had a show like that.

"Let me guess, sweeps week!"

"You got it!"

Jo sighed. "That's basically the only time we lesbians are considered important on TV."

"You know I'm trying to bring more visibility to gays and especially lesbians, to show all the dynamics and subcultures in it. In fact, TV Guide once said that my show is gayer than 'Queer Eye for the Straight Guy'!"

That got some laughs from the group. Jo then gave it a thought for a second. "Hmm… I might take you up on that." Tootie gladly handed her the ticket and then she thanked her.

"Do you have an extra ticket for me?" Blair asked.

"Sure, I thought you would never ask." She handed her the other ticket.

"Thank you for your generosity."

"No problem. Trust me, you won't be disappointed."

"Well, it couldn't be any worse than any of those 'You are NOT the Father' shows on Maury!" Jo cringed.

"Maury's a hack. My parents knew him back when he was living in DC. He was always a shameless ham. Anyways, I thought that something small and simple might suit you better, because I'm sure you might get something fancier from other people." Blair and Natalie were surprised at Tootie, and they glared at her, thinking she came too close to letting out the surprise. Natalie hastily interrupted.

"Well, I think we need to get going. Enjoy the party," Natalie said with her usual charm and then she dragged Tootie to an isolated corner so she can have a word with her.

As they left the area Jo looked at Blair. "I know those two are hiding something, but since it's s'posed to be a surprise, I'll just go along wit' it. What really surprises me is that she didn't ask us to appear on that show."

"That's because everybody knows us. We were all over the tabloids back when they found out about us."

"Yeah, I remember those days… They were very wonderful."

"Indeed…" Blair rolled her eyes. "But it's the past now, and we don't have to deal with it anymore," she reminded her partner followed by a kiss to Jo's cheek. Jo had a soft pinkish blush on her face.

"Yeah, it feels good to be able to hold your hands in public." she mildly grinned.

"And to be able to hug you like this," Blair said as she gave her a soft loving hug. "Don't worry, I won't kill you with this hug," she chimed.

"Yeah, I don't know how many ribs those two just broke," she kidded with her typical dry humor as she enjoyed the warm hug she got from her partner.

While having their personal chit-chat, Beverly Ann, along with her adopted son, Andy, came along.

"Well, happy birthday, Jo!" Beverly Ann greeted, followed by Andy.

"Hello Beverly, hello Andy," the couple said as they hugged Beverly Ann and Andy.

"How are you doing, Jo? It's been a while since we last saw each other!" Bev noted.

"Yeah I know, I've been quite a bit busy since I've been promoted to Sergeant."

"Really, that's cool!" Andy said.

"Yeah, so how's your entertainment business goin', Andy?"

"It's great! I just took over another agency for only a quarter of their value! I found out that a few of their clients (mostly celebrities) were disgruntled with the agency's policies, so I paid them a small amount of money to continue making an ass out of themselves, thus lowering the value of the agency as they were constantly in damage control. When it got to a reasonable price, I went out and bought them out. And just like magic, those celebrities have turned back into angels! And I'm raking in the dough…" he said smugly.

Andy had learned how to become a ruthless business manager by being under El DeBarge's manager's wings for a while. Plus, he worked with El DeBarge's old boss who was also notorious for being ruthless, Motown's founder, Berry Gordy.

Andy had more to say, "I'm about to represent socialite Paris Hilton after she and her agent got into a fight and he quit her."

"That's not surprising… Her and her family have no limits to their rudeness with others," Blair chided. Jo was thinking to herself, 'Well ain't that the pot calling the kettle black!'

"Why do you hate the Hiltons?" Beverly Ann asked. Before Blair spoke, Jo butted in, knowing that she would continuously rant for hours on the Hiltons and especially on Paris Hilton.

"Because the Hiltons went behind Blair's back in obtaining a piece of land near Bedford-Stuyvesant, where she was planning to build her hotel. Plus, Paris Hilton once called her a 'has-been heifer'. And to top it off, Paris Hilton's mom, Kathy, is good friends to Blair's eternal arch-nemesis, Boots St. Clair."

"And don't forget she's a media hog and a slut!" That was probably the strongest word that would ever come out of Blair's mouth.

"That too," Jo concluded.

"Oh dear…" Beverly Anne stated while shaking her head in disbelief.

"I don't know why people think Paris is hot. None the matter, she's gonna make me a lot of money. She's not that pretty and she has no body structure. Blair, even at your age, you still blow her away with your looks and your curves." Andy remarked.

Jo was about to let her infamous short temper and her jealousy get the best of her, but she stopped herself, knowing that Andy knew better and that he was only complementing Blair.

Blair blushed at Andy's complement and giggled. "Of course I do. Why thank you!"

Jo just rolled her eyes, seeing how easily Blair's ego fed into Andy's bullshit, but it wasn't going to last very long, as Andy pulled out an iPod with an attached speaker.

"Oh, by the way Jo, there's someone who wants to say happy birthday as well." He tapped a button and played the recording. It sounded like a man with a soft voice.

"Hey Jo, I just want to wish you a happy birthday. I still haven't forgotten it."

Jo's eyes nearly popped out, while Blair was simmering with anger. What they heard was the voice of El DeBarge. The story goes that El was quite smitten by Jo, and Jo was a bit interested in him, still in denial of her true sexuality. So they dated only for a short time. It ended when Jo found out that he was charged for sexual harassment against a college student. Needless to say, she wanted to have nothing to do with him, and he was one of the last men she had ever dated.

Andy kept on playing the iPod, much to Jo and Blair's growing annoyance, as El sang Happy Birthday.

"Happy Birthday to You

Happy Birthday to You

Happy Birthday Dear JooOOOOooooOOOOOooooOOOOoooo" - CLICK!

Jo immediately grabbed it from him and turned it off while he was singing her name in an unnecessarily long hook.

"Don't you ever, and I mean EVER, bring up anything about him again. Understood?" Jo hissed like a deadly viper to Andy. Blair was no better as she gave him an icy cold glare. Beverly Ann was still too shocked to say or do anything.

Andy had a hard time swallowing the lump in his throat, but finally squeaked out, "Yes. I very much do so, Jo."

"Good!" she spat coldly.

Wanting to change the subject, Andy brought up something important. "Oh, um, another thing, we put our gifts at the table over there with the rest of the gifts." Andy pointed at the table that was about half-full of gifts. Jo was indifferent about it at first, but then she realized how much people really cared about her and how much they appreciated her. It left a smile on her face, finally realizing that all of her hard work and support she had done for others was never in vain. "Trust me; you'll like it when you unwrap it," he concluded.

"Speaking of unwrapping gifts, where's the birthday cake, Blair?" Beverly Ann asked.

"Yeah, where is it?" Jo smirked at her girlfriend as she tried to put the annoyance she felt towards Andy away for the moment.

Blair closed her eyes and sighed. "Oh my… My mother is supposed to bring it… I should have known better, she's hardly on time and she's hardly reliable."

"Like mother, like daughter…" Jo muttered. Blair huffed at the comment but Jo backed it up. "It's true! I was shocked that you wanted to be on time for something tonight."

"She's right!" Beverly Anne and Andy said backing her up.

Before Blair could protest, Andy asked them, as he looked at one particular woman a few feet away. "Hey, is that Tootie?"

Jo and Blair turned their backs from Bev and Andy and looked at Tootie. "Yes it is," Jo responded.

"I heard that she is planning to fire her manager. Also, I heard that she is a widow. In fact, she doesn't even have a boyfriend."

"Both are true," Blair replied.

A big grin appeared on his face, for that was VERY good news to him. "Well then, I'll see you ladies later. I got some 'business' to take care of…"

And he headed straight to Tootie. Jo and Blair looked back, then they looked at each other in amazement and just giggled. Beverly Ann shook her head.

"Well, some things haven't change," Jo snickered.

"True indeed," Blair agreed.

Beverly Ann interrupted, "I think I've taken up enough of your time. Have fun and enjoy this birthday, Jo. Who knows, it may be the best birthday in your life."

Blair smiled, liking how shrewdly Beverly hid the surprise. "Ah, I doubt it. Looks like the same ol' birthday ta me!"

"But it may not be…" Beverly Ann said, followed with a smirk as she walked away. Blair noticed that Jo didn't get it.

"Well that was interesting…"

"Yeah Blair, tell me about it."

Blair changed the subject. "I wonder what is taking my mother so long."

"Why don't you call her?"

"I will do just that." Blair called her mother's cell phone number. All she got was an answering message. "She's not answering. I'll call Bailey and see if she'll answer." She called Bailey but got the same result: a voice mail.

"No luck?"

"None. Why can't my mom be on time for once?"

"Hey, at least your mom is coming." Jo moped. "Hell, at least your mom accepts our relationship and she accepts you for who you are." she grimaced, fighting off tears.

"Don't worry about it Jo. At least your uncle is here. Besides, my mother is the only person on her side of the family that accepts my homosexuality. The rest of them are ashamed of me… What a bunch of high-class inbreds," she mumbled under her breath.

"Yeah, but it's not the same. It feels like a consolation prize of sorts."

"Let's talks about this privately, okay?" Jo simply nodded in agreement. They left the gym and went to a private area in the hallway. There they continued their chat.

"Joey, you don't know yet, but maybe she will come around."

"My father never came around. That was the reason why he didn't bother to get in touch with me when he was dying and it was the only reason why he didn't have me in the will," she said as she angrily brushed away her tears.

Jo's father died a few years ago from colon cancer. He basically left her nothing in the will. All of his money went to his kids from his second wife. Although he never approved of most of Jo's past boyfriends, he was vehemently against Blair, since she was a woman. This was ironic, since he once fancied Blair's mother.

Blair saw the sadness in Jo's eyes, so she comforted her. Jo cried a bit on her shoulder. The pain of her own mother not accepting her for who saw was and who she loved was a lingering pain that never went away. This was in addition to the pain of her father never fully accepting, even to his grave. Blair's eyes were starting to get watery, feeling Jo's pain and also the pain of not having that full approval from her relatives.

"It will be okay, sweetie," Blair comforted. While Blair was taking care of her, one of her guests was looking for her and found them. When he saw her, he had a feeling of what was going on.

"Hey Jo, we need to have you… Whatsamatta Jo? Does it have ta do wit' Rose?" Sal asked. This was nothing new to him.

Sal Longo, Jo's uncle, was a close relative to Jo, probably closer to Jo than her father ever was. Sal knew the situation between her and her mother very well. He tried multiple times to reason with his sister over Jo's sexuality. However he had no success. She was a devout Catholic and strongly adhered to the Church's stance on homosexuality.

Blair didn't say a thing but she didn't have to, Sal saw it on her face and the fact that Jo's cries grew louder when he mentioned her mother's name. Sal then comforted her with a hug while she was crying her pain away. Eventually, Jo stopped crying and dried the tears off her face.

"Hey, Uncle Sal, how are you doing?" She finally greeted him, her face flushed from crying and her voice barely audible.

"Busy as usual since my car dealership got off the ground."


"Yeah Jo! People are seriously buyin' them hybrid cars. You thought that I was crazy, did ya? I told ya' people would be buyin' them."

Sal sold his garage a few years back and started a Honda car dealership that specializes in hybrids.

"Selling, hybrid cars?" Blair questioned. "I thought someone like you would be more into Iroc Zs and Fieros."

"Hey I'm a proud American, and I used to love American cars, but times have changed and you gotta keep up wit' it. The Japanese are makin' betta' cars and dat's what people are buyin'."

Blair didn't say a word, but Jo agreed with her uncle.

"Yeah, you're right. Now thinkin' about it, I should have joined when I had the chance."

"Don't worry about it, Joey, you can join anytime. I'll provide you wit' the necessary training you need, cuz' I know that you will do a great job. Plus, you can make molto denaro from fixin' them cars, since not many mechanics know howta fix a hybrid engine."

Jo gave it a little thought but quickly declined. "Nah, I like my job enough."

"Hey, that's okay. We need a lot of good policemen in this crazy town."

"Ahem…" Jo cleared her throat to correct Sal's sentence.

"Oh sorry, I mean policewoman. I gotta remember that political correctness stuff."

Jo and Blair chuckled. "It alright, I know whacha sayin'," Jo said. "But anyhow, thanks for coming."

"Aaay, you know I wouldn't miss this fo' the world!" he said, sounding like a true Italian.

Jo smiled. "I know you wouldn't."

"But look, I got a present fo' ya' that you'll never forget."

"What is it? Some new chrome rims for my chopper?"

Sal chuckled. "Nah, something even better. You'll find out when the time comes. Anyway, take care and enjoy da party!" And he walked away with a smile on his face. It made Jo even more curious.

"What could be that 'big' surprise?"

Blair simply responded, "I don't know," but she knew, and Jo knew that she knew.

"You know I don't like any type of surprises, don't you?"

"Of course, Jo. We've known each other for twenty five years and we've been with each other for nearly twenty, so I basically know you inside-out. But you got to realize that some surprises can be a good thing. Besides, this is a birthday party, what are the chances that it will turn bad?"

Jo shrugged, believing that she was getting worrisome over nothing. "You're right Blair. Maybe I shouldn't be so negative about surprises."

"Of course I'm always right, I'm Blair Warner," she chimed.

Jo rolled her eyes. "If that's so, then I'm Gloria Vanderbilt," she retorted.

Blair giggled when she said that. It brought back memories of the first time they met. "That's how you introduced yourself to me, remember that day?" she slyly noted.

"How could I forget? You were sizing me up!" Jo grinned.

Blair then had a crimson-red blush on her face, much to Jo's enjoyment.

"A Warner does not size people up like a piece of meat, they evaluate."

"Same difference! Either way you look at it, you were checkin' out my goods. Not that I have any complaints about it!" Jo kidded. Blair laughed in response.

"A Warner knows a good thing when they see one," Blair teased. Now it was Jo's turn to blush red.

"You're not gonna hear any disagreements from me on that one."

After that they went back into the gym. While in the middle of the conversation, a dark-haired Asian woman interrupted them.

"Happy Birthday Jo," she said with a touch of seduction. When Jo saw her, she was totally shocked, but when Blair saw her, she was totally pissed.

It was Miko Wakamatsu, former Japanese student of Eastland who once idolized Jo, even so far as to develop a crush on her. In fact, she once tried to steal Jo away from Blair during a low point in their relationship. About fifteen years back, there was a serious miscommunication between Jo and Blair that nearly caused them to breakup. Miko got wind of it and thought it would be the perfect time to steal Jo. She made her move and tried to start a relationship with Jo. They dated and they even went so far as to kiss. While they were kissing, all Jo could think of was Blair, so she stopped the kissing and stopped seeing Miko.

She looked totally different from her Eastland days. She adopted more of a 'biker chick' look with her leather jacket, short hair, and a few tattoos. After Eastland and college at MIT with a Masters in Mechanical Engineering, she decided to become a Road Racer, participating in many road races throughout the world. She dominated the field, cleaning up prizes and championship in Europe, Asia, Australia/New Zealand, and the Americas. After she retired from competition, she became in charge of the Motorcycle division of Wakamatsu Motors.

Needless to say, Blair did not invite her, but she came nevertheless.

"What the hell are you doing here?" she tersely asked Miko.

Miko, playing it cool, responded, "I just came to say happy birthday to Jo. What's wrong with that?"

"There's nothing wrong with that, but when most people say 'Happy Birthday', they don't try to sound like Kathleen Turner!" Blair furiously spat at her. Just like earlier with Kelly, Jo was trying to be the peacemaker, doing her best to calm her lover down.

"Blair, will ya just calm down? I don't think she has any ulterior motives."

She did calm down a little bit, but she was clearly marking her 'territory' like an Alpha Wolf by wrapping her right arm around Jo's waist. Miko wasn't naïve of the situation. She was very aware of what Blair was doing.

"Jo's right, there's no need to be hostile Blair. I only want to give her a present." Then she pulled out the present from her pocket, a ticket to a concert.

"Great, another ticket…" Jo said with a stiff smile.

"No Jo, not just an ordinary ticket, but a ticket to the greatest concert of 2005!" Miko said with a joyful grin.

Her eyes widened when she heard that. "You mean…"

"That's right Jo, the Heartbeat of America concert! And it's sponsored by Wakamatsu Motors of course. John Cougar Mellancamp and Bruce Springsteen will be there!"

"Did you say 'Bruce Springsteen'?"

"Yep, and with the E Street Band as well! So do you still want this ticket?" she teased.

Jo got excited. "Absolutely!" Miko gladly handed her the ticket. But Blair knew there was something fishy about it, and no, it wasn't because Miko just finished eating some sushi.

"Hey, how come you only have one ticket?" Blair asked with a suspicious tone.

"Because Blair, for one, it's her birthday, not yours; and two, this is not your type of music, everybody knows that," she responded in a straightforward tone. Blair couldn't disagree with her response, yet it wasn't valid enough for just one ticket.

"Well either you give me a ticket, or Jo will hand it back to you," She commanded.

"Blair! Isn't it for me to decide?" she protested.

"Yeah, isn't it for her to decide? Do you have to make all the decisions in the relationship?" Miko spat purposely, goading Blair's anger.

Blair was totally irate at Miko. "Don't try to twist things around, Miko. You were planning to use this to move in on Jo. And speaking of decisions, since I'm the one who's set this party, I'm the one who also decides who should be allowed in this party. And the last time I checked, I didn't invite you, so you better get out of here, or else..." she sneered.

Miko then stepped right up to Blair, only mere inches away from her, staring at her eye to eye. Through gritted teeth, she replied, "Or else what?"

Before any potential volatile actions between the two occurred, they were interrupted by a cheerful elderly woman.

"Happy 40th Birthday Jo!"

Jo immediately smiled like a daughter seeing her mother. "Mrs. Garrett, it's good ta' see ya'!"

Yes, it was none other than Mrs. Garret, who could not have arrived at a better time. Miko knew it was time to nonchalantly leave the area and so she quietly slipped past the couple.

"Well how are you doing? I heard that you are now a Sergeant."

"Yeah, I got promoted. Blair's happy 'cuz I don't have ta' be out on the streets anymore!"

"I sure am…" Blair said. Her face showed how relieved she was.

Mrs. Garrett chuckled. "Well that's great. How are you two getting along? I still remember those epic-sized proportion arguments you two had."

Both of them blushed as they remember those "good old days" when they argued to death over everything. And of course they still do, if not even more so since they're a couple of almost exact opposites.

"We still have them, but the end results are much better." Jo slyly blushed along with Blair. Mrs. Garrett was old but not naïve and she knew what she meant.

"Well I wish that your mom was here, because she's missing out on one hell of a party!"

"Well it doesn't matter to her, nor does my own feelings." Instantly it made Jo bitter again.

"Jo, don't say that," Mrs. Garrett cautioned as Jo looked like she was going to cry again.

"But it's true, she hasn't fully accepted me and Blair and the fact that I'm gay. At least you have. You were more like a mother to me than she ever was."

Mrs. Garrett knew it was true, much to her dismay, "She did care about you Jo, and she does love you, but due to circumstances beyond her control, she couldn't be there for you as much as she wanted to. Look, ever since the first day I met you, I could see through your tough act and saw how vulnerable you were. I knew that you had a warm and caring soul inside. You might have had a troubled past, but it makes me proud to see that you have become a productive member of society.

Back then, I sensed that there was a strong attraction you two had for each, even though you two were denying it. You two fought like cats and dogs but yet you two cared for each other like lovebirds. Now I'm very glad to see the both of you together as a couple, as I've always believe you two were meant for each other, contrary to what everyone else believed. Now that you two are grown up, it's goo' to – to – to," By then, Mrs. Garrett had lost her composure and started to cry.

"What is it Mrs. Garrett?" Jo asked as she was wondering where the sudden outburst came from.

After regaining a little bit of composure, Mrs. Garrett responded, "Congratulations," and she hurried off to the bathroom. Jo was still clueless as to what was going on.

"Jeeze, what's up with her?" Jo asked in puzzlement.

"Maybe she got choked up because we're no longer the young teenagers she fondly remembers. Blair simply noted, making up something on the fly once again.

"Hmmm… I could see that."

A few seconds later, Blair received a phone call. She checked it out and saw her mother's name, Monica, on the cell phone.

"Hi mom, where in the world are you?" she worried.

"We're only about a few blocks away honey, but the traffic is more backed up than an all-you-can-eat buffet on Sunday after church. We should be there in about fifteen minutes, right Bailey?"

"I hope so. This present is so freakin' heavy! I think I'm losing feeling in my leg!" she complained.

"Oh hush up! You'll live!" Monica spat. Bailey steamed a bit.

"Well I don't know what to do in the meantime," she panicked.

"Don't worry; I know you'll figure it out. After all, you're a Warner. Toodaloo!" She added as she quickly hanged up on her.

Blair knew she had to think of something, but she had no "brilliant ideas" in her head. However, she didn't really need any, as Jo was examining the band on the stage. She really wasn't sure who the band was until they started playing 'Summer Madness'.

"Hey Blair!"

"Yes grease monkey?"

"Is that Kool and the Gang?"

Blair smiled. "It sure is."

Jo wasn't so amazed, as this was not the first time that Blair hobnobbed with famous musicians. Through Blair's socialite status, she has met Joan Jett, Pat Benatar, Frank Sinatra, Gene Simmons, and many others.

"So how do you know them?"

"Through my father. I think Robert 'Kool' Bell could tell you better." She then went to get the band leader's attention. Excusez-moi Kool!"

Kool instantly stopped the music, and came up to Blair with his bass guitar strapped around his shoulder.

"Yeah what's up?"

"As you probably already know, this is the birthday girl, Joanna Polniaczek."

"Nice to meet you Joanna," he greeted as he shook her hand.

"Ah just call me Jo, everyone else does."

"No problem Jo." Then the lead singer approached Jo, "And this is our lead singer James 'J.T' Taylor, but you probably already know that."

"Of course, what teen who listened to pop music in the 80s wouldn't know that?" she grinned. "It's nice to meet you J.T."

"Nice to meet you too!" he sang with his famous buttery voice and then he kissed Jo's hand like a gentleman.

"Isn't he such a gentleman?" Blair smiled.

"Of course, what do ya' expect from someone who sang 'Ladies Night'?" Jo responded. They all chuckled.

Then Blair continued, "So Kool, tell her and everybody else who's listening how you guys know the Warner family."

"Oh yeah, well one of our former band member used to work in one of the family's textile factories in Jersey. He found out that Mr. Warner was actually a jazz fan and coincidently, we were at that time a jazz band. In fact, our original name was the 'Jazziacs'." That got some chuckles from Jo, Blair, and the rest of the crowd, but Kool continued, "Well, at that time, we were playing at various clubs in New York and New Jersey but we had no record deal, so we thought that since Mr. Warner knew a lot of people, he could help us in finding a record deal. Through talking to a lot of people in the company, we were able to see Mr. Warner.

When we visited Mr. Warner in his office, he wanted to hear our music, so we told him about a club date we had on that night. On that night when we were playing, Mr. Warner came and listened to our music. We made sure we were on our peak performance that night, playing nothing but our best songs, and it worked! He was so impressed that he told us not only will he find a record company deal, but he will also pay for our first album! He introduced us to Gene Redd of De-Lite records, and the rest was history. Thus we are ever so thankful for what Mr. Warner and the rest of the Warner's have done for us.

Whenever they need us to perform for their private parties and/or any concerts they are sponsoring, we are always there and we always charged them with a discount, but he always insisted on paying us the full price."

"That's because dad thought you guys deserve the full price."

"Yeah, he always did, so he always gave us a 'big tip'." Kool chuckled, but something else was more important in his mind and he brought it up to Blair. "Speaking of Mr. Warner, how's your father doing?"

"He's doing alright, though he can't leave the hospital yet. He really wanted to be here, but they refuse to let him go. He's still bedridden," she said in a somber mood.

Blair's father just had a stroke a few days ago, and he was now in serious but stable condition. He couldn't leave anyway, for the stroke had partially paralyzed his right side.

"Well, tell him that me and the rest of the gang wish him the best of luck."

"Actually, you guys should go and see him yourselves. Visitation hours are from 10 AM to 9 PM, and he would really love to see you guys."

Kool smiled. "We will do so. We'll be in the area for a few days, so it will be a good time to visit."

Blair smiled. "Thank you! I know he would love it!"

"No problem. Anything else?"

"Yeah, since my mother hasn't arrived with the cake yet, I guess it would be a good time to sing that song. I was hoping to wait until after she opened her presents, but I guess I can give her one of my 'gifts' right now. J.T., I hope you don't mind?"

"No problem Blair, I don't have to be the lead all the time," he said as he handed the microphone to her.

Blair walked up to near the stage with Kool and then commanded to the band, "Okay guys, hit it!"

Chapter 2

And the band started to play the music's intro while singing the lyrics:

"La la la la la la la la la
La la la la la la la la la"

Blair was slowly dancing to the music while a glowing Jo was watching. Then it was Blair's turn to sing as she faced the love of her life.

"Joanna, I love you
You're the one
The one for me
I'm in love and I won't lie
She's my girl and always on my mind
She gives me her love and a feeling that's right
Never lets me down
Especially at night"

Jo was standing there, seriously blushing. Blair then came up to her and offered her hand. Jo gladly accepted and followed her.

"So, I'm gonna do the best I can
To please that girl and be her only woman
You see, she picks me up when I'm feeling low
And that's why, baby
I've got to let you know"

With some facial encouragement from Blair, Jo started to sing the chorus. She wasn't a great singer, but she was able to keep in tune with Blair and the band.

Joanna, I love you
You're the one
The one for me
Oh, baby"

"Got to be the one
The one for me
She's the kind of girl
Makes you feel nice"

Jo started to slowly dance with Blair and Blair glared in her eyes while singing. Blair softly stroked the bottom of Jo's chin. It made Jo blush and grin even more.

"So, I'll try my best
To do what's right
I take her for a ride
Everything's fine"

Joanna felt like she was in a wonderful whirlwind now, with Blair spinning her. It was a bit awkward, but she didn't mind Blair taking the lead, she was always the better dancer. Jo was able to follow through, abeit a small stumble during the dance. Everyone chuckled, even Blair, but she recovered and kept on going.

"Searched so far
Searched so long
To find someone
Someone to count on
Now I feel
I've got it right here
Found it in you, baby
You, my dear"

Blair broke away from Jo and let her do a solo. Slightly embarrassed, she danced the best she could to the song. This was different from having Blair guiding her, but Jo managed the best she could, knowing that Blair loved it when she was relaxed enough to drop her hard shell and let others see the woman Blair loved.

"She's the one, the one for me
She's the kind of girl
Makes you feel nice, so
I'll try my best to do what's right
Take her for a ride
Everything's fine"

Now the band was backing her up as Blair joined them to sing the chorus.

"Ooooooh, Joanna
Ooooooh, Joanna
Ooooooh, oooooooh"

Then Blair returned to Jo for the remainder of the song.

"Joanna, I love you
You're the one
The one for me
Ooooooh, yeah
Joanna (Yes, I love you)
I love you
You're the one
The one for me
Believe me, babe
When I say
Joanna (Yes, I love you)
Ooooooh, Joanna, Joanna"

When the song finished, everybody broke into rousing applause. Jo showed her gratitude by simply smiling and voicing a soft "Thank you." Blair, being the attention-seeking ham that she was, soaked it up and bowed to the audience while expressing her thanks enthusiastically. Jo shook her head in disbelief but she couldn't complain, Blair was just being Blair and she wouldn't want her to be any other way.

"That was great, honey. I loved your performance."

Blair beamed, "Oh, thank you very much!" She then gave her partner a hug and a small kiss on her lips. Quite a few people said 'Aaaah!'

Jo did have a question to ask her. "How did you know about this song? I didn't think this was your type of music."

"Tootie suggested it to me. I was stumped on a song to use and I brought it up to her. She told me about this song, gave me an mp3 of it and I listened. I really liked it. It was a perfect song to express my undying love for you." That got even more 'aaahs' from the crowd. "Thanks, Tootie!" She said, elated.

Tootie smiled brightly and responded, "You welcome!"

Thank goodness that Blair thought about singing the song earlier than planned, because during the middle of the song, her mother finally came and brought two cakes with her. They were too small for the 200+ crowd in the gym. Her sister was there with the hefty gift, struggling to carry it.

Blair spotted her mother and sister near the gym door, "It's about time you got here. You missed out on the song I sang for her."

"Not really, Darlin', me and Bailey arrived in the middle of it," she said with her Southern drawl.

Bailey was lugging around the heavy present, "Yeah... Can I put this down now, Mom?"

Monica sighed, "Yes, Dear, put it with the rest of the presents."

Bailey struggled to carry the gift to the table, but somehow, she managed and exerting every muscle in her upper body, she laid the gift on top of the table. As soon as she did that, the table collapsed! Bailey had a shocked, embarrassed look on her face. Everybody ran to check and see if their presents were alright. Jo smiled because she knew what the present was already, judging by the shape and weight. Blair just put her head down and muttered, "Yet somehow, I'm related to them..."

Her mother was not pleased, "Bailey, do you have better sense than that?" her mother scolded.

Bailey just lowered her head and apologized, "I'm sorry."

Blair turned to her mother, ignoring the event that just unfolded, "Can you ever be on time for anything once in your life?"

"Oh, come on now, Darlin', you know how we Warners are. We don't always come on time, but we come just when the party really gets started!"

"You mean former Warner, your last name is now Mitchell."

"Ah, yes, that's true, Dear. Speaking of Mitchell, your step-dad couldn't come today. He had to attend an important meeting in Los Angeles."

"Well it's his lost," Blair shrugged. She wasn't fond of him and Monica knew it, though she also knew it wouldn't help matters if she pressed her daughter about it.

Jo could care less as well. "Yeah, I agree wit' her. Can you finally put the cakes on the table with the rest of the food? I'm starvin'!" she complained.

Monica didn't let her lack of manners bother her too much. In fact, she found it a bit cute, "Oh, Jo, no wonder my daughter is crazy for you, you're so hot when you act butch!" she teased.

That got quite a few laughs from the guests. Jo was about to blow a fuse, but her lover quickly calmed her down, "Don't pay mom any mind, she's just teasing." Then she whispered in her ear, "But you really do turn me on when you show your manly side at times."

Jo blushed a deep red. A lot of people noticed, especially Tootie, "What did she tell you, Jo?"

Blair turned to face Tootie and chided, "If I tell you, then the whole world would know!"

"No. Just Me, and Natalie, and Mrs. Garrett, and Andy, and..."

The couple just rolled their eyes at Tootie's typical gossipy behavior. Monica set the cakes down on the table and plopped a candle from her jacket pocket on each one of them. One had a "4" and the other had a "0". Jo looked at both cakes strangely and asked Monica, "What kind of cakes are they?"

"Oh, those? This one is a chocolate mousse torte birthday cake with thin gold paper on top. And the other one is a vanilla bean cake with raspberry topping."

"Thanks, Monica, but I don't think that those two will be enough. Hell, Uncle Sal could finish one of them all by himself!"

Sal was close by to hear Jo's comment, "Aay! That's a midnight snack fo' me!" he flippantly agreed.

Monica just laughed, "Of course, Sal, but I actually got one more that should be enough for this crowd. Bailey..."

Bailey sighed, "Alright..." and she went to get the cake from the limo. When she returned, she was carrying a typical supermarket-variety giant size yellow cake with chocolate frosting. Jo drew a genuine grin on her face.

"Now that's more like it! Good ol' regular American style."

Bailey set the cake on the table.

"Now we can finally sing Happy Birthday," Blair said.

With the backing of Kool and the Gang, everyone started singing. Jo didn't want to admit it, but she was a bit choked up about them singing. After which, Jo blew out the candles and everyone cheered. Now came the time to open the gifts. She opened a few of them, but nothing was special about them. Just some cups, some books, and other typical birthday gifts. Luckily enough, none of them were broken from Bailey's mishap. Then she came to Andy's gift. She looked at Andy.

"Trust me, Jo, you'll love it!" he said with a smile that seemed deceptive.

The gift was thin and square in shape, so she knew immediately that it had to be a CD. When she opened it, she found out that it was the Greatest Elevator Music and Smooth Jazz hits! She was not happy about it. "What the hell is this!" she barked to him.

"It's a CD of Elevator Music and Smooth Jazz music!" he grinned like a Cheshire cat.

"What would make you think I would want an Elevator Music and Smooth Jazz CD?" she snipped.

"To help you mellow out!" he snickered and everyone else was laughing. That made Jo even madder. Blair saw it and had to calm her down. They had their private conversation in front of the crowd.

"What's the big idea behind that CD? Is he trying to insult me?" she growled in a whisper.

"Look, Honey, you know Andy, he's just pulling your leg. Don't take it seriously."

Jo calmed down a bit and whispered, "You're right, Blair. It's my birthday and I should be enjoying it."

"Exactly, so stop being grumpy for once and just have fun!" Blair sighed.

Jo was able to break a smile and then joined in the laughter, but deep inside she wanted to kill him. Then she opened her next gift; it was from Monica. It was small, yet a bit heavy for its size. She opened it and everybody who saw it blushed a deep red. It was a pair of zebra-striped fur-covered handcuffs!

"Uh... why did you get me these?" she asked with a hesitant tone.

"So that when my daughter wants to be a bad girl, a cop like you can put her straight," she beamed.

That drew dirty looks from Jo, Blair and a few others. Monica didn't realize what she said until a few seconds later. "Did I say 'straight'? Oops, no pun intended, really!"

There was a second of silence, then everybody laughed, except for Blair.

"Mom, do you have any shame?" Blair blasted at her mother.

"You already know the answer to that one, Blair," Bailey cynically answered.

"Oh, be quiet, Bailey!" Blair spat. Bailey paid her no mind.

"Well, thanks, I guess...," Jo said with uncertainly. Changing the subject quickly, she asked, "So what's next? Oh yeah, the gift that Bailey got me!" She was able it pick it up with some ease, unlike Bailey, and unwrapped it. It was a brand-new front chrome rim for her chopper. Jo felt like she was in heaven.

"Oh, thanks a lot, Bailey! This is a gift that I'll never forget," she grinned like a happy fool.

"Gee, I don't know who she like more, that rim or me..." Blair said in a disparaging, yet playful way.

"Ah, come on, Blair, you know the answer to that!" Jo protested. Blair quickly turned her gloom into a smile.

"Yes, I know, Sweetie."

Jo then looked around and saw no more unopened gifts. "Well, it looks like there are no more gifts to be opened, so I guess -"

Then Sal interrupted her, "Wait a second! I still haven't given you my gift."

"Really?" she asked with a puzzled look.


"Well... Where is it?"

"It's over there..." he said as pointed to the crowd. From the crowd emerged her mother, Rose. Jo started to cry as her mother approached and gave her a hug.

"Ma, you came!" she sobbed.

"Yes, I did, Joanna. Yes, I did," she said while still hugging her. "I didn't want to miss out on my baby's 40th birthday."

Jo smiled as she wiped the tears away, "Thanks for coming."

Rose responded, "You betta' thank yo' Uncle Sal. He talked some much needed sense into my head!"

"Hey, fuggitaboutit, it was no big thing," he said in his own modest way.

Jo came up to him and hugged him as well, "Well, thanks anyways. That's why you're my favorite relative."

"Ah, Joey, don't do that. You're gonna make me cry in front of these people. That's so embarrassin'!" he said as a tear slipped from his eye. There were tears from other people in the gym, including Blair who was waiting for this day to happen.

"Well, I think this will be a perfect time to eat!" Blair cheered.

Uncle Sal was a bit confused, "But, Blair, what about your gift?"

"My gift? Well, I want to wait until everyone finishes eating, because it's really special."

"You think everything you do is special," Jo retort.

As usual, Tootie found the opportunity to butt in the conversation, "Actually, Blair's right on this one. Believe me, Jo, it really is special," she said convincingly. Jo saw the conviction in her eyes and reluctantly agreed.

"Okay, I'll go along with the plan," she agreed without any of her usual fussiness.

There was tons of food besides the cakes at the party, with varieties like foie gras, filet mignon, lobster thermidor, and various types of tapas. This was hardly surprising since everybody knew when it came to events, Blair always went over-the-top. Jo was worried that most of the guests wouldn't have a clue what the food was, and they didn't, but they ate it regardless. They were too hungry to really care. Besides, it wasn't every day that most people had a chance to eat goose liver! As for the cakes, much to her surprise, Jo actually liked the Vanilla Bean cake. There was so much food that even the 13 members of the band were able to get some.

During the feasting, Blair was talking to some of the guests. She was talking about the one thing she liked to talk about the most - herself. Jo and Tootie were chatting with various members of the band. It was more Tootie's type of music than Jo's, but she did like a few of their songs from the 80s, so she didn't mind having them here. Natalie was able to set up an interview with them for her newspaper.

About an hour later after everyone finished eating, Blair stepped up to the mike on the stage.

"Okay, everybody, listen up. Now that most of you are finished eating, I think it's time for me to give Jo a gift she'll never forget!" Everybody cheered except for Jo, she just rolled her eyes in exasperation. "Jo, you will need to sit down right here for this one," she said as she pointed to the chair right next to her in the middle of the gym. "Okay, Kool and the Gang, play the tune that I told you earlier," she requested.

"Yes, ma'am!" Kool responded.

"Thanks! Now, Natalie, get the present and hand it to Jo."

"No problem!" she responded. Natalie went behind one of the bleachers and got the gift. It was a big box-shaped one. Jo's eyes widen a bit when she saw the gift. She then placed the gift on Jo's lap. Jo was quite astonished that it was very light. For a while Jo just looked at the gift, examining it suspiciously. Blair was a bit annoyed.

"Um, you're supposed to open it. That's what presents are for," she said in a sarcastic tone.

"I know that!" Jo grunted. Jo proceeded to open the present and as expected, it was a big box. When she opened the big box, she saw... another present? Jo looked at it in bewilderment. "Wha' tha' heck is this?" she derided with her Bronx accent coming out strongly. There were quite a few people in the crowd that were chuckling.

"It's another present. Are you going to open it, Sweetie?" Blair said adding a sweet smile at the end.

"Yeah, yeah!" Jo bellowed out and she proceeded to open the gift... And it was another box, albeit smaller. She opened it and inside was... yet another gift! Now Jo was beginning to steam up. This was turning out like a Matryoshka, the traditional Russian Nested doll where you opened up one of them only to find a smaller duplicate inside. Quite a few people in the crowd were snickering. "This is not funny! This is like one of those Russian dolls. Hey, I'm Polish, not Russian!" she spat to Blair.

"You mean half-Polish. If you were fully Polish, you wouldn't know how to even open the present!" she teased.

"Oh, why don't you 'turn blue', Blair!" she said using Blair's infamous insult.

"Hey, that's my saying!" Blair objected.

"I know," Jo smiled. She then proceed to unwrap it, opened the box, and saw another present. Jo was getting irritated about it and she let it be known to Blair. "This is gettin' very tiring, Princess. The gift betta' be in this one," she scowled.

"Open it and see," she said with a cute grin. Jo wasn't amused one bit with her response and she unwrap it as she did with the others. When she opened the box, she saw another box inside, but this one was very different.

She pulled it out and gave it a quick examination. It was a box that you put something small inside, like an earring or a ring. Curiously, Jo opened it and she saw a ring inside. It was a platinum ring with a beautiful 4-carat cushion cut white diamond in the middle and rose-like shaped small white diamonds on the side.

Not the romantic type, Jo questioned Blair about the ring.

"Hey, thanks for the birthday ring!"

A few people laughed at Jo's cluelessness. Blair huffed and rolled her eyes, feeling a bit embarrassed about it.

"It's more than just a birthday ring - Joey. You only get that type of ring in a very special occasion."

"Isn't this a very special occasion?"

"Yes, but not special enough. You don't ever consider your own birthday special."

"True, but I mean, what other occasions? I can only think of a few, like if someone won the World Series, or if someone just won the lottery and wanted to show their newfound wealth, or like what I once saw at a Knicks game. A man propose to his girlfriend with a -"

It finally hit her. Her lips started to quiver and it was nearly impossible for her to hold back the flood of joyful tears forming in her eyes. Due to her pride, she usually doesn't want people to see her cry, but for this special moment she didn't care.

"Oh, my God," she whispered to herself as tears were streaming down her face. Blair, with small amount of tears rolling down her face, extended her right hand out to Jo. "Jo, may I have the ring."

Without saying a word, Jo handed it to her and then Blair got down to her right knee. There were some cheers from the crowd and others were also in tears. As much as Blair rehearsed the lines throughout the week, it still was hard for her to say them. "Jo, I just want to let you know that we've known each other for over twenty-five years. In those twenty-five years, we've done a lot of things together, mostly arguing, but other things as well such as spending time together, taking vacations, and supporting and comforting each other when we needed it.

The reason why I'm doing this is because everybody keeps on saying that you're the 'leader' or the 'man' in the relationship. You may wear jeans more often than I do, but let's face it, I'm the one who wears the pants in this relationship!" That got quite a lot of laughs from the crowd. Jo just shook her head while smiling; she knew it was somewhat true. "But the truth is, I want to show everybody that there is no 'man' or 'leader' in this relationship. We're both women and that this is a relationship of equals. Sometimes you take lead, and other times I do," she said as tears were rolling down her face like a river. Jo was not much better as tears were flowing down her face as well.

You were always in my heart since that faithful day that I met you. I've dated a lot of men during my Eastland and Langley days, hoping to find that one who would 'straighten' me out like my mom said earlier," she said as she emphasized the pun. It got quite a few laughs, especially from Jo. "But it didn't work since you were always in my heart. In fact, my feelings for you got stronger as the years went by, until that faithful day when you told me how you felt about me and we kissed. I knew then that you were the only one for me," she said while trying not to breakdown as the memories were flooding her mind.

"It's amazing that we found love together. Some people say we shouldn't be a couple because we are so different, yet others don't want us to be coupled because of one particular similarity we share..." The room went quiet on that one. "Nevertheless, I just want to let you and everyone else in this world know that I love you and that nothing can come between us. I am totally devoted to you. I don't want anyone else to be holding my heart but you, and I want to be the one to always hold your heart as well. Because of this, I want to take the first step of making my unyielding devotion to you official by saying these four precious words that someday lead to two more precious words." Then Blair finally stopped speaking, she just looked at Jo's watery eyes through her own cloudy eyes and then took a short breath. She finally uttered those four life-changing words.

"Joanna Marie Polniaczek, will you marry me?"

Okay, it was seven, but only the last four really mattered. Jo really began to choke up, she was trying to bring back her typical self-control but she couldn't. She was literally in tears. She couldn't believe that Blair would propose to her. All those times she dreamt about it, she was the one that did the asking, but the tables were turned and she didn't mind.

Finally she managed to get back some of her composure. Looking to her lover deeply in her brown eyes, regardless of how hard it is at that moment, Jo took the mike from Blair and gave her response in a typical Jo fashion, "Ya didn't hafta really go into this long speech, Blair, of course I will!"

Blair wanted to explode at that moment, but instead she giddily put the ring on her lover's ring finger. Then Blair got off her knee and simply smiled like a thousand volts of electricity was surging through her, while Jo got out of her seat and embraced her. The crowd started to cheer wildly.

"Oh, thank you, grease monkey!" she whispered loudly into her lover's ears as the crowd's cheering continued.

"No need, Princess, I'm yours forever," she whispered back.

While still embracing, they looked at each other lovingly, not speaking. No words were needed for their souls were doing all the talking. Their lips inched closer. Finally, their lips connected and they kissed passionately while their tongues were serenading each other like a ballroom dance. The crowd cheered and applauded even louder, but the two lovers were oblivious to it all, as they were lost in their own world.

It wasn't until air became a necessity that they finally broke it off. Then as their foreheads touched, they looked at each other lovingly. But now it was Jo's turn to speak as she grabbed the mike from the seat.

"Okay, I'm don't have sumthin' as long as Blair, but I do wanna say sumthin'. Blair, ever since the day we met, I knew deep inside that you would change my life forever. I dated men too, and just like you, none of them could touch my heart like you can. Not Eddie, not Harrison, and definitely not El!" That got quite a lot of laughs, especially from Andy and Blair. Jo continued, "But I gotta admit, deep down inside I was hopin' to be tha' one that did the proposin', but I ain't complainin'. I want everybody in the room to know that I wanna see the day that me n' Blair can walk down the aisle and that it means sumthin'. Ya' got that Governor Daniels?" she said with a serious look on her face.

Everybody turned to look at him. Red from embarrassment, he responded "You know that I'm all for it, but it's up to the voter next years."

Jo just smiled, "Yeah, I know, I'm just playin' with ya! I understan' tha' situation." Gov. Daniels just laughed along with the crowd. Then Jo said to Blair, looking deeply in her brown eyes, "But until that day comes, I will consider this as a symbol of our union, and that I am yours fo'evah!" she ended as she showed the ring to Blair. They hugged and kissed once again as the guests cheered and applauded even louder than before. The kissed lasted even longer and this time they ended it by embracing each other tightly.

However, the party wasn't over, actually far from it, as J.T. Taylor would bring them back to earth.

"Well, I think this calls for a 'Celebration'!" Most of the older people and those who were familiar with 80s music went hysterical when he said that, while the younger crowd was looking at them like they were crazy.

Kool then warmed the band up, "Okay now, a one, a two, a three!"

The drums got things started, then came the funky riffs from the rhythm guitar, after that was the trademark horns, and finally the famous intro.

"Yahoo! This is your celebration"

Now the party really got started! Everybody was getting into the music. Jo came up to Blair and offered a dance, "Do you mind?" she grinned.

"Of course, it's your turn to take lead!" she winked back. Then they start to dance.

"Celebrate good times, come on! (Let's celebrate)"

For the rest of the night, Jo and Blair along with the crowd danced to many of the band's memorable hits, which included their ballads and Jo's personal favorite, "Misled." In particular, during an extended version of "Get Down on It," a Soul Train line was formed!

Finally, the band called Jo and Blair to the front and J.T. addressed the crowd, "Well, I know that this isn't a wedding, but I think I speak for everybody when I say that we want to see you two have a solo dance."

Jo was reluctant, "Nah, thanks but no thanks."

Blair on the other hand... "Come on, Jo, I know that you're not very confident with your dancing, but this is a once in a lifetime moment. Will you do it for me, please?" she begged, looking like a sad puppy. Jo was having second thoughts about it, so Blair sweetened the deal. "I'll let you watch your Yankees and Giants game in peace, and I'll let you bring your friends over to watch."

Jo knew that it was too good of an offer to pass up, so she agreed. "Deal!" she smiled and then she offered her hand, "But you lead!"

"I was hoping you would say that," she winked. As they rose from their seats, the gym got dark, except for the one spotlight that was on them.

"All I want is forever" was a touching song for both Jo and Blair as they began to move together.. Then they danced to "Cherish" as the guests watched. Jo was actually good out there, although a bit stiff. Blair was a natural, as she showed off her dancing skills confidently. Some of the guests were in tears as they danced on the gym floor. Mrs. Garrett was in particular, as she watched the two girls she took care of dancing together. For years she dreamed of seeing this occasion, never believing that it would really happen.

When the dance was over, there was yet another round of thunderous applause from the crowd. And just like when they danced to 'Joanna', Jo just stood there thanking the crowd while Blair bowed and thanked them. Jo simply smiled as she looked at Blair. They were totally different, but Jo wouldn't want her Blair to be any other way.

Instantly, the lights were switched back on and the party returned to its celebratory mood. Kool and the Gang performed three more songs, ending it appropriately with "Stone Love" as a reference to Jo and Blair's relationship.

When the party ended, Natalie and Tootie along with Mrs. Garrett were thanking the couple in the parking lot.

"That was a wonderful party, somewhat untypical of you, Blair," Natalie said.

"Why do you say that?" Blair asked. "It was rather over-the-top, which is nothing new in my parties," she admitted.

"True, but you held it at a community center and that you got Kool and the Gang as the band. That's so not like you."

Blair smiled, "Well, I wanted to hold it at a place that has a special meaning to Jo." She then smiled at Jo, who had a small blush on her face.

"Thanks. You could not have picked a better place. However, why Kool and the Gang? You know I'm more of a rock girl," Jo questioned.

"Well I wanted to use an act that was accessible to many people. I thought that they were perfect since they do Pop, Dance, R&B, and even some sort of Rock from what I remembered. You know that I'm not very familiar with Pop music, but I do remember you playing 'Misled' quite often in our room, so I figured that they would be perfect. And of course, Tootie suggested it based on that one song."

"I'm not complaining one bit!" Tootie cheerfully related, jumping in the conversation. "I don't think you could not have picked a better band."

"No disagreements here either," Mrs. Garrett added. "They're not from my time back in the 40s and 50s, but I'll take them over any of those current artists today. At least they weren't formed by a producer and they don't sing about money or shooting people."

Jo smiled, "That's true. Well, it seems that everybody is happy about it, so there are no complaints on my end."

"Good, I'm glad to hear that you had a fun time," Natalie smiled.

"Yeah I did, but I still hate surprises!" Jo said jokingly and everybody laughed. "But I'm glad that you did this fo' me, it makes me realize how much you guys care about me," she said while trying not to choke up. She thought she had done enough crying for tonight. "I really want to thank you very much for this. It was by far the best birthday party I've ever had!"

The gang returned the favor by hugging her and saying 'you're welcome', this time they were cautious of not squeezing her so hard.

Natalie then ended with, "Well, me and Tootie got to be going, we're tired and we need to head back home, so take care and don't do anything I wouldn't do." Natalie slyly remarked.

"Well then, we would be bored to death," Blair jibed.

Natalie and Tootie said their goodbyes and went to their cars. That left only Jo, Blair and Mrs. Garrett in the parking lot.

Mrs. Garrett was glowing and crying at the same time, "I thought I would never live to see this day. I'm so glad that I did. You two were like daughters to me."

The two ladies hugged Mrs. Garrett affectionately, "Aah, Mrs. G., thank you so much."

"You're welcome. My wish for you two is to love each other no matter what. I truly believe that you two are soulmates for each other." She then looked at her watch and noticed how late it was. "Well, I have to get going myself. You two have a wonderful night and a wonderful life," she said then she hugged both of the women. Finally she left.

Jo then looked at Blair, "Well, Blair, ain't no use in bein' out here at this time of the night. I know it's my old neighborhood an' all, but I'm no fool, I don't wanna get robbed!"

"I'm with you on that, let's get going!"

They got in their car and drove back home. Back at their place, Jo and Blair were in the bedroom. Blair was lying on the bed while Jo was changing.

"Thanks for the party, Babe," Jo said as she bent down and kissed Blair on the forehead.

"No problem, Jo. Did you like your presents?"

"Yeah, especially that one present that stands out from the rest." Blair was gleaming, thinking that she was referring to the engagement ring. But instead, Jo said, "The NYPD coffee mug."

Blair lightly reached over and backhanded her on her stomach, "Oh, turn blue!" Jo just smiled.

"Not before I watch you turn red," She smirked.


Before she knew it, Jo slapped the fur-covered cuffs on her right wrist and cuffed the other end to one of the bedpost. Jo then read her version of the 'Miranda Rights.'

"You are under arrest. You have the right to not remain silent when I go down on you. You have the right to moan as loud and as often as you want. Any devices to provide a stimulating experience can and will be use on you. You also have the right to beg for more..."


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