The Harvest by G.E. Birch

The Harvest
by G.E. Birch

Chapter One

Elise surveyed the damage to her house. That was absolutely the last time her Grandmother’s well cared for legacy was getting rented to a non-local. The floors would need to be refinished – Lord knew if the water stains would come out. It would take a good month of hard work to get the place back in order. That was assuming she had the time, it was June and she didn’t have a minute to spare, she was already working dawn to dusk on the farm.

A frown creased her tan brow, her laugh lines the permanent creases of someone who worked out of doors for a living. Her long dark brown hair was caught back in the French braid that she put it in to keep it out of her way. Sooty thick lashes surrounded her startling pale blue eyes, the unique shade causing a second look from people she had just met. Her tall slender body was strong, hard work keeping her as fit as any city gym dweller. The sleeveless blue denim shirt she wore revealed the musculature of her lean arms. Jeans and work boots completed the picture.

Maybe she would hire the guys from the lumberyard to at least come in to sand and polyurethane the floors. Probably the best idea if she wanted to get it rented before the end of the summer. She could paint the interior walls in the evenings.

Walking out into the back yard she looked at the over long grass and frowned at the site of her Grandmother’s perennial beds filled with weeds. Elise walked to her truck and opened the tailgate. Lifting down the mower she filled it with gas from a can and yanked the rope pull, it started with a sputter and she slowly tweaked the choke until it was running smoothly.

The sun was low in the sky but it was still hot, she sweated as she walked back and forth cutting the grass short. The grass catcher had to be emptied so often, because of the long length, that the job took quite a bit longer than she expected. The sun was setting as she put the mower back in the truck and locked up the house. It was almost 8 o’clock and she hadn’t eaten supper. She looked down at herself covered with grass and sweat, the drive-in she decided.

She drove her familiar truck into a slot and ordered a burger, fries and lemonade. Her old classmate Cal wandered over to shoot the breeze while she waited for her supper.

“Saw you up mowing your Grandma’s place. Grass getting’ pretty long, huh?” He commented.

“Yeah, they trashed the place. It’s going to cost more than the security deposit to get it back together. Last time I’m rentin’ to someone I don’t know.” Cal was quiet taking what Elise said in, and then he asked,

“Heard the Mason place is going to sell.”

“Yeah but I don’t know when, I put in a bid but they told me that it won’t be selling until after the crops are in this year, so I guess I’ve got a bit of a wait ahead of me.”

“Lot’s of people bidding?”

“No doubt.” Cal was quiet for a bit and then he asked,

“You playing softball this year over in Riverside?”

“Oh yeah, I’ve got a couple of tournaments coming up and Tuesday night games.”

“A bit of a drive to play ball – how many more years ya plannin’ to keep up with it?”

“I don’t know, I think about passing every year but I just keep signing up, I must like it.”

The young carhop arrived with a tray and Cal moved out of the way so she could hook it onto the window of Elise’s truck. When she was gone Cal said,

“I’ll let ya have your supper, have a good evening Elise.”

Elise ate her supper in silence watching the fireflies out in the field behind the drive-in. The air was beginning to cool down just a bit. When she finished she honked and paid her bill to the carhop who came out. She backed out and headed out of town towards home.

Her farmyard light shown on her neatly cut yard. Parking her truck in the outbuilding she walked toward the house. Everything was quiet if you didn’t count the 40 billion crickets playing their all-night song.

She flipped on the lights and made her way to the stairs, climbing up to her bedroom on the second floor. She undressed quietly in the darkness and put all of her clothes in the hamper, walking into the bathroom she turned on the shower. Pulling the rubberband out of her hair she ran her fingers through it slowly untangling her braid.

Stepping into the shower she adjusted the temperature and leaned back against the wall letting the water cascade down her body. It washed away a day’s worth of dirt and sweat but also a days worth of weariness. She didn’t move for 5 minutes just enjoyed the water washing over her. She felt the spray hitting against her breasts over and over making her nipples hard.

She felt the loneliness mostly just at night. During the day she was often too busy to think but the nights could get real long sometimes. Reaching for the soap she lathered-up, washing her body and shampooing her hair. After drying off she went to bed clean and slept like she had done 12 hours of hard labor, which she had, and would again tomorrow.

¨¨¨¨¨

The wind blew Carolyn’s hair into her face again and she pushed it out of her way for the umpteenth time. ‘That’s it’, she said under her breath and she pulled her Jeep Cherokee off the road and stopped. The air conditioner would keep her cool but she felt like opening all the windows and the sunroof and attempting to blow the cobwebs out of her brain. Reaching into her bag she dug around until she found a rubberband. She tied back her shoulder length dark blond hair. Her green eyes checked her reflection in the rear view mirror, using her fingers to put right any out of place hairs. Then she pulled on a baseball cap, tucked a few more hairs and then glanced over her shoulder for traffic as she guided the Jeep back onto the two-lane highway.

This was her third trip this month to her Great Aunt Ellen’s farm. June was almost over and it seemed a great deal hotter this trip than the last trip just two weeks before. Grasshoppers, dragonflies and various other bugs, too numerous to name, committed hara-kiri on her windshield as she drove. They left yellow streaks as she tried to use the wipers to get ride of them. Fucking gross she thought, a frown disrupting her brow.

This trip was going to keep her here a while. She had packed enough stuff for a month so she wouldn’t have to go back home until she was good and ready. Carolyn, more than anything else, needed to get away for an extended rest and what better place than this backwater. Really she was looking forward to it, she had with her a list from her Mother of family heirlooms she needed to hunt down before she threw everything else out. Also she thought she would be able to paint the exterior of the house without too much difficulty, I guess time will tell on that one.

She impatiently waited behind some huge piece of machinery, tapping her fingers restlessly as she listened to a local radio station playing Night Ranger, she hummed along for a minute and then frowning said out loud,

“What the fuck.” As she pushed seek, looking for something other than farm markets or bad 80’s rock. I better have remembered my CD player and CD’s. Finally the huge piece of machinery drove off almost into the ditch and motioned for her to go around. She quickly did and raised her hand in thanks, automatically being polite – her parent’s hadn’t blown it too badly.

God it was hot but it had to be hotter in the city this morning, hazy pollution hanging over the skyline – it was way behind her now. The sun was blistering here and the humidity was stifling. She rolled up the sleeves of her T-shirt and shifted in her cutoffs. Her barefeet felt like they were being held over hot coals. I’m even bitching in my thoughts now. Great. She was unfocused, worn out, sick of her work. The isolation of the farm was going to give her a chance to think about a new direction but it would also be a much-needed break from her life. She had two months until classes began again at the University maybe by then she would be able to put it all back together and figure out what she wanted. Maybe being out on the farm would show her the way – give her a sign…of what? She laughed at that and took the now familiar turn into Lake County, just a few more miles…

Chapter Two

Carolyn opened the door to the old farmhouse and wrinkled her nose at the smell. Hopefully the ‘ode de mothballs and old stuff’ would dissipate after she left the windows and doors open for a couple of weeks. Both times she had been to the farm before she had left the windows wide open but it hadn’t been sufficient. She walked around opening the windows wide. The sun had baked the house until the air inside was stiflingly hot and mixed with mothballs it was just short of noxious fumes.

With every window open she went back outside and dug in the back of her Jeep for the cooler. She pulled out a beer, flipping off the top with an opener on the side of the cooler, before sitting on the back stairs. She sipped the cold brew, enjoying the feel and flavor of it on her tongue and running down her throat. Looking off in the distance she could see the plants were about a foot high already.

She finished her beer and glanced at her watch. She should empty her Jeep and get into Lakefield and pick up the paint she had ordered for the exterior of the house. They said it would be ready by the time she arrived. Maybe until the house quick stinking she would paint the exterior. Yeah, hang outside, drink a few beers, get a tan and paint. Sounds like a plan. She pulled on the Teva’s on the floor of the passenger side and began hauling stuff into the house.

The lumberyard rang up everything she had. They gave her a few pointers. Scrape first, prime next and paint last. Seemed like a hell of a lot of work but it should be done if she was going to sell the house later on. A high school boy loaded everything into her Jeep.

“This is nice.” He said indicating her Jeep.

“Thanks.” Carolyn answered smiling at him. She climbed in and backed out. People were awfully friendly especially when they knew whom you were connected with in the area. The minute she had mentioned her Aunt’s name she had received the utmost in friendly service and helpful hints. Smiling she headed back to the farm.

Carolyn ate the food she had brought from home. Snacking more than anything as she finished a few more beers. When darkness fell she went outside to escape the mothballs. The stars glittered. She couldn’t ever remember seeing more. Well that wasn’t exactly true, on vacation out west she had seen skies like this but these weren’t vacation stars they were regular ordinary every day stars and they were stunningly beautiful. The bugs bugged her until she finally went inside and unrolled her sleeping bag on one of the beds upstairs.

¨¨¨¨¨

Elise drove toward the Mason place, she had waited a couple of days so that Mrs. Mason’s niece could settle in a little. The news of her arrival seemed to have begun at the lumberyard, as many things did, but everyone in the county probably knew by now that this niece had inherited the farm and she was painting the house. Elise decided a little PR work wouldn’t hurt. She wanted Aunt Ellen’s 250 acres and it couldn’t hurt to chat up this woman, be a friendly neighbor and all. She laughed at herself as she turned onto the dusty lane leading up to the house. Dust swirled around her full sized pickup truck as she pulled up next to a navy Jeep.

Carolyn shaded her eyes as she saw a pick up truck come up the lane. She was in the process of scraping; a real crappy job if ever there was one. Her arms and hair were covered with the stuff. She climbed down the ladder to see who her visitor was, brushing paint out of her hair before putting the clip back to hold it so it didn’t hang against her hot neck. She saw the pickup door open and out climbed a tall slender woman with dark brown hair, Carolyn couldn’t see her face clearly but she was an inspiring sight, her stride strong and powerful as she came closer. When she was 20 feet away Carolyn gasp at the sight of the palest blue eyes she had ever seen. And, oh no, a killer smile was coming from set of full lush lips. Shit. Carolyn felt her heart kick in and begin to hammer. Their eyes met and they smiled at each other.

“Hi, I’m Elise Johnson, one farm over.” She indicated the direction of her farm. Carolyn just stood there smiling unable to think of what to say for a moment too long. Elise’s smile dimmed just a fraction and her eyebrow rose in question waiting for an answer. Shaking herself mentally Carolyn said,

“Hi, I’m Carolyn Baker, Ellen Mason’s niece.” Carolyn brushed off her hand and then they shook hands, Elise’s callused hand giving Carolyn’s newly blistered one a firm shake. They smiled some more and Carolyn eyes took in the long jean clad legs, the work boots and the lean musculature of Elise’s arms. The red tank top lovingly formed itself to her full breasts, her dark tanned throat a compelling site. Quit staring, Jesus Carolyn told herself firmly.

“I’m here to welcome you to the neighborhood. You’re the talk of the town at this point.”

“Must be a slow news month.” Carolyn said wrinkling her nose.

“It’s always a slow news month here.” Elise answered with a grin of self-depreciation. Then she asked,

“Do you have a little time to take a break, I brought some freshly picked strawberries and I thought maybe you could use some refreshment. Scraping paint is hard work.”

“I’ll agree with that. Sure, I’m not on a schedule, just doing a little here and there.”

“Great I’ll get the strawberries.” Elise turned around and walked back to her truck. Carolyn watched her before looking down at herself. She brushed off some more paint and then decided she had better go in the house and clean up a bit, she didn’t like feeling at a grooming disadvantage.

Elise called,

“Where shall we have our snack?”

“Let’s do it out here on the picnic table, the house still reeks of mothballs. I’m going to run in and wash up I’ll be right back.” Carolyn headed inside. Elise got out the strawberries thinking that Carolyn seemed nice, if maybe a little distracted. She wasn’t sure what she had expected in Ellen Mason’s niece but it wasn’t young or attractive both of which Carolyn was. There was something familiar about her but Elise for the life of her didn’t think she had ever met Carolyn before. Ellen Mason hadn’t had a stream of relatives out to visit Elise didn’t think. Elise brought a jar of lemonade and the strawberries from her truck and placed them on a tablecloth she laid out.

Carolyn stripped and hopped into the shower for two minutes, her mind running with this turn of events. She’d been in town 2 days and already was getting company. A veritable Welcome Wagon arriving out of the blue with strawberries, not a bad way to end a hot work day, and if nothing else she had a hot neighbor. Shampooing away the paint and washing away the heat of the day, she felt better and presentable as she ducked into the bedroom with her bags and pulled out fresh shorts and a T-shirt. After dressing she took the stairs two at a time and landed -smack- with her bare feet. Bending over and shaking out her hair again to dry it a bit before she pushed open the screen door and let go of it.

Elise was seated with her back leaning against the table looking out at the fields.

“Sorry I took so long.” Carolyn apologized before continuing, “I couldn’t get the paint flakes off so I had to take a shower.”

Elise smiled and turned around in her seat taking a look at Carolyn with wet hair and clean clothes,

“That was fast.” She commented.

Carolyn saw the strawberries and glasses of iced lemonade and said,

“Gees you didn’t need to go to all this trouble, but I appreciate it.” Their eyes met for a warm moment before Elise looked away suddenly feeling shy and a touch guilty for showing up here today with PR on her mind. Trying to fill the silence Elise said,

“I washed them but didn’t de-stem them.” She then picked a strawberry and held the stem before she took a bite. Yum, it was still warm from the picking.

Carolyn watched Elise, her eyes about rolling back in her head when Elise’s tongue licked the strawberry juice off her lips. Oh Lord, Carolyn thought before she forced her eyes down to the strawberries and reached for one and took a bite,

“Oh my goodness, that is the best strawberry I’ve ever tasted.”

Elise smiled as Carolyn reached for another,

“I can’t take credit for them. I just picked them and washed them.” Silence reigned again as they ate strawberries. Finally Carolyn broke the silence trying to make conversation,

“So you live on the next farm over?”

“Yeah, about 5 miles from here.” Elise dropped the ball and they were quiet again. Carolyn glanced at Elise’s hands. Hmm – no ring. Not married – maybe gay? Oh you wish. The silence stretched out until suddenly,

“You married?” …Slipped off her tongue before she could stop it. What the hell did you say that for?

“No.” Elise answered looking quizzically at Carolyn.

Carolyn lifted a shoulder her mind racing to find a reason for such a personal question,

“You said you farmed, I thought maybe…I don’t know what I thought.” Better edit a little better Carolyn before you lose your feminist credentials.

“I farm.” Elise said plainly and firmly.

“Wow, that’s impressive. Do you drive those huge machines?” Carolyn said waving toward the road as way of explanation.

“Yes.” Elise smiled her amusement evident. The silence threatened again and Elise felt the need to come clean, at least a little bit.

“I rent 200 of your Aunt’s acres.”

Carolyn just looked at her for a moment unsure what that statement meant. Not wanting to Elise to think she had no idea what it did mean she smiled and asked,

“Does that mean we’re closely related?” Elise looked a little nervous but Carolyn was more interested in the tantalizing glimpse of white lace as Elise used a finger to push the strap of her bra back in place.

They entered another pregnant silence while Elise searched for a reply. Finally she smiled shyly and said,

“No – just business partners of sorts.”

“Oh.” Carolyn answered tearing her gaze away from Elise’s charms and resting them out on the fields. “I haven’t had much of a chance to go through the papers Aunt Ellen’s lawyer sent. I just decided to take some time away from the…from my responsibilities at home. I’m on vacation – sort of.”

Silence again. God, Carolyn thought, no one would mistake this woman for a conversationalist.

“So what do you do around here for fun?” Carolyn asked smiling expectantly.

“Oh, play a little softball, drink a few beers, this time of year a little water skiing when there’s time.” Carolyn nodded her head hoping Elise would keep talking which she did,

“So what do you do for fun where you’re from?”

“Well I hang out with friends, go to movies or concerts, take in a good restaurant, read.” Carolyn smiled but the warmth didn’t reach her green eyes. Elise was quiet for a few more moments in case Carolyn wanted to say anything else. When she hadn’t Elise asked,

“Are you staying long?” Hoping Carolyn didn’t feel she was prying Elise indicated the house saying, “It’s a lot of work scraping and painting.”

“Well I’m not sure but…I’ll at least be here the next month – maybe longer. I have to be back to work in late August.”

“That’s two full months off of work, what do you do for a living?” Elise figured she taught but…

“I’m a woman’s lit. Professor at U of I, in Chicago.” Elise had figured grade school so her eyes widened looking at Carolyn’s blond hair, which was no longer wet. Her T-shirt, which had a Chicago bar and grill advertised on it. She didn’t look like a professor.

“Wow – that sounds interesting.”

“Hmm.” Carolyn said noncommittally, she didn’t want to talk about her work.

The day was still very warm, the sun was still high but it was about an hour before supper and Elise needed to get home and do chores. She smiled shyly and said,

“Well, I um, wanted to welcome you to the neighborhood. If there’s anything I can do for you give me a holler.” Elise began gathering up the leftovers and so Carolyn stood to help.

“Thank you for the strawberries and lemonade, it was nice to meet you.” Elise had her things packed in her truck in just a few minutes and she climbed into the seat and slammed the door. Carolyn stood several feet away and said,

“Thanks.” As Elise started her truck and with a wave she backed up and turned down the lane, the dust her truck tires kicked up – swirling around before falling back down to the ground. Carolyn watched until she was out of sight.

—-

Elise drove home her mind on the past 45 minutes. It could be fun to have someone new around for the summer. Maybe Carolyn would be interested in doing…something. Elise felt a little excitement at the prospect of having someone new around. She decided she would give her a call. Did Carolyn have a phone hooked up? She would find out.

Carolyn watched the truck disappear and she climbed the steps into the house. She found the box of important papers from her Aunt Ellen’s lawyer. She read the lawyers’ notes quickly and then glanced at the rental agreement her Aunt had with Elise Johnson. After perusing it all for a few minutes she tossed the file back into the box and grabbed a beer out of the refrigerator.

She lay on her back in the grass staring at the blue sky and fluffy clouds. Elise Johnson – farmer, interesting. Her minds eye lazily traced Elise’s features, tanned skin stretched over high cheekbones, her pale blue eyes flickering almost nervously.

Carolyn closed her eyes and let her mind wander. The past year of rebuilding, the self-imposed isolation that felt like her only solace of late. She was lonely and it was no wonder really. She brushed a bug off her leg with her foot and leaned up for another swig of beer.

On her back again she thought of Elise; unmarried didn’t mean gay but Carolyn could dream couldn’t she? She smiled at the thought and drifted.

The next week found Elise very busy. She woke at dawn to work in the fields bringing in the first cutting of hay. She hadn’t entered the house before a late supper a single time. She knew more about the freshman and sophomore girls than she ever wanted to know or ever should know. While cutting, raking and baling which was all done by machine, she labored with the boys throwing bales on the flat bed and listening. Six days surrounded by teenage testosterone, her best friend Anne’s two boys Edward and Richie and their buddies John and Ray.

By Saturday afternoon they were done. Elise cleaned up, ate a decent supper and went to bed early. Sunday morning she relaxed and caught up on paperwork. She used her computer to keep track of her farming operation and her investments. When she was up-to-date she looked for Mrs. Mason’s phone number but it had been disconnected. It seemed that Carolyn was either gone or didn’t want to communicate with anyone. She debated about leaving her alone vs. being friendly. By early afternoon Elise was in cutoffs and a tank top and on her way over to see if Carolyn wanted to find some entertainment.

Carolyn took her eyes away from the book she was reading to see a pick-up truck coming down the lane. She shifted in her lawn chair and reached for a shirt, she didn’t have much on and the truck was moving quickly. She stood and pulled on a pair of gym shorts and smiled slightly as she realized it was Elise.

Elise arrived in a swirl of dust and climbed out of her truck squinting in the sunshine.

“Hi.” Elise smiled as she walked across the yard. “I would have called but I couldn’t find a number. I hope you don’t mind me dropping in?”

“Not at all.” Carolyn said smiling.

“I was wondering if you’d like to go for a drive over to Riverside, maybe see a movie or get a bite to eat?”

“Sure, I’d like that.” Carolyn then indicated her clothes and said, “Again, I’ll have to ask you to wait while I clean up.” She smiled as Elise’s eyes quickly swept her body.

“I’m trying to acquire a tan.” Carolyn said her body enjoying Elise’s perusal.

“It seems to be working.” Elise answered checking Carolyn out again. Carolyn looked at Elise carefully weighing those words and that look until she was sure she was adding 2 and 2 and getting 15. Pulling away from the allure of Elise she said,

“Would you like to come in and have a glass of water or soda while I change?”

“Sure.”

Elise followed Carolyn inside and Carolyn got her a cold can of soda out of the refrigerator and then took the stairs two at a time. She stripped off her shirt and shorts undid the bikini top and slid off the bottoms. She put up her hair as she walked to the shower.

Five minutes later she was back in the kitchen clean and dressed with a pair of Teva’s in her hand.

Elise glanced up startled.

“Wow your ready?”

“Yep.” Carolyn sat down to put on her Teva’s and said toward the floor, “What do you think about the smell in here. I think my nose has lost its sensitivity to moth balls in the last couple of weeks.” Elise thought and smelled a moment then said,

“It’s still here a little but I don’t smell it after sitting here five minutes.” Carolyn sat up and looked at Elise.

“How does one get ride of the smell. I can’t stand it. I haven’t shut the windows since I arrived and still it’s offensive – I hope I don’t smell like moth balls.” Carolyn said scowling and sniffing the sleeve of her fresh T-shirt.

“It’s the furniture, I would guess.” Answered Elise looking through the doorway into the living room. It was filled with old furniture. “Maybe the drapes. A fresh coat of paint might help.”

Carolyn sighed, “Just tell me if I reek.” She said smiling.

“Sure thing.” Elise answered smiling.

“So where are we off to?”

“Well, we could see a matinee or take in a ball game then maybe get a bite to eat.”

“What’s playing at the matinee?”

“I’m not sure I didn’t get the paper this week, but the movies usually play at 1, 3 and 5 o’clock.”

“Okay – so lets go see what’s playing before we make a decision.” Offered Carolyn.

Elise drank the rest of her can of pop. Her throat working as she swallowed. Carolyn watched her silently for a moment and then went to find some money.

“Do you want me to drive?” Carolyn asked indicating her jeep with a wave of her hand.

“Oh no. My truck is great, it’s just a little dirty on the outside with the abuse of the past week.” They climbed in and Elise cranked the engine. Inside it was luxurious and clean. Elise turned on the air full blast and they moved down the lane. The music playing on the radio was country and Elise glanced over at Carolyn and grinned,

“Feel free to change the station I know everyone doesn’t like country music.” Carolyn raised an eyebrow but began pushing seek immediately. Eighties rock is better than this… She found a station and then sat back. Fields flew by outside the window and Carolyn observed them from behind glass enjoying being cool for the first time in days. Her eyes then turned to take in Elise’s long tanned legs, she wondered if they were as soft in texture as they looked. Mentally clearing her mind Carolyn asked,

“So what have you been doing?”

“Oh…I’ve been baling. We finished yesterday, early in the day so I spent the rest of the day lounging and sleeping.”

“It’s tiring work then?”

“Yep, and sweaty and dirty. On top of that I had four full-fledged teenage boys helping. If I could have gagged all their mouths I maybe wouldn’t have needed total silence for the past 24 hours. They wore me out.”

“Teenage boys? God…I don’t even know a teenage boy anymore. What were they talking about that wore you out?”

“A subject near and dear to their hearts.” Carolyn looked at Elise expectantly and Elise’s eyebrows rose as she said “Girls.” Making fun in a hushed and reverent tone. Carolyn laughed and asked,

“Oh wow – what were they saying?”

“I don’t want to make you blush.” Elise answered smiling.

“Very little could make me blush.” Carolyn said dryly.

“Okay – it would make me blush.” Elise stated with a pink tint covering her face. Carolyn looked intently at Elise as she drove – a small smile on Carolyn’s face. Elise felt those green eyes boring into her and she glanced at Carolyn and said in a friendly but defensive voice,

“What?”

“I’m wondering why a woman your age is too shy to talk about the bragging of a few teenage boys.” Humor sparkled in her green eyes.

“Good manners?” Elise offered.

“Chicken shit?” Carolyn countered.

“That too!” Elise said laughing. They smiled at each other. Elise turned the conversation to Carolyn.

“How about you, what has been keeping you busy?”

“Oh…scraping, scraping and uh…scraping.”

“Sounds exciting.” Elise commented smiling.

“Might be more entertaining if I hired a few teenage boys to help, or so I’m told.”

Elise’s color heightened again but she ignored the comment. They talked until they reached Riverside.

The movie was a comedy, a couple of months old but neither woman had seen it and it was 100 degrees in the shade so they were soon seated in an almost empty theater. Before the movie began, Carolyn would never have believed she could actually freeze to death in a theater. Jesus, even my nipples are hard. She crossed her arms over her breasts trying to warm up. Goosebumps rose on her bare legs and she crossed them also.

Elise looked over at Carolyn who was squirming in her seat. She smiled and silently touched Carolyn gently on her forearm,

“Is everything okay?” She asked with eyebrows raised in question. Carolyn turned her head her eyes darkened in the theater – her body enjoying the touch of warm fingertips on her arm.

“I’m freezing. It’s what…45 degrees in here?” She whispered.

“It is chilly…I think I have a sweatshirt or something in the truck. Do you want me to run out and get it?”

“No I’m fine.” Carolyn answered as she rubbed her arms to warm them. Darkened green eyes stayed on blue for a long moment, until Carolyn smiled and whispered,

“If you’re not going to watch the movie, I’m leaving.” Elise smiled shyly her blue eyes dancing in the screens reflection and said,

“Sit still then.” Carolyn laughed out loud.

It was still well over 90 degrees when they walked out of the theater near suppertime. Carolyn felt herself relax for the first time in the last 2 hours, freezing your ass off was an ordeal of tension. They walked to the truck and tried to figure out where they wanted to eat.

“I refuse to go and sit in an air conditioned restaurant, what are our other options?”

“Umm…we could grab a bucket of chicken at the grocery store.” Elise raised her eyebrows and looked across at Carolyn, “And then picnic down by the ball fields, maybe watch a game while we eat?” Carolyn thought for a few moments and then agreed. They made their way to the grocery store with the windows of Elise’s truck wide open.

They arrived at the softball fields with food and drink. Elise parked the truck in the big gravel parking lot. She then took the cooler out of the truck bed and asked,

“Can you please reach behind the seat for a blanket?’ Carolyn pulled out the blanket, putting it under her arm. She grabbed the grocery bag of food and headed after Elise. Elise looked around the softball complex quickly and found a game of men’s fast pitch that looked lively. They spread out the blanket in the area out-of-bounds near the left field line.

As they ate chicken, potato salad and carrot sticks – washed down with cold cans of beer – they watched the game. When they were full they put away the food and lay on their stomachs on the blanket lazily watching the action on the field as they sipped more beer.

“Hey good lookin’!” A woman’s voice called from somewhere behind them. Elise laughed and rolled over onto her back.

“Hi Nita.” She responded. Carolyn glanced over her shoulder and then returned her eyes to Elise her animation captivating.

“Thought I saw your truck…”

“Yep – it’s me.” Elise sat up and then glanced over at Carolyn smiling as she introduced,

“Carolyn, this is Nita, we play softball together. Nita, Carolyn – my new neighbor.”

“Nice to meet you.” Carolyn rolled over and sat up to shake Nita’s hand.

“Want a beer?” Elise injected. Nita accepted.

While Elise and Nita dug around for a cold beer, Carolyn glanced at Nita for a moment feeling 99% certain of her lesbian status. This might make things rather interesting. The three of them had only settled for about 10 minutes when other voices and whistles came up behind them. Three more women were introduced to Carolyn, the camaraderie between the teammates obvious. Lee, Cody and Shell joined them for a beer. Carolyn watched Elise as she chatted with her friends. They talked local stuff before turning their unwanted attention on Carolyn asking her where she was from and what she did for a living. Elise filed all the information away learning things she did not know.

“So where did you move from Carolyn?”

Please don’t ask me this stuff. But Carolyn explained she was here temporarily because of her inheritance of her Aunt’s house and land. She didn’t volunteer anything but they were experts at ferreting out information.

“So you live…?”

“In Chicago.”

“You do not have a Midwestern accent, where are you from originally?”

“Massachusetts, I’ve only been in Chicago for 5 years.”

“What do you do in Chicago?”

“Teach Women’s Lit at U of I.” Carolyn answered absently consciously trying to act uninterested so they would move on to another topic.

“So what brought you here from Massachusetts?” Oh fuck. Carolyn laughed and stated bitterly.

“What else? A woman.” Smiles broke out all around the group, their sympathies rising.

“She rip your heart out?” Cody asked smiling gently.

“And danced on it!” Carolyn muttered her answer. Elise kept her eyes glued to the ball game but her focus was completely directed toward the conversation going on around her. Her friends were grilling Carolyn she wished they wouldn’t. On the other hand she knew she wasn’t capable of doing the questioning herself and she sure wanted to know more about Carolyn. She silently filed away the information until someone interrupted her thoughts saying,

“We’ve emptied your cooler Elise.” Elise stood up and stretched then said,

“I suppose I could go get more if you want more.” Carolyn watched her hoping that Elise would look her way and she could catch a glimpse of what Elise was thinking behind those blue eyes. But Elise avoided eye contact.

“No – I’ll make a run if everyone wants more.” Shell offered jumping up. Elise’s friends began pulley money out and tossing it at Shell. She laughed, gathered up the bills, threw Elise’s money back at her and grabbed the cooler.

“Same thing?” She asked walking backward toward the parking lot, a chorus of ‘Yes’s sending her on her way.

Conversation between the teammates lulled Carolyn into a relaxed state. She barely listened – Elise chatted while watching the game and she was more animated than Carolyn had seen her. It was interesting to watch her with her friends, she smiled and laughed often – joining in the conversation about small town concerns; Who someone name Leona Riley was dating and how her boyfriend was arrested. Whose daughter was pregnant, whose son was responsible. Carolyn couldn’t follow it all but it was fascinating in a very strange way. She kept completely to herself, sitting Indian-style and keeping her eyes fixed on the game in front of her. She felt their eyes on her many times but she had said plenty, more than she was comfortable saying. Dodging questions that were asked point blank was a very difficult thing to do even though she knew that these women had no ulterior motives – they were just being friendly. She felt an almost overwhelming need to isolate herself from…friendliness? Get a grip on yourself.

The sun was setting spectacularly off in the west when Elise leaned close and said,

“You about ready, I’m worn out.” Carolyn turned and smiled slightly,

“Yep – I’m tired too…” Then she continued, asking Elise, “Are you okay to drive?”

“I haven’t had any beer since supper.” Elise said her eyes finding Carolyn’s for the first time all evening. Carolyn smiled at her in the dim light, her eyes offering understanding and friendship. Elise accepted their warmth and then said to the group.

“I’m exhausted, I have an early day tomorrow.” Everyone began getting up and moving, collecting their chairs and grousing about farmers. With a chorus of ‘nice-to-meet-you’s’ and ‘see-you-Tuesday’ Elise and Carolyn climbed into the truck. Night had descended.

Chapter Three

Silence reigned until they were through town, Elise began picking up speed as they hit the highway and Carolyn baldly said,

“You’re aware that every single woman there tonight is a lesbian aren’t you?” Elise smiled in the darkness of the truck cab and answered,

“Yes.”

Carolyn looked at Elise trying to discern her expression in the darkness; she narrowed her eyes and saw a smile.

“Why are you smiling?”

“I’m smiling because I’m amused that you think I don’t know my own friends.” Carolyn smiled also and asked,

“And how do you feel about the fact that I’m a lesbian?” Elise said firmly,

“I have no opinion about your personal life Carolyn. It’s none of my business.” Carolyn silently let out the breath she didn’t know she was holding and relaxed for the first time since she had spoken earlier in the evening. She sat quietly for a long moment thinking and then she asked,

“Is the reason you’re relaxed about all this – because you’re a lesbian?” Elise thought for a few moments and then answered,

“I don’t think I’m a lesbian.”

“What do you mean you don’t think you’re a lesbian?” More silence then,

“Well, it means I…well I’ve never been…I don’t know.” She fumbled and then admitted “I kissed Linda Haynes in 6th grade but that’s all I’ve ever done.” Carolyn smiled in the darkness her body turning slightly to watch Elise more closely and asked,

“So you’ve had relationships with guys?”

“Relationships? You mean like…engaged to be married?” Elise frowned trying to articulate herself and feeling as if she had failed. Carolyn patiently put it in other words,

“Well like that or maybe just sex with a someone special?”

“I’ve never had sex with anyone.” Elise answered quietly. Carolyn leaned closer trying to see Elise’s expression and asked in complete disbelief,

“You’re a virgin?”

“I guess so, yeah.” Elise admitted slightly embarrassed now.

“How old are you?” Carolyn said wondering if she might be in the presence of the last adult virgin in America.

“I’m 31.”

“Thirty-one?” Carolyn said in amazement.

“Yeah, 31.” Said Elise wrinkling her nose and smiling slightly, “Don’t look at me like I’m a weirdo, I’ve been…busy, and…” Stumbling for a moment before she finished saying, “I haven’t met anyone I was interested in having sex with.” Carolyn smiled very close to laughter,

“You do know what sex is don’t you?” Teased Carolyn. Elise scowled Carolyn’s way and said,

“That’s really funny, you try living here and finding someone you would be interested in sleeping with. Everyone’s either married or like a brother to me. I’ve known everyone in this town all my life…things have just moved along and before you know it here I am 31 and never had sex.”

“I could buy 31 and never had an…orgasm, but sex? Sex is like the greatest damn things in the world. We gotta get you laid.” Elise laughed then and shook her head,

“If I could even find someone around here I would be interested in they’d just tell their friends who would tell everyone about it and before you know it I’m the new town whore, no thanks!”

“My God Elise, plenty of men can keep their mouths shut…can’t they?”

“I’ve never met anyone I’m interested in.” Elise stated emphatically again. Carolyn smiled and told Elise,

“Well, as long as I’m in town I’m making it my mission to liven up your sex life. There has to be someone who can keep the lid on a little fun between the sheets.”

“You’re nuts.” Elise said laughing self-consciously. Carolyn just sat chuckling and shaking her head and then she said smartly,

“Could I get your autograph? I think you might get into the Guinness Book of World Records with this.”

“That’s the last time I’m telling you anything.” Elise said sticking her tongue out at Carolyn. They sat quietly as Elise turned into Carolyn’s lane. When they pulled up to the house Carolyn reached out a hand and touched Elise’s arm gently squeezing,

“Thank you for a lovely day. I enjoyed myself, let’s do something again soon?” They smiled at each other.

“That would be great Carolyn, thank you for the company, I had fun.” Carolyn turned and reached for the door handle, she jumped out and looked back at Elise her green eyes blinking in the dome light.

“I’ll wait until you’re inside.” Elise said quietly.

“Okay thanks.” Carolyn said as she smiled all the way to the door.

Elise watched Carolyn walk across the yard and into her house. The lights flashed on and then Carolyn waved. Elise turned around and headed for home.

Carolyn locked the door, wrinkled her nose at the house’s smell and headed upstairs to the shower. She soaped every inch of her body quickly, her mind thinking about her conversation with Elise, a 31-year-old virgin – unbelievable. She rinsed her body her mind shifting to thoughts of ‘Tanya’. They were so happy in the beginning; she had made serious sacrifices for them to be together. Giving up her job and home to move 1200 miles away from her family and friends so they could be together for, what she thought would be, the rest of their lives. Suddenly she was sad and lonely, which on principle alone Carolyn quickly began to push away. It’s not like I’m still mourning the loss of that bitch. The sadness came from that weary feeling of knowing too much.
Knowing that people can cause you a lot of hurt, knowing that sometimes people don’t cherish the love you have offered up. Everything was so bright when it began, and the first couple of years together were so wonderful but then her solace had become her prison. The relationship began to choke her after the first of several of Tanya’s infidelities. Carolyn knew she had coped by checking out and isolating herself from everyone and everything that she didn’t need to make a living. She was still trying to pull herself out of it. Frowning now she shut off the shower and stepped out onto the rug. She dried her body with a big absorbent towel, the rough feel stimulating her skin. She resolutely forced the sad thoughts out of her mind. Walking naked across the bedroom she pulled back the sheets and slid between them enjoying the feel of soft cotton rubbing against her thighs, her breasts.

Seeing Elise coming down the lane today had began a little flame of excitement inside her. Surely that was a good sign. A new friend was a move in the right direction, right on the tail of this thought she fell into blissful slumber…

Elise drove home automatically – feeling overexposed and not enjoying it. Telling Carolyn something so personal when she hadn’t even ever told her best friend Anne about her sexual status felt scary. Why on earth didn’t you just dance around the issue like you would have with anyone else? She didn’t have an answer to that. Turning into her lane she smiled to herself about Carolyn’s offer of doing stuff together another time. That was great, because she really liked Carolyn and was excited to have a new friend to hang out with.

Chapter Four

Elise rose early and quickly ran through her morning ritual – brushing her teeth, putting her hair back and out of the way, sun screening any bare skin and dressing in jeans and a T-shirt. After a large glass of water in the kitchen she threw a load of laundry into the washer, quickly measuring the soap before she walked out the back door of her house. It was already warm as she got the sprayers filled and ready.

About 9:30 Carolyn was driven out of bed by the heat gathering in the upstairs of the house. She walked naked through to the bathroom and then downstairs to start the coffee. She opened the refrigerator, the blast of cool, moist air feeling good against her face and body. She poured herself a bowl of corn flakes and put milk over them. She ate cornflakes and drank coffee standing at the counter looking out at the fields bathed in sunshine.

Mid-morning Elise came in from the fields for breakfast. She had a huge bowl of fruit and a bowl of oatmeal as she thought about the previous day in Riverside. The 4th of July was 6 days away – she wondered if Carolyn would like to go water-skiing with Anne and Bob and the kids. Better check with Anne first. She grabbed the phone and dialed – several rings later Anne answered. They said hello and then Anne said,

“Hey I almost called you about 30 minutes ago but I figured you were out spraying.”

“I was – 30 minutes ago. I just came in for breakfast – I was starving. Is Bob still out?”

“Yeah – he and Richie.”

“I called to find out what’s up for the 4th?”

“We figured we better be at Johnson’s boat ramp by 10:00 a.m. so we don’t have to wait too long to get the boats in.”

“Are we taking the pontoon and the ski boat?”

“Yeah – we thought we’d make our own island – cause the whole world will be on the island.”

“You sure? I could go out early to the island and get a spot – rope it off or something.”

“Well…that’s an idea. Bob was worried about space on the pontoon – the boys are bringing a friend each and besides the pontoon is such a pain in the ass to get in and out of the water. Plus we can’t grill.”

“Yeah – let me go out early – I’ll take a Jet Ski. It will be too crowded on the pontoon and I thought I might bring someone if you guys don’t mind.”

“Oh…who are you bringing?”

“You know Ellen Mason’s niece is staying out at her farm? Her names Carolyn, she’s really nice, we saw a movie and a ballgame yesterday. I don’t think she has any plans, although I’m not sure she’ll be in town but I wanted to ask you first anyway.”

“Bring her along, the more the merrier. Has she moved here for good?”

“No, she teaches in Chicago but she’s here for the summer. She’s painting the house – getting it ready to sell, I think.”

“What’s she like?”

“She nice and fun…you’ll like her.”

“Great! We’ll let’s figure out a menu – we’ll have 9 people so we need food for 13…”

Elise interrupted,

“Weldon education sure done you a good turn.”

“Ha, but you’ve forgotten that teenage boys count 2 normal humans apiece when you’re talking about food or trouble.”

Elise laughed hard. They took several minutes to decided and divide out what each of them would bring before they hung up.

Carolyn jogged down the lane to get the mail, hoping the local newspaper wasn’t all there was in the box. She pulled down the door and reached inside. She glanced at the mail, junk mail for her dead Aunt and awesome…a letter from her brother Jamie, she ran back to the house and slit it open.

Dear Carolyn,

You are a big pain in the ass get a phone! I repeat – GET A PHONE! I am about as tan

as a lad can get. Enjoying the mindless labor. The people here are great! Mom and Dad’s

house is unbelievable now that it’s finished – they’ll be here all of August, I hope I survive but

I’ll be working so I probably won’t even know they’re around. (Yeah right.)

How is the painting? I can’t believe you’ve buried yourself out on a farm.

Gotta go!

Love you,

Jamie

P.s. GET A FUCKING PHONE!

Carolyn laughed thinking of her brother the medical student working road construction and loving it. He had taken most of the past year off before he spent the next 5 years going through medical school and residency. It was a good idea for him and he had been able to keep an eye on the construction of their parent’s new vacation home on an island off the coast of North Carolina.

Mid-week Elise worked all morning spraying in the fields and then made sandwiches and fruit salad, carrot and celery sticks and drove over to Carolyn’s with a picnic lunch to share with her.

Carolyn watched the now familiar truck approach and smiled at the interruption. She was heartily sick to death of paint flakes and glad for an excuse to put down the scraper.

Elise slid out of the truck and walked across the yard toward Carolyn. Carolyn enjoyed watching Elise approach; she was wearing a pair of tan cutoff shorts and a flowered sleeveless shirt. She looked crisp and cool. They smiled at each other and Carolyn laughed happily and said,

“Every time you come here I look like shit.” Elise smiled and raised her eyebrows before asking,

“Ever heard of a phone?”

“I’m getting that a lot. My brother wrote yesterday and bitched about the same thing. I suppose I’ll have to break down and get one. My cell phone doesn’t work anywhere within 50 miles of here.”

“I wouldn’t drop in on you if I could make a phone call.” Elise assured her smiling.

“Maybe I won’t get a phone then, I kind of like you dropping in.” Carolyn said as she looked directly at Elise with a twinkle in her eyes. Light color infused Elise’s cheeks and she turned to look out at the fields to unscramble her brain before saying,

“I brought some lunch, you hungry?”

“Starving. I’m down to beer and corn flakes. I need to go grocery shopping but I’ve been too lazy. What are we having?” Carolyn asked eagerly.

“Go wash and I’ll get it out of the truck.” Carolyn went into the house and cleaned up before joining Elise at the table. It was quiet until they had eaten their fill then Elise asked,

“Do you have plans for the 4th of July?”

“Um…no…what’s up?”

“Well we’re going water-skiing for the day on Lake Madison. You are welcome to join us if you want.” Carolyn thought about it for a moment and then said,

“Well…that sounds nice – who’s we?”

“Oh, um…Anne and Bob and the kids – they’re my family.”

Carolyn looked at Elise her curiosity piqued and prompted…

“Your family?”

“Yeah…my folks died when I was 17.”

“I’m so sorry.”

“Thank you.” Elise said quietly, “But it’s alright, it’s been 14 years now. They died in a car accident when I was seventeen.”

“Oh that’s just awful.”

“Yeah it was. My Grandma was still alive then but she was getting pretty out of it so I had to figure out what to do with everything. My folks were smart enough to plan ahead and I was able to hang on to our farm.”

“Wow – so you’ve been farming alone since you were seventeen?” Carolyn asked gently.

“Yep. I had a whole lot of offers to help me farm but I’ve gone it alone and it’s worked out really well.”

“A whole lot of offers?”

“You know…every eligible guy in the area showing up at my Grandma’s door looking to save me.”

“What did you think of that?” Carolyn said her forehead wrinkling.

“Well I was in mourning and I couldn’t figure out why all of these guys were suddenly interested in me. They hadn’t been before my parents died and left everything to me. When it dawned on me that it was probably the farm they were interested in I got pretty angry. I busted my ass to graduate early from High School, tossed my dreams of going to college by the road and took over. I haven’t really slowed down enough to think long or hard about the situation. I could have been angry or impressed – I went with angry. Most of those guys are married now or completely unhinged and when I see them we just pretend it never happened.”

“My God, that’s disgusting. What the hell were they thinking, charging over and offering marriage to a young girl who just lost her folks, Jesus…that’s sick.”

“You think?” Elise said feeling warm inside with Carolyn’s words.

“Yeah, I think.” Carolyn said with disgust.

“I thought so too but at the time I was hurting really badly and things look different when you’re hurting.” Carolyn smiled gently at Elise wanting to bring the light back into those blue eyes. She said baldly,

“Maybe it won’t be such an easy thing to get you laid in this town if the guys are such assholes. Maybe we’ll have to look further afield.” Elise laughed at that and said,

“I think it explains my status perfectly and I’m not so sure I would let you choose someone for me to sleep with anyway, have you ever thought I might be saving myself for someone special.” Carolyn watched Elise with a serious face and then said smiling,

“Fuck. You wouldn’t know someone special if they grabbed you by the hair and kissed you.”

“How would you know?” Elise said smartly. “Maybe I sit up nights fantasizing about them.”

“Okay.” Carolyn said nodding, “I might give you a few points if you have a rich fantasy life and you’re masturbating…a lot.” That drew a shocked gasp from Elise, her mouth making a perfect ‘O’. Her face broke out into a shocked smile and in an incredulous voice she said,

“You…are unbelievable.” Silence and then she continued, “AND you need your mouth washed out with soap.” Carolyn was completely unrepentant. She did her best to keep her enjoyment of seeing Elise shocked under raps.

“Why? Because I said masturbating?”

“For starters.” Elise muttered glaring at Carolyn her eyes sparkling with suppressed humor. Carolyn just sat there smiling; she could feel her heart racing with excitement over their exchange and gave herself a mental shake and an admonition to calm down. She isn’t your personal plaything. More’s the pity.

After a long pause while they smiled at each other. Elise ignored what had come before and got back to their original conversation.

“Anne and Bob live the next farm over. Anne has been my best and closest friend all my life; we went all through school together. Bob is 2 years older than we are. They got married right out of high school and Bob farmed with Anne’s Dad until her folks retired and moved to town. They’ve always made room for me in their family – even before they had children it was the 3 of us.”

Carolyn thought about everything Elise was telling her. How terrible to lose your parents so young and not have anyone else who was just yours and yours alone. Elise watched Carolyn noting the sad look on her face and said,

“Don’t let this bring you down I’m very content with my life.”

“Do you feel alone in the world?”

“Well, I am alone but I’m very good at being alone. I’ve had lots of practice at it and if I have people around me too much I need to have my peace and quiet to get back in sync. But…that’s enough about me – I haven’t talked so much about myself in…ever. Why don’t you talk? Tell me something personal about yourself so I don’t feel like I’ve spilled my guts and bored you.”

Carolyn smiled and looked out at the fields, fighting down the urge to isolate she said,

“Oldest daughter of a psychiatrist and a lawyer. One brother, Jamie – med. student and construction worker in North Carolina. Born and raised in Massachusetts, went to college at Amherst, have a masters in Women’s Literature. Taught at Northeastern before going to U of I. Assoc. Professor of Women’s Literature, one semester away from a Doctorate in English. Single…33 years old,” She paused and then added smiling slightly, “Lesbian.”

Elise smiled at her and asked,

“Ever been arrested?”

“No…why?”

“Just wondering why a single girl is hiding out on a farm in Illinois…incommunicado.” Carolyn smiled slightly and answered,

“Just wanted to get away from everything…nothing any deeper than that.”

“And are you getting away from everything or am I busting up your plans, because if you’d rather I stop dropping by, I will.” Carolyn shook her head and said,

“You are not what I wanted to get away from. Just work, colleagues, memories – general dissatisfaction.” Elise wanted to dig deeper but she wasn’t sure how to go about it so she just let it go except to say,

“The 4th of July will be fun. Water skiing, Jet skiing, teenage boys, good food, illegal contraband in the form of fireworks.” Carolyn laughed,

“Teenage boys! Why didn’t you say so?” Elise said with a huge grin and sparkling eyes,

“Yep – 4 of them. You can ask them anything you want to know about girls.” Carolyn lifted her eyebrows and replied,

“I’m sure I could teach them a thing or two about girls.” Elise blushed saying,

“I’m sure.” Carolyn wanted to tease her more but left it. Elise’s blushes were rather addictive though.

They put away the leftovers in Carolyn’s refrigerator. Elise didn’t want to go she wanted to do something with Carolyn so she asked hopefully,

“Would you be interested in going shopping this afternoon? I need to get a Jet Ski and few more life jackets.”

“You’re going to buy a Jet Ski today?” Carolyn inquired.

“Yeah, I have one and Anne and Bob have 2 but we really need another one so I’m going to get one today.”

“Sounds fun, anything’s better than scraping…I’ll get my Teva’s.”

They were on their way to Elise’s to get the Jet Ski trailer just five minutes later. As they drove into Elise’s farm yard Carolyn exclaimed,

“Wow, you keep this really nice.”

“My parent’s always did too so I like it to look good.”

She backed up to a big building and climbed out to slide open a door. Carolyn got out and watched. A trailer with a Jet Ski on it was sitting behind the door. Elise lifted it, the muscles in her forearms and shoulders bunching – she set it down on the ball of the hitch and proceeded to hook everything up. Carolyn watched enjoying the self-sufficient display.

“You’d make lesbian hearts flutter all over the place with that show of brute strength and mechanical knowledge.” Elise looked up at Carolyn, at a loss for words, she finished plugging in the brakes on the hitch and finally said,

“When you’re finished trying to embarrass me, could you get in the truck and test the blinkers and brakes?” Carolyn smiled and climbed into the cab, crawled across the seat and flipped the left blinkers – then the right blinker, then the brake lights.

“Okay thanks, now pull it forward while I shut the door.” Elise called.

Carolyn drove ahead looking in the side mirror to be sure the trailer cleared the door and then she put it in park and scooted over to the passenger side. Elise resumed her seat in the cab and shut the door. She sat quietly for a moment before turning to Carolyn and said,

“You enjoying yourself?” Carolyn laughed and said,

“I’m sorry it’s just you…blush so easily. I’m kind of getting addicted to it.”

“Great!” Elise replied in a much put upon voice.

Chapter Five

They drove to a small city about an hour away and headed for the motorcycle shop. They wandered in looking at bikes and admiring them. When they made it to the Jet Skis’ – a young man sang the praises of each model until Elise told him exactly what she wanted and what she would pay. There was hemming and hawing and refusal. Elise raised her eyebrows and asked to speak to the manager and was writing a check for the thing 20 minutes later. They left the store happy and would return in about 4 hours to pick up the new Jet Ski – still in a crate at the moment.

“You don’t mess around when you’re ready to buy.”

“Nope. Bob and Anne and I have been looking at these things for a month. I already knew exactly what I wanted and how much it was worth, you can’t shut those guys up though.” Carolyn was in awe of Elise writing a check for a Jet Ski but her manners wouldn’t allow her to comment.

“We’ve got 4 hours to burn – how about some ice cream?” Carolyn stood at the window of the Dairy Freeze and tried to decide what to have. Elise had ordered a large twist and watched Carolyn shift back and forth as she looked at the menu and tried to make a decision. Finally she ordered a chocolate soft serve cone and when the cones arrived they sat in the truck and watched the traffic go by. The ice cream melted, lips and tongues caught the drips trying to keep the avalanche of melting ice cream at bay. They didn’t take a moment to talk until they were finished. Carolyn worked very hard at not commenting about licking.

“I have to go out to the mall and get a swimsuit, everything I have is in tatters.”

“Alright, let’s get you a swimsuit.”

Fifteen minutes later they walked into the cool mall and went to a large department store. The swimsuit section was filled with racks of bright colored suits in an array of styles. Elise looked at the sedate one-piece suits trying to find something she liked that wasn’t ugly. Carolyn was digging around on some other racks when she asked,

“What size are you?” Elise looked up and told her. A couple of seconds later Carolyn asked,

“How about this one?” Elise’s blue eyes took in the skimpy black bikini hanging from Carolyn’s hand. Her eyebrows rose and she said,

“A bikini? I don’t think…” Carolyn broke in, “Come on – you have the body for this – you’re…” Carolyn whispered dramatically, “Over thirty and a virgin – this might just be the ticket.”

“Ticket to what?” Elise questioned and then reminded Carolyn, “This is a family outing – remember?”

“All the better. You can get comfortable wearing this with people who like you already.”

“Need I remind you there are going to be teenage boys?”

“They won’t mind, Anne and Bob won’t mind – I certainly won’t mind.” Carolyn ended dramatically. Elise promptly blushed and looked down but Carolyn moved in for the kill,

“At least try it on, please.” Elise looked hard at her but Carolyn refused to acknowledge the look.

“Fine.” Elise said in a much put upon voice. She plucked the suit from Carolyn’s hand and walked to the fitting room.

Elise checked it out from every side in the three-way mirror. It covered everything, barely. She felt exposed but she couldn’t say it didn’t look good on her. She knew Carolyn was waiting to see it so she took it off and put her clothes back on.

When she came out of the dressing room Carolyn looked up and smiled.

“Chicken.” She said, “It looked good didn’t it?”

“Hmmm…but I’m getting a one-piece also just in case my nerve fails me.” Elise found what she was looking for and paid for them.

They spent the remainder of the afternoon in a bar having a few beers and making conversation with each other and with the locals. Both of them enjoyed the lazy afternoon. At 5:30 they picked up the Jet Skis, along with several new life-vests for skiing and a new slalom ski.

On the way home they had supper at a supper club, the food simple but very good. It was almost dark when they arrived at Carolyn’s.

“Thank you for another great afternoon.”

“You’re welcome, thanks for coming along.” Carolyn hopped out and headed into her house.

Elise was having lunch at her kitchen table a couple of days later when the phone rang.

“Hello.” She said answering on the second ring.

“Hi!”

“Carolyn?”

“Yep – Carolyn and her new phone.” Elise laughed.

“Let me be the first to welcome you to the new millennium.” Laughter peeled from Carolyn.

“How’s farming?”

“Keeping me out of trouble.” Elise responded.

“I imagine you’d have to dig awfully deep to find trouble around here.”

“That sounded like you were disparaging my home town.”

“Never.” Carolyn said sounding shocked at the accusation.

“Hmmm.” Elise replied.

“Wanna see a movie and have supper tomorrow night?” Carolyn asked Elise hopefully.

“Okay.”

“Alright I’ll pick you up at 4:30? Does that sound good?”

“Four thirty is good.” Carolyn gave Elise her new phone number and then rang off. Elise spent the afternoon happily mowing her 3-acre yard. Her thoughts were on her new friend all afternoon long. Carolyn was such fun and quite a change from the sort of people she was usually around, very bold and up front. It was certainly keeping Elise on her toes.

Carolyn used her new phone to touch base with her folks, talking with her Father for quite a while. He was worried about her all by herself out in the middle of nowhere. She felt she had reassured him by the time they finished talking. Later that night she called her brother, waiting quite late to be sure he was home. He answered saying,

“Hello.”

“Hi, it’s Carolyn.”

“You got a phone, THANK GOD!”

“I just did it to take pity on you, poor working man- writing letters to his sister. That’s a sad story.”

“Kiss off. I wanted to know how you are sooner than 2 weeks. I’ve been worried about you.”

“What is it with my family? When I’m in Chicago, surrounded by crazy people no one cares. When I’m out on a farm surrounded by hardworking, Church-going patriots – you all panic. Want to explain that to me?”

“It’s simple really, my sister the hip, big city lesbian feminist sees fit to take a post-mortem visit to a farm she’s never been to and then decides she’ll leave behind everything in her life for an entire summer and go paint a house. ALL ALONE! And her family and friends are supposed to think that this is not aberrant behavior. We’re just supposed to sit quietly by supporting you.” He sighed audibly. “I do support you, by the way, but I am also worried about you – talk to me- tell me you’re okay and that you don’t need me to quit the chain gang and come rescue you.”

“I don’t need you to come rescue me. I’m fine – good even.” She assured him. “I’ve got the house almost scraped, primer is next. Furniture will be removed in two weeks – it reeks of mothballs so I can’t wait for that. People I run into are friendly. I’ve met a few new people. In fact I’m spending the 4th of July with a new friend and her family.”

“Should I be reading anything between the lines?” Carolyn laughed.

“Nope, nothing at all. She farms and she’s fun and she isn’t a lesbian.” She couldn’t break Elise’s confidences so she left it at that.

“Okay – well good then. New friends are great.”

“Yes they are…it’s been awhile since I made a new one. I’m enjoying the process and the company. We’re going water-skiing and Jet skiing on the 4th, can you imagine?”

“Oh please, get pictures.”

“We’ll see.” Carolyn said laughing. They talked about the new vacation house in North Carolina. And of their parent’s for another 15 minutes and then rang off.

Carolyn had been on the farm a month.

Chapter Six

The alarm went off and Carolyn groaned. It kept ringing though, louder it seemed. She rolled over onto her back and opened her eyes focusing with difficulty on the ceiling. The ringing in her ears unbearable. Finally her brain clicked and she rolled over and reached out a hand to shut off her alarm. It said 7:40 a.m. the earliest she had been out of bed in 5 weeks. Elise would be here in 20 minutes. They were going to the lake to save a place for Anne and Bob and the rest of the crew.

Twenty minutes later Elise pulled into the drive and walked to the door. Carolyn had on navy gym shorts with a white stripe down the side and a white T-shirt with a ‘life is good’ logo when she opened the door.

“It feels like 5 a.m. I need coffee to function. Do we have time for me to make some?”

“I have a thermos in the truck, it’s cream – no sugar.”

“Perfect. Should I bring a cup?”

“Nope – I brought one for you.” Elise waved her hand indicating the bags on the counter, “What’s going?”

“If you get these 3 bags, I’ll get the case of beer from the frig.”

They carried everything to the truck. Carolyn ran back inside for the bags of ice for the cooler. They filled the coolers with cans and ice and then Carolyn locked the door to her house.

Carolyn took in Elise as she sipped happily away at her coffee. Elise had on cutoffs and a long sleeved white oxford. The sleeves were rolled up above her elbows. Carolyn tried to discern if Elise had on the black bikini but she couldn’t see. Elise felt her perusal and said,

“What are you looking at?” Carolyn smiled and asked,

“Do you have on that bikini or not?” Elise wrinkled her nose and said,

“Maybe, maybe not.”

Carolyn smiled patiently and coaxed,

“Come on…give me a thrill – it’ll help wake me up.” Elise scoffed saying,

“Oh yeah, me in a bikini…there’s a big thrill.” Carolyn’s smile was big when she questioned,

“I did tell you I’m a lesbian, didn’t I?” Elise laughed her face turning pink.

“I don’t know how I even let you talk me into buying it.”

“You thought maybe you wanted to get laid before you’re 40?” Carolyn suggested.

“And this bikini is going to help?” Elise asked.

“It can’t hurt.”

“You know, I’m beginning to regret telling you that particular little nugget of information. I think maybe you need to compensate me for these constant reminders.”

“How so?” Carolyn asked.

“Tell me something personal about yourself.” Carolyn smiled and said,

“I’m not a virgin.” Elise laughed hard and said,

“I give up.” They smiled at each other before dropping into silence and listening to the farm reports as they their way to the Lake. Carolyn kept quiet listening with fascination to the, what seemed like, gibberish on the radio. Elise clearly understood what each set of figures meant but Carolyn couldn’t for the life of her understand even a single part of it.

At Johnson’s – Elise expertly backed the trailer carrying the Jet skis into the water and then climbed out of the cab. Standing in the doorway she said,

“Slide over here and drive please. Just watch me, I’ll tell you when to stop.”

“Alright.” Said Carolyn nervously as she slid across the seat and got behind the wheel. Watching Elise’s directions she gently let the trailer down the ramp into the water. While it was in the water Elise released the 1st Jet ski into the water and tied it off. Then she waded around and repeated it with the second Jet Ski. When they were both clear she called,

“Okay, pull up about 10 feet.”

Carolyn pulled the truck forward, bringing the trailer out of the water. Breathing a sigh of relief she put on the parking brake and climbed out. Elise brought out 2 lounge chairs and their tote bags full of their personal things. She added a little cooler and said,

“I’m going to pull the truck out of the way and then we’ll head over to the island.”

“How will all the other stuff get out there?”

“Anne and Bob have a key, they’ll put everything in the boat and head out to find us.” Elise walked back to Carolyn with a life vest. Carolyn put it on and Elise adjusted the straps to fit her snuggly. She did the same with her own before turning to bungee their stuff on to the 2 jet skis.

“I haven’t ever driven one of these, you know?”

“I figured, but it’s really simple and they stop the instant you let go of the throttle. We can go as slow as you want, okay?”

Elise got both of the Jets skis started and let them idle.

“We’re going out to the island. There are sandy beaches around most of it. We are looking for a good spot for anchoring the boat and Jet skis when we’re not using them.” Then Elise indicated the Jet Ski and asked, “You sure this is okay? We can make a couple of trips on one, and the boys can bring it out when they get here.”

“No, I think I can manage, show me how it works.”

They made their way slowly toward the island. Carolyn sped up a bit the further they went and by the time they reached the island she felt relaxed driving it. Carolyn followed Elise around the island until Elise found a spot she liked. She drove right up to the shore and Carolyn followed, waiting until Elise had tied hers securely before coming closer so Elise could pull it ashore and tie it off also.

They unloaded everything and Elise got out paper bags and filled them with an inch of sand. She used the bags to make a boundary around their chosen spot. Carolyn helped her and finally asked,

“Why are we filling all of these bags with sand?”

“Tonight we’ll light a votive in each one and it will be really pretty.” Carolyn smiled at Elise thinking about simple pleasures.

They sat down in their lounge chairs and relaxed. Elise got out the sunscreen and took off her shirt. She covered every spot she could reach because she knew most of her skin hadn’t ever seen the light of day.

Carolyn watched her from behind her sunglasses. Elise’s body was exquisite, pale skin covered a perfectly muscled torso, and a rock solid stomach. Her arms, legs, face and neck darkly tanned. It was suddenly very hot. Carolyn pulled her T-shirt over her head and slid her shorts off her hips and down her legs.

Elise looked over at Carolyn noting that she didn’t have on a bikini but the suit she wore showed more skin than Elise’s bikini did. The material was so thin she could see…Elise turned her gaze away from Carolyn, embarrassed to have been staring at her friend’s body. Carolyn smiled slightly to herself aware of Elise’s nervousness and began to put sunscreen on her own body. It was quiet out on the island almost no one out on the lake yet, just a few fishing boats whining their way to wet their driver’s hooks.

“Do you want me to put some of that on your back?” Carolyn asked casually.

“Yes, please.” Elise answered. Carolyn climbed over Elise’s lounge chair and sat behind Elise taking the bottle of sunscreen from her hand she put some in her palm and smoothed it onto Elise’s skin. Elise shut her eyes and let the feel of Carolyn’s hands on her back envelop her. Her nipples hardened and she frowned confused by her reaction. Moment’s later Carolyn finished her job and said,

“Now me.” Elise stood up on unsteady legs and Carolyn stood and turned around. The back of Carolyn’s suit…well there wasn’t really a back or sides or a front for that matter. Elise thought before she finally said,

“I’m wearing a bikini and I’ve got on more than you, how is that possible?” Carolyn laughed and said, “I didn’t want you to take all the heat today, for being marginally dressed.” Elise smiled as she smoothed sunscreen onto Carolyn’s tan back.

“You’ve certainly taken care of that, no one will even look my way with you in that.” Carolyn looked over her shoulder at Elise and said,

“Elise – get real! You look fantastic in that suit. Believe me the entire lake will be commenting by days end.”

“Then I’ll go change right now.” Elise threatened.

“No you won’t.” Carolyn said with authority. They shifted back into their lounge chairs and relaxed. They idly watched the lake come alive with boat traffic. After an hour on each side Elise was tanned to a degree that Carolyn could not believe.

“Two hours of sun and you look like you’ve been wearing that bikini your entire life. You suck. I’ve been tanning for 5 weeks to get half as dark as you.” Carolyn looked at her in disgust.

“You’ve been laying out for 5 weeks?” Elise look at Carolyn’s body, she was a warm golden color. She looked great, every inch of her brown. Elise frowned and asked curiously,

“What have you been laying out in?” Carolyn looked over at Elise her green eyes widening in pretend shock,

“Nothing.” She whispered still wide-eyed. Elise’s color rose a little and she said smiling,

“I’d be careful if I were you. The Hillman brothers’ crop-dust the corn on the other side of your house. They’ve been known to send many a bathing teen running for the house.”

“You have perverts who crop dust near my house?”

“I don’t have perverts anywhere.” Elise answered. Carolyn frowned for a moment then said resignedly,

“Oh well – who am I to deny the Hillman brothers a cheap thrill.” Elise laughed and said,

“You wouldn’t say that if you had ever met the Hillman brothers.”

At 11:15 a.m. Anne and Bob’s boat came cruising around the island. Elise stood and pulled on her shirt before walking barefoot to the edge of the shoreline and then waited until Bob pulled the boat’s nose right to shore. Anne was out on the seats in the bow and when she saw Elise’s suit through the front of the shirt she said loudly,

“Jesus Christ Elise, is that you?”

“Leave me alone.” Elise frowned blushing profusely.

Bob shut down the engine and jumped out pulling the boat over and throwing the rope to Elise. Then he considered her a moment before saying,

“Elise, do you think you should be running around in something so…”

“So what?” Elise demanded interrupting his lecture.

“Well at least, you have a shirt on.” Bob said backpedaling at the look on her face.

“Yeah, well I’m taking it off in about 2 minutes, so prepare yourself old man.” Elise walked over to the boat and reached up for Anne. Once she was in Elise’s arms Elise said,

“Jesus you get more heavy every summer.” Anne laughed putting her arms around Elise’s neck as Elise easily carried her to dry land, setting her feet down gently. Anne pulled Elise’s shirt wide and looked at her body.

“Wow – you look really great in that. How many times have I tried to talk you into buying one of those.”

“Too many to count.” Elise said wrinkling her nose. Bob made huge metallic banging sounds as he pounded in a large metal stake. Elise took him the rope and he tied it off.

“Where’s Trish?” Asked Elise, “I didn’t think she would be allowed on the Jet skis with the boys.”

“They let her go for a ride to gas up but she’s going to be unhappy with them before the day is over, no doubt.”

Elise, having been aware of Carolyn for the past several minutes said to Bob and Anne,

“Come meet Carolyn.” They walked up the beach. “Anne, this is Carolyn Baker. Carolyn this is Anne and Bob.” Carolyn stood and shook hands. Anne took in Carolyn’s suit then smiled and said happily,

“I guess I’m going to feel particularly frumpy today.” Carolyn laughed and responded,

“It’s nice to meet you both, thank you for including me.” Bob shook his head and said to Anne,

“Babe – frumpy you aren’t.” Anne turned around and rewarded him with a sunny smile. Elise broke into their private moment saying,

“No Bob – you are the frumpy one, just like an old man.” Bob laughed and said,

“Hey – there are 4 teenage boys arriving shortly. You can walk around naked for all I care but…don’t say I didn’t warn you.” They laughed and headed back down to the boat to unload.

They set up a table and chairs and put the coolers and fireworks out of the hot sun. They heard shouts and whining engines and turned just in time to watch the Jet skis and their passengers fast approaching their day camp. The boys pulled up onto the sand like old pros and hopped off. The adults laughed at their cocky attitudes as they came running up the beach.

“Hey Elise!”

“Hey Richie, Eddie, Priss.” They introduced their friends and Elise introduced Carolyn. They wanted to terrorize the lake and Elise showed the new machine to Richie who was going to ride it. Their excitement evident they tore away leaving waves lapping for a couple of minutes. The island was beginning to fill up.

They had all been relaxing for about 30 minutes talking and laughing when Priss said,

“Daddy I want to ski.”

“Your Mother is the ski boat driver.”

Anne smiled as she got to her feet and said,

“Let’s get out there then before it’s too crowded for anyone but Elise.”

They all stood except Bob and Carolyn. Elise laughed and said,

“Come on Carolyn – let’s change and go skiing.”

“I don’t know. I’ve never been water skiing before.” Elise encouraged

“Yeah well then today’s the day. You don’t want to pass up this chance; I’ll teach you and Anne is the best ski boat driver in Illinois.” Carolyn knew she wasn’t going to get out of this so she smiled good-naturedly and said,

“Well if you put it that way.”

Elise grabbed her one piece and went behind a piece of tarp they had hung in the trees. She was back in a minute and Carolyn went to put on something more sedate also.

The afternoon sped by. Carolyn learned how to water ski, it was an amazing experience to get yanked out of the water by a boat on two flat pieces of wood that they called ‘skis’. Elise had shown them all how it was done on one ski, chasing the boys down and spraying them with huge arcs of water. By dusk they were all relaxing lazily around a campfire after eating and drinking for a couple of hours.

The sun was low but still pretty warm; there were a few red noses amongst them. Carolyn watched Elise and Anne walk around the perimeter of the camp lighting the candles in the paper sacks of sand. Priss was arguing good- naturedly with the boys and Bob was smiling and laughing with them as he kept an eye on Anne. Must be a miraculous feeling to have someone be that crazy about you after what, 14 years?

With sounds of laughter in the distance, Elise sat down near Carolyn and they chatted lazily until the first red rocket exploded in the sky. The bright colors brought ‘ooohhs’ and ‘awwws’ from the pleased crowd. After a half hour it was all over. They placed their chairs in the boat and because everything else had been put away before the fireworks began, they were on their way very shortly after the fireworks ended. That put them in at the boat ramp before almost anyone else. In 30 minutes Carolyn and Elise were on their way home.

“Thank you so much Elise for including me, I really enjoyed it.” Carolyn said smiling at Elise as they drove down her lane.

“You’re welcome, I’m glad you could come.”

Carolyn smiled, showering had made her clean and comfortable, it was getting pretty late and she drifted off to sleep thinking of ‘bombs bursting in air’ and the smells and sounds in her memory of a wonderful day.

Elise entered her door. The air conditioning making her feel sticky. She showered and climbed into bed exhausted from her long day. Her final thought before sleep claimed her was the picture in her mind of Carolyn as she popped out of the water on skis the very first try. Her face wreathed in smiles of accomplishment.

Chapter Seven

Work continued through the hot and hazy humid days of July. Carolyn finished scraping and moved on to the priming part of her big house-painting job. She wrote some letters to her family and even glanced a time or two, in the evenings at her curriculum for fall. The isolation soothed her but she had some evenings when she would be crawling out of her skin with loneliness. She took to calling Elise on these nights. Sometimes Elise would drive over and they would go for ice cream or just sit outside and sip beer until the mosquitoes chased them inside. Sometimes they just talked on the phone.

She felt that when she got back to Chicago that it was time to get out there and date a bit. She missed having someone who…was hers and hers alone. Missed everything about an exclusive loving relationship, especially sex. Fear gripped her when she gave her thoughts reign but she refused to be cowed and promised her self that she would at the very least have a couple of casual dates during the fall. Build up her dating muscles.

Elise was having the very best summer she could remember. Carolyn was such a neat person they spent hours talking. Elise was extremely interested in college and the curriculum that Carolyn taught. Carolyn had given her several books during the last month and Elise had devoured them. Their discussions were lively, even funny at times. Carolyn’s views so worldly, Elise’s so colloquial but both of them making well thought arguments for their cases. She wished she had had the opportunity to go to college. It wasn’t as though she didn’t love farming but she would have really enjoyed college, she felt certain of that.

When August arrived, Carolyn began to think she wouldn’t be able to finish her job, of painting the house, before she had to get back to Chicago for meetings before school began, she had three weeks. She and Elise were talking about it a couple of nights later on the phone. Elise asked if she would like a little help. Carolyn didn’t want add to Elise’s workload but Elise was insistent that she would arrive at 4:00 over the course of the next week and help.

The first night she brought Edward and Priss. They were wicked handy with a paintbrush and Carolyn fixed them hamburgers on the grill as she painted nearby. The second night the whole Derefield family showed up and Elise brought supper for everyone. By the end of the night they were almost done. Carolyn had never been around that type of generosity and it brought tears to her eyes to think about it when she was alone later that evening. She could have easily afforded to have someone paint it for her. The Deerfield’s were such a fun bunch and Carolyn liked them a lot, owing to the fact that they were Elise’s family made their gesture even more special. Farm living is the life for me… she sang playfully to herself as she drifted off to sleep that night.

A week later she and Elise celebrated the finishing of her summer project. Carolyn made arrangements to sell the house but kept the surrounding farmland on Elise’s advice. Carolyn was going to make a bit of money on farming. Renting out her land to be more exact. She was kind of excited about it and spent an hour explaining it to her brother.

“I don’t even understand why you don’t just wash your hands and feet of the whole thing.”

“Because it will give me more income.”

“Yeah well so will selling it and banking the profit.”

“But owning the land is exciting and I don’t need a huge chunk of money right now, if I do I’ll put it on the block, but until then I’m going to keep it and get money for someone else farming it.”

“Promise me you haven’t lost your mind.”

“Kiss my ass. What about this is that extreme? I want to own the land for a while. Big deal.”

“I’m sorry, I guess I’m just worried about you keeping the land. I’m not sure why.”

“I’ve got a week and a half left here. I’ll be back in Chicago soon and then you can worry about me full time you twit.”

“Crazily, I probably won’t worry about you at all.”

“Now that is crazy…when do you leave for Boston?”

“Four days.”

“Excited, scared, worried?”

“All of the above. But you know I was born for this.”

“I know. I just hate to see you give up your life to the state that medicine is in today.”

“You know we don’t agree on this so let’s not get into right now. When can you come for a visit, I miss seeing my sister’s face.”

“I’ll be there for Thanksgiving, okay? You promised you would too.”

“I know…I’ll be there. I’ve got to get going, call me in two weeks – I’ll no longer be gainfully employed, I’ll be a busted-on-my-ass college student once again.”

“You’re fucking cheap, that’s what you are – but yes I will call you in a couple of weeks.”

“I love you, goodbye.”

“I love you too, bye.”

Another week passed with Carolyn throwing out furniture and junk of her aunts so it could be picked up and taken far away. Elise worked walking beans and more beans. Work and Chicago were looming on the horizon and Carolyn was torn between a feeling of missing the farm and excitement to get on with her life.

It was 10:00 p.m. Elise noticed as she glanced at Carolyn’s microwave clock. They had just finished a lively discussion of The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, more lively than usual because they were both quite tipsy. They had managed to make their way through 4 beers a piece since seven thirty. Carolyn’s house was empty of furniture. The last dumpster had been picked up this afternoon and they began the Friday night celebration with that in mind.

“Here’s to virginity.” Carolyn lifted her glass, it seemed there was no end to the celebrations she was willing to include this night.

“I’m not going to toast to virginity.” Elise refused scowling at Carolyn.

“Oh come on, I wish I were still a virgin.”

“Liar.”

“That’s harsh…but probably…accurate.” Carolyn said laughing gaily. “Sex is really great Elise. You would love it. We need to step up our efforts to get you dating and screwing.”

Elise’s faced flushed and she said,

“I’ll find someone to date on my own. You aren’t exactly dating up a storm yourself so get off my case.”

“That’s true but I’ve been saying to myself for a couple of weeks now. Carolyn; when you get back to Chicago, it’s time to begin screwing again…” She giggled and then finished emphatically, “I mean dating again… I’ve been alone long enough.”

“There you go, you concentrate on yourself and I’ll work on me.” They stared at each other across the old Formica kitchen table, one of the only things to stay and then only because it didn’t reek of mothballs. Elise didn’t like hearing about Carolyn dating but she ignored the voice in her head that wondered why.

They sat smiling at each other. Carolyn watching Elise intently, and then Carolyn rose and walked around the table shoving Elise’s Teva covered feet onto the floor. Then she straddled Elise’s lap and sat down. Elise watched her carefully, her strong arms coming around Carolyn to keep her from falling. They looked at each other and then Carolyn raised her head and pressed her sweet moist lips to Elise’s. Elise’s breath caught and her heart began to pound in her chest as Carolyn gently kissed her. Carolyn let her tongue come out and lightly lick along the outline of Elise’s full lips.

Elise didn’t respond. She just let Carolyn play with her. Carolyn pressed small sweet kisses on her lips over and over until Elise began to kiss her back. She didn’t open her mouth so her tongue was still hidden from Carolyn, finally Carolyn whispered,

“Open your mouth Elise.” Elise succumbed to the request and Carolyn slipped her tongue inside to play with Elise’s. So sweet, Carolyn thought as she felt desire begin to pool in her loins. She pulled back a little not wanting this to get out of hand. Their tongue slid against each other, Elise’s clumsily chasing Carolyn’s. The kiss deepened suddenly and then Carolyn pulled her lips away, their eyes opened and Carolyn looked into the dazed eyes of Elise. Oh boy, suddenly this wasn’t a wise idea. Carolyn closed her eyes and gathered her wits about her, and then she slid off Elise’s lap and stepped back. Their labored breathing the only sound in the house until Carolyn turned toward the bathroom and said smartly,

“I think that might jump start you.” Elise looked at Carolyn’s retreating back her breathing shallow. Jump-start me? She shifted uncomfortably in her chair and then stood up and walked to the refrigerator and got them both another cold beer.

A few minutes later Carolyn walked back into the kitchen, having fully chastised herself in the bathroom about the decisions she was making while drinking too much. Elise was as relaxed as she was ever going to be after being kissed…by Carolyn.

Carolyn looked closely at Elise trying to access how she was going to react. She seemed back to normal, she hadn’t run off home either so Carolyn hoped they would survive her lunacy. They stared at each other for a moment and then Elise said,

“I must be getting real drunk, I could have sworn you just sat on my lap and kissed me.”

Carolyn laughed and said,

“You are drunk.”

Their conversation moved on to more mundane things, on the surface anyway.

Elise dropped her keys twice trying to unlock the door of her truck. She couldn’t remember why she locked the darn thing anyway – parking at Carolyn’s house wasn’t exactly downtown Chicago.

Finally. She said to herself as the lock opened and she climbed in and slammed the door, leaning her head back against the seat, her mind racing with…everything. Slow down…she spent a minute calming herself, deeply breathing and shutting down her racing mind. When she felt more capable she started the truck and put it in gear.

Darkness, blackness played all around her on the periphery, she kept her eyes glued to the small tunnel of light that the truck’s headlights made. The closer she got to her farm the more thoughts of Carolyn danced through her mind; her laughter, teasing words, sparkling eyes, and then her weight and scent so close. The explosion of feelings when Carolyn’s lips touched hers, gentle and soft…Elise’s heart was racing again. What did all this mean? She asked herself – why did Carolyn kiss me and why did I like it so much that I’m thinking about it an hour later and… she couldn’t face any more tonight.

Elise flipped on the bathroom light and reached in to turn on the shower. She pulled off her shorts and shirt, walking to the mirror, over the sink, in her bra and underwear. She looked at herself standing there, tan and…normal. Nothing out of the ordinary, except maybe some heightened color on her cheeks. It’s just from the beer, she assured herself.

She touched a finger to the lips that Carolyn had kissed. Why? She asked herself, why for 31 years have I felt nothing for anyone? Because for 31 years there was no Carolyn her mind mocked her. She shook her head to clear it and got into the shower.

She tossed and turned for a while, thoughts of Carolyn making her mind too busy for sleep. After what seemed like an eternity she fell into a fitful slumber.

The sun was already blazing when she woke; she lay naked perspiring as she ran over the events of last evening with Elise. Carolyn questioned her sanity and decided to drink beer a little less voraciously in the future, at least around tempting situations.

Was it just the beer? She pondered that as she fanned her naked body with a magazine from the floor next to the mattress that was her bed. She thought about Elise’s soft untutored lips and considered how much she enjoyed Elise’s company but beyond just plain old appreciation for the female form, and Elise had some female form, was it…attraction?

After a couple of year’s celibacy, she wasn’t sure anymore what attraction really was. As she told Elise, she needed to get out and begin dating. The old juices were beginning to flow and celibacy was beginning to wear. She laughed happily at the thought of being horny, which felt really good. A frown touched her brow as she remembered she would actually have to meet some people, if she was going to begin something…physical.

Finally she couldn’t stand to lay and fry another second and she stood up stretching and moving around the room collecting her clothes. She should begin to get herself packed up, six more days and her time on the farm would be over. As much as she was looking forward to going back to work and home she would also miss her friend Elise.

Chapter Eight

The final 5 days they spent a great deal of time together, talking and laughing. Making tentative plans to get together after harvest was over. Until then Elise didn’t have a lot of time, and for that mixed blessing she knew she would be grateful.

Elise drove the 4-wheeler into the farmyard, the dust following her in a cloud. She had 2 hours to get something made for supper, which she would be sharing with Carolyn tonight, their last of the summer. She hurried into the house and got quickly into the shower.

Her clean bare feet, slapped against the floor as she moved around the kitchen, her

hair was still wet from the earlier shower. In the midst of checking the pork chops the phone rang, Elise snatched it up on the second ring,

“Hello.” She answered

“Hey it’s me.”

“Hi Anne, what’s up?”

“That’s what I’m wondering. I haven’t heard from you for…5days.” Anne stated in an accusing tone. Elise frowned and then smiled and said,

“Well I haven’t heard from you either.”

Anne humphed and asked,

“Do you know that we have never gone 5 days without speaking?”

“We haven’t?”

“No!” Anne said emphatically. “Tell me what has brought this on, is everything alright?” Elise laughed,

“Don’t be ridiculous Annie, I’ve just been busy.”

“You’re always busy Elise, that has never made a bit of difference.”

“I’m sorry.” Elise replied soothingly, “I promise I’ll call you everyday from now on.”

“Just tell me what’s wrong?” Anne said.

“Nothing’s wrong, not one thing.”

“You’re sure?”

“Absolutely!” Elise said through a thin veil of guilt. She had been obsessing about Carolyn and had spent most of the past week alone or spending every moment possible with Carolyn.

“We’ve got a turkey in the smoker. Grab a six pack on your way for you and Bob.” Anne commanded.

“I’d love to, but Carolyn is coming over for dinner, she leaves tomorrow – for home. I’d love to tomorrow?”

“Okay…well say goodbye to her for us.”

“Okay. And I’m sorry I haven’t called.”

“It’s fine Elise, if nothing is wrong. I was just worried.”

“We’ll everything is great, so don’t worry.”

“Alright – bye Elise.”

“Bye Anne.”

“Is she bringing beer?” Bob asked as he walked into the kitchen to see Anne hanging up the phone.

“She’s busy tonight, Carolyn’s last night in town.” Anne said by way of explanation.

“Oh…” Bob said surprised, “Is she alright, why hasn’t she called?”

“Said she was busy.”

“Busy?” Bob repeated frowning.

Carolyn pulled her jeep up to Elise’s backdoor. She had a busy day tracking down a book she wanted to give Elise. It took a two-hour drive to pick it up in its hardback edition. She knocked at the back door. Elise called for her to come in.

Carolyn smiled at Elise, bent over checking something in the oven with a fork. Carolyn enjoyed the view of Elise in cutoffs, which molded to her shape; her long tan legs went on for a miracle mile.

Elise straightened up and blushed when she caught sight of Carolyn’s eyes not quite finished with their perusal.

“Hi.” Carolyn said smiling a happy smile.

“Hi.” Elise answered. flustered by Carolyn’s blatant enjoyment.

“Um…everything is almost ready.”

“Great. It smells fantastic.”

They chatted about the day as Carolyn helped Elise bring food to the table.

Carolyn hated to end the evening, end the summer essentially but it was getting late and she needed to be up very early tomorrow morning. She watched Elise talking animatedly, her spectacular blue eyes flashing, her dark eyebrows rising and falling with her expressions.

Then Carolyn focused on Elise’s lips moving until… they weren’t…Carolyn lifted her eyes quickly to Elise’s and saw the blush on Elise’s face. Carolyn smiled a lopsided smile and said,

“I’m sorry…” Then she lifted a shoulder and shrugged “…You have beautiful lips.”

Confusion and nervous tension settled onto Elise’s shoulders, she glanced at the clock hating to see how quickly the evening had passed. She thought of the gift she had for Carolyn and experienced the self-consciousness she had felt since she bought the gift. Trying to ignore the racing of her heart from Carolyn’s words she wrinkled her nose at Carolyn and stood up to get the gift.

“I got you a going-away gift, I hope you like it.” Carolyn stood then also and went to her bag,

“Yeah, I got you something too – but I’m going to think of it as a I’ll-see- you-again-soon gift.” They both brought wrapped packages back to the table and sat again to open them. Carolyn reached for the prettily wrapped package and opened it.

“Oh Elise…this is beautiful.” She looked up and smiled into Elise’s eyes. “Thank you so much.”

“You’re welcome.” Elise answered, her cheeks blooming with pink again. Carolyn looked down at the delicate bracelet with a strawberry charm and smiled while gently poking a finger at it. Still smiling she said,

“Open yours.”

While Elise opened her book Carolyn said,

“I hope you enjoy it.” Elise pulled it out of the paper and looked at a poetry book by May Sarton.

“Oh I will, just as soon as I finish Combining.” She said enthusiastically. They talked for a couple of more minutes before Carolyn broke in saying,

“I’ve got to get going.”

“Alright.”

Carolyn gathered up everything she had as Elise threw away the wrapping paper and wiped her sweaty hands on her jean shorts and followed Carolyn to the door. Carolyn turned when she reached the door – Elise stopped…looking directly into Carolyn’s eyes with the smallest tinge of sadness in her blue eyes.

“Don’t…” Carolyn said gently, “I’ll see you again soon. You are coming to Chicago aren’t you?”

“Yes.” Elise answered smiling.

Then Carolyn stated,

“You’ve got my number and my E-mail, my address and I’ve got yours.”

“Yep.” Elise agreed trying to relax.

“Alright.” Carolyn said sincerely, “Thank you so much for everything this summer, the help with painting and selling the house and also with the contracts for renting my land. I really appreciate it.”

“Stop already.” Elise said feeling embarrassed by all the thank yous’.

“Okay.” Carolyn said smiling. Then she leaned close – stretching up to reach Elise’s soft lips and kissed her gently. Elise’s eyes dropped closed as she felt the pressure but before she could react Carolyn had pulled back and was reaching for the door.

“Bye Elise.”

“Bye.” Elise replied softly.

She was gone…Elise stood there for several minutes. She heard the jeep start and the gravel crunch, she waited until it was silent and then leaned her forehead against the wall feeling lost. She stayed there until the wall cooled her head and then she stood, flipping off the lights and she headed up to her bedroom. She threw herself face first on her covers and lay there trying to think, trying not to think.

She woke late in the night having fallen asleep in her clothes; she stripped, went to the bathroom and fell back into bed for the rest of the night.

Carolyn woke in the morning to an alarm clock. It had been awhile and she frowned at it with all the crankiness she could muster. She did however get up and get into the shower just minutes later. The sun wasn’t up yet but it was hinting at it.

When she was dressed in baggy athletic shorts and a T-shirt she began packing up her jeep. It didn’t take more than 15 minutes. She walked through the house, making sure she had left nothing. Soon after she was putting the keys in the mailbox as planned and driving down the highway toward Chicago. She was excited and a little sad; it had been a great summer, Elise, the best part of it by far.

She pushed Elise out of her mind and concentrated on what she needed to accomplish in the week before she was due back in school. Once in a while she grabbed a pad of paper and scribbled something on it – the creative juices flowing, the excitement growing.

Elise walked through the door of her kitchen tossing her work gloves in the sink and pushing the button on her answering machine. She had two messages, the first was from Anne telling her to head over for dinner at about 7:30 and bring beer. The second from Carolyn,

“Hi Elise, I made it home about an hour ago. Place smells musty – I am having very bad luck with the smelly houses lately.” She laughed then. “I’ll give you a call later in the week, we’ll make plans for you to come visit. Thanks again for everything.” Carolyn rang off then. Elise played it a couple more times then headed up to get cleaned up before she went to Anne and Bob’s.

The table was covered with empty plates and bowls of leftovers. Anne, Bob and Elise sat at the table talking, the kids long ago tired of endless adult conversation about farming and community. Elise wanted to go home and relax but she stayed, feeling guilty for not paying attention to her family for the past month.

“Let’s get this table cleared and put the food away before it spoils.” Elise suggested feeling strangely impatient. Bob got up and took two handfuls of dirty dishes and headed for the kitchen. Then he headed straight for the living room to join the kids watching television, leaving Anne and Elise to finish.

“So…you seem tired? Is anything wrong?”

“No nothings wrong, I’m tired but no more than usual…I feel a little…sad I think because it was such a fun summer, getting to know Carolyn and everything and now she’s back in Chicago. It feels kind of odd.”

“Well, when will you see her again?”

“Oh, after the Combining is done.”

“If you get lonely you can always come over here, day or night.” Anne offered for the thousandth time in the last 10 years.

“I’m fine Anne.”

“Okay…let’s go watch Friends with the kids.”

“I think I’ll head home to bed, I’m worn. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Oh…alright. Sleep well honey.” And Anne gave Elise a big hug and a kiss on her cheek. Making Elise feel cared for and maybe a little less lonely.

Chapter Nine

Carolyn finished clearing her desk of work and headed out the door for the day. Thousands of students, filling the grounds and buildings of the University were between her and her Jeep – she wove a path through them as they called to each other and dodged each other walking, biking and rollerblading. Carolyn’s was wearing her blond hair a little longer than usual and it was streaked with highlights of a summer spent under the sun. Black slim pants which flared at the bottom and a long sleeved cashmere sweater in charcoal covered her body. She watched the students as she strode toward the parking lot. There was a new chill in the air.

On the drive home she looked at the Chicago skyline and thought about the open view she enjoyed on the farm during the past summer. This brought a smile to her lips and she reminded herself that she had to make some plans because Elise would be in town next weekend. She was looking forward to showing her the city – and catching up. When they had spoken Elise said that she would be finished this weekend with Combining. Smiling in happiness she pulled her jeep into a parking spot right in front of her building. Things were good.

Elise took a last look at herself in the rear view mirror of her truck before she climbed out and slammed the door. It was about 4:30 on Friday afternoon; a few students were straggling out into the crisp fall weather. It was in the 50’s and the blue sky was bright but the sun was already getting low in the sky. Carolyn had given her directions to school because it was easier to find than Carolyn’s condominium. Elise took the paper with directions out of her polar fleece jacket pocket and began walking, her long jean encased legs, eating up the sidewalk.

Elise walked out of the elevator and turned toward the offices of the English Department. She glanced at the numbers above the doors until she found Carolyn’s. She knocked and at ‘come in!’ she opened the door and walked inside. Carolyn looked up from the papers she was reading on her desk to see whom it was.

With a smile on her face she stood quickly, coming around her desk to hug Elise and give her a kiss on the cheek. Determined, Elise held Carolyn still until she could return a kiss to Carolyn’s cheek. They stood smiling at each other. Carolyn was wearing a pair of camel colored slacks and a cream colored sweater. It complimented her coloring, but Elise didn’t comment.

“How was the drive?” Carolyn asked her a smile still touching her lips.

“It was a piece of cake, you gave me very good directions.”

“Good.” Carolyn answered as she took in Elise’s tall body, her scent invoking fresh air and sunshine, her dark hair hanging down over her shoulders. Carolyn had never seen it that way. It made her look younger. Her blue eyes reflected the bright blue color of her polar fleece jacket, making those baby blues evermore compelling. Her tan had deepened and she looked healthy if a little tired. Carolyn said,

“You look fantastic Elise.”

Elise blushed and said,

“Thank you, you look…very professional.” Elise scowled at herself, professional? No that wasn’t it – it was…Elise fumbled for the right words, hating how inadequate she was at expressing what she meant.

“What I meant to say is…you look really good, I’ve never seen you in anything but shorts and T-shirts.” That would have to do for now.

“Oh come on…” Carolyn countered playfully, “You’ve seen me in a swim suit.” Elise laughed softly and said,

“That one you were almost wearing?” Carolyn played horrified,

“Hey it didn’t get a second glance – with you in that black bikini.”

“Yeah…” Elise scoffed, “Whatever!” They stood smiling at their shared memories.

Carolyn and Elise walked toward the parking lot. Elise had taken the grand tour of Carolyn’s department and had even met a few of the other professors, now they were heading to Carolyn’s condo. Elise followed in her pick-up truck. They made their way through heavy traffic. Elise smiled most of the way, she was extremely happy, the past month of hard work melting away in Carolyn’s presence.

Elise grabbed her bag and locked the door of the truck pocketing her keys. She waited for Carolyn to finish parking her Jeep and extract a couple of bags worth of books and papers.

“Come on, let’s get inside and find a cold beer.” They chatted as they entered the building and made their way to Carolyn’s condo.

Carolyn unlocked the door and stood back for Elise to precede her. Elise set down her bag and looked around with interest. The condo was beautiful and modern, filled with over-stuffed furniture sitting on hard wood floors with many colorful rugs scattered throughout. The open floor plan and massive windows making it appear to be very large.

“Wow – it’s very big and really nice.” Elise complimented, silently disgusted with herself that she could easily compliment a home but not Carolyn.

“Thank you. Come on- grab your bag and I’ll show you to your room.” Elise followed obediently. Carolyn walked into a nice-sized bedroom with a queen-sized bed in it.

“Your bathroom is through there.” Carolyn indicated, pointing into the bedroom.

“Okay…thanks.”

“I’m going to leave you to settle in while I go change out of these work clothes. I’ll be in the kitchen opening beer in a few minutes.”

“Thanks.” Elise answered as she carried her bag inside.

“Sure thing.” Carolyn said over her shoulder.

Elise used the bathroom and then stripped off her jacket and laid it on her bed. She had on a very nice finely gauged long-sleeved v-neck T-shirt. It’s navy blue color much darker than the snug blue jeans she wore. She could hear some rattling in the kitchen so Elise followed the sound and found Carolyn digging around in the refrigerator for beer and limes.

She had on very faded jeans and a plaid flannel shirt hanging open, over a white T-shirt, she turned and opened the beers with a bottle top opener and slid one across to Elise. Carolyn smiled then and lifted her bottle in the air in a toast,

“To the end of COMBINING?” Elise laughed and lifted her bottle also,

“YES! To the end of combining!”

They sipped and chatted, catching each other up on how their lives were proceeding. Carolyn watched Elise as she smiled and talked – she seemed a little…what was it? But other than that everything just fell back into the easy camaraderie of the summer.

“You seem a little…tense? Is everything alright Elise?”

“Yeah…everything is fine…I’ve been going 14 hours a day, for several weeks, I’m just…it will take a little time to wind down.” She said shrugging her shoulders.

“How can I help?” Her friend Carolyn asked.

“This is helping, just sitting, drinking a beer, and talking.” Carolyn smiled devilishly and said,

“Maybe you should spend some time now trying to find a nice fellow to go out with.” Elise scowled and grinned simultaneously and then mocked,

“Ah…dating,” She said nodding her head, “There’s an excellent stress reliever.”

“Well dating isn’t but…sex is!” Carolyn smiled her eyes wide.

Elise narrowed her eyes at Carolyn’s suggestion and Carolyn said,

“Now, now – you’ve got to date – before you can get…laid.” Then a second later she continued, “At least for your first time you should.”

Elise rolled her eyes and asked nonchalantly,

“So you’re dating are you?”

Carolyn held up her thumb and forefinger making a space about an inch between them and said,

“I’m this close.” Elise’s blue eyes penetrated and stated the obvious,

“So you aren’t dating.”

“Not yet.” Carolyn admitted.

“Well as I said this summer, you worry about you and I’ll worry about me.”

“Hey.” Carolyn defended, “I’m just trying to help you control your stress level.”

“Thanks.” Elise said dryly and she took another sip of her beer.

Carolyn was sprawled on the couch and Elise was slouched in a chair. They were watching a DVD and sipping at glasses of wine. They had gone for supper at a nearby pizza joint which served the best Chicago style pizza Elise had ever tasted. At some point in the evening Carolyn looked over at Elise because she hadn’t laughed at something very funny and found her friend fast asleep.

When the movie was over Carolyn debated about what to do with her farmer friend, leave her in the chair or wake her. Finally she decided that Elise should be in a bed, so she could get a good night sleep.

“Elise.” Carolyn whispered a couple of times until her eyelids fluttered open revealing warm blue eyes.

“Let’s get you to bed.” She encouraged quietly.

“Okay.” Elise agreed sleepily. Slowly she stood and walked behind Carolyn to the room she was sleeping in. She turned to say ‘goodnight’ but Carolyn spoke first,

“I’d help you get undressed but I don’t think I could handle the thrill.” Elise scowled at her tiredly and said gruffly but with humor,

“Leave me alone.”

“Okay.” Carolyn chuckled, “Good night Elise.”

“Good night.”

In the morning they lounged for a couple of hours, sipping coffee and reading the Tribune, interspersed with pancakes and eggs. The morning quickly turned into the afternoon and they left the condo to play tourist for the day before ending with an early dinner with several of Carolyn’s friends.

Elise enjoyed watching Carolyn interact with her friends. They argued over just about everything that came up as topic. One of the women, Lisa was a very close friend of Carolyn’s. She managed a bookstore in Andersonville.

Elise, her beauty and strength equally compelling intrigued Lisa but then she wasn’t sure if Elise actually had strength because she was having trouble getting anything out of the woman. She gave conversation another shot asking,

“So Elise, are you enjoying our fine city?”

“Yes.” Silence. Lisa tried to find a question that didn’t have a yes or no answer.

“What have you guys seen today, while you were playing tourist?”

“We saw the Planetarium and The Art Institute. Lisa nodded to encourage Elise to continue. Carolyn looked over at Lisa smiling. She remembered trying to talk to Elise in the beginning and could barely keep herself from laughing now. Lisa wasn’t quitting though and she continued with her questions,

“How is farming, are the crops good?”

“Yes.” Elise answered politely. At that Lisa narrowed her eyes at Carolyn and Carolyn smiled brilliantly.

A few minutes later Carolyn left to use the rest room and soon after Lisa followed. When they were both behind locked doors Lisa said,

“Okay so she’s gorgeous but…she must be damn good in bed ’cause she sure doesn’t have much else going.” Carolyn laughed hard at that and responded,

“She isn’t my girl friend, she’s just a friend.”

“Oh.” Lisa said in a tell-me-another-one voice.

“I’m serious, she’s just a friend, a very shy friend. Believe me she never shuts up once she is comfortable.” Lisa gave Carolyn a knowing look and said,

“I’ll bet.” Carolyn laughed and walked out of the bathroom.

Lisa let her friend go and turned to the mirror to freshen her lipstick. Just a friend. She had seen the looks between them and she decided they might just need a little help in getting together.

The sun was setting, bringing on the evening and Lisa said to everyone at the table,

“Is anyone up for going dancing tonight?”

Carolyn turned to Elise and asked,

“Would you have any interest in going dancing?”

“I’m not much for dancing, but I’d be happy to go if you want to.” Carolyn considered for a couple of moments and then decided why not?

“Lets go then, it should be fun and if it isn’t…we’ll leave, okay?”

“Okay.” Elise agreed easily.

When they had first arrived the music was friendlier on the ears, now you could feel the beat throughout your entire body, Elise thought as she watched everything around her with interest. She had never been in an all-girl bar she was definitely enjoying herself.

Carolyn watched Elise, smiling at her. Carolyn noted that many women in the bar were certainly checking out the farmer. She couldn’t blame them; Elise had on a pair of well-fitting light tan jeans, her legs stretched out, and her boot covered feet crossed at the ankles. She had on a fitted pale blue blouse that was open at the neck. With her hair down and her amazing eyes she was rather intoxicating.

Lisa watched Carolyn staring at Elise and leaned over and encouraged,

“Take Elise out to dance!” Carolyn loved to dance but she didn’t want to desert Elise for the evening so she told Lisa,

“She said she doesn’t dance.”

“You asked her to dance?” Lisa asked finally beginning to wonder if all the electricity between these two women was in her own imagination.

“No…she said earlier ‘she wasn’t much for dancing.” Carolyn imitated Elise’s inflection. Lisa smiled and encouraged again,

“Well I think you should ask her.”

Carolyn sat considering for several minutes. Elise wasn’t gay and Carolyn didn’t want to offend her friend by asking too much of her. This was the very first time Elise had ever even been in a gay bar and Carolyn wanted to respect any boundaries even if she wasn’t aware of them being written in stone.

While Carolyn was lost in her musings, an attractive woman came and asked Carolyn to dance. Carolyn politely declined and the woman left. Elise looked at Carolyn, their eyes met for several moments and then Elise sat up and leaned over close to Carolyn to ask,

“Did she just ask you to dance?”

“Yes.” Carolyn acknowledged.

“Why didn’t you want to?” Carolyn smiled and said vainly,

“I’m not here to dance with the locals.” And then she continued normally, “I’m here to enjoy my friend who is visiting the BIG TOWN!”

Elise smiled and then assured Carolyn,

“Go ahead and dance, I’m fine.” They didn’t speak for a moment and then Carolyn said grinning and at Elise,

“Do you want to dance? I’ll dance with you.” Elise swallowed and then smiled shyly and admitted,

“I’ve never really danced much, I would embarrass you, most likely.”

“Please.” Carolyn said in a put-upon voice. “Dancing is easy and no one else cares how you dance.” Okay, that was a bald faced lie – the minute Elise took the dance floor a lot of people would be craning their necks to see. Elise pondered in silence and then without warning she stood towering over Carolyn who was leaning forward in her chair but who was suddenly looking up, way up to Elise’s twinkling eyes.

“Alright, show me how to dance, smarty.”

Carolyn smiled into Elise’s eyes and stood, her black pants molding her shape and her black fitted top unbuttoned low enough to catch a glimpse of the black bra she wore underneath. Her green eyes dazzled Elise as she laughed and happily grabbed Elise’s large callused hand as they made their way through the wall of people onto the dance floor. Carolyn made a tiny space for them in the middle of everyone so that Elise could hopefully relax a little.

Carolyn didn’t drop her hand but leaned close to Elise and yelled,

“Just move your feet.”

They bumped around, Carolyn continuing to hold Elise’s hand hoping it would make her feel more comfortable.

Elise couldn’t quit watching Carolyn; she was an incredible dancer, so incredible that no one was even bothering to look her way and she began to relax. They smiled at each other often. It was very warm and Elise was getting hot. From her vantage point, about 6 inches taller than Carolyn, she could see Carolyn’s black bra and breasts on display but felt embarrassed and guilty to be ogling her friend so she made a concerted effort to keep her eyes on Carolyn’s face or on the other dancers. After about a half an hour the music slowed to a crawl.

Carolyn smiled up at Elise and pulled in closer so she could be heard,

“Do you want to sit this one out?” Elise smiled and said,

“Oh sure, when it finally slows to a reasonable tempo.” Carolyn’s green eyes were sparkling and she smiled and winked saying,

“This tempo is going to require you to put your arms around me.”

“Oh.” Elise said, taken aback for a second. Then just when Carolyn was about to drag her off the floor Elise looked at her shyly and said,

“I think I can manage that.” Carolyn looked at her carefully but with humor and asked,

“You sure?”

“Of course.”

Carolyn stepped closer and put a hand on Elise’s shoulder and clasped her strong hand. Elise settled a hand onto Carolyn’s hips, Carolyn’s breasts grazed Elise and she gasp. Carolyn felt the gasp more than heard it but she looked up concerned and asked,

“You okay, we don’t have to do this?” Elise gathered herself together and said smartly,

“Start moving your feet so I can figure out what I’m supposed to be doing.”

Carolyn laughed and then ordered,

“You lead, I’ll follow.” Those green eyes played with smiling blue eyes. Elise took a deep cleansing breath, they moved together in time with the music.

Carolyn felt…safe, but there was also a shade of…excitement that she decided to ignore. Elise’s scent was of clean soap and the lightest of perfume. It was a combination that Carolyn liked…a lot.

They moved through and around the other dancers. Elise pulling Carolyn closer when they had a close call with another dancing couple. Carolyn had an overwhelming desire to lean her head against Elise’s shoulder but she fought it off, not wanting to frighten Elise, she stayed upright – but it took some effort.

When the slower songs came to an end – Carolyn gently disengaged their bodies and said with eyebrows raised in question,

“Shall we go sit down for a while?”

“Yeah, I’m awfully thirsty from that work out.”

Carolyn led them back to the table. Room was made for Elise and Carolyn at the table.

Elise sipped at her beer and relaxed. This dancing thing was dangerous to ones piece-of-mind. The feelings that having Carolyn in her arms had invoked were very confusing. What is happening to me? She wondered in frustration. Tired of not being able to understand the feelings she was experiencing.

Their weekend was almost over. It was 3:30 Sunday afternoon and Elise was packed and ready to leave. They had gone out for a Sunday brunch and then for a walk in Grant Park and along the waterfront of Lake Michigan.

For the past hour they had been arguing about the point that the author of one of Carolyn’s favorite books was trying to make. She had obviously made a mistake by loaning a copy of it to Elise because Elise was arguing her side too well. Finally they agreed to disagree -both noting the hour.

“You had better get on the road before it gets dark.” Carolyn said in a serious voice.

“You just want me gone so I can’t disagree with anymore of your lame theories.” Elise grinned mischievously.

“Oh.” Carolyn said in exaggerated frustration as she continued to lounge on the couch. “You’re asking for it.”

“Asking for what?” Elise asked, trying to get a rise out of her friend. Carolyn knew she wasn’t flirting but she couldn’t resist,

“You’re playing with fire – little girl.” Elise met Carolyn’s eyes trying to discern what that meant and asked in a tough voice,

“Who’s the little girl?”

Carolyn rose and walked over to Elise who was sitting on an ottoman that was shoved against an overstuffed chair. She stood in front of Elise looking into her blue eyes with a smile that seemed…predatory.

Slowly Carolyn reached out a hand, placed it against Elise’s upper chest and pushed her back until she was lying with her body on the ottoman and her neck and shoulders on the chair. Then Carolyn climbed on Elise and straddled her hips. Elise continued to smile, bemused.

“Let’s see who’s little.” Carolyn said as she began tickling Elise’s ribs. Elise caught unaware, laughed uncontrollably until she gritted her teeth and flipped Carolyn over onto her back and onto the floor before Elise took time to return the favor. They rolled around tickling each other until they were both breathless.

In the quiet of the room, the only sound was their elevated breathing. Elise wanted to stay like this but she couldn’t…or wouldn’t face why so she jumped up and put out a hand to help Carolyn up off of the floor. Carolyn allowed herself to be pulled to her feet. They smiled at each other and then Carolyn followed Elise to the door, Elise picked up her bag and said,

“Thank you for a fantastic weekend. I had a lot of fun.”

“Good.” Carolyn returned, “I’m so glad you came.”

“Well…I’ll see you soon.”

“Count on it.” Carolyn countered. Elise didn’t move she stood waiting…hoping…and then Carolyn leaned close and placed a kiss on Elise’s soft lips. It wasn’t a long kiss and it was just soft lips touching equally soft lips but a jolt shot through Elise’s body and she pulled back in fear. Carolyn smiled gently and commanded,

“Drive carefully.”

“I will.”

“Call when you get home safely.”

“Yes.” And Elise was gone.

Elise’s thoughts of the weekend crowded everything else out of their way as she drove out of the city toward home. Carolyn in her boxers and thin T-shirt, lounging on Saturday morning, dancing with Carolyn – watching her and then holding her close. Happily wrestling on the floor in Carolyn’s condo and the kiss. God…what was all this – am I having feelings for…Carolyn?

Carolyn smiled into the phone and said,

“Goodbye.” She reached over and replaced the phone, then lay back on her bed snuggling down into the pillows and blankets. Elise had just called to tell Carolyn she was home safe. The weekend had been a really nice time. She couldn’t quite put her finger on what she was feeling. Elise had been by turns; captivating, thoughtful, fun and…innocent.

Dancing…the feeling of being held in Elise’s strong arms, not against her but very close was intoxicating. Carolyn considered if she wanted to act or at least discuss this slight attraction to Elise…with Elise. Finally she called Lisa instead,

“Hi, it’s Carolyn.”

“Hey – what’s up?”

“Not much…Elise left a couple of hours ago and I’m just lounging. I’ve got some papers to read and grade before I crash for the evening.” Lisa smiled slightly and invited Carolyn to talk,

“So how was the weekend together?”

“It was…fun.”

“And…” Lisa prodded,

“And what?” Carolyn asked,

“And what happened? Anything you want to share?”

“We had brunch and went for a walk today, that’s what happened.” Carolyn smiled defensively into the phone.

“Don’t get bent out of shape Caro. I thought maybe after dancing – something might develop.”

“We’re just friends.” Carolyn explained in a defensive tone.

“I know, I heard that the first 18 times but…I’d like YOU to tell me THAT YOU don’t feel anything at all for her. I mean…shit, I feel something for her, she’s gorgeous.”

“She straight!” Carolyn said with emphasis, “So leave her alone.”

“And.?”

“Back to that are we.” Carolyn dodged.

“Spill it Carolyn.” Lisa ordered. Carolyn laughed and said,

“Okay, maybe a tiny infatuation. No big deal.”

“Well for what it’s worth, I think she is interested in you too.”

“She is not, she’s just really…sweet.”

Lisa smiled to herself and asked with all the innocence she could muster,

“She seemed to enjoy dancing cheek to cheek with you, are you really convinced she’s straight or are you making excuses in fear of making another Tanya-like mistake.”

“Now I remember why I don’t like you.”

“Yeah remember, it’s cause I don’t leave you alone in your fucking fantasy world.”

Carolyn chuckled and admitted,

“Yep, that’s why.”

“Alright.” Lisa laid off, “Enough for today, but I’ll leave you with this thought Carolyn. Straight women don’t slow dance with lesbians darlin’.”

“I’m hanging up now, good bye.” Carolyn said as she began to hang up the phone.

“Bye.” Lisa yelled and got off the phone smiling a big happy smile.

Chapter Ten

A couple of weeks after Elise had been to Chicago she and Anne were in Weldon at the Coffee Cup Lunch having lunch. The farm work that had kept Elise too busy for much else was finished. This was the first time that Elise and Anne had been able to spend time alone talking, really talking since early summer. It had been too long, Anne looked fondly at her dear friend. Elise looked rested, at least more so than she had 3 weeks ago. She knew Elise often experienced a sense of melancholy as the autumn arrived in earnest and harvest was over. So expecting that this year would be no different she asked,

“Are you feeling down?”

“No, not yet. I’m just feeling glad to be done. I’m ready to relax, that’s about it.” Elise smiled happily at that.

“Good.” Anne said surprised. “What are you planning to do to celebrate your liberation from farm work?”

“Carolyn is coming out next Friday for the football game.”

“Oh.” Anne said surprised but glad, “That will be nice.”

“Yep.”

“How is she doing?” “She’s doing great, enjoying being back at work.”

Anne considered carefully and then asked,

“Are you missing her?”

“Yes.” Elise admitted easily, “But we talk on the phone often.” Anne watched Elise whom she knew better than any other human being on the planet except for Bob. She had this feeling lately that there was always something more about Carolyn that needed telling, but Elise wasn’t forthcoming and Anne wasn’t sure what to ask. Silence stretched out and so Anne changed the subject to the kids and they moved away from the question of Carolyn.

Carolyn enjoyed the drive out to Weldon. She passed her Great Aunt’s house on the way to Elise’s and smiled. The leaves on the trees were just beginning to change colors. It was cool though and would be cooler tonight at the football game. Carolyn was excited to be going to the football game; she hadn’t been to one in years and years. She was also looking forward to seeing Elise. Her heart skipped a beat as she turned up the lane marked by E. Johnson on the mailbox.
Elise filled the thermos with hot chocolate and called to Carolyn who was getting her jacket,

“How much schnapps do you want in this?” Elise held up the pint of peppermint schnapps as Carolyn came into the kitchen.

“Half of it, at least.” Carolyn said smiling. Elise poured in half and maybe a little more before putting the top on securely. Carolyn pulled on her jacket and said to Elise,

“Come on, I want to get there early so I can get a good look at what we’ve got to work with to get you laid.”

Elise laughed hard and warned,

“You are going to have to eat those words after tonight. You have no idea.” They headed out to Elise’s truck.

They climbed up to the top of the bleachers hoping to be able to sip their schnapps laced hot chocolate in peace. But after about 10 minutes they hadn’t gone for but a moment with out someone yelling ‘Hi Elise’ up the bleachers.

“You’re quite popular.” Carolyn teased.

“Yeah, well they don’t see me too often so when they do they want to be sure I get a friendly greeting.”

“That guy over there is pretty cute.” Carolyn said pointing discreetly at a man standing off to the side. Elise looked where Carolyn was indicating and said mildly,

“Pastor Tom? I suppose he is, so are his seven kids.” Carolyn wrinkled her nose and encouraged,

“Okay, you tell me who is available and I’ll look them over.”

Elise gave her a ‘you’ve got to be joking’ look and said,

“How am I supposed to know who’s available?”

“Well you at least know who isn’t.” Carolyn said, “So just point out the non-married ones.” Elise did and Carolyn kept wrinkling her nose at them. After several minutes Carolyn perked up and said,

“How about that?”

“Who?” Elise asked curiously, wondering who had caught Carolyn’s attention now.

“Right there.”

“Where, show me?” Elise asked again seeing no one.

“Right there, long blond hair, v-necked sweater, sexy smile.” Elise looked and then smiled,

“That’s Pastor Tom’s wife.” Carolyn laughed and said,

“That explains the seven children. Too bad.”

“What’s too bad about it?” Elise played along.

“She would be perfect for you.” Elise wrinkled her nose at Carolyn and asked,

“Perfect for what?”

“A little discreet time between the sheets.” Elise suddenly looked horrified,

“Carolyn – that is…you are just trying to shock me.” Carolyn was enjoying this immensely.

“I’m serious, these home grown women love to get a little while their husbands are out.” Elise was shaking her head and smiling before she jabbed,

“Oh – are you speaking from experience?” Carolyn smiled seductively and said,

“Now that would be telling.”

“I’m not going to believe that you would have…?” She whispered, “Sex, with a married woman.”

“I’m just saying it’s a possibility.”

“No it isn’t.” Elise said firmly. Carolyn smiled, liking Elise’s convictions and admitted,

“Well, I only brought it up because we are scraping the bottom of the barrel here and the game hasn’t even started.”

“I think that explains my status perfectly.” Elise said, finally satisfied that being a virgin at 31 wasn’t that unusual in a place like Weldon.

“Think again.” Carolyn said, clearly not ready to give up the fight, “Those cheerleaders have seen more action than you.”

“Yeah, well everyone knows about it too.”

She looked at the cheerleaders who were bouncing around and doing all manner of cheerleader things and said,

“They don’t look too cowed.”

Elise smiled and said,

“You can’t win this Carolyn.”

“Okay.” Carolyn conceded, “Maybe you’re right, Weldon guys aren’t too choice but I still hold that you will definitely owe me a serious apology when you have that first orgasm.” Elise blushed and plugged her ears childishly.

“Not listening.”

Soon after the crowd stood for the National Anthem and Elise and Carolyn joined them dutifully. The cool night air turned crisp but never got overly cold. Carolyn and Elise chatted and cheered, laughing and sitting close together to keep warm. Children who knew Elise climbed up and shyly said ‘Hi’. It was like an old fashioned evening, something out of a Norman Rockwell painting for Carolyn. Elise hadn’t felt so relaxed in months. When the last quarter arrived and the score was in the Trojans favor by quite a margin they decided to go home. They climbed out of the bleachers saying their farewells the entire way. They walked to the truck carrying an empty thermos, laughing in solidarity.

Saturday evening they were lounging on the couch with the television on. They were both tired from 4 wheeling. Elise had taken them on a long ride following a winding river, at times driving through the shallow water. It had been a spectacular day, chilly but clear with the bluest sky imaginable. They had a picnic along the banks. Elise even heating some soup for them over a single burner camp stove. It would forever be one of Carolyn’s favorite days.

Tonight they had eaten a fantastic meal of T-bone steaks, mashed potatoes and all of the fixings. They were both stretched out with their heads against the back of the couch listening to the television. Well not really listening, they were actually arguing about who was going to get up and get the remote so they could turn on the movie they had chosen.

Finally Elise stood up glaring at Carolyn animatedly and grabbed the remote off of the top of the TV. Carolyn smiled happily and said,

“Thank you darling.” Elise just growled.

They were both enjoying the movie and having a fun evening but the outdoors had a way of tiring a person out like nothing else and Carolyn began dozing at some point. Elise was falling asleep and she grabbed a pillow and put it behind her own head and leaned over against the low arm of the couch and laid down, pulling her legs half on and half off the couch. She was so tired; she’d just rest her eyes for a moment…

Carolyn kept falling asleep and waking up slightly, she was uncomfortable. To her right was the arm of the couch and to her left she realized sleepily was Elise – and she was in the perfect position to lay her head on. She was too tired to think about crossing personal barriers or if it was something she ought to be doing. Sleep had completely clouded her judgment. She laid her head on Elise’s firm stomach, snuggled until she was comfortable and went to sleep.

The TV shown a blue screen and Carolyn raised her sleep-clouded head to figure out how to get it turned off. The remote was lying on the floor and she reached over squinting to find the power button. Everything went dark; she lay back down, then scooted up further to find a more comfortable position to spread out. Elise woke briefly to accommodate the new position Carolyn had just moved to. She pulled up the leg that was off of the couch and shifted slightly onto her right side facing Carolyn whose back was against the couch, they both went back to sleep unaware of their new sleeping positions.

Carolyn woke slowly, awareness that she was in Elise’s arms came moments later when she opened her green eyes and focused on the woman’s face just inches away. She carefully pulled her face back but didn’t move her body away. Elise lay silent, except for the rise and fall of her chest as she breathed. She looked young when she was relaxed as she was now in sleep. Carolyn’s mind traced over dark eyebrows and tanned smooth skin, lips that were full and perfectly shaped. She considered how soft those lips were anytime she had the pleasure of pressing hers against them. Her perusal went on for several minutes until she began to put a hand up to smooth back Elise’s hair and caught herself. What the hell are you doing Carolyn?

If she moved she would wake Elise but if she didn’t move…well being this close to Elise didn’t seem like that great of an idea suddenly. Proximity was making her think of all sorts of things she ought not to be thinking about in conjunction with Elise. Just as she was getting ready to sit up and move away Elise opened her eyes.

She glanced in surprise at Carolyn just inches away…and lying on her arm. She blinked and then looked into Carolyn’s eyes. Carolyn smiled slightly and said quietly,

“Sorry, I guess we crashed and somehow ended up…sleeping together.” Elise blushed and gently pulled her arm out from under Carolyn and sat up, breaking the eye contact with warm green orbs. She felt disoriented and…her body was experiencing some kind of excitement that she felt embarrassed to be feeling.

“It’s alright…and I’m sorry also…the last thing I remember was getting up to get the remote. I must have fallen asleep soon after…?”

“I have no idea – I can’t remember anything other than seeing the opening credits of the movie.” Carolyn said as she rose to a sitting position on the couch and then stood and stretched. Elise turned her head away so she wouldn’t watch her friend and then stood and walked toward the upstairs.

“I’m going to go shower and then I’ll start breakfast.”

“Okay, I’ll help as soon as I get done with my shower.”

Anne cooked a big Sunday dinner, Eddie, Richie and Priss cleared the table and now Elise and Carolyn both helped Bob do the dishes, well…helped put them in the dishwasher. The kids were arguing amicably as they bounced around and through the kitchen and dining room. Anne was refusing to referee and she sat, a lady of 10 minutes leisure, before the adults were finished.

“Let’s get out the football.” Bob suggested. Everyone pulled on a sweatshirt or jacket and they went out into the crisp weather. They split up into two teams. Carolyn, Bob, Eddie and Anne against Elise, Richie and Priss. The battle was on; everyone got caught up in competitive fervor. All rules pointed to the fact that they would be gentle with each other but Eddie and Richie had their own ideas of gentleness toward each other and their dad.

Bob was quarterbacking and handed the ball off to Carolyn who took off running. Elise shifted and had her down before you knew it. Richie ended up in the heap with them. Carolyn moaned exaggeratedly and rolled over. Elise was laughing so hard she couldn’t get off the ground and Carolyn scowled at her. Finally Elise stood and helped Carolyn to her feet.

Elise was often as rough as the boys when they were in athletic competitions but she took care that Carolyn did not get injured and that she always had help up off the ground. After about an hour they were all tired of the game and went inside.

Soon they were eating apple pie and ice cream. The adults sipped coffee leisurely as the kids wrangled the phone and TV remote from each other. It was 2:30 when Elise and Carolyn took their leave. Carolyn would need to be on the road in about another hour and she had to get her bag packed.

Bob and Anne sat at the dining room table a little longer. Bob looked at his wife and asked,

“Is it my imagination or does Elise…” Anne broke in finishing his sentence for him,

“Have a crush on Carolyn?” Bob nodded in agreement. They both sat looking at each other with serious faces. Then Anne asked,

“Do you suppose Carolyn knows?”

“I don’t know, I couldn’t tell but she doesn’t seem to mind the attention Elise gives her.”

“Should I ask her about this?” Anne wondered. “And if I do talk to her what would I say?”

“Maybe if we just let it be for a while it will pass.”

“What does that mean?”

“Just that maybe it’s a stage.”

“You mean Elise being interested in women?”

“Yeah.” Although Bob was far from sure that’s what he actually meant. Anne considered her own question and then told Bob,

“Honey she hasn’t dated a male since her junior year of high school. She doesn’t have any interest in anything to do with males – I think that this isn’t what you’d call a stage that she will grow out of given time.” Bob nodded his face serious and revealed his concerned for Elise,

“I’m worried about her babe. She’s like one of the kids when it comes to her heart.”

“Yeah she’s vulnerable and so in need of someone to love and be loved by. But I’m afraid she’s headed for…some heartbreak and I don’t want her to get hurt. She’s had so much pain in her life it’s just not fair.” Anne leaned close and let Bob comfort her. He kissed her head covered in silky curls and told Anne,

“Honey we’ll just be here for her if or when she needs us, that’s all we can do.”

Carolyn was packed and she wanted to get on the road. She was concerned about her thoughts this morning when she woke up in Elise’s arms. Things needed to be put into some kind of perspective between them because Carolyn was scared to feel something that was growing stronger each time they met. She was frightened by her attraction and didn’t want to talk about it, she made a pledge to herself to begin dating in the next week or so, an actual date, so the next time they were together she wouldn’t have these feelings for her friend who for all intents and purposes was probably straight. She brought her bag down stairs.

Elise was in the kitchen putting away the dishes out of the drainer, she turned as Carolyn came into the kitchen carrying her bag.

“Did you get everything out of the bathroom?” Elise asked.

“Yep, I’m pretty sure I got everything.”

“Okay, well…thanks for coming out…I had a really nice weekend.” Elise said smiling shyly.

Carolyn smiled slightly. Elise was the kindest sweetest person she had probably ever known. She would be hard pressed to give up this friendship. You don’t have to give up the friendship, she reminded herself, you just have to draw some boundaries and stick to them.

“Thank you Elise, I had a great weekend also. I’ll call you when I get home, and we’ll plan to get together in mid-November before Thanksgiving. Okay?” Carolyn began backing towards the door.

“Yes, that sounds good.” Elise said following after Carolyn. She expected that Carolyn would kiss her; she always did when they parted but Carolyn grabbed the door and pushed it open before saying another word. Elise pushed the door open holding it and watching Carolyn walk quickly around her Jeep and heard the door open.

“Bye Elise.” Carolyn called.

“Bye.” Elise said frowning. Carolyn didn’t seem to be able to get away quick enough and Elise couldn’t understand why? She felt silly about wanting a kiss from her friend and went back inside after glancing at the taillights on the jeep as they turned onto the highway out of town.

The weekend had been strange…interwoven with really fun times. Elise loved having Carolyn at the farm, showing her the land – having company to do things with. It really made her happy. She had experienced some strong feelings that morning when she had woke with Carolyn in her arms; all her blood had pooled in her stomach and lower. It was disconcerting to feel this way about anyone, let alone her friend.

She tried to come up with some clues about how Carolyn felt about her. She remembered the kisses and tickling and conversation that generated these tumultuous feelings within. But Carolyn hadn’t kissed her tonight, oh how Elise wished she would have. She stopped suddenly at that thought and considered what wanting Carolyn to kiss her really meant. Oh…I don’t know what I’m supposed to be feeling or how I’m supposed to talk to anyone about this. In frustration she went in to work on the books. She had a lot of work to catch up on since harvest was in.

Hours later she drifted off to sleep, ignoring the voice in her head that seemed only interested in listening to Carolyn’s voice over and over. She had been obsessing since Carolyn had called to say she was home safe. Enough was enough.

Chapter Eleven

Carolyn spent the week thinking about what she wanted to do about getting back into dating. There was a science professor who had made it known that she would be interested in going out, but if Carolyn was going to date someone she liked she’d get up the nerve and ask Elise, so she decided she really wanted to just date on the most casual of basis’. She wanted a no strings kind of thing and she refused to face the particulars of this decision.

Elise was still working on slowing down. She had a lot more time to herself and was reading a lot of books. She had a list of required books for a couple of Carolyn’s courses and was making her way through them at an alarming pace. Alarming because she wasn’t doing much else.

On the evenings when they talked Carolyn seemed a bit more subdued than usual and Elise wondered if everything was all right even as she had no idea how to broach the subject.

Carolyn and her friends had spent Saturday night two weeks before Thanksgiving at their favorite gay watering hole. She had danced with a lot of women there, one in particular. They had hit it off in a one-night-stand sort of way and they spent the rest of Saturday night enjoying each other’s company in Carolyn’s bed.

Sunday night she considered how she felt, not bad – not great. It had been a long time since she had slept with anyone and at the very least some tension was gone from her body. Jill didn’t expect anything, hadn’t even bothered leaving her phone number.

Carolyn had talked to Elise earlier in the evening and the best part was she felt more comfortable with her than she had since she had woken up in Elise’s arms several weeks before -feeling things that frightened her. She no longer believed that the attraction she felt for Elise would come between them. The friendship she cherished seemed somehow back on solid footing.

Elise had been very happy to talk to Carolyn tonight. She seemed back to her old self and Elise smiled remembering their teasing talk. Life is good…

Carolyn moved slowly around her office, putting away reference books and stacking and filing essay papers to grade sometime this weekend. Elise would be here soon and she was looking forward to their weekend, it had been too long between visits. Carolyn felt in a different place than she had since the beginning of the summer now long past.

Last night she had spent the evening with Jill again. They had hooked up when Carolyn had gone for an after-dinner beer with Lisa at the bar. They were just leaving to go home when Jill came in and well…Lisa left the bar with raised eyebrows but Carolyn had decided to stay. They hadn’t stayed long. Carolyn hadn’t gone to a woman’s apartment on a school night since college. She drove home about 1:00 a.m. so she was just a little tired today. She had her head buried in the file cabinet when there was a knock at the door. Elise. Her heart picked up speed.

Elise stuck her head in the door and searched for Carolyn. Carolyn raised her head and looked across her office at Elise, whose blue eyes were shining with pleasure. They smiled. Elise felt overwhelmed with emotions, so excited was she to see Carolyn again. She opened the door all the way and walked into the room in need of some kind of contact. She approached Carolyn as Carolyn closed the file drawer with a bang. With just a moments hesitation she put her arms around Carolyn and hugged her close. Carolyn’s laughter filled her head as she lifted Carolyn off her feet for a second. When they were both standing on their own again Carolyn said with a big smile,

“Thank you for that hug, you just made my day.” Elise wrinkled her nose her eyes dancing and admitted,

“I missed you.” Carolyn agreed.

“I missed you too, we’ll have to do a better job at getting together. Especially now that you are probably just sitting on your ass all day every day.”

“Ha! What do you know?” They argued playfully with each other as Carolyn gathered up bags filled with papers and books that she wanted to take home. She handed Elise several and they made their way to their vehicles.

Elise freshened up while Carolyn changed out of her work clothes. Carolyn was happy, she threw her turtleneck sweater and slacks onto the back of the armchair in her room and walked in her underwear and bra to get a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt to wear.

She went into her bathroom to check her appearance in the mirror and looked at the hickey that had encouraged her to wear a turtleneck to school today. It was fading a little already, she felt slightly ridiculous to be sporting a hickey at her age but…She ran her fingers through her blond hair to straighten it up a bit and then slipped her feet into a pair of slippers and went to find Elise.

Elise was sitting at the kitchen table and she looked up smiling when Carolyn came out of her bedroom. Carolyn smiled in answer and asked,

“A beer or glass of wine?” Then before Elise could answer she offered, “Or I’ve got soda.”

Elise opted for a beer and Carolyn brought two out of the refrigerator and opened them before coming over to sit down with Elise at the table.

“So what have you really been doing with all this leisure time?” Carolyn asked.

“I’ve actually been doing a lot of reading and of course keeping an eye on the markets so I can make a living.”

Carolyn smiled and took a long pull on her beer. Elise watched her happily her eyes taking in her fresh face before discovering the hickey on her neck. She tried to stop the deluge of feelings that poured through her but there wasn’t any way to close the door on them. Abruptly she stood and said,

“Excuse me for a second.” Not hearing Carolyn say, “Okay.” She walked directly to the bedroom she was sleeping in and shut the door. The pain washing through her, made her stagger and she sat down hard on the edge of the bed. After a couple of minutes she began trying to straighten things in her mind so that she could…she wasn’t sure what but she couldn’t feel this way and continue with the weekend.

What is wrong with me…? She pondered for several minutes she didn’t like seeing the hickey on

Carolyn’s neck but she wasn’t sure why. Carolyn told you that she was determined to begin dating. I guess I thought dating was just going out and not actually having sex with someone. Fool!

“I’m okay – it’s none of my business.” She repeated to herself over and over as she splashed water on her face and forced her feelings away. She had to go back out there and she was torn between wanting to go home and hide and wanting to spend time with Carolyn.

Carolyn frowned as she emptied her beer. What was up? She hoped Elise was okay. Carolyn was just making a decision to go and find out when the door opened and Elise walked back out into the living room. Carolyn watched her carefully; she seemed pale – even through her still dark tan. Wondering if Elise was feeling ill she asked gently,

“Are you alright Elise, are you feeling ill? You look a little pale.” Elise couldn’t smile but she tried her best to be calm,

“I’m fine. Just felt a little queasy for a second.” Carolyn stood up and said,

“Come here, let me look at you.”

“No, no – I’m fine, everything’s fine.” Carolyn frowned and looked closely at Elise’s face. She didn’t look fine.

Elise sat down at the table and took a big drink from her beer bottle. Carolyn was confused and her concern shown on her face,

“Should you drink a beer when you are feeling queasy honey?” Elise cringed at the sound of ‘honey’ on her lips. Carolyn walked over to Elise and knelt down on one knee in front of her, she looked up at Elise with gentle regard,

“What’s wrong?” Elise wanted to scream at…Carolyn was crowding her, she needed to get away but she sat as still as a statue until Carolyn’s tender touch smoothed across her knee. Quietly bursting out of her in a whisper came,

“Why are you touching me?” Carolyn pulled her hand back from her stroking and leaned back on her ankles.

“I’m sorry, I…I was just trying to see if you are all right. You seem very upset and I wanted to help you.” Elise swallowed and said,

“I’m fine.” Carolyn kept watching her, bewildered by Elise’s obvious agitation. Carolyn thought of all the times she had touched Elise, she felt terrible now…she had been crossing barriers she didn’t know were there. Wanting to assure Elise she said sincerely,

“I’m so sorry Elise, I didn’t know my touching you upset you so much. I apologize, it won’t happen again. Okay?” Carolyn wanted some affirmation from Elise that Elise understood that Carolyn respected her…profoundly respected her. She watched Elise for some kind of answer. Elise wouldn’t meet her eyes for several unsettling moments and then Elise asked quietly her eyes finally meeting Carolyn’s,

“Would you mind if I asked you a personal question?” Carolyn’s took a breath hoping Elise would let her make this right.

“Not at all, what do you want to ask me?” Carolyn waited.

“Why have you kissed me…why do you touch me when you obviously have interests somewhere else.” Elise asked indicating the hickey on Carolyn’s neck. You could have knocked Carolyn over with a feather. She scrambled to find an explanation other than her attraction for Elise, realizing that she was going to come off as extremely callous.

“Well, when I kissed you I didn’t have ‘interests’ elsewhere and so I did…kiss you, because I really wanted to and it was nice. I thought you were enjoying it too and I’m sorry if I crossed any boundary lines.” Elise thought about what Carolyn had said. Carolyn had never crossed any boundaries until today and even through her hurt Elise didn’t want Carolyn to think she had broken the rules of their friendship, nothing could have been further from the truth.

“I did enjoy it…” Elise admitted a blush rising in her pale cheeks, “But I don’t want you to do it anymore because I don’t want you to make fun of something I might take seriously and you share with everyone.” Carolyn felt the sting of those words but she couldn’t argue. She wanted Elise in her life no matter what and if this was what Elise wanted then she would have it.

“All right, I’m sorry – I won’t kiss you anymore. Will that make everything…better?”

Nothing will ever be better. Elise thought morosely, feeling sorry for herself.

Chapter Twelve

Carolyn lay in her solitary bed, miserable to her core. She and Elise had made it politely through dinner but after just 30 minutes of TV (Elise sitting in a chair and Carolyn on the couch) Elise had pleaded tiredness and went off to bed. Carolyn had watched her go, hating that she was going to shut herself off from discussing this but she didn’t chase her or press the issue.

For the past hour and a half she had been fighting herself to not go knock on Elise’s door and give comfort so she could find some herself. She couldn’t imagine why she had been so obtuse about what Elise was feeling. Why she had acted so selfishly? You went and had sex with someone so you could crush the attraction you felt for Elise. Shit, when did I become so stupid and selfish? She continued to beat herself up…

Elise lay with her legs pulled up to her chest in a loose fetal position. She had cried earlier but her tears were spent now and she was quietly lying still, holding herself. She felt a little tired finally…

Carolyn got out of bed and went into her bathroom. She had on red flannel pajama bottoms with white polka dots on them and a white T-shirt. She was exhausted but wouldn’t sleep if she didn’t make this right for Elise…and for herself. She hated that her own fear had brought them to this…mess.

Elise lifted her head and frowned. She had thought she heard a knocking sound. For a moment she listened but it was quiet so she lay back down. Then she heard a knock and Carolyn calling her name quietly. She sat up leaning on her arm and said,

“Yes?” Carolyn out in the hall took a deep breath and asked,

“Can I come in?” Elise answered without really knowing what she said until she watched the door being pushed open and the light from the hall way falling across her face. Elise blinked and her eyes felt like they had sand in them. Carolyn took in Elise’s puffy eyes and red nose and wanted to climb on the bed and comfort her but she couldn’t do that so she shut the door letting just a little light still come into the room and make it dark but light enough to see each other. She swallowed wondering what to say to fix this?

“Elise I…cherish our friendship and I don’t want this to come between us. I would really appreciate it if you’d talk to me.” Elise just stared at her hands as she sat, the covers around her waist. She didn’t say anything either way; she couldn’t seem to get anything out of her swollen throat. Carolyn waited for a short time and then decided to go forward, it couldn’t get any worse. She sat on the very edge of the bed and asked,

“Why have you been crying Elise?” Elise just sat there and then finally she cleared her throat and spoke,

“I think because I feel like an idiot.” Carolyn frowned and began to say something but Elise held up her hand and continued,

“I guess it was pretty ridiculous to think that someone like you would be interested in someone like me. I guess I cried because of that. Don’t worry though, I’m fine – sometimes it’s good to just get it out.”

“Elise, God…it’s not ridiculous that you would think that. I do have feelings of attraction toward you but I felt like I shouldn’t because you…well, I didn’t know you felt the same way I did. I tried to back off because I felt I was going to hurt our friendship and it’s very important to me.”

Elise processed that. If Carolyn was attracted to her then why was she doing…something with someone else? That didn’t make a bit of sense to her. She needed some answers but she needed the courage to state the questions first…she looked at Carolyn, she could see the pain in Carolyn’s eyes and she melted a little. Elise had to put into words how she felt to make herself understood so she said to Carolyn,

“I’m not very good at expressing myself, I’m afraid I’ll say the wrong thing and that you’ll be angry with me. I don’t want that.”

“Elise please, just say whatever you want. I’m an adult and if we are going to work this out you need to be honest and forthcoming. I have no idea…had no idea that you were feeling anything towards me. And if someone who cares about you gets angry at you, you just talk about it until you work through it.” Elise took a deep breath and asked,

“Why would you let someone else…” She fumbled around for the right word, “Touch you. Does it mean that if we ever did…something, that it wouldn’t mean anything to you? That when you’ve kissed me that it’s just…a joke?” Carolyn looked shocked,

“No Elise.” She reassured her passionately, “I have never kissed you or anything else that…wasn’t very precious to me.” Carolyn watched Elise, focused completely on her. She climbed onto the bed and scooted closer, sitting Indian style. Elise didn’t even acknowledge Carolyn’s move, she was frowning and then asked a harder question,

“So why would you have…do…that with someone else?” Carolyn didn’t want to answer that honestly. She did it because she was running a little scared, did it to take her mind off her attraction for Elise, that she had no idea Elise was reciprocating. She did it because she was afraid to have feelings for someone again that were tied to promises of one kind or another. She did it because she hadn’t had sex in a long while and she wanted to. It was a messy proposition to explain these things to someone you cared about who wouldn’t understand most of them. She considered what to say to be as honest as she could and yet not leave herself open to hurt.

“The only thing I can tell you is that I did it for a number of reasons, none of which seems very sane right now. If I would have known how you felt, we could have discussed this sooner and maybe I would have made a different choice. I’m sorry if I hurt you, it was my very last intention to do that.”

They both sat still thinking their own thoughts. Carolyn had just said she might not have made the same choice if she would have known how Elise felt but she didn’t say that for sure she wouldn’t have. That hurt, even if it wasn’t intentional. Elise had been slowly coming awake feeling strange but wonderful feelings for Carolyn, now she didn’t know what she was supposed to do with all that she felt. She was afraid that if she locked it up inside her she would choke on it. She was staring at her hands against the white sheets and Carolyn put her hand on Elise’s hand for a moment and pleaded,

“Elise please, talk to me.” Elise didn’t really have a choice but to go on. She couldn’t be around Carolyn anymore if they didn’t find a peaceful solution. She shook herself, forced herself to finish what she had started,

“I have feelings for you. They make me feel…breathless and giddy when you’re around…they make me want to kiss you and more…but if you are having a relationship…” Carolyn cut in and said,

“I’m not having a relationship with her Elise. It’s not like that.” Elise looked carefully at Carolyn’s face trying to read what was in her eyes. She guessed that meant they were just having sex. Elise bowed her head, tears threatening again. Damn.

Carolyn couldn’t see Elise’s expression in the shadows and she reached out and tenderly raised Elise’s face. Carolyn almost died of agony to see tears running down Elise’s face.

“Oh God Elise, please…” Carolyn said in distress. “Can I hold you?” Elise shook her head and whispered brokenly,

“I’m okay.” Carolyn was frustrated by her impotence; she wanted so badly to hold Elise.

“Elise, you’re not okay. You’re crying and you won’t let me comfort you.” Elise wiped her tears on the arm of her T-shirt and sniffled quietly.

“It’s okay. I’m fine.” Carolyn waited while Elise calmed down; she rubbed her hands against her flannel pajama pants trying to be patient. Her green eyes were filled with hurt. No one spoke until Carolyn could take it no longer,

“Elise why are you crying? What can I do to fix this?” Elise smiled slightly for the first time since they had sat down for a beer,

“You can’t fix my feelings Carolyn.” Carolyn smiled sadly and agreed,

“I know and I don’t think they need fixing. I think I need fixing.” But then Carolyn asked the harder question,

“Why were you crying?” And Elise suddenly had an answer,

“I cried because you’re letting someone else do with you, things that I want to do. Because I thought you maybe would feel about me the way I feel about you. I should have said something sooner.” Carolyn felt tears rising; she looked off to the opposite side of the room feeling Elise’s words in her deepest heart. She finally turned back and looked at Elise and said in a choked voice,

“Forgive me…” Tears were rolling down her face now, “I didn’t know and I screwed up big time.” Elise grabbed the sheet wrapped around her and pushed it away. She sat forward on her knees and pulled Carolyn awkwardly closer. It took a little sorting around but soon Carolyn was being held in Elise’s strong arms, lying against Elise’s chest, Elise slowly rubbing her back and smoothing her hair. As soon as Carolyn had her emotions under control she said,

“Why is it you think I need comforting, you’re the one who has been hurt?”

“I think you probably cry about…never. So I think a little comforting is in order.”

“Like you cry all the time, do you?”

“Constantly.”

“Liar.” Then Carolyn accused tiredly, “You wouldn’t let me comfort you.”

“I know, but I feel comforted now, holding you.” Carolyn shifted and put her arms around Elise’s back hugging her close. They held each other for a long time until Elise couldn’t hold them in a sitting position any more. She shifted then laying back into the pillows and bringing Carolyn with her. Carolyn was so tired and emotionally drained. Elise rubbing her back made Carolyn sleepy and comfortable. She couldn’t stay much longer before she fell asleep.

Elise shifted Carolyn onto her shoulder and pulled the covers up. Carolyn pulled her head up and said groggily,

“I should go to my room.” Elise brushed Carolyn’s blond hair back off her forehead and said,

“Just lay down and go to sleep. Your safe and I want you to stay where you are.” Carolyn thought about that for a moment and asked,

“Are you sure, I know we’ve got more to talk about but I can’t make any more sense tonight, I’m too tired.”

“Yes I’m sure, I feel lonely and I’d really like you to stay if it’s okay?” Carolyn look at Elise once more and then said,

“Okay. Good night Elise.” And Carolyn put her head back on Elise’s shoulder and drifted off. Elise smiled tiredly in the darkness. At least she could hold Carolyn tonight. They slept soundly, completely spent after their emotional evening.

Elise opened her eyes and then sighed. Taking stock she felt Carolyn fast asleep lying across the left side of her body. Carolyn’s face was pressed against her throat, her soft breath a teasing rhythm on Elise’s skin. She lay as still as possible, she never wanted this to end. Before too long she drifted back into a light sleep.

Carolyn became aware that she was being held firmly by strong arms. That her legs were straddling a strong thigh and that she was cozy and content right at this moment. How she managed to be laying on top of half of Elise she didn’t know but right now she didn’t really care, it was a gift. Some minutes passed and her body was insisting that she get up and find a bathroom so she slowly disengaged and stretched, a feeling Elise felt down her entire length. Elise woke from her dozing and smiled,

“Good morning!”

“Good morning.” Carolyn replied as she carefully shifted her body away from Elise and onto the bed beside her.

Green eyes met blue and Carolyn reached up to caress Elise’s face. Elise put her hand over Carolyn’s and held her gently. Then Elise broke in and asked,

“Who’s cooking breakfast?” Carolyn laughed softly and ordered,

“We are…but not until I run to the little girls room.” Elise continued to smile and Carolyn found Elise’s smile hard to resist, she leaned close and their lips met in a slow sweet kiss. Tender and healing. Carolyn waited for Elise’s eyes to open then she asked,

“Could we talk some more later on today?” Elise’s smile vanished and her blue eyes filled with worry,

“Yes.”

“Don’t look like that, it’s nothing bad – I just want to be sure we are on the same page and that we both understand what is and isn’t going on here.”

“That sounds good.” Elise agreed. Carolyn smiled brightly then and bounced out of Elise’s bed heading for her room, she called from the hall,

“What should we have?”

They cooked breakfast together and ate happily. Carolyn had put on a hooded sweatshirt to step out on the balcony and bring in some firewood. She left it on as they ate and Elise relaxed, putting yesterday behind them until later.

Carolyn leaned against the wall in the shower and let the spray hit her body full force. She thought of the hurt that she had inadvertently caused Elise and tears rose in her eyes once again. She had no idea where she and Elise were heading but she was willing to find out. Her fears were so strong though and she wished she didn’t feel so used up and cynical.

Elise washed quickly – her mind running over the events of the last day. She felt excited and scared about revealing her feelings to Carolyn but she felt ‘over the moon’ that Carolyn was attracted to her. She didn’t know how any of this worked, she didn’t know a lot- but she wanted to find out.

Chapter Thirteen

Their day was fun, they went out for lunch at a really great sandwich shop, which Carolyn informed her, was lesbian-owned. They laughed and played with each other through a couple of department stores to find some shoes for Elise and a commitment ceremony gift for Carolyn to give friends when she was in Connecticut over Thanksgiving weekend.

Carolyn had on a ribbed turtleneck that fit her perfectly adhering to her curves and dark jeans, wanting nothing to remind Elise of…she couldn’t put a word to it so she pushed it away. Elise wore jeans and a bright blue sweater, her eyes electric whenever Carolyn looked at her.

They pulled each other playfully around by the hand and sometimes didn’t drop them right away. It was a heady day.

They cooked supper in tandem and enjoyed the lamb with a delicious bottle of red wine. Afterward they went out for a movie and held hands in the dark theater. Laughing about the first time they had seen a movie together in the freezing theater in Riverdale.

Back at Carolyn’s they built a fire and relaxed. Lying on their stomachs watching the flames Carolyn knew it was time to have a conversation and she hoped they were somewhere in the same neighborhood as far as what they wanted so with trepidation she asked,

“So tell me what you have in mind for…us?” Elise didn’t talk for a little while as she thought about how she wanted to respond.

“I would like to…I guess…I was going to say get to know you but some things I do know so I guess I want to get to know you as someone to date. Does that make sense?”

Carolyn nodded her head and asked,

“What’s dating to you?” More time… Carolyn was reminded of getting to know Elise the first time but she kept the observation to herself.

“It’s…um going out together and doing stuff, sort of like we have been but with the understanding that I’m interested in you as a date and it’s the same for you.” Carolyn nodded her head and then asked,

“And sex?” Elise blushed as Carolyn knew she would but they had to discuss this.

“I’d like to but I need time…to be sure that it’s right for me?”

“Yep, I agree with that. Do you want this to be exclusive…as in neither of us sees anyone else?” Elise turned her head for the first time and watched Carolyn’s profile, the light flickering in her eyes and shadows chasing across her face. She tried to consider her answer outside of that telltale feeling of jealousy that raised its ugly head anytime she thought of Carolyn with someone else. She felt very vulnerable saying these things because she didn’t quite mean them but she aspired to, wanted to be…as cool about it all as Carolyn was. But she could only be her stumbling self so she just laid out how she felt as best she could,

“I think that I can’t make any decisions for you…but for me, it will be exclusive because I’m only interested in getting to know you…this way. I think though to give this a chance to get somewhere it will have to be a little exclusive. I can’t see that I could allow myself to let this happen if you were dating other people…” Elise thought in silence for a moment, “I guess that’s asking you to be exclusive and I don’t want to force you into a place you don’t want to be.” Carolyn turned her head and their eyes met, they smiled at each other slightly – Carolyn considered what Elise had said while she stared into those mesmerizing eyes…finally Carolyn shook her head mentally and asked,

“What’s…’let this happen?'”

“Well…sex.”

“Okay.” They were both quiet and Elise wondered what ‘okay’ meant for a minute before she finally asked with raised questioning eyebrows,

“Okay…?”

“I wasn’t sure what ‘this’ meant. It could have been a life long commitment for all I know.” Elise grinned and said,

“Yeah, commit yourself to me green eyes.” Carolyn stuck out her tongue and leaned over to give Elise a kiss on the cheek she put her face in Elise’s neck, her silky hair tickling Carolyn’s face. In a muffled voice she said,

“I’m a little scared, you don’t have to make fun.” Elise laughed and teased Carolyn as she continued to nuzzle Elise’s neck,

“A little scared? Brother. I thought I was the virgin.” Carolyn pulled her face back and used her fingers to lightly turn Elise so they were looking at each other,

“I want to be honest.” Elise waited for her to continue but she didn’t so Elise said,

“I want you to be honest too, but could you tell me about what?” Carolyn said,

“I’m frightened to be trapped in something that turns out to be no good for me and I don’t get out because I’m afraid of hurting you.” Elise frowned and then said,

“You’re jumping way too far ahead of us Carolyn, if you do that I don’t think your going to enjoy this much. In fact we might as well not even begin, we’ll just be friends.” Carolyn thought about what Elise was saying and conceded to her,

“You’re right. It’s just dating.”

“Right. Just dating.” They smiled and Carolyn began to relax. She could handle dating. Carolyn was in her own world for several minutes and didn’t notice Elise looking at her lips with longing. But when she had calmed her fears she did notice and she smiled a sexy predatory smile,

“I don’t suppose you’d let me in your pants right now?” Elise gasp in shock and her blue eyes flew to Carolyn’s who were happily watching Elise freak out. After the initial shock Elise’s eyes narrowed at Carolyn and she firmly pushed Carolyn down onto her back where Elise began kissing the daylights out of her smart mouth friend. The gentle barrage of kisses delighted Carolyn and they spent the next hour talking and kissing.

Elise wanted the night to never end, her heart had been through quite a work out this evening already but as they were both getting tired Elise asked shyly,

“Would you consider sleeping with me tonight?” Carolyn sat up worriedly saying,

“Elise, I don’t think your ready for that tonight.” Elise frowned and then it dawned and she said,

“I mean sleep. Not sex.”

“Oh…” Carolyn wondered if it were wise, it had been a heady evening for them both. But the enticement of sleeping next to Elise was too powerful and so she said,

“Okay…I’ll go get a shower and then I’ll be in.” Elise sat up and happily began to make sure that the fire was banked for the night and that it was completely contained. Carolyn stood watching her, remembering back on how much she enjoyed having someone else to carry the load once in a while. Don’t allow yourself to get caught up in that enticement, she cautioned herself as she made her way to the shower.

Carolyn tried to concentrate on the reading the paper she was supposed to be grading but she was thinking about Elise. She should be almost home, Carolyn thought as she looked at the clock over the mantle for about the thousandth time. It was raining and sort of sleeting so she was a little worried, she wondered if it were actually snowing out toward Weldon. She put aside the paper and walked to the balcony door, sliding it open. It was spitting down some slushy stuff here, midwestern people were so blasé about weather. They lived and breathed by it but it didn’t really ruffle them much. Elise had assured her that it would be fine and 30 minutes later when the phone rang Carolyn grabbed it and said,

“Hello!” It was fine,

“Hi – I just got in so quit worrying.”

“I wasn’t worrying.” Carolyn replied defensively.

“Shah, I thought you were going to tie me to a chair you were so bent on my not going in a little rain.” Carolyn smiled not letting Elise get the best of her,

“I’d like to tie you to a chair and have you at my mercy.” Carolyn purred. Elise blushed speechless. Carolyn laughed and said knowingly,

“You’re blushing head to toe now.”

“Says who?” Elise growled. Carolyn laughed some more before saying,

“I’m glad you made it home safely, how were the roads?”

“Slippery. It’s actually snowing here – we’ll almost, it’s sleety-snowy.”

“Is that the official weather term?”

“Yes.” They made arrangements to talk later in the week before Carolyn left for Connecticut for Thanksgiving and then rang off. Carolyn sat down and tried to concentrate once again on the essay papers that she was supposed to have graded by Wednesday.

Chapter Fourteen

Elise spent her week thinking and running errands. She got the snowmobile serviced and she took her ‘car’ that was rarely out of the machine shed for a ride and then into the garage in Weldon to be sure it was ready for the winter. The week after Thanksgiving she would get the farm machinery caught up on a few small repairs.

On Thanksgiving Elise arrived mid-morning to help with dinner. Anne had them all working full tilt so dinner would be ready when the turkey was ready.

Elise was filled with a feeling of excitement, her secret was bursting to get free but she didn’t want to tell Anne while Anne and Bob’s parents were within hearing.

Anne found Elise as helpful as ever but slightly absentminded and filled with some kind of strange energy. Finally, as she reminded Elise for the third time what she wanted Elise to do with the celery and carrot sticks she asked,

“Is everything all right or are you suffering from some memory deficiency?” Elise looked from her task surprised and answered,

“Everything is great!” She smiled a big smile and Anne met it with one of her own before raising her eyebrow in question and said,

“Spill it!” Elise looked around to see if anyone was within earshot and whispered shyly,

“I’m dating Carolyn.” Anne’s steady gaze kept Elise pinned for a few moments acknowledging Elise’s happiness. She wished she knew the perfect way to handle this revelation to give Elise support but to also tell her to be cautious with this new experience.

“What do you think about that?”

“I think it’s great. I really like her a lot.” Elise answered. Bob’s mom Doris came into the kitchen and Anne held Elise’s gaze for another couple of seconds before saying,

“Can we talk about this later?”

“Yes. And don’t be worried, everything is fine.” Anne smiled at her and then gave her a kiss on the cheek. Elise smiled her eyes watering suddenly,

“I love you Annie.”

“I love you honey.” They continued to prepare Thanksgiving dinner, fabulous aromas filling the air each time the oven was opened. The noise level climbing each time the favored team made a drive toward the goal line.

Carolyn got out of bed kind of late. She could smell coffee; she swore that was what woke her up. She and her brother had got in pretty late after Carolyn’s plane had been delayed, just the usual holiday travel nightmare. She trotted down the carpeted stairs to the kitchen and found her Mother stirring something on the stove in her usual role as chef. Her mother rarely cooked but when she did, it was fantastic. Carolyn smiled and said,

“That coffee smells wonderful.”

“Darling! Jamie said flying was terrible last night.” They came together for a warm hug in the middle of the kitchen.

“Yes, it stank. But I’m happy to be home.”

“We’re so happy you’re home also.” Her mother got down a big mug and filled it with coffee before handing it to Carolyn and getting out the cream. Carolyn poured until it was a creamy beige color and then walked to the refrigerator and replaced it.

“You look great dear, sparkling…I’m so pleased.” Carolyn laughed, she doubted she was sparkling in her sweatshirt and flannel pajama pants but she was happy that her mother felt she looked well.

“I feel good.” She confirmed. Her Mother continued to smile as Carolyn sipped, then with a flutter she remembered her stirring and went back to the stove.

“Breakfast will be ruined if I don’t mind this. Your father is in the den dear, go find him.”

“Okay – how long until breakfast?”

“About 30 minutes.” Carolyn went along to the den and found her father reading the newspaper.

He moved to get up but Carolyn motioned for him to stay seated. She held her coffee cup away from them as she leaned down for a kiss. Her father took off his reading glasses and smiled.

“So glad you’re home dear.”

“Me too Dad.”

“Your brother has gone out for a run. He didn’t want to wait any longer for you.”

“That’s all right. I’m too tired to run, I’ll go for a walk after dinner.”

They chatted for a while until they were called to breakfast. Jamie breezed into the kitchen midway through the meal and plopped himself down. They enjoyed their family unit, so separated by work and distance, once again home.

Elise had been drying and putting away dishes for an hour. Everything was back where it belonged as far as she could tell. She hung up her towel and went to watch some football. The day would wind down in about 2 hours until then she was happy to lay on the floor with Eddie and enjoy the talk going on around her.

When everyone was gone except the family Anne made a cup of tea and sat down with Elise at the kitchen table. Anne began by saying,

“I’m worried and happy for you at the same time.”

“Why worried?”

“Because there’s great potential for hurt here.”

“Anne, we’re just dating. I enjoy her company I feel…something for her and…we talked about it.” Elise answered trying to make Anne feel better about this.

“How does she feel about you?”

“She’s interested in dating me.”

“Honey, she’s not new to this – you’re new to this. You’ve spent most of your adult life alone, I don’t think I know that you’ve gone on a date since high school? Are you sure this is what you really… ‘want’ isn’t the right word, because you obviously want to date her but…” Anne couldn’t think of any excuses to pull her friend back from something she was sure spelled h-e-a-r-t-a-c-h-e.

“I just don’t want to see you get hurt.” Elise thought about that, she knew she didn’t want to get hurt either but she had been alone and sitting still for so long that she wasn’t going to stop until there was a very good reason and not getting hurt just didn’t fit the bill.

“Anne I do understand what you are trying to say, but you can’t protect me all my life. You’ve done a great job up until now, but you’ve got to let me make my own mistakes.” The life long friends looked at each other, it felt more sober than Elise wanted, she was so excited about this and she wanted her friend Anne to be also.

“Why happy?” She asked Anne referring to her ‘worried and happy’ statement.

“Because I can see how happy you are Elise…and please don’t believe for a minute that I’m not happy for you. I am…but…well I always feel responsible for you, you know that.”

Elise’s eyes watered and she looked at Anne,

“I know you do and I love you for it but please…let me have this with your approval.” Anne nodded her eyes tearing up also. Then Elise said,

“Wanna tell me why you haven’t made a single comment on the fact that Carolyn is a woman?”

Anne laughed through her tears and said,

“Bob and I each came to that conclusion a while back hon.”

“Bob figured this out?” Anne nodded,

“Oh brother, if Bob knows what’s going on the whole town will know soon.” Anne laughed and then sobered

“Elise please be careful in Weldon, the Bible thumpers will make your life miserable if they get wind of this.”

“I know but they won’t because they haven’t been able to keep track of me since I was 16.”

“True.” Thinking of how Elise had effectively kept them away from her since the day her parents died. Anne and Bob and the kids attended the Lutheran church, semi regularly but no one ever bothered Elise about attending, while we got a constant barrage of calls and chats if we missed two weeks in a row.

Jamie lay stretched out on Carolyn’s childhood bed. There wasn’t much room on the double bed and Carolyn effectively shoved him over and made room to sit Indian style. Jamie talked about what it was like to be a resident. He liked it and hated it in turn, didn’t like the hours mostly. Carolyn sometimes wondered if he’d make it through, he sometimes found it hard to settle down. Jamie finally ran out of steam and asked nonchalantly,

“So who are you seeing…or what are you doing to put that dazzle in your eyes?” Carolyn laughed,

“I don’t have dazzle in my eyes you idiot.”

“Yeah you do, you look excited and…better than I’ve see you in a couple of years. Mom and Dad are all aflutter about it.”

“You talked with Mom and Dad about me?”

“Yep, they want me to get the straight story and report back. Tell me everything, all the details and I’ll give them the crib notes.”

“Up yours!”

“Naughty, come on tell me…who is she or what is she doing to you?” Carolyn smiled and looked out the window, a far off look making her green eyes darker with some kind of emotion that Jamie couldn’t interpret. He waited patiently.

“I’m dating again.” Carolyn said making it sound like nothing.

“Dating who?” Jamie wasn’t going to quit until he had the answers…he never did.

“I met her this summer.” Carolyn decided she would make him ask every single question until he had the story. He didn’t deserve to get the whole story without some work.

“When did you meet her this summer? You mean out in that backwater of Weld…whatever?”

“Weldon, it’s called Weldon.”

“Yeah, okay Weldon…so who is she?”

“Nobody, you’d know.”

“Oh you brat, of course I wouldn’t know anyone there, I’ve never had the misfortune of visiting the damn place. Who is she? I only remember you discussing…a woman farmer…” His eyes narrowed watching Carolyn stare back at him blankly.

“Don’t tell me…”

“Don’t tell you what?”

“Your…what was it you said…’dating’ a farmer? Oh my God!” Carolyn laughed and shoved him,

“Quit calling her a farmer, her name is Elise.”

“Oh God, a farmer – Carolyn…she must be awfully good in bed to keep you interested.” Carolyn dropped the bomb,

“I wouldn’t know.” Jamie lay there uncomprehending for a few moments and then he sat up pushing his too long bangs out of his face.

“You haven’t done the deed?” Carolyn scowled at his use of the English language,

“That is a disgusting thing to say about someone I’m interested in.” Jamie stared at her for a long time until Carolyn said,

“Knock it off. I’m…we’re just dating. I like her, I’m attracted to her, she feels the same and that’s all there is to it. Nothing more, nothing less.”

“Nothing less than not getting laid, there’s truth in that statement.” He said coyly.

“Getting laid, as you so rudely put it- isn’t the be all and end all.”

“Since when? I mean your record clearly states the opposite.”

“Well things change. I haven’t managed to make a success out of any relationship as of yet so I’m changing my focus and seeing how it goes.” Jamie heard the unspoken pain in her words and said angrily,

“There’s a difference between not managing a successful relationship and being in a relationship with someone who was inadequate, conniving and unfaithful.” Carolyn smiled sadly and reminded him,

“Well I made those choices, no one twisted my arm. Elise is uncomplicated, smart, fun…and… the hottest thing I’ve ever laid eyes on.” Jamie let go of his anger and laughed,

“Now that sounds more like it. You were beginning to worry me.”

“It’s nothing serious. I’m just taking it as it comes and seeing how it goes.”

“Sounds smart.” Jamie watched her as she talked about work and noticed how her eyes lit when she mentioned something that she and Elise had done or seen together. His sister was just a little more than interested but she was being cautious and he couldn’t fault that. He didn’t ever want her to be as hurt as she was when she had finally seen the light about Tanya. His strong sister, torn down by years of being lied to and compromising herself, the fact that it was all in the name of love made it even worse. He trusted if there was any good in the world at all his sister deserved to find it. But with a farmer…he had strong doubts about that.

Chapter Fifteen

Elise eagerly opened her E-mail so she could check her messages. She was expecting E-mail and she wasn’t disappointed. She quickly opened the one from Carolyn, smiling happily as she read.

“Lisa and her date are going to meet us at a place near campus, so just meet me at my office and we’ll go from there. Dinner is at 8:00 p.m. we’ll probably have drinks before. The restaurant is semi-nice so we can’t wear blue jeans. (Think my work clothes!) Can’t wait to see you.”

Elise climbed up the stairs to finish packing. She looked into her closet for something dressy. She frowned at all the options before she sat on her bed and considered what she would wear if she had it in her closet. It was definitely time for some clothes shopping; she’d have to get Carolyn to help her but for tonight? Finally she had packed everything else that she wanted to take to Chicago for the weekend and took her bag down stairs.

Elise walked out of the department store with a pair of gray slacks and a sweater chosen for her by the personal shopping assistant. She jogged out to her truck, searching her pockets for her keys.

She drove out of the parking lot heading for Carolyn’s condominium. Her level of excitement at the evening ahead picking up with each mile she drove.

She looked at herself in the mirror for the 100th time. The slacks fit her perfectly, clinging to her hips the legs flaring out. The black mock turtlenecks sweater was cashmere and fitted more snuggly than things she usually wore, she didn’t feel self-conscious just strange. It was a new thing to dress up for much of anything. She had clothes for the odd wedding, and the baptisms of her former school classmate’s children but she hadn’t needed dress clothes for anything else.

Elise looked carefully at her face and used a comb to straighten up her hair. It hung down her back thick, dark and shiny. She hoped Carolyn liked the outfit. She grabbed her black wool jacket and pulled it on, using her fingers to pull her long hair out of the collar before buttoning up.

The cold wind blew in her face as she walked across campus. It had been dark for over a half an hour as Elise made her way from her truck to Carolyn’s office. There weren’t many people out on campus. Elise looked around and thought of Carolyn walking out here alone each evening, she frowned at the thought.

Elise knocked on the office door and waited for a response.

“Come in.” Carolyn called. She looked up hoping it was Elise. It is…her mind breathed in bliss as she stood and watched Elise walk in the room. Her eyes widened when she took in the clothes Elise wore.

“You look fantastic!” Elise smiled at Carolyn.

“Yeah?”

“Oh yeah! Did you go shopping?”

“Uh huh – but you have to go back with me so I can get a few more things.” Carolyn grinned and said,

“Only if I can watch you change.” Elise blushed and came forward into the room stopping and smiling brightly before bending her head for a kiss. Her world rocked for several long moments before she pulled her head up to look into green glowing eyes. They continued to stare at each other, only inches apart. Carolyn reached up and began to undo the buttons of Elise’s coat, their breathing increasing as one.

When it was unbuttoned Carolyn pushed it off Elise’s shoulders. Elise caught it as it slid down her arms and without looking tossed it over onto the couch in Carolyn’s office. Carolyn’s eyes feasted before she stood back a little still grinning.

“Wow…wow!”

“Stop, you’re embarrassing me.” Elise said touching Carolyn’s cheek. And then reminded,

“You look really great yourself.” Carolyn laughed and said,

“You don’t ever have to stop telling me how hot I am.” Elise rolled her eyes and then pulled Carolyn close again, nibbling at her lips until Carolyn grabbed Elise’s head and kissed her hard. They drew apart.

Carolyn’s body was pushing her to rub herself against Elise. She ignored it, with difficulty and took a step backwards, moving quickly to her desk and beginning to pack her bags. Elise frowned wondering what was up? Carolyn glanced up when everything was in her bag and met Elise’s questioning eyes. She didn’t want to talk about her desire but in fairness to Elise she needed to make herself understood so she answered the unspoken question by saying,

“The day will come when you’ll understand, until then I’ll just say what you already know – I find you very attractive.” Elise smiled and said with a measure of appreciation if not understanding,

“I find you very attractive too, you don’t have to run every time.” Carolyn laughed lifting her eyes brow suggestively,

“I do need to run, unless you want to find yourself flat on your back…” Elise felt more warmth pooling low in her body, making her feel weak in her knees, Carolyn always set her heart pounding, with her touch and her words.

“I don’t mind being flat on my back, if your asking.” Elise said blushing but she didn’t take her eyes away from Carolyn’s.

Carolyn let go of her bag and approached Elise. They stood looking at each other until Carolyn stepped close and put her arms up around Elise’s neck before pulling her lips down to meet her own. Elise brought Carolyn near, enclosing her in a strong enveloping embrace. Their lips fed hungrily, Elise running her hands down Carolyn’s back, the soft feel of her sweater, stimulating her fingertips.

Elise loved feeling Carolyn pressed against her and wanted to pull the lower part of Carolyn’s body closer. She debated as she continued to chase Carolyn’s tongue with her own.

Carolyn gasp into Elise’s mouth as she felt Elise’s hands slide down her back and gently cup her hips pulling Carolyn against her. Carolyn’s fingers ran up into Elise’s hair running her fingers through the soft tendrils. Elise was throbbing in a great deal of places on her body; she held Carolyn’s hips rubbing against her own need. Carolyn groaned and tore her lips away.

“Oh Elise…have mercy.” Elise released her intimate hold on Carolyn and put a couple of inches space between each other. Carolyn laid her forehead on Elise’s shoulder breathing hard. Elise rubbed Carolyn’s back tenderly. Their breathing slowed after a time and Carolyn pulled her head up to look at Elise. Elise smiled gently and said,

“You feel so good in my arms.” Carolyn thought about the way Elise’s touch made her feel and said quietly,

“I’m glad.” Carolyn took a deep breath to calm her body’s cravings and glanced at her watch. A cold shower was out but how about a cold walk?

“We have a little time before we have to go to the restaurant, would you like to go for a walk?” Elise didn’t hesitate,

“Yes. That would be real nice.” They took the bags and left the building, walking first to Carolyn’s car to stow her bags and then they began walking along the River Esplanade. They shivered a little in the cold but before long Carolyn was warm and happy with Elise’s arm around her keeping away the cold.

Seven-thirty sneaked up on them when they were quite a ways away from where they were supposed to be so they caught a cab over to the restaurant. They found Lisa and her date Ryan sitting at the bar. After introductions Carolyn ordered them some drinks and they made conversation until their table was ready at 8:15.

Carolyn’s eyes flipped from Elise to Ryan and then to Lisa, listening and smiling but remaining silent. Elise looked particularly alluring tonight, the candlelight sent shadows across her face and upper body. Carolyn rested her eyes on Elise’s breasts, their sloping beauty making her hands itch. Her eyes lifted and she watched Elise talking to Ryan, her eyes shifted to Lisa. Lisa’s eyes met Carolyn’s and she gave Carolyn a knowing smile before winking. Carolyn blushed slightly and wrinkled her nose.

After dinner they walked out into the cold. In separate taxi’s they left the restaurant behind.

Elise built a fire while Carolyn opened a bottle of wine and tossed a bunch of pillows onto the floor in front of the fireplace. Once the fire was burning brightly they settled back into the pillows, Carolyn resting on Elise’s shoulder, Elise’s arm holding Carolyn close to her side.

“I had a great time tonight with your friends.”

“Good. I thought you would.” They lay together, Carolyn enjoying the feel of Elise’s cashmere sweater against her cheek. Temptation lay inches from her face and she watched Elise’s breasts rise and fall with her breathing. Finally she gave in and slowly ran her fingers across Elise’s taut stomach feeling her muscles contract then she slid up and cupped her, squeezing gently, immediately feeling the hardened peak against her palm and a low gasp from Elise. Carolyn looked up at Elise whose blue eyes were blazing in the firelight.

Their lips met and Carolyn continued with her gentle ministrations. Everything else fell away as they explored each other thoroughly, their fingers making forays into hereto-unknown places.

Elise brushed Carolyn’s warm skin, her fingers running under Carolyn’s blouse, searching and finding the places that made Carolyn gasp with pleasure. She listened to her heightened breathing, felt the silky material of her bra, wanting to hear Carolyn’s delight. Wanting to be Carolyn’s delight.

Carolyn mentally shook herself, her body pulsing with unrequited pleasure. This had to stop very soon – it was getting painful. But first she pulled Elise’s sweater out of her slacks and slid her hands across her stomach to the edge of her bra, the quiver of muscle fascinating her. She yearned to watch those muscles play under Elise’s soft skin. Her lips ran up Elise’s jaw line and then whispered in her ear,

“Can I unfasten this?”

Elise felt Carolyn’s hand on the front opening of her bra and wanted nothing more than to feel Carolyn’s hands touching her there.

“Yes.” She breathed. Moments later she felt the release and her breast pressed forward out of their confinement. The first touch of Carolyn’s hands and she lost coherent thought, sweetness and warmth seeped into every pore leaving her overwhelmed with a need she had never experienced before. Gasping for air she stilled Carolyn’s hands with her own and opened her heavy eyelids to find Carolyn’s deep green eyes looking back with tenderness.

Moments passed, long moments and then Elise said gruffly,

“I don’t want to stop but…” Carolyn broke in softly trying to calm the pulsing in the lower regions of her body,

“It’s your call Elise, don’t worry about it.” It came out shorter than she wanted and she tried again,

“What I mean is…” The pause was longer than she wanted also as she scrambled for the right words. But Elise spoke first,

“I’m as ready as I’ll ever be but I…um…just got my…period today.” She finished in a whisper. “And I don’t want to have my first experience when I feel kind of hormonally unbalanced and…icky.” She laughed self-consciously.

Carolyn grinned and rubbed her nose against Elise’s.

“We’ll wait until its right.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Stop. I’ll live if you will.” Elise smiled and stretched underneath Carolyn, settling them together more closely. Carolyn enjoyed the feeling but her body had taken all it could tonight and she kissed Elise, scooted off her and sat up. Elise instantly missed Carolyn’s body against hers but she didn’t press.

Carolyn stood and threw some of the pillows up on the couch before reaching a hand out to Elise who was still reclining in the pillows.

“Come on, it’s past my bedtime.” When Elise was standing they put the rest of the pillows away, made sure the fire grate was in place and Carolyn began to walk to her room.

“Carolyn.” Carolyn turned around to see what Elise wanted,

“Yeah?”

“Would you consider sleeping with me tonight?” Carolyn knew she couldn’t sleep next to Elise tonight…well maybe if I go get some relief. She smiled slightly and said,

“I need a shower first, then I’ll be in okay?”

“Great…are you sure? You can say no.”

“I’ll be in.” Elise turned and headed to her bedroom. A shower sounded good.

Carolyn shut the door to her bedroom and leaned back against it. Her body was filled with needs and wants and just plain old horniness. She methodically stripped off her clothes and got the shower going, the needs of her body making her limbs feel heavy.

Under the warm stream of water she slowly let her fingers trace down her body. Eliciting a sigh as she slipped her fingers into startling wetness. Blue eyes flitted through her mind as she felt the pleasure rising within her body. She leaned back against the tile and the water splashed against her nipples making her gasp. A surge of desire rushed through her before her world rocked and she reached out to steady herself until the dizziness passed. Carolyn stayed where she was, the water warm and relaxing now.

She knocked on the door and Elise called,

“Yeah, come on in.” Carolyn pushed the door open and Elise came out of the bathroom letting her hair fall down around her shoulders. She was fresh from the shower also and had on flannel pajama bottoms and a T-shirt. Carolyn swallowed and reconsidered, she felt some relief but she didn’t know if she could do this tonight – even though she really wanted to sleep here. Elise watched Carolyn silently for a few minutes and then asked quietly,

“Are you okay?” Carolyn looked up from her musings and smiled slightly,

“Yeah – I’m fine.” Elise didn’t think that sounded very convincing and she walked to Carolyn, reaching out and clasping her hand. She wasn’t immune to the feelings that being close to Carolyn invoked and she guessed it might be too much for Carolyn after tonight’s session, so she said,

“It was selfish of me to ask you to sleep here, I’m feeling what I guess would be sexual frustration and I would imagine what you are feeling is on a whole different level.” Carolyn smiled,

“It’s true, you’re tough on the old libido Elise.” Elise grinned,

“I like hearing that.”

“I like feeling it, except when there’s an overload without end. Then I get all fussy.” Elise continued to stand near Carolyn; she wished for the umpteenth time that her period had waited a few days. Her body felt swollen and cramps were making her lower back ache. Carolyn’s fussiness was all she was thinking of though when she said shyly,

“You know, we can wait for…a better time for me but I don’t see why you have to wait.” Carolyn’s eyes flew to Elise’s. She looked for and received confirmation that she had heard correctly. She cleared her throat before saying,

“That’s a very nice offer but we’ll…make love when it’s right for both of us.” Elise was suddenly quite taken with the idea of pleasing Carolyn and she said,

“I won’t see you for a couple of weeks and I don’t want you to keep waiting.”

“Elise, no. It’s both of us or neither of us. I’m not interested in finding satisfaction, I’m interested in making love with you.” Carolyn was feeling a little stronger now and she took Elise’s face in her hands gently. She placed a soft kiss on Elise’s lips and then said again,

“Thank you, but we’ll wait until it’s the right time.” Elise smiled and asked,

“Does that mean you’ll stay and sleep here?” Carolyn actually felt as if she could manage that now and she replied,

“Come on, get in bed.” Elise crawled in lifting the blankets until Carolyn was also underneath then she shut off the lamp and they cuddled up together. It was late and they were both sleepy from the hour and the wine. Carolyn’s body gave a couple of zings and then settled itself against Elise, soon after she was fast asleep. Elise smiled drifting until sleep claimed her also.

Carolyn woke with a start. Her eyes opened, it was dark all around, her body was in an acute state of arousal. She tried to remember the dream she had been having and realized that Elise’s hands were wrapped around her and under her shirt brushing lightly against her bare skin. Then those magical hands played across her breasts making Carolyn’s breath catch as Elise caught a nipple between her fingers gently toying.

Elise put her face in Carolyn’s silky hair her lips behind Carolyn’s ear, whispering softly,

“Let me take this off you.” Elise said pulling at the bottom of Carolyn’s T-shirt. Carolyn’s eyes popped open as she came fully awake.

“Elise…stop.” Carolyn reached up to grab Elise’s hands holding them still in her own. Shaking with her needs she whispered roughly,

“Have you changed your mind?” Her question was met with several moments of silence so she asked,

“Elise, I…is this your way of telling me you want to make love…now?”

“I want to make love to you.” Elise said quietly.

“I thought we talked about this, about waiting until the time was right for both of us.”

“We did but…I just wanted to…” Carolyn released Elise’s hands and turned around putting her hands on Elise’s face.

“Elise if you feel up to it, I would be more than happy…” Lame Carolyn, “Ecstatic to make love with you. But if you’re not feeling up to it then you need to give my poor body a break.” Elise smiled slightly, “I’m sorry, I’m not thinking very clearly I guess.” Carolyn leaned forward and put a kiss on Elise’s forehead then she sighed and asked Elise for confirmation,

“So…tonight is out for you?”

“Yes…I’m sorry I have cramps and…” Elise didn’t want to get technical so she was silent. Carolyn smiled slightly hoping that levity would help Elise understand,

“Did you know that sex relieves cramps?” Elise laughed quietly at that.

“No I wasn’t aware of that but forget it.” Carolyn playfully tickled her way under Elise’s T-shirt and plucked at waistband of her pajama bottoms. Elise caught her hand in her own and said,

“Behave.”

“I like that double standard, you misbehave but I can’t. Come on, are you feeling crampy?”

“Yeah.”

“Where?”

“My lower back.”

“I’m telling you I can make those go away in just a few minutes.”

“If it involves touching me below the waist, forget it.” Carolyn laughed and accused,

“You sound like a virgin.” Elise said smartly,

“Ha ha!” Carolyn lay looking at Elise -blue eyes watched her. She could help with those cramps without sex…

“Turn over and let me rub your back.” Elise looked at Carolyn carefully and asked,

“So you’ve given up…”

“Yep, it’s your call Elise but I would like to rub your back for you. Cramps suck.” Elise rolled over onto her stomach and Carolyn hopped off the bed, she needed something to lubricate Elise’s skin with, so she told Elise,

“I’ll be right back, don’t move.” Elise lay quietly thinking.

Carolyn climbed back over Elise’s thighs and put some massage oil in her palm, rubbing to warm it. Then she began to massage Elise’s strong lower back taking away every ache, every cramp, every thought in Elise’s head. Time ceased to exist and Elise felt herself falling asleep, she resisted it but gentle, firm fingers and magical hands were sending her to dreamland.

When they woke in the morning Elise was cramp free and very happy. She and Carolyn went out for breakfast and then off to the mall to do some shopping. Carolyn teased Elise for hours about doing ‘it’ in the dressing room -among other places. Elise was in a perpetual state of sexual awareness, something she hadn’t even been mindful of before.

Carolyn smiled, thinking about all the teasing she had heaped on Elise today. Elise was such a good sport and very sexy in a most naïve way. She seemed completely unaware of the looks she drew from people as they went through stores and down the mall. Carolyn had insisted on going with Elise into the changing rooms and Elise was getting comfortable with stripping off her clothes to try on something that Carolyn had found for her.

They carried bags in each hand as they made their way to Carolyn’s jeep. Elise had basically a new wardrobe. Carolyn was giving Elise guff about the cash she had paid for everything with.

“I’ve never seen anyone carry so much cash, what did you do rob a convenience store before you came to my place yesterday.”

“What exactly do you have against cash?” Elise asked smiling.

“Nothing, I’ve just never seen so much of it. I pay for everything on a credit card and then pay it off the next month, then I have a record of it.”

“Well, I pay for everything with cash and then there is no record.” Carolyn frowned and asked,

“So you don’t want a record? Is that what you’re telling me.”

“Well – I do have one, I have the sales slips – so I have a record but no one else does. It’s no big deal I just like it that way and I can afford to pay cash so I do.” Silence reigned inside the Jeep until Elise looked over at Carolyn to see what was up. Carolyn was frowning and Elise asked her,

“What is it?”

“We spent, well…you spent a great deal of money today, are you telling me that you always use cash for clothes and stuff like that?”

“I use cash for everything.”

“What’s everything?” Carolyn asked.

“Everything – like vehicles, farm equipment, food, clothes – anything and everything.”

“I’m going to come back to that cash for vehicle thing but first I want to know – do you have a credit card?”

“Yep, just one but I’ve never used it.”

“Never used it.” Carolyn repeated. Then she continued with her questioning,

“So you paid for that truck with cash?”

“With a check, uh huh.”

“That truck must have cost over 20 thousand dollars, did you trade something in on it?”

“Nope, I gave my old truck to Anne and Bob for Eddie. It’s in their barn waiting for him to turn 16.”

“So you paid cash for that truck?

“Yes.” Carolyn was confused, I mean farmers didn’t make that much money, did they?

Carolyn looked at Elise through narrowed eyes. Something wasn’t adding up. Elise had paid for well over a thousand dollars worth of clothes today and she paid for it with cash that she actually had on hand.

“Elise do you always carry so much cash?”

“Yes.”

“That’s kind of dangerous.”

“In Weldon?”

“No, in Chicago.”

“Well, I think it’s alright. How else am I going to pay for something I want to buy?”

“Hmm…” Carolyn mulled over her next question briefly then asked,

“So you’re making a decent living…farming?” Elise considered what she wanted to say carefully. Only Bob and Anne knew how well she did between farming and investing. On the other hand whom would she rather tell? She debated until finally saying,

“I do make a decent living farming. I also invest.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, really.” Elise answered beginning to get amused by the consternation on Carolyn’s face.

“So could you, say…call an airline today, make a reservation for a first class ticket to…Fiji and stay in a 4 star hotel for the next month and have any money left over to eat for the rest of the year?” Elise laughed.

“Yeah, but I’d have to carry an awful lot of cash on me.” Carolyn laughed and let it be for now.

“Well you are definitely buying supper. I mean shit!”

“Figures…I shouldn’t have told you.”

“Too late baby.” They laughed and headed for a Chinese restaurant that Carolyn wanted to share with Elise.

Chapter Sixteen

In two days Elise would be in town, and they were set to move their relationship to a new level. Carolyn was many things but calm wasn’t one of them. She was afraid that everything would suddenly be serious between them and she didn’t want to go there. Where do I want to go? Just forward, but slowly, I’m already spending way too much time thinking about Elise. So far Elise was just going with the flow but Carolyn feared this new level in their relationship was going to change everything.

Not that these fears were going to change the course of their relationship, if indeed it was a relationship. At least quit lying to yourself, it is a relationship at its…beginning. They were both ready to go to the next level. Carolyn laughed to herself, some of us more than others.

“Hey!” Carolyn said as she opened the door to Elise smiling brightly. Elise grinned in return and put her bag down inside the door. Carolyn reached up for a quick kiss, the idea wasn’t to make it into the bedroom first thing, so she kept it as impersonal as she could considering she was incredibly glad to see Elise and wanted to get her into the bedroom first thing.

Elise was nervous but only…a little, mostly she was ready. She could see that Carolyn was a little anxious also and she wanted them both to be able to loosen up and let everything happen naturally. So she said with a twinkle in her blue eyes,

“Where should I put my bag?” Carolyn smiled and shut the door behind Elise.

“Ah, now there’s the big question.” She reached out and picked it up walking toward her bedroom. She put one hand on the jam and leaned inside setting Elise’s bag down on the carpet before walking back to Elise.

Elise smiled acknowledging where they were headed with a gentle kiss to Carolyn’s cheek. Whispering she teased asking,

“Are you nervous?” Carolyn chuckled and said,

“Am I nervous? I’m hardly the question of the hour.” Elise kissed Carolyn’s other cheek, nuzzling Carolyn’s ear tenderly with her nose.

“I’m starving. Are we going out or eating in?” Carolyn smiled putting both her hands against either side of Elise’s face, green eyes meeting dazzling blue,

“We’re eating here.” And then Carolyn pulled Elise down and kissed her, nibbling at her lips, Elise opened her mouth and their kissed deepened sweetly. Finally Carolyn gently slowed the kiss and pulled away saying,

“Enough.” Elise grinned and replied,

“Never enough.” Carolyn smiled affectionately,

“You are so sweet.” Looking at each other ended with Carolyn taking Elise’s hand and pulling her into the kitchen.

The light scent from the bouquet of flowers on the dinner table reached Elise as she poured a glass of wine for Carolyn and herself. One glass was all she would allow tonight; she didn’t want anything to cloud her mind…besides Carolyn. She raised her eyes to where Carolyn was putting food into serving bowls and then standing on her tiptoes to get down another bowl before turning around; Elise quickly paid attention to what she was doing so she didn’t spill red wine on the tablecloth.

They ate a delicious meal. Talk pinging back and forth as it always did between them. They laughed together. The nervousness was simply ‘with them’ tonight and Carolyn really wanted it to go away. This night should be relaxing, fun and…exciting, which wasn’t really very relaxing she acknowledged. She considered what her own nervousness was about…Elise’s virginity.

Her hand reached across and tenderly grasped Elise’s fingers. Elise lifted her eyes from her plate her smile questioning. Carolyn was silent looking for any signs of distress but Elise looked fine, maybe it’s just me.

“What?” Elise asked quietly.

“How are you feeling?” Elise chuckled and said,

“Oh about a thousand things come to mind.”

“A thousand, that’s a lot?” Carolyn considered before saying, “Are any of those feelings scared or nervous?” Elise thought carefully about how she felt and then answered,

“Not scared surely but maybe a little nervous.”

“About…?”

“That’s a pretty leading question. You’re going to make me blush, which is probably why you asked?” Elise teased. Carolyn was quick to say,

“No it’s not that, I want to know if this is what you really want?” Elise’s forehead wrinkled in a frown,

“This meaning, to begin a…to have…sex?” Carolyn smiled and said to Elise,

“Yes – is this really what you want?”

“Uh huh.” Elise watched Carolyn’s face carefully looking for signs of what was making her nervous. She was exuding some kind of tension that Elise couldn’t put her finger on. So Elise picked up Carolyn’s hand, which was still snug in hers and kissed the back of it, then turned it over and kissed the palm. Suddenly Carolyn’s eyes took on a sensual look the nervousness gone for the moment.

The dishes were finally all in the dishwasher. Elise dried her hands on the hand towel and turned toward Carolyn who was drying and putting away the pans she had used to cook supper. They both looked at each other, serious faces suddenly splitting into big grins.

“Come on.” Said Carolyn and she reached for Elise’s hand as they walked to Carolyn’s bedroom. Without releasing Elise’s hand Carolyn flipped on the bedroom stereo and pushed play on the CD player. The room filled with a beautiful voice singing a vocal jazz standard, Carolyn handed a book of matches to Elise and pointed to some candles.

Elise lit several while Carolyn crossed the room lighting others here and there. When the room flickered with candlelight Carolyn turned back and approached Elise.

“Would you like to dance?” Elise smiled, mesmerized by Carolyn’s hypnotic green eyes. She loved to look at them, they were so expressive – right now they were filled with a sensual look that made Elise’s heart flutter.

Carolyn reached up, placing her arms around Elise’s neck; the full length of her body pressing against Elise. Elise settled her arms tightly around Carolyn’s back and hugged her closer still. They moved to the music.

Elise lost herself in the slow rhythm, the delightful pressure of Carolyn’s body against her own, the clean floral scent of Carolyn’s shampoo, the silky feel of her hair against her nose and lips as she kissed the blond head.

Carolyn loved the feel of Elise’s warm embrace it was safe and exciting. Carolyn face against Elise’s neck found tender sweet skin to kiss, her fingers playing with long soft hair.

“I love the way you smell.” Elise breathed over Carolyn’s ear. Carolyn smiled and grazed her teeth along Elise’s neck before looking up into her eyes,

“Thank you.” Then she put her fingers on Elise’s top button and raised her eyes again in question, Elise smiled and nodded. They slowly began to unbutton, push, pull and discard each other’s clothes, revealing soft skin to their fingers and sensual curves to their eyes.

Carolyn released Elise from the confinement of her bra and told Elise breathily,

“You’re so beautiful Elise.” Carolyn followed the blush her compliment drew, with her fingertips. The air around them became charged with excitement and pleasured whispers, as their kisses deepened they stumbled toward Carolyn’s bed.

The feel of Carolyn lying against her naked sent Elise into an overload on her senses.

“Hang on.” She gasped catching Carolyn’s dancing fingers. Carolyn immediately stopped her explorations and said softly,

“Are you alright?” Her green eyes filled with concern as she sought Elise’s. Elise smiled shyly,

“I’m…great, it…you…feel so good I thought I…was going to spontaneously combust for a second there.” Carolyn smiled leaning down to kiss Elise, coaxing her for a moment before whispering,

“You are going to spontaneously combust sugar.” Elise blushed and brought Carolyn’s luscious lips back to her own.

Carolyn slowly gave new meaning to the word ‘explore’ as she took Elise on an exquisite journey of discovery, her whispers inciting waves of pleasure as her hands spread shudders up the length of Elise’s body. Elise was aware of only Carolyn, luring her higher and higher bringing her feelings charged with gasping pleasure until a powerful eruption washed through her entire body. Inhaling sharply she called Carolyn’s name.

Carolyn held Elise as she lay breathing hard. She brushed back Elise’s hair from her damp forehead. Elise’s eyes were closed but she had a slight smile on her face, Carolyn patiently waited.

Blue eyes soon revealed their warmth and satisfaction and Elise said quietly,

“I can’t think to remember if I owe you an apology or was it a thank you?” Carolyn chuckled and lay down on Elise placing honeyed kisses along her neck and face.

Elise lay quietly in glorious wonder of her body’s response to Carolyn’s touch. Her fingers lazily grazed Carolyn’s shoulder blades and lower until she was back in her head. She used her hands to gently pull Carolyn’s lips away from her neck and settle them against her own. They kissed deeply as Elise continued the motions of her fingers.

So quickly that Carolyn didn’t even have a chance to protest, not that I wanted to, Elise flipped her over and shifted her own body so it wouldn’t crush Carolyn who looked up with raised eyebrows at Elise who widened her smiling eyes and rubbed her nose against Carolyn’s.

“Tell me if I’m crushing you.” Elise whispered as she shifted off even more. She reveled in the feeling of bliss that Carolyn’s silky warm body offered.

“Don’t move off, you’re not heavy.” Elise spent the next several minutes keeping Carolyn busy with kisses and licks all along her collarbone and below. Carolyn held Elise’s head to her, as Elise’s fingers began a light delicate circular motion across her stomach and up to her breasts.

Carolyn was on fire when Elise made her way lower,

“Show me how to please you.” Elise whispered, her fingers dipping into warm wetness. Carolyn inhaled sharply and puffed,

“Everything your doing pleases me.”

“Show me.” Elise demanded gently as her lips claimed Carolyn’s. Carolyn let her finger intertwine with Elise’s; sinking into welcoming warmth, moving together, giving direction that quickly spiraled upward to ecstasy. She sighed against Elise’s warm lips.

They didn’t make it far from Carolyn’s condo the rest of the weekend. Elise was too willing to learn everything she could and Carolyn too accommodating.

Elise couldn’t put words to what she was feeling, she needed some time alone to put a name to everything and so she waited until she was in her truck and on the way to Weldon before trying to sort it out. If she had known how wonderful her body would feel, she surely would have had sex years ago. She laughed at herself, yeah right. Only Carolyn mattered so much, could make her feel…so much.

She ached with feelings she couldn’t, no – didn’t know how to express. Making love…the breathless enveloping feelings Carolyn’s touch brought her. The closeness they had made…a world all their own. Elise wanted that desperately, now that she was on her way home she wanted so much to go back and pull Carolyn into her arms and push the rest of the world away, forever. She looked at her cell phone, considering if she should call, just to hear her voice. She talked herself out of it and continued on her way home lost in the cherished moments from the weekend passed.

Carolyn sat curled up on the couch, the remote sitting on her thigh. She had been clicking channels for about an hour and was really sick of herself. Go back and do the reading you need to get done. She didn’t move because she had already tried to focus on reading twice since Elise had left and hadn’t been able to concentrate either time. She needed the television to keep her from thinking…of blue eyes watching her as she orgasmed. Of Elise’s attention to every detail…on her body, her worshipful words making Carolyn feel beautiful and cared for. Elise had been the virgin but Carolyn felt like she had gone to places she didn’t even know existed when she was in Elise’s arms. It was almost more than she could bear. She clicked through some more channels.

Finally the phone rang and Carolyn reached and grabbed it before the first ring was finished. She waited impatiently clearing her throat, until it had rang a third time before she pseudo-calmly pushed ‘talk’ and said,

“Hello.”

“Hi – I’m home.” Carolyn smiled into the phone glad Elise was home safe and more than glad to be talking to her.

“How was the drive?”

“It was good. What are you doing?”

“Well, I’m watching TV but I’ve got some reading to do before I go to bed tonight, so I suppose I should get to that soon.”

“I miss you.” Elise couldn’t keep it in any more. Carolyn’s heart pitter-pattered and she said,

“I miss you too.”

“I didn’t get a chance to tell you how much I enjoyed the weekend.” Carolyn laughed and teased,

“Which part exactly?”

“Hmm…” Elise played along, “Probably the part where you…” Carolyn waited breathlessly, “went to the door for the pizza so I didn’t have to put my clothes on.” Carolyn laughed hard,

“You shit.”

“Now, now.” Elise grinned as she paced around her kitchen happy to have Carolyn’s presence even if it was just over the phone. They talked about a ton of things, as if they hadn’t just spent the entire weekend together.

Elise stayed in bed late. She was always awake at around 5:30 but she didn’t feel like getting out of bed. Her body felt strange this morning. She was sore in a few spots, who knew that sex used a whole separate set of muscles? The next time she looked at the clock it was 6:45 a.m. but she still didn’t get up for the day.

Her thoughts argued with each other about whether she should call Carolyn this morning. Just about the time she had herself content with not calling the inner voices would change and convince her that calling would be a perfectly acceptable thing to do. Oh God.

She tried to turn her thoughts to other aspects of the day ahead but she couldn’t concentrate on anything other than calling Carolyn. Elise picked up the phone at her bedside and dialed, taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly to calm herself. On the second ring a gruff voice answered,

“Hello.”

“Hi, I didn’t wake you did I?” Elise asked disgusted with herself for not waiting longer.

“Nope, I’m standing over the coffee pot trying to inhale some caffeine to get me going. I didn’t sleep to well.” Wishing she hadn’t admitted that she explained,

“Up too late and maybe nibbling on chocolate wasn’t such a great idea at 11:30 at night.”

“I’m lounging.” Elise bragged.

“Nice…anytime you’re here you drag me out of bed at dawn, so I really appreciate you calling me and telling me that…You can bet I won’t be charmed out of bed before 10:00 next time you’re here.”

“I didn’t get you up that early this weekend.”

“Excuse me? I was up at the crack of dawn both Saturday and Sunday.”

“Well yeah…but I didn’t make you get out of bed.” Carolyn was smiling now but she continued to complain,

“I had to perform though.” Elise laughed.

“I like that.” She replied dryly. “You complain NOW but I didn’t hear any objection this weekend.” Carolyn laughed,

“Who would complain? It’s every woman’s fantasy to be woken by a tongue licking her…”

“Alright.” Elise interrupted. “I didn’t call to be embarrassed this early in the morning.” Smiling Carolyn asked,

“Why did you call?”

“Well…to say hi and to see how you are feeling after the weekend.” Better skip the part about just wanting to hear her voice.

“I’m feeling good.” Carolyn said keeping it as uncomplicated as she could. “How are you doing? Are you comfortable with all that’s happened?” Elise answered,

“Yeah…at least most of me is comfortable.” Carolyn frowned her concern showing and asked,

“What aren’t you comfortable with?”

“Uhm.” Elise dragged it out, “I guess probably…I’m a little…sore. Must have used some muscles that I’ve never used before.” Carolyn laughed hard and with unmistakable satisfaction she said,

“Sore huh?”

“You don’t need to sound so pleased about it. I’m not really enjoying it that much.”

“I think I kind of like the idea…in theory.” Carolyn said with amused sympathy. “I’d massage you if I were there.” Elise smiled and told Carolyn,

“And I might take you up on it.” Carolyn quit teasing for a moment and told Elise,

“Why don’t you take a warm bath, that should help?” Then her concern turned to teasing again,

“I’ll try to take it easier on you next time.”

“Oh stop.” They chatted for a few more minutes and then Elise hung up and got out of bed happy to begin her day.

Carolyn made her way to the shower smiling. It was a pretty damn nice day she thought as she looked out her bedroom window. After a minute she tossed her T-shirt on her bed and went into the bathroom.

“Anne, please don’t say that. She means a lot to me and I want you to be happy for me not be angry with her. She comes with her own set of baggage, I don’t want to be with her because she’s perfect, just because she’s Carolyn.” Anne tried to let her worry for her friend go but it was a lifetime of caring to defeat and she couldn’t do it.

“I’m not angry with her Elise, I’m just worried for you. I know I can’t do a damn thing about what she feels but I can caution you.”

“I’m wondering if this is about Carolyn or Carolyn who is a woman.”

“I guarantee you it’s about Carolyn, I don’t give a damn about the lesbian thing. I mean what do you know about her – is she solid, does she care about you in return. Is this just about sex?” She didn’t know how that could be but she was winging it as best she could, completely upset about Elise having a sexual relationship with Carolyn. They sat quietly, thinking about what had been said and Elise wanted Anne to know that this was very serious and important to her and that she wasn’t going to listen to anything bad said about Carolyn.

“Anne – in all the time I’ve known you I’ve never said an angry word about Bob.” Anne looked stricken. But Elise added, “In the past 10 years there hasn’t been a word to say, that’s true. But he was a jerk sometimes in high school. Possessive and obnoxious and I was quiet because I love you and I knew you loved him.”

“And I appreciate that. But…” Anne frowned suddenly struck with what she thought Elise might be trying to say,

“Are you telling me that you are in love with Carolyn?”

“I think so, but I’m not completely sure. I’ve never experienced this before and I’m not sure exactly what I should be looking for.”

“Do you want to be near her every day and you can barely stand being apart?”

“Yep, and to make matters worse she lives a couple of hours away and all I want is to be with her every day.” Anne sighed and asked,

“Does your heart pound whenever she’s in the room?”

“Right out of my chest.”

“Think the sun shines a bit brighter whenever she’s around?”

“Yep.”

“Oh shit.”

“Yeah.” They sat looking at each other smiling. Things were getting complicated.

Anne proceeded as carefully as possible but she wasn’t going to sit by and idly watch, she would however actively watch.

“So what do you guys talk about when you spend time together?”

“Well, everything. Books, what’s happening in the world, farming, about her work, stuff like that.”

“Do you ever talk about personal things, like how you feel?” Elise considered the question thoughtfully.

“We do to a point. Things do get real personal when you’re sleeping with someone.” Elise told Anne blushing. “But she is scared of getting hurt so she does her best to hold me at arms length.”

“Maybe that’s best. Maybe it keeps things nice and slow and gives you both a chance to make sure it’s what you both want.”

“I suppose…” Elise agreed slightly unhappy, “I’m not going to hurt her and I wish she’d trust me.”

“Elise I’m sure it’s not about trusting you, it’s just about her not being sure about what she wants, and I think it’s a good boundary to respect.” Anne said hoping that trying to explain Carolyn to Elise would help Elise slow down.

The two friends sat thinking. Anne wondered if this really was about the lesbian issue. She didn’t think so but why was she hell-bent on talking Elise out of this relationship? God, if Elise got hurt by this, Anne didn’t know what would happen to her friend. She had lived her entire life out on the farm, isolated from everything and everyone. Elise knew everything that was going on in the world but she had no experience with it, no first hand knowledge about how people really were, she just saw the good in people or ignored them altogether. This would be the first time she was unprotected out in the world and although she was 32 years old Anne was scared for her. Bob was sticking with ‘just be here when she needs you’ and otherwise let her live her life the way she wanted. But Anne was having difficulty, even if she knew it was the best policy to follow.

Elise wanted to explain a thousand ways she felt about Carolyn but she couldn’t, didn’t know how. And maybe it would just worry Anne more if that were possible. She probably should have made a break from Anne’s protection before now, but there hadn’t been any other reason to make the break. She loved Anne and didn’t want her upset but Carolyn…well she certainly cared about her too. And in such a different life-altering way that she really wanted Anne to understand the depth of her feelings.

“Annie, I think I’m falling in love with her. Right now she’s scared but over time…I don’t want to lose her and I don’t want you sitting here everyday worried out of your mind. I’m a big girl, could you please treat me like one?”

Anne smiled slightly thinking she had to give support and that was all, Bob was right.

“I’m working on it kiddo, I’m not trying to come between you I just want to…keep your eyes open. Love can be very heady. Promise me if you need to talk you’ll call…anytime. Don’t even hesitate, okay?”

“I’ll call if I need to talk. Now can you give me a break?”

“I’ll give you a break.” Anne said menacingly as she came over and hugged Elise close. They stood together for several moments and then pulled apart smiling at each other.

Later that night Anne lay in bed trying to understand why she found the idea of Elise loving Carolyn so difficult to handle. She didn’t mind the woman thing, she was sure of it – but why did she feel so upset about Elise’s news today? Elise deserved someone to love, someone who cared about her above all others. Yeah but did you really think it would ever happen? No.

Anne hated to admit it but this was about one thing – jealousy pure and simple. Elise was her closest dearest friend, there hadn’t ever been anything that had come between them – not even Bob. Ick she wasn’t very proud of this. She couldn’t support Elise if she didn’t let go of the feeling that Carolyn was coming between them – she had to get past this.

Elise threw her jacket on the back of a kitchen chair and went into the living room, plopping down in a chair. She replayed the conversation with Anne, remembering the worry in her eyes. Oh well at least it was over, the telling of it anyway, she had been putting it off for a couple of months not wanting anything to burst her bubble of happiness, and also not really sure how to begin a conversation about the deepening of the relationship between herself and Carolyn.

Elise didn’t have a moment’s peace between herself and her thoughts of Carolyn. She wished she could find a little more balance. Anytime she tried to discuss the way she was feeling with Carolyn; Carolyn would stop her by changing the subject or asking to talk about it later. She had even gone as far as not answering the phone for a day.

She wasn’t too sure where this was all headed but she did know that she was falling in love with Carolyn and she was finding it extremely difficult not to tell Carolyn how she really felt, had felt for quite a while now. She’d have to be an idiot though to not see that Carolyn didn’t feel the same and didn’t want to talk about anything serious between them. Elise didn’t really know what she herself wanted, except that she wanted to spend more time together. Every other weekend wasn’t cutting it anymore and Carolyn was going away on vacation this week. Elise wouldn’t see her for almost a month. That stunk!

Carolyn lay on her bed, flat on her back staring at the ceiling. She was in the midst of packing for her vacation to the Bahamas. She was leaving early in the morning, Jamie was meeting her in Miami and they were flying over together from there. Carolyn had booked a cottage over-looking the sea. Both of them were looking forward to it, Jamie couldn’t quit complaining about being overworked and Carolyn wanted to run, run, run from everything.

Things with Elise were…wonderful but Carolyn didn’t trust wonderful. She really needed to step back and look at where she and Elise were heading and it was difficult to do that in Chicago for some reason. She would also appreciate talking about it with Jamie, even if he was clueless about how relationships worked. Just talking would help her put things in perspective.

Elise picked up a truckload of seed at the Co-op. The fields weren’t dry enough to plant as of yet but spring was in the air and she needed something to keep her busy while Carolyn was on vacation. She hadn’t called and Elise hadn’t expected her to but somewhere in her heart it hurt a little bit. She wanted to talk to Carolyn everyday and feeling this way was beginning to seem unfair since Carolyn clearly wasn’t feeling the same need to talk. Get a grip on yourself.

Chapter Seventeen

Carolyn ran headlong into the water diving when she got deep enough. The water was warm, nothing like the ocean in New England where she had spent many summer days swimming. She and Jamie had just got back from a run and diving into the water was supposed to be refreshing but tepid water certainly didn’t have the same feel as say ‘The Nestea Plunge.’

Jamie waded in and sat down, the water covered him to his neck.

“Ahh, that’s enough exercise for vacation boy.” Carolyn laughed and swam back toward him, when it was shallow enough she stood and walked until she was next to him and then plopped herself in the water. They sat enjoying their surroundings; white sandy beaches, almost the consistency of flour, beautiful azure water, balmy temperatures and sunshine overhead – not a cloud in sight. Jamie looked over at Carolyn smiling slightly,

“Want to talk now? I’ve been waiting…patiently to hear what has you acting so distracted. If you’re going to pretend that ‘it’ doesn’t matter then could you at least be a more convincing actor?” Carolyn stuck her tongue out at him, frowning as she said,

“I feel like talking about it will force me to make some decisions or except some…truths which I don’t want to accept.” Now Jamie frowned. He waited surrounded by paradise. Carolyn stood and walked up onto the beach sitting down again. Jamie didn’t move for a couple of minutes then he stood and smiled at her,

“Am I supposed to follow you? If you’d just give out a code book for this stuff I’d be better equipped to help.” She smiled and said to him,

“Elise.” That’s all she said and he walked over and sat down next to her, settling in and enjoying the sun on his wet skin.

“What about Elise?” If they were beginning with one syllable this was going to take a while.

“She’s…” Jamie waited glancing at her discreetly. She had the look of wonder and confusion and something else he couldn’t place quite yet…

“She’s really…” Jamie frowned and prompted, “Is it what she is or what she’s done? Would charades help?” Carolyn pushed his shoulder and said,

“It’s everything.”

“Everything about Elise?”

“Yeah.” Jamie thought about a blender and the rum drinks he could whip up, that might loosen her tongue a little,

“I’ll tell you what – we’ll go up to the house and shower, then I’ll make some rumrunners and maybe by then you’ll know what you want to say.” Pausing for a moment to help her up off the sand before turning toward the bungalow.

They were grilling chicken and vegetables on the hibachi, the rumrunners were sliding down a little too easily but they didn’t have to drive and they were on vacation so… Somewhere in the midst of the chicken Jamie asked,

“So how is Elise these days?”

“She’s great, beginning to look toward planting. She’ll be in Chicago the weekend after I get back.”

“How are you guys doing? Have we progressed to..?” He raised his eyebrows subtly, widening his eyes. Carolyn laughed feeling lazy and well…a little tipsy,

“Oh yeah.”

“And…” Carolyn lowered her eyebrows at him,

“You’re not expecting details, surely?” Jamie laughed,

“God, no! I just want to know how you feel about this…new level of…” He frowned perplexed and said, “You know!”

“Well I don’t know, things are going smoothly but I’m making certain that I look at everything in reality instead of through rose colored glasses.”

“Kind of trying to take all the romance out of it, is that what you mean?” Jamie said this with a straight face and it took Carolyn a few moments to get his dry wit.

“I am not. I’m trying to be level headed.”

“So tell me where you are? How you’re feeling about her?”

“I feel…a lot. Everything is so comfortable…but in a really exciting way.” She scowled at herself knowing she wasn’t making any sense.

“And you like spending time with her? Which is how often if you don’t mind my asking?”

“I do like spending time with her. We get together every other weekend either in Chicago or out at the farm. I’d like to see her more often but the last couple of times I’ve seen her she…she seems way ahead of where I want us to be.”

“Where do you want the relationship to be?”

“I want it to just go along as it is now.” Jamie raised his eyebrows and Carolyn explained,

“Just seeing each other every couple of weekends, talking on the phone several times a week and…sex.” Jamie smiled and asked,

“So if Elise would just go with the program that you’ve set, you wouldn’t be feeling…distracted and worried that she might have feelings for you that you don’t want her to have?”

“That sounds more arrogant than I feel about it Jamie.”

“Okay. So the big problem is her feelings or what you ‘think’ her feelings are because you can’t be sure, correct?” Carolyn thought a few moments before replying.

“It’s not that I don’t want her to have those feelings…I’m just…not sure that this is the relationship for me long term.” Jamie forced her hand by saying,

“Carolyn it’s all good and fine to surmise what her feelings are but she hasn’t told you so why don’t you put some thought into how you feel about her.” The silence stretched out and Jamie didn’t want this to be so difficult so he said,

“Let’s just forget for a minute that you’ve had a rough go of love before. Let’s pretend you never had your heart broken. Does Elise have any qualities that you are looking for? Any at all?”

“Well of course.”

“What are they, specifically?”

“She’s gorgeous, and sexy.”

“And…”

“She’s smart, hardworking, very fun…interesting and interested.” She stopped, still thinking and Jamie asked,

“Interested in…?”

“Well…everything, my work, her work, the books on my syllabus this semester, she’s read them all and given me some insights I hadn’t considered before. She’s interested in Chicago and going places and meeting people, very curious. I…like her a lot, I’m never…bored in her company.” Jamie snagged a glance at Carolyn’s face now and saw light dawning behind her green eyes. He smiled to himself and asked,

“And what about…the future, where do you see this heading?” Carolyn looked up from her musings startled,

“The future?” She said loudly. “I haven’t given the future any thought.”

“So you’re just…playing? Just getting laid and enjoying her company?” Carolyn frowned at that description of their dating relationship. But she didn’t want to look at the future so she answered,

“I guess so.”

“Sounds great.” Jamie said happily. “I’m glad you’re enjoying yourself.” Carolyn scowled now and Jamie coughed to keep from laughing out loud.

“Want another drink?” He asked Carolyn and she looked at her forgotten glass which was empty again and said with feeling,

“Yes please.”

The stars were twinkling in a very big and very dark sky. They were pretty well drunk now and had been singing bawdy songs on and off for hours. Jamie gave Carolyn a long look until she asked him,

“What?”

“Did you call Elise since you’ve been here?”

“No!”

“Don’t get all excited, I just asked a simple question.”

“No I haven’t called her. Don’t think it’s been easy either.” She muttered. Jamie laughed happily and told her,

“What’s going to happen if you call her? Do you turn into a…lesbian.”? Carolyn smiled at the stars and said,

“Oh my are you funny.”

“I know it’s quite a weight to bare sometimes but really, why not call?”

“I think she’s falling in love with me.”

“What happens if she falls in love with you?”

“She expects things from me that I might not be willing to give. Or…or worse yet she traps me.”

“How can she do that without your permission Carolyn?”

“I don’t know but it’s happened before and I can’t do that again.”

“I think you should treat Elise like Elise. You don’t have to sell your soul right now but don’t weigh everything against the past. The past sucked and today doesn’t and Elise at least deserves her own shot at you. You deserve your own shot at her.” Seriousness was difficult when you had put down several rumrunners so he added,

“And I deserve another rumrunner.” Carolyn smiled but her mind kept repeating what he had said.

They didn’t make it out of the bungalow until after lunch; rumrunners weren’t painful…until the next morning. Oh lord.

Elise put her head out of the shower, was that the phone? Yes it was, she grabbed a towel and ran dripping water across the floor and into her bedroom,

“Hello.” She said, sounding short to the caller who had waited as long as she could before calling,

“Hi, it’s Carolyn. Did I catch you at a bad time?” She asked feeling more needy than she was comfortable with.

“No, I was just getting out of the shower.” In another 5 minutes, she lied. Carolyn smiled picturing Elise gloriously naked and dripping wet, she had very vivid memories of that particular delight.

“Hmm, that sounds nice – I wish I were there.” Elise blushed and said,

“Yeah right – it’s so great here in my freezing bedroom – the Bahamas can’t even compare I’m sure.” Carolyn laughed and said,

“Sarcasm doesn’t suit you little girl.”

“Thousands of miles away is the only way you could ever get away with calling me a little girl.”

Carolyn laughed.

“So are you and Jamie having fun? Tell me what you’ve been up to?”

“We’ve been doing something called ‘laying around’, we do it in the bungalow, down on the beach, pretty much everywhere we go we ‘lay around.”

“Sounds like a good way to vacation. It’s tough to lay around outside here, it causes body parts to freeze followed by certain death.”

“Maybe you should come down here and thaw out.” Elise smiled and said,

“That sounds reasonable, cause you’ll be back in Illinois in 2 days.” Carolyn laughed and told Elise,

“You wouldn’t even have to pack anything more than that black bikini. Just stuff that in a backpack and head on down…in fact, you don’t even have to bring that if you don’t want to – we have a completely private beach and clothing is optional.”

“So you’re running around without your clothes on?”

“What are you kidding, my brother’s here!”

“Oh, so it would just be me without clothes.” Carolyn laughed and retooled her offer,

“We’ll get rid of him, then what do ya say?” Elise laughed,

“I will if you will.”

“Oh, you know I will.” They chuckled together and talked about their upcoming weekend.

Elise was walking on air the rest of the day.

Carolyn walked on air the rest of the day.

Chapter Eighteen

Elise walked from her truck to Carolyn’s condo door. She was very excited to see Carolyn – she hoped that there wouldn’t be any more long separations. This one had been difficult, just when she was ready to see more of Carolyn she was seeing less of her. It sucked.

Carolyn answered the door wearing a pair of lounge pajamas that made Elise’s heart pitter patter even harder. When the door was closed and they had kissed, Elise said indicating Carolyn’s loungewear,

“I like these.”

“It was this or saran wrap. I thought this was more subtle.”

“Than the Saran wrap?” Carolyn nodded eyes twinkling. They smiled at each other and then Elise asked how school had been this week with everyone back on campus. Before Carolyn answered the question she said,

“Damn.”

“What?” Elise asked concerned.

“I should have gone with the saran wrap.” Elise frowned thinking about their conversation so far, she was missing something – and then it dawned on her.

“Maybe a sledge hammer would work.” Elise laughed taking her coat off and tossing it over the back of a chair before turning back to Carolyn with a predatory glimmer in her blue eyes. Advancing on Carolyn, she leaned down and scooped Carolyn up in her arms and walked toward the bedroom.

“You’re going to break something, put me down.” Carolyn said happily as she held Elise around the neck.

“Farmers are tough.” Elise said as she tossed Carolyn onto the bed and followed her down.

Elise woke to find Carolyn’s soft body snuggled face first against her chest. They were both on their sides. She paused for several minutes feeling…peaceful and a less easily named feeling that caught in her throat and made swallowing difficult.

The emotions trembled on her lips for a while until it dawned on her and she whispered,

“I love you.” The silence swallowed her softly spoken words.

Carolyn hadn’t laughed so much in weeks, since the last time she had spent the weekend with Elise. They were on their way to their favorite restaurant for dinner and then they were going dancing afterward with Lisa and a couple of other friends. Elise had on black jeans with a thin black sweater tucked in and belted. She looked edible and Carolyn spent the car ride holding Elise’s hand even while shifting and watching her in the flashes of light that the streetlights and car headlights provided.

Elise held Carolyn’s hand over the dinner table and wondered at the desire in her belly. She and Carolyn had spent most of the day reacquainting themselves with each other’s bodies. And still she burned with a need…to touch her. Her early morning discovery that she loved Carolyn made Elise yearn to say the words. She had to swallow hard to get them out of her mouth.

Carolyn wore black slacks and ribbed charcoal turtleneck. She looked cool and sophisticated until she cracked up over something Elise had said, then she just looked happy and sexy. Elise watched every move she made enjoying every moment.

Carolyn paid the woman at the door, accepted the stamp on the back of her hands and waited 2 seconds until Elise had one also then grabbed her hand and pulled her along toward an empty table. They talked, not noticing anything or anyone until Lisa tapped Carolyn on the shoulder.

All the necessary introductions were made and then pretty quickly the music just got louder and louder until it was very difficult to talk. They sat for a while holding hands and yelling in each other’s ears but then a song came on that Carolyn liked and she leaned over and asked Elise to dance.

Elise had been waiting all night to get Carolyn out on the dance floor so she could watch her. She couldn’t dance to save her life but…watching Carolyn was quickly becoming her favorite pastime.

Carolyn did not disappoint she moved to the music, aware of Elise’s eyes on her – enjoying Elise’s attention. The songs passed one after another but neither of them noticed they were in world of their own. The music slowed after a long while and Elise pulled Carolyn into her arms holding her close.

“This is more my speed but I could watch you dance all night.”

“Oh yeah, you like the way I dance?” She teased looking up at Elise with smiling green eyes.

“Um huh, you’re breathtaking – watching you makes me want to stay and watch you and drag you home all at the same time.” Carolyn smiled squeezing Elise in a hug. They danced slowly for a while until Carolyn said,

“How about we take off in a little bit and when we get home I’ll give you your own personal dance exhibition.” Elise’s blue eyes widened and she grinned and asked with delight,

“I just get to sit and watch?”

“Sure, you can sit and watch…”she paused sexily, “for as long as you can stand it.”

Elise smiled with pleasure and nuzzled Carolyn’s ear with her nose, placing kisses against her soft neck. The music heated up again and they danced until they were both hot and sweaty.

They sipped beer holding hands, there was no point in trying to talk it was too loud so they sat and watched and occasionally tried to yell answers to Lisa’s questions.

Elise floated away in her own thoughts, thinking about Carolyn and wanting to go home and spend time with her, she had to head back to the farm tomorrow night. There just wasn’t enough time anymore. A gentle squeeze of her hand brought her eyes to Carolyn’s sparkling green orbs. She mouthed,

“Ready to go?” to which Elise immediately replied,

“Yes.”

As soon as they walked into the apartment Carolyn pushed Elise gently to the couch helping Elise out of her coat and throwing it on a nearby armchair, placing her own there also. Her eyes found Elise’s and she said,

“Just say when you’ve had enough.” With that provocative statement she walked to the stereo, kicking off her shoes as she went. Carolyn shuffled through the CD’s and found the one she wanted. As the first strains were heard she began to dance for Elise. The music throbbed erotically and Elise was mesmerized before the second note played.

Electricity filled the air around them as Carolyn began to undress, moving in perfect time – her body slowly revealed to Elise’s eyes. Excitement had never felt like this before, Elise felt the pulsing rush of her heart in her groin.

Carolyn watched Elise’s eyes fill with desire; it was a heady experience dancing for someone you wanted to please the way Carolyn wanted to please Elise. Piece by piece her clothes dropped silently to the carpet. When she was naked Elise pushed herself off the couch and reached a hand for Carolyn pulling her into strong arms.

Elise was in a state of intense sexual desire and she quickly yanked off her clothes only taking her lips away from Carolyn’s to shed her sweater. The sound of their labored breathing mixed with the music, which continued to thump, played in Elise’s ears as she lay Carolyn down on the couch.

They burned hot, touching and kissing, licking and sucking until their voices rang with joyful completion. It was a moment of earth shattering intensity and Elise shuttered with the need to say what was in her heart. They lay panting, quietly holding each other close.

The emotions Carolyn was experiencing were powerful but she wasn’t sure if it was the incredible sex or her feelings of connection with Elise that made her so flustered. Elise shifted off Carolyn’s still overheated body and Carolyn said,

“Don’t move.”

“I don’t want to crush you.”

“You aren’t.” Elise stayed half on but shifted her weight to her side so that Carolyn could at least breathe. Carolyn reached up and pulled the throw down on top of them using her hands to smooth it across Elise and herself. They shifted and got comfortable, well as comfortable as they could on a cramped couch. They should probably move to the bedroom soon thought Carolyn but she was too lazy to move just yet.

Elise’s lips found Carolyn’s and they kissed slowly, gently nibbling. Elise spent the next several minutes covering Carolyn’s face, neck and collarbone with soft kisses and delicate licks. Her mind repeating over and over the words that expressed what she was feeling, I love you Carolyn, I love you Carolyn until it just came forth, in an audible whisper.

“I love you.” For a breathless moment Elise felt like time stood still, or that she hadn’t really said it out loud. Nothing was different, no one moved… until Carolyn turned her head and her green eyes pierced into Elise’s. She didn’t speak but her eyes spoke volumes.

Elise could see panic but it was quickly gone and then Carolyn’s hand reached up and held Elise’s cheek gently, placing a kiss on her lips and then she said,

“Let’s go take a quick shower and go to bed.” Elise continued to look at Carolyn but Carolyn didn’t say anything else. They shifted off the couch and walked together into Carolyn’s bedroom and then into the bathroom.

Elise crawled into Carolyn’s big bed. She had debated whether she should dig out a T-shirt to wear or if she should just sleep naked the way they usually did when they were together. She didn’t like feeling so vulnerable especially after what she had just experienced in the living room. Besides the incredible feelings that making love had filled her with there was the small problem of having just told Carolyn that she loved her and receiving absolutely nothing in response to her whispered words.

She wasn’t hurt, well not yet, but she was confused. She wanted to talk about it; at the very least she needed Carolyn to acknowledge that she had heard the words. Pulling the covers up she got comfortable and waited.

Carolyn grabbed a T-shirt and put it on thinking only of putting some distance between her feelings and what Elise had just thrown at her. She wasn’t ready for this and didn’t really want to deal with it tonight but she knew she had to because Elise wouldn’t just leave it. Would she? She looked at her face in the mirror taking in her heightened color and red lips. Tonight had been…wonderful. Unbelievable! Oh Elise, Carolyn didn’t know what she was going to say?

Carolyn walked back into her bedroom; Elise was lying on her side – her eyes shadowed and invisible to Carolyn. Please let her be asleep. Carolyn silently begged. When she sat down on the far edge of the bed though Elise turned and said,

“Are you alright Carolyn?”

“Yes, I’m fine.” Carolyn assured her.

“Should I get a T-shirt on?” Elise asked feeling more vulnerable than before.

“Not if you don’t want to.” Carolyn said leaning back on her elbows. Elise sat up letting the sheets drop to her waist and she pulled Carolyn over to her and pushed her back into the pillows, keeping her arms around her so she didn’t feel so…alone.

“Please talk to me, I feel like you’re…well…angry?” Carolyn smiled, well her lips did but her eyes didn’t follow suit.

“I’m not angry at all Elise…” Carolyn sighed and said, “I…want you to understand that for me, I’m enjoying this slow and easy dating thing. I love the time we spend together…just the way it is right now. And I guess I’m worried that you’re getting ahead of where we actually are.” Elise heard the words and tried to process them with fairness. She did her best to not be hurt that Carolyn avoided even saying the words, like they had an illness attached to them.

“I enjoy spending this time with you Carolyn. I wouldn’t want to change it, I just couldn’t keep feeling the way I do about you and not say something.” Carolyn looked up at Elise’s serious blue eyes, the bottomless quality pulling her in. She resisted with effort and said,

“I understand your need to say it but can you understand my need to…not hear it?” Elise frowned stumbling headlong into hurt. Ouch! Her eyes filled with tears, she sat up – putting some distance between them now. Carolyn could have kicked herself – dammit she didn’t want to hurt Elise she just wanted some space. She pulled the now reluctant Elise into her arms and whispered,

“Elise please…that didn’t come out the way I wanted it to. I just…want this just the way it is now.” Elise couldn’t believe that telling Carolyn she loved her, something that had taken every ounce of strength she had to say the words, was being thrown back in her face. With anger and hurt beginning to show more forcefully now Elise said,

“You mean that if I tell you that I love you that I’m messing up what we have together?” She didn’t expect an answer and she didn’t get one. Carolyn continued to hold her until she pulled away sitting up. Carolyn didn’t know what to say so she was silent, watching Elise. Elise stood and walked to her bag and pulled on a T-shirt and pajama pants then walked back and climbed into bed.

Carolyn sighed with relief and made room for Elise. Elise settled down on her side, her back to Carolyn. Carolyn lay down and wrapped herself around Elise from behind hoping for the best. She felt upset and mean, which she had never intended to be. She just wanted to go slow, what was so bad about that?

They slept late into the morning. And woke to a chilly spring day. Elise felt strange, like overnight there were big barriers between them and she didn’t know what to do.

Carolyn wanted to fix everything but to do that she would have to think for a while. The distance between them this morning was palatable and she was caught tightly between protecting herself from hurt and protecting Elise from hurt.

Carolyn took a shower alone. She considered what was going on here, acknowledging her own fear but refused to feel guilty about it. She tried to look at it from Elise’s point of view and could understand that Elise had every right to say what she felt even if Carolyn didn’t want to hear it. She tried to think about the future but it freaked her out too much and she dropped it. All in all it was not a relaxing shower. When she was dressed in well-worn jeans and a sweatshirt she went out into the kitchen and found Elise beating eggs for scrambling.

“Elise?”

“Yeah?”

“Can we talk now?” Elise looked across at Carolyn and smiled, with a twinge of sadness.

“Sure. Can I continue with this?” She indicated the pan with butter quickly melting in it.

“Of course.” Carolyn came over and plopped herself up on the counter a few feet from where Elise was cooking.

“I didn’t handle last night very well and I’m sorry.” Elise didn’t look up but she said,

“It’s okay.”

“No it’s not okay. What you said…that you loved me…really freaked me out. And it doesn’t have anything to do with you it has to do with me. I’m afraid of making mistakes. I’m afraid to get hurt, and I didn’t handle it well.” Carolyn watched Elise until Elise lifted her head and looked her way,

“My loving you is hurting you?” Elise asked seriously, her eyes crowded with hurt. Carolyn took a deep breath and said,

“The fact that you love me isn’t hurting me Elise. It’s just that I want to go very slowly and be more careful than I have in the past. And I feel like you’re getting ahead of where I want to be.”

Elise pondered that as she pushed the eggs around the pan effectively scrambling them. She wasn’t trying to hurt Carolyn by telling her she loved her but since that had already been stated. She tried to get clearer by asking,

“So what is so scary about me loving you?”

“I…think it makes me feel pressure…” Carolyn didn’t go on so Elise asked,

“Pressure? What do you feel pressured about?”

“I know you’re not trying to pressure me into anything but it just makes me uncomfortable right now.” Elise frowned as she took the toast out and buttered it. That didn’t explain anything but she also wanted this conversation to just be done, telling someone you loved them…well she couldn’t have imagined this response in a million years and…enough was enough.

“If you don’t want me to tell you that I love you then I won’t but it won’t make the feeling go away Carolyn. It will just be inside me.” Their eyes met and Carolyn looked at those blue eyes filled with hurt but she could see love also. Seeing it and hearing it though seemed like a huge difference in this moment so Carolyn said,

“If that would be alright for now I would appreciate it. And we’ll talk about it down the line a bit -okay?” Carolyn wished Elise would look at her but she didn’t and Carolyn didn’t force the issue.

“Sure.” Elise said shortly turning to get the bread out for toast.

Their day wasn’t the best they had ever enjoyed together and Elise headed home earlier than she would have otherwise. She felt like crying and she felt like hitting something, she wasn’t sure in what order that would be in. She had no experience to guide her and knew she couldn’t talk to Anne about it, at least not yet because Anne was waiting for another reason to talk her out of this relationship. That’s the last thing she wanted to hear.

If Carolyn was scared and pressured then Elise would be sure she didn’t do anything else to make her feel that way. But everything in her was at boiling point so she opened the windows and let the cold late afternoon air into the truck trying to release the pent up feelings. She just couldn’t understand how loving someone could turn into such a nightmare.

Carolyn was looking at the ground when Lisa opened the door; she motioned Carolyn inside and locked the door behind them. Carolyn said,

“Hi.” Lisa looked at her carefully taking in the pale features.

“Well, come on – let’s crack open a bottle of wine, are you alright?” Light concern painting her voice.

“Yes, I’m fine – I just want to have another perspective. I’m feeling shitty about…well let’s get that wine and then I’ll tell you about my sordid little day.”

When they were seated sideways on the couch facing each other Carolyn said,

“Until this past weekend Elise and I hadn’t seen each other for about a month. I definitely missed seeing her, talking to her face to face.” Lisa heard a BUT…in there somewhere but Carolyn continued,

“Long story short, we’ve been having a nice easy and very fun time getting together every other weekend or so. We had a fantastic time this past weekend until late Saturday night when Elise told me that she loved me and I freaked out.” Carolyn finished clearly disgusted with herself. After a big gulp of wine Carolyn went on,

“Elise was hurt by my asking her to please slow down, well…no…by me telling her that I liked things just the way they were.” Lisa watched Carolyn’s face carefully and asked,

“Just the way they were – which is?”

“Seeing each other every other weekend or so and just going with the flow.”

“So her telling you that she loved you was not your definition of going with the flow?”

“No it wasn’t. It made me instantly feel trapped and scared. I just want to be sure, at every step, that this is right for me.” She finished defensively. Lisa nodded and said,

“I do think it’s important for you to feel comfortable with every step you’re taking but…it’s equally important that Elise gets the same consideration.” Lisa tried to read Carolyn’s reaction to her words but couldn’t. She asked,

“What was Elise’s reaction to you telling her that you wanted to keep things slow?”

“She said she wasn’t trying to change anything, she just wanted to tell me how she felt. But her saying that changed everything.” Lisa frowned and asked,

“How did everything change?”

“Well it made me feel pressured because I don’t feel the same.” Lisa knew she was going to step on Carolyn’s toes here but she went ahead with it anyway,

“What did she say she wanted from you – exactly? Cause it sounds a little like…you want to completely control the situation and Elise. I mean damn her for saying she loves you and pulling you out of your comfort zone.”

“I don’t think it’s a bad thing to not want to be yanked out of my comfort zone.” Lisa was a little disgusted with Carolyn’s attitude and so she said,

“Okay. So you don’t want her to tell you that she loves you, I guess maybe you had better tell her that – although I don’t know how one would broach that.” Carolyn confessed,

“I already told her and she said she wouldn’t say it anymore.”

“Jesus Carolyn. You told her not to say that she loves you anymore? Is she still speaking to you?”

“I don’t know if she is or not.” Carolyn said unhappily.

“Well maybe it’s for the best if she doesn’t – because she obviously cares about you and is working under the assumption that you two are going to make some progress here someday. Maybe that isn’t what you really want; maybe you just want to have a little fun. Although I must admit that’s about as shitty a thing to do, with someone so obviously inexperienced as she is, as I’ve ever heard.” Carolyn felt anger but not at Lisa and not at Elise, she was angry with herself and…Tanya and the rip-roaring mess they had made. And how the whole mess was screwing up her life now. The silence in the room stretched out until Carolyn said,

“I don’t want it to be over I just don’t want to be rushed, what should I do?” Lisa smiled kindly but with firmness she said,

“Try to get this fear in balance. Carolyn you deserve to be happy, I’ve seen you with Elise – there is no way I will believe that you don’t care for her…” Carolyn broke in immediately,

“I do care for her, a lot – I’m just scared shitless. And I’m sick of feeling like a failure.”

“You aren’t a failure and the sooner you get that straightened out in your head the better off you’ll be.” Carolyn tried for a smile but it didn’t come off too well and she said,

“How much do I owe you for the session?” Lisa laughed,

“First one’s free.”

Carolyn called Elise midweek. Elise didn’t answer and Carolyn left a message. When Elise arrived home she listened to her voice several times before erasing it. Carolyn had asked her to call but Elise wasn’t sure she would tonight. She was still reeling from the past weekend.

She had been alone for so long and she had thought that maybe she had found something that would be just for her, just a week ago she was thinking about suggesting that they get together more often.

Now there wasn’t a chance she could even have a discussion about it. She had cried on and off for several days but wasn’t any closer to understanding and she couldn’t remember a time she had felt so isolated since her folks had died. If she talked to Anne – she would end up defending Carolyn and she just didn’t want to defend her right now.

Of course she didn’t want to let the whole thing go – she loved the woman. Didn’t love always prevail in the end? That’s probably religious bumble. There wasn’t much she could do, she had been effectively silenced but maybe, in time Carolyn would come to accept her love. Maybe Carolyn could even learn to love again. Elise fell asleep hoping for the best, but she was pretty sure she wouldn’t get it.

“Hey.”

“Hi, I’m glad you called. I was going to give you a call in a few minutes.” Carolyn said smiling in spite of the seriousness of the moment. Thank God she called!

“What’s up? Did you have a good day at school?”

“Sure, yeah. They all have a problem settling down after spring break and with the weather improving daily, it’s hard to hang on to what little attention span they had to begin with.” Carolyn didn’t want to talk about this stuff; she wanted to be sure that Elise wasn’t angry. She asked,

“Would you like to talk about last weekend?” It hadn’t come out as well as it could have but it would have to do.

“Uh…no.” Carolyn was surprised enough to ask,

“Are you sure?”

“Yes. If there is something you want to say though, go ahead.” Carolyn had to know where they stood,

“Are you still angry?”

“No…I’m not angry anymore.” Elise didn’t elaborate. So Carolyn had to ask,

“Are we…is everything okay then?” Elise thought for a few moments and said,

“Sure, everything’s fine – I won’t tell you I love you and you’ll…I can’t remember what it was that you were going to do for me in return for my cooperation?” Carolyn laughed startled by Elise’s candor.

“Oh baby what I’ll do for you.” Elise smiled, letting her hurt wash away in the now familiar feeling of excitement,

“I’d like specifics.” Carolyn was so relieved, tears filled her eyes and she asked,

“What are you doing this weekend?”

They made plans for the weekend, Carolyn would arrive on Saturday morning and Elise hung up the phone a sense of relief sluicing through her.

The anxiety of the past couple of days behind her Carolyn spent the week trying to be patient about the upcoming weekend. She wanted to see Elise badly and make things up to her, she wanted to look in her striking blue eyes and feel certainty about…she wasn’t sure what? But the need for connection rode her every single hour of the rest of the week.

On Saturday morning the spring winds buffeted Carolyn’s jeep as she drove the now familiar roads to Weldon. The fresh smell of newly plowed fields came through her vents – they made black patchwork pieces across the land.

Elise heard the jeep before she saw it. She came around the edge of the house, watching the jeep get closer. When Carolyn saw her she smiled, her heart thumping with joy. She stopped near the door and shut off the jeep jumping out and walking quickly across the grass toward Elise. Elise’s smile gave her a jolt and she threw her arms around Elise’s neck and hugged her close.

Elise wrapped her arms around Carolyn pulling her feet off the ground and twirling around with her. When she finally let Carolyn’s feet touch the ground – she slipped her hands up to cradle Carolyn’s precious face bending down to kiss her deeply.

Carolyn splayed her hands on Elise’s waist feeling the solidness of her. When their kisses ended Elise smiled and lifted Carolyn telling her,

“Put your legs around my waist.” Carolyn did as she was asked and Elise walked toward the house, shouldering open the door and entering the kitchen.

“I can walk – you big stud.”

“We’ll see about that in a couple of hours.” Elise returned with a twinkle in her eye.

“Elise Johnson, I’m shocked.” Carolyn mocked with wide green eyes as Elise carried her up the stairs to her bedroom.

The evening was soothing for them both. They ate dinner – almost on top of each other at the kitchen table. Sipping wine and nibbling on the food as much as each other. Carolyn had on a silky black camisole and the briefest wisp of black panties. Elise wore a very thin white T-shirt and underwear. They didn’t last too long at the table before they lifted the bottle of wine and headed back upstairs.

Chapter Nineteen

Elise’s time began to fill with the deepening of spring. She meticulously planned her planting, rotating the usage of her land. It was invigorating to be back at work after the long winter. She began plowing – on a Tuesday. Working steadily through the week, the black earth opening behind the tractor – releasing the vital nutrients that were necessary to sprout the seed she would plant in the weeks to come.

The kitchen sink had some dishes in it from breakfast and Anne dropped her jacket on the back of a kitchen chair and began running hot water in the sink. The dishwasher didn’t have to be run but once a week because Elise didn’t accumulate many dishes while she was working long hours.

She was almost finished when Elise walked in the door grinning at the sight of Anne.

“That’s what I like to see, someone doin’ my dishes.” Anne smiled and warned her,

“Don’t get used to it – I was just tired of waiting for you.”

“I’ll be down in just a few minutes – where are we actually going?”

“Let’s go to Riverside and eat something besides burgers for once.”

“Alright – I’ll be right down.”

When they were seated at Riverside’s idea of a Chinese restaurant – Anne asked,

“How are things going with you and Carolyn?”

“Pretty well.” Anne caught Elise’s eye and asked,

“That’s it? Pretty well. Come on – talk to me.” Elise smiled and told Anne,

“I would but I don’t want you to fuss about her.”

“Elise, I’m not going to fuss about Carolyn. I am really glad you met her.” Elise stared at her hard, her eyebrow raised in challenge – an amused twist to her lips.

“I’ll admit that…I was a little jealous of her.” Elise frowned and asked,

“Jealous? Of what?”

“Well you’ve been my best friend my whole life Elise and I guess I’ve felt like Carolyn was going to come between us somehow.”

“Anne!” Elise exclaimed but then she thought about how Carolyn had sort of come between them. Not talking to Anne about Carolyn had put a little distance between them. Elise hadn’t wanted to upset Anne and hadn’t wanted to defend Carolyn when she was angry.

“Yeah, yeah – enough. Tell me how everything is going.” Elise smiled kindly and said,

“Anne, you’re like a sister to me and you will be all our lives. It didn’t stop when you married Bob and it won’t stop if Carolyn and I end up together.” Anne felt tears gathering and she forced them away by asking,

“So you guys are doing okay?” Elise smiled at the obvious avoidance of the subject and said,

“We are doing fine. I could spend every weekend and more with her but she’s not ready for anything like that yet. She’s a little…fearful of commitment.”

“Is that what you want, a commitment?” Elise nodded her head and answered,

“I don’t want to be living together tomorrow but I think I could spend the rest of my life with her and never tire of seeing her or talking to her. She makes me feel…well…everything just seems right when she’s around.” Anne smiled and said,

“That sounds like love.”

“Yep.” Elise agreed. She didn’t say anything more about love to Anne because it was just between she and Carolyn…the specifics.

The two friends moved on with their conversation, comfortable and happy once again.

Carolyn talked to herself when she had time – working on believing that she wouldn’t make the same mistakes she had before with Tanya. She thought about Elise and her gentleness and the evidence of her strength and caring and she told herself it was real.

But her head often overcompensated for her heart and she became afraid of her own judgment in the late hours of the night when she was alone and living with her demons.

One evening late she decided to call in some reinforcements and dialed Jamie’s number.

“Hello.” Said a groggy voice that was going to be crabby as soon as he found out it was Carolyn.

“Hi – it’s your rude sister waking you up. I’m sorry I just wanted to talk, are you too tired?”

“Grrr, yes I’m too tired – but I’ll talk with you since it must be life threatening for you to wake me at…12:23 Eastern Standard Time.”

“Yeah, I forgot about that time thing too.”

“So what’s up?”

“Well I was wondering if I could talk you into coming to Chicago for Easter if I sent you a ticket?”

“Uh – I think I work on Good Friday but I could do some switching.”

“Are you sure?”

“Of course, any excuse to avoid work. What’s going on – just missing my angelic face?” Carolyn laughed and told him,

“It’s much worse than that – I want you to come and stay with me and meet Elise. I need some reassurances that she is what she seems to be and who better to give them to me then my darling brother?”

“Oh goody, I get to spend Easter with you and your farmer. Please tell me were not going to that farm?”

“No we’ll be here in Chicago. Although you would love the farm and her family if you met them. They are really great people.”

“If you say so.” Jamie said smiling in the darkness of his bedroom.

“I’ll send you an E-mail tomorrow with some flight schedules – pick the one you like and I’ll send you the ticket.”

“Alright – give me a day to berate someone into taking my place then I’ll get back to you.”

“Great! I’ll let you get back to sleep.”

“Finally.”

“Come on – you whiner, you just got an all expense paid weekend to Chicago.”

“Yeah, to visit my sister.” He playfully muttered. Carolyn laughed and rang off.

Elise called Carolyn at her office; it was the Thursday before Easter.

“Hello, Carolyn Baker speaking.”

“Hey sexy.” Elise purred.

“Hi Elise.” Carolyn replied happily. “What’s up?”

“I’m calling to find out what I need to bring as far as clothes. Are we going out to dinner, or to Church or anything else I might need to dress decently for?”

“Uhm, I’m not sure about Church but we’ll probably go out somewhere. Why don’t you bring enough dressy stuff for a couple of dinners and everything else casual.”

“Will do. I have to run over to Anne and Bob’s for supper they are making dinner tonight so I won’t miss the family dinner. I tried to talk Anne out of it but she wouldn’t have it.”

“Oh, I’m sorry to be dragging you away, I just want you to meet my brother.”

“You aren’t dragging me away, I want to be there with you. I’ll be there tomorrow morning.” She said firmly.

“Tell Anne…”

“Carolyn. Anne has to deal with things in her own way and cooking this damn dinner is her way. I want to come to Chicago, even if your brother weren’t coming…I would be.” Carolyn smiled at the tingle that Elise’s words brought.

“I’ll see you tomorrow morning and I can’t wait.”

“Me either. See you then.”

Chapter Twenty

“There’s his plane.” Carolyn indicated out the observation windows as a big United jet touched down on a nearby runway. Elise grinned at Carolyn in the windows reflection. Carolyn turned and looked at her and Elise’s eyes caressed Carolyn’s beautiful face. Carolyn wanted to lean up and kiss Elise – and then she couldn’t resist so she did. Their lips met in a brief kiss and then Carolyn reached for her hand and held it firmly in hers.

Elise leaned down and whispered,

“Do I still look like you just dragged me out of bed?” Carolyn laughed,

“Who dragged who out of bed?”

“Oh sorry, I did drag us out of bed so we wouldn’t be late – but gee, lets see who dragged us into bed?”

“Yeah, you came so unwillingly.” Elise smiled her white teeth flashing.

Ten minutes later they were on their way to the parking garage, Jamie having only brought a carryon. They stopped for pizza at Carolyn’s favorite pizzeria and talked while they sipped mugs of beer.

Elise enjoyed Jamie’s humor and especially the way he teased Carolyn unmercifully, filling Elise in on the stories behind each and every inside joke. Her eyes danced with delight as he revealed Carolyn’s antic filled youth to her readily listening ear.

Carolyn loved this moment so much. Two people she really cared about, enjoying each other without any help from her – she watched them both. Telling Jamie to be quiet one minute and helping him tell the story the next.

“Quit encouraging him. He could keep this up all night.”

“It’s fine with me, I wondered where you got some of those crazy ideas you give your students, you should hear what she has to say about the President. It’s no wonder really.” Carolyn’s eyes widened and she tried to wipe the smile off her face and scowl at Elise.

“Oh – I’m going to remember that.” Elise just laughed.

Back at the condo they talked late into the night, sipping wine. It was well after 1:00 a.m. when they broke up the chitchat and headed to bed.

Carolyn and Elise had a quick shower and were soon asleep in their little cocoon. Jamie fell into an exhausted slumber.

Their weekend was so much fun that they all hated to see it end. They dropped Jamie at the airport by 1:30 in the afternoon. Elise stayed at the Condo until about 4:00 p.m. and then headed for Weldon – planting was beginning in earnest in the upcoming weeks.

Carolyn gave Jamie a day to settle in then she couldn’t stand it anymore and called him. He was just home from a double shift and wanted to shower and eat but would call her back right after. Carolyn paced around impatiently until the phone rang.

“Hello.”

“Hey, sorry about that, my brain was mushy.”

“That’s okay, are you up to talking or do you want to wait?” Carolyn hoped it was the former or she was going to quietly go insane tonight.

“No I’m fine, what can I do for you?” He knew just what she wanted but it wouldn’t hurt her to crawl a little. Was there anything as satisfying as torturing a sibling? He doubted it.

Carolyn took a deep breath and said,

“I just want to get some feedback.”

“Like?”

“Well, did you like her? Does she seem genuine? Is she going to rip my heart out and dance on it? Just that kind of thing.” She chuckled and Jamie said,

“Liked her a lot – fun to be around, great conversationalist. Fuckin’ hot! And absolutely ga ga over my big sister, she definitely passes.” Carolyn smiled and agreed,

“She is hot!”

“Yeah but that’s just frosting because there’s so much else there Carolyn. If she didn’t have half the character that I observed this past weekend there would still be the fact that every move you made her eyes caressed you, every word you said she listened as if you were E.F. ‘flippin’ Hutton. Her care for you is obvious to anyone who spends 10 minutes with the two of you. I think you should rest assured that she is a woman of quality and a person of her word…what you do with her is up to you, but she receives the Jamie seal of approval.” Carolyn knew her brother had liked Elise but she was still surprised to hear him totally on board Elise’s train, he had never given a resounding approval like this before.

Making sure that Carolyn wasn’t confusing what he was advocating he said,

“Carolyn, just so you know. I am in no way telling you to snatch her up or anything like it. I’m just telling you what I saw and heard over the weekend, just like you asked.”

“I’m glad you liked her and I appreciate you coming out to Chicago to check her out. I had such a good time I didn’t want you guys to go home Sunday.”

“I’ll come visit anytime you send a ticket, dear sister.”

“If I didn’t know better I would think you only care about me for my financial generosity.”

“Like duh!” They laughed.

Chapter Twenty-One

Elise began preparing for planting. It was a week and a half since she had seen Carolyn, and they were talking on the phone more often, Carolyn was calling most evenings. She would be here in 3 days and Elise was going to help Carolyn take part in planting some of her own acres.

Each night before she fell asleep she thought about Carolyn and herself, wondering when telling Carolyn that she loved her again wouldn’t be stepping on Carolyn’s toes. She wanted to talk about the future and with summer fast approaching she wanted to ask about Carolyn’s plans. Would Carolyn be around? Would she consider staying out at the farm for a few weeks or a month? That was Elise’s hearts desire to have Carolyn come out to the farm for an extended period. It made her heart ache with a powerful yearning.

Carolyn was busy at school, the academic year winding down quickly now. She wasn’t teaching again this summer – her Aunt’s generous land gift brought in enough income to offset the need to teach in the summer for financial reasons but she wasn’t sure what she was going to do. It wasn’t like her to leave planning this late but for some reason she just didn’t have any initiative.

Elise would be working most of the summer and that would keep her out on the farm. She did want to go to her parent’s house in North Carolina and made a mental note to talk to them this week and find the best time to plan a trip there. Maybe she would drive, that would be fun. It would really be a blast if Elise could go but…it was summer.

Carolyn felt a little more balanced about her fears. Being aware that most of her fears were irrational and based on something to do with someone else had helped, having Jamie’s insight and approval helped. But most of it was…why wouldn’t I feel better, Elise had slowed down to the point of stopping. She succeeded at making their time together fun and unconditional. She didn’t ask for anything, didn’t push, and didn’t demand anything of Carolyn. Carolyn strangely didn’t feel great about Elise’s acquiesce, it felt unfair. How would I feel if I couldn’t express how I felt about someone I loved? Guilt at her highhandedness made her uncomfortable, but she pushed the thought away, still too chicken to have Elise express how she felt.

Elise drove the tractor into the farmyard. Carolyn’s jeep was parked already and she shut down the big machine and hopped out of the cab, jumping to the ground and trotting to the back door. Her jeans and navy T-shirt warm enough for the sunny day. She found Carolyn putting together lunch in the kitchen and she took off her sunglasses and pressed a warm kiss to Carolyn’s soft lips. They held each other, enjoying the closeness.

After lunch Carolyn changed into old jeans and a gray sweatshirt and followed Elise out to the tractor. They were going to plant soybeans over on her land and Elise was as excited to show Carolyn, as Carolyn was to learn.

Days end found them hosing off the farm machinery in the machine shed. Elise was teasing Carolyn about her beginners’ inability to stay in a straight line when planting.

“Those are going to be some fun beans to walk, God knows where I’ll end up.”

“I’m not a straight kind of girl, those rows are testimony to that fact.” Elise laughed hard.

The weekend ended way too soon and Elise was alone again on the farm. Carolyn had just a few weeks of school left and she would be extremely busy for the duration. Elise might make it up for the last couple of days of school but then the summer would be upon them and she wanted to know, needed to know where they were heading.

Carolyn had a lot of things to do and not that much time to do them in. Some evenings she just wanted to walk in the door and see Elise and the impossibility of feeling that way and yet not letting their relationship go further made her feel frustrated with herself and mean. She noticed it was she herself making all the calls between them, unless asked Elise never called. She tried to be rational about it, knowing in her mind that Elise was being respectful not negligent. Everything can’t be your way Carolyn. She told herself disgusted with her thinking.

Elise took a four-day break to go to Chicago for Carolyn’s last day of school followed by a weekend of winding down. The trees were budding, their leave bursting forth overnight. All the way there Elise talked to herself about asking Carolyn to come out to the farm for a while. If she didn’t ask her now…she was afraid the chance to ask would be gone.

She ached to hear Carolyn telling her she cared. She loved her so much and it was driving her around the bend to not be able to say the words. They echoed in her head constantly, making her dizzy. Keeping a lid on powerful emotions wasn’t a good thing and it was really beginning to wear, something had to change and soon.

Elise trotted across campus, the trees in the process of transformation – some just budding, some bursting with green. The familiar smell of spring filled her head and made her giddy with joy. Okay maybe that was mostly about seeing Carolyn in a few minutes. She ran the stairs, not wanting to wait for the elevator.

The knock on her door brought Carolyn’s attention from the grade book she had almost completed, to the opening door. She stood – smiling at Elise. Her 501’s molded to her long legs, a lavender oxford tucked in them. Carolyn met her just as the door closed and she lifted her head for a kiss. Suddenly everything was right with Carolyn’s world and she asked Elise,

“Could you give me about 5 minutes and then I’ll be finished and we can go eat.”

“Sure.” Carolyn sat down, distracted now but determined to get this last task done and the year over. Elise sat down on the battered couch and thumbed through an old New Yorker.

When Carolyn had double-checked everything twice she slapped the book closed and said,

“Come on – I need to hand this over. We’ll get the rest of this stuff tomorrow.” They walked down to the departmental office and Carolyn talked to the woman there for a bit. Afterwards they walked across campus to Elise’s truck and made their way to a restaurant.

Elise smiled at Carolyn who seemed wound pretty tight.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Elise asked.

“Nothing to talk about, I’ve just had so much to do and suddenly I don’t.” She smiled happily at the thought.

“Maybe a big old drink will relax me and I won’t be such a bore. I’m so glad you’re here, I…really am glad you could come.” Elise smiled she liked hearing that.

“I wouldn’t have missed it. There’s nothing that could keep me away Carolyn, if you need me here.” Elise blushed slightly but Carolyn didn’t see it because she was looking out the widow.

They ate a hearty dinner of Tex-Mex food and had a couple of margaritas to boot.

“I think maybe we need to go for a walk before we drive home. I could drive in the country, but not here.”

“Let’s go for a walk then.” Carolyn agreed easily. They paid the check and exited the restaurant. Elise took Carolyn’s hand and they began walking. It seemed to Carolyn that she was so…. so everything that she thought she was going to cry. Things just worked when Elise was near. She wasn’t afraid, wasn’t lonely, wasn’t unhappy, wasn’t moody.

When Elise felt sober enough they made their way to the pick-up and headed for Carolyn’s. Carolyn’s heart was filled to overflowing with…powerful emotions. Touching Elise was the only way to communicate her feelings – she didn’t have the words.

Carolyn walked through her bedroom lighting candles and pulling down the bedding. She flipped on the stereo and was reminded of the first night they had made love. She heard the Jacuzzi filling and left her musings and joined Elise. They helped each other strip off their clothes, moving slowly but with purpose.

Once in the big tub Carolyn sat between Elise’s legs leaning back against her. The water was soothing and warm. Elise’s fingers slowly drifted across Carolyn’s body, barely touching but keeping Carolyn’s body humming with arousal. In unspoken communication they moved slowly.

Carolyn intertwined her fingers with Elise’s and brought them to her lips, planting soft kisses on her palm and between her fingers. Feeling the pulse point at Elise’s wrist with her tongue. When the water cooled they moved in a lovers haze into the bedroom.

Carolyn worshipped Elise’s silky skin. Across her breasts and lower, her senses alive with Elise’s heady scent. Her whispered words filling Elise’s head until there was only Carolyn, her body and her touch making Elise’s world spin out of control -until she gently landed wrapped in Carolyn arms.

She opened her blue eyes, now dark with emotion. Carolyn was looking at her with…Elise thought it looked like…love. But Carolyn didn’t speak, even when Elise reached up her hand and wiped the single tear off of Carolyn’s cheek.

Elise gritted her teeth trying to keep it all inside but she couldn’t,

“Oh God Carolyn, I love you…so much.” Tears filled her own eyes but Carolyn didn’t move she just brushed the tears away and kissed Elise slowly until Elise switched their positions and gently laid Carolyn back into the pillows. She touched the beautiful body that was so familiar and yet so new to her. She whispered her love over and over, her touch making Carolyn gasp with pleasure. Taking Carolyn places she had never been, hadn’t known existed until this moment. As her pleasure crashed through her she called Elise’s name, Elise held her close slowly caressing her.

Silence stretched out yet neither of them spoke. After several minutes they shifted companionably to more comfortable positions and before long they were both fast asleep.

Carolyn woke with the sweetest remembrances of the previous evening. Elise and she had made the sweetest love and…it was going to be okay. Elise had said the words again- but it was okay, it didn’t change anything really – they were just words. And they were sweet words to hear from the sweetest woman who had ever lived. Carolyn slipped out of bed and went to the bathroom.

The sound of the door being quietly closed woke Elise and she opened her eyes looking around herself. Suddenly she realized what she had done…said…last night and she panicked. Was Carolyn royally pissed off again? She just couldn’t continue this way if that was the case. With a heavy heart she sat up.

The bathroom door opened and Carolyn walked into the bedroom gloriously naked. She smiled a predatory smile and walked to Elise,

“Good morning, sugar.” Elise smiled immediately forgetting her fear,

“Good morning.”

As they made breakfast Elise nonchalantly asked Carolyn what she was planning for the summer. Carolyn smiled and told Elise,

“I’ve been so lax at planning this year – don’t know what the hell I’ve been thinking. I think I’ll go down to my folks place in North Carolina for a few weeks, maybe a month. I’m hoping I can get Jamie to come down, he has a break at some point but I’m not sure when.” As an after thought she said, “I guess I should give him a call and find out. Then maybe a couple of trips to see some friends, in Boston and in California. I haven’t gotten much further than that.” She looked at Elise who was listening but looked anything but happy.

“How about you – what do you have planned?” Elise swallowed the lump in her throat and answered,

“Just the same old thing, earning a living.” Carolyn smiled completely unaware of the undercurrent. Elise’s re-profession of love was making her run, even if she wasn’t consciously aware of it.

Elise looked at the silverware, the light glancing off of it. She tried to be calm and think about giving Carolyn space to get to the same place she was but after 2 ½ months she just couldn’t keep up the pretense. With a heavy heart she said,

“I was hoping you could come out to the farm for a bit.” Carolyn smiled and said,

“I’d love to.” Elise brightened a little and asked,

“When could you come?”

“Um, let’s see – I could come out the weekend after next. Let me give Jamie and my folks a call and then I’ll give you some definite weekends when I’ll be out.” Carolyn smiled unaware that every word she uttered was making Elise hurt, badly. Elise sat quietly for a few minutes; Carolyn finished frying the bacon and drained it on paper towels. When she turned to put the bacon on the table her eyes met Elise’s and she understood that something was wrong,

“Elise what is it?”

“Carolyn do you think things will ever be any different than what they are now?” Carolyn looked at Elise and frowned,

“Different? How do you mean?” Elise knew that this wasn’t going to turn out well but at least she wouldn’t be wondering, at least she would have her answers,

“Do you think that we’ll ever progress beyond the every other weekend thing?” Carolyn frowned at the question,

“When we’re ready to move to another level, I think we’ll…see each other more.” Elise said,

“I’m ready to see you more now Carolyn. I love you, and no matter if you want to hear it or you don’t -it doesn’t change.” Dammit! Carolyn didn’t want this to be happening,

“Look Elise, I care about you and I think things are progressing…at a good pace.”

“Well then we definitely have a difference of opinion here. I was hoping that you could come out to the farm and spend…at least a month and that we could see how that went. See if we both enjoyed each others company in close quarters.” Carolyn looked like she was going to run for the door and Elise held up her hand and asked,

“Could you just let me say my piece…I’ll leave it be after that.” Carolyn frowned wanting to silence Elise but she nodded her head and Elise said,

“Carolyn I love you. I wake up in the morning alone almost everyday and I think of you first thing, wishing you were with me or that I was with you. I dream about you in the day as I’m working and at night when I’m falling asleep alone. I will agree that there is a definite need for time – for both of us to adjust to each other, for us to find a working plan to combine our lives. But in all honesty I don’t think that’s ever going to happen. You aren’t going to let it, you’re too full of fear.”

“You know – I can’t believe that you are laying all this on me. You want to just move in together tomorrow and live? How long do you think that would last? I’m trying to help both of us make good decisions based on some experiences I’ve had and you act like I’m a fucking jerk to you.”

“I never said you were a jerk. I said you were afraid. And you know what, that hurts because Carolyn I would hurt myself a million times before I would ever harm you in any way. I would spend my whole life caring for you, loving you. But you won’t give me a chance and I…can’t live indefinitely on the promise of every other weekend.” Carolyn was afraid and angry and…she didn’t know what else, but anger won,

“I don’t respond well to demands Elise.” Elise smiled sadly,

“I’m not demanding anything from you Carolyn – I’m just telling you how I feel.” They looked at each other across the kitchen – both of them aware that they were at a crossroads. Elise knew she had to go but she couldn’t stand yet. She sat there wishing to put the clock back to last night, wishing she was making love to Carolyn and telling Carolyn how much she loved her.

Carolyn could feel everything slipping away from her and she wanted to scream at the unfairness of it all. Fucking time! That’s all she needed and Elise refused to give it to her – she was so angry and sick of…women.

Elise stood finally and said,

“I’m going to go home – if you…ever want to find me you know where I’ll be.” And without another word or look she walked to Carolyn’s bedroom and gathered her things. When she had everything together she walked out into the living room and looked for Carolyn but she wasn’t there. Her heart sunk even lower in her chest but she gathered her keys, methodically taking Carolyn’s condo key off her ring and leaving it on the coffee table.

When she reached her truck she forced herself to get in and start the big engine. She sat for 5 minutes, waiting. She wasn’t sure for what? Then she put the truck in reverse and headed home.

Carolyn sat on the kitchen floor, where she had slid when Elise had walked into the bedroom, her head on her knees tears streaming down her face. She could barely breath an ache filling her entire chest. She was such an easy target, never far from hating herself.

Chapter Twenty-Two

Elise walked into her house in a daze. The first thing she did was check the message machine but there were no calls and she laughed unhappily at herself for thinking that there might be. She was on the tractor and out in the fields before the hour was over – she wouldn’t get much done but she didn’t give a damn what she got done she just needed to be busy.

Anne laughed at Priss’ anecdote about her friend Jena and looked out at the fields as she drove into Weldon to drop her daughter off at her friend Emily’s. She frowned when she saw a tractor, Elise’s tractor out in her field. Elise was in Chicago this weekend? What the hell?

She sped up and cruised into Weldon well over the speed limit. She said a quick hello and goodbye to Emily’s mother and then backed out of their drive and headed toward Elise’s. What was going on? When she arrived the tractor wasn’t visible so Anne got out Elise’s four-wheeler and made her way in the direction she had last seen the tractor.

Elise drove carefully; she had to stop once in a while to clear her eyes of tears. She questioned herself at every turn. If she could have let Carolyn take her time, if she could have been patient it would have turned out. But she knew she was lying to herself, Carolyn was too afraid to ever let go and love her and she just couldn’t live the rest of her life hoping. No matter how much she loved the woman. It made sense but it didn’t stop her from bawling her eyes out.

Elise stopped suddenly, a four-wheeler pulling in front of her. Elise shut down the tractor and wiped her eyes, feeling ridiculous and not ready for company. Anne took one look at Elise and shut off the four-wheeler.

“What the hell is going on? Why are you here and why are you crying honey?” Anne hadn’t seen Elise cry for real in…since her grandma had died. Elise jumped down from the big machine.

“Oh Anne…” Elise couldn’t say anything else and she felt Anne’s strong arms come around her holding her close.

“What’s wrong honey? Tell me.”

“Everything’s wrong, I tried to force her to…move forward before she was ready and I ruined everything.”

“Shhh, honey you couldn’t ever ruin anything.” Anne said holding her close.

“Yes I can, you don’t know. I just pushed and pushed when I should have been patient.”

“You are the most patient person I have ever known Elise. Tell me what happened and quit telling me how you’ve messed up.” Elise cried and then pulled back and said,

“I tried…to get Carolyn to…move forward, toward being together…full time; like a real relationship but she wasn’t ready and she freaked out.”

“Oh honey, it’s going to be alright. When you two have calmed down it will look differently.”

“It’s not going to get better Anne, she is too afraid of a relationship and I pressured her until she couldn’t take it anymore.”

“What did she say?”

“She didn’t say anything. I said it all – I told her she knew where to find me, oh Anne.” A fresh wave of tears tore through Elise and Anne said,

“Honey please don’t cry like this, come on I’ll take you back to the house and we’ll have chat over some tea.” Elise let herself be led to the four-wheeler. Anne started it and charged over the freshly plowed earth toward Elise’s house.

Anne parked right in front of the door and helped Elise off. They walked into the house, Anne quickly moving around the kitchen making tea for them. Elise sat shell-shocked at the table until Anne slid the tea in front of her and sat down with her own cup.

“Elise, it’s going to be alright. Whatever it looks like right now – it will be alright.” Anne didn’t know that was the case but she had to get Elise to a better place. It seemed like the past rolled out in all it’s pain…Elise’s folks had just died again, all over they were experiencing the agony and loss.

Anne sat quietly for several minutes while Elise became quite calm. Anne reminded herself that this was about Elise and Carolyn, pulling herself out of the past. Putting the brakes on her memories. The room filled with warmth and silence until Anne said,

“You know that anytime you guys have spent with us we have thoroughly enjoyed Carolyn. She is kind and caring – she has a real connection with the boys and Priss thinks she’s the ultimate ‘girl.’ I think maybe Bob and I can see her more clearly than you can in some ways. If you say she is scared and fearful of commitment then I believe you, she must certainly be frightened but I also know with certainty that she has very strong feelings for you Elise.” Elise looked at Anne and said,

“Strong feelings are a long way from what I want then I guess.”

“What did you want?”

“I wanted to live with her and love her…like you and Bob and my folks and every other person who is in love and feeling the way I do.” The tears started again and she added,

“I couldn’t do it the way she wanted and I’m so mad myself. Why couldn’t I just let it go, maybe she would have felt safer with more time. Maybe she would have been able to love me the way I love her.”

Anne thought about what Elise was saying and she did her best to remain partial.

“Elise, sometimes love has to wait. Sometimes it needs to…fester.” Anne smiled. “If she loves you, which I am convinced she does, then in time she will be able to handle it. I think you did the exact, correct thing by making her see how you feel and walking away to give her some time to come to terms with her fears. Love is always stronger than fear Elise.” Elise looked at Anne and said,

“Since when do you know shit about anything? You’ve been married to Bob for so long you don’t even remember what it’s like to get excited.” Anne laughed and said to Elise,

“Honey, I hate to tell you this but Bob excites me more than anything in the world, even after 15 years of marriage.” Elise chuckled,

“That’s what I was afraid of.” Small grins threatened to bloom.

“Elise I know that it’s hard to believe, but just wait it out for now. You’ll be busy on the farm for several months and that will give Carolyn time to consider what life without you will be like.”

“Great – that’s the last thing I want her to consider. She’s strong and she can live without me easily.”

“Maybe but I know she doesn’t want to.”

“How do you know?” Anne felt the conviction of her words but she couldn’t explain it so she said, “I can smell it.”

“That’s it? You can smell it?”

“Yep.”

“That isn’t much to hang on to.”

“I’ll expect you at our house for dinner every night for the foreseeable future.”

“Anne, I’ll be fine.”

“I know you will be, but you’re expected at dinner no matter how great you feel.” Elise smiled and agreed,

“Okay.”

Later that evening Bob and Anne were lying together in bed talking about Elise,

“I will personally break her…body in tiny little pieces if she doesn’t turn out to be the person Elise thinks she is!” Bob laughed at her fierce protection of Elise,

“Honey you know I couldn’t live without you if you had to go to prison for defending Elise.” Anne smiled and said,

“You could come visit me in my cell and I’d…”

“You’re not going to prison you nut, you have to let Elise fight her own battles. Your job is to pick up the pieces afterwards.”

“Shitty job.”

“Yeah.” Bob agreed.

Carolyn spent an hour on the floor and then she spent several more hours crying in her bed and then she proceeded to drink herself into a stupor. She knew she would feel like hell in the morning but nothing could stop her from trying to stop the pain.

In the morning her hangover wasn’t near bad enough to block out the memories of Elise’s words and she grabbed the phone and called her parents.

“Hello.” Her Mother’s cultured voice answered.

“Hi Mom, it’s Carolyn. I was calling to see about heading down to North Carolina for a vacation. What’s the story or schedule?”

“Hello dear. Uh, your father and I are going down in August, we could go sooner but we decided that a month was enough. Jamie seems to be going only for a week – I think in another week or so because he has to work at the hospital throughout the summer.”

“I guess I’d better call him and maybe the two of us can show up there at the same time.”

“That sounds great dear. Are you going to be able to make it in August?” “Maybe, but I haven’t made any real firm plans yet.”

“Is everything okay dear?”

“Yes Mom it is, I’m just ready to get out of Chicago for a while.”

“Call me with your plans dear, I’ll have your father send out a key.”

“Thanks Mom.”

“Of course darling.”

“I love you.”

“I love you dear.”

Carolyn called Jamie and left a message. She told him to call no matter what and knew that he would the minute he arrived home.

She cooked herself supper and waited for Jamie to arrive home. When the phone rang she thought it might be Elise but it was Jamie’s cheerful voice on the other end,

“Hey big sister, what can I do for ya?”

“Hey.” Carolyn said tiredly, “I was just calling to find out if you’d mind if I joined you in North Carolina?” Jamie heard something in Carolyn’s voice and he asked,

“What’s wrong?” Carolyn’s voice cracked as she said,

“Oh…Elise and I are finished…I guess.” Jamie hid his surprise and said,

“You want to talk about it?”

` “No – I just want to know when you’re going to North Carolina?”

“I’m going down next Saturday the 7th. Can you come then?”

“Absolutely.”

“Great! Do you want to tell me anything now?” He hoped she would talk but she refused again,

“Nah, it’s just at the end of the week – I’ll tell you then.”

“Okay but…I’d like you to call me if you want to talk. Agreed?”

“Yep, I’ll call if I want to talk.” Carolyn rang off unable to tell Jamie about Elise right now. This was not good.

Jamie sat holding the phone, very worried about Carolyn. What had happened since he had been there? When he had left them things were good, great even, now…gone? He hated to hear the hurt in Carolyn’s voice and he would certainly hate Elise if she had hurt Carolyn but he doubted it was as simple as all that.

Chapter Twenty-Three

Carolyn began the long journey to North Carolina on a Wednesday. She didn’t want to drive 12 hours a day. She wanted to relax along the way. She was only on the road for about an hour when thoughts of Elise began to torture her and they wouldn’t let loose.

After a couple of hours she pulled over and looked at herself in the mirror. Her blond hair was pulled back in a ponytail, her green eyes were wide and under them her skin looked bruised. Shell- shocked, that’s how she felt – for the previous 3 days she had cried and she hoped she didn’t have any more tears but she knew she was wrong about that.

On top of everything she wondered if Elise was okay, she kept thinking about making love with Elise on Friday night. She comforted herself with Elise’s love and then immediately got angry with herself for being weak.

The first night she stayed in a hotel in Indianapolis. She channel surfed and put away 4 beers before she even attempted to try and sleep. In the ten minutes before she all but passed-out Elise’s face swam in her mind. Blue eyes tempting her, smiling lips, soft kisses…

In the morning she was on the road early and decided to get as far as Little Rock before stopping. Today she felt less hurt and more anger, she reveled in it because she knew it wouldn’t last long – she’d be bawling again before the end of the day.

Each evening she checked in with Jamie, at his insistence. She told him where she was and lied that she was okay.

She parked her car in the driveway and walked to the front door. The pictures she had seen of the house during construction didn’t do it justice. It was beautiful – her parent’s had said they were very pleased and she could see why. She stepped inside, the newly built smell of fresh paint and varnished floors filled her head and she moved to open some windows.

She walked through, looking at every room and enjoying the endless view of the ocean. She went back out to her Jeep and brought in her bags. Choosing a room that took full advantage of the view, she left everything and headed out the back door and down the sandy path to the beach. It was deserted and she sank to the sand and pulled her knees up to her chin, wrapping her arms around them she sat…for a long time watching the gulls and enjoying the salty breeze on her face.

She had been sitting for along time when she finally felt calm enough to take stock of what had happened between she and Elise. Trying to disengage her emotions, she contemplated the clouds and the sunlight dancing on the waves – her mind listening to her memory. The sun was getting very warm and Carolyn stripped down to her shorts and T-shirt.

What Elise wanted was…the whole enchilada. She wanted a serious relationship, with planning, and compromising and…a lot of unknown variables. All of this Carolyn found unsettling and scary.

Okay, that’s what Elise wants, but what do I want? She thought some more… Do I want a relationship with anyone? Yes, but…I want to be sure it’s right. Do you want Elise in your life? Yes. How? Well I want her friendship. And as a lover? God, I could settle for friendship but the loss of Elise, as a lover would be devastating. Well some would argue that you’ve already lost that so you had better get something figured out here.

In her head she wanted the relationship, wanted to make a commitment but her unbalanced fear was wrecking everything. She had thought she was dealing with those fears better but she clearly wasn’t. The afternoon dwindled and she went back into the house. Food, she needed food – she took out some paper and made a list, keeping in mind how much Jamie ate and then climbed in her jeep and went to the local grocery store.

Late that evening she fell asleep glad that Jamie would be in by noon – she couldn’t stand her own company much longer.

Elise drove home from Anne’s, keeping her eyes peeled in the darkness for deer. There was an overpopulation of deer this year and it was causing serious trouble for motorists, several deer had been hit at night. The concentration this took shut her mind down to everything but the task at hand and when she had parked her truck and was walking into the house she pondered that if her mind wouldn’t leave her alone she would get in the truck and drive at night. Now there was a solution!

She had resisted going to Anne and Bob’s but Anne and Bob had resisted her refusal to come over by showing up at her house with dinner and the kids. She needed them now though and so instead of isolating herself she made her way there each evening after working. Thanking her lucky stars that someone loved her enough to make her have dinner with them.

Carolyn occupied every other nook and cranny of her mind. Elise couldn’t remember her life before Carolyn at all; everything went through the filter of her love for the woman. She couldn’t imagine unparallel torture worse than the constant imagine of Carolyn.

There hadn’t been a decent nights sleep since she had walked out of Carolyn’s condo. She found herself dozing at the table after lunch sometimes, her body just shutting down from the overload. She didn’t sit around hoping that Carolyn would show up but she sometimes begged for it late at night after she had been tossing and turning for hours.

Farming was something she was doing right now to stay sane. She had always taken such joy in the manual labor; right now it was just giving her a reason to get up in the morning.

Jamie walked straight off the plane and into Carolyn’s arms. Tears slid down her face and she held onto him, absorbing some of his strength. When he pulled back to look at her he wiped her tears with his shirt sleeve, smiling kindly he ordered,

“Come on, let’s go to the house – proceed to get drunk on our asses and decide what’s-what.” She smiled tremulously and he grabbed her hand saying over his shoulder,

“Come on.” As pulled her along after him through the throng of people.

Chapter Twenty-Four

Within an hour Carolyn was out on the deck grilling steak tips and watching the ocean. Jamie had run into town to the liquor store, completely disgusted with their parents’ lousy liquor selection.

Carolyn felt better just having Jamie here. She owed him big for this last year of handholding.

“Lookie what I found!” Jamie said as he swaggered out onto the deck with a bottle of tequila and some limes.

“We are going to make a batch of margaritas that will surely wash away our problems and make everything right with the big bad world.” Carolyn chuckled and sent a smile toward Jamie.

“You’re going to set the world straight with tequila?”

“Not straight!” Jamie feigned in an appalled voice. Carolyn laughed.

Jamie liked that sound, if he could get her laughing maybe that look of defeat would disappear and he could find out what happened without all the waterworks. His genes seriously rebelled against female tears, especially his sisters. He hated to see her in pain.

He went back into the kitchen and began pouring ingredients into the blender of ice. A couple of minutes later he made his way outside to Carolyn with a frozen margarita of some magnitude.

“Whoa – what is that, half the blender?” Jamie agreed happily,

“Yep and I have the other half.”

“So you’re prepared to scrape me off the deck and shove me in bed about an hour from now?”

“Don’t guzzle it!” He ordered as he took a huge gulp, “Sip it slowly and you’ll be fine.” Carolyn raised her eyebrow at him,

“Following that example.”

“Um huh…” He swallowed another gulp, “Yum that’s good if I do say so myself.”

They slowly sipped as they made fajitas with the steak and vegetables Carolyn had grilled. Carolyn told him about the last day of school and Jamie regaled her with the insanity of the hospital he was working at.

“Remind me to never get hurt or sick in that area of Connecticut.” Carolyn laughed. They smiled at each other. When everything was cleaned up, Jamie made a pitcher of margaritas and they went back out on the deck, seating themselves in lounge chairs. The sun would go down in an hour or so. Jamie got comfortable and then said to Carolyn,

“I think you should just lay everything out for me Carolyn. I don’t know if I can help but I sure can listen.” Carolyn smiled sadly and took a deep breath. The water glittered with the falling sun. Carolyn let the panorama calm her and began to tell her sad story,

“It started a week or so ago. Elise was in Chicago; we were having a very…romantic weekend. At some point she told me again that she loved me. It sat okay with me this time – or so I thought. I remember hearing her say it and I thought at the time ‘It’s okay – it doesn’t change anything.’ But the next morning I think I was maybe a little freaked out. Not only because she said it again but also because…the day before had been…emotionally intense. Not in a bad way.” She assured, “But in a very powerful way. And I think I was experiencing some new and scary feelings…so…we were getting breakfast together and she asked what I was doing for the summer. I told her about coming here and about a trip I wanted to take to Boston and maybe California. She wanted to know if I was going to come out to the farm. I said yes. She asked when…I ticked off some weekends. She asked me if things would always be this way?” At Jamie’s confused look she explained,

“Always a weekend thing…and then suddenly I felt like I was being trapped and I said we’d move to the next level when it was time…She didn’t seem to think that was good enough. She said she was ready to see me more – wanted me to come out and stay with her for a while this summer and…make a commitment.” Carolyn smiled…it didn’t reach her eyes,

“I told her not to threaten me. She accused me of being so full of fear that I would always just want things as they are now…And then she told me that I knew where to find her if I wanted her.” Carolyn’s lips trembled but she didn’t shed any tears.

Jamie sat quietly thinking about what Carolyn was saying, finally he asked,

“Are you angry with her?” Carolyn considered and then answered,

“Oh, once a day for about 10 minutes…I’m much more angry with myself.”

“Why – about what?” Jamie asked.

“Cause she’s right. Because I am afraid of trusting again and so I would perpetually reap the benefits but not commit. I’m disgusted with myself.”

“You don’t think that someday you could learn to trust her? Trust that she would love you enough?”

“In my head I’ve been telling myself that given time I can get there…but I have trouble trusting that.”

“So you have absolutely no confidence that Elise would stick by your relationship through thick and thin?” Carolyn frowned and said testily,

“I guess that’s the big question isn’t it?” Jamie looked at the almost dark sky and asked,

“What would make you think that she might not be trustworthy?” “Well I thought Tanya was great and look at what a mess that was.” Jamie wanted to yell but he said,

“So you’re going to let Tanya…” He spat her name, “Run your life even now?” Carolyn didn’t rise to the anger in his voice. She waited to respond considering if she was letting Tanya ruin her life even now?

“That’s a good point.” She conceded, “But the step from dating to commitment is so big. I’d like to know that it’s going to work out before I commit myself.”

“So you want some guarantees!” Jamie stated.

“Yes!” Carolyn said raising her voice angrily. Jamie calmed down instantly and told her gently,

“Love doesn’t come with guarantees Carolyn, it comes with risks.”

“Well maybe the risks are just too high.” She said miserably. Jamie ignored her defeated attitude and asked,

“What happens if you risk everything on a relationship with Elise and find out you were wrong about her and had made the wrong choice again?” She thought a moment but could only say,

“Well…I ‘d be hurt.” Jamie nodded and asked,

“So you wouldn’t die or want to die, or lose your job, or find yourself without the love of your family or friends?”

“No.” Carolyn said quietly.

“So the risk of getting hurt isn’t like the Evil Knevil of risks.” She just looked at the moon beginning to rise and didn’t say anything. Then Jamie said,

“And what if you risk it all and…” He mocked with a shocked look, “Succeed? What if Elise is exactly who she seems – caring, loving, honest, hardworking and…hot. What happens then?” Carolyn smiled weakly,

“I get to have a hell of a life.”

“Yeah.” Agreed Jamie softly.

The moon lit the night sky and they stayed outside and made their way through another pitcher.

A couple of weeks had passed and Elise was through with crying…you wish, she laughed bitterly. Now she was pissed. Angry at Carolyn for leading her on this merry chase, showing her what love could be, and then shattering her hopes and dreams.

She was still going to Anne and Bob’s for supper each night, she still felt fragile – but her anger felt so much better than the earlier misery. She constantly reminded herself that she couldn’t make Carolyn love her and that she had done the right thing. It was little consolation however.

But she often pondered if she had left well enough alone that she wouldn’t be out on the farm fast losing hope that she and Carolyn would even speak again, much less work things out between them.

Two days after Independence Day, Carolyn arrived in Chicago. She walked into her condo and looked around, glad to be home, her tan body stronger but maybe a tad too thin. She felt physically good having spent time running on the beach each day.

The first hour she checked her mail and called a florist and ordered a big bouquet of flowers for her parents as way of a thank you. Then she began to make a plan.

It took her a full week to get up the nerve to call Elise. Her need to talk to Elise, to see her and hold her close was becoming a burden too heavy to carry. All week she had been running scenarios in her mind about what she would say, how Elise would respond – it was time to make the call.

‘Everything begins with a single step.’ Jamie had been saying that for several weeks now, there were a couple of times she wanted to strangle him with his lame platitudes, but of course he was right.

Her hands shaking she held the phone to her ear and listened. After two rings she was just about to hang up when the phone was answered and Elise said expectantly,

“Hello.” Silence…for just a few seconds too long and Elise said again,

“Hello?”

“Hi Elise, it’s Carolyn…” Several seconds crawled by and then Carolyn asked, “How are you doing? How’s farming going?” Elise fell immediately into the Midwestern ‘paint on a game face’ and said,

“I’m good, busy…we’re baling right now. How are you doing?”

“I’m okay, I’ve been missing the…farm.” Come on; tell her how you feel, “Missing talking to you.” Elise tried to steel herself against Carolyn’s words. The silence stretched out Elise didn’t know what to say to that so she blurted,

“Well…you can call anytime you want.” Carolyn answered,

“Thank you…Elise, but I’m actually calling to see if it would be alright if I came out for a visit? I miss your company and I’d really like to see you.”

Elise sat down hard on the nearest kitchen chair as her mind kicked into overdrive. She would give a lot to see Carolyn again, to be near her, but at what price? Did this mean that Carolyn had decided to move forward? And there was the question of what she wanted herself, she wasn’t really sure anymore. Pain had taken over the major part of her feelings but what if she could just see Carolyn, she ached with wanting to see her. The words stumbled out of her mouth,

“Oh…well…sure, if you want to come for a visit that would be fine, I guess.”

Carolyn smiled feeling more confident and told Elise,

“How about I pack and I could be there by suppertime?”

“Today?” Elise choked out, reeling again.

“Yeah, if that’s okay?” She knew Elise wouldn’t be able to say no, at the very least she was too polite. In a daze Elise said,

“Okay…well…sure I’ll see you tonight then.”

Elise spent the afternoon in a haze, the boys didn’t seem to mind that she wasn’t interested in their conversation, they spent the afternoon talking about baseball and girls and the high school football teams chances for the coming fall. She needed to call Anne and tell her that Carolyn was coming; she wasn’t really looking forward to that. Ah hell!

She sent the boys home early so she could call Anne and then get ready for her supper guest. Anne had cautioned her but she had also been supportive of the idea. If Elise weren’t so nervous she would have cracked up at Anne telling her that ‘being physical’ (i.e. sex) might confuse things right now – so maybe it was best if she steered clear of that. Elise smiled and made a mental note to Anne some serious crap the next time she saw her.

She was standing at the stove; clean, shiny and nervous when she heard a vehicle coming down the lane. She took a deep breath – looked at herself in the washroom mirror and calmly, (on the outside) opened the back door.

Carolyn took off her sunglasses and placed them on the dash. Her heart pounding she opened the door of the jeep and smiled at Elise. Beautiful Elise… wearing cutoffs and a black tank top, her feet bare. Elise’s face was slightly more angular than she had last seen her and it upset her to see Elise’s blue eyes filled with uncertainty. Outwardly Carolyn showed no sign of anything but pleasure.

Elise hadn’t a clue about the protocol of the situation but Carolyn walked right up to Elise and gave her a warm hug and sweet kiss on the cheek. Elise returned the hug but didn’t have a chance to do the same with a kiss to Carolyn’s cheek before Carolyn stepped back. They smiled at each other for a moment and then Elise asked,

“How was your drive?”

“Good…” Carolyn luckily was pretty quick on her feet and added, “Something smells great, do you need any help with anything?”

“Nope, everything is ready.” She turned for the house and then turned back and said,

“Why don’t you get your bags and I’ll show you where you’ll be sleeping.” Carolyn went to get them letting out a shuttering sigh as she grabbed her bag. Well you’re here.

Elise led Carolyn up the stairs on legs that felt filled with lead. She indicated a bedroom down the hall from her own and said as she began to go back downstairs,

“I’ll leave you to settle in. Come on down when you’re finished.” Carolyn went in and sat on the edge of the bed, she looked down at her shaking hands. Well that wasn’t so tough, was it? Hopefully things would get easier.

They ate a delicious supper of fresh corn on the cob, fried chicken and several different salads. They concluded the meal with fresh strawberries. After dinner they sat outside and drank a few beers as the mosquitoes buzzed around, talking about their summer thus far. Both of them steered way clear of anything personal. Which made the conversation stilted and awkward at points.

As Carolyn set her travel alarm clock, she thought okay – I gave her an evening of peace, tomorrow I’ll move in for the…kill – wasn’t the right word. But they needed to talk and she wasn’t sure about how to facilitate that.

Carolyn was restless for over an hour before getting sleepy, it was so difficult to relax and go to sleep when you were 20 feet away from your heart’s desire. At long last she fell into a fitful slumber.

Elise had spent her whole life sleeping like the proverbial brick. Hard work almost always motivated a person to get to sleep quickly and stay that way until it was time to rise. Since Carolyn had introduced her to all sorts of pleasures that she surely would have been better served not knowing, she hadn’t slept through the night once. Tonight was no different – sexual desire nibbled at her and when she did fall asleep she had erotic dreams of a woman with blond hair and sparkling green eyes.

When her alarm went off she rolled over on her stomach and groaned. Damn that woman!

Elise had breakfast almost ready when Carolyn came down in jeans and a white T-shirt, work boots in her hand. Elise turned and looked at her quizzically and asked,

“What’s up?”

“What do you mean?” Carolyn asked, noticing a pinched tired look to her friend.

“You’re carrying work boots.” Elise stated the obvious before saying, “You should put on shorts – it’s going to be hot out today.”

“Why are you wearing jeans then?”

“I’m going baling – remember?”

“I’m going baling with you.” Carolyn assured her.

“You’re going baling with me?” Elise repeated frowning.

“Yeah is that alright? I thought you could use some help and I don’t want to sit around the house all day waiting for you. Besides, who could pass up the chance to talk about girls with the boys.” She smiled at Elise, thoroughly enjoying herself now.

“Baling is hard work Carolyn. And really dirty.”

“I’m not afraid of a little dirt and anyway I may get into better shape.” Elise’s eyes flickered over Carolyn’s figure blushing when Carolyn met her eyes with an amused smile. Dismayed with herself she said gruffly,

“Alright but no complaining tonight when every muscle in your body aches.”

“Elise.” Carolyn said softly, “Have I ever complained around you?” Elise shook her head. And then Carolyn said sweetly,

“I will however complain about last nights sleep, I slept like shit.” Elise said immediately,

“I’m sorry, is the bed uncomfortable? I haven’t ever slept in there – maybe I need to get a new mattress?”

“No it wasn’t the mattress.”

“Too hot?” Elise asked frowning now.

“Nope.” Elise turned to Carolyn clearly puzzled and asked,

“What was it then?” Carolyn pretended to consider before audaciously saying,

“I think it was because you were 20 feet away and my mind wouldn’t let me forget it. I tossed and turned until finally I…masturbated. I was able to get to sleep after that.” Elise’s blue eyes grew huge with shock. Silence reigned for about 30 seconds until Elise said,

“You are really a piece of work Carolyn.”

“Yeah, yeah – let’s stop with the compliments and get to eating, we wouldn’t want to be late.” Carolyn was happy with the way that went and she enjoyed breakfast and Elise’s company.

Elise on the other hand was in a whole world of intoxication with this woman’s presence at her breakfast table. It was going to be a long day!

Baling was dirty work. The bales had been sitting for about a week to dry out and now they were putting them in geometric stacks. Almost no one bothered any more but Elise like the old way. The first cuttings went to hay stacks and the last into the hay loft. Bob and Anne tried to get her to just roll them with their round baler but she refused.

The boys were in top form today with a new female to impress. They talked sports before finally settling on girls. By lunchtime they were telling Carolyn intimate details of their lives and Elise wanted to scream. She did not want to know this stuff about Anne’s boys. They needed a good talking to.

As they ate lunch Carolyn gave them all sorts of information on pregnancy prevention and also filled them in on all the diseases they could catch. Elise listened as fascinated as the boys were and thanked heaven she hadn’t spent her youth catching communicable diseases.

The afternoon stretched out hot and bright before them. Elise continued to lead the group, working hard to get the stack finished so they could call it quits. Spending the day with Carolyn talking about sex was more than any ex-lover should have to manage. She hoped that Richie and Eddy would hear all of this and find it a good idea to wait until after high school. Fat chance. Sometime towards the end of the day one of Richie’s friends asked Carolyn,

“When do you know when it’s right for you?” Carolyn thought about it for a bit and then said,

“I’m not really sure I know the answer to that, it’s different for everyone. What I have found though is that if I really respect and care for the person I’m having sex with it’s awesome…” She glanced at Elise and their eyes met – Elise blushed. “And if I’m doing it just to…get off, so to speak, then it doesn’t have the same feel, the same meaning.” Thinking about the young women these boys were in theory going to at some point be having sex with she added,

“The most important thing to remember in a sexual relationship is the pleasure of your partner.” The boys stood looking at her as she lifted a bale onto the stack from her position at the top. “If you want to have sex with someone because you care about them, then you want it to be right for them no matter what your hormones are saying.” She wanted to make another point and she considered carefully how to say it,

“If you really care about her, then it’s between the two of you. Telling each other about it is…I can’t think of a lousy enough word. Just remember – you’ve got sisters, and you know what you’d want to do to a guy who kissed and told.” They all nodded their heads in agreement. Then she added for good measure,

“Care about her first and for everything else – you’ve got a hand.” They all looked at her and then laughed, embarrassed but proud to be talking about this important stuff with a grown and attractive woman.

When their work was finished for the day, Carolyn and the boys caught a ride on the flat bed while Elise drove back to the farm. As the boys trucks chased each other down the lane, Carolyn put her gloves on the dashboard of the truck with Elise’s and said,

“They are a great bunch of boys. Anne and Bob are doing a great job.”

“Yeah, they are great. Anne would crap if she knew what they have been up to with the girls of Weldon.”

“I’ve always maintained that our parents are well served living with their heads buried in the sand.”

“I appreciate you talking to them. I didn’t know half of what you were talking about – thank you.”

“My pleasure. Tomorrow’s lesson will be how to please a woman.” Carolyn said her green eyes sparkling with mischief. Elise’s blue eyes glinted at Carolyn for a minute, before she threw a lob and headed for the house,

“Well if anyone could teach them that – it would be you.”

Elise walked the short distance to the back door. Carolyn watched the way Elise’s jeans lovingly hugged her seat and thighs. With a grin she followed her inside.

After supper Carolyn insisted on cleaning the kitchen so Elise went into the living room and laid on the couch flipping through channels on the television. When Carolyn was finished she wiped her hands on the kitchen towel and made her way into the living room. She wore a pair of cargo shorts and a well fitting short T-shirt. Elise was looking at the TV but felt Carolyn’s presence even before Carolyn lay on the back of the couch.

They were both quiet for several minutes. Then Elise turned her head to look at Carolyn and offered,

“If you want to lay on the couch I’ll move to the recliner.”

“No, you stay there. I’ll move in a minute – I’m too tired right now.” Then she added, “And that isn’t complaining.”

Elise smiled in spite of herself – her blue eyes meeting Carolyn lush green gaze. They gave nothing away and Elise finally broke eye contact and turned back to the TV. It was difficult to have Carolyn so close, she ached in places she didn’t know she could ache.

Carolyn thought carefully about what she wanted to do, what would be the right thing to do tonight? If she took her own advice she would probably leave Elise alone. It has to be right for them no matter what your hormones are saying. Oh brother. What the hell was she doing giving advice on love and sex, her life was completely fucked up right now. She lay still balancing on the back of the couch until… Elise heard Carolyn’s even breathing and knew she was asleep. She turned her head and looked at Carolyn relaxed and exhausted. She might fall.

Elise stood and gently leaned over and lifted Carolyn down onto the couch settling her comfortably before reaching for the throw to cover her. Then Elise flipped off the TV so it wouldn’t disturb her sleep and went into her study to do some bookkeeping. After an hour and half she was up to date and heartily sick of her own company. She walked across the room to where Carolyn was still sleeping and watched her quietly.

She carefully brushed blond tendrils off of Carolyn’s cheeks and took in the beloved visage of Carolyn at sleep. Glad she was here, even if she was fast asleep, Elise considered bending down and placing a kiss on her soft cheek but sanity claimed her once again and she made her way through the house shutting off lights before climbing the stairs to her solitary bedroom.

Chapter Twenty-Five

A week after Carolyn arrived they quit early so Elise could play in her softball game in Riverside. Carolyn sat in the stands and cheered the team to a win.

Afterwards they stood out of bounds and drank a few beers with the team. Elise was cheerful and Carolyn much friendlier than her earlier meeting with the team the summer before. Elise watched Carolyn engaged in animated conversation with her teammates and wondered why Carolyn had come out to visit. She had been here a week and nothing personal had been spoken of between them. Not a word about how Elise had walked out of Carolyn’s apartment a month and a half before. No discussion of how Carolyn felt or why she was spending time doing farm work with Elise instead living her life in Chicago.

Elise was utterly confused, Carolyn didn’t seem to want anything except to bale and hang out. Nobody in their right mind wanted to bale so Elise knew something was up – but all she could do was wait until Carolyn said what was on her mind – but her patience were about caput.

She was sexually frustrated for the first time in her life and hated herself for it. She felt jealous that her friends were enjoying Carolyn’s company and that was just ridiculous. Damn that woman.

As darkness descended they made their way to Elise’s truck. Elise rarely drank more than a beer but she had had two tonight. She was still fine to drive though. They climbed in and Elise steered toward home. Carolyn tried to make conversation about the game but Elise’s answers were short and clipped so Carolyn lapsed into silence for a time. Finally Carolyn broke the silence by saying,

“Is everything alright Elise?” Elise shuttered at her name on Carolyn’s lips and replied sarcastically,

“Yes everything’s just dandy.”

“Good because you seem out of sorts and if that were the case then I guess I would have to bug you until you crack and tell me what’s wrong.”

Elise laughed a humorless laugh. What the hell was wrong? A better question was ‘what was right’ the answer was nothing, absolutely nothing. Finally she asked,

“Carolyn why did you come out to visit?” Without missing a beat Carolyn answered,

“Because I missed you and wanted to see you.” Elise felt her anger rising. She closed her eyes torn between anger and agony, her confusion showing in her tone,

“What does that mean Carolyn? I don’t know what you want from me, I’m no good at these games and I’m even worse at hiding my feelings.”

“I think you’re pretty good at hiding your feelings. I couldn’t begin to guess what you are feeling right now.” Elise spoke slowly reigning in the anger as much as she could,

“I’m feeling confused as to why you are here spending time with me. It feels like you’ve changed the rules but you didn’t have the courtesy of telling me what the new rules are.” Carolyn thought about being vague, she shifted in her seat knowing that this was the moment of decision from which they could go forward. ‘Shit or get off the pot’ – that would be the platitude Jamie would use for this occasion and she was damn glad he wasn’t here to say it!

“I’m here because I care about you Elise. When you walked out of the condo that day – I just let you go. I mean after all, you were right – I was…grateful for every moment we spent together but my fear would not allow me to move forward into…” She decided to let that thought alone for the time being and carefully explained,

“I came out to the farm last summer to just isolate myself. I didn’t expect to make a new friend and I didn’t expect to be attracted to her either. But boy you called my bluff all the way; every time I thought if I didn’t do anything it would just go away, you were there telling me that you were feeling the same things. I was truthfully more frightened for you than I was for me.”

“Since you left I’ve thought of little else. You said I would never give us a chance to have anything real and substantial because I was too afraid. You were certainly right about that. I knew I couldn’t afford to fall in love with you and have it blow up in my face. I can’t go through that ever again.” Carolyn stopped for some air, the words she was speaking coming from so far inside her that she felt sick to her stomach. They both sat with their thoughts until Elise prompted,

“So you are here for a visit and what is it you want from me?”

“As trite as it sounds – and I know it does, I want to pick up where we left off and see where it leads us.”

“That is trite.” Elise agreed angrily trying to control the hurt roiling in her stomach. Silence filled the truck cab. Carolyn kept quiet waiting for Elise to respond further. Finally with bitterness dripping off her words she instructed,

“Correct me if I get anything wrong here. After almost two months of silence you want to live a completely separate life, get laid a couple of weekends a month, have me falling all over myself to spend time with you, no commitment to be exclusive and then see how it goes?”

Carolyn sat silently not responding to Elise’s angry words. Carolyn had no intention of going anywhere for the rest of the summer and she had not meant that things would continue as they had before. She had meant that she wanted to get back to that place so they could move forward from there. She had however beat herself up enough this last month to last her for quite a while, biting back a retort that she knew she would regret she began to say…but before the words could make their way out of her mouth Elise said,

“I’m sorry I said that Carolyn. I’m…it’s…it’s been a long summer already. I’ve been hurting pretty badly, Anne is heartily sick of my weeping and self-pity. I don’t know if I want to be in a relationship of any kind…I didn’t used to be uncomfortable in my own skin, I used to be at peace with myself.” Carolyn frowned and looked up from her lap to look at Elise and said,

“I didn’t mean to hurt you Elise, what we shared is so precious to me. I’m sorry that I’m a chicken shit. I’m far from perfect but I am working on these issues…I miss you…” Wanting desperately to connect in some way with Elise, Carolyn reached across the darkened cab to touch Elise’s neck with her fingertips. She slid them up to gently caress Elise’s cheek. Elise’s breath caught and all her anger dissipated leaving only irresistible Carolyn. She moved her lips to Carolyn’s palm and kissed it gently.

Carolyn unfastened her seatbelt and slid across the seat putting her lips against Elise’s neck where her fingers so recently caressed. She whispered,

“I miss you so much Elise. Tell me what I can do to make it better?”

Elise’s thoughts instantly scrambled when Carolyn’s lips touched her and she tried to hold onto her hurt feelings but couldn’t get a thought in edgewise between the feelings and desires bombarding her.

Carolyn gently nuzzled Elise’s neck and ear her warm breath causing Elise to shiver. For miles Carolyn turned Elise into melted sugar with her sweet explorations.

“Let’s not do this here, let’s go into the house.” Elise said quietly. Carolyn wasn’t sure what ‘this’ was but she followed Elise into the house and then upstairs to Elise’s bedroom. Carolyn walked in the room ready to say, ‘I don’t think sleeping together right now is the best thing.’ When Elise said,

“Let’s lay down and talk, I’m going to take a quick shower and get comfortable – you’re welcome to lie back and relax here or whatever. I’ll be right back.”

The sounds of the shower still continued as Carolyn climbed up on Elise’s big bed and lay back in the pillows. She had taken a quick shower and put on soft cotton knit boxers and a spaghetti strap undershirt. She pulled up the blanket and lay back again. How were they going to work this out?

The sound of the shower being shut off brought her out of her musings. She looked up when Elise came into the room. Elise’s eyes darted over to where Carolyn lay. Elise had on an oversized bright blue cotton dress shirt, her legs bare. In her hand was a big fluffy white towel and she was drying the excess water from her hair. Carolyn didn’t even pretend not to watch as Elise found a comb and combed out her wet hair.

Elise felt like she was going to crawl out of her skin. Having Carolyn watch her made her hands feel heavy and her heart pound. After putting the towel away in the bathroom she shut off the light and climbed self-consciously onto the bed. She hadn’t even felt this vulnerable the night she lost her virginity. Relax!

“Carolyn…you know that I care deeply for you. I’ve just spent a month and a half reeling from the end of…our time together. I can’t really see the point of trying to work it out, what’s changed? And for that matter what are we trying to work out? I was so enthralled by you, by my feelings for you and what making love with you made me feel that maybe I wasn’t real clear in my thinking. We live in two separate worlds. I’m not ever going to be anything but a farmer out here in Weldon. You are smart and funny and way over my head in a lot of ways. I’m not the one for you. You need someone who you share more interests with. Some one who…”

“Elise, stop it! If these are the things you’ve been telling yourself to get through this – then fine. But you name one god damn second that we have been even remotely bored in each other’s company, one time when we didn’t discuss anything and everything under the sun, one time when either of us were happy to head back home alone after a weekend together…I hate what happened between us that last weekend in Chicago. I was so frightened to repeat my mistakes Elise; I was so scared to believe in love again. I still am. But during the past month and a half I’ve been doing an unbelievable amount of thinking and it has just confirmed what I knew 10 minutes after you left that day, that it was horribly wrong! Just wrong. Two people who care about each other, who get along well, who have so much potential, need to give things a chance. I’m prepared to do that.”

“Then you should have turned around Carolyn because I’ve been believing for 52 days and…14 hours that you didn’t give a damn about me. That when I struck out in pain over you not wanting to deepen our relationship you just let it go. That hurt so badly, I worshiped you…” Elise found it difficult to go on and she swallowed hard to continue,

“Carolyn I can’t do this. I’ve been certifiable in the past couple of months. I didn’t just hurt in my heart; my entire body ached from the loss of you. I’d rather just cut my losses then go through this again…when you decide you can’t take a chance or you decide I’m not right for you; a few months or God forbid a year from now.” Elise’s eyes were filled with tears, everything hurt so badly. But Carolyn had let Elise leave once without a fight, she wouldn’t be doing it again. Remembering what Jamie had said about guarantees and risk she considered if she was actually prepared to lay it all on the table tonight. Probably not she conceded, but that didn’t mean that she wanted to continue with this unbearable distance between them.

She looked at Elise who was wiping a tear off her cheek and she leaned closer and gently pulled Elise into her arms and settled back against the pillows. Elise allowed Carolyn to comfort her and after a few minute she settled herself more comfortably against Carolyn. It took her a while to relax but when she did she was suddenly very tired.

Carolyn knew they were both emotionally exhausted and that tomorrow would be a new and better day to talk about this so she gently rubbed Elise’s back and ran her fingers through Elise’s hair making Elise very sleepy. Before too long Elise was fast asleep.

Carolyn waited for about 10 minutes and then settled them lower into the pillows, using her free arm to push some pillows out of their way. When she had a cozy little nest for them, she made sure Elise was covered and reached up with her hand to turn off the light. It wasn’t long before they were both dead to the world.

A hand squeezing her breast woke Carolyn with a start! Her eyes blinked in the gathering light, if it was this dark still it was pretty early. Elise’s arm was thrown over Carolyn’s body, her hand resting on Carolyn’s breast. Carolyn knew Elise was still fast asleep. Long silky legs were insinuated between her own. The only movement in the bed was Elise’s steady breathing and Carolyn’s accelerated breathing. Her nipple hardened, treasuring the feeling of being held in Elise’s strong arms. She had missed this closeness; hell being close to Elise gave her a strong sense of…coming home.

Knowing she should move out of Elise’s arms didn’t prod her to do it. She stayed where she was, wanting to turn on her side toward Elise and touch her, wanting to wake her with a lovers touch. But her better judgment won out and she relaxed as best she could and tried to go back to sleep. It took her 10 minutes but she was just about drifting off to dreamland when Elise squeezed her breast, waking her yet again.

In frustration she lay still, forcing herself to relax but it became an impossibility when Elise’s hand slid under her T-shirt and rubbed Carolyn’s soft stomach with her fingertips. Carolyn caught her breath and said in a whisper,

“Elise…please…” But Elise didn’t answer. Her hand then slid up to cup an already aroused breast. Oh lord, I can’t remain still for much more of this. Carolyn shook with excitement and she gently pulled Elise’s hand away from her soft breast. The torture stopped for several moments and then Elise’s hand slowly slid below Carolyn’s boxer shorts. Carolyn’s hand grabbed the wandering hand and pulled it out placing it instead against her lips as she kissed it gently. When every inch of Elise’s hand was kissed, Carolyn slowly sucked the fingers into her mouth one by one.

Elise felt warm, she was dreaming about Carolyn again. And something was…sucking on her fingers. She opened her eyes blond hair surrounding her. Her wayward hand was being held and kissed by Carolyn, her own legs, traitors. She was clearly wrapped around Carolyn, not the other way around. Feels so good.

Carolyn was aware that Elise was waking but she didn’t stop her ministrations. Elise placed a kiss against Carolyn’s ear gently nuzzling her neck, loving the feel of she and Carolyn wrapped up together in her big bed. She felt her mind warning her to move away from this temptation but she refused to heed its annoying call and instead began gently kissing Carolyn’s sweet smelling neck, her tongue carefully drawing a sensual pattern. Moving her hand to pull down the strap on Carolyn’s shirt, a breast appeared aroused and engaging and Elise leaned Carolyn back and lowered her head. Carolyn moaned and held Elise to her, silky hair falling over Carolyn’s skin, thrilling her.

In the midst of the hazy warmth was fiery arousal but Carolyn forced herself to push her way through it to take Elise’s head away from her breast. Their eyes met, filled with powerful emotions. Elise’s mind was clouded with desire but Carolyn held her tenderly until Elise was focused – then Carolyn asked,

“Do you understand what’s happening here? Is this what you want?” Elise lay mutely for what felt like a long time then she said,

“Yes I know exactly what’s happening.” Then she bent her head to kiss Carolyn’s waiting lips, yes.

Potent responses were drawn out as Elise slowly removed Carolyn’s top, her eyes lovingly gathering information on the changes she saw. Carolyn needed to gain back some weight, she thought as she slid the boxers off dropping them off the side of the bed.

Carolyn took her time unbuttoning Elise’s shirt; she spread it open and put her lips against Elise’s collarbone. Her hands sliding around Elise, across supple skin feeling the muscles of her strong back.

Their coming together was at once fevered and slow. They took time being sure their fingers and lips renewed acquaintance with every pleasure point.

Elise’s lips played across Carolyn’s breasts and belly, not stopping her downward decent until she had Carolyn completely enthralled. Carolyn’s body exploded with the pleasure of coming together with Elise, after so long…away – she was home again.

Elise’s body hummed with arousal. Making love to Carolyn brought her almost as much pleasure as her own release. The scent of her lover surrounded her and when Carolyn touched her she gasp burning almost to the point of pain. Their separation had left her body feeling alien. Carolyn slowly drove Elise to a blazing climax.

Elise lay splayed across Carolyn’s warm soft body. Holding her tightly but not moving, even though she knew she was probably crushing the smaller woman. As her breathing began to find it’s normal ebb and flow she reluctantly began to move.

Carolyn’s arms which were wrapped around Elise’s back tightened and she said,

“Please don’t move – I want to hold you.” Elise lifted her head and smiling slightly she said,

“I’m crushing you, how about you lay on me so you can breath.” Carolyn grinned and said,

“I can breath just fine. I don’t want you to move.” They spent several moments eyes suffused with emotion, tangled. Carolyn gave Elise a reassuring smile and Elise laid her head back down treasuring the feel of Carolyn so close. Pressed against her heart.

They dozed until there was a pounding…on the back door. Elise lifted her head confused about where she was and why someone was…knocking on her door. With the dawning she looked down into Carolyn’s sleep filled eyes and then she heard a voice yelling,

“Elise! It’s Eddie, are you in there?” Elise jumped off the bed pulling her shirt closed and trying to button it.

“Shit, how did that happen? I never over sleep.” Carolyn sat up her naked body drawing Elise’s warm blue gaze now laced with slight panic. She quickly finished buttoning and looked around for her underwear, pulling back the covers to finally reveal their whereabouts. She stepped into them and headed out of the room,

“They’ll get the key out of the wishing well if I don’t get down there – maybe you should get dressed.” She suggested as she reached the door and all but ran toward the back door to waylay the boys. Elise caught sight of herself as she passed the mirror in the living room. She looked…like she’d been having sex; in fact she realized that she smelled like sex. Oh great.

She opened the door and found the boys heading back from the wishing well with the key in their hot little hands.

“Hey Elise. We didn’t know if you were here or maybe dead. I just looked in the garage and your truck was there. What happened?” Elise looked down at herself and wondered why she had thought coming to the door dressed like this was a good idea. Eddie and Richie’s friends were looking at her with shy interest.

“I guess I forgot to set my alarm. How about if I get you guys some pop or something and I’ll be out in about 15 minutes. Sorry about that.” They didn’t care; the less work they had to do the better. They knew Elise would pay them for sitting around. Elise went inside and grabbed a six-pack of pop out of the refrigerator and took it back outside.

“Make yourselves comfortable – I won’t be long.” She began to turn away and Richie asked,

“Is Carolyn coming today?” Elise felt herself blush and she choked out,

“Yes, she must have overslept too.” Elise let the screen door slam and walked through the kitchen and back up the stairs. At the top of the stairs she met Carolyn’s twinkling green eyes,

“Carolyn most certainly is coming today.” Elise blushed taking in Carolyn’s state of dishabille,

she said,

“It’s not the best idea I’ve ever had to go to the door half dressed smelling like…you. Hopefully they’re not sophisticated enough to figure out what’s going on.”

Carolyn smiled and asked innocently,

“What is going on?” Elise glared at her and replied,

“We need to get down there in the next ten minutes or they’ll be coming inside.”

“Does that mean we’re not showering together?” Carolyn was really enjoying this – Elise eyes were mesmerizing this morning and they pierced Carolyn with a pleading look,

“Carolyn.”

“My you’re grumpy this morning. I would have thought that my efforts would have put you in a much better mood…I’ll have to do a better job next time.” Elise’s look of amazement made Carolyn grin. Elise asked her,

“Have you always been this trying? Or is this something new?” Carolyn laughed and then told Elise sincerely,

“Thank you for this morning, we’ll talk about things tonight, okay?” Elise nodded her head, nervous energy pounding through her,

“You don’t have to go baling with us today if you don’t want to Carolyn.” Trying to give Carolyn a day off wasn’t met with graciousness,

“I’ll be down in ten minutes.” They turned to go into their rooms.

Twenty minutes later they were on their way out to the hayfield. Elise’s mind raced as she drove slowly down the dirt road. She was fixated on the early morning activities in her bedroom. They definitely needed to talk but she hoped she was strong enough to walk away again if Carolyn just replayed the same old thing as a new dish.

There was only a couple of days work left on this cutting – she didn’t know how long Carolyn planned on staying out here. Even with the distance between them she had really liked Carolyn’s presence. She realized this past week had been the longest continuous block of time they had spent together and she suddenly understood that they had a lot to learn about each other.

Chapter Twenty-Six

The day was stifling. Hot and humid to the point that they decided after lunch that it wasn’t necessary to temp dehydration. Nothing was pressing about throwing the bales onto a stack. Elise told the boys to stay cool and then she and Carolyn went into the house.

They were hot and sticky but before Carolyn could go for a shower Elise asked,

“Would you like to drive out to the lake and go jet skiing for the afternoon?” Carolyn’s eyes lit up and she said,

“Yeah – that sounds perfect.”

They quickly gathered the things they would need and went to the machine shed to get the trailer hooked up to the truck.

Elise unloaded one Jet Ski into the water – Carolyn making it clear she would rather ride then drive. Soon they were in life jackets, a waterproof bag and small cooler bungeed to the back. Carolyn slid close behind Elise and put her arms around her middle, snuggling close like it was 10 degrees instead of 110. Elise smiled and twisted the throttle wide open. Carolyn laughed with exhilaration and held on tightly.

The wind rushing at them was cooler because they were on the water. Elise took them on an exciting ride through some boat traffic and then after a time she circled the island. A few people were there but it wasn’t too bad, this being a day in the middle of the week probably had something to do with that. Most people were working.

On shore they stripped off their shorts and T-shirts and plunged into the water, swimming way out. Their hot sweat covered bodies quickly cleansed in the cool silky water. When they were tired of swimming they spread out the towels and stretched out.

Silence reigned – for a while. Carolyn loved this day; it felt like a very good place to be. She wanted to talk. She hoped that they would be able to discuss things without anger and hurt. Her skin was getting warm and she flipped over on her stomach and leaned over Elise. Her eyes were covered with sunglasses and she couldn’t see if Elise’s eyes were open or not. She was still until Elise asked,

“What is it?” Carolyn took a deep breath and let it out slowly and Elise lifted her head and took off her sunglasses. Carolyn took hers off also and then said,

“I’m sure there are many ways for me to apologize for what happened between us. It was entirely my fault and I am very sorry but what I really want to know is will you give us another chance…” Elise began to say something and Carolyn asked,

“Can I finish?” At Elise’s nod Carolyn continued, “I would like to spend the rest of the summer on the farm with you. I really like the farm but I guess it’s you that I find irresistible.” Elise’s eyes widened having never expected to hear anything of this nature from Carolyn much less simple honesty.

“I will be living with some baggage, I’m sorry about that too – but I think that if we communicate better than we have in the past, and I know that it will take a little work to sort that out, I will be able to overcome the irrationalness of my fears. I’m asking for some understanding but I’m not asking you to compromise what you want. Just that you…understand that I am not perfect and I don’t have all the answers. I’d like it if you could think about how you feel about me, about us and then you could be strong enough to help me through the rocky moments.” There were tears in her eyes when she raised them back to Elise’s blue gaze.

Elise was in shock! That was pretty much everything she had wanted. But Carolyn was also asking her to carry her half of the relationship and she realized she hadn’t done that before. She had let Carolyn call all the shots, not feeling equal in experience or intelligence; she had just gone with the program that Carolyn set. She lifted her hand and touched Carolyn’s beautiful face,

“It just struck me that as much as I wanted things between us to move forward – I…I guess I thought that because I loved you everything would just fall into place and ultimately we’d live together and have a great life.” They smiled slightly at each other. Elise lifted up and placed a gentle kiss on Carolyn’s lips.

“I’m sorry – I think I feel a little inadequate. I look at you and see a beautiful woman who is world wise and sexy and I wonder why you’re with me. I don’t have a college education and I’m a…farmer. You know how exotic that is – now that you’ve spent some time here.”

“Elise…first of all farmers…well without them where would we all be? Secondly if you think that people have some preconceived notion of what a farmer is like…” She tilted her head thinking and then acknowledged, “You might be right, they’d never think that a gorgeous, intelligent woman like you is a farmer. But I don’t care about you because of what you do for a living, I care about the person you are – I love spending time with you, I look forward to every minute. So if you could just get off that line of thinking – it would help us move onto more equal footing.”

Elise raised her head and glanced around, she and Carolyn had been kissing for quite a while. She could see people quite a way down the beach but she didn’t know if they had seen anything. She turned back to Carolyn who was smiling at her.

“Everything okay?” Elise grinned,

“Yeah. It suddenly struck me that I’m in the middle of a lake in Illinois kissing a woman.” Carolyn laughed.

“Dumb luck huh? Too bad we didn’t bring a tent.” Elise looked down at Carolyn’s body – her hard nipples showing through her transparent suit. Elise glanced around again. There wasn’t anyplace they could get some privacy around here. Rats…

She sat up and looked out at the lake.

“Let’s go for a swim.” She stood and reached out a hand to Carolyn helping her off the ground. They walked hand in hand out into the water. The sand extended for about 10 feet; at that point they dove in and leisurely paddled around. The water felt wonderful.

They played dunking each other and chasing until Elise pulled Carolyn into her arms kissing her wet lips and sliding down to her neck. Quickly they were back to the point they had been on the beach. With a gleam in her eye Elise asked,

“Will you take your suit off?” Carolyn smiled wickedly, reaching for Elise’s bikini top and unfastening the back closure and untying the strings. It floated for a second, as it began to sink Elise grabbed it and tossed it onto the Jet Ski.

She helped Carolyn slide out of her wet swimsuit, no easy feat.

“Just so you know, I am not standing on that slimy bottom.” Carolyn said grinning. Elise laughed and told her,

“Put your legs around my waist.”

They left the drive-in after they had eaten supper in the truck. Darkness came so late this time of year and they arrived home with several hours of daylight left. After showering they drove over to Anne and Bob’s with a watermelon and beer.

The evening was fun and relaxing, laughter almost as constant as the buzzing of mosquitoes. They sat on the screened-in porch, the adults sipping beer and talking, the kids lounging around and listening then the next instant arguing with each other.

The memories of the lazy summers of her youth were played out in the simple ness of the life they led out on the farm – Carolyn had never known such peace. Every day she thought that maybe today would be the day she was sick of farm work or of Elise’s company but every day proved to be another Waterloo, as she slowly surrendered her heart into Elise’s tender care.

Elise told Carolyn every day that she loved her, and on the days when Carolyn communicated her fears they talked and Elise began to learn how to help Carolyn overcome them.

When they got a hankering for something beyond Weldon, they headed over to Riverside and spent time with Elise’s friends. But most of the time they just reveled in each other.

Jamie called regularly, checking in to see how the ‘grand romance’ was going. (As he so fondly called it) Carolyn always answered the same,

“It’s going fine.” But he could hear pleasure and excitement in her voice when she told him what they were up to and he could hear ‘love’ when she spoke of Elise.

Elise and Carolyn had not spent more than an hour apart since Carolyn had arrived over a month before. Within 3 weeks Carolyn would have to be back in Chicago for school and Elise needed to talk to Anne. She needed a sounding board.

Carolyn shooed Elise out the door with assurances that she had a ton of stuff to do to prepare for school. She thanked Elise for leaving the house and laughed at Elise’s pout telling her,

“Go! You have neglected Anne enough and I can’t concentrate on anything when you’re around.” Elise smiled a predatory smile and advanced on Carolyn – who took off running, Elise gave chase and had her on the floor in about 5 seconds. They kissed each other hard grinning happily.

“I’m sorry about not being around more – I feel like everyday is Christmas and I don’t want to do anything but…open my present over and over.” Anne smiled at the analogy.

“Nothing to apologize for. You’ve been over here.”

“Yeah, but I haven’t spent time with you and that’s what I’m missing. Come on – let’s go get something to eat in Riverside.” They talked and Elise once again remembered that spending time with Anne was something she needed in her life. Resolving to be a better friend she listened to Anne telling stories about the kids. They talked about farming and made a tentative arrangement to discuss some investing particulars. She and Anne both fascinated by the markets and students of the economy.

When they were eating desert Anne asked,

“So how are things going with Carolyn…from your perspective?” Elise smiled.

“Everything is going really well. I’m having a really wonderful time…of course she’ll have to head back to Chicago in just a couple more weeks.”

“What do you think that will be like?”

“I’m not sure – I could spend more time in Chicago if that’s what we decide. I guess we need to discuss it but I’m a little scared to mess with everything. When things are so fantastic it seems crazy to ask questions about the future but I need to. I’ve been working very hard on…not letting Carolyn bear all the burden of the relationship.” Anne looked confused and Elise said,

“Carolyn needs me to pull my own weight, she can’t make all the decisions for us. And I don’t want her to but I’m kind of new at the whole thing. If this works out for us she needs a partner not someone she has to see to all the time.” Anne smiled and said,

“Wow, that’s big!” Elise laughed and told her,

“Yes I’ve become quite progressive as you can see.” They moved on to other subjects and the afternoon passed quickly and most pleasantly.

When Elise got home supper was 10 minutes from the table. Carolyn’s smile was brighter than the sun when Elise drew her close for a hug and kiss before going to wash her hands. They ate and chatted happily. Toward the end of the meal Elise finally said,

“At some point in the next week I’d like to discuss…what happens in September.” Carolyn looked up from her plate and saw Elise’s gentle smile. She swallowed and said,

“Okay.”

“I’m not making any plans – except for a plan to talk about it, alright?” She looked to Carolyn for confirmation. Carolyn smiled and said,

“Yes dear.”

“This is really nice.” Carolyn said as Elise sat down at the table pouring Carolyn a glass of chilled wine. They smiled at each other and began talking. Their communication was on so many levels; their eyes caressing each other, their hands adding a touch or tickle, their smiles almost constant. They ate their dinner slowly, feeling no rush.

After dinner they went for a walk out into the fields, hand in hand as the sun burned a path to the horizon, the sky bathed in pink.

“I love you Carolyn.” Carolyn squeezed Elise’s hand and looked into her blue eyes. “Let’s talk about September.” Carolyn nodded letting Elise take the lead.

“This past 6 weeks I’ve come to understand that I had no real idea what a life with someone would be like…could be like. I didn’t know that we had to actually nurture a relationship or that the benefits of that work would fit so well. I feel ready to make a commitment. Now it doesn’t have to mean that…” She searched for careful words to convey that she wanted a commitment but wasn’t demanding one,

“I’d like it if we could decide together what works best for us in the next couple of months and then when we feel ready to move forward again we’ll discuss it at that point.” Carolyn smiled and stopped their strolling pace.

“Are you saying that you are prepared to make a commitment for the near future but not for…say the rest of your life?” Carolyn asked seriously. Elise chuckled and said,

“I’m saying I’m prepared to accept a commitment that is looking toward a long term future. But if you’re asking -would I like to commit myself to you for the rest of my life then my answer is…yes. But…”

“Elise?” Elise stopped talking and said,

“Yeah?”

“I love you.” Elise stood absolutely still, she forgot to breath. Gasping for air, tears gathering immediately in her eyes and she pulled Carolyn into her arms and held her tightly. They took their time, holding each other and kissing away happy tears, whispering their love. Finally Elise said,

“Come on, it’s going to get dark pretty soon.” They walked back to the house.

“Have you thought about how…what we’ll do about…Ahh! I can’t articulate worth a shit tonight.”

“I think you articulated yourself pretty well a few minutes ago.” Carolyn said smiling. They were snuggled together facing each other in Elise’s bed. Elise grinned and said,

“Help me out here.”

“Okay. Umm if I’m making a commitment to you and to a relationship which includes the whole ‘happier ever after’ theme then I need you to know that I can manage some short amounts of time when we are separated because of work, but overall I’d like us to be in the same place. I don’t want a long distance relationship…I’m hoping that we can work on a solution.” Elise nodded and then tears welled up again and she said,

“I can’t believe this. This is…” She closed her eyes overwhelmed with emotion; she felt Carolyn’s arms tighten.

“Shh, honey don’t cry.” Elise sniffled and said,

“I’m too filled up with happiness and it just has to get out so I can breath.” Carolyn smiled gently wiping Elise’s tears with the sheet. Kissing her tear-streaked cheeks, waiting for Elise to be calm then she went on,

“I have to be in Chicago during the school year and you have to be here in the summer. There would definitely be some over-lapping weeks to deal with but that’s manageable. The big question is how you are going to feel about living, during the year, in Chicago?”

“I won’t know for sure until I try it but the stuff that I do during the off season can be done anywhere there is an Internet connection. When I sell corn or beans then I’d have to go out to the farm and deal with that.” Carolyn nodded and asked,

“Will you be bored? I’m worried about that the most. I don’t want us to make this plan to split our time between here and the condo to find out that your life is based on waiting for me. I don’t think that would be healthy.” Elise thought about that – thinking carefully and seeing the wisdom of being cognizant of the pitfalls,

“That’s a possibility, I’m not easily bored but I run around all the time out here – having lunch with Anne and stuff like that. I suppose I could get a job but…” When Elise didn’t finish Carolyn prompted,

“But what?”

“I don’t need the money.” Carolyn’s eyes danced and she asked,

“How much money do you have squirreled away, little girl?” Elise grinned suddenly bashful,

“Enough.”

“That’s a very evasive answer but I have all sorts of ways to make you talk.” And Carolyn’s lips teased their way to a warm breast. Elise chuckled pulling Carolyn’s head back to her own lips, and for a while no one spoke.

“Come with me.” She invited and she took Carolyn’s hand and dragged her out of bed and down the stairs to the computer. She sat on the leather chair, yelping from the cool leather against her bare backside. Carolyn giggled as Elise pulled her down on her lap and maneuvered the mouse. Shortly they were online and Elise brought up her online banking.

Methodically she began to show Carolyn accounts that she had. After the fifth one Carolyn said,’

“Elise, where did you get all this money?”

“From farming and investing.”

“How is that possible?” Carolyn said completely overcome by the amount of money Elise had amassed.

“Well we invest. Not short term stuff usually, although the Internet stocks were good to us.” Carolyn stood and turned around climbing back onto Elise’s lap now facing her.

“Who’s we?”

“Anne and I.”

Carolyn’s eyes lovingly caressed Elise; she kissed the end of Elise’s nose and said,

“You’re amazing…I’m really proud of you Elise.” Elise smiled shyly at the compliment.

They sat grinning at each other – suddenly Carolyn noticed the advantage of her position, and she immediately forgot all the questions in her head and moved her head to nibble Elise’s throat, feeling Elise’s pulse jump to life under her lips.

“Mmm, I like this.” Elise murmured as she put her feet on the desk, one on either side of the computer keyboard, and tilted the chair back, pressing Carolyn against her.

Epilogue

“Over here.” Jamie called as he saw Carolyn come walking out of the gate, followed closely by a tall dark haired woman. Their eyes searched the crowd for Jamie’s familiar face.

“There he is.” Elise said above Carolyn’s ear. Carolyn turned to look where she was pointing and saw Jamie dancing around with his hands in the air, grinning ear to ear. Carolyn laughed and turned her head to say,

“I wonder how long he spent in the airport lounge.” Elise chuckled and they gently shoved their way through the crowd to meet him. He hugged Carolyn and then looked at Elise, raising his eyebrow in question he stepped close and hugged her, telling her,

“I’m so glad you came. We are really excited about this in the Baker family.” Elise who was feeling some serious nerves about meeting Carolyn’s parents smiled and told him,

“Thanks Jamie, if you could just bring that up a couple more times I’d really appreciate it.” He smiled confused and Carolyn explained,

“She’s in quite the state over this so if you could be gentle…” He grinned and told Elise,

“If you think that this is going to be scary you can just put your mind at ease. This is going to be like the ‘Elise Johnson’ appreciation weekend. Mom and Dad are so excited to meet Carolyn’s ‘Partner.’ I feel like I might as well have stayed at work for all the attention I’ve been getting. At breakfast this morning I was grilled about your favorite…pie, wine and vegetable. What about me? I ask you.” They both laughed and Elise did her best relax.

Carolyn reached down and took her hand and they followed Jamie to the baggage claim.

Elise looked at the big brick house as they pulled into the driveway. Jamie pushed the garage door opener and it opened quickly. He pulled the big navy BMW into its space and shut off the engine. They each took some bags and walked into the house.

They entered through the kitchen and set down their bags and Carolyn took Elise’s hand telling her quietly,

“Elise, I love you.” Elise’s blue eyes warmed under Carolyn’s love filled gaze.

“I love you.” Carolyn shooed Jamie away and took Elise in her arms and whispered,

“It’s all fine sweetheart, it’s just more family.” Elise squeezed her and Carolyn continued, ” I’m so proud to be your partner Elise.” Elise pulled her even more tightly into her arms and kissed her sweet smelling hair. They smiled at each other, Carolyn’s love giving Elise strength and comfort.

“I’m ready.” She said winking at Carolyn. They walked hand in hand into the family room.

Elise found herself in the family room alone having been shooed out of the kitchen by Carolyn’s Mother. Jamie and Carolyn were out running they wouldn’t be back for a while so she picked up the newspaper. She didn’t know how long she had been engrossed when Mr. Baker said,

“Finally a little peace and quiet to read the paper.” Elise looked up from the article she was reading and smiled,

“I tried to help in the kitchen but…”

“Yes, Barbara doesn’t allow anyone in her kitchen when she is ‘creating’ a feast.”

It was Thanksgiving morning and they had risen late and had homemade cinnamon buns, scrambled eggs, oranges and hot coffee. Carolyn and Jamie were running to make room for the dinner that Carolyn’s mom had been engrossed in since dawn. Elise wasn’t used to idleness when food was being prepared and she asked,

“No exceptions?”

“None that I’ve ever seen.”

“It’s strange to sit here and do nothing. I’ve never sat on a Thanksgiving day in my life.” Mr. Baker smiled and said,

“It’s nothing personal.” Elise laughed,

“I know – Carolyn warned me before we came that I wasn’t going to be helping with dinner.”

They were quiet for a long moment and then Mr. Baker asked,

“How do you like living in Chicago?”

“I like it, it’s a great city.”

“Have you been bored?” He and Barbara were concerned about this.

“You know, I haven’t been bored because it’s all new but long term…I couldn’t sit around so I’ve decided to…go to college. I always wanted to and now I have the perfect opportunity. Carolyn has been helping me consider what I want to get a degree in.” Mr. Baker smiled and said,

“That’s an excellent idea.” He was quiet for a couple of moments and then he asked,

“I hope you don’t mind my asking but…is college something you…and Carolyn can afford?” Elise smiled,

“Yes. I can afford to go to college.”

“I hope I didn’t just insult you, it’s just that…well Barbara and I would like to help if there were a need.” Elise looked at him in horror. She was deeply touched by his offer but…well she had plenty of money to go to college and to take care of Carolyn. She cleared her throat and said,

“Sir, I want you to know that I can take care of Carolyn. I…have a farm that brings a very good return each year and I also have investments. I…can take care of Carolyn, even if she didn’t want to work.” Mr. Baker looked at Elise surprised.

“I want to say again I meant no offense Elise.”

“I’m not offended sir, I just want you to know that Carolyn will be taken care of.” Mr. Baker smiled and said,

“What are you thinking you’ll get a degree in?”

“Carolyn thinks I should go with economics. I’m not sure but ultimately I think that I’m going to teach.” Mr. Baker gave a lopsided smile and asked,

“Why economics?”

“Oh…well because I’ve made some…money from researching the economy and investing accordingly and Carolyn thinks that I would be good at teaching. I have a month to decide because I’ll be beginning in late January. Right now my records say I’m undecided.”

Carolyn groaned as they ran up another hill. Panting she said to Jamie,

“For god’s sake, you’re killing me here. Are we ever going to stop?” Jamie grinned and panted,

“I promised Dad I’d keep you away for at least an hour.” Carolyn heard what he said and stopped still in the middle of the road,

“Why does Dad want to keep me away for an hour?” Jamie stopped about 10 feet ahead of her and puffed,

“So he can have a Dad to Daughter-in-law chat with Elise.” Carolyn looked like she was going to explode and Jamie quickly said,

“Carolyn, come on – you know Dad, he won’t say anything to offend her.” Carolyn glared at him,

“What the fuck does Dad need to check her out in that way for, I’m going to spend my life with her no matter what Dad thinks!” Jamie smiled and said,

“My aren’t we emphatic! Well he said he wanted to do everything right this time and that includes a chat about her intentions and a little discussion about her ability to care for you.” Carolyn’s blood pressure went even higher,

“Her ability to care for me?” She almost screamed. “If were talking about money she’s fucking loaded, Jamie.” Jamie looked at her in surprise and replied,

“Well then, you should just relax because she’ll tell Dad that and he will be thrilled.” Carolyn still looked angry and Jamie said,

“Carolyn, I can understand what you are feeling but Mom and Dad love you and they really think that you have found someone fantastic to spend your life with. Elise is going to be a part of our family for a long time and she is perfectly capable of talking to Dad about…stuff. Relax.” Carolyn let some of her anger go and tried to calm down.

“Come on let’s get back to the house. I want to see if Elise is alright.” Jamie fell in beside her and she scowled at him. He laughed and said,

“It’ll be fine, you’ll see.”

Elise was sitting in a chair beside Mr. Baker looking at the computer which shown a group of investments he had. She was asking him some very intelligent questions some of which he didn’t have the answers for. They discussed what percentages he had invested in high risk and low risk. He was dazzled by her knowledge of the markets and told her so. She blushed and went right on asking questions.

Carolyn walked into the study. She saw Elise pointing at the screen and then turning her head to look at Carolyn’s father. Jamie waited by the door smiling at Carolyn’s obvious protection of Elise. When Elise saw Carolyn she smiled a huge smile and Carolyn put her hand on Elise’s shoulder and pressed her lips to Elise’s temple.

“What are you guys up to?” She asked.

Elise looked up and frowned, hearing the tension in Carolyn’s voice. Carolyn’s eyes met hers with a question in them. Elise continued to stare wondering what she was asking. Carolyn just said quietly,

“Are you alright?” Elise looked at Carolyn and then looked over her should at Jamie who had come in the room. His eyes were smiling and Elise returned the question,

“Are you alright?” Carolyn frowned and then just said,

“I’ll be fine if I find out that you haven’t been…grilled to death by my Father.” Carolyn nailed him with a scowl. Her father looked up and said,

“Carolyn, your Mother and I can have a discussion with…Elise about your future. She didn’t mind.” He looked at Elise and asked,

“Did you?” Elise smiled and squeezed Carolyn’s hand,

“I didn’t mind at all.” Then she looked at Carolyn her eyes smiling and told her,

“Why don’t you go take a shower and we’ll probably be done here by the time you come back down.” Carolyn looked at Elise and then at her Father and said,

“Okay – if you’re sure.” Elise squeezed Carolyn’s hand and Carolyn slowly left the room. Jamie was just outside the door and he said,

“See, I told you it would be fine.”

“Shut up.” She glowered at him.

Elise took the stairs two at a time. Hoping to catch Carolyn in the shower. She entered the bedroom and closed the door behind her. The sound of the shower running energized her and she quickly stripped off her clothes and walked into the bathroom.

Carolyn heard the shower door opening and looked up a frown on her face. She saw Elise and relaxed into a smile,

“Hi. Are you okay?” Elise smiled and took Carolyn in her arms.

“I’m fine, better than fine. Your Dad just asked me what my plans were and I told him about college and he asked if they could help pay for it if you and I needed help.” Carolyn smiled suddenly forgetting to be angry with her Dad. Some days she felt giddy with love – today was one of them. Elise continued, “I of course told him I had plenty of money and we fell into a discussion about the stock market and before you knew it I was advising him. Which felt good and ridiculous at the same time.” Carolyn grinned and asked Elise,

“Ever done ‘it’ in a shower in Connecticut?” Elise laughed and began kissing Carolyn. When they pulled apart panting – Elise said,

“Not with you.” Carolyn grinned wickedly and firmly pushed Elise against the shower wall.

 

 

The End

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s