Wild part 2 by Kim Pritekel

Part 10

 

Zac walked around the forest, noting the way the snow had melted in parts. Some vegetation could be seen, though still not much. She checked around the area where she used to live. The lean-to was still there, and she kept up on it, making any repairs that needed to be made. Once the Cohens returned that summer, she’d move back into it.

She had to admit with a smile that she enjoyed living so close to the cabin. She felt like she was doing them a service, and loved the feeling. In truth she hadn’t had to run off anything more offensive than a fox or two, but still she felt important.

Aure ran up ahead, his tail wagging like crazy. The brunette smiled at her dog. They’d been together for two-and-a-half months. He was the best gift Spinney could have given her next to the blonde’s friendship.

“Don’t go too far!” she called out, and heard a small woof in response. Yep. She and the pup got along famously.

Zac thought about her time back here in Maine since last October. She was glad to be home. And when she’d been able to spend so much of her time with her friend, it had made it all worth it. The events of the previous summer seemed like another lifetime ago. She felt safe in that Spinney would not leave her again. Well, leave their friendship, that is. Nor would the little blonde forget about her. The brunette knew she had a firm place in her Spinney’s heart.

The grin was instant and unstoppable. Not that she would have wanted to anyway.

The blonde had been gone for 63 days, and was badly missed. The Cohens had left Zac with a cooler filled with food, and a huge bag of Puppy Chow for Aure. She had little to do but miss her friend. She even missed Spinney’s family. They were nice. Especially Spinney’s mom. She was exactly what the brunette would have wished her mom to be were she still alive.

They all treated her with such liking and respect. It was strange. Even Adam Cohen. They had put up the tent together, and he had joked with her and made her laugh.

She smiled at the memory, climbing onto the snow-covered bluff that she used as a look-out point. She wished so badly that she were climbing up there to watch out for Spinney. Summer time. As she looked around at the snow covering her world, it seemed like years away.

Zac sat down on a log, rested her chin in her palms and sighed.

*****

The weather in Boston was much better. Dirty piles of snow were pushed up against the curbs where the plows had gone through. Other than that, the streets were clear, and the skies were blue.

Abel and Jessica walked along the street they lived on, green eyes looking over into the park across the street. A few winter-bare trees littered the area, which housed a couple people walking their dogs.

She smiled as she watched one particularly active dog nearly run his owner ragged.

“Cute, huh?” Jess said, a smile in her voice. The blonde nodded.

“Yeah. That dog’s got some serious energy.” She stuffed her hands into her pockets, looking back to the buildings that lined the other side of the street.

“So we’re talking about maybe Cancun this time. Can you swing it?”

Abel looked up at her friend, and chewed on her bottom lip. Spring break was in a month, and the roommates were trying to decide where to go.

“I’m not sure,” she said, butterflies filling her stomach. She was nervous to tell her friend what she had been thinking of doing instead. Ever since she had left the cabin in January, she couldn’t get Zac out of her head. She missed the taller girl so badly it hurt sometimes. Lying in her bed at night, or even while in the back of the store stocking canned goods, she’d remember the brunette’s smile.

She could see it as she and Jess walked down the street. It would light up Zac’s entire face. Hell, it lit up the entire area. Those beautiful, straight pearly whites. It irritated Abel as she had had to endure braces. And then there’s Zac with the most perfect teeth she had ever seen. Just one more little perfection God threw into the mix. Her friend was unusually beautiful, and what made her even more so was the fact that she had absolutely no clue.

She smiled, feeling herself filled with warmth at the thought of those bright blue eyes.

“Dude, you look like a dork.”

Abel snapped out of her reverie and looked at Jessica. “What?”

“What’s up with that smile? You look constipated or something.”

SMACK!

“Ow! Jesus!” Jess held her arm protectively, moving slightly away from her blonde friend. “What’s up with you?”

“Nothing.” Blonde brows drew, embarrassed to be caught daydreaming. “Cancun, huh?”

“Yeah. But that was like five minutes worth of conversation ago. Where were you?” Jessica looked at Abel, wondering what the hell was wrong with her bud. Ever since she had gotten back for the new semester she had been in the clouds. Sometimes the darker girl would go into their room and find Abel laying on her bed, hands behind her head, and staring into space. When asked what she was thinking about, she’d fidget and say nothing. Just school.

“I was just thinking.”

“About what?” Jess grabbed her key from her pocket and inserted it into the lock on the front door of their building.

“Nothing. So who’s all wanting to go?” Abel hurried inside as Jessica held open the door for her.

“Not sure. I think the count’s up to seven.” The girls headed down the hall until they reached the door to their apartment.

“Wow. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to afford it or not.” Abel bit her bottom lip, knowing she was lying to her friend. She hated it.

“Really? I thought you said your folks were going to be able to help you out.”

The blonde shrugged. “I’m not sure.”

She put her backpack on her bed, and changed for work. She would have to give this more thought.

As she opened the drawer to get her work shirt out, she noticed the neatly folded piece of paper on the dresser. Dropping the shirt on the bed, she unfolded it, a smile brushing her lips as she took in the carefully-written words, and beautifully-drawn pictures.

The paper was bordered by an outdoors scene, trees and deer and wolves. Green eyes scanned to the beginning of the words:

Spinney- I’m not sure what to say in this, but will do the best I can. First, I want to thank you for making my life good again. You make my days bright, and make me smile endlessly.

I’m no poet by any stretch, but you make my heart want to sing like a bard, shouting through story and lore at the top of my lungs just what you mean to me.

I’m no dancer, but my feet itch to glide across the earth in a ritual of comfort and joy every time I see your car round the bend.

I may not be the smartest girl in the world, but I know that what I have is precious, and worth so much more than gold.

I am able to see you every day in the forest. I look up into the sky and see your hair, shining like spun silk, and shining down to warm my skin.

I see your eyes in the new birth of leaves and grasses.

I see your smile in the lake as it sparkles in the sun like diamonds.

I am indeed a rich woman.

Thank you, Spinney. Thank you for being my friend.

Zac

The blonde read the words that had so touched her heart and sighed, pressing the paper to her chest.

“What a sweetie.” She sighed again.

*****

Spring break was quickly approaching, and Kendra and Jess sat in the kitchen going over the plans for their trip once more. They were excited, both near giggling at the prospect of warm, sunny Cancun for a week.

“Hey, girl!” Jessica exclaimed when Abel walked in through the back door, work shirt folded over her arm.

“Hey guys.” The blonde smiled and headed over to the refrigerator to get some juice.

“Are you sure you can’t go, Abel?” Kendra whined. She pouted, her lower lip falling to near the floor. The blonde grinned, and fingered the lip as she always did.

“Yes, I’m sure.” Abel grabbed her juice, and headed toward the room she shared with Jess, who had followed her. She tossed the shirt into the hamper and plopped down on her bed, taking a large gulp of the tangy Tropicana.

“Hey, girl,” Jess said quietly as she closed the door behind her. She sat down on her own bed across from the blonde.

“Hi,” Abel said, brows drawn in confusion. It was obvious her friend wanted to talk about something, and she felt slightly nervous about it. She eyed her roommate, chewing on her bottom lip. They stared at each other, each lost in her own thoughts. Jessica tapped her chin, trying to decide which angle to take.

“Soooo,” she began. “What’s going on?”

“With?” Abel leaned back on her hands, eyes still boring into Jess.

“With the trip. Abel, we’ve been talking about this for three years.” Jessica leaned forward on the bed, forearms resting on her thighs. “Level with me, blondie.”

Abel glared, always hating that term that Jess always felt the need to use – probably because the blonde hated it.

“Zac-”

“Ah, right. The Paul Bunyon of the north.” Jess sat back again, waiting for more, and ignoring the second glare from her friend in as many seconds.

“Yes, the girl I know from our cabin in Maine. I worry about her, okay?” Abel threw her hands up in exasperation.

“So give her a call. Invite her to drive up here for a weekend or so.” Jess shrugged, not understanding what had her friend’s undies in such a twist.

“It’s not that easy, Jessica,” Abel said softly. “She has no phone.” She sighed, deciding to tell her the full truth. “She lives in the woods. She lives in a tent that my parents gave her for Christmas, and also in a little lean-to that is part cave that she built herself.”

The darker girl looked at her like she was nuts. “What?”

“I know it’s crazy. Her father was a criminal and brought her to live in the woods in this crappy little cabin to hide from the cops. He instilled in her this horrible fear of anything civilized. Not to say that she’s some barbarian, ’cause she’s not.”

“She’s lived in the woods in a tent?” Jess asked, incredulous.

“Well, she does now. Before it was a cabin, then a lean-to.”

“A lean-to. This girl lived in a shed?”

“Oh, Jess! Be nice.” Abel smacked her friend, her protective ire rising. “This poor girl has had nothing and no one to care for her.” Jessica saw the green fire burning, and knew that her friend was serious.

“Okay, okay.” She reached across and touched her roomie’s leg. “I was just teasing, Abel. Tell me about her.”

As Abel extolled on all of Zac’s wonderful virtues, Jessica watched her carefully. She had never heard her talk about someone like this before. It was curious but utterly charming at the same time. Jess sensed something, but couldn’t put a finger on it.

Abel almost showed Jessica the sweet letter than Zac had given her for Christmas, but decided against it. She didn’t think her friend would understand. She wanted so badly for Jess to know and understand how sweet Zac was. How kind and generous, and just absolutely amazing.

“So, needless to say, I want to make sure that she has enough food and that Aure does, too,” Abel finished, looking her friend in the eye, silently daring her to object. Jessica met her gaze, sizing her up, and finally nodded.

“Okay, girl. I hope you have a good time. I’ll really miss you in Cancun.” Abel launched herself off the bed and grabbed her friend in a massive hug.

“Thanks, Jess,” she said, grateful for her friendship with the darker girl. She loved Jessica dearly, and understood why. Jess had always been there for her.

So, Abel started to make arrangements to hit the cabin and see Zac. She was so excited; far more so than if she were going to Cancun with her friends. Packing her bag for the week’s trip, she whistled happily. Knowing that it would still be cool, she packed lots of long-sleeved shirts and a couple pairs of jeans. She also brought along some t-shirts and a lone pair of shorts should they get the occasional freak nice day.

Ready to go days before she was to leave, she sat at the computer set up in the living room. Her roommates had their bags packed and stacked next to the door. They were leaving the following morning. For just a moment, Abel wished she were going with them, but then she remembered where she was going instead and found a smile on her lips.

She worked on the term paper that was due after break, leaning her cheek on her hand as she used the mouse to search several websites for research.

“Hey, girl,” Jess said as she entered the apartment.

“Hi,” Abel said absently as she searched. Jessica walked over to her and gave her a hug from behind. Abel smiled, wrapping her arms over those around her neck.

“We’re gonna miss you,” the darker girl said.

“I’ll miss you guys, too, Jess.” Green eyes met brown. “Thanks for being so understanding. It means a lot to me.”

“Yeah, well, I still think you owe me some information.” Jess released the blonde and stood, stretching her back from her time at the gym. “I’m going to bed. Night.”

“Night.”

*****

Zac ran ahead, trying to beat the little mongrel that was close at her heels. She was laughing, her breaths coming out in small, white puffs as the early dawn air filled the forest.

“Come on, you loser!” She grinned, pushing even harder, her booted feet pounding the earth. She could hear the heavy breathing of her dog as he began to eclipse her. “Crap!” she growled. “Oh no you don’t.” Giving it all she had, she pushed even harder, throwing her head back, long hair flying back from her head in a wave of ebony.

She saw the finish line coming up. If she could just make it to between those two rocks . . .

“Woohoo!” she yelled, scaring some birds out of their spring nests. She slowed and tried to catch her breath. Aure ran in circles around his master, not ready to take a breath yet. “What do you want, you mutt?” Zac gasped, resting her hand on a tree trunk for stability as she allowed her lungs to completely fill with air. The golden dog whined, and got his pet from his master. He turned his head and licked the palm that had just been resting on his fur.

Zac was about to kneel down for their daily wrestle when she stopped. Ears perked, she hurried up to the bluff, Aure nipping at her heels. She scanned the area, the sunglasses she had received for Christmas firmly in place.

A huge grin spread across the beautiful face, and she jumped down.

“Come on, Aure!” she yelled, running as fast as her legs could carry her toward the Cohen cabin and her tent, earlier exertion completely forgotten. The blue car would be there in less than five minutes, and she wanted to be there to greet her Spinney.

She saw the car disappear around the bend, only to appear again, even closer. She could see Spinney’s face clearly through the windshield, and was excited when the blonde smiled and waved. She waved back, holding Aure back as he wanted to catch this large, moving thing.

The car came to a stop, and as soon as she had the engine cut off, Abel threw open the door and ran to her friend. She was caught up in a huge hug, strong arms holding her tight.

“What are you doing here, Spinney?” Zac asked quietly, but did not dare relinquish her hold on the blonde.

“I came to see you,” Abel said, her eyes closed at the comfort and safety that enveloped her. “It’s spring break. I get a week break from school every March,” she explained. Pulling apart, she smiled up into sparkling blue eyes. “Surprised?”

“Yeah! Definitely.” The brunette looked down at the whining four-and-a-half-month-old pup who sat at her feet. “Spinney, Aure says hi.” She grinned at her friend. The blonde knelt down, looking at the yellow lab.

“You have grown, little man.” She grinned, petting the velvety ears. “He’s so cute, Zac.” She smiled up at her taller friend, then turned her eyes back to the big, brown ones closer to her eye level. The puppy was more than happy to share his wet kisses with his new friend. Abel giggled, meanwhile trying to dodge the smooches. “How’s he doing with the Puppy Chow we left?” she asked, dodging a big wet one.

Zac watched, happy beyond all measure to have her Spinney back with her. And early, too! “He’s doing okay. Be out soon, though. He likes Oscar’s hot dogs, though.” The brunette grinned, mighty proud of herself for finding this little gem out. Able laughed, standing, and swiping at her dust-covered knees.

“Come on, my friend. Help me unload the car.” She grabbed Zac’s hand, leading her toward the trunk. She pushed the button on her alarm pad, the trunk popping open.

It only took about fifteen minutes for the car to be emptied, and Aure to lay on the floor in front of the quiet fireplace, chewing on his new bone, and the girls to be situated on the couch, watching the pooch, eating.

“These are good, Spinney,” Zac said, her mouth near capacity with the Spaghetti-O’s.

“I love these things.” Abel reached over and fingered a little o that was hanging from the brunette’s lip. She grinned, thinking her friend’s excitement was as adorable as always.

“How long are you staying?” the brunette asked, then sipped from her Coke, which she also found quite tasty.

“You get me for one whole week.” Abel grinned, spoonful of Spaghetti O’s halfway to her mouth. “You excited?” Zac nodded vigorously.

“Very. And did you know that the muskrat can stay submerged under water for fifteen minutes at a time?”

“Good. As you should be.” She looked at her friend, trying to figure out the change of subject. “No, Zac. I can’t say I knew that.” She grinned big, reaching out to poke Zac in the side. The brunette squirmed, glaring. An evil look swept through the green eyes, and Abel put her lunch on the coffee table, then reached for her friend’s bowl. Zac looked at her, blue eyes wide with surprise and curiosity.

“What are you doing? I was eating that!” The words were no sooner out of her mouth when ten fingers began to attack her sides unmercifully. “Ugh!” she exclaimed, reeling back against the arm of the couch, trying to avoid her attacker, to no avail.

Abel was laughing wildly. Aure jumped up and began to bark at the ruckus from the couch. He watched as his master was attacked, his ears flopping with every body-shaking bark.

“No fair! No fair!” Zac yelled, finally falling to the floor in her attempt to get away from the seeking fingers. Tears were running down her cheeks from laughing so hard.

“What do ya mean, no fair?” the blonde laughed, following her friend to the floor, straddling her longer body, fingers digging into Zac’s ribs and stomach.

“You . . . cheated . . . squirt!” Zac gasped between laughter. The blonde stopped for a second.

“Squirt?!” Her voice was filled with incredulity. Zac grinned, nice and big. “Grr.” Abel began her attack again, this time Zac fighting back, her own fingers finding all of the blonde’s ticklish spots.

Screams and laughter could be heard outside the cabin, a curious fox quickly dashing back into the woods as a shrill bark accompanied the laughter.

After more than an hour of tickle fight, Zac lay on the floor, her body wrapped around that of her Spinney. The blonde laid her head on the brunette’s arm, snug as a bug in a rug. She was running her fingers through the sleeping Aure’s fur. He was curled up against her stomach.

Zac reached an arm over Spinney’s waist and ran her hand down the length of her dog’s back.

“He’s so cute,” the blonde said, her voice quiet. For a moment, just a very strange moment, she felt like Aure was a baby being watched over by two very proud parents. It was slightly unsettling, yet comforting, somehow.

“Yes he is,” Zac said quietly in Spinney’s ear. She loved the feel of the blonde’s warm back against her front, and had missed it. She hadn’t felt it since the week in December before the Cohens arrived. “He’s a good boy.”

“He seems to really love you.” Abel caught Zac’s hand in hers, and held it, resting on Aure’s side.

“I love him. He keeps me company.” Zac brought Spinney’s hand up and studied the fingers, shorter than her own, but strong and capable all the same. She compared their length to her own, seeing that hers dwarfed that of the blonde.

“You have big hands,” Abel said, also noting their hands. She felt Zac nod, the brunette’s chin resting against her shoulder. “Strong.” Able ran a fingertip over some scars that ran along the back of it. “Soft,” she whispered, tracing the faint, white lines with a nail. “What are these from?”

Zac shrugged. “Who knows? Different stupid things, I guess. Cuts, scrapes.” Blue eyes focused on a very faint scar right in the center of the top of Spinney’s left hand. “What’s this from?” She ran a fingertip over it. She loved how smooth the blonde’s skin was. So unbelievably soft. She could touch it all day.

“Oh,” Abel chuckled at the memory. “One time when I was like five, my mom was ironing real quick before work and dropping me off at school. I was standing there at the ironing board, barely able to see over the thing, and put my hand down. She was in a hurry, and didn’t notice, zoom!” She moved her hand through the air. “Ran right over it. Burned me.” She raised her hand, looking at the slightly raised skin, now only about the size of a bb. At one time it had been the size of a nickel.

“Ouch.”

“Yeah. It hurt. I remember that pretty good.” She smiled. “My mother got so mad at me.”

“Why?” Zac took the hand in hers again, bringing the scar to her eyes for a closer inspection.

“Because it made us late. She felt bad later, but at the time she was just concerned with getting us out the door on time.”

Zac gently wrapped her fingers around the hand, bringing it to her lips, and lightly kissing the 15-year-old scar. “All better.” She smiled down at Spinney, who was already smiling up at her. “I like your mom.”

“Good. She likes you.” Abel took her hand back, surprised at the slight heaving in her stomach at the light brushing of lips against her skin. She looked at the scar, and for the strangest second, it did feel better, even though it hadn’t hurt in years. Shaking her head to clear it, she concentrated on where their conversation was going.

“I’m still not sure if your dad likes me,” the brunette said shyly. She began tracing a natural part in Aure’s fur, the pup sighing contentedly in his sleep and flopping over to his side.

“Sure he does.” Green eyes watched with rapt attention as the long fingers of her friend played in the golden fur. “I don’t know if he is quite sure what to make of you.” She grinned. “But I assure you he likes you. Believe me, he’s a cheapskate. If he didn’t like you, he never would have let mom spend all that money on you for Christmas.”

“That was very nice of them,” Zac said quietly, her voice almost wistful. “I really wish I had known my mom.”

Abel twisted in the brunette’s arms until she was resting on her back, looking up into the beautiful face of her friend. “Do you remember anything about her?” she asked gently, taking Zac’s hand into her own. Zac shook her head sadly.

“Not much. I remember she had the prettiest eyes.”

“Were they like yours?” Abel asked, looking into the blue depths. “Because I have to tell you, Zac. I think you have the most beautiful eyes I’ve ever seen.” She smiled, enjoying the one she got in return.

“Thank you, Spinney. Yes, I think they were like mine. My father had brown eyes I think.” She thought for a moment, then nodded. “Yeah. But oh, they’d get so dark when he was mad.” She shook her head at the memory. “He did that a lot.”

“Got mad?” Zac nodded. “At you?”

“At whatever.” Zac flopped over to her back, her hands clasped behind her head, staring at the beamed ceiling. “I used to go hide in this hole out in the woods. I’d dug it years ago to play in.”

“Did he ever hurt you?” Abel asked, her voice quiet. She so rarely got her friend to talk about her past or her family that she would do everything in her power to encourage her. Zac shrugged.

“I just kept my distance.”

Abel watched her friend, seeing the play of emotions in her expressive eyes, and could see that the brunette was starting to retreat within herself. Okay, so they’d stay away from Bud Lipton.

“What about your mom? Tell me more.” The blonde was glad when she saw a small, soft smile play at the edges of Zac’s lips.

“She was pretty. Very kind. She used to be so nice to the animals around our house. We didn’t live far from here. But there were other houses. She would feed the animals, or leave food out for them.”

“I guess you inherited that, huh?” Zac turned to look at Spinney, seeing the smile in her gorgeous green eyes. She smiled back.

“Guess so.”

“You could be my very own Dr. Doolittle.”

“Who?”

“He’s a veterinarian who talks to animals, and can understand what they say back to him.”

Zac looked at her friend like she was nuts. “Is he crazy?” Abel giggled.

“No, you goof. It’s just a story. And a movie, but started out as stories and I think a television series. I don’t know. That’s just what you remind me of.” Abel shrugged.

“I remind you of some crazy vet who thinks he can talk to animals?” Zac raised a brow, and received a poke in her side for the trouble. She grabbed it, wincing. Their tickle war had left her ribs sensitive.

“So what do you wanna do this week other than stay with me?”

Zac looked at her friend, smiling at the adorable face that grinned hopefully at her, as blonde lashes were batted. Too cute!

“I don’t know. What do you want to do this week? And,” She leaned up on her elbows, looking down at her friend. “Yes, I will stay with you.”

“Yay!” Abel launched herself at Zac, pushing her back to the floor and giving her a massive hug.

Zac wrapped her arms around the feisty blonde, enjoying the feel of her smaller body against her own. The brunette had never really been much for affection or physical contact, but her Spinney had changed that and so many other things. Never had she waited so impatiently for the appearance of another human being. Always alone and adrift, Zac felt comfortable by herself, and actually preferred it.

Not anymore.

“I gotta pee.” Abel jumped up, extricating herself from Zac. She hurried up the stairs, a barking Aure at her heels. She grinned as she heard her friend call the dog back. Once behind the closed door, Abel took a deep breath.

She could still feel Zac with her, almost as if the brunette were standing beside her. The buzz was so strong it was almost disconcerting. She closed her eyes, absorbing the feeling. Even when she’d been back at school, she had been able to feel her somehow. It was so strange, and the little blonde had the feeling that Jessica was trying to figure it out.

“Good luck, Jess,” Abel muttered, unable to figure it out herself.

*****

“Okay.” Abel plopped down on the floor of her room, Zac sitting across from her. The blonde reached into her bag, and brought out one of two very heavy books. “This first one,” She grunted as she managed to get it placed in the brunette’s lap. “Is all about the last century. Things that have happened in America’s history.”

Zac watched with rapt attention as the silver paper-covered book waited to be perused.

“‘We Interrupt This Broadcast,’” she read, and looked up at Spinney with confusion. “Broadcast?”

“Yeah. You know, like a radio? Or even television. See, when something huge happens, disasters, that kind of thing, there’s usually a special report of some kind telling you about it.” Abel leaned over and opened the cover of the large text. “This is a really cool book. See, it comes with these two CDs.” She tapped their little envelope just inside the cover. “You can listen to the actual broadcasts as your read what happened.”

Zac smiled, looking at her friend as she grinned from ear to ear. The brunette didn’t totally understand this, but could see how excited her friend was.

“Okay. How does it work?”

“Well, hang on.” Abel reached into the bag again and dug out the second book. “This one is on modern inventions. You know, things that have come about within the last hundred years or so. Cell phones,” she brought her own off its place on her belt. “Computers, different cars, telephones, all of it.” She gave Zac a sweet smile, and reached over to brush some strands of hair behind the taller girl’s ear. “I figure it’s about time we get you into the twenty-first century.” She was about to turn toward her desk when she heard Zac’s voice.

“Spinney? Did you know that muskrats make their houses out of bulrushes, weeds and packed mud?” Abel took in the wide, excited eyes and the flushed features of excited knowledge. “And,” she continued, “They have a separate sleeping thingy for each member of the family. Pretty cool, huh!?”

Abel smiled, completely and utterly charmed.

“That’s very cool, Zac. You’ve been reading from your zoology book again, haven’t you?” The brunette nodded, looking slightly shy, but still excited. Abel felt a wave of affection rush through her, stepped back over to her friend, and wrapped her arms around Zac’s shoulders in a massive hug. “Good.”

*****

She sat at her desk, laptop open and booting as she ruffled through her psych papers. She had a paper due, and decided to do some work. Glancing over her shoulder, she saw Zac laid out on her bed on her stomach, legs bent at the knees and ankles crossed. Her calves were swinging slowly back and forth. Green eyes scanned up the long frame to see the yellow and black headphones on the brunette’s ears, and the ‘Broadcast’ book open in front of her.

Zac was slowly turning the page, eager to see what happened with the Hindenburg in 1937. She had never heard of such a thing, like a huge balloon lifting into the air. She knew of airplanes, but . . .

She stopped, looking up, pressing her fingers against the headphones to hear even better as the reporter began to talk of the voyage of the Hindenburg, and how it burst into flames, falling to the ground, and killing thirty-five people. And he be began to actually cry!

“It’s a terrific crash . . . There’s smoke and there’s flames . . . The fires are crashing to the ground . . . Oh the humanity!”

Zac could feel the sting behind her lids as her own emotions rose with the young radio reporter’s. She quickly turned the page to see Pearl Harbor Under Attack. Having no clue what Pearl Harbor was, she began to read as the voice in her ear explained what happened on December 7, 1941.

Tears began to fall slowly down her cheeks as she listened to the tin-voiced reporter tell the country of the Japanese attack on the Hawaiian base.

Abel heard the soft sound of a sniffle, and looked over her shoulder. She saw tears flowing down Zac’s face and hurried over to the bed.

“Sweetie, oh, Zac.” She sat down next to her and put her hand on her back. “What’s wrong?” Bright blue eyes looked up at her, made electric by the upset.

“We were attacked,” she cried, lower lip trembling. “And then the thing blew up, and the reporter guy was so upset. And then we attacked on D-Day, then President Roosevelt died.” She was crying now.

“Oh, honey.” The blonde took her friend into her arms, and let her sob. These were world events she knew that the taller girl had never heard of, so it was almost as if it was happening for the first time for her. “Do you want me to turn it off?”

“No!” Zac looked at her with big eyes. “No, I want to know.”

“Okay.” Abel brushed back ebony hair, and grabbed a Kleenex off her nightstand. “Here.” The brunette took the tissue and wiped at her eyes. With one last look shared, Abel headed back to her computer, keeping a careful eye on her friend.

Zac slowly turned the pages, eyes wide. Her face was a mass of expression. Sometimes she smiled and outright laughed, and then sadness would overtake her beautiful face again.

Abel had turned to her computer screen, computer glasses firmly on her nose, and was reading over what she had already written when she squeaked in surprise. Suddenly a picture of a very dead student was before her.

“Look, Spinney,” Zac said, pointing. “How sad. Is Kent State a good school?” she asked. The blonde looked at the picture of the massacre from 1970.

“Oh, uh, don’t know, Zac. I’ve never been there.”

Blue eyes scanned the page again, such compassion filling them. “Sad,” she said softly, and Abel put her hand on the brunette’s forearm.

“Yes, it is. It’s part of our history. From what I understand, the Vietnam war was a time of conflict in America. Lots of young people hated it.”

“Why?” Zac plopped down on the floor next to Abel’s chair, still flipping through the pages.

“I’m not sure. I think mainly because they felt the Vietnam war was primarily political for the United States, and we had no right to interfere in the Vietnamese conflict. Especially once our boys over there started dying. It was kind of a loss of innocence for the country, I think.” Abel stared at her computer screen, lost in thought. “My Uncle Eddie was lost by a sniper in the war,” she said softly.

“I’m sorry, Spinney.”

“Nah. I didn’t know him. He died before I was born, but I know it affected my dad a lot. They were pretty close I think.”

“Wow.” The brunette leaned back against the side of Spinney’s chair, closing her eyes when she felt fingers begin to run through her hair. She released a soft sigh, reveling in the contact.

Abel turned back to her paper, hand absently caressing the long, dark strands. So beautiful.

*****

Abel woke suddenly, not sure why. She opened her eyes and looked around the moon-soaked room. A branch was scraping lightly against the window as it was blown by the wind.

Taking inventory of her body, she felt the warmth along her back and thighs, knowing that it was Zac’s body pressed to her own. She gently ran a fingertip over the larger hand that was draped over her side. Sighing deeply, she snuggled her body further back into the brunette’s, absorbing its warmth and softness. The taller girl sighed in her sleep, and wrapped her arm fully around the blonde’s waist.

Abel stared out the window, a soft smile caressing her lips. The moon was bright overhead, and for a moment she had the urge to run outside and dance in its radiance. Deciding against it, she turned her thoughts to her friend instead.

Laying with Zac in her bed made the little blonde realize just how much she had missed her. She had missed the brunette’s touch, her voice, her laughter, and the soft trust in her startling blue eyes. She had missed the innocence that radiated through Zac and made Abel’s heart melt. So much Zac had missed out on, yet she seemed remarkably well balanced despite, or even perhaps because of it.

She loved Zac’s purity, yet her evil streak that showed itself in the times that the brunette had shoved snow down Abel’s sweater the previous winter, and how during their time out in the woods earlier that day, Zac had raced with Abel, only to tackle her to the ground.

Green eyes closed as she remembered the feeling that had coursed through her body when Zac was on top of her, her wrists pinned above her head. The unexpected urgency that had filled her, and settled down south. Seeing Zac’s flushed face above her own, those blue eyes blazing with the excitement of their play. The way Zac’s breath had caressed her face as they had stared at each other.

“God,” Abel whispered, not sure what to do with these feelings that were beginning to wash over her. She wasn’t entirely sure what these feelings were. They just were. She knew she loved Zac dearly, and Zac was the best, dearest friend she ever had. But what was nagging at her? Why did it hurt so bad to think of leaving the brunette to go back to school in a few days?

The hoot of an unseen owl answered her silent questions, and made Abel sigh again. She felt no more enlightened.

*****

“No, no. Like this. Hold it straight out from your body, Spinney. Yeah. Rigid like that. There’s no thrust involved, just patient swaying. There you go. Just like that.”

“I got it! I got it! Look at it go!”

Zac laughed, pleased to see the large trout flinging itself at the end of Spinney’s line.

“Reel it in, Spinney!” she called out, walking up behind the blonde, and placing her hands on the girl’s hips to keep her grounded. The fish was large, and certainly struggling. Aure stood on the bank of the lake barking his little golden head off.

“Oh, that was sweet!” Abel squealed, bringing the dangling fish to the shore. Zac quickly cut the line, and set the fish in the cooler that the Cohens had given her for Christmas.

“You did real good, Spinney.” She grinned big, proud of her new fishing protégé. “Now, watch the master at work.” She gave the blonde a nice, big toothy smile, and baited her dad’s old pole. Abel watched, grossed as Zac impaled the squirming worm to the end.

“That is so nasty,” she muttered. She wondered how on earth her friend did any of this wilderness stuff.

“Eh, you get used to it.” Line baited, Zac made a fantastic cast, her baited hook making a small plop in the still water.

“Beautiful,” Abel said, stepping up beside Zac and placing her hand at the small of the brunette’s back. She watched, both of them breathless as they waited for the tell tale sign of bubbles.

Aure watched, muscles taut as he waited to see what his mistresses were watching for, a growl ready in his throat.

“Shh, Aure,” Zac whispered, waiting for that perfect moment. The pup whined quietly, but obeyed. “Here it comes,” she mumbled, slowly reeling in the line. “Come to mamma.”

The fish, large and lively, whipped out of the water, body flailing as droplets of water sprayed across the surface of the water.

“Go you!” Abel clapped wildly as she watched her friend reel in the fish, putting it with the much smaller one she had caught in the cooler. Zac turned to her, blue eyes shining. “I am impressed.” The blonde put a hand to her hip, grinning up at the taller girl.

“As you should be. I’m the queen of fish.” Zac matched Abel’s pose, daring the squirt to challenge her claim.

“Hey, who am I to question that one? Go you.” Abel smirked, making Zac frown.

“What? Aren’t you impressed?”

“I already told you I was.”

Zac eyed her, seeing the grin that was ready to peek out at any moment. “Uh huh. Just for that your next lesson will be in cleaning said fish.” She grinned, pulling her knife out of her boot, and handing it to Abel handle first.

*****

The girls laid on the floor, having moved the coffee table out of the way. They’d gotten terribly burned while fishing, and now didn’t want to move. Abel readjusted herself, head laying on Zac’s shoulder, arm draped across her stomach.

“I like that,” Zac said, pointing to the car on the television screen. They were watching a commercial for the new BMW on the E! channel.

“I could most definitely handle one of those,” Abel agreed, watching as the car was driven across a rain-washed street. “I’ve always wondered why they wet the streets down before they shoot commercials for cars.”

“Maybe because the lights reflect really well.”

“Hmm. Maybe so.”

The reporter came back on for E! New Live, talking about a new coffee table book of scenery that was being published by Little Brown for photographer Laurel Gleason.

“Laurel is here with us today. Nice to meet you, Laurel.”

“You, too, Amber. Thanks for inviting me,” the woman with the short blonde hair said, shaking the offered hand.

“So, you’ve done books of celebrity portraits before,”

“Right.”

“So why did you switch to nature?” The dark haired reporter had the book in her lap and was flipping through the pages.

“Well, we came back to Boston so my partner could attend a funeral, and decided to take in the scenery of the east coast.”

“By partner of course you mean renowned heart surgeon Caden Lodge.”

“That would be the one.” Laurel smiled, her green eyes bright with pride. “So, I decided to put it all together in a book.”

Abel watched, looking at the pictures that were shown, thinking how much Zac would probably enjoy that.

“I am totally going to get you that book,” she said, sitting up to get a better look at it.

“Why?” Zac also sat up, resting her chin on Spinney’s shoulder.

“Because. It looks like pictures of lots of places you’d like. You know, places with lots of dirt and mud, and animal dung, ouch!” The blonde found herself pinned to the floor with tickling fingers digging into her sides. “Uncle! Uncle!” she cried between gasps of laughter. Zac let her up and nudged her playfully.

“You think I’m only into dirty places, huh?”

“Well I don’t know. Are you?” Abel met her gaze.

“I, um,” Zac turned back to the screen. Spinney was sitting very close to her, her eyes so beautiful and clear. She loved to look into those green eyes, but suddenly she felt a wave of nervousness go through her. She had to look away, and didn’t know why.

Abel also turned back to the screen.

Was I just flirting with her? She pondered this, wondering what the hell was wrong with her.

“Let’s take a bath, Zac,” she said, getting to her feet. Her arms were sore from their fishing expedition that day, and she thought that the soothing water could help to relax her, as well as cool her sunburned body off with cooler temperatures.

“Okay.”

Ten minutes later they sat in the huge tub, Jacuzzi jets on full power. The soothing movement helped their skin, and both relaxed. Abel sat with her head back, eyes closed, and arms resting out along the back of the tub. Zac was looking at her.

Zac watched the way the water rolled around Spinney’s shoulders, and she could just barely see the tops of the blonde’s bra-clad breasts. Her gaze rose to find she was staring straight into curious green. Quickly looking away, she failed to see the green gaze that roamed over her own shoulders, face and exposed breasts. The silk that covered them was near see-through from the water.

Abel’s eyes scanned the smooth skin, strong shoulders that led to a long, graceful neck. She took in Zac’s face, uninhibited by hair now, as it was water slicked. The angular features, straight, proud nose and full lips, which she realized were moving.

“What?” the blonde asked, feeling eternally stupid.

“I asked if you wanted to do that thing you promised,” Zac said. She had noticed her friend staring at her, and it made her feel warm in the most interesting places. She was so confused.

“Oh. Um, right.” Abel readjusted her position, spreading her legs, and inviting Zac to back up and sit between them. She felt the brunette’s body scoot closer, water swishing around them from the movement. The blonde was presented with the smooth expanse of her friend’s back, and she brought her hands up.

She ran them down the warm skin, only hindered by the bra straps. “Beautiful,” she said, nearly a reverent whisper.

Zac closed her eyes, the feeling of Spinney’s hands on her skin made her head spin. She felt waves of warmth spread throughout her body, making it tingle.

Abel began to massage the skin of the brunette’s shoulders, feeling the muscles relax under her fingertips. The skin was smooth and silky from the water and Zac’s own natural softness.

Zac moaned slightly when she felt the muscle of her shoulders being pinched, her head dropping.

“Like that?” Abel asked quietly. She smiled at the nod she got. Her eyes dropped to the vertebrae in Zac’s spine, then took in a few scars that littered the otherwise perfect skin. She brought her hand up and brushed the long, wet strands of Zac’s hair over the taller girl’s shoulder so she could have better access.

Zac started a bit when the wet strands brushed across her nipple. The feeling sent shivers down her spine, and she tucked that away to dig out later. What was it about?

“You’re tense, Zac,” Abel said, her voice a whisper in Zac’s ear. The brunette gasped slightly from the sensation that caused. She could not speak, but instead nodded. “We’ll change that.”

Doubtful, Zac thought. She felt her body becoming more and more keyed up with every touch. What the hell is happening to me?

For Abel’s part, she was enjoying the feel of Zac’s skin immensely. She thought Zac was the most beautiful woman she had ever seen, and the fact that she was allowing such openness with her amazed her. If she put her mind to it, Zac could have any one person she wanted. She wondered just what Zac did want.

“Zac?”

“Hmm?” was nearly purred.

“Do you want to date?” Abel dug her fingers into a particularly sensitive spot and Zac winced. “Oh, sorry, sweetie.”

“Date?”

“Yeah. You know, find some cute guy and go on a date with him. Have you ever had sex?” Abel cocked her head slightly to the side, studying the woman who sat between her legs. She felt Zac’s hand wrap itself around the underside of her calf, the thumb lightly brushing over the water-soft skin.

“No,” Zac said quietly. “I’ve never thought about it. Dating, that is.”

The blonde smiled. “And sex?” Zac shrugged.

“Who’d want to do that with me?” She moaned again as the magic hands roamed down to massage on either side of her spine.

“Probably just about anyone. You’re gorgeous,” she said matter-of-factly. She continued down Zac’s back, her eyes lingering on the bra strap. She considered unsnapping it, knowing it would be easier to massage that way, but felt strange about it. She abandoned the idea.

“Oh.” Zac laughed nervously. “Thank you. I think you’re gorgeous, too, Spinney.” She looked shyly over her shoulder, a small smile playing across her lips.

“Aww, you’re so sweet.” Abel snaked her arms through Zac’s, clasping her hands just under Zac’s breasts. She pulled the taller girl back against her, reveling in the closeness.

Zac was surprised by the move, but went with it. She closed her eyes, sighing at the contact. Spinney’s skin was so warm and soft. Unbelievably soft. She felt Spinney’s hands lock under her breasts, and felt a brand new wave of heat wash over her. It almost made her feel light-headed.

“Would you ever have sex?” Abel asked, resting her chin on Zac’s shoulder. She felt the shrug.

“I don’t know. It would depend on the situation and who it was. Besides,” she said shyly. “I wouldn’t have a clue what to do anyway.”

The blonde smiled, closing her eyes and inhaling the smell of Zac’s hair.

“Have you ever kissed anyone?”

“No. Have you had sex, Spinney?” Zac was nearly holding her breath, not sure she wanted the answer. She had this strange feeling of almost being territorial with her petite friend. The thought of anyone touching her made her feel angry. And . . . jealous?

“Yes.” Abel’s answer was soft. She felt guilty about admitting this for some reason. She was sexually responsible and certainly not promiscuous, but still . . .

“Do you enjoy it?” Why are you asking this!?

“Yes. It’s nice.”

“Do you have a boyfriend, Spinney?”

Abel was surprised by the timbre of Zac’s voice. She almost sounded as though about to cry. Brows drawn, she answered simply. “No.” She almost wondered if she had had one, would she have told the truth?

Zac smiled, feeling better as she snuggled in closer to Spinney’s chest. It was usually the blonde who snuggled into her, so she enjoyed this turnabout. She could feel the softness of Spinney’s breasts against her back, the nipples grazing the bare skin. She felt a flush start from her toes that moved steadily up to her scalp. She sighed contentedly.

*****

Zac led Abel through the woods, hand in hand, enjoying the last day before the blonde headed back to school.

“It’s so peaceful up here,” Abel said, inhaling the coming spring.

“Yes it is.”

“Do you have enough food? What about dog food?”

The brunette grinned, squeezing Spinney’s hand, then entwining their fingers. “We’re fine, Spinney. Honest. We won’t starve.”

“Meanie.” The blonde lightly punched her friend in the arm. “I am so going to miss you, Zac.” She stopped them, turning so she was looking at Zac. “A lot.”

“I’ll miss you, too.” Zac looked down into the beautiful face of her friend. “So pretty,” she whispered, bringing a hand up to lightly trace the fine features.

“Thank you,” Abel said, closing her eyes and relishing the feel of the soft fingertip on her skin. Zac traced her eyebrows, the shape of her nose and forehead, barely grazing across her bottom lip, just a butterfly touch.

Zac dropped her hand, and sighed. “I hate when you leave.” Slowly green eyes opened and looked up into the troubled blue.

“I know.” Abel reached up and cupped the side of Zac’s face. “I hate it, too. I wish so badly I could just pack you in my luggage and take you back with me.” She smiled, but it was sad. It had seemed that the hum between them had grown even stronger and more potent over the past week. Abel felt it down to the marrow of her bones. She knew that leaving Zac behind this time would hurt badly.

“Wouldn’t that make a funny picture?” Zac closed her eyes, leaning into the touch. “But I understand.”

So come with me! Abel wanted so badly to scream those words, but knew it would be to no avail. She would never force Zac out of her safety zone, no matter how badly she may want to.

That night as they lay in bed, Abel could not sleep. She rested on her side facing Zac, and stared at the calm, relaxed face of sleep. She studied the way all of the brunette’s features worked together to form a beautiful picture. So wonderful. So amazingly sweet. Abel felt honored to know this woman, and even more so to be cared for so deeply by her.

Blue eyes opened and met Abel’s gaze. No words were said. Zac studied Spinney’s face, all the features of it, the color of her eyes, the way the blonde bangs fell over her forehead. She studied the way hands were curled up under Spinney’s chin. The way her lips rested together.

Abel took in the finely chiseled cheekbones and proud jaw. The delicately arched brows, dark as midnight. The blue eyes, turned gray from the moonlight. The smooth, unlined skin of Zac’s forehead. Tiny lines peeking out at the corners of her eyes ahead of their time from continual exposure to the sun.

Their eyes met again, and Abel felt herself being drawn, pulled. It was like an invisible force. She was about to close her eyes in anticipation when reality hit her.

Starting slightly, she swallowed. Turning to her other side, she scooted back into Zac’s warm, inviting embrace, and fell asleep.

*****

The last of Abel’s bags were put into the back of her Jetta. She turned to Zac, hands buried in her back pockets. The brunette and Aure waited patiently for their goodbyes.

“I’ll miss you,” the blonde said quietly, walking over to them. She felt large paws on her thigh, and looked down to see a very excited puppy vying for her attention. “You, too, little one.” She bent down and hugged the dog, allowing a few licks to her cheek. “I’ll see you, little Aure. Though you probably won’t be so little by then, huh?” Grinning, she stood again.

“I’ll miss you, too, Spinney,” Zac said, her eyes so sad. It nearly broke Abel’s heart.

“Come here.” She pulled the taller girl in for a lingering hug, sighing with utter contentment. The warmth of Zac, the smell of her, the comfort. All of it nearly too much for her fragile emotions.

“Please be careful,” Zac said into the blonde’s hair. She felt her nod.

“I will. You too, okay?”

“Okay.”

Abel pulled away, her green eyes swimming. She smiled through her unshed tears. Leaning up, she placed a soft kiss on Zac’s lips. The contact lasted no more than a few moments, but both would file it away in their hearts to get them through the next few months.

“Bye.”

Abel pulled out of the dirt drive, glancing back in her rearview mirror. She saw Zac standing there, Aure at her feet. The brunette brought her hand up, placing two fingers on her lips, looking amazed. The blonde smiled, and turned back to the road.
Part 11
Sighing again, Abel turned to her side. She fluffed her pillow, kicked the blanket off and turned to her stomach. Green eyes opened.

With a quiet growl, and turned to her back again and stared up at the ceiling that held an orangeish glow from the street lights across the street in the park. She glanced at the clock, groaning when she saw it was only one seventeen in the morning. She’d officially been in bed for two hours and seventeen minutes.

Trying again, the blonde rolled to her right side, her back to the rest of the room and Jessica who slept soundly across the way. Trying valiantly to reach an itch that was right in the middle of her back, Abel gave up. With a heavy sigh of frustration, she sat up and became a contortionist as she reached for that damn elusive spot.

Her hands plopped down onto her bare legs, hands rubbing over the smooth skin. She glanced over at her roommate and friend again, then looked at the clock once more. One twenty-one.

“This sucks,” she muttered. It had been three days since she’d come back to Boston from the cabin. It was also the third night in a row that she could not sleep. She flopped back against the pillows again, thinking. Okay, why can’t I sleep? Let’s analyze this.

What was going on? School had been in session for a couple days, so nothing critical there. She wasn’t stressed, nor worrying about anything. Things were good at home, and at the apartment.

Something was missing at night. Like she’d forgotten to do something. Abel ran her tongue over her teeth, feeling the smooth cleanness. Check. She could still feel the tingle from her face cleanser. Check. She’d gone to the bathroom. Check. Homework was done. Check. Paper done. Check. Thought of Zac today. Double check.

Abel sat up in bed again, running a hand through her locks.

“That’s it,” she whispered. She missed her friend. She missed Zac holding her in bed and cuddling with her. She missed the smell of the brunette’s skin, all natural and warm from the sun.

She hugged herself, eyes closed as the sensations coursed through her. The feel of Zac’s warm body wrapped around her own, strong arms protecting her from the night. The comfort and satisfaction of the brunette’s breathing as she fell into a peaceful sleep. No demons ever found Abel when she was in Zac’s arms.

Perhaps it was just having someone else there. The blonde glanced again at her roommate and thought about climbing into bed with her. Jess would be warm, too. She was breathing nice and even, that comforting white noise.

Chewing on her bottom lip, she contemplated this move. She had, after all, gotten used to having Zac with her every night.

For a week? A single friggin’ week is making you feel like you’re two?

“Shit,” she hissed, sitting up again. She looked at Jessica. “Jess,” she said, her voice quiet, but hopefully loud enough to waken her friend. She needed to talk. “Jessica!” she said louder.

“Hmm?” the darker girl mumbled, face still half-buried in her pillow.

“I need to talk.”

“Then write to Dear Abby,” Jess grumbled and turned over, her back to her roommate.

“About Zac and spring break.” The blonde grinned when dark brown eyes were suddenly peeking at her over a shoulder. “Come on, Jess. I need to talk about this.”

“You need to talk about this at,” Her friend glanced at the clock. “One-thirty in the morning?”

“Sorry. Can’t sleep.” Abel scooted back so she was sitting against the wall, knees drawn to her chest.

“You can’t sleep, so no one can, is that it?” Jess grumbled, copying the blonde’s position.

“Come on, Jessica. I’ve had midnight talks with you before.”

“Alright, alright.” Jess smoothed a dread back from her face and rubbed her eyes. “Talk.”

“I miss her,” Abel said, her words muffled by the blanket as she rested her chin on her knees.

“You woke me up to tell me that you miss your friend that you saw three days ago?” Jessica looked incredulous.

“No. It’s more than that, Jess.” Abel’s voice was quiet, soft. It had taken on an entirely different quality than her friend had ever heard before.

“What’s going on between you two, Abel?” Jessica asked softly.

“I don’t know.” The blonde rested her head against the wall, eyes half-hooded as she thought of this very question. It had been plaguing her whether she wanted to admit it or not. “We had such a good time.” She smiled, remembering. “She’s so much fun. And so very sweet. And gorgeous! Oh my god.” She quickly got off the bed, dressed in her nightly t-shirt, flannel shorts and socks. She dug through her desk. Hurrying over to Jess’ bed, she sat down and handed her a snap shot.

“This her?”

Abel nodded. “Yeah. I managed to snap it when she didn’t know any better.” She grinned, remembering how angry Zac had been at the unexpected picture. Jessica took the picture greedily, dying to know what the enigmatic Zac looked like.

“Wow,” she breathed. “She’s really pretty.” Zac was looking at the camera, her amazing blue eyes intense and magnetic. Her long dark hair fell around her shoulders and face, wild and free. She seemed too tall in Jessica’s estimation. Jeans covered long legs and a sweatshirt hung from her shoulders. She handed Abel the picture back.

“Yes. She is very pretty,” the blonde said, looking at the picture, which brought an instant smile to her lips. She set it aside.

“So what’s going on between you two, girl?” Jessica asked again. She leaned against the wall next to her bed again and studied her long-time friend.

Abel sighed, bringing her knees up to her chest and wrapping her arms around them. She shook her head. “I don’t really know.” She sounded so miserable, the darker girl just wanted to take the small blonde into her arms and hug her and make it all better.

“Why don’t you start by telling me about your week,” Jess suggested.

“Okay.” Abel sighed and sat back against the wall next to Jess. “Well, she was there waiting for me with her dog, Aure.” She smiled at the memory. “First time she’s ever done that.” She looked into Jess’s face, near unseen from the shadows of the room. “Let me start at the beginning.”

As Abel told her story, starting from the day she met Zac fifteen years ago, the other girl listened intently, never interrupting unless she wanted to clarify a point. She did, however, watch Abel closely. She noticed her enthusiasm whenever tall, dark and gorgeous was mentioned. The green eyes lit right up, her hands wild with gestures.

Most interesting.

Once Abel finished her story, Jessica studied her, finger tapping her chin.

“What?” the blonde asked, feeling slightly uncomfortable from the scrutiny.

“Dude, you’ve got a crush.”

“What!?”

“Yes, ma’am. You’ve got a crush. I have never seen you so excited and enthusiastic about one single person in our entire friendship.”

“A crush?” Abel looked skeptically at her friend, though somehow she didn’t feel it was right to argue. She was confused.

“Yes. If I say the name Zac, you light right up.” Jessica grinned at the smile that was twitching at the corners of Abel’s lips. “Zac.” Full smile. “Zac Lipton.”

“Stop!” Abel smacked the darker girl, the smile still firmly in place.

“I rest my case.” Jessica smiled triumphantly. “Okay. Now that we’ve got that settled, why don’t you tell me why you woke me up at a ridiculous hour of morning on a school night.”

“I couldn’t sleep.” Abel pouted.

“You woke me up cause you can’t sleep? I’m not so sure how I feel about that.”

“I miss her, Jess.” The blonde looked at her friend with pleading eyes, hoping that Jessica would understand and be understanding. “She makes me feel so safe and comfortable. Content, I guess.”

“So why can’t you sleep? I can understand missing her during the day. So what’s the deal now?”

“Well, um, she um, she sleeps with me in the cabin.” Abel’s eyes widened at the look on Jessica’s face. “Not that kind!”

“Ow, ow!” Jessica giggled as she was barraged by a pillow beating.

“She is the greatest cuddler,” Abel said, tossing the pillow aside, only to be snatched up by Jess so she could hug it to herself.

“Really? Even better than Davis?”

“Much better.” Abel grimaced at the thought of her ex. “I think that was the only thing he did well.”

“Honey, I still say that Davis is gay. I will say that till the day I die.”

“Yeah yeah. And I will say until the day I die that he is simply eccentric.”

“Uh huh.”

Abel rolled her eyes. “Anyway. She’s wonderful in the cuddle department. She has these long, strong arms.” The blonde wrapped her own arms around herself and sighed at the memory. “She holds me so tight. God, it’s just amazing.”

“Man, you’re gone,” Jess said in wonder.

“I don’t get it, Jess. I just so don’t get it. She’s a, well, a she!”

“Uh huh. And?”

“What do you mean, and? She’s a woman. I’m a woman. This doesn’t make any sense!”

“Abel, honey, what does it matter? She seems to really make you feel good. Right?” The blonde nodded. “And she’s gorgeous, sweet, amazingly stuck on you, so why not?”

“God, I’m not programmed like that, Jess.” Abel felt tears sting behind her lids as her confusion morphed into intense emotion.

“Sweetie,” Jess laid her hand on Abel’s knee. “How do you feel about Zac? Like, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?”

“I really care about her. I crave her presence. God, it’s the weirdest thing, Jess. It’s like when spring break came along, and I thought about the trip with you guys to Cancun, I wanted to go. I really, really did. But then I thought about the fact that I won’t be able to see Zac until summer, and it tore me up. I wanted to see her so bad. I needed to see her.”

Jessica could see the sincerity burning in Abel’s eyes. “Girl, what’s going on with you, huh? What’s in your head? What do you want from this girl?

“I don’t know. Jess, I kissed her when I left.” Abel fell against Jess’s shoulder. An arm automatically went around her.

“Tell me about it,” the darker girl said quietly as she gently stroked the soft blonde hair.

“That last night, we were laying in bed and I was looking at her. God, she’s the most beautiful person I have ever seen. And not just physically. Jess, she saved my life!”

“I know, sweetie.”

“She’s amazing. Never in my life have I met someone like her. Never. I’d be a fool not to have her in my life.”

“Then keep her there. Do you want her there as your friend? Or . . . something more?” Jess was careful, not trying to send a most confused Abel in any certain direction, but trying to get the girl to see what may be in front of her face. She wanted Abel to look at all the possibilities, and not let something that could possibly be wonderful get away.

“Definitely. I want her with me. I want so badly to bring her here to Boston. Introduce her to things she’s never seen or thought about. Things she’s never even dreamed of. Things that only I can share with her.”

“Have you asked her?”

“In so many words. I promised her I’d never take her away from her safety zone. I can’t ask that of her, Jessica. She’d never survive outside the forest or rails. Zac is special. Very unique. She’s like nothing you’ve ever seen, and sometimes I think this world you and I live in isn’t good enough for her.”

Jess just listened. She knew Abel was nowhere near a place where she could put any sort of name to what she felt, so she let it go. The blonde would tell her what she wanted to tell her, and the rest she’d figure out on her own.

***

Zac sat in her tent, away from the warm rain. She sat Indian style, her biology book in her lap and bottom lip tucked into her mouth.

“Breasts,” she muttered, flipping to the index in back of the large text, fingers leading her gaze down the page until she came to the body part in question. “Page 319.”

Swiftly turning the heavy, clay-laden pages, she found her way to the page and saw a colored drawing of the female body, replete with all private parts. She looked at the breasts of the drawing, the nipples erect to show what happens during certain stimuli. She saw the word written in bold print and began to read.

“. . . can become hard during sexual arousal or when temperatures drop to colder levels.” She looked down at her own breasts, clad in the thin material of her t-shirt. She had yet to put her bra on, so saw her nipples standing at attention. She was not cold.

Flipping back to the index, she looked up aroused, sexuality, stimulated, and finally, sex. Turning to the indicated pages, Zac read all that she could on the subject. She absorbed the information like a dry sponge did water.

Spinney had been gone for nearly two months, and the most interesting things had begun to happen to the brunette’s body. Ever since that last kiss before the blonde left for school, Zac had noticed the strangest feelings coursing through her body, always ending with her being most uncomfortable in her pants. The first time, she thought she had perhaps peed her pants without knowing, or her monthly had caught up with her.

Nope. None of the above.

The previous night she had dreamt of her and Spinney in the Jacuzzi in the cabin again, but this time Spinney did not have the bra on. Zac had been able to stare openly at the beautiful flesh per the blonde’s request. Never really seeing breasts in real life before, other than her own, the brunette decided to do a bit of research.

The first thing she had done was look up the strange discharge in her pants. She had come up with several possibilities, but figured she had it settled on two.

Either her bladder was beginning to lose control, she had a sexually transmitted disease, (which she was pretty sure she could count out), she had a yeast infection, or she was sexually aroused.

She was betting on the latter two. Though she was not experiencing the burning discomfort that the book said accompanied a yeast infection.

As she read up on the breast, nipples and their sensitivity to sexual stimulation, she was absolutely intrigued.

When Spinney had been at the cabin over winter break, and especially over spring break, Zac had noticed the oddest changes in her own body. Like when the little blonde would touch her, the way she felt it all the way through her. The way she craved touching Spinney. Craved being near her, and wanted to cry at the mere thought of being away from her. Which she did, once Spinney left, that is.

Never in her life had Zac had a problem with being alone. She really had been for her entire life. But now . . .

She sighed. She missed Spinney more than she cared to admit. Missed seeing those most amazing green eyes looking at her with so much love and acceptance.

Zac closed her eyes, slamming the book shut and wrapping her arms around it over her chest. She could still picture her dream. In the tub they had been, with Spinney’s blonde hair water slicked away from her face, and she had taken off the bra. She had been looking into Zac’s eyes the entire time as she reached back behind her to unsnap it.

Zac had been too stunned to ask just what the blonde was doing, and she didn’t want her to stop, anyway. The brunette had absolutely no idea what she was supposed to do, or what exactly she was hoping for, but the dream had caused a ton of that discharge stuff, and had left her pulsing at what felt like the center of her being. She had woken with a groan, not wanting to be in her tent. And certainly not alone.

“Oh, Spinney,” she breathed. “What are you doing to me?”

***

Abel had been quiet after her enlightening middle-of-the-night talk with Jess. It had been two weeks ago, and she had been in a state of total inner investigation. She had no idea what was going on within her, but her dream the night before had been painfully telling.

Never in her life had she had such a dream about a girl before. Hell, she didn’t really remember having them about guys, either. She was very much a visual person with a reality-based nature. Rarely did the abstractness of dreams do anything for her.

But this time . . .

She sighed, leaning against the wall in the back cooler of the store where she worked. She was restocking the meat counter, but the dream images had assaulted her again.

She and another woman, who she had the distinct impression had been Zac, had been swimming in a lake. She felt that it was the lake up at the cabin. They were in bathing suits, but she could not keep her eyes off the body of her swimming companion, who conveniently kept getting out to get a drink of her bottled water. Green eyes would follow the form out every time, taking in the beautiful curves and smooth skin.

Once, Zac had returned and swum over to Abel. When she arrived at the blonde’s side, she had taken the smaller girl in her arms and had begun to nuzzle her neck with her lips and nose. Abel could feel the hardness of nipples against her skin as she had arched her head back, eyes closed as she reveled in the sensations. Unimaginable sensations.

“Shit,” she groaned, feeling the warmth of arousal wash through her body again.

Jessica had been good, not bringing it up again but making it more than apparent that if Abel needed to talk again, she was more than willing to supply an ear. The blonde knew that Jess would be a wonderful person to talk to about this, not judging her at all. She needed that kind of support for something she did not understand.

Again she recalled the feeling of lips moving slowly up her neck, under her jaw and finally to her own. The kiss had been magnificent, sending tremors through Abel’s body. Her body had been so responsive during sleep that the blonde wasn’t sure whether she had actually climaxed or not.

She needed to talk to Jessica.

Finishing up with her day, quickly, she hurried home.

Jessica sat at the computer, books spread out all around her.

“Hey girl,” she said when Abel came through the door. “What’s up, oh!” Startled when her hand was grabbed, Jess was led toward the bedroom she shared with the fiery little blonde.

“Sit.” Abel began to change from her work clothes as she waited for Jessica – and her own thoughts – to get settled.

“What’s going on, girl?” Jess sat back, leaning her back against the wall to the side of her bed, and stretching long legs out to cross at the ankle as they dangled over the side of the bed.

“I am so,” The blonde thought for a moment as she tugged the tank over her head. Blowing disheveled bangs out of her eyes, she plopped down on her own bed. “Confused, I guess, though somehow that doesn’t seem right.”

Jessica waited patiently for her friend to figure out what it was she was trying to say.

“I had a dream last night, Jess. A sex dream.”

“Okay. Thanks for sharing.” Dark brows drew, not sure where this was leading.

“No, stop it. About Zac!” Abel’s eyes were wide and bright. She looked like she was about to cry. “Dude, and I enjoyed it!”

“Ohhhh,” Jessica took a deep breath. Here we go. “How do you feel?”

“I have no idea. I mean, I thought about this thing all day. I mean, I love her dearly, you know that. And she is gorgeous, but how on earth can I be having sex dreams about her, Jess? Is it maybe that I haven’t had sex in so long and am desperate? Or because I do find her so beautiful? Both?”

“Honey, you could have had sex long before now. You stopped that, remember?” Jessica raised a brown in challenge. The blonde thought for a minute, then remembered that party they’d had at the apartment. That guy. What had been his name? They’d gotten to the condom part, she knew that for sure. The guy had been ready and raring to go. But she had stopped him. Why?

“Right. I do remember.” She thought about it for a moment, and then it hit her. “Oh my god.” She covered her mouth with her hand.

“What?”

“It was Zac. I stopped him, Jessica, because it felt wrong. I was thinking of Zac.” This time a tear did manage to slip out of her eye.

“Ah, girl.” The darker girl got up and went to her friend. “It’s okay, Abel. It’s all going to be okay. Hon, maybe you’re like bisexual or something. Or maybe it’s just Zac. I mean, you guys have been through some serious shit together. See what I’m saying? Maybe you two just have a really special connection.”

“We do.” Abel felt relieved for a moment, but it was a very brief moment. “God. I’m attracted to her.”

No shit, Sherlock! Jess said nothing.

“Fuck. What do I do?” Desperate green eyes bored into brown.

“I don’t know. What do you want to do?”

“Well, according to my dream, I want to be kissed by her and see her in a hugely revealing bathing suit.”

Jessica was surprised, but refrained from commenting. Her friend was in no state of mind to take friendly jabbing right now.

“Okay. But more importantly, do you want to pursue it? I mean, keep some things in mind, Abel. This chick has a real affinity for the woods, and not for people. She’d be there, you’d be here, and with you graduating next year, who knows where you’ll be. I doubt you’ll have the time to go to the cabin with your family much, you know?”

“Yeah.” Abel nodded, still clutched in her friend’s reassuring arms.

“How do you think she feels?” Jessica ran her fingers through the silky blonde strands, always thinking her friend had the most beautiful hair. She also knew the movements would help to calm Abel.

“I don’t know. Over spring break I asked her if she had ever had sex or dated or anything. This poor girl is so sheltered from the world. She has never kissed anyone, never had sex, nor really the opportunity, I don’t think. She’s so innocent, Jessica. It’s absolutely amazing. She is like a child in so many ways, yet so wise and sensitive in others.” She told her all about Zac’s reaction to hearing and reading about the events of the last century.

“She cried?” Jessica asked in amazement. She felt the blonde head nod. “Wow. What a sweetheart.”

“She is. I wish so badly there was a way for you to meet her. She’s truly the most wonderful human being I’ve ever met. I want to bring her here.”

“Then do it.”

“I can’t. I told you that. That’s all she knows. She’d be eaten alive here.”

“Sounds like the only one wanting to do any eating is you.”

Abel pulled away and smacked Jessica after seeing the huge grin spread across her face.

“Jess! God, you’re so gross!”

“I’m kidding, I’m kidding!” She held her hands up in surrender. “No, but seriously. Don’t you think if she had you, she’d be okay? It seems you both have the same effect on each other.”

“Hmm,” Abel settled against her headboard. “I wish.”

***

Zac roamed the forest, summer firmly entrenched in the green growth that surrounded her and Aure. It was beautiful, and she wanted to be able to share it with Spinney.

She looked down at her golden buddy, sometimes stunned by how much he’d grown. He was now a big boy at almost eight months old. Zac smiled, knowing that Spinney would be pleased at what a good job she’d done with the dog. He already knew lots of tricks and never left her side.

She glanced up into the sky, knowing from the direction of the sun that it was probably near one in the afternoon. Sighing, she headed toward the lake. Today she was going to take a swim. It was the first day in a while that it was nice enough for it. Aure loved the water, too, which was so neat. He’d follow her in, splashing around while the brunette bathed. Then he’d run to shore, shaking his coat free of the water droplets that clung, making his fur stand on end in all directions.

Peeling her clothes off, she looked down at her breasts, still totally intrigued by the mounds of flesh. They were so soft and responsive. She had had so much running through her mind for the past few months. She seemed to be terribly drawn to Spinney’s body, and loved to learn about it.

She could not wait until the blonde arrived for the summer and she could see it up close and personal again.

Happily, she ran out into the still slightly chilly waters of lake Wachiva, yelling her contentment out into the still, late spring air.

***

“You ready to go, girl?” Jessica laid her hand on Abel’s lower back, looking over the blonde’s shoulder at the suitcase she was about to snap shut.

“Yep. You?”

“Sure am.”

“Going home?” Abel put the case with its twin next to her bed.

“Yeah. Mom’s birthday and all that. Soooo, off I go. And you, missy,” She playfully punched Abel in the arm. “Off to the cabin, huh?”

Abel took a deep breath, then nodded. “Yes. I’m pretty excited, too. My folks will be there in about a week, so I’m gonna chill.” She grinned.

“With Zac.” Jess winked.

“Stop it.” Abel hugged her friend. “I’ll miss you. See you next year, huh?”

“Yes, ma’am. If you need to talk this summer, you know where I’m at. Okay?” Jessica held Abel by the shoulders, looking deeply into green eyes. The blonde nodded.

“Okay.”

“I gotta go. See you.” The darker girl headed out, her car already loaded with what she’d need for the summer.

Abel sat on her bed, looking around the room and running her sweaty palms over her thighs. She was very excited indeed to see Zac, but was nervous as all get out. She’d had no more dreams since the one two months ago, but still. That one dream stayed with her, and all the feelings and emotions tied to it.

She had no plans for the summer other than to be with Zac.

***

The blue Jetta made its way around the largest of the dozens of blind curves as it wound its way into Wachiva Forest. A golden lab ran at full speed, followed by his master, desperate to get to the driver.

Abel opened the door, and was no sooner standing than was nearly bowled over by an extremely anxious Zac.

“Spinney!”

The blonde closed her eyes as she was taken into powerful, tan arms. She rested her head against Zac’s shoulder, wrapping her own arms around her friend’s waist.

“Hey, you,” she said, hearing Aure barking his head off. The hug lasted more than five minutes, each reluctant to let go. But, at last, they did.

Abel looked up into excited blue eyes and brought a hand up, cupping one of Zac’s cheeks.

“I missed you.”

“I missed you, too.” Zac grinned, big and white, her hand automatically going to the head of her companion who sat obediently by her side, waiting to be acknowledged by his new friend. After staring into the bluest eyes she had ever seen for a moment, Abel did just that.

“You have gotten so big, Aure!” Like a growing child proud of his achievement, Aure began to chase his tail, whipping himself into a frenzy of excitement and pride. She knelt down and endured his kisses, which he tried to turn into French ones, and which were narrowly avoided. Finally Abel stood. “Come on, gorgeous. Let’s go inside.”

Zac helped unload the small car and carried the heavier stuff inside, all the way up the two flights of stairs. Once everything was unloaded, Abel made a quick call to her parents to let them know she’d made it okay, and then turned to Zac.

“I really, really missed you.” She allowed herself to be caught up in a massive hug again. She had worried that it would be awkward coming up here and seeing the star of her erotic dream. But she felt fine, and in fact closer to Zac than before. She felt an even stronger connection to the beautiful girl, and did not want to lose that. Zac, for her part, felt the same way.

Over the spring she had studied what she could about human sexuality and the female form. She wanted to understand just what it was about Spinney that made her tremble with anticipation of seeing the blonde again, as well as what made her own body tick. And boy, did the blonde make her body tick!

She sank into her Spinney’s arms, eyes closed at the feel of the warm body against her own. She could feel the blonde’s breasts against her, causing a shiver to race through her. She inhaled Spinney’s scent, wanting to be able to memorize every single thing about her friend for when she left after the summer.

Abel gave Zac a squeeze, then pulled back from her, keeping her hands wrapped around strong, corded forearms. She looked up into Zac’s eyes and smiled, getting one in return. Leaning up, she placed a soft kiss on Zac’s even softer lips. An even stronger current washed over her than the last time.

Zac closed her eyes at the contact, however brief, letting it filter through all her senses. A smile tugged at the corners of her mouth.

Abel watched the transformation come over Zac’s face, and wondered just what the brunette thought of the kisses. She looked as though she really enjoyed them, but did she truly understand them? In some ways, Abel felt as though she were taking advantage of Zac’s innocence. If her friend actually knew what lay behind those kisses, would she still be smiling so goofily?

She did not know. She wished there was some way to find out, but alas, there was none. Hell, Abel could barely understand it herself. She knew without a doubt that she was attracted to Zac, but had no idea why, or when it had begun. Never in her life had she thought of another woman like that, or thought past them being physically pleasing to the eye. Found attractive, not attracted to.

Instead of stepping into a think tank, she took Zac’s hand.

“Come on. I’m hungry.”

***

Zac sat on the floor channel surfing while Spinney made a telephone call to her mother, begging her to bring more syrup when they arrived in a week.

She settled on the floor, Aure snoozing next to her. Grabbing a pillow from the couch, she stuck it under her head and watched as some guy on the History Channel talked about the rise of Adolph Hitler. She was transfixed, seeing the images of history flash on the screen in black and white video. The dictator’s harsh voice barking out words of encouragement to his comrades in German.

“What’cha watching?” Abel asked as she plopped down on the other side of the brunette. Zac was happy as a clam, sandwiched between her dog and her Spinney.

“Something about Hitler.”

The blonde grimaced. “Evil, evil man.” She laid her head on Zac’s stomach, wrapping an arm over her waist. She smiled when she felt fingers begin to play through her hair.

“How’s your mom?”

“She’s good. Trying to get the kids in her classes to actually pay attention. See, the year’s almost out, so they could care less about Spanish.”

“Then they’re foolish. If I had the chance, I’d relish every moment of class.”

Abel raised her head, looking into the blue eyes that watched the images on the TV. “Really? You’d like to go to school?” She began to tangle her fingers into the material of Zac’s shirt, twisting and untwisting.

“Well, I love to learn, Spinney,” she said, taking hold of the smaller hand when fingers began to twist her skin, too. “Careful there, woman.”

“Sorry.” Abel grinned. “So, if you could go to school, would you?”

Zac thought about it for a moment, staring up at the ceiling, her hand absently running through Aure’s fur. “I guess so. Especially if there was a library. I’ve only been to one once, but it was amazing.” Her eyes lit up. “So many books. It just felt like a smart place, you know?”

Abel nodded. “You ought to see the one at my school. Books as far as you can see. Our library there is huge. You’d love it, Zac. And there are so many different types of classes there. You could learn about just about anything. You could study plants or animals. You could even study forestry and become a forest ranger.” Green eyes were lit up with excitement and hope. Zac studied those eyes and brought a hand up, running it through the fine hairs near Spinney’s temple.

“You’re so sweet,” she said, her voice quiet. She watched as the blonde closed her eyes, absorbing the touch. She sighed, the corners of her mouth turning up slightly in contentment. Zac was so charmed by her. She felt her heart expand and heart rate increase. She wanted so badly for Spinney to kiss her again, but had no idea how to go about asking.

She didn’t have to.

Abel opened her eyes, seeing the gentle look in Zac’s, and felt drawn to them. Drawn to the woman herself. She held her weight on her elbow, and moved up so she was level with the taller girl.

“Hi,” Zac said quietly.

“Hi,” Abel answered.

For some reason, Zac felt her heart really begin to pound. Her palms were sweating and her mouth became dry. She had no idea what was happening to her, but couldn’t say that it was necessarily all unpleasant, either. She swallowed hard, then licked her lips, attempting to get some moisture, any moisture, into them. She had moisture in other places, though.

Abel looked down into Zac’s face, eyes searching it – for what, she did not know. The girl was beautiful, completely able to take her breath away with just one look from those amazing blue eyes. She closed her own and leaned down, brushing her lips against the softness that was Zac.

A small sigh escaped her as she felt one of Zac’s hands entwine itself in her hair, holding her steady. She held, her lips resting against Zac’s, their breathing soft and mingling.

Zac felt her heart stop, then begin to tick that much harder. She could smell Spinney’s own special scent. This was the scent she wished there was some way to keep once the blonde was gone. She had wanted to ask her friend if she could keep her pillow after spring break, but had lost her nerve.

Now, her nostrils were filled with it. She inhaled it like a drug, memorizing it for when Spinney left her again. She wanted to be able to bring it up again and again, lighting a smile on her face every time.

She reveled in the warmth that spread throughout her body, not just from her friend’s body heat, but the heat that her own body was generating. She felt like she could fly, but completely bound to earth by the partial weight the blonde was putting on her right side. Her fingers wound through the golden locks, so beautiful. So soft.

Abel pulled away, nearly breathless, though it was a simple kiss. She felt weak kneed and was glad she was not standing. Looking into the most amazing eyes on earth, she saw her own feelings reflected back at her. There was no need for words; anything she felt was plainly written across that beautiful, angular face.

Abel smiled, Zac smiled back, her fingers still running lazy patterns across the surface of her scalp. Finally Zac’s soft words filled the room.

“I’m really glad you’re here, Spinney.”

“Me, too,” the blonde whispered, her eyes drifting back to the full lips that remained slightly parted, then made their way to the ocean before her. “Let’s go to bed.” Zac nodded, and the two stood. Zac took Aure out to relieve himself once more as Abel began to turn out the lights throughout the cabin before heading upstairs. She knew Zac could find her way easily without them. The girl seemed to be able to see in the dark. It was astounding.

Once upstairs, she went into the bathroom, her t-shirt and shorts under her arm. She closed the door and flipped the light on, staring at her image over the sink. Her heart was still racing and she had no idea how to stop it. The kiss had been so small and inconsequential, but still. There was something about it that made it one of the most intimate things she’d ever done.

She could still feel Zac’s lips. So soft. Softer than anything she’s ever felt before. Images of kissing exes popped into her mind, and she could not help comparing them. This, of course, was crazy. Giving Zac a couple sweet, soft, wonderful innocent kisses had nothing to do with the harried, sloppy ones she’d gotten from the guys. Totally different. Nothing alike, no siree bob.

“Shit,” she muttered, leaning against the sink, head hanging. “Yes, they do.”

“What?” she heard said from the other side of the door.

“Oh. Nothing. I’ll be out in a few,” she called, finally turning to take her clothes off. She heard Zac talking to Aure and the dog whining as he was played with.

Abel grinned. Downstairs, just for a moment, it had almost had that same strange feeling she’d had over spring break. The feeling that she, Zac and the dog were part of some family. Lost in domestic bliss.

‘What the hell is wrong with me?!’ a voice screamed in her head. ‘This is Zac! She’s a she! We can’t do this. It could never be. You know that, Abel. You’re her Spinney, the strange city girl who encroaches upon her wild life in the forest every few months. She has no interest in you in any way other than her Spinney. The little girl who befriended her a ton of years ago.’

She knew this to be true, but she also knew that there was more to it than that. Jessica saw it, and deep down, Abel did, too. She was so drawn to the beautiful brunette. She could not lie to herself anymore. It had been difficult back in Boston, but not totally impossible. After all, Zac had been a very long drive away. But now . . . she was on the other side of the door.

Brushing her teeth and combing her hair, Abel opened the door and headed to the bed. Zac was changed and sitting cross-legged on the floor petting a zapped Aure. Blue eyes met her own and Abel smiled.

“Hey, beautiful,” she said. Zac blushed and looked down.

“Hi.”

“Aww. What are you so shy about?” She knelt down next to the brunette, running a hand down Aure’s golden back.

“I don’t know. I guess I’m just not used to being talked to like that. You know, called sweet names like that.” Zac looked shyly up at Spinney.

“Want me to stop?”

“No!” Abel grinned at the brunette’s enthusiasm. Zac looked abashed all over again. “I mean, no. It’s okay. I don’t mind.”

“Well good. It’s true, you know.” The blonde cocked her head to the side, bringing a hand up to run through the dark strands of her hair. “You are the most beautiful girl I have ever seen. Personally, I think on the entire planet.”

“Oh. Well, uh, I don’t know about that.” Zac snuck a shy glance at her. “I think you’re biased.”

“Maybe. But I still think it.” She stood, grabbing Zac’s hand and pulling her up. “Come on. Do your stuff so we can snuggle.”

***

Blue eyes blinked open several times before true awakening dawned upon the owner. Zac stared at the golden hair that was before her eyes, feeling Spinney’s back against her front, her arm laced protectively over the blonde’s waist.

She could feel the even breathing of her friend and it soothed her. The light was barely coming through the wispy curtains, but Zac always had a hard time sleeping that first night inside the cabin. It was part getting used to being indoors, and part excitement. She was with her Spinney!

She carefully, slowly disentangled her arm from the blonde’s possessive hand, trailing her fingers along the soft skin, taking in the texture. She noted the soft blonde hairs that covered the skin, glinting gold in the newborn sun.

She ran her fingers up over the forearm, feeling the curve and hardness of the elbow, then trailing up to the bicep, sneaking in under the loose material of Spinney’s shirt sleeve.

The blonde began to stir, a small sigh escaping her lips as she snuggled even closer into Zac.

Zac smiled, dragging her nails softly over the skin and muscle of Spinney’s bicep. She heard another sigh, but the blonde seemed to be fully asleep again. She could feel the contraction of the muscle under her hand, and traced her fingertips over the tricep. Her fingers worked their way further up the sleeve until she felt the roundness of a shoulder, then the sudden sharp contrast of her defined collarbone.

Abel felt soft, almost tickling touches on her skin. Trying to concentrate on them, she kept her eyes closed and her breathing even. She could feel Zac’s breath on the side of her neck as the taller girl continued to touch her. Pretending to still sleep, she leaned back even further into the warm body behind her, wanting to give Zac as much access as possible.

Zac stilled her movements as the blonde moved, leaning even further back into her arms. Her fingers felt the soft skin at the swell of Spinney’s right breast, and she nearly choked. She quickly moved her hand away, trailing back up to more familiar ground. The softness of Spinney’s sun-kissed shoulder found her fingertips dancing again.

Zac loved the feel of Spinney’s skin. So unbelievably soft and wonderful. She loved the smell of her hair, her clothing, everything. She loved the color of her hair, the color of her eyes. So green. She wished the blonde would open them now. The brunette leaned over a bit, taking in Spinney’s profile. Her eyes were closed, the dark blonde lashes lying on her cheeks, the face relaxed and peaceful, lips slightly parted.

Zac’s eyes concentrated on those lips. She brought her hand out of the sleeve, and tentatively touched those lips with her index finger. Tracing the gentle curve and fullness, she smiled, seeing the corner of one side twitch slightly from the touch. She ran her fingertip over the fullness of the bottom lip and received a kiss on it. Surprised, she looked into the eyes that were still closed, a soft smile curving the lips. Spinney was awake.

She was making no move to get away from Zac, so she continued. She ran her fingers back across the lips, receiving another kiss, which sent chills down her spine. The fingers continued on their path past the mouth, tracing the lines of Spinney’s jawbone, then up and over her ear, tickling the inside on her way, making the blonde giggle. She then traced Spinney’s brow bone and eyebrows, then over her lashes, feather light. So soft. Like satin.

Abel grabbed Zac’s hand, bringing it to her mouth and kissing the palm.

“I like you touching me, Zac,” she said, her voice soft.

“I like touching you.” The brunette squeezed her body even closer to Spinney’s, lining up their bodies perfectly. She sighed in contentment as her hand was taken yet again, and her arm was pulled around the blonde’s smaller body.

Abel smiled, loving the feeling of Zac’s body so protectively around hers. She also loved the feeling of Zac’s hands on her. For just a second, the fingers had come dangerously close to her breast, and in that second, Abel had wanted it there more than anything. She had held her breath, waiting for it, though somewhere deep inside, she knew it would not happen. She figured Zac was probably scared out of her mind when she realized where her hand was headed.

The blonde sighed. She was starting to believe that there was no more holding back. She needed to connect with Zac in a way that very few had ever connected with her. She had connected with the taller girl in every way save for one. She felt her body responding to everything Zac did, and there was nothing she could do about it.

She stayed on her side with her back to Zac because she knew if she turned around, she’d do something that neither of them were ready for yet. Hell, she still had no idea how Zac felt, or if she felt anything. Yes, she said she liked to touch the blonde, but was that because she never had anyone to touch? Other than Aure, that is. She just didn’t know.

God, she wanted . . . something. Abel was no stranger to desire or arousal, but this was approaching frightening proportions. She had no idea how to handle this. How the hell does one react to wanting a woman’s hands on your body for the first time!? The worry of what this could mean and the stigma attached plagued her.

*****

The sun was beating down, unusually warm for a late May afternoon. The water was clear and calm, bubbles heard every once in a while as small animals would come up for air.

Aure ran around, chasing the creatures of the forest to his heart’s content, his mistresses sitting on the bank of the river. The smaller girl sat with her back to the front of the brunette, the long arms wrapped around the blonde.

Abel sighed, leaning her head back against the shoulder behind her. She wrapped her own arms over those of Zac, eyes half closed as she watched out over the lake.

“It’s so beautiful out here,” she said, her voice quiet and serene. “No wonder you love it out here so much.”

“Yeah, it is beautiful. Personally I think it’s got to be the most beautiful place on earth.”

“Hmm,” Abel looked down at the arms around her waist, bare from the tank top Zac wore. “You are so tan already. It’s not fair.” She ran her hands over the smooth skin of the taller girl’s arms, loving how unbelievably soft it was.

“Well, live mostly outdoors for the warmer months of the year and we’ll talk.” Zac grinned, resting her head against Spinney’s.

“Do you use lotion when I’m not looking or something? You have got the softest skin of anyone I’ve ever touched. Smooth.”

“Well, I do what I can. See, there’s this plant that you can pull, and when you squeeze the root, this gooey stuff comes out and keeps me real soft.”

“Really?” Abel pulled away from Zac, turning to look at her. The brunette grinned.

“No. I’m just naturally that way, I guess.”

“Snot.” The blonde playfully smacked Zac’s arm and smiled up into her face. “You are the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen,” she said, her voice soft as a whisper. Zac looked at her, stunned.

“Thank you. Funny. I was just thinking the same about you.”

Without a thought, Abel found her eyes closing and her body leaning forward. She reached a hand up, entwining her fingers through the thick, dark strands of Zac’s hair. She swallowed a moment before she felt her lips meet the taller girl’s. She knew she couldn’t pull away. Not this time.

She tilted her head slightly, taking it slow. She knew Zac had never done anything like this, and did not want to scare her.

Zac’s mind was racing frantically as Spinney got closer to her. She closed her eyes on instinct, trying to think of everything she’d read about kissing. What was she supposed to do? What did Spinney expect from her? She had the distinct feeling this would be a different kiss than the others. They had been so soft and simple. This was different, she could tell.

Abel turned further in the circle of Zac’s legs and arms, raising up on her knees so she’d have better access and leverage. She caressed Zac’s lips with her own, craving the feel. The brunette seemed to be following her lead, only a second behind whenever Abel changed tactics.

Zac was enjoying this kiss a whole ton more than the others, which was amazing. She had enjoyed them a ton in their own right. She brought her hands around, resting them on the little blonde’s waist. She loved the feel of Spinney’s hands in her hair. It was making a little fire begin to flare in her belly, and she was afraid antacids wouldn’t be able to put out these flames.

She started when she felt the softness of Spinney’s tongue against her bottom lip, then the lip sucked into the warm cavity of the blonde’s mouth. A lightning bolt of arousal crashed over her, landing with a thud in her underwear.

“Open for me,” Abel whispered against Zac’s lips. She smiled as Zac’s mouth suddenly became a small canyon. “Not so wide.” She brought her fingers up under the brunette’s jaw, bringing the maw to a small gap. When her request was met, she tilted her head slightly, doing the same for Zac with a simple nudge of her hand on the side of the brunette’s head, deepening the kiss. The feel of the brunette’s tongue touching her own made her giddy with excitement and rightness.

All the thoughts about propriety from that morning disappeared as fast as her will power did. She wrapped her arms around Zac’s neck, burying her fingers into the short hairs at the nape of the brunette’s neck, bringing their upper bodies closer. She was almost in Zac’s lap, but the brunette certainly didn’t seem to mind.

Quite the contrary. She brought her hands up to mimic Spinney’s movements, her hands going directly to the silky, blonde locks. She could feel the softness of the beloved breasts against her own, and this brought a sigh to her lips. The blonde seemed to like that as a soft moan escaped her own lips.

Abel moved her head slowly with every stroke of her tongue, savoring all the tastes and sensations. The kiss, which had begun sloppily with Zac’s inexperience, was quickly turning into one of the most sensual things she’d ever experienced.

Zac could feel her heart racing in record time, sending blood pounding through her head, the only sound she could hear. Even Aure’s barking not ten yards away from them had disappeared. It was only Spinney and that kiss. She was melting right there on the shore that day in late May.
Part 12
Wrapped up in a blanket just outside the lean-to, Zac and Abel watched the sun go down. The brilliance of the oranges and yellows turned swiftly to pink and red, and finally faded to blue. The arms of the sunset spread over the sky as the comforting blanket of night arose.

“So beautiful,” Abel whispered, feeling that any louder volume would be a violation of perfection. She felt Zac nod behind her. “Do you watch these very often?” The blonde turned her head back a little so she could see the face of the woman holding her.

“Yes. Every chance I get. Me and Aure will go down by the lake and watch the colors over the water. Truly amazing.”

“You can’t see this kind of thing in the city. I mean, there are sunsets, obviously, but you can’t watch it in such purity. There are buildings to cover it, and lights to wash it out.”

“Then why be there?”

“Hmm.” Abel didn’t answer. Zac saw things so simply, and because she could not argue with her logic, she chose to remain silent. It had been a truly amazing day. After that first kiss by the lake, Abel had broken it and wrapped the taller girl up in a massive hug. She needed to feel the brunette close, even though they had just shared one of the most beautiful kisses of her life. She tried to dig deep to think about how she felt about that.

It had felt so right, that she could not deny. Really there was nothing for her to deny. Even still, what did it mean for her? For Zac? Zac’s experience with the erotic was nil, and Abel did not want to take that innocence from her. Yet she was drawn. She wanted to be able to show Zac all that the world had to offer. And that meant the more worldly aspects of physical affection, too. She felt such a strong need to show Zac what passion and love was like. These were things that the world had thus far kept out of reach for the beautiful brunette.

After the giant hug, she had pulled away and suggested they get some lunch. As they prepared the food together, Zac had been full of life. Abel had seen more light in those eyes in that moment than she had in all the time they’d known each other. Zac had also stopped the blonde often while she’d been making their peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, giving her more hugs and kisses. Eventually Abel had stopped her efforts to make lunch, and just laid one on her friend. Zac had nearly stumbled backwards from the full impact of it, but had most certainly responded.

Zac was a very quick learner.

“Spinney?”

“Yeah?” The blonde was brought back to the here and now, feeling long arms tighten around her, tucking the blanket more securely around her shoulders.

“What is your cabin like?” Zac’s voice was so soft in Abel’s ear, breath warm.

“My cabin?” Confused, dark blonde brows drew, then it hit her. “Oh! You mean my apartment?”

“What’s an apartment?”

“Well, you have a large building, and it’s been separated into various apartments. Like in ours, we have a two bedroom. So, you have the two bedrooms, a bathroom and kitchen, then a living room. You know, like a communal place for us all?” She felt the nod.

“How many are there of you?”

“Three. But Kendra will be moving out at the end of the year. She’s a year older than Jess and me. She graduates, and then has a job lined up over in California somewhere.”

“What does your room look like?” Zac tightened her hold a bit more on her Spinney. She felt more possessive than ever. She pulled Spinney back closer to her front, feeling the heat from the smaller body. She opened her legs wider, giving the blonde more room. Plus, if she were honest, she liked the way it made her feel. But she’d just keep that to herself. Abel might be upset with her.

“Well, Jessica and I share one. So, we both have our beds, which are tiny, against opposite walls. But you walk in, and the floor is hard wood. Like in the cabin. My bed is off to the left, and hers is to the right. There is a window smack dab in the middle of the wall that the headboards of our beds are against. Under that window we both have our own nightstand. You know, alarm clocks, reading lamps, that kind of thing. On the wall that the door is on is the closet. We share it, but most of our stuff is in these bags that I call body bags, that we keep under our beds. You know, more room that way.”

“What color is the covering on your bed?” Zac rested her chin on Spinney’s shoulder, closing her eyes so she could picture it.

“Right now it’s a dark blue. I change it from time to time. Get tired of the same ol’ thing, you know? Anyway, so then we both have a dresser at the end of our beds, too. Between the two of us, we could clothe a small village.” She smiled at Zac’s chuckle. “Our room is pretty simple, really. Nothing really that striking. We have some old posters up that used to be in our dorm room last year. You know, an Albert Einstein poster, and some stuff on beer. Typical college stuff.”

“Do you like living with Kendra and Jessica?”

“Oh yeah. Jess and I have been roomies for the past three years, and she’s great. Kendra was a new addition this year, but she’s great, too. We all get along. I’ll be sad to see her go.”

“Do you like living in the big city like that? Boston is huge, with millions of people. Don’t you feel lost?”

“Sometimes. But then at times it’s nice. You can go somewhere and no one knows you. You can go to think, do homework, people watch, whatever. No worries about being bothered. That is, unless you’re being hit on.” She wrinkled her nose. “Guys just don’t know when to leave a girl alone.”

“Hit on? They hit you?” Zac was fully prepared to go postal when she felt a steadying hand on her arm.

“It’s just a phrase, honey. It means they find you attractive, and so give you attention. You know, make their intentions clear about their interest.”

“Oh.” The brunette calmed. “Then I bet you get hit on all the time.”

“Aww. Aren’t you a sweetie.” She turned in the circle of Zac’s arms until she was facing her. She stared into those blue eyes, the brilliance of the color now mainly gone with the sun set. “Zac?” she said softly.

“Yes?”

“Can we talk for a minute?”

“Sure. What’s wrong?”

“Well, I’m not so sure anything is wrong. Well, I hope not, anyway. Um, you know how things have gone today? You know, the amazing cuddling, and . . . other stuff . . .”

“You mean the kissing?”

Abel smiled. “Yes. The kissing. How do you feel about it?”

The blonde could see, even in the faint light of summer’s late evening, the whiteness of Zac’s spreading smile. The taller girl sighed, sounding happy and content.

“I don’t understand why it’s happening, but I like it. A lot.”

“Really?” Abel was hopeful. Yes, she did like doing it as well, but it was more than that. She wanted to know that Zac understood just what it meant. “What is it to you, Zac?”

“What do you mean?” Zac’s smile faltered, worried that she’d done something wrong. “Is it bad?”

“No! God no. It’s just that I want you to understand what’s going on. At least with me.” She gave her a sheepish look, then looked at the neckline of Zac’s tank, which she began to play with. “Zac, I am, well. I’m a little confused. You see, all my life I’ve been interested in boys, you know. Wanting to date them, kiss them, that kind of thing. Then suddenly you come into my life and turn it upside down.”

“I’m sorry, Spinney. I’m not trying to make things difficult . . .”

“No! Oh, honey. No, that’s not it. You’ve made things so much better.” Abel reached out and touched the side of the brunette’s face, which was quickly disappearing as the sun took its final bow. “I am about to sound like some cheesy Hallmark commercial, so bear with me.” The blonde took a deep breath, gently caressing the soft skin under her fingertips.

“It’s okay, Spinney. I love to hear anything you have to say,” Zac nearly whispered. For her encouraging words, she got a small kiss. Abel smiled.

“Thank you. You have made my life better, Zac. In so many ways. I look at things so different now. It’s like I see my surroundings with new eyes. Hell, I see them at all. I never used to think about it before. It was just there, and would always be there. You’ve changed that in me. You’ve changed me.”

“Is that good?” Zac reached her own hand out and began to rub gentle circles on Spinney’s back. She loved having the blonde this close, and her heart was pounding nearly out of control in her chest. She thought she understood what the blonde was trying to tell her, but did not want to guess or assume.

“Very.” Abel smiled, running her thumb along Zac’s jaw. “Very, very good. But the confusing part is the fact of how I feel about you.”

“Why is that confusing?”

“Because as I said, I’ve always felt this way about guys. Not girls. Honey, I’ve never so much as kissed a girl.” Abel looked into the blue eyes, caught in the moonlight. “These feelings inside me kind of scares me. I really love what we do. I love to touch you. Have you touch me,” Abel’s words trailed off as she leaned in and lightly kissed those irresistible lips.

Zac sighed into the kiss, leaning back against the tree behind her, taking Spinney with her. The blonde got herself more comfortable, almost sitting in the brunette’s lap. She trailed her hands up Spinney’s back until she felt the soft strands of golden hair.

Abel sighed, loving the feel of Zac’s fingers running through her hair and the feel of her lips. She brought her hands up to either side of the taller girl’s face, holding her closer as the kiss deepened.

She could kiss Zac all day. Even though this was basically the third ‘real’ kiss for the girl, she kissed like a pro. Following all of Abel’s leads, not going any further than the blonde had cleared the path for, she held her own. Abel sighed again, feeling the kiss to her very core.

How on earth does Zac affect me so deeply? Never has anyone, female or male, touched me so deeply, nor made my body react and respond so much.

Abel broke the kiss, remembering that she had not finished what she had to say to her friend.

“Wait,” She closed her eyes, taking several deep breaths. She wanted to get her racing heart under control before she continued. “God, I can’t resist you,” she breathed.

Zac licked her lips, getting the very last bit of Spinney from them, then looked at the blonde, skin turned a bluish gray in the moonlight. She waited for Spinney to continue.

“Zac, why do you think I kiss you?”

“Oh, uh,” Dark brows drew as she tried to think of an answer. “Well, the book said that oftentimes a kiss using the tongue is the prelude to sex.”

Abel nearly choked on her own tongue. “What book have you been reading?”

“It’s in my biology book,” Zac said simply. Abel grinned.

“You’ve been reading about sex?” Zac nodded. “Since when?”

“The past few months. I started having the strangest feelings, and then I dreamt about you, and you showed me your breasts . . .” Zac trailed off, suddenly feeling very stupid, though she did not know why. She looked down at the fidgeting hands in her lap.

Abel sat there, staring. She was trying to get her brain to compute what she had been told.

“You dreamed about me? My breasts? What?”

Now Zac felt really stupid. “It’s nothing.”

“No. Wait. Don’t clam up on me.” She grinned, liking the fact that the beautiful brunette had dreamt of her, and her breasts, no less! “Tell me about it.”

Zac studied her, seeing that it was okay and Spinney was not angry with her. “Well, in the dream we were in the Jacuzzi, and you took your bra off,” Zac said with a grin. A sexy grin. She was not even aware of it, but her feelings and unknown wants were far ahead of her brain.

“I did, did I?” Abel asked, brow raised. At Zac’s nod she chuckled. “You want that?”

“Oh, uh, I’m not sure,” Zac stuttered, that uneasiness coming back. She had not felt uncomfortable around the blonde since the early days, and wondered why it hit her squarely now. “It was a wonderful dream, though.” She grinned.

“Well, then I guess I should be honest and tell you of my own dream. You see, according to my psyche, you and I went swimming in the lake. You were in this itty bitty bathing suit.” Abel chuckled when she saw the grimace on Zac’s face. “Calm down. I didn’t say you had to wear one. Anyway, so we were swimming and having a good time. I could not keep my eyes off of you.”

“Really? Did you feel the wetness between your legs, too?” Zac asked, her voice hopeful. She was confused at the blonde’s laughter.

“Oh, Zac. My Zac.” Abel hugged Zac’s head to her chest, feeling overwhelmed with emotion. “Yes. I felt it, too.” Hell, I feel it now!

“Oh good. Wanted to make sure there wasn’t anything wrong.” Zac breathed a sigh of relief against Spinney’s cotton-clad chest.

“No. Nothing wrong. It’s very natural. It’s called arousal.”

“The book said that, too.”

*****

“Zac?” Abel opened the cabinets, looking for . . . something. Nothing sounded good and it was frustrating her.

“Yes?”

Abel smiled when she felt the warmth of the taller girl’s body press against her back. Arms slid around her waist, hands clasping over her stomach.

“What do you want for dinner? I can’t find anything that sounds good.” She fingered a can of Spaghetti-O’s, and changed her mind. Again. With a small growl, she leaned back into Zac’s warmth. “Any ideas?”

“Well, how about I go catch us some fish?”

“Zac, it’s,” Abel glanced at the clock on the microwave. “Nearly eight-thirty at night. Into night fishing are you?”

“Hey, I’ve done it before, and most certainly can do it again.” She grinned.

“You know, the scary thing is I have no doubt that you’ll pull it off. You go girl.” Abel smiled at the soft kiss that was planted on the top of her head, then felt the cold as Zac hurried out the door.

As the door closed, the phone rang. Hurrying over to it, she smiled when she realized it was her mother.

“Hey, ma. How goes it?” The blonde began to rummage again, this time for veggies that would go well with the fish.

“Not bad. We went to the store today and got the honey and syrup you requested. How much does that girl go through, anyway?” Sherry smiled into the phone as she continued to put groceries away.

“Enough to keep a small army fat.”

“Lovely. Well, she best hope she never stops being so active. Boy won’t she be surprised.”

“I wouldn’t worry about that.” Abel grinned, unable to keep the smile from stretching across her lips.

“So how’s it going?” Sherry looked into the fridge, trying to figure out the best place to put the three gallons of milk she’d bought. She knew they’d be gone in just over a week. How on earth did it come to pass that she was raising five bottomless pits?

The two Cohen woman chatted for the next hour. Abel filled Sherry in on how her semester ended, as well as some of the things she and Zac had done, of course leaving out certain details. Sherry thought it was most interesting. She could hear the utter joy in her daughter’s voice, which made her very happy.

Zac hurried back to the cabin, fishing pole slung proudly over a shoulder, and a string of fish dangling from the line in her hand. Tonight they’d be eating good in the neighborhood!

She walked in, hearing Spinney’s melodic laughter. She saw her chatting into the phone and could not resist. Dropping the line of fish on the table, she hurried up behind the small blonde, reached up under her shirt, and placed very cold hands on Spinney’s very warm stomach.

“Ack!” Abel nearly dropped the phone as she tried to get away from the blocks of ice that had her pinned to a larger body. “Zac, get those things off me!” she laughed, the icy fingers beginning to dig into her sides. “Mom, hang on,” she barely managed to get out before setting the phone on the counter and turning to face her tormentor.

Sherry listened as the girls squealed and her daughter yelled for Zac to remove her ice cold hands from her stomach. The older blonde raised her brows in surprise as she heard the sounds of the girl’s play.

“Oh, you are so dead!” Zac growled out as she was being tickled right back, fingers digging into her sides, ribs, whatever they could get purchase on. The brunette tried to bat the insistent hands away, her backing up toward the fridge in the process, lost in a fit of giggles.

“Mom, I’ll call you back!” Abel yelled so her mom could hear as the phone was still on the counter. An “Okay, honey!” was yelled right back. Not bothering to hang the phone up, Abel dug in with even more relish and purpose. She loved to hear Zac laugh, and was thoroughly enjoying tickling her.

Zac felt her back crash against the smooth coolness of the fridge, and knew she was pinned. The feisty little blonde kept coming, her fingers now burrowing under the material of her t-shirt, cold fingers against the warm skin. Aure was barking his little head off, excited by the play of the humans. That is before he got a whiff of the fish still laying on the table.

Tears streamed from Zac’s eyes as she found it hard to breath, she was laughing so hard. Abel was laughing just as hard, watching her friend struggle against her, the veins popping out of her neck with the strain. Eyes closed tightly, face flushed from the exertion.

She was beautiful.

The blonde found her fingers stilling, resting upon the warm skin of Zac’s sides. She felt the insatiable urge to kiss Zac. So she did.

Zac was startled by the total change in activity, but did not complain. She responded to Spinney’s kiss, bringing her hands up to play in the thick, blonde strands, pulling her friend even closer. The brunette was pinned between the blonde’s body and the cold fridge. She soaked up the warm softness of Spinney, feeling every curve pressed against her.

Abel brought her hand up to caress the side of Zac’s face as she deepened the kiss. She sighed softly as she felt the brunette’s tongue glide against her own, body pressed to her own, breathing matching her own. She leaned in even closer to the taller girl, wanting to be as close as humanly possible. She could feel the heat of Zac’s skin on her fingers, nearly burning them where they lay beneath the material of her shirt.

A small whimper escaped Zac’s throat. Her body was buzzing and wanted something that she could not comprehend, but knew she had to have it. Needed it. And only Spinney could provide it.

Abel heard the whimper and melted. She felt a wave of desire course through her and matched the whimper with one of her own. Her body had never been so ready, though she really had not idea what she’d want Zac to do with it were she given the chance. She had no idea how this worked, so kept her thoughts on the kiss instead.

The blonde felt a now warm hand slip up the back of her shirt, fingertips caressing the skin of her back. Her own fingers dug deeper into the thick, black hair when suddenly Zac pushed Abel away.

“Aure! No!” She hurried over to the dog who was about to yank the second of the four fish off the table by the line. Zac grabbed the fish, wrestling the one out of the dog’s mouth that he’d managed to grab.

Abel joined the brunette, helping her to get their dinner away from the dog and the floor. Her heart was still pounding.

What is happening to me? The way she makes me feel. I want to fly.

*****

Sherry sat at her desk, ready to grade the finals for her Spanish II class. Setting her reading glasses on her nose, she grabbed a sheet, and saw the name Zachary Williams scrawled across the top. This made her think of Zac and Abel up at the cabin.

The last time she’d talked to her daughter had been the night their conversation had been interrupted by the girl’s playing. They had sounded so happy, so giggly.

She smiled, remembering that kind of roughhousing. She and Adam used to do it all the time when they were dating.

Adam. Sherry smiled just thinking about him. They had been married almost twenty-five years, and she still loved him as much as the day she said “I do.” More, probably. After getting through five births, one nearly finished with college, and all the things they had to look forward to. Weddings, grandchildren. Hopefully they’d get lots of the latter. She had such hopes for Abel, considering she was the oldest girl, and certainly the only one old enough to have kids for some time yet. What with Rachel only eleven.

Abel. She pondered her eldest for a moment. The beautiful girl was so intelligent and by far one of the sweetest people Sherry had ever known. Of course she could be just a tad biased. Heck, the only person she knew that was as sweet as her Abel was Zac.

Zac.

Now that was an interesting topic for the older blonde. She had a feeling deep down that there was something to this story, but could not quite put together what it was. She knew that Abel had always managed to make deep, lasting friendships and bonds with people, but there just seemed to be something extra this time. Something between the girls that was deeper than any bond of friendship.

She’d have to keep an eye on things.

*****

Abel’s parents had finally arrived two weeks ago. The blonde and Zac were camped out in Zac’s lean-to. It was a warm night, and they decided to take advantage of it. Besides, Abel wanted to be close to Zac and see the way she lived. What better way than to experience it?

They lay on Zac’s bedroll, the brunette tucked up behind Abel, arm wrapped protectively around her, the blonde playing with the tiny hairs that lined Zac’s forearm.

“Soft,” she said, watching the path her fingers took. “Zac?”

“Hmm?” Zac looked over Abel’s shoulder, chin resting on it.

“Do you like kissing me?”

“Yes.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

“How does it make you feel?” Abel turned to face Zac, laying her head on her arm, and staring up into Zac’s face.

“Well,” Zac thought for a moment, bringing a hand up to trace the delicate features of Spinney’s face. “It makes me feel very warm. Like somebody just started a raging fire six inches away from me. Like it’s inside me. I feel aroused, too.”

Abel was surprised at the shiver that ran down her spine at those words.

“Really? I do that to you?” She reached up and rolled a lock of dark hair around her finger.

“Yes. You make me feel things that I don’t know what to do with.” Zac looked down, feeling slightly shy.

“Oh, you’re so adorable.” Abel reached up, fingers entwining with the hair at the nape of Zac’s neck. “Come here.” She pulled, bringing Zac’s lips to her own. She sighed into the kiss, loving the fact that she made Zac feel so much. Feel so much like she herself felt. “You do the same to me.” She said against Zac’s lips. She pushed Zac to her back and rolled with her, holding herself up on her forearms.

Zac wrapped her arms around the smaller body on top of hers, caressing Spinney’s tongue with her own, loving the feel of the soft lips moving against her own. She could feel the softness of the blonde’s breasts against her own, and she wanted so badly to touch them, but had no idea how to go about it. She didn’t want Spinney getting angry with her, so she followed the little blonde’s lead.

Abel loved the feel of Zac under her. The brunette was so soft and warm everywhere. She had to admit to herself that she was utterly fascinated and intrigued with the thought Zac’s body. She was gorgeous, as she had seen on several occasions when her friend was in varying degrees of undress. She had never really looked at her before though, as she was thinking at that moment. What she wouldn’t do to see her in wet, near see-through bra and panties in the Jacuzzi. She had almost offered it several times, but worried about what she might do. She had no desire to freak out the brunette.

She broke the kiss and looked down at a very flushed Zac. “You are so good at that,” she marveled.

“Good teacher.”

Abel smiled. “Cutie. We should get some sleep.” She gave Zac one final kiss, then rolled off the taller girl, moving to her side, and pulling Zac behind her. “Good night, gorgeous.”

“Night, my Spinney.”

*****

Sherry watched the girls, amazed at how much time they spent together. Abel always spent a lot of time with Zac during the breaks since they’d reunited, but before, it was with the family. This summer they were off on their own doing their own thing. She didn’t understand it. They even would spend the night in Zac’s little lean-to out in the middle of the forest.

The older blonde didn’t mind that her daughter and Zac had gotten so close; she thought the world of Zac. But this was Abel’s last summer before she graduated from college, and probably one of the last times she’d be able to go to Maine with her family.

“Abel, honey. Can you come here for a moment?” Sherry called out, seeing the elusive little blonde and her taller companion down by the lake. Abel managed to pry herself away from Zac and ran up to the house.

“Yeah, mom?” she said. Sherry noticed how red her shoulders were getting.

“Well, first you need to grab some sun block. You’re going to look like a lobster here before too long.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Abel grinned good-naturedly, but grabbed the bottle that Ben had left behind before his swim. “You called me up here to lecture me on the virtues of skin care?” The blonde put her hand on her hip.

“No.” Sherry grinned. “I called you up here because I miss my daughter.”

“What? You miss your daughter? Mom, I’m right here.”

“Honey, we’ve been at the cabin for three weeks now, and I feel like I’ve barely seen you. You’re always off with Zac. Now, hold on a sec,” Sherry cut her daughter off before the little blonde went off on a tangent. “You know I like Zac, but honey, it’s not real likely we’re going to see much of you after this summer. You’ll be going off to grad school, and that program requires you to go all the way through the year. Including summers.”

Abel looked at her mother, absolutely stunned. This was her last summer with Zac, and her mother was worried about time with the family?!

“I just wish you’d spend some time with us, Abel. We miss you.”

“But mom,”

“No buts. You can bring Zac into the cabin with you. There’s no reason for the two of you two spend every free minute you get at her little lean-to thing. She stays there when we’re gone. Let her enjoy the comforts of the cabin while she can.”

“She doesn’t want to, mom. It’s hot, and she likes it out in the open air.” Abel tried to defend her actions, but knew they were lame and flimsy. She just couldn’t stay away from the brunette. Their talks, stolen kisses, mild caresses.

“You will be at dinner tonight, Abel. Zac’s welcome, too. But either way, I want you there. And, I want you in the cabin tonight.” With that Sherry turned and headed back into the coolness of the cabin.

Abel stood there for a moment, stunned. Her mother had just talked to her like she was three years old. She was pissed!

“What’s the matter?” Zac asked quietly as she watched her Spinney stomp over to her. She did not look happy.

“My mother says I don’t spend enough time with them,” the blonde growled.

“She doesn’t like the time we spend together, does she?”

“No, I don’t think that’s it.” Abel nudged Zac to flip over from her back to her stomach. She sat next to the brunette and began to apply the sun block to the backs of the long legs, already getting pink from the hot, early June sun. “They say because I won’t be back next summer that I should spend all my time here either with them, or with them and you.”

Zac looked at her over her shoulder. “You won’t be back next summer?” Abel wanted to cry at the look in those blue eyes. She smiled softly, placing a hand on the side of Zac’s face.

“I graduate next spring, Zac. After that, I’m going to graduate school.”

“But,” The brunette sat up. “What about here? What about our time together? I mean, won’t I see you anymore?”

There was so much pain in Zac’s extremely expressive eyes, it broke Abel’s heart.

“Yes, you’ll see me again. I promise you that. No matter what I have to do, you will see me. Okay?” The brunette nodded, head hanging. “Come here.” Zac went most willingly into the blonde’s arms. Abel held her friend to her, stroking her hair and kissing the top of her head. “I’m not leaving you, Zac. I promise,” she whispered.

“Abel?” Sherry Cohen called, shading her eyes from the sun as she scanned the shore for her daughter. She spotted her and began to walk toward them. She watched the interplay between her and Zac, curious. Then she was just plain stunned when she saw Abel give the taller girl a small kiss on the lips. It wasn’t much, just a friendly peck. But still.

Clearing her throat, she got the girls’ attention. Sherry put a smile on her face.

“Abel, honey, we’re going to need some more charcoal for the barbecue tonight. Care to run into town and grab some?” She looked from one to the other. “You can take Zac with you,” she said brightly.

Abel looked to her friend, wondering what her reaction to that one would be. Zac looked back at her. Their eye met and a silent conversation passed between them.

With a nod, the blonde turned to look at her mother. “Okay. We’ll go.”

*****

Abel kept a close eye on Zac as she drove down the road that led away from the cabin. The brunette was tense, sitting in her seat, seatbelt clasped across her chest, which she kept pulling it away. She was trying to get used to the feeling of such restraint.

Zac felt strange, very strange. But at the same time, it felt good to be with her Spinney, and do the things that the blonde did when away from the brunette. She looked around the blue Jetta, taking in all the gadgets, listening as Spinney explained what they all were and what they were used for. She nodded at the explanations, though she only understood some of them.

She did, however understand air conditioning. On the hot June day, she rather liked that gadget. The cool air blew out of the ‘vents,’ and hit Zac smack in the face. She closed her eyes and reveled in the feel, letting the air soothe her heated skin.

She shifted in the small seat, stretching long legs out as far as she could, which wasn’t far.

“I know it’s a little small for you.” Abel grinned, glancing over at her friend from time to time. “You need to get an SUV.”

“What’s that?” Zac asked, her finger taking up camp on the window up and down button. She liked the whirr of the window moving.

“Sport Utility Vehicle. They’re big, so giantess’ like yourself can fit better.”

“Oh.” Zac looked up, seeing the sun visor. Brows drawn in curiosity, she grabbed it and yanked. She was stunned when it flipped down to reveal a mirror. She studied herself, making faces. Abel grinned, trying to keep her eyes on the road instead of her adorable companion.

Abel pulled into town, which was tiny. It supported around 2,000 souls, and had one main street lined with ma and pa stores. She parked the Jetta in front of the itty bitty grocery/all-purpose store, and turned to Zac.

“Are you going to be okay?” The brunette was looking all around, her eyes huge as all manner of activity swarmed around them. Numbly she nodded. “If you get into trouble, just take my hand, okay?”

Finally, blue eyes met green and Zac nodded again.

“I won’t leave you, honey. I’m here.” Abel squeezed Zac’s hand and smiled. She got a small, weak smile in return, and they got out of the car. Abel led the way into the store where she’d been every summer since she was five years old.

“Howdy, Abel. What can I do for ya? And who’s your friend?” Mr. Cartwright stepped out from behind the counter to greet one of his favorite summer shoppers.

“Hello, Mr. Cartwright. This is Zac, and we’re here to pick up some charcoal. You know how it is, big family barbecue.” The blonde smiled charmingly at the older man.

“Nice to meet you, Zac.” The balding man smiled, brown eyes twinkling. Zac looked like she had swallowed her tongue, and visibly relaxed when she felt Abel’s body heat against her arm.

“Just say hello,” the blonde whispered.

“Hello,” Zac said, her voice tight and rough.

“You know where everything is, girl. You go right on ahead.” The shop keep smiled once more at the two, looking curiously at the taller one, then headed out to help his son unload the trailer of incoming stock.

Zac looked around, seeing the shelves filled with every type of necessary, and not so necessary, items. Her eyes bulged when she saw the shelves full of every type of syrup imaginable. She grabbed one such bottle.

“Blueberry syrup,” she read out loud, turning the bottle over to see what else the label had to say.

“You want to try that?” was said quietly beside her. She nodded, turning to see an amused blonde looking at her. Abel took the bottle from Zac and placed it in her shopping basket.

Zac oohed and ahhed at every single thing she saw. She was particularly impressed with a little girl who had on some shoes with little lights that blinked with each step she took. The brunette followed her around the store until the girl’s mother gave her the look of death.

The brunette had managed to forget about her fear as she was so excited by everything. Abel watched her closely anyway. She didn’t want her to freak out or get scared.

“Okay. Ready to go?” the blonde asked, her basket filled with everything she wanted, including a few things for Zac.

“Yeah.” With one last glance around the aisles, Zac followed her Spinney to the front where they got into a line. She was restless. Seeing a bunch of magazines lined up in racks, she grabbed one and began to flip through it. It wasn’t long before her attention was caught by something else. She watched as Spinney handed the guy a little plastic card. He ran it through a slot, then handed it back.

Dark brows knitted.

“What is that?” She leaned over the small blonde to watch the guy punch some buttons on the noisy machine in front of him.

“It’s a cash register,” Abel whispered. “And this is my credit card.” She wiggled the plastic card in front of Zac’s face. The brunette took it, studying it, and reading Spinney’s name written across it in raised letters and a whole bunch of numbers.

“Master Card,” Zac read. “‘It’s everywhere you want to be.’” She grinned at her recollection of the commercial. Abel nodded with her smile.

“Yes, ma’am. It’s certainly helped me out.” She signed the slip and took the two bags from the clerk. “Here you go, stud. Carry that.” Zac took the bag and followed Spinney back outside to the car.

The drive back to the cabin was uneventful, and Abel was pleased.

*****

The days flew by, Abel trying her best to make both her parents and herself happy. She spent her days with them, sometimes with Zac, sometimes Zac stepped aside. But she always spent her nights with Zac. They often spent their time in her lean-to, away from the cabin and alone.

One such night in July found them lying by the banks of the lake staring up into the stars. Zac sighed happily as she wrapped her arms tighter around Spinney, who lay halfway on top of her. Their bond was getting stronger over the weeks. She could not just hear the hum when Spinney was around, but could feel a pulsing now. It was like the heartbeat of her feelings. And the kisses! They were frequent, and getting longer. Sometimes they’d spend an entire afternoon just exploring each others mouth. It was nice.

She wasn’t sure what to think other than two things: She wanted to continue and didn’t want Spinney to go back to school. The blonde had said much the same thing.

Blue eyes turned silver in the moonlight took in the blonde hair spread across her shoulders, the peaceful green eyes that stared out over the water, and the feel of a warm hand under her shirt, grazing over Zac’s stomach.

Every time the blonde touched her a small shiver would race down the taller girl’s spine. It didn’t matter what kind of touch it was. It could be the simplest little tap on the arm to get the brunette’s attention, or the deepest of kisses. She dreamed about the green-eyed nymph every night, even when Spinney was lying right next to her, which was just about every night.

She brought her hand up, running her fingers through the blonde hair, cool from the cooled air of late night.

“Spinney?” she asked, her voice hushed in the silence of a sleeping shore.

“Hmm?”

“What is sex like?”

Abel’s head lifted, surprise on her face. She stared down into those luminescent eyes, seeing curiosity reflected in them. “Well,” the blonde said, resting her chin on her hands that rested on Zac’s chest. “It can be wonderful.” Her voice was also quiet. “Especially if you really care about the person. Makes it better somehow.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know. I guess because then there’s emotions behind it, too, you know? It’s not just physical pleasure then.”

“Have you ever been in love?”

Abel thought for a moment, closing her eyes when she felt those magic fingers in her hair again. She shook her head. “No.”

“Oh.” Zac tilted her head to the side slightly, watching the smile that spread across Spinney’s lips. Her eyes were still closed. She loved Spinney. She knew that as sure as she knew she had a squirrel that followed her everywhere. “Spinney?”

“Hmm?”

“Can we go to bed and kiss for a while?” Abel opened her eyes and looked into the totally serious face of her Zac. She smiled, pulling herself up from atop her.

“Come on.” Zac took her offered hand, and got to her feet. With the blonde leading the way, they headed through the dark toward the lean-to. Abel knew the woods now almost as well as Zac did. She could easily find her way in the dark, which was helpful since she had become such a night dweller over the summer.

Once inside the small shelter, Abel laid down on the sleeping bag that Zac now used and pulled the taller girl down next to her. Zac stretched out on her side, her lips immediately going to Spinney’s.

Abel brought her hand up to bury it in the long dark hair that formed a curtain around them. She heard the cute little whimper that always seemed to escape. She felt it head straight south. Zac had an affect on her that she could neither describe nor reconcile. Never had anyone, especially someone who had no idea what they were doing, touched her so deeply or profoundly. The brunette’s fingers and lips were like fire, and she craved the burn.

She grabbed Zac’s hand and placed it under her shirt, splaying the long fingers out over her skin. Zac sighed, moving her body a little closer to the blonde’s, instinct guiding her.

“Touch me, Zac. Don’t be shy,” she whispered into the taller girl’s mouth. Zac did as she was told, and began to let her fingers move, feeling the soft texture of the tanned skin. When she felt the barrier of the underside of Spinney’s bra, she stopped. She gasped slightly when her hand was grabbed through the material of the blonde’s tank and placed directly on the lace-clad breast.

Abel broke from the kiss, her eyes closing as she absorbed the touch on her extremely sensitive breast. Her fingers dug slightly into Zac’s back, bringing their lips together again, searching for the brunette’s tongue with her own. She had never been so aroused; it was kind of scary.

Zac squeezed the softness beneath her hand, reveling in finally being able to feel the wonder of what had her attention for months. At that moment, she had no desire to be touched, just wanted to lose herself in Spinney’s warmth. She felt the hardness of Spinney’s nipple against her palm and was surprised. She knew the blonde was not cold, so she must be aroused.

Zac grinned like an idiot.

“What?” Abel asked, looking up into the face she could not see for the darkness, but knew was beautiful nonetheless.

“You’re aroused,” Zac said, pride marking her words. She squeezed her hand once to show her evidence. Abel groaned softly, nodding. “Did I do that to you?”

“Yes.” The blonde closed her eyes again, bringing her hand to Zac’s again, squeezing herself through the brunette’s fingers. She wanted so badly to feel those fingers on her nipple. She needed to be touched. “Yes,” she moaned again, sensation racing from her breast to spill out into her underwear.

Zac felt a surge of arousal spread through her own body, and kissed her Spinney with an intensity that surprised them both. She felt herself being drawn even closer by the tightening arms around her neck. Body to body, her hand pinned between their bodies, Zac feasted on Spinney’s mouth, making them both moan and whimper into the passion.

Abel’s hands left Zac’s neck and hair and traveled down her back, over the heated skin that was nearly hot to the touch through her shirt. They felt the roundness of Zac’s butt, the fingers spreading out to cover as much as possible, then squeezed, making Zac squeak in surprise. Abel grinned against the mouth that was still on her own.

“You have a really nice ass,” Abel said, squeezing for good measure.

“That’s a good thing, huh?” Zac raised herself up onto her elbows, looking down into the darkness that was her companion’s face.

“Very good thing. I’m rather fond of it. I like to look at it, touch it. Heck, I’d even kiss it.” Abel grinned, knowing that Zac would not get the joke. To her horror, a very long, deep yawn escaped her lungs. She was exhausted. Spending all her nights up with Zac, getting around three hours of sleep, was catching up with her.

“Tired?” Zac asked, the slightest bit of disappointment in her voice.

“I’m sorry, baby,” Abel said, stroking Zac’s cheek. “Can we got to sleep?” She heard and felt the brunette’s nod, and then the taller girl was laying beside her again, gathering the small blonde’s body against her own. Abel realized that Zac’s hand was still on her breast, and she also realized that she quite liked that.

*****

Sherry Cohen had been tossing something around in her mind for a couple weeks. She had seen and heard some things that she wasn’t entirely sure how to compute. First off had been the little tickle fest she’d heard over the phone. Then it had been the small kiss she had seen Abel and Zac share at the lake that day. Then just last week she had decided to go for an early morning swim by herself, and had seen the duo on the shore, her daughter lazing against the taller girl, whose arms were wrapped securely around the blonde.

She did not know what to make of it, but had some questions. Sherry had thought about talking to Adam about it, but decided against it. He would not understand, no matter what the situation actually was or wasn’t.

Today Zac had promised to spend some time with Becky alone, just the two of them. Adam was going to take the boys and Rachel into town, so what better time to talk to her daughter?

Abel helped her mother fold a load of laundry. She was quiet and moody as she snapped the wrinkles out of the pillow cases she was folding. Sherry watched her closely.

“Are you okay, honey?” she asked, tossing balled up socks to the small pile on the couch and grabbing a shirt.

“Yup.” Abel placed the folded case on its mate and grabbed for the top sheet. “I don’t understand why you don’t make the rest of the brood do this kind of crap,” she muttered.

“They do. You haven’t lived at home in a while.”

Abel just grunted, again snapping the clean-smelling material.

“So have you and Zac enjoyed your time together?”

Before she could even register it, the goofy grin was on Abel’s face. “Yeah.”

“You’re certainly attached at the hip, huh?” Sherry grabbed a pile of Adam’s t-shirts, ready to carry them to their bedroom. She indicated that Abel should grab the folded shorts and socks.

“She’s my best friend. Of course we’re going to spend time together.” The blonde followed her mother up the stairs.

“I can’t remember the last time you stayed in the cabin at night. Is there really something to playing Jane to Zac’s Tarzan?”

“What?” Abel wondered just where this line of questioning was headed. She wasn’t so sure she liked it.

“Well, you stay out there with her in that little shack she’s got. What’s up with that?” Sherry took the socks from Abel’s hands, stuffing them in Adam’s sock drawer.

“We enjoy it. It’s hot outside, and this way we don’t have to use a fan. Besides, I figure I always drag her in there when I’m here, so it’s only fair that I try the other side, too. Right?”

“Sure. Sounds good to me.” Sherry smiled, though it was only a temporary fix to her curiosity, and they both knew it.

*****

Abel looked out over the water that reflected the stormy sky.

“I think it’s going to rain soon,” Zac said, her thumb running over the softness of the back of Spinney’s hand.

“Yeah. I think so.” She glanced back toward the cabin, not able to see it, and thus they were out of view also. “Kiss me.” She wrapped her arms up around Zac’s neck, sighing when she felt Zac lower her head. Their lips touched and the sigh turned to a soft moan as their bodies drew together.

Zac massaged Spinney’s scalp with gentle fingers, then started when she felt a raindrop land on her forehead. Breaking the kiss, she looked up into the sky and saw the clouds break loose, dropping it’s trapped moisture.

“We’re going to get wet.” She grinned.

“Too late,” Abel breathed, grabbing the brunette and bringing her down for another kiss, the rain forgotten.

Abel could feel her body start on fire, and even the rain couldn’t put it out. She broke the kiss and took Zac’s hand, leading her back to the lean-to.

They were soaked by time they got to the shelter, hair and clothing molded to the skin beneath. Once inside, Abel turned to Zac, seeing that her clothing was basically non-existent, showing off the gorgeous form beneath. She looked up into Zac’s face, seeing the dripping bangs hanging in her eyes, droplets falling from the tip of her nose.

She brushed the dark hair back.

“You are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen,” she whispered. Zac lowered her eyes, suddenly very shy and very nervous. There was something different about her Spinney tonight. Almost like there was an electric current flowing between them.

“Thank you.” Zac’s chin was lifted and she met green eyes, then saw them close. She closed her own as she was drawn in for a slow, exploring kiss. The brunette was surprised when she felt fingers beginning to peel the sodden layers of clothing off her body. She lifted her arms, allowing her shirt to be taken off. Standing there in shorts and her bra, she watched those green eyes closely.

Abel was taking in the long, lean length of Zac’s body. So amazingly beautiful. She had no idea what she was going to do, but then it hit her. She wanted Zac. She wanted to show her just what she could offer her, and show through touch how she felt.

The blonde knew she was in deep shit. Her heart ceased with every look, with every touch and kiss. She had been honest with Zac when she said she had not been in love before. Not before now.

Bringing her fingers to the cool, wet skin of Zac’s sides, she ran her hands up and down the length, noting how Zac’s chest was heaving. She knew the girl was probably scared.

Looking up into wide blue eyes, Abel smiled. “It’s just me, Zac. Just your Spinney.” She whispered, leaning up and giving her a soft kiss on the cheek. “I won’t hurt you.”

“I know,” Zac breathed, her heart pounding in her ears. She closed her eyes as she felt those fingers working their way up her torso, fluttering around her breasts. Zac felt a painful tightening in her nipples and released a soft groan from it.

“You okay?” Abel asked, her breath tickling Zac’s skin. She saw the brunette nod, and turned her attention back to the skin of Zac’s shoulder. She scattered butterfly kisses there, loving the feel and smell of the tanned skin.

Zac was in heaven. Never had she felt so much like flying. Her body was not just humming, it was screaming. She was not sure what to do with her hands so kept them at her sides. Her stomach was a mixture of arousal and nerves. She just hoped the nerves wouldn’t win out.

“So beautiful.” Abel reached around until she felt the clasps to Zac’s bra. Unsnapping them with rain-chilled fingers, finally they came loose, and the bra came off. Zac shivered as the cold, wet material slid from her body, landing on the dirt floor. Green eyes took in the sight before her. “Wow,” she breathed, unsure if Zac was real or a statue come to life.

“Spinney?” Zac sighed, her head arching back as she felt the wet strands of the blonde hair brushing her heated skin.

“Yes,” Abel said against Zac’s collarbone.

“Are we, are we going to . . .”

“I’m going to make love to you, Zac.” Abel looked at the taller girl, watching for her reaction.

“Oh, god,” Zac shuddered.

“Is that okay?” The blonde began to trail kisses across Zac’s upper chest again, nibbling on her throat. She smiled at the vigorous nod she received. “Good.”

Abel knew there was no reason to deny it anymore. She was deeply in love with Zac, and needed her. She also knew that this may be their only chance, and she didn’t want to live with the regret of not showing the brunette just exactly how she felt.

Not entirely sure what to do, the blonde let pure instinct and desire take over. Never in her life had she been so ready. She looked at Zac’s breasts, pale in the growing darkness, the erect nipples standing in dark relief. She brought her hands up and ran gentle fingertips under the round underside, marveling at the feel.

“So soft,” she whispered. Zac’s breathing was hitching from anticipation, so Abel decided to end the suspense. She fully covered the softness, eliciting a moan from her soon-to-be lover.

“Spinney, I, I need to sit down,” Zac begged, feeling her knees beginning to weaken. The blonde followed her to the sleeping bag a few feet away. She helped Zac lie down, but remained standing. Looking down at the taller girl, she pulled her own shirt off, followed by sliding her shorts down her legs. She tossed the clothing aside, loving the way Zac’s eyes followed her every movement.

Clad in bra and underwear, Abel knelt and began to unbutton Zac’s cargo shorts, tugging them free of the long, muscular legs. Underwear followed next. Abel stared at that dark thatch of hair, suddenly very aware that there was no penis. It was a strange, almost surreal feeling for her, but one that she embraced. It was her Zac. That was all that mattered.

Now fully naked, Zac watched as Spinney got up on her knees, and reached behind her. The blonde’s bra fell into waiting hands, then was tossed away. Next came the pink underwear. The brunette stared in awe. Her little blonde was the most amazingly beautiful thing she’d ever seen. Far more beautiful than even the most glorious sunset over the trees.

She told Spinney such.

“You are so sweet,” she whispered as she laid herself out next to Zac, who turned onto her side. Blue eyes pinned Abel to the spot, washing over the smooth skin. Zac could not tear her eyes off the full, exposed breasts. She wanted to touch them.

Abel sidled up next to Zac, pressing their bodies together, making them both moan. She kissed the taller girl, allowing her hand to roam over the expanse of skin, acclimating herself to the situation and gender. To her amazement, it did not bother her for a moment that Zac was sporting a pair of gorgeous breasts. She found it exciting.

As the kiss deepened, she pushed Zac to her back, slowly moving her own body to cover that of the taller girl. Abel loved the feel of her breasts pushed against Zac’s. It was the softest thing she had ever experienced. Her mouth left Zac’s and began to trail along the long, graceful neck and throat, tongue dipping into the hollow of the throat. Abel found an ear, and nibbled the lobe before whispering,

“I want you, Zac.”

Zac sucked in a breath, her hands raising, fingers roaming over the strong back, running down the length of Spinney’s spine, finally feeling the rise of her firm, rounded butt.

Abel sucked in a breath when she felt nails lightly drag over the skin of her butt, making her press herself even closer into Zac. She groaned at the contact, her mouth making its way further down. She felt the rise of Zac’s breasts against her chin, and raised her head. Looking down at the softness, she decided to taste it.

Zac sighed loudly as her nipple was flicked by a wet tongue. Her hands flew up into Spinney’s hair, which clung to the brunette’s chest.

Realizing that Zac liked that, Abel did it again. But this time she sucked the entire nipple into the warm cavern of her mouth.

“Spinney!” Zac clutched almost painfully to the blonde’s hair, her chest arching from the intense pleasure that was coursing through her body. She felt the arousal gather between her legs, felt it slick the insides of her thighs.

This reaction pushed Abel on further, who brought her hand up to massage to other breast. She moaned into her task, finding it highly enjoyable. She knew how good it felt to be suckled, and wanted so badly to give Zac pleasure.

As she suckled, Abel’s free hand began to wonder. She moved her body off to the side, flipping her hair over one shoulder. She felt the hardness of Zac’s stomach, still damp from the rain, though no longer chilled. It was quite warm now. Feeling Zac’s belly button, she played with it, causing Zac to giggle and swat her hand away. Grinning against the breast in her mouth, she continued on her path.

Zac’s eyes closed once again when she felt the pulsing between her legs increase as Spinney’s hand got closer to the fire. She had no clue what she wanted the blonde to do, but just do something! She had every faith that Spinney would know just what to do.

Abel ran her palm over the course hair that met her touch. The heat that radiated from it was immense. A wet residue was left on her skin when she took her hand away. From the groan that escaped Zac’s throat, she knew this was the wrong thing to do.

Putting her hand back, narrow hips thrust up to meet her touch, seeking relief. Abel moved to the other breast with her mouth, her fingers beginning to play in the hair, finally slipping through the velvet-like folds. She was amazed at the copious wetness that met her fingers. Zac was ready for her and definitely wanted this.

Zac arched her head back as her body became overwhelmed with sensation. Her breasts were firing pulses down to between her legs, which were being engulfed in sensations of their own. She gasped when she felt a finger slip through the hair and glide against her sensitive skin.

Abel began to kiss and lick all around Zac’s breast and chest. She feasted on the skin, which was almost addictive to her. She could not get enough of it. She tried to split her concentration equally between what her mouth and fingers were doing. She could hear the wetness gathering as she ran her fingers through it, her fingers nearly completely coated now.

She raised her head and looked down to see one of Zac’s knees raised and bent, the other leg fully on the ground. Her hand had disappeared between those long legs. The blonde had touched herself before, so was no stranger to the way a woman’s body worked, but touching Zac like this was so profoundly precious to her. Something that no amount of masturbating could replicate.

She felt around until she found Zac’s pleasure point, the clit hard and extended. Zac’s hips nearly jumped off the sleeping bag when it was touched. Softening her touch, Abel began to concentrate on it, rubbing it in slow, measured circles.

Zac’s world was in an uproar. She had no idea what to do with herself or any body part. She felt like her entire being would explode at any moment, and her Spinney would keep her together.

Abel could hear Zac’s breathing increase, and her body moving of its own accord. She knew it would not be long.

“That’s right, baby. Come for me,” she cooed, her mouth at Zac’s ear, then suckled on the lobe before kissing Zac.

The brunette yelled out, head snapping back as she felt overpowered by a fist of pleasure that clenched her body to a taut bow, ready to snap any moment. She felt tears sting behind her eyes as her body convulsed.

“Shhh,” Abel whispered, hugging Zac’s head against her breast as the brunette was consumed by the intensity of her first orgasm. Zac snuggled in against the softness, feeling more safe and comfortable than she could ever remember.

“Was that the result of the over stimulation of the female sexual parts?” Zac asked, bright blue eyes looking into green. Abel smiled, amused.

“You’ve been reading your books again, haven’t you? That’s called an orgasm, Zac. And yes, it is from the over stimulation of the sexual parts.”

“I liked it,” Zac whispered, tracing the lines of Spinney’s face with her fingertips.

“I’m glad,” Abel whispered back.

“I want to do the same to you, Spinney.” Zac realized just how close she was to the blonde’s breasts, and readjusted herself in the smaller woman’s arms. Now face to face with the beautiful parts in question, she nuzzled her face against them, smiling at the softness.

Abel closed her eyes, her fingers running gently through the long, dark strands of Zac’s hair. She sighed in contentment as her body began to respond to what was being done to it. She laid back against the softness of the sleeping bag, taking Zac with her.

Now with a full canvas to create, Zac closed her eyes and let her fingers and mouth do the walking. She covered all of the blonde’s torso with kisses and touches, licking now and then to taste the salty skin. She wanted to get to those breasts, so worked her way to them.

She eagerly took a nipple into her mouth, remembering all that the blonde had done to her, and trying to invoke the same sensations. It seemed to be working as Spinney grasped the back of her head, pushing her harder into her breasts.

“Oh, Zac,” she moaned, trying to keep her body still, but to no avail. Zac had the most amazing and disconcerting affect on her body. “Please touch me.”

“I am touching you.” Zac was confused, but then understanding dawned when her hand was placed between the blonde’s legs. “Oh.” She could feel the heat there, and was relieved to feel how wet Spinney was. It wasn’t just her!

She ran her fingers through the wetness, feeling it gather and make her skin soft. Her fingers were guided down the blonde’s sex, and to Zac’s astonishment, disappeared inside. They were suddenly surrounded by softness and fiery heat and wetness. Abel moaned, her hips thrusting up to meet the penetration. Once she had started Zac on a good rhythm, she let go, her hands burying themselves in the dark hair again as Zac continued to suckle her breast.

Zac felt how easily her fingers glided in and out of Abel’s body, realizing that this is where the penis would go were she to have one. This gave a whole new meaning to what she was doing.

Abel was caught up in a world of pleasure like she’d never known. She could feel those long fingers gliding in and out of her, and could feel her body tensing as it got ready for release. She opened her eyes to stare into the beautiful face of her lover, feeling nothing but love and comfort.

The blonde’s body was suddenly being overtaken by her pleasure. Her eyes squeezed shut, and her head thrust back, releasing a throaty yell from the depths of her soul.

Her body was convulsing when she felt herself being gathered up into strong, able arms. Small kisses were littered across her face and head. She clutched onto Zac, needing to feel her warmth surround her.

Zac was overwhelmed and overcome. She buried her face into the blonde hair.

“I love you, Abel,” she said, feeling those words from her very being.

Abel pulled herself slightly away from Zac, looking up into the beautiful face that reflected nothing but love. She was surprised to hear her birth name, seeming to sound foreign from those lips.

“I love you, too, Zac,” she whispered, kissing the brunette softly.
Part 13
Abel inhaled the early morning air, arms wrapped tightly around her shins. The sun was just coming up over the tops of the hills surrounding the lake, and it was breathtaking.

She felt the small tingling sensation all over her skin from the early morning chill and basked in it. Her days at the cabin for the summer were numbered, and she wanted to be able to absorb as much of it as was possible.

Letting out a long, satisfied sigh, she turned to her left when she saw a figure coming toward her. Without a word, Zac sat next to her, their shoulders brushing. Together they watched the birth of a new day.

No words were needed between them. Anything they had to say had been said over and over again during their nights that summer. Through the magic of touch and emotion, they had conveyed all that could be uttered in breath.

The brunette reached her hand out and began to trail her fingers through the golden locks of her Spinney, made even more brilliant from the intense golden rays of the rising sun. She watched as the individual strands danced in the slight breeze, and a smile spread across her face.

“Beautiful,” she said, her voice no more than a breath upon the morning. Abel turned to her, meeting the steady gaze, and smiled back. She said nothing, but instead laid her head upon Zac’s shoulder.

“I love you,” the blonde whispered.

“I love you, too,” Zac said, kissing the top of the blonde head. Zac had been struggling over a single question during the past weeks. She wanted Spinney to stay with her. She knew there was no way this could happen, but it still did not stop her from wishing. She opened her mouth to ask, but quickly shut it again. She could never do that to her Spinney. Never sentence her to a life of isolation and intimidation. Never take her from what she knew and loved. Never take her from her education and family. Friends. Advantages. Car. Syrup at the ready. None of it.

Instead she held the little blonde closer to her, inhaling her fragrance and counting her blessings for having her as much as she had.

*****

“Mom, can I talk to you?” Abel asked, her fingers playing with the hem of her shirt. She watched as her mother knelt on the ground, planting wildflowers around the front of the cabin. The blonde always felt that was such a strange thing to do – plant wildflowers in the wild.

“Of course you can, honey,” Sherry answered, a quiet sigh following her words.

“Cool. Oh, never mind.” Abel turned, prepared to bolt, when she felt a garden-gloved hand on her arm.

“Hold it. That is the fifth time today you’ve asked if you could talk to me, and the fifth ‘never mind’ I’ve gotten. You plant your butt right down there and bury those bulbs. While you’re doing that, you will talk to me.”

Abel nodded, taking the spade she was offered. Plopping down, she used her hands and the tool to make a little mound of dirt over the planted bulbs. To her it looked just like a little cemetery minus the headstones.

“I want to talk to you about Zac . . . and me.” Shy green eyes darted up to meet interested ones.

“Okay.” Sherry opened another packet of bulbs and began to divide them, then started digging graves, er, holes for them. “Go on.”

“Well, you see, as you know, we’ve gotten very close over the past year.” Those eyes flicked up again. “Very close.” Sherry looked up, meeting the gaze and tilting her head slightly.

“Uh huh,”

“I love her, mom,” Abel said, her voice quiet, nearly a whisper. It was partly out of fear of her mother’s reaction, and partly out of it hurting to say it.

“I know, honey.” Sherry gave her daughter an understanding smile and patted her hand, leaving a slight dirt smudge on the back of her hand. “Oops.”

“Yeah, thanks. How did you know?” Abel asked as she wiped the dirt onto her shorts.

“I’ve watched you two together. It’s quite endearing, actually.”

“Oh.” The blonde looked down, patting a newly-made pile with the spade. “But, um, do you understand what I mean? By saying I love her?”

“I think so.” Sherry sighed, looking out over the beautiful late July day. “Romantically, you mean?” Abel nodded.

“Are you completely grossed out?” She could not meet her mother’s gaze, but she felt it.

“I’m not sure what I feel. I have had some time to mull this over though. I’d been seeing things for a little while, but just didn’t know what to make of them.”

“And now?” Abel gave up the pretense of burying the bulbs and just looked at her mother.

“Now, I’m not sure. I could see things getting pretty heated.” Sherry was surprised by the sudden blush that crept up Abel’s neck and cheeks. “Oh.”

Abel ducked her head, peeking at her mother through golden bangs. Sherry smiled and ruffled the bangs in question.

“I do have some concerns, honey. I mean, what will you do once you go back to school? You’ll be there, she’ll be here. You’ll be so busy this time next year, chances are good you won’t be back. You have to keep all these things in mind.”

“I know.” Abel picked up a dirt clot and threw it, watching with satisfaction as it exploded against a rock. “I don’t know what to do.”

“I honestly don’t know what to tell you, honey.” Sherry looked at her daughter, seeing the worry and despair reflected in those emerald eyes. She wanted to talk to her about this physical aspect that had evidently developed in her and Zac’s relationship, but decided this was not the time. “What do you want to happen? I mean, what are you hoping for? Expecting?”

“I don’t know. I guess if it were up to me, which it is clearly not, Zac would come back to Boston with me. God, I want her there so bad.” Abel slammed the sharp tip of the spade into the dirt, stabbing at a clump of clots. “I worry so badly about her, you know?” She looked at her mother with pleading eyes. The older blonde nodded.

“So do I. But keep something in mind, honey. Zac has been doing this on her own for a long time now. Even when her father was alive, it sounds like it was just Zac.”

“I know. But, hell, I don’t know.” The blonde looked at her mother. “Are you disgusted?”

Sherry sighed, unsure what the right response was. She was not disgusted, but was so confused as to how her daughter’s relationship with the beautiful brunette had gotten to this level.

“No, honey. I’m not disgusted. I worry and don’t understand, but I am not disgusted.”

“Please don’t tell dad,” Abel pleaded, knowing that her father would never understand.

“It’s not mine to tell. I’m sure you’ll fill him in when you feel it’s right.”

“Thanks, mom.” Abel leaned over and gave her mother a hug, closing her eyes at the comfort and support she felt from her mother. She was so grateful to have her in her life.

*****

Abel walked toward the lake where she saw Zac swimming with Becky. The brunette and the little imp had gotten so close over the summer. Becky absolutely adored Zac, and Abel figured the same was true for her love.

The two frolicked in the water, the blonde standing on the shore watching.

“Come on, Becky. Climb on up here.” Zac grabbed the small girl and easily lifted her onto her shoulders. She waded out a little further into the water, and then with a growl, threw the small, squealing girl into the depths. The little blonde giggled as she surfaced. She had always been a little fish, taking to swimming like most took to breathing.

“Hey you, be careful with her!” Abel yelled to the pair.

“Nah, she’s fine,” Zac yelled back, once again becoming a jungle gym.

“Who said I was talking about Becky?” The blonde grinned, crossing her arms over her chest. Blue eyes twinkled as they shared a look, communicating without a single word.

“Come out and play, Spinney,” Zac said, dunking Becky.

“Yeah! Come on, Abel!” Becky encouraged once she surfaced. Finally the blonde relented, and stripped out of her shorts and shirt, green bathing suit coming into sight. Zac watched, her eyes scanning over Spinney’s body. She loved to look at her, now knowing what that body felt like underneath her fingers and mouth.

She shivered from the thought.

*****

Abel grabbed Zac’s hand, holding it tightly in hers as they headed down the hill, down into Spectreville. She wanted to show Zac that it was not haunted, and that there was nothing to be afraid of. So many of the things that Bud Lipton had told his daughter was wrong. He had created a woman who was terrified of the simplest things, and Zac had never had anyone to tell her any different.

The brunette was hesitant in their adventure, but she trusted the little blonde with all she was, and would not deny her anything.

She could feel her heart pounding faster and faster as they got closer to the dilapidated old town. The buildings, which had once stood proud, housing the timber men, now stood empty and falling apart. Very sad, their windows and doors drooping like the lids of sorrow-laden eyes.

“So sad that this town was just forgotten. It was abandoned. Makes me want to cry,” Abel said, her voice quiet and wistful.

“Yeah. It’s said that the ghosts of the men roam around these streets,” Zac said, her voice just as quiet. Her eyes were wide, taking in everything, and looking out for her Spinney’s safety. They had run into a transient the last time they’d been here, last summer. She didn’t want that to happen again. She’d do whatever it took to keep her love safe and sound.

“Tell me all about this place, Zac.” Abel began to gently swing their entwined hands. “What did your father used to tell you about it?”

“He said that it was filled with evil spirits. He said that if I were to wander over here, they’d catch me and take me away. They’d lock me up in a cave in the hills and no one would ever hear from me again,” Zac said. The matter-of-fact tone of her voice made the blonde so sad. She looked up at the brunette, brows drawn.

“Oh, sweetie.” She reached up and caressed the side of Zac’s beautiful face. “You know he only told you that so he wouldn’t get into trouble, right? Because he didn’t want you to be seen.” Zac looked down at her, conflicting emotions running across her face. “It’s not true, honey. You don’t need to be afraid here.”

Zac relished the feel of Spinney’s fingers on her face and closed her eyes, absorbing it. She nodded.

“I want this place to be a happy place for you, Zac,” Abel whispered, bringing her hand down to the back of Zac’s neck. “Let me show you that it’s not bad.” She brought the taller girl’s head closer to hers, closing her eyes as their lips made contact. “Please?” When she felt the small nod from Zac, she deepened the kiss. Zac sighed into it, wrapping her arms around the slim waist of her Spinney, allowing her mouth to be explored by the passionate tongue.

Abel broke the kiss, taking the taller girl by the hand and leading her into a building. As they entered through the arched doorway, the blonde noted the post office sign above it.

Zac followed the blonde to the corner of the small first floor, moaning as her hand was placed on a soft breast. She squeezed it through the tank top that covered it, letting her fingers take in the texture and heat. Their mouths met with a passionate fury, Abel’s hands immediately going to Zac’s hair, pulling the taller girl into the kiss, holding her close.

As Zac touched Abel, removing her clothing and bringing her down to the ground, she could not help but want to cry. She wanted this to last so much longer than just the few weeks she had left in Maine.

This realization made her passion rise like a vengeance. She rolled Zac over, and began to devour her body with mouth, hands, tongue and teeth. Zac was driven to the edge within moments, and the little blonde wasn’t about to stop there. She wanted the brunette to somehow know that she belonged to her, that she was staking her claim.

Zac was overwhelmed by the power of her Spinney. She was trying to keep up, but having a hell of a time. The ferocity which the blonde displayed was almost frightening.

The brunette stopped Abel, turning them over so she was pinned to the floor, a panting Zac above her. Blue eyes bore into her, brows drawn in concern.

“Spinney, baby, what is it? What’s gotten into you?” She was stunned when she saw those green eyes that she loved so much fill with tears. “Oh, Spinney. Don’t cry.” She wiped one away before it could roll down into the blonde’s ear.

“I’m going to miss you so much, Zac,” Abel cried. She looked pleadingly into her lover’s face. “Please come with me?” she said, her voice a whisper, before beginning to cry harder. Zac gathered her up in her arms and held her. She rocked her, kissing the top of her head, murmuring words of encouragement to her.

“I hate this!” Abel cried, gripping Zac with talon-like fingers. “I hate the fact that I have to leave you! It’s not fair.” She swiped at her eyes to no avail. They just kept coming, draining down into her hair and ears, making her shiver.

“I know, Spinney. I know,” Zac said over and over again, her heart breaking right along with her Spinney’s.

*****

The weeks passed, and the girls were even more clingy to each other than usual. They spent their nights awake, talking and making love, and their days with the Cohen family. Zac felt comfortable with just about all of Spinney’s family now. Adam still made her slightly nervous, but that was mainly because she didn’t think he trusted her.

As the days of summer marched on, Abel felt her heart get more heavy. She was excited that it was her senior year in college, but it had somehow lost a bit of its specialness. She would have to leave Zac to get that degree. Then it was back for more school. She was torn.

She packed her bags slowly, a soft smile on her lips as she folded her clothing. Each shirt, each pair of shorts and socks, had their own special memory for her. They told her of her days rolling around in the grass of the hillsides with Zac. Their stains from food fights, or from the dark, rich soil of the forest floor, attested to the girl’s antics. She did not want to leave.

Tomorrow morning she would pack up her car and drive away, not to see her love for far too many months. Christmas seemed like an eternity away.

Abel was in love. She knew it from the bottom of her soul. She loved Zac so completely, she did not know what to do with the overwhelming emotions attached to it. She needed to talk to Jess.

Abel grabbed a flashlight, just in case, and headed out into the woods. She wanted to walk around in the dark, seeing the natural beauty that would surround her. This is what Zac saw every single night of her life. This was what drew the brunette there, and kept her. What did it have that the blonde did not?

She looked up into the trees that acted as a canopy, shielding the moon and stars from her sight most the time, only peeking through now and then. She could feel the cool, fresh night air on her skin, and hear the sounds of the night. Birds called to each other, and small, unseen animals scampered as they caught sound or scent of her approach. She loved to listen, knowing that though she had come by herself, she was not alone.

She felt, more than heard, Zac walk up behind her.

“What are you doing?” the brunette asked into her ear, stirring the soft hairs.

“Absorbing.” Abel said, her voice just as quiet. “Memorizing. I leave in the morning.”

“I know.” Zac sighed, wrapping her arms around Abel from behind. The blonde fell back into her, head resting against her shoulder. Abel sighed with contentment.

“Come with?” Abel asked, though only half-heartedly.

“Spinney . . .”

“I know, I know. I had to try. ”

“Are you coming back for Christmas?” Zac began to run her fingers over Spinney’s skin, feeling the soft smoothness of it.

“Of course. I’ll be here as soon as I can, okay?” She looked back over her shoulder, eyes meeting the blue that were turned silver in the night. Zac nodded.

“Okay.”

“Kiss me, Zac.” Abel closed her eyes and sighed as lips lightly touched hers. She turned in the circle of the brunette’s arms, and wrapped her own around Zac’s neck.

“Come on.” Zac stepped out of the embrace and grabbed Spinney’s hand. She led her toward her bluff, where they climbed in silence. “This is my lookout point. Whenever I hear something I come up here. It’s how I always know you’re coming.” She grinned at the blonde.

“Oh yeah? You watch out for me, do ya?”

“Yes, ma’am. Always.”

“Good. You keep looking out for me, gorgeous.”

“Oh, I will.” Zac grinned, and took Spinney in her arms again. “I want you, Spinney.”

“Then take me.”

And she did.

*****

Abel could barely see, her eyes were so filled with tears. She looked up at Zac, who swam in her vision, and hugged her. Zac closed her eyes, a tear slipping out, nearly crushing the blonde to her.

“Please be careful, Zac,” Abel said, kissing the side of her neck and pulling away.

“I will. You, too, okay? Drive safe.” Zac placed her hand on the side of the tear-streaked face. “I love you, Abel.”

“I love you, too, my Zac.” With one last watery smile, Abel got into her car and drove away. Zac turned to see Sherry standing in the open doorway of the cabin. The older blonde gave her a soft, understanding smile. Zac nodded in acknowledgement, then scurried off into the trees. She needed to be alone.

Hiking off toward her lean-to, the tears began to fall in earnest. Her heart had been turned to mush, and it was draining out her eyes.

Crawling into the doorway to the lean-to, she curled up around her pillow, which still smelled of Spinney. This made her cry even harder while at the same time comforting her.

She was heartbroken, and had no idea what to do with the pain in her chest and hole in her heart.

Raising her face to the ceiling, she squeezed her eyes shut, opened her mouth, and let her anguish come out.

Sherry pulled open the lid to the dumpster, about to toss the bag of garbage into it, when she heard the most awful sound. She listened, trying to identify it, then felt pin pricks behind her lids.

It was an almost inhuman sound. It was a sound of pure devastation.

“Oh, honey, what have you done?” she whispered, and went back inside.

*****

“Abel, honey. Are you okay?” Jessica leaned her shoulder against the closed door to the bathroom. Her roommate had been in there for more than an hour.

“I’m fine,” Abel said, though her voice was thick from tears.

Jess knew that wasn’t the case. Ever since the little blonde had gotten back from Maine three weeks ago, she had been moody, temperamental and extremely emotional. The girl had had her period during that time, so it wasn’t like it was PMS.

The darker girl was worried. She thought back to that first night when Abel had gotten back. The girl had been nearly inconsolable. With Jessica’s persistence, Abel had finally revealed the whole story.

Though Jess was not so pleased to be right this time, she figured it had something to do with Zac. She had no idea just how involved it got. Her little friend was in love. And with a girl.

“Damn.” She whistled between her teeth. She had no problem with such things, but it was so strange to think of Abel, guy-crazy Abel, that way. Was she a lesbian now? Jess had no idea. She didn’t really care, either. Right now her friend was in pain, and that was all that mattered. “Honey, please let me in.” She knocked softly, hearing the sniffling stop. But, to her surprise, the door opened.

Jess started at the sight before her – Abel’s face was red and puffy, eyes startlingly green from the cry. Her hair was a mess, and she just plain looked like hell.

“Come here, bud.” Jess took the sniffling blonde into her arms and pulled her to her chest. The blonde began to cry again, and the darker girl stroked her hair. “I know, honey,” she cooed. Jess remembered her first heartbreak, but even still, there just seemed no way to help Abel. She had no idea what to tell her friend to make her feel better. So, she wisely chose the road of comforting silently.

Finally, Abel pulled herself together and looked into her roommate’s face. With a final sniffle and a deep breath, she said:

“I’m going to go to her.”

“That’s great, Abel. Christmas will be here before you know it–”

“No, I mean go to her, now. As in, I’m leaving, Jess. You’ll have the place to yourself.” As she said this, she marched into her bedroom, all hers now that their third roommate had graduated and left. She flung open her closet doors and grabbed her suitcases.

“Whoa! Hang on, chickie.” Jessica followed the feisty blonde into her bedroom, watching with stark horror as more of Abel’s clothes were thrown into the open bags. “What the hell are you doing?”

“I told you. I’m going. I want to be with her, Jess. I have to be with her.” She began to rifle through some papers on her desk, tossing some to the floor, others on a pile for their trip to Maine.

“Abel–” Jess grabbed the blonde’s shoulder. “Please stop and listen to me.” When she saw she had Abel’s attention, she continued. “Honey, look, you’re a senior this year. You’re so close to being done.” The blonde was surprised by the passion in Jessica’s voice. It made her really listen. “You can do so much more for Zac if you’re educated or at least know how you’re going to get a job. What can you do in the woods? At least by finishing school, you can do what you’ve dreamt of doing for so long: helping other people.”

Jess searched the green eyes for any sign of understanding and acceptance to her words. She cupped the side of the blonde’s face.

“Don’t blow it, Abel. Please think this through.”

Abel stared into concerned dark eyes, at first feeling her anger building inside her. How dare Jess try and stop me! Where does she get off!? Then the voice of reason struck. She cares about me and doesn’t want to see me fuck up my future. Damn, she’s right.

Abel sank down to her bed, hands grasping her own thighs as she sighed. “Shit.” Jess sat next to her, clapping her on the back.

“Are you okay?”

“I guess.” The blonde rested her head against her darker friend’s shoulder. “I have to be.”

“For Zac.”

“For Zac.”

*****

The colors would be changing in the leaves and grasses soon. Animals were already beginning to react to the subtle changes in the air. Aure played in the few leaves that were already starting to fall. He’d see one blowing across the forest floor, his golden butt in the air as he prepared to pounce.

Zac sat on her bluff, chin resting on her hand. She didn’t see any of this. Her mind was months ago and miles away. Headed for Boston on a midnight freight train. She could hear the whistle blasting in her head, almost smell the smoke and feel the cold air blowing into the metal boxcar.

Blue eyes glanced over at the frolicking dog, thinking of how he’d handle traveling like that. She’d need to get some sort of leash for him. Maybe a rope? Pack everything, including the tent in its handy carrying case. Pack up her life. Pack up everything she’d known for the past twenty-two years. Pack up her memories, her loves and joys. All that meant anything to her. All but one – Spinney.

Zac sighed, again. She stood, calling for Aure to join her. The dog bounded up beside her, tail wagging fiercely to be by his mistress’ side.

Without a sound made, the two companions made their way through the forest, Zac brushing her hands over the rough surfaces of tree trunks, eyes searching out for the squirrel that followed her everywhere, via the trees. She smiled when she spotted him right where he normally was – about two trees back, and high above their heads. Aure had long gotten used to the little guy and made no note of him anymore. Zac was glad of this. She thought her dog was going to scare the squirrel permanently away for awhile there.

She crested the hill that looked down onto the old town. All was quiet, and though the brunette felt her heartbeat speed up slightly as childish fears began to surface, she held her ground. A piece of litter was blowing through the abandoned streets of Spectreville, swirling in an endless circle, caught in a little vortex between two buildings.

Zac could feel Aure’s hot breath on her hand as he looked up at her expectantly, waiting for her to do something. Anything. He hated waiting and standing in one place. There was so much of the world to explore.

Blue eyes met reddish brown and Zac smiled. She gently patted the top of the golden head and began the descent down. Aure made his way carefully, avoiding rocks and partial roots that stuck out of the ground.

Zac watched as the old logging town got closer and closer. She could hear the howls of the dead moaning quietly on the wind. She kept her mind focused on the task at hand, not allowing her fear to best her. She grabbed a loose branch that lay on the ground, using it as a walking stick, and something for her hand to control, thus taking up some space in her brain. This would make less room for fear.

She reached the start of the street that led into Spectreville. Stopping there, she looked around, taking in the old, falling down buildings. She often thought how sad it was to see this once proud, prosperous little town so dead and half buried in years and mud. Taking a deep breath, she crossed its borders.

Aure followed, tail wagging slowly as he took in this new place. His nose was working overtime as so many new smells assaulted his acute senses. He stayed close to his mistress, sensing that she needed him to, though he really wanted to go bounding through this new world. His personal space had just doubled!

Zac peeked into a few buildings, noting the broken furniture and left-over trash. She hated that transients used Spectreville as their personal dumping ground. Maybe some day she’d clean the place up.

She came to the building where she and her Spinney had made love. She could still see them in the corner, and a soft, sad smile curled her lips. The blonde had been so passionate, possessive and utterly sad that day. It had taken the brunette by surprise. She walked to their corner and sat down, running her fingers along the dirt beneath her. Aure sat next to her and automatically her hand went to his head. He whined a little then plopped down next to her, chin resting in her lap.

You don’t scare me anymore. Zac looked around, noting that indeed her fear ceased to consume her. I am free, dad. No longer a prisoner to your selfish fears and beliefs. I live for me now.

Zac spent half the day in that town, wandering its streets, marveling at all the missed playground that had been at her feet as a kid. She was beginning to see the ghost town as a special place, a place for her and Spinney. She took out her knife from her boot and carved Zac was here into the wood paneling that covered a wall in what was once the saloon.

Smiling with pride and acceptance, she left that old ghost town, never to be afraid of it again.

She made her way back to the forest, closing her eyes as she raised her face to the late summer day. It was mid-September, and a beautiful day. Just a slight chill in the air, but still t-shirt weather, as long as you wore pants.

Aure realized that the time for quiet seriousness was over and happily continued his pouncing on the poor, unsuspecting creatures of the forest. Zac never let him kill anything, but he certainly did play. His long, velvety ears lopped around with every movement.

Zac suddenly realized something as the bright colored tent next to the Cohen cabin came into view. This didn’t seem like home anymore. It didn’t give her the same sense of peace that it used to. Didn’t make her feel like nothing could bring her down, or make her sad.

It used to be that all she had to do was look into the lush green of the forest, and all was well. Now, she needed to look into the beautiful green of Spinney’s eyes to feel that. She had not felt at peace since the blonde had left in August. Zac was restless and unsettled. She felt as though all her future happiness rested on the slender shoulders of the beautiful girl.

She shoved her hands into the pockets of her cargo pants as she thought about this. Her earlier thoughts returned. Looking at Aure, she figured he’d travel well, as long as she had plenty of food for him. He loved adventure as much as she did. Maybe?

Zac shook these thoughts out of her head. The forest was her home, and always would be. She could wait until Christmas. She had to.

*****

Classes were on in full swing, and Abel was glad for it. It helped keep her mind on her studies and dedicated to finishing them. It was exciting as newsletters and emails were sent out to seniors with early news on graduation. She’d wanted that for so long, always wanting to follow in her parent’s footsteps. Now it was so close she could almost taste it.

Daily Abel was grateful that Jessica had stopped her from making what would have amounted to be the biggest mistake of her life. Leaving school would have killed a part of the blonde, and she would have resented Zac for it. It was better this way.

She plowed away at the first month of school, doing everything she could to ensure her final grades stayed as good as they had over the past three years. She wanted to go to grad school, get her masters in psychology and work with underprivileged youth. Maybe she’d even go further and get her doctorate. She wasn’t sure, and decided to wait and see how sick of school she was by time she finished her first graduate degree.

Abel tried to keep her mind on school and work only, but Zac filtered in every couple seconds or so. She was literally counting down the days until Christmas break. She tried to get Zac to keep her cell phone so she could call her, but Zac was afraid that Aure would find it and bury it.

So, alas, she had no contact with her. That’s okay – Zac was there in enough of her dreams.

The blonde got an evil little smile on her face as she thought of that. She had to admit, it had been interesting since she’d been back at school. Guys asked her out all the time, and she saw an ex of hers. She was trying valiantly to reconcile the fact that she slept with a woman all through the summer and was in love with her. She wanted to spend her life with Zac. She had no idea how this was going to happen, but still wanted it. Whatever it took.

“What’s the daydreamer look for?” Jess asked, plopping down on the grass next to Abel. They were in the park across the street from their building. The blonde loved to go there and study. Especially now when the air was crisp but not cold.

There were a few people out walking their dogs, as well as one couple with a baby in a stroller. She watched the happy little family of three, a small smile lining her lips. They looked so happy.

“Do you think about that kind of stuff?” Jess asked, seeing where the blonde was looking. “I mean, if you go forward with this thing with Zac, kids are kind of out of the question, right? I know you’ve always wanted them.”

“Adoption, maybe?” Abel said, running a hand through her hair. “Who knows what will happen, Jess. Right now Zac is the most important thing to me. I want to deal with one thing at a time. I mean, who’s to say she even wants to be with me that way?” The blonde looked at her friend.

“Are you kidding me? You really have to ask that? From what you’ve told me of your summer and how things went when you left, shit, I don’t think that’s a problem.”

Both girls smiled at the couple as they pushed their stroller past them.

“What about you? What do you think you’ll do after grad?” Abel asked, turning to look at her friend.

“What, other than miss all your life dramas?” She grinned when she was smacked by a smiling blonde. “Nah, seriously, I don’t know. I mean, I’ll have my graphic arts degree. I guess get a job somewhere.”

“No grad school?”

“God, no! I’m so damn burnt out.” Jess rested her head against the trunk of the tree behind her. “I can’t wait to get my career started. Personally, I think you’re addicted to school. That’s the only bit of craziness I can think of for you wanting to continue.”

“Yeah, well, you’re just jealous.” Abel scooted down until she was laying back in the grass, hands behind her head. “I’ll be big and rich and you, well, won’t. Ow! I’m only kidding!” Abel exclaimed, rubbing her arm. “It’s just that for what I want to do, this is really the only way around it. I wish I could get Zac to go to school. She’s so smart.”

“What would she do?”

“I don’t know. Something with forestry or animals I’d say. She’d make a fantastic vet.” Abel smiled, thinking of the beautiful brunette with the forest animals. Her very own Snow White.

“Then maybe it will happen my friend. Think positive.”

“Thanks Tony Robbins.” Both grinned, enjoying their day off.

*****

Abel grabbed her backpack, tugging it onto her shoulder. She swore that by time she was finished with school, she would be permanently walking at a slant. Adjusting the bag for balance, she grabbed her fleece and headed out.

The blonde was happy, acing her first quiz in Models of the Mind. Whistling softly, she headed out into the late September day, thinking about the party she was going to that night. It was Friday, and she didn’t have to work until Sunday. Glory be!

She strolled out of the building, saying hi to people she passed, many of them friends or acquaintances from the Psych Club.

“Hey girl, you going tonight?” a tall, lanky red head asked.

“Yup. I’ll see you there, Meryl.”

“Awesome! My brother still wants to meet you!” With a flash, the girl was bounding up the stairs, leaving a bewildered blonde by the front door to the building.

“Well, he’ll be waiting awhile,” she muttered, and pushed on. Jessica was waiting for her outside so they could grab lunch together before Abel’s senior seminar.

“I am so hungry,” Jess said, tugging her backpack strap higher onto her shoulder.

“Me, too. Where do you want to go?”

“Hmm. Good question.” The girls began to walk, students all around them as the noon rush had started. “How about Arby’s?”

“Nah. I’m roast beefed out.”

“Kaaaay,” Abel looked around, seeing if anything would inspire her. “Oh! How about that new place they put into the student center?”

“Oh, good call.” Jess grinned. They turned in the direction of the large old building when the blonde stopped, wrinkling her brow. “What’s up? Come on.” Jess began to walk again, but noticed that her friend was not following. “Abel?”

The hair on the back of the blonde’s neck stood on end as she became besieged with a . . . feeling. She looked around, but saw nothing out of the ordinary. She began to walk again when she felt it even stronger than before.

She felt it. She felt her.

“Zac?” she said quietly, unable to shake the feeling that the brunette was there. Green eyes strayed to a large oak when someone stepped out from behind it. The blonde wasn’t sure until she saw the golden dog that bolted out from their hiding place.
Part 14
Abel gasped when Zac raised a hand in greeting and smiled. The blonde felt tears pop into her eyes as she dropped her backpack where she had stood and bolted. The golden-haired dog ran toward her, tongue flopping out the side of his mouth as he ran at full speed toward his other mistress.

Abel totally bypassed Aure, needing to get to Zac. She had to make sure it was not a hallucination.

The little blonde nearly bowled the taller girl over as she flew into her waiting arms, knocking the wind out of them both.

“Zac,” Abel breathed, burying her face into the warm skin of the brunette’s neck. “Oh, Zac.”

“I’m here,” was whispered back, clutching her love to her. “Don’t cry, Spinney. It’s okay.” Blue eyes squeezed shut in relief of the warm body against her. She had dreamed of this moment, dreamed of seeing the blonde again. There was just no way she could wait.

Abel nuzzled her nose into the warmth, a smile on her lips. She inhaled Zac’s smell and feel, reacquainting herself with it. Two months was far too long to have to wait for this. She could not do it again. Pulling away slightly, she looked up into soft blue eyes.

“Zac?”

“Yeah?”

“Don’t take this the wrong way, but what are you doing here?” The blonde leaned into the touch as she felt a large hand cup her cheek.

“Well, you know that feeling we get? That buzz with each other?” Abel nodded. “The sound was too low with you being here. I wanted to turn up the volume.” The blonde smiled.

“You’re too cute. How long are you staying?”

“I do what I can, and how long can I stay? Spinney, the woods aren’t my home anymore.”

Abel looked into those eyes, studying them, trying to understand. “What do you mean?”

“You are.”

Abel felt brand new tears sting behind her eyes, and she gave into them. Crushing Zac to her, she held on tight, molding their bodies and souls together.

Zac saw a woman walking toward them, the blonde’s bag in her hands, as she grasped at Spinney. The woman’s dark eyes bore into blue ones. Jess cleared her throat and watched as her friend slowly untangled herself from the gorgeous brunette.

Abel swiped at her eyes and looked at her roommate. She’d completely forgotten she was even there.

“Oh, hi, Jessica. This is Zac. Zac, this is Jess, my friend and roommate.”

Jessica took in the long frame, beautiful face and worn clothing. “Hi, Zac. It’s nice to finally meet you. I’ve certainly heard enough about you.” The darker girl held out her hand, which Zac took. She was mindful this time though to not crush it like she had Adam’s.

“Nice to meet you, too, Jessica. Spinney’s told me lots about you.”

“Spinney?” Jess looked quizzically at Abel who shook her head.

“Later.”

“Kay. Well, I’m gonna go, Abel. I thought I saw Jennifer over there, so maybe I’ll catch up to her for lunch. You two go do, well, whatever.” She grinned and handed the blonde her bag. A quick hug, and she was gone.

Abel turned back to her love and smiled. “Come on. Let’s go.”

As the blonde led Zac toward her car, she could not keep her eyes off the gorgeous woman. He gaze would drift back to the path they walked upon, only to stray once again.

“What?” Zac asked, entwining their fingers.

“Nothing. I just can’t believe you’re here.” Abel’s smile could not have been wider, nor could she have been flying higher.

“Well, believe it.” Zac grinned just as wide and squeezed Abel’s hand.

*****

Jessica finished up her homework, the school library near empty now as it was getting late. Checking her watch, she found that the building would be closing in fifteen minutes or so. She had to go, but wasn’t sure if she should go home. She knew that Abel would want some privacy and time alone with Zac, and she wanted to grant them that.

She thought of the unusually beautiful girl who had shown up on campus today. The brunette was truly something, and what pissed off the darker girl was that she knew Zac didn’t do a damn thing to enhance herself. She was just naturally that gorgeous. Never had she seen someone who turned so many heads, and had no clue. Nope, that beauty only had eyes for Abel.

Wow. It was kind of cool to see this girl that Abel had been crying over for months, but it was a bit surreal at the same time. More than likely, those two had gone back to the apartment and bopped their brains out. Though Jess had no problem with gays, it was still strange to think of it happening under her own roof. Especially with her best friend, who she thought had been straight all this time!

“Ma’am, we’ll be closing in ten minutes,” a cute little blonde said with a smile.

“Thanks.” Jess began to gather her books, ready to go home. She had no choice.

To her absolute relief, the apartment was quiet when she got home, save for the instant growling that started once she reached the hallway. From inside Abel’s bedroom, Jess heard someone tell the dog to shut it.

She hadn’t been in her room for longer than two minutes when there was a soft knocking on the door. Opening it, Jess saw Abel standing there in shorts and a tee.

“Hey, girl,” the darker girl said, glad to see that her roommate was smiling and looking happier than she had ever seen her.

“Hey. Can I come in?” Jess opened the door wider in answer. The blonde plopped down on the bed, waiting for Jess to join her.

“So that’s Zac, huh?”

“Yeah.”

Jess smiled at the dopey grin that made an instant appearance on Abel’s face. “She’s gorgeous. Really hot.”

“Yes she is. I’m so glad she’s here. God, Jess, I can’t even begin to tell you!” Abel clapped her hands together. “Her showing up here made my day, my week, my year, shit, my life! But I need to ask you a question.” Green eyes bore into brown.

“Honey, she can stay here. That’s cool.”

“Are you sure? I mean, you won’t be weirded out or anything?”

“No.” Jess shook her head. “She makes you happy, Abel. That’s all I could ask for. Besides, I know damn well if I found Romeo, you would have no problem with him being here.”

“True, but I found Juliet. There is a difference.”

“Not to me.”

“Thanks, Jess. I can’t tell you what this means to me.” The blonde grabbed Jessica in a huge hug, laying her head against her strong shoulder. “I love you, girl.”

“I love you, too, Abel. Now, go back to your girl. I’m sure she’s waiting for you.” The smile her comment evoked on that adorable face made it all worth it.

As Jess changed for bed, she realized that there was a part of her that was jealous. She was tremendously happy for her friend, but she also wanted to find such happiness. She prayed that someday she would.

*****

Abel snuck back into her bedroom, no easy feat considering Zac’s ever-present fuzzy security system. She patted him on the head and climbed back into bed after stripping. Zac, who was still asleep, automatically pulled the blonde into her arms and resettled with a little smacking of her lips.

Abel fell instantly to sleep, never feeling so happy and content in all her time knowing Zac. Having the brunette in her arms, in her bed, in her home, it was so satisfying to her. She worried about how Zac got there, knowing she had ridden the rails. The only thing that made her not chew the girl out was knowing that she would have been protected by the lab. Aure would never let anyone hurt his beloved Zac.

“Me neither,” Abel whispered, tightening her grasp around the arm that laid across her waist. “Me neither.”

*****

Zac woke to find herself naked and alone in a strange room in a strange place. Even Aure was gone. Sitting up, she rubbed her eyes and realized she was naked. Looking around, she saw Spinney in everything in the room.

There was a massive Freud poster on one closet door, as well as pictures of the blonde and her family, and some of Zac as well. There were awards, her high school diploma, as well as her cords from graduating with honors. There were some strange gag-type gifts on the dresser top, including a whoopee cushion and some fake black roses.

Zac smiled, knowing she was among Spinney’s things. She could smell the blonde everywhere – on her own skin, the bedding, the room itself. Getting out of bed, she walked over to the window and looked out. There was a large expanse of grass with a couple trees out there, and it looked super-inviting to the brunette. She knew Aure would love it.

She took a deep breath, trying to still her racing heart. Suddenly she was hit with an attack of nerves. What was she doing there? What about all her beloved trees back home? The smells of the forest? The sounds of all the animals just waking up, or those who had been awake for hours. What about all of that? What about her lean-to, and the land she’d come to see and think of as her own?

Zac shook her head to clear it. She could not be thinking of such things now. She had made her decision and couldn’t go back on it now. That would break Spinney’s heart. She could not allow that to happen, no matter what.

Abel dropped a third slice of turkey bacon in the pan, noting the satisfying sizzle, when she felt arms wrap around her from behind. She smiled and fell back into that strong, glorious body. She had the most amazing memories of that very body from the night before.

“Morning,” she murmured.

“Hi,” Zac said into her ear, nibbling a bit on the lobe. Abel felt a small shiver race through her body.

“Stop, you bad girl.” Abel knew Jess would be getting up any time, and she didn’t want to freak her out just yet.

Zac kissed the side of her neck and let her go. She saw Aure munching happily on his own breakfast, water sloshed all over the floor from his marathon drink sessions. She found herself a chair and sat down.

“Got any syrup?”

“Of course, you silly girl. I have been busy this morning.” Abel grinned over her shoulder at the brunette. “I got syrup and Hershey’s syrup as well as honey. I’ll tell you, babe, I sure hope you have a good exercise regimen in mind to combat becoming a house from what you eat.”

Zac grinned. “Eh, you’ll keep me fit.”

The blonde laughed at this. She was giddy and about to bounce off any wall that would hold still. She placed some food on a plate and took it over to her love.

“Here you go. Eat up.” She leaned in close. “Because I’ll tell you right now, you’ll need all the energy you can get.”

Zac looked into those determined green eyes, and felt her very own shiver race down her spine.

“Okay, save it for the bedroom, girls.” Jess walked in, bunny slippers making flopping noises on the linoleum as she made her way to the coffee maker. Abel stood and gave her friend an apologetic, shy grin.

“Want some breakfast, Jess?” She walked back over to the counter to prepare her own plate.

“God no. How you can eat that much in the morning always astounds me.” Jess sipped the bitter brew and then headed back to her room. “Gonna get ready for class. You two have a good day.” With the slam of her door, all was quiet again. Zac looked at Abel.

“Is she mad that I’m here?” The brunette was nervous. She didn’t want to cause any problems.

“Oh no.” Abel waved it off as she sat down across from the brunette. “She and I talked last night. She just hates mornings. Has since I’ve known her.” Abel sprinkled powdered sugar on her French toast. “So I was thinking about something. I have class today, what about you coming with me?” She eyed Zac, mindful of her reaction. “You know, sit in with me? You could see what a class is like, maybe learn something.”

Zac sat back, chewing slowly on her syrup-drenched food, studying the blonde. She turned this idea over in her mind, trying to decide if she could handle it or not. She wanted to do it, not only for Spinney, but there was that part of her, the part who always questioned her father’s warnings, which was curious. This was the part that had led her to Boston in the first place to find her Spinney.

“Okay,” she said slowly, sipping her orange juice. Her heart was racing, and she was scared. Truly scared. But she knew that if she were going to be with the blonde, really be with her, she’d have to allow herself to branch out and try Spinney’s world, on Spinney’s terms.

“Really?” Abel jumped up, wrapping her arms almost painfully around Zac’s neck. “I’m so excited! I can’t wait to show you around, and introduce you to people!”

Zac could feel the excitement and energy coming off Spinney in waves, and knew she’d done the right thing.

*****

Zac swallowed hard as she got out of Spinney’s car. She was nervous as hell. There were people swarming everywhere, going this way and that. Some looked at them, though most went on with their business as though Zac and Abel weren’t even there. She eyed them all suspiciously, waiting to see if anyone would do anything stupid.

“Come on, honey. It’s okay.” Abel glanced over at the brunette, worried for her. Her blue eyes were huge, and the blonde hoped that her love wouldn’t freak out. They’d take it slow. Maybe she could take half a day and only expose Zac to a couple classes. For right now.

They walked into Abel’s Brain, Behavior and Cognition class. The blonde took Zac up to her prof.

“Doctor Adams, this is Zac Lipton. She’s my guest today.”

“It is wonderful to meet you, Zac.” The long-haired, Berkenstocked professor smiled. “Are you thinking of joining our wonderful school here?” He smiled at the beautiful girl.

“Oh, uh, I’m not sure.” Zac smiled weakly, nervous.

“Well, I hope you enjoy the class. Any friend of Abel’s here is certainly bound to be a good friend of mine. This one has been with me for going on four years.” He put his arm around his advisee’s shoulders.

“Awww, you’re so sweet.” Abel grinned up at her trusted mentor. “Zac is new to the area, so I’m showing her around.”

“How wonderful! I hope you enjoy our fine city then.” Adams smiled again, then nudged the blonde away. “Alright, now enough sucking up. Go sit down.” He smiled as he was swatted by his favorite student. Not only beautiful, but brighter than most.

Zac sat down next to Spinney, nearly sitting on top of her, she was so nervous. She eyed the room and the students around her. Many were looking right back at her, mainly the males in the class. They were looking at her the way Spinney’s brother, Ben, did.

“I think you’re causing quite the stir, Zac.” Abel grinned.

“Why?”

“Because you’re gorgeous! They can’t take their eyes off you.” Abel bumped shoulders with Zac, happy to see a small smile, though it disappeared quickly. “Are you okay? Do you want to leave?”

“No.” Zac gave her a reassuring pat on the arm. “Don’t worry about me.”

As the class began, Zac listened to Dr. Adams, not understanding all of what he said, considering they were in the middle of the lesson long before she arrived. But what she did get was fascinating! She watched as Spinney wrote frantically, trying to get every ounce of information that the teacher gave to put in her notes.

She watched the blonde, noting the crease that formed between her green eyes. The way she listened intently, absorbing every word Adams had to say. Noting how Spinney seemed to eat it all up, loving it and tucking it away for future use.

Zac almost felt jealous of this love. Jealous of the way Spinney held the teacher in such high regard. It wasn’t that she felt threatened by this; she knew that the blonde loved her and she loved her back. But she wished she had such a passion, the key to something great like the blonde and her love of all that was psychology. She knew how much Spinney loved the human mind and the way it worked. The way people interacted with each other and “what made them tick.”

Abel often told the brunette that she’d do wonderfully in forestry sciences or maybe even as a vet. Zac had never even contemplated such things. That was for normal people who were smart and driven. Not for her. Some strange girl who wandered around a forest her entire life. Someone who was terrified of everyone ad everything.

Suddenly Zac felt a wave of anger pass through her. She stood and walked out of the room, a very stunned Professor Adams watching her go. Abel looked up, shocked and confused. She looked to her teacher for guidance, and he shrugged.

Hurrying from the room, the blonde looked up and down the hall until she spotted Zac looking out a window at the end of the hall, arms crossed tightly over her chest.

“Zac? What are you doing? You can’t just get up and leave like that. God, that’s rude and inconsiderate to Dr. Adams –” Abel stopped herself once she realized there were tear tracks down Zac’s cheeks. “Honey? What’s the matter?” She put a tentative hand on the brunette’s shoulder.

“I’m sorry I embarrassed you, Spinney,” Zac said, her voice low and flat. “I can go if you want.”

“What? Go? No. No, Zac, I don’t want you to go. Why would you think that?”

“I’m sorry I’m not like any of them in there.” Zac pointed toward the direction of the class with her thumb. “They’re all normal in there. And smart. Like you.” Fresh tears began to slide down her cheeks and she turned away, looking out the window again.

“Oh, honey. Please look at me.” Abel looked up into those tortured eyes with concern in her own. She reached up and brushed away the tears. “God, I love you so much,” she whispered. “Please don’t ever think I think any less of you, Zac. I don’t. I swear it. To me, you’re so smart. Unbelievably so. And strong. Oh honey, no. You’re not like everyone else, but that’s what made me fall in love with you in the first place. Don’t you see that?”

“No.” Zac looked down at her, hugging herself. “Really?”

“Yes.” Abel smiled just at the thought of the woman standing before her. “God, yes. You –” She paused as she tried to get her thoughts in order. “Zac, what you’ve been through and the person you are, all those things make me love you more. You are the kindest, most big-hearted person I think is on the planet. The things you know, most of which have been because of your reading, the things you wonder about and watch. The way you watch the birds outside my window at the apartment. The things you know about all the animals back in the forest. Oh, honey. Please don’t doubt yourself.”

“But all those people in there, and your strange teacher. They all have ambition and know what they want. They’re all like you, Spinney. Smart and driven and so fantastic. And then there’s me. I’m so afraid.” The last part was whispered, and Zac’s head hung, tears dripping down.

Abel was heartbroken for Zac, and gathered her into her arms. She cradled her head against her shoulder and held her. She could feel the pain and doubt radiating from Zac.

“I’m sorry, sweetie. I’m sorry I put you in this position. We’ll go home, okay?”

“You can’t miss class, Spinney. I know how much you love it.”

“It’s okay, Zac,” Abel whispered into her ear. “I know people who can get me notes, okay?” She felt Zac nod, and headed back to the room to gather her stuff. With a few quiet words to Dr. Adams, she and Zac were on their way. Abel held Zac’s hand in the car, not wanting her to think that she was angry with her. In fact, the blonde was plenty angry at herself. She wanted so badly to show Zac the world, her world, she didn’t even stop to think how that might impact the skittish brunette.

“Does your teacher think I’m an idiot?” Zac asked, her voice quiet, subdued.

“No. I’ll explain later. Don’t worry about what other people think, Zac. They don’t matter. You know who you are, and I know who you are and just how wonderful you are. That’s all that counts. Got it?” She glanced over at the beautiful girl sitting next to her. Blue eyes met hers.

“Yeah.”

“Good.”

*****

Zac laid in Abel’s arms, cheek resting against the blonde’s naked breast. Zac reveled in the slow, even breathing that slightly moved her head with every breath Spinney took. She was running her fingertips over the smooth skin of the blonde’s stomach, watching them dance.

“Zac?” Abel asked, absently running her fingers through the long, dark hair.

“Hmm?”

“Do you regret coming here?”

“No.” Zac kissed the soft skin under her cheek and laid back down. “I don’t.”

“What made you decide to come?”

“Well, it was so hard to watch you leave for school.” Zac swallowed at the painful memory. “God, that hurt. I began to hate being there without you, Spinney. It just wasn’t home anymore.”

“Aww, sweetie.” Abel leaned up and kissed that long, dark hair.

“I kept thinking about you here, about what you were doing here, and how I probably wouldn’t see you much anymore. So busy and all. I didn’t want that. I wanted to be with you.”

“Was it the right decision?” Abel held her breath, afraid to hear the answer. After earlier that day, she felt the heavy weight of guilt. She worried that Zac had left all that she loved and felt comfortable just to be with her, and that the brunette would eventually hate her for it.

Zac lifted her head and saw the worry between the blonde’s eyes. She used a thumb and smoothed out the worry lines. “You worry too much, Spinney. Please don’t. I want to be with you. I love you.”

“I love you, too, Zac.” Abel leaned up and placed a soft kiss on her lips. “What would you like to do tomorrow, sweetie? I’m not going to make you do anything you don’t want to, or aren’t ready for, okay? If you want to stay here with Aure, that’s fine. Or I could take you to a park, you guys could wander. Whatever.”

“I’m not sure what I’ll do. Maybe me and Aure can just wander around campus? Wait for you?”

“Will you be okay with that?” Abel reached up and smoothed back some hair that was curtaining Zac’s beautiful ace. The brunette nodded.

“I think so. Maybe I’ll even go to a class or two.” She smiled weakly. “Maybe.”

“Hey, if you want to, I’d love to have you. I’ll even sit in the back if you want, so that way if you need to leave, you can.” She gave Zac a smile of encouragement. “How’s that sound?”

“Good.” Zac leaned down and kissed the blonde, caressing the smooth skin of Spinney’s side. Abel sighed into the kiss, opening her mouth for an inquisitive tongue, and responding in kind. Zac lowered her body atop Abel’s, moaning at the full-body contact and feeling the blonde’s strong thighs wrap around her own.

“I love you, Zac,” Abel said into the kiss, bringing her hands down Zac’s back, ending on her butt, pushing her into her, and thrusting up slightly to meet her.

“I love you, too.” Zac left Abel’s mouth and began to explore her neck and collar bones. She loved the feel and taste of Spinney’s skin and body. Loved to touch her and run her mouth everywhere. She worked her way down Abel’s body, settling between parted thighs.

“Yes,” Abel sighed, eyes closing and head rolling to the side as she felt herself being feasted upon. Her hands ran through Zac’s hair, guiding her to where she needed her most, and whimpering when her wish was granted. She raised her knees to give more access, and the brunette took advantage of such a gift.

Zac moaned into her activity, loving the taste and feel and sounds. She could feel Spinney’s body becoming taut like a bow, ready to explode. She stayed where she was, knowing exactly where the blonde liked to be touched, waiting for that magical moment when everything else ceased to exist except for them as the blonde was thrown into the clutches of pure bliss.

Panting, Abel blindly grabbed for her love, who quickly climbed back up her body and gathered the blonde up into strong arms. She trembled as the last vestiges of pleasure rocketed through her, Zac keeping her safe.

“I’ve got you,” Zac whispered, kissing the top of the blonde head. “My love. My wonderful, wonderful Spinney.”

Abel held on for dear life. She was so afraid to think this was how things would be now. There was the tiniest, niggling voice in the back of her head telling her to protect her heart. She was so afraid that one morning Zac would wake up and decide she wanted to be back home again. She couldn’t shake it. But she had to. Zac couldn’t know of her doubts. She’d risked so much to come to her. Left so much behind.

They had to make it work.

*****

Aure stayed with Zac as they wandered around the beautiful campus of Spinney’s university. They looked at the various types of flowers and plants that were still in bloom, Zac quietly explaining each of them to the lab, who insisted on sniffing each and every one.

“Come on, you goon.” She led the dog further onto campus, loving all the trees that surrounded then. They found a nice little thicket and sat down. Abel had supplied the duo with plenty of reading material, and Zac was beside herself at it all. She opened the text, one of Jessica’s from the previous semester. She began to read all about the history of ancient civilizations and their patterns of war.

She could not understand why people were so stupid and insisted on fighting each other all the time. Though it made no sense, it was fascinating.

Suddenly a shadow fell over her book, making Zac squint up at the person. Dark eyes took in the sight of the sleeping dog and blue-eyed woman racing through the pages of her old text book.

“Hey, Zac.”

“Hi Jessica. How are you?”

“Doing okay. Mind if I sit?” At the shake of the dark head, Jess sat down, resting her wrists on her bent knees. “So how are things? What do you think of the city?”

Zac glanced over at her dread-locked companion and shrugged. “It’s very different. But I do like it in many ways. It’s nice to be able to actually see what Sp, I mean, Abel’s been talking about all this time.” She smiled nervously.

“I bet. Abel talks about you and those woods all the time, you know.” Jess stared out over the campus, readjusting her sunglasses.

“No, I didn’t know.”

“Yup. Listen, I’ve known Abel for four years now, and I care a lot about her. This whole thing with you was a huge surprise to me, but I can see why she fell for you. You’re gorgeous and seem like a really sweet girl.” The darker girl glanced over at the blushing brunette. “Please don’t hurt her, Zac. Abel is so fragile. If you hate it here, or don’t want her, whatever, tell her. She can handle it. Just don’t fuck with her, okay?”

Zac looked at Spinney’s friend, seeing the concern and true friendship and caring reflected on her face. She nodded. “Believe me when I tell you I’d do nothing to hurt Abel. I love her.”

“I know you do. And she loves you. You guys will be okay.” Jess smiled. “So what’s your plan?”

“Other than be there for Abel as much as possible and love her?”

Jess grinned, nudging Zac’s shoulder with her own. “I like the way you think. But other than that, yes. You gonna get a job? Go to school, what?”

“Oh,” Zac blushed, feeling like an idiot. “I don’t know. What does Abel want me to do?”

“Don’t know. You can ask her though. She’s on her way over here.” Jess nodded toward the little blonde, who was making her way steadily across the manicured lawns. An instant smile spread over Zac’s face as Aure jumped up, running over to his new favorite person.

“Hey, buddy,” Abel cooed, reaching down to pet the excited dog. She glanced up, glad to see her two favorite people talking and no blood. “Hey guys,” she said, tossing her bag down next to Zac. She followed suit, resting her head on the brunette’s shoulder.

“Hi,” Zac said, smiling and giving her a little kiss on the tip of her nose. Abel smiled.

“Okay. This is my exit. PDA, PDA.” Jess pretended to get up, but was soon tackled by a playful Abel.

“No ya don’t!” she said, looking down at her quarry. “Come to dinner with us.”

“You sure? I mean, I don’t want to interrupt anything . . .”

“Hush.” Abel pulled the darker girl up and then reached for Zac’s hand. “Come on, ladies. Let’s eat.”

“Can we go somewhere where there’s syrup?”

*****

Zac sat in the lobby, waiting to be called in. Over the past few weeks, both Spinney and Jess had been schooling her on the art of the job interview. She held her paltry resume in her hands, trying her best to not twist it in her nervous grip. Instead, her foot beat a restless rhythm that was about to drive the secretary at the work force center crazy.

“Zac Lipton?” Zac looked up to see an older, balding man in a shirt and loosened tie standing in the entrance of an office. She stood.

“Here . . . sir.” She was doing her best to try and remember all her etiquette. Be nice. Be polite. Sell yourself.

She followed the man into the office, where he sat behind an old, beat up desk, and indicated that she should sit in the chair in front of him.

“So you’re a girl. I have to say, I expected a man with that kind of name.” He laughed, his belly laughing right along with him, and coffee-stained teeth glinting off the heavy overhead lighting.

“I’m all girl, sir.”

“So I see. Okay –” He leaned forward, his elbows resting on the table. “Down to business. I have to say, Zac, can I call you Zac?” At the brunette’s nod, he continued. “There isn’t much here to work with. Where you been? Living in a cave or something?”

“Well, more like half-cabin, half-cave, actually.”

The man threw his head back and laughed once again, slapping the desk with a meaty palm. “You’re funny, kid, I like that.” Zac smiled, uncertain what was so funny, but she could be polite. “Well, since you don’t really have an iota of experience, how are you with physical labor?”

Abel flipped the page of the Maxim magazine she found abandoned on the bench outside the work force center. Brows raised in surprised, she began to read and look at the pictures in the racy mag. She had trouble concentrating, though. She knew Zac really wanted to be able to help out, and decided that a job was the place to start. The blonde thought it was an excellent idea, though she still worried.

Zac had started to get better and slightly more comfortable around other people. She was totally cool with Jess now, and in fact, they got along very nicely. More than once, Abel had come home from school and found them laughing and cleaning up after one of their numerous food fights. She wasn’t sure why Jessica insisted on having those juvenile fights, but they both seemed to enjoy it, so be it.

Abel turned another page, shocked at the rather skanky picture of Paris Hilton. She did not understand what the draw was with that girl. Sighing, she tried to get interested in the article, but it wasn’t working so well. Finally she gave up and set the mag aside, beginning to understand why the person had left it there in the first place.

So, humming it was. She tapped her fingers to a distant beat in someone’s parked car, her head beginning to follow in a bob.

“Care to dance?”

The blonde head popped up, startled and slightly embarrassed. She saw a grinning Zac standing there, hands on her hips.

“Why yes, I would.” Abel stood, taking Zac’s hands in her, and singing in a really bad voice, began to lead Zac all over the front of the building. Passersby on the sidewalk grinned at the pair. “So?” Abel asked, bringing their impromptu dance to an end.

“I’ll be working on the docks,” Zac said, grinning from ear to ear.

“What? You got a job?”

“Yep. Helping to unload boats.”

“Zac, that’s great!” Abel grabbed Zac in a massive hug, so proud of her. “That’s wonderful! When do you start?” She put her arm through Zac’s as they walked along the street, headed for the blonde’s car.

“Monday. I’ve got a week. That is, I start Monday, provided my drug test comes out okay. Have you ever had to pee in a cup? That’s not fun. I just kept thinking of when I have to pee in coffee cans when I travel the rails. Got real good at my aim.”

Abel glanced up at her love, brow raised and her nose pulled up in a grimace.

“What?”

*****

“Fourteen dollars an hour!?” Abel groaned, again. “That is so not fair!”

“What? Is that a lot?” Zac asked, grabbing the milk and juice out of the fridge.

“I’ve been at the grocery for four years and still have only managed to get them to raise me to six!” She slammed the cabinet closed.

Jessica snickered. “Is that good?”

“Hey, I don’t know.” Zac shrugged.

“Yes, that’s good. That’s very good considering you’re a human crane.” Abel said, plopping the tuna casserole she’d made onto the table.

“Whoa! Down girl.” Jess grinned, picking up a stray piece of tuna that leaped out of the still-hot pan on contact.

Abel plunked her own defeated self into her chair, arms crossed over her chest, and pouted at Zac. “You’re buyin’ me nice stuff, then.”

Zac leaned over and whispered into her ear, making her giggle and blush.

“Okay, ew.” Jess grabbed plates and silverware, handing the pair a set. “Congrats, Zac. I’m proud of you even if Stimpy here isn’t.”

“Hey, I am too.” Abel threw her balled up napkin at her friend.

“Oh, thanks.” Jess unballed it and stuffed it in her shirt.

“Give me that back.” The blonde pouted again.

“Finders keepers, losers weepers.”

“I am not a loser. Just because I’m poor.”

And the celebrations continued.

*****

The leaves changed and the temperatures dropped. Winter was coming, and it was coming fast. One thing Zac found she definitely liked better was being inside during those storms. She loved that she could curl up with Spinney any time she wanted to, plus was kept warm.

Aure loved his three mistresses. Heck, he was in doggy heaven all the time now. Always somebody there to take him to the park across the street and toss the ball for him or just let him chase the few squirrels out of the couple of trees. What could be better?

Zac was settling into her job at the docks. It was backbreaking work, but she was able to work alone often. This being with people all the time thing was strange for her, and took a great deal of getting used to. At first, her co-workers scared the crap out of her, but she was used to them now. She even liked a few. There was a guy named George who was rather nice to her. She liked him.

Abel’s second-to-last semester was flying by, and she was ready for it to end. Certainly ready for Christmas break, which was in two weeks. She had gone all out to make Zac’s first Christmas in the city a good one.

One fall day, the two had driven to a tree lot and had bought a beautiful, full six footer. They tied it to the top of the blonde’s Jetta and drove home. Getting that tree into the building had been a task at patience. Luckily they lived on the first floor, but still, the tree did NOT want to go through the front or back door. Finally with a mighty push, it popped through, only taking about half the paint from the doorway with it.

“Extra decoration,” Zac had proudly announced of the white-tipped branches.

They had waited until Jess had gotten home with the decorations, then the three had set to trimming it. They put tons of colorful balls on it made of glass. Tons of garland and popcorn strings. This, they found, was an extraordinarily bad idea. Aure went behind them and ate it off as soon as it was placed. He even managed to get the higher strings.

Three yelling women chased him out of the room to figure out what would replace it. More garland and lights it was. Later that night, Zac once again stood next to Abel as she lit the first of the eight candles on her menorah and recited the song of Hanukkah.

Zac watched the blonde as she sang, her voice low and sweet. She saw the way the burgeoning flame from the candle lit up her profile. The delicate, beautiful features. The way her green eyes looked gray in the orange hue, yet her blonde hair seemed to glow with a light of its own.

Zac was transfixed. She didn’t even notice when the blonde finished her song and turned to look at her. Without a word, Abel grabbed Zac’s hand and pulled the brunette to her. She leaned up and kissed those soft lips that she grew to love more and more with each passing day.

She stepped away from the kiss, but not the circle of Zac’s arms. “I love you, Zac. So much.”

“I love you, too, my Spinney,” Zac whispered, kissing the tip of that nose that she had been looking at only moments before.

“I am yours.”

“I know. And you’re mine. Happy Hanukkah.” Zac reached to the shelf nearby and handed Abel a small, wrapped package. Green eyes lit up.

“For me?”

“Who else?” Zac grinned. Shyly, she clasped her hands behind her back as she watched. Like a little kid, Abel tucked into the wrapping paper like nothing else. Zac had never been able to buy her blonde anything, so she was excited.

Abel unwrapped the small gift, finding a small, long, white box beneath. She glanced up into shy, uncertain blue eyes before looking back to the box. Carefully opening it, she saw a simple, but very beautiful, white gold bracelet tucked into velvet.

“Oh, Zac,” she breathed.

“Jess said you like white gold a lot,” Zac shyly offered.

“I do. Put it on me.” Quickly Zac took the bracelet and the proffered wrist, clasping the piece of jewelry.

“Do you like it?” she asked, watching as Spinney studied the bracelet.

“Oh, yes.” Abel looked up at the brunette, tears in her eyes. “Thank you, Zac. Thank you so much.” She grabbed the beautiful girl in a massive hug and laid one on her. “I love it. And I love you.”

“I’m glad, and I love you, too.”

*****

The drive up to the cabin was beautiful. Fresh snow had fallen over the past couple weeks, but not enough to stop traffic.

Zac sat in the passenger seat, looking excitedly out the window, Aure panting over her shoulder.

“Going home, boy.” She grinned, ruffling the dog’s velvet-like ears. Abel glanced over, feeling that comment like a dagger. She said nothing. It was not made to her.

Instead she focused on the welcome she’d receive from her family. Back in October, she had called her mother.

“Wait, who’s there?”

“Zac!” The blonde had been bouncing in her seat with excitement. She just hoped she’d have the support of her mother on this. She also hoped her mother would do the dirty work of telling her father.

“Oh, honey! That’s wonderful! How did that happen?” As Sherry listened to her daughter recount the happy news, she couldn’t help but worry and hope. She hoped that Zac, after being so very upset when Abel had gone back to school, was sure about what she had done. If Zac Lipton hurt her baby girl, she’d hunt the girl down herself and hang her from her toenails.

“Oh mom, she’s wonderful. She’s so sweet and loving. Jess gets along with her really well, too, and tomorrow she has some job interviews! It’s so great. God, I was SO stunned to see her standing there. It was like something out of a movie. So awesome!”

“I’m so happy for you, honey. I really am.” Sherry smiled into the phone, wanting her baby to know just how happy for her she really was. She still did not understand the whole girl-with-girl thing, but it was her daughter’s business. She had already slightly cracked the news to Adam. That is, put a little bug in his ear that something may be going on. She knew it was a matter of time before he’d have to hear the whole enchilada.

“Mom?” Abel began to play with her hair, a definite sign of nerves. “What about dad?”

“What about him? He’s not a monster, honey.”

“I know. But he doesn’t understand like you do. I mean, with you teaching in a high school, you’re around messed-up kids all the time. He’s not.”

“Honey, you’re not ‘messed up.’ You’re in love. Not a huge difference, but there still is one.”

“Ha ha.” Abel smiled despite her worry. “She’ll be coming out with me for Christmas, mom.”

“Nice choice of words, honey.”

“Thanks. Is he going to freak?”

“Well,” Sherry sat back in her chair, watching the kids play video games, their father in his workshop building . . . something. “That’s always a possibility. You need to set yourself up for that. He’ll come around ultimately, you know that. He loves you kids more than anything. He’ll let off steam, then realize that you’re happy. That’s all he’s after in the end.”

“Yeah, it’s just getting to that end that’s the problem.”

“Don’t think about that now, sweetie. You’ve got a brand new life ahead of you with this wonderful girl. I love her, your sisters and brothers love her. Shoot, Becky’s always asking where Zac is and ‘When can we see her again.’”

Abel smiled at the thought of her baby sister who grew to look more and more like her every day. “Well, tell Beck that she’ll be able to see Zac whenever she sees me.”

“Oh, she’ll be thrilled.” Sherry laughed.

“Okay. Well thanks, mom. I’m so glad you know. This was eating me up. I hated not being able to talk to you about it.”

“Abel, you can talk to me about anything. You should know that. I may not always understand or approve, but I’ll always do my best to give you the credit you’ve earned. You’ve got a good head on your shoulders, and I know you routinely use it. This is no exception. Okay?”

“Okay. Thanks, mom. I love you.”

“I love you too, honey. I can’t wait to see you two at Christmas.”

“Me, too.”

Abel smiled, so grateful for her mother. She had gotten her through some pretty amazing things already. She was lucky.

“What are you smiling at?” Zac asked, taking the blonde’s hand in her own and resting them on her thigh.

“Oh, just thinking about my mom.”

“She’s pretty amazing.”

“Yes, she is.”

*****

Green eyes opened and looked around her room. She saw all of her stuff and Zac’s piled near the wall, but no Zac or Aure. Slightly irritated, she got up, the cold air sending a chill across her naked skin. Quickly pulling on her clothes from yesterday, she headed downstairs. She loved waking up wrapped up in Zac. Where did she go?

There were no food smells as she reached the second floor landing, and the house was quiet. Hurrying faster, she was about to start down to the first floor when she glanced out of the window that looked out over the back of the cabin.

Twenty yards from the house, she spotted two figures, one dark, one light. Zac was bundled up, and she and the dog were playing in the snow. Abel folded her arms across her chest, feeling hurt and left out. She knew she was feeling very sensitive right now. She was so worried that Zac would come back to the cabin and realize she wanted to stay there. She almost packed more clothes for the brunette for that reason.

Dog and human frolicked, throwing up snow as they pranced around each other and the trees. Aure could vaguely be heard barking, a white puff accompanying each one. Zac grinned like a fool and threw snow up into the air, which the dog swiftly jumped up to try and catch.

Abel couldn’t help but smile at the show, even as her heart sank. Why didn’t Zac wake her up? Did she not want her with them? Did Zac want to be alone? Did she regret that she had left the forest in the first place?

The blonde swiped at a tear she felt jump from her eye and headed back upstairs.

*****

Zac inhaled the cold air, letting it fill her lungs to capacity. Aure had pooped out on her, so she was letting him take a rest. As he did, she turned in a slow circle, taking in the trees and land that she knew so well. She could be blind and she’d still know where every single tree stood, and how to get around them. She could find all the hidden little holes and caves. All the bumps and ruts in the path. It felt good to know something so well.

The snow, so white and clean and crisp. One thing she didn’t like about Boston was the snow didn’t stay so pure. So soon it was ruined by either dogs or traffic exhaust and dirt. She’d never take snow from the ground and eat it like she did in the forest. To prove her point, she grabbed a handful, chewing on the wetness.

As Zac looked around, she realized that she felt different being there than she had three months ago, or even this time last year. She felt more at ease with herself, and less afraid. Before, she always had this strange feeling of anxiety or anticipation lurking in the back of her mind. Now that she had faced so many of her fears, had a job, had walked the streets of Boston alone as well as with Spinney, she felt like she had conquered so many of those anxieties. She knew now that there was not a Boogie Man waiting around every corner, and in fact, some cops could be really nice. Like when that guy in the SUV had knocked her over as he pulled out of his parking space, that cop had been so nice and helpful.

“You lied, dad,” Zac said into the cold morning air. “You lied to me so many times.” No longer. She didn’t believe him anymore. He was dead and so were all his lies. Selfish, selfish lies.

Zac grinned, feeling so free and happy. She put her arms out and up into the air and spun around in a circle where she stood.

Abel watched Zac’s excitement at being home again. She couldn’t keep the tears from streaming down her cheeks, knowing that she was losing Zac. They had had three of the most amazing months, and it was coming to an end.

Her heart was breaking.

*****

“Dad, why are you mad at me?” Abel asked, watching her father pace back and forth, hands shoved into his pockets.

“I’m not mad at you, Abel,” he said, though his clenched jaw seemed to say different.

“For some reason, I don’t believe that.”

“Why, Abel? Why a girl? Aren’t there plenty of nice, good-looking guys there at your school? Wasn’t that why you chose BU over Stapleton? Co-ed?”

“Yes dad, but–”

“But what? You have the pick of the crop, honey.” He walked over to his daughter, placing his hands on her shoulders. “Honey, you’re a beautiful, intelligent young woman. Any man would be honored and lucky to have you.”

“That may be, dad, but I don’t want them. I only want Zac.”

Adam stared down at her, brows drawn as he took in what she said. “You do, huh?”

“Yes. Please understand that. There is nothing you can say or do to change that. Please don’t make me choose.” Abel looked up at her father with pleading eyes. They had been close when she was little, but ever since she’d started making her own decisions, he had had problems with it. She hated to admit that perhaps her father had a bit of chauvinism in there.

Adam sighed and took his daughter in a hug. “I love you, honey. I want you to be happy. Okay?” He felt her nod against her chest. “Does this girl make you happy?” Again a nod. “I don’t understand, and I have to be honest and tell you, I don’t approve. But, alas, I have nothing to say in this. It is your life, and it pisses me off that I owe your mother ten dollars.”

Abel pulled away, looking up at his smiling face. He shrugged. “Teach me to bet against you.”

“Jerk.” Abel grabbed him in another hug, happy to be safe in her daddy’s arms.

*****

“Did you enjoy Christmas, honey?” Sherry asked, walking up behind her daughter, who stared out the window. Abel glanced over at her and nodded.

“Yeah, it was great. You outdid yourself with dinner.” The younger blonde patted her satisfied stomach.

“Good. Glad you approve. So, what’s up?”

“What do you mean?”

“I know you, my sweet. You can’t hide your emotions from me.” Sherry’s green eyes, so much like those of her daughter, bored into her profile.

“Nothing. Really mom, it’s nothing.”

“Mentiroso.”

“I am not a liar, mom.” Abel glared at her mother, then returned her gaze to the night beyond.

“Maybe not, but you are lying. Come on . . .” She put her arm around her eldest’s shoulders. “Talk to me.”

“I’m so afraid that Zac is going to want to stay here,” she finally said, her voice quiet.

“Why do you say that?”

“She’s out there all the time, mom.” Abel looked up at her mother with pleading eyes, hoping that she’d understand. “It’s like she can’t get enough. And so often now, she goes off by herself with just Aure. Like she doesn’t want to spend any time with me.”

“Honey, she was with you all day. She was at your side, and rather solicitous of your needs, for that matter.”

“Yeah, she was.” The blonde smiled at the memory. “But at the same time, I don’t know. Just a feeling I get.”

“Have you asked her?”

“No!” Abel looked terrified at the idea.

“Why not?”

“I’m so afraid of what she might say. You know, the ‘If it’s not said, it’s not thought,’ mentality.” Abel hugged herself, leaning her forehead against the cool glass. “I now it’s childish, but I love her so much, and I’ve been happier in the past few months than I can ever remember. It would kill me if she left.”

“Well, honey, until you decide to talk to her, I’m afraid you’re stuck in your rut of indecision and doubt.” She leaned over and kissed her daughter on the top of the head. “I love you, honey, and know your family is here, no matter what happens. ’Kay?” She saw her daughter nod, and decided to leave her be.

Later that night, Abel lay in bed, listening to Zac get ready in the bathroom. She was amazed that the brunette was staying with her in the house. She totally expected her to want to stay in her lean-to. She already had once this trip.

The bathroom door opened, and Zac quickly made her way over to the bed, climbing in and automatically taking Abel in her arms.

“I’ve gotten spoiled in Boston,” the brunette said, inhaling the scent of the blonde’s hair.

“In what way?” Abel wrapped an arm around Zac, tucking her fingers under the taller girl’s side.

“The apartment being so warm. But being colder here means more snuggling.” She wiggled her body contentedly. “I love it here, babe,” she breathed, her voice full of wonder and happiness. “I love having you here with me. Smelling the fresh, clean air again. Seeing all my old haunts. I was thinking we’d go into Spectreville tomorrow if you’re game.”

“Oh, okay.” Abel felt her eyes stinging again, and swiped an annoyed hand at them. “We can do that.” She did her best to keep her voice steady and calm.

“Great!” Zac pulled the little blonde even closer to her, oblivious to the tempest of emotions that was wanting to explode in her little blonde.

*****

Zac held Abel’s hand in a death grip as they walked through the forest, bundled up to no end, but that didn’t matter. She had to see it one last time. She had to absorb as much of her old life as possible so she could say goodbye. She had to say goodbye, and was getting ready for just that.

Abel watched as the trees passed, seeing a memory at each one. She wanted so badly to know how Zac was feeling, and what she was thinking. She didn’t dare ask. She could not stand the thought of hearing that Zac was deciding to stay in Maine, and that she’d be driving home by herself. The thought of that seemingly big bed alone was too much to bear.

Zac could feel the weight starting to press upon her. They’d be leaving the following morning, and a sense of dread at leaving covered her completely. She was anxious to get back to the life she had begun to build in Boston, but at the same time, she was afraid to have to once again leave her comfort zone.

Over the past six weeks, she had fallen back into her old world. She had been in every nook and cranny of the woods, stayed in her lean-to and had visited Spectreville several times as well. Sometimes the little blonde was at her side, sometimes not.

Zac was grieving. She was hurting inside, feeling a part of herself die slowly. It was painful, yet she was so hopeful. With Abel at her side, she could do anything, and she knew that the blonde was worth all the pain in the world. Saying goodbye to her world was not easy. She felt guilty, like she was betraying her father, but she knew he had betrayed her long ago. He had filled her head with so many lies, so much that had held her back from a normal life.

The brunette smiled, thinking of all that she wanted to do once she got back to the city. She wanted to go to school and get her GED. She had read about it on the internet, which she had figured out how to use. She wanted to take Jessica up on the driving lessons she had offered before they’d left for the cabin. She wanted to do so many things for and with Spinney. She wanted to make the blonde proud of her, and wanted to make herself proud, too.

“It’s beautiful here, isn’t it?” Zac asked, feeling her chest expand with pride in her new-found decisions and strength and courage.

“Sure is. Will you miss it?” Abel felt like a heel quizzing Zac that way, but she had to know, even if she didn’t want to.

“God, yes. It’s going to be so hard.” Zac’s voice was quiet and filled with reverence for her surroundings. No matter where she ended up, she would always love her beloved forest. She’d even missed her little squirrel buddy, who, to her dismay, she had not seen since returning. “I’ll miss it very much.”

“I’m sorry, Zac. Really, I am,” Abel said, her head down.

“It’s okay,” Zac said, squeezing the blonde’s hand, not understanding that Abel’s heart was breaking wide open, the crack louder than the sound of a falling tree.

“I love you.”

“I love you, too.” Zac didn’t see the watery smile that accompanied the sentiment.

*****

“Good luck, honey. We’re here for you,” Sherry whispered into her daughter’s ear as they stood out next to the packed Jetta.

“Thanks, mom. I’ll call you later.”

“Okay. I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

With final goodbyes and hugs and kisses, Abel and Zac climbed into her car and drove into the falling snow.

Zac was quiet on the drive. She tried to do her best not to cry, feeling that final tear in the strings of evolution. She also tried to not look in the rearview mirror. She did not want to see a final look at her past gone. She only looked forward out the windshield and into her future.

“Are you okay?” Abel asked, her voice quiet and unsure. Zac nodded.

“Yeah. Fine.”

“Want to talk about it?”

“Nothing to talk about.”

Abel nodded, hoping that Zac would stop being stubborn and just talk to her about what she was feeling. What was going on in that brain of hers? Her heart? Anything. She knew Zac wasn’t spectacular at talking about her feelings, but this one could be potentially bad. She would hate it if the brunette hated or resented her, feeling like it was because of Abel that she had left what she knew and loved.

The blonde sighed, turning up the radio to absorb the silence.

*****

Abel rolled over, a deep, sleep-induced sigh escaping her lips. She immediately reached out for the familiar warm body, only to find a cold mattress. Opening one eye, the blonde saw the empty space next to her.

She listened, and realized that she didn’t hear the soft snoring of Aure, either. She sat up, nearly throwing the covers to the floor in her haste. Panic filled her hazy brain as she realized that both her love and the dog were gone.

As she jumped out of the bed, tugging on any clothing she found, she just knew that they had gone, hopping the rails to make their way back to Maine. She grabbed two shoes, just happy that there was a left and a right one, not caring if they matched. Grabbing her keys off the side table, she was about to bolt out of the room when she glanced out the window. There, across the street in the tiny park, were two figures. They sat under one of the only trees, one with his head laying in the other’s lap.

Abel slowly made her way across the icy street, mismatched, too big shoes flopping against the pavement. As she got closer, she saw Zac sitting there, chin resting on a raised knee.

“Zac?” she said, her voice so quiet against the even quieter early-morning chill. She pulled her jacket a little closer to her body.

“What are you doing up?” Zac asked, raising her head to look up at her love.

“What are you doing out here?” Abel indicated the park around them.

“Just thinking.” The brunette rested her head back against the tree at her back.

“Oh.” Abel shoved her hands into the front pockets of her jeans, sighing in a puff of white. “Listen Zac, I’ve been doing some thinking, too.” She looked down, her long, blonde hair falling to cover her face. “I saw the way you were back at the cabin. I know how much your heart is still there.” She glanced up, but could not look at Zac. “I’m sorry I’ve kept you here, Zac. I know you can’t stand the craziness of the city when you love the peaceful quiet of the forest so much.” Her voice began to tremble.

“Abel –”

“No! Please just let me get this out.” Abel glanced very briefly at Zac, but once again her gaze fell to the snow-covered grass at her feet. “I’m not going to keep you here against your will. I know you long for the wild, and probably Aure does too. If you want, I would be,” she swallowed, “happy to drive you back to Maine. Just say the word, Zac.” She was on the verge of outright crying. “I’ll do it. For you. I love you that much.” She could not hold it in. “Just tell me.” She turned and began to quickly head for the apartment building.

Zac watched, stunned and not sure what to do. What the hell? What just happened? The brunette was utterly confused. Did Spinney not love her anymore? Did she want her to leave?

“Abel?” The blonde stopped, her back still to Zac.

“Yeah?” she managed through her tears.

“Do you love me?”

Abel turned, fuming. “Of course I do, goddamn it! That’s why I’m willing to let you go, Zac! I want you to be happy, and if it’s back in the woods, then so be it. It would kill me to see you unhappy, especially if I were the cause. I saw the way you looked out into those trees, such longing.” Abel took a breath. “Oh, Zac. I’m so sorry I’ve made you so unhappy here.”

“Abel, I, I’m out here because Aure needed to pee.” Zac stood, the dog in question groaning in protest at being moved. Zac stared at her love, feeling her whole being fill with love and compassion for this woman who had taken her and turned her life upside down, all for the better. Abel had made her happier than she had ever known was possible, ever thought could be. She had taken her by the hand and had shown her what the real world was all about.

Sure, Zac loved the forest and the wild, always would, but she was dying there. Slowly but surely dying. The blonde had made her come to life, and she wanted to share that with the blonde in any way she could. Zac had said her goodbyes to the woods over Christmas, and was now ready to spend the rest of her life with Abel, in a city, wherever Abel wanted. She wanted them to have something together to signify that. Something they could both work on.

“Spinney?” she said, her voice soft.

“What?” Abel wiped at her eyes, the tears just not stopping. She was confused.

“Can we get a house plant?”

“Wait, what?” Abel wasn’t sure she’d heard right. She was even more confused now. “A house plant?”

“Yeah.” Zac grinned, that cute little crooked one that Abel loved so much. “We can water it together, watch it grow, have to replant it in like six months, yell at Aure as he tries to pee in it, you know.”

Abel turned to fully face Zac, her head cocked to the side, trying to absorb what she was being told. “You and me? Where?” She took a tentative step forward.

“What do you mean, where? Here, you goof. And of course you and me. I don’t want crazy Jess anywhere near any plant of mine.”

Without warning, it all hit Abel at the same time, and with a squeal of relieved delight, she ran to Zac and bowled her over. The brunette fell back into the snow, squirming under the onslaught of kisses that were being littered all over her face and neck.

“I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you!” Abel managed between each one.

“I love you, too,” Zac giggled, trying to avoid being kissed in the eye. Finally Abel let up, looking down into the beautiful face of her love.

“You mean it? You’re not unhappy here?”

“God no! You’re here, Spinney. I could never be unhappy where you are.”

“But at the cabin . . .”

“Honey, I was saying goodbye. I knew my life belonged with you and Aure here. It wasn’t home anymore. I love it there, always will, but it’s not where I belong anymore. I’m with you. Only with you.”

Abel wrapped her arms around Zac’s neck and held her close, eyes squeezed shut in utter relief and love.

“Mine.”

“Yours. And Aure’s.”

**********

So you see, Abel found me, saved me and inspires me every day. I did eventually get that GED, and obviously found my way to college. After four years I wasn’t ready to stop, so here I am, asking you, good sirs, to find it in your hearts to let me into your master’s program.

The wild is in my blood, and my love for it is indisputable. Just ask Abel. It is my dream to save and preserve what has been so generously been given to us in the form of the forests of the world, all that cannot protect itself. My sworn duty to protect, preserve and learn about. My desire will never die, but grow with the foliage around me.

You can take a girl out of the wild, but can’t take the wild out of the girl.

“I always loved that line,” Abel said, grinning as she handed the old papers back to Zac.

“I guess they did, too, huh?” Zac filed her entrance letter back with all her old papers and grades.

“How do you feel? Leaving here?” Abel looked around the bedroom they’d had in the small townhouse for the past ten years.

“I’m sad to leave Boston, but I can’t even begin to say how excited I am to start the new job.” Zac grinned from ear to ear.

“I bet, baby. I’m so proud of you.” The blonde wrapped her arms around her love’s neck, smiling up at her and bestowing a small kiss on her lips. “I just wish Aure could be around to see the cabin now. He’d be so excited.”

“I know.” Zac rested her head on her Spinney’s shoulder. It had been a sad day for her last summer when they’d had to bury the old dog. He’d lived to be seventeen, so she couldn’t really complain. But still . . .

“But, we’ll be getting lots and lots of animals there. No limit.” Abel rested her head against that of her partner, running her fingers through the thick strands of her hair.

“The old cabin. Crazy. I can’t believe your folks sold it to us.”

“Hey, I’m not going to complain. I guess it was just so hard for dad to keep that drive every year, you know? Got tired of it.” With a final kiss to Zac’s neck, Abel let her go and turned to finish packing their bedroom.

“Yeah. Oh, let the remodel begin!” Zac clapped her hands together happily.

“Yeah, yeah. Speak for yourself, Ranger Rick.” Zac stuck her tongue out at the blonde, only to have it caught between straight, white teeth. After a moment of it being sucked on, Abel grinned sexily up at her.

“Careful with that. It’s a registered weapon.” Zac smacked the smaller woman on the butt, then headed into their bathroom to start packing it, too.
The End

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