by Anj
(a.k.a. Azurenon)


All disclaimers in Chapter One


After we both were sated, for the time being, we went into the bathroom and took a shower. Sara had already purchased a hand held showerhead which attached to the faucet, not long after I arrived, so she could wash my hair without me bending way over and we had a fine time with it now bathing and rinsing each other off.
        "God, you're beautiful," I said, standing beside her as she dried herself.
        "So are you." She turned her drying technique on me, as I held onto the walker in front of me. "It's been quite awhile since I've been able to do this. I missed it… a lot," she whispered in my ear, as she pressed her lower body to my backside and cupped my breasts in her towel-clad hands.
        "God, I never thought I'd ever feel this way," I said, taking one hand off the walker and reaching around behind me. Her buttocks were so smooth. She let the towel drop to the floor and began manipulating my breasts, making me yearn with desire. "My God, Sara, what have done to me?"
        "Made you my lover," she whispered. "Just like I wanted you to be the first time I held you in my arms."
        "Oh?" I asked, looking over my shoulder. "You do this with all your patients, then?"
        "No, just the pretty ones." I popped her on the butt and was about to walk away, but she held on tight. "And you're the only pretty one I ever fell in love with," she added, kissing on my neck.
        "Keep that up and we won't be going down for breakfast."
        "I'm not hungry for food," she responded, devouring my neck, while her hands sought other regions. There was a knock on the bedroom door. "Tell her you'll skip breakfast altogether," she whispered.
        "I thought we took a bath so we'd be presentable when we went down to breakfast?"
        "I changed my mind. I don't want food, I want you."
        Another knock. A bit more insistent this time. "I've gotta go out there and talk to her or else she'll be worried."
        Sara sighed heavily, then reached over and grabbed a robe hanging on the back of the door. "Get rid of her, quick," she said, helping me into it. As I started walking away, she tapped me on the butt. "Hurry back. I'll be waiting for you."
        I gave one last glance over my shoulder and sighed heavily. Damn, she's beautiful! I love the color of her hair. I'm gonna have to remember to mention that once I take care…
        Yet another knock broke into my woolgathering and a voice called out my name. The voice did not belong to Celia. I froze in my tracks. It was Brandon.
        "Sara..." I whispered, "…it's Brandon."
        "Ah, Jesus H. Christ," she hissed. "What the hell do we do now?"
        "Just stay in the bathroom," I advised. "I'll try and get rid of..."
        He turned the doorknob. "Faith… Princess, are you alright in there?" he asked, his voice growing louder and his knock more insistent.
        "Yes," I called. "I'm fine. I'm in the bathroom."
        "I said I'm in the bathroom. I'm fine!!" I shouted.
        He tried the knob again. "Why is this door locked?"
        "The party last night."
        He's hard of hearing, I thought, Or else suspicious. "I'm fine, Brandon!" I yelled. "I'll be out in a little while."
        He tried the knob again, seemingly for good measure then relented. "Alright, I'll be waiting out here."
        "Shit!" I exclaimed under my breath.
        Sara walked up behind me. "Listen, you have to stall him in there, get him away from the door. I don't know how, but do it so I can slip out."
        "How are you going to...? Ah… the secret door…" At the time, I hadn't been thinking about any situations like this arising. I was glad she had been.
        "I'll go get dressed and... Where the hell is my gown?"
        "Where you left it… on my side of the bed," I answered.
        "Oh." She pushed by me and tiptoed over to get it.
        She also picked up my pjs and brought them to me. I tossed them into the bathroom on the hamper and went over to the chest-of-drawers to get out a pair of loose fitting pants and a matching T-shirt, while she finished dressing.
I was trying to think of a way to cover up the noise Sara was bound to make when she exited the sitting room closet. "We should have oiled those hinges," I said. "Why didn't you think of that?"
        "I did," she said, looking down at herself in her negligee. "But, I'm afraid they'll still make noise."
        "What? Did you plan for this?" I asked.
        "It crossed my mind. Damn good thing it did, too."
        "Princess, are you sure you're alright?"
        I blared my eyes at Sara. "Yes, I'm fine. I'll be out shortly. Let me get dressed!"
        "Why is this door locked?" he asked again.
        I sighed heavily. "Because I saw some of your guests up here on the east wing last night. I didn't want anyone stumbling into my room by mistake!”
        "Oh," he said, as if this were a satisfactory explanation.
        "Boy he hates locked doors, doesn't he?" I whispered.
        "A locked door keeps him from barging in wherever he damn well pleases," she hissed.
        "Here, help me," I said, holding up my arms for her to grab hold of me, so I could pull my pants on standing up.
        "Umm, those fit real nice," she said, running her hands over my lower abdomen. "But, I better save this for another time, or else he'll be trying to knock the damn door down." She reached over and took the shirt from me and placed it over my head. "No bra?" she queried.
        "I haven't got time."
        "Damn, I wish he'd go away," she hissed, as I put my arms through the holes. She reached around and cupped both breasts. "I shall return," she added, as if speaking to them.
        "Why don't I just go down to breakfast instead of you taking the chance on sneaking out?" I queried.
        "Well… whatever you think'll work. I just thought if he saw me in my room when you two were coming out of yours... Oh well, doesn't matter. Do it the way you feel best, I'll follow your lead. Just make enough noise with that damn thing that I know where the two of you are." She was referring to my noisy walker.
        "I'm going down to breakfast, no matter what. I'm starving, aren't you?"
        "I won't be joining you. I don't think it'd be wise. But, I'll see you for our walk, hmm?" She placed a kiss on my neck. "I love you, Faith."
        "I love you, too," I said, as she tiptoed over to the secret door next to the bathroom. She had her hand on it, when I called out, "I'm coming, Brandon. You know, I'm completely famished." I plopped the walker down on the floor hard, to cover up for any noise she might make with the door. "How come you aren't at work? I thought this was Friday, not Saturday."
        As I opened the door, he stepped in. I noticed his eyes searching the room. They lingered on the rumpled bed, as he said, "I... I didn't feel like going in this morning. Like you, I didn't feel very well." His eyes came back to rest on mine. "You say you're famished?"
        "Well... when you purge your system like..."
        "Oh… I see... rough night? Your hair is wet," he noted.
        I blushed for a moment. "See what happens when you rush a woman? Would you mind getting my brush for me? I think I'll skip blow drying it today."
        He walked over and retrieved my brush from the vanity. His eyes scanned the room once again. What the hell is he looking for? He had obviously talked to Celia. Is he suspicious about Sara's absence? That's when my gaze came to rest on the candleholder: the candle Sara brought with her the night before, now a puddle of wax that had leaked out onto the nightstand.
        "Too much champagne was it?" he asked, holding the brush out towards me.
I didn't offer a response, but promptly took the hairbrush, shoved the handle in the waistband of my pants and proceeded out the door and into the sitting room. There was a mirror on the wall by the closet. I ambled over to it. "I… I guess I overdid it, hmm?" I asked, running the brush through my hair a couple of times then positioning my bangs. I could feel Sara's presence in the closet. And thought I might even have heard a faint squeak. I cleared my throat to cover for it. I wanted to get him away from my room quickly, but things weren't working out that way.
I saw his reflection in the mirror, as he perused the bedroom one last time, then closed the door. "I'll have to have a talk with my guests next time. We can't have you feeling as if you have to lock your door at night."
        Whew! Didn't see the candle! But wait, what did he say? "And what's wrong with locking my door?" I inquired, tossing the brush over on the sofa. I was ready to go now. I started making my way across the sitting room, noisily.
        "Well... what if you fall or something and I… we can't get in to help you?"
        I shrugged. "Well, I suppose if that happens, I'm sure my big strong uncle would knock down the door to come to my rescue." I sounded sarcastic, although I turned at the door and smiled sweetly, which seemed to confuse him. "A woman sometimes likes her privacy, Brandon. It was all right when I really needed help...” I was through the door now. “…needed someone around all the time. But now that I'm more independent… Well, I don't like everyone just barging in on me. You understand, don'chu?" I paused, watching as he considered this. "Well, of course you do," I added, answering my own question, before he had a chance to. "You have your office downstairs."
        He cut his eyes over at me, seeming a bit surprised. Then he frowned, as we continued down the hall. "Yes, I... I understand, Faith," he said, letting out a heavy sigh. He knew I had him by the shorthairs on that one. Otherwise he would've called me Princess.
        Frankly, I didn't understand what the big deal was anyway. I wouldn't care if Sara locked her door. And I doubt Sara would care if I did. She'd merely knock and I'd let her in. Just as I would him, unless… I was otherwise engaged. I faltered a step, as tingling sensations ran over my body from just the thought of exactly how I might be otherwise engaged.
        "Princess?" he asked, placing a hand on my arm.
        "Hmm?" I looked up at him.
        "Didn't you hear me, I asked if you had seen Miss Bennington this morning?"
        I stopped as if truly concerned. "She's still not in her room? Hmph." I shrugged and started walking again. "You gave her the night off last night, didn'chu?"
        He cut his eyes over at me, as if to say, Of course, she has every night off.
        "Maybe she... got lucky."
        "Princess!" he admonished. I shrugged and snickered. He made a huffing sound. "Will you be glad when you're walking on your own?" he inquired, changing the subject.
        He might as well have asked, will you be glad when she's gone? "Of course, I'll be glad to get rid of this thing," I said, glancing down at the walker.
        "Time to start thinking about your future?" he asked, as we neared the back stairs, although it sounded more like a statement of fact.
        "Perhaps, but not this morning," I responded, wondering if Sara had made her get away.

        While I was eating, at the servants' table in the kitchen -something Brandon didn't approve of, but I preferred, since I didn't care to sit at that long dining table just to eat a small breakfast- Sara walked in the back door. It took me quite by surprise. Now how'd she get around to the back door? Must've snuck out the front and went around. Good thinking!
        Brandon looked her over from head to toe. Sara was wearing the Elvira costume from the night before. It was wrinkled in several places and her hair was in disarray. "Good morning... or should I say… afternoon, Miss Bennington," Brandon said, glancing down at his watch.
        "I… I'm sorry, Mr. Neilson, I... I think I had a bit too much fun at your... party, last night," she apologized, raising her hand to her head as if she had a hangover.
        "Where have you been? I think it's time for your therapy session already and... you're not even dressed for it," he said, his eyes perusing her cleavage.
        Oh how that burnt me up! Looking at me was one thing, but looking at her that way was quite another. Which is why I interjected saying, "I'm not exactly on my toes this morning, either, Brandon and... excuse me for saying so, but neither are you."
        He straightened up and cleared his throat. "Yes, well. It was quite a party. But, I must say, this should not happen again, Miss Bennington.”
        "Yes sir," she said, hanging her head in shame.
        I didn't like this at all. She was being too subservient to him and it burned me up. "I think I might be ready for our walk in a little while if you're up to it, Sara. Or I can go alone today, if…."
        "No, I'll..."
        "I can do that, Princess," Brandon offered.
        Oh shit. Why didn't I keep my big mouth shut!
        "Oh my no, Mr. Neilson," Sara began, "It's my job and... as you say I should'a been here on time. I'll just go clean up and... take care of my duty. I've lost enough time already."
        "Speaking of time…" he indicated with another glance at his watch.
        "Oh yes, sir, you should dock me for the ... " She paused, looking down at her watch, which wasn't there. "…However many hours I've lost,” she recovered nicely.
        "Oh, you can be sure of that," he said, looking her up and down, with a rather odd expression on his face.
        "Yes sir," she said, as she started walking away.
        "Is that a wig?" he asked, no one in particular.
        I started to answer honestly and thought better of it. I shrugged. "Must be, looks like she's dressed as Elvira."
        "Elvira?" he asked quizzically.
        Boy, he's outta touch! "She was a late night horror show hostess,” I explained. “I'm sure you've seen her."
        "No, I never watch anything but the news, I'm afraid."
        Boring and depressing.
        "And speaking of news, I suppose I better check in with the office." He got up. "I'll see you later, Princess," he added, leaning over and giving me a kiss on the cheek for good measure.
        I didn't know how Sara had managed it, but she'd obviously gone to great pains to pull the wool over Brandon's eyes. And I believed she had him pretty well convinced she hadn't even been in the house this morning.
        In a way, I felt disappointed. In a dark little corner of my mind, I wanted him to find out. I wanted an excuse to leave, so we could be together anytime we wanted. But, I knew this would only put undo pressure on Sara. It would be better if we both decided to leave together. Yet, if she didn't hurry things along, I just might move out without her. I was tired of him running my life, having to answer to him all the time. Not that I wasn't grateful for what he had done, because I was. But I was tired of placating him and walking on eggshells around him. Funny thing was, I wasn't sure why I was afraid of him getting mad. I'd never really seen him in a rage or anything, which would prompt my attitude. But, I definitely had the feeling he could be a very undesirable adversary. Perhaps that was why my father never stayed in touch with him or wanted anything to do with the business. He may have known Brandon was not his ally, but his rival. And I had the feeling deep down inside that Brandon could be one vicious rival.
        A few minutes later, Sara was back and "dressed to kill" as they say, in a tight pair of jeans, white shirt -open to the waist- worn over a white tank top. I called Celia to bring her tray. She tore into the food, as if she were starving.
        "I thought you weren't hungry," I questioned.
        "I'm ravenous," she replied. "And I'm not just referring to the food, either," she added, as she looked me up and down. "You do look good in that outfit. I don't usually like tan colors, but I bought it because you said you liked it. And I have to admit it looks real good on you."
        "Thank you," I looked down at myself. I didn't see what she saw, but I was glad she did. When Celia came to clear the table, I noticed she kept glancing over at Sara, with a rather odd expression on her face. "Is there something wrong, Celia?" I had to ask.
        "Your hair, Miss Sara is… is that a wig, 'mum?"
        Sara shook her head. "No, it's mine. I had it dyed back the natural color rather than letting it grow out. Does it look that bad?"
        "Oh no, 'mum, ya just… ya look... diff'rent with dark hair is all. And... 'tis usually pulled up back here an'..."
Sara laughed at Celia's expressions, interrupting her. "I didn't feel much like fooling with it today."
        "Yes, 'mum," Celia said, turning her head sideways. "I believe there's sumthin' else different, itn't there, 'mum? I mean, if ya don't mind my saying so?"
        "No, I don't mind. What else?"
        "You're smiling, 'mum. No sad eyes and… worried looks."
        Sara chuckled again. "I suppose I am feeling rather good today," she agreed, as she looked over at me. "Thank you for noticing."
        "Yes, 'mum," Celia said and then glanced over at me. "Parties can make a lass feel good, can't they, 'mum?"
        "Sometimes," I agreed, with a broad smile.
        "Can I get you anything else, 'mum? More coffee or..."
        I waved her next offer away. "We'll be going for our walk soon," I explained, not taking my eyes off Sara.
        "Yes, 'mum. Very good, then," she said, as she turned and started away. "Must be men," she added, shaking her head.
        Sara and I both cracked up laughing once she left the room. If she only knew, it'd curl her panty hose! I thought.
        "We've got to get away from here, soon," Sara whispered, once our laughter died away and we were left staring at one another. "God, I can't stand being this close to you and not being able to at least touch you."
        "Who's pushing now?"
        "I am," she replied. "I'd like to push you into old Rosa Lee out there and buzz you over to my place. Lay you back on my bed and.... Umph… I gotta get outta here," she said, getting to her feet and taking a step backwards.
        "Where are you going?"
        "I… left something in my room. I'll be back in a few moments to go on our walk."
        "I like your hair," I said, as she took another step backwards.
        "I did it for you," she responded, glancing around us, before her eyes came to rest on mine.
        "Then I like it a lot."
        "I'm glad." She gazed into my eyes. "Umph! This is… sheer torture... I'm in hell for sure," she ranted softly, backing out the door.
        I felt the same way, but didn't say anything. I'd reined mine in for so long, it only came natural to do so. Now, however, she was getting a taste of what I'd been through. I didn't enjoy her pain. Quite the contrary, I ached, as well. But, I did enjoy knowing she felt so strongly about me. Perhaps the virgin hadn't been such a disappointment after all.
        When she came down, she was carrying a light brown cane with an intricately carved head on the handle. "I picked it up in an antique shop months ago," she explained, as she handed it to me.
        I glanced down at the head of a panther carved into the end of the handle. Interesting, I thought, looking it over more closely.
        "The last hurdle," she said, softly. I looked up to find her nibbling on her lower lip and I knew this meant tears weren't far from the surface. "Here, let's get rid of this old bulky thing," she added, moving the walker out of my way. "Try it, Faith."
        I hesitantly put the cane down on the floor and gripped the handle. "The last hurdle, huh?" I questioned.
        She nodded and nibbled her lower lip again.
        I took a deep breath and struggled to my feet, using only the cane, putting both my hands on the handle. I somehow got my feet tangled up between the table and chair when I went to move and nearly fell over. She caught me, as always.
        "Now how many times have I told you, you're not ready for turns and dips, yet?" she teased.
        "Oh, you." I pulled away and regained my balance. "Well, move back, let me see if I can learn to work this puppy."
        “Pup-py?” She backed up and giggled. "Where did you learn all those cute sayings?"
        "Oh… like a magnet picks up steel, I pick up these goofy sayings and..." I paused, as I took my first steady step without the walker. "…they pop out my mouth at the... damn-dest times," I finished, taking another hesitant but steady step.
        "Well, looks like you've learned how to work that puppy, alright," she noted and wiped a tear from her cheek.

        We strolled around the grounds at a bit slower pace, so that I could get acquainted with using the cane. I could tell I would soon be more mobile with it. I already felt much freer without the bulky walker. Yet, when my left leg grew tired, as it often did, I missed being able to prop myself up on that old walker. Instead, I put both hands on the handle of the cane. When she saw this, she genteelly offered me her arm for support. I put my arm through hers and leaned against her. When we resumed walking again, arm in arm, it felt so natural, I didn't even stop to think how it might appear to anyone else.
        During our walk, she told me about her apartment in Smyrna, and how much she'd like to take me there. I relished the thought of being with her alone, without worrying about who could be watching or might walk in on us. We discussed possible scenarios for slipping off for a day. Shopping seemed the most viable excuse to offer anyone, even though I knew Brandon would want to go with me. He never liked Sara handling things that should be "family matters". Somehow I had to convince him that shopping was not a "family matter" but "girl stuff". I'd also have to ask him for the money, since I didn't even have a driver's license anymore to prove my identity to the bank clerks. It irked me to have to go through him to get money from my own account. But, as he had so eloquently pointed out long ago, I couldn't very well cash a check from my bed and they wouldn't allow Sara to cash it for me, nor would he want her to. Which was why he had handled things since then.
        As I looked up at her, thinking how I'd like to share my life with her, I decided it was about time I took control of things myself. First on the agenda would be a new driver's license, which I might even be required to take a driving test for, in order to prove my ability, since the accident. This might have to wait a bit longer, after all. It wouldn't be long before I'd need to take care of my parents' affairs: the house and their belongings. A few months ago, that day seemed far away, but it would soon be a reality.
        I didn't want to think about going into the house again; for, I knew it would be filled with memories. Memories of happier times, which now seemed to have happened so long ago at times, and yet at others seemed like only yesterday. I dreaded the thought of going through my parents' belongings. What would I do with them? What does a person do when someone dies like that?
        "Sara, what happened to your father's belongings after..."
        She glanced over at me. "Well… the house I still own.” She looked away. “Lawyers advised me to keep it, with the inheritance."
        "Inheritance?" I was quite surprised.
        "Um-hmm. He wasn't filthy rich like Brandon, but he owned several horse and cattle farms around Georgia, a large kennel that raises greyhounds in Florida and… he had interests in several other areas. It all fell to me after he died, so... I kept it. It supports the upkeep on the house and... the rest is deposited for me. I just left everything the way he had it set up."
        "You mean you own horse farms?" I asked, very surprised that she'd never mentioned it.
        "In name only, I guess you'd say. Other people handle that stuff. I'd rather earn my own way. I mean... I never really knew him. I'd… I'd feel... funny using his money. I even tried to decline it, but the lawyers said that since there was no other living relatives the state would get it and his wish was for me to have it, so..."
        "And you were the one worried about money?" I observed, a touch of irritation in my tone.
        "It's not so much the money, Faith. I just… I don't wanna hurt you. Money worries seemed... Well, they seemed a good excuse at the time."
        "And now?" I probed.
        "What do you say we have lunch out on the patio?" she queried, changing the subject.
        I knew she didn't want to discuss this anymore. "Alright, sounds like a fine idea to me. It's a beautiful day for it."
        "Good, then I'll inform Celia of our plans."

        She escorted me over to a patio table first, then went inside to talk to Celia. I sat there drinking in the fresh, cool autumn breeze. Memories of the night before wafted over me with the warmth of a lover's caress. The autumn leaves with their bright colors -yellow, orange, red and gold- danced with the incoming puffs of air, their leathery skins rubbing together, sounding like the rustling of a thousand dancer's skirts, giving my eyes and ears a wonderful treat.
        "Very good, 'mum," Sara said, walking out onto the patio, mocking Celia, though not in a derogatory fashion. "Don't you just love that accent of hers?"
        “You should've heard my mother. Very refined British accent… she could make ordinary words sound… beautiful.”
        Sara evidently noticed my mood slipping into sadness. "My, don't you look wonderful today?" she commented, as she sat down across from me.
        "So do you," I acknowledged, with a smile. Then I noticed Celia approaching. "So, you own… two horse farms?" I asked, saying the first thing that came to mind in order to change the subject.
        "Three actually. Randall Stables has horses and cattle, Marie's Pride has horses and greyhounds and The Vivien Leigh, where he lived, is mostly cattle… only a few horses."
        "Vivian Leigh?" I queried.
        "Um-hmm," she replied with a smile. "Musta had a thing for a movie star."
        "Excuse me, 'mum," Celia said to Sara. "Cook would like ta know if you'd care for anything special?" Sara looked over at me.
"No, the usual soup and sandwich, will do, just ask him to include some ice cream," I stated.
        "Yes 'mum, very good." Celia glanced back at Sara. "'Scuse me, 'mum, for listening, but... I couldn't help but overhear... did ya say Randall Stables?" Sara nodded and looked up at her. "That wouldn't be Tom Randall, would it, mum?"
        "Yes," Sara answered, glancing over at me. I shrugged.
        "Now, that's a name I haven't heard in many years," Celia declared, reflectively, as she looked off into the distance.
        "Did you know him?" I inquired.
        "Oh yes, 'mum, if he's the same one, mind you. Tall, dark an' handsome, as I remember him. Moved ta... Columbus, I believe it wuz. Has a stable down that way, don't he, 'mum?" Sara nodded. "Is he any relation to ya?"
        "My father," Sara responded, ruefully.
        "Well, glory be. Tom Randall's daughter." Celia stared at Sara. "This is Thomas Clancy Randall, 'mum?"
        "Yes. I believe his name was Clancy.”
        "Well, bless me muther. How is young Tom, if ya don't mind me asking?"
        "He... passed away..."
        "Oh no, I'm so sorry, 'mum. So very sorry, I am ta hear that. Tom wuz a fine man, he wuz. Yes, a fine man."
        "How did you know him, Celia?" I explored, as Sara looked over at me. She knew my inquisitive mind was at work. And I felt we were hot on the trail of pieces of her past.
        "Worked here, he did, 'mum. Stable hand. Worked his way ta being a trainer."
        "He worked here?" Sara asked, as her eyes grew wide. "When?"
        "Oh… Tom's been gone... 'bout thirteen years now, I'd say. Yes, that's 'bout right. He left right after Miss Vivian... took her life." The last three words nearly a whisper.
        Sara looked at me. I knew she was doing some arithmetic and coming up with the fact that Vivian was around nineteen while he was here.
        "How long did he work here, Celia?" I continued interrogating.
        "Oh... wull that would be hard ta say, 'mum. See Tom, he grew up here. Matter-a-fact, he wuz born in the servants quarters."
        "Born here?" Sara asked incredulously.
        "Yes, 'mum. his dear departed muther and father, they worked for the previous Mr. Neilson. Tom, he grew up rambling 'round here, following after his father, learning 'bout the horses and things. Grew into a fine man, he did. Always had a smile for ya and never an unkind word. Yes, that wuz me Tom. I wuz his god-muther, ya know." She glanced over at Sara, whose face was an angry visage. "Oh, I didn't mean ta go on so, 'bout the dearly departed, 'mum...I'm sorry, truly I am."
        "That's quite alright, Celia," Sara asserted, waving away her apology, and flashing a wry smile. "Please… have a seat... tell me more."
        Celia cleared her throat as if she were a bit uncomfortable. "Wull… I would, 'mum, but the cook, he'll be waiting for me."
        "Perhaps you could join us for lunch then," I intervened.
        "Oh… wull, yes, 'mum. I'd be honored ta do so, I would."
        After Celia walked away, Sara just sat there staring at me. I knew she was wondering why her father had lied to her, because if I remembered correctly she had said he was from Columbus.
        "I assume he didn't tell you he was born...?"
        "No, he didn't," she interrupted. "Wonder how much more he didn't tell me. Was my mother from around here?"
        I shrugged, hearing the anger in her voice. "Maybe Celia will know."
        She stared at me a moment longer, as if she were looking through me. Then she quickly turned away and slumped down in her chair. I knew that her Swiss cheese of a past had just taken one hell of a blow from a cookie cutter. And Celia had been the one to wield it, unknowingly.
        "Just wait, perhaps Celia will have some answers for you that'll make sense. I mean, maybe he moved away and came back or... maybe it's just a coincidence on the names and he's not..."
        "Oh get real, Faith!" she declared, as she got up from her chair. "The woman was his godmother for Christ's sake. She obviously kept tabs on him for a while. She knew about that stable and him moving to Columbus. And he was tall, dark… and handsome. He always had that goddamn smile plastered on his face. Bad part was, he wasn't anything like Brandon, you couldn't see through it, so the damn thing musta been genuine."
        "Sara please, just calm down, there may be a logical explanation for all of it," I offered.
        "Yeah, he fuckin' lied to me."

        Celia joined us for lunch and Sara plied her with questions, explaining that she hadn't known her father, because she lived with her mother and that after her mother died, they'd had only a brief few years together, since he'd passed away in January of this year. Celia was very obliging and offered all the information she could. When Sara mentioned her mother, Amy Jackson, Celia shook her head and said she'd never heard of her, but that she might well have been one of Tom's girlfriends.
        When Celia left with the trays, Sara got up and went over to the patio railing. "I've got to go through my father's things," she finally vocalized, after a long silence. "I didn't want to before. I felt he'd answered my questions the best he could, but now... You're right, ya know, about this hanging over my head. With things the way they are up here..." She motioned to her head. "I'll never be able to make a commitment to anyone. And... I wanna do that with you, Faith. I really do," she added, as she turned around to face me.
        I was touched by her desire to do this, but I could tell this revelation had turned our afternoon, which should have been peaceful and filled with loving glances, into one of unanswered questions and disappointment.
        "I need to go to my apartment," she announced. "Come on, let's get you upstairs."
        "Oh no," I protested. "You're not leaving me here to worry all day. I'm going with you," I avowed.
        "Brandon will probably have a fit, if he…"
        "Then let him. I'm going with you. I can walk now... I should be able to go anywhere I want and if he doesn't like it… Well, he'll just have to get used to it."
        "Alright, alright. I'm not about to argue with you anymore. Just let me get my purse and I'll be right back." She touched my arm on her way by.
        What I felt should have been a long, lingering contact followed by loving and knowing glances, like a few hours before, was now only a quick pat on the arm among friends. I sighed heavily at yet another ruined moment. This time, it wasn't Brandon's fault. It wasn't anyone's really.
And perhaps it's for the best, I thought. Finding out about her past was far more important than sitting here, yearning for each other. Besides, we'd be away from prying eyes. That part I liked. A lot!

Part 14

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