by Anj
(a.k.a. Azurenon)


All disclaimers in Chapter One


        The alarm clock went off at 9:30. I groggily reached over and turned it off, then floated back to La La land. The next thing I remember Celia was knocking on my door.
        "Come in," I grumbled.
        She entered with the tray and put it on the table, then pushed it over to me. By this time, I usually had the head of the bed raised and already paid my morning visit to the bathroom. Today, I had accomplished neither.
        "Are ya alright, 'mum?" Celia asked, as I struggled to focus my heavy, sleepy eyes.
        "Um... yes. Must be the… weather," I replied, offering both of us an explanation for my seeming stupor. “Cold, rainy weather… all I wanna do is sleep.”
        "Oh?" she said, as if asking for more information on the subject. "Are ya ready for breakfus' or...." She glanced around the room, as if she were looking for something or possibly someone. "…should I bring it back later." I wiped my eyes, which were finally beginning to focus. "Should I bring another tray, 'mum?" she asked, quietly.
        "Huh? What? Why would I need ano…?" I paused, as she cut her eyes over to the other side of the bed. I followed her gaze, finding an obvious indention in the pillow beside mine. Had Sara came in here while I was sleeping? I wondered. I glanced back at Celia and wiped my eyes again. "I, uh… No, don't bring another tray. If she won't stay, then she shouldn't eat, hmm?"
        Celia flushed red as a beet.
        "Oh, I'm sorry," I apologized. "I... I'm so dizzy headed," I added, starting to raise up. That's when I felt something was amiss in another area. I pulled up the covers knowing what I would find. "Oh, Celia, I'm sorry, but I believe I had more than one visitor last night."
        "Oh, think nuthin' of it, 'mum. That's just one of the burdens of being a lady. Here, let me help ya up and..." She grabbed hold of me, as I almost fell backwards. "Oh my, so sorry, 'mum."
        "I always heard my mother complain about her balance being off during this time of the month, but this is the first time it's affected me. And I have to say, I don't like it very much."
        "Yes 'mum. The things we women go through. It's a wonder we don't die 'fore the men."
        "Can you help me into the bathroom, too, Celia? I'm… a bit dizzy this morning."
        "Oh, of course, 'mum."
        "If Sara had stayed around, then you wouldn't have to do this. Guess she thought no one would notice she'd laid her head on the pillow, hmm?" Celia glanced up at me. I knew what she was thinking. "No, I didn't even know she was there. I think she likes sneaking in here. Thinking it will be her secret. And speaking of secrets, Celia," I added, as she helped me to the toilet. She then backed away and stared at the ceiling, as I did what needed to be done. "You know some secrets you aren't telling, don'chu?" I finished.
        She offered no reply.
        "Okay, how about this? Brandon isn't her father is he?" I asked, as she helped me over to the bathtub, where I sat down on the side. "Is he, Celia?"
        "I don't like ta speak about things I'm not sure of, 'mum," she replied, as she straightened up.
        "Tom was sure, wasn't he? He and Vivian were having an affair, weren't they? And he thought Ashley was his daughter," I concluded, hoping she'd give an indication, one way or another.
        "I've always kept me mouth shut 'bout them things, but... they're gone from this world, God rest their souls.” She gazed heavenward. “An' I see ya won't be satisfied with nuthin' but the truth.” She arched one gray eyebrow. “So… Yes, 'mum they wuz having a luv affair. Tom wuz head over hills in luv with her."
        "And Vivian?"
        "Oh, she luved him, there was little doubt about that. But, she wouldn't leave Mr. Neilson. See, Tom wuz poor… didn't have much in this world, but the clothes on his back and... how could he very well ask her ta leave all this and come away with him?"
        "So, she is his? Sara… I mean Ashley?" I turned on the water for my bath.
"I 'spect only Miss Vivian could say for sure, but... she's got young Tom's coloring... and his green eyes."
        Ah-ha "I bet his eyes changed color too, didn't they?"
        “Changed color?” she mused. "Oh yes, now that ya mention it, 'mum, indeed they did. Strange thing that wuz ta watch, I have ta say."
        "Tom left after Vivian's death, right?"
        "Wull…” She paused and cleared her throat. “Actually, 'mum, he left 'fore then. He... wull, he stayed gone 'bout two years 'fore he came back with his pockets a jingling with money. Said he'd had a grand streak of luck out in Kentucky."
        "Oh, so he left and made some money so he could take care of Vivian, hmm?"
        "Yes, 'mum, I believe he thought so. But, I think it just put too much strain on Miss Vivian. She wuzn't a strong willed woman. Not like your muther, 'mum. No. And Miss Ashley… she inherited a bit of that weakness a'heart from her muther, I think."
        I raised my eyebrows. Sara? Weak? I thought.
        "Oh, now she wuz a rebellious sort,” she added, obviously answering my unvoiced question. “Yes, she wuz that, at times. Especially after Tom left. But, she wuz fragile in here.” She tapped her chest. “It came in spurts, 'mum. She wuz never rebellious for long. It'd just flare up from time ta time."
        "You said after Tom left? Why would that affect her?"
        "She wuz a happy child, until he left. He spent lots a' time with her, he did. Bought that wild horse for her. They wuz the only ones who could ride it. Strangest horse, I ever did see. Why Mr. Neilson, he couldn't even go near it, without it raising the roof down there."
        "You know a good bit about what goes on around here, don'chu?" I asked, softly.
        "Servants notice things. Yes, 'mum." Her cheeks flushed.
        "You know what happened the night Vivian died, don'chu?" I further queried. She offered no reply. "Sara… I mean Ashley, didn't shoot her, did she?"
        "No, 'mum! Where'd ya hear a thing like that? Miss Ash... she don't believe that, does she, 'mum?"
        "Jason overhead you talking about it and... he told me. I can't remember telling Sara, but I might have. She hasn't mentioned it."
        "Oh, wull… I never believed Miss Ashley wuz capable of doing that, 'mum. She loved her muther. But… she wuz there that night… by the Missus... the gun in her hand… Poor thing wuz standing there screaming…. blood all over her hands." She shivered.
        "So, it was covered up?”
        "Yes, 'mum." She sighed heavily. "Mr. Neilson, he didn't want ta see Miss Ashley put in jail. Who would, a young thing like that? So, we all covered it up and didn't tell 'bout her having the gun. Shame of it wuz she's sent away anyway. Seemed her mind... just snapped."
        "Is that all you saw that night?"
        "Yes, 'mum, I put the Missus suitcase away an' tried to forget."
        "Umm… Yes, 'mum. Miss Vivian… she wuz going sum'where that night," she whispered. "Mr. Neilson, he ordered me ta unpack her suitcase and put things away 'fore the law got here."
        "Wait a minute, lemme get this straight… Vivian had a suitcase packed and was ready to go off with... Tom, I presume?"
        "I dunnno where she wuz going, 'mum, but... you can see why master Jason overheard us saying Miss Ashley might've had a hand in it."
        "Because her mother was leaving her, is that the assumption?" I wondered if this might be the reason Sara didn't want to believe she was Tom Randall's daughter. Had Ashley known Vivian was leaving with him? Leaving her perhaps? And… had she stopped her? Did Sara know this on some unconscious level? I realized I was thinking about the same person as two separate entities, but to me, they were. Especially since Sara had no memory of being Ashley
        "We all knew Miss Ashley doted on her muther, 'mum,” Celia answered. “Her and Mr. Neilson... they weren't close a'tall. Fact is, Miss Ashley often hid from him, up there." She nodded towards the ceiling.
        "Why?" I asked, turning off the water.
        "Don' rightly know, 'mum. Miss Ashley confided in no one, but her muther and Tom. And when they wuz gone, wull... she didn't talk much ta any one."
. The baby bird alone in the forest, I thought. "What do you think happened to Vivian, Celia?"
        "Oh, 'mum, I wouldn't even want ta speculate. No. Not me, 'mum. Do no one any good. That's what we all agreed at the time: putting Miss Ashley in jail… it wouldn't bring Miss Vivian back." She shook her head, her eyes taking on a faraway look, as if she were remembering the events.
        "So there was only Vivian and Ashley on the stairs, right?"
        "I suppose, 'mum,” she answered a bit hesitantly. “A'course by the time we servant's got there, Mr. Neilson wuz already trying ta calm his daughter."
        "Trying to calm her? Why, was she hysterical or something?"
        "Oh yes, 'mum. Like I said, she wuz screaming sum'thin' awful. And when Mr. Neilson reached for the gun… she threatened him with it.” This raised my eyebrows. “Said she'd kill him, she did,” Celia added, as if she thought I didn't believe her. She glanced down at the floor. “But… I don't think she coulda',” she added in a softer tone.
        "How'd he get the gun from her?"
        "Wull, he smooth talked her for a while. An' when she calmed down, he snatched the gun away from her. Fainted dead away, she did… right there beside her muther." She shook her head.
        "You said the police were called, what did Ashley say happened?"
        "She never said anything, 'mum. Not til the day she die… I mean… She's never said,” she corrected herself. “Her mind, 'mum… it snapped. Poor child, never said another word 'fore they took her away ta hospital." She was shaking her head, a rueful expression on her face.
        "How was she when she came back?" I asked, pulling off my top.
        Celia immediately turned away, as if embarrassed. "Very withdrawn, I guess ya would say. Never spoke ta anyone. 'Scept, a'course, master Jason."
        "She didn't have any friends?"
        "Not til college, 'mum. She brought a few young women home then, as I recall."
        "Young women? Was she like…?"
        She nodded. "I 'spect so, 'mum. The few I met were... not so ladylike, if ya know what I mean. “Course few are. Not like girls in my day."
        "Did Brandon know?"
        "I dunno, 'mum. They wuz seldom together. Mainly went their separate ways after she went off ta college. That's when she got real rebellious. Seldom had a civil word for one another in them days. Even had a big row the night she had her accident, so I wuz told. Sammy said she tore outta here like the devil himself wuz hot on her heels."
        "Oh really?" This was interesting news. I pulled down my pajama bottoms. “What was the row about? Do you know?”
        She turned, looked over at me and then twisted back around in a flash. "No, 'mum, no I don't know what it was about. I... I should leave ya ta your bath, now. I have me chores ta do. Take care a'those linens for ya,” she rambled on, as if embarrassed about something. I assumed this concerned revealing so much about Ashley and Brandon's relationship. “Want I should take your breakfus' down and keep it warm, 'mum?" she inquired.
        "No, that's alright. If my visitor comes back she might want something to eat."
        "Will ya be needing me ta cum' back an'… help ya outta the bath?” she asked, her tone suggesting she hoped her services would not be required.
“No, thank you. I'm sure I'll be able to manage.”
“Yes, 'mum," she said, as she closed the door behind her.

        I was eager to tell Sara what I had learned, which was a lot. Celia was a veritable fountain of information; once you got the water running, that is. And after eating part of my cold breakfast, I started out for the attic. But things were definitely not right in my head. I was almost too light-headed to walk, much less climb the stairs. I turned around half way down the hall and ambled back to my room. I would just have to lure her to me.
         I sat down on the bed and turned on the stereo. Then I put on the same disc as before and programmed the same songs. I turned up the volume and hoped that my ploy would work.
        On the tenth repeat, I was growing tired of it myself. I'd already moved over to her chair, feeling disheartened that she hadn't responded. I was gazing out the window, with my finger on the button to stop the player, when I caught movement out of the corner of my eye.
        "Please!" Sara shouted, as she shut the sitting room door behind her. "I don't think I can take hearing it again."
        I pressed the button, stopping the music, never taking my eyes off her. She looked wonderful. She was neatly dressed in a pair of tight jeans and a white button up shirt. Her hair had been recently brushed and was hanging long and silky over her shoulders. God, how I wanted to run my fingers through it.
I started to get up, but she shook her head. "No, Faith, don't... just... stay right there. It'll be easier that way."
        For who? I thought.
        "I assume you wanted me," she said, toeing the carpet with her tennis shoe.
        I couldn't resist. "You'll never know how much."
        She sighed heavily and looked up at the ceiling. "This is hard enough, Faith, don't make it any harder. Whaddaya want?"
        I cleared my throat, for I almost said, you. "I have a lot of things to tell you," I answered, instead.
        She glanced over at me. "About what?"
        "I've been talking to Celia. We had a very informative little chat. Did you know you used to like Tom? That he got a horse for you… one that only you and he could ride? And you have his eyes and his skin tone?"
        She leaned her head back against the door. "You're not just telling me this, are you?"
        "You think I'd lie to you about this? Then we'll call Celia up here and ask her," I declared, getting up out of the chair, headed for the phone.
        "No, Faith, I... I believe you," she acknowledged. "Don't... don't bother her."
        "You want to sit down and listen to a few other things or... do you have a busy schedule today?"
        "I'll listen… from here."
        "Afraid I'll bite?" I asked, sarcastically, as I sat down on the bed.
        "Frankly… yes," she admitted, as she toed the carpet.
        There was a long silence between us, as I sensed my new information changed nothing. Then I relayed the rest of what Celia had told me.

        "Doesn't say much for my mother's character, does it?" she asked.
        "Well, we don't know the whole story here and probably never will. But, I should think that if Brandon fell in love with my mother... she probably wasn't the first one to stray."
        She sighed heavily. "Where are you going when you leave here?" she asked, obviously changing the subject.
        "Well, I want you to go with me to Jackson Falls, first." I picked at a piece of fluff on the bedspread, assuming she would object. "I need to settle things there."
        "Where then?" she asked, without even looking my way.
        "I dunno. We… haven't discussed it. Oh… but I have my inheritance now. Brandon gave me the savings account passbook and the checkbook. It's all mine. None of it's his. It came from my father. I intend to pay him back for all this." I was referring to the stereo, clothes, physical therapy equipment, etc.
        "Tell me about Jackson Falls," she said, as she finally looked over at me. "Would you like to go back there to live?"
        "I don't believe we'll be able to. There probably aren't a lot of jobs for a private duty physical therapist. At least, not like what you're used to. And we'll need to be near a college so I can finish my education."
        "You keep saying we. I asked about you."
        "I... I don't wanna even consider life without you, Sara."
        She sighed heavily. "I'd be no good for you, Faith. I... everything is just too messed up."
        "Are you saying that... we can't fix whatever is messed up?"
        She sighed again and ran her fingers through her hair. "Why don't you just... go back to Jackson Falls and... forget about all this?"
        "I can't... can't you see that?" I got up from the bed and started towards her. "Didn't you listen to the song? Without you, Sara, I have nothing. I love you and I'm not leaving here without you."
        "Faith, please, I told you… Don't." Her right hand fumbled with the doorknob, as if she was going to leave.
        "You gonna run again, Sara?” I took a step forward. “You gonna spend your life running from me?" I asked, taking several more steps in her direction. "Because, I'll follow you, Sara. I'll follow you to the ends of the earth, if I have to. 'Cuz I know you love me. It's there in your eyes and its written all over your face," I added, covering the remaining distance between us, while watching her grip the knob, but not offering to actually open the door.
        "What if... Celia is wrong?” she asked, quietly. “What then?"
        "I'll still love you just the same. I can't change what I feel," I replied, reaching out to touch her face.
        "Faith, please," she said, turning away. "I'm begging you."
        "No, Sara, I'm begging you. Don't run from me, please! I need you, I want you and I love you," I pleaded, letting go of the cane and placing both hands on the door, one on either side of her head. She merely continued to stare at the floor. I leaned over closer to her face and placed a kiss on her cheek. "Come back to me, Sara. I need you so much," I whispered, nuzzling my face against the side of hers. God, she smelled wonderful.
        "Faith, please, you'll... you'll only end up hating me if..."
        "I believe you said something similar once before," I interrupted. "And that time I ended up falling in love with you," I whispered in her ear. "Head over heels, as I recall." I placed a kiss on her neck.
        "Dammit, Faith!” she hissed softly. “You're always so persistent." She placed her hands on my waist. "But, I can't let you do this. You'd be throwing your life away on me, cousin or not," she added, gently pushing me away.
        I bounced right back. "You are my life, Sara, you know that." I kissed her cheek.
        "Oh-h… you're so blasted stubborn," she said softly, as she finally faced me.
        "Yes, but you wouldn't want me any other way." I placed a light kiss on her lips, then eased back, watching her eyes dart back and forth searching mine. "I love you, Sara, with all my heart."
        She hesitated a moment, then suddenly pulled me to her and pressed her lips to mine. "Damn... you... Faith," she mumbled around her kisses. "I... love… you… too.” She fell silent except for a few moans, then, “Faith, no," she objected, hearing me lock the door. "I can't stay. I shouldn't stay. Faith... don't…”
        "Yes, you should. I've missed you."

        I didn't give any thought to the other visitor I'd had the night before, until we were on the bed. "Uh-uh," I objected, stilling her hand. "It's... that time."
        She hesitated a moment, her eyes darting back and forth searching mine. "You mean, you get what you want, but… I can't?"
        "Um-hmm, that's about the size of it," I said, unzipping her pants. "I know you've encountered this before."
        "Not with you," she said, gazing into my eyes, as if I were somehow different. "Awh, sweetie... I've missed you."

        "Celia, put a hold on lunch, please," I said, into the phone. "And... would ya be a doll and buzz me when Brandon gets home?" I ran my fingers through Sara's hair. "Oh no, I don't wanna see him, just... let me know when he gets here. Thanks, Celia."
        "Pretty chummy with Celia these days, aren't we?"
        "You left me all alone, I had to have someone to talk to. Besides, itn't it nice to know we don't have to hide things from her? Oh, no you don't.... I told you…"
        "Let's go take a shower then." She arched her eyebrows up and down and moved her hand up the inside of my thigh.
        "For someone I had to practically drag into this bed, you sure are eager now."
        "You're the one that put the lighter fluid on the charcoal and struck the match, so don't be complainin' 'bout the fire you started, hmm? Come on."

        "I think you better order that lunch now," she said. "Or else I won't get anything to eat again until tonight, after they all go to bed."
        "Have you been starving up there?" I teased, running my finger around her lips.
        "Um-hmm, in more ways than one."

        Celia left the tray in the sitting room and Sara sneaked out and got it. Then she tore into it like she really was starving. "Want me to ask her to leave a tray for you, tonight?" I asked.
        "No, that would be too obvious. But, you could save me some of yours."
        "Should I bring it..."
        "No, too dangerous for you. I'll come get it."
        "Uh-uh... I know what you're thinkin'… I can see your wheels turning. No, I can't stay the night."
        "Why not?" I moved my hand over her back. "You've done it before."
        "Yeah, well, at least before we woulda been able to make up some excuse if he happened to find us. Now... Whew… Uh-uh."
        "Let's leave tomorrow then."
        "What are you gonna do, just leave while he's at work?" she asked.
        “That would be kinda… rude, don'cha think? Making him worry like that.”
        “Might be for the best though. I'd hate to see the scene he'd create over you leaving with me.”
"Ya may have a point there,” I acknowledged, knowing how he felt about her. “I guess… I could move my stuff out while he's at work. Then come back, pay him off and say goodbye."
        “Or handle the rest via long distance. I don't like the idea of either of us coming back here, once he knows you're leaving with me.”
“Why? What can he possibly do? I am an adult, ya know.”
She shook her head. “I dunno. I just… I don't like the idea.” She paused briefly. "Are you sure about this? I mean... you know I'm not good with commitments."
        "I'll take my chances," I said, laying my head against her back and putting my arms around her waist. "Are you... satisfied with what you've found out, about the diary and all?"
        "I suppose. I don't think my memory is ever coming back, though. Maybe it's better if it doesn't. When I try to concentrate on these little fragments, I get this awful… foreboding feeling. As if part of my mind is saying, 'you don't wanna know'."
        "Maybe, it's that part of you who wants to remain Sara Bennington."
        "Yeah, I... I think I do wanna remain Sara Bennington." She rubbed her hand over my arm around her waist. "I know I liked her much better with you. Finding out has only been painful and... to tell you the truth… I don't think I'd wanna be his daughter, even if he did accept me." I assumed she was referring to Brandon.
        "Then there's nothing for either of us here anymore, is there?"
        "I thought my memories might be here, but… I suppose those would be better left in the past," she agreed.
        "I beg your pardon. I have a very nice memory of the first time we made love, right here on this very bed," I rebutted, teasingly.
        "Umm, too bad we can't take the bed with us, hmm?"
        "That's an idea. We could take the frame and mattress... leave the canopy part. I could buy it from Brandon and have it..."
        She put her finger to my lips. "Why don't we just buy our own bed, hmm? Start over, fresh and new? And the first thing we do is… break the bed in."
        "Sounds good to me," I said, as I hugged her tightly.
        "Oh... and that reminds me, I never did get to tell you about my trip to Columbus."
        "No, you didn't. How was it?"
        "The place is… beautiful, Faith. It's nothing like this, of course. Only a two story brick house with maybe ten… twelve rooms at most in the whole house."
        "That still sounds big."
        "Well, it's not... not really. Anyway the best part is the pond out behind the house. It has this gazebo built out over the water, with a swing and... there's ducks and... Oh, you'd just have to see it. It's really… charming," she said, as she turned to face me, her expression changing from very happy to quite somber in an instant. "Um... since we're... leaving and all, I..." She turned away for a moment and nibbled her lower lip. Then she slowly moved the table away from her and turned around again. "Faith... I..." She paused, as she reached down and took my hands in hers. "I want you to come live with me there." She spit the words out very rapidly.
        I was a bit taken aback. This sounded a lot like a proposal. It seemed things had changed a great deal in the last couple of hours. "Are you proposing..." I paused, for I couldn't say marriage. "…making a commitment?"
        She nodded, as she brought my left hand up to her face and kissed the palm. "Yes, I suppose I am." She gazed into my eyes.
        I didn't want to ask this, but I felt I had to. "Are you sure?"
        "Yes... yes, I am. I... I came back here that Saturday to tell you all about the place and... because I didn't like being without you. I wanted you with me that day. And I... well, I knew I wanted you with me always." She kissed my palm again. "I knows it seems sudden and... it sounds odd since only a short while ago I acted as if I didn't even want you touching me, but... I had to know for sure that you wanted me... no matter who I was or what I'd done in…"
        I silenced her by putting my finger to her lips. "I've been waiting a long time for this." I reached out and pulled her close, tears welling up in my eyes. I kissed her on the neck and whispered softly, "I told you I'd follow you to the ends of the earth… and I meant it. Wherever you are, that's where I wanna be."
        "Oh, Faith..." She eased back. "…I do love you so." Our lips met in another passionate embrace.
        I lay back on the bed, taking her with me. We languished in each other's arms for quite a while, before hunger brought her back to reality.
"I'm so happy, Sara," I affirmed, holding onto her once again, as she attacked the now cold food. "You just don't know how it hurt when he told me you agreed I was well enough not to need your services."
        "I never said that, Faith,” she mumbled around a piece of bread. “He let me go, that night."
        "But… he said you agreed with Dr. Rosemund... that I was well enough to be released."
        "Released?" she asked, as she looked over her shoulder at me. "Has Dr. Rosemund been out here lately?" I shook my head. "Then he hasn't released you, I'm pretty sure." Her eyes darted back and forth, as she stared down at the tray. “I wonder why Brandon would tell you that?” she murmured. “He didn't say he was changing doctors?”
        I shook my head. I wasn't interested in Dr. Rosemund or any other doctor. "How come your letter said, 'I'm sorry, but I can't stay here any longer?' You made it sound like it was your choice."
        "Well, I was planning on leaving, only… not that night. I came back, as I was scheduled to, remember?” I nodded. She hadn't been due back from Columbus until Monday afternoon. “Well, Brandon was waiting for me when I walked in the door. He handed me my walking papers, which… shot to hell and back the way I planned to say goodbye,” she grumbled. “Didn't I say I wanted to say goodbye, but I just couldn't face you?" I nodded. "Ya know, I... I sat right here on the bed and wrote that while I watched you sleeping. And god, how I hated to leave you. But, there was nothing I could do. I... kept hoping you'd wake up, because I couldn't bring myself to wake you."
        "Why not?"
        "Guilt. I felt so ashamed of what I had done to you. I had always dreaded the thought of hurting you by... not being able to commit to a relationship, but... I never dreamed I'd ever hurt you this way. And knowing how ashamed I felt, I assumed you had to be feeling… just awful! So... I figured maybe it was… for the best, ya know. And I had myself pretty well convinced I was acting in your best interest, until..."
        "Until today?" I interjected.
        "No, yesterday in the attic. You sure know how to wear a person's resistance down."
        "I know something else I'd like to wear down. Or more appropriately tear down. And that's all these lies that Brandon…”
        "Ssh," she said, rubbing my arm around her waist. "It doesn't matter now sweetheart, we'll be leaving tomorrow." She brought my right hand to her mouth and planted a kiss on my fingers. Then she returned her attention to the food on the tray.
        "You like watching me sleep, don'chu?" I asked, kissing her on the shoulder, remembering the indention in the pillow this morning.
        She shrugged. "What can I say, you're pretty when you're asleep." I popped her on the belly lightly. "Oops, I didn't mean you weren't pretty all the time, it's just..."
        "How did you sneak back in without being seen?" I inquired.
        "Oh, that was easy. You know they all have Tuesday nights off…” She was referring to the servants. “…and I knew Brandon would more than likely be up here with you, so it was just a matter of…” The phone rang, silencing her.
        I snatched it up promptly. "Yes," I said, into the receiver. "Thanks so much, Celia." I put the phone down. "Get your clothes on, Brandon's coming up the drive.”
        "So early, gee whiz. He would pick today of all days. Oh well..." She kissed me long and hard. "See ya later. Remember save me some dinner. Put it in there," she motioned towards the closet.
        "Have you been in there a lot?"
        She merely looked at me. "The apple was tempting. I eventually ate it. I just didn't want you to know I was here, then."
        "Why'd you show yourself in the attic yesterday?"
        "Because if I didn't you'd alert the whole damn house and I couldn't have that, now could I?" She zipped up her jeans. "Gimme one more of those French fries," she added, reaching over to the tray.
        "Ah-ah-ah," I said, popping her hand. "Either I feed you or I dress you, take your pick."
        "Feed me and make it quick."
        I stuffed two French fries in her mouth, while she slipped her shirt on and buttoned it. Then she sat down on the bed and put her shoes on, while I fed her the rest.
        "Umm, I like feeding you. Come back tonight and let me do this again."
        "Oh no," she said, shaking her finger. "I know you, you'll have me hungering for more than food." I arched both eyebrows and chuckled. She leaned over and gave me a quick kiss. "Hadn't you better get dressed, too?"
        "I will. He won't come up here first. 'Course if he does, the door's locked. Be sure to lock it on your way out."

        "Sara," I said, as she set the door to lock behind her. "I love you."
        "I love you too, Faith, especially for your stubborn, persistent streak. I love the way you wear down my resistance."
        “Come back and I'll do a little more… wearing on that resi'stance of yours.”
        “I bet you will.” She arched her eyebrows and then was gone.

Part 19

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