Lady Imogene Caruthers's privileged, carefree life effectively ended on the point of the saber held to her throat. It wasn't until that moment that she lost all hope of remaining unscathed. Manacled to the ship's mast she contemplated the utter absurdity of a respected naval officer's widow being abducted by the most feared of all pirates, Merciless Malone.
“Here now, what're you smiling at?” The grim-faced Rastafarian who was on the other end of the saber asked. He leered at her revealing a mouth full of blackened stumps. The wry smile gracing Lady Imogene's lips slipped away. “Merciless Malone'll be here in a bit an then you'll discover the meaning of hell!”
“On the contrary, my good man, I do believe that she will be encouraged to discover the meaning of paradise!” As if summoned, the tall pirate emerged from the crowd of still fighting pirates and sailors amidst the smoke as a wraith. Indigo colored eyes raked over the widow's trim form and a sardonic grin twisted full lips. “We have emerged victorious, Marley, and I've come to relieve you of your duty. Enjoy your spoils.”
Lady Imogene gasped in outrage and tore her eyes from the pirate's surprisingly seductive form. “You surely cannot mean to commander this ship! You simply must let me go!” She jerked at the chains holding her arms above her head futilely.
The pirate only stood, haloed by the bright sun and caressed by the smoky remnants of cannon fire, and watched the captive woman's struggle. Noting with pleasure the way her body writhed and heaved the pirate waited until she stopped. “Are you quite through, milady? While I admit I would enjoy watching your efforts to free yourself, I dare say you do not wish my men to delight in such a spectacle.”
While Lady Imogene was a proper widow, she nonetheless recognized the look in the pirate's eyes. “Oh! Why you, you licentious killer!” She looked wildly around and noted with dismay how many of Merciless Malone's men had stopped to look. “Take me down!”
The pirate only moved closer to twirl a golden curl around one finger. “Or?” the pirate breathed into her ear.
She shivered as she felt the heat from the pirate's body being so close to hers and smelled an intoxicating mixture of the pirate's bay rum cologne and a subtle hint of apple.
“Or when I'm rescued by the King's men you shall be thrown into the deepest abyss anyone can find with no hope of escape! By letting me and this ship go you will have, have proven you wish to make restitution of your evil ways and I assure you the law will go kindly on you.”
Far from being cowed by her speech, Merciless Malone threw her head back and roared with laughter. “Milady, that has to be the most fantastical of stories. I have no intention of letting anything go, especially not a fierce and willful little thing such as you.”
Lady Imogene felt her heart seize when a long finger traced itself lazily across her lips before trailing across her neck to tease with the lace edging of her bodice. “You must be some sort of Diablo,” she whispered.
“No, milady, just a simple pirate who is searching for even a moment's worth of heaven in this no man's land.” The pirate leaned ever closer and Lady Imogene whetted her lips in anticipation of a kiss she was sure would be temptation itself.
“Next stop, LaSalle Station.”
Caught up in the life of Lady Imogene, Barbara felt a moment's worth of limbo before dragging herself forcefully back to reality. “What? Which station?”
The passing conductor paused and chuckled at the short, round redhead trying to gather her things and get her bearings. She bent and folded her tall and lanky frame almost double in order to retrieve an errant folder. “Here ya go. That must've been a doozy of a daydream – the next stop is yours.”
Barbara seized the folder with a slight blush. “Thanks Carol. Without this work would've been a fiasco of epic proportions and you have my everlasting gratitude for saving my butt.”
As the Metra slowed in preparation of stopping, Barbara and Carol bumped into each other trying to get out of each other's way. Knocked off balance, Barbara would've fallen had Carol not grabbed onto her.
“Good grief, I'm no better than a Weeble! Thanks!”
Looking after the short form wobbling along the tiny aisle way before exiting the train to be lost in the morning crowds, Carol whispered. “Not a problem.”
Barbara dashed the three city blocks to work arriving flushed and out of breath, but before the clock finished striking eight. “I'm here! Don't worry! I've got the files!”
Jack looked up from his desk. “Down, girl. Didn't you get my message? Corporate's in a meeting and won't need them until after lunch.” Seeing her flabbergasted look he snickered. “Don't worry, there's still tons of stuff for you in your office. Oh, and yeah, Brandy's not here today so you get to man the phones.”
Barbara's shoulders slumped. “Gee thanks, Jack. I didn't know it was Christmas already.”
“Only one more week, Ms. Gnome, and then Santa'll be here.” He laughed as he caught the tail-end of her mutterings as she went into her tiny office and called out, “Don't be so cantankerous! Santa won't give you any luscious, sparkly jewelry if you're too irascible.”
She snickered to herself at the snarky yet surprisingly effusive receptionist. “I'd just be happy if I didn't have to spend it alone, forget all that frou-frou crap.” Barbara booted up her computer and settled into her day, surrounded by files and her cherished potted plants. She sighed and smiled at the recording sound her voice took when the phones began to ring. “Good morning, Odel, Brown, DiAngelo and Vitolka. May I help you?”
King Cornelius the Bald railed at his viceroy. “'S blood, man! Is there no knight of my realm who can defeat that dragon? Surely it's no more than a pest to our fierce warriors!”
Lord Xenon swallowed hard. “M-My king, the dragon is known to do more than simply putter about and shout invectives. It's eaten four of our men and turned a score or more of them into quivering masses of jelly. Perhaps it's time to do as the Queen suggests and have a reward posted.”
The king snorted. “That woman should've been thrown into a monastery years ago after it became apparent she could only give me useless girl children. But still, you may have a point.” The old man brightened. “I have it! We'll hold a contest and whomever defeats the dragon will become my heir and have one of my daughters to wed!”
Lord Xenon sighed, “Very well, milord.”
“Hello, earth to Barbara!” Jack's voice caused her to jump and hang up on the caller she'd drifted way from listening to as they gave her their life story.
“Girl, you are just too bizarre. I've been trying to get your attention for ten minutes now.”
Barbara sighed at the effeminate man. “Well now you've got it. What do you want? I'm really busy here trying to do these fiscal end reports and Brandy's job.”
He smirked. “Hmm, I can see how busy you are. Well, if you don't want to aid me in my direst time of need then I'll just let you get back to your work.” Affecting a dramatic pout, he stopped playing with the leaf on one of her plants and prepared to flounce out of the room.
“Alright, what do you need? Don't tell me you're going to pull a Brandy.”
Jack gasped. “I'd never! I'll die here, chained to my desk before I'd ever push my workload on you.” Barbara just laughed and raised her eyebrow as he clutched at his heart. “I need to know what a twelve letter word for sound is. Quick! Put your English degree to use!”
“Um, onomatopoeia? Why?”
Jack drew himself up to look down at her. “It's called a cross-word, Miss Montessori school alum. I would think you of all people would know what they are.”
“You're an idiot Jack!”
He just laughed and sauntered back to his own desk. “You know you love me.”
“In your dreams, fly boy. Now, where was I?” Barbara muttered to herself as she attacked the mound of papers that had somehow accumulated in piles on her desk.
The battles between the dragon and the knights eager to own a kingdom raged for days and the fields soon ran dark with blood. Hell, being found outside Princess Isolde's home caused her to shake in fear. For what kind of man could best a monster? She quavered at the idea that she would be bound to the unknown knight and longed for the time of her youth when she was allowed out of doors and played with her best friend in the garden, the head gardener's mischievous daughter.
Princess Isolde smiled at the memory of the two of them, heads bent together, as she tried to teach the tall young woman to read. And remembered again the first tentative kisses shared between them and Tristan's fierce promise to one day slay a dragon if that was what it took for them to be together. “Oh, Tristan,” she whispered. “Would that you told me a truism and would save me the fate of marrying a stranger!”
So lost in her thoughts, the sudden silence of the hell outdoors failed to register. The pounding upon the old brass knocker boomed in the oppressive quiet. A pale hand rose to her bejeweled throat in shock.
“Someone bested the dragon!” The cry reverberated throughout the castle as the door was thrown open to admit a tall knight completely enclosed in silver armor bearing the seal of an enraged unicorn on his chest. In one hand he carried his still bloody sword, in the other the noxious heart of the dragon.
“I've come to collect my prize!” The knight bellowed.
The old king, in shock that someone could actually overcome the dragon merely waved a weak hand toward Isolde. She gasped in a queasy sort of outrage as the knight stalked toward her and offered her the still-beating heart.
“Take it, princess, and know that you are surely a lucky woman to have a dragon killed for you!”
“I never asked for that,” she whispered. “My father was the one who wished for the hapless dragon's death.”
“It is yours, regardless. Now, come with me to my home. I have no wish to tarry here any longer.”
Princess Isolde's entire kingdom took umbrage at the knight's manner but none thought to deny him and she found herself married to the knight wearing the same morning gown she'd worn when she met him and he'd neglected to even raise the visor of his helmet. The day sped past and all too soon the young princess found herself facing the marriage bed before the new entries in the family bible had dried..
Eyeing the enormous bed the innkeeper had shown them worriedly, she finally spoke to the silent knight who was now her husband. “M-Milord, do you wish for my aid in removing your suit? I do hope that our marriage won't tax you overmuch and cause need of armor between us.”
The knight only stood and made a sound not unlike a sob. “Nay, wife, but I find that you may need of it for I have done you a grievous wrong. I'd thought only to slay the dragon, not to what came after.”
Isolde laughed suddenly in relief. “Then we are as two, for I've not thought of it either!”
Though the knight's visor was opaque, allowing not even the slightest glimpse of the face beneath, Isolde shivered.
“May I love you, lady?” the words were a harsh whisper in the room and Isolde could do no more than to nod. The knight withdrew a wide satin ribbon from an unseen pocket. “Tie this over your eyes; I have no wish for you to see me at this time. I will not hurt you.”
Though the request surprised her, she acquiesced, hearing the underlying need in her new husband's hoarse voice and shivered again as her other senses were magnified and she heard the clanking of armor as it was removed. She hummed in surprise as callused fingers brushed her long hair away from her nape and felt soft lips caress her neck softly.
Isolde thought she was drowning as her new husband's talented mouth tasted her neck before moving around to her collarbone. Her head fell back, causing a waterfall of spun gold to tumble from its pins and she groaned in helpless surrender to the darkness as impatient hands grasped her hips to drag her closer and the insistent mouth of her husband kissed the swells of her breasts. She mindlessly ran her fingers through thick hair when,
She looked up at her boss, a blush suffusing her face. “Y-yes sir?”
“I just wanted to remind you that it's after five. You are planning on going home soon, aren't you? While I love dedicated employees, I don't love overtime.”
“I'm just about ready, Mr. Smedley.”
“Very well, Barbara. Have a good evening.”
“Good night sir.”
The evening was as quiet as Chicago ever got when it was close to Christmas and there were mounds of slush on the ground. Stopping a street vendor during her trek to the Metra, Barbara ordered a large knockwurst before calling her mother.
“Hey, it's me. Just wanted to check in and see if there's anything going on. Since you're not there, I'll assume you're having a fabulous time at whatever and I'll talk to you later. Love you.” Her message ended a moment before the voice mail recording informed her that she'd used up all allotted space. She grinned, pleased with herself for avoiding another chat with her mother by talking to voice mail and continued to plod down the sidewalk.
The Metra station was a beacon of warmth to the frozen Barbara and she was overjoyed at the realization that the next train wouldn't take much longer. As she stood by the door to wait, her nose still an icicle, Barbara let her mind wander.
“Warning! Warning! Asteroid belt ahead!” The computerized voice screamed in the chaos of the spaceship's engineering room..
“I know!” Shouted Commander Xenia. She ran toward the smoking vent. Hidden almost entirely by the smoke and various wires, she found her quarry.
“Ovary! What's the meaning of this?”
The smaller woman sighed. “It's Avery, Commander, and I'm not sure what to make of this conundrum. The quasar is at optimum, but I'm obviously missing some basic geometry or something since I still can't make us steer!”
The tall commander gasped. “We're headed to our death! If you can't make this bucket of junk work, then we have to get to an escape pod! The rest of the crew is gone!”
“Permission to stay, Commander. This ship is my baby as much as yours! I don't much care about any jurisprudence you have on your side. If I can't get the damn optical photon sensor working, I don't deserve to make it.”
Commander Xenia felt the hollowed husk of her heart squeeze as she looked at the alien engineer. “Don't be such a kick-ass liberal! We need you safe! You're the only one I trust to decode the Xenoliths. We need you!” She paused, hearing the screaming of the computer warning them of impending doom. “I need you!”
Engineer Avery looked up and smiled her blue tail whipping about making questions in the air. But her smile was sad. “Don't you be such a girlish quark. You know that with all the xenophobia it would've never worked. Besides, that's not how the story ends for people like me. Go, while you still can. I'll try to make this bad boy fly or take as much of the brunt as possible.” Her purple reflective eyes glistened briefly. “Go, before I do something stupid like ask you to stay!”
Commander Xenia paused a moment, before making her decision. Sighing, she simply sat down next to the engineer and took two of the other woman's four hands in hers. “Where you go I go, you crazy middling-bork!” A sudden crash caused the two of them to look out the observation window. A large asteroid barreled toward them.
A sudden crush of people streaming outside to make the train snapped Barbara back to attention. Laughing softly at herself, she boarded along with everyone else, choosing to ride in the second level for a change.
Completely by rote, Barbara handed down her multi-pass as she dug into her purse for an errant quarter. Hearing humming, she looked up and stared in surprise at the casually dressed conductor of her morning commute sitting across from her. “Carol, hello! What're you doing here?”
The tall woman smiled shyly. “Conductors don't live on the trains, you know. I just got off shift.”
“That must stink, after working all day on the train to have to ride one going home.”
“Eh, it's not too bad. You can't beat the convenience of it. So, um, are you just getting off of work too?”
Barbara just looked at the other woman and raised her eyebrow. “Nope, I just love the trains!”
The painfully thin woman's face suffused in a fiery blush and she ducked her head causing a curtain of sandy blond hair to fall in her face. “Yeah, that was a stupid question, wasn't it?” she muttered.
“Only a little,” Barbara smiled. “So what was that tune you were humming a moment ago, it sounded really familiar.”
“It's, um, from Mary Poppins. I don't know why but I've had it stuck in my mind all day. It's that supercalafroggy-something one.”
She giggled in spite of herself at the image of the conductor taking tickets to the beat of that infectious jingle. “I think its supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. I loved that song when I was younger!”
Carol just stared at the other woman. “How do you remember the name of it? Whenever I try a revolution is waged in my brain.”
Barbara snorted. “Just one of my many and varied useless bits of knowledge.”
“Not useless,” Carol argued. “Potentially valuable. I bet you'd kick but on Jeopardy.”
“If you say so. So anyway, do you live far away from the train?”
“Not too far. I live just off of New Lennox near Joliet.”
“I know that place! I get off at Tinley Park.”
“Mmhm. Doneybrook apartments, have you heard of them?”
“Afraid not, I don't know that much about the area other than the station.”
The two women drifted off in that slightly uncomfortable silence that befalls people when they are more than acquaintances, yet not quite friends. Each tried to think of something to say.
“So do you have any plans for tonight? Any dates or anything?” Carol asked, her words rushing together.
Barbara blinked in surprise before snickering. “Oh yeah, big plans. It's going to be me, my cat Calamity Cat and my television for a marathon of Xena. I might even go wild and crazy and have some tater tots and beer. What about you?”
Carol smiled, not quite certain if her chain was being pulled, “Not that exciting, I'm afraid. I'll up you the tater tots and cat and raise you my wombat named Expectorate and a juicy cantaloupe.”
Barbara laughed so hard she snorted. “Expectorate? What type of name is that?”
Carol's eyes crinkled as Barbara gave into her mirth. “I'll have you know the poor thing has a drooling problem that he's very self-conscious about.”
“But seriously, a wombat?”
Carol shrugged. “It seemed like the thing to get at the time. I'm from Australia and I wanted something to remind me of home, but kangaroos kick too hard.”
“What can I say, I'm a unique one.”
“Next stop, Oak Forest,” the on duty conductor interrupted their banter.
“Well, I guess I should get ready, I'll be home soon enough.”
Carol nodded. She looked as if she were going to say something, but instead only added, “Good idea. I know yours is the stop after this one.”
“Well, have a good night.”
Snug in her tiny apartment, Calamity Cat fed and allowing herself to be petted, Barbara settled down to watch television and treated herself to a big bowl of ice cream and a slice of leftover rhubarb pie. Seeing the two women fight together for the greater good on her screen, she stabbed her spoon at the flickering image. “Why can't I have that, Calamity? You know the whole ‘soul mate' thing?”
Her cat just glared at her and batted the spoon.
“That's mine, cat, and get your own.” She sighed. “I guess there's a reason why stories aren't written about the short and round set.”
The tribe of women writhed in time to the seductive music of the gourd drums and the tambourine. The young Amazon was in thrall to the music as the women celebrated the defeat of the parasite known as Torque. She saw her Amazon sisters, Epponin and Solari, dance in the center ring of women and was glad to see the tribal leaders lowering their guards to dance.
The party was in full force when a commotion started at the edge of the group. Pulling away from two enthusiastic women who were eagerly showing her a new way to worship Artemis, the young Amazon went to see what was going on. In but a moment, things were made somewhat clear. Ephiny, the acting regent, was escorting a tall woman to the top dais, her whole body tense. Once at the top, the mysterious woman addressed the revelers.
“Behold! I am Queen Bodacious of the Tunnel tribe in the Navel region of Saffpoi. I have battled threats of leprosy and have ridden both hippo and elephant in order to give you, my Greek Amazon sisters, this effigy as a symbol of our pledged unity!
The drunken Amazons oohed and aahed appropriately, although the young Amazon looked curiously at it. “It doesn't look like anything more than a stupid vine”
The young woman yelped in surprise. “Solari! I didn't see you!”
“That's obvious, young one. You need to vacate the premises and leave any observations behind.”
“Get lost before I give you an appendectomy with a straw and some dandelions! There's about to be a throw down and I don't want you young ones in the middle of it! Artemis! Why can't you young ones pay attention to the subtleties?”
The blaring static of the television woke Barbara with a jerk and she dumped both empty bowl and sleeping cat to the floor. “Jesus, I have got to stop watching television before I go to sleep.” Ignoring the hissing cat, she stumbled into the kitchen to toss her bowl in the sink and headed to bed, absently noting it was after three in the morning. “I hope Carol had a more happening evening.”
Early the next morning, Barbara awoke early enough to gleefully laze in bed while she absently smacked the snooze alarm. Her mind drifting pleasantly in that lovely place between waking and sleeping, she rolled onto her stomach and cuddled her body pillow, one hand snaking down her body to slip beneath her pajama shorts. She hummed softly as she let her favorite fantasy sweep her away.
The firefighter stormed into the empty bar and jerked the surprised bartender close. The woman still smelled of smoke and the other woman trembled at the suppressed violence in the other woman's eyes.
“What're you doing here, Hillbilly? Its past closing time – I can't serve you anything.”
“Don't you pull you little debutante act with me, Angel. You know what I want. I just braved a wipeout and I'm not looking for a waltz.”
With a growl, the firefighter pulled her closer to devour candy apple red lips. Angel moaned and rocked her hips in surprised pleasure as she felt the object that was harnessed about slim hips.
Angel gasped again as her world was spun about on its axis and she felt herself being bent over one of the smaller cocktail tables, nimble fingers making short work of buttons and snaps and six feet of aroused firefighter pressing close. Ready from the moment the other woman stormed her bar, Angel almost came as rough hands jerked up her skirt and yanked down panties. One hand fondled her breast with an almost bruising force while the other pushed deep inside, testing her readiness, before withdrawing abruptly to free the toy.
“You don't want me to stop, do ya Angel?” The other woman's voice was deep with desire as she breathed harshly against a tender neck. She felt Angel shudder before bracing herself firmly against the table top. “Tell me what ya want me to do.”
The toy teased at her entrance, and Angel almost sobbed with her need. “Billy, please!”
The toy pushed in further, and then retreated when she attempted to thrust back on it. “Well, Angel? Tell me what ya want.”
Angel hissed in frustration at the teasing. “You! Goddamn it Billy, I want you to fuck me!”
A dark chuckle born of sin itself answered her. “Anything my Angel wants, baby.”
And she screamed in primal satisfaction as the force of the firefighter's thrusts slammed her into the table's edge.
Barbara's alarm, fresh from the snooze function, bleated in time to her gasping breaths. A silly smile on her face, she reached over to smack at it again before beginning her day. As the boiling hot water from her shower poured over still tingling skin, she wondered if it was really Friday or if her days were just repeating itself again.
Still in a good mood from her morning exercise, Barbara was practically glowing with good cheer, despite running ten minutes late. With a bounce to her step, she made the last train out to the city and hummed to herself.
“Well, I guess tater tots agree with you.”
“Oh!” She looked up and grinned at the conductor. “It's a happenstance, but you may be onto something. Are you going to stamp my ticket this morning or what?”
Carol shook herself from staring down at the shorter woman. “Oh, um, no. I mean yes. Give me your ticket.”
Barbara snickered at the odd behavior. “So did you watch anything interesting last night? I fell asleep during Xena and you wouldn't believe the dreams I had!”
“I missed it, actually. That old movie, Airplane was on and it sucked me in.”
Barbara stopped and stared in surprise at the other woman, paying no attention to the other people trying to get by. “You actually watch that crap?”
“Hey! Don't whitewash your opinion or anything; tell me how you really feel.”
Barbara smirked and took a seat close to the conductor. “I shouldn't call it that, my taste in movies isn't much better. One of my favorites is 9 ¾ weeks, you know that Leslie Nelson movie?”
Carol snorted. “Yeah Roper, I'd love to hear your reasoning why that wasn't a waste of film.”
“Hush, Eapert, or I'll have to tell you sometime.”
The conductor blushed and rubbed at the back of her neck. “What if I take you up on that?”
Surprised, Barbara looked closer at the suddenly nervous woman in front of her. ‘Is she flirting with me? Nah, probably just being weird.' Prepared to tease the other woman, she paused when she noticed Carol's blush deepen. Somewhere, deep in her heart, she heard singing. “I'm, um, off work at five today.”
Caught in the middle of attempting death by mortification, the normally shy woman took a moment to understand what the other said. “Huh?”
Barbara smiled and took an internally fortifying breath. “I hear the Christmas lights over on the Mag. Mile are beautiful. I was thinking we could check them out, if you'd like. You know, maybe debate our movie tastes.” She found herself blushing too and idly pondered the possibility of the both of them dying from heat stroke in the middle of December in Chicago.
A slow smile graced Carol's face and her eyes crinkled a little. “I'd like that.”
Barbara wondered why she'd never noticed how pretty the conductor's gray eyes were before. “Me too.”
Funnily enough, Barbara didn't once lose herself in her dreams that day.
Final Count: 120 J
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