Disclaimers: Story mine, characters mine
Please read Part 1: Home
"Alice Rawlins, have you heard one word I've said?"
Damn; daydreaming again. It had been a long year since she'd been back to the farm; work was draining her more every day. "I'm sorry, Bev. Guess I'm more tired than I thought."
"I can see that. I said, there's been a lot of rain lately; you need to watch your step. There's a lot of mud - it can be treacherous if you get stuck in it."
Alice caught the note of concern in her friend's voice, and hurried to reassure her. "I won't go far, I promise; just out to the barn. And I'll be really careful."
Bev looked unconvinced, but continued. "I rode the fences last week; made sure everything was locked up tight. I want you to be careful, but try not to miss the waterfall - it's beautiful." Bev paused, looking like she had more to say.
"What is it? Come on..."
"Nothing; just, there've been some real estate guys sniffing around. Trying to ferret out who owns the property. I chased them off, but still, keep an eye out."
Alice was instantly awake: developers, here? She tamped down her anger; there was nothing to worry about. No one could buy what she wasn't selling. And she was definitely not selling.
As Alice rode, she felt her exhaustion drain away. There was something about this place - when she was here, she felt like herself. She could remember the past, and feel something besides loss. Here, where it all happened, where she should be the angriest, she was most at peace. She'd stopped questioning it long ago; now, she just accepted it for what it was.
As she followed the trail towards the old barn, Billie suddenly began to fidget beneath her. The normally placid mare tossed her head; Alice looked around, seeking the source of her agitation. There, through the trees: a flash of red. She reined the big palomino in, changing direction. Bev'd said the gates were all locked - how then, had a car gotten onto her property?
As Alice approached, her ire rose. So, they hadn't listened after all. Every mile of this homestead was fenced; every gate sturdy and well-secured. You couldn't end up here by accident. Someone was trespassing, and damn well knew it.
As she drew closer, she could see there was trouble. Without the benefit of Bev's warning, the driver had blundered directly into a sinkhole. One wheel was buried axle deep; nothing but a wrecker would get it moving. Alice smiled her courtroom smile; retribution was sweet.
Her arrival hadn't gone unnoticed. A mud-covered specter rose up to greet her, and Alice smirked. There was mud everywhere; the driver had obviously been trying to dig out, without success.
"This land is posted; you're trespassing."
"I know, and I'm sorry. The gate was open; I just wanted a look "
The vertigo was instantaneous; without warning, Alice tumbled from the saddle.
As the world came into focus, Alice was bewildered. What the hell? She started to pull herself up, but a trembling hand stopped her.
"Please, lie still. You could be hurt "
She slammed her eyes shut, dizzy again. Hadn't she used those very words, plenty of times, a lifetime ago? "Please Sarah, lie still. You could really be hurt "
Alice swallowed, hard. What was going on? Was she dead?
"I'm sorry, please open your eyes. Oh God, please be alright..."
The desperation finally penetrated; Alice blinked. And recognized what her subconscious had known in an instant.
The realization of what, or rather who, she was seeing, robbed the mud-spattered woman of speech. She dropped to her knees, stunned.
The attorney sat up, tentatively, this time without resistance. Her old friend was staring, gape-mouthed. Alice waved a hand in front of her face.
Sarah seemed to snap back to herself; disjointed words tumbled out. "How? What? I just wanted - I mean, that gate is never open. I had to know, to see. But, it's you "
And it's you.
Alice's brain formed the words, but her lips were unnaturally still. It was too much. The laugh, when it bubbled out, startled them both.
The situation wasn't funny. Stunning? Yes. Shocking, jarring, incredible? Yes! But funny? Still, the laughter hiccupped out, unrestrained, until quiet sobs finally replaced it. Yes, it was obviously too much.
Sarah, for her part, had been crying from the start; from the moment she realized who was lying beside her. Hot tears streaked through caked mud, leaving clear dripping trails. My God. After all this time. She couldn't believe it.
Here they were. Together.
Back where their hearts had been all along.
An hour later, still dazed but finally mobile, the women led Billie towards the waterfall. If nothing else, they needed to clean up. From her hiding place, Bev spied unapologetically; she was well-pleased. She'd done it; reunited lost souls, separated by so much. This had been a tough one!
Time, distance, altered circumstance - even in this modern world, there'd been so much to overcome. Their lives only intersected here - in this place.
Though Alice had wandered far, she sought out Sarah in every case that crossed her desk. And Sarah hadn't wandered at all; she'd remained, faithful, forever close to the damaged mother she couldn't leave behind. Into these lonely hearts, Bev projected. Images of a ramshackle barn, of lazy afternoons, of abandoned dreams.
And she waited.
For Alice to stop resisting, to make the first painful trek back. For Sarah to start wondering - what remained at the end of their road? Waiting, to saddle the mare, to unlock the gate. And to be ready, the exact moment two lives were destined to intersect once again. And to push - gently, so they could stop waiting; for their lives to begin. Again.
Story by: CASEY ELLIOTT
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