Just Your Extraordinary Christmas...
DISCLAIMERS: No violence or strong language, but we do have two girl-lovin' girls here. That's just the way these things work. They get a bit upset if I keep them apart, so I'm not, but there's nothing graphic.
Outside, snow was falling, but Ivy Granger didn't care. It was Christmas, 2010, and she was curled up with her sleeping wife, who had an extremely peaceful expression. Ivy thought - perhaps for the thousandth time - of how appropriate Fairlight's name was. Even in the low light of early morning Ivy could make out the pale skin, and hair like moonlight and sunlight spun together. She could be mistaken for some celestial being. At least in Ivy's admittedly biased opinion.
She glanced to the glowing green numbers emanating from the clock. The light gave the peeling surface of the golden apple shape a sickly cast. Ivy indulged herself in a disdainful look before focusing on the time displayed. 6:00. That was early enough, right?
"Fairlight Granger... morning calls," Ivy said quietly, placing a kiss on Fairlight's forehead. The blonde stirred slightly, but resolutely kept her eyes shut.
"She's not here - leave a message," Fairlight mumbled.
"Okay... tell her her devoted wife is going to give her a hickey in a very embarrassing spot if she delays the morning much longer." Ivy felt her face break into a wide grin at the thought of placing one on Fairlight's sculpted body even on an area that wasn't so embarrassing.
Fairlight opened her green eyes slowly. "You need to work on your threats, love. All that one did is make me want to stay right here."
"I must be slipping," Ivy joked.
Fairlight stretched, shifting the covers so they revealed the top of a pink nightie that was one of Ivy's particular favorites. "Don't worry, I won't tell the rest of the board."
Ivy snickered, and leaned over for a good-morning kiss. Even with such a comparatively innocent gesture she felt a warm tide of affection, and trust, and a certain indefinable something that distinguished her connection with Fairlight from any other she'd ever known, or ever would.
"Merry Christmas, Ivy."
"Happy first anniversary, Fairlight."
An hour later, showered and dressed, they made their way downstairs to the main room of the inn. It was decorated for the season with a well appointed tree, evergreen branches from the surrounding woods collected by Ivy's younger brother, Tobias, and enough candles Fairlight seriously wondered if they qualified as a fire hazard.
Ivy plugged in the tree lights, and both women spared a long moment to appreciate the sight. It was different, somehow, though they both knew it was the same tree that had been there yesterday, and the day before.
"It's beautiful," Fairlight commented.
"I have many skills..." she purred. "And, of course, Mother helped." Fairlight glanced at her partner. The combination of electric blue eyes and ebony hair was as stunning as the first time she'd seen it and doubted that would ever change. There was something different about Ivy, too, here at her mother's inn. The usual tense lines were erased from her features, and she laughed more often as well as having played a prank or two.
"Being here's been good for you, hasn't it?" Fairlight commented, gently.
Ivy sighed, and nodded. "Yeah, it has. Mother's been great, and Tobias..." They both smiled. That was really all that needed to be said. Fairlight gave in to her body's urge, and stepped toward Ivy wrapping an arm around her waist. In response, she felt a strong arm settle itself on her shoulders.
"So... when do you expect we'll see them?" Fairlight asked.
"Well, if memory serves not for another half hour or so. But, that could have changed."
Fairlight let her head bob in acknowledgement. "C'mon. I've got a couple ideas to occupy the time." She smiled up at her taller partner.
"Okay... but not the whip thing, alright?" Ivy said, seriously. "Mother has a firm rule about weapons in the inn." That earned her a poke in the side.
"We left it at home, remember?"
"Alright, it's your turn dear," Mother ordered. Ivy felt a smirk twitch onto her face, as she reached into the mass of brightly wrapped gifts. She pulled out a long, fairly skinny rectangle with a tag that identified it as being for her, and from Fairlight.
She quickly tore the paper off, and found a cardboard box. Opening it, she found a multicolored mass of fabric with two wood dowels and other pieces that were to be explained by a small folded piece of paper. All bore signs of careful craftsmanship. "It's a kite... a great one." Fairlight had remembered, when she'd told her about loving the challenge of keeping one up in the air as a child, and the contrast between it and a bright blue sky. "Thank you." She glanced over to the smaller woman, who smiled. "We'll try it out on the coast, when we get home."
"Sounds good to me."
Ivy reached back in, and pulled out a medium-sized rectangular package which she handed to Fairlight. The blonde gave it a slightly puzzled look, then started opening it. She was more careful about it than Ivy had been, and that further provoked Ivy's impatient side. She was considering just how much she might be yelled at for helping, when the blonde finally uncovered a carved wooden box.
"It's beautiful...." Fairlight said, running a fingertip over it. "I think I'll keep my jewelry in it."
Ivy grinned. "Take a look inside, before you start thinking up uses."
Fairlight gave her a puzzled look, then carefully lifted the top. A scroll lay inside, set on a small wood holders. Fairlight picked it up, and carefully began to unroll it. "Oh, Ivy..." She turned it around to display the contents to Mother and Tobias. It was a painting in the old Japanese style, and the best in artistry and workmanship Ivy had been able to track down.
"Cool," was Tobias' concise assessment. He was twenty-two, set to graduate in June, and stubbornly refused to grow up beyond meeting his responsibilities.
"I've been interested in Japan for a while," Fairlight explained, for Tobias and Mother's benefit. "There's something I need to understand about the culture and just haven't been able to track down yet."
"Mm," Mother acknowledged. "We all have something like that. Now it's your turn, Toby."
"Tobias," brother and sister corrected, in unison.
Fairlight bit her lip, to keep from smiling. "You've raised two strong people."
Mother gave a long-suffering, but amused, sigh. "This is very tame, believe me dear. Remind me to tell you what my daughter did with a piece of raw squid at about eight years old. When she's not in a position to take revenge."
When in doubt, Ivy remembered, bring someone else down with you. "But, I wasn't the one who brought home an entomology project and released a family of sand spiders to colonize the guest rooms..."
Now it was Tobias' turn to take friendly offence. "Now - that was never proven."
"I never will understand how you managed to get sand spiders in Montana in winter," Ivy responded, shaking her head. Tobias leaned toward Fairlight, and stage-whispered,
"My best friend at the time went on a family vacation to the Southwest." Fairlight gave a true laugh, Ivy's favorite sound.
The gift opening continued for some time more, with the usual breaks for admiration of particularly thoughtful presents or anecdotes about past Christmases... though carefully avoiding the period - from eighteen to her current age of thirty - where Ivy had not been present or even welcome.
"Fairlight, seeing as you're family now, I think I can ask - when did you realize you loved my daughter?" Mother asked.
Fairlight paused, then began, a gentle smile immediately shaping itself on her face. "I cared about her as a friend from the moment we met, and it stayed that way for a couple of months. Then, we got the idea to go camping for a couple of days. There are some beautiful areas in the Northwest - it's so green. Anyway, I sprained my ankle the first day. Not badly, but enough I didn't want to be standing very long. I can remember sitting on this log, while Ivy was building our campfire, seeing her face through the flames. She was just... amazing. All the stuff I'd been trying to deny, or ascribe to a simple physical attraction I, all of a sudden, couldn't vituperate about anymore. I didn't know where the future was leading, but it was going to be with her."
Ivy remembered that night just as vividly. "It was the same for me, Mother. There was something in the air that night." She paused. "Do I get points for knowing a good thing when I see it?"
"Oh, that you do," Mother replied warmly, reaching over and placing a hand on Fairlight's cheek. "Thank you, Fairlight, for bringing my wild one back to me."
Fairlight smiled, then characteristically shifted the praise elsewhere. "Anything I did to help that along would've been pointless if she hadn't been ready for it."
Tobias went into a mock rapture, hands over his heart. "Too sweet, too sweet!" Ivy snagged a pillow, and quickly flung it at her brother.
Ivy had reached her limit for intense family time, and retreated to the inn's stable with Fairlight. When she'd been a child, there had been three horses housed but now there was just one - a beautiful Morgan named Queen. The mare's gentle brown eyes watched as Ivy filled her feed trough and brought down more hay.
Fairlight smiled from her perch atop a hay bale. "This is a side of you I've never seen before - Ivy: Farm Girl."
Ivy gave her a tolerant look. "You are a troublemaker."
"Technically, that was being bratty, but I'll let that go."
Ivy shook her head, and watched Queen for a moment. There was something slightly wrong in her stance, and she seemed to be favoring her left front leg. "I'm going to bring her out - need to check something."
Fairlight nodded, and scooted back a few inches. Ivy grabbed a leather lead off the tack organizer, and opened the stall door. She made comforting noises as she attached the lead to Queen's halter, and lead her out. "Good girl..."
A tap behind the knee brought the leg up, and Ivy saw the problem almost immediately. The hoof hadn't been filed down just right, and so the horseshoe wasn't sitting properly. It wasn't enough to do damage, but would put the horse's stride off.
"She needs to be reshod correctly. I'm gonna take a look at her other hooves." Ivy moved to the right front leg, and was surprised when Fairlight came up behind her. "Thought you weren't sure about horses."
"I'm still not," Fairlight answered firmly. "But, she seems so sweet."
"Knowing Mother, she bought her for that very reason." Ivy brought up the hoof in front of her, and was pleased to see it had been shoed correctly. Fairlight stayed by the head, holding the lead, as Ivy examined the rear hooves, which also checked out. "Looks like it's just that front one giving her trouble. Mother will have to have the ferrier back though."
"That doesn't hurt... does it?" Fairlight asked, concerned.
"Not unless the person's an idiot, and Mother doesn't hire those," Ivy reassured her. "Right now, it's like she got one shoe with a quarter inch sole and the other with a half inch one."
"Oh. And, what are those?" Ivy followed the direction Fairlight was pointing. "The two connected sacks."
"Those are saddlebags. They let you take along a picnic, or something to read... whatever. I used to do that a lot." She remembered the adolescent restlessness that had sent her roaming, rather than into drinking, or drugs, or lots of boys. The last she understood now, but over a decade later her only explanation for avoiding substance abuse was that it had seemed too cliche'.
"Sounds like fun," Fairlight commented.
Ivy wasn't sure she'd ever asked herself if it was or not. "I guess."
"Ivy - let's do that tomorrow. Pack up some stuff, and just enjoy the day together." Fairlight's eyes were warm, and even a bit excited. Ivy felt her heart, inexplicably, seem to miss a beat.
"You do realize we'd be going horseback?"
Fairlight nodded. "I won't be afraid, as long as I've got you there." She gave her a hopeful look.
"Alright then - I never had a traveling companion before."
"I think you'll like it," Fairlight said decidedly. "This has been such a great Christmas, slash, anniversary. I think we're going to have to have one every year."
Ivy could only give one answer. "For as long as you like."
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