Callisto by Bat Morda. Book 5 of the Covington Sextology. At least having the soul of a reincarnated psychotic killer explains the depression... If the author could make you read one of her stories, it'd be this one.



Xena, Gabrielle, Callisto, Janice Covington, Melinda Pappas and all other characters who have appeared in the syndicated series Xena: Warrior Princess, together with the names, titles and backstory are the sole copyright property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this fan fiction. All other characters, their backstory, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author. This story cannot be sold or used for profit in any way. Copies of this story may be made for private use only and must include all disclaimers and copyright notices. In my world the series Xena: Warrior Princess ended with the episode The Ides of March. Yes, I know When Fates Collide was a nifty episode written by Barbara Eden’s niece, but after two craptastic seasons it just ain’t enough to acknowledge any of the half-assed shit TPTB threw at us. So, for the purposes of this little tale, Callisto was never neutered with that “Callisto-Lite” bullshit, we didn’t have the Eve bullshit, we didn’t have the twenty-five year gap bullshit and of course the stupid thing with the mermaids never happened.


This story depicts a love/sexual relationship between two consenting adult women. If you are under 18 years of age or if this type of story is illegal in the state or country in which you live, please do not read it. You might also want to consider moving. If depictions of this nature disturb you, you may wish to read something other than this story. Like, duh. Please also read the “Disturbing Content Warning/Disclaimer” because sexually, this story has some of that too.


This story is called “Callisto” and a pretty good chunk of it is about her. Yes, there are uber characters who have grand adventures, but a lot of it is about our beloved goddess of rage and what made her so. As you might expect, Callisto didn’t have the happiest of childhoods. If you don’t want to read about some really disturbing things that happened to this child after the Warrior Princess descended on her village, than you probably don’t want to read this story. I am absolutely not kidding about how awful and dark some of this stuff is. Were I not already in therapy I’d think I should be for thinking this stuff up in the first place. Sure, there is brilliantly witty dialogue, enjoyable action and hopefully hot sex (I did write this after all), but there is a lot of sadness too. Really despair inducing sadness. Icky, dark, dark sadness- especially in the second dream sequence. A bunch of shit happens that all too often befalls too many innocent kids. I won’t mind if you choose to read something else, seriously, I won’t. Honest.

Author’s note: This one is for all the broken children who get fucked over through no fault of their own before getting much of a chance. It’s also for the damaged adults they grow into. The world is a very cold place and you shouldn’t have to discover that when you’re still attached to your teddy bear.



By Bat Morda

Started: 3/15/06 Finished: Halloween 2006

Email Twitter @BatMorda


Chapter One

“The dream was never over, the dream has just begun”
Straight Back  – Stevie Nicks

I remember it being a very hot windy summer. I might have been seven or eight years old. My sister and I would occasionally splash water from the horse troughs at each other to cool off. My mother would pretend to be upset but we knew she didn’t mean it. From time to time we would join other families in our village on outings to the sea. I think I love these memories the best. The smell of the salt water and the beautiful azure expanse that seemed to go on forever; there was nothing like it. My mother would pack a special lunch for those trips. She made the best bread in the village. She traded loaves of fresh bread and eggs from our hens for meat pies and always got the sharp cheese from our neighbor. That was a special treat for us; that and the wine of course. Cirran wine was unlike anything else. We had the finest vineyards in the region by far, and the wine makers of Cirra were well known throughout Greece. To be Cirran was to know wine, love the sea and live a life that could only be described as peaceful and prosperous. Even my family never wanted for anything, in spite of the fact that my father had died when I was a baby. The people of Cirra took care of their own and had a generous, loving spirit.  That was before she came.

I remember it was before suppertime; my sister and I had set the plates on the table and mother had a most delicious stew in a pot over our fire. As I said, it was summer, the sun was still bright even though it was time for the evening meal. We heard a commotion outside and it was more than the sound of the wind that had been ripping through Cirra for several days. The butcher’s son ran past our window screaming that an army was coming through the vineyards. My sister and I didn’t understand and honestly I don’t think my mother did either. The people of Cirra had always gotten along with our neighbors, joining with them to fight back the occasional intruder, most often to help in the event of a fire or other disaster. But Neleus was not mistaken and moments after he ran past our home I heard the thunder of hoof beats.

It started slowly, almost as if trying to remember what the sound of hoof beats might be, but the thunder drew steadily near and that is when we began to hear the screaming. Men from the village were trying to fight off the intruders, but Cirrans were wine-makers not warriors. The tools of agriculture are of little defense against swords and arrows. My mother tried to stay calm; she told me and my sister Miranda to hide under the bed, that we’d be safe there. She stayed with us, and told us that no matter what, not to move from our hiding place. She said the warriors could take whatever they wanted, and as long as we were alive, we’d be okay. How very little my mother knew.

My village had been under attack for maybe ten minutes when I first smelled smoke. Hiding in my place, paralyzed with a fear I had never felt before or since, I huddled with my sister and prayed to every god on Olympus to make the horror stop. My mother prayed as well, every god and goddess on Olympus was given their due, she sang their praises and begged them with all her heart to protect her daughters and make the slaughter stop. Perhaps in a fittingly twisted way, her prayers were indeed answered. The smell of smoke got stronger and in minutes our own thatched roof was on fire. In moments our home filled with dark smoke and the crackle of fire. One of the beams from the roof fell and hit my mother.

The horror of that scream is something I will never forget, try as I might. The burning beam struck her across the back of her shoulders knocking her forward and pinning her to the ground. She cried and screamed in part from the heavy weight pinning her down, in part from the fire now spreading to her clothes burning her skin. I crawled out from my place under the bed and tried to help her. I screamed for Miranda to help me but she didn’t move. She just stared at our mother, beating the ground, thrashing in pain; helpless. I grabbed the blanket off the bed and extinguished the flames and then tried to move the beam. It was still hot and I only succeeded in burning my hands. Tears of fear and frustration ran down my face as my lungs filled with black smoke. Our house creaked, the fire now moving down the walls, hungry for wood dry and parched from our hot summer. Embers rained down, burning me and my mother as small tongues of flame licked up wherever the hot embers landed. Mother cried as she was repeatedly burned and I was hard pressed to keep the small fires extinguished.

Minutes later mother seemed to calm down a bit. No longer screaming she looked around at the inferno that had been our home and made a decision. “Miranda, Callisto you must get out! Get out of the house now. You’re not safe here.”

“No!” I shouted. “I’m not leaving you. I can help you I just need to move this beam.” I tried again; the skin on my hands and arms blistering at the effort.

“The warriors are outside!” Miranda screamed. “They will kill us.”

The house creaked again. It might have seemed like vertigo; feeling like you are standing still yet the world moves around you. I saw the back wall of our house sway. I blinked, not believing my eyes.

“Miranda!” I screamed as the back wall fell in, toppling over onto the bed pinning Miranda beneath it.

My mother screamed anew and fought for all she was worth to get out from under the beam. I tried again, screaming in frustration that I wasn’t stronger. Miranda was screaming too, the bed engulfed in flame; my efforts with the blanket only succeeding to let it catch fire. I was frozen, I couldn’t move as I watched my sister burn to death. I could smell the burning hair and skin as she writhed in pain and panic. After moments that took far too long, she finally lay still. My mother was sobbing uncontrollably being forced to lay there and watch the death of her eldest child. Fiery embers continued to rain down and her clothes began to burn. She looked at me. It was all there in her face; pain, anguish, determination, fear, frustration. “Callisto,” she shouted at me. “You must leave now. Your sister and I are dead, you must save yourself. Go!”

“But momma, I love you,” I cried. “I can’t leave you.”

“If you love me, you will go. I love you too honey.”

Our house creaked again and against my will my feet obeyed. As soon as I was out the door I heard her scream again. Sadness, agony, desperation; it was all there in the sound of her voice. I could smell the char of burnt skin and hair and I knew my mother was on fire. Finally she was quiet. Only then, as the other walls from our house caved in could I leave.

I ran, in what direction I didn’t know. I may have hoped to stumble into one of the attacking warriors who would perhaps run me through with a sword and end my suffering. But I did not. The woman sitting astride her horse stopped my running. In a split second I knew everything about this woman I could see my life reflected in her cold blue eyes and knew that we would be forever linked. She was giving orders to the men saying that she’d come to Cirra for wine and she sure as Tartarus wasn’t leaving without it. She looked down at me, a look I will never forget. It is forever linked with the screams of my mother and sister, the smell of their burning bodies, the murder of anything I could have ever hoped to be.

“Why?” I screamed at her. It was all I could think of to say.

She smirked at me and gently kicked her horse moving away from me and away from the fire. I watched her go; long black hair spilling over a black cape. I did not know how I would do it, but someday, somehow I was going to kill that woman and leave her as empty and bereft as she had left me.

Stevie Montgomery woke with a start and sat bolt upright in bed. Her heart was racing, which after a nightmare was not unusual, but the smell of smoke filling her senses was new. She took a few slow, deep breaths to steady herself and ran a shaking hand through her shoulder-length blonde hair. Fearing the worst she looked at her alarm clock and groaned out loud when she saw that it was half past three. The acrid smell of smoke dissipated and Stevie looked around her bedroom. Everything was bathed in shades of deep blue from the antique furniture to the tidy walk in closet. The little moonlight illuminating the room came from a gap in the drawn heavy green curtains. The room smelled faintly of lavender, the remnants of a salted bubble bath still clinging to the oversized bath tub in the bathroom. Stevie found this scent comforting; herbs and salt made her think of the sea. She tried to erease the lingering images of destruction with those of pristine California coastline and met with limited success.

She concentrated on the sound of rhythmic breathing coming from the floor near her bed. Her two dogs slept soundly and the steady breathing provided a sense of comfort. If there really were a fire, she had no doubt that the dogs’ keen sense of smell would pick it up long before she could. That reassurance gave her the confidence to pick up the phone and dial numbers she knew by heart.

The phone rang twice and the gruff voice at the other end gave a type of comfort that the scent of lavender and down comforter she was wrapped in could not. “This better not be Stevie,” the low voice grumbled, threaded with sleepiness.

“Hey Sarah,” Stevie said. She could hear the other woman fumble for a better grip on the phone, no doubt looking at her own alarm clock. Stevie noticed that Dakota, her male Great Dane raised his head lazily at the sound of his mistress’s voice. Yoko, the female continued to sleep soundly. Deciding all was in order, Dakota lowered his huge head and in moments was snoring softly.

“Jesus Stevie, it’s three-thirty in the fucking morning,” Sarah said, her voice a harsh whisper that spoke volumes to the blonde.

“You’re not alone are you?” Stevie asked, a very clear image in her mind’s eye of Sarah’s bed and how she tended to sleep with her arms wrapped protectively around whomever she might be with.

Sarah Moorhead sighed. She did not enjoy hurting the woman on the other end of the phone. In her mind she could picture the disheveled blonde hair, the soft brown eyes, the vulnerable expression; but at this point it could not be helped. She adjusted herself to better hold the phone and keep from waking the woman who slept so soundly on her shoulder. “No, I’m not alone,” she whispered. “But we broke up four months ago, so it’s not like you can get all that annoyed.”

Stevie considered that response. They’d broken up most recently four months ago. They’d tried to break up a couple of times before that and always seemed to end up emotionally entangled once again. This time they were trying to keep the friendship and just leave out the sex that tended to muddle things. “Did she wake up when you answered the phone?” Stevie asked tentatively.

Sarah shook her head, her long black hair brushing against her shoulder. “No, she’s still asleep.”

“Then there isn’t any reason you can’t talk to me,” Stevie replied. “It’s not like I wasn’t up enough nights with you when you were on shoots in Romania or wherever the hell you went.”

“That was phone-sex, it was different,” Sarah shot back, albeit quietly.

“There were enough nights where you just wanted someone to say ‘good-night’ to, so you owe me.” Stevie was happy to hear Sarah take a deep breath and let it out slowly. She always did that when she was frustrated and ready to give in.

“Okay, okay,” she said quietly. “You had a nightmare, didn’t you?”

Stevie pulled the down comforter around her more tightly, settling into the warmth and putting the phone in a comfortable position by her ear. “Yes,” she said. “It was the same place I’ve been dreaming about, that village not far from the sea, but this time a woman was telling me what happened…”

“You had a narrator in your dream?” Sarah asked dubiously.

Stevie shrugged, “I guess so. This little girl about seven or eight years old was at home in this village when an evil warlord and her army invaded it. Everyone was slaughtered. A fire broke out and killed this girl’s mother and sister.”

“Man, that is a harsh dream. Seems like the worst yet. Did you watch reruns of X-Files tonight? Or Medium? Sometimes that makes you dream weird stuff.”

Stevie couldn’t help but smile at that. Sarah had a way of breaking down life to its most basic components; television plots. She decided to play along. “You won’t believe this, but on Medium this week, Allison had a dream that her husband and the district attorney pooh-poohed and then it came true, then she had a spat with her husband in bed and the middle daughter had messy hair and said something funny.” She heard Sarah chuckle.

“No kidding? How can they do the exact same thing every week and still have it be a rockin’ show?” Sarah relaxed a little. The woman curled up at her side slept soundly and this was one of the things she enjoyed most about Stevie; the ability to talk about pretty much anything. “So do you think that the girl in the village represents you or your inner-child or some shit? Or are you the village that gets plundered?”

Stevie’s eyes grew wide at the comment. “Well the invading warlord did look a lot like you,” she said. “But I don’t think it was you. Yeah, we broke up but I don’t think I feel ‘pillaged’ perse. I got the sense that the little girl was telling me things that she thought I needed to know.”

“I can’t really see myself as a warlord…humm…maybe…on a pale horse or something…” Sarah commented absently. Stevie might have found it amusing had it not been a chronic failing of her friend to steer the conversation to her favorite subject, herself.

“This horse was reddish brown. So who’ve you got in bed?” Stevie asked, deciding that if Sarah wanted to talk about herself, she’d give her the chance.

“One of the production assistants from the movie I just finished,” she answered without hesitation.

Stevie shook her head in dismay. Sarah was a stuntwoman and she had met her on another movie shoot when she was hired as a consultant nearly three and a half years ago. She had been happy to have some time away from the Getty where she worked as an Egyptologist and restorations specialist. Sarah had been charming and exciting and they had dated for just over three years. Something shifted in Stevie and she felt as if a dark specture were growing, a depression that threatened to swallow nearly everything she cared about. After some failed breakups the tension became too great and deep down Stevie knew she was relieved when Sarah had finally called it quits. This time for good. Strangely enough the friendship had endured in spite of Sarah’s revolving door of conquests.

“Is it serious?” Stevie asked.

“It was about four hours ago,” Sarah answered with a slight grin in her voice. Then a little guity she added, “No, not really; just a cute girl. Look Stevie, I don’t want to hurt you like this. I love you to pieces, but calling your ex-girlfriend at 3 o’clock in the morning is probably not healthy.”

“You think it’s healthier for me to sit and stew? Alone?”

Sarah thought better of suggeting that she call another friend. One that she hadn’t been romantically involved with in the past year. Thinking a moment, she realized that there probably wasn’t anyone else that Stevie would have been willing to wake up at three thirty in the morning. “No, I don’t think that. But maybe getting out there and meeting someone…” Sarah trailed off. She wasn’t good at this sort of thing. In desperaton, she punted. “What are your monster dogs doing right now?”

Stevie glanced at the large dog beds on the floor next to her bed. Both Great Danes slept soundly. Yoko in fact appeared to be having a dream; her black paws were twitching.

“They’re sleeping.”

“Which is what you should be doing. If anything were wrong, they’d let you know.” Sarah let a comfortable silence form between them. She knew that Stevie was relaxing, getting in the frame of mind to drift back to sleep. “You have therapy tomorrow, right?”

Stevie groaned sleepily, “Yeah.”

“Well maybe that’ll help. Tell Jane about the dream and see what she thinks.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Stevie said resigned, feeling the tension seep from her. “I’ll tell her.” Not ready to be alone just yet, she asked,  “Why don’t you tell me about your recurring dream?”

Sarah smiled, “You’ve heard that one before, you don’t want to hear it again.”

“I really do, it’ll put me to sleep.”

Sarah rolled her eyes. It was one of Stevie’s gifts to be cutting without even trying. “Okay I’ll tell you, but before I do, remember that I can’t go running with you in the morning…you know, company and all.” Stevie grunted noncommittally and Sarah hoped the younger woman would remember. She reached for a bottle of water on her nightstand and took a small sip before beginning her story.

“As you know I’ve had this dream since I was a little kid,” Sarah began. “When I was younger I’d have it every few months, and then a couple of times a year and now I have it every few years. It always starts the same; I’m at Disneyland having a great time.”

“As one is wont to do at Disneyland,” Stevie interjected sleepily.

“Exactly. So I’m enjoying the rides and then I come to one of the boat rides. Sometimes it’s Small World, sometimes it’s Storybook Land…”

“Which you don’t even like.”

“Right. But usually it’s Pirates of the Caribbean. I’m waiting for the boat and it leaves without me. I’ve totally missed the boat, so I have to jump into the nasty Disney water and swim after the boat. It’s freezing cold and I’m trying to catch up, but the boat is always just out of reach. The people in the boat are happily enjoying their ride and ignoring the fact that I’m swimming. I feel so cold, and man on Pirates at the end when the boats get pulled up that big ass hill…that is so hard to swim up. So I haul my freezing cold, drenched wet ass out of the ride and continue with my day at the park. What really sucks is when I miss the Sky Buckets and I have to jump after them, hanging on the outside of the bucket unable to let go until the skyway arrives in Tomorrowland or Fantasyland.
“It’s a good thing they took out that ride,” Stevie said closing her eyes.

“Tell me about it,” Sarah affirmed. “I haven’t had that part of the dream nearly as much now.” The woman next to Sarah began to stir. “Look Stevie, think about me putting my arms around you and fall asleep okay? Yoko, Dakota and I will make sure nothing else happens until morning. I’ll drop you an email or come by your office tomorrow, is that cool?”

Stevie sighed, the horror of her dream fading away and sleep lurking happily just around the corner. “I think this is co-dependent,” she murmured, turning onto her side.

“Maybe,” Sarah allowed. “But whatever. I’ll see you tomorrow. G’night Stevie.”

“G’night Sarah,” Stevie sighed, barely able to hang up the phone before sleep claimed her once more.

The alarm clock hit six am and Stevie Mongtomery woke with a start. Kevin & Bean from the world famous KROQ assaulted her ears and that was just the beginning. She stared at the alarm clock absently wondering why she hadn’t changed the music back to classical now that Sarah didn’t sleep over anymore. It’d been four months. She decided that she would need to address that…soon. On their feet and excited, each Great Dane barked once. It was the part of her day that Stevie looked forward to the most. “Good morning guys,” she said sleepily leaning over and kissing each dog on its nose. Even in her tall antique bed, large dog heads were easily accessible. “Ready to go to the beach?” Each dog barked again as Stevie hurried out of bed and slipped into sweat pants, sweatshirt and running shoes. She grabbed the leashes and plastic bags and by ten after the hour was jogging towards the beach.

The beach made living in Santa Monica worthwhile. Certainly it made up for the horrendous parking or rather, lack thereof. While it was nice to live in an incredibly liberal, intellectual, environmentally correct city, there were elements of those same qualities, the sense that everyone seemed to carry around that they were inherently more evolved and better than everyone else, which annoyed Stevie to no end. Still, as soon as her eyes caught that never ending expanse of blue all was forgiven and she fell in love with Santa Monica all over again. Her house was ten blocks from the beach which, should a tsunami ever hit would mean she was screwed. Still, she was willing to take her chances. People got screwed living in Northridge after all and that was…Northridge. Earthquakes, tsunamis, mudslides, wildfires; nature in Southern California was the last bastion of the unconquerable.

She started at a slow jog, letting her body warm up. Her two canine companions were used to the routine. They’d run slow enough to keep pace with Stevie and if the beach were empty when they arrived, they’d be allowed to run off leash. It was strictly illegal of course; pretty much everything was illegal in Santa Monica and that was why the city was so clean. As she’d hoped the beach was empty. It was late October and cold by California standards. A thick fog permeated everything making the ocean difficult to see even while standing on the sand. It didn’t matter though. Stevie could hear it. The rhythmic thrum of waves crashing onto the beach and the intoxicating scent of salt water.

She ran for about an hour and called the dogs back to head home. As she jogged home she thought about her packed suitcases and the vacation she would be beginning that night. She’d had second thoughts about going to Salem with Sarah ever since they had most recently broken up, but the trip had been planned for almost a year and she knew Sarah didn’t want to disappoint her. She also knew Sarah had done her very best to time the breakup away from birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays but the plane tickets and reservations for the trip had already been made. She considered giving the stuntwoman one more chance to change her mind that afternoon. Their flight wasn’t until nine o’clock at night.

Upon returning home she fed her dogs, ate breakfast, showered and readied herself for work. She moved with efficiency through her spotless kitchen and impeciably decorated bedroom. Her home was apointed with well designed furniture. Decorations were elegant but not overly fussy. There was an aura of expensive hominess the permiated her place. She favored a minimalistic environment better managed by her obsessive compulsive tendencies. More than just a neat freak, she was a neat freak with expensive taste.

She’d intentionally planned a light day at the museum. No use in getting something started she’d have to leave for more than a week. She’d put her speaking engagements off until after her return. She knew she’d have to coordinate a few things with her assistant Jack, but he was very capable, if not a little on the lazy side.

She paused at the entrance to her walk in closet trying to decide what to wear, as if staring at her clothes long enough would then illuminate the correct choice. Everything in was organized by style and color. Considering her options, she looked at several suits. Shades of cream, blues, greens and reds teased her. A grey suit with slacks tempted her. A burgundy cashmere sweater called to her. There were no meetings so she could dress down, there were no lectures to give so heels would be fine, she wouldn’t be in the lab today and she had therapy right after work. Therapy after work. Therapy. With a sigh she reached for a short black dress. Black was the only appropriate color for therapy.

Distracted by paperwork Stevie had completely forgotten Sarah’s promise of lunch until she heard the woman’s voice outside her office. Since the breakup, her assistant Jack had formed an intense dislike of the woman. Unfortunately for Jack, Sarah couldn’t have cared less.

“Hey Jack-Jack is your Mistress in?” Sarah asked pleasantly, her warm voice extending beyond her closed office door.

“I don’t think she wants to see you,” Jack protested. “Do you have an appointment?”

“I’ve got better than an appointment. I’ve brought lunch. Why don’t you just tell her I’m here and I can go in her office and eat and you can get back on the phone to one of your boyfriends…”

Stevie lunged for her phone and called Jack’s extension. There was no need to make her assistant any angrier than he undoubtedly was going to be.

“Jack, send Sarah in and go have lunch on me.”

“Fine,” Jack replied. “But you can so do better than her.”

Sarah entered the office holding a large Tupperware container with two iced lattés from Starbucks balanced on top. She deposited the container on the round mosaic table in Stevie’s spacious office and pulled two forks from her back pocket. Stevie smiled at the gesture.

“You really shouldn’t tease Jack about being gay. You know it drives him nuts.” Stevie said, pulling a couple of napkins from her desk drawer and joining her friend at the round table.

As usual Sarah looked magnificent. Even wearing nothing more impressive than jeans, a t-shirt from the U2 concert they saw together and her leather jacket. Her hair was down, still a little wet and that told Stevie a great deal about Sarah’s morning. She surmised that the guest got a late start leaving the stuntwoman’s apartment and Sarah had thankfully taken the time to shower before making the drive to the Getty from the Valley. She didn’t bother with any makeup and frankly didn’t need it. Her skin always had a healthy glow and her vibrant blue eyes were simply impossible not to look at. Make-up would have been redundant.

Sarah shrugged. “If it quacks and answers to Donald…”

“But he’s not gay. He’s just…sensitive. Not all straight men are Neanderthals. The poor guy is really trying to make headway with our delivery person. Everyone teasing him about being Metro isn’t going to help.”

“I’ve seen your UPS girl,” Sarah replied. “Nothing is going to help him with her. She’s one of ours.” Sarah popped the top off the Tupperware bowl revealing a delicious salad inside. “Eat something. You never feed yourself, it drives me nuts.”

“How do you know the UPS girl is gay?

Sarah looked a little embarrassed and popped a forkful of lettuce and avocado into her mouth before answering. Biding her time she took a moment to chew and glanced around Stevie’s office. The walls were a cold white and tastefully adorned with mixed media art the stuntwoman simply didn’t understand. A large bookcase dominated one wall that contained probably every research volume on Egypt ever written. Stevie had a separate shelf of the books she’d written with binders of papers from talks she’d given. Her desk was always meticulous which made the stuntwoman grin. The two of them were indeed yin and yang. At this moment she had dirty dishes in her sink at home and Stevie had an alphabatized spice drawer. Having chewed more than was needed Sarah finally swallowed and answered. “She gave me her number about eight months ago.”

“Did you call her?” Stevie asked, surprised.

“Of course I didn’t call her. I was still with you eight months ago.” She rummaged in the salad bowl for a cherry tomato and stabbed it with her fork. “Give me some credit. I wouldn’t step out on you.”

Stevie sighed, annoyed with herself that it even mattered. “I know you wouldn’t. That’s why you broke up with me.” She reached in the salad bowl for a thinly shaved piece of Parmesan cheese. “I’m sorry Sarah.”

Sarah sighed. Like it or not they were going to have another of those conversations. She took a sip of her triple latte and studied her companion. As usual Stevie was dressed immaculately. She was wearing a smart black dress with spiky heels. Her nails were painted a rich crimson that matched her lipstick. Her shoulder length blonde hair was full, if not a bit tousled looking and her jewelry could only be described with words like ‘smart’ and ‘appropriate’. Her watch was understated and even now she only ever wore two rings. One was platinum that she’d received from her mother upon receiving her doctorate degree and the other was a jade pinky ring that Sarah had given her on their first anniversary.

“You don’t have anything to be sorry for,” Sarah said quietly meeting her friend’s eyes.

Stevie shrugged. “I’m sorry I got in the way of us.” She said.

“It’s just a different us, now,” Sarah replied. “We’re always going to be close, this is the part we’re best at anyway. Besides, it’s not like you got in the way of us, or your depression or anything like that. It wasn’t you or me; some people just make better friends than lovers… Okay we were great lovers but you know what I mean.”

Blonde and brunette looked at each other for long moments. Finally Sarah crossed one leg over the other and gently nudged one of Stevie’s legs with the tip of her tennis shoe. Stevie studied blue eyes that held nothing back. They were open, unguarded and infinitely caring. She took a sip of her latté. “Usually when people break up someone runs for higher ground. They find some new distraction to avoid dealing with the person they hurt. No one likes to see the wreckage they cause. I was really hurt a while ago; I said some pretty hurtful things to you. And here you are bringing me lunch and latté. You never left.” She rummaged through the salad for a nice chunk of avocado. “I’m certain this isn’t normal.”

“Fuck normal.” Sarah asserted. “We are what we are. I put up with your shit because you put up with my shit, simple as that. Do you know how hard it is to find a genuine person who will put up with my massive ego?” Stevie grinned and Sarah continued, “I found plenty of new distractions because I wanted to, and I made time for you because I wanted that too. I didn’t want to put you on a shelf until you were over everything so I dealt with your justifiable nastiness. You’re important to me Stevie, get over it.” Sarah had another bite of salad and continued, “your mother says ‘hi’ by the way. You don’t call her enough.”

Stevie rolled her eyes. “I talked to her yesterday! Why on earth is she calling you?”

Sarah grinned and expertly speared a piece of jicama. “What can I say, she likes me.”

“Don’t remind me. She pins our breakup- all of them- squarely on me, I fear what would happen if she had to pick between the two of us.” Stevie replied helping herself to a couple more bites of salad, impressed as always at the stuntwoman’s prowess in the kitchen.

“Your mom is crazy about you. She only calls me because she worries about you and doesn’t think you’ll give her a straight answer when she asks how you’re doing,” Sarah said. “Besides she’s still convinced we’re going to get back together…again. Until you find someone you’re totally ape-shit over, she’s going push. The only thing that could make me more perfect for you is if I were named Rhiannon or Robin instead of Sarah. She even forgives me for having an “h” in my name.”

Stevie sighed, “All the mothers out there and I got the rabid Stevie Nicks fan.” Unconsiously she glanced at a framed photo on her desk of her mother dressed in black lace wearing a shawl with a gibson girl bun on the top of her head. Next to it was a photo of Stevie with Sarah on the deck of Napenthe in Big Sur. Absently she wondered if that was healthy.

Sarah noticed her companion’s gaze and the troubled experession that clouded her eyes. “Just be thankful she’s not a rabid Bjork fan” she said distracting her. “Are you packed for tonight or what?”

Stevie took another long pull of her latté before speaking. Her eyes wandered around the minimally adorned walls searching for distraction, finding none. “I’ve been thinking about that. Maybe you’d have more fun if you took your new girl or something…”

Sarah put her fork down and blue eyes bore into brown. “Don’t even tell me you’re thinking of backing out,” she said emphatically. “And I don’t have some ‘new girl.’ I planned this trip with you and I am going to take this trip with you. Just tell me you’re ready to go?”

Smiling, Stevie took another sip of latté. Sarah could be impossibly charming when she wanted to. “Yeah, yeah. Come leave your car at my place. I’ll have a car pick us up and get us to the airport.

Five o’clock arrived sooner than expected. Stevie had enjoyed her long lunch with Sarah as she always did. They chatted about Stevie’s most recent nightmare, as well as what they hoped to see in Salem during the Halloween week. Sarah wanted to do every touristy thing imaginable and insisted that they avoid museums if at all possible. Stevie assured her that she was approaching the trip as a vacation and promised not to drone on about art and architecture more than absolutely necessary.

Jack had left most of his annoyance at lunch and had really done his best to assure the Egyptologist that she could indeed disappear for a couple of weeks and the Getty would still be there when she returned.

“I swear,” he said as he jotted down some last minute notes about other museum curators who may be calling and how to handle each one, “no one is going to know you’re gone.”

“That’s it,” Stevie chuckled, “Make me feel like I don’t do anything here.”

He shook his head. “You don’t, remember?” He ran down a checklist he’d written. “Are you going to check out any conservators back east?”

Stevie shrugged. “I don’t know. I may, Boston perhaps, but we’ll see what kind of mood Sarah is in. She really doesn’t want this to turn into a working vacation for me.”

Jack nodded. “For such a dumbass she really does care about you.”

Brown eyes studied the middle-aged man with a bit of annoyance. “It’s one thing for me to call her a dumbass, Jack. You don’t get to. I know you want me to find someone, and at some point I might, but in the meantime you might want to be nicer to Sarah because she isn’t going anywhere.”

The assistant shrugged. “I get the point. What are you doing about your behemoth dogs? Do you need me to feed them?”

“No,” Stevie said as she checked her watch one final time and put some papers from her desk into her briefcase. “My mom is coming over to stay with them. She adores them, they put up with her.” Making sure that everything was in it’s place she surveyed her office one last time. “I guess that’s it,” she said. She hugged her assistant briefly. “I’m outta here. I’ll be home after therapy for a couple of hours before the flight. Call if you need to. Otherwise you know how to get a hold of me if it’s important. I’ll see you in a couple of weeks.”

“Have a good time,” Jack said as she left.

Jack’s parting words echoed in Stevie’s mind as she drove up and down Second Street looking in vain for a parking space. He always told her to have fun before therapy, although she was fairly sure he’d been talking about vacation in this instance. Jack was kind of sick in that respect, he’d also tell someone to enjoy themselves at a funeral. After circling the block three times Stevie gave up and headed for the parking structure. It was always a fitting beginning to the therapy routine; spending fifteen minutes hunting in vain for a parking space. Like the vain hunt for some internal feeling of normalcy.

Walking long distances in heels was never fun, but she’d gotten used to it. Entering the brick building she made her way up the stairs, the smells of various herbs from the acupuncture offices mingling in the hallway. By habit, she noted Jane’s name on the door and pushed it open. She sat down in the waiting room and sorted through email on her Blackberry while she waited. She smiled. There was a note from Sarah.


Don’t forget to mention your latest dream.

Remember that you’re not as lame as you think you are and if Jane annoys you ask her how many drugs she did in the sixties.


p.s. we are so not co-dependent; so don’t even go there.


It was a routine that Stevie was happy continued even as their romantic involvement ended. Sarah would often drop Stevie a note before therapy so she could walk in with a smile on her face. She usually didn’t get a chance to do it when she was working, but if she was in between projects, she was an incredibly attentive friend. Stevie considered that was why she put up with the stuntwoman’s fits of self-absorption. Before she could ponder it any further, Jane opened the door to her office and welcomed her inside.

Still grinning, Stevie headed inside and sat at one end of the couch, next to the table with the ubiquitous box of Kleenex. After more than ten years of off and on therapy, Stevie was convinced that she’d developed a Pavlovian reflex to the sound of her therapist’s voice. As soon as she heard Jane say ‘and how do you feel about that?’ she’d usually start to tear up. By now it was as ingrained as breathing.

“How are you?” Jane asked when she’d settled herself.

Stevie paused for a moment to give the impression she was thoughtfully considering her answer. “I’m fine, thanks for asking.”

Jane smiled. She was a good deal shorter than Stevie with short salt and pepper hair, in her mid fifties. Over the years Stevie had culled a number of details about the woman. She knew she was straight, not presently married, had a dog, was passionate enough about photography to have a darkroom in her house and was more inept with computer driven technological devices than almost anyone Stevie knew. Still, at the same time, the woman remained an enigmatic mystery and that was somehow comforting.

“Why do I get the feeling that isn’t the whole story?” Jane asked calmly.

To say that Jane said something calmly was an understatement of epic proportions. She had an even manner of speaking and an infinitely soothing voice. In fact as she was breaking up with Sarah the first time, she’d brought the stuntwoman to a couple of therapy sessions. Twice Sarah dozed off while listening to Jane speak. The stuntwoman was convinced that her mellowness was due to too much fun in the sixties although Stevie couldn’t really picture her doing anything stronger than the occasional joint.

“Because I’m in a depression, having nightmares and about to go on vacation with the woman who broke my heart four months ago.” Stevie said flatly. “I suppose I could say ‘same old torture every day’, but that sounds so depressing.”

Inwardly Stevie flinched. She had no idea where the ‘same old torture every day’ line came from. This had been happening with an increasing frequency. Having thoughts that seemed foreign to her or memories of things she’d never experienced. She glanced around the room trying to center herslef. There was a patch on the wall behind Jane’s chair where a framed picture had been removed, the color didn’t match exactly and she noticed it every time she sat down. Two of the dipomas on the wall to her right were slightly crooked. The toys in the small play area were neat and tidy and the door had been removed from the closet where the childrens’ toys and art therapy supplies were kept. The décor was not Stevie’s cup of tea. It wasn’t messy, but it lacked a precision that the Egyptologist found desireable. Clearly the room was designed to be comfortable and comforting to a wide variety of people and as such it didn’t have a clearly defined personality of it’s own. Still, Stevie she realized that she tolerated it and in this room had tolerated a number of things over the years that she wouldn’t tolerate anywhere else.

“Don’t you leave tonight for Salem?” Jane asked studying her client. “How does that feel to you?”

Stevie felt the tears start to well up and told herself very sternly that there was no need to cry about vacation. “I gave her an out if she wanted to go with someone else, but she doesn’t.” She noticed Jane arch an eyebrow. “Look, I’m not interested in getting back together with her in that sense. We’re just going to go as friends and have some fun. We do get along fabulously well most of the time.”

“What are the sleeping arrangements?” Jane asked pointedly.

Stevie rolled her eyes. “We booked it when we were together. There’s one bed, but that isn’t an issue. It is possible for two lesbians to share a bed and not have sex. In fact in some circles it’s an epidemic. The condition has it’s own name and everything.”

“Lesbian Bed Death, yes I’ve heard of it.” Jane replied. “But you’ve never characterized your relationship with Sarah as being anything but very passionate and physical.”

Taking a deep breath Stevie tried to compose her thoughts. Sex was probably her least favorite topic of discussion in therapy. Well one of her least favorites at any rate. “Sarah and I still love each other very deeply. I don’t know why, but we do. We have a connection. But as my depression increased, that part of our fire went out. Or it could have been the realization that we just aren’t the two people who are supposed to be together. We’re the total opposite of Brokeback Mountain. We have to talk to each other every day but leaving the naughty bits alone is no problem.” Jane arched her eyebrow again. “Anymore, that is” Stevie amended absently fiddling with her jade pinky ring. “I want the whole package in a person. I want to meet the person I’m supposed to be with, but I want to be emotionally healthy enough to recognize her when I do. Sarah and I are like three quarters of a package to each other. Sarah didn’t want to let that go, in spite of having to break up with me. I’ve really grown to appreciate and respect that. She is happy to have the seventy-five percent with me and running around chasing anything in a skirt for the other twenty-five percent. For some reason the women she’s finding don’t mind being just a shag. That isn’t good enough for me. She knows that isn’t good enough for me. I don’t want a fuck buddy. I want someone I can have one hundred percent with. I don’t want to lose Sarah, and I don’t intend to, but when I find Ms. Right I’ll end up with one hundred seventy five percent, which really isn’t too shabby.

“Does Sarah know this is how you feel?”

Stevie considered, really trying to imagine what the stuntwoman felt. “She knows me about as well as I know myself. Some things she totally doesn’t understand, like the depression. But some things I totally don’t understand…like the depression. She isn’t going to throw any moves on me. She’ll think about it, totally. But she won’t do it.” Stevie explained with more conviction than she felt. As impoartant as she was to Sarah, Stevie knew that Sarah usually put her own needs first. “For all I know she’ll find someone there,” she realized as soon as she said it that it was more likely her friend would find someone to score with on vacation than throw moves on her. Which on the one had was healthier, she truly, honestly didn’t want to reconnect with the stuntwoman like that and endure a fourth breakup at some point. But still, the thought of watching her friend, her former lover chase someone else on their vacation made her stomach tighten up in uncomfortable ways. “Really, I think the trip is going to be fine,” she said more to herself than her therapist. “Who knows, maybe I’ll meet someone back there.”

“Is that something that interests you?” Jane asked. “Until now you haven’t really entertained the possibility of finding someone besides Sarah.”

Stevie’s eyes shot up. She hadn’t realized that she’d said that last bit out loud. “I don’t know,” she answered uncomfortably. “I don’t think so. I don’t see myself hooking up with anyone else until this depression thing is under control. But if I did meet someone, I know Sarah and my mother would be ecstatic.” She shrugged. “Maybe it’d be just what I need.”

“How has the depression been this past week?”

Stevie shrugged. “I’m experiencing life in all its agonizing glory,” she said again wondering why that particular sentence had popped into her mind. “No cutting,” she continued, “no drinking to excess, no reckless behavior; just an overwhelming sense that I’m paying for something; that I’ve done something very bad and I’m being punished for it.”

“The cutting and drinking to excess hasn’t been a problem for several years has it?” Jane asked. Stevie nodded. “But it’s still a temptation?” Stevie nodded again.

“Not always,” she said. “But sometimes.”

“Do you have any sense of what it could be you’re being punished for?”

Stevie shook her head. “I don’t know,” She admitted. “It feels bad, like killed a bunch of people bad. I intellectually know I’ve never killed anyone. I’ve never really hurt anyone, except that guy in the bar who grabbed me and got a spike heel through his foot. Yet I have this feeling, this self-directed rage like I’ve hurt so many people and let down my family. I wish I knew where it came from.” Stevie shook her head in frustration. It seemed like the same mantra week in and week out in therapy. No one was ever going to really love her unless she loved herself and how could she love herself if all she had inside was guilt and rage inside at things she was certain she didn’t do. “I really thought these dreams I’ve been having would shed some light on this, but so far they haven’t.”

“You said you’d had another?” Jane asked.

Stevie nodded. “Only this time there was a voice. A narrator who was telling me what was happening. Describing the scene as I saw it. Her mother and sister were killed in a fire as a murderous warlord sacked their village.”

“So this little girl was left alone?” Jane asked.

“I guess so. I don’t know, there may have been other survivors.” Stevie answered not sure what Jane was getting at.

“Could the little girl be you? You’ve mentioned before that you’ve often felt apart and alone. You’ve expressed a growing isolation since your break up.” Jane spoke conversationally, softly as if knowing her words were going to frustrate her client.

“That’s what doesn’t make sense.” Stevie fumed. “I’ve got plenty of friends who have reasons why they’re here,” she indicated the cozy office. “They’ve got some sort of trauma in their life, childhood or otherwise. They have very real issues that they need to manage. I’ve just got this depression from nowhere. Yeah, my girlfriend broke up with me but she’s still my best friend. How often does that happen? My mother adores me, I’ve got a career I love, not to mention the two most beautiful dogs on the planet. Jane, we have been at this on and off for over a decade I have no reason to be depressed!”

Jane shrugged, “You’ve never met your father.”

Stevie laughed. “That’s because my mom was smashed backstage after a Fleetwood Mac concert. I think he was some roadie, but mom can’t really remember. It’s not like I’m feeling that huge void.”

“We’ve considered that there could be things you’re not remembering.” Jane offered carefully.

“How would I have a photographic memory about everything else and some mysterious gap? That doesn’t make sense. My problem is I remember too much. I remember everything. There is nothing in my past that would suggest the overwhelming guilt I feel. The internal rage, anger and sorrow. It just doesn’t add up.”

“Tell me more about the dream.” Jane said trying a different approach.

Stevie took a deep breath, calming herself. Anger wasn’t getting her anywhere. “This little girl comes running out of the house and sees this female warlord sitting astride a dark reddish-brown horse. A fire broke out in the village and everything was burning. The warlord looked a lot like Sarah but I don’t think it was her. In spite of the breakup, Sarah has been a dear. But this warlord looked like Sarah with the same black hair and blue eyes. She was giving orders to her men and ignored this little girl and her rage.”

Jane cocked her head. “This dream seems very detailed. Do you know where and when it took place?”

Stevie blinked at that. She hadn’t really tried to put the details into a regional or historical context. She closed her eyes and tried to recreate the scenes of the dream. Focusing not on the players themselves but everything around them. She studied the clothing, the construction of the house where the girl’s family was killed. She noted the details; the pot of stew hanging over a cook fire, the sword held by the warlord.

“I know it wasn’t far from the ocean. The village had famous vineyards. The construction of the buildings and clothing would point to something very very long ago. I’d say we’re talking ancient times. The sword the warlord held looked like an ancient Greek short sword. Being by the ocean, I suppose it could have been Greece.” Stevie almost seemed to be talking to herself as if she’d just uncovered something that was very important.

“Certainly you’re surrounded by ancient Greek artifacts at work?” Jane asked. “Do you think that could have some bearing on your dream?”

“I suppose,” Stevie allowed. “But it isn’t my main specialty. I give more talks on ancient Egyptian artifacts than I do on things from the Greek or Roman period.” She was thoughtful a moment. “Still, I guess it is worth considering.”

For the rest of the hour they discussed her dream and the upcoming vacation. Stevie explained how she would handle a variety of scenarios with Sarah should they arise. She felt like an idiot for doing so but wanted Jane to know that she would be able to handle not only herself bur her ex in a variety of situations. In the back of her mind though, details began to settle. Tools from the village, the clothing people wore, the age of of warriors and other details.

As she drove home, she pondered what these clues could add up to. Where in Greece could it have been? Was it really Greece at all? Was there enough information here to research an ancient fire. She was still considering the posibilities when she saw Sarah’s car already pulled up in her driveway. The stuntwoman was more than an hour early. Stevie rolled her eyes; she really should get Sarah’s set of keys back, at some point.

Stevie unlocked her front door and the house was strangely quiet. She noticed Sarah’s suitcase by the door as well as backpack and leather jacket. She put down her briefcase and walked through the kitchen, noting that the dishes she’d left out since morning were gone and the dishwasher was running. She could hear the dogs out back, with Sarah no doubt.

Sure enough the stuntwoman was tossing a large ball across the small yard for the two huge dogs to chase. Each Great Dane could cross the yard in a number of strides, get the ball and return in seconds. Dakota was better at catching than Yoko, but the female was much better at retrieving and giving the ball back. Dakota, the male was the larger of the two; Brindled in color, trim and with a very noble expression. Yoko was an inch or two shorter, nearly solid black with a white spot on one ear. She was the troublemaker and seemed to enjoy nothing more than teasing the male with the ball when she had it.

“You’re early,” Stevie said in greeting as she stepped out on her back porch. Both dogs ran over to her and she didn’t have to stoop very far to plant a kiss on the top of each head, leaving a reddish pink lipstick mark. She scratched both Danes behind their large floppy ears and told them how much she missed them that day.

“Yeah, I didn’t have anything else to do so I came by and took the kids for another run at the beach. I didn’t think you’d mind.” Sarah replied with a grin. Stevie was absolutely helpless if someone was kind to her dogs. “I poured you a glass of wine, it’s on the table.”

Stevie walked over to the teak table on her patio and picked up the glass of red wine. She rolled the liquid around the glass and held it to her nose. It was her favorite; a Greek Merlot from Ktima Katsaroú. “What am I going to do with you?” she asked, taking a sip. “Where on earth did you find this?”

Sarah picked up her own glass of wine and followed Stevie into the house. The two dogs followed and immediately made themselves at home on the couch. “I got it off eBay awhile back. I was saving it for the trip. I know how much you adore flying.”

“We’re not going to polish off a whole bottle of wine in an hour.” Stevie replied.

“No, your mom will finish it as soon as she gets here I’ve no doubt. But I thought you’d like to something to drink while I repack your bags.” Sarah said, heading for the blonde woman’s bedroom.

“I’m already packed!” Stevie protested.

With ease the stuntwoman lifted the large suitcase onto the crisply made bed and flipped open the latch. Stevie stood at the doorway; arms crossed and watched the other woman with a clearly annoyed expression on her face.

“Just as I expected,” Sarah said as she sorted through the contents of the suitcase. “Dressy, dressy, classy, sexy, dressy. What part of ‘vacation’ are you not understanding?” She demanded after holding up a series of skirts and blouses and various high heels.

“What? I wanted to look nice.” Stevie said defensively. “You dress sloppy enough for the both of us.”

“And this?” Sarah demanded holding up a green polo shirt.

“I can be casual,” Stevie replied defensively.

“Oh no you don’t,” Sarah shot back tossing the polo shirt to the side. “I am not going to spend the next week playing butch to your femme.” Sarah insisted. “Get a couple of pairs of jeans, your leather pants, at least one pair of sneakers and the cool boots you got on Melrose that time. You can also bring your running stuff if you want.”

“Did you pack a dress?” Stevie demanded looking at her friend suspiciously. “You know it isn’t fair for you to expect me to dress down all the time if you won’t dress up once in awhile.”

Sarah laughed “Oh god, Jane flashbacks, someone help me!” she said dramatically as if she’d been wounded. “Yes, I knew you were going to to there and I did in fact not only pack a dress, but I also packed a slip, appropriate shoes, and makeup.”

“What the hell is this?” Sarah demanded, finding a very skimpy white baby-doll dress. “This has got to be the sluttiest-looking thing I’ve ever seen.”

Stevie took a sip of wine. “It’s my Halloween costume. I thought I’d go as Courtney Love.”

Sarah’s eyes widened in appreciation. “Cool.”

The two women spent the next forty-five minutes arguing over Stevie’s wardrobe choices. In the end, compromises were reached and while she did exchange a couple of skirt suits for jeans and sweatshirts, she also kept a nice selection of dresses and sweaters. She decided to change into her leather pants for the flight since they’d be warm and she didn’t know how cold Boston would be at their arrival. For a split second she considered changing in the bathroom and decided it’d be silly. As odd as their new relationship was, Sarah had seen her undressed enough times for Stevie not to be worried about it at this point.

The last argument was about the other items to pack. Stevie agreed to bring her PowerBook so Sarah could download the pictures from her digital camera, although her briefcase was strictly forbidden. Stevie insisted Sarah leave behind her PSP if she was forbidden to bring the scholarly journals she wanted to read on the plane. They compromised and selected a couple of movies to watch on the laptop. Sarah was allowed her iPod and Stevie was permitted her journal. All decisions finalized; the two managed to repack her bags, feed the dogs and see that all in the house was in order when the doorbell rang and the driver arrived to take them to the airport.

The ride to LAX was tolerable already being on the same side of the hill and not having to endure 405 traffic. They were let off at their terminal and Sarah grabbed the bags while Stevie tipped the driver, confirming their appointment for the return flight. They had time for a quick bite at the Mini-Chili’s restaurant and boarded the American flight to Logan airport without incident. Settling herself into the comfortable first class seat by the window, Stevie considered that she was indeed happy that she was going on this adventure with Sarah.

“Thank you for making me repack,” she said quietly. “I do need to get out of my skin for awhile. Jeans and t-shirts will probably be good for me.”

Sarah smiled, genuinely pleased with herself and her companion. “I know it will. You’re away from home, work, everything about your life except me. Enjoy it. Let your inner child or whatever run amuck.”

“I was also thinking its going to be worth it to see you in a dress for once.” Stevie added.

“Look, just because I bought one doesn’t mean I’m going to wear it.” Sarah warned as she rummaged in her backpack for a headphone splitter and plugged it into her iPod. This way both women could listen to the music player. “I made a mix of music you like,” Sarah explained, looking a little bashful. “I thought it might help you sleep. No classical shit, or Gregorian Chants because I can’t listen to that. But Aimee Mann and stuff by people more depressed than you are.”

“Thank you Sarah, that’s very sweet.”

Sarah shrugged. “I want you rested. We get in at three am our time. Granted it’s when you usually wake up, but this time I want you rested. No bad dreams okay?”

Stevie nodded, feeling relaxed from the three glasses of wine and full from dinner. “I’ll do my best.” She picked up Sarah’s hand and gave it a quick squeeze before settling back in her seat and closing her eyes.


Chapter Two

“Just remember when I am haunted that I was just so scared”

Illume  – Stevie Nicks

It was only a matter of time before the warrior woman and her army left. There was nothing left of Cirra, nothing of value anyway, and only a handful of survivors. I learned the name of our attacker, Xena, from an old man. His name was Cadmus and he had been very kind to mother and helped repair our thatched roof two winters previously. Now I saw him lying in a broken heap, a very deep sword wound across his torso, bleeding to death. I held his hand and he told me that if I wanted to survive I would have to use my mind. He said warriors would still be around and if I wanted to grow up I would have to learn to be better than everyone else. As he died he explained that if I wanted to defeat Xena and avenge all that she had done I’d have to be more than her. I suppose it was an innocent enough mistake for a seven or eight year old but in the years that passed I took that to mean being more heartless, more ruthless, stronger, smarter, more of everything that made her vile.

Three old men, two young men, and two girls survived the sacking of Cirra. Me and a friend of my sister’s, Lysandra, were the only girls. She was fourteen and seemed very much like an adult to me. Miranda only grudgingly let me play with the two of them when mother insisted upon it. But I remember making sand towers at the beach with the two of them when we spent time there.

As night descended a fear gripped me that was beyond anything I could imagine. One of the old men, the blacksmith’s father grabbed a skin of water and started to walk out of town. The remaining four made plans to leave at first light; no one made any mention of what would happen to Lysandra or myself. Several of Xena’s men lay wounded and the two young men made sure to finish the job. They tried to gather up anything of value. They searched for dinars dropped by the dead, anything in pockets that may be of value or items that escaped the fire. They went through every ruined structure that wasn’t ablaze. I didn’t know what to do so I found a couple of water skins that were serviceable and I filled them from the horse trough. I gave one to Lysandra and gave the other to the old men. They accepted it as if I were invisible. You might think that after a number of hours the smell of charred flesh would lessen somewhat. It doesn’t. Everything was smoke, ash, and the wreckage of buildings and lives. You could hear the flies buzzing around the corpses of villagers slain in the street. Lysandra and I huddled in what remained of a barn for the night. It was summer but the wind brought a chill that was hard to shake. The smell was terrible. Two horses lay dead; the others had been stolen by Xena’s men.

I couldn’t believe I’d actually managed to fall asleep but I was roughly woken up the next morning by large hands grabbing me.

“Here they are!” A warrior said as he and another grabbed Lysandra and me.

We were carried to the charred remains of the center of the village across the warrior’s backs. I didn’t think anything could smell worse than the corpses of those two horses, but they did.

“Thanks for the tip, old man!” The warrior holding me said as he tossed me to the ground.

“I told you,” laughed his companion. “Give the survivors a few hours on their own and they’ll collect anything of value themselves. Saves the trouble of searching the wreckage.”

As I looked around I could see about ten warriors but not Xena.

“Lets take this stuff and get back to the others.” A new voice suggested.

“I have a better idea,” my captor suggested. “Why don’t we strike out on our own? We’ve got supplies. We’ve got a couple of girls. We take these two back to Xena and she isn’t going to let us have them.”

“I know a place where we can hole up, shelter the horses. We just have to stay out of Xena and Borias’ way. We avoid them we’ll be fine. We can make a decent living off of the small outlying villages and the trade route from Thessaly to Alonki.”

“You said all you wanted was the girls,” the old man interjected. “You have them, please let the rest of us go.”

The warrior who grabbed Lysandra laughed. “You’ve got to be kidding, old man,” he said dismissively. He withdrew a dagger from his belt and threw it at the old man. “You think we’re going to tell you the truth?” The dagger hit the old man squarely in the throat. His eyes grew wide and he gurgled a little; some blood ran out of his mouth and he slumped over, dead.

Lysandra started to scream. Looking back, I’m surprised I didn’t cry, I guess I didn’t have any tears left.

“Look what you did Dorin,” my captor complained. “Quiet down girl! She isn’t going to be any fun now.”

“She’s fine, Minos.” Dorin protested. “Look.”

He walked over to Lysandra and roughly grabbed her by the arm and hauled her up to her feet. Unceremoniously he ripped her skirt off and shoved her back against the charred support beam of a ruined house. She continued to thrash and scream as he loosened the sword belt that held his pants up. “Don’t fight girl or it will be worse for you. Stop screaming!”

He sounded angry and insistent. I didn’t understand what was going on but did note that Lysandra’s struggle became more panicked and frantic.

“Tartarus,” Dorin grumbled and drew his shorts-word running it through Lysandra’s middle. In seconds she was quiet and although slumped over, stayed pinned up against the beam by the sword. Dorin continued to move at her and in moments grunted. He stepped back and drew up his pants. “Better hurry boys,” he said, “before she gets cold.” In moments my captor was at her and then several more of the warriors. I noticed one of the old men silently crying as he watched the scene. Tears were streaming out of his eyes but he made no sound. I suppose half or more of the warriors had taken a turn before complaints were uttered that she was cold. That was when warrior eyes turned to me.

“She’s just a child!” The old man protested trying to stand. I genuinely felt bad that he’d spoken up because he got his throat slit for his trouble.

“You’re not going to scream are you little girl?” Dorin asked me as two of his men approached. He pulled his sword from Lysandra’s body and she fell to the ground like a rag doll.

Mutely I shook my head. I don’t know why my thirst for survival was so strong; had I to do it all over again I’d have perished in the fire. But this was then and for some reason I could not give up on living. I suppose I stayed focused on the need to live in order to avenge the death of my mother and sister. One of the men held me down and Dorin looked at the two young men from Cirra who had survived thus far.

“Make a choice boys,” he said. “You can join us or die. You have three seconds.” Dorin then pointedly nodded his head in my direction.

“I don’t think she’s old enough?” One of the warriors by the horses asked absently. “She looks pretty small.”

Dorin laughed, a terribly seedy laugh I learned to detest. “All the better then, Pineus.” He said with a smirk. “If she’s big enough, she’s old enough. If she lives, she was old enough.”

It might be hard to imagine the nightmare that was my life getting any worse, but it did. Both boys wanted to live and proved themselves as my expense. I learned a very valuable skill then, the ability to separate myself from my body. To take a series of moments and by force of will cease to exist. It is indeed a terrible thing to be invisible, to exist to only service the needs of someone else, but on that day, the day after my entire world of love and safety was burned to the ground that is what I became.

Dorin was true to his word. He relocated us to the canyon that was in the middle of nowhere. Phorcys and Plutus were accepted into the band of warriors. They were brothers, sixteen and eighteen respectively and lived out near the vineyards. They had been in the village with their parents delivering bottles of whine when Xena’s army descended. My function in the band aside from providing recreation was to cook, sew, skin whatever was caught for dinner, tend to the horses and bandage wounds. All weapons were kept from me, and I was not allowed to handle anything sharper than a needle unsupervised. When I had to skin game or gut fish I was given a moderately dull knife that was then taken away as soon as the task was finished. I was allowed to eat only after everyone else had and often I went without.

Targets and training forms were set up in camp to facilitate the training of the two new recruits. As I worked around camp I watched. I studied what they were taught, how they were instructed to move, how to hold a sword, or dagger or bow. All of these things I carefully absorbed and when it was safe I practiced. The only training I received was in how to set traps for small game that came near camp. When no one was looking I experimented with ways to modify and augment those traps. I wondered how larger traps might be used against larger game.

There were plenty of moments when all of them left camp. When there was a village to raid or a caravan to pillage I was chained to the practice target and left. The target was far too heavy to lift or move, but in time I learned to pick locks. I suppose it was to my advantage that these men weren’t very bright. But I also knew that there was absolutely nowhere for me to go. They never kept any extra horses so if I were to leave it’d have to be on foot. There was nothing in any direction a child on foot could reach. So when they left I’d unlock myself and practice everything I’d observed. Ever the mind for details, I’d picked up on every nuance of how these men fought. I studied how their bodies moved, why did a taller one have an advantage, what was the weakness of the stronger one might be. For every sword parry the new recruits practiced I practiced one hundred. My hands raw and bleeding from holding a discarded sword I worked at every move, every strike and every parry. I also collected things, little bits of discarded armor that they thought they ruined in a drunken stupor. A dagger here, a small sword there; a sharpening sword. I hid these treasures well and spent hours repairing them, sharpening them, creating something lethal from something discarded.

As the years wore on I honed my hatred as well. My nights were brutal and painful at the vile whim of the warriors. My days were filled with work, humiliation, hunger and emptiness. Through it all, my mind kept returning to one memory, that of a black haired woman with blue eyes who smirked at my anguish. Xena was responsible for what had happened to my family, my village and me. Every night I was torn into by some smelly violent cutthroat I thought about making Xena pay. Every rabbit I skinned I envisioned Xena’s entrails on my hands. With every imagined parry and practiced sword thrust my rage was for Xena alone. This was her fault.

It took until my fourteenth year, but my belly did eventually quicken with child. I suppose there was no way to prevent it as often as the warrior’s sought release. I suppose it hadn’t happened sooner because there were a number of depraved things that they demanded that I later learned did not result in pregnancy. But I was with child and there wasn’t much I could do about it. I hid it as best I could but my weight gain did not go unnoticed by Dorin who felt I was getting more food than I was due. When my condition became obvious, the group met and decided to not bother killing me, but to wait until it was born and kill it then. They would try me out after and if I wasn’t any good, dispose of me as well. I suppose Dorin thought he was being practical.

As the fates would have it, the baby came due when the others were out at a raid. I was scared. I didn’t know what was happening to me, I didn’t know what to expect, I hoped against hope that the experience would kill us both. But it didn’t. I gave birth to a baby girl. I held her in my arms and looked into her bloodied face. She didn’t cry. I thought about what her chances were, and what would happen when Dorin returned. I remembered his words “if it doesn’t kill her, she’s old enough.” That was a chance I could not take. I loved my daughter and if I had learned one thing in my fourteen years was that to love something was to ensure that you would lose it. She was the very last thing I would ever love. I killed my child quickly not wanting her to experience a moment of life’s cruelty. I buried her body in the woods where Dorin and his warrior’s would never find her.

I knew then that the time had come for me to either escape or die trying. I knew better than to take off on foot, there would be no way to outrun the twelve warriors. I put my trap setting skills to good use. Exhausted and spent as I was, I did not have the time to recover from childbirth or my loss. The only focus I had was to even the odds enough to give myself a fighting chance. The raiders came back early in the morning. That worked to my favor. It gave me time to rest and gather my strength. It also meant that the caravan that they raided had spoils that took time to enjoy. From the sound of the warriors I could tell they were drunk.

Pineus was the first to run into a trap in the area where the horses got tethered. A trip-wire triggered a crossbow I’d repaired and a single arrow pierced him through the eye. He fell down dead. There was confusion then. Dorin thought they were under attack from Alonki soldiers. The men began to run for cover tripping more traps. In seven years I’d never raised a hand against these men and now I was killing them one at a time. I stayed in the shadows with a very sharp dagger. Three more men fell, injured when Dorin started calling for me.

“Callisto! Where in Tartarus are you?”

Minos stumbled close to the dark shadow where I’d been hiding; the same man that threw me over his shoulder and carried me into my own personal damnation. Without hesitation I grabbed his hair, pulled his head back and slit his throat. I grabbed his short sword as he fell and made quick work of two men who were fumbling for their weapons.

Dorin saw the moonlight glint off my sword and grabbing his own weapon charged at me. Two more men came to their senses and did the same. I was standing where I needed to be and as they neared I launched myself into the air and flipped backwards over their heads. I’d practiced the move hundreds of times after seeing one of the warriors teach it to Plutus. The men got to a spot just past where I’d been standing and three more arrows flew and hit their mark. Two men were impaled in the upper thigh, the third in the torso; he dropped to the ground immediately. Dorin yelled loudly and broke off the arrow shaft that was sticking out of his thigh.

I did not fight to kill, or rather did not fight to kill the healthy men. As I neared a fallen or wounded warrior I made sure to slit his throat or stab him through the heart. I parried sword thrusts and led my combatants all over the camp. Daggers flew, shards of metal, arrows; before long only six of my captors remained.

In spite of what I’d endured that day, the battle did not wear on me. Rather the rage I had been honing for seven long years had finally found it’s release and that rage was hungry. Two more men went down and a perfectly timed flip on my part ensured that one of the warriors ran another through with his sword. By flipping forward and back I was able to keep the men off balance. They didn’t know how to counteract my moves. It was to become a signature of how I fought.

Finally it was down to Phorcys, Plutus and Dorin. All three men were tired. Phorcys had taken an arrow through the shoulder, Dorin through the thigh and I’d managed to slash Plutus across his torso.

Phorcys was the first to give up. “Please Callisto,” he said throwing down his sword. “No more.”

Plutus wanted to follow his lead. “Callisto, we’re from Cirra too. Don’t kill us.”

I continued to parry strikes from Dorin, making sure to give him a number of non-fatal cuts. As he lost blood, the strength and fight sapped from him.

“Given how much the two of you were concerned about my welfare all these years,” I said giving them my partial attention, “and given that we are from Cirra, I’ll make the two of you a deal. Which ever brother kills the other gets to live.” They protested, of course, but I did notice how each man strengthened the grip on his sword hilt. In moments, the two brothers were battling each other.

That gave me the opportunity to concentrate on Dorin. He was worn out and his face showed it, but he was also fighting for his life and he clearly knew that too. Strike after strike I wore him down; flipping behind him I sliced the back of his legs, cutting the tendons that enabled him to stand. He sank to his knees. I broke his collarbones next so he couldn’t lift his hands. He knelt there looking at me and began to weep. “Don’t kill me,” he said, “I let you live.”

“You call this living?” I demanded as I doused him with oil. “Let me enlighten you as to how I really feel day in and day out.” With that I tossed a stick from the fire at him. He tried to dodge out of the way but only succeeded in letting the stick catch his arm instead of his torso. I suppose it was better that way. The fire spread quickly from one side of his body to the other. His screams distracted Phorcys and Plutus from their fight as they watched with me the man who had further ruined our lives shriek in agony as he burned to death.

Phorcys was the first to notice the distraction. With Plutus still staring open mouthed at what I did to Dorin, his brother took a step and stabbed him in the back. Plutus fell down face first and was still. Phorcys looked at me hopefully. That look of hope faded when I threw a dagger that hit home in his throat. “Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten the first lesson these warriors taught us?” I asked as I stepped over his inert body.

It took only a few minutes for me to gather the ropes for the twelve horses. I selected the healthiest looking one for myself and leading the others I rode out of that canyon never to return.

Elizabeth Covington coasted her bicycle to a stop next to a grand seventeenth century house. Leaning the bike against the side of the house, she gathered the large bundle of cut flowers from the basket and let herself in the back door.

“Delivery girl!” she called as she made her way into the kitchen of the stately home. “Where are you Mel?”

“Right here Lizzy,” a young man called from the hallway. He hobbled on crutches, a cast covering from his right foot to just below the knee, and made his way to the kitchen. He wore soft grey sweat pants and a deep blue t-shirt from the Salem Beer Works. “You are a life saver,” he said leaning down to softly kiss the woman on the cheek. He tousled her short blonde hair for good measure and wrapped her in a strong hug. She was dressed in jeans and a soft grey v-neck sweater, green eyes shining happily up at him. “Thank you for bringing these by so early, I totally forgot about the roses and my last guests will be arriving any minute. Could you be a dear and put them in some water? They’re staying in The Witches Grotto.”

“You mean the attic.” Lizzy said amused. “I’ll grant you one thing Mel, you’ve got this guesthouse business down to an art. Give a room a funky name and charge double.”

“This is Salem at Halloween, tourists expect witchy things. And you’ve got to admit, I did a hell of a job fixing up the attic. I think it’s the nicest room in the place. Small, but nice.”

Lizzy smiled at her cousin and poured herself a cup of coffee to sip while she arranged the long stemmed red roses in a vase. She carried the vase upstairs and put it on the dresser. She tried turning it one way and another to get the most impressive angle. She had to admit Melvin had done an amazing job decorating the room. Hardwood floors had been refinished and the walls freshly painted. The roof was slanted dramatically making the room feel a bit like a dolls’ house. She and Melvin had spent many afternoons at local auctions and it was nice to see those antiques being put to good use. All the furniture was beautifully restored and elegant. The pillows and bed coverings were in rich shades of black, deep blues and rich violets. The indigo lace curtains and other details gave the impression that one could indeed be staying in a very ‘haunted’ sort of room, but very upscale.

She made her way downstairs and joined her cousin at the island in the center of the large kitchen.  He was an attractive man in his early thirties with the same blonde hair although somewhat longer haircut. His eyes were green and his physically fit appearance made it no surprise that he’d broken his leg in a mountain biking accident. “I’m impressed that you sold out your first season.” Lizzy said as she pulled up a stool next to him and sipped her coffee. “That’s what, eight boarders?”

“Yeah, the attic, two in each of the bedrooms on the second floor, and another two in the guest bedroom down here. I’m sure mom and dad would be proud I’m using my inheritance wisely.” He said with a wink. “Everyone else has checked in,” he nodded towards the rooms on the first and second floors. “All I’m waiting for are the hotties for the attic.”

“Hotties?” Lizzy asked dubiously. “They have attractive names?”

Mel shook his head. “Hell no, I ‘googled’ everyone who’s staying. I don’t need psychotics or anything. “They’re your people I’m sure.” He added with another wink. “Sarah Moorhead is a stuntwoman. She’s doubled for Catherine Zeta-Jones among others. Her webpage says she specializes in fighting, high falls and vehicle stunts. She also did some work in the Charlie’s Angels movies and The Matrix. The other one, Stevie Montgomery is sort of in your field. She is a curator at the Getty in California; an Egyptologist or something. There were links to a ton of papers she’s written. She’s the one who made the arrangements about nine months ago and she also was the one who requested the two-dozen red roses. He opened up his laptop and typed a few words into his search engine.

“Wow, she is good looking,” Lizzy said appreciatively looking at the screen. Mel had pulled up a page reviewing a panel discussion on archival restoration techniques.

“Check out the brunette,” Mel said, typing the other name. “I know you dig dark hair.”

“Oh my god, she looks like grandma Mel!” Lizzy exclaimed, surprised.

“You’ve got to be joking,” Melvin protested. “Grandma Mel was old and had grey hair. This woman is young, and hot.”

“You aren’t surrounded by their pictures every day,” Lizzy disagreed. “I’ve seen plenty pictures of our grandmothers when they were younger and I’m telling you this woman looks like Melinda. Besides I’m attracted to brunettes with green eyes.”

Her cousin shrugged, giving up the battle. “Okay, she isn’t Jennifer Connelly but if you can’t appreciate a perfectly sexy brunette when one is staring at you on a computer screen, then I can’t help you. I’m sure it’s moot anyway since the two of them are together.” He looked thoughtful for a moment, taking the time to eye his cousin up and down. “Why don’t you be nice to them when they get here,” he suggested. “Maybe they’ll take you out clubbing or something, show you the ropes with meeting women. You spend too much time on digs or in the lab.”

Immediately, he realized he’d said the wrong thing. He looked down at the much shorter woman. Her green eyes blazed up at him, short blond hair delicately framing her face. Her lips narrowed as her cheeks reddend slightly and he knew she was pissed.

 “Melvin Pappas Cabot,” she said sternly, “I am only going to ignore that comment because you’re my favorite cousin.”

He shifted a little uncomfortably in his seat. “I don’t mean to pry Lizzy, but I love you and want you to be happy. You’re pushing thirty, I just think you should find out if you’re really gay or not. Besides,” he added, “I’m your only cousin.”

Lizzy rolled her eyes, wondering how someone she loved so much could be so incrredibly dense. “Have you had sex with a man?” she asked, putting down her coffee cup.

“No, but I have had sex with women and I know that’s what I like.” He explained.

“Well I have had sex with men and I know that isn’t what I like. It doesn’t matter if I’m thirty-two or seventy-two. So shut the hell up already. I’ll meet someone when I meet someone. Besides,” she muttered, “there were those drunken trysts in college. I’ve kissed a few girls, I know that’s where it’s at.”

He rolled his eyes but didn’t press the issue. “I just wish you’d hurry up and meet someone.” He said quietly.

Their argument was cut short by a car pulling up outside the front door. Through the front window the cousins could see that it was two women, a blonde and a brunette.

“Look Lizzy, just hang around and try to meet them, that’s all I’m asking. Or at least get the door…my leg and all.” He made a show of trying to fumble with his crutches.

“You’re an ass and you’re impossible,” Lizzy fumed but headed to the front door all the same.

Lizzy opened the door and was surprised to see the brunette woman, Sarah she reminded herself, helping Stevie out of the car. The blonde woman didn’t look very well. Lizzy could see that she’d been crying and she looked very pale.

“Are we at the right place?” Sarah asked looking at the petite woman in the doorway.

“Yes,” Lizzy said, holding the door so they could enter. “I’m Lizzy and that’s Mel in the kitchen. Can I help you with your bags?”

Sarah shook her head. “Thanks, but the airline put the bags on the wrong plane, I’ve got to go back for them. Stevie had a rough flight. We’d just like to get some sleep. It’s about four am our time.”

“Of course,” Lizzy said, feeling very bad for the blonde woman. “Right this way. Here let me help you.” Moving to the other side of blonde woman, Lizzy held out her hand for support. “Hi,” she said. “I’m Lizzy, can I help you to your room?”

“Stevie,” Stevie whispered. “That’s very kind of you. I just need some sleep. I had a terrible flight.”

Step by step the two women helped Stevie up the stairs to the attic room. Once inside the door Sarah picked up the blonde woman easily and set her gently down on the bed.

“Tylenol PM?” Stevie asked quietly.

“Right,” Sarah replied. “My backpack is in the car. I’ll run down and get it.” In seconds she was out the door and Lizzy could hear that she was taking the steps two at a time.

Lizzy picked up a pitcher of fresh water that was in the dry sink by the bed and poured water into a clean glass. She handed it to Stevie. “Turbulence?” she asked.

Stevie shook her head, sitting up a little to take a sip of water. “No,” she answered. “Nightmares.”

Before she could say anything else, Sarah had returned and was fishing in the backpack for the Tylenol. Lizzy took that as her cue to leave and shut the door silently behind her.

“What was that about?” Mel asked when she returned to the kitchen.

Lizzy shook her head. “I don’t know. She had some nightmares on the plane or something.”

“No, silly,” Mel chuckled. “I mean your rushing to help the hot blonde up the stairs. ‘May I help you to your room’. Maybe you’re attracted to blondes after all?” He asked.

“Melvin, don’t be an ass,” Lizzy shot back as she heard someone coming down the stairs.

“I’m sorry about the dramatic entrance,” Sarah said entering the kitchen. “Stevie had a really bad nightmare on the plane and that and the jet lag isn’t helping.”

“It’s totally okay,” Lizzy said reassuringly.

“Seriously, it’s no problem.” Mel concurred. “Is there anything we can do?”

“Actually there is,” Sarah replied, looking at Lizzy. “I’m going to get a couple of hours of sleep myself, but then I’ll have to head back to the airport to get our stuff. They said they’d drop it off but they won’t get it here until tomorrow and we were hoping to start enjoying our vacation then. I’m sure she’ll be fine, but if you’d maybe keep an eye out for her while I’m gone I’d appreciate it.”

“Sure,” Lizzy said and Sarah headed back up the stairs.

Back in the attic, Sarah kicked off her shoes and crawled under the covers with Stevie who was still looking pale. “Stevie,” Sarah whispered soothingly. “I’m going to sleep for a couple of hours and then go get our bags. That nice lady and her husband said they’d keep an eye on you if you woke up. I won’t be gone long.” Stevie said something non-committal and Sarah wrapped her arms around the smaller woman. She kissed her hair and told her to sleep well, that she’d keep the dreams away.

Downstairs Melvin Cabot looked at his cousin suspiciously. “So now you’re looking after my boarders?” He asked.

“Well you technically did ask me to help out until you got your cast off.” She reminded him. “As I recall, you said it would give me something to do for the next three months before I go back to the dig.”

“Oh, I guess I did.”

“Pass me your laptop,” Lizzy said and Mel shoved his PowerBook across the counter. Lizzy picked up the computer and headed to the sitting room.

“What are you doing?” her cousin asked.

“Well I guess I’ve got a few hours to kill so I’m going to ‘google’ Ms. Montgomery and see what sort of archaeology she’s into. I guess I’m not going into the lab today.”

True to her word, Sarah descended the stairs a couple of hours later. Lizzy looked up surprised at how quickly the time had flown. Mel had been quietly working, restoring an antique clock and she had read three of Stevie’s papers on subjects ranging from conservation techniques, an unusual find in Egypt and ancient Greek winemaking. She was indeed an unusual woman, she’d been guest lecturer at a number of prestigious colleges, been a consulted expert in the field of conservation, and served as an expert witness in criminal trials ranging from forgery to importation of looted artifacts. At present she worked for the Getty museum as well as continuing her speaking engagements and scholarly publishing.

“I’m going to head back to the airport.” She announced. “I’m hoping Stevie will sleep a little longer, but I don’t know.”

“Do you want some coffee or anything before you head out?” Mel asked.

“I’d love a diet coke if you’ve got one.” Sarah answered.

“Coming right up,” Lizzy answered. She grabbed a can from the ‘fridge and handed it to the stuntwoman. “Would your friend like tea or anything?”

“Yeah, tea would be great.” Sarah fished a piece of scrap paper out of her backpack. “Here is my cell number if you need to get in touch with me before I get back. Like I said, I’m sure she’ll be fine.” She shrugged. “But I still worry. Thanks again,” she said heading for the front door.

“Don’t worry about a thing,” Mel assured her. “We’ll take good care of her.” As he spoke, he couldn’t help but glance at his cousin.

Without saying a word to her cousin Lizzy put a pot of kettle on the stove to boil. She opened and closed a few cupboards. “You do have tea, right?”

Mel shook his head. “It was on the grocery list of stuff I was going to have you pick up today.” He nodded in the direction of the note pad sitting on the counter.

Lizzy shook her head and walked towards the back door. “I don’t have time to do your grocery shopping. I’ll go home and get some tea and pick up the other stuff tonight.”

“Of course, you’re a lesbian, by law you have to have twenty-seven different kinds of tea at home!” Mel called as Lizzy peddled her bike in the direction of home.

When she was out of sight, Mel sat back at the kitchen island and looked pointedly up in the direction of his attic. “She should know better than to fall for a married woman,” he whispered.

Lizzy returned twenty minutes later, the basket of her bicycle full of various tea boxes. She gathered them up in her arms and Mel held the back door open. “I’ve kept the water hot,” Mel announced and I heard the toilet flush a couple of minutes ago. She’s awake.

Setting the various tea boxes out on the counter, Lizzy tried to pick one. Should she go for black tea? Something decaffeinated? Green tea, red tea, or white tea? Something exotic and sophisticated? Mel watched his cousin and shook his head amused. “Liz honey, what tea would you want me to bring you if you had a nightmare?” he asked softly.

Lizzy reached for the Moroccan mint variety as Mel got a teacup and saucer down from a shelf his shorter cousin had no hope of reaching. She steeped the loose gunpowder tea in the teapot and then strained it into the teacup. She added some honey, more than was probably necessary, but she was accustomed to her own sweet tooth. Quietly she ascended the stairs and knocked softly at the attic door.

“Yes?” Stevie answered quietly. “Come in,”

Lizzy pushed the door open and noticed that the blonde woman had washed her face. Her makeup was gone and while her eyes were still red, she still looked very beautiful all the same. There was something about her though, something that touched a very deep conflict within the archeologist. Almost as if she was attracted but didn’t want to be; the reverse of the feeling she’d had in the company of this woman’s friend. Like she should be attracted to the stuntwoman, but had the odd sensation that it’d be like an attraction to her grandmother and that just seemed wrong to her.

“I brought you some tea,” Lizzy said quietly handing her the cup and saucer. “It’s mint, I thought it might make you feel better.”

Stevie smiled and gratefully accepted the steaming cup. “Thank you,” she said. “I’m sorry to be such a pain, and we only just got here.”

“It’s no problem,” Lizzy assured her. “Believe me, nightmares are very common in my family, almost a tradition.”

Stevie nodded at the edge of the bed “How do you mean?” she asked.

Lizzy took the head nod to be an invitation to sit, so she did. “My grandmothers were both very vivid dreamers. At times they were like nightmares, at other times they were really pleasant dreams. They both wrote about them. They often interacted with people in their dreams, had conversations and such. Does that happen to you?”

Stevie shook her head. “No, thank god.” She said. “This woman I’m dreaming about isn’t very nice. I don’t think I’d like to talk to her.” Lizzy noticed the color start to drain from the woman’s face. “She’s a killer,” Stevie said, more to herself than Lizzy. She shook herself as if trying to push the memory back. “You said both of your grandmother’s had lucid dreams. That’s pretty unusual, to get that from the maternal and paternal side of your family? Do you have them?”

“Actually both of the grandmother’s I’m talking about are on my father’s side of the family. I don’t know much about my mother’s side. It’s complicated, but one of my grandmothers was an archaeologist and the other was…”

Stevie’s eyes widened at the mention. “What did you say your name was?” she asked, interested.

Lizzy smiled. She’d been hoping that this woman would be familiar with her grandmother’s work. “It’s Lizzy Covington, Elizabeth Janice Covington actually.”

Stevie smiled, a very warm inviting smile. “I’m talking to the granddaughter of Janice Elizabeth Covington. How nice. I’ve read a great deal about the Covington Marbles in the Athens museum.”

“That’s her,” Lizzy affirmed, beaming with pride. “A lot of her larger finds, the statuary and stuff like that was kept in Athens, other artifacts that were smaller and more esoteric were brought here. I’ve got some space at the Peabody museum where I do research, trying to document the stuff that my grandmother found and the stuff that my great-grandfather found. His reputation was more…dubious and most of his finds I’m sending back to Greece.”

Stevie nodded in understanding. She had actually used ‘Harry The Graverobber’ as an example at a recent trial and was now sorry she did. At the time she’d never expected to meet one of his descendents. “So your other grandmother who had the dreams was…” Stevie tried to visualize a page from one of the articles she’d read by the archaeologist. “Melinda Pappas.”

Lizzy nodded, impressed that the Egyptologist knew Melinda’s name. “Yes, my cousin downstairs is named after her, or her father really. Melvin Pappas Cabot.”

“You’re not married?” Stevie asked surprised.

“To my cousin?” Lizzy replied, equally surprised and a little horrified.

Stevie shrugged, “Sarah said something about…”

Lizzy looked a little offended. “I think your girlfriend had it wrong, I’d never marry my cousin. Ewww.”

“My girlfriend?” Stevie asked arching an eyebrow over her raised teacup.

It was Lizzy’s turn to shrug, although her cheeks were turning bright pink. “Mel said…”

“Sarah and I are just friends.”

“Oh.” Lizzy said, still confused. “When she picked you up and carried you to the bed, I guess I figured…”

Stevie rolled her eyes, a little embarassed,“Okay, we’re ex-girlfriends. But we’re still friends.” She explained, not sure why she bothered. “I’m single,” she added quietly.

“Me too.” Lizzy said before she could stop herself.

An awkward silence descended in the room. Stevie quietly sipped her tea taking it all in and Lizzy was certain she’d die of embarrassment. She could feel her cheeks getting redder by the second. She could also feel the other woman glancing at her, noticing her embarassment, as she took in the rest of her surroudings. As if by psychic plea, she heard the phone ring and her cousin called up the stairs saying it was for her. “Enjoy your tea,” Lizzy said hurridly. “Ah…the bathroom is downstairs across the hall and you’ve got fresh towels under the dry sink. If you need anything let me or Mel know,” she said leaving and closing the door quietly behind her.

Stevie started long minutes at the door intrigued at the exchange she’d just had with the young archaeologist.

“Kill me now,” Lizzy sighed taking a seat once more at the counter after hanging up the phone. She thought it obvious that she wasn’t going into the lab at this hour, but it was nice for the staff to follow up about it anyway.

“What happened?” Mel asked, genuine concern threading his voice.

“I just made a fool of myself.” The archaeologist said shaking her head sadly. She told her cousin about the exchange upstairs, her cheeks flushing red at the memory.

“She thought we were married?” He said when she’d finished. “That’s…disturbing.”

Lizzy rolled her eyes. “She obviously didn’t know we were cousins, and that isn’t as embarrassing as the rest.”

Mel grinned and reached over with a strong hand to mess up his cousin’s hair. “I wouldn’t worry about it cuz,” he said. “I think you were both equally embarrassed. Look, do me a favor, go get the groceries and come back. Everything is going to be fine,” he said tossing his cousin the car keys.

The grocery store wasn’t far although trying to find parking in the tourist packed town was more of a challenge. The trip took longer than she expected and no sooner than her return to her cousin’s house and had begun to unload the groceries, Sarah drove up in the rental car and parked behind the archaeologist.

“Give you a hand?” Sarah asked.

“Sure,” Lizzy replied, handing her a couple of grocery bags. “Find your luggage?”

The stuntwoman nodded smiling down warmly. There was something about the small blonde woman that she found disarming. “Yeah,” she said. “Did Stevie wake up?”

Lizzy used every bit of self-control she possessed to keep her cheeks from flushing. “Yes, I took her a cup of tea. She seemed a little tired, but okay.”

“I’m glad to hear it,” she said then added, “you guys have a gorgeous home.”

Lizzy couldn’t help but smirk. “Actually it just belongs to my cousin. I’m helping him out until he gets the cast off his leg.”

“Oh,” Sarah said thoughtfully following Lizzy’s lead and setting the grocery bags down on the counter. “Any more groceries?” She asked to which Lizzy shook her head. “I’ll get our bags then.”

“I’ll help you” Lizzie said.

“That’d be great thanks.”

The two were able to make it in one trip and moments later the three women were standing in the attic. Lizzy felt out of place immediately and was ready to head back down the stairs when Stevie’s voice stopped her.

“We were thinking of taking one of the walking tours tonight. Do you have any suggestions?” she asked.

Lizzy nodded, very aware of the two women looking at her. “The haunted tour is pretty fun. Somebody in Goth getup takes you around to look at a bunch of houses. Pretty much all of the narration will begin with the words ‘a wealthy sea merchant bought this when…’ they have some fun ghost stories though.”

“Sounds cool,” Sarah said, looking hopefully at Stevie.

“This time of year all of the walking tours are going to have some sort of haunted theme. Is there a particular part of town you’re interested in seeing?” Lizzy asked.

“I’m not sure,” Stevie said. “I’ve been to Boston, but this is my first time in Salem.” She glanced at Sarah. “Why don’t we get cleaned up and head downstairs and see what tours we’ve got to choose from. Does your cousin have brochures or anything?”

“Oh yeah,” Lizzy confirmed not at all certain if her cousin had picked up extra copies of the Haunted Happenings newsletter or not. “When you guys are ready to go, come downstairs and we’ll hook you up with some suggestions.”

“That sounds great,” Stevie replied. “I’ll feel good as new after a shower I’m sure.”

Lizzy felt her cheeks start to redden again and quickly headed for the stairs.

“Did you know they weren’t married?” Sarah asked when the archaeologist left.

Stevie nodded. “We had an…odd…conversation when she brought up the tea. She pegged us as girlfriends…”

“You set her straight, right?” Sarah asked looking at the door.

“You are not picking up new women when you’re on vacation with me. You’re simply not.” Stevie warned. “That would be beyond tacky.”

Sarah thought about it and shrugged. “You’re right. How are you feeling by the way?”

Stevie nodded. “I’m much better. The tea really helped, as did getting some normal sleep. I’m sorry I fell apart on the plane, the dream was just so horrible.”

The stuntwoman joined her companion on the bed. “It’s totally okay. You’ve said that these dreams don’t repeat, so maybe you’re through the worst of it. Maybe there is an end point where you’ve learned what you’re supposed to learn and it stops.”

“I hope so. And more than anything I hope that time is soon.” Stevie said, resting her head against her friend’s shoulder. “Do you mind if I take the first shower. I really need to wash myself off.”

“Sure,” Sarah replied. I’ll unpack our stuff. “The roses are beautiful, by the way, thank you.”

Stevie’s eyes darted over to the dresser. “Oh my god. I totally forgot about that.” She looked a little embarrassed. “I guess I should have cancelled them.”

Sarah shrugged. “It would have saved you a few bucks, but I’m glad you didn’t. You known I love the smell of red roses.” She reached for Stevie’s hand but the blonde stood and headed to the dry sink for a bath towel. “Don’t even kiss my hand,” she warned. “It’s not fair.”

Sadly, Sarah sighed. “I’m sorry, old habits are hard to break.”

When Lizzy reached the bottom of the stairs she found her cousin putting the groceries away. “Did you pick up some copies of the Haunted Happenings newspaper?” she asked.

“Yeah,” Mel replied “They’re in the desk in the sitting room. “You going into town tonight?”

“The girls want to take a walking tour, I was going to highlight some of the good ones.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Mel exclaimed, surprised. “You’d send them on a tourist tour? Why don’t you just show them around town?” He then paused, thinking a moment. “Unless you’re worried about intruding on their romantic vacation?” he asked.

Lizzy shook her head. “They aren’t together anymore,” she replied. Stevie cleared that up when I brought her the tea.

Instantly her cousin’s face brightened up. “It’s settled. You totally have to take them on a walking tour.”

“But I…” Lizzy began.

“You know about the houses in the area?” Sarah asked walking into the kitchen. She was carrying the empty teacup and saucer that Lizzy had brought upstairs.

“She knows a hell of a lot more about the houses around here than the tour guides that take the tourists around.” Mel said proudly beaming at his cousin.

“Look I…” the archaeologist stammered.

“We’ll buy you dinner.” Sarah offered with a huge grin. “You don’t even have to put on a Goth outfit,” she added. “Unless you want to, of course.”

Mel watched the exchange with interest.

Lizzy shrugged. “I guess I could go home and get a jacket…”

“Don’t be silly,” Mel said helpfully. “I’ve got one you can borrow.”

Both women looked at him dubiously.

“I love you to pieces Mel,” Lizzy said with a chuckle. “But two of me can fit in your jackets.”

“Stevie has an extra jacket,” Sarah cut in “She’s not that much taller than you. It’ll save you a trip at any rate. Give me about a half hour to shower and get ready, pick where you’d like dinner. I’ll tell Stevie, this will be great!” Before Lizzy could say anything else the statuesque stuntwoman darted back upstairs.

“Can you divorce a cousin?” Lizzy asked when she’d departed, looking pointedly at Mel.

“What,” he asked innocently. “Hang out with some of your own people for chrissakes, it won’t kill you.”

“I don’t want you throwing me at them,” Lizzy said, clearly annoyed.

“If you ask me, the brunette is doing the throwing, and it’s in your direction,” he replied with a wink. “Damn, I wish I was you.”

“I don’t know,” Lizzy said almost to herself, “there is something about her that I find attractive and a little repelling at the same time. I don’t know what it is.”

“You’re certifiable then,” Mel replied. “Put the stuff about grandma Mel out of your mind.

True to her word both women descended the stairs a half hour later. The brunette was wearing leather pants, boots and a black sweater and the blonde was wearing jeans, sneakers and a hooded sweatshirt under a denim jacket. She was also carrying a leather jacket draped over one arm. Before they reached the kitchen the front door opened and four people entered; two men and two women. They carried shopping bags and talked amiably among themselves. Seeing the newcomers in the kitchen the women rushed over enthusiastically.

“Look Bob,” the first woman said. “It’s the women staying in the darling attic. We couldn’t help but take a peek at your room before you got here.”

Inwardly Stevie was horrified, although she did her best to smile. The four people now gathering around them in the kitchen were exactly the type of people she did not expect to see on a Halloween trip to Salem. Everything about them screamed tourist. The kind of tourists that Europeans made fun of, the kind of tourists that Californians made fun of. They were older, in their late forties at least, and each couple wore matching Polo shirts with some little animal embroidered over the right breast. One couple wore blue Polo shirts and the other wore yellow. The women with matching perms wore visors and bright earrings. One woman in white Capri pants with her yellow Polo shirt and the other in khaki pants with the blue. Of the men, one was balding and overweight and had decided to wear tan cargo shorts with black socks, Birkenstock sandals and a blue Polo. The other man had salt and pepper hair and wore jeans with his yellow polo and sneakers.

“Let me make introductions,” Mel said, amused at the nervous glances Sarah and Stevie were exchanging. He nodded to the couple in the blue polo shirts, “Mary and Bob Henderson,” next to the couple in the yellow polo shirts “Susan and Doug Evans, this is Sarah Moorhead and Stevie Montgomery.”

“Stevie, is that short for Stephanie?” Mary Henderson asked.

Stevie shook her head. “No,” she replied.

“She was named after Stevie Nicks,” Sarah said proudly with a grin. “Although that Stevie is short for Stephanie, but what can you do?”

Both couples looked taken aback. “She’s that witch singer,” Bob said.

“Exactamundo,” Sarah concurred with a grin enjoying the apprehension of the newcomers.

“I thought that was Lindsey,” Susan asked.

“Lindsey is a man,” Stevie explained flatly. “But I see how the back of the Rumors album could be confusing. They’re standing next to each other.”

“Well it’s good that you girls are here then,” Mary went on. “This will be of interest to you.” She turned her attention to Mel. “The four of us signed up for your special séance the night before Halloween. We were talking at lunch today and are wondering if we can have a prayer service first.”

Stevie looked pointedly at Sarah and then at the door. Sarah smiled and ignored the hint. “Why would you want to do that?’ the stuntwoman asked, genuinely interested. Lizzy noticed Stevie nudging her companion with her foot and again gesturing at the door with a pointed expression.

“We want to protect ourselves from evil spirits of course,” Bob explained a tad condescendingly.

“How about not attend a séance then?” Lizzy asked under her breath. Stevie grinned in amusement but didn’t think the others heard the comment.

“We’re in Salem with our church group,” Mary further explained. “And are trying to combat the evil influences of this holiday by bringing God to this event.” Stevie again looked at Sarah then pointedly at the door. “If you were named after a witch you may want to join us. Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your own personal savior?”

“Ah…no.” Stevie said curtly. “And just for the record, while it wouldn’t bother me if I was named after a witch, I don’t think she is.”

“Jesus saves, everyone else roll for damage,” Sarah muttered quietly, making Lizzy chuckle. “Jesus is coming so look busy,” she added for good measure, enjoying the faces the blonde woman made as she tried not to laugh.

Stevie rolled her eyes annoyed that her friend didn’t take the hint and get them out of here before this conversation got rolling. “I’m curious though,” Stevie continued, deciding to have her say and get things moving along to dinner. “It’s my understanding of Christian beliefs, that when you die, provided you’re Christian of course, you go to Heaven. Who is it you think you’re going to be talking to at a séance, prayer service or no?”

“That’s a good question,” Doug said, concern threading his voice and Sarah decided he was the sanest of the group.

“Well we don’t really think it’s real,” Mary assured everyone.

“Then why bother attending at all?” Stevie asked, more annoyance threading her voice than she intended.

“Unless you’re talking to people in Heaven,” Sarah offered ambily, trying to take the focus from her companion. She noticed that both Polo clad women where looking at Stevie with growing suspicion.

“I thought Heaven was sort of out of earth’s calling service?” Lizzy asked, following her lead and hoping that the church group would decide to skip the séance. The medium who would be perforing the séance was a friend of hers and the last thing she wanted to do was subject her to this foursome of people.

Mary looked at Stevie suspiciously, “Maybe we’d better pray on this for guidance.” The others nodded and followed the Polo-clad woman up the stairs.

Lizzy waited until she heard the bedroom doors close before turning hotly on her cousin. “I thought you ‘googled’ your boarders?!”

“You ‘googled’ us?” Sarah asked, surprised.

“Nothing said warning religious nut-case,” Mel explained quietly, looking apologetic. “I wanted to make sure you guys weren’t criminals or something. This is my first season doing this.”

Stevie shrugged, “I’d have done the same thing.”

Sarah looked at her with an evil grin. “It’s too bad we’re not still together or we could have really loud sex right over them.”      

“Sarah, don’t be an ass,” Stevie warned.

“That would be so cool,” Mel agreed whole heartedly.

“Mel, don’t you be an ass either.” Lizzy added.

“Please forgive my cousin,” Lizzy explained over dinner. “Sometimes he such a…” she thought for a moment, “guy.”

Stevie shrugged taking a sip of her Boston Red. “No worries, so is Sarah.”

“Hey!” Sarah said in protest, then flagged the server down for another beer. “I’ll try the Muddy River Porter this time,” she said, “ladies?” Both Stevie and Lizzy shook their heads. The resturant was a brewery with a nice stake house attached. Upon sitting down Sarah nearly squeeled in delight at the number of different beers she’d have the ability to try.

“I really hope that they change their mind about the séance.” Lizzy continued, taking a sip of her own Allston Mild. “The medium is a friend of mine and while I’m sure she could handle it why should she have to?”

Sarah tore off another rib from the rack of babybacks she was enjoying, “what difference does it make, the whole thing is fake isn’t it.”

Lizzy shook her head emphatically. “Not at all. Sure, some of them are of course, but a lot of psychics live in and around Salem or they come in for the Halloween season. The Hawthorne Hotel has a big psychic fair every year. It’s worth checking out. Anyway, there are a lot of things that can’t be explained, and that doesn’t make them fake. Not that the houses we’re going to see tonight are actually haunted, but I know for a fact some houses in Salem are.”

Stevie cut her seared salmon with a fork and chewed thoughtfully as she listened to the young archaeologist. “I got the impression from reading a couple of articles about your grandmother that she was a firm believer in reincarnation.”

Lizzy took another sip of beer and nodded. “Both she and grandma Mel were. It sounds kind of strange to say it, but my grandmothers both believed they were the reincarnated souls of the two women that they spent most of their lives studying. Grandma Janice believed that our souls were like threads. With each new life strands were added and others frayed away but the essential truth of that life was maintained from generation to generation. Like someone in the future may be the reincarnation of her, but would be the reincarnation of the Bard Gabrielle as well. She believed that she was a reincarnation of Gabrielle, as am I. That is the part that always baffled me, how can two people who are alive at the same time be the same soul. But that is where her rope theory came into play.”

“Can I ask you a personal question?” Sarah said, realizing that the phrasing sounded lame to her own ears even as she said it. “I take it your grandmothers were lesbians, how did your parents get here? It’s not like sperm banks were the big thing back then.”

“Sarah!” Stevie said shocked, and embarassed.

“It’s okay.” Lizzy answered unfazed. “I honestly have no idea. I know that grandma Janice had a boy and a girl; twins who are my dad, Lyceus Harry and Melvin’s mother Cyrene Theresa. Unfortunately Auntie Cyrene and her husband Richard died in a plane crash a year after our grandmothers died.” She looked thoughtful a moment. “I guess it’s been three years now that our grandmothers’ have been dead, so that’d make it two years for Mel’s parents. Grandma Melinda had a daughter, Gabrielle Covington Pappas who sort of dropped off the family radar. She was a few years younger than Lyceus and Cyrene. I never knew her; she disappeared before I was born.

They never mentioned who fathered their children or if it was the same father for each of them. I know there was an Uncle Otto who was pretty friendly with my grandmothers, but I don’t know if it was him.” She took another sip of her beer before continuing, “my grandmothers never tried to hid who they were or their relationship, but they didn’t exactly talk it about with us kids either. My dad hasn’t mentioned anything to me. It’s that private New England thing I guess.”

“How nice though, that you were able to get to know your grandmothers.” Stevie said, taking a bite of salad.

Lizzy nodded. “I probably spent the most time with them. When they lived in South Calrolina I used to visit every summer and got bitten by the archeology bug. Later they moved up here to be closer to their kids and we saw then a lot. Their death was a huge shock to all of us. Grandma Janice was still doing the occasional speaking engagement; she must have been in her late eighties. Grandma Mel would always go with her; they were inseparable. One night, heading home a drunk driver in a truck hit them head on. They were both killed instantly as was their driver.” Lizzy sniffled and her eyes began to well up a little. “The good news was they both went together. We’d had talks as a family as to what we would do with Grandma Janice assuming Grandma Melinda would die first as she was a few years older. At least neither of them had to go on alone. No one was shocked by the will, I was entrusted with the ‘family business’ as it were.” She took a bite of her chicken. “What about your parents.”

Sarah snickered. “Stevie has the cool parent. Cool enough that she just needs one.”

Stevie rolled her eyes. “She’s only saying that because her parents are painfully normal.”

“Obviously I was adopted,” Sarah added. “My mom is a doctor, which helps when you’re in the stunt business and my dad is a stockbroker…also helpful when you’re in the stunt business.”

Stevie sighed, resigned to her fate. “I was conceived backstage at a Fleetwood Mac concert. Mom was communing with her goddess and I’m sure some roadie took advantage of her inebriated state.”

“Or maybe it was Mick?” Sarah asked hopefully.

“Needless to say, my mom is a little on the eccentric side. She is a complete believer in ghosts, séances, crystals, tarot, you name it—if it’s unconventional and they have it in Sedona Arizona, then my mom is all over it.” Stevie explained. “She had my astrology charts prepared before I started kindergarten. She gave them to the teacher as a reference tool.”

Lizzy fought the urge to let her jaw drop.

“Your mother is adorable,” Sarah countered. “You’re just annoyed she likes me better.”

Stevie took a sip of her beer and rolled her eyes at her friend. “Yeah, you’re exactly right Sarah.”

“If you don’t mind my saying so,” Lizzy offered tentatively. “You guys seem to get along really well for ex-girlfriends.”

“We’re doing better now,” Stevie acknowledged. “It was harder at the beginning, but you stick with it. My mom likes to point out that Stevie and Lindsey made the Rumors album during a break up. She says if they can get over their shit, there’s no reason the rest of us can’t.”

“You know how it is,” Sarah said with a nod to Lizzy. “Sometimes you want to just split and you do, but with other people you know you have to keep them in your life, so you do, whatever it takes, simple as that.”

Lizzy felt her cheeks redden and grow hot. As much as she wanted to invent something and make herself sound worldly she realized that anything she could possibly say to these two women would be seen through in an instant. She felt five years old and hated it. “Actually, I don’t.” she said quietly. “I’ve never had an ex-girlfriend. Ah…or girlfriend for that matter.”

“Oh.” Sarah said, blinking and looking a little shocked.

Stevie frowned at the brunette then turned her attention to Lizzy. “You’re not missing anything,” she said gently. “They’re very overrated…especially now.”

“Ah…if you guys would excuse me, I need to use the restroom.” Lizzy got up quickly and headed to the back of the building.

“What did I say?” Sarah asked when the archaeologist was out of earshot.

“Could you have looked more stunned when she said she hasn’t had a girlfriend?” Stevie demanded, annoyed.

“As hot as she is?! Damn right I’m stunned.” Sarah looked in the direction of the bathroom. “Maybe I should go check on her?”

“And make your case to be her first ex-girlfriend?” Stevie shook her head, annoyed. “I don’t think so. I’ll go check on her.”

Sarah shrugged feigning indifference and picked up her beer. “Suit yourself.”

When Stevie entered the bathroom, Lizzy was still in one of the stalls. Sarah took a moment to touch up her makeup in the mirror. She noticed Lizzy exiting the stall. Her face was wet and a little streaked and she looked down as she approached the sinks.

“I’m so embarrassed,” she said quietly.

Stevie touched up her lipstick and looked at the archaeologist in their reflection in the mirror. “You know how I spent my morning?” she asked. “I threw up on an airplane that had already arrived at the gate. We weren’t even in the air. I woke from a nightmare and nearly didn’t get to the airsick bag in time. Now that is embarrassing.”

Lizzy smiled in spite of herself. “That is pretty embarrassing,” she agreed.

“Then do you know what happened?” Stevie looked directly at soft green eyes in the mirror, “this incredibly sweet woman brought me mint tea. Embarrassment isn’t terminal, it just feels that way.”

The archaeologist nodded. “I just feel like parts of my life should be further along.” She said quietly.

Stevie shrugged. “Things happen when they happen. It doesn’t make you any less of who you are.” She pulled out a compact from her purse and blotted her nose. “You’re a smart woman, and know you can get laid any time you’d like. I’m impressed as hell you’re taking the time to meet someone you really want to be with. Would you like me to touch up your makeup?”

Lizzy blinked, unsure if she believed what she was being told. “Okay,” she replied. Not that she was wearing any makeup to begin with but didn’t really want this conversation to end either. “What do you mean I can get laid any time I want?”

Turning to face Lizzy, Stevie gently applied the powder to her tear streaked cheeks. “You’re beautiful,” she said simply. “You’re smart, you’re very sweet, I’ve no doubt you could walk into the 209 and walk out with anyone you want.” She finished with the powder and opened her lipstick, proficiently adding some color to the archaeologist’s lips. “You tell me,” she asked as she put the lipstick in her purse and pulled out some eye shadow and mascara. “Why haven’t you connected with someone?”

Lizzy obediently closed her eyes and Stevie put a gentle hand on the side of the shorter woman’s face to steady her as she applied the eye makeup; a little shadow first, then mascara and finally a touch of eyeliner. From where she stood the archaeologist could smell Stevie’s perfume. It was light and clean smelling with a hint of an ocean breeze and something slightly dangerous. She could feel the taller woman’s breath softly against her skin and the light touch of warm fingertips that made her skin tingle. This woman was impossibly close, focused completely on her face and it was making the archaeologist’s head spin a little.

“I don’t know,” Lizzy replied honestly, fighting the urge to move forward and demand to be circled in a close embrace. “First I was focused on my studies, and then the work. I guess the longer I put things off the more afraid and behind the curve I felt.” She shrugged, now fighting the urge to lean forward and press her lips against Stevie’s throat. “I don’t have the most social of jobs, and I travel quite a bit…I don’t know, I honestly don’t know.”

“There, what do you think,” Stevie asked stepping back from Lizzy and admiring her handiwork.

The archaeologist was sorry that the physical connection between them had been broken, but relieved that she no longer had to battle for self control. She looked at herself in the mirror. “Wow,” she breathed.

“I whole heartedly agree,” Stevie said.

It wasn’t like the makeup was obvious, if anything it was understated and subtle. But the redness was gone from her cheeks and her lips and eyes demanded a bit more attention from the casual viewer. Stevie decided it was attention she didn’t mind bestowing. “Why don’t we take that house tour?” she asked, squeezing the smaller woman’s shoulders warmly. “If at any point you feel daring, you only need to drop a hint to Sarah and she will be all over you like money on a Republican. Believe me, she’s only restraining herself at this point by sheer force of will.”

Stevie left the bathroom first and led the way back to the table. As she followed, Lizzy was not certain that the brunette’s attention was the attention she wanted.

There was no mistaking the lingering look she received from the stuntwoman when she sat back down. Clearly her makeup had not gone unnoticed or unappreciated. When they’d finished dinner Sarah couldn’t stand fast enough and hold Stevie’s leather jacket for Lizzy to wear. In an odd way it gave the archaeologist a sense of confidence that let her leave the embarrassment of her confession at the dining table as the trio left the restaurant.

True to her word Lizzy gave them a walking tour of Salem much richer than anything they would have received from a tourist outfit. They walked at a leisurely pace and she mentioned sights they’d most defiantly want to see in daylight. She gave a history of the town as it related to the buildings from the early colonial days and an overview of what it was that made the city famous. Both guests were attentative and asked questions. Lizzy was surprised that Sarah seemed genuinely interested in the history and chatted easily with her and Stevie when it came to matters of historical context. She was most interested in the ghost stories and seemed to pay particular attention when the archaeologist mentioned the trade routes to China.

“I’ve always had a thing for China,” Sarah explained. “Never really knew why. I’ve never filmed there but I really want to go someday. Like your thing with Greece,” she said looking at Stevie.

“You’ve never been to Greece?” Lizzy asked, stunned.

Stevie shook her head. “Nope. I’ve wanted to go, I’m fascinated about much of the place, especially the wine making. Yet every time I plan or think about planning a trip, something inside tells me I’m not ready. It’s strange.”

Lizzy couldn’t hide her disbelief. “From what I’ve read of your work you’d never know.”

“She’s read your work,” Sarah grumbled playfully. “I keep forgetting that in nerd circles you’re fameous.”

Stevie smiled, enjoying Sarah’s annoyance. “It’s amazing what you can pick up from research these days. Besides the Getty has an amazing collection and it’s almost like I’m surrounded by Ancient Greece all the time.

Lizzy nodded. “I know that feeling.”

As they talked they hit the main drag through town. There were tourists everywhere. Four days before Halloween and already people were wandering town in costumes. People were selling things from carts; mostly t-shirts, spell components and witchy jewelry. Everyone seemed to be enjoying the festive spirit and wishing each other a ‘happy Halloween’.

“This feels very much like a wiccan pride festival.” Sarah observed with a grin. “That’s pretty cool.”

Stevie nodded in agreement. “My mom would go nuts for the clothes and jewelry,” she said. “Remind me to pick some stuff up for her.”

They continued on in companiable silence and came to an unobtrusive space next to a cemetery.

“What’s this?” Stevie asked, immediately feeling a sense of peace.

“This is one of my favorite spots in town.” She explained. “It’s the witch trials memorial.”

The two Californians looked around. They were standing in a park like area right next to the cemetery. A low wall marked a rectangular space that was open on the sidewalk side. Six trees were planted, in two rows of three. Sticking out from the low stone wall were a series of benches that were made from large slabs of stone.

“Each of these twenty benches represents an individual falsely accused of witchcraft and put to death. Carved into the stones that victim’s name, the date they died and the manner in which they were executed. All were hanged, except Giles Corey who was unfortunately pressed to death. It took him three days to die. Most people accused were told they’d go free if they’d admit witchcraft, without all their property and possessions of course, and that it is what most of them did. This space honors the people that felt that lying would be an affront to God and wouldn’t do it. These are the people who really had faith in their beliefs. The six trees represent the six men who were murdered along with the fourteen women.”

“I suppose it’s fitting that the town is now the ‘witch capital’ of the United States.” Stevie said absently. “I guess some things you do you’ll never be able to shake, like a crime that can haunt you forever.”

Lizzy shrugged. “That’s one way to look at it. Or you could say that something very negative and intolerant has grown into the exact opposite. A celebration of the different, in spite of what my cousins other boarders think.”

Sarah nodded in agreement. “I like Lizzy’s spin better.”

The memorial had finished a loop that the three women had walked through town and it didn’t take long to walk back to Mel’s guesthouse. Lizzy was walking in between the two taller women and had to admit that she was enjoying the warmth and proximity of her companions immensely. Both were open and easy to talk to. There was an undertone of warmth and caring that permeated their interaction with each other that was inviting. Sarah was clearly more of the flirt, and at times seemed interested in seeing how far she could push before Stevie shot her an irritated glare. Stevie was kind and warm but kept what felt to Lizzy like a respectful distance. She couldn’t help but noticed the pleasant fragrance of Stevie’s perfume that clung to the leather jacket that she found as warming as the jacket itself.

It was late when they arrived back in Mel’s kitchen. Lizzy let them in with her key and they noticed that minimal lights had been left on and that the house was quiet. “I can’t believe we’ve lasted this late,” Stevie said quietly looking at the clock.

Sarah nodded. “Yeah, this was a really cool night, thanks Lizzy.”

“The pleasure was mine. What did you guys have planned for tomorrow?”

The blonde and brunette looked at each other. “We don’t really have any plans. We thought we’d do some of the psychic stuff in the evening, but haven’t thought about how to spend our day. Do you have any suggestions?”

Lizzy smiled, she’d been trying to come up with some plans for most of the walk back to Mel’s. “If you’re interested in seeing the Atlantic, we can take a drive to the beach.” She suggested. When two sets of eyes lit up she knew that rumors of Californians and their weakness for coastlines to be true. “Excellent, just have Mel give me a ring when you guys are up and about and I’ll head over.”

“Do you live far from here?” Stevie asked.

Lizzy shook her head. “Not even ten minutes by bicycle. I’ll see you guys tomorrow.” She was surprised and delighted that each woman gave her a warm hug before quietly heading upstairs. Her hand had grasped the back door knob when she realized she was still wearing Stevie’s jacket. Quietly, as not to wake the other guests, she headed upstairs.

“What do you think of her?” Sarah asked when they’d closed the door to their room.

“She’s very sweet, what’s not to like?” Stevie asked and looked at Sarah suspiciously as she began to undress for bed.

Sarah didn’t say anything for a moment and heard the faintest of creaks outside the door, and then she remembered Stevie’s Jacket. “I’d like to spend more time with her while we’re here.” She said quietly, knowing full well her voice would carry to the door.

“I think that’s a great idea.” Stevie agreed.

“What would you say if I said I wanted to spend time alone with her while we’re here.” Sarah asked carefully. She was sure she’d heard another creak but was equally sure that Stevie, standing on the far side of the bed and getting undressed had not.

The blonde woman stopped brushing her hair and turned to her companion. “I would ask if this is about you or about me? Are you interested in throwing moves at her because you’re looking to get laid? Or are you just trying to see how far you can go before I get really hurt and beat the crap out of you? I have been as understanding as I can be at all of the different women you’ve had over in the last four months. Is it really necessary for you to hit on someone right in front of me? Or are you really falling for her and feel like you can’t help yourself? Because honestly I don’t think she’s ready for someone like you.”

Sarah’s eyes narrowed. “What do you mean she isn’t ready for someone like me?” she asked.

Stevie put the brush down. “Emotionally Sarah, you’re a whirlwind. You’re exciting; you’re funny, smart, and attentive as hell when you want to be, caring and great in bed. But you’re also self-absorbed and I know you. You would find her intriguing, a challenge, something novel and when you were finished you’d move on and not worry about it.”

The stuntwoman crossed her arms. “I didn’t do that to you, or are you forgetting that I’m standing right here.”

“You’re standing right here because you know I’m a fucking mess and you feel a little responsible for it, you also know I’m one of the few people who will flat out call you on your shit and you know you need that in your life.” Stevie put her hands on her hips.

Sarah stared at her friend and cracked a grin. “Stevie for god’s sake put on a shirt. I can’t argue with you topless.

Stevie pulled a t-shirt over her head that matched the boxers she was wearing for bed.

“I suppose you think you’re much better for her?” Sarah asked.

 “Absolutely not,” the blond replied. “But I wouldn’t inflict myself on anyone right now. Lets just say for the sake of argument that my depression took a vacation and I wasn’t such a mess…” She thought for a moment. “Yeah, I’d be interested. As sad as it makes me that my first impulse is not to win you back, but we’ve tried that more than once and know we know we don’t fit that way anymore and we are going to get over it even if it kills us. There is something about Lizzy…I dunno. I really like her. She’s got this whole redemptive vibe. You just feel good in her presence. But she lives in Salem, I live in Santa Monica and…” she shrugged. “And I just met her today.

“Still,” She said more to herself than her companion. “She gives me this feeling, like I know her or something. It really makes me want to protect her from me or people like me, which sadly leaves her vulnerable to people like you,” she finished glaring at the stuntwoman.

“You’re just saying that because you can tell she likes me better.” Sarah said, teasingly.

“Why wouldn’t she?” Stevie asked honestly. “You’re gorgeous, you’re fun, you’re happy…what’s not to be crazy about?”

“I think she likes smart girls and you’ve got me there.” Sarah allowed, a little sadly.

Stevie nodded. “Absolutely. Now get into bed and keep your hands to yourself.”

Sarah paused for a moment by the door. When she heard a soft creak move away she shut out the light and crawled into bed.

Continued - part 2

Bard's Page

Return to the Academy