Carole Mortenson



FEEDBACK: Constructive criticism only, please. Have a heart--this is my first work online! Seriously, though, I'd love to hear from you.
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"I'm so sorry, Lindsey," Sarah said, "but I won't be able to go with you out to The Old West Town today. I promised Sylvia I'd go with her and the kids to get a Christmas tree after lunch. We drove Rich's SUV to church this morning just for that purpose, so we could put the tree on top of it."

They were both standing by the front door of the church after the service, and people were filing past them. She could see disappointment register on Lindsey's face. "Then we're going to do some Christmas shopping after we take the tree home. I'm going to take the girls with me to shop for the boys and their mother, and Sylvia is going to take the boys to shop for girls and me. It's too much for Sylvia to do by herself."

"I understand," Lindsey said, looking longingly at Sarah. She took hold of Sarah's arm and pulled her over away from the door so she could speak privately with her. "But you said you would help me put up flyers today after church. Remember? I wasn't going out to The Old West Town till after we'd done that."

After printing out the flyers and Christmas program announcements this morning, Sarah had brought them to church with her and gave them to Lindsey. Someone at the door of the church was handing out programs right now to the members of the congregation as they were leaving after the service. Lindsey was going to take the rest with her to The Old West Town when she went to work on the financial ledger later this afternoon.

But Sarah had completely forgotten she'd agreed to help Lindsey put up flyers after church. She mentally knocked herself over the head.

"Oh, God, I forgot about that!" she said in dismay. She leaned over to Lindsey. "I can't seem to think of anything but getting in bed with you," she whispered, knowing no one but Lindsey heard her.

Lindsey responded by smiling broadly and giving Sarah's arm a squeeze. "I forgive you," she said.

"I have an idea," Sarah said. "Why don't you go to The Old West Town first while Sylvia and I are out getting the tree and doing a little bit of shopping? I can meet you at Rita's Home Town Café later this afternoon. We can put up posters around town then. That would be all right, wouldn't it?"

"That'll work," Lindsey said, running it through her head first, before replying. "We'll meet at Rita's and take my truck and put up the posters. Then after that, we'll come back to Rita's and have dinner. I don't think I'll come to the evening service tonight. My father will have to get along without me. He'll have a hissy, but I'll just tell him I have to get some things ready for the Christmas program, and it's the only time I have to do that because I have to work all week. I've already told him I was going to be putting up posters around town this afternoon." She thought for a moment. "Yeah, that'll work!" she said with finality. "When do you want to meet at Rita's ?"

"How about three o'clock? That should give Sylvia and me enough time to do what we've planned. Then I'll take the SUV and come to Rita's ."

"Sounds good to me," Lindsey said. Out of the corner of her eyes, Lindsey saw Sylvia walking towards them with all four kids in tow. "See you then," she said, leaving to put on her coat. She thought it best if she stepped out of the picture before Sylvia found something sarcastic to say to her.

"Are you ready to go get the Christmas tree?" Sylvia asked. The kids were pulling on their coats. "I think we should hurry before the snow gets any worse. I don't like the looks of it," she added, glancing out the open church door.

"Why don't we go shopping first," Sarah said. She didn't want to jeopardize her meeting with Lindsey at 3 o'clock. "Then we can get the tree. We sure don't want to carry a tree around on the roof of the SUV while we're shopping, do we? We'd have to take the tree home first and unload it and then come back into town to shop. It would save time, don't you think, to do the shopping first ? Then if the snow gets too bad before we get the tree, we can always get a tree tomorrow or the next day, can't we? At least we'll have the Christmas shopping done." She looked anxiously at Sylvia, hoping she would agree to her suggestion.

"That's a good idea," Sylvia responded. "I think the kids would rather shop, anyway." Sarah breathed a sigh of relief.

They hurried to the SUV and drove to central downtown where most of the stores were located and parked in a public parking lot. There was always free parking on Sundays. Sylvia took the boys and headed down the street towards a dollar store. Sarah took the girls and went in the opposite direction towards a Target . They both agreed to meet back at the SUV at two o'clock and then go shopping for a Christmas tree.

"Sarah," Sylvia said, looking up at the sky after they came back to the SUV and deposited their packages inside. "I think we better just go back home and forget about the tree today. The snow is really getting bad. Did you get everything you needed?"

She had to brush another two inches off the windshield that had accumulated in the short time they had been in the stores. The snow had started lightly falling yesterday afternoon, but then eased up, and everyone thought that was the end of it. But Mother Nature did a double take and the cold front backed up on itself. By the time the church service ended this morning, it was coming down steadily and had dumped several inches. It didn't look like it would be stopping anytime soon.

"I think so," Sarah replied, hiding her disappointment, "except for some wrapping paper. But I have to come to town one day next week, anyway, because I need to get a present for my boss in Denver. I can pick up a tree then. And I'll get wrapping paper, too."

She looked with apprehension at the snow coming down and was sure Lindsey had not figured on a bad snowstorm when they were discussing plans to put up Christmas flyers this afternoon. She would call her when they got home.

After they arrived home, the kids ran to the back door as soon as the garage door closed. They waited impatiently for their mother to unlock it so they could take their Christmas packages inside. The girls went immediately to their bedroom, anxious to hide their purchases before anyone saw what they had bought. They especially didn't want their mother to see what they got for her. Roger and Robert threw their packages down on the couch in the family room, and turned on the TV—not caring one way or the other. They were upset. They had missed their favorite Sunday afternoon program on Fox Family Channel because they went " stupid shopping, " as they put it.

Lindsey was driving and watching the road at the same time as she reached in her pocket for her cell phone when Sarah called. After hearing that Sarah and Sylvia decided to go home right after shopping, she said, "I thought you might do that. I saw that the snow was really coming down, so I figured I'd better do what needed to be done first . So I put the posters up around town already and you don't have to worry about helping. I decided to wait till tomorrow to work on the books at The Old West Town . I have to go into work there in the morning, anyway. There probably won't be any tourists stopping by, so I can do the books without interruption. I was going to call you before you left to meet me at Rita's ."

"Are we still going to meet there for dinner?" Sarah asked anxiously. "I could still take the SUV—I'm not afraid of driving in snow."

"Actually, Rita's is closed today," Lindsey answered. "Nobody answered the phone there, so I drove past and there was no sign of life. This storm is really going off the charts, according to the weather reports. It's worse than the one we had just a little over a week ago, and you remember what a doozy of a storm that was!" There was silence for a moment. "I called Deanna and told her to knock off and go home before she got stranded at The Old West Town . She's going to pass the word on to Herman."

"Sylvia thought the storm was too bad to risk buying a tree and getting it home before the weather turned really nasty, too," Sarah said, sadly. "It's bad enough already. So we haven't gotten a tree yet. I'll have to go into town one day next week and look for one."

"Well, this is your lucky day! You'd like a little cheering up, wouldn't you?" Without waiting for Sarah's answer, she continued. "Somehow I had a feeling you probably wouldn't be getting a tree today. I picked up two of them. You timed this call just right. I'm on my way home right now, so I'll drop one of them at your house. If that's okay, that is."

Lindsey had gotten two trees—one for her own family and a second one for a needy family in the church. She decided Sarah and Sylvia might as well have it, as she could always get another tree later. It would also give her a chance to at least see Sarah again.

"Oh, Lindsey, that would be wonderful!" Sarah said, a bit of life coming back in her voice as she answered. "And, of course, you'll have to stay and help us decorate."

"I don't know about that," Lindsey said skeptically. "I don't think your sister would want me there for your family tradition."

"Well, that's just too bad. Because I'm inviting you, sweetheart. She doesn't have anything to say about it!" Sarah then said a little harshly, "And it's not a family tradition, anyway. This is the first time I've been with Sylvia for Christmas in over eight years."

There's that wonderful word again—Sweetheart , Lindsey thought. "We'll see when I get there. Be there in a few minutes." She hung up without giving Sarah a chance to say anything else.

Lindsey felt a bitterness creeping into her overall happiness. She wished she and Sarah could just be together without having to worry about Sylvia breathing down their necks. She wondered if Sylvia's disdain toward her had anything to do with those rumors that Sarah said Sylvia had heard. What were those rumors? What if it concerned her past life in Cheyenne? She didn't think there was anyone in Laramie who knew about that. It wasn't something she made a habit of broadcasting. Yet she wasn't anxious to find out what the rumors were, either. If it were that important, surely Sarah would have talked with her by now. Her heart lifted as she drew up to the Hammond residence and pulled up in the driveway to the front door.

"Sylvia, Lindsey is here!" Sarah yelled to her sister. She had told her a few minutes ago that Lindsey was bringing a tree for them. She opened the front door to greet a huge tree in the doorway with Lindsey standing behind it holding it up. Snow was clinging to its spreading branches. "Lindsey brought us a Christmas tree, kids!"

All the kids came rushing over to the door. "A Christmas tree! A Christmas tree!" they shouted. The little girls were jumping up and down excitedly.

"Where do you want it?" Lindsey said, pushing the tree through the doorway, smiling broadly at Sarah.

"We'll need to cut an inch off the bottom of the trunk before we put it in a tree stand, don't you think so, Sarah?" Sylvia had come over to the door and was already taking over. "I moved the recliner in the family room, and there's room for it in there after we mount it on the stand."

Sarah looked at her sister with surprise. Sylvia was actually smiling at Lindsey!



Sylvia took the tree out of Lindsey's hands. She moved the branches around, fluffing it out, shaking off some of the snow. "It's a beautiful tree, Lindsey—so green and bushy and filled out. Then she said, "Thank you," and looked with kindness toward her for the first time. Lindsey bowed her head in acknowledgment and felt herself blushing. This act of acceptance from Sylvia was totally unexpected.

"Let's drop the tree right here and let the snow melt off," Sylvia said, lowering the tree lengthwise on the tiled floor at the entryway. "Come on into the kitchen. I was just making some hot cocoa from an old family recipe."

Sylvia seemed in a happy mood, quite unlike her normal demeanor when Lindsey was around. The kids rushed into the kitchen. Lindsey glanced over at Sarah as they followed Sylvia. She raised her eyebrows as if to question. Sarah shrugged her shoulders and shook her head. She knew Sylvia was out of character and was waiting for the next bombshell to drop.

As they sat around the kitchen table, Sarah noticed Puddy slowly walking up to the tree and then sniffing it, finally pawing at it. She pointed out the cat to Lindsey. They both laughed as Puddy stepped in a puddle of water that was already forming under the tree and tried to shake the water off her feet.

"Scat, Puddy!" Roger said, rushing over to the cat and shooing her away from the tree. Puddy went bounding away into the family room.

Kids don't know when to leave well enough alone, thought Sarah. Puddy wasn't harming a thing, and I'm sure she's aggravated now that her curiosity was interrupted. Sylvia didn't seem to notice the disturbance, and Sarah wondered again if she ever disciplined her kids.

Sylvia poured the steaming hot cocoa into cups, and as they sipped it, they talked about the weather—wondering if they were going to be snowed-in again, and about how nice and green the Christmas trees seemed to be this year. The kids finished their drinks quickly, and Sylvia told the boys to go ahead and get the Christmas decorations out of the garage, which were up high on one of the shelves.

"Be careful with the ladder, guys," Sylvia said. "Roger, you hold onto it while Robert climbs up and gets stuff down." She knew Robert had more balance than Roger did. The boys started arguing then, because Roger wanted to climb the ladder.

"Just go , and do what I said!" Sylvia emphasized, getting upset with them. They left, pushing each other on their way out the door.

"Would you like to stay and help us decorate the tree, Lindsey?" she asked, her voice changing to sweetness.

Again, Lindsey thought this was out of character for Sylvia. She didn't know what kind of an agenda Sylvia had—why she would be so friendly all of a sudden—but she had no intention of being trapped into anything. She hoped Sarah would understand when she replied, "I think I should be running on home. I have another tree in the truck that I need to take to my house before it's completely covered with snow. I'll help my father and sister decorate that one. I'm sure you have plenty of help here."

Sarah looked at her blankly. Then she looked at her sister. Lindsey got up and put her coat on, and Sarah rose at the same time.

"Thank you for the hot cocoa," Lindsey said to Sylvia.

Sarah walked her to the door, finally realizing why Lindsey was leaving. Lindsey didn't want to chance another negative encounter with Sylvia. As she opened the door, she whispered, "I understand, sweetheart. I'll see you sometime this week before practice on Thursday?"

"Yes," Lindsey replied, pulling on her gloves and hat. "I'll call you." She went out the door hurriedly before the snow blew in.

"I'm surprised Lindsey didn't stay," Sylvia said, getting up to turn the stove off under the pan of hot cocoa. "I didn't think she'd let an opportunity go by her like that. Do you want some more hot cocoa?" She paused with the pan in her hand.

"What exactly do you mean by that, Sylvia?" Sylvia said. She could feel her blood starting to rise to a boil.

"What? About asking if you wanted some more hot cocoa? I swear, Sarah, you're much too concerned about gaining a few extra pounds. It wouldn't hurt you."

"No, Sylvia!" Sarah said loudly. "That's not what I was referring to. What do you mean by Lindsey not missing an opportunity? And why did it surprise you that she didn't stay?"

"Oh, did I say that?" Sylvia said. "Nothing. I didn't mean anything at all—" Her voice trailed off as she poured the rest of the drink into her cup and then put the pan in the sink and ran water in it.

Sarah rolled her eyes. "I'm going upstairs and change out of my church clothes." She hurried to her bedroom and only half-heard Sylvia as she said, "Oh, that's a good idea. I should do that, too."

Puddy followed Sarah up the stairs, begging for attention by wrapping herself around Sarah's legs and purring. Sarah picked her up and took her into the bedroom with her. She lay on the bed for a bit playing with the cat. When she finally got up to change clothes, Puddy stayed where she was, stretching out lazily on the bed, as if to say, "This is where I belong, you know. Not down in that dumb bed by the fireplace away from everybody." Sarah left the door open when she went downstairs, in case Puddy changed her mind about staying on her bed.

The boys had brought a big box of Christmas decorations from the garage into the family room and were going through them. Decorations were scattered everywhere , and Sarah thought it was a good thing Puddy elected to stay upstairs, or the cat would have been into everything. She didn't know the cat's age, but guessed she couldn't have been very old, as she was still so playful.

Sylvia came into the family room, having changed into her sweats. "What are you boys doing?" she asked them, irritated because they were scattering decorations everywhere.

"We're looking for the tree stand," Robert said.

"Well, it isn't in there ," Sylvia said. "I keep it in the box with the outside lights."

"Why do you do that?" Roger said. "It's part of the Christmas decorations, isn't it?"

"Only partly, Roger," Sylvia said. "When we hang up the outside lights, which we always do first, then I take the stand out, and it's ready for the tree when we get it."

"How come we don't hang up the outside lights first , then?" Robert asked.

"Because your daddy isn't here to do it!" Sylvia yelled at them. The boys cringed when their mother yelled. Why was she so angry? They hadn't done anything.

Sarah watched as her sister covered her face and ran toward her bedroom, crying. Sarah ran after her, following her into the bedroom before Sylvia could slam the door shut on her.

"Sylvia, what's wrong?" Sarah asked. "Why are you crying? Is it because the stupid outside lights aren't up yet? I can do that."

"Oh, Sarah," Sylvia sobbed. "That's not it. Rich wants a divorce." She started bawling in earnest.

Oh, my God, thought Sarah. No wonder she's upset at everything and everybody. I never dreamed that was the problem. I thought they had the perfect marriage. Shows you how little I know. But there must be a reason why Rich wants a divorce.

She wondered if Sylvia would talk to her about it. She reached out, took Sylvia into her arms and let her cry. Sylvia was not inclined to talk, however, and never answered Sarah's questions.

What kind of a mess is this? Sarah wondered. Is this the real reason Rich went away? Did he want a separation? Or did this just happen recently after he was gone?

She needed some answers, but all her sister did was sob, and eventually eased down to lie flat on the bed. Sarah covered her up with a light throw cover that was at the foot of the bed. She went into Sylvia's bathroom and sorted through the medicines in the over-the-sink cabinet until she found a bottle of sedatives. The date on the bottle indicated the prescription had recently been filled.

After she gave Sylvia a pill with a small plastic cup of water, she went back to the kitchen and fixed herself a cup of tea. Now what am I supposed to do? she thought . Should I try to get hold of Rich and find out what's going on? I don't even know where he is. And I don't know anyone else around here—except Lindsey. Maybe Lindsey could give me some advice.



"They're out tomorrow!" Lindsey excitedly told Sarah, who had unexpectedly called her on the phone.

"What?" Sarah said, clearly puzzled. "Who's out? Out of what? What are you talking about, Lindsey?"

"Karin and Evelyn," Lindsey said. "They just called to tell me they're moving out tomorrow! If the weather is decent enough, that is. They said I could move in by Wednesday, after the landlord has inspected the place, and that I can use the remainder of their rent up till my own lease starts the first of January."

There was silence at Sarah's end.

"Sarah? What's the matter? Aren't you happy about this?"

"Yes, Lindsey, I am happy for you," Sarah replied, "but that's not the reason I called."

Of course, it isn't , Lindsey thought. How could she have known what was happening over here? I just found out myself.

"I'm sorry, Sarah. I got a little carried away. Why did you call?" It was strange that Sarah called her, as she had just left Sarah's house less than an hour before. She had just gotten off the phone with Karin, and was going to go back in the living room to tell her daddy and Leslie when she'd be moving into the apartment.

"Sylvia broke down after you left, Lindsey. It all started about some Christmas lights Rich would have strung around the outside of the house if he had been here. She was yelling at the boys. Then she started crying and ran to her bedroom. I followed her, and she told me that Rich wants a divorce."

She waited a moment for this to sink in. When Lindsey didn't respond, she continued. "She was so broken up and talking incoherently, I couldn't make head or tails out of what she was saying. She wouldn't tell me why Rich wants a divorce. She just kept on crying. I may be guessing, but I'll bet you anything he found out about her and Will somehow, and that's why. I gave her a sedative to help her relax. I don't know how to get hold of Rich, and even if I had his number, I don't know if I should call him. What should I do, Lindsey?"

"Do you want me to come over?" Lindsey asked, sensing the futility in Sarah's voice. "I don't know if I could help, but—"

"Could you?" Sarah said, hopefully. "But I don't want to drag you away from your family, and you're probably in the middle of decorating your tree and everything." Her voice faded away.

"I'll be there in a few minutes," Lindsey said. "I'll walk down instead of driving the truck."

"Thank you," Sarah responded, and hung up her cell phone.

"Daddy, I'm going down to the Hammond residence for a little bit," Lindsey said, stopping in the doorway of the living room while putting on her winter outerwear. "Sarah needs my help with something." She glanced at her father and Leslie, neither of whom looked her way. The two were in the middle of wrapping a multi-colored garland around the spruce tree. "I'm going to walk. It's only on the next street down."

"What?" Her father finally looked up from what he was doing, his concentration interrupted. Ever the faithful minister, having vaguely heard part of what Lindsey was saying, he said, "Do you need me to come? Is it serious?"

I really don't need daddy to get involved in this! Lindsey thought. "No, daddy, I can handle it." She didn't want him to know the extent of her involvement with Sarah. "I'll be back as soon as I can."

"Be careful, Lindsey," Hiram said. "It's a bad storm out there." He turned back to stringing the garland around the tree with his other daughter.

This storm is pretty bad , Lindsey thought, slogging through the deep snow. The wind and heavy snowflakes were pummeling her in the back, pushing her down the hill. Hiram told her there was not going to be a worship service tonight—one of the few times in the five years they'd lived in Laramie that he'd had to cancel services because of snow. The phone had been ringing off the hook from members of the congregation wondering if there was going to be a service tonight. Hiram told each one to pass the word on that it was cancelled. Lindsey was glad she didn't have to wriggle her way out of going to church.

"Come in, Lindsey," Sarah said, opening the front door with a serious look on her face. Then she started laughing, because Puddy had raced down the stairs from Sarah's bedroom to the front door when the doorbell rang. She was now spitting and hissing. Her neck and back hairs were standing straight up at the sight of the white, ghostly apparition before her. Lindsey was completely snow-covered, and a frightened Puddy was coming unglued!

Lindsey started laughing, too and then stepped inside the house and took off her coat and hat. She shook the snow off them, stomped her feet and then removed her boots. Puddy realized then it was only another human being—one to whom she had taken a liking. She carefully walked over to Lindsey and began purring and rubbing up against her legs. After hanging her outer clothing on the coat tree next to the door, Lindsey picked her up, cuddled her close and started petting her—speaking to her in squeaky, mewling sounds.

"Hey, don't I get anything?" Sarah asked. Lindsey reached over with one arm, pulled Sarah to her and kissed her, trapping the cat in the middle. Puddy didn't mind, however. Now she had her favorite two human beings right where she wanted them! They were both cuddling her, and she couldn't be happier.

"Come on in the kitchen, Lindsey," Sarah said, as Puddy jumped down. "I think Sylvia is out of it for a while. We can visit."

They had just sat down at the table when the two sets of twins came into the kitchen. "Aunt Sarah," said Roger, "can we decorate the tree now?" For the last hour, they had been watching TV, waiting to start decorating.

"You can do that when your mother gets up to help you," Sarah said, feeling sorry for them. Besides, she wanted to talk to Lindsey.

"She's never going to help us," Robert said.

"Why can't you help us? And your friend?" the two girls asked.

Sarah looked over at Lindsey, who got up from her chair and said, "Why not? I wouldn't mind helping." She glanced back at Sarah as the twin girls took her hands and led her into the family room. Sarah got up and followed.

It didn't take long before Lindsey had sawed off the bottom of the tree and fixed it upright in the tree stand—which they found in another box in the garage that contained the outside lights—and they began stringing the tree lights. The kids were anxious to get the lights on, because then they could start putting on the ornaments.

An hour later, Lindsey and Sarah were sitting on the couch watching the kids put on the last of the bright silver tinsel, admiring the fine job they had done on the tree.

Sarah heard rustling from the kitchen. She was about to get up and go see what was happening when Sylvia came into the family room with a cup of coffee. She stopped when she saw the tree.

"Oh, what a beautiful job you and the kids did, Sarah, in decorating the tree!" She came closer to admire the ornaments. "Now all we need is to get the presents wrapped and put underneath." She looked over to where Sarah was sitting as she said those words, and noticed Lindsey for the first time.

"Well," she said gruffly, glaring at Lindsey. "What are you doing here?"

Lindsey got up from the couch, and Sarah got up with her. "Sylvia, don't do this," Sarah said, warningly.

"Don't do what my dear sister?" Sylvia then turned the full force of her anger on Lindsey. "Get out of my house!" she yelled. "I know what you're up to, and it's not going to work! Get out!"

Sarah got mad then. "Sylvia, you have no right to speak to my friend like that!"

"I have every right!" Sylvia responded. "This is my house, and she wasn't invited."

" I invited her, Sylvia," Sarah yelled, "because you were too out of your mind to make sense, and I needed a friend."

When the yelling started, Lilly grabbed Lori's hand and they ran back to their bedroom. The two boys turned up the volume on the TV as loud as they dared in order to drown out the shouting.

"Friend? You call that lesbian whore a friend?" Sylvia pointed an accusing finger at Lindsey. "She's only after one thing, and that's to get you in her bed. I've tried to warn you, Sarah, but you just won't listen!" Sylvia was in battling mode, and Sarah came right back at her.

"I don't believe what you're saying about Lindsey. And you have no right to talk, not after what you've been doing!" Sarah was lashing out in anger now, too, at her sister.

Sylvia turned on Lindsey again. "Get out! Just get out! And leave my baby sister alone!"

Lindsey started toward the front door, and Sarah put out her arm to stop her. "Please don't go, Lindsey." She was starting to cry. "She didn't mean it."

Lindsey looked at her with anguish in her eyes and then gently pushed her arm away as she said, "It's better this way." She strode quickly to the front door and put on her boots and outerwear and left, slamming the door behind her.

"Sylvia, how could you do such a thing?" Sarah was crying profusely after Lindsey left. "Lindsey has never done anything to you. How could you treat her like that?"

"I call 'em as I see 'em," Sylvia said, disdain covering her face. She took a sip of coffee and sat down in the spot Lindsey had vacated. "She never defended herself. That should tell you something , little sister." She turned and told the boys to turn down the TV volume, then watched the program they were focused on, not really interested.

"You don't know anything!" Sarah gave out one last burst of anger, ran up to her bedroom and slammed the door shut.



What am I going to do now? Lindsey asked herself as she trudged her way home through the deep snow. Sylvia must have found out about my activities in Cheyenne somehow. How can I explain that to Sarah? How can I tell Sarah that I'm not that person anymore?

She walked into the living room, having noted glumly that the snow was still falling heavily as night began its descent. Karin and Evelyn probably won't be able to move out of the apartment tomorrow as they planned. What else can go wrong? she thought.

"I'm going upstairs and change out of my church clothes," she said to Hiram as she passed the living room and saw him sitting in his chair reading the newspaper.

"Did everything work out all right?" he asked.

"What?" Lindsey had started up the stairs, not expecting her father to say anything. "Oh...yes. Everything's okay." She paused a moment and then said, pointing to their Christmas tree. "The tree really looks nice." She proceeded up the stairs to her room.

It wasn't more than a few minutes later that Lindsey called Sarah. "Hi," she said when Sarah answered the phone. "Has everything quieted down over there now that I've left?"

"Oh, Lindsey, I don't know what has gotten into my sister," Sarah replied. "I'm so sorry that happened." Lindsey could tell Sarah had been crying.

"Sarah, we need to talk."

Sarah said, "There's nothing to talk about, Lindsey. I love you, and I don't believe anything Sylvia says about you."

"What did you say?" Lindsey asked, startled.

"I said I don't believe anything Sylvia says about you."

"No. I mean, what did you say just before that?"

"There's nothing to talk about."

"No. Sandwiched between those two things you just said." Lindsey wondered if she had heard correctly.

Sarah hesitated. "I...love...you?" she finally said.

"That's what I thought you said. I love you, too." Whoa! Did I actually say that? "And that's why we have to talk. There's something about me you don't know, and we need to talk."

"You love me?" Sarah couldn't believe her ears.

Silence on the other end. Lindsey didn't know why she said she loved Sarah. Did she really? Love was a new dimension for her, and something she had never experienced before. She had never felt this way about a woman before, either. She wanted to be with Sarah all the time. She wanted to talk with her, do things with her, make love with her, wanted her to be a part of her life. Is that what love is all about?

"Yes...I love you," Lindsey finally responded.

"Then what are we going to do, Lindsey?" Sarah asked. "We can't keep on like this. Sylvia is out of her mind sometimes."

On an impulse, Lindsey blurted out, "Move in with me, Sarah."

"What? Oh, God, Lindsey, do you know what you're saying?" Sarah's heartbeat began to increase rapidly as she thought of what Lindsey had just proposed. Could she really consider moving into her new apartment with her?

"Will you?" Lindsey asked.

"Sweetheart, this is kind of on the spur of the moment, isn't it? I mean, we haven't even talked about anything like that. We haven't known each other very long....And you're not even moved into the apartment yet, and—"

There's that wonderful word again—Sweetheart! Lindsey thought. Sarah's voice trailed off as Lindsey interrupted her. "We've known each other long enough to know how we feel about each other. Isn't that enough?"

"Is it?" Sarah said wistfully. "Is love enough?"

"We'll never know if we don't try, baby," Lindsey said. She had a sinking feeling that Sarah's answer would be no.

"I can't think of that right now, Lindsey," Sarah said. "My sister is in terrible shape, and I have to help her. We have to put us on a back burner temporarily."

"All right. I understand," Lindsey said, disappointed, but not really understanding. There was silence again as Lindsey searched for the right words. "I'll talk with you later in the week. We're supposed to be together, Sarah. We both know that. And we will be. I promise you."

Lindsey hung up reluctantly, wishing she were there to put her arms around Sarah right then, not only for Sarah to seek comfort in her arms, but for Lindsey's own comfort, knowing that Sarah loved her and she loved her back.

Sarah was devastated when Lindsey hung up. She lay back down on her bed and started crying again. She was pulled in two different directions: by her interfering and hateful sister on the one hand—the only family she had—and her beautiful and desirous Lindsey—the woman she loved—on the other. She wanted them both in her life, but knew that ultimately she would have to choose.

To Be Continued...


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