Carole Mortenson



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CHAPTER SIXTY-ONE – THE FUNERAL ( Monday, December 26 )

The long black limousine came for the Hobbs family at 9:30 on Monday morning to take them to the church. They were all dressed in black. Leslie and Mattie wore long dresses. Lindsey flatly refused to wear a dress and wore her best black slacks with a black satin blouse.

When they got to the church, they were ushered to the front of the sanctuary and were seated on the front row. They had gone to view Hiram Hobbs in his casket at the mortuary yesterday after Mattie arrived in town. They would wait until after the service this morning and then view him for one last time at the front of the church as they and the other people passed by and gave their respects.

Lindsey looked around her as she walked down the aisle and noted many friends of hers, including Deanna and Herman from The Old West Town and most of the women who worked at Scully's . She also noticed Sylvia and Sarah sitting in their usual second row on the other side of the aisle. Then she bent her head and stopped looking around and sat down on the aisle seat with her mother sandwiched between her and Leslie.

Beth was her usual perfect self at the organ, playing a medley of hymns that were Hiram's favorites.

The service started with the old retired minister saying a few words and asking the people to sing a hymn. He offered a prayer and then asked those who were prepared to say a few words to come to the platform one at a time.

Six people walked up, each taking about three minutes to talk about what Hiram Hobbs meant to them and how he had affected their lives. Lindsey was amazed at how much her father was loved by the church as a whole and by individuals in the church.

One man talked of Hiram helping him and his family out financially—"out of his own pocket," the man said—when he couldn't buy groceries for his family because he was laid off. "Brother Hobbs handed me a hundred-dollar bill one morning as I was going out the church," he related.

Another man told of an ailing mare that Hiram had tended to. He'd come to his ranch personally, so the man wouldn't have to pay for a veterinarian. Subsequently, the horse fully recovered from its ailment.

Stories of Hiram's dedication and devotion to the church were unquestioned.

Leslie had asked to be the last one to say a few words about Hiram Hobbs—to give the eulogy. Lindsey was glad she was going to hear praises coming from her sister's lips. She didn't think Leslie would ever believe that their father was anything but a godly man, no matter how much Mattie had tried to talk to her about it yesterday evening.

Leslie walked slowly up to the podium, wiping her eyes with a handkerchief. She started speaking in a low voice.

"I think all of you here remember my father as a really godly man, and I thank you for those thoughts and for all the wonderful testimonies. In so many ways, no one could rival him in generosity and thoughtfulness. He loved the church. And he was a great preacher."

Lindsey settled down comfortably in the pew, ready to hear accolades from her sister.

Leslie went on, "But I think you—those of the congregation that are here—didn't really know my father."

Lindsey tensed. Oh, no. What is she going to say? She held her breath. Maybe it was a mistake to let her speak.

Leslie's voice rose a bit after she had coughed and cleared her throat. Then she said outright, without hesitation, "My father had an insatiable appetite for sex."

She paused and looked around the sanctuary. There were a few gasps here and there and then whispering among the people.

"In fact, that is why we left Cheyenne to come to Laramie and take this church. The problem is—was—that my father couldn't keep his hands off other women. It didn't matter if they were married or not. And that's why the accident happened. Daddy was seeing someone from this church. The wife's husband caught them and tried to kill daddy by ramming into his car. He succeeded. But the man and his wife were killed, too." The tears started flowing down Leslie's face more freely.

What are you doing, Leslie? Lindsey thought in despair. Why are you saying things about daddy now ? This is no place for that.

Her sister went on, amidst the tears, her voice cracking. "Hiram Hobbs was a pervert of the highest order. While preaching against adultery, daddy was the epitome of it, because he was still married."

She paused momentarily. No one thought to step in and stop her, not even Lindsey, who sat in a state of total shock.

"Not only that, but my dear sister Lindsey, your church choir director, is a lesbian."

She stopped talking again for a few seconds, as more gasps went up from the people gathered for the funeral. Then she continued.

"She has had numerous affairs with women—even in this church. Takes after her daddy."

She looked at Lindsey, who had focused her eyes on her sister with anguish.

"Most recently," Leslie continued, "she has had her eyes on Sylvia Hammond's sister, Sarah Davis. Who, by the way, my dear Sylvia, is a lesbian, too. Lindsey and she are moving in together real soon."

She looked Sylvia straight in the eyes as she spoke. Sylvia let out a gasp and turned to stare at Sarah.

"Sylvia, I—" Sarah stutteringly started to say, looking at her sister. Lindsey was looking over at Sarah with dismay. She closed her eyes, thinking, Oh, God, what have I done? Then she started to get up, and her mother pulled her back down. Leslie began speaking again.

"But I don't know really why you should be concerned with your sister, Sylvia, as you have your own adulterous affair going on with our adult Sunday School teacher, Will."

She turned to look at Will, who suddenly had a look of horror on his face. Sylvia had turned to look at him, too, pleading in her eyes. Will's wife grabbed his arm and started whispering to him.

Oh, Leslie, I thought Sylvia was your friend, Lindsey thought. Why are you doing this?

Leslie went on, her voice rising dramatically. "This whole church is perverted! Am I the only sane one here? I bet you people of the congregation don't even know your own organist , Beth, and one of your female members, Annette, are having an affair. They're both lesbians, too! Is everyone in this church blind?"

She waved her arms frantically with her last statement.

Beth, sitting at the organ, let out a screech and fell over in a faint. Someone rushed over to her immediately, picked her up off the floor and motioned to someone else to help carry her over to a pew. Annette quietly slipped out of the church when she thought people were focused on attending to Beth. She was sure no one was looking. Damn that Leslie, she said to herself. Beth and I haven't even had sex yet. I don't think I'll ever be able to show my face in this church again.

Mattie Hobbs silently got up, and walked up onto the platform. When she reached the podium, she took Leslie by the arm and led her back down. They made their way slowly to the vestibule, put on their coats and left the church. Lindsey followed, as fast as she dared, barely glancing at Sarah as she passed.

Pandemonium broke out. The old retired preacher that stood behind the podium didn't quite know what to say. He finally spoke, as loudly as his age and physical condition would permit him, "For those who would like to say good-bye to Reverend Hobbs one more time, the casket here at the front of the church is open. We will be here about fifteen minutes, and then we'll lead a procession out to the cemetery. Those who are so inclined are welcome to follow."

A few people went forward to view Hiram Hobbs's remains, mainly those who still thought well of him and those whom Lindsey worked with at The Old West Town and at Scully's . The church's congregation reacted with mixed feelings, and various conversations were buzzing with horror and disbelief at the same time. Some of the people left the church in disgust, while others went to look in the casket. Still others went to their cars to await the procession.

The two reporters who had been out at The Old West Town questioning Lindsey about Hiram Hobbs's death soon after the accident were attending the funeral at the request of their newspaper editor. They had snapped a couple of pictures of Leslie and Mattie as they came down the aisle and then a snapshot of Lindsey, who threw her arm up over her face. They raced out of the church to take the news to their paper that they had suspicioned all along: Well-known local preacher, Hiram Hobbs, recently deceased, indicted by his own daughter, Leslie, of impropriety. That would be a good headline in tonight's newspaper. The story that followed about Lindsey, the church's choir director, being a lesbian would be good follow-up fodder.

The reporters didn't get a chance to rush to the newspaper with their story, however. Lindsey was waiting outside for them as they exited the church. She blocked their way.

"I told you fellows to leave it alone!" she said, looking at them menacingly.

She snatched their camera before they knew what was happening, ripped it open and pulled out the film, then handed the camera back.

"If I read a word in the paper of what you just heard inside, I will sue your newspaper for slander so fast it'll make your head swim! And you'll be seeking employment in another town. I can guarantee you that. My sister is not accountable for anything she said. You've heard about going off the deep end , haven't you? Leslie doesn't know what she's talking about. Now get out of my sight!"

She lent emphasis to her last phrase, and the men got in their vehicle quickly and sped off without saying a word. They knew they would get no story here. They had made the ultimate mistake any reporter must never make. They had forgotten to record Leslie's words, so it was their word against Lindsey's . They knew they could never print something that was only 'hearsay.' The newspaper's reputation would be ruined forever if they did that.

Lindsey watched them hurry down the road, and then walked quickly to the limousine that had brought them to the church. She joined her mother and sister and told the driver to go ahead and not wait for the funeral procession. The other cars would catch up. She threw the film into the front seat and instructed the driver to dump it in the trash somewhere on his way back to the mortuary.

They drove silently to the burial site at the main cemetery, Leslie sobbing all the way and muttering, "I'm sorry...I'm sorry...but the people had to know the truth—"

Mattie continued to pat her on the arm, trying to comfort her.

Lindsey looked over at her sister, all of a sudden pitying her. Then she got angry. Why couldn't she keep her mouth shut! Lindsey lamented. I never thought she'd say anything, but I guess I don't know my sister as well as I thought I did. I didn't think she would come down on her family and friends like that. I guess I never realized that she really is the holier-than-thou type of person. She was willing to put that righteous attitude above her own family's welfare. Well, she's probably ruined her chances of staying at the church, too. Who would want her after what just happened? Who would want anything to do with the Hobbs family?

She had to talk to Sarah. God, what she must be going through right now with her sister! She had to tell her that what Sylvia said about her wasn't true. In the church, Annette was the only one with whom she'd had sex. Of course, that was because she was in her Bible Study group. Still, there were the others in her Bible Study with whom she'd had sex—and all of the previous women in Laramie. She noted with alarm that her admission of those things would take precedence over even her life in Cheyenne! Would Sarah understand about Annette and her Bible Study? Would she understand about all of the women in Cheyenne and the others in Laramie? What am I going to say to her?



Sylvia and Sarah made their way out of the church as unobtrusively as possible. They were both glad the kids were with a babysitter, so weren't exposed to what just happened in church.

Knowing that Sylvia now knew she was a lesbian and was moving in with Lindsey gave Sarah a sense of freedom she'd never known before. She realized she didn't care what Sylvia thought anymore. She should have come out long before this— years ago, in fact. She loved Lindsey, and that was all that mattered.

She didn't believe what Leslie said about Lindsey having affairs with women in the church. Surely, Lindsey wasn't that kind of a woman—the type that was so irreverent that she would even take women of the church to bed. She knew now that it was Leslie who had been telling those rumors to Sylvia about Lindsey. Who would know if they were really true better than Leslie?

Doubt started to plague her, and she had to shove her thoughts to the back of her mind and cover them up before they surfaced in earnest.

"Under the circumstances, I think we should just go home," Sylvia told her on the way to the car. She looked at Sarah for an affirmative nod.

"No, Sylvia. I think we should go to the cemetery," Sarah countered, holding her head up high. "We should show our support to that family. God knows they are really shaken up by all of this." Even if she couldn't go to Lindsey right now, she wanted to be there for her, to show her support for her. She still didn't believe what Leslie said about her lover.

"You're probably right," Sylvia responded. She wasn't that concerned about Sarah being a lesbian now. She knew the truth of that when Sarah turned to look at her in the pew. Sarah was 35 years old, old enough to make up her own mind. She just wished Sarah had told her before all of this sordid mess happened. Maybe—but she didn't know that for sure—maybe it would have saved them from a lot of arguments. There was still the fact of Lindsey's reputation, however, and she hoped Sarah would take that into account in her relationship with Lindsey. If what Leslie said were true, it wouldn't be long until Lindsey was off seeking a conquest with another woman. She didn't want Sarah to get hurt.

She was more concerned about Will right now. She looked around and saw Will and his wife get in their car with their teen-age daughter, Chrissy. They were probably going to the burial site, as well. She hoped Will would be able to appease his wife with some good answers—that he and Sylvia were not having an affair. After all, it wasn't a real affair. Not what she would call a real affair, anyway. It might have led to a real affair, but it didn't. It probably wasn't too late for Will and his wife to salvage their marriage—unlike the situation in which she and Rich found themselves.

Chairs had been set up around the gravesite for members of the family and some who considered themselves close friends of Hiram. Sarah was standing at the open grave, right across from Lindsey, who was sitting with her family. She kept staring at Lindsey until Lindsey sensed her presence and looked up at her. They could see the depth of anguish on each other's faces, and both started shedding tears. It was with difficulty that Lindsey pulled her eyes away and focused on the casket as the minister spoke.

About fifty people gathered to hear the final words over Hiram and watch his casket lowered into the grave. The minister who presided said there would be a gathering at the Hobbs residence afterwards.

Lindsey didn't want to go back home and greet the people who would drop by with food and words of sympathy. She knew, however, she had to keep up appearances—at least for the rest of the day. She believed most people would think Leslie had flipped her lid, as a person in mourning sometimes does. Lashing out over the death of someone, eventuating in the telling of untruths, was more common than realized. But Lindsey was angry because Leslie had halfway been telling the truth, and she was fairly certain it was all out of revenge and jealousy. What did she hope to accomplish by saying those things? She only hurt herself in the long run.

The funeral was over, the crowd dispersed, and the two Hobbs sisters and their mother slowly wound their way back to their house via limousine. A half hour later, people began showing up, bringing food and offering condolences. Lindsey had also arranged for a catering service to bring in food for people who wished to stay for a few minutes.

Several people came up to Lindsey and made remarks such as, "I don't believe a word of what Leslie said. She really went bonkers, didn't she?" Some said, "We're behind you 100 percent, Lindsey," or, "We understand the terrible stress Leslie has been under."

Sylvia and Sarah never showed up. Lindsey was glad for once that they didn't. She didn't want to face Sarah or take the onslaught of Sylvia's wrath and scorn that she knew would be forthcoming.

Mattie shuffled Leslie off to her bedroom and came back, muttering apologies to the gathering crowd. "My daughter really needs to rest. It's been quite an ordeal for her." Heads nodded in sympathy. No one questioned Mattie's appearance, even though it was known that Hiram pastored the church alone.

By 4 o'clock in the afternoon, all the people had left, and Lindsey and Mattie looked at the dirty dishes and the cleanup that needed to be done.

They looked at each other. Mattie said, "Why don't I wash and you dry?"

"Okay," Lindsey replied.

They both smiled at each other.

* * * * * *

Sarah and Sylvia went their separate ways when they got home. Sylvia paid the babysitter, and then told the kids to be quiet for a while—that she was going to lie down. Sarah excused herself also, saying that she wanted to be alone, and went up to her loft. There were things that needed to be said between her and her sister, but now was not the time.

Sarah was lying on her bed, with Puddy curled up against her, when she heard the phone in the kitchen ring. Sylvia answered it. Sarah couldn't hear the conversation, but heard Sylvia scream with delight. "Oh, I'm so glad!" She was practically yelling into the phone. She seemed so happy. Then Sarah drifted off to sleep.



Sarah's cell phone was singing away, pulling her back from a dream in which she was floating above the clouds which now and then parted to give her a view of The Old West Town . She felt herself sinking back down to earth, clutching at non-existent handholds, until she landed on the ground with a jolt. Puddy had jumped up onto her chest and was purring around her face and digging her claws into her T-shirt, telling her to wake up.

She brushed the cat off—much to its dislike—and reached over to the nightstand and answered her cell phone, looking at the clock at the same time. It registered 5 o'clock in the afternoon.

"Sarah," Lindsey said. "I'm coming over to pick you up in five minutes. Meet me at the front door."

"Lindsey?" Sarah answered back, still half asleep, but Lindsey had already hung up the phone.

Sarah rolled over, intending to go back to sleep. Five minutes ! She sat upright with a jerk and then got up, put her shoes on and raced down the stairs to the kitchen. Sylvia was starting supper. Sarah glanced at her, not saying anything. Then she turned around and raced back up the stairs to grab her coat from the closet. When she got back downstairs, the front door bell was ringing.

She muttered to Sylvia, "I'll be back in a little bit," opened the door and took off. Sylvia was left staring after her, wondering what she had missed in the conversation. She couldn't have been that busy, could she? She didn't even get a chance to tell Sarah her wonderful news.

Lindsey took hold of Sarah's arm, and they walked to the truck and got in silently. Lindsey turned the key in the ignition, shifted into reverse and started backing down the driveway. But Sarah put her hand on the steering wheel when they reached the bottom of the driveway and stopped her from going any farther.

"Come here," she said, leaning over toward her. Lindsey turned to look at her and found Sarah's hand behind her head, pulling her mouth down toward her. Their lips met, and it was as if all the pent-up emotions and frustrations came to the foreground as they kissed passionately, wanting their lives to be all right again.

Lindsey didn't remember how she managed to reach over and turn the engine off while they were kissing like that. She did, however, remember sitting there after they had pulled apart, crying her eyes out, with Sarah joining her.

It all came out then—Lindsey blubbering her way along as she related her life to Sarah of how she had had sex with women from a young age. She went on to explain how over the years she grew to want sex so badly that she had to have it and how devastated she was when she discovered that she was just like her daddy in her insatiable appetite. She told her about Annette, the only one in the church she had had sex with; and about the others in her Bible Study and their once-a-month agenda. She told her about her sex life with other lesbians in Laramie. She even gave Sarah a short version of what her life had been like in Cheyenne—and the brothel she ran for lesbians. It wasn't full of details, but it was enough that Sarah understood what had happened back then.

Then she turned and looked at her, eyes all puffy and red, tears still streaming down her cheeks. "Since you came into my life, Sarah, there was only one time after that that I had sex with someone else, and I knew I shouldn't have done it. I wanted you so bad , Sarah, and I couldn't have you, so I fell back on what my whole life had been up to then. I just had to have sex. Afterwards, I felt like I had betrayed you. Since that one time, there's been no one else but you, and there will never be anyone else. I promise you. Can you ever forgive me?"

Sarah cried, too, while Lindsey was unloading all of the emotion that she'd held in for so long. She looked up at her, her eyes also puffy and red.

"Of course, I forgive you," she said. "I shouldn't have denied you that first time, Lindsey, and I kept waiting for you to make the next move and you never did. So I feel I'm to blame for what happened to you after that. Sweetheart, that's in the past now, and we need to forget it. I don't want to see that side of you. I don't want to hear about that side of you ever again!"

She reached her hands out and brought their foreheads together and looked her straight in the eyes. "The love we have can overcome anything, sweetheart. And if I'm not capable of satisfying that consuming passion of yours, I don't think anyone is. I have an insatiable appetite for sex, too, you know—with you ."

They both started laughing then and came together in another embrace, their lips meeting until they felt as if nothing could separate them ever again.

"Let's go out to The Old West Town ," Lindsey said, starting the engine again and pulling out from the driveway.

They pulled up in Lindsey's parking spot by the outdoor stage and sat there for a moment, looking over the town. It was quiet and deserted. The sky was mostly clear and dusk was approaching. The few clouds in the sky above the church were starting to turn pink as the sun gradually set.

"Someday I'll have a place like this, and I'll fix it up so the whole country will want to come here," Lindsey said, her arm around Sarah. "Daddy always said that I had a bit of the old west in me, because of my love of horses and the western setting here at The Old West Town . That's why I stayed here, I guess. It reminded me of our horse ranch in a way."

"Do you think you'll stay here now?" Sarah said. "Your father is gone, and Scully's has been sold to someone else. What is there left for you here?"

"I don't know if I want to stay on here at The Old West Town ," Lindsey said. "It needs so much improvement, and it's probably about to fold up, too—if the city has anything to say about it. I have the apartment rented out for a year, but I suppose I could get out of the lease. If I were to move somewhere else, would you come with me, Sarah? I mean, you are still obligated to help out your sister while her husband is gone and—"

"Yes, I'll come with you," Sarah said forcefully. "I didn't get involved with you this far to say good-bye. My sister will have to make do some other way. Now that she knows I'm gay, she probably figures I'd be a bad influence on her kids. And I probably am." She turned up her face and gave a little smile. "Deb could transfer me anywhere with the travel agency, if she thought it would help the agency. I don't think there would be a problem. So basically I have nothing holding me here in Laramie."

"I want you to come home with me and meet my mother," Lindsey said. "Right now."

Sarah nodded her head while she said, "All right. I've never been to your house."

When they arrived back at Lindsey's house, Lindsey took her by the arm and led her into the kitchen, where Leslie and Mattie were doing a final bit of cleaning up after all the guests from the funeral had left. Leslie excused herself, bowing her head while she wiped her hands on a tea towel and went into the living room. Lindsey looked after her with sadness.

"Mother, I'd like you to meet Sarah," she said. "Sarah, this is my mother, Mattie Hobbs."

Sarah and Mattie both reached out their hands at the same time. "I'm so happy to meet you, Sarah. I've been hoping all these years that my daughter would find someone who would capture her heart. It looks like you're the one. The only thing I would ask is that you both be true to each other. Don't let what happened to Hiram and me happen to you."

Sarah blushed, and then looked at Lindsey, who was grinning broadly. Mattie had known all along what had been happening in Lindsey's life even before they moved to Cheyenne. And now Lindsey and Sarah knew that Lindsey's mother immediately accepted their romance.

"Come and sit down for a little while. I need a break," Mattie said, wiping her brow with an apron. "I cleaned up after tons of people on the ranch, but I never dreamed I'd have to clean up after my husband's funeral!"

After a short visit, Lindsey drove Sarah back to her house. "I'll talk to you as soon as I can tomorrow," she said. "Daddy's will is going to be read in the morning, and then I'm taking mother to the airport to fly back to Seattle. I'll call you after that."

"I really like your mother, Lindsey," Sarah said.

"I thought you would. She likes you, too," Lindsey responded, reaching over for one more kiss before Sarah got out of the truck.

* * * * * *

Sarah walked into the kitchen with a smile on her face. Sylvia was just setting dinner on the table and the four kids were excitedly jabbering because their mother had cooked their favorite meal—homemade chili with biscuits—food they all liked. Sarah sat down at her place, noting that Sylvia had set a plate and utensils for her.

"What are you so happy about?" Sylvia said. "You took out of here like you were running from a fire or something."

"I went with Lindsey out to The Old West Town ," Sarah said simply, a dreamy-eyed expression on her face, "to watch the sun set. Then I went to meet her mother."

Sylvia just shook her head.

After they finished dinner and cleared the table, dinner, Sylvia beckoned to Sarah to follow her into the family room. They both sat down on the leather sofa.

"I have something important to tell you, Sarah. Rich called while you were sleeping this afternoon to tell me that he's coming back to Laramie. He's leaving the environmental study program. It just wasn't working out. He says wanting a divorce was a mistake and that he'd been caught up with some young college girl in the group and was flattered by the attention. She left him for a younger guy in Maracaibo—wherever that is."

Sarah remembered the delight in Sylvia's voice on the phone just as she was about to fall asleep earlier. "Why are you so excited about that?" she asked. "I mean, he was unfaithful to you. Do you think you could ever forgive him?"

She remembered her talk with Lindsey and thought, Of course, you can. I forgave Lindsey. What's the difference?

Sylvia ignored her questions. She figured her indiscretion with Will counterbalanced Rich's affair with that college girl, and called it even. Rich would never have to know about Will.

"We're going to sell the house when he gets back," Sylvia said. "And then we're moving back to Denver. He's going back to his old position at the university there. It recently became available again—but with a full professorship now. It will be better all around. I guess you can go back to Denver yourself when he gets back, because we won't need you to help me out anymore."

She's trying one last time to keep me away from Lindsey—or vice versa, Sarah thought.

"I won't be going back, Sylvia," Sarah said. "My place is here with Lindsey. And I'll be going with her wherever she goes."

"I thought that might be the case." She put her arms around Sarah. "I do so want you to be happy, kiddo," she said, with tears in her eyes.

"I am, Sylvia, I am—extremely happy," Sarah said, hugging her back.


CHAPTER SIXTY-FOUR – THE FUTURE (Wednesday, December 28 )

"A lot of things have happened since I saw you last, Sarah," Lindsey said. They had picked Sarah's things up at Sylvia's and had just arrived at Lindsey's house and were loading her things in the truck on top of Sarah's.

"That was only two days ago," Sarah said, lifting another load of Lindsey's clothing up into the bed of the truck. "But we haven't had a chance to talk, have we? Is your mother gone now?"

"Let's sit down for a minute," Lindsey said. She put some of her canvas paintings she was carrying into the truck, took Sarah by the hand and led her over to the porch, where they sat on the top step.

"Our attorney read daddy's will to the three of us yesterday morning. I was really surprised at what daddy had done. Mother said I would be. It seemed she also had a hand—unbeknownst to me—in making out the will. Daddy wanted it that way. He still loved her, you know."

"Why were you surprised?" Sarah asked.

"Daddy sold the ranch for a lot more than I realized. Mother had been getting a sum of money from him every month since she left him five years ago, and that will continue as long as she lives. He set up a trust fund for her through some wise investing. It's a very generous amount. He left Leslie a half-million dollars, and that should be enough to keep her going for the rest of her life, if she invests it wisely, like my father did. I'm sure she'll do that. But it was on the stipulation that she leaves Laramie and lives with mother in Seattle."

"Really? Why would he do that?" Sarah was amazed.

"My mother never even knew he put that in his will, but he knew Leslie better than anybody, and knew how much she loved the church, too. That's the reason Leslie never married. She thought it was better that she not marry, like the Apostle Paul in the Bible, so she could serve the Lord better. But daddy also knew that there was something in her that was different from him. He thought that spending time with her mother would be good for her—that maybe Mattie could instill a sense of softness in her so she wouldn't be so zealous in doing good no matter what—and no matter who it hurt. That's only gotten her into trouble. She could take care of mother when she got older, too, like she took care of daddy. It wouldn't be wise for Leslie to stay in Laramie, either, after what happened at the funeral."

She shook her head, remembering Leslie's unexpected outburst. "Most people in that church are not very forgiving. They wouldn't want her back in the church. I sent them both off to Seattle yesterday. Mother was okay with that. I'll take care of packing up Leslie's things that need to be shipped and disposing of the house."

She paused and looked at Sarah. "You can help me pack stuff, can't you?"

Not waiting for a reply, she went on, "The money after the sale of the house will go to both of them. As for me—and this is the really surprising part—he left me the rest of his estate. It amounts to several million dollars. Several million dollars , Sarah! Think of it!"

Sarah's mouth dropped open and her eyes widened.

Lindsey continued. "But it also has a stipulation, which surprised me even more. I never would have thought it of daddy. The stipulation is that I buy The Old West Town from the city and fix it up into a place that will be more of a tourist-friendly attraction."

"Oh, my God, Lindsey! Isn't that what you've wanted, sweetheart?" Sarah said, "To make it better?"

Lindsey turned to look at Sarah and took her by both hands now, excitement highlighting her next words. "Sarah, this means we can do anything we want to with it! And my daddy won't have a say in it at all. What an opportunity!"

Still holding Sarah's hands, she turned to look skyward, deep in thought. Then she put her thoughts into words.

"I've been making plans already, because I don't think the city would have a problem with selling The Old West Town to me. It's so dilapidated already that they'll probably be glad to get rid of it. I want to turn it into a big showplace for women tourists. I want us to bring women's tours here on a regular basis. We'll rely on your expertise for that, through your travel agency. I want to have a bar and grill where lesbians can come and eat and dance and hang out—maybe a karaoke-type place—still a western motif, of course. And a second fancy restaurant. And places where the women can relax and enjoy themselves in a western setting, like a spa and another casino, if Laramie gets that big casino that speculators are gambling on. Maybe eventually we'll put up a hotel or motel. We're going to call the place Cowgirls' Wild West Town . I've already decided on that." She looked at Sarah as she said those last words.

Sarah looked at her, smiling. Lindsey was still in control, and she wasn't about to interfere with that.

Lindsey continued. "I'm going to ask the girls who work at Scully's if they want to go in with me on this. I can afford to pay their wages while we're fixing the place up and constructing new buildings. They can help with inputting ideas—and do some work themselves if they want to. I think the bar and grill will be the first to be built new, and they'll all have a place to work then where they'll be comfortable. I'm sure they'll go for it. I think I can even persuade Stevie to come back as our gourmet chef for the same wages she's making at that swanky restaurant downtown. And I think I might put Brandy to work in charge of taking care of horses for—"

She paused in mid-sentence, as if gathering more thoughts, then started in again. "This is another idea! What would you think if we developed a dude ranch along with Cowgirls' Wild West Town ?"

Sarah pulled one of her hands away and placed it over Lindsey's mouth. She said, "We can discuss that and everything else when we get in the apartment, can't we, Lindsey? And you can daydream, too, all you want to then, but first things first. We still need to get moved." She was still smiling as Lindsey took her hand from her mouth and kissed it.

"Yeah. We'll have plenty of time to sit down and really think about what we're going to do, won't we?"

"All the time in the world, sweetheart," Sarah answered. She looked over at the truck. "Don't you think we have enough stuff loaded right now to run it over to the apartment?"

They covered the things in the truck with a tarp and drove the few short miles to the apartment and unloaded everything. Then Lindsey started out the door to go back to the truck and head out for another load.

"Aren't you coming?" she asked Sarah, who had sat down on the couch. Maybe Sarah wanted to stay here and put things away, as they had just brought things in and set them down everywhere and anywhere.

Sarah looked at her, desire in her eyes. "I noticed you bought some new sheets and blankets for the bed, and it's already made up. Do you want to try it out? That is, unless you don't want to mess up the bed—or maybe you're not up to it. We could always wait till tonight—"

She left the sentence dangling, got up from the couch and slowly walked over to Lindsey.

Lindsey took the hand that reached out to her. "Not up to it?" she said incredulously. "Baby, I'm always up to it! Come on, before we both change our minds."

"Fat chance of that ever happening," Sarah said, as she felt herself being pulled quickly into the bedroom. She wondered if this feverish pace of wanting to make love with Lindsey would ever wane.

Two hours later, they decided they better get back to Lindsey's house and pack up and move some more stuff before they were too exhausted from love-making to do any more. Lindsey had to work at Scully's tonight, too, but they had the whole future ahead of them now, with no interruptions.



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