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CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE – AND AFTERWARDS
"Would you like to join the church choir?" Lindsey asked unexpectedly as they neared the church. She glanced over at Sarah and kicked herself for asking, knowing what the answer would be. She knew she was moving too quickly, and Sarah's answer would reflect that. But she had to try.
"I don't think so, Lindsey," Sarah said, "but thanks for asking. Things have been rushing along too fast for me. I just joined the choir for the Christmas program, so I need to concentrate on that right now. Besides, I'm not much of a church goer, and I don't know if I would fit in."
She was hoping Lindsey would ask, but now she was backing down. She didn't want to be thrust into the limelight that soon. A church choir was definitely in the limelight, as every eye in the congregation would be focused on them when they sang.
Lindsey nodded, knowing where Sarah was coming from. She had been to church here only one time, and it was not long enough for people to get to know her. They would think it odd that she became a choir member so soon.
Lindsey pulled up alongside the curb where she had parked the Sunday before, a block away from the church, and they both walked back down to the church.
"Why do you park so far away?" Sarah asked.
"The parking lot at the church is really small, and my big truck takes up a lot of room. Sometimes I leave before the service is over, too, so I park where I can get out easy and quick."
"You don't stay for the full service?"
"Not unless the choir is needed for a closing number, like last Sunday when we had the communion service. Usually after the special song, I dismiss the choir members so they can go sit with their families for the remainder of the service. Sometimes I leave right afterwards, because I've heard my father's sermons a zillion times. Sometimes I stay. Depends on what kind of a mood I'm in that day."
Sylvia was standing outside waiting for her sister. Sarah noticed that the sidewalks around the church and elsewhere were completely free of snow, too, just as they'd been around the café. She learned later, when she asked Sylvia, that people who lived in Laramie prided themselves in clearing their sidewalks of snow as soon as possible after a snowfall—in order to avoid an ice buildup because of the long winter. There were few slackers.
Sarah followed her sister into the church and started down the stairs to Sunday School. Lindsey was right behind her and grabbed her by the arm before she took the first step.
"I need to stay up here and practice with the church choir before the service. I'll see you when the service starts. Sit up front." Then, with her hand still on Sarah's arm, she said, "Would you like to go somewhere after church is over?"
Sarah smiled at her and said, "I don't know, Lindsey. Let's wait and see. Okay?"
"All right," Lindsey replied, and released her arm. Boy, I'm batting a thousand today! She hung her coat on a peg in the vestibule and went to the front of the sanctuary. She barely noticed when some of the choir members greeted her as she walked up onto the platform. She answered them automatically.
Sarah was restless when she sat down next to Sylvia in Sunday School. She felt that Lindsey was getting too close to her too soon. Sarah had met her only eight days ago. Yet, was it too soon? She felt herself getting close to Lindsey, too, but her sister's warnings kept flashing through her mind. What if it was true that Lindsey had laid almost every other lesbian in town? What if that was all she was after with her—a quick fuck? She found it hard to believe, but Lindsey was coming on to her awfully fast. Still, after that initial kiss in Sarah's bedroom, Lindsey had not attempted anything with her—except holding her tightly and sensuously as they danced at Scully's . Plus that light kiss at Ms. Emma's table. So Sarah was more than a little distracted as she sat listening to the Sunday School lesson. As a result, Will's words went in one ear and out the other.
When Will asked her a question concerning the lesson, she sat there blankly and then shrugged her shoulders. Sylvia came to her rescue. "Sarah hasn't really had a chance to study the lesson, so maybe I could answer that question?" Will agreed, and Sylvia expounded on the question as fully as she thought was necessary before Will moved onto another section.
After the bell rang for the class to end, Sylvia told Sarah to go upstairs and find them both a seat—as she had done last Sunday. Sarah paused before she went up the steps, and watched her sister talking to Will again. She was standing close to him and nodding her head before she proceeded to the restroom. She wondered what was going on.
All of the kids came pouring out of the classrooms at the side of the main room of the basement and began sitting in the folding chairs. Sarah noted Leslie coming towards the stairway from her classroom where she taught the younger children. She hurried up the steps so she wouldn't have to talk to her, though she had no reason not to talk to her. She just didn't want to be reminded of how close she was getting to Lindsey by looking at someone who was an almost identical picture of her.
* * * * * *
After the choir sang their special number—before her father started preaching—Lindsey dismissed the choir members to go sit with their families. She came down and sat next to Sarah in the pew close to the front. Sylvia reluctantly scooted over so Lindsey would have room.
"That was a beautiful number the choir sung for a special," Sarah told Lindsey when the church service was over. They were standing at the door ready to exit the church. Sylvia was downstairs gathering up her kids.
"Thank you. Are you sorry now that you didn't come up and join us?" Lindsey responded.
"Just a little," Sarah said. "But I think I did the wise thing—till these people get to know me better."
"Well, Lindsey, I don't believe I've had the pleasure of meeting this young lady." The pastor came up to them, pulling on his long overcoat.
"Sarah, this is my father, the Reverend Hiram Hobbs," Lindsey said courteously. "Daddy, this is Sarah Davis, the lady I was telling you about who agreed to join our Christmas program. You remember? She's the sister of Sylvia Hammond, who's been coming for a couple of months with her four children." Her father's face had assumed a blank look.
"Oh, yes," Hiram said, coming out of his trance. "You're one of Will's new students in his Sunday School class." Sarah found her hand enclosed in a bulldog grip as Lindsey's father shook hands with her. He held on to her hand for a while, his eyes boring into hers as he spoke.
"Pleased to meet you. I hope you enjoyed the service today," he said. Then he let her hand go, still focused intently on her eyes. He was looking down at her, being that much taller than she was, and Sarah immediately felt intimidated by his overpowering presence.
She also didn't like what she saw in Hiram Hobbs's eyes, nor what she felt when he had gripped her hand. But she maintained her composure and replied that the choir was exceptional with their special number this morning. That was evidently not what Hiram Hobbs was hoping to hear, as he harrumphed and said he hoped the sermon was beneficial. Then with a nod to her, he went out the front door, stopping to shake hands with several other church members.
"So...that's your daddy," Sarah said, somewhat at a loss for words.
"Yeah." Lindsey didn't know what else to say, either. So she continued on another line. "I told you it would be a short sermon. Did you see how he faltered there a bit? Lack of sleep, sitting up all night with his shotgun." She chuckled as she remembered the night before.
Sylvia was coming up the stairs with all four kids in tow. She was arguing with the boys, who wanted to go home with two older teens who had invited them to a birthday party that afternoon.
"You don't have a present, and I don't know those boys, so there's no way on God's green earth that you're going with them. That's final! " Sylvia said with a louder-than-usual voice.
"But mom—" they both whined.
"I said that's final! And I don't want to hear another word about it."
Sylvia hurriedly made them get their coats on, while she helped the twin girls, and then started out the door. She turned to Sarah. "Are you coming, Sarah?" she asked, impatiently.
Sarah looked at Lindsey and then back to Sylvia, and said, "Lindsey brought me. She'll take me home." She looked back again at Lindsey, who was smiling.
Sylvia glared at her for a minute and then turned her glare on Lindsey. "Whatever," she finally said, rolling her eyes and throwing up her hands. She herded the kids out to the car.
"Your sister really doesn't like me, does she?" Lindsey said.
"She thinks you're a bad influence on me, because she believes some rumors that she's heard about you...and about Scully's ," Sarah said. Too late, she realized she had dropped a bombshell on Lindsey. Lindsey's smile vanished.
"What do you mean? What kind of rumors?" she asked Sarah, looking intently at her. She reached out, took her by the arm and led her over to a corner away from the door. "What kind of rumors?" she repeated, holding Sarah's arm tighter.
"Lindsey, I don't think we should talk about this inside the church. Someone might overhear us. Can't we go out to the truck?" Sarah pleaded, looking down at her arm. Lindsey was hurting her. Lindsey's sudden change of attitude frightened her.
"Yes, of course." Lindsey relaxed her grip then and let go of Sarah's arm. She said, "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have reacted the way I did. I didn't mean to hurt you." She was apologizing once again to Sarah, and her face relaxed when she realized she had been scowling at her.
"That's okay," Sarah replied softly. "Come on, let's go."
Sarah linked her arm in Lindsey's when they got outside the church, as it was the most natural thing for her to do. She never stopped to notice how people were staring at them walking arm in arm down the street. She would have done the same thing in Denver—linked arms with another female friend—and people in that city probably wouldn't have given it a second thought. She had not reckoned that the members of this church would view things so differently, and that she might actually be fueling the rumors she had heard from Sylvia.
Lindsey reached over with her other hand and touched Sarah's arm gently as she turned and glanced at her. "Are you all right?" she said. "I am so sorry—"
"Yes, I'm fine, Lindsey," Sarah replied. She smiled slightly, but clutched Lindsey's arm even tighter. By this gesture, she was reassuring herself—and Lindsey—that everything was all right. Lindsey seemed to be back to her former self, but had looked like she was about to cry when she had turned toward her just now.
"Thank you," Lindsey said back to her, looking down at the sidewalk. A single tear threaded its way down her cheek.
"For what?" Sarah questioned.
"Just for being you." She held Sarah's arm close to her side as they walked to the truck.
After the truck warmed up, Lindsey took off quickly down the main road out of town. Sarah didn't bring up the subject of rumors again, and Lindsey never asked.
CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX – THE INCIDENT
"Where are we going?" Sarah asked, glad that Lindsey wasn't taking her straight home.
"Out to The Old West Town ," Lindsey said. "I need to take care of the week's business there. That's the main reason I don't stay for the church service any longer than I have to. I wouldn't have stayed today if you hadn't been there. Believe it or not, there are still tourists who come to visit The Old West Town , even in the snow. We haven't made too much money this month so far. But as it gets closer to Christmas, I think maybe we'll haul in a little more."
When Sarah didn't say anything, Lindsey continued. "I leave Deanna in charge at the ticket and information counter when I'm not able to be there—and she normally works the weekends. I work there on the weekdays, unless she needs help. But I was there only three days last week. Deanna was there on Thursday to cover for me when we went to Cheyenne. It was late when we got back to Laramie, so I didn't bother to go in to work at all that day." She turned and smiled at Sarah again.
Sarah gave out a deep sigh and remembered how she and Lindsey had gone to Cheyenne together, and the snowstorm came. Then they went to lunch together the next day—Friday. Since Lindsey never said anything to her, she never knew that Lindsey even worked at The Old West Town until they were already at Scully's for lunch. She reflected back and realized she really didn't know much about Lindsey! They had never talked deeply about anything . But she was sure some of the blame for Lindsey not going to work—especially last Friday—could be attributed to the snowstorm, and the thought relieved her of some of the guilt she was feeling.
That was verified when Lindsey continued light-heartedly, "Deanna stayed home on Friday, too, because of the snowstorm. I doubt there were any tourists out there that day. But maybe some came on Saturday. I never thought to check while we were there for practice."
"Do you always take care of The Old West Town' s business end on Sunday?" Sarah asked.
"Yes. Since I work Monday through Friday, it's kind of hard to be watching the counter and selling tickets and souvenirs and working on the finance ledger at the same time. Plus, I work some nights at Scully's , so I can't stay after The Old West Town shuts down for the day. It's easier for me to come on Sunday when Deanna is there."
"Has your father always been a minister?" Sarah was curious, as she thought Lindsey's attitude toward church services was somewhat flippant. Not entirely disrespectful, that is, but she gave Sarah the impression that she just didn't care much for the services outside of the choir.
"We used to own a ranch outside of Cheyenne," Lindsey said. "Raised horses mostly. Then my father 'found the Lord,' as he said. He sold the ranch and everything, and we moved into town. He took some classes, got a local preacher's license and started preaching. That was ten years ago. He's been preaching ever since. He had a nice growing congregation there in Cheyenne. We moved to Laramie five years ago, after my mother left him." She looked sideways at Sarah for a reaction. Then she said, "In case you're wondering, that's a long story. Too long to go into right now."
"So what kind of work did you do after your father sold the ranch?" Sarah was really curious now.
"Ranching—raising horses— was work. Hard work," Lindsey said. "But daddy made a small fortune when he sold the ranch, and neither my sister nor I had to work. We were twenty-five years old then, and ranching was all we'd ever known. I wanted to become a horse trainer, because I've always loved horses—loved just being around them. But I guess I didn't want it badly enough. When we moved into town, daddy insisted that we focus our attention on the church and its activities. Leslie has taken to it more than I have. I stay in the church only because of the music. Then we moved to Laramie."
"Didn't you do any other kind of work except ranching before you came to Laramie?" Sarah asked. "What did you do in Cheyenne besides focus on the church?"
The city girl that she was, Sarah couldn't imagine anyone not holding down a full-time job like she did—or even a part-time job—if they lived in any kind of a city. And Cheyenne was pretty large. Surely, Lindsey had done some kind of work there, didn't she?
"Whoops," Lindsey said. "We're here." She really didn't want to go into what she had been doing after her father sold the ranch and they moved into the city limits of Cheyenne. She was glad they arrived at The Old West Town so she wouldn't have to talk about it. She wanted to forget it. That was getting harder to do since she'd met Sarah. She knew she'd have to tell her at some time in the future, and dreaded it.
They pulled up and parked behind the outdoor stage again—Lindsey's regular parking place. The snow was beginning to melt, and as they walked into the Visitor and Information Center, Lindsey noticed numerous wet tracks across the concrete floor.
"Looks like we have some visitors today," she said to Deanna, who was behind the counter. "Isn't it amazing how this place keeps drawing people to it even in the wintertime?"
"Hi, Lindsey," Deanna said. "Actually, there are quite a few people here right now. A bus with some tourists—all men, about twenty of them—were dropped off here a few minutes ago. The driver left to fill up the gas tank. Said he'd be back in about an hour."
"Deanna, this is a friend of mine, Sarah Davis. Sarah, this is Deanna, the most reliable person on the whole planet. Her main calling in life is keeping The Old West Town open."
"Oh, go on, Lindsey," Deanna said, joshing with her. "You know I have to make a living too. The more I can work here, the more money I make. Right? Pleased to meet you, Sarah." She grasped Sarah's hand tightly in a warm handshake. "You were here the other day, weren't you? I seem to remember your face." Sarah nodded.
Lindsey and Deanna good-naturedly bantered back and forth for a few minutes while Sarah roamed around the Visitor Center looking at different things depicting life in the old west in the mid-1800s. On the far wall, a master plan of the town was displayed, with names of all the old-time establishments and showing the importance of each one in the development of an authentic western town. Sarah noticed on the map that the church was right in the middle of the town.
"Do you stay open at night, too?" Sarah asked, turning around to Lindsey, who had come up behind her.
"No. We close at dusk in order to give the tourists a chance to leave before it gets dark," Lindsey explained. "The wooden sidewalks and dirt street can be kind of tricky when you can't see where you're going. We don't want a lawsuit on our hands. We have a few lights on the walkway so people can find their way back to the Visitor Center when it starts to get dark. That's enough light to see by after our Christmas choir practice here, too. But we don't have lights in any of the buildings except the church. So we close up early in the winter and stay open later in the summer. Come on, I'll show you around a bit before I take care of business. You didn't see all of it the first day you were here, did you—when you missed the bus?"
Without waiting for Sarah's response, Lindsey put on an official-looking badge and then took her by the hand and led her out the door to The Old West Town complex. She noted with approval that Herman had finished shoveling all the sidewalks, and the snow was piled in the street. As long as the sidewalks were clear, people wouldn't wander off elsewhere because the snow was too deep and acted as a barrier to other exploration. She also noted the group of male tourists spreading out over the town, going in one building after another, seeming to hurry through before the tour bus came back.
If it were summertime, there would be groups of vendors on the sidewalks and in the street, giving demonstrations and selling their wares and crafts to tourists—anything from beaded necklaces, to jars of aromatherapy, to cattle skulls and belts fashioned from rattlesnake skins. But in the wintertime, because there was so much snow, there was nothing but the old buildings to go in and out of, plus browsing in the souvenir shop in the Visitor Center. The insides of the buildings were mere shadows of what they would have been if this had been a real western town. They were sparsely furnished.
The church was the exception, though. It was filled with pews, a pulpit and all the accessories a real church would have. Hiram Hobbs made sure the furnishings in there were adequate.
It was with dismay that Lindsey saw a group of three or four men carrying the Christmas music under their arms as they came out of the church. Several others were holding candles and coffee cups and various other items. She dropped Sarah's hand and rushed over to them before they could go down the sidewalk back to the Visitor Center. Sarah followed her.
"Hey! What do you think you're doing?' she hollered, running up to the first man who had some of the Christmas music. "That stuff belongs to The Old West Town . If you want to buy something, there are souvenirs and other things in the Visitor Center. Put those things back!"
The man looked at her and noticed her official badge, then sheepishly proceeded to take the things back into the church. Some other men were uttering apologies. One person mumbled, "I thought it was strange that there weren't any price tags on these things." Some of the other men wondered why the church was so elaborately furnished, when the other buildings were so stark and relatively bare. Lindsey explained that they were practicing for a Christmas program in the church, and would be presenting it in two weeks here in The Old West Town . They had been fixing the church up for that.
Lindsey determined right then and there that she would have to keep the church locked up during the day from now on, as well as at night, until Christmas was over—to ensure nothing was stolen. She didn't buy into their stories about wanting to pay for the items. She knew outright thievery when she saw it. After Christmas, any loose items such as coffee cups and candles would be removed and the only things that were nailed down would remain—like the pews.
That's the reason they never put much in the way of furnishing and accessories in the other buildings—even if they could have afforded it. They thought things might eventually get ripped off when no one was watching. She had seen the old Ghost Town in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and the rooms were barricaded off by chicken wire so tourists couldn't take or even touch anything. She didn't want to resort to those measures. She wanted to keep The Old West Town as authentic as possible. They had been lucky up until today. This was the first such incidence of blatant stealing that had occurred since Lindsey began managing the place.
"Wait here for me, Sarah," Lindsey said quietly. "I'll be back shortly." Sarah sat down on the wooden bench in front of the church.
Lindsey said loudly to the men standing around, "I'll accompany you fine gentlemen back to wait for your tour bus now."
She stayed inside the Visitor Center with the tourists until their bus came back, and then made sure they all got back on without any hidden items. She thought she might have to hire a security guard one of these days to be outside with tourists during the day, a presence that might put a stop to pilfering. She knew the town of Laramie would probably refuse her request because they didn't have any money for that kind of security. For now, however, they would just have to be more careful. She gave instructions to Deanna to keep a close eye on future tourists who happened to stop by. Deanna said she'd take care of it—not to worry about a thing with her on the job!
Lindsey went back outside, still fuming because of the tourists who had tried to steal things. She calmed down and wiped the anger off her face as she approached Sarah.
CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN – SIDETRACKED
Sarah got up from the bench when Lindsey approached. They grasped hands and went inside the church. When the tourists brought the things back into the church that they had tried to steal, they'd set them down any old place, and they were scattered all over.
"Want to help me put these things back where they belong?" Lindsey asked.
"Sure. I guess if we don't do it, it won't get done, will it?" Sarah responded.
"That's about it," Lindsey said, nodding her head.
They worked quietly and efficiently. Lindsey left Sarah in charge of putting the music back on the pews and the coffee cups in the little room off the main sanctuary, while she put the candles and other things back where they belonged. She looked around for her conductor's stand and baton, and didn't see them anywhere. Damn! she thought. When were those stolen? We were just here yesterday afternoon.
"Sarah, is my music stand and baton back here?" she asked, walking into the little room where Sarah was putting the last of the cups on a shelf.
"Yes, it's over there in the corner," she said pointing.
"Whew," Lindsey sighed with relief. "I thought someone walked off with it."
"Do you have a lot of things stolen from The Old West Town ?" Sarah asked. "I mean, other than today?"
"Not really. But that's only because we don't ordinarily leave things lying around that people would want to steal. I mean, who would want a battered and cracked old wooden bucket?"
"An antique dealer?" Sarah offered.
"Point taken. But most people who come here understand that these types of things belong to the town, and they don't disturb anything. They like shiny new things, like our coffee cups and beautiful Christmas music!"
She knew she was being sarcastic because she was still upset with those fellows. She was glad she and Sarah had appeared on the scene when they did, or she would have come to work the next day and found everything gone!
Hired help at The Old West Town was minimal in the winter, with Deanna and Herman the only steady year-round employees besides Lindsey. If they had advance notice that a large group of tourists were coming through, Lindsey would call in a couple of women who worked there during the summer months. They could keep an eye on the people while they were touring the town and answer their questions. Otherwise, the tourists roamed at will and unsupervised through the town. There wasn't much need for additional help. Deanna was good at offering information and Herman was good at maintenance. The city couldn't afford more permanent winter employees. They barely paid a living wage for the three they had. Lindsey lived at home, Deanna lived with her mother and Herman owned his home, so at least none of them had to worry about paying rent or making mortgage payments.
Sarah and Lindsey made sure that all the things in the small room were secure where they belonged. As they turned to go out the door of the room at the same time, they collided with each other. Sarah started to resist the bolt of electricity that passed between them, but then looked into Lindsey's eyes and saw want written all over them. She was powerless to stop herself, and reached up and put her arms around Lindsey's neck, guiding her head towards her. As their lips met, Sarah opened her mouth slightly and began offering her tongue. Lindsey did the same, wrapping her arms around Sarah as they kissed with abandon. Lindsey had seen the same desire in Sarah's eyes and never hesitated when Sarah reached out for her. She completely forgot her promise that it wouldn't happen again.
Sarah broke away slightly, whispering breathlessly, "We shouldn't be doing this, Lindsey. We barely know each other."
Lindsey whispered back, between kissing her lips repeatedly, "I know. But I like it. Don't you?"
"Oh, God, yes." Sarah tightened her arms around Lindsey's neck, and before she connected fully with her mouth again, she gasped, "Why didn't we do this before?"
The question was left unanswered as their tongues began to engage passionately. Lindsey reached inside Sarah's coat and placed her hand on one of Sarah's breasts. She began stroking and squeezing gently through Sarah's sweater. Sarah caught her breath, her arousal heightening, thinking that Lindsey was definitely not wasting any time! She started to unbutton Lindsey's coat.
"Hey, is anybody here?" Herman's voice came booming through the sanctuary. Lindsey and Sarah abruptly broke apart.
"Oh, God," Lindsey said. She lowered her hands to her sides, making fists as she tried to calm her rising desire.
Sarah pulled her coat back around herself, turned and walked out through the door of the small room into the sanctuary—Lindsey following—as if nothing had happened. It was a good thing Herman appeared when he did. No telling what they might have been doing had he entered the church five minutes later!
"Deanna sent me down here to see if you needed any help," Herman said. "She told me what happened."
"Thanks, Herman, but we just finished putting things back where they belong," Lindsey said. She was still somewhat breathless and hoped Herman wouldn't notice. "Do me a favor, will you? Every now and then, when you're out here, could you check to make sure the church door and the door to the little room back here are both locked up tight?"
"Sure thing. It's a shame that we have to take these kinds of steps, isn't it?" He shook his head at the boldness of tourists stealing things from the town right in plain sight!
"You have a key, don't you?"
"Yep. This key will fit," he said, drawing an old-time skeleton key out of the pocket of his overalls. Lindsey had a duplicate of the key—as did Deanna. "But folks don't need to know that the buildings with doors that lock all take the same key." He chuckled.
Herman was a good man to have around The Old West Town . He was always reliable, just like Deanna. He was 50 years old, widowed, a head that was almost bald with a graying fringe around it. He always wore overalls—summer or winter. Since it was winter now, he wore brown overalls that were thickly lined for warmth. A woolen hat covered his bald head.
"Can I count on you to lock up right now after we leave?" Lindsey asked.
"Yep. I gotcha covered," Herman said, nodding his head.
Lindsey took Sarah's hand, walked out of the church and hurried down the sidewalk toward the Visitor and Information Center. Sarah was almost running to stay up with Lindsey.
"Where are we going in such a hurry, Lindsey?" Sarah asked. "Aren't you going to walk around with me to see the rest of the town?"
"Stay with me, beautiful," Lindsey replied. Touring the rest of the town was the last thing on her mind.
They went into the Visitor Center and started to go out the exit door to the truck when Deanna hollered to Lindsey, "Aren't you going to do the business books for the week?"
"Oh, damn," Lindsey said. She stopped in mid-stride, turned and walked back to the counter, Sarah still in tow. "I guess I should, shouldn't I? That's why I'm here, isn't it?"
The questions were rhetorical, as she didn't expect Deanna to answer. Lindsey was thoroughly befuddled by then, knowing she wanted to leave with Sarah, but also knowing she had to attend to her job. Then she turned to Sarah.
"Could you wait for me while I do a quick run-through with the books?" she asked.
"Of course," Sarah said. "I can't go anywhere, anyway. You're driving !" She laughed, as Lindsey—also laughing—let go of her hand. "I'll just sit over on that bench in the corner and look at some of the colorful brochures. You have a lot of them." She had spied a whole rack filled with maps and pamphlets of places to visit and things to do in the state of Wyoming—not just in the town of Laramie.
Lindsey went behind the counter to sit at a desk in a corner that was partitioned off from the rest of the room. She couldn't see Sarah from where she was sitting, but knew Sarah wouldn't be going anywhere without her. As she retrieved the ledger from the small safe, her mind refused to function on business matters. Her sexual arousal—which had not yet calmed down—took over her body. All she could think of was Sarah...Sarah...Sarah, and ‘getting the hell out of Dodge'—in a manner of speaking—so she could be alone with Sarah. She was trying to deliberately force herself to calm down, but wasn't making much progress.
"Deanna, is there some coffee or something around here somewhere?" she called out and then came back around to the open counter.
"Sure, honey, right over there at the end of the counter. Remember our new-fangled doodad we got last week? I turned it on when I first came in this morning."
Lindsey had forgotten about it. It was so unusual for the city of Laramie to purchase anything new for the western town. They evidently thought this newest addition might help attract tourists.
She walked over to where Deanna pointed to the new addition in the Visitor Center in the form of an ultra-modern coffee stop for tourists. It had everything imaginable that a person could want during a cold winter day: regular coffee, de-caf, coffee with cream, hot chocolate and plain hot water for tea or cider—all for pushing a button or two. She filled two Styrofoam cups with black coffee and sat down by Sarah.
"Would you like a cup?" she offered. She thought Sarah would be as rattled as she was.
"Where did you get this?" Sarah asked, surprised. "I don't remember seeing anywhere to get coffee when I was here the first time," She looked in the direction Lindsey was pointing.
"We just had it installed last week. Here," Lindsey said, handing her the coffee. "It's black like you take it."
"Thank you, Lindsey," Sarah said, her hand lingering over Lindsey's as she took the cup from her. "You seem to know just what I need at just the right time." She smiled and put her other hand on Lindsey's arm. "I'm sorry we were interrupted," she whispered.
"Me, too," replied Lindsey, looking wantonly into her eyes. "I just wish I didn't have to stay and work on these books. But I run a business here, and that comes with the territory."
"You go ahead," Sarah said. "I'll be all right." She started to bring the cup to her lips. "Say, would you like to share the rest of the cinnamon roll I had for breakfast? It would really go good with this delicious coffee."
"That's a great idea," Lindsey said enthusiastically. She looked over at Deanna. "Maybe Deanna would like a part of it, too. Wait here. I'll go get it out of the truck."
She was gone only an instant, and Deanna was more than happy to share in one of Rita's delicious cinnamon rolls. She was ready to take a coffee break herself after the hectic episode with those male tourists.
Lindsey left Sarah after they finished their coffee and cinnamon roll. She went back to the business on the other side of the partition. She was able to function more clearly now, knowing that Sarah felt the same way about Herman's interruption as she did. They would have time to be alone after she took care of business. It shouldn't take her long. They didn't have many visitors this week—aside from the busload that just left—so sales of souvenir items, as well as tickets, were slow.
She really hoped business would pick up, though. There was always the possibility the city of Laramie would close down The Old West Town if things didn't improve. Then she would be out of a job here. She wished there were some way they could attract more tourists to this spot. The town reminded her of Buckskin Joe's in Colorado, a similar realistic imitation of a western town which drew in plenty of tourists. They, however, had other attractions, such as actors performing fake cowboy shootouts in the street, horseback rides, carriage rides, magic shows and a restaurant right in the town itself. In addition, they had many more old buildings and lots of animals.
She had heard, though, that the contents inside their buildings were also behind wire and glass. It just goes to show you, Lindsey mused, that you can't trust a lot of people. You learn through experience.
Nevertheless, she envisioned The Old West Town with a setup similar to Buckskin Joe's , and as she worked on the ledger, her mind wandered as she thought of the possibilities—if only there were more money available to improve the place.
CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT – SPARRING GROUND
Sarah's cell phone started ringing just as she took the last sip of her coffee. She set her empty cup down on the bench and pulled the phone out of her coat pocket, wondering who was calling her. She didn't know anybody in Laramie, but it might be Deb. She flipped it open to answer and heard Sylvia's voice.
"Sarah? Where are you?" Sylvia asked. She sounded distressed.
"I'm at The Old West Town with Lindsey," Sarah answered. "Is that why you called? To find out where I was?"
"I need you at home right away, kiddo," Sylvia said, frantically. "Lori fell down and hit her head, and she's bleeding…and it's a huge gash…and I need to get her to the hospital emergency room…and I need you here to watch the other kids because I can't take them all, and—"
Sylvia was talking so fast with no break that Sarah stopped her in midstream before she finished. "Wait, wait, wait...don't talk so fast," Sarah said. "You say Lori fell and cut her head open?"
"Yes," Sylvia responded, crying now. "Please come home," she pleaded.
"Okay," Sarah said, calming down. "I'll be there as soon as I can. Go ahead and take her to emergency. I should be home in fifteen minutes."
"God, Sarah. I can't leave the other kids alone! I'll wait for you to get here. Hurry! "
Sylvia hung up before Sarah could tell her that she didn't have a problem leaving the kids alone for hours and hours in the evening while she was off gallivanting all over or whatever it was she did! Her sister was definitely on edge, and it would have done no good to start arguing with her. Sylvia needed her.
Sarah walked calmly over to where Lindsey was working. She peeked behind the partition, not wanting to interrupt.
"Lindsey," she said softly.
Lindsey looked up with a start, as she never expected anyone to creep up on her unawares. Her mind had been buried deep into financial figures in the business ledger.
"Sarah!" she blurted out. "What's wrong?" She saw the concern on Sarah's face.
"Lindsey, could you please take me home—right now?" She started crying. "Sylvia's girl Lori busted her head open, and it looks pretty bad. Sylvia needs me there to take care of the other kids while she takes her to the hospital." She put her hands over her face, trying to cover up her tears. "I'm so sorry," she sobbed.
"Hey, there's nothing to be sorry about. Of course, I'll run you home." She got up from the desk and put her arms around Sarah. "Don't cry. We'll leave right now. Wait here."
Lindsey went to the counter and told Deanna that she had to take Sarah home, but she would be back shortly to finish up with the books.
Sarah had stopped crying before they got in the truck. She was silent all the way home, looking straight ahead almost without blinking. Lindsey looked over at her once or twice, but Sarah was lost in her thoughts.
As they pulled up into the driveway to the edge of the walk, Sarah turned to Lindsey to say thank you, and Lindsey pulled her close and kissed her gently, lingering over her lips, then said, "Call me later when things settle down, would you?"
Sarah smiled and ran her fingers over Lindsey's lips. "I will." She tried to get out of the truck as graciously as she could and finally just jumped down into the snow rather than trying to find solid ground underneath it. She waved as Lindsey backed down the driveway.
Then she looked up to see her sister looking out the big bay window of the family room as she turned to go into the house.
Oh, God, Sylvia was thinking as she saw her sister and Lindsey kissing. I just knew something was going to happen. My poor baby sister. But I can't think about that now.
She told Lori to get up out of the recliner where she had sat her temporarily while she waited for Sarah.
As Sarah walked into the kitchen, she noted her sister's hand clutched over a towel at Lori's forehead.
Sylvia hurried with her daughter into the garage, saying over her shoulder, "I'll be back as soon as I can. I'll call and let you know what's going on."
Sarah didn't even have a chance to say hello.
* * * * * *
The doorbell rang. Sarah had been home for an hour. She'd gotten the boys and Lilly settled down after Sylvia left. Lilly was in the girls' bedroom playing and the boys were quietly watching TV in the family room. She opened the door, surprised to see Lindsey standing there. She let her in, waiting for her to say something.
"I thought I'd drop by and keep you company." Lindsey added, by way of explanation. "You hadn't called me. I was concerned." She looked at Sarah expectantly.
Sarah said, "Sylvia's not back yet, and she hasn't called home, either."
"Are you worried?" Lindsey asked, following her into the kitchen, where Sarah proceeded to make a pot of coffee.
"I suppose I should be," Sarah replied, "but knowing my sister, it would be just like her to forget that I'm here with her other kids and not call till something jogs her memory into realizing where she is and that she said she would call."
"Doesn't sound like she's too responsible," Lindsey noted.
"She just doesn't think things through from time to time," Sarah said. "When we got back from Cheyenne the other day, Sylvia didn't get home till late that night. I confronted her about it the next morning, asking her what she would have done if we had been stranded in Cheyenne. How could she leave the kids alone that long? She said she does it once in a while—that the boys have her cell phone number if they need to reach her. Then on Wednesday, she said she had to work late, too, and went to dinner with a friend afterwards. Lindsey, what if she hadn't been home right now , when Lori cut her head open? I told her to go ahead and take Lori to the hospital and leave the other kids alone for the fifteen minutes it would take me to get here, but she refused to do it. Why? She would have done it at other times."
She turned to look at Lindsey, who was still standing there. "You may as well take your coat off and sit down," she said. "I have no idea how long Sylvia will be."
Lindsey threw her heavy coat over a chair and sat down backwards in another chair with her arms draped over the back of the chair. Her eyes followed Sarah. She had just let Sarah talk, not knowing how to respond and not wanting to interrupt, either.
While the coffee was brewing, Sarah got two cups out of the cupboard and set them on the counter next to the coffee maker. Then she turned and leaned against the counter with her arms folded, waiting for the coffee to finish dripping.
"I'm worried about her, Lindsey," Sarah continued. "I think there's something going on that she's not telling me."
"I think maybe she's having an affair," Sarah said bluntly.
"An affair? Your sister? With whom?" Lindsey couldn't believe Sarah's staid older sister was capable of having an affair. She didn't seem to be the type, especially with four young children.
"Well, that's what I think . But I don't have any hard evidence of that. It's just a hunch."
"A hunch based on what?"
Sarah poured the coffee, brought the cups over to the table and sat down. Lindsey turned around the other way in her chair and leaned her elbows on the table as she picked up her cup and took a sip.
"I've seen her talking to that adult Sunday School teacher twice," Sarah responded, "and they were kind of close together and whispering. Will—is that his name?—had his hand on her arm as he talked into her ear. The first time I saw that was the first Sunday I came to church. Then on Friday, I overheard her say to herself that because of the storm she couldn't go into work or meet so-and-so. I didn't catch the name because she started the dishwasher going at the same time. She kept saying 'damn'. But I think it was Will she was going to meet. Then just this morning in Sunday School, she and Will were talking close together again after class."
"Well, that's not much evidence of anything, is it? Nah. Not Will. Will knows everybody in his class. I don't find it unusual that he would talk to Sylvia after class. He talks to a lot of people."
"But you should have seen the way their eyes met during the class!" Sarah said emphatically.
"You mean...like ours ?" She looked at Sarah humorously.
Sarah stared back at her. "Well...yeah...if you get right down to the nitty-gritty," she said. "Just like our eyes meet."
She started to melt inside as she realized her eyes and Lindsey's were locked together again and both of them were starting to breathe faster. She touched her own lips lightly with her fingers and then forcibly turned away and got up to check on the kids in the family room.
Lindsey watched her walk away and then took another gulp of her coffee. Damn good coffee , she thought, forcing herself to think of something else. She was trying to forget the desire—matching her own—that she saw in Sarah's eyes.
She picked up her coffee cup—and Sarah's—and went into the family room. Sarah had sat down on the leather sofa and was watching the Disney Channel with the kids. Lindsey sat down next to her. "You forgot this," she said, handing her the cup of coffee. The kids never noticed she was there.
"Thank you," Sarah said, looking at Lindsey. "I'm always saying thank you, aren't I?"
"And I'm always saying I'm sorry," Lindsey replied under her breath.
They heard the garage door open and listened as Sylvia's car pulled in and the door closed. The back door opened, and Sylvia came in with Lori, who was sporting a bandage over her forehead and looking miserable. A sucker from the doctor was in her mouth.
Sylvia spotted them all in the family room. "I'll be right there," she said. "I need to put Lori down for a nap." In a few minutes, she was back. She went into the kitchen, poured herself a cup of coffee and came to sit down beside Sarah.
"What's the verdict?" Sarah asked.
"She had to have ten stitches," Sylvia said. "The doctor said she has a slight concussion and not to let her sleep more than two hours at a time for a day or so. But other than that, not that serious. Bed rest, he said, would do more good than anything else."
She looked over at Lindsey in the recliner. "How long have you been here?" she asked scathingly.
Lindsey took the hint and got up. "Actually, I had some business to take care of after I dropped Sarah off. I've only been here a few minutes. I thought Sarah might need some moral support. But I really need to go now. I have choir practice before the prayer meeting tonight."
Sarah took Lindsey's cup and walked into the kitchen to get her coat, leaving her sister on the couch watching TV with the kids. Lindsey followed.
"I'm sorry my sister doesn't like you. I'll see you another time soon, won't I?" Sarah whispered, handing Lindsey her coat.
"You can count on that," Lindsey said, squeezing her arm. She leaned over and lightly kissed her. "I'll call you." She went out the front door to her truck, which she had parked on the street.Sarah watched Lindsey drive away, anger toward her sister beginning to build as she marched back into the family room.
To Be Continued...
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