Carole Mortenson



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"That wasn't very nice of you, Sylvia," Sarah said, confronting her sister. She was talking low so the kids wouldn't hear. She sat down and picked up her cup of coffee.

"What wasn't very nice?" Sylvia asked, looking innocently at her.

"You know exactly what I mean. I know you don't like Lindsey, but you didn't have to make it so obvious." Sarah was getting revved up to have a good argument. Her voice rose to the occasion, getting louder.

"I saw her kissing you in her truck when she dropped you off earlier," Sylvia said with emphasis on the word saw . Her voice was also getting louder. "Why do you think I don't like her? She's trying to pull the wool over your eyes, Sarah. I told you what kind of a woman she is, and you're falling for it."

"Well, I saw Mr. What's-his-name—Will—whispering in your ear so close this morning after Sunday School that he may as well have been kissing you," Sarah retorted.

"What?" Sylvia's mouth dropped open, aghast at what Sarah just said.

"You heard me, dear sister," Sarah said, her voice rising even more. "You've got no room to talk! You think I don't know you're having an affair? Come on, Sylvia. Get real. You can't keep something like that a secret for very long. Not in that church."

"Well, you can't keep something like walking arm-in-arm down the street with someone like Lindsey a secret, either!" Sylvia stood up and started walking back to the kitchen. "And you don't know what you're talking about!" were her final words. Sarah heard the microwave open and then slam shut.

"Oh, yes, I do!" Sarah shouted back. "You just admitted it! So there!"

She got up, also, and went into the kitchen, put her coffee cup on the counter and then stomped up the stairs to her room and slammed the door shut. She heard her sister through the closed door as Sylvia yelled to the kids, "Turn down the damn TV!"

The boys had turned up the volume on the TV in the family room so that it was loud enough to drown out the confrontation between their mother and their aunt. The kids were accustomed to their mother arguing with their dad when he was home.

Sarah threw herself on her bed and grabbed up the book she had been reading. She read a page or so and then threw the book across the room, hitting her closet door. Someone must have told Sylvia about Lindsey and her walking arm-in-arm after the worship service, because her sister had already gone home when they both came out of the church. Who would do such a despicable thing? Was it the same person who was spreading rumors about Lindsey—and about Scully's ?

She buried her head in her pillow and sobbed, thinking of how much she wanted to be with Lindsey. She knew at the same time, if she gave in to her feelings, that Sylvia would know what was going on. She would know Sarah was a lesbian, and Sarah couldn't deal with that right now. She was especially vulnerable since she didn't know Lindsey very well. Maybe the rumors Sylvia had told her were actually true. She made up her mind that she would talk to Lindsey when the opportunity came around again. She would make an opportunity.

She finally fell asleep and woke up shivering a short while later. She had been lying on top of the covers. She got up and took a hot shower, as hot as she could stand it—sighing deeply when it sent a rush of warmth through her. Then she pulled on some sweats and came downstairs where Sylvia was cooking dinner.

"I'm sorry," she said, coming up behind Sylvia standing at the stove. She wrapped her arms around her. "That was unfair of me."

"Oh, sweetie," Sylvia said, "I'm sorry, too. I just don't know what came over me." She turned and hugged Sarah back. "Truce?" She raised her eyebrows.

"Truce," Sarah answered. "Is there anything I can do to help with dinner?"

"Sure. You can set the table if you want." As Sarah pulled dishes out of the cupboard, Sylvia looked with concern at her. How could she convince her that Lindsey was no good for her? Maybe—just maybe—she had been seeing things. Had Lindsey actually kissed Sarah, or did she just think she saw Lindsey kiss her? Maybe it was her overactive imagination, as she had been very distraught with her daughter's injury at the time.

She hoped Sarah wouldn't bring up the subject of Will again. She had hurried to the store where she worked right after Sarah had rung her cell phone yesterday afternoon wondering where she was. She was supposed to have been home by noon, and she knew Lindsey was picking her sister up for the Christmas practice. Nevertheless, she couldn't tear herself away from having lunch with Will. There were too many things they had to discuss. Then she had to make up all those excuses about her employees not coming to work.

"I hope Lori will be all right," Sarah said, thinking of the little girl as she placed Lori's favorite drinking glass on the table. "It must have been traumatic for her—and you. What happened exactly?"

"Lori was going down the front steps to play in the snow and tripped and fell," Sylvia said. "She hit her head on the edge of the step." She turned abruptly and left to go to the bathroom.

Just then Lori came out to the kitchen, and put her arms around her Aunt Sarah. Lilly was right behind her and joined their brothers in the family room.

Sylvia was out of sight, so Sarah said, "I hope you're better, Lori, after falling down the front steps."

"I don't feel so good, Aunt Sarah," Lori said. "But I didn't fall down the front steps. I fell down those steps," she said, pointing to Sarah's staircase.

Oh, really? Sarah thought, surprised. "Oh, honey, I'm so sorry you got tangled up with my stairs," she said, hugging her tightly.

Why would Sylvia lie about something like that? What was Lori doing on the stairs up to my deck? The kids had been told they were not to come up there. Maybe that's why Sylvia didn't tell me the truth—that I might get angry with Lori. But...maybe my sister was up there snooping around and Lori was up there with her. Since she knew her desk was locked from prying fingers, she wondered if Sylvia had been going through her things in her bedroom, as she did have a spare key to her room.

Sarah, however, had no way of proving any of what she was thinking. And why would Sylvia want to go through her things? Maybe Lori was up there accidently . Should she just forget about it and not confront Sylvia? She didn't know what to do. Nevertheless, she began to think seriously about finding an apartment if other incidences continued to happen. First Roger, and now Lori. And maybe even her sister—

Sarah kept her arms around Lori until Sylvia came out of the bathroom. Then she finished setting the table. Her sister clucked and hovered around Lori like a mother hen, wondering how she was now that she'd had a nice nap. She even asked her if she wanted anything special to eat. Sylvia could be nice to her kids when she wanted to, although it seemed suspiciously like a self-serving reaction.


CHAPTER THIRTY – BAD NEWS ( Monday, December 12 )

"Ed, I don't understand," Lindsey said, not believing the turn of events. "Why? I thought it was all settled that you would take me in as a partner in the business. I've been saving up money for a long time for something like this. Five years, in fact!"

Lindsey had put every penny aside that she could since she moved to Laramie in order to invest in a money-making venture she believed would come along some day. Then Ed offered her a partnership in Scully's a few weeks ago. Here was that golden opportunity.

They had agreed to meet at Scully's at 9 a.m. Monday morning before the place opened up for business. They were seated on the couch in the office while Lindsey listened carefully to Ed's explanation of how he had sold Scully's Tavern and Grill outright. He'd found a buyer who would be flying in from the West Coast right after the New Year. The new owner intended on turning Scully's into a top-notch nightclub, expanding the building into the vacant lot next door—which had already been acquired—and completely remodeling the present building.

"What's that going to do to the people who work at Scully's ?" Lindsey argued. "You know they will have a hard time finding other jobs. What about the people who come here on a regular basis? There isn't another bar like this in town, Ed."

"I can't help it, Lindsey," Ed Scully said. "Business is business. This gives me a chance to move down south and retire—right away—where it's nice and warm. I won't have to shovel snow continually and get earaches from the howling wind."

"Is there any chance at all that you'd change your mind, Ed?" Lindsey asked.

"Sorry, Lindsey, but I've already closed the deal. And there won't be any partnership—it's totally theirs."

Lindsey persisted. "What if I buy Scully's Tavern and Grill outright?" The wheels were turning in her head as a thought popped up in her mind how she could come up with that kind of money.

"It's already a done deal, Lindsey, and their money is in the bank." Sensing what Lindsey was about to say, he said, "Besides that, you know your daddy wouldn't give you that kind of money. He doesn't even know it's a lesbian bar, does he?" Ed sounded sincere. "I'm sorry."

Ed had read her mind. Of course, there was no way her daddy would loan her the money to buy Scully's . Even if she could convince him that it was a sound investment, he would still have to research it thoroughly. If he did that, he would find out she was a lesbian and bartended at a lesbian bar. Lindsey had always gotten her way—up until now. She knew her daddy would draw the line here, and would disown her—to boot.

Lindsey rose to her feet. "I'm sorry, too, Ed. The least you could have done was given me a little notice instead of springing it on me like this. So how much longer will we have jobs?"

"I don't know what the new owner's plans will be for keeping employees on—including you. I can't guarantee anything in that department."

"So how long, Ed?" Lindsey asked again, insistently.

"I'm going to let the employees know as soon as possible about the change. They should all be looking for new jobs very soon. New Year's is just around the corner. And when construction begins, the bar will probably be closed, anyway, till the expansion is completed."

With a heavy heart, Lindsey closed the door to the office after Ed left—her golden opportunity flushed down the drain. She had been counting on buying into Scully's and couldn't believe Ed would betray her like this. She wanted Scully's so much, that she was willing to let her job go at The Old West Town after she became a partner.

She didn't make more than a minimum wage at The Old West Town all year round. Although she loved the place, it just wasn't the money-making proposition she thought it would be when she first saw it. Tourists stopped there only as a side trip on their journey to other places. It wasn't as if The Old West Town was advertised across the country as a prime tourist destination in itself.

She had learned early on that Laramie wasn't going to do anything with The Old West Town . They didn't have the financial resources to upgrade and expand the tourist site. She would often be out there with Herman, trying to fix things that should have been replaced long ago. The coffee setup in the Visitor and Information Center was the first new thing that had been introduced since she began managing the complex.

The exception was the work her daddy financed to renovate the church. He had even enlarged the building, so it could accommodate a church service if he ever got a chance to preach there. That wasn't likely. The fact that she was going to have the church's annual Christmas program there this season didn't offset the fact that it was still a tourist attraction, not a worship center.

With Ed selling Scully's now, she didn't know what she was going to do. What were the women who frequented the place going to do? Where would they go now? She was certain the new owner wouldn't want Scully's to continue as a lesbian hangout. A guy from the West Coast—she assumed it was a guy —would have his sights on bigger things than that. Laramie was a growing town. There was talk about a huge new casino coming to Laramie.

Maybe that's what the new owner was counting on. She wondered why Ed couldn't see the handwriting on the wall. He could possibly become a rich man if he still owned Scully's —even with Lindsey buying into it. In addition, it would assure that the lesbians in town would always have a place to come to and interact.

Lindsey didn't want to go on living under her father's roof for the rest of her life. Neither did she want to continue to work for minimum wage. Investing in a place like Scully's would ensure that she would have to do neither . Now all that was shot to hell!

She headed out to The Old West Town . It was her day to work. When she got there, no one was around. It was 10 o'clock, really too early for tourists in the wintertime. She presumed Herman was outside somewhere. She went to the desk behind the partition, put her head down on her arms and closed her eyes for an instant. She was exhausted.

She woke up several minutes later, realizing someone had stepped into the Visitor Center. She could hear steps on the concrete floor.

Lindsey went around to the other side of the partition and stood behind the customer counter. There was one person in the building, looking at the map on the far wall. Great, she thought . A whole single person. Big deal! A whopping five bucks if they decide to buy a ticket to go see the complex. What's the use of fighting the inevitable concerning Scully's? I'll just have to attend to business with The Old West Town and hope things improve here.



The person in the building turned around, and Lindsey saw it was Sarah. Her beautiful, wonderful Sarah! Her Sarah, whom she wanted to hold in her arms and never let go.

"Sarah," she said. She clearly wasn't expecting her. Her eyes started welling up with tears because Sarah had come all the way out here to The Old West Town to see her.

"Hi, Lindsey," was all Sarah could say. She walked over to the counter and then came behind it.

As Lindsey gathered her into her arms, she said, "I've missed you, Sarah. I saw you just yesterday, but I've missed you, and it hasn't even been twenty-four hours!" She held her tightly and wiped her tears in Sarah's hair.

Sarah's words caught in her throat, but then finally managed to come to the surface as she sensed the passion in Lindsey's voice. "I've missed you, too," she said, tears starting to trickle down her own cheeks.

Lindsey leaned her head down and kissed Sarah briefly, looking around as she did so, afraid that someone might come in and see them. No one, however, entered the building. She pulled Sarah around to the other side of the partition where they would have a little privacy.

"What are you doing here?" Lindsey asked. "I mean, outside of the fact that we both missed each other."

She didn't wait for an answer, though, and pulled Sarah close to her again and brought her mouth down to hers. She felt Sarah's arms go around her neck. At that moment, she wished she had some place to take her where they could be alone. But where could they go? She didn't want to rent a motel room. She had never done that with any woman in Laramie, and doubted she would resort to those measures. Laramie was a small town and there was always the possibility of being seen by someone she knew. And there were no lesbians she knew of who would let her use their home for a few hours.

As they parted, and before Sarah could answer her question, Lindsey heard the front door open. She could hear several people come into the Visitor and Information Center, so she peeked around the partition to see who they were.

"Wow," she told Sarah. "We're starting to get busy. Remember yesterday with that bunch of tourists? Here come some more." She sat Sarah down in the chair at the desk and said, "Wait here. Don't go anywhere." She left to go behind the counter.

But Sarah had a mind of her own. She took off her coat, left it on the desk and walked out to stand with Lindsey behind the counter. After what happened yesterday, she thought the least she could do was to keep an eye on the tourists inside the Visitor Center to make sure they didn't steal anything. This group was made up of older women, who were looking at the exhibits and souvenirs with interest. Sarah didn't think they were the shoplifting type.

They were excited about walking through The Old West Town , so Lindsey called Herman on the walkie-talkie and said some ladies were "comin' through." She asked him to be on hand to answer any questions. Sarah watched closely as Lindsey rang up tickets for all twenty-six women. At five dollars a ticket, and maybe some souvenirs they would buy, it would be good revenue for a chilly, snow-still-on-the-ground, wintry day.

Sarah looked through the front window and noticed the tour bus. Lars Tours was painted in bright red on the side.

Oh, my God, Sarah thought. That's my company! She remembered praising the benefits of traveling with Lars Tours over the Internet to a company that specialized in 'women's tours' around the country. She mentioned that The Old West Town was an excellent destination in Laramie. She never dreamed one of their tour buses would actually show up here!

She pulled on Lindsey's sleeve excitedly. "Lindsey, that tour bus is the company I work for !"

"Really?" Lindsey said, looking out the window. "How in the world did they know to stop here?"

Sarah briefly filled her in and then told Lindsey to go out and help those dear ladies. She could handle the Visitor Center for tickets and souvenirs if any more people happened to come in. Lindsey looked at her warily, but Sarah assured her she had watched closely while Lindsey had made the transactions and knew exactly what to do.

Lindsey left her in charge then and went out to join the women. A few minutes later, she came back in the Visitor Center and said she had unlocked the church for the women to go in and sit for a while. She told Sarah she had discovered something very interesting while she was conversing with them.

"They're all lesbians!" Lindsey announced.

"What?" Sarah exclaimed.

"They're all lesbians!" Lindsey repeated. "Even their driver , who is quite a bit younger—is a lesbian. Her partner spells her in driving the bus. They're on tour for two weeks, and Laramie is one of the stops they planned. They're on their way back to Minneapolis. I asked if they had eaten lunch yet. They hadn't, and were going to look for a place to eat. So I directed them to Rita's Home Town Café and assured them they would be treated royally. I have to call Rita and let her know these ladies are coming." She hurried to the desk phone and made her call.

Sarah was thrilled to death, because Minneapolis was home to Lars Tours headquarters. She wondered how much influence her boss, Deb, had had on the inquiry over the Internet from the company who set up women's tours.

"Not only that," Lindsey said, talking excitedly after she'd come back from making her phone call. "I found out that there are two more tour buses right behind this one, with about another 80 ladies on board! So I passed the word on to Rita to expect over a hundred women. She said they'll probably have to eat in shifts, but she could accommodate them all. Sarah, The Old West Town is going to be overrun with lesbians!" She could hardly contain herself, and grabbed Sarah and hugged her, swinging her around. "Isn't it wonderful?"

"I'm happy for you, Lindsey," Sarah said, smiling, as Lindsey let her feet touch the floor again. "But don't you think you should go back out and help them? If nothing else, just to answer their questions?"

Lindsey, however, wasn't finished yet. "And on top of that," she said, "They're planning on spending the night here, so I told them the best place to stay in town. They already have reservations there! It's very close to Scully's, so I told them about Scully's Tavern and Grill , too—within walking distance—and a lot of them said they'd come tonight. They were surprised that there were some lesbian places in this 'itty bitty town,' as they called it. Most of them are couples, but there are a few singles, too. God, it's almost like Olivia Cruise Lines ran aground and had to resort to buses!"

"Lindsey," Sarah said firmly, "you need to get back out there, don't you think?" Lindsey turned loose of her, and with a broad smile, she left the building. Sarah looked at her rushing down the sidewalk toward the church, and thought how happy Lindsey was.

Then Lindsey turned around and came striding back in. "I need to contact Sandy and see if she can spin some disks for us tonight at Scully's ." She hurried over to the phone again, made the call, and then told Sarah, "We're in luck. Sandy doesn't usually work on Monday nights, so she's free tonight. I told her it would mean a little extra for her if she could spin some tunes for an over-fifties crowd."

"They're not that old, are they?" Sarah laughed. "They sure don't look it."

"Well, just to be on the safe side. Some of these older women don't really like the fast-beat, frenzied music that the younger crowds expect these days."

"Are you finished now?" asked Sarah. "Can you go back out and help these ladies? I'll handle things in here."

"You're a sweetheart," Lindsey said, lightly pecking her on the cheek before she ran out the door again. Sarah just shook her head. What a welcome change had come over Lindsey from when she first walked in the door an hour ago! Sarah had come here to talk to her about the rumors that Sylvia had passed on to her, but all that seemed irrelevant now. Lindsey was so happy! She didn't want to disturb that feeling by bringing up something that never had an ounce of truth in it. She wondered why she had ever questioned it at all.

Two hours later, the 106 women passengers were back on the three buses and headed for Rita's Home Town Café . Lindsey was tired, but it was a good tired. And Sarah had been having a ball selling tickets and souvenirs.

"You'll have quite a lot of income to rack up at the end of the week," she said.

"Wouldn't it be wonderful if every day was like this in the winter?" Lindsey responded.

Sarah started to put on her coat to get ready to leave. Sylvia stayed home from work today because of Lori and told Sarah she could take off for a couple of hours. Sarah had already been gone more than two hours, and she wanted to be back at her sister's house before the other kids got home from school. Nevertheless, she was hesitant to leave, because after this week, the kids would be out of school for Christmas vacation for over two weeks. She wouldn't be able to slip away so easily like this to come and see Lindsey at The Old West Town .

"Why did you come all the way out here?" Lindsey asked. "You forgot to tell me. That is, besides missing me." She smiled.

Sarah didn't have the heart to spoil Lindsey's afternoon by bringing up Sylvia's rumors. She said instead, leaning on the countertop, "I wanted to tell you I've decided to move out after all. I just can't handle the constant bickering back and forth with my sister. And the kids are too much to handle all the time! And with my job and all—"

She had actually brought herself to the point—overnight, in fact—where she was thinking seriously about moving, in light of everything that was happening.

"I'm sorry it's not working out," Lindsey said. She wondered why Sarah didn't just call her on her cell phone.

Nevertheless, she kept talking, as it must be important to Sarah. "Do you want me to check on that apartment again that Scotty said would be available after the first of the year?"

"Could you, Lindsey?—if it wouldn't be too much trouble. You're working at Scully's tonight, aren't you?"

"Yeah. It's a regular work night for me. And it looks like we'll have quite a crowd, if all of the women who said they would come actually show up. So do you want to come?"

"I think I better stay home tonight, Lindsey," Sarah said. She straightened up, pulling her coat tighter around herself. "Sylvia is feeling a bit under the weather. And I have been gone a lot lately."

Lindsey took her by the hands. "I probably won't see you till Wednesday evening then," she said, "because I have to work here during the day and at Scully's at night. You haven't forgotten about practice at the church on Wednesday?"

"No, I haven't forgotten. Would you pick me up?"

"Of course." Lindsey's eyes lingered on Sarah for a brief moment and then pulled her into her arms, wishing they had more privacy. She sensed something was bothering Sarah.

"I'm going to miss you till then," she whispered in her ear and then kissed her lightly.

"I'll miss you, too," Sarah returned.

Lindsey finally turned her loose, and Sarah started to walk out the exit door.

"Sarah—" Lindsey said.

Sarah turned. "What?" she asked, hopefully. Maybe Lindsey would find a way to leave work right now....Lock the place up for the day....They could go somewhere.

Lindsey hesitated. Maybe she was mistaken about something being on Sarah's mind. "Never mind," she said. "I'll see you Wednesday." She turned back to the counter and started rearranging things on the glass display shelves underneath.

God, I'm a fool, Sarah thought, to think that those things Sylvia says about Lindsey are true. She's too kind, too good, too caring, too decent, too—

She sighed deeply as she climbed into Rich's big SUV and drove back to town, wondering if she was falling in love with Lindsey. After her once-in-a-lifetime relationship with Melanie had ended in that ill-fated car accident, she swore she would never fall in love again with any woman. It had been a long time since any woman had turned her on like Melanie had. But Lindsey was doing just that! And now all she wanted was to hop in bed with her, but something was always interrupting them. She throbbed with arousal between her thighs and felt the wetness gather there as she thought of being alone with Lindsey. It had been so long since she'd had sex with a woman. If they could only find a way to be alone—somewhere, somehow.


CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO – RIVALRY ( Wednesday, December 14 )

"Was Lindsey picking you up tonight?" Sylvia asked Sarah, who was pulling on her coat as she clumped down the stairs from her room. "I just saw her drive up." She was looking through the bay window in the family room.

"Yes," Sarah answered back. "We have the Christmas choir practice at the church tonight before the mid-week prayer service."

"Oh," Sylvia said. "Are you staying for the prayer meeting?"

"Well, I suppose so, unless Lindsey doesn't stay. I wouldn't have any way to get home."

"You can take the SUV if you want to," Sylvia offered.

"Don't you think it's a little late for that now, Sylvia?" Sarah said, exasperated. "I mean, Lindsey is already here." Just then, the doorbell rang.

Sarah opened the door, said good-bye to Sylvia, and went outside without asking Lindsey in. She didn't want to take the chance of Sylvia saying something derogatory to her.

"My sister said I could take the SUV—just now—while you were ringing the doorbell." Sarah laughed. "Isn't that ridiculous?"

"She doesn't trust me, does she?" Lindsey asked.

Sarah acted like she didn't hear. She knew Sylvia mistrusted Lindsey, as she had said so on numerous occasions. She pulled herself up into the truck, wondering if Lindsey had anything else to drive. She didn't think she would ever get used to climbing up into the monster!

"Are we going to practice upstairs at the church?" Sarah asked.

"No. We have to use the downstairs. Daddy will be getting ready for the prayer meeting upstairs," Lindsey responded. "I just thought it would be nice to come to the church tonight instead of going out to The Old West Town . This practice for the Christmas program is taking precedence over the usual mid-week practice I have for the church choir. It's basically in the same time-frame."

She had forgotten to notify those in the church choir—the men, that is, since all of the women were in the Christmas program—that there wouldn't be a regular choir practice this week. She hoped they wouldn't be too upset with her when they came to church and found themselves waiting for the prayer meeting to start instead of practicing for the Sunday morning service.

"Do you usually stay for the prayer meeting?" Sarah said.

"Usually. And then I go directly from there over to Scully's ," Lindsey replied. "But sometimes I don't stay. It all depends."

"On what?" Sarah was curious.

"Once in a while Dana will call and say they have a crowd and could use my help a little earlier. If I think my father is expounding the virtues of something a little too long or is getting carried away preaching about sin, I just sneak out and leave."

She laughed, and noticed Sarah was chuckling.

"They normally don't have a choir up in the choir loft during the mid-week service, unless something special is going on. There's just choir practice for an hour for Sunday's service."

"By the way," Sarah said, "did all those ladies who were at The Old West Town on Monday and said they were coming to Scully's actually show up?" Lindsey had not called before she picked her up tonight, so she'd not had a chance to talk with her about what happened.

"Yes. And they had a wonderful time! I think we've got them hooked on coming back here again. Maybe they'll spread the word around."

"That's great, Lindsey," Sarah said. She was quiet for a short space. Then she said, "What does your daddy think of you being a bartender?"

She's certainly full of questions tonight, Lindsey thought . But she doesn't really know anything about me. Maybe I should open up to her a little bit. I'd like to find out more about her, too. For instance, I'd like to know why she seemed to be right at home at Scully's .

"He doesn't like me working there," she answered. "After all, I am the daughter of a minister. But it's my choice , and there's not much he can do about it. I think he would probably try to close the place down if he knew it was a lesbian bar."

"You mean he doesn't know?" Sarah was surprised.

"Are you kidding? He doesn't even know I'm gay. Do you honestly think he would let me teach a Bible Study group and be the church choir director if he knew?" She looked over to Sarah to see her response.

"No, I guess he wouldn't," she said reflectively.

After sitting in silence for a minute, she asked, "Why don't you get a place of your own? Why do you still live in your father's house?" She thought those were reasonable questions, because it wasn't every child who still lived at home when they were in their thirties.

"My father wants us two girls to live with him till we get married." She turned to Sarah. "But that's never going to happen. At least, not to me. He said it wasn't safe for a woman to live alone." She laughed, and Sarah chuckled.

She thought for a moment. "But I guess the main reason I haven't moved out is money—or lack thereof. I don't make that much, even with two jobs, and I wouldn't have been able to save money like I've done if I had had my own place. I've been saving up money since I moved to Laramie, hoping for a golden opportunity to come along. I don't want to work for pennies the rest of my life. A few weeks ago, Scully offered to take me in as a partner in the bar. There was my golden opportunity. Of course, I jumped on it and was really looking forward to it. Then I was going to find a place of my own because I'd be sharing in the bar's profits."

"Was? You mean you were going to be Scully's partner? And now you're not?"


"Is that the papers you were looking for last week when we had lunch at Scully's ?"


Lindsey didn't elaborate, and Sarah didn't want to keep on asking questions. She figured Lindsey would tell her more when she was ready to. She hesitated and then had to ask one more question.

"Did Scully change his mind because the bar is where lesbians hang out?"

"Oh, no. Scully doesn't have a problem with that. He told me early Monday morning before I went out to The Old West Town that he'd sold it to someone on the West Coast who is going to turn it into a fancy nightclub. He sold it outright, so he won't be in a partnership at all. Then he can quietly wend his way southward in search of a warmer climate and retire. I won't have a job there after the first of the year." She couldn't hide the sarcasm in her voice.

"Oh, I'm so sorry, Lindsey," Sarah said, with genuine concern. She was glad Lindsey's day went so well with the Lars Tours ladies after she'd talked to Ed Scully. Maybe it had softened the blow of an uncertain future. "What are you going to do?"

Lindsey shrugged, not wanting to talk about it. She really didn't know what she was going to do. Scully's Tavern and Grill had been her life-blood for so long. She couldn't imagine not working there anymore.

They pulled up to the church and parked along the curb right at the front door. As they were starting up the steps, Annette joined them, coming from the parking lot with her friend Beth, who was also in the choir group. She noticed that Sarah and Lindsey were arm-in-arm, and she immediately latched onto Lindsey's other arm. As they reached the front door, Lindsey turned loose of both their arms to unlock and open the door. Then after reaching around and tripping a light switch just inside the door, she stepped back and let them go through the door together. The door was just barely wide enough to allow them both to enter at the same time. Lindsey ushered Beth in ahead of her, then followed them. While the women were hanging up their coats, she retrieved her music stand by the choir loft in the sanctuary. Sarah and Annette went down the stairs together, Beth right behind them.

Sarah thought it strange that Annette had taken hold of Lindsey's arm. Annette probably thought it was strange that Sarah had her elbow hooked into Lindsey's arm, too. Sarah never really gave it a second thought, though, until they started down the basement stairs and Annette looked over at her with potential fight in her eyes.

As Lindsey followed them, she thought she detected some hostility coming from Annette when she stared at Sarah. Oh, oh. Trouble's brewing. How am I going to head this off?

The four women were the first ones to arrive for practice. The maintenance man was supposed to have set up chairs for the choir, but he was nowhere in sight. Lindsey recruited Sarah and Annette with instructions on where to put the folding chairs. Thank goodness, Marlene had called and reminded her to bring the Christmas music, or she would have forgotten. She put Beth to work laying out the music in the chairs.

She could see, however, that this arrangement wasn't going to work. Sarah and Annette were running into each other with the chairs, trying to get to a certain spot first, and glaring at each other in the process. Lindsey finally told Annette to switch jobs with Beth.

That worked a little better, and soon other choir members were arriving, including her sister Leslie, who usually came to the mid-week church choir practice and stayed for the service afterwards. Everyone seemed to be dawdling along and conversing with each other as they came down the stairs. Lindsey looked at her watch.

We'll be lucky to get in a half hour of singing, at this rate! Lindsey thought. I guess we should have gone back out to The Old West Town . At least, we wouldn't be interrupted and have to stop because of the worship service starting. But on second thought, my sister and some others wouldn't have come out there on a Wednesday because they attend the mid-week service. And it's also one thing to practice in the afternoon out there, but quite another after dark. I'd hoped we could get in as much practice as the regular choir practice tonight—about an hour—but it's not working out that way.

By the time everyone was in place and ready to sing, Lindsey looked at her watch again and noted there would be less than a half hour to practice. That wasn't enough time to do diddly squat! It had been a mistake to bring them all here. She wondered what to do. Sarah looked at her watch, also, and then gazed at Lindsey helplessly and shrugged her shoulders as if reading Lindsey's mind. Lindsey shook her head and shrugged her shoulders back.

They practiced as long as they could before someone from upstairs came down and told them they had to quit because the prayer meeting was starting. Everyone began folding up their chairs and handing their music to Marlene to take care of. Leslie immediately raced up the stairs for the Wednesday prayer meeting without saying goodnight to anyone. Lindsey thought the practice had been a waste of time, as they didn't have a chance to work out any problem areas. She rolled her eyes back in frustration as she watched her sister leave.

"I have an idea, Lindsey," Annette spoke up.

"What, Annette?" Lindsey said sharply, disinterested. She didn't want to deal with Annette right now. She was upset with her, anyway, because she and Sarah had almost gone toe-to-toe right there in the church. She was surprised at Sarah, though she had met up with her feistiness from the very first day she met her. Sarah wasn't afraid to stand up to anyone . Annette, however, was a formidable foe when she got riled up.

"If everybody is willing to forego the service tonight," Annette said, "why don't we all go over to the Alpine Coffeehouse and practice? They have plenty of room on the second floor."

Wheels began spinning in Lindsey's head. She knew the room was large enough to hold the two dozen women who were in the choir. Since it was an all-female choir, there weren't any men to object—except perhaps a husband or two—and she doubted they would complain. And why wouldn't that work? God knows we need more practice than the little bit we've had here at the church! We need some fine-tuning. It's only ten days away from our performance.

Lindsey quickly brought the group to attention and asked what they all thought of the idea. She especially pushed the fact that Terri, who owned the coffee house, always had fresh hot coffee and tea and a plentiful supply of snacks as well as other types of food.

"We only have this practice, and possibly two more, before the program, ladies, and we need all the practice we can get. What do you think? The Alpine Coffeehouse isn't far from here."

One by one, they began to nod their heads, and all but one was willing to forego the service for the sake of the Christmas program—Beth. She couldn't come because she had to play the organ upstairs. Leslie was already upstairs. Lindsey wasn't concerned about her sister so much; she had her part memorized and didn't need to practice with the group right now. She knew Leslie wouldn't come, anyway, and Lindsey didn't particularly want her at the Alpine Coffeehouse .

With that settled, they all began to file back upstairs. Beth went into the sanctuary, sat down at the organ and started playing.

"Lindsey, do you suppose I could ride with you?" Annette had sidled up to Lindsey and was brushing up against her while putting on her coat. "I came with Beth, but she has to stay here and play the organ."

Lindsey had to think fast to get out of this one. "Well, I guess that would be all right...if Sarah doesn't mind," Lindsey said. She looked at Sarah questioningly.

"If you don't mind having me for company, too," Sarah smugly said. She disliked Annette trying to get close to Lindsey. Annette glared at her.

Then Sarah made it a point to say, "But you'll have to get a ride home from someone else. Lindsey is my ride."

God, am I getting catty or what! Lindsey doesn't belong to me. I don't have any reason to talk to Annette like that . She remembered Annette saying she was in Lindsey's Bible Study. Since they were together regularly at the Alpine Coffeehouse for Bible Study, maybe that explained Annette's coziness with Lindsey. Annette probably just knew her longer than Sarah did. Whatever the relationship dynamics, Sarah didn't like it.

Lindsey was slightly smiling at Sarah's remarks. Putting Annette in her place, she thought. Sarah can certainly stand her ground.

Sarah made sure she got in the monster truck before Annette did. All three sat together uncomfortably in the front seat as they drove to the Alpine Coffeehouse . Sarah surreptitiously slipped her hand over in the darkness of the cab and put it on Lindsey's thigh and gave a little squeeze. She heard Lindsey lightly gasp and her thigh tensed up. She reached down and covered Sarah's hand with her own, squeezed back and then brought her arm back up to the steering wheel. Sarah turned loose then, before Lindsey lost control of the truck! Annette was staring directly out the windshield, oblivious to what was going on.

They pulled up to the Alpine Coffeehouse and waited for all the women to get there and then walked in together. Terri was surprised to see such a large group on Wednesday evening. "Are you starting a new Bible Study group, Lindsey?" she asked. "I don't think I've seen most of these ladies before."

"We moved the Christmas choir practice over here for this evening, Terri. The church is being used, and I didn't want to take them all to The Old West Town at night. Do you have enough coffee and such to go around?"

"You bet! Why don't you go ahead on upstairs—I take it that's where you're going to practice? I'll holler up there when things are ready. Won't be more than a few minutes." She began to start some new pots of coffee and heat more water for tea and other hot beverages.

Sarah looked around the large room on the second floor and thought it was an ideal place for a Bible Study. It was roomy, with a fireplace and a long couch and easy chair, and plenty of tables and chairs. Lindsey began moving the tables and chairs to one side of the room, with help from some of the other women. She stacked the small tables up and then decided to bring the chairs back for some of them to sit on. She recruited a couple of other women—pulling them away from exploring the place—to help her move the sofa closer to the fireplace so she would have room to stand with her back to it when she directed the choir.

She was setting up her CD player when she heard Terri call from downstairs. She dismissed those women who wanted to go down and get hot drinks—and snacks if they wanted—and told them to be sure to let Terri know that it went on her tab. She also reminded them to hurry back so they would have enough time to practice.

Sarah walked around the room, feeling Lindsey's eyes on her. She headed toward the sliding doors to the deck and looked out, then came back and walked around the room's perimeter. She ran her hand along the fireplace mantel and looked at the imitation fireplace logs.

When she came to the storeroom door next to the fireplace, she opened it and peered inside. Lindsey held her breath. It was dark inside the storeroom. Annette—glancing sideways at Lindsey—came up behind Sarah just at that moment and told her there was nothing but storage in there. Sarah closed it almost immediately. She wouldn't have had time to see anything in there in the brief few seconds the door was open.

Thank God for Annette for once, Lindsey thought. As Annette passed by Lindsey on her way to stand behind one of the chairs, she put her hand on Lindsey's shoulder and whispered, "You owe me—"

The women finally came together to sing. Lindsey looked at her watch. It was 7:30, and they could practice for an hour and a half. Then she'd have to go to work at Scully's after dropping Sarah off at her house. There would be no getting alone with Sarah tonight.

To Be Continued...


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