PART 9— Looking Ahead
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CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE – Close Encounter
Jordan couldn't sleep. She was lying in bed listening to the rain falling on the roof. The howling wind had finally let up. She was glad for that. It was difficult enough trying to sleep without having to compete with the steady gale-force winds whipping through the trees surrounding her house.
She had gotten off work this morning at eight and normally would have gone to her Friday yoga class before she came home. But since Andy was staying with them now, her schedule had changed. She didn't know when she'd be able to get back to yoga. Instead of being more alert and taking a short, light nap like she might do after yoga, she had fallen into an exhausted and deep sleep. Andy had let her sleep, busying herself with working at her computer while Megan was over at Suzanne's house. Jordan had forgotten to set her alarm, so it was after three in the afternoon before she drug herself out of bed, groggy and irritated with herself.
Jordan knew she should have gotten up earlier in the day, because now she wasn't drowsy enough to go to sleep tonight. Yet she had no one to blame but herself. She was tired of reading, too, hoping to drop off to sleep with a dull book, and had turned her light off a few minutes ago. She thought maybe the gentle rain on the roof would ultimately lull her into a dreamy state.
Normally she slept nude—with plenty of blankets on the bed. But since it was so chilly tonight, she thought it was ridiculous to religiously stick to her usual non-attire, so had pulled on an old T-shirt, a pair of baggy sweatpants and socks before she climbed into bed.
She heard someone turn the handle of her bedroom door.
“Jordan?” A whisper.
Jordan opened her eyes, immediately alert. At first she thought it was Megan. But Megan would have called her ‘Aunt Jordan'. And she wouldn't be whispering!
“Jordan?” A whisper again.
Jordan looked up and saw Andy standing in the doorway in the dim light.
“What is it, Andy?” Jordan asked in a low voice.
“I'm scared, Jordan. Can I come in?” Still whispering.
“Yes, of course.” She sat up in bed and looked at the clock on her nightstand. It was midnight.
Andy padded slowly over to Jordan in her socks, not making a sound on the hardwood floor, and sat on the edge of the bed. Even though she had on the warm pair of sweats that she wore to bed, she was trembling.
“What's the matter, Andy? Can't you sleep? Did you have a nightmare?”
“He's coming after me, Jordan.” Andy's voice was shaking.
“ Who's coming after you?”
“Ken. I know he was out there.”
I knew this might happen to Andy, Jordan thought. You can hold fear inside for only so long, and it's bound to come to the surface when least expected. She'd seen it multitudes of times with rescue victims.
“But Ken doesn't know where you are,” she replied. “He doesn't even know how to find you.”
“I know. That's what you say. I've been here over five days now, and I don't know how he found out, but he does know where I am. He's coming after me, Jordan.” There was definite fear in her voice.
“Why do you think that?” Jordan inquired.
“The storm was beginning to let up, and I heard him trying to get in my window. I almost screamed, but then I got up and came to your room.”
“Come over here to the other side of the bed, Andy,” Jordan said matter-of-factly, patting the blankets on the other side of her. “Get in under the covers. No sense in sitting here shivering.”
It was definitely cold tonight! But she knew Andy's shivering wasn't based on the cold.
“No one's going to hurt you,” she promised her. Not if I have anything to say about it, she thought to herself. And she'd be doing more than just talking about it!
Andy slid in beside Jordan and pulled the covers up to her neck.
“Are you sure someone was trying to get in?” she questioned, still sitting up.
“I'm sure. It was Ken.”
“Let me go check. Wait right here.” If it is Ken, he'll get a mouthful of teeth down his throat! But how in the world would he know it was Andy's bedroom? Even if he knew she was here . That doesn't make sense. Nevertheless, I need to reassure Andy—
Andy lay as quietly as she could, barely breathing and still shivering while Jordan got up and checked her bedroom. She was back in a couple of minutes.
“There's no one in there. And the window doesn't look like someone's tried to bust it in. I also looked in on Megan, and no one is in there, either. Are you sure you weren't dreaming, Andy?” She slid back under the covers.
“No, I wasn't dreaming, Jordan. I know someone was there,” Andy insisted.
“Well, whoever it was is gone now. Why don't you sleep with me tonight? Tomorrow I'll look around outside and see if anyone was snooping around the house. It's dark out there right now, and it's raining, and I really don't feel like getting wet tonight. Okay?”
“I'm sorry I'm such a bother, Jordan. Is it all right, then, if I stay here with you?”
“You're not a bother, Andy. And of course, you can stay here with me,” she said reassuringly. “You don't snore, do you?” she added kiddingly.
“No. At least I don't think so.” She couldn't remember Ken ever telling her she snored. So she really didn't know for sure. Then she giggled, as she realized Jordan was joking with her.
“Goodnight then, Andy. Sleep tight.” She turned over on her side with her back to Andy.
God, I'm so close to this woman, I can hardly stand it! I can even smell the lavender soap she used in her shower.
“Could you hold me just for a little while till I quit shaking?”
“Sure.” Jordan turned over to face Andy, and then hesitated for a few seconds, unsure of herself. But she finally put out her arm and brought Andy in to lie on her shoulder. Then she wrapped her other arm around her, holding her close. She's shaking like a leaf. God help Ken if it was him!
Andy felt Jordan's warmth envelop her fearful, shivering body. Breaking through her overwhelming anxiety, Andy was aware of and was surprised at the softness of Jordan's body, where she had expected solid muscle. Soon she stopped shaking and put her arm around Jordan, too. She felt safe and warm now.
A sense of contentment settled down softly on them both, and they fell asleep in each other's arms. Andy drew strength and warmth from her protector, and Jordan willingly allowed her love to reach out and enfold her friend.
* * * * * *
Jordan awoke in the morning just as she felt Andy's face nuzzling into her ample breasts. Andy's hand had found its way under Jordan's T-shirt sometime during the night, too, and it was slowly rubbing her stomach. Jordan's body arched as spasms of desire coursed through her. Andy was still asleep.
Jordan's breath quickened, and she gently and wordlessly disentangled herself from Andy's arms and got out of bed. She glanced at the clock. Seven o'clock. Looking down at Andy with a deepening arousal, Jordan knew she couldn't let Andy into her bed again. If there was a next time, it would be impossible to guarantee that she would be as polite and accommodating as she was last night. She hadn't had sex for a long time, not since Ellie—
She is so innocent and desirable, Jordan thought. She would have to make sure there was no next time.
She slipped her stockinged feet into an old pair of shoes by the back door as she put on her jean jacket and then immediately went outside to check if someone had tried to get in the house. The rain had stopped. There was no sign that anyone had been outside of Andy's bedroom window. The window screen was on the ground with a branch lying on top of it. Jordan looked up at the big maple tree next to the house and saw where the branch had broken off by the wind and crashed down, taking the screen with it as it fell.
She went back into the house and stepped out of her shoes and hung her jacket on a hook at the back door. God, it's cold! This is the middle of summer, for chrissake! The rug at the door felt warm on her cold feet, but the linoleum floor was cold. On second thought, I think I'll keep these shoes on for a while, she thought as she shoved her feet back into them. I'm not ready to get dressed for the day till after I have some coffee. At least these old shoes will keep my feet halfway warm.
She looked up and saw Andy in the bedroom doorway, stretching and yawning. “Hey, I see you're up,” Jordan said. “Did you sleep well?” She proceeded to make coffee.
“Yes,” Andy replied. “I had a wonderful dream! I don't remember what it was, though.”
Jordan never responded—just looked at her and smiled. She decided she would keep Andy in the dark and wouldn't tell her what she had been doing in her sleep. She remembered how aroused she had gotten.
“By the way,” she said, “what you thought was someone trying to get in your window was a branch that broke off the tree and took your screen with it as it fell.”
“Thank God!” Andy responded with relief. “Thank you,” she whispered as she walked past Jordan and touched her back briefly on her way to sit at the kitchen table.
Standing there making coffee, Jordan could smell the aroma of Andy's lavender soap again when she brushed past her, completely overpowering the delicious aroma of coffee as she spooned it out into the basket.
God, she smells so good. But it's not just the smell of her soap. It's the way she is all over. Then she realized it was everything about Andy—the way she looked, the way she talked, the way she smiled, the way she walked. It was everything about her that Jordan loved and made her so desirable.
After she finished making the coffee, she went into her bedroom to grab a sweatshirt to pull over her T-shirt. It shouldn't be so cold! she thought again. My arms are freezing!
She proceeded into the living room and stirred up the coals in the fireplace with the poker. She wadded up some newspapers and threw them in, and then added two more logs. Last night's fire had burned down to a smoldering heap, but the paper soon caught fire and warming flames licked up the chimney. It wouldn't be long before the logs caught hold and the warmth reached back to the kitchen.
Jordan used only the fireplace to heat the house. She had decided not to use natural gas heating unless it was absolutely necessary, as the price of natural gas had risen sky-high. She used electricity for everything else. But electricity wasn't cheap any longer, either. There was a huge demand for these two utilities because the weather was not warming up this summer like it should have. The only thing that had dropped in price was the water bill. With the continuous rain now and the previous continuous snow, water was abundant. The city's reservoirs were filled to more than capacity. The near-drought they had been experiencing for the last ten years was finally broken.
While waiting for the newly placed logs to start burning, Jordan looked briefly into the kitchen and watched Andy get up and pour herself a cup of coffee. It's certainly nice to have company for coffee in the morning, she thought. I don't feel so lonely anymore. Megan had always been over at Suzanne's when she got home from work, and sometimes the cold and emptiness of the house when she walked in the back door in the morning was overwhelming. But now Andy was here. Jordan went to join her for a short while before Megan got up and noisily announced her appearance for breakfast.
CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX – Making Plans
Jordan and Andy were dressed and sitting at the kitchen table drinking coffee and talking about the storm with its heavy rain and wind and the changing weather in general when Megan bounced into the kitchen. She poured herself a glass of orange juice from the carton on the table and sat down in the chair right between them.
“Why was Andy sleeping in your bed last night, Aunt Jordan?” she asked innocently, taking a sip of her juice.
Jordan and Andy looked at one another in surprise. Jordan cleared her throat. “How did you know Andy was sleeping in my bed, Megan?” she asked, her pulse racing.
“I saw her when I got up to get a drink of water in the night and turned the light on in the kitchen,” Megan replied, nonchalantly.
She got up and went to the cupboard, pulled out a box of Frosted Mini-Wheats and poured herself a bowl full. Then she got the milk from the fridge and sat down.
Jordan's bedroom opened directly into the kitchen, and she must have forgotten to close the door when she came back from checking the other two bedrooms last night. She'd never given it a second thought when she wandered into the kitchen this morning.
Jordan chose her words carefully. “Well, do you remember how bad the storm was last night?”
Megan nodded her head.
“And do you remember that I told you Andy was afraid to stay alone when her husband was gone?”
Megan nodded again.
“And do you remember I told you that with all the storms we'd been having, how something might go wrong if Andy stayed alone?”
“And do you remember that's why she came to stay with us for a while?”
Still another nod.
Jordan continued. “Well, the wind was so bad during the storm last night that it broke a branch off the tree next to the house, and as it fell it tore the screen off Andy's bedroom window. It scared her. She thought somebody was trying to get in the house. So I told her she could sleep with me—that I'd keep her safe.” She hastily added, “So she wouldn't be alone.”
She looked at Megan very seriously. “I'd pound anyone if they came in this house without my permission,” she said vehemently, smacking a fist into her open hand.
Megan started giggling. “Oh,” she said. “I was just wondering. But why did you have your arms around her?”
Would this child ever give up? It was Jordan's turn to laugh. “Well, I would have had my arms around you, too, if you had been scared to death and shaking all over and climbed in bed with me!” Which Megan had done on a couple of occasions.
Jordan remembered how she hastily slipped on her sweatpants and T-shirt to cover her nakedness one night when Megan came screaming from her bedroom all the way through the house to Jordan's room! She chuckled to herself as she thought of what Andy's reaction might have been if she had found Jordan naked last night.
Megan reached out her arms and hugged Jordan around the neck. “Oh, Aunt Jordan, I'm so glad you're here for us both ,” she said. “You make everything safe.”
Jordan felt a blush spreading over her face and looked at Andy self-consciously. Changing the subject and unloosening Megan's arms around her neck, she asked, “What would you like to do today, young lady?”
“Oh, I don't know. I'll have to think about it,” Megan said mischievously, as she started eating her cereal.
“Well, maybe I can help you out there. One thing for certain we have to do after breakfast is wash clothes,” said Jordan. “Andy says she has a lot of things to wash, so maybe you can take her down to the basement and show her how the washing machine works.”
Megan was nodding her head in resignation. Jordan knew how she hated to wash clothes. But giving Andy a hand might help her get over that negativity.
“Another thing we absolutely have to do is get some more firewood at the old codger's place up in the mountains. I know how much you like to go up into the mountains!”
Jordan then added, before Megan could respond. “Then maybe we can go to lunch at Gunther Toody ' s on the way back. They have some good lunch specials on Saturdays. And good chocolate malts, too, I've heard.”
“Coool!” Megan responded, suddenly perking up. She remembered the one other time Jordan had taken her there at her friend Suzanne's suggestion.
“Then after we drop off the firewood here at home, maybe there will be time to go and see that new Disney movie you've wanted to see. That is, if you want to.”
Megan was beaming with delight! Except for washing clothes, it was everything she wanted to do. “That would be great , Aunt Jordan!” she exclaimed.
Jordan had convinced Andy just before Megan came into the kitchen that she needed to get out of the house for a while, in spite of her reluctance. She had been here almost a week and never went outside—not even to sit in the porch swing when the sun was out. Jordan had taken Andy's books back to the library for her because Andy didn't want to go.
Jordan had replaced the rollaway bed with a brand-new full-sized bed so Andy would be more comfortable. Often she would take a nap when Jordan was home—saying she was tired. When Jordan was at work during the day, Andy stayed by the fireplace and read books. She also half-heartedly worked at her computer concerning global warming. She had explained to Jordan why the weather had changed since the superstorm, and how it was going to continue to change.
But Jordan knew Andy was deeply depressed and was really just passing time—waiting for the inevitable to happen when she would have to deal with her and Ken's situation. There was the uncertainty of not knowing what was going to occur or what she should do, other than just sit and wait it out for now. Ken didn't know where she was, and she was reluctant to contact him—out of fear. She was not over the shock of what had happened.
Megan was usually over at Suzanne's during the day. She never questioned why Andy had brought so many of her things over to their house. And she never asked when Andy's husband was going to be back. It was as if she instinctively knew she shouldn't say anything. Jordan often wondered what was going on in the mind of her niece, but she didn't ask. Megan proved to be good company for Andy, and they played games in the evenings when Jordan was at the firehouse. Jordan hadn't needed Suzanne's mother to take care of her during these evenings when she was working. Andy had plunged right in to help.
Because it was Saturday, Jordan asked Andy if she was going to her yoga class today. Andy emphatically shook her head. She said, “How can I even think of yoga with this mess going on!” Andy knew she should probably call Anna-Marie and let her know she wouldn't be there. But then she'd just have to answer questions and didn't want to lie.
That's when Jordan decided they were going to do something together. They would take the day off from home, from work, and from everything.
“We'll stay home tonight, though,” she said. “I need to get a good night's sleep because I have to get up at seven in the morning and go to work again—another twenty-four-hour shift. I have only two days off this time. And I hardly ever get a chance to catch a few winks at work anymore because we have so many emergencies to respond to. I need all the sleep I can get while I'm home.”
“That's okay, Aunt Jordan,” Megan said, talking hurriedly. “Suzanne asked me to spend the night with her because they're going to the flea market tomorrow morning and her mom said I could come with them. They're leaving real early, so you can go to bed tonight anytime you…want…to—“Her voice hesitated and trailed off, as she realized her aunt was looking quizzically at her.
“Oh? And you didn't even ask me if you could spend the night over there and go with them tomorrow?” Jordan chided.
“I'm sorry, Aunt Jordan. I didn't think you'd care.” Megan hung her head. “Can I?”
“Thank you for asking. Yes, I think that would be all right. But Megan, it's not a matter of whether I care or not. In the future, I really would like to be let in on your plans— before you plan too much. Who knows? I might have a special trip arranged or something, and I'd have to leave you behind if you've made other plans without telling me.” Jordan turned and winked at Andy, who smiled back.
“Okay, Aunt Jordan, I'll let you know from now on,” Megan said, smiling.
The weekend flea market in Colorado Springs had been a yearly summer-long event for as long as Jordan could remember. Tomorrow would be Sunday, and there probably would be a good turnout during the day—before the rain came. They always had some excellent bargains. She wondered if Megan was going to look for something specific. But anything she bought would be a good choice, Jordan thought. Megan was pretty level-headed and practical—most of the time.
“Remind me to give you some money before you go over to Suzanne's tonight,” Jordan told her. “Okay?”
Without waiting for Megan's answer, Jordan got up from the kitchen table and started fixing breakfast for herself and Andy. She popped some sausage and eggs into the skillet, put bread in the toaster, and set a bowl of mixed fruit on the table while Megan was eating her cereal. It was 8 o'clock already.
Andy insisted on cooking their meals since she had come to stay with them. But Jordan wouldn't let her fix breakfast. This was her arena when she was home. She was usually up at that time, anyway—either on her day off or just getting off work. She liked to relax by concentrating on this one familiar pastime, and she prepared a wide assortment of breakfasts.
She actually enjoyed eating her own cooking. It seemed like this one simple act of having breakfast—from start to finish—diverted her mind from her stressful job to ordinary home life. That is, as ordinary as it could be for a single lesbian stepmom. She found home to be stressful at times, too, as it was now. And yet now was not really stressful, she told herself. Different and unusual would better describe the present situation. She never knew what the agenda would be for each day that passed with Andy or when something would come along to further shatter Andy's world.
Jordan glanced at her watch when they finished eating. It was 8:30, and they had things to do, so they better get moving. She told herself she shouldn't be thinking of being alone in the house tonight with the woman she loved. She needed to put her mind—and body—to work on something else. The garage needed rearranging to better accommodate both their vehicles. They were crowded very close together right now. She could rearrange things while Andy and Megan were washing clothes and doing other things. That could whittle a couple of hours off the day before they headed for the mountains.
“She really takes you seriously, Jordan,” Andy said when Megan went to get dressed.
“She needs to,” Jordan replied. “She's getting pretty independent. But ten years old, going on twenty? I don't think so—yet.” They both laughed.
Leaving Andy and Megan in charge of things in the house, Jordan put on her jean jacket and walked out to the garage. She checked her woodpile on the way, noticing it was pretty low. She really needed to get some firewood today.
It was wonderful to have a fireplace. She remembered when she was growing up how she and her two sisters would regularly take off and spend an overnighter in the deep woods near their home in Indiana. It gave Jordan the opportunity to get away from the hectic life of the city. She and her sisters developed a love for the outdoors like they never would have otherwise. Their campfires—big and blazing—were the best thing about their frequent overnighters. Jordon swore if she ever bought a house, it would have a fireplace. That's what convinced her about investing her money in this rustic dwelling in this beautiful and well-kept older neighborhood. The rock-lined, deep and spacious fireplace made it the perfect home.
Jordan had never lost her love for the outdoors, but her sisters got wrapped up in city living. They seemed to drift away from the outdoors, just as Jordan drifted away from her two sisters.
Andy had told her about her love of the snow and being in the outdoors. Camping out became a rare occasion for her after her sons moved to California. Ken had become a permanent fixture in their home since then, never wanting to go much of anywhere. Except out to coffee every day he wasn't working and breakfast on Saturdays with his buddies. Occasional forays together were rare, so Andy had accepted that as the way things were and would probably always be.
Andy said she especially loved Jordan's fireplace! She claimed the smell of burning pine, the crackling, pop, and hiss of the fire, the colors of the dancing flames and the warmth caressing her body calmed her down inside. During the past few days, she'd had time to just sit in front of the fire and meditate and try to clear her mind of negative thoughts as her yoga teacher had taught her.
Jordan hadn't said anything yet to Andy—because it really depended on what happened with her and Ken—but she would like to go on a camping trip in the fall. Just the three of them. They could go up into the mountains and maybe take in some skiing at a ski resort in the fresh new snowfall that Andy believed would be coming early.
Andy would love it, she thought, getting right into the thick of snow country. And we could build a huge campfire where we camp out!
Jordan's pop-up camping tent would hold three people cozily and comfortably, and she could buy another sleeping bag for Andy. She had all sorts of camping gear, too.
There were lots of things she wanted to do with Andy. And Megan. But first things first.
Jordan smiled in anticipation of today's planned activities as she worked at restacking boxes in the garage and rearranging other miscellaneous items.
I know we're going to have fun today, she thought. I just know it! The future would have to take care of itself for one day. She was personally putting it on hold.
CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN --- Snow Country
After Jordan finished working in the garage, she moved the broken tree branch over to the woodpile and put the window screen back up. She wondered what Ken was thinking now, or, more precisely, what he was doing about the situation with Andy. Jordan, along with her, was waiting for the ball to drop. When it did, it probably wouldn't be pleasant.
Andy and Megan had washed two loads of clothes, and the dryer clicked off at the same time Jordan came back into the house. She noticed it was already after ten-thirty and announced that they had better leave to get firewood before it got too late. It was almost an hour's drive into the mountains to get the wood and then another hour's drive back to town. Then they were going to lunch and a movie.
Time flies when you're going to have fun, she reflected. The day will be over too soon.
She wished she had more time to spend with Andy, but had to work such gawd-awful hours! Today would be a good break for all of them. They could wash more clothes when they got back home—or tomorrow—whichever presented itself first. Chores were not a priority at the moment.
Jordan changed into her heavy winter coat. Never know what you're going to run into in the mountains. As she walked out the back door to hitch up her two-wheeled trailer, she reflected that the small trailer was one of the best purchases she'd ever made a few months ago after Megan moved in with her.
She pulled her hair back into a ponytail and fastened it securely. She would be loading the logs herself and didn't need her heavy hair hanging down around her face. The man who sold her the firewood had recently hurt his back, which left him virtually useless. The logs were already sawed to length and bundle-wrapped, so she wouldn't need to use the chain saw she bought the same time as the trailer. The good pine she got this time should last about a month, if the weather didn't get any colder the rest of the summer.
When the power went off—as it seemed to on a regular basis these days—she didn't worry about keeping her house fairly warm most of the time when she was at home. It was well-insulated, and she kept plenty of firewood on hand. One time she'd even hung a cast-iron pot over the fire and opened a can of stew and dumped it in the pot to heat up. They'd had a blackout for a full day that time. Megan thought it was cool that they had their own “log cabin like in the olden days,” she had said, dreamily gazing into the fire.
Andy and Megan were bundled up warmly, Jordan noted approvingly, as they both settled themselves in the SUV, Andy in the front seat. God, it's cold , she thought again. She'd heard on the radio last night as she was getting ready for bed, that the average temperature for all of June and July in Colorado Springs had been only 45 degrees. For the middle of summer, it was unreal! Normally it would be a roasting 90 plus degrees. At least it wasn't cold enough yet to start snowing continually again, although they'd had a few flakes now and then. She wondered how the winter was going to express itself this year and if it was going to be anything like last winter. But there's time enough to cross that bridge when I get to it.
* * * * * *
“We're almost there. It's just a little ways further,” Jordan said, steering her vehicle up out of a deep, muddy rut. “I don't remember the road being this rough the last time I was up here. They've probably had a lot more moisture than we've had in town. It's hard to maintain gravel roads like this one in the wintertime.”
Then she stopped talking and thought to herself, No. It's summertime. Not winter. They should have an ongoing road crew taking care of this road! There are people living along here who are probably complaining about it, too. But I suppose they have other roads that need grading more than this one because of the unusual weather we've had the past few months. The moisture is disastrous to gravel roads. As much as I love the mountains, I'd find it hard to deal with conditions like this all the time if I lived up here.
Her mind switched gears. But we've had drought conditions up till now. Strange—
She brought her mind back to the present moment, wondering why she was thinking so much about the roads. She realized then that she had just been making conversation with herself, to keep from driving in absolute silence. Andy and Megan were both disinclined to say anything. She looked back and noticed Megan was slumped over in the back seat and had been rocked sound asleep by the movement of the SUV. Andy was wistfully gazing out the side window.
Jordan began talking again, louder this time. “This old man cuts his own wood and saws it to size, then bundles it up and sells it,” she explained to Andy, trying to draw her attention back by way of conversation. “People come and pick up their own wood. He's got a booming business, and it's all by word-of-mouth.”
“How did you find out about it?” Andy inquired, turning to look at Jordan.
“The old man's grandson is a firefighter. He told me about this place a few months ago—after the superstorm.”
Andy had been looking around at the mountain scene as they traveled up the dirt road from Highway 24 into the trees. When Jordan asked her earlier about going to her yoga class today, she knew she couldn't show her face around her teacher and said no. Anna-Marie would have known something wasn't right just by looking at her. She was afraid she'd break down and cry—which she'd been doing a lot of lately. So she didn't even call her. It was the second Saturday in a row that she missed a class. She didn't want to leave the house today at all. But Jordan had coaxed her into going with her and Megan. Now she was glad she did. The mountains were beautiful! She thought how much at home she was here and how peaceful it was.
The magnificent Rocky Mountain Front Range still bore the last of May's heavy snowfalls, many feet deep, and it was not melting very fast. There was plenty of snow alongside the road, too, from recent snowfalls up here in the high country, while they'd had rain in town. They were 30 miles west of Colorado Springs, and the pine trees and Blue Spruce still held their glorious deep-green and blue colors. It was too early for the leaves on the aspen trees to turn yellow, and their light-green color contrasted vividly where they intermingled with the dark-green trees.
Opening the window slightly, Andy stuck her hand out and quickly pulled it back from the raw bite of the near 20-degree air. Why is it so cold? she thought. We're not that far away from town. It shouldn't be so cold this soon. It's only August. And it's the middle of the day!
In her studies of abrupt climate change, Andy had read accounts of people making fun of global warming, so, of course, they would have no idea that this cold descending on them now had actually been inflicted by the warming phenomena. Andy knew the climate flip-flop was coming sooner than she predicted. Just how soon , she had no way of knowing. Could be tomorrow, could be next year, could even be a few years down the line. She shuddered at the reality they would be facing when it happened. Andy had made her arguments to Jordan about the seriousness of it all, and Jordan seemed to fully understand and agree with her. It made complete sense to her. God, what's going to happen to us? Andy thought for the umpteenth time, noting that she was thinking not just about the weather or about her situation with Ken, but about herself and Jordan as well. And in the bigger picture, what's going to happen to this nation?
They pulled up in front of a small ramshackle house surrounded by pine trees. Its clapboard exterior was in disrepair and sorely needed paint. A gray-haired, white-bearded, and stooped-over man in worn coveralls and tattered coat came out to greet them. Andy thought he looked as old as Methuselah might.
Climbing out of the SUV, Jordan noted that Megan had awakened and was starting to open the back door. She said, “Wait here. I'll be just a minute.”
Andy and Megan watched as Jordan talked to the man. It looked like she was haggling with him over something and finally handed the man some bills. The old man counted the money and stuck it in his pocket and then pointed over to his right where wood was stacked up in bundles on this side of a barbed-wire fence. Then he went back into the old house. Andy watched the smoke curl up from the chimney as the man stoked his fireplace inside.
Jordan climbed back in the driver's seat. “The old man's gone up in price! He knows a good thing when he sees it. There are a lot more people now wanting wood, so figures he may as well charge more. But I got this load for the same price I usually do. Next time I'll have to pay more.”
She started up the engine and backed the trailer up close to the dwindling woodpile. “The old coot—” she muttered under her breath. She thought the old man might have to get his grandson up here to cut more wood until his back gets better, or he'd be out of business in no time!
Jordan got out and started loading up the trailer, level with the top—about two-and-a-half feet high. She had been doing this for quite a while now, so she knew exactly how much wood $90 bought and exactly how it was to be placed in the trailer. Jordan instructed Andy and Megan to stay in the SUV. She was reluctant for them to abandon the warmth of the vehicle and freeze their tails off outside, just standing around. Jordan herself would warm up when she loaded the wood.
But Megan couldn't contain herself. She got out and started making snowballs. Andy soon joined her in a snowball fight. When Jordan turned around, Andy threw a good-sized snowball at her. It caught her right in the chest just as she was walking to the trailer with an armload of wood! Andy covered her mouth with her hands and turned her back and hunched over. She knew exactly what was coming when she saw Jordan drop the wood!
Jordan began making snowballs and throwing them as fast as she could at Andy and Megan. One of them got Andy in the back and she turned around and started throwing snowballs back at both Jordan and Megan! Soon all three were trying to see who could come closest to scoring. Of course, no one was really serious about hitting the mark.
Jordan had to call a halt finally, so she could finish loading the wood. Andy helped her cover the trailer with a tarp and tie it down. They scrambled back into the SUV, laughing as they recounted who made the best shots with the snowballs.
Jordan said, “You know you guys were just lucky today, don't you? My throwing arm was a little off!” As Megan and Andy began to tease her, she thought how much fun she was having. It had been a very long time since she laughed so much. And Andy seemed to enjoy it, too. It was so good to see her laughing.
CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT – Facing Jess
In less than an hour, they were back on the west side of town and pulling up to Gunther Toody ' s . Andy was ravenous, although Jordan had cooked such a good and filling breakfast. She looked at her watch. It was 1:30. They had made excellent time.
They walked into the restaurant, and the hostess seated them at a booth almost immediately. Jordan and Andy sat across from each other, and Megan was squished into the corner next to Jordan. Andy and Jordan ordered coffee before their meal, but Megan wanted to wait for her chocolate malt. They ordered from the ‘special' menu and then sat there waiting for the food to come. They were enjoying their coffee and talking about the mountains and trees, the old man and his woodpile, and laughing about the snowball fight.
“Andy Lee! What a surprise to see you here!”
Oh, no, Andy thought. She turned and saw Jessica walking up to their booth. Her husband Bob had proceeded up to the cash register to pay their bill.
“Hi, Jess,” Andy managed with a smile. “How are you?”
“I'm fine, Andy Lee. How are you ?” She reached down with her arm and pushed Andy further into the booth and slid in beside her. She looked at Jordan and Megan curiously.
May as well get it over with, Andy thought. “Jess, this is my friend Jordan, and her niece Megan. Jordan this is Jessica Sessions—an old friend.”
“Pleased to meet you,” Jess said. Jordan nodded to her.
“I haven't seen you for a while, Andy Lee. What's been going on?” Jess asked, still looking at Jordan and Megan.
“Oh, just this and that. I've been keeping busy,” Andy said uncomfortably. She didn't know how to respond. She felt like she'd been caught with stolen goods.
“Did you get done with your chakra workshop?” Jess inquired.
“Oh, yeah, about a month or so ago,” Andy replied, looking at Jordan—who hadn't said a word. Megan kept staring at the table in front of her.
Jess glanced over at Bob, still at the cashier's counter. “Well, wish I could stay and chat, but I have to go,” she said. She gestured toward the cashier. “Bob's waiting for me up there. Call me sometime, okay?”
She patted Andy on the arm and then looked at Jordan and Megan again. “Nice to have met you,” she told them, smiling as she slid back out of the booth. Jordan nodded to her again.
She knows , Andy thought. Ken didn't waste any time.
“I'll call you, Jess,” she said, watching her walk away. “Real soon. I promise. On my cell phone.”
Jess walked up to Bob, hooked her arm into his elbow, and they both went out the door. Jess glanced behind her. Bob evidently had not seen Andy.
“Who was that?” Jordan inquired.
“That was a friend I've known for fifteen years. She's probably not my friend anymore. Her husband Bob and my husband Ken both work for the same company—in the same department, no less!”
“Oh, God, I'm sorry, Andy. We shouldn't have stopped here.”
“It's all right, Jordan. We didn't know we'd run into them. She was bound to find out sooner or later.”
Megan had been sitting quietly all this time, barely moving. “Find out what?” she asked.
“I'm sorry, Megan,” Jordan told her gently, “but Andy is having a few problems right now. Let's not discuss it, okay?”
“Okay,” Megan said. She pretended interest in the condiments on the table.
When their meals came, Andy and Jordan ate in silence, both only picking at their food. Megan thoroughly enjoyed her meal, especially her chocolate malt! She kept looking back and forth between her aunt and her friend, thinking there was something drastically wrong because they weren't talking.
Andy and Megan went in the house when they got home. Because of the time factor, Jordan decided to wait until tomorrow to unload and stack the firewood on the woodpile—which was by the side of the fence about twenty feet away from the back door.
“I'm not going to the movie with you and Megan this afternoon,” Andy said when Jordan came in the house after unhooking the trailer. “I've had enough time away from the house for today. I think I'll take a nap. Is that all right?”
“Are you sure?” Jordan asked.
Andy didn't respond.
“We'll bring you back some popcorn,” Jordan said, looking at her watch. It was almost three o'clock, and if they hurried they could catch the movie at 3:30 and be home in time for dinner. She didn't want to disappoint Megan by cancelling their plans and staying home with Andy.
She watched sadly as Andy wandered slowly into her bedroom to lie down.
* * * * * *
Andy cried for a while as she spread out on the bed. How was she going to get out of this mess ? And now Jess knew she was a lesbian, too. The sad thing about it was that she had done nothing wrong ! She thought, If I had been having sex with another woman all this time, they would be justified in what they accuse me of. But I haven't done anything! She was only trying to come to terms with the drastic change that had taken place in her. And where had it gotten her? Kicked out of her home, shunned by her friend. Maybe it would have been better if I had been to bed with a woman, she thought. What difference does it make now?
* * * * * *
The Disney movie was as good as Disney movies get, but still too much violence in Jordan's estimation. They used to be funny. Megan chattered all the way back home about the movie. She kept asking Jordan questions about it, which went mostly unanswered. Jordan was in a pensive mood. She wondered how Andy was doing. Seeing her friend today had really shaken her up. They'd been having such a good time until they were abruptly interrupted by Jessica.
Andy seemed refreshed though, when Jordan and Megan got back home. She had even put another couple of logs on the fire and the house was nice and toasty. And she had fixed spaghetti for dinner with her own special homemade sauce. A tossed salad and garlic bread accompanied it. She seemed determined to keep things on a positive note. That's a good thing, Jordan thought. Maybe she's coming out of her slump.
As they were eating, Andy looked at her intensely over the dinner table. Jordan raised her head, feeling Andy's gaze as well as noting Andy and Megan's utensils had stopped moving.
“What?!” she said, questioning.
Andy looked down at Jordan's plate—empty. She looked at her own plate—still over half full. And at Megan's—the plate barely showing underneath the spaghetti. Then she looked back up at Jordan. She had never really noticed Jordan's eating habits before. Whenever they had gone to lunch together, she was so absorbed in talking that she never paid much attention to what or how Jordan ate.
Jordan caught on to Andy's body language and explained to her that she was used to eating fast because she worked at the fire station. They never knew when they were going to have to respond to an emergency. Sometimes it was right in the middle of a meal. So they had learned to eat in a hurry.
Andy smiled at the explanation. Jordan wondered if she really believed what she told her—although it was the truth. She made a mental note to herself to slow down when she was eating at home and enjoy the food with Andy instead of forging ahead and leaving her and Megan behind.
Megan had gotten used to the way her Aunt Jordan ate and never said a word anymore. In fact, she had tried her best to keep up with her way of eating when she first came to live with her, but soon decided it was too much effort!
Jordan spooned a half-serving more of spaghetti onto her plate and managed to slow down when she ate her second helping. She really was hungry, though.
“Megan, why don't you go ahead and go over to Suzanne's now,” Jordan said, as they cleared the table after dinner. “It's almost seven-thirty, and I don't think they'll mind if you get there a little early. Another storm is on the way, so you might as well get comfortable over there instead of here. Because if the rain and wind get too bad before you go, I just wouldn't feel right in letting you go at all. Okay?”
Megan rushed into her bedroom to get her things together. Jordan sat at the kitchen table and watched Andy run water for washing dishes.
The next thing on my list of things to do is get a dishwasher, she thought . I'd like to have a built-in one, but maybe I'll have to settle for a portable one. I'd have to tear out cabinets to have one built in, and I barely have enough cupboard space as it is. I'm not sure I want to do that much remodeling. But it would be nice not to have to move it over to the kitchen sink and back—
“Can I have some money for tomorrow, Aunt Jordan?” Megan whispered next to Jordan's ear.
Jordan was startled out of her reverie, not realizing Megan had approached her. She had been deep in thought, watching Andy. She quickly regained her balance and reached in her pocket for her wallet. She handed Megan five one-dollar bills. “Don't spend it all in one place,” she said. “Have fun,” she added, as Megan ran out the front door after giving her a big hug.
Jordan and Andy washed and dried the dishes slowly, hardly talking. When they were finished, Andy said, “I think I'll go change my clothes. What I'm wearing is really too heavy for inside the house. It's nice and warm in here now.” She left.Jordan quickly brushed her teeth and then moved to the living room and stirred the fire with the poker for a while. She sat down on the couch and tenderly thought of all Andy was going through and what she had yet to go through. She wondered what more she could do to help her.
To be continued...
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