by Carole Mortenson



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When they arrived back at Lake Daylesford , Shannon pulled up at the opposite end of the parking lot where the book shed was located. She and Jo clasped hands and walked down a hill to sit on a bench by the lakeside. The lake was still calm and peaceful. They sat there silently in the shade of a huge gum tree and watched the swans swimming. There was a scattering of other people here, also—some walking on the trail around the lake and others occupying single benches or seated at picnic tables. Shannon pointed out a couple of kangaroos that had come down to the water's edge on the far shore.

" Shannon , I want to kiss you," Jo said abruptly, turning to look at her.

"What? Now? Right here?" Shannon responded, looking around her.

"Yes. Right now. Right here. I see a lot of couples, but they're both male or both female. Do you honestly think they would care? Look over there to your left. Those two aren't waiting for an 'all clear' signal!" Shannon looked and saw two women embracing on a lakeside bench.

"But Jo—" Shannon started to say, as Jo pulled her in and effectively shut off her words with her mouth. Jo felt Shannon gradually slump into her arms and then return her kiss passionately.

When they finally broke apart, breathless, Shannon said, hesitatingly, "I'm sorry, Jo, that I've seemed so distant. I've had a lot on my mind." And I just found out something at The Ice Cream Parlor I never thought was possible, she thought. This changes things dramatically.

"Like what?" Jo asked. Help me, Shannon , she thought. I want to understand you.

Shannon responded by rising up from the bench and walking back up the hill to the parking lot. Jo was reluctant to leave, and her question had not been answered. But she caught up with Shannon and slipped her arm around her waist. Shannon followed suit, leaning her head on Jo's shoulder, and they walked together back to the car.

Shannon decided to park the car closer to the book shed. She thought Carly and Paige might be loaded down with books. There was a Christmastime 'bargain sale' going on. She didn't want them to have to walk too far if they had bought a lot of books. Plus—even though Carly said she was okay—she wasn't sure how she was really doing with her recent hip replacement.

"Hey, you two," Shannon said, as she and Jo walked into the book shed and spotted Paige and Carly. They were sitting at a table drinking some weird-looking greenish stuff, topped off with a sprig of parsley.

"Oh, hi," Carly said, pulling her eyes away from Paige's and looking at Shannon . "We're having a 'green drink'—kind of a concoction of cucumber and other veggies. Very healthy and very good-tasting, too. Do you guys want something?"

Always the health nut, Shannon thought. And she seems to have roped Paige into it.

Jo looked at what they were drinking and thought to herself that even though she was a yogini and was health-conscious to a certain extent, it looked too greenish-yellow to suit her tastes.

"No, thanks," she and Shannon answered at the same time.

"We just had some ice cream," Jo said, smiling.

"Yuck!" said Paige, making a face. "That's not very healthy, is it? I mean, look at all that rich cream and stuff." She looked at Carly for approval and then turned back to Jo, who had quit smiling by then.

"Well, it all depends on how you look at it," Jo responded. "Shannon and I just happen to like ice cream, don't we, Shannon ?"

She felt herself starting to bristle, ready to go on the defensive at Paige's words. She thought to herself, You're the one to talk, with your hotdog and chips catering service! That isn't very healthy.

Shannon replied, smiling, "Yeah, we do. But can we go now instead of standing here jawing? I'm sure Rose will be looking for us. We don't want to be late."

Carly and Paige quickly gulped down the rest of their drinks and got up from their table. They had bought a dozen books between them. A majority of the books in the book shed were used ones, so they didn't spend a lot of money. Most of them were in excellent shape. And because of the 'bargain sale,' they spent even less.

They pulled the books out of the sack to show Shannon and Jo and said they were all lesbian books. Shannon told them they better not leave them lying around at the B&B , because she didn't know how tolerant her hosts were— or her new employer and his young assistant! They assured her they'd keep them hidden away under their pillows or in their suitcases.

"Do you want to buy any books, Jo?" Shannon asked as they started out the door. "We can spare a few minutes, if you want to go back in."

"No, that's okay," Jo said. "I probably wouldn't have time to read them, anyway."

"We don't have to guess anymore about what those two are up to, do we?" Shannon whispered to Jo as they walked to the car. "Did you notice some of the covers of those books had pictures of nude women on them?" She started laughing, and Jo laughed along with her.

"Maybe they'll let us borrow a couple," Jo remarked. More laughter—

"Can you believe that ?" Shannon said, leaning over to Jo and whispering again. "Your friend and my friend?" They broke out in laughter at the thought.

Carly looked at them oddly. "What's so funny?" she said.

"Oh, nothing," Shannon said. She looked at Jo, and they both started laughing again.

* * * * * *

"I was just about to give up on you girls," Rose said, looking at the clock. "But it's just now six o'clock, so you're not late after all. Matt and Suellen are going to be a few minutes late because Matt just got home from work and has to take a shower before they come. Did you find some clothes? And did you have some fun?"

"Oh, yes," Jo answered for all of them. "What do you think of my new hat? And I got some pants and shirts, too."

"It looks like a sure-enough Aussie hat—just like Shannon 's. Just the style for you, Jo. What did you two girls get?" she asked Carly and Paige.

"I got a couple pairs of pants and a couple shirts, too," Paige said. "That should last me while I'm here."

"Do you have clothes for your mother's funeral?" Rose asked. "When is the funeral?"

Paige looked at Jo and then back at Rose. "I'll manage," she said quietly.

Carly quickly spoke up, to guide Rose away from that line of questioning. "And we got some books to read at the book shed."

Paige had told Carly the tale of coming to see Jo, using her mother's death as an excuse, when they were on the bus coming up from Melbourne . Carly was jealous of Jo to begin with, but not anymore. She and Paige were getting along fabulously!

"Oh, really? Isn't that a wonderful place? I love to read," Rose said—her previous questions to Paige temporarily forgotten. "Especially when I go to bed. I read romance novels. Helps me sleep. Suellen brings me books sometimes. Did you get anything like that?"

"Nah, these probably wouldn't be interesting to you," Carly responded, realizing her mistake as soon as she opened her mouth. She never should have even mentioned books. "They're just some outdoors books—hiking and biking and stuff like that." She clutched the sack of books to her chest.

"Oh, that's too bad. I'm on me last romance novel." Rose sounded disappointed. But then she brightened up. "Maybe Davie would like to read something like that. Poor boy, he's never gotten to go much of anywhere. He's just a city boy. Did you hear how he carried on about those sheep? Could I see what you bought?" She reached out a hand.

"These aren't the kind of books Davie would be interested in, I'm sure," Carly said, as she hugged the books close. "They're more for women."

Shannon could see Rose's questioning could get out of hand if they kept standing there. "Come on, girls," she said. "Let's put our stuff away."

The four of them hurried down the hallway to deposit their things in their bedrooms before they were forced to come up with answers for more of Rose's probing questions. They washed up and came back to the kitchen.

Fred was washing his hands in the washroom sink, having just come in from cleaning the chook pen. Bertie had met him as he was coming up to the house, and he had gone back down to the bungalow where they kept eggs in the fridge to keep them fresh and got her the dozen eggs she'd asked for.

The women started helping Rose set the tables in both the kitchen and dining room to accommodate the crowd coming for dinner. For tonight's setting, Rose chose a beautiful china pattern she had picked up in Melbourne years ago. "Twelve place-settings," she said, "imported from England ."

Rose had many different sets of dishes, and Shannon and the other three women wondered how each of them had ever gotten along with only one set of dishes.

Paige thought, You can eat off of only one plate at a time.

Carly thought, I really prefer Melmac. They don't break.

Shannon thought, Those are beautiful dishes! I should try and buy some like those while I'm here and have them shipped back to the States.

Jo thought, How nice for Rose to go to so much trouble for all of us. She's such a great lady.



Davie wandered into the kitchen, noticing that all of the women were busy. He sat down at the counter and watched them. "I wonder what Mr. Bannister is doing right now," he said loudly. "I hope he gets things straightened out for an equipment vehicle." He was talking to himself, however, as not one of the five women chose to respond to him.

There were footsteps on the back veranda, and Matt and Suellen with their kids and mum made their appearance, coming through the washroom into the kitchen.

There were twelve for dinner. The seven women, including mum, were going to sit in the dining room. Matt's boy Jacky—who was ten years old—would sit with the three men in the kitchen.

Matt and Suellen's thirteen-year-old daughter, Gerri, usually sat with her dad, doting on his fabulous experiences of catching large salt-water fish. But tonight she decided to sit in the dining room with the women. She didn't want to hear about her dad's exploits of fishing trips anymore. She was a budding teenager and was showing an interest in anything that pertained to females! She was curious and intrigued with the four women visitors from America.

After introductions all around, they sat down to eat Rose's delicious stew, while Rose carried on about how her women guests had been such a big help to her in cutting up all the veggies and setting the tables.

"They even had me bring out some napkins so it would be a real formal dinner. We hardly ever use napkins," she said. Suellen looked at the women guests and winked.

Jo and Shannon thoroughly enjoyed the meal, even though they'd eaten ice cream earlier. Carly and Paige just kind of picked at their stew, spooning only a little bit into their large soup bowls and making more of a meal out of the green salad and the rolls with slices of tomato on them.

After the main course, Rose brought out a large homemade chocolate sheet cake that she had baked while the girls were gone in the afternoon. Jo and Shannon each had a piece without ice cream. Carly and Paige had decided on the plane over from Sydney that they loved chocolate, so when Rose offered them a second piece, they didn't refuse.

Shannon and Jo looked at each other, both with basically the same thought: Carly and Paige are already bonding.

After dinner, everyone gathered in the living room. Dining chairs were placed around the sofa and recliner so everyone could have a seat and watch the large TV. The number one entertainment for almost everyone in Clunes focused around the television. There were no theaters or any other form of entertainment in town—not even a place to have a drink or go dancing.

Gerri and Jacky browsed around the few presents under the Christmas tree for a while, then excused themselves and went into the kitchen to watch the smaller TV in there, as their favorite program was on. The grownups watched McLeod's Daughters again. This program had turned out to be Davie's favorite program and it was on every night. He made himself right at home, stretching out on the carpet in front of the TV with a couch pillow under his head.

"Hey, mum, could you come here a minute?" Gerri said. She was standing in the kitchen, holding something behind her back.

Suellen went over to her daughter, who held out a small book to her. "I had to go to the bathroom, and when I was walking back to the kitchen, I saw this on the floor in the hallway and thought nana had dropped it." Suellen saw a picture on the book's cover of a chorus line of naked women, lined up one behind the other. Her eyes widened. This certainly wasn't her mother-in-law's, was it?

"Honey, I really don't think this is nana's," she told Gerri. "Why don't you go back and watch the tele with your brother, and I'll put it back where I think it belongs. Okay?"

Gerri turned away, but watched her mother go down the hallway to the two bedrooms at the end. She looked into the living room and noticed everyone else was watching TV or talking. She shrugged her shoulders, her curiosity about the American women waning as the program she was watching with Jacky suddenly became exciting.

Suellen opened the door to the red room and turned on the light. She saw a stack of books on one of the beds. She started to put the book in her hand on top of the pile when curiosity got the best of her. She hastily picked up the stack and saw there were other books with pictures of nude women on the covers. Her eyes widened again as she smiled. She put the books back down, placing the small one on top. She turned off the light, closed the door and then hurriedly went back into the living room.

"How did you girls manage to find enough beds to sleep in here at mum's?" she nonchalantly asked them all. She sat down on an empty chair next to the couch where Shannon and Jo were seated.

Shannon spoke up. "Well, Jo and I were here first, so we decided to sleep in the blue room, which had two beds. My friend Carly was coming, too, and she had a hip replacement recently, so we decided to let her have the red room, which had one bed, so she could get up and walk if she needed to and wouldn't wake anyone. But then Jo found out that her friend was coming, so your father-in-law was kind enough to find another bed for the red room—over at Max's, I believe he said—and we just stuck Paige in the red room with Carly rather than moving things around again."

"You all know each other, then?" Suellen asked.

"Well, it's kind of strange how that happened," Shannon said. "Jo and I were on the same plane from Sydney to Melbourne and sat next to each other. We're actually from the same town in Colorado, but had never met before. So we struck up a conversation and found we had a lot of things in common. When the plane landed, Davie boy met me, and we took the bus up here. He's kind of an assistant to my employer, for the photography studio I'm shooting for. And Jo's pen pal, Rose—your mother-in-law—and Fred, picked Jo up at the airport and they drove up here. We didn't know we'd be staying at the same place till we all got here."

"Oh," Rose interjected. "I didn't know you two were on the same plane together—"

"Didn't we mention that to you? I thought we did," Jo said, looking at Shannon.

"I thought so, too," Shannon said, wrinkling up her eyebrows and letting the subject drop as she continued talking.

"Carly and Paige were on the same plane from Sydney to Melbourne a couple days later, and rode the bus up here together. Carly is from San Jose, California, and she and I have known each other for many years. Paige is from Colorado—like Jo—and Jo has known her for a couple of months. So that's kind of how we all know each other. The four of us have a lot in common. In fact, Suellen, we all went to Daylesford this afternoon so Jo could get some other clothes. She's going with me on my photo shoots."

"That's really neat! Did you say you were from Colorado?" Suellen asked.

"Yes. Colorado Springs," Jo replied.

"Could you show me exactly where that is on the map?" Suellen said. "I know where California is, but I'm not sure where Colorado is."

Shannon and Jo accompanied Suellen to the kitchen table. Jo told Paige to stay with Carly. Rose pulled out a world map for them from the cupboard under the phone and then went back into the living room. Suellen opened up the map, and Jo was pointing out Colorado to her and then Colorado Springs. All three of them were bent over the map.

"So you went to Daylesford today?" Suellen inquired softly. Shannon nodded.

"Did you happen to stop in at Feline Eats ? It's a little café that serves excellent sandwiches. I go there for lunch when I shop in Daylesford for bakery supplies.”

"No, we didn't stop there," Shannon said. "After we got some clothes for Jo and Paige, we drove down to Lake Daylesford to the book shed. Carly and Paige bought some books there, which hopefully they'll share with us. Then Jo and I went to The Ice Cream Parlor and had some ice cream. Why are you asking?"

"Oh, I just wondered," Suellen said. Then the light dawned. She hesitated and then went on in almost a whisper so her kids wouldn't hear. They were intently glued to the kitchen tele however. "Actually, I have a girlfriend who works there, and I didn't get a chance to see her last week. Matt's work has kept him around Clunes most of the time lately, and I haven't been able to duck out for a little while. I was just wondering if maybe you'd stopped in there and noticed if she was working."

"What does she look like, if we had been looking for her?" Shannon asked just as quietly. "We'll be going again soon, probably to take some photos there."

"That's okay," Suellen responded hastily. "I need to go there in a couple of days, anyway, out of necessity. I'm running out of supplies at the bakery. By the way, those are some sexy books your friends bought today at the book shed. Couldn't help but notice when I put a book away just a few minutes ago that someone had dropped in the hallway."

She winked at them knowingly and then folded the map and put it away, leaving Shannon and Jo smiling at each other.

What a wonderful country, this Australia! Jo thought again. I'll have my work cut out for me when I start writing about my journey!



Joyce knocked on the ornate front door of the B&B next door to The Ice Cream Parlor . She was anxious and wondered if she was doing the right thing. But Tammi Sue said she should. She had waited until dark so nobody would see her.

The door opened a crack, and a petite and attractive half-aborigine woman with long dark hair said, "Yes? Oh, Joyce, come in."

As she stepped inside while Rita closed the door behind her, Joyce said, "Can I see her for a minute, Rita? It's really important."

"Of course," Rita replied. "Wait here. I'll get her." She went to back of the lobby and softly opened a door behind the front desk and went in.

A couple of minutes later, she came back out and walked to the front door where Joyce was left standing.

"She says she's really busy organizing her things for the annual ceremony the day after tomorrow. She wonders what you want to see her about that's so important."

"I have something for her," Joyce said. She glanced furtively around the lobby. "Would you give this to her and tell her that she's back in town and will be showing up at The Ice Cream Parlor another day soon?"

"Yes. For you , I can do that. Thank you, Joyce." She took the envelope from Joyce's hand—who then turned around and quickly left. Rita shut the door behind her.

On her way back to the room behind the front desk, Rita's hand hit the edge of the desk, and the envelope Joyce had handed her fell to the floor. As she bent down and picked it up, a picture slid halfway out. She wondered who the two women were in the photo. She took the photo all the way out of the envelope. One of the women had golden-blonde hair and beautifully bronzed ski. She had no idea who the woman was. The other was dark-haired, dark-eyed, and—

Rita almost dropped the picture as she registered shock. She could have sworn the dark-haired one in the picture was of her dearest friend taken some years previously. Looking closer at the photo, she thought the resemblance was remarkable! Even though the woman had short hair. But it couldn't possibly be, as she had just seen and talked with her friend in the room at the back.

* * * * * *

A sense of anticipation, yet dreadful foreboding, settled over the ancient one, as he and the other Aborigines made their way deliberately through the underbrush and overhanging eucalyptus trees to their appointed place of initiation. The initiates were surrounded by the group, unaware of the danger they were bringing upon themselves by becoming shamans. There was much to do, and only this day to do it. The ancient one urged the group to hurry.

Silence pervaded the small clearing as the Aborigines gathered around the three initiates for the final step. The eucalyptus forest surrounding them cast a veritable coolness on the group, in contrast to the previous day's unbearable heat of summer in the Land Down Under.

The ancient one had been performing shaman ceremonies here every year for over forty years and now looked with approval on the three sitting on the log facing the ceremonial fire. They had all passed the tests and were worthy and ready to become shamans. He favored the fair-skinned one the most—the one who had gone far beyond what was expected or required.

That one will be a great leader, he thought , and will change many lives. But not without passing through many adversities.

He sighed deeply as he handed each of the initiates a wooden cup filled with the ceremonial drink. This would be his final act in declaring the three as shamans. The other Aborigines had already begun their joyful welcoming dance.

As the initiates reached out to take their ceremonial cups, a wedge-tailed eagle swooped down from the trees with a loud cry, coming within inches of grazing the head of the fair-skinned one. The Aborigines watched the eagle until it disappeared from sight into the surrounding eucalyptus forest.

This is only the beginning , the soon-to-be shaman vowed.

Then with hearts filled with gratitude, the three initiates drank deeply from their cups. They felt the power entering their bodies and then joined in the dancing as full-fledged shamans.

* * * * * *

After Rita left her the envelope with the picture inside, the shaman touched the face of the blonde-haired woman in the picture. She's here, she thought. It won't be long now. She smiled when she saw the face of the dark-haired woman.

It had taken her years to learn how to transport her thoughts to a different place and have any effect on those she reached. This was the first time she had been able to keep a continuous and prolonged contact with someone.

The ancient one had taught her well, and she recognized that women were the future positive force that could overcome greed and evil and bring peace to the world. Women had enormous powers within them to be developed. There had been women shamans from time immemorial, before men rose up and declared that they were the true shamans. And there would be women shamans covering the earth again. She was only the first, gathering together as many women as she could who would take back their rightful place.

The shaman felt drained tonight. Every last bit of energy she had was going toward bringing closure to her troubled world of enemies and greed. It was almost over now. But she couldn't rest yet. There was still much to do.



Shannon had cornered Suellen for a few minutes earlier in the evening, asking her about the flowers and fauna she had taken photos of early that morning, so she could put captions with them. Suellen graciously matched up the photos with the names. She and her family left early, taking mum with them.

It was ten o'clock now, and almost everyone was ready for bed. They had all been sitting in the living room half asleep watching an old John Wayne western. Davie got up first, saying goodnight, and headed down to the bungalow. He hoped Mr. Bannister would call and let him know what was happening.

Fred and Rose said they needed to go to bed, too, as they always had to get up early—guests or no guests.

Finally, Carly and Paige thought they might as well go to bed, also. They were both quite tired from their trip from Sydney—and then going over to Daylesford as soon as they got to Clunes wore them out. It had been a long day for them.

Shannon and Jo elected to stay up for a while and talk. But they finally gave up on the day, too.

It was close to midnight. Shannon had just sat down on her bed after showering and dressing in her pajamas. She noticed Jo was sitting up in her bed, leaning her ear against the wall. She ambled over to her.

"What are you doing?" she asked, puzzled.

Jo turned to her and whispered, "Shhh....Listen to what I'm hearing."

"What?" Shannon said, whispering also and then climbing onto Jo's bed on her knees.

"Sit here next to me," Jo said, patting the quilt, "and lean up against the wall."

Shannon sat next to Jo and put her ear to the wall. She immediately began hearing all sorts of moaning and groaning coming from the red room.

"God, Jo, I didn't think Carly would have this much of a problem with her hip replacement," Shannon said, alarmingly, pulling her head back. "She sounds like she's in such awful pain. Do you think we should try and do something to help her? Get her some medicine or something?"

"Shannon, listen again. Does that really sound like awful pain moaning, or intense pleasure moaning?" Jo said.

Shannon leaned her head against the wall again. "Do you think—?” Her eyes grew wide and she started giggling softly; Jo began to giggle, too, as they listened. There was a muffled shriek from the other room and a low stifled laugh. Then they heard someone say, "Oh...God! That was the best ever!" Shannon and Jo tried their very hardest to keep from laughing out loud!

"Wow!" said Shannon. "If there was ever a doubt, there sure isn't now, is there?" She sat straight up in Jo's bed and looked at Jo curiously. "Did you have any idea they were this close to—?"

"Yeah," Jo replied, pulling her head away from the wall. "I could tell all the way over to Daylesford and back. I didn't think it would take them long."

Shannon got up and went back to her bed. She climbed under the covers without saying anything more. Jo immediately felt an emptiness she couldn't explain. While Shannon had been leaning against the wall, she had also been leaning into Jo, and Jo wanted to pull her down on the bed right then and lovingly do to her what Carly and Paige were doing in the red room. Shannon's leaving her bed was sudden and unexpected. Jo turned around and sat on the edge of her bed, just about to get up and go over to Shannon's bed.

She was stopped short by a question from Shannon. "Jo, how long have you been a lesbian?"

"For more years than I can remember. I don't know how long, exactly," Jo said. She wondered why Shannon asked her that kind of a question.

"Have you ever had a partner?" Shannon asked. Another curious question.

"Not really. Just a few flings here and there, but nothing that lasted. And I've not even had a fling for over five years." Her words were filled with regret.

"After Carly, there was no one in my life until Kim came along. And that lasted for only a few months. There's been no one since then."

I wonder what she's getting at, Jo thought, but remained silent.

"Jo, do you miss having someone close to you?"

Jo didn't know what to say and finally blurted out, "Of course I do! What kind of a stupid question is that? And why are you asking me all these questions, anyway?" She was getting upset.

Shannon was silent. "Goodnight, Jo," Shannon finally said softly, after a long pause.

"Goodnight, Shannon," Jo replied tersely. She noisily got under her covers, turned her face to the wall and closed her eyes, wondering what was going on with Shannon. And there's that name Kim again. Haven't I heard her name enough? Am I competing with Shannon's long lost love or something? That's not exactly what I had in mind in a relationship.

* * * * * *

Jo woke up just as the light of dawn was starting to break in through the veranda windows into the bedroom. Her arm seemed heavy with numbness. She started to raise it up, but couldn't move it. She dreamily opened her lids halfway and glanced down. She noticed Shannon lying in the crook of her arm, with her head on her chest.

At first, she thought it was an illusion and that Shannon wasn't really there—that her mind was playing tricks on her. How could Shannon get in bed with me without my noticing? she thought. And why didn't she wake me up?

But it was real enough as she started to move Shannon off her chest and Shannon woke up.

"I'm sorry, Jo," Shannon said, "but I just needed to be close to you last night. I didn't mean anything by it." She went over to her own bed and crawled under the covers.

Jo looked at her with astonishment. "You didn't mean anything by it? What was the sense in getting in bed with me then?" She felt slighted. She thought Shannon should have at least kissed her when she moved over to her own bed just now.

"Do you remember I said I wanted you to come with me on my photo shoots because I didn't want to be the only woman on the crew?" Shannon was stumbling around, trying to find the right words to explain her actions. "And remember I also said I wanted you to come because I needed you?"

"Yes," Jo responded. "But why do you need me? God, Shannon, we've been having sex together! And now you just want to lie down beside me just so you can sleep in the same bed with me like I was a favorite teddy bear or blankie or something? What the hell is going on?"

She stood up and looked over at her. "I don't understand you. Give me something I can understand! Shannon, I bend , I twist , and I hurt . Do you have any idea what you're doing with my feelings? Any idea at all?"

"Jo, I don't know why I need you. I wish I could explain that. But I do know that I'm falling in love with you. And I can't explain that either, because I hardly know you." Shannon silently laid there for a few minutes longer, and Jo could hear her softly crying into her pillow.

Jo shook her head in exasperation. She pulled her clothes on, rummaged around in her suitcase for a clean pair of socks and then picked up her footwear and padded into the kitchen to get a cup of tea and put her shoes and socks on in there.

On the way to the kitchen, what Shannon said about falling in love with her finally registered, but it was a bittersweet declaration. Then she was shocked when she realized that she was falling in love with Shannon, too! Love? What do I know about love? What does Shannon know? What does anyone know? She was thoroughly confused and frustrated.

She sat down on a kitchen chair and angrily pulled her socks on, noticing she had one brown sock and one black. What the hell? she thought. Not that it makes any difference, I guess. She didn't bother going back into the bedroom to find a pair of matching socks, but put her shoes on and pulled her jeans down over her socks. She was sure no one would notice if she didn't mention it.

Rose already had breakfast started. Jo could smell delicious bacon frying. I haven't had bacon in a long time. I wonder what the occasion is. Aren't we going to have porridge again? She said hi to Rose and then got up and fixed herself a cup of tea, bringing it over to the counter where she scrambled up to sit on one of the stools.

Shannon came out a few minutes later and fixed herself some tea like Jo had done. Her eyes were slightly red from crying. She sat next to Jo. "I'm sorry," she said softly. Jo nodded her head. "So am I."

Not more than five minutes later, Carly and Paige wandered into the kitchen and sat down at the kitchen table. Shannon and Jo looked over at them. Jo was the first to speak.

"Well, how did your night go?" she said, looking them up and down. God knows mine didn't go so well! she thought.

Paige answered, "We slept really well, didn't we, Carly?" She looked at Carly, a broad grin on her face.

Carly nodded her head. "Yep, really well." End of conversation. Shannon and Jo turned to look at each other, and they couldn't help but start to giggle again.

Rose set a big platter of bacon on the table, followed by a big platter of French toast. "Come on over to the table, you two," she said to Shannon and Jo. She wondered what they were giggling about, but was too polite to ask.

"Wow! What's the occasion, Rose," Jo asked, her eyes staring at the food in front of them. She could hear her stomach growling.

"Well, I just thought we'd have a little something different today. You're from America, and you're probably not used to eating porridge every day like we do. Fred has already eaten and gone out to the garage to sharpen some tools, and Davie isn't up yet. He sure sleeps a lot, doesn't he? Well, he can just eat whatever's handy when he comes up to the house," Rose said with finality.


To be continued...

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