Erin called Jane on Saturday morning and asked if she could cancel their morning plans. She was slightly embarrassed when she citied the reason. After Shannon had left the night before, she had had a brainstorm of an idea for her next book and she sat up all night working furiously on her laptop. The first few chapters had taken on their basic form as her fingertips tapped out the first creative thoughts to flow from her mind in six months. Erin was so ecstatic that her passion had returned the hours had slipped away without her knowledge. Only when her alarm rang, did she look up to the window to see the sun rising in the distance. The intense, golden rays split the haze in the sapphire sky and in the weary soul. The dawn of a new day indeed, she thought with a smile.
Jane was very understanding. Her friends health was her most important concern, but that didnt stop the disappointment she felt at the prospect of spending the morning without the comforting presence of the small blonde author. Erin had assured Jane that their evening plans to attend a concert and dinner were definitely still on.
So she spent the morning and early afternoon just strolling around the general area. She passed by a stylish clothing shop and suddenly realized that their evening plans called for more formal attire, of which she didnt have.
Jane took her time trying on several different types of outfits. She immediately knew that the dress just didnt feel right on her body. Nor did the knee length skirt.
The middle-aged storeowner was very helpful in showing Jane the things she thought would compliment the tall womans coloring and her build.
She finally tried on a pair of black slacks and a sleeveless, lightweight, knit sweater in a very pale blue with accents of an iridescent green thread running throughout the soft garment. Jane stepped from the small changing room and studied herself in the full-length mirror not liking what she saw. There were several small, but noticeable scars on her bared upper arms. The high collar disguised the flawed skin on her neck and she liked the rest of the outfit very much, but she didnt want to be seen like that. Funny, she thought to herself, it never mattered to me what I really looked like or what I wore. But tonight is special. I want to look nice for our evening out. I want to look nice for Erin. Her head tilted up to meet her own blue eyed gazed. You want to impress her. Dont lie to yourself anymore. The shop owner stepped into her view and with a compassionate smile, handed Jane another item. The tall woman nodded a thank you, slipped her arms into the garment and turned back to the mirror. The long sleeved, slate gray jacket fell to just above her knees and was tailored to hug her slim figure. Jane nodded to herself and smiled, finally confident in her appearance.
* * * *
Erin stood in front of the well-lit mirror applying just the tiniest bit of blush to her cheeks. Next, a spring green powder slid across each eyelid and a light shade of reddish cream accented her lips. She hadnt bothered with any make up as she was doing the tourist thing in the days before, but tonight she felt like really dressing up. The hand carved brush slid through her short hair, as there was a knock on the door.
"Come on in Jane," she called out loudly. Erin heard the door open and close as she finished smoothing down her tresses and any wrinkles in her dress. "Ill be right out."
"We have plenty of time," came the response from the outer room.
Erin settled her wire frame glasses onto her nose and stood back. She made a quick twirl in front of the mirror and smiled as a small wave of giddiness tickled her spine. She blamed it on her lack of sleep and shook it off without a second thought. Erin stepped into the main room and moved to get her purse from the nightstand. "Im glad I got two tickets when I arrived on Monday," she said as she rummaged through the small bag, making sure she had everything. "I heard that they sold out the " She looked up to see Jane staring at her, mouth hanging open in a trance like state. " next day."
My God shes beautiful. Janes eyes were struck by the vision in green the second Erin stepped through the door. That dress is absolutely perfect for her. But then she would look wonderful in anything or noth
"Jane is something wrong?"
The tall woman blinked several times. Did she just ask me something? "Yes, yes."
"Nothing." Jane took a deep breath and rubbed two fingers over her wrinkled forehead. "No, nothing is wrong I just um got distracted. Im sorry."
The corner of Erins mouth twitched slightly. "No need to be sorry. It happens to me all the time."
Somehow I doubt it.
Erin moved a step closer. "You look very, very nice. I really like the long jacket."
Jane actually felt herself flush at the innocent comment. "Thanks. So do you. That dress is you look really " Beautiful. Gorgeous. Breathtaking. " nice."
"Thank you." Erin grabbed a light cardigan from the back of the chair, in case the night air was chilled when they left the concert hall. "Are you ready?"
All Jane could manage was a nod.
* * * *
Thirty minutes of melodious solo harp music was followed by another forty-five minutes of selections by a forty-member symphony. Music in all forms was very important in the Irish culture.
Later in the evening, as Erin and Jane sat in the restaurant waiting for their dinner to be served, the blonde author regaled some of the stories and Irish myths involving music.
"One of my favorites is The Dagdas Harp. It is said that there were two different kinds of people in Ireland: one with long, dark hair and dark eyes, called Fomorians. They carried slender spears made of golden bronze when they fought. Another race of people were golden haired and blue eyed and carried short, blunt, heavy spears of dull metal.
"The golden haired people had a great chieftain who was also a kind of high priest. He was called the Dagda. And this Dagda had a wonderful magic harp. The harp was beautiful to look upon, mighty in size, made of rare wood and ornamented with colorful jewels. It had wonderful music in its strings, which only the Dagda could call out. When the men were going to battle, the Dagda would set up his magic harp and sweep his hand across the strings and a war song would ring out which would make every warrior buckle on his armor, brace his knees and shout, Forth to the fight! Then when the men came back from battle, weary and wounded, the Dagda would take his harp and strike a few cords and as the magic music stole out upon the air, every man forgot his weariness and the smart of his wounds and thought of the honor he had won and of the comrade who had died beside him and of the safety of his family. Then the song would swell louder and every warrior would remember only the glory he had helped win for the king. Each man would rise at the great tables his cup in his hand and shout, Long live the King!
"There came a time when the Fomorians and the golden haired men were at war and in the midst of a great battle, while the Dagdas hall was not so well guarded as usual, some of the chieftains of the Fomorians stole the great harp from the wall where it hung and fled away with it. Their wives, children and a few of their soldiers went with them and they fled fast and far through the night, until they were a long way from the battlefield. When they thought they were safe and they turned aside into a vacant castle by the road and sat down to a banquet, hanging the stolen harp on the wall.
"The Dagda with two or three of his men had followed hard on their tracks. And while they were in the midst of their banqueting, the door was suddenly burst open and the Dagda stood there with his men. Some of the Fomorians sprang to their feet, but before any of them could grasp a weapon, the Dagda called out, Come to me my harp.
"The great harp recognized his masters voice and leaped from the wall. Whirling through the hall, sweeping aside and killing the men who got in its way, it sprang to its masters hand. And the Dagda swept across the strings in three great solemn chords. The harp answered with the magic music of tears. As the wailing harmony smote upon the air, the women of the Fomorians bowed their heads and wept bitterly, the strong men turned their faces aside and the children sobbed.
"Again the Dagda touched the enchanted strings and this time the magic music of mirth leaped from the harp. And with that, the young warriors of the Fomorians began to laugh and they laughed till the cups fell from their grasps and the spears dropped from their hands while the wine flowed. They laughed until their limbs were helpless with excess of glee.
"Once more the Dagda touched his harp, but very, very softly. Now a melody stole forth as soft as dreams and as sweet as joy. It was the magic music of sleep.
"When they heard that, gently the Fomorian women bowed their heads in slumber, the little children crept into their mothers laps and old men nodded. The young warriors closed their eyes and dropped into their seats. One after the other, the Fomorians sank into sleep.
"While they were all in deep slumber, the Dagda took his magic harp and he and his golden haired warriors stole away and came in safely to their own homes again." Erin waited for a response from her dark haired companion. "So what did you think?" she finally asked.
"I think you have the perfect voice for story telling. Its like sugar on a cloud as the words melt into the listeners ear with a sweetness of form and style."
Erin pulled her bottom lip into her mouth as she looked down at the napkin in her lap. The tips of her ears pinked up as she fumbled for the words. "I think you might just be a writer too. And thank you."
Jane let her gaze drift away. "No. You just inspire."
The oddly, intense moment was broken by a rousing birthday song from the next table. Erin took the opportunity to return the conversation to its previous topic. "No matter what the language or the notes, music always touches me in some way."
"If you love it so much why didnt you become a musician instead of a writer?"
Erin gave a wistful smile. "Just because the love is your heart, doesnt mean you have the talent in these," she said holding up her hands.
Jane studied the wiggling digits. "Those look pretty talented to me." The words slipped out before she could censor them.
Neither woman had time to be embarrassed by the flirtatious comment as the waiter arrived with their meals just at that moment. They both dove into the hearty food without further discussion. But the silence lasted only a few minutes as Erin quickly realized, or perhaps just rationalized, that her friend must have meant the talent of her writing. "So what did you do today while I was in slumber land?" she asked.
Jane took a sip of water. "Actually I just wondered around, did a little shopping, threw a few coins into the wishing well " she shrugged her shoulder. " nothing out of ordinary."
What did you wish for, I wonder, thought Erin.
"You know, with the exception of this morning, we have spent nearly every minute of the last four days together," Jane happily observed.
Erin gave a joyous grin. "I know, wasnt it great? It was so much nicer having someone to share all of this with."
"Yeah it was." Jane tried to keep the distress from her voice when she said, "You must be anxious to get back to your grandmothers tomorrow." The disappointment over the impending separation was tied to Janes heart like a lead weight. She had no idea what she would do without her new friends guidance. Just her presence had added so many dimensions to Janes solemn existence. Her life was empty of previous memories, but somehow she knew that the pain of losing Erins companionship would far surpass that.
I am but. "Yeah, the next week is going to be fun." The last word was spoken with less than enthusiasm. As much as she loved her grandmother, she wished she could stay in Dublin for the next week or two or
* * * *
Later, Erin returned from the ladies room to find a bowl filled with huge, bright red strawberries sitting in the middle of the table.
"I hope you dont mind," said Jane. "I saw some of these as we came in and they just looked so good I had to order some. If you want something else Ill get the waiter."
"Oh no! These will be fine." Erin quickly selected a plump, ruby treat and doused it liberally with the rich, sweet cream in one of the smaller bowls beside it. Perfect white teeth gently clamped down and her lids slipped shut in culinary ecstasy as the tartness tingled inside her very happy mouth.
Jane watched in fascination. God, I know shes not doing that on purpose, but that is so She pulled her gaze away and softly cleared her throat. You have to stop having these thoughts. You know shes not interested in that way.
"Arent you going to have any?" asked Erin. "They are as delicious as you thought theyd be."
Jane giggled at herself silently and reached for a large berry. She, however, by-passed the cream and dunked it in the thick, golden liquid in the other bowl. She lifted it and let some of the sweetness drizzle off. Then Jane twisted is slightly and brought it to her mouth. Their eyes met for an instant as she quickly finished the fruit.
Erin leaned forward and brought her linen napkin to Janes face. She started to touch the corner of the tall womans mouth. "You ah have some honey." She handed Jane the cloth. "Well here, I guess you can "
The rest of the dessert was eaten in silence and much less sensually.
They were seated at a table near the back of the restaurant where it was fairly quiet and cozy. A softly scented candle flickered between them as they rested before leaving. The lights outside the building suddenly sprang to life, illuminating the small balcony beside their table. Shadows swayed across the cement landing as the trees danced to the music that was starting on the street below.
Erin turned her head, her hearing attuned to the melody.
Jane watched as the blonde head faintly bobbed with the beat. "Care for some air?" she asked standing, her back popping as she did. "They probably want this table, but we can listen a while longer."
Erin followed her through the open double doors, out onto the balcony. Potted plants and hanging flowers filled the night air with a sweet aroma. They both leaned forward onto the black iron railing and watched the quartet below. Their chosen selections for the performance were soft and spoke of contentment and pleasure, romance and love.
During the musical bridge of the second song there was a small recitation.
If there be another day
To love, to laugh, to live
Take the chance thats in your hand
Twas only Gods to give
Thank him with a smile and prayer
And make each day the best
Let your heart create each thought
With love to guide the rest
An owl suddenly made his presence known from deep in the tree to their right. A brush of cool air fell across Erins shoulders and she shivered for just an instance.
"Do you need your sweater?" asked Jane, realizing that it had been left behind on the back of the chair.
"No. Im fine." As she continued to listen, Erin felt the body next to hers float a little closer, guarding her from the nippy air. She turned her head to say something and came face to face with those hypnotic eyes. Under the moonlight, the blueness glowed, enchantingly, with silver accents.
Jane held just the ghost of a smile. There it was. The chance. There was no one to say you cant, you shouldnt. Nothing to interrupt. The darkness hid away the rest of the world from their perfect moment in time.
And then it happened.
In just an instant, even before Erin had time to take her next breath, soft lips covered hers, moving slowly and gently. Her eyes fluttered shut and she was lost in the sensation of a long missed touch. Her own lips trembled into the rhythm of the tender dance and she savored the faint taste of fruited honey.
The kiss only lasted three seconds more then Erin pulled away abruptly. Her green eyes went wide and she quickly looked away, only then remembering to breathe.
Jane stepped back in shock at herself. "Im so sorry Erin! I shouldnt have done that! Please forgive me! I just Ive hurt you and Ive ruined everything. I " She ran back into the restaurant, dropped some money onto the table and quickly fled down the stairs and into the consuming darkness.
Erins hands gripped the railing and her lungs fought to take each breath. Her thoughts swirled into a maelstrom of confusion inside her head as the words of her grandmother and her cousin echoed through the valleys of her gray matter, finally sparking the shock of awareness. But the pain was there too, still pounding from its stronghold inside her heart. The memory and the reality finally crashed head on in a single second and Erin was sent floating into a cloud of possibilities. She only fell back to conscious thought, when, out of the corner of her eye, she saw a tall figure fleeing down the cobblestone road below. "Jane," she whispered.
* * * *
A single tear rolled down a sculpted cheek, followed by another and another. The liquid sadness fell to the ground with barely a splash as Jane sat bent over, arms resting on her knees. The watery curtain over her eyes obscured her vision of the patterns in the gray stone under her feet, as she berated herself for her foolish actions. Here the night was still and quiet, the park otherwise deserted. The only sound was the soft whoosh of the fountain behind her. She had, just that very morning, dropped several coins into the clear water, watching as they settled to the bottom, mingling with all the other currency. The wishes she had made were all but shattered now. Now all she wanted to do was drown her pain in the cool, shimmering water. Dr. Kim told me that I had only lost my memories. Who I was in my soul and in my heart was still the same. What does that say about me? I hurt a friend that I have only known for a few days. Her thoughts continued as the moonlight shone down on her back, glowing like a beacon.
"Can I sit down?"
Janes body snapped up at the sound of the voice, but her gaze remained into the darkness ahead. She hadnt heard the clicking of heels against the walkway. She barely nodded an answer to the question.
"I knew Id find you here," said Erin softly, as she settled herself onto the wooden seat. "The first place we met. You looked so lost when I first saw you. I had this incredible need to reach out to you, to help you. That was actually the first time in six months that I wasnt being selfish."
Jane blinked to keep any more tears from falling as she listened to Erins voice.
"Until then, I was too busy with self pity to notice much of anything else. But you changed all that. These past four days have given me a new sense of life. You helped me to laugh again, to enjoy the beauty around me."
"And then I ruined it all," came the whisper.
Erin placed a hand over the fidgeting ones by her side. "You didnt ruin anything."
"No. Dont you know what happened on that balcony?"
"I kissed you against your will."
Erin gave a small ironic chuckle. "You werent really paying attention then."
Jane looked over for the first time since Erin had sat down.
The author tried her best to answer the questioning look on the sad face. "You did kiss me and I will admit I was startled for an instant, but then I kissed you back." Her green eyes fixated on the blue ones before her, imploring her to believe her next confession. " because I wanted to."
Two dark brows wrinkled. "But you pulled away...and the look on your face I dont understand." Erins soft fingertips caressed her cheek.
"Im sorry if I made you feel like you hurt me." Erin took a deep breath. "When I pulled away I was afraid but not of you of me. I liked that kiss a lot. It would have lasted longer if I hadnt remembered Jamie. I guess I did feel like I was betraying her. I loved Jamie with all my heart. I still do and always will. You see I never thought I could feel an attraction for anyone else, ever again. Thats what shocked me, because I did. I have been attracted to you since we met, but I wouldnt acknowledge it."
Jane nodded. "I understand. But you are still grieving. It wasnt fair of me to take advantage of that."
"You didnt, Jane. I have come to care about you very much, very quickly. I dont want to lose you."
"I dont want to lose you either."
Erin put a hand to her own chest. "I dont know exactly what I am feeling in here or where it could lead, but I am attracted to you. But I know you will be hurt if I cant be anything more than just a friend and "
The moments of silence hung heavy between them, neither knowing just what say.
"I dont know if you want to hear this," Jane finally spoke. "but when I first saw you it was like I had known you forever. For an instant I thought you would be able to tell me who I am, give me my memories back...save me."
Erin pulled the tall woman into a hug. "I wish I could do all that for you." She pulled away and dried both of their tears. "We cant run away from this and I certainly dont want to lose your friendship."
"So what do we do?"
Erin sighed. "Lets not do anything...I mean change anything. We are friends. Friends who feel an attraction for one another. Well just let it happen."
"We wont run, but we wont push."
"But maybe its not fair to you either," Jane reasoned.
"What if there was somebody I loved and I remember them. That would hurt you and I couldnt stand to see that."
"There is that possibility. But I would be willing to take that chance if you are."
The dark head nodded again, not quite convinced. "What about tomorrow? Youre going to Kerry and my flight leaves in the afternoon, although I dont know exactly where Im going or what Im going to do."
"Actually, Ive been thinking about that. Would you like to work for me on my ranch?"
Janes mood brightened, hesitantly. "Are you kidding? That would be great. But dont you already have ranch hands?"
"Yes. But what I have planned is going to require much more help. I bought that ranch because it was Jamies dream. But for the last five months it hasnt been a working ranch. I isolated myself from the world and just couldnt move on. But now a weight has been lifted from my soul and I need to start living again. And that means hard work . and friendship."
Jane smiled. "I need a best friend."
"You have one."
They walked slowly around the park, heading back to their hotels. At one point Erins hand slipped into Janes. It was just right.
"Would you come with me to my grandmothers? You can re-schedule your flight and well get two train tickets. Youll just love my grandmother and I know shed really enjoy meeting you."
"Erin, I my money I just have enough to get my life started and "
"Maybe I could " Erin suddenly remembered the rift that her money had caused between her and Jamie. Jane seems just as proud. I dont want to get started down that road again. "I could give you an advance on your salary," she suggested.
That seemed to make Jane very happy. "Okay. I will go with you then."
They arrived in front of Erins hotel. "Ill meet you here at eight," said Jane.
"Ill be ready."
Jane bent down and kissed Erins cheek then pulled away, but two delicate hands gently pulled her back. They shared a small, but very affectionate kiss on the lips. Erin wanted to reassure Jane that she was willing to give their relationship every chance. But she knew in the deepest recesses of her heart that it wouldnt be easy. The battle would be hard fought. Fear and grief were her worst enemies. And they were foes with insatiable needs. Erin gave one final look into the beautiful blue eyes and mentally strapped on her armor and readied her weapons for the fight to take back her future.
To be continued
Just a friendly reminder, feedback is much appreciated and will be answered. I really want to know how you think this story is going. Part 8 will be out in two weeks. Thanks for reading. Colleen