THE FENCED FIELDS by dee
The following is a piece of original fiction. All characters belong to me, for future development. Any resemblance to real people and places is unintentional and coincidental.
This story cannot be sold or used for profit in any way. Copies may be made for private use only.
SUBTEXT maintext, with love implied and enacted between two women.
UNDERAGE WARNING over l8, please.
OTHER DISCLAIMERS the lyrics of the song ANDY were used without the permission of the Indigo Girls. This song served as the inspiration for the story.
THANKS I want to thank Maureen and LJ for their expert help in editing and preparing this story for publication.
FEEDBACK serious feedback is welcome. homophobes need not apply. i am at
THE FENCED FIELDS
It had been five years since I saw Eunice Sage. Actually right before I left town to find my way in the big city. I was seventeen.
Eunice had been my friend, even though she was almost ten years my senior. She lived up the road from our small farm. The Sage spread draw fed our acreage. They raised and boarded horses, and had huge fields for hay and summer grasses. Their fences stretched for miles, or so it seemed to me back then. Eunice, or Sage, as she preferred, loved the horse farm. She never envisioned leaving their homestead. To work in the sun and rain, to dirty her hands, to break the wild horses, or just to ride with her long red hair fanning behind her...well, that was all the paradise the young woman needed. The land was an end to itself. She shared her love of horses with me. She taught me patiently to ride, but I preferred to watch the horses running free or racing each other. It was better, though, to watch Eunice as she worked. I thought of her as my best friend, and the older sister I never had.
Eunice had three brothers. Two left their family spread for the city. Luke stayed to work the farm. Then when their father died, both he and Eunice committed themselves to keeping the place alive, and took pride in their accomplishments.
Me...I wanted to leave the backward rural lands when I could. I wanted to go to college, accomplish something tangible and real, among real people, not the small town folk I grew up with. Blakeslee was not enough to hold my interest. I wanted to be a writer, famous and rich. In those days, only Eunice listened to my dreams as we walked the long country roads, and I grew into a slim teenager.
My Dad had died when I was small. I was an only child. Mom did her best to keep the farm, but little by little, acres were sold off, mostly to the Sage family. Mom worked as housekeeper for the minister and helped waitress in town at the only diner. I spent most of my time alone in those early days or with Eunice. But I excelled in school. I was a quiet girl, a
bookworm, a dreamer. The little library in town was my second home. My teachers liked me, as did the librarian. I didnt much care to play with the other children. Instead I started writing stories when I was young. And as I matured, so did my dreams and plans. Poetry drew my thoughts out, allowed me to crystalize my fears and my acknowledged loneliness, my insecurities, as well as dreams. I wrote of my love for beauty and goodness, and the rocky wild river that rushed past our sleepy town, leading to unknown places and adventures.
Eunice,as a teen, was actually my baby sitter. As I grew, we stayed close. Maybe we were both loners in our own way, me lost in dreams, and Eunice absorbed in the working of the horse farm. I knew she didnt have a lot of friends, which made me just like her even more. Well, more than like her....she was like a hero to me..... taller than most boys in school, strong, skilled with horses. She could do anything she tried to do, break the school record in tract, running, broad jump, pole vaulting. And seeing her excel gave me more confidence in my dreams. I would excel as well.
The future was mine that summer , five years ago, on the brink of the first real adventure in my life. I had been busy the last year in school. I worked part-time to help Mom out, earning minimum wage in the library after school. I wrote the school paper. I managed to get the lead in the school musical. I took up guitar in a serious way. My voice suprised even me, as did my confidence on stage, so different from my day-to-day demeanor. On stage, whether speaking, acting or singing, I was someone else...confident, and talented. Everyone said I was destined for greatness. All I really wanted to do was write, and maybe live out a few of the adventures I dreamed.
I hardly saw Eunice that fall or winter. Their barn and house were further away from town than our house. And what with the busy hours I worked in town, and school, I didnt wander up the road much. Still, whenever we met in town,we would take the time to visit and catch up.Eunice seemed to grow more beautiful as each year passed. I never understood why she hadnt married, to land a husband to help at the farm. Not that I had minded her not dating as I grew up. She was all the more my friend because she just didnt want or need any other companionship. After all, what did she need a boy for? She could accomplish anything they could and better, proof to me again of the unlimited heights that I might reach as well. And while I had friends in
school, I myself never found that special boy to moon over like the other girls had. I was too busy for all that dating. I had a job to go to, and had to help around the house, since Mom worked two jobs to make ends meet. And really, I was quite content. If I wanted to talk or play around by the river, or ride, Eunice had always been my companion of choice. But senior year passed by so quickly. I blamed myself a little that Eunice found another friend, a girl more her own age.
I didnt know much about Wylie Etheridge. I knew she had visited town on Labor Day and Thanksgiving and Christmas that year. She was the sister of John Etheridge who married Becky Davis. He moved to Beckys homestead from somewhere up north. I never met her, but Id see her around town, in the stores and at the movies. She was a pretty thing, maybe twenty-two or three. She was tall, but not as tall as Eunice. They were as different as night and day with Eunice being solid and strong, Wylie sleek, delicate. Eunice was like the salt of the earth. She would help anyone who needed it. Wylie seemed wild and foolish to a sixteen year old like me. She wore a lot of makeup and perfume, and dressed in heels and big city clothes, as Mom would say. She didnt seem to fit our small town in any way. And truly seeing her flit around, I almost had misgivings about what life must be like in the big cities, or if I would ever fit in there. But if Eunice liked her, she had to be nice, after all.
She moved in with her brother and his new wife early spring of my senior year. She did a year or two of college, but never finished . No one seemed to know why she dropped out, but there were rumors about a child that Becky and John planned on raising. She didnt look for a job, quite content to loaf around, or so it seemed to me. She was always buying new clothes, or spending time in the beauty shop. All the men seemed to like her, though. There werent all that many single women in town who were young and pretty. She seemed to like all the attention. I heard the librarian talking about her sometimes. Mrs. Finch wasn't one for gossip, but Wylie seemed to spark a lot of controversy in a short amount of time.
I was surprised a little that Eunice and Wylie became friends. But Wylie loved to ride. So I thought it made sense. Id see them sometimes riding the meadows not far from our house, or heading off toward the river.
Sometimes Eunice would come to town with her. But then I got so busy, and I was pleased that Eunice seemed happy. In a way I had felt a little bad about the idea of going off to school. But that was before I got my big scholarship. I was so thrilled to get the chance. Money was so tight with us, and to get a full scholarship, room and board and tuition... it was unheard of in our small town. And that beautiful day, early April with spring in full bloom, there was only one person with whom I wanted to share the news. It was Saturday, and mail came at ten or so. Mom was at work, so when I opened the letter, I threw on my jeans and old sweatshirt and took off barefoot in search of Eunice.
I was walking, almost running across their meadow, heading for the main house about a mile away. The grass was soft with new growth, and tickled my ankles as I ran. Halfway there, I was surprised to see her horse grazing nearby, saddled but idle. Eunice had to be somewhere near. So I crept closer to surprise her. It was the last time I saw her, before I left that sleepy town. Ill never forget the sight of them together, a picture that burned into my memory and dreams.......Wylie on her back, her dress opened to reveal large breasts, and Eunice kissing her lips and nipples, her hand disappearing under Wylies skirt. I had never seen anyone make love, only in the movies. And never two women before. I stood there unable to move, shocked and fascinated, but felt horribly wronged to have Eunice love her like that. I must have made a noise, as Eunice looked up vaguely in my direction. The look of intense desire and passion on her flushed face, the unfocused eyes and kiss swollen lips, her own shirt open...she looked so beautiful , wild and powerful, that I sucked in my breath. That I was intruding on Eunices privacy embarrassed me, but it was such a humbling revelation to me, that I never even knew Eunice at all. That was the worst of it. I found myself crying, and surprisingly jealous . I knew Eunice never saw me. Wylie mumbled then in a low drawl "Dont you dare stop, Sage!" and pulled Eunices head back down to her, pushing her face closer to her long pale legs that she then bared with trembling hands, her skirt pushed up to her belly. I heard Eunice laugh a throaty laugh and almost growl before lowering her mouth.
It was then I ran. I didnt care who heard me. I had to get away. My own Eunice and this northern stranger....I ran for miles , I think, until I
collapsed by the river, my letter of acceptance and scholarship long
forgotten, jammed in my back pocket. There was nothing in that town anymore for an angry and betrayed seventeen year old. I determined that day that I would leave and never come back. I cried then until I was sick, gasping for breath, nauseated and weak.
Well, five years passed since that spring day. Five years filled with hard work and personal growth. I pushed Blakeslee out of my mind. I stayed at school for breaks, and worked summers in the city. Im surprised Mom understood and tolerated my apparent abandonment of her. I was too full of my plans and willfulness. Still I accomplished a lot at school and was the only student to be published her junior year. I wrote a book of poems that received critical acclaim. My department head wanted me to stay on, get a doctorate and tried to foster my halfhearted interest in teaching. I did a year of graduate school. It was then my mother got sick, so sick that she called me home. I knew defeat and hopelessness when I heard it....Mom was dying. I had to go home and tend to her, and grace her again with all the love I had held back from her over the last few years. She needed nursing,bathing, feeding and taken to doctor. I thought I had become a woman grown while I was away, experienced ,worldly and educated. Holding my mother as she suffered with such pain, caring for her as if she were my child, well, I realized how pitifully inexperienced and ignorant, how small and afraid I was, despite my college degree.
We settled into a peace of sorts, finally,after much crying. I listened to her fears and concerns about herself, about death and God, about what would happen to me alone in the world, and our small farm and house. Mom hadnt worked for a good month or more before I came home. Her savings were pretty well used up. I had a small income from my book, but , as I soon realized, not many people read poetry after all. There really wasnt much acreage at all left. The farm had shrunk from the original eighty to five finally, in the few years I was away. The house needed work: painting,patching, the steps and porch and window calking. When Mom slept, I worked as best I could around the place. With no father or brothers, I actually was handy with most small repairs, even
handy with small electrical and plumbing jobs. I did what I could with little funds. As Mom weakened, there was less and less to do for her. Death was there, waiting in the room with her as she slept. Death and I kept a vigil.
I had been home almost a month when there was a hesitant knock on the door, interrupting our private sadness. Eunice stood there on the porch, a handful of wild flowers offered in greeting.
My voice sounded strained, even to me.
"Molly, Ive only just heard your mothers ill, and that youd come back. May I come in?"
I had been so occupied studying the woman I spent so many days and nights thinking about, I had forgotten my manners. I could see that Eunice had changed. She was probably thirty-two to my twenty four. The years had left her leaner, and where there had been unfettered happiness and pride in her striking eyes as I grew up, now there resided a lingering sadness, and almost a haunted look of need in those green eyes that I knew so well.
"Im so sorry, Eunice. Come in."
I opened the screen door, and hugged her awkwardly.
She smiled a moment at me. My hair was short these days, and I had worked on my fitness. I was still slim and short and never grew more that an inch since I left, but I was buff, toned and hearty enough, even though the sadness of Moms sickness seemed to diffuse into my soul, like it did the house. We all looked worn ,uncertain and tired.
"Mom, its Eunice visiting."
"Bring her in, child."
We smiled unthinkingly at Moms familiar term for me. I had stopped feeling like a child even as a young teen, and used to complain to Eunice about my mothers unwillingness to let me grow up. It was on old joke between us. I couldnt help but think back to how patient Eunice must have been with me, twenty-three to my fourteen or so,
agreeing kindly with me as to my maturity.
"Come on, Eunice. Bring the flowers into Mom. Ill find a vase." I smiled again conspiratorially with her, almost forgetting the years that
we had been apart. When Eunice smiled back, she did look so much younger.
She regarded me thoughtfully a moment before walking toward Moms room.
"You grew up real nice, Molly. Its good to see you again. Im sorry this trouble brought you back from all your adventures. I know you wanted to be away from this place."
"Well, Eunice, maybe my adventures were not so wonderful after all. Maybe we can talk some time."
"All right. Id like that." She moved quietly into the dimly lit bedroom. I know she could smell the cancer eating away at Mom. Mother had shrunk before my eyes, and now weighed eighty pounds, all loose skin, yellow and pasty, which contrasted with the hollow dark rings around her eyes, her unnaturally red lips, her eyes too intense.
"Mrs. Little, I didnt know you were ill. Some flowers to bring a little summer into the room."
"Eunice, you were always kind to us. Thank you for coming. The flower are beautiful, wild flowers from the meadow. They remind me of you ."
"May I sit a while?"
"Sit. Molly will get us a drink. Molly?"
"Coming, Mom. Iced tea or lemonade?" I called from the kitchen.
"Teas fine," Mom replied.
"Teas fine with me too. Need help?" Eunice called back.
"No, sit and visit. Ill be right in."
Mother looked long and hard at the woman before her.
"Youre working too hard, Eunice. You look worn thin and weary."
"What did you used to say...rode hard and put away wet?"Eunice smiled kindly.
"Yes, that too. Your brother left the farm."
"He was tired of it all."
"You have some kind of help?"
"I have. Weve got four men working the place now. I do less than I ever did."
"You did real good with the place, though. Your dad would be proud
"Your extra acreage helped us....more grass, more horses."
"Well, you helped us as well, stretching the dollar. Youve been a good fried to Molly. Im worried about her when I go, Eunice."
"Dont worry, May. Things have a way of working out. And if shes needing anything, shes got me to lean on."
"Id appreciate it, Eunice. Id would worry less. Shes got no family besides me. You were always a strong one. Im sorry we all drifted apart."
"Well, Ive become more of a hermit as I've gotten older."
"So dont be. Solitudes no good for any of us . And death creeps up when we least expect it.....God, I hope Im not pulling you down, coming here to cheer up an old lady!"
"Youve had more than your share of suffering, May."
"Ill welcome a quick end to all this, Eunice, except for Molly. Im hurting pretty bad, just don't tell her. The pain medicine helps, but then I sleep too much and my times so short now. I need to settle a few things."
"What are you girls talking about ?" I asked from the doorway, holding a tray of glasses and tea.
"Oh, just gossip, child. I was telling Eunice about your book. I'll let you have my copy, Eunice, when the time comes. Its only right. I know you're proud of my dreamer, just like me."
"Mom, you have been hitting that morphine too much, talking like that about me."
"No, its true, Molly. I am proud of you and all youve done. You had your plans and you stuck to them."
"Well, I had two strong women to pattern after. You and Eunice, you both took no nonsense, worked hard, accomplished things with no one to ask for help."
"Now, whos been hitting the morphine?" Eunice laughed self-consciously .
"You going to give us some tea? or just stand there eavesdropping?"
"In my own home Im eavesdropping? Well, all right, I admit it. I'll get the tea. And were going to eat some of those cookies I made, arent we, Mom? Get your girlish figure back."
"I can always eat your cookies, child. Now take care of our company."
"Eunice is not company. Rumor has it youve been hiring her to baby-sit me again."
Eunice turned hurt eyes toward me for a moment before deciding to set her hurt away, and defuse the moment with gentle teasing.
"You couldnt afford me, Molly. My fees have at least doubled over the years. "
"What did I used to pay you, Eunice? 50 cents an hour?"
"I was rich for my age, what with all that baby-sitting money. Because of you, Molly, I bought my first dress saddle and boots."
"So I was worth something to you, after all." I spoke jokingly but with a touch of real bitterness thrown in.
"Molly, whats gotten into you today. ?"
"Im sorry, Mom, Eunice. I just..." Tears filled my eyes unbidden.
"Hey now, no more sadness." May spoke softly. "This old womans ready to pass on. Weve cried enough."
Eunice rose without thinking, and embraced me, holding me gently as I sobbed.
"Sssh, Molly, Ive got you. Everything will be all right. Its just time, honey. Dont upset her now."
"Im so sorry, Mom. You dont need me babbling like a fool." I finally wiped my face.
"If we cant cry together....I love you, Molly. But you know, you need a little change of pace....too much sickness and suffering. Take her out for a bit, Eunice. She needs a break. She hasn't left my side for four weeks, I swear."
"Really, Molly, you need some fun. Sarah can sit with me a while."
Eunice sat and watched for a moment.
"Shes right. You need a break and so do I. Let me take you out for a
drink tonight? We can catch up . I havent been out in so long...."
"Thats all right, Eunice."
"No, its not all right. Ill be by around 8. Have you seen how they fixed up Jakes? Remember that old bar? And the towns grown some. Draws quite a crowd, they say. Live entertainment too, when they can get
it. And decent food, though I havent been there is a few years, I admit. Come on, Molly, will you?" She smiled with more enthusiasm that shed felt in a long while.
"Oh, all right, Eunice. You can tell me all about the farm, and all the years that have slipped by. And your family.....Are you sure, Mom?"
"Sure, certain and determined!"
"I see again where you get your spirit from, Molly. Well," Eunice stood awkwardly, "Ill be going. Do you need anything, May?"
"Remember how long it took you to call me May? And not Mrs. Little? Youd more than earned the right, Dear, what with all you did for our girl.
Im more grateful than youll know."
"Enough now, May." She looked almost embarrassed. "Save your breath for something more important than me."
Mother looked at her fondly a moment.
"Come over here and give me a hug."
"Gladly. And you call me or tell Molly if you need anything. I can get you anything you want. Mind now. Im serious."
"Ill call you, Dear."
"All right. Ill be stopping by, if its OK with Molly, if you need me."
She looked over at me almost shyly.
"Of course, Silly! Its good to see you again." I spoke up quickly. "Id
almost forgotten how you managed to make everything better just by being around, those years of me growing up. You should have come by sooner to get Mom well quicker."
"Ill do my best."
"Now, get going, Eunice. Get out into the sunshine!" May scolded her gently.
"How bout you, May? You want to sit out on the porch?"
"I dont think I can, girl. But it would be nice." she added almost wistfully.
"Molly, fix up a lounge chair for May? with a nice soft quilt."
"Eunice, shes too weak."
"Hurry up now."
"Go on." Mom smiled like a little girl. " She can bring me back in when she comes over for you. Id like to see the horses and meadows again, and feel the sun on my old bones."`
And just like that, Eunice scooped Mom up in her strong arms and laid her gently out in the sun on the porch next to the swing. Mom looked happy for the first time in the weeks Id been home, and truthfully, I felt better as well. And then Eunice walked off, waving once before she headed up the road toward her home.
I sat with Mom for a while in the sun. It did feel nice to enjoy the summer day, like old times, like nothing terrible was waiting to happen.
I told Mom stories about school and summer jobs. We really visited for the first time since Id been back. We even laughed some. We had a light supper outside, almost like a picnic. The time passed happily. And before I knew it, Eunice was there, lifting Mom tenderly back to bed, following a trip to the bathroom.
"That was the first day Ive enjoyed in so long. Thank you kindly, Eunice. Now go take my daughter out to see some young folk and get her to dance with someone. She was just bragging what a good dancer she is. She must surely have changed! You tell me the truth, wont you?"
"Of course I will. Ill report back to you."
"All right." Mom winked at the tall woman. "Now Molly, go change out of those old shorts. Dont want the town gossiping about my famous daughter looking like a poor country girl, now do we?"
"Hey, maybe I am still a country girl. Its a beautiful spot here. Ive forgotten how nice it is to see just the greenery and the open skies. The city can only hold someone for so long....too crowded , noisy and rushed."
"Go on , get with you. Dont keep Eunice waiting."
"All right, Mom. You are so bossy, I swear..."
"Dont swear, declare!" Eunice and I both singsonged that automatic response that wed heard so often as I grew up.
"Go on. You two were always trouble to me, I declare...."
I ran off to change, and came back dressed in a loose cotton sleeveless dress and sandals, my face washed clean. I had slipped on my favorite bracelet from high school, remembering fondly that Eunice had given it to me. Looking at it, I couldnt imagine why I hadnt taken it with me to school.
"Why, Molly, you clean up just fine. Now the town will have something to really talk about." Eunice smiled at me, a devilish glint to
I slapped her playfully on the arm. "Enough of that. Mom, Sarah will be by in a bit. Shall we wait?"
"Ill be fine if Im alone ten minutes! And Im wonderfully tired from all that blessed sun and air. I think I could sleep right now."
"Do you need some medicine, Mom? You havent had any all day." "Well, I felt so good out in the sunlight. But yes, I think I could do with some pills now, and sleep the night away. Sarah wont mind if I dose."
"Have fun, you two. And tell me all the latest gossip in the morning."
"Goodnight, Eunice. And thank you for a beautiful afternoon."
We walked out into the early evening.
"Beautiful night." Eunice spoke a little nervously.
"It is, Eunice. Thanks for coming to see Mom. And arent you just a show off, picking her up and all."
"She weighs next to nothing, Molly. Im sorry to see her so sick. But it does a body good to get out of that death bed..."
"I dont want to cry again, Eunice. Please."
"No. No more crying tonight. Come see my car."
"You fixed up that old junker?"
"You want to drive?"
"No way. That thing still scares me. But you did a great job."
Eunices father had purchased a challenger convertible when they were new. H e ran it into the ground, but with a smaller engine finally.
"You put back the hemi motor?"
"I did. I had it rebuilt. Its so noisy and miserable to drive, I love it. It drives so stiff, I swear it only goes straight. But isnt it fine, Molly?"
I looked up at Eunice, hearing the young woman I remembered, gleaming that moment with happiness and pride in her work.
"It is beautiful. You did real good with it and with the farm too. Ive missed you, girl."
"Ive missed you too, Molly. Truly. This old town got a lot smaller without you and your dreaming in it."
"What happened to Wylie?" I regretted the question as soon as it came out of my mouth. Eunices happy demeanor suddenly just vanished, and a serious weary woman looked over at me briefly before concentrating on her driving. She looked ahead without speaking.
"Im sorry, Eunice. I had no right to be prying. Lets talk about something else, if I can even hear you over that God awful hemi motor and the wind blowing my carefully coifed hair."
That got a laugh out of Eunice. And she smiled again as we drove into town. We entered Jakes soon enough.
"Lordy, is that Molly Little with you, Sage? Where did you find her?"
Shirley, the bartender, gave me a welcoming hug.
"Girl, you have grown up on us! Are you staying home?"
Eunice looked over quickly to see my response."Dont know, really, with Mom being so sick."
"I know shes got it bad....when she stopped coming to church....and the minister was moaning about his house."
"Hell have to find someone else to clean, Shirley. Moms not getting better."
"Oh, Honey, Im so sorry."
Eunice wanted to head off my sinking mood."Come on, Molly. Lets get a table and a drink." She nodded once toward Shirley, and led me off to the quiet rear of the bar.
"What do you want?"
"Two drafts, Shirley. And some peanuts." Eunice called over to the bartender.
"And pretzels..." I added.
"All right, girls. Ill bring the menu too."
"Have you eaten, Eunice?"
"Not yet. Maybe Ill grab a bite later."
"Sure. Maybe I will too. Although I did eat some with Mom."
"Still have that awful appetite, do you?"
I slapped her arm again. "Dont pick on me, now. Im too old for it."
"So tell me about school."
Despite my despair over Mother, I enjoyed the night. We talked like we always had, easy and unfettered, without pretense. Thinking on it
later, I knew how rare it was to just be myself, without pride or self consciousness. Eunice always let me feel free to say anything that crossed my mind. I wanted to quiz Eunice about herself, her life and plans, about Wylie....but it wasnt the time or the place. And if Eunice wanted to talk, she would at her own pace.
We drank a few beers, and by 9:30. decided a burger and fries sounded good. I spent a lot of time greeting old friends and classmates. Eunice sat and smiled, proud like a relative to see me so well liked and missed. Before the night was over, Eunice had told the entire town about the famous author and graduate student with her and all the praise my writing had brought me. Finally, I was just embarrassed.
Eunice, I swear, if you tell another soul about my book! No one cares about poetry."
"Hey!" Now Eunice was serious..."Dont you ever say that. Were all proud of you, especially me. So if I want to brag about you, I will. Unless you know some way to keep me quiet?" she asked with a raised eyebrow.
"I never could beat you at wrestling or running. Ill think of something to keep you off balance, is all."
"Oh? I dare you."
"Now dont start that. I lost so many bets to you, Eunice. But it was fun trying to best you. Im going to the Ladies Room. Dont eat my french fries."
"Maybe I will, maybe I wont..." She smiled after me. I shook my finger in warning before leaving the large open area. Shirley came over and talked a moment.
"Is she bad, May?"
"Dying. Not long with us."
"Whats the girl going to do?"
"I dont know, Shirley. I wouldnt have even known she was back, if I hadnt run into the minister at the store."
"Shell miss her mama."
"I know. Say, is Jake here? Im going to go talk to him a minute."
"Ill bring another pitcher."
"Good. And some more french fries. I ate Mollys.
"OK. Ill save your sorry hide this time."
Jake finally came out to greet me as well later, exchanging news
about his daughter and son who had moved up north to work. And about the renovations in the bar and their brisk business, even from surrounding towns, explaining as had Eunice, of their weekend performers that drew a crowd.
"Say, Molly...I know you used to sing at school. Would you want to give us poor country folk a treat and sing here weekends? Its good pay. I can give you $100 for each night, and half the tips."
"Jake, thats a lot of money. You cant be doing that good."
"You wait and see the people and all they drink and eat. I make a killing. This little town is starving for entertainment."
"I havent performed in a while. Im not worth so much."
"May was telling us at church about you singing in the city, in the summers. I know youre good. And that guitar, I remember my girl telling me how you played in high school."
"Well, let me think on it. Moms so sick...."
"You know shed love you to get a little change. Shes worried bout you, sticking like glue to her. " Eunice added kindly.
"Well, Ill see, Jake. Thanks for the offer."
The older man turned his attention to my friend. "And you, Sage! It took Molly here to get you out of hibernation! Bout time the girl got home. Youve been a stranger."
She smiled awkwardly at the attention. "Well, if i can get Molly here to come sing, youll be seeing more of me."
I looked over at Eunice after Jake had left, studying her a moment.
"You look a little guilty there, friend. Is it over my vanished french fries, or did you put Jake up to that?"
"I cant tell a lie. I ate your french fries. But I ordered us some more. " She looked up and smiled charmingly at me.
"All right, Ill forgive you." I groaned, seeing Shirley approaching with another pitcher of beer. "But you know, if we drink any more beer, neither one of us will be in any shape to drive home."
"We can walk."
"You know, I havent been out walking in the night since I left home. Come to think of it, I do want to walk."
"So we might as well have some more beer. Since were celebrating."
"Surely. Were celebrating your coming home. I am glad to see you, Molly." As she talked, she reached over to touch my hand resting on the table by my mug. Eunice smiled a moment, before giving my hand a squeeze. "Really I am. So, tell me more about school."
We visited until almost 12. I had drunk much too much and I was getting tired. We had a long walk home. I excused myself again to go to the bathroom. Eunice was relaxed and content when I left her. However, on my return, I walked quietly to the table, troubled to see Eunice suddenly drawn and serious, looking occasionally over toward another table across the room, and Wylie wrapped around Jeffrey Miller. Miller was the town banker and into land development even back when I had left. He had been married then, with three small boys. I was surprised to see Wylie looking over toward Eunice and laughing, gossiping with Miller and another couple who seemed to find Eunice a funny subject.
"Hey..." I had been sitting at the table a few moments, just watching Eunice. The sadness and dejection in her eyes broke my heart. "Hey you..." I touched her hand gently.
"Oh, sorry. I was just thinking."
"You were lost there, for sure. Had enough beer for one night?"
"That would be a yes. I think I can still get up. You ready to head home? I think I can drive all right."
"Would you mind if we walked?"
"Not at all. Thatd be fine. I can get the car tomorrow. It should be a nice night. I better empty all this beer out of my bladder too, and well head back."
"All right. Let me get this tab."
"No? Are you bossing me around too, Ms. Eunice Sage?"
"Yes. I can still get my way, now and then. And this is my treat. Its been good to laugh and visit with you, Molly. Now , dont argue, although I swear I missed your stubbornness just as much as I missed your laughter. Ill be right back."
I watched her glance once more over toward Wylie who looked up at her for a moment with such disdain that I wanted to slap her. Wylie never waved or stopped her giddy dialogue as Eunice passed by her
table. I watched Eunices shoulders stiffen at the laughter that seemed to follow her into the long hallway in the back.
"What the Hell! " I mumbled quietly to myself..." Enough of that nonsense." I walked by the table, giving Wylie a careful and cold appraisal before meeting Eunice at the bathroom door, and escorting her out into the night air.
"Whew! A little fresh air is just what I needed. Getting a little too crowded in there. " I spoke up, as we paused in the parking lot.
"Ready to stretch those long legs of yours?"
"Id race you home, but I think Id fall on my face. Im some drunk."
"Well, Im not feeling any pain either. You mind if I hold your arm? Until I clear my head?"
"No, of course not."
We walked, arms linked, thru the town. Once we had gone about a mile, I felt much steadier, and squeezed Eunices arm once before pulling away to walk along side of the tall woman.
"It is a beautiful night. Look at all the stars. Cant see a sky like that in the city. Sometimes you see a patch of sky, but not like this wondrous expanse. I wrote mostly about the world here, you know, in my poems. Funny, isnt it? I so wanted to get away. The city is a lonely place, sometimes, Eunice."
"You dont have to go to the city to be lonely, Molly."
"Do you want to talk about it?"
"That was Wylie in the bar,wasnt it?"
"I thought you two were friends, pretty close."
"What do you know about it?" Eunice asked softly.
"Some. Would it help to talk?" I asked as kindly as I could.
"Well, youll hear it all, if you stay anytime back here. Might as well hear it from me."
"I never could understand what you saw nice about her."
"No they dont. Not really. She didnt even greet you, not even a nod toward you. And all that laughing at your back. I wanted to slap her. She hurt you pretty bad, didnt she?"
"Did you know about us when you left?"
"I saw you together one day, in the horse fields."
"Well then, its no wonder you took off out of town so quick and never said goodbye."
"I....l guess Ive not been a very good friend either. I hurt you too."
"I wanted to tell you how good you were in that play. I was so proud of you."
"Of course. I think I saw all four performances. Wylie thought I had surely lost my mind. But when you stopped coming round, I figured you were growing up on me, squirt. But maybe I had after all scared you and revolted you. I understand now why you didnt want to bother with me."
"It wasnt like that, Eunice. I was so wrapped up in school, getting ready for college, and I wanted to get to the city with such desperation. I had to get away from here before I lost my mind."
"Did I drive you off, Molly? That Wylie and I were together like that?" She asked me so seriously,already convinced of her guilt.
"I was shocked. I was. I have to admit it." I thought a moment before continuing. I wanted to speak as honestly as I could. "But, I was just a kid. And I guess I was hurt somehow."
"That does sound crazy, doesnt it? That you didnt need me anymore? And because of that, I didnt need you anymore? Or this town or anyone else in it."
"I was only seventeen. Can you remember what thats like, you old woman,you? " I kidded her gently, bumping hips as we walked. "I didnt understand a lot of things. But you know, youve always been my best friend, Eunice. Even now after all these years."
We walked on in silence a while. "So what happened?" I finally asked
"Well, we were together about six months. I thought I loved her. The way she chased me down and seduced me and all,I was sure she loved me too."
"You had never been ..."
"No. She was my first lover. I was scared but so happy those few months. I knew shed had a child. I couldnt imagine what she wanted with me, a woman and all."
"Eunice, youre beautiful and good and kind...."
"You always had a case of hero worship about me, Molly."
"Did not. Anyone would be pleased to have you in their life, Eunice. But I didnt think she deserved you."
"Well, after a while, she didnt think I deserved her. I told her I loved her, and wanted her to move to the farm, to stay with me and bring her child, that wed be a family. Well, that got her laughing some, thinking about the future. She just laughed the harder at me, Molly. I didnt know what to think. Then she said I was sweet and took me to bed. We never talked about the future again. But there was a change in her from that day on, though. I saw her in town more with some of the boys. I knew she was dating around, sleeping around. And then Miller found her. His marriage crumbled under her attentions and I couldnt touch her again. Not if she didnt care about me like I did her. And once she had Miller all tied up, a promise of marriage and a nice house, then she didnt want me. She didnt want his boys either. They stayed with their mother. It was then all the gossip started. I was even more surprised that it was Wylie who started it all. Maybe Miller had heard something, and she was putting his doubts to rest. She became suddenly the victim in her stories. She had befriended me, outcast that I was. I got her drunk one day, all alone on the farm and raped her. Can you imagine? And people believed it all. Or some did. What I had felt for her, the beauty of us together, suddenly became the butt of jokes. It was a rude awakening for me, Molly. I didnt think what we had was wrong or evil or ludicrous.
Well, when we crossed paths, she just looked at me with a cold regard and challenge, daring me to call her on her story. I couldnt bother. If the lies got her what she wanted, they got me to see the truth: I was a fool."
"You still care about her." I spoke in wonder.
"I am a fool, Molly. Yes I still care about her. And still remember her in my arms. I never felt so alive and so happy as I did those months with her. And still, every time I see her now, my heart aches with sadness and longing for what I lost. I try to avoid her if I can. I just cant take her cold laughter."
"Thats why you stay out of town," I said simply.
"I might hurt her if I get the chance."
"No, Molly. This mess is all my own. And in a small town, theres
really no place to hide. It just hurts. But it hurts less every year."
"Poor Eunice. What a problem. I never should have turned my back a minute. You know, I blamed myself...."
"What???" she asked , astounded.
"I was too busy for you senior year, and I felt I had forced you to take up with Wylie."
"Well, maybe its partly true still. If I had been there for you, things might have been different. But I guess it hurt too much to hang around when I realized I didnt know a thing about you, Eunice."
"No one knew me better that you, Molly."
"But not to know the most important thing, that you loved women. I must have been blind."
"You were a kid, Molly. We never talked about sex, for heavens sake."
"You listened to me ramble on about my friends, and the proms, and all the boys who tormented me in high school. I never thought to ask you...I knew you werent dating..... but I was glad. No, dont snort like that. Really. I was glad, because you were my Eunice. Isnt that crazy? The naivety of the young. We had each other, and I just thought it was enough for you too. Pretty conceited and arrogant, I know. And then I was replaced by Wylie"
"Not replaced, Molly. I didnt mean to hurt you."
"Well, Im just being honest here. Thats what I thought. Im sorry I ran off without saying goodbye."
"I dont seem to have much luck with the women in my life."
"Ill do better, Eunice. I will. And I wont let that bitch hurt you again..."I threaded my arm thru Eunices and we walked along the dark road. The night stretched softly around us. "You know, in the city, it never gets black like this at night. Theres always street lights , houses , cars. You never can forget that you are in a city built by men. In the city, there are only people. Out here, surrounded by all this wildness, the open sky, the creatures who share this world with us.....well, its a healthier place to be. Were such a small piece of this universe, after all. In the city, its so easy to believe that were all of it."
"Tell me a poem, Molly."
"I should just let you read them."
"Didnt you tell me once that poems were meant to be spoken, to be heard, not read?"
"You remember all that teenage dribble Id spout?"
"Not dribble. You taught me a lot, even then."
"How can you say that? You were always teaching me. ....about the farm, about horses, about cars, how to accomplish the impossible."
"Tell me a poem."
"I am. And Im waiting patiently. Five years now, come to think of it."
"Oh, Eunice, I am so sorry I wasnt here to help you get over Wylie. And to kick her butt! And to stop all that foolish laughter and hurtful rumors about you. You are the finest person I know. I wont abide anymore meanness directed toward you."
"Are you going to defend my honor?" she laughed softly.
"And here I thought Id driven you away , just like I drove off Wylie and even my three brothers. I figured there was something very wrong with me to be so alone, without trying to be."
I shook my head. It hurt me to hear her suffering so.
"Im going to tell you a poem."
"All right. Whats it called?"
"Be still, Eunice. You asked for this. Now be good enough to listen without interrupting me. Do you want to hear it? Just what a terrible person you were to me all those years?"
"Sssh. Now listen. I wont tell you how many poems I wrote about you. But hear this one with your heart, Eunice."
your smile was like the bright sun
absented by a winter storm
and suddenly returned to
melt the ice covered leaves
your presence afforded me a warmth
like from a hearth
and nourished me, i hungry and cold
from being long without
the depth of care i saw in your eyes
promised me what i hoped to share
i turned to you, knowing
your soul welcomed mine.
you meant the world to me.
We walked on, my house visible ahead, the porch light almost too bright in the night .
"Molly....I dont know what to say."
"Say nothing at all. I love you, Eunice Sage. I always have, you know." I reached up and kissed her quickly on the cheek, before running ahead to the porch. "Now get home without any more trouble. And thank you for tonight, Eunice Sage."
"Goodnight, Molly Little. And thank you for the poem. And for the caring."
"Goodnight, girl. Sleep well."
I checked on my mother before turning in myself. It was 1:30. She stirred and opened her eyes, sensing me in the doorway. She studied me
a while before smiling.
"You look like you had a nice time."
" It was nice. I hope I didnt wake you. Just looking in. Its late. We walked home. I havent done any walking in so long. Or just quiet talking."
"I always liked Eunice."
"How are you feeling, Mom?"
"I enjoyed the sunshine today. And Im enjoying seeing you look relaxed and happy again. I think Im ready to go now."
"Dont talk like that, Mom."
"All right. But Im sorry I cant leave you much when I cross over."
"Mom... I dont need anything. Everything I need I keep in my heart and my head."
"I dont like you to be alone, child."
"Im not alone. I have Eunice, Mom." I paused a moment in thought.
She could see a question on my face.
"What , child?"
"You know about Eunice and Wylie?"
"Lands sake, girl, the whole town has heard those stories that Wylie started about Eunice. I know they were together. But Eunice never forced that girl to do anything. The way she chased Eunice! And the way she abandoned her own child for Becky to raise. And now, not mothering
Millers boys....shes a self centered, mean spirited woman who is only after her own betterment. Im glad she dropped Eunice. She was never good enough for her."
"I know, Mom. ...... Mom?"
"You know I love Eunice, dont you?"
"I always just imagined you two sticking together. Remember how inseparable you two were?" I nodded without speaking. "You know she helped us thru some tough times. Now its your turn to help her heal from the spiteful hurt she got from Wylie."
"I plan on it, Mom. I dont like to see her so beaten down."
"Shes been alone too long."
"I know it. Well, Im going to get her to smile again, you wait and see."
"Oh, I know you will. Once you get your mind set on something, pity
anyone that stands in your way. Molly, get me some nice iced water?"
"Do you want a pain pill?"
"Bring one and Ill just leave it here for later. I want to talk a bit more with you,."
May watched her daughter a moment over the rim of her glass.
"I have a confession to make to you, Molly."
"What, Mom? A deep dark secret?" I kidded her gently.
"No, nothing like that. I loved your father. Im as poor as the clothes on my back. And Ive always been the best mother to you I could."
"So whats the secret?"
"Its about your scholarship."
"You know, Ive always been so grateful to the university for the chance to study, and for you letting me go."
"Eunice paid for your schooling."
"What are you saying?" I could not keep the shocked surprise from my voice.
"The school called me to explain it all. You were selected for your merit and all, and would have qualified for some financial aid. But then the school got a donation of funds to be used toward your tuition. It was supposed to be anonymous, but since the Sage family was here in our town, they thought you should know, and thank them somehow."
"But I never found out. You never told me."
"Eunice didnt want you to know, afraid you wouldnt accept it, or feel less about your own worth. I asked her about it. She made me promise not to tell you."
"Oh, Mom. Now I am going to cry again."
"I was so mean to her. I never said goodbye before I lift for school. She must have thought I was feeling too good for her all of a sudden. And all this time, I never wrote or called. I am a bigger fool than anyone I know."
"Well, Im telling you that in confidence. She truly wanted no thanks. She wanted you to have your dreams, have your adventures."
"I cant believe it."
"Well, believe it. You decide if you want to thank her, honey. Or when."
"So much to think about, isnt it?"
"Im going to sleep now, child."
"All right, Mom. Get some rest. " I bent to kiss the exhausted woman.
"You get some rest. And thanks, Mom, for telling me. Goodnight."
I didnt see Eunice then until the funeral. Mom had died six weeks after I arrived, slipping away one night. She had become less and less alert. After the lawyer came, signing her will, making peace with her God, there was nothing holding her weakened flesh to this earth.
The funeral was short but well attended. It pleased me to see almost the entire town turn out to bid her farewell. Eunice was there, keeping close in case I needed her. But in truth, I was already cried out with Moms suffering and ordeal. Death came like a friend to us finally, to end her pain. I was all right for a week or so , until the emptiness of the house and the loneliness I felt in my soul finally forced my hand. I called up Jake and accepted the job performing at the bar on Friday and Saturday nights, between 8 and 11. I must admit I was more than a little worried. I hadnt played guitar for almost two years and hadnt written any songs for even longer. It seemed that the last few years in the city had depleted my store of creativity. But now I was back home, older and wiser. I had to leave to understand exactly what I had left behind: the river, the horses, the wildflowers and the wind blowing across the rolling meadows, and the comforting presence of deep friendship. All these revived whatever muse I had known before. I felt compelled to write again.
My old guitar felt strangely stiff for a while, but I always could loose myself in gentle music. And writing lyrics was, after all, just another vehicle for my poetry. I found my old song sheets and old books, and
finally felt I wouldnt embarrass myself too badly. After all I needed the money. And I hoped I could drag Eunice into town to hear me, and to give her a change of pace, to help heal her. When I had caught her eyes at the funeral, I saw only weariness and defeat again. I was determined to change that.
I had toyed with calling her over that last week. I had wanted to walk down the road, past the lake, to sit with her in the evenings on her glider, like Id done so many nights, to just quietly talk. But now, five
years older, and seemingly uncertain, I didnt know how to proceed.
The years away had allowed me to analyze myself, especially in light of my sudden revelation seeing Eunice and Wylie together. I had felt jealousy and betrayal then. And when I asked myself later what my strong reaction had meant, I knew I wanted all of Eunice for myself. They were beautiful together, erotic and wild, and I felt desire for the first time in my growing maturity, like nothing I had felt with the boys I dated in high school. In the city, under the cloak of anonymity, I pursued this sexual attraction I had felt for women. I had a few lovers. Times together were sweet and gentle, and took the sting away from my relative isolation. But I did not feel love in those bars ,dances or brief affairs. I learned about sex. I never regretted taking anyone to my bed. But I needed more. And in all those years that passed, it was Eunice I thought about, the one unattainable goal I would never reach. After all, Eunice was in love with Wylie. She had already made her choice. Maybe seeing them together was why I couldn't come home. I could not wish, however, to deny her the happiness I would never have.My dilemma now was simple. How does one court ones best friend, without doing irreparable harm to that friendship, when so much depended on the outcome, when all ones dreams crystalized into one dream? Could Eunice ever want me as a lover, the girl who grew up in her shadow? Obviously Eunice cared for me, but could her affection be the doorway to more between us?
All these thoughts occupied by mind and not a few of my dreams. I mourned my mother, but I needed to move ahead with my own life, as well. Would I stay home? Would there be enough in Blakeslee to bind me here? Could I build a future with Eunice? How long should I try? I needed to let my graduate adviser know my plans. It was mid June. School started up September 20. If I was to work as a graduate assistant, I needed to be back early September, at the very latest. Not enough time to make any decisions really...to sell the house or not, to quit school or not, to take an extended leave, to look for work here if I could find it, or maybe to try to write full time. That was a time of decisions and questions for me, and I didnt have the answers. Eunice alone could help me with these issues. I just did not know how to ask her for this help.
For the time being, I had Jakes to distract me. I was surprised to see a notice in the town paper announcing my performance, and hear it advertised on the radio. People were buzzing with the news. I still wasnt sure, however, if Eunice had heard .I wasnt sure if I should tell her myself. I finally decided that she was bound to hear. After all, this was Small Town USA. We each shared our neighbors daily lives. I had to laugh when even the minister announced my upcoming show , as a returning daughter and poet, at the Sunday service. Eunice would certainly know. Of course, I didnt know then that Eunice was paying my wage. I didnt discover that truth until much later. Had I known, I would not have been able to take more from her. I probably would have left without trying, going as silently as I had come to town. But I didnt know. And I carefully planned my next series of moves to win Eunices heart. After many sleepless nights, I had finally decided I had no choice but to go on ahead. Eunice was unhappy and wounded, only a shadow of the woman she once was. I would restore her spirit, and hopefully lead her away from sadder memories and to me. This was to be a task carefully crafted by quiet melodies and lyrics that ultimately exposed my love.
That first Friday, I was nervous as a colt. I didnt know what to wear on that hot June night. I settled on jeans and a short sleeved white cotton blouse. I was barefoot on the homemade stage. The mike they had rigged up was pretty poor. I decided I would rather just sing without it. The room wasnt that big. The tables started filling up early. I recognized quite a few of my classmates. The remainder had graduated before and after me, all nursing drinks. It was a young crowd. I scanned the room for Eunice and was disappointed when I didnt see her. I know I would convince her to come, one way or the other, if I had to drag her there.
At 8 o'clock, I introduced myself and sat on a high stool. At first people chatted on. I played a few chords, and the crowd got quieter, but not quiet enough. I hated to start singing without the stillness to capture the musics spirit. I hesitated before starting in earnest. Just then the door opened once more and Eunice stepped into the bar. She looked at me and smiled, then gave the ruder tables such a stern glare that the room became as still as a church.
I couldnt help but laugh out loud, delighted to see Eunice again and delighted at her ability to instinctually solve any problem she found.
I spoke up. "Well, now I can begin in earnest. Im going to sing some old and some new songs. I hope you don't mind some repetition. Im not sure I know enough songs for every Friday and Saturday night. But will you humor me and listen for a while? Music is a comfort to the soul."
And so I began to weave a spell with my voice over the next few weeks, with songs and words of hope and contentment, of love and happiness, songs that painted scenes of the beauty of the world around us, the stars and moon and of dreams. It was a strange mix I choose....
Old English ballads and Irish melodies, some old folk songs our Mamas had sung to us. I sang of achievement and victory over hardship. I sang
60s and 70s folk songs, and even some ballads from the 80s and 90s. The Indigo Girls, with their songs by Emily Sailor, currently topped my favorites...quiet melodies and introspective lyrics. I did sing of heartbreak and discovery. Finally I sang a few songs of my own, but I wasnt ready to expose my heart just yet. I was drawing Eunice into my world again, little by little.
I admit I was surprised each time three hours flew by, and that the
crowd got larger and more respectful with each show. I had trouble getting away each night, people calling out songs they remembered or just their favorites. Some nights, the audience would sing with me. I felt like a preacher leading his flock, I swear. But it seemed a magical time. With each song, with every evening spent lost in my words and music, Eunice seemed to revive a little bit at a time. And when Wylie and her husband decided to attend one session, I sang to Eunice only, keeping her eyes on me. The audience probably found it strange, but Eunice didn't
seem to mind. And I was pleased to see Wylie not a little annoyed that her presence had such a trivial effect on Eunice. I had hope myself, as those weeks passed, that things would work out.
After the first few shows, Eunice volunteered each night to take me home. We enjoyed walking the quiet roads, sharing the night with crickets and the wind and each other. On beautiful nights, we would walk down to the lake and sit and count the stars in the black sky, exchanging memories , pondering like old times. The weeks passed.
We sat on a favorite swing by the lake.
"The summer is going too quickly. Its August already."
"I dont know, Molly. I think time spent with you is so much fuller, more real to me. And so each hour seems longer. Does that make sense?"
"Im boring you, is that it?" I laughed at her statement.
"Hardly. Do you know what I mean?"
"I do, really. Its the now-time you're talking about, the time we skip by so easily without noticing, so intent on the past and the future. But its the now where we really live."
"Thats it. You always had a way of catching an idea in words, or else things come to you and just sit on your palm like a butterfly might, where as I try so hard to chase after the damn things."
"Sometimes the best things just come through no effort on our part. Maybe chasing dreams is as silly as chasing butterflies. You think you can catch them, but only bruise them in your clumsy attempts. And if you would just wait long enough, and stay real still, they may just sit down with you where you are."
"Maybe...." Eunice looked over in the silver moon glow to study me. "You really are special, Molly."
"Now, Eunice, flattery will get you everywhere...." I laughed.
"Youre not flirting with me, are you, Miss Molly?" she asked with good humor.
"You dont expect a lady to answer a question like that, now do you?"
`Eunice laughed again, still not sure how much of what I said was just a joke. The swing was squeaking measuredly and the night air was cool .
"Should I stay?"
She hesitated a long while. "I cant answer that question for you Molly."
"Why not? You could tell me your opinion at least. I would like to hear your opinion. "
"Thats such a personal decision."
"Will you ever leave here?" I asked instead.
"I have thought hard on that these last few years. My own unhappiness had shaded my feelings for the place."
"You always loved it so here."
"I know. But I grew to wonder if I could be happy somewhere else, or happier, anyway."
"I want you to be happy, Eunice."
"Ive been happy having you back." She smiled at me with undisguised warmth.
"I have to decide about graduate school. If I go back to teach, I should leave by the end of August. I dont know what to do. Or if I should sell the the house or what?"
"Do you owe any on it?"
"No. Just property taxes yearly."
"If you sell it, you have little tieing you here."
"Well, thats not true. But the alternative, to just leave it empty, the place would deteriorate."
"I could keep an eye on it....maybe you could rent it."
"Who would want it?"
"I dont know. Maybe one of my men. To live close. Then you wouldn't be rushed to make a decision youd regret later."
I steeled my courage. "Do you want me to go in September?"
"Honestly, Molly? No, of course I dont. This summer, even though
saddened by your mothers illness and death, has been wonderful. You are very dear to me, Molly."
"Have you ever taken another lover?"
"I guess I hurt too much inside. And well, maybe Im not worth loving. My being to be a lesbian is wrong in Gods sight. Why else have I been so persecuted?" She spoke so softly, it was hard to hear her words.
"Now dont you be talking like that. I swear, Eunice....Wylies just a hurtful woman. But what if she were a man, and refused your honest offer to be a family? And ran off instead with someone else? And if you cared, youd be just as wounded. Wylie just wanted something different from you, Eunice.....lust, some hot sex that summer, not the love you offered her so sincerely."
"Does it bother you, Molly, that Im a lesbian?"
"Does it look like it bothers me, spending every evening with you
that I can?" She laughed at that. "Or sitting out here under the stars like a courtin couple?"
She looked at me a long moment, and shook her head. "You know, Molly, sometimes I dont know what to think about you."
"I dont know." She dismissed her own question finally with a shrug. "But thank you for being my friend, for accepting me for what I am and for caring like you do."
"Oh, I do care for you, Eunice. I do, more than you might imagine. And I think my happiness is tied right up with yours."
I leaned into her shoulder then, resting my head on her shoulder and reached for her hand. I played with her long fingers idly with my own.
"Maybe we should go now." she spoke gently.
I could hear her heartbeat speeding up the longer I stayed against her. "Not yet. It feels nice just sitting here."
She filled the silence after a while. "You are a talented singer, Molly. Are you going to sing more of your own songs? I recognize some of them from all those years ago."
"Yes, I will. Ive written a few this summer. Im just waiting for the right time to sing them."
"The audience loves you. Maybe you should pursue singing. Maybe youre the next Joni Mitchell or Emily Sailor."
"I love her music, dont you? Theres something special about a singer-songwriter. Playing someone elses music is fine, but singing your own....One woman, a singer songwriter, told me once that at a show, she only had that forty-five minutes to try to change the world. Its kind of true. I do believe you can reach someone just that way, with lyrics and music. Like its a more direct path into someones mind and heart."
"I do agree."
"So, I found you a song, Eunice. Maybe Ill play it tomorrow night."
"Id like that."
"Now mind, youll have to guess which is for you. So listen real well."
"You know I do. Just like everybody else in the crowd. We cant take our eyes off you."
"I dont care about anybody else, Eunice."
"Well, youd care if they were talking and coughing and not minding what you were doing."
"You wouldnt let them be so disrespectful . I still laugh at the memory of my first show when the audience wouldn't be still, and you just walked in an gave them that look. There wasnt a peep coming from a single person.!"
"I told you I scare some people, me a rapist and a pervert, too. Children in this town are threatened with the likes of me, not the bogey man any more."
I sighed. She was back to being so down on herself.
"Eunice, how can I undo this wrong done to you? You need someone around here to defend your reputation, set things straight."
"Its too late for that, Molly."
"Its never too late. Not for the truth. And for heavens sake, you are not the only lesbian in the world, girl. Ten percent of women are."
"Ten percent?! I dont believe it. Do you know anyone else who is?
I dont. And I cant count Wylie."
"Why ever not? Shes clearly bisexual. She spends time with men and women."
"All right. So theres two in town."
"Oh, theres more around. You have heard of being in the closet?"
"Well sure. "
"And some women just never act on their inclinations. ...what with all the prejudices in our society against gays. But youd be surprised at all the lesbians at university."
"I dont believe it."
"What? You really think youre the only woman who finds another woman's breast attractive? or laying tangled with a womans soft smooth limbs wrapped around you erotic?"
"Molly, youre going to make me blush."
"Im serious, Eunice. Have you ever been to a lesbian club or dance? or to a womens bar?"
"Never, Molly. Im not looking to pick up a woman like that!"
"But you know such places exist. And all the lesbian literature ...Do you know that you can even take a course at some colleges about the lesbian experience?"
"Oh, please, Molly! Now you are kidding me."
"Well, its true."
"How in the world can you teach a course on such a thing? Maybe those big cities are just too much."
"In some circles, its quite fashionable to be a lesbian. Now dont sit there and chuckle, woman, Im only telling you the truth. I should take you out sometime to see how the city girls party. Why I bet you never went just dancing with a woman. And Eunice....keep your eyes open. See whos checking you out, even around here."
"You are too much, Molly Little. Youre always trying to make me feel better."
"Oh, Im sure I can do better."
Eunice paused a moment before talking, as if lost in thought. But then, after that last remark, she changed the subject quickly to one she was more comfortable with.
"You always used to look up at me like I could do no wrong, remember? That was great for my ego back then. And maybe seeing what you expected, I tried harder. Like all those crazy track and field events in school, and the trophies I got."
"You were the best, thats all."
"Well, I couldnt disappoint you, squirt."
"You never did, Eunice."
"Never did what?"
"Disappoint me. Never have. Never will. Youre the special one, Eunice."
"I think youre still seeing me thru the eyes of that teenager , Molly."
"Well, in case you havent noticed, Im all grown up now, Eunice."
"Oh, I noticed."
Eunice cleared her throat, feeling uncomfortable again, both with the conversation and where it seemed to be headed. "How did we ever get talking about all this, anyhow?"
"I wanted to. And I dont like you feeling negative about who or what you are."
"I dont, when youre around. Im going to be in an awful way when you leave again."
"Who said Ive made up my mind?"
"Well, havent you? You chose to leave once, get a degree, become a writer. Now youre in graduate school, for Gods sake, working on a Ph.D.
Who could you even talk to around here? Were just simple folk, Molly.
Most of us never even went to college."
"Seems were talking just fine, now arent we? And you could have gone to any college if you wanted to, Eunice. It just wasnt of any interest to you. Having a degree or two doesnt make someone more intelligent or more capable of solving a single real problem in life. What makes someone worthy, bright.... thats inside. That doesnt come with a diploma."
We sat a while longer. The damp air by the lake was chilling me. I moved a little closer, shivering a bit.
"We should go."
"Or you could warm me up some."
"I dont have a coat to give you."
"Well......use your imagination, woman."
"What?" I could tell by her tone that I had her half dazed.
"Will you just put your arm around me, and let me cuddle a little?
I wont bite, you know."
"Molly, what if someone saw us sitting here, wrapped up like that? I think your reputation might suffer."
"You know, Eunice Sage..." I spoke patiently, lifting her arm and pulling it around me. "First of all, I am cold. And second of all, the only two people in town whose opinion matter to me....well, ones dead, and she was the one that twisted your arm to take me out, as you recall. And then theres you. So, if someone comes by and doesnt like what he sees, I say Fuck Off"
"Miss Molly," she laughed despite herself. "Now your language is making me blush."
"Well good. I wish there were more moonlight so I could see you blush."
She seemed to take all my comments in stride for a moment, but seemed to tense again the closer I got to her. "Are you warming up some, now?"
"Yes. Much better, you Armstrong Heater, you. "
"You are crazy." I could see her smile at me, though. "Molly, can I ask you something?" I just nodded. "Do you have anyone in your life? You know, someone special?"
"Yes, I do. But they just dont know it yet."
"Why not? Are they stupid, or blind?"
"To tell you the truth, I havent exactly told them in person. Im not sure how to proceed."
"Well, theres the Wylie approach."
"And that would be what?"
"Well, she just pushed me against a wall and started kissing me."
"And it worked?
"I was shocked, but when I found her tongue in my mouth, and my shirt open, I just had an epiphany of sorts and accepted it all quite well."
"I just imagine. But Im not sure I could do that. Not without knowing my affections were returned."
"You should have someone in your life, Molly. I think were alone too much. To have someone who cares for you in that special way, who would do anything to keep you happy and well....thats the greatest gift, Molly, that anyone of us can have. Sex is one thing, but to have real love in your life...."
"I am working on it, Eunice. I am. And I want the same thing as you do. Im tired of being alone, just dreaming and wishing."
"I certainly cant give you any lesions in that department, Im afraid. Youre on your own for this one."
"Oh, I have definite ideas."
"You sound almost wicked there, girl"
"Nope. Im just sure,certain and determined, as Mom would have said."
"Sure, certain and determined. Well, I pity the poor person. With an attitude like that, I dont think they have half a chance of escaping."
"No, they dont rightly have."
"Are you warm enough?"
"You cant get much closer, thats for sure."
"Yes I can. I could sit on your lap."
"Well, Im getting mighty warm. I think Im starting to sweat here. I'm going to walk you home. Its late, and Im all talked out. How about you?"
"All right. Ill head back up the road."
"Ill walk you."
"You dont have to."
"Its not safe for a woman to be walking alone this time of night."
"Now if you walk me home, whos going to walk you home?"
"I can take care of myself, Molly."
"Im not so sure about that..." I answered a little saucily. I moved quickly to kiss her check but purposefully caught the corner of her lips. The older woman seemed frozen in surprise and with the sudden rush of pleasure that filled her so unexpectedly. Before she realized it, however, I had jumped up and ran off up the road, calling back to her as she still sat in silence. "Night, Eunice."
She didnt intend me to hear her softly mumbled words that followed my departure. "Did she do that on purpose? What the hell."
I flew up the steps into the house thinking about what I had said and didnt say, talking to her. "This night ought to give her something to think about, in the very least. "
Eunice came the next night. She sat at her usual table, halfway to the stage and halfway to the door, affording her a clear view of everyone.
She always sat alone, but seemed comfortable there in her solitude. I was a little nervous. I wasnt sure where this night would end. But tonight was the night.
I started off with some light music, foot tapping kind, then moved on to some softer ballads. I sang a few love songs, both silly and serious, but stayed upbeat and hopeful. I sang about friendship and comfort. It was near 11 and I was ready for the song I would have written myself, if it hadnt already been written. I wasnt sure if Eunice would understand what I felt from the lyrics, what I meant with the selection. But Lord, she would have to be blind not to recognize the truth when it was presented to her in the open without pretense. All night I had smiled at the audience, visiting everyone with my eyes at some point in the show. Now sang with my eyes closed, letting all my doubts and longings sound clear in the bar. I guess I must have sounded different to everyone there, because there was a hushed expectancy as my words and notes filled up the bar slowly.
I sang ANDY, by Emily Sailor. I wish I could have sung the harmony but instead let the guitar play the exquisite bittersweet sound of Emilys chords . But I did my best. And when I sang the words, part of me wanted to cry at the injustice done Eunice, at her inability to forget what Wylie had meant to her. But then, I was offering more than understanding that night.
Andy, do you love me?
do you think about it? will you say?
turning brushwood into blazes,
turning summer grass into hay,
turning sharply past the graveyard
to the lakefront with the black waves
licking up the stones,
`to the sway back screened-in front porch
who could ever stay
the weight of flesh and bones?
Andy, arent you tired
from the sun and rain and river soaking you?
from the beer cans on your dashboard,
and the bullet hole spider web
staining your rear view?
I have watched you watch an empty road.
is it only her upon which all of youre depending
to fill your 20 hour workday,
while all the fences in the county still need fixing.
and in the night I do my checking,
and fix the broken parts with visions of rare beauty.
but in my heart I know Im second,
forever fixed in your pursuit.
it is my duty.
Andy, will you toss mea little sip
of something i can taste?
instead of dust from all the leaving,
and the smell of summer lying there to waste.
under the burnt pyre of all the castaways,
the tiny shoots will spring like questions.
will you take me out to the fenced fields,
sprinkled with horses,
wild in resistance to the taming?
will you break me, will you break me?
I had opened my eyes during the last stanza and asked Eunice, holding her gaze. I was offering her a beginning with me, asking for that chance. The chords of my guitar drifted toward the wooden walls and ceiling and then I was done. Eunice finally looked away, her expression unreadable. I wasnt sure if all the seeds Id planted would take in the soil of her heart, but I had given it my best. Not the Wylie push her against the wall" approach, but I couldnt be much plainer.
I smiled at the audience and packed up my guitar to store behind the bar. I glanced over once toward Eunice and saw the woman sitting still with her eyes half closed, and wearing a sexy crooked smile that Id never seen before. The sight took my breath away. I glanced at the audience a final time. I would not be performing any more. It had been a good evening to cap my time there. It was then, in passing over the faces gathered there, that I caught Wylie looking at Eunice with anger, and glancing at me, smirking as she sat still amidst the now thinning crowd. Seems she remembered that little half smile of Eunices.
Eunice, for her part, was unaware of the scrutiny. She finally regarded me warmly and rose up to meet me. She took my guitar and I hopped off the stage, accepting compliments from the people as we walked thru the bar. We were both surprised when Wylie gripped Eunices wrist like a vulture, and smiled a cruel cold smile at the startled woman.
"Eunice, youre out and about a lot these days. " She glanced at me briefly but would not meet my eye. Rather she racked over my person like I was a horse up for sale. "Why, isnt this that little girl you used to baby-sit? And all grown up? Have you taught her to be a good little dyke for you, all eager for your affection?" She actually sneered at Eunice as she spoke.
I know I turned slowly red, but not with embarrassment. No, it was pure anger and outrage that colored my cheeks and made me stand taller, that gave a hard glint to my eyes that had been softened moments ago with deep affection. Wylie hadnt addressed her comments to me, but I moved into her space, and gave her a cool and confidant smile, dismissing her guest ions as insignificant.
"Why now, are you getting jealous,Wylie, remembering just how good she made you feel? I am so sorry, but shes just not available to be a little diversion for you. Goodnight all. " I turned my gaze back to Eunice and smiled with all the love I felt. "Come on, honey. Its late and Im tired. Take me home."
I linked arms with a surprised redhead, dislodging Wylies hand in the process. Eunice did her best not to show how startled she was at my comments and the new possessiveness I demonstrated. She finally laughed a quick moment before nodding and following me out into the parking lot, leaving a silent Wylie just watching us leave.
"Are you defending me again, Molly?" She finally spoke , as we stood in the dark drive.
"Of course I am. That hussy of a woman drives me to distraction."
Well, shes not worth your anger."
We stood a moment more there in the night, awkward again for the second time that summer. "Come on." She spoke finally, pulling me to the car. "Well drive home."
"Good. I want to put a distance between us and that witch."
When we were settled in the car ,driving out of town , Eunice looked over toward me again and spoke softly. Her words were thick with strong emotion.
"Thank you, Molly. That was your last show, wasnt it?"
"It was. One way or the other, Im done singing at Jakes. Ive run out of music, anyway."
"Everyone in town cant get over how good you are."
"And what do you think, Eunice?"
"I think you are just something else. Im proud and grateful to know you, Molly. And we do need to talk."
I was suddenly terrified. My stomach dropped somewhere down near my knees while she talked on.
"Ive been thinking a lot, Molly, and I think you should go ahead and sell Mays house."
"You do?" I asked with a voice so flat I hardly recognized it as my own.
"I do. No point keeping it."
"All right, Eunice."
She looked over again, her eyes invisible in the dark truck. Well, I had my answer. Just not the one I wanted. I certainly couldnt make her love me like that. I would do my crying later. I coughed, stopping a sigh from escaping.
"No, Im wound tight."
"Do you want a drink?"
"Yes, I do. There is a time when a scotch does a body good. I could use a stiff drink. You buying?"
Eunice drove by my house without asking, heading up the road to her own. All those weeks, I hadnt been inside her place. It would be all those five years since I saw the proud old house with its wrap-around
porch and gentle shade trees. I used to spend a lot of time on that porch when I was a small girl. I would see it once again before I closed this chapter in my life. I would enjoy this last night with Eunice.
A few rooms were lit, waiting Eunices return. Still the house was largely dark.
"Come on in. Ill get us a drink."
I looked around the vestibule, remembering the dark heavy furniture , the walnut paneled walls, the worn hardwood floors and
the smell of the place.
"Want to sit on the porch, or inside?"
"I dont care. The house looks like I remember it."
"Well, I never changed much. I moved into the master bedroom, is all."
"Do you still use that upstairs screened porch to sleep on those hot 41
"Sometimes I do. But not so much anymore. I used to sleep out even in the late fall, wrapped up in my sleeping bag, remember?"
She handed me a scotch-over-ice and I followed her out onto the front porch. She turned off all but the hall light in passing. I moved to my favorite swing and she settled beside me. I could hear the horses moving in the nearby fields, snorting now and again. The frogs were busy singing to each other and the crickets as well. A dog barked far away.
"This is a peaceful part of the world. With enough space for a soul to stretch out." I smiled a little sadly over toward her.
"Do you regret going to the city, Molly?"
"No. I had some growing to do, away from Mom. Away from you and this place. Do the boys ever come home to visit?"
"Hardly. Luke comes around once in a while ....to help with the spring foaling. But the older two, they have their own lives and families.
This old house seems hollow sometimes with just the echo of running children and the solid step of my father."
"You never knew your mother." I was grateful for the chance to talk about something besides my own broken heart.
"Remember, she died when I was eleven or so."
"You never talked about her much."
"I never understood why she left us. And then when I heard she had died, I never forgave her for a long time. "
"Do you know why she left?"
"Not really. We all just agreed not to talk on her amongst ourselves."
"And she never came back to see you children, before she died?"
"No. The bigger world called her, I guess. And seeing as how she died only a few years after she left, maybe she was right to follow her own calling for those few years given her."
"Where did she go?"
"I dont know. Traveled. I got some postcards that I kept hidden away, that Id look at sometimes."
"Hard for a young one to understand, though, why a mother would choose to leave her children like that, wasnt it?"
"Yes, it was. But we were a family anyway, until the boys left. And I always kind of thought of your mother as mine as well. Dad, Luke
and I just absorbed the work. We loved the land more than anything there for a while. And the horses. But you can remember those days. I didnt seem to mind all the people in my life leaving me, as long as I had this place to work. But truly, the dust from all the leaving did cloud my vision finally.
I looked over at her sharply, surprised to hear her quote from Emilys song.....So she had heard me. "And yet you helped me get away."
Now it was her turn to look at me seriously, an unasked question in her eyes. "Mom told me , before she died, about the scholarship. She didnt want any secrets to go with her to the grave."
"Im sorry she told you."
"Im not, Eunice. I owe you some, friend."
"No you dont. And if you did, this summer has been payment well beyond a little cash, gathering dust in a cold bankers box. You made me remember, these months, what its like to be alive."
I reached over at these words, and gave her hand a squeeze. I couldnt talk right then. She squeezed my hand back, but seemed content to hold my fingers for a while. I didnt mind. To be physically connected, as well as through our souls, was comforting and reassuring to me. I willed myself not to think beyond that moment, and just enjoy the solid strength and presence of this woman.
"You need another drink?"
"No. I didnt have much supper. I was too nervous. I best not drink more just now."
"You hungry now?"
"Why were you nervous, tonight?"
"Well, with it being the last show maybe, worrying that the last impression I would be making? Or that I wouldnt make myself clear as I might want?"
"You put on a fine show, though I dont know which gives a more powerful message, a poem or a song."
"Each has its own kind of melody."
"Thank you for Mays copy of your poems. Ive enjoyed reading it this summer."
"She wanted you to have it, especially since you were directly responsible for its production."
"Not hardly. Those poems are just glimpses into your heart and
soul, put on paper."
"I swear, you must be the poet, not me, Eunice." That made her laugh a moment and when she did, she paused in playing with my fingers in a most disturbing manner. But then she was touching my finger tips carefully, in exploration. "What are you doing?
"I can feel the calluses from your guitar playing."
"I had lost them, not playing for so long. Took a few weeks to get them back."
"You keep your nails shorter on your left hand."
"Your hands are beautiful, Molly, graceful with long thin fingers, an artists hands. Not like my rough ones, dirt stained and scraped."
"Your hands are good hands, strong, caring, competent. I couldnt imagine anyone Id want better to help me, if I needed it." I closed my eyes, the swing gently rocking, and the night soft around us. I tried hard to ignore her fingers on my palm, and then her gently caressing my wrist and forearm. But she was affecting me. "Now what are you doing, Eunice?" I asked, distracted.
"Oh, Im just appreciating how soft your skin is."
"Yes, well, youd best stop that. Im finding a need to stretch, anyway. Maybe I would like another drink. " I tried to move my arm free, but she held it more firmly, turning to face me.
She must have sensed my unease. "Youre seeming awful nervous all of a sudden." she teased, her voice a note deeper. It had a lazy sultry quality to it that made me perspire. "And yes, I do think about it, Molly."
"Let me go, Eunice."
"And if I wont?" She moved her other hand up to touch my cheek, my hair and neck, and the skin visible by my opened collar. I couldnt help but shiver. I had wanted to be touched and loved by this woman for so long. Yet now, I was afraid....not of Eunice or the way she made me feel. I was afraid because I was filled with guest ions of her motivation for what she was doing just then. Was she just trying to please me, offer me this night out of kindness, or maybe worse, pity? She had already told me to sell the house. I wanted so much more than just a night in her arms.
All my racing thoughts, my own fears and insecurities made me unaware that for the moment, that my arm was free, and she had pulled back. I could sense hurt in her.
She spoke softly almost startled by the nature of my bodys
response to her touch which she interpreted as revulsion. "Youre afraid of me." And then she stiffened and regarded me silently. "Youre afraid Ill rape you, I suppose." She laughed bitterly then, and stood up abruptly, just watching me.
I had ruined everything. And still I hesitated as she walked off the porch and headed further off into the blackness of the meadow. I had to do something.
"Eunice, wait." I forced myself to move, and sprinted after her.
"Go home, little girl." She harshly called over her shoulder, trying to stop my approach. I grabbed her arm and spun her roughly around to face me.
"I dont know which part of that I find more insulting.....that you would make a joke about my height, or still think of me as a child!"
I almost laughed at the confusion on her face for a moment. She shook her head as if to clear it and tried to pull free of my grip.
"No. Im not done talking, so you might as well just stop." I spoke matter-of-factly, willing her to stop running away.
"What the Hell, Molly. Let me go."
"No. And youre going to listen. You might as well sit down on those steps with me. You know once I get to talking, it might be hours before Im done with it. " I tugged her back toward the porch. She followed finally, meekly enough, as if she had lost her fight. I had baffled the woman.
"Im sitting." She looked at me as I stood before her, me trying to read the expression on her face, the emotions in her eyes. And when I didnt say anything, she shook her head again, and just propped her chin on her arm,gazing at me. She spoke after a long while. "One of us is acting a fool, Molly, and Im sure its me. I have analyzed you all summer, listening to you, trying to understand the woman youve become. I thought, tonight, I saw into your heart completely and understood. I thought it was me you wanted in your life. Apparently I got it all wrong, my insight as pathetic as usual. What is it you want, Molly? But please believe me. I would never harm you or take something you didnt want to give me." I still didnt say anything. "Molly, help me here. What do you want?"
`"Im afraid I cant have what I want. And I wont settle for less. Thats why I asked you to stop just now." I added quietly.
"Please, Molly. Tell me what in the world is flying around that head
of yours. What dreams have you been chasing that you cant catch? If you care at all for me, just explain yourself. Thats all I ask"
"Im going back to school."
"Why?" She sounded hurt again.
"Isnt that what you want?"
"What gave you that idea? She sounded even surprised.
"You told me to sell the house, Eunice. That there was no point keeping it. Thats pretty plan speaking."
I plopped down on the step below her, and stared off into the dark a long while, trying to gather myself against the heartache I felt, hearing her words all over again. Trouble was I couldnt stop the tears, despite my best effort.
"Now youre crying." She was sounding helpless.
"I dont want to cry in front of you. This will all seem easier in the morning. " I sniffled like a three year old, much to my embarrassment.
"First I frighten you. Now Im making you cry. And all I was trying to do was show what I feel, Molly."
"What did you say?"
"Oh, Hell. I love you, Molly. I dont want you to go away again. What can I do to convince you to stay? How I had the courage to ask you to stay with me, after Wylie laughed in my face, is beyond my comprehension. But I was so sure that this is what you wanted too. I thought you loved me, that we were alike in our attraction to each other, that the notion of a woman touching you was desirable. ....what with all your talk about women at school, and what you said to Wylie tonight.....claiming me as clearly yours, calling me honey, and telling me to take you home in front of half the town, like we were already lovers. So, Im bewildered, Molly. Please stop crying. Youre breaking my heart, after you took such effort and time to get it fully mended."
I wiped my tears away, and took a few slow breaths. I stood up on weak knees and moved to porch. Searched out our drinks,I drained them both. Eunice followed me with her eyes.
"Why do you need a drink to talk to me all of a sudden, Molly? Dont we know each other better than that?"
"Will you shut up, please, Eunice Sage, for a minute? "
"Be still. " I spoke more gently. "I told you to sit, so I could talk, and here you are rambling on so. " I gathered up my thoughts. "Eunice, Im
not looking for a part time lover, or a distraction, like Wylie was. Im looking to build a life with someone to whom I will give all of myself; with someone I love for all their strengths and frailties; someone I would take into my arms aware of their wounds, needs and dreams, aware of a goodness in them that pulled me to them in the first place. And before I accept someone like that, binding them to me, offering them the sum of my past and my future to share.....well, that someone needs to be very sure. There wont be any turning back, or turning away. Do you understand, Eunice?"
"No.....Who is it, Molly, that you want to give yourself to?"
" You. You were right about me. I was asking you tonight singing, offering myself. But I need to know what your intentions are. My love is nothing I plan on sharing with someone only aiming to please, or whos only thoughts are those of pity or lust. Well," I paused a long moment, "Ive said my piece, in less time than I thought I would. And I wanted that drink because Im terrified youll accept and terrified youll refuse. I dont want to lose this friendship with you, Eunice, no matter what happens between us tonight or tomorrow. Ive been five years missing you. I dont want any more of it. Im worn out. You let me know what you plan on doing. I will accept your decision. Ill always love you, girl, no matter what." And then I walked off the porch and headed back home. She just sat there watching me. My footsteps sounded loud in the darkness that night.
It didnt take me long to strip down and just fall into bed. I was truly exhausted with the long day, the emotional strain and the scotch. I was asleep almost as soon as my sheets reached my chin.
Something woke me early the next morning. I stirred and made to turn over ,to sleep some more, until I saw Eunice sitting on the bed. I rubbed my eyes a moment and took in her serious face, her large green eyes watching me. I reached for her hand automatically.
"What is it, Eunice?" I asked, concerned. For a moment I thought something had happened. She never had before come in our home without knocking or at least calling ahead. And now she had sought me out, wearing the same clothes from the night before, looking tired.
"Are you all right? Do you need something?" But then I thought she looked too calm and quiet for much to be wrong.
"Yes" was all she said.
"Yes, Im all right. And yes, I need something." She paused a moment, looking at my sleep tossed hair and half awake face and smiled with a tenderness that transformed her face. "And yes, Im very sure."
It occurred to me just then that I was naked under a cotton sheet and that there was now desire revealed in her eyes. I couldnt help but blush. I was suddenly very awake.
"Eunice, did you sleep at all last night? Youre not clear about what youre saying." Although, if truth be told, I knew very well what she was saying, especially when she moved my sheet, lifting it away to reveal my shoulders and breasts to her lingering gaze. She spent a moment caressing me with her eyes, still not touching me. The only question I had right then was how long Id wait before I kissed her. Then she quoted from one of my poems.
I place myself at your feet
and give myself to you,
for I trust that which I see
in your eyes and face,
and that place you would take
me within your embrace,
to a valley of shared pleasure
painted with shadow and warmth,
there connection, confirmation
thru trembling fingers make.
in my willing surrender
to this longing and love
so negate the ache from
my empty solitude,
and nurture in union
of spirit and flesh
the nascent ethereal
nature of hope.
I couldnt help if my eyes were wet like hers. I raised her hand up, kissing her palm softly before I leaned my cheek into it. "You left your door unlocked." She smiled at me, teasing me with her eyes.
"A Freudian slip, Im sure." I smiled back thru my tears.
"I love you, Molly Little. I ve thought long and hard on this, and I think you should sell Mays house. No point keeping it........And you should move in with me and never leave. Youre my dearest friend. You are the most beautiful and desirable woman I have ever seen. Im going to kiss you now, and Im not going to stop until Ive made love to every inch of your skin, and then Im not going to stop loving you, Molly. Will you give yourself to me, as I offer myself to you? And stay here with me? You have surely broken any resistance in me to this wondrous thing. Youve led me gently and patiently to understand and welcome this love that fills me.
"Darling Eunice...." Well, for a poet and a song writer, I was simply unable to make one complete sentence. So I answered her with a nod before pulling her gently toward me. She smelled of sunshine, summer grass, the horses, and the lingering smell of the cigarettes from Jakes. She smelled like a familiar remembrance of my past. But in her kiss that morning I knew I had found my future. She cupped my face in both hands, and brushed my lip with her thumb before touching me with her own lips so softly and tenderly. I was filled with an aching sweetness and peace before I gave into the desire for the woman I had embraced a thousand times before in my mind. She tasted better than I had ever dreamed. She lowered her weight partially on me, leaning on her arms, hesitant to crush me, but wanting more contact between us. I smiled into her kiss.
"You are a wondrous thing, Molly." she spoke, breathing my breath, so close to my face.
"Get those clothes of and come lay down here with me. I need to show you just how much I love you."
She sat up, still smiling. "I still cant believe this."
"Believe it." I smiled rakishly, my hands already unbuttoning her shirt. I wanted to touch her something fierce. I certainly wasnt inexperienced with desire, but I was simply filled with the need to have all of her right then.
"I should take a shower."
"Dont even think of leaving this bedroom." I pushed her shirt of her shoulders. She shrugged out of it, before standing to slip free almost shyly of her worn jeans and underwear. She was so beautiful in the morning sunlight filling the room and still seemed impossibly insecure standing before me. I realized more of her affair with Wylie. Wylie had never cared at all for her, had only used this glorious flesh for her own greedy pleasure. No one had ever looked on Eunice with love and desire, with an appreciation for the exquisite beauty that was uniquely hers. I still had a
lot of work to do, before Eunices soul was whole, before she understood her worth. No one had ever made love to this exquisite woman. I was determined to show her what it meant to have her body worshipped.
"I dont disappoint you, do I , Molly?"
"Yes." I could see a flash of hurt in her eyes, but then I smiled wickedly at her. "Yes, you big fool, by keeping me waiting." Then she smiled back. I pulled her down next to me, but I never gave her a chance to reach for me. This morning was to be for Eunice. Now I would heal her with my body rather than my words. She was surprised when I took the lead, her trying to give me what she had given Wylie. "Be still, sweet Eunice. I am going to make you understand how wonderful, glorious and beautiful you are, just how desirable you are."
I had rolled her on her back, and lay on her before she tried to move away. "Close your eyes," I whispered. "and just feel what Im feeling when I look at you, when I touch you, when I kiss you. Let me live this dream, Eunice."
She kissed me back with more passion, tasting my lips and mouth and tongue, holding me to her fiercely before she lay back, closing her eyes.
"I love you, Eunice. Ill never tire of telling or showing you that."
While her hands were rough, her body was that of a goddess. I lost myself kissing all of her, touching and teasing her pale skin, discovering her breasts, her delicate neck and long thighs, moving slowly against her until her thoughts were only the sum of her pleasure and pure sensation. She startled, then trembled, when I touched her sex before kissing her there. I knew by her reaction that Wylie had never given her even this intimate kiss before. I hated Wylie then, as much as I cherished Eunice. And when she finally cried, shaken and weak with release, I couldn't have loved her any more if I tried. This woman deserved so much more that she had gotten in her life. I kissed away her tears, holding her with all the tenderness I possessed, and soothed her until she fell asleep. I knew then what happiness was, that Id found my home in her arms.
She stirred maybe an hour later, and opened her eyes to see me watching her.
"Hey, you. " I smiled at her. "You doing all right?"
"Am I doing all right? I think I have been reborn."
"Well, good. So have I."
"I dont deserve this." she murmured softly in my ear. "Oh, you most certainly do deserve to be loved. And I am humbled and grateful you let me love you, Eunice. And Im so sorry Wylie used you like she did."
"Wylie who?" She smiled impishly at me.
"You forgot her already?"
"You are potent medicine. " she smiled again and kissed my lips and both my hands. "No, I think you are magic, because what you inspire in me, what your nearness does...well, its beyond logic. You feel so good, your skin against mine, the length of you touching me. I have never experienced anything like what you just let me feel."
"Im sorry that Wylie just took from you."
"Well, I enjoyed her. I thought what we shared was love. I just had no idea, nothing to compare our time together. But my God, Molly, you drove me so high with your sweet loving, I thought Id simply melt from the heat of it. I can die anytime now and die truly happy and well loved. Will you tell me, sweet woman, how is it that youre doing all the teaching these days?"
I moved closer to kiss her again. "It only seems fair, what with all the things youve taught me all along. Im just returning the favor. You taught me about kindness,patience,encouragement. You taught me what companionship,loyalty and sincerity meant. It only seems right to show you what love and pleasure is to me,and the worth of quiet unconditional acceptance, support and caring." As I talked, Eunice let her hand roam across my skin. Her touch was gentle, almost timid at first. But she was driving me to a point where I could not talk anymore. "Eunice, what are you doing with those fingers of yours?
"Well, I was thinking about what you said, you know, returning the favor...."
"You are making me crazy.
"Are you trying to test my patience or simply..."
That was when she rolled over and kissed me. My mind flashed back to how she had looked kissing Wylie that day so long ago, before I understood this passion and shared it. But that memory was pushed somewhere far away, confining it to insignificant dribble compared to the sight and feel of this woman tangled against me. Her loving was at once fierce and passionate, and yet so tender. Her lips,tongue and fingers found all of my secrets, committing them to memory, replaying them all until I only could moan and softly beg her for relief from the escalating need that filled me. To say that I had been loved like this before would have been a lie. To say I had ever felt alive before her touch would have been wrong. She possessed my body and soul finally, filling me with strong fingers, rocking me with her own sweet invasion. She might not have ever received caresses as I had given her, but she was expert at pleasing, just like she was at all physical skills. It was only after three climaxes that I pulled gently away to lay against her, spent, my head resting on her heart.
"Oh my God, Eunice. You dare to say I taught you. I have to catch my breath, but I cant even focus long enough to do that. Your loving is an end to itself. No wonder Wylie was jealous that I might sample this paradise myself. Oh my God." I could hear her chuckle softly beneath my ear, and I smiled with perfect contentment before I fell asleep, lulled by her regular breathing and the sound of her dear heart beat, strong and dependable, the earthly reality to my wild hopes.
We began that day to share our lives completely, thinking perhaps some day I would finish my doctorate. But that aspect of formal education seemed insubstantial and too removed from my world. What I shared with Eunice surpassed what I only read or dreamed about. This gentle woman, this peaceful place we cohabited, the open spaces and the wild river were my world. The love we shared, discovered and reaffirmed over the ensuing years, motivated me to write not just a few more books of poetry and songs, but this narrative.
In writing this, I wanted to do much more than clear Eunices name of hurtful rumors. After all, Wylie had long since been exposed as a lyer and a selfish soul. I also felt an obligation to explain how sweet,legitimate and real our union was. What we shared was elemental, enlightening. Our bond was fulfilling and enabling to us both. It freed usto live out our happiness. This is the message I want remembered. I want other women to hear and provide them with the courage to chance finding such bliss, for it was certainly worth all the small minds we met in our passage thru life. I think of Emily Sailors, and another of her lyrics: and if we have a legacy, it is that we loved each other well. Eunice died in my arms after thirty years together. Our child and our grandchildren mourned her passing,but I celebrate her life each day I live. How we managed to have a family will have to be another story for another time, when my missing her distracts me from the memories of her.
And to my friend Emily who wrote those lyrics so many years ago, I hope you have learned the answer to your own question, as I have: Who can stay the weight of flesh and bone? Well, we all can in a way. Reliving this tale has eased any loneliness I feel. And the spirit of that strong beauty with red hear and kind green eyes is loose again in the house tonight to keep me company. I need just close my eyes and enjoy her again, young, tender and welcoming. I know thats how shell always seem to me, and now to you, readers, as well. I am as close to her in her death as I was in her life all those years, walking those fenced fields or quiet country roads. I feel her in the sunrise , the soft rain, and all thesimple pleasures of a life shared. I hear her voice, the musical backdrop to the rush of the wind or the summer crickets. Had I never expressed how I felt, had I not taken that chance, my life would have been so much less, incomplete. And rather that truly living, my time would have been condemned to wistful dreams and regrets.
Perhaps next month on her birthday, Ill start another story...maybe about how a tragedy became our greatest hope. But youll have to wait on that one. I see company coming down the road.