The Harvest

by G.E. Birch


Chapter One

Elise surveyed the damage to her house. That was absolutely the last time her Grandmother's well cared for legacy was getting rented to a non-local. The floors would need to be refinished - Lord knew if the water stains would come out. It would take a good month of hard work to get the place back in order. That was assuming she had the time, it was June and she didn't have a minute to spare, she was already working dawn to dusk on the farm.

A frown creased her tan brow, her laugh lines the permanent creases of someone who worked out of doors for a living. Her long dark brown hair was caught back in the French braid that she put it in to keep it out of her way. Sooty thick lashes surrounded her startling pale blue eyes, the unique shade causing a second look from people she had just met. Her tall slender body was strong, hard work keeping her as fit as any city gym dweller. The sleeveless blue denim shirt she wore revealed the musculature of her lean arms. Jeans and work boots completed the picture.

Maybe she would hire the guys from the lumberyard to at least come in to sand and polyurethane the floors. Probably the best idea if she wanted to get it rented before the end of the summer. She could paint the interior walls in the evenings.

Walking out into the back yard she looked at the over long grass and frowned at the site of her Grandmother's perennial beds filled with weeds. Elise walked to her truck and opened the tailgate. Lifting down the mower she filled it with gas from a can and yanked the rope pull, it started with a sputter and she slowly tweaked the choke until it was running smoothly.

The sun was low in the sky but it was still hot, she sweated as she walked back and forth cutting the grass short. The grass catcher had to be emptied so often, because of the long length, that the job took quite a bit longer than she expected. The sun was setting as she put the mower back in the truck and locked up the house. It was almost 8 o'clock and she hadn't eaten supper. She looked down at herself covered with grass and sweat, the drive-in she decided.

She drove her familiar truck into a slot and ordered a burger, fries and lemonade. Her old classmate Cal wandered over to shoot the breeze while she waited for her supper.

"Saw you up mowing your Grandma's place. Grass getting' pretty long, huh?" He commented.

"Yeah, they trashed the place. It's going to cost more than the security deposit to get it back together. Last time I'm rentin' to someone I don't know." Cal was quiet taking what Elise said in, and then he asked,

"Heard the Mason place is going to sell."

"Yeah but I don't know when, I put in a bid but they told me that it won't be selling until after the crops are in this year, so I guess I've got a bit of a wait ahead of me."

"Lot's of people bidding?"

"No doubt." Cal was quiet for a bit and then he asked,

"You playing softball this year over in Riverside?"

"Oh yeah, I've got a couple of tournaments coming up and Tuesday night games."

"A bit of a drive to play ball - how many more years ya plannin' to keep up with it?"

"I don't know, I think about passing every year but I just keep signing up, I must like it."

The young carhop arrived with a tray and Cal moved out of the way so she could hook it onto the window of Elise's truck. When she was gone Cal said,

"I'll let ya have your supper, have a good evening Elise."

Elise ate her supper in silence watching the fireflies out in the field behind the drive-in. The air was beginning to cool down just a bit. When she finished she honked and paid her bill to the carhop who came out. She backed out and headed out of town towards home.

Her farmyard light shown on her neatly cut yard. Parking her truck in the outbuilding she walked toward the house. Everything was quiet if you didn't count the 40 billion crickets playing their all-night song.

She flipped on the lights and made her way to the stairs, climbing up to her bedroom on the second floor. She undressed quietly in the darkness and put all of her clothes in the hamper, walking into the bathroom she turned on the shower. Pulling the rubberband out of her hair she ran her fingers through it slowly untangling her braid.

Stepping into the shower she adjusted the temperature and leaned back against the wall letting the water cascade down her body. It washed away a day's worth of dirt and sweat but also a days worth of weariness. She didn't move for 5 minutes just enjoyed the water washing over her. She felt the spray hitting against her breasts over and over making her nipples hard.

She felt the loneliness mostly just at night. During the day she was often too busy to think but the nights could get real long sometimes. Reaching for the soap she lathered-up, washing her body and shampooing her hair. After drying off she went to bed clean and slept like she had done 12 hours of hard labor, which she had, and would again tomorrow.


The wind blew Carolyn's hair into her face again and she pushed it out of her way for the umpteenth time. 'That's it', she said under her breath and she pulled her Jeep Cherokee off the road and stopped. The air conditioner would keep her cool but she felt like opening all the windows and the sunroof and attempting to blow the cobwebs out of her brain. Reaching into her bag she dug around until she found a rubberband. She tied back her shoulder length dark blond hair. Her green eyes checked her reflection in the rear view mirror, using her fingers to put right any out of place hairs. Then she pulled on a baseball cap, tucked a few more hairs and then glanced over her shoulder for traffic as she guided the Jeep back onto the two-lane highway.

This was her third trip this month to her Great Aunt Ellen's farm. June was almost over and it seemed a great deal hotter this trip than the last trip just two weeks before. Grasshoppers, dragonflies and various other bugs, too numerous to name, committed hara-kiri on her windshield as she drove. They left yellow streaks as she tried to use the wipers to get ride of them. Fucking gross she thought, a frown disrupting her brow.

This trip was going to keep her here a while. She had packed enough stuff for a month so she wouldn't have to go back home until she was good and ready. Carolyn, more than anything else, needed to get away for an extended rest and what better place than this backwater. Really she was looking forward to it, she had with her a list from her Mother of family heirlooms she needed to hunt down before she threw everything else out. Also she thought she would be able to paint the exterior of the house without too much difficulty, I guess time will tell on that one.

She impatiently waited behind some huge piece of machinery, tapping her fingers restlessly as she listened to a local radio station playing Night Ranger, she hummed along for a minute and then frowning said out loud,

"What the fuck." As she pushed seek, looking for something other than farm markets or bad 80's rock. I better have remembered my CD player and CD's. Finally the huge piece of machinery drove off almost into the ditch and motioned for her to go around. She quickly did and raised her hand in thanks, automatically being polite - her parent's hadn't blown it too badly.

God it was hot but it had to be hotter in the city this morning, hazy pollution hanging over the skyline - it was way behind her now. The sun was blistering here and the humidity was stifling. She rolled up the sleeves of her T-shirt and shifted in her cutoffs. Her barefeet felt like they were being held over hot coals. I'm even bitching in my thoughts now. Great. She was unfocused, worn out, sick of her work. The isolation of the farm was going to give her a chance to think about a new direction but it would also be a much-needed break from her life. She had two months until classes began again at the University maybe by then she would be able to put it all back together and figure out what she wanted. Maybe being out on the farm would show her the way - give her a sign…of what? She laughed at that and took the now familiar turn into Lake County, just a few more miles…

Chapter Two

Carolyn opened the door to the old farmhouse and wrinkled her nose at the smell. Hopefully the 'ode de mothballs and old stuff' would dissipate after she left the windows and doors open for a couple of weeks. Both times she had been to the farm before she had left the windows wide open but it hadn't been sufficient. She walked around opening the windows wide. The sun had baked the house until the air inside was stiflingly hot and mixed with mothballs it was just short of noxious fumes.

With every window open she went back outside and dug in the back of her Jeep for the cooler. She pulled out a beer, flipping off the top with an opener on the side of the cooler, before sitting on the back stairs. She sipped the cold brew, enjoying the feel and flavor of it on her tongue and running down her throat. Looking off in the distance she could see the plants were about a foot high already.

She finished her beer and glanced at her watch. She should empty her Jeep and get into Lakefield and pick up the paint she had ordered for the exterior of the house. They said it would be ready by the time she arrived. Maybe until the house quick stinking she would paint the exterior. Yeah, hang outside, drink a few beers, get a tan and paint. Sounds like a plan. She pulled on the Teva's on the floor of the passenger side and began hauling stuff into the house.

The lumberyard rang up everything she had. They gave her a few pointers. Scrape first, prime next and paint last. Seemed like a hell of a lot of work but it should be done if she was going to sell the house later on. A high school boy loaded everything into her Jeep.

"This is nice." He said indicating her Jeep.

"Thanks." Carolyn answered smiling at him. She climbed in and backed out. People were awfully friendly especially when they knew whom you were connected with in the area. The minute she had mentioned her Aunt's name she had received the utmost in friendly service and helpful hints. Smiling she headed back to the farm.

Carolyn ate the food she had brought from home. Snacking more than anything as she finished a few more beers. When darkness fell she went outside to escape the mothballs. The stars glittered. She couldn't ever remember seeing more. Well that wasn't exactly true, on vacation out west she had seen skies like this but these weren't vacation stars they were regular ordinary every day stars and they were stunningly beautiful. The bugs bugged her until she finally went inside and unrolled her sleeping bag on one of the beds upstairs.


Elise drove toward the Mason place, she had waited a couple of days so that Mrs. Mason's niece could settle in a little. The news of her arrival seemed to have begun at the lumberyard, as many things did, but everyone in the county probably knew by now that this niece had inherited the farm and she was painting the house. Elise decided a little PR work wouldn't hurt. She wanted Aunt Ellen's 250 acres and it couldn't hurt to chat up this woman, be a friendly neighbor and all. She laughed at herself as she turned onto the dusty lane leading up to the house. Dust swirled around her full sized pickup truck as she pulled up next to a navy Jeep.

Carolyn shaded her eyes as she saw a pick up truck come up the lane. She was in the process of scraping; a real crappy job if ever there was one. Her arms and hair were covered with the stuff. She climbed down the ladder to see who her visitor was, brushing paint out of her hair before putting the clip back to hold it so it didn't hang against her hot neck. She saw the pickup door open and out climbed a tall slender woman with dark brown hair, Carolyn couldn't see her face clearly but she was an inspiring sight, her stride strong and powerful as she came closer. When she was 20 feet away Carolyn gasp at the sight of the palest blue eyes she had ever seen. And, oh no, a killer smile was coming from set of full lush lips. Shit. Carolyn felt her heart kick in and begin to hammer. Their eyes met and they smiled at each other.

"Hi, I'm Elise Johnson, one farm over." She indicated the direction of her farm. Carolyn just stood there smiling unable to think of what to say for a moment too long. Elise's smile dimmed just a fraction and her eyebrow rose in question waiting for an answer. Shaking herself mentally Carolyn said,

"Hi, I'm Carolyn Baker, Ellen Mason's niece." Carolyn brushed off her hand and then they shook hands, Elise's callused hand giving Carolyn's newly blistered one a firm shake. They smiled some more and Carolyn eyes took in the long jean clad legs, the work boots and the lean musculature of Elise's arms. The red tank top lovingly formed itself to her full breasts, her dark tanned throat a compelling site. Quit staring, Jesus Carolyn told herself firmly.

"I'm here to welcome you to the neighborhood. You're the talk of the town at this point."

"Must be a slow news month." Carolyn said wrinkling her nose.

"It's always a slow news month here." Elise answered with a grin of self-depreciation. Then she asked,

"Do you have a little time to take a break, I brought some freshly picked strawberries and I thought maybe you could use some refreshment. Scraping paint is hard work."

"I'll agree with that. Sure, I'm not on a schedule, just doing a little here and there."

"Great I'll get the strawberries." Elise turned around and walked back to her truck. Carolyn watched her before looking down at herself. She brushed off some more paint and then decided she had better go in the house and clean up a bit, she didn't like feeling at a grooming disadvantage.

Elise called,

"Where shall we have our snack?"

"Let's do it out here on the picnic table, the house still reeks of mothballs. I'm going to run in and wash up I'll be right back." Carolyn headed inside. Elise got out the strawberries thinking that Carolyn seemed nice, if maybe a little distracted. She wasn't sure what she had expected in Ellen Mason's niece but it wasn't young or attractive both of which Carolyn was. There was something familiar about her but Elise for the life of her didn't think she had ever met Carolyn before. Ellen Mason hadn't had a stream of relatives out to visit Elise didn't think. Elise brought a jar of lemonade and the strawberries from her truck and placed them on a tablecloth she laid out.

Carolyn stripped and hopped into the shower for two minutes, her mind running with this turn of events. She'd been in town 2 days and already was getting company. A veritable Welcome Wagon arriving out of the blue with strawberries, not a bad way to end a hot work day, and if nothing else she had a hot neighbor. Shampooing away the paint and washing away the heat of the day, she felt better and presentable as she ducked into the bedroom with her bags and pulled out fresh shorts and a T-shirt. After dressing she took the stairs two at a time and landed -smack- with her bare feet. Bending over and shaking out her hair again to dry it a bit before she pushed open the screen door and let go of it.

Elise was seated with her back leaning against the table looking out at the fields.

"Sorry I took so long." Carolyn apologized before continuing, "I couldn't get the paint flakes off so I had to take a shower."

Elise smiled and turned around in her seat taking a look at Carolyn with wet hair and clean clothes,

"That was fast." She commented.

Carolyn saw the strawberries and glasses of iced lemonade and said,

"Gees you didn't need to go to all this trouble, but I appreciate it." Their eyes met for a warm moment before Elise looked away suddenly feeling shy and a touch guilty for showing up here today with PR on her mind. Trying to fill the silence Elise said,

"I washed them but didn't de-stem them." She then picked a strawberry and held the stem before she took a bite. Yum, it was still warm from the picking.

Carolyn watched Elise, her eyes about rolling back in her head when Elise's tongue licked the strawberry juice off her lips. Oh Lord, Carolyn thought before she forced her eyes down to the strawberries and reached for one and took a bite,

"Oh my goodness, that is the best strawberry I've ever tasted."

Elise smiled as Carolyn reached for another,

"I can't take credit for them. I just picked them and washed them." Silence reigned again as they ate strawberries. Finally Carolyn broke the silence trying to make conversation,

"So you live on the next farm over?"

"Yeah, about 5 miles from here." Elise dropped the ball and they were quiet again. Carolyn glanced at Elise's hands. Hmm - no ring. Not married - maybe gay? Oh you wish. The silence stretched out until suddenly,

"You married?" …Slipped off her tongue before she could stop it. What the hell did you say that for?

"No." Elise answered looking quizzically at Carolyn.

Carolyn lifted a shoulder her mind racing to find a reason for such a personal question,

"You said you farmed, I thought maybe…I don't know what I thought." Better edit a little better Carolyn before you lose your feminist credentials.

"I farm." Elise said plainly and firmly.

"Wow, that's impressive. Do you drive those huge machines?" Carolyn said waving toward the road as way of explanation.

"Yes." Elise smiled her amusement evident. The silence threatened again and Elise felt the need to come clean, at least a little bit.

"I rent 200 of your Aunt's acres."

Carolyn just looked at her for a moment unsure what that statement meant. Not wanting to Elise to think she had no idea what it did mean she smiled and asked,

"Does that mean we're closely related?" Elise looked a little nervous but Carolyn was more interested in the tantalizing glimpse of white lace as Elise used a finger to push the strap of her bra back in place.

They entered another pregnant silence while Elise searched for a reply. Finally she smiled shyly and said,

"No - just business partners of sorts."

"Oh." Carolyn answered tearing her gaze away from Elise's charms and resting them out on the fields. "I haven't had much of a chance to go through the papers Aunt Ellen's lawyer sent. I just decided to take some time away from the…from my responsibilities at home. I'm on vacation - sort of."

Silence again. God, Carolyn thought, no one would mistake this woman for a conversationalist.

"So what do you do around here for fun?" Carolyn asked smiling expectantly.

"Oh, play a little softball, drink a few beers, this time of year a little water skiing when there's time." Carolyn nodded her head hoping Elise would keep talking which she did,

"So what do you do for fun where you're from?"

"Well I hang out with friends, go to movies or concerts, take in a good restaurant, read." Carolyn smiled but the warmth didn't reach her green eyes. Elise was quiet for a few more moments in case Carolyn wanted to say anything else. When she hadn't Elise asked,

"Are you staying long?" Hoping Carolyn didn't feel she was prying Elise indicated the house saying, "It's a lot of work scraping and painting."

"Well I'm not sure but…I'll at least be here the next month - maybe longer. I have to be back to work in late August."

"That's two full months off of work, what do you do for a living?" Elise figured she taught but…

"I'm a woman's lit. Professor at U of I, in Chicago." Elise had figured grade school so her eyes widened looking at Carolyn's blond hair, which was no longer wet. Her T-shirt, which had a Chicago bar and grill advertised on it. She didn't look like a professor.

"Wow - that sounds interesting."

"Hmm." Carolyn said noncommittally, she didn't want to talk about her work.

The day was still very warm, the sun was still high but it was about an hour before supper and Elise needed to get home and do chores. She smiled shyly and said,

"Well, I um, wanted to welcome you to the neighborhood. If there's anything I can do for you give me a holler." Elise began gathering up the leftovers and so Carolyn stood to help.

"Thank you for the strawberries and lemonade, it was nice to meet you." Elise had her things packed in her truck in just a few minutes and she climbed into the seat and slammed the door. Carolyn stood several feet away and said,

"Thanks." As Elise started her truck and with a wave she backed up and turned down the lane, the dust her truck tires kicked up - swirling around before falling back down to the ground. Carolyn watched until she was out of sight.


Elise drove home her mind on the past 45 minutes. It could be fun to have someone new around for the summer. Maybe Carolyn would be interested in doing…something. Elise felt a little excitement at the prospect of having someone new around. She decided she would give her a call. Did Carolyn have a phone hooked up? She would find out.

Carolyn watched the truck disappear and she climbed the steps into the house. She found the box of important papers from her Aunt Ellen's lawyer. She read the lawyers' notes quickly and then glanced at the rental agreement her Aunt had with Elise Johnson. After perusing it all for a few minutes she tossed the file back into the box and grabbed a beer out of the refrigerator.

She lay on her back in the grass staring at the blue sky and fluffy clouds. Elise Johnson - farmer, interesting. Her minds eye lazily traced Elise's features, tanned skin stretched over high cheekbones, her pale blue eyes flickering almost nervously.

Carolyn closed her eyes and let her mind wander. The past year of rebuilding, the self-imposed isolation that felt like her only solace of late. She was lonely and it was no wonder really. She brushed a bug off her leg with her foot and leaned up for another swig of beer.

On her back again she thought of Elise; unmarried didn't mean gay but Carolyn could dream couldn't she? She smiled at the thought and drifted.


The next week found Elise very busy. She woke at dawn to work in the fields bringing in the first cutting of hay. She hadn't entered the house before a late supper a single time. She knew more about the freshman and sophomore girls than she ever wanted to know or ever should know. While cutting, raking and baling which was all done by machine, she labored with the boys throwing bales on the flat bed and listening. Six days surrounded by teenage testosterone, her best friend Anne's two boys Edward and Richie and their buddies John and Ray.

By Saturday afternoon they were done. Elise cleaned up, ate a decent supper and went to bed early. Sunday morning she relaxed and caught up on paperwork. She used her computer to keep track of her farming operation and her investments. When she was up-to-date she looked for Mrs. Mason's phone number but it had been disconnected. It seemed that Carolyn was either gone or didn't want to communicate with anyone. She debated about leaving her alone vs. being friendly. By early afternoon Elise was in cutoffs and a tank top and on her way over to see if Carolyn wanted to find some entertainment.

Carolyn took her eyes away from the book she was reading to see a pick-up truck coming down the lane. She shifted in her lawn chair and reached for a shirt, she didn't have much on and the truck was moving quickly. She stood and pulled on a pair of gym shorts and smiled slightly as she realized it was Elise.

Elise arrived in a swirl of dust and climbed out of her truck squinting in the sunshine.

"Hi." Elise smiled as she walked across the yard. "I would have called but I couldn't find a number. I hope you don't mind me dropping in?"

"Not at all." Carolyn said smiling.

"I was wondering if you'd like to go for a drive over to Riverside, maybe see a movie or get a bite to eat?"

"Sure, I'd like that." Carolyn then indicated her clothes and said, "Again, I'll have to ask you to wait while I clean up." She smiled as Elise's eyes quickly swept her body.

"I'm trying to acquire a tan." Carolyn said her body enjoying Elise's perusal.

"It seems to be working." Elise answered checking Carolyn out again. Carolyn looked at Elise carefully weighing those words and that look until she was sure she was adding 2 and 2 and getting 15. Pulling away from the allure of Elise she said,

"Would you like to come in and have a glass of water or soda while I change?"


Elise followed Carolyn inside and Carolyn got her a cold can of soda out of the refrigerator and then took the stairs two at a time. She stripped off her shirt and shorts undid the bikini top and slid off the bottoms. She put up her hair as she walked to the shower.

Five minutes later she was back in the kitchen clean and dressed with a pair of Teva's in her hand.

Elise glanced up startled.

"Wow your ready?"

"Yep." Carolyn sat down to put on her Teva's and said toward the floor, "What do you think about the smell in here. I think my nose has lost its sensitivity to moth balls in the last couple of weeks." Elise thought and smelled a moment then said,

"It's still here a little but I don't smell it after sitting here five minutes." Carolyn sat up and looked at Elise.

"How does one get ride of the smell. I can't stand it. I haven't shut the windows since I arrived and still it's offensive - I hope I don't smell like moth balls." Carolyn said scowling and sniffing the sleeve of her fresh T-shirt.

"It's the furniture, I would guess." Answered Elise looking through the doorway into the living room. It was filled with old furniture. "Maybe the drapes. A fresh coat of paint might help."

Carolyn sighed, "Just tell me if I reek." She said smiling.

"Sure thing." Elise answered smiling.

"So where are we off to?"

"Well, we could see a matinee or take in a ball game then maybe get a bite to eat."

"What's playing at the matinee?"

"I'm not sure I didn't get the paper this week, but the movies usually play at 1, 3 and 5 o'clock."

"Okay - so lets go see what's playing before we make a decision." Offered Carolyn.

Elise drank the rest of her can of pop. Her throat working as she swallowed. Carolyn watched her silently for a moment and then went to find some money.

"Do you want me to drive?" Carolyn asked indicating her jeep with a wave of her hand.

"Oh no. My truck is great, it's just a little dirty on the outside with the abuse of the past week." They climbed in and Elise cranked the engine. Inside it was luxurious and clean. Elise turned on the air full blast and they moved down the lane. The music playing on the radio was country and Elise glanced over at Carolyn and grinned,

"Feel free to change the station I know everyone doesn't like country music." Carolyn raised an eyebrow but began pushing seek immediately. Eighties rock is better than this… She found a station and then sat back. Fields flew by outside the window and Carolyn observed them from behind glass enjoying being cool for the first time in days. Her eyes then turned to take in Elise's long tanned legs, she wondered if they were as soft in texture as they looked. Mentally clearing her mind Carolyn asked,

"So what have you been doing?"

"Oh…I've been baling. We finished yesterday, early in the day so I spent the rest of the day lounging and sleeping."

"It's tiring work then?"

"Yep, and sweaty and dirty. On top of that I had four full-fledged teenage boys helping. If I could have gagged all their mouths I maybe wouldn't have needed total silence for the past 24 hours. They wore me out."

"Teenage boys? God…I don't even know a teenage boy anymore. What were they talking about that wore you out?"

"A subject near and dear to their hearts." Carolyn looked at Elise expectantly and Elise's eyebrows rose as she said "Girls." Making fun in a hushed and reverent tone. Carolyn laughed and asked,

"Oh wow - what were they saying?"

"I don't want to make you blush." Elise answered smiling.

"Very little could make me blush." Carolyn said dryly.

"Okay - it would make me blush." Elise stated with a pink tint covering her face. Carolyn looked intently at Elise as she drove - a small smile on Carolyn's face. Elise felt those green eyes boring into her and she glanced at Carolyn and said in a friendly but defensive voice,


"I'm wondering why a woman your age is too shy to talk about the bragging of a few teenage boys." Humor sparkled in her green eyes.

"Good manners?" Elise offered.

"Chicken shit?" Carolyn countered.

"That too!" Elise said laughing. They smiled at each other. Elise turned the conversation to Carolyn.

"How about you, what has been keeping you busy?"

"Oh…scraping, scraping and uh…scraping."

"Sounds exciting." Elise commented smiling.

"Might be more entertaining if I hired a few teenage boys to help, or so I'm told."

Elise's color heightened again but she ignored the comment. They talked until they reached Riverside.

The movie was a comedy, a couple of months old but neither woman had seen it and it was 100 degrees in the shade so they were soon seated in an almost empty theater. Before the movie began, Carolyn would never have believed she could actually freeze to death in a theater. Jesus, even my nipples are hard. She crossed her arms over her breasts trying to warm up. Goosebumps rose on her bare legs and she crossed them also.

Elise looked over at Carolyn who was squirming in her seat. She smiled and silently touched Carolyn gently on her forearm,

"Is everything okay?" She asked with eyebrows raised in question. Carolyn turned her head her eyes darkened in the theater - her body enjoying the touch of warm fingertips on her arm.

"I'm freezing. It's what…45 degrees in here?" She whispered.

"It is chilly…I think I have a sweatshirt or something in the truck. Do you want me to run out and get it?"

"No I'm fine." Carolyn answered as she rubbed her arms to warm them. Darkened green eyes stayed on blue for a long moment, until Carolyn smiled and whispered,

"If you're not going to watch the movie, I'm leaving." Elise smiled shyly her blue eyes dancing in the screens reflection and said,

"Sit still then." Carolyn laughed out loud.


It was still well over 90 degrees when they walked out of the theater near suppertime. Carolyn felt herself relax for the first time in the last 2 hours, freezing your ass off was an ordeal of tension. They walked to the truck and tried to figure out where they wanted to eat.

"I refuse to go and sit in an air conditioned restaurant, what are our other options?"

"Umm…we could grab a bucket of chicken at the grocery store." Elise raised her eyebrows and looked across at Carolyn, "And then picnic down by the ball fields, maybe watch a game while we eat?" Carolyn thought for a few moments and then agreed. They made their way to the grocery store with the windows of Elise's truck wide open.

They arrived at the softball fields with food and drink. Elise parked the truck in the big gravel parking lot. She then took the cooler out of the truck bed and asked,

"Can you please reach behind the seat for a blanket?' Carolyn pulled out the blanket, putting it under her arm. She grabbed the grocery bag of food and headed after Elise. Elise looked around the softball complex quickly and found a game of men's fast pitch that looked lively. They spread out the blanket in the area out-of-bounds near the left field line.

As they ate chicken, potato salad and carrot sticks - washed down with cold cans of beer - they watched the game. When they were full they put away the food and lay on their stomachs on the blanket lazily watching the action on the field as they sipped more beer.

"Hey good lookin'!" A woman's voice called from somewhere behind them. Elise laughed and rolled over onto her back.

"Hi Nita." She responded. Carolyn glanced over her shoulder and then returned her eyes to Elise her animation captivating.

"Thought I saw your truck…"

"Yep - it's me." Elise sat up and then glanced over at Carolyn smiling as she introduced,

"Carolyn, this is Nita, we play softball together. Nita, Carolyn - my new neighbor."

"Nice to meet you." Carolyn rolled over and sat up to shake Nita's hand.

"Want a beer?" Elise injected. Nita accepted.

While Elise and Nita dug around for a cold beer, Carolyn glanced at Nita for a moment feeling 99% certain of her lesbian status. This might make things rather interesting. The three of them had only settled for about 10 minutes when other voices and whistles came up behind them. Three more women were introduced to Carolyn, the camaraderie between the teammates obvious. Lee, Cody and Shell joined them for a beer. Carolyn watched Elise as she chatted with her friends. They talked local stuff before turning their unwanted attention on Carolyn asking her where she was from and what she did for a living. Elise filed all the information away learning things she did not know.

"So where did you move from Carolyn?"

Please don't ask me this stuff. But Carolyn explained she was here temporarily because of her inheritance of her Aunt's house and land. She didn't volunteer anything but they were experts at ferreting out information.

"So you live…?"

"In Chicago."

"You do not have a Midwestern accent, where are you from originally?"

"Massachusetts, I've only been in Chicago for 5 years."

"What do you do in Chicago?"

"Teach Women's Lit at U of I." Carolyn answered absently consciously trying to act uninterested so they would move on to another topic.

"So what brought you here from Massachusetts?" Oh fuck. Carolyn laughed and stated bitterly.

"What else? A woman." Smiles broke out all around the group, their sympathies rising.

"She rip your heart out?" Cody asked smiling gently.

"And danced on it!" Carolyn muttered her answer. Elise kept her eyes glued to the ball game but her focus was completely directed toward the conversation going on around her. Her friends were grilling Carolyn she wished they wouldn't. On the other hand she knew she wasn't capable of doing the questioning herself and she sure wanted to know more about Carolyn. She silently filed away the information until someone interrupted her thoughts saying,

"We've emptied your cooler Elise." Elise stood up and stretched then said,

"I suppose I could go get more if you want more." Carolyn watched her hoping that Elise would look her way and she could catch a glimpse of what Elise was thinking behind those blue eyes. But Elise avoided eye contact.

"No - I'll make a run if everyone wants more." Shell offered jumping up. Elise's friends began pulley money out and tossing it at Shell. She laughed, gathered up the bills, threw Elise's money back at her and grabbed the cooler.

"Same thing?" She asked walking backward toward the parking lot, a chorus of 'Yes's sending her on her way.

Conversation between the teammates lulled Carolyn into a relaxed state. She barely listened - Elise chatted while watching the game and she was more animated than Carolyn had seen her. It was interesting to watch her with her friends, she smiled and laughed often - joining in the conversation about small town concerns; Who someone name Leona Riley was dating and how her boyfriend was arrested. Whose daughter was pregnant, whose son was responsible. Carolyn couldn't follow it all but it was fascinating in a very strange way. She kept completely to herself, sitting Indian-style and keeping her eyes fixed on the game in front of her. She felt their eyes on her many times but she had said plenty, more than she was comfortable saying. Dodging questions that were asked point blank was a very difficult thing to do even though she knew that these women had no ulterior motives - they were just being friendly. She felt an almost overwhelming need to isolate herself from…friendliness? Get a grip on yourself.

The sun was setting spectacularly off in the west when Elise leaned close and said,

"You about ready, I'm worn out." Carolyn turned and smiled slightly,

"Yep - I'm tired too…" Then she continued, asking Elise, "Are you okay to drive?"

"I haven't had any beer since supper." Elise said her eyes finding Carolyn's for the first time all evening. Carolyn smiled at her in the dim light, her eyes offering understanding and friendship. Elise accepted their warmth and then said to the group.

"I'm exhausted, I have an early day tomorrow." Everyone began getting up and moving, collecting their chairs and grousing about farmers. With a chorus of 'nice-to-meet-you's' and 'see-you-Tuesday' Elise and Carolyn climbed into the truck. Night had descended.

Chapter Three

Silence reigned until they were through town, Elise began picking up speed as they hit the highway and Carolyn baldly said,

"You're aware that every single woman there tonight is a lesbian aren't you?" Elise smiled in the darkness of the truck cab and answered,


Carolyn looked at Elise trying to discern her expression in the darkness; she narrowed her eyes and saw a smile.

"Why are you smiling?"

"I'm smiling because I'm amused that you think I don't know my own friends." Carolyn smiled also and asked,

"And how do you feel about the fact that I'm a lesbian?" Elise said firmly,

"I have no opinion about your personal life Carolyn. It's none of my business." Carolyn silently let out the breath she didn't know she was holding and relaxed for the first time since she had spoken earlier in the evening. She sat quietly for a long moment thinking and then she asked,

"Is the reason you're relaxed about all this - because you're a lesbian?" Elise thought for a few moments and then answered,

"I don't think I'm a lesbian."

"What do you mean you don't think you're a lesbian?" More silence then,

"Well, it means I…well I've never been…I don't know." She fumbled and then admitted "I kissed Linda Haynes in 6th grade but that's all I've ever done." Carolyn smiled in the darkness her body turning slightly to watch Elise more closely and asked,

"So you've had relationships with guys?"

"Relationships? You mean like…engaged to be married?" Elise frowned trying to articulate herself and feeling as if she had failed. Carolyn patiently put it in other words,

"Well like that or maybe just sex with a someone special?"

"I've never had sex with anyone." Elise answered quietly. Carolyn leaned closer trying to see Elise's expression and asked in complete disbelief,

"You're a virgin?"

"I guess so, yeah." Elise admitted slightly embarrassed now.

"How old are you?" Carolyn said wondering if she might be in the presence of the last adult virgin in America.

"I'm 31."

"Thirty-one?" Carolyn said in amazement.

"Yeah, 31." Said Elise wrinkling her nose and smiling slightly, "Don't look at me like I'm a weirdo, I've been…busy, and…" Stumbling for a moment before she finished saying, "I haven't met anyone I was interested in having sex with." Carolyn smiled very close to laughter,

"You do know what sex is don't you?" Teased Carolyn. Elise scowled Carolyn's way and said,

"That's really funny, you try living here and finding someone you would be interested in sleeping with. Everyone's either married or like a brother to me. I've known everyone in this town all my life…things have just moved along and before you know it here I am 31 and never had sex."

"I could buy 31 and never had an…orgasm, but sex? Sex is like the greatest damn things in the world. We gotta get you laid." Elise laughed then and shook her head,

"If I could even find someone around here I would be interested in they'd just tell their friends who would tell everyone about it and before you know it I'm the new town whore, no thanks!"

"My God Elise, plenty of men can keep their mouths shut…can't they?"

"I've never met anyone I'm interested in." Elise stated emphatically again. Carolyn smiled and told Elise,

"Well, as long as I'm in town I'm making it my mission to liven up your sex life. There has to be someone who can keep the lid on a little fun between the sheets."

"You're nuts." Elise said laughing self-consciously. Carolyn just sat chuckling and shaking her head and then she said smartly,

"Could I get your autograph? I think you might get into the Guinness Book of World Records with this."

"That's the last time I'm telling you anything." Elise said sticking her tongue out at Carolyn. They sat quietly as Elise turned into Carolyn's lane. When they pulled up to the house Carolyn reached out a hand and touched Elise's arm gently squeezing,

"Thank you for a lovely day. I enjoyed myself, let's do something again soon?" They smiled at each other.

"That would be great Carolyn, thank you for the company, I had fun." Carolyn turned and reached for the door handle, she jumped out and looked back at Elise her green eyes blinking in the dome light.

"I'll wait until you're inside." Elise said quietly.

"Okay thanks." Carolyn said as she smiled all the way to the door.

Elise watched Carolyn walk across the yard and into her house. The lights flashed on and then Carolyn waved. Elise turned around and headed for home.

Carolyn locked the door, wrinkled her nose at the house's smell and headed upstairs to the shower. She soaped every inch of her body quickly, her mind thinking about her conversation with Elise, a 31-year-old virgin - unbelievable. She rinsed her body her mind shifting to thoughts of 'Tanya'. They were so happy in the beginning; she had made serious sacrifices for them to be together. Giving up her job and home to move 1200 miles away from her family and friends so they could be together for, what she thought would be, the rest of their lives. Suddenly she was sad and lonely, which on principle alone Carolyn quickly began to push away. It's not like I'm still mourning the loss of that bitch. The sadness came from that weary feeling of knowing too much. Knowing that people can cause you a lot of hurt, knowing that sometimes people don't cherish the love you have offered up. Everything was so bright when it began, and the first couple of years together were so wonderful but then her solace had become her prison. The relationship began to choke her after the first of several of Tanya's infidelities. Carolyn knew she had coped by checking out and isolating herself from everyone and everything that she didn't need to make a living. She was still trying to pull herself out of it. Frowning now she shut off the shower and stepped out onto the rug. She dried her body with a big absorbent towel, the rough feel stimulating her skin. She resolutely forced the sad thoughts out of her mind. Walking naked across the bedroom she pulled back the sheets and slid between them enjoying the feel of soft cotton rubbing against her thighs, her breasts.

Seeing Elise coming down the lane today had began a little flame of excitement inside her. Surely that was a good sign. A new friend was a move in the right direction, right on the tail of this thought she fell into blissful slumber…

Elise drove home automatically - feeling overexposed and not enjoying it. Telling Carolyn something so personal when she hadn't even ever told her best friend Anne about her sexual status felt scary. Why on earth didn't you just dance around the issue like you would have with anyone else? She didn't have an answer to that. Turning into her lane she smiled to herself about Carolyn's offer of doing stuff together another time. That was great, because she really liked Carolyn and was excited to have a new friend to hang out with.

Chapter Four

Elise rose early and quickly ran through her morning ritual - brushing her teeth, putting her hair back and out of the way, sun screening any bare skin and dressing in jeans and a T-shirt. After a large glass of water in the kitchen she threw a load of laundry into the washer, quickly measuring the soap before she walked out the back door of her house. It was already warm as she got the sprayers filled and ready.

About 9:30 Carolyn was driven out of bed by the heat gathering in the upstairs of the house. She walked naked through to the bathroom and then downstairs to start the coffee. She opened the refrigerator, the blast of cool, moist air feeling good against her face and body. She poured herself a bowl of corn flakes and put milk over them. She ate cornflakes and drank coffee standing at the counter looking out at the fields bathed in sunshine.

Mid-morning Elise came in from the fields for breakfast. She had a huge bowl of fruit and a bowl of oatmeal as she thought about the previous day in Riverside. The 4th of July was 6 days away - she wondered if Carolyn would like to go water-skiing with Anne and Bob and the kids. Better check with Anne first. She grabbed the phone and dialed - several rings later Anne answered. They said hello and then Anne said,

"Hey I almost called you about 30 minutes ago but I figured you were out spraying."

"I was - 30 minutes ago. I just came in for breakfast - I was starving. Is Bob still out?"

"Yeah - he and Richie."

"I called to find out what's up for the 4th?"

"We figured we better be at Johnson's boat ramp by 10:00 a.m. so we don't have to wait too long to get the boats in."

"Are we taking the pontoon and the ski boat?"

"Yeah - we thought we'd make our own island - cause the whole world will be on the island."

"You sure? I could go out early to the island and get a spot - rope it off or something."

"Well…that's an idea. Bob was worried about space on the pontoon - the boys are bringing a friend each and besides the pontoon is such a pain in the ass to get in and out of the water. Plus we can't grill."

"Yeah - let me go out early - I'll take a Jet Ski. It will be too crowded on the pontoon and I thought I might bring someone if you guys don't mind."

"Oh…who are you bringing?"

"You know Ellen Mason's niece is staying out at her farm? Her names Carolyn, she's really nice, we saw a movie and a ballgame yesterday. I don't think she has any plans, although I'm not sure she'll be in town but I wanted to ask you first anyway."

"Bring her along, the more the merrier. Has she moved here for good?"

"No, she teaches in Chicago but she's here for the summer. She's painting the house - getting it ready to sell, I think."

"What's she like?"

"She nice and fun…you'll like her."

"Great! We'll let's figure out a menu - we'll have 9 people so we need food for 13…"

Elise interrupted,

"Weldon education sure done you a good turn."

"Ha, but you've forgotten that teenage boys count 2 normal humans apiece when you're talking about food or trouble."

Elise laughed hard. They took several minutes to decided and divide out what each of them would bring before they hung up.


Carolyn jogged down the lane to get the mail, hoping the local newspaper wasn't all there was in the box. She pulled down the door and reached inside. She glanced at the mail, junk mail for her dead Aunt and awesome…a letter from her brother Jamie, she ran back to the house and slit it open.

Dear Carolyn,

You are a big pain in the ass get a phone! I repeat - GET A PHONE! I am about as tan

as a lad can get. Enjoying the mindless labor. The people here are great! Mom and Dad's

house is unbelievable now that it's finished - they'll be here all of August, I hope I survive but

I'll be working so I probably won't even know they're around. (Yeah right.)

How is the painting? I can't believe you've buried yourself out on a farm.

Gotta go!

Love you,



Carolyn laughed thinking of her brother the medical student working road construction and loving it. He had taken most of the past year off before he spent the next 5 years going through medical school and residency. It was a good idea for him and he had been able to keep an eye on the construction of their parent's new vacation home on an island off the coast of North Carolina.


Mid-week Elise worked all morning spraying in the fields and then made sandwiches and fruit salad, carrot and celery sticks and drove over to Carolyn's with a picnic lunch to share with her.

Carolyn watched the now familiar truck approach and smiled at the interruption. She was heartily sick to death of paint flakes and glad for an excuse to put down the scraper.

Elise slid out of the truck and walked across the yard toward Carolyn. Carolyn enjoyed watching Elise approach; she was wearing a pair of tan cutoff shorts and a flowered sleeveless shirt. She looked crisp and cool. They smiled at each other and Carolyn laughed happily and said,

"Every time you come here I look like shit." Elise smiled and raised her eyebrows before asking,

"Ever heard of a phone?"

"I'm getting that a lot. My brother wrote yesterday and bitched about the same thing. I suppose I'll have to break down and get one. My cell phone doesn't work anywhere within 50 miles of here."

"I wouldn't drop in on you if I could make a phone call." Elise assured her smiling.

"Maybe I won't get a phone then, I kind of like you dropping in." Carolyn said as she looked directly at Elise with a twinkle in her eyes. Light color infused Elise's cheeks and she turned to look out at the fields to unscramble her brain before saying,

"I brought some lunch, you hungry?"

"Starving. I'm down to beer and corn flakes. I need to go grocery shopping but I've been too lazy. What are we having?" Carolyn asked eagerly.

"Go wash and I'll get it out of the truck." Carolyn went into the house and cleaned up before joining Elise at the table. It was quiet until they had eaten their fill then Elise asked,

"Do you have plans for the 4th of July?"

"Um…no…what's up?"

"Well we're going water-skiing for the day on Lake Madison. You are welcome to join us if you want." Carolyn thought about it for a moment and then said,

"Well…that sounds nice - who's we?"

"Oh, um…Anne and Bob and the kids - they're my family."

Carolyn looked at Elise her curiosity piqued and prompted…

"Your family?"

"Yeah…my folks died when I was 17."

"I'm so sorry."

"Thank you." Elise said quietly, "But it's alright, it's been 14 years now. They died in a car accident when I was seventeen."

"Oh that's just awful."

"Yeah it was. My Grandma was still alive then but she was getting pretty out of it so I had to figure out what to do with everything. My folks were smart enough to plan ahead and I was able to hang on to our farm."

"Wow - so you've been farming alone since you were seventeen?" Carolyn asked gently.

"Yep. I had a whole lot of offers to help me farm but I've gone it alone and it's worked out really well."

"A whole lot of offers?"

"You know…every eligible guy in the area showing up at my Grandma's door looking to save me."

"What did you think of that?" Carolyn said her forehead wrinkling.

"Well I was in mourning and I couldn't figure out why all of these guys were suddenly interested in me. They hadn't been before my parents died and left everything to me. When it dawned on me that it was probably the farm they were interested in I got pretty angry. I busted my ass to graduate early from High School, tossed my dreams of going to college by the road and took over. I haven't really slowed down enough to think long or hard about the situation. I could have been angry or impressed - I went with angry. Most of those guys are married now or completely unhinged and when I see them we just pretend it never happened."

"My God, that's disgusting. What the hell were they thinking, charging over and offering marriage to a young girl who just lost her folks, Jesus…that's sick."

"You think?" Elise said feeling warm inside with Carolyn's words.

"Yeah, I think." Carolyn said with disgust.

"I thought so too but at the time I was hurting really badly and things look different when you're hurting." Carolyn smiled gently at Elise wanting to bring the light back into those blue eyes. She said baldly,

"Maybe it won't be such an easy thing to get you laid in this town if the guys are such assholes. Maybe we'll have to look further afield." Elise laughed at that and said,

"I think it explains my status perfectly and I'm not so sure I would let you choose someone for me to sleep with anyway, have you ever thought I might be saving myself for someone special." Carolyn watched Elise with a serious face and then said smiling,

"Fuck. You wouldn't know someone special if they grabbed you by the hair and kissed you."

"How would you know?" Elise said smartly. "Maybe I sit up nights fantasizing about them."

"Okay." Carolyn said nodding, "I might give you a few points if you have a rich fantasy life and you're masturbating…a lot." That drew a shocked gasp from Elise, her mouth making a perfect 'O'. Her face broke out into a shocked smile and in an incredulous voice she said,

"You…are unbelievable." Silence and then she continued, "AND you need your mouth washed out with soap." Carolyn was completely unrepentant. She did her best to keep her enjoyment of seeing Elise shocked under raps.

"Why? Because I said masturbating?"

"For starters." Elise muttered glaring at Carolyn her eyes sparkling with suppressed humor. Carolyn just sat there smiling; she could feel her heart racing with excitement over their exchange and gave herself a mental shake and an admonition to calm down. She isn't your personal plaything. More's the pity.

After a long pause while they smiled at each other. Elise ignored what had come before and got back to their original conversation.

"Anne and Bob live the next farm over. Anne has been my best and closest friend all my life; we went all through school together. Bob is 2 years older than we are. They got married right out of high school and Bob farmed with Anne's Dad until her folks retired and moved to town. They've always made room for me in their family - even before they had children it was the 3 of us."

Carolyn thought about everything Elise was telling her. How terrible to lose your parents so young and not have anyone else who was just yours and yours alone. Elise watched Carolyn noting the sad look on her face and said,

"Don't let this bring you down I'm very content with my life."

"Do you feel alone in the world?"

"Well, I am alone but I'm very good at being alone. I've had lots of practice at it and if I have people around me too much I need to have my peace and quiet to get back in sync. But…that's enough about me - I haven't talked so much about myself in…ever. Why don't you talk? Tell me something personal about yourself so I don't feel like I've spilled my guts and bored you."

Carolyn smiled and looked out at the fields, fighting down the urge to isolate she said,

"Oldest daughter of a psychiatrist and a lawyer. One brother, Jamie - med. student and construction worker in North Carolina. Born and raised in Massachusetts, went to college at Amherst, have a masters in Women's Literature. Taught at Northeastern before going to U of I. Assoc. Professor of Women's Literature, one semester away from a Doctorate in English. Single…33 years old," She paused and then added smiling slightly, "Lesbian."

Elise smiled at her and asked,

"Ever been arrested?"


"Just wondering why a single girl is hiding out on a farm in Illinois…incommunicado." Carolyn smiled slightly and answered,

"Just wanted to get away from everything…nothing any deeper than that."

"And are you getting away from everything or am I busting up your plans, because if you'd rather I stop dropping by, I will." Carolyn shook her head and said,

"You are not what I wanted to get away from. Just work, colleagues, memories - general dissatisfaction." Elise wanted to dig deeper but she wasn't sure how to go about it so she just let it go except to say,

"The 4th of July will be fun. Water skiing, Jet skiing, teenage boys, good food, illegal contraband in the form of fireworks." Carolyn laughed,

"Teenage boys! Why didn't you say so?" Elise said with a huge grin and sparkling eyes,

"Yep - 4 of them. You can ask them anything you want to know about girls." Carolyn lifted her eyebrows and replied,

"I'm sure I could teach them a thing or two about girls." Elise blushed saying,

"I'm sure." Carolyn wanted to tease her more but left it. Elise's blushes were rather addictive though.

They put away the leftovers in Carolyn's refrigerator. Elise didn't want to go she wanted to do something with Carolyn so she asked hopefully,

"Would you be interested in going shopping this afternoon? I need to get a Jet Ski and few more life jackets."

"You're going to buy a Jet Ski today?" Carolyn inquired.

"Yeah, I have one and Anne and Bob have 2 but we really need another one so I'm going to get one today."

"Sounds fun, anything's better than scraping…I'll get my Teva's."

They were on their way to Elise's to get the Jet Ski trailer just five minutes later. As they drove into Elise's farm yard Carolyn exclaimed,

"Wow, you keep this really nice."

"My parent's always did too so I like it to look good."

She backed up to a big building and climbed out to slide open a door. Carolyn got out and watched. A trailer with a Jet Ski on it was sitting behind the door. Elise lifted it, the muscles in her forearms and shoulders bunching - she set it down on the ball of the hitch and proceeded to hook everything up. Carolyn watched enjoying the self-sufficient display.

"You'd make lesbian hearts flutter all over the place with that show of brute strength and mechanical knowledge." Elise looked up at Carolyn, at a loss for words, she finished plugging in the brakes on the hitch and finally said,

"When you're finished trying to embarrass me, could you get in the truck and test the blinkers and brakes?" Carolyn smiled and climbed into the cab, crawled across the seat and flipped the left blinkers - then the right blinker, then the brake lights.

"Okay thanks, now pull it forward while I shut the door." Elise called.

Carolyn drove ahead looking in the side mirror to be sure the trailer cleared the door and then she put it in park and scooted over to the passenger side. Elise resumed her seat in the cab and shut the door. She sat quietly for a moment before turning to Carolyn and said,

"You enjoying yourself?" Carolyn laughed and said,

"I'm sorry it's just you…blush so easily. I'm kind of getting addicted to it."

"Great!" Elise replied in a much put upon voice.

Chapter Five

They drove to a small city about an hour away and headed for the motorcycle shop. They wandered in looking at bikes and admiring them. When they made it to the Jet Skis' - a young man sang the praises of each model until Elise told him exactly what she wanted and what she would pay. There was hemming and hawing and refusal. Elise raised her eyebrows and asked to speak to the manager and was writing a check for the thing 20 minutes later. They left the store happy and would return in about 4 hours to pick up the new Jet Ski - still in a crate at the moment.

"You don't mess around when you're ready to buy."

"Nope. Bob and Anne and I have been looking at these things for a month. I already knew exactly what I wanted and how much it was worth, you can't shut those guys up though." Carolyn was in awe of Elise writing a check for a Jet Ski but her manners wouldn't allow her to comment.

"We've got 4 hours to burn - how about some ice cream?" Carolyn stood at the window of the Dairy Freeze and tried to decide what to have. Elise had ordered a large twist and watched Carolyn shift back and forth as she looked at the menu and tried to make a decision. Finally she ordered a chocolate soft serve cone and when the cones arrived they sat in the truck and watched the traffic go by. The ice cream melted, lips and tongues caught the drips trying to keep the avalanche of melting ice cream at bay. They didn't take a moment to talk until they were finished. Carolyn worked very hard at not commenting about licking.

"I have to go out to the mall and get a swimsuit, everything I have is in tatters."

"Alright, let's get you a swimsuit."

Fifteen minutes later they walked into the cool mall and went to a large department store. The swimsuit section was filled with racks of bright colored suits in an array of styles. Elise looked at the sedate one-piece suits trying to find something she liked that wasn't ugly. Carolyn was digging around on some other racks when she asked,

"What size are you?" Elise looked up and told her. A couple of seconds later Carolyn asked,

"How about this one?" Elise's blue eyes took in the skimpy black bikini hanging from Carolyn's hand. Her eyebrows rose and she said,

"A bikini? I don't think…" Carolyn broke in, "Come on - you have the body for this - you're…" Carolyn whispered dramatically, "Over thirty and a virgin - this might just be the ticket."

"Ticket to what?" Elise questioned and then reminded Carolyn, "This is a family outing - remember?"

"All the better. You can get comfortable wearing this with people who like you already."

"Need I remind you there are going to be teenage boys?"

"They won't mind, Anne and Bob won't mind - I certainly won't mind." Carolyn ended dramatically. Elise promptly blushed and looked down but Carolyn moved in for the kill,

"At least try it on, please." Elise looked hard at her but Carolyn refused to acknowledge the look.

"Fine." Elise said in a much put upon voice. She plucked the suit from Carolyn's hand and walked to the fitting room.

Elise checked it out from every side in the three-way mirror. It covered everything, barely. She felt exposed but she couldn't say it didn't look good on her. She knew Carolyn was waiting to see it so she took it off and put her clothes back on.

When she came out of the dressing room Carolyn looked up and smiled.

"Chicken." She said, "It looked good didn't it?"

"Hmmm…but I'm getting a one-piece also just in case my nerve fails me." Elise found what she was looking for and paid for them.

They spent the remainder of the afternoon in a bar having a few beers and making conversation with each other and with the locals. Both of them enjoyed the lazy afternoon. At 5:30 they picked up the Jet Skis, along with several new life-vests for skiing and a new slalom ski.

On the way home they had supper at a supper club, the food simple but very good. It was almost dark when they arrived at Carolyn's.

"Thank you for another great afternoon."

"You're welcome, thanks for coming along." Carolyn hopped out and headed into her house.


Elise was having lunch at her kitchen table a couple of days later when the phone rang.

"Hello." She said answering on the second ring.



"Yep - Carolyn and her new phone." Elise laughed.

"Let me be the first to welcome you to the new millennium." Laughter peeled from Carolyn.

"How's farming?"

"Keeping me out of trouble." Elise responded.

"I imagine you'd have to dig awfully deep to find trouble around here."

"That sounded like you were disparaging my home town."

"Never." Carolyn said sounding shocked at the accusation.

"Hmmm." Elise replied.

"Wanna see a movie and have supper tomorrow night?" Carolyn asked Elise hopefully.


"Alright I'll pick you up at 4:30? Does that sound good?"

"Four thirty is good." Carolyn gave Elise her new phone number and then rang off. Elise spent the afternoon happily mowing her 3-acre yard. Her thoughts were on her new friend all afternoon long. Carolyn was such fun and quite a change from the sort of people she was usually around, very bold and up front. It was certainly keeping Elise on her toes.

Carolyn used her new phone to touch base with her folks, talking with her Father for quite a while. He was worried about her all by herself out in the middle of nowhere. She felt she had reassured him by the time they finished talking. Later that night she called her brother, waiting quite late to be sure he was home. He answered saying,


"Hi, it's Carolyn."

"You got a phone, THANK GOD!"

"I just did it to take pity on you, poor working man- writing letters to his sister. That's a sad story."

"Kiss off. I wanted to know how you are sooner than 2 weeks. I've been worried about you."

"What is it with my family? When I'm in Chicago, surrounded by crazy people no one cares. When I'm out on a farm surrounded by hardworking, Church-going patriots - you all panic. Want to explain that to me?"

"It's simple really, my sister the hip, big city lesbian feminist sees fit to take a post-mortem visit to a farm she's never been to and then decides she'll leave behind everything in her life for an entire summer and go paint a house. ALL ALONE! And her family and friends are supposed to think that this is not aberrant behavior. We're just supposed to sit quietly by supporting you." He sighed audibly. "I do support you, by the way, but I am also worried about you - talk to me- tell me you're okay and that you don't need me to quit the chain gang and come rescue you."

"I don't need you to come rescue me. I'm fine - good even." She assured him. "I've got the house almost scraped, primer is next. Furniture will be removed in two weeks - it reeks of mothballs so I can't wait for that. People I run into are friendly. I've met a few new people. In fact I'm spending the 4th of July with a new friend and her family."

"Should I be reading anything between the lines?" Carolyn laughed.

"Nope, nothing at all. She farms and she's fun and she isn't a lesbian." She couldn't break Elise's confidences so she left it at that.

"Okay - well good then. New friends are great."

"Yes they are…it's been awhile since I made a new one. I'm enjoying the process and the company. We're going water-skiing and Jet skiing on the 4th, can you imagine?"

"Oh please, get pictures."

"We'll see." Carolyn said laughing. They talked about the new vacation house in North Carolina. And of their parent's for another 15 minutes and then rang off.

Carolyn had been on the farm a month.

Chapter Six

The alarm went off and Carolyn groaned. It kept ringing though, louder it seemed. She rolled over onto her back and opened her eyes focusing with difficulty on the ceiling. The ringing in her ears unbearable. Finally her brain clicked and she rolled over and reached out a hand to shut off her alarm. It said 7:40 a.m. the earliest she had been out of bed in 5 weeks. Elise would be here in 20 minutes. They were going to the lake to save a place for Anne and Bob and the rest of the crew.

Twenty minutes later Elise pulled into the drive and walked to the door. Carolyn had on navy gym shorts with a white stripe down the side and a white T-shirt with a 'life is good' logo when she opened the door.

"It feels like 5 a.m. I need coffee to function. Do we have time for me to make some?"

"I have a thermos in the truck, it's cream - no sugar."

"Perfect. Should I bring a cup?"

"Nope - I brought one for you." Elise waved her hand indicating the bags on the counter, "What's going?"

"If you get these 3 bags, I'll get the case of beer from the frig."

They carried everything to the truck. Carolyn ran back inside for the bags of ice for the cooler. They filled the coolers with cans and ice and then Carolyn locked the door to her house.

Carolyn took in Elise as she sipped happily away at her coffee. Elise had on cutoffs and a long sleeved white oxford. The sleeves were rolled up above her elbows. Carolyn tried to discern if Elise had on the black bikini but she couldn't see. Elise felt her perusal and said,

"What are you looking at?" Carolyn smiled and asked,

"Do you have on that bikini or not?" Elise wrinkled her nose and said,

"Maybe, maybe not."

Carolyn smiled patiently and coaxed,

"Come on…give me a thrill - it'll help wake me up." Elise scoffed saying,

"Oh yeah, me in a bikini…there's a big thrill." Carolyn's smile was big when she questioned,

"I did tell you I'm a lesbian, didn't I?" Elise laughed her face turning pink.

"I don't know how I even let you talk me into buying it."

"You thought maybe you wanted to get laid before you're 40?" Carolyn suggested.

"And this bikini is going to help?" Elise asked.

"It can't hurt."

"You know, I'm beginning to regret telling you that particular little nugget of information. I think maybe you need to compensate me for these constant reminders."

"How so?" Carolyn asked.

"Tell me something personal about yourself." Carolyn smiled and said,

"I'm not a virgin." Elise laughed hard and said,

"I give up." They smiled at each other before dropping into silence and listening to the farm reports as they their way to the Lake. Carolyn kept quiet listening with fascination to the, what seemed like, gibberish on the radio. Elise clearly understood what each set of figures meant but Carolyn couldn't for the life of her understand even a single part of it.

At Johnson's - Elise expertly backed the trailer carrying the Jet skis into the water and then climbed out of the cab. Standing in the doorway she said,

"Slide over here and drive please. Just watch me, I'll tell you when to stop."

"Alright." Said Carolyn nervously as she slid across the seat and got behind the wheel. Watching Elise's directions she gently let the trailer down the ramp into the water. While it was in the water Elise released the 1st Jet ski into the water and tied it off. Then she waded around and repeated it with the second Jet Ski. When they were both clear she called,

"Okay, pull up about 10 feet."

Carolyn pulled the truck forward, bringing the trailer out of the water. Breathing a sigh of relief she put on the parking brake and climbed out. Elise brought out 2 lounge chairs and their tote bags full of their personal things. She added a little cooler and said,

"I'm going to pull the truck out of the way and then we'll head over to the island."

"How will all the other stuff get out there?"

"Anne and Bob have a key, they'll put everything in the boat and head out to find us." Elise walked back to Carolyn with a life vest. Carolyn put it on and Elise adjusted the straps to fit her snuggly. She did the same with her own before turning to bungee their stuff on to the 2 jet skis.

"I haven't ever driven one of these, you know?"

"I figured, but it's really simple and they stop the instant you let go of the throttle. We can go as slow as you want, okay?"

Elise got both of the Jets skis started and let them idle.

"We're going out to the island. There are sandy beaches around most of it. We are looking for a good spot for anchoring the boat and Jet skis when we're not using them." Then Elise indicated the Jet Ski and asked, "You sure this is okay? We can make a couple of trips on one, and the boys can bring it out when they get here."

"No, I think I can manage, show me how it works."

They made their way slowly toward the island. Carolyn sped up a bit the further they went and by the time they reached the island she felt relaxed driving it. Carolyn followed Elise around the island until Elise found a spot she liked. She drove right up to the shore and Carolyn followed, waiting until Elise had tied hers securely before coming closer so Elise could pull it ashore and tie it off also.

They unloaded everything and Elise got out paper bags and filled them with an inch of sand. She used the bags to make a boundary around their chosen spot. Carolyn helped her and finally asked,

"Why are we filling all of these bags with sand?"

"Tonight we'll light a votive in each one and it will be really pretty." Carolyn smiled at Elise thinking about simple pleasures.

They sat down in their lounge chairs and relaxed. Elise got out the sunscreen and took off her shirt. She covered every spot she could reach because she knew most of her skin hadn't ever seen the light of day.

Carolyn watched her from behind her sunglasses. Elise's body was exquisite, pale skin covered a perfectly muscled torso, and a rock solid stomach. Her arms, legs, face and neck darkly tanned. It was suddenly very hot. Carolyn pulled her T-shirt over her head and slid her shorts off her hips and down her legs.

Elise looked over at Carolyn noting that she didn't have on a bikini but the suit she wore showed more skin than Elise's bikini did. The material was so thin she could see…Elise turned her gaze away from Carolyn, embarrassed to have been staring at her friend's body. Carolyn smiled slightly to herself aware of Elise's nervousness and began to put sunscreen on her own body. It was quiet out on the island almost no one out on the lake yet, just a few fishing boats whining their way to wet their driver's hooks.

"Do you want me to put some of that on your back?" Carolyn asked casually.

"Yes, please." Elise answered. Carolyn climbed over Elise's lounge chair and sat behind Elise taking the bottle of sunscreen from her hand she put some in her palm and smoothed it onto Elise's skin. Elise shut her eyes and let the feel of Carolyn's hands on her back envelop her. Her nipples hardened and she frowned confused by her reaction. Moment's later Carolyn finished her job and said,

"Now me." Elise stood up on unsteady legs and Carolyn stood and turned around. The back of Carolyn's suit…well there wasn't really a back or sides or a front for that matter. Elise thought before she finally said,

"I'm wearing a bikini and I've got on more than you, how is that possible?" Carolyn laughed and said, "I didn't want you to take all the heat today, for being marginally dressed." Elise smiled as she smoothed sunscreen onto Carolyn's tan back.

"You've certainly taken care of that, no one will even look my way with you in that." Carolyn looked over her shoulder at Elise and said,

"Elise - get real! You look fantastic in that suit. Believe me the entire lake will be commenting by days end."

"Then I'll go change right now." Elise threatened.

"No you won't." Carolyn said with authority. They shifted back into their lounge chairs and relaxed. They idly watched the lake come alive with boat traffic. After an hour on each side Elise was tanned to a degree that Carolyn could not believe.

"Two hours of sun and you look like you've been wearing that bikini your entire life. You suck. I've been tanning for 5 weeks to get half as dark as you." Carolyn looked at her in disgust.

"You've been laying out for 5 weeks?" Elise look at Carolyn's body, she was a warm golden color. She looked great, every inch of her brown. Elise frowned and asked curiously,

"What have you been laying out in?" Carolyn looked over at Elise her green eyes widening in pretend shock,

"Nothing." She whispered still wide-eyed. Elise's color rose a little and she said smiling,

"I'd be careful if I were you. The Hillman brothers' crop-dust the corn on the other side of your house. They've been known to send many a bathing teen running for the house."

"You have perverts who crop dust near my house?"

"I don't have perverts anywhere." Elise answered. Carolyn frowned for a moment then said resignedly,

"Oh well - who am I to deny the Hillman brothers a cheap thrill." Elise laughed and said,

"You wouldn't say that if you had ever met the Hillman brothers."

At 11:15 a.m. Anne and Bob's boat came cruising around the island. Elise stood and pulled on her shirt before walking barefoot to the edge of the shoreline and then waited until Bob pulled the boat's nose right to shore. Anne was out on the seats in the bow and when she saw Elise's suit through the front of the shirt she said loudly,

"Jesus Christ Elise, is that you?"

"Leave me alone." Elise frowned blushing profusely.

Bob shut down the engine and jumped out pulling the boat over and throwing the rope to Elise. Then he considered her a moment before saying,

"Elise, do you think you should be running around in something so…"

"So what?" Elise demanded interrupting his lecture.

"Well at least, you have a shirt on." Bob said backpedaling at the look on her face.

"Yeah, well I'm taking it off in about 2 minutes, so prepare yourself old man." Elise walked over to the boat and reached up for Anne. Once she was in Elise's arms Elise said,

"Jesus you get more heavy every summer." Anne laughed putting her arms around Elise's neck as Elise easily carried her to dry land, setting her feet down gently. Anne pulled Elise's shirt wide and looked at her body.

"Wow - you look really great in that. How many times have I tried to talk you into buying one of those."

"Too many to count." Elise said wrinkling her nose. Bob made huge metallic banging sounds as he pounded in a large metal stake. Elise took him the rope and he tied it off.

"Where's Trish?" Asked Elise, "I didn't think she would be allowed on the Jet skis with the boys."

"They let her go for a ride to gas up but she's going to be unhappy with them before the day is over, no doubt."

Elise, having been aware of Carolyn for the past several minutes said to Bob and Anne,

"Come meet Carolyn." They walked up the beach. "Anne, this is Carolyn Baker. Carolyn this is Anne and Bob." Carolyn stood and shook hands. Anne took in Carolyn's suit then smiled and said happily,

"I guess I'm going to feel particularly frumpy today." Carolyn laughed and responded,

"It's nice to meet you both, thank you for including me." Bob shook his head and said to Anne,

"Babe - frumpy you aren't." Anne turned around and rewarded him with a sunny smile. Elise broke into their private moment saying,

"No Bob - you are the frumpy one, just like an old man." Bob laughed and said,

"Hey - there are 4 teenage boys arriving shortly. You can walk around naked for all I care but…don't say I didn't warn you." They laughed and headed back down to the boat to unload.

They set up a table and chairs and put the coolers and fireworks out of the hot sun. They heard shouts and whining engines and turned just in time to watch the Jet skis and their passengers fast approaching their day camp. The boys pulled up onto the sand like old pros and hopped off. The adults laughed at their cocky attitudes as they came running up the beach.

"Hey Elise!"

"Hey Richie, Eddie, Priss." They introduced their friends and Elise introduced Carolyn. They wanted to terrorize the lake and Elise showed the new machine to Richie who was going to ride it. Their excitement evident they tore away leaving waves lapping for a couple of minutes. The island was beginning to fill up.

They had all been relaxing for about 30 minutes talking and laughing when Priss said,

"Daddy I want to ski."

"Your Mother is the ski boat driver."

Anne smiled as she got to her feet and said,

"Let's get out there then before it's too crowded for anyone but Elise."

They all stood except Bob and Carolyn. Elise laughed and said,

"Come on Carolyn - let's change and go skiing."

"I don't know. I've never been water skiing before." Elise encouraged

"Yeah well then today's the day. You don't want to pass up this chance; I'll teach you and Anne is the best ski boat driver in Illinois." Carolyn knew she wasn't going to get out of this so she smiled good-naturedly and said,

"Well if you put it that way."

Elise grabbed her one piece and went behind a piece of tarp they had hung in the trees. She was back in a minute and Carolyn went to put on something more sedate also.

The afternoon sped by. Carolyn learned how to water ski, it was an amazing experience to get yanked out of the water by a boat on two flat pieces of wood that they called 'skis'. Elise had shown them all how it was done on one ski, chasing the boys down and spraying them with huge arcs of water. By dusk they were all relaxing lazily around a campfire after eating and drinking for a couple of hours.

The sun was low but still pretty warm; there were a few red noses amongst them. Carolyn watched Elise and Anne walk around the perimeter of the camp lighting the candles in the paper sacks of sand. Priss was arguing good- naturedly with the boys and Bob was smiling and laughing with them as he kept an eye on Anne. Must be a miraculous feeling to have someone be that crazy about you after what, 14 years?

With sounds of laughter in the distance, Elise sat down near Carolyn and they chatted lazily until the first red rocket exploded in the sky. The bright colors brought 'ooohhs' and 'awwws' from the pleased crowd. After a half hour it was all over. They placed their chairs in the boat and because everything else had been put away before the fireworks began, they were on their way very shortly after the fireworks ended. That put them in at the boat ramp before almost anyone else. In 30 minutes Carolyn and Elise were on their way home.

"Thank you so much Elise for including me, I really enjoyed it." Carolyn said smiling at Elise as they drove down her lane.

"You're welcome, I'm glad you could come."

Carolyn smiled, showering had made her clean and comfortable, it was getting pretty late and she drifted off to sleep thinking of 'bombs bursting in air' and the smells and sounds in her memory of a wonderful day.

Elise entered her door. The air conditioning making her feel sticky. She showered and climbed into bed exhausted from her long day. Her final thought before sleep claimed her was the picture in her mind of Carolyn as she popped out of the water on skis the very first try. Her face wreathed in smiles of accomplishment.

Chapter Seven

Work continued through the hot and hazy humid days of July. Carolyn finished scraping and moved on to the priming part of her big house-painting job. She wrote some letters to her family and even glanced a time or two, in the evenings at her curriculum for fall. The isolation soothed her but she had some evenings when she would be crawling out of her skin with loneliness. She took to calling Elise on these nights. Sometimes Elise would drive over and they would go for ice cream or just sit outside and sip beer until the mosquitoes chased them inside. Sometimes they just talked on the phone.

She felt that when she got back to Chicago that it was time to get out there and date a bit. She missed having someone who…was hers and hers alone. Missed everything about an exclusive loving relationship, especially sex. Fear gripped her when she gave her thoughts reign but she refused to be cowed and promised her self that she would at the very least have a couple of casual dates during the fall. Build up her dating muscles.

Elise was having the very best summer she could remember. Carolyn was such a neat person they spent hours talking. Elise was extremely interested in college and the curriculum that Carolyn taught. Carolyn had given her several books during the last month and Elise had devoured them. Their discussions were lively, even funny at times. Carolyn's views so worldly, Elise's so colloquial but both of them making well thought arguments for their cases. She wished she had had the opportunity to go to college. It wasn't as though she didn't love farming but she would have really enjoyed college, she felt certain of that.


When August arrived, Carolyn began to think she wouldn't be able to finish her job, of painting the house, before she had to get back to Chicago for meetings before school began, she had three weeks. She and Elise were talking about it a couple of nights later on the phone. Elise asked if she would like a little help. Carolyn didn't want add to Elise's workload but Elise was insistent that she would arrive at 4:00 over the course of the next week and help.

The first night she brought Edward and Priss. They were wicked handy with a paintbrush and Carolyn fixed them hamburgers on the grill as she painted nearby. The second night the whole Derefield family showed up and Elise brought supper for everyone. By the end of the night they were almost done. Carolyn had never been around that type of generosity and it brought tears to her eyes to think about it when she was alone later that evening. She could have easily afforded to have someone paint it for her. The Deerfield's were such a fun bunch and Carolyn liked them a lot, owing to the fact that they were Elise's family made their gesture even more special. Farm living is the life for me… she sang playfully to herself as she drifted off to sleep that night.

A week later she and Elise celebrated the finishing of her summer project. Carolyn made arrangements to sell the house but kept the surrounding farmland on Elise's advice. Carolyn was going to make a bit of money on farming. Renting out her land to be more exact. She was kind of excited about it and spent an hour explaining it to her brother.

"I don't even understand why you don't just wash your hands and feet of the whole thing."

"Because it will give me more income."

"Yeah well so will selling it and banking the profit."

"But owning the land is exciting and I don't need a huge chunk of money right now, if I do I'll put it on the block, but until then I'm going to keep it and get money for someone else farming it."

"Promise me you haven't lost your mind."

"Kiss my ass. What about this is that extreme? I want to own the land for a while. Big deal."

"I'm sorry, I guess I'm just worried about you keeping the land. I'm not sure why."

"I've got a week and a half left here. I'll be back in Chicago soon and then you can worry about me full time you twit."

"Crazily, I probably won't worry about you at all."

"Now that is crazy…when do you leave for Boston?"

"Four days."

"Excited, scared, worried?"

"All of the above. But you know I was born for this."

"I know. I just hate to see you give up your life to the state that medicine is in today."

"You know we don't agree on this so let's not get into right now. When can you come for a visit, I miss seeing my sister's face."

"I'll be there for Thanksgiving, okay? You promised you would too."

"I know…I'll be there. I've got to get going, call me in two weeks - I'll no longer be gainfully employed, I'll be a busted-on-my-ass college student once again."

"You're fucking cheap, that's what you are - but yes I will call you in a couple of weeks."

"I love you, goodbye."

"I love you too, bye."


Another week passed with Carolyn throwing out furniture and junk of her aunts so it could be picked up and taken far away. Elise worked walking beans and more beans. Work and Chicago were looming on the horizon and Carolyn was torn between a feeling of missing the farm and excitement to get on with her life.

It was 10:00 p.m. Elise noticed as she glanced at Carolyn's microwave clock. They had just finished a lively discussion of The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, more lively than usual because they were both quite tipsy. They had managed to make their way through 4 beers a piece since seven thirty. Carolyn's house was empty of furniture. The last dumpster had been picked up this afternoon and they began the Friday night celebration with that in mind.

"Here's to virginity." Carolyn lifted her glass, it seemed there was no end to the celebrations she was willing to include this night.

"I'm not going to toast to virginity." Elise refused scowling at Carolyn.

"Oh come on, I wish I were still a virgin."


"That's harsh…but probably…accurate." Carolyn said laughing gaily. "Sex is really great Elise. You would love it. We need to step up our efforts to get you dating and screwing."

Elise's faced flushed and she said,

"I'll find someone to date on my own. You aren't exactly dating up a storm yourself so get off my case."

"That's true but I've been saying to myself for a couple of weeks now. Carolyn; when you get back to Chicago, it's time to begin screwing again…" She giggled and then finished emphatically, "I mean dating again… I've been alone long enough."

"There you go, you concentrate on yourself and I'll work on me." They stared at each other across the old Formica kitchen table, one of the only things to stay and then only because it didn't reek of mothballs. Elise didn't like hearing about Carolyn dating but she ignored the voice in her head that wondered why.

They sat smiling at each other. Carolyn watching Elise intently, and then Carolyn rose and walked around the table shoving Elise's Teva covered feet onto the floor. Then she straddled Elise's lap and sat down. Elise watched her carefully, her strong arms coming around Carolyn to keep her from falling. They looked at each other and then Carolyn raised her head and pressed her sweet moist lips to Elise's. Elise's breath caught and her heart began to pound in her chest as Carolyn gently kissed her. Carolyn let her tongue come out and lightly lick along the outline of Elise's full lips.

Elise didn't respond. She just let Carolyn play with her. Carolyn pressed small sweet kisses on her lips over and over until Elise began to kiss her back. She didn't open her mouth so her tongue was still hidden from Carolyn, finally Carolyn whispered,

"Open your mouth Elise." Elise succumbed to the request and Carolyn slipped her tongue inside to play with Elise's. So sweet, Carolyn thought as she felt desire begin to pool in her loins. She pulled back a little not wanting this to get out of hand. Their tongue slid against each other, Elise's clumsily chasing Carolyn's. The kiss deepened suddenly and then Carolyn pulled her lips away, their eyes opened and Carolyn looked into the dazed eyes of Elise. Oh boy, suddenly this wasn't a wise idea. Carolyn closed her eyes and gathered her wits about her, and then she slid off Elise's lap and stepped back. Their labored breathing the only sound in the house until Carolyn turned toward the bathroom and said smartly,

"I think that might jump start you." Elise looked at Carolyn's retreating back her breathing shallow. Jump-start me? She shifted uncomfortably in her chair and then stood up and walked to the refrigerator and got them both another cold beer.

A few minutes later Carolyn walked back into the kitchen, having fully chastised herself in the bathroom about the decisions she was making while drinking too much. Elise was as relaxed as she was ever going to be after being kissed…by Carolyn.

Carolyn looked closely at Elise trying to access how she was going to react. She seemed back to normal, she hadn't run off home either so Carolyn hoped they would survive her lunacy. They stared at each other for a moment and then Elise said,

"I must be getting real drunk, I could have sworn you just sat on my lap and kissed me."

Carolyn laughed and said,

"You are drunk."

Their conversation moved on to more mundane things, on the surface anyway.

Elise dropped her keys twice trying to unlock the door of her truck. She couldn't remember why she locked the darn thing anyway - parking at Carolyn's house wasn't exactly downtown Chicago.

Finally. She said to herself as the lock opened and she climbed in and slammed the door, leaning her head back against the seat, her mind racing with…everything. Slow down…she spent a minute calming herself, deeply breathing and shutting down her racing mind. When she felt more capable she started the truck and put it in gear.

Darkness, blackness played all around her on the periphery, she kept her eyes glued to the small tunnel of light that the truck's headlights made. The closer she got to her farm the more thoughts of Carolyn danced through her mind; her laughter, teasing words, sparkling eyes, and then her weight and scent so close. The explosion of feelings when Carolyn's lips touched hers, gentle and soft…Elise's heart was racing again. What did all this mean? She asked herself - why did Carolyn kiss me and why did I like it so much that I'm thinking about it an hour later and… she couldn't face any more tonight.

Elise flipped on the bathroom light and reached in to turn on the shower. She pulled off her shorts and shirt, walking to the mirror, over the sink, in her bra and underwear. She looked at herself standing there, tan and…normal. Nothing out of the ordinary, except maybe some heightened color on her cheeks. It's just from the beer, she assured herself.

She touched a finger to the lips that Carolyn had kissed. Why? She asked herself, why for 31 years have I felt nothing for anyone? Because for 31 years there was no Carolyn her mind mocked her. She shook her head to clear it and got into the shower.

She tossed and turned for a while, thoughts of Carolyn making her mind too busy for sleep. After what seemed like an eternity she fell into a fitful slumber.

The sun was already blazing when she woke; she lay naked perspiring as she ran over the events of last evening with Elise. Carolyn questioned her sanity and decided to drink beer a little less voraciously in the future, at least around tempting situations.

Was it just the beer? She pondered that as she fanned her naked body with a magazine from the floor next to the mattress that was her bed. She thought about Elise's soft untutored lips and considered how much she enjoyed Elise's company but beyond just plain old appreciation for the female form, and Elise had some female form, was it…attraction?

After a couple of year's celibacy, she wasn't sure anymore what attraction really was. As she told Elise, she needed to get out and begin dating. The old juices were beginning to flow and celibacy was beginning to wear. She laughed happily at the thought of being horny, which felt really good. A frown touched her brow as she remembered she would actually have to meet some people, if she was going to begin something…physical.

Finally she couldn't stand to lay and fry another second and she stood up stretching and moving around the room collecting her clothes. She should begin to get herself packed up, six more days and her time on the farm would be over. As much as she was looking forward to going back to work and home she would also miss her friend Elise.

Chapter Eight

The final 5 days they spent a great deal of time together, talking and laughing. Making tentative plans to get together after harvest was over. Until then Elise didn't have a lot of time, and for that mixed blessing she knew she would be grateful.

Elise drove the 4-wheeler into the farmyard, the dust following her in a cloud. She had 2 hours to get something made for supper, which she would be sharing with Carolyn tonight, their last of the summer. She hurried into the house and got quickly into the shower.

Her clean bare feet, slapped against the floor as she moved around the kitchen, her

hair was still wet from the earlier shower. In the midst of checking the pork chops the phone rang, Elise snatched it up on the second ring,

"Hello." She answered

"Hey it's me."

"Hi Anne, what's up?"

"That's what I'm wondering. I haven't heard from you for…5days." Anne stated in an accusing tone. Elise frowned and then smiled and said,

"Well I haven't heard from you either."

Anne humphed and asked,

"Do you know that we have never gone 5 days without speaking?"

"We haven't?"

"No!" Anne said emphatically. "Tell me what has brought this on, is everything alright?" Elise laughed,

"Don't be ridiculous Annie, I've just been busy."

"You're always busy Elise, that has never made a bit of difference."

"I'm sorry." Elise replied soothingly, "I promise I'll call you everyday from now on."

"Just tell me what's wrong?" Anne said.

"Nothing's wrong, not one thing."

"You're sure?"

"Absolutely!" Elise said through a thin veil of guilt. She had been obsessing about Carolyn and had spent most of the past week alone or spending every moment possible with Carolyn.

"We've got a turkey in the smoker. Grab a six pack on your way for you and Bob." Anne commanded.

"I'd love to, but Carolyn is coming over for dinner, she leaves tomorrow - for home. I'd love to tomorrow?"

"Okay…well say goodbye to her for us."

"Okay. And I'm sorry I haven't called."

"It's fine Elise, if nothing is wrong. I was just worried."

"We'll everything is great, so don't worry."

"Alright - bye Elise."

"Bye Anne."

"Is she bringing beer?" Bob asked as he walked into the kitchen to see Anne hanging up the phone.

"She's busy tonight, Carolyn's last night in town." Anne said by way of explanation.

"Oh…" Bob said surprised, "Is she alright, why hasn't she called?"

"Said she was busy."

"Busy?" Bob repeated frowning.


Carolyn pulled her jeep up to Elise's backdoor. She had a busy day tracking down a book she wanted to give Elise. It took a two-hour drive to pick it up in its hardback edition. She knocked at the back door. Elise called for her to come in.

Carolyn smiled at Elise, bent over checking something in the oven with a fork. Carolyn enjoyed the view of Elise in cutoffs, which molded to her shape; her long tan legs went on for a miracle mile.

Elise straightened up and blushed when she caught sight of Carolyn's eyes not quite finished with their perusal.

"Hi." Carolyn said smiling a happy smile.

"Hi." Elise answered. flustered by Carolyn's blatant enjoyment.

"Um…everything is almost ready."

"Great. It smells fantastic."

They chatted about the day as Carolyn helped Elise bring food to the table.

Carolyn hated to end the evening, end the summer essentially but it was getting late and she needed to be up very early tomorrow morning. She watched Elise talking animatedly, her spectacular blue eyes flashing, her dark eyebrows rising and falling with her expressions.

Then Carolyn focused on Elise's lips moving until… they weren't…Carolyn lifted her eyes quickly to Elise's and saw the blush on Elise's face. Carolyn smiled a lopsided smile and said,

"I'm sorry…" Then she lifted a shoulder and shrugged "…You have beautiful lips."

Confusion and nervous tension settled onto Elise's shoulders, she glanced at the clock hating to see how quickly the evening had passed. She thought of the gift she had for Carolyn and experienced the self-consciousness she had felt since she bought the gift. Trying to ignore the racing of her heart from Carolyn's words she wrinkled her nose at Carolyn and stood up to get the gift.

"I got you a going-away gift, I hope you like it." Carolyn stood then also and went to her bag,

"Yeah, I got you something too - but I'm going to think of it as a I'll-see- you-again-soon gift." They both brought wrapped packages back to the table and sat again to open them. Carolyn reached for the prettily wrapped package and opened it.

"Oh Elise…this is beautiful." She looked up and smiled into Elise's eyes. "Thank you so much."

"You're welcome." Elise answered, her cheeks blooming with pink again. Carolyn looked down at the delicate bracelet with a strawberry charm and smiled while gently poking a finger at it. Still smiling she said,

"Open yours."

While Elise opened her book Carolyn said,

"I hope you enjoy it." Elise pulled it out of the paper and looked at a poetry book by May Sarton.

"Oh I will, just as soon as I finish Combining." She said enthusiastically. They talked for a couple of more minutes before Carolyn broke in saying,

"I've got to get going."


Carolyn gathered up everything she had as Elise threw away the wrapping paper and wiped her sweaty hands on her jean shorts and followed Carolyn to the door. Carolyn turned when she reached the door - Elise stopped…looking directly into Carolyn's eyes with the smallest tinge of sadness in her blue eyes.

"Don't…" Carolyn said gently, "I'll see you again soon. You are coming to Chicago aren't you?"

"Yes." Elise answered smiling.

Then Carolyn stated,

"You've got my number and my E-mail, my address and I've got yours."

"Yep." Elise agreed trying to relax.

"Alright." Carolyn said sincerely, "Thank you so much for everything this summer, the help with painting and selling the house and also with the contracts for renting my land. I really appreciate it."

"Stop already." Elise said feeling embarrassed by all the thank yous'.

"Okay." Carolyn said smiling. Then she leaned close - stretching up to reach Elise's soft lips and kissed her gently. Elise's eyes dropped closed as she felt the pressure but before she could react Carolyn had pulled back and was reaching for the door.

"Bye Elise."

"Bye." Elise replied softly.

She was gone…Elise stood there for several minutes. She heard the jeep start and the gravel crunch, she waited until it was silent and then leaned her forehead against the wall feeling lost. She stayed there until the wall cooled her head and then she stood, flipping off the lights and she headed up to her bedroom. She threw herself face first on her covers and lay there trying to think, trying not to think.

She woke late in the night having fallen asleep in her clothes; she stripped, went to the bathroom and fell back into bed for the rest of the night.

Carolyn woke in the morning to an alarm clock. It had been awhile and she frowned at it with all the crankiness she could muster. She did however get up and get into the shower just minutes later. The sun wasn't up yet but it was hinting at it.

When she was dressed in baggy athletic shorts and a T-shirt she began packing up her jeep. It didn't take more than 15 minutes. She walked through the house, making sure she had left nothing. Soon after she was putting the keys in the mailbox as planned and driving down the highway toward Chicago. She was excited and a little sad; it had been a great summer, Elise, the best part of it by far.

She pushed Elise out of her mind and concentrated on what she needed to accomplish in the week before she was due back in school. Once in a while she grabbed a pad of paper and scribbled something on it - the creative juices flowing, the excitement growing.

Elise walked through the door of her kitchen tossing her work gloves in the sink and pushing the button on her answering machine. She had two messages, the first was from Anne telling her to head over for dinner at about 7:30 and bring beer. The second from Carolyn,

"Hi Elise, I made it home about an hour ago. Place smells musty - I am having very bad luck with the smelly houses lately." She laughed then. "I'll give you a call later in the week, we'll make plans for you to come visit. Thanks again for everything." Carolyn rang off then. Elise played it a couple more times then headed up to get cleaned up before she went to Anne and Bob's.


The table was covered with empty plates and bowls of leftovers. Anne, Bob and Elise sat at the table talking, the kids long ago tired of endless adult conversation about farming and community. Elise wanted to go home and relax but she stayed, feeling guilty for not paying attention to her family for the past month.

"Let's get this table cleared and put the food away before it spoils." Elise suggested feeling strangely impatient. Bob got up and took two handfuls of dirty dishes and headed for the kitchen. Then he headed straight for the living room to join the kids watching television, leaving Anne and Elise to finish.

"So…you seem tired? Is anything wrong?"

"No nothings wrong, I'm tired but no more than usual…I feel a little…sad I think because it was such a fun summer, getting to know Carolyn and everything and now she's back in Chicago. It feels kind of odd."

"Well, when will you see her again?"

"Oh, after the Combining is done."

"If you get lonely you can always come over here, day or night." Anne offered for the thousandth time in the last 10 years.

"I'm fine Anne."

"Okay…let's go watch Friends with the kids."

"I think I'll head home to bed, I'm worn. I'll see you tomorrow."

"Oh…alright. Sleep well honey." And Anne gave Elise a big hug and a kiss on her cheek. Making Elise feel cared for and maybe a little less lonely.

Chapter Nine

Carolyn finished clearing her desk of work and headed out the door for the day. Thousands of students, filling the grounds and buildings of the University were between her and her Jeep - she wove a path through them as they called to each other and dodged each other walking, biking and rollerblading. Carolyn's was wearing her blond hair a little longer than usual and it was streaked with highlights of a summer spent under the sun. Black slim pants which flared at the bottom and a long sleeved cashmere sweater in charcoal covered her body. She watched the students as she strode toward the parking lot. There was a new chill in the air.

On the drive home she looked at the Chicago skyline and thought about the open view she enjoyed on the farm during the past summer. This brought a smile to her lips and she reminded herself that she had to make some plans because Elise would be in town next weekend. She was looking forward to showing her the city - and catching up. When they had spoken Elise said that she would be finished this weekend with Combining. Smiling in happiness she pulled her jeep into a parking spot right in front of her building. Things were good.


Elise took a last look at herself in the rear view mirror of her truck before she climbed out and slammed the door. It was about 4:30 on Friday afternoon; a few students were straggling out into the crisp fall weather. It was in the 50's and the blue sky was bright but the sun was already getting low in the sky. Carolyn had given her directions to school because it was easier to find than Carolyn's condominium. Elise took the paper with directions out of her polar fleece jacket pocket and began walking, her long jean encased legs, eating up the sidewalk.

Elise walked out of the elevator and turned toward the offices of the English Department. She glanced at the numbers above the doors until she found Carolyn's. She knocked and at 'come in!' she opened the door and walked inside. Carolyn looked up from the papers she was reading on her desk to see whom it was.

With a smile on her face she stood quickly, coming around her desk to hug Elise and give her a kiss on the cheek. Determined, Elise held Carolyn still until she could return a kiss to Carolyn's cheek. They stood smiling at each other. Carolyn was wearing a pair of camel colored slacks and a cream colored sweater. It complimented her coloring, but Elise didn't comment.

"How was the drive?" Carolyn asked her a smile still touching her lips.

"It was a piece of cake, you gave me very good directions."

"Good." Carolyn answered as she took in Elise's tall body, her scent invoking fresh air and sunshine, her dark hair hanging down over her shoulders. Carolyn had never seen it that way. It made her look younger. Her blue eyes reflected the bright blue color of her polar fleece jacket, making those baby blues evermore compelling. Her tan had deepened and she looked healthy if a little tired. Carolyn said,

"You look fantastic Elise."

Elise blushed and said,

"Thank you, you look…very professional." Elise scowled at herself, professional? No that wasn't it - it was…Elise fumbled for the right words, hating how inadequate she was at expressing what she meant.

"What I meant to say is…you look really good, I've never seen you in anything but shorts and T-shirts." That would have to do for now.

"Oh come on…" Carolyn countered playfully, "You've seen me in a swim suit." Elise laughed softly and said,

"That one you were almost wearing?" Carolyn played horrified,

"Hey it didn't get a second glance - with you in that black bikini."

"Yeah…" Elise scoffed, "Whatever!" They stood smiling at their shared memories.

Carolyn and Elise walked toward the parking lot. Elise had taken the grand tour of Carolyn's department and had even met a few of the other professors, now they were heading to Carolyn's condo. Elise followed in her pick-up truck. They made their way through heavy traffic. Elise smiled most of the way, she was extremely happy, the past month of hard work melting away in Carolyn's presence.

Elise grabbed her bag and locked the door of the truck pocketing her keys. She waited for Carolyn to finish parking her Jeep and extract a couple of bags worth of books and papers.

"Come on, let's get inside and find a cold beer." They chatted as they entered the building and made their way to Carolyn's condo.

Carolyn unlocked the door and stood back for Elise to precede her. Elise set down her bag and looked around with interest. The condo was beautiful and modern, filled with over-stuffed furniture sitting on hard wood floors with many colorful rugs scattered throughout. The open floor plan and massive windows making it appear to be very large.

"Wow - it's very big and really nice." Elise complimented, silently disgusted with herself that she could easily compliment a home but not Carolyn.

"Thank you. Come on- grab your bag and I'll show you to your room." Elise followed obediently. Carolyn walked into a nice-sized bedroom with a queen-sized bed in it.

"Your bathroom is through there." Carolyn indicated, pointing into the bedroom.


"I'm going to leave you to settle in while I go change out of these work clothes. I'll be in the kitchen opening beer in a few minutes."

"Thanks." Elise answered as she carried her bag inside.

"Sure thing." Carolyn said over her shoulder.

Elise used the bathroom and then stripped off her jacket and laid it on her bed. She had on a very nice finely gauged long-sleeved v-neck T-shirt. It's navy blue color much darker than the snug blue jeans she wore. She could hear some rattling in the kitchen so Elise followed the sound and found Carolyn digging around in the refrigerator for beer and limes.

She had on very faded jeans and a plaid flannel shirt hanging open, over a white T-shirt, she turned and opened the beers with a bottle top opener and slid one across to Elise. Carolyn smiled then and lifted her bottle in the air in a toast,

"To the end of COMBINING?" Elise laughed and lifted her bottle also,

"YES! To the end of combining!"

They sipped and chatted, catching each other up on how their lives were proceeding. Carolyn watched Elise as she smiled and talked - she seemed a little…what was it? But other than that everything just fell back into the easy camaraderie of the summer.

"You seem a little…tense? Is everything alright Elise?"

"Yeah…everything is fine…I've been going 14 hours a day, for several weeks, I'm just…it will take a little time to wind down." She said shrugging her shoulders.

"How can I help?" Her friend Carolyn asked.

"This is helping, just sitting, drinking a beer, and talking." Carolyn smiled devilishly and said,

"Maybe you should spend some time now trying to find a nice fellow to go out with." Elise scowled and grinned simultaneously and then mocked,

"Ah…dating," She said nodding her head, "There's an excellent stress reliever."

"Well dating isn't but…sex is!" Carolyn smiled her eyes wide.

Elise narrowed her eyes at Carolyn's suggestion and Carolyn said,

"Now, now - you've got to date - before you can get…laid." Then a second later she continued, "At least for your first time you should."

Elise rolled her eyes and asked nonchalantly,

"So you're dating are you?"

Carolyn held up her thumb and forefinger making a space about an inch between them and said,

"I'm this close." Elise's blue eyes penetrated and stated the obvious,

"So you aren't dating."

"Not yet." Carolyn admitted.

"Well as I said this summer, you worry about you and I'll worry about me."

"Hey." Carolyn defended, "I'm just trying to help you control your stress level."

"Thanks." Elise said dryly and she took another sip of her beer.

Carolyn was sprawled on the couch and Elise was slouched in a chair. They were watching a DVD and sipping at glasses of wine. They had gone for supper at a nearby pizza joint which served the best Chicago style pizza Elise had ever tasted. At some point in the evening Carolyn looked over at Elise because she hadn't laughed at something very funny and found her friend fast asleep.

When the movie was over Carolyn debated about what to do with her farmer friend, leave her in the chair or wake her. Finally she decided that Elise should be in a bed, so she could get a good night sleep.

"Elise." Carolyn whispered a couple of times until her eyelids fluttered open revealing warm blue eyes.

"Let's get you to bed." She encouraged quietly.

"Okay." Elise agreed sleepily. Slowly she stood and walked behind Carolyn to the room she was sleeping in. She turned to say 'goodnight' but Carolyn spoke first,

"I'd help you get undressed but I don't think I could handle the thrill." Elise scowled at her tiredly and said gruffly but with humor,

"Leave me alone."

"Okay." Carolyn chuckled, "Good night Elise."

"Good night."


In the morning they lounged for a couple of hours, sipping coffee and reading the Tribune, interspersed with pancakes and eggs. The morning quickly turned into the afternoon and they left the condo to play tourist for the day before ending with an early dinner with several of Carolyn's friends.

Elise enjoyed watching Carolyn interact with her friends. They argued over just about everything that came up as topic. One of the women, Lisa was a very close friend of Carolyn's. She managed a bookstore in Andersonville.

Elise, her beauty and strength equally compelling intrigued Lisa but then she wasn't sure if Elise actually had strength because she was having trouble getting anything out of the woman. She gave conversation another shot asking,

"So Elise, are you enjoying our fine city?"

"Yes." Silence. Lisa tried to find a question that didn't have a yes or no answer.

"What have you guys seen today, while you were playing tourist?"

"We saw the Planetarium and The Art Institute. Lisa nodded to encourage Elise to continue. Carolyn looked over at Lisa smiling. She remembered trying to talk to Elise in the beginning and could barely keep herself from laughing now. Lisa wasn't quitting though and she continued with her questions,

"How is farming, are the crops good?"

"Yes." Elise answered politely. At that Lisa narrowed her eyes at Carolyn and Carolyn smiled brilliantly.

A few minutes later Carolyn left to use the rest room and soon after Lisa followed. When they were both behind locked doors Lisa said,

"Okay so she's gorgeous but…she must be damn good in bed 'cause she sure doesn't have much else going." Carolyn laughed hard at that and responded,

"She isn't my girl friend, she's just a friend."

"Oh." Lisa said in a tell-me-another-one voice.

"I'm serious, she's just a friend, a very shy friend. Believe me she never shuts up once she is comfortable." Lisa gave Carolyn a knowing look and said,

"I'll bet." Carolyn laughed and walked out of the bathroom.

Lisa let her friend go and turned to the mirror to freshen her lipstick. Just a friend. She had seen the looks between them and she decided they might just need a little help in getting together.

The sun was setting, bringing on the evening and Lisa said to everyone at the table,

"Is anyone up for going dancing tonight?"

Carolyn turned to Elise and asked,

"Would you have any interest in going dancing?"

"I'm not much for dancing, but I'd be happy to go if you want to." Carolyn considered for a couple of moments and then decided why not?

"Lets go then, it should be fun and if it isn't…we'll leave, okay?"

"Okay." Elise agreed easily.

When they had first arrived the music was friendlier on the ears, now you could feel the beat throughout your entire body, Elise thought as she watched everything around her with interest. She had never been in an all-girl bar she was definitely enjoying herself.

Carolyn watched Elise, smiling at her. Carolyn noted that many women in the bar were certainly checking out the farmer. She couldn't blame them; Elise had on a pair of well-fitting light tan jeans, her legs stretched out, and her boot covered feet crossed at the ankles. She had on a fitted pale blue blouse that was open at the neck. With her hair down and her amazing eyes she was rather intoxicating.

Lisa watched Carolyn staring at Elise and leaned over and encouraged,

"Take Elise out to dance!" Carolyn loved to dance but she didn't want to desert Elise for the evening so she told Lisa,

"She said she doesn't dance."

"You asked her to dance?" Lisa asked finally beginning to wonder if all the electricity between these two women was in her own imagination.

"No…she said earlier 'she wasn't much for dancing." Carolyn imitated Elise's inflection. Lisa smiled and encouraged again,

"Well I think you should ask her."

Carolyn sat considering for several minutes. Elise wasn't gay and Carolyn didn't want to offend her friend by asking too much of her. This was the very first time Elise had ever even been in a gay bar and Carolyn wanted to respect any boundaries even if she wasn't aware of them being written in stone.

While Carolyn was lost in her musings, an attractive woman came and asked Carolyn to dance. Carolyn politely declined and the woman left. Elise looked at Carolyn, their eyes met for several moments and then Elise sat up and leaned over close to Carolyn to ask,

"Did she just ask you to dance?"

"Yes." Carolyn acknowledged.

"Why didn't you want to?" Carolyn smiled and said vainly,

"I'm not here to dance with the locals." And then she continued normally, "I'm here to enjoy my friend who is visiting the BIG TOWN!"

Elise smiled and then assured Carolyn,

"Go ahead and dance, I'm fine." They didn't speak for a moment and then Carolyn said grinning and at Elise,

"Do you want to dance? I'll dance with you." Elise swallowed and then smiled shyly and admitted,

"I've never really danced much, I would embarrass you, most likely."

"Please." Carolyn said in a put-upon voice. "Dancing is easy and no one else cares how you dance." Okay, that was a bald faced lie - the minute Elise took the dance floor a lot of people would be craning their necks to see. Elise pondered in silence and then without warning she stood towering over Carolyn who was leaning forward in her chair but who was suddenly looking up, way up to Elise's twinkling eyes.

"Alright, show me how to dance, smarty."

Carolyn smiled into Elise's eyes and stood, her black pants molding her shape and her black fitted top unbuttoned low enough to catch a glimpse of the black bra she wore underneath. Her green eyes dazzled Elise as she laughed and happily grabbed Elise's large callused hand as they made their way through the wall of people onto the dance floor. Carolyn made a tiny space for them in the middle of everyone so that Elise could hopefully relax a little.

Carolyn didn't drop her hand but leaned close to Elise and yelled,

"Just move your feet."

They bumped around, Carolyn continuing to hold Elise's hand hoping it would make her feel more comfortable.

Elise couldn't quit watching Carolyn; she was an incredible dancer, so incredible that no one was even bothering to look her way and she began to relax. They smiled at each other often. It was very warm and Elise was getting hot. From her vantage point, about 6 inches taller than Carolyn, she could see Carolyn's black bra and breasts on display but felt embarrassed and guilty to be ogling her friend so she made a concerted effort to keep her eyes on Carolyn's face or on the other dancers. After about a half an hour the music slowed to a crawl.

Carolyn smiled up at Elise and pulled in closer so she could be heard,

"Do you want to sit this one out?" Elise smiled and said,

"Oh sure, when it finally slows to a reasonable tempo." Carolyn's green eyes were sparkling and she smiled and winked saying,

"This tempo is going to require you to put your arms around me."

"Oh." Elise said, taken aback for a second. Then just when Carolyn was about to drag her off the floor Elise looked at her shyly and said,

"I think I can manage that." Carolyn looked at her carefully but with humor and asked,

"You sure?"

"Of course."

Carolyn stepped closer and put a hand on Elise's shoulder and clasped her strong hand. Elise settled a hand onto Carolyn's hips, Carolyn's breasts grazed Elise and she gasp. Carolyn felt the gasp more than heard it but she looked up concerned and asked,

"You okay, we don't have to do this?" Elise gathered herself together and said smartly,

"Start moving your feet so I can figure out what I'm supposed to be doing."

Carolyn laughed and then ordered,

"You lead, I'll follow." Those green eyes played with smiling blue eyes. Elise took a deep cleansing breath, they moved together in time with the music.

Carolyn felt…safe, but there was also a shade of…excitement that she decided to ignore. Elise's scent was of clean soap and the lightest of perfume. It was a combination that Carolyn liked…a lot.

They moved through and around the other dancers. Elise pulling Carolyn closer when they had a close call with another dancing couple. Carolyn had an overwhelming desire to lean her head against Elise's shoulder but she fought it off, not wanting to frighten Elise, she stayed upright - but it took some effort.

When the slower songs came to an end - Carolyn gently disengaged their bodies and said with eyebrows raised in question,

"Shall we go sit down for a while?"

"Yeah, I'm awfully thirsty from that work out."

Carolyn led them back to the table. Room was made for Elise and Carolyn at the table.

Elise sipped at her beer and relaxed. This dancing thing was dangerous to ones piece-of-mind. The feelings that having Carolyn in her arms had invoked were very confusing. What is happening to me? She wondered in frustration. Tired of not being able to understand the feelings she was experiencing.

Their weekend was almost over. It was 3:30 Sunday afternoon and Elise was packed and ready to leave. They had gone out for a Sunday brunch and then for a walk in Grant Park and along the waterfront of Lake Michigan.

For the past hour they had been arguing about the point that the author of one of Carolyn's favorite books was trying to make. She had obviously made a mistake by loaning a copy of it to Elise because Elise was arguing her side too well. Finally they agreed to disagree -both noting the hour.

"You had better get on the road before it gets dark." Carolyn said in a serious voice.

"You just want me gone so I can't disagree with anymore of your lame theories." Elise grinned mischievously.

"Oh." Carolyn said in exaggerated frustration as she continued to lounge on the couch. "You're asking for it."

"Asking for what?" Elise asked, trying to get a rise out of her friend. Carolyn knew she wasn't flirting but she couldn't resist,

"You're playing with fire - little girl." Elise met Carolyn's eyes trying to discern what that meant and asked in a tough voice,

"Who's the little girl?"

Carolyn rose and walked over to Elise who was sitting on an ottoman that was shoved against an overstuffed chair. She stood in front of Elise looking into her blue eyes with a smile that seemed…predatory.

Slowly Carolyn reached out a hand, placed it against Elise's upper chest and pushed her back until she was lying with her body on the ottoman and her neck and shoulders on the chair. Then Carolyn climbed on Elise and straddled her hips. Elise continued to smile, bemused.

"Let's see who's little." Carolyn said as she began tickling Elise's ribs. Elise caught unaware, laughed uncontrollably until she gritted her teeth and flipped Carolyn over onto her back and onto the floor before Elise took time to return the favor. They rolled around tickling each other until they were both breathless.

In the quiet of the room, the only sound was their elevated breathing. Elise wanted to stay like this but she couldn't…or wouldn't face why so she jumped up and put out a hand to help Carolyn up off of the floor. Carolyn allowed herself to be pulled to her feet. They smiled at each other and then Carolyn followed Elise to the door, Elise picked up her bag and said,

"Thank you for a fantastic weekend. I had a lot of fun."

"Good." Carolyn returned, "I'm so glad you came."

"Well…I'll see you soon."

"Count on it." Carolyn countered. Elise didn't move she stood waiting…hoping…and then Carolyn leaned close and placed a kiss on Elise's soft lips. It wasn't a long kiss and it was just soft lips touching equally soft lips but a jolt shot through Elise's body and she pulled back in fear. Carolyn smiled gently and commanded,

"Drive carefully."

"I will."

"Call when you get home safely."

"Yes." And Elise was gone.

Elise's thoughts of the weekend crowded everything else out of their way as she drove out of the city toward home. Carolyn in her boxers and thin T-shirt, lounging on Saturday morning, dancing with Carolyn - watching her and then holding her close. Happily wrestling on the floor in Carolyn's condo and the kiss. God…what was all this - am I having feelings for…Carolyn?

Carolyn smiled into the phone and said,

"Goodbye." She reached over and replaced the phone, then lay back on her bed snuggling down into the pillows and blankets. Elise had just called to tell Carolyn she was home safe. The weekend had been a really nice time. She couldn't quite put her finger on what she was feeling. Elise had been by turns; captivating, thoughtful, fun and…innocent.

Dancing…the feeling of being held in Elise's strong arms, not against her but very close was intoxicating. Carolyn considered if she wanted to act or at least discuss this slight attraction to Elise…with Elise. Finally she called Lisa instead,

"Hi, it's Carolyn."

"Hey - what's up?"

"Not much…Elise left a couple of hours ago and I'm just lounging. I've got some papers to read and grade before I crash for the evening." Lisa smiled slightly and invited Carolyn to talk,

"So how was the weekend together?"

"It was…fun."

"And…" Lisa prodded,

"And what?" Carolyn asked,

"And what happened? Anything you want to share?"

"We had brunch and went for a walk today, that's what happened." Carolyn smiled defensively into the phone.

"Don't get bent out of shape Caro. I thought maybe after dancing - something might develop."

"We're just friends." Carolyn explained in a defensive tone.

"I know, I heard that the first 18 times but…I'd like YOU to tell me THAT YOU don't feel anything at all for her. I mean…shit, I feel something for her, she's gorgeous."

"She straight!" Carolyn said with emphasis, "So leave her alone."


"Back to that are we." Carolyn dodged.

"Spill it Carolyn." Lisa ordered. Carolyn laughed and said,

"Okay, maybe a tiny infatuation. No big deal."

"Well for what it's worth, I think she is interested in you too."

"She is not, she's just really…sweet."

Lisa smiled to herself and asked with all the innocence she could muster,

"She seemed to enjoy dancing cheek to cheek with you, are you really convinced she's straight or are you making excuses in fear of making another Tanya-like mistake."

"Now I remember why I don't like you."

"Yeah remember, it's cause I don't leave you alone in your fucking fantasy world."

Carolyn chuckled and admitted,

"Yep, that's why."

"Alright." Lisa laid off, "Enough for today, but I'll leave you with this thought Carolyn. Straight women don't slow dance with lesbians darlin'."

"I'm hanging up now, good bye." Carolyn said as she began to hang up the phone.

"Bye." Lisa yelled and got off the phone smiling a big happy smile.

Chapter Ten

A couple of weeks after Elise had been to Chicago she and Anne were in Weldon at the Coffee Cup Lunch having lunch. The farm work that had kept Elise too busy for much else was finished. This was the first time that Elise and Anne had been able to spend time alone talking, really talking since early summer. It had been too long, Anne looked fondly at her dear friend. Elise looked rested, at least more so than she had 3 weeks ago. She knew Elise often experienced a sense of melancholy as the autumn arrived in earnest and harvest was over. So expecting that this year would be no different she asked,

"Are you feeling down?"

"No, not yet. I'm just feeling glad to be done. I'm ready to relax, that's about it." Elise smiled happily at that.

"Good." Anne said surprised. "What are you planning to do to celebrate your liberation from farm work?"

"Carolyn is coming out next Friday for the football game."

"Oh." Anne said surprised but glad, "That will be nice."


"How is she doing?" "She's doing great, enjoying being back at work."

Anne considered carefully and then asked,

"Are you missing her?"

"Yes." Elise admitted easily, "But we talk on the phone often." Anne watched Elise whom she knew better than any other human being on the planet except for Bob. She had this feeling lately that there was always something more about Carolyn that needed telling, but Elise wasn't forthcoming and Anne wasn't sure what to ask. Silence stretched out and so Anne changed the subject to the kids and they moved away from the question of Carolyn.

Carolyn enjoyed the drive out to Weldon. She passed her Great Aunt's house on the way to Elise's and smiled. The leaves on the trees were just beginning to change colors. It was cool though and would be cooler tonight at the football game. Carolyn was excited to be going to the football game; she hadn't been to one in years and years. She was also looking forward to seeing Elise. Her heart skipped a beat as she turned up the lane marked by E. Johnson on the mailbox.

Elise filled the thermos with hot chocolate and called to Carolyn who was getting her jacket,

"How much schnapps do you want in this?" Elise held up the pint of peppermint schnapps as Carolyn came into the kitchen.

"Half of it, at least." Carolyn said smiling. Elise poured in half and maybe a little more before putting the top on securely. Carolyn pulled on her jacket and said to Elise,

"Come on, I want to get there early so I can get a good look at what we've got to work with to get you laid."

Elise laughed hard and warned,

"You are going to have to eat those words after tonight. You have no idea." They headed out to Elise's truck.

They climbed up to the top of the bleachers hoping to be able to sip their schnapps laced hot chocolate in peace. But after about 10 minutes they hadn't gone for but a moment with out someone yelling 'Hi Elise' up the bleachers.

"You're quite popular." Carolyn teased.

"Yeah, well they don't see me too often so when they do they want to be sure I get a friendly greeting."

"That guy over there is pretty cute." Carolyn said pointing discreetly at a man standing off to the side. Elise looked where Carolyn was indicating and said mildly,

"Pastor Tom? I suppose he is, so are his seven kids." Carolyn wrinkled her nose and encouraged,

"Okay, you tell me who is available and I'll look them over."

Elise gave her a 'you've got to be joking' look and said,

"How am I supposed to know who's available?"

"Well you at least know who isn't." Carolyn said, "So just point out the non-married ones." Elise did and Carolyn kept wrinkling her nose at them. After several minutes Carolyn perked up and said,

"How about that?"

"Who?" Elise asked curiously, wondering who had caught Carolyn's attention now.

"Right there."

"Where, show me?" Elise asked again seeing no one.

"Right there, long blond hair, v-necked sweater, sexy smile." Elise looked and then smiled,

"That's Pastor Tom's wife." Carolyn laughed and said,

"That explains the seven children. Too bad."

"What's too bad about it?" Elise played along.

"She would be perfect for you." Elise wrinkled her nose at Carolyn and asked,

"Perfect for what?"

"A little discreet time between the sheets." Elise suddenly looked horrified,

"Carolyn - that is…you are just trying to shock me." Carolyn was enjoying this immensely.

"I'm serious, these home grown women love to get a little while their husbands are out." Elise was shaking her head and smiling before she jabbed,

"Oh - are you speaking from experience?" Carolyn smiled seductively and said,

"Now that would be telling."

"I'm not going to believe that you would have…?" She whispered, "Sex, with a married woman."

"I'm just saying it's a possibility."

"No it isn't." Elise said firmly. Carolyn smiled, liking Elise's convictions and admitted,

"Well, I only brought it up because we are scraping the bottom of the barrel here and the game hasn't even started."

"I think that explains my status perfectly." Elise said, finally satisfied that being a virgin at 31 wasn't that unusual in a place like Weldon.

"Think again." Carolyn said, clearly not ready to give up the fight, "Those cheerleaders have seen more action than you."

"Yeah, well everyone knows about it too."

She looked at the cheerleaders who were bouncing around and doing all manner of cheerleader things and said,

"They don't look too cowed."

Elise smiled and said,

"You can't win this Carolyn."

"Okay." Carolyn conceded, "Maybe you're right, Weldon guys aren't too choice but I still hold that you will definitely owe me a serious apology when you have that first orgasm." Elise blushed and plugged her ears childishly.

"Not listening."

Soon after the crowd stood for the National Anthem and Elise and Carolyn joined them dutifully. The cool night air turned crisp but never got overly cold. Carolyn and Elise chatted and cheered, laughing and sitting close together to keep warm. Children who knew Elise climbed up and shyly said 'Hi'. It was like an old fashioned evening, something out of a Norman Rockwell painting for Carolyn. Elise hadn't felt so relaxed in months. When the last quarter arrived and the score was in the Trojans favor by quite a margin they decided to go home. They climbed out of the bleachers saying their farewells the entire way. They walked to the truck carrying an empty thermos, laughing in solidarity.

Saturday evening they were lounging on the couch with the television on. They were both tired from 4 wheeling. Elise had taken them on a long ride following a winding river, at times driving through the shallow water. It had been a spectacular day, chilly but clear with the bluest sky imaginable. They had a picnic along the banks. Elise even heating some soup for them over a single burner camp stove. It would forever be one of Carolyn's favorite days.

Tonight they had eaten a fantastic meal of T-bone steaks, mashed potatoes and all of the fixings. They were both stretched out with their heads against the back of the couch listening to the television. Well not really listening, they were actually arguing about who was going to get up and get the remote so they could turn on the movie they had chosen.

Finally Elise stood up glaring at Carolyn animatedly and grabbed the remote off of the top of the TV. Carolyn smiled happily and said,

"Thank you darling." Elise just growled.

They were both enjoying the movie and having a fun evening but the outdoors had a way of tiring a person out like nothing else and Carolyn began dozing at some point. Elise was falling asleep and she grabbed a pillow and put it behind her own head and leaned over against the low arm of the couch and laid down, pulling her legs half on and half off the couch. She was so tired; she'd just rest her eyes for a moment…

Carolyn kept falling asleep and waking up slightly, she was uncomfortable. To her right was the arm of the couch and to her left she realized sleepily was Elise - and she was in the perfect position to lay her head on. She was too tired to think about crossing personal barriers or if it was something she ought to be doing. Sleep had completely clouded her judgment. She laid her head on Elise's firm stomach, snuggled until she was comfortable and went to sleep.

The TV shown a blue screen and Carolyn raised her sleep-clouded head to figure out how to get it turned off. The remote was lying on the floor and she reached over squinting to find the power button. Everything went dark; she lay back down, then scooted up further to find a more comfortable position to spread out. Elise woke briefly to accommodate the new position Carolyn had just moved to. She pulled up the leg that was off of the couch and shifted slightly onto her right side facing Carolyn whose back was against the couch, they both went back to sleep unaware of their new sleeping positions.

Carolyn woke slowly, awareness that she was in Elise's arms came moments later when she opened her green eyes and focused on the woman's face just inches away. She carefully pulled her face back but didn't move her body away. Elise lay silent, except for the rise and fall of her chest as she breathed. She looked young when she was relaxed as she was now in sleep. Carolyn's mind traced over dark eyebrows and tanned smooth skin, lips that were full and perfectly shaped. She considered how soft those lips were anytime she had the pleasure of pressing hers against them. Her perusal went on for several minutes until she began to put a hand up to smooth back Elise's hair and caught herself. What the hell are you doing Carolyn?

If she moved she would wake Elise but if she didn't move…well being this close to Elise didn't seem like that great of an idea suddenly. Proximity was making her think of all sorts of things she ought not to be thinking about in conjunction with Elise. Just as she was getting ready to sit up and move away Elise opened her eyes.

She glanced in surprise at Carolyn just inches away…and lying on her arm. She blinked and then looked into Carolyn's eyes. Carolyn smiled slightly and said quietly,

"Sorry, I guess we crashed and somehow ended up…sleeping together." Elise blushed and gently pulled her arm out from under Carolyn and sat up, breaking the eye contact with warm green orbs. She felt disoriented and…her body was experiencing some kind of excitement that she felt embarrassed to be feeling.

"It's alright…and I'm sorry also…the last thing I remember was getting up to get the remote. I must have fallen asleep soon after…?"

"I have no idea - I can't remember anything other than seeing the opening credits of the movie." Carolyn said as she rose to a sitting position on the couch and then stood and stretched. Elise turned her head away so she wouldn't watch her friend and then stood and walked toward the upstairs.

"I'm going to go shower and then I'll start breakfast."

"Okay, I'll help as soon as I get done with my shower."


Anne cooked a big Sunday dinner, Eddie, Richie and Priss cleared the table and now Elise and Carolyn both helped Bob do the dishes, well…helped put them in the dishwasher. The kids were arguing amicably as they bounced around and through the kitchen and dining room. Anne was refusing to referee and she sat, a lady of 10 minutes leisure, before the adults were finished.

"Let's get out the football." Bob suggested. Everyone pulled on a sweatshirt or jacket and they went out into the crisp weather. They split up into two teams. Carolyn, Bob, Eddie and Anne against Elise, Richie and Priss. The battle was on; everyone got caught up in competitive fervor. All rules pointed to the fact that they would be gentle with each other but Eddie and Richie had their own ideas of gentleness toward each other and their dad.

Bob was quarterbacking and handed the ball off to Carolyn who took off running. Elise shifted and had her down before you knew it. Richie ended up in the heap with them. Carolyn moaned exaggeratedly and rolled over. Elise was laughing so hard she couldn't get off the ground and Carolyn scowled at her. Finally Elise stood and helped Carolyn to her feet.

Elise was often as rough as the boys when they were in athletic competitions but she took care that Carolyn did not get injured and that she always had help up off the ground. After about an hour they were all tired of the game and went inside.

Soon they were eating apple pie and ice cream. The adults sipped coffee leisurely as the kids wrangled the phone and TV remote from each other. It was 2:30 when Elise and Carolyn took their leave. Carolyn would need to be on the road in about another hour and she had to get her bag packed.

Bob and Anne sat at the dining room table a little longer. Bob looked at his wife and asked,

"Is it my imagination or does Elise…" Anne broke in finishing his sentence for him,

"Have a crush on Carolyn?" Bob nodded in agreement. They both sat looking at each other with serious faces. Then Anne asked,

"Do you suppose Carolyn knows?"

"I don't know, I couldn't tell but she doesn't seem to mind the attention Elise gives her."

"Should I ask her about this?" Anne wondered. "And if I do talk to her what would I say?"

"Maybe if we just let it be for a while it will pass."

"What does that mean?"

"Just that maybe it's a stage."

"You mean Elise being interested in women?"

"Yeah." Although Bob was far from sure that's what he actually meant. Anne considered her own question and then told Bob,

"Honey she hasn't dated a male since her junior year of high school. She doesn't have any interest in anything to do with males - I think that this isn't what you'd call a stage that she will grow out of given time." Bob nodded his face serious and revealed his concerned for Elise,

"I'm worried about her babe. She's like one of the kids when it comes to her heart."

"Yeah she's vulnerable and so in need of someone to love and be loved by. But I'm afraid she's headed for…some heartbreak and I don't want her to get hurt. She's had so much pain in her life it's just not fair." Anne leaned close and let Bob comfort her. He kissed her head covered in silky curls and told Anne,

"Honey we'll just be here for her if or when she needs us, that's all we can do."

Carolyn was packed and she wanted to get on the road. She was concerned about her thoughts this morning when she woke up in Elise's arms. Things needed to be put into some kind of perspective between them because Carolyn was scared to feel something that was growing stronger each time they met. She was frightened by her attraction and didn't want to talk about it, she made a pledge to herself to begin dating in the next week or so, an actual date, so the next time they were together she wouldn't have these feelings for her friend who for all intents and purposes was probably straight. She brought her bag down stairs.

Elise was in the kitchen putting away the dishes out of the drainer, she turned as Carolyn came into the kitchen carrying her bag.

"Did you get everything out of the bathroom?" Elise asked.

"Yep, I'm pretty sure I got everything."

"Okay, well…thanks for coming out…I had a really nice weekend." Elise said smiling shyly.

Carolyn smiled slightly. Elise was the kindest sweetest person she had probably ever known. She would be hard pressed to give up this friendship. You don't have to give up the friendship, she reminded herself, you just have to draw some boundaries and stick to them.

"Thank you Elise, I had a great weekend also. I'll call you when I get home, and we'll plan to get together in mid-November before Thanksgiving. Okay?" Carolyn began backing towards the door.

"Yes, that sounds good." Elise said following after Carolyn. She expected that Carolyn would kiss her; she always did when they parted but Carolyn grabbed the door and pushed it open before saying another word. Elise pushed the door open holding it and watching Carolyn walk quickly around her Jeep and heard the door open.

"Bye Elise." Carolyn called.

"Bye." Elise said frowning. Carolyn didn't seem to be able to get away quick enough and Elise couldn't understand why? She felt silly about wanting a kiss from her friend and went back inside after glancing at the taillights on the jeep as they turned onto the highway out of town.

The weekend had been strange…interwoven with really fun times. Elise loved having Carolyn at the farm, showing her the land - having company to do things with. It really made her happy. She had experienced some strong feelings that morning when she had woke with Carolyn in her arms; all her blood had pooled in her stomach and lower. It was disconcerting to feel this way about anyone, let alone her friend.

She tried to come up with some clues about how Carolyn felt about her. She remembered the kisses and tickling and conversation that generated these tumultuous feelings within. But Carolyn hadn't kissed her tonight, oh how Elise wished she would have. She stopped suddenly at that thought and considered what wanting Carolyn to kiss her really meant. Oh…I don't know what I'm supposed to be feeling or how I'm supposed to talk to anyone about this. In frustration she went in to work on the books. She had a lot of work to catch up on since harvest was in.

Hours later she drifted off to sleep, ignoring the voice in her head that seemed only interested in listening to Carolyn's voice over and over. She had been obsessing since Carolyn had called to say she was home safe. Enough was enough.

Continued in Part 2.

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