The Harvest

by G.E. Birch


Chapter Nineteen

Elise's time began to fill with the deepening of spring. She meticulously planned her planting, rotating the usage of her land. It was invigorating to be back at work after the long winter. She began plowing - on a Tuesday. Working steadily through the week, the black earth opening behind the tractor - releasing the vital nutrients that were necessary to sprout the seed she would plant in the weeks to come.

The kitchen sink had some dishes in it from breakfast and Anne dropped her jacket on the back of a kitchen chair and began running hot water in the sink. The dishwasher didn't have to be run but once a week because Elise didn't accumulate many dishes while she was working long hours.

She was almost finished when Elise walked in the door grinning at the sight of Anne.

"That's what I like to see, someone doin' my dishes." Anne smiled and warned her,

"Don't get used to it - I was just tired of waiting for you."

"I'll be down in just a few minutes - where are we actually going?"

"Let's go to Riverside and eat something besides burgers for once."

"Alright - I'll be right down."

When they were seated at Riverside's idea of a Chinese restaurant - Anne asked,

"How are things going with you and Carolyn?"

"Pretty well." Anne caught Elise's eye and asked,

"That's it? Pretty well. Come on - talk to me." Elise smiled and told Anne,

"I would but I don't want you to fuss about her."

"Elise, I'm not going to fuss about Carolyn. I am really glad you met her." Elise stared at her hard, her eyebrow raised in challenge - an amused twist to her lips.

"I'll admit that…I was a little jealous of her." Elise frowned and asked,

"Jealous? Of what?"

"Well you've been my best friend my whole life Elise and I guess I've felt like Carolyn was going to come between us somehow."

"Anne!" Elise exclaimed but then she thought about how Carolyn had sort of come between them. Not talking to Anne about Carolyn had put a little distance between them. Elise hadn't wanted to upset Anne and hadn't wanted to defend Carolyn when she was angry.

"Yeah, yeah - enough. Tell me how everything is going." Elise smiled kindly and said,

"Anne, you're like a sister to me and you will be all our lives. It didn't stop when you married Bob and it won't stop if Carolyn and I end up together." Anne felt tears gathering and she forced them away by asking,

"So you guys are doing okay?" Elise smiled at the obvious avoidance of the subject and said,

"We are doing fine. I could spend every weekend and more with her but she's not ready for anything like that yet. She's a little…fearful of commitment."

"Is that what you want, a commitment?" Elise nodded her head and answered,

"I don't want to be living together tomorrow but I think I could spend the rest of my life with her and never tire of seeing her or talking to her. She makes me feel…well…everything just seems right when she's around." Anne smiled and said,

"That sounds like love."

"Yep." Elise agreed. She didn't say anything more about love to Anne because it was just between she and Carolyn…the specifics.

The two friends moved on with their conversation, comfortable and happy once again.


Carolyn talked to herself when she had time - working on believing that she wouldn't make the same mistakes she had before with Tanya. She thought about Elise and her gentleness and the evidence of her strength and caring and she told herself it was real.

But her head often overcompensated for her heart and she became afraid of her own judgment in the late hours of the night when she was alone and living with her demons.

One evening late she decided to call in some reinforcements and dialed Jamie's number.

"Hello." Said a groggy voice that was going to be crabby as soon as he found out it was Carolyn.

"Hi - it's your rude sister waking you up. I'm sorry I just wanted to talk, are you too tired?"

"Grrr, yes I'm too tired - but I'll talk with you since it must be life threatening for you to wake me at…12:23 Eastern Standard Time."

"Yeah, I forgot about that time thing too."

"So what's up?"

"Well I was wondering if I could talk you into coming to Chicago for Easter if I sent you a ticket?"

"Uh - I think I work on Good Friday but I could do some switching."

"Are you sure?"

"Of course, any excuse to avoid work. What's going on - just missing my angelic face?" Carolyn laughed and told him,

"It's much worse than that - I want you to come and stay with me and meet Elise. I need some reassurances that she is what she seems to be and who better to give them to me then my darling brother?"

"Oh goody, I get to spend Easter with you and your farmer. Please tell me were not going to that farm?"

"No we'll be here in Chicago. Although you would love the farm and her family if you met them. They are really great people."

"If you say so." Jamie said smiling in the darkness of his bedroom.

"I'll send you an E-mail tomorrow with some flight schedules - pick the one you like and I'll send you the ticket."

"Alright - give me a day to berate someone into taking my place then I'll get back to you."

"Great! I'll let you get back to sleep."


"Come on - you whiner, you just got an all expense paid weekend to Chicago."

"Yeah, to visit my sister." He playfully muttered. Carolyn laughed and rang off.


Elise called Carolyn at her office; it was the Thursday before Easter.

"Hello, Carolyn Baker speaking."

"Hey sexy." Elise purred.

"Hi Elise." Carolyn replied happily. "What's up?"

"I'm calling to find out what I need to bring as far as clothes. Are we going out to dinner, or to Church or anything else I might need to dress decently for?"

"Uhm, I'm not sure about Church but we'll probably go out somewhere. Why don't you bring enough dressy stuff for a couple of dinners and everything else casual."

"Will do. I have to run over to Anne and Bob's for supper they are making dinner tonight so I won't miss the family dinner. I tried to talk Anne out of it but she wouldn't have it."

"Oh, I'm sorry to be dragging you away, I just want you to meet my brother."

"You aren't dragging me away, I want to be there with you. I'll be there tomorrow morning." She said firmly.

"Tell Anne…"

"Carolyn. Anne has to deal with things in her own way and cooking this damn dinner is her way. I want to come to Chicago, even if your brother weren't coming…I would be." Carolyn smiled at the tingle that Elise's words brought.

"I'll see you tomorrow morning and I can't wait."

"Me either. See you then."

Chapter Twenty

"There's his plane." Carolyn indicated out the observation windows as a big United jet touched down on a nearby runway. Elise grinned at Carolyn in the windows reflection. Carolyn turned and looked at her and Elise's eyes caressed Carolyn's beautiful face. Carolyn wanted to lean up and kiss Elise - and then she couldn't resist so she did. Their lips met in a brief kiss and then Carolyn reached for her hand and held it firmly in hers.

Elise leaned down and whispered,

"Do I still look like you just dragged me out of bed?" Carolyn laughed,

"Who dragged who out of bed?"

"Oh sorry, I did drag us out of bed so we wouldn't be late - but gee, lets see who dragged us into bed?"

"Yeah, you came so unwillingly." Elise smiled her white teeth flashing.

Ten minutes later they were on their way to the parking garage, Jamie having only brought a carryon. They stopped for pizza at Carolyn's favorite pizzeria and talked while they sipped mugs of beer.

Elise enjoyed Jamie's humor and especially the way he teased Carolyn unmercifully, filling Elise in on the stories behind each and every inside joke. Her eyes danced with delight as he revealed Carolyn's antic filled youth to her readily listening ear.

Carolyn loved this moment so much. Two people she really cared about, enjoying each other without any help from her - she watched them both. Telling Jamie to be quiet one minute and helping him tell the story the next.

"Quit encouraging him. He could keep this up all night."

"It's fine with me, I wondered where you got some of those crazy ideas you give your students, you should hear what she has to say about the President. It's no wonder really." Carolyn's eyes widened and she tried to wipe the smile off her face and scowl at Elise.

"Oh - I'm going to remember that." Elise just laughed.

Back at the condo they talked late into the night, sipping wine. It was well after 1:00 a.m. when they broke up the chitchat and headed to bed.

Carolyn and Elise had a quick shower and were soon asleep in their little cocoon. Jamie fell into an exhausted slumber.

Their weekend was so much fun that they all hated to see it end. They dropped Jamie at the airport by 1:30 in the afternoon. Elise stayed at the Condo until about 4:00 p.m. and then headed for Weldon - planting was beginning in earnest in the upcoming weeks.


Carolyn gave Jamie a day to settle in then she couldn't stand it anymore and called him. He was just home from a double shift and wanted to shower and eat but would call her back right after. Carolyn paced around impatiently until the phone rang.


"Hey, sorry about that, my brain was mushy."

"That's okay, are you up to talking or do you want to wait?" Carolyn hoped it was the former or she was going to quietly go insane tonight.

"No I'm fine, what can I do for you?" He knew just what she wanted but it wouldn't hurt her to crawl a little. Was there anything as satisfying as torturing a sibling? He doubted it.

Carolyn took a deep breath and said,

"I just want to get some feedback."


"Well, did you like her? Does she seem genuine? Is she going to rip my heart out and dance on it? Just that kind of thing." She chuckled and Jamie said,

"Liked her a lot - fun to be around, great conversationalist. Fuckin' hot! And absolutely ga ga over my big sister, she definitely passes." Carolyn smiled and agreed,

"She is hot!"

"Yeah but that's just frosting because there's so much else there Carolyn. If she didn't have half the character that I observed this past weekend there would still be the fact that every move you made her eyes caressed you, every word you said she listened as if you were E.F. 'flippin' Hutton. Her care for you is obvious to anyone who spends 10 minutes with the two of you. I think you should rest assured that she is a woman of quality and a person of her word…what you do with her is up to you, but she receives the Jamie seal of approval." Carolyn knew her brother had liked Elise but she was still surprised to hear him totally on board Elise's train, he had never given a resounding approval like this before.

Making sure that Carolyn wasn't confusing what he was advocating he said,

"Carolyn, just so you know. I am in no way telling you to snatch her up or anything like it. I'm just telling you what I saw and heard over the weekend, just like you asked."

"I'm glad you liked her and I appreciate you coming out to Chicago to check her out. I had such a good time I didn't want you guys to go home Sunday."

"I'll come visit anytime you send a ticket, dear sister."

"If I didn't know better I would think you only care about me for my financial generosity."

"Like duh!" They laughed.

Chapter Twenty-One

Elise began preparing for planting. It was a week and a half since she had seen Carolyn, and they were talking on the phone more often, Carolyn was calling most evenings. She would be here in 3 days and Elise was going to help Carolyn take part in planting some of her own acres.

Each night before she fell asleep she thought about Carolyn and herself, wondering when telling Carolyn that she loved her again wouldn't be stepping on Carolyn's toes. She wanted to talk about the future and with summer fast approaching she wanted to ask about Carolyn's plans. Would Carolyn be around? Would she consider staying out at the farm for a few weeks or a month? That was Elise's hearts desire to have Carolyn come out to the farm for an extended period. It made her heart ache with a powerful yearning.

Carolyn was busy at school, the academic year winding down quickly now. She wasn't teaching again this summer - her Aunt's generous land gift brought in enough income to offset the need to teach in the summer for financial reasons but she wasn't sure what she was going to do. It wasn't like her to leave planning this late but for some reason she just didn't have any initiative.

Elise would be working most of the summer and that would keep her out on the farm. She did want to go to her parent's house in North Carolina and made a mental note to talk to them this week and find the best time to plan a trip there. Maybe she would drive, that would be fun. It would really be a blast if Elise could go but…it was summer.

Carolyn felt a little more balanced about her fears. Being aware that most of her fears were irrational and based on something to do with someone else had helped, having Jamie's insight and approval helped. But most of it was…why wouldn't I feel better, Elise had slowed down to the point of stopping. She succeeded at making their time together fun and unconditional. She didn't ask for anything, didn't push, and didn't demand anything of Carolyn. Carolyn strangely didn't feel great about Elise's acquiesce, it felt unfair. How would I feel if I couldn't express how I felt about someone I loved? Guilt at her highhandedness made her uncomfortable, but she pushed the thought away, still too chicken to have Elise express how she felt.

Elise drove the tractor into the farmyard. Carolyn's jeep was parked already and she shut down the big machine and hopped out of the cab, jumping to the ground and trotting to the back door. Her jeans and navy T-shirt warm enough for the sunny day. She found Carolyn putting together lunch in the kitchen and she took off her sunglasses and pressed a warm kiss to Carolyn's soft lips. They held each other, enjoying the closeness.

After lunch Carolyn changed into old jeans and a gray sweatshirt and followed Elise out to the tractor. They were going to plant soybeans over on her land and Elise was as excited to show Carolyn, as Carolyn was to learn.

Days end found them hosing off the farm machinery in the machine shed. Elise was teasing Carolyn about her beginners' inability to stay in a straight line when planting.

"Those are going to be some fun beans to walk, God knows where I'll end up."

"I'm not a straight kind of girl, those rows are testimony to that fact." Elise laughed hard.

The weekend ended way too soon and Elise was alone again on the farm. Carolyn had just a few weeks of school left and she would be extremely busy for the duration. Elise might make it up for the last couple of days of school but then the summer would be upon them and she wanted to know, needed to know where they were heading.

Carolyn had a lot of things to do and not that much time to do them in. Some evenings she just wanted to walk in the door and see Elise and the impossibility of feeling that way and yet not letting their relationship go further made her feel frustrated with herself and mean. She noticed it was she herself making all the calls between them, unless asked Elise never called. She tried to be rational about it, knowing in her mind that Elise was being respectful not negligent. Everything can't be your way Carolyn. She told herself disgusted with her thinking.

Elise took a four-day break to go to Chicago for Carolyn's last day of school followed by a weekend of winding down. The trees were budding, their leave bursting forth overnight. All the way there Elise talked to herself about asking Carolyn to come out to the farm for a while. If she didn't ask her now…she was afraid the chance to ask would be gone.

She ached to hear Carolyn telling her she cared. She loved her so much and it was driving her around the bend to not be able to say the words. They echoed in her head constantly, making her dizzy. Keeping a lid on powerful emotions wasn't a good thing and it was really beginning to wear, something had to change and soon.

Elise trotted across campus, the trees in the process of transformation - some just budding, some bursting with green. The familiar smell of spring filled her head and made her giddy with joy. Okay maybe that was mostly about seeing Carolyn in a few minutes. She ran the stairs, not wanting to wait for the elevator.

The knock on her door brought Carolyn's attention from the grade book she had almost completed, to the opening door. She stood - smiling at Elise. Her 501's molded to her long legs, a lavender oxford tucked in them. Carolyn met her just as the door closed and she lifted her head for a kiss. Suddenly everything was right with Carolyn's world and she asked Elise,

"Could you give me about 5 minutes and then I'll be finished and we can go eat."

"Sure." Carolyn sat down, distracted now but determined to get this last task done and the year over. Elise sat down on the battered couch and thumbed through an old New Yorker.

When Carolyn had double-checked everything twice she slapped the book closed and said,

"Come on - I need to hand this over. We'll get the rest of this stuff tomorrow." They walked down to the departmental office and Carolyn talked to the woman there for a bit. Afterwards they walked across campus to Elise's truck and made their way to a restaurant.

Elise smiled at Carolyn who seemed wound pretty tight.

"Do you want to talk about it?" Elise asked.

"Nothing to talk about, I've just had so much to do and suddenly I don't." She smiled happily at the thought.

"Maybe a big old drink will relax me and I won't be such a bore. I'm so glad you're here, I…really am glad you could come." Elise smiled she liked hearing that.

"I wouldn't have missed it. There's nothing that could keep me away Carolyn, if you need me here." Elise blushed slightly but Carolyn didn't see it because she was looking out the widow.

They ate a hearty dinner of Tex-Mex food and had a couple of margaritas to boot.

"I think maybe we need to go for a walk before we drive home. I could drive in the country, but not here."

"Let's go for a walk then." Carolyn agreed easily. They paid the check and exited the restaurant. Elise took Carolyn's hand and they began walking. It seemed to Carolyn that she was so…. so everything that she thought she was going to cry. Things just worked when Elise was near. She wasn't afraid, wasn't lonely, wasn't unhappy, wasn't moody.

When Elise felt sober enough they made their way to the pick-up and headed for Carolyn's. Carolyn's heart was filled to overflowing with…powerful emotions. Touching Elise was the only way to communicate her feelings - she didn't have the words.

Carolyn walked through her bedroom lighting candles and pulling down the bedding. She flipped on the stereo and was reminded of the first night they had made love. She heard the Jacuzzi filling and left her musings and joined Elise. They helped each other strip off their clothes, moving slowly but with purpose.

Once in the big tub Carolyn sat between Elise's legs leaning back against her. The water was soothing and warm. Elise's fingers slowly drifted across Carolyn's body, barely touching but keeping Carolyn's body humming with arousal. In unspoken communication they moved slowly.

Carolyn intertwined her fingers with Elise's and brought them to her lips, planting soft kisses on her palm and between her fingers. Feeling the pulse point at Elise's wrist with her tongue. When the water cooled they moved in a lovers haze into the bedroom.

Carolyn worshipped Elise's silky skin. Across her breasts and lower, her senses alive with Elise's heady scent. Her whispered words filling Elise's head until there was only Carolyn, her body and her touch making Elise's world spin out of control -until she gently landed wrapped in Carolyn arms.

She opened her blue eyes, now dark with emotion. Carolyn was looking at her with…Elise thought it looked like…love. But Carolyn didn't speak, even when Elise reached up her hand and wiped the single tear off of Carolyn's cheek.

Elise gritted her teeth trying to keep it all inside but she couldn't,

"Oh God Carolyn, I love you…so much." Tears filled her own eyes but Carolyn didn't move she just brushed the tears away and kissed Elise slowly until Elise switched their positions and gently laid Carolyn back into the pillows. She touched the beautiful body that was so familiar and yet so new to her. She whispered her love over and over, her touch making Carolyn gasp with pleasure. Taking Carolyn places she had never been, hadn't known existed until this moment. As her pleasure crashed through her she called Elise's name, Elise held her close slowly caressing her.

Silence stretched out yet neither of them spoke. After several minutes they shifted companionably to more comfortable positions and before long they were both fast asleep.

Carolyn woke with the sweetest remembrances of the previous evening. Elise and she had made the sweetest love and…it was going to be okay. Elise had said the words again- but it was okay, it didn't change anything really - they were just words. And they were sweet words to hear from the sweetest woman who had ever lived. Carolyn slipped out of bed and went to the bathroom.

The sound of the door being quietly closed woke Elise and she opened her eyes looking around herself. Suddenly she realized what she had done…said…last night and she panicked. Was Carolyn royally pissed off again? She just couldn't continue this way if that was the case. With a heavy heart she sat up.

The bathroom door opened and Carolyn walked into the bedroom gloriously naked. She smiled a predatory smile and walked to Elise,

"Good morning, sugar." Elise smiled immediately forgetting her fear,

"Good morning."

As they made breakfast Elise nonchalantly asked Carolyn what she was planning for the summer. Carolyn smiled and told Elise,

"I've been so lax at planning this year - don't know what the hell I've been thinking. I think I'll go down to my folks place in North Carolina for a few weeks, maybe a month. I'm hoping I can get Jamie to come down, he has a break at some point but I'm not sure when." As an after thought she said, "I guess I should give him a call and find out. Then maybe a couple of trips to see some friends, in Boston and in California. I haven't gotten much further than that." She looked at Elise who was listening but looked anything but happy.

"How about you - what do you have planned?" Elise swallowed the lump in her throat and answered,

"Just the same old thing, earning a living." Carolyn smiled completely unaware of the undercurrent. Elise's re-profession of love was making her run, even if she wasn't consciously aware of it.

Elise looked at the silverware, the light glancing off of it. She tried to be calm and think about giving Carolyn space to get to the same place she was but after 2 ½ months she just couldn't keep up the pretense. With a heavy heart she said,

"I was hoping you could come out to the farm for a bit." Carolyn smiled and said,

"I'd love to." Elise brightened a little and asked,

"When could you come?"

"Um, let's see - I could come out the weekend after next. Let me give Jamie and my folks a call and then I'll give you some definite weekends when I'll be out." Carolyn smiled unaware that every word she uttered was making Elise hurt, badly. Elise sat quietly for a few minutes; Carolyn finished frying the bacon and drained it on paper towels. When she turned to put the bacon on the table her eyes met Elise's and she understood that something was wrong,

"Elise what is it?"

"Carolyn do you think things will ever be any different than what they are now?" Carolyn looked at Elise and frowned,

"Different? How do you mean?" Elise knew that this wasn't going to turn out well but at least she wouldn't be wondering, at least she would have her answers,

"Do you think that we'll ever progress beyond the every other weekend thing?" Carolyn frowned at the question,

"When we're ready to move to another level, I think we'll…see each other more." Elise said,

"I'm ready to see you more now Carolyn. I love you, and no matter if you want to hear it or you don't -it doesn't change." Dammit! Carolyn didn't want this to be happening,

"Look Elise, I care about you and I think things are progressing…at a good pace."

"Well then we definitely have a difference of opinion here. I was hoping that you could come out to the farm and spend…at least a month and that we could see how that went. See if we both enjoyed each others company in close quarters." Carolyn looked like she was going to run for the door and Elise held up her hand and asked,

"Could you just let me say my piece…I'll leave it be after that." Carolyn frowned wanting to silence Elise but she nodded her head and Elise said,

"Carolyn I love you. I wake up in the morning alone almost everyday and I think of you first thing, wishing you were with me or that I was with you. I dream about you in the day as I'm working and at night when I'm falling asleep alone. I will agree that there is a definite need for time - for both of us to adjust to each other, for us to find a working plan to combine our lives. But in all honesty I don't think that's ever going to happen. You aren't going to let it, you're too full of fear."

"You know - I can't believe that you are laying all this on me. You want to just move in together tomorrow and live? How long do you think that would last? I'm trying to help both of us make good decisions based on some experiences I've had and you act like I'm a fucking jerk to you."

"I never said you were a jerk. I said you were afraid. And you know what, that hurts because Carolyn I would hurt myself a million times before I would ever harm you in any way. I would spend my whole life caring for you, loving you. But you won't give me a chance and I…can't live indefinitely on the promise of every other weekend." Carolyn was afraid and angry and…she didn't know what else, but anger won,

"I don't respond well to demands Elise." Elise smiled sadly,

"I'm not demanding anything from you Carolyn - I'm just telling you how I feel." They looked at each other across the kitchen - both of them aware that they were at a crossroads. Elise knew she had to go but she couldn't stand yet. She sat there wishing to put the clock back to last night, wishing she was making love to Carolyn and telling Carolyn how much she loved her.

Carolyn could feel everything slipping away from her and she wanted to scream at the unfairness of it all. Fucking time! That's all she needed and Elise refused to give it to her - she was so angry and sick of…women.

Elise stood finally and said,

"I'm going to go home - if you…ever want to find me you know where I'll be." And without another word or look she walked to Carolyn's bedroom and gathered her things. When she had everything together she walked out into the living room and looked for Carolyn but she wasn't there. Her heart sunk even lower in her chest but she gathered her keys, methodically taking Carolyn's condo key off her ring and leaving it on the coffee table.

When she reached her truck she forced herself to get in and start the big engine. She sat for 5 minutes, waiting. She wasn't sure for what? Then she put the truck in reverse and headed home.

Carolyn sat on the kitchen floor, where she had slid when Elise had walked into the bedroom, her head on her knees tears streaming down her face. She could barely breath an ache filling her entire chest. She was such an easy target, never far from hating herself.

Chapter Twenty-Two

Elise walked into her house in a daze. The first thing she did was check the message machine but there were no calls and she laughed unhappily at herself for thinking that there might be. She was on the tractor and out in the fields before the hour was over - she wouldn't get much done but she didn't give a damn what she got done she just needed to be busy.

Anne laughed at Priss' anecdote about her friend Jena and looked out at the fields as she drove into Weldon to drop her daughter off at her friend Emily's. She frowned when she saw a tractor, Elise's tractor out in her field. Elise was in Chicago this weekend? What the hell?

She sped up and cruised into Weldon well over the speed limit. She said a quick hello and goodbye to Emily's mother and then backed out of their drive and headed toward Elise's. What was going on? When she arrived the tractor wasn't visible so Anne got out Elise's four-wheeler and made her way in the direction she had last seen the tractor.

Elise drove carefully; she had to stop once in a while to clear her eyes of tears. She questioned herself at every turn. If she could have let Carolyn take her time, if she could have been patient it would have turned out. But she knew she was lying to herself, Carolyn was too afraid to ever let go and love her and she just couldn't live the rest of her life hoping. No matter how much she loved the woman. It made sense but it didn't stop her from bawling her eyes out.

Elise stopped suddenly, a four-wheeler pulling in front of her. Elise shut down the tractor and wiped her eyes, feeling ridiculous and not ready for company. Anne took one look at Elise and shut off the four-wheeler.

"What the hell is going on? Why are you here and why are you crying honey?" Anne hadn't seen Elise cry for real in…since her grandma had died. Elise jumped down from the big machine.

"Oh Anne…" Elise couldn't say anything else and she felt Anne's strong arms come around her holding her close.

"What's wrong honey? Tell me."

"Everything's wrong, I tried to force her to…move forward before she was ready and I ruined everything."

"Shhh, honey you couldn't ever ruin anything." Anne said holding her close.

"Yes I can, you don't know. I just pushed and pushed when I should have been patient."

"You are the most patient person I have ever known Elise. Tell me what happened and quit telling me how you've messed up." Elise cried and then pulled back and said,

"I tried…to get Carolyn to…move forward, toward being together…full time; like a real relationship but she wasn't ready and she freaked out."

"Oh honey, it's going to be alright. When you two have calmed down it will look differently."

"It's not going to get better Anne, she is too afraid of a relationship and I pressured her until she couldn't take it anymore."

"What did she say?"

"She didn't say anything. I said it all - I told her she knew where to find me, oh Anne." A fresh wave of tears tore through Elise and Anne said,

"Honey please don't cry like this, come on I'll take you back to the house and we'll have chat over some tea." Elise let herself be led to the four-wheeler. Anne started it and charged over the freshly plowed earth toward Elise's house.

Anne parked right in front of the door and helped Elise off. They walked into the house, Anne quickly moving around the kitchen making tea for them. Elise sat shell-shocked at the table until Anne slid the tea in front of her and sat down with her own cup.

"Elise, it's going to be alright. Whatever it looks like right now - it will be alright." Anne didn't know that was the case but she had to get Elise to a better place. It seemed like the past rolled out in all it's pain…Elise's folks had just died again, all over they were experiencing the agony and loss.

Anne sat quietly for several minutes while Elise became quite calm. Anne reminded herself that this was about Elise and Carolyn, pulling herself out of the past. Putting the brakes on her memories. The room filled with warmth and silence until Anne said,

"You know that anytime you guys have spent with us we have thoroughly enjoyed Carolyn. She is kind and caring - she has a real connection with the boys and Priss thinks she's the ultimate 'girl.' I think maybe Bob and I can see her more clearly than you can in some ways. If you say she is scared and fearful of commitment then I believe you, she must certainly be frightened but I also know with certainty that she has very strong feelings for you Elise." Elise looked at Anne and said,

"Strong feelings are a long way from what I want then I guess."

"What did you want?"

"I wanted to live with her and love her…like you and Bob and my folks and every other person who is in love and feeling the way I do." The tears started again and she added,

"I couldn't do it the way she wanted and I'm so mad myself. Why couldn't I just let it go, maybe she would have felt safer with more time. Maybe she would have been able to love me the way I love her."

Anne thought about what Elise was saying and she did her best to remain partial.

"Elise, sometimes love has to wait. Sometimes it needs to…fester." Anne smiled. "If she loves you, which I am convinced she does, then in time she will be able to handle it. I think you did the exact, correct thing by making her see how you feel and walking away to give her some time to come to terms with her fears. Love is always stronger than fear Elise." Elise looked at Anne and said,

"Since when do you know shit about anything? You've been married to Bob for so long you don't even remember what it's like to get excited." Anne laughed and said to Elise,

"Honey, I hate to tell you this but Bob excites me more than anything in the world, even after 15 years of marriage." Elise chuckled,

"That's what I was afraid of." Small grins threatened to bloom.

"Elise I know that it's hard to believe, but just wait it out for now. You'll be busy on the farm for several months and that will give Carolyn time to consider what life without you will be like."

"Great - that's the last thing I want her to consider. She's strong and she can live without me easily."

"Maybe but I know she doesn't want to."

"How do you know?" Anne felt the conviction of her words but she couldn't explain it so she said, "I can smell it."

"That's it? You can smell it?"


"That isn't much to hang on to."

"I'll expect you at our house for dinner every night for the foreseeable future."

"Anne, I'll be fine."

"I know you will be, but you're expected at dinner no matter how great you feel." Elise smiled and agreed,


Later that evening Bob and Anne were lying together in bed talking about Elise,

"I will personally break her…body in tiny little pieces if she doesn't turn out to be the person Elise thinks she is!" Bob laughed at her fierce protection of Elise,

"Honey you know I couldn't live without you if you had to go to prison for defending Elise." Anne smiled and said,

"You could come visit me in my cell and I'd…"

"You're not going to prison you nut, you have to let Elise fight her own battles. Your job is to pick up the pieces afterwards."

"Shitty job."

"Yeah." Bob agreed.


Carolyn spent an hour on the floor and then she spent several more hours crying in her bed and then she proceeded to drink herself into a stupor. She knew she would feel like hell in the morning but nothing could stop her from trying to stop the pain.

In the morning her hangover wasn't near bad enough to block out the memories of Elise's words and she grabbed the phone and called her parents.

"Hello." Her Mother's cultured voice answered.

"Hi Mom, it's Carolyn. I was calling to see about heading down to North Carolina for a vacation. What's the story or schedule?"

"Hello dear. Uh, your father and I are going down in August, we could go sooner but we decided that a month was enough. Jamie seems to be going only for a week - I think in another week or so because he has to work at the hospital throughout the summer."

"I guess I'd better call him and maybe the two of us can show up there at the same time."

"That sounds great dear. Are you going to be able to make it in August?" "Maybe, but I haven't made any real firm plans yet."

"Is everything okay dear?"

"Yes Mom it is, I'm just ready to get out of Chicago for a while."

"Call me with your plans dear, I'll have your father send out a key."

"Thanks Mom."

"Of course darling."

"I love you."

"I love you dear."


Carolyn called Jamie and left a message. She told him to call no matter what and knew that he would the minute he arrived home.

She cooked herself supper and waited for Jamie to arrive home. When the phone rang she thought it might be Elise but it was Jamie's cheerful voice on the other end,

"Hey big sister, what can I do for ya?"

"Hey." Carolyn said tiredly, "I was just calling to find out if you'd mind if I joined you in North Carolina?" Jamie heard something in Carolyn's voice and he asked,

"What's wrong?" Carolyn's voice cracked as she said,

"Oh…Elise and I are finished…I guess." Jamie hid his surprise and said,

"You want to talk about it?"

` "No - I just want to know when you're going to North Carolina?"

"I'm going down next Saturday the 7th. Can you come then?"


"Great! Do you want to tell me anything now?" He hoped she would talk but she refused again,

"Nah, it's just at the end of the week - I'll tell you then."

"Okay but…I'd like you to call me if you want to talk. Agreed?"

"Yep, I'll call if I want to talk." Carolyn rang off unable to tell Jamie about Elise right now. This was not good.

Jamie sat holding the phone, very worried about Carolyn. What had happened since he had been there? When he had left them things were good, great even, now…gone? He hated to hear the hurt in Carolyn's voice and he would certainly hate Elise if she had hurt Carolyn but he doubted it was as simple as all that.

Chapter Twenty-Three

Carolyn began the long journey to North Carolina on a Wednesday. She didn't want to drive 12 hours a day. She wanted to relax along the way. She was only on the road for about an hour when thoughts of Elise began to torture her and they wouldn't let loose.

After a couple of hours she pulled over and looked at herself in the mirror. Her blond hair was pulled back in a ponytail, her green eyes were wide and under them her skin looked bruised. Shell- shocked, that's how she felt - for the previous 3 days she had cried and she hoped she didn't have any more tears but she knew she was wrong about that.

On top of everything she wondered if Elise was okay, she kept thinking about making love with Elise on Friday night. She comforted herself with Elise's love and then immediately got angry with herself for being weak.

The first night she stayed in a hotel in Indianapolis. She channel surfed and put away 4 beers before she even attempted to try and sleep. In the ten minutes before she all but passed-out Elise's face swam in her mind. Blue eyes tempting her, smiling lips, soft kisses…

In the morning she was on the road early and decided to get as far as Little Rock before stopping. Today she felt less hurt and more anger, she reveled in it because she knew it wouldn't last long - she'd be bawling again before the end of the day.

Each evening she checked in with Jamie, at his insistence. She told him where she was and lied that she was okay.


She parked her car in the driveway and walked to the front door. The pictures she had seen of the house during construction didn't do it justice. It was beautiful - her parent's had said they were very pleased and she could see why. She stepped inside, the newly built smell of fresh paint and varnished floors filled her head and she moved to open some windows.

She walked through, looking at every room and enjoying the endless view of the ocean. She went back out to her Jeep and brought in her bags. Choosing a room that took full advantage of the view, she left everything and headed out the back door and down the sandy path to the beach. It was deserted and she sank to the sand and pulled her knees up to her chin, wrapping her arms around them she sat…for a long time watching the gulls and enjoying the salty breeze on her face.

She had been sitting for along time when she finally felt calm enough to take stock of what had happened between she and Elise. Trying to disengage her emotions, she contemplated the clouds and the sunlight dancing on the waves - her mind listening to her memory. The sun was getting very warm and Carolyn stripped down to her shorts and T-shirt.

What Elise wanted was…the whole enchilada. She wanted a serious relationship, with planning, and compromising and…a lot of unknown variables. All of this Carolyn found unsettling and scary.

Okay, that's what Elise wants, but what do I want? She thought some more… Do I want a relationship with anyone? Yes, but…I want to be sure it's right. Do you want Elise in your life? Yes. How? Well I want her friendship. And as a lover? God, I could settle for friendship but the loss of Elise, as a lover would be devastating. Well some would argue that you've already lost that so you had better get something figured out here.

In her head she wanted the relationship, wanted to make a commitment but her unbalanced fear was wrecking everything. She had thought she was dealing with those fears better but she clearly wasn't. The afternoon dwindled and she went back into the house. Food, she needed food - she took out some paper and made a list, keeping in mind how much Jamie ate and then climbed in her jeep and went to the local grocery store.

Late that evening she fell asleep glad that Jamie would be in by noon - she couldn't stand her own company much longer.


Elise drove home from Anne's, keeping her eyes peeled in the darkness for deer. There was an overpopulation of deer this year and it was causing serious trouble for motorists, several deer had been hit at night. The concentration this took shut her mind down to everything but the task at hand and when she had parked her truck and was walking into the house she pondered that if her mind wouldn't leave her alone she would get in the truck and drive at night. Now there was a solution!

She had resisted going to Anne and Bob's but Anne and Bob had resisted her refusal to come over by showing up at her house with dinner and the kids. She needed them now though and so instead of isolating herself she made her way there each evening after working. Thanking her lucky stars that someone loved her enough to make her have dinner with them.

Carolyn occupied every other nook and cranny of her mind. Elise couldn't remember her life before Carolyn at all; everything went through the filter of her love for the woman. She couldn't imagine unparallel torture worse than the constant imagine of Carolyn.

There hadn't been a decent nights sleep since she had walked out of Carolyn's condo. She found herself dozing at the table after lunch sometimes, her body just shutting down from the overload. She didn't sit around hoping that Carolyn would show up but she sometimes begged for it late at night after she had been tossing and turning for hours.

Farming was something she was doing right now to stay sane. She had always taken such joy in the manual labor; right now it was just giving her a reason to get up in the morning.


Jamie walked straight off the plane and into Carolyn's arms. Tears slid down her face and she held onto him, absorbing some of his strength. When he pulled back to look at her he wiped her tears with his shirt sleeve, smiling kindly he ordered,

"Come on, let's go to the house - proceed to get drunk on our asses and decide what's-what." She smiled tremulously and he grabbed her hand saying over his shoulder,

"Come on." As pulled her along after him through the throng of people.

Chapter Twenty-Four

Within an hour Carolyn was out on the deck grilling steak tips and watching the ocean. Jamie had run into town to the liquor store, completely disgusted with their parents' lousy liquor selection.

Carolyn felt better just having Jamie here. She owed him big for this last year of handholding.

"Lookie what I found!" Jamie said as he swaggered out onto the deck with a bottle of tequila and some limes.

"We are going to make a batch of margaritas that will surely wash away our problems and make everything right with the big bad world." Carolyn chuckled and sent a smile toward Jamie.

"You're going to set the world straight with tequila?"

"Not straight!" Jamie feigned in an appalled voice. Carolyn laughed.

Jamie liked that sound, if he could get her laughing maybe that look of defeat would disappear and he could find out what happened without all the waterworks. His genes seriously rebelled against female tears, especially his sisters. He hated to see her in pain.

He went back into the kitchen and began pouring ingredients into the blender of ice. A couple of minutes later he made his way outside to Carolyn with a frozen margarita of some magnitude.

"Whoa - what is that, half the blender?" Jamie agreed happily,

"Yep and I have the other half."

"So you're prepared to scrape me off the deck and shove me in bed about an hour from now?"

"Don't guzzle it!" He ordered as he took a huge gulp, "Sip it slowly and you'll be fine." Carolyn raised her eyebrow at him,

"Following that example."

"Um huh…" He swallowed another gulp, "Yum that's good if I do say so myself."

They slowly sipped as they made fajitas with the steak and vegetables Carolyn had grilled. Carolyn told him about the last day of school and Jamie regaled her with the insanity of the hospital he was working at.

"Remind me to never get hurt or sick in that area of Connecticut." Carolyn laughed. They smiled at each other. When everything was cleaned up, Jamie made a pitcher of margaritas and they went back out on the deck, seating themselves in lounge chairs. The sun would go down in an hour or so. Jamie got comfortable and then said to Carolyn,

"I think you should just lay everything out for me Carolyn. I don't know if I can help but I sure can listen." Carolyn smiled sadly and took a deep breath. The water glittered with the falling sun. Carolyn let the panorama calm her and began to tell her sad story,

"It started a week or so ago. Elise was in Chicago; we were having a very…romantic weekend. At some point she told me again that she loved me. It sat okay with me this time - or so I thought. I remember hearing her say it and I thought at the time 'It's okay - it doesn't change anything.' But the next morning I think I was maybe a little freaked out. Not only because she said it again but also because…the day before had been…emotionally intense. Not in a bad way." She assured, "But in a very powerful way. And I think I was experiencing some new and scary feelings…so…we were getting breakfast together and she asked what I was doing for the summer. I told her about coming here and about a trip I wanted to take to Boston and maybe California. She wanted to know if I was going to come out to the farm. I said yes. She asked when…I ticked off some weekends. She asked me if things would always be this way?" At Jamie's confused look she explained,

"Always a weekend thing…and then suddenly I felt like I was being trapped and I said we'd move to the next level when it was time…She didn't seem to think that was good enough. She said she was ready to see me more - wanted me to come out and stay with her for a while this summer and…make a commitment." Carolyn smiled…it didn't reach her eyes,

"I told her not to threaten me. She accused me of being so full of fear that I would always just want things as they are now…And then she told me that I knew where to find her if I wanted her." Carolyn's lips trembled but she didn't shed any tears.

Jamie sat quietly thinking about what Carolyn was saying, finally he asked,

"Are you angry with her?" Carolyn considered and then answered,

"Oh, once a day for about 10 minutes…I'm much more angry with myself."

"Why - about what?" Jamie asked.

"Cause she's right. Because I am afraid of trusting again and so I would perpetually reap the benefits but not commit. I'm disgusted with myself."

"You don't think that someday you could learn to trust her? Trust that she would love you enough?"

"In my head I've been telling myself that given time I can get there…but I have trouble trusting that."

"So you have absolutely no confidence that Elise would stick by your relationship through thick and thin?" Carolyn frowned and said testily,

"I guess that's the big question isn't it?" Jamie looked at the almost dark sky and asked,

"What would make you think that she might not be trustworthy?" "Well I thought Tanya was great and look at what a mess that was." Jamie wanted to yell but he said,

"So you're going to let Tanya…" He spat her name, "Run your life even now?" Carolyn didn't rise to the anger in his voice. She waited to respond considering if she was letting Tanya ruin her life even now?

"That's a good point." She conceded, "But the step from dating to commitment is so big. I'd like to know that it's going to work out before I commit myself."

"So you want some guarantees!" Jamie stated.

"Yes!" Carolyn said raising her voice angrily. Jamie calmed down instantly and told her gently,

"Love doesn't come with guarantees Carolyn, it comes with risks."

"Well maybe the risks are just too high." She said miserably. Jamie ignored her defeated attitude and asked,

"What happens if you risk everything on a relationship with Elise and find out you were wrong about her and had made the wrong choice again?" She thought a moment but could only say,

"Well…I 'd be hurt." Jamie nodded and asked,

"So you wouldn't die or want to die, or lose your job, or find yourself without the love of your family or friends?"

"No." Carolyn said quietly.

"So the risk of getting hurt isn't like the Evil Knevil of risks." She just looked at the moon beginning to rise and didn't say anything. Then Jamie said,

"And what if you risk it all and…" He mocked with a shocked look, "Succeed? What if Elise is exactly who she seems - caring, loving, honest, hardworking and…hot. What happens then?" Carolyn smiled weakly,

"I get to have a hell of a life."

"Yeah." Agreed Jamie softly.

The moon lit the night sky and they stayed outside and made their way through another pitcher.


A couple of weeks had passed and Elise was through with crying…you wish, she laughed bitterly. Now she was pissed. Angry at Carolyn for leading her on this merry chase, showing her what love could be, and then shattering her hopes and dreams.

She was still going to Anne and Bob's for supper each night, she still felt fragile - but her anger felt so much better than the earlier misery. She constantly reminded herself that she couldn't make Carolyn love her and that she had done the right thing. It was little consolation however.

But she often pondered if she had left well enough alone that she wouldn't be out on the farm fast losing hope that she and Carolyn would even speak again, much less work things out between them.

Two days after Independence Day, Carolyn arrived in Chicago. She walked into her condo and looked around, glad to be home, her tan body stronger but maybe a tad too thin. She felt physically good having spent time running on the beach each day.

The first hour she checked her mail and called a florist and ordered a big bouquet of flowers for her parents as way of a thank you. Then she began to make a plan.

It took her a full week to get up the nerve to call Elise. Her need to talk to Elise, to see her and hold her close was becoming a burden too heavy to carry. All week she had been running scenarios in her mind about what she would say, how Elise would respond - it was time to make the call.

'Everything begins with a single step.' Jamie had been saying that for several weeks now, there were a couple of times she wanted to strangle him with his lame platitudes, but of course he was right.

Her hands shaking she held the phone to her ear and listened. After two rings she was just about to hang up when the phone was answered and Elise said expectantly,

"Hello." Silence…for just a few seconds too long and Elise said again,


"Hi Elise, it's Carolyn…" Several seconds crawled by and then Carolyn asked, "How are you doing? How's farming going?" Elise fell immediately into the Midwestern 'paint on a game face' and said,

"I'm good, busy…we're baling right now. How are you doing?"

"I'm okay, I've been missing the…farm." Come on; tell her how you feel, "Missing talking to you." Elise tried to steel herself against Carolyn's words. The silence stretched out Elise didn't know what to say to that so she blurted,

"Well…you can call anytime you want." Carolyn answered,

"Thank you…Elise, but I'm actually calling to see if it would be alright if I came out for a visit? I miss your company and I'd really like to see you."

Elise sat down hard on the nearest kitchen chair as her mind kicked into overdrive. She would give a lot to see Carolyn again, to be near her, but at what price? Did this mean that Carolyn had decided to move forward? And there was the question of what she wanted herself, she wasn't really sure anymore. Pain had taken over the major part of her feelings but what if she could just see Carolyn, she ached with wanting to see her. The words stumbled out of her mouth,

"Oh…well…sure, if you want to come for a visit that would be fine, I guess."

Carolyn smiled feeling more confident and told Elise,

"How about I pack and I could be there by suppertime?"

"Today?" Elise choked out, reeling again.

"Yeah, if that's okay?" She knew Elise wouldn't be able to say no, at the very least she was too polite. In a daze Elise said,

"Okay…well…sure I'll see you tonight then."

Elise spent the afternoon in a haze, the boys didn't seem to mind that she wasn't interested in their conversation, they spent the afternoon talking about baseball and girls and the high school football teams chances for the coming fall. She needed to call Anne and tell her that Carolyn was coming; she wasn't really looking forward to that. Ah hell!

She sent the boys home early so she could call Anne and then get ready for her supper guest. Anne had cautioned her but she had also been supportive of the idea. If Elise weren't so nervous she would have cracked up at Anne telling her that 'being physical' (i.e. sex) might confuse things right now - so maybe it was best if she steered clear of that. Elise smiled and made a mental note to Anne some serious crap the next time she saw her.

She was standing at the stove; clean, shiny and nervous when she heard a vehicle coming down the lane. She took a deep breath - looked at herself in the washroom mirror and calmly, (on the outside) opened the back door.

Carolyn took off her sunglasses and placed them on the dash. Her heart pounding she opened the door of the jeep and smiled at Elise. Beautiful Elise… wearing cutoffs and a black tank top, her feet bare. Elise's face was slightly more angular than she had last seen her and it upset her to see Elise's blue eyes filled with uncertainty. Outwardly Carolyn showed no sign of anything but pleasure.

Elise hadn't a clue about the protocol of the situation but Carolyn walked right up to Elise and gave her a warm hug and sweet kiss on the cheek. Elise returned the hug but didn't have a chance to do the same with a kiss to Carolyn's cheek before Carolyn stepped back. They smiled at each other for a moment and then Elise asked,

"How was your drive?"

"Good…" Carolyn luckily was pretty quick on her feet and added, "Something smells great, do you need any help with anything?"

"Nope, everything is ready." She turned for the house and then turned back and said,

"Why don't you get your bags and I'll show you where you'll be sleeping." Carolyn went to get them letting out a shuttering sigh as she grabbed her bag. Well you're here.

Elise led Carolyn up the stairs on legs that felt filled with lead. She indicated a bedroom down the hall from her own and said as she began to go back downstairs,

"I'll leave you to settle in. Come on down when you're finished." Carolyn went in and sat on the edge of the bed, she looked down at her shaking hands. Well that wasn't so tough, was it? Hopefully things would get easier.

They ate a delicious supper of fresh corn on the cob, fried chicken and several different salads. They concluded the meal with fresh strawberries. After dinner they sat outside and drank a few beers as the mosquitoes buzzed around, talking about their summer thus far. Both of them steered way clear of anything personal. Which made the conversation stilted and awkward at points.

As Carolyn set her travel alarm clock, she thought okay - I gave her an evening of peace, tomorrow I'll move in for the…kill - wasn't the right word. But they needed to talk and she wasn't sure about how to facilitate that.

Carolyn was restless for over an hour before getting sleepy, it was so difficult to relax and go to sleep when you were 20 feet away from your heart's desire. At long last she fell into a fitful slumber.

Elise had spent her whole life sleeping like the proverbial brick. Hard work almost always motivated a person to get to sleep quickly and stay that way until it was time to rise. Since Carolyn had introduced her to all sorts of pleasures that she surely would have been better served not knowing, she hadn't slept through the night once. Tonight was no different - sexual desire nibbled at her and when she did fall asleep she had erotic dreams of a woman with blond hair and sparkling green eyes.

When her alarm went off she rolled over on her stomach and groaned. Damn that woman!

Elise had breakfast almost ready when Carolyn came down in jeans and a white T-shirt, work boots in her hand. Elise turned and looked at her quizzically and asked,

"What's up?"

"What do you mean?" Carolyn asked, noticing a pinched tired look to her friend.

"You're carrying work boots." Elise stated the obvious before saying, "You should put on shorts - it's going to be hot out today."

"Why are you wearing jeans then?"

"I'm going baling - remember?"

"I'm going baling with you." Carolyn assured her.

"You're going baling with me?" Elise repeated frowning.

"Yeah is that alright? I thought you could use some help and I don't want to sit around the house all day waiting for you. Besides, who could pass up the chance to talk about girls with the boys." She smiled at Elise, thoroughly enjoying herself now.

"Baling is hard work Carolyn. And really dirty."

"I'm not afraid of a little dirt and anyway I may get into better shape." Elise's eyes flickered over Carolyn's figure blushing when Carolyn met her eyes with an amused smile. Dismayed with herself she said gruffly,

"Alright but no complaining tonight when every muscle in your body aches."

"Elise." Carolyn said softly, "Have I ever complained around you?" Elise shook her head. And then Carolyn said sweetly,

"I will however complain about last nights sleep, I slept like shit." Elise said immediately,

"I'm sorry, is the bed uncomfortable? I haven't ever slept in there - maybe I need to get a new mattress?"

"No it wasn't the mattress."

"Too hot?" Elise asked frowning now.

"Nope." Elise turned to Carolyn clearly puzzled and asked,

"What was it then?" Carolyn pretended to consider before audaciously saying,

"I think it was because you were 20 feet away and my mind wouldn't let me forget it. I tossed and turned until finally I…masturbated. I was able to get to sleep after that." Elise's blue eyes grew huge with shock. Silence reigned for about 30 seconds until Elise said,

"You are really a piece of work Carolyn."

"Yeah, yeah - let's stop with the compliments and get to eating, we wouldn't want to be late." Carolyn was happy with the way that went and she enjoyed breakfast and Elise's company.

Elise on the other hand was in a whole world of intoxication with this woman's presence at her breakfast table. It was going to be a long day!

Baling was dirty work. The bales had been sitting for about a week to dry out and now they were putting them in geometric stacks. Almost no one bothered any more but Elise like the old way. The first cuttings went to hay stacks and the last into the hay loft. Bob and Anne tried to get her to just roll them with their round baler but she refused.

The boys were in top form today with a new female to impress. They talked sports before finally settling on girls. By lunchtime they were telling Carolyn intimate details of their lives and Elise wanted to scream. She did not want to know this stuff about Anne's boys. They needed a good talking to.

As they ate lunch Carolyn gave them all sorts of information on pregnancy prevention and also filled them in on all the diseases they could catch. Elise listened as fascinated as the boys were and thanked heaven she hadn't spent her youth catching communicable diseases.

The afternoon stretched out hot and bright before them. Elise continued to lead the group, working hard to get the stack finished so they could call it quits. Spending the day with Carolyn talking about sex was more than any ex-lover should have to manage. She hoped that Richie and Eddy would hear all of this and find it a good idea to wait until after high school. Fat chance. Sometime towards the end of the day one of Richie's friends asked Carolyn,

"When do you know when it's right for you?" Carolyn thought about it for a bit and then said,

"I'm not really sure I know the answer to that, it's different for everyone. What I have found though is that if I really respect and care for the person I'm having sex with it's awesome…" She glanced at Elise and their eyes met - Elise blushed. "And if I'm doing it just to…get off, so to speak, then it doesn't have the same feel, the same meaning." Thinking about the young women these boys were in theory going to at some point be having sex with she added,

"The most important thing to remember in a sexual relationship is the pleasure of your partner." The boys stood looking at her as she lifted a bale onto the stack from her position at the top. "If you want to have sex with someone because you care about them, then you want it to be right for them no matter what your hormones are saying." She wanted to make another point and she considered carefully how to say it,

"If you really care about her, then it's between the two of you. Telling each other about it is…I can't think of a lousy enough word. Just remember - you've got sisters, and you know what you'd want to do to a guy who kissed and told." They all nodded their heads in agreement. Then she added for good measure,

"Care about her first and for everything else - you've got a hand." They all looked at her and then laughed, embarrassed but proud to be talking about this important stuff with a grown and attractive woman.

When their work was finished for the day, Carolyn and the boys caught a ride on the flat bed while Elise drove back to the farm. As the boys trucks chased each other down the lane, Carolyn put her gloves on the dashboard of the truck with Elise's and said,

"They are a great bunch of boys. Anne and Bob are doing a great job."

"Yeah, they are great. Anne would crap if she knew what they have been up to with the girls of Weldon."

"I've always maintained that our parents are well served living with their heads buried in the sand."

"I appreciate you talking to them. I didn't know half of what you were talking about - thank you."

"My pleasure. Tomorrow's lesson will be how to please a woman." Carolyn said her green eyes sparkling with mischief. Elise's blue eyes glinted at Carolyn for a minute, before she threw a lob and headed for the house,

"Well if anyone could teach them that - it would be you."

Elise walked the short distance to the back door. Carolyn watched the way Elise's jeans lovingly hugged her seat and thighs. With a grin she followed her inside.

After supper Carolyn insisted on cleaning the kitchen so Elise went into the living room and laid on the couch flipping through channels on the television. When Carolyn was finished she wiped her hands on the kitchen towel and made her way into the living room. She wore a pair of cargo shorts and a well fitting short T-shirt. Elise was looking at the TV but felt Carolyn's presence even before Carolyn lay on the back of the couch.

They were both quiet for several minutes. Then Elise turned her head to look at Carolyn and offered,

"If you want to lay on the couch I'll move to the recliner."

"No, you stay there. I'll move in a minute - I'm too tired right now." Then she added, "And that isn't complaining."

Elise smiled in spite of herself - her blue eyes meeting Carolyn lush green gaze. They gave nothing away and Elise finally broke eye contact and turned back to the TV. It was difficult to have Carolyn so close, she ached in places she didn't know she could ache.

Carolyn thought carefully about what she wanted to do, what would be the right thing to do tonight? If she took her own advice she would probably leave Elise alone. It has to be right for them no matter what your hormones are saying. Oh brother. What the hell was she doing giving advice on love and sex, her life was completely fucked up right now. She lay still balancing on the back of the couch until… Elise heard Carolyn's even breathing and knew she was asleep. She turned her head and looked at Carolyn relaxed and exhausted. She might fall.

Elise stood and gently leaned over and lifted Carolyn down onto the couch settling her comfortably before reaching for the throw to cover her. Then Elise flipped off the TV so it wouldn't disturb her sleep and went into her study to do some bookkeeping. After an hour and half she was up to date and heartily sick of her own company. She walked across the room to where Carolyn was still sleeping and watched her quietly.

She carefully brushed blond tendrils off of Carolyn's cheeks and took in the beloved visage of Carolyn at sleep. Glad she was here, even if she was fast asleep, Elise considered bending down and placing a kiss on her soft cheek but sanity claimed her once again and she made her way through the house shutting off lights before climbing the stairs to her solitary bedroom.

Chapter Twenty-Five

A week after Carolyn arrived they quit early so Elise could play in her softball game in Riverside. Carolyn sat in the stands and cheered the team to a win.

Afterwards they stood out of bounds and drank a few beers with the team. Elise was cheerful and Carolyn much friendlier than her earlier meeting with the team the summer before. Elise watched Carolyn engaged in animated conversation with her teammates and wondered why Carolyn had come out to visit. She had been here a week and nothing personal had been spoken of between them. Not a word about how Elise had walked out of Carolyn's apartment a month and a half before. No discussion of how Carolyn felt or why she was spending time doing farm work with Elise instead living her life in Chicago.

Elise was utterly confused, Carolyn didn't seem to want anything except to bale and hang out. Nobody in their right mind wanted to bale so Elise knew something was up - but all she could do was wait until Carolyn said what was on her mind - but her patience were about caput.

She was sexually frustrated for the first time in her life and hated herself for it. She felt jealous that her friends were enjoying Carolyn's company and that was just ridiculous. Damn that woman.


As darkness descended they made their way to Elise's truck. Elise rarely drank more than a beer but she had had two tonight. She was still fine to drive though. They climbed in and Elise steered toward home. Carolyn tried to make conversation about the game but Elise's answers were short and clipped so Carolyn lapsed into silence for a time. Finally Carolyn broke the silence by saying,

"Is everything alright Elise?" Elise shuttered at her name on Carolyn's lips and replied sarcastically,

"Yes everything's just dandy."

"Good because you seem out of sorts and if that were the case then I guess I would have to bug you until you crack and tell me what's wrong."

Elise laughed a humorless laugh. What the hell was wrong? A better question was 'what was right' the answer was nothing, absolutely nothing. Finally she asked,

"Carolyn why did you come out to visit?" Without missing a beat Carolyn answered,

"Because I missed you and wanted to see you." Elise felt her anger rising. She closed her eyes torn between anger and agony, her confusion showing in her tone,

"What does that mean Carolyn? I don't know what you want from me, I'm no good at these games and I'm even worse at hiding my feelings."

"I think you're pretty good at hiding your feelings. I couldn't begin to guess what you are feeling right now." Elise spoke slowly reigning in the anger as much as she could,

"I'm feeling confused as to why you are here spending time with me. It feels like you've changed the rules but you didn't have the courtesy of telling me what the new rules are." Carolyn thought about being vague, she shifted in her seat knowing that this was the moment of decision from which they could go forward. 'Shit or get off the pot' - that would be the platitude Jamie would use for this occasion and she was damn glad he wasn't here to say it!

"I'm here because I care about you Elise. When you walked out of the condo that day - I just let you go. I mean after all, you were right - I was…grateful for every moment we spent together but my fear would not allow me to move forward into..." She decided to let that thought alone for the time being and carefully explained,

"I came out to the farm last summer to just isolate myself. I didn't expect to make a new friend and I didn't expect to be attracted to her either. But boy you called my bluff all the way; every time I thought if I didn't do anything it would just go away, you were there telling me that you were feeling the same things. I was truthfully more frightened for you than I was for me."

"Since you left I've thought of little else. You said I would never give us a chance to have anything real and substantial because I was too afraid. You were certainly right about that. I knew I couldn't afford to fall in love with you and have it blow up in my face. I can't go through that ever again." Carolyn stopped for some air, the words she was speaking coming from so far inside her that she felt sick to her stomach. They both sat with their thoughts until Elise prompted,

"So you are here for a visit and what is it you want from me?"

"As trite as it sounds - and I know it does, I want to pick up where we left off and see where it leads us."

"That is trite." Elise agreed angrily trying to control the hurt roiling in her stomach. Silence filled the truck cab. Carolyn kept quiet waiting for Elise to respond further. Finally with bitterness dripping off her words she instructed,

"Correct me if I get anything wrong here. After almost two months of silence you want to live a completely separate life, get laid a couple of weekends a month, have me falling all over myself to spend time with you, no commitment to be exclusive and then see how it goes?"

Carolyn sat silently not responding to Elise's angry words. Carolyn had no intention of going anywhere for the rest of the summer and she had not meant that things would continue as they had before. She had meant that she wanted to get back to that place so they could move forward from there. She had however beat herself up enough this last month to last her for quite a while, biting back a retort that she knew she would regret she began to say…but before the words could make their way out of her mouth Elise said,

"I'm sorry I said that Carolyn. I'm…it's…it's been a long summer already. I've been hurting pretty badly, Anne is heartily sick of my weeping and self-pity. I don't know if I want to be in a relationship of any kind…I didn't used to be uncomfortable in my own skin, I used to be at peace with myself." Carolyn frowned and looked up from her lap to look at Elise and said,

"I didn't mean to hurt you Elise, what we shared is so precious to me. I'm sorry that I'm a chicken shit. I'm far from perfect but I am working on these issues…I miss you…" Wanting desperately to connect in some way with Elise, Carolyn reached across the darkened cab to touch Elise's neck with her fingertips. She slid them up to gently caress Elise's cheek. Elise's breath caught and all her anger dissipated leaving only irresistible Carolyn. She moved her lips to Carolyn's palm and kissed it gently.

Carolyn unfastened her seatbelt and slid across the seat putting her lips against Elise's neck where her fingers so recently caressed. She whispered,

"I miss you so much Elise. Tell me what I can do to make it better?"

Elise's thoughts instantly scrambled when Carolyn's lips touched her and she tried to hold onto her hurt feelings but couldn't get a thought in edgewise between the feelings and desires bombarding her.

Carolyn gently nuzzled Elise's neck and ear her warm breath causing Elise to shiver. For miles Carolyn turned Elise into melted sugar with her sweet explorations.

"Let's not do this here, let's go into the house." Elise said quietly. Carolyn wasn't sure what 'this' was but she followed Elise into the house and then upstairs to Elise's bedroom. Carolyn walked in the room ready to say, 'I don't think sleeping together right now is the best thing.' When Elise said,

"Let's lay down and talk, I'm going to take a quick shower and get comfortable - you're welcome to lie back and relax here or whatever. I'll be right back."

The sounds of the shower still continued as Carolyn climbed up on Elise's big bed and lay back in the pillows. She had taken a quick shower and put on soft cotton knit boxers and a spaghetti strap undershirt. She pulled up the blanket and lay back again. How were they going to work this out?

The sound of the shower being shut off brought her out of her musings. She looked up when Elise came into the room. Elise's eyes darted over to where Carolyn lay. Elise had on an oversized bright blue cotton dress shirt, her legs bare. In her hand was a big fluffy white towel and she was drying the excess water from her hair. Carolyn didn't even pretend not to watch as Elise found a comb and combed out her wet hair.

Elise felt like she was going to crawl out of her skin. Having Carolyn watch her made her hands feel heavy and her heart pound. After putting the towel away in the bathroom she shut off the light and climbed self-consciously onto the bed. She hadn't even felt this vulnerable the night she lost her virginity. Relax!

"Carolyn…you know that I care deeply for you. I've just spent a month and a half reeling from the end of…our time together. I can't really see the point of trying to work it out, what's changed? And for that matter what are we trying to work out? I was so enthralled by you, by my feelings for you and what making love with you made me feel that maybe I wasn't real clear in my thinking. We live in two separate worlds. I'm not ever going to be anything but a farmer out here in Weldon. You are smart and funny and way over my head in a lot of ways. I'm not the one for you. You need someone who you share more interests with. Some one who…"

"Elise, stop it! If these are the things you've been telling yourself to get through this - then fine. But you name one god damn second that we have been even remotely bored in each other's company, one time when we didn't discuss anything and everything under the sun, one time when either of us were happy to head back home alone after a weekend together…I hate what happened between us that last weekend in Chicago. I was so frightened to repeat my mistakes Elise; I was so scared to believe in love again. I still am. But during the past month and a half I've been doing an unbelievable amount of thinking and it has just confirmed what I knew 10 minutes after you left that day, that it was horribly wrong! Just wrong. Two people who care about each other, who get along well, who have so much potential, need to give things a chance. I'm prepared to do that."

"Then you should have turned around Carolyn because I've been believing for 52 days and…14 hours that you didn't give a damn about me. That when I struck out in pain over you not wanting to deepen our relationship you just let it go. That hurt so badly, I worshiped you…" Elise found it difficult to go on and she swallowed hard to continue,

"Carolyn I can't do this. I've been certifiable in the past couple of months. I didn't just hurt in my heart; my entire body ached from the loss of you. I'd rather just cut my losses then go through this again…when you decide you can't take a chance or you decide I'm not right for you; a few months or God forbid a year from now." Elise's eyes were filled with tears, everything hurt so badly. But Carolyn had let Elise leave once without a fight, she wouldn't be doing it again. Remembering what Jamie had said about guarantees and risk she considered if she was actually prepared to lay it all on the table tonight. Probably not she conceded, but that didn't mean that she wanted to continue with this unbearable distance between them.

She looked at Elise who was wiping a tear off her cheek and she leaned closer and gently pulled Elise into her arms and settled back against the pillows. Elise allowed Carolyn to comfort her and after a few minute she settled herself more comfortably against Carolyn. It took her a while to relax but when she did she was suddenly very tired.

Carolyn knew they were both emotionally exhausted and that tomorrow would be a new and better day to talk about this so she gently rubbed Elise's back and ran her fingers through Elise's hair making Elise very sleepy. Before too long Elise was fast asleep.

Carolyn waited for about 10 minutes and then settled them lower into the pillows, using her free arm to push some pillows out of their way. When she had a cozy little nest for them, she made sure Elise was covered and reached up with her hand to turn off the light. It wasn't long before they were both dead to the world.


A hand squeezing her breast woke Carolyn with a start! Her eyes blinked in the gathering light, if it was this dark still it was pretty early. Elise's arm was thrown over Carolyn's body, her hand resting on Carolyn's breast. Carolyn knew Elise was still fast asleep. Long silky legs were insinuated between her own. The only movement in the bed was Elise's steady breathing and Carolyn's accelerated breathing. Her nipple hardened, treasuring the feeling of being held in Elise's strong arms. She had missed this closeness; hell being close to Elise gave her a strong sense of…coming home.

Knowing she should move out of Elise's arms didn't prod her to do it. She stayed where she was, wanting to turn on her side toward Elise and touch her, wanting to wake her with a lovers touch. But her better judgment won out and she relaxed as best she could and tried to go back to sleep. It took her 10 minutes but she was just about drifting off to dreamland when Elise squeezed her breast, waking her yet again.

In frustration she lay still, forcing herself to relax but it became an impossibility when Elise's hand slid under her T-shirt and rubbed Carolyn's soft stomach with her fingertips. Carolyn caught her breath and said in a whisper,

"Elise…please…" But Elise didn't answer. Her hand then slid up to cup an already aroused breast. Oh lord, I can't remain still for much more of this. Carolyn shook with excitement and she gently pulled Elise's hand away from her soft breast. The torture stopped for several moments and then Elise's hand slowly slid below Carolyn's boxer shorts. Carolyn's hand grabbed the wandering hand and pulled it out placing it instead against her lips as she kissed it gently. When every inch of Elise's hand was kissed, Carolyn slowly sucked the fingers into her mouth one by one.

Elise felt warm, she was dreaming about Carolyn again. And something was…sucking on her fingers. She opened her eyes blond hair surrounding her. Her wayward hand was being held and kissed by Carolyn, her own legs, traitors. She was clearly wrapped around Carolyn, not the other way around. Feels so good.

Carolyn was aware that Elise was waking but she didn't stop her ministrations. Elise placed a kiss against Carolyn's ear gently nuzzling her neck, loving the feel of she and Carolyn wrapped up together in her big bed. She felt her mind warning her to move away from this temptation but she refused to heed its annoying call and instead began gently kissing Carolyn's sweet smelling neck, her tongue carefully drawing a sensual pattern. Moving her hand to pull down the strap on Carolyn's shirt, a breast appeared aroused and engaging and Elise leaned Carolyn back and lowered her head. Carolyn moaned and held Elise to her, silky hair falling over Carolyn's skin, thrilling her.

In the midst of the hazy warmth was fiery arousal but Carolyn forced herself to push her way through it to take Elise's head away from her breast. Their eyes met, filled with powerful emotions. Elise's mind was clouded with desire but Carolyn held her tenderly until Elise was focused - then Carolyn asked,

"Do you understand what's happening here? Is this what you want?" Elise lay mutely for what felt like a long time then she said,

"Yes I know exactly what's happening." Then she bent her head to kiss Carolyn's waiting lips, yes.

Potent responses were drawn out as Elise slowly removed Carolyn's top, her eyes lovingly gathering information on the changes she saw. Carolyn needed to gain back some weight, she thought as she slid the boxers off dropping them off the side of the bed.

Carolyn took her time unbuttoning Elise's shirt; she spread it open and put her lips against Elise's collarbone. Her hands sliding around Elise, across supple skin feeling the muscles of her strong back.

Their coming together was at once fevered and slow. They took time being sure their fingers and lips renewed acquaintance with every pleasure point.

Elise's lips played across Carolyn's breasts and belly, not stopping her downward decent until she had Carolyn completely enthralled. Carolyn's body exploded with the pleasure of coming together with Elise, after so long…away - she was home again.

Elise's body hummed with arousal. Making love to Carolyn brought her almost as much pleasure as her own release. The scent of her lover surrounded her and when Carolyn touched her she gasp burning almost to the point of pain. Their separation had left her body feeling alien. Carolyn slowly drove Elise to a blazing climax.

Elise lay splayed across Carolyn's warm soft body. Holding her tightly but not moving, even though she knew she was probably crushing the smaller woman. As her breathing began to find it's normal ebb and flow she reluctantly began to move.

Carolyn's arms which were wrapped around Elise's back tightened and she said,

"Please don't move - I want to hold you." Elise lifted her head and smiling slightly she said,

"I'm crushing you, how about you lay on me so you can breath." Carolyn grinned and said,

"I can breath just fine. I don't want you to move." They spent several moments eyes suffused with emotion, tangled. Carolyn gave Elise a reassuring smile and Elise laid her head back down treasuring the feel of Carolyn so close. Pressed against her heart.

They dozed until there was a pounding…on the back door. Elise lifted her head confused about where she was and why someone was…knocking on her door. With the dawning she looked down into Carolyn's sleep filled eyes and then she heard a voice yelling,

"Elise! It's Eddie, are you in there?" Elise jumped off the bed pulling her shirt closed and trying to button it.

"Shit, how did that happen? I never over sleep." Carolyn sat up her naked body drawing Elise's warm blue gaze now laced with slight panic. She quickly finished buttoning and looked around for her underwear, pulling back the covers to finally reveal their whereabouts. She stepped into them and headed out of the room,

"They'll get the key out of the wishing well if I don't get down there - maybe you should get dressed." She suggested as she reached the door and all but ran toward the back door to waylay the boys. Elise caught sight of herself as she passed the mirror in the living room. She looked…like she'd been having sex; in fact she realized that she smelled like sex. Oh great.

She opened the door and found the boys heading back from the wishing well with the key in their hot little hands.

"Hey Elise. We didn't know if you were here or maybe dead. I just looked in the garage and your truck was there. What happened?" Elise looked down at herself and wondered why she had thought coming to the door dressed like this was a good idea. Eddie and Richie's friends were looking at her with shy interest.

"I guess I forgot to set my alarm. How about if I get you guys some pop or something and I'll be out in about 15 minutes. Sorry about that." They didn't care; the less work they had to do the better. They knew Elise would pay them for sitting around. Elise went inside and grabbed a six-pack of pop out of the refrigerator and took it back outside.

"Make yourselves comfortable - I won't be long." She began to turn away and Richie asked,

"Is Carolyn coming today?" Elise felt herself blush and she choked out,

"Yes, she must have overslept too." Elise let the screen door slam and walked through the kitchen and back up the stairs. At the top of the stairs she met Carolyn's twinkling green eyes,

"Carolyn most certainly is coming today." Elise blushed taking in Carolyn's state of dishabille,

she said,

"It's not the best idea I've ever had to go to the door half dressed smelling like…you. Hopefully they're not sophisticated enough to figure out what's going on."

Carolyn smiled and asked innocently,

"What is going on?" Elise glared at her and replied,

"We need to get down there in the next ten minutes or they'll be coming inside."

"Does that mean we're not showering together?" Carolyn was really enjoying this - Elise eyes were mesmerizing this morning and they pierced Carolyn with a pleading look,


"My you're grumpy this morning. I would have thought that my efforts would have put you in a much better mood…I'll have to do a better job next time." Elise's look of amazement made Carolyn grin. Elise asked her,

"Have you always been this trying? Or is this something new?" Carolyn laughed and then told Elise sincerely,

"Thank you for this morning, we'll talk about things tonight, okay?" Elise nodded her head, nervous energy pounding through her,

"You don't have to go baling with us today if you don't want to Carolyn." Trying to give Carolyn a day off wasn't met with graciousness,

"I'll be down in ten minutes." They turned to go into their rooms.

Twenty minutes later they were on their way out to the hayfield. Elise's mind raced as she drove slowly down the dirt road. She was fixated on the early morning activities in her bedroom. They definitely needed to talk but she hoped she was strong enough to walk away again if Carolyn just replayed the same old thing as a new dish.

There was only a couple of days work left on this cutting - she didn't know how long Carolyn planned on staying out here. Even with the distance between them she had really liked Carolyn's presence. She realized this past week had been the longest continuous block of time they had spent together and she suddenly understood that they had a lot to learn about each other.

Chapter Twenty-Six

The day was stifling. Hot and humid to the point that they decided after lunch that it wasn't necessary to temp dehydration. Nothing was pressing about throwing the bales onto a stack. Elise told the boys to stay cool and then she and Carolyn went into the house.

They were hot and sticky but before Carolyn could go for a shower Elise asked,

"Would you like to drive out to the lake and go jet skiing for the afternoon?" Carolyn's eyes lit up and she said,

"Yeah - that sounds perfect."

They quickly gathered the things they would need and went to the machine shed to get the trailer hooked up to the truck.

Elise unloaded one Jet Ski into the water - Carolyn making it clear she would rather ride then drive. Soon they were in life jackets, a waterproof bag and small cooler bungeed to the back. Carolyn slid close behind Elise and put her arms around her middle, snuggling close like it was 10 degrees instead of 110. Elise smiled and twisted the throttle wide open. Carolyn laughed with exhilaration and held on tightly.

The wind rushing at them was cooler because they were on the water. Elise took them on an exciting ride through some boat traffic and then after a time she circled the island. A few people were there but it wasn't too bad, this being a day in the middle of the week probably had something to do with that. Most people were working.

On shore they stripped off their shorts and T-shirts and plunged into the water, swimming way out. Their hot sweat covered bodies quickly cleansed in the cool silky water. When they were tired of swimming they spread out the towels and stretched out.

Silence reigned - for a while. Carolyn loved this day; it felt like a very good place to be. She wanted to talk. She hoped that they would be able to discuss things without anger and hurt. Her skin was getting warm and she flipped over on her stomach and leaned over Elise. Her eyes were covered with sunglasses and she couldn't see if Elise's eyes were open or not. She was still until Elise asked,

"What is it?" Carolyn took a deep breath and let it out slowly and Elise lifted her head and took off her sunglasses. Carolyn took hers off also and then said,

"I'm sure there are many ways for me to apologize for what happened between us. It was entirely my fault and I am very sorry but what I really want to know is will you give us another chance…" Elise began to say something and Carolyn asked,

"Can I finish?" At Elise's nod Carolyn continued, "I would like to spend the rest of the summer on the farm with you. I really like the farm but I guess it's you that I find irresistible." Elise's eyes widened having never expected to hear anything of this nature from Carolyn much less simple honesty.

"I will be living with some baggage, I'm sorry about that too - but I think that if we communicate better than we have in the past, and I know that it will take a little work to sort that out, I will be able to overcome the irrationalness of my fears. I'm asking for some understanding but I'm not asking you to compromise what you want. Just that you…understand that I am not perfect and I don't have all the answers. I'd like it if you could think about how you feel about me, about us and then you could be strong enough to help me through the rocky moments." There were tears in her eyes when she raised them back to Elise's blue gaze.

Elise was in shock! That was pretty much everything she had wanted. But Carolyn was also asking her to carry her half of the relationship and she realized she hadn't done that before. She had let Carolyn call all the shots, not feeling equal in experience or intelligence; she had just gone with the program that Carolyn set. She lifted her hand and touched Carolyn's beautiful face,

"It just struck me that as much as I wanted things between us to move forward - I…I guess I thought that because I loved you everything would just fall into place and ultimately we'd live together and have a great life." They smiled slightly at each other. Elise lifted up and placed a gentle kiss on Carolyn's lips.

"I'm sorry - I think I feel a little inadequate. I look at you and see a beautiful woman who is world wise and sexy and I wonder why you're with me. I don't have a college education and I'm a…farmer. You know how exotic that is - now that you've spent some time here."

"Elise…first of all farmers…well without them where would we all be? Secondly if you think that people have some preconceived notion of what a farmer is like…" She tilted her head thinking and then acknowledged, "You might be right, they'd never think that a gorgeous, intelligent woman like you is a farmer. But I don't care about you because of what you do for a living, I care about the person you are - I love spending time with you, I look forward to every minute. So if you could just get off that line of thinking - it would help us move onto more equal footing."

Elise raised her head and glanced around, she and Carolyn had been kissing for quite a while. She could see people quite a way down the beach but she didn't know if they had seen anything. She turned back to Carolyn who was smiling at her.

"Everything okay?" Elise grinned,

"Yeah. It suddenly struck me that I'm in the middle of a lake in Illinois kissing a woman." Carolyn laughed.

"Dumb luck huh? Too bad we didn't bring a tent." Elise looked down at Carolyn's body - her hard nipples showing through her transparent suit. Elise glanced around again. There wasn't anyplace they could get some privacy around here. Rats…

She sat up and looked out at the lake.

"Let's go for a swim." She stood and reached out a hand to Carolyn helping her off the ground. They walked hand in hand out into the water. The sand extended for about 10 feet; at that point they dove in and leisurely paddled around. The water felt wonderful.

They played dunking each other and chasing until Elise pulled Carolyn into her arms kissing her wet lips and sliding down to her neck. Quickly they were back to the point they had been on the beach. With a gleam in her eye Elise asked,

"Will you take your suit off?" Carolyn smiled wickedly, reaching for Elise's bikini top and unfastening the back closure and untying the strings. It floated for a second, as it began to sink Elise grabbed it and tossed it onto the Jet Ski.

She helped Carolyn slide out of her wet swimsuit, no easy feat.

"Just so you know, I am not standing on that slimy bottom." Carolyn said grinning. Elise laughed and told her,

"Put your legs around my waist."

They left the drive-in after they had eaten supper in the truck. Darkness came so late this time of year and they arrived home with several hours of daylight left. After showering they drove over to Anne and Bob's with a watermelon and beer.

The evening was fun and relaxing, laughter almost as constant as the buzzing of mosquitoes. They sat on the screened-in porch, the adults sipping beer and talking, the kids lounging around and listening then the next instant arguing with each other.

The memories of the lazy summers of her youth were played out in the simple ness of the life they led out on the farm - Carolyn had never known such peace. Every day she thought that maybe today would be the day she was sick of farm work or of Elise's company but every day proved to be another Waterloo, as she slowly surrendered her heart into Elise's tender care.

Elise told Carolyn every day that she loved her, and on the days when Carolyn communicated her fears they talked and Elise began to learn how to help Carolyn overcome them.

When they got a hankering for something beyond Weldon, they headed over to Riverside and spent time with Elise's friends. But most of the time they just reveled in each other.

Jamie called regularly, checking in to see how the 'grand romance' was going. (As he so fondly called it) Carolyn always answered the same,

"It's going fine." But he could hear pleasure and excitement in her voice when she told him what they were up to and he could hear 'love' when she spoke of Elise.

Elise and Carolyn had not spent more than an hour apart since Carolyn had arrived over a month before. Within 3 weeks Carolyn would have to be back in Chicago for school and Elise needed to talk to Anne. She needed a sounding board.

Carolyn shooed Elise out the door with assurances that she had a ton of stuff to do to prepare for school. She thanked Elise for leaving the house and laughed at Elise's pout telling her,

"Go! You have neglected Anne enough and I can't concentrate on anything when you're around." Elise smiled a predatory smile and advanced on Carolyn - who took off running, Elise gave chase and had her on the floor in about 5 seconds. They kissed each other hard grinning happily.


"I'm sorry about not being around more - I feel like everyday is Christmas and I don't want to do anything but…open my present over and over." Anne smiled at the analogy.

"Nothing to apologize for. You've been over here."

"Yeah, but I haven't spent time with you and that's what I'm missing. Come on - let's go get something to eat in Riverside." They talked and Elise once again remembered that spending time with Anne was something she needed in her life. Resolving to be a better friend she listened to Anne telling stories about the kids. They talked about farming and made a tentative arrangement to discuss some investing particulars. She and Anne both fascinated by the markets and students of the economy.

When they were eating desert Anne asked,

"So how are things going with Carolyn…from your perspective?" Elise smiled.

"Everything is going really well. I'm having a really wonderful time…of course she'll have to head back to Chicago in just a couple more weeks."

"What do you think that will be like?"

"I'm not sure - I could spend more time in Chicago if that's what we decide. I guess we need to discuss it but I'm a little scared to mess with everything. When things are so fantastic it seems crazy to ask questions about the future but I need to. I've been working very hard on…not letting Carolyn bear all the burden of the relationship." Anne looked confused and Elise said,

"Carolyn needs me to pull my own weight, she can't make all the decisions for us. And I don't want her to but I'm kind of new at the whole thing. If this works out for us she needs a partner not someone she has to see to all the time." Anne smiled and said,

"Wow, that's big!" Elise laughed and told her,

"Yes I've become quite progressive as you can see." They moved on to other subjects and the afternoon passed quickly and most pleasantly.

When Elise got home supper was 10 minutes from the table. Carolyn's smile was brighter than the sun when Elise drew her close for a hug and kiss before going to wash her hands. They ate and chatted happily. Toward the end of the meal Elise finally said,

"At some point in the next week I'd like to discuss…what happens in September." Carolyn looked up from her plate and saw Elise's gentle smile. She swallowed and said,


"I'm not making any plans - except for a plan to talk about it, alright?" She looked to Carolyn for confirmation. Carolyn smiled and said,

"Yes dear."


"This is really nice." Carolyn said as Elise sat down at the table pouring Carolyn a glass of chilled wine. They smiled at each other and began talking. Their communication was on so many levels; their eyes caressing each other, their hands adding a touch or tickle, their smiles almost constant. They ate their dinner slowly, feeling no rush.

After dinner they went for a walk out into the fields, hand in hand as the sun burned a path to the horizon, the sky bathed in pink.

"I love you Carolyn." Carolyn squeezed Elise's hand and looked into her blue eyes. "Let's talk about September." Carolyn nodded letting Elise take the lead.

"This past 6 weeks I've come to understand that I had no real idea what a life with someone would be like…could be like. I didn't know that we had to actually nurture a relationship or that the benefits of that work would fit so well. I feel ready to make a commitment. Now it doesn't have to mean that…" She searched for careful words to convey that she wanted a commitment but wasn't demanding one,

"I'd like it if we could decide together what works best for us in the next couple of months and then when we feel ready to move forward again we'll discuss it at that point." Carolyn smiled and stopped their strolling pace.

"Are you saying that you are prepared to make a commitment for the near future but not for…say the rest of your life?" Carolyn asked seriously. Elise chuckled and said,

"I'm saying I'm prepared to accept a commitment that is looking toward a long term future. But if you're asking -would I like to commit myself to you for the rest of my life then my answer is…yes. But…"

"Elise?" Elise stopped talking and said,


"I love you." Elise stood absolutely still, she forgot to breath. Gasping for air, tears gathering immediately in her eyes and she pulled Carolyn into her arms and held her tightly. They took their time, holding each other and kissing away happy tears, whispering their love. Finally Elise said,

"Come on, it's going to get dark pretty soon." They walked back to the house.


"Have you thought about how…what we'll do about…Ahh! I can't articulate worth a shit tonight."

"I think you articulated yourself pretty well a few minutes ago." Carolyn said smiling. They were snuggled together facing each other in Elise's bed. Elise grinned and said,

"Help me out here."

"Okay. Umm if I'm making a commitment to you and to a relationship which includes the whole 'happier ever after' theme then I need you to know that I can manage some short amounts of time when we are separated because of work, but overall I'd like us to be in the same place. I don't want a long distance relationship…I'm hoping that we can work on a solution." Elise nodded and then tears welled up again and she said,

"I can't believe this. This is…" She closed her eyes overwhelmed with emotion; she felt Carolyn's arms tighten.

"Shh, honey don't cry." Elise sniffled and said,

"I'm too filled up with happiness and it just has to get out so I can breath." Carolyn smiled gently wiping Elise's tears with the sheet. Kissing her tear-streaked cheeks, waiting for Elise to be calm then she went on,

"I have to be in Chicago during the school year and you have to be here in the summer. There would definitely be some over-lapping weeks to deal with but that's manageable. The big question is how you are going to feel about living, during the year, in Chicago?"

"I won't know for sure until I try it but the stuff that I do during the off season can be done anywhere there is an Internet connection. When I sell corn or beans then I'd have to go out to the farm and deal with that." Carolyn nodded and asked,

"Will you be bored? I'm worried about that the most. I don't want us to make this plan to split our time between here and the condo to find out that your life is based on waiting for me. I don't think that would be healthy." Elise thought about that - thinking carefully and seeing the wisdom of being cognizant of the pitfalls,

"That's a possibility, I'm not easily bored but I run around all the time out here - having lunch with Anne and stuff like that. I suppose I could get a job but…" When Elise didn't finish Carolyn prompted,

"But what?"

"I don't need the money." Carolyn's eyes danced and she asked,

"How much money do you have squirreled away, little girl?" Elise grinned suddenly bashful,


"That's a very evasive answer but I have all sorts of ways to make you talk." And Carolyn's lips teased their way to a warm breast. Elise chuckled pulling Carolyn's head back to her own lips, and for a while no one spoke.

"Come with me." She invited and she took Carolyn's hand and dragged her out of bed and down the stairs to the computer. She sat on the leather chair, yelping from the cool leather against her bare backside. Carolyn giggled as Elise pulled her down on her lap and maneuvered the mouse. Shortly they were online and Elise brought up her online banking.

Methodically she began to show Carolyn accounts that she had. After the fifth one Carolyn said,'

"Elise, where did you get all this money?"

"From farming and investing."

"How is that possible?" Carolyn said completely overcome by the amount of money Elise had amassed.

"Well we invest. Not short term stuff usually, although the Internet stocks were good to us." Carolyn stood and turned around climbing back onto Elise's lap now facing her.

"Who's we?"

"Anne and I."

Carolyn's eyes lovingly caressed Elise; she kissed the end of Elise's nose and said,

"You're amazing…I'm really proud of you Elise." Elise smiled shyly at the compliment.

They sat grinning at each other - suddenly Carolyn noticed the advantage of her position, and she immediately forgot all the questions in her head and moved her head to nibble Elise's throat, feeling Elise's pulse jump to life under her lips.

"Mmm, I like this." Elise murmured as she put her feet on the desk, one on either side of the computer keyboard, and tilted the chair back, pressing Carolyn against her.


"Over here." Jamie called as he saw Carolyn come walking out of the gate, followed closely by a tall dark haired woman. Their eyes searched the crowd for Jamie's familiar face.

"There he is." Elise said above Carolyn's ear. Carolyn turned to look where she was pointing and saw Jamie dancing around with his hands in the air, grinning ear to ear. Carolyn laughed and turned her head to say,

"I wonder how long he spent in the airport lounge." Elise chuckled and they gently shoved their way through the crowd to meet him. He hugged Carolyn and then looked at Elise, raising his eyebrow in question he stepped close and hugged her, telling her,

"I'm so glad you came. We are really excited about this in the Baker family." Elise who was feeling some serious nerves about meeting Carolyn's parents smiled and told him,

"Thanks Jamie, if you could just bring that up a couple more times I'd really appreciate it." He smiled confused and Carolyn explained,

"She's in quite the state over this so if you could be gentle…" He grinned and told Elise,

"If you think that this is going to be scary you can just put your mind at ease. This is going to be like the 'Elise Johnson' appreciation weekend. Mom and Dad are so excited to meet Carolyn's 'Partner.' I feel like I might as well have stayed at work for all the attention I've been getting. At breakfast this morning I was grilled about your favorite…pie, wine and vegetable. What about me? I ask you." They both laughed and Elise did her best relax.

Carolyn reached down and took her hand and they followed Jamie to the baggage claim.

Elise looked at the big brick house as they pulled into the driveway. Jamie pushed the garage door opener and it opened quickly. He pulled the big navy BMW into its space and shut off the engine. They each took some bags and walked into the house.

They entered through the kitchen and set down their bags and Carolyn took Elise's hand telling her quietly,

"Elise, I love you." Elise's blue eyes warmed under Carolyn's love filled gaze.

"I love you." Carolyn shooed Jamie away and took Elise in her arms and whispered,

"It's all fine sweetheart, it's just more family." Elise squeezed her and Carolyn continued, " I'm so proud to be your partner Elise." Elise pulled her even more tightly into her arms and kissed her sweet smelling hair. They smiled at each other, Carolyn's love giving Elise strength and comfort.

"I'm ready." She said winking at Carolyn. They walked hand in hand into the family room.


Elise found herself in the family room alone having been shooed out of the kitchen by Carolyn's Mother. Jamie and Carolyn were out running they wouldn't be back for a while so she picked up the newspaper. She didn't know how long she had been engrossed when Mr. Baker said,

"Finally a little peace and quiet to read the paper." Elise looked up from the article she was reading and smiled,

"I tried to help in the kitchen but…"

"Yes, Barbara doesn't allow anyone in her kitchen when she is 'creating' a feast."

It was Thanksgiving morning and they had risen late and had homemade cinnamon buns, scrambled eggs, oranges and hot coffee. Carolyn and Jamie were running to make room for the dinner that Carolyn's mom had been engrossed in since dawn. Elise wasn't used to idleness when food was being prepared and she asked,

"No exceptions?"

"None that I've ever seen."

"It's strange to sit here and do nothing. I've never sat on a Thanksgiving day in my life." Mr. Baker smiled and said,

"It's nothing personal." Elise laughed,

"I know - Carolyn warned me before we came that I wasn't going to be helping with dinner."

They were quiet for a long moment and then Mr. Baker asked,

"How do you like living in Chicago?"

"I like it, it's a great city."

"Have you been bored?" He and Barbara were concerned about this.

"You know, I haven't been bored because it's all new but long term…I couldn't sit around so I've decided to…go to college. I always wanted to and now I have the perfect opportunity. Carolyn has been helping me consider what I want to get a degree in." Mr. Baker smiled and said,

"That's an excellent idea." He was quiet for a couple of moments and then he asked,

"I hope you don't mind my asking but…is college something you…and Carolyn can afford?" Elise smiled,

"Yes. I can afford to go to college."

"I hope I didn't just insult you, it's just that…well Barbara and I would like to help if there were a need." Elise looked at him in horror. She was deeply touched by his offer but…well she had plenty of money to go to college and to take care of Carolyn. She cleared her throat and said,

"Sir, I want you to know that I can take care of Carolyn. I…have a farm that brings a very good return each year and I also have investments. I…can take care of Carolyn, even if she didn't want to work." Mr. Baker looked at Elise surprised.

"I want to say again I meant no offense Elise."

"I'm not offended sir, I just want you to know that Carolyn will be taken care of." Mr. Baker smiled and said,

"What are you thinking you'll get a degree in?"

"Carolyn thinks I should go with economics. I'm not sure but ultimately I think that I'm going to teach." Mr. Baker gave a lopsided smile and asked,

"Why economics?"

"Oh…well because I've made some…money from researching the economy and investing accordingly and Carolyn thinks that I would be good at teaching. I have a month to decide because I'll be beginning in late January. Right now my records say I'm undecided."


Carolyn groaned as they ran up another hill. Panting she said to Jamie,

"For god's sake, you're killing me here. Are we ever going to stop?" Jamie grinned and panted,

"I promised Dad I'd keep you away for at least an hour." Carolyn heard what he said and stopped still in the middle of the road,

"Why does Dad want to keep me away for an hour?" Jamie stopped about 10 feet ahead of her and puffed,

"So he can have a Dad to Daughter-in-law chat with Elise." Carolyn looked like she was going to explode and Jamie quickly said,

"Carolyn, come on - you know Dad, he won't say anything to offend her." Carolyn glared at him,

"What the fuck does Dad need to check her out in that way for, I'm going to spend my life with her no matter what Dad thinks!" Jamie smiled and said,

"My aren't we emphatic! Well he said he wanted to do everything right this time and that includes a chat about her intentions and a little discussion about her ability to care for you." Carolyn's blood pressure went even higher,

"Her ability to care for me?" She almost screamed. "If were talking about money she's fucking loaded, Jamie." Jamie looked at her in surprise and replied,

"Well then, you should just relax because she'll tell Dad that and he will be thrilled." Carolyn still looked angry and Jamie said,

"Carolyn, I can understand what you are feeling but Mom and Dad love you and they really think that you have found someone fantastic to spend your life with. Elise is going to be a part of our family for a long time and she is perfectly capable of talking to Dad about…stuff. Relax." Carolyn let some of her anger go and tried to calm down.

"Come on let's get back to the house. I want to see if Elise is alright." Jamie fell in beside her and she scowled at him. He laughed and said,

"It'll be fine, you'll see."

Elise was sitting in a chair beside Mr. Baker looking at the computer which shown a group of investments he had. She was asking him some very intelligent questions some of which he didn't have the answers for. They discussed what percentages he had invested in high risk and low risk. He was dazzled by her knowledge of the markets and told her so. She blushed and went right on asking questions.

Carolyn walked into the study. She saw Elise pointing at the screen and then turning her head to look at Carolyn's father. Jamie waited by the door smiling at Carolyn's obvious protection of Elise. When Elise saw Carolyn she smiled a huge smile and Carolyn put her hand on Elise's shoulder and pressed her lips to Elise's temple.

"What are you guys up to?" She asked.

Elise looked up and frowned, hearing the tension in Carolyn's voice. Carolyn's eyes met hers with a question in them. Elise continued to stare wondering what she was asking. Carolyn just said quietly,

"Are you alright?" Elise looked at Carolyn and then looked over her should at Jamie who had come in the room. His eyes were smiling and Elise returned the question,

"Are you alright?" Carolyn frowned and then just said,

"I'll be fine if I find out that you haven't been…grilled to death by my Father." Carolyn nailed him with a scowl. Her father looked up and said,

"Carolyn, your Mother and I can have a discussion with…Elise about your future. She didn't mind." He looked at Elise and asked,

"Did you?" Elise smiled and squeezed Carolyn's hand,

"I didn't mind at all." Then she looked at Carolyn her eyes smiling and told her,

"Why don't you go take a shower and we'll probably be done here by the time you come back down." Carolyn looked at Elise and then at her Father and said,

"Okay - if you're sure." Elise squeezed Carolyn's hand and Carolyn slowly left the room. Jamie was just outside the door and he said,

"See, I told you it would be fine."

"Shut up." She glowered at him.


Elise took the stairs two at a time. Hoping to catch Carolyn in the shower. She entered the bedroom and closed the door behind her. The sound of the shower running energized her and she quickly stripped off her clothes and walked into the bathroom.

Carolyn heard the shower door opening and looked up a frown on her face. She saw Elise and relaxed into a smile,

"Hi. Are you okay?" Elise smiled and took Carolyn in her arms.

"I'm fine, better than fine. Your Dad just asked me what my plans were and I told him about college and he asked if they could help pay for it if you and I needed help." Carolyn smiled suddenly forgetting to be angry with her Dad. Some days she felt giddy with love - today was one of them. Elise continued, "I of course told him I had plenty of money and we fell into a discussion about the stock market and before you knew it I was advising him. Which felt good and ridiculous at the same time." Carolyn grinned and asked Elise,

"Ever done 'it' in a shower in Connecticut?" Elise laughed and began kissing Carolyn. When they pulled apart panting - Elise said,

"Not with you." Carolyn grinned wickedly and firmly pushed Elise against the shower wall.

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