Disclaimer: Characters and situations are all from my imagination. In fact, a couple of them might be familiar from other stories I've written.
Warnings: Sex and love between women.
Feedback: Constructive criticism and feedback, both welcomed at firstname.lastname@example.org
At the Edge of the World
Copyright © 2007 Geonn Cannon
Thirty-eight feet over her peaked red roof, the yellow light washed across her front lawn before heading back out toward the sea. Shannon Linn sat on the porch of the white cottage the Coast Guard provided for her, one leg crossed over the other as she listened to the sounds of the night waves. There were Orcas somewhere out there; she could hear them cresting. Only a few boats crisscrossing the straight between the shores of Squire's Isle on one side and Canada on the other.
Shannon wore jeans that had been smoothed to silky softness from years of sitting on this bench and another bench just like it high above her head. Her red work shirt was unbuttoned over a thermal undershirt. Her red hair was cropped short, low maintenance, and the wind lifted the bangs off her forehead as she tried to pinpoint just how many whales she could hear.
She had spent the day in the lantern gallery cleaning the lens and storm panes. She was just a little drunk, thanks to the bottle of Budweiser on the porch next to her rocker, and she could feel sleep beckoning to her. She checked the watch on the inside of her wrist, finished her bottle and pushed out of her chair. A ship's horn blew somewhere out in the strait and she waved a hand to the invisible captain. "Good-night," she said. "Whoever you are."
Tilting her head up to the light, she watched as it made another pass across the waves. "Good-night to you, too." She patted the wall next to the door as she went back inside and shut the door.
In 1959, Clark Humphries had a heart attack while ascending the stairs to the Watch Room. His family had found him stretched out across the stairs, one hand to his chest and one hand reaching out past his head. Local legend claimed he had died reaching to make sure the light was still running.
At the time of his death, Shannon had just left her job as a deckhand on a fish tender in Alaska. Eight years of killing herself every morning during spawning season was enough. Her experiences had put her off boats for a while, but not the water. She still loved the water, loved the sea, and so had moved back to the island of her birth. She intended to only stay as long as it took her to get her head straight. She had applied for the lighthouse keeper position on a whim and was shocked when she was accepted. So she'd packed her bags, driven out of the populated part of the island, and parked her dirty old truck at the terminus of an old dirt road. She carried her sparse belongings through the woods to the light station.
Her home was a small, three-bedroom cottage at the very edge of a rocky cliff. The lighthouse tower rose from the back of the house. Sharing part of her floor plan with the tower meant that her kitchen had a huge, half-circle bulge in it, but it also meant that she never had to go outside in inclement weather to tend to the light. Her bedroom was a cot against one wall, her kitchen on the opposite end. The bulge of the tower effectively separated the two spaces. Her couch and coffee table faced the front door.
In the five years she'd been tending the lighthouse, she'd rarely left her post. She arranged for grocery deliveries every Saturday, trips to the bank and the laundromat once a month... she darned her own socks, mended torn shirts and pants and cut her own hair. Her shoes lasted her five or six years a pop. She couldn't fathom any reason to leave her lighthouse. It wasn't her cramped living space; it was the view. During the day, with the light off and the sun shining down on the world, she would find reasons to stay in the lantern room. She would trim wicks, wind clockwork, check fuel levels, wash windows... anything to keep herself in that glass enclosure, near that awe-inspiring view.
She sat on the edge of her cot and unlaced her shoes. She dropped them on the floor next to her stack of books - a box was delivered the first Thursday of every month - and undressed down to her thermal underwear. The night was edging towards winter-cold for the first time this season. She wrapped the blankets around her shoulders, settled down against the cot and extinguished her lantern.
Through the windows, she could still occasionally see the sweep of the bright yellow light entrusted to her care.
Dylan Swan balanced the box against her hip as she slammed the trunk. The delivery was out of her way, and added about an hour to the end of her Saturdays, but it was worth it. The lighthouse lady paid an extra ten bucks for these deliveries, and an extra ten bucks fit just nicely into Dylan's wallet. Especially on a short week like this. She'd gotten sick last weekend and missed Monday and Tuesday. Ergo, her paycheck would barely cover her own expenses, let alone Mama's nursing home.
She sighed and adjusted the weight of the box. It shouldn't have been so heavy; cereal, canned soups, flour, a bag of potatoes... still, she supposed it all added up. She followed the familiar path through the trees until the lighthouse came into view. She put the box down on the wooden porch and rapped her knuckles on the door frame.
The door opened while Dylan was still fussing with the receipt. She looked up and smiled at Shannon. "Afternoon, Miss Linn."
"Hi, Dylan." Shannon crouched and picked up the heavy box without strain. She carried it inside, placed it on the kitchen table and returned to the door. "How much?"
"Same as every week," Dylan said. "Seventeen, plus the ten dollar delivery charge."
Shannon pulled out her wallet, thumbed through some bills and said, "I only have twenties. Here..." She handed over two bills and said, "Consider that your tip."
Dylan grinned. "Thank you. It's much appreciated." She gestured towards the roof and said, "My cousin is in town, in case you need anyone to take a look at your gutters. Any leaks or..."
"Everything is in good shape," Shannon said. "Anything ever did go wrong, I'd probably fix it myself rather than wait on someone else, though." She smiled and added, "Thanks for thinking of me, though. Drive safely on your way back to civilization."
Dylan saluted and stepped back off the porch. "See you next Saturday."
"See you next Saturday." Shannon remained at the door, watching until Dylan disappeared back onto the path.
She watched the light fade from the day from her perch in the main gallery. Her leg crossed over her knee, her fingers laced behind her head, she thought about Dylan Swan. The age difference wasn't that great. Shannon was in her mid-forties, but Dylan was probably... thirty-something. Okay, granted, she was probably in her low thirties. Thirty-one, thirty-two... twenty-nine. Still, didn't hurt to fantasize occasionally.
And it was hard not to think about her. Not just because she was really the only person Shannon had any contact with. Dylan was beautiful; chocolate-brown skin, eyes that were almost black, full lips. She usually wore her mahogany hair in a ponytail, but lately she'd been keeping it down around her shoulders.
Shannon shifted in her chair and shifted her view from the window to the ceiling. She balanced her boots on the stairway railing, crossed them at the ankles, and wondered what Dylan would do if she got up the courage to come on to her. They were out in the middle of nowhere. Would Dylan run screaming for the nearest sign of civilization? Or just politely back away and start requesting someone else deliver to the 'creepy old lighthouse lady.'
Better to live without knowing what would happen and settle for seeing Dylan once a week. It was a good arrangement. Why mess with a good thing?
Dylan cursed as a rabbit exploded from the foliage. She braked just in time and the small rabbit lifted his head, looked at her with the smallest amount of curiosity, and continued on its way as if nothing had happened. "Shit," Dylan said. She pushed her hair out of her face, glanced toward the trunk as if she could see if the groceries had spilled in the trunk, and continued down the trail.
The trees overhead swayed back and forth in a manic dance, the lower limbs scratching across the top of her car. "Don't ruin my damn paint job," she muttered. "Don't ruin my damn paint job..."
The storm had been threatening for hours and was, naturally, just beginning to break now that she was out of town. Between trying to pay attention to the weather reports on the radio and avoiding tree limbs dropping into her path, she barely had enough brain function left to devote to 'watch out for small animals!'
She pulled up to the small, wooden sign with "Deliveries for Shannon Linn" carved in white letters. She parked and fought with her windbreaker as she stepped out into the steely-cold darts of rain. She whipped the hood up over her head, tightened the strings so that her face would be at least partially protected, and went around to the trunk. She'd had the foresight to cover the grocery box with a plastic garbage bag so the cereal boxes wouldn't get soggy.
She struggled with the box as she hurried down the path. Hopefully Shannon would have the money ready. Hopefully she would be in the cottage! Shit! She hadn't even thought about what she would do if Shannon was up in the lighthouse tower.
The lighthouse beam was circling, due to the decreased visibility and premature night caused by the storm moving in. Dylan ran to the porch and dropped the box under the overhang, pounding on the door with the heel of her hand. "God, please be here, please be..."
The door swung open and a quizzical Shannon peered out. Her confusion turned to surprise, then to irritation as she realized who it was. "What the hell are you doing out in this shit? Come on!" She grabbed the bend of Dylan's elbow and yanked her into the house, then crouched and lifted the groceries. She kicked the door shut with her boot and carried the groceries to the kitchen. Dylan pushed her hood back and tried not to drip too much.
Shannon returned without the groceries, a towel clutched in her hands. She handed it to Dylan, who muttered a quiet, "thank you" as she started to dab at her face. "God."
"What else did you have to do today?"
"What?" Dylan said. "Nothing. Just drop off your groceries."
"Damn stupid. I could've waited until tomorrow. The weather is only going to get worse, you know."
"I know," Dylan said. She hung her head and felt like a little kid being berated by her mother. She ran the towel over her face one more time, squeezed some of the moisture from her ponytail and handed it back. "I should go before it gets too much worse."
Shannon shook her head. "Oh, hell no. You're not--" She was cut off by a crack of thunder that only served to punctuate her point. "No. You're staying here until this at least blows over."
Dylan was tempted to refuse, but a flash of lightning lit the windows and made her think better of it. "Can't take more than a couple hours, right?"
"One can hope," Shannon said. She said, "Lose the windbreaker. I've got a sweater you can borrow."
Dylan unzipped her windbreaker and looked around for someplace to put it. "Um..."
"You can leave your windbreaker next to the door," Shannon said as she fished a sweater out of a box at the foot of her cot.
Dylan draped her coat over a shoe rack and rubbed her arms against the cold of the day. She turned to the bedroom as Shannon returned. She held up the brown sweater and said, "Sorry if it's not in fashion."
"If it's warm, it's in fashion," Dylan said. She took the sweater gratefully and pulled it over her head. She worked her arms into the sleeves and tugged it down. The sweater was just barely too big for her, but that left room for her to tuck her hands into the sleeves and warm her fingers. "Thank you."
"My pleasure," Shannon said. She pulled out her wallet and said, "Get this out of the way before we forget it. How much?"
"Seventeen, plus twenty," Dylan said. "But you paid me extra last week, so..."
"That was last week," Shannon said, handing over two more twenties. "It's the only expense I really have. I appreciate you looking out for me. Really."
Dylan took the money and smiled. "Thanks." She folded the bills and slipped them into the pocket of her jeans. "I'm just glad you don't request someone else handle your deliveries."
Shannon frowned and moved towards the couch. "Why the hell would I want to do that? You know the roads, you know my grocery list well enough to know if something's missing..."
"You got brown eyes, too. Hazel, really." She gestured for Dylan to sit on the other side of the couch. "What does that have to do with deliveries?"
"Lot of folks in town don't like the idea of me messing with their groceries. Think I contaminate the food or something." She sat down and folded her right leg under her left.
Shannon scoffed. "I find that hard to believe."
"Well. You did say you're pretty out of the loop out here."
"That I did." She looked at Dylan a moment longer than necessary. When the Dylan's eyes - definitely hazel, with flecks of green - flicked up and caught her, Shannon looked nervously away and adjusted the slip of cloth that kept the arms of her couch from getting scuffed. She cleared her throat and said, "So, our little town is racist?"
Dylan laughed. "No! Well..." She shrugged one shoulder and gathered the hem of her borrowed sweater in her lap. It's not racist with... you know, burning crosses on my lawn or things like that. Just small things like people getting in a longer line to be checked out by the white clerk instead of me. And it's not everyone! There are a lot of people in town who don't notice color."
"I won't presume to know what that feels like," Shannon said. "But maybe you can imagine what it would be like to be the 'lighthouse lady.' I go into town once, maybe twice a month. I run my errands, go to the bank and the laundromat, I maybe see a movie. People treat me like I'm some crazy hermit who lives out in the country with my dozen cats."
Dylan smiled, but bowed her head to hide the blush in her cheeks. She'd thought of Shannon as the lighthouse lady on more than one occasion. "I'm sorry," she said.
"Not your fault," Shannon said. She was turned toward the window, watching the rain streak down the glass. "Like it's not my fault people are idiots when it comes to skin color." She looked down at her hands and said, "God, I'm a terrible hostess. Would you like something to drink? I have soda, mi-- Well, look who I'm telling."
Dylan laughed and said, "If you have any of that orange juice left..."
"Coming right up." She stood and went into the kitchen. Dylan stood as well and went to the window, leaning down to peer up at the sky. Thick storm clouds gathered at the shore, as if determining which part of the island to strike. The sea was choppy and agitated, slapping the rocks all around Shannon's house like the wings of angry birds. Through it all, she saw the reassuring beam of the lighthouse swinging across the underbelly of the storm with reassuring regularity. "Here you go," Shannon said from her shoulder.
"Thank you." She took the cup and sipped. "It's really quite a view you have here," she said.
Shannon smiled and said, "This? Please. Come here." She turned and walked to the stairwell door. She turned the knob and turned to face Dylan. "Well? You coming or not?"
Dylan followed and reluctantly stepped into the circular tower. "You're sure I won't get in trouble for being here? I'm not... authorized or anything."
"I hereby authorize you," Shannon said. She smiled and started up the stairs. "Come on."
Dylan followed her up the stairs. Windows in the stone wall let the lightning flash into the dark stairwell and reminded Dylan of all the late-night monster movies she'd watched. She felt like she was following a mad scientist to a macabre laboratory where some freak of nature awaited being brought to life by a fortunate bolt of lightning. All the doctor needed was a brain... fresh was best... and as luck would have it, no one would miss the sweet little grocery delivery girl until...
"You coming?" Shannon asked from the landing above.
"Yeah," Dylan said with a chuckle. She climbed the rest of the way up. The landing was, in actuality, a small room. The majority of the space was taken up by the clockworks needed to rotate the light above their heads. Metal canisters of fuel and boxes of spare parts, lined the walls. There was a ratty armchair covered with a blanket and a small stool near the stairs. There was a door set against the far wall and she frowned at it. "Where does that go?"
"Outside," Shannon said. "There's a landing outside so I can clean the windows."
"Oh," Dylan said.
"This is just the main gallery though," she said. She gestured to the other set of stairs and Dylan followed her the rest of the way up. "Stay low. Half crouch. The light is at eye level when you're standing straight up, so it could blind you if you look at it."
"Don't look directly at the super-bright beam of light. I'll try to remember that."
Shannon grinned and continued the rest of the way up. Dylan followed and immediately dropped into a half-crouch as she rose through the floor of the lantern room. Shannon knelt on the floor and stretched out on her stomach so that her head was near the glass. Dylan decided that had to be more comfortable than crouching and stretched out next to her.
The light swept past them, making the windows glow before shooting out to sea with the intensity of a laser beam. The sky was a solid sheet of gray, the ocean a choppy, slate-blue carpet below them. The rain made a thick curtain so that, looking out the windows of the lantern room, it looked as if the entire world were made up of angry water.
"We're on the edge of the Earth here," Dylan said.
Dylan rested her chin on her hands and looked over at Shannon. Her short red hair was just starting to gray at the temples, but her face was smooth and unlined. Her green eyes were bright and blue, her strong arms crossed under her chin as Dylan's were. Dylan said, "Thank you for sharing this with me."
"My pleasure. It's not fair that I'm the only one who gets to enjoy it."
Dylan reached out and brushed a strand of hair away from Shannon's temple. Shannon jerked away slightly, looked at Dylan's fingertips.
"Don't be. I was just... surprised... is all..." She brought her hand up and brushed her fingers over Dylan's palm. They laced their fingers together and Dylan looked down, squeezed her hand and licked her bottom lip. She scooted closer, her hip pressing against Shannon's. She leaned in and lightly kissed Shannon's cheek, the tip of her nose. She kept her eyes open and watched for permission in Shannon's eyes.
"You sure?" Dylan asked softly.
"Me?" Shannon asked quietly. Her breath was hot against Dylan's throat. "Am I sure?" She brought her other hand up and cupped the back of Dylan's head. Their lips met hesitantly and Shannon finally closed her eyes. She leaned into the kiss and Dylan put her hand in the small of Shannon's back.
Dylan's tongue ventured forward and Shannon sighed softly. She tightened her hand on the back of Dylan's head and whispered, "Wait, wait."
"Should I stop?" Dylan asked.
"Yes, but..." Shannon swallowed and released Dylan's hand. She pushed herself up onto her knees and said, "...only because of the location. Come on."
They went back to the access door at a crouch, like two escaped prisoners trying to avoid the guards' spotlight. They hurried down the stairs, Shannon's palm gliding over the handrail like a seabird over the waves. When she reached the living space, she waited on the lower landing for Dylan to catch up.
They collided in the doorway. Dylan's arms went around Shannon's waist as their lips met in a second, hungrier kiss. Shannon grabbed the thick material of Dylan's borrowed sweater and jerked it up, forcing them both to step back and take a breath as it passed over Dylan's head. She undid the buttons of Dylan's blouse and pushed it off her shoulders, letting it fall to the floor as she stared at the thin, white undershirt turned transparent by the rain.
Dylan undid her ponytail and let her hair fall down around her face. She undid the buttons of Shannon's shirt and then wrapped her fists in the material, pulling her close for another kiss. Dylan moaned into Shannon's mouth and shuffled her towards the bed. Shannon broke the kiss and muttered, "Nhh, uh..." She gestured with her head. "Couch."
Dylan changed course and they moved slowly toward the couch. She paused to kick off her shoes, then released Shannon's shirt and dropped back onto the cushions. Shannon shrugged out of her shirt, tossed it aside and straddled Dylan's hips. As they kissed, Dylan shoved her hands under Shannon's undershirt and moaned when she touched the bare flesh of her back. No bra strap; nothing between Shannon and the shirt.
Shannon pushed herself up, her hands on either side of Dylan's head, and said, "We're really going to do this."
"Well, I hope so..." Dylan gasped. She pushed her hands up and brought Shannon's shirt with them. Shannon rose up and tugged the shirt off. She tossed it across the room and looked back down at Dylan. Dylan ran her hand down the middle of Shannon's chest, then moved to the side to cup one bare breast. "Yeah," she exhaled.
Shannon brushed Dylan's hair out of her face and settled on top of her. They kissed, Dylan's hand opening and closing on her breast in a gentle, steady rhythm. Shannon's nipple grew hard against her palm, her kisses growing hungrier as she arched her back into Dylan's caresses. She slid her hand down to Dylan's hip and undid the catch of her jeans.
They squirmed on the couch, rearranging themselves as Shannon pushed the jeans down. She released herself from Dylan's grip and kissed down her body, kissing through her bra and T-shirt, her stomach, until she reached her pale yellow panties. Dylan's ankles were trapped by the denim until Shannon slipped off the couch and yanked them the rest of the way off.
As Shannon settled between her thighs, Dylan sat up and peeled her shirt off. She unhooked her bra and skimmed it down her arms as Shannon kissed her thighs. She planted her feet apart and slid down on the couch, breathing hard as Shannon pushed her panties to one side. She watched the pink tip of Shannon's tongue circle her lips and gasped as Shannon lightly touched her folds.
Dylan arched her back, her heels rising from the floor as she threw her head back. Shannon closed around her like an open-mouth kiss, her tongue sliding back and forth across her pussy. She leaned back, sucked her thumb for a moment, then bowed down once more. She pressed forward with the tip of her tongue while she circled Dylan's clit with her wet thumb. Dylan's knees trembled, and her eyes rolled back in her head. She bit her bottom lip and lifted her ass off the couch cushions to meet Shannon's mouth.
A moment, or maybe an hour later, Dylan trembled one more time. She ran her hand over her face, brushed her hair away from her eyes and sank into the couch. If the cushions hadn't been there to stop her, she was sure she would have kept going... through the floor, through the soggy ground, all the way through the planet to China. She couldn't move, but the few synapses still firing told her that Shannon was kissing her way up her body.
Small, closed-mouth kisses, big, sloppy, wet kisses with tongue, she kept moving until she latched onto one nipple and sucked it into her mouth. Dylan groaned and brought her knees up, bracing against Shannon's hips. Shannon leaned in and kissed her hard. Dylan gripped Shannon's short hair and pulled her head back. She attacked Shannon's neck, licking until she found the pulse point and then closing her mouth around it.
She ran her hands down Shannon's smooth back and worked her fingers under the waistband of Shannon's jeans. Shannon stood up and said, "Take them off."
Dylan leaned forward and kissed Shannon's belly. She worked the button with shaking hands, tugged down the zipper and then pushed the denim down. She stopped when they were to her thighs, reached up to hook her fingers in Shannon's panties, and then tugged the whole works down to Shannon's knees. She pulled Shannon forward and bent to kiss her untrimmed pubic hair.
Shannon closed her eyes and put her hands on top of Dylan's head. She rolled her shoulders, tilted her head back and tried to steady her breathing. Dylan planted a million tiny kisses along the inside of Shannon's thighs, her breath quick and teasing gusts across her wet pussy lips. She worked her fingers into the waves of chestnut hair and grunted Dylan's name. It was the first time someone had touched her there since... God, way too long. Way too long.
When Dylan's tongue pressed into her, Shannon's body went tight. She straightened her spine, and tried to shove herself down at the same time. She came with a handful of Dylan's hair, her face as red as the shirt hanging off the back of her dining room chair. She clenched her jaw and released Dylan's hair, let her knees buckle and collapsed forward.
They met with a kiss, Shannon straddling Dylan's thighs and cupping her face tenderly. Shannon settled her weight on Dylan's lap and leaned back. She could smell the other woman's sweat, saw the curve of her jaw glisten when another lightning bolt struck outside. She smiled and said, "Do you do this with everyone on your delivery route?"
Dylan grinned. "I only have one stop."
Dylan laughed and flipped Shannon onto the couch cushions. She pounced on top of her and said, "Maybe I can earn that tip you gave me last week..."
"Well," Shannon said as Dylan descended over her, "you can certainly try."
Dylan woke first.
They were curled together under an afghan, Shannon forming the big spoon against her back. The storm had passed, and strange pink-purple light of a post-rain twilight filtered through the windows of the cottage. They were both naked, the sweat dried to their skin, and Dylan smiled at the memory. Shannon's arm crossed her breasts and she lifted one to kiss the inside of her wrist.
Shannon stirred at the touch of her lips, like Sleeping Beauty. "What time is it?"
"I don't know," Dylan said. She didn't seem to be in any hurry to find out, either.
Shannon sat up, the afghan falling away from her breasts as she looked around the room. "I should check on the light."
Dylan grabbed her wrist as she tried to get off the couch. Shannon looked at her and Dylan said seriously, "Hey. You want me to be gone when you get back?"
"No!" Shannon said. She settled back against the cushions and drew Dylan close. She kissed her lips, stroked her hair and whispered, "No, no," against her mouth. She smiled and said, "You stay right here. I just have some work I have to do. Un-unless you have somewhere you need to be."
Dylan pictured her apartment, with the undone crossword from last Sunday's paper - she always saved it until Saturday so she only had to wait one day for the answers to be printed in the next edition. She stroked the inside of Shannon's wrist and kissed her chin. "I have no place I'd rather be."
Shannon kissed her again, harder, and flicked her tongue against Dylan's teeth before she finally pulled back. "The light. It'll take me ten minutes, tops."
"I'll be waiting."
Shannon climbed over the back of the couch and gathered her clothes. Dressed in her jeans and the sweater she'd loaned to Dylan, she opened the stairwell door and hurried up to the lantern room.
Dylan, alone in Shannon's living room for the first time, laced her fingers together and stretched both arms above her head. She kept reaching until her toes curled, until her muscles quivered with the strain. She finally relaxed and her muscles breathed a sigh of relief. She felt elated, giddy, satisfied... hell, she felt fucked. She laughed and ran a hand through her tangled hair and tugged the blanket up over her breasts.
Outside, a few birds were taking advantage of the last embers of the day, their song reaching her even through the thick walls of the cottage. She looked towards the door and wondered if Shannon would have to turn the light back on immediately or if there'd be a few minutes where the lantern room was dark. A few minutes where they could take advantage of the best view on the island.
She threw the blanket aside and hurried to the tower door, not bothering to cover up as she ascended the stairs. She'd never thought about doing it on the floor of a lighthouse tower... but now that the possibility was presenting itself, how could she possibly refuse the impulse?
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