How I Spent My Summer Vacation
Part Two ~
The main room of the cabin served as combination living room and kitchen. One bedroom was at the front of the cabin, right off the front door. The other was on the other side of the kitchen. Jill's back was currently pressed against the wall of the back bedroom, Patricia's lips marking a trail from her earlobe down her neck. She laughed and threaded Patricia's hair with her fingers. "Whose brilliant idea was it to bring the kid?"
"You love him," Patricia smiled. She kissed Jill's throat and said, "Besides... the bedrooms are far apart. He won't hear anything."
"Mm," Jill said. She found Patricia's lips and kissed her before she said, "Whose bright idea was that?"
"My ex, actually," Patricia said. "Back when he was trying to spice up the marriage. Separate bedrooms was a big selling point for this place." She undid a few more buttons of Jill's blouse and bent her knees, kissing from her lips to her chest. Jill sighed and put her hands behind her head. Patricia kissed her breasts through her shirt and painstakingly undid each button.
Jill let her arms down only to get the shirt off. She pushed her hair out of her face and pushed Patricia back. "If we're going to do this, we might as well do it right." She bit her bottom lip and stepped around Patricia. She pushed the suitcases to one side of the bed and sprawled out on top of the comforter. "Come here."
Patricia walked on her knees to the edge of the bed, pushed Jill's knees apart, and slid her hands up the insides of Jill's thighs. Jill purred. "A woman after my own heart..."
"Heart?" Patricia said. She undid the button on Jill's jeans and tugged them down. "No. Think... lower..." Jill was wearing what Patricia called her 'teacher panties'; plain, white, with no lace and a little pink bow in the center of the waistband. She closed her teeth around the bow and pulled down.
"Mmm," Jill sighed. She leaned back and lifted her legs. Patricia leaned back and shed the jeans and panties, leaving Jill bare before her. "Hurry," she whispered. "Michael might come back any minute..."
"Yes, Miss Colby," Patricia said. She pulled Jill's thigh to her face and brushed her tongue over the tight flesh.
Jill purred again. "You're gonna kill me..."
"I'll say nice things at your funeral," Patricia promised as she bowed her head.
Jill cried out and, once again, thanked Patricia's former husband for making sure the bedrooms were as far apart as possible.
Michael tossed a stone into the water and craned his neck up to the sky. He was no dummy. He knew why his mom hadn't griped about him running off as soon as they got there. He just hoped they were all tired out by the time he got back. He didn't want to see any more of that lovey-dovey stuff. It was weird enough seeing his mom with a woman. Why did it have to be Miss Colby? He could still see her standing in front of class, chewing someone out for talking or trying to get them to pay attention to the English assignment.
It didn't help that he'd spent most of fifth-grade with a crush on her. And now she was dating his mom? He didn't know much, but he did know that people had ended up in therapy for less.
He crouched down and peered into the forest. He could usually find a deer or a couple of squirrels to stalk, but the animals were being shier than usual today. It was still early, so maybe he'd be able to see a fox. He had just looked down at his watch when he heard something rustling through the trees. He looked up and craned his neck, spotting a flash of brown through the leaves. He clicked his tongue against the roof of his mouth and crouched down to be less threatening.
The first man stepped out of the trees and smiled. There was nothing nice in the smile and Michael immediately jumped to his feet.
"Whoa there, sport," the man said. "I just wanna talk with you for a bit."
Jill dragged her fingers through Patricia's hair. They had pulled the blankets up over their naked bodies, putting off the task of actually getting up and getting dressed. Jill held up one long curl and let it fall back against Patricia's forehead. "I hate you."
"That's no way to talk to the person who just made you shake the bed."
Jill blushed. "No, that was great. I hate you for your hair. You know I tried to perm my hair in college."
"You must've looked adorable."
"Depends on your feelings about Richard Simmons."
Patricia laughed. "Well, for what it's worth, I adore your hair. You have that... awesome little flip in front that you usually only see in cartoon characters."
"You're comparing me to Betty Boop?"
"No," Patricia said. "The hot ones. You know... the ones all the teenage boys salivate over..."
"Yeah. You look like one of those hot anime chicks."
"I guess that's acceptable."
Patricia cursed under her breath and pulled herself away from Jill. The call had come from the trail, so she prayed she had time to get dressed before he reached the cabin. "What's going on?" Jill asked as she shimmied back into her jeans.
"Last time he found a wounded owl," Patricia said. She sat on the edge of the bed and ran her fingers through her hair so it didn't look quite so raked. She had managed to get on a bra, white t-shirt and jeans by the time the front door of the cabin slapped open. She stood and went into the living room. "What's the hubbub, bub?"
"There're some guys on the island!"
"What?" she said. Jill came out of the bedroom, tucking her t-shirt into her jeans. Patricia turned to her. "You didn't see signs anyone else had landed here, did you?"
Jill shrugged. "What would it have looked like?"
Patricia shook her head. To Michael, she asked, "Did they say what they were doing here?"
"No. They just wanted to know who I was here with. I told them my Mom and my... teacher." He looked at Jill and averted his eyes. Jill didn't blame him; she didn't know what to call herself, let alone how to introduce herself to others. "The guy just said he was staying in one of the cabins and he might come over and say hello."
"There're two other cabins besides this one," Patricia said absently. She tugged on her earlobe and asked, "Have you seen the guy before? It wasn't Paul Elkin, was it?"
Michael shook his head. "No. And it wasn't Greene or his kid. That's why I came to tell you right away."
"You did good, Mike."
"Well," Jill muttered. "He did well."
"What did he look like?"
Michael thought for a minute. "Tall. Old. He was, like, balding on top. He was wearing a green shirt and an orange hunter's vest."
"Hunters," Patricia sighed.
Jill shrugged, ever the optimist. "Maybe this Elkin or Greene rented out their cabins for the summer."
Patricia shook her head. "Sorry, Jill. You're kind of out of the loop on this. You know the bald eagles we get on Squire's Isle, the deer and the rabbits and the otters...?"
"On these smaller islands, hunters like to set up camp and take home a couple trophies. The more endangered the better. The wounded owl I told you Michael found last time? He was winged by a hunter who'd been aiming at a bald eagle. Left the poor owl crippled because it wasn't endangered enough, I guess."
"That's terrible!" Jill gasped.
"There's a radio in the closet. If we need to, we can call Sheriff Rucker and have him come check it out. But I don't want to drag the police into it if we don't have to." She tousled Michael's hair and said, "You did go-- well. Real well, kid."
Jill followed Patricia into the bedroom and they finished dressing. Patricia put on a denim shirt while Patricia went with a light jacket. Patricia opened her suitcase and pulled out a small wooden box. Jill's eyes widened when she saw a revolver inside. "Trisha..."
"It's not loaded," Patricia said as she tucked it into her belt. "But if these guys are poachers, I don't want to walk up on them completely empty-handed."
"I'll come with you."
"No. I don't want you out there by yourself."
"And I don't want Michael here alone," Patricia said. "Nothing will happen to me." She came around the bed and kissed Jill's lips. They stood close to one another for a long time, cheeks together, and Patricia said, "Watch him for me. I can take care of myself."
"This is some relaxing vacation," Jill said.
Patricia smiled. "It'll turn out he's a stockbroker from Seattle who's up here with his mistress. He was just checking out Mike to make sure no one would stumble across his den o' love."
"And you always take guns into love dens."
"Some chicks like it. Makes me look butch."
Jill rolled her eyes and stepped back. "All right. Go meet the neighbors. Try not to shoot them."
"I make no promises." Patricia left her shirt untucked to cover the gun as she returned to the living room. She kissed Michael on the forehead and said, "Listen to Miss Colby, all right?"
The formal name, so recently used in the bedroom, caused a shiver to race down Jill's back. Patricia looked up and met her eyes, letting her know it had been on purpose. Jill smirked and Patricia winked at her. "All right. I'll be right back."
She went out onto the porch and headed down the trail. Jill went to the couch and said, "Come on over, Michael. What are you thinking about for dinner tonight?"
The main body of the island - the palm - was approximately two square miles. Patricia's cabin was the closest to the landing strip. The next closest was near the middle finger and the third was at the farthest end of the pinky. None of them were inhabited year-round and tended to fall into disrepair between summers. The next cabin was a bit more modern than Patricia's. A stack of firewood started at the edge of the porch and stretched all the way down the eastern side of the building to the back.
Two motorcycles stood next to the firewood, covered by a blue tarp. She frowned. The island was practically the size of a human hand. Who would disturb the peace and quiet with motorcycles? "Hello!" she called, not wanting to be too close to the cabin when she announced her presence.
The front screen door opened and a man leaned out to look at her. He matched Michael's description. "Oh, hey. You must be Mike's mom. Good kid."
"Yeah," she said, forcing a smile. "And you're not Paul Elkin."
"The porch you're standing on," Patricia said. "It's Paul Elkin's. I've known him for a while now."
The man nodded. "Oh, right, Uncle Paul. Yeah. I'm his, ah, sister's kid. He wasn't feeling too good this year, so he invited me and some buddies to stay at his cabin."
"Did he," Patricia said dryly.
"Yep. I was kind of surprised to see the kid out there on the beach. Thought he was, like... I don't know. Ghost or something." He laughed and shrugged. "I thought this island was supposed to be deserted. I'm Martin Bolger, by the way." He leaned against the porch and extended his hand to her.
She got close enough to take the hand. "Patricia Hood."
"Mike said his teacher came up with you guys..."
"Back at the cabin," Patricia said. She glanced past Martin and into the cabin. A man was standing just inside the door, watching them. When he saw her, he stepped back and disappeared into the darkness of the house.
Martin followed her gaze and said, "Oh, that's my brother, Lou. He's shy."
"Lou had a knife on his belt," she said as she withdrew her hand from his.
Martin straightened and attempted a casual shrug. "Protection. You don't know what kind of beasts are out here in the boonies. Not like there's an ambulance around."
"Foxes," she said. "They're the most dangerous thing out here. And they eat bugs and garbage. So... I can't imagine why you're brother would still be wearing his knife. And that was a pretty wicked looking blade. I've seen that kind of knife used for skinning game."
Martin's smile had completely faded. "That a fact."
Patricia started backing up down the path. "It was nice meeting you, Mr. Bolger. Say hello to your Uncle Paul for me."
"Hey, hold on a minute," he said, coming around to the porch stairs.
Patricia pulled the gun from her belt and made sure he saw it. "No. No, I think I better be getting back to my place."
Martin laughed, but his eyes were locked on the gun. "Mrs. Hood, please..."
"Stay right there, Mr. Bolger."
The front door of the cabin slapped open and Lou stepped out. He was holding a rifle. Patricia turned and ran down the path, her feet slipping through the fallen leaves and wild animal scat. She managed to stay upright and disappeared around a curve in the trail just as Lou fired.
"Goddamn it, Lou!" she heard Martin call.
Patricia panted as she ran back to the cabin, pumping her arms like pistons, taking each turn out of instinct rather than actually paying attention to the path. When she reached the cabin, she saw Jill and Michael coming to her aid. "No, no," she called to them. "Go!" She collided with Jill and forced her to turn around. "They'll come right to the cabin. We're not safe there."
They scrambled around the porch and went off-trail into the woods. For the first time since the divorce, Patricia wished her ex-husband were there. She wished they had come to the island a week later, and she wished they had grabbed the radio. But most of all, she wished she'd brought some damn bullets for the damn gun.
Martin crashed through the undergrowth, using his rifle to sweep the vines and branches out of his way. "I could've put her damn mind at ease," he hissed. "Could've kept everything nice and civil." He looked over his shoulder at Lou. "You should've stayed in the cabin."
"You think we'll get any hunting done with them on the island?" he growled. "Gunshots travel. They woulda known what we were up to."
Martin grumbled and continued thrashing through the underbrush. "We just better hope the teacher isn't a Johnny Law type. We're going to make sure they don't talk, and then we're getting the hell out of here."
"We only got two bucks, Martin!" Jimmy said.
"I know that, you stupid son of a bitch. But with these people hanging around, we ain't likely to get any more. We gotta get back to Squire's Isle on Monday to catch our ride back to the mainland. Unless you want to stay longer, explain to the official ferry operators why we're bringing along a bunch of restricted carcasses back with us."
Jimmy pouted, but didn't continue his complaints.
They came out of the woods beside the Hood cabin. Martin held up a hand for the other guys to stop and looked up and down the trail. No sign of the woman or her kid. He threw his leg over the porch railing and pressed against the wall. He couldn't see anyone through the front window. He knocked on the glass. "Miss Hood? I believe we had a bit of a misunderstanding back there... Why don't you come out and we can talk about it?"
"Martin," Lou hissed.
He turned and leaned forward so he could see Lou.
"Something's moving around in the woods behind the cabin. Something big. People-size."
Martin climbed off the porch and went around to the other side of the cabin. He saw detritus of leaves scattered across the ground, broken branches and twigs leading up the slight incline that hugged the side of the cabin. He really had spooked the Hood woman, enough to make her run.
If they had a radio that could reach the mainland... or hell, all it had to do was reach Squire's Isle. There was a Sheriff there who could take them into custody just the same as the Department of Fish & Wildlife. He hadn't given the woman his real last name, but she sure as hell had seen his face. If her eyes were good enough to see Lou's knife, odds were she'd seen his face, too.
"Come on," he called. "We can't let them get off this island before we have a little talk with 'em."
Jill was quickly out of breath as she followed Michael and Patricia through the trees. She exercised when she got a chance, tried to eat right and stay in shape, but nothing had prepared her to run for her life through a heavily-wooded island. She kept stumbling, tripping, grabbing hold of branches to keep from falling and whipping herself in the face with them when she let go.
Patricia looked back and saw her struggling. She pushed Michael on and went back to help Jill. She put her arm around Jill's waist and helped her stand up straight. "Come on. You can do it, sweetheart."
They jogged through the trees, startling a small brown rabbit, and slid down a small hill. Jill cursed as her ankle came down wrong and waved away Patricia's worry. "I'm fine, I'm fine. Go!"
Michael stopped a few paces away, looking between his mother and the top of the hill. Patricia waved him on. "Mike, go. Keep running until you get to the Greene's cabin. There's a key hidden under a big pot on the porch." She looked over her shoulder and swept her hair out of her face. "There's a radio in the main room with a list of emergency numbers..."
"I got it, I got it." He looked at Jill. "What about you and Miss Colby?"
"We'll be fine," she said. "Go, Mike. Run! Stay off the trail as much as possible. When you get to the cabin, you lock the door and hide with that radio!"
He reluctantly turned and disappeared between two trees.
Patricia dropped down next to Jill and began massaging her ankle through the sock. "They were poachers," Patricia explained. "All the wildlife on this island is protected. From the looks of those guys back there, they aren't very keen on following the rules."
"Where are we running?" Jill asked.
"The Greene's cabin, on the other side of the island. They have a radio that'll reach Squire's Isle."
"What about the radio back at our cabin?"
Patricia shook her head, angry at herself. "We didn't have time to grab it. Now I'm afraid to go back because they're probably there already."
Jill put her hand on Patricia's hip and said, "Let's go. Let's go." Patricia helped Jill stand, let her test the ankle, and then moved to follow Michael. Just before they left the hill behind, someone shouted, "Over here!"
"I hope you can run, baby," Patricia whispered.
"If I can't, leave me behind."
"No," Patricia said, and that was the end of that. They both started running as the first thunder-like rifle shot filled the air. Jill screamed and ducked her head. Patricia pulled out her handgun, mostly so the bad guys would think she was armed and waved it in the air. "Back off!" she screamed.
The guy at the top of the hill fell back. Patricia glanced over her shoulder to make sure Jill was gone. She backed up, one eye on the hill, and then turned to run after Jill.
"Bitch!" Lou hissed.
Martin said, "She just showed you the gun?" He frowned and headed for the edge of the hill. "I'm thinking she's only got one bullet. If that. She doesn't wanna waste 'em, so she's just trying to scare us off."
"She's doing a damn good job of it," Jimmy said.
"It's two women and a kid," Martin hissed. "You guys wanna be run off by two chicks, be my guest. I'm going after 'em."
Jimmy said, "You gonna kill 'em, Marty?"
Martin sighed. "No, Jim. I'm going to let the people who saw my face go back to the sheriff and tell him all about us."
"Killing deer is one thing, man. I don't know about killing people. I mean... s-she's a mom!"
"You never killed a doe? Come on, Jim. Same thing, only this time pulling the trigger means we don't get any trouble with the law. Lookit this place. By the time anyone shows up and finds them, we'll be back in Georgia. No harm done, nothing to bring it back to us. We'll be free and clear. Now come on. They're getting away."
Jimmy reluctantly picked up his rifle and headed down the hill after Martin.
Jill dropped behind a tree and drew her leg up. She squeezed her ankle and Patricia knelt next to her. "Are you okay?"
"My ankle's really killing me. I think I twisted it."
Patricia stroked Jill's face and said, "Rest awhile."
"We can't," Jill panted. "I'm slowing you down. We'll never outrun those guys!"
Patricia bit her lip and started to cover Jill's legs with leaves. "Stay here. Cover yourself up."
"Wait, where are you going?"
"I'm going to draw them away from you."
"No," Jill said. She grabbed Patricia's sleeve and said, "Don't!"
"I have to. It's okay. I was on the track team in high school." She leaned in and put the gun in Jill's hands. She brushed the hair out of Jill's face and kissed her lips. "I love you. You don't have to say it back." She smiled, put another handful of leaves on Jill's lap and stood up. Without looking back, she turned and dashed through the trees on a ninety-degree angle to the path they had been taking.
Jill wiped at her eyes, looked over her shoulder, and started covering herself with more leaves.
Patricia grabbed a tree branch and pulled herself up. She swung around and eyed the terrain. There were a few clear paths she could take up and away from where the poachers would be. She chose one and knelt down, searching under leaves and branches for ammunition.
Down below, she heard someone come crashed through a wall of leaves. "God damn this place," the man hissed. He swung his rifle and ducked low to avoid a branch. Patricia tested the weight of one stone, squeezed her fingers around it and stood up. She focused on the wide brim of the leader's yellow baseball cap. What she hadn't told Jill was why she'd quit track: softball. It would be a little difficult shooting down at such a sharp angle, but the aim wasn't really to hit the target. That would just be a bonus.
She hurled the rock down. It arced beautifully and dropped down as if it was destined for this. It hit the brim of the man's cap and pushed it down into his face. He jerked and swatted at his own head a few times, letting loose a string of curses as he spun around. "What the fuck?" he growled. "Where'd that come from?"
Before one of his lackeys could answer, Patricia hurled another rock. This one hit him in the side of the head and she watched his ear explode with blood. "Ow!" he howled. He cupped the side of his head with one hand and spun around. His eyes locked on her with uncanny speed. "There!"
She fired a few more rocks and the men ducked. One of them howled, but she didn't hang around to see where her hit had landed. She turned, dropping the rest of the rocks she'd gathered, and ran.
Jimmy spit out a tooth and massaged his jaw where the rock had hit. Martin, hand still over his ear, his face a furious scarlet, growled, "You still think we oughta just let them go?!"
"Nah," Jimmy said. He picked up his rifle and said, "Let's kill the bitches."
Martin nodded and headed up the hill after the rock-throwing bitch.
Patricia leaned against a tree and panted, keeping an eye on the hill to make sure the men weren't following. She had neglected to mention to Jill that she hadn't run like this since high school, which was longer ago than she'd care to admit. She held a hand to her side and winced as she looked around for another path. There were two or three options, but one of them led to the middle finger of the island. If she ended up there, she'd be trapped with no turning back. It would be a literal and figurative middle finger to the whole situation. She pushed away from the tree and, with a bit of distress at the wheeze in her breath, ran to her right.
She'd only made it a few steps before she heard a sound. It was so faint that at first she thought she was imagining it, dredging it up from some vague, hopeful place. But then it grew louder and she knew it was real. A plane engine, droning loud enough for her to believe it was headed right for her. She changed course and ran back through the woods. She hoped she would be far enough away that the hunters wouldn't notice her doubling back.
Jill looked up to the sky and gasped. At the risk of sounded like Tattoo... the plane! She was getting ready to slip from her hiding place when she heard movement in the trees. Her heart froze and she scrambled to get the gun in her hand. She knew it wouldn't shoot, didn't think she could've pulled the trigger even if it had bullets, but the weight felt good and she was otherwise completely vulnerable.
She exclaimed as Patricia came into view between the trees. "Come on," Patricia wheezed. "That plane is getting closer."
Jill got up and leaned on Patricia. They leaned against each other and hurried in the direction of the beach. "The poachers?"
"Hopefully running in circles on the wrong side of the island."
"I love you, too, you know."
The stupid bitch was smart, he'd give her that. But she'd made a pretty stupid mistake. Martin looked down at the sandy ground where her footprints ran forward, stopped, then turned around. "She doubled back on us," he said. His voice had gotten louder, due to his fury and the fact that his damn ear was ringing like a telephone. He turned and shoved Jimmy back a few inches. "She's going back this way."
"Martin, there's a plane..."
"I hear!" he growled. "Ain't the sheriff. Couldn't be, this quick. Just one more person to convince to move along." He tightened his grip on his rifle and said, "When we find 'em... Rock Bitch is mine."
Patricia craned her neck up to see the plane as it passed over. "White," she said. "Doesn't... tell us much..." She was panting, her face turning an ugly shade of red.
"Trisha, I think you need to rest," Jill said.
"Just... a little further..."
Jill caught Patricia just as she collapsed. She helped her off the trail and leaned her against a tree. Patricia smiled weakly and said, "Guess... I'm not the track star I thought I was..."
Jill brushed the hair out of her face. There was no doubt now that the plane was heading for the island. She didn't say anything, but she was afraid Patricia was being too optimistic about it. The poachers had to have gotten to the island somehow; what if this was their ride.
Patricia said, "You know... that day in the laundromat?"
"How many fifth grade teachers are there on the island?"
Jill frowned. "What do you mean?"
"I knew who you were. Or, well... who you might have been. When I first saw you, standing in the rain and looking so lost... I thought... it was... fate. And then you told me you were a fifth-grade teacher and... my heart... sank. Because if I told you I had a ten year old son... and if it turned... out he was in your class... I wouldn't have let anything happen. And that would've been the worst... thing that could've happened..."
Jill touched Patricia's cheek. "I wouldn't have gone home with you," she whispered. "Not if I'd known you were Michael's mom. I guess... I didn't put two and two together, because I heard your last name and it never clicked. I guess we're both to blame. But... I'm glad we kept it a secret. I'm glad I went home with you that day."
"Even if I get us killed on our first family vacation?"
"Future vacations won't have to try very hard to top this one," Jill smiled.
The plane seemed to have landed, so Jill said, "Are you all right?"
"Just needed a breather," Patricia said. They stood, fell back into their supporting stance, and headed for the beach again. As soon as they started out, a rifle shot filled the air again. Patricia ducked her head and said, "Damn it. Run, Jill."
"Not without you."
"Not without you!" She tightened her hold and they both ran.
A man behind them yelled, "Rock Bitch!"
Jill frowned. "Rock bitch?"
"Long story," Patricia said.
They ducked under a branch, startled an insomniac red fox, and half-fell, half-slid down a hill. "This way," Patricia said. She pointed to the right and they ran as fast as they could. The ground beneath their feet became softer, sandier, and the trees began to thin out. Jill's heart was pounding, praying Patricia was right and there was a good guy waiting at the airplane.
They were running towards the thumb with nothing more than a droning engine to go on. If this was the poacher's chauffeur, then they were running right into a dead-end situation. She prayed they would let Michael go if it came to that, but...
They rounded a bend and Jill nearly cried with relief. A Duckworth Air logo marked the tail of the plane beneath the blue call letters. "Hey!" Jill called. "Hey, hey!"
Daffy's block-shaped head leaned out of the cabin and she frowned at them.
"Poachers!" Patricia called. "There're... poachers... right behind us!"
Daffy disappeared back into the cabin. "Where...?" Jill asked.
She emerged a second later with a shotgun in one hand.
"Oh, shit," Patricia hissed. They skidded to a stop, kicking up a wave of sand. "No, no, no, no."
"Trisha," Jill said quietly.
Patricia grabbed Jill's hand and looked over her shoulder. The poachers had just come out onto the beach and made the same skidding stop. Patricia turned her head to Daffy and saw she was aiming her gun over their heads. She fired once and everyone reached for the ground. Daffy said, "Miss Colby, Miss Hood, walk over here. Assholes-with-Rifles, stay right where you fucking are."
Jill nearly sobbed with relief. They hurried to where Daffy was standing and moved behind her. "You ladies all right?" she asked, keeping her eyes locked on the poachers. "You don't look a hundred percent, if you don't mind me saying."
"Sheriff's should be here in a sec," she said. "Called him on my way in."
"How did you..."
"After I dropped you off, I was free for the day. Decided to fly around the Strait for a while. I wasn't far from here when I got the strangest call on my radio. Some kid saying his Mom and teacher were being chased by killers. I recognized his voice, realized he wasn't kidding and turned it around. Looks like I got here just in time."
Patricia shrugged. "Ten or twenty minutes ago would've been better, but we won't hold that against you."
The sound of another plane engine filled the air then. Patricia and Jill turned to see a small white plane on approach. Daffy smiled. "That'd be Sheriff Rucker." She raised her voice so the poachers could hear. "I'm sure he'll be more than happy to hold you on attempted murder until Fish & Wildlife can put up those poaching charges."
Jill turned and embraced Patricia, hiding her face in the waves of her lover's dark hair. "Michael...?" she whispered.
Patricia sniffled and said, "Daffy. Can we use your radio?"
"Go ahead. It's set to the frequency your boy was on."
They broke the hug and hurried to the plane. Jill looked over her shoulder and saw all three of the poachers stretched out on the ground, fingers laced behind their heads. Waiting patiently for the sheriff to arrive.
She squeezed Patricia's hand as she climbed into the plane. It was over.
It was never officially released why Jill Colby and Patricia Hood were on an island alone together. When the story came out in the newspaper - Local Teacher Helps Capture Poachers - it was easy enough for the townspeople to read between the lines. The school board met and, since there were no complaints about Jill, they didn't feel comfortable firing a teacher with such a good track record based solely on sexual preference. A few members protested her relationship with a former student's parent, but they didn't bother to hand down a punishment for that.
When September rolled around, Jill was standing at the door of her classroom welcoming in the latest batch of Squire's Isle fifth graders. The bell rang and she introduced herself to her class. "Okay. Our first assignment is to help me get to know you all a little better. So, what we're going to do is write a paragraph about what you did this summer. Family vacation, road trip... or maybe you stayed home and hung out in the backyard. It doesn't have to be brilliant, just let me know what you did. So, take out a piece of notebook paper and get writing."
She sat behind her own desk and leaned back, planning to give the kids a half hour to complete their task. One kid looked up from his paper and said, "What about you, Miss Colby? What did you do on your summer vacation?"
Jill looked at the wooden apple Patricia had given her and picked it up. Ran from some poachers, nearly died on a tiny island twenty minutes from home, all but moved in with my girlfriend... She shrugged and said, "You know. Nothing exciting... Typical boring grown-up stuff."
The kid shrugged and bent his head back over his paper. Jill turned the apple over in her hands so she could see the carving on the bottom. A small heart hovered over the initials P.H. She traced the letters with her thumbnail and leaned back in her chair. No, she thought. Nothing life-changing at all. Just falling in love. She put the apple back with a smile and waited for the kids to finish their papers.
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